Tag Archives: dungeons and dragons

All The World’s Monsters, Volume 1 Part 4

All The World’s Monsters, Volume I

Part IV

That’s The Funny One With The Whales, Right?

No, This Is The One With The Killer Pinecone In It

Yes, Really

Welcome back, after a long absence, to what ought to be the last part of the first part of the walkthrough of All The World’s Monsters, Volume I. The penultimate part is here, and the antepenultimate part is here, and this useless spell checker doesn’t know that “antepenultimate” is a word. It totally is. It means “the sister of one of penultimate’s parents”. Duh.

Having just covered hybrid crabs/WW1 helmets, we move on to…

Random Horror: Insert 2016 Presidential election joke here.

An evolutionary step between the wandering monster table and the wandering damage table.

An evolutionary step between the wandering monster table and the wandering damage table.

Razortongue: A gorilla-sized koala bear with steel-hard fur. Yes, really.

Just like it says on the tin.

Just like it says on the tin.

The razortongue is one of the many creations of the prolific Clint Bigglestone, who was evidently part of the gaming circle of a certain George R. R. “Are You Finishing The Damn Series” Martin, as a character by the hardly-common name of “Clint Bigglestone” appears in one of Martin’s early stories.

Shaggy: A huge (man size, I guess, though it’s not specified precisely) tribble. Which secretes adhesive glue. And when it attaches itself to you, it sucks out life levels. Not to be confused with a monster-hunting stoner.

Shaggy Beast: A snake-headed bull with green fur. Said fur is full of stingers that will kill you in two turns if you fail a save. It can also breathe fire. Why not?

Shrew, Giant: Insert “mother in law” joke here.

Skull, Flying: The “poor man’s liche”, sometimes called the “Obamalich”, even though the program actually started under Bush. It looks “just like you would expect, a skull with wings”. I generally don’t expect winged skulls, but anyway. It can use spells, but there is a “spell level/8” chance it will be destroyed when it does. I’m going to interpret that as an “X in 8 chance”, that is, if it’s a 4th level spell, roll a D8, and if it’s 4 or less, the skull dies. Re-dies. Double secret dies.

Starling: Not a cute little bird. This starling is a giant mutant starfish, where each tentacle has a unique, deadly, power. Kind of like a beholder, except with tentacles instead of eye beams. It has seven tentacles, and their powers include constriction, petrification, cold damage, poison, and “squirting ink”. The “constricting” tentacle can extend for up to 100 feet, and this is getting way too hentai for me. Next!

Stormquill: Another of Mr. Bigglestone’s visionary creations, this is a “gorilla sized ankliosaurus(sic)”. It has 12 quills on the clublike end of the tail, which, when flung, transform into lightning bolts that attack as a heavy crossbow fired by a Champion. (You can tell the really old school stuff, from the first few years of D&D, by use of the “attacks as a (level name here)” trope.

Stun Cone: A giant killer pinecone. Look, I told you it was in here. Why did you not believe me? Why? Now look what you’ve done in your foolish ignorance and defiance!

See? Killer Pinecone. Not A Metaphor. Not An Exaggeration. Not A Dream, Hoax, Or Imaginary Story.

See? Killer Pinecone. Not A Metaphor. Not An Exaggeration. Not A Dream, Hoax, Or Imaginary Story.

Thundertread: Found in the deepest levels of dungeons, it is “hideous and virtually indescribable”. And… that’s its description.

DM: You encounter a thundertread! It’s hideous and indescribable!
Player: What does it look like?
DM: I just told you, it’s indescribable.
Player: But what do our characters see?
DM: Something they can’t describe.
Player: (Sighs) Does it have hit points?
DM: Yes.
Player: Then screw the flavor text, we can kill it.

Tiger, Blink Saber-Tooth: When a blink dog and a saber tooth tiger love each other very much…

Next time someone who wasn’t even born until after AD&D 2e came out whines that they hate D&D 3.x or Pathfinder because “all the stupid templates let them make up these weird hybrid monsters instead of sticking to the glorious, sacred purity of genuine creatures from myth and legend like in the Good Old Days”, show them the blink dog/sabre-tooth tiger crossover, then laugh at them. A lot. They need to be laughed at.

Tumble Tangle: A tumbleweed-like plant that often travels among them, until it finds food. It then attacks and attempts to entangle and devour the victim. Given that I created the very similar “tumblebleed” for Earth Delta, I’ve got no moral high ground here.

Unalhit: A six legged hairy octopus demon. Heh. “Hairy octopus”. Know what I mean, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more?

Voltree: Comes in five colors; when danger threatens, all the voltrees spend time getting their asses.. erm… trunks handed to them for ten minutes before finally remembering that can combine to form an all-powerful robot tree that… no, wait. This is a weeping willow with silver leaves that can electrocute passers-by. Based on a story by Eric Frank Russel.

Vuun: A fifty-foot giant bat, with psychic powers. “Very rare”, with only one colony remaining in a network of caves in the walls of a volcanic crater. I’m not even going to ask how a creature with a 50 foot wingspan navigates inside the tunnels.

War Wheel: It’s a living creature shaped like a giant wheel that will… oh, just read it.

Man, If You Could Figure Out How To Put A Saddle On One Of These...

Man, If You Could Figure Out How To Put A Saddle On One Of These…

I can kind of imagine the in-world arguments over what to call it, akin to the debate over “soda” or “pop”. (Soda, you morons) or “Sub”, “Hero”, “Grinder”, etc. (Sub or Hero. Grinder? Please.)

Water Sucker: Someone who pays 3.99 for a bottle of “Pure Glacier Mountain Spring Organic GMO Free Water” that’s bottled in Spokane from the local pipes. Also, a kind of armadillo thing that drains water like a stirge drains blood.

Weasel, Giant: Insert 2016 Presidential election joke here, too.

Were-Hellhound: There is a 25% chance it can use magic in human form and one-third of the magic-using were-hellhounds will be Priests of Roofdrak. No, I do not know what a Priest of Roofdrak is. I mean, yeah, I can guess, it’s a priest, that worships Roofdrak. That’s helpful. Not. Also, it will only work with were-coldcats if it has a good reason to. No, “were-coldcat” is not in this book. Nor could I find “Cat, cold” or “Coldcat”. Old School!

Were, Anti: At first, I read this as “were, ant”, which makes as much sense as anything else, but, no… an “anti-were” is like a were wolf, bear, etc., except that it’s immune to silver and magic weapons but is harmed by normal iron ones. This is a fairly typical trope for the era. Back when “player skill, not feats and stats” mattered, “player skill” consisted of memorizing every rulebook one could find, and ignoring things like “but your character has never met a werewolf, how does it know what’s effective?” And so, there was an eternal arms race, and “trick monsters”, which looked like typical members of a species but had altered or reversed weaknesses, were one of the primary weapons in the arsenal.

Witch Tree: Which tree? That tree! That one, right there. The one that’s trying to kill you. Forests in a typical D&D world are not exactly safe havens. I suppose the number of giant, poisonous magical scorpion-tailed creatures that roam the woodlands makes sense if you consider that “the woodlands” are themselves highly predatory.

Worm, White: A hundred-foot long worm that dwells in polar climates. It will devour anything that is not fuzzy, because, and I swear I am not making this up, it is very ticklish on the inside.

X-Ray Beast

The Next Time Someone Tells You The Flumph Was The Most Ridiculous Monster Ever, You Just Show Them This

The Next Time Someone Tells You The Flumph Was The Most Ridiculous Monster Ever, You Just Show Them This

Yes, it’s a one-eyed hippo which shoots an x-ray beam that does 3d6 radiation damage and would give a +2 on Heal checks to detect cancer, if there had been skills back then. For some random reason, it’s immune to fire.

