Thursday, 27 February 2014

unlikely treasures 2: even more loot for the taking

Roll d12 for the loot!
  1. Large chest with copper and silver ingots (140gp).
    Weighs 180 lbs. Empty chest weighs 100 lb.  Six copper ingots (5gp; 10 lbs each) and two silver ingots (50gp; 10 lbs each). Room for more.
  2. Ornate cold iron everburning torch (120gp).Weighs 4 lbs. Can be wielded as a light mace in combat without penalty to the torch bearer.
  3. Silvered flail with head styled as a clenched fist (110gp).
    Weighs 5 lbs. Does 1d8 bashing damage, +2 to disarm attempts, can be used for trip attacks. 
  4. Black ovoid gem, warm to touch (100gp). 
    Weighs 1 lb. Cabochon-cut jet, suitable for magic jar.
  5. Chain shirt suitable for human (100gp). 
    Weighs 25 lbs. +4 to AC; Armour penalty -2, Spell failure 20%. 
  6. Hand-painted deck of ivory playing cards (100gp). Weighs 1 lb.  Vibrant inks and lacquering make these particularly durable examples.
  7. Jade statuette of nude elf with sword (100gp). 
    Weighs 4 lbs.  In challenging pose with smiling face, sword in en garde position. 
  8. Necklace of pink coral and cowrie shells (100gp). Weighs 2 lbs.  Strung on silver wire
  9. Thick leather-bound book with sword etched into the cover (100gp). 
    Weighs 5 lbs.  This is the Codex of Warlords, a combination of holy text and heritage book for local nobles.  Written on quality paper with chapter illustrations are the following.
    * A holy text for the god of war and swords.  Includes the deeds of his faithful, aphorisms, blessings and one-liners to be spoken over the fallen.
    * Genealogies, accounts of historic battles, heraldic devices and ancestral deeds give a +2 to Knowledge (nobility) checks.
  10. Wig of shoulder-length violet tresses (100gp).
    Weighs 3 lbs. Finely-braided elven hair dyed with considerable skill.  Suitable for nobility.
  11. Slightly worn black bear fur jacket (90gp). 
    Weighs 3lb. Suitable for court, cut for a human male. 
  12. Doublet of black velvet with pearl buttons (80gp). Weighs 10 lbs. Buttons are freshwater pearls of poor quality.  Suitable for nobility, cut for a portly human male.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

inns & taverns: the red tavern

The Red Tavern is the heart of a thriving mining village made famous by pilgrimage and dancing girls.  Both travel the same roads here. Well-spoken of by pilgrim and dancer alike, The Red Tavern sustains and shelters those who visit.  Detours are taken to visit in some cases.

Conspicuous amid grimy thatched stone bungalows, the two storey Red Tavern gives much-needed colour and joy to village life.  The exterior is painted in assorted reds.  The dark scarlet sign has the words Red Tavern in bright cherry script, side lit by a lantern.  A hedged garden on the southern wall provides a suntrap. In summer and autumn, the eastern hedge is tangled with raspberry and bramble.  The western wall borders a stable with five stalls.  A grey mare (once a famous cleric's mount) owned by the landlady is permanently resident.

Inside, the plaster is stained dark red.  Tables and durable chairs of red-stained oak and mahogany support patrons through good and bad.  Candles illuminate while spilling their guts over iron wall mounts.  The taproom is a sizable rectangle, dominated by a hearth in the south and shuttered doors in the west.  The north wall has a bar and spiral stair ascending to guest rooms and descending to kitchen, privy and cellar.

Patrons enjoy a russet ale and a dark mild for 4 cp a pint.  Four pint clay jugs are sold for 2 sp but 4 cp is earned on a jug's return.  A decent red wine and raspberry wine are served as well as fortified port.  In winter, these may also be mulled.  On midwinter's day, the landlady serves the first mulled drink free to all who come in.  This generosity is usually more than repaid.  The food shows halfling roots in it's diversity.  For a copper, oat biscuits, candied figs and peppermint sugar cake.  For two silver, a pot pie with meat in ale. For 3 gp, a suckling pig is roasted in honey, served with flatbread and spiced pickles.

The Red Tavern has a common room that sleeps twelve behind a pair of folding doors from the main taproom.  This is only used at night.  Typically visiting pilgrims use this for 2 sp and 1d6 are found here in early spring.  Patched blankets are hung for privacy.  Two guest rooms upstairs (2 gp a night) sport locks, ornate patchwork bedding and front-facing windows.  Needless to say, these rooms are in demand.

