Monday, August 29, 2022

Monster WIP: Tuliiha (Fire-tailed Dragonet)

Tuliiha (Fire-tailed Dragonet)

Tiny Dragon   Chaos (CN)
Hit Dice: 1+2 (6 hp)
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Save: 17
Movement12 (fly 18) [120’/40’ (fly 180’/60’)]
Attacks1 bite (1d2) & 1 tail slap (1d6 fire)
Special AttacksFiery tail, thief skills
Special DefenseImmune to fire
No. Appearing1d4 (2d4)
IntelligenceLow (8)
Treasure Type

Tuliiha are tiny winged dragons, just two feet long. They have fine soft scales that resemble fur from a distance, dark gray or black shading to scarlet or gold at the tip of their tail. They prefer to act as pets or familiars for powerful and wealthy creatures; like true dragons, they are avaricious and desire gold, and they quickly abandon masters that don’t reward their affection with coins for their nest. Tuliiha can speak, mostly about themselves and how wonderful gold is.

Tuliiha avoid combat whenever possible. Their bite is barely effective, and their claws are simply too small to do damage to anything larger than a mouse.  They also lack a breath weapon, but can instead cause their tail to ignite with an intense flame that inflicts 1d6 points of fire damage on anyone they strike with it. Tuliiha themselves are immune to fire, and often bask in braziers and fireplaces.

Tuliiha are proactive in acquiring riches for themselves and their masters. They have the Delicate Tasks, Open Locks, Hide in Shadows, and Move Silently abilities of a 5th-level Thief, and often embark on nocturnal careers of larceny and burglary. Their small size makes it a simple task to slip down chimneys or other small openings, and they can open small strongboxes, jewelry cases, and so on. It is for this reason that, while tuliiha are much prized as pets, their owners are regarded with suspicion.

A group of tuliiha is known as a conspiracy, and any gathering of 5 or more will have a leader of 3 HD and the abilities of a 7th-level thief. Independent conspiracies of tuliiha (those not beholden to a stronger creature) rarely last long, since none of them are particularly interested in what other tuliiha have to say.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Afterlife of the Shadowend

Beings in the Shadowend are composed of three parts: body, or corpus; mind, or spirit, called the essae; and soul, or vitae. The body, the physical aspect of a person, is exactly as one would expect. The mind, or essae is not just the conscious thoughts of a person but their essence; the "themness" of them. The soul, or vitae, is the animating force, the "aliveness".  

Death is a discarding of the body and a migration of the soul and the spirit. Unless interrupted, these travel by various means and ways to Orod's realm, where the two are separated and the soul remains. The passage to his realm can take some time, and the dead are vulnerable during this time, but may also be recalled to life or contacted with relative ease. 

Accounts have described the souls as candles, illuminated jars, or crystal stars; these are gathered and guarded by Orod until such time as Aeva, the Lady of Life, calls for them to return to the Wyrld. They are sometimes stolen by necromantic magic and used to animate undead constructs.

After travelling through Orod's realm, only the essae remain. Hitherto the dead appear as they did in life; now they assume somewhat lesser forms. Faithful dead are gathered by their deity or its servants; others are dispersed to the various petty realms, usually (but not always) under the care of Aeva or another protective divinity. Spirits attacked and killed in the petty realms reform whole and intact within a day. Spirits assigned to a realm reform there; manes generally reform in the realm that they died in, but occasionally in other random places (it makes no difference to them, really).

Lares: Good, virtuous, and beneficent spirits become lares.  Lares resemble themselves in the fullest bloom of life and health, but viewed from behind are hollow, lacking their vitae. Despite this they are happy and content, dwelling in the petty realms much as they did while alive, but without disease, hunger, or woe. Some, the penates, find themselves returned to the Wyrld as guardian spirits of their family or clan; others, the einherjar, become crusaders against their foes, the baleful spirits of lemures and fiends. 