Zanth: Six legged wolf-komodo-lizard. That is the entirety of the descriptive text. A fittingly old-school ending for this entry in the series.

The Runes Of Doom, Part VIII

More New Magic Spells!

Or: “How To Recognize Kill Trees People From Quite A Long Way Away”

With A Digression To The Earliest Days Of The MMORPG

And The Mystery Of The Aphpodesiac

We’re back, with another round of new spells… some brilliant, some strange, some seriously WTF.

Savoy’s Silent Slayer: Creates a magic missile of “specific being” slaying, which will wait in ambush “forever!” (Exclamation point in original, and rightly so!)

Skorn’s Immaculate Sky Symbol: Another entry in the growing list of “Cool idea, but not at that level”. Creates a symbol, name, etc., which appears in the sky “with appropriate music”. Not, as far as I can tell, a magic symbol. Just… skywriting. Yeah, impressive, but at sixth level, magic-users are casting stone to flesh or disintegration… this is the kind of thing you could do with phantasmal force. About the only thing it’s got going for it is range… 100 miles per caster level. So if you want to intimidate people living a long way away, it’s good for that. (See below for more thoughts on this concept.)

Fazalla’s Friend From Beyond: Summons a “close friend” back from the dead to fight for you. It’s a little vague on details like “for how long” or “is the ‘friend’ wearing the magic items they had when they got killed, or only what you buried them with after looting their body like they were just another orc?” and the like. I think it might play out like this:

PC: OK, I’m calling up Brothgar The Bold to fight for me.
(1d6 rounds later, Brothgar appears.)
Brothgar: Forsooth, my friend! I have thought of thee often since I passed from this mortal coil! How fare thee? Are thy spouse and child well?
PC: Yeah, whatever. Hey, you see that dragon there? Go kill it.
Brothgar: Why, surely I will defend thee, but I must ask, is this the only reason thou hast disturbed my eternal peace?
PC: Look, the dragon’s immune to half my spells ’cause the DM is a douchenozzle. So just whack it with your sword.
Brothgar: We two were bonded as soulmates while I lived, yet now you treat me as a mere hireling? Fie upon thee! I side with thine enemy! (Brothgar attacks the PC)

Maryindi’s Spell Of Super Telekinesis or The Tractor-Presser Beam: Pro tip: Words like “greater”, “perfected”, “lordly”, or “supreme” feel properly Vancian when describing upgraded spells; words like “super”, not so much. Cone shaped TK that moves up to 300 lbs+30/level. A million uses around the home and office.

Savoy’s Spell Of The Silver Serpent: A+ for alliteration. Summons a flying silver cobra to fight for you, which is cool, until you notice it has 1 hit die for each level the caster is over the minimum needed to cast (+1 base hit die). If you’re casting seventh level spells, a silver cobra which starts with 1 HD is pretty much useless against anything you’re going to be fighting, flying or not.

Hadaag’s Horror, The Red Sending of Sorrow, Sarchimus’s Sending, etc.: All of these spells, and a few others, have two things in common: First, they have totally awesome names. That counts for a lot. Second, they’re all variations on “spell that summons something nasty to go kill someone who is far, far, away”… most have ranges on the order of 10 miles per caster level. It’s interesting there’s so many variants on this concept, doubly so when you consider such spells are, at most, a trivial part of modern games. They tend to be the kind of things that show up in “The Even More Compleat Spelle Compendiume Vol VI”. But there’s three on one page in The Runes of Doom, and more besides, especially if you count other long-distance spells such as Skorn’s Immaculate Sky Symbol. I can only theorize, but I think there was a lot of PVP action in Dave’s games, with players concocting ever-more devious spells to use against enemies (while out of retribution range, of course). Alternatively, Dave created these spells to use to take down uppity PCs by reminding them they could be attacked from afar.

Caowyn’s Spell Catcher:

Spell Shortstop Was Much Less Popular

Caowyn’s Spell Shortstop Was Much Less Popular

A long time ago, in an age when Windows 98 was cutting-edge, there was a game called Ultima Online. There still is, in fact. I haven’t played it since the late 1990s. I’m sure no part of it would be familiar to me. No, I’m not that senile. I know I’m writing about tabletop games. Here’s the thing: See that powerful 10th level spell up there that takes you three months to learn? Well, there was a similar spell in early UO — it would deflect the first attack that struck it back at the source of the attack. A nice surprise for a would-be assassin, right? Well, except that it took about 0.0001 seconds before someone figured out how to write a macro that would first cast some really trivial, low-level, spell, which took out the defense, followed nanoseconds later by a much more powerful attack. Caowyn’s Spell Catcher has the same problem, except, you don’t even need to use a damaging spell. Hit ’em with something like “Mend“, and then, while they’re contemplating what to do with it, follow up with Jhem’s Spell Of The Far Terminus, which teleports the victim to a totally random “time, universe, and world”.

Phanch’s Spell Of The Fell Gates Of Hell

This Would Be A Better World If All Spells Rhymed

This Would Be A Better World If All Spells Rhymed

’nuff said.

Cleric Spells

And If You Ever Find Out What An 'Aphpodesiac' Is, This Is A Great Spell

And If You Ever Find Out What An ‘Aphpodesiac’ Is, This Is A Great Spell

You’ll note that a common aspect of early game design — not just Arduin, or D&D and its derivatives, but many systems — is a kind of “arms race”. For every measure, there is a counter-measure; for every counter-measure, there is a counter-counter-measure, and so on. Nowadays, perhaps as part of the synergy between tabletop games, card games, and MMORPGs, designers are more likely to simply “nerf” a particular ability if it becomes too dominant in play. This was less doable in the pre-Internet days, especially when it could be years between supplements. (The original AD&D hardcovers took three years to come out. Think about that for a moment. These days, we get a new edition every three years, or so it sometimes seems.)

As I Was Saying...

As I Was Saying…

Pheldoe’s  Radiant Ring Of Righteous Fire: Verbal component: A famous Johnny Cash song, which also serves as the Preparation H jingle. Surrounds the caster with a ring of golden flame that does 2-24 damage to undead if they pass through it. Skeletons ‘burn 1d6 per turn’, which is confusing… does it ignite them? If so, do they keep burning until they’re un-un-dead? Or does it mean they burn while standing in the ring, which would imply non-skeletons take the damage once? Non-undead take only 1d8 damage.

Heavenly Fog Of Hiding And Help: An opaque fog surrounds the caster and does… well, it’s a fog. That surrounds the caster. Not a healing fog. Not a fog that blocks any of the approximately 78 different things that can detect you when you’re hiding in fog. Not a fog that confuses, blinds, weakens, or otherwise hinders enemies. Just… a fog. Let me note this is a fifth level spell. So is Raise Dead (in most incarnations of D&D). I don’t think “resurrecting the slain” and “imitating someone dropping dry ice into the punch bowl” should belong in the same tier. Do you?

Solomon’s Sigel (sic) Of Absolute Imapsse (sic): Fiery 10′ star of David surrounds you, blocking all (take 2-20 points and save vs. petrification (my spell checker suggests “gentrification”. Brooklyn failed its save vs. gentrification, big time.) at -5 or turn to salt if you pass through). Undead take 10-100 points and must save vs. disruption or die! Again! More die!

Holy Word Of Command: All clerical spells reverse themselves and deactivate. I’m not sure what “reverse themselves” means when connected to “deactivate”… either one, alone, makes some sense… maybe it’s a visual effect, the deactivated spells “rewind” to dwindle to nothing? Please note that it stops all, even pillars of fire! It’s important this is called out; otherwise, you’d just assume it didn’t affect pillars of fire because… pillars? Fire?

