Posts Tagged ‘ place of power ’

Sacred Places

In those days, the Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood in front of him. (Genesis 18:1-2)

When the divine appears to a person, that person experiences a theophany. Ancient literature, such as the Illiad, and ancient religious texts, such as the Book of Genesis, describe such experiences, which take a variety of forms but always lead to an important change, event, or revelation. Thus, as the story of Abraham quoted in part above continues, Abraham is told that his wife Sarah will give birth to a son.

The site of the theophany itself may take on new signifance as it marks a place where the sacred and the profane touched, transforming the latter into a place set now apart from the normal. For example, near modern-day Hebron, the Oak of Mamre, reportedly 50 centuries old, stands at the site said to be where Abraham welcomed three visitors from Heaven.

Such sites attract pilgrims, many of whom journey with specific intentions, such as hope for healing for themselves or a loved one. Often, these sites become the focus of a group of believers, and then a larger community that may include residents whose motives are primarily related to just making a living. Not everyone can live a life solely devoted to prayer or contemplation. Someone has to do the laundry and grow the food, and the larger the community around or near a sacred site, the more varied the motives of people in the community become. The city of Jerusalem is perhaps the most famous example of a community with a complex, rich history that attracts pilgrims year-round.

The inclusion of sacred pilgrimage sites is a good way to inject some verisimilitude into a campaign. Even in our postmodern age, where what appears to be a distressingly large number of people think that divine favor or good fortune can be curried by liking and/or sharing pictures on Facebook, the attraction exerted by sacred places ought not be too difficult to understand. Wars are still fought over holy places, and people still shed blood in the streets in defense of ideals that, while not necessarily religious, are clung to with religious fervor.

The potential for conflict, and the resulting adventure, grows when a site’s significance acquires various interpretations that conflict with each other, as when the persecution of Christians and destruction of Christian holy places in Jerusalem by the caliph of Egypt helped motivate Christendom into the First Crusade. Translate the events of the First Crusade into a swords-and-sorcery campaign and a GM at least has a dynamic backdrop against which his players’ characters adventure.

To this backdrop, add sacred places that ought to be important to the party’s religiously motivated members. What does the party’s cleric of Olidammara do when the local ruling hierarchy of Wastri decides to suppress all music that does not sing the praises of the Hopping Prophet? What happens when the faithful of Merikka take action against the planting rites of Sheela Peryroyl right under the nose of an adventuring cleric of Yondalla?

And, of course, don’t neglect putting some thought into specific game effects or events attached to the site of a theophany.

Six Things That Might Happen at a Sacred Site
1: A cleric of suitable alignment or faith receives an extra first level spell for the day.
2: A character of suitable alignment or faith is cured of an illness or freed from a curse.
3: Someone sleeping at the site receives a prophetic dream.
4: A pilgrim who possesses useful information or skills may help the party.
5: A divine messenger, probably in disguise, requests the party’s help.
6: A gang with reason to dislike what the site represents shows up to cause trouble.

July 18th, 2016  in RPG No Comments »

Mutant Frogs of the Neverglads

Few explorers brave the Neverglads, that vast expanse of toxic tropical wetlands that has swallowed up the ruins of several ancient cities, several of which boasted impressive biological and chemical industries. As the End of All Things spread havoc across the world, industry safeguards failed and the Neverglads became a mutagenic hellscape covering more than 11,000 square miles (28,500 square kilometers). The natural and mutant hazards found within the Neverglads are legion. The farther one travels into the region’s heart, the wilder the terrain becomes. Poisonous quicksand, mutant pythons, giant alligators, bizarre temporal ripples, dangerous plants, savage tribes, billions of disease-carrying pests, and xenophobic secret societies are only some of the more well-known dangers.

Ojoran

Ojorans are probably the most common amphibian in the Neverglads. They appear as small tree frogs, most growing to no more than three or four inches long. An ojorans most remarkable feature is its bulbous single eye. In general, ojorans are inoffensive creatures. They prey on small insects, not on explorers. Timid, even skittish, ojorans avoid contact with other creatures, usually via their adaptive and variable coloration. Ojorans are prodigious climbers as well, easily able to retreat to the heights of the trees that grow throughout the Neverglads. All of this should be construed as saying that ojorans are harmless. They often congregate in large groups, especially during mating season. While the poison slime that an ojoran’s pores secretes is not especially toxic, more than a few careless explorers have succumbed to the effects of blundering into dozens of ojorans.

No. Enc.: 2d6 (12d6)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 60′ (20′)
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 1d2 hit points
Attacks: 1 (poison slime)
Damage: 1d6
Save: L1
Morale: 6
Hoard Class: None
XP: 8

Mutations: Chameleon Epidermis, Dermal Poison Slime (Class 1), Increased Balance

Ranaserp

Compared to ojorans, ranaserps merit caution, even fear. A ranaserp appears to be a strange hybrid of frog and serpent, but of impressive size as the adult ranaserp reaches lengths of 18 feet. This six-legged amphibious predator has a sinuous, powerful neck and a highly venomous bite. While not particularly quick on the run, it moves with great silence, striking by surprise whenever possible, doing so 4 times out of 6. Ranaserps prey on all manner of creatures, preferring warm-blooded animals (mutant or otherwise).

If two ranaserps are encountered, they are 85% likely to be a mated pair, in which case it is 50% likely that an additional 2d8 immature offspring are nearby. Despite this mutant’s amphibian ancestry, ranaserps are protective of their young. Typically the female stays near the den to guard the young while the male hunts, swallowing poisoned prey whole to regurgitate later the partially digested meal for the immature ranaserps.

No. Enc.: 1d2
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90′ (30′)
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 6
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Damage: 1d6+3 plus 5d6 poison
Save: L3
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: None
XP: 1,320

Mutations: Gigantism, Natural Weapon (fangs), Toxic Weapon (Class 5), Thermal Vision

Ranenferm

In truth, the ranenferm is not a mutant frog. It instead is a mutant fungus that prefers to use a giant amphibian as a growth medium. (Nota Bene: Use standard giant toad stats for “ordinary” giant frogs to duplicate the mutant shown in the picture.) A ranenferm without a host is immobile. It uses possession to bring a potential host close enough for its vegetal parasitism to take effect. After this, the ranenferm need no longer maintain mental domination of the host via possession. Also, the host organism becomes harder to kill as the ranenferm’s hyphae spread into the host’s tissues, muscles, bones, and nervous system.

Ranenferms are highly intelligent and malicious. They communicate with their own kind via a form of telepathy, but their mental processes are so alien that communication with other lifeforms appears impossible. Of course, it could be that ranenferms simply view other creatures as beneath contempt, thus refusing to communicate to such “inferior” specimens. Whatever the truth, ranenferms pose a serious danger to travelers within the Neverglads, and communities both near and within that region often exhibit justifiable alarm about even perceived signs of ranenferm “infection”. Fire is the preferred method of treating those believed to be playing host to a ranenferm.

No. Enc.: 1d4 per host organism
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: As host organism
Armor Class: As host organism + 1 per ranenferm
Hit Dice: As host organism + 1 Hit Die per ranenferm
Attacks: As host organism
Damage: As host organism
Save: Equal to total Hit Dice
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: XX
XP: As host organism modified by additional Hit Dice and mutations

Mutations: As host organism, plus Metaconcert, Possession, Prehensile Tendrils (Simple), Vegetal Parasite

May 26th, 2016  in RPG No Comments »

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 »