Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Quill has been updated

I've never really been happy with the layout of Quill, so yesterday I fixed this by uploading a new file on Drivethrurpg. If you already have Quill, you can go and download the fresh new look right now. I've also taken this opportunity to make some rules clarifications I get frequently and add some bits and bobs.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Review: The Gates of Death (Fighting Fantasy)

Praise be the gods, the Fighting Fantasy gamebook legacy continues with The Gates of Death, the second new title in the series since Scholastic took on publishing duties (an effective move to ensure that the new generation of whippersnappers get to experience the books), this time written by FF newbie Charlie Higson (British actor/ director/ writer). But is it good?

In the book Allansia is being torn apart by the Evil Dead. Well, pretty much. People are becoming flesh-hungry demons, turning others into demons and generally causing chaos. Early on in proceedings there's a scene where, ducking through the streets of Salamonis, you witness the titular king of the city in demonic form. It was here it was clear Higson was more than happy to shake up the status quo, and not just with the FF universe. There's much more freedom with weapon use here, with different weapons having varying effects - from axes to bread knives to the khopesh gifted to you by Lord Azzur of Port Blacksand (or, rather, his 'eyes, ears and mouth'). Unlike previous entries, you don't start with a weapon or a batch of trusty provisions, which makes every victory worth something in the early game. Late game, however, you could find yourself a bit overpowered depending on what you pick up, making most fights a doddle, though this entirely depends on your SKILL attribute. Make no mistake - this adventure isn't afraid to pummel you and drain your stats.

The Evil Dead comparison isn't inaccurate. Higson essentially flings a load of deadites at you, including a girl in a cellar and emotionally-manipulative demons. While the theme is based on these films, the story itself is one of the better ones in the series. You're looking for an invisible city where priests will manufacture a cure for the demon plague, but also much dive head first through the gates of hell.

If that sounds a little too adult for a Scholastic book, rest assured there are lots of moments of levity. Case in point - a bum-faced demon. That's right - it's a bent-over warrior exposing his arse that happens to have a snarling face on each cheek. Higson doesn't shy away from moments that make you remember that this is for kids. This is an aspect that didn't really play out in previous books, which sometimes got a little grimdark.

On the subject of a new generation of readers, we need to talk about the art. At the Scholastic reveal at Fighting Fantasy Fest 2017 Jackson and Livingstone commented that the art has had a massive overhaul, pretty much in line with what kids expect from those phone apps they have these days (get off my lawn). It was a shock. Fighting Fantasy, in a large part, comes alive with its intricate illustrations. Russ Nicholson, Iain McCaig, Tony Hough, John Blanche - these are the names that brought Titan and other worlds to life. Now in their place we have, well, muddy digital sketches. To be fair, some of the illustrations aren't half bad, but the majority are simply off-putting in comparison to those classic pieces.

While we're talking negatives, I've noticed some bugs in the book. From having characters referenced to you as if you've previously met them, despite never having done so, to a weird time travel loop that occurs after flinging yourself into a demon portal, which I can't imagine is intentional. There's even a paragraph that gives you several options, but if you can't perform any of those actions you're stuck there for eternity. These all amount to being irksome, but nothing that totally ruins the enjoyment of the game.

The Gates of Death is a fun enough ride, with lots of weapon options, some nice characters and a great premise, let down by sub-par art and needless bugs. Higson doesn't mind laying on the fan service for older readers and doesn't shy away from violent descriptions, but doesn't forget that he's writing for youngsters. So yes, to answer my previous question, it's good. It's worth your time, but it probably won't be a fan favourite.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

The grey kin of Beregond

The grey kin are the ancient offspring of high elves and deep dwarves who once came together in a unity they called Tuvanay, which in greytongue is The Binding. While taller and more slender in stature than dwarves, they are hardy and are known throughout Beregond for their fierce temper and loyalty.

Felegas is the crown king of Beregond, whose mother Sembelene was an elven general from far Turambor, the shivered dale. Eschewing the weilding of the dwarven greataxe, the grey kin use shinkalas - curved broad blades inscribed with the words of dead gods. Their armour is Beregondian mail, which allows for freedom of movement while being tough.

The grey kin seldom leave Beregond - there is much distrust of this folk from the realms of man, elf and even dwarf. Those who do venture out have a difficult time integrating.

  • +4 saving throws against magic effects
  • Dark vision up to 60ft
  • May find a secret door on a roll of 4+
  • Int 14+ may become a magic-user

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Blazing Sands campaign diary #6 - Carcosa revealed

Forgot to do my usual write up of last week's game, but to be honest it was essentially one big fight.

The PCs had uncovered Sultan Yassin's chambers where there found a marble chest. Inside they discovered a lamp. Ashana got pretty excited, but the party didn't particularly trust her (maybe she was too excited).

A rushing noise and a SLAM came from the main chamber and when they went to investigate they found the south doors shattered and the room filled with faceless stalkers and byhakees. In the centre was Hastur - the King in Yellow.

After some attacks they discovered that not only was Hastur impervious to damage, any melee weapon used would send an electric shock to the weilder. One PC got sucked into Hastur's cloak where they were trapped in a dark dimension for a while.

They figured out that there was a lake to the south beyond the room where a great gem was hovering. Those looking in the lake could see Carcosa reflected in it.

In the main fight Younis threw the lamp to Ashana, the genie binder, who released the Efreeti within and subsequently binded her. Of course, Ashana had never thought this far ahead - sheds dreamt of binding with a genie but didn't quite know what to do. Younis told her to have the genie defend them, as they were being assaulted by a byhakee. Cue a fight between Hastur and an Efreeti with a flaming falchion as the others tried to smash the gem over Carcosa that seemed to be giving Hastur power.

The gem eventually shattered, the portal to Carcosa closing. Hastur got ganged up on and was 'killed' (negated from this plain).

At the end, they were left, Ashana bound to the genie. The PCs told her to get rid of the genie, but she refused.

This week is the final session of the campaign, so let's see how it's all tied up.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Magic item - The Tantalon crown

 In the second age of the serpent the sorcerer Tantalon stole the light of the stars and moon. First the elves mourned, for the moon provided them with the hope that even in the darkest of times light and goodness could exist. Then mourned the race of men, whose ancestors were among the stars, looking down on them from above. Using the stars as his furnace and the steel of the moon Tantalon forged a crown more magnificent and dire than any before it and he did declare himself the lord of shadows. And so the orcs, goblins and demons of the world rejoiced for the darkness gave them strength. Tantalon led his night hordes against the free people, his eye ever on extinguishing his final foe - the sun.

But there arose a group of heroes whose songs are still sung in the halls of queens. Gandarin of the bladesworn, Drigg the halfling, Selenda of the enchanted wood and Timra the stout of the gray dwarfhold marched against the darkness and smote Tantalon. In the fray his crown was lost and none know where it now is.

Tantalon Crown
Forged of starfire and moonstone
While wearing this crown, the wearer gains +4 AC. Once per day, the crown can be used to control 1d8 evil creatures for 1d10+2 hours. At the beginning of each turn heal 2d6 HP.

After 1 month of wearing the crown, the wearer's alignment takes a step towards evil. Each subsequent month continues this journey to evil. On the sixth month the wearer takes on the appearance and personality of Tantalon.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Free OSR adventure - Burning Rain

This short free adventure was created with Swords and Wizardry in mind, but it works with many flavours of D&D. This would be a tough one for lower level characters, especially if they run afoul of the hill giant family who will simply tear them apart. Higher level parties will have an easier time of things. I've not drawn maps for this, but explained what the PCs will find in the area.

