Thursday, January 3, 2019

A Night in Aubrezyck

With every New Year comes new hollow promises to oneself!  Therefore, I resolve to post at least once a week for all of 2019, and now to your irregularly scheduled programming:

Though the City of Copper and Brick lies under a curfew, PCs may find themselves creeping through the city at night, liable to encounter the various other undesirables, and authorities, active in the small hours of the morning.
  1. A timid aristocratic youth, cajoled by his dandy friends, tries to climb up the back of a brownstone to visit the daughter of a successful merchant.  Waiting for him is: (1) the girl with open arms, (2) the girl's father and brothers armed with heavy canes, (3) the boy's parents ready to praise his gumption but remind him that "noble blood suits noble blood", (4) the girl with a full bedpan.
  2. Patrolmen enforcing the curfew, glad to be in the safety of the city instead of the trenches, meander through the streets.  They aren't looking for trouble and will simply warn the party to return home unless: something is obviously wrong, they are given lip, or one of the party appears aristocratic.
  3. Shadowy figures huddle in an alleyway, conversing and working on something.  They are either: (1) Revolutionaries allotting posters to paste throughout the neighbourhood, (2) Men of the Red Flag roughing up a (Revolutionary, Cult, or army) informant, (3) Cultists preparing to graffiti arcane symbols throughout the neighbourhood, (4) Men of the Red Flag struggling with a burglary, if the party looks competent, the Men will offer a premium for on-the-spot burglary help.
  4. A lone drunk stumbles through the streets, singing loud and bawdy songs.  He is either an aristocrat or rich merchant, kicked out of an illegal pleasure-den.  He would be easy to rob of his purse and jewelry, but who knows how much he will remember in the morning, or who watches from the shadows. (2/6 chance that he is sober and serving as bait for fellow dandies seeking a fight)
  5. From the shadows, a pale mask with long tresses observes the party, but disappears when viewed directly.  Three Hounds of Gaund stalk the party.  The second night, more of a looming bulk can be seen stalking the party.  On the third night, the beasts attack.  They are either minions of a magical rival or escapees from an amateur conjurer.
  6. A deranged woman, scrawling chalk graffiti of ornate shell patterns, mutters nonsense.  Though the phrase "resurrection of the Calcite Legions" can be understood.  Closer examination reveals that her tattered rags were once the lavender robes of a Rhaetor, a universe-talker of the Sunken College.  She grasps a thick glass orb filled with oil, and from within a child's skeleton lashes out if disturbed.
  7. A delivery carriage pulled by a bony nag rattles down the street.  A trio of workers laugh and smoke on the driver's seat as they go about delivering fresh bread, milk, and cheese to the houses of the rich and noble.  While gruff and armed with clubs, they are unwilling to risk their lives for a wagon-load of groceries.
  8. A 6-man patrol of recuperating soldiers from The Front.  They will not enforce the curfew strictly, actively, but halfheartedly soliciting bribes of drugs and contraband.  Equal chance (2/6) of the patrol having connections to the Revolutionaries or the Cultists.
  9. Shouts fill the air as a door bursts open and a melee between two dozen Cultists and Revolutionaries fills the street.  Guards will show up in 1d4 turns, -1 in a merchant neighbourhood, -2 in an aristocratic one (a result of 0 means one patrol is right around the corner, -1 means two patrols are).  The source of the fight is a Cultist or Revolutionary outpost, with its treasures and printing presses relatively unguarded in the heat of the fray.
  10. Turning the corner, a giant rat floats above, sewn from pigskins and inflated with hot air.  Beneath the buoyant rodent, a score of surly strikers have strung a line across the entrance of a factory, to stop scabs from working.  The will respond positively to anyone who has helped the Revolutionaries and negatively to those with noble or upper-class appearances.  Every other time this result is rolled, a dozen blackjack-armed thugs will be breaking up the strikers.
  11. A trio of drunken nobles attempting to steal a grapevine planting from the front of a brownstone.  They will generously and drunkenly reward any help, but in 1 turn they may attract a patrol (2/6) and/or the inhabitants of the house (2/6).
  12. Two dozen guards, armed with tower shields and short swords, cluster around a back-alley doorway.  They are about to knock down the door and raid a den of Cultists or Revolutionaries.  One of the guardsmen grips the leads of 6 hounds with grinning human faces.

