Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Pumpkin Goblins

Happy Halloween, and a blessed Samhain! In celebration of one of my favorite holidays, I have decided to write up a type of creature that has appeared in the artwork of Halloween cards and picture books for decades; the pumpkin goblin!

These little beasties are plant-like relatives of the more common goblinoids, and are rumored to be created by witches sprinkling goblin blood over a pumpkin patch and calling upon the power of the faeries. The end result of this strange ritual is a horde of short-lived pumpkin-headed plant-like humanoids who are loyal to their creator.

Pumpkin Goblin
Move: 60 feet/turn
Hit Dice: See below
Armor Class: 8
Treasure Class: L
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1-6

Pumpkin goblins vary in size dramatically, much like pumpkins. The smallest ones are no larger than a toddler, and possess a mere 1-4 hit points. Most are around half the size of an adult human, and possess 1-6 hit points. Human sized pumpkin goblins possess 1 hit die, and the largest known recorded pumpkin goblin was around the size of an ogre, possessing 4 hit dice.

Around 1 in 10 pumpkin goblins has a magical candle inside of its head, which allows it to make a breath weapon attack once per day. The breath weapon emanates in a 60x30 foot cone, and deals 1-6 damage per hit die the pumpkin goblin possesses. Anyone caught in the cone may make a saving throw versus dragon breath to halve the damage.

Pumpkin goblins do not live very long at all, the magics that form them are unstable and still allow them to rot quickly, like jack-o-lanterns. They last 2 days per hit point they possess, losing one hit point each day. However, upon expiring, their rotten heads release scores of seeds which can grow into new pumpkin goblins over the course of around a year (around 3 times as long as it takes for a normal pumpkin to grow).

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Greyhawk Ruins Condensed Key: Tower of War 1

NOTE: The following key requires the use of WGR1: Greyhawk Ruins to be used properly. In order to avoid infringing upon copyright and merely making a helpful tool for a game master, monster statistics and the map for the dungeon level have been purposefully omitted. The module can be purchased here

The Tower of War (Level 1)

  • Band of 10 dwarves (1 leader, 2 guards, 7 warriors) guard the tower, with a pet brown bear
  • The leader, Stillguar, takes a 1/3 cut of any gold found in the tower by adventurers
  • Instead of paying the tax, the party can take the great risk, where the dwarves throw 2 hammers into the air, and the orientation of them determines what happens and what is paid
Great Risk Table
2: Lose all gold
3: Lose all gold found in the tower
4-9: Lose ½ gold found in the tower
10: Lose 1/10 gold found in the tower
11: Keep all gold
12: Dwarves give the party a gold ingot worth 500 coins

  • Table, stove, and some barrels
  • Barrels contain 50 coins worth of alcoholic beverages left

  • Entrance to room is locked
  • Chest is kept next to a stone desk, the chest is locked and trapped with a poison needle, and contains 150 coins worth of gold objects
  • On the desk are false records of how much gold the dwarves tax
  • A loose flagstone hides a stash of 8500 coins worth of gold items

  • Spare armor parts and food for the dwarves

  • Pit with flammable oil at the bottom

  • Entrance walls are covered with stakes coated in deadly poison

  • Large doors that serve as the entrance to the tower
  • Depict a war wagon flying through the air, accompanied by smaller chariots and war beasts

  • War table in center of the room, with 8 pillars holding up ceiling, and a small throne at the end of the room
  • In front of the throne is a skeletal corpse clutching a bag of gold nuggets worth 25 coins
  • There are 8 skeletons hiding behind the pillars
  • There are 8 sturdy, beautifully made wooden chairs worth 300 coins each

  • 2 mounds of moldy straw, each containing 12 rot grubs
  • 7 skeletons lie in a pile that will animate when approached, near a bar of gold worth 75 coins
  • Two barrels contain unholy water and 30 coins

  • Empty shelves except for a metal box that is trapped with two poison darts, both of which are gold and worth 20 coins each
  • 7 skeletons, which will attempt to assist the skeletons in W109 if combat is going poorly for them

  • 7 skeleton horses in stalls, the skeletons in W110 will attempt to retreat to this room and mount the horses if combat doesn’t go their way

  • Fancy room with nice furniture and a fireplace, but smells awful
  • 7 zombies, each one infested with a rot grub, hide behind curtained off bed-chambers
  • A gold knife above the fireplace is worth 50 coins

  • There is a bed in the center of the room, with a blue key that opens the secret door leading to W114 attached to the underside of it
  • There are 4 skeletons and 4 zombies

  • The war wagon (worth 25000 coins), as depicted on the doors in W107 is here, as well as 8 chariots (worth 5000 coins each)
  • The war wagon briefly has the illusion of a ghost driving it and looking over its shoulder before transforming into a swordwraith and disappearing
  • There are 8 skeletons here
  • In the upper stories of the room are 18 swordwraiths that can cal skeletons and zombies from other rooms to assist them

  • Old kitchen I ruins
  • Three poltergeists who were once cooks are in this room
  • There is a smashed golden object that is beyond recognition worth 45 coins, as well as a +2 scimitar

  • Broken and scattered pieces of bed and chairs
  • 2 giant scorpions in a closet

  • Old pantry only containing a flask of poisoned wine

  • Locked bedrooms, no monsters but the swordwraiths from W114 check them every night

  • Cages containing 14 skeletal dogs, and 12 zombie hawks, which can and will easily escape their cages to attack

  • Two pillars support ceiling, many tables near 2 unlit fireplaces
  • 13 skeletons in robes, staring at gold objects on the tables, attack when approached
  • The gold objects are a 25 coin bracelet, a 35 coin chalice, and a 10 coin belt buckle

  • 12 bedrooms, each one containing a zombie
  • The zombies will help the skeletons in W120 if the fight isn’t going their way

Monday, October 29, 2018

How to Write Usable Room Descriptions

Note that the following is just my opinion on how I like room descriptions to be written, and I do not think that the following writers are incompetent or bad adventure designers.
(From WGR1: Greyhawk Ruins)

Writing an adventure is technical writing, not a narrative*. Saying what a room is with tons of adjectives and evocative descriptions is the job of the game master, not the adventure writer. This is because if the game master has to read a several paragraph long wall of text whenever the party enters a new room, the game slows down to a crawl. Not to mention, the more descriptive a room is, the more chances there are for the game master to miss something in the heat of the game.

