Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dragon Cookie

Dragon cookie breathing fire cookie!!!!!

The Brewery at Hookshire

In the mountains above Hookshire, there is an ancient glacier. It is protected by a court of Frost Giants, or so it is said. As the glacier slowly melts, the water flows down the mountain, over a bed of smooth rock, off the the side of a mountain and into a cold pool in a hidden valley. According to legend, the pool is also the final resting place of a long dead warrior king. From there, it flows down into a stone trough and into a special house where the water flows over the naked breasts of a beautiful young maiden.
After all of this, the water finally enters the brewhouse at Hookshire where it is made into the most prized ales in the land.

Hookshire Frost
Eisbier 12% abv
A malty core of sweet dark fruits highlights this velvet hammer of a beer. 
Cost per pint - 2 gp

Hookshire Ankle Biter
Imperial ESB 15% abv
The perfect balance of malty richness and peppery and spicy hops makes this a wonderful restorative.
Cost per pint - 2 gp

Hookshire Renton Reunion
Wild Ale 9% abv
Effervescent, golden and bright. This is the ale for which Hookshire is known. Brings a warmth to the body as well as clarity to the mind, for a little while anyway. 
Cost per pint - 4 gp

House Ale
? - ?% abv
The dregs of the barrels and bar troughs are blended together each night and served as a cheap house ale. Served in a wide-mouthed mug with a dense piece of bread.
Cost per pint - 4 sp

After a night of serious drinking, roll 1d12 -

1. Wake up in local jail under watch of local constabulary
2. Woken up at dawn to bare knuckle box local noble tough guy in town square
3. + 1d4 to any ability scores or spread out among existing scores
4. Wake up next to local noble who presents you with new clothing, armor and weapons
5. Wake up to angry brothel-keeper
6. Feel great, totally refreshed, add 1d4 hp
7. - 1d4 to random ability scores
8. Wake up in under bridge with Miles the Swine Herder who gives you 10 gp "in appreciation"
9. Wake up in full plate mail and holding bastard sword with room full of knights dressed the same ready to head out for a suicide mission
10. + 1d4 to constitution
11. - 1d4 to constution
12. Wake up to find out that you have been made Grand Exaulted Cardinal of Local Church

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Perchwood Siblings

Ezra and Murla Perchwood are twin brother and sister who live among the ruins of the Necropolis of Garel. They prey upon lost travelers in the marshes and ruins and try to kill and rob them.

They are pickpockets, thieves, con artists, and kidnappers. They live in a decrepit hovel in the ruined cemetery and also rob from tombs and explore the caverns beneath the ruins. They are also wererats and they believe that they have been blessed with this infliction. They secretly worship Stisis the Rodent Mother and have built a shrine to her from rat bones and skulls.

Ezra Perchwood

Ezra Perchwood is a short, skinny young man. His strange features make his age difficult to determine, but he could be anywhere between 18 and 30. His teeth are crooked and sharp. His eyes are dark and beady. His brown hair is matted and dirty. He wears ragged clothing that is patched together but he also wears gaudy and fanciful jewelry that he's stolen from tombs.

He carries several short, slender knives hidden on his person and will attack with these and attempt to move and kill silently. Ezra can move silently and backstab as a 8th level thief.

Ezra is extremely quick and agile. He can hide himself in virtually any environment. Some more nefarious factions often utilize Ezra as spy and informant, but he does not stray far from his home in the necropolis, and he rarely leaves his sister's side.

AC 3 (6 in wererat form)
Move 60' (60')
HD 8 (8)
Attacks: var. weapon (bite 1d4 + lycanthrope, claws 1d4)
Save as 8th level thief

Murla Perchwood
Murla Perchwood is Ezra's twin sister. Like her brother, she is also ragged and dirty in her appearance, she wears tarnished jewelry, furs and swamp flowers in her hair.

Murla fancies herself as quite the seductress. She has the ability to cast Charm Person once per day to lure men into her embrace so that her brother can kill and/or rob them.

AC 3 (6 in wererat form)
Move 60' (60')
HD 6 (6)
Attacks: bite 1d4 + lycanthrope, claws 1d4
Save as 6th level magic user

The Perchwoods claim that they are descended from an extremely wealthy family and they are hiding out in the marshes and ruins as part of an elaborate strategic ruse. Their true origins are unknown. It is rumored that they are cursed by a demon or crypt thing and must continue to kill and defile in order to please their masters...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Elves of the Shadowdrift

Long ago, the elves of this world lived in the Summerlands. They were closer then to their fae and dryadic cousins. They lived in accordance with nature and they worshipped the goddesses of their ancestry.
When the Summerlands were taken by the evil Xyglia and her sister Rauina, the elves fled their home. The Summerisles sunk into the hungry sea and the magic there faded into darkness.
Millennia later, we can find four tribes or castes of elves currently existing in the Shadowdrift.

