Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Map for Players

Woo! This G+ post got long enough that it makes sense as a blog post. My revised-revised-revised-revised-revised version of the Field Guide to Hot Springs Island is laid out to a point that I'm happy with, and I've budged from my one time "smyth-sewn only" position for its eventual printing. I want to include a map for the players in the book itself, and this is the first iteration I've come up with that seems legible and didn't make me immediately start again.

What do you think about it?

What is this? A map of Hot Springs Island (my hexcrawl)

What do I want to do with this? Use it as the end papers in my player's book A Field Guide to Hot Springs Island.

What exactly is the Field Guide? It's an in-character _prop_ players can use at the table during play (if they'd like). The goal is to provide them with hook filled information, pictures, rumors and stories that can help players make informed decisions about where to go and what to do (see end).

Why are there so many blanks? Because there are 3 points of interest in each numbered hex. I don't know that players will ever really explore them all in a single game or even a campaign, but because I want this to be a sandbox, I want to communicate to the players somehow where the "blank" patches on the map are.

Why are some of the blanks filled in?
Because these points of interest are "documented" in the Field Guide or other materials.

How big will this be printed? The current plan is 8.5"x11" (letter sized)

What do you think? Too crowded? Too busy? Overwhelming? Dumb? Opine away!

(Regarding the Field Guide in play. In order for a sandbox to work, your players have to buy into it and self-lead. The book is absolutely NOT necessary for players to have in order to play on Hot Springs, _but_ if a player chooses to read it and use it they can act as a sort of co-DM by using their extra knowledge to direct play. For example: The leader, instead of immediately attacking when a monster jumps out of the undergrowth, could take a few rounds to try and use the guide to identify the creature and maybe determine strengths/weaknesses/strategies. Once combat is over, they could use the book to determine which pieces of the creature are considered to be valuable by the various factions on the island. And when the party camps for the night they could try and learn more about those factions and help drive the group, and thus the game in a different direction. It's also an ingame object that could be "taken away" due to poor decisions in game. For example, if my pack catches on fire, now I'm worried about a real, tangible thing I've been holding in my hands and using. Maybe now I won't swim across that river. If you've gotten this far and are saying "why the hell would you even make something like this? my answers are: 1. Because this type of game play is tremendously personally appealing to me. 2. Because I fucking love world building. 3. Because I watched too much Duck Tales as a kid and loved the way the "Jr. Woodchucks' Guide Book" could get a party into and out of so much trouble. 4. Because at the end of the day, I want to pay my artists and contributors, but I refuse to sell "new rules" and "new feats" or anything junky like that. If you only have products game masters can buy, and nothing players can buy, then you're effectively ignoring 75% or more of your potential customers, and I think this Field Guide is an excellent, value packed, way to not do that.)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Backgrounds, Adventures and but therefore

vaporware thoughts

I've been thinking about how some new 5e backgrounds define they way your character reacted/reacts to certain events, and read a few mutterings about how it might be better to set up backgrounds as "here are things that happened to your character in the past" and then you as the player define how the character dealt with those things. This got me thinking back to a presentation MTV did with Trey Parker and Matt Stone where they talk about how they structure their South Park Stories. You can watch the full video at the link, but the particularly relevant bits are:

Trey Parker: We found out this really simple rule that maybe you guys have all heard before, but it took us a long time to learn it. We can take these beats, which are basically the beats of your outline, and if the words "and then" belong between those beats... you're fucked. Basically. You've got something pretty boring.

What should happen between every beat that you've written down is either the word "therefore" or "but". Right? So so, what I'm saying is, that you come up with an idea and it's like "Ok, this happens" right? AND THEN "this happens". no no no

It should be "This happens" and THEREFORE "This happens"... BUT "This happens" THEREFORE "This happens"

And that's why you get a show that feels like Ok, this to that to this to that but this "here's the complication" to that.

And there's so many scripts we read from new writers....

Matt Stone: Yeah you see movies that you're watching and it's like "this happend and then this happens and then this happens" and that's when you're in a movie going "what the fuck am I watching this movie for?"

I saw this years ago, and I try and incorporate it into the stuff I write.

For example with Swordfish Islands:
Svarku the efreet, the son of a petty noble efreet with low self esteem and everything to prove, liked to gamble with his daddy's money. BUT one night he lost too much. THEREFORE he killed the guy that won. BUT the guy he killed was an important emissary delivering an artifact. THEREFORE he ran away to the physical plane. BUT he found an island in the primal wilderness with exceptionally lucrative crystal deposits. THEREFORE he brokered some secret deals to get an army/slaves to harvest it. BUT he's terrible at managing personnel. THEREFORE the slaves revolted. BUT he was locked into his shady deals. THEREFORE he started using his army to mine. BUT they hated it and almost revolved. THEREFORE he went begging back to the people who set him up originally. BUT they weren't as supportive the second time and the new helpers they sent were loyal to them and not Svarku. BUT Svarku doesn't realize this. THEREFORE when the adventurers show up on the island they have multiple factions to play with/against and many angles they can take.

