Saturday, February 26, 2022

8 Magic Pirate Items

Lobster Plate - +1 Magic Armor
Bright red and orange, knobby, worn over the torso. This offers exceptional protection the back especially; sneak attacks can only deal normal damage against whoever wears this armor- no critical strikes can hit them. Also, magic or skill-based powers that can remove this armor don't work, unless the wearer is at least halfway submerged in water. This armor is as protective as plate armor, with +1 AC.

Once worn by a paranoid captain who feared a mutiny.

[2] Ivory Putty Jar
Carved from the base of a great whale's tusk- this smooth container has a well fitting cap to keep out air. Inside, it contains a great few fistfulls of wood colored putty which can be smeared onto wood and breaks in a ship's hull. The putty merges with the boards there, gaining their woodgrain and becoming indistinguishable from the natural wood that once made up whatever it is repairing.

The jar magically regrows the putty inside over time; it only greats a spoonful or so every turn, meaning it will take a long time to recharge. But with this jar, a ship can be repaired much easier and with needing less stops. If a full jar is used during a ship to ship chase or combat, you can recover a ship's hull by 1d6 hit points over an exploration turn of patching the worst leaks and breaks.

[3] Green Gel Lantern
Silver framed glass egg filled with green goop. The goop is inert unless heated by a flame- the tiny fixture for placing a small candle underneath must be lit for the lantern to function. The lantern is always carried with a thick wool bag that can be thrown over it to cover up its light.

The goop emits a massive amount of ghostly green light- the gel lantern essentially multiples the amount of light given off by a flame by a hundred times over. The green light is enough to act as a beacon to other ships, or to illuminate the entire deck from the poop- use a baseline of 80 feet of bright light. The lantern also grants magical protection- anyone carrying it gains +2 to spell saves against any spell cast on them within the green light.

The gel inside the green gel lantern has a secondary power. If heated, the glowing goop can be consumed by a creature to make them shed light of 10 feet and become immune to all magical spells and take half damage from magical blasts, damage from weapons, and dragon breathe for the next six combat rounds. Every time some of this gel is consumed in this way; reduce its bright-light radius by -5 feet permanently.

[4] Scarf of Tailwind
It's a long waving red scarf. Whoever wears it can control which way the wind blows; the scarf's tail always majestically waving towards the wearer's new desired direction. The strength of this wind is between a cool breeze and stiff blowing- perfect for sailing, but it cannot beat a storm. It can also quell the wind, causing the scarf to hang down limply.

There is no "cooldown" or curse associated with this magic item. That's probably why some obsessed pirate captain beheads anybody who is wearing a scarf and steal them for his collection- he's trying to find the "one".

[5] Rock of Rismorses
This rock is shaped like a small step pyramid, but more smooth. It was apparently formed by natural forces, except with a few small ridges of tiny notches curved along its surface. This rock must be owned by a pirate captain who can cast spells; because this rock is actually a spellbook.

The rock has three spells etched into it, requiring a small meditation ritual of about a turn to read & prepare by tracing your finger along.

Gulp of Sand - 1st level Conjuration
Causes a mouthful of sand to "come up" from the mouth of whatever the caster points at. It can be a statue, a person (causing them to cough and wasting an action), an animal (making them spit out anyone they have caught in their jaws), and so on. The amount of sand is enough to fill the mouth of the "mouth", and as such a massive statue or huge creature could eject a massive dune of sand.

Anchor - 2nd level Transmutation
Makes anything in the water burdened as though weighed down by an "anchor". This anchor will adjust for the size and weight of the target, but will be roughly enough to keep it from being blown away by the wind, but not enough to cause it to sink. Things with little buoyancy may be dragged under instead. This anchor weight is invisible, but will always hang from the central bottom point of the floating object, and could be "cut" by a magic sword or another spell.

Any aquatic creature or vessel moves as though heavily encumbered, damaged, or having no wind in its sail. You must be within shouting distance to cast this spell on something.

Cant of Survival - 3rd level Abjuration
This spell is a hymn that effects everyone who can hear it. The caster must chant the words without stopping, and can perform no other actions but casting this spell while it is active. While listening to this song, taking damage that would kill you instead reduces you to 1 Hit Point. Every round somebody should have died, the caster must make a saving throw vs magic to continue the spell, else it stops. Every time the caster succeeds this save; make it +1 harder on the next roll until this casting of the spell ends.

These spells are mostly incidental for this stone to have- it's real value as a magical treasure is that it is a rock that floats! It isn't hollow or anything- it just floats in water, so you won't lose it when it gets thrown off the side of the ship.

[6] The Everlemon
An eternally bitter, sweet, juicy lemon. You'll find this as a half of a lemon; it never "heals" itself but it doesn't dry out or lose its flavor- it is always exactly as fresh as a ripe lemon sliced down the middle. If you suck on it, protects you from scurvy. You can also juice it once per day to create another "scurvy ration" for somebody else, or store it to make a lemonade base for potions.

The first half is owned by a pirate somewhere- somebody you rob. The second half is being ever-digested in the belly of a kraken somewhere else.

[7] Godless Finger
Finger of an renowned atheist, thief, war profiteer, and temple-sacker. It is kept in a small box and wrapped in black cloth. The finger never rots, but never bleeds either. If the finger is touched to a holy object, it sizzles and burns, letting you identify items consecrated or blessed with divine power. If the item is demonic, the finger might caress it instead.

