Friday, 28 September 2012

Dungeon of the Month September 2012

The Copper Mine on the Shore
This is a short adventure using the Basic/Expert D&D rules (or Labyrinth Lord if you prefer) for a party of characters levels 3-4. 
This dungeon is an abandoned copper mine close to the sea shore. It is above the reach of normal tides, but powerful storms and unusual tides will wash seawater and some wildlife into the mine. 
The mine was abandoned because of this occasional flooding. That and an invasion of monsters that killed a dozen miners. There are no steps or stairs here because the miners used pit ponies and carts, but there are sloping passages (indicated by arrows on the maps, the arrows pointing down the slope). 

1) 8 giant bats (hp 15, 8, 9, 13, 14,7, 9, 5) that will attack any single intruders but will leave groups alone unless attacked. The room has a high arched ceiling, and the bats hang from cracks and ledges up above any characters.

2) 3 dead bodies of adventurers are on the floor. In a niche half-way up the wall in a corner a gargoyle (hp 22) lurks and it will attack anyone entering, preferably when they are distracted by the dead bodies.
The niche has treasure: a chest contains 2600sp, 620gp, a silver and aqumarine pendant worth 600gp, a vial of expensive perfume worth 250gp (don't mistake it for a potion!) and a potion of healing

3) The rotten remains of a pit pony and its cart are here.

3a) This is the lair of a carrion crawler (a.k.a. carcass scavener in LL, hp 17) that will attack any intruders. Anyone who knows about mining will notice that the rubble and boulders in this collapsed passage contain copper ore.

3b) This dead end is structurally unstable (dwarves have a chance to detect this). There is a shrieker (hp 12) here. If disturbed its shriek has a 50% chance per round of causing a cave-in, causing 2d10 damage to all within the area. The shriek will also attract the carrion crawler from area 3a and the gnolls  from area 4. Like 3a, the rocks in this area contain copper ore.

4) 6 gnolls (hp 8, 13, 6, 15, 12, 6)+ 1 leader gnoll (3 HD, 16 hp, AC 4). The leader has been charmed by the magic user in room 6 but is capable of making his own decisions. Each gnoll has 10gp and the leader has 63gp and 10 pieces of amber worth 50gp each plus a patchwork of chain mail and plate mail that gives him AC 4.

5) 2 giant crabs (hp 20, 14). This chamber is flooded except for a 1' air gap up by the ceiling. The crabs will try to grapple and drown intruders (str check at -4 to break free).

6) 1 magic user (5th level) (AC 9, hp 15, Move 120', THAC0 18 Att 1 dagger or 1 spell, Dam 1d4 or special, Ml 10, Align Chaotic, Int High (14), XP 500).
Spells: Charm Person, Shield, Web, Mirror Image, Fireball
Equipment: Robes, Dagger, Spellbook, Ring of Dimension Door (casts Dimension Door on himself once per hour).
He is an outlaw who has fled civilized lands for his part in a cult of Chaos. He uses a ring of Dimension Door to bypass the crabs and bats, and if a fight is going badly (he kind of relies on the fireball to one-shot enemies) he will try to use the ring to escape, possibly to another part of the copper mine, such as the nagpa in area 11 with whom the magic-user has an understanding if not a proper alliance.
The magic-user has created a cozy den here with a bed with blankets and mattress and a soft armchair (worth 60gp if anyone thinks of salvaging it) and antique carved wooden desk (worth 120gp if salvaged). The desk has a locked drawer with the magic-user's spellbook as well as 320pp and a set of 4 magma stones worth 400gp each.

7) 2 lacedons (aquatic ghouls, hp 14, 9). These look similar to normal ghouls except that they have a cyan-tinge to their skins and have webbing between their fingers and toes. They will fight in the flooded area, and any PC paralyzed by the ghouls will begin to drown. The lacedons are undead, so they do not need to breathe. There is a 1' air gap at the top of the chamber.

