Saturday, October 23, 2021

Black Wyrm gets a facelift

The new cover (sorry Rackham fans)

Been a while, huh? It took a bit longer than expected, but my adventure module The Black Wyrm of Brandonsford has been updated. As the title says, this change is just a facelift. The core material of the adventure, encounters, npcs, and whatnot, are left unchanged. I’ve added new art as well as new maps for the dungeons featured in the adventure. As for the cover, believe me, I make no claims to be a better artist than *the* Arthur Rackham himself, but I wanted the adventure to feel like something uniquely my own.


Both this version and the original are available as part of the pdf download, but this new version will be the one coming to Print On Demand. I’ll update this post with a link when that is available.


UPDATE: The POD is now available! You can get it here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/327744/The-Black-Wyrm-of-Brandonsford

Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Tribes of Monstrous Men

Outside of the civilized lands, deep within the Wild places, are tribes of monstrous men. Similar to us in some ways, but very different in others. Today, I will detail a few.



Kobold Patrol!

Kobolds

The tiny, dog-like humanoids who hole up in abandoned mines, tunnels, and dungeons, laying devious traps to compensate for their small stature. When compared with the other denizens of their chosen living spaces, kobolds are relatively small and weak.


Because of this, kobolds will often ally themselves with larger creatures, offering them food, wealth, or otherwise in exchange for protection. Due to their symbiotic relationships with such dangerous creatures, the leader of a group of kobolds will not be the strongest, but the most clever.




ORCS!

Orcs

No-one knows for sure where the pig-faced barbarians known as Orcs came from. Some believe that the Orcs were once human warriors. Soldiers for whom their entire lives were battle, and when those battles ended, they had nothing else to do. So they kept fighting. The restless warriors gave in to their primal natures, living only to fight, pillage, and revel. And slowly, they were changed into Orcs.


Orcs are fueled by a volatile mixture of testosterone and adrenaline. They live to fight. Often orcs can be found in nomadic warbands that raid the occasional human settlement for resources or just to get their energy out. If you ever encounter such a group in the wilderness, a good way to avoid being turned into a bleeding pin cushion is to give them a reason to fight each other instead of you.


Orcs can usually be reasoned with, but if someone draws a weapon, it's like throwing a bucket of chum into shark-infested waters.




Troglodyte Ambush
Troglodytes

Troglodytes (or just Trogs) are lizard-men who dwell in dank caves and foetid swamps. They revel in filth and muck, gorging themselves on slime-pickled corpses and rotten fish. Their skin secretes a stinking slime they use to coat their weapons and combine with all manner of foul ingredients found in the flora and fauna of their cave systems to mix creative and deadly poisons. Many an enterprising and morally bankrupt sorcerer has traded with trogs, exchanging captured prisoners for their choice alchemical ingredients.


Troglodytes live in symbiosis with the oozes and slimes that slither around in dungeon depths. They feed the oozes until they grow fat enough that excess slime sloughs off that they can eat. Troglodytes, surprisingly, are seemingly immune to the flesh melting properties of most oozes.


Trogs often do not wear armor, as their slimy scales protect them like thick leather and because wearing armor would hinder their uncanny ability to change their color to blend in with their environment. 




Gnoll Raiders

Gnolls

The ravenous, dog-headed gnolls are creatures of Chaos. One could reason with an orc or a kobold, but gnolls have no reason. This might make them seem like mere cackling beasts, but they exhibit a sinister intelligence.


When gnolls raid a village they do not simply kill to take what they want and leave, they do not raid to survive, they raid because they want you to suffer. They torture and maim. They set fire to houses with families locked inside. They drink the blood from freshly severed heads and gnaw on the bones of children. And they laugh while they do it.


This brutality is not exclusive to their human victims. Gnolls will habitually eat their own at slightest sign of weakness. Unlike the kobolds, the gnoll leader will be the biggest, strongest, and most ruthless member of the group.


It is because of their evil nature that gnolls are associated with many superstitions. It is a commonly held belief that a child born while gnolls laugh will grow up to become a murderer. Not only that, but bits of gnoll are integral reagents in many black magics. For example, gnoll hide is used to create the many magical belts and capes that allow men to transform into wolves in the old legends. Gnolls are also known to keep wargs as mounts or as attack dogs, as witches do.


Monday, April 19, 2021

d8 Polymorph Spells




  1. Fionn’s Amphibious Charm. When cast, a fish-shaped mark is branded in a visible location on the target’s body. For the duration of the spell, whenever the affected character gets wet, they transform into a salmon. The character will change back when completely dry. (Whether “getting wet” includes things like drinking water is up for the GM to decide...)


