Tuesday 31 March 2015

Magic the Gathering: the DnDening

Everybody in the goddamn world wants some way to convert MTG into DnD, but nobody ever seems to write a godawful hack. Maybe it's the copyright protections? Well I steal half the art on this blog from cards, so Wizards can come sue me into the ground. But yeah.

Go grab a giant handful of shuffled cards. You can experiment a little to see if you like the flavour more when it's all cards of the same set, or cards that you love a lot, or just any old shit so you're always a little surprised. For this test-run I will be using the first handful I could find, which appear to mostly be Ravnica Returns.

Hunt through the pile for the first three lands you find. The first two you grab are the setting, and the last is the dungeon.
*shuffle shuffle dig grab* Hey look I just got an island, a forest and a Jungle Hollow.

The timing of that Hollow was totally perfect, but obviously I woulda just made it the dungeon regardless. Anyway, this means that my setting is on an island covered thickly in groves of palms, banana and beech trees, with a broken jut of hill rising up towards a thicker, wetter section of jungle. There's a town on the beachfront, at the bottom of the cliff the jungle sits on, and this town is called Jungle Hollow.

Draw through until you hit a creature/artifact. This is the interesting thing about the setting. Creatures might be requiring murder, or are domesticated and getting sick. Artifacts are probably sweet treasure. Either way, the solution to this problem is in the dungeonland drawn above.
NOTE: You could also draw through to get a sorcery, and then interpret that as a plot/scheme, which you must foil/follow through on. No promises as to how well this works though.

First card I cut to is a Frilled Occulus. It's tempting to make this into a wizards familiar, stolen or butchered by mysterious parties. Instead I decide, kinda boringly, that I'm interpreting its activated ability as a proclivity for swarming the town of Jungle Hollow. Something atop that cliff is causing hordes of these blubbery octopus things to assault the town. Nobody seems to know why, of course. Let's find out.

Next you pull out 8 creatures. These will be encounters/people of interest. If you want to only take creatures that are in the colours of your lands that kinda makes sense. *themes*
I didn't though.

So I'm going to break these up and throw them into 'zones', represented by my lands. You've got the actual town of Jungle Hollow, down on the waterfront. This is the island, and contains the Courier and the Cobblebrute. The forest is the stands of trees between the town and the real jungle. This space contains the Brigade, Patrol, Idrik and Krovod. The last space, the actual Jungle, hides the Kheru Dreadmaw and the Master Biomancer. Oculus fights might take place in any of these zones.

The encounters have also given the space a lot more flavour. Giant monsters, a bunch of people riding mounts that are ill-suited to the terrain, and a wizard. It's pretty clear that Jungle Hollow is the one pit-stop between a handful of politically complex continents. It's so strategically important that no nation can actually take control of it; the others would just all declare war on them. Instead the town ships mercenaries back and forth across the huge inland sea it sits in the middle of.
The Biomancer, clearly the boss of this campaign, has unlocked the secrets of the Oculus (their activated ability) and currently has a few giant versions swimming around sinking ships. Don't have a clue why, just yet, and no-one can get past the huge monsters guarding the jungle, though a few groups are trying, simply because they're sick and fucking tired of being stuck on this island.

Next you pull out 5 instants/sorceries/enchantents. This system was more to make sure you're using all the different card types, but I'll let you know how it works once I actually play-test this dumb hack. Anyway, the idea is that sorceries are ongoing plots in the setting, enchantments are weird deals or laws, and instants are wacky surprise shit that you can throw into the encounters. Also, alternatively you can just make an enchantment, because that is still pretty sweet.
Not all cards will really work for this and it's cool if you want to not use half the shit you draw. No pressure babe.

My five cards are:
So the sorcery, Assassin's Strike, is the main plot here. The Biomancer is fucking with giant squid just as a distraction. There's someone in Jungle Hollow he wants dead, probably another wizard, since the objective is to kill them and make someone lose cards i.e. knowledge.
The instants are what I'm going to spring on the PC's, so it seems sensible that:
  • Launch Party is going to blow something up. Probably the Idrik, sending anyone near it flying over a cliff/into a river.
  • Druid's Deliverance is the deux ex machina that saves the Biomancer first time you get into a fight with him. Vines climb up out of everywhere and seal you in, as the Kheru climbs up out of the floorboard to distract you. Or maybe just kill you.
  • Electrickery is probably what happens when you deal with the Kheru and start trashing the Biomancer's sweet jungle pad. Dude overloads some genevats or something and the whole place goes up in flames.
  • Dispel might go unused. Counter-spelling the PC's plan strikes me as not conducive to a fun game, but if it seems like it'll be interesting I'll let the Biomancer have the perfect counterspell for something the PC's try.

Draw three artifacts. These are the little treasures. Throw one in each zone, or double them up. I ain't telling you how to run your game.

The three I got are:

The Selesnya Keyrune goes with the Hussar Patrol. It's in their wedge and it keeps them more interesting than 'humans on horses'. The keyrune turns into a loyal wolf when you say 'Selesnya' at it. Or near it. Slowly turns back to stone over the course of a few hours, or when the same person says 'Selesnya'.
The Razortip Whip, a magical item that when cracked can strike anything the user can see, is safe in the hands of the Crosstown Courier.
The Burnished Hart is the interesting one. It's a robot deer used to generate mana? Sounds like it's probably a crusted relic owned by the Biomancer, used to store weird gene samples and growth potions, etc. Destroying this is a good way to take out the villains power source, capturing it is a good way to get rich.

This wouldn't be any fun if your players didn't have to be magic cards too. My first thought was to have players pick legendary creatures, with the villain of the story played by the first planeswalker I found. But then the Biomancer was kind of perfect in this little story, and I realised how rare legendaries became after Kamigawa got shitty reviews. With that in mind, I figure it's okay for you to just find cards that feel legendary. Probably all rares, and remember to interpret them very broadly. Your PC can still be Ryusei, The Falling Star, even without being a literal dragon.
I did still found a legendary though, so that's the one example PC I'm supplying you with.

Tymaret is the second cousin of a demigod. His powers are pretty shit, and he long ago lost his family heirloom, the golden mask of the Murder King. He didn't even lose it in a poker match or something, just put it down in his house somewhere and hasn't been able to find it since.
Tymaret has two cool powers. First, given a blood sacrifice he can curse an enemy. This can make them roll for everything with a penalty for a while, or if Tymaret knows the details of one of their schemes he can ensure that it goes wrong in some irritating but probably manageable way.
His second power is more mechanically useful. If he dies in combat, you can take the heart of whatever killed him and put it in his mouth, restoring him to full health over a few minutes. If you can't find the thing that killed him, or if he just fell down some stairs or something, feed him any old heart and he'll heal up to reflect how impressive that beast was.

This is the actual crux of the system. Every ability on the card should be represented in play, if it makes any sense. The first thing, of course, is mana cost. High mana costs on creatures represent high encounter levels. On artifacts they are an approximation of gold value. On sorceries and instants the represent the depth, complexity and politic ramifications of the plot. A good 8 mana sorcery is probably going to topple kingdoms. Converted mana cost 6 should at least make a duke very embarrassed.

On creatures, power and toughness are a guide. Take the Cobblebrute from above; it's a heft four-drop, and it's made of stone, but it's 5/2. Sure the thing it taking down buildings, but every time you hit it huge chunks cascade off like falling roof tiles. The 2/1 Courier might seem soft, but he will totally get a poison dagger in you before he goes down.
Creature abilities should similarly reflect how they work as a monster. The flash and vigilance on the Hussars indicate that they will turn up out of nowhere, and are impossible to take by surprise. The morphing token goblins will ambush you and there will be a shitload of them.

