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Walking Through the Forest When...
Plots  (Travel)   (Encounter)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2011-05-22 03:26 PM

By the looks of previous posts people seem to like bears in forests. Are they innocent, friendly bears? Or angry grizzlies? (Or lycanthropes, as Agar suggests)

You enter the clearing to find a huge and terrifying bear looming angrily over you. You instinctively draw your sword, trying to remember if you're supposed to act dead or act threatening. After a few breathless seconds of agitation, you realise that the bear is dead. It facial expression is not one of anger, rather one of contorted agony. It has been preserved and nailed to a tree.

By whom?

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Walking Through the Forest When...
Plots  (Travel)   (Encounter)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2011-05-22 03:27 PM
With reference to Agar's idea above, it could be the same bear that has been following the PCs for several days. Go to Comment
Lutazum the Tortoise
Lifeforms  (Unique)   (Forest/ Jungle)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2007-01-16 05:46 PM
Great stuff. Lutazum would make this particular tribe stand out in the memories of your players instead of just being a random tribe they encountered.

ephe Go to Comment
Where the Road May Take You
Plots  (Travel)   (Encounter)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2007-02-25 12:42 PM

On route from Geli to Nekrass the characters meet a peasant boy on the road. He's wandering in the direction from which they've just come. If this seems a little bit incongruous, they may wish to ask him a few questions. He's perfectly willing to talk: he's called Lamish and he's run away because he knows he is the heir to the throne of Geli and his parents didn't believe him. How far is his home? About five weeks walk from here. How much has he eaten? Nothing. Has he drunk? Only from the filthy roadside ditches. In short, it's a wonder he is still alive. And yet he seems perfectly healthy.

Is he a thief, waiting for travellers to trick? Is he lying because there's something more sinister under all of this? Is he telling the truth? And anyway, what should the characters do? Do you take him to Geli? Do you try to find his parents? Or leave him to make his own way? Go to Comment
Where the Road May Take You
Plots  (Travel)   (Encounter)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2007-02-25 12:42 PM

In Azur, the streets are crowded, and the PCs' poor grasp of Azuran makes it hard for them to find out why. Still, they shoulder their way through the crowds, trying to get to the house of the renowned wizard they seek, when suddenly they realise they are standing very much alone. The crowds have ceased their talking and their gazes are fixed on the PCs. The imperiously clothed man standing before them smiles and speaks in Azuran: "Ah! Volunteers! And so eager too!" Go to Comment
Where the Road May Take You
Plots  (Travel)   (Encounter)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2007-03-11 02:41 PM

A little way up the narrow valley, before they reach the woods, the PCs notice the squat, tumbledown buildings by the riverside. They are hardly big enough for a human to stand in, and the complex cogs and shafts that occupy the central cavity of one of the buildings are perplexing. What were these buildings? And how safe are they to explore?

Alternatively a desolate place is the perfect setting for a derelict chapel or croft. There needn't be any actual physical encounter involved, but it adds atmosphere to a place to see its dead history. For instance, in the Outer Hebrides there are whole deserted villages which were razed to the ground by the English during the Clearances. Such stories give a setting authenticity and character. Go to Comment
The Mountain of Boats
Dungeons  (Desert)   (Rooms/ Halls)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2011-04-24 08:56 PM

This is superb!

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Weather Related PlotSeeds
Plots  (Nature)   (Encounter)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2006-03-17 02:43 PM
This one is also related to your other thread about borrowing plots from classic sources...

The Emperor is mad. His ministers are on the verge of assassinating him out of pity when he comes to the players with a request. "For months now the realisation has been with me. I have seen it in my dreams and waking nightmares. My ministers believe I am paranoid, but I know better...

I have seen the flood, the blanket pall of rain, the livid lightning arcing toward the seething bloated ocean. I know what will befall our world.

I want you to build me a ship from wood. Make it (arbitrary dimensions, probably in archaic system of measurement like cubits) high, (ditto) wide and (ditto) long. In it you will take me and my most trusted counsellors, enough food to last us (n) days and one of each pair of animal in the known world. You have seven days."

He will not explain any more than that.

Surviving on a makeshift raft for (n) days with dragons, wildebeest etc. could prove taxing to the players, trying to keep the peace...

ephe! Go to Comment
Character Hooks
Articles  (Resource)   (Game Mastering)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2006-02-20 03:39 PM
Hmmm...I find "mythic fog" or wizards with teleportation spells are a bit...unrealistic. I'd prefer my PCs to meet in more believable circumstances. Go to Comment
Character Hooks
Articles  (Resource)   (Game Mastering)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2006-02-20 03:41 PM
I suppose another standard one is the shipwreck, when they are all shipwrecked together.

