Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Gods in the Sky

This is a pantheon for an upcoming 5th edition game. The things in the sky, the suns, moons, comets, and stars, are god. They are not worshiped as gods, they are not manifestations of gods - that sun, that moon, is a living entity of massive power that tugs on your own life.

Each god aligns with one or two of the 5th edition clerical domains, and holds several things as sacred to itself. In the game there will be a deck of cards dealt out to the group as a meta-game - that will probably be another post, but I'll use their images here.

Besohur, the Bright Brother

Holds Sacred: Hearts, Gold, Clouds, Bread.

The bright, warm, yellow sun. Clouds are his children, who play around him, and watch the sky as he rests.

Life & Tempest Domains

Everything that walks under the sky is considered by Besohur. His light and the rain of his children nourish them.

Selwolur, the Sun Sister

Holds Sacred: Eyes, Silver, Arrows, Maps.

A tiny, bright-white sun whose radiance pierces the clouds. She sometimes brings a half-day of harsh shadows when it would otherwise be night, defying the moons.

Light & Knowledge Domains

Selwolur appears suddenly, thirstingly, pressing through darkness and mist, illuminating secrets and dark places.

Maku Phoon, the Manic Moon

Holds Sacred: Tongues, Copper, Birds, Wine.

This silver-gray orb roils across the sky, flashing with lightning. Of the moons, it is most commonly seen in the day, seemingly taunting Selwolur.

Tempest & War Domains

Maku Phoon is a herald of destruction and panic. Its whelming alien storms sometimes whip Besohur's nourishing children into a thunderous frenzy. Under its strobing gaze, tempers flare and wills crumble, swords are unsheathed and blood flashes like lightning across the pulsing sky.

Muxadroon, the Moulting Moon

Holds Sacred: Bones, Lead, Insects, Knives.

A stark white moon, clouded with debris and riddled with craters, which creeps across the sky. Flakes sometimes crash to the ground, bearing strange creatures.

Trickery & Life Domains

Unlike Besohur's holdings, all life that springs and spurts in darkness sways to Muxadroon. Worms and beetles that gnaw in hidden places are its.

Wechilon, the Watching One

Holds Sacred: Brains, Glass, Chalk, Wands.

A four-faced pyramid of metal, struck with channels and runes. Its face shifts abruptly to no pattern discovered by astrologers. It is well known that in ages past Wechilonwas the world's arch-mage who ascended to her great palace in the sky and assumed the mantle of godhood.

Knowledge Domain

Whereas Selwolur is the goddess of knowledge uncovered and shared, Wechilon is the goddess of knowledge secreted and horded. She is often revered by mages.

The Firmament

Holds Sacred: Teeth, Wood, Caves, Flowers.

All the stars in the heavens. The innumerable constellations embody every creature or plant or swath of weather.

Nature Domain

Besohur cares for the health of the world, but there is a place in the sky, yes, there, those eight stars, that cares very much for the health of wheat. And those dozen, to the left, Muxadroon wishes well for all insects, but those twelve look down upon the pillbug. They happen to share two stars, you say?

Those Who Fight

Holds Sacred: Hands, Steel, Torches, Salt.

No one god holds dominion over Those Who Fight. These brave spirits cross the sky, trailing their life behind them, fulfilling the mercenary campaigns of whichever deity can rally their services.

War Domain

Comets ply from star to sun to moon to horizon, flaring into existence, burning their path across the Firmament, and winking out.


Holds sacred: Nothing.

There is a place in the sky with no stars, which the suns and moons do not cross. Those Who Fight who cross it cease their battles. There is Nothing there.

Death Domain

An end to life and light. No truth or falsehood, no rage or rebirth. Unknowable. The end of all things.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Encounters in Sick Country

Like backwoods, or badlands, sick country is a way to describe a place. There are patches of sick country scattered through the Land of Still Waters, some huge and well-know, helping shape the boundaries of nations, others tiny and ephemeral.


Boundaries of sick country are sometimes vague, sometimes well-defined. They shift, tidally, as the forces in the sick country wax and wane. Locals know the boundary signs of any nearby sick country well and often have extensive myths or traditions regarding them.

Though borders may shift, most sick country has a definite center or focus. Here the virulence of the place intensifies and creatures driven from the settled frontier shelter. Often this locus was a city of the ancient world whose ruins may still be seen from afar. Travelers through sick country would do well to give these relics wide berth.

witch by algenpfleger

The largest known sick regions bear the names of the ancient cities at their epicenters: Boston, New York, Toronto, and Montreal. The nation of Jorvik has many smaller regions within it whose borders are well-patrolled. Northern Vye contains Ottawa, and the southern shore of Acadia is blighted by Portland.

What do you encounter?

Roll three Fate dice. At the edge add another die and discard the lowest. Deep in sick country add another die and discard the highest.

Fate dice show 2 blank, 2 +, and 2 - sides.