The other side of effects will have slightly weirder interpretations. I'm taking drawing/losing cards to be drawing/losing information. Dealing player damage is fucking with people's plots and schemes. Buffing/damaging/destroying creatures is pretty much just what it says on the box. Make sure to apply these rules across everything, especially character gen, where they will add all the weird functionality your weird PC has.

  1. So the PCs start in Jungle Hollow, where they've been getting drunk for the last week waiting for the Oculus attacks to stop and the ships to start. Weird shit has been happening in the town, and as they're walking to the pub one morning a Cobblebrute bursts out of the street and starts breaking everything. Whether or not they actually kill it, the attention drawn by the monster brings the Courier, a servant of the local spymaster who has been employed to hire mercenaries to bring down the Biomancer. Recognising Tymaret (or pretending to) he offers to pay the PCs if they can get up to the fort on the cliffs above and defeat the Biomancer.
    The Courier knows the wizard that the Biomaster's hunting, but we didn't draw him from the deck so if the PCs just want to betray the poor soul then too damn bad. Convince the Courier that you're a good bet, or just kill him, and you can take the Razortip Whip he wears. If you ask him, or anyone, why nobody just walks over to the cliffs, climbs up them, and finishes this whole business in an afternoon, he will laugh and laugh and laugh, then ask if he can have your stuff when you fall.
  2. The forest stretches up from the beach, getting slowly thicker as you climb towards the jungle. A few small plantations are scattered down near sea-level, but these are now either abandoned or well sealed. The Ponyback Brigade, Bazaar Krovod and Hussar Patrol are random encounters here. Just shuffle those three together with the Oculus and then draw one instead of rolling on a table. Take the card out once you're done with it. How fun!
    The Brigade will taunt you and then attack, because they're bored and can't get into the jungle on their ponies. The card can morph, which indicates that they're going to surprise the shit out of you. You will lose initiative, probably.  The Hussars have vigilance, so you can't take them by surprise, but they won't want to fight anyway. They are useless when not on their horses, but they'll pledge to assist you for a fee. Convince them you're not going to die in the jungle and you can borrow the Keyrune off them, if you promise to give it back along with some reward money after the Biomancer's dead. Scroll back up and read that Krovod's ability. This thing will bust into the first fight you get into and give the losing party time to regroup. Or you'll just roll on it. It's one of the Biomancer's creatures, so it's very hostile.
    The Oculus will be attacking a plantation. Killing them or causing them to flee will earn you a barrel of witch's rum. Explosive, sure, but also delicious.
    Once you've had three rolls, you can push through into the jungle. The Idrik attacks as soon as you get past the treeline. It's standing in a steep ditch, long neck stretching out to bite at you. Just as you're about to kill it, the DM drops Launch Party and starts giggling. As the Idrik's surprised face sails through the air, its explosively decompressing corpse triggers a landslide. PC's end up in a lake, soiling all their nice clothes, but at least they made it to the jungle.
  3. A bunch of Occulus are the first thing to attack, as you cut your way towards the Biomancer's fort. Fight that quick encounter and you'll find yourself at the redoubt. You can use the barrel of witch's rum to blow a hole in the door, or if you can get in a position to see the release lever atop the wall, use the whip to flip it from a distance. Otherwise you're going to have to climb.
    If the PCs did something clever they win initiative, else the Biomancer walks outside as they're tumbling over the walls. He throws some standard spells, with a focus on acid and wild growth, before giving up on the fight.
    DM drops down Druid's Deliverance and the fort seals itself up with vines, Kheru Dreadmaw clawing out of the rotted ground. Fight the crocodile and chase the Biomancer into the fort and you won't find him anywhere. The Burnished Hart is in a room at the back though, cannons tucked against the walls and a few extra stones knocked out of the windows to bring more light into the workroom. When you approach the Hart all the eyeballs in jars turn to follow you. When you reach the Hart the DM drops Electrickery and the eyes explode. The explosion isn't huge, but it takes out enough of the floor that the wall follows, dumping you all into the ocean. Quick thinking might let you save the Hart, which sinks far more slowly than a giant bronze deer should.
    The Biomancer is down here too, paying no attention to you, as he rides a giant Oculus through the ocean toward Jungle Hollow. The thing is too big to function properly, and you'll be able to swim to intercept it, climbing up the brute's side to a final showdown with the Biomancer. He attacks wildly with a beautifully carved machete, tentacles sprouting from any wounds you inflict. When you cut him down all the creatures he's summoned will shudder and die. The corpse of the giant Oculus floats up to the docks of Jungle Hollow and congratulations, you're famous.

When I finish writing my simple 3.5 rule hack I'll get around to making another one of these and playtesting. I'll write that up on here and give a proper analysis of how this actually works as a session generator. Feel free to sit here hitting F5 until that happens.

Monday 30 March 2015

Graveterrors of Kalixan

Constructed over several hundred square miles of swamp, Kalixan has been slowly sinking for centuries. Everything within the necropolis is, broadly, either an insect, reptile, amphibian or zombie, and the entire place is completely full of the drier species of fishmans. Not much else survives all the other stuff. Adventurers flock to the city in droves and leave in handfuls. The allure of grave-robbing is generally greater than most people's skill in actually robbing graves.

Old Grandmother
Bloated and blotchy red, an old grandmother will stalk you far more patiently than any normal crocodile. Her crimson spine will trail you through the swamp. You will find fat, splayed footprints and tiny rotted scales on the mudflats you cross. The sound of the beast will rumble across the water when you stumble.

Old grandmothers own their swamps more than a mindless animal ever could. Younger grandmothers will have bright scales. The oldest will be splitting slowly down the middle or sides, a fresh layer of scales peeking through the thick fat. When you kill an old grandmother it will shudder like the chill of fear, open wide its mouth and spew forth another, younger grandmother. This one, with bright scales, lacking the decay of its outer shell, will spew out a deeper crimson grandmother, a little smaller than the one before. As each crocodile sheds its mother's skin it loses a HD and gains an AC, shrinking and darkening to a congealed black. The smallest crocodile is no more than four feet long, with scales like stone, and a swollen stomach where its baby grows. Old grandmothers are always pregnant.


It's hard to tell whether this hulking, blue-green, lumpy, vaguely humanoid shape is controlled by the brain of the troll or the collective hive-intelligence of the bacteria which infest every square millimetre of its skin. They've lived in symbiosis for decades. The bacteria provides photosynthesis and the troll provides mobility, although what bacteria want mobility for is an open question.

Air around the cyanotroll very quickly becomes hyperoxygenated. This means even the slightest spark will start a fire, a fireball spell will ignite everything within a hundred yards, including you. Even damp wood will burn under these conditions. Any torch you happen to be holding will flare and gutter as all its fuel is consumed in a matter of seconds. Or the wooden handle will catch as well and race down to your hands. Fire deals double damage to the troll, as is normal for trolls. It is also deadly poisonous, so don't eat it. Any water it stands in for any length of time will become the site of an algal bloom which has the same oxygenating and poisonous effects.

Blank Ferryman

Very old man with half of face missing. Obviously a zombie, not trying to hide it. Will offer PCs ride through the swamp for reasonable price - two coins per person, any denomination - with minimum of fuss. Knows way around. Often to be found poling down boulevards of sunken city. Creepy but harmless. Has no terrible secret whatsoever.

Who builds a necropolis in the middle of a swamp, anyway? Was the swamp there first? If not, where did it come from? This is one of the many mysteries of the Miremoor. Anyway, the ferrymen have been tasked for centuries with dropping corpses off at the tomb-tanks. As they are already dead they have nothing to fear from most of the swamp's dangers, and can safely convey your beloved relative to the traditional resting-places of her or his ancestors.