The landlord, Sandor Duis, has character.  Spry for sixty winters, white whiskers and plaid waistcoats belie the gleam in young blue eyes.  Sandor is a genial host but not in charge.  That falls to his wife, Trisia Duis, force of nature and landlady.  Seemingly ageless, always in velvet.  Brown ringlets crown this bustling yet comfortable woman, her husky voice singing bawdy verse or chuckling.  Food is cooked and served by Mabla, a rosy-cheeked halfling who'd grace any kitchen portrait.  Dancing girls also frequently work the Red Tavern.  Trisia brooks no nonsense and faces down armed knights and drunken miners with over-pawing hands.  Nearly all locals will back her up.

A mixture of dancing girl, drunken miner and tired pilgrim can sometimes be explosive.  Sandor and Trisia can usually quell problems but sometimes things escalate.  The miners will avenge any slights to honour. Experienced pilgrims do not flash coin unless sudden interest from dancing girls and others is sought.

The tentative interplay between pilgrim and dancing girl is a comedy of manners as well as errors.  Trisia will sometimes play matchmaker with odd couples.  Sandor rolls his eyes while befriending them.  Yet true love never runs smooth, some pilgrims are deeply troubled compared to the dancing girls.

Most local miners are hard-working, hard-drinking and like watching the dancing girls.  A few take this too far and were barred.  Their revenge is waylaying an occasional lone pilgrim.  This has not been fatal yet but one unlucky pilgrim was beaten black and blue by them.  Word has begun to spread of the bandits…

Monday, 24 February 2014


No. Enc.: 1d4 (5d4 in lair)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90'(30')
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: 3 (claw/claw/bite)
Damage: 1d3/1d3/1d3
Save: F1
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: XIII

Small humanoid newt-like reptiles with brown, slimy skin.  Reeklings are opportunistically vicious unless met with strong force.  Their slimy skin is offputting  to mammals, humans and demihumans.  Those within 30' of a reekling must make a saving throw vs. poison or suffer a -1 penalty to attack rolls.  The presence of four or more reeklings (such as a reekling lair) increases this to a -2 penalty. Those hit by a reekling suffer this penalty until they can clean the affected area.  Reeklings can move silently (53%) and hide in shadows (47%) as a 7th-level thief , though the smell is notable.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

city of faith

Continuing the examination of cities founded by spell casters by class, now it's the cleric's turn.  There are plenty of real-world examples of cities founded by faith like Göbekli Tepe, Harappa, Ur, Jerusalem and Teotihuacan to name but five.  Magic serves as a force multiplier.  While domain spells expand the options available, there's enough variation in the core spell list for now.  Temples will dominate the skyline.  Clerics who run cities are very clear about who's in charge in town, building to inspire.  Civic buildings are linked to the temples unless unless the city was taken by holy sword.  Then a separation is kept.  Rebels sacking temples never ends well.  The temple is ruined and the gods are angered.

Temple districts are large parts of a cleric's city and civic infrastructure is better compared with other cities. Temple roads and sewers are well-maintained.  It's hard to feel pious dodging chamber pots.  This also reduces the need for divine rescue from disease.  Combining both may work best and keep unorthodox dungeoneering firebrands in line - much like latrine duty.  Consequently wealthy or influential people may seek to stay close to temple districts to improve links.  The temple may ordain tithes or spells for city maintenance.  Depending on the faith, certain spells may be requested by city ordinance from visiting faithful.
The city's fabric is influenced by the dominant faith.  Domain powers may indicate where influence may touch the city.  Gods of war command excellent defences.  Solar deities favour architecture as calendars or sundials.  Gods of love found bathing houses and parks.  Further from the temple district, this influence may fade or be subverted particularly in some neighbourhoods.

Clerical cities draw in trade.  Pilgrimage provides a divine reason for travel.  Diplomacy comes easily to clerics with guidance, comprehend languages, augury, eagle's splendour, zone of truth, sending and tongues.  The need for silver to perform certain spells and create holy water make this commodity precious. Without silver, the temple must find alternatives or restrict things players assume are sold. Lycanthropes have a field day in this case.  Trade with planar allies may provide things unavailable elsewhere.  Alliances with janni may yield otherworldly materials taken from the planes.  Other genies, especially djinni will create wonders.  Trade with the outer planes has it's own risks.  Dismissal may sometimes be useful.

Apart from the above, the following may appear as features in a theocratic city.

