March 24, 2012

Bug Hunters

This is mostly setting details to go with my house rules for fighting giant monsters in Can You Catch Him with a Fishhook.

Chitin is one of the most important resources on the plains, second only to wood for the people of Ig. It is used tool-making and for building projects. The catch, of course, is that the highest quality material comes from the carapaces of the largest and most dangerous of the giant insects. A giant blatter, centipede, or cave locust in the hands of a skilled artisan can make a passable suit of armor or weapon, it might even be fashioned into a rough lean-to for the truly desperate. However, for a building of any strength or stability only the biggest of game will do. The finest homes use beetle legs as support beams, with roofs paneled in polished wing casings. A suitably sized carcass can keep a team of hunters well stocked in mead and meat for much of a year. Like the whale hunters of our own world, they risk life and limb in pursuit of quarry orders of magnitude larger than themselves.

The largest and most prized of the giant insects are also the rarest, so each town on the plains erects high watchtowers. Most take the form of huge bamboo spindles that rise a hundred feet into the air. These are always manned, day or night, by local boys paid a few copper coins to keep an eye out for any approaching monsters. Whenever one is spotted they alert the hunters who sally forth with full gear to slay the beast. If the hunt is successful they return as heroes, if they fail they might not return at all. It is a foolhardy group who flee from their quarry back to town for the giant insect is almost certain to follow them, putting the entire community in danger.

Once dispatched the hunters prepare the carcass. Nearly every part of the insect is used, including the viscera. Organs and muscles are boiled down in huge pots yielding substances edible, useful, and dangerous.  An experienced wormhandler, hedge wizard, or gonzo hallucinaut can boil down weird substances from a fresh carcass that hold a number of properties. The carapace is either boiled or dried. Drying delivers a better product, but takes weeks to complete on huge racks. Hunters in the wild too far to drag a carcass back to town boil it. Carapace boiled in the wilderness is less versatile as the pieces must be cut down to fit into pots small enough to carry and heat.

Weird Things Condensed from the Carcasses of Giant Insects
1. Deadly contact poison, Fort DC 20 or take 1d12+5 damage
2. Powerful ingested poison, Fort DC 20 Fort or die
3. Hallucinogenic, +2 to spellcasting (or one extra spell slot at max level) -2 to hit
4. Healing unguent, acts as a potion of healing
5. Blinding poison, Fort DC 15 or blinded for 1d6 hours
6. Paralytic, Fort DC 15 or paralyzed for 1d6 hours
7. Mind-expanding draught, acts as potion of ESP
8. Beetle grease, acts as oil of slipperiness
9. Grasshopper juice, acts a potion of speed
10. A foul black paste that doesn’t do anything but make one wretch
A carcass contains 1d6 possible compounds of (HD)d4 doses each.

Time to boil a carcass = 6 hours per HD

Value of a carcass = HD x Size (5 for human-sized, 10 for horse-sized, 15 for house-sized, 20 for village-sized) x 10 in gp

March 19, 2012

River Fording

Most of Ig is given over to wilderness. The communities across the plains are connected by dirt tracks worn by man, animal, and wagon. The lack of legitimate roads and bridges make crossing the many rivers of the land treacherous, especially in spring when the snowmelt from the Dark Mountains turn even the smallest stream into a torrent. There are no stone bridges since new quarries become beacons for every terrible thing miles around. The people of Ig are forced to make due with ramshackle bamboo and carapace bridges built close to their villages, most of which don’t survive the spring floods. Beyond the lights of civilization a group must search for a ford or risk the current.

When crossing a river during overland travel make a Reflex save for each person crossing the river, including any pack animals. If mounted on an animal or in a vehicle roll once for the group using the Reflex save of the mount. On a failure something has gone wrong! Roll the appropriate die on the Fording Event table modified by the character’s Luck. For events that cause encounters treat multiple results as safe crossings, or add a few extra HD to the encounter if feeling especially wicked.

Ford Table
Reflex DC
Event Die
Light Rain

Large Animal (Horse, Mule, etc)+1
Small stature (halfling, dog, etc)-1
Vehicle (wagon)+2

Fording Events
>0~1You’re sucked into a sinkhole, beneath a river bank, or caught in a whirlpool. Horrible death by drowning occurs in 1d6+CON modifier rounds.
2-3You are swept away in a rush of white water. You travel 1d10+1 miles downstream, taking 1d6 damage for each mile traveled. Each piece of gear carried is lost on a d6 roll of 3+.
4-5You're less buoyant than you thought! Drop 1d6x5 pounds of gear or begin drowning.
6-7You are smashed against rocks while fording the river and takes 1d6 damage.
7-8Your clumsy attempt to cross the river has attracted the attention of something. Roll on the appropriate encounter chart. 50% chance it occurs on the far side of the river. 50% chance it happens during the fording, making combat all kinds of troublesome for anyone in the water.
9-10A misstep on a slick rock dunks you into the water. Any items susceptible to water damage are ruined. Items not strapped down are lost on a d6 roll of 5+.
11+Seasonal problems!
Fall: You’ve attracted the attention of 2d6 Berzerker salmon (treat as LL Bull Sharks).
Spring: lurking in a deep area of the river is a giant dragonfly larva. It hungers.
Summer: 1d6 alligators take note of your flailing and swim over to investigate.
Winter: You fall through the ice taking, take 1d6 damage a round from hypothermia until a DC 15 Fort save is passed (+10 with a campfire, +5 with a change of clothes)

March 16, 2012

Yay Dice!