Lemures: Malicious, cruel, or vengeful spirits become lemures, hollow waxen creatures with melted features. Faithful lemures are gathered by their patron deities; others are seized by whoever can take them and carried off. Some manage to return to the Wyrld and plague the living as undead, but most fall into the "care" of various fiends, where their experience is much as one would expect. Lemures universally hate and envy lares, and continually seek out ways to find and destroy them.

Manes: People who were neither particularly good nor evil become manes. Like lares, manes resemble their living form, except manes are hollow from the front, faceless and empty-torsoed. They instinctively keep this concealed from others, usually by turning their back, but occasionally by wearing concealing robes and masks. This affects their movement and perception not at all.  They can be encountered almost anywhere among the petty planes, but generally lack motivation or desire. They may act much as they did in life, but without a care for success or failure. Others simply wander, acting out a deep-rooted dissatisfaction with their bland existence. 


I don't usually crib wholesale from existing mythology (I prefer to steal it piecemeal), but this just clicked for me. I was thinking about the "petty realms" of the gods (and other beings), and specifically Broken Emr. As (technically) an "outer plane", it seemed some spirits of the dead might be found there, but Enyo doesn't care about the dead, so they had to be placed there by some other semi-random mechanism. (The whole "death is just like life" aspect of the Planescape Campaign Setting always REALLY bothered me.) Then I had an image of a spirit that you could only view from behind; a spirit lacking. Thus, manes. The tri-part identity is rooted back in college.

The many, many divinities of the Shadowend practically dictate that most people worship the gods collectively, favoring whichever is most applicable to the current endeavor. Thus, people with a patron deity are relatively rare. Most people are simply "one of the dead".

Aspects of the Shadowend afterlife are still in development; fiends and celestials are not evolved spirits, for instance, but some of the races that sprang up in the footsteps of the Elder Host when they first came into the Wyrld. Still, it ought to be possible for a particularly accomplished spirit to become something like that. Not sure that's a question that NEEDs to be answered anytime soon, though.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

3e Remnants

 I decided to compile and release all the various 3e things I've done over the years. Most of them were already in one of two documents, and it's a totally bare-bones effort - I even used a stock Word cover page. My goal is to clear my metaphorical desk and move past this stuff!

I broke them into four files: Monster Templates; Monsters; Character Lore; and Magical Lore. Templates and Monsters are 32 pages each (4 pages of cover/ToC/OGL); Character Lore is 24 pages; Magical Lore is 20 pages. Right now any effort to throw art in seems like too much, but I might do it for Character & Magical Lore (easier to use stock art in those).

I just uploaded Monster Templates to DrivethruRPG and will post a link when it goes live. My inclination is to do one a week.  $1.99 for this and Monsters; probably a little less for the other two.

"3e Remnants: Monster Templates is a collection of 15 monster templates and 10 sample creatures for 3.x and compatible RPG systems.  These templates were written between 2000 and 2010 for my home campaign.  Rather than let them continue to gather dust on my hard drive, I decided to compile and release them in the hope others will find them useful and enjoyable. 

The following templates are included: Ancient One; Blind Horror; Cloud Creature; Daemanthrope; Equitus Creature; Half-Equitus; Half-Nomos; Half-Shambolic; Half-Sphinx (plus Half-Andro/Crio/Gyno/Hieracosphinx variants); Lokiskinder; Mi'Raj; Mundane Beast (and the Mindless Beast variant); Nomos Creature; Shambolic Creature; Warmonger. Several entries have new or sample creatures and adventure hooks. 

This is an OGL product and all text is OGL except the names Xevber, Azezel, and Darkwater Press."

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Feral Fey

 There are lots of homebound fey spirits in mythology and folklore. Lots and lots and lots. Which makes sense; that's the most important place and most occupied place in everyone's life. But how do they translate into an RPG, which is (lets face it) generally about conflict?

There are a lot of ruins in D&D and similar games. And a lot of ruins in real life. Without modern building materials, buildings decayed and fell apart. Streams moved, families died out or went elsewhere. What happens to the fey of those places?

