Friday, June 19, 2020

Boats in the Sunscorched Marshes

Following up on my post about sailing rules, here's a few boats you might find in the Sunscorched Marshes.

Typical boats with large amounts of their bulk submerged are useless in the Marshes because they just get stuck. Specially-built swamp boats have low, flat bottoms and can be bought in the city.
  • Wood rafts, easily made by hand and very simple. Crew 1, Float 1, Bulk 1, Cargo 1. 5 gp.
  • A simple dugout canoe, propelled by oars. Crew 1, Float 2, Bulk 1, Cargo 3. 45 gp.
  • Airboats, a type of very fast boat with a large air propeller cunningly rotated by intricate machinery at its back that powers it forward. If the propeller takes any damage at all, the airboat moves as though uncrewed until repaired by a specialist. Crew 2, Float 5 (but only a +2 on stealth-related rolls unless you turn the propeller off), Bulk 3, Cargo 6. 500 gp.
  • Swamp trawlers are large steam-powered boats with cabins and everything! Activating the fishing gear lets you catch enough fish to feed a whole adventuring party for a day, but Float is lowered to 2. No need to roll for environmental decay when you’re in the cabin. Crew 8, Float 4, Bulk 7, Cargo 20. 1250 gp.

You can upgrade your boat, too, and get it painted and named and all that. Here’s a few ways to do it.

  • Glass bottom- The entire bottom of your boat is replaced with a pane of clear glass, so you can look down through the swamp’s waters. 100 gp, lose 1 Bulk, you can impress anybody with how cool it looks and spot underwater hazards more easily.
  • Armor plating- Your boat is encased in thick, heavy plates of metal. Per 75 gp spent, gain 1 Bulk and lose 1 Float.
  • Weapon port- For 175 gp, a ranged weapon port is installed into the boat, which permanently takes up 1 Cargo slot. It fires one projectile per round if somebody is using their turn to manually reload/fire it, and also has space to store about five extra projectiles at a time; any more will need to be stored as Cargo. Here are d4 weapon types- you have to pick which one the port is for when the upgrade is purchased.
1. Shellbarbs. A sort of barbed harpoon made from sharp serrated shells, which can also be used to anchor the boat or function like a grappling hook. A shellbard projectile remains attached to the boat by a strong rope after it is fired, but its serrated points break off after one use. 2d6 damage to non-boat foes, 100 gp for a crate of six of them.
2. Swamp muck cannonballs! The weapon port sucks up nasty swamp mud and shoots it out as gloopy cannonballs. They only deal 1d4 damage and they’re useless against other boats, but hey, they’re free.
3. Sunlight beam- By crushing packets of enchanted sands and herbs, the weapon port converts their magical energy into a beam of light that scorches foes. 2d6 damage, 150 gp for six packets. A well-learned alchemist can make the packets for free, but every time a homemade packet is fired, roll an easy alchemy check. On a failure, the packet explodes too early and instead of firing, your boat starts to sink.
4. Normal cannonballs. The old standby. They’re slow- you can only fire them once every 2 rounds- and they deal 3d6 damage. 200 gp for a crate of six of them.
  • Mangrove-wood ship’s wheel- this enchanted ship’s wheel, carved with imaged of frolicking manatees, can be installed for 200 gp. It can be controlled mentally by anybody who is either specified during the purchase or spends a full day studying the runes. A person controlling the wheel can steer the boat and act as a Crew member if they are anywhere in a 100 foot radius of the boat.
  • Figurehead- For 10 gp, a figurehead of anything you want is created and installed onto the ship. It looks very cool.
  • Bigger boat- The boat is made larger. For each 150 gp spent, the boat gains 1 Crew, Cargo, and Bulk and loses 1 Float.
  • Newfangled magic propulsion- for 300 gp, a magical propulsion engine is installed, taking up 1 Cargo slot. It constantly belches foul black tar. The boat’s Float stat is doubled. If the system takes any targeted damage, the propulsion system is useless until repaired by a specialist, and the Float stat returns to how it was originally.
  • Truesighted spyglass- For 1000 gp, a magical spyglass embedded with glittering blue gems is installed onto the deck. While looking through it, you can see in darkness as though it were bright daylight. Once per day, if looking for something or someone hidden, simply speak its name. The spyglass will swivel to face in its direction. When looking through the spyglass, the hidden thing will appear illuminated by an outline of blazing blue fire.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

20 Treasures of the Sunscorched Marches

d20 Treasures of the Marshes

The Sunscorched Marshes are littered with forgotten treasures. Some were created by current inhabitants of the Marshes, some abandoned by the People of the Last Age, and some stashed and then stolen by pirates, mobsters, and other shady actors.

