@ Blake the Snake: here's my example to help illustrate what I consider "random" and therefore what I enjoy as a GM:
GM: you're walking through the woods on the way to the tower you've been hired to explore and clean out. Up ahead you see...(rolls on random chart) an old woman with a basket of apples.
Player 1: You've gotta be kidding. Umm...wow; a witch with some apples? How droll. Ok, I approach Apple Lady and ask her how it's going.
GM: Ok, umm...(hadn't considered how bored the players would be with "lady with apples" random encounter; quickly switches gears) roll a Perception check. The woman seems not to respond; her face is cloaked in the folds of her hood.
Player 1: 17
Player 2: 14; I'm looking for some kind of ambush. Can I roll Survival for tracks?
Player 3: I got a 22.
GM to Player 3: you notice she's not moving and the apple in her hand appears to be rotten. You also notice that your initial assessment of her age was based on her gaunt appearance; on second glance you note the long, blonde tresses of a young woman slipping from her cowl.
Player 1: Umm...I poke her with a stick.
GM: The corpse slumps to the ground, her hood falling back to reveal pale flesh and sunken eyes below. Her body is rigid; she is not among the living nor is she one of the undead. Yet there is no mass of bugs on the body and some of the apples are still yet intact. She can't have been here very long, perhaps just this morning.
Player 2: I rolled a 13 for Survival
GM to Player 2: there are obvious signs of passage along a narrow path coming out of the woods, resembling the woman's own feet. However there are no other tracks in the area. It seems she was alone when she died, sitting here on a tree stump.
So...there's no fight, there were no notes on the random encounter chart, and there's no obvious reward for the party. However this singular, random event could lead literally off the beaten path into a new adventure if the PCs decide to investigate. Perhaps though they just bury the corpse, say some last rights and move on. Or perhaps they do nothing. Whatever the case it might or might not have ANYTHING to do with what they were doing.
Best random encounter I've ever been in as a player:
Back in 1e our GM had us slogging through the Tomb of Horrors. After the umpteenth trap we're literally just rolling our eyes with the following chant: We move up, cautiously, searching the walls, floor and ceiling for traps. We were bored, frustrated and thoroughly demoralized. Our GM could tell we weren't having any fun so he improvised.
He dropped a chest into a side chamber that was supposed to contain a gas trap. We spot the chest and decide to throw caution to the wind and open it. It's not locked and no obvious traps, so we flipped the lid...
GM: out jumps...(rolls some dice) A FULL GROWN BENGAL TIGER!
GM: you hesitate and are SURPRISED! He attacks; you take 13 points of damage!
we proceeded to destroy the freaking thing unleashing hours of pent up frustration on the poor beast. "Full grown Bengal tiger" is still a catch-phrase in that gaming group synonymous with getting surprised.
+5 Toaster wrote:
Pathfinder was originally supposed to be released in 1988, long before 3.5 was even invented. The only difference was that the original developers added a "Manxome" template. Chuck Norris got wind of it and spin kicked the entire game into the late 2000's. There will never again be an official Manxome template.
I've always homebrewed everything, save deities. In 1e - 3.5 I used the default pantheon and simply cobbled together my own fluff regarding their faithful. Since picking up Pathfinder fairly seriously though a few years ago, I've struggled with the gods since I haven't had the resources to go and get any sourcebooks outside the CRB and a couple others.
My players made it easy on me at first. Old-school wargamers, they didn't really care WHERE their cleric's channels and buffs came from so I just used default info in the CRB. In my most recent reboot however I've gotten new players...FLUFFY players.
So the struggle returned: How to present the core gods in an engaging and immersive way. I used some stuff online, read the wikis, and re-imagined the Golarion deities how I wanted to see them.
This thread is NOT a manifesto on my retconned pantheon. No, I just wanted to present some interesting churches that intro the flavor of the land of Karnoss. I found it cathartic to start at this level, the physical buildings and work backwards from there.
Enjoy this first locale. Feel free to use it or mod the idea however you'd like if you so choose. Also I highly encourage any and all fluff regarding your own unique creations to be posted here in response. Without further ado:
The Vigilant Post:
The Vigilant Post: This ancient place is part Erastilin Shrine, part defense tower. The squat base of the Post is an l-shaped lodge while above it rises in tiers amid the surrounding foliage to watch the surrounding countryside. It is crafted in the old style of the Dunevain; a dark brick façade with steeply pitching shingle rooftops, the eaves descending like shields over the walls below.
When Inderwick was first being settled the Post was little more than a rural shrine outside the walls. Nestled at the intersection of two fields and a woodlot the shrine and the clergy who tended it granted Old Deadeye’s blessings at the beginning and end of the season. After a time local hunters took to passing the shrine out of town to bring good fortune to their pursuits in the venerable eastern wood.
The rise atop which the place stood was a natural defense for the burgeoning city. In time rangers in the service of the Argentine Guard made a rally point and lookout of the place. The modest hunter’s lodge was raised with the addition of the tower that now stands here.
The Vigilant Post was given its name during the Wilding. A young ranger named Jhoveke Talonshot was at the Post when the order was issued to evacuate. She refused to yield, steadfastly vowing to remain in vigilant. Captain Talonshot believed a horde of goblins massed, just inside the tree-line, using the cover of the magically encroaching wood to advance with stealth. Since none dared enter the forest to confirm her fears she was left to man the lonely rise.
After a few days unattended the forest began mingling with the already burgeoning woodlot around the base of the hillock. A few days more found the whole rise coiled in the unceasing march of the wilds. It was a fortnight from the last time any had laid eyes on Captain Talonshot when the alarm of the tower rang out, deep within the boughs of the advancing forest. Long, mournful blasts like the howls of a doomed wolf sounded to rally the guard and warn them: the horde had come to Inderwick.
Just this small warning was enough to ready the militia. The unruly tide of the goblin horde broke against a wall of shields and were scattered before dawn arrived. The Hawkbow Regiment, the rangers who’d served under Captain Talonshot gave chase driving the brutes back in the woods that spawned them and holding their line at the foot of the Post. Amazingly the forest still respected the place and had not crushed it as it had so many others, though it was sealed against entry by the unnatural growth.
Forcing their way in they found their fallen captain. By all accounts she’d died days before and her horn was not among her things. To this day the truth of the event is unknown but the Hawkbow who still man the Vigilant Post in her honor claim that her spirit would not rest until her vigil had ended and that it went into her horn to sound that fateful night and when it departed this world for the next it took the device with it.
It has been over 70 years since Jhoveke Talonshot stood vigil at the Post. Now the clergy is made up of lay priests guided by Ylvaros Wulfenfletch, a dwarven ranger and captain of good account in the Hawkbow Regiment. He is credited for defense of the city against the warlock Uhglabadok and his spirit-bound fey host. The captain pursued the warlock into the mossy wood and returned with the wretch to earn his title and the scars on his mangled shoulder to boot.
@ Wilem Defoe's Vampire: so your post has me wondering about the pirmary stat for Sorcerers and how exactly their powers interact w/the world. It has been said that they cast "by force of personality" and that with bloodlines comes blood, therefore their power must be a manifestation of their own body.
What if it's both?
The sorcerer obviously has a physical component; they get Eschew Materials on the idea that they need no material component since they have their own body as an instrument. But your Words of Power description, of commanding spirits to produce an effect helps explain that Charisma component.
Think of the skills Cha is used for: Intimidate, Diplomacy, Bluff, Disguise. Now Bards use Cha to fuel Performance, but what if a Sorcerer used it fuel one of these others?
Sorcerer: I cast Magic Weapon
GM: Intimidate on the spirit of battle in the blade!
Maybe that's going a bit to literal, but you can see where I'm going here. What if the bloodline didn't give your sorcerer these powers and arcana just simply to give them power; it also gave them a means to sense and interact with some force of the universe; spirits, oni demons, elemental energies, whatever. But in the end it depended on the sorcerer then to charm, beguile or impress these forces to their will.
Suddenly Magic Missile becomes bluffing the air into believing an goblin planned to burn it all with his torch; a Web spell coerced a thousand tiny spectral spiders to weave over your enemies; using Fly meant initimidating gravity into relasing you.
I suppose the flavor here moves into a more Wu-Jen-like means of spellcasting but its an interesting concept to be sure.
This frighteningly real fiction is bound in red, white and blue leather and scribed in poetic verse. It depicts the tale of a young boy who witnesses a horrible liason between his mother and a demon referred to as Uncle Albert at the moment his father dies on a distant battlefield. Henceforth he is afflicted by the triple curses of being mute, blind and deaf.
This infernal epic follows Tommy through a troubled adolesence marked by a psychotic episode inflicted on him by an alchemist and self-styled Acid Queen as well as a brief stint as a prodigy as the wizard of a place referred to as "Pinball." Finally his mind snaps; believing himself a celestial he wills himself back to health only to find his faith misplaced and false.
This revelation comes only after he becomes a false prophet propped up but Uncle Albert. In the end the tale is a wicked tragedy though in Cheliax it is used as an infernal opera and moral tale to remind the populace not to stray from the Law of the Firebrand.
Reading this tale from beginning to end inflicts one of the 3 curses on the wielder (DC 17 Fort save to negate). This curse may only be removed by an 18th level caster or by doing extreme penance for a year and a day.
Alternately the book has a different effect on bards. Any bard who reads this tome for 1 hour each day may add a +6 Competence bonus to any performance once over the next 24 hours. Also they may add the effect of the Lingering Performace feat to one bardic performance (as permitted by the rules of the Performance chosen) once over the next 24 hours.
We Dwell in Darkness
177. The Fluidity of Time
This beautiful set of seven scrolls are a collection of illuminated poetry by the monk Fugitarian. Each of them is painted in beautiful bold colors and inks on cloth of gold. When studied the reader feels the sense of cool mist all around them and hears the distant roll of the ocean.
Each poem depicts some aspect of water and time, as if they were one energy. In point of fact Fugitarian belonged to an order whose sole goal was to harmonize the power of these forces in their own bodies. When studied and meditated on for 3 rounds the scrolls grant a +1 Competence bonus to initiative.
Each time they are used however the reader wets their pants.
In deference to the fantastic work by the Bardess, here goes...
Green. This is all Lady Alexia Hollandovich wanted to see, but after her seventh trial of the restorative formula she'd concocted there was nothing on the blighted sod she'd collected. In despair she looked out her window, out of the meager cottage she used as her laboratory, and into the bogs beyond.
Everywhere she looked, the waters just mere feet away teemed with life. Yet from the tower of her home in Baelnosc, just south of Izmok, the stony ground would remain wasted and barren for another year. "Blast it all!" She hurled her spectacles and the glass shattered against the massive oak table. "I don't understand! I followed the formula to the letter. I've accounted for every variable in heat, light, humidity...the bio-mutagenic properties of this batch SHOULD be self sustaining. I don't..."