They go feral. Spriggan. Redcaps. Buckawn. Field fey that are left with gifts and a good-bye party might dwindle and become grig or pixies. Those abandoned become will-o-wisps.

Neutral or good fey might be domesticated or reclaimed if people return, but fey that have "gone sour" must be removed before a field or foundation may be reclaimed. And that is an adventure. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Planar Domains I: Broken Emr

 Broken Emr, The Domain of Enyo the Leveller

Emr  is a land of rubble and ruin, of shattered cities and tumbled walls. Scrape the ground anywhere in Emr and you’ll uncover a road, or patio, or foundation. Carvings and writings are worn to indecipherability; paintings and murals little more than scraps of color hinting at what they might have been. Springs flow from broken fountains, forming streams and rivers that course through canyons of worked stone. Trees break through cobbled streets, and vines pull inexorably at the remaining walls.

Enyo seemingly takes little notice of who lives in Emr, and it is relatively safe by most standards. Its principal inhabitants are scavengers, hunter/gatherers, and beasts of all sorts. These live by their nature, ignoring visitors unless hungry, or tempted by something they’ve brought from outside. Building and constructing is the only taboo in Emr; erecting any sort of permanent structure immediately draws the attention and wrath of all nearby natives, who will attack and destroy any such attempts.

Artificial and worked materials more complex than leather, pottery, or simple knits degrade quickly in Emr. Even iron, if worked, rusts to uselessness within a decade. Spells and magic items that create or preserve physical items (including structures) do not operate, and may lose puissance and become wholly powerless if they remain in Emr too long.

Entering Emr is achieved from within a ruined structure, where the appropriate spell must be cast. and each person seeking entrance must destroy an object of value. There is little traditional treasure in Emr, but it is believed that every ruin there is the mirror of one in the Wyrld, and searching one can give clues to the other. Broken Emr can also serve as a shortcut: two ruins many miles apart in the real Wyrld might be adjacent in Emr, and travelers can enter through one and depart via another. Finally, no few people have found Emr a useful place of exile or seclusion. The One Tree, Gray Road, and Wyrldflow also touch upon Emr.

Encounters in Emr

Emr can be considered a stereotypical wilderness, except fey and undead are very rare and there are no organized societies beyond small tribes.
  • Orbin Scalmon (hm F7) and his surviving retinue (2 guards, 1 sergeant, and a cleric of Adosil who is secretly Orbin’s bastard sibling). They are searching for clues to the rumored treasure-laden subterranean vaults beneath his deposed family’s ancestral castle, slighted nearly two centuries ago. They’ve been here a month without success supplies are gone, clothing in tatters, and desperately want to get out. They are being followed by a pair of ogres who are anticipating a good meal or two.
  • The Vermilion Locket, a cog-type ship that travels the myriad branches of Wyrldflow, has gone aground in Emr. Ships travelling the Wyrldflow are typically immune to Emr's deleterious effects, but the Vermilion Locket is aground and Emr has begun to shift the channel of the Wyrldflow away from the stranded ship. The characters are dispatched to locate the ship and its Very Important Passenger (which might be a royal bride; an evil cleric; a powerful magic item being sent as a bribe or payment...). They're not the only party searching: the owners are looking for the ship, and a faction opposed to the characters' is also closing in (who is looking to rescue the passenger, and who is looking to stymie any rescue, is left up to the GM).
  • A mongrelfolk hunting party, with 3d4 members and 1d4 hyena companions. The mongrelfolk aren't interested in eating them, but a bit of robbery is fine. The hyenas have no such compunctions and may circle back once the party is weaponless and devoid of armor....
  • 1d4 stinking leucrota, screaming and shrieking at each other. They aren't particularly hungry, but absolutely won't pass up a chance to torment the party by following them for a day or two.
  • A regal leonine lamia and her two sniveling jackalwere servants. The lamia is finding it hard to live in the luxury she prefers, since everything keeps rotting, and is willing to bargain in exchange for a way out of Broken Emr. The jackalweres like it here, and may not support their mistress's plans to leave.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Typhos I: The Leveller



