One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.” -Hunter S. Thompson


Monday, March 31, 2014

The Cosmology of Aerd: The Nine Worlds

This project started out with the idea of writing up a bunch of dungeon levels inspired by Erebor, the Dwarven Kingdom under the Lonely Mountain. Writing up that first level made me want to draw up a map of the environs outside the dungeon and fulfil another itch I've always had, writing my own hex crawl. This thing just keeps growing. I feel like the last two major things that needed to be covered in order for this to be a fully functional campaign setting is address the Gods of Aerd, and a write up of Enderfell, the starting home base for the PC's. This post will be the first part of two on religion in the World of Aerd.

This past summer I watched the Avengers cartoon series on Netflix. It was a great series and I was sad to see it end. One of the things that stuck with me was Marvals adaptation of Norse mythology that makes up part of their universe. I've never really been a fan of the planes and they way they are presented in D&D. But the idea of planes as planets just really resonated with me. I decided to hijack Norse cosmology and twist it to my own needs.

History

According to the Sages of the Nemitical Order, it is written that in the First Age the Elder Gods descended from the heavens of Valtherium to the world of Aerd. They were the progenitors of the Primordians, the first Men of Aerd. TheElder Gods were the Lords of Law, and masters of Magic and Knowledge. They bestowed on the Primordians many gifts, taught them to wield magic, build fantastic cities, heal the sick, raise the dead, and pass to this knowledge on to their own earthly children.

The celestial children of the Elder Gods, who hailed from the heavenly realm of Ampharion rose up in jealousy and made war with their parents. They wanted Aerd to be theirs. This war brought about a terrible Dark Age known as the First Cataclysm. The Primordians and their great cities disappeared from Aerd. From the ashes of this cataclysm the Ampharion stood victorious. Eventually after much time had passed, a second age of peace and prosperity reigned.

The Second Cataclysm occurred when the Lords of Chaos attacked Aerd. They brought hulking Giants, Demons, and worst of all Dragons. They warred with the Gods of Ampharion, The Elven Gods of Fellanthia and Elaeron, and the Dwarven Gods of Zirquanok. It seemed for a time that the forces of Law might win. But then the Dark Elves of Elaeron in a surprising act of treachery and betrayal turned on the for Forces of Law. The weapons and magic of both sides tore Aerd asunder. It seemed all was lost until some of the Elder Gods arrived and helped to turn the tide of the war.

In the aftermath of the God War, Aerd underwent a second dark age. It is from the shadows of this latest dark age that the people of Aerd are slowly creeping out from under. The majestic time when the Gods walked and communicated directly with the people of Aerd are no more. Some say the Gods are dead, or at the very least have abandoned their people. The great cities and epic magic of that time can no longer be reproduced. Ruins and relics of the last two ages lay scattered about the land, a legacy of a better time.

The Nine Worlds

There are nine main worlds that make up the Cosmology of the campaign setting. Others obviously exist by these are the ones that hold the most importance for the setting. There are two factions, the Lords of Law, and the Lords of Chaos. The Lords of Law hail from Valtherium, Ampharius, Zirquanok, and Fellanthia. The Lords of Chaos hail from Elaeron, Yotaurus, Antenoria, and Fyrrion.

Aerd

Aerd is the jewel of the nine worlds it is at the centre of all the other Worlds, and the main setting for the campaign world.

Valtherium

This is the home world of the pantheon known as the Elder Gods. Few of the Elder Gods are worshiped any more on Aerd though there are cults, or lone worshipers that can be found scattered across the world.

Ampharion

This is the home world of the of the current pantheon of Gods that are worshipped on Aerd. They grant their clerics power but rarely interact directly with their worshippers. Instead they send angelic emissaries. These Gods do tend to meddle in the affairs of the men in order to achieve their own goals. The Gods of this pantheon are always in conflict with one another.

Yotaurus

This is the true home of all Giant Kind.

Antenovus

This is a world of water and ice. All manner of creatures of this type originate from here. Cold hearted Gods of storms and chaos live here.

Elaeron

This is the world of all dark fey. The court of the cruel Goddess of the Dark Elves rules here.

Zirquanok

The red and mountainous home world of the Dwarves and gnomes.

Fellanthia

This is green forest world, home of all the Light Fey. The Gods of the halflings and Light Elves hail from here.

Fyrrion

The hot ash filled home world of Earth and of Fire creatures. Foul devils serve cruel masters. This is the Hell that all men fear. Ruled by the Lord of the Pit.



Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Golden Plains of Afzhaal and Beyond

Artwork byJohn Avon

The Plains of Afzhaal

These fertile plains are the breadbasket of the City-State. Here farms dot the land. Scattered acroos this land small villages sit admits vast golden fields of wheat and fruit trees and grazing beasts of burden. The nomadic Afzhaali ride their six legged reptilian Gorlax, while they trade with the local villages and hunt wild Trinoceros and Lions. Dactyl Raiders will swoop down from the mountains to raid and quickly fly off.

Plains Encounters

Roll 1d10

1. Bloody Paw Goblins
2. Afzhaali Gorlax Rider's
3. Trinocerous
4. Wild Gorlax
5. Lions
6. Knights of Bryndor
7. Farmers
8. Legionnaire Patrol
9. Dactyl Raiders
10. Prairie Scorpions

Sites of Interest

The City-State of Kossuth (Hex 0515)

The City-State has fallen on dark times. Once a prosperous city the shadow of the Cult of Mem'Dathou has fallen over Kossuth. The young King is kept distracted by those that seek to use him and the kingdom for their own ends. Greed and corruption runs rampant and most people stay indoors at night for fear of disappearing never to be heard from again. Caravans and trade have gradually began to stop travelling to the city. The God King of Negrathia looks south towards the City-State with hunger while Bryndor looks from the south with the eyes of expansion and protecting their own kingdom from the depredations of the north.

The Town of Durnwich (Hex 0520)

The Village is about a days travel from Kossuth. The town acts as the hub for river trade in the south and the villages on the plains. Often this is the farthest north traders will travel these days as rumours of the rising evil in Kossuth spreads. Adventurers will often use the town as a launching pad for the exploration of dungeon ruins of Ghadira.

Ruins of Ghadira (Hex 0218)

The origin of this ancient ruin has been lost to time. The upper levels find themselves cleared and refilled time and time again. Adventurers and explorers come searching it for whatever treasures they can. Access to the lower levels is blocked by a strange door.

Legionnaire Outpost (Hex 0524)

This Legionnaire Outpost has been overtaken by an alien presence. A sentient black ooze lives inside the troops and officers of the post. The legionnaires body's are all that remain and acts in symbiosis with the alien intelligence. For now no ones seems to notice that anything is wrong as the aliens use the memories of their hosts. What plans they have remains to be seen.

The Star Crater (Hex 0923)

This crater was made by a meteorite that crashed her some time ago. The star metal is magical and already has been harvested by prospectors. Those who spend too much time in this area are transformed and mutated by the radiation.

The Lands Beyond

These are the lands that border the City-State of Kossuth.

The Wastelands of Negrathia

To the North is the desolate land of Nergrathia full of beastmen, Skrael barbarians, and demons. It is lorded over by powerful tyrant known as the God-King of the North. In time he plans to invade the City-State and claim it's riches for himself.