Wild Elves
aka Wood Elves, Ferals (derogatory term)
Wild Elves shun civilization and live in dark woods and hills. They have a great mistrust of human folk and are the fierce enemy of trolls and goblins. Some fae beings live among the wild elves and they will often barter for peace and resources with dwarves and giants.
Wild Elves believe that the forest is their mother and will defend it at all costs. They fear that any separation from the forest sickens the soul and they’re fiercely opposed to trespassers in their woods.
Deities: The Forest Who Walks (powerful chaotic nature god), Adria (moon goddess of the elves), Churlathoton (Forest Mother and also Goddess of Entropy and Sunsets)
Analogue: anarchistic and fanatical environmental terrorists, living off the grid with nature
Symbology: An oak tree. Vines choking a ruined tower.

aka Grey Elves
The Hayasails or Grey Elves have no tribal structure or society. They live among men and have no sworn allegiances. Their dream of Summerland is dead and they prefer to live for themselves as loners and wanderers. They live by their wits, have no magical prowess, but are cunning warriors and mercenaries.
Analogue: Lone wolves, mercenaries, travelers, thieves. The elves of Drew Hayes’ Poison Elves series.
Deities: generally none, although some do worship Garm Gorak – God of Wolves and War. Some others will call upon Adria in times of upmost duress.
Symbology: A dagger, a bottle, a wolf head

White Elves
aka Moon Elves
The white elves get their name from their blonde to white hair. Their skin is pale and sometimes a grayish blue color. They live in lavish castles and cities of their own construction and rarely venture into the worlds of men. Some of them become powerful clerics or sorcerers. They worship the many moon gods of their antiquity. They seek the powers and artifacts of their past and obsess over their ancestral loss. Many write brooding and sorrowful songs or poems.
They can be powerful and loyal allies when there is a mutually beneficial arrangement, ie: seeking out and destroying the worshipers of Xyglia or the Mother of Trolls. 
Deities: Original pantheon of Moon Gods (names too numerous to list), Adria, Churlathoton
Analogue: Ennui-ridden poets and philosophers.
Symbology: A white crow on a black shield. An owl and a moon.

The Children of Mur
aka The Seven Tribes of Summer
aka Pastorals
In the rolling plains and fields many elf tribes have organized communes and small villages. They have red or brown hair and laughing eyes. They live a simple life by the wheel of nature and are farmers, fishermen, and artisans.
They are steadfast in their beliefs and their devotions to their tribes and families.
When their lands are threatened, they are quick to defend, but they are also articulate and measured negotiators and keepers of peace. Many emissaries of the tribes will travel to cities and towns with gifts of swords or apples in exchange for their continued peace and safety of their lands.
Fewer men know magic than the women.
The tribes live in peace, but there are often rivalries and squabbles that the council of elders will settle.
Deities:  Churlathoton, Adria, Falloch – Goddess of Field and Flower
Analogue: commune-dwellers, tribal people, healers, stout-hearted folk
Symbology: Harvest moon surrounded by seven stars, a fish and a flower

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tarlen and Dodd

Tarlen and Dodd were like the Mitch and Murray of several of my campaigns.

"You think I'm fucking with you? I am not fucking with you."
They were benefactors as well as shadowy antagonists.

My players in the early days were big on thieves and assassins, as well as Opal Starr - a NPC fighter/magic-user/thief that only a the fevered mind of a pudgy adolescent raised on Elric, Conan and Boris Vallejo art could have created. Opal Starr would have been the Alec Baldwin to Tarlen and Dodds' Mitch and Murray. Opal Starr would contact the adventurers about some McGuffin that they needed to go find, or a missing shipment of black lotus ("Stygian! The best!") or whatever adventure hook.

I was really into the Fiend Folio, that wondrously reviled book, and for my last, great Tarlen and Dodd adventure, I used the fuck out of it. In the end, Opal Starr revealed herself to be a Pennangalan, the characters fought a Needleman, and eventually they lead the Lava Children in a revolt against the horde of Githyanki that had invaded their home. Shit, someone may have even swallowed a throat leech.

The characters never met Tarlen and Dodd, but they asked a lot of questions about them. What was probably a throw away idea I had became something really fun and engaging for the players. They got to ask around town, learn rumors, false information, and of course, follow leads.

"These are the new leads, these are the Acererak leads..."
After Opal Starr (that name makes me cringe to type) died a grisly death, the players took it upon themselves to go off and kill Tarlen and Dodd too. It never happened, but it's just as well. Vengeance is for closers.

Later, I imagined Tarlen and Dodd were a pair of demi-lich skulls that lay in the corner of a long-forgotten crypt. In life, they were rival wizards who were constantly at odds with each other, now they formed a collective evil consciousness that reached out to people in their dreams, forcing them to gather what they needed to return to their physical forms.

"Psst...over here!" "No! Over here!"

The Shadowdrift

My current project - The Shadowdrift.

What began as an idea for a ruined necropolis has now turned into a vast area of ruins, swamplands, woods, burial mounds, and other places that hunger to be explored! 

