Monday, May 27, 2013

DCC - Poor Man's Vornheim

Poor Man's Vornheim

I want Vornheim, by +Zak Smith, but I can't have it right now. My players were due in about four hours and I needed to do something quickly to build out an good evening's worth of potential chaos and destruction in a port city setting.

First, I ran out and grabbed this from a random Castles & Crusades pbem site (which I think might be a reused map of Sanctuary -- and I didn't even realize that geocities was still around!):

I had a stack of DCC and OSR adventures that I wanted to use that fit nicely into an urban setting, so I made a simple table with each of the adventure names (or a possible encounter related to the adventure) and a random die roll. I didn't bother with run-of-the-mill random city encounters -- my players are good at creating their own through their random murderhobo actions.

I gave the characters free reign to do whatever they wanted -- essentially a city "hex crawl" and checked for an encounter every four hours they were out moving about or otherwise interacting with the populace. If one was indicated, I'd roll on my "adventure starter" table, and proceed from there with a quick encounter that gave them either a rumor, an interaction with someone involved in a developing story, or a straight up confrontation. What I ended up with was a list of factions, essentially, that through the course of play have some connection to the party -- regardless of whether their friendly, hostile, or neutral.

Murderhobos on the Town

Almost immediately, they fell into the "missing noble's courier" path, this was a lead in to a modified Cult of the Flickering Sign encounter that I'd done for In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer. They managed to gather a few clues that sent them heading across town to the "pleasure district" and a low rent whorehouse. Out of the darkened streets (having started their follow up late), they were attacked by two huge humanoids, heavily robed. The elf took it in the neck and dropped like a cheap chemise. As the short battle progressed, the characters realized they were fighting a couple of white apemen. They managed to fell one, but the other grabbed their dazed elf and leaped to the rooftops and away. A short torture session of the barely alive apeman revealed that the elf was bound for the "Queen of Serpents" ritual, but would reveal nothing more.

This was the beginnings of a quick pre-adventure I'd crafted earlier in the day to get the party to the Demon Idol, by +Jobe Bittman, one of the winners of the One-Page Dungeon contest. I noticed he used a gelatinous humanoid, and I immediately thought of the creatures I'd used in the Tomb of Curses: The Prison of Qo. The gelatinous humanoids became cultists of Qo with their white apemen minions seeking to repair and pilot the Demon Idol for the glory of the Twin-Headed Snake!

Here, I set a timer -- 6 hours until the soft elfy prisoner would end up a tasty treat for the Queen of Serpents. The players did a fairly admirable job of tracking down the cult (I did not make it easy for them) in an abandoned warehouse deep in the slums.There was a quick fight with a single ape man on the roof of the seemingly inaccessible place, as the party was mid-climb down into the ruined interior, but they quickly dispatched the creature and found a trap door to the undercroft.

The party by this time was composed of a warrior, thief, and dwarf PC and three warrior hirelings.

   As an aside, I have taken a lot of various random charts and things from various OSR resources (from AD&D to present) to craft a "settlement generator" using Tablesmith -- one of the best extensible random table generators ever made. If you aren't using it for your game, consider it. It has a very simple scripting language and engine, with which I generate something as complex as a random potential henchman in a tavern:


Nemelian, Wizard
Gender Male

STA 10
INT 14

Armor Padded (+1) no shield
HP 15
Longsword, iron

Wealth 17 sp
practical joker/prankster

Terms: 142 sp and Equal Share (DC 12)

To a full skeleton of the city of Low Glassarbor.

Anyway, the NPC generator is rudimentary (how does a 1st level Wizard have 15 hit points??), but the Traits (directly from the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide) are worth the price of admission. With a few simple adjectives, I can throw a few wrenches at the party. My tables for Tablesmith are here, for anyone that's interested.

Back to the action -- The party was underpowered, but pressed on anyway. Down in the undercroft they faced off against three of the apeman beasts and then moved into a maze of passages. Though the main passage seemed to lead to a ritual in progress, they tried to find a way around to a possible back door -- next chamber revealed two apemen and a gelatinous humanoid creature that extruded corrosive pseudopods from various parts of its body. These were defeated, though some equipment was damage and lost and everyone was down to minimal hit points.

