Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Heroes of Weaverham, Parts 3 and 4

I'm switching the session report up from the "narrator" style to running over the fourth wall and backing over it a few times with a backhoe because 1. I'm not sure how long I'd be able to keep it up and 2. the reports would have become increasingly cryptic/short on content as the party spends extended sections of time outside of town.

The group:

  • Beefcake Piledriver, charismatic dwarf (earlier I identified this character as "Beefsteak Piledriver", my mistake, as "Beefcake" is correct)
  • Forest Woodtwig, elf with Buddy Holly glasses
  • Olin, who delights in attacking the helpless
  • Hankella, hirsute warrior and Brazz, her hireling who is beginning to think that he should have included some terms on harassment in his contract

After some discussion and hitting up of bars, the party decided to head out to the ogre cave, where they'd previously discovered that the cave continued past the initial chamber; however, they also discovered that it was dark and that while they had plenty of torches, they didn't actually have anything to light the torches with.

This time, they remembered to bring some flint and steel and upon heading deeper into the cave, they discovered a large flat rock that uncovered the "backdoor" to The Goblin Hideout. After heading down into the hideout, they openly assaulted the goblins in the kitchen and when the noise brought shouts from goblins elsewhere in the complex, the party had the dwarf reply in Goblin to try and put them off. This wound up with the dwarf antagonizing the other goblins, leading to another melee at the top of the ledge above the mushroom cavern. The party killed these goblins without taking much damage, although a couple goblins ran away, now in the knowledge that there were intruders in the cave.

The party reacted to this by going down to the mushroom cavern and investigating the hanging cage. An extended argument on what to do with the myconid followed, only interrupted by an ambush led by the goblin shaman, who had some nasty spells that required only a successful touch attack. After killing Brazz, the goblins started rolling terribly, with only the dwarf suffering significant wounds and the shaman failing completely to touch any PCs. Again, a handful of goblins fled once it was clear the battle was turning against them. The party celebrated by having Hankella sample some of the local fungi, resulting in her falling unconscious.

And so ended the third session.

The fourth session picked up with the party trying to remember the basic layout of the caverns and exactly what had happened. They decided to free the myconid using the key that they found on the shaman and were rewarded with the myconid presenting them with three healing (1d4+1) chunks of mushroom. Hankella regained conciousness soon after and hearing snarling and growling to the north, they moved to investigate, finding the wargs barricaded in a room. Noting their apparent hunger, the party hid random bits of mushroom inside random bits of goblin, which they then flung into the room until the wargs ate the right combination of mushrooms to render them unconscious, at which the party entered and slew them.

After investigating the equipment in the "foyer" room, the party returned to the mushroom cavern with the goal of hunting down the remaining goblins (the amount of equipment indicated that there were more of them than they had killed before). Heading down to the shaman's room (the shaman and one of his bodyguards having been killed already) the party discovered the scroll cases, took the scrolls without even glancing at them, threw all the small stones into the pool, tried to plumb its depths with a rope and debated having the dwarf swim down it before grumbling about the lack of treasure and preparing to return to the unexplored areas off the foyer.

Upon leaving the bodyguard's room, they were ambushed by the remaining 5 goblins, including one of the bodyguards. The goblins tried to use a net and failed, although Beefcake was reduced to near-death by a mighty blow from the bodyguard. Hankella then threw the net back at them with spectacular results, taking out three of the goblins in a single attack. The bodyguard was quickly felled and the remaining goblin attempted to flee before being cut down from the shadows by Olin, who had sneaked past the melee in order to coup de grace the goblins stuck in the net.

The party then discovered the skull/pedestal room, where the thief made his Dex check upon attempting to remove one of the skulls and avoided the poison needle trap. More careful investigation ensued, until one of the party members remembered that there were a number of skulls worked into the walls on the way down to the shaman's room. They figured that one or both of the stone skulls might be among those and since I hadn't decided on a place for the second skull, I decided that this was an excellent piece of logic on their part and they thus found the dwarf skull in the shaman's corridor, although they were still missing the skull (which they correctly guessed should be an elf skull).