Just then Alexia heard them. The goblins. The foul little bog-dwellers had tested every one of her defenses. So far she'd easily kept them at bay by maintaining traps and deterrents around her cote, but she'd been so wrapped up in the work, she'd forgotten. "My goodness...the wards!" Just as she uttered the words the door flew wide. "We be goblins..." they snarled, grinning, "and you be FOOD!" In her doorway surged a sea of green.
Alexia reacted without thinking. She hurled the bomb at once and the explosion in the small space rocked her to her core. She'd added powdered Thunderstone to this batch for just such an effect, not expecting herself to be caught by it as well. She staggered back, caught herself against the table and into the soft flesh of her left hand bit the jagged shards of glass.
The half-elven maiden shrieked, more in surprise than pain. Recoiling her bleeding hand passed directly over the sample dish and a single droplet fell in. "C'mon you little BITERS!" she snarled, her perfectly-quaffed hair beginning to pull free of her bun even as Alexia tore free another vial. She'd intended to seal the door with an Entangling effect so as to prepare her next move with a bit of breathing room, but she'd never gotten the chance.
There was a churning, crunching noise behind Lady Alexia as the lab table split in two beneath the weight of a towering vine of wild growth. The hulking plant uncoiled decades of growth in moments, exploding out in every direction and entangling everything in its path. The lead goblin, a flask of fire in it's hands, hurled wildly and hit the open cabinet of alchemical substances. The Shelf and its contents were already shattering from the floral assault and the fiery projectile merely added to devastation.
"A catalyst!" Alexia screamed, trying desperately to free herself from the steadfast growth, "It simply needed a catalyst. And it chose ME!" and with those words, the provincial noblewoman, alchemist and scholar known as Alexia Hollandovich was no more. The cottage, engulfed in flames and imploding from the sudden surge of plant growth collapsed, dumping its contents into the bogs.
Days later a dark thing was seen, shambling through the bogs; a Bog Entity!
Fleegle Chowderspinner was a third-rate gnome. His tinkering almost NEVER exploded, his illusions were generally 2 dimensional and his puns were...obvious. He was the sort of gnome that at best was tolerated and at worst was downright loved by other races. It was even widely rumored that he once went to school to become a barrister.
But when his son Braithwaite was born, Fleegle vowed to change his un-gnomish behavior. The only one of his blood-borne powers he was ever very good at was creating catchy jingles with his Ghost Sound, so using this as his inspiration he set to work.
He slaved for a year tinkering with a contraption to act as the baby's crib. When at last he was done and little Braithwaite was laid in, the reaction was immediate; the infant wailed. Yes baby Chowderspinner screamed and cried for hours while Fleegle and his wife Elladrannenstein (who everyone simply referred to as Millie) closed their eyes and gritted their teeth. It was at that point when Fleegle realized he'd forgotten to turn the thing on.
Springing to the cribside and flipping the switch, the thing hummed to life. a pair of arcane-powered limbs extended and lurched to and fro, rocking the infant gently. In time with the rocking came snippets of tunes from a conical amplification device the elder Chowderspinner had taken to refer to simply as a "speaker". The music tinkled and tonked off and on, a few seconds at a time, each time little Braithwaite moved.
The baby was instantly soothed and the crib, referred to from then on as the Graven Machine of Chowderspinner, or "Gracho" for short, was a rousing success. From then on little Braithwaite's days and nights were filled with a constant soundtrack of arcane energies and beautiful sounds.
Decades Later Braithwaite Chowderspinner, known to his teammates as Butch, discovered he had a latent talent for harnessing the sounds of the spheres. His sorcerous powers used these energies and his exploits became legend. This legend can now be yours...for just 3 easy installments of just 19.99 GP per month...
Valik, Destined Sorcerer:
Not all of Karnoss is a civilized place; in the highlands of Vardok, at the edge of the Grimmen Peaks lies a coastal range of boreal hillsides of green heath and rugged beauty. It is among these that the Dunevain, the proud and ancestral tribes of man first descended, and it is here that those of the Eldest Ways still dwell. These proud folk are not savages like the goblins of the forests or the orcs in the upper peaks, but they follow the rhythms of the land; they raid along the coast, follow the herds among the hills and refuse to accept the trappings of elite society.
Yet among these barbarians there are disciplines. The forging of iron weapons and tools; shaping wood into longships, oars and spears; the fusion of both arts into the round shields so feared along the Vardokton coast. But still there are the Eldest ways of Gozreh, the Green Path and the sacrifices needed to maintain these ways.
Every so often a member of these ancient clans finds themselves tested by the fates. They are drawn to some trial that seems impossible and yet, should they survive they find themselves gifted with fantastic power. The skalds do not sing of those who fail; these unfortunates are mourned and forgotten. Those who succeed however are both revered and reviled by the clans.
One such was Valik. He was not remarkable in any way, save that his father was the Skald of his clan. The lad was glib of tongue but far too witty for his own good. He’d scrapped with everyone including his own father Halveszke for what Valik considered nothing more than his good humour. By the age of 14, his father was ready to turn Valik out of his master’s castle to make his way among the highlands alone; a death sentence for most and certainly for the ungainly boy.
On the eve as Haleveszk discussed his woes and proposed course with Clanlord Uyll, Valik overheard the discourse and chose in a moment of strange bravery to prove his father wrong. He stole away into his master’s docks and escaped across Baelynnloch towards the verboten boreal wood known as Direfell Forest.
Reaching the far shore of the loch as the mists of falsedawn rose from the water to coil among the brooding thickets beyond, Valik suddenly came to his senses. If he returned now he would certainly be turned out, for he’d stolen one of the Clanlord’s boats and could expect to add a beating on besides. However many heroes much greater than he had quested into the Direfell, never to return. He had no weapons, no supplies. For the life of him he could not understand what had possessed him to come this far. Just then he caught sight of a meandering light, like a lantern hung from a bough and swaying with the morning breeze.
Valik tied off the boat and crept toward the source. There was a trail hidden among the brush seeming to lead straight at the light yet for as long as he traveled poor Valik never seemed to make any progress on the thing. In the bitter grip of morning’s gloom, at the heart of the Direfell Forest, Valik found himself suddenly very alone and unprepared. A fear clutched at his heart that he’d never known before. It was then that the light suddenly disappeared.
The young lad was cloaked in near total darkness. The fear made the blood in his ears like the crashing of the tide on the shore in a storm. His breath heaved and his knees buckled. His lungs filled with the ancient, loamy smell of the forest around him. But that was what caught him and steadied Valik’s nerves; the sudden realization of time. He was at the heart of the wood, at once the forest’s primeval core but also a place of eternal renewal and growth.
“You, Boy,” a voice croaked. It too was ancient and deep, yet somehow vital. “How have you come to this place, my home?” the booming voice demanded. A new scent mingled among the wood; the acrid taint of chlorine.
“By who am I addressed?” Valik managed, his wits suddenly flooding back into him. They were all he had left. “You trespass in my home and have the audacity to question ME?” there was a sudden gust of wind strong enough to bend the trees and send Valik careening into a trunk. The lad was bruised and winded, but not overly hurt. He stood, brushed himself off and turned to where it had seemingly originated. “I do at that. I’m Valik the Glibtongued; I go where I wish and return unscathed. I am born of skalds and it is to the legends I will return.”
“Pretty cocky for a scared little mouse. I SMELL the fear on you boy, as I have on so many others for centuries, since before your people crawled out of the earth. I am the First; the Alpha from which my kind spawns. You speak of legend; I AM legend. So I suppose, Glibtongue, you are meant for me.” The light returned, only now there was a narrow slit of the blackest green amidst it; it was a great and terrible eye.
“No last request then? Fine; though it makes you a pretty poor legend then.” Valik cast his mind, trying anything he could to stay his execution. In the gloam from the open oculus he could make out an immense, draconic snout, great horns and rows of fangs concealed in a leather case the color of the forest itself. “Last request? How dare you call me ‘poor’? You insignificant gnat, I should grind you into dust for that. But no, I’ll humour you boy. What request had you in mind?”
“Tell me a tale, YOUR tale Master Alpha. Entertain me with the time before my clan. If I’m to die, I want to die knowing how I came to trespass here in your home in the first place.” There was a great inhalation of breath and at once Valik closed his eyes and clenched his teeth expecting a horrible end. “In the beginning this place was just a young thicket when I came to be.” And with that, the ancient wyrm began his tale.
For 3 days Valik listened, while the dragon droned on and on, recounting every notable thing it had experienced. An ice age, terrible storms and earthquakes that shuddered the hills. The sundering of the land from the First World and the sorrow of the young forests. The coming of the most ancient of the Dunevain and their trudge through the highlands into the annals of history. He went on and on, barely pausing for breath.
All the while the thing did not sleep or eat or drink; it merely spoke. Valik however was clever and when he’d hit the tree he’d heard it rattle. Hidden in the knot behind him were a store of nuts left behind from some creature. He snuck them out and rationed them, chewing them slowly so that the noise would not disturb his host. At one point it rained and though the canopy blotted out most of the light the beast’s eyes cast enough for him to see the water gathering in piles of matted sphagnum which his father had taught him to collect and drink from so he did just that. He was even clever about his sleep. He clapped a pair of the nutshells over his eyes to make himself appear to still be awake even while he napped.
But eventually the beast seemed to tire. Yet still it went on. Then it let out a mighty yawn that caused the boughs to flutter. And still it went on. Finally the great lanterns of his eyes closed and this was finally Valik’s chance. The lad turned and crept into the forest, back onto the trail he’d found before. No sooner had he done so though that the Direfell exploded with a terrifying roar!
“You think to escape me BOY?!!” the trees parted and plumes of acrid air billowed into the sky. Valik ran then, his tiny legs carrying him as fast as they could. The beast took wing, somehow maneuvering through the canopy and lunging from copse to copse with preternatural grace. The lad sprinted until his chest burned and his heart felt it should burst. Around him the very forest came alive and snapped at his limbs but nothing in this primeval wood could hold Valik back from his destination; the boat.
He kept his legs moving a sudden silence denoted the beast perched just ahead and it breathed out a cloud that curdled the very air and yet still luck was on his side. The creature seemed to have misjudged the distance and the boy dove under a fallen log as the cloud hovered just overhead. It seemed as if nothing would stop him from reaching the shore. That was when the little bit of daylight guiding Valik was swallowed by the very forest expanding around him.
The plants seemed to come alive and grow, quadrupling themselves in moments. It was like the tales of the Wilding all over again. “You are done boy; you’ve nowhere left to go. You are mine!” The heady wind rose as the monster took wing and circled, readying to descend into the clearing at a dive. The lad gathered a pile of stones and stacked them in the gloom while the beast turned, then dove for the cover of a nearby shrub. The massive dragon wheeled, turned and bombed down into the stones only to burst through the curtain of wild growth and hurtle out over the loch.
