Author: mgarcia

Grimvaling Ambush

Background

Early in the campaign, the PCs traveled north on behalf of their employer, Master Krueger, to settle a dispute with a somewhat wild group called the Grimvalings. Kinsmen of Master Grimvalt and his bride Bricta, they lived in a large dacha just beyond the northern borders of Strakannian land. Grimvalt despises foreigners and intruders, and the meeting turned bloody. Diego himself struck the head from Grimvalt’s hulking shoulders. Many weeks passed without word from the Grimvalings. Unbeknownst to the PCs, Bricta used her pagan druidic magic on Samhain to revive the body of her dead husband, whose head she had sewn back on. She then ordered her henchmen to start leaving diseased animals near the walls of Arianport, threatening contagion unless the murderer, Master Krueger, was slain or turned over. The threats caused a near riot in the panicked town so the PCs volunteered to visit the dacha again to somehow resolve the dispute. Using her magic, Bricta saw them coming and led the Grimvalings south to ambush the party on the road. With her is her pet brown bear.

FROM THE DM

I designed this encounter to be a simple warm-up, but a series of critical hits and critical misses made the battle memorable. The Grimvalings proved to be dangerous in the wilderness, but Bricta broke off the ambush early, for she planned to kill the PCs at the dacha. Read more

Deliver Us From Evil — Rules for an Exorcism Ritual

Deliver Us From Evil

Optional Rules for the Ritual of Exorcism

“And they cried, ‘Dominus, in Thy name, even wicked spirits are under our dominion!’ And He replied, ‘I saw the Enemy hurled from Heaven like a thunderbolt. You know I granted you power over all the powers of wickedness… Nevertheless, take not pride in this fact, but rather in that you belong to the Almighty. Thy Heavenly Father hath granted me all power.’”
—Fragmentary Book of Disciples III, Dominite Scripture

PREPARATION FOR THE RITUAL

Careful preparation for an exorcism may reduce bodily harm to the possessed and the all participants, while poor preparation can be deadly. While there is no absolute standard for the number of participants, the type of participants, the rules for participants, or the materials needed, there are suggested norms. These are presented below.

Participants

The exorcist (usually a cleric) is the only essential participant, but most theologians and religious authorities consider it wise to have assistance. Typically, one lesser cleric will be assigned to aid the exorcist spiritually. Two to four additional lay assistants are suggested to restrain the possessed, to care for the wounded, and to run errands. All clerics and laymen should be hardened to blood, vomit, excretion, disgusting sights and smells, and foul language. All should be devout believers with no sins on their consciences during the ritual. Lay assistants must be strong to hold down the possessed.

If any of these participants are NPCs, the DM should create some important background information for them. Better yet, each player may develop an NPC. The success of the players’ NPCs will be tested by fire as the DM tries to crack each of the participants during the ritual. Each NPC should have at least one flaw, be it a vice or a fear. These should not be announced, but written down secretly and handed to the DM. Only during the ritual would the characters (and players) learn of these secrets. The DM may wish to make basic stats for these NPCs, as they may be affected during the ritual. Alternatively, the DM may simply assume their roles and have them react however he wishes.

Rules for Assistants

There are three time-honored rules that exorcists will demand of all participants:

  • First, obey the exorcist immediately and without question
  • Second, take no personal initiative
  • Third, do not address the evil spirit or the possessed

Needed Materials

The exorcist must have his holy symbol and holy water. In addition, two white candles and silver dust worth 25 gold pieces are traditionally recommended, but other materials may be suggested as well. The DM may determine the effect, if any, that these have.

The Site

The location of the exorcism should be a place familiar to the possessed. The area should contain a bed or comfortable surface upon which the possessed may rest. The area should be easily accessible to the exorcist and his assistants, and they should also have a safe area nearby in which they can rest and eat. Remember that the ritual can go on for some time, so long-term preparations should be made for food and other necessities. The room or area where the possessed will remain should be stripped bare of all items save anything necessary for the ritual. All loose items, especially heavy or sharp objects, should be removed, lest the demon use them against the possessed or the participants. Should the exorcist fail to make these important preparations, the DM should not hesitate to take full advantage of this grave mistake.

ROLE-PLAYING THE RITUAL

The rite of exorcism can be role-played for maximum dramatic effect as long as all players are comfortable with this. Certain DMs and players may opt to use appropriate scriptural quotes to provide atmosphere, while others may refrain from doing so. This is a matter of taste.

The Rules of the Game

The DM must decide the rules by which the demon will play during the exorcism ritual. He creates the cosmology of his world, so he sets the rules for how evil forces will act. Yet, it is commonly believed that the demon will not reveal itself or openly wield its powers unless provoked. It is also commonly believed that the exorcist is safe from direct physical attack, but only as long as he purports himself as a servant of his deity, acting on his master’s behalf. However, the instant the foolish exorcist oversteps his bounds and confronts the demon directly in his own name, the demon has full discretion to assail the exorcist with all its power.

Game Mechanics

Exorcisms usually go through the following stages: Presence, Pretense, Breakpoint, Clash, and Expulsion. There is no fixed duration for any of these, and the exorcism will not generally finish in one session. Exorcisms generally last from 10 hours to several weeks. Though the participants will usually require rest and breaks, the exorcism proceeds until it succeeds or fails. After each day of exorcism, the exorcist must make Fortitude save (DC 15) or temporarily lose one Constitution point. No restoration is possible until the exorcism ends in success or failure.

For each stage, the chart below provides concrete things that the exorcist must do, as well as attacks that the evil spirit will make. It is important to realize that the chart lists only what the exorcist MUST do to complete that particular stage of the exorcism, not the many things that he should do to protect himself or the host. The DM can always add to this template, for it is just a guide.

STAGE OF EXORCISM THE EXORCIST MUST… AND THE EVIL SPIRIT…
Stage I. The Presence

Everyone in the room or within a 20’ area becomes aware of an alien presence. It can be felt, but not with the senses. Sometimes it feels singular, and other times plural. Characters can not physically locate the presence.

  • Cast Consecrate (2) on the room or place of exorcism
  • Cast Detect Evil (1) on the possessed
  • Cast Aid (2) on the possessed
  • Will exude its presence as soon as the exorcist casts Detect Evil, thereby forcing everyone within 20’ to make a Will save versus horror (DC 15). Failure means that the character will suffer a –2 penalty on all future Will saves that day. A roll of 1 means that the character must make a Will save versus fear (DC 30) or flee.
Stage II. The Pretence

During this phase, the evil spirit hides behind the identity of the possessed. Breaking this pretence is the exorcist’s first task.

  • Get the evil spirit to reveal itself, or the exorcism can go no further. He can do this by channeling positive energy and making the evil spirit uncomfortable (using a series of successful Turn Undead checks). One check can be made every 10 rounds, after appropriate prayers and rites have been read. The strength of the evil spirit will determine the number of checks required. After the last successful check, the evil spirit will again let slip a hint of its supernatural nature, but will not necessarily identify itself.
  • May, while masquerading as the possessed, be silent. Alternatively, it may beg and plead for the exorcist to stop his badgering of the “innocent” victim. The evil spirit will attempt to make the exorcist look like the villain. This forces the exorcist to make a Wisdom check (DC 20). Failure indicates uncertainty, but success means that he get the feeling that the alien presence is very cunning, but at times also capable of crass stupidity. He must not expect stupidity, however, lest he fall into a deadly trap.
  • Becomes violent as the pretence breaks down, attempting to drive the exorcist “from the field”. It will use telekinesis to hurl objects at the exorcist to disrupt him (use Concentration checks to continue). The evil spirit may also attack the possessed, or cause the possessed to attack the exorcist. When the violence begins, all characters must make a Will save against fear (DC 15) or suffer –2 to future saves this day. This is cumulative with previous modifiers.
  • Once the evil spirit lets slip his alien nature, it will verbally reveal the exorcist’s deepest sins. Any hint of self-righteousness, justification, personal anger, or personal challenge will open a door for deadly assaults on the body and mind, using the demon’s normal powers. Role-play this or do opposed Charisma checks to see if the exorcist avoids these pitfalls.
  • May make melee attacks on the exorcist, but only if the exorcist opened the door by somehow challenging the demon on his own authority. If melee ensues, neither the exorcist nor any witnesses will see an opponent. Yet the wounds from such combat will be real, gashes and cuts appearing fantastically on the exorcist’s body as if inflicted by an invisible monster.
Stage III. The Breakpoint

This stage occurs when the exorcist is on the verge of getting the evil spirit to reveal a name to which it will answer. It may last only seconds, but it always precedes the Clash.

  • Force the evil spirit to identify itself by name. He can do this by additional Turn Undead checks. The same rules apply as in the previous stage. After the last successful check, the evil spirit will provide a name that it will obey, but usually not its true name.
  • Strikes back with confusion of some sort. All senses are distorted by powerful illusions (Will saves to negate). The exorcist is attacked more so than the others.
  • Now uses its own voice for the first time. It is alien and full of malice. All must make a Will save against horror (DC 15).
  • Will eventually attack with the Voice—a supernatural effect that will drive the exorcist mad if he can not overcome it. He must make a Will save or suffer penalties each round. He must also get it to stop somehow. Concentration checks apply if he is trying to cast spells.
Stage IV. The Clash

This is a battle of will between the evil spirit and the exorcist. The exorcist must invite this clash, but it can be deadly. During this clash, the exorcist must get as much information as possible from the evil spirit—its true name, superiors, mission, tactics, etc.