Trying to force the final pedestal with use of clay molded into the depression and applying force did nothing, so the party decided to take the other three skulls and go back to town. The half-day of travel went uneventfully and a night out carousing and questioning resulted in the discovery that some folks remember seeing a stone skull in the trophy collection of the town sheriff, dating back to his adventuring days. The fourth session then came to a close, with the party discussing how best to progress.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Goblin's Hideout, using Dyson's Drewer's Cave

Just over half a day's hike west up Gullifurd's Path there was an ogre living in a cave. He's not anymore because a group of adventurers (see: Heroes of Weaverham, Part One) killed him. At the back of the ogre's cave was a separate chamber with a large mostly flat rock. Moving the rock to the side (you would need 8-10 strong men to lift it) reveals a small circular hole with a slight breeze coming through it. Going through it leads to the cave complex that is the subject of today's post.

The map is a Dyson Map, Drewer's Cave to be specific. I've made some slight modifications to it that are easily noted on the image below as they are crudely and garishly drawn on in Paint. There are also numbers for the various points of interest in the caves.

Living in this cave complex is a small goblin warband, consisting of a dozen or so rabble-types, a gigantic cook, three wargs and a mysterious and mentally unstable shaman. As an adventure, it shouldn't last longer than a session (it will take our group two, we have incredibly short sessions though due to the time pressures of most of us having kids) and is doable by a group of first-level adventurers. I ran it in Labyrinth Lord and any references to level, HD, spells, etc. should be understood as being from that system.

1. This is where the previously-blocked up entrance from the ogre's cave leads. There's a lashed-together ladder lying on the floor here as well as an impressive collection of junk and rotting bits, as the goblins have been using this area as a trash pile after the ogre blocked off the hole in the ceiling. Any rogue trying to move silently will hake a slight penalty because of the rubble unless they take extra time (quarter movement) to move carefully. Any other class will invariably make a crashing noise unless they also deliberately take extra time to move through the area.

2. Thankfully, the odds are good that the goblins in this next area will not notice any noise (minus on their checks/saves) because they are busy cooking/screaming at each other. There are three goblins here, the gigantic cook (double HD) and his two assistants. They are busy trying to subdue a half-injured deer that is crammed into a giant cauldron. This is a goblin delicacy and as such requires great attention and care, as well as throwing cooking implements, swearing, etc. Surrounding the goblins and the cauldron are various food stores, rotting meat, barrels, etc.

3. This area is about 15' lower than areas 1 and 2 and is accessed by a circular path running along the north side of the chamber. Players in area 1 with low-light/darkvision can see that there's a bolted chain hanging from the ceiling here. The main floor of the chamber is taken up with a number of mushrooms, ranging from regular size to quite big (12' tall and 8' across). Players can jump from the ledge onto the large mushrooms with a successful Dex check. The chain supports a small cylindrical cage in which sits a despondent myconid. There are several obvious chunks taken out of the mushroom man, who does not respond to interaction. The cage is locked. If the myconid is freed, it will start wandering through the mushroom farm, tending to it. If released by the players and they are injured, the myconid will take 1d4+2 rounds of puttering in the mushrooms and then return with several chunks of mushroom that will heal 1d4+1 HP when consumed. Unless the myconid was closely observed while doing this, the players will have no idea which mushrooms these pieces were harvested from. If noise is made in this area (combat, for instance, or breaking apart the cage to get it open) the goblins in Areas 6 and 7 will be alerted and snarling sounds will be heard from Area 4.

4. There is a small corridor leaving Area 3 from the north, which slowly heads upward. On the right side of this passage there is a branch that moves more sharply uphill and terminates in a crudely-constructed wooden barricade. The barricade has a hole at goblin-eye height and a door that is barred on this side. If sufficient noise has been made nearby, loud snarling will be heard from behind the barricade, otherwise players will hear loud breathing as from a large animal as well as low growling. Behind the barricade is a small chamber where three wargs live. They're extremely aggressive and won't obey anybody other than the shaman, others who open the door (including goblins) will be quickly attacked. This area will smell strongly of the warg waste products and their natural musk.

