Posts Tagged ‘ place of power ’

Three Unusual Magic Weapons

Three new magic weapons for you to put into the hands of enemies to see if your players’ characters can earn them the hard way.

Borya’s Needle

Ornate, light, and nimble, Borya’s Needle is a +1 short sword that weighs as much as a dagger. A hit from Borya’s Needle that inflicts 5-7 points of damage on a living creature causes a slender steel needle to grow from the sword’s quillons. Upon command instead of a melee attack, the wielder may cause one or more of these needles to take flight as Magic Missiles. This remarkable blade cannot produce more than five needles per day.

Borya the Nimble was an Elven Fighter/Magic-User with a reputation for roguish and romantic exploits. Stories claim he owned several remarkable magic items, including a pocket watch that could slow time, a silken handkerchief that could alter its user’s facial features, and, of course, Borya’s Needle, the elegant rapier which bears his name. Borya finally met his match in a battle of love and wits waged against Cassia, the queen of dryads whose beauty is rumored to be so great that even a fleeting glimpse of her leads to longing, then to obsession, and finally to insanity. At Cassia’s request, Borya cast his fabled blade into the Verdant Whirlpool and then attempted to win Cassia’s love by refusing food or drink from one new moon to the next. Consequently, Borya the Nimble wasted away from hunger and thirst. The last word that passed his cracked, parched lips was the name of the dryad queen.

The Hideous Scimitar

Beautiful, inlaid with precious metals, and superbly balanced, this dread weapon was not forged for mortal hands, but instead was crafted in a cursed forge fueled by coals stolen from a hellish plane as a badge of office for a fiendish commander. Each day, for the first 10 combat turns the Hideous Scimitar is wielded in melee, it functions as a +2 scimitar. At the end of the tenth round of melee that day, the blade changes, becoming tarnished and gore-streaked no matter how well it is cleaned. For the next 10 combat turns after this change, any living, mortal creature damaged by the Hideous Scimitar must make a saving throw to avoid contracting a deadly disease (the effects of which are left to the Referee’s discretion). At the end of the twentieth round of melee fought that day with this weapon, the blade becomes even more horrible. It becomes pockmarked and scabrous, and its lesions ooze noxious fluids. For the remainder of the day after this second change, wounds inflicted by the Hideous Scimitar cannot be healed by magical means (a Remove Curse or similar effect can negate this effect).

Mortal creatures are not meant to wield the Hideous Scimitar. Each combat turn during the time the scimitar causes disease that a mortal uses this weapon, the wielder must make a saving throw or suffer 1d4+1 points of damage in the form of spontaneous gashes and bruises. During the time the scimitar causes wounds that cannot be magically healed, the wielder runs the same risk, but the damage suffered increases to 1d6+1 points per combat turn per failed saving throw. Tales claim that a mortal who dies from the baleful effects of wielding the Hideous Scimitar forfeits his soul to the infernal power that first created this weapon.

Stonebreaker

Carved from the heart of a stone brought to the Material Plane from the Plane of Elemental Earth, Stonebreaker weighs 20 pounds and must be wielded with two hands. It functions as a +3 weapon that inflicts 1d8+4 points of damage in melee (including its magical bonus). In the hands of a Dwarf, Stonebreaker‘s full might is revealed. Goblins and orcs cannot look directly at a Dwarf who wields Stonebreaker in battle, which causes those creatures to suffer a -2 penalty to attack rolls against that Dwarf. What’s more, a Dwarfish wielder of Stonebreaker inflicts double damage (2d8+8) against Chaotic giants and all sorts of earth elementals.

The fabled Blind Masons of Kadiphonek carved Stonebreaker for King Bofnar Stonedelver at the start of the War of the Boundless Vaults. Stonedelver led his companions, the dread Ironbreakers, into battle after battle against the orcs, goblins, giants, and elementals that sought to unlock the Boundless Vaults. In Stonedelver’s hands, Stonebreaker turned the tide against the vastly outnumbered Dwarfs time and time again. After days of savage battle, Stonedelver stood victorious, but he succumbed to his injuries before he could be treated. Stonedelver and Stonebreaker were buried in the Catacombs of the Kings. Centuries later, after a succession of weak and quarrelsome kings, Stonedelver’s domain fell to a new threat, and Stonebreaker reportedly fell into the hands of drow priestesses.

