Monday, December 31, 2012

Secret Santicore: Beneath the Brewery

An anonymous request goes out to Secret Santicore:"looking for caverns underneath the town brewery where other types of things are going on."

Edward Wilson guides us through those hidden depths "Below the Torch and Tankard":

It's a rough and tumble sort of place, but Brewmaster Norgus of the Torch and Tankard knows his craft.  Well, until last week when he was found dead in the cellar with wounds and burns and cobwebs all about his body.  In his hand he held an old bit of parchment with four poetic mottoes written on it.  His wife, Nellie Norgus, couldn't care less about all that, but business dropped off once word got out--and besides, there's no way she's going down into the ale cellar until she's sure it's safe.  She hands the party the parchment with the mottoes on it and wishes them good luck:

The Old Poetic Mottoes:
With Humility, One Knows One’s True PlaceWith Bravery, One Stands When They FlyWith Honesty, One Will Not Lose FaceWith Loyalty, One Draws The Last Breath

The Torch and Tankard actually used to be the brewery of a larger monastery which stood here a long time back.  It burned down in a huge fire and all they could save was the brewery.  But before it was a brewery it was a mausoleum for a small paladin order, with three crypts for heroes of the order.   The brewmaster accidentally let a huge hogshead get loose and it smashed through the crumbly old brick wall and revealed a passage beyond.

There are two ways into the cellar: a flight of strudy wooden stairs or the big trap door they use to hoist the kegs, barrels, and hogsheads into the cool cellar.  The cellar is filled with the aromas of the many lovely beverages stored therein.  The large opening in the north wall beckons.

1. Entrance Hall.  This marble-lined hallway is 30' long, 10' high, and 5' wide.  At the end is an open doorway.  On either side of it is a niche with a life-sized statue of an angel. The angel on the left is holding a two-handed sword reverently in front of it; the one on the right is holding a shield and longsword at the ready.
Trap 1: The phrase "With Humility, One Knows One’s True Place" is carved into the marble over the doorway.  It is a clue that one must pass through the doorway bowed doubled over or kneeling or set off the trap.  A spell to reveal magic will show the doorway is divinely enchanted.  The first person through the doorway will trigger the divine magical punishment which will reduce their strength by half for 24 hours.

2. Ceremonial Chamber.  This grand chamber is also lined with beautiful marble.  It is 40' square with an arched ceiling 40' high in the center.  In the middle of the room is a low basin set in the floor.  It is apparently designed to hold liquid and is 2' deep at the center [water poured into this basin and prayed over by a good cleric will yield one flask of Holy Water per day.]  A large ornate bronze lantern about 5' tall and 2' around hangs from a heavy bronze chain set in the center of the ceiling.  There is an open doorway in the center of each side of the room.  One has no wording over it and leads to the cellar of the Torch and Tankard.  Each of the other three has one of the other mottoes carved into the lintel above it:

3. Hall of the Brave Brother.  One the east side of the Ceremonial Chamber is an open doorway and above the doorway to this hall is the motto "With Bravery, One Stands When They Fly". From the doorway a set of steps leads down 5' to a straight hallway 30' long, 10' high, and 5' wide which slopes gently down towards a bronze-bound marble door with a very realistic carving of a medusa on it.  Trap 3: Once all of the party has entered, a scary illusion of a spectral medusa will fly towards the party forcing each member to save against fear.  Those who save (are Brave) will see that it is an illusion and receive an Ancient Blessing lasting 24 hours which gives them +1 to all rolls during that time. .  Those who fail will be forced to flee and the illusion will rake them with spectral claws, the wounds on their backs marking them as cowards who ran away; even if the wounds are healed a set of scars (Marks of the Coward) will remain on their backs for 24 hours.

3a. Crypt of the Brave Brother.  The door to the crypt is unlocked.  Inside is a 20' square room with an arched ceiling.  The walls are carved with scenes of the warrior brother paladins bravely facing all manner of dangers.  In the center is a plain marble sarcophagus with a massive bronze lid and the name "Holy Brother Lurien" engraved on the end facing the door.  The lid has three long steel handles along each side with which to lift the lid.  It takes at least two persons to lift the heavy lid
Trap 3a: As soon as anyone gets within 5' of the sarcophagus, the handles heat up red hot (it will take bravery to grip those handles, won't it?).  At least two of the people lifting the lid will need to pass a tough will or constitution save to hold the hot handles long enough to remove the lid entirely.  Those failing the save will lose half their dexterity (for tasks requiring their hands) for 24 hours.
4. Hall of the Honest Brother. Above the doorway to this hall is the motto "With Honesty, One Will Not Lose Face".  From the open doorway a level hallway 30' long, 10' high, and 5' wide leads towards a bronze-bound marble door with a very realistic carving of a locked treasure chest.
Trap 4: Once all of the party has entered they will each simultaneously experience a vision (the DM should take each player apart from the group to play out this scene).  A voice, apparently the deceased brother, asks: "Has one finally come to take out my treasures?  Are you the one who will remove them?  Answer me that I may know if the day has finally come."  A player who says no (an Honest person who would not rob a grave) will hear "Then may your prayers received favor"; they receive an Ancient Blessing lasting 24 hours which gives them +1 to all rolls during that time.  A player who says yes (a dishonest person who would rob a grave) will be sprayed in the face with acid from holes in the walls and ceiling, thus being visually defiled ("losing face") as one who would defile.

4a. Crypt of the Honest Brother.  The door to the crypt is unlocked.  Inside is a 20' square room with an arched ceiling.  The walls are carved with scenes of the warrior brother paladins doing all manner of works of charity.  In the center is a plain marble sarcophagus with a massive bronze lid and the name "Holy Brother Maronius" engraved on the end facing the door.  The party will quickly discover that the sarcophagus can only be opened if the lid is swiveled--but a thief may detect that turning it one way unlocks it, the other way sets off a trap.
 Trap 4a: If they swivel it clockwise, the trap goes off.  A blast of holy flame rips through the chamber.  A save is allowed to dive out the door (if close enough).  Damage should be about one third of health.

5. Hall of the Loyal Brother.  Above the doorway to this hall is the motto "With Loyalty, One Draws The Last Breath".  From the open doorway a set of steps leads up to a hallway 30' long, 10' high, and 5' wide straight towards a bronze-bound marble door with a very realistic carving of a two fully armored brothers of the order shaking hands.
Trap 5: Once all of the party has entered they will each simultaneously experience a vision (the DM should take each player apart from the group to play out this scene).  A suave and seductive voice enters their head and says "You know, there's a secret hiding place down here where the old brotherhood kept all their treasure.  I know where it is.  Gold is of no use to me where I am but sacrificed souls are; likewise souls are of no use to you there but gold is, isn't it?  Let us make a pact: their souls for the gold--I can show you how to kill them easily with one of the deadly traps here."  Characters who refuse receive an Ancient Blessing lasting 24 hours which gives them +1 to all rolls during that time.  If the character agrees, a blast of poison gas shoots out from the walls and envelopes their head, causing them to lose half their constitution for 24 hours.

5a. Crypt of the Loyal Brother.  The door to the crypt is unlocked.  Inside is a 20' square room with an arched ceiling.  The walls are carved with scenes of the warrior brother paladins suffering martyrdom through all manner of cruel tortures.  In the center is a plain marble sarcophagus with a massive bronze lid and the name "Holy Brother Culwen" engraved on the end facing the door.  The party will soon discover that the massive bronze lid of the sarcophagous has spring-loaded catches on each corner which require one person on each corner working together to get it open (or if a party of less than four players, then just one person on each end).
Trap 5a: If they attempt to open it any other way than the correct way, then the entire floor slides back into the walls.  A save is allowed to jump up onto the sarcophagus or out the door, if close enough.  Anyone left where the floor was will fall 10' into a pit full of spikes which now surrounds the sarcophagus.  [The damage should be about one third of the health of the character.]

DM Notes
- The traps outside the crypt chambers are meant to chastise unworthy intruders and give them a chance to leave alive and reconsider the choices they've made in life.
- The traps inside the crypts are meant to kill any intruders so determined to do evil that they would persevere to rob the resting places of the hero brothers.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Secret Santicore: Welcome to Hexopolix

Ian St. Lawrence says: ".I would like very much if my Secret Santicore could create a city." Ian also specifies that city should be in a volcano or by one and gathers its power or a natural resource from the volcano's lava!  

With those orders, Legion McRae set to urban planning:

Follow the link for the full description of the city.


side view:

Also, check out Stefan Shirley's "So You Choose To Flee" Tables over at the Secret Santicore Blog!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Secret Santicore: The Sacred Marriage

Dan Vincze requests from his  Secret Santicore: "Something involving hierogamy. It could be a scenario, a random table, a few NPCs, or anything else."  

Mikah McCabe is the wedding planner:

Suggested scenario: Our heroes are trying to win the friendship of an influential chieftain who has access to the [tastiest plot biscuits] in the land. When asked what he wants in return, the chieftain says, “A sacrifice must be given to the Goddess - she demands a husband each year as payment for the harvest. Provide us with a husband, and we will give you what you seek. Refuse, and...well, it is horrible luck to refuse the goddess. If you did, well, I’ll have to water the crops with your blood, I s’pose; the Goddess loves that sort of thing.”

Should an adventurer agree to the bargain, it’s time for him (her? The Goddess is open-minded) to roll a d6 to see what he must copulate with in order to perform symbolic marriage to the Goddess. Otherwise, I highly suggest having nearby villagers attack the party in anger.

1A small bear kept in a cage at the center of the village. Looks like you’ll have to fight it until it submits to, uh, “marriage.” (Fight bear until it is down to 2 HP.)
2A goat. A very loud, foul-smelling goat that will follow her new “husband” absolutely everywhere, even when the party leaves town.
3A massive rock with a hole in it - a piece of the Goddess herself! Looks a bit rough, though...(take 1d4 damage).
4A massive apple tree with a hole in it; a not-so-symbolic contribution of seed for the harvest.
5The innkeep’s daughter, Poppy. She’s fairly pretty, but rumor has it she sleeps with a knife under her pillow.
6The chieftain's own beautiful daughter, Reona. Mind you, this is only a symbolic marriage to the Goddess, but the marriage to Reona herself is lifelong and binding; she’ll be wanting a sizeable house.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Secret Santicore: New Planes Revealed!

Courtney Campbell makes a secret Secret Santicore request most cosmic: "30 new interesting inner planes. 20 new interesting outer planes."  

Barry Blatt charts as many of these heretofore unknown realms as he could think of:

Inner Planes:
  1. Zodiaca: Inhabited by 12 races with characteristics related to  Zodiac signs. Thus Arieans have goat horns and are impetuous and competitive, Scorpios have socrpion tails and are forceful and obsessive, Geminis have two bodies in telepathic communication and so on.
  2.  Lavalamp World: World is entirely liquid all the way to the core and has two immiscible fluids in is sea, a light blue one and a dark red one. The inhabitants of the blue one live in vast floating jellyfish settlements and fight a never ending war with the barbed arthropods from the second medium. At any time storms and swells from some unknown inner core can mix bubbles of the two up.
  3. Cyland: The world is on the inside of vast torus, along the middle of which a great shining palace inhabited by immortals floats giving light and heat, while lesser floaters are inhabited by various other powerful wizards. Flying ships can cross the  miles of air to the opposite surface of the torus and attempts have been made to build towers from one side to the other (curved do as to avoid the 'sun' and 'planets').
  4.  Roachworld: Conquered long ago by high tech creatures hundreds of meters high, humanity hides behind the wainscotting and under the fridge, scavenging a primitive living from the detritus of their colossal overlords and enduring regular attempts to wipe them out.
  5.  It's Complicated World: This world has seventeen different sexes all of whom must participate in order to create a new child, who are born in clusters of three to ten. Domestic arguments are common, but an overmighty religion prohibits divorce and cohabitation by groups of less than seventeen, despite the race dying out.
  6.  Nebbish World: Inhabited by skinny six inch high pygmies who regard big visitors as war gods and try and get them to obliterate their neighbours.
  7.  Egg World: All species lay eggs and fertilise them externally. People who hear tales from visitors of reproductive habits back home are disgusted and appalled.
  8. Phrenologica: Entire plane is one vast brain, with rounded mountain ranges and deep valleys. Inhabitants make mines to penetrate to the depths of the brain and towers to broadcast the thoughts they find there. People at the back of the brain have good vision and love bright colours, others good memories,the left side are logical and straightforward the right side are dreamers and emotional. A disaster happened when someone dug down far enough to reach the limbic system and allowed instinct to rule.
  9.  Tentacula: Inhabitants are cephalopods with many tentacles that divide into subtentacles. These regrow easily and they use them as currency, snipping them off with scissors and so high value items require more pain to acquire than cheap ones. Mugging is a pretty brutal process. Will thoughtfully provide scissors to fingered visitors.
  10.  Zombolica: An evil necromancer took over this world a long time ago with a zombie army and then didn't quite know what to do with it. People are all zombified after death as a matter of course and have to look after the zombies of their deceased family members. Overpopulation means there are dozens of unemployed zombies fighting in the street, while the living ruling class occupy high towers while their deceased relatives sweep floors, man 7-eleven counters, collect shopping trolleys and labour in the fields.
  11.  Rising Damp World: Overenthusiastic bureaucrats from the department of irrigation have been so successful that the entire world is covered in six feet of water. The dictatorial government has decided that everyone is going to evolve into a fish and encourages people to practice underwater breathing, have their legs sewn together to form fishy tails, tattoo themselves with scales etc. Complaints of rheumatism are not accepted, and dissidents forced to sculpt statues of fish. (Thanks to Stanislaw Lem).
  12.  The Great Glacier: A once civilized world has been reduced to savagery by an encroaching ice age, people hunt each other down not as food, there is a cold loving algae that provides all the nutrition they need in the form of green ice, but for heat. Igloos made from the living bodies of defeated enemies trussed up and fed green ice are common dwelling and as a special treat they will run a few slaves round the iceberg a few times and sit on their exhausted and sweaty bodies luxuriating in the warmth.
  13.  Equalitainia: Everyone here is equal. Those with higher intelligence than anyone else have headphones that pour inane 70's pop music into their ears to make them stupid, the wise are required to watch a certain number of hours of reality TV every day, those with higher strength are required to lumber around with heavy weights chained to them, fast runners have lead balls to drag, the beautiful wear horrible make up and masks. Everything is done in a mediocre fashion so not as to embarrass people by showing off how competent you are at a task, and the only people who show any zeal are the Handicapper General and her police. (Thank you Kurt Vonnegut).
  14.  Polygenetica: Everything here can viably mate with just about everything else via spores and the place abounds with crazy crossbreeds of every imaginable type, with very little breeding true. Groves of half giraffe, half geranium trees are grazed by semi-arthropodal pachyderms, and as their shedding skin cells are integrated into the local ecosystem adventurers will find hordes of their half-breed offspring popping out of pods, emerging from chrysalises and spontaneously erupting from bodily orifices all around them. Shub-Niggurath holidays here regularly.
  15. The Transfinite Vatican: Which Pope persuaded which eldritch deity to allow him to send colonists to a vacant plane we will never know (bet it was a Borgia), but now a back door in the Vatican of various prime material variants of Earth opens onto this strange paradise. Every belief of the Catholic Church over the centuries is true here, wine does turn into real blood at the Mass, virgin births are the only type allowed, you can't walk down a street without running into half a dozen stigmatics speaking in tongues, the air is thick with incense and weeping statues of the Virgin Mary work as shopkeepers and housemaids. Rumor has it that Hasan-i Sabbah has a similar set up someplace on the same plane for his fanatical sect of Ismailis and the Buddha has been spotted flying about on a golden cloud. St Brendan has been floating about randomly in a coracle hoping the grace of God will show him the hiding places of these heathens, and when he does there will literally be Hell to pay. Denizens of other planes fervently hope the fighting will be limited to this one corner of the Multiverse.
  16.  Colonicus: This wet, dark and stinky world is inhabited by highly cultured and intelligent tapeworms, who speculate idly about the nature of the beast whose bowel they have colonised, and occasionally worry about the spasms that shake their cities and the coming of the Great Purgative.
  17.  Titanica: A pleasant planetoid with a temperate climate drifts serenely through space with whole kingdoms of idle citizens having endless cocktail parties and balls, while in the caves inside overcrowded peasants farm and labour to serve their every need. No one remembers the worlds name or where it is going or why, and are very excited about passing through the cometary  Oort Cloud of a great star system visible beyond the planetoids pointed tip in a few years time.
  18.  Stromatalitica: A plane with many shallow tropical seas and no visible sentient life. The may huge coral reefs and stromatalites are actually intelligent and telepathic and use mobile visitors to pass messages in the form of sentient sponges and sea anemones. Occasionally they ask them to pass coral fronds and rocks and transplant them in other reefs, actually a form of reef sex.
  19.  Eggworld: A small egg shaped world with one freezing cold end that projects nearly out of the atmosphere and another that is a large flat swampy jungle full of giant insects. The inhabitants mine 'liquid gold', a wonderful life giving substance that acts as a healing potion. Visitors to the mines will notice red pulsing veins running through the yellow goo and in fact the whole planet is the huge egg of some monstrous cosmic chicken, and its about to hatch.
  20.  DIY World: This plane has endless lumps of ice, rock and scrap metal floating in an airy void, the shattered remains of the planet Mondos. The inhabitants assemble floating islands out of this wreckage, and guide them through many ingenious methods of propulsion from sails to flatulent cattle lined up along great rickety metal gantries, seeking out clumps of useful salvage to bolt onto their existing real estate. Megalomaniac warlords dream of savaging all the bits and rebuilding the planet.