8) Pack of 15 giant rats (hp 2 each). These rats will attack any intruders. They guard the lacedons' treasure - a leather sack hanging on a hook out of the reach of the rats. The sack holds 1240gp, four pieces of silver jewelry worth 120gp, 150gp, 60gp and 60gp

9) 1 immature Giant octopus (HD 6, hp 30). This room has no air gap, so drowning becomes even more of a problem for air-breathing PCs. The octopus does not deliberately collect treasure, but a knight of the realm ventured into the mine and was dragged into the octopus' lair by the lacedons. His skeleton is still adorned by plate mail (too chewed up by the octopus' beak to salvage), a shield +2 (adorned with the knight's heraldry), and a sword +1 +2 versus spell casters as well as a mundane dagger and a platinum and spinel medallion around his neck worth 1600gp

10) 3 dead miners with pick axes and buckets scattered around. There is nothing of value or danger here. The narrow part at the far end has a mine face where copper ore is exposed.

11) 1 lesser nagpa, (hp 24) an exile from its tribe. It has an alliance of sorts with the magic-user in area 6. Its magic user spells are Magic Missile, Phantasmal Force, Hold Person. Similar to the magic-user, its lair is furnished, with a brazier with glowing coals, a table with a candelabra with Continual Light cast upon it and a couch (which the nagpa prefers to a human bed). There is a large tapestry, and as long as it is not damaged during any fighting it is worth 220gp. Underneath the couch is a small chest which sits on top of a piece of vellum which has an explosive rune written on it. Reading the explosive rune will cause 6d4+6 damage to all within 10ft radius. Anyone in the blast radius except the reader gets a save vs spells to reduce damage by half.
Inside the chest there is the nagpa's treasure: its spell book (including the Explosive Rune spell, borrowed from AD&D/OSRIC), plus 420pp, 800gp and a circlet of wrought silver and gold worth 1200gp

12)  10 scarlet crabs (hp 5, 5, 2, 2, 1, 7. 7. 5, 2, 1) will swarm attack any intruder. The water here is 4' deep, and humans and elves can keep their heads above water while standing, but dwarves and halflings risk drowning.

13) 3 dead miners and a dead pony. There is nothing of value or danger here.

13a) 1 displacer beast (hp 26, phase tiger if using Labyrinth Lord). PCs looking at the walls will notice numerous patches of copper ore in this tunnel.

Monster XP values (using Labyrinth Lord): #1 160xp. #2 500xp, #3a 135xp, #3b 65xp, #4 174xp + 65xp, #5 100xp, #6 500xp, #7 94xp, #8 90xp, #9 570xp, #11 570xp, #12 100xp, #13a 570xp, total = 3603

Treasure values except magic items: #2 1730gp, #4 623gp, #6 3380gp, #8 1630gp, #9 1600gp, #11 4320gp, total = 13283gp

Monday, 24 September 2012

Bursia - the Human Empire

In the west of Kaelaross, beyond the ocean that borders the western side of Toutus, there is Bursia, the Empire of Humans. For the most-part this racial monopoly is not intentional - humanoids and demihumans simply have not made it to the Bursian landmass in any great numbers. However, there is a streak of xenophobia that means that those humanoids who do make it to the shores of Bursia will not always find a warm welcome - at best they will find themselves treated as curiosities bombarded with awkward questions, at worst treated as non-sentient animals or invading aliens.

