Saturday 22 June 2024

Magic item: the Cruet Cart

This loaf-sized cart of tarnished pewter was made as a cruet set for a rich man's table. It originally came with salt and pepper shakers, and bottles for vinegar and oil. The vinegar bottle has been lost over time. It was created in the form of a farm cart pulled by two mules, with two caricatured peasants riding on top. When ordered, the cart will drive to the speaker's plate and season it. When idle, the peasants and mules perform one of a series of silly play-acts reinforcing their bucolic stupidity. It becomes motionless when put inside a bag or other container.

The benefit to adventurers is that the little figures will sprinkle any powder or liquid the cart is loaded up with onto anything they're told to. Holy water, lamp oil, black powder, etc. And the cart is fully capable of driving up walls and across ceilings to get to the 'plate'.

Usage: all characters.
Charges: permanent.
Appearance: A cart and figures made of once-shiny grey metal, scratched and dented.

Saturday 15 June 2024

The why of encounter tables

Orc by Rafiico Creative Studio
on IconScout
Most encounter tables include two extreme results - the creature(s) attack immediately and the creature(s) are friendly and helpful. 

If the encountered creature is a beast of some sort, you can assume that instant hostility is because it sees you as food, a threat or intruding on its territory. An intelligent creature's basic motivation might be the same, but there should be something more complex going in the background.

To roll a D66, roll two D6s and take one result as the tens column.

D66 reasons to attack
11. This creature robs to support itself (carousing ain't cheap).
12. This creature robs to buy manufactured goods from a trader.
13. This creature robs to pay tribute to a warboss/feudal lord/necromancer/etc.
14. This creature robs to buy a family member out of slavery.
15. This creature robs for money to impress a potential spouse's family.
16. This creature robs because it's getting older and wants to retire.
21. This creature wants to eat you because its crops are blighted.
22. This creature wants to eat you to gain your spiritual power.
23. This creature wants to eat you because that gains it status in its culture.
24. This creature wants to eat you because it's lost and supplies have run out.
25. This creature wants to eat you because it's tried every other local meat.
26. This creature wants to eat you because it believes your flesh is medicinal.
31. This creature kills intruders because that's the law of its people.
32. This creature kills intruders because this is its home.
33. This creature kills intruders because it will lose its territory if it seems weak.
34. This creature kills intruders because others of its kind here can't defend themselves.
35. This creature kills intruders because this is its holy place.
36. This creature kills intruders because it has a secret here to protect.
41. This creature fights to prove itself.
42. This creature fights to win your respect.
43. This creature fights because it's fun!
44. This creature fights because it hates your kind.
45. This creature fights to please its gods.
46. This creature fights because those are its orders.
51. This creature attacks because there's another fighting force nearby and it doesn't want to be flanked.
52. This creature attacks because it's afraid you'll draw the attention of a much bigger threat.
53. This creature attacks because other encounters with your kind have always turned violent.
54. This creature attacks to prevent you from telling others that it's here.
55. This creature attacks because it believes you carry disease.
56. This creature attacks because you seem like a rival for its goal.
61. This creature wants to capture you to claim a bounty.
62. This creature wants to capture you as a slave.
63. This creature wants to capture hostages to extort local rulers.
64. This creature wants to capture you as a living shield in another fight.
65. This creature wants to capture you to ransom you to your family.
66. This creature wants to capture you to be a sacrifice for its gods.

Saturday 8 June 2024

The why of towers

Image by HBKerr
A tower is like the landscape's way of saying 'I have a quest for you'. Or 'someone with a beard down to his navel and purple robes lives here'. Sometimes you need a tower and you need a better reason for it than simply 'wandering tribes of architects and engineers'. Hopefully these tables can help.

This tower is

1. a square wooden structure with a stone ground floor.
2. a circular building of mortared fieldstone.
3. a reinforced stronghold with arrow slits and ramparts.
4. built up in layers of different construction.
5. a ruin repaired with a ramshackle conglomeration of branches, sticks and animal hides.
6. built from an odd material like obsidian, hardened lava, a giant tree trunk, etc.

It was built to

  1. be a toll house on a travel route
  2. be part of a signal network
  3. house an order of holy knights
  4. keep a watch for fires
  5. defend a nation's borders
  6. house a wizard's lab

and it overlooks

  1. a forest.
  2. a trade coast.
  3. hills and pastures.
  4. cliffs and ravines.
  5. a village.
  6. a marsh.

Nearby you can find

  1. a ruined smithy.
  2. a small cottage.
  3. livestock pens.
  4. extensive stables.
  5. a graveyard.
  6. an old battleground.

It has been used by

  1. an astrologer studying the stars
  2. a druid studying the winds
  3. a bandit gang watching a trade road
  4. generations of shepherds sheltering from the weather
  5. tanners practising their smelly trade away from settlement
  6. smugglers storing their contraband
and it's currently

  1. unoccupied.
  2. a den for wild beasts.
  3. home to a hermit.
  4. visited by travelling rangers to leave secret messages for each other.
  5. abandoned and accursed.
  6. used as a campsite by travellers.

Rumour says

  1. at sunset on the Summer solstice its shadow points towards a buried treasure
  2. an evil noble was imprisoned in it and went mad
  3. a gang of robbers walled up one of their own alive inside
  4. if you make an evil wish at the highest point it will be granted
  5. the ruler's spies meet there under the new moon to discuss what they've learned
  6. it was built on the site of a structure from an older civilisation

and an odd thing about it is

  1. the tiny airship moored to the roof.
  2. sometimes there's an extra window.
  3. its image reflected in water shows it in its early years.
  4. eerie lights visible in the windows at night.
  5. sometimes there's a fine black horse hitched at its door.
  6. unknown plants growing around its base.

(Thanks to Spwack of the Slight Adjustments blog for the generator code.)

Saturday 1 June 2024

The why of the beast in the woods

The beast in the woods is a trope I'm fond of. The town is haunted by a beast that kills man and livestock indiscriminately. It lurks in the woods during the day and only emerges when it can cause the most fear — during night or thick fog. Swords don't hurt it, arrows seem to pass harmlessly through it. Worse yet, if you somehow do kill it, it comes back. Because the beast is just a manifestation of the curse afflicting the town. A curse one or more of them brought down on the whole community by committing a crime so vile that the gods turn their faces away and nature itself rebels.

The only way to dismiss it for good is to reveal the crime and punish the transgressors.

The beast is a huge 
  1. shadowy
  2. skeletal
  3. smoking
  4. bloody-coated
  5. grave-smelling
  6. glowing
  1. stag
  2. ram
  3. boar
  4. wolf
  5. bull
  6. chimera
  1. human qualities.
  2. burning eyes.
  3. a crown of flames.
  4. dripping poison.
  5. iron fangs.
  6. twisted horns.
You know it's near when 
  1. a fog rolls in.
  2. a frost forms.
  3. a storm begins.
  4. a cloud of locusts forms.
  5. animals panic.
  6. dogs howl and babies cry.
It brings
  1. pestilence
  2. madness
  3. ghosts
  4. insidious whispers
  5. a flock of enraged crows
  6. souring and rot
  1. the sound of women lamenting.
  2. blight to crops.
  3. disturbing shapes in torch and hearth flames.
  4. the buzzing of flies.
  5. causes lights to darken.
  6. rumbling in the earth.
Worse yet,
  1. metal weapons strike sparks from it.
  2. it leaves burning paw/hoof prints.
  3. the earth turns barren where it walks.
  4. chains shatter on it.
  5. holy symbols grow hot in its presence.
  6. corpses twist and contort when it's near.
It's here because
  1. someone starved a dependent elder.
  2. a parent abandoned a child to die.
  3. a host broke the laws of hospitality and murdered a guest, or vice versa.
  4. someone broke a sacred vow and won't make amends.
  5. a believer defiled a holy place.
  6. someone completed a deal with a ruinous power.

(Thanks to Spwack of the Slight Adjustments blog for the generator code.)

Saturday 25 May 2024

Dice of Efwon

A magic item that causes a team of skilled goblin artisans to appear and quickly refresh the character for another round of battle.

When invoked, 1d4+4 goblins in overalls appear, with their tools. In one round they bind the character's and character's mount's wounds, repair their armour and quickly clean them. Then they vanish again. This provides the following benefits:

  • Regain 1d6 hit points.
  • Regain any damage to armour.
  • End any detrimental physical environment effects such as being on fire, doused with acid, covered with frost, etc.

This takes one full round, during which the character must stand immobile or lose the benefit. During that round the character may be attacked, and will suffer the normal damage. The goblins automatically dodge any attack that doesn't have an area of effect or is magical. Each additional time the pit crew is summoned during the same combat there is a 3-in-6 chance that two or more of the goblins will start a fist-fight and forget what they're doing. During this and further summonings within the same combat, the player only receives healing. 

Once, many centuries ago, a goblin who was messing around with a ballista briefly became the fastest thing alive. The god of speed appreciated this sacrifice (intentional or not) and offered the goblin's tribe a blessing: as long as they kept a team ready to service his chariots at an instant's notice, their wounds would heal three times faster.

The god is long forgotten and his holy relics scattered, but the goblins still keep the pit crews on alert and still enjoy those extra couple of HP regained each day.

They're quick, but not supernaturally fast. They can clean and bandage a wound, or splint a broken limb within one round. They replace pauldrons, vambraces and greaves, tighten straps, lace boots. They wipe a character's armour down with some kind of cleaning solvent they almost certainly don't use among themselves.

Usage: any character wearing at least one piece of heavy armour. (Large shields count.) Targets self and mount.
Charges: 1d6+2.
Appearance: a pair of felted cubes connected by a short leather thong.

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Smack my witch up

Last night's Pathfinder 1e game was one of those epic sessions that happens maybe once or twice in a lifetime.

The party of four PCs and a wolf were facing off against a higher-level Bugbear decked out with two magic shortswords and magic armour that gave him a stupidly high AC. We couldn't seem to touch him and he was downing a PC every round, mocking us as we dropped. Boom, the witch went down. Boom, the wolf. Boom, the druid wildshaped into jaguar form. Boom, ranger.

The brawler took a couple of savage hits, but stayed on her feet. The Bugbear had been doing 10+ damage per hit with three attacks per round, and just one more of those would probably be the end of her. The brawler is played by Tim, and some sessions Tim's dice don't seem to love him.

Fortunately her final roll was a critical hit for near-maximum damage. She punched the soul clean out of that Bugbear's body!

This is why I'm a roleplayer, friends.

Saturday 24 February 2024

Factory locusts

One of the stranger products of magical tinkering with nature. They devour whole forests and leave nothing but newly made furniture in their wake.

Saw millipede

The saw millipede has dozens of blade-tipped legs. They grip with their mandibles and scrabble furiously to cut lengths of wood. The larger ones have been known to attack and devour other saw millipedes that have made crooked cuts.

AC 6 [13], HD 1 (5 HP), ATT 1 x saw (1d6), THAC0 19 [+0], MV 120' (40'), SV D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (F1), ML 8, AL Neutral, XP 20, NA 1d3 (2d4), TT none
 If an opponent is on a wooden surface like a floor, branch or cart, saw millipedes will attempt to cut it out from under them so they will fall.

Truck bug

Pallet-sized and placid, truck bugs have flat shells and bungie-like bristles. They dig and wriggle under items that need moving and work in teams to convoy them.

AC 4 [15], HD 3 (14 HP), ATT -, THAC0 19 [+0], MV 90' (30'), SV D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (F3), ML 7, AL Neutral, XP 20, NA 2d3 (2d4), TT none
a truck bug can attempt to knock an opponent prone with its blunt head. Save vs Paralysis negates.

Sandpaper wasp

Sandpaper wasps have nimble mouthparts, capable of nibbling rough surfaces to a sleek and uniform plane. Their stings inject finishing wax.

AC 5 [14], HD 1 (5 HP), ATT 1 x bite (1d4) or 1 x glossy finish (see specials), THAC0 17 [+2], MV 120' (40')/300' (100') flying, SV D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (F1), ML 8 (10 in swarm), AL Neutral, XP 20, NA 2d6 (2d10), TT none
Glossy finish:
 On a successful attack, a sandpaper wasp permanently reduces the AC of a random nonmagical piece of an opponent's armour by 1.

Caulk roach

These skittering insects chew sawdust to produce a thick putty that dries hard, flexible and waterproof.

AC 5 [14], HD 1 (5 HP), ATT 1 x bite (1d4) or 1 x waterproof seal (see specials), THAC0 17 [+2], MV 120' (40'), SV D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (F1), ML 8 (10 in swarm), AL Neutral, XP 20, NA 1d6 (2d6), TT none
Waterproof seal: On a successful attack a swarm of caulk roaches can attempt to gum up the joints of a piece of metal armour with putty, giving -1 to Dex. Lasts until the armour is thoroughly washed.

Varnish fly

The varnish fly can spit a variety of stains, oils and waxes in a range of colours and glosses. There's a docile domestic variety kept by craftsmen, but this is the other sort.

AC 6 [13], HD 1 (5 HP), ATT 1 x bite (1d4) or 1 x shine (see specials), THAC0 18 [+1], MV 120' (40')/300' (100') flying, SV D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (F1), ML 8 (10 in swarm), AL Neutral, XP 20, NA 1d6 (2d6), TT none
Shine: On a successful attack a varnish fly can attempt to coat an opponent with gloss, giving -2 to Stealth. Lasts until the armour is scrubbed down or thoroughly coated in muck.

Stage beetle

The stage beetle will position furniture to make an attractive tableaux, suitable for marketing any dwelling or lair.

AC 4 [15], HD 3 (14 HP), ATT 1 x swipe (1d6) or 1 x reposition (see specials), THAC0 16 [+3], MV 120' (40'), SV D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (F3), ML 8, AL Neutral, XP 20, NA 1 (1d6), TT none
Reposition: On a successful attack a stage beetle can grapple an opponent and use them as an improvised weapon. An attack does 1d4 to both the target and the grappled character. Save vs Paralysis ends the grapple.