Sunday, July 22, 2018

Play Report: Return to Land's End - Session 0


Vuk Thuul - half-elf snake oracle 1
Leliana - sylph witch 1
Nahash - lizardman barbarian 1


This one was comparatively light on action as we finished character creation, I explained some rules and setting information, got the characters together and they did some exploring and talking to NPCs. 

My brother, Satan bless him, was the engine of the session and I suspect I won't need to spend much time on adventure hooks with him around. Just like last time, he hunted down every town NPC he could find and squeezed them for info he wanted to find out. Check it out:


The sound of a pin dropping accompanied Vuk Thuul and Leliana's entrance into the Land's End tavern, where they met "old one-arm", the town drunk. He turned out to be my brother's old cleric, Aercius! One-Arm spent decades mourning the loss of his old adventuring comrades (the characters from the first time at Land's End). He warned Leliana and Vuk Thuul against going over the edge of the world, but did give them a few useful clues. He also mentioned he would be grateful if they could find whatever's left of his arm, and the holy symbol he was holding when some zombies ripped it off in the swamp!

The next day, the PCs visited the crooked stone tower in the old part of town. The conversation with the sage who lives inside was probably an hour of roleplaying, and Vuk Thuul contracted him to research his mysterious origins, which should cost a fair bit of money...

Boom, right away we have a reason to go on an adventure! So the Oracle and Witch descended the Barrier - the cliffs at the edge of the world - and entered the steaming jungles below.

For reasons unknown, the lands beyond the Barrier are obscured by clouds. Turns out there is a constant rainstorm in the jungles! This makes travelling pretty miserable, and cooking your food awfully hard. Feasting on a toucan they caught, Leliana and Vuk Thuul spent a damp night in the jungle camped out near a waterfall.

On the next day, they followed the river down the hilly jungle slopes until they found a ruined fort. Creeping up towards it, they were accosted by a few goblins who lurked in the trees, and this is where things got pretty funny. 

Vuk Thuul commanded one of the goblins to surrender, while Leliana made a run for the trees, getting pincushioned by a few lucky goblin arrows in the process. While Leliana hid, the goblin sergeant came out and offered to talk to the PCs.

A gross being even for a goblin, Sgt. Horgh wore a crudely hacked-up lizardfolk skin instead of clothes and armour, and only his eyes are visible peeking out between the unfortunate reptile's jaws. As Vuk Thuul and Sgt. Horgh parleyed, unbeknownst to them a lost and hungry lizardman crept into the clearing to find something to eat. On the run from his slavery in the obsidian mines far to the east, Nahash knew goblins but had never seen humans before.

Sgt. Horgh explained that he was instructed to parley with all strangers, and his guards just got a bit overzealous. The "pinkos" (neanderthals) to the south had pushed the goblins out of the ruined inn they once occupied. He couldn't spare the soldiers to go down and get it back. If the adventurers can do it, there was a nice sack of silver coins in it for them.

There was a tense moment when Horgh, walking around the clearing, tripped over Nahash eavesdropping in the bushes, who grabbed him as a hostage. After some hissed conversation, Horgh convinced Nahash to drop him and all three PCs accompanied him down into the rooms underneath the ruined fort to meet the goblins' leader, a wizened albino named Guzboch.

During that conversation, Nahash (accidentally, because he was so hungry) agreed to help the other two characters fight the neanderthals in exchange for some food. Maybe if he's lucky, the other two will give him a share of the money, but... we'll see!


This session really flew by (six hours!) and was a lot of fun, especially considering there was very little fighting. We got the characters together and introduced two of the factions in the wilderness. Next time: PCs vs. Neanderthals!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Excerpted from the Pathfinder Gamemastery Guide