  1. Circe’s Porcine Curse. This spell transforms its target into a pig. The type of pig depends on the size of the target (halfling: piglet, human: standard pig, ogre: giant warthog, etc.). 


  1. Incantation of Transfiguration. The spellcaster begins chanting a magical song, and all characters that can hear the spellcaster must save or be transformed into a harmless critter. The transformation lasts as long as the spellcaster keeps chanting.


  1. Animorph. The target of this spell can transform into an exact copy of a creature they are physically touching, keeping their own mental stats and personality. The transformed character can change back whenever they choose, but if they remain in animal form for more than two hours they must succeed a save vs. spells or be stuck as an animal permanently.


  1. Zzildra’s Battle of Wits. The spellcaster makes a check against the target's INT. If they pass, the target is transformed into a sheep. If they fail, they are transformed into a sheep. The transformation lasts 1d6+6 turns.


  1. Lecto’s Dark Mirror. This spell transforms a target into its “opposite”. What a character’s opposite may be is up to GM discretion. Predator/prey animals are easy enough, but this becomes more subjective with humanoids and other inanimate objects. Go with your gut on these. The opposite of a goblin could be a dwarf or a gnome, the opposite of a fork could be a spoon, and so on. 


  1. Etymos’s Rhymic Remaking. This spell can transform an object into another object with a rhyming name. Change a sword into a board, a cat into a bat, and so on. For humanoid or other sentient characters, the “name” to be rhymed could be their actual name, character class, occupation, or rank.


  1. Arakhir’s Hallucination. The magician conjures a dazzling display of prismatic lights and magical smoke with a 30’ radius. Any creatures caught inside the spell must save vs. spells or believe that they have been transformed into a snail. No physical transformation actually occurs, but the target will only be able to act like a snail, wriggling sluggishly on the ground. In this state salt deals damage to them as fire oil, but if brought to 0 hp the character simply falls unconscious. Someone affected by this spell can be slapped back to their senses as with a sleep spell.

Friday, April 16, 2021

DRAGONS: Sea & Dream Dragons

This is the second of my series of my personal dragon bestiary (draconiary? draconomicon?). Click here for Part 1. 


A Sea Dragon
Sea Dragon

Massive (80’) serpent-like dragons with silvery scales and feathery red fins. They dwell in the vast oceans, inhabiting vast coral reefs and sunken ruins. 

AC 3 [16], HD: 14* (63 hp), Att: 1 x bite (3d6) or 1 x squeeze (2d10 hull damage) or breath, THAC0 9 [+10], MV: swim 240’ (80’), SV D8 W9 P10 B10 S12 (7), ML 9, AL Neutral, XP 1,350, NA 1, TT H + pearl

  • Breath Weapon: 100’ line of pressurized water (save vs. breath or be pushed). The sea dragon must spend one combat turn swallowing water to use this attack again.

  • Lunge: Up to 40’ out of water to use bite attack.

  • Squeeze: Coil around and crush a vessel (of equal size or smaller).


Sea Serpents, Fish Drakes, Water Dragons. These piscine behemoths claim vast swathes of ocean as their territory. While they tend to be non-aggressive, the sea dragons hold a strict code of etiquette one must follow to pass through their waters; throw offerings of treasures and fresh meat overboard and you may proceed safely.


These dragons were originally known as “sea kings” because of how other aquatic animals behave around them in nature. The other creatures do not avoid the sea dragon, instead they live alongside it, treating it almost like an alpha of their pack. The other creatures give the dragon a wide berth and allow it first pick of the food. In exchange, they are protected from larger predators; like peasants paying tribute to their lord.  


Some more intelligent animals like octopi and dolphins have been seen to offer tribute to the dragon in the form of shiny trinkets and shells.


Every sea dragon naturally forms a pearl beneath its tongue that grows larger as the dragon ages. These pearls are believed to contain the dragon’s spirit, and there are many rumors surrounding their magical powers. 


Sailors believe that the pearls can be used to control the dragons, or to harness their power over the seas. The dynasties of the west peddle the belief that they can use dragon pearls in a secret ritual to transform themselves into sea dragons to defend their coastlines from invaders, and the imperial family keeps a dragon pearl as an heirloom.


If you are suicidal enough to want to steal a sea dragon’s treasure, their lairs are found in great shipwrecks, ancient Atlantean ruins, or inside towering pillars of coral, all teeming with beautiful and dangerous sea life.


When a sea dragon discovers some of its hoard has been stolen, miles of ocean are made impassable. The angry dragon sets the sea to boil, stirring up tall dark waves and attacking vessels indiscriminately. The only way to stop it is to return the stolen treasure or slay the beast.