Additionally; the finger (index finger of the left hand of a human) can be cleanly stitched to your own hand if you remove the matching finger. The moment you do this, you gain its powers and can identify holy or unholy items. You also gain all of the thief skills of a 3rd level thief, and can use their saves in any category if they are better then yours. If you are already a Rogue/Thief, you treat all of your skills and saves as though you were one level higher. However, you can no longer benefit from divine magic- you cannot be healed and conjured food or water turns to dust in your mouth.

[8] Ballast from the Bay
Not one magic item, but an uncountable many. The "ballasts" are grains of sand from a yellow beach in some part of the world, long since forgotten and unimportant. These grains of sand obey the words of the owner much like a dog. They hate to be separated and the sand will form into a cloud or slither like a large snake over land to be reunited with their "owner". The sand can rapidly duplicate itself or shrink in number; going from a small dune to a powdery handful in about one turn worth of shrinking or duplicating. 

You can also order the sand to "attack" people, which it does mostly be just rushing at them or pouring over them- it has no concept of choking people or sand-blasting their eyes. It can do a maximum of one damage per round, but it could weigh somebody down pretty heavily if it got into their bags. It is terrified of water and will never intentionally sink a ship, and cannot fly over any standing water- even a few droplets make it scared. If told to defend you, it would grant +1 AC vs melee attacks and +3 AC vs ranged attacks or magic blasts, except electricity. Any electrical blast that hits this sand causes it to fall to the ground and wiggle and dune-about in a spasm. This is apparently similar to rubbing a dog's belly, but for sand.

Due to its separation anxiety, and inability to actually help any bloodthirsty pirates who come to posses it, it is usually told to stay on the bottom of the ship and act as a ballast, hence the name. Even so, using it for this purpose is enough to grant a big advantage- any ship with a ballast like this would require no anchor, can turn on a dime, and can quickly lose weight to gain speed faster then crewmen dumping cannonballs or less important crewmen off the sides of the ship. Treat any ship related rolls or checks as +1 and the cargo space of the ship expanded by a few barrels or crew-space worth.

The ballast is animated sand but has a certain level of animal cleverness to it. It treats whoever has recently sat on it the longest as its master. Masters who mistreat it (trying to make it carry them over water, burning it and sending it at enemy ships as an attack, etc.) are likely to find it abandoning them by shoving a few of its grains into the stitching of another person's pants- so eventually they will have "sat" on it the longest.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Four Homebrew Conquerors

In celebration of the Path of Exile developers making this league have a mapping system that doesn't make me want to pull my hair out, let's make some homebrew Conquerors.

Don't know what a "Conqueror" is? Imagine your campaign creeping to an absurd power level. Your party kills Cthulhu. You retire that campaign and make the previous player characters into an even higher power level cosmic level threat. Those are the Conquerors.

[1] Menosa
Born in a slum in the great city of Sarn, this Maraketh girl was brought up by cruelty and sharpened by pain. Her youth was defined at the edge of a knife, both in the struggle to survive and in a literal sense, given the knife fights over food and water in those desperate ghettos.

Once she managed to escape into the Atlas of worlds, her anger and pain crystalized into a thrill of battle and violence. All around her- the worlds in the maps contort to her tastes; most commonly, great urban scenes or decay. Often beauty mixed with rot and corruption- stone temple with soiled sheets hanging between the pillars; converted to an open air brothel. An aquaduct where rushing rats have replaced the water. She is a natural born warrior, as all Maraketh are, but she isn't seeking a worthy foe or a honorable death- it is simply the joy of combat that drove her forward. Unlike many other Conquerors, she never had delusions of using the Atlas for anything else.

As with all Conquerors, extended time in the Atlas has made her personality more extreme and psychotic. Power grows exponentially here. Anyone who faces her feels their eyes sting with upturned sand, nose curl at the smell of sewage, and ears deafen at the sound of her banshee cry- if you can even manage to see her fly through the air before she cuts you down.

[2] The Horseman
Massive black horse with hooves that clip the earth like thunderbolts. On its back is a rider in dusty, dirty armor. The once huge man was probably Ezomyte, maybe even Karui, it's impossible to tell with his helmet. Once the horseman held his lance and rode his beast of war through the lands of the Atlas of Worlds seeking a place of peace, free from war and hatred and greed. But as time went on, his journeys went on and on, countless lands teaming with monsters and foes- hope faded from this once proud warrior. He cowers on the back of the saddle, still unbelievably strong and deadly, but he is no longer the master. The horse now decides where they will go.

The lands around the Atlas shift and bend to the horse's whims- endless flat plains in all directions. Off in the distance, you will sometimes see a lone riding beast- maybe a Rhoa or Rhex, maybe another horse- which scatter the moment you try to get close. This is an animal mind, and it creates an animal world around itself.

This Conqueror, as with all others, is incredibly powerful. The stomping of its hooves shake the ground and it snorts fire. It can run as fast as an avalanche for days at a time- maybe forever. The rider on the horse obediently raises his spear and channels the lightning into its strikes- mountain-puncturing lance tip obliterating anything that dare stand in the steed's way on its endless gallop. This "Conqueror" lacks the bloodthirst of the others- it does not fight simply for the thrill or lust for power, but instead as an animal does- it fights to kill anything that threatens it. If you startle it, it will run. If it is angered, then you shall be destroyed utterly.

[3] Nollux Perandus
Most Conquerors go into the Atlas of Worlds as humans- and they become something more then human. Godlike- divine in stature. Their mortal, human emotions and foibles exaggerated and deadly. Some are not quite so stable. He appears as a bloated corpse, levitating nearly weightless on the air. His chin is recessed into his neck, only a dark red hole where a long seeking tongue extends. His fingers are many-jointed and incredibly agile and delicate, like a butterflies wing. None of these corruptions and mutations have weakened him; as a Conqueror Nollux is as deadly as he is grotesque.

