Sunday 29 April 2012

fabian strategies

This month's RPG Blog Carnival courtesy of Exchange of Realities is about avoiding combat.  Having already held forth on adventures without violence by exploration and politics, let's talk about how to win a battle without even needing to land a blow.  There will be times when the foe is too much to handle in a straight fight.  One approach is to pile on the advantages then wade in and hope for the best.  Then there's making the prospect of battle unthinkable or at least exceptionally troubling for the enemy.

The proverbial exemplar of these strategies was Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, dictator of Rome during the Second Punic War.  Facing no less a foe than Hannibal who had just dealt Rome two heavy defeats at Trebbia and Lake Trasimene, he realised head-on confrontation with a confident, skilled force (with elephant support) would lead to further defeats.  Instead he chose indirect attacks, attrition of scouting parties and forcing Hannibal to over-extend his supply lines.  Though the plan was working, it was politically  unpopular, and Fabius was replaced.  Ignoring this approach led to defeat at Cannae and in other battles. Eventually a battered and wiser Rome adopt these strategies to drive Hannibal out.

Picking the battlefield: Choosing a battleground that negates your enemy's tactical advantages is smart thinking.  Fabius chose to keep his forces in the hills, foiling Hannibal's cavalry and engaging in hit-and-run and set pieces against Hannibal's scouting parties.  Sun Tzu notes the merits of various battlefields and how they can transform a battle.  By shadowing your enemy with your own forces, you prevent them from taking advantage of open terrain merely by your presence.

Psychological warfare: Persuading your foe battle will be fatal, harmful or even protracted can be enough to persuade them not to go there.  The use of fear and intimidation sometimes cows foes into submission or rout.  The Romans forced Hannibal's surrender by a campaign of misinformation and blackmail culminating in the Roman victory at Zama.  The Mongols were past masters of this, inflating their numbers by stories to their enemies.  This survives in the meaning of the word 'horde' - an overwhelming mass of individuals in European languages but to the Mongol, it means an encampment!

Sabotage: By damaging vehicles, bridges or equipment (e.g. armour, weapons) a foe may be encouraged to leave the field.  This requires preparation and stealth although the magically-endowed can find quicker routes to this goal.  When bows and pikes are twisted like ginger roots and the battlefield a morass of mud, soldiers get selective about their fighting.  Cutting supply lines is as old as Sun Tzu but the past masters of this were the French Resistance in World War II who managed to inflict three times as much damage to locomotives as the Allied bombers between January and March 1944.

Scorched earth policy: If you are retreating, destroying any tactical advantage offered by what you give up means the foe must provision themselves without foraging or pillaging.  This tactic, though recently named is ages old, having been used against the Romans by the Gauls and Persians.  It was also used against the armies of Napoleon in Portugal and more famously, in Russia.  The impact of this approach on the civilians is horrific, it is suspected as many Russians died from the deprivation as French troops.

Avoiding combat need not be a peaceful affair and can be dramatic.  Commando-style sabotage offers plenty of opportunities for Michael Bay-esque explosions and scorched earth can lead to awful horrors and redemption by good deed.  Fearful whispers of a foe's prowess or numbers can turn the screws in a siege situation and the presence of an enemy army, waiting on unknown instructions, holds a sword above the heads of player characters.

Friday 20 April 2012

review: midgard bestiary pathfinder rpg edition

DISCLAIMER: Review based on PDF copy provided by Open Design
Metric: Indris (after Sir John Mandeville no less)
Overall: 4.5 indris (a superior collection of creatures to cause carnage.)
A grab-bag of creatures for GMs to dip into; very useful if you're planning a Midgard game.  Pathfinder bestiaries are popular.  What makes this one special?  Perhaps the balanced range of creatures giving something for everyone.  Maybe the variations within a theme for things like iron ghouls or putrid haunts.  Midgard has much love for Pathfinder and this bestiary continues that approach.

Contents: 4.5 indris (varied, interesting bunch with hooks into particular Midgard settings).
A varied group of monsters to challenge your PCs from the tempestuous ala to the vicious zmey.  The bestiary goes beyond the Old Margreve with constructs from Zobeck, undead from the Ghoul Imperium and beyond, hags, dragons and beasts that defy easy classification ranging from the insidious treacle to the sinister mordant snare.  Some familiar faces like the spark and horakh from Kobold Quarterly's King of the Monsters contest make appearances.  The monsters cover a range of levels, ensuring you'll have something new to throw at your 15th-level party.

Artwork/Layout: 4.5 beasts (clean layout and representative artwork).
Despite a similar cover to the Midgard Bestiary for AGE, the content is different!  Interior art by Darren Calvert, Rick Hershey, Pat Loboyko, Hugo Solis, Allison Theus and others show the monsters in action.  Some art will be familiar to Open Design fans.  Layout is solid, links in the PDF point where they need to, text is clear and visible on every page and page decorations are unobtrusive while lending flavour.

In conclusion, this is a solid bestiary for fans of Midgard and Pathfinder GMs alike.  Classical themes and predilection to clockwork critters aside, there is enough variety to make this one excellent to dip into when planning something a little surprising for your party.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

damned city: manescor

Lagelido shelters the two-mile wide crater of Manescor, the city's heart rests where a star fell.  Built on catastrophe, sustained by tyranny, such is Manescor.  The south Chantákia road forms a viaduct into the crater, sloping down a full half-mile.  Rising heat, smoke and clanging steel makes this descent memorable. Beneath the arches is Atmízon, a ghetto of Chantákian smiths, Oroguidan alchemists, poisoners, procurers and prostitutes.  The viaduct slopes downwards towards a rampart where the crimson citadel of Gelusanguis sprawls.  At sunset it's red-stained stones glows like a coal.  Red-robed emissaries and troops in crimson-stained platemail bleed from it's fortified gates.  The soldiers (nefas) bear hooked goads and gladius.  The former hook or snare foes, the latter are stained with virulent giant centipede venom. Each swears eternal loyalty to the lord of Manescor.

The lord is known to everyone only as Manescor. A horned casque in beaten gold with hollow eyes and no facial features erases his identity.  Robes of crimson velvet and black kidskin hide his body.  He always bears an iron rod adorned with rubies, concealed venomed blades and ancient, evil magics. His daughter, Lady Aureglas is chatelaine for Gelusanguis when Manescor himself is preoccupied or travelling.  This only
happens if the city faces crisis.  Most officials who serve him are either red-robed wizards or experienced nefas bound to him by magic.  Manescor understands power and the use of law to constrain unacceptable situations.

