Monday, March 8, 2021

The Amazon: Female-as-class for Howardian/Homeric Iron Age Swords and Sorcery Games

Historically, women are not front-line combatants. Mythologies and folk histories are full of tales of memorable men with women fulfilling a supporting or object role. There are numerous tales of women who take up the male role in societies or garb themselves in arms and armor and ascend from their prescribed societal role in order to become heroes. In this event they are contrasted from the rest of their female counterparts as taking on the male role and in many cases disguise themselves in order to do so. 

The players rules document explain that every character rolled is male. This creates uniformity of sex among the characters and facilitates the integration into domain play by marriage. If every character is male then the procedure for marriage can be modeled on a man asking for a woman's hand or a woman's hand being offered by her father. Obviously if your setting does not assume a patriarchal historical marriage norm, you may need to discard or adapt these rules

The Amazon class is then the female character or a female-as-race class, in the same way that an elf class is a race as class. In order to qualify to play an Amazon a character rolled requires a minimum of 12 on their charisma and has a maximum of 12 in Thews (strength). In my games the attribute roll is a 2d6+3 which results in 22.4% of characters qualifying to play as an Amazon. The Amazon is not listed in the player rules document, and a player is only informed of their ability to play one by the roll of the dice. This makes the choice to play one have to be a deliberate action from the player. 

While wearing a helm an Amazon is mechanically equivalent to a fighting man of an equal level, but the removal of her helm results in a new reaction roll. The requirement of a minimum 12 of charisma results in the lowest possible reaction roll being a 3, which means that with the removal of a helm an Amazon cannot cause immediate attack (roll of snake eyes) and instead has roughly a 73% chance of turning a encounter with a hostile reaction roll into a neutral one. This is to model the cultural effect of revealing a woman who has taken on male societal roles. This results in the XP requirement of an amazon to be 120% of a fighting man's or 200% of a thief's. 

The only other difference from a fighter is that an Amazon does not roll on the dismemberment table. Instead all results are treated as if rolling a 5 aka internal wounds resulting in a subtraction of 1d6+1 from a character's maximum HP. I do this to avoid having to go into graphic depictions of violence against women at the table as they are slain by monsters in the underworld. 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Moldvay's Visions of the Underworld: Iron-age Swords and Sorcery Bestiary

My dear friend Wizzzargh has been writing a series of posts on how he changes the aesthetics and dynamics of the inhabitants of the AD&D monster manual since 2019. I have enjoyed these posts and he suggested I do the same. This a look at the monsters (not men nor beast) detailed in Basic '81 as how they may be utilized in a iron-age swords and sorcery milieu. The "playable" demihumans have been omitted as they are not traditional underworld denizens. 

Bug-bear

3HD, 3 in 6 surprise, +1 damage

So in the older editions these are depicted with jack-o-lanterns for heads. Surprisingly there is another monster which also has a similar appearance and aptitude.

“It was huge, like the harvest moon, huge and amber. But this Moon had eyes that burned in its pallid, pitted face. They were for all the world like wounds, those eyes, as thought someone had gouged them in the flesh of Rawhead's face then set two candles to flicker in the holes. Garrow was entranced by the vastness of this Moon. He looked from eye to eye and then to the wet slits that were its nose, and finally, in a childish terror, down to its mouth. God, that mouth. It was so side, so cavernous. It seemed to split the head in two as it opened.” Rawhead Rex - Clive Barker

Raw-head Rex appears as a tall lanky and hairy creature with a moon-face smooth like raw meat. I think this may have been the original inspiration of the monster.

In the original story, RR acts as a very phallic symbol and is implicit with the horror of rape. The fear of pregnant women or those menstruating isn’t something needed in my game as that’s crossing over past the PG13 territory and further doesn’t really have a place in any game focused on physical exploration of dangerous places. Also my games assume all male characters with a female-as-class which has attribute requirements for play, so it doesn’t seem like a good way for players to demonstrate their skill of understanding the milieu. 

Thus bug-bears are forest dwelling spirits of destruction worshipped by ancient men. They appear at night and fight with no weapons, instead possessing a supernatural power strong enough to rip men in half. 

Bug Bear [3HD, armor as leather, ripping claws or bite 1d8+1, 3 in 6 chance to surprise, morale 8]

A group of beings stand before you, each lankly and covered in matted fur. Each stands two heads taller than a man and it's arms end in great claws. The head of each is utterly hairless, deathly pale, and larger than a pumpkin. Two eyes, deep set like stab wounds, are set above a pair of slit nostrils. A cavernous mouth opens cleaving the head into half spheres revealing predatory teeth.

Carrion Crawler

3HD, 8 paralytic attacks, walk on walls

In my games these turned into a less hardcore xenomorph from alien. So there are 3 stages, egg, larva, and adult. Adult is the classic example. Eggs rupture if a person steps within 5’ or if a torch is brought within 10’ with the baby carrion crawler reacting to body heat. They are essentially a save vs paralysis for 2d4 minutes. If the character fails to save, it crawls down their throat and emerges into a larval version (1HD) exiting from their intestines in 2d4 days killing them. The larval version’s paralysis lasts for 2d4 turns. The larval versions will lay eggs into the stomachs of their paralyzed prey and then depart. 

Also I think 8 paralytic attacks is a bit much, so I just turn it into 4 attacks but with a range as long as a spear allowing the carrion crawler to attack the 2nd rank. The adult carrion crawler itself does not lay eggs into people, only setting up the eggs as traps. 

Carrion Creeper Egg [Carrion Crawler eggs will have their progeny emerge in response to body heat. A character who approaches within 2' of an egg will have 1d6 child carrion crawlers burst forth and the character must then roll save vs paralysis for a number of minutes equal to the child carrion crawlers. The carrion crawlers will attempt to crawl into the paralyzed victim and in 2d4 days will mature enough to burst forth as Young Carrion Creepers. If a torch, or a similar source of heat, is brought within 5' of the eggs all of them will burst with the creepers seeking the heat.]

Four 3' tall, pale green oval-shaped almost spherical shapes stand together each covered in gray ichor. 

Young Carrion Creeper [1 HD, armor as leather, 4 tentacle strikes which cause a save vs paralyze for 2d6 minutes or bite for 1 hp, crawl up walls, morale 8]

A vibrant green caterpillar twice as long as a man's leg squirms forward, four tentacles writhe as it rises upwards like a snake, opening its maw.

Adult Carrion Creeper [3 HD, armor as leather, 4 tentacle strikes which cause a save vs paralyze for 2d4 turns or bite for 1d8, the tentacles may attack as longspears, crawl up walls, morale 9]

A massive green caterpillar nearly 15' long crawls forward, four tentacles, each 5' long undulate seeking flesh as it opens a maw of churning teeth.

Doppleganger

4HD, transform into anything it sees

In my games these are the biological creations of Egg of Tenyks as opposed to the metal men which normally carry the Egg’s banner. They can not only mimic the visuals of those hey see but can also mimic the voices of others that they hear. They are sent to sow destruction and discord and travel in groups of 1-6 (wow that’s enough to replace most of a party) and will present themselves as heralds wishing to meet with local men of authority. They will then impersonate those men and commit violence as they attempt to pass themselves off as them. The tell of a doppleganger is that they can only blink manually, much like how the Teethousand would not blink when firing his firearm.

Dragon 

12HD, flying, breath weapon as HP, lots of treasure, may have multiple heads

In my games, each one has a name (like The Black Dragon) and only appear in a wilderness lair or dungeon room but never as a random encounter. Civilization knows where a dragon is and avoids those places.  A dragon whose hoard is robbed will exit it’s domain and begin destroying the countryside as in Beowulf. Dragons do not lay eggs, instead arising long after the breaking of a great taboo by greed such as slaying one’s own brother to obtain treasure as in Fáfnir. 

Gargoyle

4HD, Armor as plate, immune to non-magical weapons, 4 attacks, fly, immune to charm and sleep

Mechanically these are monsters which require players to think beyond “I cast sleep” or “I attack”. These are obstacles to be overcome by tying them up, activating a trap on them, or locking them behind a stone door. I think that is the core identity of a gargoyle as opposed to a flying statue that comes to life and potentially slays 4 different characters per turn.  

