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Submarine Shenanigans

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 11:00

Our 5e Land of Azurth game continued last night, with the party trying to find Kully's father, Cory Keenstep, and figure out how to get him out from under the Sea King, who was holding Keenstep until he won back all the money he had lost. After some exploring of the Sea King's nautiloid manse, they discover Cory is keeping the Sea King's ex-wife, Cecaelia, company in the upstairs sitting room.

It turns out the Cecaelia is a self-absorbed, former (or at least so she claims) starlet. She's keeping Cory busy fetching her drinks, thereby frustrating her ex in two ways: by keeping sea ladies from getting up to him, and by keeping Cory from gambling with him

Cory, an old swindler, is unhelpful in collaborating with the party to make his escape. He wants them to kill (or at least suitably wound) the Sea King so they can get out with the money. This does not strike his son or any of the rest of them as a good plan. Instead, they go to talk to the Sea King, sulking in his penthouse.

The Sea King is willing to let them take Cory--if the royal treasury's gambling debt to him is cancelled and the party smuggles up some young ladies from the party past Cecaelia. The party agrees, but rather than forfeit the funds, they hatch another scheme: they'll sell Cecaelia on headlining a touring stage show in the Land of Under Sea and take her off the Sea King's hands. He'll presumably be grateful enough to let them keep the money.

A natural 20 Persuades the ex-Sea Queen of this plan. The Sea King is incredulous that anyone would want to take the high maintenance Cecaelia with them, but he agrees, tentatively. Cory suggests this is a bad plan and they should just make a break for it.

In this, the party soon begins to realize, he may be right. Logistics of supplying Cecaelia the staff she needs and taking her with them prove daunting, and the Sea King is stingy with extra funds. Ultimately, they decide to stick Cory with her and deal with all this later--only to to find he's slunk off to the submarine and left them holding the bag!

The party takes off too, and makes it to the submarine where they resume there voyage, but they don't get far. The Sea King, grown to giant size, grabs the submarine and flings it through the water a great distance. When they finally right themselves and are able to take bearings. Cog announces that they are lost!

Down & Out In The Rotten Apple - Actual Pulp Era Campaign Event

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 04/15/2018 - 23:08
So last night I got the party gated into what appeared to be a darkened crypt someplace in a dungeon. In actuality it was a giant roach farm being used by a husband & wife team of NPCs in an abandoned family crypt in New York City 1904. The party was caught by the NPC's & immediately taken to meet the Gecko men family's royal masters.   High above the hi rise building a mysterious air ship Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hell Hath No Furry

Fail Squad Games - Sun, 04/15/2018 - 21:05
Hell Hath No Furry Who let the dogs out?

Some hellhounds have escaped their domain in the Lands of Lunacy (or a small island on the Elemental Plane of Fire). One of Brimfire’s (a fire giant) hounds discovered a jewel that opens a portal to the Prime Material Plane, and the hounds are wreaking havoc hunting and terrorizing the mortals.

The newest adventure to hit the virtual shelves from Fail Squad Games. a 6 page, full color Interlude adventure. BECMI / Labyrinth Lord rule set – for just $3.00.

Don’t have $3?

Join the Fail Squad Games Guild and get it for half off – ($1.50). Just pop up to the upper right hand section of the site and sign up now.

Click here to pop over to the store now.

Thank you for supporting Fail Squad Games, there are plenty more fun adventures, free stuff, and games to come!

~Lloyd M (worker Goblin)


The post Hell Hath No Furry appeared first on Fail Squad Games.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On Divination

Greyhawk Grognard - Sun, 04/15/2018 - 16:12
In doing my analyses of various early adventure modules, it strikes me that some of the things that players are expected to figure out are pretty damn impossible. How to know that wearing the robes of the clerics of Tharizdun will protect against the numbing cold of the Black Cyst? How to know that the chain in the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief has to be put in the form of a figure 8 to become a teleporter to the Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl? They're way too specific, and way too improbable. There has to be a way in-game for the players to be able to figure this sort of stuff out.

And there is. Divination.

Divination spells seem to get the short end of the stick, especially since most of them are on the cleric spell lists, and everyone knows that clerics are supposed to stock up on as much healing magic as possible.

But I submit that divination spells are really where the cleric shines, and the reason there are all these impossible-to-figure-out puzzles is that they're there to form yet another layer of logistical challenge in terms of spell memorization. A party whose spellcasters don't have at least a few divination-type spells will find themselves blocked out of some of the choicest treasure and other goodies.

Let's look at some of the divination spells from 1st edition AD&D.

Identify (1st level magic-user spell). Discover the dweomer of some magic item, with a base 20% chance per round of discovering one power.

Augury (2nd level cleric spell). Base 70% chance of knowing whether a specified action within 30 minutes will be positive or negative.

Locate Object (2nd level magic-user/3rd level cleric spell). Finds a known or familiar object within 100 feet or more.

Clairaudience (3rd level magic-user spell). Lets you hear what's going on in some known location, such as on the other side of that door.

Clairvoyance (3rd level magic-user spell). Lets you see what's going on in some known location, such as on the other side of that door.

Speak with the Dead (3rd level cleric spell). Ask 2-7 questions of a dead creature (how long dead depends on your level). Interestingly, the spell description never says the dead are compelled to answer truthfully, but I think that's how it was generally taken.