The Leveller, Scatterer of Stones

AoC: Destruction of Cities & Civilization
Symbol: A foot crushing a building
Allies: Tamati, Talabas, Samaan
Enemies: Ados, Kaduv, Madate, Palanar
Avatar: Barbarian 20/Fighter 10

Enyo takes the form of a heavily armored woman of near-giantish height, or a thick-plated monstrosity large enough to topple towers and city walls. In humanoid form she uses her powerful fists to smash opponents. In ancient days she sometimes appeared as a woman carved of stone bearing a two-handed greatmace called Nem, or Breaker, but that avatar has not been seen in many centuries.

The Leveller is a great and ancient Typhosian power, strong enough to surpass most Envidier and rival many of the Dalerain. She is the child of Tamati and Samaan, and serves both of them when they wish it, destroying cities and towns, scattering people, and erasing their works. She is capable of subtlety and patience, particularly when serving the Forestlord, whose plans tend to grow slowly but steadily, like trees, but better known for the devastation and destruction she brings in the Bloody Queen’s service.

Enyo’s own goals are hard to discern. Unlike most Typhos, she serves her parents willingly when called and otherwise keeps to herself. In keeping with her nature she has no dwelling or court but simply travels the wild places of the world, sleeping under the trees and stars like the force of nature that she is.

Enyo occasionally creates monstrous beings or races devoted to destruction; certainly the bulette is hers, but also the rust monster and disenchanter. She may empower ogres and giants; those touched by her wrap themselves in armor or chains and set out to destroy. She is a scholar of siege machines and siege warfare, and sought for that information (although those seeking it try not to draw her attention to their own castles and cities). She is equally often called upon by nihilists, vengeance-seekers, and zealots of nature.

Cult Servitors: Servitors of Enyo summoned by her cultists appear as heavily armored monstrosities (see Bulette, Monstrosities pg.54; CL varies*) or statuesque women of bronze or stone (see Chalkeion, Monstrosities, pg.64; CL 5, 6,7, or 11; or Caryatid Column, Tome of Horrors pg.83; CL 7) and can have the following special abilities: Extra Attack (+1 CL), Improved Armor Class (+1 CL), Improved Damage (+1 CL), Magic Resistance 25% (+1 CL).

 *The bulette’s Challenge Level is increased by one for purposes of summoning as a servitor.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Great Paths

Astral Sea

Best known and most used of the Great Paths, the so-called Astral Plane surrounds the Wyrld.  Anyone with knowledge can open a portal (known as color pools) from a planar realm to the Astral Plane, and from there to another realm. 
No deity has dominion over the Astral Plane, and its infinite expanse has allowed individuals, organizations, and even entire races to settle there.  It is the most commonly used of the Great Paths because of its lack of divine affiliation, and accessing it is slightly easier for arcane casters than reaching the other four Paths.

City of Brass

Sometimes called the City of Doors, reaching planar realms from the City of Brass is a matter only as complicated as opening a door.  With keys, codes and tokens, nearly any door, arch, or gate in the City can be made to reach a desired destination.
The City of Brass is in the hands of the efreeti, the fiery geniekind.  Travel from realm to realm is faster here than on any of the other Great Paths, but travellers are also the favored prey of the efreeti slave-traders, and many planar adventurers never manage to exit the City.  The efreeti are currently embroiled in a civil war between factions loyal to Umoth and those loyal to no divine power, but normally only druids and clerics of a fiery or metropolitan power use the City of Brass as one of the Great Paths.