  • Make one successful Turn Undead check, which can only be attempted after surviving one battery of the evil spirit’s attacks (described at right). Failure on this check means that the evil spirit gets another battery of similar attacks before the exorcist may try again. If the attempt is successful, the evil spirit will yield a piece of accurate information that the exorcist demanded. More information, however, requires an additional turn undead check, made only after another battery of attacks.
  • Will first threaten to kill the host unless the exorcist submits and leaves it alone. The possessed may now endure extreme punishment and strain.
  • Then assaults the mind of the exorcist, casting doubt on everything that he believes. He must make a Will save to maintain his faith. Failure means that he will suffer –2 on subsequent Turning Undead attempts.
  • Will attack his body with overwhelming fatigue. He must make a Fortitude save (DC 15—adjust for the evil spirit) or temporarily lose 1d4 Constitution points.
  • Will also attack the exorcist with horrible smells, requiring more Will saves (DC 15). Failure indicates that the exorcist is nauseated. Nauseated characters are unable to attack, cast spells, or do anything requiring attention. Only a move action or move-equivalent action is permitted.
Stage V. Expulsion

Having withstood the Clash, the exorcist now attempts to complete the rites that will expel the evil spirit.

  • Cast Dismissal (4). Success means a successful exorcism; failure means that the evil spirit may continue its attacks on the exorcist.
More of the previous battery of attacks.

 

AFTERMATH

The effects of exorcism are felt years after the event itself. If successful, the possessed may go on to live a normal and healthy life. Often the encounter restores or otherwise rejuvenates the faith of the possessed, and the bond to the exorcist remains strong afterwards. For the exorcist, a successful exorcism may bring joy and satisfaction, but the encounter never leaves him without scars—emotional, spiritual, and sometimes physical. A failed exorcism may leave deep scars or it may push the exorcist to insanity or suicide.

Rewards for the Exorcist and his Assistants

If the exorcism is successful, meaning that the evil spirit has been driven from the possessed host, the exorcist gains full experience points for defeating the demon, as if he had done it single-handedly. The participants may also receive experience points, totaling one half of that normally gained for defeating the demon. This does not detract from the full award granted to the exorcist. For example, if a 9th level cleric banishes a demon with a challenge rating of 13, he gains the full award of 10,800 experience points. His five PC-assistants (one cleric and four laymen) would divide half of 10,800 experience points as their portion. This strange division reflects the extraordinary dangers to and consequences for the exorcist, without neglecting the role of his assistants.

Consequences for the Exorcist

A failed exorcism should have drastic consequences for the exorcist. Even a successful one should have mild consequences. Use the following tables to determine the consequences to the exorcist after the exorcism:

Consequences for an Exorcist after a Successful Exorcism

Roll 1d00 and consult the following table.

Table 1. Consequences for a Successful Exorcism
01-30 Nightmares plague the exorcist; once per month he is fatigued from lack of sleep as per a Nightmare spell
31-40 Physical appearance is slightly altered—the exorcist’s hair turns gray from stress
41-50 Physical appearance is slightly altered—the exorcist’s hands are chilled to the touch
51-60 The exorcist appears drawn and gaunt; he suffers a permanent -1 penalty to Fortitude saves
61-70 The exorcist appears drawn and gaunt; he suffers a permanent drain of 1 Constitution point
71-80 The exorcist has a new appreciation and fear of the supernatural; he suffers a permanent -1 penalty to Will saves against supernatural effects
81-90 The exorcist becomes more withdrawn and distant; he suffers a permanent drain of 1 Charisma point
91-93 The exorcist takes on one escapist vice to purge his memories (alcoholism, herbal addiction)
94-96 Mild insanity (nervous disorder, phobia)
97-99 Roll twice on this table, ignoring results of 95 or higher
00 Roll three times on this table, ignoring results of 95 or higher

Consequences for an Exorcist after an Unsuccessful Exorcism

Nightmares plague the exorcist; once per month he is fatigued from lack of sleep as per a Nightmare spell.
In addition, roll 1d00 and consult the following table.

Table 2. Consequences for a Failed Exorcism
01-10 Physical appearance is slightly altered—the exorcist’s hair turns gray from stress and his hands are chilled to the touch
11-20 The exorcist appears drawn and gaunt; he suffers a permanent -2 penalty to Fortitude saves
21-30 The exorcist appears drawn and gaunt; he suffers a permanent drain of 2 Constitution points
31-40 The exorcist has a new appreciation and fear of the supernatural; he suffers a permanent -2 penalty to Will saves against supernatural effects
41-50 The exorcist becomes more withdrawn and distant; he suffers a permanent drain of 2 Charisma points
51-60 The exorcist takes on one escapist vice to purge his memories (alcoholism, herbal addiction)
61-80 Mild insanity (nervous disorder, phobia)
81-90 Severe insanity (paranoia, mania, schizophrenia)
91-94 Roll twice on this table, ignoring results of 95 or higher
95-97 Roll three times on this table, ignoring results of 95 or higher
98-99 Roll four times on this table, ignoring results of 95 or higher
00 Roll five times on this table, ignoring results of 95 or higher


The exorcism ritual is easily adaptable to any system, but the following creature is designed to Dungeons & Dragons rules and may require extensive revision to make it compatible with other systems.

The Demon

In its natural form, the demon is invisible and intangible. It can appear as a humanoid with infernal features like night-black skin, horns, bat-like wings, long tails, animal traits, etc. It can also appear as a wraith-like shadow. It can also appear as a dark silhouette or featureless man. Finally, it can appear as an old and wrinkled man. This wild spirit is unable to truly live and thrive unless it has a corporeal host, hence its urgent and almost desperate desire to inhabit a human body.

