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.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Update and a 5e Hexcrawl

 Hello. Somehow it became the middle of July. Life and work is rushing by in a blur that's only going to get faster because there is a baby on the way. It's that slight edge of terror that makes beauty and wonder what they are and I'm running right along it.

Swordfish Islands is in a place of blackness and despair. It's like an ingrown hair, swollen and warm and red with a touch of fever. Bubbling up the skin, but steadfastly unwilling to pop. Clawing at it just rips the skin around it while leaving it undamaged and itchy. To be slightly less dramatic, I burned up all my energy fighting to get it to the point it is (content done), and the next part (printing/binding) seems like it's going to be an insurmountable task to get it done like I want to get it done. It wouldn't be so bad if the printers I've spoken to so far hadn't been so... delightful. Apparently, because I want to plan my page count based off of available paper sizes and don't want to choose my paper size based off a locked in, laid out page count, I'm an asshole that "wants to change the industry". It's exhausting and I don't think it's ever going to get better 'cause all the surviving printshops have specialized themselves so much into the junk mail trade that they honestly don't know what to do when a person wants a book that'll require signatures.

So, in order to take my mind off things, I picked up the Starter Set for D&D 5e with the intent to run some games. I like a lot about the new stuff (the whole advantage/disadvantage really resonates with me), but I thought the prepackaged adventure "Lost Mine of Phandelver" was kinda lame, so I decided to take all the monsters that came with the adventure and remix them up into hexcrawl I'm calling "Goldmother's Vale".

I wanted to make something light and all mine that I could bootleg off into the wilds of the internet as a weird zine thing without co-writers, side-project contracts, or a desire to make it into a smyth-sewn book. I'll probably start rattling around for an artist shortly and hit up some people in my circles to come up with rumor tables (those just seem to be so much better when a person who didn't do any writing on the world comes up with them, but I mean, since the other person doesn't know what you know, their fresh perspective will lead to different dot connecting and speculation and thus vastly superior rumors).

So yeah... I'm taking all my emoness and excitement and terror and hate and love and wonder and awe, and crumpling it all up into a little world of pine trees and mountains and nature corrupted by necromancy. It's been very cathartic. Have an intro...

An Intro
Goldmother's Vale is a small sandbox hexcrawl built from the repurposed, reskinned, and remixed monsters of D&D 5e's Lost Mine of Phandelver with a couple maps by Dyson motherfucking Logos. The game centers around the town of Shearing, a place of cool, pine choked valleys and green pastoral mountains ringed by snowcapped peaks. Shearing has a population of about 700, but numerous homesteads place the total human population of the valley at around 1500. The small community is relatively insular and I personally recommend that all players begin the game as human residents of Shearing instead of a drifting menagerie of murderhobos. If characters have direct (yet randomly generated) ties to the town and people of the valley, the ties can serve as situational motivators and complicators as problems begin to emerge over the course of play. That said, the valley is situated on a relatively well traveled trade route and the caravans frequently bring finished metal goods to trade for the valley's renowned woolen goods, wood crafts and syrup. Mendel's Cross [0906], once just a simple inn at the mouth of the valley, has begun to slowly grown into a semi-respectable trader's market, so there are plenty of ways to work in players who want their characters to have more exotic beginnings. Players should start at level one, but no balance has been applied to the random encounter tables. Sometimes negotiation or flight is the best answer.

The Northern Greenlands

The town of Shearing is located in Horned Mountain Valley, in cold, pine covered northern latitudes, and should be good to be plugged into any taiga type geographical region in your world.