North-east of Gelusanguis, the Lagelidan waterfall sinks into Malicoram's shattered maze of chasms and mines.  Those foolhardy enough to descend the hidden stair behind it find oolite cliffs rich in hematite and red garnets.  Mining camps and placer mines cluster in the valleys and cavernous mansions for mine owners and ex-miner traders.  Packs of orthus (feral two-headed dogs with vipers for tails) roam Malicoram's edges, scavenging and preying on the weak.  At the western edge Lake Kokytus embitters the air.  Poisoned by the ancient meteorite within, it's bony sands hide rubies and carbuncles.  Gangs comb for gems, dying over fortunes.  The criminal syndicates that sponsor them command fearful wealth.  Milky, toxic waters calcinate
anything immersed in them with an effervescence of opaque mist.  The only structure on Kokytus is Albumoles, a jetty long-ossified by the lake.  It's sole visitors are nefas and the condemned they escort.  Criminals are swaddled in pale hessian then entombed in the lake, calcined by it's poison depths.  Over weeks, their bodies sink and dissolve

South of Kokytus, writhing between it and the glare of Gelusanguis is the squalid ghetto Rubralitus.  Reeking, gloomy and claustrophobic, Rubralitus never sleeps.  This dog-eat-dog environment breeds wrathful schemers, envious whores and grasping gluttons from artisans and labourers.  The reticulated concrete apartments are barely maintained as corruption funds wealthy guilds and gem prospecting gangs.  The poor riot every midsummer but little changes.  Those caught rioting are executed and their body parts assemble golem brute squads who break up future riots.  Ringleaders are taken to Kokytus for calcination.  From
these mean streets, the strongest and most brutal nefas are recruited.

East of Rubralitus is sinister Felicunas.  Fortified villas for rich artisans, gem-wrights and merchants are leavened with ancient, cat-haunted ruins and black walnut groves.  Lamias yowl under gibbous moons every month.  A local law decrees only nefas may harm cats here, enforced by hellcats, experienced nefas never exercise this privilege.  The walnut groves provide wood and oil for the city.  At the easternmost edge of Felicunas is a copse of cedar and eucalyptus housing broken souls.  Here, the Dantis, tributory to the Fiumorte rises.  Within this cloistered idyllic grove, lamia and hags prey upon the mad with Manescor's written approval.  Political rivals usually end up here, discredited, delusional and eventually dinner.

North of Felicunas is Rupemagus, a sprawling well-lit suburb home to Scholaes, a college of scholars, scribes and wizards.  Most anything a wizard or scribe may wish can be bought here, a brisk market in magical manuscripts keeps wealth rolling in.  Most students are intelligent, rich and bound by geas to their masters.  Manescor recruits many officials and emissaries for Gelusanguis here. This fuels the arrogance of some residents.  Wealth and magic are the keys to prosperity in Rupemagus, survival depends on which
battles you choose and respect for Gelusanguis. Necromancy is considered one Art among many.  Waterwheels powered by mindless skeletons are one example of how magic benefits the community.  For all this, Rupemagus is dependent on the other suburbs for getting things done.  Scholaes sits at the heart of Rupemagus, though individual masters dwell in towers along the northern crater wall.  Intrigues along the wall have led to more than one murder victim coming back to seek revenge.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

ten unlikely treasures

Roll 1d10 for unlikely loot.
  1. Fingerbone skeleton key with jet inlaid handle.  The key opens any non-magical lock on 1 in 6 (d6).  If used by a thief to pick locks it adds +2 to the attempt.  Magical, puzzle or combination locks foil it.
  2. Velvet pouch (worth 1gp) holding irregular one-inch pieces of carved cedar wood - the pieces of a puzzle box.  Assembly takes a minute and a successful Intelligence check.  The box has a sliding lid and is 6 inch by 2 inch by 1 inch. It holds up to 120 stacked coins or a scribe's quills and vial of ink.
  3. A gold-plated human-sized ceremonial pauldron (plate mail shoulder-piece) etched with reclining nudes.  Three thumb-width gold chains form an epaulet.  Useless armour, excellent gaudy bling.
  4. A scabbard of black ash and bronze decorated with a sneering bearded face with tourmaline eyes.  Suitable for longsword or similar straight blade.  Of sufficient quality to be enchanted.
  5. Well-worn ivory drinking horn etched with indigo leaf patterns and silver cap attached by slim yet robust chain.
  6. Brass pocket tin painted with dragons.  Inside lurks 3 twists of resinous pipeweed.  Each twist causes the smoker to be passive (-4 to Will and to hit rolls) yet relaxed and reasonable (+2 to Charisma for reaction rolls) for the next 2 hours. 
  7. Cream-coloured meerschaum pipe with bowl carved as a reclining dragon's head.  Smoke billows from the dragon's mouth.  This delightful pipe gives a +2 reaction bonus with pipe-smokers.
  8. Ivory bracer used for archery, can be adjusted to fit any medium-sized character.  This well-worn accoutrement has a runic inscription which is 30% legible.  Those who can make it out will read 'Sure hands and swift arrows'.
  9. Silver snuff box decorated with raised lion emblem.  If opened it holds 5 gold pieces and no snuff.
  10. An embroidered purple velvet bag with violet drawstring (worth 1gp).  Inside are 1d20 dead beetles, commonly believed to be an aphrodisiac, in actuality a mild ingested poison (consuming more than one beetle forces a save or take 1 Strength damage, feel fever-warm for 30 minutes per beetle).

Monday 20 February 2012


No. Enc.: 1d6 (4d6)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 1d8+1
Attacks: 1 (by weapon)
Damage: 1d6 or by weapon
Save: F1
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: XXI

These primitive humanoids have heads covered in uniformly dense masses of violet foot-long eyestalks and cilia.  They favour armour of hides (equal to leather) and crude wood and leather shields.  Their senses allow them only to be surprised on a 1 in 1d6 and give them a 50% chance of detect invisibility to a range of 60'.  Ynimone keep simple weapons in good repair.  They prefer to live underground away from strong light.  A lair of ynimone have a leader with 2d8+2 hit dice and doing +2 damage on it's attacks.  If their leader is alive and present, the morale of all ymimone in the lair is 9.  They have no discernable spoken language, though at least one sage suspects they use a form of sign language involving their cilia.

