Thursday, December 6, 2018

An exciting take on Yoon Suin

A short post:

There are people out there who are *very* good at what they do, and Patrick Stuart is one of them.  Here is his take on Syr Darya, a mysterious city in Yoon-Suin, which is far better than anything I could have come up with.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Tomb of the serpent King, Session 3: Money Money!

We ran the third session o the Tomb of the Serpent Kings by Skerples in late September, and a new one is coming up.  The first session is here , and the second one is here.

2 of the 7(!) players were missing, making for a more manageable session.  They are:

The original crew:

Elrond, a Low Elf knight and historian.  I informed the player that low elves are still much better than humans, and he proceeded to roll better stats than anyone else

Smartas, the human Illusionist.  Has a fear of cheese.   The new player, sarcastic but momentarily out of inspiration, came up with this fetching name.  We grabbed random miniatures and hers was much bigger than the others so it was agreed that this was an unfortunate residual illusion that had never left her, and she appeared to be 7 feet tall.  Also has the most HP in the party.

Twitch the human thief.  Rolled 10 in every stats except 12 in con and 8 in charisma.  The perfect "this is a playable character".  An ex brigand, a bit dubious about the whole affair.

The new PCs - an arcane heavy group.

Gildorf the dwarven Summoner.  The leader of the newcomers.  Here to kill goblin. (player used to be Argus).  Not the best entities but good hp at least.

Trogdor the human fighter:  World weary.  Had ok-ish stats but chose human to reroll strength and got 10 instead of 5.  Playable character!  The muscle of the group.   (missing this session)

Min the gnome.  A garden mage with mediocre stats.  Player was enamored with the invisibility power, also plays a druid in the main game so... a bit of a match.  Got magic missile as a spell!  (missing this session)

Sabriel the Elven Necromancer.  A new player, very excited to explode corpses.


Dwane:  a rock.  This collection soon grew... 

The party returned to the surface after their foray below, feeling they needed to refresh before attempting the basilisk room.   They heard strange voices in the dark, but no clear source could be found.  Elrond thinks that the party is imagining things - see it's just a rabbit.  Trogdor shoots at it and misses badly.

As they are preparing to go, skipping breakfast - rations are low - the gnome Min starts sneezing badly and vanishes.  Trogdor decided to go look for him, and Greg the priest follows.  The party is sad to be lacking Trogdor's and Min's assistance but... Greg the priest, not so much.  

(in my notes it is said that Min may actually be Milo.  I have no idea what this means...)

More rocks are acquired, to replace Chuck lost to the chasm:  The third rock from the sun, Rock and Roll the fourth, and Skip the Fifth.  There aren't many torches left either but at least the party has a few extra spears and shields, so in they go!

Upon reaching the room with the murky pool and the multiple doors, the party decided to explore the doors they hadn't examined yet - easier money than facing a basilisk perhaps?

One door had angry banging behind it - the party decided to leave that one alone.  Behind another stood what seemed like a promising tomb.  Alas, the trap finding efforts had gotten a bit too cursory, and Sabriel got blasted in the face by a powerful bolt of lighting... but survived (0 HP!).  She decided to "take a breather" while the rest examined the tomb.   Twitch, despite his modest stature, opened the heavy stone lid easily, despite Gildorf "helping" by pressing *down* on the lid.

Inside the coffin, they find an ivory tube (worth 5 gp!) with a spell of acid arrow inscribed inside, which Smartas decides to promptly learn.  There is also a golden plate on the wall, twisted from heat damage - it contained the now free lighting bolt - but still worth 10 gp from the gold content.  Twitch eagerly pried it from the wall.  

Sabriel, feeling better after lunch (7hp!) , is delighted to learn that the coffin also contains a well preserved snakeman mummy - a corpse!   No need to pretend with Greg the priest not around!  And because it's desiccated, it's not very heavy and can be dragged around.  It's also pleasant smelling - Xizor is definitely one of the better corpse of her career.   

The next tomb has no magical trap... but the mummy inside is a mess - the job was botched, and a *black pudding* rises from the coffin, to the party's terror.   Elrond faces it bravely, and proceeds to miss it several time with his sword.  The pudding fiercely... returns the favor, and can't connect with the elven knight.  It then turns its furry on Gildorf, melting the dwarve's shield.  The rest of the party doesn't stand by and pelts the monster with with thrown exploding corpses (Oh Xizor the Mummy, we hardly knew ye!), spears and an acid arrow spells which finally finishes it off.  Gildorf also summoned his strange stone arrow... but the shot missed.

For all this trouble, the party finds a few rings worth a total of 2 gp, and feels a bit disappointed.   Still treasure is starting to build up.  

Now having explored every door (or at least considered them) and unwilling to dive into the murky pool, the party returns to the basilisk's lair.  Their contraction - blankets held up by saplings to hide themselves from the basilisk's eye - works, although there is a fair amount of terror as two of said blankets are turned to stone and shatter!  The party dives into the room that Twitch had found in the dark, not sure what would be there but hoping it would be safe.

Keeping out of sight of the basilisk, the group assesses it option.  A corridor sloping down is deemed best left for later... it smells of goblins.  A side room contains three magical stone eggs.  The party determine that if they are covered in mammalian blood, they will generate  heat for a day (repeated uses needs new blood).  They aren't quite sure what they are worth, but they must be worth *something*.  Another hallway leads further
away from the basilisk's lair ... but Twitch doesn't like how it looks.  What's up with the raised tiles?  

Dwayne the Rock is chucked down the hallway.  Click!  Blades stars swinging down from the ceiling, going back and forth.  Do they have to go through *that*?   .... but this is followed by a few alarming creaks and twangs... and with an infernal racket the entire things collapses, sending springs, gears and rubble all over.  Twitch proudly announced that the trap is disarmed!  

The party presses on.  The next room is guarded by two *extremely* life-like statues of snakemen warriors.  The party passes them warily, and the statues do not animate.  A hallway leads on, sloping downward, and the party decides to ignore it for now and decides to explore the side rooms instead.  