The Crystal-Eating Dream Dragon

Dream Dragon

Fleshy, wingless dragons with greenish scales and crystalline growths that spend most of their lives asleep. They dwell in crystal-laden caverns.

AC: 3 [16], HD: 6** (20hp), Att: [2 x claw (1d4), 1 x bite (2d8)] or breath, THAC0: 14 [+5] MV: 90’ (30’)/240’ (80’) flying, SV: D10 W11 P12 B13 S14 (6), ML 8, AL Neutral, XP 725, NA: 1 TT: F + crystal growths

  • Breath Weapon: Cloud of sleep gas (50’ long, 40’ wide, 20’ high, save vs. breath or fall asleep for 4d4 turns). Can be used up to 3 times per day.

  • Sleeping: 60%. If asleep, may be attacked for one round with a +2 bonus to hit.

  • Manifest Dreams: While asleep, the dragon’s dreams manifest in the physical world as illusions that disappear when touched.

  • Telepathy: Can communicate telepathically within 60'.


Credit where it's due, I ran my players through Gavin Norman’s new adventure The Incandescent Grottoes which featured the crystal-eating dream dragon. I liked the idea so much that I decided to expand on it here and draw my own interpretation, seen above.


Dream Dragons are some of the most naturally skilled dreamers in the world. When they dream, their psychic manifestations are so strong that they become visible in our world as phantasms. Sometimes their dreaming can be so strong as to pull creatures from the Dreamlands from their reality into our own.


Usually, dream dragons will settle to feed on crystals. They might not be tasty, but the crystals provide the dragon with much needed mental clarity. In addition, they cannot properly digest the crystals, so what results is a strange sort of symbiosis. The crystals grow within the dream dragon’s body, growing outwards and appearing first as wart-like bumps on the dragon’s skin before piercing through as fully-formed crystals.


The prismatic fumes that the dream dragon exhales induces a deep sleep of vivid, often prophetic dreams. People subjected to the fumes have described the transition as almost seamless: “One instant you’re standing in front of the beast, and the next you’re at the helm of a silver ship, sailing on the clouds among floating islands.”


Despite their fleshy bodies and lack of wings, dream dragons can actually fly. To do so, they take in a huge gulp of air, letting it fill their body as they stretch to their full length and twist through the air like a windsock. Close the dragon’s mouth, and it will crash in a heap.


Dream dragons are intelligent, and their mastery over their own minds allows them to speak telepathically. They have been known to ally themselves with adventurers, getting favors from them in exchange for cryptic prophesies of the near future, knowledge of their surroundings, and rare spells captured from the dream realm.


It would be wise to not make an enemy of a dream dragon, for if left alive, it will make sure you never have a good night's sleep again. They will corrupt your dreams with rogue nightmares and in extreme cases, abduct your psyche and maroon it in the dreamlands that you might never wake...or that something else wakes in your place.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

[B/X Class] Traditional Dwarf

The Dwarf race-class as it stands I think does well enough at letting you play as the modern idea of the dwarf. You know the one; the elf-hating, axe-or-hammer-swingin’, beer-swillin’, grudge-bearin’, gold-lovin’, scottish accented dwarf that everyone thinks Gimli is but is really more like a Warhammer thing? Yeah, that one.

I wanted to cobble together some class features that would make my dwarves better represent the “miner fairy craftsman” sort of dwarf. The ones that whistle while they work and make wondrous things from the metals and jewels they mine from the earth. Something that combines parts of all the little demi-human races with some fairytale flair. Hopefully, this does the trick.


DISCLAIMER: I HAVE NOT PLAYTESTED THIS.


Traditional Dwarf


Demi-humans that resemble short old men with long noses and beards, possessing strength much greater than their size. They dwell in tunnels within the earth, where they mine for gems and ore.

Hit Dice, To-Hit, Saves, Experience: as Dwarf

Armor: Any, including shields.

Weapons: Any.


Languages - Along with the common tongue, dwarves can speak the secret language of burrowing creatures, and can converse with animals like badgers, moles, rabbits, and ferrets. While these animals can talk back, they can't communicate complex ideas.


Low Light Vision - You’re used to working in dim light. You can see perfectly well in moonlight, and see twice as far in torchlight.


Hiding - When in an environment of natural or carven stone, you can take one round to vanish, hiding so well you can only be found with an extensive search (4-in-6 chance to remain hidden). You can also hide in other environments with sufficient cover (2-in-6 chance of success). Hiding requires the dwarf to remain silent and motionless.