After running through a torrential mist to get home this evening I found my Gamescience dice waiting for me in the mailbox! Note that down, Torrential Mist sounds like a fantastic name for a spell. At last, no more turning to an app for all the funky non-standard polyhedrons Dungeon Crawl Classics requires! This will make the thief's fumbles and the dwarf's shield bashes go far more smoothly. I'm not sure there's a single crayon in the house, so I'll probably turn to my old wargame paint to ink the things. Huzzah!

March 13, 2012

Wormhandler Insect List

For ease of reference, a list of insects perfect for summoning by wormhandlers. These entries are taken from the AD&D 2E and Labyrinth Lord, as they were all I had at hand. Feel free to point out anything egregiously missing. 

HD 1
    1- Giant Assassin Bug

    2- Giant Killer Bee
    3- Giant Fire Beetle
    4- Giant Centipede
HD 2
    1- Giant Spitting Beetle
    2- Giant Carnivorous Fly
    3- Subterranean Locust
HD 3

    1- Giant Bombardier Beetle
    2- Giant Carnivorous Beetle
HD 4
    1- Giant Dragonfly (stats as giant eagle)
    2- Giant Wasp
    3- Giant Ant
    4- Giant Water Beetle
HD 5
    1- Giant Boring Beetle
    2- Giant Hornet
    3- Giant Mantis

Lessons learned? I'll have to stat up some scuttley critters with 3 HD. I won't be completely happy till I can roll a d6 for every level.

March 12, 2012

Lost Property

Attending this week's session were Boff the dwarf, Spud and Thogsmash, wielder of eldritch forces, and Tim and Diesel, two especially adept cutthroats of the cloak and dagger variety. Returning from the sea caves, Thogsmash discovered his room had been broken into and everything ransacked, his hard-earned treasure was gone! A folded note had been left on the table, the only piece of furniture not flung across the room. When the wizard touched the paper it unrolled and belched a cloud of black smoke than stank of saltpeter. For an instant an evil-looking sigil flared on the page before flying off the paper and appearing with a sizzle on Thogsmash' palm. A message was written in a hand he recognized:

The Bogmaster of And demands the return of his property.

Thogsmash had once been a slave, owned by a mad sorcerer who lived deep in the swamps of And. He'd escaped and made his way to Ig, and as nervous months gave way to years in his new home he had assumed the Bogmaster had forgotten about him. It was not so. In the back of his mind he now felt a compulsion to return, and a doom that hung over his heart if he did not.

Given that Thogsmash was the primary bankroller of the party's misadventures, the rest of the group took to the town to discover who had taken his loot. Coin changed hand, and they soon learned that a group of unsavory looking men had left the village that morning, following the rough track that led back to Hamanda Jakla. Taking to their horses, they road fast catching up after a day's travel. Posing as a merchant caravan, they tricked the thieves into playing highwaymen, only to have their trap reversed when the caravan proved more skilled than expected. The battle ended with five dead bandits, three charmed, and one escaped. The now deeply chill trio began to lead the party to their camp when the session ended.

March 11, 2012


One of my favorite comic series is Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa, a post-apocalyptic fable from which I’ve borrowed some of the motifs in Ig. One of the interesting types of characters were wormhandlers, which I decided to import into my campaign setting. This is still a work in progress, I’ll probably tweak their place in my world and their abilities more before I’m completely happy. This was written with DCC in mind, but it shouldn't be hard to tweak it to your retro-clone of choice.
At the bottom of the social order, below the tanners and the body collectors and the gong farmers, are the lowest of the low, wormhandlers. Due to the close relationship they share with the insects that infest Ig they are pushed to the periphery of civilization, however the skills they develop on the edge make them incredibly useful when the need arises. They are often the scapegoated whenever monstrous insects appear in an area, for this reason many are nomads moving in small bands. Wormhandlers raise slugworms, grub-like creatures the size of small dogs that look like maggots with a head of stubby tentacles. These creatures have an incredible sense of smell and are used by wormhandlers as tracking beasts. They can track nearly any living creature if provided with a strong initial scent. When not tracking these creatures are carried in large wicker baskets carried by their owner. Wormhandlers can also to attract and command insects, using a combination of body language, vocalization with the use of weirdly shaped pipes, and scent glands harvested from other insects. Wormhandlers are always found wrapped in gaudy clothes and silks, hiding their faces from outsiders’ eyes.