One is clearly a shrine, and has the statue of a cobra god.  The statue has two holes at the base, and can be rotated.  The party rotates counter clockwise... and with a glass breaking sound, poison gas is released, flooding the area.  The party coughs and hacks and curses, but everyone survives.   The party backs off and selects a volunteer (Twitch) to try the other way... and a *shower of gold* is released!  144 gold coins spill forth, to the delight of t
he party.  Elrond is particularly ecstatic - *now* we're talking!  Perhaps he can finally pay his debts. 

Which much more enthusiasm, the party tries a door across the shrine.  Piled in front of the door is a big pile of junk (broken shields, bent swords, candlesticks, branches).  Clearing it makes a lot of noise. (but no random encounter was triggered!)  Smartas finds a a single shoe... how peculiar.  She determines that unfortunately, it is NOT magical, besides perhaps being the most awful tasking thing she has ever encountered. 

Having finally removed the obstacle, the room beyond proves much interesting.  It is separated in two branches.  In one, the party finds a captive chained to the floor!   Gildorf realizes that something is wrong... is that a summoning circle under the dust?  Why is lovely young lady here?  What have they been e
ating?  He announces that it must be a fiend!  

Negociation with the succubus - who's demeanor changed markedly when revealed - began.  Gildorf traded the Succubus's freedom for a secret - the name of a creature he could summon, Postidon-Pru! - and "safety" - meaning the succubus wouldn't prey on them.  She claimed that the junk was put over the door by fearful goblins.  The succubus also said that she would offer them information about treasure in this place if they brought her a suitable victim (some fool, or even a goblin), it had been long since she fed.  Sabriel offered the Succubus a dead rat, and the fiend answered that Sabriel should stick to Necromancy.

The party entered the other branch of the summoning room.  They found altar, 2 gold bowls worth 15gp each, a +1 magic dagger, and a wavy stone snake that detects as magical - although its function was unknown. 

And so we stopped, with the party laden with loot.  Shall they return to the surface to resupply (and dare run by the basili
sk?)  Shall they press on?  Will Min re-appear!  Read on!

Impressions:  This was an *excellent* session and everyone had fun.  I wasn't ill and the number of player was a bit more manageable.  They have been very lucky, so we'll see if this holds.

I note that Skerples has released a 4.0 version of the dungeon, with a better map of the bassilik's lair - this might come in very handy.  I have to admire his devotion to perfecting what is already a pretty good dungeon!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Treasure Trove and Inflation

I've seen, occasionally, the notion floated that heroes discovering a large amount of gold (say, the traditional dragon horde) would cause massive inflation and would send the prices rising.

I think... that's a dubious proposition. 

Let's say that in a typical fantasy D&D world (and we'll use the 5e price list), and your party defeats some large dragon.  You come back into town with a quarter million gold pieces, along with a lot of gems and magical items.   What would happen?

First of all, a part of the treasure isn't going to be injected in the local economy.  The gems will probably be kept for emergency/easily portable treasure. The magical items will be kept/used or traded (probably for other items). Only the gold/silver will be injected in the local economy.

Second, although it *sounds* like a lot, a quarter of a million gp is not that much wealth in D&D. I've done math calculating the average GDP per inhabitant (see my previous post). The average income is about 220 gp/citizen. So a small town of 2000 people will have a yearly income of 440 000 gp.  A kingdom of 5 million people has a GDP of over a billion gp! The extra gold will be good for the local economy yes, but it will not lead to ridiculous inflation. 

(I'll note that this doesn't really seem to jive with historical data, but that's because a single gold piece is worth less in D&D than in the medieval era.  Why?  I don't know, all those dwarves mining gold?)

Lastly, it probably won't all be spent at once anyway. The PCs will probably be more generous and free wheeling with their money (and some villagers will take advantage of this) but... 

so.... the notion that adventurers and their gold lead to massive inflation is misleading. It should be noted it will be good for the local economy as there often was a shortage of currency. Could this lead to light inflation? Sure. A spike in the price of one or two items because the party suddenly bought all the supply (say, healing potions?)? Sure.  The villagers charging the heroes more since they are flush with cash and probably feeling a bit generous?  Quite possibly.

Overall inflation that the GM should bother about (for "realism" reasons), or use as a tool to reign in the extreme wealth? No.

(And if I didn't manage to convince you... what happens in the real world? You live in a small village. You win the lottery, an immense amount (say 100 million dollars). Is there an inflation boom in the village? No.)

How to reign in extreme wealth?  Well that's an entirely different blog post isn't it :D

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Tomb of the Serpent Kings Sessions 2

So the GM was down with a cold and I replaced him again, continuing the Tomb of the Serpent Kings by Skerples.  The first session is here.  

Not only did the 4 payers return, 3 more added themselves.  As Argus the Charming Envoy died last time, the replacement PC brought friends with him!

The original crew:

Elrond, a Low Elf knight and historian.  I informed the player that low elves are still much better than humans, and he proceeded to roll better stats than anyone else

Smartas, the human Illusionist.  Has a fear of cheese.   The new player, sarcastic but momentarily out of inspiration, came up with this fetching name.  We grabbed random miniatures and hers was much bigger than the others so it was agreed that this was an unfortunate residual illusion that had never left her, and she appeared to be 7 feet tall.  Also has the most HP in the party. 

Twitch the human thief.  Rolled 10 in every stats except 12 in con and 8 in charisma.  The perfect "this is a playable character".  An ex brigand, a bit dubious about the whole affair.

The new PCs - an arcane heavy group.

Gildorf the dwarven Summoner.  The leader of the newcomers.  Here to kill goblin. (player used to be Argus).  Not the best entities but good hp at least.

Trogdor the human fighter:  World weary.  Had ok-ish stats but chose human to reroll strength and got 10 instead of 5.  Playable character!  The muscle of the group.  

Min the gnome.  A garden mage with mediocre stats.  Player was enamored with the invisibility power, also plays a druid in the main game so... a bit of a match.  Got magic missile as a spell!

Sabriel the Elven Necromancer.  A new player, very excited to explode corpses.