Fleeing the destruction of his entire family bloodline into the Atlas of Worlds; Nollux exemplifies his family's reputation for greed, egoism, and sloth. As he travelled the Atlas, he became more and more powerful, and his greed and lust for luxury grew more and more. The world around him shifts into more beautiful, palatial, and luxurious- cobblestone turns to marble tiles, stalactites grow into stone pillars, metals turn to golds and silvers. While once he scoured the Atlas for luxuries, his tastes have since narrowed and refined. Now- is only true thirst is for wine. Specifically, wine made from the creatures he slayed- his long tongue tasting their fine essences. Tougher creatures that cannot simply be turned into his drink will be locked in golden barrels until they are broken down- this is how Nollux absorbs his newest prey.

Nollux's influence on the Atlas and his own personal strength are such that even getting near him is incredibly dangerous. Everything near him becomes utterly beautiful on the outside, while becoming more and more corrupted within. His twisted form causes normal bodies to shiver or fall to the floor at the mere sight of him, and naturally the insides of those he observes begin to slosh with wine as they are converted. His primary weapon is a mighty hammer, on the face of which is an inlet mold of a perandus coin; so anything he strikes will soften and bear the mark of his family's riches on it.

[4] The Shaman
An Azmeri, or maybe an Oriathan. He goes about almost naked; wearing only a loincloth of beast skins and bone talismans. His body is lean and wiry, but inhumanly strong and agile; as common with primitive men and those lost in the Atlas of Worlds. This shaman connects to the natural world; the Vastiri Desert, the forests of Wraeclast, the snowy wastes of the Kalguurans- he channels to each of these into his magic and it is a fearsome sorcery indeed.

Clearly, his lust for power extended even further once he came to the Atlas. The world around him shifts to one of nature; vines creep and overtake stone and wooden fortifications alike. More and more pristine, spiritually deep, and mystically charged locations are what he seeks. He doesn't seem capable of speech anymore, only grunting as an animal as he casts enchantments. As the Conquerors warp the world around them; his power is one that makes language and runes to convey information fail and blur- less abstract thought is possible in one who views the world through preternatural eyes.

Beyond just the command of the elements, the shaman is deeply skilled in curses and breaking them; capable of cursing other beings to turn into animals or plants, a curse so strong it can remain potent outside the Atlas. Lesser beasts obey his commands, scouring the Atlas and making his territory of spiritual, holy ground free from the sickly hands of mankind.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Adventure from a Picture- Strange Beautiful Light

I've done magic spells based on albums and their artworks before. In those cases, if the artwork looks cool, I'll be inspired to listen to the songs of the album, using their names as spell names, and going where the music takes me. Terrible cliche and pretentious I know, but no album art has inspried a real sense of fantasy adventure in me; until this one. Take it from me, I did not expect it to be from a band named Weed Smoke Rising.

Art & Inspiration from this album

Strange Beautiful Light
In the valley of our lady, stands a great statue to her honor. The lady was a fantastic hero, perhaps a goddess, who once carried a lantern. Maybe she ferried slaves to safety along an underground railroad. Maybe she was the first cleric of the light, or is some kind of lanternkeeper/firekeeper Dark Souls knockoff. Regardless of the reason, she is honored here.

However, a great treasure from the lady's tomb has been taken. Her death mask, golden and unchanged by time, was taken from her corpse that lays within the consecrated church on the hill. Her body, once pristine and impervious to rot and decay, has now lost its supernatural protection. You must return the death mask to her corpse before necrosis begins to destroy the last remains of a great hero.

The most likely suspect to the robbery is a powerful mage- once a friend of the lady, now jealous and depraved. The lady's light-bearing lantern, her greatest symbol, was actually forged by this mage to be immune to wind and rain, to cast supernatural light that blasted apart the undead, and protected from dark sorcery all who lay within the lantern's rays. Of course, where he is and, more importantly, where the mask is now is a mystery you must solve.

The Statue
The statue of the lady is a huge stone construction, well detailed, and true to life beyond its epic scale. The large lantern she holds glows with an unnatural light at all times, though it only becomes truly visible at night or on an overcast day. This lantern is the same one she carried in days of yore, though it has been magically transformed into a huge stone and class chamber suspended from the statue. Travel and camp in this valley is extremely safe, because of the light- it automatically turns the undead, stops evil spells, and makes creatures of chaos vulnerable to attack. The lady's light can be used as a holy symbol for cleric meditation or spell preparation for any clerics of light. 

The first time anyone sees the Strange Beautiful Light, they are fascinated for about an exploration turn, staring at the light's beauty before snapping out of it.

The statue itself is apparently a great stone construction, and has no doors or openings to enter. The statue could be climbed by a very skilled thief or a powerful magician.

The Church Tomb
In the basement of the small church is a tomb. Surrounded on all sides by stone walls with only one stairway down, guarded by heavy oak doors, it is clear magic was used to steal the death mask.

The church tomb is a small five room dungeon inhabited by 2d6 skeleton warriors. They have colorful painted bones and were once the protectors and lovers of The Lady. Normally, these skeletons stay still and silent, happily guarding the tomb forever, but have become animated and attack anyone who enters the tomb. Successful rolls of Turn Undead cause them to go back to sleep for 1d6 turns, and if the result is Destroyed, these skeletons instead go back to sleep until something else is stolen from the tomb; these are holy guardians, not the creations of foul necromancy, so holy magic does not burn them.

