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<![CDATA[Pen & Paper Games - Blogs - Hey I Can Chan]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/blog.php/18517-Hey-I-Can-Chan Pen and Paper Games hosts a very powerful, but easy to seach and join database of players and game masters in the United States and Canada. Our forums are also a great place to find the most recent news, product releases, tips, and rpg discussion. en Sat, 27 Aug 2016 04:40:46 GMT vBulletin 60 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/pnpg_style/misc/rss.jpg <![CDATA[Pen & Paper Games - Blogs - Hey I Can Chan]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/blog.php/18517-Hey-I-Can-Chan The Valley, Part 2: The Campaign http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1953-The-Valley-Part-2-The-Campaign Mon, 05 Oct 2015 19:34:52 GMT PCs are members of or associates of King Gaston Carpentier’s royal family that rules the Kingdom of Marchand, a small, moderately successful newer... PCs are members of or associates of King Gaston Carpentier’s royal family that rules the Kingdom of Marchand, a small, moderately successful newer kingdom in a valley isolated from much of the surrounding world. PCs are expected to defend and promote the Kingdom of Marchand. No PCs start the campaign wanting to destroy the Kingdom of Marchand.

The campaign world is the valley. While beyond the valley exists, exiting the valley usually means leaving the campaign, but exceptions can be made for plot advancement.

Right Now

It’s a November Wednesday in Marchand, the year 1114. The moon is out, visible through the unshuttered windows of Ptarmigan Roost, the castle you call home. It’s now 10 pm. Dinner is served late because of King Gaston’s long nap this afternoon. He’s still not arrived. The venison is savory but slightly cool and the potatoes are dry—you’ve experienced better meals—but you dive in anyway. The king’s made it clear that no one should await his arrival, although the cooks always try.

Viscount Eugène Brun, one of King Gaston’s oldest and most loyal friends, is again shilling for the Knights of Gaston, hoping to find new recruits to stave off what he must be exaggerating as a full-scale beholder invasion. Were he for real, the realm—the entire valley—would be a wasteland already.

While Brun speaks (his mouth full of venison, of course), the guards whisper of last night’s ghostly appearance of Angelique Gaston, the king’s oldest daughter by his first marriage, who appeared on the battlements last night at midnight. The clock keeping time in Ptarmigan Roost said that she appeared—as an adult but her distinctive facial birthmark clearly evident—at half past midnight.

The figure that just slipped in unannounced refuses the wench’s offer to take his cloak and grabs a seat at the table’s end. His features remain shrouded by the cloak. He makes no move toward the food placed in front of him.

The Past

Were you to join, you'd get a timeline (conveniently located on the aforementioned map) so you wouldn't have to make your own as you follow along. Wouldn't that be nice?

Padrig was a barely surviving backwater of a few hundred halflings protected by a distant dwarf king who sent a tax collector every other year to pick up a token half-sack of silver.

That is, until 53 years ago when the human warrior Gaston Carpentier arrived. He killed the wererats that plagued Padrig. He organized the local gnomes into a respectable fighting force so they could defend themselves from the goblins to the west. He brokered the treaty with the forest elves that permits halflings access to vast and incredibly fertile farmland so long as the halflings live harmoniously with the land. He made the swamp’s tortle population his allies by curing them of shellrot. He secured the trade agreement with the mountain dwarves that made them a vital part of valley society once more. He earned the trust of the western orc barbarians by living among them, and then he married the chief’s daughter, brought the tribe to Padrig, and civilized them. Carpentier united so many of the southern valley’s peoples that when the Walking Worm’s abhorrent army of the almost-damned attacked from the north, there was no other choice but Gaston Carpentier to lead the hastily assembled, ragtag army. His strategic brilliance and limitless courage saw Padrig’s skirmishers turn back the Worm’s forces and the Walking Worm herself dead by Carpentier’s sword.

The southern valley’s peoples proclaimed Gaston Carpentier King Gaston, and he’s ruled the Kingdom of Marchand from Padrig—now renamed Ptarmigan Roost—for 50 years.

It wasn’t all peace and prosperity, however.

King Gaston’s first three children—two boys and a girl—all died at age 6, apparently of fright, their hair white, their eyes wide, and their mouths stretched to screaming, although no scream was heard. Each death was investigated thoroughly but no cause has ever been found.

King Gaston’s wife, the orc tribal princess, was assassinated 30 years ago by a poisoned magical blue-fletched arrow. A 100,000 gp bounty remains for proof of the bowman’s death, and the Blue Bowman is a figure used to frighten Marchand children. Twenty years ago the king remarried a human noblewoman from a far-off land who birthed, in order, 1 daughter, 2 sons, twin daughters, then twin sons. Rumors of children born to the king and his lovers during the ten year gap between wives are unsubstantiated.

Although long a protector and ally of the valley’s people, the gold great wyrm Zundaeoloth went mad 20 years ago, destroyed a halfling town, and removed himself from the valley’s affairs. The dragon’s not been heard or seen since.

In the same year the drow ambassadress Adinnitra Hlarett of House Hlarett visited the King Gaston’s court. For reasons he’s kept to himself King Gaston slew her retinue and imprisoned her beneath Ptarmigan Hall. No one but the king has been allowed to see her since, and no further drow have visited the court.

Ten years ago the elves revealed they’d always known the Clocktower of Veiled Eternity to be in their forest, but had kept it secret. That is, until it started ticking and then chimed, the hour changing on its face from 10:00 to 11:00. Adventurers were hired to explore the Clocktower, but none returned. No one’s clear when midnight will actually be or what midnight means.

Ten years ago Alphonse Martín sold his soul, becoming a thrall to a creature of darkness. Then he wrote a poem. Martín’s “Twilit Music Box, or How Alphonse Found the Beauty in the Darkness” was a hit, but the poem’s readers inadvertently sold their souls to the creature as did any who heard the poem in its entirety. Many ended up thralls to the same creature to whom Martín sold his soul. King Gaston established the Inquisition to locate and end the thrall threat.

Also, ten years ago gnome tailor Pefford Dawdlewhistle perfected invisible silk. The light, warm semi-transparent garments were immediate hits, and traders from beyond Ptarmigan Roost came to the town to purchase the material. Many gnomes and halflings abandoned their farms to work in the invisible silk industry, and while trade flourished the land soured. Runaway inflation and food shortages led to riots and a royal decree that only the king could employ more than 10 people; any enterprise employing more would be broken up by the Strongboxers—agents of the treasurer—, the former employees exiled, and the former owners executed. Invisible silk making remains a gnome trade secret today.

Five years ago Ptarmigan Roost was beset by the Coachwhips, a conspiracy of ruffians and thieves whose ambition fortunately outstripped their skill. A trap captured the conspiracy’s leaders, but while the Coachwhips’ Council of Thieves was brought to justice their mysterious leader Sakasneki is still at large.

Five years ago Queen Hélène proclaimed that she would refuse the crown were it offered her upon her husband’s death, that the Marchand’s safety depended upon her daughters’ political marriages to other states’ royalty, and that neither they nor she would take the throne upon the death of King Gaston. Such a decree holds vast weight, and as King Gaston’s daughters approach marriageable age, his oldest son stands to inherit upon his father’s death.

Simultaneously with her proclamation, Queen Hélène revealed her pregnancy. King Gaston’s virility went unquestioned despite his age (nearing 70). Shortly after the boy’s birth the child’s guards were slain, and the child abducted by what is now believed to be a cadre of inevitables. The bounty for a live inevitable—or information leading to the recovery of the boy—equals the Blue Bowman’s bounty.

Last year a plague spread throughout Marchand. It struck all races and classes and left many crippled, but also granted some strange powers. The tortle hermit Raymond Lagrand visited the king’s court, declared he could slow the disease’s progress, and began casting a spell. Lagrand was slain by the king’s wizard Bernadette Gauthier before completing the spell. Gauthier claimed that the spell wasn’t the cure Lagrand claimed but a curse that would’ve doomed the valley. Unmoved, the king ordered her imprisoned, but before she could be thrown into the dungeon she escaped. Although the bounty on Gauthier is merely 10,000 gp, she is widely despised for, although Lagrand’s spell was incomplete, outbreaks of the malédiction rouge have lessened vastly, and the disease shows signs of disappearing within a few months.

Six months ago a halfling in Ptarmigan Roost, Matthieu Blanchard, age 10, traded his family’s cow for some traveling gnome’s beans. The stalk that sprouted from the beans was ten feet in diameter and grew, overnight, into the clouds above his family’s home. He climbed it, returning only days later but looking years older, and told stories of a land of giants. Several have ascended the beanstalk, including two adventuring parties, but none have descended. Blanchard is vague on details of the Royaume Sky, as it’s called, and as nothing’s come from it except him, further investigation has halted in the face of more pressing concerns.

Six month ago the king’s oldest friend Eugène Brun proposed the formation of an elite contingent of knights to defend the kingdom after Gaston’s death. The king approved, and advertisements for Brun’s Knights of Gaston were posted throughout the valley. Construction began on the knight’s fortress at the valley’s entrance, but it remains uncompleted. Applicants have been few, and rumors of beholders within spitting distance of the under-construction fortress persist.

Six months ago the king’s health declined precipitously. The best healers in the land gave him a month to live. He’s lasted six and, although feeble and his once booming voice now a croak, still lives.

Last month a rabble-rousing orc Benoît Blanc urged many of his race who had settled in Ptarmigan Roost to pack their things and reclaim their birthright. He gathered at least a hundred orcs and half-orcs and their families, and the lot of them went west. Everyone knows that were King Gaston to have been well enough he would’ve easily persuaded Blanc and his followers to remain. Rumors circulate in Ptarmigan Roost of savage orc raids on tiny Marchand thorps.

The Present

Here are some things to do.

— Find a cure for King Gaston.
— Investigate the rumors of raids by orc warlord Benoît Blanc.
— Investigate the beholder sightings near Fort Gaston as reported by Sir Eugène Brun; alternately, find recruits for the Knights of Gaston and send them to investigate the beholder sightings near Fort Gaston.
— Talk to Matthieu Blanchard about what he saw in the clouds.
— Talk to the soldiers who, last night, saw the ghost of the king’s daughter by his first marriage appear on the castle’s battlements.
— Hunt down an inevitable and interrogate it about the royal kidnapping.
— Investigate the rumors of Sakasneki restarting the Coachwhips.
— Greet the ambassadors from Cresencia who arrived a week ago seeking King Gaston’s oldest daughter’s hand in marriage to their merchant prince.
— Investigate sightings of Bernadette Gauthier in the swamps to the southeast.

PCs have so far done all of the above except hunt down an inevitable for interrogation and search the southeastern swamps for Bernadette Gauthier. They have also, as is their wont and as was expected, strayed very far afield, discovering other plot threads in the process.

Next: Languages, Religions, and Names. ]]>
Hey I Can Chan http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1953-The-Valley-Part-2-The-Campaign
The Valley, Part 1: The World http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1952-The-Valley-Part-1-The-World Wed, 30 Sep 2015 17:18:11 GMT At the conclusion of The Islands, I gave players a list of campaigns I' be willing to run. This campaign, in which PCs are advisers to the royalty of an isolated fantasy kingdom, beat out PCs as students attending fantasy magic college, PCs fighting crime in fantasy Gotham City, and PCs as revolutionaries against the crown in fantasy colonial America.

As the campaign approaches its 1st birthday (and as PCs near level 9), we find ourselves with an open seat after the amicable departure of the Prince's player, leaving the Mutt, the Smith, the Spy, and the Surgeon to adventure on their own. As the queen's brother,
the Smith has assumed some of the prince's duties.

Were you to join the campaign, you'd get a map, and this blog entry would make a lot more sense.

To the north are the Ichtaca Mountains, beginning as hills in the west at the Sea of Sorrow, becoming the region’s highest mountains as they extend deep into the deserts of the Tenoch Empire, and eventually terminating in dust, sandstorms, and lonely, howling desert. North of the Ichtaca Mountains the Sea of Sorrow continues, but the mountains present an impassable barrier: no citizen of the Tenoch Empire has seen the Sea by scaling the Ichtaca Mountains.

To the northeast then extending east is the Tenoch Empire, which begins in the valley as fertile plains then stretches into seemingly endless desert dotted with tiny thorps then suddenly blotted by the massive pyramidal capital. The Tenoch Empire is ruled by the land’s most blessed—the Sun Emperor (sometimes Empress), the land’s luckiest and most valiant warrior, a position gained through bloody gladiatorial combat. The Tenoch Empire has but three settlements in the valley.

Deep beneath the eastern Fiery Peaks squats the vast drow city Quavlochar, home to the major powers House Hlarett, House Iimoraste, and House Beldor Seldvrae, and numerous minor houses which could disappear in an instant were any to earn a major House’s ire. Although impressive in scope and scale and with a population greater than the major settlements of the valley combined, infighting between drow Houses in Quavlochar keep the drow out of most of the valley’s affairs.

Over the eastern Fiery Peaks the deserts of the Tenoch Empire continue.

To the south and spreading east to west through scrubby, thorny moors and the shadows of the Fiery and Frozen Peaks is Tepest, a thickly-forested land populated by superstitious folk who occupy cozy villages and are oppressed by an unforgiving, brutal religious inquisition that seeks to extinguish the region’s fey influence. Rumors speak of witches who amuse themselves by sending the fey to plague the villagers, but the inquisition dismisses this as nonsense spread by those hoping to escape punishment.

To the west, both over and through the Frozen Peaks, is the Dominion of Kalju, dangerous mountains enclosing cold steppes populated by drunken, genial peasants overseen by barons who are themselves ruled by the Withered Crone, the demon-tsarina who forces the peasants into pointless wars with the minotaur herds even further west. Kalju has only a pair of settlements in the valley.

To the northwest is the Sea of Sorrows whose balmy coasts are dotted by the ironwood-fortified Free Cities of Cresencia which are populated by mighty lion-wrestling barbarians and powerful shamans who keep constant watch for the evil beneath the waves. A popularly elected council leads each city, and the Free Cities’ political direction is determined during a once-yearly meeting in Regta.

The northern central valley is dominated first by the Whitewood, the long forest that runs from the Free Cities of Cresencia to the Tenoch Empire that’s home to a variety of strange creatures that prevent the exploration of the ruins sometimes glimpsed in the Ichtaca Mountains. South of the Whitewood is swampland cut by rivers then fertile plains. The central valley is the Graywood, the elf homeland, and the southern valley is the Kingdom of Marchand. South until Tepest a large swamp separates the Western Blackwood from the Eastern Blackwood.

If one could ride straight through the valley, it’d take one a little under two-and-one-half weeks from east to west and a little under a month from north to south.

As a PC must be from Marchand, descriptions that follow are primarily from the Marchander point of view. No attempt has been made to make these descriptions neutral, fair, or balanced. Numbers indicate map locations on a map you don't have. You'd also have an extremely useful pronunciation key.

The Kingdom of Marchand

Marchand is beacon of hope in the valley. It is a nation ruled by a kind, generous king who puts his people before himself. Its cottage industries make handcrafted items of great beauty and durability. Its monarchy is stable, unencumbered by political infighting. Its volunteer military is deadly and famous for defeating the Walking Worm. There is nothing the Kingdom of Marchand can’t do if its ruler is strong and its people motivated. The Kingdom of Marchand is the only nation whose borders are entirely inside the valley.

Marchand commoners work from sunrise until sunset five days a week, the majority on their own farms. One day a week—usually Saturday—is set aside as a market day during which local farmers sell their wares in nearby towns. Another day—usually Sunday—is set aside as a day of worship at the local religious gathering place and a day of rest. The monotony of normal commoner life in Marchand is broken by seasonal festivals, monthly feast days, religious holidays and rites, birth celebrations, christenings, parties welcoming children to adulthood, weddings, and funerals. This monotony is also sometimes broken by curses, diseases, famines, magical disasters, monster incursions, natural disasters, raids, and wars.

Marchand aristocrats spend most days enjoying the trappings of power and wealth, gossiping, inculcating in their young a healthy hunger for more power and wealth, jockeying for royal favor, making deals with other aristocrats, managing their estates, mentoring apprentices, partying on both grand and small scales, securing their wealth, shopping, and—if they must because a position or profession demands it—working. Aristocratic monotony is broken by the same things as commoner monotony plus assassination attempts, business ups and downs, reputation management, thievery, and the host of other troubles that come with power and wealth in a land that contemporary viewers would see as, overall, pretty shitty.

1. Fort Gaston. Hamlet (population 331). Construction of Fort Gaston has slowed because of rumors of beholders in the woods to the north. To the south, after miles of moors and bogs when the way is not barred by the mists, is Tepest, a ragtag theocracy of drunken ginger folk plagued by cruel, inscrutable fey.

2. Diodore. Small town (population 1,310). Dwarves and gnomes clash with goblins and kobolds over the rich mithral and silver mines here. The orc chieftain Benoît Blanc and his tribe lair nearby.

3. Eligius. Village (population 659). Orcs do most of the logging while the grippli (Dragon #324 84-7) dig peat. The wood elves in the forest to the southwest maintain an uneasy peace with the folk of Eligius, but in the swamps to the east the bullywugs (Mon 25) aren’t as accommodating.

4. Onésime. Village (population 465). Tortles (Dragon #315 72, 74) make up the majority here, living as tortles have for as long as any can remember. Those who dislike the commotion of Ptarmigan Roost and the rambunctiousness of Eligius sometimes find relief in the peace and quiet of Onésime.

5. Ptarmigan Roost (formerly Padrig). Large Town (population 4,035). This is the capital of the kingdom of Marchand, ruled by King Gaston.

6. Roselle. Large town (population 2,890). Roselle is Marchand’s fishing and shipping hub. More cosmopolitan than Ptarmigan Roost, it’s also dirtier, more dangerous, and much more low-class.

7. Ségolène. Small city (population 5,453). Much of the non-dwarf population of Ségolène has relocated to Ptarmigan Roost, but it remains vital as the nearest entrance to the Underdark beneath the valley. The dwarves bear no ill will toward the humans who have put the southern valley under their protection. The ruins of the halfling hamlet Theirn, destroyed 20 years ago by Zundaeoloth, sit in the hills to the west.

The Dominion of Kalju

The Dominion of Kalju is a land of endless winter ruled by the Withered Crone. Kalju folk are usually fatalistic, genial, and good-natured but become paranoid and uncommunicative under duress. They drink to stave off the cold, and it’s always cold. There is something hard yet fearful behind the eyes of Kalju folk, and despite their dancing, drinking, and love of family, something deeply sad.
The Dominion of Kalju intrudes only slightly into the valley but sufficiently to curse the valley’s coldest months with bitter frost and snow.

8. Terje. Village (population 814). This small settlement concerns itself primarily with mining and shipping the results off to Paavo.

9. Paavo. Small City (population 10,833). This is the gateway to the Dominion of Kalju and a trading post for the fiercely independent folk who mine the Frozen Peaks. As it sits on the valley’s edge, movement between the Dominion and the valley is often inhibited by the mists.

Unaligned Settlements

10. Sírdhemben. Village (population 706). Composed primarily of elf outcasts from Cullaspen, Sírdhemben is a frequent stopover for river traffic between the Free Cities of Cresencia to the north and the Kingdom of Marchand to the south. It’s a rough-and-tumble border town, often facing incursions by monsters from the hills to the west.

11. Cullaspen. Large city (population 13,544). The great city of the elves sits in the high treetops of the Graywood. Having gone beyond scarcity via their magic, the elves have plunged deeper and deeper into magical research, developing strange theories that sometimes make their ways to other nearby settlements.

12. Brethilbes. Large town (population 4,441). This is the gateway to the Free Cities of Cresencia and a future Free Cities member. Brethilbes’s leaders are trying desperately to bring its population in line with the culture of Cresencia so the town can be better protected from river pirates, sea monsters, and swamp creatures.

13. Quavlochar. Metropolis (population 48,902). Although other drow enclaves exist in the valley, they all owe that existence to Quavlochar (friendly spider in Undercommon), the primary home to the drow, their allies, and their slaves. Although Quavlochar’s population nearly equals the population of the valleys’ important towns, the drow tendency toward infighting and betrayal has kept their expansion to a minimum.

14. Swampers’ Haven. Small town (population 1,349). A small but thriving community of outcasts from nearby tribes, the city-state of Quavlochar, and the nations of Cresencia, Kalju, Marchand, and Tenoch, Swampers’ Haven could be the valley’s next great power. The town is surrounded by natural resources and populated by open-minded, industrious, optimistic folk who only want a better life.

