Monday, March 16, 2020

1d10 Derelict Ships

     I’ve been trying to find good sci-fi/spec-fi material for an OSR-vein game, but I’ve been having trouble. My difficulties can be epitomized in a table titled “1d20 Plot Hooks for Derelict Ships,” that I encountered in a sci-fi TTRPG fanzine. With a term like “Plot Hooks,” I expected a list of intriguing and mentally stimulating prompts, but the table merely contained a list of moderately interesting interior decorations, a pit trap or vines hanging from the ceiling. The table wasn’t particularly useful, so I’ve endeavoured to create my own attempt, primarily with ideas ruthlessly pilfered from the science fiction short stories I’m addicted to, but with my own twists and some personal ideas. Roll a d10 to produce a central problem with, or theme for, a derelict spaceship or roll multiple times (or use all of them) to generate a particularly dangerous and weird space station.

1. All of the crew and passengers are clustered inside the engine room, arranged in naked, orgiastic positions. Dark, bloody holes gape where their eyes should be. They wear serene expressions.

2. Pigs have overrun the ship, filling the hull with happy squeals and snuffling. They all have organic sockets at the base of their skulls, standard data-tablet ports.

3. An old woman is the sole remaining occupant, she wears a black veil painted with makeup upon her face. She is adamant that the rest of the crew has gone to their “just rewards” and that she has remained behind in purgatory. Anyone and anything from outside the ship is viewed as a holy or diabolical message.

4. The AI of the ship is pleasant, but will refuse entry due to fears of a “zombie apocalypse” endangering its passenger. The sole surviving passenger would really rather like to get out and go home now, thank you very much.

5. Deep within the vessel, a huddled mass of infants and fetuses cluster together for comfort. They dislike intruders, moving and acting as one in ambush and attack, mewling subconsciously as they swarm.

6. A general broadcast emanates from an innocuous drifting vessel, the voice drips with venom: “Well, honey, you thought I wouldn’t notice you fucking your little ‘friend’ on the side. I guess I’m not ‘as stupid as I look,’ now am I? I’ve rigged this little ship to air all your dirty laundry in 2 hours, and blow up about 15 seconds after that. If you so much as scratch the paint, it broadcasts instantly. PS. I did things for your second-in-command that I never did for you. PPS. Die in a fire.” 2 well-equipped ships are barreling down on the derelict, but you’re closer and would have a 15 minute lead.

7. Upon entering the ship, a warm and soothing voice greets you, apologizing for the state of the interior. Over time, the host AI displays ever-worsening delusions and hallucinations, shifting mood and tone with increasing rapidity. Deep within this vessel, the well-protected central is an amalgamation of wires and tubes hooked into an overgrown brain, floating within a tank of nutritive goo.

8. Emblazoned on the hull stands the designation: “Quotidian Manufactories #96”. As the automated assembly lines lead deeper into the craft, it becomes clear that, when fully functioning, the complex manufacturing tools crafted elaborate, precision sex toys for the discerning. Not only does the ship contain a small fortune of such products in various levels of completion but, with time, the equipment could be retooled for the production of various other high-tech products.

9. The old mobile studio for a game show called “Turing’s Test”, which primarily consisted of producing a robotic simulacrum of an individual, and then having one of their loved ones try to differentiate between them. The simulacrum-production machinery could be restored to working order without too much difficulty.

10. A storage container full of gengineered “dinosaurs” in stasis. Commissioned by a patron who apparently preferred the bright and feathered “revised view” as opposed to the scaley drabs of the “traditionalist perspective”.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Youthful Knights of Vep-Ullich

    Within the hinterlands of the Somnocracy of Nat-ul, the Dreaming Tzarate, lie dark woods and darker creatures.  The curious curse of the township of Vep-ullich betrays the danger of meddling with the puissant inhabitants of the forest.