When I was I kid I grew up watching digimon and I remember seeing a very strangely shaped one called Shakkoumon. It remember later learning that it was based on an old japanese artifact known as Shakōkidogū which were discussed in Chariots of the Gods as representing ancient alien visitors wearing a spacesuit. The design of the Shakōkidogū was also present in the 3rd generation pokemon games as Claydol, a pokemon which I really liked aesthetically. The games give the following lore about it:

Claydol are said to be dolls of mud made by primitive humans and brought to life by exposure to a mysterious ray. This Pokémon moves about while levitating. - Ruby

Claydol is an enigma that appeared from a clay statue made by an ancient civilization dating back 20,000 years. This Pokémon shoots beams from both its hands. - Sapphire

While gargoyles existed in Egyptian and Grecian antiquity, they strike me as very much a gothic architectural element. I much prefer using the Jomon period constructs as they could be buried guardians which predate the player characters and thus have reason to be within a dungeon. The Shakōkidogū remind me of the golems/robots found within Laputa Castle in the Sky, and the notion of ancient constructs powered by psychic energy capable of unleashing beams of destruction fits the swords-and-sorcery aesthetic very well for me. 

You might say that unleashing a line of destruction, similar to a dragon’s breath attack, is to powerful for a gargoyle. But if it were swapped with the 4 attacks I think it would be a fair trade, especially as breath weapons occur every 1d4 rounds rather than every round. 

"Gargoyle" aka Shakokidogu [4HD,  armor as plate, 90' line of destruction dealing damage equal to HP save vs half or slam 1d8, must wait 1d4 rounds between firing lines of destruction, immune to non-magical weapons, immune to charm and sleep, able to fly, morale 11]

Before you stands a construct of stone shaped to be a man thrice the height of a normal one. The figure's arms hang down past it's knees and it stands on all fours as a gorilla. Repeated patterns of auspicious petroglyphs repeat upon it's skin and a single vertical red eye has been painted upon it's forehead. The figure turns it's head towards you and suddenly an orb red light begins to coalesce around the vertical eye. 

Ghoul

2 HD, 3 attacks, paralysis, undead

Ghouls are one of my favorite monsters in fiction. I think they’re a great monster to put in a dungeon as they could simply show up to eat the corpses there. My only issue is with the paralysis and that they are not intelligent as they were in Lovecraft’s works. The paralysis, alongside 3 attacks makes them effective at destroying a party as they are encountered in groups and are always hostile. 

In my games I decided to remove the paralysis and replace it with being able to dig through the ground using their claws. Further I made them intelligent rather than beastial to allow better use of their burrowing abilities. Instead of being man-like beasts which haunt dungeons they have become cannibals who can burrow beneath a house to feast on the flesh of the inhabitants. 

Ghouls are also a possible race-as-class in my games if the players make friends with a den of them or become on by a curse.

Lovecraftian Ghoul as Class


Unless otherwise stated: as a Chaotic Fighting-Man

  1. Bite attack as light weapon or 2 claws as medium weapon. Attacks made with Man-made weapons deal a maximum of half of variable damage. [A ghoul fighting with an axe normally dealing 1d8 is would deal 4 points of damage on rolls of 4-8.]
  2. +4 save vs poisons
  3. Do not need to eat rations but may only heal by eating human flesh
  4. Clearly inhuman thus unable to engage in downtime actions within a settlement 
  5. Forces morale rolls from allied hirelings if they reveal their nature  
  6. Able to tunnel large enough for a man to crawl through upon their hands in knees through unworked earth at a speed of 5' per 2 levels per turn.
  7. Upon reaching level 4 become a “Worm of the Earth” able to engage in downtime actions as they are able to change their appearance to that of a corpse that they have eaten. Further, magic weapons no longer deal halved variable damage. 

Ghoul [2HD, armor as chain, bite and claws 1d8x3, fast, may dig through earth as worms, morale 10]

A bestial figure, impossibly gaunt, stares at you with a smile that stretches to its clavicles. The figure pulls its mouth open with its claws, the jaw dropping open from its clavicles unfurling a lashing forked tongue.


Lizard-men

2 HD +1, +1 damage, 12 morale

When I first read this entry I noticed the 12 morale as rather significant. Lizard men will never lose morale and retreat from combat. This alongside their 2HD and their +1 damage made me think of this as an artificial race created to wage war. Alternatively these could simply be fanatical warriors who would fight to the last man. In a Homeric game these could be Maenads. 

I would declare these to be the servants of the reptile god whose empire was destroyed by a cataclysm which sundered the very plane of existence. Through that gaping wound they fled into distant caves of lava. There they found the crystals which refracted the folding light and the unfolding light. They used these to unfold themselves and pass as men and folded others to serve as their beasts of burden. 

(Now you might say, wow Lungfungus what a daring synthesis of lizard-people conspiracies and hollow earth. Bro, this is just the plot of the Super Mario Bros movie. The world evolve use to mean unfurl/unfold so devolving could mean folding.)

Lycanthrope/Medusa/Minotaur



No need to change these, except maybe the non-wolf lycanthropes being lame.

Neanderthal

2HD, +1 damage

What I noticed when re-reading the entry was that each group of Neanderthals is lead by a pair of 6HD much larger Neanderthal and that Neanderthals will generally not be hostile unless attacked. The giant taller version reminded me of the K’n-yani aka the Xinaian from Lovecraft’s the Mound. 

The K’n-Yani appear physically terrifying. They are extremely tall some as tall as five meter and have yellow-grey skin. They have broad noses, and high foreheads and cheekbones, as well as a large, wide skull which elongates strangely in the back. Their teeth are broad and flat, and double rowed. Their hair ranges in color from black to wiry red.

I would rule that further these Neanderthal would be the proto-beings which later became men. They may not be the stereotypical cave-men but they would be instead any possible predecessor of humanity. These could range from those who once swelled within the terrestrial paradise and the K’n-Yani being the wielders of the flaming swords placed at the east, to them being ancient men of the Iron Age who survived their drowning by Cronus’s Bane and the K’n-Yani being their Othrysian attendants, or even them being first men carved from bark and the K’n-Yani being the giants born of Eiocha.

Shadow

2HD +2, 5in6 surprise, sap strength, immune to charm and sleep, immune to non-magical weapons, morale 12, cannot be turned

Like the lizard men, shadows do not fail morale and retreat from combat. They also are immune to the incapacitating level 1 spells and non-magical weapons. Further they only have a 1 in 6 chance of NOT surprising the party and when they do, they decrease the strength scores of characters. If we ignore the sapping of strength on a hit, we’re left with an entity that catches it’s foes unaware, is immune to mundane weaponry, is not effected by the level 1 incapacitation spells, and relentlessly fights and pursues it’s foes. 

Slasher villains come to mind, especially Candyman or Jason Voorhees. They appear from the shadows surprising the cast, are largely impervious to weapons, and continue to chase after their targets. Similarly so do the Erinyes from Greek myth.

Shadows are the psychic vestiges of violence and vengeance which coalesce to spill the blood of man. They may take many forms: some appear as shadowy figures ascending to grasp an additional dimension, some resemble those wronged bearing their wounds, others wear the guise of beasts of ill omen with glowing red eyes. 

Sidenote on Ghosts:

Ghosts are not monsters, they may exist alongside shadows and present way to end their existence, but they are not combat interactions. Ghosts present a great deal of interaction with the milieu and should not be reduced to a mere combat. They should be placed around the wilderness and underworld as means of changing it. Perhaps a ghost of tomb raider bars passage across a doorway until it’s corpse is brought up from the underworld and given a funeral. Perhaps a ghost resides in the ruins of tower and can tell of a safe path through the forest man-eating trees in exchange for a wineskin. Perhaps a ghost of a king walks the ramparts of a castle and may tell the player character of correct alignment that he was murdered allowing a character to slay the usurper and enter domain play. The cultural significance of ghosts presents such a wide array of interactions that to turn them into mere combat encounters is an excess of reduction. 

Wight

3HD, immune to non-magic weapons, level drain, undead

So in my games I got these confused with Ghasts or Wraiths or something. Thus they don’t have level drain but instead have a aura of weakness around them which imparts a -2 penalty on all rolls. I like to think of them as Nazgul as drawn by Ralph Bakshi. Ghastly figures which drain the life essence of those near them as they menace with their dark swords and leer with their glowing red eyes. 


Wight [3HD, armor as plate, phantasmal sword 1d8, all within 15' incur a -2 penalty on all rolls,  immune to non-magical weapons, morale as undead]

You torch light suddenly reveals cloud of shimmering darkness. A moment passes and the cloud coalesces into several shadowy red-eyed armored warriors each holding swords.The figures seem immaterial and almost illusory, but you feel your strength being sapped away in their presence

Kobold, Goblin, Orc, Hobgoblin, Gnoll, Ogre

These have no special abilities and just increase in HD. You can just make your own low HD monster-men. These are just demihumans who live in the underworld. I claim that the vast majority of them should simply be men of some sort. 