+3: Settlement
+2: Wanderers
+1: Animals
0: Landscape
-1: Phenomenon
-2: Beasts
-3: Monstrosities

If you want to roll for encounter distance:

+1: Immediate: Ambush; stumbled upon; exits cover nearby.
0: Sighting: Raised dust or smoke; against the horizon; sounds.
-1: Hint: Trail or spoor; remains of a camp; aftermath of a battle or hunt; territorial markings.


Even sick country may be settled, though sparsely, and as close to the edge of safer lands as possible. Land here is cheap or unclaimed, the law is scarce, and there are opportunities for those brave or desperate to seize them.

This section is applicable to both Settlements and Wanderers.

Two dice to determine how do they live.

At the borders of sick country, roll three dice and discard the lowest - in the depths, discard the highest of three. Consider rolling twice and combining the results to get a more nuanced or intense motivation.

+2: There are those who intentionally travel through sick country as benefactors: missionary or Ellisian walker; hermit; messenger; mercenary.
+1: Settlers having some degree of success: farmers; merchants; bandits & toll-takers; an outpost of a nearby borderland or nation.
0: These people are struggling: scavengers; living off limited supplies; paying fealty and tithes to some nearby settlement; failing and likely doomed.
-1: Hunters venture into sick country for many reasons: trappers; trophy hunters; furriers; exterminators. Those passing through unsettled lands should be wary they do not spring some forgotten hunter's trap.
-2: Aside from the natural hazards of these lands, anyone living in sick country is unlikely to be missed in civilization. They attract abductors: the autumn people; bounty hunters; cultists hunting for recruits and sacrifices; a witch of the wastes.

And one die for why are they here?

+1: Seeking opportunity: indebted; cheap land; exploration; salvage.
0: Long-time inhabitants: born here; making it work; delusional; infectious and unwilling to return to civilization.
-1: Exiles: Displaced; usurped; apostates or heretics; fugitives from the law.


Structure - two dice

+2: Manor
+1: Homestead
0: Village
-1: Hamlet
-2: Campsite or hut

What state is it in - two dice

+2: Heavily fortified
+1: Under construction or temporary
0: Kept in decent repair; perhaps walled
-1: Re-purposed or adapted from other structures
-2: Crumbling; ruined; or badly damaged

Then roll on inhabitants to find out who lives there.



Wanderers may be: displaced from their homes and looking to settle; Glist; long-time nomads; just arriving in sick country; utterly lost; taking a dangerous shortcut; trying to hide.


owl4.jpg (800×592)

Normally these creatures are benign, but many are host to sicknesses which may cause unusual behavior. An encounter with otherwise normal animals may serve to unnerve travelers, or restock their supplies.

Two dice:

+2: Foragers: escaped horse or ghast; wild sheep; deer; trollizard.
+1: Birds: ravens; sparrows; hawk or owl; gulls.
0: A swarm of insects: caterpillars; moths; roasps or roaches; ants.
-1: Rodents: squirrels; rats; rabbits.
-2: roll on Beasts.


A mutated pine tree against the backdrop of the nuclear plant in Chernobyl.  Photo credit: Igor Kostin 

Much of sick country appears normal, like the land that surrounds it. The are regions though where even the earth seems to take ill. Often these places are known to and named by the surrounding natives - Toadwood, Norman's Rot, the Aching Cliff.

Three dice.

At the borders, roll four and drop the lowest. In the depths, roll four and drop the highest.

+3: This land offers respite: wax reeds well-adapted to any nearby sicknesses; a walker grove; a seemingly empty and stocked shelter, well-hidden; a length of ancient self-repairing road is clear and easy to travel.
+2: Teeming with life: obscenely plump and verdant plants, humid and heavily scented; swarms of flies or rats or birds with no obvious food source; fearless and hyperactive wildlife; roiling mist full of unseen chirps, hoots, and squeals.
+1: Passing through tended lands suggests a settlement nearby: farms; trails; orchards; pasture.
0: There are some plants which seem to thrive in the sick country and their abundance should serve as a warning to travellers: willow; sunflowers; pigweed; mustard.
-1: A wasteland of: parched dead trees; twisting thorn scrub; scorched and glass-like barrens; rusted ruins.
-2: This water is: vibrantly wrong color; stagnant and fetid; slick with oil and toxins; clear and still but utterly devoid of life.
-3: Blighted with: fungus and slime molds; miasma; rift in the earth; ethereally poisoned.


*The Dry Tree Tomb, (secret location), here lie the remains of ...

Higher numbers are not necessarily good or safe, but they can be more easily avoided and might yield salvage if investigated.

Two dice.

At the borders, roll four and drop the lowest. In the depths, roll four and drop the highest.

+2: Haunts are warded regions created generations ago that try to scare the curious away from the dangers they hold. They send out periodic ethereal scouts to keep abreast of what's scary these days and manifest them with a variety of illusions and shifting facades.
This haunt: broods over a great plague; is slowly breaking down; has turned malevolent; might reward or bribe those who brave it.
+1: An ancient building: perfectly preserved; partially buried or obscured; active with magic and guardians; finally succumbing to the centuries.
0: Roll on the sickness table. This place is rife with the result.
-1: Zones of ethereal flux in which magic is: dead; wild; empowered; sentient.
-2: Radiation lingers in this area. It is a pernicious threat often undetected until one is deep within its boundaries. The animals and plants here are warped; the place glows faintly in the darkness; headaches and nausea begin quickly; everything appears normal to the naked senses.


These creatures pose some risk to travelers and settlers. They are not necessarily hostile, though many of them are hungry or diseased.

Two dice:

+2: Feral animals have lost much of their fear of humans: wight; wild dogs; trollizard; cat.
+1: Most predators will only attack humans if they are hungry or threatened: wolves; coyotes; bears; bobcat.
0: Scavengers: dire rats (these are descended from Gambian pouched rats); wild dogs; hop crow; amphisbaena.
-1: Garoulin: regular garoulin; wolf-garoulin half-breeds; look like dogs but are smart as average garoulin; magic-using.
-2: Roll on Monstrosities.


Three dice:

+3: Chimera: their artistries; their servants; or they themselves.
+2: Fey other than beguilers are somewhat less common in sick country but not unknown: sprite; goblin; gnome; nymph.
+1: Undead can rise spontaneously or are sometimes released by cultists: zombie; ghoul; wraith; revenant.
0: Lesser thaaskith roam wild here, escaped from or released by the cults. Amphisbaena; jaculus; basilisk; tatzelwurm; cerastes; or cockatrice.
-1: Fargone, or something on its way there: viscerid; luxpuck; tallow; ogre.
-2: Beguilers, the succubi and inccubi, are known to hunt the sick country for the weak and undefended. They may be: whole; decayed; traveling with thralls; recently fed.
-3: Greater thaaskith; rampaging lindorm; medusa on a vision quest; naga travelling between temples; samaelisk, possibly with converts.


Unsurprisingly, things encountered in sick country are often sick. For any encounter, you may use this chart as many times as you like.

Roll three dice to determine the nature of the sickness:

LiveJournal Images |

+3: Maniacal: frenzied & murderous; screeching & terrified; gasping & ecstatic; relaxed & psychopathic.
+2: Stupefied: idiot; animalistic; delirious; forlorn.
+1: Blind: cataracts; seeping eye holes; put out; eyes look fine but don't focus.
0: Disfigured: hunched; spindly; twisted; palsied.
-1: Diseased: leprous & rasping; fevered & sallow; bloated & oozing; wheezing & hacking.
-2: An old plague: clear plastic skin; partially ossified; cysts & vestigial limbs; ethereal siren (agonizingly loud for the afflicted and anyone sensitive, attracts attention in the ether).
-3: Fargone: luxpuck (skeletal and luminous); ogre (rippling muscle and insatiable hunger); tallow (bones soften, flesh flows); viscerid (must survive on the harvested organs of others).

A fourth die can determine how contagious the sickness is.

Julian Callos 

+1: Non-contagious: congenial; dormant; too specialized to host.
0: Moderate: wounds or injection; consumption; handling or grappling; imbued in an object.
-1: Virulent: airborne; bodily fluids; ethereal; skin contact.

Even non-physical ailments can be contagious in sick country.


If you want a quick behavior, roll one die:

+1: Ignores, possibly curious
0: Observes, possibly stalks
-1: Aggressive, probably attacks

For a more nuanced behavior this encounter will tend towards, consider rolling three dice on this table. You can add a die and drop the lowest on the edge of the sick country, or add a die and drop the highest deep in it. Player actions and attitudes can guide these reactions.

Initially appear
and soon turn
because they are

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Workings of The Fey of the North Woods

They wear tall bodies made of detritus - seven or ten feet of stone and snapped branches and bones, studded with ice, cloaked in dust and delicate fibers. Their cities are their own enormous, abandoned husks, wrought of earth and roots twisted into hollow, organic shapes.

They do not fear death, their bodies are costumes. They are inviolate blue-white stars which flit into the sky should their vessel fail. Other things die and their passage is viewed as some act, some jest, the conceding of a delightful game.

Here are some things they make to pass the time.


Elf-light springs from pinpoints into rays which hurt to look at directly. It illuminates its immediate space with harsh, actinic brightness, but casts no shadows or gentle wash of radiance.
Elf-light loves illusion. In its Cherenkov rays glamors are enhanced.
Chrenkov effect reactor
Like this, but trees.

Elf-light loves to have the eye drawn to it. It's easy to hide in the non-shadows it casts into the places it isn't.

Elf-light loves supplicants. Plants which grow in it flourish in pulpy profusion, lolling with fat, pithy fruits. Deprived of it or exposed to sunlight they quickly curl and wither.


Fey of the north woods craft their physical bodies from available natural materials, but sometimes incorporate items of their own delicate workings into the vessel.

In the hands of other races these contrivances can usually be exploited to some benefit. With sufficiently powerful magic or surgical acumen members of the fleshy races may take full advantage of these strange items by grafting them into their own bodies. The items make no accordance for implantation or substitution on their own.