The demon is drawn to sin. In its non-physical form, it is limited to non-physical attacks and communication. Most of its time will be spent preparing its next host for possession, though this sometimes takes years. Once it actually possesses a host, its powers change slightly. It is able to use the host’s body to move, communicate and attack, though it will be careful not to draw too much attention to itself. When it desires, it can augment most of the host’s natural abilities (reflected in the adjusted modifiers below). It also retains its non-physical powers.

Possession is not an ability that it can use on an unwilling target, so it is not considered an attack. The process often takes a long time, and the details are not important here.

Medium-Sized Outsider

(Chaotic, Evil, Incorporeal)

HD: 10 HP: 132
Initiative: +2 AC: 15
Speed: 30’, 30’ fly in natural form (perfect)
Base Attack Bonus/Grapple: +10 / +14

Attack:
Claw +17 melee (1d8+4)
Targets of this attack are often treated as AC 10 because they cannot see it coming. Consequently, the chance of critical hit is also higher. Moreover, the attack does not hamper the demon’s invisibility in any way. Finally, this attack also ignores DR from armor. Despite the lethality of the attack, the demon often chooses to wound and to inspire terror rather than to kill.

Full Attack:
Two claws +17/+12 melee (1d8+4)

Space / Reach: 5 feet x 5 feet
Special Attacks: Fear Aura, Stench, Telekinesis, Unnerving Gaze
Special Qualities: Acid Resistance 10, Cold Resistance 10, Damage Reduction 5/Blessed, Darkvision to 60’, Electricity Resistance 10, Fire Resistance 10, Invisible, Incorporeal, Poison Immunity, Spell-Like Abilities, Spell Resistance 19, Telepathy 100’, Turned
Saves: Fortitude (+13), Reflex (+11), Will (+13)

Skills: 8 +5 =13 x 10 = 130
The following stats use the modified physical stats of the host. Where non-physical skills are concerned, the demon uses either its own score or that of the host, whichever score is higher:

Appraise +5, *Balance +2, *Climb +5, Concentration (15, +17), Craft +5, Decipher Script +NA, Disable Device +NA, Disguise +4, *Escape Artist +2, Forgery (13, +18), Handle Animal +NA, Heal +2, *Hide +2, *Jump +5, Knowledge of Amannah Mythos (13, +18), Knowledge of Arcana (13, +18), Knowledge of Architecture and Engineering +NA, Knowledge of Dungeoneering +NA, Knowledge of Geography (13, +18), Knowledge of History (13, +18), Knowledge of Local (13, +18), Knowledge of Nature (13, +18), Knowledge of Nobility and Royalty (13, +18), Knowledge of Religion (13, +18), Listen +2, *Move Silently +2, Open Lock +NA, Perform +4, Profession +NA, Ride +2, *Sleight of Hand +2, Speak Other Language +NA, Spellcraft (13, +18), Survival +3, *Swim +10, *Tumble +NA, Use Rope +3

Feats: Weapon Focus, Flyby Attack, Greater Weapon Focus, Improved Natural Attack

Host’s Natural Ability Modifiers:
STR: 14, +2 CON: 16, +3 DEX: 14, +2; INT: 12, +1 WIS: 11, +0 CHA: 10, +00

Possessed Host’s Ability Modifiers:
STR: 20, +5 CON: 20, +5 DEX: 14, +2; INT: 21, +5 WIS: 14, +2 CHA: 19, +4

Challenge Rating: 15

Darkvision to 60’ (Special Quality)
The demon can see perfectly in complete darkness.

Fear Aura (Special Attack)
The demon can radiate a five-foot radius fear aura as a free action. A creature in that radius must make a DC23 Will save or be afflicted as if by a Fear spell. One that saves is not susceptible again for 24 hours. Those affected become panicked. If cornered, it will cower. If the save succeeds, the target is shaken for one round.

Flyby Attack (Feat)
It can take a move action (including a dive) and another standard action at any point during the move. It cannot take another move action that round.

Improved Natural Attack
Claw damage is 1d8, instead of 1d6.

Incorporeal (Special Quality)
The demon is vulnerable only to incorporeal creatures, +1 or better weapons, or magic. Furthermore, it has a 50% chance to ignore damage from a corporeal source. If it does take damage from a corporeal source, its DR still applies. The demon has no need to breathe, eat, or sleep.

Invisible (Special Quality)
The demon is invisible to the naked eye. Even spells like True Seeing reveals it to be vague and shadowy figure. Only the spell See the Hidden will reveal its true form.

Poison Immunity (Special Quality)
The demon can neutralize any poison in the host body at will.

Spell-Like Abilities (Special Quality)
The Caster Level for all of the following is 13:

At will—Comprehend Languages, Darkness, Detect Evil, Detect Good, Dispel Magic, See Invisibility, Tongues
3/day—Chaos Hammer (DC 18), Confusion, Nightmare, Suggestion
1/day— Desecrate, Hold Person, Summon Swarm, Undetectable Alignment

Chaos Hammer
Range: 100 feet
Area: 20-foot radius burst
Duration: Instantaneous (1d6 rounds)
Save: Will partial
Deals 5d8 in damage to lawful creatures and slows them for 1d6 rounds. A successful DC Will save halves the damage and eliminates the slow effect. Non-lawful creatures receive half damage (or a quarter if they save) and are not slowed.

Confusion
Range: 100 feet
Area: 15-foot radius burst
Duration: 1 round per level
Save: Will negates
Targets cannot think straight. Roll % to see what each the target does.
01-10 Attack host (does not need to use
lethal force)
11-20 Act normally
21-50 Do nothing but hold ears and groan
51-70 Flee from host at top speed
71-00 Thrash about wildly for one round
(one attack at half damage) and
then flee

A confused character that cannot carry out his intended action will crumple into a ball and groan. A confused creature that is attacked will automatically attack the attacker on its next turn (believing it to be a shadowy monster), as long as it is still confused when its turn comes.

Desecrate
Range: 40 feet
Area: 20-foot radius emanation
Duration: 2 hours per level
Save: None
This imbues the area with negative energy. Turn checks receive a -3 penalty. If the area contains an altar or shrine or other permanent fixture dedicated to your deity, the effect is doubled. This counters consecrate.

Hold Person
Range: 100 feet
Target: One creature
Duration: 1 round per level
Save: Will negates
The subject becomes paralyzed and freezes in place. It is aware and breathes normally but cannot take any actions, even speech. Each round, on its turn, it may attempt a new saving throw to end the effect (this is a full round action that does not provoke an attack of opportunity).

Nightmare
Range: Unlimited
Target: One creature
Duration: Instantaneous
Save: Will negates (-10 on saves)
It sends horrible dreams that prevent restful sleep, causing 1d10 in damage and fatigue (so spell casters have only half of their manna pool).

Suggestion
Range: 40 feet
Target: One creature
Duration: 1 hour per level or completion
Save: Will negates
This implants an almost irresistible suggestion in the target’s mind. A very reasonable suggestion provides a -1 or -2 penalty to the save.

Summon Swarm
Range: 40 feet
Effect: One swarm of bats, rats, or spiders
Duration: Concentration + 2 rounds
Save: None
This summons a swarm that attacks all in its area. Once it arrives, the swarm is not controlled by the demon.

Swarm of Bats
HP: 13 Initiative +2
Speed 40’ fly AC: 16
Special Attacks: Distraction
Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +3
Blindsense 20’, Immunity to Weapons,
Low-light vision

Swarm of Rats
HP: 18 Initiative +2
Speed 15’, Climb 15’ AC: 14
Special Attacks: Disease, Distraction
Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +2
Low-light vision, half damage from
slashing and piercing weapons, scent

Swarm of Spiders
HP: 09 Initiative +3
Speed 20’, Climb 20’ AC: 17
Special Attacks: Distraction
Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +0
Darkvision 60’, Immunity to Weapons,
Tremorsense 30’

Distraction: Make a DC11 (spiders or bats) or DC12 (Rats) Fortitude save or be nauseated for 1 round. Casting requires a Concentration check (DC 20 + spell level). Using skills that involve patience requires a DC20 Concentration check.
Disease: In this case, there is a 10% chance of contracting a disease per rat injury. If so, consult the disease table.

Spell Resistance (Special Quality)
A caster must score a 19 or above on a caster check (roll 1d20+caster level) to affect the demon with spells or spell-like abilities.

Stench (Special Attack)
It creates a foul smelling stench that forces creatures within 10’ to make a DC24 Fortitude save or be nauseated for as long as it remains in the area and for 1d4 rounds afterwards (they cannot attack, cast spells, or concentrate; they can only take one move action per turn). Those that save will not be nauseated for 24 hours, but they are sickened for as long as they remain in the area (they suffer -2 to attacks, saves, skill checks, and ability checks).

Telepathy (Special Quality)
It may communicate telepathically, regardless of language, with any creature within 100’. It often uses this ability to taunt a victim, creating “invisible voices” in the victim’s head.

Telekinesis (Special Attack)
Six times per day, the demon can either provide a gentle sustained force or a single short violent thrust. If a sustained force is desired, it can move a creature or object weighing 300 pounds up to 20 feet per round. A creature can negate this effect against itself or against an object that it is holding with a successful Will save (DC 14). This action can persist for up to 12 rounds. An object can be telekinetically manipulated as if by one hand. If a violent thrust is desired, the effect lasts only for a single round. It can hurl objects or creatures together. It must succeed on an attack roll for each creature attacked, using +15 (base attack bonus + intelligence modifier). Hurled objects do 1 point per 25 pounds (for less dangerous items, like a barrel) to 1d6 points per 25 pounds (for heavier items, like a boulder).

Turned (Special Quality)
A cleric can turn the demon and the possessed person. It is HD 15. The demon cannot physically harm someone protected by a Protection from Evil spell, unless that person commits a sinful act, thereby allowing the demon to make an opposed Will save against the target. If the demon wins, he can enter.

Unnerving Gaze (Special Attack)
The demon can make its face resemble one of an opponent’s departed loved ones or bitter enemies. Those that fail their saves take a -2 penalty on attacks for 1d4 rounds. A successful DC 18 Will save negates. Range is 30’.

A Winter Night’s Duel

BACKGROUND:

The PCs just learned that their archenemies, the Black Hammers, had been in Arianport for weeks or more and had been behind a local smuggling ring to earn a steady income in this northern land. Though the PCs broke up that smuggling ring, the Hammers’ leader escaped, while other Hammers almost killed some PCs by immolation, first in a rowboat and later by setting the smuggling HQ aflame while the PCs were in the basement. Later, the PCs returned to find that the Hammers had also poisoned most of their hirelings and set their hunting lodge and stables on fire, resulting in six deaths and many casualties. One PC, Sir Tomo, rode to the Old Parish Church to get the aid of their friend and ally, Father Johann.

FROM THE DM:

This encounter was the culmination of some building tension between a PC knight and a local duelist, whom the Black Hammers hired to harass the PCs. He finally managed to get Sir Tomo alone. I did not arrange this battle in the snow to be a duel to the death, but the player surprised me in demanding that it be so. He was overconfident until a few rounds into the combat. By then it was too late. Yet, we played with house rules in which armor counts provides damage reduction so this fight was a classic of speed versus power. At the end, each combatant had about three hit points. Everyone at the table was holding their breath during the duel. Any textboxes contain text that I read during the game.

CAST OF CHARACTERS:

Diego de Vargas: Fighter and party leader
Simi Longblade: Fighter, Diego’s right-hand man
Sir Tomo Daegun: Fighter, Diego’s noble friend
Gabriel Lucien: Thief, Diego’s spymaster
Darocles Soterion: Magic User, Diego’s salvage master
Ogedai: Ranger, Diego’s Illuk (think Mongol) ally
Master Holgrim: Duelist Read more

Maritime Salvage

Much of this material was created for use in my personal D&D campaign, so there are many references to places or states, but the rules themselves are generic enough to fit fantasy or historical games of any era from classical to Renaissance. Feel free to adapt this for your own uses by changing names and such. Following the process described below is an account sheet for a wealthy salvage master named Darocles. He happens to be a PC in my campaign, but feel free to change the name and use him in your own world.


STEP 1. DETERMINE THE NUMBER OF WRECKS

The number of wrecks depends on the region and the season. In general, there is much greater trade during the warmer seasons, so the chances for a wreck increase simply due to volume. However, colder seasons, especially in the north, are more dangerous for the few ships that dare to trade. In general, Imperial waters are much calmer. Using Table 1 below, roll first for Isenwalder waters and then roll again for Imperial waters. Read more

Taking the Seegeist

Another tale from the Exploration of Isenwald campaign!


BACKGROUND:

The party discovered a smugglers’ ring a few miles outside of Arianport. After clearing out the “haunted” house overlooking the sea, which the smugglers used as a base, the PCs learned more of the smuggling operation. Their archenemies from the south, members of an elite company called the Black Hammers, had followed them to the northlands and had settled in Arianport, where they planned to undermine all of the PCs’ work. Indeed, the Black Hammers were behind this smuggling operation. Unaware of this, the PCs accepted the request of the town council to destroy the smugglers. Therefore, the PCs lay in wait in the haunted house, along with detachment of town guardsmen, waiting to spot the smuggler ship, the Seegeist. Simi and some town guardsmen plan to ambush the smugglers that come ashore to the cave beneath the haunted house in a rowboat. Meanwhile the other PCs plan to row out the smuggler ship and take it.

FROM THE DM:

This session posed an interesting challenge. The PCs would try to board a crowded enemy ship in the blackness of night and then seize it. Considering the freeboard of the ship (the height of the side above the waterline), it seemed almost impossible. The PC magic user really proved the difference in this encounter with his floating disk and levitation spells. Simultaneously, a smaller battle would ensue on shore (this battle is not recorded below). Also, this was the party’s first run in with the Black Hammers so I wanted to make an impression. Almost all of the smugglers were hired swords, not Black Hammers, so the PCs would cut through them, but the Hammers had to somehow prove to be difficult. The PCs were victorious, which led to the big reveal—the Black Hammers are in town! Yet, this encounter started a pattern of the Hammers being one step ahead or at least always able to hit back.

The inserts contain text blurbs that I read during the game. Also, we used critical hit and critical fumble tables, which explain some of the narrative, like Ogedai falling repeatedly. It was amusing!
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Vengeance of Andreas Fuchs

Another tale from the Exploration of Isenwald campaign!


BACKGROUND:

Not long after arriving in the northern land of Isenwald, the party had made an enemy of the selfish knight Banneret. They had defeated his band of knights and custrels in a barrier combat during a spring festival in Arianport. Unhappy with the loss, Sir Andreas Fuchs and his men later ambushed the party to steal the winnings. The party defeated them, and Diego was merciful. However, Andreas Fuchs took this for weakness. After attracting a few more swords to his band, he followed the party northwards to the Cloister Mine and witnessed the Battle of the Muddy Fields. His men then laid a careful ambush for the weary party.

FROM THE DM:

This session was the closest we came to a TPK (editor’s note: that’s “Total Party Kill” for those unfamiliar with roleplaying parlance), at least to this point. The PCs were already at half-strength when I hit them with a fresh band of armored knights. I pushed them to their limits, but the players responded well. Ironically, the PCs won the battle when all the main fighters were down or dying. The peace-loving thief (he would say spymaster) of the party turned the tide with a magical whip! This encounter gave the PCs tremendous satisfaction because they killed a worthy foe that they hated. Read more

The Battle of the Muddy Fields

Michael Garcia returns with another tale from his Exploration of Isenwald campaign.


BACKGROUND:

Having defeated the Eaters-of-the-Dead after an extended campaign, the party then won control of the Cloister Mine by legal means, namely by out-producing their rival Varyag claimants (envision Russians) in the span of one month. During that time, a third party of claimants attacked, but the party defeated them too. Finally, now in control of the mine, the party learned that the leader of the Varyag claimants was none other than the corrupt Orthodox Bishop of the nearby town of Arianport. Unwilling to yield the mine, but always eager to keep his hands clean, this bishop, or Yepiskop, dispatched a group of mounted thugs, the Oprichniki, to take the mine by force.

FROM THE DM:

This was our largest battle to date in this campaign (roughly 60 to 30). It was also the first time that the party saw specific spells that they often used cast against them. The PCs had to develop larger-scale battle tactics while contending with rain and challenging terrain (a muddy field surrounded by hills, plus the mine entrance). I also learned that a carefully crafted NPC might perish with a single roll of the dice. Creating that NPC was an hour of my life that I’ll never get back, but it made the player feel like a demigod. Lastly, the fate of the party’s spell caster at the end gave us a good laugh (the player role-played it perfectly too). The following write-up also gave one character (Sir Tomo) his nickname for the rest of the campaign. Don’t underestimate the effect of a decent write-up.

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Languages of Northumbria

CGG member Mike Garcia offers some of his copious campaign world documents for the continent of Northumbria.


ALCHEMISTS’ TONGUE, THE

This was the language created by alchemists in the ancient Aquilonian Empire, over a dozen centuries ago. The alchemical concepts are far older, dating back many millennia, but Aquilonian alchemists codified a set of unique and mystical runes to allow them to record and share their knowledge in some secrecy. No alchemist will teach the concepts or the runes to a non-alchemist.

AQUILONIAN

This was the common language of the ancient Aquilonian Empire, once located across the sea, but now in ruins. The Aquilonians used a sound-based system of letters, and this alphabet is now used for writing both Frangian and Zeelander.

FRANGIAN

This is the common language of the Kingdom of Frangia and its colonies. Derived from Old Frangian, Frangian is a sister language to Zeelander. Those that can understand Zeelander have a 20% chance to understand Frangian and vice versa. Frangians use the Aquilonian alphabet.

HIGH TONGUE, THE

This is the language of the Frangian nobility, derived from the peculiar dialect of one of the Frangian ruling tribes from centuries ago. Those that understand Frangian have a 10% chance of understanding the High Tongue and vice versa. The High Tongue uses the Aquilonian alphabet.
Though the High Tongue is widely available in books and thus familiar to many scholars, few understand how to speak it fluently. Frangian nobles have carefully guarded the precise verbal nuances of their language—a practice that allows them to recognize one another and to distinguish their own from imposters.

KENIENKA

This is the language of the Kenianka, one of the main native human populations of eastern Northumbria. They call it the ‘Flint Tongue’, as the Kenienka call themselves the ‘Flint People’ or the ‘People of the Flint Place’.

NORSK

This is the common language of the Varangians, who once ruled the mighty Northern Realm in Northumbria. Though that kingdom is now in ruins, the Varangian people spread throughout Northumbria, keeping alive their native tongue. Norsk and Old Frangian both come from an ancient northern language, now forgotten. Those that can understand Frangian or Zeelander have a 05% chance to understand Norsk and vice versa. Varangians use a sound-based system of runes, derived from those of the dwarves and elves.

PICTISH

This is the common language of the Picts in Northumbria. It is entirely different from all other known languages in the region. Picts use a sound-based system of runes, possibly derived from those of the Varangians, but many scholars argue that any similarities are coincidence.

WENDAT

This is the language of the Wendat, one of the main native human populations of eastern Northumbria. Its origins are unknown.

ZEELANDER

This is the common language of the Kingdom of Zeeland and its colonies. Derived from Old Frangian, Zeelander is a sister language to Frangian. Those that can understand Zeelander have a 20% chance to understand Frangian and vice versa. Zeelanders use the Aquilonian alphabet.

ELVEN

Dating back many millennia, this is the common language of the fey folk. They call it the ‘ancient song’, or vanha laulu. It is entirely different from all other non-elven languages.
The elves use a sound-based system of runes, which later became the inspiration for other runic systems, such as that of the dwarves and that of the Varangians. The elves actually use two sets of runes, one for common writing (called sanat, meaning ‘words’) and another (called voimat, meaning ‘powers’) for important concepts like magic and law.  All elves know the former, and all elders know the latter as well.