Dwane:  a rock, and Chuck:  A fellow rock

Greg the priest:  Good at providing moral advice, holding torches, and funerals.  Follower of Trodgor.

Argus:  An antling corpse

Still dismayed by the death of Argus, the party was started by the arrival of a torch bearing dwarf - with company.  They had been hired by someone to take out the goblins in this tomb.  Elrond protested - there were no goblins here! The dwarf, Gildorf, realized that the job-giver did kind of look like 3 short people in a trench-coat... but he didn't share his misgivings.  

Tensions were high, and a few threats were exchanged - the newcomers didn't want to share the goblin reward (100 gold!) and Elrond, Twich and Smartas didn't want to share the treasure... so after some time  (and an attempt to bribe the fighter Trogdor into switching sides!), an agreement was reached to share both sources of founds - seemed fair.

Argus's loot was divided.  Twitch grabbed most of the supplies.  Trogdor grabbed the great-axe.  Sabriel, the elven mage, was *very* happy to take Argus'corpse along.  For... later burial, yes, that was it.  Greg, the priest, said this was very devout.  

The newcomers decided that they too needed a rock, and picked up one, calling it Chuck.  

They poked around in the murky water of the pit, and could tell there was *something* down there. but no one wanted to actually go *swim* in the foul-smelling water, so it was left unexplored.

The doors radiating around the pool were explored, and some tombs were looted.  One tomb was partially collapsed, and noises could be heard on the other side.  The party decided to leave it alone.  Other doors were left alone for now, and then forgotten following other discoveries.  In one room a fairly valuable silver statue was found (20 gold!) and the group was heartened a bit.

The next door led to a set of stairs - opening it had let loose a faint but definitely there air current.  They carefully made their way down and.... click.  The stairs turned into a chute!  With blades at the bottom!  The party managed to avoid serious injury.  Sabriel, and Min the gnome, had been in the back and had not been caught by the trap.  Not sure how to avoid the blades, they decided to use Argus' corpse as a toboggan, sliding down the chute and letting the body take the bulk of the damage!  Argus was looking mangled indeed, oozing fluids.  Greg looked green.

The party barely had the time to collect themselves when they were confronted by an enormous stone statue!  The large room had shields surrounding it, and the snake-man statue summoned one of these shields to its arm. Trogdor and Elrond engaged the construct, with Twich helping somewhat reluctantly.  Greg, the priest screamed in fear and froze in place, too afraid to even run away.  The warriors dodged enormous blows from the statue, doing limited damage in return.

Meanwhile, Gildorf noted that Smartas had a bow.  He summoned a magical arrow head that he quickly attached to an arrow, and Smartas let a perfectly aimed shot - that took off half the statue's head off!  The arrowhead was mighty indeed.  This was followed by the small gnome letting loose a mighty bolt of magic, finishing off the stone foe.  The newcomers had magical might!  ... and had expended most of it.

DM's note:  that was one heck of a critical by Smartas.  I should have had the statue use the shield to absorb damage but... I forgot.  Ah well.

Twich discovered that the shields were held up by silver wire - 2 more gp of treasure!  Some of the shields were found to be in ok-ish condition, and were grabbed for defense, although Trogdor decided to stick with the great axe.

Beyond this room, opened an immense chasm, shrouded in darkness.   Throwing rocks down there showed that is was probably several hundred feet deep, at the very least.  A somewhat navigable path followed the ledge of this chasm.  The party followed it.  First they found a door - but it was barred.  No apparent way to go by it.  Twitch, having heard of the gnome's power to turn invisible, wondered if the gnome would also be *intangible*.  Min grudgingly obliged, and was shoved into the stone door enthusiastically by Twich.  He was not intangible.  The party moved on, with the gnome muttering.

Then they found some strange rocky outcropping.  Gildorf used his dwarven knowledge to identify these as cave barnacles, a sedentary but extremely dangerous species of predators.  They made a delicious stew, but it was said that only the greatest of dwarven champion had a hope of defeating one.  the party threw Chuck at the barnacles... only to have it swallowed *extremely* quickly, then spat out a few moments later into the chasm... When fire was suggested, Gildorf noted that *dragon* fire would indeed do the trick... so the party turned back, and were relieved to see that the stairs turned chute had converted back to stairs.  Carefully avoiding the trapped step, they made their way back to the central room with the murky water.

They took a hallway from the pool-room they hadn't explored  yet.  It led to a rectangular room filled with harmless clay statues.  They found a secret passage within said room, that lead to another large room, shrouded in darkness - their torches insufficient to illuminate all of it.  Some pillars could be seen, and shuffling and clinking could be heard... was some vast beast hidden by the gloom?  Was the clinking caused by a chain?  More alarmingly,  a small statue was found nearby... it was very life like, looking like some sort of deformed goblin.  Was this beast able to petrify things?  A gorgon?  A basilisk? A medusa?  Would a mirror help?  How about closing your eyes?

Sabriel had the solution!  She would vanquish the monster with a potent spell! ... she just needed Argus' corpse.  Despite the priest's protest, the plan was eagerly agreed upon.  With a great heave, the corpse was flung into the gloom.   After some time, sniffing, then eating sounds were heard.  Using the crunching to pinpoint the corpse, Sabriel unleash her spell, and poor Argus wetly exploded.  The beast let out an outraged roar, and backed off... hurt, but clearly very much alive.  

(DM note:  rolled a 4 on damage... clearly not enough).

What to do.  The party got the impression that the beast couldn't go very far south.  So they sent Twich, alone, IN THE DARK in that direction.  Following the wall with his hand and cursing his companions silently, he was able to detect an open passageway to the south.  He, somehow, returned unharmed.  

But how to move the entire party safely, unseen.... a plan was concocted.  They would tie blankets to a wooden frame (there were saplings outside, and they had an axe) and shield themselves from the dangerous glare of the petrifying beast, and reach the passageway!  That thing, whatever it was, would not stop them from finding the riches!

And the session ended.  However, this is not the end, as we are playing again soon!

