Saturday, April 30, 2016


So everyone's seen 5e's Inspiration Points.  They're soft, flabby mechanics that seem like a imperfect adapation of other games' mechanics.  And most damning: they don't do what they're supposed to do: make roleplaying more relevant, and make your character's values matter.

I think they're a little good but mostly shitty for various reasons, prime among them the fact that (a) the DM has to keep track of everyone's triggers, and (b) Inspiration is transferable between characters like some dissociated mechanic currency.

Anyway, here's my (attempted) fix.


A Conviction is your character's answer to the question of “What do I care most about?” or “What am I willing to risk my life for?” or “What principles do I use to guide my actions?” Not everyone has Convictions, but adventurers always do, because it's desperate, deadly work and no one engages in it without a good reason.

A Conviction might be “Seek knowledge.” Or “Help the innocent.” Or “Money is power.” Or “Protect the healer.” Or even “I like boobs.” These are morals, instincts, bonds.

There are two blank spots on your character sheet for your Convictions. You can fill these in whenever you want. If you already have a clear image of your character during character creation, fill them in then. Or play your character, get to know them, and then fill them in when their Convictions become apparent.

Each Conviction can be charged or empty.

You charge your Conviction whenever you follow it and get into trouble. Or at least, whenever it is not an optimal strategy and you pursue it anyway. If you “seek knowledge” and read the blasphemous tome even though you know it's dangerous and not really necessary, you can charge that Conviction. Whenever you “help the innocent” by tending to the fallen villager instead of helping your teammates out in combat, you charge that Conviction.

The point is, charging a Conviction always has a cost. It's never free.  It's also very obvious, because your character is doing things that they wouldn't normally do, and that makes it easy for the DM to award Conviction.

You spend your Conviction to get +10 to a d20 roll, but you can only spend your Conviction when it is related to the same Conviction. You can only spend your “Seek knowledge” Conviction when succeeding on that roll will bring you closer to gaining new knowledge. It wouldn't work if you were trying to kill a random alligator in a swamp, because you don't usually learn things by killing random alligators in swamps. Likewise, you can only use your “Protect the innocent” Conviction when you need this roll to be successful in order to protect an innocent.

A lot of this is up to the DM, and players should talk to their DM about this before they write down their Convictions. If your conviction is “Survive at all costs”, does that mean that they can spend it in any combat where they risk dying (and that's probably most combats). I'd say no, you can only use it in combats where it looks like you're losing, but in your game, it's up to your DM.

Bonus XP

At the end of any session in which everyone agrees you did a good job roleplaying at least one of your Convictions, you get +100 XP.

You don't have to gain or spend Conviction, nor do you have to talk in a funny voice. You just have to show that you have that Conviction by word or by deed.

The Seven Deadly Stinks

Goblintown has many jewels, but most prized among them are the Seven Deadly Stinks.

Goblins are uniquely capable of savoring the fine distinctions of these great stenches, while humans often lack the necessary nasal apparatus.

When collected fresh, the Seven Deadly Stinks make for a kingly gift.  Not only are they a source of civic pride--delicacies that only Goblintown could produce--they are also fun to smell.  While they are occasionally stored in jars and savored over months (much like humans and their whiskey), it is more common for the Stinks to be consumed in a single evening by the recipient and their close friends in a bacchanal of nausea, feasting, music, and vomiting.

In fact, the successful collection of the Seven Deadly Stinks offer a way to escape Goblintown (and "win" the module).  If presented with such a gift, it is likely that Gorp, Son of Gorp will wipe a single yellow tear off his cheek and order the reopening of the Tunnel Road.  The PCs are invited to the stink-party, of course.

If the PCs are given a quest to collect the Seven Deadly Stinks, they are paid after the delivery of each Stink, with a large bonus paid after the set is completed.

The Seven Deadly Stinks may also be given out as a punishment, much like the clearing of the Augean stables.

The Seven Deadly Stinks

The Stinks are usually collected in wide-mouth jars manufactured for this purpose and then sealed with stretched goat bladder and twine.  If the Stink is gaseous, a sealable jar is a requirement.  Each of the different Stink Jars has a different ugly face on the front, as dictated by tradition.

Be sure to use nausea rules for these.  I enjoy calling for a Con check.  On a failed save, you spend one round vomiting.  Regardless, you get -2 Attack and AC as long as you are exposed to the stuff, but you can postpone this penalty by 2 rounds by plugging your nose and holding your breath.

1 - That Ol' Sludge

All of the sewage of Goblintown washes through the streets.  It passes through the poorer-and-therefore-less-filthy upper reaches and into the decadent garbage-maze that is Lower Goblintown.  It eventually ends in one of three large sewage pools.  The deepest and oldest of this gritty sludge is known as That Ol' Sludge, and it is much more potent than the upper layers.  It stinks of feces and rotting seaweed.

The difficulty is two-fold.  First, it is difficult to get to the bottom of the mucky pond, which is much denser than water, and with a consistency of mud.  Water breathing doesn't work on such sludge.  Second, the bottom of the pond is covered with sharp bits of metal and medical waste.  Ropes may be severed and incautious fingers may be cut open.  The pool contains a veritable apocalypse's worth of disease, and anyone diving to the bottom must save against 1d4 different diseases, or 2d4 different diseases if they have any open wounds at the time.  Goblins who make the dive usually die from the various diseases over the next few days, even with their prodigious natural resistances to filth.

Heavenly sludge is traditionally scooped by hand.  While you can paddle out in a little canoe and stick down a bucket at the end of a 20' pole, there is so much garbage (rusted metal, rotten wood, piles of fish bones) that the bucket cannot reach the deepest layers.  

You have three choices of which pool to dive.
  • The Common Pool is pretty well picked over, and a diver has only a 2-in-6 chance of finding any of That Ol' Sludge on the bottom.  (Divers usually only get once chance, since vomiting and anaphylactic shock set in quickly after the sludge-dive.)
  • Snorglum's Pool has a small otyugh at the bottom of the pool.  Snorglum is a popular mascot of the town, and killing him will engender much ill will.
  • The Temple Pool is private and well guarded using the latest goblin technologies.  A mandatory donation is required to access the pool: 100g per visitor.  The fee is doubled if your antics disturb the goblins meditating at the pools edge.
2 - Trolljoy Treacle

Trolljoy treacle is produced by people (including goblins) who are infected with Trolljoy, a kind of dysentery.  The sufficient amount can be collected in five days of treacle sickness (or one day, if five people are sick).  This amount is then boiled down into a more concentrated form and presented.

Trolljoy is a common disease in Goblintown.  Although it is not hard to find a goblin suffering from it, their powerful immune systems usually clear the disease in three days or less.  And of course, anyone emerging from one the filth pools has probably contracted the disease.

3 - Dogpile Delight

To manufacture this delicacy, you must first pile a bunch of dogs together into a pile.  At least 20 will suffice.  Dogs can be bought from goblins, or they can be captured, as many mangy packs roam goblintown.  The pile of dogs must be stacked up in the center of Goblintown, because the formulation requires sunlight for proper putrescence, and this is the only part of Goblintown that enjoys the most sunlight (from the caldera rim, thousands of feet above).

The real challenge here is to keep goblins from stealing your dogs.  Twenty dogs represents a fortune of caloric wealth in Goblintown, and there are no shortage of desperate goblins.  DM Advice: Goblins will try running up and stealing dogs, but they'll also try digging tunnels, fishing poles, and releasing a giant grub as a distraction.  Your players always get to scheme, but now it is your chance.  

After a couple days of rotting in the sun, your dogpile is ready for harvest.  (Your stink-sommelier can advise you on the exact timing.)  All of the dogs are thrown into the ceremonial dog-press and squeezed, and the juices collected.  Then the dogs are set on fire, and allowed to burn to near completion.  A few of the larger chunks are thrown into the jar of dog juice and voila!  C'est fini!

4 - The Sulphur Vent

There is a sulphur vent behind the temple.  The goblins claim it vents stenches directly from the pits of hell, and it certainly smells plausible.

At the bottom of a 100' crevasse/stairwell is the circular pit, 20' in diameter.  A narrow pillar of yellow-green gas rises from the exact center, where it disperses against the ceiling 30' above.  Fire-things emerge from the pit as soon as they are disturbed (via light, noise, or sight).  They resemble boiling black slugs the size of men, with long lashing tendrils.  If a tendril is severed, it collapses into a burning liquid, like lit gasoline.  Stats as small fire elementals, except the movement speed is halved and their reach is increased to 10'.

5 - Goldencloud

To harvest this particular stench, you must piss on a fire-thing (or fire elemental) and harvest the cloud.

6 - Roper Dribblings

First, you must get a hold of a century egg.  This is an egg (of any sort) that has been buried underground for so long that it has turned black and gelatinous on the inside.  You can buy them for about 100g from any goblin that has enough patience to grow century eggs, or you can steal it from them.  It'll usually be buried under a room in their house somewhere.

There is a famous roper that lives in the center of an intersection in the ruins of Old Gobintown.  He is called King Bad, and you must feed him the century egg.  This usually involves a decoy or a ham stuffed with the century egg.

King Bad will vomit a nacreous liquid that smells of rotten flesh and acetone.  It must be scraped off the roper's chin before it dries.

7 - The Fart of the Stirgewife

The stirges that you see flying around are all male.  The hive that they return to, the thing that looks like a dozen huge clams fused together, that is the female stirge.  Or rather, multiple female stirges fused together.  The house wife is both house and wife.  About two hours after eating a large blood meal, the stirgewife will fart.  It smells of blood, ammonia, and rancid butter.

Any goblin can tell you that the first step in harvesting this delicacy is to fill a bunch of goat bladders with goat blood.  (I know that a lot of goblin plans begin like this, but bear with me.)

Then, all you have to do is find some stirges and wave the goat bladders at them.  10' poles are recommended.  The stirges will drink their fill and then depart back to the stirgewife, in order to disgorge their blood meal.  For a while, the stirges will be quiescent.  They do not hunt unless their wives are hungry.

When you see the fart occur--and you cannot miss it--you must run past the hive very quickly and catch the fart in a jar.  And then continue running, because stirges will swarm anyone that gets near their wife.

goblin sharks are so named because they look
Extra Credit

If you really want to impress Gorp, son of Gorp, you may also wish to present him with a pierbatgrub, which is made by stuffing a piercer with a dire bat, which is in turn stuffed with rot grubs.

DM Notes

Some of these challenges are a little open-ended.  Your players will have to come up with clever ways to harvest the sulfur cloud, for example.  And the ways listed above are simply the traditional goblin ways of doing things, not necessarily the best way.  (You don't actually have to piss on a fire-thing, for example.  You can just throw a bucket of piss on top of it.)

Thursday, April 28, 2016


Even if prophecy were possible, it would be impossible.

This is because as soon as you know the future, you can't help but change the future by virtue of you knowing.

Imagine that you learn that you will meet the love of your life next Saturday, fall in love, and have six kids.  This is a 100% true prophecy at the time at which it was made.

But then, that future will no longer come to pass because you have exited that timeline, by virtue of you knowing it.  Suddenly, you are very conscious of where you were planning to go on Saturday.  Your friends invited you to the city, were you going to go with them?  Or were you going to stay home, and maybe just go to the grocery store?  And should you get a haircut before you meet the love of your life?

Point is, you are no longer behaving like you were before you received the gift of prophecy.  You are acting like a crazy person.  And even if you do pick the right course of action (stay home) and meet the love of your life at the grocery store, you might still fuck it up by coming on too strong, being too shy, or not bringing a pen that you could lend out (because you were too busy getting a haircut)--all things that you wouldn't have done if you had been ignorant of your future.

By learning your future, you have changed it.

Quiet Prophets

The quiet prophets are ones that allow themselves to be sealed inside tombs, where they quietly write out some cuniform prophecy and then die meekly in the darkness.  As long as that prophecy doesn't leave that sealed chamber, it cannot change the future, and therefore invalidate itself.  A prophecy is only "fresh" for as long as it remains unknown.

And hopefully, their tomb was marked with a scheduled date, so that the tomb could be opened at the appropriate time, where the prophecy is early enough to be of some use, but not so late the the knowledge of the prophecy spoils itself with knowledge.

But of course, the knowledge of the perfect time to open the tomb also requires prophecy, so any number chiseled on the outside will also have to be either a prophecy (which self-invalidates, as people will speculate on what that date portends, and therefore spoil the prophecy) or a guess.  Both of which carry their own risks.

It's not that it's difficult to see the future, it's that it's so easy that anyone can do it.

Clerics of all stripes can see the future accurately.  And many of them change their behavior based on the information they receive, which of course means that all previous prophecies are invalidated almost as quickly as they are written down.

You can make a prophecy about what will happen next Wednesday, but by Monday someone else will have made a prophecy themselves, altering the timeline, and rendering your prophecy null and void.

And so there are many dead prophets in tombs with worthless cuniform. This is the tragedy of the common timeline.  It's like sharing a pool; everyone shits in it.

There have been attempts to regulate the timeline sso that all these trivial prophecies would clear the waters, allowing room for the big, useful propheciess (i.e. the temporal estates of the Elf Lords, or the One Future doctrine of the Church) but these all have ended in different forms of failure.

Recursive Prophecies

But what about prophecies that include the effects of the prophecy in the prophecy?

This is like finding out that you will meet the love of your life this weekend, and that fact gaining you the confidence you needed to talk to people of the opposite gender, which allows you to meet your future spouse.  This would have been impossible if you weren't inspired by the original prophecy.

So although this prophecy seems to be accurate because it accounts for itself, it is also dependent on itself.  You wouldn't have found love if you hadn't been prophecied to find love.

And so the prophecy becomes not just an indicator of the future, but a decider of the future instead.

And as any good prophet knows, the future is plastic.  Sometimes multiple, mutually-exclusive futures can be possible.  It's not uncommon for a fortune-teller to have a situation like this:

A farmer walks in an asks to know his future. If the fortune teller tells him that he will meet a new friend tomorrow, he will meet Marf the brewer and the two will become lifelong friends, since the farmer is expecting to meet a friend.  If the fortune teller tells the farmer that he will meet a new enemy tomorrow, the farmer will meet Marf and become his lifelong enemy, since the farmer is expecting to meet a great enemy and will subconsciously adjust his behavior accordingly.

So at this point, the fortune-teller is not just describing your future, they are choosing it.

When the fortune teller chooses a terrible future for you, this is a future curse, as in. . .

"Your toes will be devoured by turtles by Tuesday!" the hag screamed, "and the rest of you shall follow by Friday!"

Running away, with the stolen pig on his shoulder, Trujillo shivered.  He knew it was true.

This is why you can sometimes avoid curses by ignoring witches and priests.  Sticking wax in your ears helps.  So does singing loud songs, in order that the curses might be drowned out.  It is also why witches are rarely allowed to speak at their own trials.

Loud Prophets

So far we've only talked about prophecies that were true.  But what about false prophecies?

And by false prophecies, I mean ones made by prophets who describe the future as A, thereby causing future B to come about.  To outside appearances, they appear to have made a shoddy prophecy, since the prophecy did not come to pass.  But the prophet knows better, because they got exactly the future that they wanted.  For example. . .

A scribe walks into a fortune-tellers and asks to know his future.  The fortune teller knows that if she tells him "you will die alone and unloved", the scribe will strive to win a good wife, and will eventually succeed.  But the fortune teller is annoyed at the scribe, because he sat on her cat, and so she tells him "you will find wealth if you invest in your education", knowing that she has ensured that he will be eaten by crocodiles in the next three days.

This is why false prophets are often rich prophets.  If you are in the business of choosing small, local futures, you have given yourself quite an advantage.

But since the words of a prophecy don't always line up with the known future of a prophecy, there are many cases where a prophet will want to deliver a false prophecy in order to bring about some other event.  Do you want a true prophecy or a useful one?  This is yet another reason why prophecies (seem to) fail so often.

But at the same time, some of your prophecies need to come true, otherwise no one will listen to you.  And your ability to impact the future depends on your ability to influence the present.

The fisherman and the scribe might not heed the words of the fortune-teller if the fortune-teller is some dusty beggar on a street corner.  But they'll have a hard time ignoring the prophecies of a jewel-clad oracle, wreathed in illegal smokes, sitting atop a drugged and bloody elephant, while her prophecies are repeated in monotone by a pair of painted ogres.

Prophecy exists at the intersection of information theory, game theory, and popular fashion.

And so a prophet's power is proportionate to how much attention that prophet gets, multiplied by their own ability to prophecy.  A prophet who is weaker in prophecy might be able to overpower a stronger prophet simply by being better at getting attention.

Actually, the full formula is closer to prophetic ability X ostentatiousness X the distance to the nearest other prophet.  Remember how prophecies are only valid until they collide with another prophecy?  Since only the most recent prophecy is valid, and since the timeline gets muddied as events ripple out from where a prophecy is learned, it behooves a prophet

(And yes, prophets kill each other all the time.  This is mostly because two prophets working in the same area will often nullify each other's prophecies.  These murders are always extremely indirect things.  No prophet has ever been arrested for killing another prophet, because such murders are very subtle.  Additionally, such murders are usually carried out against children who will become prophets themselves some day.  Prophets are great and subtle killers of children, although no one knows it.)

Prophecy Breakers

These are brave clerics of St. Chantissa, the patron saint of random chance.  Each one carries a relic with them: a six-sided die blessed by the saintess herself.  These dice are exempt from the deterministic laws that govern the universe, and these clerics use their dice to determine everything from where they will eat, to who they will marry, to what they should do today.  The dice are truly random number generators.

They carry books of random actions that can be undertaken, and vast tables of proscribed actions that must be taken according to the dice.

These books are not holy, nor are they uniform, but it is important to have an order so that they can have perfect chaos.

They are in great demand as breakers of curses.  Has a powerful witch declared that you will be gnawed to death by rats before the next full moon?  She is probably right; you should go find a prophecy breaker immediately!

The prophecy breaker's services usually involve rushing around and doing what amounts to a random quest for the church.  It might involve breaking into a house, stealing all of the hats in a house, putting the hats on sleeping horses all around town, and then slaying a local owlbear while armed with only carpenter's hammers.

Yes, this is excessive, knowing what we (the readers) do about causality.

Yes, some of the stuff the prophecy breakers do seems illegal, and possibly even immoral (even if someone is eventually compensated for their hats).  But the Church tolerates them because it sometimes depends on them.  (They famously saved Centerra by avoiding a comet that was heading straight for the planet.  No one is quite sure how that worked, but it did.)

Prophecy breakers tend to be quirky-as-fuck individuals.  For example, Flartlebee the Cat Eater has four braids of hair, each dyed a different color, with the rest of her head shaved.  She drinks tea every hour on the hour from a locked stein and rides a giant bird named King Flart.  She avoids saying words that begin with 'o' and avoid the floor whenever possible, preferring to walk on furniture, or be carried.

Some Prophetic Curses. [d6]

The only cures are prophecy breakers, getting your fortune told, or 2d4 weeks.

1 You will die in a fire. - The next time fire damage brings you down to 0 HP, you automatically die.

2 You will die alone. - Whenever you are alone, you take double damage.

3 Poison shall blister your veins. - Whenever poison could potentially kill you, it does.

4 You shall be devoured alive. - You fail all checks to avoid being devoured alive.  If there is a monster on the wandering monster table that could potentially swallow you, you will encounter it on the first wandering monster roll.

5 You shall be devoured by someone you trust. - The first time a hireling could potentially betray you to disastrous effect, they will do so.

6 You shall die in the wilderness. - As soon as you are out in the wilderness and run into trouble (i.e. out of rations) you will get lost for 1d6 days.


Fate is something different entirely.  This is when some future event is decided by the spirits (unincorporated angels and demons) and they decide that this event is going to pass no matter what.

Fate is infuriating and everyone hates it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Final d8 Assassins

This is part 3.  You may want to read part 1 and part 2 first.

These are the final 8 members of the Guild of Assassins, the deadly buffoons who will be showing up in town to kill your PCs shortly.

by yangxueguo
The Final d8 Assassins

1 Moonya Greymorning - She is heralded by by the arrival of a flock of death's head moths, which fly into the hair of the condemned person(s), grab on really tight, and then die.

She wears compound eye goggles and has moths tattooed over her whole body.  She wears only grey and white, and when she moves quickly, sleep powder sloughs off her (as she is absolutely coated in the stuff).  When she takes damage, she turns into a swarm of moths, and automatically reforms at the start of her next turn.  She can also use this ability to fit through small holes, etc.  She is accompanied at all times by three cat-sized moths (stats as psuedodragons) and rides a moon moth (basically Mothra).

Her default strategy is to put the entire town to sleep by having her moon moth sprinkle sleep dust over the whole place.  Then she moves in and starts cutting throats, humming lullabies the whole time.

The moon moth is huge and high HD but it has not attacks except for sleep powder (which it favors).  It can be lured by large amounts of milk presented in a circular pool.

2 Immortal Joe - Six feet tall, slabs of muscle and fat.  Twitching, sweating, constantly mumbling to himself.  Deeply psychotic.  His eyes constantly dart and stare at all the bizarre psychofauna that his wizard vision won't let him un-see.

He is shirtless and if he's not covered in his own feces, he coated in someone else's.  He wields a sledgehammer.  Although he does not know it, he is the son of Mishrut, a forgotten god of iron, and because of that he only takes damage from attacks that deal 3 damage or less.

He is heralded by himself, when he shows up and shouts "Hey assholes!  I'm gonna fuckin' kill you something fucking good, ya fucks hear?  Fuck!" and then runs off to hide in a ditch somewhere.  He is both impatient and bad at tracking time, and so he doesn't even wait the required 12 hours--he just shows up after 1d12.

3 Goma and Goruma - Twin harpy sisters that fight with bows.  Is that too simple?  I mean, they fly, shoot arrows goodly, sing lure-songs, and shit on you with horrible, magical poops.

They are heralded when they shit on you and shoot a couple of arrows just to show you that they are serious, before flying off to get drunk on stolen brandy.

In combat, they use lots of clever tactics.  Nets, false harpy dolls perched on rooftops, lassos.  If the party tries to lure the harpies into a building where their flight is useless, the harpies will use their song to lure the party back outside and probably off a cliff or something.

4 Tabby the Cat - This is just a cat with too many rogue levels.  She has three similar looking sisters (with 1 rogue level each).  Her husband is a lion, but Tabby is too proud to ever ask for his help.  He comes along with her on missions 50% of the time, but spends his days eating sheep and slow shepherds.  Also naps.

Tabby is assisted by a mouse named Brigadier, who is only loyal because Tabby is holding his entire family hostage.  Cats are jerks.

She is heralded by the headless corpse of a dog, which appears in the bed of each condemned person.

5 Red Molivia - She is actually a bagsaint, a lobotomized servant of the Cauteri priesthood whose skin has been entirely replaced with what is basically a wool sock for her entire body.  Except in Molivia's case, they forgot to lobotomize her (which oddly seems crueller).  Her bodysock is red plaid.

She is a wizard who wields a war pick she calls Brainspike.  She has two gimmicks: summon demon (she can't control them, and can barely control what type of demon she gets) and magic jar, both usually cast in conjunction.

She is heralded by a large amount of red string, which the condemned with vomit out, probably over dinner.  (This is custom spell of hers.)  She is raising money for the reclamation of Cauterus and is desperate for a real relationship (friendship, romance, anything).  She is kind to animals.  Her spellbook is a piece of red, knotted string; when untied, it can be pulled to reveal a long extradimensional scroll.

6 Dolly Darkly - She is actually a tattoo that has learned to be human sometimes.  In tattoo form, she can run around your body and stab you for 1d6 damage each round, usually in the eyes, neck, or groin.  You'll have a hard time hitting her unless you take off all your clothes.  If you kill her while she's on you, you'll permanently have a tattoo of a dead woman on you, you asshole.

In human form, she's just a normal looking woman with dark hair and green eyes.  The only odd things about her are a mildly disconcerting lack of detail in her features (although you have to look close) and a tendency to fall back into cheesecake poses when she isn't paying attention.  (All the sailor-approved poses.)

She can slurp herself onto your skin as long as she has even a square inch of skin-to-skin contact.  No save.  She can jump off just as easily.  She bleeds ink.  If you kill her in her flesh-and-blood form, you can have her gear (dagger +1, grappling hook + 20' rope) which can be pressed into your skin to form a tattoo, and plucked out of your skin with similar ease.

She is heralded by a tattoo of a skull that appears on your left palm overnight.  It is both painful and itchy.

7 Sangelise the Dragon Eater - She's in a band called the Dragon Eaters.  Her and four bards.  She is heralded by a concert that she puts on, in which the last song is always a custom-written song that is explicitly about killing you.

She is accompanied at all times by Goldenbrown, her pet dragon eater (dire mongoose).  They also have a band wagon painted in psychedelic mandalas and chromatic noise.

The wagon is actually part of the whole gimmick.  She plays her guitar atop it, and the whole thing is rigged with booby traps: flamethrowers, snake shooters, mancatchers, walls that will fall on you, etc.  Woe to anyone who tries climbing it.

Also, inside the wagon is a zombie dragon, because Sangelise belongs to that rarest of breeds: she is a necrobard.  She is only doing this assassin thing ironically, and has been quietly killing other guild assassins over the years.  Is actually an elf (with mutilated ears) and will probably need to end this assassination gig soon before someone notices how slow she's been aging.

8 Iron Marjack - He was once a wizard until they cut his tongue out, and then he was a monk until they cut his arms off.  Both times, his only crime was pissing off the people in charge of a powerful, conservative institution.

So now he talks through a silver tongue.  It's tones are dulcet, except when it clicks against his teeth.  Spikes fountain from the stumps of his shoulders, part of the breastplate he wears.  And he controls two enormous brick hands, each the size of a park bench.

Treat him as a multiclass wizard/monk who only uses kicks and who favors evocation spells.  Treat the giant, flying hands as multiclass clay golem/Bigby's crushing hand.  He can fly by surfing on one of the hands.  He likes playing tricks, like getting you to stand on what you thought was a park bench but is actually a giant crushing hand made of bricks.  But he also likes sharp tactics, like getting one of the hands to fly above the party and crush open a coffin full of weighted flechettes.

Remember that if Marjack can't see, neither can his hands.

He is heralded by a monkey paw, which is delivered to each of the condemned.  He is perfectly, horribly in love with Sangelise, who despises him.  His hobby is the construction of doll furniture, which he conducts with a second set of tiny hands, made from tiny bricks.

by yangxueguo
Assassin's Guild Rejects

Here's a few from my reject list.  Do with them what you will.

Flongus Tentooth - His gimmick is summon fish, but a special weaponized version that always summons big, horrible things.  Like summoning sharks into the stream, the kraken into the well.

Yeshak the Unspeakable - Fetal wizard.  Knows teleport into womb, magic missile, and lightning bolt.  Will probably be teleporting around into all the ladies and casting spells out of their vaginas.  Can teleport into dudes, too, but they get a bonus to the save and this hurts both Yeshak and the dude.


Lolth - Is not actually Lolth no matter how many times she calls herself that.  Basically just evil spiderman who throws spider bombs on your face.

Simon the Mole - drill gloves, digs trap holes, regrets not finishing college

Gandreyla - Is a 2" high pixie who knows a spell that will shrink you to her size.

by yangxueguo
The Guildmaster

That would be Maddening Sebastian.

He dresses like a lion tamer and owns a private menagerie.  It is him that the House of Glass and Gossamer belongs to, and has for generations.

Most of his animals are naturally poisonous.  The ones that are not poisonous have been made to be.

His gimmick is illusions.  Once per round, he can cast either mirror image, disguise self, or phantasmal force.  He usually fills an area with crazy shit before stepping into the scene himself, probably disguised as your favorite barkeep or something.

His animals will probably start attacking before he does, but his beasts are so ridiculous looking that the players will probably have a hard time distinguishing them from the illusions.  Pigs wearing nightgowns, giraffes with knives on their feet, bears wearing spiked armor.  And the animals behave erratically, too, probably from all the viper venom seeping into their brain from their prosthetic fangs.

This all sounds like the work of a crazy person but its actually all the work of a dry and calculating mind that is just really good at engineering a situation to be as bewildering as possible.

He is a master swordsman and duelist.  He gets +2 AC when defending against other swords.  His sword is coated in blinding poison (which he uses to blind anyone who seems to be seeing through his illusions) and the darts in his hand crossbow are coated with reverse gravity 1d6 rounds poison.

You'll only ever see him after killing a few of his guild assassins, and he says "If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself!" before swirling his cape around him and ninja-leaping out the nearest window.

He may also want to hire you.

Monday, April 25, 2016


They're also called goblin dragons, or shambledrakes.  But they are not drakes (who are mere beasts), they are dragons, and are capable of all that excellent dragon behavior: scheming, hoarding, demanding tribute, learning to cast spells, etc.

They're similar to dragons, except they are emaciated and lack much muscle.  Their scales flake off as they reach adulthood (as every droggin is affected with a form of scabies) leaving them with no covering except inflamed, flaky pink skin.  Their wings are undersized

i have no scales no mo
HD 12  AC leather  Attacks 1d6/1d6/1d12
Move 18  Int 12  Mor 5

*Flight, Barely - Once every two rounds, a droggin can fly with a speed of 24.  It must end its movement on solid ground.

*Phlegm Breath - Similar to a dragon's normal breath attack.  Those caught in the area take 1d4 damage (save negates) and are immobilized similar to web.  Usable every 1d4 turns.

*Dander - Droggin lairs are filled with dead skin flakes that have sloughed off.  Anyone making a Stealth check must also make a Con check; failure means they sneeze at the worst moment.  Each character has an independent 1-in-6 chance of being allergic to droggin dander, and after 10 minutes of exposure to it, they get -2 to attack and AC.  Once this fact is established about a character, write it down.

*Madness - 67% of droggins possess a madness (in addition to their usually tics and compulsions).

*Weakness - Droggins are prone to birth defects and illnesses.  Roll on the table below.

What Is This Droggin's Weakness? [d4]

  1. Cataracts.  -4 to hit, except for enemies who were already adjacent at the start of the droggin's turn.  
  2. Seizures.  Will have a seizure for 1d3 rounds at the start of combat.  Makes no action except to thrash around and moan
  3. Extreme cowardice.  Only has a 20% chance to save vs fear, and seeing a large fire (bonfire or bigger) provokes an immediate save vs fear.  Always flees as soon as combat turns against them, and never initiates combat unless they have a clear advantage.  Would rather let you steal their hoard than confront you (while they complain, whine, and beg from a hidden refuge in the ceiling), and then follow you until you are vulnerable.
  4. Second head.  This smaller, deformed head lacks most of its brain.  It apes the main head, but takes no action on its own.  The dead weight gives this droggin -4 to hit with its bite attacks.
  5. Hemophilia.  Every damaging attack causes it to bleed for 1 point per turn until it can spend a turn licking its wounds, which it will usually do after retreating.
  6. Pneumonia.  All droggins suffer from some degree of pneumonia, but with this is an especially severe case.  Whenever they use their breath weapon, they spend the next round gagging and coughing up more phlegm, and can only make a single claw attack that turn (and no bite attack).  On the upside, everyone hit by their phlegm must now save vs disease (1d4 Con per day).

the only thing grosser than ticks on you
is ticks on a snake
What Does This Droggin Hoard? [d4]

  1. People.  It imprisons them in deep holes and forces them to wear costumes and act out certain roles with it (such as pretending to be human nobility at a party).
  2. Animal hoarding, probably cats.  Most droggins are lonely creatures.  There's probably at least one catbook, recognizable by the collar that refers to it as such.
  3. Fingernails, shed skin, feces, teeth, and discarded scales, all sorted into neat piles and carefully counted.
  4. Handmade dolls, which it refers to as its "friends".  "Friend" humans are made from the clothing of devoured humans (sometimes with the original heads, before they rot away) and "friend" droggins are made from logs, mud, and stone.  Those exploring its lair will probably encounter the "friends" long before the droggin itself.
Or honestly just use all of these and your droggin's lair is basically written already.

Droggins will still have useful treasure in their shitty hoard, but that amulet of ant control might be around the neck of a doll, and that shield of shout amplification might be currently retrofitted as a litterbox for cats.

The party will need to take time to sort through all the garbage in a droggin's lair, but the treasure is there.  The filthy, dander-covered treasure.

your players are going to be so pissed when they find out
that the hoard is cats
How to Use Droggins In Your Game

Stick them anywhere you would stick a dragon, especially a weak dragon.

How many times have you seen a low-level adventure where a tribe of goblins is ruled by a young dragon?  Use a droggin there instead.  Droggins pair better with goblins anyway, since the players are less likely to be flabbergasted with they find skin flakes in the hallways.

And just because they're basically handicapped dragons doesn't mean that they can't be deadly foes in their own right.  Make them a mastermind behind a plot.  Replace Rohan's Wormtongue with an actual wyrmtongue droggin.  Give them wizard levels.

Or hell, just make them some pathetic thing that the PCs can rescue out in the forest.  Now the PC's have a dragon friend.  Or at least, a clingy, diseased, neurotic dragon that needs to take walking breaks every 30 minutes, on account of his asthma.

d6 More Assassins

This is part 2.  Here is part 1.

Here are a couple of random tables that you will probably need if you are going to run some Guild Assassins.

from Trigun

Where is That Sneaky Assassin Hiding Now? [d6]

1. In the walls, watching through a painting.
2. In a baby carriage.
3. Buried in the garden, breathing through a snorkel and watching through a periscope.
4. On the rooftop, camouflaged as a chimney covered in pigeons.
5. In a rain barrel, watching through a knothole.  The water is just a tray, 6 inches deep.
6. In a cunning disguise, right next to you.

What Does The Poison Do? [d6]

1. Save or die!
2. 3d6 damage across 3 rounds on a failed save, or 1d6 damage across 1 on a successful one.
3. Slow.
4. Hallucinations.
5. Berserk.  +2 to melee attack and melee damage, must melee attack someone each turn for 1d6 turns.
6. Paralysis + invisibility for 1d6 minutes.

from Ninja Scroll 2

More Assassins [d6]

1. Yersina Yersina - A woman who famously killed and ate her five twins (fellow sextuplets), Yersina is known for her saffron robes and shaved head.  Her tongue is split.  She has six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.  Whenever she takes damage, she splits into two identical copies.  So if you cut off her nose, then two noseless Yersinas will be standing in front of you.

She uses this to her advantage in combat, and will often cut herself a few times to make more duplicates before launching into combat.  It is possible for her to duplicate herself so much that she completely fills the room she is in, and crushes herselves (and anyone else in the room).  After ten minutes of beginning to use this power, all of the Yersinas shrivel into grey stains except for the one with the most HP (if there are ties, roll randomly).  She fights with a bident.

She is heralded by the delivery of an apple, freshly split down the middle and held together with a black ribbon.  Inside the hollowed out apple is a small envelope, containing a bisected worm

2. Wizened Grudlow - Horrible old man with a clock for an eye and a silver hand.  He stinks of cinnamon.  All creatures within 100' are affected by slow, no save.  He uses this ability to kill people, often by setting them on fire (since the victims effectively have half as much time to put it out).  He also has an easy time staying out of reach.  He is heralded by the deliver of an envelope full of sand, broken glass, and a bit of twisted brass (the remnants of a smashed hourglass), together with a proclamation of assassination.  Is a mid-level fighter.

3. Timelord Larpok - Throughout the day, you will start having flashbacks to an alternate past.  This is because Timelord Larpok is jumping back in time and fucking with you, all of which leads to a dramatic showdown at sunset.

The basic idea is that the PCs start accumulating various disabilities and mutilations and no one notices at first.  Then someone points it out ("Hey, Olaf, have you always had one arm?") and spurs a moment of bilucidity ("Of course, I lost it when I was a kid and. . . wait, no I didn't. . . wait, yes I did.)

Then you, the DM, will have a flashback scene to the player's youth, where Timelord Larpok is trying to kill their child self.  Resolve this with a single dice roll, so that the player can discover if they indeed lost their arm in that unfortunate rockslide or if it was merely maimed.  Everyone, it turns out, has a weird memory of the Time Lord trying to kill them in their youth.  A sweaty, rushed, distracted Time Lord.

What did the party member lose?  Success / Failure [d6]
  1. One eye. (-1 to melee, -2 to ranged.) / Both eyes.
  2. One hand. / One arm.
  3. One leg. / Two legs.
  4. Their nerves (-4 to initiative.)  /  Their mind.  (Gain a phobia of Timelord Larpok.)
  5. Their confidence.  (Lose one level of class abilities.) / Their will to live.  (Lose all class abilities.)
  6. A semi-vital organ.  (Reduction to max HP.) / Their life.  (That PC is dead.  The player controls an NPC immediately.)
No one else will remember anything else except the altered history.  In all cases, the altered timeline-memory will end with Timelord Larpok promising to kill them at sunset.  All their (altered timeline) life, they've wondered which sunset, but now it is becoming clear.

After the PCs have spent the day running around trying to prepare for sunset while gradually turning into a party of cripples (a process that nobody else notices, the characters are dimly aware of, and the players are keenly aware of), Timelord Larpok will appear and try to kill them.  He is a high-level wizard who does not fight very intelligently.  He is an obese man who has dyed his skin neon pink.  He flies through the use of his jockstrapping, gas-jetting body harness, which is the only thing he wears.

4. The Third Satan - Because Centerra has several prime antagonists, who rise and fall with the calendar.  He/she does this just for shits and giggles.  Even though he is forbidden from interacting directly with humans, a few dead adventurers are so minor that they don't really count.  (Satan will not show up if the PCs are in good standing with the Church, but how likely is that?)  Satan is heralded by himself/herself, who just walks up dressed impeccably (as a noble/dominatrix/pirate captain/whatever Satan feels like that day) and announces their intention to kill the players after 12 hours.

Satan has all of the powers and abilities of Superman, except that his/her kryptonite is holy stuff.  Satan leaves once he/she takes a single point of damage (which amuses Satan and endears the PCs in Satan's eyes), or if he/she gets bored (this takes two hours and makes Satan irritated, unless there is significant cleverness involved).  He/she begins combat by standing outside of wherever the PCs are and insulting them until they come out and fight.  Satan does this mostly just to see what the PCs will do.  If they do nothing, Satan will start burning stuff down, starting with the building they are in.

5. Skeletrox - Iron-plated skeleton duelist.  He is accompanied by a pair of clumsy skeleton archers that he has assembled from the mismatched bones of the people that he has slain.  His biggest gimmick is that he loves to burst out of ridiculous ambush locations.  [d4] 1 = water barrel, 2 = newly plastered stucco wall, 3 = the roast pig being served for dinner, 4 = the ground where your boots tread.

He is heralded by skull with magic mouth cast upon it, pulled by a pair of crawling skeleton hands (which attempt to strangle the PCs as soon as the message is declared).

6. The Great Tremolo - a.k.a. the Puppetmaster.  You can probably figure this one out.

The herald is the discovery of a collection of dolls, each crafted to exactly resemble one of the party members, and each with a noose around their neck.

The puppetmaster kills people by puppeting them.  You'll be talking to the barmaid and all of a sudden she'll start talking about how she can't control her limbs and scream for help while she tries to stab you.  Cutting the invisible steel strings above her is not as difficult and noticing them.  (The puppet strings are looped over a pulley-laden cloud, constructed for this purpose.)

You can find the puppetmaster by following the strings.  And the puppetmaster is a weird dude in an alley with an organ grinder and a monkey that is actually a clockwork monkey.  But of course, this isn't really the puppetmaster, this is just another puppet, and when you attack him you will realize this when his chest pops open and 4 attack puppets pop out (each one is statted similar to a different 1 HD mephit).

You can keep following the puppet strings to try to find the real puppetmaster, but it's puppets all the way up.

from Bleach
Some Thoughts

It's easy to think about ways this could be expanded.  If the PCs have earned the enmity of some powerful group, it's possible that a steady stream of freakish assassins will be continually arriving at their doorstep.

This sounds fun, because (a) each assassin is different and ostentatious, and (b) the players have at least 12 hours of warning each time, so they can prepare, research, and engineer the situation somewhat.  And (c) if they want to avoid assassins altogether, they can just avoid the city.

A couple of these assassins (Tremolo and Timelord Larpok) could easily be expanded into major NPCs or villains, complete with larger plots revolving around them.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

d6 Assassins

There are assassins, and then there are Assassins.

While assassins are more numerous, more effective, more discreet, and completely unaffiliated with each other, the Guild Assassins are famous, ludicrous, and follow a strict code of operations.  They are deadly buffoons.  Your players will probably love killing them.

But first, some ordinary assassination strategies.

from ninja scroll
d6 Mere Assassins

Frequently your players will piss off someone rich enough to hire an assassin to kill them.  These are usually mere assassins, because they are cheaper and more effective.  Throw these at the players.

They don't have anything in common.  They wear effective disguises, or they attack with surprise and then flee as soon as possible.  Each assassination attempt will involve 1d6 assassins of level 1d8 - # of assassins.

1 - Barricade the door of the place the PCs are sleeping in, and then set it on fire, preferably by throwing molotovs in their window.  They carry crossbows to snipe the players as they flee, and they always put something sharp under the window in case the PCs jump.

2 - The food is poisoned with a powerful emetic.  As soon as the players begin to succumb, call for a Con check.  Those who pass spend one round vomiting, while those who fail spend 1d6 rounds.  The assassins attack when the PCs are the most vulnerable.  The fight is complicated by all the innocent people running around screaming.  At least one of the assassins is impersonating a cook, and attacks with boiling soup, pepper bombs, and/or meat cleavers.

3 - Lassoed on the road.  The assassins approach from the opposite direction while on horseback.  Each will attempt to throw a lasso around the neck of a different PC and then gallop off.  The ropes are tied to their saddles, so they can fight and drag someone at the same time.  They supplement this dragging with crossbow bolts at the first opportunity.

4 - They attempt to split the party.  Someone tries to lure the PCs into a room, preferably a basement.  "I'm selling some cheap drugs, come see them."  "My son is very sick, can you help him?"  "Let's go have sex somewhere private."  Then the door is slammed shut and quickly locked, and the lured PC/PCs must deal with assassins (whose eyes have partially grown accustomed to the dark, half the penalty for fighting in darkness) while those outside must deal with assassins trying to shoot them from outside.  All assassins involved have escape routes.

5 - Challenge one of the PCs to a duel outside of town.  Insist that the non-dueling PCs travel without weapons as a sign of good faith, and will strip down to show that they are not carrying any weapons either.  As soon as they are out of town, they all pull weapons from a nearby bush and attack the PCs.

6 - Guerilla tactics in the streets. First, they fire a couple volleys of poisoned crossbow bolts from a rooftop before fleeing.  Then the attempt to run the party down with a carriage (or at least some horses) before quickly fleeing.  If none of these tactics work, they'll get impatient and attempt murder in broad daylight (unless that seems infeasible, in which case, they'll switch to a different plan).

more ninja scroll
The House of Glass and Gossamer

The Guild of Assassins operates out of a secret location somewhere in Kathar.  It is usually described as a subterranean mansion, located in its own private cavern, complete with false trees and a huge lantern in the ceiling that fills the role of sun.

It is a trick house, full of literal smoke and literal mirrors.  Even the secret passages have secret passages.  There are noise-makers under every third floorboard, steel bars disguised as wooden ones, and all types of quick exits.  Everything else is designed to confound a visitor's senses of size, distance, and time.

It is said that every surface if poisoned, as well as every food.  There are even paintings that will poison you if you look at them for too long, and music that will turn your blood to venom if you ever hear the nocturne played to completion.

The sickly-looking girls that staff that house are given strict diets of poison from the time of their birth.  They are poison, too.  Don't touch them without gloves.

Trained vipers nest in the walls, and are controlled by flutes that the girls carry (although the songs are intentionally difficult to master).

d6 Guild Assassins

All guild assassins have two things in common: they always give warning before they strike, and they always use a calling card that allows their prey to identify them (if they ask the right people).  They always give a full 12 hours notice before striking, and then they attack when the time is the most opportune.  

All of their weapons are poisoned, and all of them have effective means of fleeing a battle that is going poorly.  Each one employs 1d6-1 informers to keep tabs on the PCs.  They have a 5-in-6 chance of attacking with surprise.

1 - Goren Kriegod signals his approach by circling the town on his elephant.  He yells; the elephant trumpets.  He attacks by ambush, after having smuggled his elephant into town aboard a ship disguised as cargo, or paying people to look the other way while moving the elephant down midnight streets.  So yes, his entire strategy is "elephant sneak attack".  He attacks by throwing molotovs and harpoons.  He is a high-level monk.

2 - The Velvet Knight is a man inside velvet-covered heavy armor.  He is heralded.  by the smell of roses, as he hides potpourri near his intended targets.  He uses his velvet-cushioned steps to sneak up on people.  He makes his assassination/sneak attack attempts with a greatsword that has been pained matte black.  His shadow is a shadow, and it fights alongside him.  If things appear to be going badly for him, he reveals his trump card: his associate has taken a hostage and now has a dagger to their throat.  He is a high-level assassin.

3 - Grandfather Fern is a high-level druid.  He is heralded by tiny birds, who bring a blood-soaked fern to each of his intended targets.  His entire shtick is that he dominates local domesticated animals and gets them to attack the party.  He's really good at this, and can do it from a distance, without the usual restrictions of the dominate spell.  He usually watches the chaos from a nearby tree, wearing his ridiculous stick and leaf camouflage.  If he gets really desperate, he'll start dominating wild animals, too, but he feels bad about this.

4 - Lady Nightingale is a high-level assassin.  She is heralded by a severing ring finger, which she will arrange for the PCs to discover inside a flower.  She attacks with two cassowaries (HD 3, AC leather, claws 1d6 exploding) that disguise themselves as her dress.  Her snake tattoos are actual snakes that have been glamoured.

5 - The Pangolin wears a apiked adamantine pangolin cloak.  The spikes are poisoned, and anyone stabbed must save vs hallucinations.  She is heralded by violence, and always carves her challenge into the skin of someone/something that the PCs care about (such as the hide of their favorite horse).  She can use her pangolin cloak to roll up into an armored ball and pursue the players, but is incapable of rolling up stairs or hills.  She is capable of crashing through wood and plaster walls while in armor-ball form.  (If worn by anyone else, it loses this wall-smashing ability, although the wearer can still roll around inside a spiked adamantine ball.)  If she suspects defeat, she will self-destruct: players must choose between an easy roll to escape the scene versus a difficult roll to defuse the bomb.

6 - Dreadmite is capable of shrinking herself to any size, the result of winning a bet with a leprechaun.  She is heralded by extremely tiny letters written on extremely tiny objects, such as a lengthy proclamation of assassination written onto the back of a cockroach, which is then placed inside the PC's coinpurse.  She will attempt to crawl in one of the PC's ears, where she will then take them hostage.  She will attempt to get that PC to lure all of the other PCs into extremely dangerous situations in the hopes that they will die.  She can hear, but not see, everything that goes on.  If this plan goes to shit, she will just stab the PC in the brain with her spear (save or die, success results in unconsciousness).  And although no one has seen it and lived to see the tale, Dreadmite is capable of growing to giant-size as well.  In mite form, cut her HP in half and give her a ridiculously high AC.  In giant form, just double her HP and use giant stats.