The startled beast howled and began banking again. Valik hurled himself into the icy water below. The creature wheeled and turned, splintering the boat, but still his prey eluded him. He passed again, skimming the water with his claws but still nothing. With one more turn he searched again, his great green underbelly like a shower of emeralds against the opaque loch but still there was no sign of the boy. With a mighty roar that shattered a nearby willow the monster retreated, having been tricked by his food into letting it go.
Minutes later Valik climbed onto the floating detritus of the boat, discarding the reed he’d used to breathe. He was shivering, and alone but he’d survived. He began paddling for his master’s hall. All through the night he swam through the frigid loch. He sputtered and fairly convulsed from the cold which stole every ounce of the little strength he had. Deep within his heart though came a resolve he’d never known before and he continued on until at last the walls of the castle began to come into view, at which point his senses finally failed him.
He awoke 3 days later in his bed. He was scraped and bruised and waterlogged to the bone, but alive. He staggered down into his master’s hall where a great feast was laid in his honor. “Hail, Valik!” the heroes cried, toasting his success. “I, I don’t…” the lad stammered. His father met him at the stair. “You had Eldwynn nuts in your pockets boy! Do you know what that means? The only place those are known to grow in all our ancient lands are at the very heart of the Direfell. You must’ve been there and survived, which means you’re the first to do it in a hundred years! Hail, VALIK!” the hall resounded with his name.
I originally thought the heart of the wood would reveal itself as a primeval source of all creation and thus I'd send him into the Protean bloodline, but he just seemed like a hero of destiny type.
Thanks all for the kind words and Bardess I love the tale of Rabbity! Keep those ideas flowing!
You're looking for inspiration? Sounds like you already have it. Other than that I don't know exactly what you're asking for. Despite that fact, I'm going to just blunder in here because I'm nosy.
What about a female monk/witch that's actually part of a temperance movement? She uses her hexes to craft a curse so vile it is spoiling every batch of beer before it ferments. If you're going funny and enjoy puns, you can name her Ellie Iotness.
As for encounters, I can imagine it starts with a bar fight made all the more dangerous by the fact that all the participants as stone cold sober. During the investigation phase of the game you might have the party visit a local brewery to find that their cakes of yeast were stolen, replaced by this wicked stuff that's not doing the job.
As the game goes on more of the tainted yeast is all over. Those that try to grow their own, new strains end up with powerful oozes that attack them. As the game goes on Ellie's trail leads the party through a series of dungeons and red herrings: a goblin horse-poisoner ring, an ancient dwarven tomb with the recipe of the Bier Primacy, and perhaps to a satyr who's martialing the fey for war to capture all the remaining brandy.
There might also be some new monsters. Yeast Oozes, Sobriety Ghouls or Vampires who seek out the few mortals left with alcohol and then consume them for a buzz, and perhaps a charlatan caster who uses a combo of Create Water, Prestidigitation, and perhaps other spells to create a "near-beer" that provides the illusion of liquor for an hour.
Finally the party would find sects of the temperance movement and start the final march toward ending this horror. The final battle might take place in a ziggurat, atop a store of the last of the real alcohol waiting to be destroyed and therefore bring about the Angel of Prohibition. During the battle the liquor is released and flows down the steps where some of the fallen monks find it and renounce their vows stating "hey, this stuff's not bad."
Deep in the Findlethorn Swamps, among the trees and bogs there lives a truly wicked serpent that exists solely on a diet of creatures infused with the weird energies of the First World and the Shadow. Fortunately for the Mirthvile Serpent, the Findlethorn is rife with such creatures. This beast is much feared by the folk of Middenvurdt as its venom can have wild and unpredictable effects.
One hapless mortal accidentally provoked a Mirthvile Serpent to attack; his name was Devarion. A mere woodsman at the edge of poverty and starvation, he trekked deep into the Findlethorn for the rarer bounty it offers. He hoped to find a Erastoil trees; their rare sap can be distilled by skilled alchemists and used to coat arrows to reduce drag and increase accuracy, so it is a valuable commodity. He even remembered to turn his coat inside out, fill his tracks with crumbs and hum the Lightbringer's Tune to ensure he wouldn't be accosted by most of the otherworldly dangers of the place.
Alas he hadn't counted on the multi-hued Mirthvile Serpent he stumbled upon.
The encounter was frightening and painful. The thing exploded from the underbrush and sank its horrible fangs deep into his shoulder. Yet it just as suddenly released him and slithered off, it great bulk rustling the undergrowth as it left. The townsfolk would later tell Devarion the thing simply didn't find his mortal flesh appealing but he would always thank it for the gift it gave him that day.
He crawled for hours through the morass in pain and feverish from the venom in his veins. Devarion is hearty but by no means as great in stature as the Middenvurdt Bristleshields. He was sweating and breathing shallowly as he nestled himself in the bulging, twisting routes of an ancient willow near a nameless stream. Here he waited out the night, preparing for his inevitable and painful death.
When he awoke in the morning the fever had broken. His shoulder ached and it was still an open wound; infection would soon do what the venom had not. But miraculously he had survived. He found an old trail and an abandoned hunter's snare, so he followed that through the morning back to the outer fields of Middenvurdt and finally home.
It wasn't until he staggered up to his cottage that the work of the venom really bore fruit. Old Skrimm, the local reeve was waiting for him, to collect the taxes poor Devarion was already a week behind on. The woodsman begged for reconsideration but Skrimm was firm; he'd return within the hour with a brute squad and Devarion was set for Midden Prison.
Devarion put his hand on the old coin-squeezer and his words came out with a sudden, faint lisp. In slow, measured speech he asked patiently for more time on his debts, urging Skrimm to reconsider with a confidence that was not his own. The reeve's face clouded for a moment, and suddenly a grin shot across his blubbery jaw. OF COURSE Old Skrimm would give him another week, after all; what are friends for if not for favors such as this!
The grinning reeve strode off at once. Devarion leapt inside his modest cote and took up a glass inside. In his mouth he spied what his tongue had pricked as he spoke - a pair of serpent's fangs which receded as if by magic as he watched.
Horrified, Devarion hid his condition for months. Eventually he learned from Madamme Vildda, a witch outside of town, that he was not under a curse or possessed by the Shadow, but rather that somehow the Mirthvile's bite had infused him with the serpent's power. He had become a sorcerer.
Little Baeda was only six when Old Pogolo Peeps came to visit the city of Tashtanshire. The nightmares were horrible and the nursery rhymes soon followed: "Old Pogolo Peeps, in the shadows he creeps, at night he steals your eyes..."
Despite her mother's objections Guildmaster Rennev would not permit his daughter to be out of sorts. To him this was nothing more than an inconvenience in his career and that was something that would not happen. With fresh bruises concealed beneath her gown Lady Billiden silently assented to her husband's good judgment.
Baeda was seen by Abadaran clergy; friends of the guild who could be counted on to keep this affliction hidden. The girl was sullen, listless; so far she'd avoided the true horror of the touch of Pogolo Peeps - her eyes were still her own. However despite their best efforts there was nothing that could be done for the girl's failing health and resolve.
By night the poor little girl was haunted by the bogeyman. He is a tall, brutish thing with shards of mirror glass in his eyes and a savage visage. Yet despite his bulk he stalks with ease, prowling nightmare landscapes and terrorizing the children into states of such abject fear they may lapse into shock.
That was when some of the children in the neighborhood started to disappear. This final stage of the horror is when Pogolo Peeps begins calling the doomed to him for macabre and horrifying purposes best left unsaid. Baeda and her mother believed the fantasy was real, the fairy tales were true, but they had no recourse to stop it.
Then along came the Firmfoot Faire. Each year each of the districts of Tashtanshire held a faire to celebrate the tenants and businesses. The Firmfoot, though of lower income than most, celebrates with pennants, games and many different foods. The district had much to celebrate that year; the meteoric rise of Guildmaster Rennev Billiden from among the ranks of their own, humble ranks meant that for the first time in a century the fortunes of the neighborhood were looking up.
Yet despite the festivities the specter of Old Pogolo Peeps kept the affair maudlin. The children shuffled through the streets, jumping at shadows and suffering the day as best they could. All the while concerned parents did everything they could to distract and uplift the frightened lambs. All that is, save Baeda who was dressed, painted by her mother, and trotted out as the part of the image her father had to present to maintain the illusion of his prestige.
Then she heard something she hadn't for weeks: giggling. While her parents were distracted in a pavilion greeting other masters from neighboring districts Baeda slipped away and ran to find the source of the mirth. At the end of cul de sac out of the main traffic of the faire she found a puppet show in progress; the protagonist was a brave little boy who took up his father's axe and went into Bloodthorn Hollow to learn how to be afraid, since nothing ever seemed to frighten him.
The play was funny and sweet, until the final villain revealed itself - a hulking brute with shiny eyes. But the boy was clever and hid, drawing the monster to him and used the shiny axe as a mirror to see the creature. At the last he proved he was not afraid of the thing and "poof!" it became a simpering little mite with no more power than a willow wort. The boy laughed then and off with its head for the end of the play!
That night Old Pogolo Peeps finally came for little Baeda Billiden. Yet something had happened while she watched the play. She didn't seem to care when her mother found her in the dead end lane, even though Lady Billiden's face was streaked with tears of abject terror. Baeda didn't even feel the sting of her father's lash that evening when he corrected her for making him look a fool. No, something in the words and visions of the play stuck with her and filled her with a power and strength of such otherworldly energy she fairly thrilled to go to bed that night.
She awoke in the cold dark of night amid the ancient pines and massive Bloodoak trees at the cruel heart of Bloodthorn Hollow. All around her were children; they staggered through the twisted landscape like automatons. She caught one of them by the shoulder, recognizing him as a boy from the Firmfoot, but when she spun him around there were jagged splinters of mirrored glass where his eyes should've been. With ominous deliberateness the boy put one finger to his lips and hissed "shhhhhhhh"
But this was what little Baeda had wanted all along. She turned to the bole of a nearby tree. It was covered over with a living sheet of writhing vermin that made her stomach turn and her blood run cold, but somehow she knew inside, just through there, she would find the prize she sought. Braving the swarm she crawled through on her hands and knees chanting as the boy had in the play "I'm not afraid, no not one bit; I'm not afraid of a silly little nit."
Something gleamed in the inky blackness, just ahead. The chamber was small inside the tree but poor Baeda seemed to crawl for hours to get inside. All around her the bugs crunched and skittered, tangling her blouse and hair and pinching her skin. But all the while she kept the mantra and finally she reached her goal: a shiny silver axe.
She burst out of the tree with her prize. But as she did she was no longer in a forest but a dank cave. Everywhere she looked there were fragments of mirrors; the reflections in the glass were not her own but the children with the jagged eyes, singing the rhymes of Old Pogolo Peeps. She could feel him behind her but every time she turned to see there was nothing but shadow. Once or twice something brusher her hair or shook her shoulder but she could not see what it was.