DWARVEN

Dating back many millennia, this is the common language of the mountain folk. Dwarves refer to their tongue as the ‘song of stone and fire’.
The dwarves use two sound-based systems of runes, both derived from those of the elves. They use the first set of runes, which they simply call ‘carvings’, for common writing. These runes undoubtedly had some influence on development of Varangian runes. The second set of runes, which they call ‘smithing marks’, they use for important concepts like magic and manufacturing secrets.  Most dwarves know the ‘carvings’, but only proven dwarven smiths know the ‘smithing marks’.

GNOMISH

This is the soft language of the reclusive forest-dwelling gnomes. Gnomes do not teach their tongue to non-gnomes so the languages remains a mystery to most.
The gnomes use a sound-based system of runes, possibly influenced by those of the elves, but aso similar in some ways to those used by Picts. Some scholars suggest that the early Picts learned their runes from gnomes.

DM’S NOTE ON NUMBER OF LANGUAGES KNOWN

A PC’s intelligence determines how many languages he or she can learn, but the PC does not begin with his potential fully achieved.

  1. Each PC should start out with a primary human language, plus any suitable racial language.
  2. Frangian nobles raised as such will also know the High Tongue (the family should be wealthy though—DM’s call).
  3. Thieves will also know Thieves’ Cant, which is not really a full language.
  4. Each magic user, illusionist, or cleric may start with one additional language that is open to him or her.
  5. Thereafter, if intelligence allows, each PC may know one additional language that is open to him or her.
  6. A PC must learn anything beyond this starting number of languages during the game, taking active steps to learn from an NPC. It will take time.

For example, a Frangian knight with a 16 intelligence (maximum of 5 additional languages) would know Frangian as his base language, plus the High Tongue. As he could start with one more, he might choose Zeelander. That means that he starts with three languages and can learn three more in the course of play.

Another example: A Zeelander ranger with a 16 intelligence (maximum of five additional languages) would know Zeelander as his base language. His back story explains that he has been on the frontier for many years, so he can chose Kenienka or Wendat or Varangian as a second tongue. he starts with two languages and would be able to learn four more.

Another example: A Frangian cleric from a noble family has a 14 intelligence (four additional languages). He starts with Frangian as his base language, and, having been raised in a noble family, he knows the High Tongue as well. As a cleric, he then chooses Zeelander. Lastly, he selects ancient Aquilonian as his bonus language, having studied it for years before arriving in Northumbria. He therefore starts with four languages and can learn one more during play.

DM’S NOTE ON LANGUAGE RESTRICTIONS

The guiding principle is that a PC’s knowledge of a language must make sense. Languages are not flippantly learned. One must spend a great deal of time and energy both learning and practicing a language.

Some basic rules for a Blackwater Campaign:

  1. No PC, save under very rare circumstances, will know the Alchemist’s Tongue. Only alchemists learn this carefully guarded code.
  2. Only Frangian nobles, raised in such a household, will know the High Tongue.
  3. Anyone wishing to know Kenienka or Wendat must have spent a good deal of time in eastern Northumbria among the native speakers. It cannot be learned through books, and it cannot be learned quickly through casual conversation.
  4. No PC can know Pictish. It is very different, but more importantly, the Picts are utterly hostile to other peoples, and they do not value intellectual pursuits so their literature is almost non-existent.
  5. Save under rare circumstances, no human PC should know the elven tongue as the elves do not readily teach it to others. If a PC knows elven runes, they will always be the ones for common writing (sanat).
  6. Dwarves are less guarded in teaching their language, though any PC that knows dwarves runes will know only the ‘carvings’ for common writing—not the smithing marks.

The Search for Sergeant Adelar

This is the debut article in a series of memorable and entertaining roleplaying sessions from the CGG membership. Michael Garcia kicks things off with a session from his Exploration of Isenwald campaign.


BACKGROUND:

The party members are southerners that have traveled north for many weeks to foster a business relationship with their employer’s good friend. As a favor to the local baron, they went by horseback to inspect a silver mine. On the road, they stumbled upon a battle in the fog. Mysterious beast-men, whom locals called Eaters-of-the-Dead, were attacking dozens of pilgrims. The party rode to their rescue, and in the process made allies of the soldier-monks of Moragiel, who patrol the roads to protect pilgrims. After the battle, the party and the knights were escorting the pilgrims north to the royal fortress of Grenzenburg.

FROM THE DM:

This turned out to be an interesting session because it was different. The PCs were racing against time to rescue a wounded kidnapping victim. With daylight dying, they had to track the Eaters-of-the-Dead, catch up to them, and somehow save the victim. I designed the trail to end up high up in the hills, on a narrow rocky road that winds along a cliff face. After many dangerous skill checks, the Eaters-of-the-Dead had a small ambush for the would-be heroes. The rescue party was small because speed was important for the PCs. Thus, the dangers seemed greater than normal. Read more