IMPRESSIONS:   This was a challenging session due to seven players and bad allergies, but we still had fun.  The "fake" tomb was over and things got interesting.   The glog is definitely a good system for newcomers and casual games.

Specific complaints:  as mentioned earlier, the double room references keeps being a pain (mainly because the quick reference contains info not in the main description).   

Room 12 has a scroll of the spell "eye venom" - but this spell isn't in the game.  Now I can certainly make something up, but as this is supposed to be a teaching dungeon, I'm not sure it belongs... 

The Cave Barnacle as a "you can't go this way" signal was... not quite right.  The party saw it as an obstacle to overcome.  Eventually they got the hint.  

A bit more clarity as to the reach of the basilisk on its chain would have been nice.  I improvised, but I don't know if it was the best solution.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

More Yoon-Suin Gods

I've been on the road a lot lately and don't have time for a complex post.  Since my first Yoon-Suin Gods sample went over so well, here are a few more!

I'll also introduce a few background elements in my version of the Yellow City

The Lord of Dread:  Nameless.   Shapeless.  Holy color is black.  Demands the sacrifice of fear (sweat).  His altar is the floor of the shop of screaming souls  (located in the Goblin Market), where fear is unwittingly sacrificed.  The proprietor and high priest is the grey faced, broadly smiling Fez-Wearing man, whom *everyone* instinctively gives a wide berth despite his friendly demeanor and small stature.  His wares - items haunted by ghosts or entrapping souls - are extremely valuable, but no one dares rob the place.

The Mantis, Mistress of assassins.  Color is dull green.  Secret shrine in the golden triangle, beneath the assassin stall in the Goblin Market.  From this shrine a hidden tunnel leads to a small dock, which allows the assassins to move about unseen).  This also brings river water to the shrine. )  Disdain of the Murder god.  Sacrifice of blood – the assassin's own blood only.  Her name is secret, and her holy colors are not shown.

(Note:  The Goblin Market is a creation of Dyson Logon.  As you can plainly see, (scroll down) this thing is *perfect* for Yoon-Suin.  My players *loooved* it).

Krodha, God of Murder and strength.  Depicted as large, angry ape.  Demands teeth.  Color is bright blue. Rival with the Mistress of Assassin, Garlok, the Elephant Demon and others.  Opposed by the Justice Toad and the swordsman GhostMaker, who killed their high priest following a bit of intrigue.  Current high priest is a fakir (monk) who believes that the previous high-priest was misguided, and that GhostMaker did the cult a favor. 

Vanuk, the retributer, aka "Justice Toad" by his detractors, as he is depicted as a toad.  A god of justice, particularly just vengeance and punishment.  Accepts sacrifices of the guilty, who's heads are crushed with a great hammer if their crimes are great, or only hand if said crimes are not.   Followed by many vigilantes and crusading paladins, who dress in dark green.  Holy men go out and dispense justice, sometimes indiscriminately.  The cult is quite popular.  Rumors say that the high priest owes a big favor to GhostMaker.  Vanuk's Temple of Judgement is in the Fish District, and not all those accused are found guilty.

Mugo, The King of Silver, who leads to fortune.  Depicted as a tall, bearded man with a silver crown.  He demands sacrifice of silver, some of those who do find great financial reward.  His priests are garbed in dark grey holy robes, lined with. Actually is Pfath the lord of scammers, a fly.  The entire operation is a scam, the "winners" are in on it.   His followers are mostly men, only accepts exiled slugmen.   Grants the Trickery domain.  If the cult of Vanuk finds out, there will be holy war.  Some members are arguing that it's time to fold but the money is so good... 

Qafo, the Lady of Drowning.  Goddess of floods, a snapping turtle.  Holy color is the silty yellow-brown of the flooding river. She demands human sacrifice to avoid floods, said sacrifices being drowned in the river (of course).  Her temple is in the Narrows, one of the most wretched district of the city.

Ghostmaker:  Not a god, but rumored to be followed by a host of ghosts, the souls of all those he has slain.  The best swordsman in the city, bar none (Fighter 20) and said by some to be the reincarnation of the sword-sage Metis, which he vigorously denies.  For a time, the high priest of Krodha engineered conflict between foes and Ghostmaker as a way to get rid of said foes.  This worked quite well, until Ghostmaker caught on made an example and got rid of the meddlesome priest.  (inspired by Kill Six Billion Demons , which you should read)

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A few Yoon-Suin Gods

The Yellow City has hundreds of temples devoted to gods terrible and small.  Here are a few of them.

(as my campaign is in 5e, for some of them I will list the granted domain).

Yato, hoarder of secrets.  A small, cunning mole.  Wine red is his sacred color.  He demands the sacrifice of *hands* (any hands will do,  not just yours!).  Grants the domain of knowledge or trickery.  Prayed to by those looking to discover secrets and keep them for themselves.   Shrine on the Red Bank district.  (inspiration from The Gnole by Alan Aldridge)

 Parkij, the Crane of Hunger. Concerned with famine and endurance.  Holy color is this old yellowed bone shade.  She demands sacrifice of food (lots of it).  Stoic.  Temple is not too far from the Great Granary.  Every morning, they ritually curse the building.  Popular with the poor who which to rise above hunger.

Phtol, the lady of the dawn. Crane-aspected. Holy colors are pink and yellow.  Concerned with mornings and dreams. Demands the sacrifice of eels.  Her cultists have an intense dislike of the Crane of hunger,  but the followers of Parkij are merely contemptuous in return.  The two shrines face each other across an arm of the God River, with the shrine to Phtol in is the Old Quarters.   The boatmens who operate the multitudes of water taxis in the Yellow City know better than to ferry someone directly between the two shrines!  Domains granted are light or knowledge (dreams bring insight).  Given prayers by those who hope to wake up with insight or inspiration.

The Cosmic Snail, the God that Gets there in the end.   Followers are obsessed with endings, especially of things that have been going on for some time (such as the world).  Demands sacrifice of sweets.  Grants the domains of death or knowledge.  Their temple is very old and is in a spiral structure, with the inner chamber having the same diameter as the exterior (which is impossible).  Said temple is located in the Old Clay district, facing the Narrows.  The head priest from Sugd and came to the Yellow City seeking end of the world, and is a man of some power (level 9).  Priests are usually men, rarely slugpeople, and frequently stout and ugly.  This is not helped by the choice of holy colors, an unfortunate yellowish green.  While the cultists aren't law enforcers per se, they do not tolerate crap and are willing scrappers.  Frequent spiral motif in their iconography.  PCs involved in anything momentous in the city will often see them in the background, observing.  In fact, their appearance is usually the first sign that something serious is afoot. 

(inspired by this great illustration by Matthew Addams)

The Memory Tree:  This ancient pippala tree's leaves constantly move, even when there is no wind.  It's fruit is said to fortify the memory, allowing one to remember long forgotten facts, but also retain new knowledge.  Demands sacrifice of blood, which is poured directly onto the roots.  In the most holy of ceremony, a supplicant is tied to the tree for three days in in the heat and bled - if they survive, the god will impart a very important memory to them.  The holy men tending to the tree dress in pure white, and the tree is in the great arboretum west of the Granary District.  Grants the domains of Knowledge or Nature.

WoBek Jozefa: A donkey. God of swearing and of urgently telling people to stop before they hurt themselves or cause a scene.  Demands blood.  Gray is their holy color. Shrine in the Old Quarters

Garlok, Lord of Pain, "Towerface".  A demon.  His holy color is deep red and he demands human sacrifice.  Followers are vicious and violent (bullies at best, sadistic psychos at worse).  The temple is a garish and widely mocked mixture of a demon's head and small towers,  and is widely lauded as a masterpiece of architecture - as in it's suspected the architect's goal was to mock the demon *and* please his clients at the same time.  Located in the north edge of the Old Quarters.  Priests of Garlock are *not* clerics, but are warlocks (bladelocks frequently), as Garlock is a powerful fiend and not a true god. 

Concerted efforts by many to limit the Lord of Pain's influence in the Yellow City has been successful.  These efforts are two-fold.  One aspect is gently pulling away youth who are following him as an act of rebellion.  Second is much more muscular and involves limiting access to human sacrifice - most criminals are diverted to Vanek, the lord of Retribution,  most slave sellers will not deal with Garlok, and any kidnapping brings instant suspicion onto Garlok's followers.  Every generation or so things escalate and some kind of fight breaks out - usually nothing more than a bloody brawl but once a century or so can be a serious battle,  as some of the followers of Garlok can be quite powerful.  As the current priest is a man of power and ambition (warlorck level 11), such a conflict is looming.   Despite all of these issues, there still is a place for Garlok in the Yellow City, and his followers will gladly unleash havoc to protect their home.   Credits to Dyson Logos for the original idea 

Va Qabu, the little dog of sleep and clouds. He desires cheese for sacrifices. His followers are expected to paint their dwelling purple. A minor cult, kept alive by the fact it's popular with particularly lazy slugpeople. Shrine in the Golden Triangle district. Kalo Shofi is the high priestess - a rather influential slugwoman, as she runs the Golden Auction house.

Baakoo, the Lord of Light: Despite the imposing title, this is a minor cult of candle and lamp makers – he's the god of light making instruments, not light itself. His holy color is orange yellow (flame), and he takes the form of a 
brightly colored lizard. Sacrifice is fuel (must be plant/animal origin) that is burnt.  The modest temple is located on the Red Bank. Sole slugman follower is the "fireslug", Po Loma, from the Sea Star Company

Dyson, the Hoarder of Maps. An orang-outang, who demands the sacrifice of beer. The holy color is dark grey.  The shrine doubles as an archive, where many maps are collected. Domains granted are knowledge or Nature. Paid tribute to by both cartographers and those who depend on maps for their success/survival. 

From a game perspective, it may seem ... challenging to have so many gods... but it's actually freeing. You don't have to worry about duplications, or "why haven't we heard about this god before?!?".  The pantheon doesn't have to make sense - it's a crazy mish-mash, it's *all* good.  If a player wants a specific god, they can make one up.  They want a specific domain but aren't sure of the god?  Make up half a dozen and let them pick one.  

I have dozens more of these - if anyone *really* wants more let me know :) 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Reasonable rewards

So, a town of 3000 people has a trouble with brigands.  They offer a reward... how much should it be?  What is reasonable?  Can we "figure it out"?  It turns out, we can!

I will explain the math to arrive to this number in the second half of this post (I know it's not everyone's cup of tea) and I'll just skip ahead to the result for the moment 

So: The bigger the city/town/barony/village/community etc, the bigger the reward it can afford to offer. Of course, two communities could have the exact same number of citizens but have different level of wealth, but this is a baseline. You also have to consider the danger/importance of the task. If a goblin is stealing sheep, you don't offer 10 000 gp. Low importance/danger/priority tasks are "copper" level. Serious issues are silver. Dire ones are gold. 

So take the number of people in the town, multiply by 2, then give that amount of coins in reward of the suitable level. Here are a few examples:

The road leading to a village of 400 people has been afflicted by a band of brigands, severely impeding trade. Task level serious (silver): 400 X 2 = 800 sp = 80 gp to take on the brigands.  This isn't a lot of money, but the village *doesn't* have a lot of money, and the brigands haven't been attacking the village directly.

A town of 3000 people, poorly fortified. An aggressive tribe of orc is in the area and scouts indicate that it will probably raid the town, killing several people and inflicting major damage. at best (they could burn it to the ground...) Task level: dire (gold) so 3000 X 2 = 6000 gp to deal with the orcish threat.  The mayor is opening the city coffers to save his town.

A city of 50 000 people. Groups of convics are responsible to maintain the sewers, but some have disappeared. City guards have been unable to find anything. Divination magic indicates that the prisoners have not escaped but have been slain. City officials want to keep this quiet before panic follows. Task level low: 50 000 x 2 = 100 000 cp = 1000 gp 

You will note that this means that the reward for a low threat is quite large for a large city. This doesn't meant they are throwing their money around. Rather, smaller threats are simply dealt by the people the city have on permanent employ. The city would simply send a company of horsemen to sweep the road clear of brigands for example. It's only when their own resources are insufficient/inadequate that they need to hire "specialists" - the PCs.

I'll note that these reward represent a ceiling for rewards, and that a town may offer *less* money for a task to be accomplished.  But it also means that a hamlet of 100 people can't offer 5000 gp for the return of a kidnapped child - they just can't afford to.

I also note that these numbers are for 5e.  In older editions of D&D I believe that the laborer's salary was 1 sp/day, not two, so half the numbers.  For warhammer or the GLOG... I hadn't done the math yet, but using the above principles it shouldn't be too hard. 

Lastly, these rewards could mess up game systems where the XP reward is based on gold found/awarded, or games where magical items are easily purchased, so gold = power (I'm looking at you pathfinder), so it's something you should keep in mind.  

So how are those numbers derived? Well, how does a town make money? Taxes! How much money is there to tax? The 5e PHB on page 157 gives us a good idea of people's income. So first we have to divide the people into income slices. Here are the numbers I came up with. They are based on the assumption that many people were simple peasants/laborers and thus poor.  This is also linked to my "economic yardstick" concept -  in other words, what the PCs can be paid is based on what the standards of living are.

20% non tax payers: this include people too poor to pay taxes, criminals, children etc
50% poor: their income is 2 sp/day
20% modest: income is 1 gp/day
8% comfortable: 2 gp/day
1% wealthy: 4 gp/day
1% aristocratic: 10 gp/day. 

Using a spreadsheet you can easily calculate the population's total income per year, and then figure out the average income per citizen. I did this and calculated that it is about 220 gp/citizen year. 

So how much of this income can be taxed by the city? Well... not as much as you may think. The people are also paying religious tax *and* taxes going to the king/emperor/duchess whatever. So the mayor/baroness/city council can't take too much. I've estimated this to be 10%. 

So this mean that the city yearly budget is 22 gp/citizen. A city of 10 000 people therefore has 22 000 gp to run the city per year. I decided to round the numbers a bit to get 20 gp/citizen

A low threat would warrant a response representing 0.1% of the yearly budget. A wise mayor has probably money set aside for such events, which happen semi-regularly. that means 2 copper piece per citizen

A serious threat warrants a serious response, and 1% of the budget get devoted to this grave problem. That means 2 sp/citizen.

A dire threat is near catastrophic, and the town opens the coffers in the hope to lure powerful hero to save them! 10% of the budget - all that can be spared really - is devoted to this problem. Ie 2 gp/citizen.

There are threat levels which are quite frankly catastrophic, and deserve an even bigger response. However, at this point the sheer scope of the threat becomes more important than any rewards. The PCs will either go "The demon Shlub Megawrath from beyond the star is melting the bones of your children?!? This evil shall not stand!!!" .... or they will go "So you managed to anger 50 dragons eh? Thanks for letting us know. We have an urgent... appointment... in that other kingdom we have to go to... good luck!"

(this post is based on an old EN World post)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Ras Bolon - the first/last island of the Yellow City

Here is a location from my Yoon-Suin campaign.

The only way to reach the Yellow city from the interior of Yoon Suin is by boat, on the God River.  A hundred miles from the sea, all the various branches of the God River unite and the river becomes mighty indeed, well over a mile wide.  But at this point the rich tropical forests of Lamarakh transition into Láhág, the cursed jungle.  The Lamarakhi boatmen know they must sail for 3 days and nights without pause before they finally arrive at the Yellow City - to stop on the shore is to invite attack by the hostile wildlife of the jungle, or worse

There is one but one safe harbor between Lamarakh and the Yellow city - the island of Ras Bolon.  It is a place of smugglers, river pirates, spies and exiles, and hold its own dangers.  

The island is long and narrow, surrounded by a tall brick wall several feet deep, meant to keep out the flood waters.  During the monsoon, slaves operate pumps ceaselessly to remove the excess water.   The narrow streets see little sunlight and the smell of mold permutes the air.  Smuggled and stolen goods are sold here, and rumors and secrets are traded warily.

Visiting slugmen are invited - with great insistence - to visit the palace of the "Mage of Ras Bolon" - Fo Kulo (mage level 9), an exiled slugman.  He knows well that slugmen who leave the Yellow City carry an excess of yellow tea with them, and the easiest way to obtain it is to force other slugmen to give him a part of this excess - 50 day's worth of the life extending substance is the usual take.  Slugmen in the know therefore avoid Ras Bolon, but the wisest go see him anyway - Fo Kulo may be a arrogant criminal, but he can be reasonable and a good source of information and trade.  His control of the local supply of yellow tea make him the effective ruler over other slugmen exiles unwilling to truly move on beyond the Yellow City.  They fear his power and are eager to extend their lives.  His palace is a squat affair, well defended with many hidden rooms.

His chief rival in the city is Chagdun the Brown, Archmage of Ras Bolon, who resides in a tower at the very south of the island, from which he controls the messenger beetle communications between the island and the Yellow City proper.  Chagdun has two fields of study: enchanted waters and the history of the archmages of Yoon suin.  He will gladly pay for information or samples.  He is well served by a capable fakir and a trio of kenku. Chagdun is actually not a proper mage, but a capable swordsman who has an unusual talent for ritual magics (5e terms:  level 11 fighter/champion with magic initiate and ritual magic feats).  He is not interested in challenging Fo Kulo, but enjoys keeping the slugman off-balance and doubting the extent of his powers.

Currently residing in Ras Bolon is the armored priest Apu Lakmash, follower of the Elephant Demon (cleric 9).  He lets every traveler know that that the Cult of the Elephant Demon wishes the prince Hari Rajan, next in line to the throne of Runggara Ban (one of the hundred kingdoms), dead; and that he will pay 50 rubies for the prince's head.  It is known that the prince is in the Yellow City, but so far the Cult does not dare operate within the city proper.  The holyman is accompanied by two bodyguards - an albino eunuch with his mouth stitched shut, said to be a berserker (Barbarian 5); and a swords-woman from the Hundred Kingdom (5e: Veteran).  Would-be thieves after the rubies have been violently killed in public fashion.  Fo Kulo tolerates the priest's presence as he does not challenge his rule and have been staying at an inn owned by Fo Kulo, paying a premium price.  The rumors of the rich bounty have reached the Yellow City, but on one has found the prince yet.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Yoon Suin: An oligarchy in the Mountains of the Moon

The oligarchy of Baitadili is located west of Silash Vo and can be reached via a high mountain pass in the summer.  Most visitors however access it via one of the many branches of the God River.  This is done through a small river port (Kardang), who's best known inhabitant is  a Troll inkeeper.  He's very popular with the locals for his politeness and willingness to eat pirates. 

The capital is Padang, where the multi-stepped palace of the Chand can be found.  The Chand never shows him(?)self and is mostly concerned with adding more layers to his step-like palace.  His steward is constantly stressed trying to keep the whole thing afloat - luckily for the Chand, the nearby amethyst mine is very lucrative.   The Chand is also served by an ancient one-eyed mage who has the power to animate small objects.

To the east is a large valley at a higher altitude, filled with a large bog.  The locals collect peat from the bog to use as fuel, as well as bog iron.  Berries picked in the summer are used to make a tart wine.  The ruler of Leh is constantly frustrated at how hard they have to work to make ends meet and how unhelpful the Chang is.  To make matters worse, the bog workers have been going missing at an alarming rate.  Also troublesome is a dwarven's clan move into the impossibly tall tower of the Arch-Mage Velermert (who also never helps) and subsequent blowing up of the middle section.  They are determined to reach the still floating top to get revenge for their lost kin. They refuse to pay taxes, and Leh needs the revenue.
(Inspiration for the tower:  Dyson Logos.  Bog based on )

To the west is a valley where the yak herders pasture their animals in the summer.  On the side of this valley is another tower, where a two-headed oracle is said to live.  She is guarded by 13 warriors that cannot die.  One head of the oracle is of a wizened crone, who makes ominous predictions while looking at chicken entrails.  She is ignorant of the second head, a small child, who makes commentary on her predictions.  To visit the Oracle and ask one question, one must provide :

13 sacks of barley, 13 bottles of berry-wine, 13 gold coins, 13 eggs, 13 blocks of peat
One chicken
One secret

To properly see in full size, right click, open image in new tab
The inhabitants of Baitadili are troubled by evil dreams, and madness runs rampant.  Murders and suicide have increased, and animals are born with strange mutations.   The local temples have proven unable to fix the problem, and the Chand has done nothing.  Some say that the Fire Mountain, who's peak catches fire and magical gates open once every 27 years, is the source of the corruption...

(In my campaign, the main villain in this adventure, Madreus, was a follower of the Kraken who wanted to shift the inner gate to allow the Krakens to bypass the Yellow City...)

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Tomb of the Serpent Kings

I decided that I wanted to try running the GLOG, and the GM for the Thursday game was unavailable.  I offered to "try running something old-school".  This is a Pathfinder group, but some of the players had started with AD&D 1e, and we had a guest player with next to zero D&D experience.

I had prepped character sheets and pre-rolled backgrounds.  Creating 4 PCs took 20 minutes flat, and away we went!

I ran the beginning of the Tomb of the Serpent Kings by Skerples. 

If you are more interested in my impression of the system/dungeon, scroll down.

The heroes were:

Elrond, a Low Elf knight and historian.  I informed the player that low elves are still much better than humans, and he proceeded to roll better stats than anyone else

Smartas, the human Illusionist.  Has a fear of cheese.   The new player, sarcastic but momentarily out of inspiration, came up with this fetching name.  We grabbed random miniatures and hers was much bigger than the others so it was agreed that this was an unfortunate residual illusion that had never left her, and she appeared to be 7 feet tall.  Also has the most HP in the party. 

Argus the Charming Envoy, a charismatic antling barbarian from the Formic Lands. An expert horseman (alas without a mount) and on a diplomatic mission to make friends with all the squishy people.  This expedition seemed like a good way to make friends.

Twitch the human thief.  Rolled 10 in every stats except 12 in con and 8 in charisma.  The perfect "this is a playable character".  An ex brigand, a bit dubious about the whole affair.

Dwayne, a rock.
Elrond was a forgotten son of an important family in the Elven Court, and desperately needed money.  He also was a dabbling historian, and he found an ancient book about an extinct race, the Serpent Men.  Finding a map to one of their tombs, he figured that since they were all dead and not proper followers of the Church, no one would protest.  It would be easy money, what could possibly go wrong?

Thinking that perhaps he shouldn't be doing this alone, but not trusting his fellow elves, he assembled a motley crew, and together they arrived at the village of Borgenhoff, near the location of the tomb.  Based on his map, it would be located on a hill called "the castle hill" by the locals.  Down on their last coppers and leery of letting anyone know of their treasure hunt, the would-be tomb robbers decided not to gather any information and headed straight for the hill.

Good fortune had them find the hill without too much difficulty, and the entrance of the tomb.  Elrond realized that the wizard had no weapon - a fact that no one else seemed concerned about - and no torches.  However, Twitch had invested in a small package that turned out to be  4 torches and a piece of flint.  (The player was very hesitant about this game mechanism, but he became a convert at that point).  Argus loaned Smartas his bow - he was going to use his great axe anyway.

The party entered the tomb, finding a clay sarcophagus.  Breaking it open released an ominous greenish gas, but Elrond was able to quickly jump back.  Inside, a snake skeleton (not a serpent-man) and a small glint.... very small.  A tiny amulet worth a single gp announced Twitch.  The second sarcophagus was smashed open by Argus by dropping a piece of the first sarcophagus on it... and he got a face full of toxic gas.  Again, a tiny golden amulet was the sole reward.

Getting tired of this, the would be heroes went outside and found a sizable rock to break things at a safe distance.  Once the players realized that this rock could be used again and again (why not?), the rock was quickly called "Dwayne".   Dwayne the rock was put to good use and broke the third sarcophagus.   Inside, another tiny amulet and a magical robe - which attempted to strangle Smartas, but the rotting fabric was easily vanquished.

