February 28, 2012

Weird Folk

Sages, shamans, witches, dowsers, hedgewizards, psychopomps, and herbalists are common in Ig. Some people are born with a natural ability to perceive and shape the the invisible forces that underpin the land. Since having your mind’s eye jammed open to ultimate reality permanently does not make for a particularly balanced personality many of these individuals live on the outskirts of society. These are the kind of people you turn to for magical potions and Identify spells, totally willing to trade their peculiar talents for gold, jewels, bits of string, and small animals. When searching for someone of mystical means in a town for the first time roll a d20 and consult this table to determine their specific quirks:
1- This person’s home is filled with piles of books. He has written some of them himself, others were bought, borrowed, or stolen.
2- This person has 1d8x10 cats. She responds to all questions by talking to her cats, who listen eerily.
3- This person lives on top of a natural stone pillar. His voice is hoarse from screaming at the sky.
4- This woman is person lives in a dank cave, always wears concealing robes, and speaks in couplets.
5- This mute lives in a bare hut, every writable surface is covered in an unreadable flowing script.
6- This person lives beside what she claims is a magic spring. She acts as temple priestess to a religion she invented.
7- This village idiot, while not able to string much more than a sentence together, has a subconscious knack for magic.
8- An oracular pig and her master.
9- This extremely ancient man is full of starry wisdom. His eyes glint beneath thick brows.
10- This wise old woman is the classic witch, reading tea leaves and brewing potions.
11- This exceedingly ripe person covers himself in dung and lives in a ditch.
12- This woman lives under a bridge and mutters dire prophecies against long-dead empires.
13- This serene man sits on a rock outside of town and speaks in platitudes. He wears cast-off robes and his head is roughly shorn.
14- Wrapped in multi-colored silks, this tiny woman reads the stars for portents.
15- This man has etched glyphs into every inch of his skin.
16- This wise woman lives in the hollowed out carcass of a giant beetle. She’s distilled a number of psychoactive compounds from the bug, but isn’t interested in sharing.
17- This man has lost his sight, perhaps through sacrifice or staring into the sun too long. He sees the unseen.
18- A strange pale woman dressed in a winding sheet, she lives in a graveyard and speaks to her grandfather’s skull.
19- This mountain hermit dresses in rough skins and speaks of the great animal spirits. He is fond of strong drink.
20- This woman sat under a waterfall until enlightenment hit her. Her pale skin has taken on a bluish tinge, and the wisdom she imparts is marred by her chattering teeth.

February 24, 2012

Answers for Brendan's Questions

Some lovely questions were posed here, perfect for crystallizes and sharing the way I run things.
  1. Ability scores generation method?
3d6 in order
  1. How are death and dying handled?
At 0 a PC is unconscious, otherwise per DCC’s Recovering the body
  1. What about raising the dead?
Doesn’t exist
  1. How are replacement PCs handled?
Roll a trio of 0-level peasants, you can pick them up in town
  1. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
  1. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
Crits on a 20, fumbles on a 1, use DCC’s tables
  1. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
  1. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
On a fumble
  1. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
Run, you fool!
  1. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
  1. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
  1. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
Outside of ensuring someone brought torches and that a mule-load of treasure isn’t carried out by some wizard, encumbrance and resources are generally hand-waved
  1. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?
Leveling up occurs between adventures back in town. Spells come automatically.
  1. What do I get experience for?
Gold equals experience 1:1 when brought back to town, and killing monsters
  1. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
A Combination. If players pick up on clues and poke around they can skip a roll, if they’re lacking in descrivptive creativity they can roll for it.
  1. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
            Retainers are useful as torchbearers and meatshields. Haven’t really used morale rules yet.
  1. How do I identify magic items?
By use.
  1. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
No. Witches and shamans can brew potions, but they’re rare
  1. Can I create magic items? When and how?
  1. What about splitting the party?
          Your funeral, mate

February 23, 2012

Aerial Trilobites

The skies of Ig are dominated by a number of huge insects, almost all of which are hostile to humanoid life. Gentlest of these are aerial trilobites, an order composed of scavenger species of many scales, from dog- to house-sized types. Related to the marine arthropods which share their name, aerial trilobites swim through the air without the aid of gas bladders or wings. They’re generally docile, but when attacked will counterattack with their spear-like limbs or drop from the air to crush their tormentors. Foes trapped underneath a giant trilobite take 1d6 crushing damage per round. Below are the stats for the Giant Aerial Trilobite, a 10 by 8 foot long specimen.