Then with Goldmother:
Sorceress Orana was from a long magical bloodline and supposed to be a twin. BUT she consumed her sister in the womb. THEREFORE Demogorgon decided to take a mild interest in her. BUT the sister did not die (becoming a tiny malformed face on the back of Orana's head). THEREFORE Orana has had to struggle with her sister for control of the body on a daily basis. BUT this did not stop her from becoming a beautiful, powerful sorceress, capable of casting spells "above her level". THEREFORE she attracted the attention of a variety of scumbags, notably the shade of a powerful necromancer who tried to "ride up" one of her spells, possess her body, and return to corporeality. BUT even though he was more powerful than her at the time, she'd effectively been preparing for this fight her whole life. THEREFORE she was able to whoop the shade's ethereal ass and trap him in a gemmed brooch she was wearing at the time. BUT when it was over, the necromancer's shade pretended it was all a misunderstanding. THEREFORE the shade tried to buy his freedom by offering to share secret knowledge. BUT Orana didn't trust him. THEREFORE she didn't let him go and instead tortured much of it (including the location of his old tower and library) out of him. BUT he managed to hide his true name and many of the secrets to unlocking his tower and library. THEREFORE when the game begins she's focused on cracking these secrets open.

I'm thinking there could be a way to spin this structure into a background generator. Maybe a [TABLE 1] happened AND [TABLE 2] happened BUT [TABLE 3] THEREFORE [player makes up]. type structure. The therefore then becomes the way the player reacted to what happened. The thought would be to roll one of each of these lines for flaw/ideal/personality/bond BUT...... this could would require making a ton of entries for each line (due to the subtables) THEREFORE it's probably going to forever be vaporware. BUT it won't stop rolling around in my brain. THEREFORE I'll just blog about it.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Albino Ravens and Blightwalkers


 Zombies - Not Zombies
When the a game of Goldmother's Vale begins, Sorceress Orana is focuses almost completely on cracking the remaining protections on Salmu Seru's library in The Broken Spire[0804]. She knows there is a great power source in Windsong Cave[1308] but she doesn't know what it is exactly, how to get to it (it's behind seals) or how to corrupt it to her personal use. She also knows that the snows are coming soon and that the valley folk are about to become hyperactive and hypersensitive to anything they might connect to the "sleeping evil" (Orana always laughs and uses air quotes and melodramatic accents when she says this phrase to her henchmen), and she knows that Sinnu Daku (her personal mercenaries) are not yet assembled in full force. Thus Orana's plan is twofold:

1. Build up a utility force to distract/fragment/control the people of the valley without needing to risk her own troops (the Cult of Blood and Briar might work for this but they're too bumpkiny for her tastes, and she doesn't fully trust them).

2. Create a utilitarian grand-ritual-pentagram around the petrified altar in Windsong Cave[1308]. She's not exactly sure how she'll use the pentagram, but she's begun to piece together enough about the necromancer who used to live in her tower to know that it will probably be called for in whatever relevant ritual she finds.

She figures zombies (well, Blightwalkers) paired with the cult's mutated beasts should do the job nicely.

Albino Ravens
One to two weeks before the game begins, Sorceress Orana and several prominent members of the Cult of Blood and Briar set up a ritual pentagram in the mountains where the treeline ends and created The Black Line[1408]. Each night 3d4+3 albino ravens are birthed from the pentagram there, and at sunrise they fly away to drain the souls of humanoids. A raven must deal 20 HP worth of damage to consume an entire soul and they prefer to do so after a target has already dropped to 0 HP, is sleeping, paralyzed, restrained, young, old or can't otherwise fight back.

During an attack the raven will open its beak and begin to literally suck the soul from its victim (+5 to hit, 5ft reach, 1 target). On a successful hit the raven becomes attached to the humanoid by a ghostly beam. The beam suspends the white raven in the air and it spreads its wings and feathers (like a heraldric eagle) as it drains its target. The target takes 1d4+3 damage at the start of the raven's turn (DC 15 wisdom saving throw).

Once a raven has consumed a soul it flies directly to The Broken Spire[0804] (before Orana has cracked Salmu Seru's library) OR to Windsong Cave[1308] (after Orana has begun her ritual to corrupt the trapped Goldmother). When it arrives at the appointed destination it vomits up the soul for Orana's use before returning to the valley to seek out more targets.

[Stats like a Stirge, pretty stat box 'n whatnot to come eventually]

Any humanoid drained of their soul (takes 20 HP worth of damage from a single albino raven), will fall into an apparent deep sleep. They will appear whole and beautiful with regular breathing and a rosy complection, but their eyeballs will be completely black, hard, and smooth like polished obsidian. This bodily restoration/beautification will also occur in corpses drained after death (e.g., a hunter is mauled by a bear and dies in a shreaded mess. Two days later their body is found and drained by an albino raven. After being completely soul-drained their body will appear whole, beautiful and sleeping, but their clothes will still be destroyed).