Gray Road

Also known as the Path of the Dead, the Gray Road leads from the center of the Wyrld to the palace of the Lord of Souls in the Outer Realms, with smaller tracks leading to anywhere a creature has died in the entirety of time.  It takes the appearance of a time-worn, cobblestone road atop a grassy bank.  Because of the unusual nature of the road, anyone walking directly away from it soon (within a hundred paces) finds themselves approaching it from the other side, as though they had just walked around the outside of a cylinder.  Smaller paths and trails lead off of the Gray Road at intervals; much like color pools in the Astral Plane, these allow travellers access to and from other planar realms.
The Gray Road is travelled by the souls of the dead, (escorted by minions of the Lord of Souls), druids, and clerics whose god possesses an affinity for earth, roads, or travel by walking or riding.  Arcane spellcasters can access the Gray Road, as they can access any of the Great Paths, but most prefer the unaligned Astral Plane.  Portions of the Gray Road are regularly patrolled by guardian spirits, but others are lawless and unsafe for the ordinary traveller.

The One Tree

The One Tree is rooted in the Well between Worlds, and the highest of its branches reachs the outermost of the Outer Realms.  Travelling the One Tree is more taxing than walking the Gray Road or sailing the Wyrldflow, but most destinations can be reached in a day or two, instead of the week or longer common to the less trying Paths.
The One Tree is most frequently used by druids and clerics aligned with air, plants, or nature.  Some sections are the domain of a self-appointed guardian, and the safety of those branches is entirely dependant on the guardian’s good wishes.

The Wyrldflow

The Wyrldflow is a great river, flowing from a  thousand thousand headwaters in the Outer Realms together into a vast torrent that plunges into the Well Between Worlds.  Sailing the Wyrldflow is the calmest and most sedate way of travelling the Great Paths; many creatures have taken up lives as ferrymen and offer comfortable passage to anyone able to meet their price.
The Wyrldflow is used by druids, and clerics aligned with water or sailing.  The Wyrldflow supports a vast ecology, and many races spend their existence sailing its waters.  Most of these are friendly, but a few are tyrannical pirates more interested in plunder than trade.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Off The Map 0

Back in my early days, I spent a lot of time drawing maps. Large maps. 24"x36" maps. My dad was (and is) in construction, and there were a lot of house plans around. Different iterations, bad copy, whatever. But they were all blank on one side.

The first map I ever draw was the island "continent" (it's really just a big island) of Raem. I'm still proud of that map. For my second map, I wanted something that reached beyond the edges of the paper. That was the Shadowood (36x24). Followed by the Eastern Shadowood (18x24), and Southern Shadowood (36x24). Then the Shadowend (36x24), and the Eastern Shadowend (18x24). Amk'hilur; Dranamar; the Middle Lands; the Lost Kingdoms. (For those keeping track at home, from north to south is Shadowend, Shadowood, Southern Shadowood, Amk-hilur. A solid 6' of map top to bottom. I literally ran out of wall space.)

I think I'm missing a few, but they all connected.

I'd always intended to run a campaign in the Shadowood, but when it actually happened, I suddenly veered north and set it in this little throw-away corner of the Shadowend map, in a country called "Larenyss" (which I'd named after the book "Lavondyss", itself derived of the mythical city of Ys.)

That big map wasn't really suitable though, so I drew a regular page size version, 8.5 x 11, but at the same scale as the big map. Every map since then has been a version of that narrow view.

Which is a very long way of saying, there's an awful LOT "off the map"

When this quarantining and all is overall, I'm going to take them in and get them scanned. It'll be cool.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Dwarven Greathalls

I found a small stack of index cards recently detailing the various dwarven greathalls. I think they're circa 1990-1992, but could be a little earlier or later. I'll fully transcribe them later, but here's a fast rundown. This is straight off the cards; I'm going to move some around eventually, and smooth out the names. The full shadowend map has two great mountain ranges, the Kamuerhorns and the Southern Peaks, and dwarves were slowly driven north by dragons. Ariendrellur was the cradle-hall of the dwarves; Dolnare, Fadreisil, and Nobrildain its successors.

Edit: Ah, I'll bet this is circa the release of the Dwarves Handbook for 2e from TSR. I think there was a dwarven settlement generator in there that I used to flesh out entries.

Ariendrellur (Hearthhome) - Southern Peaks - Dragon-held by Dranakedbenur
Arthringlaur (Diamondsdelve) - Kameurhorn Peaks - Mountain dwarves
Baidruck (Dragonsden) - Kameurhorn Peaks - Originally hill dwarves, now duergar
Bersinagul (Silverdeep) - Shadow Peaks - Originally mountain dwarves, now goblin-held
Dolnare (no translation) - Dolnare - Hill dwarf nation; renamed Dolnaur
Breodoghin (Starsdeep) - Enchanted Hills - Originally mountain dwarves, now a gnomehold
Dansreldane (Goldendelve) - Southern Peaks - Originally hill dwarves, now mind flayers
Fadreisil (Sorrowshome) - Southern Peaks - Dragon-held by Velgrenidbenur; also goblin-held
Kadrinamur (Dimmersdelve )- Southern Range - Destroyed by sidhe fighting svartalfar(?)
Nobrildain (Hall of the King) - Shadow Peaks - Mountain dwarves
Rogunsur (Gemsdeep) - Seer Mtns - Hill dwarves
Sammisthur (Ironsheart) - Banrigh Mtns - Originally mountain dwarves, now duergar/dragon-held by Nendremor.
Shordrugin (Summersfall) - Shadow Peaks - Moulder dwarves
Taeghamor (Hammersfell) - Tyger Peaks - Hill dwarves
Tarandrellur (Hollowhome) - Grey Peaks - Mountain dwarves
Tamathedra (Darkinghalls) - Kameurhorn Peaks - Originally mountain dwarves, now duergar
Tundacendran (Fallenstar) - Southern Peaks - Mountain dwarves

Other Halls/Later creations/Alternate names
Mathedrellur (?-home) - unknown
Rimenghur (Gemsdeep?) -unknown
Svorndriel (Whitemine) - Smallhall of Arthringlaur - mountain dwarves
Tamathdrellur (Darkhome) (initially/originally Tamathedra) - duergar
Ordinglaur (Trollsdelve) - Smallhall of Arthringlaur - mountain dwarves
Zelazghur (Silverdeep?) - unknown

 - Den Aejarndril (Citadel of Broken Swords)
 - Den Nedandjor (Citadel of Cloven Shields)
 - Den Tiadis (Citadel of Sundered Axes)

Named Dragons

Dranakedbenur the WyrmAttacked & took Ariendrellur, driven out; attacked & took Dansreldane;  later abandons it for reasons unknown; retakes Ariendrellur
Kadisrothirin (deceased) - Attacked & slain at the city of Olph
Kadrisbenur (offspring of Dranakedbenur; deceased) - Attacked & took Fadreisil; later killed
Kalavandremor (deceased) - Attacked & slain at Sammisthur
Mawligraxbenur - (Black dragon in the Shadowend; see Shadowend Folio)
NendremorAttacked & took Sammisthur
Pagrixlur Svar'xilyed, aka Painsdeath (deceased) - Attacked & slain at Rogunsur
Tesardremor (deceased) - Attacked & slain at Sammisthur
Velgrenidbenur (offspring of Dranakedbenur) - Attacked & took Fadreisil
Yegsoderim (deceased) - Attacked; lair transformed in Baidruck

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Maps and Mapping Stuff, aka the hexcrawl writing game

I've finally done the thing I've been meaning to do for decades, which is assign a functional scale to the Shadowend map. I did this to break it into a hex map of 25-mile hexes, and break those into 5-mile hexes (the 5-mile hexes can be broken again to 1-mile hexes, and then to 1056 ft hexes (352 yards if you want to be really granular).

The point of this is to, hopefully, get back into the groove of writing by detailing hexes. First a general overview of the 25-mile hexes (909: The North Coast hex), then each 5 mile hex within it.  The specificity appeals to me, and a 5-mile hex is still a lot of territory. You can put a mountain in it, or several villages, or a city, or a bunch of things. There are 21 of those in each large hex, plus 12 half-hexes.

No schedule on this, no strict guidelines or word count. I'm going to be as detailed as I want. It's an exercise in writing what I want to read. I'm enjoying it. A deep dive into the Shadowend.