  21.  The Temporal Plane: Time moves in a strange way on this world, going slower the closer you get to the Eternal Frontier, where it just plain stops, creating an Einsteinian temporal paradox every time you pop down to the shops for a pint of milk.
  22.  The Lonely Planet: Devastated by a stroppy adolescent kid with a ring of wishes, this planet has only one inhabitant, the kids himself, who decided one day that he hated everybody and wanted to be left alone. The whole place is a vast windy ruin, with abandoned streets, overgrown parks and the distant sound of goth rock played as loud as he damn well likes.
  23.  Duotonica: A peculiar mutation affects the people of this world, they only have one type of cone cell in their retinas. A race of red skinned people who can only see red live among a green skinned people who can only see green. The red skinned types have crimson buildings, scarlet clothes, rose madder cats and magenta food, while the green skinned have viridian buildings, olive green dogs, racing green clothes etc. Neither can see the other and is convinced that much of their world is populated by evil ghosts. The demons in charge thoughtfully confiscate any paint from visitors. (Yeah, I know Jack Vance did this one as well).
  24.  It's a Mad World: The lunatics have taken over the asylum and have set up cities and countries based on their most congenial company, people of the same clinical diagnosis. Manic city is exhausting, the Land of Paranoia consists mainly of bunkers and minefields, Depression Dale is a lot like Wolverhampton in the UK, Schizophrenia city is utterly unnerving and the suburban sprawl of OCD is very neat. Visitors soon find themselves developing interesting psychoses of their very own and may find it hard to leave. (Thanks again the Philip K Dick)
  25. Happy Valley: People in Happy Valley are extremely pleased with jocular King Smyle IX and only ever say positive and affirming things about him, their homes, the skin-rejuvenating damp climate, the tastiness of their bland grey government rations, the bubbly feeling of their rumbling stomachs, being struck by lightning and so on. And they are especially complimentary about the squads of cute ogre sized Everbabies that take anyone expressing a negative thought, uttering a tiny complaint or cursing fate over stubbed toe away to be used as teething rings and rattles.
Outer Planes:
  1.  The Hills of Slain: Everyone who ever dies in a war anywhere in the multiverse ends up deposited here, in colossal heaps and mountain ranges of corpses. The lowers levels have become a kind of coal and their metallic weapons a rusty iron ore. This is mined by the slaves of demonic industrialist Githyanki and made into hell forged weapons for export back to the planes where the wars started in the first place.
  2. The Plane of Silicon: Inhabited by a race of computerized warbots who pride themselves on their logic and who have conquered the planes of Germanium and Tellurium already. Not sure what to do about the Planes of Carbon – of which most prime material planes are a subset – but the decadent and whorish behavior of Carbon, bonding with any element that offers a hint of covalency, cries out for incineration. Live in fear of attack by the Chromium Giants.
  3. The Plane of Money: Money talks, well on this plane it does, the demons of coinage have possessed every scrap of precious metal or printed bill and the inhabitants, and lost souls from all over the multiverse seduced by their love of lucre get to live in a world where the law of the market is the only law. Cost efficiency is all, vast projects useless to living beings are started in order to create more money, speculative bubbles rise and burst in a matter of hours and no one seems to notice the grinning little faces on the local coinage snickering at them as they defraud, extort and rip each other off in the most outrageous fashion.
  4.  Hobbit Heaven: All plants are edible and/or smokable, the animals grow with joint cutting patterns on their hides for butchers and the pie crust and jam butty mines produce a huge surplus. The major deity presides over a never ending feast and can make it rain flitches of bacon like hail, with a shower of doughnuts for dessert. Very little here to upset the digestion except the pie golems.
  5.  The Plane of Odor: A grey void inhabited by stench elementals, invisible wafts of any smell possible and several that aren't. Visitors may be perceived as friendly or mailcious, powerful or weak, entirely dependent on how strong they smell; unwashed barbarians and punctilious fops with lavender hankies beware! Inhabitants communicate by smell as well, which will at least initially baffle the tourist; old hands come with a chest full of nebulisers and essential oils. Having a war with plane 6...
  6.  The Plane of Noises: A slightly different shade of grey void inhabited by sound elementals, disembodied noises of all pitches and volumes. Can be deafening and decidedly creepy when the sound of footsteps on a gravel path wanders by, but though non-verbal the elementals are easier to communicate with, at least if you have a drum-kit  a bassoon and some nice rustly cellophane to crumple. Their war with the Plane of Odour is inexplicable and unnerving to witness, as the sound of barking dogs and marching regiments take on the smell of fresh cut grass and baking bread, leaving whimpering groans and the taint of putrid corpses in their wake. Expert farters with the talent of Le Petomaine might be able to negotiate a truce.
  7.  The Repository of Lost Things: Anything mislaid by anyone ever ends up here. The heaps of keyrings match the Himalayas in size, the dropped change forms a tinkling sea washing gently up and down beaches of broken spectacles. And as for the City of Lost Virginity...
  8. The Plane of Devolution: Everything here is gradually reduced to articles of the same general purpose but of lower technological complexity and craftsmanship. A laser gun becomes a gauss pistol which becomes an automatic, then a six gun, then a musketoon, a crossbow, a bow and arrow, a javelin then a throwing club and finally a rock. Everything ends up as rocks eventually, and this place has lots of them, and lots of apes beating each other round the head with them. Visitors will also devolve biologically, with elves ending up as trees, dwarves as rocks (again), and halflings as rats. (See Philip K Dick's Ubik).
  9. The Plane Plane: A two dimensional plane where three dimensional visitors will be met with horror and incredulity as they easily pass through locked squares, poke about in people's internal organs and become ever changing and transforming cross sections etc.
  10.  It's a Hard World: Matter here has an exaggerated tendency to form crystals, everything becoming hard and shiny and usually solid, though liquid crystals do exist. Sentient quartzes do a good trade with The Plane of Silicon in raw materials and with various Prime Material Planes in the unusual statuary that most visitors become after a few days sojourn.
  11.  Suddenly, Elephants!: Also called the Plane of Spontaneous Generation, this plane has a strange relationship with quantum fluctuation. At any time and in any place energy may fluctuate to the point where entire elephants may wink into existence and out again in a matter of whole seconds and minutes rather than the Prime Material smidgens of subatomic particles for femtoseconds. It's all a bit unnerving, especially when visitors realize that they could be caught up in one and wink out of existence at any point. Why elephants? Ask Heisenberg. He's the white elephant who appears one time in 10x1016  fluctuations.
  12. The Garden Between Dawn and Sunrise: A dim and numinous realm wherein a person is more than likely to meet their first love as they fondly imagined them to be way back when, not the rather ordinary and dull being they turned out after the hormonal rush began to die down. Of course visitors appear as prosaic they really are and will not impress these beautiful and fascinating creatures one bit, especially when their own doppelgangers, the figments of their first love's imagined image of them, are wandering about as well. An entirely disheartening and depressing place visited only by bad poets and the glummest and most self-hating emos. (Nicked from Jurgen by James Branch Cabell, and why not?).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Secret Santicore: Zombie Apocalypse(s)

David Williams sets this task for his  Secret Santicore: "A kickoff for a zombie apocalypse campaign that does begin with: 'That guy over there doesn't look well'; 'There's a checmical spill. Those guys in the hazmat suits seem a bit worried'; or 'Nanomachines are really neat, aren't they?'"  

Tina Rowand is up to the challenge:

One for a fantasy campaign:
When Monsieur Delacouer declared he had written his masterpiece, His Majesty Himself came to the mad musician to partake of the promised exquisiteness. He came forth declaring that M. Delacouer had written a piece of such beauty the angels themselves would descend from Heaven and the dead would wake just to hear it.

His Majesty was more correct than he knew, and far more correct than any of us would have wished.

Now, we hear them singing outside the walls. They pierce their windpipes to imitate the mighty organ in the Church that awoke them from their eternal sleep, and they sing to us. Deep within the palace, the Song is not so loud; His Majesty sleeps soundly, haunted only by his first hearing of M. Delacouer’s lifework. But here on the walls, the music pulses in our brains.

The temptation to join the dead below is growing, to fling myself into their embrace and emerge with my heart stilled, my throat gaping, my whole being vibrating with my own part of the Song. It’s missing, I know it is. And the Song wants to be complete.

And one for a modern campaign:
Thirty seconds.  That’s how long the Berkley Boys said the gamma ray burst lasted.

Thirty seconds to nuke half the globe.  Thirty seconds to fry the ozone layer to nothin’, thirty seconds to start big ol’ brawl in the atmosphere that pitted global warmin’ and cosmic winter against each other.  They came out about even – about the only break we got.  It’s warm, and it’s grey-brown, and it’s like that all the time.

Those first couple years, couldn’t nobody go outside without enough lead to poison a legion of Romans, and even then we lost a lot of folks to cancer.  Those of us who survived went underground, far as we could go, and only went out to scrounge food.  We shoulda been smart, shoulda brought more plants down with us before they mostly died.  We ate a lot of mushrooms, and the canned stuff we could find.  Those first couple years were hell.

Then the Berkley Boys showed up.  They rolled up outta the wastes, no protective gear, skin all smooth and unblemished and not even fuckin’ tanned from all the UV, and said they had some shots for us.  Shots that’d let us walk the surface again.  They said they’d pulled stuff outta some bacteria [
Deinococcus radiodurans] that’d let us take the radiation, take the UV, and not sweat a bit.  Oh, and they cured cancer.  Took the world endin’, but they cured fuckin’ cancer.

Lotta folks said no, they were just crazies sent to poison us and steal our supplies, bring ‘em back before they died.  But I said yeah.  I took the shot.  And then the others did too.  And the Berkley Boys, they talked about usin’ this bacteria stuff on plants and animals, maybe let us rebuild.  We saw hope for the first time in a long time.

The zombies showed up not long after.  Rovin’ in packs from the places that got the full blast, took ‘em a while to walk here.  And we could look at ‘em and see that they’d gotten some of the settlements up the way.  We found out not too long after that the shots didn’t stop whatever was makin’ the zombies walk, and gettin’ bit by one made you real sick, then made you one of ‘em.  So we went from worryin’ about the Big C to worryin’ about the Big Z.

Least the Big Z you can fix with a shotgun.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Secret Santicore: Legendary Monsters

Warlord Wednesday will return next week. Today enjoy this special presentation...
Ian Burns asks Secret Santicore for: "A table of legendary monsters unwritten by the ancients."  

Here's what Annah Madriñan cataloged:

1  Gwydion the Great Horse - Normally appearing as a riderless red warhorse, when transformed the Great Horse becomes a terrifying beast with withers the height of a spear length.

2  Miniature Centaur - Whereas centaurs are traditionally known as fierce-some and mighty creatures, this dwarven specimen had been rejected by his kind. Embittered, he plagues the local community with tricks and stolen items.

3  Weeping Woman - The guardian of all mothers of lost children, she manifests as a heart-wrenching sound of longing of no direction or origin.

4  Dishonored Hero - Born into a lineage of betrayal, greed, and murder, he never had a chance to redeem his name. He wandered the land seeking out good deeds to perform in attempt to make a new name for himself. No wrong, regardless of how small, will go unpunished.

5  Insatiable Wench - Manifesting as a beautiful women with violet eyes and voracious appetite. If her lovers cannot satisfy her all consuming lust, they are then consumed themselves via the fanged maw her belly turns into.

6  Mask of Temperament - Long hidden safe from the world, legend tells of the sentient mask that gives the wearer power over languages and manipulation. If treated unjustly, it takes over the wearer who then becomes overcome by one all encompassing emotion.

7  Half-Demon Goddess - An abomination of birth she walks the earth exiled from both realms. Which half will she show when met?

8  Mirror Mimic - Which reflection is real and which is deadly? She sometimes gives herself away by her frequent inability to hide a smile.

9  Succulent de Fleur - Found in deserts, this flower supposedly wastes precious water to blow bubbles above it's petals. But when touched, these bubbles instantly liquifies anything organic which then rains down upon the plant.

10  Abarimon - Despite a pair of backwards feet, this completely hairless humanoid is capable of traveling at incredible and terrifying speeds.

11  Maiden of Moonbeams and Snow- Denied her beau she was thrown out into the night to die. Her soulful lament was heard by the gods, who in turn granted her the power to punish those who forsook lovers.

12  Rulevine - A bipedal reptile with 3 foot long tusks and a love of old cadavers

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Have a Yule That's Cool!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours! Here's a pin-up and a song from  Satchmo to keep you in the spirit.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Secret Santicore: The Instruments of Tintinabula

Duncan Young requests of his Secret Santicore: "some new ideas for ways of using music in the game: spells that use music, traps that use music or are integrated into music, objects that react to music, or even musical races--surprise me! 

And  Ash Haji does: 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Secret Santicore: Carcosan Nazi Rocketmen Must Die!

Connor Uber asks his Secret Santicore for: "A Carcosa adventure that includes at least 1 new monster and some nonstandard treasure and magic items." 

Paolo Greco says he hates writing adventures, then goes all gonzo. 

May I present:

Premise: Nazis are not necessary for this adventure. You can replace them with any other imperialist country hellbent on invasion and plunder and no respect whatsoever for natives like the British Empire, Imperial France or Japan, the Kingdom of Italy or the United States of America. If you want to keep the cool-sounding fake German names, pick Prussia. Or Switzerland.

I’m of the opinion that what happens in the typical Carcosa game or metaplot (snake-men performing eugenics and selective breeding on apes to have colour-coded victims to rape and sacrifice) is not worse than what the SS were up to in Europe.... (follow the title link for the entire adventure!)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Secret Santicore: Black Hole Metal Axe

An anonymous gamer queries Secret Santicore for: A piece of art to advertise an Encounter Critical campaign with. Please include 'Titanius Anglesmith', a dwarf, and a Black Hole Metal Axe." 

Paul Schaefer unites dwarf and axe:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Secret Santicore: The Ocelot!

Emily Vitori requests of her Secret Santicore: "I would like a Spelljammer ship design based upon felines." Shoe the Pixie delivers that and more:

  • AC 4
  • 40 Tonnes
  • Saves as Thin Wood
  • Maneuverability Class B
  • Crew 5-14

The Ocelot is a scavenging ship! It is used to hover over various sites and pick over the place for useful parts, and salvage those things. It can also be used as a Search & Rescue ship, if need be. It is a closed ship, with many useful additions for the clever scavenger or pirate. 

There are three decks.

The top deck is a room for small salvage, lined with dozens of shelves, some holding drawers or other containers. 

Big things go on the lower deck!  This is  just a huge wide area for storing shipping containers, vehicles, scrap metal, and other large salvage. It has reversed gravity, so things can be stored on the flat 'floor' and be piled high into the huge, round belly of the catship.

The middle deck holds the engine room and other controls toward the back, living quarters in the middle, and connects in front to the head: that is, the cockpit. The cockpit has all the steering and comms equipment, all the controls, and passages to the other parts of the ship. 

The Ears are communication dishes, with all the antennae and sensors inside them.  The Whiskers are long, delicate arms, that feel about and test conditions and take measurements. They can also handle things, and pick up smaller pieces of salvage. The Eyes are huge searchlights, and are very very bright. The bottom floor of the cockpit lowers down, creating the Mouth - a huge, wide hatch for loading big things.  It has rollers and an powered ramp, for helping to get things into the lower cargo hold. 

The living quarters are quite simple: there is a tiny kitchen, and a wide-open lounge area with hooks on the floor for bolting in furniture, if so desired. There are bunks along the sides of the ship that curve along with the walls; these are three layers deep. Under the bunks are little hatches, where the crew can slide into the Feet. 

The Feet are little observation pods!  They are round globes made of very very strong glass-like material, and some can be built with lenses to enlarge the viewing area. It's a good way to get up close and personal, but be protected from the elements as well.  

Finally, the Tail. The Ocelot's tail is a mag-grapple sort of thing, two parts that can be switched.  One is a huge grappling hook, the other is a very powerful magnet.  Either end is for grasping large salvage, and has sophisticated controls so it can swing things right up into the Mouth.  

That's the Ocelot!  I really, really hope you like it. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Secret Santicore: Magical Materials

<Gus L (Santicore contributor himself) asks for: "A table or descriptions of new inherently magical materials used in the production of magical items. a slightly science fantasy feel would be nice but is not necessary. Some idea of the properties of each material and how it is used would make it far more interesting."

Here's what Bill A. came up with:

When I think of materials used in the production of magic items, my first thought is “magical weapons and armor.”  As such, this table is weighted towards magical weapons and armor, though I have tried to provide some other interesting substances as well.

Tarnwyrm Chrysalis – Every year, the giant Tarnwyrn grubs metamorphose into adult Tarnmoths, leaving behind the dried husk of their chrysalis.  It is said that the spent chrysalis retains something of its original transformative element, and that armor created from this chrysalis renders the wearer more resistant to mutative or polymorphic effects. 
Duplicating Reagent – This colorless, odorless, flavorless liquid is capable of mimicking most potions and other alchemical liquids.  Mix a flask of Duplicating Reagent with a flask of acid, and you now have two flasks of acid, both with the same potency as the original.  Mix a vial of Duplicating Reagent with one of Potion of Cure Light Wounds, and you now have two vials of Cure Light Wounds.  The user is advised not to try and use Duplicating Reagent as a “binder” to combine two other substances; trying to mix Alchemist’s Fire with a Potion of Inflict Light Wounds leaves everyone unhappy. 
Psiputty – This pink, rubbery, moldable substance picks up psychic impressions, and is commonly used to create “decoy” golems of prominent figures in danger of being assassinated.  Unless great care is taken not to stretch the putty during the imprinting process, the golems end up with bizarrely-distorted versions of the original’s personality.
Accelerex – despite producing no heat, this vibrant yellow-green substance creates a mirage effect similar to a “heat shimmer” around it, which quickly becomes uncomfortable to look at.  It’s often used to create edged weapons or projectiles as it creates a field of temporal instability around itself.  As such, wounds inflicted with Accelerex weapons develop weeks’ worth of gangrene in seconds, or age (or perhaps de-age!) the victim drastically. 
Mercurial Scarlet – this alchemical substance resembles red glass.  Exposed to heat, Mercurial Scarlet swiftly liquefies and evaporates.  Human body heat is enough to make this substance liquefy, and as such, Mercurial Scarlet is very popular with assassins for use as “vanishing” blades.  Additionally, anyone exposed to Mercurial Scarlet – such as holding a piece in one’s unprotected hand, or being stabbed with it – will experience first a “bleaching” as all color seems to fade away from their flesh, followed by a slow, and painful, “phasing” out of the physical universe. 
Null – this slate-gray metallic mineral is occasionally described, particularly when explaining its properties to laypeople, as “totally inert, full stop.” It does not conduct heat, electricity, cold, radiation, or even kinetic energy.  It is the proverbial immovable object, and as such cubes of it (Null naturally forms in cubic shapes; it is profoundly difficult and expensive to forge or reshape) are prized by alchemists for crucibles and anti-mutagenic amulets. 
Dealkahestine Steel – this glossy black metal cannot be burned by even the strongest of acids, and thus is favored by alchemists for use in storing powerful reagents.  It is also commonly used to forge weapons and armor for use in corrosive environments. 
“Tunnel Vision” – this tarry yellow-orange substance is either burned and inhaled, or else shaped into a lozenge and held under the tongue, by craftsmen of magical items.  While under the influence of Tunnel Vision, the craftsman can look at raw materials and “see” the construction process (resembling time-lapse film) before it happens.  This shaves 20% off the amount of time necessary to construct a magical item, though at an increased cost (representing the amount of Tunnel Vision used.  Users are advised not to look at people while under the influence of Tunnel Vision. 
Zanthryl – this silvery, gelatinous substance is commonly used in the production of armor, typically sandwiching a thin layer of Zanthryl between two layers of metal.  Zanthryl absorbs a tremendous amount of kinetic energy, reducing damage taken from melee combat, falls, etc.  Though illegal in many places, extreme-sports enthusiasts persist in “Z-Jumping” – jumping off high cliffs while wearing full-body membranous suits filled with Zanthryl, and bouncing away unharmed. 
Chilluminum – This metallic blue-black substance is non-conductive and thermal-invisible; maintaining a constant temperature equivalent to the surrounding air, it is invisible to infravision or equivalent; armor made from Chilluminum reduces the wearer’s chance of being detected via infravision, though it does not alter the ability to hide under any other circumstances.  It’s quite popular with science-fantasy ninjas.  You’ll never see them coming. 
Depleted Cecilium – This purple-blue metal features an unusual sonic resonance which renders it extremely popular in the creation of projectiles.  Arrowheads, crossbow bolts, sling stones or bullets made from Depleted Cecilium create a sonic dissonance upon striking a hard surface such as a wall or an armored foe, turning the substance into a sort of “tuning fork” for several seconds.  A few shots of Depleted Cecilium bullets against a load-bearing column can collapse a building.  An individual shot with a Depleted Cecilium round continues to take 1 point of damage per combat round for 1d4+1 combat rounds after being shot, as the Depleted Cecilium vibrates inside them.  A critical hit (or “exploding” hit, or what have you) is liable to cause internal organs to rupture. 
Metamorphic Gammaradium – This green-glowing teratophilic material is very rare and highly prized.  Armor forged from Metamorphic Gammaradium bonds with its wearer’s nervous system over a period of weeks.  Once bound, exposure to mutagenic substances and radiation allows the wearer two rolls on the relevant random mutation chart, with the wearer choosing which to take.  The armor reshapes itself to reflect physical mutations.  However, this comes with a price; every mutation knocks 1d6 years off the wearer’s natural lifespan.  Upon dying (of any cause), the wearer’s body is swiftly broken down into “primordial soup” which is then absorbed into the armor. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Warlord Wednesday: The Secret of Skyra III

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"The Secret of Skyra III"
Warlord #110 (October 1986)
Written by Michael Fleisher; Pencils by Ron Randall; Inks by Duncan Andrews

Synopsis: Morgan and Shakira are cutting through the jungle, still on their quest to find the mysterious wizard who can save Jennifer from her aging malady. They hear a scream and rush to the rescue of a young woman in perhaps the most ridiculous outfit in the whole Warlord series (and that’s saying something) being attacked by “crocodile men.”

Though one of them almost drowns him, Morgan prevails. The girl gushes all over her hero to Shakira’s amusement.

She's named Asmara. Her people live in a floating city. Her father is gravely ill and she was sent to get ingredients for medication for him. Unfortunately, her flight belt failed and:

She asks Morgan and Shakira to help her get the ingredients and offers them flight belts in return.

Meanwhile, a ship pulls Mariah and Machiste from the sea. The sailors are surprised to see Machiste alive, as all of Kiro had been told he was dead. KIng N’Dosma has taken the throne, and has been robbing the city blind. The two have the sailor’s drop them off at a large grating that leads to the ancient network of sewage tunnels beneath the palace. Mariah wonders why the tunnel isn't guarded--until they are suddenly surrounded by guards!

Back with Morgan and Shakira, Asmara has then really working for the flight belts. One ingredient is red lichen that only grows in a high mountain caved, guarded by a bear! The next is a giant poppy out in the middle of a field---protected by a giant insect!

Just as soon as Morgan’s killed that creature, a flock of pteranodons swoop down toward them! It turns out these are beasts tamed by Asmara’s people sent to give them a ride back to the city. This starts to seem familiar to Morgan. It reminds him of a place he visited called “Skyra.”

A smiling man welcomes them to Skyra III (it turns out four or five were originally built). He asks Asmara if she has all the items required of her.

The man congratulates his daughter on being the winner of this month’s scavenger hunt!

Morgan and Shakira are angry at having been used in a game. Morgan demands the promised flight belts so they can leave. The man says they can’t leave: they might tell surface folk about what happened and ruin the next hunt.  Then he sicks the robots on them:

Morgan shoots there way out. They make a quick stop and disable the city’s antigravity generators before escaping. Morgan gives them one last bit of advice, as they seem to be going down in crocodile-men country:

Things to Notice:
  • A sailor swears by "Grel's Demons"--an obvious reference to the Warlord's creator.
  • Morgan refers to his visit to Skyra as "years ago." This is likely a signal of DC's police of dropping Skartaris's "timelessness" around this time.
Where it Comes From:
This issue is explicitly inspired by the first Skyra in issue #8.