Vorten the black dragon has risen from his three century slumber and must feed on the souls of the living. The nearby villages of Estagard and Candlewick have been violently attacked by the creature, who has left their homes in ruins and families in tatters. The three mages of the Red Coast have been summoned by the King Diregor to understand what can be done to stop such a beast. The mages met for thirteen days in the basement of the old Goldspire University in the city of Goldspire. They emerged with a plan, but one of great peril that would require keen minds, mighty strength and great wisdom to undertake. In the Book of Hallows they discovered the only hope they have for ending Vorten's reign once and for all - the Harp of Eversleep. This enchanted harp was created by the magic artificer Eldreen Hex, who existed four hundred years ago. The harp is able to put to slumber any creature for 100 years, but it was lost when Eldreen took it down into a giant's lair, where she was slain.

The king's emissary took off at once to find a group of adventurers willing to take the task. Having heard of their exploits, she approaches the PCs with the tale. A handsome fee of 1000 gold pieces will be paid upon completion of the quest, and they would have a position as royal adventurers on the King's retainer, meaning they would receive a wage from the city in addition to the palace library.

After being told of the quest, the emissary has the PCs meet the three mages at the university: Dandra (dwarf), Hornbeam (elf) and Lebb (human).

Goldspire University

 This grand institution is known throughout the realm as one of the finest universities for the study of magic. Turrets float above towers, gargoyle heads leer from rooftops, occasionally spitting at passersby; small explosions can be heard in some of the rooms, followed by multicoloured gas curling from beneath the doors. The mages are waiting in the basement, which is completely covered in books - you can't see the floor. A goblin wearing a red cap and glasses croaks a greeting at them when they enter. This is Winslow Godberry - a goblin experiment who was captured by some students and enchanted to do their chores. When the Dean found out, he took the goblin away and put it to work doing clerical tasks in the university. Today he is cleaning a large telescope.

  • Hornbeam, a lithe male elf with purple eyes, explains that the need for the harp is dire and that it's hidden away in the Caves of Wretched Darkness. They should take care as the giant family likely still exists there. If nobody in the party speaks giant, he gives one of the PCs a small metal tube. After talking a sentence into the tube, it echoes the words but in the language of giants. 
  • Lebb, a squat portly fellow with a long pipe, says that it's likely Vorten will attack in five days, as this seems to have been his pattern. They should make haste. He offers them a number of small clay horses equal to the number of PCs. When water is added, these horses grow and become real for 12 hours at a time. 
  • Dandra, a stout female dwarf with gold-rimmed spectacles, offers them a map to reach the caves. It is a day's ride from the city, and three days ride to Torrigen's Swamp, where the black dragon makes its lair. She also gives one of them two dice. These can be rolled once per day. On a 7, they will heal all within a 20ft radius by 1d6+5 HP. On any other number they heal 1d6 HP. 
So why can't the mages go instead? Simply, while they are quite powerful, they are fragile. Should anything happen to them the order of the Red Coast would be no more. 

The way to the Cave of Wretched Darkness

Being a day's ride overland, roll a random encounter every hour with a d6. On a 1 or 2 they have an encounter. Roll below:

1. A frightened family who have taken to living in a wagon after their home in Candlewick was destroyed. They have little in the way of food and say a nearby group of goblins have been harassing them almost every night. There are 8 goblins, painted red. Goblin: HD 1d6hp; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; AL C; CL/XP B/10; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight.

2. 1d6+1 red painted goblins, two carrying sacks of meat. One is drunk (-2 penalty to any action). They must return by sundown or they will be in trouble with their chief. 

3. 2d6 bandits, known as the Filth Rats (50% chance one of them will be a berserker). They want money rather than a fight. They have been having trouble with a local hill giant who has raised their camp on more than one occasion. Human Bandit: HD 1; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 12; Save 17; AL C; CL/XP 1/15; Special: None

Human Berserker: HD 1; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 12; Save 17; AL N; CL/XP 2/30; Special: +2 to hit in berserk state

4. An elderly man followed by ten chickens. He offers a chicken for 1gp. He seems afraid of them. 

5. 1d3 hill giants sniffing out a cure for a the toe rot sickness they have contracted. This is in the form of the Rumcap mushroom (tastes just like rum). Hill Giant: HD 8+2; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 weapon (2d8); Move 12; Save 8; AL C; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: Throw boulders (2d8 damage)

6. A rundown farmstead captured by goblins. They have a little girl called Ryel who they have caught in a rope trap. They plan on using her to lure others in before killing them. 

The Caves of Wretched Darkness

The cave entrance is guarded by two pet wolves (Dusty and Grim). Discarded rabbit carcasses lie near them. Wolf: HD 2+2; AC 7[12]; Atk 1 bite (1d4+1); Move 18; Save 16; AL N; CL/XP 2/30; Special: None.

There's a stream running through a few rooms, as a result much of the ground is slippery. Cave paintings depict a war between trolls and goblins. Goblin skulls sit on rocks as warnings. 

A family of five hill giants live here. The matriarch is the most frightening, with an eye missing. The father catches fish in the stream with a net. The broken body of a treasure hunter is at the bottom of a waterfall, arms removed. Her pack contains a dagger, grappling hook and mouldy bread and cheese. The body has attracted 5 stirges who drain it's blood. Stirge: HD 1+1; AC 7[12]; Atk 1 proboscis (1d3); Move 3 (Fly 18); Save 17; AL N; CL/XP 2/30; Special: blood drain (1d4), +2 to hit bonus. After a stirge’s first hit, it drains blood automatically at a rate of 1d4 hp per round

The giants are hostile, but stupid. The matriarch dislikes humans, but doesn't hate dwarves. She calls them 'little builders' - they helped giants fighting in the kobold battles. Dwarves are depicted on the walls as heroes along with giants. The giants are currently at war with the hundreds of goblins who live close by. They hate goblins more than anything.

There are several piercers in some caves dropping on heads. Noticeable via an intelligence check or prolonged inspection. Piercer (2 HD): HD 2; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 drop and pierce (2d6); Move 1; Save 16; AL N; CL/XP 2/30; Special: None

The ''waste" room has a cravasse full of dung. An otyugh has recently taken residence in there. Otyugh: HD 7; AC 3 [16]; Atk 2 tentacles (1d8), bite (1d4+1); Move 6; Save 9; AL N; CL/XP 8/800; Special: Disease - Anyone bitten by an otyugh’s mouth has a 90% chance of contracting a fatal disease (death in 3d6 days unless cured)

The Harp of Eversleep is discarded at the side of a cave wall with human bones close by (the body of Eldreen Hex). The matriarch is here making a necklace from goblin bones. 

When the harp is played it casts a powerful sleep spell that will put a creature under for 100 years. It has 2 more charges of the spell in it. 

The road to Torrigen's swamp

It's a three day horse journey to the swamp. The party will bypass the destruction left in Vorten's wake. They may even stop off to help people rebuild.

Roll a random encounter for each day this time (most things are terrified of the dragon, so are in hiding).

1. A group of mourners around a funeral pyre. A priest recants the rites of Porrin, the local messenger between the living and dead. They recount how Vorten showered their village with acid.

2. A field of dead cattle - their bones can be seen and faces part melted. A pack of 1d6+2 wolves are on the prowl.

3. 2d8 orcs are attacking a farmstead - the farmer and her wife cornered, pitchforks at the ready. Orc: HD 1; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 by weapon, usually spear (1d6) or scimitar (1d8); Move 9; Save 17; AL C; CL/XP 1/15; Special: None.

4. A travelling salesman is selling 'anti-dragon' tonic. This is nothing more than water dyed green. He has made 300gp today. 

5. A patrol of elven healers who have come to aid the villagers. Many villagers don't trust elves, so refuse treatment.

6. A chilling screech rings out in the distance. This belongs to Vorten, who grows hungry.

Torrigen's swamp

Five hunters from Candlewick have gone into the swamp to kill the dragon (all HD1 human soldiers). Have PCs find clues they are around - packs snagged on branches, a discarded boot, a burnt torch. 