Humanoid corpses CANNOT be drained IF:
1. They have been dead for a week and a day
2. Funerary rites have begun on the body (even simple, rudimentary or incomplete rites)
3. The tears of a loved one have fallen on the body

A drained corpse will appear to sleep for at least 24 hours, then, at the next sun set, it will open its eyes, begin screaming, and the pentagram at The Black Line[1408] will erupt with a swarm of roaches OR rats OR frogs OR snakes. The swarm will travel directly to the corpse that called for it and can pass through one hex every two hours. Swarms CANNOT travel over sacred or consecrated ground and cannot pass through doors, windows or under lintels. They can however enter homes through cracks, holes and chimneys. Once the swarm has gained access to its body, the creatures will enter it through all available orifices, rapidly hollow it out and then proceed to shamble around with it like a slow moving zombie. Each blightwalker contains a single swarm or a single creature type and if multiple corpses are ready at sunset, multiple swarm eruptions will occur at The Black Line[1408].

[Stats as a Zombie, with different attacks by variant]

Blightwalker (frogs):
Slam - +3 to hit, reach 5ft, one target, 1d6+1 bludgeoning damage
Sticky Tongues - +4 to hit, reach 5ft, one target, DC 15 dexterity save or GRAPPLED (frog tongues erupt from everywhere on the blightwalker's body and stick to the target. If the blightwalker is grappling a target they cannot Slam, only Bite)
Bite - +1 to hit (+5 if grappling), reach 5ft, one target, 2d4+2 piercing damage

Blightwalker (roaches):
Scream: All the roaches scream and buzz simultaneously. Anyone within 10', DC 12 constitution save or be STUNNED for 1 round and DEAFENED for the remainder of combat.

Blightwalker (rats):
Exodus: All the rats leave the body enmasse and the skin and bones crumple to the ground like paper. Anyone watching this event DC 15 wisdom save or FRIGHTENED
Swarm: If the rats have exited their body they can swarm over a single target in a clawing, biting mass. DC 20 dexterity save or GRAPPLED and take 1d4+1 damage each turn.

Blightwalker (snakes):
Venomous Slam - +3 to hit, reach 5ft, one target, 1d6+3 piercing damage, DC 12 constitution save or POISONED

Blightwalkers are capable of following and carrying out simple instructions such as "gather flesh", "gather innocents", "dig", "bury" etc.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Goldmother's Vale - Unfinished Alpha

So... my Goldmother's Vale Hexcrawl isn't done, but it's at a point that's semi-coherent enough to call an "unfinished alpha". There are still big, gaping holes, but you can snag the PDF here:

I'd love any feedback you've got. =)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Cult of Blood and Briar

Cultists by Matthew Adams

The Cult of Blood and Briar is a relatively recent institution in Horned Mountain Valley, dating back only a couple of generations. They began rather benignly (probably as a response to the valley's growing population) holding low key ceremonies among old growth trees, to mark important yearly celestial events such as the solstice and equinox. Over time they became more and more radicalized, preaching your run of the mill pro-wilderness/anti-civilization doctrines. They took to planting brambles and other painful plants, like poison sumac and nettles, throughout the vale to promote a "return to the wild". Although they possessed no real power, they had a great flair for elaborate ritual and a deep, burning hatred of the Goldmother. Their hatred springs from two fonts. First, they believe the Goldmother abandoned the valley and took her blessing from the trees and land. Second, they believe she should never have allowed humans to settle in, and thus profane, the valley in the first place (lots of self loathing).

Sorceress Orana and the cult took to one another immediately upon their first meeting after she arrived in the valley. She started talking about "points of light in the wilderness" beliefs, displayed actual power, and they swore themselves to her cause without hesitation. In turn she taught them a number of magical rituals so they could aid her as she leads the valley and then the world into the new wilderness.

Cult members are almost all from the Flam(tallowmakers), Mull(merchants), and Textor(weavers) families and HIGHLY secretive. There is no official rank or hierarchy to the cult but Rowan Mull[STATBLOCK] is in many ways the de facto leader due to his successful infiltration and manipulation of the Utag clan (and he's the only one who communicates with Orana directly). Max Flam[STATBLOCK] and Violet Textor[STATBLOCK] are effectively his lieutenants and give the most consistently powerful and impassioned speeches.

Nudity, Red Paint and Briars:
Eschewing robes and common cultist attire, members of the Cult of Blood and Briar hold their meetings and perform their rituals naked and masked as it is the closest to nature they can be. Now that Orana has come to the vale they have adjusted this in two subtle ways. The cultists now mask their face using thorny briars (see Briar Shield below), and they paint their bodies completely red. This red paint makes them immune to poison and impervious to the effects of painful plants (e.g., poison ivy, poison sumac, etc).

What does the Cult Want?
To return the world to a primal, natural state
To assist Orana in any way possible
To find where the Goldmother fled and make her suffer for abandoning them

What does the Cult NOT want?
To be discovered or found out
To rapidly induct new recruits
For the valley folk to be united on any front or topic. There must always be dissent.

What else?
Orana taught the cultists five rituals of wild terror. Under normal circumstances, require 20 minutes of preparation, and 10 minutes of casting, or a total of 30 minutes from start to finish. At least two cultists are required for a ritual, and they must each cut themselves with a natural blade (quartz or bone preferred), and incorporate 1d4+1 HP worth of their blood into the spell. They can cast rituals into Splinters of Corruption (detailed below), but doing so requires at least four cultists and 1d6+1 HP of blood from each. Prepared splinters can be broken to instantly release the spell within.

