Thursday 29 October 2015

Fear Week: The Weeping Maiden

Sometimes it's not a monster that will kill you, but something altogether innocuous. Painted over 150 years ago by an anonymous artist, the Weeping Maiden is said to be cursed. There are records of the painting being the only thing to survive house fires that claimed the lives of the families who lived there. 

They say that sometimes, in the deep on the night, the woman depicted on the painting begins to cry fire. The flames trickle down her face and set alight the room she's in and consequently the building. All that has remained has been the painting, without a sign of a burn or a scratch on it. 

Some say that the spirit of the artist's long dead lover lives on in the painting, trying to find a way out. Others say that the artist asked the devil to curse the painting and bring pain on those that own it. 

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Fear Week: The Raven

Not much time tonight, so I'm going to leave you with some gothic inspiration from the master of the macabre himself, Edgar Allen Poe.

The Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-
                Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;- vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow- sorrow for the lost Lenore-
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
                Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me- filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-
                This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"- here I opened wide the door;-
                Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"-
                Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore-
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;-
                'Tis the wind and nothing more!"

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-
                Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
                Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door-
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
                With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered-
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Other friends have flown before-
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
                Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore-
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
                Of 'Never- nevermore'."

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore-
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
                Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
                She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee- by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite- respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
                Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted-
On this home by Horror haunted- tell me truly, I implore-
Is there- is there balm in Gilead?- tell me- tell me, I implore!"
                Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us- by that God we both adore-
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
                Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting-
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
                Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
                Shall be lifted- nevermore!

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Fear Week: Esther's Mirror

Mirrors have always been tied to superstitions, with stories dating back centuries of curses and spirits residing within. But there is one tale that harrows even the hardest of hearts, a tale that is whispered in select places in the world.

It is said that two hundred years ago there lived a woman called Esther May. She was a lonely woman, being somewhat of an outcast, and lived only with her black cat. While people believed her to be an odd lady, nobody at the time realised that she was practising magic. They were fairly innocuous spells - cures for small ailments and luck charms, but nonetheless if someone discovered that she was doing this she would have surely been burned at the stake.

One day, Esther decided that she no longer wished to be alone, but did not want to risk the ridicule of trying to find a friend in the village. Instead, she enchanted her mirror to create a duplicate version of her when she looked into it. Sure enough, when she stared into the mirror, the Esther staring back began to reach out, at first with her hands and then with her feet. Esther was overjoyed to have a companion, but the mirror version had other ideas. She chopped up Esther with an axe and stored her body parts in the trunk of a hollow tree near her hovel.

People around the village noticed what they thought was Esther acting even more peculiar than usual, but they didn't think much of it. The mirror doppelganger would walk into the village and taunt the villagers  - shouting curses and spitting on the ground.

When a woodcutter discovered the dismembered body of the real Esther, he marched into the village and found the duplicate. Realising that she was an evil version of the woman, and that evil things hated the sound of church bells, he went to the church and asked the priest to sound the bell. The mirror Esther began to writhe in agony at the sound, giving the woodcutter chance to take out his axe and cut off her head.

Nobody knows where Esther's mirror ended up after that, but some say that it still retains its magical property that an evil duplicate will be created when a mortal looks into it.

In your game, the duplicate will have almost exactly the same attributes as the original, but will be stronger and have a fiercer attack.

These mirror people have a weakness to the sound of church bells, which sends them into a screaming frenzy, essentially paralysing them for a short amount of time.

Monday 26 October 2015

Fear Week: the Wendigo

Welcome to Fear Week, where every day I'll be posting a new systemless horror for your games, from fantasy to modern to sci-fi. Today, we take a look at the Wendigo - a fearsome creature that drives even the most sane people to cannibalism.

The dark woods echo the clicks and caws of the birds and beasts that exist within them. Travelers who walk the woods at night speak of a being with twisted antlers, the face of a deer with decayed flesh. It has deep, sunken eyes that reveal only small yellow, ever-watchful pinpricks.