Monday, December 31, 2018

A Falling Future

       Very slowly, but relatively surely, I have been working my way through the archives of Dungeon of Signs and also figured a futuristic/speculative fiction post would be a good way to end the old year.  One of Gus L's earlier posts listed 3 setting ideas, the third of which has sat and fermented in the back of my mind for a month or more.  As Stars Without Number is one of my favorite systems, the following fluff and campaign idea has come about:

       Humanity has spread throughout the stars.  The pioneers of Homo sapiens explored solar systems by slowboat and Alcubierre drive, while our ingenuity and populous tamed those new worlds.  However, fractious disunity mars this stellar expansion of the species.  Three fierce polities hold sway over the myriad stars of man, each striving for ultimate supremacy: the United People of the Book, zealots united after violent millenia; the Hindu-Catholic Compact, a vibrant alliance of conservative peoples; and the Interstellar People's Republic, the totalitarian corporatism.  Independent worlds, fleets, and even systems do exist, but they play their cards carefully, treading lightly and selling services to ensure the meagre safety of their citizens.
       Recently, the interminable, centuries-old cold war between the three polities has shown signs of warming up.  State-controlled news agencies make bellicose posturings, while the few independent, underground news sources report an increase in special operations and border skirmishes.  While the machinations necessary for total war are slowly set into motion, the men and women of Saint Michael's Reckoning are sent forth to prepare the road to victory.

       While you could certainly run a sandbox centered around making a living and garnering power around the edges of these three empires, my thinking focused more on a military sci-fi company game after Dungeon of Signs' pondering.  The PCs would be members of the elite unit stationed aboard Saint Michael's Reckoning, woken anew from deep sleep for each operation. 
       Their initial missions would focus around 4th-party, independent worlds and stations, fighting in proxy wars and against the undercover special forces of the other two empires.  Each session would increase in the difficulty/tech level of the opponent until war breaks out.  I figure that open warfare would be surprisingly short, as the terrifying weapons of the far future are unleashed and supply lines severed.  However, without superior guidance, the AI commanding the vessel would continue to act out its last prerogatives, launching towards long destroyed targets.  As human civilization collapses and so do the automated black-ops refueling stations, the AI of Saint Michael's Reckoning would be forced to revert to slower-than-light travel, unleashing its engineered holy warriors on civilizations grown strange from hundreds or thousands of years of stellar isolation.  If the players manage to ultimately overpower the AI and gain control of the ship, the game would become a slowboat sandbox through the rotting remnants of humanity, itinerant fanatics with god-like powers from a fallen age searching for a purpose.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Puppet Shows and Rumors of Rastingdrung

       I have recently been running Through Ultan's Door by Ben L. over at Mazirian's Garden.  Along with using the floating city of Zyan, I stole the city of Rastingdrung as well, situating it in a pre-existing campaign world with the simple appellation of "the city of orthodox hedonism".  In an effort to run Rastingdrung, I have been producing some of my own material for the city, as Ben provides little information about how adventurer's would interact with the city on his blog.  Hence, a table of rumors, to be heard from NPCs, and of puppet shows, as a random event to be seen on the city streets.  Though many of these are setting-specific, I hope these will help not only my own players in experiencing a more lively city, but other GMs seeking to run Through Ultan's Door as well!

1. Storm Crows were seen heading East and there are rumors of fighting with the sophisticated man-eaters.
2. Some Ulimite fanatic graffitied vulgar poetry on the Aviary.
3. Strange Lights were seen above the Sunken Ship last night, the fishermen think its a bad omen.
4. The Purple Baron is seeking men to fight off Pine Hellsmen, and the Chatelain is none too happy about it.
5. The Silent Censors are looking for a deck of playing cards, Kazik the Furnituremaker might know why.
6. A caravan of cowboys from the Dreaming Plains has stopped by, seeking to sell wares and trade tales.
7. Spaldiv, the Chatelaine’s 5th apprentice, has put out that any who clear the sinking Castle Ipswell in the Red Fens to the Northeast can claim the title of that decrepit “barony.”
8. The smuggling of the Dream Cult through the catacombs, the main import of illegal printing presses, has been disrupted.