The Empire of Hykiria

To the West is the expansive and decadent land of the Hykirians that can trace its origins back to the Age of the First-Men, a time before the First Cataclysm. This Empire of Man is dominated by powerful noble houses and the Holy Church of Nabanadon.

The Kingdom of Bryndor

To the South sits Bryndor. This militaristic kingdom is controlled and dominated by a secretive order of knights. They are aggressive and expansionistic and are planning on annexing the City-State and its lands. They are aware of the Negrathia's designs on the City-State, and are in fact engineering things to encourage the country to invade. They will then offer aid, move in troops and then once entrenched take full control of the country.

The Yoshan Empire

Little is known of this Empire to the West and over the Everdusk Mountains. The Jade Emperor rules This vast Empire. It has an oriental flavour combining Chinese and Japanese traditions. 



Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bones of the Earth & River of Blood

Artwork by Ray Bender
The City-State of Kossuth claims two mountain chains, the Everdusks and Thule, and one major waterway, the Rubyrun River.

Rubyrun River

The Rubyrun is a wide and deep fresh water river rich in iron giving it it's ruby red look. The water is fresh and clean. There is much river traffic. The river acts as a major trade route to the south west into the lands of Hykiria and Bryndor. Most halflings in the City-State are river folk. They live on barges, and fishing boats traveling up and down the length of the river. Two major threats exist on and below the water. The first is the river pirates that plague boat traffic and raid riverside villages. Despite an increase in the City-State's naval presence the pirates always seem to be one step ahead. The second, and less frequently encountered threat is the Crayfish-men that live in villages below the river. Something has been causing them to be more active recently, though what that might be is anyones best guess.

River Encounters

Roll 1d10
1. River Pirates
2. Halfling River Barge
3. Fishing Boat
4. Crayfish-Men
5. City-State Naval Patrol Boat
6. Funeral Pyre Boat
7. Giant Pike
8. Goblin War Raft
10. Floating Debris

The River Road Encounters

Roll 1d10
1. Human Merchant Caravan
2. Gnomish Merchants
3. City-State Legionnaires
4. Highway Bandits
5. Elven Blockade
6. Bloody Paw Goblins (see Tharzad-Dul, Mountain Door)
7. Farmers
8. Woad Barbarians
9. Broken Down Carriage
10. The Black Rider (See the Witchmire)

Everdusk Mountains

The Everdusk Mountains act as a natural border for the City-State and divides it from the Yoshan Empire to the East. These mountains hold many mysteries and have yet to be fully explored. Like the underworld of Aerd, the high places of the world tend be have thin borders to other worlds and gateways to the weird. Giants and Yeti crawl the mountains as well as other more bizarre creatures hailing from from far away lands.

Everdusk Mountains Encounters

Roll 1d10
1. Dreaming Monk
2. Yeti
3. Giants
4. Dusk Drake
5. Prospectors
6. Explorers
7. Shantank
8. Mountain Goats
9. Moon-Beast
10. Black Sky Barge

Sites of Interest

Hydra Mountain (Hex 1716)

Hydra Mountain, a place of power, riddled with caves, dungeon levels, and secrets. Location of the mega-dungeon of Tharzad-Dul.

The Dungeon of Tharzad-Dul (Hex 1716)

The eponymous mega-dungeon. Once the home of the dwarves.

Giant Fortress (Hex 1720)

In the days before the first cataclysm this was was a might fortress from which the giants ruled the surrounding lands. Today it stands in ruins and is held by the most powerful and charismatic of the Giant Warlords. Their is a faction of these giants that seek to overthrow the current leader. They plan to do this by brining back a powerful giant warlock from the grave. All of Giant-Kind ounce hailed from the world of Yotaurus. Their history tell of a time when they were much more than the barbaric tribes that they are today. Prophecy speaks of a future day when the glory of the giants will return.

The Valley that Time Forgot (Hex 1723)

This valley has remained hidden from the world. This is because an enchantment on it acts as a temporal trap. Creatures and people can go into this jungle paradise, but cant leave. This powerful enchantment was placed on the valley in order to trap a terrible God and imprison it here forever.

The Demonsbreath Pass (Not shown)

This dangerous pass is used by bold travellers to navigate the mountains in order to have a quicker route to the Yoshan Empire beyond.

The Monastery of Orsoom (Hex 1808)

This difficult to reach monastery teaches martial arts, meditation, and other mysteries to those that they deem worthy. Usually this involves the potential acolyte to perform some sort of dangerous mission. Even then success does not necessarily mean entry. The library here contains many rare texts and histories.

Yotarian Gate (Hex 1805)

This deactivated gate leads to Yotaurus, the home world of the Giants. It is protected by yeti and other monsters. Some time in the near future the gate will open and the true Giants armed with powerful magic and weapons will arrive bent on conquest. They will use their barbarian brethren as shock troops and do not consider them to be true giants, but some pathetic throwback.

The Thule Mountains

High in the Thule mountains lives the wizard Lhurwyn, his magic is powerful and many come to him for advice. Deep below the Mountains lies the ruins of a once glorious city of minotaurs who's barbaric descendants war with a race of ogres and orcs augmented with a variety of body enhancing implants.

Thule Mountain Encounters

Roll 1d10
1. Xarlum Minotaur
2. Steelspine Ogre
3. Pilgrim
4. Shriek Hawk
5. Silverfoot Faun
6. Night Gaunt
7. Goat Shepard
8. Ironhand Orc
9. Crag Monkey
10. Lhurwyn the Mad

Sites of Interest

Xarloon Minotaur City (0214)

The Xarloon minotaurs are another race from Yotaurus. At their peak they were great magicians and warriors. Now few if any of this race can cast the simplest of spells.

Tower of Lhurwyn the Mad (Hex 0613)

Lhuryn the Mad, can see into the future and perform great feats of magic. He is a lewd and disagreeable old man. He has no need for money and will only aid those who bring him young nubile women and men for him to sate his lusts. He is served by enchanted crag monkeys who perform a variety of tasks including spying, cleaning and fetching things for him. His tower is guarded by magical guardians and traps.

True Lair of Khysophax (Hex 0711)

The true lair of Kysophax is located deep in the mountains here. It can be reached by descending a deep fissure in the mountain, or by long twisting cave tunnels back to the Shadowheart forest.

Vault of Ersetu Sheen (Hex 0313)

Ersetu Sheen is a hybrid of machine, man, and centaur. He is obsessed with creating and augmenting life. His two greatest creations are the Ironhand Orcs and the Steelespine Ogres. The Orcs all have their right hands removed and replaced with a random weapon, including circular saw blades, flamethrowers, shock-flails, or a iron fist mounted on a chain that can retract back into the arm. The Steelspine ogres have a reinforced spine surgically implanted on their backs. They typically have regenerating steel spikes that can be launched at targets at range.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Shepherd Of Fire

                                                   I'm a strong believer that every campaign should have a theme song. Even if it's just for the GM to get a little pumped to run the game. I find that music can often have cool elements in them that can be stolen for inspiration. For the Tharzad-Dul mega-dungeon I chose Shepherd of Fire. It has an energy and a dark side to it that works for me. You can be sure that somewhere in the dungeon there will be an NPC known as the Shepherd of Fire! Now go on and rock out with your cock out to A7X.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Shadowheart Forest

Artwork by Helen Khrustalyova
The Shadowheart Forest is a massive and ancient woodland full of magnificent creatures and places. The few locations and random tables here do not do this region justice.