Entries 1-12 are treasure items, 13-18 are magical weapons, and 19 and 20 are wearable gear.

  1. Vial of Bloodstainer- Bloodstainer is a rare alchemical tincture that ‘stains’ your blood with a disgusting cloying taste. It’s bright green and tastes like rosemary. There’s enough in the vial for one person, the effect lasts for about two months, and no creature that would ordinarily want to ingest your blood will do so after getting that awful first taste, even if their life depends on it. During those two months you have a -1 to HP but that wears off with the bloodstainer.
  2. Blue panther tokens- 3d20 small, brilliantly blue pebbles with panthers carved onto them. Each time they are counted, reroll how many there are. Mass is not conserved and they are not magical in the slightest. The implications in the fields of physics, magic, and philosophy are staggering. Any dedicated scholar (including PCs) aware of this strange property would do absolutely anything to obtain them, no matter how self-destructive. A scholar devoted to studying them will be driven insane in 2d10 weeks.
  3. Folding Canoe- a fingernail-sized cube made of sheets of absurdly thin palm tree wood can unfold in one turn into a full-size canoe or back again. It’s decorated with colorful lichens that have been induced into growing in lovely geometric patterns. Crew 1, Float 4, Bulk 2, Cargo 2.
  4. Coral Looking-Glass- A handheld mirror made of a pane of now-oxidized bronze set into agatized coral. The coral has abstract geometric patterns carved into it. The bronze is worthless, but the finely-carved coral is a rare collector’s item.
  5. Oyster Orb- this is a sealed, self-suffice terrarium/aquarium system inside a large glass orb. The plants inside sustain three spiny oysters. Flawless pearls are created once every d4 years. They can be harvested with a little slot on the orb.
  6. Firefly Brazier- This tiny portable brazier is decorated with shimmering moonstones. Twice a day, it can be lit (which takes one turn). Its illumination reveals anything invisible or magically cloaked and it burns out in d10 minutes.
  7. Seashell Icon- A rough-hewn little figurine of an old crone with her arms clasped above her head, made from the spines of conch shells. When you hold it to your ear you can hear seagulls squawking. Ask it for directions and in a decaying rasp the crone will answer; the directions are wrong half the time.
  8. Drowning Figurine- A greasy-feeling stone figurine of a boy with regal features, holding a trumpet-like instrument and stumbling. When left uninterrupted overnight next to an intact corpse killed that day, it plays a song that reanimates the corpse, still wounded but with 1 hp. The reanimated creature will be just like they were before, but whenever they encounter water deeper than two inches (including drinking water), they will do everything they can to drown themself. Any individual can only be revived once.
  9. Dread Bell- this small handbell, scrimshawed from a gator’s skull, creaks and whistles as wind blows through it. It rings with a horrible clattering sound, which causes a single randomly selected foe in the area (up to 20 feet away) to be overcome by horror. They will spend the next 5 turns fleeing at top speed. The bell is so delicate that it may only be rung three times before it breaks completely.
  10. Freshwater Gem- a tiny blue translucent gemstone in a gold, teardrop-shaped pendant setting. When immersed in a body of water, a clear chiming bell sound is heard, and all water in a 10ft radius of the gem is completely purified and made drinkable. After one round, the newly-fresh water mixes back in with the rest of the body of water, effectively ending the effect.
  11. Everflute- A simplistic flute carved from the deepest corewood of an old, old mangrove. When played skillfully, the player and all allies in a 30ft radius are compelled to take their next level in the Bogmancer class upon leveling up. Such people will automatically be considered a bit more trustworthy by the dryads, druids and animals of the swamp, unless there’s a good reason not to trust them. Each person can only cause these effects by playing the Everflute once in their lifetime.
  12. Swampjuice Jug- A black ceramic jug with an airtight lid and two handles, and some really clever cocktail recipes engraved along the side in archaic Druidic. Fill the jug with muddy swamp water and leave it sealed for a week, and when you open the jug it’ll be full of swampjuice, a tasty liquor that’s a bit like apricot gin. Swampjuice is safe to drink, at least as much as any liquor is, and extremely flammable.
  13. Eternity’s Arc- A bow carved from the wood of a palm tree and engraved with images of fish-creatures emerging from the sea. Once per day, a creature struck with an arrow from the bow may be compelled to make a Wisdom saving throw or devolve into their closest evolutionary ancestor for 5d10 minutes.
  14. Sunscorched Blade- A legendary sword forged from a meteorite that fell into the Sunscorched Marshes aeons ago; it was wielded by gods before being lost to time. When attacking, the wielder can choose to unleash The hilt is set with six blazing red rubies which contain trapped wisps of the Sun itself; 1d6 - 2 of them are already shattered. The sword illuminates the area around it in a 10 ft radius for every unsmashed ruby. When attacking, the sword’s damage on an attack may be boosted to 3d4 in the form of either radiant or fire damage; each time such an attack is made, another ruby shatters. When they are all shattered the sword will just be a mundane, normal (but very pretty) sword.
  15. Spellcannon- a small cannon hewn from stone, about as long as your forearm but incredibly heavy. When casting a spell, it can be fired through the cannon to double its range (spells that are not usually ranged at all can now have a range of 30 ft). It’s so heavy that every turn you have to make a strength save to avoid dropping it on your foot and dealing 1d4 damage to yourself. It can easily be installed onto any boat and takes up 1 cargo slot.
  16. Bogmancer’s Zweihander- this massive sword has a wooden hilt carved with intricate depictions of mangrove trees rising from a swamp’s mire. Once per day, it can be slammed against the ground to create a shockwave. All creatures (friend or foe) standing within a 10ft radius of the wielder are pummeled by clots of mud slamming up against them. They take 2d6 damage and are thrown 10 feet away from the wielder. Nothing happens (and the daily effect is wasted) if there’s no mud on the ground.
  17. Limestone Hammer- a warhammer made of old very hard limestone from millennia ago, mined from the deepest parts of the swamp. Any sapient foes can sense its age and rarity and are struck with awe; attacks against them have a +1 to hit and to damage. After using it for about a month, one feels compelled to venerate it and start a cult at the expense of all else.
  18. Swamprot Shortsword- this squat, ugly shortsword’s dappled metal blade is riddled with swamprot. When cut by its blade, save vs poison or flakes of rotting metal break off into the wound. All damage taken is doubled until the infection is cured. On a damage roll of 1 or 2, the brittle blade crumbles. The foe is automatically infected (no save) and the short sword is rendered unusable.
  19. Helm of the Gator-Hater- This extravagantly plumed, silly-looking helm was once worn by a knight who vowed to slay every alligator he met after one devoured his lady love. Wearing it automatically provokes anger and violence from any gator. When fighting a gator, a damage roll of 1 or 2 causes the gator to save or become paralyzed with fear. The Gator Queen would greatly appreciate having the helm delivered to her so she can destroy it.
  20. Cloak of Flight- this long, flowing cloak is made of rustling black ibis feathers and clasps with a ruby. Once per day when the wearer attempts to flee away from something, the cloak draws shadows around them, allowing them to move unobserved for 50 feet or until they stop moving (whichever is first).

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Sailing the Sunscorched Marshes

I'm working on writing a hexcrawl through the Sunscorched Marshes, which are a fantastical analogue to the Florida Everglades.

The slow-moving river that flows towards the northeast throughout the entirety of the Sunscorched Marshes is navigable by foot, but it’s a slow, arduous, and muddy endeavor. A boat can help. Any boat has four stats:
  • Crew, the number of people who must be actively engaged in propelling the boat and keeping it functional in order for it to move. If the boat is not sufficiently crewed, it may travel only one hex per day.
  • Float, the measure of a boat’s maneuverability, stealth, and speed. The number of hexes a boat can travel per day (assuming nothing goes wrong) is equal to its Float stat. When the boat makes a tricky maneuver, roll a d20 and add its Float stat to find out how well it does.
  • Bulk, the structural integrity and sturdiness of the boat. When the boat must defend against damage, ram into something, or otherwise utilize its strength, roll a d20 and add its Bulk stat.
  • Cargo, the amount of stuff a boat can hold before it gets too heavy, given as a number of abstracted inventory slots. When a boat has too much Cargo on it, it will begin to sink. Only significantly heavy things are Cargo- a single ration doesn’t weigh the boat down but a crate containing enough to feed the party for a week counts.
The Marshes’ river is slow and placid enough that sailing against its current is actually just as easy as sailing along with the current when the weather is alright. During a storm the boat can only move northeast or it’ll have to roll on the storm table twice per hour.

Boats get damaged by all the things you’d expect. When that happens, add a point of Damage. When the Damage total is higher than its Bulk stat, the boat begins to sink.

To stop a ship from sinking, it must be fully crewed with an acceptable amount of Damage and Cargo. Each crew member must devote 1d4 turns to rescuing the boat.

When a boat must face one of the vicious storms of the Marshes, roll on this table once per hour and whenever the boat does anything risky:

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

What lies beyond Creation?

Jewish mythology has this concept of an 'unfinished corner' of Creation. I was introduced to it, like many other kids, through ghost stories. Older kids tried to scare me and my friends by telling us about the empty blanks of the far North, inhabited only by wicked spirits who just loved to gobble up little girls....

I re-encountered the myth as an adult in the book Tree of Souls by Howard Schwartz, then began to find references to it in other Jewish mythological works as well. He provides the text of the myth in the book sample on his website:
All of Creation had been completed except for the north corner of the world. God began
to create it, but left it unfinished, saying, “Whoever declares himself to be God, let him come and finish this corner, and then all shall know he is a god.” There, in that unfinished corner, demons, winds, earthquakes, and evil spirits dwell, and from there  they come forth to the world, as it is said, From the north shall disaster break loose (Jer. 1:14).
When the Sabbath departs, great bands of evil spirits set out from there and roam the world. Because of the cold north wind, the north was identified as the abode of evil spirits.This myth explains why—because that part of creation is unfinished. Here God makes a challenge to those who assert that they are divinities. The true test for a divinity is the ability to create a world. So God left one corner of the world unfinished, with the challenge that anyone who could finish it would indeed be a true god. Of course, the clear implication is that such a creation would be impossible.Rabbi Moshe Hayim Luzzatto offers a different perspective about unfinished creation:“God began Creation but left it unfinished so that man could eventually bring itto completion” (Adir ba-Marom).
The Kotzker Rebbe said of this unfinished corner of creation: “One little corner—God left one little corner in darkness so that we may hide in it!”
Sources: Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer 3 ; Midrash Konen in Beit ha-Midrash 2:30; Sefer ha- Zikhronot 1:7;
The Book of Jubilees 2:2; Zohar 1:14b; Siah Sarfei Kodesh; Or ha-Ganuz.
So, Creation was intentionally left 'unfinished' up North. What interests me is that things very much are stated to exist in this place- yet apparently because of their malicious nature they mark the very place as separate from the normal, 'finished' world. Is this an innate quality of evil things- that they detach their own worlds from those created without such evil?

I'm also interested in the challenge the unfinished corner represents. It's a pretty great power move on God's part- if you think you're so great, go turn this awful wasteland into a proper part of reality, then we'll talk. Sounds like an excuse for an adventure in a frozen hellscape to me!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Welcome to the Argent Isles

This is an introduction to my custom sandbox setting. Erika in the OSR Discord was really helpful with editing and readability.

On the planet Terra, gods are pretty common. It’s estimated that twenty-seven pantheons currently exist, with thousands more having disbanded over the years. Civilizations grow quickly with their gods’ strength and fall just as quickly as rival pantheons wage war upon each other. As such, most history is lost, jumbled, or even made up (the job of an archaeologist is incredibly difficult due to having so much badly-preserved history to sort through, so they occupy a very privileged place in most societies). For the past five thousand years, the three most powerful pantheons have settled into an uneasy truce….