Sometimes the elves have been known to grant a graft as a gift. The recipient has not always been willing.
  1. A wand composed of a single ray of elf-light. It can trace patterns and signs in the air which linger as cold light for hours. Against incorporeal beings, the wand slashes as a blade, and the lines it leaves are impassable.
  2. Wooden antlers which branch into fine points across a yard or more. Stroking the branches auguries the past or future, but the user experiences time in between now and the subject. For every 10 years queried into the past or future, the user ages 1d10 years. Anyone killed by the aging rises as a wight.
    Grafting the antlers to your skull reduces the aging to 1d10 years per 100 years and allows you to gore opponents with them. Those such injured quickly turn to stone.
  3. You are difficult to frighten while you clutch this black-brown hedron from which jut matte grey crystals. The crystals breach painlessly through your skin, emerging from your knuckles. Both hands gain incredible grip and it becomes extremely easy to hold someone still with one while you beat them senseless with the matte grey crystals protruding out of the other.
  4. This fragment of armor, a gauntlet, a greave, a faceplate, is made of seamless and pallid stone. The wearer is incapable of spectacular failures on their attempted actions, but likewise, spectacular successes.
  5. A strange flute of rubbery blue fibers, pocked with five holes. Played as an instrument it can, occasionally, replicate a lesser fey spell.
  6. White-rinded fruits with purple juices which remind flesh it must quit, cursing those who consume them.
  7. A fist-sized orb of polished fine-flecked gray and white stone . It may be set in a rod or a necklace. When the bearer takes magical damage, the gray flecks grow and the white flecks shink. Vice-versa for physical damage. In either case, the damage taken is significantly reduced, but if the orb ever becomes all white or all grey, it shatters.
  8. A wooden idol with gently twitching roots, seemingly formed from a single stump. If planted in the soil, miles around it soon become abundantly fertile as long as it remains planted. All who feed regularly on its bounty are susceptible to the influence of the fey.
    If the idol is uprooted, roll d6:
    1. All those made susceptible to fey influence through its nourishment die. They rise as zombies under the new moon and seek to destroy first anything living, then each other. Over the course of a month they will slowly twist and harden into new root-idols.
    2. Under starlight, the uprooter's skin irreparably becomes hard and knotted. Within minutes, unprotected, they become a new root-idol.
    3. The idol shrieks as it dies, rupturing glass and ears.
    4. Sowbugs and centipedes boil out of the idol's hole as it writes and dies.
    5. The idol silently falls to damp, rotten chunks.
    6. A treasure of silver ore and unworked gems is unearthed below the idol.
  9. Hard and tapering seed which collapses a huge area into itself shortly after being planted, then splits into dry and worthless pith.
  10. An anti-wind, a void, which sucks and howls and devours light and sound. Normally tiny and dormant, one with sufficient will can rouse it to service and direct its attention. It feeds on confusion and nightblindness.
  11. A chunk of cold, cold white crystal which spews coils of dense vapor. Carried on a staff or wand, it can be commanded to shroud a large area in mist, though doing so risks depleting the crystal.
    Embedded as an organ, the bearer constantly trails vapor from their mouth and can easily exhale a huge mass of obscuring mist. 
  12. A pale, matte-green crystal which forms a seemingly natural dodecahedron. It may be mounted in a piece of jewelry or breastplate. When the bearer is accused of any wrongdoing, the blame is evenly spread between them and the four nearest possible culprits.
  13. A spindled, skeletal hand of spun glass, jointed with silver wires. Worn as medallion or carried atop a rod or staff the bearer can perform minor feats of prestidigitation.
    Should a hand's structure be replaced with these glass bones, the wielder can easily manipulate objects from afar, and project beams of punishing light from their fingertips.
  14. A fibrous staff whose rich-red base tapers and fades to a fine white point. Anyone struck with it or exposed to a blast of its miasma quickly undergo a metamorphosis as a similar stalk burst from their neck, scalp, or face, growing to several feet in length, curving up. Those such decorated are compelled to follow the commands of the staff-bearer until the growth is destroyed.
  15. This mask, woven from fine, woody vines, radiates gray elf-light. It is difficult to see through, but you cannot be blinded or subjected to creature's gazes while wearing it. With sufficient concentration, you can coalesce the mask's glow into a ray of blinding light.
  16. A delicate chain of glass links. Worn as a necklace or belt, it projects an idealized story of your movement - you seem to glide and sweep airily through any situation. The chain struggles with any display of gross incompetence, however. If you trip or are moved against your will, there is a chance it will shatter.
  17. A clear and languid draught in a shallow stone bowl which forgets for its imbiber, casting memories as stakes in a game of lots with the stars. The stars are very good gamblers, but if the imbiber wins they get some new memories, and likely the enmity of the stars.
  18. This elf-light is a sheen of harsh, yellow light breaking over a dark verizon, a pillar of dawn, regardless of the angle from which it is viewed. Anything held in its glare disintegrates in a heatless flame, scattering to colorless ash in moments. The terrible light cannot be moved or handled directly but it slowly glides into the nearest space which is darkest.
  19. A pitted stone dart which, when released, assassinates up to five nearby fires, one-by-one.
  20. A diadem of light and shining metal. It ignores a shock or afront for you. Until later. Much, much later, when you're alone, and the reverberations can literally shatter you.
  21. This mace of drab green rock specked bone white and brown hardens and deals grievous wounds in the presence of betrayers.
  22. A cloak of floating dust motes which quiets weight, allowing one to drift and bound under a night sky, but also risking being drawn up into that great silence above.
  23. Striated gray mineral cube which seems to squeeze out and absorb deep crimson nodes. Pressed into a wall, it reshapes it into a door or passage you were promised would be there.
  24. This fine dust glows pale blue-white with the brightness of a candle. It settles slowly when cast about or blown, and tends to stick to anything warm or damp. A simple enchantment, but useful to the imaginative.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Some new 5th Edition D&D warlock patrons