Splinter of Corruption
Splinters can only come from a plant or animal that has died due to a splinter of corruption, and the cultists favor using fragments from antlers and blighted aspens. The normal ritual (2 cultists, 30 minutes, 1d4+1 HP of blood from each), can create 1d6+1 charged splinters. Each additional cultist participating in the ritual ad adding their own blood, charges an additional 1d4 splinters. A virgin may be sacrificed in place of cultists providing their own blood, and will yield 1d6 splinters for each cultist participating in the ritual. Charged splinters glow with a black aura and splinters loaded with another spell glow red (not enough to see by but enough to be seen).

If a charged splinter is inserted into a living organism it will burrow deeply into it and cause it to rot from the inside out. This prevents any natural healing and deals 1d6 HP of necrotic damage each day. Attempting to remove one by non-magical means is extremely difficult. The infected organism must make a Constitution DC20 save whenever the bloated, feverish wound is touched, or immediately go into a feral rage, striking and biting at anything nearby. The pain of touching the wound is so great that even trees will try and hit you away. Anything dying to a splinter will begin to split, crack, and ooze purplish goo. Particularly dense sections of the organism (bones, antlers, hardwood, etc) will appear to blossom into vile looking fractal flowers of potential splinters. The number of potential splinters yielded by a corpse depends on its size and amount of dense biomass, so a small dense creature with bony plates will likely yield more than a medium sized creature made of mostly squishy stuff.

Potential Splinters

Mutate Beast
Works on unintelligent beasts and animals and is pretty much what it says on the tin. In addition to the mutation animals mutated by this spell have a 25% chance to gibber incessantly, and of those, a 10% chance to whisper one true, evil secret over and over in an ancient language.

Mutation Table 3d4
Mutation Table (3d4)
Two Heads
One head is "obviously evil" (black with red eyes). When not foaming at the mouth it breathes fire (5' cone, 1d8 damage)
Fungal Friend
Tiny black and purple mushrooms sprout in its footsteps. Hallucinogenic.
Inner Glow
Stops breathing, sweating and excreting, and begins to emit heat and light. May catch on fire if it gets too active. Normally live 3d6 days before burning up from overexertion.
Glistens with sweat and pants continually. If stationary for 5 minutes, sticky puddles form beneath it. They stink and should be treated as difficult terrain.
Walks Wrong
The creature moves at normal movement speed, but now, walks on its hind legs, moves sideways only, moves backwards only, or has large hairy spider legs.
Sprouts 1d6 coral snakes on its body. 25% chance the animal and snakes don't get along.
Its skin cracks and stuff drips out that looks like strawberry jam. Gains pseudopod attack (1d6 bludgeoning)
Creature bloats and struggles to walk (half speed). If its skin is cut or punctured it will burst, forming a poison cloud (10' diameter, DC12 constitution save, 3d6 damage and poisoned on failed save)
Obviously Evil
Turns black with red glowing eyes. Poisonous or painful plants grow faster when it is near, but the animal is totally normal in all other regards.
Poisonous Carnivore
Grows a scorpion tail and hungers insatiably for raw meat. Tends to live about 1d6 days before succumbing to hunger and eating itself.

Vile Plants
As a ritual, Vile Plants can be cast with half the requirements of others (1 cultist, 15 minutes, 2 HP of caster's blood). The spell can have two different, but related, outcomes (determined by caster).
1. All poisonous, carnivorous or thorny plants in an area 20' in diameter will grow from seed to full adult size over the next 24 hours.
2. The caster can pass through plants and undergrowth without leaving any traces of their passage for 2 hours (no broken branches, torn leaves or bent grass). Footprints are still left in the dirt, but the plants provide exceptional cover. Additionally, any intelligent creature disturbing any plants touched by the caster for the next day will break out with a severe rash, as if they'd been in poison ivy.

Briar Shield
The caster is able to instantly grow thorny briars on or over an organic object. As the briars grow the caster can shape them to their wishes and must determine an "unlock" passphrase. The thorns dig into the organic material covered (causing no real pain), in such a way that if they are forcibly removed the object covered is destroyed, or at least defaced. The Cult of Blood and Briar uses this spell most frequently to hide their faces so that if their mask is removed without their consent their face is ripped off with it, preserving the secret of their identity. They have also been known to use this spell to hide hostages and treasure. Being covered in the briars provides protection as leather armor (AC 11) and deals 1d4 damage if used offensively. Briars last for 3 days or until unlocked.

Sweet Thorn
This ritual requires two whole thorny plants (roots and all), which transform into 10 sweet thorns (plus an additional 1d4 for each extra participating cultist). The thorns look like large bramble thorns (2" to 3" long), and smell like buttery cookies pulled fresh from the oven. If these thorns are stabbed into, or carried by a creature, the cultists who created the thorns are able to scry the carrier using a bowl filled with the blood of animals less than 6 weeks old.

Aster Flam, proprietor of Tallowyck's Candle Shop in Shearing, recently began making short, fat, sweet smelling candles using these thorns as the wick. When burned in this manner they emit a strong, but initially pleasant, cloying scent that sticks to clothes and hair for about 6 hours. While the cultists cannot track or scry anyone covered in these odor clouds, the smell attracts albino ravens[PAGE].