In a past age a magnificent city stood at the woods centre. The origins of this city began with two races of elves, the Elaeron, and Fellantir, who came to this world at about the same time. When they first encountered each other a great war occurred. At the end of this war a peace treaty was signed at the site chosen to build a marvellous city that would honour the dead and showcase the wisdom, magic and ingenuity that both races shared. This golden city of peace prospered for hundreds of years until, like things, its glory began to fade and crack. Eventually civil war ripped the city apart and destroyed the magical Gates to their home worlds. The city was abandoned and the two races of exiled elves founded knew, if less glorious homes. The Elaeron fled into the hollows and veins of the Earth, while the Fellantir took to the tops of the highest trees. The animosity and hatred still burns strong between the two races.

Forest Encounters

Roll 1d10
1. Elaeron Elves
2. Fellantir Elves
3. Ghostweb Spiders
4. Bandits
5. Bloody Paw Goblins (see Tharzad-Dul, Mountain Door)
6. Xanophid (Biologically engineered plant creature)
7. Shadowheart Rangers (mix of humans and Fellantir elves)
8. Flying Skink (small reptile with wings)
9. Moth-Man
10. Khysophax (Ancient Dragon)

The Forest Road Encounters

Roll 1d10
1. Merchant Caravan
2. City-State Legionnaire Patrol
3. Farmers
4. Bandits
5. Goblins
6. Villagers
7. Leucrotta
8. Gypsy Caravan
9. Village Militia Patrol
10. Cultists

Points of Interest

The Village Enderfell (Hex 1116)

This is a small village would be of little significance if it wasn’t so close to not one but two major dungeons! The ruins of Erithhador, the failed City of Peace lies to the north within a hard days march. The fallen dwarven city of Tharzad-Dul lies a day to the east directly on the Forest Road. This is a great place for adventurers to rest and relax, in between missions. The town caters to adventurers and probably would have been razed by goblins if it hadn’t been for the timely aid of a friendly sword or spell from a passer through.

The Ruins of Erithhador (Hex 1410)

The City of Peace is no more. But even in ruin she is still a magnificent sight to behold. Many relics and treasures can be found here. In particular the Elves were known for their magic and there is plenty of that to be found here in the form of weapons, tomes, and other artifacts that can no longer be made. Of special note are the two Elf-Gates. These gates can be found at the centre of the city. Niether one works anymore, but if they could somehow be repaired then they could be used to travel to the original elven home worlds. It is common knowledge that the outer edges of the city are the least dangerous. A low level party could expect to survive here. While the deeper one gets into the city the more dangerous it becomes.

The Lair of Kysophax (Hex 0610)

The Dragons of Aerd (the world in which the City-State of Kossuth is located) are not colour coded like traditional D&D. These dragons are all unique and possess a variety of magical abilities and powers. Kysophax has not been seen in some time, but when he does appear it is heralded as a sign of apocalypse. This is the entrance to the dragon's lair, his true lair lies within the Thule Mountains.

The Mouth of Madness (Hex 1218)

The foolish believe that this pit descending into bowels of the earth is just a regular cave entrance. That it connects to a confusing network of regular tunnels and caverns extending below the entire surface of the City-State. The wise man knows better. The truth of the matter is that this entrance leads into another realm all together. A place where the rules of the surface world no longer apply. Eventually, if one survives long enough before going insane they will discover the new home of the Elaeron Elves. It will also become clear why the Elaeron Elves are so not quite right in the head anymore. If one where to travel even deeper they would eventually reach the city of a vile race of albino men known as the Azgarthians.

Fellantir Village (Hex 0913)

The Fellantir are live in a village located in the trees. They are not particularly welcoming of others, but those that they do allow into their circle tend to become very trusted allies or very great enemies. There is a faction here that wishes to return to their home world of Fellanthia, while there are others that argue that this is their one true home now. In an effort to battle their ancient nemesis the Fellantir created a magical race of plant creatures called Xanophids. These creatures have rebelled against their creators and now are an ever growing plague in the forest.

Mothmen Lair (Hex 1518)

The enigmatic Moth-men lair here high in the trees. They only come out at night to hunt. What they want no one knows. Whatever it is the secrets they hide will be pivotal in the coming days.

The Shadowheart Stone (Hex 1017)

The Shadowheart Stone is a rune encrusted stone monolith that comes from an age before the cataclysm. Today a Circle of Druids called the Guardians of the Heart gather here to perform rites and rituals. Failure to perform these rituals, the druids believed that a great evil will be released into the world. The truth is that they are right. A stairway into the earth below the stone leads deep into the dungeon prison of the ancient wizard named Kardath and his Gug servitors.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Witchmire

Located in the north-western portion of the City-State of Kossuth is the Witchmire, a land reputed to be haunted by witches and other horrors.

The Witchmire was not always a fetid and diseased swampland. According to legend, the land was once a fertile valley full of trees and wildlife.

A great warlord came, claimed the area and built his castle in what is believed to once be at the centre of the swamp.

This brutal and cruel man had sexual appetites to match his bloodlust and many a young woman was forced to endure horrible atrocities before finally succumbing to death.

Then came a fateful day. While the latest of the Warlords victims lay dying, her heart filled with anger, a Devil approached her and offered her revenge if she gave him her immortal soul for all eternity. Soon after agreeing to this a blight fell on the land. Cattle and the people of the land began to waste away from disease. The crops failed as the ground transformed into mud and water. Finally, the young woman, with a ghostly army of the Warlord's past victims cornered the Warlord near the mountains and inflicted on him tortures culminating in his death.

Random Encounters

Roll 1d10

1. Bog Wight (Intelligent zombie)
2. Witchfire (Will-o-wisp)
3. Lhokrug Hunters (lizard-men)
4. Mire Trolls
5. Tar Pit
6. Octadile (eight armed crocodile)
7. Ambush Frog
8. Deaths Head Stirge
9.Carnivorous Plant
10. Stuffed Horror (Golem stitched together from canvas and filled with sand)

Points of Interest

The Devil's Fork (Hex 1307)

This site is reputed to be haunted by devils seeking to make a deal for your soul. The reality is that River Pirates have a secret hideout here. They encourage the rumours to keep this place safe from Legionnaires and anyone else.

Castle Wyrmfall (Hex 1403)

The ruins of the Warlords castle now serve as a home to a family of witches. They venerate their founding matriarch's devil saviour. Few monsters living in the Witchmire are willing to cross the witches. The Stuffed Horrors that wander the swamp are the witches creations. They are golems stitched together with buttons and canvas and filled with mud and sand. It is believed that there are extensive dungeons below the surface ruins full of treasure and magic.

The Lhokrug Village (Hex 1604)

The Lhokrug are a primitive and superstitious people similar to lizardmen. According to legend, they are all that remains of the descendants of the people who once lived in these lands before the Devil's Blight cursed the land and it's people. This may or may not be true, but they can often be found in the service of the witches. The Lhokrug worship their own primaeval reptilian God in bizarre and bloody rituals.

