Thursday, January 31, 2019

Miraculous relics for pseudo-historical settings [LotFP]

I'm putting together a short adventure, the working title is "The Mysterious Chapel of the Knights Templar". It includes a table for generating random relics. Could be useful for any pseudo-historical / medieval setting!

The reliquaries of the Chapel house a wide assortment of holy items. Some of them are significant and miraculous relics. Each character has a chance to recognize one such item.

Base chance
Clerics’ base chance
Devout Christian characters
For every hour spent studying the inventories of the Chapel

All Relics count as Holy Symbols and detect as magic. For game purposes, as a rule of thumb, the “wielder of the relic” is a single person who possesses the object (e.g. it’s not being torn out of their hands), and is in skin contact with it (so holding it works, but so does wearing it as pendant against bare skin). Some miraculous effects require the relic to be visible to others or be touched by others.

Roll 1d10 three times to get the Relic, the Saint, and the Miraculous effect!

Miraculous effect
Skull, with red silk thread connecting the eye and nose cavities. Belonged to…
St. Bartho. A Crusader who was quartered by the infidels. Didn’t give up his Faith.
Our Savior’s Heavy Cross. Counts as 2 points of Encumbrance (regardless of size or actual weight), but gives +1 to all Saves.
Molar tooth with silver fillings. From the mouth of…
St. Penther. A simple artisan, who did nothing special, but one day ascended into Heaven in a pillar of light.
Speaking in Tongues. Once per day, the wielder of the relic can fall into a trance and speak in tongues. Everybody in hearing distance can roll their Language skill (the check must be made again every time the Tongues are heard). If successful, they can piece together some random but useful information regarding their current situation. The trance lasts for 1d12 minutes and cannot be ended before this duration. Afterwards, the wielder must Save against Paralyze, or remain in the trance for 1d6 days.
Piece of bloody cloth, pressed under glass. From the garments of…
St. Ambo & St. Ivor. Conjoined twin brothers: one of them was pious, one was a non-believer. Nobody remembers exactly which one was which, so both got canonized by the Church.
Miraculous Conversion. Anybody seeing the relic must Save against Magic or wholeheartedly accept a tenet of faith uttered by the wielder. It must be phrased as a generic “commandment”, not an exact “command”. After 1d10 minutes, the tenet is completely rejected. Works only once on one person.
Small crystal vial, containing the blood of…
St. Gomberth. A hermit who lived 133 years and could talk to animals.
Pains of Salvation. If any damage roll affecting the wielder comes up as the minimum or the maximum possible value, it must be re-rolled. The second roll must be taken.
The heavy chains that were used to imprison…
St. Kirlian. 8-year old boy, participant of the Children’s Crusade.
Suffer no Witch. The wielder of the relic senses the presence of Magic-Users and Elves. The range of this ability is defined by the approaching witch’s level (30’/level). The wielder doesn’t know the identity or location of the Chaos-tainted abomination, but can taste their approximate power. The wielder must also make a Save against Poison, or vomit for 1d3 rounds (1 damage/round).
Small portable icon, size of a palm. It depicts…
St. Ar’qhual’aaaa. Blessed with miraculous healing powers. Came out of the blue, spoke an unknown language, had a second mouth on his forehead. Disappeared without a trace after saving a whole town from the Black Plague.
Seal of Purity. The wielder of the relic is considered a pure, innocent virgin* who can do no harm by everybody. If the wielder does something impure, harmful, or “un-virginlike”, everybody must Save against Paralyze. On success, they realize the relic-wielder for what they are. On a failure, they try to rationalize the act as a demonstration of purity.
* Unicorns detect the wielder as a virgin too.
Gilded knucklebone belonging to…
St. Luxielle. Wife of a pagan chieftain, who became Christian, and proceeded to convert her husband and her husband’s other wives.
Bringer of Prophecies. If pulverized and consumed before sleep, the relic brings a dream about angels, bright lights, flight and other such imagery. The interpretation of the vision is up to the character. While resting under the influence of the powder, natural healing is quadrupled. Enough for 1d8 uses.
A cold iron dagger lying on a velvet cushion*. The weapon was the implement of the torture of…
* The miraculous power actually comes from the cushion.
St. Morsus. A blind man, who could talk to angels.
Receptacle of Sacrifices. Anybody who touches the relic can voluntarily sacrifice 1d6 maximum Hit points. This amount is stored in the relic. The process can be repeated any number of times, by any number of individuals. The relic’s maximum capacity is 77 hit points. If a person who has already sacrificed maximum hit points takes the relic and touches any other person or creature with it, the target heals 1d6 hit points (up to the amount that’s currently stored). The number rolled is then subtracted from what’s stored in the relic.
Left index finger, conserved in honey. Severed from the holy body of…
St. Veroni. Disguised herself as a man to join the Crusades. Killed 665 infidels, then collapsed dead at the sight of Golgotha.
Scourge of the Unclean. A Cleric holding the relic turns undead as if 1 level higher. A non-Cleric turns undead as Cleric 1.
Mummified right hand of…
St. Migareth. A noblewoman who gave all her riches to the lepers.
Paradise Regained. Wherever the relic is placed, common plants grow around it overnight in a 5’ radius. The plants are edible and nourishing, feed up to three people or mounts, but a Save against Poison must be each time made to avoid addiction.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

[Monster] Beings from the "Level 1 Creature Generator"

Some monsters from The Level 1 Creature Generator by Michael Raston!

Level 1 Creature #1: Mushroomman Scholar

Basic Shape: 3x8
Mushroomman, AC11, 2HD, punch: d6, when attacked releases sleep-spores, all Nearby must test CON or fall asleep for d4 rounds.

Form: 4x9
Has evolved to become more manlike, more beastly shapes become humanoid and gain the ability of verbal communication. Pre-humanoid shapes become super intelligent or technologically.

Ability: 1x6
Can choose to divide self in half once per lifetime, each half has half original total HP but current HP is restored fully to each half.
The Mushroomman Scholar is a highly intelligent strain of the general mushroom-people. It can converse about a wide range of subjects, and is ashamed of releasing its spores in public. 
For higher levels: It can either be an accomplished occultist (spellcasting a Magic-User 2), or a researcher into weird new technologies (wields a Space Alien weapon, generated via Carcosa's random tables: Rifle, range 1000', damage 4d6, 50 charges; projects a beam of cosmic radiation). 

Level 1 Creature #2: The Charmer Snake

Basic Shape: 1x2
Snake, AC11, 1HD, poison bite: d6, test CON or d4 damage for d6 rounds.

Form: 4x4
Form morphs into that of its target, becoming a mirror image. Is globular and amorphous otherwise. (Getting rid of this clause)

Ability: 4x4
A being born of chaos, roll on this table twice and combine results:
4x1: Magically sings d4 x HD beings to sleep once day.
1x1: Can charm a target once per day for d6 hours.
Used to be a snake charmer's pet, but learned a couple of tricks, broke free, and now it is the Charmer Snake!!!!!! 

Level 1 Creature #3: Dodo Avenger

Basic Shape: 2x5
Flightless bird, AC11, 1HD, claw/beak: d8.

Form: 2x5
Is regular size for shape until the point is attacked or attacks. At that point form grows/shrinks to be the same size as target. Modify HD and attack damage as appropriate.

Ability: 4x5
HD times a day can summon a biologically or magically appropriate trap mechanism that holds target completely in place for d10 rounds.
The Dodo Avenger will fight to death to avenge the death of its species.

Overall, this is a really nice generator. Instead of spurting out mad cosmic abominations, tt gives a solid baseline (table #1 by itself generates a simple, but complete creature, to which more variations and abilities are added). Great for weird/whimsical settings!

[Monster] Summoning the Spawns of the Nether-Realms with the LotFP Summon Spell

More random creatures! This time with Lamentations' notorious Summon spell. Of course, the easiest way is firing up Ramanan's automatic Summon script, but rolling dice on a weekend is a nice thing, so let's roll some dice!

Summoned Entity #1, casting save made
HD: 6
Basic form: Organic Rot (causes disease on a hit)
Appendages, base number (1d8): 1
Appendages: no appendages :(
Special powers, base number (1d8): 4
Special powers: none :(
The Perspiring Mound of Pandemonium is a crawling, oozing abomination, spreading the Ochre Plague.

Summoned Entity #2, casting save failed
HD: 6
Basic form: Insectiod (+2 AC) = 14 AC
Appendages, base number (1d8): 6
5 - Skeletal Stinger; 1 - Adhesive Eggs/Seeds 
Special powers, base number (1d8): 6
Special powers:
2 (41) - Immune to Physical Attacks; 1 (99) - Wall of Fire (at will, one at a time)
The Abyssal Dragonfly-Dragon, straight from the 6th Circle of hell. Translucent wings shimmer like cosmic fire.