If anyone wants to take a hex and run with it, we'll call this Open Source Shadowdrift. Let me know your ideas. 

Gavin over at The City of Iron wrote this wonderful post today - Is Writing For D&D the Ultimate in Short Story Writing? and it gets me right in the goodies. I have myriad unfinished stories, novels, bits of ideas, scraps of characters, pictures of situations, places, and things. Now with Shadowdrift, I have a place to sew those ideas and let them grow into their own.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My blog as an 80s fanzine

Totally late to the party on this one, but I love the concept so much...

"Your last 5 blogposts are the contents of a gaming zine you wrote single-handedly in the 1980s, photocopied on the local library photocopier or via indulgence of an office-working parent and sold on to around a dozen people at a loss. This zine has the same title as your blog. Invent an issue number and cover price."

Here is an issue of Codex Apocrypha, found in a shoe box after a tire fire in Oakland, California.

Okay, so I went a little overboard. I went with a more classical "Arduin" look and as someone who worked in a copy shop many years ago, I saw many a fanzine get wrapped up in that heavy parchment cardstock. It was a bitch to fold and staple on the spine.

Before I read all the stipulations, I banged this out - 
Because, a zine with a free cassette or flexi (remember those?) AND an 8 page mini-dungeon would have blown my 12 year old mind.

There's a scene toward the end of the great film "SLC Punk" where the two protagonists are shown, in flashback, as D&D playing, 2112 listening, basement-dwelling nerds. I always bristled at that. D&D and punk rock could live happily together, but I was just as guilty. When, I discovered punk rock and girls (and punk rock girls especially) I found myself drifting away from graph paper and d20s and towards 7" records and demo tapes. 

I actually did a couple fanzines in my younger days - "Splatterpunk Diary", "Dashi No Gondo", "Plastic Persimmon Journal of Poetry and Thai Kickboxing", etc. But most of them were the sort of Aaron Cometbus, self-confessional zines that kids did before we had Livejournal - lots of blurry, high contrast photos of people, poetry written in markers, stick figure obscenity, etc, just like tumblr is now.

Virginia Giordano

original artwork by Virginia Giordano used with permission
My friend Virginia Giordano is an amazing artist and craftswoman of all manner of sensory delights. You can check her art here and you can raise the horns and go buy her handmade soaps, salves, and sanitaries at Bath Sabbath.

Ulverland Uber Alles

Andrew Shields over at Fictive Fantasies (the blog formerly known as "Between Are the Doors") is just about finished with his tome - "The World Between for Fictive Hack". Fictive Hack is Andrew's own hack of his Old School Hack, which is his fantasy role playing simulacrum.

My apologies to Andrew, but I have not spent much time researching his creations, but we do share the inspiration of Jack Shear's "World Between".

Andrew makes a compelling case for how well-suited Shear's world of gothic horrors and wonders is for his Old School Hack game. One of his points is that in Dungeons & Dragons, your character's level progression pulls away from any real notion of danger or fear within the campaign. The visceral terrors of The World Between are less effective on players coming from a perspective of "oh look! a new monster to fight!"

I can definitely understand that, but what I love about my current campaign, is that my players are all used to the shiny flash of Warhammer or the churning engine of 4th Edition. Dropping them in a miserable fen, in the midst of a ruined necropolis somewhere in Ulverland, leaving them to their own devices, forcing them to think on their character's level and figure out their own way out of the mess, has become a revelation for them. At the lowly 2nd level, there is much to be feared.

It's always strange for me to be playing in someone else's sandbox. When I played 3rd Edition, I bought the lavish Forgotten Realms guidebook, only to never look at it. It was too overwhelming, too many dates and places to remember. Too much information that I felt like I had to incorporate. I just wanted to make my own worlds. But what I love about Jack Shear's World Between, is that it is a real pleasure to work with. It's the sort of game world that I would have liked to build and because it's new and accessible,  I love being able to build within it. Rather than a strict set of places and names, we get a description of the cultures and the "flavor" of the places.

I've never cared for any technological advances in my games, especially gunpowder and firearms. They pull me too far out of the setting and they feel like such an anomaly in the worlds that I like to conjure up. If there were guns, then why would this character want to even wield a sword? If guns were available, I imagine everyone would just stop making swords and armor, and pursue the making of firearms.

Even traditionally Science Fiction elements are strangely off-putting to me. "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" frustrated me to no end as a kid. "Oh! This is the module where you find a spaceship!" While I loved Star Wars and I loved the endless stream of post-apocalyptic films, comics, artwork, murals on custom vans that filled the 70s and 80s, I just didn't want it in my fantasy. Even now, I can't really describe what bugs me about different genres playing nicely together. I suppose it has something to do with the original appeal of swords and sorcery. You succeed by your strength and wits. Live and die by the sword. I don't know, the riddle of steel, something like that. The sudden appearance of a rogue robot or a laser pistol weakens the framework.

But that's just me. Enough of my yackin' go check out Andrew's site and get hackin'!

Apologies to Martin DiBergi