Giant Aerial Trilobite
No. Enc.: 1d6 (1d6)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 20’ (6’)
Fly: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 2 [17]
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks: 4 or 1 (claw or slam)
Damage: 1d6 per claw  or 2d4
Save: F4
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: None
XP: 200

Wizards, shamans, and sages of all kind are fond of summoning these creatures with certain incantations for use as floating mounts and pack animals. While not particularly fast or intelligent, their aerial abilities make them incredibly useful in this regard. A giant aerial trilobite can carry loads up to 2000 pounds.

Summon Aerial Trilobite
Leve: 6
Duration: 1 hour per level
Range: 240’

With this spell the caster may summon one Aerial Trilobite per day. This monster is under the caster’s mental control and will follow any command, but the soporific nature of the spell leaves the creature at -4 to hit in combat.

February 20, 2012

Seafood in Smoleng

Dramatis Personae
Boff, a dwarf used primarily as a speed-bump for approaching monsters
Tiniest Tim, an ex-cripple and thief of ill repute
Arrowroot Greyteeth, a warrior of some skill and primary hacker-of-limbs
Thogsmash, a wizard not in the habit of casting spells
and Rothgrim, torch-bearer and dungeon canary

Last week the weekly rogues' gallery of players spent most of the session recuperating and re-equipping themselves after the clearing the Singing Hill. This week, fully healed and itching for more treasure after hearing the rum soaked rumor-mongering at the local ale den, they set off for the bottom of the sea cliffs on which Smoleng perches. They went in pursuit of pirate treasure said to be hidden within the sea caves that dot the coast. Heading south along the rocks, dodging the spray from the high tide, the party soon came to hole in the cliff hidden from the ocean by a huge pile of stone. They marched through narrow winding tunnels, eerily quiet. Some were flooded with sea water, but no one had the courage to go for a swim.

The exploration came to a halt in a narrow tunnel when Rothgrim heard something and dropped his torch in his haste to not be in the lead. Out of the darkness loomed a pair of giant crabs, blocking the tunnel, claws clicking and horrible mouths foaming evilly. Boff and Arrowroot prepared to repel the creatures. Arrowroot took a heavy claw to the shoulder, nearly downing him, and Boff would have been slain outright had a splintering shield not deflected the killing blow. The back line did their best to repel the beasts with a barrage of arrows but they all flew wide in the darkness. A final push by the warriors dispatched the creatures, and the party took a moment to rest. No one was willing to continue after facing such fierce monsters, and stringing up the huge crustaceans between a few polearms they carried the beasts back to Smoleng. The people of Smoleng ate very well that night and the tanners had special orders for crab carapace armor.

Heading back into the caves, the group didn't get much further before facing a trio of giant lizards. This skirmish went far smoother, with Thogsmash paralyzing the reptiles with an especially potent blast of kaleidoscopic color. With those monsters slain the session ended.

February 16, 2012

Ley Lines, revisited

There are no gods in Ig, therefore no clerics or magical healing. However, D&D throws around a lot of effects that would be all but lethal to a party without such resources, especially at high level play. While I want to encourage players to retreat when things are looking bad, I also want to tell evocative stories like Weathertop and the flight to the ford in Fellowship of the Ring, where healing is available but found at the end of a hard journey. Where does one turn when some moldy papyrus king in a ruin give you mummy rot? Wise women and shamans offer foul potions that are as likely to give you a week of the runs as cure your wasting disease. In Ig the solution is ley lines.

Ley lines are an invisible web of mystic force that connect places of power called loci. A locus is always found in the wilderness far away from humanoid habitation. Buildings disrupt the flow of power to and from a locus. Construction around these sites completely destroys them. Loci take the form of supernal aspects of nature like standing stones, solitary trees, or waterfalls. Each loci is connected to at least two more by ley lines. A mystically sensitive person can detect these lines as they travel and follow them back to their loci. Elves and magic users can tap into these natural power sources to cast divine spells. This power comes at a trickle compared to the theistic torrent clerics wield in other universes, so the casting time is greatly extended.This is not common knowledge among the humans and dwarves of Ig, although most elves know about them due to their highly tuned magical senses.

