Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Festival of the Sybarites

The Festival of the Sybarites is the high holiday of the Ulimite Church in Rastingdrung. It is a festival of excess and social inversion that is notorious throughout Ghinor. In the days leading up to the festival, security in Rastingdrung is even tighter than usual. Unless a visitor is lucky enough to carry a personal invitation from the Chatelaine, he may only enter through the city gates by buying festival tickets at an exorbitant price (50gp). All weapons, armor, religious symbols, and written materials must be checked for the duration of the visit.

The festival begins at dusk of the first day with the Parade of the Blasphemers. This joyful procession includes a rare display of the renowned wooden icons of the Ulimite Saints. The icons depict the saints' gruesome martyrdom for their pioneering research into extreme and unknown pleasures in the days when the Church was still a persecuted sect. They are accompanied by large and cunningly constructed puppets, usually satirical and jesting--mockeries of the Scarlet Censors and the Voluptuaries are especially popular. The center of the parade is traditionally occupied by an enormous float (literally a sailing vessel on wheels) of the Bishop, the giant fish of Lake Wooling who is the subject of many tall tales. Beginning on the steps of the Church, the procession winds its way through the city quarters, spilling out of the gates to finally arrive at the docks as darkness falls. The procession ends with the launching of the Bishop into the waters of Lake Wooling. The revelers are greeted there by fishing and merchant vessels, and specially constructed pleasure barges, all bedecked with colorful lanterns. Skiffs ferry citizens through the oily silver waters out to the celebrations on the lake which last until the small hours of the morning.

Once revelers have shaken off their drunken sleep, the festivities continue on the following day. The doors of the Church are then thrown open, and citizens may cash in their festival counters for free use of Church prostitutes. Throughout the day, children are encouraged to commit pranks on parents and authorities. Each Scarlet Censor must run the gamut once, sprinting a route from the doors of the Church to one of the city's gates at an unannounced time of his choosing. Children lie patiently in wait in upper storied windows with long curved hooks; should they snag the hat of a Censor from above, then they win the right to subject him to humiliating punishments in front of jeering crowds. (It is said that only the desperate preparations for this event keep the Censors from becoming corpulent through their excess.) The second day's festivities culminates with Sprig's Feast. This feast is funded by the Church, and held in the normally forbidden Greensward of the Chatelaine's pleasure grounds. At long tables, citizens and visitors eat heaping plates of hearty fare from continually replenished buffets, and become drunk on honey mead and fermented sugar cane, as troubadours play bawdy songs, and the cheaper sort of Church prostitutes dance for entertainment.

It is said with some reason that there are really two Festivals of the Sybarites. For the Chatelaine arranges special and remarkable amusements for those holding her personal invitation. In the past, her guests have wagered as beautiful slaves, their faces smeared with goose fat, bob for golden apples in piranha filled tanks. This year, rumor has it, she has purchased an unusual number of halfling slaves. These unfortunates have been fitted with elastic suits, and are to be force fed tureens of rich sea-slug and butter sauce. Their flatulence will expand the suit like a ball, enabling her guests to roll them down the bluffs to the Yex river below, where they will be burst like balloons by the starved crocodiles released for this gratifying event.

Frederick Richardson
The Chatelaine's special feast is held away from the commoners in shady bowers. Lit by enchanted lanterns, the diners enjoy a delicate repast. The menu is never the same twice, and the stakes are high for the Chatelaine's new head cook after last year's debacle with sour mermaid sushi. (The old cook still resides in the Silent Halls, a guest of the Scarlet Censors for as long as his constitution holds.) This year, many dishes will be flavored by a savory pink salt distilled from the tears of pixies, as well as hips from the rare ebon rose. Once the meal is finished, the special guests are treated to a private service by the High Voluptuary. After intoning a brief prayer, he feeds them the eucharist of Ulim, a queer alchemical paste glowing with euphoric properties. After partaking, the most beautiful and refined church prostitutes flee through the hidden groves and secret stands of the Chatelaine's pleasure gardens, with the guests following in close pursuit.
A church prostitute in melancholy repose as the Eucharist of Ulim finally fades
(Michael Hutter)
The final day of the Festival of the Sybarites begins in late morning with games and contests. Prizes are handed out for feats of strength and agility, and jongleurs and acrobats abound. The final event is the Trial of the Apprentices. There the Chatelaine's seven apprentices display their diverse talents, summoning bleak entities within a ring of flaming symbols, or spinning worlds of phantasms and colored shadows from the light refracted through a single glistening tear. Their competition has real stakes, for the winner receives the status of First Apprentice with all its perks throughout the upcoming year. Dismal failures are punished by exile. Needless to say, scheming abounds, and many an apprentice has been surprised to find that his carefully laid preparations have been ruined through last minute subterfuge. After the Trial of the Apprentices is over, the High Voluptuary arises and says the blessing of Ulim over the masses. Then, the Festival of the Sybarites has come to an end, and Rastingdrungers return to their dreary and oppressive routine. Until next year.