Then the axe came to bear. Every mirror she found she shattered with the flat of the blade. The caves seemed endless but she went ever on, chanting her chant and using the weapon until the very floor beneath her feet was littered with glass. It cut her toes and she winced at the pain but she went on, brave little Baeda Billiden. She went on and on, bleeding and hurting and staggering under the heft of the weapon as big as her, but ever muttering "I'm not afraid, no not one bit; I'm not afraid of a silly little nit."
Then she arrived at the chair. The room was surrounded with floor-length mirrors and was dark; no mirror-children here. Her own reflection could be seen in the half-light gleaming from the axe, but it was distorted, twisted; there were tears of blood streaming from fresh shards in her eyes. She KNEW this place was in the real world somewhere too; it was here that Pogolo Peeps did its ghastly work. The chair was haggard and adorned with straps to bind a child in place, all the way to the neck.
Rather than attack or break the mirrors, little Baeda just went over, climbed up into the chair with her back turned and stood on it, waiting and chanting. All the while she kept her eyes fervently on the head of the axe. Slowly the shadows congealed and a cold chill came into the room. Behind her, Pogolo Peeps creeped.
With a "WHOOSH!" she whirled around. The blade cut the air and swung wildly but found no resistance from the neck of the bogeyman! His head flew from his body and at once all the mirrors in the chamber exploded. Just as the flying shards were about to tear the poor girl to ribbons she awoke in bed, the words of her chant still issuing from her raw lips. She'd been in some sort of fever dream for nearly a full day.
Her disapproving father called her stories rubbish and refused to hear them, threatening the lash again for lying. Her poor mother silently agreed and did nothing to defend the little girl. But Baeda knew somehow that by conquering the monster her dream had empowered her. Small tingles of the otherworldly energies still rippled through her and every so often they bubbled up into the waking world.
From that day forward she found she could chant her chant in a sing-song voice like in her dream, and when she did so her parents dozed, not seeming to notice her sneaking about the house. In time she learned to control this and many other powers her dreams revealed to her. Years later when her father's ambitions and frustrations had gone too far Baeda Billiden avenged her mother's death and forced her father into a magical slumber which she prolonged for days with the use of her power and a special drug obtained from the alchemists of Arabellyn; an extract of the dream spider that she injected directly into the man's veins. When he finally awoke his mind was broken; his fractured psyche could no longer distinguish reality from nightmare and he was committed to Blackgate Asylum in Dunspar far up the coast.
This is the origin of Baeda, the Dreamspun Sorceress who went on to become one of the greatest folk legends the poor folk of the Firmfoot District of Tashtanshire ever knew. As a child she saved 7 others from the final ravages of Pogolo Peeps and before she was done she saw and forestalled the Black Queen of Dammenterem from opening the Shadow Gates of the Hollow and wiping out Tashtanshire with a nightmare blight from another world.
159. The Hidden Malediction
This modest handbook is bound in supple red leather and the pages are crisp, watermarked velum edged in alchemical silver. It was apparently authored by Malphidius Von Yolsc; Knowledge: Nobility (DC 15) reveals he was a merchant noble, part of a class of "New Money" that came to power, flourished, then were struck down by a terrible plague roughly 60 years ago in a prominent campaign city.
The first chapter, labeled simple "A Foreward", recounts an event from history: The Kryptovaran Ball wherein the nobles assembled were afflicted by the disease that came to be known as "The Velvet Scars". It graphically describes the horror of a small group of nobles, trapped in one of the Kryptovaran vaults (this particular house enjoyed having their parties in the grand burial vaults beneath their manor) by a terrorist who unleashed the Velvet Scars into the air from a sealed vial and remained to watch them all suffer and die.
The fact of history though is that some of these folk survived long enough to be rescued by a group of mercenary adventurers. These survivors banded together after their ordeal and made a club of sorts where they could meet and conduct business. The disease had horribly disfigured them and in time their wealth failed them.
The remaining chapters lay out The Hidden Malediction; a cult-like assemblage which meets in secret and then conceals their hideousness through mundane and sometimes supernatural means. Each of the chapters lays out a different aspect of the group: leadership, rites of belonging, etiquette and such.
Anyone reading this book from cover to cover may make a Knowledge: Religion (DC 25) to realize that the Hidden Malediction and their sadistic rites are in fact a cult of the goddess Lamashtu. They must also roll a Fort Save (DC 15) or suffer the Velvet Scars.
The Velvet Scars
Type disease, ingested; Save Fortitude DC 15
The Velvet Scars is a terrifying and deadly disease. It attacks the organs as well as the dermis, making it unbearable to be in one's own skin. It is named for the thick, ropy scars seemingly burned into the flesh of the victim.
"I'll close the gap lads!" Rogar shouted as the otherworldly horror hurtled up the mineshaft. "But Rogar, if we can just hold it until the Defender unit..." his crew's protests were cut off by a stern glance from their foreman. "I may not be a hero or a Defender or even a warrior, but the dwarf 'afore you is STILL your superior! Now GET TOPSIDE! That's an ORDER" he barked. The crew of Goldgap 12 took a last look at their foreman as he heaved his pick, then began the scrabbling ascent for home.
Rogar cautioned a glance over his shoulder. The duergar summoner smiled confidently as his infernal beast made short work of the near-vertical shaft. It exuded a slimy film that stunk of acid and ate away at the stone, even as the stuff helped it squeeze up the shaft. "Just a few more seconds then. C'mon y' nasty..." Rogar thought. But just as the thing got where it needed there was a humming in the steel head of the pick. Before the foreman could snap the support and drop the roof on the 3 of them, the tool adhered itself to the wall, magnetizing to the ore within.
"You and your kind are FINISHED here Longbeard. The hordes below will follow behind. But be assured; your death will be honored in our Littany!" The sneering degenerate below watched with glee as the monster it summoned skittered into position over Rogar, its acidic slime dripping to the floor and sizzling.
"To the hells with this, and ALL of it!" Rogar roared, grabbing the support. It had been crafted cleverly as a fail-safe; normally it supported weight well enough but when forced a certain way the wooden fibers uncoiled from themselves, giving into the force and unleashing a devastating cave in. The miner had intended to use the strike from his pick to do the job with ease. Now the splinters bit into his raw hands as he heaved with all his might against the joint.
"NOOOO!!!" the arcanist howled. The sound of his next spell were quickly drowned out by the cacophony of 2 tons of stone exploding out to crush them all and plug the tunnel beyond.
Moments later a pair of Defenders arrived, Goldgap 12 right behind. They found their steel tools and implements useless from the magnetic resonance and a lingering miasma of raw, arcane power. To make matters worse the stagnant air was choked with a cloud of dust fouled by acrid slime that burned their lungs. Yet miraculously amid the rubble they noted Rogar's hand; and it twitched.
"He's alive!" one of his crew shouted. "You can't go in there lad," one of the Defenders admonished clapping a hand to the miner's shoulder. "Oy!" the dwarf snarled, throwing off the hero's grip, "that's our FOREMAN in there! We might not be shiny knights and all, but we got rules just the same, not the least o' which is 'ya DON'T leave a crewman b'hind' so back off chief, 'fore 'yer swallowin' 'yer teeth as a reminder!"
With that the other 11 members of Goldgap 12 set themselves to the task of digging out their fallen foreman. The work was long and painful; they moved with purpose despite the acid in the stone, on the ground and even in the very air burning them at every turn. Several passed out from the effort but the Defenders stripped out of the armor and weapons so as not to be trapped against the wall, then dragged out the fallen and took up with the remaining crew.
In the end Rogar was pulled from the carnage. His face had soaked in the stuff and thick, ropy acid burns and pocks covered the flesh to the bone. Despite it all though the man clung to some semblance of life and was borne like a battlefield saint up the dropshaft toward the Great Hall of Brutenheim.
Days later Rogar the Scarred awoke in the midst of a fever dream. He was in the infirmary wing of the Hall, his body and face bandaged but aching. His gasping breath came in waves; all he tasted was the stinging filth of the acidic dust as if he were still in the rubble. "Steady now Foreman. You're still recovering. Tear those poultices loose and you'll understand what pain is." the chiurgeon smiled, looking down on Rogar from the foot of the bed.
"Heh...thought I was a goner there. M' face though, feels strange...tingly..." and with that Rogar the Scarred convulsed and glared his mangled eye at the far wall where his fevered eye seemed to see the duergar's sneering face. "B'hind you!" he cried and his words and will seemed to focus the tingling energy, like a hose directing water. From the depths of his recovering oculus exploded a beam of opaque, green-hued energy that filled the air with an acrid sting. The ray hit the wall and fumed, burning the stone with acidic power.
"What in the 9 hells..."
@theguynothingrhymeswith: all good points. Assuming the OP agrees, let's try and think of a place that would spawn such undead.
Now what spawns shadows? Other shadows of course. But besides that, they are creatures of the negative plane, but I don't think a low-magic game would mean planehopping. So what does that leave us with? As you put it:
places where major traumatic events of death and destruction took place and not usually near to densely populated areas
So by that logic, how about a place that not only meets these requirements but caters to the qualities of the creature as well. So shadows are made of pure shadow and sap the strength of the living. This to me suggests an environment of hoplessness and despair, but also long-term suffering. Perhaps an infirmary of some kind, but one where the infirmed are denied access to proper light and the rejuvenation of sunshine.
Also these are incorporeal creatures so either they were left to wander aimlessly or on the converse were constantly confined. I'm taking the latter.
Ilventhane is mostly underground with only a small keep above for administrative housing and offices. It was crafted on a cliff side outside the walls of the city to further isolate the infirmed from anything that would upset them.
The staff here were originally culled from the clergy of Saranrae and there was a genuine desire and will to cure the madness of the infirmed. Some successes were confirmed and a handful of patients were released, but only after expensive and exhausting clerical magics were utilized. The processes used at Ilventhane were deemed slow and costly, and the city's government ceased subsidizing the place.
That was when Dr Heidrik Ulevosc, a master alchemist, came to be the director and major benefactor of the facility. Already in decline, Ilventhane could not refuse his generosity despite his radical ideas and dubious reputation. Dr Ulevosc employed extracts meant to do the work of the clerical curatives, but unfortunately their application required ghastly surgeries and direct electrical current.
Most of the staff complained and were replaced by more compliant personell. Though there was initial improvement many of the patients relapsed. Unfortunately this was often only after they'd been released as cured. Dr Ulevosc swore his treatment was not to blame and vowed to achieve even greater results. He disappeared then, both literally and figuratively, into his work and soon the corpses of those sacrificed at the altar of his science began to surface in the bay.