For example, lets look at this room's description from S1: Tomb Of Horrors, by Gary Gygax:

MAGlCAL SECRET DOOR: This entrance to the remainder
of the Tomb is along the stairway which leads down. It can
be found by any means, but nothing will enable it to be
opened until the area is either viewed through a gem ofseeing, a similar spell is cast, or a detect magic spell is
used to pinpoint the magic aura. When the magic of the door
is found, it will require a dispel magic or remove cursespell to remove the guard which prevents the door from being
opened. Once accomplished, the secret door can be opened
easily from either side.
This is a very detailed description, but consider that it could very easily be summarized as the following:

Magical Secret Door
  • A stairway leads down into the rest of the Tomb, with a door at the bottom
  • The door is sealed by magic, and can only be open if the spell is lifted
Lets look at another example, an excerpt from Elzemon and the Blood-Drinking Box by Terry Olson, from Goodman Games's Dungeon Crawl Classics 89: Chaos Rising:

Area 5 – Fangsights AttackAs you cross the bridge back toward the spiral stairway, a high-pitched screeching erupts from the sanctum. Swarming from the guano mound’s peak, a cloud of pink, fleshy grapefruit-sized globs begins to race in your direction.Each orb flies with bat wings and is haphazardly covered with multiple types of eyes and fanged mouths, as if constructed randomly from various creatures.
The fangsights attack PCs as they attempt to cross the first
narrow portion of the bridge. If the swarm successfully bites
a PC, then it coalesces around the victim trying to knock
him prone. If a PC is on a narrow portion of the bridge
when knocked prone, then he falls into the lake. Note that
leeches are still present if not previously dealt with. The
swarm is especially vulnerable to the lake’s acid. The glass
bucket from area 4b is useful here, as one bucket-full of lake
“water” causes 2d10 damage to the swarm on a successful
splash attack. PCs may also opt to lead the swarm into area
4a to avoid being knocked off of the bridge. With planning,
the party can even trap the fangsights in area 4a by leading
them in, then carefully withdrawing and closing the door.
Finally, the fangsight swarm is a “perversion of nature” and
is considered “unholy” (i.e., turn-able) to neutral clerics.
Fangsight SwarmInit +5; Atk swarming bite +3 melee
(1d6 + coalesce); AC 14; HD 5d8; hp 22; MV fly 40’; Act
1d20; SP bite all targets within 20’ x 20’ space, coalesce (DC
12 Ref save or be knocked prone); SV Fort +0, Ref +5, Will
-1; AL C.

Again, it is a very detailed description, with lots of explanation on what happens in this room. But again, it is quite a large wall of text for the poor game master to read through. I would write it as follows:

Area 5: Fangsights Attack
  • There is a bridge crossing a lake of deadly acid
  • If the party crosses the bridge, a swarm of Fangsights (see bestiary) attack the party, attempting to knock them into the acid below
What you need for a room description is the following:
  • What dangers there are
  • The important features of the room
  • A brief description of any NPCs that may be in the room
Unimportant information needs to be thrown out. Of course the floor is covered with dust in the ancient tomb, that's something that should be assumed! It doesn't matter that the orcs have swords stolen from the local blacksmith (unless part of the adventure hook is the blacksmith wanting his swords back). A room key should be able to be scanned in seconds, so the game master can elaborate.

Now, read aloud text is different. For new GMs, its often extremely helpful to have a ready-made, evocative description. In read-aloud text, feel free to describe things with great detail, because if a GM hasn't learned how to describe rooms yet it is important to have something they can fall back on. But the actual write-up of the room should be simple and easy to read.

I made this post because recently I've begun working on making a condensed key for WGR1: Greyhawk Ruins, a 2nd edition megadungeon based on the original by Gary Gyax. If I am satisfied with the results of my work (and comfortable with its legality), I will be sharing the resulting document through google drive on my blog. It may take a while though, as the dungeon does contain over 1000 rooms, and I also have to edit the maps to be easier to read, hopefully in flowchart format.

*except read-aloud text

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Desiccators for Holmes Basic (Converted from 3.5e)

Libris Mortis: The Book of the Undead was a supplement for D&D 3.5 that detailed character options, new spells, and new monsters relating to undead monsters. In my opinion it suffered a lot from the rules and writing bloat typical of the era, but there was still a lot of goodness held within.

One of the more interesting of the new monsters that was introduced was the Desiccator, an undead water elemental. It took the form of a sickly, salt-encrusted and child-sized humanoid with no facial features other than a mouth, and whose breath sucked up water. They were essentially anti-water elementals.

Now, water elementals do not exist in the Holmes Basic set, but they do appear in the Monster Manual for AD&D, which, as explained in the Zenopus Archives, is most compatible with the Holmes rules, not AD&D.

So, without further ado, here is my take on the Anti-Water Elemental.

Move: 80 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 6
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1-6

Once every 1-4 rounds, a Desiccator may breath a 15 foot cone of extremely dry air that absorbs all water in the area. Anyone within the cone must make a saving throw against dragon breath or lose 1 point of Constitution, which can be regained after one day's rest and rehydration.

Anyone struck by a Dessicator's claws takes a -1 penalty to attack rolls for 1-6 rounds. In addition, whenever the Dessicator deals damage with its attack, it regains a number of hit points equal to the damage dealt.

Note that the combat statistics for the creature above only represents what a small Desiccator is like. A human-sized Desiccator has 6 hit dice and an attack that deals 1-8 damage, while an ogre-sized Desiccator has 8 hit dice and an attack that deals 1-10 damage.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Corrupted Monsters of Raven Hill

Hey y'all remember this post? Well I'm finally making a follow up to that.

The beings that flounder and wander the otherworldly town of Raven Hill do resemble their "normal" counterparts, at least superficially, but they always seem broken and wrong somehow. They are not truly the monsters they resemble, but nightmares spawned from the subconscious of any who wander into the accursed town.