Greylorne’s Hell Storm:

Forty Weeks, One Hundred Thousand Gold Pieces, And Totally Worth It

Forty Weeks, One Hundred Thousand Gold Pieces, And Totally Worth It

That’s a good place to break for this week. Next time — Druid spells, Techno Magic, and Hell Spirals!

A Not-So-Brief Digression: PrinceCon 3, Part IV

PrinceCon III Handbook, Part IV

Magic Items II: Magic Harder

Being The Hopefully Final Part Of This Digression

At long last, we come to what is (probably) the end of the line for this, and then, back to Arduin. We continue with the magic items. For those who somehow wandered here because of a terrible Google accident, here’s a link to all the related articles.

Books And Decks

Back in the day, raising attributes was nearly impossible, and if you were playing straight-up 3d6 in order, odds were, you had pretty crappy scores. So the various tomes and librams that gave you a +1 to a given attribute were among the most sought-after treasures, especially as the game evolved to give attribute scores progressively more formal influence on various aspects of play. It is worth noting that, per AD&D, a wish could only raise an ability score one point at a time, and then only to 16; to raise it beyond 16, ten wishes were needed! It is probable, looking back with the perspective of age, that EGG intended that “rule” to be a “subtle” hint that it was impossible to raise a score over 16, but at the time, we took it as a subtle hint that having 10 wishes to use was not an unreasonable thing… look, there’s a rule for it!

Anyway, this section of the PrinceCon III handbook covers books and decks… and I don’t mean “+3 Redwood Stained Planks Of Suntanning”, because what gamer worthy of the name would ever wish to expose themselves, even in their imagination, to the hateful light of the accursed daystar? It’s called Dungeons & Dragons, not Sunny Open Spaces & Dragons! No, I mean decks of magical cards, and not the kind where you tap two swamps to scare a wall to death.

  • Manual of Recognizing Opportunities: Adds 1 point to Luck. The fact there is no “Luck” attribute should be considered a trivial inconvenience. Ada Lovelace wrote computer code without a computer, after all! (It notes that, as with all books, it only works for the first person who reads it. We always interpreted that rule to mean “first one in the party”, but, taken literally, it would mean every such book was either somehow abandoned unread, or was useless to the finder. I think later editions had the books vanish after reading, to re-appear somewhere else “refreshed”. Sounds like buggy DRM to me.)
  • Manual of Golems: “as per Greyhawk”, but includes a notation that the various types of books cannot be told from one another without using two full wishes! Remember what I said about how rapidly the “wish” became a sort of unit of power? “This is a three-wish job!” “We’ll need two full and one limited wish for this!” Yeah, it’s time for me to beat my favorite dead horse once more, and point out that the idea that old-school gaming was all “kobolds&copper pieces” is utter and complete bullshit. The phrase “Monty Haul Campaign” did not originate with 3e or Pathfinder or 4e. It was part of the lexicon within a year or two of D&D first appearing. And if you’ve never heard the term “Monty Haul” (not “Hall”), get off my lawn, you damn punk kid.
  • Book of Purile Nonsense: Clearly, a copy of Twilight. Nah. Magic-users and clerics who read it lose a point of Int and Wis respectively, but fighters and thieves find it “rather entertaining”. (Oooo, a “dumb jock” joke from the gamers! Who would have imagined it? Not the dumb jocks, they have no imagination, amirite?)
  • Deck of a Few Things: Like a Deck of Many Things, but only 8 cards. Ditto the Deck of Several Things, with 14 cards.

Cubes

Oddly, most of the other platonic solids are not represented.

  • Wondrous Enhancer of Jewels: Multiplies jewels’ value by 10. Does not say it can’t be used twice on the same jewels. And trust me, if I thought of it now, some player tried it then. Not to be confused with the Wondrous Pulverizer of Jewels (yes, really) which multiplies jewels’ value by zero.
  • cube of control

’nuff said. Kind of speaks for itself.

Horseshoes

  • Horseshoes of Polymorphism: Appears to be some other type of magical horseshoes, but there’s a 40% chance the horse will transform into a random monster and attempt to kill its rider. And people wonder why old-school gamers are so paranoid. Just about every good thing had its goatee-wearing evil twin lurking somewhere.

Flail/Morning Star/Maces

  • Level Blasting: When wielded by a demonic being, drains “one, two, or three levels, appropriately”. Level draining at the time was very, very, bad, because short of those wishes I mention, it was damn hard to get a level back, except the old-fashioned way: Pouring boiling water on an anthill.
  • Mace Of Return: Also known as “Casey’s Bet” (seriously, it says that), this allows you to bat a fireball or iceball back toward the thrower. Very nasty. I love it.

Warhammers

  • Warhammer Of Wealth Reduction: This warhammer compels you to spend money on… waIt, I did that bit already. Never mind.
  • Can never be released?

    Can never be released?

    So, this “can not be released”. That could be difficult… you’d have trouble getting armor off, for one thing. Or doing a whole bunch of stuff, for that matter. Generally, cursed weapons couldn’t be “left behind”… if you tried, they’d come back, teleporting themselves into your hand or something. This implies that it basically fuses itself to your flesh.

Spears

  • De-were spear: A triumph of ‘cool idea, dumb name’, this spear transforms shapeshifters into their original form for 10 rounds. Instantly, I realized its main use is not fighting werewolves, but ferreting out shape-shifting spies, such as were-ferrets. You know who they are because the conversation always goes like this:

“So, my loyal Grand Vizier, we have tested all of the palace staff, but none are the shape-shifting spy.”

“Indeed, my lord. We must have been mistaken.”

“Except… you were not tested, were you?”

“Muh… me, my lord? I think I ought to be above suspicion!”

“Hmm. Did you not always advise me to trust no one?”

“Erm, yes, but surely you don’t…”

“Come here and let me stick you with my spear, loyal vizier.”

(At this point, a certain subset of the readers go ‘squee’ and start writing fanfic/posting gifs to Tumblr)

(Also, vizier turns into were-ferret, leaps, and is impaled on his master’s spear. NTTAWWT.)

 Arrows/Quarrels

  • Arrow/Quarrel Of Many Shots: This splits into multiple pieces, each piece attacking independently, then you put the pieces together again and repeat. Very nice item, and I’m a little surprised it’s not a common trope now… maybe the plethora of feats and class powers that let you fire multiple arrows made it redundant.
  • Arrow/Quarrel of Doom: When hit, you roll up a random curse, using the West curse system. (See earlier installment.) Again, I love the personalness of this. The West Curse System. The Mahler poisons. The Howard wound system, not that we care what Howard says.
  • Arrow/Quarrel of the Forest: Flies around trees, ala that bit in “The Gamers”.

Daggers

"We here care not for the rites of k'hopee!'

“We here care not for the rites of k’hopee!’

I’m surprised it isn’t +4 vs. Hobbits, or something.

Bows/Crossbows

  • Crossbow of the Fifth Dimension: Wielded during the R&B wars of the late 60s, this fearsome weapon… wait, wrong one. This one just shoots phase spiders and other ethereal/astral things. Pretty cool, actually.
  • Crossbow of Many Shots: Fires three bolts at once. Load it up with an Arrow of Many Shots and you’ve invented the “Fully Automatic Rifle Of Hosedown”.

Gems

OK, this is a mostly-new category. While there were various jewels around before, the Princecon III handbook takes them to a new level. The actual booklet breaks them down by type, but I’ll just include them in one section.

