Wednesday, August 21, 2019

D6 Benign Magical Items

For any DM worth their salt, there is an ongoing obligation to ensure an equilibrium between the players desire for new, fantastical magical items, and the need to safeguard the campaign from overpowered upgrades which can easily derail the game itself. 

It goes without saying, players like shiny new toys their PCs can play with.  But, if your players are anything like mine, rewards don’t necessarily have to be powerful in order to provide a sense of intrigue.  In fact, some of the more benign magical items can be a good deal of fun for players, as they try to find occasions to use them, and creative ways in which to utilize their  properties and/or abilities.

I routinely add low impact magical items to my games through vendors, looting corpses, and as treasure.These items occasionally have a dual purpose, as they can serve as plot devices or as dungeon chum, which allows me to easily develop future adventure hooks. Below are d6 items my players discovered over several sessions.  These happen to all have a connection to the 5 senses. In the case of these items, the players concluded they must belong to a magic user, experimenting in the locations in which they were discovered.  I had not predetermined who had created/collected the items, or for what purpose. But I ran with their suppositions and they now have a new adversary to hunt down.

credit: © greg acker 2019

d6 Benign Magical Items (labeled A through F because of the doodles):

01/A: “Echoic Memory” 
A light blue nautilus shell, about the size of a dwarf's fist; mostly unremarkable in appearance. If the owner speaks a sentence into the shell, they can later hear the message by holding the shell to their ear. The message must be no more than around a dozen words. Only the person who spoke the message can hear the message. It cannot be used to cast a spell.  The message will last in perpetuity, or until a new message is spoken.

02/B: “Eye Spy”
The eyeball of an alien creature hangs from a gold hued chain. If worn on one’s exterior, like one might hang a pocket watch, the eyeball can be given a command, “eye spy…” followed by a single item. The eyeball will begin to hum and vibrate gently at the sight of the specified item. For example, one might say, “I spy a green door.” When the PC is near a green door the item will react. The eye is only capable of searching for one object at a time. 

03/C: “Frog Stone”
The head of a frog, carved from marbled stone. If held in the hand, the user may focus on any place it has seen, within 100 yards, and cause an audible croaking sound to be heard in that spot. The croaking last for 1d4+5 minutes.

04/D: “Just a Touch”
A stout ring made from polished iron, the head features a strange material which appears to be stone. The “stone” is blue with brown and green flecks throughout, which appear to be moving and shifting as if in liquid. The wearer can alter the way the texture of their skin feels to anyone touching them. This effect does not in any way change the wearer’s appearance.

05/E: “Inodorous Drops”
This orchid pink liquid has no taste or scent and becomes translucent when encountering another liquid. Once applied to a liquid, any substance subsequently added will also be tasteless, odorless, and colorless, regardless of what it is. There are 1d4+5 drams per vial. 1 dram is required per standard use (approximately the size of a common cup or mug.).The original liquid retains its properties, not limited to appearance, taste and scent.

06/F: “Upper Crust”
This scarlett cravat, with carmine stripes, is made of fine silk. Whilst wearing it, all odors pleasant or otherwise, are muffled and disguised, rendering the owner odorless. Coupled with the proper jacket, one might just pass for high society.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Chumming the Dungeon: d12 ideas

This is the third installment of Chumming the Dungeon. These d12 ideas can be used to create random (player generated) plot points or red herrings for future adventures.

A full explanation of Chumming the Dungeon can be found in the first installment (along with d6 ideas,) additional ideas can be found in the second installment (d20+d6 bonus ideas.)

credit: © greg acker 2019

1., A wooden marionette in lavish, but tiny, clothing. It bears a felt top hat, beneath which is a felt cut out in the shape of a key. Beside the marionette are the crossbar and a spool of twine.

2. A carved figure of a humanoid with the head of an apple. Made of earthstone, the carving appears angry. It grasps a small, razor sharp axe.

3. In full bloom, a chrysanthemum sits in a metal pot. The stem and flower are indestructible. Even without the pot, it weighs more than ten men.

4. Sitting in a small pool is a toy sailboat. Made of hardened clay, the sailboat appears to actually be sailing in circles. Upon close inspection ant-sized crew mill about hoisting sheets and tying lines.

5. An ivory horn the size of a man’s arm. Physical contact with a living creature causes the horn to fall into powdered talc. After several minutes without contact the horn regains its original shape.

6. An ascot, made of the finest green silk, sits crumpled up in a small teak box. The ascot bears an embroidered sigil indicating it belongs to royalty. The sigil is clearly not representative of any local family.

credit: © greg acker 2019

7. An eversnowing snow globe, resting upon a bronze base, sits on a short pillar. The city inside feels familiar, though it isn’t recognizable as anywhere local. No matter which way the snow globe is oriented, the snow always falls from the top down onto the city. 

8. A small voodoo doll with bright red skin and blue wrappings. Pins stuck into the doll show signs of blue blood being spilled. When picked up, the doll begins to vibrate violently. In short time it becomes too hot to hold; to place a pin into the doll, one must act quickly. It cools as quickly as it heats up.

9. A dozen large iron giant’s molars litter the floor. Each is larger than a fist, and weighs a considerable amount. Regardless of what is done to them, the teeth always remain bitter cold.

10. A beehive hangs from a single metal pole. Around it fly several rainbow colored bees. They don’t seem interested in anything other than their hive, but one might avoid angering them. 