     The Druid of the Leaning Peak commands fear over the region of Vep-ullich.  That beast is a local potentate as fair, callous, and distant as a fat bear in autumn.  Every spring this creature demands one youth or maiden of the surrounding lands, delivered to the base of its mountainous lair on midsummer's day.  It delights in burning civilization and thought from their minds, reducing the sacrifices to wild animalism, bereft of language and symbols.  These feral villagers prey upon local herds and those foolish enough to venture alone at night or attempt to reclaim their kin.  One fell autumn evening, the beasts ransacked the herds of a local lord, seeking stores for the winter.  Craving vengeance upon the Druid, the baron summoned a troope of seven pompous young knights.  Their gay banners snapping in the fall breeze, the procession entered the forests around the Leaning Peak, waving favors from their ladies as the serfs cowered in their villages.  That night, blizzard snow howled, and thunder grumbled about the heights.  It took a fortnight for all the knights to return, naked and scarred.  Each and every man was struck dumb, deaf, and (much to the delight of their lesser relations) impotent.  The same fate now awaits anyone of noble blood who sleeps within sight of the Leaning Peak.

     Without a lord to protect them, the villagers were defenseless against raids upon their herds and fields that fall, but the Druid is not an unjust liege.  During the following calving season, the first brood of seven old men was found amongst the cattle herds, toothless gums sucking at the teats of mother cows.  Tenderly, the serfs cared for them, treating these elders with respect and asking after their families, but they were faced only with idiot drools and babbled motions for more cow's milk.  Within a fortnight, their teeth grew in and, on the first full moon of April, the Druid's wild thralls laid the armour of the pompous young knights at the step of each house caring for the stray old men.  Soon, each elder could speak again, first as a child, then brighter than any serf.  As their hair filled in and coloured, black as a bull's hide, they learned the languages of wind and beast, as well as the kennings of the local wise women.  Four years later, as muscles and guts swelled with strength, they resembled men of middle-age, picking up their swords, lances, and armour with natural talent.  During the fifth year, they triumphed over the neighbouring raiders, seven men driving fourscore or more from the field.  The litter lived together in the lord's abandoned mansion, patrolling the lands of their care-givers and celebrating the turning of the seasons with their adoptive village.

     In the seventh year, the calves of Vep-ullich again had old men amongst them and as they grew into middle-age, the first brood reached their youth.  With another set of protectors for their people, the first litter ventured into the world, returning a decade later as pubescent boys.  They brought back knowledge from the Dreaming Monks, who then dwelt deep within the Murmuring Crags during those days before the Fateful Tzar found the Truth.  At their own instructions, the seven youngest knights imbibed sleeping draughts and, whilst dreaming deeply, were drowned in holy oil by the newer broods.  Each was entombed in brown glass coffins and laid in a crypt at the base of the Leaning Peak.  Every generation since has undergone this process after they pass backwards through puberty, ready to be raised in the service of their Dreaming God.  When called upon a crusade against Awakened, the Youthful Knights of Vep-ullich often bring their preserved elders along, leathery boy-corpses capable of routing legions of unbelievers, proving the power of Pegana Unwaking and the Dreaming Tzarate.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Strengthened Resolve and Odd Addictions

First of all, I'd like to thank Anne over at diyanddragons, for including me in their GLOGosphere list, with a group of others who are described as "incandescent."  I'm unsure how much that term applies to me, but I'm damned if it didn't make me feel a little self-important, and a little vanity never hurt anyone... except for Sleeping Beauty that is.  And now to today's featured programming:

       My father was addicted to music.  On bad days my mother would send me out looking for him in concerts and rock halls, a whirling dervish of bliss and fervor.  All the men in my family suffer like him.  My older brother is addicted to adversity.  He is a man who volunteers for the worst jobs, relishing in the toil and pain of their completion.  Sadly, mundane addictions always fail to curb these urges: an alphabet soup of psycho-actives for my father, alcohol for my brother.
     Mine started on my fathers knee, listening to tales of heroes bold and foes fierce.  Neither Tolkien and Jacques, Gaiman and Pratchett, nor Ellison and MiĆ©ville could slake my thirst.  The glimmer of video games dulled the urge for a time, but then came the short stories, quick-lived sky-highs of wonder, lightning-jabs to my lizard brain.  After them came the blogs, sources of fiction and strangeness often beyond comparison in printed media.  As distractions I have tried sex and parties, alcohol and cannabis, but nothing hits as hard, with as few side-effects, as a well-written piece of fiction.  The only solution remaining, is to fulfill a decade of half-assed promises to myself.  And if anyone brings up the trope of the "frustrated novelist," you can sod right off.  I'm just trying to have fun and whet my skill, there ain't nothing wrong with that.

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!