Friday, December 29, 2017

We Three Kings

This is a one-shot Christmas-appropriate adventure for Lamentations of the Flame Princess or whatever you want. I ran it for my Skype LotFP group, which consists of high school friends who are usually spread out across the country. But, thanks to holiday magic, they were all at my dining room table on Tuesday night.

It is Christmas Eve, 1567. Mary, Queen of Scots has abdicated the throne and fled south to England, leaving her one-year-old son James to inherit Scotland. In my game, the players are traveling to Edinburgh, hoping that the uncertain political climate means available work for ne'er-do-wells.

An evening snowfall finds the players marching through a pine forest, whiting out the deep green-blue  of the trees and blanketing the mossy undergrowth. Just as further travel becomes impossible, they emerge to find a sorry castle against the horizon. At least it's shelter.

The swinging orange of the porter's lamp and the baying of hounds greet the players, who are ushered in to be welcomed to Dunsinane Castle by lanky, tall Una and round Conall, the daughter and son of the lord. They are under the impression the party is here to pay its respects to the new king of Scotland, which is odd since the king is supposed to be some baby in Edinburgh.

It turns out they mean their father, Caspar of Clan Macbeth. Caspar is an old man on the verge of death, bedridden at the head of a long and empty banquet table in the castle's drafty hall. He will explain that Mary's late abdication is the final straw for "Banquo's line," finally proving how unfit that family is to govern. It is finally time for clan Macbeth to reclaim the throne they took, rightfully, by bold action, centuries ago.

If the players press for details, it's Macbeth, of course. The Macbeth of the play is Caspar's multiple-great uncle, and this is now all that remains of the family. They're not in any state to be reclaiming a country, either: no money or arms to speak of, no allies, dilapidated castle.

There are basically two ways the adventure can go from here: working with or against the Macbeths. If the players seem especially sympathetic, they may be asked to help with their desperate plan. If not, the family will be cagey and send the players to bed. Their plan is to descend into Dunsinane's older, haunted depths, grapple with the ghosts of the past, and search out the Weird Sisters who favored their ancestor so long ago. Perhaps they will do the same for Caspar.

The entrance to the older part of the castle is shut behind a huge portrait of Macbeth in the great hall,  the sky storm-wracked on one side of him and sunny and blue on the other. To enter, one must speak Macbeth's first line of the play: "So foul and fair a day I have not seen." Hint this as you wish. If you have a copy of the play, you can introduce it as Macbeth's journal, or just print out certain passages.

Once inside, this is the lay of the land:

1. A narrow staircase descending, with the stonework and masonry gradually transitioning to an older style.

2. A large, colonnaded hall, haunted by the pale, iridescent ghost of Banquo. If the players choose not to help the Macbeths, Una and Conall will already be negotiating with, fighting, or attempting to avoid this ghost. If the players do choose to help, Una and Conall may accompany them into the depths or may be too cowardly. Your choice.

Ghost of Banquo: 4 HD, AC 14, carries a torch (d6 + burns d4 more rounds for d4 damage per round)

Muttering when the players approach:
"Thou hast it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis, all, as the weird women promised, and, I fear, thou play'dst most foully for't..."

If attacked:
"There will be rain to-night..." - It begins to rain a black oil in the hall, which may be set alight by his torch.

3. A ghostly executioner with a finely made sword, lopping off the heads of a long line of perceived threats to Macbeth's throne.

4. The heads roll from the executioner's sword into this room, to the door of the king's chambers, where they lament their fate and warn of intruders.

5. Macbeth's court, attended by ghostly courtiers and soldiers, chanting, "All hail Macbeth, Macbeth all hail." Will claw at anyone not of Macbeth's line. Fine tapestries abound.

6. A rotting feast attended by headless lords. Fine silverware.

7. The ghost of Lady Macbeth, cradled in death's arms.

Ghost of Lady Macbeth: 6 HD, AC 16

Muttering when the players approach:
"To bed, to bed! There's knocking at the gate: come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What's done cannot be undone.--To bed, to bed, to bed!"

If attacked:
"Come to my woman's breasts, and take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers..." - Green bile spews from her mouth as an attack, d12 damage.

"Yet here's a spot..." - The players bleed from a new orifice each round, -1 HP per round until Lady Macbeth is dispatched. No save.

"Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him..." - A tidal wave of blood crashes against the players. Save or cower in fear.

8. The ghost of Macbeth, pacing his richly-appointed king's chambers.

Ghost of Macbeth: 7 HD, AC 18, carries a greatsword (d10)

Muttering when the players approach:
"To be thus is nothing; but to be safely thus.--Our fears in Banquo stick deep; and in his royalty of nature reigns that which would be fear'd: 'tis much he dares..."

If attacked:
"Is this a dagger which I see before me?" - Daggers appear before each player, menacing to attack (d4). a Successful attack by the player (against Macbeth's AC) is enough to bat them away.

"O, full of scorpions is my mind..." - Dozens of scorpions crawl from the shadows, attempting to sting the players (d4 damage + save vs. poison). Fire is most effective in dealing with them.

"Birnam Wood be come to Dunsinane..." - Tree roots grow from cracks in the floor to wrap around the players' ankles. Save or immobilized.

9. An old, worn door to an even more ancient place:

1. The walls here are rough-hewn and cavelike, carved with swirly Celtic runes. Goat skulls and animal bones warn away intruders. The way branches into three passages.

2. Chamber of the first weird sister.

Doileag: 4 HD, AC 13. Beguiling and naked with medusan hair. Save or charmed. Her hair can coil and choke the life from you (grapple, d8 per turn)

3. Chamber of the second weird sister.

Sidheag: 4 HD, AC 13. Wizened crone. Her skeletal cats (1 HD, AC 14, d6) fight for her.

4. Chamber of the third weird sister.

Mordag: 4 HD, AC 13. A goth chick with a big old bastard sword (d8). Save or lose the motivation to continue living.

Note: all three sisters may cast spells as a 6th level Magic User, if desired.

5. The summoning circle, drawn in chalk, blood, and ash. All three chambers lead here. The sisters are attempting to commune with Melchior, King and Queen of the Air. Offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh surround a book of demon-summoning. Melchior has the power to grant Caspar Macbeth's wish, though at a terrible price. May also grant the players wishes, though again at terrible prices.

Melchior, King and Queen of the Air:

If summoned by three sisters: 9 HD, AC 17, talons (2 x d10 + save vs. poison)
If summoned by two sisters: 6 HD, AC 15, talons (2 x d10)
If summoned by one sister: 3 HD, AC 13, talons (2 x d6)
If summoned by the players: as the LotFP Summon spell

When summoned:
How did you dare
To trade and traffic with Macbeth
In riddles and affairs of death;
And I, the mistress of your charms,
The close contriver of all harms,
Was never call'd to bear my part,
Or show the glory of our art?


Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Elf Empire

Deep in a radioactive blue jungle lies the oldest standing empire in the world. It exists in a constant state of decay and decadence. Some say it survives because, not in spite, of its rampant political backstabbing and moral decrepitude.

Elves are magical, mischievous, charming, and deeply untrustworthy. Elves love fine food, spirits, clothes, and weapons, but hate work. The empire's greatest artisans, like its snail shell carvers, are pitied more than admired; they have mastered their craft so others don't have to.

The two finest military traditions are the acid knights and the raptor knights. Elves ride dinosaurs, did I neglect to mention that? The oldest magic schools in the world are in the capital, Five Leaves. The most prestigious accept only elves, but others attract students the world over. Elves have enslaved the lowly crab men and treat the lizard men (who held an empire in the same jungle ages ago) as second-class citizens. Slug men are highly valued as bureaucrats and functionaries.

These are the tables I use to run this region of my campaign setting. I fill in any gaps with Yoon-Suin and Cobalt Reach. I hope to make this a sorta-kinda weekly or semiweekly thing until I've finished up the tables for the other 11 regions I've got out there. Enjoy.

Encounters by Terrain Type (d100)

Roll once per day of travel, more if you want. Re-roll after rolling weather events. Rolling over the highest number listed means no encounter.

EncounterJungleMountainWaterWind-sculpted Rock
poison frog26-27-24-25-
gas spore-2626-
blue knight (cobalt)2827-22
elf palanquin34-38-
elf hunters35293932
elf soldiers36304033
elf entertainers37-41-
lizard men38314234
slug men39-43-
crab men403244-
elf magi423647-
toxic fumes----

EncounterSulfur PoolsTall GrassBismuth Outcropping
poison frog---
gas spore21-23-21-22
blue knight (cobalt)24-23
elf palanquin-28-
elf hunters312928
elf soldiers3230-
elf entertainers-31-
lizard men333229
slug men343330
crab men353431
elf magi373735
toxic fumes38-45--

Treasure/Search the Body (d100)

(Switch up the ones not in bold every so often if you want.)

1Night Wood black candle, darkens room when lit
2d8 orcish nuclear beast eggs, explode when thrown
3Primeval Forest moss baby
4icon of the Twilight Grail, ends one curse or affliction
5northern whale lamp oil, burns underwater
6Southern Isles lizard man rum
7Lotus Straits bathyscope
8goblin key
9jeweled marionette from the Reach
10account of a doomed expedition to the Land of Shadow and Flame
11Rusted Land clockwork lamp, rubbing grants one very minor wish
12Voivodjan mince pie
13elven opium (Yoon-Suin p. 283)
14-63gold equal to 3x dice roll
64elven brandy
65tea (Yoon-Suin p. 287)
66dinosaur bone statue
67snail shell armor
68siver dagger
69baby pterodactyl
70t rex tooth mace
71raptor claw climbing boots
72crab man pheromone gland
73vial of acid
74elven palm wine
75black iron, burns elves and goblins
76poached grubs in banana leaf
78vial of frog poison
79treatise on dinosaur taming
80minor wand
81rumor dust, sprinkling over yourself prevents others from remembering you
82carved alabaster idol of mystra
83trick deck of cards
84spellbook, d6 random decipherable spells up to level d6
85ritual tattoo needles
862d20 finely made arrows
87Codex Jaguar Rakshasa, summons the Jaguar Rakshasa
88vial of slug man slime
89elven violin
90carmine beetle dye
91dried mango
92pocket hide canoe, grows in water
93flailsnail shell armor, reflects spells
94random scroll, level d8
95d6 days of water and rations
96stolen opium pipe, prized possession of a great house
97dinosaur whistle, drives nearby dinosaurs crazy
98highest quality silk worms
99seeds of the strangler vine, grows overnight to smother an area the size of a bed
100bone of a long-dead wizard, some magic left in it

NPCs (d20)

  1. hunter
  2. fisher
  3. sailor
  4. crab man slave
  5. distiller/vintner
  6. slug man bureaucrat
  7. lizard man
  8. musician
  9. thief
  10. priest
  11. dinosaur trainer
  12. merchant
  13. wizard
  14. shell carver
  15. acid knight
  16. raptor knight
  17. concord of the moon
  18. wizard-guru
  19. Tymora cultist
  20. imperial family

Wilderness Locations (d10)

  1. lake
  2. wind-sculpted rock
  3. sulfur pools
  4. tall grass
  5. bismuth outcropping
  6. hot springs
  7. natural fission reactor
  8. tentacle grass
  9. lone castle
  10. wizard tower

Settlement Locations (d10)

  1. seafood shop
  2. observatory
  3. bazaar
  4. brothel
  5. tea house
  6. opium den
  7. fighting pits
  8. exotic gardens
  9. dinosaur training pens
  10. magic school

Dungeons (d8 or place around your map)

  1. mountain fortress of Ferox the Incinerator
  2. acid knight citadel
  3. caves of the raptor knights
  4. step well home to a great and terrible oracle
  5. den of the tyrannosaur Old One Eye
  6. ruins of a long-abandoned elf city (Old City from Yoon-Suin)
  7. The New School for Magick, oldest magic college in the empire
  8. Lyches Scar, wasteland of a supposedly long-defeated necromancer

Events (d10)

  1. Merchants with strange appetites from the Southern Isles arrive to negotiate opium and tea trade.
  2. Assassins of the Concord of the Moon plot the demise of important citizens unfaithful to Mystra.
  3. The grande dame of a noble house, barely holding her bitterly divided family together, finally dies.
  4. The empress's favorite fool is discovered tossed down a well with the note, "Thus drowns wisdom," pinned to the body.
  5. Heavily armed collectors enforce a snails tax: d100 gp for each snail shell possessed.
  6. Raiders from the Goblin Wood steal elf babies to further their race.
  7. A traveling entertainer troupe and menagerie arrives in the city, while reports of nightly murders begin.
  8. A magic school hosts a debate between two famous wizard-gurus. Tension mounts between partisans of each.
  9. Feast day of a saint of Mystra, complete with dinosaur jousts.
  10. The acid knights announce a crusade against the orc barbarians to the east and will pay for advance scouts.

Customs (d8 or choose for particular locations)

  1. Beggars are highly regarded, always shown deference on the street and frequently sought for counsel.
  2. All business of note is conducted in the tea houses and opium dens, so those who do not partake are excluded from power.
  3. Exotic botany is almost a sport for the aristocracy. Collectors will go to any length for rare and unusual specimens from parts unknown.
  4. Elves constantly try to trick and cheat one another as a matter of course. Complaining about this is extremely bad form.
  5. The moon is considered beautiful and holy, the sun garish and vulgar. Religious ceremonies are held only at night.
  6. None but the local nobility is permitted to carry weapons in public.
  7. Babies must be marked with a crescent moon in pig's blood on the forehead nightly, or be stolen by goblins.
  8. Flailsnails are both worshipped and feared for their ability to reflect spells cast on them. It is forbidden to kill one, but their shells make powerful, magic-defying armor.

Next up: the Great Goblin Wood.