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May 17th, 2016  in RPG No Comments »

The Pholcids of Orgimchak

Orgimchak is an area of ancient woodland near Hasharot. It is a former royal forest that covers 2,476 hectares (which equals a bit more than 6,100 acres), and contains areas of woodland, grassland, heath, rivers, bogs, and ponds, spread lengthwise about 12 miles and being no more than 3 miles east to west at its widest point. In most places, Orgimchak is considerably narrower as it lies on a ridge between the valleys of the rivers Tizma and Choqqi.

As early as last century, Orgimchak was a valuable area for wildlife and foraging. Today, Orgimchak is accursed. Its oak, beech, and hornbeam trees produce prodigious, twisted branches so heavy that their weight often cannot be supported by the parent tree. As a result, large amounts of dead wood in the forest supports numerous rare species of fungi and invertebrates, many of which are dangerous, even deadly. Unusual numbers of rats and adders live in Orgimchak, and even the small breed of deer native to the region tends to be fiercely aggressive. Orgimchak’s boundaries include over 100 lakes and ponds. Most of these bodies of water are small but deep. The fish within these lakes and ponds are abundant, but few are considered edible by any but the most hungry. The fish from Orgimchak’s ponds and lakes have an unwholesome, greasy flavor.

The evil that infects Orgimchak took root gradually. For a time, the notorious and brutal Rihard Turvin maintained a hideout within Orgimchak. He waged a campaign of brigandage, kidnapping, and arson for months before authorities from nearby Lounoun tracked Rihard to his lair and slaughtered him and his followers. Since that day, Orgimchak has become a nexus for violent crime. No fewer than four children have been murdered and their bodies dumped in Orgimchak by at least two killers. At least nine other murder victims have been found in the forest. Most of these heinous crimes have occurred in the past decade, but the earliest murders took place more than 40 years ago. Who knows how many other bodies remain undiscovered in Orgimchak?

To this day, bandits and orcs regularly use Orgimchak as a hideout. More serious threats, such as ogres and trolls, infrequently stalk the forest, and stories of ghosts seeking either revenge against or consolation from the living have long been set in Orgimchak. Perhaps the deadliest inhabitant of this cursed forest are pholcids, a terrifying combination of giant spider and undead monster.

A pholcid is an intelligent, magical giant spider that uses a humanoid skull as a shell, exchanging one skull for another as the pholcid grows or as the skull becomes damaged. A pholcid cannot be harmed by normal weapons, and it moves with stealth and speed. It prefers to attack by surprise, most often casting its webs at its victims before closing to bite. A pholcid’s web fills an area 5 x 5 x 10 feet. This monster’s web is as strong as a Web spell, and a pholcid may project its sticky fibers 1d4 times per day.

Pholcid: HD 2; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 bite (1d4 + poison); Move 12; Save 16; AL C; CL/XP 5/240; Special: 3 in 6 chance to surprise prey, hit only by magic or silver weapons, lethal poison (+2 saving throw), webs.

May 12th, 2016  in RPG No Comments »

Grand Temple of Oevrumines

Oevrumines, the brutal Lord of Mazes, enjoys public worship in only one place in the known world, namely the accursed island kingdom of Kríti, whose corsairs prowl the seas, raiding coastal communities, attacking ships, and collecting tribute from vassals. The Grand Temple of Oevrumines sits atop the Kalokairinos, a broad and low hill that gently rises some 85 yards above the surrounding countryside.

The complex is a maze of halls and chambers staffed by a minotaurs, minotaur shamans, and dozens of slaves whose lives count for nothing to their wicked overlords. The beautiful and cruel Pasiphaë, immortal consort of Oevrumines, rules Kríti. She is the high priestess of the Lord of Mazes, and lurid tales of her cruelty and lust have terrified listeners for generations.

Those captured by the corsairs most often die so that their pain, fear, and blood can propitiate Oevrumines. These victims most often die during savage bloodsports held in the Central Court. Unarmed and unarmored, the sacrifices face fierce bulls or minotaur soldiers. Other victims are tossed into the vast, multi-level maze that twists and turns within Kalokairinos. Minotaurs and even infernal beasts prowl those subterranean corridors.