Puppet Shows:
1. A version of Saint Garanax's travels in Zyan Below, wrestling tiger-boas and taming the war crows.
2. A propaganda-show of how the Chatelaine of Storms overthrew the lazy old king and his demon-worshiping priests and brought Rastingdrung the grace of Ulim.
3. The story of how the Bishop once stole the sun, so every year we must hold a midwinter festival appealing to him so he returns the sun to us.
4. A fairy tale depicting Saint Garanax descending into the sewers and catacombs beneath Rastingdrung, defeating the Horrible Vermin and old gods within.
5. A fairy tale of how the First Kings stole the magic of the Witch-Queens, used their own summonings against them, and sunk the city of Carnadine.
6. A political farce about the political factions of a downstream city.
7. An adventure show depicting the sophisticated man-eaters and dreaming cowboys to the South.
8. A fairy tale concerning the First King's Gardens of Ynn, and how they fell due to madness.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

GLOG: The Seven Wraths of Sunken Carnadine (1-3)

(Inspired by the take on summoning over at Mazirian's Garden)
(The general GLOG mechanics are explained here)
(All prices are for a silver-standard game)

Original versions of the Seven Wraths of Sunken Carnadine are inscribed in cuneiform on seven black stone tablets.  The lettering is done in brass poured onto the chiseled out letters.  Due to the ravages of time, it is not uncommon to find only some of the stones.  Some copies exist amongst Arnerion aristocrats, bound in black leather with vellum pages and written in common but archaic Aubrez.  The lettering is in gold leaf, and illuminations of the beasts are included.  However, there is a 50% chance that a volume suffers from translation issues which compromise the rituals.

The Seven Wraths of Sunken Carnadine is composed of the secrets stolen by the first Sorcerer Lords of Sipparnak from the Witch-Queens of Carnadine.  With the knowledge of these tools, the Sorcerer Lords were able to break the grip of the Lilim by raising their own beasts against them and drive their palace-city beneath the waves.  Some of the stone tablets refer to other, supplemental works on summoning, which would no doubt ease the difficulty of these rites and aid in the development of new binding rituals.  Though intact original versions are rare, and hidden amongst the fell libraries of aristocrats, other copies are surely located within the ruins of Sipparnak buildings.

The First Wrath: The Hounds of Gaund

Description: The Hounds of Gaund are named such, not because of their appearance, but for their purpose.  They were used as tools by the Lilim to hunt down enemies and traitors, haunting them in the dark before finally leaping forward to devour their memories.  These creatures are as tall as a man at the shoulder and walk on four long limbs, laboring beneath a carapace of rough clay, dull green-gray in coloration.  For a face, Hounds wear a plain white porcelain mask with the slight impression of delicate features and long, pale tresses.  They move far faster than their awkward shambling would suggest, and enjoy feasting beneath the stars, leaving desiccated corpses to be found in the morning, unmarked and drained of life.

Ritual: Beneath the blank gaze of a new moon and the piercing light of the stars, the conjurer must lay out a  circle of green clay soaked in blood (50 sp), moulding the lines and runes as described in the first stone of The Seven Wraths.  Within the circle must be placed three finely crafted porcelain masks with indistinct human features and with attached blonde locks (450 sp).  The conjurer must intone the rite of summoning and shaping as detailed on the stone, calling the beasts forth from their sunken hell.  As the Hounds slowly crawl out of the ground, forming beneath the masks, the conjurer must hold her will firm and croon the rites correctly, binding the beasts to the masks and her power.  Otherwise, they will burst forth from the circle and seek to drain the summoner of essence.  If all goes well, the Hounds will kneel before the conjurer, and can be dismissed, their clay bulk drifting away into foul-smelling ash.

Mechanics: The conjurer must roll against a Summoning Difficult of 9.  A bonus of +4 is gained by using ancient masks forged by the Sorcerer Lords of Sipparnak.  A bonus is also gained by mixing the clay with crushed malachite (+1 for each 100 additional sp, up to +4).  However, if the summoner has ever traveled beneath the earth and seen the tortures of the Hounds within the Hell of Gaund, she suffers a -4 to her roll from fear of the terrors these beasts can commit.

Success: If the ritual is successful, the conjurer will be able to use the three masks, when sprinkled with blood, to call forth 3 Hounds of Gaund by the monster summoning rules detailed here.  HD2, Defense 9, Movement 15, Attack 11, Life Drain (save vs HP to resist).  The Hounds of Gaund may be summoned to stalk a target.  The magic-user can expend 2 dice, which remain exhausted for the following week, and give the Hounds a green clay effigy of an individual with some part of the target incorporated into it (such as hair, fingernails, or blood) the Hounds will stalk and haunt the individual for 3 days before attacking in the dead of night.