They do, however, think that the PCs are dead. If they realize that the PCs are not dead - if they see them eating, drinking, making out or breathing heavily - they will freak the fuck out. You ought to be dead! They can't carry live people! Get off right now! No, I don't care that we're in the middle of the Lagoon of One Hundred Thousand Leeches. You can walk home, buster.

Super useful once you catch on, though. A smart adventuring party would figure out that the ferrymen have to be keeping their money somewhere, and are probably easier to steal from than the Lichmeisters of Sector V.

Stone Lions

Temple guardians, mossy and crumbled but still quick and effective, minds surprisingly active. Want you to think that they can only move when you are not looking. Will stalk you across the mire and the steps of the drowning ziggurats, inching ever closer behind your back, so that every time you turn around they are in a different place, herding you closer and closer to a corner. You get your back against a wall, all the entrances in your line of sight, you think you've got them covered. Then they walk lazily up to you and disembowel you. Turns out they could have done that the whole entire time.

When not butchering intruders they laze on the sun and gossip about recent swamp goings-on. If you can get one on side somehow they're a great source of information. Offer it steak, fresh news. They're only so invested in temple guardianing; it's been thousands of years after all. Though theey can't lie they will absolutely kill you at the drop of a hat.

Swamp Ants

Ants can't breathe underwater, but that doesn't stop them. The lives of swamp ants are an endless march across a bridge made up of other, deader ants, in various stages of slowly drowning.These bridges can be miles long, snaking their way through pools of shallow water, forming humps and temporary shelters against rain and little balls of ants that get sent ahead to scout for new directions. Any food source - any dead thing, basically - is swarmed upon by the ants, skeletonized in seconds, and disseminated in little bits and pieces along the bridge so that everyone, even the ants who are the bridge, get a nibble. When an ant finally drowns it is cannibalized. The queen is somewhere in the back of the train, constantly laying more eggs. There are always eight or nine backup larval queens in reserve. When one of those queens reaches maturity she will take some ants, split off from the group and form a bridge of her own.

Swamp ant bridges can move very quickly across the surface of the water and can devour a herd of water buffalo if they're feeling up to the challenge. They fight epic battles for control of particular swamp regions. They won't touch the undead, and the undead return the favour.


Any decent scholar will be able to tell you that it's not shit, it's a mucous-like enzyme excreted from a gland near the cloaca. Everyone else won't care for the taxonomy, but will happily describe how it makes your skin melt. Shitbirds are, generally, quite friendly. They don't really understand what their secretions do to people, only that they drop a welcoming load on someone and then the person is gone and they have another fun puddle to play in. They are also not smart.

Shitbirds nest everywhere that you want to be. One entrance to the dungeon? Shitbird nest. One bridge that crosses the Black Ravine of Kazzrt? Shitbird nest. This power is almost magical in its ability to completely shit on your day. Aheheheh.

Shitbirds are about as big as a small cow. Their feathers and eggshells are immune to the caustic nature of their mucous. Cracking open an egg, scooping out the foetus and filling the shell with slime, for sale to the discerning wizard, is one of the best ways to make money in Kalixan without being horribly murdered. The birds will also not remember seeing you fuck up their nest only a week ago, and walking in again as they stare at you blankly will make you feel very guilty.

The Naga

Everyone is reasonably certain that the naga built Kalixan. They do keep insisting so, after all. As is the usual case everyone is exceptionally wrong. The naga invaded Kalixan hundreds of years ago, slipping through the sewer pipes to surprise the true builders. The bloody war lasted a dozen years, ending only when the sheer quantity of naga blocking the pipes caused the city to sink into the swamp.

Naga are just what you expect. Long, serpentine body, topped with a near-human torso, and the traditional six arms. Less popular naga will have put too many arms on one side of the body, or missed a patch of scales somewhere along their stomach. The dashing rebels of naga society will do this deliberately; letting their bare spine poke through their back or replacing their eyes with gemstones. Politeness in naga society revolves around pretending that you aren't nearly as undead as you look.

Great naga sorcerers rule at the heart of Kalixan. This thaumocracy is almost exclusively female, as longer serpents are most magically powerful, and female snakes are bigger in most species that emphasis large litters.  The largest naga is guessed to be well over a hundred feet long, though naga always lie about the upper classes. Naga serpents will use the power of their unborn to fuel their spells and their lives, as the children slowly grow inside them and take over little parts of their brain. Some particularly insane naga queen probably invented Old Grandmothers as a joke.

Players can be naga if they want to be. The city's youths will often despair at the totalitarian rule of the central city, and run away to join the circus that is mammalian life. At under 10 feet long, these youngsters will be a little shorter than most people, with most of their body stretched along the ground. Naga characters can be anything except druids. Nature abhors a half-dead snake monster.

Ahhh, remember the glory days, Iszikstykal?

Tuesday 24 March 2015


Lammarsen literally translates to 'children of the lammasu'. Individuals marked as as lammarsen have been marked by some beast, magical or simply very old, as being special in some way that is important to animals. Lammarsen do not generally manifest enough mystic powers to carry them through all their adventures, and will usually train as another sort of adventurer if that's the life they wish to lead.

(In GM terms this means that all the listed powers are taken as feats. The first feat gives you your spirit animal and sacred weapon, and then every time you think of a cool, relevant power you can take that 'manifestation of the beast' instead of a feat.)

When a venerable old animal finds a kindred spirit, they may chose to pass on something of their essence to that companion soul. There are many circumstances in which this may occur, but most commonly there will be some significant event in which the ancient beast gives up its life, and passes its geas on. You can't share your sweet powers while you're alive, obviously.

A lammarsen will adopt a number of traits from their numen. The first of these is always the body of their spirit animal, passed on very literally, in the form of body parts. A tortusen will inherit their numen's shield as a shell; an accipsen will take the wing feathers of their eagle for a cloak; a serpensen will take their numen's poisoned fangs as spears. This weapon is magical, in a way somehow reminiscent of the beast it belonged to. The second change of the lammarsen is their eyes, which will change to match the eyes of the animal that has chosen them. This is incredibly spooky, and may help them see in the dark/from great distances/underwater.

The last power, common to all lammarsen, is the bond they share with their dead animal. Or at least the bond they think they share. Once a day, a lammarsen may meditate upon a problem and come to a sudden epiphany (not necessarily about what they meditated on). They never actually hear the animal speak or anything, but, I mean, it's gotta be their spirit guide talking to them or whatever, right?

A young fisherwoman will sit by a lake every day for 6 years, casting lines and smoking yuzlat gills. The ancient tortoise that lives in the lake sits with the woman sometimes, sunbathing in companionable silence. One day a dark temple bursts through the floor of the lake, spreading deadly serpents through all the delta. The fisherwoman takes up her dead friend's shell, her skin paling to green, and steps into the temple with pikespear in hand.

+1 natural AC, +1 Con, -1 Dex
The tortusen's skin turns green and hardens to scale. This new flesh will naturally resist acid, and abrasions, which is nice, but it's now a lot harder to touch one's toes.

Iron Lungs
Take however long you can hold your breathe and triple it. Maybe quadruple it. Look just don't ever really think about it again. Also you can now breathe out of your arsehole, if you have one. Did you know turtles could do that? It's written on tampon wrappers here in Australia, and I don't really care if it's true or not.

With concentration the tortusen can control water, albeit very slowly. The more time spent concentrating the more powerful the tides produced. This power can be used to drain lakes, break dams, call or keep away rain, though it requires much patience.

An aging hunter prowls the savannah. She has hunted in this land for 30 years, and knows the oldest animals on the plain as though they were family. A dragon awakes in the hill to the west, and its fire burns the veldt and dries the waterholes. The great lion Mufaran, who once ruled these lands, breathes his last in the hunter's hands. She takes his pelt, and her bow, and sets out to tame the fire.