The Tomb of the Black Rider (Hex 1507)

This unremarkable cave network is the location that the female victims had their revenge on the Warlord. The Warlords heart was ripped from his chest and a curse put on him to be the the devil touched girl and her descendants slave for as long as his magically preserved heart still beat. Now the Black Rider, as he is known rides the land on his ghostly war horse and performs whatever task a family member has demanded of him. This usually entails murder and mayhem of some type. In the dungeon below Castle Wyrmfall, the black heart of the Warlord still beats...

Troll Warrens (Hex 1703)

Mire trolls live here and wander the swamp in an endless hunger. They can sometimes be found pressed into the service of the witches.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Beacon Hills

A Woad warrior attacks Kossuth Legionnaires - By Gianluca Pagliarani
This region lies on the border of Negrathia, a wasteland full of beast-men, demons and worse. The hills are the home of two major groups, the Beacon Gnomes and the blue painted Woad Barbarians. The Gnomes mine this hills for precious gems and act as an early warning system for the City-State of any attack from the north. The Woad consider these hills to be sacred ground and while many barrows house their dead, some are from an earlier age. What secrets and treasures lay hidden in their stony depths are anyones best guess.

Random Encounters

Roll 1d10

1. Gnomish Patrol
2. Merchant Caravan
3. Woad Hunters
4. Hill Giants
5. Mi-Go
6. Barrow Wights
7. Beast-Men Raiders
8. Hill Drake
9. Chupacabra
10. Ankheg

Points of Interest

The Village of Beacon Hill

Much of this gnomish village lies underground, including the gem mines. Potato, squash, pumpkin, and corn crops surround the village as well as sheep and goat farms. The Gnomes and the Woads are on friendly if distant terms and both are willing to come to the others aid in times of trouble.

Woad Village

The Woads are short, brown skinned barbarians. They paint their bodies with a striking blue paint in amazing patterns. This paint is said to have magical properties that can act as armour and camaflouge a woad warrior until he is right on top of you. They have lived in these hills for as long as they can remember. The current leader murdered his way to the top. He has an evil heart and is preparing to bring war to the gnomes and the City-State. Not everyone in the tribe feels the way he does but those that speak out disappear in the night, or die in hunting accidents.

Barrows

These barrows can be found all over in the hills. The newest ones belong to the Woad barbarians. They are protected by traps, and barrow wights that defend the tomb from grave robbers. Some of them have been broken into are are used as lairs for other monsters.

The Rune Spikes

This circle of rune covered standing stones is actually a deactivated gate to the true home world of the Gnomes. The Gnomish home world is one of 8 worlds connected to this one via magical gates located in the region of the City-State of Kossuth. Another of these World Gates is the Dynost Bridge located somewhere in Tharzad-Dul. Yet another one is located in the Shadowheart Forest. Below the Rune Spikes lies a dungeon thats lowest depths holds the broken power generator. The dungeon is far from empty, but if explorers could repair the generator then this gate could be used to transport anyone to the gnomes original home world.

Mi-Go Outpost

This interstellar race from Yuggoth have an outpost here. They mine for minerals and perform bizarre research experiments on cattle and the intelligent races alike. They worship foul Gods and have established relations with a variety of humanoid races to work for them. Whatever plans they have they can not be good for anyone.

Hill Giant Village

The brutish Hill Giants have their village here. Built in the ruins of a much older settlement. The leaders of this tribe still possess some of the magical powers the giants once easily wielded in a different age. A prophecy sacred to all giants speaks of a time when their glorious empire will return.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Overland Hex Map: The City State of Kossuth

Heres the hex map showing the environs of the City Sate of Kossuth. This also happens to show the areas located outside of Tharzad-Dul my mega-dungeon project. Each hex is 5 miles. The red triangles are small villages, the star in the circle is the City State, and the solid red dot is Tharzad-Dul. Negrathia, Hykiria, and Bryndor are neighbouring kingdoms.
The Environs of the City State of Kossuth

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tharzad-dul Level 1 Complete!



Artwork by Brian Leblanc
The first level of Tharzad-Dul, my mega-dungeon project is done. In a week I managed to get an entire level written. Coming in at about 4500 words. As a rough draft its not too bad. Theres still a bunch of things that I would like to fix. For one the treasures are all more than a little bland. I would also liked to have worked on some more NPCs with motivations and of course names! If I do decide to publish this one day I will defiantly go over everything with a fine tooth comb and refine stuff. It also wouldn’t hurt to play test it a little. This week coming up I'm going to take a break from the dungeon and outline some of the dungeon environs, including the city of Kossuth. After that I will focus on Level 2 of the mega-dungeon "The Farm Level". For those of you reading this I'd love to hear some of your opinions on what I've done so far and any sugggestions you might have.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tharzad-Dul Room Key Part 3

This is Part 3 of 3 for the first level of my mega-dungeon project Tharzad-Dul. 

Room Descriptions

19. Defaced Statue
This room contains a defaced statue. A monument to some forgotten dwarven hero.
Monsters: 4 vipers hide near or on the statue. They will try to surprise attack anyone searching near or on the statue.
Viper: HD 1d6hp; AC 5[14]; Atk 1 bite (1hp + poison); Move 18; Save 18; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Lethal poison (+2 save).
Treasure: Behind a loose stone at the base of the statue is a stash of treasure worth 360 gp.

20. The Viper Pit
This room is a shrine to the vile god the Father Hydra. Sacrifices are offered to by throwing victims into the 10 x 10 x 10 foot deep pit. The snakes then kill, devour, and take this unholy communion to their living god deeper in the mountain where they are in turned devoured by Father Hydra.
Monsters: Currently there are 2 vipers and 1 cobra in the pit. They get in an out through numerous holes and cracks in the floor and walls. More 1d4 snakes will arrive every minute someone is in the pit, or there is a ritual about to begin.
Viper: HD 1d6hp; AC 5[14]; Atk 1 bite (1hp + poison); Move 18; Save 18; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Lethal poison (+2 save).
Cobra: HD 1; AC 5[14]; Atk 1 bite (1hp + poison); Move 16; Save 17; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Lethal poison.
Treasure: There are a number of golden idols representing a hydra with snake heads,candelabra’s, and other religious paraphernalia worth a total of 360 gp

21. Rat Larder
This room contains broken furniture and other debris. All along the wall opposite of the door are the corpses of rats that have been spiked into the wall. Some of them still squirm and squeal in agony as the life bleeds out of them.
Monsters: None
Treasure: None

22. Old Barracks
These rooms once served as barracks for the dwarven soldiers that manned the fortress. Now they lie empty, save for the broken remnants of the rooms contents
Monsters: None
Treasure: None

23. The Cultist Camp
This is the main encampment for the cultists exploring the dungeon. Here they sleep, do further research, and prepare and eat their meals.
Monsters: If the cultists are not in Room 16, they will be found here, along with 6 others who are permanently stationed here.
Human Cultist: HD 1; AC 7[12]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 12; Save 17; CL/XP 1/15; Special: None.
Treasure: The cultists have a collection of 180 gp worth of trinkets and gold between them here.