Below are some tables to roll on to change the physical appearance of regular monsters to make them like something out of Silent Hill.

(The Insane Cancer from Silent Hill 3)

Common Traits
All (or at least most) of the monsters of Raven Hill have the following characteristics:

  • No eyes
  • Do not speak, or show any signs of intelligence beyond animal instinct
  • Are naked, and have wet, hairless, rubbery skin, but do not possess sex organs
  • Being near them causes a ringing noise in one's ears
Subtracting Traits (d6)
The following remove physical features from the creature.
  1. No arms
  2. No mouth
  3. No legs
  4. No head
  5. No hands or feet
  6. No obvious method of attack, damage just happens

Adding Traits (d6)
The following add physical features to the creature.
  1. Shards of metal in its flesh
  2. Constantly leaks water from its skin, leaving a puddle
  3. Vestigial limbs sticking out from odd places
  4. Covered in pustules
  5. Long tongues extend from slits in body
  6. Teeth stick out of its body like barnacles on a whale

Movement Traits (d6)
This is some disturbing way the monster moves.
  1. Stumbles, seemingly not knowing where it is going
  2. Floats eerily a few feet above the ground
  3. Whole body vibrates and it occasionally teleports a foot or so in a random direction
  4. Skitters like a cockroach
  5. Seems to dance
  6. You can't tell how it moves, you just lose sight of it for a second and then suddenly it is somewhere else
Sound Traits (d6)
What unholy noises the thing makes.
  1. Distorted music
  2. An infant crying
  3. Bones snapping
  4. Nothing, aside from the vague ringing in your head
  5. A high pitched, metallic screech
  6. A wet slapping sound

By rolling on some or all of these tables, and adding the common traits already inherent to Raven Hill monsters, you can instantly get something surreal and horrifying.

For example, lets take the common, pig faced orc. I roll a 6, a 3, a 4, and a 5. Now we have an eyeless, naked, half-pig thing that crawls like a cockroach and has vestigial limbs sticking out of its horrific body. When it opens its mouth, all that comes out is a metallic scream, and though it never actually attacks, being near the thing causes you to bleed as if being cut with tiny knives, all as a loud ringing sound fills your ears.

Lets do a giant spider next. I roll a 6, a 3, a 6, and a 6, meaning it will be somewhat similar to our first example, but that's okay! This thing is a fleshy spider, that looks like it was formed out of wet human skin. It is covered in extra human limbs that it doesn't seem to use to move, and it doesn't have fangs either, it simply poisons you by being nearby. The thing doesn't even move, it just seems like you're forced to blink and suddenly its closer. Whenever this happens, you hear a disgusting, wet, slapping noise, as the ringing in your ears gets louder.

Enjoy the nightmares!

(The Slurper, also from Silent Hill 3)

Friday, October 26, 2018

Morlocks for Holmes Basic (Converted from Pathfinder)

Morlocks are originally from H.G. Wells's novel The Time Machine, where they are the descendants of working class humanity, living underground and operating ancient machinery more out of instinct than actual intelligence. Meanwhile the descendants of the bourgeoisie and upper class evolved into the Eloi, a species of short, unintelligent and carefree humanoids that are fed upon by the Morlocks.

Pathfinder takes a different approach to these creatures, simply having them be the descendants of humans who delved into the Darklands (the Pathfinder setting's equivalent of the Underdark/Underworld), and evolved to suit their environment. In many ways they are similar to the crawlers from the film Descent.

(Image taken from the Pathfinder Bestiary)

Move: 160 feet/turn/climb 120 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 9
Treasure Type: Q
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Attacks: 1 club or bite
Damage: 1-6 club, 1-4 bite

Morlocks can climb on the walls like spiders, crawling on walls and ceilings with ease unless the surface is extraordinarily smooth. They can see in utter darkness using infravision to detect body heat at a range of 120 feet.

Some morlocks have clerical abilities, and worship various evil deities of the underworld, such as Tsathoggua or Atlach-Nacha. These priests are treated as third level clerics, and have 3 hit dice instead of 2.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

6 System Neutral Occult Tomes

Serpent Lore

This rare tome is bound in snakeskin, with strange runic symbols on the cover, along with its title in the common tongue. It was translated from ancient stone tablets and carvings, found in pre-human ruins to the North. The book details the history and culture of the Serpent-folk, reptilian humanoids who lived in the time of the dinosaurs, before the North froze.

Types of Spells Contained Within

Any spells relating to snakes or reptiles may be found within this book, at the discretion of the game master. In addition, spells for entering suspended animation, poisoning people, and hypnosis may be present.

(Image from Coreychiev on Deviantart, who also runs the Etsy store TheLeatherGeek)

An Account of the End Times

This illuminated manuscript would be a work of art, were it not for the horrific things described and illustrated within its pages. It was written by Brother Augustus, a monk who was excommunicated by the church after he began to suffer from prophetic visions of the end of the world. Before his death, he completed his life's work by recording his visions in this book.

Types of Spells Contained Within

Though the book is largely a narrative, there are a handful of spells in the book. These spells are typically protective wards and enchantments for use against demons and the undead, and there may be spells for seeing the future as well.

(Image taken from Cornell University)

Bestiarum Monstrorum 

This unfinished manuscript is a bundle of pages, loosely held together with twine and kept in a leather satchel. It was written by an anonymous monster hunter who detailed the beasts that he slayed during his questing, with their weaknesses, supposed origins, and hidden dangers. Many entries are woefully inaccurate or simply incomplete, but what knowledge is there is extremely valuable. The author died before he could complete his work, killed by some creature that he was in the process of researching.

Types of Spells Contained Within

What few spells are contained in this text are related to banishing demons, tracking down monsters, and enchanting weapons for use against the supernatural.

(John Winchester's notebook from Supernatural)

The Gospel of Shub

These books are bound in a disgustingly warm, fleshy leather, that almost seems to breath. Inside the book's pages are rites and rituals devoted to the foul fertility deity Shub, the Mother Goat. It is written in an alien language that is almost unutterable by human throats, though there are rumored to be translations in the common tongue. Details on the rituals that will birth the Screaming Child and destroy the world as we know it are contained within these grotesque volumes.

Types of Spells Contained Within

Formulae for summoning the children of Shub, creating food, and contacting the Mother Goat may be found, and there are rituals for birthing the Screaming Child and ending the world as well, though these may be incomplete.

(The Necronomicon Ex-Mortis from Evil Dead 2)

The Witchfinder's Lorebook

This is one of the few books here to be mass produced, as it is commonly given to members of the Holy Inquisition, to be used to fight against the forces of evil (at least, evil outside of the church). It is not a terribly accurate guidebook, and includes a massive amount of inaccurate or just plain wrong information, but there are still snippets of truth and genuine occult knowledge contained within its pages. It was written by a well renowned inquisitor named Ludwig Wulf, who is said to have executed 100 heretics in but a year, before dying of a mysterious wasting disease.

Types of Spells Contained Within

There are almost no spells contained in the book, but there may be details on minor summoning rituals stolen from witches as examples of evil magic, and perhaps spells that can be used to fight against demons.

The Art of Flesh

The author of this slim volume is unknown, and the book itself does not look terribly imposing. It is bound in brown leather, and is handwritten. However, the contents of the book are monstrous, detailing surgical, alchemical, and occult procedures to gruesomely modify the body in unspeakable ways. Fortunately, there are no diagrams or illustrations, but the descriptions of horrific transformations and mutilations are so grotesque as to cause nightmares. There are a handful of copies of this book, usually kept by demonic cultists who desire to create monsters using mortal flesh as a medium.

Types of Spells Contained Within

Despite the tome's small size, there are many spells written down in its pages, allowing for mutation of human flesh in a myriad of horrific ways. Practically any spell that is themed around body horror and hideous transformations can be found in this book, at the discretion of the Game Master.

(Leather notebook from Rustico)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Cult of the Eternal Dance

Now what we're taking control
We get what we want
We do what you don't
Dirt and glitter cover the floor
We're pretty and sick
We're young and we're bored

-Kesha, Blow

(Nymphs Dancing to Pan's Flute by Joseph Tomanek)

Strange, rhythmic drumming comes from the woods, a sound that you more feel than hear. You can tell it is music, pulsing, loud music, but what kind of tune is being played is beyond your comprehension. The heart-like beat of the noise is accompanied by the sounds of screams and laughter. Bright, multicolored lights emanating from the woods are reflected by the clouds, like lightning.

You are either curious, or foolish, and begin to creep into the dense mass of brush and trees, desperate to find the source of the lights and sounds. As you get closer, the beat gets louder and the lights get brighter, and the screams of joy and jubilation you heard from afar take on a panicked, feverish quality.

Finally, you reach the source of the cacophony, and what you see is almost too much for you to take in. Dozens of humanoid figures dance, leaping and cavorting with superhuman agility and endurance. But for every graceful dancer there are several broken, crushed bodies beneath their feet, many still groaning and coughing up blood. Many of the dancers have syringes sticking out of their exposed flesh, and their bodies are covered in intricate tattoos. Piercings abound, and hair is either shaved off or elaborately decorated. Teeth are filed to points, and you can swear that some of the dancers have too many limbs and joints.

The strobe-like flashing of the multicolored lights seems to pull you into the clearing where the unnatural performers cavort and frolic, and suddenly, they are upon you. Teeth and claws sink into your flesh as needles are forced into your skin, and in an instant you are torn to shreds, yet the myriad drugs coursing through your veins as you die cause you to feel nothing but manic joy...

The Cult of the Eternal Dance

The Eternal Dance is a Hell of utter chaos and ecstasy, an endless colorful cloud of lights and sounds and sensations so alien and bizarre that to gaze upon it is to invite death by overstimulation. The demons of this realm constantly shift their forms to suit whatever debauchery they desire, most often a roiling mass of limbs, eyes, ears, and tongues. These demons can produce potent drugs that can alter both the mental state and physiology of the user.

Sometimes, in order to find more Dancers, these demons disguise themselves as particularly talented composers and singers. As these "performers" gain more and more followers and fans, the demons begin to dispense drugs, said to be from foreign lands, to its followers. Each dose the demon's adoring fans take begins to change them, starting with personality. Users of these unnatural drugs become jittery, and energetic. They are irritable and constantly desire stimulation to be happy. At first, this leads to great bursts of productivity and creativity, but it soon devolves into frantic chaos.

After the victim's mind is altered, then comes the physical changes. Teeth begin to sharpen, and muscles begin to develop stronger. The drug users cease to sleep, they are constantly in motion. Their metabolisms speed up, fat burning up and constant hunger setting in, resulting in a gaunt, yet muscular, figure. Then they begin to desire human flesh, and more noticeable mutations begin to take effect, and the transformation is complete; they are a Dancer now.

Not all Dancers survive the change, nor their first dance. Their demonic patron will take them somewhere into the wilderness for a grand party, full of wild dancing, rampant drug use, and feasting upon captured victims. However, as the Dancers begin to laugh and frolic ecstatically, their muscles may snap, and their bones shatter as they land on the ground after great leaps. These failures are trod upon and even consumed by their demonic brethren, who by now have lost every last vestige of humanity. 

When the dance's tempo reaches its zenith, their patron begins to morph into a shifting mass of organs and flesh, before opening a portal to the Eternal Dance. Gleefully, the formerly human cultists will follow their master through the gateway, shedding the last vestiges of mortality to become monstrous hedonists beyond time and space.

  • The Eternal Dance is a Hell of ultimate stimulation and sensation. Its demons are shape-shifting masses of flesh, usually a ball of limbs, eyes, tongues, and ears.
  • Demons from this Hell come to Urth and disguise themselves as composers and musicians, and begin to accrue a following due to their strange and energetic music.
  • The demons distribute drugs (produced by their own bodies) to their followers, causing mental and physical changes.
  • The mental changes are extreme jitteriness, manic energy, and impatience, and the physical changes include increased metabolism and strength, along with pointed teeth, a taste for human flesh, and other mutations.
  • Eventually, the demon takes its followers into the wilderness for a grand party and dance, the climax of which opens a portal to the Eternal Dance, which the party-goers travel through and transform into new demons, continuing the cycle.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Masked Strangers

Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
Stranger: Indeed?
Cassilda: Indeed it's time. We have all laid aside disguise but you.
Stranger: I wear no mask.
Camilla: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda.) No mask? No mask!