There is also a silver line "trap" on the floor that, if crossed, causes a bell in the church to chime softly. This also was not triggered on the night of the theft; hence why the wizard is such a prime suspect.

Searching The Lady's casket, one can see how perfectly preserved her body is, and the faint outline of a mask that was once pressed down on her face. If you examine the area for clues, you can find a feather and a small amount of arcane dust. You can also loot a few other pieces of jewelry and treasure here, but they belong to the lady or are the heirlooms of the wealthiest families from the nearby village and the priest would be very cross with you.

The Lake
In the center of the valley is a small watering hole built up by the rains. The water here is clean and this place can be used as a resting spot. It is about equidistant from everything else.

There is nothing special about this lake but if you sleep on the side of the bank not shrouded by the statue's light; your party has a 1 in 6 chance to be attacked by a gang of fish people (or Kuo-Toa). They are led by a 3 HD sorcerer whose favorite spell is Acid Fog. He'll cast it on the shore so you're forced to fight waist deep in water or run away.

The Roaring Recess
Framed by a great roaring stone mouth, the fearsome gateway is said to scare away evil spirits and protects the foundations of the great statue of the lady. This is the main dungeon. I don't have a map for it, so you'll have to supply one yourself. Just insert a funhouse dungeon you like, or go use donjon and generate a new one. Should be full of generic monsters, traps, magic, and a bit of loot.

Just add the following feature to empty rooms- metallic bird statuettes. Each statuette is located on a stone plinth and is protected by a magical trap. Roll on your favorite spell failure table or random spell list to generate a fitting trap. There are four birds and each is made of a different metal; lead, copper, silver, and gold.

The dungeon also has a secret entrance or exit to properly jaquay the dungeon. Roll a 1d6 to find out where it comes out.

  1. Secret door at the base of the Lady's Statue
  2. Tunnel connected to underwater cave in the lake 
  3. Behind some random rock on the hillside of the dungeon mound
  4. Very long escape tunnel built into the tomb of the church
  5. Secret door along wall of the tower's basement (requires Lead Bird to access)
  6. One-way exit from the dungeon; teleport tile makes you appear in the middle of the valley

The Tower
This crumbled wizard's tower stands in the dark part of the valley; its view to the Strange Beautiful Light cut off by the body of the statue. It appears as only the ruined base of the tower, with steps that extend and curve into nothing around a central support pillar. If you begin to climb the steps, you can sense strong magic in the air and can see a scrawled drawing of a bird on a pillar. If you continue climbing and follow the steps around the curve, you disappear and end up in an alternate pocket dimension.

The "Tower" dimension is a very dark place shrouded in shadows. The way you came is also gone; you are stuck on an endlessly repeating stairwell. If you go up or down the stairwell, every exploration turn of climbing or descending makes you end up on a large stone landing. This space is wide enough to sleep or rest, and has windows that show the black smoke, but no doors or side rooms. Once you are within the tower dimension, you are trapped and cannot escape. No matter how many flights of stairs you climb in either direction, it repeats endlessly. If the party spends more then 4-5 turns climbing or descending, they become exhausted and get -1 on all combat checks and saves. Jumping out the window is also no escape- you will fall forever through the shadow realm!

However, it's not so inescapable. If you fall from the window or are on any landing, you can look out of a window and see the Strange Beautiful Light from any distance. Characters who stare at the light feel like its guiding them to safety- and if they stare at it for a turn, they are whisked away from the shadowy tower dimension and find themselves back in the realm world, at the base of the statue of The Lady. The only way to access the rooms of the tower are to posses the bird statues, kept away for safe keeping within the Roaring Recess.

Bird Rooms
Each room can only be accessed by its matching bird statuette. However, it may also be possible to bypass these with enough luck or circumstance. If your fighter belongs to a foppish order of knights that adorns their helmets with hummingbirds made of iron, then perhaps you can find the lead door without needing the statuette. Maybe if your party carries around a little yellow canary in a cage to detect poisonous gas; you can find the golden door and the wizard's lair on your first visit. Why not?

Lead Room- Requires the lead bird, and is the only room found if you travel down the staircase from the "entrance". The lead door will appear on the first landing you reach traveling down. As the door is made of lead, it's incredibly heavy and requires someone of 18 Strength to pull open, or a team of people and a lot of patience.

The lead room is a storage room, especially for failed experiments. Because of how annoying it is to get to this room, it is rarely used by the Wizard and the whole thing is covered in a layer of dust. The room is filled with small displays, boxes, disorganized piles of books, and oversized taxidermist monsters looming in the darkness. If you mess with anything roll 1 in 6 for a random monster encounter- the monsters coming out of whatever thing you bumped or animating from the stuffed corpses.

If the party fights two encounters or searches this room thoroughly for a while; they'll eventually find a little locked lead box with an Amulet of Protection within. This amulet makes it so you always succeed your saves vs spells, wands, and magic devices. The amulet almost certainly belonged to The Lady and the Wizard was unable to find a way to destroy it, so locked it away.

Copper Room- Requires the copper bird, and will be the first door you come to after one turn of walking up the tower's steps. The copper door leads to a set of three hallways with more copper doors leading to small rooms. The floor of this level is made of stone, but a long single piece of copper flooring connects every room and crosses under every doorway; stopping only at the main door to enter this room. The end of each hall spits out into a large common room with a huge table for meals and adjoining kitchen and pantry.

