Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Magic Item: Stalhrim Dagger

The companions walked single file down the narrow dungeon corridor. Along both sides were half columns supporting arches every five or six steps. Rathgar's shield glowed a gentle red , while Feris' wand flickered and sparked with a blue-white light. The air was warm, dry and stale.

"I hate these corridors..." Nimble complained. "You can barely move, barely swing a dagger-"

"Maybe we can try to keep quiet?" Rathgar hissed.

"Sure, yeah, sorry..."

Allianora shook her head and sighed, her breath coming out in a cloud. "Guys?"

Everyone turned toward her, and felt the cold air.

A soft green light flashed behind her, a black cloaked figure swinging a dagger. Allianora felt the blade cutting into her, and the chill creeping up her back.

Feris pulled Allianora behind him and thrust his wand forward. The lighted tip illuminated the gaunt grey skin of their attacker's face. Her angular features were heavily tattooed, and she held the green blade aggressively before her. "You should not have come this way." Her breath billowed before her, as her form phased out.

"Couldn't keep quiet could you." Rathgar grumbled.

"That's frelling cold..." Allianora chattered.

Stalhrim Dagger

Forged from enchanted ice, this dagger causes the usual 1d4 points of damage, but also causes anyone wounded by it to become slowed. The blade constantly gives off cold, but the bearer never feels it, is immune to normal cold, and receives a +2 bonus to any cold based saving throws.

The Stalhrim Dagger is from Skyrim, and this prop was created (and for sale) by Folkenstal. if you click the link you can see how me made it!

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Magic Item: Mask of the Dark Druid

"Take the Old King's Road through the Darkwood until you come to the old giblet at the foot of the old cairn." The skeletal form directed. "Then-"

"Wait" Rathgar checked the map. "The Darkwood?"

"Yes, the Darkwood." The figure raised one bone finger "Don't interrupt if you want the directions."

"But there aren't any woods along the Old King's Road... it's all swamp." He pointed at the map "See?"

The skull's teeth chattered as it looked at the map. "Then I didn't stop him in time..."

The companions exchanged confused glances. "Stop who?" Feris asked.

"Petran, the protector of the Darkwood."

"I'm confused. If he was the protector, what were you trying to stop him from doing?"

"We killed him to stop the woods from being lost in what is now the swamp." He gave a lungless sigh. "Petran was a good man, and I helped him hunt a demon that had killed a trent in his woods. The demon not only killed the trent, but made a mask it, and enchanted it with powerful magics. Petran took the mask from the demon's corpse, vowing to use its power to help restore the damage caused by the demon. It changed him, and in the end... I had to kill him."

"What happened to the mask?" Nimble asked

"I tried to destroy it, I tried to break it, I tried to burn it, but nothing I had could compare with demon fire... so I buried it with Petran."


"The old cairn..."

"...In the heart of the swamp." Feris finished.

Mask of the Dark Druid

Crafted from the demon-burned wood of a trent, this mask grants the wearer the ability to draw energy directly from the surrounding plant life (a 1 round process). When first used, the drain is minimal, but will grant the wearer a +1 bonus to their next attack and damage roll or saving throw, or heal the wearer 1d3 hit points. Every time the mask is used this way, the wearer must make a saving throw vs spells. When the wearer eventually fails their saving throw they immediately become chaotic and/or evil, and gain the ability to blight an area (destroy all non-sentient plant life within 20') in one round, and then unleash a baleful fire the next. The fire burns in a 5' wide, 10' line, and causes 1d6 points of damage. For every additional area blighted the fire may be extended an additional 10' and cause an additional 1d6 points of damage.

Mask created by SylvanSmith

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Charm City Gameday

Calling all Baltimore/DC gamers!

I just found out about Charm City Gameday, and wanted to share the news. It's being hosted at Games and Stuff in Glen Burnie, MD, which is a great store that I don't make it down to nearly often enough.

They're running two sets of 5 games, one set in the morning (10-2) and one in the afternoon (3-7). It's a nice mix of RPGs, from Torchbearer to Star Wars Edge of Empire.

I've signed up for:
I Owe My Cortical Stack to the Company Store (Light Weight RPG) in the morning
The Portal Under The Stars (Dungeon Crawl Classics) in the afternoon

It'll be my first DCC funnel, and I've never played Light Weight RPG before, so it should be interesting!

Monday, August 19, 2013

New Magic Item: Night Lantern

"You're really going out carrying that?" Rathgar asked.

Feris nodded "Definitely." He opened the lantern's latch, and poured in a greasy looking oil.

"At least use some quality oil." Rathgar reached for a better made pillar candle. "That's going to burn really poorly."

"No thanks. This will do perfectly." Feris lit a sliver of wood, and used it to light the wick in the lantern. The light barely penetrated the thick red glass.

"How do you expect to light up anything with that?" Rathgar asked, exasperated.

Feris smiled "I'd be really disappointed if it did." He pulled his hood up, and lifted the lantern. "I'll be back before dawn, but don't wait up."

Night Lantern

This magical lamp, when fueled by oil made from the fat of a murder victim, sheds no light, but allows the bearer to see as if the area was lit by a normal lantern. When a command word is spoken, it will also begin to spew out great clouds of greasy foul smelling smoke for as long as the oil remains. Whether the bearer uses the smoke power or not, he will carry with him the odor of the smoke until the sun next sets.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

New Magic Item: Candle Codex

 Rathgar and Nimble had seen some strange things before.  They had even seen utterly bizarre things, but a spherical book? One that can only be read while a candle burns inside of it?  They could only come to one conclusion: wizards were strange indeed.   

The Candle Codex is a magical book.  While it's parchment pages look quite old and fragile, it is really quite sturdy.  It is completely fire resistant, which is convenient, as a candle needs to be lit at the center of it for the book to be read.  When these conditions are met, the pages will become illuminated with a golden light and  will reveal information that usually is or will be useful to the reader.  The information provided is most often in the form of a story or history lesson, but rarely are the people or places known to the reader.  There is no way of directing what will be revealed, or any way of determining when it may be useful. 

Some versions of the Candle Codex, in addition to the power above, allow the owner to cast commune once per month.  In order to do so a Giant Bee's wax candle, inscribed with mystical runes and worth at least 1,000gp must be lit in the center of the codex.  When all of the questions are asked as per the spell, the candle will be consumed.

Codex created by Cinnabunny
I originally posted this item back on 4/20/10, and it only got 17 views. Then again at the time I think I only had a dozen followers.

Friday, August 16, 2013

New Monster: Fatberg

“Oh by all that’s holy, what is that smell?” Feris choked out.

The corridor branched off to the left. A thin trickle of sludge flowed from the side passage into a small grate in the middle of the intersection. Nimble squatted down, sniffed, dipped his finger in the sludge and held it close to his nose. “Smells like... like... street food at the end of a long day...”

"It's worse than that." Rathgar gagged.

"Oh come on... we fought that excremental a while back. That was way worse."

"I have to agree with Nimble." Allianora shrugged. "We've smelled worse."

"Yeah, but this smells like bad food."

The sound of something heavy and wet slapping the ground reverberated down the side passage, followed by a squelching that sounded like it was getting closer. The pinkish grey sludge got thicker, and more of it flowed as the sound got louder, until they could see it. The blob of fat, shit, hair, and trash flopped toward them.

Armor Class: 9
Hit Dice: 6 (L)
Move: 45’ (15’)
Attacks: 1
Damage: 3d6
No. Appearing: 1 (0)
Save As: F6
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: B
Intelligence: 0
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value:

Monster Type: Lowlife
This giant ooze builds up over years, accumulating mass from the castoffs of civilization. As such it also tends to accumulate items of value within itself, and anyone who manages to slay it, and is willing to dig through it's remains (a process which takes 1d4*6 hours of effort) can collect the treasures. The fatberg attacks by rolling into the nearest creatures. It can attack up to two adjacent creatures at a time. It will only take 1 point of damage from non-magical weapons, and 1+ whatever magic bonus magical weapons possess. It takes full damage from spells, and fire damage causes it to combust on a failed save vs dragons breath, for 2d6 points of damage every round until it's dead. However, while burning it will spray boiling fat out 20' in all directions causing 2d4 points of damage to anyone in the area of effect.

Based on the 15 ton blob of fat found in London's sewer.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Getting Lost

I've been playing the Dungeon Robber game based on the random dungeon generator map, and was doing pretty well before flash crashed, and I lost all the progress I'd made. I'm slowly getting it back, but due to some poor rolls it's not going well. For example, in my last game I stumbled upon a flawless diamond (2,000gp value) right as I entered the dungeon. I left (of course) sold it, went immediately from level 0 to level 2! I went back into the dungeon, and got knifed by a wandering kobold. But that's life (and death) as a Dungeon Robber.

One of the things I enjoy about the game is that my characters can get lost, and frequently do. It happens a lot when they're running from a monster or when they get sent via pits or elevator rooms to different levels. This doesn't happen nearly as often in my old school games. Players map. Maybe not to the exactitude that I do as a DM, but they do enough that it keeps them from really getting lost. I'm the same way when I play, and my maps as a player look much more like flowcharts than maps.

But what does it meant to be lost? Not knowing where you are? Not necessarily. If a shifting wall, or a one way door closes you off from the way back, you know where you are. You know the way back, and your relation to the dungeon exit. But none of that is really helpful. You know where you are, and where you want to go, but you don't know how to get there.

You're lost.

So what does that mean, as a DM. Why do you want to allow your players to get lost in your dungeon? For one thing, it encourages your players to keep moving, and forces them to be less cautious. They have to explore new areas, and can't retreat. They might be bruised, bloody, low on spells, and ready to head back to town with their loot... but they can't. It's a chance to see how inventive they'll be. Will they try to hole up in a closed off room, or at the far end of a dead end passage? Or will they press on deeper into the dungeon looking for another way out? Or will they try to circle back, and find their way back to the original exit? Or will they do something else?

So remember when designing your dungeons, give the players a chance to get lost.

There's a new poll up - What's your favorite type of dice? Only looking at the basic types this time. As ever, it's off to the right.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Gates Of Agony: old school done wrong in 4e

This post is going to examine one of the major failings of the 4e adventure Pyramid of Shadows. I alluded to this in my actual play report, but this post is going to seriously examine what's wrong with the Gates of Agony as written. Now, I don't want to get into any edition war crap. There aren't any rules here, and it's probably one of the most old school elements of the adventure, but it's just so badly done.

My text wil appear like this. Text from the adventure will be italicized. To start, the intro text to the Gates of Agony, and the map.

The three gates leading into of the southern chamber provide the true obstacle to the adventurers’ progress. Each gate requires a different sacrifice to activate. Once each of the three gates has been satisfied, they all open and allow the adventurers to continue deeper into the temple.

From inside the southern chamber, the three gates appear to be blank doors of iron with no keyholes or handles. There is no way to open the gates from the southern chamber. To deal with the gates, the adventurers must approach them from the western (Ignorance) and northern (Treachery and Terror) sides. Remember, the adventurers cannot open the door leading to the south until all three gates are open.

This is a really odd setup. 3 doors, all right next to each other, that you have to open from the north, and all 3 have to be open before you can go through the bottom door? Also, none of this is told to the players. It isn't even hinted at, and the various guardians aren't any help either.

The Gate of Ignorance:
This gate demands that the adventurers wallow in ignorance, turning against knowledge. When a character touches the door, a voice booms out, “Let those who embrace the darkness of ignorance walk forward, heedless of all knowledge. The blind and deaf fear no danger, for the Keeper of the Way shall guide their steps.”