11. Large yellowed lungs sit upon a small granite slab. It appears someone has examined them. They are most assuredly not human, as they have dozens of peridot and malachite stones embedded throughout.

12. A sizeable rug, longer than it is wide, is rolled up in the corner and tied with an orange ribbon. When unrolled it snaps into a flat shape (like a snap bracelet.) The process of unrolling it takes two or more adventurers as the spring mechanism is stiff. When opened it can be stepped on as normal. Pulling up on an edge causes it to roll up immediately. 

credit: © greg acker 2019

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Käselands: Count ‘Ricotta’ & the County of Rennet

Count Simón Mood aka Count Ricotta oversees the County of Rennet, a small nation in the northern Käselands. The county is less than 2000 square kilometers. The climate is mild, but arid. Vegetation is primarily chalk grassland and colby clover, and local livestock is composed exclusively of milch goats and rind sheep. The landlocked nation is bordered to the north by the mostly impassible Whey Mountain range.

There are two keeps within the territory, and two smaller baileys along the southeastern border with their antagonistic neighbor Peynr, a theocracy with ties to the region predating the arrival of the Wedge Lords. The larger of the two castles, which serves as the County Seat, is known as Sweet Curd Keep. Count Ricotta rules his small kingdom from Sweet Curd, ensuring ricotta production remains at satisfactory levels, overseeing shipments along the cheese roads, and orchestrating occasional skirmishes with Peynr. Ricotta maintains decent relations with most Hard and Soft cheese nations, choosing to remain mostly unaligned with either. Instead, he coordinates with the curd producing nations to ensure only he produces ricotta, and in accordance avoids other curd based cheese production.

His eldest daughter Viscount Casein is a battle-tested warrior feared more than the Count himself. She will rule the kingdom upon his departure into the Great Wedge on High. In the interim, she is charged with overseeing the smaller keep, Chhurpi, and the county bearing her name which resides in the southern, parmesan dusted vale. While Chhurpi has significantly reduced cheese production abilities compared to Sweet Curd, it houses a garrison more than twice as large, including several highly trained cheese-mando units commanded by Casein herself.

The baileys are maintained by the Count’s younger daughter, Viscount Alforto, protector of County Kuchen, which comprises the eastern half of Rennet. A respected warrior in her own right, Alforto spends her time traversing between the two baileys and Chhurpi. She is charged with coordinating the skirmishes into Peynr territory when Count Ricotta feels slighted by his neighbors actions. A brilliant tactician, Alforto is revered for her shock-and-awe tactics, attacking swiftly and decisively before returning to the safety of her defenses.  In addition to her standard and mounted knights, Alforto commands several vaunted holey units known as Cheesecloths. These knights forgo armor in exchange for increased mobility on the battlefield. Dancing through enemy lines, their gauze robes flow in the wind like blinding sails draped over enemy forces.

Peynr to the southeast doesn’t recognize Rennet’s right to the exclusive production of ricotta. The small theocratic city-state continually tests Rennet’s resolve by producing ricotta and shipping it through the parmesan vale, within Rennet's borders, and along the cheese road. Arguably, Peynr has a longer, more established claim to the territory, but the smaller nation does not maintain the military strength to assert its rights. Count Ricotta spends many resources combating Peynr’s incursions, and the two nations routinely find themselves skirmishing. While undoubtedly able to destroy Peynr, it would likely be a pyrrhic victory, as it would expend too many precious resources and take time and effort away from cheese production. The Count is content with sending raiding parties to intercept Peynr’s shipments and usurp them.  Additionally, the Count is known as a voracious gambler, overextending himself betting on games of chance with neighboring nobles. Any reduction in his nation’s income stream would risk revolt by his men-at-arms if payment for services wasn’t rendered in a timely manner.  Neither of his daughters share his addiction, nor are they aware of the dangers his vice presents to the nation.

Count Ricotta and his men fly an orange banner with a royal purple bend sinister, a black, reversed capital R is imposed over the center of the bend. The Count receives a modicum of respect and recognition within the region amongst his peers and adversaries, however, much of this can be attributed to his daughters prowess in battle rather than fear of the Count himself.  Aside from his gambling, the Count is relatively pious, venerating Saint Bufala Campana, patron of curd cheeses.  Statues to her dot the landscape, and temples to the Saint are not an uncommon site.

Opportunities exist for PCs to assist Rennet with its problems with Peynr. Missions as raiding parties or skirmishers are readily available.  Rennet is also in need of ensuring a more reliable supply of livestock, as any reduction in its rind sheep population could be detrimental to its existence.

Alternatively, opportunities exist for PCs to disrupt Rennet. Most significantly, the party could terminate Count Ricotta, ensuring his more reasonable daughter ascends the throne. The party could assist Peynr’s efforts to deliver its goods. And, it would be devastating to Rennet if its rind sheep population was stolen or destroyed.

It is also foreseeable that the party could usurp the Ricotta family and take over Rennet, either managing the curd cheese production, or using its keeps as staging grounds for continued attacks on nations within the region. If the party does so, they may choose to align with the hard cheese kingdoms, soft cheese kingdoms, curd kingdoms, or even the original inhabitants of Käseland, the Old Cheese kingdoms.


count ricotta © greg acker 2019

Count Simón Mood aka Count Ricotta 
Human, middling monarch
Standing at just under five feet tall, the thin count strikes an unimposing presence. He wears garish orange robes with black vair whilst at Sweet Curd Keep. In combat, he dons well-worn chainmail, wrapped in a sunbleached tabard with a Rennet reversed R on the front. He wields a sword two-sizes to large for his person, but manages to do so with an ease not befitting of his size.

