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Day 4: Carols

College of Cheer and Good Tidings
Bards associated with the College of Cheer and Good Tidings celebrate joyous events and help others celebrate those events as well. These festive bards sing folk songs, carols, birthday ditties, and so on, performing in homes, around campfires, in taverns, in royal courts.

When times turn troubled and situations become dire, bards of the College of Cheer and Good Tidings go out among the stricken to help bolster spirits, to encourage the frightened, and to bring light-heartedness to darkened places.

Bonus Proficiencies
At 3rd level, you become proficient with Athletics, Religion, and Vehicles (land). You add double your proficiency bonus to Athletics and Vehicles (land) when the activity involves ice or snow.

Enliven the Spirit
Also at 3rd level, when you use your Song of Rest to help revitalize wounded allies during a short rest, those allies regain extra hit points as normal, but they also gain inspiration.

Unavoidable Sing-Along
At 6th level, you can perform a catchy rendition of a popular tune. Each enemy within 30 feet of you that can hear your performance must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature becomes charmed for a duration equal to concentration, up to 1 minute. While charmed, the creature does its best to sing along with you. The charm ends for an affected creature if it takes any damage or if someone else uses an action to shake the creature of its musical reverie. This feature expends one of your uses of Bardic Inspiration.

Indefatigble Soul
At 14th level, your joie de vivre reaches its highest level. You have advantage on ability checks, skill checks, and saving throws against effects that control or manipulate your mind or emotions. When you use Charisma (Persuasion) to influence a creature, you double your proficiency bonus so long as the creature can understand you and what you’re persuading the creature to do involves cheer and good will.

December 4th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

Day 3: Bells

Far to the east in the rugged mountains of an uncivilized land, jungle tribes of humans live in simple villages, growing rice, peas, sugarcane, and spices, some of which find their way into civilized markets, brought by ships or caravans. Centuries ago, this land of rice and spices was ruled by belligerent princes, the sons of a great king who in his twilight years divided his land and turned his mind toward heavenly things. This king reckoned that he could secure a place in the Upper Planes by honoring the gods of those planes, something he had failed to do throughout his life.

And so the king commissioned foreign bell founders to cast an enormous bell that would sound on the anniversary of his death. He sent out soldiers to his provinces and rounded up hundreds of able-bodied men who, under threat of torture and mutilation, set to the task of building a great mausoleum and temple. In its former capacity, it would hold the king’s body, his most valued possessions, and two score specially chosen servants and wives who would be interred alive with their monarch. In its latter capacity as temple, it would honor the deeds of the gods of the Upper Planes, serving as a place of pilgrimage for the faithful. Thus, the gods would be pleased with the king and grant him a place among their ranks.

The bell was completed first and installed some three hundred yards to the east of the mausoleum-temple. By this time, slaves had labored for a nearly a decade on the first floor and crypts of the king’s grand folly. The suffering of the slaves was a blight upon the land, and the costs of the bell and the construction threatened to bankrupt the kingdom. The people murmured against the king, and the king’s sons met to discuss what to do.

First, the princes’ spies confirmed the rumors of the king’s madness. The gods, far from pleased with the king’s arrogance, touched his mind, stirring up obsessive thoughts about ever more elaborate ways to please the heavens. Dozens of bizarre rituals consumed the king’s waking hours. He had to eat three eggs every morning as the sun rose, eating each one facing a different direction, but never facing the west. He wore mismatched boots. Every other door in his palace had to be bolted, and every other window was left unshuttered.

When an earthquake struck the region of the mausoleum-temple, a falling tree hit the bell, causing it to sound. The facade of the mausoleum-temple cracked. The princes seized upon this event, convincing their deranged father that the gods were displeased with his wasteful ways. Construction was halted, and those men who survived the years of hard labor returned to their homes.

A few days after construction was halted, guards burst into the king’s bedchambers and murdered him. The princes interred his body according to the king’s instructions, selecting several of their enemies to serve their father in the next life. In short order, the princes took to squabbling and then warring among themselves. Civil war destroyed the kingdom. The jungle reclaimed much of the land. The king’s bell and unfinished mausoleum-temple remain. The jungle tribes know the place is cursed, and they avoid it entirely. Their elders believe that the king’s bell will sound again, heralding the dead king’s return.

Whatever sleeps in the mausoleum-temple possesses great power and greater evil. Its presence has twisted the environment within and around the mausoleum-temple.

Lair Actions

When the dead king fights inside his lair, he can invoke the ambient magic to take lair actions. On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), the dead king takes a lair action to cause one of the following effects:

* The dead king calls forth the angry spirits of those who died building his lair. The spirits attack one creature that the dead king can see within 60 feet of him. The target must succeed on a DC 16 Strength saving throw, taking 36 (8d6) necrotic damage and being dragged 120 (7d6 x 5) feet away from the dead king on a failed save. On a success, the target takes half as much damage and is not dragged away by the wailing cloud of spirits.