1d10+2 wild boars roam the swamp. They will happily eat corpses. Wild Boar: HD 3+3; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 gore (3d4); Move 15; Save 14; AL N; CL/XP 4/120; Special: continue attacks 2 rounds after death

Biting swamp flies carry disease. There's a 2 in 6 chance every hour that a PC will be bitten, contracting swamp sickness. This temporarily reduces Str, Dex and Con by 2 for 1d6 days or until cured using the sap from a Goliath tree. 

Vorten lies in a clearing, gaining his strength. The bodies of hunters lie around him, their flesh dissolved. Their bodies carry 30gp, 3 small flasks of healing potion, and jewelry worth 200gp. Adult Black Dragon (6 HD): HD 6 (24hp); AC 2 [17]; Atk 2 claws (1d4), 1 bite (3d6); Move 9 (Fly 24); Save 11; AL C; CL/XP 8/800; Special: Spits acid.

When the PCs set foot in the clearing, 4 skeletons rise from the wet ground. Skeleton: HD 1; AC 8[11] or 7[12] with shield; Atk 1 weapon or strike (1d6) or (1d6+1 two-handed); Move 12; Save 17; AL N; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Immune to sleep and charm spells.

Concluding the adventure

If Vorten is killed then the king grants them 2000gp and title of royal adventurers (should they accept). For every adventure they will be paid 200gp default.

If he is put to sleep and not killed, the reward is 1000gp and the title.

If he is not killed, he will continue to attack. Eventually he reaches Goldspire and wreaks carnage. Without the party, there's a 1 in 6 chance the city falls into ruin. 

If most or all of the hill giants in the cave are killed, the party will be sought by the League of Monster Hunters, who wish to recruit them. 

If the harp is returned to the mages, they lock it away in the university, which pays 500gp for it with a charge left, or 200gp without. If they keep the harp, they will eventually be hunted by the mages. 

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Blazing Sands campaign diary #5: Out of the frying pan

We last left our heroes standing outside the entrance to the lost city of Kabir. In this week's session, they entered what is essentially a merger of a city and the mountain. There were streets, courtyards and homes, but everything had become a part of the mountain.

Immediately they spotted several faceless creatures covered in whorl scars "feasting" on serpentfolk. A very quick combat encounter ensued with the shaman fireballing most of them.

They opened a stone door to see a courtyard full of these faceless stalkers, along with two huge hulking stalkers. Let's just say it got pretty hairy for the party until Younis cast Wall of Nausea on the bottleneck, causing some of the enemies to start throwing their guts up, falling to their hands and knees.

It was starting to become apparent that the legend of Kabir may have been only half the story.

Monday, 2 April 2018

#AprilTTRPGMaker day two - where am I?

Wasn't sure whether to answer this existentially or not.

I'm based in the city of Leeds, England - one of the bigger cities in the north of the country, but a stone's throw away from vast areas of natural beauty like the Yorkshire Dales.

Since December I exchanged the bright lights and sirens of the centre for a house in a quiet suburb just outside of it. I live here with my fiance and new cat.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

#AprilTTRPGMaker day one - who am I?

Kira Magrann is doing this thing so I thought I'd join in.

I'm the ghost piloting the meat cage that is Scott Malthouse, currently a 30 year old game designer (by night) and PR pro (by day). I've created quite a few games and supplements, starting with Tunnels and Trolls adventures, before writing the Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying system, which has fed into several of my games, in addition to some great third party material. I also created Quill - the solo letter-writing roleplaying game, English Eerie, In Darkest Warrens, Wired Neon Cities, Astounding Interplanetary Adventures, Romance of the Perilous Land, Tequendria and more.

If you've never seen my fleshy visage, I give you this image:

Things I fudging love: weird fiction, metal, folklore, comics (non-supers), sword and planet, autumn, Nintendo, Universal Monsters, and Godzilla movies.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Blazing Sands campaign diary #4 - black suns rising

We've reached the third act of the campaign - Ashana the Genie binder led the PCs on a five day desert hike to the Sakran mountains. On the way I obviously had to throw a Death Worm at them. They suffered a couple of acid hits, but they came out on top.

The mountain pass was treacherous - they found a group of serpentfolk undertaking some sort of rite and firebombed the shit out of them. One of the creatures kept mentioning the 'faceless ones'. After the fight they found a number of rock carvings depicting strange winged visitors, two black suns and a strange city.

Some of you will immediately know where this is heading.

There was also a carving of a door flanked by two balls of fire.

They ventured further up the mountain until they reached a cave, into which they delved. At the end was a big stone door flanked by two sconces. On the door was written the words: "Strange is the night where black stars rise, and strange moons circle through the skies".

They lit the sconces and the doors slowly grinded open.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Blazing Sands campaign diary #3: the Ivory City

A three week game break can take you out of it, but last night's session was great.
The party arrived in the Ivory City with the Sunriders. Kiri offered them a batch of Seer's Tea to help them make an important decision in the future. She imoressimon them NOT DRINK THE TEA - IT'S POISON. So, yeah, they're clearly going to try and poison someone at some point.

After some asking around (remember, they're trying to find the genie binder before the Black Viper) , they were led into a dingy folk market she often frequented. One of the sellers gave her location as the Hashin district - a deprived area where crime is rampant.

After reaching the district they asked a street urchin to lead then to her, which he obliged. Amir noticed he was looking a little shifty and realised he was likely a pickpocket leading them on a wild goose chase. After threatening the kid, he took them directly to the binder's door before leaving.

Out of the shadows stepped five dark figures. As Amir was the only one to have lived in the Ivory City, he had an inkling these could be the legendary Holy Slayers assassins. The fight was fierce, Younis managing to both trip and blind one of the slayers, while making another attack his friend through a paranoia spell. 

When all were dead, Razeem found a piece of paper on one of the assassins containing descriptions of the party. Someone had hired the slayers to find and kill them. 

The binder wasn't answering the door, so they broke in and found her hiding in a cupboard. She recognised Amir and Razeem and dropped her guard. After they explained she was being sought by the Black Viper and that the lost city of Kafabi was tied to this somehow, she insisted they go to the lost city. She's been training to bind a genie since she escaped the same cult as Amir and Razeem and she believes a powerful one still lives in Kafabi. This followed a great argument in the party about playing into the hands of the Black Viper but in the end they decided it was the right course. 

That night they left the city under the cover of darkness. 

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Fortressmaze: Those who worship the eyes of Thamic

The Cathedral of Thamic takes up a good quarter of the first floor of Fortressmaze. Wrought first by the dwarven stonemasons of the Black Obelisk (ancient bad cult who literally worshipped a piece of rock), the cathedral was taken over by the Brothers of Thamic in a brutal miniature crusade. The Obelisk was reshaped as a sculpture depicting the Brothers' victory over the dwarves. Touching the sculpture heals 1d6+1 of HP and ability damage once per hour.

The Brothers of Thamic worship their god Thamic, a mummified beholder whose latent powers still pop to life every now and again, casting a 'blessing' on its congregation (the blessing being getting annihilated by an eye ray). The Blessing of Thamic doesn't have a set schedule (those who investigate will find a worm parasite living in the beholder that randomly triggers this).

Thamic sits in a dark room smelling of mustard. Only the Great Thod (a high bishop) may address Thamic and it is the Thod who oversees the blessings. Thod claims Thamic speaks to him, giving him orders to continue their crusade against the other denizens of the dungeon. Lately the target has been the Dream Kobolds of the East (brought to life by a dragon's dream - more on this in another post).

A giant organ in the cathedral is haunted by the ghost of the first blessed who often plays it (and is particularly protective of its organ, lashes out at anyone touching it).

The Brothers of Thamic are decorated with jewelled eyes, with eyes also painted on their faces. The more eyes you have, the higher up in the order you are.

Note that there ARE beholders deeper in the Fortressmaze and if the Brothers should meet one they would welcome a fiery doom (apart from the Great Thod, who knows Thamic is a load of bullshit).

