They are mercenaries only on a technicality. I can easily see the Rampant Lions being only a ceremonial organisation in later years--first with the retired members, then as a more general 'gentlemen of fortune' group, with the emphasis on "gentlemen". Old men sitting about, smoking, sipping brandy, and going on about how things aren't as glorious as they once were. The poignancy of this makes me want to include them in a campaign, even if I know that this will likely be lost on everyone else. Go to Comment
The trap was really a combination deterrent and means of easing transportation. A large chasm separated the two entrances (one well hidden, one not so much) in a cave complex from each other and from the werewolves' den. A sliding platform was placed at "floor" level, which slid back and forth between two hallways. The separating wall and the platform (remember that this is all constructed over a big chasm) were covered in resin to resemble the surrounding stone. The motive power was gravity-fed, where a large weight on a rope would pull the "floor" to the next hallway. A swivelling ratchet & pulley system allowed the back-and-forth motion of the floor. When a tripwire was depressed, the ratchet would release, and the floor would slide. An unawares intruder would have the floor pulled out from under them (resulting in a long drop), and intentionally setting off the "trap" enabled the werewolves who lived there to bring the floor back so that they could easily cross the chasm.
The problem for the pc's in-game arose when they spotted the tripwire and disabled it. They gummed-up the holes where the wire ran through, and cut it. This meant that the floor would now not move, and cut off their way that they came in, as well as the way to the werewolves' den. Instead, they now had to make their way down to the bottom of the chasm & back up on the other side. The players didn't find out that the floor was even supposed to move until I revealed this after the adventure was over... They had heard the odd sound from the floor moving (the werewolves moving about), but didn't discover what caused it until I told them after the game. Go to Comment
In a very large and very old city (Citadel, Formour), the inhabitants have built additional layers, so that what was once ground-level streets are now subterranean sections. The pc's are slogging through the darkness and making a wide turn through what was once a curved road. They had a recent encounter, so only one person was carrying a torch, with the rest armed and ready. As they rounded the bend, they saw a glimmer of torchlight ahead and heard accompanying noises. They quickly dropped the torch, ducked into an alcove (what was once the opening to a shop), and noticed that the other torchbearer did likewise. Peering carefully around the corner, they could barely make out in the dimness the gleaming of metal from the other group, armed and ready for battle. After arguing about what to do and failing to come to a mutually satisfying plan, one of the guild rushed out--seeing a member of the opposing team running to meet him--and fired his crossbow... Crash! Shattering glass rained down with a deafening noise. There was no opposing group. The pc's were afraid of their own reflection from an old large pane of glass left in an abandoned storefront. The torch and gleaming metal of weapons were their own, and the noise was just echoes. Their own paranoia was the trap. Go to Comment
This one has been done numerous times, but bears repeating. There is an obvious pit in a corridor. It can seem bottomless, be spiked, have a waiting monster, whatever--it's an ordinary open pit in a dungeon. The pit is a bit too large to safely jump, especially given the ceiling height, but there is a small ledge one one side. If they are careful, the pc's can scoot along this ledge to the other side--scary but doable. However, once the group is starting across (especially if they don't go one at a time), the ledge falls (simple weight-activated sliding bar) or crumbles, dropping them into the pit. Even if they only go across singly, you can still have one or more people on either side, with someone trapped and possibly dying down in the pit. Go to Comment
This is an idea I used many many moons ago, when I was rather a novice GM. It works best if the pc's are running from an encounter, or have other reason not to notice small sounds or an odd floor. Prior to this trap, the flooring consists of rubber mats over gravel, uneven sections, and the like. Once the players start to get bored of this as "flavour text dungeon dressing" you spring the trap. The hallway opens up so that the floor is all that they can see in their light radius, and it makes a wide corner so that they cannot see very far either in front or behind. In a fantasy setting, you can have an air shaft blow out their torches to further cast them into darkness. Inside this section of hallway is a large and well-oiled treadmill, tilted slightly upwards. The player-characters have already become accustomed to odd walking surfaces, and the air shaft or chasing monsters will hide whatever small noises the treadmill makes--as will the pc's own noises. The troupe can potentially walk for hours without gaining any ground, and the area is frequently checked by local dungeon dwellers who know of this trap & how to get the tasty treats it holds... Go to Comment
This is more of an ambush situation than a true trap: a large stone is set in the center of the road. This is an obvious new addition (tracks & ruts lead right up to it), and it may not have been there the last time the troupe passed that road. The stone is large enough for a person (or several) to hide behind, and fills the lane, so that you must go off the road around it, climb over it, or somehow remove it.
The stone is just to delay and distract, it need not even be an acutal rock, just a clever imitation. The real trap is the brigands hiding under camouflage just off of the road. While the group is discussing their options, the brigands can attack. Anyone climbing the rock is easy prey, and anyone leaving the road to go around will be close enough to be grabbed from cover. Go to Comment
Reverse pit trap
This pit trap is very difficult to detect, as it is not dug in the traditional manner. Rather than being dug from above, it is dug from below. Subterranian dwellers dig the pit upward to the bottom of the surface roots, leaving only the vegitation and the bare minimum soil to hold it in place. When someone steps on this trap, they may fall through to spikes, a deep pit (which the tunnellers can easily drop into and climb out of), or simply drop into den of the hungrily awaiting diggers--ready with forks & napkins.
This appears to be a rather clumsy attempt at setting a simple snare along a trail. It consists of a tree bent over with a rope connecting the top of the tree to the ground. Typically used to trap rabbits, this looks almost large enough to trap a person, and the noose portion is too large to step over. However, the real trap is the pits laid on either side of the trail, to trap those that walk around the 'trap', as the snare itself is staked securely. This can be combined with the reverse pit trap above. Go to Comment
(Borrowed from Family Guy) Theme music, appropriate to the situation, follows the character around everywhere. At first this is neat, but since it can't be turned off, it gets annoying quickly.
A variant on the above, is constant humming. This can be either a low mechanical drone, or what sounds like someone (source unascertainable) humming some unknown song--someone without any sense of tone or rhythm. Any of these variants makes stealth impossible, and the noise-cursed one unbearable in short order.
A deceptively simple one at first, loose threads, slowly adds up to larger problems. While the occassional loose thread isn't anything to lose sleep over, this cursed character constantly has at least one loose thead somewhere. Clothes slowly unravel, and there is a danger of anattended threads getting caught on something (or someone) or causing the inflicted to trip and fall. This becomes an especially irritating curse in the presence of someone with the compulsion to remove any loose threads found. First one, then another, then another... until the poor cursed victim is left naked. Go to Comment
This is an odd, flat ribbon of stone that winds through a 100+ mile stretch of Formour. The 'River' is mostly flat & of uniform width. It is a continuous vein of a stone that has not been found anywhere else. The 'Grey River' is about 30 feet wide and would be quite suited for caravans. However, people avoid it do to its oddness. Animals will not willingly go within sight or smell of it. There are no towns along its banks, and no major destinations anywhere near the 'river.' Go to Comment
I've been threatening to make a Midian cookbook for a few years now...
Heldannic Blackened Fish
1 pound of fish--typically 4 cod, catfish, or haddock--filleted
1/4 cup of melted butter
1/2 teaspoon of crushed dried basil
1/2 teaspoon of ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of crushed dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon of garlic
1/4 teaspoon of ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of ground sage
Thaw the fish if frozen (the Heldannic Confederation is mountainous & sub-arctic). Place an unoiled castiron skillet directly on the coals of the fire. Preheat the skillet until a drop of water sizzles, which may take up to five minutes.
Mix the seasonings together. Coat both sides of the fish with the butter by brushing or dragging. Coat the fish with the seasoning mix (some cooks again prefer dragging) & lightly tamp it in.
Add the coated fish filets to the skillet. Carefully drizzle half of the remaining butter, or about 2-3 teaspoons, over the fish. Cook the fish about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, or until blackened. Turn the fish, carefully drizzle with the remaining butter, and continue cooking for another 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. The fish is done when the other side is blackened, and the fish flakes easily with a fork.
An optional variation on this recipe is to use a sliced red pepper and onion, instead of ground/powdered. Saute these in the skillet with a teaspoon of butter before placing the fish in the skillet. Go to Comment
Here's another Heldannic treat, this time from the Trolls.
Mushroom-Stuffed Human Burgers
3/4 cup of thinly sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup of thinly sliced green onion
1 clove of minced garlic
2 teaspoons of butter
1 1/2 pound lean ground Human
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a skillet, saute the mushrooms, onion, and garlic in butter until tender, or about 2 minutes. Combine ground Human, salt and pepper; mix well. Shape into 12 patties, about 4 inches in diameter. Set these aside for now. Spoon equal portions of the sauted mushroom mixture onto the center center of 6 Human patties. Spread to within 1/2 inch of edge. Top with the remaining 6 patties; press the edges to seal them. Place the patties on grill about 6 inches over medium-hot coals. Grill to desired doneness (about 5-10 minutes is recommended, but some prefer them simply seared), turning once. Serve them on bread or large rolls, if desired. Go to Comment
Here's yet another northern taste treat, this time from the Killian Empire. This one is quite popular in upscale restaurants.
Killian Squall Eeel
1 live squall eel
1 sliced green pepper
1 small sliced cucumber
1/4 cup of sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
Mix the pepper, cucumber, mushrooms, and soy sauce. Carefully hold down the squirming squall eel while slicing open its midsection. Remove the stomach, intestines, and (for females) the egg sack. Ensure that no eggs are left in the squall eel if the egg sack is accidentally ruptured. Peel the skin off of the squall eel. Stuff with the mix. Serve on a bed of rice, preferably in a covered dish to prevent the squall eel from trying to escape. Serves 2. Go to Comment
Here are two Elven dishes using cyphids. Cyphids are large insects (nearly half a pound each) that have odd red markings on their tan & brown carapaces; related to roaches.
6 ounces of penne pasta
1 chopped onion
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of minced garlic
1 sliced green bell pepper
3 chopped celery stalks
1 pound of sun-dried tomatoes
1 1/2 cups of dry hard cider
1 1/2 tablespoons of tomato paste
ground black pepper to taste
2 chopped cyphids
In a large skillet, cook the onion in the olive oil for 2 minutes. Add in the garlic, green pepper, and celery, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, cider, and black pepper, and bring to a boil. Add in the pasta, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the cyphids, recover, and continue to simmer for 5 more minutes. Serves 4.
Cyphid, Avocado, and Mango Salad
3/4 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of raspberry vinegar
1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon of honey
1 teaspoon of mustard seed
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh dill
1 small shredded head of iceberg lettuce
3 avocados: peeled, pitted and sliced
3 mangos: peeled and sliced
4 whole unshelled cyphids
3 ounces of thinly sliced mushrooms
Combine the the oil, vinegar, ginger, honey, mustard seed, lemon juice, chives and dill in a bowl to make the dressing--whisk together until well blended. Place a mound of shredded lettuce in the center of each plate. Separate the wing covers of the cyphids, and carefully hammer a wedge between them to crack the carapace, and peel the two halves apart. Place a cyphid on top of each lettuce mound. Circle all of this with the mango and avocado along the rims of the plates. Sprinkle all of this with the mushrooms. Pour enough dressing to lightly cover. Serves 4. Go to Comment
2 (1 1/2-inch) unicorn steaks, porterhouse cut, about 2 lbs. each
1/2 teaspoons sea or other coarse salt
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 cup of ale
1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Generously sprinkle the unicorn steaks with salt and let them sit covered at room temperature 30-45 minutes.
Melt the butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove pan from heat, stir in the ale and Worcestershire sauce and reserve mixture.
Prepare grill for a two-level fire capable of cooking first on high heat (1-2 seconds with the hand test) and then on medium heat (4-5 seconds with the hand test).
Keeping the smaller, more tender sections of unicorn meat angled away from the hottest part of the fire, grill the unicorn steaks uncovered 2 1/2 to 3 minutes per side. Move the unicorn steaks to medium heat, turning them again, and continue grilling 3-4 minutes per side for medium-rare doneness. Steaks should be turned a minimum of three times (more often if juice begins to form on surface). If grilling covered, sear both sides of the unicorn meat first on high heat uncovered 2 1/2-3 minutes; finish cooking with cover on over medium heat 5-7 minutes, turning steaks once midway.
Transfer the unicorn steaks to a platter and immediately top with equal amounts of ale/butter mixture. At the table, slide the unicorn steaks from bones in thin strips and serve hot, making sure to spoon mingling meat juices, ale and butter on each portion. Go to Comment
There are many ways to flavour and prepare a soul for harvest and consumption. This method allows for a truly delicious flavourful essence, without the gaminess of a physically stalked & hunted mortal meal.
1 sentient prey, sleeping
telepathy or dream magic, at least one cup of either
soul harvester of choice
add knowledge of psychology to taste
First, you must enter into the sleeping mind and await a dream. While you are waiting for the dream state to properly percolate, you can dig through old memories for fears & shames. Gently wrap the prey in a safe, happy, and comforting dream. While it may be fun to suddenly drop the bottom out of their happy dream, such can leave the soul undone and less palatable. A sudden fright can cause fretful sleep, which may awaken a spouse or other bed-mate, and may even cause spontaneous awakening. The soul will not be properly seasoned this way.
Once the prey is safe and secure in the happy dream, slowly add elements of the fear and /or shame. For example, someone afraid of drowning can be shown a dream where they are watching televison, and on the show someone is alone in deep water. They cannot change the channel, and the television keeps getting closer. As they start to hear water (drips, splashes, and waves) all around them--quiet at first--they decide to simply leave the room--that you have so thougtfully provided a door to, to ensure the "safe & happy" aspect. Leaving the room causes the water to rush out of the televison set, leading to the chase. Be careful to not bring this chase on too fast or suddenly, or the soul may be scorched. Additional corruptive tastes may be added by placing loved ones or innocents in the way, that the victim must shove aside or climb over to escape his or her fears chasing. The soul is properly cooked in terror when the victim is on the brink of screaming insanity. It is at this point, when they usually tell themselves, "it's only a dream; I can wake up." This is when you reveal yourself, deny them the luxury of ever feeling anything pleasant again, and harvest the soul from the dream.
One particularly delightful combination of flavours is to mix for the victim: falling, while covered in spiders, when not wearing any pants.
This is a simple recipe, having only three ingredients, if you count "salt to taste." The real trick is in having the appropriate cage, and catching the main ingredient in numbers without damaging them.
This is a popular Elven snack, and may be purchased from street dealers in any large populated area. The butterflies are secured to a rack by individual clips that keep the butterflys' wings down, so that they do not fold together in an effort to escape while cooking--this makes the resulting snack thicker & less enjoyable. The butterflies are lowerered into a pot of bubbling-hot butter and fried quickly--a few seconds is all that is needed. The result is a tasty, crispy little treat. These are sold by the bag, as it's impossible to eat just one. Go to Comment
The Wizard-Brewers of the Old Empire stored memories in bottles of mead, passing their brightest ideas, most subtle magics, and most important decisions on to their heirs in bottles of oddly-flavored honey-wine. A cache of these ancient magical vintages has been unearthed, but does anyone dare drink from it? The ancient mead's creator is a complete mystery, as are the thoughts he left behind.