- The King in Yellow, Act 1, Scene 2

(Image taken from Roger Corman's adaptation of Masque of the Red Death)

Masked Strangers are demons of entropy and chaos, most commonly found at masquerade balls, harvest festivals, theaters, and other places where people wear masks.

They resemble tall, thin humans wearing tattered robes and masks. The color of the robes and masks vary from Stranger to Stranger, though the masks are universally awful to look upon. It is rumored that if one ignores a Masked Stranger, and doesn't acknowledge their hideous features, they will leave you alone. It is not known if this is true.

Masked Stranger
HD 10
AC Unarmored (can only be hit by silver or magic weapons)
ATK 4 Telekinetic Slashes
DMG 1d6+1
HDE 20

Remove Mask
Once every 1d6 rounds, a Masked Stranger may briefly remove its mask to reveal something horrible beyond human comprehension. Anyone who is in a position to see its face must make a saving throw or attempt to claw out their own eyes. If they fail, they take 1d6 damage and are now blind, taking a -4 penalty to hit on all attack rolls (after 1 week, this penalty is reduced to -3 as they acclimate to blindness, after 2 weeks the penalty is reduced to -2).

Different Masks Have Different Powers

Depending on the color of a Stranger's mask/robes, they will have different abilities. GMs are encouraged to come up with their own abilities for each color, but some examples are below:

This Stranger's mask looks like a man bleeding from his pores, his face contorted into an expression of pure agony. Anyone struck by the Stranger's Telekinetic Slash must make a saving throw or begin to bleed from their skin, taking 1d3 damage each round for 1d6 rounds. (This effect does not stack damage, being hit again and failing a saving throw merely increases the length of time one bleeds).

This Stranger's mask is impossible to describe accurately, but it seems at once intricate and faceless. Anyone in the presence of the Masked Stranger must make a saving throw each round or lose 1d3 points of CHA. Once a character reaches 0 CHA, they are now controlled by the Stranger.

This mask looks like a face covered in frost, with a horrific grimace and glazed over eyes. Anyone struck by the Masked Stranger's Telekinetic Slash must make a saving throw or be paralyzed from gnawing cold for 1 round.

(Image taken from Sandy Petersen's Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos for Pathfinder)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

My Take on Vampires

HD variable
AC unarmored or by armor worn
ATK 1 bite or weapon
DMG 1d6 or 1d6+2
HDE equal to hit dice plus 2

Whenever a vampire bites someone, they regain a number of hit points equal to the damage they deal. In addition, vampires naturally regenerate 1d3 HP each round. Vampires cannot naturally regenerate any damage dealt by silver weapons, or holy water (being splashed with holy water deals 1d6 damage to vampires).

Exposure to direct sunlight causes vampires to take 1d6 damage per round, and be unable to regenerate, even by drinking blood.

Young vampires tend to merely resemble human beings, if a bit pale and with sharp teeth. However, the older a vampire gets, the less human they become, taking on aspects of other haemovores.

Roll on the table below to determine what animal the vampire takes after:

1. Mosquito: The vampire's nose and mouth fuse into a straw-like feeding organ, and its eyes grow large and black.

2. Flea: The vampire's skin begins to harden into a shell, and they adopt a hopping, crouching gait.

3. Lamprey: The vampire loses all its hair, and its teeth rearrange themselves into a circle of fangs.

4. Bat: The vampire's fingers grow long and sharp, and its incisors grow longer and razor sharp. Its ears become freakishly large and sensitive.

5. Leech: The vampire begins to sweat mucus, and become bloated. Its bones become flexible and jelly-like.

6. Tick: The vampire's neck begins to merge with its chest, and the teeth and tongue of the beast begin to merge into a disgusting feeding mouth part. Its eyes begin to shrink and migrate lower down its face.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Building a Dungeon from the Ground Up

Alright, lets make a level 1 dungeon adventure, a medium sized complex with 20 rooms.

I don't really have any huge inspiring ideas for a dungeon, so I roll on my random dungeon adventure tables for inspiration.

I get a 4, a 6, another 4, and a 3, meaning that my dungeon is a complex of secret tunnels built by pagans, rumored to contain treasure, and people know about it because someone was kidnapped and taken there, but escaped. The beings that currently live there is a group of bandits.

That's a pretty decent starting point for an adventure, you can get some role playing with the victim who escaped, and give the PCs a general idea of who they're up against before they even set foot in the dungeon.

Lets say the escaped kidnap victim is a man named Ralph, and that he was waylaid by bandits while on his way home from his butcher's shop. He says there is another victim kept there, a mute child dressed in noble's clothing, along with some coins. He says the bandits' leader had a glowing necklace that caused him to be paralyzed.

Already we now have a magic item, and an NPC. For a 20 room dungeon, we need 6 combat encounters, 6 empty rooms, 4 traps, 2 NPCs, 2 Special Rooms, and 2 Magic Items.

Of these we currently have 1 NPC, and a magic item.

Lets make the special rooms next, as they tend to be the hardest part. Since this is an abandoned pagan underground tunnel network, I think some folk magic would be the best fit for these. The first special room can be a statue of a god with antlers and 4 arms. If one places something important to them onto the statue's lap, the item disappears and they become blessed with superhuman strength, along with growing some small antlers out of the top of their head.

The second special room has a small underground stream, that glows faintly. If one drinks from the stream, they either regain 1d6 health, or become violently ill, taking 1d3 damage and a -1 penalty to attack rolls for the rest of the day. Roll a d6 to determine which occurs (evens is 1d6 health, odds is violent illness).

Now that the special rooms are done, we can move on to the traps, which to me are the second most difficult things to come up with. Lets say we have a chest with a poisoned latch on it (the chest can contain our second magic item, a potion of healing), an otherwise empty room with a tripwire connected to a crossbow, a rug covering a hole with spikes on the bottom, and a tripwire that causes a rock to fall on the triggering character's head.

Now we need the NPCs, for which we will use the kidnapped young noble-boy and the leader of the bandits. The bandits' leader has his own room, where he is looking over old maps, planning the next place to strike. Her name is Barbara, and she is gruff and has an eye patch. She will attempt to convince the party to join her bandits, and she has a magic necklace that causes paralysis.

The noble-boy has a name, but is unable to speak, so cannot share it. He is very shy and very scared, and wants to return home.  He is kept in a makeshift cage, and is being held for ransom.

The combat encounters are going to be simple, just bandits of varying types. The empty rooms are similarly easy, they just need a little bit of flavor to make them stand out from simple empty rooms. Lets say we're designing this dungeon for 4 player characters, and since they're level 1, that gives us a budget of 8000 coins worth of treasure to spread around.

So lets say our finished rooms/encounters are as follows:

  • A statue of a god with antlers and 4 arms. If one places something important to them onto the statue's lap, the item disappears and they become blessed with superhuman strength, along with growing some small antlers out of the top of their head.
  • A small underground stream, that glows faintly. If one drinks from the stream, they either regain 1d6 health, or become violently ill, taking 1d3 damage and a -1 penalty to attack rolls for the rest of the day. Roll a d6 to determine which occurs (evens is 1d6 health, odds is violent illness).
  • A chest with a poisoned latch (saving throw or take 2d6 damage). Contains a magical potion of healing (the drinker regains 1d6+1 HP), along with 1500 coins.
  • A tripwire is hooked up to a crossbow, if a saving throw is not made when entering the room, one takes 1d6+1 damage from the bolt.
  • A deerskin rug covers a hole in the floor, with spikes at the bottom (saving throw or take 2d6 damage). A gem worth 500 coins is at the bottom of the pit.
  • A tripwire causes a large rock to fall on the head of any who activate it (saving throw or take 1d6+2 damage and be knocked unconscious).
  • A tough old woman with an eye patch and a necklace with an eye pendant. She has a small chest containing 6000 coins in the corner. Her name is Barbara, she is the leader of the bandits, and will try to get the party to join her group. Her necklace can be used once per day to cause one person within line of sight to be paralyzed for 2d6 rounds, without a saving throw. 
  • A mute boy dressed in expensive clothing is trapped in a makeshift wooden cage. He is crying silently, and wants to go home. He is being held for ransom by Barbara and her bandits.
  • 4 bandits, armed with pistols (d6 damage) and daggers (d6-1 damage).
  • 2 elite bandits, with great-axes (d6+2 damage). 
  • 3 bandits, armed with short swords (d6 damage) and shields, along with a hound.
  • 1 elite bandit with a blunderbuss (d6+2 damage), and 2 bandits with crossbows (d6+1 damage).
  • A bandit armed with a longsword (d6+1 damage), with 3 hounds.
  • An elite bandit with a battleaxe (d6+1 damage), a bandit armed with a dagger (d6-1 damage), and a hound.
  • Flint arrowheads, arranged into the shapes of ancient runes.
  • A statue of a bearded old man.
  • A pentacle is carved into the floor.
  • Carvings on the walls depict various deities frolicking and cavorting in the woods.
  • Bones dangling from the ceiling.
  • A skeleton with an arrow in its shoulder.

We also need to write combat statistics for any creature which may be harmed by the PCs (which unfortunately might include the mute boy).

HD 4
AC light
ATK 2 pistols
DMG 1d6

Mute Boy
HD 1/2
AC unarmored
ATK 1 punch
DMG 1d3
HDE 1/2

HD 1
AC light (may have shield)
ATK 1 weapon
DMG by weapon

Elite Bandit
HD 2
AC medium
ATK 1 weapon
DMG by weapon

HD 1
AC light
ATK 1 bite
DMG 1d6

Now that all that is done, all we need to do now is make a dungeon map and number the encounters, and our dungeon is complete!

For making a dungeon, I personally recommend either just doodling a flowchart on paper or using Dungeonographer, a dungeon mapping program with a free version.

I just did a simple flow-chart style dungeon using Dungeonographer, adding numbers in MSpaint.

Now, all I need to do is number the encounters and I'm done!

1. Flint arrowheads, arranged into the shapes of ancient runes.

2. A tripwire is hooked up to a crossbow, if a saving throw is not made when entering the room, one takes 1d6+1 damage from the bolt.

3. 3 bandits, armed with short swords (d6 damage) and shields, along with a hound.

4. A chest with a poisoned latch (saving throw or take 2d6 damage). Contains a magical potion of healing (the drinker regains 1d6+1 HP), along with 1500 coins.

5. A deerskin rug covers a hole in the floor, with spikes at the bottom (saving throw or take 2d6 damage). A gem worth 500 coins is at the bottom of the pit.

6. A statue of a god with antlers and 4 arms. If one places something important to them onto the statue's lap, the item disappears and they become blessed with superhuman strength, along with growing some small antlers out of the top of their head.

7. A tripwire causes a large rock to fall on the head of any who activate it (saving throw or take 1d6+2 damage and be knocked unconscious).

8. 2 elite bandits, with great-axes (d6+2 damage).

9. A statue of a bearded old man.

10. 4 bandits, armed with pistols (d6 damage) and daggers (d6-1 damage).

11. A small underground stream, that glows faintly. If one drinks from the stream, they either regain 1d6 health, or become violently ill, taking 1d3 damage and a -1 penalty to attack rolls for the rest of the day. Roll a d6 to determine which occurs (evens is 1d6 health, odds is violent illness).

12. Carvings on the walls depict various deities frolicking and cavorting in the woods.

13. A skeleton with an arrow in its shoulder.

14. A pentacle is carved into the floor.

15. A bandit armed with a longsword (d6+1 damage), with 3 hounds.

16. An elite bandit with a battleaxe (d6+1 damage), a bandit armed with a dagger (d6-1 damage), and a hound.

17. 1 elite bandit with a blunderbuss (d6+2 damage), and 2 bandits with crossbows (d6+1 damage).