A being in the future guides you towards your fate. It may be a power yet unmade, or one of your companions… or perhaps even yourself.

Expanded Spell List

The Potentate lets you choose from an expanded list of spells when you learn a warlock spell. The following spells are added to the warlock spell list for you.

Potentate Expanded Spells

  1. heroism, sanctuary
  2. augury, enhance ability
  3. haste, sending
  4. death ward, divination
  5. circle of power, commune


When you expend inspiration, the target adds your Charisma modifier to their next attack roll, saving throw, or ability check made before the start of your next turn.

Temporal Echoes

Starting at 6th level, if you or a creature you can see would take damage, you can use your reaction to call up other possible timelines. The target is affected is as if it had cast a mirror image spell, except the duplicates affect even creatures which cannot see, use blindsight, or can perceive illusions, and the duration is a number of rounds equal to your Charisma modifier.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.


Beginning at 10th level, you add your Charisma modifier to Initiative rolls and Intelligence (Investigate) checks.

As Things Should Be

When you reach 14th level, you can tell with whom your fate is entwined. When you finish a long rest, choose a creature. If either of you gain inspiration, both of you do.


You survived a great slaughter, but the spirits of those who died press upon you to carry out their unfinished tasks and grievances.

Implements granted by a massacre warlock’s pact boon tend to look ruined and worthless to casual observers - a pitted kitchen knife for a pact weapon, or a singed diary as a Book of Shadows.

Expanded Spell List

The spirits of the massacre let you choose from an expanded list of spells when you learn a warlock spell. The following spells are added to the warlock spell list for you.

Massacre Expanded Spells

  1. dissonant whispers, wrathful smite
  2. blindness/deafness, spiritual weapon
  3. animate dead*, bestow curse
  4. fire shield, phantasmal killer
  5. animate objects, hallow


You may choose to take disadvantage on any attack. If you do so and hit, as a bonus action, you may cast any cantrip you know which requires an attack roll.

Whispers of the Slain

Starting at 6th level, you can tap the collected knowledge of those massacred. As a bonus action, you may gain proficiency in any skill or tool, or expertise in any skill or tool in which you are already proficient, for 1 minute.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

Arcane Vengeance

When you reach 10th level, your spells which require an attack roll score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20.

Chorus of Ruin

Starting at 14th level, you can call upon vengeful spirits to carry your destructive magic. You may use this feature as a bonus action. Doing so requires concentration, and every time you cast a cantrip which requires an attack roll, you conjure an invulnerable spirit infused with that cantrip.

On your turn, if you use your action to cast a cantrip which requires an attack roll, each conjured spirit does so as well, acting as a 5th-level caster for its infused spell, but using your ability score modifier. You may have a number of these spirits up to your Charisma modifier - any new one conjured replaces the oldest.

If you spend your action to do anything else, or lose concentration, all the spirits dissipate and this feature cannot be used again until you finish a long rest.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sack of Crapsack Worlds

These tables generate rather unpleasant settings in the vein of Robert E. Howard or Clark Ashton Smith. As examples:

In the sky there is a fat red sun, the Keening Moon, and the little Silent Moon. Magic is usually taught, but inimical to us. Outside the settlements, there is mostly marsh, dotted with pylons. We worship the ancestors, but schisms are widening in the faith. Monsters are rare and cunning. We work in wood, which is guarded. Settlements are ancient and teeming.

In the sky there is a yellow sun, a vast sweeping ring, and the twin moons. Monsters are hidden and viscous. Settlements are isolated and hungry. We work in bronze, which must be hunted. Outside the settlements, there is mostly ice, dotted with ruins. Magic is usually abundant but ritualistic. We worship the one God but heresies are becoming common.

Of course, in any of these settings, one must consider the sky first.

We watch (1d6) interesting things in the sky. Each is…
  1. tiny (a star, a comet)
  2. small (a small white sun, a lesser moon)
  3. average (a yellow sun, a moon)
  4. large (a fat red sun, a large moon)
  5. immense (a sister planet, a planetary ring)
  6. weird (fragments of larger body, erratic orbit, a literal five-headed space dragon)

For the other aspects, first roll to see the order in which each dominates the setting, then roll 2d6 for each.