Obvious failure: If the conjurer fails by 5 or more, then the Hounds break free of her constraints, gleefully bursting forth from the summoning circle, seeking to absorb her life force and roam free, hunting as they please.

Subtle failure: If the conjurer fails by 4 or less, then all appears as normal.  However, the hold on the creatures is incomplete, and with each summoning there is a cumulative 1% chance that the Hounds break free, treat as an obvious failure.  Every summoning attempt afterwards with these masks is automatically an obvious failure unless the ritual is performed again.

The Second Wrath: The Ebon Watchers

Watchdog by Atenebris
Description: The Ebon Watchers are humanoid beasts, half dog and half baboon, with large incisors, which open easily in barking laughter.  These militant creatures have served many conjurers well, and are often seen in the obelisks of the Sorcerer Lords as gatekeepers and honor guard.  Ebon Watchers can understand human speech with their low cunning, but are unable to speak it due to their long jaws and large tongues.  They communicate with laughing barks, relaying orders and sarcasm in a tongue detailed in Kadingar's Interpretations, the only known copy of which resides with a private collector.  A spell to bind a quintet of Ebon Watchers to guard a specific individual or location is located within The Protective Inscriptions of Ib-Menininsinna.

Ritual: The conjurer must cast a golden figure of a rampant lamassu, a beast with a man's head, a bull's body, and wings (500 sp).  This must be done while chanting the rites of loyalty and dedication in the guttural tongue of the Ebon Watchers.  Once cast, the figure must be affixed to the top of a pole and carried by the summoner or one of her minions.  In order to bind the Ebon Watchers, the conjurer must enter combat and allow the emblem to fall into the hands of her enemies.  Then, the sorcerer must immediately invoke the rites of honour and shame, calling upon the Watchers to come forth from their realm and protect the symbol.  2d6 Ebon Watchers will appear, stepping out from shadows, and attack the holders of the emblem.  Once the enemy is defeated, and if any Watchers remain alive, the true test arrives, as the summoner must invoke the rights of respect and fear to bind the watchers to her will and the emblem.

Mechanics: This ritual has a summoning difficulty of 13.  It is not until the combat is over that the wizard must make her check to see if the rite was successful.  A bonus of +1 is gained for every 3 HD of enemies being fought, up to a total of +5.  If a rose gold lamassu-emblem of the Sorcerer Kings is found and used in the ritual, a +1 bonus to the roll is given and the number appearing when summoned is always the max.  

Success: The conjurer is able to summon 2d6 Ebon Watchers while holding the emblem and invoking the rites of loyalty and dedication.  If a Sorcerer King lamassu is used, 12 are always summoned.  HD2, Defense 8, Movement 15, Attack 12, Bite 1d4.  The Ebon Watchers can be armed and armoured to increase their capabilities, though helmets must be shaped specifically for them.  The Watchers will retain the armour bestowed upon them when re-summoned.  Ebon Watchers can never be surprised.  They can see through magical darkness and detect invisible and ethereal creatures.

Obvious failure: If the conjurer fails by 5 or more, the Ebon Watchers turn on the summoner for her impudence, chuckling and howling savagely.  They will target the sorcerer, but if the fight seems to go badly, will attempt to escape with the emblem, fleeing into the wider world.  There is a 25% chance that instead of regaining entry to their own realm, the Watchers call forth more of their own kind, forming a mercenary band with a vendetta against the conjurer for her impudence.  To attempt again, the conjurer must remelt the emblem if she has retained it or, if not, forge a new one or the result is automatically an obvious failure.

Subtle failure: If the conjurer fails by 4 or less, the Ebon Watchers are bound to come when called, but are insubordinate, not respecting or fearing the wizard.  The Watchers will still fight when the summoner is threatened, but will otherwise be lax and seek to disobey orders, especially if sent off separately from the party.  For instance, if they are told to simply "guard an area," the Watchers will prevent any physical harm to the location, but will not prevent any monsters from passing unless actively attacked.  When the party returns, the Ebon Watchers will inevitably be found dicing or playing cards, gambling on esoteric stakes.  

The Third Wrath: The Maws of Yragael

By R.J. Palmer
DescriptionThe Maws of Yragael hail from a sickly realm, composed of bones, and hair, and iron, covered in ever-falling pink ash, like snow.  Beneath their coats of ash, Maws are invariably tawny, massive, and hairy, sporting bat-like wings of skin, though unable to fly.  Some say that the first Sorcerer Lords fled through a gateway to this realm after feuding with their fleshcrafting descendants.  Puissant travelers tell of black ziggurats buried beneath unwholesome ash and the circling cries of the Maws, sounds of hunger from cruel beaks, and worse.