Throwing caution to the wind, they approached the main chamber, finding a tripwire that would trigger falling iceblocks. This was merely stepped over and the thief proceeded up to the main chamber to scout the situation. Quickly, the thief took in the situation (2 apemen and a gelatinous humanoid conducting a ritual to a tall wood and wicker idol to a twin-headed snake). The room was crowded with sacrifices, including the party elf. She took a pot shot at the apemen and fled noisily, hoping they'd follow and yelling for the party to move back passed the trap. The apemen blundered into their own trap in their haste to catch the thief. One ended up crushed under a block of ice while the other narrowly escaped that fate, only to be flash frozen when the second effect went off. The party had not moved back far enough, but only managed to lose a henchman to the flash freeze effect.

The final showdown between the party and the gelatinous humanoid was over as quick as a flung oil flask and torch and a collapsing, flaming wooden idol.

The thief was dropped in the battle, but managed to recover. I had kept a good account of time, and when the final confrontation started, the elf had 30 minutes of life left. The ritual had actually already started....

Part 2 tomorrow...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

DCC RPG: The Imp's Bargain

The Imps Bargain

This encounter may be dropped in anywhere you’d like to test a character’s faith and sanity.


The imp, Czelig, is a messenger, go-fer, and slave to the arch-demon Ganelith. Though the creature loathes its master and its fate, the imp has schemed his way into a position to slide into its master’s favor, with the intention of being “raised” to a more lofty job (and form). Czelig stole a box full of golden rings that Ganelith uses to bind mortals. Now, when the imp has a spare moment, he attempts to trick mortals into taking a ring, which have a variety of effects.


Czelig typically chooses to trick mortals with a binding ring by preying on their "better instincts," appearing as a person in desperate need (usually as an urchin or an unfortunate lass). The story and setup varies and judges are encouraged to make the setup compelling and relevant to the party. Some ideas follow:

  • A noble's servant, beaten and robbed, begs the party to retrieve an important message pouch from the thief who has holed up nearby. The reward is the golden ring, which he displays.
  • A woman lies near death beside the road and with her dying breath asks the party to deliver the ring and a note to her faithless husband.
  • An urchin is caught picking a party member's pocket. Later when checked, the ring is discovered in the pocket.

The Imp

Czelig can change its form to any humanoid, animal or vermin to about the size of an ogre. In its natural form (which it reverts to when faced with a combat situation), the imp appears to be a tusked, three-legged hyena with a green gem set in its forehead and the head of a cobra at the end of its long serpentine tail. A bite from Czelig’s tail deals 1d6 damage + 1 point of STR due to poison. On a failed save (DC 11), the victim loses an additional 1d4 STR per round.

Czelig: Init +3; Atk Ray of Paralysis +5 ranged (paralysis DC 15) or tail bite +5 (1d3+poison); AC 14; HD 5d12; MV 30’, Fly 50’; Act 1d20; SP Poison (DC 11 Fort, 1d4 STR per round), shapeshift, demonic traits; SV Fort +5, Ref +8, Will 4; AL C.

If Czelig is defeated within the mortal dimensions, it drops the ring of binding and returns to Ganelith’s plane for 666 days.

The Ring of Binding

The ring of binding appears as a simple golden ring, the band formed of interlocking chain links. Once the ring is put on a finger, it cannot be removed. Even if the finger is cut off, the ring appears on another finger, toe, pierced through a lip, etc. The ring detects as non-magical and inert (on the good/evil/chaos/law continuum).

Anyone that wears the ring of binding enjoys one of the effects listed on the table. However, they are also subject to a meeting with the arch-demon Ganelith's majordomo in the not too distant future. Each time the character burns luck, the judge should make a secret DC 11 Will save. If the save is passed, the character receives a +3 to the total of Luck burned. (Thus, if the character burns 1 point of Luck, he or she receives a +4 to apply to the d20 roll modified). If the save is failed, see The Pitch.

AC +1
Mirror Image (Spell Check to use, as results of spell)
Cantrip (Spell Check to use, as results of spell)
Resist Cold/Heat (Spell Check to use, as results of spell)
Displacement (first attack in a battle always misses, +2 AC)

The Pitch

If the character fails the save, he or she is transported to a hellish plane chained to a stone chair before a stone table, and hovered over by a nightmarish creature: a towering hyena-headed bull-like creature with the claws of a lion and 100 poisonous serpents for a tail. This is Ganelith's majordomo, Gilezc.

The demon attempts force the character to sign a compact with Ganelith within 6 hours. He first uses intimidation, torture and lies – with great bellowing, bites from its horde of snake-like tail fringes which drain abilities, and any other nastiness that the judge can conceive. It should be clear that the character will never leave unless the document is signed. After three hours of this tactic, Gilezc tries to entice the character with the wonders of service to the Lord of the Twisted – power, slaves, gold, etc. offered and lain at the character’s feet. After two hours of whatever debauchery the judge can conceive, the character will see a demon at its most foul: Gilezc actually begs, offering his own power, knowledge or other valuables if the character would just sign.