(1) We work in ... which…
  1. wood
  2. stone
  3. bronze
  4. iron
  5. steel
  6. crystal
  1. is rewarded
  2. is guarded
  3. is unstable
  4. must be hunted
  5. is dwindling
  6. is toxic
(2) Magic is usually…. but…
  1. nonexistent
  2. the stuff of legends
  3. taught
  4. inherited
  5. abundant
  6. unavoidable
  1. requires sacrifice
  2. ritualistic
  3. inimical to us
  4. wrought by spirits
  5. prone to surges
  6. fading
(3) We worship… but...
  1. the ancestors
  2. the one God
  3. the divine family
  4. spirits of the land
  5. a myriad of gods
  6. the great Entities
  1. nobody really believes
  2. the faith is old and unsteady
  3. heresies are becoming common
  4. schisms are widening in the faith
  5. only out of fear
  6. there has been silence
(4) Settlements are usually… and…
  1. tiny
  2. sprawling
  3. isolated
  4. mobile
  5. underground
  6. ancient
  1. fortified
  2. decadent
  3. forlorn
  4. insular
  5. hungry
  6. teeming
(5) Outside the settlements, there is mostly… dotted with...
  1. desert
  2. ice
  3. marsh
  4. jungle
  5. the sea
  6. the howling void
  1. craters
  2. storms
  3. volcanoes
  4. ruins
  5. lights
  6. pylons
(6) Monsters are… and…
  1. rare
  2. hidden
  3. swarming
  4. migratory
  5. everywhere
  6. in control
  1. immortal
  2. viscious
  3. cunning
  4. horrific
  5. invisible
  6. charming

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Things from Tom Waits songs

I combed through Tom Waits' discography for stuff you could find in an RPG. Some possible uses:
  • An alternate trinket table for fifth edition.
  • Treasure table for your odder sorts of monsters.
  • Starting gear table for a particularly hardscrabble game (each character gets d6 things).
01Three gold rings
02A fishbone skeleton key
03A jawbone violin
04Little golden flies
05An accordion
06The same dead cat
07A hot cup of coffee
08An axe with bloodstains on
09A slowly acting poison
10The eyeball of a rooster
11Scarlet ribbons
12A purple knife
13A bottle of bargain scotch
14The pit from a peach
15Bones of all kinds
16A scrap-iron jaw
17A burgundy shirt
18A cuttlefish bone
19Thistles and brambles
20A drum of bourbon
21A blue trenchcoat
22A sword made from a stick
23Fake diamond earings
24Lipstick and powder and blush
25A heart-shaped bone
26Half a pint of scotch
27A bran' new pair of alligator shoes
28A new silver coin
29A reddish-coloured, vile-smelling fluid
30A big mink coat
31A crooked wand
32A pocket full of flowers
33Some gum and a lighter and a knife
34A beer
35A mouth full of gold teeth
36A red dress
37A church key
38Clusters of white cocoons
39Twenty-nine coins in an alligator purse
40A rusty black rake
41Playing cards
42A minute amount of liquor
43A little chihuahua named Carlos
44A ring made from a spoon
46Two lavender orchids
47Whiskey in a teacup
48Elaborate telescopic meats
49A skillet
50A stainless steel machete
51Enough formaldehyde to choke a horse
52The web of the black spider
53Tilapia fish cakes
54A dowser's wand
55A diamond balanced on a blade of grass
56A whole lot of whiskey
57An organ to detect the ripples
58Peculiar-looking trousers
59A fierce black hound
60A strange guitar
61A rose without a thorn
62A lantern that looks like an alligator egg
63Old busted chains
64A razor
65Rusty nails
66A blind man's cane
67An old pair of shoes
68A bucket full of sin
69A guitar string
70Five gold rings
71At least a hundred old baseballs
72A wilted sunflower
73A needle
74A pitchfork
75A piece of rotten wood
76The key that got lost
77The blood from a bounty hunter's cold, black heart
78A broken cup
79A cold-chiseled dagger
80Hot tar
81A claw hammer
82Leather and chains
83A hat full of feathers
84A can of beans
85A blanket from the moon
86The bone from a hare
87An old shirt that is stained with blood and whiskey
88Red shoes
89A diamond ring
90A red rose
92A bar of soap
93The quill from a buzzard
94Scapular wings covered with feathers and black tape
95A skull and crossbones ring
96A paralyzing fluid
97A church key
99A crowbar
00A bottle full of rain

Not included: Several artfully described guns.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Familiar Hybirds

Imagine you have a cat. Or take a convenient cat as an example. Forget how you got it. Remember instead the night you stoked a brass brazier well with charcoal, burned those herbs, and the beast sauntered in hours later, trailing magic behind it, and spoke your name.

The magic that binds it to you likely binds its form. How might you adjust either? Perhaps by binding many spirits into one form.
  • Elixirs rendered from the bodies of other casters' familiars could instill their essence.
  • Certain powers might reward (or punish) you through your bond.
  • It may be part of your arcane studies; a way to enhance your servitor's capacities.
So, when that happens, by whatever means, roll 2d6 based on the essence of the infusion.
  • 1-3 is a cosmetic change, causing that many of the suggested alterations.
  • 4-5 is a new ability for the familiar, as well as all the cosmetic changes.
  • 6 is a spell the familiar can cast once per day, as well as the best case for the new ability and all the cosmetic changes.


1-3 Large, complex ears; weird nose; beady, black eyes. Webbing on limbs; fine-furred pelt; ammonia odor.
4 Blindsight. Webbed wings and clumsy flight.
5 Blindsight. Webbed wings and graceful flight.
6 detect invisibility darkness


1-3 Reflective eyes; purrs; slitted pupils. Fangs; retractable claws; paces.
4 Darkvision. Can make a melee attack for 1 point of damage.
5 Darkvision. Can make a melee attack with dagger-like damage.
6 detect magic feather fall

Crow or raven

1-3 Long, black beak; glinting eyes; screeching call. Patches of black feathers; scaly, clawed feet; hops.
4 Speaks one language. Black feathered wings and clumsy flight.
5 Speaks two languages. Black feathered wings and graceful flight.
6 comprehend languages reduce


1-3 Short, hooked beak; huge, yellow eyes; hoots. Coughs up remains of food; patches of dark feathers; rotates head all the way round.
4 Darkvision. Dark feathered wings and clumsy flight.
5 Darkvision. Dark feathered wings and graceful flight.
6 identify invisibility


1-3 Flickering, forked tongue; slitted pupils; long fangs. Patches of scales; bands of colored patterns; slithers.
4 Venomous bite, with irritating effects. Long, sinuous body is difficult to grab and can wriggle through tiny spaces.
5 Venomous bite, with debilitating effects. Long, sinuous body is difficult to grab and can wriggle through tiny spaces.
6 ray of enfeeblement rope trick

Toad or frog

1-3 Bulging eyes; croaks; licks eyes. Patches of warty skin; hairless chest bulges with breath; flat, webbed feet.
4 Sticky, retractable tongue. 5 feet long, somehow. Swims.
5 Sticky, retractable tongue. 10 feet long, somehow. Can breathe water and air equally well. Swims.
6 magic mouth jump


1-3 Eyes glow; horns; smiles. Body glints like a hot coal; shimmering aura of heat and fumes; sheds ash.
4 Speaks one language. Needle teeth. Resists damage from fire and cold.
5 Speaks two languages. Needle teeth. Immune to damage from fire and cold.
6 friends burning hands


1-3 Antennae; pupils vanish; musky breath. Sprouts patches of leaves, moss, or flowers; quick movement is blurred; sheds fine, glittering dust.
4 Speaks one language. Sings beautifully. Gossamer wings and graceful flight.
5 Speaks two languages. Sings beautifully. Gossamer wings and perfect flight.
6 charm person dancing lights


1-3 Grows this many additional eyes. Flesh becomes spongy; takes a moment to show up when you look at it; casts no shadow.
4 Speaks one language. Whispers and drools. Resists damage from non-magical weapons.
5 Speaks two languages. Whispers and drools. Immune to damage from non-magical weapons.
6 unseen servant fog cloud

