Monday, February 27, 2012

The Keep on The Plaplands, part 3

Part of the goal of the Keep on the Plaplands was to create a semi-sandbox game, much like the original Keep on the Borderlands adventure. You've got this place out on the edge of nowhere that is full of NPCs (both helpful and otherwise) and various places to explore and different ways to get mangled. So while there's many different critters, places and characters there isn't much of an overarching plot so far. Here's where I change that up a bit. The following plot is of course entirely optional and can simply be ignored by the GM, or perhaps it simply is going on in the background but the PCs themselves never quite get involved. Mainly these events are meant to give the PCs some interesting "dungeons" to explore and a reason why the normally peaceful and placid plaplands (heh, alliteration is fun) have become more dangerous of late. 

The Recent Troubles

Normally most people find life out on the plains peaceful and dull (which says something about people when you consider it's a place where just about anything can fall from the sky at any time). However, lately things have been more troublesome. The local goblin clans, who normally engage in petty theft and occasional banditry, have been downright vicious and have begun assaulting scavengers and travelers out on the plains. Larger predators are becoming more common and more fact several dangerous creatures have been reported that have never been seen out on the plains before...not just your standard evolutionary oddities but true monsters! 

It just hasn't been safe which has led to more and more of the scavenger tribes retreating to the Keep to wait out whatever is riling up the wildlife which in turn leads to overcrowding and lack of money which leads to a general sense of tension and anger among the inhabitants of the Keep. Rumors begin flying about curses, bad luck and general nastiness while out on the plains itself those scavengers brave enough to try their luck face dangers much greater than ever before. 

These events all started at some point before the PCs arrive on the scene. Exactly how long it's been going on will be up to the GM and will set the mood for the adventure. If it's been only a week or two then likely most of the Keep-folk just see the worries as a temporary thing and are happy to kick back and wait for it to blow over. If it's been several months though then people should be desperate and on edge...thievery in the keep may become common along with a general sense of fear and even hopelessness. However long it's been there is a single source for the problem...

Malice is a unique and bizarre element (table #666), a metal normally found only in tiny deposits in the mountains of Arrgarnarr and even there it is incredibly rare and valuable. When refined Malice is a light, shiny metal with a purplish sheen and an odd "greasy" feel. However, the metal is so rare that it is almost never kept pure, it can be alloyed seamlessly with most other metals and is often used in the construction of weapons, crowns and jewelry (rings especially). Objects made with Malice are not automatically stronger or better (although they are often enchanted) but they do have one important property...they actively attract and enhance dark thoughts and feelings. Thus the lords of Arrgarnarr will forge as many Malice-laced objects as they are able, sending them out into the world to corrupt kings and taint heroes with their darkness. 

Unfortunately a chunk of raw, pure Malice has fallen from the skies above the Plaplands. This 3 pound lump (more than the mines of Arrganarr produce in a decade) of concentrated evil has caused all kinds of chaos. The chunk of Malice was first recovered by goblins who stumbled across it out on the plains just South of the Thicket. The sparks of petty evil and cruelty in their hearts immediately caught flame and they made ready to bring the Malice back to their warrens where its influence would surely turn these minor pests into a rapacious swarm that would soon threaten not only the Keep but possibly all human lands!

...if it weren't for the fact that a hobling scavenger clan noticed the goblins celebrating their find and decided to liberate it from them (after all stealing from goblins hardly counts does it?). The hoblings ambushed the goblins and made off with their prize. This was not the end however, several goblins survived the attack and managed to make their way back to their clans with stories of how the filthy hoblings stole their "beloved" treasure. 

The hoblings who stole the Malice, a close-knit clan called the Gabbins and the largest united group of scavengers on the plains, fell quickly under its influence. Before they had a chance to trade or sell the wicked metal they became obsessed with it and in a matter of days they changed from a simple scavenger tribe into a full-blown evil cult! Rather than return to the Keep and risk having their new idol stolen they went to the one place on the plains that no one goes unless they can help it...the Heap. Using their natural hobling aptitude for burrowing the clan quick dug several tunnels under the Heap and opened up a few natural caverns along the way. And thus were the Chaotic Caverns created (see below). 

Plot Hooks

As mentioned, there's no reason that the Hoblings and their blossoming cult have to have a major impact on the Keep and the players. They may grow or fade in power without anyone the wiser and everything would be just fine. However, if you do want to get the players involved then here's a few suggestions. 
  • Goblin Attack: When the PCs first arrive at the Keep they are assaulted by a band of goblins (2 more goblins than there are PCs) if they have a hobling party member (if they don't then perhaps they were traveling with a hobling merchant they met on the road). The goblins try their best to attack any hoblings, shouting accusations of theft, until they are killed or driven off. If that isn't enough to raise the party's interest then guards at the keep are liable to comment on how unusual it is to see truly hostile goblins, especially this close to the Keep itself. 
  • The Elven Hobo: This is not the first time that Malice has fallen on the plains...but the only living inhabitant old enough to remember those dark days is the Elven Hobo. Perhaps he recognizes the signs that it has happened again (although whether or not he's sane enough to care or to pass that information along is another thing altogether). 
  • Gwynne: The leader of the Keep's soldiers is a great source for easy plot hooks. If the PCs prove themselves useful or competent she may ask them to look for scavenger tribes who have gone missing. The long absence of any members of the Gabbins clan hasn't gone unnoticed and the corrupted hoblings have killed a few other scavengers who strayed too close to their new home. 
  • Hoblings in Priest's Clothing: Trying to gather intelligence and supplies a few Gabbins cultists have slipped into the Keep in the guise of a kindly priest and his assistants. Perhaps they notice that the PCs are a potentially powerful source for good and they hope to lure them into the wilderness where they can be easily ambushed and disposed of. Or perhaps they notice that the PCs are gullible, greedy schlubs who could easily be tricked out into the wilderness and captured for human sacrifices. 
  • Refugee From Evil: Although the Malice has thoroughly corrupted most of the Gabbins clan there's always the chance that there might be one or two holdouts who manage to maintain their morality and who are seeking help to release their brethren from the Malice's taint. 
  • For Hire: Normally scavenger tribes are proud of their independence and ability to survive out on the plains. But with the increased danger some may be willing to hire outside help to keep them safe while they scour the plains for valuable loot. It shouldn't take long for the PCs to realize that this is unusual for them and (after fighting off an unusual attack or two) they may realize that this concern is justified. 
Dungeons of the Plaplands

The wide-open Plains of Plap hardly seems to place for dungeon delving but there are a few suitable sites scattered here and there. Long before the Keep was established a series of extensive tunnels were dug beneath the plains to allow the scavengers to easily travel far and wide without the risk of garbage falling on their heads. Unfortunately most of these tunnels were notoriously unstable (the occasional heavy impacts from above didn't help) and were eventually abandoned and the folk of the plains simply learned to deal with the hazards of their profession in other ways. While most of the tunnel network has collapsed some segments have survived or were linked to other, natural caverns. 

The Forgotten Tunnels

The largest surviving segment of tunnels runs under the plains around the keep and are collectively known as the Forgotten Tunnels. The tunnels could have entrances just about anywhere. At least one is beneath the old watchtower and another can be found within the Thicket. Other possibilities might be hidden entrances in or near the Keep (perhaps the old dungeons in the basement) or near the Elven Hobo's tree. There are no maps for the Forgotten Tunnels, instead they're presented as a set of possible encounters or places of interest.
The most prominent inhabitant of the Forgotten Tunnels is a large goblin tribe known as the Pale Fish clan. The Pale Fish goblins live mostly in the tunnels that run under the plains between the Keep and the Thicket but they can be found poking about nearly everywhere. Most goblins that you might run into on the surface or in the tunnels are the more experienced and skilled hunters/scavengers/bandits (use the Qualities provided in the QMR book), typically armed with random tools or weapons and wearing patchwork armor of pots, pans, books, bedpans, etc. The Pale Fish's central lair is home to several dozen non-combatant goblins (craftsgoblins, cooks, accountants, etc) who should be treated as Good [+2] Minions. 

The Pale Fish goblins are led by a particularly cunning goblin, Mayor Mullog. 

Good [+2] Small, Good [+2] Vicious, Good [+2] Intelligent, Expert [+4] Sneaky, Expert [+4] Liar.
Poor [-2] Small, Poor [-2] Ugly, Poor [-2] Cowardly

Goblins can usually be found in groups of 4-9 wandering the tunnels for food or sneaking up to the surface to check for valuable sky-fall (or for other scavengers that they could easily steal from. The lair of the Pale Fish tribe has at least a dozen of the more skilled "warrior" goblins and at least twice that number in non-combatants. This means any attempt to simply assault the goblins in their homes will be quite dangerous. Fortunately the Pale Fish are quite cowardly and will rarely fight their opponents to the death unless they can help it and they may even be willing to talk to intruders...except for hoblings...the recent theft of Malice from the goblins still has not been forgiven. 

Wandering Monsters

Away from the falling debris above a whole ecosystem of monsters has sprung up underground. Most will shy away from the noise and light of explorers but occasionally you'll run into something dangerous and hungry. When you feel the PCs have drawn unwanted attention (or things are going slow) then roll 1d6 and check out the table below. Information on most of these critters can be found in the Bewildering Beasts book.
  1. 1d6 Dread Rats (50%) or a Good [+2] Swarm of regular rats (50%). 
  2. A pack of goblins. 
  3. A mildew monster 
  4. Headless Cave Ogre (see below)
  5. Globule
  6. Floating Fungus
Headless Cave Ogre

Everyone knows that if a creature lives long enough underground they'll eventually discard useless attributes like eyes. Unfortunately Cave Ogres never really understood evolution and went a bit too far. These pale, ugly giants have no head on their shoulders at all, their necks just end in a gnashing maw. Despite their blindness (and deafness) these ogres still manage to hunt by a combination of vibrations and heat sensitivity. 

Good [+2] Large, Expert [+4] Strong, Good [+2] Tough, Good [+2] Fierce, Expert [+4] Darksense, Good [+2] Shocking Appearance, Poor [-2] Large, Poor [-2] Dumb, Poor [-2] Blind and Deaf

Abandoned rooms

The original purpose of the tunnels was to provide shelter for scavengers so it stands to reason that explorers might come across the remnants of their old underground shelters. To see what can be found in one of these decaying store-rooms roll a d6:
  1. Average [0] Junk. A slow-burn prop, quasi-valuable second-hand goods. 
  2. A wandering monster. 
  3. An old journal. Perhaps it has directions to some scavenger's treasure cache...perhaps it's worthless. 
  4. A Good [+2] One-Shot prop. Perhaps a piece of jewelry or a small decorated statuette. 
  5. Nothing at all. 
  6. Jackpot! Either an Average [0] Magical prop or a Good [+2] Treasure (a slow burn prop).
And the rest...

The rest of the Forgotten Tunnels is left as an exercise for any GM who wishes to flesh them out more. There's plenty of room for just about anything you'd care to throw at your players. 

The Chaotic Caverns

The Heap is perhaps the largest, un-warded magical landfill in all of Ludor. A small hill made from piles of broken and cursed magical items stacked atop one another. All that nasty magic seeped into the ground and tainted the local wildlife. Everyone knows you don't want to eat anything you've caught near the Heap and the segments of the Forgotten Tunnels that run beneath the Heap are full of magic-spawned mutants. And all of this was before a group of crazed halfling cultists with a chunk of pure Malice moved in.

EDIT: Forgot the map again! Here we go. Click for a larger version of course.


A) Out On the Heap

The Gabbins clan has grown increasingly paranoid since they stole the Malice and there are always devoted hobling cultists on the lookout for interlopers who might be after their new relic. At least 3 hoblings hang about the Heap, out of sight, and they'll attempt to deal with any intruders. Their exact tactics will depend on the nature of anyone they see. If they see lone travelers or a harmless looking group the hoblings will probably try and drive them off (see below) or simply attack them. More dangerous-looking individuals will have to be dealt with more carefully. Usually one of the hoblings will approach them, warning them that there are dangerous creatures or objects about the Heap and that they should leave immediately. If this doesn't work then they'll likely try and gather reinforcements and attempt to organize an ambush. 

Hobling Cultists:
These qualities represent an "average" cultist. 

Good [+2] Hobling, Good [+2] Evil, Good [+2] Savage Fanaticism, Good [+2] Sneaky and Deceitful, Expert [+4] Fearless, Good [+2] Good Shot. Poor [-2] Hobling, Poor [-2] Evil.

Gear: The hoblings have merely average gear of little value. They fight with simple weapons like knives or clubs and generally carry slings as well. Many of them have begun crafting crude, animalistic masks of fur and bone that they use to frighten off travelers or during religious ceremonies. 
B) Antechamber of DOOM

This was the first burrow dug by the hoblings before they connected with the older caverns and Forgotten Tunnels. Now it serves as a place where hoblings on watch can hide and rest. It has little more than a few pads for sitting and dirty dishware scattered about. In one corner is a collection of hobling sized weapons (knives, clubs and slings, of little value). There's usually at least two "backup" cultists on duty here. They'll immediately attack any intruders while attempting to alert the rest of the clan for help. 

C) The Meeting Cave

This large natural cavern has been cleaned up and expanded by the Gabbins to form a crude amphitheater. It is bowl shaped with several descending "levels" that have been decorated with grotesque works of modern art cobbled together from accursed objects taken from the Heap above. It is used as a general meeting area for the cultists. During such meetings it is full of at least two dozen hobling cultists but otherwise it is usually empty. 
  • The pit: the center of the chamber features a deep pit covered by a wooden grate. The cult sometimes uses the pit as a method of human sacrifice or punishment...for at the bottom lies a truly horrible creature. Falling down the pit is an Master [TN 13] Hazard (attempting to climb the walls is a Good [TN 9] Challenge) and at the bottom lies a round cave filled with ankle-deep water and a Fleshy Cube. The bottom of the pit may contain a passage to other parts of the Forgotten Tunnels.
    • Fleshy Cube: The Cube is a 10 cubic foot mass of living flesh. It lacks any obvious sensory organs, mouths or appendages. It is simply a featureless mass of hairy, greasy skin. The creature moves slowly across the ground and mostly "fights" by disabling its foes with its awful stench and then crawling over fallen prey to crush and absorb them. 
    • Good [+2] Large, Good [+2] Darksense, Good [+2] Damage Resistance, Expert [+4] Shocking Appearance, Expert [+4] Choking Body Odor, Good [+2] Arcane Resistance (mental effects). Poor [-2] Large, Poor [-2] Intelligence, Poor [-2] Slow-Moving. 
      • Choking Body Odor: Anyone near the Cube is subject to an attack due to the creature's terrible stench. This inflicts Failure Ranks. 
  The cavern contains three exits (other than the Pit) leading to areas D, E and F. The tunnel leading to area E is sealed with a barricade made from wood and rocks. The barricade is crude and can be cleared with a bit of time and effort.

