Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Paw'Lard Eean - Night Axe Ogre

It started as a joke, but I think it's turned out rather well. I think it also serves as a good example of the way we're providing detail for our potentially major and semi-major NPCs around Hot Springs Island (and one day all of the Swordfish Islands). A few paragraphs of backstory and bullet points of motivation that ultimately won't matter anyway when the party charges in and kills them. #ZOMGCRITBUILD.

Spelling's been changed but I was lazy

Paw'lard Eean
One of the few "heavy-lifters" left, Paw'lard was in charge of hauling crystal shipments through the portal in the Ashfire Mines [HS-07] back when the Night Axe were Svarku's slaves. His strength and stamina was well beyond any other ogre slave allowing him to haul crystals three times his own size. For this ability he was personally rewarded by the efreet with extra rations and semi-private sleeping quarters with thicker sleeping mats.

The incident at the Black Spot changed everything. As the screams of his fellows faded he realized the hollowness of all the praise and special treatment he had received. While he had been rewarded the other's lives had never improved, and now so many of them were dead. Paw'lard was crushed with regret, self doubt and despair. He was beaten mercilessly for the next two days as his melancholy kept him bedridden, but when the revolt began his strength returned in full and he slaughtered countless salamanders using nothing but his fists. They say that in the end, Paw'lard had to be physically pulled away from the fighting by Glavrok and Srok.

After Mog'ok appeared to the Night Axe at White Rock Spring [HS-03], Paw'lard was the first to head to the beach of newly beached whales. He used his immense strength to carry one back to the clearing that would become Glavrok Village, butchered it before them all and began cooking the giant, fatty hunks of meat. Over time he has found great joy in cooking for his people and he has set up an elaborate (by ogre standards) outdoor kitchen he calls The Rendering Spot [HS-04] where he processes Mog'ok's whales into food, fuel and other useful items for the tribe.

What does Paw'lard want?
·         To taste and eat great foods
·         To keep the Night Axe well fed
·         Better access to herbs and spices
·         To learn new recipes and constantly improve his cooking skills
·         To sell his line of whale based products (soap, gum, lantern oil, etc)
·         For the Night Axe to appreciate his whale soap

What does Paw'lard NOT want?
·         To be taken off cooking duty
·         For any harm to come to the ogre kids he teaches to cook and butcher whales
·         To fight

What else?
·         Paw'lard never wants to have to fight again, and when it seems combat will be necessary he pretends he has a bum leg. Glavrok knows Paw'lard is faking, but has let him get away with it so far because he worries once Paw'lard starts fighting he will not be able to stop. He will force Paw'lard to fight if the situation is dire enough however. Paw'lard tends to gloat privately that he is a master of deception because of how well he has Glavrok fooled.

·         Most all food Paw'lard cooks is deep fried in whale fat and it's delicious. He keeps his giant cauldrons bubbling 24 hours a day at the Rendering Spot and experiments with new ways to fry up things all the time. He also makes exceptional whale meat jerky that melts in your mouth.

·         It is possible that he maintains a secret truce/relationship with Fatty salamander. Their love of cooking overcoming the hatred their people expect them to have for one another.

·         Paw'lard's figured out how to created many useful products from whale carcasses and native flora and fauna, and he's always working on a new idea. Sometimes there are explosions.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Clearing - A Surprisingly Benign Encounter

Wrote this a while back and have been meaning to get it up on the blog.

Kinda like this but with more tigers, magic and outdoors
Image: Roger Fenton

The Clearing

This encounter would be best used when the players find themselves needing to pass through a dark forest or tree filled mountain valley that will take several days to cross. Before entering the forest, players should hear that it is haunted or cursed. Alternatively, the PCs could discover that a small village on the outskirts of this area is missing all of its young people aged 18-24.

The woods are ancient, foreboding and hushed. Very little light penetrates the canopy of oak and pine, and a gentle breeze, damp and cool, carries the smell of leaves, freshly dug earth, and something else. Something unplaceable. About six hours into the forest the players should begin to realize that something is not right. Their animals should become skittish, and the hair on the back of the PCs necks should stand up.