Within the underworld you could have a temple to a chthonic god populated by black robed clergy wearing horned masks, the training halls and vaults of a order of warriors, or even the bazzar of a once great empire stolen neath by a swarm of bats.

Skeleton, Zombie

These are as above but undead! I just use “walking corpses” as generic 1HD undead and try to make each more significant undead stand out by tying their death to their attributes. Men burned to death might rise as skeletons which are on fire and are able to point a finger and force objects to save vs catching a light. Similarly I try to have higher HD undead unique to specific burial rites of ancient dungeon making civilizations. The ancient Ytori bound the souls of men to their bones by golden masks and then placed them within giant urns of mud. Now those ancient spirits arise from the urns as gold masked mud-men who are able to envelop intruders in their muck and drown them. I don’t think it difficult to make these unique, and I think it adds a great deal to the created milieu. 

Further if encountered as a wandering monster roll, either in the underworld or the wilderness, another roll should be made for the type of undead being. I weigh my wilderness encounter tables to have a 3:2:1 ratio of men, beasts, and monsters which would lead to 50% of undead as walking corpses and another half as in-human carcasses or skeleton creeping from the darkness. If you have never hit your players with an animated skeleton of a hint crocodile emerging from waters I strongly suggest it! 



Sunday, September 20, 2020

On the Relationship of Surprise and Stealth

I've seen some different interpretations of how to make rulings about stealth in OSR games, but I have rarely seen surprise involved in those discussions. The two are very connected and a proper understanding of what surprise and stealth mean in an OSR game would allow referees to make rulings on the matter easily. [This post came from some discussion with Wizzzargh]

Implicit in the surprise roll, is that characters who are surprised by a wandering monster are not aware of the monsters until they appear and possibly attack. 

When possible, surprise is rolled for each side of an encounter. - Basic

This means that certain conditions remove the chance of surprise. Consider a chamber which contains ghouls feasting on a corpse past a door. A character who listens at a door and hears the sound of chewing and breaking bone would eliminate the party’s chance of being surprised by the ghouls as they would be aware of the entity past the door. Another thing to consider is what happens when the party is surprised by an enemy which rolls snake-eyes for their reaction roll, should that enemy be allies to slay their targets? Because if a character was able to successfully sneak up on an enemy with a dagger, I would absolutely rule that they could slit their throat.

Certain OSR rules grant increased damage for ambushes, such as LotFP’s sneak skill, or they divide character HP into Flesh and Grit and allow ambushes to deal damage directly to Flesh. But the reaction roll only has a 2.77% chance of encountered creatures attacking instantly. Coupled with the base 2 in 6 chance of being surprised this works out to be a 0.93% of characters being ambushed by a wandering monster encounter where they would be slain by being ambushed. The issue that arises in play is that even if monsters do not slay characters on an ambush and instead deal regular damage, it is often enough to severely disadvantage the players to where they will die. It feels like bad sportsmanship to include a random chance of death every turn.

I think a much more useful combination of surprise and the negative reaction roll is to create disadvantaged situations for the characters, surprised being more of ambushed. Consider an encounter with a lion where it has surprise and rolled a negative reaction. I think the lion pouncing from the tall grass atop of a player and clamping it’s jaws upon his throat to be a better use of the surprise round. That character is as good as dead without the quick thinking and wits of the other party members. This works well in conjunction with a negative reaction roll as hostility similar to how it would result in a group of sentient beings demanding a toll for passing rather than just being hostile before attacking on rolls of 3-5 of the reaction roll. 

Further this view of the encountered creature generating a disadvantage that the players must overcome, is a usable heuristic with different creatures using unique tactics. This would allow players to prepare against them and outwit their opponents just as they outwit traps. If the mermen of the Blue River always throw weighted nets over their foes in an ambush, the players would be wise to carry blades on their persons with which to quickly free themselves or to favor light armor so that they do not drown.

Player Stealth

The knowledge of an entity existing is an important consideration when making a ruling on stealthy movement. A character would not have a need to have dice decide the nature of their sneaking if no one is aware of them. Surprise must then be considered when a character (usually a thief) attempts to “stealth” for infiltration or ambush purposes. If the entity attempting stealth is aware of the other entities he would not roll to be surprised, but they still would be. In this way the 2 in 6 chance of being surprised would supersede the move silently/stealth roll. If the other entities were not surprised then the character’s stealth chance would be applied, essentially as a saving throw. This can further be a expanded to attempting to sneak past those aware or those unaware. Consider an assassin sneaking past guards to slay the king. If the guards were not aware of him entering the palace he would gain both the surprise chance and then sneaking save in his favor. Had the assassin killed the guard outside the King’s bed chamber, the guard may have dropped his mace which would have made the king become suspicious of an attacker. The assassin would not get the benefit of surprise over the king.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Creating the Wilderness from the Underworld: An expansion of a dungeon into a hexcrawl.

So as previously described here, the random distribution of a dungeon room fills is:

1-12: Empty (Room which does not have one of the following mechanical fills but still has aesthetics such as numerous corpses or a mosaic)
13: Dynamic (Changes the players or dungeon. Like a magic fountain which increases charisma, trapped NPC, or Orb which mutates the any who touches it into frogs)
14: Trap* (Deals damage, removes passages, standard )
15: Obstacle (Challenge to be overcome by player guile such as a room filled by 10' of water or a room of quicksand)
16-20: Monster 

With each room having a 1 in 5 chance of having treasure the sum of which is calculated as: Random Dungeon Floor Treasure = Number of Rooms * Level of the dungeon * 1/10th of the XP needed for a fighting man to reach level 2. Random treasure is further distributed in the following manner:

1-4: Open and visible
5: Passively hidden and will be found by close inspection (coins hidden beneath muddy water)
6: Actively hidden and found by interaction (finding the secret lever to open an alcove)
7: Single Damage (Essentially trapped*, such as golden statue covered in contact poison)
8: Repeated Damage ()

Exceptional treasure is further placed in an amount equal to half the total room treasure serving as "hoards" where it is found open and visible. Thus if a floor has 10K total treasure, there would be an additional 5K open and visible treasure as a hoard. I like to add one such room per 10 rooms of a floor. 

*Traps are to be foreshadowed so that players can use their skills of deduction to outsmart them.

The same distribution can be used to expand a dungeon into a wilderness which would give you 21 hex fills. I tend to use the wilderness as equal to about level 3 of a dungeon for treasure totals and monster statistics. If you use a hex density of 33% this would result in an additional 42 hexes. If we add another empty hex we would get 64 hexes which can be made into an 8 by 8 hex-crawl. Numerous such hexcrawls could be tessellated into a hexcrawl as campaigns continue. Further the creation of these 20 hexes from a dungeon results increased familiarity with the thematic elements of the dungeon and allow them to be foreshadowed and craft a more consistent milieu.

The following is an example of such an expansion using the Ytori Dungeon I had uploaded a while back.

Lands of the Meztil




The Meztil have red bronze skin, black hair, high cheek bones, and round faces. They cloak themselves in bright red wool garb bearing repeated blue geometric design. The men wear a cap with flaps that cover their ears while their women wear a single braid. Those rich wear gold upon their face. They worship a goddess of the moon who protects them and grants them their name sake. Their scribes and priests use the same script as the ancient Ytori. They tell of the fall of the ancient Ytori by worship of terrible chitinous and mandibled things beneath the darkness of the wandering green star. They tattoo their chests with flowers and their women wear large hooped earrings. Their homes are made of wood with roofs of thatched reeds. Their warriors wield spears, maces, and shield wearing armor made from woven reeds. The Meztil barter in golden nuggets rather than silver. The Meztil follow the Ytorian taboo of violence at night.

Hex 01.03
Amid the stone ruins here is a triptych mosaic which depicts a pack of hounds chasing men, the hounds biting off their heads, and then the hounds standing upright wearing the faces of men. 

Hex 01.06 
An engorged plant nearly 10' tall and easily over 20' across hangs with heavy golden translucent water filled fruits. Thousands of small blue flowers cover the top of the plant. Each of fruits is the size of a man's head and filled with sweet juice which bubbles when the fruit is opened to air. Those who drink the juice are filled with a warmth as if they were drunk.

Hex 02.01
The ruins of dozens of stone buildings circle a stone step pyramid. The northern face of the pyramid has a series of steps leading to the zenith where a stone chamber with a high five sided roof stands. Each face of the roof has been set with stones of a different color. There is a skeleton missing a skull at the entrance to the chamber. Inside the chamber are three stone statues clad in jade jewelry. At the center of the chamber is a low stone altar upon which a stone bowl stained with blood stands. The bowl is displaced towards the three statues such that one could bend over at the waist and their heads would fit in the bowl. Upon approach the three statues psychically ask "Do you wish to know fate fortold?" affirmations will result in them instructing one to approach and to place their heads in the bowl. Upon someone placing their heads in the bowl two of the statues will grab that persons arms while another will crush the skull in their hands. The three statues will then remove the brains and knead them into a ball. The statues will stand back as the brain matter will become translucent. The statues will then instruct one to peer inwards and see the future. 

Hex 02.04 Chimor Chiefdom of Meztil 800 men 
Walls of stacked stone surround the homes of the farmers of the Chimor. Each of the Chimor have tattoed a light blue band across their face forming a peak which stretches from beneath their ears to the bridge of their nose. Chief Kuraka, who dwells here, rules over the Meztil in Huayna, Capac, and Chimor, an obsidian sword sheathed upon his belt. Carrying his banner war bands slay those who would threaten the Meztil. A group of priests chafe beneath the taboo of revising the Ytorian Palace and seek to reclaim it and purge those within. Those who align themselves with Kuraka have access to their council of sages who have a 3 in 6 chance of answering questions as a tome of lore.

Hex 02.07
A stone step pyramid rises above the tree line, upon it's southern side rises a series of stone steps. Atop the pyramid is a square stone tower with large windows. The tower is of a single 50' story. The tower is barren aside from a stone altar upon which a golden statue, as large as child, of a kneeling man with large bulbous head (1100s). The statue is cracked at the nose and can be seen as hollow. The golden statue was once used to confine a wind inside and the Meztil will view it as cursed and demand it relinquished so they can restore it to it's proper resting place.

Hex 03.03
The stone ruins of two dozen buildings flank a three storied square stone tower. The bottom floor of the tower contains a trio of skeletons clad in now ruined armor with shattered skulls. The 2nd story contains a two murals. The eastern mural depicts a pair of men fighting one another with spears. The western mural depicts one man standing atop the other, the victor missing an eye. The top floor of the tower contains a stone slab upon which a mummified corpse clad in a golden mask (620s) rests. Upon removal of the mask a sapphire (280s) is found in the left eye socket of the mummy. 

Hex 03.06
A large stone obelisk stands easily over 20' tall, it's base covered by moss and vines. Those who remove the vegetation will find Ytori runes detailing the victory of the brotherhood of moon over the celestial court in the fourteenth war of flowers before the coming of the emerald eclipse.

Hex 04.01
Within the cave where the Achakahtil makes it's lair, is a small hoard of collected treasures of the following: a man sized pile of golden nuggets (1150s), six jade figures of warriors (75s each), and a thin golden diadem (200s). 

Achakahtil [8HD, armor as chain, 4 grasping hands which attempt to rip men apart 1d8 each, will attempt to steal weapons and wield them against others in place of 2 grasping hands, spells cast on Achakahtil reverse themselves, morale 11]

Descirption: A man, with a head nearly thrice the size of yours, on all fours looks at you from behind a pair of bushes. The man continues onwards and you notice that his torso does not end but instead continues as he pulls himself onwards on dozens of arms, his body appearing to to be easily 50' long. The man's eyes begin to bleed blood as he opens his mouth and four arms, each of the double jointed, extend seeking to grab and grasp. The being unleashes a cackling scream, announcing itself as the Achakahtil demanding sacrifices of wealth and blood.

Hex 04.03 Huayna Village of Meztil 200 men 
Earthen ramparts surround the houses of Huayan villages under the rule of a their elder. The villagers have ceased hunting the surrounding lands as a terrible beast lurks amid the nearby trees stealing men away to feast on their flesh. The trees surrounding the villages are homes to hundreds of hummingbirds, Meztil symbols of fortune, which are enticed to dwell in the hundreds of flowers blossoming at the center of the village. 

Hex 04.08
Within a small stone shrine overgrown by vegetation, stands a carved stone statue of a man whose head is the shining sun. The eyes of the statue are large emeralds (450s each).

Hex 05.02
Amid the fog covering the trees here, ghostly figures of warriors clash as shrill whistles pierce the air. Drums repeat through the air as ghostly figures clad in feathered curiass slay one another.

Hex 05.03
Thousands of grey moths cover the trees casting clouds of grey dust from their quivering bodies, turning the forest greyscale.

Hex 05.06 Capac Village of Meztil 150 men 
A wooden palisade surrounds the Capac village. Like the Huayan they are ruled by a single elder. Every summer the Capac host the Meztil flower wars and the recent victories by the Chimor has earned Chief Kurak antipathy from the Capac farmers. 

Hex 06.03
A massive crater easily over 500' wide gapes the earth here. From the cavity caused by the fallen star faint green light can be seen. The vegetation within 100' of the crater is stilted and dying. Those who begin approach the center of the crater will begin to feel faint scratches all over their body and taste iron in their mouth. Those within 100' of the center of the crater must save vs falling unconscious for 1d6 hours. Those who stand at the center of the crater and look into the center of the crater will see a small fist sized emerald which seemingly leeches green light from nearby. They must then save vs collapsing to the ground and transforming into an insect-like-thing. Those who pass the save will be able to regrow any severed limbs in a chimeric insectile form, including their eyes.

Hex 06.06
Buried within the swamps here are thirty six urns filled with skeletons. Their spirits clamour for the death of those living and bind mud into silhouettes of men. These spirits bound in mud haunt those who would pass the swamps here.

Hex 07.01

Hex 07.02
Three ruins of stone buildings stand above numerous teraces. Within the largest of the buildings is a stone statue of a heron feasting on the flesh of man.

Hex 07.05
Emerging from beneath the earth is an eight sided yellow crystal nearly 15' tall and 10' across contains a feathered pterodon frozen in a screech. 

Hex 07.07
A two storied square stone tower stands looking over a deep water-filled sinkhole. The tower is filled with signs of violence with several skeletons bearing broken bones and shattered skulls. The sinkhole is easily over 50' across and over 60' deep with 30' of water. Dozens of skeletons can be seen at the bottom of the crystalline waters. Those who dive into the waters will find that each of the skeletons has a shattered skull. Amid the skeletons are the following treasures: a stone cylinder bearing numerous glyphs of skulls which contains a human skin which bears instructions on how to prepare the sorcery Howl of Ukupacha (Cause Terror). Four bells craved from obsidian which may be evoked to cast the sorcery Ynti's Grace (Avoid Death). Three shrunken heads tied together by their hair which may each be evoked to cast the sorcery Pachakama's Retort (Paralysis).

Hex 08.03
A square stone tower lies fallen and overgrown by foliage. A trapdoor at it's base leads into a large circular chamber upon whose walls are depictions of moths emerging from the broken skulls of men. A great stone basin covered in ash stands in the center of the chamber.

Hex 08.05
Overgrown by foliage is a stone step pyramid rising 30' above the ground, the eastern face has a stair well rising to a stone chamber at the zenith fo the construct. Inside the chamber are three golden panels on the northern, western, and southern walls (400s each). The northern panel depicts a comet flying across the sky as three horned beings look upwards. The western panel depicts a ship. The southern panel depicts a man clad in a mask holding aloft a heart atop of a pyramid. In the center of the chamber is a stone altar upon which is a broken bow and 11 arrows. The shaft and feathers of each arrow is made of gold. Each arrow head is made of some dark carved stone resembling a stinging insect which seems to release a soft humming sound. Those with a charisma greater than 12 will have dreams of themselves being shot by the arrows by men clad in jade jewelery wearing stone masked of a fanged figure. Those struck by the arrows must save or die as the arrow burrows into their skin and wraps around their heart. Those who save successfully gain an additional HD as well as one random psychic ability. 

This took me about a 10 hours to make in total. 



An overview of the procedures use to craft the Wilderness above


1-12: Empty 
13: Dynamic
14: Trap
15: Obstacle 
16-20: Monster Lair

I placed 4 treasure in 4 hexes and then choose another 2 hexes to add overt treasure to.

Empty: The first 12 hexes were mainly ideas drawn from unused content from the dungeon itself and expansions of the aesthetic fills of the dungeon. 

Hex 1
Amid the stone ruins here is a triptych mosaic which depicts a pack of hounds chasing men, the hounds biting off their heads, and then the hounds standing upright wearing the faces of men. 

Hex 2
A square stone tower lies fallen and overgrown by folliage. A trapdoor at it's base leads into a large circular chamber upon whose walls are depictions of moths emerging from the broken skulls of men. A great stone basin covered in ash stands in the center of the chamber.