The fourth sarcophagus had another tiny amulet and one brass ring... but it was magical!  Smartas was delighted to see that it turned her finger into a weapon - the nail grew, bifurcated and became 2 sharp, venomous fangs.  She was less delighted when she realized that she couldn't take the ring off.   

The tunnel ended in a door, barred from the outside with a slab of stone resting on iron begs.  Was this meant to keep something *in*?  The party approached the door warily.  Twitch said the floor looked clear, no pressure plates... but what about the ceiling?  A large section looked different than the rest... Argus realized that the iron pegs were not inserted in the stone wall, but in slots - implicating that they could be moved up and down.   A plan was devised - Argus and Elrond would lift one end of the slab while twich would hold the beg down, and Smartas would shove the slot with clay shards from the sarcophagi, to stop the pegs from rising.  This succeeded... the party didn't know what the trap *was*, but at least they were safe from it.

Pass the trap door, and still worried about what the door was supposed to keep in, the party pressed on into a larger room, with 3 sarcophagus.   Perhaps this was it, where the real treasure was to be found?

But no - the sarcophaguses (sarcophagi ?) had no treasure at all, but animated skeletons! A furious battle ensued.  The party's weapons were not very effective vs their bony foes, but they prevailed.  Injured, and with Argus's lungs still burning from the toxic gas, they retreated outside to get some fresh air and have lunch

Elrond was not happy.  All they had to show for their effort were a few measly golden amulets and a magical ring that was probably cursed.  The Serpent King's tomb was supposed to be a magnificent affair, not this shoddily built meager crypt.  There was still one room left, perhaps this was where the treasure was kept?

The party went back in.  To save on torches - Smartas poured some water on the floor to create a reflection of the torch, and pulled it into reality from the Mirror Dimension.  It was a bit dimmer and a bit warbled, but it would do, and Twitch put out the real torch.  I reminded the party that if Smartas lost concentration the mirror-torch would go out, but they weren't too concerned.  The last room contained a large statue of a snake god, poorly built.  Elrond cursed, but Argus noticed the water was trickling from the ceiling.  With great effort - and fear of traps - the statue was pushed aside.  A shaft went down, but with convenient hand hold.  Putting the torch in his belt - haha, it doesn't burn! - Argus went down, carefully inspecting each handhold.  He reach the bottom - a great hall lined with statues of snake-men warriors, each nearly 10 foot tall.  The rest of the party joined him.   

Elrond knew that this was it - the workmanship of the statues here was far superior to the floor above.  There was gold in here he could smell it!.  His mood improved even more then the party found a secret passage behind one of the statues - a small side room, with collapsed furniture, 2 spears (sill usable, the shafts were heavily lacquered) and a small silver statue worth 5 gp.  Things were looking up!  Twitch armed himself with one of the spears.   

The brave adventurers moved forward, coming to a great octagonal room, like with doors and with a pit of murky water in the middle - the water from above had filled it to the brim, and there was an odd smell of licorice to it.  The party started probing the water with the spears - and two animated, undead hands came leaping out!  

Despite these monsters being (in theory) less dangerous than the skeletons, the party had great difficulties vanquishing the pair of grasping claws of death.  There was also a hidden danger - if Smartas got hit, the magical torch would vanish!  But that fact was forgotten by the would-be heroes.   Argus's throat was crushed, and the party's efforts are reviving him proved in vain.  His vestigial arms and antenna twitched feebly... and he was no more.  The party looked around, considering what to do next.  They were all injured - save Smartas who had single-handedly dispatched one of the two claws with her poisonous finger - and shocked that Argus had perished.   

They heard a voice from behind them - a single dwarf with a torch.  "Hello?  I'm here to deal with the goblin problem?"

And this is where we ended the session.


The GLOG is a system that works, and I think it would do well for any sort of quick, gritty game.  It was liberating to run a less rule heavy system, and I anticipate I could improvise with this rather well.  The characters can be rolled up quickly, although the GM can speed things up by preparing class specific sheets in advance, as well as the backgrounds - they can involve several rolls on various tables, and slow things down (preparing these sheets took more time than preparing the adventure...).  I think that had I not done this prep work, rolling up the characters would have taken an hour instead of 20 minutes... which is still faster than 5e, and *much* faster than pathfinder.

We rolled a replacement character - a dwarven summoner - and it was fun to do so, although the player ended up with a strange combo for his two summoned entities - Iescophcos, Arrowhead of Sorrow and Burchub, Bringer of Infatuation... it's a fun class but this can happen... 

We didn't get to do a "real" test of the magic system, although I have to say that I was very impressed by the wizard using the mirror spell to duplicate a torch and extend their limited light-resources.  I remain convinced that it is one of the best aspect of the system.  

I think it's important to highlight the fact to the players that although they shouldn't get too attached to their characters, the characters themselves aren't suicidal.  "you are allowed to run away" is something that players used to newer editions may not grasp right away, and "combat as war" (vs "combat as sport") is a habit they have to break.

One thing I did struggle with as a GM was how to handle trap detection.  If the party says "we look at the floor" - if there is a pit trap there, would that detect the trap automatically?  Do I make them roll? I feel I need to consult other OSR GMs on how this is supposed to be done, I don't think I "got" it right.

The Dungeon:

This is definitely a solid and fun dungeon.  I don't think it will be remembered as the best dungeon ever made, but it's definitely better than average, worth playing and a great one for beginning players.  I do have two criticisms however:

1:  The first level - the false tomb - is supposed to be underwhelming.  It's a decoy tomb after all.  However, should the session end before the real tomb is discovered, it could be a poor first impression for a new player.

2:   There is a "quick reference" table at the end of the dungeon.  This is useful but... it contained information not depicted in the main entry for the room!  If I take room 4 as an example, the size, appearance and smell of the room is only detailed in this quick reference table, not in the main text.  So I had to go back and forth, and that was slightly annoying.