24. High Priest's Bedroom
The leader of this expedition is located here. He reports to his superiors in the city of Kossuth via a magical hand mirror made from a polished and ornately decorated dragon scale. He's been demanding that the cult send in reinforcements because they have been experiencing more difficulty than expected in dealing with the dungeons denizens. He also realizes that its only a mater of time until the truce he helped broker will soon collapse. The priest would be more than willing to hire a group of adventurers to solve this situation.
Monsters: The High Priest is found here most often.
High Priest of Mem'Dathou: HD 3; AC 7[12]; Atk 1 Staff of Blasting (1d8); Move 12; Save 13; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Spells, Charm Person x 1, Sleep x 1, Mirror Image x1
Treasure: The high priest magical mirror is worth 360 gp and can be used to communicate with any other magical mirror. The mirror gives the possessor a telepathic alert when someone wishes to communicate with them.

25. Research Station
This is wear the priests have been studying some of the more obscure relics. In particular they are trying to decipher the location of the Vrillium deposits that they know must exist further below,
Monsters: At any one time there are 3 priests here.
Priest of Mem'Dathou: HD 2; AC 5[14]; Atk 1 Mace (1d8); Move 12; Save 17; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Spells, inflict light wounds x 1
Treasure: There are 540 gp worth of dwarven artifacts here.

26. The Desecrated Chapel
This once was a chapel dedicated to the dwarven gods. It has been re-sanctified as a temple to the cult's God, Mem'Dathou. The cult's priests have been using a ritual granted to them through their God to use this area to create skeleton warriors to bolster their forces.
Monsters: There are 7 skeletons guarding the temple.
Skeleton: HD 1; AC 8[11] or 7[12] with shield; Atk 1 weapon or strike (1d6) or (1d6+1 two-handed); Move 12; Save 17; CL/XP 1/15; Special: None.
Treasure: The cult's holy book, Mysteries of the Worm, is found here. It is worth 210 gp if the seller can find a buyer crazy enough to want it. The cult is fanatical about these books and will track down anyone who steals it and exact the proper retribution in Mem'Dathou's name. Virtually no one will buy this book in Kossuth, or the nearby villages since fear of the cult is very high.

27. Old Mess Hall
This was the fortresses mess hall. Stairs here lead down to the Farm Level (level 2).
Monsters: There are 7 serpent-men here. One of them has the key to the prison (Room 28).
Serpent-Man: HD 1; AC 6[13]; Atk 1 scimitar (1d8); Move 9; Save 17; CL/XP 1/15; Special: None.
Treasure: The serpent-men have a total of 210 gp worth of jewellery and coins on their person divided between each them.

28. Serpent-men Prison
The serpent-men use this room as a prison. The entrance to this room is locked.
Monsters: Two goblins and a cultist of Mem'Dathou are shackled to the wall. They have been replaced by shape changed serpent-men who are gathering information in to aid in finally removing them from this level.
Trap: This room is guarded by a Javelin trap.
Treasure: None

29. Torture Chamber
This room is filled with a variety of torture instruments. A scarred table with manacles sits in the middle of the room. A brazier filled with red hot coals and an iron poker sit in the corner of the room. A dead and mutilated goblin lays propped up in the corner.
Monsters: None
Treasure: None

30. Old Kitchen
This room was obviously once a kitchen for the dwarven soldiers. Today little more can be found here but broken pottery useless cooking implements and broken counters and rotting cupboards. Searching this room will turn up a few gold teeth, mouldy flour, and one jar of super hot spice.
Monsters: None
Treasure: None

31. Den of Snakes
This room has a number smelly cots. Clearly the sleeping quarters of at least 10 creatures. There are a number of large cracks in the walls. Amidst the debris in the room can be found a yellowed human skull with black runes carved into it, a piss pot, and a bunch of worn out and mundane adventurering gear.
Monsters: Hiding under one of the cots is a Constrictor snake. It will attempt to grapple and then squeeze the life out of anyone searching this room. If it is wounded for a third of its hit points it will attempt to escape into one of the cracks in the wall.
Constrictor: HD 2; AC 6[13]; Atk 1 constriction (1d3); Move 12; Save 16; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Constriction.
Treasure: Scattered in the different cots is a total of 90 gp.

32. Lavatory
This room is full of garbage and reeks of sewage.
Monsters: None
Treasure: None

33. The Master's Room
This is the throne room of the Hooded Master. He is the leader of the serpent-men on this level. The Hooded One looks like a humanoid snake person, but with the hooded head of a cobra. Like a select few of his type he can polymorph himself to assume the identity and voice of another person or creature. He has been charged by his superiors to gain control of this level and to use this area as a base of operations to complete other missions in the surrounding lands. Agents and spies in the city of Kossuth and other neighbouring villages report to him. The room contains a variety of stuffed beast, iron bars,
Monsters: Sitting at a ornate table in a large throne like chair sits the “Hooded One”. He is working on plans or 50% chance discussing various matters or plans with x serpent-men. An Iron Cobra is coiled by the door to this room waiting for a command to attack.
Iron Cobra: HD: 1+1 Armor Class: 1 [18] Atk: Bite (1d4 plus poison) Saving Throw: 17 Special: Find target, poison, magic resistance 10% Move: 15 Challenge Level/XP: 3/60
The Hooded Master: HD 4; AC 6[13]; Atk 2 scimitar (1d8); Move 12; Save 14; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Polymorph Self, Hypnotizing Gaze: as Charm Person.
Treasure: The master has a hidden cache of treasure hidden under a loose flagstone totalling 540 gp. In addition he has a bunch of notes listing, plans, informants and other secrets all written in the ancient serpent-men language.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Tharzad-Dul Room Key Part 2

This is the second part of three for the first level of my mega-dungeon project Tharzad-Dul. 

Room Descriptions

1. The Mountain Gate
The gates to the city stand permanently open now. Debris and cobwebs wreath this room as a warning to all that enter here that nothing but death awaits them.
Monsters: 2 Vipers hide in the debris here, they will try to surprise attack unwary searchers.
Viper: HD 1d6hp; AC 5[14]; Atk 1 bite (1hp + poison); Move 18; Save 18; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Lethal poison (+2 save).
Treasure: A small ruby worth 250 gp is laying on the floor near where one of the vipers is hiding.

2. Outer Ward
This was the last defensive position a walkway rings this room from which the defenders could fire down arrows from in case of attack. The balcony can be accessed from stairs in the corners.
Monsters: 9 Goblin warriors, ostensibly on guard duty, play a game of knuckle bones by lamplight up in the balcony.
Goblin: HD 1d6hp; AC 6[13]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; CL/XP B/10; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight.
Treasure: Hidden in this room is a cache of treasure an adventurer hide behind a broken statue. The cache contains 5 gems worth 80 gp each plus 50 gold coins stamped with the mark of Tharzad-Dul. The goblins in the balcony have a pot worth 5 gp and 10 sp.

3. Ogre Lair
Monsters: A ogre with a bad temper makes his lair here. He is affiliated with no one faction in the dungeon but can be bought with food and gold.
Ogre: HD 4+1; AC 5[14]; Atk 1 weapon (1d10+1); Move 9; Save 13; CL/XP 4/120; Special: None.
Treasure: The ogre has a collection of jewellery and coins worth 240 gp. One piece is a dwarven family heirloom emblazoned with the clan's crest that if returned would be worth 250 gp alone.

