Monday, June 29, 2015

Monster Monday: Chindi - Ghostly Navajo Dust Devils

Today's Monster Monday is the chindi, a vengeful spirit from Navajo mythology that can take the form of a dust devil.

NASA/U. of Michigan
Yep.  That's a ghost alright.
The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2015 Jonah Bomgaars.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Monster Monday: Ammit - The Deadliest Egyptian Chimera

Today's Monster Monday is the Ammit, a soul-devouring creature from Ancient Egyptian mythology with the head of a crocodile, the forequarters of a lion, and the hindquarters of a hippopotamus - the three deadliest creatures in Egypt.

Photographed by the British Museum, via Wikimedia
The artist didn't know what a hippo looked like sitting down, so he was just like, "F*** it - stubby legs"
The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2015 Jonah Bomgaars.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sandbox Campaign Part 15: Assault on Castle Drenn, Part 1

This is part 15 of my ongoing Sandbox Campaign, also known as the Graverobbers Campaign, after the appellation of the group whose adventures it chronicles.  

When last we left the Graverobbers, they had attacked a prisoner of war camp run by the sadistic succubus Galvessa.  Monty, the armor-plated dwarf, had fallen under her sway and been granted an infernal boon to his strength, but soon broke free of the evil demoness' influence and turned his axe on her.  She teleported away, abandoning the POW camp to the adventurers.  Among the rescued prisoners were Sir Hugo of Granz, a Kaldish knight, and Cole Diaz, an old acquaintance of the twins Kat and Daphne.  He had been captured while trying to search them out in hopes of impressing Daphne with his wizarding abilities.  Armed with a crude map of the general area of the bandit queen Thalestra's domains, the party decided the best course of action would be to turn south and assault Castle Drenn.  Long ago, you'll remember, the Kaldish Emperor had charged the Graverobbers with retaking that very castle, promising the knight Sigrid and her paladin husband Hardrig lordship over the fortress and any surrounding lands they could conquer.

After resting and reaching level 10, the party heads south along the road to Castle Drenn.  They reach the bridge that they bypassed last time and decide to cross it, partly because they feel sorry for the lonely bridgekeeper, partly because they now have a small force of 16 freed prisoners of war trailing behind them.  The bridgekeeper comes out, eyes them appraisingly, and asks ten gold per head to cross.  Kat tells him, "Look, we're heading to Castle Drenn to kick Thalestra's butt.  My friend Sigrid back there is gonna be, like, queen of this whole place!  If you let us cross, we'll make you a baron."  Sigrid instantly objects, saying she won't make a promise she can't honor.  Kat backpedals, using her foreign accent to feign misspeaking.  Hoping to hurry things up, Rikkette walks up to the bridgekeeper, reaches into her coinpurse, and pulls out "SURPRISE COLOR SPRAY!"  The blinded bridgekeeper reels back, fleeing toward his hut and calling for 'Trillby'.  From beneath the bridge, a hulking river troll pulls itself up onto the wood, growling menacingly.  "You pay now or Trillby smash!" it growls in Kaldish.  Rikkette runs off, clutching a gem, then slumps over, apparently passed out with fright.  What she did not tell the party was that she took magic jar when she leveled up.  Unaware of Rikkette's plan, the party lays into Trillby.  Monty and Sigrid fire flaming arrows.  Zel enlarges Cameo, and the now elephant-sized bird swoops in and claws at the troll.  Kat casts dancing lights in the troll's face, and Cole hits it with as scorching ray.  When Rikkette's mind finally finds its way into the troll's body, the monster is unconscious.  Cameo drags the troll off the wooden bridge so they can properly blast it with fire.  One flame strike later, Rikkette wakes up in her gnomish body, having experienced death for a second time.  The party passes on, leaving the bridgekeeper to mourn his monster.

The saddest scene in Return of the Jedi, © 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Random Minion Motivation Table

"Aim for the big one!" yelled Daltos, hurling a spear at the largest orc.  "If we take out their leader, they'll crumble!"

The rest of the party followed suit.  Grim plunged two bolts from his magic crossbow into the hulking orc chieftain, and Ylvessa charged in and finished the job, hacking off his green head with a swift blow of her scimitar.  

Some of the orcs did as Daltos expected and fled back into the cave.  Some, but not all.  An unassuming orc spearman let out a terrible cry.  "You killed my brother, you elf witch!"  He ran up to the corpse, grabbed the chieftain's warhammer, and brought it down squarely on Ylvessa's surprised head.  

"Rally to me, you cowardly scum!" barked another.  "Unlike that dead idiot Gorflegg, I'LL lead you to victory!"

Then came the shout that Daltos disliked most of all.  Echoing from deep in the caves, an orcish voice called, "C'mon boys! Let's grab the treasure and run!"


Any good adventurer knows that discretion is the better part of valor.  But what about the minions that they fight?  Some GMs will drag a battle out until every last mook on the battlefield has dropped below 0 hp, other GMs realize that their goblin horde might rather flee than face the whirlwind of death that is a well-prepared adventuring party.

If you want to go a tiny bit more in-depth, check out this table of random minion motivations:
The idea is simple.  During battle, if a major morale-shattering event happens (such as the death of the enemy leader or an attack that kills more than half of the enemy minions), roll 2d6 for each minion to see what his motivation is here, and judge from that what its action will be.

There is a lot of room for GM interpretation, of course.  This is a GM-ing aid, not a new rule-system.  If the minions in question are soldiers in an evil warlord's army, and you roll that one of them is "Only there to protect a loved one", you might decide that he's there to look out for his kid brother who is fighting alongside him, in which case he might fight hard long after the evil warlord is dead just to keep his brother safe.  On the other hand, a cultist in a death cult who is only there to protect his kid brother might grab his brother and flee at the slightest opportunity.

A fanatical believer might fight to the death for his cause, but a true believer, not blinded by outright fanaticism, might see the value in withdrawing to fight another day.

I chose to make it a 2d6 table because it results in a nice bell-curve, as those of you who have attempted to settle Catan will well know.  I didn't want a flat d6 or d10 table, and I thought a d% table would be too complicated for consulting in the heat of battle.  I think the 2d6 bell-curve makes for a quick and easy table with a lot of potential depth.

Sorry for the short post this week.  Life is busy, and it's so hot in Seattle right now that my rapidly decaying computer is threatening to catch aflame.

-your in-it-for-the-money d20 despot

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

GotWK Campaign Part 5: Desert Dungeon and Cattle Drive

This is an account of part 5 of my ongoing campaign set in my homebrewed wild west setting, Guns of the Western Kings.  Get caught up with the previous parts here.

When last we left our heroes, they had just crashed their bedraggled steamboat in a desert canyon, far to the south of anywhere they wanted to be.  Narrowly escaping a swarm of flesh-eating giant freshwater crabs, they found themselves facing the steep wall of the canyon they were trapped in.  Following a crumbling staircase carved into the rock, they came upon a cave, littered with shards of pottery, but large enough to rest in.  Before them looms a circular stone door ringed with strange glyphs.  In its center, a carved skeletal figure hanging upside down over a river, its dark maw open wide, as if waiting to swallow something.

We now return you to the adventure already in progress...

Photo: Tigerhawkvok via Wikimedia
Intrepid Theodore leads Big Bjorn, Falco the Flexible, Rusty the prospector, and the half-elf rogue Gudguniis in scaling the face of the cliff.  Ash the sharpshooter, Heather the hedge witch, Face the pigtailed paladin, and the newly-adult sorceress Dawne, meanwhile, attempt to figure out how to open the circular door.  They figure something needs to go in its gaping maw, but what?  Dawne shines a light in its mouth, revealing only a fist-sized smooth stone concavity.  Ash tries sticking his hand in, and when that doesn't work, he cuts his finger and rubs the blood inside.  Finally, he pours some whisky in there, and the door slowly rolls open.