  • Agriculture is supported by create water, guidance and purify food and drink at low levels.
    Create food and water for beasts of burden, locate object for water or salt, control water and repel vermin will help save harvests.  
  • Architecture may be created or enhanced by divine magic.  Construction may be aided by stone shape or wall of stone.  Enhancement by consecrate, make whole, continual flame or hallow is possible, as is defence by glyph of warding or symbols.
  • Festivals to celebrate the faithful may create food and water to sustain the poor.  Conspicuous divine magic reminds citizens who's in charge.  Sermons enhanced by enthrall or calm emotions are held to impart the virtues of the faith and suppress riot.
  • Infant and maternal mortality are diminished by healing spells.  Depending on the faith, this may be limited amid the faithful and wealthy or given to as many as possible.  Disease and poisoning may also be challenged.  Clerics who heal are natural midwives even at low-level.
  • Monuments to the faithful - including sepulchres - are tended.  Continual flames are lit for the lost. Art and statues of faithful servants prevail.  Dwarves and gnomes take this to whole new levels.
  • Stockpiles of holy water, scrolls, potions or even wands are kept for emergencies.  Clerics are wise, this reflects that.  Tithes and taxes offset cost to citizens.  This is repaid by festivals and ceremonies.
  • Summoned monsters and planar allies help in war and in agriculture.  In good cities, aasimar and half-celestials appear, in evil cities, tieflings and half-fiends will be evident.
  • Undead are used as disposable labour in evil cities.  The threat of servitude after death to evil theocracies may keep unruly citizens from armed insurrection.  After all, there is no parole. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

assorted dungeon vents

This corridor may serve another purpose.  Roll d12 for unexpected environmental change!

  1. Acidic vapours do 1d4 damage per round exposure (save for half), causes exposed metallic surfaces to be pitted unless made of gold, silver, mithril or adamantine. 
  2. Air shaft with steady wind, constant turbulence makes it hard to hear.  1 in 12 chance of extinguishing non-magical flames (candles, torches etc.) or plucking loose or flimsy items (e.g. scrolls) from grasp.  
  3. Brine pipe used for cooling or solution mining.  Salt water has no intrinsic harmful effects.  May rust exposed metal if left untended for more than a day.
  4. Dust-bearing vent.  Fortitude save (DC12) or be blinded for 1d4 rounds.  Anything invisible or hiding is outlined after 1d4 rounds exposure. Scrubbing off takes 2d8 rounds.
  5. Exhaust bearing away noxious fumes, cinders and smoke from forges.  Visibility limited to 20'.  1 in 4 chance of being hit by a cinder for 1 point fire damage.  Fortitude save (DC10) to avoid 1 point temporary Con damage every hour.
  6. Flaming gas for heating or illumination does 2d4 damage per round exposure (save for half), ignites flammable items.  Flames go out after 1d6 rounds.
  7. Gas pipe carrying strange vapours to different parts of the dungeon.  Inhalation may induce effects including blindness, exhaustion, poison, sleep or others (DM's discretion).  
  8. Heating vent doubles chance for random encounters due to near body temperature heat.  Infravision is blurred out here (-2 to attempts to notice anything). 
  9. Steam vent reduces visibility to 15 feet.  Fortitude save (DC12) per minute or become fatigued due to excessive heat until leaving area.  1 in 4 chance of scalding cloud causing 1d6 damage lasting for 1d4 rounds.
  10. Stinkpipe used to vent noxious vapours from underground cesspits or sewers.  Fortitude save (DC12) or become nauseated within the vent and for 1d4 rounds afterwards.
  11. Sulphur vent.  Fortitude save (DC12) or be nauseated within the vent and 1d4 rounds afterwards. 1 in 4 chance of burning cloud for 1d4 fire damage for 1 round only. 
  12. Water vent sprays water and chill vapour.  Visibility limited to 30'.  1 in 4 chance of blinded by gout of water for 1 round (Reflex save (DC10) avoids).  50% chance of non-magical flames (candles, torches etc.) extinguished.

Monday, 17 February 2014

onyx fly

No. Enc.: 1d6 (2d6 in lair)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90' (30')
     Fly: 180' (60')
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Damage: 1d6
Save: F1
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: VI

The onyx fly is about 3' long with variegated black and white banding.  While they prey on giant bees, they will attack anything with blood, jumping up to 30' horizontally or 10' vertically to attack.  The black and white banded carapace makes excellent disruptive camouflage in dungeon shadows, combined with it's jumping and stealth, allows the onyx fly to surprise 1 to 3 on d6.  In addition, if exposed to bright light (sunlight or a continual light spell), the carapace shimmers in ways painful to those viewing, giving the onyx fly a +2 to Armour Class.  This effect is lost when the onyx fly dies.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

inns & taverns: the grinning goblins

While connoisseurs find a goblin-run alehouse bizarre, the Grinning Goblins Inn proves unusual ideas, like goblins, sometimes work.  While not perfect, it serves well enough. Patronage by paladin and noble alike has ensured it's longevity beyond the first winter.  Even the goblins seem to accept this alternative lifestyle. Only dwarves and gnomes refuse.