This should be a scene based on role-playing (not necessarily on the character’s abilities/dice rolls). Gilezc must “convert” the character within 6 hours or the character has resisted (see below). The session can be ended if the character specifically says “no” and binds that resistance to a god or patron of law/good.

If the character signs the compact, he or she is bound to Ganelith (Roll Patron Bond: Ganelith with a Spell Check of +12 -- failures are not possible), and the character is immediately transported back to the exact spot and time they left the mortal world. The character receives a +3 Luck score bonus and thereafter can burn and recharge luck as a halfling. The recipient can burn luck for others even if there is already a halfling lucky charm in the party, however anyone that receives luck from this character run the risk of being transported to Ganelith's hellish realm and offered the same deal, as above. Regardless, anyone that signs the contract becomes a bound thrall of Ganelith and a creature of great evil and chaos. This binding can only be broken by extreme measures.

Those that resist signing are transported back to the exact spot and time they left the mortal world and all ill effects done to them on that hellish realm are healed. Unfortunately, the character arrives back with a 0 Luck score. Having flicked their noses at creatures of ultimate evil and chaos, however, the character receives a boon from the gods of Law. The character’s Luck heals at a rate of 1 point per day until the ability has recovered to a Luck score of 18. Such are the blessings of resisting demons.

In both cases, the ring of binding becomes a simple golden ring worth 666 gp.

Monday, May 20, 2013

DCC RPG: The Ifrit's Chosen

The Ifrit's Chosen

Along the great Izgoni caravan route over the dunes of the Ulrik Wastes lie the ruins of a small settlement. Once a desert spring bubbled up here, and the settlement was a waypoint for travelers and their animals to water and rest in the shade. Though the tumbledown adobe structures are still used as emergency shelter from the many sandstorms, the settlement is generally bypassed as another dead husk amongst the dunes of Ulrik.

Investigation of the settlement reveals little, though the simple bricked shaft that once served as a well in the village center may draw the curious. Either storm or the disgruntled filled the well shaft with sand and it is only ten feet deep. 

On the northern wall, only partially exposed near the surface of the sand, one of the bricks is stamped with a faint symbol of a serpent entwining a palm tree (Search/Spot DC 15). Those with knowledge of the ancient peoples of the Ulrik know that this symbol was for the Caliphate of the East Winds, a small nation that controlled a significant portion of the Izgoni caravan route. With an Intelligence check (DC 18), those with knowledge of the region know that the Caliphate was ruled by the priest kings of the ifrit, Afara, and that their holy warriors roamed the Izgoni route protecting merchants and pilgrims.

Digging out the clay brick reveals a metal bar, about three inches long set into the stone. The bar can be pried away from the wall, which opens a secret door about 3' below the surface of the sand. (Reflex DC 13 or slide into the chamber beyond).

1) Pile of Sand – The fall to the top of the sand pile is ten feet, and though this causes no damage, those affected must make a second DC 13 Reflex or slide to the bottom of the 20’ tall sand pile that half buries this small natural cavern. A passage exits to the west. 

The fall and light surprises several rats who scurry away squeaking.

A skeleton half buried at the bottom of the pile (DC 9) wears a tattered turban with a small garnet set in silver pin (25 gp), a gold signet ring stamped with the symbol of the Caliphate (DC 15), a rusted steel helmet and hauberk. A perfectly preserved leather sack on its belt holds 200sp and a scroll written in the ancient language of the Ulrik peoples (this is a writ authorizing the magistrate of district 27 to collect such taxes as are due the Caliphate from the village of Yaiden)

Those that examine the skeleton notice that both the man's legs were broken. Those with medical knowledge understand that this was caused by blunt force trauma (a hammer) and not a fall into this chamber.

Disturbing the skeleton also disturbs the spitting cobra lairing inside its chest. It attacks with surprise unless the examiner states they are carefully looking for hidden enemies, etc.

Spitting cobra: Init +4; Atk bite +2 melee (1 + poison DC 14 Fort or death) or spit (DC 15 REf; DC 14 Fort blinded); AC 12; HD 2d8; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP: Spit hits unless a DC 15 Ref save; If struck, DC 14 Fort or blinded; SV Fort +1, Ref +4, Will +0; AL N.

2) The Secret Well – A stone brick hemisphere about 4’ tall with an opening at the top stands in this natural chamber. This well drops off into darkness. Note that there is no moisture in the room or smell of water from the well. Descending the well requires 100' of rope and leads to roughly circular chamber (30' radius) with a pile of skeletons with dried muscles/viscera beneath the hole. A detailed examination reveals that all been stripped of clothing and killed with a single hammer blow to the forehead (see Area 5).

3) The True Well – The original spring receded to here. The pool is 25’ deep, though a series of cracks and small passages lead down into the aquifer (impassible without extreme magical means).
The shore is muddy stone with the footprints and scat of rats (rats will scatter if surprised, though they move and hide at approaching lights). Cave cricket, crayfish and other insect corpses abound. Walls crawl with various blind insects. Note the effects of the book (Area 5) if brought into this room.

Carvings on the wall depict symbols of the ancient caliphate and a religious symbol (DC 12) depicting a curved knife -- this is the symbol of Afara, the ifrit "god" of the Caliphate.

If a new well is dropped over this spot, it supplies water to a village of ~100 people and animals for the next 15 years before drying up.

4) Bricked up chamber – This small natural chamber is intersected by a brick wall concealing the tomb of the guardians of Yaiden. Each brick is carved with hundreds of warding symbols associated with Afara (DC 12). These symbols are not magical (DC 15; or detect magic). The bricks can be smashed down fairly easily, though it requires a hefty hammer and an iron spike or some similar combination of tools (2 turns). With a normal hammer/warhammer alone, this takes 1-2 hours.

Beyond the wall is a worked stone and brick passage. The passage walls curve to a mere 5' ceiling and the clay-stucco walls are crowded with runes, symbols and sutras dedicated to Afara (DC 12). Moving into this passage causes various random runes to flash green, glow and fade to darkness in a complicated and continuous pattern. This causes confusion (DC 12 Fort) for 1d3 turns. The effects can be defeated simply by closing the eyes, covering the walls somehow, magical darkness, or the like.

5) The Tomb – The plain seal to the tomb is a solid stone slab set into the surrounding walls (hammer and spike to open, as above, though anything less than a sledge and spike makes it impossible to break). When broken, a foul gust of gas issues from the very stone, coalescing as a Guardian Jinn, who attacks intruders immediately.

NOTE: Moving back down the passage results in the same confusing flashes of runes.

Guardian Jinn: Init +4; Atk sword +6 melee (2d4 + Disjunction); AC 14; HD 2d12+4; MV 30’, 50' Fly; SP Disjunction (Will DC 16), immune to normal weapons, gaseous form when killed; Act 1d20; SV Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +0; AL N.

The Guardian Jinn transforms from a sentient gas to a humanoid entity composed of living water. When attacking, it extrudes a sword from its arm. When struck by this sword, opponents must make a DC 16 Will save or have all magical effects dispelled for 2d5 rounds. This includes any magical items held or worn by the opponent (a separate Will save for each item at the bearer's bonus). When the guardian jinn’s hit points reach 0, it transforms into a gaseous form and becomes locked inside its holy vessel for 1,001 nights.

Tomb of the Chosen

Within the tomb are two skeletal figures dressed in rich robes and jeweled turbans seated on stone chairs facing each other. One is kitted in pristine chainmail, a shield with a tree device painted on its face, and a stone-headed hammer (this will be familiar to those examining the bodies at the bottom of the secret well). The second holds a book in his lap with a tree device painted on the cover. (Described below)

The turbans turns to dust when touched, though 300 gp worth of gems can be recovered from each.
Removing the book from the skeletal hands causes a swarm of biting insects to pour, seemingly, from the chest of the skeleton. The swarm forms into a vaguely humanoid form and attacks!

Swarm Guardian: Init +4; Atk Stinging slam +5 (1d3+paralysis); AC 16; HD 5d8; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP Poison (DC 14 Fort or paralyzed for 2d3 turns), dissolve to swarm when “killed”; SV Fort +3, Ref +10, Will -1; AL N.

The swarm guardian is a creature composed of a magical insect swarm. The swarm forms into a humanoid creature about 8’ tall, though the swarm continually shifts and moves to suit the creature’s purpose. When attacking, the swarm guardian strikes with its swarming insect fists delivering a poisonous sting. Those that fail the saving throw are paralyzed for 2d3 turns. When reduced to 0 hit points, the swarm guardian dissolves into 1d3+1 insect swarms (as per the Core Rules)

The Accoutrements of the Grand Holy Ghazi Abdul-Rahman Mukhtar Masoud Salah-al-Din Ahmed

These artifacts were created by the ifrit, Afara, for warrior-priests in its service and include:

  • Shield with Silver Tree Device – The shield provides a +2 AC (total) and weighs only 3 lbs.
  • Chainmail – This extremely light armor weighs as much as leather armor, while providing the protection of chain. Additionally, the wearer receives a +2 to all saves against the power of any god other than Afara and +2 to Fortitude saves due to deprivation.
  • Long-handled Stone Hammer – This weapon can be used one-handed for 1d6+1 damage. When wielded two-handed, the weapon deals 1d8+2 damage. The weapon is considered magical when dealing with opponents only harmed by magical weapons.

