Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Important People and Hooks of the Tablelands and Tyr Region

All the images are snagged from Google image search and haven't been sourced. If the manga/anime/game ones are 'from' something, I dunno what it is.

This is a post about my Dark Sun game.

Like any pre-made setting, everybody runs their favourites a little differently. It occurs to me that because Dark Sun is so weird and different from bog standard D&D, it might be useful for me to have something I can point my players to and say "It's like this".

Here are some unique people, places, and ongoing conflicts in my version of Athas:

King Tithian of Mericles

The current (mortal) king of Tyr.

Tithian was born into a noble family. After giving up on learning the Way (Psionics), he became a Templar of Kalak, serving the immortal sorcerer king for many years as his Master of Games, and eventually his Master of Works as well.

Only a few weeks before Kalak's attempt to ascend to godhood by sacrificing the city of Tyr did Tithian turn against his master. He aided the other Deposers of Kalak (gladiators, a patriar, and a Veiled Alliance witch) in overthrowing and killing Kalak, driving the aged sorcerer's own pointed crown through his blackened heart.

Tithian now wears the same bloody, melted crown upon his head.

As king, Tithian's first act was to abolish slavery in Tyr, freeing all the slaves in the region. His second act was to install the templars as the nominal law enforcement of the city, beholden to him and the council of nobles. Beyond that, little is known about Tyr's new king. He has shut himself away within Kalak's golden palace while his templars try to keep the peace in a city that is tearing itself apart.

For those mercenary enough to work for or with the much despised templars, King Tithian has a bounty board of nigh impossible tasks:
  • Investigate and clear out the monsters in the iron mines - 5000gp
  • Destroy the gang of criminals known as the Iron Rats, hiding in the Under Tyr - 2000gp
  • Capture of any spies sent from the six remaining sorcerer kings/queens - 2000gp
  • Infiltrate the Blacksun Villa - 1000sp
  • Capture/Expose any member of The True, a cult of Kalak revivalists - 700gp
  • Creating a working map of Under Tyr's crypts - 100gp per mapped room

Lady Penumbra
A mural of Lady Penumbra in her villa in Tyr. Drawn by Sam Mameli

Actual Lady Penumbra
Widely considered the most wealthy, decadent, and influential person in Tyr outside of the nobles and the templarate.

When the slaves were freed, many noble houses and merchants struggled to cope. Suddenly they had to pay fair wages for work, or they'd find themselves without a labour force. Lady Penumbra seems unaffected by this; her hundreds of servants and workers have remained loyal to her, and are willing to work for almost nothing in order to remain in her care and employ.

While many patriars attest that Penumbra's kind treatment of her slaves before and after Kalak's death is what keeps them so devoted and loyal, more than a few merchants suspect her of sorcery.

Little is known about her past. It is known that she is a native of Raam, but has lived and worked in almost every city state. She occupies a Ruling House in Altaruk and has bizarre relations with a tribe of halflings in the Ringing Mountains.

Lady Penumbra is always looking for skilled individuals willing to do difficult jobs with a certain level of discretion:
  • Assassinate Tectuktitlay, sorcerer king of Draj - 10'000gp or permanent property in Tyr
  • Recover any magical items found across Athas - trade for metal equipment/favour
  • Destroy a rival Trade House of Altaruk - 1500gp
  • Recover specific objects from the iron mines - 1000gp each
  • Delve into the Door of Drakes - trade for specialized items/weapons/favours
  • Create a working map of Kalak's Ziggurat - 100gp per mapped room

Aris Ariphistaneles and the Veiled Alliance

The current head of the trade fortress of Altaruk, and widely considered the most connected person in the region.

Aris is a modestly handsome man raised in the trade fortress. While most citizens of the town are visitors from other city states, Aris calls Altaruk his home. He alone cares more about the fortress' prosperity and continued existance than about making a profit. This is evident in him pouring his family's vast fortune into Altaruk's reconstruction after it was last destroyed by giants (The city of Altaruk has been destroyed/rebuilt many times over the centuries).

Aris is also secretly a member of the Veiled Alliance: one of the six living Guiding Hands. Other than perhaps his other contacts in Tyr and Balic, Aris is the highest ranking member of these secretive preservers in the Tyr Region.