A History of The Empire of Bursia
From around -800 BY, humans established a number of nations and city states along the east coast, and until the Wars between the Empires they were gradually colonising westwards across the continent (a map of which is found here) - the further west you go, the less civilised Bursia gets. Cities have often been more important than wide areas of land (such as kingdoms and provinces) and Bursians will often identify themselves as belonging to a city or town rather than a region or kingdom. Cities have always had a level of government of their own, but in later years the city-states became more of a local government, overseen by the Imperial government.
There had been a few cities that were ruled by kings in the early years, but they were often overthrown by popular uprisings. From -205 BY to 0 BY, Bursia was a republic with elected senators from cities meeting in the capital Thoraxis. However, this was never entirely suitable, and when a crisis arose in BY 0 (several city-states wanted to secede from the Republic, forming a rival), the requirement for strong leadership meant that the first Emperor was chosen. The quality of Emperors has varied considerably - the good ones maintained the Empire and established good laws and financed great public works. The bad ones were notoriously despotic, tyrannical and whimsical and on occasions outright insane. The succession evolved from senators being elected as Emperors by their peers to Emperors making their sons senators and directing the senate to elect their sons, to Emperors choosing a worthy successor and adopting them as a son.
During the Bursian Civil War (BY 482 to BY 497) there was a rapid exchange of Emperors as generals seized the Imperial throne with their armies, and were then bloodily overthrown by rival generals. There were over 30 “Emperors” in this civil war, some of whom were murdered after only months in office.
This ended in the rather strange compromise of the Age of the Tetrarchs (BY497 to BY 561), where Bursia was split into four quarters, each ruled by a Tetrarch (effectively an Emperor of a quarter of the Empire). The Age of Tetrarchs collapsed into the Tetrarch War (BY 561-562) but ended when Aurelius the Great re-established the Empire as a whole once again, this time with the backing of the mages of the academies as well as the Senators.

This Second Empire, with the Emperor being backed up by the Senators and the Academies, proved quite stable and survived even through the Wars between the Empires up until the Summoning. Not even the mighty Bursian Empire could withstand the wrath of Bhael, especially after being weakened by the dreadful wars against the other empires. 

After the Summoning
The Bursian Empire collapsed along with Toutus and Bellenos during the Summoning. The chaotic god Bhael opened up numerous Chaos Portals in the middle of cities, and chaotic monsters flooded out, attacking other nearby settlements. It is interesting that hardly any of the chaotic monsters in Bursia are humanoid. Instead, the portals have connected to Planes of Chaos that include many human Chaotic cultists. Thus even the enemies of the Human Empire are humans, rather than humanoids.
The tendency to form society around a city has re-emerged after the Summoning - surviving settlements have formed into city-states, with smaller towns and villages becoming junior partners or vassals to larger, independent cities.

The Continent of Bursia is more than the Empire of Bursia. The Empire still had not colonised the western half of the landmass, and there are huge stretches of wilderness, particularly in the arid, dusty southwest beyond the Greycap Mountains. Not only are there wild beasts and monsters, but also human barbarians. It is interesting that there are no orcs, goblins, gnolls or other such humanoids in this wilderness - men can be just as brutal and savage, and the tribes of western Bursia were just as much enemies of civilization and order as any ogre or kobold.

The follow-on posts to this are Notes on Bursia and a Map of Bursia

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Kaelaross Goes Haywire

I don't know about the rest of the RPG community, but I've come to use the term "Haywire" whenever I go way outside the canon of some setting, and often mix it up with other settings, other games and sometimes even other genres. It is when consistency and believability take a back seat to crazy ideas which may turn out to be silly, or might end up being really cool.

One of my first haywire settings was the Forgotten Realms. This was back in the days of AD&D, and although I certainly liked a lot of the setting (I still do), changes made by TSR at the time (including the Time of Troubles) made me veer away from the official canon. At the same time I had accumulated a lot of gaming material such as the dark red 2nd Ed player's "complete" books, a lot of Dragon Magazines. Thus I decided to use all the strange and cool stuff without worrying too much about what other people would think, or if it would be taken seriously. This was before the days of the Web, and I knew it wouldn't be published. I called the project "Forgotten Realms goes Haywire".

These ideas for Kaelaross going haywire will not be carried forward in this blog, this is just a diversion. Nonetheless, some of the ideas I've had include:

Combining the Mystaran concept of the Hollow World with MAR Barker's Tekumel (Empire of the Petal Throne). If you go down deep enough into the Underworld, you emerge into this bizarre, alien world, where even the plants and animals are foreign. Mighty Empires clash, and political intrigue abounds. The Tekumel gods of Change and Stability are in fact different aspects of the Kaelaross gods of Law and Chaos.

Taking Warhammer ideas about chaos and running ragged with them. Chaos warriors (actually the inspiration for the Traitor Legion), chaos mutation, chaos sorcerers being granted new, vicious spells and many new beasts of Chaos including Chaos Centaurs (who inspired the Winter Centaurs of the Twilight Forest)

An all-human land-mass, possibly Bursia, where characters from non-Tolkien Swords and Sorcery can be found. There are no demihumans found there, and non-humans are viewed with anything from wary suspicion to outright hostility. Here can be found the grand cities of Lankhmar (Fritz Lieber) and Sanctuary (Robert Asprin's Thieves World). Quite a few ideas and characters from RE Howard's Hyboria can also be found here.
(Update - This has now been partially implemented in that Bursia is considered entirely human)

There are mixed-race city-states as well - in what was Bellenos there are now cities that have survived the terrible Summoning, including the City State of the Invincible Overlord, which is across the sea from its rival, the City of the Spire, Ptolus.

Michael Moorcock's Melnibone has fascinated me since I read the Elric series of books. His ideas about Law and Chaos as cosmic forces shaped both early D&D and also Warhammer, and my own ideas about fantasy both directly and indirectly. Maybe the Melniboneans were the near-human aristocracy who ran the Empire of Telthus.

Although there is a map of the west half of Toutus, I have not decided on what the eastern half looks like. Perhaps it looks like the Flanaess (a.k.a. the World of Greyhawk), or maybe the north-east of Toutus includes the land of Blackmoor (Dave Arneson's version, rather than Gary Gygax's), with a rump of the collapsed Toutatian Empire taking the place of the Thonians.

In terms of new rules, anything that is vaguely Swords & Sorcery or High Fantasy is fair game. This would be an ideal opportunity to use all those ideas from Dave Hargreave's Arduin supplements (some of which are completely mad, but that's what going Haywire's about!). Grab and use anything you like the look of. Articles from Dragon Magazine, supplements for other games, even things you've seen on computer games. You want to include the Witch Doctor from Diablo 3 as a character class? Fighting against Quillboars from WoW? And the big bad guy is the Warlock of Firetop Mountain ? Excellent!

Don't forget the Web. As well as the online bookstores, there's a huge amount of free stuff out there, and I'm sure a lot of the bloggers would be pleased to hear their ideas have been used.

My one caveat is this - you may want to keep haywire campaigns separate from your more serious campaigns. Why not roll up some new characters? Take the opportunity to try out some new classes, races or abilities. You like the idea of 3E D&D feats? Go haywire with them. This means if people do get tired of the haywire campaign (it gets too outlandish/silly/overpowered/fanboyish) then the more normal, consistent campaign is not damaged or adversely affected.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Currencies of the Empires

Before the Summoning, each Empire in Kaelaross had its own currency that was the standard across each empire.
Toutatian coins were
  • Platinum Crowns
  • Gold Marks
  • Silver Shillings
  • Copper Pennies
Bellenosian coins were
  • Platinum Doubloons
  • Gold Ducats
  • Silver Florins
  • Copper Centimes
Bursian coins were
  • Platinum Eagles
  • Gold Hawks
  • Silver Ducks
  • Copper Sparrows
Telthian coins were shaped as they were named: 
  • Platinum Hexes
  • Gold Pentagons
  • Silver Squares
  • Copper Triangles
All of these coins were approximately the same weight (1/10th lb) and in other posts (particularly Dungeon of the Month where treasure is detailed) you can use the Imperial currencies to describe coinage. 
The value of precious metals between Empires was about the same, and during peace, merchant would accept foreign Imperial currency with only a small (10%?) exchange rate. Alternatively, ingots of metal were used instead - the value of the coins was not so much because they had been minted by any particular treasury so much as the value of the raw metals, such as the gold. Ingots of 100 coins-worth (10lb weight), 200 coins worth (20lb weight) and up to 500 coins worth (50lb weight) were all used, and as long as the traders could trust the weight and purity of the ingots they saved a lot of coin-counting.  
Promissory notes of payment were never widely used, but were sometimes issued by individual merchants or bankers, rather than governments. Since the collapse of the Empires and much of civilization, these promissory notes are little more than curiosities - it would be rare for one to be honoured and cashed in. 
There were instances of locally minted currency within provinces and conquered territories, particularly when the culture remained distinct from the rest of the Empire. These local currencies need not be in the form of precious metals. The use of gems, clay tablets, livestock or iron coins with promises of payment stamped onto them have all been used. Some of these are really more like barter than money, particularly livestock. 