It wasn't until months later when the city granted a Saranite inquisition the right to inspect the place. When they arrived in the keep they were physically assaulted. Melee ensued and this skirmish quickly became a full on siege with the staff barring any entry to the lower levels for fear of upsetting the delicate work of the good doctor.
The city sent the guard and the clergy summoned powerful clerics. During the siege major sections of the keep were consumed by holy fire. But when the place was finally breached the righteous host were themselves either slain or repelled in total. Dr Ulevosc, in the end, sacrificed himself AND his patients in a massive release of toxic gas flooding the lower halls.
In the aftermath of it all the place was finally inspected. Several more died or were horribly wounded by preternatural energies. The city claimed the gas was still present and ordered the place condemned. However the survivors of this reconnaisance reported nightmarish horrors; surgical theaters that resembled the darkest bugbear torture vault; foul experimentations and lobotomies; the preservation of varrying amounts of human remains, from organs to whole corpses, in noxious chemical baths for unknown purpose.
It has been 10 years since the Doom at Ilventhane. Yet still the place is under quarantine. The brave or foolish have broken this order and invaded it from time to time; many do not return and those that do have their strength and spirit eroded away by whatever still haunts the sanitarium. Some say the doctor still exists there somehow, working eternally on whatever infernal cure he intended. Others among the erudite clergies of Saranrae and Pharasma point to the taint of undeath and demand the place be purged with fire and righteousness. Yet for some reason the city refuses to hear any dispute against their current policy. So for now the blight of the Ilventhane Sanitarium remains; a skeletal ruin looming over the sea, concealing levels of horror and degredation no mortal mind should ever witness.
151. 50 Shades of Dorian Gray
It is night in the City of Wards: Dunspar. While the city sleeps above, Midian Gage shuffles through the ancient crypts upon which the Boneward rests. He is a small man; not just in stature but in standing among the society he hatefuly calls home.
Brushing aside oily whisps of hair from his sullen red eyes Midian mutters and wheezes through the dank darkness. His only companions are the sqealing rats skittering from his lantern light and the moldering dead.
Most people would be appalled and frightened by this place. It is not myth but fact that the dead walk here and those unfamiliar with the Rites of the Crypt would soon find themselves torn limb from limb by the unliving. But Midian Gage is not most people, despite his many faults.
Midian has been a gravetender in the City of Wards all his life. He has learned to traverse among the dead and not be harmed. He has made friends with the worms, made his peace with the rats and is never without a sturdy iron shovel. With practiced ease he passes among the vaults; doffing his hat here, pausing and reciting a line there, and shielding his light when he hears the Muttering Beast nearby.
Midian Gage prided himself on his knowledge, cobbled from a life spent lurking just on the fringes of the Pharasmin clergy who'd scorned him years ago. He found more in common with the dead than the living; a fact that at best upset and at worst reviled the sanctimonious flesh-preservers. Yet he was no common thief, nor was he some disrespectful necromancer. Midian Gage had a genuine admiration for the dead, as well as the unliving.
Then he met Mr. Needles.
Midian was no fool. Mr. Needles is nothing more than a ghoul with his wits about him. Yet Mr. Needles knew things too; things the clergy wouldn't allow Midian to know. He'd found Mr. Needles crouched on the back of the Widow Haegenesj hours after she'd been laid to rest. The poor old bird had passed without the luxuries of most and had not the resources for the proper rites. As such her body would be at the mercy of fate for the first 3 days and Midian took to watching over her on his rounds.
Midian is no great warrior and was not that night either. But Mr. Needles spoke meekly and with humour. He parlayed with Midian, paid him a kindness he'd not known since he was a lad and his mother was still among the living. And so that night Midian Gage returned the kindness and watched Mr. Needles devour the corpse of the Widow Haegenesj.
Their friendship had led Midian here, deeper into the Crypts than he'd ever dared below. He is among the Primacy now; he can smell the seawater seeping through the bedrock and his breath makes ragged brume in the cold depths. Here, in a vault that had been sealed for over a century, he finds Mr Needles.
On the floor is a series of concentric circles, in the outer of which lurk 3 of the rotting dead, zombies. The walking corpses are mute statues, yet they seem to ebb with a force beyond themselves which lengthens the shadows and deepens the chill in the chamber. Midian finds though that the most striking feature is the banquet and his host in the center of the room.
A long table is laid with fine silver and porcelain. All manner of delicacy, from cakes to candied fruit is served, yet amid all these is the body of a man. "Are you ready Mathter Gage?" Mr. Needles smiles, his words lisping amid his trademark teeth. "This will grant me power and the semblance of unlife correct? Should I wish to remain among the living I may?" Midian asks, more as a practicality than in the grips of fear. "I athure you, my good man, thith will only unlock your potenthial. Thoud you with to abandon our Undertaking, the dethithion ith entirely yourth. Thall we begin?"
At that Midian is genuinely surprised when Brother Daen opens his eyes. "Midian? Midian, is that you? You have to get us out of here Midian. This creature..." "This creature is Mr. Needles and you are nothing more than the main course. Let us begin my gracious host." Midian nods to the ghoul, and begins to close the vault door once more, the chamber behind him beginning to echo with maddening screams.
As sprites flitted over the crib, distracting the young mortal baby she cooed and smiled at their pretty lights. The muffled sounds outside the cottage window as the expanding mass of tenticular vines bound the child's parents fast did not seem to register in her infantile mind. A sinuous form came gliding across the room to alight next to the baby.
"Such a soft, sweet little creature. You are a gift; a treasure youngling. Do you know what you are? What you'll become?" the woman materialized out of shadow, her face a mask of the purest serenity and beauty in the pale gloaming of the dancing sprites. She bent to whisper the next, her voice like gossamer spider webs upon the child's ears. "A champion, dearheart. MY champion."
Outside the window the muffled sounds had stopped, replaced by a grotesque popping and the snapping crunch of broken bones. The woman turned, her back hollow like the bole of an old oak. "Do what you must Jack." She intoned sardonically. Another creature appeared, dressed in shabby evening clothes and wearing a grin under his doffed hat. "With pleasure Mum." His grin got wider as the jagged knife came out.
Moments later a scream was heard; the wailing scream of a baby girl. Though the next neighbor in the tiny hamlet was dozens of yards away and asleep at the time they were jarred by the sound and the cries afterwards. The neighbor's wife came running to find the wee lass, laying in a pool of blood, screaming and howling in pain. On her chest, just over her heart, was a fresh scar.
Outside the men of the village spied an odd site: a pair of thorny rose bushes had sprung up literally overnight. The flora was intertwining, as if holding one another, and the ground nearby them was wet yet there'd been no rain.
The child's parents were nowhere to be found. Such a shame really; they'd tried for years to have a child. Then that old woman came to the village, the traveler with her caravan. The baby's mother had invited the old crone to tea and confided her woes but the elder had told her not to fret. And sure enough, a baby girl was theirs within the year. Such a shame...
What about medical experimentation? The first level power for a Draconic sorcerer is claws - who says they have to be YOUR claws?
Imagine your character was nothing more than a simple debtor. You were about to be imprisoned for a very long time when the court wizard made you an offer: "I'll wipe your debt and commute your sentence. All you owe me is a single surgery."
You came to hours later in some dank lab deep underground, your arms useless lumps at the ends of your shoulders. They wouldn't move, but they could still feel, and they felt cold like icewater flowing through your veins. Glancing down you realized with horror that your hands had been severed at the wrist; in their place was grafted a pair of dragons paws.
"Worry not; the motive response should return in a few moments. I took the liberty of adding a few transmutations to them. The talons will part and have roughly the same tactile sense and agility as your normal hands. Though this is their natural state at rest, you will be able to cloak them for periods in mortal flesh, in order to hide your nature. However now, and forever more, all the enlightened of this kingdom will know you as a criminal, marked for your sins for all time. There is no need to lock you away; your whole life will be your prison."
The mage smiled smugly at his cleverness. "Still, the power of the white wyrm flows through you now. In time other gifts shall manifest. I can help you to control these as well as ease the burden they will heap upon you. But you will be my agent, my minion; you will submit your will to mine. Otherwise..." the restraints came loose on your now-responsive limbs, "you are free to leave and live out your days as a parriah."
Sorcerers: fantasy gaming's answer to super heroes. Here are some ideas off the top of my head:
- the venom of some poisonous, magical beast... like a spider
I could go on, but you get the point. I like the idea of bloodlines not necessarily entering your PC's body from birth. Although, if you want to go the DNA route then you could say your character is a mutant, born into a world that both hates and fears them.
Aliens also work here too, or robots/created beings. You might be a one-of-a-kind construct, or perhaps a cast-off from a distant world that exploded. There are SO many ways to explain your bloodline its insane.
@Umbral: I don't know anything about the Mythic style of play, but I think it would be a lot of fun coming up with variations on bloodlines. For my own campaign a lot of sorcerers have the Fey bloodline. Its not always an ancestry thing; my homebrew has a kind of fairy tale thing going on, so lots of bargains with the First World involving babies. In that instance you could easily re-flavor the Fey bloodline (with super-heroes in mind) as follows:
- You were promised to a First World Eldest so your sorcery is training for entering his court
When you're that important, monsters wait. The best would be a floating disk next to you, filled with wine and fruit. You lay in your sedan, carried around by your servants and stuffing your gob in slow motion while admonishing the commoners and giggling about how deliciously decadent this all is (a la hedonism-bot).
ARE you trying to kill me? First I'm blown away by Portcullises; then a buddy of mine and I get into a multi-email discussion of shrines and both muse: "I wonder if there's an easy shrine generator...and now THIS?
Ok, you're english - I'll stop making such a hullabaloo and just say thank you in advance.
Joy X Baker wrote:
OMG that's the coolest thing I've ever heard! Like Wonka's factory wallpaper: "lick a grape, it tastes like grape; like a peach it tastes like peach. The SNOZZBERRIES taste like SNOZZBERRIES!"
(Veruca) whoever hear of a SNOZZBERRY?
(Wonka) we MOCK, what we don't UNDERSTAND...
Anyway, what about this:
121. The book of Servants
This book contains 50 pages; each is filled with the menial tasks the author hated, such as chopping wood, sweeping out the flue and washing the dishes. This diatribe however is not without merit; should the reader find themselves at odds with a particular chore mentioned, they need only tear out the page and hurl it to the ground, calling an Unseen Servant to do the task for them.
Whatever the case...there should be a tradition: take a little, leave a little.
Old cabins in the wilds of Canada and such, when explorers would go through, were left set up for emergencies. A lost soul might find one, use it to recover their strength, and then replace the firewood they'd used or something. The Desnan shrines should have somehting similar.
You arrive at a tree, its roots growing over an ornate carved stone shrine. Etched in the stone is a tapestry of butterflies while the inner niche of the domed structure is painted to resemble the night's sky; looking closely reveals that the stars are slightly moving and always correspond to the sky overhead.