Hex 3
Three ruins of stone buildings stand above numerous teraces. Within the largest of the buildings is a stone statue of a heron feasting on the flesh of man.

Hex 4
The stone ruins of two dozen buildings flank a three storied square stone tower. The bottom floor of the tower contains a trio of skeletons clad in now ruined armor with shattered skulls. The 2nd story contains a two murals. The eastern mural depicts a pair of men fighting one another with spears. The western mural depicts one man standing atop the other, the victor missing an eye. The top floor of the tower contains a stone slab upon which a mummified corpse clad in a golden mask (620s) rests. Upon removal of the mask a sapphire (280s) is found in the left eye socket of the mummy. 

Hex 5
Overgrown by folliage is a stone step pyramid rising 30' above the ground, the eastern face has a stair well rising to a stone chamber at the zenith fo the construct. Inside the chamber are three golden panels on the northern, western, and southern walls (400s each). The northern panel depicts a comet flying across the sky as three horned beings look upwards. The western panel depicts a ship. The southern panel depicts a man clad in a mask holding aloft a heart atop of a pyramid. In the center of the chamber is a stone altar upon which is a broken bow and 11 arrows. The shaft and feathers of each arrow is made of gold. Each arrow head is made of some dark carved stone resembling a stinging insect which seems to release a soft humming sound. Those with a charisma greater than 12 will have dreams of themselves being shot by the arrows by men clad in jade jewelery wearing stone masked of a fanged figure. Those struck by the arrows must save or die as the arrow burrows into their skin and wraps around their heart. Those who save successfully gain an additional HD as well as one random psychic ability. 

Hex 6
A large stone obelisk stands easily over 20' tall, it's base covered by moss and vines. Those who remove the vegetation will find Ytori runes detailing the victory of the brotherhood of moon over the celestial court in the fourteenth war of flowers before the comming of the emerald dusk.

Hex 7
A stone step pyramid rises above the tree line, upon it's southern side rises a series of stone steps. Atop the pyramid is a square stone tower with large windows. The tower is of a single 50' story. The tower is barren aside from a sonte altar upon which a golden statue, as large as child, of a kneeling man with large bulbous head (1100s). The statue is cracked at the nose and can be seen as hollow. The golden statue was once used to confine a wind inside and the Ytori will view it as cursed and demand it relinquished so they can restore it to it's proper resting place.

Hex 8
Thousands of grey moths cover the trees casting clouds of grey dust from their quivering bodies, turning the forest greyscale.

Hex 9
Emerging from beneath the earth is an eight sided yellow crystal nearly 15' tall and 10' across contains a feathered pterodon frozen in a screech. 

Hex 10
Within a small stone shrine overgrown by vegetation, stands a carved stone statue of a man whose head is the shining sun. The eyes of the statue are large emeralds (450s each).

Hex 11
Amid the fog covering the trees here, ghostly figures of warriors clash as shrill whistles pierce the air. Drums repeat through the air as ghostly figures clad in feathered curiass' slay one another.

Hex 12 
An engorged plant nearly 10' tall and easily over 20' across hangs with heavy golden translucent water filled fruits. Thousands of smalll blue flowers cover the top of the plant. Each of fruits is the size of a man's head and filled with sweet juice which bubbles when the fruit is opened to air. Those who drink the juice are filled with a warmth as if they were drunk.

Dynamic: This was originally going to be a room in the dungeon but I didn't have a good place to put it so I just took it outside.

Hex 13
The ruins of dozens of stone buildings circle a stone step pyramid. The northern face of the pyramid has a series of steps leading to the zenith where a stone chamber with a high five sided roof stands. Each face of the roof has been set with stones of a different color. There is a skeleton missing a skull at the entrance to the chamber. Inside the chamber are three stone statues clad in jade jewelry. At the center of the chamber is a low stone altar upon which a stone bowl stained with blood stands. The bowl is displaced towards the three statues such that one could bend over at the waist and their heads would fit in the bowl. Upon approach the three statues psychically ask "Do you wish to know fate fortold?" affirmations will result in them instructing one to approach and to place their heads in the bowl. Upon someone placing their heads in the bowl two of the statues will grab that persons arms while another will crush the skull in their hands. The three statues will then remove the brains and knead them into a ball. The statues will stand back as the brain matter will become translucent. The statues will then instruct one to peer inwards and see the future.  

Trap: I wanted to use a shard of the star mentioned within the dungeon and I figured a S.T.A.L.K.E.R anomaly was a good way to use it in a hex-crawl.

Hex 14
A massive crater easily over 500' wide gapes the earth here. From the cavity caused by the fallen star faint green light can be seen. The vegetation within 100' of the crater is stilted and dying. Those who begin approach the center of the crater will begin to feel faint scratches all over their body and taste iron in their mouth. Those within 100' of the center of the crater must save vs falling unconscious for 1d6 hours. Those who stand at the center of the crater and look into the center of the crater will see a small fist sized emerald which seemingly leeches green light from nearby. They must then save vs collapsing to the ground and transforming into an insect-like-thing. Those who pass the save will be able to regrow any severed limbs in a chimeric insectile form, including their eyes. 

Obstacle: When I rolled this hex as having both treasure and an obstcalce, I decided the challenge for the players would be how to get the treasure from the cenote.

Hex 15
A two storied square stone tower stands looking over a deep waterfilled sinkhole. The tower is filled with signs of violence with several skeletons bearing broken bones and shattered skulls. The sinkhole is easily over 50' across and over 60' deep with 30' of water. Dozens of skeletons can be seen at the bottom of the crystaline waters. Those who dive into the waters will find that each of the skeletons has a shattered skull. Amid the skeletons are 3 magic items.

Monster Lairs: So I use a distribution of 1-4 Men, 5 Beasts, and 6 Monster to populate my monster lairs in order to achieve a more swords and sorcery fill. I got 2 monsters and three lairs of men. One of the monsters had treasure rolled with it so I decided to make it a single dangerous entity like a dragon. The other was simply using a monster inside the dungeon as a wilderness monster. I used a generator to make the villages and the chiefdom and once I get playtesting feedback from them I will upload them. 

Hex 16
Buried within the swamps here are thirty six urns filled with skeletons. Their spirits clamour for the death of those living and bind mud into silhouettes of men. These spirits bound in mud haunt those who would pass the swamps here.

Hex 17
Within the cave where the Achakahtil makes it's lair, is a small hoard of collected treasures of the following: a man sized pile of golden nuggets (1150s), six jade figures of warriors (75s each), and a thin golden diadem (200s). 

Achakahtil [8HD, armor as chain, 4 grasping hands which attempt to rip men apart 1d8 each, will attempt to steal weapons and wield them against others inplace of 2 grasping hands, spells cast on Achakahtil reverse themselves, morale 11]

A man, with a head nearly thrice the size of yours, on all fours looks at you from behind a pair of bushes. The man continues onwards and you notice that his torso does not end but instead continues as he pulls himself onwards on dozens of arms, his body appearing to to be easily 50' long. The man's eyes begin to bleed blood as he opens his mouth and four arms, each of the double jointed, extend seeking to grab and grasp. The being unleashes a cackling scream, announcing itself as the Achakahtil demanding sacrifices of wealth and blood.

Hex 18 Huayna Village of Meztil 200 men Forest
Earthen ramparts surround the houses of Huayan villages under the rule of a their elder. The villagers have ceased hunting the surrounding lands as a terrible beast lurks amid the nearby trees stealing men away to feast on their flesh. The trees surrounding the villages are homes to hundreds of hummingbirds, Meztil symbols of fortune, which are enticed to dwell in the hundreds of flowers blossoming at the center of the village. 

Hex 19 Capac Village of Meztil 150 men Forest
A wooden pallisade surrounds the Capac village. Like the Huayan they are ruled by a single elder. Every summer the Capac host the Meztil flower wars and the recent victories by the Chimor has earned Chief Kurak antipathy from the Capac farmers. 

Hex 20 Chimor Chiefdom of Meztil 800 men Hills
Walls of stacked stone surround the homes of the farmers of the Chimor. Each of the Chimor have tattoed a light blue band across their face forming a peak which stretches from beneath their ears to the bridge of their nose. Chief Kuraka, who dwells here, rules over the Meztil in Huayna, Capac, and Chimor, an obsidian sword sheathed upon his belt. Carrying his banner warbands slay those who would threaten the Meztil. A group of priests chafe beneath the taboo of revising the Ytorian Palace and seek to reclaim it and purge those within. Those who align themselves with Kuraka have access to their council of sages who have a 3 in 6 chance of answering questions as a tome of lore.






Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Importance of Status and Ceremony in Ancient Times



Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing. - Robert Howard

In ancient times those who broke from decorum were seen to be actively disrespecting others. Correctly following ceremony and showing respect would not only be polite, but it would save one from being slain. This post will detail some principles of ancient ceremony for players to be cognizant of not only during domain play but also prior to its start.

A major principle in ceremony are the effects implicit once it is broken. Take for example a man insulting a king by not showing him proper respect. A man of power disrespected by a man of lower station would show weakness by not rectifying the disrespect. This would extend not only to the figure’s institution but to it’s members as well. When King Agamemnon is disrespected, the kingdom of Dolonia and it’s inhabitants are disrespected as well. There would be an obligation for King Agamemnon to act not only to secure his own power but to maintain the honor of his Kingdom and his people.

Another thing to consider are the effects on image from following ceremony, breaking ceremony, and punishing those who break ceremony. When two parties are both complicit in ceremony they reinforce each other as valid, which reaffirms their position in the society. When a party breaks from ceremony they not only jeopardize their position but that of others. Thus when the breaker of ceremony is punished it reaffirms the position by nonconsentually restoring both parties the position of reinforcing one another.

Player skill here is not only knowing the ceremony but also it’s obligations and effects. While different cultures may have different procedures the underlying principles for ceremony would be shared.

When encountering another a player should take care to determine the station of them and the other. Thus if they meet a lowly beggar, the beggar would be of lower station than them and would seek to treat them with respect they are owed. However a chance meeting with nobility would see their dynamic switched, the onus on the player to treat the king with the respect he is owed. A further component to this is encountering another in their home and being a guest. I have written about this before, but essentially the host has higher station because they ought to protect and provide for their guest. Thus meeting the same beggar in the lair they have made in the ancient tunnels beneath the city would be different as the player would be a guest.

Displaying status would be a manner by which player skill could then be tested. A band of men covered in grime and blood could not be let to enter a palace. But a band of men, each of them clad in fine furs and silver jewels, heralded by a standard bearer would have a much higher chance to meet with King Agamemnon.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Mountain Keep of the Ytori: A dungeon for characters level 3-5



Upon the southern face of the mountain six giant stone faces can be seen, the bottom half seem through the fog. Each is identical gaunt face easily over 100' across. The faces are arranged in two rows of three. Upwards from the sprawl of ruined houses ascend five staircases up to the stone faces. Three eastern staircases rise upwards through the fog and each lead to the base of a stone face where a portal into the mountain can be seen. The two western staircases lead into the fog which covers the bottom row of faces.

Entrance 1, 2, and 3 (reached by the eastern stairwells which lead past the fog) lead to level 1 of the dungeon

Entrance 4 and 5 (reached by the western stairwells which lead into the fog) lead to level 2 of the dungeon


Floor 1



Room1.1 A single skeleton clutching a flute sits cross-legged in the northeastern portion of the room, a faint song can be heard by those who approach the skeleton. Tiles in the center of the room will release a dissonant note which forces a save vs hallucinations of song for 1 hour. Those that fail will hear a haunting song on even rolls of the wandering monster dice. Further there are stairs down to room 2.1

Room1.2 A mosaic on the floor depicts four black spirals each extending from a single white eye. Futher eight stone urns, each as tall as a man hold skeletons and mud within them. A corpse of a blond-haired man holds a broken shield in one hand and a sword (Bane(Men)) in the other. The man's armor is rended and his intestines spill out from him. The pommel of the blade bears an image of a raven.

Room1.3 A mosaic on the walls here is set in a pair of panels. The first panel depicts a large pyramids upon which a priest like figure holds up a heart above a corpse below the shining sun. The second panel depicts the sun cracked in two and a large slug descending from the sky towards the pyramid.

Room1.4 A trio of ghostly figures stand in the southwestern portion of the room whispering among themselves. Each figure wears a leather curiass fashioned with feathers and holds a mace. Upon approach they will fade away muttering to themselves "We shall avenge the princess."

Room1.5 A wide gash runs through the center of the room creating a boundary separating the room into north and south sections. Those who carry light sources will be unable to cross the room as shadowy figures will materialize and grab their shadow preventing them from crossing the gash.

Room1.6 A series of alcoves extends along the western wall. Each alcove holds a panel which depicts a decapitated head in a increasing state of decay as the alcoves go from north to south.

Room1.7 A ghostly figure of a woman sits before a ghostly figure of a bald woman who cuts her hair with a knife. The figures dissipate into the darkness on approach but whispers of "We shall have our revenge," can be faintly heard. A pair half-insectile corpses lie un-moving each attempting to take a necklace of gold set with 2 sapphires (800s) from the other.

Room1.8 A stone panel upon the wall depicts a man-like figure which has a axe-like blade for a head and is surrounded by kneeling supplicants. Hallucinogenic gas fills the room, those that breathe it in will have hallucinations of corpses speaking to them for 1 hour. Whenever someone effected sees a corpse roll reaction. On positive corpse seeks to feed false information, on neutral is silent, on negative corpse curses those present and wishes them death.

Room1.9 Sets of alcoves flank each other, each containing a mummified figure slumped backwards. Three golden panels (700s), each roughly 2 x 3, depict a naked woman with figures kneeling before her. In the northern wall panel she holds a snake in either arm. In the southern wall panel she stands upon a hound. In the eastern wall panel she tears open her stomach revealing a skull.

Room1.10 A pyramid of human skulls has been erected upon the northern wall and the skull at the zenith is that of a dog. 5 Slimes

Room1.11 Slumped along the eastern wall is a skeleton covered in mud with a cracked skull. Amid a crowd of half-insectile corpses a skeletal figure is bound to a pillar by a chain. His right arm holds an impossibly thin length of stone upon which a blade of crystal rests, His left arm missing. The weapon is a Bane(Monsters) Long-spear.

Room1.12 A stone basin stands in the center of the room flanked by a pair of stone statues that hold hands. Traces of green pigment remain on the statues tracing an illusion of a muscular form. Each of the statues is of a blindfolded man.

Room1.13 A headless bearing a tattoo of an octopus on the chest clutches a scroll of vellum in his hands. The scroll of vellum shows a crude sketch of the island with a red circle around a skull set amid mountains. Written in elegant handwriting is "Retrieve the emerald flame".

Room1.14 The northern wall is covered by thousands of petroglyphs which spiral outward from a mosaic of a green comet. Eighteen skeletons prostate themselves before the mosaic. Signs of blood shed fill the room. Several skeletons each with the same rune in their skulls lie in puddles of mud. A trio of corpses clad in leathers lie dismembered and headless. slumped along the eastern wall is a headless corpse in rusted metal armor which has 2 sacks tied to it's belt. One sack holds 115 golden coins (10s each) while the other holds 5 emeralds as long as a man's finger (150s each)

Room1.15 A mosaic of dark blue shards covers the ceiling. Sigils are etched in white lines and a central orange sphere radiates jagged lines. A stone sarcophagus stands upright in the center of the room. Those that open the sarcophagus will be pulled inside by shadowy tendrils as the sarcophagus will close itself. Those swallowed up by the sarcophagus will be transported to room 1.34 and be taken prisoners by the monsters there.

Room1.16 The western wall of the room hold numerous alcoves all sealed by a portcullis. Past the bars are numerous skeletons each with rusted collars on their necks. Further there are stairs down to room 2.11

Room1.17 A 20' wide pit sinks 10' deep in the center of the room. Three sets of pews are arranged around the pit and holds dozens of skeletons. Inside the pit are a pair of skeletons each clad in shining armor. If one enters the pit ghostly visages will rise out from the skeletons and they will begin to clamor for blood (incurring a wandering monster check). One of the skeletons is clad in a suit of jade lamellar (1400s) the other is clad in a suit of pearl lamellar (1000s). If either suit is taken, the ghosts will being to boo and then will follow the party and double the chance of encountering monsters until there is a death of a living being. The eastern wall holds five alcoves. Within each alcove is a golden head (500s each) roughly 2' in diameter. Each head increases in decay as the head from north to south, the southern most golden head being little more than a skull.

Room1.18 Many skeletons (37) each with a rusted collar around the necks, fill the room each showing signs of violence.

Room1.19 Outside of a lip that is 4" around the room's perimeter, the floor is a 10' pit filled with 5' spikes. Pulling the lever in room 1.18 will induce a slab to fall down from the ceiling and create a path to every door in the room.

Room1.20 A pair of pillars stand in the western corners of the room. Each one is capped with a stone head with wide and flat features. A small waterfall makes up the majority of the eastern wall, pouring into a pool of bubbling water. Past the waterfall is a stone slab which depicts a pair of skulls facing each others. At the bottom of the pool is a stone chest which contains 300 golden coins (10s).

Room1.21 An orb of polished stone easily 10' in the center of the room softly reflects light.

Room1.22 A half-insectile corpse lies slumped along the eastern wall. Three arrows are embedded in the head and a wide gash extends along it's thorax.

Room1.23 A pair of almost invisible ghostly figures huddle in the southwestern corner and disappear into the walls if a light source is brought near. 10 Bound Spirits within Mud

Room1.24 A stone statue etched with brass in circular patterns stands in the center of the room. It holds a spear in it's left hand and rather than a face it bears a circular glyph on it's head. 11 Slimes. Further there are stairs down to room 2.19

Room1.25 Three panels on the wall each bear a mosaic. The left most panel depicts a howling hound standing above numerous corpses. The middle panel depicts a man with the face of a hound holding a skull in one hand and a mask in the other. The right most panel depicts a man with too many teeth wearing a crown flanked on either side by kneeling supplicants. A sword polished to a shine rises from the rib cage of an armored corpse, it's hands on the hilt. If one gazes into the sword one is able to make out a woman beckoning from the sword. She will introduce herself as the "Red Fang" and be able to teach the wielder how to prepare the sorcery of [Mirror Image].

Room1.26 A mosaic of 3 panels on the wall depicts a progression of images. In the first a kneeling man holds a spear in one hand and an orb in another. In the second the man's head is replaced with a skull and the spear pierces his chest. The last panel depicts his skull split into and a moth emerging from the spirals of his skull. 16 Bound Spirits within Mud

Room1.27 Upon entering the room silhouettes of wavering figures begin to appear along the walls. Upon movement of the torch the figures move in turn and it occurs to you that the figures are shadows cast by the petroglyphs etched in  the walls.

Room1.28 Upon entering the room, there is a flash and then motes of light appear to converge on the stone ceiling painted blue. Squinting in the dim of the complex, constellations are made out.

Room1.29 A stone slab 20' wide and 10' tall depicts dozens of isoceles triangles extending from the outer edges inwards like a vertical maw of teeth. The slab opens inwards if the song of the Ytori is played. In the center of the room is a an elevator with a lever. Those who pull the lever will descend down into the bowels of the earth over the course of a turn. The bottom of the elevator opens to a massive chamber in the earth roughly 250' by 250'. A field of a stone spearmen statues surrounds a 10' wall from which wet slopping sounds can be heard. Past the wall is a massive heart, the size of a house that beats seeps dark blood, bulging out from the remains of what may have been rib cage of some massive thing. Embedded within the heart are 8 needles, the size of spears, made of jade and gold (650s each), each time one is removed there is a number of removed spears in 8 of chance of the heart freeing itself and lashing outwards like a deranged monster (8HD), pulling men inside of it into it’s chambers where it crushes them to pieces. The heart regrows into the corpse in 3d6 days and it rises as a 100' titan destroying the complex as it crawls out of it.

Room1.30 A dozen stone masks, each with a fanged mouth, hang along the nothern wall of this room. A raised stone platform elevates a stone altar. Upon the altar, stands a golden statue of a kneeling woman wearing a crown (2000s). On either side of the of the altar is a pair of headless stone statues each holding a coiled serpent. The statue is clad in paralytic poison which lasts for 2d6 turns.

Room1.31 A stone statue of a man playing a flute stands along the southern wall. The statue's eyes will follow those who enter the room.

Room1.32 Several skeletons lie slumped down along the northern wall each with a flutes in their hands. Those who approach will hear a single song played. 10 Bound Spirits within Mud

Room1.33 A mosaic on the wall is hundreds of red shards assembled to become a large heron standing over a pair of headless corpses. Blood drips from the heron's maw and it holds a man's heart in one claw. Along the western wall is a stone altar, painted with concentric red and white lines, upon which a stone chest rests. On either side of the chest stand two stone statues of thin emaciated figures each pulling their mouth wider with their hands and showing teeth. If the chest is opened a terrible laughter echoes through out the complex. Inside the chest is a curved dagger made of obsidian and etched with silver. Those that touch the dagger with flesh have it fuse to their arm turning into a bladed appendage and it reduces their charisma by 4. If the blade draws blood from a living being it will slip into their flesh and turn them into a bladed monstrosity, granting them 1 HD and an extra attack.

Room1.34 From the ceiling, something drops drip into a puddle of glowing blue liqud. 9 Half-Transformed Nobles

Room1.35 Massive fallen stone lies in the center of the room

Room1.36 A head with the tattoo of a spider across the brow lies in a puddle of blood in the northwestern corner. 22 Petroglyph Shadows

Floor 2



Room2.1 A broken statue of stone lies in the southwest corner of the room, rather than a face it bears a single circular glyph. The broken statue spasms and shakes intermittently. Further there are stairs up to room 1.1

Room2.2 Amid blood splatter a pair of half-insectile corpses, both missing their heads, lie in the center of the room 2 Stone-Automatons

Room2.3 An alcove set in the southern wall holds the saffron heads of three woman each with their eyes gouged out. 18 Petroglyph Shadows

Room2.4 Upon a stone altar beset by either side by basins of burning oil is a golden skeleton (7000s), etched in writing, hanging in between a bisected Urn. The writing on the skeleton details a method to create Bound Spirits within Mud from skeletons. The process requires a weak of work per mud-man as well as 1 corpse and 100 silver in gold.

Room2.5 A cold current flows through out the room. Clouds of dust linger over the room and all in here bears a reddish hue from accumulated dust. There are two pairs of panels, half on the north and the other on the southern wall. Each panel is roughly 2' by 3' and depicts the sun in a different position in the sky and depicts farmers in different tasks. Each is made of gold (700s).

Room2.6 A corpse clad in rusted metal armor, missing both legs, clutches a roll of vellum in one hand and a broken dagger in the other. The vellum depicts part of a map now ruined by blood but the phrase "the song opens the ribcage" can be still made out.

Room2.7 A pair of dark stone panels depicts coiled serpents around a white triangle and a white pentagon.

Room2.8 In the center of this room is a 10' square hole which shows the room 1.35 below.
Room2.9 In the center of the room stands a pair of stone pillars and the eastern and western walls of the room each bears a portcullis. Behind the eastern portcullis are 17 corpses of slaves and behind the western portcullis are a pair of corpses of giant serpents. Upon the altar are a pair of diamonds one in the shape of a triangle and the other in a pentagon (1000 and 2500s). Taking the triangle diamond off the stone pillar has it sink into the ground and raise the eastern portcullis, likewise taking the pentagonal diamond will cause the stone pillar to descend into the ground and raise the western portcullis. Descend of both diamonds will induce mist to rise up into the room that will cause the corpses to animate.

Room2.10 This room is full of ash and the walls here bear numerous scorch marks. A pair of derelict stone statues stands along the northern wall flanking a stone altar. Upon the alar is a golden statue of a man in the fetal position with emeralds for eyes (1900s). Four stone squares rise 2 inches out of the floor. Each one will sink into the the floor if weight is placed on it. If all four are sunken into the ground then the statue upon the altar becomes visible.

Room2.11 The Gelded Prince Below the prince lies a great iron axe (+1 heavy weapon) as well as a necklace of 5 orbs. Two of the orbs are silver and may be evoked to cast [Obscuring Mist] while the other three orbs are golden and may be evoked to cast [Warding Line]. The Prince will offer these as payment to slay his sister. Further there are stairs up to room 1.16

Room2.12 A pair of naked women of saffron skin hang upside down from hooks embedded in their calves, blood dripping from where their heads used to be. Half-insectile corpse, bearing numerous gaping wounds, holds a sack of 130 golden coins (10s each) in one hand and sword in the other. A trio of skeletons, each with a leather collar on their necks holds a now rotted club. The Half-insectile Corpse is further clad in +2 leather armor and has a scroll of [Alter Visage] hidden on his person.

Room2.13 Eight stone urns, each as tall as a man hold skeletons and mud within them. Catatosh The Lord in Veins

Room2.14 A pair of statues made of stone and brass each holding a spear stand in the center of the room. Each stands the height of a man, but their shoulders are twice as wide. Rather than a face each bears a circular glyph.

Room2.15 The floor of this room is cross shaped intersection and four 5' square holes show the rooms 1.22 and 1.23 below. The Handless Princess

Room2.16 In the center of the room, floating a foot off the ground, is an a obsidian doorway. Past the doorway is spiral of black and purple flame. Those who step inside the doorway will be transferred to a platue of black stone underneath a dark sky. Upon the platue is a giant stone head of a woman with two pairs of horns, one on her brow and the other behind her ears. The head will announce her champion had fallen in battle and she needs a new one. If one accepts then the platue will crack open revealing a corpse and a ghost will rise from it a replace the one who accepted. [See Friedan at the end of the Monsters section]

Room2.17 The northern and southern portions of this room both have a 10' square hole which shows the room 1.14 below.

Room2.18 A naked woman of saffron skin has been nailed to the wall by her wrists. Her stomach has been cut and her intestines have been pulled out. A dozen arrows have been embedded in her head. 10 Transformed Nobles

Room2.19 A trio of ghostly figures stand above a pair of ghostly corpses menacing one another with their daggers. Each, clad in a loincloth and leather headband, accuses the others of being infected with "the vapors of rebellion." 5 Stone-Automatons Further there are stairs up to room 1.24

Wandering Monsters 1d8
1-2 2d6 Bound Spirits within Mud
3 3d6 Petroglyph Shadows
4 2d4 Half-transformed Nobles
5 2d6 Slimes
6-8 3d6 Terrible Insectile Slugs

Monsters within the Ytori Keep


Slimes
2HD, Armor as none, 1d8 dissolving and attaches, morale 7
Blue liquid drips from the ceiling, forming into a coalition of blue bubbles which meander towards you. Slimy appendages extend from them and grab at the stone floor pulling it’s body towards you.

Bound Spirits within Mud
2 HD, Armor as leather, 1d8 slam or sacrifice self forcing save on target vs drowning, if golden face mask damaged then dies, morale as undead, masks worth 35 silver if intact
From out of giant urns emerge men shaped from mud each wearing a thin golden mask. Terrible clicking sounds emanate from behind the mask and if removed a skeleton can be seen.

Half-Transformed Nobles
3 HD, Armor as leather + shield, raking claws for 1d8, once slain forces a save or their ghost attaches stealing 1 HP healed, the effect of multiple ghost is cumulative, morale 6
A pitiful creature which scitters on a pair of broken legs and multiple chitinous claws approaches you. What may have once been a face is contorted into a grimace of agony. The creature approaches hobbling onward, tears flowing down its eyes, it's spine crushed by numerous chitinous plates and a lopsided distribution of chitinous appendages.

Petroglyph Shadows
1 HD, Armor as leather, 1d8 bite, ambush on a 4 in 6, morale 8
An open eye hangs from the sigils on the wall, it tracks you as you wander inwards and then it runs along the wall, a series of lines contorting much like the surface of boiling water. It then goes on the floor and rolls towards you like a tumble weed.

Terrible Insectile Slugs
2 HD, Armor as chain, 1d8 bite with a [damage + 4] chance in 100 chance of cursing with loss of 1 point of charisma a day transforming into a Half-transformed noble once at 0 charisma, shine with unearthly green light from within as torch, morale 7
Slugs as long as a man is tall, covered in green chitin unfurl from their spherical shape and begin crawling forwards.

Stone-Automatons
3 HD, Armor as plate + shield, spear stabbed for 1d8+1 or 1d6 conjuring fire by stabbing their spear into the walls which chases people at a range of 30', morale 12
A statues made of brass and stone looms before the torchlight standing the height of a man but with shoulders twice as wide. The face is replaces with a simple circular glyph holding a spear of stone in their left hands.

The gelded Prince, his eyes gouged out
5 HD, Armor as plate, 1d8 x2 lashing out wildly, each point of damage delivered incurs debt of 100xp, unable to leave the room, morale 11
A corpse of man, twice your height and of saffron skin, hangs from a pair of hooks embedded in his chest. His body bears two sets of bloody gashes, the first across his face. A pair of bloody craters, on either side of a nose, mare what may have once been a face of unparalleled beauty. A gash extends up from between the figures legs like that of a botched gelding. Ugly crickets, each with the face of a weeping woman and bodies as large as your hand, crawl along his body kissing and licking it intermittently.

The handless Princess, her throat slit
4HD, Armor as chainmail, 1d8 stealing vitality by sucking in air to a range of 20' or petrifying gaze range of 20', any melee attack which misses incurs 1d8 points of damage as she inhales vitality, unable to leave the room, morale 10
A naked woman, a head taller than any man you've seen, hangs from a noose. Her saffron breasts are covered with gore that slowly leeks from the gash along her throat like a red necklace. Each arm, supple and flawless, ends in bloody stumps. A single jade anklet hangs from a foot. Her face writhes as she casts her gaze over towards you opening a pair of golden eyes. The golden ring embedded in her nose quivers as she grimaces at your presence and the air grows deathly cold.

Catatosh The Lord in Veins
6HD, Armor as plate, 1d8 from ripping blood from your veins + save vs dying and becoming an attendant ghost, damage dealt can only be healed by breaking a curse, only harmed by magic weapons, must fail morale to give chase outside his chambers, morale 11
A crimson crown of shards rides on a bulbous latticework of pulsating sacks. Red ichor flows from fleshy bulbs slowly dripping down red tendrils wrapped together like the ligaments of an exposed wound descending from the crown. The tendrils then branch, organically like veins rather than roots, branching out into limbs granting the crowned figure the shape of a man. Behind the figure a scarlet cloak trails on the ground raised up by two spires rising up like pauldrons from the figures shoulders. The red figure slowly drifts ahead of a crowd of a gray, a sharp contrast against the bleakness of the congregation behind it. Vapors ebb and part as the gossamer grayness of their bodies hardens out of the mist. White eyes peer out of jagged and angular headdress with a vacant loathing reminiscent of the jailed leering at the free.

Friedan
Level 4 HP 19 SV 9 Skills 1/6
S 13 E 8 M 8 T 11 W 11 C 8
Alignment: Chaotic
Sword may be evoked to cast harm
Weightless Armor as Plate making Evasion 11

Monday, January 20, 2020

Xenia: The Reaction Roll and Hospitality

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This is primarily for Swords and Sorcery/Sandals games.

Xenia is the Greek term for hospitality and is the ancient code of conduct. It provides ample content to be used in an OSR game. This post draws from Greek hospitality rituals to explain a different procedure for the reaction roll.

So classically, Xenia referee to the relations of guests to hosts and hosts to guests. Hosts would provide food, drink, and gifts to guests. They would also offer safe escort to their next destination. Guests would be in turn courteous and not a threat nor a burden. Guests would relay information from whence they came. Hosts were able to call upon the Guests for assistance during their stay in their homes.

In many OSR games, many players are suspicious of those who would be kind and nice to them. Encountering people offering you food and gifts may set off alarms as to “can we trust these people?”.  But if the players know how to expect the rules of hospitality then they don’t have to always be on their guard and positive reactions roles can be greatly expanded to days not just mere moments.  A major component to the Greek Xenia is the idea of the gods walking about the world. The man seeking shelter form the rain could be Zeus, so you do not dare turn him away. I would say this easily fits into OSR games with spirits, demons, and Magic Users.

Use in a game


So encounters have a few components
1 Surprise
2 Distance
3 Reaction

So without Charisma modification, reaction rolls have a 25% chance of hostility, 25% chance of friendliness, 50% of neutral. There is a further 3% chance of combat. This means that almost all encounters with speaking people results in conversation and player skill informs the outcome of these conversations. Further even if it is a hostile reaction roll it does not mean that it cannot be diffused with player skill. As a reminder hostility does not mean combat. A negative reaction roll could mean that the other party charges a toll, wishes to exploit, or even to take command of the players. This can be expanded on even if hospitality is kept.

So players entering a settlement/home would be offered food, water, and exchange gifts with the master of the domain and the reaction roll could dictate what happens after the customs. A negative reaction roll could be that the master decides to call upon the party to perform a perfidious task for him. Certain masters may seek the death of the party and send them into cursed locations to retrieve treasures, to slay terrible monsters, or to even save a princess. To many referees this will read like quest-hooks, and it honestly is a great way to do it. For example you stay at the hall of the chieftain of the tribe and after you exchange gifts and feast the chieftain calls upon you to enter the ruins of the ancient civilization to search for the healing herb. A roll of 1,1 on the reaction roll could even be the host flying into a murderous rage from having too much to drink, which fits well with the swords and sorcery aesthetic. It’s worth noting that back in the day there where wizards who would come out of their towers and geas players to go into dungeons. So this isn’t all that wild of a notion. Xenia also fits in well into domain play where it would be not only people asking things of the players as rulers but the players could in turn ask things of their guests.