Divination (4th level cleric spell). Lets you know strength of monsters, general amount of treasure, and whether a powerful supernatural creature might become involved (!). Applies to a building, small patch of wilderness like a wood, or a part of a dungeon level. This is clearly one of those mechanics in the game that were specifically geared towards megadungeon play, and whose significance was lost when that style of adventure design quickly dropped out of fashion. And let's not ignore the fact that it requires an animal sacrifice as the material component!

Wizard Eye (4th level magic-user spell). Lets you see what's going on, at a rate of 3" per round.

Commune (5th level cleric spell). Ask your deity one yes/no question per experience level (at least 9 of them, then). You can find a lot out with a 9-question game of yes/no.

Contact Other Plane (5th level magic-user spell). Ask a... um, plane of existence... one question. The greater the likelihood of success, the greater the likelihood you'll go insane. And you could get a deliberately false answer. Maybe stick with a cleric for this stuff.

Find the Path (6th level cleric spell). Gives you the most direct route to wherever you want to go, whether it's home or to some locale within a dungeon or spot in the wilderness.

Legend Lore (6th level magic-user spell). Learn all about some person, place, or thing. But you'll need to sacrifice a magic item to do it, and it takes a long time.

I think a large part of the reason these spells exist is to give players a fighting chance of figuring out some of those incredibly specific and picayune puzzles, for which there really aren't any actual clues. Rather than pure trial and error, or the tedium of checking for secret doors in every 10' of wall space, these spells allow the players to use clever questioning to at least know that there's something to know. It's also good to know that clerics have another use other than walking healing stations (although it's once more interesting to note that there's now a logistical choice to be made when one gets access to 4th level cleric spells - do I choose cure serious wounds or divination?).
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Underground Comics is Almost Here

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 04/15/2018 - 14:00

First mentioned six months ago, Underground Comics #1 is now nearing completion! It will be 36-pages and 6 black and white features of dungeon-related stuff. Jeff Call debuts that delvers best friend, "Dungeon Dog." James V. West uncovers a lost poem of Barrowstain Goodly, Great of the Brownie poets in "The Ballad of the Doomed Delvers." Karl Stjernberg gives us a glimpse of the dungeoneer "Before and After."

A veritable treasure trove, right? But we're not done. There's also OSR art luminaries like Jason Sholtis, Luka Rejec, and the legendary Stefan Poag!

Look for it in POD and digital in June.

Dan’s Top 19 RPGs - #7 - Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

19th Level - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 22:48

 This was one of the tougher games for me to place. For a long time, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was the main game I played. I’m going to commit some old-school heresy and link the first and second editions of the games together - though there certainly was some stylistic changes, AD&D 2nd edition was more a change along the lines of editions of Call of Cthulhu than the leap between AD&D and Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition. One could even make the argument of linking AD&D and B/X D&D but given the number of differing assumptions between the two parallel game lines, I’ve chosen not to do that - though truth to tell, my groups, like most, happily cross-pollinated between the two lines - but we usually preferred AD&D.

What was it about AD&D? I think what I liked about it was that it was a dense game. The early books were tomes you could explore. It was a crunchy game - not Aftermath crunchy but compared to B/X D&D there was a lot to the game. I don’t know if anyone used all of the crunch. For example, it was only a few years ago that I finally understood how speed factor worked in the 1st edition - each weapon had a speed factor assigned to it, though it was apparently only significant in the cases of a tie for initiative. There were rules for aging, diseases, saving throws for equipment carried by characters, etc. I think what I loved most was the feel of the game. It was a less brightly lit world than that of B/X D&D. Characters were generally assumed to be opportunists and evil characters seemed to be expected - though I recall a lot of debates in Dragon magazine’s old forum section. Of modern games, I’d say Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and Dungeon Crawl Classics come closest to the tone of AD&D’s 1st edition. You won’t see LotFP on this list alas, as while I’ve borrowed from it, I’ve never actually had the opportunity to play it and I’ve limited my list to games I’ve played or run at least once.

I do wonder if I perhaps ranked AD&D a little too high - I suspect given the opportunity to play AD&D or AS&SH I’d probably pick the latter. On the other hand, I’ve such powerful memories of AD&D - I think we’re giving a bit of a nostalgia bump...

Looking back, I do think AD&D 2nd edition is a bit unfairly maligned. It provided some much needed cleanup of the rules - in AD&D 2e I actually understood how speed factor worked. It is regrettable how much tidier AD&D got - demons no longer in the game, no more assassin player characters, etc. The cleanup probably was necessary - I wasn’t in an area hit hard by the anti-D&D craze of the 1980s, but it was a real thing - I remember Gary Gygax on 60 Minutes.  The 2nd edition did go for more plot-driven adventures, sometimes with PCs relegated to being mere observers. However, late 2nd edition adventures experienced a bit of a renaissance after Wizards of the Coast bought TSR. There were some interesting experiments in that era - one of my favorites was Reverse Dungeon, where the PCs played the humanoids whose lairs were being attacked by adventurers.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Blood & Duels In The Darkness of New York - OSR Actual Campaign Setting Event

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 19:08
"The laser rapier sang in the air burning  the molecules as it slice through the air on its way to cut off the head of the Count. It was countered by an expert block of someone whom had countless times had taken the life of younger opponents & rivals. In the shadows of Blackwood park the duelists continued their dance of plasma enhanced violence.  The night was lit by the multi colored Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