The Free Cities of Cresencia

This collection of fortified city-states banded together for mutual protection against the horrors of the sea. The peoples of Cresencia are greedy, ruthless backstabbers who think nothing of stealing a creature’s belongings, money, and spouse. They ply the Sea of Sorrow in catamarans, wearing skins and wielding spears. Rumors speak of a great evil imprisoned in the Sea’s center that anxiously awaits its freedom.

15. Asterio. Small city (population 9,203). A flood in Drender a decade ago saw many flee from there to Asterio, doubling its size, and engendering a bitter rivalry between Drender and Asterio (and between longtime residents and newcomers) that puts the twin cities nearly at each other’s throats. Luckily, new ore veins in the hills northwest of Asterio have kept the population busy, employed, and distracted.

16. Drender. Small city (population 5,366). It was expected that the Drender flood of a decade ago would ruin the surrounding farmland for a generation, but a new city council that included an archdruid has quickly moved to rectify this, nearly returning the Free Cities’ breadbasket to its former glory, but the other free cities grow wary of the archdruid’s motivations and increasingly bizarre demands.

17. Regta. Large town (population 3,557). The island town and fishing capitol, Regta is a naval power that must defend itself from the pirates of the sea in which the island sits. It is the gateway town from the distant free cities that sit along the coasts to the north and west.

The Tenoch Empire

The Tenoch Empire is a primitive, bloodthirsty nation whose rich landowners live on the backs of multitudes of peasants. Everyone in the Tenoch Empire is a soldier. Everyone in the Tenoch Empire is ambitious and power-hungry. Most folks in the Tenoch Empire are little more than slaves, barely eking out an existence from the desert. The Tenoch Empire takes; trade is beneath it.

18. Zyanya. Small town (population 1,982). The slaves of the Tenoch Empire mine the hills in this well-fortified settlement on the Empire’s edge.

19. Ohtli. Village (population 668). The floating pyramid high above the Ichtaca Mountains and rarely visible through the clouds except on the brightest days is rumored to be the haven of the Empire’s most powerful and vicious conjurer.

20. Nenetl. Large town (population 2,326). Brutal overseers monitor chained slaves who labor far into fields that eventually reach the desert.

The Mists

Dense, obscuring mist sometimes seeps from the valley’s geography, turning around travelers and sending them back into the valley… or causing them to disappear within the mists forever.

The mists are most common on the valley’s borders. They glide from the hills, cutting off Paavo from Kalju or cutting off the valley from Kalju; the mists roll in from the ocean, sealing off the three Free Cities from the others, or from the beaches to seal off the valley from the Free Cities; the mists arise from the deserts of the Tenoch Empire and separate overseers from their distant masters, or from the huge lake and create a barrier that prevents those of the valley from crossing into the Empire.

No one knows what causes the mists or how to control them. They just are and the population deals with it. The mists have always cleared eventually, and usually any mist that seals away something disperses within a few days or, at most, weeks.

Next: The History of the valley and Marchand and things to do. ]]>
Hey I Can Chan http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1952-The-Valley-Part-1-The-World
High-level Play, Part 9 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1817-High-level-Play-Part-9 Sun, 11 Aug 2013 15:08:54 GMT *Preventative Measures, Part 2: Make Folks Different* One of the hard absolutes that assures the disappearance of an actor from the milieu forever... Preventative Measures, Part 2: Make Folks Different
One of the hard absolutes that assures the disappearance of an actor from the milieu forever is transforming the actor into something else then shattering and scattering whatever the actor’s become; the creature’s somewhere between life and death, often registering as neither, but usually needing the majority of its parts in the same place, the transformation spell ended, and then an appropriate spell afterward to return the creature from the dead.

A permanent spell is ended via spells like dispel magic [abjur] (Player’s Handbook 223), while an instantaneous spell is ended by spells like break enchantment [abjur] (Player’s Handbook 207).

Animal: The 5th-level Drd and Sor/Wiz spell baleful polymorph [trans] (Player’s Handbook 202-3) turns a creature into an animal permanently, but as it’s a polymorph effect it has… issues. Add insult to insult with the 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell create darkenbeast [trans] (Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn 31), which costs 200 gp but gives the caster permanent mental command of the creature.

Ice: The 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell flesh to ice [trans] (Frostburn 94) turns a flesh creature into “a mindless, inert ice sculpture” instantaneously.

Plant: The 5th-level Drd spell jungle’s rapture [trans] (Spell Compendium 128) is a days-long process that ends with the creature turning into a plant permanently, except as a curse the spell isn’t subject to dispel magic spells. The 9th-level WuJ spell arboreal transformation [trans] (Complete Mage 95) turns the creature first into a caster-controlled treant (Monster Manual 244-5) for the caster’s level in days then a tree permanently.

Salt: The 5th-level Drd and Sor/Wiz spell flesh to salt [trans] (Sandstorm 116) uses different mechanics but results in a creature turned into “a mindless, inert statue” with the “consistency of rock salt” instantaneously. Seriously. This is also the only one of these spells that has a mass version.

Smoke: The 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell smoky confinement [trans] (Complete Mage 117) transforms the creature into “unaware and ageless” “gas or smoke” and instantaneously traps the creature in a stoppered container worth at least 100 gp; this spell lacks the language about the creature being neither alive nor dead, making divination spells function as though the creature were still alive.

Stone: The 6th-level Sor/Wiz spell flesh to stone [trans] (Player’s Handbook 232) turns a flesh creature into “a mindless, inert statue” instantaneously. The 9th-level Drd spell cast in stone [trans] (Spell Compendium 43) grants a gaze attack that does the same.

Water: The 6th-level Drd and Sor/Wiz spell curse of spilt water [trans] (Dragon #334 74) turns any creature into a like-sized amount of water instantaneously.

Wood: The 6th-level Drd spell wooden blight [trans] (Complete Champion 130) eventually turns any creature into “a mindless, inert, wooden statue,” and the language leads me to believe the transformation instantaneous.

No, I don’t know why turning folks into animals, ice, plants, salt, or smoke is easier than turning folks into stone, water, or wood. Also, no spell I know of instantaneously or permanently turns a creature into mindless, inert eternal fire, a shameful oversight in the Dungeons and Dragons 3.X rules.

Preventative Measures, Part 3: Take Folks’ Souls
If the soul can’t return to a body, the returning-from-the-dead attempt always fails. This makes imprisonment and destruction of a creature’s soul the ultimate method of removing them forever.

As previously mentioned, animating a corpse as an undead infuses the corpse with enough of its soul that using return-from-the-dead magic on an undestroyed undead is impossible. But if that’s not an option, other spells for screwing with souls exist.

The 5th-level Brd and Sor/Wiz spell soul shackles [necro] (Book of Vile Darkness 104) technically can’t be cast. The Target entry reads, “One living creature,” but the spell’s description says that it “draws out of the soul of dead creature.” There’s no erratum. Further, the spell requires a specially-made talisman but lists no price or guidelines for making it. If it were an otherwise horrible spell no one’d care, but unfortunately many creatures will want a working version of this spell: the spell level is low enough that creatures might actually cast it, it has an interesting side effect (if the soul’s not hostile or the question’s unimportant a trapped soul can be interviewed 1/day), and the spell requires the (still living) creature to die while carrying the talisman, this last being good for stories. The icing is that the talisman is apparently innocuous—it’s neither a receptacle worth 100 gp nor a black sapphire worth 20,000 gp but a random tchotchke. The Call of Cthulhu d20 version of this spell—also by Monte Cook if you’re looking for someone to blame—is renamed soul trap, doesn’t change the Target entry, doesn’t detail the required talisman, and charges the caster 1,500 XP to cast the spell. House rules address this spell’s targeting issue.

The 7th-level Clr spell imprison soul [necro] (Book of Vile Darkness 98) imprisons the creature’s soul in a Tiny worthless receptacle and leaves his dead body intact, but the body suffers 1d4 points of Constitution damage per day until the body dies or the soul’s freed, and the soul’s freed if the body dies. The caster can, of course, prevent the body from dying (and, therefore, keep the soul imprisoned) with the spell lesser restoration [conj] (Player’s Handbook 272), and many creatures are immune to ability damage anyway; so while it stops folks from returning from the dead if enough resources are devoted to it, there’s still a body to deal with somehow. The spell does allow casters, in an extremely convoluted and unpleasant fashion, to rook the need for the soul component of certain spells (although it’s a long way to cast imprison soul on your buddy, then to cast call nightmare, then to give the nightmare the Tiny receptacle with your buddy’s soul in it, then to let your buddy die or kill his body, then to return your buddy to life, and then to mount your nightmare with your buddy behind you, but that’s possible, I guess).

The 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell trap the soul [necro] (Player’s Handbook 295-6) is a barely revised legacy spell whose complex requirements, components, and casting methods the DM would handwave were this Dungeons and Dragons, 2nd Edition or Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. It’s supposed to imprison a creature, body and soul, in a 1,000-gp-per-creature’s-HD gem either, first, by just casting the spell trap the soul on the creature and reciting the creature’s name to ignore its SR and increase the spell’s save DC or, second, by making the creature accept the gem, imprisoning creature automatically (allowing no saving throw and no SR) if the creature’s name and the spell’s final word are inscribed on the gem. Issues: In the first case the gem is a material component which is “annihilated by the spell energies in the casting process” (Player’s Handbook 174), so a creature failing the saving throw is freed automatically. In the second case, no method to determine if a gem’s inscribed is provided, turning every gem into a potential trap and making abandoning gems large enough to hold the creature’s soul the only protection; in other words, a failed Appraise skill check—which the DM can set arbitrarily high—ends a character. House rules resolve these issues.

The 8th-level Clr and Sor/Wiz spell soul bind [necro] (Player’s Handbook 281) imprisons the soul of a creature who’s been dead no longer than 1 round per the spell’s caster level in an at-least-1,000-gp-per-creature’s-HD black sapphire. That’s all it does. It lists a saving throw of Will negates, but since the creature’s dead (thus unconscious) I’m not sure how that works; the gem doesn’t even shatter on a failed saving throw. House rules resolve this issue.

By the way, the most expensive black sapphire in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (55) is 1,600 gp, and the most expensive one in the Magic Item Compendium (268) is 1,000 gp, so where folks get, like, a 20,000-gp black sapphire without the 8th-level Clr spell true creation [conj] (Spell Compendium 224) is a mystery.

House Rules
After a corpse or a soul’s become an an undead creature, that undead creature must be destroyed before the creature can be returned from the dead.

Pretend the Target entry of the spell soul shackles reads, “Target: 1 dead creature.”

Pretend the Material Component entry of the spell trap the soul is part of the Focus entry. A creature with the trapfinding extraordinary ability (Player’s Handbook 50) determines if a gem’s the focus for a trap the soul spell if he succeeds on a Search skill check (DC 33).

Pretend the Saving Throw entry on the spell soul bind reads, “None.” This worries me slightly, therefore I’m happy to go with the spell as written if pointed to another spell that allows dead or unconscious creatures to make saving throws.

Next: I dunno. I do know that polymorphing and illusions lead to madness, so I'm not touching those. What other other topics need addressing? ]]>
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High-level Play, Part 8 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1816-High-level-Play-Part-8 Sun, 11 Aug 2013 14:59:18 GMT *The Perils of Preventing the Dead from Returning* Those who earn a reputation for removing actors from the milieu—those who frequently make folks... The Perils of Preventing the Dead from Returning
Those who earn a reputation for removing actors from the milieu—those who frequently make folks forever dead or try to prevent others from returning from the dead—lose access to the free raises and reincarnates helpful clerics and druids otherwise supply. Clerics and druids never agree to return from the dead those who forever murder characters level 9 or higher. The absurdly low number of high-level characters makes level 9+ characters valuable resources, and removing those resources means shit doesn’t get done.

In an average metropolis (Dungeon Master’s Guide 137-9) realize that when the Clr16 can’t be returned from the dead there’re only 3 other Clr16s left in town and after that all the other clerics in town are level 8 and below. It’ll take over 7 months before one Clr8 reaches Clr16, and in the meantime whatever enemies that Clr16 was holding back (which is the nearly two dozen EL 9-15 encounters he had to overcome to get there—ask me about math) are unchecked because somebody was angry enough at him to swipe his head after he died.

Team Antagonist is practical. When a member of Team Antagonist is returned from the dead, his initial question is not, “Where’s the dude who killed me?” but, “How do I regain the level I just lost so I can play the game I was playing before?” Team Antagonist doesn’t immediately try to destroy the foe who just destroyed him when he’s now less powerful. That’s stupid. He was dead. He lost. Fighting that fight again now meaning losing harder. Very rarely is Team Antagonist revenge-driven; pride takes a horrible beating throughout the Dungeons and Dragons 3.X rules—wizards eat spiders to cast spells, clerics beg gods for power, fighters are fighters. Ego’s in the backseat; reality drives.

For most folks if the foe’s dead, that’s enough. He’s defeated. Revenge is low on the foe’s to-do list. Sure, he might try again after he’s gained a level, but he should now be perpetually one level behind, and if he’s been beaten before he can be beaten again.

But everyone also understands that some folks don’t play by the rules or that one side holds a grudge longstanding and brutal enough that punishment beyond death is necessary. Therefore everyone looks the other way at a very small number of forever murders—a good rule of thumb is 1 consequence-free forever murder every other level per group—and this isn’t retroactive. Beyond that, unless it’s done under extremely controlled circumstance, a reputation for forever murder exists among the group, and everyone who can return folks from the dead or plans to return folks from the dead won’t help multiple-forever-murderers or their party members return from the dead.

Of course, no one cares about this until someone involved is level 9 or higher. The world collectively yawns at the passing of characters levels 8 or below. Those folks are disposable. Dynasties end and empires crumble because the ruler’s only level 8; despite his status such characters just don’t deserve to come back for free, and paying for a raise dead spell or two leaves low-level rulers penniless. Casting the spell death knell [necro] (Player’s Handbook 217) on random low-level dudes is evil, but it’s not disruptive.

Preventative Measures, Part 1: Make Folks Deader
The spells true reincarnation and true resurrection don’t require a corpse to return a creature from the dead. All the other dead-raising and sort-of dead-raising spells require at least a piece of the corpse (e.g. reincarnate, resurrection) or as much of the corpse as can be acquired (e.g. raise dead). Thus, like real life, ditching the body is a thing.

To the uninitiated this is trivially easy. Burn it and scatter the ashes. Feed it to your animal companion. Throw it in a barrel of lime. Whatever. Gamers are infinitely resourceful in this regard. But the spell reincarnate needs only “a small portion of the creature’s body” to be effective. How small? The resurrection spell, which needs the same thing, says that “[t]he remains of a creature [destroyed] by a disintegrate spell count as a small portion of its body.” I’m not making that up. That means a locate creature [div] (Player’s Handbook 249) spell (remember: corpses aren’t objects but creatures with the dead condition), a reincarnate spell, and ashes, undigested bits found in animal scat, or a gooey barrel of mush really is enough for CSI: D&D to bring back a dead dude, and this game starts at level 7.

Further, a creature killed by a spell with the death descriptor (Player’s Handbook 174)—the lowest-level is the 0th-level Sor/Wiz spell necrosurgery [necro] (Dragon #326 73) for no reason but the lowest-level one that kills folks is death knell—can’t be returned from the dead by the spells raise dead and reincarnate.

The 3rd-level Clr and 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell animate dead makes the corpse an undead creature, and, as noted, undead can’t be returned to life while undestroyed. This conveniently foils many divination spells—the undead creature’s changed kind, type, and identity. The corpse’s still out there, though.

The 3rd-level Clr, 3rd-level Sor/Wiz, and 4th-level Drd spell infallible servant [necro] (Exemplars of Evil 27) prevents “any spell or effect that restores life (such as true resurrection) or a semblance of life (such as animate dead) short of miracle or wish,” making it one of the most hardcore, you-ain’t-coming-back-no-more spells ever. Convincing a living creature to have it cast on them isn’t easy, but casting it on a dead creature so he’s humped after he’s returned from the dead is a possibility. The duration’s only 1 hour per level though.

The 4th-level Asn spell cursed blade [trans] (Spell Compendium 57) prevents all but a true resurrection spell from returning a creature to life who’s been killed by a melee weapon affected by the spell unless a remove curse spell is cast first.

The 5th-level Clr spell charnel fire [necro] (Book of Vile Darkness 87) prevents all but a true resurrection spell from returning a creature whose corpse is destroyed by the spell. It can also destroy any undead who fails a saving throw against it, which is badass.

The 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell lesser planar binding [conj] (Player’s Handbook 261-2) can bind a barghest (Monster Manual 22-3). The barghest’s feed supernatural ability reads, “When a barghest slays a humanoid opponent, it can feed on the corpse, devouring both flesh and life force, as a full-round action. Feeding destroys the victim’s body and prevents any form of raising or resurrection that requires part of the corpse. There is a 50% chance that a wish, miracle, or true resurrection spell can restore a devoured victim to life. Check once for each destroyed creature. If the check fails, the creature cannot be brought back to life by mortal magic.” That’s pretty intense, but only works when the creature’s humanoid and the barghest gets to slay the creature, exempting many high-level foes from the risk of permanent death via barghest feeding and making creatures who’ve already become corpses still a problem.

Further, there’s a goddam unwillingly-bound barghest around. I’m of the opinion that things called by planar binding spells are always dicks and always have to be paid or won over. The caster has absolutely kidnapped and trapped the creature, so no matter what the caster asks, the creature’s first answer is always, “No.” The creature always assumes a catch, hitch, or ulterior motive even if the offer is stupidly attractive—like eating dying humanoids to increase the bound creature’s own power.

The 6th-level Clr and 7th-level Sor/Wiz spell barghest’s feast [necro] (Spell Compendium 24) costs the caster a 5,000 gp diamond (the same as a raise dead spell!) to utterly destroy a corpse (no ashes, even) and applies a flat 50% chance that “mortal magic” can’t return the creature from the dead. This spell is just the right size for a high-Wisdom undead with the template spellstitched (Complete Arcane 162) to use 1/day. This note is for the DM not players.

The 7th-level Clr spell destruction [evoc] (Player’s Handbook 218) prevents all but the spells miracle and true resurrection, and “a carefully worded” wish spell followed by a resurrection spell from returning to life a creature killed by the spell.

The 7th-level spell finger of expulsion [conj] (Dragon #330 31) foils the raise dead spell, but getting the spell is tricky.

The 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell blackfire [evoc] (Spell Compendium 29-30) prevents all but the true resurrection and wish spells from bringing back a creature killed by the spell.

The 8th-level Clr and Sor/Wiz spell last judgment [necro] (Book of Exalted Deeds 102) bodily transports a creature now to the plane he’s headed to when he dies, yet a “true resurrection or miracle spell can restore life to a creature slain by this spell normally. A resurrection spell works only if the creature’s body can be recovered… before the resurrection is cast.” Yeah, so even though the creature’s not technically dead, it’s apparently dead enough. Whatever.
The 8th-level Clr spell plague of nightmares [ench] (Book of Vile Darkness 100-1) can reduce a creature to Charisma 0 at which point the creature “dies and is beyond even a true resurrection spell,” which is a little vague (what about reincarnate spells?), but as it makes no mention of the miracle or wish spells, those remain options.

The 9th-level Sor/Wiz spell Ensul’s soultheft [necro] (City of Splendors: Waterdeep 152-3) kills a creature when the spell reduces the creature’s Intelligence to 0, and the creature “cannot be brought back by raise dead, resurrection, or similar magic unless used in conjunction with a miracle or wish.”

The 9th-level Clr and Sor/Wiz spell necrotic termination [necro] (Libris Mortis 69) kills a creature so dead that “[r]aise dead, resurrection, true resurrection, wish, and miracle cannot return life to the subject […, and the subject] is gone forever.” This costs 1,000 XP and the subject must already have a necrotic cyst (a negative energy tumor created by a 2nd-level spell), so it’s a two-step process, but that creature is not returning to life in its current body.

The 9th-level cleric spell putrefaction [necro] (Dragon #300 56) magically ages a creature to death with no saving throw in at most 4 rounds, turns the corpse into a zombie, turns the soul into an evil ghost, and makes it so “only a carefully worded wish or miracle can reverse the effect.” Bonus: Most spells that return creatures from the dead can’t return creatures that died of old age. Other bonus: The zombie and ghost the spell creates are under the caster’s command and don’t count against his undead control limit. Even the 1d6 points of Constitution damage can be healed pretty easily, making this spell awesome.

This list is undoubtedly incomplete because finding spells that do this requires reading every spell. Were I to rewrite the Dungeons and Dragons 3.X rules, I’d standardize this language using keys like almost dead, slightly dead, seriously dead, and forever dead instead of the messy, messy language that’s used here.

Sidebar—Unconscious Creatures: In a curiously sympathetic nod to date rapists, in Dungeons and Dragons 3.X “[u]nconscious creatures are automatically considered willing” (Player’s Handbook 175) for the purposes of saving throws versus spells. It’s already been established that dead creatures are creatures with the dead condition, not objects, so spells can be cast willy-nilly on dead creatures, and they get no saving throws. While spells that create new bodies eliminate the effects of curses (probably—it’s not clear), diseases, and poisons and, unless otherwise specified, have full hp and no ability damage, the raise dead, resurrection, and true resurrection spells cure only nonmagical poisons and nonmagical diseases and only raise to 1 damaged ability scores reduced to 0. This means dead creatures can be the subjects of many long-lasting, permanent, and instantaneous effects while they’re dead to—cue evil laughter—welcome them upon their eventual return.

Sidebar—Old Age: When a creature dies of old age, it can’t be returned from the dead. However, reincarnate spells specifically create “an entirely new young adult body for the soul to inhabit,” strongly implying that death via old age is physical not mental and that some god doesn’t have a cosmic loom and snips the thread that makes creature forever dead by old age. In other words, if death from old age is a concern, before you die of old age, kill yourself and get a druid to cast reincarnate or true reincarnation on your corpse Yes, you might end up a troglodyte, but you’ll be a young adult troglodyte. This also means some druids—especially elven ones—are really freakin’ old. You’ve been warned.

Next: More preventative measures. ]]>
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High-level Play, Part 7 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1815-High-level-Play-Part-7 Sun, 11 Aug 2013 14:52:55 GMT *Returning Is Easy* Dungeons and Dragons 3.X demographics is a census-taker’s dream. Except for PCs and encounters the DM creates, towns have... Returning Is Easy
Dungeons and Dragons 3.X demographics is a census-taker’s dream. Except for PCs and encounters the DM creates, towns have hardcoded methods of determining precisely what levels of creatures are in it. That’s useful, but players are at the mercy of fictional demographics that might mean some spellcasting services are unavailable in a particular town. In short, a small town has a 2/3 chance of having a Clr5 or Clr6, half the time a large town will have 1 Clr7 and 1 Drd7, and a small city will have 2 Clr9s. Larger towns equal more and higher-level casters.

About the earliest a caster can make corpses ambulate is character level 5 with the spell animate dead [necro] (Player’s Handbook 198-9). Spells turning corpses into undead foil most attempts at returning the now-undead corpse to actual real life until the undead creature’s destroyed; I infer this means enough of the creature’s soul is returned to the body by the animating spell that its soul isn’t where it should be anymore. This rationalizes why the spell animate dead—which would otherwise merely make carbon-based perpetual motion machines—has the evil descriptor: it plugs a soul against the soul’s will into a body, and that soul would rather be somewhere else even if that soul is, itself, evil.

However, when characters are shopping around for ways to return Regdar to life, the characters (and Regdar’s player!) probably aren’t thinking about returning him to life as skeleton controlled by a Clr5. They probably want Regdar as some sort of playable player-character.

Here’re the ways to get all character’s soul back in a body and have the character remain playable.

If the dead character’s level 9, a helpful Drd7 will likely cast the spell reincarnate [trans] (Player’s Handbook 270) on the character for free; every level the dead character is above 9 increase the druid’s level by 1 until the druid’s level 16. If a helpful druid of lower than this level is available he’ll gladly cast the reincarnation spell on the character, but a Drd17 or higher just won’t cast the reincarnate spell on a 19th-level character for free; he’s better shit to do.

If the dead character’s level 11, helpful Clr9 will likely cast the spell raise dead [conj] (Player’s Handbook 268) on the character for free; for every level the dead character is above 11 increase the cleric’s level by 1 until the cleric’s level 12. If a helpful cleric of lower than this level is available he’ll gladly cast the raise dead spell on the character, but a Clr13 or higher just won’t cast the raise dead spell on a 19th-level character for free; he’s better shit to do.

These helpful clerics and druids aren’t doing this because they’re nice but because the character that’s returned to life is higher level than the caster. The caster will likely waste the newly-returned character’s abilities, time, and resources on a task he needs performed in exchange for returning the character to life. Nothing in life or death is really free.

Demographics might make acquiring the spells reincarnate and raise dead as spellcasting services or magic items viable options. Standard rates apply (Player’s Handbook 129).

“But,” you ask, “how does the cleric or druid know my dead dude’s level?” I point to the spell soul bind (analyzed later), which reads, “While creatures have no concept of level or Hit Dice as such, the value of the gem needed to trap an individual can be researched” (Player’s Handbook 281), which means while discussing level is verboten talking about a how much a gem costs that can contain somebody’s soul is totally okay. Creepy and morbid, but okay. Rules-legal, even.

When a creature dies publically and casters’ research yields the dead creature’s level when he died, every caster for whom returning the character from the dead is a good investment (usually casters 2 or more levels below the character who died) will try to return him from the dead. For free. And maybe even against the party’s wishes, especially if the caster is only 2 levels below him (when, based on the caster’s Challenge Rating, the caster has a fighting chance against the recently returned if he returns angry). Even an evil creature hesitates to just ice the dude who’s returned him from dead; any character who can perform such a task has obviously just proven himself useful, and, often, based on Dungeons and Dragons 3.X demographics, such a character is likely to be pretty freakin’ rare, so even if High Priest Riggby the Clr9 casts raise dead on Emirikol the Chaotic Wiz42, ol’ Em might want Riggby around for the next time he fails a saving throw after blasting some poor crossbowman in the middle of the street.

“But,” you ask, “what if my dude doesn’t want to return from the dead?” You’re in luck. A soul is rarely forced to return to the living; most spells that return folks from the dead say something like, “If the subject’s soul is not willing to return, the spell does not work.” Full stop. And your soul gets to make that decision based on who’s trying to return it to life: “A soul knows the name, alignment, and patron deity (if any) of the character attempting to revive it and may refuse to return on that basis” (Player’s Handbook 171). Further, “The soul has a general sense of how long it’s been dead, but doesn’t keep exact track of time,” reads Complete Divine 129-30. “The soul also has a sense of which spell is bringing it back to life; it can tell how painful the return journey into a living body will be. It can differentiate between resurrection magic that causes Constitution or level loss and magic that doesn’t. [… After the creature returns it can] remember in general terms what the afterlife was like, but… memories have a vague, dreamlike quality and [the creature can’t] recall the specifics of events. Whether [the creature’s] afterlife was torment or bliss […the creature has] a good idea of what to expect should [the creature] die again.” This means if the High Priest Riggby the Clr9 casts the spell raise dead on Matt the Pal11 who lost his arms and legs post-mortem to a hungry behir, Matt can totally tell Riggby, “Um… no,” and wait until someone shows up with a reincarnate or a resurrection spell. It also means were Buffy the Vampire Slayer using Dungeons and Dragons 3.X rules seasons 6 and 7 would’ve had a robot as the central character.

But even if the cleric or druid is helpful, someone’ll have to pay him to cast the spell raise dead or reincarnate if the caster’s at least a Drd17 or Clr13. Casters of those levels can cast true reincarnation [trans] (Masters of the Wild 96 and for all the love druids get in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 the spell was never reprinted) and resurrection [conj] (Player’s Handbook 272), respectively, which opens the 1-day-per-caster-level window of the spells raise dead or reincarnate way freakin’ wide to 10 years per caster level. These druids and clerics don’t care about your friend who died yesterday even if he’s level 20. They care about the legendary, epic dude who died 100 years ago—they are funding and making expeditions to retrieve specks of these beings (in the case of the spell resurrection) or to determine the creature’s exact time and place of birth or death so he can be unambiguously identified (in the cases of true reincarnation and clerical true resurrection [conj] (Player’s Handbook 296) spells). In short, these folks don’t care about your friend or Regdar; they care about Theseus, Conan, King Arthur, John Dee, Cagliostro Balsamo, Paul Bunyan, Sherlock Holmes, and Batman (modified to suit the campaign, obviously).

They won’t turn down cash to cast the spells, though. Standard rates apply.

The spells raise dead, reincarnate, and resurrection cause the recipient to lose 1 level or 2 Constitution points if losing a level would make the recipient dead again (the recipient remains dead if he’s a Constitution score of 1 or 2). The 4th-level Drd spell last breath [trans] (Spell Compendium 130) and 5th-level Clr spell revivify [conj] (Spell Compendium 176) don’t cause level loss, but the window for casting them is 1 round period, and their material components are 500 gp and 1,000 gp, respectively, but I’d punch in the junk a DM who told me that the material components needed for the spell last breath were different from those needed for the spell reincarnation and the material components for the spell raise dead were different from those needed for the spell revivify.

Sidebar—The Deathless Type: The Eberron Campaign Setting adds deathless creatures, good-aligned undead in all but name. They are “[n]ot affected by raise dead or reincarnate spells or abilities [but r]esurrection and true resurrection can affect deathless if they are willing[, turning] deathless creatures back into the living creatures they were before becoming deathless” (275), so while raise dead and reincarnate spells aren’t enough to restore their sparks of life or whatever, more powerful spells skip the intermediate step of needing the deathless destroyed and just brings it back to actual real life. I infer this to mean that these creatures, created by the deathless Domain spells create deathless [necro] (Eberron Campaign Setting 109-10) and create greater deathless [necro] (Eberron Campaign Setting 110), want to be these creatures, which is why the spells to create them have the good descriptor, but the create deathless spells aren’t plugging souls into corpses completely, which is why raise dead and reincarnate spells don’t work on them, and since they’re here willingly, one needn’t destroy them first to use resurrection spells on them. But, yeah, it’s weird, and… sigh. Sure, whatever, Eberron.

The Spells that Allow Corner-case Returning from the Dead
According to the Ghostwalk Campaign Option, “Aberrations, constructs, dragons, elementals, fey, giants, magical beasts, monstrous humanoids, oozes, outsiders, plants, […] undead, and vermin simply pass on to the True Afterlife when they die” (8), and I don’t know what that means because there’s nothing in the Monster Manual or Player’s Handbook about aberrations, dragons, fey, giants, monstrous humanoids, oozes, plants, and vermin being invalid targets for any spells that return creatures from the dead.

An outsiders can be returned from the dead under the same conditions as a raise dead spell with the 6th-level Clr spell revive outsider [conj] (Spell Compendium 175), an undead who’s been destroyed because it has 0 hp can be undestroyed with the 6th-level Sor/Wiz spell revive undead [necro] (Spell Compendium 175-6), but elementals require at least limited wish [univ] (Player’s Handbook 248). Higher-level spells can also work on these creatures.

A dead ghost (I know) can be returned to ghost-life—or a corpse can be made into a free-willed ghost—with the 4th-level Clr spell raise ghost [necro] (Ghostwalk Campaign Option 57), which at 5,280 gp is only slightly less expensive than getting a 5th-level cleric to cast the spell raise dead for 5,450 gp, so unless the previously corporeal character wants to spend the next 5 levels as a ghost before gaining a level of duskblade or whatever, just wait until the Clr9’s available.

Artifact spells from Secrets of Xen’drik and Dragon #345 include the spell life spring [conj] (Dragon #345 77). All other spells specify undead either can’t be returned to life or can’t be returned to life until destroyed (the difference between the two is unclear—I take it to mean undead must be destroyed before returning to life period). The life spring spell reads, “This spell can restore a creature that has been turned into an undead creature.” Straight up. Done. In other words, it’s a wildly inconsistent spell that should never work. Luckily, artifact spells are way hard to get, so no worries.

The 7th-level Sor/Wiz Dragon Magic spell cheat death [necro] (Dragon #308 24) makes it so that the next time the caster’s dying there’s a chance (5% per caster level) his soul goes to the Astral Plane and then the caster comes back bodily about 1d100 days later. The caster returns at 0 hp, in the same spot he was when he was dying without his gear, but without losing a level or Constitution points and without losing spells. Yes, the caster returns himself from the dead.

The 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell clone [necro] (Player’s Handbook 210) costs 2,200 gp from a 15th-level caster and makes an identical body for a creature somewhere else. When the creature dies his soul immediately enters that body. Level or Constitution loss still occurs. I would take immediately to mean other effects can’t happen between the creature’s death and the soul transfer, but the spell soul bind calls out clone as one of the spells the soul bind spell stops. The caster must have a cubic inch of the original body’s flesh (but not from the same place or time), a 500 gp workshop, and 2d4 months to grow the body. Once it’s grown expect bills from the caster for 450 gp every 15 days for an arcane gentle repose [necro] (Player’s Handbook 235). It’s Car Wars’ Gold Cross. The 9th-level Sor/Wiz spell stasis clone [necro] (Lords of Darkness 189) obviates the need for the gentle repose spell. The shenanigans and storytelling possibilities of these 2 spells are endless: they are the only spells that force a creature to return from the dead, eliminating the soul’s free will.

The practical takeaway: Everything that dies can return unless preventative measures are taken.

Next: Preventative measures. ]]>
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High-level Play, Part 6 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1814-High-level-Play-Part-6 Sun, 11 Aug 2013 14:45:00 GMT *What about Coming Back?* This is one of the ugly secrets of high-level play: Characters are supposed to die all the time. And then they’re supposed... What about Coming Back?
This is one of the ugly secrets of high-level play: Characters are supposed to die all the time. And then they’re supposed to get better.

Unless, of course, steps are taken to ensure a character can’t get better. Then the character’s hosed.

So, dead or alive, you need to know…

Death Is Funny
The definition of dead (Player’s Handbook 307) reads that, most of the time, death causes a creature’s “soul to leave the body and journey to an Outer Plane. Dead characters cannot benefit from normal or magic healing, but they can be restored to life via magic. A dead body decays normally unless magically preserved, but magic that restores a dead character to life also restores the body either to full health or to its condition at the time of death.”

Following the dead condition down the glossary’s rabbit hole means you learn that to get the dead condition, the creature was disabled (Player’s Handbook 307) at 0 hp and dying (Player’s Handbook 308) at −1 to −9 hp and that while dying the creature was unconscious (Player’s Handbook 314) and while unconscious the creature was helpless (Player’s Handbook 309) and knocked out. The definition of helpless (Player’s Handbook 309) refers to a helpless creature as unconscious in its definition, making it circular—being helpless means a creature “is treated as having a Dexterity of 0,” gives foes a +4 bonus to melee attack rolls versus that creature, and allows opponents to coup de grace the creature (which, in turn, references the dead condition again). Amusingly, the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and even Rules Compendium only mention the knocked out condition as an adjunct to the unconscious condition, leaving knocked out otherwise undefined. (Sidebar: The Monster Manual names drow poison knockout poison; it, of course, makes folks unconscious.) That means according to the rules the effects of being knocked out are unknown; common sense tells us otherwise, but common sense also tells us chanting Latin while wiggling fingers and throwing bat crap doesn’t create fiery explosions, so whatever.

Technically, gaining the dead condition doesn’t make the creature prone (like when tripped), doesn’t make the creature drop anything (like when stunned or panicked), and doesn’t make the creature blind or deaf; let’s go ahead and make the dead condition worse and infer that being “treated as having a Dexterity of 0” means that even if the creature’s suffered no ability damage, like a creature who’s been reduced to Dex 0 via ability damage the dead creature “cannot move [and, it] stands motionless, rigid, and helpless” (Dungeon Master’s Guide 289).

So, when a creature dies, it stands there, staring and listening, unable to move, still clutching what it last held. That’s weird, creepy, and horrifying. I’m also sure there was a rebooted Twilight Zone episode with that exact plot: death as eternal paralysis.

Except that, in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, when the creature dies that happens, and the creature’s soul exits its body.

Soullessness Isn’t Funny
A creature’s body gained a soul when its existence began, and the body lost the soul when the creature gained the dead condition. Until the creature’s body has a soul again its body has the dead condition.

Canonically, when the dead condition’s gained, the soul stays in the body for 1 round (c.f. the spells last breath and revivify) then traverses the Astral Plane and arrives on the plane of the deity the creature worshiped or on the alignment plane corresponding to the creature’s alignment if no deity’s worshiped; the game’s silent on this trip’s length and methods of intercepting the soul of the newly dead. Further, the Player’s Handbook says, “Bringing someone back from the dead means retrieving his or her soul and returning it to his or her body” (171).

A non-spellcaster can find and maybe even acquire a creature’s soul if he can get to the plane the soul’s on and overcome the soul’s guardians (the Example Hades Site: Underworld on Dungeon Master’s Guide 162 suggests an adventure with this goal), but putting the creature’s soul into a body requires magic, and that’s the only way to end the dead condition.

Sidebar—It’s the Astral Plane, Dammit!: In the Ghostwalk Campaign Option, souls instead go to the Ethereal Plane on their ways to the True Afterlife. I don’t care enough about that to figure that out, but I’m pretty sure it has to do with Monte Cook thinking the incorporeal subtype definitionally interacted with the Ethereal Plane, even though the incorporeal subtype doesn’t say any such thing, and the Ethereal Plane is supposed to merely overlap the Prime and… really, who cares? Let’s stick with souls traversing the Astral Plane, okay?

Next: Returning from the dead. ]]>
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High-level Play, Part 5 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1812-High-level-Play-Part-5 Wed, 03 Jul 2013 16:48:36 GMT *Stop Instant Transportation before It Happens* This is really hard. If Team Antagonist’s uses a spell from scrying subschool to scout an area, and... Stop Instant Transportation before It Happens
This is really hard. If Team Antagonist’s uses a spell from scrying subschool to scout an area, and Team Protagonist doesn’t know, only previously installed preventative measures stop the incoming teleport ambush.

The problem with the spell zone of respite [abjur] (Spell Compendium 244) is duration. While the spell prevents teleport effects from working within the area, even with the staff of extended zone of respite (20th) (45,000 gp; 4 lbs.) a charge lasts only 400 minutes. Two charges does mean both a good night’s sleep and peaceful breakfast, though. The simpler minor schema of zone of respite (9th) (18,000 gp; 0 lbs.) makes a zone once per day, and the more versatile staff of zone of respite (9th) (17,175 gp; 4 lbs.) makes zones until charges are exhausted, but both make zones that last only 90 minutes.

The spell dimensional lock [abjur] (Player’s Handbook 221) has a duration measured in days per level, which is an improvement. Unfortunately, the staff of dimensional lock (15th) (45,000 gp; 4 lbs.) is expensive.

The spell forbiddance [abjur] (Player’s Handbook 232) is complicated and expensive, but prevents teleport spells into, out of, and within the warded area permanently; the spells just fail. Case closed. But even at its most basic level (creating 11 60-ft. password-protected cubes per charge) the staff of forbiddance (11th) (1,525,050 gp; 4 lbs.) isn’t even up for discussion. In fact, when totally pimped out to use every charge to maximum effect (creating 20 60-ft. password-protected cubes per charge) the staff of forbiddance (20th) (2,670,300 gp; 4 lbs.) is among the simplest most expensive pre-epic items available, over twice the price of the staff of wish (17th) (1,307,675; 4 lbs.).

The spell Halaster’s teleport cage [abjur] (City of Splendors: Waterdeep 155) is also permanent and bounces anyone attempting to use a teleport spell to enter the warded area from outside the warded area to a random location within the teleport spell’s range—so if a caster tries to use a greater teleport spell from outside a Halaster’s teleport cage spell to enter an area warded by a Halaster’s teleport cage spell, the caster arrives at a random destination anywhere on the plane. The Halaster’s teleport cage spell also bounces anyone attempting to use a teleport spell from within the warded area to a random location within the teleport spell’s range that’s still within the area warded by the Halaster’s teleport cage spell.

This makes the Halaster’s teleport cage spell the biggest dick move in the history of anti-teleport defenses. While someone’s outside the cage spell, he’s not getting in, and while someone inside the cage spell, he’s not getting out. Period. With a teleport spell, anyway. The dispel magic spell can take down the cage spell, and the cage spell’s a 9th-level spell and costs 1,000 gp per casting, but it’s the best anyone can do. The staff of Halaster’s teleport cage (20th) (117,800 gp; 4 lbs.), while less expensive than any useful staff of forbiddance, still isn’t really an option.

If lighting gp on fire is an option, a weirdstone (Player’s Guide to Faerûn 124-5) (250,000 gp; 0 lbs.) is a manly way to tell a 12-mile-diameter sphere to screw off.

A spell turret (Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 45) is badass way to make intruders regret intruding. It employs a true seeing effect for targeting and blazes away when it spots a baddie. It’s dirt cheap, with a price of 500 gp × spell level × caster level and XP of 1/50 that amount. Putting retractable guns in your stronghold’s walls has never been easier. Many important structures have cheap spell turrets (500 gp; 10 XP) scattered throughout, keyed to attack nothing but incorporeal undead (e.g using the spells magic missile, true strike, ray of clumsiness, and summon monster I).

Quit the Prime
Spells from the scrying subschool aren’t restricted to the same plane unless a specific spell says it is, and the scrying and greater scrying spells in particular can cross planes. So when Team Antagonist uses the scrying spell to learn Team Protagonist’s location, that location can be on a totally different plane—or an extradimensional space—and Team Antagonist won’t necessarily know that. When Team Antagonist whips out the teleport spell to ambush Team Protagonist and the teleport spell fails, Team Antagonist will be all, “Wha-at?”

So, in ascending order of awesome, there’re the spells rope trick [trans] (Player’s Handbook 273), pocket cave [conj] (Champions of Ruin 33), Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion [conj] (Player’s Handbook 256), Mordenkainen's capable caravel [conj] (Stormwrack 119), and pavilion of grandeur [conj] (Spell Compendium 153). Long-term residence in a rope trick spell is like living in college dorm in Calcutta, so don’t do that. Long-term residence in a pocket cave spell is actually pretty okay, but long-term residence in a mansion, caravel, or pavilion spell is infinitely better.

The minor schema of pocket cave (9th) (18,000 gp; 0 lbs.) lasts 9 hours and is usable once per day; although many items I’ve mentioned assume the owner has a pretty good Use Magic Device skill bonus, this item will probably require the DC 29 Use Magic Device check to make it go. (Are you an initiate of Gruumsh? I think not.) If that Use Magic Device check’s failed, the minor schema is unusable for 1d6 days; days are long, and minor schemas are jerks.

Each charge of the wand of extended rope trick (12th) (13,500 gp; 0 lbs.) and the staff of extended pocket cave (12th) (27,300 gp; 4 lbs.) last 24 hours, of the staff of extended pocket cave (20th) (45,300 gp; 4 lbs.) lasts 40 hours, of the staff of extended Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion (20th) (60,305 gp; 4 lbs.) lasts 80 hours, and of the staff of extended Mordenkainen's capable caravel (20th) (68,300 gp; 4 lbs.) or the staff of pavilion of grandeur (67,500 gp; 4 lbs.) lasts 20 days.

Living in a portable hole (Dungeon Master’s Guide 264) (20,000 gp; 0 lbs.) or the more expansive enveloping pit (Magic Item Compendium 159) (3,600 gp; 0 lbs.—which is an absolute steal) is still Calcutta dorm room territory, but at least the posters tacked to the walls stay there. If only sleep is necessary, a portable foxhole (Magic Item Compendium 169) (5,000 gp; 0 lbs.) is funny, but it works.

Although the rope trick spell says, “It is hazardous to create an extradimensional space within an existing extradimensional space or to take an extradimensional space into an existing one,” nothing supports this except stuffing a bag of holding into a portable hole and vice versa, so don’t worry about any other interactions.

Discover Instant Transportation Happened
At its most basic level, the spell alarm [abjur] (Player’s Handbook 196) alerts the caster when a creature touches the area or if a creature enters the area by just about method including instant transportation. Published alarm spells are myriad, as are other magical and nonmagical effects that maim or kill intruders; those are beyond the scope of this. Hideouts and campsites should be secured. Team Antagonist is going after Team Protagonist anyway, and Team Antagonist isn’t stupid. Team Antagonist waits until those defenses are at their weakest—like when Team Protagonist is almost ready to pitch camp for the night.

Through luck, skill, and careful selection of opponents characters can do without the anticipate teleportation spell until about level 12. At level 13 when Team Antagonist is casting the greater scrying spell—maybe from a staff of greater scrying (13th) (34,425 gp; 4 lbs.) solely to spam the greater scrying spell—Team Protagonist needs to make only a single mistake for a teleport ambush to leave Team Protagonist slaughtered in its sleep.

A tightly knit party could get away with just one member having one anticipate teleportation spell available per day, but that party must cleave closely to that one member; he’s all that stands between the party and Team Antagonist, and a lucky dispel magic spell renders the party totally vulnerable.

So first thing is to find a means of anticipating teleportation. The eternal wand (Magic Item Compendium 159-60) of anticipate teleportation [abjur] (Spell Compendium 13) (5th) (10,900 gp; 0 lbs.) or the minor schema (Magic of Eberron 122) of anticipate teleportation (6,000 gp; 0 lbs.) is a career-spanning investment; make the DM assume its used every day when preparing spells. Even better—but more expensive—is a staff of extended greater anticipate teleportation [abjur] (Spell Compendium 13) (34,425 gp; 4 lbs.) or a minor schema of greater anticipate teleportation (11th) (26,400 gp; 0 lbs.).

The DM must keep this in mind with his NPCs. The Ftr14 or whatever the party encountered must have a way to employ the spell anticipate teleportation or greater anticipate teleportation, whether that’s because a Wiz5 buddy casts the anticipate teleportation spell on him daily, the Ftr14 has cross-class ranks in Use Magic Device and a wand of anticipate teleportation (5th) (5,625 gp; 0 lbs.), or whatever.

The spell Otiluke’s impressing field [abjur] (Complete Mage 112) shuts down an entire school of magic, forcing those within to make caster level checks (DC 11 + the field’s caster level) to use any effect from that school. The field is a 20 ft. emanation centered on the caster. A wand of Otiluke’s impressing field (7th) (10,500 gp; 0 lbs.) doesn’t have a lot of oomph, but throw more money at a wand of Otiluke’s impressing field (20th) (30,000 gp; 0 lbs.) and it becomes painfully difficult to conjure in the area. This means a single casting of the anticipate teleportation spell combined with a wand of Otiluke’s impressing field can potentially quash all but at-will teleport effects before they happen—simply use the latter wand when the teleportation’s anticipated and hope the teleport user rolls low on the caster level check.

Stop Instant Transportation after It Happens
The spell dimensional anchor [abjur] (Player’s Handbook 221) is designed for this. Hit the bastard with a ranged touch attack and—no saving throw—he’s stuck. He gets his Spell Resistance though, so this can be a problem, but the wand of dimensional anchor (3rd) (5,625 gp; 0 lbs.) shuts down the loser lacking Spell Resistance for 3 minutes—plenty of time to kill him.

Tossing out a zone of respite or dimensional lock spell shuts down the teleport escape route, too. Hitting the dude with the spell desert diversion [conj] (Sandstorm 113) is hilarious but temporary, much like the spell maze [conj] (Player’s Handbook 252)—these spells don’t really stop the foe from using teleport so much as delaying its use until the foe’s return.

A single casting of the spell hallow [evoc] (Player’s Handbook 238) or unhallow [evoc] (Player’s Handbook 297) can put a dimensional anchor effect throughout an entire site (“regardless of [the hallow or unhallow spell’s] normal… area effect” according to the spells), preventing teleporting out of a site—selectively, even, if the hallow or unhallow spell is jiggered that way. A Clr9 can be paid 1,450 gp to cast this, but the dimensional anchor effect must be renewed yearly. This option is so cheap that even if an occupied structure of minor importance has no other defenses, it will have this.

The weapon special ability binding (Magic Item Compendium 29) (+1 bonus) makes a stabbed fool unable to teleport. The soul anchor (Magic Item Compendium 185-6) (10,000 gp; 3 lbs.) is for shoving right in some fool’s face. The dimensional shackles (Dungeon Master’s Guide 255) (28,000 gp; 5 lbs.), however, are overpriced and fragile (the baddie’s out if if he can make a DC 30 Str check or Escape Artist skill check).

Be Aware of Bullshit Instant Transportation
The spell master earth [trans] (Spell Compendium 139) would be seriously messed up if it could penetrate creature-built structures. The spell lookingglass [trans] (Masters of the Wild 90) has two as ifs, one about clairvoyance and another about teleport without error (i.e. Dungeons and Dragons 3.5’s greater teleport spell)—I’m ruling that these as ifs actually are the effects they name, so this spell needn’t make everyone in the universe mirror-paranoid (like the Planar Handbook didn’t do that already) about druidic invasions.

Next: Death--a less severe status effect than stunned. ]]>
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High-level Play, Part 4 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1811-High-level-Play-Part-4 Tue, 02 Jul 2013 15:28:03 GMT *Know How Instant Transportation Works* If you believe you’ve been the victim of scrying, for God’s sakes, rearrange the furniture! The teleport... Know How Instant Transportation Works
If you believe you’ve been the victim of scrying, for God’s sakes, rearrange the furniture!

The teleport spell is a legacy spell. In first edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons the magic-user employed the teleport spell for emergency escapes or transporting really good heavy swag. The first edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons magic-user didn’t try to figure out how to teleport into the king’s bedchamber, slit some royal throat, and teleport away. In first edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons a bad roll when using the teleport spell “means the instant death of the magic-user” (Player’s Handbook (1983) 82) so nobody experimented with it for very long.

By Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, the teleport spell has been massaged into a relatively safe and very quick means of long-distance travel. Now folks try to teleport into the king’s bedchamber, slit some royal throat, and teleport away. That’s not as easy as it sounds.

“You must have some clear idea of the location and layout of the destination,” says the teleport spell (Player’s Handbook 292-3). “You can’t simply teleport to the warlord’s tent,” the description continues, “if you don’t know where that tent is, what it looks like, or what’s in it.” Those 3 things after the warlord’s tent example are important.

First, a creature can use a teleport spell to arrive at a destination if he knows that destination’s location. This location must be deliberately nonspecific and unthreatening. The destination is the name of an adventure site, landmark, settlement, or structure (e.g. Count Nazor’s mastabah, the beach on the SW side of Abida, Cubbington’s Cove, the Baron’s Alehouse). The DM determines the caster’s familiarity with the destination, dice are rolled, and if the dice don’t screw the caster neither will the DM (e.g. the DM will not put you in front of a charging skeleton T-rex, nor 1 mile beneath the sea, nor in the middle of a naval battle, nor in the way of a raging orc Bbn20 whose axe is on the downswing). The caster arrives at the destination’s entrance or close enough that it’s considered the destination if nothing can be construed as an entrance.

If the destination no longer exists (e.g. Count Nazor’s mastabah’s been razed by a blue dragon, the beach on the SW side of Abida is now a formian city, Cubbington’s Cove is conquered and renamed Giantville, the Baron’s Alehouse falls victim to arson) consult the false destination chart (Player’s Handbook 293).

For example, Team Antagonist sends a scouting party, including a caster, over the Mushy Mountains and through the Dusty Desert to the Funky Forest, wherein, hidden behind layers of beasts, illusions, traps and wards, lies the Protagonist Cave. The caster studies the Funky Forest for a day. Then the caster slogs back to Fortress Antagonist, gathers minions, and casts a teleport spell, choosing as his destination the Funky Forest. The DM determines this is studied carefully and says, “Roll dice.” If the caster’s dice don’t betray him, he’ll arrive with his minions at the entrance to the Funky Forest, not far from where he studied. The spell can’t just fail while the Funky Forest exists unless access to the whole thing’s been cut off. If the Funky Forest doesn’t exist (e.g. eaten by the tarrasque, chopped down by petty dwarves, conquered and renamed Satan’s Toothpicks by Asmodeus), then consult the false destination chart (Player’s Handbook 293).

Without vast resources, countering this use of a teleportation spell is impossible.

Second, a creature can use a teleport spell to arrive at a destination if he knows the destination’s appearance. To reach the destination the caster must know the destination’s appearance right now or hope that the appearance is unchanged since he last studied it (e.g. no fixtures have been added or removed, the layout’s unaltered, it hasn’t been completely redecorated).

If the destination’s appearance is unchanged, the DM determines the caster’s familiarity with the destination, dice are rolled, and if the dice don’t screw the caster neither will the DM.

If the appearance has changed the teleport spell fails outright (like a greater teleport spell’s “insufficient information” attempt—the caster disappears then reappears in the same spot): “You can’t simply teleport [somewhere] if you don’t know… what it looks like.” The spell’s failure tells the caster that the idea of his destination remains, but he needs to refamiliarize himself with the appearance to use a teleport spell to get there.

If the destination no longer exists consult the false destination chart (Player’s Handbook 293).

For example, Team Antagonist believes Team Protagonist is staying in Room 2D in Death’s Inn in Murder City. Team Antagonist doesn’t want to be seen entering Death’s Inn and Team Antagonist’s caster visited Death’s Inn’s main hall a week ago. The caster picks his destination as Death’s Inn’s main hall. The DM determines this is seen casually. If the Death’s Inn’s main hall is unchanged after a week the caster’s teleport spell succeeds and the DM says, “Roll dice.” If anything’s significantly changed about the Death’s Inn’s main hall in a week (e.g. a 20 ft. long mirror was installed behind the bar yesterday, the furniture’s rearranged to accommodate the shuffleboard tournament, the whole place’s now painted black to honor Gonad the Gladiator’s memory), his teleport spell fails. If the Death’s Inn’s main hall no longer exists (e.g. converted into a sanctuary of Pelor, destoyed by a meteor strike, flooded by a decanter of endless water) then consult the false destination chart (Player’s Handbook 293).

Most folks under level 9 don’t even care about this, but those folks above level 8 are constantly rearranging furniture, altering their home’s layout with folding screens, and changing their décor. Some places have deliberately unchanging rooms specifically as destinations for teleport spells, and sometimes an ottoman, some traffic cones, or a coat of paint stops an invasion.

Finally, a creature can use a teleport spell to arrive at a destination where an object is present. The caster puts himself a specific distance from a specific object and studies the object. The destination becomes that distance from that object. Durable, unique objects work best. When the teleport spell is cast, if the object’s not vandalized, destroyed, or moved to another plane, and if the space the studied distance away from the object is free of obstructions, the DM determines the caster’s familiarity with the object, dice are rolled, and if the dice don’t screw the caster neither will the DM.

If the object’s vandalized (e.g. eaten by a monster with the swallow whole extraordinary ability, painted, ripped, scratched, tagged) the spell fails. Like a destination with an altered appearance, the idea remains, but the caster needs to refamiliarize himself with the object to use it as a teleport spell destination. The more unique the object, the more incidental wear and tear it can withstand.

If arrival at the studied distance is impossible (e.g. an area occupied by other creatures, a vault tightly packed with coins) or if the object no longer exists as the caster studied it (e.g. destroyed utterly, eaten by a monster without the swallow whole extraordinary ability, snapped in half, used as building material) then consult the false destination chart (Player’s Handbook 293).

For example, Team Antagonist wants to assassinate the king. Team Antagonist’s caster studies a gold piece painted blue with a smiley etched into it from 5 ft. away for an hour. A Team Antagonist rogue uses the Sleight of Hand skill to put the gold piece into the king’s robe during a parade. That night, Team Antagonist’s caster blazes away with his teleport spell, picking as his destination the space 5 ft. away from that coin. The DM determines this counts as studied carefully. If the space 5 ft. from the coin is free of obstructions and the coin’s intact, the spell succeeds, and the DM says, “Roll dice.” If the coin’s been altered (e.g. bent in half, polished to a brilliant sheen, the subject of an arcane mark), the spell fails. If the square 5 ft. from the coin is obstructed (e.g. placed in the royal vault), consult the false destination chart. If the coin’s been destroyed (e.g. melted down to make the king’s new crown), consult the false destination chart.

This is monstrously easy to defeat, but it also means characters ditch a lot of loot in paranoid fury. Further, it makes unique items interesting burdens. Finally, it makes handmade items that much more valuable.

The spell greater teleport [conj] (Player’s Handbook 293) adds some wrinkles, especially as it’s a ridiculously common spell-like ability among Team Antagonist. The dice are still rolled when using the greater teleport spell, but arriving off-target is impossible. This means a greater teleport spell puts its users either on target, in a similar area, or makes them suffer a mishap, which is an improvement. Further, the greater teleport spell allows blind teleportation. This is scary shit because it requires a “reliable description” like “a detailed description from someone else or a particularly precise map.”

In my universes most folks can’t give detailed descriptions of anything. Providing details sufficient to differentiate one location from all others in a short amount of time is simply beyond the capacity of most creatures. The memorize skill use of the Autohypnosis skill doesn’t let the user relay that “detailed description”—it’s specifically for documents (although the Autohypnosis skill can be used to memorize a “particularly precise map”). The memory class feature of the Oriental Adventures prestige class shadow scout does allow exactly that, though. Surface thoughts (from the crystalline memories [trans] (Complete Mage 100-1) or detect thoughts [div] (Player’s Handbook 220) spells) can’t garner that “detailed description” unless the target has reason to be thinking of the description (e.g. his attitude is helpful, he’s the target of a charm spell). The brain spider [div] (Spell Compendium 38), mind rape [ench] (Book of Vile Darkness 99), probe thoughts [div] (Spell Compendium 162), and similar spells easily extract that “detailed description” from a target’s noggin. The spell vision of fear [div] (Dragon #333 73) has thorough rules for exactly this situation. The “brief, cryptic, or repetitive” information from the speak with dead spell is insufficient, but the spell absorb mind [div] (Book of Vile Darkness 84) gives the caster a 25% chance of getting a “detailed description” by taking 2d6 points of Wisdom damage and eating the dead dude’s brain!

Getting or making that “particularly precise map” is so hard it’s a campaign goal not a random purchase from even a gifted cartographer. A god can make that “particularly precise map.” There might be an artifact or relic that’s a “particularly precise map.” You don’t have—and nothing short of epic lets someone create—that “particularly precise map.”

Next: Wrapping up instant transportation. ]]>
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High-level Play, Part 3 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1810-High-level-Play-Part-3 Tue, 02 Jul 2013 09:59:07 GMT *Make Yourself Aware of Other Divination Spells* The universal counter to divinations is the Vecna-blooded template (Monster Manual 5 66-7), which... Make Yourself Aware of Other Divination Spells
The universal counter to divinations is the Vecna-blooded template (Monster Manual 5 66-7), which unravels the creature from cosmic tapestry or something, and it’s pretty awesome. There’s nothing else in the game that humps divinations harder than the Vecna-blooded template.

A wand of extended misdirection [illus] (Player’s Handbook 254) (12th) (13,500 gp; 0 lbs.) moves all the creature’s auras from the affected creature to something else for 1 day. That’s versatile and tells detect everything to go to hell, but there’s a Willpower saving throw (the wand’s DC is 14). A staff of chained extended reach misdirection (15th) (45,300 gp; 4 lbs.) has a slightly better basic saving throw (DC 16 Will) and affects 15 people per day for 1 charge.

A wand of extended obscure object [abjur] (Player’s Handbook 258) (4th) (3,000 gp; 0 lbs.) totally prevents divination spells from working on an object weighing up to 400 lbs. for 16 hours per charge.

Some divinations answer questions. These answers are rarely names, but judicious use might do it. The spells commune [div] (Player’s Handbook 275) and contact other plane [div] (Player’s Handbook 211) get binary answers. The spell glimpse of truth (Book of Vile Darkness 96) can get very short answers (like a name) and requires the caster chug Dungeons and Dragons PCP. The spell path of the exalted (Book of Exalted Deeds 103) only gets the caster advice. The spell susurrus of the city (Dragon Compendium Volume 1 63) gets one-word answers if the caster’s city knows the answer. The spell identify transgressor [div] (Book of Vile Darkness 97-8) specifically yields a name and requires the caster huff a cocktail of Dungeons and Dragons acid and smack.

The spell circle dance [div] (Spell Compendium 46) requires firsthand knowledge of a creature and has the same identification restrictions as scrying and greater scrying, but the spell affects the caster not the creature, and the caster gets just the direction the creature’s in and the creature’s status. The caster could be in for a long walk and then some burrowing.

The spell locate creature [div] (Player’s Handbook 249) is vague about the familiarity necessary to locate a specific creature, but based on the spell’s ability to find by a creatures of a specific kind (not type, the spell carefully explains, but kind; that is, race—the actual indexed name of the creature) a caster needs to have seen the creature at least once from no more than 30 ft. away. In addition to being blocked by thin sheets of lead, running water stops the locate creature spell. The decanter of endless water (Dungeon Master’s Guide 254) (9,000 gp; 2 lbs.) becomes an anti-divination device.

The spell discern location [div] (Player’s Handbook 222) doesn’t need a name to work; it always finds an object, and it always finds the creature if he’s not affected by the spell mind blank. It doesn’t provide details sufficient to teleport straight to the object or creature, only narrowing down the object or creature’s location to the structure. The discern location spell also requires the caster to have touched the object or requires the caster to have seen the creature or have something the creature owned.

The creature gets a Willpower saving throw versus the spell implacable pursuer [div] (Spell Compendium 120-1), with failure making escaping the caster nearly impossible for hours.

Creatures can just straight-up murder the sensors created by the spells prying eyes [div] (Player’s Handbook 266) and greater prying eyes [div] (Player’s Handbook 266), and they can attack the far more obvious fiendish dire bats created by the spell eyes of the king [conj] (Libris Mortis: The Book of the Dead 64).

The spell forest eyes [div] (Complete Champion 121-2) means that living plants are placed only in dangerous or secluded areas, and that all the plants in the castle that appear alive are actually dead, preserved by gentle repose to foil smart asses who think they’re going to use this spell for spying.

The spell dream sight [div] (Heroes of Horror 128) makes the caster incorporeal but not invisible, and the caster can’t fight back if he’s stabbed in the face with ghost touch weapons.

The spell stone tell [div] (Player’s Handbook 284) (or, colloquially, talks to rocks) makes stones reveal what’s behind them; thin lead sheets between ceilings, floors, and walls stop stones from being talkative jerks.

The spell locate object [div] (Player’s Handbook 249), while technically having a long range, has a more limited range than serious divinations, meaning the creature can just outrun the spell’s range. If that’s not an option, when a creature steals an object he should put that object in a lead-lined box, but in most jurisdictions possessing a lead-lined box marks the creature as a thief. A caster can’t use the locate object spell to find a specific object he hasn’t seen, so some dude you’ve never met promising to find your missing coin purse with the locate object spell is pulling your leg.

A misreading of the spell find the path [div] (Player’s Handbook 230) gives the caster directions to “the entrance to the room where I can find the king’s murderer.” That’s horrible. First, the spell’s destination mandates a lack of creature and object specificity. Second, the spell guides the caster to the entrance or exit of an entire locale. The find the path spell doesn’t find locales inside locales from outside locales—a caster in Killington can find the path to the entrance of Murder City and a caster in Murder City can find the path to the entrance of Death’s Inn and a caster in Death’s Inn can find the path to the entrance of Room 2D and a caster in Room 2D can find the path to the entrance of the Room 2D’s WC. A caster in Killington can’t just find the path to the entrance of the WC in Room 2D of Death’s Inn in Murder City. This is, obviously, totally subjective, but the find the path spell is a serious legacy spells that modern gaming doesn’t handle well.

The find the path dates to at least first edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. It was designed as countermeasure to dick DMs who insisted players painstakingly map the dungeon and who then inserted sloping passages and goddam tesseracts to screw up players’ maps. For players in the late 70s and early 80s its purpose was to permit sloppy player cartography and prevent DM dickery. The find the path spell gets characters to and out of adventure sites; it doesn’t solve ancient mysteries.

Make Yourself Aware of Other Spy Spells
A caster uses an animal as a spy with the spells leap into animal [trans] (Magic of Eberron 97), possess animal [necro] (Player’s Guide to Faerûn 108), and share husk [div] (Spell Compendium 187).

A caster uses a creature as a spy with the spell chain of eyes [div] (Spell Compendium 45).

A caster uses a zombie as a spy with the spell eyes of the zombie [div] (Book of Vile Darkness 94-5).

A caster can use an object as a remote spying device. A tiny dried animal skull is used in the spell echo skull [div] (Spell Compendium 77). A stone, lump of charcoal, piece of metal, puddle of water, or chunk of wood, any of which must weigh between 0.5 lb. and 1 lb., is used in the spell elemental eye [div] (Complete Mage 103).

A caster can put a permanent dragoneye rune [univ] (Dragon Magic 66) on any object or creature as a standard action touch attack with no saving throw. Then, thrice per day, the caster can sense the dragoneye rune-affected creature’s or object’s direction and distance from him. This isn’t a divination, and even a pedestrian dispel magic spell gets rid of the effect, but a character not playing that game can’t do jack about a dragoneye rune spell. A wand of reach dragoneye rune (7th) (10,500 gp; 0 lbs.) is available for serious taggers.

The high-level, expensive spell watchware [abjur] (Unapproachable East 53) gets firsthand knowledge of whoever next disturbs an object the caster touches; getting firsthand knowledge of a creature is a big deal, but a staff of reach watchware (13th) (59,425 gp; 4 lbs.) is such a serious investment only the utterly committed will consider such an item. Adding the Reach Spell metamagic feat lets the caster throw a rock through a window, tag it with a charge from the staff, and get firsthand knowledge of whoever touches the rock—an unsubtle but useful method of scrying and greater scrying target acquisition.

The takeaway from this? The detect magic [div] (Player’s Handbook 219) spell is incredible and absolutely necessary, and casters use it all the time on all their stuff just to make sure. Also, those with insufficient ranks in the Spellcraft skill to “[i]dentify a spell that’s already in place” (Player’s Handbook 82) (DC 20 + spell level—no retry) throw away a lot of their loot to avoid spies, as they’re unable to determine what spells are on it. That’s just sad and one more reason some characters stop playing.

Can You Stop Instant Transportation?
Team Antagonist wants to instantly and silently penetrate Team Protagonist’s hideout while Team Protagonist sleeps so that Team Antagonist can murder Team Protagonist.

Boo.

Team Protagonist wants to instantly and silently penetrate Team Antagonist’s hideout while Team Antagonist sleeps so that Team Protagonist can murder Team Antagonist.

Yay.

Therefore you need to know how teleportation spells work no matter whose side you’re on.

Spells with the teleportation descriptor that you care about but are out of your control are the spells dimension door [conj] (Player’s Handbook 221) and its limited-range ilk, plane shift [conj] (Player’s Handbook 262) and its interplanar-movement ilk, and teleport [conj] (Player’s Handbook 292-3) and its long-range ilk.

You’ve also to be aware of all the spells with the teleport descriptor that happen because you let them happen. You might let someone in who tags your WC with the spell evacuation rune [conj] (Complete Scoundrel 98). Put gates on your small town and—boom!—the spell citygate [trans] (Dragon #317 35) happens. Disloyal undead servitors might be the subject of the spell door of decay [conj] (Complete Champion 120). That roaring fire you keep lit all the time because that’s awesome? That’s ripe for the spell fire stride [trans] (Spell Compendium 93). You think living somewhere terrible will prevent intrusion? Welcome to the spells frostfell slide [conj] (Frostburn 96), stormwalk [conj] (Stormwrack 122), and swamp stride [conj] (Spell Compendium 217). Living in a node is awesome until someone casts the spell node door [conj] (Champions of Ruin 32). O, you live somewhere made of rock? Stupid. Somebody’s going to use the spell stone walk [conj] (Player's Guide to Faerûn 113) on your ass. Druid groves in particular are vulnerable, and unless you’ve cleansed the game world of vegetation (and good on you if you have) you, too, must worry about the spells transport via plants [conj] (Player’s Handbook 295) and tree stride [conj] (Player’s Handbook 296). You brought a cute little kitty into your lair? Dummy. Say hello to the spell familiar refuge [conj] (Complete Mage 104). Nice picture. Uh oh! It’s the spell frame teleport [trans] (“Wyrms of the North” column “Felgolos, ‘The Flying Misfortune’”). What are you looking at? Yourself? Too bad about the existence of the spells lookingglass [trans] (Masters of the Wild 90—O, crap!) and mirror walking [trans] (Manual of the Planes 205). Just taking a really evil dump? Paladins show up for no reason with the spell door to great evil [conj] (Ghostwalk Web Enhancement 6) (there is no door to great good spell for blackguards, though—woohoo!). Even your treasure is a potential gateway with the spell gemjump [conj] (Spell Compendium 101-2).

To put a stop to all this you must…

Next: ...Read the next installment about how the teleport spell works. ]]>
Hey I Can Chan http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1810-High-level-Play-Part-3
High-level Play, Part 2 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1809-High-level-Play-Part-2 Tue, 02 Jul 2013 03:21:29 GMT *Stop the Spying before the Spying Starts* Although the creature can’t do anything about it, if the creature has the feat Whispered Secrets (Races... Stop the Spying before the Spying Starts
Although the creature can’t do anything about it, if the creature has the feat Whispered Secrets (Races of Destiny 155), after he’s the target of the spell but before his Spell Resistance’s checked and before he makes a saving throw, he knows someone’s making an attempt to observe him via a spell in the scrying subschool.

The scrying and greater scrying spells check for Spell Resistance, and, as Spell Resistance “is like an Armor Class against magical attacks” (Player’s Handbook 177), a creature knows when his Spell Resistance is breached by or prevents a spell, but the creature doesn’t get information about the spell or its caster. So while a creature’s Spell Resistance might prevent that one scrying or greater scrying spell, the creature won’t know that’s the spell that targeted him without a detect magic spell to examine the spell’s lingering aura and slick Spellcraft skill shenanigans.

The spell spell immunity [abjur] (Player’s Handbook 282) can affect the spell scrying and the spell greater spell immunity [abjur] (Player’s Handbook 282) can affect both the spells scrying and greater scrying. A charge from a staff of extended greater spell immunity (20th) (67,800 gp; 4 lbs.) lasts 400 minutes, so about 4 charges per day halt scrying, greater scrying, and 3 more spells besides. A charge from a staff of empowered spell turning [abjur] (Player’s Handbook 282) (20th) (67,800 gp; 4 lbs.) lasts only 200 minutes (so about 8 charges per day), and its effect on scrying and greater scrying is hilarious. Anyway, these kinds of magic item answer many questions not just those posed by the scrying and greater scrying spells.

The scrying and greater scrying spells grant Willpower saving throws, but the target gets a bonus or penalty to this saving throw depending on the caster’s familiarity with the target (none is +10 and requires a connection, secondhand is +5, firsthand is +0, and familiar is −5) and the caster’s connection to the target (picture is −2, possession or garment is −4, and body part is −10). A successful saving throw means the caster can’t target that creature with that spell for 24 hours. The caster can still target everyone near the target, however.

So, barring Spell Resistance, the best defense against the scrying and greater scrying spells is getting the highest Willpower saving throw possible or getting to reroll a lousy Willpower saving throw. It’s assumed the target already has a pretty serious resistance bonus to saving throws and at least a token morale bonus to Willpower saving throws—those grow on trees; pick one.

The spell contingency [evoc] (Player’s Handbook 213) can activate another spell if the target must make a saving throw versus the scrying or greater scrying spell, but there’s the 10-minute window while the target recasts the contingency spell when the caster can let loose with a greater scrying spell because of its standard action casting time.

Despite that, a charge from a wand of mental strength (Oriental Adventures 110) (5th) (5,625 gp; 0 lbs.) or a charge from a staff of warp destiny (Races of Destiny 169) (11th) (24,750 gp; 4 lbs.) when establishing a contingency spell’s effects helps. The latter is an otherwise an overpriced walking stick (because “[a]ctivating a spell trigger item is a standard action” (Dungeon Master’s Guide 213)—yes, seriously, as the Rules Compendium is not errata and can’t trump the primary source), but it works here.

A charge from a wand of extended adept spirit [abjur] (Magic of Incarnum 98) (12th) (9,000 gp; 0 lbs.) sets up a 24-hour effect that can be activated as an immediate action to get a +2 insight bonus to one Willpower saving throw (among other benefits) and a bigger bonus if essentia’s throw into it. The spell ends 1 minute after activation.

If someone else uses a charge from a wand of extended benediction [abjur] (Complete Champion 116) (20th) (22,500 gp; 0 lbs.) on the target, he gets a +2 luck bonus to saving throws, and he gets to reroll 1 saving throw (or something else) during the next 400 minutes, ending the effect. The spell’s pretty serious about the target not using the spell on himself, so making it part of a contingency spell is tricky, but 4 charges per day isn’t terrible for the effect it provides.

The scry shroud (Magic Item Compendium 133) (4,000 gp; 0 lbs.) grants a healthy +5 bonus to saving throws versus all divination spells.

Success on the saving throw entitles the creature to make a Spellcraft skill check (DC 25 + spell level). Success means the creature knows the name of the spell against which he made the saving throw. Even if he fails this Spellcraft skill check, because he succeeded on the saving throw he “feels a hostile force or a tingle, [sic] but cannot deduce the exact nature of the attack” (Player’s Handbook 177).

Find the Magical Sensor
The creature’s been identified. The creature’s been targeted. The creature’s responses to being targeted have triggered. The creature’s Spell Resistance’s failed. The creature’s made a saving throw. The creature’s responses to making a saving throw have triggered. The creature’s failed his saving throw.
Now there’s an invisible magical sensor.

Spells from the scrying subschool of the divination school often create an invisible magical sensor that Int 12 or higher creatures can notice with a DC 20 Int check (Player’s Handbook 173). Anything that smacks down invisibility reveals the sensor (e.g. the spells glitterdust [conj] (Player’s Handbook 236), invisibility purge [evoc] (Player’s Handbook 245), see invisibility [div] (Player’s Handbook 275), and true seeing [div] (Player’s Handbook 296); a flour pouch (Dungeonscape 30, 32)). The game is silent on a revealed magical sensor’s appearance, Size, weight, and whether a magical sensor can be clapped in a cigar box or covered with a sheet. Apparently the magical sensor can’t use the Hide skill (because otherwise it’d have a Size modifier), and it can only move if the spell says it can move, so once aware of a sensor, the creature knows the sensor is there until the sensor’s gone.

But even if the creature doesn’t know there’s a magical sensor, he will know if he’s the subject of the spell scry trap [abjur] (Magic of Eberron 101) and he gets within 10 ft. of one. Doing so activates the scry trap, sending a blast of untyped damage up the sensor to the sensor’s controller. Yes, the controller gets Spell Resistance and a Reflex saving throw, but the creature probably hopes this blast doesn’t dispel the sensor so he can use another charge from his staff of empowered extended scry trap (17th) (57,675 gp; 4 lbs.) and blast the caster’s spying ass again. If the only goal is blazing away at the caster, the simpler staff of scry trap (9th) (17,175 gp; 4 lbs.) spends less than 350 gp per charge instead of over 1,100 gp per charge.

The spell detect scrying [div] (Player’s Handbook 219), however, is the winner of the find-the-magical-sensor game, lasting 24 hours, covering a 40-ft. radius, letting the affected creature know about every sensor in the area, and granting an opposed caster level check to see and locate the bastard who made the sensor. A wand of detect scrying (5th) (5,625 gp; 0 lbs.) or a wand of extended detect scrying (7th) (10,500 gp; 4 lbs.) is a paranoid’s best friend. For twice the bigger wand’s price and a commitment to Vecna the dagger of defiance (Magic Item Compendium 50) (20,302 gp; 1 lb.) is a steal, giving the DM a hyper-intelligent, magic-hating NPC who’ll find all the magic sensors for you all the time.

Also if the sensor’s within 40 ft. of a creature with the feat Eyes to the Sky (Unearthed Arcana 93) the creature always notices the sensor.

A circlet of convocation (Dragon Compendium Volume 1 133) (4,775 gp; 0 lbs.) grants a +5 insight bonus to the Intelligence check to notice the invisible sensor. Spending 1 of its 5 charges teleports the wearer right next to the sensor’s controller. Be bold but be careful.

A deathglance locket (Dragon Compendium Volume 1 134) (3,860 gp; 0 lbs.) grants a +2 insight bonus to the Intelligence check to notice the magical sensor. It’s also like a less lethal scry trap spell once per day if the wearer notices the sensor.

When the effect of the wand of extended adept spirit was activated to get a bonus to Willpower saving throws, it also granted a +2 insight bonus to Intelligence checks, which helps notice the magical sensor.

Enough other spells grant bonuses to Intelligence checks that listing them all would be problematic. Suffice it to say they’re all worthwhile in attempting to notice a magical sensor. I’m a big enough fan of the wand of improvisation [trans] (Spell Compendium 121) (20th) (7,500 gp; 0 lbs.) to mention its +10 luck bonus to an Intelligence check.

Respond to the Magical Sensor’s Presence
If the creature didn’t respond to the magical sensor with scry trap, a circlet of convocation, or a deathglance locket, he can still respond in other ways.

The sensor usually has the caster’s sensory acuity (e.g. a nalfeshnee demon’s visual sensor has a true seeing effect, any devil’s visual sensor sees in magical darkness), but effects that emanate from the caster aren’t senses (e.g. the spell see invisibility is a sense, the spell ebon eyes [trans] (Spell Compendium 77) is a sense, the spell detect magic [div] (Player’s Handbook 218-9) is not a sense). Thus scrying is best done with sensory enhancement spells at the ready. Also, some senses are just messed up (e.g. the spell telepathy tap [div] (Book of Exalted Deeds 110) is a sense based on hearing). The scrying and greater scrying spells’ sensors permit only sight and hearing, but the blind and deaf can see and hear via scrying spells because, seriously, the rules call this out (Player’s Handbook 173).

The true-seeing-is-a-sense bones the spell false vision [illus] (Player’s Handbook 229). However, a staff of extended false vision (12th) (39,800 gp; 4 lbs.) remains a solid investment if the creature knows the casters of scrying or greater scrying don’t have cheap true seeing access. It’s one thing to blow a scrying or greater scrying spell, but it’s another thing entirely to blow a scrying or greater scrying spell and a true seeing spell and the 250 gp it costs to cast the true seeing spell. The false vision spell’s real advantage is it’s an emanation with touch range, so a creature can use it on himself and still go about his business. I suggest a false vision a fat, grunting weirdo in a Batman costume leering over pictures of Catwoman.

The default response to discovering a magical sensor is to make it go away. Obviously, the spell dispel magic and its ilk work fine for this purpose.

Other magical responses to a magical sensor include becoming invisible or creating an area of magical darkness; these foil newbie casters of scrying, but serious casters will have ebon eyes and see invisibility available. If the creature doesn’t want to be seen by the sensor, a Hide skill check totally works. Not even true seeing finds hidden things.

Further, creating an area of magical silence around an immobile sensor means the sensor’s controller must rely on his Spot skill check to read lips (Player’s Handbook 83). If magical silence is impossible, just whispering instead of talking means the controller must make a Listen skill check (DC 25) to hear and understand what’s being said. Further, many mundane and magical secret communication methods exist; worrying about spies means having at least one.

If the sensor’s controller’s scouting the layout of the creature’s lair—and the lair isn’t protected by illusions or the controller has a true seeing effect on—the creature’s boned. The controller can get the lair’s appearance by having the sensor exist there ever at all. Expect the teleport spell immediately.

If the teleport spell doesn’t happen, then the sensor’s controller is looking for actual information, so responding to the sensor by doing nothing or only performing mundane tasks (like rearranging the furniture) is an effective counter. However, spellcasters are patient; no one fires off a greater scrying spell—a 7th-level spell with a duration measured in hours—and gets bored with the results. And a waiting creature isn’t doing what he was planning to do, and that’s often enough.

Take a Nap
Once the lead-lined dungeon’s vacated and another destination’s reached, cast the immobile spells screen [illus] (Player’s Handbook 274) or, better, Mordenkainen’s private sanctum [abjur] (Player’s Handbook 256). The former’s overcome by the spell true seeing while the latter isn’t. A staff of extended Mordenkainen’s private sanctum (11th) (25,050 gp; 4 lbs.) is dirt cheap for the security it provides. Then rest.

Try Everything
It doesn’t take long for Team Antagonist to lose interest in the scrying subschool except for the short ranged spells that look around corners. Once Team Antagonist realizes its scrying and greater scrying spells are always targeting the wrong people, failing outright, attracting phantasmal killers and psychic poisons, bumping against obscene Spell Resistance and ridiculous Willpower saving throws, setting off lethal scry traps, and costing 250 gp to penetrate false visions only to spy on a Team Protagonist that hides and whispers whenever a magic sensor gets noticed, Team Antagonist gives up on the scrying and greater scrying spells.

That is, unless Team Antagonist’s seriously got nothing better to do but harass Team Protagonist in this fashion, or Team Antagonist can somehow commit completely to this route (e.g. a circle of diviners, a Wiz26 with simulacrum as a spell-like ability). If this isn’t the kind of Team Antagonist that Team Protagonist has irritated, Team Antagonist goes back to traditional, mundane methods—hiring mercenaries and assassins to murder Team Protagonist. That’s more fun than this game anyway. But Team Protagonist has to tough it out first.

Next: Other divinations and maybe some teleport. ]]>
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High-level Play, Part 1 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1808-High-level-Play-Part-1 Mon, 01 Jul 2013 10:19:35 GMT I've players who're unfamiliar with the latter half (levels 10+) of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. That's okay. But a raft of rulings are needed when a dude casts the scrying spell and then casts the teleport spell to murder folks in their sleep. This is long 'cause I try to cover all the bases.

High-level Play
At about level 9 the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 game changes significantly in that it assumes Team Antagonist has questions and that Team Protagonist has answers. Some of Team Antagonist’s questions are hard and weird, though, and the answers not readily apparent. Here are some of Team Antagonist’s questions.

Can You Escape?
Team Antagonist gets some very scary puzzle monsters. These aren’t just Big Sacks of Hit Points; they’re Big Sacks of Bizarre Powers and Hit Points that, until you figure out how to fight them, you lose. If you fight something to the death it’s not guaranteed it’ll be to the death of the monster, so you need a way to easily, quickly, and safely flee. This doesn’t make you a coward; this makes you smart. Every [homebrew] PC can cast the spells freedom of movement at level 9 and contingency at level 12, so even if you set up your contingency spell to actually be the freedom of movement spell (which is totally cool if you’ve no better options), you should always have a contingency spell running that will rescue you when things go south.

If you can’t do it yourself, you should acquire a method of short-range teleportation. I suggest at least one anklet of translocation (Magic Items Compendium 71) (1,400 gp; 0 lbs.).

Can You Stop Spies?
Team Antagonist likes using divination spells to determine Team Protagonist’s location and plans.

Boo.

Team Protagonist likes using divination spells to determine Team Antagonist’s location and plans.

Yay.

Therefore you need to know how divination spells work no matter whose side you’re on.

The scrying subschool includes the spells arcane eye [div] (Player’s Handbook 200), clairaudience/clairvoyance [div] (Player’s Handbook 209-10) (even when used through a scrying beacon (Magic Item Compendium 104) (750 gp; 0 lbs.)), eye of power [div] (Spell Compendium 87), eye of stone [div] (Races of Stone 162), flowsight [div] (Stormwrack 117), greater scrying [div] (Player’s Handbook 275), listening coin [div] (Spell Compendium 133), portal view [div] (Underdark 60), scry location [div] (Complete Scoundrel 102), scrying [div] (Player’s Handbook 274-5), and spymaster’s coin [div] (Complete Scoundrel 104). Spells like gem tracer [div] (Dragons of Faerûn 116), sacred guardian [div] (Book of Exalted Deeds 106), and soul link [necro] (Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss 96) activate a scrying effect; while these spells aren’t in the scrying subschool the scrying effect they create is.

The scrying subschool is a big deal because its spells can determine teleport destinations. Most other divination spells can’t, but exceptions exist, which I’ll address later.

To stop scrying subschool spells you’ll want to…

Be Everywhere and Nowhere
The scrying and greater scrying spells do not answer questions. This is implied by the spells but not stated, so I’m stating it. When the spell says “some creature” it means a specific creature with a name or that’s been encountered. If a caster walks into a room and finds the king dead and then casts scrying targeting “the king’s murderer,” the DM will do the mental gymnastics that has the caster using the scrying spell on the dwarf who mined the ore from which the blacksmith forged the dagger that the shopkeeper bought wholesale and sold to the assassins guild armorer who gave it to the rogue who, with that dagger, murdered the king, and I can make the caster think some poor, starving dwarf miner six cities away killed the king. That’s me being a jerk because the caster’s loopholing a spell. However, if the caster sees the murderer flee or the murderer leaves behind his ear, “the king’s murderer” becomes instead “that dude I saw flee from the king’s bedchamber” or “the dude who’s the rest of this ear” and that’s a valid, the-DM’s-not-going-to-screw-with-it target of the scrying and greater scrying spells.

This makes names important and explains why PCs tell people who ask that they’re The Fist, The Dragon, The Martyr, The Returner, The Hood, The Veteran, The Thief, or whatever. It’s the same reason Batman licenses his suit to Halloween costume shops; a scrying and greater scrying spell targeting random folks who call themselves or who think they are Batman gets you 7 minutes (or 13 hours) of a fat, grunting weirdo in a Batman costume leering over pictures of Catwoman. However, a scrying or greater scrying spell targeting “the Batman I saw here last night” or “the Batman who owns this batarang” gets that Batman. And a scrying or greater scrying spell targeting Bruce Wayne absolutely gets Bruce Wayne.

Corner-case, mostly class feature-y things check this, too. If a target has a different identity to such a degree that the target believes he’s someone else with a different name, a scrying or greater scrying spell targeting the original name fails outright. In my universes class features granting other identities do this automatically (e.g. Complete Adventurer’s spymaster, Epic Level Handbook’s epic infiltrator). The spell that does this is programmed amnesia [ench] (Spell Compendium 162-3), which a wizard will gladly cast for 2,030 gp, but—O, crap!—read that spell and make damn sure he’s friendly! I’ve not decided if the spell feeblemind [ench] (Player’s Handbook 229-30) or any other spell reducing Int below 3 renders the target nameless (I don’t know if a lizard knows its name), but… um… probably? Go ahead and experiment with that.

By the way, I use the metagame mystical definition of name here, as in the name unique to a creature that encapsulates his identity. This is found in the Name section of your character sheet. No, you can’t leave this section blank, fill this section illegibly, make your name unpronounceable by impatient and short-lived humans, or have your name be an emotional, sensory, or theoretical concept (e.g. the trust in the heart of the cards, the scent of fresh dew on a beholder’s eyelash, π’s last 10 digits, the strange shiver after pissing).

Live Somewhere Appropriate
Thin sheets of lead block all scrying subschool spells, most detect-type divinations, and the spells locate object [div] (Player’s Handbook 249) and locate creature [div] (Player’s Handbook 249). PCs probably won’t have noticed, but a lot of structures incorporate this safeguard, and sometimes that’s bullshit, but most important (i.e. above CR 6) Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 folks understand the value of a thin sheet of lead, so those’re just there, and a house even 10 years old means thin sheets of lead are in the exterior walls, ceilings, and floors by default. Most actual, for reals, a-wizard-did-it (or a-bard-did-it as the lyre of building (Dungeon Master’s Guide 261) is the bomb) dungeons have the same defenses, so finding a nice dungeon, clearing it of monsters, and living there is a thing (which, by the way, is exactly what The Gnome was supposed to do). That happens and—bam!— the entire scrying subschool just got punched in the junk.

However, adventures available to characters perpetually camped in conquered dungeons are limited. So, yeah, it’s not enough to just turtle. The campaign ends. Some NPCs turtle because high-level play is hard, and other NPCs opt for retirement—Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 barbarians, fighters, monks, rangers, paladins, and many rogues just can’t play the game beyond level 6. That’s why high-level encounters often feature bards, clerics, druids, sorcerers, wizards, and other spellcasters: they have the resources to deal with Team Antagonist’s shenanigans or be Team Antagonist.

Anyway, if there’s a trip that needs taking, a town that needs visiting, alley business that needs conducting, or a natural anything that needs exploring, portable defenses against the scrying subschool are a necessity.

Avoid Being the Target
The spell nondetection [abjur] (Player’s Handbook 257) is a lousy counter to divination spells because of its fragility. Those casting divinations are usually higher level than those who don’t want the divinations cast on them, so casters just force their way through nondetection spells with bigger, fatter caster level checks. However, if it’s the only thing available or if it’s available at ridiculous, it works fine. For an individual a wand of extended nondetection (12th) (16,000 gp; 0lbs.) [nondetection is a 2nd-level spell for the Telflammar Shadowlord, but you should check my numbers for all of these things anyway] is probably a career-spanning investment, and for a group a staff of chained extended reach nondetection (15th) (47,800; 4 lbs.) does the job on 15 people per charge.

Constant nondetection can be gotten from an amulet of proof against detection and location (Dungeon Master’s Guide 247) (8th) (35,000 gp; 0 lbs.) or a hat of anonymity (Magic Item Compendium 109) (7th) (12,500; 1 lb.), but these have such low caster levels as to be nearly meaningless.

The spell mind blank [abjur] (Player’s Handbook 253) is what everyone wants, though. In addition to flat-out stopping divinations (including the ridiculous discern location spell), it blocks everything mind-affecting. The mind blank spell just straight-up gives magical spycraft the finger. For an individual a staff of extended mind blank (17th) (57,375 gp; 4 lbs.) works for several months. If only the anti-scrying portion of mind blank is needed the ioun stone (black and white ellipsoid) (Dragon #319 64) (60,000 gp; 0 lbs.) works forever. Every other way to get even close to mind blank is priced at over 100,000 gp, so pre-epic no one gets those; while it’s possible there’re so many other things on which to spend that kind of gp.

If planning a very short adventuring career, a wizard can be paid 1,530 gp every other day to cast an extended mind blank spell on somebody.

Kill Spies for Even Trying to Spy
A dead caster can’t finish using the scrying and greater scrying spells.

The spelltouched feat Live My Nightmare (Unearthed Arcana 94) is awesome for the paranoid. The feat sends an effect like the spell phantasmal killer [illus] (Player’s Handbook 260) at anyone who targets the feat’s possessor with a divination spell or effect. Things just got real, even with the effect’s unoptimized, Charisma-based save DC.

A charge from a staff of extended psychic poison [abjur] (Book of Vile Darkness 101) (13th) (24,675 gp; 0 lbs.) lasts more than a day, and if an enemy caster within 50 ft. targets the creature affected by the psychic poison spell with a divination or mind-affecting spell, the enemy caster makes a Willpower saving throw; failure means beefy ability damage. (Note: The psychic poison spell doesn’t list the saving throw, and no one seems to have noticed. Ever.)

Next: More on scrying and other divinations. ]]>
Hey I Can Chan http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1808-High-level-Play-Part-1
The Year http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1806-The-Year Wed, 19 Jun 2013 23:53:01 GMT The campaign began on June 13, 2012. It’s still going today, June 19, 2013, and I expect gamers here in 2 hours. I should be preparing for this... The campaign began on June 13, 2012. It’s still going today, June 19, 2013, and I expect gamers here in 2 hours. I should be preparing for this evening, but I’m writing this because I want you to play.

In the campaign it’s only August 23, barely 2 months after the PCs started adventuring, but the PCs are, for the most part, level 11. Straining credulity? Indeed we are, and with a fine-mesh sieve, my friend. I haven’t figured out how other DMs justify long passages of time within their games. I can’t do it. Adventurers adventure. Every day. And if they aren’t, why is the story still about them? I also assume adventurers have supernova lifecycles—growing to outrageous proportions quickly only to be snuffed out and forgotten, leaving nothing but darkness and light after their passings. Or something. Whatever.

Anyway, the initial PCs—The Betrayer, The Dragon, The Fist, The Gnome, and The Scoundrel—after 4 weeks of becoming close friends in the gnome’s inflatable life raft wash up on the shore of an island in the SE of The Islands. They discover troglodytes, lizardfolk, and—surprise!—formians, who have emerged from a portal in the earth and busily turning the island into an outpost from which to stage their conquest of The Islands. PCs rally the lizardfolk and troglodytes and attack the formians and—with the help of the Palomino, the ship owned by the Clenchwart merchant sailor Capt. Polmont, who is tragically slain in the encounter, and The Gnome’s unreasonable and humiliating understanding of construction—the formian invasion is briefly flummoxed.

The PCs seize the Palomino, forge ownership documents and Polmont’s will, leaving the ship to the PCs. The PCs sail to Sabang, the nearest settlement, whereupon more things happen.

Now, seriously, I could spend 600 words summarizing every major event in the campaign, and we’d be here all night. No. Let me tell you where you’d be stepping in.

The Gnome’s player had to focus on her schooling. The Scoundrel’s player had to focus on his work. We picked up The Martyr (yes, he’s pirate Jesus) and The Returner (yes, he’s pirate The Doctor). Then The Betrayer’s player had to spend more time with his family. So we’ve been down a player for a couple of weeks. Now we’re also down The Dragon for six weeks while he stars in Ionesco’s Rhinoceroses.

In the game, meanwhile, the PCs are crafting a portal on their ship the Wildfire so a hag covey can assist them when it comes time to conquer islands. The PCs have made an enemy of the Clenchwart prince’s adviser Duke Darlington—and Darlington an enemy of The Martyr—, by refusing him kickbacks after the PCs’ conquest of Sabang; the PCs await the dropping of the other shoe. Their longtime foe, Simon Polmont (the son of Capt. Polmont, who sued them over ownership of his father’s ship, lost, joined the thieves’ guild, took it over, sicced his mother the vampire on the PCs, she was trapped in mist form—long story), apparently has ties to Captain Petric’s ghost ship that’s been plaguing the area; The Fist, in particular, is anxious to get his hands on the younger Polmont.

The Second Coming is nigh with the blue dragon Endemere having something up his scaly sleeve that involves giving the chaotic evil extraplanar reptilian khaasta a showy (yet secretly pre-determined) victory over the formians; the PCs are on their way to Saddiq, Endemere’s emissary, for answers. Admiral Umrothlen, the cloud giant, asked the PCs for the most virulent poison imaginable, and he’s still waiting for them to deliver—what does this bode for the storm giant who fancies himself The King of the World? The Clenchwart-Waclavain War is underway (and of course the PCs started it), the outcome of which and what it means still undetermined. On board the Wildfire the dismembered corpse of a 12-headed pyrohydra rots, wanted by the guildmage of Sabang, Eschton Ayre, for reasons unknown. On Skull Island, home of the hags, the PCs believe the legendary Capt. Cubbington remains imprisoned. Eaeakitriss, the sinister sphinx, lairs somewhere out in the islands, his treasure waiting souls brave enough to take it. Although Count Nazor’s devil-infested lair has been cleansed, the haunted fortress still squats in the center of Pan-shan, the Island’s nominal capital, waiting for the PCs to do something about it. No word has been heard from the missionaries The Martyr sent with her or Aksu herself, the Fǔshùnese The Fist spared after the PCs sunk her ship, since The Fist tasked her with finding his son in the wild coasts of Fǔshùn.

So, yeah, that’s where you’d be coming in. All of that shit’s on the table, ready for a brave PC to grab a thread and pull.

As an aside, the character you’d play will be a complex one. To that end, you’d start at level 1. Don’t wince! You’d be level 1 for 1 session, and after that you’re jumping several levels every session until you catch up with the PCs (who’ve been playing this whole time or started just like you did) in something like 6 weeks. We’re on track to have the campaign last at least another year of weekly sessions, so that’s less of a big deal than it might seem.

Contact me. The Islands need a new soul. ]]>
Hey I Can Chan http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1806-The-Year
General: DMing Style http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1765-General-DMing-Style Wed, 19 Sep 2012 15:12:58 GMT I build a world framework. You help make that world real. I build the kind of world in which I’d like to adventure because my NPCs are adventuring... I build a world framework. You help make that world real. I build the kind of world in which I’d like to adventure because my NPCs are adventuring there. You then help make it into the kind of world in which you want to adventure by making choices about what happens.

I never have a PC when I DM. You are players. You have player characters. I’m the DM; I have all the non-player characters. I don’t need a PC to make me feel connected to the world or point you in the right direction. I made the world. They’re all right directions.

I run a sandbox-style game, but with plots happening all around you. You can choose to get involved with them or forge your own way. But things happen when you’re not around, and ignoring a plot doesn’t make it go away; instead, it means the campaign world will change because you didn’t get involved as much as it will change because you did.

I don’t expect the world to survive the campaign. I don’t expect NPCs to survive the campaign. I expect you to raze cities and murder NPCs. Don’t worry about them; I’ll make more. I have infinite resources for regeneration.

You should make character choices based on the kind of game you want you be in. If you take as your feat Weapon Focus, I’ll assume you want more combat. If you take an item creation feat, I assume you want more detail on that. And so on. Every choice you make tells me something about the campaign world and its shifting focus. But it’s also up to you to use what you have to solve problems. I don’t design problems specifically so your abilities will solve them; I set up situations, you solve them with your abilities.

I expect you to be smart. My NPCs will be smart (when that’s appropriate). It’s rare, but I might give you actual real-life challenges like puzzles and riddles that need solving with on your own brain power rather than a series of die rolls; I know that’s kind of shitty and takes power away from your character sheet, but I also know it can be interesting and entertaining and make for some good storytelling. In such cases, I’ll sometimes employ an intermediary—like the wife or the boy—to stand in for the world while I play an NPC if the challenge is a competitive one so as to even the playing field.

I don’t railroad. I’ve have an outline of what the antagonists are doing while you’re doing what you’re doing, and you tend to cross paths with the antagonists, but if you don’t care, so be it. If you want to go off the rails, that’s great: you can’t. There are no rails. Do what you want.

I’m tightfisted, but not unreasonably so. The game’s advancement scheme means that encountering treasure is less frequent than leveling up. You’re going to be poor, but your character’s going to be badass, so that makes up for it. You won’t feel it until you’re third level and still tracking copper pieces. That usually means you’re going too slow not that I am.

Don’t try to con me. If you want to do something, let’s talk about it. If you’re picking something because there’s a rules interpretation out there that you want to exploit, don’t spring it on me. Talk to me. Make sure we agree before you choose something upon which reasonable people disagree. I am an extremely liberal DM, but I’m not a goldfish. I think the rules are there for a reason, and sometimes shit doesn’t do what you think it does, and sometimes shit doesn’t do what I think it does.

Above all: Talk to me. I can’t game without you. ]]>
Hey I Can Chan http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1765-General-DMing-Style
The Islands: Spellcasting http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1764-The-Islands-Spellcasting Sun, 16 Sep 2012 13:43:48 GMT (Note: This is ultra-crunchy. So if you were following along hoping for more world info, you're going to have to wait until the next entry.)

Spellcasting
All PCs have the Spells class feature. It looks like this:

Spells: You can cast spells. Your Spells Known are on Table [x].2: [class name] Spells Known. [ability] governs your spellcasting.

Yeah, that’s the whole thing. And here’s the skinny.

Divine Spells:
You cast divine spells because divine spellcasting is quantitatively better than arcane spellcasting. There is no chance of arcane spell failure for divine spells. Expensive material components and foci sometimes aren’t even an issue (Player’s Handbook 174). Regaining spells is more convenient. You do need to get a divine focus, but this divine focus can be anything, not just a generic Player’s Handbook wooden or silver holy symbol. It can’t be a weapon, shield, armor, attached body part, or anything permanently stuck to you, and it must be something held in one hand. Damn, dude, get a lanyard and sling your symbol to your wrist if you’re worried about dropping your sacred tankard or whatever.

Minimum Ability Score: Your governing ability must be at least 10 + the spell’s level for you to cast a spell of that level at all; if your governing ability score is lower than that—for whatever reason—you can’t cast that spell. You should have your spellcasting stat be at least 11 at level 1, 12 by level 3, 13 by level 6, 14 by level 9, 15 by level 12, 16 by level 15, and 17 by level 18. You should want your spellcasting stat high anyway; it’s probably important to your class in other ways. But if you want to start with your spellcasting stat at 12 and apply all your level-up bonuses to it so you can just barely cast your spells, the DM won’t stop you. The other players might look at you like you’re an idiot, but, hey, screw them: It’s your character.

Spells Per Day: You can normally only cast 2 spells of your highest spell level per day and 4 spells of your second-highest spell level per day. Your highest level spell is 1 at level 1 and increases by 1 at levels 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, and 18.

Lower-level Spells: Once a spell level is neither your highest spell level nor your second-highest spell level, you can use any spell of that spell level at will as a spell-like ability (which means it still provokes attacks of opportunity (Player’s Handbook 141) but doesn’t have verbal, somatic, or material components; require a focus; or have an XP cost). You can still cast these lower level spells instead.

If it matters, when an effect (like a feat or spell) checks, you are considered to have exactly 0 and infinite unused divine spell slots at each level to cast these lower-level spells, and exactly 0 and infinite Spells Per Day for casting these spells, whichever is least advantageous for whatever’s checking.

I know that’s counterintuitive, but some things mess with this, and I don’t want to deal with them (I’m looking at you, the Arcane Strike feat, you *******).

For ease of reference, I’m calling spells you can cast this way Ω spells, so that way I can just say, “At level 3 your 0th-level spells are Ω spells.”

Your Ω spells are available to cast. This is so you can take reserve feats. If something else taps this mechanic on the shoulder and knees it in the nuts, let me know.

Bonus Spells: If your governing ability is 12, you can cast 1 additional spell per day of your second-highest spell level and 1 additional spell per day of your second highest spell level per 4 points after 12 (i.e. 2 additional at 16, 3 additional at 20, etc.). If your governing ability is 14, you can cast 1 additional spell per day of your highest spell level and 1 additional spell per day of your highest spell level per 4 points after 14 (i.e. 2 additional at 18, 3 additional at 22, etc.). So if you put an 18 in your casting stat, you can cast 6 0th-level spells and 4 1st-level spells per day.

Saving Throw DCs: The saving throw DC of your spells is equal to 10 + the spell’s spell level + your governing ability modifier.

Regaining Spells: You spend 1 hour in the morning meditating, screaming Screw you at the sky, masturbating furiously, fixing your hair, watering your plants, reading the newspaper, having a few drinks, or whatever ritual you dream up and you get back spell slots you used the previous day, if any. Yes, oodles of shenanigans exist for messing with this, but if you don’t travel to planes where time passes ultra-quickly so you can regain spells more often, I will avoid having you accidentally sleep through your spell-regaining hour and be boned for the day.

Spells Aren’t Prepared: Your Spells Known and your spell list are the same; you know and cast your spells from a list dictated by your class. You can cast any spell on that list without preparation. However, because Skip Williams hates sorcerers, a restriction applies to this: spells cast without preparation affected by metamagic feats take longer to cast (Player’s Handbook 88). We say no on that shit. If you have a metamagic feat and want to apply its effects to a spell, compute the new spell level, and, if you can cast it, you cast it at the usual casting time. Further, if you apply a metamagic feat to a Ω spell and doing so doesn’t push the spell level into the your second-highest or highest spell level, you can cast that metamagic-ed spell with its normal casting time. If, after the metamagic feat’s applied, the spell’s spell level goes up to your second-highest or highest spell level, you have to use one of your spells per day to cast it. So it goes.

Feats and shit that add divine spells to your spell list (not that just add cleric spells to your cleric spell list!) also add the same spells to your Spells Known and vice-versa. These spells are added to your spell list or spells known at whatever level the feat or ability says to add them at, however, and this is probably higher than what my game would’ve added them at. That’s another price for the versatility (the first being whatever got you those spells). Further, if you are granted 8th-level or 9th-level spells, those are on your spell list and your Spells Known, you just can’t cast them because you don’t get 8th-level and 9th-level slots. Unless you somehow weasel into that too, genius.

Universal Spells: All PCs have the following spells in addition to whatever spells are on their Spells Known list.

Table 1.1: Spells Everyone Gets
0th—arcane mark, detect magic, prestidigitation, read magic.
1st—summon component (Complete Mage 118), summon holy symbol (Complete Champion 128).
3rd—dispel magic.
4th—freedom of movement.
5th—contingency, greater dispel magic.

Your prestidigitation spell has a special effect based on your class. The betrayer’s prestidigitation is bleak and creepy, accompanied by ominous strings. The dragon’s is awesome and bigger than it needs to be, accompanied by crashing symbols and beating drums. The fist’s is needlessly violent, accompanied by drunken, unintelligible singing. The scoundrel’s is darkly funny, accompanied by nervous canned laughter. The gnome’s is smoothly mechanical, smells like a wet badger, and is accompanied by a 1980s keyboard ostinato. The martyr’s is bright and shiny, accompanied by a brief but loud full choir. The shootist’s always looks like it’s done close up, in slow-motion, and at a weird angle, accompanied by an acoustic guitar strum.

No, there’s no martyr or shootist yet. But there can be.

I never would, but you can suppress and renew your prestidigitation spell’s special effect at will during the spell’s duration. This is not an action.

Table 1.2: PC Spellcasting Advancement

Level Spells Per Day
1-2 You can cast 2 1st-level and 4 0th-level spells per day.
3-5 You can cast 2 2nd-level and 4 1st-level spells per day and all of your 0th-level spells can be cast any number of times per day or be used as spell-like abilities at will.
6-8 You can cast 2 3rd-level and 4 2nd-level spells per day and all of your 1st-level and 0th-level spells can be cast any number of times per day or be used as spell-like abilities at will.
9-11 You can cast 2 4th-level and 4 3rd-level spells per day and all of your 2nd-level, 1st-level, and 0th-level spells can be cast any number of times per day or be used as spell-like abilities at will.
12-14 You can cast 2 5th-level and 4 4th-level spells per day and all of your 3rd-level, 2nd-level, 1st-level, and 0th-level spells can be cast any number of times per day or be used as spell-like abilities at will.
15-17 You can cast 2 6th-level and 4 5th-level spells per day and all of your 4th-level, 3rd-level, 2nd-level, 1st-level, and 0th-level spells can be cast any number of times per day or be used as spell-like abilities at will.
18-20 You can cast 2 7th-level and 4 6th-level spells per day and all of your 5th-level, 4th-level, 3rd-level, 2nd-level, 1st-level, and 0th-level spells can be cast any number of times per day or be used as spell-like abilities at will.

Once you hit level 3 when you can use your 0th-level spells as spell-like abilities at will you’re going to have spells on your spell list that you’ll want to have on all the damn time because you can. These are, essentially, baked in class features that I expect you to have on all the time, especially if the duration of such spells is 1 minute per level or longer. Stopping what you’re doing every 10 minutes to spend 6 seconds staring into space isn’t that big of a deal, although it will be obvious to onlooker that you’re either doing something or retarded. However, spells and spell-like abilities with durations of 1 round per level must be used when the time comes; maintaining those all the damn time is too great a burden for even your characters.

As per our Gentlemen's Agreement, you can have all your 1-hour-or-longer duration Ω spells cast all the time, and you can have 1 1-minute-per-level duration Ω spell cast all the time per character level.

(Note: Before you judge, you've not seen any spell lists. I comb through just about every book for just the right spells for each class, and then pick 8 each for 0th, 1st, and 2nd; 6 each for 3rd, 4th, and 5th; and 4 each for 6th and 7th. The casting of low-level spells at will just about eliminates the 15-min. workday that plagues 3.5. Making them all divine spells means everyone can wear armor because, well, armor is cool. Just making a list of what you've got always on prevents anyone from trying to pull shenanigans that will make such a thing happen anyway. The system is playable and fun, and once you use it and then have to go back to having your Wiz9 keep a tally of his 0th-level spells, you'll want to use it, too.)

Next: Campaign Style (or, "Sandbox? Seriously?") ]]>
Hey I Can Chan http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1764-The-Islands-Spellcasting
The Islands: House Rules http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1763-The-Islands-House-Rules Sat, 15 Sep 2012 19:00:10 GMT *You Play Your Gender:* If you are male, you’re character’s male. If you’re female, you’re character’s female. Things are easier on me that way. ... You Play Your Gender: If you are male, you’re character’s male. If you’re female, you’re character’s female. Things are easier on me that way.

Ability Scores: Your ability scores are 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18, arranged how you want. Okay, Jason, so you don’t want an 8. Fair enough. Anyone can instead choose 10, 10, 12, 14, 16, 16. I guess if you wanted to you could go 10, 12, 12, 14, 14, 16 or even 12, 12, 12, 14, 14, 14. I’m not sure why you’d want to—this is Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, after all—, but any of those are options for everyone.

You can’t begin play at an age greater than middle age −10% (Player’s Handbook 109). This avoids age shenanigans and willful extremism (“I want to be venerable with Str 5 and Int 21!”).

Open Locks: The Disable Device skill includes the Open Locks skill. All references to the Open Locks skill instead reference the Disable Device skill when the Disable Device skill is used to open locks. I don’t want to have to decide what’s a lock and what’s a device and have it really matter.

Precision Damage: Precision damage applies only to living creatures with discernible anatomies—constructs, oozes, undead, plants, and incorporeal creatures lack vital areas to attack. Any creature that is immune to critical hits is invulnerable to precision damage. Precision damage isn’t multiplied on a critical hit. This is probably quantified somewhere, but it’s here because it’s important. This is a mechanical decision to make writing easier. Sneak attack and skirmish damage is precision damage; favored enemy damage isn’t—favored enemy damage is I-hate-those-*******s damage (seriously, that’s actually not a house rule—I’m just clarifying).

Item Creation Feats: When you take an item creation feat as a permanent feat (i.e. the feat doesn’t go away when you regain spells or is granted by a magic item or spell or whatever), you gain an XP pool of 25 XP × your level when you gained the feat. You can spend this XP only for creating items with your permanent item creation feats. You can spend your XP instead of or in addition or in any combination with XP your item creation XP pool.

Some Spells and Effects Aren’t Banned, But…: PCs have access to very few I-get-to-pick-what-appears illusion spells (e.g. silent image), no spells that allow I-get-to-pick-what-I-change-into shapechaging (e.g. alter self or polymorph), very few high-level long-distance travel spells (e.g. plane shift, teleport), very few spells that allow long-distance spying (e.g. scrying), almost no spells that grant invisibility (e.g. invisibility, greater invisibility), almost no spells that do nothing but change your size category (e.g. enlarge person), and no spells that create areas of silence (e.g. silence and suspended silence) or darkness. Spells that bring other creatures onto the battlefield are also limited. I had bad experiences with these spells, trouble playing a game with these spells being commonplace, or know how hard it is to adjudicate their effects because they’re poorly written. You can still, during play, access these spells (such as through magic items or careful feat selection or knowing a dude who can cast them), and your opponents might have access to them, but I’m not going to give them, at least in quantity, to your class. It’d be really cool if you respected my decision to try to keep them out of the PCs’ grubby hands, but if you feel that you must have them, seek them out. Just be prepared to bring with you all of the books, errata, Sage Advice columns, rulings, and FAQs that are associated with them so we can work out how they should be gamed together.

If you have or gain access to a spell I don’t like (even if I gave it to you), be prepared for me to play the spell to absolute letter of the rules. Also, be prepared to solve any problems I would have with the spell—if you have considered beyond-the-obvious counters to it, let me know. Finally: I have the world to manage; you have one PC. I can’t have your single trick monopoloize the spotlight. If you can turn into, for example, an itty-bitty fish, you should have an itty-bitty fish stat block prepared before you hit the table, along with page references so I can anal retentively make sure you’re right. Same thing for complex effects like invisibility and charms. I don’t want the game slowed because you don’t understand what you can do.

“Can I Get This?”: My default answer is yes. That’s my superpower as Dungeon Master—the ability to say yes. Everyone else at the table can sigh and tell you, “Hell no, nobody would ever let you have that!” or, “Holy shit, that’s going to totally snap the game!” and I will still say yes. I will ask you, however, why you want something. If you want something because it leads you to something else, tell me what that is, and let’s discuss that instead. If you want something because you want to break the game with it, tell me how you plan to break the game with it so I can plan for that and figure out why no one has ever done it before. If you want something because it will give you an absurd unbeatable numerical bonus, explain to me why you want that—I mean, do you really want your character to be invulnerable? Why is that fun for you? What sort of adventures does an invulnerable character have? You could just play video games—with save points and restarts—by yourself instead of hanging out with us. If you’re going to rule the campaign world with what you pick, you can do that, but what stories can be told about after that?

I know it sounds geeky, but whenever your character gets something, that something should lend itself to telling more and bigger stories. That’s really what we do at the table. I don’t want to have to say no. Saying no means that you had something in mind—had an image for your character—that I have just squashed, and you only get that one character while I get the whole damn world. It’s inherently unfair for me to limit you. But it’s also unfair for you to choose to make the game less fun. Pick things that are fun. Pick things that tell bigger stories. Don’t just chase numbers.

Remember: You're not multiclassing; your custom class should do everything you want it to do without the need for multiclassing, so the choices you make are things like feats, allocation of skill ranks, selectable class features (every class has some), skill tricks, and sometimes spells. If you want to multiclass to get some class feature your class doesn't have because that multiclassing class feature fits your concept, let's fold it into your class instead.

Psionics, Action Points, Auras, Chakras, Essentia, Invocations, Martial Maneuvers, Mysteries, and Other Piles: I have no particular bias against things unmentioned in these rules, but I don’t know them that well, so many classes don’t do anything with them. If you really want to incorporate one of these other piles into your character, I’m not adverse, but you have to find a way to do so on your own, and you’re going to have to explain the rules to me and how those rules interact with everything else in the game. Usually, each pile has a way for you to get a few benefits from the pile using your feats—if that’s how you want to go, rock on. Just try to keep it fun.

If there’s something reasonable that you want to do that can only be done with more than a passing dip into a pile, let’s find a way. If we can’t, I’ll just make shit up.

Leveling Up: You gain 1 level for every 4 session in which you participate. The game skews to the highest level PC at the table, and for every level you're below that, the value of the session increases by 1 for your PC. For example, if 1 PC is level 4 and another is level 1, the level 1 PC's session counts as 4 sessions, and he'd level up at the end of it. In other words, you'll catch up rapidly if you're behind, but you still gotta tough it out. I'd prefer everyone start at level 1 even if the group's way beyond that, but that's something that can be discussed at the table.

Useful References: There are different kinds of special abilities—extraordinary, spell-like, supernatural, and natural (Player’s Handbook 141 and 180, Dungeon Master’s Guide 289). Things with no Ex, Sp, or Su tags are natural abilities.

Next: Spellcasting (spoiler: All PCs cast spells.) ]]>
Hey I Can Chan http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1763-The-Islands-House-Rules
The Islands: Characters http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1762-The-Islands-Characters Fri, 14 Sep 2012 17:07:48 GMT *The Characters* Characters are unique to the player and, often, the campaign. I don’t want you to sit down at the table and think, “You know, the... The Characters
Characters are unique to the player and, often, the campaign. I don’t want you to sit down at the table and think, “You know, the next fighter we encounter could be me.” And I certainly don’t want you to be outclassed by an NPC that I, purely by accident, made more effective than you made your character. That’s shitty policy in a role-playing game of high fantasy adventure.

So your character is special.

You tell me what you want to do, and I build your character class.

When I say, “You tell me what you want to do,” I don’t mean in a mechanical, numbers-oriented kind of way. I want you to have an idea of what kind of character you want to play on a wholly narrative level. I want you to think about the novel that would be written about that character and the cool shit he’d do, and tell me that. And then I’ll make that happen. You also need to consider what your endgame character looks like—at the campaign’s near conclusion, when all the stops are pulled out, what does your character do? Let’s do that. Let’s make that happen.

I like high adventure. I like being a fan of the PCs. I don’t like you having to muddle through, doing things you don’t want to do because they’re more effective than doing the things you want to do. Playing any class means you’ve changed the rules. If what you want to do is mechanically unsound but awesome, let’s make it mechanically sound instead of forcing you to lump it.

But there needs to be some kind of concept behind it, and you should be able to summarize that concept in terms of archetype (“I want to be the brawler”) or action (“I want to poison God”). If you can’t, then you’re not thinking large enough. Your class should occupy significant conceptual space in the campaign, wherein I have to move things around that are already in it to accommodate you. It needs to be big enough to fill 100 episodes of a television series. If you wouldn’t watch 5 seasons about your character, why would you want to play that character for 5 seasons?

Have you read astral spell? At level 17, a wizard or cleric is, essentially, immortal for a pittance. The game has 3 levels left, and the wizard or cleric can’t die. Consider that when you consider your end game.

Thanks for trusting me with your class. I will make mistakes that we’ll need to talk about. That happens when you try to customize anything, so be open when I inevitably say, “Wow, I didn’t realize you were going to do that with that. We have to tone that down.” It’s not because I don’t want you to be powerful or effective. It’s that I want you to have a good time, and you’ll have more fun if the campaign can punch back, and I want other people to have fun; if your special abilities are spotlight hogging, no one else gets to be cool. That’s the crux of this exercise: everyone should be equally cool for just as long.

Oh, yeah, you’re human (unless your class is something special like being the ultimate gnome or something), and you don’t multiclass. If you’re not excited about just gaining your next level of your class, or you’re dreading the slog of having to gain 3 or 5 levels until you’re cool again, I’ve built your class wrong. Let me know if that’s the case, and we’ll change things around. You should feel awesome every level. Most games don’t run until level 20. Playing in a game wherein you’re a chump until you’re cool is stupid.

Current Characters
The Betrayer: I want to poison gods.
The Dragon: I want to become dragons.
The Fist: I want to punch everything.
The Gnome: I want to gnome a lot.
The Scoundrel: I want to be luck.

Note: This is not a debate--not even a formal one, wherein rather than trying to convince me you're trying to convince the (very small) audience--where you explain that my fun is wrong. You might not like this; you might think the D&D 3.5e fighter is just as viable as the 3.5e druid. That's an opinion; keep it. Instead, deal with the idea that this is how my game goes and people have been having fun playing it.

Next: House rules. ]]>
Hey I Can Chan http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1762-The-Islands-Characters
The Islands: The New World, Part 2 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1760-The-Islands-The-New-World-Part-2 Wed, 12 Sep 2012 12:31:24 GMT *“What Do I Know about Where We Are?”* You know that Clenchwarton is the primary power in the islands; when you see a ship, it’ll probably be a... “What Do I Know about Where We Are?”
You know that Clenchwarton is the primary power in the islands; when you see a ship, it’ll probably be a Clenchwart vessel. You know that Clenchwarton nominally shares the responsibility with Waclaw for overseeing the largest city in the islands; they are both imperialist powers seeking conquest and resources and hoping to one-up and outdo each other. Pitting them against each other, especially on this kind of scale where it could actually matter, might even make a difference to the people back home… if word ever reached them.

You know that Fǔshùnese sailors kidnap people, and you’ve heard why. So that’s a little scary. You have heard that Fǔshùnese sailors sometimes entrap the unwary using attractive people as lures. That’s kind of scary, too. The Mastooran are courageous if sometimes foolhardy sailors who take extraordinary risks merely to brag later. They also just lie. A lot. The Kébéme are scared of something called The Witch, but She doesn’t seem to have a presence on the islands, and that makes any Kébéme very happy to be here. And a Langwarrin? How the hell did any of them get here? They’re all criminals and mad men. Best to stay away from them.

Besides that, the islands have indigenous peoples. They’re pleasant enough. They have welcomed the visitors with open arms. The women are Pacific Islander beautiful. The men are Pacific Islander handsome. They worship strange idols in private services, and sometimes people that stay with them for longer than a few days disappear, but that happens all the time in places like this.

There are ancient ruins on many islands. These are trap-filled monster dens into which only the bravest go. Those who do survive sometimes emerge with great riches and objects of power unseen since the legendary past. Others emerge with weird diseases and gray hair. You take your chances.

To make things easier on me, as I know jack shit about sailing, everything is measured in time. For mental reference, everyone is coming to the islands from the west, thus sailing east. You know that it’s about 6 months on a meandering course from Clenchwarton or Waclaw to the islands, 5 months if anyone were to sail the meandering course from Kébéme to the islands, 3 months to sail straight from Mastoorah to the islands, and about 2 months to sail southeast or northeast from Fǔshùn or Langwarrin, respectively, to the islands. In all cases, that’s to sail to the nearest, southernmost tip of the islands, which is lightly peopled and heavily monstered, but nonetheless a source of fresh water if a ship’s cleric or druid has died en route.

The first community anyone reaches is the port of Sabang (pop. 1,007) on the island of Kelor. Everyone uses native names to refer to islands and settlements because no one can agree to call them anything else.

Sabang is probably where you’ll end up, so that’s all you really have to care about right now.

To sail to the northernmost islands—with ice floes in the distance—takes 3 months from Kelor. To go as far east as you possibly can, to the last tiny island until there’s nothing but water and water forever until the edge of the world, takes 3 months from Kelor. Travel between islands usually takes from a day to a week, but sometimes longer to get to isolated places.

So, you as a player asks, “Why doesn’t anyone just sail west?” I don’t know, man. I just don’t know.

Languages
Clenchwarton and Langwarrin, obviously, share a language. Fǔshùn, Mastoorah, and Waclaw have different languages from everyone else. You get the language where you’re from and Common for free. And so does everyone else.

Kébéme has a hundred different languages, and if you’re from Kébéme you know only 1. List the number of Kébéme languages you know on your character sheet. Then, when you encounter another Kébéme, you’ll roll 1d100. If you roll under the number of Kébéme languages you know, you speak the same Kébéme language as another Kébéme speaker. Congratulations. But, fortunately, even as a Kébéme, you get Common for free. Frequent contact with foreigners and all that.

Most of the islanders only get the language of the island that they’re from. And there are thousands of islands. Usually, though, there’s at least one among them who can speak Common. Usually. And sometimes one or two will speak Sylvan, which is pretty rare among those from the old world, but it’s out there.

For flavor, a Clenchwart (and, by extension, a Langwarriner) should consider taking Draconic, Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Halfling, and Terran (yes, the evil Welsh gargoyles speak Terran, Reuben). A Waclavian should consider taking Draconic, Dwarven, Giant, and Gnome. A Mastooran should consider taking Aquan, Auran, Draconic, Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Ignan, and Terran (genies are based on the elements, after all). A Fǔshùnese should consider taking Draconic, Elven, Gnoll, Goblin, and Orc. A Kébéme should consider taking Abyssal, Celestial, Elven, Halfling, and Infernal.

Religion
So there are three Churches of the Dragon. The original Church of the Dragon is the Waclavian Church of the Dragon, Dexter, whose seal has the dragon facing right, while the schismatic one is the Clenchwart Church of the Dragon, Sinister, whose seal has the dragon facing left. The Mastooran Church of the Dragon, Passant, has the dragon on all fours, facing right (if you care).

About 200 years ago, the Church of the Dragon split between the Dexter and Sinister. Greed, mainly. The Sinister Church is liberal, while the Dexter is conservative. The Passant Church went crazy for another desert prophet 500 years ago (all the prophets in the Church of the Dragon mythology come from the desert) and has been going its own wacky way ever since. To the Dexter and Sinister the Passant prophet was a charlatan. To the Passant, he was the Second Coming, and now they’re waiting for the Third Coming and, hence, the apocalypse.

Arumdinans think this whole dragon thing is bullshit. Arumdinan clerical spells still work, so their gods aren’t dead, and everyone else can believe whatever they want. Followers of the Church of the Dragon—all of them—think the little bastards are stealing power from the Dragon Himself and therefore don’t like them very much.

The Fǔshùnese worship the Emperor, and they get spells. That’s a little scary to the Church of the Dragon folk. And the Kébéme try to make their gods go away, yet they still get spells. That scares the leaders of all the Churches of the Dragon a whole lot.

Next: Characters ]]>
Hey I Can Chan http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1760-The-Islands-The-New-World-Part-2
The Islands: The New World, Part 1 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1759-The-Islands-The-New-World-Part-1 Tue, 11 Sep 2012 07:46:37 GMT * The New World* The new world is lush and beautiful, yet with untold promise comes terrible danger. The new world sparkles but darkly. And the old...
The New World

The new world is lush and beautiful, yet with untold promise comes terrible danger. The new world sparkles but darkly. And the old world wants it.

Your character can’t be from the new world. You start play here, yes, but you didn’t start here. The issue is one of cognitive disconnect: If only one PC were to be from the islands, I’d have to give that one player all the information he would have and not give it to everyone else and then play a different game with that one player. Or I have to give all the information to everyone and then tell everyone but that one player whose PC is from the islands to forget they had that information. Those are both too hard. So, no, you can’t be a native. You’ve to learn about the islands like everyone else.

That said, you ask…

“How Did I Get Here?”
The short answer: On something that floats.

The long answer: Pick one from below or make up your own. Develop it in your head or write it down. Keep it to yourself or share it with everyone. But be prepared to share at the table when your time comes. Surprise everyone, even yourself, but be prepared to work in someone else if they have a similar idea. But beware: Your story must end up with you on a Clenchwart ship in the middle of a tropical thunderstorm. In what position is up to you; anything but captain is fine.


  • The navy needed marines. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • Courtiers are liars. Especially when they’re after your girl.
  • The merchant’s offer was impossible to refuse. So you didn’t.
  • It was this or another day in the factories. This should have been better.
  • Everything was fine until the death ship showed up.
  • Genies make poor navigators, and they won’t fight dragon turtles.
  • The Emperor needs food! Badly! Let’s round up some savages!
  • The Celestial Bureaucracy doesn’t believe in orc pirates. You do.
  • The Witch must have made your parents sell you to the foreigners.
  • It’s not that long of a walk from the jungle to the desert.
  • You see all kinds of crazy things after seven weeks on a raft.
  • If you motivate a hundred lunatics, they can take a Clenchwart ship.


And now that you’ve got that figured out, you ask…

Next: “What Do I Know about Where We Are?” ]]>
Hey I Can Chan http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1759-The-Islands-The-New-World-Part-1
The Islands: Langwarrin and Other Places http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1758-The-Islands-Langwarrin-and-Other-Places Mon, 10 Sep 2012 07:05:11 GMT * Langwarrin* The leader of Langwarrin (pronounced lan-GWOR-rin) is President Judas Pearcedale, a friendly enough sort who was elected president of...
Langwarrin

The leader of Langwarrin (pronounced lan-GWOR-rin) is President Judas Pearcedale, a friendly enough sort who was elected president of Langwarrin unanimously.

He voted for himself.

He lives in a beach shack on the western coast of the huge island that is Langwarrin. President Pearcedale waits until a shipment of prisoners arrives from Clenchwarton, gives them food he’s scrounged from the surrounding scrubland and local lakes, offers the newcomers the comfort of his humble home, waits until the newcomers are asleep, and then cold cocks them, ties them up, and dumps them in the wastes.

Those who survive usually come back a couple of years later looking for revenge. President Pearcedale beats the shit out of them. Then, if President Pearcedale lets them, they walk away, saying, “Thank you, Mr. President.”

Langwarrin is a prison. It’s filled with horrible creatures who want nothing but to eat everything that can fit into their mouths. And that’s just the people. Everything in Langwarrin is trying to kill you all the time. There are hardly any women, and the few that are there are either taken or tough as nails. Langwarrin is hand-to-mouth anarchy. A few outposts of civilization exist—a wizard-convict once managed to keep a couple of pages of his spellbook with him during the long trip to Langwarrin and magically crafted some buildings in the unforgiving, blasted landscape. But, otherwise, it’s a random and horrible collection of miscreants, felons, murderers, and debtors, all angry, hungry, and far from home.

If you’re a Langwarriner (pronounce lan-GWOR-reh-ner) you’re from fantasy Mad Max Australia. You were exiled here by the Clenchwart authorities. Clenchwarton abolished the death penalty about a hundred years ago and started filling up this monstrously large, monster-filled island with its human feces. Most didn’t survive, but reports from Clenchwart sailors who stranded prisoners on the island detailed seeing smoke from what they assumed were people’s fires. One of those fires might have been yours. You probably live near the coast, away from the deadly scrubland creatures but unfortunately close to your fellow inhabitants. You might survive—if you’re hardy enough—in the scrubland, but you better be one tough son of a ***** [note: Really, Pen and Paper Games, that's the word you censor? Seriously?] to do that. There’s the small possibility that you were born and raised here, in which case you are one bad ass bastard. You’re probably human, but with Clenchwarton sending its worst here, you could be anything.

You’d worship at the Church of the Dragon, Sinister, but there isn’t one here, and not doing that hasn’t made much of a difference anyway.

Langwarrin has the privilege of being closest to the islands, but the distinct disadvantage of not having any way to reach them. A few courageous souls—individuals and a few groups, even—have built boats, but those boats are rickety affairs of weeds, hope, and very small rocks that float. Most Langwarriner sailors are dead swimmers. A few months ago, though, a Clenchwart ship that was sent to Langwarrin didn’t come back. Nobody knows what happened to it or the sailors on it.

For any Langwarriner, the islands are freedom.

Names
Pick two horrible words that just shouldn’t go together as your Langwarriner name; that’s what all the people you killed called you before they died. If you were born in Langwarrin, that’s the only real name you’ve ever known. Otherwise, also pick a Clenchwart name. You can go by either.

Other Places
O, sure, there are other places. They are just as bad, if not worse. I’d rather you pick one of the ones I've detailed, though, because they taste good, and I went to all the trouble of creating them.

I tried my best to offend everyone equally, by the way. Here’s hoping you were.

If none of these sound cool enough—or terrible enough—for your character, let me know, and I’ll pound out 300 words on fantasy Sweden, Mexico, or Tibet. Just have something in mind first.

Next: The New World ]]>
Hey I Can Chan http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1758-The-Islands-Langwarrin-and-Other-Places
<![CDATA[The Islands: Fǔshùn and Kébéme]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1757-The-Islands-Fǔshùn-and-Kébéme Sun, 09 Sep 2012 08:08:24 GMT Fǔshùn
The ruler of Fǔshùn (pronounced foo-SHOON) is the Celestial God-Emperor in the Ninth Sunrise of the Jade Forever Majestic, Xuzfei (pronounced SHOOZ-fy) the Eternal Warrior. He is a lich who, until three months ago, consumed a soul a day to maintain his corporeal form. Now he must consume ten, and it is rumored that soon he will need a hundred or possibly a thousand. No one knows what brought this about, but the weather in Fǔshùn has taken a turn for the worse: it rains all the time everywhere. Floods are constant. And Emperor Xuzfei sits silently on his pedestal, hand outstretched, surrounded by the Celestial Bureaucracy, who supplicate themselves in a desperate attempt to avoid being Emperor Xuzfei’s next snack.

The Fǔshùnese are always at war with the orc hordes to the west, and continually involved in suppressing pointless uprisings in the north. The Celestial Bureaucracy downplays the importance of these events, but everyone knows the orcs could strike at any time, and that rebels are little better than the Emperor, wanting nothing more than the destruction of a way of life that history records for over ten thousand years.

If you’re Fǔshùnese (pronounced foo-SHOON-ees) you’re from evil fantasy China ruled by an uncaring, undead overlord. You’re a peasant farmer who lives in constant fear of the Emperor turning his hungry gaze toward your village and devouring you and everything you hold dear to prolong his horrible unlife for a month, tops. It’s either that or you make your way on the streets, peddling your wares by day and returning after a 12 hour day to your cramped dwelling shared with six generations of your family to split a handful of rice and a pinch of salt. You’re an elf (and meeting an old elf would be a new experience for you), half-elf, very sad and abused half-orc, or human. All sort of goblinoids are off to the west so you could be that, too.

You better worship at the Celestial Temple of the Jade Sunrise, which has Emperor Xuzfei at its center. Obviously.

Fǔshùn is the second-closest nation to the islands but hasn’t needed them until recently. The Celestial Bureaucracy has started quelling certain wealthy merchants who fear revolt by importing the Emperor’s meals.

For Fǔshùn, the islands are food. For the Fǔshùnese people, the islands are relief.

Names
Pick a Cantonese or Mandarin given name you can pronounce as a first name; make sure it means something cool. Then pick a city in China with fewer than a million people that you can pronounce as a last name.

Kébéme
There is no ruler of Kébéme (pronounced keh-beh-MEE). There are, however, a thousand chiefs of a thousand tribes, each with his own needs and desires. But they all fear She At Night, the Witch.
The Witch eats children. The Witch steals food. The Witch burns down villages, kills farm animals, breaks pots, soils clothing, harms your sister while she’s sleeping, and takes your money when you’re not looking.

And everyone is the Witch.

Your mom is the Witch. Your best friend is the Witch. Your dog is the Witch. The only way to avoid the Witch is to keep your eyes open and be always alert for Her. Or have nothing She wants. Or appease Her. And She is not easily appeased.

That’s not all, of course. There are the shapechangers. The ones who can become animals or take the shape of your best friend by eating his finger. You must be always wary.

If you’re Kébéme (same pronunciation), you’re from fantasy Africa. You live in a village with your family, waiting for the day when they will inevitably betray you and say it’s not their fault. Or you live as a member of a nomadic jungle tribe, failing miserably to stay one jump ahead of the Witch. You’re an elf, halfling, or human.

You don’t worship any god. Instead, you pacify the Witch and your tribal spirits so they stay away from you. The last thing you want is them actually around.

No Kébéme comes to the islands by choice. They have either been taken by or sold into slavery by their family or tribal elders to Clenchwart or Waclavian traders. It’s possible for a Kébéme to have made his way to Mastoorah and then joined a ship’s crew, but that would be a long trip through the world’s darkest jungles. That’s not a background; that’s a goddam miracle.

For Kébéme, the islands are where there is no Witch. This pleases them greatly.

Names
Pick an African name; I suggest a Senegalese one. Confirm you can pronounce it. Make it mean something cool. You don’t have a last name unless you get one from another culture.

Next: Langwarrin and Other Places (spoiler: there aren't any) ]]>
Hey I Can Chan
The Islands: Waclaw and Mastoorah http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1756-The-Islands-Waclaw-and-Mastoorah Sat, 08 Sep 2012 09:15:01 GMT * Waclaw* The ruler of Waclaw (pronounced VAK-LA) is Duke Pawel Wladyslaw, a dipsomaniacal nitwit who is the plaything of his Council of...
Waclaw

The ruler of Waclaw (pronounced VAK-LA) is Duke Pawel Wladyslaw, a dipsomaniacal nitwit who is the plaything of his Council of Significant Persons, corrupt businessmen and landowners whose goals are to squeeze every copper from every pauper, live magnificently on the backs of as many peasants as they can gather, and conquer foreign lands where they can continue doing the previous two things.

More than anywhere else, the nation of Waclaw is nearly dead. The land is stripped of resources, the oligarchy that controls the throne has shrunk via subterfuge and conspiracy and barely legal shenanigans to a tiny handful, the common people farm dirt and like it, and the secret police monitor everything.

If you’re Waclavian (pronounced VAK-lay-vee-an), you’re from fantasy Soviet-era Poland except ruled by Dudley Moore in the good version of the film Arthur who’s manipulated by a half-dozen Rasputins. You drink a whole lot, but everybody else does, too, because, hey, it’s Waclaw, so nobody brings it up. You’re a subsistence farmer who gives half of what he’s supposed to subsist on to his landlord who often just lights it on fire to see it burn. And then he laughs. Or you work in one of Waclaw’s enormous factories, mindlessly churning out trinkets or weapons or armor or gears or something that you don’t even know what it does, hoping the secret police can’t hear you thinking about how great it would be to sleep. In a bed. In a room with fewer than 8 people. You live in abiding fear of the great giants that live in the mountains surrounding your nation. Luckily, the islands afford the Council the opportunity of conquest in another direction. You’re either a dwarf, gnome, or human.

You worship at the Church of the Dragon, Dexter. However, if you’re a gnome, you might also be a mocked and repressed Arumdinan (pronounced ah-RUM-deh-nun).

Waclaw, having only a single (albeit huge and smoke-choked) city on the ocean, has the smallest presence on the islands, but when the Waclavians are there, they’re there in force. They’ll be the ones in full plate in charge of entire plantations of slaves. They came to the islands shortly after the Clenchwart.

For Waclaw, the islands are resources. For the Waclavian people, the islands are escape.

Names
Pick an Eastern European first name from the Czech or the Polish. Practice it out loud so you can say it quickly and confidently. Then pick a city in Poland with fewer than 100,000 as a last name. Practice that one out loud, too.

Mastoorah
The ruler of Mastoorah (pronounced mast-OO-ra) is Omlaj, Sultan of Ten Thousand Names. He is a wizard of incalculable power, checked only by the hundreds of contracts he’s signed with genies to keep him and his descendants in power in perpetuity. He lives in several laps of luxury, served by the Harem Asphodel, his all-female cabal of assassins, concubines, and spies, and surrounded by powerful beings from other planes.

If you’re Mastooran (pronounced mass-ta-ran) you’re from the fantasy Middle East a la Disney’s Aladdin only Jafar’s the sultan, and the genies he commands are from Wolfram & Hart’s genie division. You are a herdsman, living in the vast deserts of Mastoorah, watching your family die at an early age from the heat and endless toil and incurable camel-borne diseases. Or you live on the streets of one of the sun baked, brick cities, eking out a living hawking rotted fruit and festering meat from a creaking cart. If you’re one of the lucky few, you own a business that makes money, most of which goes to the sultan to pay his extraordinary extraplanar debts. You’re either a dwarf, elf, gnome, or human.

You worship at the Church of the Dragon, Passant. However, if you’re a gnome, you might also be an Arumdinan, who aren’t mocked and repressed in Mastoorah, just pitied as misguided, hell bound fools.

Mastoorah has known about the islands for centuries, and their sea tales are legendary, but only recently has the sultan’s need for new sources of income made exploiting them a priority.

For Mastoorah, the islands are resources. For the Mastooran people, the islands are adventure.

Names
Pick a Middle Eastern name you can pronounce as first name; make sure it means something cool. Then pick a tiny village in Saudi Arabia that you can pronounce as a last name.

Tomorrow:shùn and Kébéme
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Hey I Can Chan http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1756-The-Islands-Waclaw-and-Mastoorah
The Islands: Introduction and Clenchwarton http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1755-The-Islands-Introduction-and-Clenchwarton Fri, 07 Sep 2012 13:53:55 GMT * The Campaign* This begins with where you came from (“The Old World”) and transitions to where you are (“The New World”) and ends with cleanup...
The Campaign

This begins with where you came from (“The Old World”) and transitions to where you are (“The New World”) and ends with cleanup sections on language and religion. This is all the information I’ve written about these places. I have concepts, ideas, and threads bouncing around my brain, obviously, but to give you more I have to write more, and I’d rather play more. Make wise decisions if you want more information.

Further, as this world has only just been born—and I totally don’t expect it to last in its current state through the whole campaign—you are welcome to just toss shit in. This is a collaborative process. If you’ve ideas you want to see, make us see them. Don’t be afraid of saying, “Hey, Rob, I think it would be awesome if…” because I am all about the awesome ifs.

The more you contribute, the more real the campaign becomes.

The Old World
The old world is far away, and the empires that span the old continents are dying. The old world is ruled by children, drunken monarchs, depraved sultans, merciless emperors, paranoid chiefs, and anarchic felons.

You’ll be adventuring in the new world.

The islands—they’re the future. But the past keeps getting in the way.

These nations are the past.

Clenchwarton
The ruler of Clenchwarton is Queen Claudia Friskney. She has accumulated over a hundred other titles in her 3 years on the throne as the forces of Clenchwarton wage a brutal war of attrition against the gargoyle hordes to Clenchwarton’s south. Queen Claudia is 12 years old and is everything you would expect of a person that age who is also royalty. A hereditary monarchy, Clenchwarton has been ruled by the Friskneys for hundreds of years. Queen Claudia, as first-born child, assumed the throne after her father’s death, but her 3 younger brothers are both popular and, obviously, male. It remains to be seen how long Queen Claudia will maintain her crown as civil unrest and poverty grip the land because of an endless war no one likes. But every courtier in the land is jockeying for the child-queen’s hand in marriage so he can be the next King of Clenchwarton.

If you’re Clenchwart, you’re from fantasy Shakespearean England, except instead of Queen Elizabeth in charge, there’s a petulant 12-year-old girl, and instead of hating on the French you’re besieged by gargoyles. You probably drink a lot. You worry about catching strange diseases from your food, the rats, and all the prostitutes you frequent. Your job is 80 hours a week at a factory where beatings are supposed to improve both productivity and morale. When you fall into debt, you are imprisoned until your family settles up for you. You’re probably human, but a fair number of dwarves, elves, gnomes, and halflings live in Clenchwarton. You worship at the Church of the Dragon, Sinister.

The Clenchwart discovered the islands only in the last 20 years. Their discovery has led Clenchwarton, an island nation and already a naval powerhouse, to new heights of industry. The royal navy has doubled in size since the islands’ discovery, and Clenchwart seamen are as legendary for their sailing skill as they are for their inebriation and lechery.

For Clenchwarton, the islands are hope. For the Clenchwart people, the islands are opportunity.

Names
Pick a biblical first name. Then pick a city in England with fewer than 100,000 people as a last name.

Tomorrow: Waclaw & Mastoorah ]]>
Hey I Can Chan http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1755-The-Islands-Introduction-and-Clenchwarton