A variation on this would be a Shakespearian Tempest-like shipwreck, where the ship splits in two: half the characters end up on one side of an island and develop their relationships there, the other half meet at the other end of the island. After they have each developed into small pseudogroups they can be amalgamated and continue adventuring.

A land-based alternative...They are travelling with a caravan between two cities (maybe they are refugees, maybe they are traders) when the caravan is attacked. They are the sole survivors and must find their way through the wilderness where they have been left...

ephe! Go to Comment
Character Hooks
Articles  (Resource)   (Game Mastering)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2006-02-20 03:53 PM
Thanks go to Manfred for reminding me about this thread.

The characters are servants working in the lightless kitchens of the Castle, lorded over by a tyrannical Chef called Filmor Mawthse. Sent into the cellars on various errands they discover a crevice in a pile of rubble by a collapsing wall. It seems to lead to a larger space behind. When Mawthse comes searching for them to find why they've been so long, he gets angry and beats one of them. Assuming the PCs don't just stand there and let him do it there'll be a little altercation. In this scuffle, Mawthse is killed: either purposefully with some cutlery or accidentally by slipping on the wet floor and cracking his head open. Fearing suspicion, the PCs will probably flee into the caverns through the crevice.

From my plot Escape from the Kitchens, but as Manfred says it's a good character hook.

Some more possibilities I've been considering...

Some of the players are protesters at a demonstration against the City's Tyrant Lord. The Tyrant's troops (including a couple of PCs) are trying to hold the crowd back. It's a grisly scene. One PC is an assassin and shoots the Tyrant with a concealed crossbow.

Only the PCs nearby see what has happened, everyone else is too busy fighting or watching the Tyrant keel over and die. The protester PCs run off, the guard PCs will presumably pursue. Get them down a back alley, let the protesters beat up the guards and tie them up and make the offer: join us or die.

Apart from giving the assassin instructions beforehand, it's not possible to guarantee the outcome, but it's possible to push them in the right direction. It'd be interesting to see how the players react to such an odd situation. I find players tend to group together even if they start off enemies, so it'll probably end up coalescing into a party sooner or later. This would work best run as a game without a fixed plot but a very detailed setting and see how things progress before fixing on plots in the second and subsequent sessions.

The PCs are out of work and poor. Suddenly a new job opportunity opens up: a Steel Road is being constructed through the mountains to the dwarf mines and the consortium of mine owners need navvies to work for them. They apply and are accepted. A month later, during work on a high bridge over a narrow gully there's a terrible accident and the PCs plunge many fathoms through the air to find themselves in a mountain crevasse. Everyone thinks they're dead and the only way out is through a dangerous cave system which leads to the equally dangerous mountain slopes.

This one's best started a month into the job. You tell them what's happened in the meantime and start play the night before the accident. Go to Comment
Magical Traps
Dungeons  (Any)   (Traps)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2006-01-04 03:02 PM
Chinese finger trap:

The glyph's magic keeps you held tightly (even tighter if you try and pull away) which is not good if you can hear approaching footsteps. Amputation is often the best way... Go to Comment
Door Traps
Dungeons  (Any)   (Traps)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2006-01-04 02:18 PM

As your hand nears the lock it goes limp and sags, the closer you reach, the more fluid and droopy your hand becomes. At very close range, globules of flesh start dripping onto the floor where they slowly solidify back into fingers and knuckles. Go to Comment
Door Traps
Dungeons  (Any)   (Traps)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2006-01-04 02:19 PM
Animated mechanism:

You insert the key in the lock, when you hear a crunching noise. You look down. You're holding a key-hilt, and the lock is grinning back at you with an array of evil-looking teeth. Thank goodness you didn't try to get close and pick that lock... Go to Comment
Strange Places
Locations  (Area)   (Any)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2005-12-31 04:48 AM
"Five more days walking through the weary hills brought our eyes little relief. Tedious unbroken lines of limestone scree punctuated by cowed hazel saplings trudged heavily past. In one glorious moment of surprise we happened upon a verdant dale, curiously riddled with low arrangements of stones in regular patterns, like extremely old, tumbled-down walls. Our guide told us only that people had once farmed here, not saying who, or what they had farmed. He hurried us on with a disturbing sense of unease so that by nightfall we had left the small, isolated valley and its strange walls far behind." Go to Comment
Strange Places
Locations  (Area)   (Any)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2005-12-31 04:53 AM
The citizens of Boleszt-in-the-Forest have a symbiotic relationship with their giant spiders. Above the tall streets is a loose canopy of web amongst which dark shadows can be seen scuttling; the occasional hairy leg descends into visibility to tweak the strands, the occasional mandible to apply more glue.

The spiders prevent the vicious Forest fangfly from infesting the city (one only has to look at the diseased, bitten peasants who live in the outlying villages to see what fangflies can do) and the people provide the spiders with extra nutrition in the form of convicts. The words which strike fear into a condemned heart: "Take him to the webs".

ephe Go to Comment
Articles  (Fiction)   (Game Mastering)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2011-02-10 04:48 PM

I have been getting into H P Lovecraft lately. Dreams are such an important part of his work that it would seem a pity to leave them out of a Cthulhu game. One idea I tried was compiling a collection of paragraph-long dreams (much like this scroll) and occasionally handing them out during play when the PCs were sleeping. I was going to post them separately, but then I noticed this thread already exists, so here is a short compilation:


1. You sleep fitfully. When you awake you half-remember dreaming of being in a terrible cave in a desert-land, surrounded by hulking beasts that feasted on screaming humans held in a nearby cage. The sun beat evilly down outside the cave and the desert wind was hot. You caught the eye (or what passed for the eye) of one of the beasts just before you awoke, sweating profusely and paralysed with fear.


2. You sleep long and awake with a deep sense of foreboding.


3. You dream of four sleeping men in a darkened chamber. Somehow you know that you are deep underground, but at the same time you feel a dizzying sense of vertigo.


4. You dream of soaring over palaces glittering with jewels and gardens sparkling with fountains. You dream of an ancient golden happiness, long forgotten. As you begin to rise, out of sleep, out of your beautiful dream, you catch a glimpse of a towering black wall on the horizon, fathoms deep and rising, bearing chaotically down on the idyll you left behind.


5. You dream of music, shrill and satanic, floating down from the stars.


6. You dream of a girl, alone and ragged living in the ruins of a city. She looks sadly at you but you cannot move from where you stand amid the grey rubble. She walks away and the wind follows her.


7. You dream of a distant and driving rain which boils the horizon. Inside your carriage you hope to remain dry, but though the window is closed water seeps in around your feet. The sky is black and vortices of sleet pelt down mercilessly. You turn to escape the other way, but the sky behind is just as bad.


8. You are walking a yoked beast through a field of rice, but it is not a yak or an ox, rather something more primal. Tusked but muzzled. And around you is a splendour of mountains.


9. You dream of grappling with a horrid, tentacled creature like a small octopus. It is writhing in vain, trying to reach your face and your eyes. Eventually you cast it away from you into a black and rain-soaked night. But then you are falling for a very long time before you awake.


10. You dream of a strange land and over it there is a tall black shape, almost triangular, but always metamorphosing and inconstant. It is singularly disconcerting and it towers above you like a cathedral. In it you can see shapes moving, half-suggested by an oily variation of colour. You realise that this is a hole and the coloured objects are on the far side. You suddenly realise that through the hole a huge eye is watching you.


11. You dream of a chanting and of bones.


12. You dream of a gigantic skull with tusks, like that of an elephant. It seems very old to you, frighteningly old, from a time before which history books daren't tell. It stares silently from its resting place in a remote mountain valley of scything winds and terrible precipices, waiting to be found.


13. You sleep well and awake rested.


14. You sleep relatively well, though on awakening you are left with an uneasy sensation.

In your dreams you are on a hilltop, among vines and a fresh breeze. You know there is war coming.


15. You dream an epic dream of flying.


16. Your dreams are blurred and unfocused, save for the very clear voice which speaks to you as you begin to wake. But his soft words are lost in the dizzy haze of awakening.


17. In your dreams you are underwater, swamped by a huge all-consuming flood. Strangely you can breathe perfectly well under the waves, but that is small compensation for the loneliness of the acres of empty sea that surround you.


18. You dream you are falling and you start yourself awake.


In the campaign I was running at the time I came up with this idea, only Dream 10 was of any real significance for the adventure at hand, but I had contemplated using images from the other dreams in future adventures. I had multiple copies of Dreams 2, 13, 15 and 18 as they seemed pretty ordinary.