"Those who wear the Veil" are always looking for informants and soldiers in their fight against the sorcerer kings of Athas. More often than not Aris' goals as the head of Altaruk overlap with his goals as a Veiled agent, and he will reward anyone who can accomplish any of the following:
  • Assassinate any of Abalach-Re's viziers - 5000gp each
  • Caravan guard duty from Altaruk to Balic/Altaruk to Tyr/Altaruk to Raam - 1000gp
  • Spy on Lady Penumbra, report plans she has back to him - 10 survival days per useful report. 
  • Uncover the whereabouts or weaknesses of "The Wastewalker" - 500gp

The Sorcerer Kings

Athas is dotted by nine city states, each ruled by an immortal tyrant of one form or another: the sorcerer kings. Most believe they have always existed, others think they must have been human at some point in history. They, and their templars, make claim to the world of Athas and all of its resources. They are the closest things to gods in this world.

Tectuktitlay, The Master and Father of Draj

Nibenay, The Shadow King of Nibenay

Hamanu the Lion, Warrior King of Urik 

Dregoth, Undead Nightmare of Guistinal

Lalali-Puy, the Oba of Gulg

Queen Abalach-Re, Great Vizier of Raam

Andropinis, Dictator for Life of Balic

Seilba, Cursed Queen of Yaramuke

Saturday, May 30, 2015

9 Things Savra Belabranta Can Tell You

Some notes for my online group playing in my Princesses of the Apocalypse game.

Member of the Feathergale Knights and (former) ally of the Cult of the Howling Hatred, Savra Belabronta has followed you back to the town of Red Larch, and is willing to share what she knows about "this whole cultist mess in the west".

1. The Feathergale Knights is was a flamboyant order of knights from strongholds all over the west of Remlia. An absolute boys club (until Savra came along), the order commissioned Feathergale Spire as a private club house they could operate out of. They mostly just ride hippogriffs around, hunting monsters, drinking, and telling old war stories.

2. Secretly, the Feathergale Knights were a collection of gay soldiers wanting an 'all male' place to stay in order to get away from the pressures of hetero royal marriages. Savra admits that this is most likely why she wasn't welcome there. Without their leader Thurl Merosska vouching for her, she probably would have been kicked out.

3. Less than two months ago, Merosska promoted Savra to second in command. He explained that the Knights had a new purpose: serving the Air Princess. They were given new armaments, new flying mounts, and new orders. Merosska assured Savra that their new purpose would better the west; that the Feathergale Knights would become the champions of justice they always claimed to be.

Their new orders consisted mostly of spying on other cults and foiling their plans whenever possible (especially the Cult of the Black Earth). They were also to kill, kidnap, or torture anyone who got to close to the underground Air Temple.

Savra explains that she thinks Merosska never really liked the Air Princess, or taking orders from her. She got the impression that the Air Princess wounded his pride. Savra was conflicted about this, because she secretly loved Merosska, but she also holds great respect for the Air Princess, who she felt was "another female noble having to make her own way in the world, just like me".
The Air Princess
4. Savra has never been to the Air Temple proper, or actually met Aerisi Kalinoth, the Air Princess in person, but she does know a bit about its layout and armaments:

  • The temple is built into a long abandoned, underground dwarven city called Gran Besil.
  • The portion of the city the air cultists control is made up of old shoppes and stores, as well as a mausoleum. A great waterway flows through it.
  • It is guarded by a tribe of loyal crow-men, numerous specialized cultists with powerful weapons, and air elementals.
  • She knows that kidnapped commoners are sent to the temple. She thinks they may still be held captive there. 
5. The cult of the Howling Hatred is allied with the Slime Princess, Ice Princess, and occasionally the Cult of the Crushing Wave. They despise the Cult of the Black Earth and their leader Stone Princess, and regularly try to sabotage their training efforts in a nearby haunted site called the Sacred Stone Monastery. *She marks its location on your map*

6. The Cult of the Howling Hatred has been instructed not to interfere with the Slime Princess and the Ice Princess' plans for Port Martel. They have infiltrated the city and its magisters, made the Viscountess disappear, and are planning on marrying off the Viscount to the Ice Princess Yuki in order to solidify their hold on the west. 

7. Each of the cult princesses wields a powerful magical weapon. The Air Princess' one is a spear called Windvane. She doesn't know what it does, but she's heard that Aerisi keeps a collection of mortal victims around to keep it powered up. 