This was once a servant's quarters, or perhaps barracks for The Wizard's apprentices. Around this floor are several traps in the form of electrical devices, or electric eels in water urns in the kitchen. If any of this hits the copper floor, it will shock anyone in the hallway or touching a door for 1d6 lightning damage. If you are in a room when this happens, you can't open the door without getting shocked. One room has an almost complete demonic summoning circle underneath the bed; if the players complete it with the red chalk in that apprentice's room, the circle spits out 50 1 HD imps, two at a time, until the floor is totally overrun. Yes, you are supposed to zap all of them if you want a chance. One room also contains a 4 HD minotaur barbarian, napping peacefully under the effects of a permanent sleeping spell. The wizard intends to make him solve mazes- if he ever gets around to building one. If you wake him up he'll assume you're working for the wizard and attack with his battleaxe.

Silver Room- Requires the silver bird. The wizard's private quarters. The doorway is magical and makes the sound of a chime when opened. Since it's made of silver, it also bares passage to lycanthropes and magical creatures like faeries, who cannot pass through even if held open by something else. The doorway opens into a circular chamber with two curved doors and four windows. Each window looks out onto a beautiful vista of a random far away place in a different season- one summer field, one autumn forest, one winter lake, etc. Each one of these places is actually another pocket dimension, and getting shunted out of a window traps you in a strange wilderness; but you can return to the valley of the lady by looking up into the sky and seeing that Strange Beautiful Light once again.

The central room is a sitting room and living space, with a desk and writing table. Crammed in the fireplace is a cauldron too big for it. There is a tiny switch that turns on the fire; it is a magical golden flame that warms and heats, but does not hurt living flesh. It deals double damage a fire of that size would deal to undead creatures. The candles and lanterns of this tower are lit with its golden radiance.

The two doors lead into a bathroom and a bedroom. The bathroom has a waterfall "cut out" from another place, with rocks and lichen growing on the stones roughly inserted into this room. Occasionally, a fish or random animal will fall down the waterfall and exit out the bottom- a grate covers an exit portal. There is also a small toilet in this room with a portal to dispose of waste.

There is a 1 in 6 chance that the Wizard is in his chambers when you visit. Because the door alerts the occupant that somebody is coming, you won't find him sleeping or on the toilet or anything UNLESS you dispel the door first, or have some kind of magical super-thief that can slip under doorways or something. In which case you could probably just stab him in his sleep. Scattered around this place are several expensive pieces of jewelry and a small hoard of silver coins. On the desk is a small glass prism with a blue tint- it glows a deeper shade of blue whenever a Wizard touches it. This is a major magic item called a Spell Prism that can split magical effects into multiple smaller copies- such as a fireball being turned into a bunch of 1d6 mini fireballs if the spell is cast directly on the prism itself. The prism is invulnerable.

Golden Room- Requires the golden bird and is the last door you will find while going up the magic tower. The door is enchanted and will cast a save or die curse on anyone who touches it without the wizard's permission. It is possible to "trick" this door if you are dressed up as the wizard, or are carrying one of his special artifacts.

This door leads to a magical workshop. It is a rectangular room with several tables and large, esoteric arcane machines. The wizard is here almost all of the time. Several half-finished magic items litter the tables, and many gemstones and magical reagents are scattered among the shelves on the sides. On the close end of the room is a huge glass orb, similar to a bubblegum machine, filled to the prim with lightly glowing marbles of a million different colors. On the far end of the room is a large window which shows a view to the actual valley from the vantage of where the tower and this floor would exist in the real world- and the back of the statue of The Lady and the ominous Strange Beautiful Light. just behind her arm.

If you get into a fight in this room, the wizard will engage you. If you tip over or break the marble jar, all hell breaks loose as a random magical effect goes off every round.

At the base of the window is the golden Death Mask of the Lady. Whenever the Wizard leaves this room, he conjures a magical glass case over it to protect it. If you touch the glass case, it shrieks like a banshee and explodes, dealing 1d8 damage and instantly alerting the Wizard wherever he is.

The Wizard
The Wizard was once a companion to the Lady. He made the magical lantern of light that made her so famous, but it became her symbol, not his. It was so much thought to be hers that once she died, it was magically bound to her statue and soul, meaning he could not take it back. In jealousy, he began to hate the Lady and the people of this town, and hid his tower away with his magic. He's not evil yet- his alignment would probably be neutral at this point. If he starts killing people to keep hold of the mask, he will certainly become more depraved. The Wizard could probably be reasoned with; but he's likely to lash out at anyone trying to steal the mask with spell and fury.

After finishing his lastest great work of artifice, the Wizard realized he could steal the Death Mask and use it in a magical ritual to return the light to him. If you don't stop him, he will perform a ritual at the foot of the state of The Lady and absorb the light; gaining +1 HD and the power of a Limited Wish spell as a daily power.

Give the Wizard stats equal to a level 20 or name level Wizard. He's an archmage and pretty scary. However, he casts spells as though he was a few levels weaker. That's because he both drained some of his power to create the light AND his specialty was always the creation of magic items, not spellcasting. The wizard once had to use the four metal birds to access his own tower, but once he completed his great work, he no longer needed them and put them in the Roaring Recess for safekeeping. The Wizard always carries three of his great works;

The Coring Tool
Looks like a metallic wand with a button on the side. Can be stuck in something to take out a portion of its magic or enchantments on it. Things like water, stone, or the earth can just be stuck, where as creatures would need to be hit with an attack roll. This tool crystalizes a portion of the magical essence into a tiny marble. These marbles are used by the Wizard and his machines to transfer or craft magical essences.

