A well-done selection of nasty foliage. Alert travelers could be warned of the presence of these plants by the signs they leave behind (scattered animal bones near Scorpion Grass, damage to nearby plants from spitting euphorbia or singeweed, etc.).
They are too obviously magical to occur naturally; only a truly irresponsible wizard would create such nasty plants. All it would take is a few patches of Scorpion Grass near a village to wreak havok on local livestock. Hopefuilly, such plants can't effectively compete naturally with more normal flora, or they could render entire regions almost uninhabitable. Go to Comment
Ah, the power of belief! No wonder those elf chicks are standoffish!
In a lot of game worlds, the peasants and other folk encountered tend to fall into two camps: "Regular folks", who resemble the people found in an typical 1950's Hollywood Western, or "Torch-bearing Mob", who resemble the people in a typical 1930's Universal horror film.
The problem with this is that the common folk of a pre-industrial culture don't fit well into either of these cliches. They are ignorant and superstitious, but not unintelligent. Their thoughts are shaped by their culture, but they have many of the same hopes and goals that we value.
The reason that I really appreciate this type of charm is that it illustrates the type of thinking that should be commonplace in a typical fantasy culture. Living in a land where magic is real and present would reinforce the people's superstitions. Religious figures would have their opinions about whether this sort of thing was "white" or "black" magic, but the power of the charms would likely go unquestioned.
Nicely detailed and believable, this is a useful contribution to the superstitions that adventurers would encounter. Extremely odd ideas about different races and cultures permeated Medieval culture and are still common among Third-World nations today: Compared to some of them (For instance: "Jews have horns and sacrifice infants" or "Sleeping with virgins cures venereal disease"), this is actually quite reasonable. Go to Comment
A well-detailed cultist, whether he realizes his cult's true purposes or not... Drostan was an interesting attempt to blend nihilistic "death metal" into a fantasy setting. He reminds me of the Mercedes Lackey "Bedlam's Bard" series in some ways.
Overall, I really liked the idea, but I had a few "nits" that I was curious about:
I found the idea of such a bard hard to swallow in a low-tech setting. In ages before electronic amplification of music, bands often had dozens of musicians to generate the volume needed to reach a large audience. Without the ability to reproduce music, how does he reach enough people to spread his message of violence effectively? I would expect the authorities to act against him as soon as rumor told them he was headed for their area.
While Drostan's background is very detailed, T'Chal's secret and the "Cthulhoid" underpinnings seem quickly sketched out. Perhaps a companion piece with more about this sinister fellow (Another guise of Nyarlathotep?) would be worthwhile. Go to Comment
This is a good way to take the rather tired "4 elements" of classical alchemy and recast them to make them fresh again. It has convincing details and works well, without adding needless complication. Go to Comment
The Vine Jack It was a clumsy thing, to be sure. Living ivy wound about a roughly humanoid frame of roughly broken deadwood. The torso had been crafted from the lightning-blasted stump of an ancient oak, with jagged roots sticking out oddly from the thing’s abdomen. The hollow remnant of the tree’s trunk held soil, but it was hard to see, for the ivy’s dark green leaves obscured most of the jack’s torso. The woodland craftsmen had made no effort to make the thing symmetrical, so it stumbled awkwardly between the trees, staring oddly with the bright river stones jammed into knotholes that served it as eyes.
The mace seemed a digression from the main point of the other piece, so I separated it. It is meant to support the Chosen of Uep-Hawet, but the description of the cult is easirer to follow without the mace in the middle of it. Go to Comment
Not bad at all! Clearly described and presented, these could be used in several ways within a campaign. Some strict limits would also have to be defined, or they would be extremely powerful items, shaping the course of entire battles.
Emphasizing the potions needed for the horn's functions would certainly limit their effectiveness: If the healing or haste function of a horn also required potions to be consumed first, that could prevent overuse of the item ("Darn! We're out of frogs' eyes! We can't make more until next week!") Go to Comment
The trail leads up a narrow defile, a rugged, winding gorge where erosion has exposed the bare stone of the mountains, floored with treacherous loose stones and dead trees uprooted by the gorge’s frequent flash floods. It’s an ideal spot for an ambush, and anyone with tactical expertise will be expecting trouble.
Soon, skies that had threatened rain deliver on their promise, and the narrow creek that first carved the canyon begins to run again. It’s clear that the party must head for higher ground before they are caught by the threatened flood, but which way leads to safety? Go to Comment
Beyond the thick pines that cover the foothills, the party hears the crashing of two huge beasts locked in battle. The elk native to the area battle for dominance each spring, their massive horns slamming into each other, pushing and twisting to prove which animal is the mightiest. With animal grunts and strange, low-pitched bellows, the creatures struggle to claim their territory.
The elks are likely to ignore intruders while their struggle is underway, but once they finish, they may very well display aggressive, territorial behavior, especially if they feel threatened. Go to Comment
The trail descends again, straying into a valley between two long ridges. There, below the tree line, the trail leads past massive slabs of lichen-encrusted granite, each standing on end in a mute testament to the ingenuity of some ancient culture. Time-worn runes are barely legible on the weathered stone, but they may reward a patient scholar with a clue to the history of this lonely place. Go to Comment
A dead tree alongside the trail displays a variety of decayed heads. Representing various races and ages, they have each been impaled on iron spikes driven into the rotting trunk. A plank has been nailed below them, its crudely-scribed runes a baffling warning:
Those who remain on the trail soon discover that a band of miners has claimed it as their own. These tempermental prospectors are likely to attack anyone who learns the exact location of their "claim". Go to Comment
The trail runs alongside a gorge, the stream within swollen with recent rain. A spot of color down the slope catches someone's eye. Near the streambank lies a set of noble regalia. The embroidered robe of royal blue and cloth barding both bear a design of three golden horns: The arms of Arnmund the Rancorous, a notorious, murderous noble.
The blackguard had been followed here, sought by enemies of his house. In order to confuse his pursuers, he tossed his heraldic gear into the gorge, but an unfortunate gust kept the robes and barding from reaching the stream to be carried off. He remains somewhere nearby, his pretense of being a simple knight on pilgrimage somewhat inconsistent with his expensive, well-fed destrier. Go to Comment
I'm curious about just how many adventurers would take these islands at face value: Accustomed to seeing plots and traps around each corner, the average (rabidly paranoid) adventurer is likely to cause himself trouble from overreacting to the unfathomable friendliness of the islanders:
GM: "Rempiki, the fish trainer you met, seems to like you. He is asking if you'd like to spend the evening at his hut, as his four grown daughters have come to visit."
Player: "O.K. I'm taking my retainer with me, I'm not taking off my armor and especially not eating anything..."
GM: "So, you're not eating any food while you're there. Rempiki's lovely daughters, seeing that you're apparently not hungry, ask if you'd like to go with them to gather shells at moonrise, before the tide comes in."
Player: "No way! I'm not risking going to the beach at night!" Go to Comment