18. Bones dangling from the ceiling.

19. A mute boy dressed in expensive clothing is trapped in a makeshift wooden cage. He is crying silently, and wants to go home. He is being held for ransom by Barbara and her bandits.

20. A tough old woman with an eye patch and a necklace with an eye pendant. She has a small chest containing 6000 coins in the corner. Her name is Barbara, she is the leader of the bandits, and will try to get the party to join her group. Her necklace can be used once per day to cause one person within line of sight to be paralyzed for 2d6 rounds, without a saving throw.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Random Dungeon Adventure Generator

What do people know about the dungeon?
1. Things have been coming out of it and raiding nearby settlements
2. Strange sounds and lights have been seen emanating from it
3. It played an important part in local history
4. Someone was captured and taken there, and has come back alive to tell the tale
5. It used to be a popular place for teenagers to explore, up until recently
6. It is rumored to be an unholy place

Why do the players care?
1. Someone they know has been kidnapped by whatever lives there
2. An artifact/heirloom that a PC dearly desires is kept there
3. They have been offered payment to investigate
4. One of the PCs has seen visions of the place
5. A piece of information the PCs want is rumored to be contained within the dungeon
6. There's rumors of there being a lot of cash and some magic items there

What is the dungeon?
1. A prehuman structure
2. A tomb
3. A castle and its dungeon
4. Secret tunnels built by pagans
5. Sewers
6. A cave

What being(s) live there?

Low Levels (1-3)
1. Goblins
2. Zombies and animated skeletons
3. Bandits
4. A fledgling demon cult
5. Giant bugs
6. An orc outpost

Mid Levels (4-5)
1. Ogres/Trolls
2. A well established demon cult
3. Faeries
4. Werebeasts
5. Vampires
6. A small orc army

High Levels (6+)
1. Giants
2. Demons
3. A dragon and some who worship it
4. Dinosaurs
5. Powerful and ancient faeries
6. A necromancer and their followers


For a low level adventure, I rolled a 5, two 6s, and another 5. So, the result is a cave that used to be a popular site for teenagers to explore, is rumored to contain a vast amount of money and some magical items, and is inhabited by giant bugs.

For a mid level adventure, I rolled a 3, a 4, a 3, and a 6. A castle and its dungeon, currently inhabited by an army of orcs, played a part in local history. One of the PCs has seen visions of the location, leading to the party to want to investigate.

For a high level adventure, I rolled a 5, a 6, and two 5s. Local sewers that used to be a popular exploring spot for teens are now inhabited by ancient and powerful faeries. There are rumors of treasure contained within its depths.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Gholdakos for Holmes Basic (Converted from Pathfinder)

I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Pathfinder. I really enjoy parts of the campaign setting, and the bestiaries are fantastic, but everything is just so fiddly on a rules level, so I never would feel confident running a campaign using the system.

But, as I said before, the bestiaries really are fantastic, and here is one of the monsters from Bestiary 4, converted to the blue book's rules.

Move: 120 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 10
Armor Class: 2
Treasure Type: E + 5000 G.P.
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Attacks: 1 bite and 2 claws
Damage: 2-16 bite, 3-24 claws

Gholdakos are the undead mummies of an ancient race of one eyed giants, that are thought to be extinct in the modern world. They are covered with rags of linen, upon which runic symbols are written. Though the Gholdakos are intelligent and capable of speech, they know no language other than the guttural tongue of giants.

Gholdakos can exhale a cloud of dust once every 1-4 rounds. Anyone caught in this cloud must make a saving throw versus dragon breath or be permanently blinded.

Anyone hit by a Gholdako must make a saving throw versus death ray or lose 1-4 points of Strength. Strength lost in this way can be regained at a rate of 1 point per day. Anyone reduced to 0 Strength dies immediately and crumbles to dust.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

6 Horrific Zombie Variants for OSR Games

1. The Ecorches

It is a rusty brown color, flakes of blood falling off of its feverishly shaky skinless body as it runs towards you, screaming with its clawed hands outstretched towards your throat.

(Image from Body Worlds)

HD 1
AC unarmored
ATK 2 claws
DMG 1d6-1 each (minimum 1)

Ecorches move twice as fast as normal humans. If using a grid based combat system, this means they can move twice as far as humans can.

2. The Boneless

The thing slithering towards you originally looks more like a puddle of skin-colored ooze than a corpse, but as it slunk closer to the light, its sightless eyes look up at you with hatred and hunger.
(Image taken from Libris Mortis)

HD 2
AC light
ATK 1 constrict
DMG 1d3

Anyone hit by a Boneless must make a saving throw, otherwise the creature has wrapped itself around its victim, and begins constricting it. The victim then takes 1d6 damage each round they are being constricted, each round being given the opportunity to make a saving throw to escape the creature's clutches. Anyone who tries to attack the Boneless while it is constricting its victim deals any damage dealt to the Boneless to the victim as well.

The Boneless can easily slip under doors and hide in extremely tight spaces, such as urns, chests, and cracks in walls.

3. The Unkillable

You hack off the limb, but then its hand comes crawling after you. You tear out its intestines and they wrap around you like a serpent. What was once one creature is now a half dozen floundering monstrosities that just keep coming.

(Image taken from the 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual)

HD 3
AC light
ATK 1 punch
DMG 1d6

Whenever an Unkillable takes damage, part of its body comes off to form a smaller undead creature. These smaller creatures have hit points equal to the damage that caused them, have light armor, and have 1 attack that deals 1d3 damage. Similarly, the parts of the Unkillable that detach also divide when damaged.

The only way to kill the Unkillable is to burn it, or dissolve it in acid.

4. The Regenerators

As you chop off the abomination's head, a surge of hope runs through your veins. But then, suddenly, a mass of rotting flesh begins to form on top of the corpse's stump, rapidly growing into a grotesque parody of a human face.