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Dead Tower - a short Tequendria adventure

They speak of the tower in hushed tones, as if the structure had ears that would be roused by their words. They call it the Dead Tower, for decay is it's domain and dread its ever-present ally. Rain is always falling on the tower, with its diseased masonry twisted with the agonised faces of lost souls.

Two days ago the Elk Queen's heart was stolen and taken to the Dead Tower. As her life fades, she has instructed her elf tribe to find her a group of champions who would dare venture into the tower and retrieve her heart. Her heart is being used by the child of a legendary evil being to bring his father back to life.

This adventure is suitable for second level adventurers.

Plot hook

Vinsharda the most beautiful of elves seeks out the PCs, hearing of their adventures. She speaks of the Elk Queen's plight and of the mysterious tower. Upon retrieval, the Elk Queen will give them the Harp if Haroon, allowing them to travel unseen for three hours once played.

The Dead Tower

The exterior of the tower is coated in foul things like skulls and femurs. It howls when the wind caresses it.

A centaur called Oryan collects bracken close to the tower. He is unfriendly but enjoys the songs of his people. He speaks of squat beings who chatter and natter while the moon is full, their eyes red like blood. These are a family of gibbelins that haunt the castle. They stole Oryan's locket and he will pay 50 shards for retrieval.

The door is covered in skin and opens with a creak. The air that greets the players is humid and smells of wet leaves.

Ground floor

Bone store: a closet of bones. If disturbed the bones become three guardians of bone. They are guarding a Ether Crown, allowing the wearer to breathe while travelling in the Ether.

Statue of Gargon: a hellish turtle creature carved into stone. A hard wits test reveals this to be Gargon, the legendary beast who was born from a black star and fell to earth as a servant of chaos. Its arm can be twisted to reveal a trap door.

Trap door (secret): a shallow room that smells of stale beer. A yellow chest is down here containing an emerald-hilted longsword (enchanted longsword).

Stairs: Blood streaks up the stairs.

First floor

The ragged tapestries here depict a black sun hanging over the world.

Six gibbelins are devouring a deer carcass. They can be placated with a gift of treasure. Otherwise they attack viciously. One wears Oryan's locket.

Second floor

A warped throne of twisted cartilage is here. The blackened turtle creature Hath sits here, the child of Gargon.

On a plinth in the centre of the room is the beating ruby heart of the Elk Queen. Two gibbelins are cutting open the hulking body of Gargon with a silver blade (worth 100 shards), while another two observe. They will be putting the heart into its chest to return it to life. If this happens, the Elk Queen dies and a weaker Gargon returns.

Hath: attack d8 +2 (claw d6), defence d8+2, hits 4d8, action d8, ego d10, wits d6. Special: as an attack action Hath breathes a 15ft line of fire which does d8 damage. This can be used three times per day.

Gargon the Returned: attack d6 + 4 (claw d6), defence d6+4, hits 3d8, action d6, ego d6, wits d6. Special: Gargon creates a poison aura 5ft around him. Anyone in melee must succeed a medium action test or take 2 damage at the end of their turn.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

The Wretched Cave - a short Tequendria adventure

In the purple dusk that seeps over the green hills of Mondath, something strange moves. Villagers from Pom have been disappearing in the night and now those who remain fear for their lives. Green candles flicker in the dark panes, casting a emerald glow on the frightened cheeks of those who peer out into the dying light. 

This short adventure is suitable for first level characters.

The village of Pom is being assaulted by a Rider in Black who is dragging villagers into its cave and draining their life essence, leaving dried husks. For everyone it drains, it becomes more powerful. 

Plot hook

A hunter falls across a withered grey body in the Forest of Sib. He identifies it as Floderin, the son of Hassian noble Thedew Sundale. Thedew offers whoever can find the murderer access to his Sacred Word - the most mysterious word in all of Mondath - containing the power, once said, to rain gold from the sky (useable once per day - raining 2d10x2 shards from the sky). 

The village of Pom

This small village of Pom used to sing in the dawn. Now silence reigns and people seldom leave their homes. 

The Barliman's Acre is the local Inn. The door has several huge gouges in it. The owner, Wenda, has spidery limbs and a bronze eye and has a voice like the ocean breeze. Like everyone she has heard the sound of heavy hooves and smlled sulphur on dim nights. Her daughter is missing. 

Pit is a stable hand with a wooden sword and a pet mouse called Wren. He saw a dark rider three nights ago take an old lady from the street and carry her into the forest. 

Old Nabbernook babbles incoherently about a pale face. His wife was the old woman. She was out after dark chasing after their cat. 

The Forest of Sib

Even gods do not stroll here. Sib is home to the Thunder mushroom - a 4ft mushroom that, if touched causes an electric shock (1d6 damage). 

The murky pond whispers words of death to passersby. 

Several body husks are here. The old woman carries a little cat collar. 

A bear and her cubs wander this place in search of food. She will defend to the death. 

A hermit called The Simple Man lives in the tree canopy, descending on vines. His laughter echoes. He speaks of the rider as a creature from outside the realm of mortals - a being cast out from death who must stay in this world by feasting on the life force of others. 

A wretched smelling cave is here, with hoofprints outside. 

The Wretched Cave

A horse carcass lays in the cave entrance, it's eyes bulging. The stomach is expanding and will pop. Inside is a Duth fly swarm (aggressive, hits 1d8, attack d8 (sting d6), defence d8, action d6, wits, d6, ego d6, special: ranged attacks do half damage). 

Hypnotic moss gathers on the wall. Those who look at it must make a medium wits test. If unsuccessful they are physically drawn to it. Arms will reach out of the moss and attack the victim (1d8+1). 

More corpse husks

The Black Rider is here at the end of the cave, with a child tied up, hanging from the ceiling - still alive. This is Wenda's daughter. A black horse is feasting on bear guts.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Alternative damage rules for In Darkest Warrens

In Darkest Warrens has a fixed damage system, but for those who like a little more randomness, here's some simple rules.

  • Attacks with a normal weapon or a spell attack does d6 damage
  • Attacks with a magic weapon does d6+2 damage
  • Armour does not provide a bonus to wounds. Instead, it is treated as a separate number. Armour points are ablative, reduced by damage taken. They replenish after combat.
  • Armour: leather - 3 armour points, chain - 6 armour points and plate - 9 armour points. A small shield is 1 armour point and a tower shield is 2 armour points.
  • Increase the wounds of creatures in the bestiary by x4. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Pathfinder second edition announced

It's been 10 years since Pathfinder was let loose into the world, so I guess it's time for an update.

Paizo made the announcement yesterday on their site (hey, notice how they made a brand-new site after I criticized it a couple of weeks ago? THE POWER).

The playtest launches in August with a big fat 400 book and a 96 page adventure to take you from levels 1-20. All free, of course.

Ok, so what's changed? Looks like they've taken a few leaves from 5e's page, but here's a list of changes:

- Initiative is getting an overhaul, with contextual rolls based on skills rather than a single initiative modifier
- there's a single proficiency bonus rather than loads of bonuses
- race is now ancestry. Like in 5e, you choose backgrounds as part of character creation. Although it seems like backgrounds might have more mechanical benefit
- play is split into different time phases based on downtime (days), exploration (hours/mins) and encounter (seconds)
- monster design is streamlined
- hazards are more deadly
- different reactions based on enemies
- you now get 3 of ANY action. No 'full', ''''ft' etc. This means you can attack three times, but with penalties
- less onus of magic items buffing all your stats - another 5e philosophy.

If you want to hear the playtest in action, the Glass Cannon Podcast has run a two-parter of actual play.

I'm excited about the new edition and I'm hoping my group will get a chance to play it this summer.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

On dragons

Dragons don't technically exist, but the collective bubbling of frenzied medieval imagination conjures them into the material plane. Dragons are merely composites of blackened dread - the unknown manifesting in the deep musty voids of the world, gestating in shadow while the nightmares of kings and paupers transmit from slumbering minds.

