Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Chronicles of the Seventh Moon, Session 10

Day 6, Solar Month, 757 years since the Fall of the Gods, early summer

Crossing the gate, the Hammers of the Dawn entered a cave of massive scope – actually a hollow mountain. Magic lights illuminated the dark ceilings giving the impression of a starlit sky. Looking to the closer inner walls, it was possible to see hundreds of genasi slaves mining gems and precious metals for their dao overseers. Small islands floated inside the mountain, many covered with exuberant and fragrant jungles filled with exotic animals (little and multihued winged serpents were the most common). Some islands were linked by gigantic vines and strong roots. The biggest one was the heart of Shzamias’ kingdom, where an impossible palace of marble, ivory and crystal rose over the jungle canopy.

The party found a path of floating white stones that connected the gate to the palace island. Once there, the path twisted inside the penumbral jungle until it reached a beautiful pool, upon whose edges of sculpted stone rested silver jars, jeweled balsams and gold camphor. Nogard, the blind monk, heard movement from the shadows, mere moment before the Hammers were attacked by white gorillas. Heian’s fey gifts were enough to calm the beasts, while Hilguen was carried inside the jungle by the brutes. However, with some effort, the adventurers managed to scare the animals and regroup.

Ignoring the pool, they moved ahead and reached the palace’s bridge and gates. There were no guards, but, when the first adventurer touched the bridge, a bizarre genasi manifested from thin air. He was gaunt and was wearing a burned mantle and a grotesque mask somehow animated and fused over his face – actually he was the half-elf sorcerer Mask, responsible for the Hammer’s present situation. After summoning Shzamias’ power, Mask was punished and enslaved as a genasi*** (and palace gatekeeper). Now completely insane, the ex-sorcerer, always giggling, warned the group that the noble djinni only tolerated “the beautiful, the brave and the astute”. Hilguen (a paladin) and the halfing Garet declared themselves “brave”; Dricia and Nogard took the epithet of “astute”; finally, Heian (an elf) claimed to be “beautiful”.

The Hammers were then invited inside the palace, where they’re greeted by an entourage of apsaras (celestial nymphs) and genasi eunuch soldiers. Taken to luxurious rooms, they’re told that they’re “honored guests of the Eminent Shzamias” and would be received for an audience before the Black Crocodile Court. The adventurers had a king’s evening, drinking to otherworldly wines and succulent exotic meats, hearing to celestial music and enjoying rejuvenating baths, until finally falling to a magic dreamless sleep.

Day 7, Solar Month, 757 years since the Fall of the Gods, early summer

Summoned to the Black Crocodile Court, the Hammers were instructed to dress accordingly and were given whatever type of vestment they needed. While escorted to Shzamias’ throne room, they managed to get glimpses from the palace’s other wonders – chambers that led to the Elemental Realms, a room with a fountain from which flows not water but gens, a library guarded by demons with six arms etc. The heroes fittingly noted that brute force or eldritch might wouldn’t save them here. 

Two gargantuan gates, opened by chains pulled by four elephants, revealed the Black Crocodile Court, filled with enough riches to ransom half the Shinning Principalities. Big silver pillars supported golden domes, wine filled its many pool and the ivory walls showed amazingly detailed scenes of heroes, champions, monsters and battles. Shzamias himself was surrounded by apsaras and dao slave-guards, seating on an enormous throne with the form of a three-headed crocodile with black onyx scales. A leskylor was lying at the djinni’s left, while a fire genasi (his vizier) was standing at his right. Shzamias was a giant djinni of blue skin, richly dressed. He didn’t have eyes and small clouds and lightning occasionally erupted from his empty eye sockets. When he spoke, more clouds left his mouth (always dispersed by an apsara with a peacock feathered fan). In fact, Shzamias seemed a storm barely kept in humanoid form.

The more diplomatic-minded adventurers – Hilguen, Dricia and Nogard – bowed and showed their respects for the genie king. Heian, always impulsive, was less fortunate. To make matters worse, Shzamias didn’t considered the roguish elf beautiful and promptly cursed him to the shape of an ugly and unimpressive goblin. Following this, Hilguen and Garet were summoned to prove that they’re among those that could be called braves. Each had to place one hand inside Kalikuja’s mouths – Shzamias’ throne was actually a unique fiendish crocodile. Both Hammers didn’t hesitate, although this action cost them their hands for Kalikuja quickly closed his three mouths. The aasimar resisted stoically, but Garet fell to ground yelling. Shzamias appreciated the paladin’s grace and regenerated his hand. Hilguen then healed Garet, now one-handed. Finally, the vizier questioned Dricia and Nogard, who claimed to be astute, with three questions concerning the planes, the dead gods and philosophy. After a short time talking to each other, the adventurers gave fitting answers.

With all “formalities” concluded, it was given consent for the Hammers (except Heian) to address Shzamias. Hilguen asked for the release of the party’s three allies: the Road Marshal Garamus, the Warbard Mellius and half-orc Karanuk. While these conversations took place, Garet and Heian scanned the court room and noted in the detailed ivory walls perfect pictures of Garamus, Mellius and Karanuk – the panel was a magic prison for the djinni’s inauspicious guests and servants.

After the paladin’s ceremonial and ornate request, Shzamias (a little bored) offered to release one friend for each court game that the Hammers won.

The first match was for the release of the Road Marshal. The Hammers were teleported to a floating platform, to face a giant clockwork golem. Whoever fell would be attacked by the vicious dao guards. The Hammer won quite easily by shutting down the golem – Heian (now in the small size of a goblin) managed to climb inside the big apparatus. Shzamias heartily applauded and order his apsaras to release Garamus from the ivory panel.

The next game was a chance to release the Warbard. A Hammer was chosen to run an asperi race around Shzamias’ flying island. Dricia, the maiden-priestess, was the one, for she was the party’s best rider. Shzamias’ champion was an air genasi called Breeze. The race was hard and Dricia was defeated because she failed to note the Breeze was actually an illusion and thus could never be surpassed.

The last test was aimed to release the half-orc Kanaruk (of whom Hilguen was a friend). Shzamias decided to participate personally of the match. He polymorphed the half-orc to smoke and hid him among three lamps. He gave the Hammers one chance of finding in which lamp was their (now gaseous) friend, the only clue being these words “I, Shzamias, placed one dire predator in one lamp, a innocent victim in another and a loyal friend in a third. In which lamp is your half-orc hunter?

Nogard asked for a chance to answer the riddle, because he came from cold Huan Ti, a nation whose inhabitants loved puzzles. After much consideration, Nogard provide the wrong answer by choosing one of three lamps. Laughing, Shzamias told the Hammers that the half-orc was in all three lamps, for Kanaruk was indeed a dire predator, an innocent victim and a loyal friend.

Desolated by the loss of two allies, the Hammers of the Dawn pondered their next move.

***Genasi in Chronicles of the Seventh Moon are the slaves and servants of the genies, created from humanoid stock through a harrowing dweomer. It is told that a genie can see and hear through the eyes and ears of those genasi created by him.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Weird Arcana - Tuness’s Lunatic Catapultation (New Spell)

Although this new spell was also inspired in my readings of Songs of the Dying Earth, all references are to the Archwizardress Tuness, one of the legendary Archmages from the Tower of Impossibilities, from my Chronicles of the Seventh Moon campaign.

Tuness’s Lunatic Catapultation
Transmutation [Force]
Level: Sorcerer/Wizard 6
Components: V, S, T
Casting Time: 1 round
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target: One corporeal creature
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Refl partial, Will partial (see text)
Spell Resistance: Yes (see text)

This potent spell grips and immobilizes the target with herculean forces, skyrocketing the unfortunate victim to the nightly skies and throwing him against the world’s nearest moon (if there is more than one). The target is transported instantly, at an amazing speed, yet reaches his destination intact, falling in the lunar realms for 20d6 points of falling damage.

Tuness’s lunatic catapultation not always kill the target and, in fact, its original purpose was to punish and exile troublesome adversaries of the legendary Archwizardress Tuness of Yad. The caster can choose, at the moment of casting, to deliver the target alive to the moon. In this case, all the damage suffered is nonlethal.

A target of Tuness’s lunatic catapultation can attempt a Reflexes saving throw to evade the force grip that forms around him. If he succeeds, the eldritch energy fails to trap him, but the target falls prone. If the target has abilities like Evasion, he keeps standing.

Failing the Reflexes save means that the target is now caught by Tuness’s lunatic catapultation. However, before being catapulted sky high, the target can immediately attempt a Will saving throw to break the dweomer’s power. If he succeeds, he’s launched just 30 ft. high, before being dropped at the caster’s next turn (and usually suffering 10d6 points of falling damage).