A charming and sprawling millstream bungalow with working water-wheel, olive-green painted stones and thatched roof.  A rustic haybarn nearby doubles as stable.  Another low-lying building smells strongly of malt and hops.  The door is ironbound oak stained red.  Next to the cellar door a narrow tunnel mouth yawns, wide enough for a goblin.   A carved oaken post by the door with three grinning goblin heads is the pub sign.

Inside, the walls are cream plaster rossed by black-stained oak beams decorated with horse brasses. These form quite the well-polished collection.  A framed manuscript by the local countess gives her protection in perpetuity to all Pale Stone goblins.  This unusual document hangs by the door.  Written in black by this is 'By noble decree, harm no goblin here'.  Etched in dwarf rune on a beam next to it 'They are serious. Leave now.'  Beyond this, a curved bar on the north-east corner watches a south-pointing L-shaped taproom. Long benches and seats occupy the long part of the L, seating twenty footmen or commoners.  Doors to the kitchen, cellar and privies are found in the western wall. The short east-west section is seated in an open enclosure suited for eight courtiers.  At the south-eastern corner of the section, a door leads away to three eastern rooms.  The first is a common room, comfortably sleeping a dozen. The second is locked, leading to Rutgor's spartan quarters.  Beneath the inn are tunnels to accommodate a dozen goblins, now only used by the four staff.

Patrons enjoy Mercyful Maid, a robust, thirst-quenching brown ale redolent of hops and inspiring flatulence. The cultured may prefer the red wine or a small glass of mead.  Then there is the house special.  Centipede Ale is a dark, muddy brew with considerable kick able to remove tarnish from silverware.  Those who sup in drow cities may find it  oddly familiar.  The food is equally eclectic.  A thick stew of meat and turnips is sold to the poor.  This is given at midwinter to any who ask.  Those with a little more coin may enjoy spit-roast chicken, mincemeat pudding or black pudding with baked tomatoes or pickled cabbage.  If a noble calls, no punches are pulled.  Beef haunches, honey-sweetened cakes and fruit grace the tables while ale and wine flows freely.

The aforementioned common room may be used for three silver a night.  The two stately guestrooms cost ten gold a night and rightly so.  The third is a corridor to two stately guestrooms.  Each is worthy of nobility, with down comforters, feather pillows and an enchanted clawfoot tin bath.  The baths heat any water poured in. This is heated to the bather's desire and never painfully hot for the bather to endure.  The baths cannot fit through the door without magic.  Water is retrieved from the stream outside by Luuz.

The landlord, Rutgor, is an ex-soldier.  Salt-and-pepper cropped hair and livid scarring at his neck denote a hard life.  Gimlet eyes seal all deals.  His rasping voice is equally adept giving orders or parlaying with nobles in matters of etiquette.  His only failing is backing the wrong political faction.  The family of goblins he was given command of are drilled to perfection as capable inn staff.  The last of the Pale Stone tribe tread carefully. Derg is scrawny yet nimble.  Shorn scalp, beady-eyed and in near-matching clothes, he is a capable maitre d'. Zhuj is his nemesis wife.  The nearest thing to a goblin diva, she cooks and brews with dwarven productivity.  Sturr is a proficient pot goblin.  Gathering tankards with unusual stealth, he like to whisper sweet nothings to highborn women paralysed by decorum.  Luuz works the kitchen, beaded braids hiding her face.  She hopes someone will take her away from the drudgery that Sturr just accepts.

The Countess is swayed by a well-meaning patriarch to send the Pale Stone Goblins on a pilgrimage.  They need an escort to mountain shrines.  Adventurers are needed for this hazardous duty.  Luuz may make a break for freedom.

Plans to assassinate the Countess are afoot.  The inn is the chosen locale.  The goblins will protect the Countess and help anyone trying to stop the plans.  Rutgor may be ambivalent about any such attempt…

Derg and Zhuj birth triplets.  The inn needs more staff and Rutgor can't hire.  Will the PCs find anyone willing to work in an inn with goblins and over a goblin lair?  Dare they trust the dwarven barkeep and his axe??

Thursday, 13 February 2014

unlikely treasures 2 : more loot for the taking

Roll d12 for the loot!