Opening a modest cabinet built into the base of the shrine reveals some items helpful to travelers: rope, maps, a small bit of food and clean water enchanted so that they don't spoil while inside the shrine. There are also censors hanging from the eaves of the shrine; lighting these and drinking in their comforting scent bathes the traveler in a sense of euphoria and replenishes their strength for the journey ahead (Incense of ___: add whatever beneficial spell you'd like such as endure elements.) Finally, amid the cabinet, there will be an offering plate on which will be a unique item.
These offerings are not meant for the goddess but rather for future travelers. It is perfectly acceptable to take whatever fortune offers you. Tradition holds however that taking the offering requires you leave something special in its place. Desna is a goddess of fortunes, luck and chaos; as such there are no rules to how expensive, dangerous or holy the item is, merely that it be unusual but useful to future travelers.
Such offerings may be a wand of create food and water; a reed flute of masterwork craftsmanship to pass the long hours of travel; or a cloak of warmth lending resiliance against the elements. Should a traveler choose not to take the item this is fine; the Goddess has smiled on them and they need nothing at the moment. If on the other hand they merely take and do not give back the Goddess curses their luck (add whatever is appropriate for your game: Fatigued with no save, -2 to all rolls until Atonement, 10d6 lightning bolt... whatever).
Table D1: Random Desnan Offerings
1. Handy Haversack
@ Ansel: I disagree; it NEVER gets easier. Their screams haunt me to this day; every...last...one.
"No!!! I've had this PC since level 1!"
"You SUCK as a GM!"
"There's no WAY he'd have done that much damage!"
I hear them clawing at my mind like a cat at the door that wants to get outside in the summertime. They are relentless, they are legion, and they never let me forget...
But seriously, he's right GM: use the Hero Points. Also use the obligatory +2 for cool ideas and such. These go a long way to not only encouraging roleplay but also prolonging characters.
544. The winds of adventure have changed
545. The tide is high and your funds are low
546. The four horsemen of the apocalypse have found you: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
547. It can't rain all the time
548. Because the Dead are headed for their next gig
549. A guy with a mechanical hand just headed for an old graveyard armed only with a cruddy sword and 3 words, one of which you can't remember
550. 2 words: Doomsday Clock
He "ALWAYS" delivers? What about when you roll a 1?
Frankly for a guy that always delivers, I would've named him Malone. He refers to himself in the 3rd person, but not as the messenger OR Malone...as The Postman.
"The Postman ALWAYS rings twice: once when the blade goes through yer armor, the second time when I PUNCH YOUR CLOCK!"
"The Postman says: always go First Class!"
"Speedy delivery for you here, courtesy of The Postman. Its stamped with PAIN and the return address says The 9 Hells!"
TOZ don't tan; he BRONZES
I've done just about all these kinds of game settings. When I was a kid I played right out of Greyhawk, such that it was. Whatever was in those books I ran. Then in HS I started making my first world around the lands of Impasse. When asked to run one-offs or come up with something on the fly, I played the way T-time suggests and created around the players. One time I sat down for a game with a bunch of new players and all I knew was that in 5 levels they'd face an ogre magi...that's it.
I've tried prepless, overly-prepped; even preppy (gaming while wearing an Izod with the collar up). Nowadays though I just prefer to make my little world, add to it, and tweak it here and there.
Now if your GM won't allow gunslingers, but you want to be one... I see all viewpoints on the matter. I'm not saying its right or wrong, but here's what I did with Karnoss for the case of monks.
I had a PC who wanted to play a full on eastern monk. My game world's flavor is based around vikings mingled with eastern europe (Hungary, Russia, Turkey and Germany a little). So we sat and had a coffee.
Over beverages I discovered that my optimizer friend just simply had a manuever master build he wanted to try out; he ended up not really caring about the flavor of it. So instead of monasteries like hy-ya, I stole an idea from Conan and made them...War Master guilds.
So the ancient Dunevain, before the rise of Karnoss, had these guilds with specialists in all sorts of war skills: weapons (Weapon Master monks, Zen Archer monks,) hand to hand, war philosophies and what not. These masters begat orders in a time of chaos, and so membership in them was both suspicious and respected at the same time.
When the Karnossov, a brutal and ambitious tribe in the mountainous central region of the land, came to power and began to subjugate the other peoples of the Dunevain, they smote down as many of these orders as they could. In the north they survived but faded into obscurity in favor of the religious orders that I'd based my game around.
Now today in Karnoss, over 2 decades have passed since the fall of the High Kingdom but only now are these orders beginning to emerge from the veil of secrecy they've been under. While their methods are unorthodox and many of their customs antiquated, the Warrior Monks of the orders still practice many secrets of the Old Ways and their power is once again feared.
Now the only down side was that all through the source material I made references to monasteries and holy orders; places where NPC Experts and some PC class clergy supported NPC Warriors, Inquisitors and Paladins, in the tradition of European monks in the real world. It was a tad confusing at first but eventually everyone got it and now people tell me they have a lot of fun in Karnoss.
So for me, accommodating my players worked out. Does anyone else have any SUCCESS stories so we can make the first-ever positive rant thread?
IT'S NOT US AND THEM, OR US VS THEM for players to GMs, or vice versa...its just US!
Yes, I agree; the GM has more stuff to do for the game...unless they improv everything at which point with all the books and the internet at their disposal, not to mention the occasional canned adventure, they actually have NOTHING to do except draw a map and say "go." But I firmly believe that the players are bringing as much to the table as the GM.
My current homebrew is based on a couple pages of world creation I did about a year ago. The actual campaign however, aside from some vague intonations in said document, is entirely based around the players' backstories.
Am I a terrible person? Are they? Are ANY of us at the table more or less valuable to the experience?
Bottom line: if you are a bunch of players but no GM, you're just hanging out with friends. If you're a GM w/out players, you're playing with yourself (wait, that bit came out wrong...)
All these are good situations. I was thinking more along the lines of having a trap involving a key that must be plucked from the midst of a bunch of floating globes of electricity. Just jamming your hand in there prompts a Fort save as you contact the lightning and key at the same time but if you pluck it w/out the trap noticing (Sleight of Hand roll) then you're all good.
Y'know what? I'm becoming disheartened by the prevalance of these threads. Back to something the OP hinted at and Ad/dragon has noted, many of the "players should rely on their character's powers and not items and such" type threads is that the underlying theme is players controlling their PCs, down to item creation, somehow = entitled (spoiled) players or a broken system.
I submit that this is NOT directly what the OP is saying. However they did post:
This inherently suggests a frustration with working with the players on their own vision for their characters. This, IMO, is one of the BIGGEST changes to the game at the outset of 2e and beyond; this idea that each player should begin sculpting their character from options THEY controlled, not bestowed upon them by a benevolent system.
In 2e you had kits and skills. In 3e you got feats, some of which were magic item creation feats. In PF you get archetypes, traits, and even more. The game has been trending this way for a long time now.
That being said - you don't have to play that way.
Point Buy is optional. Traits are optional. Heck, by RAW any rule of the game is OPTIONAL if you're willing to monkey around a bit. But in 1e, you didn't HAVE the options to then remove them in the first place.
I still remember my first fully customized character in 1e. His name was Banion Rashada; an elf wizard but I wanted sort of a multi-class feel. My GM graciously let me blend some aspects of thief and magic user, right down to custom designing my own spells all the way to 9th level if I got that high. My concept was a Barrier Mage; a guy who could create, destroy, or circumvent ANY barrier (wall, spell, lock, etc) using skill or magic. Oh man, I worked on him for weeks making sure he was fair and balanced.
Game one, scene one: I'm seduced in a freaking DREAM by a sucubus, fail my save, and now I'm the puppet of the GM. What's more, as the game goes on my vision of my character and the GM's instantly began to skew. He saw me more as a thief and didn't think my spells should be as powerful as they supposedly were, so my spells HE ok'd were suddenly nerfed, useless in certain situations or otherwise ineffectual.
Now had I had ratchet-on abilities, or the potential to customize some magic items and fill in some of the gaps, I may have presented more of a resource to my team. As it was my character became the boat anchor of the game and at one point a fellow player turned to me at a tough spot and actually said "kill yourself."
All I wanted was to achieve the vision I had of that character. The dwarf fighter pulled off his vision; so did the female halfling thief. Our half orc cleric was in a similar boat but he got a lucky drop of a +1 hammer that eventually got a thunder-clap power. Me? I got some magic lockpicks "out of pity" my GM later admitted.
My own sob story aside, this owes to the larger point: since the game came of age out of pamflets in the 80's players have wanted to control their characters and not just wait around for the GM to hand them the things they wanted. In PF I feel like players finally have most of what they have been asking for.
Yet the GM STILL has the power to curtail this if they want. All they have to do is communicate with their players, work with them, to make the game everyone at the table wants. Its not hard, and its not negative. There's nothing wrong with the CRB saying a settlement should have any magic item the players might want, but the GM discussing this openly w/their players and saying "y'know what guys; this seems a little TOO convenient for the game world I'm running, so I think I'm going with this revised settlement chart I came up with." The players might not complain at all, knowing that if worse comes to worse their GM will have no issue with the wizard scribing scrolls or the cleric who took Brew Potion going to a shrine and turning holy water into potions.
I say it OVER and over in these kinds of threads: there is nothing wrong with players being in control of their characters and playing to their own strengths. In fact, in the business world or other aspects I've observed in real life that's actively encouraged. Be the BEST at whatever you have set your mind to being and use all your resources to get even better. Strengths Finder is a product employed in many business units: it's core premise is find your strengths then play to them to maximize your impact to the business.
In the meantime to all GMs out there: make the game what you want. Let's face it; every GM has monkeyed with the system since there's been systems to monkey with. So why stop now? I don't know about anyone else, but my players are more than willing to work with my houserules. But they do that because I talk to them ahead of time.
Communicate. Tinker. Collaborate. Game. Repeat.
For a one-shot that might lead on to other adventures:
The town of Noxmore (Village; Qualities acedemic, prosperous; Government secret syndicate) is currently afflicted with a disease referred to as the Black Breath - it drains Cha until the vic hits 0 at which point they're transformed into a horrible monster called a Void Child.