Rumor has it that the corridors and portals of the Grand Temple shift constantly, which is why no slave has ever escaped from the complex. Of course, the minotaurs and Pasiphaë have no trouble navigating the Temple’s halls and chambers. It is said that even divination magic is of no avail within the Temple, for such spells and items always yield deceptive results unless Oevrumines wishes otherwise.

Most inhabitants of Kríti live debased and fearful lives, tilling the land and fishing the coasts. The corsairs occupy positions of privilege, but the minotaurs of Kríti rank higher than all save Pasiphaë herself.

Minotaur Shamans: Treat as normal minotaurs, but add spellcasting ability equal to a 1st-, 2nd-, or 3rd-level Cleric. Increase Challenge Level/XP to 7/600. For more exceptional shamans, increase Hit Dice and perhaps add a special magical ability or two.

Pasiphaë: HD 12+12; hp 66; AC 0 [19]; Atk 1 melee weapon (1d6); Move 12; Save 3; AL C; CL/XP 18/3,800; Special: +1 or better weapon to hit, immune to paralysis and poison, magic resistance 50%, never gets lost in labyrinths, spells (equal to 12th-level Cleric)

Nota Bene: If you click on either of the first two pictures above, the image will embiggen for greater detail.

April 23rd, 2016  in RPG No Comments »

Tsar Dadon the Glorious

What follows is a retelling of The Tale of the Golden Cockerel by Alexander Pushkin. The illustration is by Ivan Bilibin, originally published in 1906.

Buyan sits in the sea more than 2,000 miles away from Ismailli, now in ruins but once a powerful city ruled by Tsar Dadon the Glorius. A strange tale of brutal ambition and cruel revenge links the Vanishing Island to that ghost-haunted place.

In his youth Tsar Dadon waged war against his neighbors, taking their lands and wealth for his own and subjugating their people, reducing thousands to a level barely on par with serfdom. For decades, Tsar Dadon ruled Ismailli and the surrounding, conquered realms. In his twilight years, after the death of his queen, the tsar set aside his war-like ways, believing Ismailli secure and feeling confident that his son, Prince Dadon, would rule one day.

But, as Tsar Dadon relaxed his iron grip, unrest spread through the conquered realms. The people nurtured deep-seated resentments against Tsar Dadon, and soon rebel armies formed. Surrounded on every side by determined enemies, Tsar Dadon grew frightened, for he never knew from which direction the next threat would come. Rumors to the west resulted in Prince Dadon leading Ismailli’s armies toward the setting sun, but then rebels struck from the east. If the armies marched to the north, rebels attacked Ismailli from the south.

“How can I defend my beloved Ismailli,” cried Tsar Dadon, “if I cannot meet the enemy on the field of battle?”

A stranger stepped from the crowd in the tsar’s court. He wore the ornate robes of an astrologer and wizard.

“O, Tsar Dadon the Glorious! Please heed my words,” the strange said, bowing low. “I am Nikto, and I alone possess the means to protect your beloved Ismailli.”

Tsar Dadon commanded Nikto to explain himself, and the wizard pulled a sack from his sleeve, and the pulled a fantastic golden cockerel from the sack. Its feathers gleamed in the sunlight spilling through the high windows in the court.

“Place the Golden Cockerel atop the highest spire in the center of Ismailli,” said Nikto. “When any enemy army approaches to within eight days march of Ismailli, the Golden Cockerel shall face their direction and cry out an alarum. Thus, O Glorious Tsar, you will be able to meet the enemy on the field of battle.”

Tsar Dadon said, “If what you say is true, return to my court in one year’s time, and I shall grant you any wish to just short of half my kingdom.”

“I accept your terms, O Glorious One, but be warned: Forget your promise, and doom shall be your reward.”

With that, the wizard vanished, leaving behind the Golden Cockerel. Tsar Dadon ordered the fabulous bird be placed atop the highest tower in the center of Ismailli.

A few days later, the Golden Cockerel faced to the south and cried out loudly, “Enemies approach from the south! In eight days, they reach Ismailli’s walls!”

The watchmen brought word of the alarum to Tsar Dadon, and he sent Prince Dadon out at the head of an army. They met the enemy on the field of battle four days away from Ismailli, and Prince Dadon returned victorious to be covered in glory. During the next several months, the Golden Cockerel performed just as Nikto had promised. Each time, Ismailli’s army commanded by Prince Dadon met the enemy on the field of battle and emerged victorious. Nearly a year passed, and the Golden Cockerel sounded another alarum. Prince Dadon rode away at the head of the army toward Shamakhi, Ismailli’s fiercest and oldest enemy.

More than a week later, Prince Dadon had not returned. Tsar Dadon, frantic with worry, commanded his armor and sword be brought to him, and he himself sallied forth at the head of an army for the first time in years. Near the western border of Shamakhi, the tsar looked down into a valley and the great slaughter that had taken place there. In the middle of the field of battle stood a lonely pavilion flying Shamakhi’s ancient flag.

Tsar Dadon rode to the pavilion and stumbled from his horse when he saw Prince Dadon sprawled dead on the matted grass in front of the pavilion. As he gathered his dead son into his arms, a beautiful princess of Shamakhi exited the pavilion.

“Welcome, O Tsar Dadon the Glorious,” the princess said. “Please enter my pavilion so that I may ease your grief.”

The tsar entered the pavilion. The princess washed his hands, feet, and brow, and bade him sit at a kingly table. She fed him fine foods and filled his flagon with excellent wine. Tsar Dadon ate and drank his fill. The princess bade him sleep on a kingly bed, and throughout the night she tended his grief-haunted sleep.

The tsar woke in the morning and said to the princess, “You shall return to Ismailli as my bride. You shall be mother to my new heir.”

The princess lowered her head and smiled. Tsar Dadon and the princess rode back to Ismailli. The people there lamented the loss of Prince Dadon, but they rejoiced that their tsar had a new bride of such exceptional beauty and grace.

“O, Tsar Dadon the Glorious! Please heed my words,” said Nikto as he appeared in the tsar’s court. “One year has passed, and I’ve come to claim my reward.”

“Welcome, Nikto,” said the tsar. “The reward is yours. Claim anything just short of half my kingdom.”

The wizard leered. “I claim the princess of Shamakhi.”

“Never!” Tsar Dadon said. “She you may not have!”

From a high window, the Golden Cockerel flew like a bolt from a crossbow. It landed on the tsar’s shoulder and pecked him once on the forehead. Tsar Dadon the Glorious staggered from his throne, fell to the floor, and died. The princess of Shamakhi walked to Nikto, and, when she placed her hand in his, both she and the wizard vanished. Shortly thereafter, Ismailli’s enemies triumphed, laying Tsar Dadon’s beloved city to waste.

Today, the Golden Cockerel sits atop the highest spire in the center of Retra, one of the two cities on Buyan. Nikto and the princess of Shamakhi live there as well, and neither one seems to have aged.

July 27th, 2015  in Product Development, RPG No Comments »

Getting More Serious and Buyan

I’m trying to get more serious about my writing, which includes posts here, game material to sell or give away, my school blog, and some fiction. To help, I found the nearby illustration by Ivan Bilibin, an early 20th-century Russian artist who died during the Siege of Leningrad in 1941.

The adjacent picture shows Buyan Island as imagined by Bilibin. Contemporary Russian author Alexey Trekhlebov writes that Buyan sits near the Baltic Sea’s southern shore. Island denizens call two towns, Retra and Arkona, home. Retra houses the temple of Radgostu, the god of war and hospitality, while Sventovit, the god of war and fertility, presides as chief deity in Arkona.

Storytellers set many myths in Buyan. Some of the myths claim that all the weather in the world originates from Buyan, created there by Perun, god of thunder and lightning, and then sent out to the rest of the world. Owing to its magical properties, this amazing island disappears and reappears, perhaps at random, perhaps in accordance with Perun’s will, perhaps both.

Fabulous tales of Buyan’s wonders and wealth attract adventurers from all over the world. They brave hardship and danger, crossing monster-filled wilderness and hostile barbarian lands. Those that survive reach the sea’s shore maybe at the right time to see Buyan in the distance.

In the next several posts, I want to further explore Buyan, writing posts about some of its more exceptional people, places, and things. At least to a small degree, I’ll try to base my posts on both Bilibin’s art, much of which is in the public domain and available on the Internet, and on Russian and Slavic folklore and myth. To whet your appetite, my next post will feature Koschei the Deathless, who hides his soul on Buyan.

July 23rd, 2015  in RPG No Comments »