Michael Hutter

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Three Ways to Breath Underwater in Ruined Ghinor

Blue Algae Tins

These small metal tins are engraved with symbols in the strange language of the Archivists. When the two halves of the tin are twisted open, there is a loud hiss, and a quivering blue jelly is revealed. One smears this substance on a patch of open skin. As soon as a sufficient quantity has been applied, the algae spreads rapidly to cover the body. Within minutes the user's skin acquires a gelid and translucent appearance. At this point he is able to breath water, although to do so he must first expel the air from her lungs. Should he not enter the water, within 15 minutes his skin will begin to painfully dry, erupting in cracked shingles that weep a blue ichor (2d6 damage). A tin contains five doses. Each dose lasts for about an hour and a half. These tins are exceedingly rare, and are only found in the forgotten ruins of the Archivists.

The Discipline of Still Breath

The Black Lotus is a secret monastic order that serves the Invincible Overlord as spies, assassins and agents-provocateur. Through rigorous and esoteric training, agents of the Black Lotus acquire mastery of mind over body. The most talented advance to the arts of the third mystery. Among these potent powers is the discipline of still breath through which the agent is able to suspend his respiration for up to one hour per day. Although taxing, shorter periods are not debilitating. However, the full hour stretches the agent to the breaking point. Afterwards he must fall into a deep coma for six hours, during which time his body replenishes itself.

The Lung Eels of the Sorcerer Lords 
(+Judd Karlman is the original source of this idea)

The most hideous of the methods is without a doubt the cultivation of the parasitic lung eel. Devised by the sorcerer lords, this hideous species enters the user's mouth as a larva no larger than the fingernail of child. A week later it has grown to a length of three feet, nesting curled inside the user's lungs. At this time the user acquires an unnatural vigor (+1 hp per HD) and the ability to breath water for up to two hours a day. Unfortunately, at the start of the third week, the lung eel lays its eggs, which hatch rapidly, killing the user as they feast on the meat of his lungs. To remove the lung eel prior to this date, one must tempt it from the lungs by placing a hunk of rotting pork on a hook at the back of the gullet. The art of breeding lung eels is all but lost, known now only to a handful of wizards, including the Keeper of Corals in Wolsdag.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Shattered Isles: Isle of the Dismemberer


The Shattered Isles

This archipelago of tiny islands (Campaign Map Eleven  3101 to 1110) is known as the Shattered Isles. They were once the highpoints of a mighty mountain range along which a great wall ran. This wall was fashioned from cyclopean stones, winding up and down with the curves of the mountains, dizzying steps plummeting and rising along its spine. Atop the wall, towers sat, and great weapons of war, a bulwark of the then mighty kingdom of Ghinor against its wild foes to the North.

The whole northern end of Ghinor was submerged in a cataclysm 600 years ago. Wandering minstrels sing that it was punishment by the gods for the arrogance of the kings of Ghinor. The priests of Menannan, on the contrary, hold that it was a great gift from the Ancient of the Sea, who welcomed back the earth that was stolen from his watery kingdom, and granted a shining new life beneath the waves to its inhabitants. A few Wayfarers and antiquarians know the truth: that this deluge was the work of the strange machines of the Archivists when they first laid siege to Ghinor.

For a long time then the Shattered Isles lay empty, until after the passing of the Archivists, man began to creep across the Earth once again. During these dark ages, the Shattered Isles became home to the Sorceror Lords and their slaves. Beneath a veneer of ostentatious social pleasantries, they engaged in ceaseless rivalries, and bitter subterfuges. The age of the Sorceror Lords is long past, and the Shattered Isles are once again uninhabited. Fisherman and sailors hold them to be cursed and haunted, and avoid them at all costs. There is some truth to the wild tales they tell. For the waters surrounding the Shattered Isles are full of perilous currents, and the secrets of the Sorcerer Lords still slumber there, waiting to be roused.

Isle of the Dismemberer

Illustration by Stillenacht

The Isle of the Dismemberer (1410 circled in red) takes its name from its sole inhabitant. In ages past he was a master architect. He raised for the sorcerer lords mansions to suit their whims, constructed like puzzle boxes, with secret gardens, jeweled libraries, and glittering towers. But in his arrogance, he slighted Sarpedon the Shaper, and so entered his protein bathes and blending chamber. He no longer remembers why he builds, but build he must. So he fashions a cathedral to his long dead master from rude materials, fastened with an ichor secreted from the weeping surface where his face once was. Embedded within the walls are the tanned limbs of his victims. From the walls of the nave, a choir of tortured faces peer, and the entryway is decorated by torsos from which spring a bewildering farrago of limbs. 