A dragon wakes when a god perishes. Amber eyes snap open and the slender scaled neck cranes naturally towards mother sky. Its breath takes the form of the element it awakens closest to - for some it's the chill of permafrost, while others emit the breath of the nine hells.

Every dragon is psychically linked to a baby born at the same moment. Their life bond may go years without becoming apparent to either of them, but as the child grows they develop small red scales on their brow and dream often of flight. Eventually, the child gains a honing instinct that drives them to search for the dragon. Once they meet the child becomes a willing servant of the dragon, an envoy to the world of humanoids. As they grow older still they more and more resemble their master - teeth becoming pointed ivory and eyes like polished bronze.

Once matured, dragons have an intrinsic need to nestle amongst gold to a point of obsession. The reason for this is simple - being born of human minds dragons also imbue the great greed for riches possessed by most people. Dragons are manifestations of such thoughts.

The dragon's servant descends on towns to recruit adventurers to plunder treasure for the dragon, or to threaten the ruler with fire and fury if a dragon tax isn't instated.

Dragons age but the sands of time can never claim them. Once their servant dies they gain the ability to speak, but they mourn for six days before flying into a rage, reaping destruction in their locality.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Fortressmaze: the way in

The first poll has run and you've chosen one of the means of entering Fortressmaze.

The stone door, grey and mottled with age, scarred with lightning and licked with moss, stands the height of a typical troll. The door bears the carvings of three large eyes, with slit pupils like those found on a serpent.

When the moon is full the eyes glimmer and shine and begin to search around for anyone who would be attempting entry. Those who attempt to force they way in will be subject to a ray blast for each eye, attacking as an HD3 creature with d8 damage and 13 save. Each eye has AC 11 (8). The eyes can be harmed and if destroyed they become stone once more. If all three are destroyed the doors will open and remain open for an hour while the door gathers its strength.


- scorch marks on the dirt close to the door
- chalk markings on a nearby wall showing moon phases, with a ring around the full moon
- rumours of strange lights some nights from the location of the door

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Blazing Sands campaign diary #2 - why'd it have to be snakes?

So continues my latest Pathfinder campaign based on Arabian fantasy. 

So, yeah, our undercover heroes had made a fair blunder by pretending to be overt racists, and now the city guard were involved. If Younis had removed his human disguise, the captain would have recognised him and they'd have probably got away with it (Younis having once served under him). As it was, the three were escorted out of the opium den and banned for life. Of course, there was still the matter of this possibly being the meeting place of the Black Viper, so naturally they spent the day scoping the place out. Coming up empty handed, they called it a night, Razeem and Younis going to visit the scholar Dabir who was translating the words on the sandstone. When they arrived they found Dabir fucked up, his falcon nuzzling him. He'd been attacked by a group of humans who had wanted the information on the tablet. Basically, through hasty translation, the tablet tells of the location of a legendary lost city of Kafib that vanished three thousand years ago. There were rumours the sultan had gained access to a genie and grew greedy and tyrannical. Nothing else is known. Not only that, they were looking for the whereabouts of a genie binder - an insanely rare kind of magician. Dabir knew of one in the Ivory City - one who had escaped the same cult as the PCs Razeem and Amir.

Cut to later and the players were on their way across the desert to hunt these guys. On their way they ran into some giant scorpions and a group of serpentfolk slavers, who had slaughtered a bunch of nomadic Sunriders. Only one remained alive, but was too frightened to act. Within a giant dragon skull cowered a group of manacled slaves. The players made short work of three of the serpentfolk (a fireball did it) and when the last wanted to parlay (two PCs can speak Aklo) Amir simply skewered her face with his glaive, leading to some nice morality roleplay between the group.

They were led by Kiri the sunrider to their camp in a ruin before the Sunriders, impressed with their handling of the serpentfolk, began leading them to their next destination: The Ivory City.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

D20 fantasy political regimes

1. Warlockracy - governed by elite magic users. Non magic users tend to be poorer with low prospects.

2. Drakism - taxes are collected solely for a non-ruling dragon to stop it from destroying the city.

3. Hauntocracy - governed by ghosts of previous living leaders.

4. Delverism - only adventurers are able to vote or lead

5. Shamanism - governed by a shamanic psychopomp

6. Corpsocracy - only the dead have the ability to vote. Often overseen by a necromancer

7. Magi democracy - a random person is chosen to govern annually by a mysterious floating eye.

8. Golemonarchy - the monarch is a magical construct with sentience.

9. Doomocracy - government controlled by those most able to see into the future

10. Vancian communism - an equal society where people forget about their tyrannical ruler every morning.

11. Equinism - only horse owners can be part of government. Centaurs are revered.

12. Hydrocracy - usually in desert locations. The ones with the most access to water can rule.

13. Underocracy - people living underground are governed by unseen surface rulers, usually by letter or magical means.

14. Aviocracy - only winged people can govern. Non winged people live in sky slums.

15. Goblinism - ruled by the high Gob, the one who smells worst and has the wickedest laugh.

16. Infernalism - governed by the high priest who serves a patron demon. Eventually the demon devours the priest and a new ruler is selected.

17. Killocracy - once every ten years everyone who wants to rule is let out onto the wilderness and have 10 days to survive. The remaining person becomes the ruler.

18. Bluffism - only liars may rule, anyone found to be telling the truth is exiled.

19. Arboreal monarchy - the Gunto tree produces new green monarchs who die in 120 years in an event called the Withering.

20. Foolocracy - only the biggest village idiot is able to rule

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Introducing Fortressmaze, the evolving dungeon project

It's coming up to nine years of Trollish Delver so I wanted to do something to celebrate. I'm kicking off a new blog project that may one day make it into print - an evolving megadungeon called Fortressmaze. This is basically an open source dungeon and I'll be asking you guys to get involved in its creation - from its history and internal geography to its inhabitants. I want Fortressmaze to become this living, breathing entity that can be plugged into your OSR game, with stats created for Swords & Wizardry.

What we currently know about Fortressmaze

- it's a structure that has yet to be mapped beyond the first ten floors. There are theories that it spans for hundreds, if not thousands of miles

- some magical scholars believe a dungeon of such magnitude is able to break through into other planes of existence

- there are villages and cities contained within, with their own governments and factions, mostly run by monstrous humanoids

- it has entrances around the world, and perhaps on other worlds

- the prevailing theory is that it was forged by a god to protect something of extreme value, perhaps something that could cause a paradigm shift

Look out for future Fortressmaze updates and polls on Google Plus to help create this massive dungeon.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

The Gath of Burl

The Gath of Burl were spoken to life by the Ochre Wizards from words shaped like white string. They are human in appearance, with yellowed eyes and bat-like ears and their voices are like the ancient songs sung by dwellers of underworld.

The Gath of Burl are twenty in number, and none have yet perished. When they sleep, they slumber between the words of magical tomes. In the morning they lick the dust from old shelves and hum the somber melody of Yoharneth-Lahai, the god of little dreams and fancies.

Starting specialisms:
- Magical texts (Wits)
- Hearing (Wits)
- Singing (Ego)

Starting equipment:
- 1d6 shards
- Tome of Threading
- Marble eye

Bookwalker - Gath can disappear into the pages of a book, where they can live quite happily and age at half the normal pace. While in a book they can completely read it in 10 minutes.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Blazing Sands campaign diary #1: Pretty racist

We've just concluded the first session of the new Pathfinder campaign I'm running called Blazing Sands. You can find background information here, but it's in the style of Arabian Nights.

The action kicked off with our heroes: Amir (Human Lore Warden), Younis (Elf Arcane Illusionist) and Razeem (Human Shaman) were on patrol in the spice district of the Grand Bazaar, when they came across a group of thugs racially attacking an orcish merchant. Words didn't seem to be working - the thugs were headstrong - so it came to a short scuffle which ended with two unconscious, one dead and two best up and surrendering.