Academic: a girl's finishing school called the Noxmore Akademie; a place of higher learning, dance and art for young ladies run by a strict, wierd but otherwise innocent headmistress Madame Helene Gambol
Secret Syndicate: the Poisoner's Guild, a group of experts led by a ruthless "apothecary" (Alchemist 2/Rogue 2) Named Malignus Bane. They are extorting the wealth from the otherwise slave labor of the villagers under the auspices of gentrification. Malignus chooses to operate through the puppet-government of a town council of merchant guild masters
Church: There is a modest churh dedicated to a deity referred to as the Moon Caller - an aspect of Desna displayed as a somber woman with butterfly wings holding up a full moon and seemingly crooning to it. This deity is worshipped here with the domains of chaos and luck; the faith began as a way to honor a rare kind of butterfly that descends from the Shadow Plane each year on the night of the fist full moon of Summer. When they come to the material they absorb the moonlight and glow. The tale says that the goddess was the one butterfly left behind and she called to the moon who granted her a new body and life immortal and their coming is seen as a blessing each year. This year they didn't come. The priest here is Luniev Fortuna
Plot: the party comes to town for some premise. While there they learn that the Black Breath has infected some of the townsfolk; the priest claims it only afflicts the wicked who have denied treatment saying they are resigned to their fate. Malignus wants to cut a deal to put a stop to it but evidence points to him as the culprit. Headmistress Gambol is also a suspect b/cause she's constantly railing against Malignus and the guild, threatening to expose them. Meanwhile the townsfolk honestly don't care if the disease goes away since only the "bad" people are suffering.
right after the party learns all of this a young girl (innocent) comes down w/the Black Breath at the Akademie. She goes under the care of the priest but he claims not to be able to do anything for her. Meanwhile the townsfolk blame the party for the disease targeting a "good" person and try to take them out. Then the Void Children make themselves known for the first time, as they come to town to "feed". They do so by trapping a victim, turning on an aura which is the witch's spell Call of the Void, and then they drink the breath stolen from the victim.
After dealing with the Void Children the party should notice that they are humanoid figures with roughly butterfly wings. The priest offers them asylum in a cabin in the woods (homage to Evil Dead) where they find that it was the priest all along and that the other monsters are in/around the cabin. They have to fight their way out with the evidence.
The party will also realize that tonight (full moon) the priest is going to use a weaponized canister of the Black Breath to wipe out the whole village (cleansing) under the auspices that he's going to perform a ceremony to bring back the Mooncall Butterflies and preserve their fortunes. At this point it all comes down to what kind of players I have: if I can tell they can take a little horror they get there just in time to see the square filled with choking victims rapidly becoming monsters; if they don't enjoy horror then they have the chance to interrupt the event.
Finally it comes down to confronting the priest. There's a chance at a cure in the church - again, if it's a horror game then they have to fight through the little girl/monster and the priest to get it. Otherwise they just have to defeat the priest or grab it and administer it to the afflicted. In the end they're left with a town with a shattered faith and an evil syndicate no matter what they do. Still they can either continue the adventure to take out the Poisoner's Guild or set up a new faith, or they can just leave.
What do you think? Is this too obvious/cliche'?
In 3x there were some feats to make your familiar more combat ready. I have the book at home and no ability to search for it right now, but the book I'm thinking of was the Magic Compendium I think. Other than that, the above is pretty much it.
At low levels they make great spies and lackeys. If you're honestly serious about having a useful familar one of the first magic items to have made at 3rd level is a wand of alter self. It'll be costly, but now you have a bird on your shoulder which, in times of need, becomes a tengu armed with your other wand...of fireballs. Add in a 1 pt evolution making it ridiculously good at UMD and suddenly you've got a nice double-barreled wizard.
At mid levels the standard familiar does kind of fade into the background unless you stay vigilant. Oh sure, you could cheap out and pick up an imp, but if you're really committed then you could keep your bird and just use spells like polymorph, transformation and elemental body. Your fighter's going to just sell that worthless +1 longspear he found? Buy it or barter it off him and keep it shrunk in your pack, then hand it off to your Transformed/Polymorphed/Enlarge Personed bird familiar for an extra melee fighter.
You can also stick to the bird staying as a spy. There's plenty of spell combos that allow an unassuming animal to go wherever it wishes, listen to or detect anything, and then report back to you, so long as your GM is patient and your villain doesn't expect it. Invisibility, a wand of Sanctuary with it's unusually high UMD, perhaps a detect magic or detect thoughts on the thing before it takes off and to finish throw on some protections like globes of invulnerability or stoneskin or some such.
Finally at high level...well if you've come this far you're probably not going to stop now. At this point you're making/commissioning permanent effects/magic items so that your familar is nearly its own person. Its armed and armored, backed by your spells and serves as both a combatant (albeit probably about 4 levels below APL) or a passable scout.
To add to Parka's first comment, create interesting ways to deliver bonuses to the PCs that their generic magic items would. NPC boons, unique wonderous items, magic rituals or holy sites are all good ideas. Would your PC rather have a Cloak of Resistance +1 or have a C Good nixie reward them by having an (ahem) "encounter" with them in a magic spring which bolsters their mind, body and spirit for the challenges ahead...and gives them a +1 to their saves?
I don't know if there's a magic phrase you can sum up the theme of your campaign with; if you find one let me know b/cause I'm often in the EXACT same boat. The only thing I've found to help is by actively engaging my players and encouraging the behaviors and playstyle I'm looking for.
That being said, I had to quit my old tactics-heavy gaming group for a while and seek out new players. 2 of these new players were already of the mindset I was looking for and as such I've found that while GMing I tend to physically look at them more, talk over things with them and I toss out arbitrary +2's or +4's for their roleplay. Ironically one of the old tactics guys came with me to this new game and by the clever incorporation of just enough combat I've managed to coax him out of his shell. He now routinely describes how his character (a functioning alcaholic dwarf fighter) takes a shot from his hip flask to punctuate his points in roleplay.
Bottom line you're talking about a social/emotional issue. You'll have to address it at that level.
Andrew R wrote:
I am convinced that good deities are jerks. Evil offers all sorts of power, immortality, flexibility of action. Good has to hold to the highest standard, gets to play the underdog that has to run in groups to equal most villains, and almost always die even if they would rather stay on this plane. Do good gods not have the power to keep their people alive or just not give a damn? Do they withhold power because they think it is funny or have none to spare? Do they enjoy setting highest standards and watching mortals fall short while neutral and evil can act much more freely without the divine backhand. Not to mention the paladin. Called to serve heaven with power to smite evil but oh so easy to fall like a damn lawn dart should they even accidentally misstep
Good isn't about power, or self-aggrandizing; it's about patience, humility and self-sacrifice. When you die having been basically good, you go to the heaven of your god. Now, that might just be a word we throw around, but think about that: a place where you are immortal in some form as long as you remain, you are eternally happy and said "jerk" god is so powerful that nothing interrupts this for all time unless you and they mutually agree to return you for some further service.
That sounds better than hiding in some dank tomb, waiting for the best murder-hobos to shatter your brittle bones and loot your stuff. Evil is powerful, but short-sighted and selfish. Their hells are routinely escaped in legend and myth so their power is not absolute. Their gods can be cheated out of the souls they're due just as the good ones can. So while evil might be powerful, good has the endurence to go the distance.
It's a long road hero; at its end you will be weary and peniless. I will not promise you the riches and power you see along the path as those are mere tastes of what lays in store. But if you are strong enough to endure and not stumble for these momentary baubles, your reward at the end will be glory and happiness everlasting and I will be waiting there, to embrace you and thank you for all that you've done.
There will be pain, sorrow, and doubt, but let my light guide you through these darker moments. And when we meet at last know that you will have achieved something greater than yourself; you will have mattered and made the world that much better than it was before you.
Sorry; dictator descriptor came from another person on this thread and I was mirroring it. I am honest when I say I don't want to heap on any negativity in this thread.
That aside...do players actually do this? They hit the table saying "by level 12 the only way my build works is to have a pair of agile shock daggers and a strength belt +4" because if they do:
1. I have been fortunate enough to avoid them
2. My response would be "then you better start crafting/researching these itmes now at first level."
Another example from my own games: at level 1 the party did something heroic and I rewarded the party w/masterworks specially made for them. When they turned level 4 they survived an epic encounter AND ended a major plot point; I rewarded them with imparting magic in their itmes and promising more since the items are now Legacy Items. They never had to ask, I didn't have to tell them, and there was no conversation around "tell me what you'll need by 4th level". On the flipside my archer-cleric of Erastil was gettng frustrated with her lack of damage so I politely reminded her that her mentor, a 12th level cleric, was also an expert bowyer and leads a guild of fletchers. She did a service for the church and now is having some magic arrows crafted.
All the while the alchemist in town continued to make and sell a couple random, minor potions alongside her vials of fire and ice; the cleric of Saranrae who visits the town consistently had healing potions, and the gypsies had a fixed array of magic items when they arrived in town and none of these turned out to be what the party wanted - since no one else in town came or left w/any significant items, the gypsies have now left town with those items with them.
Seconded verymuchso! Again, I can only speak for my own game, but in my games I have yet over the past few campaigns to hand out the "right gear at the right time" through a shopping trip. Oh sure, the barbarian focused on axes found an axe in a dragon's hoard, the mage who was getting pounded on from range found a "mistcloak" (provides concealment) amid a ruined monastery, but when they go to the market square they don't find these things.
And my players are ok with that.
Also as I mentioned before; each settlemnet is good for certain kinds of gear. Staghorn Reach, home to rangers and an Erastilin shrine of some note (Holy Site in the stat block) is a great place to have a magic bow made or purchase some magic arrows. It's a horrible place though for the dwarf fighter in the party who wears tank armor and is weapon focused on the warhammer.
Now the first couple levels this party couldn't stray very far from a town. As such their options were limited by randomness and economy. They mainly only had the need and cash for consumables though so this wasn't really an issue. However a couple games in the wizard wanted to buy some spells and make contact with arcanists who would teach him to make wands. There wasn't anything like that where they were but they were powerful enough to journey through the wilds a few days to Arabellyn, the "City of Mages" where he was able to hob-nob with wizards and seek out the spells he wanted. Ok, I guess THERE I gave the PCs something they wanted at the right time on a shopping trip, but still no items.
Now while AT Arabellyn the monk commisioned a wand of prestidigitation to keep her clean (vow of cleanliness). She was able to purchase one, but only after having it made special; it wasn't just laying out on a merchant's counter the MOMENT she walked up. Then they headed back to Staghorn Reach. On the way back through a new section of wilderness they encountered a dwarven patrol from a reclusive hall of the bearded folk. The party charmed the kilts off the soldiers and they got invited to dinner and granted free passage upriver to speed their journey. While there the party asked about items to buy but all they had at that particular moment was an axe and a tower shield; not useful to anyone at the time. However the Frostbeard Falls dwarves are now considered allies of the party and will work on commission.
Where does this bitter mentality come from that magic shoppe = players win forever and get whatever they want, whenever they want it?
This does not occur in my games. It hasn't occurred in my friends' games for 20 years. I haven't heard from my friends of this happening in games they've played in w/their friends. And it's certainly not RAW EXCEPT in the case of the largest cities; otherwise there's rolls involved and roleplaying to do and ALL that. Nowhere in the rules for settlements does it give a ROCK-SOLID guarantee the players get what they want - it's not a sure thing no matter how likely the 75% chance makes it.
By the time the players 1. get teleport, 2. are able to obtain/transport huge wads of cash and 3. have been around the game world enough to know where the good magic item shops are to teleport to, I suppose that if they just kept hunting and hunting eventually they'd run into someone who had what they were looking for. I don't call that winning though; I call that playing the game. Just as much as it would be playing the game to 1. beg the gods for the item and go on a quest for it, 2. commission the thing from a trusted artisan contact 3. ask the GM for it out of character and hope it drops in a hoard 4. make it yourself or 5...whatever.
Last but not least, the players have a say. I don't run a game FOR them in that it's not JUST an alternative to TV for my players' passive entertainment. I also don't just run MY game like a dictator. This is a hobby for all of us at the table to collaborate on. If they WANT to play a game where item acquisition is non-fantastic and they can buy whatever they want to do that...so be it, I can deal. If however they want low-magic where every magic item is sacred then I can roll with that too. Personally I'm weighted in the middle but neither extreme will truly destroy my game either way.
Years ago I had a character named Benarin Stouthammer (Rin, to his friends), a stoutblooded halfling from 2e. He began in the kit Halfling Homesteader and his mission was to found a new home for his halfling brethren. He had some ridiculous skills per the kit so he was a blacksmith, a carpenter, a woodsman...etc. He was ALSO a fighter with what amounted to a 20 lb sledgehammer.
Fast forward to the end of the campaign. Rin's 16th level, converted to 3e and he's got his place cited and a little farm started; his relatives are just starting to trickle in. Then the campaign culminates with our PCs finding that the source of all the troubles we'd experienced were all b/cause of Baba Yaga's hut and she's just materialized for the endgame nearby.
In the final battle w/her Rin is grappling the hag. During the struggle he asks her why she's so evil, why she is doing this to the multiverse. She crows that once her plan is complete she'll live forever. Then the GM, speaking as Baba Yaga, asks "don't you want to live forever tiny man?" and makes a phenominal roll, throwing Benarin across the room.
I literally got out of my chair, made like I was standing up in character, locked eyes with my GM and made the following speech:
"No, I don't want to live forever, watching everything I've ever worked for, even the things I coveted, fade away into dust; people I care about die; the ideals I hold, however misguided, be replaced, outdated and forgotten. But then, I don't have to live forever to be immortal. Look outside and you'll see a little farm, and on that farm an anvil. I carved my name into that hunk of metal, and around it a community is growing. My name will be remembered there. Once I'm done with you I'll marry my sweetheart Mary and we'll have children, and they'll have children. A thousand years from now you'll be floating, alone and forgotten, bound to some pitiful chair; I'll be dead and my home may be gone, but my name will carry on and I will be remembered. THAT is immortality: to love, be loved, and be remembered forever in the hearts of those who come after you. I PITY you and all that you hope to become."
In that universe Baba Yaga AND her hut have been destroyed utterly. Meanwhile beside a picturesque waterfall is a thriving little halfling shire the locals call Stouthammer Falls. There is a modest keep, built by dwarves once for the defense of the place, which has been converted into a great library. The repository was founded by Marissa in her maiden name of Thisslethorn, before she married Benarin. Now her great granddaughter, Clarissa Thisslethorn is the current curator and the middle-aged librarian, herself a retired adventurer, teaches new generations the history of their home and of a brave, strong and bright young man who set out into the wilds to find it.
THAT'S what the good guys get.
I use individually sized, hand crafted cases of leather and oak, cedar-lined and felted on the inside. Each is hermetically sealed and generally stored at a comfortable 42 degrees at a mere 6% humidity. They are removed only by my man, Timbles, who must wear gloves and a mask to handle them or else he spends a night with the dogs. In transport these cases are further sealed in plexiglass. I employ a fleet of temperature-controlled vans which are loaded and unloaded by robots.
Or rather, I use a backpack. All my spines are ruined. It's not an investment - it's a lifestyle.
Curling sheet- Using precedents established through trap building to create permanized yet cheap running water, a series of traps were established around the rink, known as the "sheet" utilizing create water, ray of frost and a single sleet storm spell to create a constantly forming/evaporating sheet of ice. The target and lane are defined by a prestidigitation and arcane mark woven into the sleet storm trap. Matches are timed with an hour limit; at that point the ice traps need to shut down and refresh.
This trap, crafted by the clever gnomish adept named Zamm Bo-Ni was originally meant to be part of the town's defenses but due to cost overruns the illusory fireworks, color sprays and mecanical golems meant to accompany the sheet were never produced. Since these generators only seem to kick on during the summer festival for some reason and no one really knew how to shut them down, they were repurposed for the entertainment of the crowd.
Ok, so this place is a megadungeon right? Well, every good megadungeon needs a good backstory right? Well, all the party knows right now is that the surface ruins were once a manor; the lord of said manor was seduced by a coven into building a dungeon and then the actual surface level was consumed by battle and fire. Well, that's only a piece of the puzzle. Here's the full backstory I've been working from:
The darkness has always been in Bloodthorn Hollow. Nearly 3 centuries ago the Karnossov came here to deal with the fey. First they sought the legendary tower at Grenduzs, but here they found no power they could use for themselves. However the agents of the Mad Queen were hidden there and bade the humans make pacts with the Shadow instead.
One such oath taker was a petty baron; a small man with grand ambition trapped in the shadow of Governor Halyeketh. To this man was born a daughter and in exchange for her he was entrusted with a mirror which could never know light of any kind. First he kept it in his keep, but in every chamber some errant beam of sunlight or flicker of firelight illuminated the glass and so it would not show him his desire. Then he took it down, into the bowels of the keep, but his servants made their way to it daily to clean it by torchlight. Finally he found a secret cave, accessible only to him after he’d had the entry bricked up and forgotten years before.
There, in the dank depths beneath the earth, the mirror glowed with its own pallid gloom. A beautiful face would appear to the baron and give him counsel, seducing him with honeyed words. He learned many secrets of dark power and used these upon his servants who became monsters by his hands. These pitiful creatures descended into the dark and began to labor there for their master, toiling in the depths constructing great halls to honor both the baron and his consort.
In time his newfound power fueled his ambition and his lust for power. He ventured out against the forces of the governor and fought eight battles; after each he would come back and lay with his mortal wife, then seek solace in his true passions in the bowels of the earth. In total he had eight sons after his victories. These mewling children annoyed the baron and so he had them all killed, one after the next. He was so assured of a ninth and final victory to claim the power of the region for himself that he laid with his wife before he left for the field.
The baron was afield all season with war. It seemed that each time he felt victory in his grasp some malady would befall the battle and muddle his success with calamity. All the while his pregnant wife paced the halls of the keep, praying for her husband to fall in battle. It was then that the darkness called for her.
The woman in the mirror was none other than Mabbe herself and she knew that the child the baron’s wife bore would be the key to her escape from her sister’s prison. So she drew the wife to her mirror just as the child was ready to come into the world. However the expectant mother sensed the malice in the presence that drew her into her husband’s private chambers, so she summoned up a young boy from the kitchens and asked that he accompany her with him. The lad did as she commanded, but with him he brought a pot which he’d scoured for three days to a fine polish on the inside. Into this the baron’s wife cast a handful of embers and she begged the young kitchen hand not to pry off the lid until she commanded it.
Finally the voice guiding her steps led the pregnant woman down, through the undercroft of the keep and into the bowels of the earth where the monsters dwealt. These creatures pushed and jeered and led her to the mirror where the first of the pains began. At the same moment her husband met the governor in a final skirmish, their blades locking in melee. The poor woman labored in the inky blackness of an underground chamber at the pleasure of Mad Queen Mabbe while her husband fought a futile battle doomed to failure. At the moment that the child finally emerged the baron was run through by Governor Halyeketh and died bleeding in an autumn rain.
The Mad Queen was so overjoyed with her success that she paid no heed to the mother of the newborn girl. The baron’s wife then snatched the child from the monstrous midwives and bade the kitchen boy pry off the lid of the pot. The weakened woman breathed into the embers which immediately flared into brilliance; in the heart of the gleaming pot the dazzling light filled the black hall. Mabbe and her minions howled in pain and the woman had the embers cast to the floor where their light would fade. In the confusion she hurled her own daughter into the boy’s pot, still warm from the blaze moments ago, and issued a final order: to take up one of the embers on the lid of the pot and use its light to guide him back the way they’d come.
The boy did as he was told and upon reaching the section of the undercroft where the wall had once stood he turned and waited. His mistress never arrived. He fled to the upper chambers of the keep but over the hills he could see the last fragments of the governor’s army making for the place to end the baron’s line once and for all. The lad then dashed to the stable, mounted a horse and fled, into the wilds of the forest.
The baron’s daughter, the last remaining link to Mabbe’s Mirror, was known simply as Damaythanosc; The Fairest. In time she grew and knew the kitchen boy as her father. Damaythanosc then had a son whom she named Viktor; upon being knighted he pledged himself to avenging the destruction of his true family and took the surname Al Damayth.
So begins the tale of the first knight of Staghorn Reach. In 883 AK Viktor Al Damayth joined the knights of the Second Crusade. Together they made war on Governor Uulegev and finally ended the Karnossov rule over the region known commonly as Bloodthorn Hollow. He then retook his grandfather’s castle. But the monsters who had crafted the lower halls had survived, as had the Shadow and the evil of Queen Mabbe. Sir Damayth made his way down, into the labyrinth, and fought grimly through the shadowed halls to find the mirror. Legend tells that he smashed the thing into hundreds of shards and then returned to the surface, sealing up every entrance to the lower halls he could find.
The keep was rebuilt, with a hall and in time a full manor beside. A small portion of the undercroft was consecrated to the Mother of Souls to protect the dead from the corruption of the Shadow. However the place was ever haunted by the dark powers housed in the earth below it. Denizens of the manor were given over to madness or terrible disease; curses inflicted themselves randomly on members of the bloodline; servants of the house often simply disappeared in the night.
The original nature of the evil was all but forgotten over the passing of generations. In time the evil seemed to fade, the malady becoming an infrequent nuisance. The house of Damayth assumed they’d merely outlived whatever horror had been visited upon them. But then came Morrigu, Migwyllv and the Ghostwood Coven. Mabbe had turned her attentions away from direct vengeance to reach out for new minions to enact new and nefarious schemes.
Those creatures left to dwell half in and half out of the Shadow, scores of feet below the surface, built a vast dwelling for themselves. It is not that Hilvik Damayth, the twisted pawn of the Ghostwood Coven, set his servants to crafting new under-tunnels, but rather that he went about uncovering the upper sections left behind by the Mad Queen and her minions.
- Karnoss is the name of my homebrew and Bloodthorn Hollow is the region the party is in.
- Staghorn Reach is the party's home town.
- Lord Vinosc Damayth is the party's current patron; Hilvik Damayth was his father.
So , what do you think and now that I know the backstory and general stuff I want to put there, what other kinds of set pieces do you think the place needs?