+1 Cha, -1 Wis
The mane of the lion makes its wearer charming, but proud. People will react favourably to a leosen, and will follow them into battle merrily, but leosen do not always choose their battles wisely.

Death Bellow
The leosen's jaws open wider than they should be able to, and a booming roar pours out. Anything that should be scared of lions (read: pretty much everything) is terrified by this, and must save vs fear. If you've ever stared down a wild animal bigger than you, you are immune to this effect.

Queen's/King's Mantle
The hair of the leosen twists and knots, sprouting thickly from their neck and shoulders. This great, shaggy mane provides protection from the elements, and prevents vorpal weapons from striking true. You'll take it because it looks awesome, though.

So I hear you like cat people.....

The witch's fingers grip tight to the mountain she has always called home. She climbs to find the ancient, snowbacked ram that once lorded atop the pinnacles, but she knows in her heart that it is too late. Plucking goblin arrows from the shaggy hide she sets her resolve. With sacred knots the ram's skull is tied to a staff of ornwood, and the quiet mage wanders forth, to explain the consequences of hunting in these mountains.

Pan's Countenance
+1 Con, -1 Cha
Twisted and always grinning, the chosen of the goat are seedy, sleazy and very hard to kill. People that do make positive reaction rolls will always be more inclined to fuck an ariessen.

Appetite of Apathy
Ariessen can eat anything without harm, and will gain some nutritional benefit from things they consume. The downside is an inescapable desire to chew stuff, which will be very unpleasant if an ariessen is held immobile while their teeth can still work on their lips.

Ariessen gain a +8 bonus to jump and balance checks,while their feet twist and toughen, slowly growing to resemble hooves. Particularly old ariessen can use these hooves as a natural weapon, doing 1d4 damage with a kick.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

The Biggish Gangs of a Smallish Town

Lavernash is not the biggest town in the empire, and it knows it.
The mafioso of Lavernash are therefore not the biggest either, but they do like to talk shit.

The Clamshell Gang
Everyone in the Clamshell Gang has hair the colour of green fire. They achieve this effect by rubbing freshwater clam guts all through their 'dos every morning, which is awful for their scalps and makes them smell awful. Members of the gang will leave little bits of clamshell and quite a lot of green hair wherever they go. They dress in cheap scale-mail and all wear a scarf - a cutting from one very long scarf being constantly knitted by their leader's mum, Ebonisa Lutwurst. Everyone in the gang wields a flail or a clamknife (or both!), and all have a few poor-quality smokebombs on them. Their hideout is the four and a half storey bar/hostel, The Pauper's Cup, run by Ebonisa.
Tomin Lutwurst runs the gang itself. She's a 4th level rogue and knows one spell, Stinking Cloud, but her variant never smells as much like clams as she wants it to. She dresses in very nice scale-mail and her scarf is the longest and prettiest. Don't make mum jokes.
When you encounter Clamshells they will be standing outside a house acting like they're about to break in and rob it. They won't actually do this though - it's not worth the trouble.

Arben's Cracktooths
If you point out that their name should probably be Arben's Crackteeth they'll point out that Arben's been dead for years now, and besides it's just a name so maybe you should let it go. Then they'll break your jaw. Cracktooths have mastered the art of permanent graffiti, etching their gangsigns into the walls of Lavernash with hammer and chisel. They wade around town bare-chested, with thick metal plates on their arms and broad iron collars around their necks. This armor is as effective as chainmail. If it wasn't they'd be dead already, so it stands to reason. Members of the gang fight with brassknuckles and table legs. Nothing else is allowed. They've also all got one or two metal teeth, one for each brush with the law, which gives them a nasty 1d3 bite attack. Their hideout is a burntout warehouse / illegal fighting arena down in the docks. Animals, people, weird shit a wizard with debts conjured; you name it they bet on it.
Smegot the Dogfucker runs the gang at the moment. He's big, and barely human, and his whole lower jaw has been replaced with rusty steel. Smegot's a 4th level fighter, but he never uses a weapon, just bare fists and 1d6 bite attack. Don't make dogfucking jokes.
When you notice the Cracktooths they'll be standing somewhere shady by the riverfront, carving some actually lovely graffiti into a wall already smothered in it.

The Squid Street Wights
Squidies, as they are commonly referred, are by far the most powerful and successful gang in Lavernash. They provide all of the reagents to wizards performing illegal spells within the town and surrounding countryside. Which is to say every wizard for the surrounding few miles. Squidies congregate in groups of four, and no-one in the quartet will ever work with the other three. They are also all quite short, and this is perhaps the only way to identify them. Squidies don't have a uniform, because they aren't total idiots, though they do carry similar equipment. The gang's preferred
weapon is the crossbow, and most members will secret away a small bottle of squid ink. While technically a condiment, and therefore not illegal, this ink is a wonderful lubricant, solvent and mild poison, as well as being nice to write with. Their hideout is in the sewers under the city, probably. Though Lavernash doesn't have very large sewers, and besides Big George said he heard some weird noises coming from a cave upstream just a day before that big shipment of bearboar hearts, so I reckon... (in short, nobody knows, though everyone likes to wonder)
The leader of the gang is probably still Ship the Smuggler. Ship is a tiny, ugly woman. People suggest that her favourite method of execution is by poison, but this is not true. Her preferred means of killing people is to tie them to a chair and beat them to death over the course of hours. She is not very nice, but she is very good at her job. She is a 4th level MU, but pretends to be a rogue that knows darkness, and wields a crossbow on the very rare occasions that she is required to fight anyone. Don't make jokes about cowards.
If you stumble on the Squid Street Wights they'll be loading or unloading a small rowboat, and you won't realise that they're not dockworkers until they've already decided how to deal with you.

It is green hair, good graffiti, or even a secret door??? It is none of these things.

Gang Fights You Can Get Involved In
  • For the Clamshells:
    • Some bastard of a Cracktooth has carved their name into The Pauper's Cup, and Tomin only painted that wall last year. The Clamshells have politely asked that you go and find the one responsible and nail him to a wall with his own iron teeth.
      The culprit, a halfwit called Gorbin, is currently holed up in the basement of a Cracktooth fightclub, getting soundly slapped for being such a giant mong. If you break in to kidnap Gorbin, the Cracktooths will release the pisslizards from their cages to distract you. Pisslizards are basically iguanas with the stats of wolves, except they piss acidic musk on you while you fight them.
    • A group of Squidies is moving some new and exciting contraband into the city limits - a shipment of giant clams, enchanted to produce a clutch of pearls every day. This shipment is too thematically appropriate for the Clamshell Gang to pass up, so they're hiring you to steal the goods.
      They don't know where the clams are going, but they know where they're coming through - Lavernash does only have one river. The shipment's due in three days, coming upstream along the north bank as soon as the moon dips below the horizon.
      There are three clams, one on each of three rowboats, with three Squidies per boat. As soon as they realise they're under attack they'll push to the center of the river and shoot downstream. If you track the boats to their destination then congratulations! You get to fight the Squidies on dry ground. You also get to fight the foam elemental that guards their warehouse.
  • For the Cracktooths
    • In a rare gesture of goodwill the Clamshells and the Cracktooths are trading a ridiculous amount of hard drugs during one of Lavernash's famous river festivals. You've been hired as extra security, as pretty much already involved in the deal is planning to kill everyone else and steal the drugs. If you get away with the contraband you'll have enough capital to set up as a drug baron in any of the surrounding towns. If you get the deal to go ahead with minimal deaths you'll earn a considerable amount of respect from Tomin and Smegot.
    • A member of the gang has had a truly awful idea: go carve his name across an entire bridge in the middle of Squid territory. Being a terrible idea, the whole gang supports it, so they're hiring you to stand guard while a few of the faster chiselers work.
      The Squidies will be sending three waves to deal with the Cracktooths (and you). First is an 'angry civilian mob', suspiciously well armed. Secondly comes a summoned pleisiosaur, swimming up the river and attacking the carvers directly. Their last resort is to just report you to the local authority, Lavernash's Arbiter of Justice. Your PC's now get to run in terror from a near infinitely powerful representative of the local volcano god. Enjoy a short chase sequence, and don't make eye contact or you will explode without a save. (You should probably make the PC's aware of the power of local law enforcement beforehand)
  • For the Squidies
    • One of the gang's sources has let slip that the Clamshells are planning a raid on a Squid  bakery. You've been hired to defend the bakery from the enterprising cake thieves, without revealing that you're adventurers or that you have any connection to Squid Street. To assist you in this, the Squidies will be keeping your weapons and armour safe for you, and providing you with as many wooden spoons, cookie cutters and weevil bombs as you need. The Clamshells are all 2HD thieves, and they'll flood the place with stinkbombs before they even start picking the lock, just to see if anyone's inside.
    • The Squidies need a distraction. They haven't told you that, of course, just that if you walk into a particular Cracktooth bar, loudly ask 'So do you fuck the dogs or do you let the dogs fuck you?' and then stop yourself getting thrown out a window for at least twenty minutes then they'll pay you a thousand silver chits. Good luck in there.