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hex 0809 - 0804

The game begins in the fall, before the snows have come. All plant descriptions reflect this. Entries are roughly structured in the following way:

HEX - Point of Interest Name (encounter table)
Unmissable: What can be seen[more information about it]

The Dark: DM only information about the point of interest

0809 - Heaven's View Peak (Mountains)

Unmissable: trail[dirt, runs up mountain, well traveled], alder trees[clump around path, smooth red-brown bark, bark partially stripped on several, loaded with small brown fruits (inedible) that look like tiny fuzzy pine cones],  boulders[pink granite, rough, rubble, recent, crushed alders beneath], ferns

The Dark: The Karsta family (Weavers) and Garva family (Tanners) visit this spot frequently to care for the alder trees and harvest their parts to make dye.  Can be used to make red-orange, black, and yellow dyes for cloth and leather, and a bright flame-red hair dye favored by the young men and women of the valley.

The trail: half a mile long, up the mountain, moderate climb, ends at large flat area of pinkish stone, 50' in diameter with clear views of the Horned Mountain Region.

Pink Stone Clearing:

Unmissable: boulders[pink granite, ring the clearing unevenly, white lichen spots, one missing], smooth gravel ground, standing stone[10' tall, black obsidian, jagged, center of clearing, round "window" through stone 6' off ground, grey lichen, faded ancient runes (sun?, people? unclear)]

The Dark: Looking through the hole at sunset will reveal a secret you seek three times in your life.

Views from the clearing:

            West: Black Orchid Bog[bright red leaves of twisted birch trees, hammered silver mirrored water, waves of yellow grass]

            South: Icewater Lake and Screeching Forest[dark pine woods, wispy drifts of fog, the lake is a clear deep silvery blue, glimpses of the east-west trade road through the trees]

            East: The Mouth of Horned Mountain Valley and Screeching Forest[dark pine woods rolling over broken hills, hearthsmoke rising from Mendel's Cross[1009], stained grey and white walls and tower of the Reliquary of St. Claudia[0908] with conic roofs of red-orange tile]

            North: Horned Mountain Valley with Stoneface Mountain rising beyond[dark pine woods, hearthsmoke from the town of Shearing, silver flash of Logfloat River through the trees, tiny white houses of the shepherd clans (Utag, Gordic, Roken) on green hills, rugged peaks and snowfields]

0808 - The Crack (Mountains)

Unmissable: small, treeless, rocky, valley between peaks, huge crack in the ground[250' long, uneven width, 20' wide in some places, 4' wide in others], foul stench[carrion? rot?], no breeze, feels stale here, streaks in the dirt[large, uneven, like things have been drug into the crack]

The Dark: Numerous (2d10+5) Giant Spiders of varying (large) sizes live in The Crack. Function much like trapdoor spiders. Weave webs inside the crack but send fine runner threads into the valley throughout the area. When a runner thread is tripped the giant spider who owns it emerges rapidly (surprise DC 21). The spiders usually keep their territory in the valley evenly divided so tripping multiple lines will often only result in a single spider unless you run as fast as you can parallel to the crack. The crack is so full of webs, spider eggs and desiccated corpses that it will burn rapidly. This will however encourage every spider to emerge nearly simultaneously.

0807 - Gold Needle Ropes (Mountains)

Unmissable: Huge pine and fir trees [70'-120' high], small buildings[3, field stone, wood shingle roofs, heavy wooden shutters, heavy wooden doors, yellow banners], pavilions[5, 10' diameter, cloth, rust colored, wooden tables, chairs and crates under each], tents[1d10+3, can sleep 4, cloth, rust colored], campfires, square wooden towers[2, 50' high, no door, multiple ropes connect towers to each other and to trees, bumps and knobs visible on sides], wooden platforms[in trees], ropes and nets and chains[strung between trees, ceramic bells, yellow flags and boards hang from them, look like suspended bridges in some places]

The Dark: Known to people from the valley. This is the training area for the Gold Needles [PAGE]. Young men and women from the valley between the ages of 15 and 17, live here throughout much of each summer and fall. They are trained by the Gold Needles in running, hiking, climbing, wilderness survival skills, and all things archery. Everyone loves the ropes course and ziplines and a valley wide midsummer festival is thrown here every year.

0806 - The Sunburst of Rope and Bells (Valleys of the Damned)

NOTE: The only "easy" way into this hex is by following a mountain path that begins in hex [0906] next to the Gold Needle Lodge. If players insist on entering it through a different way, it will take them 1d4 days to find a usable trail through the rugged mountains here.

If the players are following the path from [0906]:

The mountain path enters a deep canyon with sheer, 100' walls. The Sunburst of Rope and Bells is encountered just past the first bend in the canyon.