These days, 50 years after the Summoning, the Imperial currencies are still in circulation, but surviving realms like Teiglin, Klantorr and the Confederacy of the Ten Peaks are producing their own along side Imperial coins, often melting and reminting coins that come into their coffers. 

Monday, 10 September 2012

Snakemen of the Underworld: Rattlers

Rattler Snakemen

No. Enc. 1d6 (patrol) or 4d10 (lair)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (Swim 60')
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice (hp): 3 (13 hp)
Attack: 1 weapon + 1 bite
THAC0: 17
Damage: 1d8 (weapon)/1d6 (bite) + poison
Save As: F3
Hoard Class: XX1 in lair
Size: Medium
Type: Humanoid
Intelligence: 10-11 (Average)
XP Value: 110 xp
The Rattler is one of the most common classes of snakeman found on Kaelaross. They are often the rank and file of snakeman armies after the non-serpentine spear-fodder.
Rattlers have a venomous bite - anyone hit by a rattler's bite must save vs poison or lose 1d6hp per round over 2d4 rounds. This may be removed by Neutralise Poison or delayed by a Slow Poison spell.
The rattler has a bony rattle on the end of it's tail, and when frightened or angry the rattler will emit a fearsome rattle that chills the bones of its opponents. Anyone hearing this must make a save vs paralyzation.  Those who fail and have 2HD/2 levels or less are paralyzed with fear for 1d6 rounds. Those with more than 2 HD or levels and fail suffer -2 to hit and saves for 1d6 rounds. A target can only be affected by any rattler's tail once per day. Anything immune to mind-affecting spells is also immune to the rattle. 
Rattlers, like other snakemen, are usually found in the Underworld. Very rarely are they found anywhere in actual sunlight, though some find their ways into smaller caves and dungeons. Their coloration varies between different snakeman tribes and cities. but is often mottled grey, golden brown and black, blending in with the stone. They all have 60' infravision and excellent sense of smell (via their forked tongues, which taste the air) and are capable trackers, especially in an underground environment. Rattlers on average are about  5' high and 14' long. 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Professions to add flavour to PCs

This is an idea that I have used on occasions, and I suppose in a way it is not that big a change from other folks' use of non-combat skills. Within the game rules for each class there is considerable scope for variation as to culture, lifestyle, earning a living and attitude. These professions are ideas rather than solid game rules for exploring what a member of each class could be. Think of them as character concepts - given the rules for a class, how might such a character fit into a campaign?
My inclination is to not give each profession any special rules, bonuses or penalties. Although I remember and enjoyed 2nd Ed AD&D kits, I want to keep this game as simple as I can. 

  • Infantry - the fighter has been trained to fight on foot in the melee.
  • Archer - the fighter is practiced with the bow, or crossbow. 
  • Cavalry - the fighter knows about fighting from horseback and looking after his steed
  • Engineer - the fighter knows about both building and knocking down structures and fortifications. 
  • Gladiator - the fighter fights to entertain crowds, either for a fee or he has been enslaved. 
  • Bodyguard - the fighter's job is to protect another, vulnerable and important person
  • Trader - the fighter has an understanding of buying and selling goods for profit and heads into dangerous areas to trade
  • Explorer - the fighter frequently sets off far away from civilization to find new resources, new peoples and new territories
  • Militiaman - the fighter has a day job such as woodcutter, blacksmith or stockman, but can pick up weapons and armour when danger arises. 
  • Outlaw - the fighter is effectively a bandit, pirate or highwayman, making his living robbing anyone weaker than him. 
  • Squire - the fighter is of noble birth, and although not yet formally knighted, he still trains with lance, warhorse and heavy armour
  • Barbarian - the fighter is not native to civilization, though he may get used to it. He understands living and fighting in his wild homeland. 