Those that choose to bear the Holy Accoutrements are making a holy pact with the ifrit, Afara. Though, until Afara is encountered, there is no outward sign. The artifacts themselves cannot bear to be separated from each other. Each bearer of separated Holy Accoutrements must make a daily DC 13 Will save or be compelled to seek out the other artifacts with the intention of reuniting them. This compulsion causes a -2 to all action dice, saving throw and mental ability checks if the bearer is not actively seeking out the other artifacts.

Those bound to gods opposed to Afara that bear one or more of the Accoutrements receive a cumulative +1 increase to their disapproval range per day. This increase cannot be removed by time or sacrifice, though it resets at a rate of -1 per day that the artifacts are not borne.

When Afara is taken as a patron, the Holy Accoutrements are said to “awaken” with purpose and power. ·         

The Holy Writs of Kalid Sakhr

The sorcerer Kalid Sakhr gathered many of the spells that Afara gifted to his Chosen. These spells may be learned and cast by any wizard or elf, though such actions may incur a mortal debt with the ifrit.
Additionally, the spellbook has an insidious curse. Those carrying the spellbook attract a variety of vermin (insects, rats, bats, etc.). When faced with an attack by such creatures, the bearer of the spellbook is targeted exclusively.
  • Flames of the East Wind (flaming hands with a manifestation of a miniature flame jinn)
  • Farouk’s Guardian (ward portal with the manifestation of a stone jinn blocking the affected portal)
  • Blooms of the Desert (color spray with the manifestation of fresh spring flowers and a wash of damp desert air)
  • Farouk’s Gentle Hand (featherfall with the manifestation of a giant jinn’s hand lowering the caster to safety)
  • Bolt from the Mountain (magic missile with the manifestation of shouted sutras and bolts of crackling force)
  • Hakim’s Mind Numb (forget with standard manifestation)
  • Hakim’s Free Entry (knock with the manifestation of a cloud jinn passing through the portal and opening it)
  • Runelight (note, this is not a spell specific to Afara and is described below)

NOTE: Every turn while in this dungeon, the bearer of the book draws 2d10 rats -- they do not attack, but follow the bearer and attack anything that seems to be threatening. They drift away at a rate of 5 per round after leaving this dungeon. If the bearer enters the True Well (Area 3), hordes of cave insects are drawn to the bearer (including crayfish from the pool) causing a chaotic scene of rats attacking swarms of insects. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

DCC RPG: The Tower Ring

The Tower Ring
Within the musty sack are a handful of bronze coins each green with age and stamped with the head of a bestial humanoid creature, a clay oil lamp surprisingly undamaged and a tarnished pewter ring seemingly stamped with a symbol of a falling tower.

A tower ring is a magical ring created in ancient times for the minions of the sorcerer Ardavos. The sorcerer was not a powerful man, but served a powerful spiritual entity called Xayzen, bringer of dreams. Calling upon Xayzen, Ardavos created several of these artifacts before himself descending into catatonia, his dreams plagued by horrors forevermore. 

Notes on Properties and Effects

  • Roll separately on each table above.
  • Bonuses to Luck, Intelligence and Personality checks do not include Spell Checks, various cleric checks, fumbles/critical hits, or thief skills.
  • Bonuses to Fumble rolls are true bonuses (thus a +1 Tower Ring would lower the Fumble roll by 1).
  • Nightmares require the sleeper to sleep an additional 2 hours each night to become rested. Otherwise, the bearer suffers a -2 to all Action dice, initiative, Intelligence, and Personality checks, and cannot naturally heal.
  • A sleepless character suffers penalties as above on the first day, -4 on the second, and can only move a ½ speed (no other significant actions) on the third.
  • A waking nightmare incurs a -2 to all Action dice, initiative, Intelligence, and Personality checks for 1d3 turns. While experiencing waking nightmares, the victim can only move a ½ normal speed.
  • Project Nightmare allows the bearer to target one sentient creature with waking nightmares (as above). The victim receives a Will save (DC 10 + the bonus of the ring). This requires a full round.