8. All of the princesses and cultists fear the Bone Princess in Gravetown. She is allied with no one...yet.

9. While she didn't take part, Savra had heard that the princesses' take over of the abandoned Gran Besil was met with resistance from a summoned angel. It took their combined effort to repel him, smashing his wing and head with their weapons. The angel used his flaming sword to wound Wave Princess, giving him the opportunity to escape.

They had assumed that the angel had succumbed to his wounds and died, but she says that the Feathergale Knights happened upon a broken angel wandering the hillside. They captured him, but he was stolen away the same night Thurl Merosska was murdered. She says they never got around to sending word to the Air Princess of the angel's survival. 
The angel in question(?)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Remlia Map Breakdown

I'm gearing up to run Princes of the Apocalypse, but in my home setting of Generica (of which Remlia is the main country where humans live).

I've run G+ games there before, but in different sections of the country. Here's a quick image to show where exactly Eastern and Western Remlia are located on the map proper.

Also I have no idea how the scale works. At times I've described Remlia being about as big as Washington state, other times its more on par with Ontario.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lore Garbage: 10 random facts about Remlia

Dungeon Master Appreciation month is nearly over, and I've decided that its end should be celebrated by dungeon masters getting the opportunity to be a little self-indulgent with their settings. Check out the 'rules' of Lore Garbage and how it works on Google+.

Here are 10 random facts about Remlia, the main country of Generica.

1. Paper money. Called "Queenbills", these paper bills have replaced the minted gold and silver coin in Remlia. As such, moneychangers are quite common. This is believed to be caused by a tremendous influx of foreign gold pieces when adventurers from other worlds invaded two centuries ago.

2. Halfling Slaves. Up until recent history, halflings were considered a slave race in Remlia, useful only for toiling away in fields or mills. While slavery has been abolished for almost a hundred years in Remlia, halflings are still commonly associated with farming.

3. Immaculate Conception. The Battlehammer line of queens in Remlia are immaculately conceived. Once crowned, a queen can suddenly become pregnant, and that unborn child is the new 'one true heir'. Any/all children conceived normally by a Battlehammer queen is considered a bastard.

4. Womanly Pursuits. In Remlia, magic and warfare are considered to be female callings. A man may become a wizard or a fighter, but he'll seldom rise in rank to commander or arch-witch. It is a common saying that "...a man's place is in the fields, or behind the counter of a shoppe".

5. Elfheim. The southern city of Elfheim was built as a refuge for escaped slaves from the bordering country of Figaro. Most 'free elves' live there. It is built on the ruins of Gran Turath; a city that sunk into the depths of hell itself, spawning the first Tieflings. Elfheim lies above many dungeons.

6. Gran Remiel. Capitol city of Remlia, Gran Remiel is almost the size of Manhatten, and lies upon an island inside a huge lake. It has been noted that Gran Remiel has more shoppes that sell exotic animal barding and ceremonial knives than it does alehouses and taverns. Nobles and politicians in need of drink send each other bottles of wine through a series of pneumatic tubes that run beneath the city.

7. Cats are Potions. It is believed that most, if not all cats in Remlia are secretly liquid, and become drinkable when a specific command phrase is uttered. All cats are different kinds of magic potions. Mackerel Tabbies become healing tinctures, Bobtails become regenerative salves, Munchkins become shrinking potions, Devon Rexes are potions of polymorph, etc. Tigers and Lions become potions of greater potions of agility and courage, respectively. No one has tried to drink a Rakshasa, yet.

8. Evil Elves. Remlia is currently at war with the southern elven nation of Figaro. Figaro high elves can live to be 1000 years old, but they mentally and emotionally mature at the same rate as humans. There is no 'long view' with elves, and they are seldom patient. They are prone to curmudgeonly behaviours, agist attitudes, narcissism, and eventually madness. Hence why they often become despots and dictators.

9. Crystal Dragon Skulls. All Bahamut ever does is grant wishes. It is said that when the fabled seven crystal dragon skulls are gathered in one place, Bahamut will appear and grant a single "bullshit free" wish. The skulls are thought to be hidden all over Remlia.

10. Firearms. Red Falcon, a notorious group of shady mercenaries in Remlia, are rumoured to have invented the first crude firearms, which they will sell to anyone who pledges to use them to kill the Queen of Remlia (Penelope Escha Battlehammer XIII).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Carousing, Philanthropy, and Research: Spending time in the free city of Tyr.

(These rules are subject to change, as they may be revised during play).

I'm currently running a dungeon crawl game set in Dark Sun; the only published setting I actively want to run and play in. Because I'm tracking time outside of the game as passing in game, I decided I need some carousal rules to fill the space.

Eventually I'll port these rules over to cities in Generica as well (Gran Remiel, Port Martel, Elfheim, etc).

Carousing, Philanthropy, and Research:

Rolling on these tables requires two things: At least 2 uninterrupted days/nights in game where your PC isn't incapacitated, cursed, imprisoned, etc, and an amount of gold pieces equal to what you put forward.

While in Tyr, roll 1d8 x a set amount of gold (25gp/50gp/100gp). You spend the amount of gold rolled for on sapwine, gambling, pleasurable company, and bets (carousing), charity, investments, and good deeds (philanthropy), or access to scholars, secret information, and spies (research). In return, you earn an amount of experience points equal to the gold spent.

If you don't have enough gold to cover what you rolled, others can chip in to help. You earn as much xp as you can afford, and players who helped you earn an amount of xp equal to the amount of gold they chipped in. If no one volunteers to help you, you earn the xp of whatever amount of gold you can spend, but must roll on the result table(s) below, but with a d10 instead of a d20.

If you spend 150gp or more on carousal, philanthropy, or research, you get to roll on the result table(s) below.

Carousing (d20):
1) You make a fool of yourself in front of everyone. You gain no XP. Make a Charisma save (moderate DC) or become known in Tyr as a drunk.
2-3) You run in deep while gambling, and now owe three times what you originally spent to a cabal of elven merchants. Refusal to pay is an invitation to being killed.
4) Your sexual dalliances have left you with a disease. Roll on the Athasian venereal disease table.
5) Your rowdiness gets you arrested by Templars. Pay five times what you spent in carousing or be held prisoner in 'The Hold' for a month (or plan to be broken out of prison).
6) You lose all your wealth gambling. Roll Wisdom check for each magic item/metal item in your possession. Failure indicates it’s gone.
7) You drunkenly sleep with a bitter rival/villain. He/she/they swear revenge on you, seeking you out in your weakest moments.
8) You get a bad tattoo. 45% chance that it's in a random language you cannot read, and is insulting to those who can.
9) Awful hangover. You take disadvantage on all Constitution checks and saves for the following 24 hours. Restoration spells and items can cure this.
10-15) No ill effects. Party hard!
16) You gamble and break even. You regain the amount of gold pieces you spent on carousing.
17) While drinking, you make friends with a valuable NPC who can become a hireling or a source of future patronage. She/he gifts you a random trinket.
18) You become romantically entangled with a noble or templar. She/he/they becomes a new bond for your character, and can offer you favour in the future. She/he/they gifts you a random trinket.
19) Incredible gamble! You win big at rot grubs or shell-fist, earning 1d4 x what you spent carousing back.
20) Spirit of partying! You lift the spirits of the women and men of Tyr. You make back what you spent carousing, and earn double the XP. You are remembered fondly by the common folk for a number of weeks equal to your level.
Philanthropy (d20):
1) Your hard work and money actually goes into funding an organization opposed to you. You gain no XP, and they use the money you put into philanthropy against you in the future.
2-3) Your generosity attracts the attention of thieves. Make a Dexterity saving throw (Hard DC) or lose all your wealth/possessions and start play with half of your hit dice.
4-5) Your altruism has made you an enemy of the Templars. You now have enemies of high standing who will try to thwart your future actions.
6) Your generosity insults the pride of those you are trying to help. You cannot perform Philanthropy in Tyr for 1d6 + your level sessions.
7) Your donations cause conflict among the lower class. Your reputation is now at stake. You cannot perform Philanthropy in Tyr for 1d4 sessions.
8) You garner the attention of a rival philanthropist (noble) who wants all the credit for your actions. You now have an enemy of moderate standing who will try to thwart your future actions.
9-15) No ill effects. How benevolent!
16) Your actions grant you a piece of information that may be useful to your current quest or future adventures.
17) You gain an ally of moderate standing who will try to assist you.
18) You gain an ally of high standing who will try to assist you.
19) You gain the attention of a secret organization working to better people's lives in Tyr. They grant you an amount of gold pieces (in favour) equal to what you spent on philanthropy.
20) Champion of Tyr! Your generosity and good-heartedness are becoming legend in Tyr. You earn double the XP. You are remembered fondly by the common folk for a number of weeks equal to your level. 
Research (d20):
1) The abyss gazes back! Your research leads to a horrifying discovery. You lose the amount of XP you stood to gain, but you are now aware of a vital (and shocking) piece of information.
2-4) Burn out! Staring at musty tomes and grilling old coots has left you mentally exhausted. Make a Wisdom save (Hard DC). Failure means you gain no XP.
5-6) Your curiosity draws the attention of an enemy. You now have an enemy of high standing who will try to thwart your future actions.
7-9) Dead end! Your research leads to nothing. You gain a quarter of the XP equal to how much you spent researching.
10-15) No ill effects! Highly logical!
16) You gain information that could be useful on your current quest or future adventures.
17) You gain information that grants you inspiration (advantage) in this session.
18) You learn a new Intelligence based skill or new language.
19) Cartography! You piece together a working map of a level of a dungeon you're currently exploring (or a lost treasure map to a different location).
20) Brain blast! Same result as 1, but you earn double the XP.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Waking Disaster: the top 5 ways to stop Tiamat

