Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Welcome to Mistfall

Mistfall is the only majority-human city on the saurian continent. It's been there for about half of the metropolis' 3000 year history. This coexistence has only been peaceful for the past few centuries, and only then because the two sides proved too evenly matched for either to maintain a consistent advantage. The Mistfall Wars lasted the latter half of one saurian emperor's reign, the entirety of the next, and continued several decades into the reign of a third before he finally ended it. The High Council of Mistfall ceded what territory it still had control of outside the city walls, a foreign quarter was established and walled off, and slavers from Mistfall were forbidden from hunting outside the city walls. Trade routes formed while old grudges simmered.

There are humans who still repeat their great-grandfathers' war stories with xenophobic pride, as they drink and polish antique weapons. Saurians live much longer, and many are alive today who personally fought in the wars. The accounts of these two groups rarely match up.

A true understanding of Mistfall requires a summary of its unique geography, which defines much of its nature. The city was originally established as a mining colony at the point where a great river cascades down an ore-rich cliffside, several hundred feet high. Corkscrew tunnels were dug into the cliffs to lead up to the oldest mines, and the homes of the original miners were located at the base of this cliff, where the constant fog produced by the waterfall gave the city its name.

The three minerals extracted from these mines are galvanium, lodestone, and lumenite crystals.

While the miners stumbled about in the mists below the cliff, the ruling class which owned the mines built their manors above. This designed stratification of class quickly became accepted as Traditional and Just How Things Are as the colony grew from a mining colony to a town to a powerful city-state, and is stronger than ever today. Those lucky enough to live in High Town rarely see fit to brave the squalor and dangers of Low Town, and those who appear to belong in Low Town are routinely harassed and chased off by High Town guards.

Low Town
A combination of poor visibility and abject poverty makes Low Town particularly dangerous. It's not advisable to walk around here alone. Characters without infravision can barely make out objects 20' away. Ancient two story buildings have had third and fourth floors built on top of them in different architectural periods. Many of these structures have collapsed entirely, and a few have been rebuilt. There's an edible but foul-tasting grey moss that grows on everything and rots the teeth and discolors the skin of those who eat it over time.

Slave hunting is legal in this district. To appease abolitionists without banning slavery, the High Council also made it legal for slaves to kill the slaver that caught them (not their eventual owners of course, many of whom have friends and/or seats on the High Council).

Every lower class vice you could imagine being tempted with probably exists in Low Town. There are underground fighting pits, klartesh dens, gambling halls and whorehouses all over the place.

Not surprisingly, the most interesting tavern for your average low-level adventuring party is in this part of town. Ask around for the Mongrel Hole, but be careful not to look like a mark. It's a drug-fueled hub for outsider art and music, as well as the best place to find desperate people who need a job done discreetly.

Foreign Quarter
The only way into the city without flying, as the other districts sealed their ancient gates after the Treaty of 1104 (Post-Shift) was signed. There are two embassy complexes here, one of the Saurian Empire and one of the Oliphant Kingdom. The rest of the quarter is overcrowded tenements full of refugees fleeing saurian oppression and civil war, but forbidden from entering the city proper. This includes a fairly wide variety of sentient life forms from all over the multiverse.

There are two gatehouses in the Foreign Quarter, one that leads out into the wilderness, and one that leads into Low Town. There are barge services that haul goods upriver to the waterfall and load them onto an elevator. There is also a whirligig platform at each embassy, used by the the respective ambassadors and their agents to travel directly to High Town.

Slave hunting is legal here, but not on embassy grounds.

The Mines
The ore veins and crystal deposits have been going strong through 3000 nearly uninterrupted years of mining, which means that many of the dozens of mine clusters have been depleted and abandoned. Some of the abandoned ones have become outlaw hideouts or flying monkey nests, while others have attracted weird outsiders. 

The first automatons were designed to function as tireless slaves for the mines, and some chose to return to the mines years after achieving sentience and emancipation, either to work or simply to live there.