Tuness’s lunatic catapultation doesn’t work on cats and feline creatures (including feline humanoids, weretigers, rakshasas with tiger heads and creatures polymorphed in cats).

Time component: Tuness’s lunatic catapultation can only be cast at night, under a visible full moon. The dweomer can only be cast once per night.

Power component: You can use as an optional material components one ioun stone (inferior stones won’t do), a moon dog’s head and a piece of the target (hair or blood usually). If you use this 3 material components at the moment of casting, the spell can only be resisted by the target’s Spell Resistance (if any).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Weird Arcana - Turjan's Inverted Largeness (New Spell)

I blame this one on Songs of the Dying Earth (yeah, it's a recommendation!).

Turjan’s Inverted Largeness
Level: Sorcerer/Wizard 3, Witch 3
Components: V, S, M (a pinch of powdered dragonfly wings)
Casting Time: 1 round
Range: Touch
Target: One corporeal Medium size creature (see text)
Duration: 1 minute/level
Saving Throw: Fortitude negates
Spell Resistance: Yes

This old spell causes instant diminution of the target until it stands barely a ½-foot tall (Tiny size). The target must be a corporeal creature of medium or bigger size. If used against creatures of Medium size, the dweomer affects one additional target for every four caster levels. The target suffers all the bonus, penalties and stat modifications resulted from being miniaturized to Tiny size.

For unknown reasons, Turjan’s inverted largeness carries two secondary effects. First, all targets acquire DR 5/cold iron, which may indicate that Turjan of Miir learned this dweomer from fey. Second (and most inexplicable) – the caster is incapable of killing any affected target, for the dweomer’s duration, unless he succeeds at a Will saving throw (DC 25). He also won’t allow any other creature to kill the targets. This side-effect – most sages explain – indicates without a doubt that Turjan learned the spell from fey (who else would enjoy such useless aspect?).

Turjan’s inverted largeness doesn’t work on constructs, fey or outsiders.

Turjan’s inverted largeness counters and dispels enlarge person. Targets under the effect of Turjan’s inverted largeness are immune to reduce person.

Turjan’s inverted largeness can be made permanent with a permanency spell.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My paladins are Jedi!

Writing the last Worldbuilding post sparked a crazy idea for my Chronicles of the 7th Moon game.

One of the PCs with most impact in the entire campaign so far was Hilguen, the aasimar paladin servant of the Veiled Lords (the setting’s seven unique solars). When Hilguen was created I made this celestial-sponsored religion based upon a utopian city-spaceship that travelled through the solar system of the campaign setting.

Paladins raised in that culture were truly enlightened and presented a perfect excuse for the contemporary Code of Conduct described briefly in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook and detailed in the Book of Exalted Deeds. The 7th Moon (Isaldar) was a world still stepped in “older” ethos and codes of honors, without our modern ideals of justice, order and equality.

The initial idea was that Veiled Lords paladins were just another type of paladin, with every lawful good religion on Isaldar having its own holy warriors. However, after watching my friend’s roleplay of Hilguen I became tempted to change the above assumption. “Holy warriors” are now represented solely by multiclass clerics, a few rare prestige classes and – most of the time – by the cavalier class. Paladins sort of reverted to their AD&D 2nd status (i.e. “guys with Charisma 17 are rare”) – they’re special and unique, forced to face the entire world to validate their strange points of view. They also promote an idyllic and naïve style of justice, alien to the game setting (literally).

What about the “Jedi” part? Well, now they are actually from space! Space paladins are cool and are the closer thing to a Jedi that I can think of. After all, they’re guardians of justice and peace – indeed Jedi (and now I’m really tempted to change a few class features and mix some monk or psychic warrior abilities on my new paladins).

May the Force be with you!

Worldbuilding: Classes limited by race as a feature, not a bug

I few years ago, during the 3rd Edition’s heights, I created a new race for a brazilian site and the Chronicles of the Seventh Moon setting. This new race was my take on the half-dwarf theme. I created it to be the antithesis of the setting’s half-elves.

Half-elves of the 7th Moon are innate sorcerers (and usually insanely powerful), thus half-dwarves are the anti-magic race. Because of this trait I restricted their access to spellcasting classes (although they still could be psionics). At the time, my choice was criticized by some of the most frequent posters as “bad design” solely because of class limitation – the concept of an anti-magic race in itself was never mentioned or even discussed. The word “limitation” was synonymous with “broken mechanic” for most players of the D&D 3rd Edition era.

What irks me immensely is that people seemed to have forgotten the game’s history and the reasons behind most choices taken by the 3rd Edition creators. Before its release, when all we had was just a small number of previews, I remembered reading at DRAGON that class limitations were removed to allow the DMs a greater control of their games (and home settings). The same idea was used – originally – for prestige classes: they were optional classes established by the DM to adjust and highlight unique elements of his campaign setting.

It’s funny to see how both principles were distorted. A few years after the 3rd Edition’s release, if you created a race restricted to a few classes, you’re automatically “wrong”; if you banned prestige classes (or removed a few) you’re removing a player’s “liberty of gaming” (whatever that means) and, theoretically, the fun of the game. That’s ridiculous.

As I mentioned in previous posts, if there’s something that I learned from settings like Dragonlance, Dark Sun and Birthright is that it is exactly their limitations (and the reasons behind them) that add flavor to the game.

What the 3rd Edition finally gave us was the (unnecessary) permission to tinker with the traditional notions of races and classes whenever we liked; and that’s a design principle that I think few people noted. Instead, they defended – fanatically – a full liberty of choice in character creation without any consistence excuse besides (99% of the time) character optimization. The result is the usual “freak show” adventuring parties of D&D 3.0 and later (and much worse) 3.5 – characters half-fiend/half-dragon/one-quarter aberrant that better fitted World of Synnabar than D&D*.

Anyway, I mentioned all of the above because restricting character class access through race can be a strong design tool. Imagine if only humans and half-humans could be divine casters? (Like in O&D). What if the gods were really a human invention? What were the metaphysical consequences of that? How would your world work if only elves (and half-elves) were true wizards, with humans being sorcerers and following tyrannical outsider-bound empires? Maybe a few elven-trained human wizards could exist. These rare arcanists could be something almost like the Istari – lone servants of the bright and hidden elven realms, preaching that the world could be more than iron and blood. Or you could establish that the only way for humans to learn magic was through sinister or taxing allegiances. For example, you could create “the Three Harrows” – legendary lich-kings that demanded obedience from their “black mages” and fought against the sorcerer-kings of the human realms. These undead sovereigns probably wouldn’t like elves either. As you can see, restricting and customizing class access can create an easy source of conflict and, consequently, of drama.

You can always go further. Perhaps bards are actually a secret brotherhood of the western lands, with access to knowledge and maybe diplomatic immunity from nobles (almost like the maesters from A Song of Ice and Fire). A more drastic change would be to limit bards to maybe just halflings or gnomes, but creating a tradition where bards are seem as inoffensive and harmless “false magicians” and so are usually greeted with open arms (and free food and shelter) – more important, monster races would rarely rarely kill bards (they’re more useful telling jokes and playing the fool for their barbarian overlord’s “courts”). You could even establish that few outside the halflings and gnomes communities knew that bards were true spellcasters. There’re plenty of roleplay opportunities here.

If you’re running a freeform campaign, then, by all means, hear your players and ask their opinions on such topics. In my Chronicle of the Seventh Moon game, the idea of an anti-magical metal alloy and the entire role of Archmages (and their mythical demesne, the Tower of Impossibilities) were created by players’ contributions.

You can also go the other way: instead of limiting classes, limit the races themselves. This is what we call these days “reskinning”. Imagine if orcs were not a true race, but humans and half-humans captured by a dark lord (or our Three Harrows from the example above) and forced to drink a dreadful alchemical formula that transformed them into monsters and removed any arcane spellcasting ability. Again, there’re plenty of roleplay opportunities for this type of characters (especially if that orc barbarian PC was once a great royal wizard).

I used a similar approach with gnomes for a home setting that my gaming group once tried to create (the project unfortunately didn’t go far). In this shared world gnomes were really fey and alien beings (almost like the gnomes of Golarion). They couldn’t reproduce without using magic and children stolen from other races (the famous changeling myth). This small change gave a very creepy look to our gnomes.

Stealing now from James Maliszewski’s awesome Dwimmermount – in this OD&D setting dwarves are literally carved from stone by other dwarves and granted life. There’s even an implication that a might eldritch empire of old could “manufacture” dwarves.

Well, that’s it for now. Tinkering with a race and classes is almost as fun for me as tinkering with its mechanics. I hope this article inspired you to surprise your players.