Each of the Three Exalted Pantheons (as they are often called) rules over a different part of Terra.
  • The XEN-342 Research Team- This group of five extradimensional eldritch anthropologists came to Terra for research thousands of years ago but got stranded when a stray hyper-comet destroyed their home dimension. Powerful enough to destroy Terra with a blink of one of their billion eyes, the Research Team is content to benevolently rule over their domain, Xetuhil.
  • The Seething Guild- Long ago, an ultraviolent seven-member adventuring party slew an existing pantheon and took their place. Each member of the Seething Guild has grown to hate the others and they remain locked in stalemate, each always searching for an opening to strike against the others and steal their power. They rule the Land of the Jagged Cliffs with caprice and cruelty, but are usually too busy backstabbing each other to bother hurting mortals.
  • The Ascended Duchy of the Argent Isles- These eighteen archfey rule the Argent Isles but spend most of their time partying in dimensions beyond mortal comprehension. If a mortal is able to catch their attention they are gracious (in the Flannery O’Connor sense of the word).
Our adventure begins in the Argent Isles, whose continents are:
  • The Verwood, a continent whose main eco-biomes are temperate forests, with swathes of desert throughout the southwestern part of the continent. Considered the most ‘settled’ part of the Argent Isles, about 3/4 of the continent is inhabited territory (including the largest city in the Argent Isles, Melidad-upon-Riversfolly) divided into independent kingdoms, which exist in harmony with one another. In the past it was mostly home to elves, but it now has large populations of humans, halflings, dwarves and gnomes as well. Bordton (the starting location) is by the southeast coast in the kingdom of Solan. The Verwood is full of ruins from a technologically advanced elven civilization that was destroyed by gods ten thousand years ago.
  • Lejker-Sil, which was once a single temperate continent that shattered into a hundred islands when a sleeping giga-serpent underneath it rolled over in its sleep. Now these islands and archipelagos are linked by bridges made of the silk of domesticated spiders. The native dragonborn have splintered into factions over the years, and piracy is common. Many dwarves now make their home in Lejker-Sil, claiming that the ocean breezes contribute to the making of a particularly strong form of iron, and grand magical colleges can be found in the coastal cities.
  • Erdemir, a continent dominated by vast stretches of savanna crossed by mighty rivers who flood their banks every time it rains. The unstable, often-muddy ground has led Erdemir’s inhabitants, who have historically been mostly orcs descended from a pacifist cult, bird-people, and tabaxi, to master the art of building treehouses. Erdemiri wildlife all have potentially-destructive magical powers, down to the lowliest earthworm, necessitating the presence of vast groups of druids to keep the wildlife calm and happy.
  • Hellsreach, which is primarily subtropical and downright tropical in the southernmost regions. This continent is primarily settled by tieflings, who are indeed creatures of Hell- but since Hell is only one of the many underworlds in the Terran cosmology, it’s not really a big deal. They’re actually very friendly to newcomers these days and many of the Argent Isles’ wealthiest live by the beautiful Hellsreach beaches. There are many entrances to the underground realm known as the Underdark in the Argent Isles, but most of them are in Hellsreach, which is inconvenient since the Underdark’s drow hate tieflings.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

So, a wizard set you on fire

3 types of magical fire. They’re often illegal in civilized places. 

Astral Bloom

Casting an astral bloom steals a wisp of fire from the nearest star to create a mini-star.

It’s called an astral bloom because the little new star is unstable- when it explodes it looks like a beautiful blooming flower just before it nukes the surrounding area. 

It's about a foot in diameter, too bright to look directly at it, smells like ozone, and will burn you to death in an instant if you touch it. The sound of its internal combustions is as loud as a jet turbine.

Direct exposure to an astral bloom causes sunburn, radiation sickness, mutations, and death.

All stars have nature spirits called Pleiades, of course. An astral bloom’s newly-formed Pleiad is loyal, na├»ve, friendly, and easy to manipulate.

An astral bloom is so small that its lifespan is only a few years; when it dies it explodes into a supernova, then a black hole, and its Pleiad becomes a hateful, starving specter.

Temporal Blaze

It begins its existence as a massive inferno & when left alone dwindles into nothing. Everything that makes a normal fire smaller makes a temporal fire grow, & vice versa.

It looks like an inverted version of a normal fire- red smoldering core with blue flames leaping around the edges. It smells like old books & sounds like a high-pitched staticky hiss- a TV with no signal. It doesn’t hurt you when you touch it. 

In the smoke that curls up from a temporal fire, you can see the past & the future in a disjointed conflation. When you see a person through the smoke, you may see them as they looked when they were younger & as they will look when they are dead.

when a blaze is big enough, things can come out of the smoke-visions, exploding into the present. Sometimes these things are monsters you’re supposed to fight in twenty years. Sometimes people you watched die a long time ago come into the present & thus escape their fate.

Temporal blazes emit pure oxygen. Breathing causes oxygen toxicity. You get dazed, nauseated, pass out, your central nervous system falls apart & spasms until you die or get help.

When you pass out your scorched psyche bombards you with fragments of your past & your future. These visions are always accurate but there’s no context provided. if you’re going to die in the temporal blaze, you see your own death. that’s all that’s left in your future. 

Atlantean Fire-in-Water

Innocent name, evil purpose. The gods cursed the people of Atlantis for inventing Fire-in-Water.

This is a liquid form of fire, slick and oily and as hot as lava. Stinks like burning gasoline. It feeds on other liquids. A drop of Fire-in-Water can set a pond aflame. 

Sweat, spit, tears, blood- all commingle with Fire-in-Water. At least half of the human body is water and therefore flammable. 

Weapons dipped in oil and then set on Fire-in-Water are terrifically destructive. They pierce the skin, inject Fire-in-Water right into the body, and then all your blood’s on fire. Ouch. 

Boats in the Sunscorched Marshes

Following up on my post about sailing rules , here's a few boats you might find in the Sunscorched Marshes. Typical boats with large a...