They say that once one has encountered this creature they call Wendigo you will begin to experience a craving for human flesh. There have been tales of bodies found in homes - entire families who have been devoured by a husband, wife or even child - their bones picked clean.

These cannibals are said to be Wendigo-touched and they can only be killed through decapitation. Villagers living close to woods, especially cold ones, keep a fire burning outside their doors every night to protect from a prowling Wendigo.

If one is confronted by a Wendigo, they will be subject to a maddening scream. This scream is thought to be the cause of the eventual cannibalism.

The process the Wendigo-touched goes through is as follows:

Day 1: The Wendigo-touched feels disgusted by normal food and shuns it.
Day 2: The Wendigo-touched begins to have nightmares where they are wandering through woods. They often awake to find dirt on their soles.
Day 3: They begin to starve and gain a need for human flesh
Day 4: They are overcome with a ravenous hunger for flesh and must feed

A Wendigo is also capable of killing when it wants to feed on flesh. The creature itself is of a medium power level and has the ability to entice people into the woods when it wants to feed. It is stealthy, but when it is around there is the unmistakable smell of rotting meat. It attacks with its hooves, antlers and teeth, rending flesh and screaming out.

Wendigos are weak to silver, so Wendigo hunters always take at least one silver blade with them into the woods.

Sunday 25 October 2015

The Dance of the Waning Sun

"And for a full three days they danced the dance of the waning sun, and their laughs turned to wails and smiles became grimaces." - The Tolluven (Book of Dark Curses)

It takes only one to begin the dance for an entire town to soon become infected. The Dance of the Waning Sun is a vile curse that masquerades as a something joyful. The first to be cursed will begin to hear music in their heads within a day of the curse taking effect. The music is cheerful and it's almost impossible not to move your body to the sound.

Within two days the cursed dancer will be dancing in the streets and those that look upon them will themselves begin to hear the music and dance. After three days an entire town could be dancing this joyful jig without a care in the world.

As the sun sets on the third day the dancers begin to decay. Their limbs break away and the cheer is replaced by anguished screams and bloody gurgles until a only a black mass is left on the ground.

The curse can be lifted by dousing the dancer thrice in water blessed by a priest before breaking a harp in front of the dancer. However, the person lifting the curse must take precautions against becoming a dancer themselves by blindfolding themselves and plugging their ears. Alternatively, killing the cursed dancer will also get rid of the curse (for obvious reasons).

Placing the Dance of the Waning Sun curse requires three ingredients: the beak of a diseased crow, a cup of mortal blood and a song.

The song lyrics go as such:

When the sun swells on the horizon
and the night reveals the moon
bring music to this mortal flesh
and dance until its doom

The beak should be ground into a dust and added to the blood. This song must be sung to the blood cup so that it absorbs the words and melody. Then the curse must be directed at a specific person by thought. A full name must be known for the curse to work and it will only work if that person is within a mile of the ritual.

The dwarvern pocket universe of Khrenkalla

When the Grey City of Vunkorn was destroyed by the Red Orc hordes of the Simmerlands the Vunkorn dwarves had nowhere to go. If they were to delve further into the mountain, they would only be torn apart by the underbeasts of the Below, but leaving the confines of the mountain would see their remaining ranks decimated by the orcs and Ogrekin that now surrounded the mountains.

Their only option was to create a new world in which to live.

The Grand Magus Torkl Dwimdwinner used the ancient stones of worship to fashion a pocket universe within an obsidian cube. He named the universe Khrenkalla, which in the dwarvish tongue means 'New Society'. Using his power, he transported the remaining dwarves into Khrenkalla, but had to stay behind to ensure the cube was well hidden and protected. It is said he still remains as protector of Khrenkalla within the Grey City, hidden away from the orcs.

Because it was formed by magic, Khrenkalla is a haven for magic-users and even those without intrinsic magical abilities have found themselves able to cast some spells.