  • Diamond of Egotism: Causes the wielder to begin every sentence with “I’m gonna let you finish, but…” Also gives him a +6 to Ego… actually, it says, “increases the ego of bear by +6”, which means, the best character on Person of Interest will “go Hollywood” and become… erm… unbearable. Yeah. Well, if the ego goes over 15, the character will be contemptuous of all foes and will attack directly, using normal weapons in preference to any special abilities. If you’re going to ask when the “Ego” stat was added to the game, don’t. Just… don’t.
  • Explosion
  • Another entry in the “What does it mean?” category. It explodes “with the force of its hit points”? It does that much damage to creatures nearby? What? What’s a “relatively small or light” object? And a 1-in-6 chance of going “kaboom” yourself? No, thanks.
  • Ruby Of Fireballs: Lets an M-U cast fireball if they can’t, or do double damage (!) if they can. Not sure how often it works.
  • Ruby Of Cooking Fire: Lets a Fighter or Cleric start a normal fire on a bundle of twigs in 5 melee rounds. Erm, wouldn’t it be assumed most people who chose “going into dank caves to commit robbery and murder” as a career would be able to do this? It’s hard to conceive of a situation where a PC might have been stripped of their flint and tinder, but not their ruby. Well, maybe it lets you start a fire on wet logs, or something.
  • Ruby Of Infravision: Once a day (whee!) allows a fighter, cleric, or thief to have infravision as per the spell. Yippee.
  • Ruby of Fiery Death: Does character level+3 dice of damage to the character holding it — presumably, immediately upon picking it up. Which means, the pile of ash and charred bone surrounding the ruby ought to be a clue to the adventurers… but it never is. Trust me.
  • Naturally, Any Random Gem Can Put You In A Divine Arena. Why Not?

    Naturally, Any Random Gem Can Put You In A Divine Arena. Why Not?

    Yeah, another item (or group of items) that sort of speak for themselves. This is the heart of real old school gaming right here, folks. First, a fairly cool item that comes with a bundle of micro-mechanics attached, then, a cursed item that looks just like the cool item, then, a totally whackdoodle and yet utterly brilliant idea — cramming, it seems, a dueling arena into some sort of extradimensional bubble created by the gem. Wow. I mean, why the hell not?

  • Emerald Of Commanding Lawful Demons: It’s hard to tell, given the timeframe, if this means “Devils”, i.e., lawful evil, or if this was a throwback to earlier issues of if “lawful” always meant “good” and “chaotic” meant “evil”. While the five-point alignment system was published in The Dragon by 1977, the rate of adoption of such rules was variable, and other elements of the PrinceCon book hearken strongly back to the LBBs and don’t seem influenced by the proto-steps towards AD&D which were coming out at the time.
  • His Wife Makes Good Salad Dressing

    His Wife Makes Good Salad Dressing

    Yeah, I have a lot of these “I’m just posting it, I don’t understand” items in this section. As I noted earlier, these item types are mostly original to the PrinceCon crowd… which means they have many idiosyncratic touches based on their local games. And, please remember, other than a brief skim-through, I am writing these articles as I am reading the book, jotting down my thoughts as they come. A proper reviewer would read it several times, maybe track down some original sources, ask some questions, and otherwise do more than just babble endlessly, spewing out whatever thoughts enter his mind as they come to him. But a proper reviewer gets paid, too. (Paypal: lizard@mrlizard.com)

  • Sapphire Of Commanding Neutral Demons: Well, that just makes the whole demonic alignment issue more confusing. Moving on.
  • Sapphire (Not ruby? Why?) Of Flaming Weapons: Allows the user to flame any weapon he holds for one half day (72 rounds) per level of user. Erm… that’s probably long enough for most fights. Unless that’s a fixed number, total, for the lifetime of the character, and even so… a mid level user will get hundreds of rounds of use out of this. Seems like a pretty odd limitation to me.
  • Sapphire Of Seeming Innocence: Allows a thief to convince the party he is not guilty as if he had a Charisma of 19. Note: The party. This tells you a lot about how thieves were generally run at Princeton, doesn’t it?
  • Sapphire Of Obvious Guilt: Just the opposite, causes the wielder to seem guilty of “whatever seems most relevant at the time”. I see a lot of fun happening with this one.
  • Sapphire Of Electrocution: Like the Ruby Of Fiery Death, but with lightning.
  • Note What? Damn it!

    Note What? Damn it!

    This is where the book ends… with a “Note also that” that never completes, and an out-of-sequence item that belongs a few pages back. There’s something profoundly right about ending here. Missing and broken rules, combined with ideas so prolific they overflow their assigned spot and end up randomly scattered about. Old School like a boss.

I hope the imaginary people reading this enjoyed it. Next time, back to Arduin.

Magical Descriptions

Magical Descriptions

So, in my post on magic, or somewhere else, who can keep track of this anymore, I sure can’t, I posited that there should be good guidelines and idea pools to help DMs describe magical items in ways that made them flavorful and memorable from a fluff perspective, regardless of the mechanics. It thus then occurred to me that I could provide such a service myself.

First, let’s discuss the kinds of things a DM should think about, before delving into a catalog of mental kickstarters. The below material doesn’t contain specific mechanics, but describes mechanics conceptually, so a DM can translate them to their game system of choice with ease.

Basic Concepts

So, you’ve got a +1 sword. Now what? Please note, the below questions and guidelines can apply to all items, not just weapons and armor, though they’re less applicable to disposable one-shot items like scrolls and potions, though not wholly so.

Who Made It?: I don’t mean the name of the smith or wizard (or do I? Yes, I certainly might), but the culture. In an age before mass production, all items show some signs of cultural origin, sometimes obvious, sometimes not. If it’s made by a particular nation, it may contain the symbol of that nation, or the choices of decoration may reflect the animals, gods, plants, and so on of that nation. Remember that non-humans aren’t monocultures; while you can get away with saying “It’s forged in the elvish style”, it’s much cooler to day, “It’s forged in the style of the Grey Elves of the Western Woods, as you can tell by the use of the silver ash leaf as a decorative motif.” Except for items from lost, forgotten, etc, cultures, it should generally be an easy check on an appropriate History or Knowledge skill, or a freebie to someone with the appropriate background.

When Was It Made?: This ties slightly into the above — cultures have eras and periods, and there are usually signs of when an item was made, based on the style of art, the craftsmanship, materials used, and so on. Symbols rise and fall in prominence over time, and craftsmen learn new techniques, or forget old ones. The purity of an alloy, or the width of a hilt, can all give clues to the age of an item. Generally speaking, it is a trope that older items are more powerful. While sometimes illogical (would you rather have an ENIAC or an iPad?), it can make sense in the weird context of D&D-style games. For a sword to survive in a usable form for thousands of years in a dank dungeon, it’s probably got some potent enchantments on it. Furthermore, a newly-made +5 holy dancing vorpal flaming dragonbane sword is probably still in the hands of the person it was made for, not lost twenty levels underground. For a very powerful item to be lying around waiting for someone to claim it, it needs to have been lost so long ago most people have given up looking for it. Less powerful items, more easily replaced, are more easily abandoned when they’re still new.

What’s It Made Of?: Leaving aside explicitly magical materials, the composition of an item can be interesting. Is it made of crude, impure, metal, or highly tempered and refined steel? What kind of wood is the bow made of? Is the leather on the grip made of dragonhide or human skin or good ol’ cow? Is it made of multiple substances, perhaps woven together in an unusual way? Again, culture is likely a key here, but this is also a good chance to show how an item is unusual:”The markings and runes are all very clearly of the Dwarves of Brasshammer’s Forge, but they’re known for their work with steel and adamantine. This shield is made of crude bog-iron, or so it seems.” Alchemy, Appraisal, or any kind of military or weapons knowledge skills are used here, and identifying common materials is likely to be an easy check, but rare materials — or realizing a common material should be uncommon for an item of this type — can be moderate or hard. Scrolls can be on papyrus, on refined paper (for higher tech cultures), on rough cloth, on segmented folding metal or slats of wood, or on vellum made from all sorts of creatures.  Potion bottles might be glass, or metal, or clay, or varnished wood, or stoppered drinking horns. Ivory and bone can come from dragons, demons, liches, or sheep.