Ritual: Calling forth beasts as large as the Maws of Yragael requires great effort.  The conjurer must first construct a trio of angular arches arranged in a path.  This structure must be fashioned from black marble (600 sp) and inlaid with cuneiform runes of rose-gold (300 sp).  A profusion of rose-petals (25 sp) must then be scattered amidst the arches and a vast bonfire of bones lit.  After a few hours of tending the fire and enchanting the rites of preparation, the coals will be hot enough to work metal.  The conjurer must begin the summoning chant while she works a suit of heavy armour, shaping it with visions of cyclopean gateways and sharp-toothed beaks.  A helper is needed to pump the bellows for the forge.  At the climax of the chant, the armour must be consecrated with 1d4 HP of the conjurer's blood and then worn, and the beasts will finally emerge.

Mechanics: The ritual has a summoning difficulty of 15.  A bonus to the conjurer's roll may be gained from mounting a 3 opals (300 sp) in the summit of the arches for +2.  If the conjurer has gone to the home realm of the Maws of Yragael and constructs a bellows from the beak of a Maw, a further +2 will be gained.  While wearing the armour, all birds will despise the conjurer for attempting to align with these fallen winged things.

Success: If the roll against summoning difficulty succeeds, the conjurer will be able to summon 1d4 Maws of Yragael while wearing the armour sanctified in the ritual.  HD5, Defense 14, Movement 15, Attacks: Claw/Claw/Bite 1d6 each, if a bite attack does maximum damage, the target is swallowed for 1d6 damage per round.  The rose coloured ash which coats the Maw of Yragael also effects enemies.  All characters within 10 feet must roll against CHA -2 each round or be unable to act as they are overcome by chill visions of a burning civilization torn apart by infighting and buried under ever-falling ash.

Obvious Failure: If the conjurer fails her roll by 5 or more, she rends open a portal to the realm of the Maws and is compelled to enter it.  While the portal is active, unbound Maws, fell war-beasts, and even the high-fallen Sorcerer Lords which are rumored to rule that land will be drawn to the vitality of the portal and our mortal realm.  Unless a successful roll against a summoning difficulty of 24 is made (magic-users may pool their dice, but must be led by a summoner with at least one magic die available), the only way to close the portal is to dismantle the black arches.  Roll wandering monster checks every other round.

Subtle Failure: If the conjurer fails her roll by 4 or less, the ritual appears to work.  However, the armor is awakened, hungry, and cursed (cannot be removed).  Whenever the conjurer summons the Maws of Yragael, she must make a save vs level drain.  The armour gains a magic user level for each level drained from the caster, and at level 2 will begin to develop a will and its own goals.  Once 3 levels are drained, the armour's hunger is satiated and it can be negotiated with.

These are all completely un-playtested so far, so please give me any feedback you may have or results of letting your players dabble with arcane rituals!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

1d6 Repercussions of Blaspheming the Blasphemous

While destroying artifacts of importance to eldritch powers is often a simple matter, occasionally, the vitality of an idol strikes back against an iconoclast.  This is particularly true when attempting to draw upon the damage against a weird artifact in the concentrated presence of such power.  So, unless you have papal-level powers, destroying that ooze-stone statuette in the presence of Sandalla, the leonid beast of glass, will leave you as a pellucid monstrosity.  Whenever a cleric destroys an eldritch idol in the presence of a shrine or minion of the Outer Gods, the cleric must make a save to avoid being possessed and compelled by the artifact (telegraph this danger beforehand, but sometimes needs must when the devil, or Shub-Niggurath, drives).  If this save is failed, roll 1d6 to determine the cleric's compulsion/the goal of their possession.
  1. Find the nearest large population center, develop a cult, sacrifice everyone to summon a twisted god-beast.
  2. To seek the Inky Grail and quaff its entropic milk.
  3. Devour nearby holy and magical items until ripe with puissance, and then explode.
  4. Act normal until she has an opportunity to steal all of the silver and then jump into the ocean so the wealth may be sacrificed upon the shrines in the depths.
  5. Transform into a terrifying beast which seeks to kill or maim all nearby and then run off to establish a lair and procreate.
  6. Act completely normal, except compulsively attempt to kill and sacrifice anybody she is left alone with.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

GLOG: The Book of Six Circles

In an effort to comprehend the Summoning system of Ben L. over at Mazirian's Garden, and hopefully write my own variants, I have undertaken to translate the mechanics of his first examples, The Book of Six Circles, to the GLOG wizarding system.  All changes I have made to the original post (in quotes) are italicized and underline.  If you want to see the rituals in their full poetic glory, check out Ben L.'s blog.  He also has an evocative setting in the Dreamlands, for which he is publishing a zine soon!