After being carted back to the cells the PCs reported to Harun, the Sultan. Shortly after, an old man in rags burst in carrying a sandstone tablet with strange text on it. The man changed his visage to be Vizier Shar, who had been given the tablet by a desperate man who was apparently murdered by a dark spirit moments later. Younis determined that the stone was probably a couple of centuries old, but decided to find a scholar of ancient history for more information, taking a charcoal rubbing rather than the actual stone. At the Al Bidar college they found Daniel, who excitedly revealed it was written in Minean, a language not spoken for 3000 years. He said he needed a few days to translate.

The PCs continued their patrol, focusing on the meat district where the orcs often gathered. After some investigation, they found rumours that thugs had been attacking orcs, elves and halflings because they were emboldened by the apparent revel group The Black Viper.

On returning to the palace, they met with the jailer Maxima, a bloke built like a bear, who had been brutally interrogating the arrested thugs. He revealed a possible location of a Black Viper meeting place - Rhazza's opium den. They went and decided to disguise as civilians, and Younis as a human using illusion. The plan was to go in and act like racists in order to attract the attention of any Black Viper members. After insulting Rhazza, the half elf, they bought a room in the den and waited, the shaman sending out his scorpion, Anubis (who I gave a Birmingham accent, much to the dislike of the player) to scope the place out. Younis started to stumble into rooms, throwing around slurs like 'filthblood' to try and guage reactions from the humans there. This didn't exactly work out, as the session ended with Rhazza and a retinue of guards appearing in the tent.

Monday, 19 February 2018

The state of Quill in 2018

Quill: a letter-writing roleplaying game for a single player had a great 2017, winning an Indie RPG Award for best free game and growing with new supplements and contracts for translations.

I wanted to give a state of play for the game and what's coming in the future. 

Official supplements

- Quill: Love Letters - exactly what it says on the tin. Scenarios themed around love.

- Quill: Shadow and Ink - a Lovecraftian campaign about an evil family legacy. 

- Quill: White Box - brings Quill into a fantasy world. Create a class and go on adventures.

Third party supplements

- Quill: Coal and Parchment - based on Derek Kamal's Homes universe. 

- Quill Quest: The Warlord's Downfall - a campaign where you must recruit adventurers to save your kingdom. Written by Tim Snider of Cryptworld fame.

The future

For the time being, I'm not planning any new supplements until maybe Q4 due to another gaming obligation, but that's not to say that Quill will be dormant. There will be a printed German version out potentially this year, and I'll be creating an official printed English version. 

There's a really interesting project going on behind the scenes designed for an educational setting based on US political history, but I'll say no more on that for the moment. 

Thanks to everyone who has downloaded and donated to Quill. I never thought that it would become as popular as it has done, with the original game a platinum seller on Drivethrurpg.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Quill: White Box - Mesmerist

Mesmerist are masters of mind magic, able to change their appearance at will. They cast spells to charm and enchant others to come around to their way of thinking. When it comes to writing letters, they are able to pour some of their charm magic into the ink for a favourable response.

Penmanship: Poor
Language: Average
Heart: Good

Class Ability

Mesmerise: For one paragraph you gain +3 on all rolls. 

Quill: White Box is a new ruleset for use with the Quill solo letter-writing roleplaying game, allowing the player to take on the role of an adventurer in a fantasy realm. 

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Iron Maiden: Guardians of the Shatterverse (USR hack)

This isn't official, just me noodling around in the Maiden-verse. You'll need the USR rules to play. I'll specifically be using the rules in Tequendria, which is essentially USR 3.0 due to the focus on balance and progression. Players of Legacy of the Beast will recognise a few similarities, but I wanted to alter the story.

Guardians of the Shatterverse

The setting

In the Iron Maiden RPG players take on an aspect of Eddie, Iron Maiden's perennial ghoulish mascot, as they travel the multiverse hunting down evil in all its forms. Time and Space has been fractured by an evil force called The Gloam an the universe is now called the Shatterverse. The Gloam's dark tendrils have woven their way into the shards of the Shatterverse, poisoning time and space. However, there are those powerful enough to stand against the Gloam and travel through the Shatterverse - they are the Eternals. Eddie is an Eternal who, when the universe was fractured, split into his individual aspects from all space and time. Oh, Eddie can be female too.

Now the Aspects of Eddie are coming together to defeat the Gloam and remake the universe once more.

Each shard represents a time and place in the history of the world. These include:

- The battlefields of WW1
- Ancient Egypt
- Medieval Britain
- Ancient Rome
- Cyberpunk future

But you can basically set it anywhere you want.

Character classes (Aspects of Eddie)

The Pharoah
When the lifegiver dies all around is laid waste. And in my last hour I'm a slave to the power of death. The Pharoah is the mighty ruler of Egypt, with the power of the gods themselves.

Starting specialisms: Born ruler (Ego 2), Tactics (Wits 2), Religious (Wits 2)
Equipment: Rod (melee d6), robes, ankh
Special ability: Mighty leader - once per day the Pharoah can boost the spirits of allies within 50ft. Each ally gain +2 to all attack rolls for 1d6 minutes.

The Trooper
You fire your musket but I'll run you through. The Trooper is a hardened soldier of the Crimean War.

Starting specialisms: Survival (Wits 2), Athletic (Action 2), Riding (Action 2)
Equipment: Musket with bayonet (ranged and melee d6), uniform, Union Flag.

Special ability: War cry - Once per combat the Trooper gains a +2 to damage for one round.

The Cyborg
Caught somewhere in time, the cyborg hails from the far future.

Starting specialisms: Technology (Wits 2), Translation (Wits 2), Piloting (Action 2)
Equipment: Laser pistol (ranged d6+1), lifeform scanner, Communicator

Special ability: Scanner - the cyborg can use its scanner to detect a number of sentient lifeforms within 100ft, even through walls and floors.

The Reaper
Cloaked in black and carrying a scythe, the Reaper is your one way ticket to the underworld.

Starting specialisms: Terrifying (Ego 2), Stealthy (Action 2), Persuasive (Ego 2)
Equipment: Scythe (melee d6), black cloak

Special ability: Dance of Death - once per combat The Reaper forces one target to dance for one round. They take a -2 to defence and cannot move from their spot.

The Shaman
Holding the heart of his latest sacrifice, the shaman divines his powers from the spirit realm.

Starting specialisms: Herbalist (Wits 2), Magic lore (Wits 2), Entrance (Ego 2)
Equipment: Skull staff (melee d6), Book of Souls, herbs

Special ability: Talk with Spirits - once per day the shaman can talk with a spirit for 5 minutes to heal yourself and up to four allies 2d6 hits.


You'll be dealing with futuristic weapons along with medieval ones, so like anything USR I've not gone for realism. Small weapons are d6 damage, medium d6+1, large d8 and special weapons have d8+1. Being able to use certain weapons depends on your Action. D6 action can use small or medium, d8 action can use small, medium and large and d10 can use all including special. Armour comes in similar flavours: light is +1, medium +2 and heavy +3. Shields are +1.

Wait a minute, damage is assigned to weapons?

Yep, better download Tequendria. Winners of combat roll their damage die now. Half level is added to attacks too. Nifty.

Scream for me tokens

At character creation players get 3 Scream for Me tokens. These replenish when they level up. Spend a token to do one of the following:

- gain 2d6+2 Hits
- automatically hit in your next attack
- if an enemy damaged you, negate the damage

When using them, you can optionally do a Bruce Dickinson scream.

Shatterverse travel

Eddies can travel between worlds (shards). It takes 10 minutes to create a portal and the name of the shard must be spoken into the portal in order to activate it. Some names are known and others are secret. Travel is immediate. Some quests in the game will require players trying to uncover the name of the next shard.

The nature of The Gloam

The Gloam is evil incarnate. It is a primordial entity that was once part of the Eternals, but was cast away into the abyss at the beginning of time. It has emerged from the darkness to seek it's vengeance on the Eternals by remaking the universe in its own way.