The Tileothfric
Small finely crafted wooden box with dozens of ivory tiles within. Each tile is double sided and has a character of Angelic script on one side and another character of Infernal on the other. If these tiles are laid out before a magical item, the will scramble up and reveal the enchantment or magical effect of the item- good effects will flip the tiles to the Angelic side to be named, and cursed or destructive magic effects flip to the Infernal side to reveal themselves. Essentially it allows you to identify magic items as long as you know Angelic for positive effects and/or Infernal.

Ring of Transportation
This magic ring is the Wizard's greatest creation. It looks like a golden band, with the engraving of a bird in flight along its length. As long as you wear this ring, you can teleport to any location you can think of. You have to either have visited that place before, or be able to envision it; some sort of knowledge of the place, however tertiary, is required. Every time you use this ring, it leaves behind a feather. It also grants the power of the Flight spell on the wearer at all times at will, even after all the charges of the ring have been used up.

The ring has about four charges remaining.

Storylines & Conclusion

If the party kills the Wizard and returns the Death Mask, they will be paid a pittance by the church, but are local heroes. (And can still steal everything in the Wizard's tower) The one who places the death mask on the corpse of The Lady will be rewarded by being able to conjure the Strange Beautiful Light once per day. This light grants a roll of Turn Undead equal to a Cleric one level higher then the character, cancels ongoing magic effects cast by evil beings, counts as a light spell for one exploration turn, and can also Charm Person if shown to someone who has never seen it before. Additionally, the Strange Beautiful Light stays where it is, keeping this valley as a safe place.

If the party kills the Wizard but do not return the Death Mask, they can instead choose to try and steal the Strange Beautiful Light for themselves. Stealing the light requires a bit of research and a ritual to be cast at the foot of the statue of the lady. Whoever steals the light gets +1 HD and the ability to cast a Limited Wish once per day. If the "power" of the light is shared among the whole group using the Spell Prism, each party member can reroll their HD and take the new result if higher, gets +1 to their highest ability score, AND gets the ability to cast one 1st level spell once per day for free, regardless of their class. The spell they can cast is determined randomly.

If the party tries to ransom the mask back to the church for a bigger payout, or stick around in the valley a few months after the light is gone, they will be hunted by a squad of Paladins.

If the party helps the Wizard he will reward them with a fitting magic item, one per party member. The fighter will be given a +1 magic sword, the thief a cloak of shadows, etc. He'll probably give them something out of storage then commission something new- but he has plenty. Under no circumstances will he give anyone the Amulet of Protection.

If the party convinces or threatens the Wizard into giving up, he'll begrudgingly return the mask in exchange for all four of his statuettes back before kicking them out of his tower. However, it is not easy to threaten a Wizard, and anything you have to offer in exchange will have to be either very valuable or very magically important- he'll gladly give up the mask in exchange for a genie, for example.

If the party interrupts the Wizard's ritual to steal the light he will summon monsters to try and stall them. He'll also probably fly up to finish the ritual in the air out of reach. If he is struck with an arrow or other ranged attack, he'll fail the ritual and be burned alive by the light- taking 4d10 damage. If he survives, he'll teleport away and leave a single feather behind- but not in his tower. He will retreat to a far away elvish land to nurse his wounds and scheme.

If the party does nothing or fails to stop the Wizard in time, he'll probably just ignore them and lord over this valley. His magic tower will be returned from its pocket dimension and he'll recruit a small army of chaotic creatures to do his bidding. By the end of the first year; he'll have torn down the statue of The Lady, have shifted fully to an evil alignment, and be well on his way to researching spells to make him into a God.

If the light goes out for any of the reasons above; the statue's protective powers will fade away. After a few weeks, the fish people will begin attacking people who pass by, goblins will begin to hunt the mountainsides, and eventually more powerful evil creatures will come as well bringing darkness and fear to the people. This also means the dimension of the tower will be permanently separated from the prime material plane; meaning anyone who enters will be trapped there unless if they have the Ring of Transportation or some other highly powerful magic ability to escape the tower.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Resupply in Dungeon = Player Skill

At the core of dungeon crawlers, once the fantasy veneer is stripped away, is resource management. While overly obvious and reductive statements like this aren't really interesting, I think it's important to underline some concepts here. Let's talk about resources.

Light is probably the most common "resource" that is associated with dungeon crawlers, and also very critical. It is easy to imagine that loss of light and all light-granting resources would just mean a TPK situation. Light is also very hard to reduce. You could imagine going on half rations for food to let them last a bit longer, but you can't really burn half a torch for less light- many games don't even have partial or low-light rules beyond other "you can see" or "you can't see". Light is also a very off or on resource in the fact that many fantasy races don't need light to see in darkness- comparatively few mechanics have in-universe methods of granting permanent, unlimited access to it. Comparatively few fantasy races have the ability of things like; don't need food or don't need arrows to shoot a bow or don't need to conserve hit points, etc.

The concept of light as a resource is often broken down into what the players can bring- namely Torches, Oil, and spells. Stranger forms of light resources- such as a racial ability to create light once p. day or a friendly torchbug companion that can glow to light up a room for you and so on go beyond the scope of this list.

Torches could be thought of as anything burnable. Potentially anything long and straight could be made as a torch or primitive torch. Real torches (as real candles) have specific methods of production; you can't just burn the end of a branch to make an effective torch. But this is fantasyland and it will work in a pinch.