The Sewers
Deep, complex, and surprisingly clean tunnels beneath the streets, occasionally forming junctions with abandoned mine clusters. Dwarven engineers were brought into the city to construct this maze centuries ago, and built their own undercity directly into it. Their great-great-grandchildren still live, work, and play down there, skateboarding around like anthropomorphic tortoises and putting on rap and hardcore shows that echo up through the sewer grates to the delight of topside children and the horror of their parents.

High Town
This is really the collective name for three adjacent districts (Old Town, Mistfall Academy, and the Diamond Quarter), but it feels like a totally different city from Low Town, and people tend to refer to it as such. Slave hunting is illegal here and you're much less likely to get mugged, for example.

Old Town
Primarily inhabited by the city's middle-class professionals, this is also where the guilds are headquartered. The most prominent guild is unquestionably the Engineers’ Guild. This is also where the only officially sanctioned arena is located, where teams of gladiators are arranged to battle each other, or sometimes captured dinosaurs, in a desperate attempt to one day earn their freedom.

While slavers aren't allowed to hunt here, the more successful ones have set up rookeries where kenku are bred, incubated, hatched, and prepared for sale.

Mistfall Academy
This ancient university teaches a narrow, traditionalist interpretation of magic, philosophy, and the arts, but excels in the mechanical and architectural sciences, due to sustained investment and cooperation from the Engineers' Guild. Its buildings are fancifully designed, with basic shapes exaggerated and arranged in apparently meaningless configurations.

Diamond Quarter
The least densely populated region of the city and the highest concentration of wealth. Near-constant guard patrols make this district extremely safe, but only for those who can pass as residents. Gated gardens surround elaborate towers which hold entire families of decadent and incestuous nobility that you can assume keep truly horrifying secrets. Some of these families have become so inbred that they only resemble humans on a superficial level at this point.

The Council Tower at the center of the Diamond Quarter dwarfs the rest of the district. It also houses Mistfall Bank's central vault and the majority of the city's garrison.


Flying Monkeys are thieving little bastards with white fur and wings that help them blend in with the Low Town mists (advantage to stealth in fog or mist), and behave with the approximate intelligence of neglected human four year olds. They’re also alcoholics that can smell any booze you have straight through the bottle and your pack. Many of them collect stolen hats.

Hit Dice: 1
Number Appearing: 1d4 + 2
Armor: none, but 18 DEX
Damage: 1d4 bite + monkey fever 
Move: as human + flight
Morale: 5

*1/6 chance each flying monkey is a carrier. PCs get a daily resistance save to avoid permanent DEX drain (1 DEX/day), fever lasts 1d3 days.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Glass Rook Tower & the Astral Spellhold

I'm really happy with the theoretical structure I laid out in this last post, but I needed to see how parts of it would work in practice. So this map right here is basically a rough draft of the glass rooks’ first configuration, the only one that connects directly to the material world. Since it’s configuration 1, the room numbers are presented in a sensible order, but the rest of the configs will be shuffled up as thoroughly as possible.

It’s also my first attempt to depict lateral distance using the same color-coding system I normally use for vertical depth. I think that aspect turned out pretty well.

I must be some kind of idiot, because it didn’t occur to me that the color thing would work until I started sketching things out. I thought it was going to be a standard metroidvania style side-view like the one I did for Peridot,* how dumb is that?

Also, it looks like I forgot to draw stairs between rooms 6 & 7, but I left them out intentionally. You just can’t get to 7 unless you can fly, at least not in this configuration. Or climb I guess but I’d make the walls too smooth and slippery for that to be likely.

Oh and most people reading this have probably seen my posts on G+ and/or Facebook about it, but for those of you who haven’t: I released a pay-what-you-want pdf on DriveThruRPG a week ago called Escape from the Astral Spellhold.

It’s a short, ruleset-neutral trick/trap/puzzle dungeon with a house rule on almost every page and a tiny bit of worldbuilding thrown in for good measure. It’s got clockwork robots, a cranky old wizard, and a completely gratuitous dick monster attached to a Michael Moorcock reference. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever put a dragon in any Dungeons & Dragons adventure I’ve run and it totally ate a dude during the playtest.

Full disclosure: I really just wanted something I could use to showcase my layout skills, but a few people seem to really dig the actual content so there you go.

Download it. Talk about it. Gimme money if you want to and can. If you have a project in the works, and you want it to use functional graphic design that actually improves the game, hit me up.

*this is the one I mean. with the spiral staircase that was apparently designed for people under 3 feet tall. whoops.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Glass Ravens, Combination Locks, and an Unseen Terror

If Blogger’s pageview counter thingy is even slightly accurate, then people reading this are aware that Patrick Stuart has again taken this glass dungeon mapping style (coined by him) I’ve been fucking around with and run with it.

Several features of this new concept jump out at me and scream MAKE ME REAL AND COMPLETE ME I MUST LIVE:

1) The dungeon changes completely based on the characters’ actions.
  -(corollary) The main navigational challenge is figuring out how those changes work and how to direct them with specific intent.
  -(corollary) Certain areas would be impossible to access from certain others, depending on which configuration is currently active.

2) At least one of the dungeon’s reasons for being is to imprison a powerful demon at its center. This is a trope, obviously, but combined with some other elements of the concept, it hits a very particular nostalgic note for me. I’ll explain this in a bit.

3) Whenever the dungeon shifts around them, the party remains stationary in relation to it. As Patrick explained it, room 12 is still room 12.

4) Despite this, the overall nature of the dungeon changes so drastically that the usable features of room 12 in one configuration will be different from its features in any other configuration.
  -(corollary) This concept would require a greater variety of maps and mapping styles than any single adventure location I’ve ever seen. A tower might work better, in terms of clarity, as a cutaway side-view, for example. Which means the whole thing will be super fun to map out.

5) There’s an implicit timer involved, because there’s a chance of some terrifying outsider finding its way into the dungeon every time everything shifts. An adventuring party could theoretically just wander around in there getting more and more confused forever, but in practice they’d eventually be overwhelmed by all the crazy monsters they’re letting in.

Some of the points that occurred to me while I was reading his post:

1) Variable topology can be used to make the entire place function as a giant combination lock, in which every dungeon shift basically maps to a number in the combination lock metaphor. This is related to the nostalgia I mentioned.

2) Whatever features the PCs have to interact with to change the dungeon can be made possible in only one possible configuration, and merely hinted at in all the others. These “switches” could be designed to match the configuration they work in thematically, so they act as clues as to which configuration allows you to use each switch.

3) This whole concept can easily incorporate Patrick’s original glass dungeon post, simply by using that concept for one of the configurations.

4) These mechanics can be used to forcibly split the party and make reuniting them into another challenge all its own. For example, let’s say they want to get from configuration 4 to configuration 10 for some reason or other, but they can’t do so directly because of my second point. They need to activate some sort of switch in room 3 configuration 4 to get to configuration 6, where they can reach configuration 10 using a switch in room 8. But there’s no path between rooms 8 and 3 in configuration 6. So they’d have to split up, with one or more of them (let’s call them team A) moving to room 8 in configuration 4 while team B goes to room 3 to shift over to configuration 6, so team A can hit the switch in room 8 and move everyone to configuration 10.

I’m not sure I’d understand that example at all if anyone said it to me so here’s a quick topological diagram:


So here’s the nostalgia thing I promised to explain. The name of my blog and the banner at the top are references to the shared universe of Zork and Enchanter, two series of text adventures published by Infocom in the 80s. These games did a MUCH better job of simulating the most interesting aspects of D&D than any computer games TSR or WOTC ever published.

They did this by focusing on the real core mechanic of every single TTRPG ever made: the DM (or in this case the computer) describes your characters’ immediate surroundings, and prompts you to take some action. You couldn’t get far without gathering more information by examining just about everything your in-game avatar saw. The games are all available to play for free these days, and walkthroughs are a google search away if you get stuck. You know, if you’re interested.

Anyway, there’s one particular puzzle in Enchanter (probably the easiest and trope-iest entry in either series, if you’d like to try these games out and are wondering where to start) that I couldn’t help thinking about, reading Patrick’s post.

As I remember it, there’s a hidden area under a castle that contains 1) a powerful spell you need to learn to win the game, and 2) an invisible apocalyptic threat known only as the Unseen Terror. This area was a complex of several identical rooms, cut off from the room containing both the spell and the Terror.

There are an old scrap of parchment and a well-used pencil on the floor of the entrance room to this complex. Examining the parchment reveals a flowchart-style map of this small area, with connections between the rooms drawn in pencil. The map shows the treasure room with the spell and the Terror, and is really the only way you’d know that room was there at all. The pencil and its eraser are both nearly spent, with only three uses left of each.

the map on the parchment or paper or whatever it was as viewed through a modern emulator
If you connect the treasure room (P) to the rest of the complex (which you must do to get the spell you must learn), the Unseen Terror immediately takes advantage of this and tries to escape, moving from room to room at the same speed you make your own moves. This, plus the worn out pencil, means you have a very limited number of moves in which to connect that room, get the spell scroll, and re-imprison the Terror without also trapping yourself. Variable topology as a combination lock.

Now, I haven’t played this game since I was a little kid. I couldn’t tell you exactly how old I was, but I was young enough that I was playing the game with my older brother because I couldn’t read very well yet. And I don’t remember much of anything from my childhood. And I didn’t need to look up any of that description except for the screenshot of the map. This puzzle made such an impression because it left me wanting so much more.

And this Glass Ravens concept of Patrick’s can be built up using a much more complex version of the same basic puzzle mechanic as a framework. Fuck yeah.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Nested Things

This is a thing that is part of a thing which will eventually be part of another thing. More info on these things to follow.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Keeping Towns Weird

Every D&D town should have a couple of weird NPCs that use some sort of magic or super-science as part of their trade and daily routine. This is a True Fact and is not up for debate.

For the hexcrawl I’m running now, I was initially planning on writing up a couple of those weird NPCs and then assuming everything else in town was fairly normal (well, normal for a town of pseudo-Japanese dinosaur people anyway).

I was also only planning on including two settlements. With this default method, more settlements = more prep work.

Instead, I’m testing out this subroutine where I have a list of skilled trades that are represented in each of these towns, writing up some sort of weirdness for ALL of the trades I’m listing. Each NPC tradesman has a 1 in 6 (maybe 1 in 4 we’ll see) chance of being weird, rolled when the PCs first meet that NPC. Otherwise, their businesses operate pretty much how you’d expect. I’m sure there’s going to be plenty of trades I forget for now, so this list might grow. I’m intentionally leaving out food producers for the sake of my own sanity.

Between this method, the philosophy table (from which I can pretty effortlessly extrapolate the personality of the ruler and the laws of the town), and the events table (which, for me at least, tends to impact the game a lot more directly than a traditional rumor table, which is good), more settlements = more emergent complexity (another good thing) without any extra prep work at all (even better).

Also it occurs to me that if I was running a game in a borderland area between two (or more) dominant cultures, prepping one set of those three tables for each culture would be a really easy way to make sure they’re distinct from each other, while still baking enough variety into the towns themselves to keep them interesting. 


Slave Merchant- Possesses a gateway that leads to whatever location in the world is currently experiencing the most human(oid) suffering. She doesn’t like to go through it herself, but is always sending groups through, and there’s always plenty of citizens who could use the money. In my game, the continent is currently in 16th century Earth (nicknamed the General Crisis by historians), so the gateway could lead to pretty much any place I feel like.

Gunsmith- In addition to regular flintlock weapons and ammunition, produces exploding “dragon shot” bullets that explode on contact, doing an extra 2d8 damage in a 15’ radius. A critical failure would mean the bullet explodes inside the firearm instead, destroying the gun and hurting or killing the marksman. They also have a chance to explode if the person carrying them takes fire damage. Dragon shots can be used with slings, but don’t gain enough speed to explode on contact. I could see clever players setting something/someone on fire and then using these with a sling— in that case I would rule that they explode every time.

Blacksmith- His magic hammer, which allows him to work at a superhuman pace, has been stolen. He suspects his estranged brother, the master blacksmith in another settlement, of being behind the theft.

Gardener- Grows three varieties of lotus, each of which is a save-or-die poison when eaten but can be distilled into potions.
Tiger Lotus (black & orange): Hallucinogen that allows the drinker to see into the 4th dimension for 2 hrs, but forget most of it when they come down. The PC essentially sees their entire life laid out before them at once. Save vs magic to remember one useful thing from either the future or the past. The player gets to choose what it is but it must be something that their character could potentially learn or experience at some point in the future. This can be presented as a statement (there’s treasure buried under a tree in the town square) or a question (fuck you dm how do i open this stupid magic door). Since this information is remembered from the PC’s past or future perspective, it also has a 1 in 6 chance of being completely wrong.
Fire Lotus (red & yellow): X-ray vision that can’t be turned off for 4 hrs.
Midnight Lotus (black & purple): 150 lb telekinesis for 30 min.
She also sells these potions for 500 sp each.

Beekeeper- The honey produced by this beehive can be rubbed into open wounds to heal all HP damage the character has taken in the last day. Does not cause limbs or organs to grow back, just heals over the stump or eye socket or whatever. The patient also permanently gains 2 points in a random physical attribute (STR DEX CON) and loses 2 points in a random mental attribute (INT WIS CHA). No known alchemical process can reproduce these effects, even starting with the same unusual mixture of pollen the bees gather in this area. Always leaves badass scars.

Chandler- A holy man whose candles incorporate incense, dyes, and carved sigils to reproduce the effects of certain spells (beneficial first or second level divine spells) whenever they are lit. Users need to spend at least ten minutes holding the candle (the dripping wax hurts in a narrative sense but causes no actual HP damage) and meditating on the flame to receive the spell’s effects.

Silk Farmer- Whispers to his specially bred and trained silkworms, who follow his direction to weave their own silks into finished garments of the finest silk, dyed in impossibly intricate patterns. He cannot cast or even truly learn magic, but can direct the worms to weave spell effects directly into the fabric under a spellcaster’s close supervision.

Printer- In addition to the usual weekly propaganda rag, she can produce monoprint maps that change based on the viewer’s location like the GPS on your smartphone. They do not show secret areas unless it’s one of those deals where the door itself is obvious but the way to open it isn’t.

Fletcher- His arrows have been imbued with a sort of intelligence, and will change course to fly toward anyone whose name is written on their shafts. The name ritual must be performed by a magic user at the end of a ten minute ritual. Some of his arrowheads are specially forged to carry poison, but he keeps those in the back and doesn’t show them to customers he doesn’t trust.

Jeweler- His grandmother was a sorcerer of some power, who left him with a set of twelve iridescent luckstones. She also showed him how to turn them into jewelry that grants the wearer a +1 bonus to AC and all saving throws. Bonuses from multiple luckstones stack. He’s only made a few of these over the years despite many offers from would-be customers, and still has 5 of the luckstones left.

Beastmaster- Breeds, trains, and sells a (mostly) randomized dinosaur species. The animal’s size is tiny, it is about as intelligent as a human child, and can speak and even learn new languages.

Watchmaker- Has been experimenting with clockwork robotics. Could use the help of a magic user in researching artificial intelligence (treat as assisted spell research) and would offer that magic user a serious discount on these steampunk golems in the future. In addition, the grateful watchmaker would count any money spent by the magic user on this research towards the first purchase.

Glass Blower- Her elaborate, sculptural hookahs take advantage of hyperdimensional geometry and their compositions seem to change depending on the angle they’re being viewed from. Every time someone smokes stardust out of it, roll to see what happens to them. 

  1. PC becomes host to their own future self. The entity refuses to directly reveal secrets of the future to their hosts, but sometimes whispers hints to them about how best to deal with their immediate situation. Once per day, the host can try to commune with the entity. This has a 2 in 3 chance of one roll automatically achieving a critical success. The number of uses per day increases by one each time the host levels up without the entity being banished or dispelled in some way. Each use triggers a save vs. madness with advantage; failure means the entity has partially taken over and the host must save to avoid it taking over during any period of increased danger or stress (as defined by the dm). If it takes over, it decides to proactively kill the viewer’s allies, since it remembers them betraying it at some point in the viewer’s future.
  2. Mirror image, six images with no duration limit. These are alternate versions of the smoker pulled from adjacent realities, like the LotFP version of the spell. They’re usually annoyed about their predicament and they argue with each other and the PC a lot, but they have no choice but to follow until they all die horrible deaths one by one. The PC needs to make a wisdom save each time this happens or permanently lose one point of wisdom (because it’s driving the character slowly insane). If you’re using something like Arnold K’s insanities table you can have the player roll on that instead.
  3. The PC is physically transported to the upside down or the loud side of voivodja or carcosa or whatever for the duration of their high (4 hours). If the rest of the party wants to follow, each PC that takes a hit automatically gets this result. If anyone dies there, their bodies and possessions immediately return to wherever they were when they smoked.
  4. The PC gains the ability to sidestep between this and other possible worlds for the next hour, dragging their companions with them, but does not have complete control of the ability. Each time the PC decides to use the ability, they may change one thing about the world, but the DM also changes one thing, and doesn’t tell them what it is. Whatever version of reality the PCs wind up in at the end of the hour is where they’re stuck, i.e. all changes made by the high PC and the DM during this hour are permanent.

There are more I'd like to come up with something for but this is taking too long to write and you get the idea.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Tale of Potential Poop

In Sunday night's Black Hack game, the party (Allison the 12 year old 21st century alice, Kalasso the wandering saurian priest, and Chevalier d'Eon the mage) made their way to one of the saurian towns in the Hojo Mori rainforest. I didn't have any specific NPCs or events in mind, so it was pretty much all driven by the players and the dice.

The guards stopped them on the way in, and Kalasso almost immediately asked if anyone inside needed healing. It turned out that there was something wrong with the local lord's heir. Before approaching the castle though, they wanted to go find a beastmaster and see about incubating this rotjaw egg they'd acquired previously. After a brief discussion, they elected to have a sort of coffin-cart made, in which they'd simulate a rotjaw nest by filling it with dung and mulch, and bury the egg in that. Then they got distracted by a crazy-eyed fortune teller.

Once some gems were sold off and a deal had been struck with a local carpenter, they went up to the castle. Inside, they learned that the hatchling had been in a coma for a week now, and the court healer was stumped. Kalasso examined the patient but failed to make a concrete diagnosis, even with the comprehensive book on jungle diseases that Allison suddenly realized she had stashed at the bottom of her backpack.* Then Chevalier thought to cast detect magic, and discovered that this was actually a curse designed to look like a disease. The party went to ask the crazy fortune teller what to do, and she told them to talk to the spirits in the caves at the other end of the map.

*If you aren't familiar with the Alice class from A Red & Pleasant Land, they have this "exasperation" ability where if they get really stuck, the situation changes in their benefit in some randomly determined dream-logic kind of way.

So the plan at this point was to stay the night at the inn, then go pick up the completed incubation wagon from the carpenter's shop, find some farmers to fill it with fertilizer, and start a three day journey to the spirit caves. This plan was derailed when I rolled for that morning's weather and got "flash flood." When the PCs got to the carpenter's shop, he and his family were bugging out in high quality canoes. The PCs found a boat in the attic that was big enough for them and the (still empty) wagon and got out alive, but headed in the opposite direction from where they wanted to go.

So now I have a group of players with "gather a big pile of shit and rotting plant matter" as an explicit short-term goal.