  • Scholar - The magic-user comes from an academic institute, and is familiar with libraries and logical debate
  • Innate Sorcerer - the magic-user has had no formal training but magic seems to flow in his veins. 
  • Consultant Mage - the magic-user uses his knowledge to help and inform others about magic, for a small fee
  • Cult Mage - the magic-user is allied to a secretive sect, and may gain his powers from a dark source
  • Building Mage - The magic-user has powerful spells such as Wall of Stone, Stoneshape, Move Earth and Disintegrate which he uses for construction.
  • Military Mage - The magic-user is used to working along side large numbers of soldiers and using spells on the battlefield
  • Mentalist - the magic-user uses enchantments such as Charm Person and ESP to get inside others' heads, either for criminal or investigative purposes. 
  • Arcane Shadow - The magic-user uses spells such as Invisibility, Knock, Fly and Clairvoyance to sneak around like a thief for stealing or spying 
  • Witch-Doctor - the magic-user is from a primitive society where his powers are held in awe and fear. 
  • Hedge Wizard - The magic-user lives in a small village or out in the countryside, and may help villagers and peasants with minor magics
  • Diplomatic Mage - The magic-user has a good charisma as well as intelligence, and his spells, though kept covert, are useful for influencing people. 

  • Spy - the thief uses his talents to gather information, either for a particular cause, or for the highest bidder
  • Smuggler - the thief is skilled at handling and moving items that authorities want to seize or destroy. 
  • Burglar - the thief breaks into buildings using stealth and agility, usually to steal valuables. 
  • Street Thug - the thief doesn't mind using muscle and intimidation to get what he wants. 
  • Assassin - the thief is a killer for hire, who prefers to use stealth and subtlety to get close to his victim. 
  • Con-Man - the thief talks his way into getting people to hand over their money or other valuables to him before they realise their mistake
  • Trap-Master - the thief is an expert at setting, detecting and removing traps and may be hired to secure an area with traps or to disarm it. 
  • Scout - the thief works outdoors, either scouting ahead of a body of troops or patrolling an area for enemies or unusual changes.  
  • Tomb-Robber - this thief steals from the dead, which should be easier than stealing from the living but often isn't. Traps, undead and vermin are common problems. 
  • Entertainer - the thief uses a combination of acrobatics, juggling and sleight-of-hand to entertain people.  
  • Fence - the thief is ostensibly a merchant, but he is quite happy to buy and sell stolen goods.
  • Missionary - the cleric is sponsored by his church to go into new areas (possibly dangerous ones)  and convert the heathen where possible, establishing new congregations
  • Military Chaplain - the cleric is attached to a military unit and is expected to give spiritual and moral support, as well as healing and other helpful spells. 
  • Hospitaller - the cleric works to help and heal people, regardless of their faith. The hospitaller may have an established place or wander around. 
  • Vicar - The cleric looks after a community in both spiritual matters and in healing and other spells. Depending on his importance, this may be a village, town or city
  • Cultist - The cleric works hidden from authority and may well be a wanted criminal.  The cultist may gather followers around him to establish a power-base
  • Cleric-for-hire - the cleric may have ideals and principles, but these do not stop him from finding employment with whoever pays well. 
  • Inquisitor - the cleric is authorised by his religion to seek out enemies of the faith within the church. This may expand to other crimes and wrong-doings. 
  • Crusader - This cleric leads the fight against enemies of the church. The crusader will be more proactive than the chaplain and less subtle than the inquisitor
  • Ghostslayer - the cleric specialises in hunting down and destroying the undead, probably with his turn undead ability. 
  • Guardian - the cleric is tasked with using his strength and powers to protect an important place such as a shrine, tomb or monastery
  • Vocational Cleric - the cleric looks after and advises those whose work is part of his deity's domains, such as a cleric of Nemesis helping gravediggers, or a cleric of Vought helping sailors and fishermen.