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Articles  (Fiction)   (Game Mastering)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2011-02-10 04:54 PM

More abstractly, it might be an interesting experiment to have a parallel plane of existence accessible by dreamers but particularly by feverish and impressionable artistic types (I'm thinking of course of Lovecraft's dreamlands). What would make this interesting would be concealing the fact from the players. Occasionally you could force PCs to play out the dreams they're experiencing (while my former suggestion was for them just to be read). This would be particularly effective with dreams where they are being chased. Have them suspect that the rolls they are making could mean life-or-death. Maybe the first few times, when they die in the dream-world they just wake up again. As time goes on, maybe the effects become more severe, with real-world HP losses. At the same time they might be able to work out that they can control things to some extent and that there is more to this parallel world than a simple dream. At some point it will dawn on them that there is something to be explored.

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Our First Quest
Locations  (Establishment)   (Water)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2005-12-27 03:25 PM
#13 The Bar of the Maric Gorge
Reply #15 on: August 29, 2005, 12:28:55 PM

The pretty hills of Hsakia are always lush from rainfall, rainfall which collects in rivulets and runs untrammelled through the upland woods and pastures. These tributaries meet and form stronger streams: intertwining, linking they pass on their merry way, ever growing.

These many rivers collect in the Dul basin, forming the enormous Lake Dul, heart of the realm of Hsakia. Hsakia is land-locked, but fiercely naval. Their ships patrol the huge and sprawling lake, which provides fish, water and transport between the seven cities around its shores.

But the currents in the south of Lake Dul are vicious and unseen. Deep beneath the surface the topography of the lake-bed dictates the treacherous course of the water as it approaches the Maric Gorge. How many ships have been taken by the currents? The cries of their crews lost amidst the echoing cliffs of Maric? Too many.

It was the loss of his son, Philip, that prompted Ferenc II to erect the Maric Bar. As Prince of Hsakia, Philip was a proud sailor and spent many days aboard his Royal Yacht. Alas, with youth comes a lack of experience, and despite the warnings of his peers and elders the young Prince strayed too far to the south, never to be seen again.

Ferenc was so utterly distraught that he commanded a barrier to be built across the most dangerous portion of the lake, spanning some ten kilometres. It is a miracle, perhaps, that no lives were lost during the construction. Or perhaps it is because Ferenc employed his most experienced navigators to ship the stone and wood into place.

The Maric Bar is an emblematic achievement for Hsakians. It represents the power of their nation over the water and over Nature. And what Hsakian would not feel a deep sense of national pride when, on a beautiful day, one sees the delicate power of the Bar stretching off into the haze: a line of black between the cerulean above and below.


P.S. "c" here is to be pronounced "ts", as it is in the Czech language.

P.P.S. Sorry, Moonhunter, this entry was long overdue! Go to Comment
One player campaigns
Articles  (Campaign)   (Game Mastering)
ephemeralstability's comment on 2005-12-25 03:56 PM
That is a bizarre situation, Manfred. But it's not only for such eventualities that single-player campaigns are a good idea...

I'm firmly of the opinion that all campaigns should start off with single-player adventures. It gives the players a chance to develop and become familiar with the characters they're playing and gives a much better way of getting them into the adventure than simply sticking a randomly selected group together in a convenient tavern and saying "an old man approaches you". This is the sequence of stages I would usually try and go through to introduce players to a long campaign.

1. Start with a set of single-player adventures, one for each player. This gives their player a background which is much more vivid and memorable than the brief paragraph they might write on the back of their character record sheet.

2. Move on to a set of two-player adventures as the characters meet up. This allows them to establish relationships and friendships between themselves and calls for a much greater degree of roleplaying. Some characters (loners like rangers or druids) might still be adventuring alone at this stage.

3. Finally have the smaller groups amalgamate and the full adventure can begin. Make it a memorable meeting: maybe it begins as a hostile encounter and only eventually turns out to be the foundation of a solid adventuring group.

I think that by following these stages you will achieve a more satisfying result, and I think Manfred's advice is highly pertinent in achieving the first (and to some extent the second) of these stages.

ephe! Go to Comment
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Sargio’s Defoliator

       By: valadaar

Appearing a small ballista bolt, this ‘bolt’ is actually an arrow used by a god from a long-dead pantheon. Some sages theorize it was a weapon crafted by Loki to slay the world tree. Why it was never used escapes them however.
The spear has a divine-level anti-plant effect. When driven into the soil point first, a ever widening circle of destruction radiates out from the point, killing any plant material. Perfect for holding a kingdom’s food supply for ransom.

How far it extends depends of course on the GM, of course.

Ideas  ( Items ) | January 22, 2014 | View | UpVote 5xp