The general GLOG mechanics are as follows: once the magic-user lays her hands upon a puissant tome containing summoning rituals, she may attempt to call forth the beasts described within and bind them to her will, in return for sacrificing a spell slot.  During the ritual, the magic-user must determine the number of dice she is willing to invest, and which are exhausted for the day.  The magic user rolls the dice with her eyes closed.  If [sum] dice is equal to or greater than the Summoning Difficulty of the monster, the ritual is a Success, if the [sum] is less by 1-4, then the ritual is a Subtle Failure, and if the ritual fails by 5 or more, it is an Obvious Failure.

To call forth a bound entity, the conjurer must expend 1 die for a turn's length, 2 dice for an hour, 3 dice for a day, and 4 dice for a week.  However, on a Mishap, a subtle failure is incurred, and on a Doom, an obvious failure automatically occurs.  Also, if summoned for a week, the summoner must reroll against the Summoning Difficulty at the end of the duration to ensure that her hold on the entity is still strong, otherwise, the appropriate failure occurs.  Certain entities and realms lead to exceptions to this rule (see Lunar Spawn and Threnody Crows).  If the magic-user dies while an entity is summoned, the beast is loosed to do as it pleases.

The First Circle: Lunar Spawn

Materials: Summoning lunar spawn requires a runic circle composed of "a blue pigment mixed with crushed chrysophate and tourmaline (200sp)," as well as "a large, flawless fire opal (500sp)."

Mechanics: The magic-user must roll against a Summoning Difficulty of 8.  A bonus of +2 may be gained "+2 if he has deciphered the Lunar Epiphany contained the third Puzzle Scroll. He may further increase the chance of success if he employs rare and exquisite crystals in the composition of the pigment with which the circle is painted (+1 for each 100 additional gp, up to +4). If, however, he has ever been to the moon, the temptations for his spirit to enter the rift will be overwhelming, and he will suffer a -4 on his save."

Success: If the ritual "succeeds, the sorcerer will henceforth be able to summon 2d4 Lunar Spawn by casting Monster Summoning I while holding the fire opal. HD1+1 Defense 6 Mv15' Att: Painful Touch 1d6 + a -1 on all rolls for 24 hours. These penalties are cumulative.  [Note that if Lunar Spawn are summoned on the moon, the spell has no duration. The Lunar Spawn will serve the conjurer until his departure or their death.]

"Obvious failure: If the conjurer fails by 5 or more, then his spirit has been drawn through the rift and lost to wander the icy wastes of the moon forever. What is left behind is a mindless husk.

"Subtle failure: If the conjurer has failed by 4 or less, the Lunar Spawn have been bound and the ritual seems to be a success. However, a crystal structure has begun to grow in the summoner’s brain, feeding on his vitality and life force. For each level gained, subtract 1 point from his constitution. At 0 con the summoner dies and becomes a crystal moon lich. The process is irreversible, and once underway, the summoner cannot increase his constitution through any means. The process does, however, come with some boons. At the 3rd penalty small crystal knobs protrude from the sorcerer’s skull and he may now use tenser’s floating disk once per day. At the 5th penalty these knobs have become small horns and he may cast levitation once per day. At the 7th penalty, they appear as the crystalline horns of a stag. The summoner can then draw on the psychic energy they store to create a wall of force. At the 10th penalty the horns have fused together into an enormous twisted crown, towering like a papal hat over his perpetually bent head. The summoner may now employ them to cast power word stun once per day. At 15th level, the weighty crystalline boughs sprouting from the summoner’s head must be supported by artificial means. He may now cast power word kill once per day. May it serve him well in his final days!"

-Without editing the subtle failure of this ritual, it's actually really powerful in a GLOG system due to the limit on 4 spell slots per day, especially if summoning rituals more or less consume a Spell Slot.  However, I would love to see players try and personally fail a summoning to infect themselves with brain-eating moon crystals of magical power.

The Second Circle: Compass Worms

Materials: "To summon the Compass Worms, the conjurer must prepare in advance an ornate kris knife (500sp), and have a ready source of fire. He must then trace an intricate labyrinth in powdered blood and rust within a circle of runes... Using the kris knife, he must then spill the steaming life’s blood of a sapient being into a copper bowl, and place this bowl at the edge of the labyrinth."

Mechanics: This ritual has a summoning difficulty of 11.  "The summoner receives +1 for every two HD of bound intelligent sacrifice, up to a bonus of +4. Were The Jade Litany ever to be found, the summoner would receive +4 to his save by consulting the sections within on the Sightless Labyrinth."

Success: "The sorcerer will forevermore be able to summon 1d6 Compass Worms using Monster Summoning II. HD3+1 Defense 6 MV12' Att: Bite 2d4+1 Special: As soon as any of the worms tastes blood (does damage), they all enter a wild, thrashing frenzy, receiving an additional attack per round. They can see even in magical darkness, and detect invisible and ethereal creatures. They cannot be surprised.

"Obvious Failure: If the conjurer fails his ritual by 5 or more, 3d6 worms burst from the labyrinth in a blood frenzy. They attempt to slaughter all intelligent beings in the area. Should the conqueror make the Mark of Vesh and advance fearlessly towards them, the worms will cower in fear and be driven back into the labyrinth.

"Subtle Failure: If the conjurer fails his ritual by 4 or less, everything seems to have gone well, but the summoner has only a weak hold on the worms. With each summoning, there is a cumulative 1% chance that the worms will turn on the caster. When this result is rolled, treat it is as an obvious failure above. Once this has happened, it will happen every time the caster attempts to summon a Compass Worm."  Unless the ritual is repeated.

The Third Circle: Quiet Ones

Materials: "The ritual is exhausting and difficult. The evocator’s own body is to serve as the gateway and anchor for the Quiet Ones to enter and remain in this world... The day of the ritual he must evacuate himself of all wastes, enter purifying bathes, and shave all the hair from his body. This last is important, since his skin is to serve as the medium on which the third circle is to be inscribed. These alien and intricate runes must be tattooed or burned into his flesh precisely by a master of the relevant craft." 

Mechanics: The Summoning Difficulty of this ritual is 15. "However, there are additional preparations that may tip the scales in the conjuror’s favor. If he studies the art of meditation for 1 month under an Agent of the Black Lotus, or a a high level monk, then he will receive a +2 bonus for the ritual. Should he have laid eyes upon the Lost City of the Archivists, and seen the runes inscribed on the obsidian gates that lie within, he will find himself with an intuitive grasp of the ritual that negates its difficulty (+4). (The book itself only vaguely indicates that this last is true.)

"Success: The conjurer may now vomit forth 1d4 Quiet Ones... HD4+1 Defense 5 Mv15' Att: Claw/Claw/Claw 1d6 + save vs. poison or take 1d6 additional damage and be rendered silent for 1-4 turns. Special: owing to their unnerving silence, they are at +2 to surprise.

"Obvious Failure: If the conjurer fails by 5 or more, his mind and body have been overwhelmed by the Quiet Ones. He must immediately make a save versus death -4. If he fails, Quiet Ones indeed arrive through his body—but not his mouth. He dies as their limbs burst from his torso and head. If he passes the save, they have only colonized his mind. His personality is now suppressed, and they will feign normalcy and proceed to use his person to commit foul acts of murder and savagery, especially against companions and loved ones. It is possible to expel his colonizers with an exorcism, provided someone with the requisite knowledge and fortitude can be found.

"Subtle Failure: If the conjurer fails by 4 or less, the Quiet Ones appeared to have been successfully bound. In reality, they have acquired a slender hold on the conjuror’s mind and body, and are biding their time. Every time Quiet Ones are summoned, this hold grows stronger. Their goal is to turn the conjuror’s body into an open gateway for their kind. The 5th time they are summoned, and every time thereafter, the DM should roll a secret throw vs. Summoning Difficulty for the conjurer, based off of the dice originally invested in the ritual. When he fails, the conjurer will vomit the Quiet Ones up—but will not stop. The second round, it will be as if the spell is cast again. On the second round, and every round thereafter, the caster gets a new throw vs. Summoning Difficulty at a cumulative -2. Another failure indicates that more are arriving on the following round. If the cumulative penalty eventually makes it impossible to succeed at the saving throw, the caster has become an open portal and they will stream out for a full 24 hours, when the caster will expire from the strain. Quiet Ones who arrive in this manner are not under the conjuror’s control. They will seek to destroy all present, including the conjuror’s allies. If the conjurer should recover, they will attempt to destroy him as well. Should the conjurer survive, and be foolhardy enough to summon the Quiet Ones again, the result will be an obvious failure."

And just a reminder, check out Mazirian's Garden for the source and two more rituals of greater power!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

1d20 Current wars

Inspired by 1d20 Memories of Old Wars by Throne of Salt.  These are current conflicts waged across the lands of Arnerion, realms which will maybe someday sorta be expounded upon.
  1. The snapping of gallant banners in the breeze over glinting cookpot-helmets worn by farmboys transfixed on iron spears.  The pain of brother against brother, a land raging against itself.
  2. The cloying stench of the marsh at the end of an endless road, a frail thread to civilization.  Echoes through the fog of dying brethren amidst the deafening insects and half-bright gloom.
  3. The thump of trebuchets and hissing gas over sodden ditches men pretend are homes.  The faces of fallen comrades returned, bent, broken, and transfigured by cerulean glass into monstrous forms.
  4. Sweating and bleeding men beneath the desert sun and the leering gaze of sanctified saint-towers.  Fanatics desperate to consume the twin gods, in the land of salt and gold where the plants grow black.
  5. The taste of coca-leaves and vomit from altitude sickness as horses pass out from exhaustion and chill from the deathly zephyrs amidst plazas built for another land.
  6. The breathing of the House and crammed fighting in its tunnel-veins.  Hives of rats boiling and seething, gnawing at the throats of vermin and men alike.
  7. Starvation following the fall of a star.  The beasts that followed first occurrences, then an infestation, a swarm, and then a tide.  A land swallowed beneath an array of scales, chitin, and teeth.
  8. A march-climb into depths heated by their own sins.  Legions of dead and damned led by growling Margraves.  My own father spiked to a torture-engine, his crying of either greeting or damning ended by my blade as he bit into my leg.
  9. Ramparts shaking before the coming of the hoard.  Unnatural whinnies of men and giants with the heads of horses.  Shivers down backs.  A stumbling retreat, mounts deserting, lightening attacks that disappeared into the steppe, circling wagons at night.
  10. A desert filled with madness, a horde crossing the mountains, burning the lowlands.  Statue-towers rolling across meadows, bellowing haunting melodies of angel-demons and insanity.  
  11. Neon priests of a sledgehammer theocracy guiding legions of a psychedelic fascism.  Hallucinogenic hordes breaking against imagined bulwarks.
  12. Algae-choked canals and fumigant-bombed streets.  Shambling forms looming in the miasma.  Echoing screams and hunger on formerly idyllic avenues.  Choked corpses like fish out of water.
  13. Clandestine meetings in snowy parks.  Furtive raids and swift garrotings.  Trade secrets and sabotage amongst spore-covered factories.  Tools of the fungal vanguard of the revolution in a war of discretion against men with red badges.
  14. Box-helmed carnivores astride once-human mounts.  Lances shatter on the fields.  Bipedal steeds lay smashed beneath fallen gay pennants.  Strange blood spilt in the meadows.
  15. Smashed printing presses and torn summoning circles.  Men in the night with red badges waging a clandestine fire-bomb war with hidden committees of revolutionaries and terrorist societies of occultists.  The fear of informants.
  16. Men who's ancestors long since forsook the warm light of day.  Sects within sects fighting beneath the earth.  Self-declared god-kings smite twisted, hereditary decadents.  Black iron punishment-factories deface a totality of maddened gods.
  17. Men pale and unfeeling, armed with tools of diverse utility but common hue.  Ships driven by the work of twisted sorcerer-smiths.  A hostile, byzantine, and self-serving hierarchy.
  18. An ever-present chill mist.  Dye-bedecked knives in the night.  Palisaded outposts of civilization guarded against the darkness and shiver-spawning howls.
  19. Porcelain plate marked with geometric sanctity.  Men clawing at their eyes.  Rough, unhewn things birthed from sodden pits.  Towers of vast boulders torn to earth.
  20. Creaking ships beneath the eyes of mad godlings.  Spider crabs feasting on the eyes of men.  Worm-eel chariots cavorting in slicks of blood.  The machinations of shadows.  An unquiet silence.