Over hundreds of years, the dwarves of Khrenkalla rebuilt and restructured its society. Among their kind, they became known as the Obsidian Dwarves, creating a kingdom in the Vastakara mountain range.

The Obsidian Dwarves are commanded by the Council of Dwimdwinner - named after the mage that gave them a new life within the cube. The council is lead by Grungrad Ymorg, who holds the power of ice and snow within the Staff of Blasted Frost that he crafted from the enchanted permafrost found in the Bitter Wastes to the north.

While life in Khrenkalla is generally peaceful, the magic of the world has formed new life within the cube. The most fierce of these creatures are the Slay, a race of demonic beings who feed on magical chaos. The Slay are deformed abominations who live in the Dire Outlands where they live on fear and decay. Many times the Slay and the dwarves have faced one another in battle, but each time the dwarves were barely able to defeat them.

A Slay Seer called Xerrin Doomsayer has had visions of an orb that can create a portal leading to another world that the Slay deem as the promised land. In reality, the orb will transport them to the mortal world that the dwarves originally fled from. With so much intrinsic magical power, the Slay would surely take over the mortal world and shape it into their warped image.

Getting to Khrenkalla

Transportation to Khrenkalla can happen in two ways. The first is to find Dwimdwinner and request passage to the universe, but this will be difficult as his role is to be a protector. If the party can prove that they are on the side of the Obsidian Dwarves, they are more likely to be able to gain passage.

The second way is to find a Dimensional Map. This is a living map that is updated whenever a new universe is created and it can also transport people to each dimension (with a magical sacrifice - usually the destruction of a powerful magic item).

The Khrenkalla Enviroment

The laws of physics are not the same in Khrenkalla and there are random effects that can happen. Roll 1d6 on the table below to see how the environment acts:

1. It rains glass shards
2. A purple fog appears that whispers ill omens to anyone within it
3. Chunks of the ground begin to levitate into the air 300ft before crashing down to the ground
4. A magical wind blows away recent memories
5. A soothing warm rain heals wounds
6. The world goes dark. All creatures gain a weakness to steel

Khrenkalla Encounters

1. A wandering nomad who phases in and out of reality
2. A band of Slay scouts armed with crossbows and knives
3. Slay warriors and a high priest
4. A Obsidian Dwarf hunting party
5. A pack of wild Ward Wolves with telekinetic abilities
6. Floating Mongo Heads who wish to eat magic

Saturday 17 October 2015

Pumpkin Demon for Tunnels & Trolls

'Tis the season to be scary, fa la la la la lala la laaa. Halloween is just around the corner for most, but if you're anything like me you're probably using October as an excuse to stretch that one day into an entire month.

To celebrate, here's a spooky dooky Pumpkin Demon for your Tunnels and Trolls game.

Pumpkin Demon

MR: 60 (7d6+30) [avg HPT: 51]

Special Spite Damage: The Roots Go Deep - If the Pumpkin Demon rolls 3 sixes, it gains control of the plant roots beneath the ground, commanding them to wrap around the enemy and drag them helplessly to the ground. 1d6 targets make a L4SR on DEX to avoid being grabbed by the roots. If they fail, their HPT is halved for 1d6 rounds and they are unable to move for the same amount of time.

Special Abilities: Shroud of Darkness - The Pumpkin Demon is able to cloak itself in pure darkness, making it difficult to attack. At the cost of 5 CON, the Pumpkin Demon becomes invisible to all. Any attacks against it are halved.

Treasure: Pumpkin Demon Seeds (500 gold).

Notes: The Pumpkin Demon is the dark lord of Samhain, a tradition celebrated across Trollworld every year. People around the world put out Jack-O-Lanterns carved from pumpkins to keep the dark lord at bay.

The Pumpkin Demon only rises if a blood moon falls on Samhain. A darkness falls over the world, when all stars are blotted out by a demonic shroud.