NOTES: No matter what jobs you do for Lavernash's gangs, there's no way they'll pay you unless you pledge to join to the gang first. And when you join the gang they'll start talking about the advantages of delayed payment packages. Good luck actually making any money in this town.

idk if she has a gang affiliation but she gonna fuck you up

Friday 13 March 2015

Politics in Hell; or, The Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth Of A Beast

Hell has been a democracy ever since the Infernal Revolution in the Year of the Goat, though don't make too much of this, since it is always the Year of the Goat in hell. (The next year is the Year of the Rat. The last year is the Year of the Fly.) This is exactly the kind of dumb, laboured satire that they love in Hell. "Ooh, we took this thing that you thought was good and made it bad somehow! We had a birthday party where all the presents were rusty nails!" Very clever, Hell. Anyway they run on a vaguely Westminsterian system, though adjusted to make it more Hellish, of course. ("Isn't it bad enough already? Maybe they could take lessons from us???") There is a Prime Minister of Hell and six hundred and sixteen electorates, each with its own representative. Each electorate is themed differently, so that one will be Boolbellissri, the Hell of Salt Water, one will be Aurrocoyox, the Hell of Hungry Earth, &c. Each one used to hold responsibility for a different kind of sinner but they've been gerrymandered to, ahem hem, Hell and back. So Gitchjigahoonga, the Hell of Nervous Laughter, used to contain only bad improvisational comedians, but the local MP (Droon Yjx, Grand Heckler and Secretary of the Shivering Cramp) got a bill through that redefined his boundaries to include sections of Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzh, the Hell of Howling Chalk, on the basis that its occupants (economics professors) would be more likely to vote for his Archaeoconservatives than the hippies he's traditionally been charged with. This involved a deal with the Antisocial Democrats whereby they got part of Xivtulin, the Hell of Stinging Ferns, and the arrogant vegans imprisoned within. Hell has more political parties than politicians and, yes, every sinner gets a vote.

Hell also has a King and a House of Lords. It's a constitutional monarchy. The constitution is not actually written down anywhere but everyone is very adamant that it exists and there are whole schools of law dedicated to its interpretation. Yes, (sigh) Hell has lawyers. Even if your campaign setting doesn't have lawyers, because it is a medieval theocracy or a Viking waste, Hell still has all this stuff. It's in no way concerned with being relevant.

d12 Reasons You Care About This:

1. Solxcahamb the Lugubrious, independent member for East Gzwlp (the Hell of Burning Copper, traditional home of moneylenders, even the nice ones) is on the verge of losing his seat. The moneylenders remain loyal, even the nice ones, but the recent overflow of excess skinheads from West Gzwlp, Hell of Burning Hair, has tipped the balance in favour of his opponent, Mnm!dlot Fub of the Damnocrats. Demons are pretty limited as to what they're allowed to do on the mortal world, so he's made a pact with a human lord: standard infinite power deal in exchange for rounding up all the moneylenders and chopping off their heads, which ought to boost his polls nicely. Anyone not wanting to confront the lord directly might want to try and figure out what's killing all the skinheads.

2. Imps are canvassing peasants on behalf of the Primary Front, which lobbies for the rights of people who haven't committed any specific sin, but were just douchebags. They're offering a free cow in this life in exchange for a secure vote after death. Anyone who accepts the bargain the imps will give a cow to, then strangle, then take the cow back. If confronted they will explain apologetically that they only have the one cow.

3. An activist succubus in the employ of transparency advocates the Panoptic Legation is trying to prove that the boundaries of Hell have been illegally redrawn to squeeze out her party from its traditional stronghold, Argjakagra, Hell of Crawling Mirrors. To do this she needs two maps of Hell, one old, one new. Check wizards' libraries and the secret studies of cartographers. You could also show up at the Hell Hall of Records with a duly signed requisition form if you were, you know, an idiot.

4. An up-and-coming young lawyer, Fesswick, is running for the seat of Dry-and-Mandible on behalf of the Illibertarians. Despite his inexperience and weird name, word around the magma cooler (it really does cool magma) is that he stands a fair chance of beating the incumbent, Citizen 001268325 of the Computational Secularists. Dry-and-Mandible is a diverse seat, home to tortured souls from all walks of death, and many of the younger, more recently deceased voters genuinely believe that a new, fresh face working on their behalf in Parliament will in any way mitigate their eternal agony. Which is, of course, the joke. Anyway you've been hired to promote his campaign, which will involve putting up posters, knocking on doors, booking lecture halls, not being devoured alive and reduced to a sequence of your component numbers by secularist-dispatched Abacus Lizards, and making tea.

5. Parliament has passed draconian new trade restrictions, tripling at a stroke the import duty on human souls, which threatens to cripple the wish-granting industry. On behalf of the Summoner's Union you are dispatched to Pandemonium (capital city of Hell, look it up) to lobby the ruling Rejectionist Bloc for a free-trade agreement. This may involve making some concessions, such as your soul.

6. A minor member of the House of Lords, Sir Henry Cholomollelogram, is up in arms over the reforms on estate tax introduced in the new budget, which are designed to drastically reduce income inequality by confiscating huge proportions of all inherited wealth and redistributing it among the poor. Of course, no-one ever dies in Hell, but it's the thought that counts. Anyway, an obscure by-law allows him to block the passage of the bill for as long as he continues to speak on the floor of Parliament, which he has been doing for the last seven years. Occasionally he pauses to piss in a bucket and change to one of his other mouths. Find a way to get him to shut up and extricate Hell from total financial paralysis, at which point you'll be sure to start seeing some real changes.

7. There are two types of Lords in the House thereof: Lords Temporal, who are just ordinary Lords, what you imagine when you imagine a Lord, and Lords Spiritual, who are bishops of the Church of Hell. Recently, however, members of a competing faith - the Hungry Brethren - have been demanding that, as Hell is technically a secular state, they deserve equal political representation. The Computational Secularists, meanwhile, want the Church of Hell abolished altogether, and certainly feel that it should play no part in the political system. The Primate of All Hell (one of the Lords Spiritual) will pay you good money to play these latter two factions off against each other, perhaps by conducting some sort of false flag operation. Be wary of Abacus Lizards.

8. Anarchists have stolen the Ceremonial Mace! Parliament cannot lawfully meet without the Ceremonial Mace present in their chambers, and cannot lawfully conclude if at least one person has not been beaten to death with it. (Yes, I know we previously established that no-one can die in Hell. Also, nothing is true in Hell, and logic does not apply. Let's say for the purposes of any fantasy role-playing game you might happen to be playing that this person is either reduced to a bloody, squirming but still-living pulp or winds up in Underhell, the worse Hell you go to when you die in Hell.) Get the Ceremonial Mace back from the anarchists. They are led by a Rules Angel, who is literally from Heaven and who means well but does not quite understand that nothing she can do will help. She is in disguise so that the anarchists do not turn against her.

9. Plzzlpine Felch of the People's Republicans is giving a speech in her home electorate of Hnnsifut, Hell of Choking Dust. The only industry in Hnnsifut is coalmining. If you don't mine coal you have no money and starve eternally without dying. The subject of the speech is that the coal mines are costing the government too much money and will be closed. Run security for her. Hard mode: get her re-elected.

10. A scandal has rocked Parliament. Though it swears it's innocent, it seems that Glaarghlaxigreezm, Carnivore Prince of Torment and Champion of a Thousand Agonies, may have accepted thousands of dollars in under-the-table donations from the mucus industry in order to push for the deregulation of phlegm plants. One of his aides blew the whistle and is now in hiding in the mortal world, possessing a nun. Track her down and get the full story.

11. The Minister for Alphabets is thinking of tightening Hell's name illegibility standards, making it even more difficult for any entity equipped with throat and tongue to make its way around without developing a permanent cough. The Archaeoconservatives and the Damnocrats are for it: the Computational Secularists and the Illibertarians are against it, and a representative from the latter party has hired you to infiltrate the Minister's electorate, n^KBvZ$%)2gh, the Hell of Public Speaking, and destroy all six of his proposed new letters before they can be released upon the general public. n^KBvZ$%)2gh resembles an infinitely large library where the corridors occasionally open out onto massive lecture halls filled with everyone you've ever known and also some monsters.

12. You are John Constantine. You would care about this if you were John Constantine.

Monday 9 March 2015

Vonnet's Telescope

Vonnet began his occupancy of the telescope some eight years ago, and the locals are really quite grateful, as it's stopped all the deaths. So far, Vonnet has publicly described the telescope as being 'about as useful as a big dumb mirror seems', though he has not also come up with a good explanation for how it kills people. If you ask Vonnet why he bothers living miles out of town on the top of a cliff he'll tell you that it's great inspiration for writing. He's not wrong, but he is lying. If you ask the locals why he bothers living miles out of town on the top of a cliff they'll tell you that he's a wizard, obviously, but not the bad sort. Sometimes he'll suggest looking for yuzlat mushrooms over a particular ridge, and the people will go there, find them, and get very drunk on yuzlat tea. Thus is he accepted by all.

The telescope itself is of peculiar design, though as no-one in this part of the world with the exception of Vonnet has ever seen a telescope before, this will probably go unremarked. The most obviously peculiar thing about the telescope is the fact that it points down. Sitting on an outcropping of rock on the edge of a small, deep crater, the telescope juts precariously from the side of a cliff and points down at an enormous concave mirror, tiled to the floor of the crater. In the observation room within the observatory there is a single reclined chair under the telescope, as well quite a lot of imposing runes which are all completely decorative. Anyone sitting in the chair can shift themselves with a system of hand levers to be positioned right under the large, square-cut lens of the device, and looking into the lens will, once they get all the internal mirrors lined up right, instantly kill them. The mirror's workings are understood only by Vonnet, and if forced (and it would require quite a lot of force) he would describe it thusly.
"The telescope is a very old, very complicated device, that is very little more than a large mirror. When you look through the lens, you are looking through an absolute artwork of glass and copper, which does many complicated things to sight of which you do not need to know or understand [for all his flaws, Vonnet understands normal attention spans quite well]. Suffice to say that the lens shows you the great mirror below us. That great mirror reflects up into the sky, and for some odd reasons involving how thick air is it - no, don't ask questions. Really. Just don't. For odd reasons, this lets us see ourselves from the point of view of a bird, far, far, far above us. The danger in the telescope is nothing more than the danger of looking in a mirror. You see that big hole in the roof? That lets you look into your own eyes, from the perspective of a god. Not a very good idea."

If you're still imagining this you need to start reading again from the top

Vonnet is a wizard of mirrors, mentally styling himself as a mirrormage. He is possibly the only wizard of mirrors currently alive, though the telescope suggests that he is not the first. Vonnet's work in repairing and utilising the observatory is a very well kept secret, known only to himself and his miserable research assistant, an Ouahsdbaa named Uohassbt. The Ouahsdbaa has been recruited just recently. It was 'hired' because it does not have a reflection, allowing it to look through the telescope without immediately dying. Though it may have taken 6 years for Vonnet to figure out what the telescope does without looking through it himself, and another year to figure out how to get the Ouahsdbaa here, the last year has meant a tremendous leap forward for the mirrormage, and his experimental magics involving the observatory look to have him ruling the countryside in only a few short decades.

The secrecy of Vonnet's work is obvious once said work is understood. If one can properly utilise the telescope they are capable of spying on anything within several thousand miles through completely non-magical means. Once anyone of any political power finds out what the observatory can do, Vonnet is well and truly fucked. As such, Vonnet's primary motivation is to pretend to be a wizard pretending to be a historian.

Uohassbt the Ouahsdbaa is sad because Vonnet stole him from his home country. Vonnet insists he didn't mean to, saying that he had another much more willing Ouahsdbaa lined up for the job, and frankly cannot figure out why his spell grabbed the wrong one. He is not as apologetic as he should be, and insists that once he has solved the mysteries of the observatory he will be able to send Uohassbt home. This is all total bullshit of course, and the harpies have seen Vonnet dump the bodies of the first two Ouahsdbaa, who didn't buy the story. Killing them wasn't murder of course - to a mirrormage, people without reflections aren't really people, how could they be?

The last thing you need to know about the observatory is the harpies. They are obnoxious little shits, and will spend their time doing obnoxious little shits on anyone that climbs up to the telescope. When you do the voices it's important that you make them sound like those little worm guys from Men in Black. They know Vonnet's secret, but hate the Ouahsdbaa enough to never tell him. They hate everyone, actually, including Vonnet, but he gives them shitty moonshine regularly enough that they hate him the same way they hate each other, and will only betray him if it seems funny at the time.

Picture this guy saying a naughty word and
then laughing so hard he pisses on you

Visible Cities

Eshanipur was founded by nomads who are jealous of all other cities and want to become them. Roll a d10.

1. Everyone is congregating in salons, which have sprung up like mushrooms wherever an empty space exists to accommodate one. A huge amount of speed embroidery and lace-making got done overnight and now even the dingiest storeroom looks cozy and refined. Wagonloads of tea-bricks are getting bussed around the city in preparation for the afternoon soiree. The demand for little cakes has gone through the roof. Bakers are making a fortune. The only things that will get talked about are aesthetic philosophy - the more abstract, incomprehensible and morally outrageous the better - and who is sleeping with who - same. Today's means of destroying your enemies is to trick them into publicly revealing their ignorance about either of these things.

2. Everyone is working on the ziggurat, which won't be especially big. The fastest workers get chosen for the honour of sacrifice. Priests are chosen by lottery and exempted from labour, instead getting to sit around all day drinking chocolate and fondling temple-maidens of all genders. Temple-maidens are volunteers. They do not get exempted from labour and work in shifts. Self-mutilation is going around. The preferred method involves a thorny branch and a hole in your tongue or foreskin through which it is passed. Flagellation (auto- and otherwise), is also acceptable, as is purposefully crushing your fingers and toes beneath boulders. Blood runs down the streets and children splash in the puddles, scoop it up and mix it with cement dust to make mortar for the ziggurat. Today's means of destroying your enemies is to defeat them in a ritual game involving a stone hoop and a rubber ball.

3. Everyone is out in the streets, shouting, haggling, trying to sell each other things and borrow money off each other and pickpocket each other and find somebody to bribe. Every public thoroughfare is crowded with impromptu market stalls with the debris of people's homes scattered across repurposed tablecloths. The tablecloths are also for sale. Watchmen in blue uniforms lumber about with gold watch-chains dangling from their pockets, cracking down on people for violating imaginary regulations. If you can steal one of their watches and keep it until the end of the day it is yours forever. If you get caught with one the watchmen will beat you mercilessly and drag you to the lock-up, which is already full of pleading mendicants with their hands stretched through the bars, begging for bail money. At exactly midday everyone except the watchmen will go home and sleep for exactly one hour. The watchmen will use this opportunity to steal stuff. Today's means of destroying your enemies is to plant a gold watch on them and tip off the law.

4. Everyone is sitting in sidewalk cafes drinking yerba mate and whispering to each other. Men and women in gold-braided costumes do elaborate rope tricks and juggle flaming swords in the middle of the road. Bulls and ostriches wander around jostling people. It is considered the apex of impoliteness to disturb one of the performers - they might die! As such, when there is applause it is as quiet as possible. Today's means of destroying your enemies is to startle them into making a loud noise and face public opprobrium.

5. Everyone is on the rooftops, kneeling on elaborate woven rugs, praying in the direction of a specific spot about a mile from the city's exact centre. The streets are empty. There is nothing in the location they are praying to. Fat men in towers with heavy bass voices call out prayer instructions in code language, sometimes overlapping one another's zones of vocal influence. Occasionally people will pass out from the heat. The fat men will decide whether or not you are allowed to help them. At lunchtime everyone will stop and go indoors and eat dates and sherbet. Today's means of destroying your enemies is to pray for their crops to die and their line to be extinguished.

6. Everyone is wearing carnival masks and arranging secret trysts in the gardens by the canal. The ouzo is flowing freely and the lutists are everywhere. Heavily spiced lamb kebabs, baked clams, honey-dipped beignets and those spirally potato things on sticks are available everywhere. Cloth has been hung over public thoroughfares, between houses, to make everything nice and shady. Somebody has paid for a fountain of champagne to be erected on a boat in the central lagoon and anyone who can swim out to it gets to drink their fill. Anyone who can't gets fished out and mocked remorselessly, but good-naturedly, by clowns with enormous noses. There's too much confetti. Today's means of destroying your enemies is to arrange a secret tryst with the person they would have liked to arrange a secret tryst with.

7. Everyone is doing improvisational comedy. People flock from house to house, each the base of a different, hastily-formed troupe which will accept any suggestion, no matter how unlikely. The boundary between audience and performer is ill-defined. It is considered good practice, after a successful sketch, to give somebody else a chance at making people laugh, but you can always find yourself dragged back up on stage if the troupe feels another straight man is required. As the day wears on the funniest people all find themselves gathering around the same few well-proven locations and becoming increasingly snide and superior towards the less-funny people, who will start drinking alone. They will also become increasingly competitive over what remains of the limelight. It's treated as an ironclad rule that you can't say no to anything, ever. Today's means of destroying your enemies is to get a bigger laugh than they did.

8. Everyone is beating foreigners to death. Any business with a foreign name will have its windows broken and facade defaced. Any house belonging to a foreigner will be ransacked and demolished. Paper effigies with foreign features will be touted through the streets and burned. Once no more foreigners are to be found the citizens will gather around the central lagoon, waving torches, chanting patriotic slogans and constructing huge bonfires out of books in foreign languages. Looting will take place. Some of the looting will go askew and people who aren't foreigners will wind up being targeted. The city watch will make a serious and largely successful attempt to maintain order. Most people will go to bed happy and content. Today's means of destroying your enemies is to accuse them of collaborating with foreigners and confiscate their property.

9. Everyone is indoors, reading quietly and complaining about the weather. The books are all murder mysteries. Tea ladies wheel their clanking carts around town, knocking on doors, offering cups to friendly policeman and bewigged judges. Everyone is in a uniform of one kind or another. No-one is working. Hobbyist engineers knock together impractical devices in other people's backyards. Mechanical scarecrows nod in rows along the canal's edges. Elderly couples in swan boats sit in quiet courtyards, paddling and paddling, going nowhere. Chimneys puff with smoke. Scones with jam are provided, free of charge, to anyone who wants one. Today's means of destroying your enemies is to correctly guess the ending of their murder mystery and tell it to them before they can finish it.

10. Everyone is huddled in basements, plotting to overthrow the government. Everyone is convinced that a different group of basement-huddlers, somewhere in the city, is the government. Parliament House stands empty. The members are mingling among the populace. But who could they be? Explosions rock the city. No-one dares look anyone else in the eye for fear their true identity should become obvious. Plain-clothes policemen lurch from the bushes, grab you by the shoulders and drag you screaming into dank chambers of interrogation. Rocks fly from nowhere and blind children. Black bandannas are whipped from pockets and suddenly the bank is a riot of smoke and flame. Inflation is through the roof, the price of a loaf of bread doubles every ten minutes. It is a crime to burn money but firewood is too expensive. Jails are opened, schools closed, prisoners and teachers duck into cupboards and exchange uniforms. It all ends in tears. Today's means of destroying your enemies is to figure out who they are and shoot them in the head.

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.

Friday 6 March 2015

d20 Magic Rocks

1. Bishamonten's Lucky Earring
Can be rubbed before getting into a fight to give 1 bonus +1 AC. For every month you spend without using the earring, it gains another +1, up to a maximum of +3. After each use this bonus is reset to +1.

2. Swapstones
If one of these soft, palm-sized stones is placed in the mouth, swirled around, and spat out again, the two stones trade places. The stones are already covered in layers and layers of writing, in a hundred different hands. Each message you carve will eat away a little more of the rock. Please ensure you don't have both stones in any mouths at the same time - it gets really unpleasant really quickly.

3. Constellation
Stone the size of a thumbnail. If stared at, the image of a strange night sky slowly becomes visible. Continued focus causes the image to distort and twist as the black space behind the moon is brought into focus. When you can see nothing but darkness, save vs death. A successful save means that you have been selected by the horrorterrors. Gain 3 random mutations from a table you don't normally use in this campaign. 1% chance that your intelligence has been replaced by an alien otherness.

4. Wasp Eye Opal
If you scoop out your own eye and replace it with this gem it grants 1 additional critical hit range with any piercing weapon. Looks nothing like a wasp's eye.

5. Trick Pebble
After being swallowed this suspiciously ordinary-looking pebble can be pulled out from behind your ear. While mostly useful for impressing dumb people, anything copper that's tied to the key (with copper wire) will be stored in the negative space behind your ear before it ever hits your stomach.

6. Pietus Ersmagh's Titanic Rock
This fist sized stone cannot be moved except by people that absolutely believe it to be alive. If it's not currently at the bottom of a lake, it's likely to be in the pocket of a 6-year-old somewhere. Telling somebody that it's a very large demon in disguise, etc, will only work if they fail a wisdom test.

7. Cursehome
It's unclear whether this rock has always been a rock, or whether at one point it was someone that got on the wrong side of a witch. Standing a little over five inches tall and looking uncomfortably humanoid, this stone will absorb any curses afflicting those that touch it, and do its best to suffer their effects. Cursehome is currently dragging itself very slowly through all the worst places in the world, with a small thundercloud washing away the constantly topped-up supply of bird-shit covering it. When you look at the stone you will be overcome with the urge to spit on it, though it's considered polite to apologise afterwards.

8. Soapstone
Got some nasty bloodstains in your favourite tunic? Take your dirty clothes, throw them into water and start scrubbing a soapstone over them. Simple stains like sweat, blood and vomit will take only a minute or two. Scrubbing away the entire bowel tract of The Corpulescent Sluglord is probably going to wear your arms out. Regardless, while this stone may seem super boring it's actually probably the most useful thing on the list, and worth not a large fortune, but simply the lifelong appreciation of anyone with more than four kids. I guess if you really want this to be functional it can do like 3d6 damage when absorbed by an ooze or earth elemental. Fuck you though.

9. Shard of Dawn
This golden gemstone glows very faintly at night, and starts small fires when the sun first hits it each day. Sleeping with the shard under your pillow will cause you to wake up at dawn absolutely no matter what. Not currently in a dimension with a sun? The stone will find a way. Feel free to stab this into things that take damage from sunlight, but make sure you have a soapstone on hand.

10. Tremorshell
When tapped this stone sounds distinctly hollow. If broken open, with a sledgehammer and a good investment of time, the rock is clearly one solid piece. Left immobile, a tremorshell will slowly begin to vibrate at the resonant frequency of anything it's touching. Glass will shatter after only a few minutes touching, or very near to, a tremorshell. Bridges may be brought down, though this may take hours or even days to complete. The most impressive feat of a tremorshell is the production of earthquakes. Leave a shell on the bare ground and the earth for a mile around will be noticeably moving within three days. preshocks can be expected within a week, and if these do not shift the stone it will shake until mountains start falling down.

11. Golem's Gullet
Put anything next to a chunk of golem's gullet and it will very, very slowly attempt to eat it. After completely covering whatever object it's trying to devour, golem's gullet will slowly shrink down to the size it previously maintained, waiting for the next meal. As a general rule of thumb, a chunk of golem's gullet can eat objects up to twice its size, though it has a little more greed for iron than wood. If you pull golem's gullet off a meal it's shrinking around you will be able to dig out the object completely undamaged. No-one has yet figured out why the gullet won't try to eat things larger than it, but fortunately not many people think to ask.

Don't put it in the same pocket as your keys
12. Talking Stone
Whoever is holding the talking stone takes priority in conversation. Anyone interrupting or refusing to wait their turn feels a dull, blinding agony in their temples that makes it impossible for them to concentrate enough to talk. Dynasties have been founded with these things. A more prudent society would make a rule that you get five minutes before passing it on and anyone who tries to keep it gets wordlessly stabbed.

13. Meatrock
Looks like an ordinary rock but break it open, there's meat inside! Found on beaches sometimes. Leads to stranded sailors desperately collecting and smashing enormous piles of pebbles. Preserves the meat for as long as it's in the rock, making it a useful emergency snack. The meat is tough, red and slimy, like if a cow could be an oyster, and would be a delicacy if it tasted better but it doesn't. Not - I cannot stress this enough - not just a shellfish. Actually a rock.

14. Bunkumite
Anybody, no matter how savvy, can be convinced this rock is good luck. It's not. Like the talking stone this seems really good until you realize that it will mostly be used against you. The fact that you know the rock is bunkumite is no defense against its properties, so an exchange will often go like this:

A: Like to buy this rock? It's good luck!
B: It does look lucky.
A: It does, doesn't it? On second thought, I'm keeping it.

15. Mapstone
Split it in half, the flat side's a map! Of somewhere. Perhaps a distant delta, perhaps an uninhabited island chain on the world's other side, perhaps the prehistoric continent where the rock was originally forged. No political boundaries, because how would a rock know that, but geographic features ought to be recognizable, if somewhat altered by the passage of time. Microscopic flaws, little more than air-bubbles and calcifications, either mark locations of interest or are just products of chance. Mapstones can be tens of thousands of years old and have a tendency to circulate, as people try to figure out where they refer to and if there's any treasure there. A king might give one to an explorer on the basis that it's not doing anything just sitting in the treasury. A cannibal tribesman might take it from the explorer's delicious corpse and send it as a diplomatic offering to the shaman of the next tribe over, who decides it's a map of the afterlife and places it on the sacrificial canoe with the the body of his mother, about to be dispatched downstream, where Hell is. They are riddles relayed across millennia, unlocked one piece at a time by the endless ingenuity of the human species. Or possibly they just kind of look like maps because the human brain loves tricking itself.

16. Hairy Opal
Opal that, if left to itself for a couple of weeks, sprouts hair. Wigmakers love them. Jewelers hate them. "Yes, I'd like to register a complaint, I was going to wear this brooch to the Duchess' party but apparently it's grown a beard. I'd like my money back please." You can just trim them but unless you're very good at shaving small, hard, irregular surfaces they wind up all stubbly. If you take a hairy opal and put it somewhere very tight, it will slowly build up pressure until it reaches the equilibrium of that particular stone. Sudden shifts in the space around the stone will cause it to burst free like a giant ingrown hair, which it kind of is.

17. Spectral Menhir
Rocks can have ghosts. Actually, anything can have a ghost, it's a universal law, it's just that the vast majority of things are incapable of dying violent deaths and having unfinished business. (Remind me to tell you about Umbra Centauri, the Ghost Sun, sometime.) The spectral menhir was pulverised by iconoclasts or land developers or people who just wanted the gravel. Now on the blackest of nights it will appear in unexpected locations, looming over nobles in their courts and families at their dinnertables, promising dire fortune for those who slew it, but not doing very much more than that since it is, after all, just a rock. The queen has promised a small fortune to anyone who can carve her a statue out of it.

18. Pulsebrick
Red. Oblong. Pulses with the same frequency as the heart of whatever touches it. Good for medical purposes, saves you from having to do that whole thing with the two fingers on the wrist. Not pretty enough to make jewelry out of and anyway the jewelers have sworn off magic rocks after the whole hairy opal incident.

19. Mintimony
Looks likes crystals of dark chocolate. Smells like chocolate, sea salt, peppermint. Texture of aluminium. Dissolves in water very, very slowly, like over a hundred years. Even trace amounts, which are the only kind you'll get because it dissolves so slowly, are deadly poison. Much in demand for garden furniture, candle holders, crowns. Don't wear it against your skin if you plan to sweat at all. For this very reason, often worn by people who want to demonstrate that they never sweat, because they are so cool and collected, and also to smell nice. Huge Giant's Causeway-esque natural formations along spans of storm-drenched coast makes the whole region a lovely walk and a terrible swim.

20. Pride Rock
All seeing this majestic bluff jut from the savannah are overcome by powerful feelings of bittersweet joy. The farming communities surrounding the rock have developed a complicated style of Venetian hat, allowing them to work outside without catching sight of the mountain in their peripheries. Anyone trying to start a fight within two miles of the rock must make a will save or feel like too much of a dick to throw the first punch. Looks absolutely great in the sunset.

(Okay that was a joke the real 20 is this)

20. Cicardum / Imagolith
The pyroclastic cicada of the Brummard Ranges in Upper Pfelph has the longest known life cycle of any living creature, spending three weeks munching leaves as a larvae, one hundred million years sheltering in its underground cocoon, and two days fluttering about laying eggs in its final winged form before it dies and the whole thing starts again. Obviously the cocoon has to be pretty rigid to survive a hundred million years, which is why the cicada carefully spins it out of stone, squirting a potent acid from special glands on its abdomen that temporarily lends rock the consistency of play-doh. The cocoons wind up about the size of a housebrick and are commonly used for that purpose, with the metamorphosing cicada all curled up inside in a little secret cavity, unbeknownst to the home owners. They're so easy to build with, in fact, so often found just lying around in the wilderness in huge piles all of roughly square shapes, that leading wizards hypothesize the cicadas do it on purpose so that the stones will all be kept together for their eventual emergence and the brief, fervid mating season. But this makes no sense, because cicadas can't see the future, right?