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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.

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