HD: 2 (d8)
HP: 2d8 (14 hp)
AC: as chain and shield.
Speed on land: human.
Int: Average, human.
Str: Average, human.
Smells: surprisingly sweet like warm milk with a hint of cinnamon and sugar
Sounds: wheezes in combat, as if having difficulting breathing; probably the result of wielding his oversized sword.

Attack bonus: +2
Attacks Per Round: 2
Attacks: long sword (1d6+2), cheese knife (1d4+2), Coagulate (1d4+2, +1d4+2 for 2d4 rounds; useable 2x daily)
Spell-like-abilities: Curdling miasma (2x), Ricotta Salata (1x)

Sword: A magical sword strike for 1d6+2 dmg.
Cheese Knife: a silver, dagger sized weapon for slicing cheese, causes 1d4+2 damage
Coagulate: An acid delivered with the Count's
cheese knife. In addition to the standard 1d4+2 damage, the attack causes the victim's blood to coagulate like ricotta, causing an additional 1d4+2 every round for 2d4 rounds. In minute quantities the toxin is used in Rennet much like horseradish, for the spicing of dishes.

Curdling Miasma: The target is surrounded by a pungent, milky cloud of air. This cloud obstructs vision, reducing ‘to-hit’ by 50% for 1 round, and 25% for 1d3 subsequent rounds. While suffering in a curdling miasma cloud, the target is of particular interest to beasts; animals gain an additional attack at full bonus against the target. Traditionally non-aggressive beasts, such as horses or livestock, are prone to attack targets of Curdling Miasma.

Ricotta Salata: A powerword, cast successfully with a standard roll of 5 or higher on a d20, Salata causes the target’s body to become compressed as in a high pressure environment (such as what happens when submerged in deep water.) The skin becomes dry, and salt is passed through the pores, causing a thin white film to coat the target.  For the duration of combat, the victim’s AC is halved as they have difficulty avoiding or absorbing blows. They take full damage from all attacks, plus an additional half of the damage again the subsequent round (halved-damage stacks.)


Viscount Casein
Human, talented leader & warrior
Standing nearly six feet tall, Viscount Casein is just as powerful as her size projects. Stronger than any man under her command, she is a proven battlefield tactician.  She wears full-plate in combat, carrying a sword with a dark gunmetal blade and orange pommel & grip. Her shield bears the Rennet sigil.  Due to her experience, she always has initiative in any combat situation.

HD: 4 (d8)
HP: 4d8 (30 hp)
AC: as plate and shield.
Speed on land: human.
Int: Above-average, human.
Str: Above-average, human.
Smells: like grass and dried blood.
Sounds: like death whispering one final time in your ear as your time in this world expires.

Attack bonus: +4
Attacks Per Round: 2
Attacks: longsword (1d6+4), cheese knife (1d4+4)
Combat Abilities: Counterpunch (1x), Linebreaker (1x)
Spell-like abilities: Saint Campana’s Blessing (2x), Deafening Ululation (1x)

Sword: A magical sword strike for 1d6+2 dmg.
Cheese Knife: a silver, dagger sized weapon for slicing cheese, causes 1d4+2 damage
Counterpunch: (1x/day, can react to damage with a full-attack out of order; does not count as her action for the round.)
Linebreaker: (1x/day after successfully attacking a target, can move 5 feet and attack a subsequent target. If the subsequent attack is successful, she can continue to do this until either an attack fails or the next opponent is more than 5 feet away.)

Saint Campana’s Blessing (unique second recipient): (2x/day) can heal herself for 2HD+2 hp (in Casein's case this is a 2d8+2 heal.) Any amount healed is also applied to her sisters hp total, regardless of where in the world her sister resides at that moment.

Deafening Ululation: (1x/day) a crippling sound is emitted. All targets within a 50 foot cone are struck by the auditory blast. Targets take 1d8+4 damage each, and are deafened for the duration of combat. Save to limit deafening to 1-round.


Viscount Alforto
Human, warrior & provocateur
The younger daughter of Count Ricotta, Alforto is as fearless as she is dangerous. Notorious for driving deep into Peynr territory, destroying enemy shipments and returning to Rennet unscathed, Alforto is a respected commander throughout the region.  Though less experienced in battle than her sister, she is no less formidable.  Her calculated, if seemingly reckless attacks, provoke rebuttals from Peynr which only lead to more conflict and destruction for Rennet’s smaller neighbor. Alforto wields a halberd in combat, with a bladed end which looks like the reversed R in Rennet’s sigil.

HD: 3 (d8)
HP: 3d8 (22 hp)
AC: as plate and shield.
Speed on land: human.
Int: Above-average, human.
Str: Above-average, human.
Smells: like grief stricken widows.
Sounds: like the clatter of competing church bells from neighboring abbeys.

Attack bonus: +3
Attacks Per Round: 2
Attacks: longsword (1d6+3), cheese knife (1d4+3)
Combat Abilities: Rally Side (2x), Reform the Line (2x)
Spell-like abilities: Blessing of Saint Campana, Lesser (2x), Blistering Ululation (1x)

Sword: A magical sword strike for 1d6+2 dmg.
Cheese Knife: a silver, dagger sized weapon for slicing cheese, causes 1d4+2 damage

Rally Allies: After failing to land an attack, as a free-action, Alforto can shout a rallying cry to her compatriots. She and all of her allies gain +(1d4+1) on their next attack.
Reform the Line: After her turn is complete, as a free-action, she may shout commands to reposition her allies, allowing allies to move up to 10-feet as a free-action to get closer to her position, rallying around her.
Blessing of Saint Campana, Lesser (unique 2nd recipient): (2x/day) can heal herself for 1HD+1 of hp. Any amount healed is also applied to her sisters hp total, regardless of where in the world her sister resides at that moment.
Blistering Ululation: (2x/day) a shrill sound is emitted.  All targets within a 50 foot radius take 1d4 damage, as their skin develops painful blisters. Each time a victim moves more than 5 feet, they take an additional 1d4 damage. Each time they cast a spell or attack, they take an additional 1d4 damage. Blistering Ululation lasts 4 rounds. Save to halve all of the damage taken.


ricotta infantry © greg acker 2019

Ricotta Infantry
Standard melee infantry, wearing chain armor, carrying polearms and short swords. These men-at-arms wear orange tabards with a black reversed letter R on them. They are more disciplined than they are skilled. They do well taking orders from Commanders and Elite Soldiers in their company. While more apt to fight in lines than skirmish, they are schooled in all aspects of infantry combat.

HD: 1 (d8)
HP: 1d8 (5 hp)
AC: as chain.
Speed on land: human.
Int: Average, human.
Str: Average, human.
Smells: like oil and week-old-cheese.

Attack bonus: +1
Attacks Per Round: 1
Attacks: polearm (1d6) or short sword (1d6)
If either Viscount is on the field of battle, they will use combat tactics against their opponents, including flanking and focusing attacks on same-targets.


Whey Knights
Elite combatants, experienced in specialized warfare.
These knights make up the commando units of Rennet’s military strength. They wear dark, gunmetal colored armor, and black cloaks with an orange reversed R upon their backs. They carry longswords and shields, and are familiar with both mounted combat and infantry & skirmish combat tactics. Their swords are custom forged according to Viscount Casein's specifications and are presented by the Viscount herself upon recruitment into the Whey Order. They fight to the last man and will not route or surrender even if defeat is imminent.

HD: 2 (d12)
HP: 2d12 (14 hp)
AC: as plate and shield.
Speed on land: human.
Int: Average, human.
Str: Average, human.
Smells: like the absence of scent. You won’t smell them until you’re dead.
Sounds: like wind loudly buffeting in your ears

Attack bonus: +2
Attacks Per Round: 2
Attacks: longsword (1d6+2) cheese knife (1d4+2)

queso sheep © greg acker 2019

Queso Sheep Mounts
Mounts for carrying Whey Knights and military officers of County Rennet into battle. Contrary to most warriors, Whey Knights will dismount prior to combat and work in concert with their aggressive sheep mounts. The Queso sheep bleed melted cheese, and upon being wounded have a chance of flying into a rage. Upon death there is a chance they explode, sending molten cheese in their vicinity.

HD: 1 (d8)
HP: 1d8 (5 hp)
AC: as leather.
Speed on land: 2x human.
Int: Average, beast.
Str: Average, beast.
Smells: like expensive cheese and wet fur.
Sounds: like metal being dragged across a cheese shredder.

Attack bonus: +1
Attacks Per Round: 2
Attacks: bite (1d6), kick (2d4), Queso Rage
Attacks Per Round: 1
Queso Rage: Upon being injured, Queso sheep have a 25% chance of entering a wild animalistic rage fueled by hate and liquid cheese. For the next 2 rounds, they double their attack damage, take double damage, and have a halved AC. If they die during this rage, they are apt to burst (3-in-4 chance) spewing molten cheese out in a 5-foot radius (1d4 damage)

exploded queso sheep © greg acker 2019


Cheesecloth Warriors
Unarmored, fluid warriors
Cheesecloth knights enter combat wearing simple gauze robes. The robes are off-white or cream colored. They bear no colors or markings, but each is unmistakable in the Käselands as a Cheesecloth warrior. They never wear armor or utilize shields. They wield broadswords as if they were rapiers, whilst outmaneuvering opponents. They use their flowing robes to distract and temporarily blind their enemies.

HD: 2 (d8)
HP: 2d8 (5 hp)
AC: as plate, due to high dex. (move as unarmored)
Speed on land: 2x human.
Int: Average, human.
Str: Average, human.
Dex: Above-average, human
Smells: like sweet cheese soaked linens
Sounds: like the lulling, dulcet tones of Bob Marley’s voice on a breezy summer day. Enemies fall prey to the calming nature of their fluid whispering motions.

Attack bonus: +2
Attacks Per Round: 2
Attacks: broadsword (1d8+2), cheese knife (1d4+1), Blinding Robes

Blinding Robes: In lieu of an attack, Cheesecloth knights can use their robes in an attempt to temporarily block the vision of opponents. Opponents vision is partially obscured for 1-round, causing a 50% mischance on successfully made attacks.


mage of saint bufala campana © greg acker 2019

Mage of Saint Bufala Campana
Locally trained wizards who maintain a near cleric-like dedication to their craft and their patron-Saint.  They dress in dark orange robes with black cuffed sleeves. With a cheese knife tucked conveniently into their belts, they hold crumpled ricotta recipes in the palm of their hands, and prayer beads wrapped around their fists.The recipes serve as a focus, a reminder of all Rennet County and her people, the Count and Viscounts Mood, and the ricotta mean to them and their ancestors. The prayer beads provide a connection to Saint Bufala Campana, and allow the Magi to channel her essence.

HD: 1 (d6)
HP: 1d6 (4 hp)
AC: as unarmored
Speed on land: human.
Int: Above-average, human.
Str: Low, human.
Smells: like grated cheese sprinkled over centuries old tomes.
Sounds: like ignited sulphur fuses on firecrackers prior to exploding.

Attack bonus: +1
Attacks Per Round: 1
Spell Attacks Per Round: 1
Attacks: cheese knife (1d4+1)

NOTE, Spell Casting: all NPC spells in my campaign are cast using a single, simple die roll (usually a d20) to determine the caster’s success**. The roll-at-or-over number is listed along with each spell: x/dY, where x represents the number to be rolled at-or-over and Y represents the die to be rolled (ex 5/d20, the caster must roll a 5 or higher on a d20 to successfully cast the spell.) No other ‘to-hit’ dice need be rolled. Concentration, if required, is made rerolling the same number each round, or each time the caster takes damage. Spells may be used an infinite number of times per day (like cantrips in 5e), unless otherwise noted in the spell description.

**Spells can be ported over to other systems as needed using the spell descriptions

Wheel Roll: (5/d20; 3x/day; 120 feet, line.) A ‘cheese wheel’ made of pure energy, the size of a human, rolls toward a target. All within the line are struck and tossed aside. 1d6 damage, plus knocked prone in an adjacent space.
Curdish Tea: (7/d20; 3x/day 60 feet, cone.) A barrage of chunky, white liquid cheese emanates from the caster’s position. All within range take 2d4+2 damage. Additionally, spellcasting becomes twice as difficult for victims the next round. (Double spell ‘to-hit’ or give 50% mischance on successful spell-attack.)
Ricotta Spill: (5/d20; 3x/day; 30 feet aoe.) Similar to Curdish Tea, but cast on the ground instead of at opponents. The ground is covered in a slew of slimey sweet cheese coating. Movement speed is halved, AC of all enemies within area reduced by 25% due to inability to evade or absorb attacks as normal.
Blessing of Saint Campana, Lesser: (2/d20; 120 feet, individual target.) One target is healed for 1HD+1 damage. Additionally, the caster is healed for the same amount as the target.
Ray of Campana’s Light: (5d20; 120 feet, individual target) A blast of light rockets from the caster to the target causing 1d10 damage. Whether killed by the blast or not, the target remains brightly illuminated for 1d10 minutes after being struck.
Cheese Filling: (8d20; 1x/day; 120 feet, individual target) The target’s insides are filled with creamy ricotta cheese; every organ, space, and cavity. Target’s take 1d10 damage each round for 1d4 rounds. While under the effects of this spell, targets cause maximum damage with their attacks. Cheese filling while deadly is highly satisfying.
Jump Over The Moon: (2d20; self, free-spell-action) Caster may teleport self up to 120 feet, swapping positions with any other ally. This spell may not be used on enemies. It may be used on unconscious allies. It is not required that allies be willing.  As a free-action, Magi of Saint Bufala Campana routinely use this as a technique to befuddle and frustrate enemies. When multiple mages and warriors swap positions each round, the effects are often agitating to adversaries.
Milk Shield: (2d20, 120 feet, individual target) One target (can be self) is surrounded by a milky white dairy bubble. The bubbles absorb the full energy of 1 spell attack before collapsing. The spell may be recast as needed, but requires a full-action. Lasts 4d4+4 minutes. Looks as disgusting as it sounds.
Summon, Curd Golem: (8d20, 1x/day; 10 feet) the caster manifests a Curd Golem, which is under its full control for 6 rounds.

curd golem © greg acker 2019

Curd Golem
HD: 4 (d8)
HP: 4d8 (20 hp)
AC: as unarmored
Speed on land: half human.
Int: Below-average, creature.
Str: Above-average, creature.
Smells:  like cheese left in the heat too long and turned.
Sounds: like a giant bowl of custard being shaken violently.

Attack bonus: +4
Attacks Per Round: 2
Attacks: slam (1d8), encapsulate, explode (aoe)

Encapsulate: the golem engulfs its target sucking it inside its torso. The target takes 1d4 damage each round and begins suffocating. Targets die from suffocation as normal depending on rules used. Victims have 100% chance to hit the golem while inside it, and due to the golem's physical nature may do so automatically.

Explode: a curd golem may preemptively ends it's existence at any time. It does so by exploding violently. All targets in a 30 foot aoe radius split the curd golem's remaining hit points equally among them.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Chumming the Dungeon: d20 (+ bonus d6) ideas

I covered the process of chumming the dungeon previously. Below are d20 new (and an additional d6 bonus) ideas to interest and bewilder the party while providing additional plot development opportunities to the DM.

credit:© 2019 greg acker  

01. The floor is covered with the heads of 1601 red snappers on short sticks. They seem fresh. Too fresh for the volume of heads. There is no sign of blood or water. They're all precisely the same height.

02. An ivory trumpets rests on a hand carved bamboo chair, which is coated in ungainly lacquer. The seat cushion is made of navy velvet. The chair and trumpet bear the same monogram.

03. Seven coarse ropes hang neatly from copper pulleys anchored in the ceiling. Each rope is exactly twice the thickness of the one before it. They all appear made from different source material.

04. The mummified remains of an old woman. She bears a sad look upon her face. She is wrapped in linens which smell of laudanum. She clutches a small doll which bears a striking resemblance.

05. A dire pack-goat. It's twice as wide as any available opening in the room. It's loaded up with bolts of cloth and rugs which make it even wider. It's not walking out of here. It is however chewing on a gnome-sized metal barrel.

06. An apple halfway up the shaft of an arrow. The apple has been long rotten; a single fly circles above it. The arrowhead is made from a platinum coin worked into a pointed shape. The arrowhead appears to be humming.

07. Directions for a two-pronged attack on a distant city. The attackers plan to strike while the city is vulnerable and civilians, especially children, are at greatest risk. The attack is described on a vellum page written in the juice of beets native only to the immediate area.

08. A box of fresh tomatillos; arrived today according to a mark on the box. They've traveled from half a world away. This produce shouldn't stay ripe off the vine for more than 7 days. It's a 4 month voyage, at best, from their origin.

09. A small McGill & Sons Fishery tackle box. It's a non-Euclidean space. Upon opening it, one discovers a dozen iron fish hooks the size of a ship's anchor.

10. The pieces to assemble the finest opera curtain the world has known. Neatly packed into a 6' × 1' x 1' box. The curtain is a vibrant royal purple. The hardware is polished brass. There is blood on the box.

credit: © greg acker 2019

11. A list of the last 100+ dwarven kings; long dead. The scroll explains where to find and how to exhume their corpses. There are necromantic marginalia scribbled on the list.

12. Love letters. Decades worth. Two styles of writing are visible throughout. The language is familiar but the dialect is too antiquated to be fully understood. There is a faux pearl ring tucked inside one letter.

13. A Demon's private hymnal. It bears an illegible inscription. There are lyrics underlined throughout. It appears meticulously well cared for.

14. The thigh bone of a large, ancient hominoid. The smaller end is wrapped in brown russet leather with tassels hanging from it. The large end has been used too frequently and shows the remnants of where it splintered and broke apart.

15. Mandible from a large anthropomorphic mantis-man. They're sheared off at the base. They appear stone-like, as petrified wood often does. Someone tried & failed to fashion them into a weapon.

16. 2 hand axes with gem stone heads; one citrine, one topaz. They're stuck into a solid stump of wood. The topaz appears cracked. The citrine looks flawless. The wood has several small, valueless gems resting in the cuts in its surface.

17. Eighty or more goblin-sized, blood-stained stretchers. They're stacked 8 to 10 deep along the walls. A single operating table sits in the center of the room. Remains are absent.

18. Eleven branding irons rest on a thick wooden table. A fire pit sits on the floor where a twelfth iron lays in the smoldering ashes. The heads of the brands feature oaths to various demons and devils.

19. Plaster casts of elf ears dot the shelves of a small rack. The molds themselves are on the bottom shelf. The array of ears remain in various states of drying. Small bags of powder sit on the floor.

20. A grinder organ is pushed into the corner.  Demonic musical compositions written on human skin parchments are neatly piled at its side.

credit:© greg acker 2019

bonus chum

01. Upon a small table, a teak nutmeg grinder rests. A kingly figure is carved into the top. The nutmeg store is empty, however, several silk bags of various spices can be found in a teak box upon the floor. There are royal crests upon both.

02. Three porcelain amphorae. They depict various unrecognizable planetary objects; there are multiple suns and moons. They contain a viscous royal yellow liquid which smells of freshly cut grass.

03. A brass birdbath with white enamel filigree around the rim; filled with brackish water. An iron tern sits on one side drinking, it’s beak and breast rusted. The area smells of quinine and cucumbers. The salty water tastes of cream of tartar.

04. Upon a brilliant brass sword rack is a large stick. The stick is largely unremarkable except for a small carving of a flame at the base; the flame is hot to the touch

05. A cistern, neatly set into the floor; lined with golden hued bricks cut to a remarkable level of precision. Brimming with perfectly seamless, spherical steel balls. Engraved on each is an unknown world. Pheromones of confidence, greed, and opportunity fill the air.

06. A lectern stands at the end of a room. Upon the wall behind it, there are diagrams of odd beetles; the foreign writing on them appears to be a warning. Upon the lectern itself is a journal in a foreign tongue. Soft screams can heard from the tiny wooden boxes below. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Käselands: Caseus Vult! An introduction

The Käselands have been embroiled in conflict since time immemorial. The first of the Wheel Barons, Wedge Counts, and Neufchâtel Marquis arrived more than five generations ago. The introduction of their men-at-arms would be the catalyst which would push the region toward full-blown war. Prior to this point, cheese - at least decent cheese - was almost unheard of outside of the Käseland. As tales of fantastical gaseous cheeses made their way westward, nobles came to the region on holey missions, in search of swisses and casu marzu.

The journey would prove long and arduous. Upon arriving, the western lords were greeted by local regimes hostile to their intent to pillage the great cheeses from the Käselands.  The determined westerners, unwilling to cede in their quest for the cheese lands, would wage decades long battle with the eastern cheese lords and sultans that came before them.

credit: Jaden Anglesby

The Käselands were vastly different from the world these western lords knew. Endless cheese seas, awash with brackish milky waters, swept up upon brittle dusted cheese deserts. In areas where the molten sea met the parmesan flats the shoreline often gave way to coastal cream bogs, curdled bayous, and swamps of acrid, waist deep, fermented rot.

Western lords would raise their great Wedge Courts and steadfast Wheel Holds, monuments to their power, testaments to their creamy restless dreams.  Eastern Lords too had captivating fortresses, awash in glimmering, golden enamel inscriptions of their own hard won cheese wars. Over time, many of these castles and keeps switched hands, some were razed, and even more were lost to the matriculated damage of cheese-borne desires. The cheese lords of the east would never capitulate. The cheese lords of the west would never relent.


When the powdered cheese dust settled, and a modicum of stability returned to the region, the first of the great cheese roads began to develop. After years of war, the cheese lords required a continued stream of income in order to maintain their cheese dynasties. Much like spice routes in the far east, cheese roads would allow cheeses to reach westward nations unspoilt.

The success generated from these routes was unfathomable; it would result in kingdoms, both small-and-large and numerous city-states throughout the region. The influx of cheese income was revolutionizing.

As foreign nations learned of the delectable cheese treasures in the east, funds continued to pour in from afar, greed took hold, and the cheese making nations began to war again, this time over the spoils from kingdoms abroad. As demand for cheeses increased, the struggle for livestock, labor, and improved manufacturing processes became increasingly fierce. Many hard cheese kingdoms aligned themselves against soft cheese kingdoms that would do likewise; many lords left behind the origins and sides of the war they had known for centuries in pursuit of the interests that best gave them a chance for survival and success now.

credit: Erin @ hungrytimestwo.blogger

In order to maintain a modicum of order amongst the chaos and conflict, all cheese bearing nations came together in agreement to allow non-cheese producing kingdoms, mostly suppliers of grains and feed for livestock, to remain neutral parties within the region. These neutral kingdoms remain protected under the MILK (Mutually Impartial La Fibre Kingdoms) treatises originally draughted by s’Dia the First, His Illustrious Eminence of Produce, 118th of His ‘Green’ Line, Sultan of the Kingdom of Marul, 11th Son of s’Ilida our First Asteraceaen Queen; whose family is celebrated for introducing lettuce to the region before the introduction of modern history.  Over time, many of the MILK states realized opportunities existed to provide safety to travelers, leading to the development of Käse-vansaries and financial success in their own right.  The MILK treatises would also permit these neutral nations to make sizable financial loans and contributions to non-MILK nations, provided they could ensure the funds were for civil and not military purposes.  On occasion, the small defensive forces permitted under the MILK treaty are used for regional peacekeeping duties. Most MILK nations maintain special forces small in number, but well versed in defensive operations.

In less than five generations, society in-and-around Käseland would be forever altered. An omnipresent aspect of life in the region, cheeses would lead to the development of myriad cheese based religions. Many of the cheeseities worshipped by these neophytic doctrines fell along the lines of hard and soft cheeses, making continued contributions to the rifts that exist in the region.  Goldens, whites, blues, rinds, crumbles, and spreadables all found representation amongst the Gods.  The upper-rind of sophomoric society, those benefiting most from the financial success of cheese markets and cartels, suppliers from MILK nations, and providers or livestock and labor would become revered and reviled as the region’s bourgeois-cheese.  Those who found themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum could expect to spend their lives toiling away in the mold farms, press houses, and cheesecloth seweries.

garish cheese signs dot the landscape. credit: wtmj milwaukee

The Käselands continue to maintain a tumultuous existence. Cheese infests all aspects of life, and infects all aspects of thought.The future of solid-dairy the world over rests in the struggles within the region. While many nations serve as the breadbasket of the world, the Käselands serve as its only cheese plate.  Local nations aren’t wont to let go of the power associated with the cheese industry, and foreign nations are willing to dump resources into ensuring the regions existence and a continued supply of cheese westward, ad infinitum.

As the struggle for cheese-dominance continues, the new generation of Cheese Lords push against the boundaries of the decent-minded establishment of cheese-society. Blended cheeses of disparate origins are becoming the taste du jour; alchemical magi are lured to the region to perform blasphemous menageries of cheese tastes and consistencies. Combinations, such as ‘Bitter Chartreuse Edam Brie’ never before imagined are traded and sold as psychoactives and analgesics, to the simultaneous, yet incongruous betterment and detriment of Käselandians throughout the region.

Wild and foreboding, the Käselands remain a violent and mysterious locale to all who venture within. One thing is certain, as long as there is cheese, there will never be peace.

Monday, March 25, 2019

DM Tools: What’s in a name?

For a player, naming a character, especially one they might be playing for months or even years depending on the campaign, can be difficult. For some, it’s lack of creativity. I can recall more than a few times players wanting to use variations of “Noname.” Maybe it was because nothing else came to mind? Maybe it was pressure to come up with something unique or interesting and they couldn’t pull the trigger? I’ve also had numerous players use Latin as a crutch. Some do so by taking a word or term they like in English and translating it (ex Blood becomes Sanguis.) Others do so by taking a phrase they like in Latin and changing it slightly to sound more like a name (ex In Vino Veritas becomes Invino.)  And of course, there are plenty of players who think they are George Martin and change a common name slightly to up the fantasy level (ex Edward becomes Eddard.)

This problem isn’t isolated just to players. DMs have to come up with a lot of NPCs; whether it’s innkeepers, the BBEG, hirelings, or just the players wanting to know the name of literally every single person they pass by walking through town (seriously, I think players do this just to mess with us.)  On average, DMs are probably better at coming up with names, if for no other reason than there (usually) isn’t any emotional attachment to the NPC at the time of creation.  But, just like for the players, it isn’t always easy to come up with names that don’t feel cliche, stale, or genre specific enough (eg space names for space rpgs.)

It’s for these reasons I use a few tricks when it comes to naming conventions in my games. It is important to note, I use typical fantasy-style names sparingly.  I draw many of my names from words that aren’t usually associated with names. I find this works wonderfully. Nouns (Tooth, Guest, Decoy), verbs (Toss, Sort), and past participles (Slung, Bitten, Wrung) all work great. To begin, they are words players don’t associate with names, so it has a positive effect on the unique-factor. And, they’re memorable, which is a plus for both me and the players. I’m going to have a better chance at remembering details about Tooth than I ever am about Samwell, even if Tooth’s name doesn’t have anything to do with the characteristics of her teeth.

Since I am drawing most names from regular lists of words, they’re incredibly easy to find.  Sure, there are plenty of fantasy name generators out there. But there exist an infinite number of locations to draw nouns and verbs. In addition to one’s own vocabulary, a simple google search for a list of any word classification would provide thousands of potential names.  If a DM wanted to be more specific in their search as to turn up less common words and word combinations, there are infinite lists that meet these criteria as well.

One such place I came across at random this week was a list of Kentucky Derby winners. Many of the names on the list make for fantastic NPCs. One could easily fill an entire campaign with NPCs named after champion horses, without the players even catching on to the origins. Using winners of the Kentucky Derby (US), Belmont Stakes (US), Preakness (US), Kentucky Oaks (US), Dubai World Cup (UAE), Grand National (UK), and Royal Ascot (UK) would provide hundreds of names for NPCs. If a DM wanted to ensure players didn’t realize NPCs had horse names, one could just as easily utilize lesser known races and winners. 

List of Kentucky Derby Winners for NPC Name Inspiration

Probably the greatest asset of many of these names, is how easy it is to envision an NPC role to correlate with the name. Many of the names are evocative of actions or descriptive of traits associated with rpg roles.

The best part of all of this of course, is that it applies to players just as well as it does DMs. I encourage my players to use similar tactics when naming their PC. Doing so almost always results in a fun and memorable name. If the player so chooses, the name can provide additional backstory the DM can use as plot device. Adopting naming conventions such as these have made the character creation process more enjoyable for my players, and have made it markedly easier for me to create NPCs on the fly. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Monster: Crock-pot-a-dile

Varnished Truths (twitter: @varnished_truths) commented about playing a PC who was the son of a cheesemonger. Not only was this a great concept for a PC, but I realized I could develop an entire campaign around cheese-based themes.  This led me to think of Cheese Cartels, Wheel Barons, Wedge Castles with Velveeta moats filled with Crock-pot-a-diles.  Stats were requested for the Crock-pot-a-dile. Without further ado:

Stalwart defenders, these solitary predators are prized as guardians of the golden velveeta moats which line many of the wedge keeps throughout the Greater Kaseland. Appearing as giant, 4 meter long black-and-tan ceramic crocodiles, one it quick to note the sizeable ceramic crock residing in their torsos. These crockpots reach upward from the creatures’ backs several feet, and extend outward on both sides of the animal. Don’t let the ceramic appearance fool you, these creatures have hides thick like a pachyderm. The pots are brimming with molten hot liquid white cheese, the drippings of which dry quickly against the animals ceramic skin.  Quick to anger, crock-pot-a-diles make for a terrifying experience for any interlopers in-or-near the moats.

crock-pot-a-dile. image © greg acker 2019

HD: 4 (d8)
HP: 4d8 (36)
AC: As leather.
Speed on land: 2x human.
Speed in water: 3x human.
Int: as animal.
Str: extraordinary.
Smells: like salt water taffy in a summer breeze.
Sounds: like metal utensils constantly clacking about inside a ceramic tumbler.

Attack bonus: +4
Attacks: bite (1d6), tail swipe (1d6), fromage splash (aoe, 2 meters 4d4, 5 meters 1d8), dinner roll (6d6)
2 attacks per round, plus dinner roll if first 2 attacks are bite attacks against a single target.

Bite: The crock-pot-a-dile lunges with its gaping maw. Victims who are struck may be held onto for one-round (or until the crock-a-diles next attack, whichever comes later.) The victims may attack or cast spells as normal, but may not move. The creatures AC is halved for the victim of this bite/hold as it’s difficult to miss at this distance.  

If the creature makes 2 successful bite attacks against the same target, it may choose to perform a Dinner Roll on the victim as its third/subsequent attack

Tail swipe: Targets of a successful tail swipe are shoved 5 feet/1 square in a random 1d4 direction (1=Northward, 2=S, 3=E, 4=W.)

Fromage splash: Usable twice per combat before the creature must replenish its stores, the crock-pot-a-dile may intentionally cast off up to half of its cheese upon those in the area. Those closest are struck with the hottest cheeses.

Dinner Roll: This special attack can only be made against targets who have been victims of two previous and subsequent bite attacks. A crock-pot-a-dile performs a death roll with the victim in its jaws. As this occurs, all of the remaining cheese in the creature’s crockpot splashes free. Both the creature and the victim are covered in molten cheese; the animal is unaffected by its own pot liquids. The victim of a Dinner Roll takes both bite and scalding liquid cheese damage for a total of 6d6. If this attack occurs in the cheese moats, the victim still takes the entire 6d6 damage due to the proximity to the beast, and additionally finds themselves submerged in 10-to-20 feet of liquid moat cheese in the jaws of an angry beast.