Oil is more complex. Is it whale oil, plant oil, or magical fantasy oil? The concept to restore oil out of the bodies of slain monsters is a good one. Also; burning oil could make different smells- so a tribe of hobgoblins wouldn't notice your whale-oil-lamp but when they smell their chieftan burning to light your lantern then they'll get pissed. Oil is also in my opinion one of the most likely things you'll actually find in a traditional dungeon; any mineshaft or deep underground cave could have an oil drum or barrel left by the excavators or previous adventuring groups.

Light making spells is magic, and as such little rules of reality apply. Anything that can restore magic, or power from a patron of light/holy magic, or connection to the surface world for a druid, etc. could be used to restore light from a light spell. Another idea; a magical/holy light spell that gets dimmer the longer it goes on, but can be refreshed by brutal blood sacrifice of sentient beings. Imagine sacrificing bat people to Quetzalcoatl so you can search for more of that Aztec gold.

Rations & Feed
Food is the easiest thing to resupply in the dungeon; just eat monsters. Mushrooms are also around. Dungeon Meshi ran with this entire concept; it's good.

Feeding animals, especially herbivores (cave donkey?) is a bit harder and would require some supernatural elements. I like the Dwarf Fortress method of cave moss being good enough for surface dwelling herbivores to consume and survive on. In some parts of subterranian caverns it grows like a thick blanket. In smooth stone dungeon and generic mining tunnels? Not a lot of food or water here.

Of course- this only applies to traditional dungeons. Hex or city-crawls are brimming with opportunities for food- from foraging to hunting. Personal take- high towers or "vertical" dungeons like mountains have water being common, but food is more scarce. Then again, dungeons or deep caves should have more water, just less clean water, so unsure on this one.

Obviously spells and ammunition (either for actual guns or arrows and bolts) are a big part of the resource management. You typically have to have more risk to use a sword up close, but swords don't run out. (Equipment is also a resource too though- that's later).

Resupplying ammunition in dungeons requires some creativity. Personally, I'd allow skilled characters (dwarves) to identify nitrates in caves or soils to be used to make shitty black powder, and probably even stuff a gun barrel with little gravel flakes as an improvised form of ranged attack. Arrows are more complex, but you can probably imagine making arrows out of mushroom wood + underground birds for plummage, with arrow heads being easily reused. Ammunition made in dungeons is probably of pretty poor quality- the main cost here is time. Realistically speaking, unless you're spending multiple days or weeks in a dungeon, it wouldn't be worth the effort to try and hunt down all the materials you'd need to make arrows.

Ammunition is very easily recouped from intelligent enemies however; both their camps and patrols (goblins have shitty arrows, orcs have crossbows, drow have good arrows, bug people have bombs, and so on). It is probably one of the easier resources to recover if you aren't in a naturalist dungeon (cave) or an undead dungeon where everything is old and rotting away. If there are no intelligent monsters in the cave that use humanoid weapons, then you're screwed.

I'm also a big fan of magic rods as a type of "ranged magic weapon" to replace infinite use cantrips. They shoot magic blasts and are essentially a reskinned bow or sling for magic users. If you go with the lore of them being topped with a gem to be used as a power source, then this is a really easy method of resupply- just put a gem you got as treasure on the rod and each shot drains a certain amount of its value as the gem loses luster and eventually turns into a pebble if its all expended.

Spells are a tricky one. With such a massive part of the game balance being based on resource management, and Magic-Users being so reliant on spells- which are essentially their methods to solve problems at the cost of being very limited.

In some games, spells can be regained through studying your spellbook after either eight hours of rest (possible but difficult in most adventure situations / dungeons), or by studying your spellbook again after casting your magic dice/spell points, or what not. Further games have secondary mechanics- risk reward of casting extra spells past your "safe" limit but at the chance of screwing everything up. However, these methods of gaining extra spells do not count from resupplying in a dungeon itself.

The power gained by spells (instant problem solutions) can be "resupplied" in dungeons through finding scrolls, magic wands, or other magical loot in a dungeon itself. Chopping off a fetish from a defeated kobold shaman and being able to use his remaining spell he had prepared before you killed him is a fun concept- as is having yet unknown and unidentified spells scribbled on walls or stored in little glass balls. The only clue on what it does is a few random words- is it safe or will it blow you up?

Side note: "Spells" in the form of instant use solutions, not necessarily related to combat, are also somewhat "resupplied" by needing less of them over time. For example, you don't need to use Levitate to reach a high platform once you tie a rope around it and can now climb it easily.

Health & Cures
Health is one of the most important aspects to resource management. It is the primary "resource" of martial/fighter-type classes, and important to every character. Dungeons can't give back too easily, or else one of the biggest pressures for getting in and out is removed. Many rulesets allow for short or long rests to recover some amount of health, or using limited use spells or abilities like lay on hands to recover HP.

Other ideas; friendly NPCs in the dungeon that will heal you in exchange for something else. Healing potions are an easy one. Healing fountains stuck in the dungeon make a nice static location where healing can be done; but there has to be a good reason why you can't just bottle the water or swim in it- maybe mutations if you use it more and more. If a dungeon is built or famous for a famous treasure, you restore +1d8 HP or "Grit" just for touching it like a pure morale boost. This helps since it will almost always be guarded by the most dangerous monster.

As for first aid and medicine- I've already written a whole post about it.

Also; the concept of certain stats or your level being damaged (level drain) could be tied under health. Typically, these aren't easily cured in a dungeon and are instead related to the overall campaign and bed rest. An extra rule, like laying a ghost's physical remains to rest cures you of its level drain, might be a nice way to allow players to resupply in exchange for doing something difficult and karmic in universe. Curses get an extra bit- Arnold likes curses that you can cure by doing shit- make the dungeon harder for yourself to remove a penalty.