The Gloam creates evil beings and can even possess the good.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Campaign diary: introduction to Bal Jala

I'm back in the GM seat after about a year, about to kick off a new Pathfinder campaign based on Arabian fantasy. Unlike my previous long games, this one's designed to last around two months - so one concentrated adventure with PCs beginning at level six.

Bal Jala is, of course, the jewel of the Sumerland. A ridiculously lavish and architecturally brilliant city of white stone and golden minarets sitting beneath an azure sky and by the river Kish. Because I'm cribbing heavily from Al-Qadim, the streets are awash with all kinds of races (no dwarves though - too hot). Elves, orcs, goblins and humans, among others, live and work side-by-side in relative harmony. The city is governed by the Sultan Harun, a recent instatement as far as sultans go after the passing of his father Abir seven years ago. Harun, a wiry middle-aged man with a kind demeanour and a relaxed style of ruling, has proven popular among the majority of Bal Jalans for his progressive taxation laws and re-opening of spice trade routes with the Ivory City to the north. The last day of Mihla has even come to be known as Yawm Harun, or Harun’s Day. 

Of course, not all in the sultanate support Harun’s methods. Rebel groups have cropped up in and around the city - most of whom are disorganised thugs who like to cause problems for the Sultan’s Wasi, the city guard. However there have been signs that some are becoming a more organised menace following the murders of two prominent nobles - an elf and an orc. Harun has ordered further investigations into these and similar crimes, discovering the organisation’s name: The Black Viper.

Harun is advised by his most trusted Vizier Shar, who was his father’s right-hand man in the past. Shar isn’t one to be meddled with, being a shrewd politician from a line of great scholars. He is, however, a supporter of Harun and lover of his city, even going so far as disguising himself as a common peasant to mingle with the people in the marketplace, embracing the experience of ordinary folk. 

So that's an intro to Bal Jala and my new campaign. I'll be updating weekly to talk a bit about what's happened in that week's session. 

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Feats for In Darkest Warrens

When creating your character, you may choose one of the following feats, taking note of any prerequisites. At level 3 you can select another feat.

Sticky fingers
When attempting to pick a pocket, gain +2 to the roll.

You can disguise yourself as another humanoid race or another gender. Once per day you can test Person to disguise yourself. If you are successful, you can disguise yourself for up to 7 hours. If you are disguising yourself as another race the test is difficult.

Master appraiser
You know the estimated value of an item by studying it for 10 minutes.

Gain +1 to rolls when trying to search for traps.

Advanced trapfinder
Prerequisite: Trapfinder
Gain +2 to rolls when trying to search for traps.

Animal tamer
You have an affinity with animals. You gain +1 to rolls when trying to calm a wild animal. 

Adept caster
Prerequisite: magic user
Gain an extra use of one of your spells per day.

Shadow walker
When you blend into the shadows you become almost invisible. When moving in shadow you are counted as invisible. Attacks against you have a 50% chance of failing. Once you attack from shadow you can be seen until you move to another location within shadow.

You can spend 3 minutes per day giving an inspirational speech relating to one attribute. For the next hour, those witnessing the speech gain +1 to all tests involving that attribute.

Dual weilder
You do not receive a penalty for using a second melee weapon.

You may take a -1 to attack and +1 to wound damage.

Treasure hunter
The value of treasure you find is increased by 10%

Armour proficiency
Gain an extra +1 wound benefit to armour.

Advanced armour proficiency
Prerequisite: armour proficiency
Gain an extra +2 wound benefit to armour.

Knowing the winds
You intrinsically know what the weather will be like in the next 24 hours.

Poison immunity
You do not receive adverse effects from poison.

You are able to fix objects with the right materials. Test Mind to try to fix an object. Every test counts as a day of attempting to fix the object and it can be attempted multiple times. You require materials of a value equal to 25% of the object's market value.

When trying to gather information in a town or city, gain +1 to the roll. 

The War for the Crown brings political intrigue to Pathfinder

It's funny that I never talk about Pathfinder here, despite it being the main game my group has played for around four years. I started cold to the game, finding it needlessly complex (ok, I still do) but since then it's grown on me like some parasitic game moss. Sure, I still prefer lighter fare, my particular D&D flavour being S&W and LotFP but I still have a place in my callous heart for Pathfinder.

So here we have the announcement of a new adventure path, of which there are at least ten billion now. Ok, so this one is 127 but still, lots of adventure paths. I'm not exactly a fan of them to be honest. I started my first campaign by cribbing stuff from Rise of the Runelords, but after a few sessions used my own homebrew adventure. Despite my dislike of running premade modules, The War for the Crown sounds different enough to intrigue me.

The gist is that there's a conspiracy in Taldor, a big old city in the Inner Sea, where a bunch of nobles and senators are trying to avert some kind of disaster. The Emperor is having none of this so has a load of them assassinated. Apparently then the emperor falls and the players have to save the heir from being sliced up real good.

Cue the Game of Thrones theme music, being the only thing I know about Game of Thrones, having read one book and watched one season. I've heard it's popular and has incest and wolves.

Roght, so this sounds like pretty cool political intrigue, which is a taste I like and you can buy the physical edition of Crownfall, the first adventure, from the Paizo website that, frankly, needs a good overhaul.

Will I purchase? Maybe. As I say, I don't like to run games from the book - the last one I did was Storm King's Thunder and it wasn't great - but HELL do I like to steal stuff from them. If  there's a good premise and characters, I'll be happy to rip them off for a future campaign. This is why there needs to be more setting books a la Dark Veins and Red and Pleasant Land. They contain that chunky meat stuff that's good for growing girls and boys DMs.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Treeps of the Broog Marshes

I've not written about Tequendria in a while, so I thought it was about time.

The Broog Marshes of Mondath are only whispered of in stories told by the cunning bog people who scribe their prayers in mud to Mosahn, the bird of doom. Only three wary adventurers have set foot in the foggy abyss of the Marshes, yet only one returned with darkness in her eyes, not a sound leaving her lips for ten years.

The Broog Marshes are alive and malignant, plotting against the beauty of the emerald forests and rolling fields, where children play hoops in the spring and all are glad. The adventurer eventually spoke of the Treeps, the haunting guardians of the Marshes - half man, half tree, gnarled and sinister with eyes of crawling dung beetles and smiles like knife wounds. They stand as tall as oaks, walking slowly and humming a song that even the gods detest. They feast on the numerous beasts of the marsh, such as the Hut Hut boar and the Droop Bird, whose eggs are poison to the Treeps.

The adventurer, through fearful breaths, spoke of their whispers that would put the ears of man into a deep slumber. In that deep sleep, their prey would be hung from great branches high above the ground and left to be devoured by the Oog Flies, for the bones of man are sweet to the taste of the Treep.

Lvl. 8
Type: Monster
Action: d10, Wits: d8, Ego: d6
Hits: 7d8 (28)
Attack: d10+4 (Swipe d8) or Whisper (see special rule)
Defence: d10+4
Specialisms: Camouflage (Action 4), Darksight (Wits 2), Great strength (Action 2)
Special rule: The Treep may attack with a whisper three times per combat. 1d6 targets within 20ft must test wits (hard). If unsuccessful, the target falls into a slumber in 1d3 rounds. They only awaken if harmed.
Treasure: Treep bark (3000 shards), Treep sap (+4 to Action tests for 12 hours).

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

New tech for Wired Neon Cities

Nullifier: this module can be attached to an android unit to power it down. Once attached to any part of the android, it takes a second to completely power down. The android may make a difficult nimble test (-1) to avoid being powered down. The android is powered down for 48 hours or until the nullifier is removed.

Holo companion: a ping pong ball sized metal sphere that projects a full 3 dimensional hologram of a human AI who can interact verbally with others, but cannot interact physically. The owner can customise the appearance when the companion is first booted. The companion has access to GlowNet.