This gate offers a simple riddle. A character who closes his eyes and covers his ears, or who otherwise renders himself blinded and deafened, can simply walk through the gate. However, as he approaches the gates, anyone watching nearby sees the snakes in the doorframe animate as if they are about to attack the approaching character. In truth, this is an illusion designed to test the faith of those who approach. Characters who ignore the snakes pass through the door without harm.

I liked this gate. They'd just killed a medusa and a blind ogre and lost their Monk, so they were hurting, but ready to move on. This door was quick, relatively easy, the players felt mildly accomplished figuring it out, and then they were ready to move on... except they see these elaborate doors...

And this isn't actually the right view. Frustratingly, they can't open any of the doors from this side, except the one they've already opened. So time to back track. Find a secret door and move onto-

The Gate of Treachery:
This strange portal teaches the initiates of the Far Realm that their personal interests are the best interests to serve. By turning creatures against each other, the denizens of the Far Realm prevent wisdom from turning cultists away from their mad schemes. As a character approaches this gate, it swings open. If he passes through, the robed figures carved into the archway whisper into his mind, “Your glory at the cost of another’s misery.” As the voice speaks, the character realizes that a party member has been cursed to suffer ill fortune. Pass the player a note informing him of this, keeping the information secret from the other players.

If the character warns his ally, the curse takes hold on both of them. The next time anyone under the effect of this curse rolls a natural 1 on an attack roll, he takes 3 points of damage per level as spectral copies of the hooded figures on the door appear next to him and stab at him. If the character does not warn his ally, the curse never takes hold. This stricture applies for only 1 minute after a character passes through the gate.

The Far Realm?? Oh, yeah, that background text earlier in the adventure that the players will never get to know about, but provides the "logical" underpinnings of this section. Right! My players shared the info from the note. Not a huge shock given that it was the knight who went through the door first.

The Gate of Terror:
This gate is perhaps the simplest to pass. As a character approaches it, the figures carved into the archway seem to come to life, while the gate itself transforms into the gaping maw of a devil. The character has two choices. He can turn away from the door, or walk through it. A character who chooses to move forward passes through the gate. However, his allies see him leaping into the devil’s mouth. When he enters it, the mouth appears to snap shut and grind him to a bloody pulp. As with the Gate of Treachery, use notes or pull players aside so that the rest of the group does not gain an unfair insight into what has happened.

There was a lot of experimenting with this door, sticking things in the mouth, trying to talk to it, etc before they decided to leap into the maw of a giant devil's face. If I'd have been playing with an old school group, I'd have mentioned that it was a green, but my players wouldn't have gotten it.

I think I was probably more frustrated by this obstacle than they were, but I also don't think they really enjoyed it, at least not past the first door.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What D&D Character Would You Be?

This doesn't come as anything close to a shock, though before it's been half elf wizard/ranger.

What D&D Character Would You Be?

I Am A: Neutral Good Elf Wizard (5th Level)

Ability Scores:







Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Elves are known for their poetry, song, and magical arts, but when danger threatens they show great skill with weapons and strategy. Elves can live to be over 700 years old and, by human standards, are slow to make friends and enemies, and even slower to forget them. Elves are slim and stand 4.5 to 5.5 feet tall. They have no facial or body hair, prefer comfortable clothes, and possess unearthly grace. Many others races find them hauntingly beautiful.

Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Detailed Results:

Neutral Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (19)
Lawful Neutral -- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (16)
True Neutral ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (15)
Chaotic Neutral - XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (16)
Lawful Evil ----- XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Neutral Evil ---- XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Chaotic Evil ---- XXXXXXXXXXX (11)

Law & Chaos:
Law ----- XXXXXXX (7)
Neutral - XXXXXX (6)
Chaos --- XXXXXXX (7)

Good & Evil:
Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Neutral - XXXXXXXXX (9)
Evil ---- XXXX (4)

Human ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Dwarf ---- XXXXXX (6)
Elf ------ XXXXXXXXXXXXXX (14)
Gnome ---- XXXXXXXX (8)
Halfling - XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Half-Elf - XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Half-Orc - XX (2)