Unmissable: giant rope "web"[resembles a spiderweb, completely blocks path, 30', like a tangled dream catcher], giant representation of the sun[animal hides, painted yellow, stretched on ropes, 20' diameter], gourds[hang from ropes], strings of ceramic circles[hang from ropes, chiming ring when moved (normally by wind)], crystal fragments[hang from ropes, scattered on ground in rough line across path, iridescent], pyramidal twig sculptures[twisted, hang from ropes, scattered on ground], strips of cloth[some yellow, some rust colored, hang from ropes]

The Dark: The Sunburst of Rope and Bells was constructed as a joint effort between the Clearwater and Whitefeather families (Shamans). The back of the hide sunburst is painted with the face of a male warrior with wild black hair and golden warpaint who appears to be screaming in rage. The hides generate a small amount of heat that can be felt when nearby. Many of the Gold Needles say this heat is the fury of the warrior, but it serves to prevent snow from accumulating on the construction. Large sheep horns (made by the Whitefeathers) are attached to the warrior side of the sunburst, and from the warrior side, the gourds that hang from the ropes have been cut to resemble eyes.

If undead approach the sunburst from the warrior side and are seen by the gourd eyes all the horns will begin to sound, as if each were a large war horn. This sound is loud enough to be heard clearly at Gold Needle Lodge [0906].

The small crystal shards on the sunburst collect sunlight during the day and glow softly at night (or in the dark). The light emitted by these crystals functions like true sunlight, with a radius of about 5', but they only emit the amount of sunlight they absorb each day (e.g., if they are in the sun for 6 hours then they will emit sunlight in the dark for 6 hours).

The only way to pass through the sunburst (without cutting) is by crawling or climbing through the openings made by the rope "web". Each of these openings is adorned with strings of circular ceramic bells (made by the Clearwaters) that, when disturbed, rings a twin strand of bells in Gold Needle Lodge. It is possible, but relatively difficult (Dexterity (Acrobatics) DC 17) to pass through an opening without sounding the bells. High ranking members of the Gold Needles and members of the Clearwater family know how to temporarily disable to bell alarm for silent passage.


NOTE: Hex [0804] and [0805] are part of the Hidden Valley of Aspens [0804 and 0805]. This valley can only be entered easily by passing through The Valleys of the Damned and Restless Paths [0906 -> 0806 ->0905 -> 0904 -> 0804 -> 0805]. Attempting to enter this hex from another way may be possible, but will take an additional 1d4+4 days due to the rugged and mountainous terrain.

Hidden Valley of Aspens - General Information - Ground rocky and uneven like crumpled paper. Tall aspen trees with white trunks and yellow leaves. Pale white flowers grow among the leave litter despite the coming cold and bright blue lightning bugs fly high up in the treetops every night. It feels peaceful here, except at the blighted points of interest, and sleeping in the valley confers [SOMESORTOFBONUSIDON'TKNOWYET].

0805 - The Oozing Pentagram (Valleys of the Damned)

Unmissable: black substance[on the ground, goopy, bubbly, tarry looking, unbroken lines and curves 3' wide, seems to undulate when glimpsed out of the corner of your eye], fungus[small, white, like large wrinkled rasins, grows in the black goop], noxious odor[like the unwashed feet of lepers, it's the fungus], dead aspens[completely black with dripping leaves, only aspens touched by the black lines, others are fine], low humming noise

The Dark: The black lines and curves form a pentagram nearly 500' in diameter. At each point of the star there is a ring of white fungus 4' in diameter. At the center of the pentagram is a twisted and ancient pine tree, with no needles, made of sparkling white stone and marbled with the black goop. This tree was once a gold pine like the one found in hex [0907], before being corrupted and petrified by the necromancer Salmu Seru as part of his ritual to defeat the Goldmother (more info on [PAGE]).

Anything touching the black goop will become stuck (Strength (Athletics) DC 20) and be slowly (1d6+2 days) sucked into the black line. With the right ritual, a powerful necromancer can command anything that was sucked into the pentagram to be "spat out" as a skeletal thrall that drips black goo.

What's stuck in the goo? A 2d4 table

  • 2.    An ochre jelly... just kidding, it's not stuck
  • 3.    A cultist sent by Orana to "perform an important spell" (i.e., test the effects of the pentagram)
  • 4.    Tiny fluffy woodland creatures
  • 5.    Elk
  • 6.    A ghoul attempting to eat a trapped elk
  • 7.    A zombie sent by Orana to test her most recent spell/theory
  • 8.    An evil wizard who once followed Orana but attempted to claim the pentagram's power for himself

0804 - The Broken Spire (Valleys of the Damned)

Unmissable: Crumbling Tower on a hillside[grey stone, rippled, lumpy, organic stone, veins of reddish mortar, toothy crenellations, arrow slits like serpent's eyes, top two floors mostly collapsed, lichen like mold on bread], aspens[dead, like white skeletal hands, bend away from the tower, cracked, splintered], path[below tower, well worn, heads south into 0805, puddles of black goop, tar(?)], elk heads on spears[no skin, varying states of decay, candles in eyes lit at night]

The Dark: This will be a dungeon.

Quick 'n Dirty Notes: This is the ruined tower of Salmu Seru, Necromancer of the Garnet Eye and Blight of the Silk Fields of Noor. He grew this tower like a cancer from the mountain with black magics that can still be felt like lightning in the ears. He cursed the Valley of the Aspens and used its corruption to fight and trap the Goldmother. Imperfections in his ritual to trap the nature deity, vaporized him, and destroyed much of the tower. It remained empty for many years.