Summoned Entity #3, casting save failed
HD: 4
Basic form: Polyhedral
Appendages, base number (1d6): 3
Appendages: none :(
Special powers, base number (1d6): 3
Special powers:
2 (100) - Web (at will, one at a time)
Fragment of a Shattered Fractal Dimension, mad and uncontrollable, paralyzing people with Tron-style meshes.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

[Monster] Spawning Spawns with Carcosa's Spawn of Shub-Niggurath generator

I like random creature generators! I was reading through Carcosa, and there is a short section with tables for generating random Spawns of Shub-Niggurath. Two examples follow:

Spawn #1: G'hal, The Niggurathean Spore-Sack Bastard

AC: 13
Movement: Land only, 30'
HD: 6
Alignment: Chaotic (duhh...)
Body type: Fungoid
Color: Gray
Hide: Scaled
Eyes: One
Mouth: Circular gaping maw
Special Attacks: None
Special Defenses: Regenerate 1HD every 1-3 rounds
Crawling and ever-growing fungal fruiting body. Its slow movement is not "movement" per se, but actually rapid directional growth. Which explains the regenerative powers as well. The single eye makes it quite phallic too. Creepy. 

Spawn #2: Tsath-Shub Hybrid

AC: 12
Movement: Land 60', Flying 120'
HD: 3
Alignment: Chaotic (duhh...)
Body type: Batrachian
Color: Green
Hide: Smooth
Eyes: Three
Mouth: Circular gaping maw
Special Attacks: None
Special Defenses: None
A three-eyed flying frog, nothing less, nothing more!

Overall, the generator serves the purpose well - it can quickly spurt out a couple of spawns. 3 minutes for a creature, tops.  Its utility outside of Carcosa seems more limited.

One of the main problems with this generator is the low number of special attacks. There is a 84% chance of "none", and then 16 powers. Admittedly, in the context of Carcosa, this is alright, as Spawns are encountered ALL THE TIME, and having each and every one of them with a special attack would be too much even for the Carcossan gonzo.

Another thing I find underwhelming is the Eyes table. The results are just quantitative (zero to six eyes), with just one result being a qualitative descriptor ("multiple/insectile"). Not very inspiring. The Mouth table is short (1d6), but with four good qualitative results in there.

It can yield interesting combinations, but it lacks that emergent inspiration that you can find in RECG, for example. But, again, this was not created as a general monster randomizer, so it's unfair to criticize it as such. Go Spawns!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Machen's "The White People" and The Gardens of Ynn

Just a quick follow-up: another quote from "The White People". This time a good fit for the Rose Maidens in The Gardens of Ynn...
"What would your feelings be, seriously, if your cat or your dog began to talk to you, and to dispute with you in human accents? You would be overwhelmed with horror. I am sure of it. And if the roses in your garden sang a weird song, you would go mad. And suppose the stones in the road began to swell and grow before your eyes, and if the pebble that you noticed at night had shot out stony blossoms in the morning? "Well, these examples may give you some notion of what sin really is."

Machen's "The White People" and LotFP-style alignment

I'm re-reading Arthur Machen's "The White People", which is an awesome story, and also some of the quotes are great for explaining the alignment system of LotFP - specifically the Prologue in which Ambrose explains his philosophy of Sin. Probably it's where Raggi got it in the first place?
"Alignment is a character’s orientation on a cosmic scale. It has nothing to do with a character’s allegiances, personality, morality, or actions."  (LotFP, Rules & Magic, p. 8)
There is this fatalistic predeterminalism: Magic-Users and Elves must be Chaotic, Clerics must be Lawful. All others are free to choose their alignment. I actually really like this part of the LotFP rulebook, because it captures the cosmic horror part so well, and transforms this old D&D trope into something else. Being Lawful doesn't make you a "good guy" or vice versa. Both Lawful and Chaotic are deviations from the norm, and signal a transgression.

The following passages are quotes from "The White People":

"Sorcery and sanctity," said Ambrose, "these are the only realities. Each is an ecstasy, a withdrawal from the common life."

"Great people of all kinds forsake the imperfect copies and go to the perfect originals. I have no doubt but that many of the very highest among the saints have never done a 'good action' (using the words in their ordinary sense). And, on the other hand, there have been those who have sounded the very depths of sin, who all their lives have never done an 'ill deed.'"