(Image taken from Dead Space concept art)

HD 2
AC light
ATK 1 punch
DMG 1d6

Regenerators regain 1d3 HP each round, even if reduced to 0 HP. Each time the Regenerator regains HP, roll a d6 and apply the mutation from the table below:

1-2. New Limb: Gains an additional attack that deals 1d6 damage.

3. Carapace: The Regenerator's AC goes up by one category (light -> light with shield, light with shield -> medium, etc.)

4. Cancerous Mass: The Regenerator's maximum HP is increased by 1d6.

5-6. Poisonous Gas: Anyone near the Regenerator as it regenerates this round must make a saving throw or take 1d6 damage.

Regenerators can only be killed/damaged without regenerating by burning them or dissolving them in acid.

5. The Bloaters 

It stinks of rot and decay, filthy water dripping from its pale flesh like sweat. When its decaying body is finally punctured, it pops, spraying corrosive fluid everywhere.
(Image taken from Killing Floor)

HD 1
AC light with shield
ATK 1 punch
DMG 1d6

When the Bloater is killed, anyone near it must make a saving throw or take 2d6 damage from its acidic innards being sprayed everywhere.

6. The Clockwork Corpses

The zombie's jerky, unnatural movement is accompanied by a steady clicking and whirring noise. Beneath the rotting skin the movement of gears and springs is easily seen.

(Image taken from Fallout 4)

Clockwork Corpse
HD 1
AC medium with shield
ATK 1 punch
DMG 1d6+2

When reduced to 0 HP, the Clockwork Corpse continues to operate for 1d6 rounds. During this time, it will continuously shoot out shrapnel as the clockwork powering its body begins to break down and be launched outward. Anyone near the Clockwork Corpse as it is dying must make a saving throw each round or take 1d3 damage.

Monday, October 15, 2018

6 Campaign Set-Ups

(Image from Van Helsing)

Monster Hunters

You have been charged by the church to hunt down and destroy the foul beasts that plague the lands, delving into their subterranean lairs and bringing back their heads for the glory of your god!

Each session/adventure, the party is given an assignment to investigate monster attacks and to hunt down and kill the creature(s) that is responsible. Adventures will tend to be about 1/2 investigation and 1/2 dungeon crawl; with the first part involving examining the evidence, doing research, and tracking the monsters, followed by marching into their lairs and killing them.


  • You get to make great use of any monster manuals you own/get an opportunity to create your own beasts.
  • There is a nice combination of role playing and dungeon crawling.
  • The set-up is episodic, and allows for players to drop in and drop out between sessions.
  • Will get repetitive if there isn't really any overarching plot.
  • May feel somewhat linear unless the players are given options of what to hunt.

(Image from

Lost in the Megadungeon

The player characters are stranded in a vast dungeon, with hundreds of rooms. It is so large that there are small settlements and farms within its winding tunnels. The party's end goal is to try and find a way out.


  • Allows for role playing and dungeon crawling without requiring a detailed wilderness/region.
  • Offers an interesting twist on the classic megadungeon; wanting to get out rather than wanting to go deeper.
  • Is the perfect set-up for psychological horror and surrealism.
  • Will get really repetitive unless the dungeon has distinct regions, with interesting NPCs, monsters, and treasure.
  • Requires a very large dungeon map that is constantly being updated.
(Image from Darkest Dungeon)

Heirs to the Fortune

A very old and very rich noble has recently died, but in his will was a startling discovery! Over the last few years of his life, he had begun to excavate a large, ancient ruin beneath his manor, releasing monsters into it and constructing traps. Before he died, all of his money was placed in the vast dungeon. His will states that the treasure belongs to anyone who can get it and come back alive. The party must compete with other adventurers to find the treasure beneath the manor, dealing with the noble's monsters and fiendish devices as they do so.

  • Many opportunities for memorable villains/opponents, in the form of competing adventuring parties.
  • Local town easily makes for a good home base.
  • You could have the noble's ghost watch the party, occasionally interacting with them to give them hints/false information.
  • The perfect chance to make a funhouse dungeon.
  • Isn't very realistic, and might come off as a bit goofy if your players are used to more serious games.
(Image from Raiders of the Lost Ark)

Treasure Hunting Society

The party is a part of an adventurer's guild, a group of people who delve into dungeons for profit. Every adventure, the upper hierarchies of the guild approach the party with a job that is deemed suitable for their expertise. They are provided with transportation to the adventuring site, and some information on the dungeon. A cut from all treasure the party collects is given to the guild as payment, and in exchange the guild provides the party with lodgings, medical care, and a library for research.


  • Extremely easy for players to drop in and out of the campaign.
  • Allows for a lot of variety in adventures.
  • Is easy to use premade adventures/modules.

  • Will get repetitive if there isn't really any overarching plot.
  • May feel somewhat linear unless the players are given options of what dungeons to explore.

  • The Wild Frontier

    The party are scouts for settlers, exploring a strange new land. They scout the wilderness, looking for good places to start villages, and for ancient ruins to plunder, all the while fighting against the elements and wild beasts that roam the countryside.

    • Gives the party motivation beyond just wanting money.
    • Allows there to be a sandbox with a purpose.
    • Unless done very carefully, could be seen as a racist and colonialist narrative that justifies the genocide of native people in the name of "manifest destiny". The easiest way to get around this is to not fall back on tropes of aggressive tribespeople, and have the place the party is exploring be genuinely uninhabited, except for non-sentient monsters.
    • Could require a lot of work to make an interesting hex crawl.

    (Art by Bendukiwi on wikipedia)

    Saving the World Through Dungeon Crawling

    The party are members of a secret society that know that the end is coming. The only way to avert this crisis is to construct an ancient weapon whose parts lay buried in distant locations around the globe. Time is of the essence, and the PCs must find the artifacts and assemble them before it is too late!


    • Has an overarching plot, with potential for interesting NPCs, while still allowing for a somewhat episodic structure.
    • Allows player choice in finding the pieces of the weapon in their own order.
    • Has a clear end goal.
    • You could have a totally awesome fight between a giant robot and Cthulhu at the end and it would make perfect sense.
    • Pretty sure this has been done many times before, in things like The Adventure Zone and the Rod of Seven Parts.