5. This is a staging area, with some weapons (mostly spears) and other equipment (goblin cloaks, riding equipment for the wargs, etc.) lining the walls. A passage here goes for however long a distance makes sense in the immediate setting before terminating in a rock wall. Persistent searching or a decent roll will result in the discovery of a well-worn and greasy rock knob on the right wall that when rotated, causes the wall to slide open to reveal the forest outside. There is a similar knob on the other side and the door will automatically close a minute after it's opened.

6. The main group of goblins live here, so naturally this area is pretty whiffy. 8 of them are here now and they'll be joined by the cook and his assistants after the main meal is served. There's a common area in the main chamber and then bedrolls set up on the back. At any given time the goblins are usually gambling or fighting (or both) so there tends to be a lot of ambient noise coming from this area. If they hear noise coming from Area 3 they will send 2-3 goblins to check it out. They won't come out as a group until the shaman and his bodyguards rouse them to move. The goblins have a small amount of coin that they gamble with.

7. Two large goblins (double HD) who are the henchmen for the shaman live here. Shuzz and Bazzfazz will run down to get the shaman at the first sign of serious trouble. Regular goblins aren't allowed here and will have their ears boxed and then forcibly ejected for their trouble. The main goblin treasure is here -- about 1000sp worth of assorted coins, mainly copper and silver of various mints, obviously taken from travelers.

8. Heading down from Area 7 is a curling passage (passing under Area 6) decorated with a number of skulls of various humanoid races. The skulls are set into the walls to appear to be staring at anybody walking down the passage. If the players are moving slowly and listening intently, they can hear the sound of water dipping. At the bottom of this passage is a small chamber where the goblin shaman lives (I statted him as a 3HD goblin with the spells of a 2nd level cleric). If roused by his bodyguards, he will come up and lead the group of goblins against the intruders. He will have at least one offensive spell ready to cast and will use a staff in combat. Aside from the bones of small rodents and other charms, he's also carrying the key for the cage in Area 3 and is wearing a strange necklace that will show up as magical if Detect Magic is cast.

His stuff is strewn around a pool into which water is dripping from a small stalactite. The pool is extremely cold and the sides are very steep -- in fact, any amount of prodding and observation will reveal that there is no noticeable bottom to it. Careful searching of the shaman's gear will reveal several metal tubes, piles of small stones (small enough to fit into the tubes) and various sheets of rolled-up parchment, each of which has several crudely scratched questions in Goblin followed by extremely neat writing (although odd, in some undefinable way) in the same language. I'd recommend putting in some mystical/esoteric nature to the questions relative to your overall setting and goblin cosmology in specific as well as questions and responses about a nearby structure of interest to the questioner. In the Weaverham campaign, the notes mainly detail several strange and macabre rituals as well as the whereabouts of a place the questioner calls "The Halls of Bloodletting". All of the scrolls are completely filled with this odd correspondence.

If the players stick around the pool or go back and check it later, a metal tube will float to the surface of the pool about two days later. There will be a single question on the scroll, asking "Who rules the Halls of Bloodletting?" and the simple response of "I do not know". The air in the tube will have a somewhat fishy, queasy smell to it that is unlike anything any of the characters have smelled before. (In my campaign, the responder is an aboleth whose far-underground compound connects to this pool.)

9. Branching off from Area 5 is a narrow passage that slants sharply downward. Noticeably colder than the rest of the caves, it also shows much less signs of passage. It terminates in a well-worked square room with four 4' tall pedestals arranged in a diamond formation around the center of the room. There are no other obvious exists.