"You astonish me,” said Cotgrave. “I had never thought of that. If that is really so, one must turn everything upside down. Then the essence of sin really is—” “In the taking of heaven by storm, it seems to me,” said Ambrose. “It appears to me that it is simply an attempt to penetrate into another and a higher sphere in a forbidden manner. You can understand why it is so rare. They are few, indeed, who wish to penetrate into other spheres, higher or lower, in ways allowed or forbidden. Men, in the mass, are amply content with life as they find it. Therefore there are few saints, and sinners (in the proper sense) are fewer still, and men of genius, who partake sometimes of each character, are rare also. Yes; on the whole, it is, perhaps, harder to be a great sinner than a great saint.”

"Then, to return to our main subject, you think that sin is an esoteric, occult thing?” “Yes. It is the infernal miracle as holiness is the supernal. Now and then it is raised to such a pitch that we entirely fail to suspect its existence; it is like the note of the great pedal pipes of the organ, which is so deep that we cannot hear it. In other cases it may lead to the lunatic asylum, or to still stranger issues. But you must never confuse it with mere social misdoing. Remember how the Apostle, speaking of the ‘other side,’ distinguishes between ‘charitable’ actions and charity. And as one may give all one’s goods to the poor, and yet lack charity; so, remember, one may avoid every crime and yet be a sinner."

Monday, January 7, 2019

[Actual Play] D&D Campaign Re-cap, 2017-2018 - PART 1 [5e]

My current long-running campaign is a game of fifth edition D&D with some friends. We started it in 2017. The first long adventure took us about 12 sessions (in about 10 months), most of them conducted online (due to everybody living in different places), but with the "finale" (an epic 6-hour long double feature!) played out in person - which was actually a very nice thing.

So I'm writing a re-cap! I cannot do it session-by-session, because this all took part over the course of a year, and I don't have exact notes, so I will just summarize what I remember.

The setting is on the low-fantasy side of things, all homebrew, I flesh it out gradually as we go, adding in elements when needed. Tone-wise, I try to keep things weird and unusual; but not overtly horrific or grimdark.


  • Gawin, Dragonborn Ranger, who was brought up by humans, and became the protector/folk hero of his small village
  • Jandar, Tiefling Paladin, from the Order of Monos (an outdated archaic order of self-appointed judges and avengers; hated by most) (yes, he is Hellboy)
  • Tofu-san, Forest Gnomesse Monk, aficionado of fine herbs, calligraphy and meditation
  • Avi, Human Wizard, comes from a noble family, studies at a battle wizard academy, loves to party, dresses with style
All characters started at Level 1. Player-experience-wise, the group is quite mixed. Two people have been playing for almost 20 years (the players of Jandar and Avi). The two other player were essentially new to the game. Gawin's player started recently in another campaign. For Tofu-san's player, this was the very first experience of RPGs ever - so I ran a short intro/prologue for her.

Tofu-san's prologue:

It started with Tofu-san, a travelling hermit, camping in the forest. At night she was attacked by a small but vicious humanoid creature (a Fey darkling). They fought, and Tofu-san pinned her enemy to the ground and interrogated him. The creature turned out to be on a ritual mission: his task was to kill a person, in order to be initiated into the senior ranks of his tribe. Tofu-san let him go, but the creature attacked again. Tofu-san didn't want to kill him, so just tied him up and took away his weapons, and left him behind.

Some time later, Tofu-san fell asleep between the roots of the huge old tree. She had a vision or a lucid dream. In the dream, she was in an underground cave system. She explored it a bit, then followed a narrow passage, and arrived into an almost perfectly spherical small room. There was a hole in the ground. She knelt down and looked into the hole --- and she found herself staring into the abyss, the infinite cosmic void. She sensed a terrible malevolent presence between the stars, reaching towards her.

She woke abruptly, holding a polished pitch-black pebble in her hand.

Early sessions:

The early sessions were just Gawin, Jandar and Tofu-san. Avi joined later.

The set-up: It all started in a big city called Voln. Voln is menaced by a series of earthquakes, unnatural freak events. Part of the city was in ruins, people are in panic. Even worse, dangerous creatures swarmed forth from the underground crevices. The city council was in dire need of people to help secure the city and combat the monsters.

