Telengard 2, session 7

The last session was a lot of fun.  The players finished exploring last week’s dungeon (missing a few things I hoped they’d find, and some treasure, but that’s OK) and then girded themselves to take on the Cathedral of Odin.

In the dungeon, they encountered a little bit of weirdness (an inscrutable machine and a room filled with steel ticks) and some fights (a wandering ogre who provided a running commentary of self-affirmations, and a minotaur and his goat-man minions, whose lair was so befouled with dung that party did not even bother searching for treasure).  They skipped giving a detailed examination to a room they’d rushed through last time (pursuing the cultists who’d kidnapped the scouts), and there were a few treasures they didn’t recognize or find last time, but in terms of monster extermination, the dungeon was done.  They even rescued some townsfolk who were held prisoner there.

The rogue had heard a rumor that the Cathedral was held by a fire giant, but the party decided that this might not be true, and sent the rogue and assassin to scout ahead.

They had to climb up to the roof to get a look inside, as the windows and stained glass were all bricked over, but the bell tower was unfortified.  Sneaking down the tower with the Mask of the Fox, Dell saw a number of oddities, but no fire giant.  The pews were filled with chanting cultists and townsfolk.  Dell managed to make his save and avoid joining them in the endless chant.  He also saw a giant flying eyeball, roosting with five cyclopskin in the choir loft, a large bank of fog in the center of the cathedral’s gallery, and small swarm of flying skulls zipping about the front of the church.  When he reported back on all this, the party began to formulate a cunning plan which could not fail. Nah.  Actually they came up with an unbelievably half-baked plan which involved sending the assassin to kill the eyeball, and while the paladin, dwarf, and barbarian charged in the front doors on warhorses (and a warpony for the dwarf).

On the one hand I was kind of awestruck by the sheer audacity of the whole plan.  On the other I deeply sympathized with one of the players who was shaking his head, almost wincing, at how foolhardy the plan sounded…not least because the party had no idea what was up at the altar and in the fog bank, if anything.  The assassin’s plan was basically to assassinate the eyeball and then fight FIVE CYCLOPSKIN.  Basically alone (the rogue would provide cover with his crossbow).

But the party took the precaution of stuffing their ears with wool, to muffle the chanting.  The Ladyhawke-style use of warhorses indoors was cool as hell, and I decided not to make their horses slip-slide all over the place, as they probably should on smooth marble floors.

The whole encounter was huge rolling melee that consumed a good hour or so.  There were several roars of laughter, bad decisions that didn’t quite get anyone killed, strategic uses of the d30 and shield-splintering rule that saved one PC’s bacon, and the paladin, who spent most of the dungeon cowering providing archery support, got all Lancelot on the monsters, making the most of his lance and warhorse.  So it was a lot of fun.


The mask of the fox (magic item)

A small fox-skin mask which covers the eyes and nose and is tied by a bit of leather, it turns the wearer into a fox — they their keep original Int and HP but other stats are changed:
AC15, Move 18″, 1 bite for d2 damage, Heightened senses like a thief to 90′.*  A fox has the following skills**: Hide and move silently +12, listen and track +10, climb and jump +6.
All your gear changes too, but you cannot remove the mask yourself; someone else must take it off.***




*In my games, rogues and assassins can ‘see’ up to 40′ in the dark, provided they are moving silently and no non-stealthy types are within 120′, because they rely on their other hearing, smell, etc. to sense movement.  This rule was basically adopted to make thieves effective at scouting in dungeons.

**Skill rolls are generally d20 target 18, possibly higher targets for extreme situations.

***The alternate limitations I’d toyed with but rejected were: you may forget you are human and become, effectively, an actual fox (like a Polymorph Other spell); the mask is obvious even in fox form and you are obviously not a normal fox, if seen; you also have a fox’s HP (ouch!); can only be removed after 4, 8, or 12 hours of wear.

Published in: on March 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Bestiary of Blood (magic item)

This is a magical book.  On facing pages are paintings of monsters and a spell written in invisible ink, which can be revealed only by applying some blood, squeezed from the heart of the creature illustrated.

  • Goblin
  • Chimera
  • Red Dragon
  • Gorgon
  • Troll
  • Salamander
  • Pegasus
  • Roper
  • Cyclops
  • Manticore
  • Minotaur

you could choose spells related to the monster (Polymorph other Chimera, for Fly for Pegasus, Stone to Flesh for the Gorgon, etc.) but you can substitute any spell, with a level no more than 1/2 the monster’s HD.  These spells should not be otherwise available.

Alternately, the book sits at the entrance of a dungeon.  Soaking the image with the right type of blood will open the portal to a deeper level, or open areas of levels already revealed.

Published in: on March 4, 2012 at 7:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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The union catalog of fantasy books

No, not fantasy fiction or art, but books suggested as treasures/magic items/white elephants for D&D or other FRPGs. I want to put together a big old list.  Probably make it a sticky page of links.

Libraries turn up a fair amount in my games and I’d like to put together a master list of tables, lists, etc. of books that might be in a library, archive, wizard’s tower, cult temple, wealthy merchant’s home, whatever.  Cursed tomes, orcish poetry, encyclopedias of underworld ecology, chronicles of dwarven grudges, exotic witch cookbooks, etc.

The post that got me started thinking about this is the excellent one at Grognardling’s blog: Looted libraries.

Depending on who is willing to participate/contribute, I’d like to collect as many as possible into a single document, maybe a community pdf.

I’ll begin going back through the links I’ve kept, and begin googling, but if you know of any good ones — lists or individual books–, leave a link in the comments, would you?




(Why “union catalog”? In the library world, there are “National union catalogs” that list (nearly) every book cataloged by libraries.  For the USA, the Library of Congress began compiling a NUC in 1901, and in the 1960s published a list, in book form, of all pre-1956 books it discovered in the US libraries.  This took well over half a million pages, and was a 754 volume alphabetical listing of titles.  Another project compiled manuscripts — unpublished, unique documents, and so on.  This ran to 29 volumes before they stopped doing print listings and went to microfilm and digital records. Some but not all of the books in these union lists are included in current online bibliographic databases.  A few research libraries are holding on to their print copies for this reason.)

Published in: on February 9, 2012 at 8:57 am  Comments (15)  
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Apples of the Underworld (NSFL)

“The Alexandrian ” has a nice post with 101 curious items to throw into a dungeon to keep things mysterious.  One was a bushel of ripe apples, hidden away in an otherwise ancient and undisturbed place.  I kind of like the idea although it will immediately scream “trap” or “illusion” to PCs.  I think it would be more appealing if the apples are actually growing “down there” in the dungeon, in some obviously magical area.  PCs may be genuinely tempted by them, and I’d have them provide some minor but appealing benefit (heal some damage or restore a year of aging, say).

The PCs should then discover that they can only benefit once, or or better yet once per day, from the apples.  They will likely pick the tree clean.

Upon return to the surface, they will be surprised and disturbed to find the apples rotten and crawling with maggots.

Did I just eat .. one ... of ... those?!?!

PCs who eat an Apple of the Underworld heal d6 damage (if undamaged, their physical age is reduced by one year).  This effect can be had but once per day. PCs who eat one and return to the surface  before it has been fully digested (say, one day) must save versus poison every turn, until they successfully make three in a row.  Each failed save causes successively worse effects.

1st failed save: spend one turn retching and vomiting contents of stomach. take 1d4 damage.

2nd failed save: spend one turn retching and vomiting blood and maggots. Take 1d6 damage, and temporarily lose d6 from STR, CON, and DEX (regained in two days, if the character survives these poison saves)

3rd failed save: spend one turn retching and vomiting blood and chunks of viscera (stomach lining, intestinal cilia, etc.).  d30 damage.

4th failed save: lose consciousness; maggots erupt from all orifices; death follows in one turn.

I will never buy dented fruit again, no matter how deeply discounted.

Sages do not agree on the origin of the Apples of the Underworld, and so far no sage has dared enter a dungeon to examine a fresh one or the strange trees that produce them.

*NSFL = Not safe for lunch-time reading

Published in: on July 15, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (1)  
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One-shot magic items: Weapons

What was Conan’s magic sword called? What did Grey Mouser’s magic cloak do? Was it Welleran’s armor or shield that was magical?