If henchmen are in the party, morale checks should become more frequent and the first henchman to fail a check will run back down the path, away from the direction the party is heading. When the fleeing henchman is out of sight the party should hear a scream, followed by a popping and snapping as if bones are being crunched. Should the players investigate they will find nothing but a few drops of blood and maybe a finger or toe in the area.

Detect Evil will reveal overpowering evil of an extra-planar nature, but the source will be exceedingly difficult to pinpoint. If the source is spotted it will be the size of a gnat, and will be flying very rapidly away from the party.

As the players continue through the woods, they should begin to occasionally hear low, rolling, growls coming from off the path. Often the growling will come first from one side, then another. The growling doesn't exactly sound malicious, but it sounds big, and close. Some members of the party may glimpse shining eyes in the dark off the path, but they only last for half a second and never appear in the same area twice.

Should the party camp for the night, strange things will be found missing when they awake in the morning. Only items of beauty, and quality, will be missing. Think, silk cloth, or a brocade tapestry they've been hauling to a "real city", or a small statue that the wizard thinks might be an example of art from an ancient and lost culture. Some of the things missing may be parts of items. For example: The adventurers found a painting in their last dungeon, but now the frame has gone missing and the canvas is neatly rolled up by the fire. Or perhaps a ring is gone, but the large "diamond" in it has been left. Any items left will be discovered to contain minor defects if closely inspected.

The Game Master should choose one member of the party to be the target of this entire encounter. This player (and only this player) should start seeing things to lure them off the path as they progress through the forest. What they see should be things of exceptional quality, that appeal greatly to them. Additionally whenever the opportunity presents itself, this player should feel compelled (as Suggestion) to volunteer to do things like stand middle watch, go refill water skins in the creek just off the path, go investigate that strange noise, etc.

Should the Suggestions not work, or should the opportunity for them never arise, after the first night camping in the woods, the targeted player will begin being hit by Charm type spells every couple of hours. Should a spell be successful, the targeted player will walk into the woods. Their mind will retain its full function under this effect, but their body will be compelled to walk off the path, into the woods, and into a clearing (extra-dimensional space) of breath taking beauty. The player can cry out, and the party can follow them into this space.

Festive lanterns of different shapes and size are strung across the clearing. Colorful silk canopies stand above piles of brightly colored cushions or tables laden in exotic fruit and tiny cakes with pies inside them. A raised stone dais, holding a red velvet chaise lounge and a large easel, stands in the center of the clearing. Sprawled across the couch, and puffing from a hookah reeking of cinnamon, reclines a twelve foot long Tiger Rakshasa of immense power, bedecked in jewels and silks.
Upon seeing the targeted player, the Rakshasa will growl throatily and exclaim, "[PLAYER NAME] as soon as you entered this forest I knew I had to have you. You're so beautiful. Please... I must draw you."

The Rakshasa will insist on drawing the player in the nude, and the process will take roughly 6 hours. Upon completion the Rakshasa will pay the player in gold, jewels or objects of art, and direct them (and the party) to leave through a second entrance in the clearing. Leaving in this manner will drop the players at the point where they intended to exit to the forest.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lurker's Guide to rpG+

Incognito! Sorta.

So, +Courtney Campbell over at Hackslash Master made a post today about getting into/onto G+ for roleplaying. It's very good, and I, like his reader Charles had a hard time making the switch over to G+ from RPG forums (like /tg/ and /r/rpg and whatnot). You see, in my youth on the internet I would get on forums, run my mouth, and get banned, so over time, lurking has become much more my style.

G+ is tricky. You can't just hop on and see the conversation. There's a wall. A barrier to entry if you will, and for a while I found it to be relatively insurmountable and frustrating.

Blogs took me to RPG communities on G+.

The communities that "got me in the door" were:
DCC (Dungeon Crawl Classics)
2000 Coppers (of Tenkar's Tavern)

One day, +Moe Tousignant shared a number of his RPG circles (I've become convinced he's collected practically everyone in the RPG G+ scene) and by adding the circles he shared my feed filled up with gaming goodness. Moe's profile says he's a gaming ambassador, and it's completely true. His blogs and posts on good beers and good food are great too!

A couple hash tags have also worked out well for me (in terms of finding new people to follow):

#rollforinitiative is particularly great 'cause everyone links pics of freaky (and funny) stuff, both natural and un making it light and enjoyable as far as I'm concerned.

A note on circle shares - be careful! Not all circle shares are created equally. All the RPG shares I've come across have been pretty dang great, but as I started to branch out more into G+ (there's a BIG photographer community, and while I don't take pictures, I like to look at pretty ones ^_^) I quickly learned that many of the frequently shared circles fill up with spam and bullshit. If you start blindly accepting shared circles be sure you isolate them to a new circle, and then parse out from there.

Like Courtney says in his blog post though, the best way to build good circles is to start reading, and engaging in the conversations that occur on active posts, and circle out from there. That said, a few good communities, and a circle share or two go a long way towards getting your foot in the door, especially if you don't want to dive into it running your mouth.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Elemental Abilities

In the multi-verse of the Swordfish Islands, elementals come in two varieties:

A nereid and her pet

A water elemental
Fleshy elementals (or The Personable) choose to clothe themselves and (normally) their core with flesh. These elementals are defined by their personalities and are more prone to meddle in the affairs of mortals. These also tend to be given a unique name or classifier by mortals such as "salamander", "nereid", "undine", "slyph", etc.

Non-Fleshy elementals (or The Powerful) refuse to limit themselves to a fixed form and appear as an elemental core floating in the midst of their element. These elementals care little for the concerns of mortals and are defined by the superior levels of power they possess over their element. Mortals refer to these as simply "elementals".

Elementals, both fleshy and non, are not magic users. They do not cast spells or have some sort of standard or limited list of things they can do. They operate by manipulating their element to behave in a certain way, or take a certain shape. The size of an elemental's core determines:

  • The volume of [ELEMENT] it can manipulate
  • How frequently it can manipulate [ELEMENT]
  • The volume of [ELEMENT] it can create (from nothing) each day.

Since elementals are not "locked in" to a specific set of abilities, the game master can and should change up what they do based on the situation they are in. To help with this we have compiled lists of words that are commonly, or at least tangentially, associated with each element to help provide a creative starting point as elementals are introduced to the game. 

Here's our list of WATER related words.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What do they want?

According to a personality profile at work, I fixate a lot on "what?" questions. I, being biased, think they're the best way to get to the core of an issue or problem which I believe is critical because if you don't know the core of the issue, you can't actually fix a problem or communicate the problem to those who can fix it.

This focus on "what?" has spilled over into the Swordfish Islands, and because I'm apparently obsessed with being a maximalist, every intelligent creature type (and potentially significant NPC) has the following three lists: "What do they want?", "What do they NOT want?", and "What else?". The first two lists (want/not want) are short bullet points and will hopefully serve as a good quick reference for the GM in the heat of combat/parley. The "what else?" category is ultimately still a list, but provides more information on complex goals, long term goals, motivations and problems.

Here's the entry for Magma Imps.

What do they want?
  • To always be building or making something
  • To be needed
  • To be part of a team
  • To know how things work and what they're made of
  • To prove to themselves they can make anything

What do they NOT want?

  • To see anything left unfinished
  • To see their creations senselessly broken by sentient creatures
  • To be unneeded or without a project
  • To repeatedly fail at building, making or creating something

What else?
  • Magma imps work together like a ruthlessly efficient, highly professional pit crew.
  • They relish the challenge of creation and its process, caring little for the object that is ultimately created. They do not like to see their stuff get stolen or destroyed, but they will probably give it away if asked.
  • They love trading objects they have created for objects another creature has created and enjoy "talking shop".
  • They do not like working on projects that are not their own (or their team's), but they are highly susceptible to being goaded into creating
    • "Oh yeah of course. It would be impossible to build a road across a lake of lava that a spiderbush could walk across without catching fire."
  • Magma imps can become exceptionally snobby if they like something someone has, only to discover the person did not make it.