4. Water Well
This was the well room. Fresh water can still be brought up in the bucket attached to a thin chain. The well leads down to a small fresh water pool on the Farm Level located below on Level 2.
Monsters: 50% chance of some random monster climbing up the well shaft.
Treasure: None

5. Botho's Lair
This room was once divided up into smaller offices. The room is two levels but the stairs up have been destroyed. On the second floor the were-rat Botho makes has a hidden lair while he spies on the factions of the dungeon. His bed is behind a mouldy curtain, along with a book case filled with odd knick-knacks. He gets to the second floor with a ladder he keeps hidden and pulls up with him when he's up there. He has created a murder hole looking directly towards the door.
Monsters: There are 8 giant rats here and a 25 % chance that Botho will be found here.
Giant Rat: HD 1d4 hp; AC 7[12]; Atk 1 bite (1d3); Move 12; Save 18; CL/XP A/5; Special: 5% are diseased.
Botho (wererat) : HD 3; AC 6[13]; Atk 1 bite (1d3), 1 weapon (1d6); Move 12; Save 14; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Lycanthropy, Control Rats: Wererats can control rats , Surprise: Surprises opponents on 1-4 on a d6.
Trap: Botho set an arrow trap to defend the entrance to the second floor.
Treasure: Botho has a sum of treasure in his lair that comes to 320 gp.

6. Elevator to Hell
This room was the elevator room down to the Farm Level (2nd level) and the Workshop Level (3rd level). It was used as an efficient way of transporting goods between the levels. The elevator is now destroyed and only a black pit remains.
Monsters: xdx goblins on patrol are standing at the edge of the elevator shaft throwing rocks and spitting down into it. Theres is a 75% chance that an angry monster will climb out of the pit and attack anything it sees.
Goblin: HD 1d6hp; AC 6[13]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; CL/XP B/10; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight.
Treasure: None

7. The Sally Port
The dwarves used this area for their cavalry. If the main gate was under attack they could send out a mounted attack from here. Now this room reeks of goblins and worg fur. Scattered through out the room can be found an old whetstone, gnawed on bones, a jar of war paint, and numerous clay mugs.
Monsters: 1worg and 6 goblin worg riders are here going about various tasks.
Goblin: HD 1d6hp; AC 6[13]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; CL/XP B/10; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight.
Worg: HD 4; AC 6[13]; Atk 1 bite (1d6+1); Move 18; Save 13; CL/XP 4/120; Special: None.
Treasure: Spread out in in riding bags and hidden in sleeping mats are 360 gp in coins, gems, and jewelry.

8. Kitchen
This is the goblins kitchen. It is full of things goblins like to eat. However the food is nothing civilized folk would consider edible. A spring fed well is here and the water is safe to drink.
Monsters: Theres a 50% chance that there are 1d6 goblins in here eating, passing through, or cooking some horrible version of dungeon rat stew.
Goblin: HD 1d6hp; AC 6[13]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; CL/XP B/10; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight.
Treasure: None

9. Latrine
This room is the garbage dump and latrines for the goblins.
Monsters: There is a 50% chance that 1d6 goblins can be found here throwing out garbage, doing their business or passing through.
Goblin: HD 1d6hp; AC 6[13]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; CL/XP B/10; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight.
Treasure: In one of the dung filled latrines is a potion of healing that is still usable despite its vial being covered in feces.

10. Goblin Barracks
This area is used as barracks by the goblins on this level. It is full of bunk beds beat up tables. It is full of debris, old food, broken weapons and armour, mouldy sheets, knuckle bones, empty kegs, and clay mugs are everywhere.
Monsters: there are 1d6 + 10 goblin warriors in this room at most hours of the day.
Goblin: HD 1d6hp; AC 6[13]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; CL/XP B/10; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight.
Treasure: scattered throughout the barracks is a total treasure equalling 400gp.

11. Tunnel Down
A giant sized tunnel big enough for a full grown man to walk standing straight up has been created in this room and leads down to the Farm Level (2nd level) and gives access to the true goblin and orc warrens. This tunnel was created by a Spawn of Mem'Dathou, a giant purple worm-like creature.
Monsters: There is a 50% chance of 1d6 goblins or orcs entering or leaving this tunnel.
Treasure: None

12. Goblin Shaman's Quarters
This is the shaman's quarters. He is the tribes spiritual leader and the War Leader's chief advisor. This room is full of all manner of arcane and bizarre things. Roots and plants hang to dry, jars of strange substances, totems, skulls, and tiny caged vermin and reptiles are among the few things that can be found here.
Monsters: 50% chance of goblin shaman being here.
Goblin: HD 1d6hp; AC 6[13]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; CL/XP B/10; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight.
Treasure: There is 1 potion of cure light wounds, 1 potion of animal control, 2 scrolls of cure light wounds one of which is cursed. The healed person has an aversion to being underground for the next 24 hours. 1 scroll of light, and 1 scroll of protection from evil.

13. Spider Den
The goblins don’t use this room for much. It is filled will cob webs, old crates and barrels.
Monsters: A monstrous spider lairs here.
Giant Spider (1ft diameter): HD 1+1; AC 8[11]; Atk 1 bite (1hp + poison); Move 9; Save 17; CL/XP 3/60; Special: lethal poison (+2 saving throw)
Treasure: None

14. Goblin Guard Post
The door to this room is protected by an inflict light wounds trap. It was set by the goblin shaman. The goblins have set up a guard post here in case of an attack from the serpent-men, cultists or annoying adventurers.
Monsters: 5 Goblin warriors are on guard duty here.
Goblin: HD 1d6hp; AC 6[13]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; CL/XP B/10; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight.
Treasure: None

15. Goblin War Leader's Room
This room is empty.
Monsters: 50% chance of the goblin war leader and his Worg being here, otherwise hes out on a raid. If the goblin shaman was not in his room then he will be here as the acting leader of the tribe till the war leader returns. In addition there will be 5 goblin warriors here.
Goblin War Leader: HD 1; AC 7[12]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 9; Save 17; CL/XP 2/30; Special: +2 to hit in berserk state, -1 to hit in sunlight.
Worg: HD 4; AC 6[13]; Atk 1 bite (1d6+1); Move 18; Save 13; CL/XP 4/120; Special: None.
Goblin: HD 1d6hp; AC 6[13]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 9; Save 18; CL/XP B/10; Special: -1 to hit in sunlight.
Trap: The war leaders chest is protected by poison needle trap.
Treasure: The war leaders chest contains a mix of treasure adding up to 940 gp.

16. Cult Research Post
The cult has set up a research post here to examine items they find and don’t want to bring back to their main base. Tables have been set up here full of lamp, pottery shard, an old pair of combat boots, a ornate hourglass, and dwarven tools of varying degrees of quality.
Monsters: there is a 50% chance that there are 8 cultists here doing research while at least one member of the group stands on guard.
Cultist Team Leader: HD 3; AC 5[14]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 12; Save 15; CL/XP 3/60; Special: None.
Human Cultist: HD 1; AC 7[12]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 12; Save 17; CL/XP 1/15; Special: None.
Treasure: Various trinkets, statues, and other dwarven relics are scattered on this table are valued at a total of 720 gp.