Dwarf-Sense

  • When looking at a piece of craftsmanship, you have a good idea of who made it and what its function is.

  • You can spot geological and construction features with a 3-in-6 chance of success. These include secret passages, concealed traps, unsafe construction, thin walls, and metal ore veins or gems.

  • With one round of close examination (touching, sniffing), you can tell if an item is magical or not. 10 minutes of close examination allows you to make an Intelligence check to learn more about it. (shamelessly stolen from the GLOG Wizard)


Stone Friend - Stones are always listening, but are usually too lazy to bother speaking. For dwarves, they will make an exception. Speak to a stone and it has a 1-in-6 chance of participating in a conversation


(Note: The success chance is per stone, so the player can't "spam" the roll to make it talk. How much time would have to pass for a stone to be ready to talk may vary, but this shouldn't be immediately repeatable. The success could also be modified by the dwarf's CHA.


See Skerples’s take on stone elementals for what I’m going for here.)


Metalworking - Given the proper raw materials and equipment, you can craft any metal weapon, armor, jewelry, or tool with masterful quality. Once in your life, you may craft your Masterwork, a powerful magic item of your own creation.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

DRAGONS: Frost Wyrms, Red Tyrants, and Storm Serpents

Everyone seems to have their own way of doing dragons. For my current campaign setting, I've decided to go with a more Monster Hunter or How to Train Your Dragon approach, where my dragons are a class of animal like reptiles or amphibians with many species. The dragons in this post are only a few (the bookwyrm is one too) and I plan to make more at some point.

I've tried to distinguish each dragon species from the others (mechanically and aesthetically) to make them stand out from each other more than D&D's chromatics/metallics do.

I also wanted an excuse to draw some cool dragons.

A Note on Dragons (or, In MY setting...)

So a few things that might set my dragons apart from what we're used to seeing in D&D:

1. Dragons' intelligence varies by species. I see it as a sliding scale where the extremes are 'average crow' and 'Smaug', with Jurassic Park's velociraptors set firmly at the middle.

2. Dragons can't cast spells, but some have innate spell-like abilites.

3. Basically any weird magical lizard-thing will be referred to as a dragon. I hate going into semantics about "actually that's technically a wyvern, not a dragon". Each species here is also listed with multiple colloquial names.

With that out of the way, time for the dragons!

Frost Wyrm

Winged, two-legged dragons covered with spikes made of elemental ice. Dwell in glacial rifts and icy mountains.

AC 2 [17], HD 7** (31 hp), Att 2 x claw (1d4), 1 x bite (2d8), or breath, THAC0 13 [+6], MV 90’ (30’) / 240’ (80’) flying, SV D8 W9 P10 B10 S12 (7), ML 9, AL Chaotic, NA 1, XP 1,250, TT E + heart

  • Breath: 80’ cone of cold.

  • Freezing Body: Attacking the dragon with a non-magical metal weapon has a 1-in-6 chance to break the weapon. If the dragon’s body touches flesh it inflicts 1d4 damage.

  • Cold Immunity: Unharmed by cold-based attacks.

frost wyrm flying

Cold Drakes. Ice Dragons. They are equal parts beautiful and deadly. Where they fly, the winter storms follow in their wake. Northern tribes have many beliefs about the ice drakes, and to them these are creatures both respected and feared.


It is said that the aurora is the snow shed from their wings that floats into the sky and mingles with starlight. 


The body of a frost wyrm is so cold that the air slightly freezes around it; the dragon constantly sheds an icy mist.






This cold aura is believed to be generated by the dragon’s heart, an egg-shaped crystal of green ice about the size of a human head. A frost wyrm heart would fetch a high price with collectors and magicians studying the lores of ice and snow.


Along with the heart, a frost wyrm’s skeleton is made of elemental ice. The tribes call them “icebones” and use them to make weapons and jewelry through a process only known to their tribal elders and most revered warriors. Unlike our impure ice, elemental ice is extremely durable and carries that same magical freezing property.


The Tale of White Death

There is a legend amongst their people of a mortal hero who became a god; a man who slew the mother of all frost wyrms, a great dragon called White Death. She plagued the north with unforgiving winter, until the hero ascended the highest mountain in the land and jumped from its peak, wrestling the beast out of the sky over six days and six nights. He broke the White Death’s body on the mountainside and forged an axe from her crystal bones. When the hero died, he and his axe were entombed inside the great mountain in a vast crypt, to await the day when a worthy successor will claim the axe as his own. 


To this day, tribal leaders ritualistically hunt frost wyrms to prove their cunning and martial might, and to craft an icebone weapon of their own.


A Red Tyrant on his hoard.

Red Tyrant

Dragons with red-gold scales, powerful wings, and muscular limbs. They dwell in the hearts of abandoned kingdoms and scorched ruins.

AC -1 [20], HD 10** (45hp), Att 2 x claw (1d8), 1 x bite (4d8) or 1 x breath, THAC0 11 [+8], MV 90’ (30’) / 240’ (80’) flying, SV D6 W7 P8 B8 S10 (10), ML 10, AL Chaotic, XP 2,300, NA 1,  TT H 

  • Pride: Red Tyrants are immensely prideful and will always listen to flattery.

  • Breath Weapon: 90’ long cone of fire.

  • Charming Voice: Save vs. spells at -2 or be affected as per charm person. Any who resist the charm are immune to its effects in the future. 

  • Fire Immunity: Immune to fire-based attacks.


Dread Worms, Fire Drakes, the quintessential dragon. They breathe fire, devour princesses, and sleep on mountains of golden treasures. These dragons are so named for their red-gold scales (they grow more red with age) and the curled horns and spiny frills which frame the dragon’s head like a crown.


The red tyrant’s monstrous body betrays its sinister intelligence. They are narcissistic and delight in the degradation and suffering of beings they deem “beneath” themselves. A tyrant will toy with its prey, seeking either to scare them to death or to give them a glimmer of hope just to snuff it out before burning them alive. 


Red Tyrants lair among the bones of the kingdoms they’ve burned, sleeping on piles of ancient wealth in scoured keeps and abandoned mountain halls. Each one keeps a hoard of treasures and has an encyclopedic knowledge of it, enough to notice if even a single coin is out of place. When a Red Tyrant notices a treasure has been taken, it flies into a rage, becoming the bloodthirsty monster it appears to be. 


Tyrants are one of the few dragon species that can speak, and their voices carry a powerful magic. Their hypnotic voices can charm weak-willed beings; a low growl that echoes through the target's body and evokes some primal fear and awe that all "lesser" creatures share when faced with a dragon. 


"It wasn’t telepathy...telepathy was like hearing a voice in your head. 

This was like hearing a voice in your body. His whole nervous system twanged to it, like a bow." 

- Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!

The dragons often use this ability to keep lesser beasts as guards and spies, or to further torment their victims by turning allies against each other.


Those with no means to combat the dragon have historically resorted to sacrifice; regular offerings of young maidens left to be consumed by the beast. This keeps the dragon at bay, who is satisfied with the sorrow of the people. Their only hope is to call upon wayward heroes to slay the beast.


Storm Serpent

30’ serpentine dragons with yellow, blue, or violet scales coursing with electricity. They dwell in mountain peaks above the clouds.

AC 3 [16], HD 6** (28hp), Att 1 x bite (2d8), 1 x tail (2d4 + electricity), or scream, THAC0 13 [+6], MV 240’ (80’) flying, SV D10 W11 P12 B13 S14 (4), ML 9, AL Neutral, NA 1, XP 950, TT F

  • Electrical Body: If the dragon’s body touches with flesh or metal in contact with it (armor, weapons) the electricity coursing through it inflicts 1d4 damage.

  • Summon Storm: Takes 1 turn.

  • Lightning Bolt: If a storm is present, a storm serpent’s scream can summon a lightning bolt from the sky, affecting a 10’ area. Inflicts damage equal to serpent's current hp total (save vs. spells for half).

  • Electrical Immunity: Unharmed by electrical attacks.

  • Flight: Having no wings, the storm serpent’s flight is seemingly by magic.


A Storm Serpent screaming.
Also called screaming thunderbolts or screamers by those who lack respect for them, storm serpents fly through thundering storm clouds, their glowing bodies twisting through the storm like a living lightning bolt.


Storm serpents’ bodies course with electricity. Their scales pulse with electrical light, and the manes of coarse hair on their necks are always stood on end from static.


Storm serpents make their lairs in only the highest mountain peaks, the ones that disappear beyond the clouds. 


Some believe these dragons to be divine spirits of cleansing. That they bring rain and spark purifying fires. Perhaps they are right to believe this. Despite having no wings, storm serpents fly with supernatural agility.


They have no breath weapon, but their screams have the power to conjure lightning from the sky.


Some storm serpents have been known to become guardians of villages in the valleys beneath their mountains. 


Courageous folk journey up the mountainside to the serpent’s lair to give offerings of food and treasures, as gaining a storm serpent’s favor leads to healthy rainfall and good harvest. The dragons can also use their powers to divert devastating storms away from their protected territories.