Dungeons contain traps and situations that consume equipment- prybars break eventually, wooden doorwedges are thrown away, and your swords are eaten by rust monsters. Recovering equipment in a dungeon is simple; stealing it from the monsters and corpses here- perhaps even your own fallen party members. More recent corpses probably have better equipment, and anything you steal from monsters will be of poor quality, trapped/cursed, or both.

Creating new equipment or doing advanced repairs to serious damage is probably out of the scope of the timeframe and skill of the characters in a dungeon; but characters of a specific race or class might be able to do so. I like dwarves or gnomes, or those of magical artificer classes, being able to repair anything related to their professions in one exploration turn of downtime. Metal plates may also be stolen from various environmental pieces to patch yourself up; the classic wooden barrel lid as a shield. Why does nobody just use the armor that the animated suits of armor puppet around after you break them apart? That shit is expensive. Snailpeople can just put themselves into a new shell if they manage to find one- that's a good reason for adventuring.

Manpower / Numbers
People will die or become lost/run away as you explore the dungeon. This applies to player characters to a lesser extent, but is mostly related to your hirelings and followers. Link and lantern boys, porters, thralls, whatever- all of them perform useful labor that isn't realistic for a small party of individuals to do; like tear down barricades or haul giant gold bricks out of a dungeon. Some treasure may become totally unable to be recovered if you don't have enough people to carry it, but group size is self mitigating; too many hands means not enough coins, and larger groups tend to use up more resources and attract more wandering monsters.

Groups of people also have other advantages; taking turns on watch, being able to carry each other, etc. It's similar to Kenshi; if enough people get downed in that game and you can't carry them away is when situations quickly spiral out of control- as long as you have enough healthy and strong people to support the knocked out ones, you can remain as mobile as possible.

Manpower is hard to recover in a dungeon on purpose; fresh meat is found back in town, at the tavern, but there are some methods. The classic of finding an imprisoned or lost person in a dungeon to act as a replacement PC could just as easily work for a retainer. I also like the idea of pressing a random goblin or other mook to join your party and do dangerous or demeaning tasks- though this comes with the explicit cost of knowing they will betray you at the first opportunity. More honorable creatures, like orcs, may offer to aid you as a group in exchange for performing a task for them first.

Of course, all of the examples above are for replacing dead or lost party members with new ones, not bringing back old ones. Health is already covered above and resurrection magic tends to be too high of power and scope for being "resupplied" in a dungeon. However I could see very dangerous dungeons having "soul fountains" where the last dying breath of a person (trapped in a bottle of course) can be brought and they will be reborn within a time limit. Or a really haunted place having the ghost of the dead PC being able to be brought back- but they'll need a new, living body. Have them possess a random animal or monster for funsies.

The one thing you can't get back. Time is a "resource" that (probably) can't be recovered in a dungeon at all, but thankfully isn't a problem in every dungeon. In this case, it's less "time" and moreso a time constraint mechanic. Toxic spores that get more dangerous the longer you inhale them, a dungeon slowly sinking into the mud that will soon be submerged in 1d4+2 days, or needing to get someone or something out of the dungeon very soon, else a catastrophic event will happen.

However, "time" as a resource could be returned either with super high level magics (timewarping? Rope trick?) and relating it to the fiction. I could see a campaign where killing high level cultists slows (but does not stop) the return of an elder deity, so taking a detour to search every cultist hideout becomes a valuable way to recover your "time".

While only a vaguely resource in a quantifiable sense, the element of surprise could be a significant resource to a party when first exploring a location. If a location is heavily guarded or has at least one intelligent faction there; every time the party fights or is spotted it will be more and more clear that adventurers are coming to plunder or mess up their plans. In that regard surprise becomes like a resource; traded in when you fail stealth rolls, and making future encounters more difficult as enemies prepare for you.

Surprise cannot be recovered once directly lost, but it can be mitigated. Killing guards who spot you before they raise the alarm, covering your tracks with branches in the mud, or waiting a long time before returning to the dungeon to let their guard back down are all valid ways of regaining or preventing loss of surprise.

This resource is totally meta- player attitude. Confidence is something that is a direct resource that is expended while a dungeon is explored, but isn't on your character sheet. In a way, the desire to take risks and explore is a resource that is slowly used up as other resources are lost- optimal and safe become more important and socially enforced as the party's position becomes more precarious.

Confidence and time (real life time) is highest when you begin a session- which usually includes a return to the dungeon. From here, the knowledge, mapping, and accumulated player power from progression acts as a sort of boost for confidence, until new areas are explored. People can only go so far before a cautious retreat is in order; especially if loaded with treasure. Winning battles and finding more treasure regains confidence, but also increases risk. If your dungeon is properly large, players may not even explore the whole thing once the cost to risk ratio of remaining treasure and acquired treasure becomes too costly to keep exploring!

This isn't a bad thing though; players not exploring an entire dungeon leads to a mystery and a more "realistic" mindset that treasure hunters would really have; once they've got the hoard, it isn't worth the time and effort to go scrabble for the last few gold coins. The unique values of OSR play make resources especially important and lead to gameplay that isn't just a set up and resolve using the most optimal combat methods your players know; it means the ability to be further invested in the fantasy space- any way players can use their own intelligence and skill to let them stay in the dungeon longer is a direct continuation of that idea.