Jandar, Gawin and Tofu-san agreed to help. They had the motivations to do so. Partially because of the small fee attached. Partially for their own personal reasons. Jandar's Order has a collection of prophecies, and one of these prophecies tells about earthquakes and the "wisdom that hides in the rifts". Gawin's home village was also hit by an earthquake, and rotting undead spewed forth from the split ground. Gawin the folk hero fought them, and then decided to do the same at the city. Tofu-san had a feeling that the cavern she had seen in her vision/dream might be in the newly found passages under the city.

Thus, the first two or three sessions were spent exploring a dungeon, made up of parts of the city and its buildings that collapsed into the underground cavities. So it was a nice mix of architecture, transformed and mingled by the quakes, and natural caverns. One of the running themes was the correlation of what's overground and what's underground. Where it was possible, the characters tried to orient themselves based on what they see in the collapsed underground parts. They explored the remnants of a collapsed alchemist's workshop (fighting an ooze). They found some big underground caverns, with roots hanging from the ceiling - which they figured must have been somewhere under the city park - and got into some fights with some purple mushrooms.

They also found a corridor, leading up towards the ground. The corridor was weird, twisted. Just looking at it caused headaches for some reason. It led to a cellar, that had a huge magic circle drawn on the ground... The characters failed to understand its function, but broke it - just in case. They also copied some of the glyphs for further research. They understood that this cellar must belong to one of the city's buildings, but couldn't go up, because of the rubble covering the cellar's trapdoor from above.

I gradually started piling on more weird stuff. The fungal theme was expanded with mushroom-controlled zombie-like humanoids, who were guarding certain areas.  The players also found places where mushrooms were clearly "planted" and cultivated, by the unknown inhabitants of these tunnels. The characters killed a few fungal zombies, but also learned that by destroying the mushroom-infestation, the zombies revert back to non-aggressive (although sick and unconscious) humanoids. The group decided to save one of these ex-zombies, and took him back to the surface, where a small hospital was set up for earthquake survivors.

While exploring the passages, the characters also started noticing strange distortions of space. They called them "soft spots". Essentially these were small invisible portals all over the caves, which had random connections between them. If you squeezed yourself into one of the holes, you'd pop out of a different, randomly determined one, possibly in a different area of the dungeon. Alas, travel between these "soft spots" was dangerous: Jandar, for example, was attacked by some unknown force while traversing the black void inbetween two portals, but survived.

The group started experimenting with the "soft spots", and ended up in a hitherto unexplored hall of the caves, where they encountered some humanoids. They looked like the fungal zombies from before, but were instead sentient and, well, non-zombies. The characters tried to communicate with them. The humanoids answered, but they spoke a rather archaic and almost incomprehensible version of the currently spoken common language. So the players had to resort to using just basic vocabulary, which was understandable by both (like "home", "food"...). Basically they learned that these people live in a cave system, don't even know that there is supposed to be a city above them... They explained that they have their own city, somewhere even deeper underground, and showed the players that the passage leading there has collapsed due to the earthquakes, essentially cutting them off from their homes (their place is a guardpost of sorts, next to the mushroom farms).

The player characters explored some more passages of the dungeon. In the collapsed shop of a diviner, Mme. Xanadu, they encountered a group, led by a dwarf. The dwarf (who introduced himself as Veid) claimed to be looking for his brother, who disappeared during the earthquakes. The player characters promised to alert him if they find a dwarf in the tunnels. Veid and his companions retreated.

After some more exploration, they happened upon a cave area that Tofu-san recognized from her dream/vision. All the stalactites and other details were in place --- expect for one, the small spherical room with the "window" overlooking the cosmic void...

They backtracked and followed some other paths, and soon found a cave passage that led to the cavern that they accessed before through the portal. But the cave-dwellers from before were dead, their throats cut! The corpses were fresh, still warm, so the players looked for the assassins, and in the dark caves, were attacked by a small coterie of creatures. Tofu-san recognized not just the type, but one of the individual creatures as her attacker from back from the prologue. The Darkling came back to retry its failed initiation/assassination attempt, but this time with a couple of friends. After a tough and sneaky fight, the players killed most Darklings, but captured one. Turned out, the creatures got into the tunnels through a portal they found in the forest - under the tree where (as she recognized by the description) Tofu-san rested. The forest is actually a good hundred miles from the city, so the portals/"soft spots" system is bigger than they suspected...

With this, the players have exhausted most of the accessible passages, and returned to the surface, to claim their small reward - but also to think about what to do next. The cave system clearly held more mysteries then it first seemed, and the earthquakes didn't seem natural either.

To be continued...