  1. Hacksilver chain (70gp).
    Weighs 14 lbs. Each link is 1/5 lb pure silver worth 1gp by weight.
  2. Sheepskin overcoat trimmed with yeti fur (60gp). 
    Weighs 6 lb.  Will fit a slim human female, suitable for courtly wear.
  3. Conical forest green beaded hat and silk veil (55gp).Weighs 1 lb. A hennin, worn by ladies of high station  to indicate eligibility for marriage.
  4. Amphora of sweet musky-scented amber oil (50gp).
    Weighs 20lb.  Contains perfumed oil (valerian).
  5. Chasuble decorated with runes in gold thread (50gp). 
    Weighs 2 lbs. The runes represent law and order and are repeated front and back.
  6. Ornate engraved black wood box (50gp).
    Weighs 1/2 lb. Box is a darkwood scroll box engraved with nymphs dancing around runes of magic and knowledge.  Watertight, hardness 5; 10 hit points and break DC 25.
  7. Greatsword (50gp).
    Weighs 8 lbs. Plain steel, unadorned, standard army or temple issue.
  8. Pair of bronze bracelets (50gp).
    Weighs 2 lbs. Engraved with simple hunting scenes.
  9. Pouch of golden dust (50gp).
    Weighs 2 lbs. Actual gold dust, useful for some spells.
  10. Ring of brass and silver wire with blue gem in eye setting. (50gp).
    Weighs 0.1 lbs. Blue gem is lapis lazuli (10gp).  Ring is suitable for court due to ornate craftwork.
  11. Wooden coffer holding eight sticks of incense (45gp).
    Weighs 2lb (1 lb empty).  The incense is floral and salt-sweet.  Each stick burns for an hour.
  12. Five masterwork cold iron crossbow bolts (40gp). 
    Weigh 1/2 lb. Bolts are fletched with black flights and cross-hatched shafts.  Worth 8gp each.

Monday, 10 February 2014


No. Enc.: 1d4 (1d8 in lair)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 60'(20')
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 5+5
Attacks: 2 (slams)
Damage: 1d6/1d6 + see below
Save: F3
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: XX

These bizarre creatures resemble humanoids made up of masses of tentacles.  Eye spots and razored teeth on the suckers make these appear truly inhuman as they rise from temperate or tropical waters.  A crinikulu attacks with two slamming arms that constrict on a successful hit causing a cumulative -1 attack penalty.  The arms can be severed by doing 8 or more points of damage with one blow.  A crinikulu also regenerates damage at one point per round at the start of the round.  It can rejoin missing arms after 8 rounds if no other damage is done to it.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

city of arts

Continuing the examination of spell casters ruling cities, drilling down by class we start off with the bard.  Bards have Charisma and may charm or inspire.  A versatile mix of magic can influence, heal, reveal or destroy.  Yet the lute-toting troubadour is not the only role.  Some are orators of superlative skill. Others are inspiring actors and patrons.  Even a clown may secretly command an empire.  Yet the bard is counter-intuitive as a city founder.  A second-line spell caster who performs for coins is hardly leadership material right?

As people who know a lot and communicate more, bards are social creatures.  They form a nexus for community.  If this sounds unlikely consider the share of spells that involve enchanting someone.  Bards make fearsome diplomats when combining charm, glibness and suggestion. Repeated exposure to 'really good ideas' may shape relationships and trade deals.  Add a little divination and bardic knowledge.  Of course there are other professions, some don't even need street corners.  The smart ones find lucrative gigs.  .

So you're a singer but don't want many more tavern brawls or carousing rolls?  The foundation of many universities is the chantry.  Here, songs and prayers were sung for dead soldiers.  Nobility encourage this kind of thing, can't think why…  To sing the songs, you need to know the words which means one of two things.  Either hours of drill-like rehearsals or write the words down, teach people to read then rehearsals… Which one is easier I wonder?  Incidentally, if you're good, you'll shape noble and commoner minds and foster alchemists, sages, wizards and even bards.  You may still have to carouse though.

So you're a rebellious orator in need of money?  Consider a career of political demagoguery.  Use inspiring speeches and stage-managed appearances to bring people to your cause and leave a little money.  If you're principled, you'll make the changes happen.  If you're good, you'll lead an army to Count Dunderhead's castle and replace him.  If you're really good, you'll represent for a huge stipend by odd appearances.

Perhaps all this responsibility is a bit much.  Maybe you prefer to work behind the scenes.  Play the trumpet or gong, enjoy feudal courts and have a memory for faces and names?  Court herald is for you.  You'll find out who's coming or going - and you tell everyone else!  You control access to the big parties and help the aristocracy keep score.  Has to beat hanging around prosperous cities for a handful of silver a day doesn't it?

