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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbajal_Valley )

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.  

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Your economic yardstick - the laborer

I once read this story about a tailor who had a client who was in a great hurry.  The tailor measured the man's thumb circumference, and told the client he could go.

The client protested - surely that wasn't enough.  The tailor answered that if he had the man's thumb circumference, he could multiply to get the wrist circumference.  If he had the wrist, then he could deduce the neck, and from the neck the waist etc etc. 

What does this have to do with a fantasy economy?  Well everything is interconnected.  The price of a simple sword is based on the cost of iron, but also on the labor cost for the smith who made it, and perhaps also of the merchant who brought it to you.  The smith's labor cost are in part based on the cost of food and fuel, and those also have labor costs.   Meanwhile the merchant has to do run a profit and he has staff to pay, taxes and bribes to deal with and all sorts of complication.

Because of this, and because our historical records of prices in the middle ages are not great (and vary a lot depending on the era and the location), it's *really hard* to have a price list in gaming that doesn't collapse upon close scrutiny.  Usually related items make sense - if a short sword is 10 gp, the long sword might be 15 gp for example.  But is the price of that sword reasonable when compared to an ox?  A cart?  A lantern?  A meal?  Maaaaybe?   

I'm not suggesting to redo entire price lists so they are all "correct".  To do so would be a herculean task and not the best use of your time as a GM.  But sometimes you *do* want to verify if a price is "reasonable".  And for that, you need a yardstick.  You need a value that you have decided "of all the prices in the book, *this* one is correct".  This yardstick should be something pretty fundamental.  

I propose the cost of living - specifically, the cost to hire a general laborer.  The laborer is a poor person - but they won't work for an amount that won't somewhat meet basic living needs.  So this value is tied to a lot of things.

In older editions of D&D, this was 1 sp/day.  In 5e, the "poor" costs of living is 2 sp/day, or, in Yoon-Suin terms, 1 rupee a day (1 sp/day is considered "miserable").  This is a doubling, but it's still in the same ballpark.  We aren't after an *exact* value here, but rather a nice round number that is plausible and we can use that number to figure out other things.

Is this value plausible?  Well in ancient Greece, half a drachma (a 4.3 gram silver coin) could provide for a poor citizen so we are certainly in the right ballpark.

Warhammer also has charts of yearly income for various types of hireling.  A skilled mercenary (ie, a PC...) can expect a yearly rate of  25-50 gp a year, ie roughly 0.5-1 gp a week (in this system 1 gp = 20 sp) or a few sp a day.  Meanwhile, a peasant will make about 12-15 gp a year.  Clearly in this system 1 sp is worth more... but we are still in the right ballpark.  

So this is what I propose - Whatever the game system you are using, look at the cost of living as your fundamental economic unit, whenever you need to figure out if the value of something is plausible.  Both D&D and warhammer frpg have laid those out pretty clearly.   

I'll be writing more about fantasy economies, but this is the foundation upon everything else will be built. 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Cheating death in Yoon-Suin

Slug men do not live long... in theory. Their natural life-span is perhaps 50 years. However, the Tea Masters have long ago discovered the secrets of a life-extending tea. A slugman who drinks a cup of this elixir daily can expect to live 150-250 years. The slug-men call this simply "yellow tea" - their near dependence on it is a well kept secret.

There is now enough yellow tea for every slugmen... But it wasn't always so. Initially, the yellow tea was reserved for wizards. As supplies increased, the tea was given to other spellcasters as well. Today, the core of the tradition remains and is sacrosant: a slugman must demonstrate that they can wield magic (without items) in a short but critical ceremony called "the Proving" so that they can earn the right to yellow tea. Cheating invites exile.

Those who pass this important rite of passage gain access to a long life and the full privileges of being a slugman. Slugmen who fail to Prove themselves are second-class citizens, doomed to die early and aforded few chances to breed. Some become resigned and hedonistic petty officials. Others become driven, determine to find magic, or live life to the fullest. They often resort to crime, as they fear exile less than other slugmen - who fear losing access to the special tea. There is no time limit for a slugman to "Prove" themselves - if one manages to master magic later in life despite failing earlier, perhaps by finding a new (or ancient) form or magic, or by forging a pact with some petty god or entity, they will gain access to the yellow tea.

Some slugmen who haven't proven themselves take to eating large quantities of solid tea in hope to extending their lives and it somewhat works (gaining 10-15 years); this behavior is explained as "tea addiction".

