Friday, May 29, 2015

Geomorph Design Contest: Tombs

Here are my three entries for this bi-weekly geomorph design contest with the secret ingredient of tomb or tombs. I tried my hand at a few more GIMP tools and I am becoming quite happy with my improving mapping and image modifying skills. Check out my geomorph skill progress over time here.

"Chill In the Air"

"Do Not Open"

"Taken Too Young"
If you like the content I create, take a moment to add me to your favorite RSS feed, comment, and share. If you do share it, I'll show my appreciation by letting you pick a blog topic or map/magic item/design idea to write about!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Single-Use Substances and Spelljunk (Part I)

Now it is finally time to finish out my custom world of magic items with the disposable, one-time use magic items. I am going to be returning to a 10 item-per-post format to try to get myself to blog more regularly without worrying about finding enough time to work on long posts (like those Art of Being a Monster posts that have been getting longer and longer).

I am also working on this series because I need to brush up on my giant lore to come up with better giant-specific advice. Coming up with 20 solid pieces of advice for giants has been nearly impossible, I just do not know enough about cliche giant behavior. Please comment below if you've got a cool giant story or folk-tale you remember.

Aberrant Powder 900

A nice mix of purple and green-yellow powders squirm inside a small ceramic pot or leather bag. When throw, the powder explodes into a 5 foot sphere of smoke for 1 round. Any object or creature that begins their turn inside the smoke must make a Wisdom save (DC 15) or be polymorphed. Objects only save if held or magical and are randomly polymorphed into another object of similar size while creatures are transformed into either a random animal, a random magical creature, or a random creature of their own category (demi-human, humanoid, demon, etc). This effect lasts for 2d6 rounds. A willing participant instead must make the save to choose which category their polymorph is chosen from.

Acid 25

This fluorescent green bottle holds a potent acid made from distilled stomach acid from various breeds of monsters. When thrown, the glass jar will smash open into a 5 foot burst of acid for 2d8 damage and, on the following round, evaporate into a 10 foot cloud of droplets dealing 1 acid damage to any creature that starts its turn in the cloud. Rubbed on a weapon along with some paste from under the lid, the acid deals 1d6 damage on each hit it makes and it also damages the weapon at the beginning of each round. The acid lasts until it is wiped off or deals a 5 total d6’s of acid damage (this includes the damage done to the weapon).

Alchemist’s Fire 50

Alchemist’s Fire is a heady, oily mix of pitch and carefully guarded powders typically stored in a ceramic urn split into two parts. When the container is broken or the parts mixed, the pitch will catch fire. Smashed or dropped, the Alchemist’s Fire will spread into a flaming pool 10 feet across, dealing 1d6 fire damage each round to any creature that begins its turn in the fire. Smearing the pitch on a weapon before igniting it will add 1d6 fire damage to the weapon’s attacks. The weapon also takes 1d6 damage each round. The fire lasts until extinguished or it has dealt 6 d6’s of fire damage (including the damage dealt to the weapon).

Ambrosia 250

Thick, golden nectar swirls inside this crystal vial. Downing this sweet honey heals the imbiber for 2d8 hit points, removes two levels of fatigue, and offers an additional save against a single ongoing mental effect.

Anchor Token 50

Snapping this thin, ironwood, doll-sized anchor in half will cause it to rapidly grow in size and weight, turning into a real iron anchor with a 100 foot iron chain. The anchor weighs 50 pounds and is approximately four feet tall.

Antitoxin 50

The thick, curdled milk-like liquid in this brown ceramic jug will help protect against poisoning. Downing the chunky white liquid requires an easy Constitution save (DC 10) to avoid vomiting up the other contents of one's stomach. Regardless of whether the user vomits or not, the potion lines the stomach to grant advantage against any ingested poisons for the next six hours. Additionally, the neutralizing agent it contains grants a +2 bonus on all other types of poison the drinker is exposed to for the next 3 hours.

Appearing Dust 750

Fool’s gold dust mixed with pixie dust reveals any corporeal, invisible object it is dusted on. Tossed in a pouch, it will explode into a cloud of dust that will coat everything in a 10 foot burst. Objects coated in Appearing Dust are both made visible to the naked eye and also given a slightly phosphorescent outline, like the Faerie Fire spell.

Armory in a Bottle 3000

An Armory in a Bottle holds a pile of miniature weapons, shields, weapon racks, and tools. Smashing this bottle causes it to explode open, as the innumerable glass shards coalesce into a mess of scattered swords, shields, spears, javelins, bows, armors, tools, etc sitting neatly upon appropriate racks and shelves. These will form non magical equipment of whatever type and distribution the smasher has in mind. If nothing in particular is chosen the equipment will be random. The Armory in a Bottle can only create 1500 SP worth of equipment. The bottle will always generate the appropriate tools and scrap materials for sharpening, maintaining, and resizing the equipment created.

Balding Ointment 75

Applied to the hair of a creature, this oily gel causes hair to fall out. The ointment has an overpowering juniper-mint smell. The skin the ointment is applied to will not regrow any hair for 1d3 weeks. Each jar can make a small creature completely hairless or enough for 4 medium sized heads of hair.

Battlefield Caltrop 65

Battlefield Caltrops, when inactive, are 4 inch spheres of iron. With the command word, ‘Defend’, the sphere will be ready to deploy when dropped. Upon hitting the ground when active, six, four-inch blades spring from the sphere and it waits on the ground for a creature to move next to it. If any creature other than the activator steps within 5 feet of a Battlefield Caltrop, the caltrop spins to life and jumps at the enemy. The caltrop makes a reaction attack with a +5 bonus for 2d4+2 damage. Battlefield caltrops deal double damage and attack with advantage against a creature that has moved more than half its movement speed. After sitting idle for 1 minute without making an attack, the blades withdraw, the magic spent.

Part II.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Art of Being a Monster: Fiend

The weak, spindly, lowly, conniving fiends need not read any further. This manual will be of use for the great lords, the ambitious demons, and the powerful evil entities from the pits below. This manual will suffice only for those with the grandest and most despicable plots. While your physical forms and strengths vary according to your kind, all fiends share basic traits: powerful attacks, devious magic, and minion summoning. In all battles, it is best to use your minions and summoned demons to break up enemy formations and block them from engaging yourself directly. Use this freedom of movement to focus your attacks and magic on the toughest foe. Without minions, use the terrain and your magic along with your own tactics to accomplish the same goals as below.
F: This enemy will be the most adept at engaging your minions toe-to-toe, so you should keep them in defensive formations that limit the number of attacks the fighter can make against you while keeping the fighter engaged in combat to limit their maneuverability. Unless the fighter is well equipped to overcome your resistance to man made weapons, they fall behind the wizard in terms of danger and are mostly dangerous for your weaker minions.
T: The thief may be equipped to deal with your resistances or may simply be able to strike a weak point, but in either case they have very little staying power. They should be separated and flanked by your minions or tactics to negate their combat abilities. If they show competence or are particularly prepared for fighting you, they are weak enough to destroy quickly. Make sure your minions are not out flanked by the thief.
R: The ranger will fare poorly against minions that threaten them directly. While they most likely will not fall to minions’ attacks, they will be unable to focus their fire on you while so distracted. Even if they manage to direct their ranged fire at you, ranged attacks will be hard pressed to penetrate your weapon resistances. Through all of that, your toughness will allow you to weather most projectiles.
W: A magic user will be the greatest threat to you and your minions in combat. They often have abilities for dealing with demons or extraplanar creatures and will definitely have magic to damage many minions at once. If allowed to work freely, they can destroy swathes of minions and break up your tactics. If possible, direct your minions delay and attack during their spellcasting while working to keep them apart from the rest of their group. Engage and destroy the spell-caster as quickly as possible.
The Unstoppable, Dapper Demon
With enough time, even the lowest fiend could learn the tactics above to become a passable combatant. Those demons that intend to dominate the material world would do well to take heed of the grander points below. These will lay out the loopholes and pitfalls so that you may tighten your defenses and continue to outmaneuver and out-think your lesser opponents.
-I will treat my summoned demons well and ensure that they are compensated appropriately for their time, effort, and abilities. Paying them less than they are worth or treating them poorly will only ensure my opponents an easier time convincing them to betray me. Worse, it will actively hamper my own recruitment of allies and traitors if it becomes well known that I treat my employees badly.
-A ban on plotting and betrayals amongst my minions would be nearly impossible to enforce. I will not try to stop my underlings from their own plots. Instead, I will encourage this behavior by offering occasional support for their plots as long as they keep me regularly informed of their plotting. Not only will this reduce the effort I must spend on clamping down on their weak plots, I will also gain an early warning of betrayal if their plots suddenly change or if they stop informing me of their plots.
-I will keep on hand easy ways to counter spells specifically created to combat fiends such as protection against alignment and banishment spells. This is an obvious weakness, so it may be beneficial to invest in protection methods that seem to work and allow my opponents to lull themselves into a false sense of security. Additionally, I will prepare for such targeted weapons by investing my lair and minions with traps and abilities that will detect or draw out the usage of anti-fiend abilities.
-Evil cults and demonic organizations are well known cliches of the human world. They all share one thing in common: they were all defeated. I will not repeat the mistakes of lesser demons and I will make my human minions work in a noble seeming cause or goal, or better yet, attach myself to an existing one. Open evil attracts opponents and adventurers, while twisting a kingdom or church slowly, but undetectably, into evil purposes can bring those opponents to do my bidding instead.
-I will never trust that my traps or minions have actually killed a hero or foe. I will ensure their death personally once any immediate danger has passed. I will keep magic on hand to ensure it is very difficult to revive or restore defeated foes. While it may be tempting to keep them alive and trapped where I can see them, dead and disintegrated is better as it requires expensive magic to reverse and doesn’t leave my foe alive, plotting their revenge. All unconfirmed kills will be treated as active threats.
-Many demons and fiends will discard any kind solutions to their problems out of hand. I will  force myself to perform kindnesses and think of solutions to my problems that involve using generosity and goodness. This will not only keep an aura of plausible deniability in my disguises (and give practice for future disguises) but it will also make sure that I am thinking through all possible solutions purely on the basis of effectiveness.
-Corruption and the spread of evil are my ultimate goals, but I will not mistake that fact for thinking that every step along the way must be made in the direction of evil. Pure evil is often mistaken by weaker demons as requiring every action to be made in malice. I shall not refuse to work with good or neutral creatures and entities for ideological reasons. In fact, alliances with pure hearted creatures may help disguise my true motives and goals.
-I will keep in regular contact with all of my minions, especially those in critical positions. I will establish this so that the absence of communication will become suspicious and alert meto betrayals or defeats earlier than I might otherwise notice. The frequency and schedules will fluctuate so my enemies cannot predict them. I will never ignore a report from a subordinate, even if its ridiculousness warrants further investigation, and I will never punish a minion for having delivered bad news. I want to encourage every minion to be open and honest with me about my tactics and effectiveness.
-Loyalty in my organization will never be perfect, but it is important to invest in. I will build loyalty in my minions and followers by regularly working to advance a random individual’s goals on a lottery system weighted by their effectiveness in their role. This will cost me little but encourages a heirarchy-wide increase in effectiveness and loyalty, as each minion puts in a disproportionate amount of effort in the hopes of winning your favor. Their goals are much smaller in scope than your own and will likely be of a miniscule scale compared to the power you wield.
-I will discourage all backstabbing and betrayal within my ranks. Any minion caught sabotaging or betraying another shall never be advanced, rewarded, or encouraged. Anyone suspected of betraying me will be dealt with by me. I will never rely simply on the word of others who may be the actual betrayers or misinformed. Jumping to conclusions would only benefit my enemies, allowing them to drive wedges between me and my most useful minions. Obviously there are exceptions to this when time is of the essence, but I will always investigate claims of betrayal.
-Considering that adventurers will often seek out patrons for their quests and pay, I will seek to become a host of adventurers. I will look to hire similarly talented individuals at above market rates under pseudonyms in order to keep appraised of the local, regional, and worldly talents that may be hired or sent to fight against me. The tasks they will be sent on will be on missions of varying importance against a random selection of both my enemies and allies so as to further misdirect the source of the quests.
-I will have a strong fall-back base in whatever plane or area I return to after being defeated on another plane. The minimum that should be included in that base is a way to return to the plane you were on, ways to contact my organization, and methods to gather tools that will give me an advantage over the foe that defeated me. This base will remain a personal secret that no one else knows about.
-I wlll often engage in plots with goals that are unrelated to each other or have no relation to my main purpose. This will ensure that my enemies can never be sure what plots and minions are of critical importance and which are a waste of time. I will not try to deviate in terms of cost or stated importance in any way from my other goals. No matter how tangential, these false schemes will increase my power. This will ensure that foes that discover the link between me and this plot will think themselves intelligent for having uncovered a secret without wondering whether it is a secret I truly cared to hide. This combines well with figuring out my enemies’ strengths and targeted abilities well before they can impact me.
-I will keep a strong network of informants to use when enemies become apparent to me. I will also use these on random individuals and on generally powerful or interesting people. This will disguise any single person’s importance to my spying activites while also having a chance of uncovering secrets or blackmail.
-Plots and schemes are prone to many points of error and misunderstanding, especially if performed without practice. I will engage in drills and emergency plans, testing them for effectiveness and noting any problems. My minions and systems will never be used untested or unpracticed and my minions will always know what to do.
-I will never give out any information I am not comfortable telling my worst and most powerful enemy. It does not matter if I will kill the listener afterwards or think that the listener is my most loyal minion. This is a world of magic and my minions are already the types to be working for a demon.
-I will be wary of other monsters and creatures in the regions I operate in. It is important to make sure to leave as little evidence of my activities in areas with higher concentrations of other creatures. Counter-intuitively, more creatures will be more likely to draw attention to a region, making it more likely I will be discovered and pursued rather than less likely by blending in with the ‘crowd’. The density of mysterious happenings and intrigues draws more adventurers exponentially, not linearly. The exception to this rule is that an absolute lack of mysterious events is as obvious as bird silence in a forest or no flames in hell.
-Either destroy enemies or befriend them. The worst possible way to keep my enemies is with only minor defeats and harms. This will enrage them and keep them actively plotting against me. I will swallow my pride and make peace or utterly destroy my foes. I will sometimes do so even against enemies I can defeat easily so that it is impossible to tell which enemies I made peace with out of weakness and which I make peace with from a position of strength.
-I will not mess with deities. Even if I think I am prepared and have my own gods behind me, I still will not mess with gods or godlings. They have infinitely more resources and practice with plotting than I do. At best, I am just a minion or a pawn in a grander fight by entities I cannot comprehend. If I must engage with a god, I will remember this fact so that I can make sure to work for a god that treats me in a way in concordance with these rules so that I have the best chance of coming out alive and profiting.
-I will make a note of not seeking out or listening to prophecies. I will ignore them and treat them all as the vague predictions they are. Treating them as true will force me to endeavor to avoid ones that harm me or overreach to bring about ones that advance my causes. Prophecies make me too predictable and encourage tactical mistakes with the belief that fate is on my side. On the other claw, I shall not treat them as automatically false and likewise make tactical mistakes. Basing tactics on assumptions is always a mistake. I will take the time to seek out supporting evidence and constantly reevaluate my assumptions. A secondary mistake I could make is to seek out evidence to confirm an existing prophecy that has been given. This is almost a worse mistake to make because it then allows me to think that I have thought through my assumptions while I am still sitting in error by granting special privilege to an existing assumption rather than working from a neutral standpoint.

Keep these points as your own contract with yourself and you will never be caught in a position of weakness. You will advance evil and bring your foes to their knees.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Geomorph Design Contest: Shrines (in Color)

I ended up adding some color as highlights to my geomorphs. Let me know what you think! There's still over one whole day left, so get your entries in.
"Donations Required"

"Number One Fans"

"Ten Fold Path"

Friday, May 15, 2015

Geomorph Design Contest: Wo-Lo-Lo (Shrines)

The Geomorph contest theme this week is Shrines. This is really great practice for my map drawing, inking, and Gimp skills. If you want to force yourself to practice, consider submitting an entry or two! Here are my three entries:
Even evil conquerors have fan clubs, right?

A shrine to the god of money devoted to gathering donations before its parishioners can leave...

An ancient shrine revealed by a recent fissure in the cave walls.

I'm thinking of trying some coloring on Gimp, I'll post the results if I like them or learn something cool (or most likely mess up spectacularly).

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mythoard: Summoning Circle (Cool Stuff)

It's that wonderful time of the month, the Mythoard is here! After expending a few handfuls of specially crafted green paper, burning the traditional goat-hair incense, and clicking on the subscription button on the shiny new Mythoard webpage, a bundle of mysterious papers arrived in a box just outside my apartment.

Awful Good Games is back this month with a very cool mini adventure around the dying curses of a wretched witch in the town of Lichfield. The artwork and the design of this are fantastic. I love that everything has its own instincts and the relevant locations have meaningful offerings for the players without weighing down the DM with trivial bits of information. They do a great job creating a feel for this town after only describing a handful of people and places.

This is probably my favorite item in this mythoard, not for its exceptional quality compared to all the other stunning items in the bundle, but because it is so fantastically cool for hex mapping and doodling on the go. For me it was one of those moments where you got something you didn't even realize you should be asking for. I can't wait to take this baby for a spin.

The little magazine, the Oubiliette, is a cute little magazine packed to the margins with silly little encounters, quaint maps, and (my favorite) curious spells. I wouldn't mind seeing one of these regularly show up, the artwork is very well done and the variety of snippets included were enough to offer a lot of content without becoming overly focused on providing inspiration in one area (maps, magic items, etc.)

From "For Rent, Lease or Conquest" (darn you Oxford comma) comes what has to be my new favorite monster. Enter, the 'Chicken Coop', a literal animated house with chicken legs that is so desparate for tenants that it will eat humans and force them to live inside. The adventure itself is well written and based around a fun premise of getting to flip the script and play dungeon defense when some unscrupulous individuals come-a-knockin'. Despite not usually liking to run other people's adventures, I might give this one a try.

Last up are two original DragonQuest adventures, the Starsilver Trek and Heroes and Villians. I'm not the biggest fan of written adventures, as I prefer to hand craft my own things, but I enjoyed seeing all the stories and NPC's presented in these two adventures. I may call upon these maps, places, and people in the future. Having those portraits may just mean I might be scanning some faces onto my computer to call up at a moment's notice without having to lug around a bunch of magazines.

Overall, I am only getting more impressed with Mythoard. They continue to send me things I wouldn't even think to ask for. My only desire would be to see it a little more mixed with a few more tangible items like miniatures, dice, or tools so that it isn't entirely magazines and booklets. That may be beyond the price point of the subscription, so I will wait to see how it plays out.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Geomorph Design Contest: Hot Lava!

This week, the Inkwell Idea's geomorph contest finished its second round. While I was too busy to get these in before the deadline, I still wanted to ink up my sketches and post them for practice. The theme this time was Lava (leave your magma/lava semantics at the door). The next round will be centered around the secret ingredient: a shrine. Check out the previous round winners here

A lava dam with a shack at the top. Who could possibly live here?

Even golems and earth elementals need a drink and a meal after a long days work. Swing on by Clanky's Cavern for happy hour.

A devious trap filled room. Watch out for the lava jets, the lava filled trapdoor, and the dangling platform that will drop any jumpers into the lava below.

You can see more of my geomorphs here. I intend to submit three entries for every round this contest continues.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Looking for Magic Items? Pick up a Video Game: TF2

So here's a post I've had bouncing around my head for a while. I've often thought of how I might try to convert items/weapons/effects from some of my favorite games into my favorite rpg's. For this post, I'll show how this can be done with eight weapons from Team Fortress 2.

Beggars bazooka - This cobbled together hunk of wood, bone, and metal holds up to three bolts. When not being reloaded, it fires all loaded bolts as a single attack with no more than one bolt fired at any one target (unless large or larger). Oddly, it allows its wielder to load much more quickly, loading an extra bolt for free after the second consecutive bolt loaded.

Baby Face Blaster- This wrought iron, blunt-nosed hand crossbow that increases your speed by 1 ft each round for each damage you have dealt in this combat. The speed boost maxes out at twice your normal speed.  The bonus drops to 0 ft when you jump or fall prone. While on one's person, the bow inflicts a -10 ft speed penalty.

Crusaders Crossbow - The glowing bolts fired from this fat wooden crossbow heals 1d6 HP + 1 for every 10 ft of distance it has traveled upon impact with an ally (treated as a touch attack against a willing target). Against enemies, deals damage normally.

Dead-Ringer - A golden ring with a faint blue glow wrapping around its length. As a free action, you may clench the ring, as long as you hold it, the next hit has its damage reduced to 1. This attack appears to kill you and it drops an illusory corpse. You are actually turned invisible for 1 minute or until you attack. This effect can be activated 1/day.

Dispenser - A red or blue, boxy, stone totem that can be staked down once per day. It provides passive healing of 1 hp per round to all allies within 10 ft. This boost is lost when it is picked up and regained when it is planted on the ground. While carried, the totem is destroyed if its carrier dies. It can be used for a total of 5 minutes each day. There are rumors of a greater and epic version of this totem that heal greater amounts and restore lesser abilities daily abilities of the totems allies.

Peg-Leg - This salt soaked, chipped peg leg is a powerful replacement leg for captains and dread pirates. It lets them charge across a crowded and sea tossed ship. During any charge attack, the user may may up to two 45 degree turns.

Buffalo Steak Sanvich - Hell hound flank fills your belly with heat and rage. Eating it grants the effects of rage, -2 AC but +4 attack and damage on melee attacks. This lasts 1 minute. A day later, you vomit up an uneaten Buffalo Steak Sanvich.

Rescue Ranger - This copper, gnome-sized crossbow brings a stationary object struck by its bolt to your hands. The sudden split in the universe knocks you spiritually and physically off balance, giving advantage to your attackers' damage rolls until you set down the object for at least 1d4 rounds to let it adjust to its new worldly position. The only limit is what you can lift.