From head to page

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 17:59

Development questions are fun for me to answer. I get to see what people are interested in, and I get to share my thoughts and ideas with those who appreciate them. Also, during some of these exchanges, I get to examine my own creative process in a different way. By analyzing how I explain a concept to someone, I find myself looking at the concept from the outside-in. 
I've been asked how some of the process works for me. I smile at the thought of having an actual process, but I get the gist. Most of the time, it starts with quick and incomplete notes for a concept - often hand-written in my notebook. Don't bother about the page titles - they're usually just for fun. At a later point, the notes are transcribed into Word archive files for eventual translation into publishable material.
Below is an example of the initial concept outline for a bizarre creature due to appear in the Avremier setting at a later date. From these initial impressions will come a stat block and official description for game use. It is also entirely possible that the name will change. I'll also need to determine where the creature will have a place in the Avremier 'verse. The notes below are about a half-hour old and are being shared here for the first time.
Shadowlight Horror: Naturally-invisible creature of arms and tendrils – similar to a spiny starfish with many more arms. tentacled horror. Casts light instead of shadow – toward a light source, not away from. Difficult to look directly into the creature’s cast light. No way of knowing facing or specific anatomy beyond arms and tendrils – some with feathery extensions that are probably sensory organs, and some with stinging spines that look pretty much the same. Hardly any weight, the creature moves lightly across any surface without a sound. When grappling with arms, the horror may permanently steal a victim’s shadow. This somehow renders the victim “less-substantial,” permanently reducing HP, STR, and CON by 1. They are also uncomfortable in bright light (-1 to attack rolls for first three rounds). One stricken adventurer had her shadow restored after dying and being raised. There is no other known way of undoing this effect. Many living creatures find those with lost shadows somehow unnerving or unpleasant to be around.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) The Chapel on the Cliffs

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 11:15

By Joseph Crawford
Goblin Stone
Level 3

It’s been fifty years since the curse struck Kennmouth. Since then, few have dared brave the dangers of the abandoned village. Even fewer came back in one piece. Kathryn Reed has her eyes set on the fishery waters of Kennmouth Bay, but she needs adventurers foolish enough to lift the dark curse. Will you be the heroes who finally rid Kennmouth of its denizens?

Hey! It doesn’t suck!

This 38 page adventure details a cursed village, empty by day and patrolled by undead at night. Sandboxy, not a railroad, and rewarding thoughtful exploration, it’s organized well and has great imagery. I am not mad as this adventure. (It also comes with a 25 page supplement that scales the adventure to various levels and has full monster stats.)

This adventure is focused. It knows what it wants to do and it’s focused on doing that and little else. The setting is a ruined village. While a village map is provided, the only structures described are those related to the adventure. You can pick up a rumor about a witch being hanged at a tree, so the tree is described. There’s a lighthouse that, if you climb, you can see a couple of new locations to go look in to. The carpenters shop has tools and supplies to fortify a house (against undead attack at night) so it get a few words.

The details provided all directly relate to how the party interacts with the world. It’s like the thing was playtested and additional detail provided based on those playtests. Hmmm, need chase rules and/or skeleton siege rules. Hmmm, players want supplies to barricade themselves. Better put some help in for the dm.

It’s got more than once path to look in to. There’s an (obvious) green glow coming from a chapel on the cliff at night. There’s rumors about a hung witch. There’s obviously some ancient barrow-mound shit going on. Not exactly false trails, since they can contribute to things going on in the village also. Clue trails that lead to other things, in other words. This thing is DESIGNED, something few adventures seem to be.

Ghost ships, erie green glows from the cliffside chapel, the entire concept of a cursed/haunted village, disturbed graves, skeletons clawing their way out, a pale thin woman trapped in a sea cave … this thing also brings the evocative. It does a great job of creative a vivid picture with only a few words.

Which is not to say this is a terse adventure. It has something else going on. The page count is a bit up there. Some of that is related to the formatting. It uses sections titles, formatting, and whitespace to good effect, but that also contributes to the length. As does the anticipation of the needs the characters might have; that DM advice takes up space. The text can get long in a few sections and a little bolding would have helped. I’m thinking of the Green Mold curse, which gets a column of text. You’ll need to dig through it to find the mechanics for when the party encounters it. The NPC’s also tend to get an opening paragraph description that’s a bit conversations. A little bolding, to call out their main traits, would have helped with scanning during play. It DOES make good use of bullet points, and in spite of my nits IS organized well.

The hook is also a little … 5e. It’s oriented around a businesswoman wanting the party to look in to things for her so she can used the cursed villages harbour. How pedestrian. There’s a lot of rumors and information to follow up on in the nearby village by the mundanity of the hook is lame. A curse/haunted village nearby, with rumors about it in town, and maybe some related small hooks (which are interconnected with the businesswoman) might have been a more natural fit. But … there is a lot of rumor and information in the nearby town and it’s done well. The italic text, used for read-aloud, in an offset color, doesn’t work well for me, i find the italics and color chosen hard to read.