What Does It Look Like?: Well, duh, it’s a sword! (Shield, chain shirt, wand, ring). This question sort of relates back to the others, but go further. Is the ring made of twisted and interlocked braids? Does the sword have writing on the blade, and on both sides, or one side?  What does the writing say? What language is it in? Is the blade straight or scalloped? What condition is the armor in — shining and clean, or battered? Are the decorative bits, or does the item reek of pure functionality? Has it been dyed or colored in any way? Are there small details — if the grip of a wand contains a carved ivory skull, does the skull have tiny sapphires for eyes… or perhaps the skull has horns, or fangs.

How Does It Feel?: This is a good time to consider the kind of magic the item has, and how it might manifest. Is the armor unusually light or flexible? Does it seem to instantly fit the wearer? Does it itch, or radiate warmth, or is it always cold? Is the sword so well balanced it almost seems to move on its own? Does it vibrate a little when it’s held? Does the wand twitch a bit when you first grip it, seeking a target? Do you find you always nick yourself on the blade when you draw the weapon, now matter how careful you are, and does the blood sink into the very metal of the sword?

Is It A Thing Of Legend?:Most items were made for a reason. You don’t make magic swords — not even boring +1 swords — to keep them in stock in case someone comes in wanting to buy one. Perhaps a powerful ruler commissioned a dozen such blades for his elite guard, all identical, but finding one of the King’s Own Twelve is still a noteworthy achievement. This doesn’t mean every blade is fabled in song and story. Most of the time, the backstory is relatively trivial — a wand carved by a wizard for a favored apprentice, a ring made by a runesmith to be a gift to a loyal adviser, and so on. Knowing this history is often simply a fun thing, but it can be useful, especially if anyone involved, or their descendents, are still around and even marginally interested. It can open some doors… or attract some enemies.

Oddments And Oddities: Magic is a chaotic force, even under the most carefully controlled conditions. Some believe the chaos is innate; others, that the chaos represents a lack of knowledge about all the factors which might be involved. In any event, most items have some slight quirks to them. An axe forged by dwarfs might cause its wielder to curse in dwarfish, no matter what language he is trying to swear in. The wielder of a wand of fireballs might find he can’t abide any meat that is not seared to nearly the point of charcoal. Armor may clang resoundingly when it is struck, or it might bleed black oil whenever the wearer is critically hit. The design on a ring might shift to show the phases of the moon, or the gem on a magic staff becomes the birthstone of whatever wizard is holding it. A cloak woven with a pattern of roses might give off the small of roses… or it might occasionally produce, from nowhere, a few petals, which simply drop off.

The Inevitable Caveats

It’s best to have only one to three interesting aspects for any item; don’t go whole-hog, especially if the item isn’t the centerpiece of a campaign or intended to be the signature item of a character.

Descriptive and fluff text should have effectively no mechanical impact, except under extraordinary circumstances. Don’t make players suffer if their items are cool (for example, penalizing them on stealth if their items emit quiet sounds or odd smells), and, likewise, don’t let them try to turn a bit of colorful description into a way to snag an unearned bonus or modifier.

The Magic Of Magic

The Magic Of Magic

Once again, this a is reply to, and expansion of, some of the WOTC articles on 5e. Here’s the original article, and here’s my (two) original replies, and after this, we’ll get even more ways to say the same thing using slightly different words.

First off, let’s put a stake through the heart of the myth that magic items used to be “rare” or “mysterious”. Everyone had all the rulebooks and memorized them, as far back as the game existed. To the extent there was every any mystery, it was always for new players who hadn’t yet memorized the rules, and trying to reclaim that feeling is like trying to get back your virginity. Ain’t gonna happen. As for rare… two words: Monty Haul.

If you decide that you won’t build in the assumption that players will gain magic items, then, you basically break the game’s math, because they WILL gain them, in great profusion. If you scale monsters and difficulty levels on the assumption most players won’t have magic items, that’s like designing a video game on the assumption most players won’t go to hint sites or read guidebooks. It’s just not how things work, or how things EVER worked, and I’m really worried that people caught up in this nostalgia kick are apparently doing no research as to how games ACTUALLY PLAYED back in the 1970s and 1980s, and how most of the design decisions being rejected were the direct consequence of fixing actual old school play, not rose-colored fantasies of a playstyle that never was.

That said, having backstory and myth and cool minor powers attached to magic items is something any competent DM does all the time; it’s nice if this is mentioned in the rules and guidelines provided, but it’s hardly the sort of thing we’ve all been waiting on the rules to “let” us do. It’s baseline DMing, it’s what we do by instinct. Also, and this is important, it’s done for our own pleasure, as players either a)ignore such fluff, or, b)obsess insanely over it, warping the entire campaign over some off-hand bit of color, because somehow it’s got stuck in their minds that this is the key to EVERYTHING and the DM wouldn’t have put it there if they weren’t meant to pursue it at all costs.

Second reply:

Just to elaborate, here’s the reality of actual play:
DM:”You see an odd suit of armor. It is formed of battered dark iron, inset with many pieces of stone, all in tones of greys and blacks, such as smoky dark quartz and obsidian mosaics that form primitive, but intricate, patterns. There are signs that the suit has seen much battle,  as it is dented and scraped, although clearly still sturdy and wearable. The helmet for the suit is hammered into the shape of a bull’s head, and…”

Player: “Right, gorgon armor. +2, immune to petrification, yadda yadda. Page 125 in the DMG. Does anyone wear plate? Oh, and if he’s handing this out, it means we’re going to be facing medusae or basilisks or something, everyone make sure you’ve got Scrolls Of Protection From Petrification at the ready. Oh, I guess, technically, I should roll to know that… roll…. 24 on my arcane knowledge check, there, that’s done, what’s the next item we looted? It better be a +2 sword, I’ve been carrying this +1 piece of crap for three levels now. Cheapass DM!”

THAT’S the reality of play, from 1974 to 2012, and beyond, and nothing in the rules can change it.

Now, let me go on a bit…

Consider the following:

“The blade, known in lore as Restgiver, is a greatsword in form, the general style and artistry reflective of the Theatian culture which forged. The hilt is of bone, reputed to be of a lich, and carved with patterns of skulls deformed in seeming terror. The blade itself is of metal so pale as to seem almost white. Histories tell that it was forged from the fragments of blades taken from such beings as liches, death knights, and skeleton warriors, and it was tempered in both holy water and in the ectoplasm of ghosts bound to the forge where it was made. Its innate magics make it lighter, sharper, and faster than even the finest mundane blade, making it a fit prize for any warrior, but it shows its purpose when it confronts the undead, as it is designed to give them rest. When wielded against any once-living being still animated by foul magics, it is even deadlier than a normal blade of its ilk would be, and it cuts and bites into the faintest wisp of a ghost or a phantom as if they were made of solid flesh. While it has no true soul or spirit animating it, those who wield it report that they feel some sense of warmth or joy when the prospect of returning the dead to their grave is mentioned in its presence.”

And

“Greatsword +2 bane (undead), ghost touch”.

They’re both the same thing.

The rules exist to give you the tools to make the latter. Adding the former is up to you; the rules can’t give you that.

(Oh, and I just posted most of that back on WOTC’s boards anyway; so it goes. It’s not like anyone’s paying for this site.)

Boarcupines

Boarcupines

You Should Be Used To Names Like That By Now

Wow, 20 days or so since I last posted? Well, I’ve been replying to comments, I updated Grammar For Gamers, and I’ve been active on some of the 5e boards over at WOTC, telling them what they’re doing wrong. Also, exercising, which has started to take an hour a day away from important things like writing blog entries while eating an entire bag of bacon-wrapped Cheetos.