Some considerations:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

33 Magic Items

No particular system or numbers assigned, though I did have a resource-scarce hexcrawl in mind while writing them. I got inspired by this list at Goblin Punch.
  1. A milky glass circlet with sweeping, needling pinnacles. Shadows or dim light near the wearer are filled a bright but eerie light. This sad, actinic light does not spread beyond the shade it supplants.
  2. This outsize obsidian dagger is flecked with white mineral starbursts. A wielder gets a bonus on any attack targets that are not bleeding, but could be.
  3. Blug-thug. Blug-thug. This pulsing yellow tumor the size of a fist enclosed is in leathery skin. It permanently adheres to any exposed flesh, slightly reducing maximum health. After a month, it falls off and gooily hatches a cadaverous homunculus in service of its bearer, at which point the health may be healed normally.
  4. A thin cloak well-tufted with broad gray feathers. In addition to being a normal cloak, in full sunlight, the feathers glimmer and turn translucent, granting the wearer a slight bonus to armor.
  5. Once per day this raggedy scarf can be wrung out to produce a flask’s worth of lantern oil.
  6. A hailstone pendant hung from braided grass cord never melts. Once per day it conjures a mist or a wind around the wearer.
  7. This tapering ash sapling taller than a man creaks and sprouts tiny leaves. As long as the root ball survives, this regrows its entire 2-inch wide, 10-foot long body each day.
  8. A small dead bird. It does not decay and is always ever-so-slightly warm to the touch. Poor thing. It will always be the heaviest item in a pair of scales.
  9. This glazed clay mug is studded with semi-precious green and purple gems. It violently explodes if any poison is placed within it.
  10. A pitted steel belt buckle shaped like a toothy maw, flocked with mothy furs. If the buckle is fed a day’s rations it protects the belt’s wearer from exposure to the elements that day.
  11. Rubbing this pungent salve into your muscles increases the damage die of your melee weapon or unarmed attacks by one size. However, whenever you roll maximum damage on one of these dice, you also take a small amount of damage from the strain.
  12. These light sandals can be partially unraveled to yield 50 feet of linen cord as strong as stout rope. Each such use has a 1-in-6 chance of causing them to fully unravel.
  13. A small gilt frame. Placed around a landscape painting, the scene comes to gentle life. Clouds gather and disperse, the sun rises and sets, the seasons are reflected. If the painting is of a real place, the changes will mirror it in nearly real time, though never with enough detail to make out individual people or words.
  14. Any ink stored in this stone inkwell becomes poisonous. A single letter written from it will have no effect, but handling frequent correspondence over a month or two gradually turns the victim’s blood to ink.
  15. This cowl is lined with mangy feathers and has a definite rancid whiff to it. At the center of the hood hangs a beak-like charm of bone and sinew. The foul owl cowl allows the wearer to understand the speech of owls, and once per night use a breath weapon - a stream of tiny bones, feathers, teeth, and fur, which causes a small amount of damage and may sicken or disease those struck.
  16. An iron needle with a delicate, vine-like filigree. When floated atop a tea brewed from a single herb, root, leaf, or berry, it points in the direction of the nearest growing plant of the same type. No indication as to actual distance is given, however.
  17. A dour lead bell with no clapper carved with a worm motif. When “rung”, it interferes with creatures who rely on vibrations to sense their surroundings or prey.
  18. These knucklebones are carved with dice pips. If they are tossed into a large pot or cauldron of boiling water along with a five day’s worth of rations, roll 2d6 - the rations are transformed into stew sufficient to feed that many people for a day. The knucklebones rest at the bottom and can be retrieved for use another day.
    If you roll a 12, the stew is particularly delicious and nourishing, and could provide a morale or resting bonus. On a roll of 2, the knucklebones cause the food to visibly spoil and curdle, then split and become useless.
  19. This heavy leather bag can capture a wind. Only one wind can be held at a time, even a magical one if the holder is prepared to catch it. When opened, any wind inside it quickly issues forth.
  20. A birch-bark scroll with runic letters excised from it. The air in the spaces shimmers as in a breeze, or a great heat. Those who can read the ancient words aloud can summon a nature spirit, at which point the scroll crumbles.
  21. This deck of cards is tattered and mismatched. Some cards are missing, and some are from unknown suites - the eight of spiders or the three of witches, for example. If scattered in the air, undead feel a powerful compulsion to gather the deck back together.
  22. This fragrant dried tea functions as a healing potion when brewed and drunk hot. It is less convenient than a traditional potion, but is also immune to spilling or freezing, or the corrupting presence of some unholy creatures.(Really any potion could be found in tea form.)
  23. An unassuming reed flute which can be used to teach songs to patches of living reeds or rushes.
  24. Mud, gravel, or silt piled by this shovel forms itself into a dwelling. In an hour a strong wielder can have a simple hut with a doorway and a couple open windows. In a day they can heap up a small tower with two or three floors and a parapet on the roof, all connected by ladders.
    The buildings lack any furnishings or moving doors, though the shovel can change shape via a command word to serve as a thin iron door for one passage. It attaches and hinges itself, and returns to its normal form at a command word.
    Buildings made with the shovel are noticeably crumbly, but sturdy. They collapse back into muck in a week without maintenance.
  25. This signet ring transmutes sand or clay into small, simple items such as mugs, plates, coffers, or figurines when pressed against them. The created items are of fair craftsmanship and always bear the ring’s seal - if it is somehow removed, they crumble or shatter immediately.
  26. A small bronze lanthorn whose plates of horn are shaved from an unknown beast. The lanthorn burns oil normally, but it can also burn secrets. Whispering one into it causes it to burn for minutes to hours, depending on the depth of the secret. Each can only be used once - the lanthorn remembers all the secrets it has ever burned.
  27. This tiny harness offers some magical protection to a familiar or favorite pet. In addition, it has two hidden extra-dimensional spaces among its straps and buckles, each large enough to hold a potion, dagger, scroll, coin purse, or similar small item.
  28. A pair of garnet dice which always show the same face up, no matter the distance between them. They always roll doubles.
  29. When cracked, this hollow-sounding egg hatches an entire flock of vigorous songbirds in moments.
  30. This stout hunting bow is set with moonstones and has a white leather grip. If drawn without an arrow nocked, it draws upon nearby light to form one, temporarily dimming its surroundings. These arrows are considered magical, and illuminate their flight. Their damage and brightness depend on the strength of the light they were formed from.
  31. Pungent vinegar sloshes in this rope-wrapped, glass gallon jar. Anything placed inside is preserved, perfectly pickled in moments.
  32. Filled with oil and herbs or leaves, this silver censer produces smoke repellent to insects. If the herbs are specially gathered for such a purpose, the censer increases their potency, but anything even vaguely scented will work. Giant or magically controlled insects have a chance of withstanding the smoke.
  33. Five fleas in a little tin box. Anyone who welcomes these five fleas onto their body will only ever have these five fleas, as they will bravely hunt down and destroy any invaders to their home, including lice, ticks, mites, or other such nuisances. But they will always have these five fleas.