Tiamat is the current 'big bad' in my home campaign. She's an evil five-headed dragon goddess. All I really know about her is stuff from other people's settings, and this bit I wrote when I was trying to think up a cosmology for Generica:

"Her gleaming enormity lies asleep and dormant within the orbiting moon. It is said that she, the splendid five-fold calamity, is the cause of all monsters in Generica. All foul beasts are but the dreams of slumbering Tiamat, manifested in the material plane.

These monsters are the price sapient beings of Generica must pay for a world safe from an awakened Tiamat, who would surely raze the entire planet until it is all but cinders and ash.

The other gods (Crom, Agro, Yondhalla, Lolth, Moradin, and Bahamut) sealed her away within the moon, fearing the destruction she sought to bring to their assorted creations. Also they needed something really big in the sky to make the tides work, probably"

So I had a dormant threat. Something to bring up much later in the campaign as a world-ending calamity my players could work against.

I wanted to foreshadow it a little in a 2nd level adventure I wrote about moon cultists, trying to perform a ritual that would summon the moon. My players started on it, fighting the cultists in an abandoned temple while the ritual was taking place below.

Then the party's ranger died, and they spent the rest of the session scrambling about trying to find a way to resurrect him.

The cultists triumphed, the ritual went off without a hitch, and now the moon is slowly hurtling closer to the planet, where it will eventually crash.
"Well shit" they said.

So now the falling moon has been a spectre of doom over the campaign; a constant worry in the back of my player's minds. Since then they've learned that Tiamat's inside the moon, and that she'll be released if it crashes.

Skip ahead a while. My players are now all 5th level. They've just killed off the Ice Queen (another long running campaign villain) and are exploring her underground lair. Inside they find a genie, who offers them a single wish in return for retrieving his lamp.

They take it, and then spend almost two hours trying to perfectly word their desired wish. This is what they came up with:

"We (our names) wish to immediately know and forever remember whenever we are alive the top 5 ways that we can successfully prevent the moon from crashing to our planet and prevent Tiamat escaping without causing what we would consider to be a major calamity to the world or us"

"Oh...is that all?" the genie replied sarcastically.

I had nothing planned for this. I mean, maybe a couple of vague ideas for adventure hooks and magic items, but not a top five list. So the genie gave them instructions to find the Library of Zorlac, where all of these answers would immediately present themselves to them. 

That gave me a couple of weeks to come up with several somethings. I asked the Google+ OSR community if they had any suggestions, and they didn't disappoint (though unfortunately "throw a giant blanket over Tiamat so she falls back asleep" didn't make the cut).

So here's the Top 5 Ways to Stop Tiamat:

#5 "Just fight her until she falls down" 

Taken from a tome of divine biology from the Zoology/Biology section of the library, this book lists all of Tiamat's numerous strengths and her very few weaknesses. Basically it gives the players access to Tiamat's stat block ahead of time. It also suggests specific tactics in bringing down the five-headed beast, which are as follows:
  • Lure Tiamat to the Well of Souls (ancient ruin in Figaro guarded by wraiths and demi-liches), ensuring that she falls in.
  • Weaken her essence by deafening at least three of her heads. Magical dwarven war-horns or the Chapel bells of the Lord of Light are recommended. 
  • Fire several salvos of 'Arrows of Red Dragon Slaying' at her main head. 
  • Have an army or large group of armed people hit her with swords/spells in her weakened state.
  • Finally, drown her in molten silver blessed by at least two of the original six deities who sealed her in the moon.

from "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time"
#4 "Go back in time and screw things up"

Taken from the scrawled notes of Zorlac's Mathematics librarian, this method suggests taking one or several people back in time to a point where Tiamat can be routed before she ever becomes a threat. These notes specifically use Tiamat as an example, listing times such as when she ascended to godhood, when she was split from the breast of Ao the world dragon, when she broke up with Bahamut, her litany of other bad relationships and breakups, and when she was sealed inside the moon.

My players have also considered going back to stop the original moon cultists who set this in motion, but that might require them facing their past selves, which could cause a paradox. Instructions are as follows:
  • Obtain a bunch of rare 'chrono-ore' from the corrosion wastes in the Praxis Territories (which is tricky, because it only appears at certain times).
  • Have a well trained smith fashion the ore into an amulet (one for each person making the trip).
  • Have the most powerful witch/wizard in the land perform the sending ritual (most likely a high magister of Figaro).
  • Ensure you have the proper histories or scholars present who can tell you exactly when in time certain events took place (the position of the planet, the position of the moon, the drift of the planes, etc).
  • Go back in time.
  • ?????
  • Problem solved.

#3 "Move the moon with a giant robot"

Taken from the Alien Cultures section of the library, this book of strange pictographs depicts an enormous metal warrior moving what looks like the moon into the heavens. On the next page it shows the same metal warrior strangling a five headed dragon. The metal warrior depicted is a Bio-Titan, a giant robotic construct native to every single world (If you have a campaign setting, somewhere it has a giant robot buried underground).
My players have already uncovered Generica's Bio-Titan, which they used to kill the Ice Queen. Unfortunately it is running out of power, and requires four magic stones to recharge itself back to full power. The locations of these stones are as follows:
  • The red one is in the eastern badlands, claimed by Mogmug Pigrider, greatest of the 39 orc warchiefs.
  • The blue one is within the volcano of the Jagged Bone Islands, south of Remlia.
  • The green one is lost somewhere in the underdark beneath Figaro, lost to clutches of the first dark elves.
  • The yellow one is buried deep in the sands of the eastern continent, forever lost in the possession of potion monger Euria the Second. 

"Have you ever heard of Evel Knievel?"
"No, I never saw Star Wars"
#2 "Change the orbit of the moon from its surface"

Taken from a book of celestial magical wards (and their histories) from the Magic section of the library, this solution involves travelling to the surface of Generica's moon, where several magical wards have been placed to keep Slumbering Tiamat's prison in orbit. One of those wards was destroyed by the Cult of the Dragon. 

The book includes detailed maps and layout of the moon's surface, along with instructions on the most expedient way to reach it if magical portals cannot. The instructions are as follows:
  • Gain planar passage via a Riftstone. 
  • Travel to Sigil, city of doors. 
  • Here you must book passage on a planar ship (spelljammer), which must sail through the ether, reaching the material plane from the outside.
  • Successfully land on the moon (while it's falling).
  • Reenact the movie Armageddon with Bruce Willis. 

#1 "Summon Bahamut to fight/stop Tiamat"

Bahamut, spawn of split-Ao, twin/hated enemy/ex-lover of Tiamat, platinum god of all metal dragons, must be summoned to do battle. Unfortunately he's under an enchanted sleep, and only his seven gold dragon disciples can wake him. First, they must be found:
  • Three of them reside on the material plane, fighting the good fight. 
  • Two are trapped in a prison in Lolth's trans-dimensional Demonweb.
  • One is chained at the bottom of a volcano on which a fire giant king has built his manufactorum/citadel.
  • The last is deceased and can only be resurrected by collecting his bones from poisonous swamp and then cutting a deal with the very gods of death.

Big thanks to Brian Murphy, Chris P., Ed Hackett, Jez Gordon, Jensen Torperzer, Kasper Blomdell, Chris F, Courtney Campbell, and Natalie Bennett for their suggestions, most of which got used.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dopplegangers in Generica

"When the gods looked away, something slipped into the world. It held an elm branch in front of its face, so it could not be seen. It busied itself in the affairs of elves and men. It smiled and seemed friendly.

When the elves and men looked away, it wet its lips and ate them up. It crunched their bones and slurped their brains. It pulled the elm branch away, and it had the face of an elf and the face of a man. It was both and neither. 

When the gods looked back and saw this, they were confused. "Wh-what is that?!" they cried, "Did you make that? Who made that?!" All replied "Not I". "Wh-what is it? WHAT IS IT?!" they shouted, no one would take the blame. 

If someone busies themselves in your affairs, if they're not quite elf or man, if they smile and seem friendly, do not look away"
-Saul Spidermin, recounting an old fey tale.

Dopplegangers in Remlia

In the world of Generica there are many creatures that can change their faces. Ancient wyrms are said to take the form of bent travellers, hags and vampires can take the shape of comely lasses and nubile men, even goblins can imitate the traits of those better than them. None compare to the imitation that is a doppleganger.

Dopplegangers are scary in concept. They're a creature that can look like anyone and exist to steal your secrets and take your place. That can be pretty arresting stuff. Then again, there's a lot of monsters that can look like other things. Mimics can look like various inanimate objects, changelings can do most of the things dopplegangers can do, but less so.

So I propose that they're all one and the same.
The perfect imitator.
A doppleganger is an intangible and inhuman thing, trying to mimic other lifeforms. Perhaps they start out simple and formless; small creatures with rudimentary transformation abilities. Relatively harmless, until they begin to learn more.
Not especially intimidating at first.
Then they become Mimics, moving up the food chain, bettering their ability to blend in and change shape. With greater intelligence, they become masters at imitating inanimate objects. Only once they've devoured a sapient creature's brains can they shapeshift into one.
An especially large Mimic.
They then become Changelings; fully sapient and aware, able to blend in with the gatherings of other humanoid sapient creatures. Here the changeling can either fully adopt its chosen form permanently, or continue its more monstrous existence as an alien other. Most choose the latter. After they've consumed the brains of more than one race of creatures, they become true Dopplegangers.
Their imitations are now flawless.
True dopplegangers are masters of imitation and disguise, able to shift forms quickly and imitate creatures perfectly, even their most prized strengths and traits. This masterful imitation does not come without a price, however. Dopplegangers have assimilated many different creatures, and under extreme duress they have trouble differentiating between them. When this happens, they become a 'Thing'.
*Unworldly howl*
A Thing is a twisted amalgamation of all of the objects and people a doppleganger has assumed. Incredibly dangerous and unpredictable. This is the true form of a shapeshifter.

Family of Imitators

A doppleganger is an inhuman thing that looks human (or looks elven, or dwarven, etc). It can also look like any object of a certain size. The types of forms they can take depend on what they've encountered and consumed.