Anyone magic-using class present at a locus can cast divine spells. Elves cast spells as if they were a cleric at half their level, while wizards at a quarter. Assume character have access to all spells available to a cleric at that level. The casting time is extended to one day per round, and a week per turn. Spellcasters take a point of Constitution damage per full day after the first they cast a spell due to exhaustion. This time is spent in deep meditation as the caster collects the power for the spell. Any physical disruption such as combat will stop the process. Once a spell has been cast a locus' magical resources are exhausted for 2d10+5 days.

Detecting a ley line is a DC 20 check. Elves get a +4 bonus due to their racial sensitivities. Both elves and magic-users can also add half their level to the check. Anyone using Detect Magic gets +10 to their check for the duration of the spell.

When creating a wilderness map place loci at least five day’s journey from any settlements, including above-ground ruins. Roll or pick the form the locus takes from the table below, each locus is connected by 1d3+1 more. These loci are located 1d20+5 day’s travel away in a random direction.

Locus Type (roll 1d10)
  1. Seasonal Grove (permanently one season)
  2. Giant Mushroom
  3. Spring
  4. Waterfall
  5. Stone Circle
  6. Solitary Tree
  7. Waste
  8. Menhir
  9. Fairy Circle
  10. Hilltop
If access to the full range of cleric spells seems overpowered consider requiring a token/scroll/or bit of magical research for a character to make use of a given divine spell.

February 14, 2012

A Cracking Ape

The new blog title will be Carapace King. It's got alliteration, it's punchy, and I like it. Sorry for this  title snafu, but if any of my stuff ever sees print I want a title that doesn't have strings or baggage.

I'm updating the URL as well. I don't know if this will hose up anyone's feed. I'm not finding a lot of data in the Blogger help center so batten down the hatches.

February 13, 2012

Elves in Ig

The elves Eons ago they ruled an empire called Belmora, a kingdom of crystal spires that ruled before the sun first shone. According to human tales the elves’ mighty empire was destroyed by hubris when their gaze stretched too far, piercing the sky and bringing monstrous insects raining down upon the kingdom, destroying it for ever. The elves say even less. "It was," they say, "and is no longer."

After the fall the elves disappeared from the face of Ig completely for five-thousand years. Man and dwarf were free to develop among the crystal ruins. Elves became nothing more than story and song. Since then they have appeared in small nomadic bands, crossing the land on horseback and following the migration patterns of the huge beetles known as ironbacks. They do not speak of where they come from, or where they have been. Some think they don't even remember.

Elves know where ley lines cross the land and how to tap into this geomantic energy. Given enough time even the dullest of their kind can work wonders at these sites. This patience has kept them protected from the insect scourge that periodically sweeps the land. Elves are the only race which have learned to fashion armor from the carapaces of ironbacks. These enormous insects are incredibly dangerous when cornered, but the elves know the locations where these enormous beasts go to die. This gives them almost complete control of the supplies of carapace they use to craft armor, and the rest of the people of Ig use a raw material for buildings.

Elvish Armor

February 12, 2012

On Titles

I've been using the name Marauders of Ig as the title for my campaign for about six months. I didn't really start with that or any title in mind, just a string of ideas of how I wanted the world to work and the sort of adventures that would take place within it. It's been an organic process.

Here's the problem. I Googled my title on a lark last night and discovered that there's a video game with a disturbingly similar name. Iron Grip: Marauders is an online empire-building sim, like Evony with a steampunk vibe. That wouldn't both me so much, being an entirely different genre, except that their URL is igmarauders.com. My sense of uniquity died.

My plan is to retitle this blog and campaign setting to something more distinct. Part of me worries that there's a risk of litigation, but I'm no copyright/trademark lawyer and given the number of viewers I get daily I don't think anyone will be confused by who's hosting the online game. That said, my inner special snowflake demands I find a new title. Sorry if this hoses up any feeds or links.

February 09, 2012

Shark-tooth Sword

Every few weeks I troll Google for non-metal weapons for inspiration for the sort of Iglandish murdering devices characters might feasibly carry. I found this weapon recently and it's just too awesome to share. It's a shark-tooth sword! I rolled one of these in a horde which is what sent me searching for real ones in the first place. I didn't think these things had ever existed, and I don't really know how good a weapon it would really make, but it's awesome so it deals full damage.

Originally found here, there a sweet detail shot as of the teeth and binding as well!

February 08, 2012

Back in the Open Air

On Monday my players completed the dungeon they had been crawling through for (real-time) months, the Singing Hill. In game time it was probably not much more than a week, but I'm terrible at time-keeping so it might have been more, or less! Fair warning, if you don't love play reports condensing months of playtime into five paragraphs of prose please click away now.

The party consisted of two elves, three dwarves, a warrior, a wizard, two thieves, and a pair of peasants played by a revolving cast of characters, hinging entirely on who was local on any given game night. The delve was the capstone to a snowball of tasks that had started when the group took a job guarding a merchant caravan. Repelling a raiding party of goblins riding giants bees led to tracking them back their home base, the Singing Hill. This hill was actually an underground complex named thus because of the huge beehive that took up much of the interior and set the surrounding land thrumming with the buzzing of the giant insects. The goblins asked the group to defend them against the intruders that were creeping into their caves from points unknown, for the price of whatever treasure they could carry back out. The goblins had barricaded the lower levels to keep the outsiders from raiding, so the PCs had to get to the lower levels through the roof of the beehive.

The party broke in through the top of the hill, cutting through goblin tunnels and holding back the giant bees with smudge sticks. They took their first casualty when one of the dwarves stumbled into a dart trap. In the base of the hive the bees grew too aggressive to hold back with smoke. Fleeing from the hive into the caves beyond by crawling through a small tunnel one of the elves made the ultimate sacrifice by lighting himself on fire and collapsing the waxen tunnel of the hive down on himself and blocking the enraged hive from annihilating the rest of the party.

The party soon came in contact with the outsiders, strange, pale, hairless, Innsmouth-looking toadmen wearing weird armor and carrying queerly curved swords. They spoke a dialect akin to ancient dwarfish, but bizarrely inflected and all but impossible to understand. They tramped through the dark tunnels in patrols of six strong, and the party took to stealth and ambush as they looked for where the outsiders were coming from.

Along one hallway the rough stone gave way to worked obsidian, polished and dark and guarded by toadmen in baroque armor. Beyond this and down a long stairwell lay a long gallery of supported by a long line of columns carved like the figures of men, each more hideous than the last.

This level was full of long halls and prisons crawling with toadmen and their minions, guarding a mystical portal that floated in midair like a black wound. They lost another member of their band when they broke into a wizard's laboratory, a twisted toadman wizard wearing a jeweled vest raised a claw and consumed the unlucky peasant with a bolt of black witchfire. The huge prismatic array they found in the laboratory proved to be the key to the portal, and after fumbling with the alignment of the prisms, and nearly killing the warrior with mystical force. They shut the portal down, loaded themselves down as much loot they could carry, and staggered back to the surface and back towards the town of Smoleng.

February 03, 2012

Dwarves in Ig

Dwarves live in scattered groups across the plains of Ig. They live in small communes not more than three dozen strong and are always found in even numbers. They build small underground complexes into hills so that they can mine in safety. There are few rich seams in the lowlands of Ig but dwarves manage to pull small amounts of ore up from the earth, far more than the clumsy attempts of man. Most of this is traded to communities across the plains, along with their strong pottery. The steady encroaching of monsters into the tunnels forces these mining communities to move every few decades. This has left hundreds of small warrens spread beneath the plains.

Long ago they built their mountain fastnesses into an empire called Mak. It spread southward into the plains, coming in contact with the human tribes that lived in the lowlands. A large part of the common tongue's vocabulary are loan words from the dwarf language, in fact Ig is a dwarf word for “The Land.” Their downfall came, as the human tales go, when they delved too deep. From their deepest mines crawled hordes of monstrous insects that devoured everything in their path. The dwarven people were driven into the lands below, and have lived among man ever since.

Dwarves have discovered how to create a special ceramic which they use for nearly all their tools. Created in vast kilns in the bowels of their warrens, it is almost as dense as steel. Covered in mathematically precise designs etched and painted into the ceramic, each piece, from simplest pot to most ornate war club, tells a story of the history of the dwarves. They even craft armor from this pottery, heavy but ornately baroque and as effective as plate armor. Each complete suit tells a story of one of the heroes of Mak. To be given dwarf armor is an incredible honor, it cannot be purchased.

Visually, dwarf ceramic work looks like a cross between North American southwest native pottery with its intricate patterns, and the intricate flame filigree of ancient Japanese Jōmon work. The armor looks like Dogū figurines, rounded and stylized.
Dogū Figurine