Anyway, this is a creature which has been in the back of my mind for a while, but I was, surprisingly, stuck on the name… I kept thinking “Porcuboar”, which is obviously not acceptable, and it both astounds and depresses me how long it took for the bleedingly obvious “boarcupine” to emerge.

While the kangaruins are intended to be straightforward creatures, the boarcupine is more complex, as it changes its fighting style and general function when it’s bloodied, going from a quill-tossing piece of artillery to a vicious brute.

The usual caveat: Fresh off the keyboard, not a lot of editing, yadda yadda yadda.

Boarcupine

Boarcupine (Artillery/Brute)

Level 16 Elite Artillery/Brute

Large natural beast (mammal)

XP 2,800

HP 252; Bloodied 126

AC 28; Fortitude 29; Reflex 28; Will 27

Speed 6

Saving Throws +2; Action Points 1

Initiative +13

Perception +10, low-light vision

Traits
O Prickly Defense • Aura 1
Any creature entering the aura, or starting its turn there, takes 2d6+4 damage. If doubles are rolled on this damage, the creature also takes 5 ongoing damage, save ends. If the first save fails and the target is in the aura, increase to 10 ongoing damage.
Raging Boar
When the Boarcupine is bloodied, it gains 64 temporary hit points, and its AC and Reflex defenses drop by 2. It also changes its abilities in ways noted in each affected power. Once it has been bloodied, it becomes Berserk. It does not lose this condition until the end of the encounter, even if it is healed back above Bloodied.
Standard Actions
m Gore • At-Will
Attack: Reach 2; +21 vs. AC
Hit: 3d10 + 8 damage. If the Boarcupine is Berserk, the damage increases to 4d10+10.
a Quill Toss • At-Will
Requirements: The Boarcupine must not be Berserk.
Attack: Area Burst 2 within 15 (All creatures in burst.); +20 vs. Reflex
Hit: 4d6 + 4 damage, and creature is slowed (save ends). If hit again by this power when still slowed, the condition becomes immobilized (save ends). .
M Trample • At-Will
Requirements: Must be Berserk.
Attack: +21 vs. AC; +2 bonus to attack rolls and +6 bonus to damage against prone targets.
Hit: 2d12 + 10 damage, and target is knocked prone. .
All Out Attack • At-Will
Requirements: Must not be Berserk.
Effect: The Boarcupine makes a Gore attack and a Quill Toss attack. The Quill Toss does not provoke an OA from any creature targeted by the Gore.
C Quill Burst • Recharge 4 5 6; recharge 6 if Berserk
Attack: Close Burst 3 (All creatures in burst); +21 vs. Reflex
Hit: 4d6 + 4 damage, and creature is blinded until the start of the boarcupine’s next turn.
M Tramplegore • At-Will
Requirements: Must be Berserk.
Effect: The boarcupine makes a trample and gore attack, against the same or different targets. If both attacks hit, it may shift half its speed.
Triggered Actions
Bloodied Burst • Encounter
Trigger: The boarcupine is bloodied for the first time in an encounter.
Effect (Immediate Reaction): Quill Burst immediately recharges, and the boarcupine uses it. In addition, the boarcupine become Berserk.
Skills Endurance +20, Intimidate +15
Str 24 (+15) Dex 21 (+13) Wis 15 (+10)
Con 24 (+15) Int 2 (+4) Cha 15 (+10)
Alignment unaligned     Languages

Boarcupines are massive creatures, usually 8-10 feet high at the shoulder. Their general form is that of a greatly enlarged boar, except that they are covered with a dense tangle of jagged quills, and usually have 2-6 tusks that jut in every direction.

Boarcupines are almost never seen with their own kind, except during mating season, when they will gather in the dense, temperate forests that are their homes and engage in violent battles in order to win attention from the females. After mating, the females will leave and raise their offspring away from the violent and territorial males; boarcupines are weaned within 6 months. Some groups of bloodgers will stalk pregnant females and try to capture the young within a week or two of birth; this is the only way to even partially domesticate them.

There are a number of herb and fungus mixes which can mimic particular scents which the boarcupine responds to, such as a female in heat or a male marking its territority. Races which dwell in the forests often use these to control or guide boarcupines, so they may be encountered as guards. Sometimes, female boarcupines are teamed with other creatures, sapient or otherwise, that have been scent-masked to seem to be her young.

Boarcupine Mounts: Bloodgers, and members of the Beast Legion and the Annihilation Army, sometimes manage to make mounts out of these beasts. Such creatures gain the “Mount” keyword, and the following powers:

Difficult Mount
When the boarcupine is Berserk, any rider must make an Easy Athletics or Nature check, with the DC based on the boarcupine’s level, to remain mounted. This check is a free action made at the start of the rider’s turn.

 

Painful Spur • Encounter
Requirements: Must be mounted by a rider of 16th level or higher.
Effect: As a Standard Action, the rider forces the boarcupine to perform a Quill Burst attack, even if the power has not recharged. After this, the power cannot recharge (even by Bloodied Burst) until the boarcupine has had a short rest.

(Generally, it’s best for riders to save Painful Spur until the boarcupine has been bloodied; otherwise, they lose the bonus recharge from Bloodied Burst, and, besides, Recharge 6 might as well be recharge never when you’re past bloodied — the fight will most likely only go another 2-3 rounds.)

Snakes… Why’d It Have To Be Snakes…

…because snakes are cool, that’s why! Duh! Only sharks are cooler… hm…. snakeshark! Oh, yeah, that’s going in there…

Anyway, here’s a bit more of work-in-progress for Earth Delta, namely, snakevines! I like concepts that lend themselves to easy expansion, mostly because I’m intellectually lazy, and if I get one quasi-good idea (possibly even a para-good idea, and if you get that joke, damn, you’re an old-school gamer), I will not just run with it, I will do a god-damn marathon with it. So, when I got the idea of sort of snake/plant hybrids, it occurred to me I could do all sorts of snakes and fill a lot of different niches, so a quick look at my spreadsheet of monsters showed me I still needed brutes and artillery for level 15… and that’s what you’re getting.

Wait, you ask, level 15 of what? No, you’re not asking that, since this site isn’t exactly teeming with random casual browsers, but, just in case… this is for Earth Delta, Lizard’s version of post apocalyptic mutant adventuring designed for the Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition rules, a lot like WOTC’s own Gamma World, except, a)mine doesn’t have collectible cards, and, b)rather ironically, mine is more compatible with core 4e than theirs. Go figure.

Continue reading

Candles

Candles

(Now (6/23/2011) updated with Inferno Candle!)

Every so often, I just get some random idea and need to work on it. By “every so often”, I mean, “Ten or twelve times a day”, and by “work on it”, I mean “focus on it obsessively and pay attention to nothing else until… oooh, shiny!”.

Today (and by ‘today’, I mean ‘a week ago two weeks ago when I started this article’), that idea is candles. A quick check of the DDI Compendium shows the number of candle-related magic items for 4e is very low. This is somewhat odd, as they’re a sort of obvious concept (You light the candle, it does something magical), and because candles have a significant place in legend and lore as symbols of learning, knowledge, faith, hope, and so on. The wizard studying spells by the light of a lone candle which has encrusted  skull with wax, the pentacle with candles set at every point, the idiot venturing down the dark secret tunnel found behind the rotating bookcase in the hidden library, carrying a single candle ahead of her, etc. (OK, that last is more a symbol of “clueless person getting in totally over their head”, but these are also called “adventurers”, so, it’s all good.)

The other brilliant stupid idea I had was to take similar concepts, and stat them up for both 4e (which I’m running) and Pathfinder (which I’m playing in). The actual mechanics should be fairly different in detail, but the concepts should translate. I enjoy doing things this like this, because a big part of how I see the world is endless variants on the same idea repeated with different costumes. That, and I’m a masochist.

(And another note/apology… this is something which has been sitting open for a while, with my intending to add more, but I’ve been very busy with things that are creative and gaming related, just not intended, yet, for posting. I’ve decided it’s better to post a single candle two candles than to let the site linger in darkness. I have a lot of cool ideas for more, it’s just a matter of sitting down and statting them up!)

(The fact the DDI Compendium is currently (6/22/2011) borked didn’t help. Dear WOTC: If your business plan is to use DDI subscriptions as your main revenue stream, and your pathetically anemic lineup of dead tree books for the next year indicates that you are, it better be working all the time, and known bugs should not be met with “Meh, it will be fixed in the next monthly patch cycle.”)

4e Basic Rules

Candles — well, these candles, which are considered to be alchemical items — follow the following rules.

  • Lighting a candle is a minor action that does not provoke an OA. You must have some means of generating flame (a prestidigitation cantrip, tinder and flint, a lit torch, a pet fire elemental) readily available and in your hands. You must have both hands free to light a candle, unless the candle is placed on the ground or otherwise secured, in which case, you need one hand free.
  • Extinguishing an unattended candle is a minor action does not provoke an OA. Extinguishing a candle someone else is holding requires a standard action (Dexterity vs. Reflex)
  • Once a candle is extinguished, all of its effects end immediately.
  • All candles weight 0.1 lbs.
  • Unless otherwise noted, a candle burns for five minutes or until the end of the encounter.

Pathfinder Basic Rules

I’m pretty sure there’s a gazillion-odd magic candle supplements for Pathfinder. I’m not going to bother looking them up, because I’d end up spending a hundred bucks at Drive-Thru RPG, and I don’t have a hundred bucks to spend. (Sheesh, click some Amazon links, people!) Also, it would make the OGL cumbersome. So, here’s some rules just for these candles.

  • Lighting a candle is a move action which provokes an AOO. You must have some means of generating flame (a prestidigitation cantrip, tinder and flint, a lit torch, a pet fire elemental) readily available and in your hands. You must have both hands free to light a candle, unless the candle is placed on the ground or otherwise secured, in which case, you need one hand free.
  • Extinguishing an unattended candle is a swift action which does not provoke an AOO.
  • Extinguishing a candle someone else is holding can be tried as either a Disarm or Sunder Combat Maneuver, but these do not provoke AOO as usual.
  • Any force of wind strong enough to cause combat effects (including natural winds and spells such as gust of wind) will automatically extinguish a candle.
  • Candle duration is given for each candle.

Specific Candles

Candle of Clear Shadows

This candle is made of fat rendered from a master thief executed for his crimes, mixed with ectoplasmic residue. The wick comes from a noose used to hang a blind man. It has an oddly translucent appearance.

4e Game Mechanics

Alchemical Item, Level 5+

  • Level 5: 50 gp
  • Level 15: 1000 gp
  • Level 25: 25000 gp

Property (Zone): So long as the candle is lit, all invisible creatures within a Close Burst 5 zone of the candle will cast thin, wavering, shadows, giving them merely partial concealment. The candle can only affect beings of its level or lower. There must still be enough light to see the shadows (the candle fills the area with dim light, but follows normal rules for obstruction, magical darkness, etc, so some areas may still be dark even if they’re otherwise affected by the candle’s magic). The candle lasts until the end of the encounter or until it is extinguished. The candle can be moved, and the zone will move with it.

Pathfinder Game Mechanics

Aura: Faint Divination; CL: 5; Slot: None; Price: 750 gp; Weight: 0.1 lb

This candle creates a magical zone in a 15 foot radius burst, centered on itself. Any invisible creatures within the zone, including those naturally invisible, are instead treated as having partial concealment. There must still be enough light to see the shadows (the candle fills the area with dim light, but follows normal rules for obstruction, magical darkness, etc, so some areas may still be dark even if they’re otherwise affected by the candle’s magic). The candle lasts until the end of the encounter or until it is extinguished. The candle can be moved, and the zone will move with it. Creatures with Spell Resistance may check against it each round they are within the candle’s effect; this is done at the start of their turn or as soon as they enter the zone.

The candle burns for 25 rounds, total. If it is snuffed out but not destroyed, it can be relit for whatever rounds were not used.

Construction: Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, invisibility purge; Cost: 375 gp.

Notes: Compare to a scroll of invisibility purge or a lantern of revealing. Unlike a scroll, it can be used by anyone. Also, because it can be extinguished and relit, it is more useful than a scroll, because it can be used in several encounters, if it isn’t destroyed. The spell effect is less powerful than a true invisibility purge spell, which is why there’s no Will save to resist it, but it’s also much easier to extinguish the candle than it is to dispel an Invisibility Purge. These balanced out, in my mind, to giving it the same cost as a scroll. A lantern of revealing is much more powerful, but also much more expensive.

Candle of Companion’s Light (Thief’s Candle)

This candle is made from the same components as any other in the local culture, with a mundane wick. However, when it is made, a drop of blood is required from all those whom it will affect.

4e Game Mechanics

Alchemical Item, Level 2+

  • Level 2: 25 gp
  • Level 12: 500 gp
  • Level 22: 13000 gp

Property (Zone): When ignited, the candle creates light which can only be seen by those whose blood was used in the making of the candle. (Creatures without blood, such as constructs or undead, might drop in a few skin shavings). For rather obvious reasons, these items are often made by rogue alchemists or wizards strongly linked to guilds of thieves, assassins, and other ne’er-do-wells, but the formula is often trained or sold under the rubric of “For adventuring companions battling the forces of darkness deep in the earth!”, thus sometimes avoiding legal scrutiny.  The light created is a close burst 3 around the candle at second level, increasing to a close burst 5 at 12th level and a close burst 7 at 22nd level. The candle will burn for a number of hours equal to its level, and it can be snuffed and re-ignited at will until the total time is consumed, however, each ignition burns a minimum of one hour of potential time (so a candle that burns for 5 minutes and one that burns for 50 both consume an hour of the total ‘burn time’).

Pathfinder Game Mechanics

Lesser Candle Of Companion’s Light

Aura: Faint Evocation ; CL: 4; Slot: None; Price: 300 gp; Weight: 0.1 lb

When ignited, the candle creates light which can only be seen by those whose blood was used in the making of the candle. (Creatures without blood, such as constructs or undead, might drop in a few skin shavings). For rather obvious reasons, these items are often made by rogue alchemists or wizards strongly linked to guilds of thieves, assassins, and other ne’er-do-wells, but the formula is often trained or sold under the rubric of “For adventuring companions battling the forces of darkness deep in the earth!”, thus sometimes avoiding legal scrutiny. When lit, it creates a 15 foot radius zone of light, equivalent to that of a torch. It will burn for up to 4 hours, and can be snuffed and ignited at will, but each ignition consumes a minimum of one hour’s “burn time”.

Construction: Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, continual flame; Cost: 150 gp

Greater Candle Of Companion’s Light

Aura: Strong Evocation ; CL: 10; Slot: None; Price: 1250 gp; Weight: 0.1 lb

This candle functions exactly like the Lesser Candle of Companion’s Light, except that it lasts for 12 hours and sheds light in 30 foot radius.

Construction: Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, continual flame; Cost: 625 gp

Notes: I based the cost of the Greater Candle on applying the metamagic ‘widen spell’, to create an effective level for a version twice as powerful. The ‘each use counts for an hour’ rule is there mostly to keep people from tracking seconds or minutes in a tedious fashion. Very few people would bother to do this, anyway, so why not formalize it and prevent a tiny amount of unnecessary bookkeeping?

Inferno Candle

To craft this candle, some small amount of fat from a red dragon (even a hatchling) must be blended in. The wick is from fibers soaked in alchemist’s fire for seven days.

Red dragons can smell these candles at a distance of 60 feet (no Perception check needed). They do not look favorably on those who carry them. During the first expansion of Caranail, one adventuring wizard happened to have one on his person when he explored the region later known as the Gibbering Wastes. He vanished, but some months later, a box containing 50 candles was delivered to his family in Corazain by an unknown benefactor.

4e Game Mechanics

Alchemical Item, Level 6+

  • Level 6: 75 gp
  • Level 11: 350 gp
  • Level 16: 1800 gp
  • Level 21: 9000 gp
  • Level 26: 45000 gp

Property: So long as this candle is lit, the character holding it, or any creature adjacent to it if it is not being held, causes any powers with the fire keyword, of the candle’s level or less, to gain the Brutal 1 property (reroll any damage dice that come up 1). In addition, such powers have their critical range increased by 1.   It will burn until the end of the encounter, or until snuffed. Once extinguished, it cannot be re-ignited. Holding this candle does not interfere with spellcasting, but it otherwise occupies a hand.

Pathfinder Game Mechanics

There are three sorts of inferno candle, the lesser, the normal, and the greater. The lesser requires the fat of any kind of red dragon; the normal requires the fat of a dragon of at least young age, and the greater requires the fat an adult dragon. Sufficiently little fat is required that those in the business of making dragonskin armor can usually scrape enough off of a decent sized piece of hide to make a little extra selling it to an alchemist.

Lesser Inferno Candle

Aura: Faint Transmutation ; CL: 5; Slot: None; Price: 1000 gp; Weight: 0.1 lb

When ignited, this candle increases the damage done by all spells of 3rd level or less with the fire descriptor, such that whenever damage dice are rolled, any results of “1” are re-rolled. It affects the spells of the person holding it, or those of any adjacent creature if it is set down. It will burn for 5 rounds, and cannot be re-ignited once it is snuffed.

Construction: Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, Empower Spell,  ability to cast a spell with the fire descriptor of at least 3rd level; Cost: 500 gp

Inferno Candle

Aura: Moderate Transmutation ; CL: 13; Slot: None; Price: 4550 gp; Weight: 0.1 lb

As per the lesser inferno candle, but affects spells of 6th level or less.

Construction: Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, Empower Spell,  ability to cast a spell with the fire descriptor of at least 6th level; Cost: 2275 gp

Greater Inferno Candle

Aura: Moderate Transmutation ; CL: 13; Slot: None; Price: 7650 gp; Weight: 0.1 lb

As per the lesser inferno candle, but affects spells of 9th level or less.

Construction: Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, Empower Spell,  ability to cast a spell with the fire descriptor of at least 9th level; Cost: 3825 gp

Traps & Trapmaking

It’s A Trap!

(A Work In Progress) 

This is still being developed; there’s some editing I need to do on things like costs, damage values, and scavenging; honestly, it’s still in a semi-rough note stage. However, due to various time constraints, this site has gone too long without a meaningful update, so I felt an in-progress article was preferable to publishing nothing at all.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition is notably weak when it comes to doing things outside the formal structure of encounters or skill challenges. Virtually all game mechanics are designed to work in 5 minute blocks, except for some travel powers and a few other things. It also suffers from an attitude that anything which isn’t combat should be handwaved or made mechanic free. Also, Michael Longcor’s “Snare And Deadfall” randomly shuffled to the top on my iPod while I was taking my morning executive order. No, that’s not right. Morning constitutional. Sorry, these days, it’s hard to tell the difference. But I digress.

Anyway, the point of all that is… this article is about players making traps in 4e, as opposed to, say, the Endurance feat, which was a trap for players in 3e. Ba-dum-BUM.

Continue reading

Necromican, Level 5

The Necromican

Level 5

Necromican

Necromican

And so, at long last — and thanks to someone actually asking for it — we get to Level 5 of my walk through the dire and dread pages of the Necromican (note: Not Necronomicon), a classic late 1970s supplement for Dungeons & Dragons published by Fantasy Art Enterprises, and featuring some great gonzo art by Erol Otus, and great gonzo ideas by, I assume, both Erol Otus and Paul Reiche III. (BTW, if anyone is in contact with either of those fine gentlemen, please, point them this way, as I’d love any feedback (even “Dude, why are you wasting your time on this stuff we wrote thirty years ago?”) they might wish to offer. (You can see the first part here and the second part here.)

First, though, I need to fulfill a promise. Here is the illustration for the path of the Daemon’s Disk spell, discussed back in the prior article.

The Path of Daemon's Disk

Sucks to be "b"

Fifth Level Spells

Just in case anyone was wondering, a)No, these aren’t all the spells — just some highlights I found amusing/interesting/useful fodder for jokes, and b)They are noted in the order they appeared in the text, “alphabetizing” being the sort of thing done only in later years. You kids with your “indexes” and “layout”! You have it easy!

Opportunity Dispell(sic)

This spell, which lasts apparently indefinitely until needed (Duration: Variable), negates the next spell cast at the mage “as per his ability”,  whatever that means — presumably, it acts like a Dispel (or Dispell) Magic as if cast by the mage. There was a spell like this in Ultima Online; people habitually used extremely weak spells to wreck the wizard’s protection and then used their highest level spells once the one-shot defense was gone.

Disanimate Dead

Otherwise known as “Who needs a cleric?” Well, it only affects skeletons and zombies, and, by 9th level, which is when you’d get this spell, such lowly creatures tended to be inconsequential anyway.

Trap Neutralizer

Otherwise known as “Who needs a thief?” Except, again, you’re wasting a fifth level slot (which could hold cloudkill, fer cryin’ out loud!) , and this was in the days before cheap wands and scrolls, and it only disables the trap for a single round, making it a nice way for the wizard to race ahead with the loot and then let the trap take care of his buddies. It’s how we rolled back then.

Mental Transferrance (sic)

Swap minds with the target, apparently with no saving throw, permanently until dispelled. I wrote something like this up for D&D Third Edition, but it was ninth level and had a few hundred words of detailed rules and limits. This is fifth level and takes up about three lines of large-font courier.

Withering Kiss

This spell allows the mage to kiss someone, aging them 10 years per level. So, assuming a ninth level mage, about ninety years, enough to kill a human or make an elf get a little gray. There’s plenty of interesting fodder here, such as if the mage has to kiss the ogre right on the lips, perhaps with a little tongue, or if a quick peck on the cheek will do. I’m half surprised this spell isn’t limited to female casters, as it seems to draw from the “Girls are scary” meme that permeates an awful lot of the stuff from this era.

Deception Detection

When cast, the mage knows if the answer given to a true or false question he’s asked is true or false… er, that is, if he’s being lied to. It doesn’t tell him the correct answer, and it lends itself to all sort of verbal warfare as the DM and player duel over whether or not a question asked was “true or false”, so the players spends most of his time rephrasing the question to limit the answer to a simple binary, until the spell finally wears out. (For example, “What’s behind that door?” is not a yes/no question, so you might try “Is there a monster behind that door?”, which could then lead to whether something qualifies as a “monster”. Likewise, you could end up with “Yes, there’s a monster behind that door”, but that could mean anything from a 1 HD kobold to a 40 HD dragon. The spell doesn’t provide any knowledge, it’s supposed to be used when you’re questioning someone, and that, of course, leads to whether or not it works when the person being questioned believes they’re telling the truth but they’re wrong.)

Coming soon….ish: Sixth level spells, featuring one of Erol Otus’ best. Illustrations. EVAR.