Outside his own crude hut, the tanned hides of his latest victims hang, their bones bleaching in the sun. Inside, his few remaining tools are carefully arrayed on a rotting velvet cloth: a compass, a mallet and chisel, and a cleverly fashioned level. Hidden among the dried reeds that serve as his bed, a watertight scrollcase contains the Dismemberer's antique blueprints. If removed most will crumble to dust, but a partial blueprint of the demesne of his former master remains, as well as a topographical map that can be used to find the hidden abode of his master's old rival, Mirvolo the Summoner of Voids.  

The Isle of the Dismember still bears traces of the wall that once ran along its ridge. Cracked stones can be glimpsed beneath beech grasses and sand. At the Western end of the island great, crumbling steps lead from the islands edge directly into the sea. The water here is especially clear, and a seaweed choked stone path can be glimpsed winding down into the depths. At low tide, a quarter mile to the west, a lone onion dome can be glimpsed poking through the waves. It is the roost of seagulls, its once brilliant bronze now stained white from their droppings. This is the bell tower of the Submerged Spire of Sarpedon the Shaper

The Dismemberer HD8 (40) Mv120' AC4 Att: 2 claws 1d8/1d8 + breath weapon and ichor grab SaveF8 Morale11. Special attacks: Once per day he may shake ichor from his head, doing 3d6 to everyone in a 10' cone, save vs. breath weapon for half. When striking with his claws, on a natural 20 the Dismemberer will pull a victim's head into his weeping ichor for 2d6 additional damage.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Reflections on Running Underwater Adventures

My players have been adventuring in and around an underwater dungeon for the last two months. (My plan is to have the whole dungeon available gratis here. The first installments will be coming next week. You can see some of the house rules I've been using here; I keep tinkering with the post as new things come up in play.) The group has gone on four dives thus far, some of which lasted multiple sessions. After all this time, I've come to the conclusion that underwater adventures encourage old school play like nobody's business.

My current face-to-face group doesn't read these blogs. The players aren't on G+. Although one player was playing in the mid-80's, the rest only starting gaming (with 3.5, to make things worse) shortly before our group got going.  We also rotate DMing, which I love, and will one day talk about. So the tone is not always what it would be if I were exclusively DMing, and playing with like-minded OSR fiends. We also drink a lot at the table.

I have found that underwater adventuring is the perfect cure. First off, the prospect made them very wary. When the opportunity opened, "How could that go well?" was the general sentiment. In the end this was overbalanced by the bad-assedness of exploring the ancient redoubt of a Sorcerer Lord lost beneath the waves. I mean, how could you say no? And if you lived, what a story you have! But the players started with the paranoid mentality that is the foundation of old school play. They assumed that someone might die, just like that.

This is what they imagined would happen to them. In fact, it was much, much worse.

I was also able to get my players to take some things much more seriously than I otherwise could have. For example, resource management. Their general reaction to resource management is to snooze. However, when they were told that the potion of water breathing lasts "about an hour and a half", suddenly everyone was watching the clock like a hawk. The ever present threat of drowning is a wonderful thing. Similarly, keeping track of inventory. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. But when I told each player to write down on a sheet of paper exactly what he was taking on the dive, and where he's carrying it, no one batted an eyelash. Of course you have to do that. You are, after all, diving into the fricking ocean.

The wonder of the environment encouraged me to be careful in the best kind of way. For example, I found myself keenly describing to them the extent of the illumination from their light spell. The darkness at the edges was a constant tactical factor in playing. Similarly, the fact that the group could not communicate led to a lot of interesting situations. There was an agonizing battle where half the group didn't even realize it was underway until their fellows were already in a desperation situation. There were also some characters, including a monk, who had chosen to go light, and this led to some fun combat situations, since she could essentially fly around, like a true kung fu warrior.

Another wonderful thing about an underwater adventure is that it opens up three dimensional, out of the box, thinking right off the bat. The players started off looking down at the dungeon. They could have entered it from seven different points, at a variety of heights, all of which were more or less open to view from the beginning. The first time they chose to walk down the stairs inside from the highest point, but they knew the options were open, and they later took them.

I was also able to use the dungeon environment to set up a lot of tactical challenges, which my players were unable to surmount. For example, the dungeon has a dry portion with air at the bottom. How were they to haul the black grimoire and unsettling alchemical materials they found there to the surface unharmed? I didn't have a solution in mind, but the precautions they took were obviously not going to work, so it went badly for them. But that was fun, and it made sense, so they accepted it in good spirits. And they did, in the end, walk away with a pretty sweet haul. Although, since they're currently marooned, it remains to be seen how they can get their hard won gains back to civilization. But that's another story.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Religions of Ghinor II


Ralph McQuarrie
Nephtlys is the goddess of wealth, worshipped (in different congregations) by merchants and thieves alike. She is the spider mother whose endless hunger is so great that she perpetually consumes her ever-birthing children. This hunger is a symbol to her flock of the great striving and endless greed that is the meat of true happiness.

