Friday, April 12, 2013

The Tyrant of Raxxe

Raxxe is a heavily populated kingdom, some distance west along the coast from the City Infinite and bordering the Hundred Houses on the east and Crowkeep on the west. The towns here are almost all remnants of the fallen Western Empire and the same could be said of its governance, although it is an inversion of the classical Imperial structure, with the Tyrant holding the strings of the vestigial Senate, which has now become a replacement for the landed gentry seen in the other post-Imperial kingdoms.

The Tyrant rules with an iron, well, brass fist, with loads and loads of gruesome public executions, most of which involved broiling to death in giant brass animals, to the point where it's generally safer to be part of the army than it is to be a regular citizen. Raxxe is continually at war with Crowkeep -- the large marshy area between the kingdoms, despite being excellent farming country, is almost entirely populated with bandits and those destitute and desperate enough to live in a haunted zone of ancient battlefields and deserted fortifications, through which both armies will periodically venture before various bloody clashes force both sides back.

Occasionally, the Tyrant will lead his troops personally. While wearing his ornate and spike-encrusted brass battle regalia, his 8' tall figure is easily identifiable from a great distance -- the demonic powers residing within the suit protect him from normal attacks, as well as amplifying his commands across the battlefield. Eventually his thirst for carnage will overextend the Raxxian lines and a retreat will be forced, with the Tyrant delivering invective to those around him.

Like the neighboring Hundred Houses, political intrigue runs high in Raxxe, with multiple factions constantly jostling with each other, with plenty of double- and triple-crossing and nobody ever really sure who is controlling whom. Many of these factions are involved with revolutionary activities, both in terms of supporting and subverting the multitude of young radicals wishing to overthrow the Tyrant.

Such efforts have been successful in the past; however, after brief periods of chaos, a new Tyrant has always emerged to take control. This is because the Tyrant is a physical vessel for demonic possession. The demon in question is named Alfadgabor, who has power over those who dwell in the Tyrant's palace due to the dungeon beneath the palace being a glyph of his name. If someone were to map the dungeon and knew enough magic/about demons to read the glyph, they would summon Alfadgabor:

6 HD
AC: 5
Att: 30' radius sonic attack for 2-12 + disrupts spells cast after attack is made unless caster makes save vs. Spells,  bite x5 (see below)

Alfadgabor is a toriodal (doughnut) mass of flesh with four arms and four legs that moves by rolling along the ground -- he has five heads, each double-tongued and drooling acid (1D6 continuing each round thereafter unless cleaned off (takes a round)) as well as his "True" face, a one-eyed foul visage placed directly on his doughnut of flesh -- if this face is blinded or otherwise damaged, Alfadgabor will stop moving and just howl every round -- enough damage done directly to the face (10+) will destroy this avatar.

Defeating the avatar will break the possession of the Tyrant, which will likely result in the splintering of Raxxe into something similar to the Hundred Houses, where various nobles/rich families/tranding guilds each hold regional control, although it is possible that the Senate will hold itself together and prop up a new Tyrant.

(Demon courtesy of Zak's Demonic Attribute Table)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Aborted Pimp-My-Stronghold entry converted to Blawg Post

[The following was found in a strange metal cylinder, washed up just off the coast outside Stavros, these writings/drawings are of an unknown age, although their relative robustness indicates a fairly recent origin]
Find herein a small account of the travels and travails of the Most Venerable Sage Ibn Tal Ibn-Salgrem of the House of the Most-Accumulated, as well as some scratchings that purport to be cartography by the same hand.
My abbreviated tale shall begin as our ship, the war-galley Three-Eyed Slattern of the City Infinite, turned east toward the ancient Western city of Larm. Our guide, onboarded at Crowkeep, was upset at the distance our ship kept from the shore, as he would prefer us to practically scrape our hull on any offshore rocks might exist than to be too far from the coast. The captain, although sympathetic to the fellow's nervous condition, opted to remain at a standard distance from the shore and it was because of this that the lookout was able to spot quite a sight, that of two ships bound together to our north, one a dark and suspicious ship that could only be pirates, the other being a tall merchant caravel of the Western Isles.

Upon sighting the ship being towed away, the captain gave the order to give chase, which alarmed our guide greatly, to the point where he had to be restrained and taken below decks, such was the intensity of his disapproval. His force of feeling was illuminated when a great lance of red light, traveling at a speed faster than any arrow, came from the northern horizon and with one blow split our craft from stem to stern. As though waiting for this very thing to occur, launches full of of pirates appeared on top of the wreckage and those of us who believed ourselves to be fortunate to have survived (oh how wrong we were) were scooped aboard. It was here that I began to realize the horrors that were to come, for these pirates were not men. Or at least they were no longer men, for each of them was horribly distended, each a flesh-made sin against the gods. Some had holes where flesh should be, some had too much of one thing, others, not enough. They gibbered and leered at us, such as they could, as they secured us with manacles and ropes and took us aboard their ship.
We sailed north, the disabled merchant ship still in tow, until we came to the northern sweep of the great bay. Once we were an hour out from the shore, a great tower dominated the skyline, skinny and dark and somehow ominous, it stood solitary and with a malicious air. It was with a growing sense of depression that I realized that this was our destination. As we drew closer, the style of the architecture, even from a great distance, indicated that this was a relic of times past, of the people of whom we know very little aside from their strange magics, those who we sages call Hyperboreans, amongst other names. Also, my initial assessment was incorrect, for there were a significant amount of other structures coming out of the sea around the tower, most of them being wrecked walls and spires, although there was a smaller, squatter tower that was still usable, for a launch set off from it and skillfully boarded the towed merchant-ship and began maneuvering it through the submerged ruins. We were taken from the main ship, which was anchored not far off from the smaller tower, and loaded aboard smaller ships, which carried us toward the main edifice...

Here I will cut short my tale, as my paper and ink is limited and I would write for eons on the first horrible hours in that tower. Instead I will endeavor to detail the overall situation in which I now find myself and hope to be extricated from, as well as such particulars of my daily existence that I find relevant.
The pre-eminent aspect of these ruins is the tower and the pre-eminent aspect of the tower is the "firelance" that sits at the top of it, for this is the device that destroyed our ship and allows these pirates to avoid the steel hand of justice and maintain their hideous hold on the surrounding environs. I have only seen it from a distance, its bulk however is great and I have seen various depictions of it in my time in the tower. These depictions indicate a device not unlike a spyglass, allowing the operator of the firelance to target any ship so long as it appears on this side of the horizon and given the height of the tower, that horizon is a great distance away. A single shot of this great ballista-like device is enough to shatter the largest ship completely.
However, the great power of the firelance comes with a secret -- it requires ammunition, and that ammunition is limited. The main driving force of the pirates, far moreso than their disrupting of shipping, is finding the "fire-tubes" that are used to power the firelance. The total number of remaining fire-tubes is a closely guarded secret; it must be small indeed for the nervousness and fear of the pirate leadership is palpable and is additionally easily inferred from the weight that they place on activities that center around gathering more of these tubes, the main number of which have been found in exploratory missions in the warren that lies beneath the tower.

This is the second major aspect of the tower, the constructions that lie beneath the water and indeed, I believe beneath the earth itself, the Hyperborean warrens of chambers and corridors, a small section of which have been mapped and made relatively safe by the pirates who mainly remain in the body of the tower itself, the rest a labyrinth of ooze, creatures that have grown from the ooze and assorted horrors...and treasures left behind by the Hyperboreans. For the pirates, the greatest of these treasures are the fire-tubes and parties of the brigands, who risk great harm and do not return more often than not, are sent into the dank tunnels to search out further stores of the things. I have only been there once myself and ventured a few rooms from the great stair that descends from the tower before thankfully returning.
As for the main body of the tower, it is full of chambers that have been converted into squalid living quarters for the debauched crimes against the gods that are the pirate band. The largest chamber contains a great tub of the ooze that is found in the rooms below. This ooze is used to "convert" prisoners who are found suitable for induction into the ranks of the pirates. Those that survive...change in both form and personality. The rest of us are kept according to our purposes, some of which are too horrible to speak. Luckily, the most erudite of the pirates recognized some of my tattoos and quickly surmised that I was not lacking in knowledge of the occult and as such, I have been pressed into service in trying to decipher various documents that have been found deep inside the roots of the tower. I do my best to subvert this activity; I confess that my squeamishness in terms of pain and desire for something other than fish entrails for food means that they do get some good work from me.