1 The local lord's hatchling has been in a mysterious coma for 3d4 days. The healers in town are all completely stumped because it's actually a magical curse. The hatchling will have a 1 in 8 chance of dying every day after day 14.

2 The town is about to begin its week long Festival of Ancestors. The sequence is: opening procession, drug fueled partying, ceremonial defeat of death & peak partying, final night devoted to somber reflection.

3 A famous acting troupe is in town. Their play recounts the events of one of Hojo Mori's legendary exploits and takes advantage of illusion magic. The conquest of the goliaths and the binding of the cave spirits are popular subjects.

4 The town is currently besieged by whichever of the other local lords likes this one the least. The two sides are evenly matched and waiting for each other to make a move when the PCs show up.

The town is celebrating the hatching of the lord's healthy new heir. The egg has been secretly been exchanged with the offspring of a sorceress and a powerful demon.

6 Slave revolt! These towns usually keep a variety of species as slaves. If the lord of this town doesn't believe in slavery, the saurian citizens are rioting.

7 The majority of a hunting party has been slain by a jungle tyrant. Their funeral is today. The ceremony is a sky burial on the roof of the castle's tallest tower, with the whole town watching the sky lizards in mournful silence.

8 The local lord is hosting a Tournament of Champions tomorrow. The prize is an amulet that gives its wearer a +2 bonus to all saving throws. It also has the secret, nearly undetectable power to act as both eyes and ears for the lord.

9 An ambassador is here, with servant and bodyguards, representing one of the other lords in the region. There is a 1 in 3 chance that the ambassador is a spy and/or an assassin.

10 Grisly murder scenes are the work of an unsuspecting saurian were-raptor.

11 The town is currently rebuilding in the wake of a flash flood. Expect all goods to be sold at 1d4 times their regular prices. 1 in 3 specialty items simply aren't available right now.

12 The eggs of four peasant families have gone missing over the past three weeks. The party may enter but no one may leave until the culprit has been found.

13 The whole town is convinced that a local hatchling is some kind of messianic figure, loudly agreeing that obviously mundane, routine occurrences are miraculous portents.

14 The local lord's financial advisor has been assassinated. His three potential successors are the only current suspects; each has a 1 in 4 chance of being guilty (leaving open the possibility of a conspiracy or another killer with a different motive).

15 The PCs arrive in the middle of an execution. The condemned tradesman's wife is convinced that he was set up. She's right, but no one wants to hear it. The man is being executed for possession of heretical documents that were planted in his desk.

16 One of the local tradesmen is trying to unite the rest of them into a guild. The various business owners in town have agreed to hold a vote one week from today. The local lord is opposed to this, but must allow the vote or risk an uprising.

17 A goliath enslaved as a pit fighter has become so successful that he's almost ready to buy his freedom. His master would see him die before allowing that to happen, but would risk a riot if this charismatic fan favorite was openly murdered.

18 Slaves and citizens alike have been falling prey to a brain-eating plague. Every day in town, each PC has 1/12 chance of contracting the disease via mosquito bite. INCUBATION 24 hrs, DURATION 7 days, INCREMENT 6 hrs, EFFECT 1d2 permanent INT damage.

19 A power-hungry mage has recently failed to take the stronghold, causing lots of collateral damage. Expect all goods to be sold at 1d4 times their regular prices. Everyone is suspicious and resentful of all visiting spellcasters right now.

20 The local lord has recently had a mystical experience that caused them to add a core belief to their personal philosophy, possibly calling one of their previous beliefs into question. Conversations in town are dominated by this paradigm shift and its implications, which are still trickling down, slowly, to the general populace.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Shadow of Hojo Mori

There is a continent with many names. Many of them are spoken in the language of its native inhabitants, an ancient race of saurian bipeds. They are all descriptive names, if you understand that language, and many of them are contradictory.