D) Cultist's Quarters

This cavern has been renovated to serve as a sleeping and living chamber for the bulk of the cultists. Unless there's a meeting going on most of the cultists will be out trying to procure supplies or keeping watch but the rest (5-10) will be here. The chamber is mostly full of junk but a careful search will reveal some valuables: a collection of loose change (a Good [+2] Pile of Coins) and a couple of valuable items:
  • Good [+2] Potion of Lead. This thick black potion is unusually heavy and if it is consumed then the drinker's body transforms into living lead for a scene. This grants an upshift to resist injury and to attacks made with the drinker's heavy, metallic fists. However this makes the drinker extremely heavy, downshifting any rolls made to move quickly or quietly. 
  • Good [+2] Gold Bracelet. This is a simple bracelet of gold strands imbedded with a few semi-precious stones. It is a one-shot "wealth" type prop. 
  • Average [0] Bag of Cats. This simple sack seems to contain a small, soft lump at the bottom. However, nothing will come out if the sack if it is turned inside out or upended. In order to activate it the owner must reach in and feel around till they find something soft and fuzzy. Pulling it out will produce a perfectly normal housecat (treat it as an Average [0] Minion). This can be done 1d6+1 times before the bag needs 24 hours to recharge. Cats produced will remain indefinitely. The cats are tame and domesticated but the user has no special control over them.  

E) Beast Lair

This part of the Chaotic Caverns has been sealed off by the hobling cultists. This cave is the lair of a deadly monster: a Displacing Beast. There are several other tunnels that lead from this cave to other parts of the Forgotten Tunnels or the surface but the beast serves as an effective deterrent for any explorers who might try and enter the Chaotic Caverns from this direction. 
  • Displacing Beast: This monster resembles a large octopoid creature (although it has 12 tentacles) with the head of a savage great cat. The beast's crushing tentacles and savage fangs are only part of what makes these creatures deadly. They possess an unusual magical ability...anyone or anything struck by one of the monster's two larger tentacles will be magically teleported to a nearby location. The Beast usually uses this to disarm attackers or teleport prey into dangerous locations (or simply straight up, causing them to fall). 
    • Good [+2] Predator, Expert [+4] Leaping, Good [+2] Rubbery Hide, Good [+2] Rapid Scuttling, Good [+2] Darksense, Expert [+4] Powerful Tentacles, Good [+2] Fangs. Good [+] Displacement*
      • Displacement: The Displacing Beast may teleport characters touched by their tentacles. Range is based on the Quality Rank.  
The Beast's lair is full of the remains of past prey. The only object of interest is a battered sword decorated with gold and gems. When trying to use the sword as the weapon treat it as Poor [-2], but the decorations give it a value of Expert [+4] for trade. 

F) The Shrine

The passage to this chamber has a trap which the Hoblings will arm if they believe that they're under attack or when most of them are away from their lair. The trap consists of a several small cages in the ceiling full of Crimson Death Bears, a species of poisonous, fuzzy caterpillar. Those who think to search for a trap can find the tripwire trigger with a Good [TN 9] Challenge. If the trap is triggered it dumps caterpillars on anyone near the tripwire, an Expert [TN 11] Hazard. Those injured by the caterpillars suffer Damage Ranks due to the venom and their skin becomes puffy and red, inflicting a temporary Weakness of Poor [-2] Painful Swelling (impairing things like appearance and flexibility. 

The shrine itself is relatively new. The Gabbin's cult has been cobbled together over the course of a few days from half-remembered myths and quasi-apocalyptic dreams inspired by the Malice's corruption. This chamber holds the cult's half-finished tome of evil (a rambling work full of contradictory edicts and crossed out segments). During ceremonial events the Malice is held here but otherwise it is in the possession of the cult leader. Holy objects like the cult's tome, sacrificial knives and goblets and so on (Average [0] Silverware) are left on a crude stone altar with a gruesome stone statue leering above. The statue is actually a gargoyle, tamed by the cult leader, who will attack should the objects it guard be disturbed. Otherwise it will happily stay completely still (if left undisturbed) or converse in dull, monotone detail (if anyone thinks to address it). See the Bewildering Beast book for gargoyle stats.

G) Grin's Chamber

 Although the insidious effects of this much raw Malice have dramatically corrupted the entire Gabbins clan there are those who are affected much more than other. The hobling called "Grin" is an excellent example. Grin walks around in tattered leather armor festooned with wicked-looking knives and stained with the blood of her victims. Her nickname comes from her habit of grinding her teeth down to points and the disturbing slasher smile she wears at all times. Delighted by Grin's obvious psychosis the cult leader has enlisted her as a bodyguard. Since Grin doesn't play well with others she's been given her own chamber near her master. 
  • Grin: Good [+2] Hobling, Good [+2] Evil, Expert [+4] Scary Little Lady, Expert [+4] Knife Fighting, Good [+2] Snake-Like Reflexes, Good [+2] Fanatic Loyalty, Good [+2] Sneaking About, Poor [-2] Crazy, Poor [-2] Hobling, Poor [-2] Evil
    • Props: Grin has an impressive collection of knives, but one in particular is special: It's a small machette with the words "The Defoliator" engraved on the blade. The knife is treated as Average [0] normally but if used against plants treat it as an Expert [+4] prop. Grin also has a Good [+2] Potion of Might, granting a temporary upshift to all strength-based rolls.
 H) Gordo's Chamber

 This final chamber is the home of the leader of the Gabbins clan, Gordo Gabbins, and the founder of the hobling's cult. Gordo isn't entirely sure what the new religion's dogma is but he's sure he'll figure it out soon. Until then he and his followers are happy to engage in generalized evil and mayhem. The hobling is thoroughly under the spell of Malice and he is so obsessed that he will never willingly let it leave his sight. He's so completely corrupted that he has already gained the favor of one of Azanut's lesser servant dieties: Yofofof. This chamber, better furnished than most others, is where Gordo sleeps, eats and discusses plans with his cronies (or thin air). Gordo has +4 Favor with Yofofof due to recent sacrificial offerings.
  • Gordo Gabbins: Good [+2] Hobling, Good [+2] Evil, Expert [+4] Commanding Presence, Good [+2] Ordination: Yofofof, Good [+2] Summon Horrible Thing*, Average [0] Clouding Minds*, Good [+2] Unholy Warrior, Poor [-2] Hobling, Poor [-2] Evil, Poor [-2] Not Too Clever
    • Summon Horrible Thing: This miracle allows the caster to call upon a Horrible Thing from the Plane That's Full of Horrible Things. This can involve a simple attack (a tentacle lashes out from a shadow to strike) or by Overcasting Gordo can summon a Lesser Horrible Thing (see below). 
    • Props: Gordo keeps the Malice, a roughly spherical lump of metal, bound to a stick to form an ugly sort of scepter. This is a Good [+2] Crude Mace that also gives an upshift to his evil miracles. He also has a Good [+2] Wand of Lightning (a plot point item) and an Expert [+4] Potion of Healing. In a chest under his bed he keeps an Expert [+4] Pile of Loot (slow burn).
  • Lesser Horrible Thing: Expert [+4] Evil, Master [+6] Shocking Appearance, Good [+2] Strong, Good [+2] Damage Resistance (except lightning), Poor [-2] Evil

Thursday, February 23, 2012

More Toast

Just finished up a colored version of my zombie toast horde picture. I'll probably turn this into a new blog logo (blogo?) at some point. As always you can click for the full-sized image.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Musings on Prophecy

There's a lot that can go wrong with magic systems for different games. Balancing flexibility, flavor and power can lead to all sorts of problems which can leave spellcasters either stomping other characters flat or sitting in the back of the room waiting until they can do something remotely helpful. Probably one of the hardest factors to balance is divination magic. 

It's a pretty essential component, after all I don't think there's a single historical or mythical form of magic that doesn't have some form of prophecy or fortune-telling. The ability to see what others cannot practically defines some forms of magic, after all that's exactly what the omni-present suffix "-mancy" actually means, it refers to a method of divination. It's just morphed into a way to say "Magic of X type". I blame necromancy, it started as just a nice way to talk to dead people and it became responsible for a whole generation of linguistic drift. Tsk. Tsk. 

Anyway, so what was I saying? Divination is pretty much essential for any magic system but it's probably the hardest to actually define and balance. It's easy to work out the potential power of a fireball or lightning bolt but there's practically no way to calculate the potential of being able to peek even a short time into the future. The biggest problem is of course that in order to for the power to actually work in the first place the GM has to have some idea what the future holds and I think we all know that when dealing with a group of heavily armed homeless psychotics (i.e. PCs) that's practically impossible.

Some systems try and compensate for this by making divination magic unreliable or exceedingly vague and cryptic. It's even worse when the effects of fortune-telling is left entirely in the hands of the GM as a means to provide "info-dumps" or quest hooks for players. That would be fine but usually the player in question still has to pay some points/skills/etc for what is essentially a shortcut for the GM. These solutions end up either being entirely insufficient (allow diviners to play merry hell with game balance and the plot itself) or are so effective that they ensure that no one is wants to deal with the headaches involved in divination magic and it gets ignored. 

Well, I was reading Full Frontal Nerdity the other day and one of the pages mentioned the idea of "save points" in RPGs. Obviously having anything like a save point is more or less completely out of the spirit of most RPGs...but the idea has some value as a method for divination...

Imagine this. The players bust through a dungeon door and the party barbarian gets filled with poison darts as they trigger the trap on the other side. The rest of the party is horrified to realize that on the other side is a small horde of angry golems which proceed to tear through them. As the last party member falls, beaten to death with their own pelvis, the scene fades out as the cleric recovers from his divination trance and says "guys...I think we should just go through the other door". 

Essentially, casting a divination spell allows the group to make a "save point". Then they continue to do what they like, taking any actions they normally would. Once the spell's duration expires (or the group is wiped out) then they must choose whether or not the evens "really happened" or was it just part of the diviner's vision, allowing them to effectively rewind the clock and try again or make different choices. 

How long the save point lasts is of course entirely dependent on the power of the spell being used. A relatively weak divination would allow a "rewind" of only a few minutes while more powerful ones might last hours or even days. However, I think it would be far more effective if the duration was measured in real-time rather than game time. A weak divination gives you a 15 minute timer, a stronger one might give you in game hour while an epic spell might let you undo the events of an entire session. This works well because it focuses the effects of the spell on interesting (and chaotic) events even if they might be separated by long stretches of traveling or down-time.

The main benefit of this system is that it would ensure that the effects of divination work well with their intended purpose. The GM doesn't have to try and figure out how the future will go, the future is based on the player's actions just like it always is. And since the events are still determined by random dice rolls the farther the diviner peers into the future the more muddy things become because the "second run" will involve entirely new dice rolls and new results which could lead to dramatically different outcomes.

Of course, this is a good, easy and reliable way to handle divination magic...but is it balanced? Hell no, this may be the most powerful form of divination ever put forward! So here's some suggestions on how I would balance things. The most obvious is of course long casting times, high level (or mp cost) or expensive ingredients but here's some more interesting thoughts:

*Divinations cannot provide specific information. For instance a diviner will (after "rewinding") know that a door is trapped, and trapped with a deadly poison gas...but won't be able to say exactly where the gas came from or where the trigger is. Thus they could assure the party trapsmith that there is a trap but the rogue would still need to make their rolls to find and disarm the hazard like normal. Likewise if a diviner reads an eldritch tome they'll learn that it's a book on demons but they would not be able to recall the actual contents of the book. In cases where this may become important the GM should be vague on specifics until it has been decided whether or not the experience is "real".

*Divinations are one-use only. You can't attempt to create more than one "save" for the same set of events and if you attempt to cast a divination as part of a divination (double-dipping) you go mad from the revelations.

*By peering into the future you are helping to set it in stone. You can make choices to try and make things go different from the vision...but you cannot use any meta-game currency (action points, fate points, etc) to try and alter the events. That means if you had a vision of your party getting beaten up and killed you can no longer use fate points to prevent that fate from happening....

*The GM can of course alter events as well...the visions are visions of the future as they may be, not as they must be. So they players may learn that the exact identity or number of foes or dangers may have changed after rewinding.

Just my random thoughts...I don't know if I'll ever make use of them but they're interesting.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Nerd Food

Figured I'd share some nerdy cookies made by me and NJ....

and some brownies...

I know they're just 6-siders. Brownie d20's are hard

That is all, you may return to your business

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Re-Return to the Keep on The Plaplands pt 2

EDIT: Well, I'm dumb. I completely forgot to include the map that all these places are actually keyed to. Here's a crude one that should suffice for now. When I get around to completing things I'll make sure to include a cleaned up version.

click for a larger size

So, this is the second part of the Keep on the Plaplands adventure, dealing with the Plains surrounding the keep. 

The most significant feature of the Plains is that things will simply fall from the sky. This means that PCs can run into just about anything out here. The Keep is on the edge of the Plains where sky-fall is less common and usually less dramatic. The further characters travel into the Plains (heading South-West) the more common falling objects will become. 

In most cases I suggest having sky-fall either be planned events or make them the result of spending Fortune Points (That's Odd becomes a lot more flexible in a place where just about anything can fall from above) or appropriate Divine Favor. Targeting your players with exceptionally deadly or inconvenient falling objects is a good reason to give your PCs Fortune Points (as Fickle Finger of Fate), especially if you want really extreme sky-fall weather (Knife Storm!). If you want to keep your Sky-fall unpredictable here's a suggestion. Every time someone rolls a set of double 1's something is going to fall from the sky. Further into the plains these events become much more common...first every set of Odd Doubles (double 1's, double 3's, double 5's) triggers a fall then any roll of doubles at all. 

As far as what is going to fall from the sky...well there's no good random table for that. It could be just about anything. I suggest making a quick list of 10-20 random things that you think might be interesting before you start the game and every time a sky-fall is triggered just head down the list. Otherwise why not try picking a page out of a dictionary or a Random Noun Generator

For encounters that don't simply fall from the sky here's a simple random encounter table. The plains are pretty empty so typically just roll once a day:

Roll 2d6:
2: Gwynne Tanbound is leading a group of 1d6 Keep soldiers on a patrol/training exercise.
3: The PCs come across the broken remains of a scavenger's cart. There are signs of a struggle.
4: A group of scavengers wander about, looking for any useful-looking salvage.
5-7: Nothing of note.
8: 2d6 of Raff's Riders scour the Plains for likely targets. 1 in 6 chance that Raff is with them.
9: A group of 3d6 goblins wielding mismatched weapons and armor.
10: The party stumbles across the nest of a giant trapdoor spider (see below). 
11: The party catches the eye of a Plap Miniature Roc (see below).
12: Roll twice and combine both encounters.
Giant Trapdoor Spiders: These creatures are one of the nastier surprises that travelers in the Plaplands may encounter. They're about the size of a pony and possess the strength and speed to easily snatch someone off their feet and into their burrow before they can even call for help.
      • Good [+2] Predator, Good [+2] Strong, Good [+2] Fangs, Expert [+4] Ambush Attack, Expert [+4] Concealing Themselves, Good [+2] Venom. The spider's venom inflicts Failure Ranks but victims must take the damage to Qualities based on speed or coordination first as the venom attacks their nervous system.
    Plapland Miniature Roc: These birds are much smaller cousins of the full-sized roc, about the size of a large horse. Since they are not quite large enough to snatch their prey from their feet and carry them off they have adapted to their environment. The Plapland Roc will search for any large object (the Plains are usually full of suitable detritus), snatch it up and drop it from above on their intended prey then swooping down to finish them off or collect more "ammunition".
      • Good [+2] Large, Good [+2] Predator, Expert [+4] Flight, Good [+2] Beak and Talons, Good [+2] Strong, Expert [+4] Keen Sight, Expert [+4] Dropping Things, Poor [-2] Large, Poor [-2] Intellect.

    Places In The Plains

    The Plains of Plap fill a large bowl-shaped depression in the landscape resembling an extremely large and very ancient crater. The border of the Plains is defined by a ridge of small, rugged hills. The Keep is nestled among the hills near the Southern border of the League of Groth, on the eastern edge of the Plains. Plap is a huge region and the map only provides a small section clustered around the Keep itself so if the players are feeling adventurous and want to wander further afield GMs should feel free to create new landmarks and encounters as they need. 

    For the most part the plains are a peaceful place. There's the occasional dangerous bit of wildlife or bandits hoping to steal choice bits of sky-fall from scavengers but in a place where random objects rain from the sky natural selection tends to favor small, fast-moving critters over large, deadly predators. However, that's been changing over the past few weeks. Nasty things have been stirring across the plains and even the normally placid inhabitants are becoming more dangerous. 

    1) The Runoff

    The Runoff is a small river that flows past the Keep and into the Plains from the North and eventually emptying into Crater Lake and the surrounding marshland. The Runoff is a fairly unremarkable river...the water is fresh and the current is normally calm enough to navigate easily with a raft or canoe although it is usually too wide and deep to swim safely. A few people in the Keep own rafts that they keep moored on the shores of the river, but for the most part the river is simply a source of fresh water.

    -Possible Encounters-
    • Spitting Crocodiles: Large, scaly lizards who have developed a talent for sucking up large quantities of water and spraying jets of it to stun or confuse their prey...also great for knocking humans off of rafts and into the water.  
      • Good [+2] Large, Good [+2] Predator, Expert [+4] Looking Like A Log, Expert [+4] Water Jet, Good [+2] Scaly, Good [+2] River-Dweller.
      • Water Jet: The Croc can spray a jet of water an impressive distance and with great force. This is an attack that inflicts Failure Ranks and generally forces the victim to overcome a Challenge or be knocked off their feet. The crocodile must spend a round sucking in more water to attack this way again. 
    • Living Dam: These creatures are exceptionally rare and no one is quite sure where they come from. Theories include wands or magical staves being incorporated into dams or the existence of hyper-intelligent beaver wizards. The Living Dam appears like an ordinary beaver dam until someone attempts to dismantle or destroy it at which point it will spring to life and attack whoever dares to disturb it. The Living Dam is essentially an unusual Wood Elemental (Bewildering Beasts, pg 10).
      • Good [+2] Large, Expert [+4] Body of Twigs and Branches, Good [+2] Wading, Expert [+4] Standing Firm, Good [+2] Strong, Poor [-2] Dumb, Poor [-2] Large
    • Dread Catfish: The most feared creature in the river, bar none. These behemoths normally bury themselves under the mud at the river bottom and are content to suck muck into their faces and filter out anything remotely edible. Eventually they get hungry for something more substantial and at any moment they may leave their muddy burrows and search for fresher meat. 
      • Good [+2] Scavenger, Expert [+4] Dread Animal, Expert [+4] Large, Good [+2] Swimming, Good [+2] Hiding In Mud, Good [+2] Swallow Whole, Poor [-2] Large, Poor [-2] Dread

     2) The Ruined Watchtower

    When the Keep was first founded the soldiers there took their duty a bit more seriously than they do now. The watchtower was built to allow a grand view of the plains so that vigilant sentinels could watch for danger from the sky. However, it didn't take the soldiers of the Keep long to realize that staring out over a seemingly endless grassy plain is really boring. So the watchtower was abandoned and it eventually fell to ruin (along with the bridge over the Runoff) after years of neglect and random sky-fall. Now the watchtower is little more than a pile of rubble. However, underneath the layer of rubble is an entrance to the old scavenger tunnels that run underneath the plains (see Plapland Dungeons). 

    -Plot Hooks-

    • The son of Rivas Darkheart, Mirt Darkheart, is more dedicated than his fathers to the old ways and has some talent for magic. Thus he has taken to sneaking over the river (he has a raft hidden not too far from the keep) to practice with some books stolen from the family collection at the old watchtower. So far the boy hasn't managed anything truly nasty...but those poking around the keep might run into a collection half-a-dozen Reanimated Rabbits (treat them as Minions: Good [+2] Undead Bunnies) and Mirk's hidden collection of books. Mirk himself is only rarely out here and would much rather run or feign ignorance than try and fight anyway.
      • Mirk Darkheart: Good [+2] Cunning, Average [0] Necromancy*, Good [+2] Occult Lore, Good [+2] Feigning Innocence, Poor [-2] Awkward Puberty. Mirk also has his grandfather's old sacrificing knife...a Good [+2] Magic Dagger.  
    • Buried beneath the rulle is a battered  but still serviceable sword. This blade is a Good [+2] Spirit-Possessed Sword. The sword belonged to Duncan Jerson, a Keep soldier with an unusual sense of duty and passion. When the other soldiers abandoned the watchtower he stayed behind, only returning to the Keep to stock up on supplies. Duncan kept his vigil until he died in the tower collapse. His bones have long since been carried away by scavengers and his armor and clothes have moldered but his spirit remains imbued in the sword he carried. Anyone carrying the blade will soon begin to feel the influence of Duncan's spirit. Attempts to lie, shirk duty or betray must overcome the Sword's TN in a Challenge and every night the sword makes a mental "attack" inflicting Failure Ranks with it's Quality. If this attack causes the bearer to Zero Out then they become obsessed with the sword and with resuming Duncan's old duty...camping out by the watchtower's ruins and keeping an eye on the plains. The sword's curse may be lifted through appropriate miracles or if the watchtower is rebuilt and staffed once more (other methods are left to the GM's imagination) which leaves the sword as a Good [+2] Fine Blade prop. 

    3) Crater Lake

    At the end of the Runoff is a large, shallow lake surrounded by marshland. The lake fills a huge crater at least a century old created by some forgotten, massive impact. The marshland here is not nearly as thick or deadly as the bogs of Kadink but it is still a mucky, unpleasant and bug-filled ordeal. Treat travel through the Marsh as a Poor [5] Hazard that inflicts Failure Ranks. A roll of double 1's means that the characters have gotten lost, been caught in quicksand or otherwise fallen into random trouble.

    -Plot Hooks/Encounters-
    • The marsh is home to a tribe of humanoid newts. They're irritable, unfriendly creatures and are generally very unpleasant to any other beings that intrude on their swamp. There's only one thing they like about the outside world and that is hot, cooked meals. Unfortunately they've never quite mastered the technique themselves and being too close to open flame is uncomfortable with their moist, squishy skin. So they occasionally will kidnap humans and drag them back to their lair and force them to cook for them. They've recently snatched a middle-aged scavenger, Jer Tamlin, from the shores of the Runoff. The rest of the Tamlin clan has made their way to the Keep and they may be offering a reward for anyone who might be able to get Jer back. 
      • Average Newt-Man Hunter: Good [+2] Amphibious, Good [+2] Hunters, Good [+2] Slippery, Expert [+4] Knows The Swamp. The Newt-folk typically carry wooden spears and dart guns. Occasionally they'll make use of Good [+2] Poison. 
    • The swamp is home to at least one specimen of Lesser Swamp Dragon. The beast resembles a gigantic salamander with fleshy frill of gills around its neck. These creatures, while quite large and dangerous, are not nearly as deadly or intelligent as most other dragon creatures. The Newt-men of the marsh have an uneasy truce with the dragon, making it offerings of treasure and fish in order to leave them be. If the Newt-men are really riled up they may call upon the dragon to aid them against their enemies. 
      • Expert [+4] Large, Good [+2] Predator, Good [+2] Stubborn, Expert [+4] Keen Senses, Good [+2] Swamp Spew* (spray of stinking slime), Expert [+4] Swimming, Good [+2] Long-Lived, Good [+2] Tough, Slimy Hide, Good [+2] Plant Command*, Poor [-2] Large, Poor [-2] Vanity
      • The dragon's "horde" is concealed beneath the muck in the swamp (Expert [TN 11] Challenge to locate) and consists of an Expert [+4] Assortment of Coins, Good [+2] Jeweled Necklace, an Average [0] Uncut Gemstone and a Good [+2] Waterproof Cloak.
    • At the bottom of Crater Lake is a huge, rusted iron sphere the size of a small house. This is the object which formed the original crater. The sphere has a single hatch on one side. The sphere's contents, and methods to open it, are left to the GM for future adventure ideas. 
    4) Raff's Camp

    Most of the men and women on the plains spend their time scouring the grasslands for anything that looks remotely valuable or useful. This is long, exhausting work that rarely turns a major profit so there are those who eventually realized that it's faster to wait until others have discovered the valuables out on the plains and then take their finds for themselves. Under the leadership of Gwynne Tanbound the soldiers of the Keep do a decent job of keeping this sort of riff-raff under control. However one band continues to elude capture and still roams the Plains raiding and looting as they like: Raff's Riders.
       Raff and his bandits, mounted on specially bred war ostriches (they tried to domesticate Plap Striders but that ended in disaster), are the terrors of the plains. Although they raid and steal from just about anyone they come across they prefer not to kill their victims...after all they need their victims to find more valuables for them to steal.
       The Riders make camp in the hills that ring the plain near the keep, but they move constantly to avoid detection by Keep soldiers. This infuriates the captain of the guard, Gwynne, and the mere mention of Raff's name is enough to send her into a cold rage. There's a standing reward for Raff's capture, an Expert [+4] Bounty if he's captured alive, Good [+2] for proof of his death or for information leading to his capture.  
    • Average Rider: Good [+2] Scary, Good [+2] Riding, Good [+2] Warrior, Average [0] Tough and Rugged. They carry short spears or crossbows but mainly prefer to use nets and lassos to avoid casualties. Their ostriches are Good [+2] Mounts. 
    • Raff: Expert [+4] Intimidating, Good [+2] Schemer, Expert [+4] Animal Trainer, Good [+2] Rider, Good [+2] Agile, Poor [-2] Lack of Combat Training. Raff's scarred face and gruff demeanor hides the fact that he isn't actually much of a warrior at all. He is quite clever however and has managed to hide this fact from both his enemies and allies. In a fight he'll mostly rely on Blacktalon, his mount. He carries an Average [0] Pouch of Coins, a Good [+2] Gold Ring and an Average [0] Potion of Healing and Good [+2] Devil-Brew, a potion that when drunk by an animal gives the creature the Nether Creature Quality at Good [+2] Rank for a scene. The potion's effects on humans are unknown and likely to be...unpredictable. 
    • Blacktalon: Good [+2] Grazer, Good [+2] Beaks and Talons, Expert [+4] Running, Good [+2] Vicious, Poor [-2] Dumb and Ornery.
    5) The Elven Hobo

    Sticking out of the grasslands like a sore thumb and visible for miles around is a single, gigantic tree. It's branches are full of fallen detritus and nestled among the roots is a small hut of woven grass. The people of the Plaplands stay far, far away from the tree and crazed elven hermit who makes his home here. No one knows his real name and will simply refer to him as the Elven Hobo. The elf has lived here for generations and is perhaps the oldest living inhabitant of the Plains. He's also quite mad and completely unpredictable. He may invite travelers over for a drink and then try and stab them in the back or he might attempt to drive them off with thrown stones the moment he sees them. Occasionally he'll approach likely looking travelers and ask favors of them, offering grand rewards. Usually both these "quests" and their potential rewards are just products of his deranged imagination. For this reason the elf is mostly left alone to tend the beehives that he keeps in the branches of his giant tree.
    • The Hobo: Expert [+4] Elf, Good [+2] Hermit, Expert [+4] Forbidden and Obscure Lore, Master [+6] Herbalist, Good [+2] Completely Crazy, Good [+2] Surprise Attacks. The Hobo has several doses of Expert [+4] Herbal Venom (inflicting Wound Ranks) which he may slip into food or coat a dagger with. He also knows a technique for making Good [+2] Healing Potions. Sometimes he'll mix the two up. 
    • Lucinda: This is the Hobo's pet Jeopard that typically snoozes in the branches of the tree. She'll eagerly leap to her master's defense if he's threatened. She has the Qualities of the standard Jeopard.

    6) The Thicket

    This area of the Plains is exceptionally overgrown and covered in light overgrowth. The place is generally avoided by the scavengers as it is difficult to for horses or carts to navigate...and giant trapdoor spiders are significantly more common here than elsewhere. The Thicket contains an entrance to the old scavenger tunnels below the plains and it is where the goblins typically travel to and from the surface.
    • Tek Wei Fighting Bush: These colorful but aggressive shrubbery are extremely territorial and are easy to recognize by the wide swath of bare ground around the bush. They violently exterminate any other plants within their reach (about 10"), especially other fighting bushes, and will attack any creatures larger than a bumblebee that intrudes. The bushes originated from Tek Wei but a few specimens make their way to other lands where the native foliage has no natural defenses against them. 
      • Good [+2] Plant, Expert [+4] Thorny Tendrils, Good [+2] Strong, Expert [+4] Beautiful Flowers, Good [+2] Shooting Needles. Poor [-2] Intellect, Poor [-2] Rooted.

    • Horror-In-Sheep's-Clothing: The Plaplands are home to their fair share of harmless, grazing animals, little more than sandwiches on hooves. However, sometimes this harmless facade hides something much worse. The Horror appears to be a normal sheep typically grazing happily from a bush or munching on grass. Anyone who approaches learns the terrible truth. The "sheep" is merely a fuzzy "lure" on the end of a massive tentacle that extends from below ground. Once prey is close enough the Horror usually lifts the "sheep" off the ground, extends several smaller tentacles from under its wool and the sheep's entire back splits open to reveal a massive fanged maw. The horror itself hides underground and larger specimens may actually have several sheep lures. Many of them develop a taste for humanoids and will find small bits of jewelry or interesting sky-fall and stick them into their wool to lure humans close. 
      • Good [+2] Predator, Expert [+4] Large, Good [+2] Cunning, Expert [+4] Gnashing Fangs, Good [+2] Tough Hide, Expert [+4] Disguise, Expert [+4] Shocking Appearance, Expert [+4] Ambush.
    7) The Really Big Skull

    Those reading a map of the Plaplands for the first time might assume that this landmark is simply a sign of dangerous territory and will be very surprised to find what is literally a gigantic skull half-buried in the ground here. Scholars debated what sort of creature this massive, apparently humanoid, skull originated from until they actually got around to examining it and found that it was actually constructed from some kind of tough plaster or stucco material. This led to considerable academic embarrassment and they quickly abandoned the research.
       The skull has become the lair of Zalgo, a cliff manticore (Bewildering Beasts, pg 19) who spends most of his time lounging on top of the skull or snoozing within the brain cavity. Like all of his kind Zalgo is intelligent but evil and hungers for the flesh of intelligent creatures. Scavengers usually know to avoid his lair and the goblins who dwell in the old tunnels underneath the plains give him most of their salvaged or stolen treasure to avoid becoming a meal (this doesn't always work). Zalgo is quite willing to make a meal out of travelers but he is also quite cowardly and if faced with significant injury he'll quickly flee or attempt to talk his way out of the situation.
       Within the skull Zalgo hides his personal treasures: An Expert [+4] Pile of Gold, a Good [+2] Ruby, Average [0] Quartz Necklace, an Expert [+4] Massive Tapestry and a Good [+2] Dwarf-Forged Warhammer.

    8) The Heap

      The skies of Plap can produce just about anything which means most of the objects that fall from the sky are completely worthless. But rarely objects of exceptional value or even great power fall from above. However, the opposite is also true: sometimes scavengers come across objects that are not only useless but downright harmful! Cursed swords that stick to your hands, glowing red rocks that make you grow extra limbs or jewelry that tries to murder you when you put it on. For a long time the inhabitants of the plains would simply throw these objects away at the first opportunity. However, this would just lead to some other scavenger coming along and falling victim to it. After 12 scavenger families in a row fell victim to the same cursed dancing shoes the different scavenger clans finally settled on an informal agreement and designated a dumping ground for these dangerous finds: the Heap.
       Now, generations later, the Heap is still the place where scavengers will ditch their unpleasant surprises and it has grown into an impressive pile. Just about anything you don't want can be found buried here and those who know the Plains give the Heap a wide berth unless they've got something to dump.  For this reason it has become the site for the entrance to the Chaotic Caverns carved out below the plains. More details on the Caverns and their inhabitants will be in the next post.

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    Rereturn to the Keep on the Plaplands

    A few months back I posted about a forum rpg I was planning to run (which unfortunately did not get far, but that is the fate of play-by-post gaming more often than not). However, I liked the idea and since there's a shortage of PDQ adventures out on the net I figured I'd go ahead and turn it into a full-fledged adventure write-up. I'll start with the Keep itself and then in a later post I'll do the lands around the keep and finally the dungeons in the area. Once it's all done I'll combine it into a PDF version.

    For a recap of the ideas behind the adventure check out the old post here.

    The adventure will be written for the PDQ system Questers of the Middle Realms, my personal favorite iteration of the PDQ system. That said it would be almost no trouble to convert this to another version of PDQ, either "generic" or something like Zorcerer of Zo or Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies. The game is meant mostly for starting characters but there's no reason that experienced adventurers couldn't have fun wading through the relatively minor dangers to be found out on the plains.

    The Keep

    The Keep is a small, unremarkable fort far from civilization. Four hefty walls of mismatched stonework with a squat watchtower on three of it's four corners (they never got the funding to complete the fourth). The walls are causally patrolled by guardsmen in rusty chainmail and sturdy steel helmets. There are two gates on the north and south sides of the keep. Both are kept closed most of the time and those seeking entry to the keep need to provide the gatekeeper with their name and business. None of the guards take their duty very seriously...nothing truly dangerous has shown up in the area for decades. They're mostly here to break up fights between scavengers, deal with petty theft and chase the occasional goblin out of someone's cellar.

    A bit over a dozen homes as well as a handful of businesses are nestled within the keep. The scavenger "tribes" mostly wander the plain and stay at the inn when they're in town and the guards make their home in the barracks of the inner keep. Travelers will quickly notice that every single building has a strong, sturdy looking roof. Although the Keep is only on the edge of the plains no-one wants an iron washbasin or nude, armless statue smashing through the ceiling during dinner.

    Extra Notes:

    -The Guards should usually be treated as Minions (Good [+2] Lazy Soldiers).

    -The walls of the keep have a couple of ballistae in dire need of repair (attempts to fire one suffer a downshift but on a successful hit double the number of Damage Ranks inflicted).

    The Fallen Fortune

    The largest building in the Keep other than the inner fort is this large tavern and inn. The place is run by a burly human, Abe Morley, who keeps the beer flowing and makes sure everyone pays their due. The food is (unfortunately) prepared by Mister Green, an orcish cook. Due to Mister Green's strong sense of taste he prefers to serve particularly bland meals, boiled chicken, unseasoned potatoes and applesauce on white bread are favorites. Green also serves as the bouncer and few people complain more than once about their meal. 

    Extra Notes:

    -A week's stay at the inn is an Average [0] expense. Food and lodging for one night is merely a Poor [-2] expense. 
    The Jeweler:
    Tucked away in one corner of the Keep is a small, well-built jewel shop run by Rhes Silverbeard a dwarven merchant and his human wife, Dorothea Silverbeard. She somehow managed to convince Rhes that they had to get married several years in the past. Rhes is still somewhat confused by the situation but he finds it easier to go along with it and be grateful for the extra help around the shop. Rhes will appraise and purchase the more valuable objects that fall out on the plains but he is mostly interested only precious gems or metals. As the wealthiest resident he also serves as an unofficial banker, offering loans and allowing others to keep their valuables stored with him for a small price. 

    Extra Notes:

    -Rhes employes two mercenary guards far more alert and competent than the standard Keep soldiers (Good [+2] Loyal, Good [+2] Warriors, Good [+2] Perceptive) and during the night his huge guard-dog sleeps in the store to keep an eye out for intruders (Expert [+4] Big Dog, Good [+2] Tough, Expert [+4] Sense of Smell, Poor [-2] Animal Instincts). 

    -The dwarf's small vault (with an Expert [TN 11] Lock) contains a Master [+6] Fortune in cash and small gemstones. The vault may also contain valuables stored here by some other travelers or businessman (a good possible plot hook). 

    The Temple of Lonuse

    The only real holy ground in the Keep is this small church. The place is crammed full of knick-knacks, tattered clothing and cracked tableware. The temple is dedicated to Lonuse, the god of Second-Hand Goods. The place is watched over by the elderly and cheerful Dana Samwell. She is always happy to offer spiritual advice and may grant some miracles to those who purchase some of her junk (although there's always the possibility of something exceptionally valuable hidden among the dross). 

    Extra Notes:

    -Dana Samwell, human priestess: Good [+2] Cheerful, Good [+2] Ordination: Lonuse, Good [+2] Persuasive, Average [0] Divinations*, Good [+2] Lonuse's Healing Goodwill*, Poor [-2] Bleeding Heart. She has +4 Favor from Lonuse. 

    -Donating a good chunk of second-hand equipment or goods is a good way to earn Favor from Lonuse. 

    The Smithy

    The keep's only blacksmith, a human named Arlie Mill, is generally kept pretty busy shoeing horses, repairing helmets and performing maintenance for travelers and locals. However, in his free time he indulges in his personal hobby: polearms. Arlie collects, restores and constructs polearms of just about any shape, size or description. The walls of the smithy (and Arlie's home) are covered in a truly startling variety of long-hafted weaponry: spears, halberds, ranseurs, glaives, bardiches, guisarmes, glaive-guisarmes, glaive-axe-bec-de-fauchards and other highly experimental weaponry. Attempts to sell Arlie a new or interesting polearm receive an upshift.

    Extra Notes:

    -Arlie's collection of spears are all Average [0] props (some of the more impractical designs might even be Poor [-2]) but the prize of his collection is a Good [+2] Enchanted Halberd which he keeps above his mantle at home. Convincing him to part with it would be a Master [TN 13] transaction. 

    Rivas' General Store

    Near the center of town, this store stocks rope, tools, traveling supplies, farming and camping gear and just about any miscellaneous thing you might require. The owner, Rivas, doesn't tend to stock weaponry or other "adventuring" gear but he's got plenty of food and general supplies. Rivas is a human who hails from Arrgarnarr and has the general shifty, unpleasant look of people from that region. Despite this he's managed to settle into life at the keep quite well and his neighbors are open-minded about his cultural background and no-one minds so long as he keeps the ominous chanting down. 

    Extra Notes

    -Rivas Darkheart human shopkeeper: Average [0] Wicked, Good [+2] Tradesman, Average [0] Dread Occult Lore, Good [+2] Smarmy Charm.

    -Rivas and his son live on the second floor of their shop. In the basement is a shrine to Azanut and the other Nether Powers. Anyone investigating the leather-bound books and eldritch sigils can find an Average [TN 7] ritual to summon an Imp from the Nether realms. 
    Salazar's Trading Post

    Karin Salazar runs a trading post directly across the street from Rivas' General Store and the two have developed a vicious competitive streak. While she also carries a large supply of "general" goods Salazar also buys valuable goods brought in by the scavengers out on the plains so there's always a chance for just about anything to end up here. Salazar also keeps a stock of "grey market" items: lockpicks, mild poisons, unlicensed potions and so on. Her exact inventory is up to the GM but she's unlikely to advertise her under-the-counter goods to outsiders. 

    The Inner Keep

    The heart of the Keep is a relatively small fortified manor. The inner keep contains barracks for the multinational soldiers who man the keep and the armory where spare weapons and armor are left to molder. Underneath the inner keep is a cobweb-filled dungeon that hasn't been used for years and the meager treasury containing the Keep's yearly budget. The upper floors of the manor are home to the captain of the guard, a knight named Gwynne Tanbound, the keep's administrative staff and the governor of the whole place: Actius Goa.
       Most of the day-to-day tasks are handled by clerks or by Captain Tanbound, a hard-nosed individual far more concerned with fulfilling her duties than Actius is. Governor Actius spends most of his time with research and study, he considers the keep little more than a quite place to store his books and considers a little bit of paperwork a small price to pay. 

    Extra Notes:

    -Gwynne Tanbound human knight: Expert [+4] Swordplay, Expert [+4] Honorable, Good [+2] Commander, Good [+2] Knight of the Argent Cube, Good [+2] Homeland: Orthedia, Expert [+4] Riding. Gwynne has a Good [+2] Blessed Blade and a suit of Expert [+4] Platemail which she wears on duty. Anyone who deals with the strict and disciplined woman will quickly realize she's far too competent and driven for her post out here in the Plaplands (her superiors felt she was a little too enthusiastic and sent her out here to mellow out for a few years) and she is quite tired of her post herself. 

    -Actius Goa human scholar: Expert [+4] Obscure Lore, Good [+2] Magical Theory, Expert [+4] Studious, Good [+2] Perceptive. Actius also owns an Expert [+4] Personal Library. Far more laid-back and casual than his captain of the guard Actius is mostly concerned with keeping things calm and quite and helps to temper Gwynne's eagerness to mount up and sally forth the moment there's any news of monsters or danger. 

    -The keep's treasury is well-guarded by two soldiers at all times as well as an Expert [TN 11] Massive Locked Door. Even if would-be thieves manage to break in there's a Good [TN 9] Light-Web enchantment which fills the room with thin beams of reddish light. Touching a beam triggers an alarm spell and causes the room to fill with Expert [+4] Sleeping Gas. The chests in the treasury contain two Expert [+4] Sacks of Money and 10 Good [+2] Silver Bars. 

    Keep Plot Hooks

    Here are some short, interesting plot-hooks that PCs might stumble upon or assigned due to damage-induced-plot-hooks. 

    -When the PCs come into Rivas' General Store they find the counter empty with only a small gong labeled "strike for service". Striking the gong a few times will elicit shouting from downstairs and the sound of stomping up the stairway. Rivas will arrive, out of breath and apologetic and also wearing a large, pentagram covered, headdress of blackened wire and goat-horn. Once he realizes he's still wearing it he'll quickly chuck it under the counter and change the subject. 

    -Abe Morely at the Fallen Fortune has heard about other inns and taverns with basements full of rats and rather than driving business away this infestation seems to attract droves of adventurers who eagerly wipe out the rodents for chump change and then turn around and spend that money (and more) at the bar. A bit too eager to get in on this Abe released a few crates of large rodents into the cellar. After a few weeks the squeaking, gnawing damage and rat filth were too much so he decided to get rid of them, releasing a giant spider into the basement to deal with the infestation. Unfortunately the spider had an egg sac and soon his cellar was full of webs and eight-legged horrors. Well, one thing led to another and now there's a bear down there and no-one can get to the booze and he could really use some help. 

    -Gwynne Tanbound is extremely eager to cleanse the area around the Keep of any dangers or monsters and will generally offer bounties for the extermination of any such threats. She's also got a mile-wide competitive streak and if any knights or warriors of note show up in town she'll do her best to talk them into "sparring matches" or "friendly jousts". 

    -The dungeons of the inner keep are long, long abandoned, mostly because of an extremely annoying haunting that developed a few weeks ago. A headless specter drifts from cell to cell. Attempts to put the ghost to rest have so far been complicated by the fact that the thing can't speak without a head and no-one has any idea what in the world it wants.

    EDIT: Here's part 2 and part 3 

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    RPG Chopshop VIII: Savage Aberrant 2

    A while back I was trying to convert Aberrant to Savage Worlds. Originally I figured it would be pretty fast and simple, but I ended up making it a fairly big project. So here's the full-sized Savage Aberrant conversion (well a full 25 pages or so).