Hit Points: 1d6/level

Weapon Training: Club, Crossbow, Dagger, Dart, Handaxe, Javelin, Mace, Short Bow, Short Sword, Sling, Spear, Staff. Wormhandlers aren’t comfortable in armor thicker than chainmail.

Alignment: Wormhandlers can be of any alignment. Law wormhandlers are most likely to be found close to society, making coin through the use of their talents. Chaotic wormhandlers live out in the wilds and rely only on their own skills. They are oftentimes desperate and more than a little unstable.

Slugworms: At first level a wormhandler is accompanied by a single slugworm. He may acquire and control a number equal to his level. They provide +5 to any rolls involving tracking living creatures. They can also warn of danger, adding +2 to initiative rolls and reducing the risk of surprise by one. They will often be the first target in combat, humanoids find them disgusting while non-intelligent monsters find them delicious.
Slugworm  (AC 8 [11] HD 1d4 2hp 1 bite, 1d4 damage MV 10’)

Summon Insect: This acts as the spell Summon Monster, with a limitation that it only summons one insect up to the wormhandler’s level in hit dice. It can be used once a day, with the summoned creature appearing in 1d4 turns. The wormhandler maintains control for 1d6+level rounds, after which the insect will act based on a reaction roll.


March 06, 2012

The Implacable Crab

Last night in Ig we were short a few players, only Boff the dwarf and the wizards Spud and Thogamash were available. They decided to delve into the same sea cave beneath Smoleng again in pursuit of pirate treasure. The group didn't have much luck in the chambers, in fact the first delve cost more than it brought in, the bag of copper coins they found on a gnawed and waterlogged corpse didn't cover the fees for bribing their torchmonkey (human) Rothgrim into wading into every body of water they came across.

Facing waterlogged tunnels at the south end of caves, the party decided to head back and explore the northern tunnels. A giant crab ambushed them from behind, nearly eviscerating Spud before the dwarf could push his way through line and block the monster from killing the wizards. It took the party a long, hard fight to chip through the crab's armor, and afterward everyone was too hurt from battle and exhausted from spellburn to continue.

After a week recuperating back in Smoleng they headed back into the caves, but despite the low tide opening many of the flooded tunnels they were unable to discover the whereabouts of the treasure. Another pair of giant crabs were diced when Thogsmash blew their tiny brains with a paralyzing color spray. Having cleared this particular cave, the party returned to town to rest and await the next session.

March 05, 2012

Doomsday Moths

Within Beldin Forest lurk all manner of terrible creatures. Living among trees as wide as a meeting hall, in the deepest parts of the forest where the thick branches cut out almost all light, fell beasts lurk in broken cities forgotten and unglimpsed for eons. Reigning above the ruin are the titanic Doomsday Moths, dwarfing all their kin with a wingspan measuring at least fifty feet wide. They wing majestically down black avenues between the vaults of trees, nearly silent, sometimes drifting near the surface to spear an unsuspecting creature with their spear-like proboscis, then reeling in the hapless thing to drain it of its vial fluids somewhere far above. Perhaps even more dangerously, the scales of the Doomsday Moth’s great wings are dangerously mind-effecting, the scintillating dust that follows in their wake in delicate crystalline streams causes paralysis, madness, and vividly horrific hallucinations. Some humanoids deeply affected by the dust are compelled to serve these titanic insects in weird religious fervor, leaving their homes days or weeks after exposure and joining others like themselves in mad throngs in the midnight glades that the moths’ call home. Rarely seen outside of Beldin, these creatures have no natural predators.

Doomsday Moth
No. Enc.: 1 (1d2)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 60’ (20’)
Fly: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: -1 [20]
Hit Dice:  10
Attacks: 1 bite, 2 claw, or 1 dust
Damage: 1d8/1d6
Save: F10
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: XV
XP: 3,100

A Doomsday Moth may attack by shedding the loose scales from its wings once a day, characters within 30’ of the insect must pass a DC 17 Fort save (or versus Poison) or be paralyzed for 1d4 turns as their minds are blown by psychedelic eschatology. 1d20 days after exposure the character must pass an identical save or be compelled to journey to the nest of the Doomsday Moth that afflicted them, deep in Beldin Forest, where they join a commune of 1d4x10 doomsday zealots (treat as Brigands).

Image by ~theblackdragon

March 01, 2012

The Singing Hill, level 1

I've taken some time the last few days to scan and ink a few of my maps of the Singing Hill, the dungeon my players just finished. It's been as much an excuse to work on my tablet skills as anything. The write-up isn't especially well-written so I'm holding onto it for more editing. This map is pretty rough, but the later levels get progressively more complex and better laid out. This level was full of goblins that the party befriended, so they skipped most of it and climbed the exterior to get into the hive from the ventilation shaft the giant bees had dug in 1c. The stairs in chamber 7 were plot-locked, so they had to take the long way climbing through the hive.

Feel free to use to for your own tiny delves!
Side-view of the complex