This is a decent adventure that rewards some thoughtful play. Looking around. Paying attention. NOT rushing in to things. Running away. Rushing headlong will get you murderized by 120 skeletons. Nice. I approve. I could/would run this and not be mad. A few better choices in formatting and editing would have pushed this in to my Best Of category. But, it’s also easily one of the best, if not the best 5e adventure I’ve seen.

This is $5 on DriveThru, with print versions available. The preview is 13 pages, a third of the adventure. The lighthouse, rowan tree, and smithy are on the last two pages and give you a good idea of the town locations and writing style. Page 11 shows some of the helpful DM advice, in the form of simple timekeeping tasks (for sunset when the skeletons arise.)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Lucky Friday Mail Call With Monsters of Mayhem #1 & Some Campaign Monster Ecology

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 04/13/2018 - 21:24
Monster mail call on Friday the Thirteenth, so while I've had to change up my plans from a Golden era game Supers to a slightly more conventional early pre WWI ACK's pulp campaign. I got a lovely piece of OSR mail from Mark Taormino over at Dark Wizard Games. Their latest title is Monsters of Mayhem #1 book which they sent me about two days ago. Here's the unboxing & there isn't a title ofNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the Crypt Contents

Hack & Slash - Fri, 04/13/2018 - 12:00
I'm not exactly angry about this, but more like I don't understand it.

There's a crypt. Inside there are lots of coffins and places where they put dead people, and valuables. Characters soon realize that robbing graves while they are down here doesn't hurt the dead any. So you either create specific treasure or a sort of randomized set of options.

We are all together on this point so far, yeah? But then you look at the actual contents and it's dull shit! Like, the precious moments of my life are slipping away, and I'm rolling on some crappy table full of uninteresting crap with my friends out of. . . what? Obligation to find a rotten string?

Well, it's complicated.

First, it's effectively a slot machine. Players pull the lever, possibly roll the hazard/encounter die, and then get the contents. It clearly is less exciting if it only returns danger or treasure. You want the uncertainty and excitement.

You also want the possibility of empty. The problem is, you want them in the right ratio.

Pulling a LeverI like to think of my players as rational actors. They are going to try to get money with the least amount of risk possible. Therefore, anything that doesn't present as profitable will likely be ignored.

I resolve this by having the first coffin they examine have a "Good" result. (No Quantum Ogre here—I don't care how they examine the first coffin, or even if they do)

I often think chances for something interesting to happen are far far too low. There's a problem of scale where people assume that certain things will be referenced more than they are. Random encounters are a good example. A ~15% chance of an encounter per roll that's made 3 times an hour, means you'll have 2, maybe 3 wandering encounters usually? And yet many (many many) products contain a table with 12 boring monster entries. 6 would make a lot more sense, more likely to give an idea of an ecosystem, and you could design more interesting encounters than (8-12 Bugbears, EL3).

So for crypts, how many will their be? 8? 12? In a session, perhaps, there could be more. If the players are actively engaged in this endeavor, then it should have value. If nearly every roll results in "nothing" then it becomes kind of a tedious task.

When designing a slot machine, you want the good to be good, the bad to be terrifying, and a neutral result to be a relief. Based on these results, the expected number of crypts or coffins you might find, I like to have a 1/3 chance of each option occuring. There's an additional cost if opening these crypts causes noise or a roll of the hazard die. If done quietly, robbing graves and crypts, One hazard die per 3 graves looted is rolled.

Contents of Crypts, Graves, Catacomb burial niches, and other corpse storageThe original Numenhalla Contents of Crypt/Coffin table reads:

Roll Result Roll 1 in 6 chance of treasure 1) Empty 1) 2d6x10 coins 2) dust 2) Jewelry 1-2 pieces 3) corpse 3) 1d4x100 coins + 1-4 gems 4) corpse 4) Magic Item 5) Ash Wraith 6) Mummy

Coins are 1-2 copper, 3-4 silver, 5 gold, 6 platinum.

This is simple and effective. However, it's also right near that random table quality we are talking about. Writing this down and adding it to your module isn't helping.  we are looking for more evocative and flavorful text.

Not just text worth paying for, but a real opportunity to delve into the unknown of another human's mind. So yeah, it's worth it.

Numenhalla Crypt tableThe first crypt looted or investigating is filled with dust and a set of six pearl dice worth 100 gold each, they sell for 800 gold coins as a set. There's also a small cross set with tiny diamonds worth 900 gold coins.

Thereafter oll 2d6 when looting tombs. The first D6 determines the contents, the second D6 determines if there are valuables present (1 in 6). Conditions last until removed by the hazard die. Coins are 1-2 copper, 3-4 silver, 5 gold, 6 platinum.

1) Monster!
2) Empty
3) Dust
4) Corpse
5) Corpse
6) Oddity

Monster Table
1) Stuffed full of ash, swirls into room, 10-40 Ash Wraiths attack.
2) The corpse lurches free, flailing about. 1 zombie attacks.
3) The coffin contains a black ooze. Initially it stays motionless, lashing out to attack people at the most opportune moment.
4) While examining the crypt, spikes and shatters from the shadowplane burn through the area. These do 2d8 damage, with a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw for half (save versus breath weapon for half)
5) Ghouls have caught the scent of unearthed grave dust, 3d12 descend on the party.
6) Yellow mold bursts out of the crypt in a cloud 40 feet in diameter. It does 2d10 poison damage and grants the poison condition, unless a  DC 15 Constitution saving throw is made. The character takes another 1d10 damage at the start of each of their turns. They may attempt a save at the end of every round. (save versus poison or die).
7) Winds and sand blow out of the crypt as a mummy lashes out at the party
8) When even gently disturbed, a swarm of crawling claws pushes open the crypt and attacks.
9) Inside this crypt lies a Helmed Horror that animates and attacks. 3d4 other Helmed Horrors arise and break through nearby shallow crypts within 20' of the party to attack.
10) The crypt ejects bones like a fountain that turn into 6d6 skeletons.
11) A heavily armored knight lies here, until red fire burns from his eyes. 1 Death Knight attacks.*
12) A Nezumi assassin lies in wait here, and will attack with his poisoned daggers, DC 15 Constitution save or fall to 0 hit points and start making death saves (save versus poison or die).*
* Options 11 and 12 can only occur once. After they both occur, roll a 1d10 on this table.

Oddity Table1) Energy swirls around the room as the corpse inside is exposed. Rapidly, the corpse draws in energy becoming more and more lifelike, until the tempest passes and the nude dark haired beauty awakes.
2) 3 colored beams emanate from the enclosure, striking 3 random characters. The blue beam raises the experience of the character to the midpoint of the next level, the red beam permanently increases strength by 2, the black beam causes the character to appear as a photographic negative, causing death and necromantic spells to be cast as if the caster were 2 levels higher, and granting a +4 bonus on saves versus death.
3) Though the crypt is empty, mist rises from the floor, restricting visibility to a maximum of 50'.
4) The corpse of a giant lizard lies well preserved in this crypt.
5) There is a cracking sound, and suddenly several areas nearby are flooded with a slick substance. All terrain is difficult. You may treat it as non-difficult terrain, but must succeed at a DC 20 Dexterity saving throw (save versus paralyzation) or fall prone.
6) A pool of spiritstuff lies within the crypt. A wizard can perform an augary or clairvoyance here on a successful arcana roll. Death spells are enhanced near the pool.
7) As soon as the lid comes off, hundreds of ravens and other dark birds begin pouring out of the crypt. Several thousand eventually fly off.
8) The lid was keeping pressure on a pipe, and when disturbed, the crypt spews out a black cloud to 30 feet obscuring vision.
9) Inside the crypt is a stone passage that seems to lead to another area of the dungeon, through a 5' wide tunnel.
10) A strange vine lies in this crypt, growing through various skulls along its length. It is very resilient, but otherwise normal.
11) This 'Crypt' is actually the basic workings of a flesh vat. If the 15 stone monstrosity is extracted and it's repaired with 1,000 gold coins of augatic parts, you can be the proud owner of a medium sized flesh-vat.
12) Melted candles and wax are lining the bottom of this crypt

Treasure Table1) Leather straps that held this corpse inside this coffin glow with ancient runes. Binding these around yourself grants protection equivalent to leather +1, provides a +1 bonus to saves and prevents the user from having their soul removed from their body.
2) 2434 coins are precisely stacked in the form of a human merchant.
3) In the crypt is a dagger-shaped recess. If a dagger is sacrificed, a secret chamber snaps open, inside of which sit 4 magical daggers. The daggers return to their owner at the end of the combat round. Each does their normal damage, plus 2d4+3 elemental damage for a total of 3d4+3 damage. The elements are Pathos, Ice,  Mirrors, and Shadow.
4) A leather strap with a hemispherical diamond set in the center, focuses the mind. It grants a +1 bonus to intelligence and access to either 2 sorcery points, 4 ki points, or a free second level slot.
5) Inside a small faded box, with a pattern of roses on the cover, lies a few dusty documents. These when presented to any official, military or government officer, or anyone inquiring into your business, will say whatever is necessary to pacify the official and convince him that you meet all his expectations.
6) An ancient amulet, with a bare space with a setting for a gem. It provides a +1 bonus to saving throws versus elements. If a gem is set into the amulet, it increases the bonus to saves by 1 per 5,000 gold pieces of the gem, up to a maximum of +4 to saving throws versus elemental damage
7) Two keys lie within the crypt, a 1"brass barrel key with a horse shaped bow (73), A 3" bronze barrel key, with a cross shaped hole in a flat bow.
8) A ceramic flask is engraved with the name Gilgithas. Gilgithas is a chain demon who's essence is trapped in the flask. If freed he will perform one service. 
9) A set of 12 marbles made from gemstone, 100 gold each, 1500 for the set.
10) A large wooden plank, which encumbers 3 stone has delicate etching of a boar hunt in the woods. It is worth 1,200 gold.
11) Various silver trinkets, badly tarnished and set with semi-precious gems, all told worth about 300 gold coins.
12) A goblet that turns holy water into a liquid that cures disease and illness.
13) A 3" diameter jeweled loop that turns anything passed through it invisible until the next sunrise.
14) A vine necklace that exudes alteration magic. When donned, it comes to life and threads itself though the nasal cavity and sinuses of the wearer, looping around outside the back of the head. While worn, the wearer can breath water. Removing it takes a full round and leaves you stunned for the next round.
15) A crystal bracelet summons a suit of frozen armor that surrounds the bearer, granting them an armor class as chain, but without restricting their movement. Any fire damage will be nullified but cause the armor to dissipate for 1 minute.
16) A vial contains a pungent liquid. As an action, you can take a quaff and vomit a bolt of bile and acid in a 30' line that does 4d8 damage with a dexterity save equal to your constitution modifier, plus your proficiency bonus plus 8 for half (Save vs. Breath weapon). There are six doses in the bottle.
17) Inside this is a geomancers staff made of fragrant hickory. It has the head of a ram which is inlaid with 5 onyx. This acts as a +3 Quarterstaff with 10 charges, and it gains 1d6+4 charges at dawn. If you expend the last charge, roll a d20, with a roll of 1 indicating the staff is destroyed. Spells. You can use an action to expend 1 or more of the staffs charges to cast one of the following spells from it, using your spell save DC. Aura of Vitality (1 charge), Erupting Earth (2 charges), Banishing Smite (3 charges), Antimagic Field (8 Charges)
18) A greatbow made of yew wood, known as the Thorliusson Bow. The grip is wrapped in dull brown leather. The bowstring is actually a fine chain made of normal electrum. Accompanying the bow is a quiver of oiled brown leather with sheep fur trim. It contains 23 barbed +3 arrows with shafts of cypress wood painted yellow-orange and fletching of two mustard yellow feathers and one dark brown feather. It is a +2 bow, and any non-magical arrow fired through the bow can be used to cast entangle centered on the target once a day. The targets are ensnared with electrum chains.
19) A ray pistol sits discussed in this crypt. It shoots bolts of flame energy that do 1d8+1 points of damage. It has a 1d12 ammunition die.
20) This body is wearing two electrum gauntlets set with a rare white jade. They can be removed from the crumbling body without difficulty.

Replaced used entries with one of the following
A set of earrings with black agate, worth 150 gold coins.
A copper headband set with a malachite worth 80 gold coins.
An electrum mask of a tiger, vibrantly painted, worth 600 gold coins
A silver cloak pin, set with three tiny rubies worth 400 gold coins
A small leather sack containing 100-400 coins.
Six small tiger agates worth 30 gold coins each (180 total).
A diamond worth 1,000 gold coins.

A Professional Nod to Gus L, who does crypts right.

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Operation is About to Begin!

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 04/13/2018 - 11:00

At last, the Operation Unfathomable soft cover proof is in Jason Sholtis's trembling hand--and it looks good! Check out this two-page spread:

Vouchers for order will go out to Kickstarter backers very soon and in in a short time, it will be available for purchase by anyone on rpgnow.

Thoughts on The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun

Greyhawk Grognard - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 23:59
I'm going to take a break from my ongoing delvings into the inner workings of the Giants, Drow, and Temple of Elemental Evil adventures to venture into new territory. I'm going to start picking apart the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, and see if there's anything that we might glean from a close examination.

I should begin by saying there's a lot more to this adventure than my recollection led me to believe. It's been years since I've done more than crack it open for a quick glance, and it's much denser than I remember.

In terms of physical and narrative structure, the most obvious aspect of the module is the fact that the really cool stuff is completely hidden and almost entirely cut off. In fact, it's entirely likely that a party will battle the humanoids on behalf of the gnomes, grab their treasure, and not even realize there's an Undertemple to be explored. the PCs would have to discover one of two secret doors in a very out of the way place to do so, and then more secret doors to get to the really good stuff.

This seems to be a recurring feature in Gygaxian dungeons. Very elaborate encounter areas filled with interesting stuff, but which could easily be ignored or which could go undiscovered entirely. The original Castle was like this, and we see it in G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief with its secret third level and in S4 the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth with the underground river and lake, among many other examples.

[As an aside, I think my proposed hidden shrine to the Elder Elemental God as the lowest level of the Temple of Elemental Evil would fit into this category, and doing so would be tonally consistent with this aspect of Gygaxian design.]

This design philosophy speaks of a sort of "strategic patience" in dungeon design, which pays off in ongoing campaigns run over the course of years with many players, wherein areas once discounted as "cleared out" are re-explored for things that might possibly have been missed, or moved in since they were first mapped out. This is at odds with contemporary dungeon design, which regards such "one missed secret door check means you miss the good stuff" as a serious flaw. In modern games, which are much more plot-driven and which demand the PCs move on to the next location to advance the story, this would indeed be a problem.

In a location-based adventure, however, which is still there years later for the PCs to return to and see what they might have missed, it's a jackpot which the patient DM can wait for years to see discovered, and he (and his players) can gain all the more satisfaction therefrom. I think this is an aspect of Golden Age dungeon design that is little recognized, let alone appreciated, today.

For all its near-inaccessibility, it's exactly this hidden area of the dungeon that stands out in one's memory of the adventure. It's not the well-organized waves of humanoids who will swarm over adventurers who invade their lair. It's the cyst, and the needlerock altar, and the rest. In fact, there's very little in the humanoid areas that isn't completely prosaic and ultimately forgettable as nothing more than a well-organized humanoid lair complex, a la the Caves of Chaos from B1 Keep on the Borderlands. There are a few trappings in the Lower Temple area, such as the columns and the carvings in the aisle, but even those are pretty low-key bits of weirdness that only set up what is to come below. And so it is to the hidden area that I will now turn my attention.

It's important to note that the Temple itself was very significant in the cult of Tharizdun. This isn't just some random temple that was lost to the ages - it was a vital center of the cult, and thus should hold a properly important place in the campaign as a whole. Behold this passage from the introduction:
The Temple was built in a previous age, a secret place of worship to Tharizdun, He of Eternal Darkness. It drew the most wicked persons to it, and the cult flourished for generations, sending ot its minions from time to time to enact some horrible deed upon the lands around. However, a great battle eventually took place between Tharizdun and those opposed to his evil.  Unable to destroy him, they were strong enough to overcome his power and imprison him somewhere...After a time his servants returned again to the Temple, deserted as it was of any manifestation of their deity. Amongst these wicked folk were many powerful magic-users and clerics. All sought with utmost endeavor to discern what had happened to Tharizdun, so that he could be freed and returned to rule over them once again. All attempts were in vain, although the divinations and seekings did reveal to these servants of Eternal Darkness that a "Black Cyst" existed below the temple. ... In the hemisphere of black needlerock (floating as if by manifestation) a huge form could be seen. Was this the physical manifestation of Tharizdun?The rhetorical question at the end there is of course intended to lead the reader to the conclusion that it is Tharizdun in there, although there's no actual evidence to that effect whatsoever. All we have are intimations and suggestions. In the description of the Black Cyst itself, and the block of needle-rock, no definitive answer is given as to what is within, nor is there any way to determine it. The PCs are able to get to the treasure (using means doubtless used by the ancient priests - more on that in a minute), but the hemisphere of needlerock remains an enigma.

That leads us to the biggest enigma about this adventure. Why? What is the point of the PCs coming into the Undertemple and the Black Cyst? There's a treasure to be had, sure, but it's pretty meager; 333 gems, worth about 40,000 gp or so all told. Plus a wand of force, a cube of force, and a book worth 33,000 gp. That's a lot, but for a party of 5th - 10th level characters, it's really not that much of a payoff for enduring all the weirdness of the place.

Speaking of the book, we're left with this tantalizing description:
If anyone other than a cleric of Tharizdun opens and attempts to decipher it, he or she will, with the aid of a read magic spell, be able to understand that it is titled LAMENT FOR LOST THARIZDUN before their mind goes blank for 2-12 rounds and they take 3-30 points of damage. What this tome is, says, and does is the subject of some later revelation.This module literally forces the PCs to dress up like
Tharizdun cultists or take damage"Later revelation???" What the heck could that be? Was there to be some sort of follow-up to the Lost Temple at some point? It was published in 1982, so not right on the cusp of Gygax's removal from TSR, and to my knowledge there was never a hint as to what that later revelation was to have been. Alas.

What intrigues me with the whole thing is that it seems designed to force the PCs into taking on the role of worshipers of Tharizdun.

Think about it - in the Inset Area, there are robes for them to find, which are required down in the Octagonal Chamber of the Undertemple, or else they'll start taking damage. There they will also find balls of incense which are used in the Undertemple and are necessary to reach the Black Cyst. Once there, the incense is again needed to get the gems and book, and leave. The iron horn called the Wailer for Tharizdun must be blown in order to activate the idols of Tharizdun in the Dungeon Level. Recalling what is said in the introduction:
As generations passed, various other things necessary to survival in the Black Cyst were formalized into a paeon of lament and worship for Tharizdun, and endless services to awaken the being were conducted by rote. Then, as time continued to pass, even this ritual grew stale and meaningless. The clerics of Tharizdun began to pilfer the hoard of beautiful gems sacrificed to him by earlier servants -- 333 gems of utmost value, ranging in worth from 5,000 to 50,000 gold pieces each. Replacing these jewels with stones of much less value, the former servants of this deity slipped away with their great wealth to serve other gods and wreak evil elsewhere.That's exactly the funnel the module demands the PCs move through; the very "various other things necessary to survival in the Black Cyst" are exactly what the PCs have to do. Sounding the Wailer. Donning the robes. Lighting the incense. Devoting themselves to Tharizdun in the Shrine, to get the benefit of the water. Touching the walls in the Aisle might cause one to subconsciously call on Tharizdun in a time of need. On and on and on. The module is designed to turn the PCs into worshipers of the Chained God.

This is done in a way that we don't see in other Gygaxian evil temples. Certainly the Elder Elemental God's shrines will only (!) cause madness. Tharizdun's temple seems designed to convert intruders to his dark service, whether through their own conscious actions, or purely through ignorance of the significance of their actions. It's downright subversive. I've got to say, that seems a bit more Kuntzian than Gygaxian in its own right, and let's not forget that Gygax gives "Special Thanks To" Rob Kuntz at the very end of the adventure.

And don't get me wrong - I think that's a Good Thing. That "if you keep going, you're going to be corrupted whether you want to or not" aspect is what I think makes this adventure unique, all said. Tomb of Horror will (almost certainly) kill you, but Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun will pollute you. It's as close to actual "character horror" as you can get. It certainly lends a much deeper and more layered aspect of horror to the second half of the adventure than one typically sees in the early TSR modules. I like it!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Magic Item: Mind Steel Coif

Ultanya - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 18:19
This very rare chain coif is created by the Githyanki* in the Astral Plane. Legend holds that over the epochs they found ways to avoid the terrible mind attacks of those whom enslaved them. The coifs are crafted from Mind Steel. This priceless ore is said to be the crystallized blood of a dead celestial being. How the Githyanki are able to work it into wearable armor is the subject of debate among the arcane.

Designed by Vanessa Walilko, @KaliButterfly Mind Steel Coif

Requires Attunement

You gain the following benefits while wearing it:

  • Resistance to Psychic damage.
  • A Mind Flayer must spend one round removing the Mind Steel Coif before using its Extract Brain ability.
  • The coif also protects the wearer from the dark whispers of things unimaginable. Once per long rest you may gain advantage on a Wisdom Saving throw against an effect caused by an aberration.

You gain the following hindrances while wearing it:

  • The coif does resemble an alien Mind Flayer or a metal octopus from the briny depths. The wearer is viewed with unusual suspicion, which causes disadvantage on all Charisma based checks.
  • Finally, Aberrations will take special interest in destroying a Mind Steel Coif. Their servants may actively try to steal it, or worse be sent to dispatch the wearer. 

*For the uninitiated the Githyanki are astral sea dwellers who were once enslaved by a malevolent and cthulhu-esque race known as the Illithid or Mind Flayers. The Githyanki first appeared in the 1979 issue #12 of White Dwarf, in the "Fiend Factory" column. However, they are most famous for being depicted on the cover of the 1981 AD&D book, Fiend Folio. Interestingly, the name Githyanki was first coined by George R. R. Martin in his 1977 sci-fi novel Dying of the Light.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rick and Morty Trading Cards Season 1 - Sketch Card Previews, Part 2

Cryptozoic - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 17:00

Please enjoy the second installment of our Rick and Morty Trading Cards Season 1 Sketch Card previews, hand-drawn by our talented artists. Links to contact the artists can be found below the images of their Sketch Cards. Set coming soon!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Black & Bloody War - A World On The Razor's Edge OSR Campaign Pitch

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 16:58
How does marry the resources of great OSR material with one's old school campaigns?! For months now I've been marrying Arthurian literature, the Thirty Year War, & Dark Albion's product line by Rpg Pundit.So then I got the bright idea of marrying super heroes into a TSR classic era adventure but then got shot down because of scheduling conflicts. But then I was also told that it wasn't Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Free Stuff Section

Fail Squad Games - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 13:58

FSG is adding a “Free Stuff” page to the site. As time allows it will get new additions, tools, NPCs, Monsters, Pregens, and encounters to add to your adventures. All focused on old school gaming. This will be a place to add tic-bits to your game that are unique, unusual, and helpful for un-prepped DMs (The story of my life). Being an under-prepared DM was one of the core reasons I started creating adventures and supplements!

Expect – BECMI, Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, 1E type of material, not to mention Lands of Lunacy and other slick stuff to keep your players off-guard.
Bookmark the page HERE also don’t forget to “subscribe to blog” at the bottom of the page so you won’t miss anything.

For some real up-coming treats, sign up for FSG exclusives at the top-right of the page.

The post Free Stuff Section appeared first on Fail Squad Games.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Return of Descriptions in Need of Hexes

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 11:00
Edd Cartier
Between Inaust and Rynaw on the Old Panarch Road, a hired coach rumbles past pulled at breakneck speed by a velocipede team. One wonders what mission drives the passengers to brave the dangers and discomforts of the road at night with marauding Gog bands in the vicinity, an ogre slain nearby within a fortnight, and the uncanny croak of a nyctoghoul heard in the distance.

In a clearing in Unthran Wood, a flame-colored thrykee has fallen, bleeding and broken-winged, dying. Skeleton Men pirates move out from their flier, stalking cautiously toward the creature with weapons drawn. The thrykee's saddle is empty. Citrine scintilla glint in the grass, forming a loose trail out from it and toward the surrounding trees.

Enrique AlcatenaBeyond the old fortress of Eneb-Draath, at the edge of the Sanguine Desert, youthful bands of tribesfolk howl and dance around fires built amid the fearsome, angular shadow of their war machines, their war gods. Drunk on liquor made from desert lichen and machine ichor, they whip themselves into a battle frenzy. The tribes claim descent from the First Men who were born in the void and reared solely by machines, and so view the ancient and derelict things left from the First Men's war with the ieldri as their birthright.

These are from this world.

Ch. 5, Page 15

Castle Greyhawk - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:16
Robilar did not have time for this nonsense...but, on the other hand, he did not want to get too far ahead of the others on his own. Glancing back, he could see that Quij had his hands full keeping the guard dogs they had bought from attacking some bystanders in the street. Otto was still struggling to keep up. Tenser had this opportunistic young maiden after him, undoubtedly after the riches he had accumulated over two years of delving the depths of Castle Greyhawk.

Well, he would spare Tenser one minute -- but not a second longer!

Altipalno from Renegade Games Studio

Gamer Goggles - Wed, 04/11/2018 - 22:59

The inhabitants of the Altiplano, the high plateau between the Easter and Western Andes, need to be creative to develop the scant vegetation and the available resources.

By fishing at Lake Titicaca, mining ore in the mountains, breeding alpacas, and actively trading local goods, the inhabitants generate continually grow in wealth.

New production sites are built, orders are fulfilled, and goods are stored for hard times. And road construction should not be neglected either, as that is needed to speed up development.

The inhabitant who best uses his potential will have the highest yield in the end!

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