These monsters are statistically the same as how they're listed in the Monster Manual (type v), but with the following changes:
  • Because shapechangers confound the divine powers that be, they are immune to radiant and necrotic damage, even if assuming the form of something vulnerable against such damage.
  • If you encounter a doppleganger that is imitating YOU, you are immediately surprised and cannot save against this. However, this surprise effect can only effect you once during combat.
Formless Shapechanger (Ditto) - Challenge 1/2
More novelty than threat.
  • A small blob-like creature, these shapechangers are often mistaken for oozes. 
  • They can assume the shape, size, and texture of various small objects. However, this imitation is poor, and only a simpleton would confuse the creature for the real thing (low DC check to reveal).
  • These roly-poly shapechangers are prized by rich nobles to be used in parlour games and during parties. Extremely rich families sometimes keep them as pets.
  • Once a shapechanger has tasted blood, it becomes a Mimic, able to grow teeth.
Mimic - Challenge 2
A mimic midway through its transformation into a changeling.
  • Mimics can only imitate simple and inanimate objects such as doors, walls, floors, chests, etc.
  • A mimic forms inside of itself a blood-red gem. This gem holds the image of their true form and various other unworldly memories. It is worth 1d4 x 25gp.
  • When a mimic consumes the brain of a sentient creature, it can then change its appearance to that race of creature. Consumption of brain matter also imbues it with all of that creature's memories. It becomes a Changeling.
Changeling - Challenge 3 (able to be played as a PC race in some games)
  • A changeling can imitate any humanoid creature it sees. It also gains the 'telepathy' trait.
  • A changeling can only perfectly imitate creatures of races who's brains it has consumed. 
  • A changeling is susceptible to charm and sleep effects at this stage, but has advantage against them.
  • A changeling cannot imitate weapons or inanimate objects while imitating a person.
  • A changeling's internal gem is worth 1d4 x 50gp.
  • Changelings can telepathically bond to a single creature, assuming that form perminantly. Now that they are functionally that creature's double, they are psychically linked. If one dies, the other dies as well. When one is harmed, the other feels the pain as well.
  • This is the stage at which a changeling can choose to continue down the path of evil or attempt to fully hide its true nature. The changeling is compelled to consume brain matter, and must make Constitution saves (moderate DC) at the end of every ten-day to resist this compulsion. Once more than one sapient race's brains are absorbed, the changeling becomes a true doppleganger.
Doppleganger - Challenge 3-4
Seeing a doppleganger as yourself is psychologically unnerving.
  • A doppleganger can imitate any race of sapient creature it has seen and encountered. While imitating these creatures it is identical to them in all but statistics.
  • A doppleganger, using its telepathy, can peer into another creature's mind and memories, imitating any person that that creature has known or thought about. 
  • Consuming a person's brain imbues the doppleganger with the consumed creature's powers. Now, when it imitates that specific person, its stats become identical to that person's stats, provided they're better than its own. This includes hit points, armour class, observed weapons, and class features.
  • A doppleganger can only use the powers of the creature it is currently imitating. If it's a warrior, it cannot cast spells unless it assumes the form of a spellcaster.
  • When a doppleganger imitates a creature using weapons, it forms those weapons out of its own flesh. They deal the same damage as those weapons would normally, and have the same tensile strength. Dopplegangers cannot imitate the effects of a magical weapon/armour, but they can perfectly imitate their appearance.
  • A dropped doppleganger weapon acts as an extension of its body, able to imitate other things of a similar size. A doppleganger can create no more than 4 weapons at a time. When the doppleganger dies, these weapons persist. If they kill and consume the creature who killed their host body, they can reform with all of their memories and abilities intact.
  • Dopplegangers are immune to charm person, hold person, and sleep spells. They will, however, still make spell saves against them. On a failed save, the doppleganger pretends to be affected by the spell, attempting to fool its enemies.
  • A doppleganger's gem is worth 2d4 x 75gp
  • When a doppleganger is bloodied (at half hit points or below) it must make Constitution saves at the beginning of its turn (low DC). If it fails it transforms into a Thing.
Thing - Challenge 5-6
  • A Thing is a monstrosity, capable of three attacks per round, and a fear aura (Spell Save DC equal to the highest level spellcaster whose brains it has consumed, or whichever DC is referenced if you don't know).
  • When transformed, a Thing immediately gains 8d6 hit points and has resistance to all non-magical weapon damage. It is, however, now vulnerable to fire.
  • A Thing's attacks are randomly determined. Each attack draws on a creature that it had imitated in life. Attacks with an asterisk can only be used once. If you roll them again, the Thing uses a basic Slam attack (doppleganger stats).
  • A Thing's gem is worth the same amount as its Doppleganger form's gem, but plus 100gp extra.

Roll 1d8
Morningstar Swipe
+6 to hit, 1d8+5 bludgeoning damage.
1 or 2 targets, +6 to hit, 1d6+5 bludgeoning damage each.
Impaling Tendrils
+4 to hit, 2d6+3 piercing damage. Target must make a Dex save (moderate DC) or be impaled, taking another 1d6 damage and is restrained.
Magic Missile
Part of a wizard’s torso emerges from the Thing. It casts magic missile as a 2nd level spell.
(Moderate Spell Save DC) It suggests that the target should attack its friends.
Melf’s Acid Arrow
(Moderate Spell Save DC) It casts acid arrow as a 3rd level spell.
Hold Person*
(High Spell Save DC) Part of a cleric’s torso emerges from the Thing.
Cure Wounds*
It casts cure wounds as a 3rd level spell.