On that point, consider the following bardic professions.  Why have silver when you can have gold?
  • Bardic curing magic can quell infant or mother mortality.  A midwife bard may use spells to calm fears or lullaby entire families to slumber.  
  • Patronage of the arts is another option.  Being a muse to artists also has benefits.  Just ask the Borgia and Medici how they gained from it.
  • Scribes or clerks with Scribe Scroll and seed capital can sell scrolls to arcane spellcasters.  Healing scrolls may be stockpiled for times of emergency or war.
  • Showy festivals with spectacle, illusions and fireworks can alleviate toil, reinvigorate community and promote culture.  Mystery plays were vital in ancient and medieval times.  
  • Stable masters or shepherds break the first rule.  Yet their flocks and stables may breed wondrous beasts for nobles or patrons, earning them great fame.
The bard's city is a bustling yet cultured, cosmopolitan place, drama and diplomacy it's toybox.  Subtle hands and showy spectacle work together here.  From such roots can renaissances be born.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

assorted dungeon utensils

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Some items are just ordinary (or not). Roll d12 for your dressing.
  1. Alembic (single vessel with tube for distillation) worth 10gp to an alchemist, potion maker or wizard.
  2. Copper candelabra festooned with verdigris and wax.  If properly cleaned up, worth 10gp at the market.  Not really the kind of thing court would want.
  3. Ewer of decorated porcelain with handles of dancing nymphs, suitable for boudoir, worth 25gp.
  4. Grinder for spices or coffee suitable for halfling-sized hands. Takes 10 rounds to grind a pound of spice or coffee.  Worth 10gp to a coffee-drinker or professional cook.
  5. Iron flask engraved with assorted sigils of longevity; looks like a genuine iron flask but holds nothing of any danger or value.
  6. Knife of brazened steel with saw-backed blade; usable as small wood saw or knife.  Worth 6gp to any adventurer.
  7. Mug with grinning goblin face wearing red cap. Popular with goblinoids as collectible (worth 10gp to them) piece.  Dwarves and gnomes find it intensely annoying and try to get rid of it.
  8. Oil scented with rosemary and lavender in crystal vial to aid relaxation and memory   Worth 5gp to an alchemist or wizard.
  9. Quill made from giant eagle feather, beautiful to write with, gives a +2 bonus to any writing-based skills where quality of output matters (including forging documents or creating spell scrolls).   Worth 50gp in the right hands.
  10. Salt and pepper shakers made of blue and white banded pottery, each as tall as a dwarf and holding 50gp of salt or pepper.  Each worth an extra 50gp to the right giant. 
  11. Wooden spoon with foot-long handle carved with dragon motif and protective runes. No game effect beyond preventing burns while cooking.  Intended as a bridal gift.
  12. Whetstone useful for sharpening and polishing blades suitable for use by anyone capable.

Monday, 3 February 2014

28 days later - D&D's 40th bloghop (abridged version)

Marathon blog carnivals to commemorate D&D's 40th birthday is a thing it seems.  Like the blog carnival idea. Unsure on 28 days of grognard nostalgia.  Especially as the first question ends with 'Tell Me About Your Character'.  Dyson has a point, participation without zombie mode wins.

Please feel free to use the logo opposite if you want to dig in without going the full 28 days.  Especially if you have plans for Valentine's Day that don't involve posting how you dress up in wizard's robes for your significant other. Some stuff is best left unsaid.

1. Who introduced you to D&D?  Which edition?  Your first character?
Leslie Ash, I kid you not. Hanging around my gran's watching Pebble Mill (proto-formulaic daytime TV) while off with flu.  This was the 1980s. Wander back from kitchen to see Leslie playing a chaotic elf fighting a skeleton in a room filling with water. Got the Moldvay Red Box soon after Created a fighter called Ironhawk, gave him chainmail, a halberd and adventurer's pack and... ended up being the DM anyway.  So it goes.

2. Who you first introduced to D&D?  Which edition?. Their first character?
My cousin, Craig, a week after I got the Red Box.  His character was a fighter with a battleaxe and shield whose name is lost to antiquity.
He discovered girls the following week so the game folded shortly after. There's something oddly symmetrical about that.

3. First dungeon you explored as a player-character or ran as a DM?
Home brewed, took stuff from Keep On the Borderlands, added in bits of Earthsea (chunks of the Tombs of Atuan) and The Hobbit.  Kept the Pebble Mill water trap with skeleton.  You don't mess with good ideas when starting out.

4. First dragon your character slew.
A young black dragon who woke up surrounded by a very nervous party.  It's dying memory was a halberd in the eye.  And that was the upper limit of 3rd level for Ironhawk for over a year...

5. First character to go from 1st edition to the highest level possible in a given edition.
Ironhawk got to 3rd level and loitered there awhile because D&D Expert set didn't hit our FLGS for months.  Meanwhile, brief flirtations with Gamma World, Traveller, Runequest 2nd ed and something called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons were afoot.  We found most players were driven off by the maths and most DMs by coming up with challenges by about 14th level.  Giants/Drow/Lolth was popular for a time as were adaptations of D&D Companion modules for AD&D and DragonLance.  The real forays into 1st - 20th didn't happen until 3.5E and a dedicated campaign based on Morrowind lead to Raziel, a half-drow rogue/assassin/shadowdancer and his allies taking on that world's tarrasque and winning.