The priests of Nephtlys are the Tempters who lure unwitting prey to feed the hunger of their goddess. In Viridistan they do so literally. There the doors of the great temple are left open and unguarded at night, and splendid treasures beckon from the altar room of the two great webs. But only the desperate and the starving, or the most foolhardy thieves, take the lure. For ever pregnant Nephtlys often manifests physically to sate her appetite when warm flesh approaches her webs. Elsewhere a metaphysical interpretation of the priesthood’s role prevails. There the Tempters spin elaborate webs of schemes and bargains that serve to benefit the temple and ruin its enemies. They take special delight in demonstrating to the high-minded that they too desire to have more and outdo others.

In Wolsdag, a small but lavish temple to Nephtlys is nestled within the inner precincts of the guildhouse. It is staffed by Tempters of the Monopolist faction who provide loans, often at brutal rates. Those who default are offered a choice to pay off their debt: be sold to slavers, or perform services for the Guild. Such services are always of a dangerous, morally dubious, or unpleasant kind.


Illustration by John Blanche
Manannan, the Ancient of the Seas, is popular among sailors and fisherman throughout the Wilderlands. The prophets teach that when the world was created by Manannan, a single great sea covered its surface, and man lived in peace and harmony in shining cities under the waves. But as a result of his transgressions, Mennanan raised the land as a foreign prison for man. That man breaths air, and walks on two feet is an alien condition, a curse that will be lifted on the day of reckoning when the waters once again cover the earth and the faithful are forgiven and welcomed back into the deeps.

The Temple of Menannan in Wolsdag, although small, is remarkable. Its rooms of worship are filled with curios brought by sailors from their many travels across the seas. Rusted anchors, nets, conch shells, whalebones, shark jaws, and stranger flotsam bedecks the walls and shrines. Murals composed of the powdered shells of luminous underwater creatures are kept lighted throughout the year, except during the Festival of the Longtide when the lights are put out, and their uncanny splendor is revealed. The basement of the temple contains underground access to sea caves along the coast. It serves regularly for the passage and temporary storage of smuggled goods, including those moved by the Enterprising Faction. For a fee the priests of Menannan can locate stolen, rare, or illegal goods, as well as pass on a great deal of information, or arrange for an ocean voyage. However, these services are usually available only to those who are vouched for by some known member of the community. 

Mer Shunna

Illustration by Chris Burdett
Mer Shunna is an extreme schism of the Manannuan faith. The Mer Shunna worship (so they believe) Menannan in the guise of Armadad Bog, the judge in the depths. According to their bleak doctrine, Armadad Bog is an unforgiving and merciless god. Mankind is thus forever damned by his transgression, and must wear for eternity the two-footed mark of his shame and condemnation. The religion centers on penitence, self-flagellation, and ritual enactments of the abasement of humanity before the blessed merfolk, beloved of Armadad Bog. Val-Ys is a holy month of penitence that culminates in the Mer-Moon Ritual, where young women are sacrificed in elaborate and haunting rituals in the light of the full moon, their life's blood spilling into the silver sea to feed the strange appetites of the merfolk who in auspicious years rise to the surface in a frenzy.

Owing to these elements of ritual sacrifice and self-mortification, this extreme faith is an outlawed heresy except in Viridistan, where it is the predominant interpretation of Manannuan faith. Wolsdag is home to a secret cult of Mer Shunna whose symbol is a silver forked tail. This cult maintains ties to slavers and commits black deeds.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Wolsdag (4702) is a seaside town, through which all overseas trade flows into the region. (For general background and a map see here.) Although nominally a free city with a popular assembly consisting of all adult citizens, the town is under the de-facto authority of the Merchant’s Guild, which controls the majority of appointments to the council that manages daily life and vets all new legislation. Although Woldag's modest force of Free Mariners is no match for the opposed armies of the Grim Duke and the Chatelaine of Storms, the Guild uses the soft power of trade to consistent advantage in the vacuum created by their conflict.

The town is ringed by stonewalls set with three gates. The north end is the covered bazaar, where merchants from throughout the Wilderlands barter exotic wares in tightly packed rows of tents and makeshift lean-to's. The enormous guildhouse rests atop the hill in the center of town, removed from the hustle and bustle of the bazaar. It contains the offices and apartments of the guildmasters, and the Gilded Heron, an inn open only to guildsmen and their invited guests. At night painted lanterns hang from lavishly carved wooden porches, shedding a dim red light on the merchants and their wealthy guests who can be glimpsed from below on the Gilded Heron's lush decks and private patios. Within the center of the guildhouse the windowless Temple of Nephtlys lies. There the Tempters preach cunning acquisition to their flock and spin metaphystical webs to snare unwitting prey.