Aside from the main tower, there is the smaller tower that I mention during my initial tale and a similar squat structure that sits just ashore from the main ruins. These are the only other intact structures in these ruins and have a small number of pirates in each at any time. The structure on the shore is manned by the most junior pirates and is regarded as an undesirable assignment as its landlocked nature affords no protection from the monsters and savages that live in the coastal areas. However, the structure is valuable to the pirates as there is a door just beneath it, one that they have been unable to open thus far and does not appear to connect to any of the known complexes. I have been most intrigued about the stories regarding this door as it apparently asks riddles and evades common lines of questioning that have been used to open other portals. I recognize that I would represent too much of a threat at this point to work with it directly as the chance of escape would be too high were I to unlock its secrets (and thus the door itself); however, should their desperation for fire-tubes grow greater, it is quite possible that I will join those on the shore.
The smaller tower, further out to sea, is constantly surrounded by water, even at the lowest of tides. There is a single entrance door, inches above the high-tide mark (the door must be closed during certain synchronicities of the heavens) and the pirates keep a small group of launches tied to the tower at all times and a rope ladder to allow access to the door during low-tide. Nobody lives in the tower full-time, instead, groups of pirates are rotated over time, their duties in the small tower being ready to run out launches when the main ship returns and more prosaically, fishing, as this is still the staple food of most of who live in the tower. The tower does connect to the complexes below, with a single and circuitous route connecting it to the main tower, although this is rarely used for reasons of personal peril in doing so as well as the length of time involved in comparison to simply rowing a launch to the main tower's dry dock.
The tidal range in the ruins is great, exceeding slightly a 30' difference between high and low tides, such that at high tide the waters lap nearly to the edge of the shore building and at low tide expose all except the low side of the main tower. Exceptionally low tides reveal new sections of mud and ruins and the pirates have become more adventurous in terms of sending out prospecting teams to try and find new doors or access to the lower tunnels, with poor results thus far.
My resources are now starting to reach their limits -- I shall be brief, as much as I can! Because of the lance, any major water assault on the ruins would be madness. The lands on the shore are wild and rough enough that any large force would have a very hard time of it making it to the tower and then would have a hard time taking itself. I feel the best course of action, should whoever finds this feel inclined to rescue the prisoners of the tower or to try and claim it for themselves, would be to have a small group carried along the safety of the coast in a small boat and then attempt to infiltrate the tower, either through the smaller tower or if particularly brave and foolhardy, through the main tower itself.

May Abtu smile upon you if you do.

[Ed note: (cruddy) map to follow shortly, another post relating to these pirates]

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Heroes of Weaverham, Part the Whatever

The Heroes of Weaverham are now set up in the reasonably safe and cosmopolitan town of Dolmvay (a nice nod that I took piecemeal from the Labyrinth Lord rulebook), renting an outbuilding from a down-on-his-luck minor noble while trying out their new magical toy, a mirror that sends them to various odd places.

This time the party decided to go through the mirror to the "seaside-smelling place", which turned out to be the island described here and here. Initially, they came through right as the sun was starting to go down. They used the 40 minutes of decent light that they had left to quickly scout out the town and then nipped back through the mirror as night was starting to fall. They decided to then go to sleep and wake up in the dead of night, which they calculated as being early morning through the mirror.

They did so and this time continued scouting out the town. They found the altar and figured out that they could open it; they decided not to in case there were catacombs below. After scouting the jungle and finding the detritus that surrounded the town, they got a little freaked and then decided to check out the beach, eventually hiking all the way around the island -- after a number of hours of hiking, they made it around to the fecund stream that ran out of the hideout described in the second post above. Going up the creek, they got to within a few hundred feet of the cave opening before losing their nerve and going back to the beach. It took about 10 minutes for them to figure out a way to get across the creek without actually touching the water and after getting back to the town, they decided to open the altar.