*Please, don’t take this as a criticism. I love gonzo-style games (especially after reading Encounter Critical), my problem is that most D&D players created those abominations thinking about playing “serious”.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Weird Arcana - Playing with the Forge

Continuing with our Forge-based posts, here’s a small sample of new Weird Arcana.

Even’s Mechanical Tooth
Conjuration (Summoning)
Level: Sorcerer/Wizard 2, Summoner 2
Components: V, S, F (iron tooth)
Casting Time: 1 round
Range: 30 ft. (see text)
Effect: Summons a mechanical jaw
Duration: Concentration (maximum 1 minute/level)
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No

Summons a mechanical contraption similar in shape to a giant adamantine jaw that mimics the caster’s moth movements (use the headman’s scythe stats). While it can be used to attack (it ignores Hardness) its main use is to burrow through soil, solid rock or even worked stone structures. Even’s mechanical tooth takes one minute to dig a 3-ft. cube. It’s very noisy and indiscreet.

To control Even’s mechanical tooth the caster must make likewise movements with his mouth. This means that if the caster attempts to speak or to cast another dweomer, he must make a Concentration check (DC 25) or Even’s mechanical tooth is instantly dismissed.

The fact that this dweomer summons a jaw and not a tooth is traditionally used as an example of Even’s rudimentary grammar skills and thus uncouth manners.

Rune Dimension
Level: Bard 2, Sorcerer/Wizard 2, Witch 2
Components: V, S, M (fey blood and ashes from a burned grimoire or scroll)
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Touch
Target: One or two Medium (or smaller) creatures or a Large one (see text)
Duration: 10 minutes/level
Saving Throw: See text
Spell Resistance: See text

This spell places one creature inside a rune written on paper or carved on a non-magical large or smaller object. If used on willing targets rune dimension can host two medium or one large creature (even the caster himself). If the target is the caster, rune dimension creates a stylized version of the caster’s face that can “talk” to whomever is holding the object.  This “conversation” is actually in written form, with everything that the runified caster speaks appearing as text on the object’s surface. Characters can see and hear normally.

Ssef’s Whisper Bank
Level: Bard 3, Sorcerer/Wizard 3, Witch 3
Components: V, S, F (snail shell worn/carried by a dead spy)
Casting Time: 10 minutes
Area: One room or 30-ft. radius area
Effect: Hear past conversations
Duration: 10 minutes/level
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No

This clever dweomer allows the caster (and him alone) to listen to any past conversation that took place in a particular room or area. Only voices can be heard, no other sensory data is supplied. Voices heard are all monotone, emotionless and asexual, which may offer some difficulties if the caster doesn’t know who’s talking to who.

Ssef’s whisper bank’s divining proprieties replays all past conversations in order from the most recent to the oldest until it reaches its maximum duration, counted backwards. Imagine, for example, that a specific chamber was visited 60 minutes ago by a group of Deodands, then, 30 minutes ago, by two wererats, and finally, just 5 minutes ago, by three assassins. A 5th level wizard casting Ssef’s whisper bank (maximum duration of 50 minutes) would listen, first, to the assassins and later to the wererats conversations, but he wouldn’t know about the Deodands.

Horshnea’s Sinister Union
Transmutation [Evil]
Level: Sorcerer/Wizard 5, Witch 5
Components: V, S, M (angel’s feather burned)
Casting Time: 1 round
Range: Touch
Target: One non-outsider living and corporeal creature with Int 4 or more
Duration: 1 round/level
Saving Throw: Will negates
Spell Resistance: Yes

This sinister dweomers imbues the target with the potency of the netherplanes. If the target is willing or fails his saving throw, he gains the half-fiend template for the duration of the spell.

While undoubtedly a powerful dweomer, it carries dire consequences. First, at the spell’s end the target must make a successful Will saving throw or be trapped in a random lower plane for the next 24 hours. If he succeeds, then the caster must also roll or suffer that fate. If Horshnea’s Sinister Union is cast a second time in the next 24 hours, the target and the caster suffer a -4 penalty on this save throw and must roll twice – at the first round of the spell and after its end. This backlash is inevitable and can’t be averted by effects like dimensional anchor, unless from artifact and deity (or epic) level sources.