Oh, yeah, that’s right, most Sword & Sorcery heroes don’t have ANY magic items. You can point to Elric’s Stormbringer, and Bilbo’s Sting, but even magic swords are fairly rare. I’m not saying D&D should emulate literature (in fact I think it really shouldn’t) but it would nice to see more “fire and forget” items. Granted potions and scrolls fill that niche to some extent, along with arrows of slaying and javelins of lightning, but here are some more one-use magic items in case you’d like to give temporary boosts to low-level adventurers, or a more S&S feel to your treasures, and hopefully not all of them are as silly as the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

Glass sword: Forged by the ancients in a process now long-forgotten, glass swords are devastating but fragile weapons. They range from short sword to two-handed sword size, but most are the size and shape of medieval war swords (“hand-and-a-half” or “bastard” swords with long, tapering blades). A glass sword strikes as a +2 weapon and when it hits a foe, there is a 50% chance it will shatter. A shattered glass sword inflicts triple damage and the target must save versus Death Magic or die. (A Constitution related save would work for later editions of D&D) The undead only take this extra damage if the sword has been blessed or dipped in holy water.

Ice dagger: While in its sheath, this appears to be an ordinary dagger, but once drawn, it is obvious that the blade is formed of some kind of super-hard ice. It strikes as a +1 dagger. It slowly melts with use, releasing either poison or holy water (50% chance of either; poison ice daggers are black and holy ice daggers are white). It will last for one full turn (10 combat rounds or 10 minutes) before melting away completely. Poison ice daggers do normal damage and targets must versus Poison or take an additional d12 poison damage. Holy ice daggers inflict an extra d8 damage on undead or demonic foes. An ice dagger can be left in the wound (by twisting the handle after the blade is buried in the target) and in this case will continue to inflict poison or holy water damage as long as it is embedded in the target or until it melts completely. It takes one round to dig out the blade, and this operation inflicts another d4 damage. If used as a thrown weapon, the ice dagger will embed itself on a hit and shatter on a miss.

Fire lance: Not a mythic Fire Lance of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians; this is a spear with a bundle of scrolls just behind the blade. When the command word is spoken, these scrolls burst into sparking flames that act like a Burning Hands spell cast by a fifth level magic user. The arc of flame sprouts from the blade tip and lasts d6 rounds. The weapon can be used as a spear even while flaming thus, and while burning and for d6 rounds afterwards will inflict an extra d6 damage due to the intensely hot blade. After cooling the blade will be somewhat annealed and is -1 to hit, because the point is not longer harder than most other metals.

Black arrow: The black arrow is, as the name suggests, simply a pitch-black arrow of the sort one might fire from a bow. However, it will hit any target, no matter how small, how distant, or how fast it moves, as long as it is within the archer’s normal range with his bow, AC and immunity to nonmagical notwithstanding. It does normal damage. This power is lost after use. d4 black arrows may be found in a quiver of magic arrows.

Obsidian chakram: This appears to be a circle of black volcanic glass, flaked rather expertly. Its edges are unimaginably sharp but like the glass sword this item is very fragile. It may be hurled in a frisbee-like fashion and will cut through any material as well as a sword of sharpness. If it hits a creature it does d10 damage plus Strength bonuses, if any; if the hit scored is a natural 20 or exceeds the attacker’s to hit number by five or more, it severs (roll d6): 1 a hand or forepaw; 2: a foot or back paw; 3: an arm; 4: a leg; 5: the neck; 6: thrower’s choice. Severed body parts ue normal Sword of sharpness/vorpal blade rules. It will break after one use, whether it hits or not. D6 chakrams are usually found.

(Perhaps obviously, the glass sword is lifted from the Ultima V CRPG; the ice dagger from Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, and the fire lance from an actual Chinese weapon that used gunpowder, and the black arrow perhaps from The Hobbit; I suppose the bosidian chakram is inspired by Oddjob’s hat…)

I’ll post some armor, miscellaneous items, etc. as they occur to me.

Published in: on October 3, 2010 at 6:00 am  Comments (6)  
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Thirty-odd odd Norse magic items

Back in high school, or possibly junior high, I started compiling a list of Norse mythology’s people, places, & things as I found them referred to in various books.  Sadly I stopped before I began reading Norse sagas and romances off and on a few years later, so the list is mostly what I found in a few encyclopedias (I think — I may have ripped off other sources, my notes are sketchy and filled with misspellings!)

The following is a list of magic items I thought I might incorporate into a Norse campaign using the much-maligned and possibly unplayable Fantasy Wargaming rules.


Published in: on February 18, 2010 at 11:37 am  Comments (6)  
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