17. Cult Guard Post
This room shows scorch marks on the floor and walls nearest the door leading to the stair well in room 18. Humanoid bones litter the floor, and a goblin corpse lays burnt and dead on the ground. A small backpack lays on the floor beside him. This room is a guard post set up by the Cult of Mem'Dathou to protect their access deeper into the dungeon.
Monsters: there are 6 skeletons on guard duty here. They will attack anyone who dose not show a cult amulet.
Skeleton: HD 1; AC 8[11] or 7[12] with shield; Atk 1 weapon or strike (1d6) or (1d6+1 two-handed); Move 12; Save 17; CL/XP 1/15; Special: None.
Trap: The cult set a burning hands trap on the door leading into the stairwell.
Treasure: None

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tharzad-Dul: Level 1 Room Key Part 1

The Mountain Door

The Mountain Door was built as a fortress to defend the city of Tharzad-Dul from attack. It was also used as a border control. Goods, and people could be checked for disease and merchants goods could be verified and taxed. Today it serves as one of the most well known entrances into the dungeon.

There are three main factions on this level. A tribe of goblins, the enigmatic Cult of Mem'Dathou, and the Serpent-men. Rooms 7 to 15 are claimed by the goblins. Rooms 23 to 26 belong to the cult, and rooms 22 to 33 are claimed by the serpent-men. Rooms 1 to 6 and 16 to 19 are high traffic routes used by creatures entering or leaving the dungeon and are claimed by no one. Currently there is a moderate peace between all three factions. However minor skirmishes occur from time to time.

The Factions

The Bloody Paw Goblin Tribe
The goblin tribe uses this level as the main entrance to the orc and goblin warrens below on level two. The worgs and their riders are the main occupants that can be found on this level. The goblins main goal here is to make sure they can hold this level for easy access to their warrens below. They hate the other factions but are being forced to maintain the uneasy truce. It probably wouldn’t take much to incite them to attack the others.

Cult of Mem'Dathou
The cult has come to the dungeon from the nearby City of Kossuth. The short term mission of the cult in the dungeon is to explore and plunder whatever valuables and magic they can. In the long term they want to gain control of the Vrillium mines deep below. In the City of Kossuth the cult is well known and feared. Those who cross the cult here can expect brutal reprisals. The priests have been animating skeletons to act as servants and shock troops against the other factions and monsters of the dungeon. It was the cult that was the main arbitrator of the current truce, however they would be more than happy if an outside group unaccountable to the cult were to clear the level of some of their enemies.

The Serpent-Men
Hydra Mountain once belonged to the serpent-men long ago. Today they seek to reclaim their lost land and glory. Currently they are out matched by the two other forces for a head on confrontation. In particular, the goblins numbers are too high and are too ferocious. Fortunately the goblins have an irrational fear of snakes and the ancient serpent-men magics. The serpent-men are also patient and cunning. They have spies everywhere. They have used this current truce to slip shape changed imposters as spies into the ranks of both the cult and the goblins on this level. Currently the actual victims are being held in the serpent-men prison and tortured for information before they will be ritually sacrificed to Father Hydra.

illustration by Marie and John Severin for "The Shadow Kingdom."

Random Encounters

There is a 1 in 6 chance for a random encounter. Roll once for each hour the characters are in the dungeon. Roll each time the group makes excessive noise. This includes combat, breaking down doors etc. Roll every time the characters enter an empty room, or enters one of the high traffic rooms (1 to 6) and (16 to 19).

Roll 1d10
  1. Goblin Raiders
  2. Worg Patrol
  3. Cultists
  4. Vipers
  5. Dire Rats
  6. Cult Patrol
  7. Were-Rat
  8. Orcs
  9. Serpent-men
  10. Bandits/Explorers

1. Goblin Raiders: 2d6 goblins preparing to raid one of the other factions for food, booze and treasure. They're more interested in eating, drinking and general mayhem than fighting and will flee as soon as the tide of battle turns against them.

2. Goblins and Worgs: 1d3 worgs and 2d6 goblins are on patrol. They will question anyone before they attack not wanting to upset the current peace. If they realize that the group is not affiliated with a faction they will attack.

3. Cultists: 2d6 cultists on some kind of mission for the priests. They worship Mem'Dathou a local God in these lands. Little more than thugs they will want to bring anyone they find to their leaders for questioning, but not before they have a little fun themselves first.

4. Vipers: 1d3 Diamond backed pit vipers. The serpent-men presence on this level has attracted snakes of all kinds to this level. In particular have been the most common. They have a habit of hiding and then attacking. Favourite hiding places include prime treasure hiding spots, back packs, under rocks, cracks in floors and walls. Trap and treasure searchers beware!

5. Giant Rats: 1d6 giant rats. Friends of the were-rat Botho, they will attack if threatened, otherwise they spy and report whatever they happen to learn.

6. Cult Patrol: This group of 1d6 skeletons and a cult priest is on patrol. They question anyone they meet and will not attack anyone allied to one of the other groups unless first provoked. They will attempt to bring adventurers to their base for further questioning. Resistance is met with violence.

7. Were-Rat: Botho is a were-rat from the city Kossuth. He works for the Thieves Guild in the city. Initially his mission was spying on the cult of Mem'Dathou, but has expanded to gathering info on all the groups. He can speak with rats of all kinds and has pressed them into his service. He really hates the serpent-men because they seem to particularly enjoy eating rats. He avoids getting into a fight if he can and may help the group if he thinks they can help him. If they betray him he will make sure his friends in the thieves guild run into them.

8. Orcs: 1d6 orcs, either on the way out of the dungeon to raid, or on some kind of diplomatic mission with one of the other groups. They come from level two. They boss the goblins around.

9. Serpent-Men: 1d6 serpent-men, either on patrol or on some kind of mission for the “Hooded One” their leader. They will avoid a fight if possible. They will lie and tell half truths if they think it will help them gain an advantage. They will try to lead groups into an ambush if they have to fight or spy on the party if they have not been noticed yet.


10. Bandits/Explorers: Theres a 50% chance that this is a group ( 1d6 + 3) of explorers, in which case they might not try to out right kill the characters and take their stuff. This group might be Dwarves seeking to reclaim a lost heirloom from the city, or a standard group of adventurers. Bandits might be searching out a new base of operations or making a deal with one of the other factions. Either way they don’t play nice with others.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tharzad-Dul Design Thoughts

Tharzad-Dul: The Mountain Door Level 1
Heres a slightly fixed up version of the level 1 map I posted previously. I added in the stairs down to the lower levels. I also hatched in a section that I missed when I first inked the map. I should have the map key posted up in instalments through the week. I might come back to this map again but for now it does the job.

My experience working on this project has been a very different process from how I normally work.I'm an obsessive compulsive planner. Everything needs to go according to plan. I've been trying to break free from those shackles and let the dice fall where they may, both in gaming and in life.

Typically I start off with the a basic concept of what the dungeon level was originally intended for. In this case I knew that this level was first built by the dwarves as a fortress to defend the rest of the city from invasion and act as a check point for those entering and leaving the city.

Normally when I draw my maps I do them on graph paper. This time however I started off with the idea to just create room nodes connected by lines. I took a regular blank sheet of white paper and just drew a bunch of squares and circles and then connected them with lines. This didn’t sit with me very well. I wanted a sense of scale and more traditional feel. I will say the process did help to give me an idea of what the level was all about before I did too much work drawing.

I got another sheet of paper and used a sheet of graph paper underneath to use as a guide for drawing rough rooms and halls. Once I was satisfied with I inked the rooms with a big sharpie, and the halls and hatching with super thin black and brown markers and finally numbered the rooms.

Even when writing up my key stocking the dungeon has been a very random and organic process. Normally I like to have planned static encounters that need to be worked through. This time I just used the random tables from the 3.5 Dungeon Masters Guide to help stock the monsters, traps, and room contents. I made a few adjustments here and there, but otherwise I just tried to brainstorm up reasons to explain some of the weird combinations of room contents and creatures that came up.


It's been a fun and liberating experience. I'm not sure why I've never done it before now but I'm glad I did.    

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Fallen Stronghold of Tharzad-Dul

There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.
-J.R.R Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Background

200 years ago, drawn by legends of untold wealth that lay within the depths of the mountain, Dwarves came to Hydra Mountain to establish a new kingdom. Before they could establish their new mountain kingdom they needed to drive a race of serpent-men and slay their terrible god, a primaeval Elder Hydra, thought to be the progenitor of all Hydra.

In the end, the dwarves stood victorious and they claimed Hydra Mountain and surrounding lands as their own. Without wasting any time the fledgling Kingdom of Tharzad-Dul was established and soon began to flourish.

Over time the deeper into the depths of the mountain they dug, the greater the dwarves fortunes became. Then came an amazing discovery. A new mineral was discovered. The ore was a fascinating shade of lustrous purple that seemed to hold an inner fire. They named this new discovery Vrillium. Through research and experimentation it was discovered that Vrillium held magical properties and could be worked like other precious metals. Soon the forges were producing Vrillium weapons, armour and other objects. Word began to spread and the fame and fortunes of Tharzard-Dul grew even greater.

But these fortunes would not to last, and tragedy was about to strike. Within this wonderful new ore hide malevolent properties. Those who spent too much time in it's presence began suffer from sickness that twisted the minds and body. The miners were the first to be affected, followed by those who worked the forges. At first, minor arguments and fist fights began to occur throughout the Stronghold. Paranoia, greed and anger began to spread and then escalate at an alarming rate. Newborns began to be born with horrible mutations, as the cancerous sickness began to spread.

While the stronghold attempted to deal with this terrible blight, a new crisis appeared. From the deepest depth of the Earth a strange race of invaders attacked. This decadent race of albino men known as the Azgarthians had a voracious hunger for Vrillium. The dwarves would hardly have been the first race they had broken and enslaved in order to claim the precious commodity.

Even in the wake of the chaos caused by the Vrillium sickness, it's possible the dwarves might have been able to defeat the Azgarthians. Yet it seemed that Fate was not yet through with the dwarves. Orc's and goblin tribes, jealous of the Dwarven Kingdom's prosperity and seething with hatred discovered the Dwarves weakened state and attacked.


Today, the once glorious stronghold of Tharzad-Dul lies in ruins. It is now the home of Orcs and Goblins, and other more bizarre creatures. Deep in the depths below, the slaves of the Azgarthians mine their precious Vrillium, and the scaly shadow of the serpent-men returns. Yet hidden throughout the mountain hold lay the undiscovered treasures of the fallen Dwarven Kingdom. Waiting to be claimed by adventurers bold enough to brave the time worn halls...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mega-Dungeon Project: Tharzad-Dul

Tharzad-Dul-Level 1: The Mountain Door
Before I started working on my most recent project, the Digital Dark Age, I spent some time collecting artwork. I did this because I wanted to find aliens that were different from the norm and quite frankly I needed some inspiration. I didn’t want to just make space orcs, space elves and so on. I found that these images really helped inspire me. They made putting word to the blank page a little easier.

Another thing I've discovered while working on this project is how much of a joy it is to work with such a rules light system. Stating up new aliens and monsters takes next to no time.

All this got me back to thinking about one of my long time obsessions, the mega-dungeon. So I thought to myself, hey theres plenty of maps to be found on the internet, why don’t you grab a few and stock those suckers to the gills with traps, monsters and treasure?

So I started writing a background for an old dwarven citadel and how it had fallen to their ancient nemesis of goblins and orcs. Nothing too original. But, then I came upon the secret reason that the goblins and orcs had finally been able to take the mountain fortress.

Thats when I knew that I had something special. To me at any rate. I needed this thing to be mine. Something that if I decided I wanted to, I could publish it.


So heres the first level of Tharzad-Dul another writing project I'll be posting up in between the Digital Dark Age stuff, and whatever else I feel like writing about. While you can use your favourite fantasy rpg, I'll be using Swords & Wizardry as my base line rules set.     


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Friday Night Magic

I started playing Magic when the Revised edition came out in 1994 and played pretty religiously until about the time that Tempest came out in 1998. Eventually the money I spent on cards went into buying RPGs instead.

For some time now I've been wanting to jump back into the game. Last night the whole family made a trip to the game store and while my oldest picked up dice, and my wife scoped out the board games, I picked up a 2014 deck builder box and two intro packs.

Later that night my oldest daughter and I played a game. I have to say aside from a new look for the cards and the rules being a little better defined, its essentially the same game I played all those years ago. I had a lot of fun, and I think she did too.


That familiar excitement of opening boosters and creating a deck has returned, and I cant wait to teach my the dads and kids from my D&D group how to play.  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pathfinder Beginner Box: Session 4


Last weekend we played our fourth session of PFBB. We finished off the a modified version of the free downloadable adventure “Hollows Last Hope”. My players really enjoyed it and starting next session (which should be next saturday) we will continue on to “Crown of the Kobold King”. I'm excited in part because I've been wanting to run this for a while, but also because I really like the whole series of adventures that revolve around the dungeon below the Dwarven monastery and Falcons Hollow.

I made some more changes to the rules. This time it was based on hit points and healing.

First off I've changed the hit dice characters receive. Wizards now get a d6, rogues a d8, clerics a d10, and fighters a d12. Since those are the only classes available in the Beginner Box, I didn’t need to worry about any of the other classes. Every level the characters get max hp plus their Constitution bonus or penalty as the case might be.

Lastly for healing, I handed out three poker chips to each player. They could turn in a chip at any time to heal themselves to full. Of course this turned magical healing on its head. I didn’t have enough time to look into a proper solution for that, so I told the cleric to not worry about healing spells and instead focus on some of the other spells available. I hate that clerics are combat medics, and I'd much rather see them focus on things like demon hunters, or undead slayers, or whatever. In practice it didn’t work out the way I liked. Going forward I think I'm going to adapt the healing surges from the 13th Age RPG.

While theres a lot I like about Pathfinder, the rules are just too dense at this point for the level of my kids to grasp. I know the two dad's I play with would like to get more gritty with feats and class options, but for now I've just had leave all that behind. No one seems to notice, and everyone seems to have fun. The more we play the more I keep thinking I should just move wholesale into Swords & Wizardry, which is probably a lot closer to what where playing right now anyway.


All in all it's been a nice experience to teach the game to a whole new generation of gamers. I even had one girl who asked her mom if she could skip skiing lessons so she could game, and has been harassing her to buy her dice!