In Old Nin's
(John Blanche)
Unlike the guildsmen, most citizens of Wolsdag live outside the town walls, in fishing villages and sea shanties scattered up and down the beach. If one walks past the winding tents of the covered bazaar and through Gull's Gate, directly north of town one finds the docks: the life's blood of ordinary Wolsdag. When the fisherman return at dusk, the fishmarket opens its heavy tables laden with wonders of the sea. At the edge of the fishmarket, Old Nin's raucous tavern overflows with the rougher sort of sailors and Free Mariners, who gather to trade strange tales of the sea and lose themselves in drink. Turn right at the docks and follow the beach and one will soon spy the lonely pastel spire of the Keeper of Corals. He controls the tides for the Guild in exchange for exquisite and unmentionable articles essential for his strange congress with the sea.

The Guild itself is split into two factions: the Monopolists and the Enterprisers. The Monopolists are the old guard operating family-owned monopoly licenses from the Invincible Overlord and World Emperor on established trade routes. They have strong control of the official guild structure, and  are fat and complacent. The Enterprisers are guildsmen who have been shut out of monopoly licenses. They have been forced, at considerable risk, to open new trade routes, and are lean and angling for change. Owing to recent successes in the the discovery of valuable new spices not covered by existing monopolies (red gill powder and luminous braxite shard), the Enterprisers are currently a rising force. However, the Monopolists still have the upper hand with a majority of Guild seats on the Council, and control of the priesthood of Nepthtlys, the goddess of endless acquisition and peerless schemes. The Enterprisers maintain connections with disaffected freeman and the Temple of Mannanan. The least scrupulous among them, slavers and cuthroats, have dealings with the outlawed cult of Mer Shunna.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Chatelaine of Storms

By Tobias Kwan
The Chatelaine of Storms is a formidable sorceress. She came to power in Rastingdrung in a coup against mild mannered Sozar IV with the help of the Voluptuaries, priests of the pleasure god Ulim, who were seeking to return the Church to its ancient glory. She has since been declared an Ulimite saint, but her marriage with the Church is one of convenience. Having tasted power, only the military might of the Grim Duke, and her mortal fear of the puissant evocations of the Silent Evoker hold her in check.

Representation of the Chatelaine as Ulimite Saint
(Harry Clarke)
The Chatelaine appears as a sleek and elegant woman with flowing red hair. She is notoriously paranoid and enjoys a good contest. Within Rastingdrung the Scarlet Censors feed her a constant stream of information on real and imagined enemies, and she employs an extensive network of spies and informants throughout the region. Through her formidable reputation, the Chatelaine has attracted seven apprentices of diverse talents, among whom she encourages competition and backbiting by sending subtle signs of her constantly shifting favor.

The Chatelaine draws her power from her mysterious connection with Vamuzu, an elder prince of the air, owing to whom she can summon a storm once a day, from which she draws down eery green lightning bolts every other round. Although it exhausts her powers for a full week, she can also summon a wild hurricane, from which she draws chain lightning, and mighty gusts and walls of wind at will. Few sights are as fearful as that of her Storm Riders astride their massive war crows, riding the edge of the rolling black clouds of her unnatural hurricane.

Storm Rider
(Stephen Fabian)
The nature of her connection with Vamuzu is a secret she guards jealousy, suspected only by a few of her apprentices. In a blasphemous ritual, she bound Vamuzu to her irrevocably, imprisoning the heart of his storm within a gem, while simultaneously cutting the heart from her own breast. They now share one heart, a terrible throbbing jewel set in the Chatelaine's chest, in which dark clouds swirl, and spidery lines of green lightning flash. Should she be slain, or the enchantment of the jewel broken, both will die. For this reason, Vamuzu has no choice but to aid and protect her. If she is physically attacked, he will employ the heart to manifest at her side. He attacks as a greater air elemental.

Vamuzu, Elder Prince of Air
(John Blanche)

Monday, November 18, 2013


Michael Hutter

Rastingdrung (4708) is a small walled city on the shores of Lake Wooling. It is in thrall to the unforgiving Chatelaine of Storms, a sorceress who rules with the aid of the Voluptuaries, priests of the Church of Ulim, the sole form of (legal) worship in the city. This unseemly religion is strictly enforced by the Scarlet Censors who freely employ terror and paid informants. The city is the site of the colorful annual Festival of Sybarites. For a map and an overview of the region click here.


Roughly 5 miles wide and 10 miles long, Lake Wooling is fed by creeks to the North and East, and drains into the Yex River to the West. The water bears a multicolored sheen that ripples in the daylight, and shines silver in the moonlight. Around its edges can be found stinking fens populated by silver grasses and vicious long-legged birds, known to the locals as “grovellers” because of their pleading call. Wooling is home to several varieties of fish that suffer from abnormalities including albinism and gigantism. The lake is rumored to be home to a giant bottom-feeder that Rastingdrungers refer to as The Bishop about whom superstitious fisherman tell many tales. The corroded remains of a submerged metal structure can be glimpsed from the north shore (4707). The northwestern shore is heavily wooded by a species of tree known as the Shining Oak that yields excellent timber.
The Aviary
The city of Rastingdrung is set back from the lake. It is girded by thirty foot black stonewalls, over which the dark tower of the Aviary rises like a black finger, around which dark forms can be seen wheeling. These are the Chatelaine’s dread Storm Riders, black knights who ride on the backs of massive war crows. Outside the walls brightly colored shanties, rickety wooden homes, and open-air markets, spill into a bustling harbor. Movement into and out of the city is strictly controlled. A citizen must display his black seal and match his name to the rolls. Imposters are easy to spot, owing to the distinctive pale skin and spindly build of Rastingdrungers, and are always turned away. Other visitors must apply for a temporary red seal (10gp) that is denied or revoked on the slightest suspicion, and may not enter the city bearing either arms or written materials. Although it is known only to a few, there are other ways into the city, through the ancient system of tunnels that run below it.

Inside the City

Inside the city, narrow and claustrophobic streets wind in labyrinthine patterns, opening into a series of tiny squares, where citizens congregate to smoke pipeweed and drink bitter coffee. The smell of incense and the sound of piping flutes from the Temple of Ulim pervade the city at all times.

Even when there is no colorful festival or religious observance, Rastingdrung offers many sights to the infrequent visitor. In The Square of the Eidolons one may peruse the wondrous wooden carvings of the Ulimite Saints and the elegant furniture for which Rastingdrung is rightly famous. The master carpenters here will take orders for a reasonable fee. 

The Church of Ulim is a sight not to be missed. Its grand marble palisades and shady green bowers beckon to the visitor. Long ago a temple of wholesome Mitra, it is said now, with only slight exaggeration, that any pleasure can be had here for a price. Church prostitutes of all types are available, and in hazy dens patrons recline on velvet cushions, smoking red lotus and dreaming wild waking dreams. More risky pleasures can be found in the so-called "gaming rooms" underneath the temple. Below these are the secret precincts and underground priories of the Voluptuaries. At the very bottom are found the Silent Halls, the padded white dungeon where the Scarlet Censors visit their elaborate tortures on heretics and criminals in silence. Rastingdrungers are encouraged to purchase sensual services from the Church, and although many do so eagerly, an equal number frequent the Church only reluctantly once the Censors have taken an interest in their piety. 

Although it is off limits to visitors, they may gaze at the exterior of the Chatelaine's Palace. It is a charming, if somewhat dilapidated ancient structure, with faded domes and turrets rising above solid walls. Everywhere the hooked polearms and black armor of the palace guards bristle.Within the inner courtyards, the Chatelaine's pleasure grounds and strange gardens lie. Those lucky few invited visitors who are the Chatelaine's guests are shown the full measure of her rare hospitality. They are likely to be treated to shows by the jongleur, mountebanks and thespians that are a fixture of her court, and to be given a tour of the Aviary in which her monstrous war crows are kept in giant cages reached by slender bridges, where they are tended by their nervous handlers. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Simple Underwater Rules

By Sarah Lynn

Suppose you're going on an underwater adventure with potions of water breathing, or a spell that makes you sprout gills, or whatever. Here are some simple rules.


There are two options:

Going Light: You have a tendency to float upwards. If you do nothing, you will rise towards the surface. You will move by swimming. If you are exploring an underwater dungeon, you will essentially be flying through the dungeon. Your movement is ½ if you have both hands free, otherwise it is ¼. (Note: You cannot wear any armor heavier than studded leather and take this option.)

Going Heavy: You weight yourself down and sink right to the bottom. You will move by walking along the seabed. If you are exploring an underwater dungeon, you will do so in the normal manner and may carry weapons or gear as normal. Your movement is ¼.


Players can cast spells as usual. Spells may function differently underwater, however.


Slashing and bludgeoning type weapons do 1/2 damage. Piercing weapons do full damage. Normal missile weapons don't work underwater, except for crossbows. Underwater, their range is halved. At a distance of 20' or greater, they do 1/2 damage.


If you are not surprised, you have can hold your breath for your constitution divided by 3 rounded down in minutes. If you are surprised you can do half of that. Once your time is up you make a saving throw. If you fail the role then you die.  If you make the roll, then you have not drowned. Congratulations, you have 1 more minute to live! When that's up roll again each minute with a cumulative -4 penalty.


Everyone must write down on a sheet what they're carrying and where. Scrolls and spell books will be destroyed underwater. Potions had better have a tight cork or wax seal. (Drinking them underwater is difficult too: 50% chance 1/2 of doses are lost in the process.) Since they cannot light torches or lanterns, characters who cannot see in the dark will need a magical light source if they enter a dark place.


You can't map underwater. You may draw a crude map without measurements, on the theory that your characters will have a better handle on their environment than they will (especially session to session). But that's it. 


Characters probably do not have a way of talking to one another underwater. They must communicate through gestures. No one can hear you scream underwater. For the same reason, all underwater creatures receive a +1 on surprise rolls against PCs.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


The village of Loktole (3906) is located on the north bend of the Yex River, where it turns towards the Swamp of Many Eyes. (Background on the region in which Loktole is located (and a map) can be found here.) It receives river trade from Rastingdrung to the east on the shores of Lake Wooling, and Elmswood to the south. Goods travel to and from the seaport Wolsdag over land from here. Recognizing the importance of the location, the Grim Duke seized power here two decades ago in the name of the Invincible Overlord. The local militias were put to the sword and their farmlands distributed to conquering soldiers. The village population is thus divided between the newly settled ex-soldiers and the original inhabitants. The new inhabitants brought with them the worship of MANA YOOOD-SUSHAI, the slumbering god of the Temple of Pegana revered by the Grim Duke and his men. Before their arrival, the original inhabitants worshipped in the Cult of Man. Some of the original inhabitants have converted to the new religion to get ahead or avoid trouble, but many have retained their faith and continue to secretly practice their ancient rituals.

Rogues Gallery


Torkamedes the halfling is the envoy of the Grim Duke in Loktole. He combines a smug and vengeful disposition with extremes of incompetence. The Duke’s motive for placing Torkamedes here is to tempt the Chatelaine into foolish action, for which the Duke is well prepared. Naturally, Torkamedes believes himself to be well respected and feared by all. He and his wife are pious followers of the Temple of Pegana, and hold in contempt the views of the older residents. Torkamedes’ wife is, if anything, even more haughty and obtuse.

Master Yevo

Master Yevo is the sole apprentice of the Silent Evoker, the powerful vizier of the Grim Duke, whom he fears and loves in equal measure. He is stationed in Loktole supposedly as advisor to Torkamedes, but in reality he holds the reins of power as the Evoker's eyes and ears. Yevo’s easy smile and warm disposition conceal his calculating nature. He is thin and pale, favoring loose and open shirts. On his chest are tattooed a series of pentagrams and magical symbols that function as bracers of defense AC 2. Around his neck he wears the Cloven Sigil, an ancient bronze medallion shaped as a half moon that is set with an enormous Chrysophite. This amulet glows as per a light spell, dispels magic, and grants the wearer ESP once per day; it also allows the wearer to contact the bearer of the amulet’s other half, which is worn by the Silent Evoker.

Guildmaster Quando

Guildmaster Quando is the representative in Loktole of the Merchant’s Guild. He is a heavily set, lavishly dressed man. Quando is capable and shrewd, and is actuated primarily by self-interest and secondarily by guild interests. Although he sides with the older monopoly holding faction of the guild, he also maintains some contacts among the new enterprising faction as insurance. He is currently in a pissing contest with Torkamedes over tariffs, and sometimes passes information on to the Chatelaine when doing so would benefit himself or the guild.

At all times, he wears two elaborately carven rings whose fate is joined, one on the ring finger of each hand. The Ebon Oculus bears an open and shining eye that allows its wearer to detect lies and alignment each 1 time per day. The Horn Veil bears a slumbering eye that protects its wearer against all attempts at scrying and ESP. Should either of the two rings ever be worn apart from the other, it is cursed. Then the Ebon Oculus misleads its wearer into thinking his friends are enemies and enemies friends, and the Horn Veil reveals its wearers guilty and treacherous thoughts at the most inopportune moments.


Markopt is a Wayfarer, a fanatical devotee of the Cult of Man. His sometimes home is a secret shrine in the wild woods outside Loktole, where the faithful conduct their ancient rituals. He has put them in touch with fellow cultists in Fathine, Elmswood, and even depraved Rastingdrung, where a few brave souls practice in secret, hazarding elaborate tortures at the hands of the Scarlet Censors. He belongs to the anarchical faction, and is constantly watching, learning and probing the schemes, and secret weaknesses of the Duke, Chatelaine, and Guildmasters. He is often on the move, and he knows many ancient and forgotten things. Although he looks young at first glance, the deep lines etched in his brow, and his hard grey eyes belie this appearance. His greatest praise, given sparingly, is to refer to someone as a “human human”.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Religions of Ghinor

The Temple of Pegana

The Precepts of the Faithful hold that MANA YOOD-SUSHAI is the slumbering god whose cosmic dreams sustain reality. Lulled into slumber by the divine drummer Skarl, when He finally awakens and rubs the sleep from his eyes this world will vanish. The followers of the Temple of Pegana work to forestall this day. To soothe his slumber they ceaselessly intone hymns, and utter gentle prayers, and burn sweet incense. All dreams are sacred to the priests of Pegana who record carefully in vast rolls of papyrus the most remarkable (and damning) dreams of their followers. This strange faith is currently popular within the City State of the Invincible Overlord. Its fortune has risen, owing to the power of their High Priest Mung to summon the dread Beast of Slumber, and is beginning inroads in the provinces. Torkamedes, the envoy of the Grim Duke in Loktole has erected there a lavish Temple of Pegana. Among the services they offer for a fee is the interpretation dreams: 10gp for an acolyte (10% accuracy), 50gp for a priest (20% accuracy), 250gp for the Canon himself (30% accuracy). Even when accurate, the interpretations are perplexing.

The Cult of Man

The Cult of Man is a proscribed millennial lay religion. Its original function was to celebrate and pass on the recorded history of the struggle through which humanity freed itself from the yoke of oppression laid on it by the entities calling themselves the Archivists. Through the centuries this history has become perplexing myth and the rites of remembrances obscure ritual. In its current form, the myth cycle teaches that the return of the Lords from the skies is immanent. Man must prepare himself for the final war, the result of which can only be ultimate liberation or unending servitude.

Although there is no official church hierarchy, there are some cultists who devote themselves entirely to the preparation of their fellow man. These are the fanatical Wayfarers, of whom there are two varieties. One kind holds that the Overlords, Emperors, Dukes and Chatelaines of this world are the bulwark of civilization, the principle of order through which alone humanity might marshal its forces effectively in the coming struggle. This faction seeks to uphold authority wherever it is found. The other faction holds that dominion is the way of the Archivist, and that if humanity is to triumph, it must relearn instead the ways of Man. These anarchical individuals work to undermine the harsh tyrannies that currently prevail in supposedly civilized lands. Whatever the doctrinal dispositions of its local adherents, the Cult of Man is resisted by authorities everywhere, owing to its imagery of revolution and liberation. It is openly practiced only in rural communities, outside the City States. Elsewhere the Cultists meets in secret, and recognize one another through a strange and ancient sign language that functions like a thieves cant.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ruined Ghinor

A fragment of Campaign Map 18 Ghinor Highlands
In the center of this region lies the drear Swamp of Many Eyes, home only to necromancers, escaped convicts, and roving bands of beastmen. The Yex River, beginning in the east with the dubious waters of lake Wooling, swollen by the confluence with the Singtrellian River to the south, runs through the swamp until it empties with a great racket into the sea at Dagger Bay. At the northwestern edge of the swamp rise teeming thickets of the Screaming Hyena Jungle. Home to the Ayashomo, tattooed death cultists, it bursts with unseemly life. Somewhere within its dense green thickets, a lost city of the Archivists broods, its precincts overgrown and crumbling, still guarded by fierce magics and strange artifacts.

The power in the region is divided three ways. The villages of Loktole, Fathine and Elmswood are under the control of the Grim Duke, a lesser vassal of the City State of the Invincible Overlord, who lives in a windowless iron citadel to the South. The free city of Wolsdag is under the control of the Merchant’s Guild. For now, their control of this crucial port ensures their influence in the region. On the shores of lake Wooling, Rastingdrung, the closest thing to civilization in these backwaters, lies under the spell of a potent sorceress known as The Chatelaine of Storms.

The Village of Loktole, the center of the campaign, sits on banks of the Yex River, where it bends North on its way into the swamp. For the purposes of trade it is at a crucial juncture, for it receives goods by way of the river from the city of Rastingdrung to the east and Elmwood to the south. Since the Yex is too dangerous to traverse, goods travel by land betweeen Loktole and Wolsdag. Tensions are high between the points of this triangle, with The Chatelaine scheming to wrest territory from the Grim Duke. She covets Loktole most of all, for if she only possessed it, she feels confident that she could open a safe route all the way on the River Yex from Lake Wooling to the sea. Only then could she break the hold of the Merchant’s Guild in Wolsdag over trade from the sea. The Grim Duke knows  the Chatelaine’s schemes, and despite brisk and profitable trade with Rastingdrung, considers her a mortal enemy. For the moment, the Merchant’s Guild plays both sides of the conflict against one another to its advantage. But the balance is delicate.