"Asmara" is the name of the capital city of Eritrea.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Secret Santicore: Dwarf Clan Feuds

Edward Wilson requests his Secret Santicore deliver: "a d10 list of the legends behind epic dwarven inter-clan feuds." Thomas Molyes give us that and more:

1. When the Doomcairn clan fought the Blackwood Goblins at the battle of Ash Ford, they did so expecting the Veinfinder clan to show up as well. The Veinfinders never did, and while they claim that the call to battle never came, both clans have bad blood over it to this day.

2. Both clans claim to have been the first to discover a particularly rich vein of gold. After some minor skirmishes, the area has been blocked off and all entrances guarded by one clan or the other. Clues as to which clan was first can be found within the tunnels, should a third party convince both clan chiefs that they should be allowed to enter.

3. King Bolli of the Honorlode clan repeatedly met with representatives of the Bronze Hill clan with his beard unbraided. After a series of these affronts, they could not bear it any longer and attacked him in his own throne room.

4. When Vahari and Gim strode forth to defeat the Bog Hag, only Vahari came back. Gim’s clan accused Vahari of cowardice which caused Gim’s death. Gim’s body has never been recovered.

5. The Anvilbreakers and the Bronzegauntlet clans both come from the same geographic area and have been involved in a feud for as long as anybody can remember. What is unknown to all but four dwarves in the world, the leader of each clan and their chief adviser, is that both clans came from a schism in the Greatforge clan. A series of deaths (deemed either unfortunate or assassinations, depending on who you talked to) created a succession crisis, with the resulting civil war leading to two separate clans, unwilling to acknowledge their shared history. Within a few generations, the truth is now only whispered in conclave rooms after the death of a previous leader/adviser.

6. To pass the long nights in the cavern halls, many dwarven clans developed a game involving the younger dwarves and a decapitated goblin head. As the sport grew in popularity, teams began to form and the betting and drinking increased. At some point, the fans of the teams known as the Reds and the Whites became such great rivals that their violence led to the creation of separate clans, now opposed to each other in all ways, not just on the stone playing field.

7. One fine day, Knorri and Giliden were boasting to each other of their drinking abilities. Each made stronger and stronger claims until the only possible result was a drinking contest. Midway through the contest, Knorri accused Giliden of watering down his ale. Giliden, in his wrath, slew Knorri.

8. When splitting the treasure from a joint expedition, dwarves from Clan Dragonbellows hid an artifact of great value and power from the other dwarves involved. All clans believe that the artifact rightfully belongs to them and are constantly scheming either to get it back or to keep its location hidden.

9. The Halls of Light were a sacred dwarven site. When they were destroyed in a fiery eruption, blame was mainly placed on the Shalehall clan, who were the guardians of the shrine. There have also been some fingers pointed at the Goodpick clan, who are rumored to have been engaging in a secret ceremony at the time of the eruption.

10. Various dwarven clans have had important items stolen by a single mysterious dwarf. Each clan suspects one of the other clans of harbouring the thief and thus the items. The person in question is actually a female human magic-user who is very good at passing as a charismatic dwarf.

Random Clan Feud Generator
If the above feuds are too specific/unsuitable for your needs/dangit you need a lot more dwarven clan feuds, use this simple generator to get a random Dwarf feud. Roll a d10 for each table -- so a result of 8, 6, 1 would get you a Vicious Feud based on Forbidden Love where one clan has been infiltrated by doppelgangers. The Flavor entries should be struck-through and replaced with something else each time they’re rolled in order to avoid repetition.

Level of Animosity
1 Amicable Disagreement - Both clans are aware that the feud is mainly for pride, although most reasonable dwarves will put up a front of being angry or upset; eventually they can be persuaded to cooperate or talk to one another, especially if a third party is involved.
2-3 Rivalry - Although both clans dislike each other intensely, the feud tends toward competition/verbal disputes rather than actual armed conflict - if two dwarves of each clan met in a bar, it’s a given that they would at least argue, fairly likely that they might have a fistfight and fairly unlikely that they would actually draw weapons.
4-7 Feud - The clans involved hate each other and are engaged in a series of reprisals for real or perceived misdeeds by the other clan. Although both clans might be convinced to meet under the auspices of a third party, any chance meeting will likely lead to blood being spill.
8-9 Vicious - Any meeting between representatives of the clans will eventually result in violence unless a third party mediates somehow. Both clans are actively scheming to attacking/weaken the other clan, with multiple dwarves having lost their lives recently.
10 Blood Feud - Dwarves who meet a dwarf from the other clan will attack on sight with intent to kill unless forcibly restrained. Dwarven honor goes out the window, such is the level of enmity.

Reason for Feud
1. Conflicting claims over a rich mining area.
2. Breach of dwarven etiquette/affront, often relating to facial hair.
3. Schism of a single clan resulting in multiple warring clans.
4. Betrayal/cowardice in battle.
5. Argument turned deadly -- i.e. there was a minor altercation between clan members that led to the death of a dwarf, with resulting reprisals.
6. Forbidden love -- a dwarf from one clan married a dwarf who was already betrothed to another. Murders ensue.
7. One of the clans allied with humans and elves in order to fight a common enemy. The other clans view them as sellouts.
8. Differing (and often trivial) interpretations of one section in the extremely lengthy and boring dwarven legal codes, often relating to dwarven brewing laws.
9. One clan is either extremely thrifty or has outright cheated the other clans when engaging in trade.
10. Historical conflict between dwarven heroes from each clan.

1. One clan is heavily infiltrated by doppelgangers who have replaced important members of the clan for their own nefarious goals.
2. The local dwarven king (or poobah, or deity) is secretly favoring one of the clans, providing support in an attempt to undermine the other.
3. The disturbance causing the initial rift between the two clans was caused by a third clan; neither of the warring clans are aware of this.
4. One of the clans has a powerful ally in a human trading syndicate.
5. One clan is suspiciously tall for dwarves.
6. There is an upcoming every-other-millennia dwarf-moot that both clans are expected to attend.
7. Both clans engage in kidnapping and then raising the children as members of their own clan. Double-agents feature prominently.
8. Sound-based weaponry is used to collapse rival clan’s mining tunnels.
9. The feud is mainly carried on by vengeful dwarven ghosts. Most of the living dwarves don’t give a fig.
10. The feuding clans both occupy the same ancient dwarven fort, creating an intense tunnel-to-tunnel subterranean urban warfare.