A sorceress named Orana has recently moved in. She knows something powerful is trapped in Horned Mountain Valley, but does not know exactly what. She's heard of the Goldmother but it doesn't really mean anything to her. She spends much of her time trying to enter and research in Salmu's libraries in the tower's basement to find a way to corrupt this thing she can fell and make its power her own. Big Bad Evil Gal. More Info to come.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Nightmares in the Valley

As far as I know I didn't have nightmares last night, but when I woke up I wanted to write some for Horned Mountain Valley. My thought is that they would be good ways to hint at bigger things and potentially ratchet up the intensity. The plan would be to put the dreams on slips of paper and pass them to the players after their first or second rest, and let them take or leave them. It may also be fun to only give the dreams to a single player with an empathetic or naturey character since in many ways these dreams are very much "Help me! Save me!" kinda things.

DALeast in Vienna
What did you dream last night? A 1d12 table
  1. No visuals can be recalled but "She fights in the dark" repeats in your mind.
  2. A clearing at night in the snow. Five white skulls, each mounted on a black spear, stand at the five points of a pentagram made of blood. Long gold "hair" grows from each. The first is golden flowers. The second is yellow aspen leaves. The third is gold pine needles. The fourth is wrinkled, honey colored fungus. The fifth is your flesh, as is the blood.
  3. It is sunset in the pines. The ground is their rust colored needles. The sky is golden through the trees. You hear a baby crying. You cannot see it but know you must find it. You run and the rusted needles stab your feet and tear your naked body as you fall.
  4. A male elk with large antlers and no flesh oozes black. It eats a faceless man you recognize as your grandfather and births you in black blood. Gold ravens scream from the trees.
  5. Owls hang upside down from tree branches. Burdened by the weight of their antlers. They screech and fall. Piercing hands and feet. A skinless elk watches from afar as you struggle and rip your flesh.
  6. A giant man with a red beard of soft wavy hair kneels in a clearing as if in supplication. Ropey black ooze restrains him. He rips out of his body to be free. Skeletal hands tear off the beard and face, and it explodes into blue flowers.
  7. Red foxes with gold eyes run through summer meadows carrying fluffy yellow chicks in their mouths. White foxes with black feet bring the snow as they run. White swallows red with a single gulp and grows antlers.
  8. Wind moans and sings out of cracks in the ground. Black gashes on pink fleshy granite. Yellow aspen leaves spin in a whirlwind from the cavern maws. They cut your face as white trunks splinter around you.
  9. A naked man wears a black wolf's head on his own. It's fresh blood paints his chest and shoulders. His stomach smiles red and spills his guts to hide his nakedness. Sun melts from the wolf's eyes.
  10. She was there behind the stone turned flesh without the skin, but ran. The meat grew thorns of rot and bullfrogs vomit clouds of flies to hide her from you.
  11. White pinpricks in black pits. The fleshless elk keeps his eyes locked on yours as you keep your antlers locked with his. Your velvet itches with fever and your hands claw at it blindly. Bloody fuzz sluffs off and into him. White pinpricks in black pits.
  12. The bear that drank the river lies bloated in the winter sun. Brittle in your hands it cracks and spills it all back out again. Gold fish in blocks of ice drown you as the leeches suck your blood. It tries to save you again. Tries to plug its shattered self, but the light wanes from its enfeebled eyes.
Build your own
  • Positive symbol fragments: gold, yellow, blue, flowers, aspens, bear, ravens, wolves, "her", "she"
  • Evil symbol fragments: black, snow, stone, elk, skinless, frogs, ooze, pentagrams, "him"
  • Can go either way: owls, foxes, pines, wind, bones, pain, blood, antlers, maleness, femininity
Alfonso Casas Moreno - Yellow (throwing up butterflies) - 2013

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Horned Mountain Valley - Region

Check out that rapid iteration. I decided I needed to flip North/South on my map and I really like how it changed it. Silly that something so simple could make it feel so different (and so much better). And now, to continue from where I left off yesterday, information about the Horned Mountain Valley region.

The East-West Trade Road
Major trade caravans run the great East-West Trade Road on a seasonal circuit, hauling all manner of goods, but smaller, more regional companies can have a rotational schedule past Horned Mountain Valley as short as four weeks. The road is relatively safe, with most threats coming from the local flora and fauna instead of organized humanoids, but shallow caves around Icewater Lake have provided refuge to bandits before and likely will again. Groups of flagellant pilgrims, bearing litters of the wounded, ancient and insane, can be found on the road with some regularity en route to the Blessed Waters of Plenia far to the east. The pilgrims, unlike the merchants, almost always pass the valley by, but both groups whisper that it is a cursed place in cursed mountains.