Barbarian - (-6)
Bard ------ (0)
Cleric ---- (-6)
Druid ----- XX (2)
Fighter --- (-4)
Monk ------ (-21)
Paladin --- (-21)
Ranger ---- XXXX (4)
Rogue ----- (0)
Sorcerer -- XX (2)
Wizard ---- XXXXXXXX (8)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Book Fort Contest: Tower of Fantasy vs Sci-Fi Fort

Myke Cole, author of the most excellent Shadow Ops series, is running a contest to win some cool stuff. The only thing you need to do is build a book fort. While winning something would be cool, just having an excuse to build a book fort was enough for me.

So I built 2.

Sci-Fi Fort vs The Tower of Fantasy

The defenders of Sci-Fi Fort include some of the nastiest members of the Warhammer 40K universe, some of the most noble defenders of the Old Republic, the ever gallant Starfleet, and a few other random assorted aliens and mercs.

A slightly different view

Alice helped

Chaos, Nids, and a Federation Runabout

What's that scoundrel doing over on the ship?

Hobbits sneaking into the undefended back of the fort

The forces of fantasy ride out!

The mighty Mumak passes through the gate.

The paperback tents provide shelter for the citizens of fantasy land.

Lucy checking out the fortification for herself.

Side view of the Fort and the Tower

Alice would like everyone to just get along.

I'm a little jealous of the authors who are entering, since they have multiple copies of the same books (their own) which makes building so much easier!

Friday, August 9, 2013

New Magic Item: Alchemist's Dagger

The evening was raw as Feris wove his way through the twisted alleys. A bone chilling fog had rolled in off the sea, and he know that with it came a thinning of the veil between the worlds. Tonight the Shadowfell was close. He pulled his cloak tighter, and continued on in search of the alchemist. He knew she was somewhere in the warrens, and he was pretty sure he had good directions, but with the fog as thick as it was, blocking sigh, muffling sound, it was hard to know if he'd missed a turn.

Feris stumbled over something soft. "Watch where you're frelling stepping..." the blanketed form grumbled, and pulled itself closer to the wall.

"Sorry" Feris mumbled as he moved on. He paused, and tossed a gold lion toward the huddled form.

Around the next corner Feris found himself face to face with a trio of ruffians, two humans, and a very large, very fat grey skinned orc. "That was awfully nice of you. Maybe you have some lions for us?" The man in front asked.

"This is not a good idea." Feris warned.

"Oh, I think it's a lovely idea. Now-" he paused, revealing a drawn short sword under his cloak "give us your gold."

"And be quick about it." the orc ordered, setting a spiked mace across his shoulder.

"Isn't this where you tell me 'and you may live to see morning' or some such?"

"It would be, if we thought you might see morning" the orc replied.

"I see, in that case, I suggest you get some sleep."

"Wha-" the man in front started to say as he toppled to the ground, falling on the already collapsed orc. The third figure flipped back his hood, revealing elegantly pointed ears, and an evil smile. "Not your lucky day, mage."

A feminine voice said from behind the elf "not yours either." The elf whipped around, Feris heard a hiss, and the elf fell. Behind him stood the alchemist, her arm outstretched, holding a dagger, point down. "It's best we get out of the alley."

Alchemist's Dagger

This enchanted blade has a hidden storage space in the pommel from which alchemical substances can be sprayed. It is capable of dispersing the contents at a very short range, and can include no more than 3 closely spaced individuals. Common substances put into these daggers include sleeping powder, poisons, and acids.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

New Magic Item: Cobra Throne

"According to these runes, the faro's throne room should be right through here." The Satheras the Necromancer hissed.

"Then let's get that door unsealed." Mangu Timur said, hefting a pry-bar.

"My lord wait" Hellakin warned. The halfling approached the doorway, and after several long and, for Mangu, impatient moments, said "Best let them do it." he nodded toward the pack bearers.

"Very well." Mangu relented, and passed the pry-bar to one of the hirelings. "Open the door."