* The dead king’s undead servants within the lair act as the dead king’s eyes, ears, and voice. As a lair action, the dead king can bolster one of his undead servants by having it act as his proxy until initiative count 20 of the next round. The bolstered undead makes attacks and saving throws with advantage, and it gains 14 (4d6) temporary hit points. The temporary hit points fade after the dead king stops using the undead creature as his proxy.

* The dead king warps the structure of his lair at will. He chooses one creature he can see within 60 feet. The target must succeed on a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw to avoid being entombed, surrounded by stone walls (as per wall of stone).

Regional Effects

The region containing the mausoleum-temple is profaned by the dead king’s evil, which creates one or more of the following effects:

* Giant spiders and monstrous insects infest the region. These creatures act as the dead king’s eyes and ears if they are within a 1 mile radius of the dead king’s lair.

* Within the 1 mile radius of the dead king’s lair in which giant spiders and monstrous insects act as the dead king’s eyes and ears, the jungle assumes a hostile quality as well, making it easier for the dead king’s eyes and ears to move unseen and unheard. Giant spiders and monstrous insects within 1 mile of the dead king’s lair make Dexterity (Stealth) checks with advantage.

* The jungle shifts and twists within a 6 mile radius of the dead king’s tomb. Trespassers in the area always treat the jungle as at least a lightly obscured area, which imposes disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight. Wisdom (Survival) checks to avoid getting lost or to follow the tracks of another creature are made with disadvantage.

If the dead king is destroyed, the supernatural link between him and the giant spiders and monstrous insects breaks immediately. These creatures lose the ability to make Dexterity (Stealth) checks with advantage as well. Within 3d10 days, the jungle around the dead king’s lair ceases to shift and twist.

December 3rd, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

December 2: Cinnamon

Since at least 20 centuries before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, people have used cinnamon. It was a gift fit for a king or even a god. Its sources in places like India were carefully guarded secrets, and cinnamon growers exported this valuable spice via merchants who had no hand in the spice’s growth and harvesting. Wikipedia claims that Herodotus wrote that cinnamon sources were guarded by winged serpents, but Wikipedia errs. It is frankincense that is guarded by winged serpents, as Herodotus makes clear by writing, “For the trees which bear the frankincense are guarded by winged serpents, small in size, and of varied colours, whereof vast numbers hang about every tree.”

Herodotus notes that Arabian merchants cannot say where cinnamon comes from or from what tree the spice originates. “Where the wood grows, and what country produces it, they cannot tell”. Herodotus relates that cinnamon’s origin might be Phrygia. The cinnamon sticks are harvested only after large birds have used those sticks to make their nests. The nests “are fastened with a sort of mud to a sheer face of rock, where no foot of man is able to climb. So the Arabians, to get the cinnamon, use the following artifice. They cut all the oxen and asses and beasts of burden that die in their land into large pieces, which they carry with them into those regions”. The merchants then “withdraw to a distance, and the old birds, swooping down, seize the pieces of meat and fly with them up to their nests; which, not being able to support the weight, break off and fall to the ground. Hereupon the Arabians return and collect the cinnamon, which is afterwards carried from Arabia into other countries.”

So, to sum up, somewhere cinnamon trees grow. The location of those trees is a secret guarded by cinnamon growers. Cinnamon sticks are presumably cut and left to dry during the harvest season. At this time, large birds take the sticks to build nests on sheer cliffs. The middlemen cinnamon merchants lay out fresh meat beneath the cliffs. The large birds swoops down, carry the meat back to their nests, but the nests cannot support the meat’s weight. The nests fall and break, and the merchants collect the cinnamon sticks.

No wonder cinnamon was so valuable!

Pliny the Elder says in The Natural History that cinnamon cost 10 denarii per pound, but that price is controlled by a single monarch who restricts the supply in order to inflate the price, which once caused cinnamon to sell for 1500 denarii per pound, although this extreme inflation may have been the work of barbarians who burned the cinnamon forests or due to “the south winds that prevail in these parts [that] are sometimes so hot as to set the forests on fire.”

Fixing the relative value of ancient units of currency is tricky. During the period of the Roman Republic (approximately 509-27 B.C.), a legionary was paid about 0.3 to 0.6 denarius per day, but he probably had pay for his own food. In other words, using Pliny’s lowball price for cinnamon, one pound of the spice would cost about a legionary’s entire month’s pay. The 1E DMG sets the salary for a heavy footman as 2 gp a month; therefore, a pound of cinnamon costs 2 gp, which is what the 5E PH sets the price at on the Trade Goods table.

Unfortunately, inflation has ruined the cinnamon market in 5E. Maintaining a modest lifestyle costs 2 gp per day, which is twice what an unskilled worker made per month in 1E. According to the 5E PH, soldiers are among those who live modest lifestyles. This means a soldier makes 60 gp per month, which is 30 times what he made in 1E. It only seems fair in keeping with cinnamon’s history that the spice’s price should increase as well. In 1E, a pound of cinnamon costs 2 gp. In 5E, due to edition inflation, that same pound of cinnamon costs 60 gp.

Also, about those birds: Here’s the cinnamologus for you to use.

1E Stats
Frequency: Rare
No. Appearing: 2-12
Armor Class: 7
Move: 6″//24″
Hit Dice: 3
% in Lair: 75%
Treasure Type: Nil
No. of Attacks: 3
Damage/Attack: 1-4/1-4/2-8
Special Attacks: Dive attack
Special Defenses: Eyesight
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Animal
Alignment: Neutral
Size: M (4′ tall, 12′ wingspan)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defens Modes: Nil
Level/XP Value: III/65 XP + 3 XP/hp

Cinnamologi build their nests out of cinnanom sticks, adhering these nests to cliff walls with a mixture of mud and grass. Their eyesight is such that they are never surprised unless encountered in their lair or at night. If they attack by diving 50 or more feet, they add +4 to hit probability, do double claw damage (2-8/2-8), but get no beak attack. They can carry up to 1000 gold pieces at half speed.

Cinnamologi are aggressive raptors that prey on a variety of animals smaller than they. These birds also scavenge carrion. If a nest holds young (25%) or eggs (50%), cinnamologi attack any creature that approaches too close. There will be 1-4 young or eggs per nest, and one nest per pair of cinnamologi. The nest of cinnamologus weighs about 500 pounds, and roughly half of that weight is cinnamon sticks.

5E Stats
Medium beast, unaligned

Armor Class 13
Hit Points 55 (10d8+10)
Speed 15 ft., fly 60 ft.
Ability Scores STR 12 (+1), DEX 17 (+3), CON 12 (+1), INT 2 (-4), WIS 14 (+2), CHA 8 (-1)
Skills Perception +4
Senses passive Perception 14
Languages
Challenge 1 (200 XP)

Keen Sight: The cinnamologus has advantage of Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.

Dive: If the cinnamologus moves at least 50 ft. in a straight line toward a target and then hits it with its talons attack on the same turn, the target takes an extra 8 (2d6+1) slashing damage. If the target is a creature not larger than the cinnamologus, the target must succeed on a DC 13 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

Actions

* Multiattack: The cinnamologus makes two attacks: one with its talons and one with its beak.

* Talons: Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (2d6+1) slashing damage.

* Beak: Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d8+1) slashing damage.

December 2nd, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

December 1: Wait

Over in the OSR Google group, Iacopo Maffi suggested folks create an OSR Christmas calendar. He also suggested a specific theme for each day. Here’s my first day, presented in both 1E and 5E flavors.

In the woods not too far from the village? Strange happenings. Animals are more skittish, and no one has heard birdsong for at least a fortnight. Nights seem darker, colder. Animals are more skittish, and no one has heard birdsong for at least a fortnight. On the nights of the full moon, an impossible metal tower rises among the trees. A monstrous women dwells in the tower. What does she look like? Who knows? We know she’s there. Everyone has heard her hellish screams echoing in the tower’s bulbous superstructure. Those brave enough to approach the tower during the night when the moon is full have heard pounding and scratching, trying to break free. What are we doing about it? We’re farmers and herders. What can we but wait?

Rapunzhel is the tormented revenant of a young woman drowned in a water tower due to a cruel prank perpetrated by several of her classmates in the 1960s in a small town in southern Georgia. The water tower became unmoored from any specific reality, and now it shifts from world to world, seemingly at random. The tower always appears near a rural community of modest size. It remains for several months, but only becomes visible and material during the nights of the full moon. Most nights, Rapunzhel remains trapped in the tower, raging against her fate and her captivity. She always manages to escape, however, and, driven by her mad rage, she fills the night with blood and horror. When dawn breaks after her rampage, she and the tower vanish, shifting to another world.

Rapunzhel is a water-bloated corpse, moist and rotting. Her white hair writhes and flails, twisting and stretching and seeking. Her weeping eyes blaze with feral hatred.

1E Stats
Frequency: Very rare (unique?)
No. Appearing: 1
Armor Class: 5
Move: 15″//15″
Hit Dice: 8
% in Lair: 90%
Treasure Type: Nil
No. of Attacks: 2 + special
Damage/Attack: 1-6/1-6 + special
Special Attacks: Entangle
Special Defenses: See below
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Neutral evil
Size: M (5-1/2′ tall)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defens Modes: Nil
Level/XP Value: VII/1,075 XP + 10 XP/hp

Rapunzhel attacks with her talons and her wildly flailing hair has grown to impossible lengths in her undeath. Her hair attacks up to 1d4 medium-sized targets within 10 feet. A small-sized target counts as 1/2 a target, and a large-sized target counts as two targets, et cetera. Targets struck by her hair must make a saving throw versus paralyzation or become entangled in a mass of squirming, constricting hair. One per round on its turn, an entangled target may attempt to escape the hair by making a successful bend bars/lift gates check; otherwise, the target takes 1d4 points of damage from constriction. A creature not entangled in hair may use an edged weapon to cut the hair, which is AC 5 and takes 8 hit points to cut through; all hit points must be inflicted by same creature.

Rapunzhel cannot be harmed by nonmagical weapons. Once per round, when she is missed by a melee attack, Rapunzhel may immediately teleport without error to another spot she can see that is no farther than 9″ away. Being undead, she is immune to sleep, charm, poison, and effects that require a living target. She swims quickly and easily, and she has no need to breathe. Rapunzhel can be turned as if she were a vampire.

5E Stats
Medium undead, neutral evil

Armor Class 15 (natural armor)
Hit Points 127 (15d8+60)
Speed 40 ft., swim 40 ft.
Ability Scores STR 18 (+4), DEX 16 (+3), CON 18 (+4), INT 10 (+0), WIS 15 (+2), CHA 13 (+1)
Saving Throws Dex +6, Wis +5
Damage Immunities necrotic, poison; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, poison
Senses darkvision 90 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages English
Challenge 7 (2,900 XP)

Actions

* Multiattack: Rapunzhel makes three attacks: twice with her claws and once with her hair.

* Claws: Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6+4) slashing damage and 7 (2d6) necrotic damage.

* Hair: Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (2d4+4) bludgeoning damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 15). Until this grapple ends, the creature is restrained. Rapunzhel’s hair continues to constrict each grappled target once per round at the end of Rapunzhel’s turn for 1 minute or until the target escapes.

Reactions

* Defensive Teleport: Once per round, when a creature misses Rapunzhel with a melee attack, Rapunzhel may teleport up to 20 ft. as a reaction, doing so at the end of the turn of the creature that triggered this ability.

December 1st, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

The Bunyip

Aggressive and territorial, bunyips hunt wild swamplands. Combining features of a hippo, a crocodile, and a great cat, a bunyip has a bulky body covered by thick flesh and dark fur. A bunyip’s legs are squat, ending in broad paws with webbed toes. Its stubby, wide tail is used as a rudder when it swims. At the end of its powerful neck is a fearsome head with strong jaws full of sharp teeth. The bunyip is most active at night when it uses its tremorsense to detect prey moving through the water.

Roars in the Night. Bunyips are largely solitary and territorial, and a bunyip aggressively defends its territory against other predators. A bunyip’s first line of defense against trespassers is its terrifying roar. Swamps that are home to bunyips often echo from sundown to sunrise with distant roars.

A Sudden Attack. Bunyips are ambush predators. Although not especially nimble or quiet when moving, a bunyip can lurk still and silent, often submerged, for long periods of time until suitable prey is detected. Then, the bunyip surges to attack with its powerful jaws.

Bunyip
Huge beast, unaligned

Armor Class 13 (natural armor)
Hit Points 57 (6d12+18)
Speed 25 ft., swim 50 ft.
Ability Scores STR 23 (+6), DEX 9 (-1), CON 17 (+3), INT 3 (-4), WIS 10 (+0), CHA 7 (-2)
Skills Stealth +2 (in natural habitat when motionless)
Senses tremorsense 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages
Challenge 3 (700 XP)

Ambush Predator: When motionless in its natural habitat, a bunyip is difficult to notice. Wisdom (Perception) checks to notice a hidden bunyip are made with disadvantage. If a bunyip surprises a creature and hits it with an attack during the first round of combat, the target takes an extra 11 (2d10) damage from the attack.

Hold Breath: The bunyip can hold its breath for 30 minutes.

Actions

* Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 17 (2d10+6) slashing damage.

* Roar (Recharge 5-6): The bunyip emits a terrifying roar. Each creature within 60 feet of the bunyip and able to hear the roar must make a saving throw. Each creature that fails a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw is frightened for 1 minute. A frightened creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.

November 27th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »