Using My Monsters

Saturday, 31 May 2014


I run an occasional game set in the later years of the 3rd Age, after the madness of the Sundering has become normal to those living in the world. The party currently consists of Shada (Changeling Rogue), Voght (Warforged Barbarian), Lamorak (Human Ranger), and two NPC's; Angur, priest of Banturn and Zin, Dwaer'Syth necromancer. I don't have time to keep anything other than paper notes most of the time. However, I have typed up the last couple of games, and thought I would share them with you, to give you an idea of what else is going on in the world.

28/3/1715: 06:45: Seeking escape from the Dwaer necromancer's lair, the group enter a chamber inhabited by a Lesser Bone Golem and a number of decrepit skeletons. It is a hard battle, but they are successful.

Following this, the central rune circle is examined, and found to be a potent source of necrotic energy, and the rogue realises that undead within it would be constantly healed - whilst they would suffer horrific effects from being exposed to such concentrated death magic.

There are three heavily armoured doors leading from this chamber, all three bearing blatant symbols or warding. Each also has a line of red glowing runes carved around their frames.

The rogue surmises that the glyphs are loaded with necrotic energy, and advises the rest of the group to be careful. Voght obtains a skeletal limb from the remains of the golem, and uses it to try and force the western door open. Although the dead appendage does not trigger the sigil as soon as it makes contact with the door (which a living creature would have), the act of forcing the door (and failing to open it), ignites it - a blast of rotting purple radiance engulfing the warforged, sapping his resolve, strength and health.

Annoyed by his wounds, he powers on through the door (now the sigil is gone), shattering it. He crosses the line of runes with no thought (and fortunately, these are designed to act as a barrier to the undead, and pose no threat to the living), and finds himself in a storage chamber. This is searched, and found to mostly contain necromatic odds and ends. However, some spell components useful to the group are recovered, as are three potions - each able to protect an individual from the touch of necrotic energy.

07:00 - 08:00: The group continue to search the Dwaer labs, finding several other strange devices and chambers, apparently intended to accomplish unguessable feats of dark magic. However, things get nasty when they come a vast sepulchral chamber filled with the unearthed, and shattered burial shrouds and coffins of Irin's dead. It quickly becomes clear that this is where the raw materials of the Dwaer's work is stored before use, and the group grimly prepare to move through...however, the massed dead flesh and untapped marrow has drawn a pack of ghouls, lead by a foul ghast, and soon the party are fighting them.

It is another testing battle, but eventually, with several of the undead slain, the others flee, shrieking in fear, and the group are able to move on...

A thorough examination of the room reveals only more and more depressing sights; piles of discarded skeletons waiting to be animated, shattered headstones, bits of mouldering flesh, and broken grave goods - defiled, trampled and treated like spell components. It also reveals that there is no way out...a problem, as this had been the group's last hope of escape.

Remembering a well they had spotted in one side chamber earlier, the group return, hoping at least for some underground cisterns to check for an escape route. However, as they peer down they spot a most wretched sight - a bedraggled, shivering dwaer'syth, dressed in the robes of an apprentice necromancer....

He looks up, almost blinded by the light the group wields, and through shivering lips, in his own tongue (which the bard can partly understand), he begs for their help, offering his own in return.

The group quickly decide to take the dwaer up on his offer, reasoning that they can quickly overpower him if he tries to betray them. He is dragged, dripping, from the well, and after composing himself, introduces himself as Zin - a necromancer formerly in the employ of to work with anyone to ensure his continued survival.

Zin offers to show the group out, asking them if they know the "password to bypass the heads". He takes them back into the "storage crypts", and to a dusty section of wall. Searching with his pale red eyes, he sees something the group missed, and presses a section of wall. At once, a prickling release of energy is felt, and a section of wall 10' x 10' slides silently away, revealing a dimly lit flight of stairs heading upwards.

The group follow Zin, who raises his carved bone staff before him, and begins to pick his way forwards. As he goes, the dwaer'syth shivers, and it is hard to tell whether it is due to his wet robes and the chilled air, or something else.

As they near the top of the stairs, the group see a ghostly, flickering light, as of a pale candle burns ahead, and they can hear dusty, tittering voices growling and squabbling. As they reach the top, they see a small chamber, within which sits an active portal. Floating around it are three mummified heads, each of which emits a ghostly lambence. As the threshold to the room is crossed, they each hiss, and turn to attack. However, Zin holds up his hands and loudly proclaims "Isstavissari, Sevveth Y'ishaeryth", and the heads immediately retreat, mumbling and growling with anger. Zin looks at the group, bows, and points towards the portal, warning "a final watch point, manned by my kin and some of the Gorashym slaves lies beyond this gate. However, it lies within the area of Irin known to you as the roofs, and as such, is a way out."

08:01 - 08:10: As predicted, four Dwaer and a Gorashym wait on the other side of the portal. However, they are taken by surprise thanks to Zin's distraction (he strides through and begins to talk to them about mundane things. The last things they expect is to be fighting for their lives seconds later),and although the battle is hard fought, the group enjoy a convincing win, with no enemies surviving (despite three of them trying to flee as the fight turned against them).

Having defeated the dark aelwyn, the ground cautiously move along a decrepit tunnel leading up to the streets of the Roughs. Aware that there may be traps, the rogue stops suddenly as she senses a strange energy vaguely clouding the air of the corridor. Zin joins her, and shortly (with the aid of Milly) confirms that a black glyph - a necrotic ward - protects the corridor. Fortunately, Zin is well equipped to manage its removal, and with the bard's support, he makes short work of it, the stones on which it was scribed aging and rotting before them as its magic is dispersed safely into them.

10:40: The group scramble back into the stinking misery of the Roughs. It is sleeting, and the air is bitter with smoke and misery. Dragging Angur's body with them, the group decide, after a short conversation, to take him to the House of Annointed Veterans - the "new" temple fortress to Banturn'Vortax, raised on the ruins of the ancient temple site. They plan to try and get him returned to the lands of the living, although the dwaer'syth seems to think it is a forlorn hope.

"Do you understand quite how dangerous the rituals needed to bring the dead back to life are in this time? To accomplish that task you have to simultaneously open and hold shut to a degree wild metaphysical doors, which, given the shabby state of reality, is not easy even for accomplished spell casters."

The group move into progressively more affluent parts of the ancient city, drawing more than a few disapproving looks from the locals (Zin says he will meet with them once they are done, as he does not feel he would be welcomed in many places within the city). However, they make it unmolested to the fortified edifice of the Banturnite temple; a full blown citadel that rises above the surrounding districts on its own summit. Moving through its outer wall (and the fortress that guards the main entrance), they are soon climbing the slippery, frosty steps that lead to the massive temple proper. Either side rows and rows of defensive fortification form a deadly barrier, and the group can see signs that the steps themselves can be quickly changed into something less welcoming to an invading army - though what is a question they cannot answer. Rows of primed cannons are positioned on top of the temple's reinforced walls, manned by grim gunners, ready, at a moments notice to unleash hell.

Around them, the temple is alive with activity. Priests of various tenets within the main faith argue - sometimes verbally, often physically - over points of contention, whilst warriors of many stripes come and go, hoping to curry the favour of the "War Mantled God". The group drag their fallen into the main hall; a truly huge edifice lit by several massive braziers. Huge armoured columns, mantled in shattered weaponry and other trophies support the vaulted ceiling, whilst ahead, on a 15' high dais of steel and stone, rises the Grand Altar itself; a 20' high slab of stone carved with life sized reliefs of warriors and priests destroying a wide variety of enemies, over which towers a brutal statue of Banturn himself; a bear-like warrior, clad in battered plate armour. Flanking the altar are two cannons, with attendant gunners, and atop it can be seen piles of shattered weapons, scalps, broken suits of armour and other offerings to the war God.

Heavily armoured guards patrol this hall, though the altar itself is flanked by robed and plated priests, each wearing long vestment of blood red, onto which have been sewn numerous fragments of metal - pieces of vanquished foes weapons, each one carved with a prayer to their bloody handed deity.

The group approach one of the guards and make them aware that they seek to have their friend - a priest of Banturn - returned to life. The armoured giant looks from them to the corpse, and after a few moments, begins to laugh.

"This isn't the First Age! We can't just wave our hands and bring the dead back you know!"

The group look crestfallen. However, it appears that their appeals have been overheard by one of the clerics; a towering man with a shaved head and a huge metal plated hammer. He wears thick plate under his vestments, and despite the heavy arms and armour he bears, moves with practiced grace and fluidity. He regards the group with piercing blue eyes and then speaks in a voice turned rough by a sword thrust many years past.

"Leave him here. It is very unlikely that we will move to bring him back. However, as one of the brotherhood, it is possible. I will speak unto the High Pugilist and seek his advice.
"Return on the morrow. Either way, you will have you answer by then."

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Banturnite Temple Guard - Level 6 Soldier

The God Banturn'Vortax (also known by many other names including Vletnir, Danakai, Danako, Thurad) is the God of War, Conflict, Victory and many would say, Violence. His temples are strongholds, and his holy water is literally made from blood sweat and tears. Here are the stats for some of the rank and file warrior priests that guard his more important sites - and you may notice a few unusual things in the write up. 

These are related to the House Rules we are using - namely 13th Age style Backgrounds. Where in the past I would record a skill check -  for example "A D.C. 15 Athletics check", I now put (assuming I want it to be strength related), "A D.C. 15 Strength (+Athletics)". It basically means, you make a Strength ability check, but add any modifiers (from feats or items) that would apply to Athletics. 

You may also have noticed that I am expressing ongoing damage as a variable nower days. This is because I can do an average amount of damage equal (usually) to the monster's level, but have that range - so it's not so easy to say "Well, he takes 5 damage at the start of his next turn, so I can attack this round and heal next"...adds a dash of "realism" and uncertainty to things!

Oh yeah, and Vulnerability to healing means what it says - you heal 5 more point of damage when hit by a healing power or ability!

Grrrr...Yes I have seen the spelling error...

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Bloat Thrall - Level 14 Controller (Conversion from Iron Kingdoms RPG)

There can be no denying it; Iron Kingdoms has some of the coolest monsters of any game, and in the Expanded Bestiary, you will find a particularly creepy and repulsive undead construct called the Bloat Thrall (the bestiary is a free download, so I suggest you check it out). As I am in a converting mood, I thought I would bring it over to 4e D&D. 

Obviously, this is not my creation (and neither is the piccy). If I am breaking any copywrite rules or anything, just let me know, and I shall take this down. Hopefully though, I am not, and these creeping horrors can find their way into many more games than they otherwise would!

Add +7 to all listed ability modifiers to get their total bonus!


Monday, 19 May 2014

Bloodhulk Giant (Level 9 and Level 23 Brute)

There is something very satisfying about a nice simple brute, and the 3.5 Bloodhulk is such a beast. I won't lie, these things are due to appear in one of my home campaigns fairly soon, which is why I statted them up. However, something about them appealed to me, and I felt the need to share. If you want to see the original stats, you can find them on Page 20 of the 3.5 D&D Monster Manual IV.

As always, the total ability modifiers must include half the monster's level (rounded down) - so the 23rd Level beasts Strength mod is actually +36. And, just in case you are wondering, Fortification is a flat percentage chance that a critical hit scored against the monster is negated (becoming a normal hit instead). I have made up some feats and items that allow adventurer's to reduce this value.

Obviously, the art at the top was done by an actual artist and not me.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Some Thoughts I've Been Having...

* What would it be like if Escalation Die got rolled each round instead of steadily progressing? Would it make combat a horrible, chaotic mess, or give a fair representation of the waxing and waning tide of battle? I must admit, I am thinking that this could give certain chaotic dimensions a rather interesting twist.

* Why do we need stats? Why do we not just have modifiers, especially in games such as Pathfinder and D&D 3.0 / 3.5 where ability loss and drain, as well as level loss are common threats. Is it a psychological thing or simply a sacred cow?

Just some things that have been going around my brain today whilst I've been hoovering!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Did You Know....?

There is a Facebook Group where there is a fair bit of conversation and linkening to amusing things? It's an open group, so you shouldn't have any problems visiting!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Shnecke's Wolves - Loot, Enquiries, Spies and Seeking Niba

1/9/1472: The group return to the the SC, and finally open up the chests they took from the Drowned Bell, as well as the weapon, armour and boots of its former captain. The sword is a beautifully crafted rapier, which is quickly identified as the Flensing Zephyr, a potent weapon known for being wielded by warriors who seem to dance through battle, leaving spurting wounds and dead enemies in their wake. This is taken by the assassin. The armour is too light for anyone to consider wearing, but bears a powerful enchantment. It is decided that Caleph will be given it to do with as he wishes, as a reward for his loyalty. Finally, the boots are instilled with an elemental spirit of air, and greatly enhance the wearer's ability to dodge and avoid. Realising he is far from the quickest on his feet, the priest asks to be given these, and adds them to his collection.

Within the chest rests a fortune in platinum trade bars – 250,000 gps worth. However, all bear the Unified Order's war seal, and it is realised that they are war bonds left over from the Aelwyn Wars. Few merchants would be likely to accept them, for they can be tracked by the Order, and unauthorised possession is punishable by death. The group realise that they must find some way of laundering the valuable bars before they can be spent.

Sebantho, the mage from the Drowned Bell is made comfortable (and a guard left by his room), and after making a few plans for the next day, the group retire for the night....All except for Shnecke and Grigori, who, not needing any rest, head into the city to seek information about their next mission. They step out into the night, and as they enter the port proper, sense a strange and violent energy threading the sooty air. Around them, the inhabitants of Scarathane also respond to it, a subtle but potent call to their base nature, and the two dhampir find themselves wandering through a night painted in shades of violence, rape, murder and fear. At first, neither are sure what is going on. However, Grigori then catches a suggestion of form in the shadows, and understands – the Feyr are feeding; amplifying the emotions already rampant in the frightened and angry inhabitants of the city, and feeding on the resultant explosion of triggered empathic energies. As they wander towards Garogg's Grogs, they witness countless acts of barbarism, sadism, self destruction and fear driven madness, and secretly thank the immortals that they are somehow unaffected in the same way – although they are keenly aware of the heaving emotions that swell within them in harmony to the Feyr's song.

Eventually they arrive at the bar, and find it filled with a huge battle; the usual good natured bar brawls having morphed into something far more dangerous. Inside it is carnage, as patrons driven to frenzy by the silent psychic manipulations of the Feyr, slash, bite and rip at each other, their minds lost in a wash of crimson fury and the primal need to feel flesh and bone break in their hands. Gargogg stands above the wheeling mass of scrappers, his barrel chest exposed through his ripped tunic, his black blood dripping from several shallow wounds.

“CALM DOWN YOU SCUM! ENOUGH!” He bellows, his voice cracking at the edges as he fights to control his own rage. He spots the priest and Ulnyrr, and bellows a greeting, before smashing his massive fist on the top of a brawler's head, sending him down. “YOU TWO! LEND ME A HAND WOULD YOU?”

It takes about twenty minutes to bring the carnage under control, and with the last patrol thrown out to scrap in the streets, the Gorgoth finds a few unbroken stools, and pours himself and the pair a drink of Vossk. “Insanity.” He mumbles, “Your Xix is busy this night. The city is steeped in madness.”

The pair nod, and then Grigori speaks up. “Narogg, do you know who might have some magical rituals for sale? I need some for the our job for the Feccia.”

The greenskin pours himself more of the potent Upper Malgorothian spirit, and knocks it back, hissing as it washes through several cuts in his mouth.

“Aye, and as it happens, it would be the same person who built the vault you must penetrate.”

Grigori gives a sharp-toothed grin, and Shnecke helps himself to more Vossk.

“Her name is Niba, and she is well known locally for both her potent magic and her art with traps and tricks. She has lived here for long and long, in a tower that rests in the shadow of the Athrandian enclave. She's made a small fortune fortifying the vaults and possessions of many rich individuals, although lately, she has become something of a recluse. There are more than few that feel she has been slipping into Xix's realm for some time.
She might be contactable through the usual channels though. The liaison experts that dot the port likely being your best bet.”

The two adventurers stay for a while longer, and help the Gorgoth tidy his bar a little. Outside, the chaos in the city begins to ebb as dawn approaches and the Feyr slither back into their darkened holes, or, in the case of the least of them, fade out of existence. On the way out, Shnecke feeds on several drunks who lounge nearby, smiling as he feels their warm blood suffusing his cold frame.

08:00 – 14:00: It is decided that Varracuda and Thatari will try and do some research into the previous occupier of the stronghold, and the Cani Mortali themselves. Jaeger heads out to try and gather more information about Niba, whilst the priest and barbarian attend to other matters around the transfer of their vessels into dry dock, for they can now afford to get the ships upgraded....assuming they can get their platinum bars appropriately “cleaned”.

Varracuda has some success, although he is rather unsubtle in his questioning, discovering that the Cani Mortali are mostly based on a number of ships currently out at sea, the remaining pirates being those occupying the stronghold.

Thatari starts by spending more time trying to discover what lies at the heart of Hopes Famine – and through the rest of the day is haunted by a mocking presence that laughs scornfully at him, and whispers sarcastic comments just beyond his ability to make them out. However, he finds out a lot about one Mercurio Jeddiker, the former owner of the building now occupied by the Cani Mortali. Once, Mercurio was one of the cities elite. His company lent money to a great many powerful organisations, and had the power and enforcers to ensure that all deals bore profit. However, he began to drink and to use certain exotic powders, and his judgement began to slip. Many of his former supporters recognised the dangerous path he was taking, and withdrew their support, leaving him vulnerable to attack. Mercurio also began to deal with some very dangerous groups, for he began to give into his most vile and base of urges – a fondness for those too young for his attentions – and even his most loyal enforcers soon left him. Indeed, when the Cani Mortali moved to take his holdings, it was seen by many as a good thing. Now dwelling in the upper areas of the city, close to the Casa Di Bastardi, Mercurio is a paranoid and vile man, who is rumoured to have somehow secured the services of a mysterious and supposedly powerful band of mercenaries.

Hoping to charm this sickening wretch, the warlock seeks out someone that can provide him with a child and some of Mercurio's favourite drugs. After very little time, he has purchased a traumatised little girl, as well as several exotic powders, and with a dark grin he seeks out Mercurio's home.

He finds it – a heavy door of rune bound stone at its front, flanked by two statues of Azrael in his aspect as the reaper. He knocks upon the edifice, and speaks with Mercurio through a magical intercom, but the rightly paranoid former Merchant Lord tells him to leave. Angry, and with the floating mocking laughter in his ears, the warlock takes the girl – possibly ten years of age, with long blonde hair, ghostly pale skin, and a frightened, wide-eyed expression – back to the SC.

Jaeger finds a drunk mage in an inn called the “Canto Sacro”, who claims to be a former lover of Niba. He tells the assassin that she has a mind as sharp as a vorpal blade, and a love for intrigue, creating complex puzzles and watching people struggle through her creations. He says that she is “Truculent and cantakerous”, and warns him not to be fooled by her appearance. “I've lived here for nearly sixty summers, and she had been here a long time when I arrived. She appears to be in her forties, but son, she is way older than that.” He also warns the assassin that she has a penchant for summoning spells, and a particular interest in the binding of unusual planar entities. The assassin thanks the mage, and returns to the ship.

15:00 – 17:00: By late afternoon the entire party are back on the SC, which, along with the Red Curse, has been brought into the dry docks. They share their information, and address the little girl Thatari has brought back. Everyone is rightly suspicious of how and why he came to possess her, although he smoothly lies, telling them that he saw a slaver offering her for sale, and, wishing to keep her safe, bought her. The little girl says nothing, only telling them in halting Tradespeak, that her name is Hannah, and she has lost her parents and brother. Caleph immediaely offers to look after her, and all note that she has triggered some protective instinct in him, his whole demeanor changing to a softer, more paternal one. It is also noted that his attitude towards the warlock sours somewhat (and once again, the warlock hears a tiny female voice, dripping with sarcasm, muttering things he knows to be derogatory and vicious, though stil too quiet to be properly made out, in the back of his mind, and feels the Hopes Famine writhing).

It is decided that the group will seek out Niba, for Mercurio seems to be too detestable an individual to deal with (he also seems to be quite unstable). A meeting is arranged through one of the business liaison's in the city.

17:30 – 18:30: The group leave the SC, and begin to head out of the dry docks. However, as they go, they notice one of the carpenters in the area is paying them a bit too much attention. He also appears, under his workers clothes, to be carrying weapons, and the group realise he must be questioned. This is easily accomplished, for he is utterly unaware of the assassin who teleports next to him, and quickly subdues him with a sleeper hold....

...His name is Scorann, and he is a pirtate allied with the Cani Mortali. He has been sent to spy on the group following Varracuda's rather public enquiries into his organisation. He is told that the party have business in the city, and that they have been making enquiries about all the power groups there, not just the Cani, in order to gague who they need to consider with their actions. He is told that if he values his life and that of his family (who are back on the Vaedecci Isles), he will ensure that his brothers understand that the group presentt no threat to them, and should allow them to operate unmolested.

Traumatised, Scorann readily agrees.

18:31 – 21:00: Late now, the group leave the dry dock, and notice that beyond the port, the icy reality remains – although the great wall of storms has gone, leaving the frozen ocean just visible through a thick smog that clouds the boundary. Varracuda surmises that the two planes have now merged, and voices concerns that the ocean may therefore remain frozen for long and long. Others wonder if the ocean will remain that way until whatever stirs beneath the volcano is dealt with...

...It takes the party two and a half hours to move through the city (which is thankfully less chaotic than the night before), and, after passing through an unmanned gate, out towards the blasted wastelands of bare basalt, pumice, ash and here and there, flowing lava that lie beyond. As they approach the northern side of the island, so they behold a wondrous sight; the dark green and black glass citadel of the Athrandian dwaer. Angled and perched above, impossibly half way up the volcano, its highest spires easily higher than the rim of the caldera, orbited by smaller satellite towers and floating structures like stalactites of glass. The air around the massive structure shimmers with what the group recognise from their time with Lia, as psionic energy, and all realise that more than a little of that power is keeping the colossal thing from crashing down the sides of the volcano. However, their attention is then directed towards the impressive buildings that rise below it, in the shadows cast by the dwaer citadel. All are the dwelling places of potent individuals, and amongst them, on a jetty of volcanic stone, stands a tapered pyramidal tower which bears a flashing, brilliant blue sphere of flame at its top – the tower of Niba. Somewhat awed by the incredible display of powers around them, the group move towards the jetty, where, suddenly, a tall, arch-looking woman appears. She has pale skin and her dark hair is pulled up into a severe bun appears. She is dressed in long dark grey robes, and is remarkably ordinary looking for one so potent; although when she speaks, it is with clear confidence and authority.

“Hello everyone. My name is Niba. I believe you wanted to have a chat with me?”