The hireling took the bar in one hand, then quickly grabbed it with his free hand, feeling the full weight of the thing. Hefting it over to the door he got to work. "Help him" Hellakin shoved one of the others toward the door.

The hirelings worked at the door, and eventually the stone slab of a door shifted. "Put your backs into it" Hallakin prodded. With a sharp grinding noise, the door shifted again. A desiccated hand reached through the crack of the door and grabbed the nearest hireling. He gasped before his neck snapped.

Satheras sighed before speaking words in a dark tongue. The hand released the dead hireling, and grasped the door, shoving it aside. "Stand aside guardian."

The mummy groaned, and did as it was ordered.

"Finally" Mangu snapped, and shoved past the mummy.

The throne room was richly appointed, draped in silks, painted with bright colors, and appointed with gold and lapis encrusted furniture. The dias against the back wall framed with purple and cloth-of-gold drapes stood empty but for a golden throne. "With this" he said, stepping up to the throne "I shall take a kingdom, and make an empire...

It probably doesn't look like this

Or this.

Serpent Throne

This ancient artifact is said to possess the power to raise and command armies of the dead, cause plague and famine, and grant extended life to those who sat upon it. Other tales tell of the thrones ability to heal the bodies of those ruled, increase the production of the fields and the seas, and even bring the dead back to life. The truth of these tales is not known to any now living, and only when a blooded ruler again sits upon the throne will the truth be known.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New Monster: Bone Ghul

The grey skinned man-thing hissed as Rathgar’s sword sliced across its arm. Instead of blood, maggots dropped to the stone floor. In retaliation it slammed its clawed hand into the center of Rathgar’s chestplate, knocking him back.

Nimble’s shortsword cut through the knee of the monster, dropping it to the ground. Allianora stepped over it, brandishing her golden sun-disk. “May the cleansing light of all that is holy burn this filth from the earth.”

The creature shuddered for a moment before dissolving into a pile of grave dirt and maggots just as another rounded the corner, this one significantly larger than the last.

Bone Ghul
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 3+** (M-L)
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 2 Claw
Damage: Varies
No. Appearing: 2d4 (2d4)
Save As: F3-6
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: none
Intelligence: 3
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 3HD = 65
4HD = 175
5HD = 425
6HD = 725

Monster Type: Undead, Enchanted (Rare)
Bone Ghuls are created by necromancers and dark cults as instruments of fear and death. They
attack with their claws which cause 1d4+1-2 or 1d6+1-2) (depending on HD) and if both hit, automatically bite for an additional 1d6/1d8 points of damage. Bone Ghouls of 5HD or more are large creatures.

Bone Ghouls can paralyze one creature of equal or less HD with a glance (save vs death ray to avoid, new save every 10 rounds) every round.

Bone Ghuls must kill every night, or they will turn on their creator. Those that are unable to kill or those killed in combat will collapse into a pile of grave dirt and maggots.

To create a Bone Ghul, the necromancer must first find or research the ritual to do so. In addition to 1,500 gp worth of components, the ritual also requires the soul of an intelligent creature. Creating a Bone Ghoul is a difficult process, and the results are not guaranteed. At the final stage of the ritual the caster must slay the victim used to power the ritual, and spill their blood (1d4 points of damage worth), and make a saving throw vs. breath weapons. A failed saving throw results in the failure of the ritual, and an additional 3d4 points of damage. Succeeding the saving throw results in the creation of a 3HD Bone Ghoul. Succeeding the saving throw by more than 3 results in a 4HD Bone Ghoul, more than 6 results in 5HD, etc. For every Bone Ghoul the necromancer controls, there is a -1 penalty to the saving throw. Every additional soul used to create the Bone Ghoul provides a +1 bonus to the save.

Inspired by the Throne of the Crescent Kingdom. Check back tomorrow for the Serpent Throne!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Review: Throne of the Crescent Moon

If ever there was a Dungeons and Dragons book set in Arabia, this is it. Now depending on how you feel about that statement will help determine if this is one you want to read.

