Monday, 9 March 2015

Monkeyboat!: The Dungeon Adventure

Monkeys are a tool-using species. Magic is a tool. Ergo, monkeys can use magic.

One hundred and thirty years ago the tax galleon Petticoat was returning from distant colonies with its share of the emperor's revenue when a gargantuan volcanic eruption hurled it leagues inland. Nobody thought to look for the lost ship, as there had just been a gargantuan volcanic eruption and everyone had other problems. It was assumed lost at sea with all hands, which was basically correct, except for the "at sea" part. The ship fetched up on its side, straddling a small jungle creek, most of the crew dead but otherwise miraculously unharmed. Only two people survived: the ship's cook, and a runaway wizard's apprentice named Dwoderick who'd thought the sea sounded better than mincing up toad guts all day long. (Not for spells. The wizard just liked them.)

They were on a tropical island a thousand miles from home. The region was uncharted and largely on fire. They had nothing to eat but gold and corpses, and no way of preserving the corpses. Dwoderick had never bothered to learn Create Food. He hadn't thought he'd need it.

He didn't know Speak with Animals, either. But monkeys are pretty smart. They figured something out.

Now the Petticoat is home to a colony of wizard monkeys. They are no smarter than normal monkeys. They just happen to be able to cast spells. Dwoderick stayed in the jungle for about five months, teaching the monkeys what he knew in exchange for raw fruit, birds and smaller, less able monkeys. Eventually he died of malnutrition and the monkeys ate his body. The cook struck off into the jungle, was picked up by passing headhunters, made it safely home, sold the rights to his story to an itinerant novelist and lived a long, pleasant life as a barkeep and collector of royalties. The ghost of Dwoderick knows this and is pretty salty about it. Get it? Salty? Because he's a sailor?

The ship lies in two halves, splintered down the middle, open like a book with the upper deck facing upstream. Monkeys keep watch from the starboard gunports, which now all face up. There are four decks altogether. The topmost one is now a wall, with a horizontal steering wheel that the monkeys use as a rack for drying meat and a captain's cabin which once contained finery and is now a monkey toilet. (Why don't they just shit in the woods? Because monkey excrement in large qualities is a vital reagent in more spells than you realize, and because they are horrible.) The second deck is a gun-deck. All the guns are now barrel-down in the mud of the creek that runs through the whole ship, except for some that are barrel-up. Monkeys will hide in these barrels and leap out and cast Ray of Frost on you. They will also swing from the ropes that cross the deck, which is now much higher than it is wide, like a chapel, and drop cannonballs on your head. The third deck is storage and hammock-space. The galley's in here. It's now a swamp full of cutlery that the monkeys have animated into a horrible mud-and-cutlery golem which will give you a big suffocating rusty-fork hug. There is also a barrel of dry gunpowder hanging from the rafters, miraculously preserved. The monkeys never cast fire spells because they are on a boat and because they are not stupid. If you try to cast a fire spell they will counter it with Produce Water. Anyway the gunpowder barrel is covered with a fireproof tarpaulin so you're going to need to use your brains here. The third and lowest deck is full of treasure, and also home to the Monkey King, who is morbidly obese and rarely leaves his dragon-like lair. He has enormous scarlet buttocks, which is why he's King. He has bound to him an intelligent, vaguely Mephistophelian devil (think bright red skin, a snide voice and shitty little goatee) who has been the victim of one of the countless intrigues/practical jokes of Hell and is more or less resigned to the fact that the monarch he was promised the opportunity to corrupt is not everything he was expecting.

The ghost of Dwoderick lives in the shit-covered cabin. He is intelligent, informative and desperate for someone to talk to, but he will attack on sight anyone who can cook, talks about cooking or demonstrates any ability or interest in anything remotely reminiscent of cooking. The monkeys know a bunch of different spells, none of which work quite the way normal human spells do, on account of they were passed down by oral tradition among a band of monkeys.

Monkey Spell Table

1. Ray of Frost
This is the exception to the rule, in that it works exactly how you'd expect it to.

2. Charm Human
You now find monkeys adorable and struggle to believe that they could ever bite off your finger and shit it out and throw your own shit-caked finger at you. You get -2 to hit against monkeys or something like that.

3. Acid Splash
I'm not going to beat around the bush here. This is shit. The monkey is shitting acid at you. If you are under the effects of Charm Human you have to make a Will save to believe that this is shit and not, like, banana juice or something. More effective from above.

4. Entangle
All plants in the area now hate you and love monkeys. Monkeys get a bonus to swinging through the trees. You get a malus to doing any fucking thing at all.

5. Animate Object
Normally used on ropes, sometimes to make guns try and eat you, sometimes to make the figurehead (a mermaid) come alive and scream obscenities. Or just non sequiturs. Monkeys have no real concept of obscenity and don't understand why it's funny.

6. Prismatic Spray
Gives you a migraine. You see after-effects all day, weird rainbows around the edges of things, nauseating ripples and blurs to what should be sharply defined borders.

7. Bull's Strength
This makes the muscles under a monkey's fur vibrate weirdly and gives it the power to tear you in half without blinking. They were pretty strong already. Can only be used by one monkey on another monkey, not by the monkey on itself.

8. Dimension Door
Often used by monkeys to teleport directly on top of your head. Cast imperfectly, it will leave significant chunks of the monkey behind, floating in space, moving in sync with the rest of the monkey.

9. Magic Missile
Loops and ricochet erratically. Bounces around the bush, scaring birds. Always hits its target, but not in any hurry.

10. Minor Illusion
Used to conceal doors and pits and to create false images of same, but also just to generate uncanny-valley simalucra of the PCs with the textures wrong and the features all running together and have them imitate the PCs' actions from afar.

11. Summon Monster
The monsters are often wildly unsuited for the jungle, like an ice elemental or a narwhal or a grizzly bear whose skin got lost in transition.

12. Speak with Humans
Dwoderick taught the monkeys this as a last-ditch resort. He soon regretted it. You don't want to know what monkeys are saying.

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