Who's on the Road? A 2d6 table
2. A major trade caravan headed east
3. An individual pilgrim headed to the Reliquary of St. Claudia [0908]
4. Nothing but trees and elk
5. A small trade caravan headed east
6. A solo adventurer headed east
7. Nothing but trees and elk
8. 1d4+1 adventurers headed west
9. A small trade caravan headed west
10. Nothing but trees and elk
11. A 2d12+4 pilgrims headed east to the Blessed Waters of Plenia
12. A major trade caravan headed west

The Screeching Forest
Misty woods of ancient pine, spruce and fir shade the east-west trade road and fill Horned Mountain Valley. Locals and travelers alike call this coniferous expanse The Screeching Forest after the echoing cries of the small grey owls who hop between its branches. The owls, called "screechers" by locals and "pine howlers" by travelers, sound like a louder and more terrifying version of a barn owl (get thee to the youtubes!), and their population is so large that the forest is never without their cries.

Icewater Lake
Much of the meltwater from the Horned Mountains flows into Icewater Lake, keeping it incredibly cold and clear year round. Black bears are known to inhabit shallow caves along its shores and typically do a good job of deterring bandits from using them as safe houses along the east-west trade road. Some say there's quite a bit of treasure up in those caves from back when Garic Redwind's gang terrorized the road before Lamplight sank into the swamp, but if anyone's found it, they've never returned with proof.

Lamplight Ruins
Metal has always been a relatively scarce commodity around Horned Mountain Valley. Most all major known veins in the Horned Mountains are controlled by the Braidbeard dwarves to the east in their kingdom behind the Redsteel Door. About a century ago, a valley family with the name of Skall, discovered they could extract iron from Black Orchid Bog through secret methods. The town of Lamplight bloomed rapidly around their smithies on the east-west trade road and for a time all was good. The Skalls crafted masterwork metal tools and weapons of black steel that people from the valley came to call Bogmetal and Bogblades. Bandits set up along the roads and the region began to destabilize as established trade routes were disrupted and numerous factions tried to get their hands on both bogblades and the secrets of their creation.

But the boomtown of Lamplight was not to last. No one knows exactly how it happened, and every family has its own theory as to why, but one clear morning at precisely 11:00am, 95% of Lamplight sank into Black Orchid Bog. Some say they saw strange golden lights in the skies the night before, and others say the mountains were draped in shifting colors an hour before the destruction. Local merchant families believe the Braidbeard dwarves felt threatened by the growing popularity of bogmetal and engineered Lamplight's destruction by digging and collapsing secret tunnels in an effort to protect their trade. But by far the most popular theory in the valley places the blame on the evil that sleeps in Windsong Cave [1308] because the snows came late that year.

No matter the cause, Lamplight sank into the swamp, taking the whole Skall family, the secret of bogmetal, and most of the town's population with it. The few remaining bogblades in Horned Mountain Valley are prized as signs of wealth and power and are passed down within their family from generation to generation.

But gold, in trees, and there's a lady version too
Black Orchid Bog
A variety of twisted and hunched white barked birch tree thrives in the waterlogged lowlands known as Black Orchid Bog. In the fall before the snows come, their leaves turn a bright, flame colored red, and black orchids bloom in their branches. Most of the orchids bloom with long trailers of black stars, but every so often, one will bloom with gold flowers that look like tiny naked human men or women. The inhabitants of Horned Mountain Valley call these "Children of the Goldmother" and when a lover wishes to become the life mate of their partner, it is customary to propose with a gold orchid harvested by their own hand. Black Orchid Bog is a dangerous place however, and many who set out to find the Children never return.

The Nesting Fields
In the spring, thousands of white stonesong birds mate and raise their young in these fields. Resembling large geese, stonesong birds are capable of breathing petrifying clouds of glittering blue dust as a defensive mechanism. They began nesting here several generations ago, shortly after Lamplight sank. Statues of wolves, foxes, and would be hunters from the valley dot the plains here as a testament to the slow learning process of that first spring. Some families travel to the fields each fall to clean the statues of their great-great-grandparents and hunt for useful items dropped by the foolish wizards who still attempt to study or capture the birds.
But bigger, meaner and with worse breath

The Horned Mountains
Most travelers believe the Horned Mountains were named for their craggy peaks, but this is only partially true. Every normal, non-magical, non-intelligent bird, mammal or amphibian born in the mountains or mountain valleys of this region grow horns of some time. The type of horn varies widely from species to species, but is always the same within the species itself. For example, rabbits grow a single forward pointing horn in the middle of their skulls, frogs grow spiraled horns along their spines, owls and foxes sport antlers, and domesticated dogs grow curled ones like a big horned sheep. Corvids (crows and ravens), wolves, and all types of cat are immune to this process and appear totally normal.

The growth of horns is completely based upon the creature's location of birth. If a mother owl with antlers, builds her nest within The Screeching Forest, all owls born from that clutch will grow up antler-free. Should she fly across the east-west trade road and lay next year's clutch in the mountains, these owlets will sprout antlers as they age.

Inhabitants of Horned Mountain Valley treat horned animals as totally normal, everyday things, and delight at the shock foreigners get when seeing them. Particularly beautiful or ugly specimens sell well to traveling merchants as exotic curiosities, and scholarly wizard types have been known to spend years in the mountains studying this phenomenon. Some say the animals were not always this way, and that their transformation is the result of a curse cast upon the land when the Goldmother abandoned it long ago.