The main characters are an old ghul hunter (cleric), his dervish apprentice/partner (paladin), the wild girl who changes into a lion (ranger), the lady alchemist (healer), and her sorcerer husband (wizard). They're working together to stop a killing spree caused by an evil necromancer who has been raising ghuls.

They're based around the capital city of the Crescent Moon Kingdoms. Sitting on the throne is a cruel king that no one much likes and working openly against him is the Falcon Prince, a criminal with grand ambitions and an idealistic hope for the empire. Sort of an Arabian Robin Hood. The city is filled with interesting characters, including the local roving puritans, tea sellers, and whore house mistresses! The author definitely makes the city come alive, and brings the arabian flavor to the front.

I wish I could say I liked it more. I wanted to. I’d hoped to enjoy it at least as much as The Desert of Souls, but it just ended up feeling like a D&D game turned into a novel, and while there isn't anything wrong with that, I'm not sure the author pulled it off as well as he could have. The flavor is great, the characters are interesting enough, the story is solid, but it just doesn't quite come together the way I'd hoped it would.

Also, let's talk about covers. At the top of he post is the UK cover. Not bad. Below are the US hard cover and paper back covers. I'm so glad I didn't see the hard cover first!


Much better!

However... while not being a great book, it does give some really good inspiration for an Al-Quadim/1,001 Nights/Sinbad style game. From the monsters to the magic items, there's a lot of appreciate, and this week I'm going to show off some of that inspirational material.

Tomorrow: Bone Ghul
Thursday: The Cobra Throne
Friday: Alchemist's Dagger

Monday, August 5, 2013

Things get rocky - Pyramid of Shadows session 3

I'm a little late getting this actual play report up. We continued our 4e Pyramid of Shadows game, with the companions making their way up to the second level of the inter-dimensional prison.

This session was played on 7/21.

Cory ran:
Dietrich the Human Knight
Ander the Halfling Rogue

Alex ran:
Barakas the Tiefling Warlord
Chan Lee the Human Monk

The companions returned to the great stairs that twisted up in the pyramid. As they ascended, a harpy and a pair of gargoyles flew down and harassed them, while the stairs shook, trying to toss them down the central shaft. Chan the monk at one point lept off the stairs and grabbed hold of the gargoyle. The creature couldn't carry both of them, and Chan pummeled the creature all the way to the bottom of the pit. The Harpy swooped down trying to knock Barakas off the stairs, but the warlord, in a feat of martial prowess never before hinted at, slayed the harpy. The second gargoyle dropped down to help his companion, but the warlord followed up by teleporting down and helping Chan defeat the one, while the second fled.

At the top of the stairs, the chambers seemed slightly warped with demonic faces, and the opponents were just as warped. An initial group was guarding the top of the stairs, and used the biting pleading demonic faces to teleport around the room. Throughout the encounter the faces begged to be fed, and cursed everytime they were used to teleport. In spite of being surrounded, the companions managed to take down the twisted creatures pretty quickly. They then fed the demonic faces the chopped up remains of their opponents, and in return were gifted with a magical blade.

The next set of doors was a large chamber with several statues, and a large heavy breathing form off in the shadows. As they tried to enter the room silently, the ogre stood up and moved toward the companions. They engaged it, and noted its empty eye sockets. The orge wasn't alone. A medusa slithered out of the darkness. Her attacks were more distracting than anything, so the companions focused their attacks on the orge. Chan fell under her gaze, and felt stiff, but continued on with his attacks on the ogre. For his part, the ogre slammed the party around, crashing through the previously petrified victims of the medusa until the party brought him down. The monk found himself locked, completely immobile. His companions took down the medusa, but by the time they were done, he had turned to stone. Of course they took her head.

A far too brief discussion about what to do next reveals that they have no way to restore their friend at the moment, so they pack him into their portable hole, and continue on. Their next roadblock is a set of three enchanted doors. They manage the first one with out difficulty, the second with great difficulty, and the last door with a curse that affects all three of them the next time they fumble in combat.