6. First character death?  How did you handle it?
Traveller.  Never bring cloth armour and SMG to a laser carbine firefight.  Phillip, the GM saw I was less than enthused at the result.  We were all precocious gamer kids. Rest of party regrouped after medical attention, I rolled up a new PC and we kicked ass with explosives.  Healthy respect for laser weaponry since. :)

7. First D&D product I ever bought.  Do I still have it?
A much-battered Red Box.  The only physical evidence I have of it is the battered blue d8.  Everything else was dismembered by over-use or went AWOL down the years and house moves.  I do have a pocket-sized Red Box book instead now.

8. First set of polyhedral dice you owned. Do you still use them?
See question 7.  I have an eclectic collection of dice, as over the years, complete sets become incomplete. Sharing houses with cats and gamers does that to you.

9. First campaign setting (published or homebrewed) that you played in.
D&D's Known World (though it wasn't at the time) and World of Greyhawk tie on this one.  Two separate games - started at the same time.

You never forget your first...
10. First gaming magazine you ever bought.
Dragon #73.  Closely followed by White Dwarf #35.  Having recently sent a number of mistreated Dragons (no covers) to the fire, it amazed me how much of this stuff I've kept around over the years.

11. First splatbook I begged my DM to approve.
Hmmm.  When the whole splatbook thing started to become a thing for us was the Complete… books.  You could usually spot good ideas from the bad but didn't have an entire book you'd argue for.

12. First store where you bought your gaming supplies.  Does it still exist?
Games Centre in Broadmarsh.  Lasted about 3 years, then moved, then got bought by a then-growing company by the name of Games Workshop.  You may be aware of their work?

13. First miniature(s) you used for D&D
Apart from a brief flirtation with Grenadier figures back in the beginning, the figures thing didn't really take off until much later.  I have some figures, some painted, some less so.

14. Did you meet your significant other while playing D&D? Does he or she still play?
Yes and yes.  Opportunities are sparse but it still makes me smile we occasionally spend quality time by being other people.  The last D&D game we played in together, she was a half-elven spy sorceror/rogue. Parenthood has made getting time to game tricky but plans are afoot.

15. Which was the first edition of D&D you didn't enjoy? Why?
Would you believe 3rd edition?  Remove abstraction, add in attacks of opportunity AND reheat leftovers. Owning three different versions of the Axe of The Dwarven Lords, yeah, not so much.  That said, I like 3.5 and Pathfinder is my current poison.  The best thing about this was it encouraged me to go further afield.

16. Did you remember your first Edition War.  Did you win?
Yes I do.  A heated and at times, alcohol-fueled debate on the merits of 1E vs lovingly crafted homebrew system played by friends.  Nobody wins edition wars.  George Barnard Shaw's aphorism about wrestling pigs applies here.

17. First time you heard that D&D was somehow "evil".
Rona Jaffe's Mazes & Monsters lit the fuse for about a year of 'Satanic panic' which then fizzled in the face of other concerns like heavy drinking and 'the wrong crowd'.  Honestly, you just can't please some people…

18. First gaming convention you ever attended.
Beer & Pretzels was my first and that was fun.  That said, I understand organising events is tricky. Watching recent industry flailings at equality is painful.  Makes you want to do better.

19. First gamer who just annoyed the hell out of you.
Nobody's annoyed me on a molecular level at a D&D game.  Usually to annoy the hell out of me, you need to know me outside the game.  That said, I'm a believer in The Angry DM's view of cowardly characters.
My opinion of pacifist characters is uninformed, I've never seen one played longer than one session.

Or your second... 
20. First non-D&D RPG you played.
Traveller.  Minimalist, computer manualesque books in None So Black covers. First exposure to character death during generation.  Also first character death. White Dwarf made an art form of Traveller scenarios back in the day.

21. First time you sold some of your D&D books - for whatever reason.
About five years ago, I actually sold off some stuff on Ebay as we needed the space.  Prior to that, we gave our books to friends, figuring they'd get re-use and the book would get a good home.  I've found charity shops can be a little unpredictable about donations of this kind.

22. First D&D-based novel you ever read.
The first Dragonlance novel.  You could see the mechanics, the creaky characterisation.  For all it's flaws, influential among gamers.  I understand the form has moved on a bit.