It is indisputable that this continent exhibits certain unique properties, but there are different points of view regarding the precise nature of these qualities. As a result, what the dwindling highland empire refers to as the One True Land, some others call Exodus or the Wandering Isles, and still others call Nexus.

There are other sentient species there too, from what may or may not be other places, depending on whether other places truly exist, which the saurians consider a matter of debate. They tend to assign this place the name of their cultural concept of hell.*

There is a dense rainforest on this continent, named for the saurian who once ruled it with an iron fist, Hojo Mori, whose kingdom died with him. His descendants seem incapable of working together, and only only hold any authority within their own isolated settlements. They are feudal lords who only promise protection to those within their own city walls, and there are many dangers in the wilderness.

The place is overrun not only with dinosaurs (or rather, what the dinosaurs may have evolved into if they had escaped extinction eons ago), but also traces of the many outside cultures that Hojo Mori brought here long ago to enslave and exploit.


Abandoned Mining Colony
  • Emerald mine, abandoned 30 years ago when the earth into which the mine was carved was granted sentience and mobility by magical eco-terrorists. Anti-bodies formed in the shape of earth elementals and slaughtered anyone who couldn’t escape in time.
  • A few of the gems are in easy-to-spot locations on the first level. The elementals, stomping around below, sound like the faint echoes of heavy industry at a distance.
  • Lower levels contain more gems guarded by elemental antibodies. The elementals are incredibly loud, and have no chance of sneaking up on anyone who isn’t deaf. They exist as part of a hive mind that allows them to co-ordinate their attacks and defense, effectively adding +2 HD in combat whenever two or more elementals are present.
  • The lowest level contains a hive-mind crystal. Destroying it triggers a massive earthquake that collapses the mine.

Bronze Jungle Tyrant
  • Inspection of this huge, elaborate statue of the regional apex predator (basically like a t-rex but more so) reveals that it’s actually a vehicle with six seats in the head.
  • The activation gem (glows a brilliant white, is the size of your head, probably being worshipped by some feral tribe of filthy humans or elves or something) is missing.

Frozen Pond
  • A mace is half-buried in middle of a wide, frozen pond. The air here isn’t any colder than the surrounding rainforest, except within a foot or so of the ice itself.
  • There’s the skeleton of a sea monster visible, trapped underneath the ice.
  • Dislodging the mace requires a successful strength check and causes the pond to instantly melt, freeing an undead two-headed plesiosaur that attacks immediately, and dropping whoever’s standing on the surface of the pond into the water.
  • Three trigger words are inscribed on the mace’s handle, in the personal cypher of a long-dead saurian artificer. When these words are muttered before striking a contiguous body of standing freshwater, the mace causes the water to change phase as appropriate. The trigger words are codes for “liquefy,” “solidify,” “vaporize,” and “condense.”
  • the trigger words can also be used to cause additional elemental damage. When attacking a human, for example, the “vaporize” trigger word would cause 1d6 fire damage as the water content of their blood turned to steam, and the “solidify” would cause 1d6 cold damage as it became ice.

Bone Dog Encampment

  • Semi-nomadic escaped slaves taken from a universe where canine bipeds naturally grow partial exoskeletons. Only females are present.
  • PC bone dogs have hit dice and combat abilities as fighters, have advantage to wisdom tests related to scent and hearing, natural armor as chain, and a bite attack (but cannot use manufactured armor). Typical NPCs have from 1–4 HD and are usually armed with clubs or spears and bolas or slings. Their leader, Argluff, has 6 HD and wields a katana.
  • Their community won’t survive past this generation on its own, as the males were all killed in a unsuccessful insurrection attempt.
  • They need help to accomplish at least one of three goals: to get home or, failing that, to find some means of perpetuating their society here; either way, they also desire genocidal vengeance against their saurian ex-captors.

*The rare exceptions are usually those that have actually proven somewhat successful in this environment, such as the insectoid hive-minds, whose name for the place translates as Newhome. The individual hives have no names — the insectoids simply think of them as either This-Hive or Not-This-Hive, which are more similar conceptually to me/you than to here/there.