Upon finding the religious artifacts, they immediately jumped back through the mirror and set about having them appraised, including taking the kris blades to the local weaponsmith and paying him for his professional opinion. I was somewhat surprised by this, especially since they had cast Detect Magic and knew that all of these items were minorly magical; apparently the lure of gold (which will doubtless be spent carousing) is stronger than any potential utility that these items might serve.

It's definitely a trend now with this party, they seem uneasy about entering into dungeon-y type areas or taking on obvious threats while concentrating on grabbing whatever loot they can and then scarpering back to town to spend their ill-gotten gains on debauchery. Considering the mortality rate of their Labyrinth Lord characters compared to the campaigns run in other systems, this kind of reaction shouldn't be too surprising, I guess it's also accentuated by the fact that when they have ventured into dangerous situations, they've managed to avoid most of the richest rewards through bad luck and general trepidation, which would reinforce the desire to be risk-averse.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Like a Virgin (Apply Within)

The Kalapids live on the edge of the sub-fertile Salt Wastes that stretch seaward from the northern slopes of the Spine of the World. They gather what sustenance they can from the limited topsoil of the region and of course, the bounty of the sea. Their language is actually derived almost entirely from Dwarfish, a remnant of their days as a slave people, when they guarded the outposts outside the major Dwarven trade tunnels. The men still maintain impressive braided beards and stonework is very highly valued in Kalapid circles. Their culture maintains a militaristic and mercantile bent, with each Kalapid town being heavily fortified (especially around the entrances to the trade tunnels) as well as usually having a seawalled port (few Kalapids live far away from a major body of water).

The worship of the Dwarven gods continues amongst many of the Kalapids, especially the older generations; however, they've been largely replaced by many new deities, mostly local fertility and war gods. An interesting case is the major trading port of Tel Atwan, where an ancient red-stone temple has stood as long as anyone can remember. Inside there is a medium-sized hall as well as devotionals and housing for priests, all connecting in various ways to a complex labyrinth that seems to stretch far beyond the physical limitations of the temple. Only after many years of study are initiates allowed to venture into the deeper areas of the maze and when and if they return, they return changed, their tongues telling of the wisdom of Falfuhd, granter of great power and greater knowledge.

It is only then that they are allowed to command virgins.

You see, Falfuhd's greatest gifts are connected to innocence and harm done to the innocent. As interpreted by the male priests of Falfuhd, a certain percentage of Tel Atwan's young females are taken from their families and raised as handmaidens of Falfuhd. Carefully guarded away from the rest of the town to maintain their innocence, they are primarily used in the summoning of minor demons, as well as rituals to maintain the health and power of said demons. Mostly this involves being flayed with barbed whips and other kinds of bloodletting, up to and including sacrifices for the most major summonings, or for invocations involving direct communication with Falfuhd.

Falfuhd - Granter of Knowledge, Unveiler of Secrets, Defiler of Innocence

Falfuhd appears as a great dung beetle or as a wiry man dressed in a loincloth and headgear and carrying a serpentine staff (treat as viper in combat). In both of his forms he is a bilious yellow and excretes a bitter-smelling slime that is slightly acidic (1d6 damage/round unless cleaned off).


- Any damage done to an innocent in his presence heals Falfuhd to a equal degree
- Any time a Lawful cleric has their blood spilled, Falfuhd heals 1d8 damage. If a Lawful cleric dies, he is brought back to full health, including bringing him back to life if he "died" in the last 4 turns.
- Farfuhd can curse one word per round by saying it in a mocking voice. Any creature saying that word or writing it takes d8 points of damage until demon is destroyed. (Demon is immune.)
- Maze spell (as AD&D) 2/day. A creature may elect to spend extra time in the maze (maximum time for his/her intelligence level + 1 round) and, if so, and if s/he either succeeds in an intelligence check at -10 or goes to the right place in a maze the DM has prepared in advance for this purpose, may find the demon's soul, in the form of a bizarre relic or talisman and, once s/he returns to the material plane, may use it to bind the demon to his/her will.

(Major cap-tip and Apologies to/for Zak S. and his marvelous Demonic Attribute Table.)