23. First song that comes to mind that you associate with D&D.
Killer of Giants by Ozzy Osbourne from The Ultimate Sin.  The group I ran Giants/Drow/Lolth for used it to get into the zone and every time I hear anything from that album it brings back a wry smile.

Your tour guides to the
scenic Temple of Set
24. First movie that comes to mind that you associate with D&D? Why?
Conan The Barbarian.  Closely pursued by the Sinbad movies and Jason & The Argonauts.  There are also numerous '80s sword & sorcery flicks who have a lot to answer for.

25. Longest running campaign / group you've been in.
D&D - One group.  Membership rotates, 9-ish campaigns over 20 years with numerous one-shots/short bursts, the next generation is on it's way.

26. Do you still game with the group that introduced you to the hobby?  
Nope, people move on and move away.  It's part of life's rich tapestry.

27. If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything different when you first started gaming?
Obviously yes, hindsight is wonderful.  Finding a more organised game scene earlier would have cleared up some early confusion.  Folks these days have it much easier.

28. What's the single most important lesson you've learned from playing D&D?
Lateral thinking gets you far but not all the way.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

inns & taverns: the old book & punch

The Old Book & Punch Inn is a watering-hole for scribes, scholars, bookbinders and illuminators.  Ale, books, rum and wine are sold.  In return, many scholars leave their hearts.  Established traders keep heads down and it's quiet most nights, inns of this quality are unusual.

At the end of a tenement block, the Old Book & Punch dominates a sloping side-street.  Three stone steps rise to the entrance. It's tall shutters, painted to resemble book spines, frame a wide bottle-green door. Above the door in silvered lettering "The Old Book & Punch Inn".  The wrought-iron sign is an opened book with a metal spike between the pages.  From the spike hangs a luminous brass sphere whose light remains undimmed even after 50 years.

The expansive facade hides a narrow interior dominated by the bar.  Bookended by book cases, the bar has cabinets with barrels and bottle racks stacked behind it. The book cases contain blank chapbooks with wooden or hide covers for sale at 15gp each.  Benches and seats fitting four at a push lie parallel to the bar with barely enough room for two to pass betwixt.  Standing at the bar means jostling with people headed elsewhere, whether serving staff or customers.  This narrow taproom heats up quickly.  At the west wall are three doors.  One heads upstairs to the kitchen, staff quarters and guest rooms.  One descends by vertiginous stair to three well-maintained privies.  The last is locked.  Behind this, a spiral stair drills down into a dry, well-lit cellar.

The Old Book & Punch offers patrons a varied selection of food and drink.  A citrus-pale ale of marked strength and quaffability competes with a ruddy yet smooth barley brew.  Both are equally favoured by regulars.  Elderly patrons partake of cherry-red damson gin held in a massive carboy and measured in tiny glasses.  Where the inn really excels is wine and rum.  Anything between three and eight quality vintages of both wine and rum are sold.  Prices are 15% over normal, such varied good taste is rare in one place.
Food is varied in delicacy.  Small cups of hazel or betel nuts, candied limes and dense honeyed baklava are sold as snacks for two copper.  Poorer guests can get curried goat for three copper, the more moneyed buy spiced lamb with tomato for twenty-three copper.

The inn has a pair of guest rooms with semi-permanent occupancy.  There is only a 1 in 6 chance of either room being available on a given night.  The rooms sleep two and are indifferently appointed.  At five gold pieces a night there is cheaper and better elsewhere though most would-be renters hope the landlord or chief barmaid will tarry.

Djarus, the landlord is strikingly exotic in lemon silk and oxblood leather complimenting copper skin and oiled ochre hair.  His accented raspy voice adds to the charm.  His best friend is Marija, a flaxen-haired beauty with pale grey eyes in immaculate grey lace.  Her mezzosoprano can rend hearts.  Their relationship is platonic but both will seduce either gender on the slightest pretext.  Other staff are hangers-on, hoping to be noticed or trying to disentangle themselves with dignity.

The books are provided by local bookbinders.  These fulfill a deal with The Old Book & Punch Inn's absent owners who enjoy other pursuits.  These enigmatic figures delight in teleporting into Djarus' chambers, going through the books and then teleporting out.  Djarus and Marija hold them in fearful awe.

Whispers of back-room wizardry persist.  The chapbooks on sale are just samples. Travelling spellbooks and even low-level scrolls may be purchased if you ask the right people.  If Djarus catches you, he'll ask for 10%.  If Marija catches you, she asks 15%.

Neither Djarus or Marija are from around here, their ways and morality are different to the locals.  This was their main criteria for employment.  Some broken-hearted students fall foul of local unsavoury types and it is in everyone's interest to discourage bottom-feeders.  Hopefully the owners won't catch wind of this.
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