Two of the pedestals (N and E) have stone skulls on them, N being a human skull and E being a halfling skull. The other two pedestals have a 2" rhomboid depression on their tops. If either of the two skulls are lifted from their pedestals (nothing happens if the character attempts to rotate or press the skull down), four poison needles will come out of the pedestals at 2' high and in the four cardinal directions. If the character moving the skull was next to the pedestal, have them make Dex check to see if they were standing in the wrong spot/can jump back in time. If hit, the player must make a Save vs. Poison or die. The survivors, if any, can see that each of the two stone skulls has a corresponding rhomboid nodule on the bottom that allows the skulls to seat themselves on the appropriate pedestals (i.e. they will not fit on pedestals other than the one they were removed from). Replacing a skull on a pedestal does not trigger the trap.

In the Southeast corner of the room, there is a very well-hidden secret door that leads to stairs heading downward into the headquarters of an ancient assassin cult...the door is extremely strong and will require multiple hours of digging with a good pick to break through. The only way to open it is to find the other two stone skulls (elf and dwarf) that go on the other pedestals. Who knows where those might be though.

Strange Necklace

This necklace is a extremely strong piece of semi-petrified vine on which has been strung the skulls of seven rats along with other small bones and some interesting rocks. Once per day, it can be used by the wearer to cast ESP. If continually worn and starting the first night the necklace is worn, the wearer will begin to have progressively stronger and more disturbing nightmares in which the wearer is a guest in a well-appointed room, conversing with a somewhat dapper man, who repeatedly works the motif of "come visit me" into conversation. At first, these conversations will only be remembered as somewhat strange. Then, the nightmares will evolve into the man asking the wearer extremely odd questions about ethics, then casually showing the wearer that a drawer in the room contains a still-bleeding arm, etc. If attempting to remove the necklace after they have had at least one nightmare, the wearer must make a Save vs. Death. If they succeed, they take the necklace off. If they fail, they will find that shortly after taking the necklace off that it has reappeared. Any further saves have a cumulative -1 for each previous failure. As the nightmares progress, the character will become more and more obsessed with finding the man in the dream, to the point of after a month of dreams, the character will be -1 to all rolls unless they are actively pursuing meeting the man. 

If attempting to sell the necklace, the "natural worth" is 1,700gp.

(Take this wherever works best for you as a GM. The main thrust of this is that somewhere in your game world is a powerful evil that wants to be let out of wherever it might be and it will use this necklace to try and get somebody to find them.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Undercity Design Contest Entry: All Pigs Must Die

I done did an Undercity level for this here Undercity Design Contest.


Once there was a wicked city ruled by a wicked priesthood. So wicked, they disgusted even the god they worshiped (gods work in mysterious ways), who turned the priests into vile pigmen. Except this didn't turn the people against them and they seemed to enjoy it. So the god flattened the city with meteors and the city was buried in its own rubble.

There are some factions that survived the leveling of the city and live on in their underground ruined cityscape -- a semi-Lich, the Shadow Senate, the Pig-priests and the Praetorians, plus two new additions: a giant ant colony and a horror from beyond.

The Factions/Where they Live

Ant Colony - A bunch of giant ants have moved in, creating a colony that radiates out roughly from the undercity's center, with tunnels running everywhere. The ants survive by eating a symbiotic white fungus that they farm in various rooms -- close investigation of live or dead ants will reveal a white blob of fungus at the back of the head. The fungus is actually an extra-dimension hivemind that has come here to stop Shggu'thupt (see below), although things haven't gone exactly as planned...

Pig Cathedral -- The pig priests have managed to protect/rebuild the main cathedral, in which they engage in unholy acts, many of which produce Pig-Flesh Abominations, genetic cul-de-sacs who are used as guards if they are vaguely bipedal/can grasp a weapon and submitted to various immoral depredations if they aren't/can't. Basically it's like a Bosch painting in here. The pig priests are pretty much hostile to all other factions without really caring about them either.