Scholars have noted that the support of slugmen who fail to master arcane magic and who start worshiping various gods (and thus become holymen) plays an important part in maintaining the large number of shrine to obscure gods in the Yellow City - a single slugman's patronage can ensure a failing's cult survival.

The yellow tea does not work properly for humans. It halts aging for a decade or two, invariably followed by a fatal wasting disease. Some other alchemical means can prolonge human life for some times, but amongst archmage, these are insufficient.

The choice remaining are lichdom (wich few take), or undergo the ritual kown as Enftebtemang's Palmastic Transformation. This complex procedure results in the mage losing his head, and faces appearing on his palm. This may damage sanity somewhat, but does extend life by several centuries. Some say that when the two palms are joined together, the face changes, and Enftebtemang can speak through.

(See page 259 and 262 of the book for notes and illustration of such an archmage)

Design note: This was inspired by the notion that "all slugmen are magic users or holy men." Why are slugmen so eager to learn magic? Because it's a matter of life and death

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The House of Beetles

Here is one of many noble slugmen house in the Yellow City, in the Yoon Suin setting.

The house of beetles  (Waa Bu) used to be a small scholarly house specializing in the study of insects.  Their studies allowed them to breed and control Messenger Beetles, which when released will instinctively return to the location they associate with their nests - perhaps carrying as mall message with them.

This discovery has become a lucrative messenger beetle service connecting the slugpeople Houses as well as many other institutions, as the beetles are able to cross the Yellow City much faster than a courier.   This has allowed the house to rise in importance, and although they have nowhere the influence of one of the 17 houses on the Council, they are much more powerful than the average house of scholars. 

Ironically, this large concentration of messenger beetles attracted predators, and the house had to employ archers to protect incoming/leaving messengers.  Over time the house thus developed a reputation for crack archery.   To succeed like a beetle archer means to get very good at something despite it never being your goal.

The House of beetle is located in the Old Quarters.  The house has almost 150 members, along with numerous servants who look after the messenger beetles and the archers.  Their compound features many tall towers.

Notable members include Qa Fol, who deals in commercial matters and is a holyman of the Lord of Bread (level 4) and who bemoans the quantities of bread he has to eat.  An ex-member is Fo Kulo (mage level 9), who was now exiled for intercepting and selling Council messages.

5e Slugman conversion

By Matthew Adams

I've been running a 5e campaign in Yoon Suin and I've found that this edition of D&D works well with the setting... but a conversion for slugmen had to be made.  Here is my humble attempt:

(quite note: my game has no multiclass and (almost) no feats)


ABILITY SCORES: +2 int, +1 wisdom. Slugmen have for generations favored mental acuity above all else, and most received a thorough education

AGE: Slugmen live to either 50 or 200-250 years, depending on if they can "Prove" themselves. (this will be explained in another post!)

Alignment: Slugmen tend to be lawful, being at the top of a intricate society. They tend to be somewhat indifferent to issues of good and evil.

Size: Slugmen are a bit shorter but stouter than humans (size medium)

Speed: Slugmen walking speed is 25 feet

Vision: Slugmen do not have darkvision but can see 360 degrees due to their flexible eye stalks. They can also look in different directions at the same time. However, their vision at very long rage is inferior to humans (normally won't affect in-game play).

Slippery: Slugmen's bodies are flexible and covered in a thin layer of mucus. They gain advantage in escaping magical or mundane bonds, grappling attempts, the tentacles of a monster etc. This does not protect vs paralysis however. They also have advantage to checks when trying to squeeze through a narrow opening.

Poison resistance: Slugmen consume so many teas, opiums etc that they have advantage on saves vs poisons, and resistance to poison damage. They can also eat almost anything.

Magic harmony: A slugman can attune to 4 magical items, not 3. The 4rth must be of lesser power (common, uncommon or rare)

Scholarly: The Slugman is proficient in one of the following skills: Arcana, History, Religion or Investigation

Language: You know both the trade tongue of the Yellow City as well as the Slugmen language

Subrace: none Edit: Well over a year later, I think I can state that this worked quite well, so this is now "playtested" content - although with only one PC (playing a Knowledge Cleric)

Slugmen Biology

Here are my notes on slugmen biology and reproduction, and how it affects their culture

tl:dr: slugs are not mammals, and slugmen are not a natural race.

Slugmen are hermaphrodites and do not have a biological gender. However, a few (perhaps 10%) do adopt the human custom of having genders.

Slugmen were "invented" by the Archmage Enftebtemang a very, very long time ago to assist him in his endeavors. At the end of his very long life, he revealed to his servants the secret so they could continue their race and his work (keep those damned Krakens from going upriver!)

When two slugmen mate, they exchange spermatozoa and fertilize their eggs internally. After a few months of gestation, the eggs are hatched, about 2d4 per parent. The eggs are then given to the Tea Master, who will bathe them in strange substances and perform arcane rituals for another few months. The eggs will then hatch into a large slug (1-2 pounds). These sluglings will be fed special diets and closely guarded for about a year. At this point, the surviving slugs will be subjected to various tests. The one deemed superior will be selected for a final ritual and series of treatment, resulting in a metamorphosis yielding a small, young slugman, at which point the Teamaster's role end and the parents begin anew. This metamorphosis is taxing and not all sluglings survive - weaker sluglings are not expected to make it and "disposed of". Because of this, the average mating will yield one or two slugman offspring (ie one per parent if all goes well).

Rarely, a clutch will yield two sluglings of superior quality with no clear winner. In those cases, they will both be metamorphosed. If they both survive, they are called "clutch siblings" and are the equivalent of twins.

This biology results in a complicated network of family ties. The slugman who provided the spermatozoa is considered the "father" and the slugman who carried the eggs the "mother" (slugmen who adopt genders will usually only perform one of these tasks. To genderless slugmen, there is no gendered connotations). Slugmen who are born of the same mating (but not the same clutch) are called "mate-siblings" and are considered almost as close as clutch-siblings. There are also couple-siblings (born of the same two parents but a different mating) and parent siblings (who share one parent). Cousin relationships are tangled indeed.

The key role the Teamaster plays in reproduction gives them tremendous power in slugman society. They are never the leader of the house, but are often a neutral party that can help arbitrate intra-house conflicts.

Teamasters constantly refine and experiment with their incubation protocols, trying to match bloodlines, ingredients and rituals to produce powerful slugmen offspring. The recipe and rituals that will successfully create a slugman that can wield magic is well understood, but this results in an individual who can only cast a few spells and is quite lazy - ie the average slugman. To generate the type of slugperson who will be more capable - the leadership type , or the adventurer - requires much experimentation. A bit of powdered dragon scale might result in a sorcerer instead of a wizard (to use 5e terms). A competent teamaster is key to a house's success.

If two slugmen breed and no Teamaster treats the eggs... you get slugs, nothing more. Slugmen who are considered abject failures may get to mate, but they won't get to breed - why ruin a future offspring with bad genes?

Slugmen have eyes on stalks/tentacles, and have 2 "chemical sensing" stalks they use to smell and taste - they dip these tentacles in their food before eating it. Their mouth contains a large powerful tongue studded with small teeth-like projections which they use to rasp at hard food. This mouth - the "eating mouth" is not used to speak as it is not connected to the lung. The fact that humans speak with their eating mouth is clear evidence of Slugmen superiority.
Although many slugmen have very refined tastes, they are omnivores that can eat almost anything organic - some slugmen dishes are simply unpalatable to humans.

Slugmen breathe through a large pore over their right shoulder - the pneumostome. This opening is also used to speak and is known as "the speaking mouth". Slugmen breath slower (2-3 breath per minutes) than humans but in larger volumes. To put your right foot forward in slugmen society is the correct one, so that the breathing pore faces towards your interlocutor. Putting your left foot forward when speaking is disrespectful as it faces the speaking mouth away from your interlocutor and puts the anus forward (which is near the left shoulder).

Slugmen have two independent eyes on tentacles.  They do not see very well at long distance but have effectively 360 degree vision.  A slugman who keeps both eyes on something is very intrigued by said things. 

Slugmen have hands with 3 fingers and one thumb, and feet with 3 toes. Their fingers have a few hard knobs on them vaguely analogous to nails on human

Slugmen are mostly boneless, but have an internal vestigial shell that helps protect some of the organs. A secondary shell helps protect the six-lobed brain.

Slugmen prefer humid environment as very dry conditions can desiccate them if they don't drink enough water/tea.

Lastly, slugmen are resistant to poison in general (all those opium binges and capacity to eat almost anything) BUT they are vulnerable to alcohol. Primates - and humans in particular - are far more resistant to alcohol than most animals. How do you think an elephant - a 5 ton animal - can get drunk on eating fermented apples?! Because our capacity to drink is abnormal, and they don't have that. Treat each drink a slugman drinks as the equivalent of 8 drinks, at least.