Monday 13 February 2012


No. Enc.: 1 (1d4)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 30' (10')
Fly: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 4d8
Attacks: 1 (withering stare)
Damage: 1d4 + curse (see below)
Save: M8
Morale: 6
Hoard Class: None

A jectatura appears as a jaundiced cat's eye the size of a human head with a ribbon of pulsing purplish tissue the length of a body behind it.   They are an arcane manifestation of the eye of evil sorcerous giants trapped beyond by magic.  A jectatura seems to swim through the air.  It will seek to control those around it.  It may attack by a withering stare causing 1d4 damage and forces a save vs. paralysation or be cursed (-1 to AC and to hit) for 4 rounds.  Undead take no damage and are not cursed.  Once a round, the jectatura may use one of the following abilities as an 8th-level magic-user.
  • Charm Monster
  • Hold Person
  • Sleep
Jectatura communicate with each other by continuous two-way ESP within 90'.  They have 60' infravision.   Jectatura work through their servants to free the sorcerous giants from their extraplanar prison.  They seek out those able to communicate with them via ESP or magic.

Sunday 12 February 2012

review: zobeck gazetteer by open design

Metric: Gears.  While kobolds would be a logical choice, Rava is patron of the city after all... 
DISCLAIMER: Review based on a PDF copy provided by Open Design
Overall: 5 gears (huge content, a city done right)
Zobeck Gazetteer has contemporary focus for a city sourcebook with the sweeping scope of early-era Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk (in a good way) sourcebooks.  Thumbnail sketches contrast glittering wealth with the gritty underbelly of the city and the horrors of the Kobold Ghetto.  With things to buy, enemies to defy and plenty more to see and do besides, the Free City is a jumpstart for many adventures.  There's plenty of life in the city, something just about for everyone.

Contents: 5 gears (an abundance of stuff).
Chapter 1 deals with history.  From the rule of the fey to the fall of House Stross and the rise of the Free City with hints of relations with Zobeck's neighbours. 
Chapter 2 takes you on a whistlestop tour from the Cartways to Upper Zobeck. It then introduces typical life among humans, dwarves, gearforged (clockwork people) and kobolds who live here. Trade with the Ironcrags, Magdar, Morgau & Doresh, sinister shadow fey and flying cities as well as river barges are detailed.  Festivals like the River Fair, Winter Festival of Khors Holiday and the kobolds' We No Work Day provide seasonal markers and encounter vignettes.  Details on nobility, civic officers, gangs, guilds and orders as well as crime & punishment show the distinct flavour of Zobeck.  The chapter rounds off with Zobeck's neighbours - a mix of threat and opportunity.
Chapter 3 zooms in on the Kobold Ghetto, where the ghetto improves the lives of many kobolds. Traps, personalities (among them many lesser kings engaged in a razored dance of intrigues and assassinations) and locations from The Dock and Ferry to The Royal Workshops and Cartways. Minor magic items at reasonable rates, markets for smugglers, exquisite clockworks and much more keeps discerning adventurers coming back.
Chapter 4 considers the districts of the city, including price lists for rental and ownership of property, locations, typical expenses and adventure hooks for each district.  Among the locations are numerous taverns and temples to the city's gods as well as businesses dealing in essentials.  The inclusion of a city map showing the districts helps orient a GM.  Details on places in the immediate vicinity of Zobeck let a GM take things outside for a change of pace.
Chapter 5 looks at the street gangs, guilds and courtly societies.  From the corruption of the Cloven Nine and the Mouse Kingdom's intrigues to the courtesans and salons frequented by nobles and the Shadow fey ambassador, there are plenty of affiliations, rivals and enemies to be found.  This compliments the materials found in Streets of Zobeck and Alleys of Zobeck.
Chapter 6 considers the religions, cults and religious mysteries of the city.  As well as the legal religions, there are forbidden cults like the Red Goddess.  The possibility of pacts with shadow fey and devils are discussed.  One of the standout bits is the section on crab diviners and their rituals.  A collection of holy relics rounds off this section and gives a strong taste of the city.
Chapter 7 contains a number of NPCs, key players in the intrigues of the city.  A colourful bunch of NPCs for a GM to introduce, focused mainly on the gangs and street-level, though some leaders are present (the current Mouse King, Myzi I and Mama Rye).  Some appear in Streets of Zobeck and Alleys of Zobeck or previewed on the KQ blog. 
Chapter 8 contains assorted magics; spells for both Pathfinder and Advanced Player's Guide base classes and two new schools of magic.  Clockwork magics relate to constructs and transformations of the body into a machine.  Illumination magic is related to astrology and shadow, drawing equally on star and shadow.  A nice touch is the  animated constructs table referring to other 3rd-party books like Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary and Frog God Games' Tome of Horrors 1.

Artwork/Layout: 5 gears (excellent art; clear layout)
Pat Loboyko's cover is understated, yet makes effective use of colour.  The rooftop hauling of loot shows the ingenuity of Zobeck rogues.   Colour is sparingly used, providing contrast to quality monochrome art from Jonathan Roberts, Corey Trego-Erdner, Rick Hershey and others.  Layout is logical and orderly with easy-to-read statblocks and sidebars.  The cartography provides a crow's-eye view of the districts and city walls and of the Kobold Ghetto.

In conclusion, Zobeck Gazetteer shows how to do a city right, offering an alternative to typical Middle Ages Europe generica even though some of it's inspirations are European.  The Teutonic and Slavic roots of Zobeck show there is more to Europe than Vikings, Charlemagne and Rome.  It will be a very specific game that can't find something of value here and as a springboard for adventures elsewhere, the Free City of Zobeck has much to recommend it.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

inns & taverns: the bag of nails

This green-stained two-storey tavern stands out amid stucco and thatch terraces in a quiet inland village. Reports of the place vary Certain pilgrims recall it fondly, merchants find it 'adequate if uninteresting', wealthy travellers think it sparse.  Locals visit the Bag on special occasions.  The hanging sign of six over-sized iron nails points outward forms a rose or snowflake pattern.
The Bag's sloping roof covers the second floor, creating covered terraces at the front and back.  A neighbouring stable allows accommodation for steeds.  Behind the Bag is a yard where singers and musicians entertain patrons on warm summer nights.  In winter, the yard is usually empty.
Inside is decorated in varnished wooden panels, a profusion of natural colours and interlocking symmetrical patterns.  The front door enters into a snug bar.  Oval oak tables carved with hop flowers and laden grapevines serve simple chairs.  A U-shaped bar is opposite the door and has one behind it.  In the right corner is a stairwell leading up.  The left wall is occupied by a firepit over which a wooden spit and irons hang.  Near the firepit, a door leads into a long kitchen.  The Bag is usually empty but for one table.  A polite knot of people seemingly dwell there, sharing a common mystery religion despite disparate backgrounds.  Even on busy nights they form an enclosed group.  Their hushed conversation involves ceremonies and how to recruit more followers, plans for the latter are usually flawed.  Upstairs is divided into five rooms.  The largest is a common room with doors leading to a privy and three guest rooms.  All are furnished in ornately carved wood.  

A warm brown ale is always sold, though locals prefer an agreeable red wine drunk in volume. Brin keeps casks of the wine in reserve.  Food is simple yet plentiful - saltfish, flatbread, olives and figs accompany roast mutton and lamb stew.  A pudding of stewed figs is the house speciality.  All is served in fine-carved wood bowls and goblets.

Birn, the landlord, is affable and forgettable.  A man of middling years, his only distinctive features are his protruding nose and skill at carpentry.  A capable landlord, his passion is shaping wood.  The genius of the Bag of Nails is his mother, Mayra who cooks and keeps the keys.  Her 'friendships' with local soldiers keep The Bag protected.  Brin disapproves but is seeing local girls himself.  Mayra disapproves of this and the pair needle each other good-naturedly while they serve others.  The two barmaids keep out of the way.  Brin's luck in love is either awful or rotten - it is rumoured he is cursed.  For their part, they prefer honest, gullible labourers.

Accommodation can be hired, the common room can hold up to 12 people comfortably.  The privy is popular some nights.  The three guest rooms are functional yet warm, positioned over the firepit downstairs.  Prices are reasonable - baths are not provided though.  Instead a wooden bowl with warmed rose water and coarse flannel is drawn and brought up.  The custom of the area prevents excessive use of water.  Stabling is available but horses will be thirsty the next day until they are properly watered.

Brin is said to tolerate the mystery cultists as they helped him escape death from undead.  Mayra is close-lipped if asked about this.  Rumour is Brin once defaced an evil temple and was cursed in revenge by it's priests.  This draws rude laughter from Mayra and the barmaids.  There are mercenaries looking for Brin to avenge the temple's slighted honour and sacrifice him.  The mystery cult is dedicated to light and good.  Most locals prefer to pragmatically obey a lord whose moral flexibility makes him a hard taskmaster.  There are underlying tensions among the locals.  As the village is strategically important, the nobility overlook some excesses but potential rebels may spark oppression.

Monday 6 February 2012

Friday 3 February 2012

review: kobold quarterly 20

Metric: Kobolds.  They've proven their worth even in these straitened times.  One of nature's survivors and what's this - next issue they can go into a tavern?  Must be doing something right.
DISCLAIMER: Review based on a PDF copy provided by Open Design.
Overall: 4.5 kobolds (the Kobold goes from strength to strength)
This issue shows the Kobold entering it's sixth year.  Next issue it gets to drink and given it's performance, I suspect that champagne may be the order of the day.  In this time it's managed to carve a niche out and surpass it's predecessors through quality and by moving with the times.  As a new edition of D&D hoves into view, the future is looking rosy for this small but fierce predator who appears large and in charge compared to other RPG-zines out there.

Contents: 4.5 kobolds (a mix of excellent and complimentary themed content)
After last issue's challenging content, this issue has things much more to my taste.  A mixture of archers, fun things to do with ooze, planar allies, nightmarish monsters and... fish supper too?  The advent of 5th edition has elicited a flurry of 4E articles it seems.  AGE support is still going strong and as KQ enters it's sixth year, it seems the quality of articles aren't slowing down and neither are the quantity!

Now, it's time for detail.

The Elven Archer by John E. Ling, Jr. (5 kobolds, Pathfinder) - This class is very well-designed, distinctive from a ranger and doesn't obviate the arcane archer prestige class.  The article is also well-written, concise yet expressive. Ideas to hack the class are well-thought out.  Elf-loving players will be rubbing their hands in glee, GMs won't find this class game-breaking.  Much to like.
Arrows of the Arbonesse by Jarrod Camiré (5 kobolds, Pathfinder) - This collection of magical and non-magical arrows offers a variety of options; from silent fletching through razor wire and acid tips to battlefield options needing multiple archers.  GMs will find plenty of new ideas for arrow traps or assassins.  Something for everyone here.
Derro Ooze Magic by Nicholas L. Milasich (4.5 kobolds, Pathfinder) - For those with Juiblex-cultists, degenerate drow or derro savants, this is terrific.  While billed as alchemist options, the spells cover numerous classes including witch and sorceror/wizard.  The miniature ooze familiars are wonderful.  While it's a bit niche, the content is excellent. 
Servants from Beyond by Mario Podeschi (5 kobolds, Pathfinder) - Four possible allies for those casting lesser planar ally.  This article offers allies players can call upon - providing individualised motifs and roleplaying guides as well as stats.  There's a real need for articles that can speed up play like this.  More would be a good thing..
Night Terrors by Jack Graham (4 kobolds, Pathfinder) - This quartet of monsters are distinctive.  The changeling moth offers a Ravenloft-esque horror, the giant naked mole rat will be useful for fans of BBC's Merlin.  The cephalic parasite is classic B-movie and the pishtaco is Stephen King-style horror.  Some tweaks may be needed to suit certain games, they're good stuff.
The Power of the Game Master by Monte Cook (4 kobolds, system neutral) - Monte considers the role of the GM and various points on the continuum of authority in a game.  This may seem obvious but there is nothing wrong with stating the obvious if it's a) true and b) relevant.
Captured in the Cartways by Christina Stiles (4 kobolds, Pathfinder, Midgard) - A subterranean adventure set in Zobeck's Cartways.  Your party needs to do a favour. It's not complex but it's fun and the end-level villain is excellent.  You don't need the Zobeck sourcebooks (though they are excellent) mentioned.
Putting the Band Back Together by Stefen Styrsky (4.5 kobolds, Pathfinder) - Re-uniting former legends back for one last gig is a recurring theme in action movies, now these feats let you wheel out your heroes for an epic showdown.  These may be better suited to traits than feats yet are a nice touch.
Fey Hunters & Shadow Hounds by Christopher Bodan (5 kobolds, Pathfinder, Midgard) - A look at the shadow fey hunts and their hounds.  Those with Tales of The Old Margreve and Court of the Shadow Fey will definitely want this.  The fey hunting hounds are a disturbing twist on the Wild Hunt.  Lycanthropy may almost be preferable.
AGE of Specialization by Randall K. Hurlburt (5 kobolds, AGE) - Some additional options for AGE RPG characters, the battle captain plays well with others, the elementalist channels primal forces but the rogues steal the show with marksman, master thief and skirmisher.  Well-balanced, worth your attention.
Kobold Diplomacy: Bardic Charisma Meets Crunch and Chickens by Jeremy L. C. Jones (4 kobolds) is an in-depth interview with Christine Stiles, whose resume is already impressive.  This interview has good advice if you want to get into the industry.  Also perhaps the silliest title I've seen in a while.
The Bardic Arts by Aaron Infante-Levy (4 kobolds, 4E) - A hack for bards in 4E, some additional options making the bard a social skeleton key.  While useful for courtly games and gathering information, the DM may need to create some situations.
Ask the Kobold by Skip Williams (5 kobolds, Pathfinder) - A breakdown on the effects of poisons and disease - essential reading for GMs.
Small Spirits by Matthew J. Hanson (5 kobolds, 4E/Pathfinder) - A collection of primal nature spirits, magic items and creatures.  Good stuff for those running games with shamanic or druidic influences.
Unearthed Ancestry by Jerry LeNeave (4 kobolds, 4E) - Race-based powers for gnomes, minotaurs and tieflings.  Combat crunch with some subterfuge for the gnomes; balanced and archetypal.
Make Haste! by Ron Lundeen (4.5 kobolds, 4E/AGE/Pathfinder) - Proposing a new mechanic (haste points) to vary the difficulty of encounters where speed is of the essence.  The slow get a harder time of things.  Nice if you've got a party that dawdles horribly.
Fish of Legend by Crystal Frasier (4 kobolds, Pathfinder) - A whimsical take on magical food, with a couple of classic legends and folklore thrown in.  Fishing may become a new preferred past-time.
Book Reviews by William Banks, Ben McFarland, Wade Rockett, and Pierce Watters (4 kobolds) - Fantasy light and dark, a history of roleplaying games and steampunk adventure get analysis.
Free City of Zobeck:The Ruins of Arbonesse by Jeff Grubb (4 kobolds, Midgard) - A look at the ancient kingdoms of the elves in Zobeck and how they have fallen.
Cartoons (4 stars) - Bolt & Quiver celebrates size differences, d20 Monkey wants fun with performance-enhanced snakes and 10x10 Toon cuts the cheese with a groan-inducing pun.  How else can I review them?

Artwork/Layout: 4.5 kobolds (excellent cover, strong interior art enhances articles)
The cover by Richard Clark shows The Snow Queen bringing seasonal chill to the proceedings.  Rick Hershey and Blake Henrikson provide excellent interior art, the elven archer firing sprays of magical arrows, the fey hunting hounds look horribly unnatural.  Jason Rainville, Storn Cook and Michael Jaecks provide excellent colour pieces.  Black & white pieces are good quality and less woodcuts or classic art appear.  Adverts haven't become too obtrusive yet though the smaller blocks make some articles page-turners - this is a minor gripe at best.  Overall, the magazine is a great example of how to do this right.

In conclusion, KQ20 shows no sign of slowing down.  It's bringing quality content, supporting 4E, AGE RPG and Pathfinder with equal facility.  Six years is a long time in the industry and to see a magazine supporting multiple systems without being a house organ for any of them is testament to it's quality.  If you haven't yet succumbed to the lure of the kobold, you can grab a free copy of KQ 14 (reviewed here) until 14 February 2012 by visiting the Kobold Quarterly store and using the voucher Kobold Welcome.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

damned city: lagelido

Lagelido's hills are reached from Chantákia's south road or Scissaxa's east road from Hag Gate. Both enter the Mezzaluna Pass winding west and north. Beyond these is chill Lake Abbagiaco, cradled between three hills that make up the rest of Lagelido. Foriris is the north hill of Mezzaluna Pass. Vignicolle, a poor suburb of hard-faced toilers and grafters at small trades on it's north face. To the south, Domile, an estate of walled villas. Each is home to an extended family group of professional soldiers (formiles) and their chattel slaves. Formiles are elite troops, disciplined and fierce. Clad in insectile breastplate and helm, bearing spear, shield, falchion and crossbow they drill constantly. Viquilonis, a tower fortified by formiles watches over Foriris. Bristling with scorpios and topped with a mangonel any attack from Mezzaluna Pass must take it.

Dusty winds scour Mezzaluna Pass from the south. The heights of Montaspis, the southern hill of Mezzaluna Pass is the source of this dust. On it's lower slopes, green allotments and narrow streets. The citizens are freed slaves-born, valued by the formiles for their farming, aided by qanat tunnels. The upper slopes are barren, tombs chequering stony inclines. At the peak is Angueviden, a stout keep held by sibilant veiled oracles in concealing habits. They keep asps about their person as pets. Their knowledge is sought by the wealthy and powerful as well as formiles going into battle. The farmers on the lower slopes fear them. At equinoxes, a dozen handsome male slaves are delivered to Angueviden never to be seen again. The southern slope forms the north coast of Lake Abbagiaco. Worn fragments of statues are found on the coast and treacherous rocks make boating difficult around here.

Across the lake is Monturrem. It's shoreline runs south and east, packed with quays, shacks and tenements to the Foroscuro Plaza. Here four towers compass an ancient marketplace. Wares have an unsavoury edge - barbed daggers, love potions and zombies bound to lead amulets. Each tower has it's own legends. The north tower is home to the Matres Notisque, bejewelled coven of vile sorceresses. Necromancers, dream stalkers and illusionists, they enslave their victims. The east tower is home to Lord Mephis, Praetector of Lagelido, saturnine aristocrat, ex-formile and intriguer. The southern tower is sealed by magic and lead mortar, it's wizard owner believed now deceased. Daring thieves attempt entry, usually dying horrific deaths. The western tower is a municipal building with access to qanat tunnels under Lake Abbagacio. Monturrem's south face mines for magnetite and magnesia, lodestone deposits trick compasses and fool certain animals. Monturrem miners are hardy yet obedient.

Lake Abbagiaco is placid by day, perilous by night. Fishing boats bring trout and whitefish to Monturrem's muddy south shore in the day only. After dark it's chill water is haunted by spectres. The unquiet spirits of the drowned and murdered whose bodies are hidden here hunt the living. It feeds the ancient qanat network that irrigates Montaspis and Monturrem. This was built before Lagelido formed. Ancient runes suggest certain tombs in Montaspis may have been around longer than any historian suspects.

The western hill, Hircornuta is untamed land, named for it's spiralling rocks, reminiscent of goat horns. Formiles hunt satyr bands amid ragged rocks. Lagelidans think satyrs drunken maniacs, rapists and vandals while satyrs view Lagelidans as tyrannical, violent slave-mongers. Mephis, the Praetector grants license to hunt here. Yet amid Hircornuta's rocks, a crevasse forms a waterfall fed by Lake Abbagiaco runs through the hill. Behind this torrent is an unexpected passage. The waterfall hides a stair best called perilous which descends into the chasms of Malicoram, in the realm of Manescor.

Monday 30 January 2012


No. Enc.: 0 (1d6)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 2d8
Attacks: 1 (dagger)
Damage: 1d4
Save: M2
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: XIX

This macabre faerie tends animal graveyards, singing to the bones to ease their sorrow and grief.  She appears as a gaunt, pale woman with straw-coloured hair, angular features and sunken eyes.  Those defiling the boneyard are screamed at, a terrifying wail that causes fear (as the spell).  The ossuriad can merge with any exposed skull within 240'.  If she goes beyond 240' from her graveyard she dise in 1 turn.  Ossuriads carry a bone dagger of unusual sharpness and resilience equal to that of steel.  Ossuriads gain treasure from former grave robbers and adorn the graves and bones of those they protect.

Monday 23 January 2012


No. Enc.: 1d4 (3d6)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 60' (20')
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 1d8+1
Attacks: 1 (by weapon)
Damage: 1d6 or by weapon
Save: F1
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: None

These undead appear as maimed zombies held together by broken armour and weapons embedded in them.  Animated by vengeful necromancers, they explode if reduced to zero hit points or are turned (but not destroyed).  This explosion causes 1d6 damage in a 10' radius (save vs. Death Magic to halve damage) and destroys the undead.  Those killed in a wartorn's explosion rise as wartorn in three nights unless the deceased is buried on holy ground or receives a bless spell.  Holy water damages them and stops them from exploding.

Saturday 21 January 2012

inns & taverns: the devil-porter inn

The Devil-Porter Inn sits halfway up a market town's hill, astride an alley's entrance.  Locals passing by always smile at it's statue.  The wooden icon of a portly gap-toothed devil lugging sacks in peasant garb greets patrons.  Only the foolish would fear him.  Bristle-bearded, glass-eyed and five feet tall, his blunt inch-long horns are no threat.  Over the archway, the words 'The Devil-Porter Inn' are painted in immaculate white script.

The inn's wooden door opens on the right leg of the arch from the main street.  Within a rickety wooden stair creaks with each step.  At the top, a doorway opens into a bar-room bridging the arch, narrow yet well-appointed.  Carved wooden benches line the walls.  Before these are thick tables of oak and wrought iron decorated with laden vines and flowers.  Brass lanterns in the corner illuminate the room.  Often tables are mostly filled, encouraging patrons to mingle with regulars if they want seats.  This is normally an agreeable process.  The bar runs along the opposite wall with stairs behind it leading up and down.

A strong, pale ale sells the year round.  Winter brings a smooth dark ale with notes of caramel and salt that sells very quickly.  A fair red wine and a spiced piment (wine with honey and herbs) compliment the ales.  A limited but excellent selection of food is sold. A beef and onion stew with dumplings and pickled cabbage is served with black rye bread.  Pickled eggs and butter pies complete the menu.  While not courtly fare, it is substantial.

Marien, the landlady, is matronly, rotund, redolent of lavender and honey, her clogs drum the floor.  Staff are cheerful, competent locals of assorted ages.  All are clad in plain white chemise, dark breeches and soft leather boots with brass buckles.  This simple uniform is kept immaculate.  Marien's watchful eye keeps staff from lowering standards, service is cheerful, brisk and accommodating.  Good relationships with the watch keep criminals out.  Officials do not visit the Inn but hirelings often enjoy an ale and meal here.  Marien will sometimes treat them in return for news.

While the Devil-Porter Inn lacks accommodation, staff know where rooms may be rented locally at reasonable rates.  These are usually basic but safe and warm.  Though the staff have rooms, Marien doesn't brook guests.  Previous incidents with staff connected with gentry ensure this will never happen if Marien is here.  This is reciprocated by local nobility.

The Devil-Porter Inn lacks pretension.  This has harmed business - nobles and courtly types avoid the Inn, looking down upon it.  Patrons don't even seem to mind.  Yet some younger nobles are violating the agreement.  Brawls seldom happen but over-friendly visitors and nobles with a grudge have to be handled.  The Inn's lack of muscle can be a problem.  Those who help out are feted by Marien, who makes friends easily and looks after them.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

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Today sections of the Internet are going dark to protest the proposed enactment of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) in US law.  This blog supports their protest but has no illusion about going dark for a day being more than adding a lone voice to the chorus of protest.

In addition, consider economic sanction against organisations endorsing both acts.  Refuse to purchase from these organisations.  Explain why you are protesting against these acts and their proponents.  Write to your local representatives and media.  Remember the customer has a voice and a choice.

"And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"
-- Mario Savio

Monday 16 January 2012


No. Enc.: 2d4 (3d6)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 3d8
Attacks: 3 or 2 (claw/claw/bite or by weapon and bite)
Damage: 1d3/1d3/1d4 or by weapon/1d4
Save: F3
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: XXI

These hunched-over, hirsuite humanoids have ape-like muzzles, long, rawboned hands and dead black eyes.  Malicious mockeries of humans made by magical experiments, they band together to prey on the weak.  Narquodi have limited empathic senses, they understand the intent behind any spoken word.  This talent has seen them used as bodyguards by paranoid magic-users.  Narquodi respect, desire and slavishly obey forceful Chaotic women, especially spellcasters or those wielding obvious magic.  Narquodi like to arm themselves with large or heavy weapons aiming to maximise their offensive potential.

Thursday 12 January 2012

damned city: scissaxa

Scissaxa lies south-east of Chantákia, the road bridges a dreary, ruin-choked fen.  The bridge is laboriously repaired by chained workgangs.  Mounted overseers wear perfect bone china masks and chainmail, armed with shortbow and spiked chain.  Below, the fen's denizens scavenge ruins for valuables.  Scissaxa cannibalises it's own ruins, sinking hulks raided for materials and wealth before they sink.  Dark steeples rise above patched walls and cracked domes.  About Scissaxa's perimeter, flying buttresses laden with catapult and scorpio watch for armies or scavenger mobs.  The northwestern Ochre Gate leads to the Chantákia road.  The western Hag Gate guards the road from the eastern pass in the hills of Lagelido.  The southern Canal Gate is no longer used.  The canal network was dammed up and fortified after incursions from nearby ruins massacred a neighbourhood.  The legacy of Scissaxa often returns to haunt it. 

Entry via either gate costs two silver per head, taken by the Scissaxan Guard.  Scissaxan Guards wear chainmail and coif; bear trident, shortbow, gladius and spiked buckler or lantern shield.  Lantern shields combine spiked buckler with spiked gauntlet and tiny visored lantern.  This last serves as a weapon of surprise.  A cunning mechanism quickly raises the visor, potentially dazzling foes in low-light conditions.  This also provides light for archers.  Tunnels beneath the walls hold weird monsters, ancient necropoli and lethal traps.  Too many fatalities prevent it being profitable yet whispers persist of infamous guilds holding shadowy courts.  As Scissaxa sinks, the tunnels become longer and more complex...

The Ochre Gate opens to Rubragmine, ochre walls and iron statues of city heroes adorn the narrow streets.  Chantákian influences are evident, yet muted.  Residents dress in sober monotones with ochre facepaint and patterned scarves adorned with marcasite on steel. Jewellers and smiths thrive in Rubragmine, working in bloodstone, hematite, jet, marcasite, gold and Chantákian steel.  Oroguidan mercenaries in burnished coin-mail protect traders.  These are factors for familial merchant houses, buying and selling goods or exchanging currency with 10% markup.  Traders sometimes cheat clients, ruining heavy investors.  Scissaxan law protects them unless a Bacino magistrate, Lamaturris lawyer or a district lord over-rules it.  Poorer families in Rubragmine breeds pigs in basements.  Serving to dispose of waste, they are efficiently butchered for meat and hide.  Abbatoir Walk is known for pig-breeding and butchering.  On fortified stone piles south-east of here is Arcemalis, citadel of Lord Menzomuscas, ruler of Scissaxa.  Always expanding or part-renovating, it's walls hold the largest garrison of Scissaxan Guards and the court of Menzomuscas.

Menzomuscas is an enigma, multiple assassinations have not slowed him, baroque intrigues precise as clockwork automata.  His sonorous voice and concise speech hooks your attention.  Everything else is hidden in black silk, gold and a youthful mask with jewelled compound eyes.  His spy networks are legendary.  The Scissaxan Guard seize assets and remove those attempting to defraud Lord Menzomuscas.  The court is the usual collection of sycophants and politicians, impertubable on the surface but underneath…  Courtiers wear golden fly pins with carnelian eyes.  Their ensembles have subtle weaves of bottle green (Prasinus), carnelian (Sardios), cool black (Domurana) or plum (Susino).  Each colour denotes an eminent trading family.  These families maintain their status, presently dependant on the continued goodwill and reign of Lord Menzomuscas.

The Hag Gate opens into Lamaturris.  Famed for it's dark spires, narrow alleys and cobbled thoroughfares crowded with people of all kinds.  Clerks, lawyers and physicks are respected trades here.  At night, upstanding citizens retire and the streets belong to beggars, gangs, whores and Scissaxan Guards.  Monsters with human faces mix with hags and goblins.  The former are feared, arising spontaneously among certain bloodlines. The latter are tolerated as rag-and-bone traders.  They ape Scissaxan dress and conduct with concealed weapons and satchels of papers, trinkets and tools.  Lamaturris street cant includes choice goblin patois phrases.  Tunnels skirt caves older than Scissaxa, within ancient terrors undead and unburied inexorably dig towards vibrations.  Unusually there are no temples or recognised priests.  Menzomuscas has outlawed religion, declaring believers foresworn to his reign and any allegiance to the city.  Itinerant prophets haunt certain street corners at night-time.

Seraustrum lies south of both, falling into disrepair.  A salt dome mined here yielded salt and sulphur for export by the south canal in exchange for jet and hematite.  As the waters dried, the deaths began. Over time, on each full moon murders have taken place, ruined corpses found with ghastly wounds.  Goblins claim giant worms and insectile horrors stalk the tunnels.  While it's true, it doesn't explain the dark-mantled figures or the corpses left in their wake.  Salt and sulphur production is greatly diminished.  Miners are leaving Seraustrum before they are slaughtered by whatever or whoever lurks under the canal.  Menzomuscas has interests in the sulphur mine.  The salt trade is fought over by the four courtly families and has interest from Chantákia's bankers.  Repeated Scissaxan Guard patrols have been fruitless.  While the trade has stopped, mines in the southern fens stockpile for when trade finally resumes.

Monday 9 January 2012


No. Enc.: 1d4 (2d10)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 6 (studded leather)
Hit Dice: 5d8
Attacks: 2 (gore, by weapon)
Damage: 2d4/by weapon
Save: C5
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: XXII

These abhuman creatures with fiery eyes are what remnants of an order of clerics corrupted by a violent Chaotic entity.  Named for the pair of horns jutting from their forehead, they charge into melee wielding clerical weapons and goring with the horns on their head.  They can cast spells and use magic items as a 4th-level cleric (3 x 1st-level spells, 2x 2nd-lvl spells) but cannot turn undead.  Dicerdecan lairs are temples to Chaotic powers, the dicerdecans performing the duties of clerics eagerly.  Some clerics of Chaos will work with dicerdecans if they make an offering to the cleric.

Friday 6 January 2012

inns & taverns: good, bad & evil

Another pub crawl just after New Year?  Well it's been a while since the last.  First there's The Tricorn Cow, a slightly expanded take on a lovely moorland tavern near the coast.  Then the new place, Tioso's Grill -a frontier tavern with all that implies, including a table of hirelings.  Finally Beklar's Wayside, a sinister tavern staffed by all kinds of miscreants with two new drugs and poisons.

Creative Commons, Share-alike, Non-Commercial as usual, have some fun with it. Also, if you're missing previous compilations, find them on the Downloads page as I've fixed the link for the second compilation. Not sure I can claim that as an achieved New Year resolution, still... Cheers!

Wednesday 4 January 2012

damned city: chantákia

Across the Fiumorte, the weeping ditches of Chantákia combines ancient tomb, fortress and strip mine. Once an independent city, Chantákia is a decadent district. It can be reached from Bacino by ferry, barque or skiff or southern roads from Scissaxa, Lagelido and Manescor. Yellow mud, rich in limonite clings to everything. Chantákia is famed for ochre, iron, copper, gold and jewels - bloodstone, carnelian, malachite and turquoise. Many Chantákians ochre their hair red or yellow, wearing red ochre to ward against magic. Viaducts cross the ditches in a concave web of roads and fortified tollgates. Chantákia is quarried into a three-mile wide irregular bowl of ten descending ditches. with a tumulus at it's heart. Atop this, a spiral path girded by walls and trenches leads to a castle. This is home to the Hammon. This bull-masked man has an ogre's appetites and strength, demanding tribute for sacrificial pyres. Nine mail-armoured minotaurs form the Hammon's bodyguard. His will is enforced by brutal soldiers or kakonychia. These soldiers wear breastplate, bat-winged helm and clawed gauntlets wielding trident, flail and steel shields. They enforce tolls and laws in that order. Each tollgate has a firepit underneath a hollow iron bull statue. The condemned are locked inside and fires fed until the bull glows red-hot. The bulls amplify and distort screams into bellowing. On midsummer and midwinter, this reverberates across Chantákia.

The Bacino ferry docks at Eisfora, a levee at the northwest edge. Semi-domesticated rats befriend anyone sharing food. Slaves march north on the Scaladuro, a mile-long descent for assessment then sale. The guarded slave trains move slowly. The second and third tiers suffer flooded sewers and cane toad infestations from turquoise mining. Typical miners are feverish bufotenin addicts, obsequious and reeking. Under the Scaladuro has the greatest yield, though the northeast yields turquoise and malachite. The fourth tier is a quarry for yellow clay, dug out by convicts in grueling conditions. Kilns on this tier make pottery and yellow ochre. The prison lies under a viaduct and garrison so the kakonychia abuse certain convicts without reprisal. The fifth tier is a massive market. Buyers can purchase armour, books, clothing, copper ingots, leather, malachite, ochre, pots, turquoise jewellry and weapons. Mercenaries from the Avernine seek work. The sixth tier has masons, potters, sculptors and kilns. Decorative tiles, carved bricks and statues from here are raised all over the city. This industry contrasts with the decrepit seventh tier. Here fugitives lie low among cane toads, played-out turquoise beds and serpents with human faces. The eighth tier is prone to subsidence. Most buildings lie ruined and empty but armourers to the east craft mail scarves weighted with steel. These scarves are prized by warriors.

The eastern part of Chantákia is known for mineral wealth. The first tier holds slave pens and overseers. These work on the second through fifth tiers mining and smelting iron, copper and gold. Blast furnaces of red brick spit fire and forge wrought iron balls called tostomas for sale. Feral cats haunt the smelters and hunt rats. The sixth tier houses miners and a market trading in copper and gold, tostomas and gems. The seventh tier holds gemsmiths and jewelers with locked vaults guarded by traps, owlbears and minotaurs. The eighth tier has merchant villas, bankers and moneychangers. While the Hamman rules, this part of Chantákia is heard by the city. Oroguidan mercenaries and catenisti are used to maintain security.

Western Chantákia is a poor relation. The top two tiers quarry for ochre and carnelian in brutal conditions while wealth flows south and east. The third tier houses slave pens and overseer quarters in narrow, fortified houses. Rioting in the pens is commonplace. The fourth tier is home to the Dioris, a caste of astrologers, sorcerors and seers dealing in omens, oracles and divination. Clad in gold two-faced masks they are feared. The Dioris foresaw the fall of Chantákia to the city's founders and the Hammon's tribute to Manescor. The fifth tier is a necropolis. Rich mausoleums face eastward and are tended by gravediggers and professional mourners under the eastern wall. The sixth tier houses groves of fig trees. Tended by locals, these yield figs, latex and bark sold to the seventh tier. The seventh tier is a slum of dyers, tanners and weavers. Buckram, fine leathers, ochre-red line and cloth-of-gold are produced for sale. Orphans usually become apprenticed here. At the eighth tier is a coliseum. The temples of the ninth tier sponsor athletic games to keep rivalries from turning into riots. Parades to the coliseum are rowdy affairs. Streets turn out armed to 'show respect for the athletes' and perhaps to deter sectarian violence.

Southern Chantákia is part-owned by Manescor under jurisdiction of Lady Aureglas, former chatelaine of Gelusanguis. This annoys most Chantákians but Aureglas has impressed the Hamman with equally fair and cruel judgements. Aureglas and Fiammera of Animardente regularly correspond in ciphers. The first tier routes traffic maximising tolls for Lagelido while reducing them for Manescor and Scissaxa. At crossroads, markets hawk goods. Behind these, tavernas and bordellos offer services. The second to fourth tiers mine and smelt iron. Smelters make tostomas for Manescor.  Leftover goethite is made into brown ochre. The fifth tier is ceded to Aureglas as tribute after an insurrection was quelled by her agents. She lives in a palatial central villa surrounded by gifts from artists, petitioners and hangers-on. The sixth tier, Bosambages, is a ghetto for minotaurs. Their devotion to the Hammon spurs rumours of breeding with humans, profane worship and other perversions. The seventh tier has a bloodstone mine on it's western edge, worked by Hamman loyalists and slaves. Aureglas has sent agents to test their loyalty. A tenth of output is sent to Manescor as tribute. The eighth tier is known for smithies - armourer, blacksmith, finesmith and weaponsmith toil over their wares. Chantákian smiths have numerous techniques to improve goods. All valued, some need black market activity, others need bloodshed at the beginning, middle or end.

Kykliero, the ninth tier, holds monasteries, temples and preceptories. Preachers, prophets and pilgrims fill the streets. Temple rivalries are usually channeled into athletic games in the western coliseum but violent outbreaks occur. Oroguidan and Avernine mercenaries profit from occasional work here. The Hamman threatens to run bulls through the temples 'to tame them' when violence occurs. Both he and Aureglas have agents here.

The bottom basin, Gyalilofo, houses the Hamman's court. Owning the city's biggest herd, he pays handsomely for cowsheds and cowherds to keep them safe. Strange drugs and fatal venoms are brewed by alchemists at his behest to fulfill bizarre whims. Owlbear farms with breeders and trainers have become lucrative. Eggs and young are bought and sold with owlbears trained and bred for diverse violent purposes. At the heart is the tumulus and fortress. Those living here attend court three times a year. Snubbing the court and the Hamman can be fatal.

Monday 2 January 2012


No. Enc.: 1 (0)
Alignment: As creator
Movement: 10' (3')
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 2d8+2
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Damage: 1d3
Save: As creator (see below)
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: None

The umbiliculous is a mystic creation brewed by magic-users.  A leathery 1' tall humanoid with the facial features of it's maker linked to them by an umbilical cord from their navels.   This cord extends up to 10' feet but is often wrapped around the magic-user's waist as the umbiliculous clings to it's maker or perches atop their shoulders.  Their mouths are filled with needle-like teeth. 

An umbiliculous confers benefits for a magic-user willing to make one.
  • If carrying the umbiliculous, the magic-user gains a +2 to saving throws versus magical effects.
  • It may babble once a day; casting a sleep spell within 120' which lasts for 2d4 turns.
  • Keen senses detect invisible within 20', reduce the magic-user's chance for surprise by 1 in 6. 
  • They provide a pair of small hands for the magic-user.  These can be used to wield a wand (as a magic-user) or to manipulate items up to 10' distance with a Strength of 4.
If the cord is cut, the umbiliculous dies instantly.  If the umbiliculous dies, the magic-user must make a save vs. paralysation or be stunned (-4 to hit, AC and saves) for the next hour.  If the magic-user is slain, the umbiliculous is unable to do anything and dies in 1d4 rounds wailing pitifully.  To brew an umbiliculous, a magic-user must donate a pint of blood, mix it with ochre, one fish head per level of the magic-user and red clay in a ritually-prepared leather sack (costing 1000gp) while casting sleep, detect invisible and mirror image. The sack may be re-used.
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