The Senate - A group of 100 shadows convenes here to discuss the legislative matters of the Senate. They view the ants as the currently rightful citizens of the city and thus will act to protect them if necessary. Since the Senate is restricted to 100 members, they will not fully drain anybody until one or more of their number has been dissipated.

Warlock's Compound - A wizard who threw up a protective shield when the city was destroyed, he now uses a small army of constructs, elementals and summoned beings to search for the last few remaining ingredients for the philter that will allow himself to turn into a lich. He's been pre-gaming with some life-extension potions, so he's pretty mummied-out. Has systematically blocked off tunnels and passages to his compound except for a convoluted and trapped route running from the Shadow Senate and a magically-charged area where anybody who enters has their intelligence reduced to 1 until they leave. Doesn't bother the ants any, there's any number of really dumb folks wandering around in there though.

The Coliseum - The leader of the Praetorian Guard, now a Death Knight, has collected an army of corporeal undead based around the remains of the old coliseum. He plots to overthrow both the Pig Priests and the Shadow Senate. Somewhat limited by inability to get past control undead of the former and the difficulty of damaging the latter.

Icy Cavern - Here lives Shggu'thupt the Frozen, a humanoid figure who appears relatively normal except for the a) eight tentacles surrounding a small hole that might be called a mouth b) the multiple bits of him that are constructed out of some sort of eldritch machinery and c) his white, frost-covered skin. His gaze acts as a cold ray, he can breathe acidic spores onto anybody within 10' of him and he causes constant Fear and Insanity, as well as Confusion for 1d4 rounds. He sits here consuming the minds of anybody brought to him by his insane band of inbred cultists, who roam the undercity looking for potential brain victims. Once he's consumed enough sanity, he will open a portal for his true form to enter this plane, creating a new age of terror and extremely cold temperatures.

(Horror from beyond generated using Zak's completely awesome Demonic Attribute Table)

What Did You Find

This table/progression of rolls is for if the explorers run into something while travelling between the major points of interest. You could make it an entry on the Wandering Monsters table or make another mechanic for it entirely

  1. A Pig Fane
  2. A Dead Pocket
  3. Safe Zone
  4. Trap!
  5. Vertical Connect
  6. Ant Room
Pig Fane

Not all the pig priests toe the party line and this little group of them are an outlaw sect practicing Apostate Pig Worship. 1-3 Pig Priests, 4-6 Pig-Flesh Abominations, assorted goodies.

Dead Pockets

A bunch of undead were hanging out here, just having a good ol' time. Now they are ready to try and eat you. Mostly skeletons, sometimes ghouls. Will have some sort of treasure, although not much.

Safe Zone

Lucky you, you just stumbled across a piece of architecture that's out-of-the-way and easily defensible, maybe a room with a door that still closes or a pocket of space in the rubble that can be squeezed into that nobody's found before. You can safely rest here for as long as needed.


Somebody's set up a trap here -- let's see who set it:

1-2. Pig Priests
3-5. Horror Cultists
6. The Warlock

If it's the Pig Priests, it's 33-33-33 whether the trap was set up to immobilize, maim or kill. It's how they get their jollies. The Cultists and the Warlock only set out to immobilize so that those trapped can be retrieved and then either a) have their souls fed to something that should not be or b) interrogated regarding the possible location of certain magical fluids and unguents, with the possibility of being paid/brainwashed into retrieving them.

Vertical Connection

1-2 Up
3-4 Down
5-6 Both

1 Stairs/Ramp
2 Sheer shaft
3 Big hole with climbable rubble
4 Ant tunnel

Ant Room

1. Hatchery
2. Junk room -- The ants lump stuff that they can't tunnel through in rooms, handy for you that this is often metal stuffs or very tough containers. Treasure type XX if you're playing Labyrinth Lord. Workers come in every once in a while.
3. Garden room -- Will contain random item producing continual light and a whole bunch of plants growing here, mainly vines. Probably other insects (giant centipedes, scorpions) or soldiers to defend the light source.
4. Fungus room -- Blobby white fungus growth with organic matter stuck in it. Workers going in and out.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Walled City of Mirandir

One of the major features of the town of Weaverham is the statue of Gullifurd, a famous explorer. He is depicted pointing west, his finger demarcating the location of Gullifurd's Path, a hard-packed dirt road that rises into the Smoky Spine mountain range to the west of town. The question is then: Where exactly does Gullifurd's Path go? Why is it so important?