Either way, after Horshnea’s Sinister Union expires, both the caster and the affected target are tainted and, for the next 24 hours, read as evil outsiders for the purpose of spells and other effects.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bestiarum vocabulum - Playing with the Forge

Most of you must have heard about the Forge - a very nice and flavorful name generator for fantasy worlds, spells and monsters. Zak, from Playing D&D With Porn Stars, used to create some intereseting creatures a few months ago. My (very delayed) turn...

Snow Sneak Wraith: These are air elementals that have two bizarre passions - their love of sculptures and of their otherwordly taste for fear and dread. Being almost invisible in snow, these wicked elements usually sneak behind their victims and freeze them in horror stricken forms. Use the invisible stalker, but add the cold subtype and a touch attack that deals 1d4 Dex damage (cold-based). Finally, add a frightening gaze attack (when using this gaze at a victim, as an attack action, only the alien three ice-cold eyes of the snow sneak wraith is visible).

Marble Collar Lily: This is a CR 1 hazard. A pearl white lily of incredible beauty, common to deserts, famous for its strange propriety of cooling down the temperate around the place where it grows.  If any character sleeps close to a marble collar lily, he awakens with the plant deattached from ground and entangled around his neck. The plant inserts a weak hypnotic suggestion (Will DC 10) that commands the victim to follow in a certain direction. If the target doesn’t complain to it, it instantly begins to suffocate. The lily is extremely hard and difficult to break (DR 10/adamantine, 20 hps), besides being immune to fire, electricity and cold. All lilies try to guide their victims to caverns that lead to deep and cold caves – and the flower’s gug masters.

Bile Petal Medusa: This beautiful and rare medusa is the cursed offspring of a medusa and a mad druid. Its hair doesn’t possess snakes but moving moss-green flowers that undulate like vipers. The medusa’s gaze doesn’t petrify but slowly changes the target to a human-like tree (or of whatever shape the original target is). Every time the target fails its save against the Bile Petal Medusa’s gaze he suffers 2d6 points of Charisma damage. When he hits 0, he turn to a tree and is considered cursed (if the target loses more than ½ its original Charisma the GM is invited to describe small cosmetic transformations into a plant-like creature). The Bile Petal Medusa doesn’t possess snakes and can’t make bite attacks, but she can spit acid with its flowers, once per round, as a swift action, against a maximum of 3 different targets. Treat these as ranged attacks as rays that deals 2d4 acid damage each. The Bile Petal Medusa is immune to acid and possess CR 6.

Demon-form Eagle: A local plain or similar region is plagued by a horrible eagle-like bird with ugly red feathers and golden cat-like eyes. They’re called miser vultures because of their behavior of fighting to the death for even the tiniest scrap of carcass and for their suicidal taste for humanoids eyes. They’re capable of following travelers for days, shrieking and throwing feces in an attempt to tire their (future) victims. Although they’re such plague and nuisance, the local humanoid tribes have a strong taboo against attacking a nuch’arawang or “demon-form eagle”, as they’re know to the natives.  Legends speak of a cruel and lonely archwizard that lived centuries ago on the plains and – for obscure reasons – took a liking to those abject birds. In order to guarantee their survival the archwizard summoned two or three scores of lesser demons and bound them to nuch’arawang shapes, ordering them to mimic the bird’s behavior. If attacked, these demons were granted permission to kill and devour their victims. Because of the numerous incidents in later years, the natives soon started to evade the birds, considering them “creatures of the gods”, beyond the touch of mortals (as far as its know, that was the most “selfless” act ever perfected by that dreadful arcanist). Use demon stats of your choice, maybe suited (or not) to your party’s level. I recommended vrocks.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kobolds into the New World

While you can argue that the Midgard campaign setting is in itself an entire new world, this news is about something a little more specific – Open Design’s new Kickstarter projectJourneys to the West: Fantastic Voyages in the Western Ocean”.

Designed by Christina Stiles (of Faery's Tale) for Pathfinder, this six-adventure anthology for levels 1 to 12, starts in Barsella, the City at the Edge of the world, home of adventurers and pirates, exploring the vast, uncharted waters of the Midgard campaign setting’s Western Ocean.  

The Kickstarter project my sounds something inspired by the Conquistadores, but the anthology’s premises really ring an Odyssey bell with me, check it out:

Discover the lush paradise known as the Isle of Morphoi, where the goddess of Memory seeks lost secrets through her network of cunning lamias and the shapeshifting morphoi. Encounter lost civilizations and their hidden colonies; explore mysterious fog-shrouded islands populated by sharp-toothed, scarred natives; battle epic leviathans of the deep that are rumored to crush villages or swallow whole ships; and gain priceless and unusual treasures!

Good tidings, one little hazard and one new holy rite

Even though until last Tuesday I enjoyed a long holyday here in Brazil I also came back to work yesterday completely fatigued (actually exhausted would be a better condition, as I doubt that either my Strength or Dexterity scores are above 6 right now). The cause, however, is an excellent one, because this lonely GM bought his first level at a very tough class – the Husband prestige class –; all thanks to Mandy, whose support, patience and kindness to this tyrannical and cranky gamer I can’t properly express in words.  Our wedding ceremony was a simple one, but I wouldn’t want it any other way (Thank you, my love!).

Now, dealing with more practical issues (and no, I don’t intent to change this demesne’s appellation), I’m facing some technical problems of late with my eldritch devices; apparently my computer got hit by a gremlin assault of high CR… I’m using my cousin’s PC to post right now, so don’t mind if I get a little erratically with new articles.

Finally, a new divine spell.

Rite of Heavenly Pledge
Level: Cleric/oracle 3, paladin 3
Components: V, S, M, DF, L, T
Casting Time: 24 hours (see text)
Range: Touch
Effect: Binds two willing living creatures
Duration: Permanent
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No (see Text)
Rite of heavenly pledge sanctifies and binds the union of two willing creatures before the presence of the gods (or, at least, of those deities devoted to law, love, family and/or trust). Oddly, this lengthy ritual is never granted to a divine spellcaster through prayer and must be learned through study; it's usually written in Celestial (or other otherworldly language) and kept in sacred holy tomes.
Rite of heavenly pledge is usually cast in a holy and hidden chamber, where the targets and the divine caster are secluded and guarded from outside interference.
After being united by a rite of heavenly pledge, the two targets are seen as one before the gods, bound mystically.
First, they can always feel their direction in relation to each other, if on the same plane. They also have a strong empathic bond and can feel if the other is in paying, torment or any strong emotions. As a consequence, the targets have a +2 bonus on Sense Motive bonus against each other. Also, if they’re watching their beloved suffering such agony and distress, they gain a +1 morale bonus to any check made to directly rescue or save them from it. The targets of rite of heavenly pledge can treat each other as familiars for the effect of spells (allowing one target to the gain the benefits of spells cast by the other, if within 5 feet, even personal spells).
Rite of heavenly pledge can only be dispelled by break enchantment, limited wish, miracle or wish and is suspended if one of the targets dies.
Finally, there’s a third and special way for this holy spell to be broken. If one of the targets betray the trust of the pledge to the other in a strong or traumatic way (GM’s call), then this spell can be dispelled as a full-round action that automatically inflicts a bestow curse on the betrayer (no saves, although SR does apply). If one target kills another, the dead one has a much higher chance of returning as a vengeful ghost (or other similar undead).
One dangerous side-effect of rite of heavenly pledge is that if a spellcaster has access to one of the targets, he can use spells like scrying on the other (for example, as if he had a piece of the second target’s hair).
It is said among the various cults and temples aware of this ritual that if, somehow, both targets act with treachery against each other to break this pledge, they’ll be cursed by the gods (some legends even hint that creatures like lamias or lycanthropes may have originated from this old spell).
Rite of heavenly pledge is practically unknown today in most of the know world. Sages believe that the spell’s harsh requirements and severe backlash caused many troubles among human and elven nobilities (politics as usual).
Each creature can only benefit from the casting of rite of heavenly pledge once in their lives (unless the spell was originally removed by force from the targets).

Material Component: diamond dust worth 1.111 gp is sprinkled over holy water and drunk by the targets after pledging their vows.
Local Component: rite of heavenly pledge is can only be cast inside a secluded chamber of a temple dedicated to the caster’s deity with hallow spell.
Time Component: rite of heavenly pledge is can only be cast in a holyday of the patron deity.

This spell was (also) inspired in two other sources: a ritual spell from the excellent 3.0 Edition supplement Relics & Rituals and the great mini-mythology surrounding fire and marriage in the movie Krull. I was always a fan of settings that take the most common rites (like marriage, baptism and even funerals) and give to them supernatural effects in the campaign setting (like Kalamar's great rules for "divine right" for kings and dynastic rulers).