Beyond the enchanted doors, they encounter a chamber that contains several rough built hovels, and a bunch of sad looking human refugies who have been trapped within the prison. They call their area "Haven" and invite the companions to join them for food, rest, and stories, giving them a hovel to rest in before dinner. They enter the hovel, and a few minutes later find it falling about their heads. 4 of the refugies turn out to be the same sort of twisted monsters they encountered before, and the humans their brainwashed slaves. The fight does not go well for the companions, as they focused on taking out the rabble, while the monsters were mostly ignored. In the end they won the day, but they keenly felt the loss of their friend.

In the chamber beyond Haven was a room riven with tears in the fabric of reality. A massively deformed Kalavakos was chained to a set of pillars and surrounded by swirling magical energy. When the companions entered the room, the delicate balance of forces was tipped, and Kalavakos ripped free from the chains. This was another tough fight, as the magical vortex kept pushing and teleporting everyone around the room while the Kalavakos abomination did his best to remove the companions from reality. Dietrich was the first to trigger the curse from the enchanted doors, and as he swung at the abomination, spectral robed figures plunged daggers into him, giving a ghastly demonstration of what Ander and Barakas have to look forward to.

The set of enchanted doors, called the Three Gates of Agony in the adventure, was so terribly structured. It isn't even a problem specifically with 4e, it's a problem with the way 4e adventures are written... but this deserves it's own post.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

New Magic Item: Argent Oracle

“According to the map, the Oracle should be right through this chamber.” Nimble pointed through the open archway. The light from their torches glistened off of more of the twisted metal sculptures in the large room beyond.

“Lets go then” Rathgar gripped his shield a little tighter and held his sword ready as he stepped into the chamber. The flickering light, and the organic shapes of the art made everything look like it was constantly shifting around.

“Feris, can you whip up a magelight?” Allianora asked.

“Sure” Feris pinched a bit of phosphorus between his fingers, and pointed with his staff. A spray of sparks arced toward the ceiling and burst with a bright blast. The blazing white light held overhead, banishing the flickering shadows, and shedding the occasional spark downward. “That should do it.”

At the far end of the chamber, up a set of broad marble steps was a large empty alcove.

The companions walked across the well lit hall and looked into the empty alcove. Nimble kept back, scanning the sculptures.

“I wasn’t under the impression that the Oracle could move.” Allianora sighed.

“Now what?” Rathgar asked.

“Now...” Feris trailed off. “I don’t know.” He said finally. “The Oracle should have been here.”

“We could-”

“There” Nimble interrupted, pointing toward one of the sculpture. “That one moved.”

Everyone turned, tensed, and looked at the sculpture. Flowing silvery metal snaked up from the floor and before curling around and looking down with a violet bulb.

A moment passed, and then another before Feris shifted, relaxing his stance. He stepped past Rathgar, toward the sculpture. “Are you sure?” He asked over his sholder.


“Ok...” He looked back up at the silvery thing. “Can you understand me?”

The bulb lit with a gentle light “YES” and it shifted slightly with a soft metallic and glass tinkling sound.

“We seek the Control Crystal of Wexxes.”

The bulb flashed rappidly several times and the tinkling sound ran out for several moments before it began to speak. "THE CRYSTAL YOU ARE SEEKING CAN BE FOUND BELOW. THERE IS A VAULT HIDDEN NEAR THE BLUE TOWER OF LIGHT."

Feris turned the map in his hands, then flipped it over. "The blue tower is on the map!" He grinned.

The Argent Oracle appears as a flowing organic metal sculpture that stands over 12’ tall. It is highly knowledgeable and can answer questions as a sage on nearly any topic. 75% of the time it will generally answer truthfully, though it is known to withhold information that would often save the questioner much time or danger. 25% of the time it will intentionally mislead the questioner into significant danger.

Image Source: Patrice Hubert