The answer to the first question is a bit easier to answer. After the Path moves up and then across the great peaks of the Smoky Spine, it runs south and west to the mouth of the Antrash River, named after Gullifurd's second-in-command. Here lies the fabled walled city of Mirandir, home of the Olans, a mysterious people who built the city and have lived there for generations.

Actually, there are really two towns -- Mirandir itself and the town of Pemelo. Pemelo is a fishing/farming community of about 3000 people, blessed with a deep harbor that easily accommodates the various trade vessels moving up and down the coast. The Pemeolese, like everybody else, are not allowed within Mirandir, the closest they come is leaving a weekly "gift" of foodstuffs in return for the Olan warriors that patrol Pemelo and the surrounding areas. The only Pemeloese who carry weapons are the crew of The Blue Lady, a medium-size caravel that patrols the harbor and the surrounding seas, keeping the area clear of pirates as the Olans, despite having lived on the coast for centuries, have never quite developed an interest in seafaring.

The stories go that one day ships traveling up the extended empty coast between Struborg and Westmouth saw a large tent encampment on the south side of an unnamed bay frequently used for shelter in storms. The encampment was soon surrounded with a stone wall, now 40' tall on all sides, with only a few towers and minarets poking above it. The Olans, tall, pale and with ritual blue dot tattoos on their upper cheeks and the center of the forehead, crop their hair short, make good use of horses and typically carry chain mail, shields, spears and broad swords. No-one has ever reported seeing an Olan woman, should they exist. Extremely taciturn, Olans are unlikely to communicate much more than the bare necessities and there have been many flashpoints between Mirandir and Pemelo over incidents where Olan warriors could be regarded as treating Pemeloese and travelers with less regard than they might have. This behavior is tolerated as they keep the area clear of bandits and monsters and thus provide a valuable trading post in a largely desolate area -- this is why caravans are keen to head over the Smoky Spine once the passes clear.

The Olans, to get the air of mystery finally out of the way, are in fact named after their god, Olan. Thing is he's dead. Well, he's been blown into pieces. One of which is below Mirandir. See, turns out Olan wasn't exactly the best-liked god and after some higher-plane shenanigans, his actual corporeal body was exploded over the known (and some unknown) planes. His right ring finger landed on the coast west of the Smoky Spine -- some legends still exist of a firey blue meteor that raced across the sky -- and embedded itself deep into the ground.

After tracking it to its eventual landing place, a small sect of the Olans were extra-dimensionally dispatched to set up an encampment to secure the body part and to prepare it for eventual extraction. In one sense they were lucky, in that the finger landed in a wild and forgotten part of the world, and so was unlikely to attract attention from other groups (plus it landed on land, which is always a bonus). However, although Olan's finger is nigh-indestructible, it still split into many parts, not all of which have been found. Considering the high weird-magic potential of a dead god's finger that has plowed through the earth, creating all sorts of odd caverns in its wake, such excavations are somewhat fraught, even with extensive constructions and underground forts added by the Olans. Plus, considering its size (roughly the size of a 4-5 car subway train), building the extra-dimensional portal with which to move Olan back to his own plane has been a bit of a engineering boondoggle. The training needed to reproduce the intricate runic carvings required for the portal is complex enough to explain any amount of ill-temper displayed by those servants of the faithful who get rotated onto guard duty for the local bumpkins.

As for the women, perhaps they keep them secret as they are the main priestesses; or maybe all the followers of Olan are actually sperm taken from his testicles and there are no women; or maybe you'll come up with something good. I know you will.