Shardgun: two handed rifle that fires three spinning razor discs, doing 2 wounds on a hit. On a hit, the target must test brawn. If they are unsuccessful they begin to bleed, taking 1 wound per round for d3 rounds. Available only through the black market.

Purifier: a long red cup. When any water is poured in the filtration system automatically purifies it.

Red Rose: a bracelet that emits a fine spray that makes people more amenable to you. The spray stays on you for 30 minutes and one cylinder has 5 uses. In this time, gain an extra die when you test Person and take the highest result.

Thought scope: a small telescope that scans a person's thoughts if they are within 5ft. The process takes 10 seconds. Emotions and images can be read.  

Wired Neon Cities is a minimalist cyberpunk roleplaying game set in the futuristic 80s. 

Thursday, 8 February 2018

5 new magic items for Quill White Box

Quill of the Nethermancer: this black quill gleams gold in the moonlight. Activating the quill summons four netherfairies to do your bidding. You may unsummon a fairy to gain an extra die on any roll. Fairies remain around until unsummoned. The quill has two activations before it can no longer be activated. 400gp

Recharge Stone: a purple gemstone that emanates power. Using it returns all the uses of a single magic item. Cannot be used on other recharge stones. One use. 250gp

Ring of Fortune: a silver ring with a ruby inset. Add 50% to the value of treasure received. 3 uses. 300gp

Radiant Signet Ring: this ring is used to make a mark in a wax seal. It glows white when used. Use at the end of a letter to gain 2 points. 3 uses. 450gp

Demonbind Quill: the first time you use this red quill you bind yourself to a demon. Activating it gives you 5 points. When activated you must lose an item. If you have no items, the demon takes you to the hell dimension.

Top image: Magic the Gathering/ Wizards of the Coast.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

How to convert published adventures to Quill: White Box scenarios

The Quill: White Box book contains scenarios to get you well on your way to adventure, but there's more you can do once you've completed those. I want to talk about how to turn those published modules for other fantasy games into Quill letters.

Your objective is determined by the module

Do you have to free a village from a spellplague? Kill an undead giant? Whatever the objective is, this also feeds into your letter's objective. In most adventures you will have been hired by someone, so the idea is that you're relaying information back to them with your letters. Even if you're in the bowels of a dungeon, you're given a magical raven that delivers your letters. You need to tell them how far away you are from achieving your goal, theories you have about the dungeon/story and what has happened in that section.

Split the module into manageable sections

Most modules will be cut into parts, whether it's a wilderness section or new dungeon level. Take each logical part of the module and read through it. It doesn't matter if you know things you're not supposed to know, this will offer flavour and inspiration for your letters. If I have a dungeon, I'll split it by level. Or if it's a huge dungeon, I'll split into segments. The number of segments is important to determining your final score. You must have at least 5 sections in an adventure. The more sections, the more treasure, but also the more chance of dying.

Sections become your ink pots

For each section, create an ink pot of ten words using the words in that section. Nouns work well for this, particularly monster names, traps and items. Remember to have an inferior version of the word and superior version. So if I saw a beholder in one room, I might have eye monster/beholder as one word in the ink pot.

Score yourself after each section

So now we know a section is one letter. You will be scoring as you go, so score yourself after a section. The scores are:

5 or less: you have fallen afoul of something in the section. Lose either one item, or if you can't you perish.

6-9: you have scraped through and find 2d6gp

10+: you have told your tale of bravery well. Find 2d6gp x [section number]

Calculate your final score

If the majority of your scores were 5 or less, you have failed. Lose all items. If you cannot, you die.

If the majority of your scores were 6-9 or there was no majority, you have scraped through. Gain 1d6x[final section number] gp.

If the majority of your scores are 10+, you have had great success. Gain 3d6x[final section number]gp.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Quill: White Box - Warlock

A magic-user who pulls magic not from dusty tomes and yellowed scrolls, but from a pact made with the hellgods themselves is known as a Warlock. They wield a primal power, but walk a fine line between sanity and lunacy.

Warlocks in Quill: White Box are temperamental and often quite mad. They know that once their time has come their soul will be bound to the demon they made an agreement with, so they make every word count.

Penmanship: Poor
Language: Average
Heart: Good

Class Ability

Demonic Pact: At the beginning of the letter you may choose one attribute and roll two  dice. The highest result you roll is the automatic result for any test using that attribute in this letter. This cannot be re-rolled.

Brunnar the Mighty: Chapter II

When Brunnar opened his eyes he twisted and violently coughed up water onto the snow. He heard a familiar voice and felt a hand on his shoulder. Standing over him the blurry vision of Jotun came into view, who smiled, kissed the hammer-shaped talisman around his neck and thanked the gods. "It looks like the gods have seen fit to spare you, old friend," boomed Jotun, grinning. Brunnar sat up wearily and grasped his friend on the shoulder, laughing shakily. 
"I thought you had gone to the underworld," croaked Brunnar, his eyes gleaming at the sight of his comrade. "Should have known the underworld couldn't hold the likes of you." The two of them laughed, but the bitter wind wasn't letting up, so Jotun advised they find shelter for the night. It soon became clear that despite the experience the two broad-shouldered men had in the icy wilds, they couldn't be sure how far away their village was and how long it would take them to get there. 

Several hours had past in the blackest night Brunnar had experienced. The shivering wing hummed over the grey mountains which loomed to the west, a place that Brunnar knew to be the home of dread spirits in waiting for flesh. He prayed to Kaleetha, goddess of good fortune, that both he and his companion return safely to the village where his beautiful wife Freja would be waiting with open arms and soft lips. A nerve-shattering howl rang out in the dark and Jotun stopped dead in his tracks. "Wolves are abroad this night," he said in a hushed voice. Brunnar felt his back and realised with relief that his axe was still firmly strapped on. Through the cold and aching he had not noticed the weight of Northwind but he was glad to have it. 
"Then we shall have furs to keep us warm," said Brunnar with a grin. They continued their journey, though they knew not where they were going save for Jotun occasionally pointing out the brightest star in the sky. Soon the oppressive mountains were at their backs as Jotun guided the two of them further into the wasteland. 

A roar echoed in the darkness. Three hulking wolves crept out of the shadows, their backs hunched menacingly and rows of jagged teeth on full display. They were gargantuan beasts, twice the size of a normal wolf. "Doomwolves," whispered Jotun. He drew his blade though he feared that he could see little in the darkness. Brunner unlatched Northwind from his back and grasped the hand tightly. The wolves snapped their jaws and rumbled, closing ever in on the warriors. One leaped at Brunnar like a lightening flash, but his axe connected with its skull, throwing viscera onto the crisp snow. The wolf went limp, half of its head missing. "Come on then you dogs," cried Brunnar, "Come and greet the mighty Northwind." In the space of a heartbeat a second wolf pounced at Jotun, knocking the blade from his hand and pinning him with its mighty paws. The beast gnashed at him in a fiery rage while Jotun struggled to keep its mouth away from his throat. Brunnar swung Northwind in a brutal arc, catching the wolf on its flank and wounding it severely. Before he could land the killing blow he felt himself being forced to the ground, turning to see the ferocious muzzle of the third monstrous wolf. He thrust his axe hilt into the creature's maw  to prevent it from biting and looked back at Jotun, who, despite the wounds Brunnar had inflicted, was still being assaulted. Suddenly, Brunnar heard a loud yelp and craned his neck to see a massive pile of bloodied fur beside his friend. The wolf who was frantically trying to rend Brunnar's face was then tossed to the side in a cloud of blood. Something had killed them. Then Brunnar realised who their unlikely saviour was. A white bear towered over the dead wolf, its giant paws caked in blood. It turned to face the men, who gathered themselves in preparation for what was to come. The bear roared loud enough to bring down the mountains  and reared up, eyes fixed on its prey.