"Words Every Game Master Should Know

Abase, abash, abattoir, abhorrent, ablution, abscess, abstemious, abstersion, abstruse, accoutre, acephalous, acrid, aesculapian, affusion, ague, alembic, alluvium, amanuensis, ambergris, ambrosia, ambry, amorphous, amphora, anchorite, anfractuous, anodyne, anserine, antechamber, antediluvian, anthelmintic, antic, aquiline, ardent, argot, ascians, asperity, astomatous, atavistic, ataxia, augean, autarch, avuncular, bacchanal, badinage, bagatelle, baksheesh, balderdash, baleful, baleen, ballyhoo, banal, bannock, banns, bantam, barque, barmy, baroque, bashi-bazouk, bas-relief, bathos, bawdy, bayard, beadle, beatitude, bede, begum, beldame, beleaguer, belfry, beltane, belvedere, benefice, benison, benjamin, beshrew, besot, bete noire, bewray, bibliolatry, bibulous, bier, bijou, bilbo, billingsgate, biltong, biretta, bivouac, blague, blain, blandish, blarney, blaspheme, blowzy, bodkin, boeotian, bombast, boreal, bouffant, bourse, bower, braggadocio, bravo, bretwalda, brine, bruin, bucolic, bursar, cache, cachinnate, cad, cadaverous, cadge, cadre, caitiff, calumny, camarilla, canard, canny, canticle, caparison, caper, carillon, castigate, casuistry, cataphracts, cateran, caudle, caustic, cavil, celerity, cenobite, chancellery, chary, churl, chyme, cinerary, circumvallate, cistern, clamber, clamor, cockade, cognate, cognomen, coif, collet, colporteur, comely, commodious, compurgation, concatenate, condign, condottiere, connubial, conterminous, contretemps, conundrum, convalesce, convivial, coomb, coppice, coquette, corban, cornucopia, coronach, coruscate, cosset, coterie, coven, covenant, coxcomb, coxswain, cozen, crannog, crenellated, crepuscular, croft, crone, crony, crotchet, cruciform, cubit, cuckold, cuirass, cur, cuspidor, cyclopean, cynosure, dacoit, damask, dastard, dauphin, debauch, decuman, defenestrate, deglutition, demesne, desiccate, diadem, diarchy, dictum, dirge, distaff, dobbin, dodder, dolmen, dolor, dotterel, doughty, dowager, doyen, dragoman, dross, dudgeon, duffer, durbar, ebullient, eclat, eidolon, efface, effigy, elan, eldritch, eleemosynary, elegy, empyreal, ensanguined, epicure, epigraph, equerry, escutcheon, eviscerate, excoriate, factotum, falderal, fallal, fardel, farrago, fasces, fester, filament, firmament, fitz, flagellate, flagitious, foozle, fop, formic, fracas, fresco, friable, frippery, frolic, fulgent, fulgurate, fuliginous, fulminate, fumarole, fustigate, gaffer, galleass, gallipot, gallowglass, gammer, gardyloo, gentry, genuflect, geophagy, gewgaw, gibbet, gimcrack, glaucous, gloaming, glower, gossamer, gralloch, grippe, hagiography, halcyon, halidom, harangue, harbinger, harlequin, harridan, hauteur, hebdomadal, hecatomb, helot, heriot, hermetic, hircine, hirsute, hoary, hoyden, humbug, hussar, hydrargyrum, ichor, idolater, ilk, imbroglio, indurate, ineffable, inexorable, infrangible, iniquity, inosculate, insouciant, intaglio, inveigle, invidious, irascible, irk, itinerant, jabber, jackanapes, janissary, jaundice, jeer, jejune, jeremiad, jingo, jocund, jongleur, jorum, joss, jougs, jowl, jubilee, juggernaut, ken, kern, khamsin, kine, kirk, kirtle, kittle, knacker, knell, knout, kowtow, kulak, laager, lachrymal, lackadaisical, lacuna, lade, laggard, laird, lambent, lampoon, lanceolate, lancet, languor, lank, lanyard, lapidary, lares, lariat, larrikin, lascivious, lassitude, laud, laureate, lazar, lazaretto, leal, leaven, lector, lees, legate, legerdemain, leman, lesion, liege, liniment, lissome, lithe, littoral, liturgy, loam, logogram, loll, lour, lucre, lupine, macerate, machinate, madrigal, maelstrom, mafficking, malediction, mammon, mandarin, mange, martinet, mawkish, medicament, mendacious, mendicant, métier, miasma, missive, monomachy, mordant, mulct, nadir, naphtha, narcissism, narcosis, nascent, naught, navicular, neap, nebulous, necromancy, necrophagous, necropolis, necropsy, necrosis, nectar, ne’er, neuter, nexus, nightshade, nihilism, nirvana, nitrate, noctule, node, nostrum, noxious, noyade, nubile, nucleus, nugatory, nullify, obeisance, obese, oblate, oblique, oblivion, obloquy, obsequious, obstinate, obstreperous, obtrude, obdurate, obtuse, obverse, occult, ocular, offal, officiate, offspring, ogle, olfaction, omen, ominous, onerous, onslaught, opaline, opiate, ordinal, ordure, orgy, orpine, oscular, ossify, ostracize, ovoid, ozone, pact, palpable, palpitate, palsy, panacea, pandemonium, pang, pannage, parabolic, paradox, paragon, parallax, paranoia, paraphernalia, parasite, pare, pariah, particularism, partisan, pathetic, paunch, pawky, pediment, penchant, pendant, pendulum, penitent, penology, pensile, pentacle, pentagram, penumbra, penury, peptic, perdition, perfidy, perpendicular, perpetual, persecute, pervert, pestilence, petty, phalanx, phallus, phlegm, phosphorus, pillage, pinion, piteous, plague, placid, plead, plenitude, plight, pock, polemic, pollard, polyglot, pompous, pontiff, porcine, potash, potent, primal, profane, prolate, propagate, prostrate, pulverize, pumice, purgatory, purulent, pustule, pygmy, quagmire, quarantine, quarrel, quasi, quench, quoin, quotient, rabid, rake, rampage, rampant, ramshackle, rapacious, ravage, reap, reave, reckoning, recluse, redolent, refute, regicide, regorge, regret, relapse, relic, relish, remorse, resinous, resurgent, retribution, revenant, reverie, revive, rhapsody, rhetoric, rictus, rigmarole, rime, rind, riparian, rookery, ruinous, runt, sable, sabotage, sacrilege, salve, samite, sanctify, sargasso, scabious, scallywag, scalpel, scandalize, scapegoat, scathe, scion, sclerosis, scour, scrag, scrimshank, sebaceous, secession, secretion, secular, semblance, seminal, seminary, senile, sepulture, serpentine, serrate, servile, shade, sham, shamefaced, shanty, shoddy, shorn, shrill, shun, silage, silvanus, simulacrum, sinuous, sitar, skewbald, slander, sluice, smattering, smock, sneer, snide, sordid, spawn, speculum, splay, spume, stagnant, stagnate, stake, strangulate, strigil, stub, subjugate, suction, sulphur, supernaturalness, supremacy, surge, suture, swagger, swamp, swank, sweat, swill, syringe, taboo, taint, tallow, tangible, tardy, tariff, tatty, temerity, temperance, tenuity, terret, terrify, tether, thane, theurgy, thews, thorn, thou, threshold, throb, throng, thuggery, thy, titillate, topsy turvy, torpid, tortuous, totem, toxin, tractable, transform, trauma, tremulous, trigon, trotter, truncate, truss, tumulus, turgid, tyrant, ugly, ulcer, ululate, umbral, undulate, unhallowed, unman, unravel, unspeakable, uproar, usury, utter, vainglory, valgus, vapid, vault, vegetal, venerable, vengeance, verdigris, vigilance, violate, viridescent, virus, viviparous, voiceless, volition, voluble, vulgar, vulnerable, waif, wan, wangle, warn, watchfulness, waxen, wean, wheedle, whorl, widow, widower, wince, wreath, writhe, xanthous, xenophobia, xiphoid, xylograph, xylophagous, yearn, yule, zeal, zealot, zenith, ziggurat, zounds."

This is reproduced verbatim from a single page of the book. Somebody over there at Paizo has their head on straight! Gygax probably knew every single one of these. Gene Wolfe sure as hell does. I'm sure I don't, but I'll update this when I learn them all.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Henry Justice Ford Monster Manual: GIANT, LUNAR

A dude on G+ is doing a Monster Manual of only Henry Justice Ford illustrations. I love that guy's work, so I thought I'd get into it. I don't know the story this picture is from, but it gave me an idea:



AC: as chain + shield
HD: 8
Move: normal
Attacks: huge knife (1d6+2) or curse
No. Appearing: 1
Morale: 10
Treasure: a perfectly intact head could sell for HPx100 GP
Alignment: varies

The Lunar Giant is rare and its existence debated by scholars. Some think it is a single species whose heads change with the moon's phases, but in fact there are three types. During the day, they hide in dungeons or underground lairs, only to emerge at night.

Full-headed Giants are Lawful, and the most common. The light from their heads acts as true moonlight (for lycanthropes, etc) and is equally bright. They are usually accompanied by 2d4 giant moths, and a cloud of the mundane variety as well. They are intelligent, patient, sad and lonely.

Half-headed Giants are Neutral. Part of their head is always dark, while the other radiates moonlight like a Full-head's. The halves slowly rotate throughout the month, sometimes the dark side is in front, sometimes behind. Their disposition is equally changeable - you never know how a Half-head might react.

Full and Half-heads can curse their opponents so the moon's light will always seek them out: even deep underground, they will glow with soft moonlight (15' radius). They never get lost in the dark, but predators can always spot them and stealth is nearly impossible.

The Chaotic New Giants, called the Eclipsed, those whose moon-heads are occluded in shadow, are the rarest. Their heads devour all light: any illumination in view of an Eclipsed will begin to fade away, as if it were burning out 50 times faster. They can bestow a portion of their power in a curse of darkness: from now on, light can't actually touch you. It makes you effectively invisible, but you are blind.


PS: why can't blogger just leave the text alone? I just want to pick one font and leave it that way. It keeps changing things for no reason, and every time it happens in a different way!

PPS: This is released under a CC-BY license:

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Tomb of Abysthor - pt 1 - Overview & Wilderness

I was looking for modules to cram into the wilderness game, and wondering if they are even worth the bloody effort. 

Those old Necromancer Games adventures (and their Frog God Games updates for Pathfinder), like The Tomb of Abysthor? I talk a big game about using them. But the inferential distance is... vast, at points.

Can I tweak it just a little bit - enough that it would make sense to include, and be worth the effort?

***** WHAT DO? *****


The maps are one of this module's main strengths, the dungeon has plenty of twists and turns. Nothing to complain about here, if I had to I could just steal the maps and happily write my own dungeon.


Orcus can stay obviously. Thyr and Muir I am 50/50 on, probably replace them with something local to my game. Tsathoggua I will keep: although I have been beating the Mythos drum a lot around here, why look a gift horse in the mouth?


In the wilderness, there are no civilised humans, and NO ORCS. I will need to change the orcish priests of Orcus to another humanoid race. Have to be careful not to overshadow the 'Orcus-ness' with whatever racial traits they have going on or their place in the campaign. Think about this for next installment.


I use simplified alignment (Law and Chaos). This changes all the magical traps that would be triggered by a Lawful Good-aligned PC walking past. Most of my players are going to pick Chaotic, so if the magic traps are triggered by 'the first lawful character who walks past' this opens up the stealth option, and I like it. It also means all the saints' and heroes' graves are tough places for the PCs to hide out in, and they won't be able to use the holy relics.

This brings up another problem though:


How many glyphs of warding can one dungeon have? Did people really play like this back in the day? What a fucking grind

MOST of these will get subtracted, and the ones that remain will be made visible. And what is this shit about Disable Device DC 28, like your thief can just "oh yeah, I disabled that magic glyph. Don't ask me how." I hate that. It needs to be changed somehow.


A +1 buckler? Stroll on pal. 

Almost all of this will have to be revamped. I am giving out way fewer magic items in this game, and trying to make them more interesting. The single-use stuff like scrolls and potions can *mostly* stay, but all +x whatevers get deleted. SOME will be replaced by cool new stuff, and I'll try to tie them in to the setting, the dungeon or some aspect of the story. This is WAY more work, but there are plenty of random tables to help things along.


Epic 6 means everything has to get nerfed pretty hard. 

Dark Natasha, Balcoth, the higher priests of Orcus, Abysthor himself will all get their levels reduced. Without fussing OVERLY about balanced encounters, quite a few of the monsters will have to get swapped out or toned down. 10- or 12-HD demons need to be placed much more carefully in an E6 game, they are so much more powerful than any human can be. This will make life easier though, as lower levels means less stats!

There is a damn LICH in this dungeon. He can stay, but will be nerfed down to a lower level. An article on 'dangerous ways to get more levels in E6' will follow later: lichdom is obviously in there.


Nothing really exciting. What is it about 'the wilderness around the dungeon' that just drains the creativity of adventure writers? I haven't liked this part of any module I've ever read. 

We have:

-ruined and defaced shrines to Thyr and Muir
-a lake with some giant frogs
-a one-eyed troll
-a gnoll village
-some giant spiders
-an entrance to the underdark
-a black dragon with some orcs

-a wandering beholder (fuck!!)
-some sinkholes
-a random encounter table with all this stuff, plus stirges, acolytes of Orcus, ghouls, goblins, manticores, ettin, wyverns, etc

All pretty standard stuff, and easily replaced by the shit in your own game world.

This can all get scrapped, except the ruined temples to Thyr and Muir with all the secret treasure inside. They can come along whole cloth, I'll place them somewhere out in my campaign world and fill them with clues pointing towards the dungeon.


It seems I have my work cut out for me. The maps, monsters, story hooks, villains and encounter tables are cool, but stats will need to be severely edited, traps and treasure almost totally redone.

Next time Level 0: THE BURIAL HALLS and Level 1: THE UPPER CAVES!


Now go HAIL ORCUS while listening to this:

Thursday, July 5, 2018

New Language rules / More borrowing (sorry)

First off, 'linguistics' is an absurd skill in Pathfinder. Spend a single skill point to speak a new language?? I think not. Secondly, languages in RAW D&D are boring and lame, and have always been so - but Pathfinder makes it even worse. Who wants to speak aklo? Zzzzzzzzzzz nobody I wanna play with.

I liked Gary's bit in the 1st edition DMG on alignment languages as limited tools that only cover relevant concepts or brief functional conversations. It made sense but still wasn't what I wanted. Then I remembered A MOST THOROUGHLY PERNICIOUS PAMPHLET. Those language rules were pretty close, but not quite what I wanted for my setting where the PCs explore a lost wilderness completely different from their home civilization.

So with all credit & apologies due to Mr. Torres, here is my try:


Languages that are related to one your PC knows give you a bonus to understand them: roll your Linguistics with a +5 bonus, and you will always understand at least a word or two even if you bomb the roll terribly.

IMPERIAL COMMON - Speech codified in the Empire around 250 years ago, all the PCs know it. Nothing exciting.

Descended from OLD HIGH IMPERIAL - the ecclesiastical language spoken and written by all the lost faiths outlawed and replaced by the Imperial 137 gods. Many old ruins in the wilderness have writings in this language. There are also other human languages descended from Old High Imperial that might be encountered in the wilderness.

WILD ELVISH - Spoken by feral elves & half-elves, who are all stone- or iron-age tribesmen, second-class citizens of the Empire living on reserves or in the roughest wilderness.

Descended from TRUE ELVISH - Spoken by the entire Elven race before its fall and division into warring sub-races. Ancient ruins, lost knowledge, spellbooks and scrolls will have True Elvish writing. Other descendants of True Elvish are DROW and BOG ELVISH.

OREMOUTH - Spoken by dwarves, gnomes and certain lesser elemental spirits. Often these spirits are bound into constructs, so golems, gargoyles, and animated statues can speak, or at least understand it. The higher elemental beings (water, air and fire) don't have their own languages.

LIZARDFOLK - Spoken by these swamp-dwelling primitives, it doesn't have a written component.

GRIMSCRIBE - The secret language of wizards, it is written only and has no spoken dimension. Not the same as the magic words they write down their spells with, it's just for communication between wizards - not sorcerors, witches or anything else. Demons who deal with wizards all know it, and contracts are often written in Grimscribe.

Both are descended from DRACONIC - Lizardfolk who are literate read & write in Draconic characters, but rarely can speak it. It's almost unseen as dragons are quite rare, but occasionally a magic item, book or legendary weapon will have Draconic writing.

SKELETONGUE - spoken by thieves, rogues, criminals and young or lesser undead. All over the Empire criminals have been executed & buried without funeral rites. So many thieves & bandits rose from their graves, they brought their secret speech from this life to the next. 

Intelligent greater undead will speak whatever languages they did in life, depending on their origins.

WILD SPEECH - The high ritual pagan language of Neutral human tribes, before the Empire subjugated them and brought them 'up to date', outlawing their nature gods or incorporating them into the offical pantheon. Spoken by druids, rangers and some other humans who yearn for the old ways.

Related to the languages and dialects spoken by the wild tribes of the wastes. They don't have writing and their speech is much less sophisticated.

Both are descended from SKINCHANGER - the high language of all lycanthropes.

GOBBO - Spoken by goblins, hobgoblins and similar creatures the world over. They travel through the caves & dungeons under the earth and get absolutely everywhere, so PCs can start with this monster language if they want, and goblinoids in the wastes will speak almost exactly the same. There are dialects, but they amount to accents and regional slang.

HISSING - The language of the serpent-men of old. When they carved their mysterious monoliths and standing stones they used these hieroglyphics. Almost nobody knows it anymore, although nagas, yuan-ti, boa constructors and other beings speak dialects of it amongst themselves.

Descended from ELD - the language of all intelligent aberrations like aboleths, Deep Ones, etc. Even more rare, you would have to learn it from one of their servants, and it's probably better you don't meet them.


There will be no Celestial, Abyssal, Infernal or nonsense like that. Beings of extremely high or low spiritual vibration, described by mortals as 'angels' and 'demons' can either speak telepathically, automatically learn your language, or don't/can't communicate with squishy humankind in a way you'll understand. 

Also, thanks to my buddy 4th for a good back & forth on the topic and giving me that crucial bit about Skeletongue I was missing to get things going! He said it best:

"Warcraft, Tolkein, Games Workshop and DnD have just confused the whole orc situation honestly. Like orcs are fine and hobgoblins are fine but do you think it ever happens that an orcish marauder has a fight with a hobgoblin slaver and they both stop and just wonder how it all came to this?"


While you're pondering these absurd new rules, jam this one next time you have a good GOBBO-BEATING in your game: