What is a red herring, you ask? It has several meanings, according to the Wikipedia, here a few selected ones:
- in detective work, mystery fiction, and puzzle-solving, a false clue which leads investigators, readers, or solvers towards an incorrect solution
- in literature, a plot device intended to distract the reader from a more important event in the plot, usually a twist ending.
- in adventure games, an item or object of no practical use; its purpose may be to frustrate the gamer who tries to find the intended use for it.
Shortly, it is something that misleads you, and leads further from truth. Alas for the poor players and game characters, sometimes it is these plots that have the greatest attraction for the stressed Game Master. But fear not too much, they can be great fun even for others.
Feel free to add other plots (and Items, even NPCs) of this kind.
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CodexDemonic Hysteria By: Scrasamax ( Plots ) Crisis - Mini-Campaign
I’ll tell you something, there was a demon in Widow Suvar’s Wine cellar. How do I know, ‘cuz I seen it that’s how I know.
There comes a time in the life of every PC when they come face to face with the worst evil that can be imagined. No, I don’t mean the tax collector or the mother in law, I mean the penultimate villian, the Demon. (The dragon being the ultimate villian) But there in lies the problem. Like the dragon, the Demon has been diluted, damaged, watered down and so thouroughly distributed that it has lost it’s vital essence. Demon Hysteria should do a nice bit of refueling that essence.
A week or so ago there was an event at Widow Suvari’s wine cellar. (Feel free to insert your own slightly out of the way and eccentric NPC) It was the subject of all the gossip in the region, reaching the lips of barkeeps and hostelers even in the next county. There might even be a small mention of the event in the circles of the lesser nobility. According to local witnesses, mainly the farm-hand James Barley and two local thugs turned mercenary, there was a demonic event in the wine cellar.
All three witnesses reported screaming and an invisible assailant that smashed most of the wine bottles, dousing them with the contents as they were working for the Widow to stock the cellar for the winter. To their honor, each of the men were badly scratched, bruised, and one of the mercenaries, Von Lout, had suffered a bruised brainpan and a broken arm. Each of the men had been so badly frightened that they quickly consumed as much of the partially fermented drink as they could to avoid their memories.
Burning Through the Grapevine
Gossip spread quickly through the community. Some, Von Lout and his fiance accused Widow Suvari of demonolatry, and keeping evil spirits in her basement. A few locals laugh off the account and claim that the only evil spirits in her basement are the bottles of wine that sour over the winter and end up being sold as vinegar.
James Barley accosts any new comers at the local tavern with a beer soaked account of his horrifying encounter with the demon that he was barely able to survive. If not for his Medallion of Saint Duncan/Amulet of Demon Repulsion he would have surely died. This goes on for a week or two before the seed finds fertile soil.
Hellfire and Brimstone
A traveling priest and entourage hear the story and decide to follow it up. The Priest speaks with the Widow and is allowed to explore her wine cellar. He ventures into the structure and is suddenly accosted by an unseen presence that defies his attempts to exorcise it. Panicked, the Priest flees. Later forays are planned into the Wine Cellar. Quite daunted by the prospect of a genuine demon, the Priest sends for clerical reinforcements.
All Hell Breaks Loose
It isnt long before con-men and hucksters flock to the community, some come for the chance to see the Suvari Demon, others come to pander demon charms and other false relics. It isnt long before ‘sure signs’ of demonic influence are passed around. Severe headache, strange noises, unexplained lights after dark, bizarre animal behaviour. Soon half the community is stricken by Demon Hysteria. Little imps are everywhere, scaring off livestock, tearing up clothing on drying lines and causing no end of mischief and suffering. Many of the grange-ladies are laid up with demon-spawned maladies. (Or they attribute demonic power to their normal maladies)
Soon heros and would-be heros start flocking to the area, after all there is a demon to take down (and we all know demons have PHAT XP!) Fights and brawls break out, and it is obvious to all that the elusive Suvari demon is to blame. Some folk begin to whisper that it was Widow Suvari’s minion all along…
There is no demon, nor was there ever one. Barley and the Von Lout Brothers concocted the story to cover up the fact that the trio ended up drunk in Widow Suvari’s wine cellar and a drunken brawl broke out. Rather than have to apy for damages inflicted and stolen wine, they concocted the story to save their own hides. Besides, everyone knows that the locals are gullible.
When the Priest arrives, Barley lets the Von Lout brothers know he is about, and they decide they dont want to be exposed as liars and fakers by the Church. The brothers lay in wiat for the priest and stage a mock demonic attack. Since there is no demon at all, the Priest’s spells of Exorcism do absolutely nothing, convincing the priest that the demon is incredibly powerful.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, and the priest’s actions have validated the claim of the deomon, the locals suffer ‘sympathy pains’. Barley and Louts become local celebrities, each willing to recount how horrible the demon actually looked (previously it was invisible) talks with the priest are the same, he could ‘feel the grasping black claws of the demon about his neck as he fled the wine cellar.’ He wouldn’t want to reveal that he was run off by screaming and breaking bottles, now would he.
Fun time begins as the Von Louts and Barley discover that they can have alot of vandalistic fun that is going to be put off on the local demon. Their merry rampage gains speed and destructive power. Animals are let out, windows are broken, and all of the sort of juvenile deliquincy that can be expected of grown men half drunk with the promise of no consequences. They themselves are even ‘attacked’ to throw off suspicions of the locals.
The Breaking Point
The locals, now brimming with fear over the demon decide to nip it in the bud, and go forth and burn down Widow Suvari’s house with her inside. The death of a rather harmless old lady shakes the trio, and one of the Von Lout brothers confesses that the entire thing was a hoax…
Now that is a heck of a story, but how can I use it in a game, O Rogue Scholar?
Good question and I am glad you asked.
The PCs encounter James Barley or one of the Von Lout brothers and they recount the tale of violence and destruction. They are having so much fun they dont want to stop, but some of the more canny locals, and that dang sherrif, have started noticing there is a limit to the range of the demon’s power. The trio (or a single member) decide to bring in some other people on the action. If the PCs are of a rogueish bent and might enjoy letting loose with some reckless mayhem this would be a good option. They cause some destruction and are later interviewed by the locals for descriptions of the demon. How much fun can they have before the inevitable death of the Widow?
Jeenkies, a Clue!
In true Scooby-Doo fashion, the PCs come to investigate the rumor of the Suvari Demon and end up hot on the tail of the rampaging trio. Can they uncover the truth before the locals decide to take matters into their own hands? Can they save the Widow (she’s wealthy yo!) before they burn her home and kill her in the process? What if they do the opposite and rouse the locals to burn her house, or even go after the Widow herself? They’re criminals now.
The Real Deal
Perhaps everything above is fake, and there really is a demon loose. Rather than appear as a blazing ball fo fangs, tentacles and obscene writhing organs, it has decided to play a shadow-game and uses the trio as it’s unwilling and unwitting puppets. They have actually seen the demon, and their descriptions are accurate. Opposite of the Scooby-Doo caper, can the PCs discover the real power behind the Suvari Demon?
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Elven Green Tea By: Scrasamax ( Items ) Other - Non-Magical
Found at the best cafes, and commanding the highest prices…
Full Item Description
According to the vendor, elven green tea is picked from tea trees growing near the heart of the elven lands. The trees are watered by dew, and the leaves are picked by elfin maids who are not deemed old enough to wander the world freely. Once picked, the leaves are carefully prepared and dried, ensuring that the best flavor possible is preserved.
Tea has had a long history, one that has ranged from a simple treat, to being a symbol of revolt, as in the Boston Tea Party. It is only fitting that the drink make its way into the fantasy milieu, with a suitable twist.
The Real Deal
Elven Green Tea is a complete and total barmy lie. There are no magical glades of elven tea trees, and there are no young nublie elven princesses picking it. The Elven Green Tea, and associated Guild of the same name have simply come up with one heck of an idea. Since few humans ever see the elven homelands, it is easy to slap the name “Elven” on their product and sell it. It is an easy scam, many nobles are eager to buy anything that is haute-couture. Elven products demand a radically higher price than comparative human wares, why shouldn’t someone benefit from that?
The Guild maintains tea orchards in the old satrapy of Falhath, well south of Sangreal. The warm climate favors the trees well and despite its price, the tea is of good quality. Local workers, usually children and younger women actually do much of the picking and drying since it is not as heavy labor as the jobs of the men. Most local men are involved in stone cutting, mining, and the sowing and harvest of cotton, flax, and other heavy crops.
A small band of ships handle shipping the cargo along the coast, passing it along through proxy so that it never arrives at a selling destination in a human build cargoship. In some areas, Half-Elves are hired to deliver the tea to its consumer, furthering the image of the product. The operation is expensive, but the price of the tea more than compensates for the cost.
The Cost of Tea - Pirates have been active along the coast, and the tea coasters have made inviting targets. The pirates have taken to smuggling the tea into towns and selling it cheap. The Elven Green Tea Guild wants the PCs to A. protect a ship, B. Hunt down the pirates and destroy them, C. infiltrate the pirates to help the guild’s mercenaries put them all to the sword.
Bonfire - The local clergy decries the cost of tea, and the amount of money that nobles are spending on it. The Clergy want the shipments halted. Alternately, a political faction, such as Via Humanitae could decide to embargo any and all products made by non-human races.
The Potion - A local alchemist discovers a way to create a healing or general health tonic from distilling tea leaves. The PCs are requested to try it out on their daring adventures.
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Imp Orb By: CaptainMayday ( Items ) Other - Sentient
This small orb, perfectly spherical, a deep, but transparent red, and very reminiscent of a standard marble, but also holds and imp who can also speak to the mind of whoever holds it. It is one of a set.
Known to their creator, the long dead demon Lanf-taer, as ‘Imp Orbs’, each one holds a small demon of the imp variety, they have come to be dispersed throughout the world since his death in one of the demonic wars, centuries ago.
Lanf-taer distributed each of them to the heads of various groups of his cult, there were originally 25, but now there are only 14. His orders were to use them to aid in accomplishing his goals.
The imps were therefore originally summoned forth from the orbs in order to do mischief, or any other task, at the behest of the cult leader to which they were assigned. This allowed them a certain amount of time outside the orbs, which they enjoyed. In this time they also learnt a great deal about the world.
Since Lanf-taer’s demise, the cults disbanded, and nobody thought further of the imps. Apart from the imps themselves, that is. The imps cannot tell anybody how to free them, as they simply do not know themselves. They are unaware of the world outside the orb unless the orb is held, and the summoning ritual did not require contact.
Each orb is a pocket dimension, which, when brought in contact with another orb, will merge with it. The imps therein will do combat, and one shall prevail. Eventually, the last imp standing hopes to have accumulated enough power through defeating the others and absorbing their life force to break free of their prison, by force alone.
When a battle has completed, one orb can be seen by the bearer to melt into the other, which retains exactly the same weight and size.
Whether this will work or not remains to be seen, but the imps generally do not wish to tell anyone of their plans.
Instead, the Imps who believe they will win these battles seek out other orbs, and those who do not seek to stay away. The imps are aware of the position of all other orbs, but only when held.
In order to be transported to other orbs, the Imps will lie to whoever finds them, promising them a great reward, should they manage to get the orb to all of the others. This is not likely to be the truth, but an Imp with access to the mind of its bearer can subtly manipulate their perception to make it seem like the truth. They will also use this ability to find the most likely lure that will interest the bearer.
Due to the survival instinct of the orbs that do not wish to be found by the others, they are often located in monster infested hellholes, which is their means of protection. If they are located by adventurers, they will attempt to guide them far away from the other orbs, and probably into an even more dangerous place where they will feel safer. Any place the adventurers survive is not safe enough.
Ironically, those who do wish to be found can also often be located in such places, dropped by their bearers as they were swarmed by monsters, while en route to or from another orb. The imps are patient enough to wait for more greedy adventurers, however. Even if they are somehow lost, they are confident that another orb will find them.
Perhaps the party, a greedy party, finds an orb that wishes to be found. It could trick them into seeking out the remaining orbs for them. Whether it rewards them, or stiffs them, afterwards remains to be seen.
Or perhaps they find an orb that doesn’t wish to be found. The orb might offer them knowledge of the location of a powerful weapon, or somesuch, if they will only move it to another place. Whether the imp inside actually knows the location of said item is up for debate. It is doubtful that the party would be too pleased if they manage to get the imp to its destination, and it does not.
Or maybe they are on their way to getting an orb that doesn’t wish to be found to its ‘secure location’ and they find themselves assaulted by another group of adventurers with another orb. Possibly this happens a couple of times. If they realise that all might not be as it seems, they may well be able to extort the imp with threats into actually helping them, instead of just saying it will.
Or maybe they find themselves with an orb that is hunting another orb carried by do-gooder adventurers who just want to help save an orb from whatever it told them was after it. What happens when you beat up the local heroes to get a talking rock off them? Can’t imagine they didn’t have a few friends.
Imp orbs are simply magical containers containing imps. Destroying an orb takes extreme force. Holding an orb allows mental conversation with the imp, and more, as the imp taps in to the bearers mind in order to trick them into helping. When held they are also aware of the location of all other orbs.
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Malachrite Falcon By: MoonHunter ( Items ) Art and Music - Magical
The Malachrite Falcon is one of those legendary treasures that people have been hunting for over the centuries. The Malachrite Falcon has a legendary past, mixed with the Great Orders of the Past. The Malachrite Cult, The Sethians, the Kings of Cronos, and just some of the great orders who have owned it. The last public owners were the Blades of the GoldenSun, a legendary order of warriors from the ancient Imperial days. The Blades were either the greatest warriors for Good or the most famous scam artists depending on who is writing the history. When the Blades were “broken” by Emperor Coscious the Mad, their treasuries were looted. The Falcon was one of the treasures not accounted for. It was considered spirited away by some Blades.
Full Item Description
Though the Malachrite Falcon would appear to be a crudly carved falcon made of a black lead one cubit tall, the black covers the soild gold statue underneith it. The gold is extremely valuable, but it is the historical worth of the Falcon, because of it various owners, that makes it more valuable. The item is said to have magical powers, but what those powers are is vague.
There have been dozens of forgeries and vanity copies made of the Falcon over the centuries. If you encounter a large black lead bird, it will probably be one of these (though some are almost as famous or infamous as the original).
There is a reason so many organizations have vied for this object. Inside of it is the bound spirit of the great Wizard Seer Quiro Vran or “The Black Wing”. This legendary Malachrite (his nationality/ society) wrote several of the most important early thesis on Magic. If one can speak to spirits and possesses the statue, you can ask the Black Wing questions about magic, the past, and sometimes the future. The Falcon has become a powerful tool used by the Great Orders.
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Red Erring By: Agar ( NPCs ) Mythic/ Historical - Knowledge/Lore
Yes, it’s the wise old man you alway knew you’d meet.
Staff, wry wit, an archtypical long white beard and hair, pointy hat.
Old. White hair. Long white beard. Pointy hat with a large brim. Gnarled staff. Squinty eyes. Glasses (sometimes).
Very hard to pick out of a line up of Gandalf or Dumbledor look alikes.
He’s the guy that the players meet when you need to give them a nudge towards what you want them to see. The only older trick is to have them start the adventure in a bar. Some think he’s an agent working either for or against the fates. He just seems to know when to show up, when to leave, knows when to hold ‘em, knows when to fold ‘em
The trick about this guy is he’s been on the job a long time. He has tried to get the right persons to the right places so the course of life can continue on in a timely manner, but people are so damnably contrary. He says “Don’t go in the field, the gaurdian there is too powerful for you.” and whoosh, off the kids go into the field. After far too many experiances, he has learned.
When he apppears before the players, he tells them the wrong directions.
“The quickest path to the kingdom lies along the north fork, not the south fork bearing the tax collector’s wagon and armed escort.” This is how he would get the players to go south, whether or not there was a tax wagon.
“There are two ways to enter the duchy. the mountain trail, while shorter, is often rainswept and shelter is sparse. The forest trail has small villages and taverns spread out along it’s length, but it will take an extra 3 days of travel.” This is how he gets them to meet someone in a tavern at the forest’s edge.
Just give a moment’s thought on what the players want and where they would go if they thought something they wanted was there. He’s not a very helpful old guy, or accurate, but he knows how to get the job done.
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Snowflake By: manfred ( NPCs ) Mythic/ Historical - Travelers
Snowflake is a white-scaled dragon that has gone slightly mad: not only does she like people (not for lunch,that is!), but she wants them to be happy and fine, even if it is not to their liking…
A white-scaled dragon. Legendary, but almost never seen, for she is too shy.
History unknown. For the last few hundred years regularly performing for ‘the poor little people’. She became a legend in its own right, known by most children.
If you are a dragon and like people, that is a serious problem. The best solution may be to help from afar, letting them have at least some joy in their short lives.
Snowflake knows only one thing worth sharing: the joys of winter. So, whenever she wakes up, and there is not enough snow, she simply makes it.
Effect: in random intervals (let’s say 3d20 years), a random city or village will be visited by the mythical Snowflake. Be it summer or winter, a snowstorm comes and covers everything in knee-deep wonderful white. ;)
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Tatterdemalions-of-the-Flailing-Leper By: Murometz ( Lifeforms ) Flora - Swamp
A higly misunderstood flora.
The Tatterdemalions-of-the-Flailing-Leper is a fanciful but somewhat fitting name for this vegetation, a bizarre plant which is extremely rare to find as a "Flailing-Leper", or the mother-plant state, while the pod-like leaves of the plant, the "Tatterdemalions", which tend to fall off, allowing the winds to twirl them for many miles, are more commonly encountered by adventurers.
The Flailing Leper
It is difficult to describe a Flailing Leper in full bloom, without nauseating the reader. A bulbous bush the size of a horse, with countless spines, drooping, sap-filled pods, flies buzzing inside their contours, with crooked stalks and branches extending like broken fingers in all directions, and bizarre rag-like leaves and growths that resemble so many dirty strips of cloth flapping in the wind. The colors of the Flailing Leper mother-plant are a rainbow of obscenities. Rust, ocher, dried blood, fat-tallow, sepia, olivine, mauve, and various flesh-tones, a true kaleidescope of eye-pain. This plant can best be described from afar, as a giant ragamuffin made up of swirling bits of stained, filthy cloth strips, and from near, as a grotesque abomination of nature. The Flailing Leper even makes a horrendous, gurgling noise, further distancing itself from species of common flora. One would expect a foul smell to ooze from the bowels of such a "monster", to go along with the gurgling, but alas, the mother-plant smells feintly of drying leather. A single redeeming trait perhaps?
Once a season, the mother-plant Flailing Leper, will release its elongated rag-like leaves into the air, as it is the weird leaves of this plant, which carry the seedlings, in their many folds and twists. These leaves will usually clump together forming dust-devils of "rags", occassionally taking on mildly humanoid appearences. The tatterdemalions have no leathery smell like the mother-plant, and are harmless in every way. Sometimes wood elves can be seen wearing the Tatterdemalion swirls as camouflage cloaks, but superstitious humans just usually torch the "flying rags" whenever they come swirling into villages.
This plant is highly misunderstood, as mentioned, and constantly mistaken for other creatures. Some say the Flailing-Leper motherplant resembles a roper, or an otyugh or even a shambling mound, and the Tatterdemalions of the plant, lend credence to legends of ragamuffins, scarecrows, cloth-golems, and yes, even "flying leaf-demons."
Bards strangely, are known to be rather fond of including references to this bizarre plant in their ballads, both those humorous and tragic, challenging themselves to find rhymes to pair with the flora’s name in various innovative and clever ways. It is said in some circles, that if a bard does not have at least one composition featuring or at least mentioning the Tatterdemalions-of-the-Flailing-Leper, he is not worth his salt.
Sinsiter qualities are ascribed the flora as well. Some even say that the plant actually causes leprosy, but that is categorically untrue. Countless adventurers have come back to town, riding atop wagon-loads of the pulled, chopped, and uprooted flora, yet sages can make neither heads nor tails of the giant "vege-beasts", nor make any sense of the possible uses or applications for them. Botanists and alchemists are likewise stumped and confounded.
Most animals avoid the plant, its fleshy pulp is not even edible. Birds refuse to drink the collected dew and rain-water from the plant’s contours. The flora seems to fit no master plan nor food-chain hierarchy. The Tatterdemalions-of-the-Flailing-Leper seems to be merely a revolting, putrid, unredeemable mistake of nature, nothing more and nothing less.
Unless of course, one understands the plant, which so few do, in which case some good can be squeezed from its pulpy, flesh-like form. But only the red-sashed monks of the Herringbone Brotherhood, those secretive explorers of the world’s mysteries, may know the true properties and nature of this disgusting, and even worse, seemingly useless, monstrosity.
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The Aohd Charm By: Scrasamax ( Items ) Jewelry - Non-Magical
Gauranteed to protect you from nightmares, hexes, and the diseases of the loins
Full Item Description
Aohd Charms are generally some sort of small vial that is worn on a chain around the neck. Most tend to be small pewter and brass vials originally used to hold small amounts of blessed water. More peasant versions tend to be made out of wood or animal horn, and though very rare there are bone and ivory vials that often appear as Aohd Charms and sell for great deals of money. The Charm is filled with the tears of elf maidens, who according to tales are most reluctant to shed tears through their long and ageless lives.
Before the advent for rapid transit and near instant communication, all sorts of strange ideas and notions were formed about unknown people. In Aterrizar there are elves and those of mixed heritage, but they are a distinct minority. The lands to the west are called ‘the elven lands’ with an air of mystery. Central to that mystery is the great city of Aohd, the gateway between the world of man and elf. Genuine elven goods command high to exorbitant prices at market, and well made counterfeit or well presented shams can also bring high prices. The Elven Green Tea Company has made a huge fortune by playing on this common perception.
Some less than scrupulous cons have also come from the misconceptions between man and the elusive elves. In many of the old tales from the west, the tear of an elf maid falling on the face of a slain man can bring him back to life. Other tales speak of elven lords cleansing the ill of plague, healing mortal wounds with whispers of ancient songs and springs of commonly found herbs and berries. It is certainly a fact that the elves, most ancient of races, are masters of magic and the natural order of the world. The most common of these cons is that the tears of an elf will protect a wearer from nightmares, curses, and prevent them from catching diseases from unclean prostitutes.
Of course this is patently false. The charm is not in the vial, but in the charisma of the charlatan selling them to naive commoners, gullibles nobles, and easily duped ‘wise men’. The liquid inside is most often local water with a pinch of salt in it, and perhaps, if the seller is especially good a pinch of lavender oil or atar of roses.
While not going into full detail here, Aohd is indeed the ‘gateway’ between the lands of man and elf, but there is nothing magical about it. Aohd was built along human construction lines and the bulk of the population is indeed human with a sizeable minority of elf half breeds. It is a trade port, though it is eclipsed by the greater port of Glenn on the Peninsula. There will be more forthcoming about this region in future submissions.
The Aohd Charm has no magical properties or protections.
Scammed - The PCs come across a charm dealer who sells them Aohd charms to protect them from the plague, mysterious witch, or dirty whores in the next town. The PCs might be pick-pocketed after they buy the charms, or while he tries to get them to buy something else.
Give Me Your Tears, or I Will Take Them - A PC elf is accosted at a local village by peasants demanding that the elf cry for them so that they can make said charms to protect themselves. Does the Pc shed tears for the ignorant commoners, what happens when the charms fail? What happens if for some reason they start to actually work? Sit back and watch the Pc/player squirm.
The Collector - a mage has started collecting the charms being made by a certain charm dealer who moves from town to town. The mage hires the PCs to find the charm dealer and bring him to the mage. Finding the wanderer is half the battle, the other half is getting him to confront the mage, something the dealer has ZERO desire to do. While the dealer fears being unmasked for being a fraud, the mage is looking for a worker to start making vials and bottles for him, something the dealer is very good at.
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The Box That Cannot Be Opened By: manfred ( Items ) Other - Magical
A strange, mystical box, with many rumours attached, that does not want to reveal its secret…
This cube is about 1 feet large, dark red in colour, with veins of both light and still darker red. It feels like wood, gives off no scent. A fine line indicates it is really openable, and a keyhole suggests in what way. No hinges are visible. If shaken, something can be felt to hit on the inside, but no sound is heard. If magic is detected for, it is there, but it cannot be made certain of what kind, and in what amount.
The box can be found anywhere, it can be given as a gift, it could be sold, stolen, whatever.
The box can not be opened. No usual or unusual way works. A key is not present, and no other will not work. Picking the lock is a nightmare for the thief, and some have really gone crazy trying to achieve this. No tool can force the lock, nor can any force even scratch the box at all. Indeed, it is likely the frustrated owner will throw it from a very high place one day, to find the damned box be in perfect condition. Its colour cannot be changed, nor its surface.
Just right, it cannot be opened.
Throughout the centuries, the box had countless owners, and many rumours and almost myths have arisen around it.
- It comes from the Devil (or substitute with other evil deity/demon/whatever). If you buy it, you must sell it for a smaller price, or you are horribly cursed/your soul belongs to him/you will die in a month/etc.
- It is a prison for a horrible demon/a pure being/powerful wizard/... Or it will simply end the world if it is ever opened. That’s why it came into that dungeon…
- It is a godly gift, and the gods themselves will grant one wish to the mortal that manages to open it.
- A great heap of gold/the secret of immortality/the greatest diamond ever/the cure for all diseases is locked inside, awaiting the lucky one.
- A terrible disease is hidden in it, waiting to be released.
- The true king shall open the box, and find some royal insignia to confirm his claim on the throne.
...and thus spoke the godly———- and the common ******* for a long time. But in time the mighty god was greatly annoyed by this low creature, and as found no other (non-violent…) way to get rid of him, he presented the box as a gift and puzzle, so he finds out how to open it, and then enjoys the gift. But they shall not speak again, until it happens.
(Or any prankster god will do.)
The Box is a godly artifact, indestructible and unopenable, unless you are a god yourself. It is empty.
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The False Sword of Crog By: Dragonlordmax ( Items ) Melee Weapons - Combat
“So this is the sword of Crog, the legendary hero…right?” This weapon may prove that psychology can be better than magic.
Any modern day historian could tell you the story of Crog the Mighty, the ten-foot tall half-dragon who was strong enough to rip a tree in half with his bare hands.
Any modern day historian would be wrong.
Several hundred years ago, the province of Pemulio, the southern-most region of the country of Agaror, was ruled by Crog the Mighty. Crog was, in fact, a normal human, albeit a particularly strong one. The real advantage that he held was his sword, a family heirloom. While wielding it, his strength increased and he gained the ability to fly. (Think superman. He can attack while hovering, but must lay flat to soar).
To the south of Pemulio were the Kaelv Mountains, and beyond them the Kingdom of Tajiv. In that land, the Warrior-Princes were flocking to the banner of Taeland, the new king, and his pet sorcerer, Malkoon.
Taeland gathered thousands upon thousands of warriors, mounted them on fast horses and elephants, and rode north to expand into Agaror. With such a vast army at his disposal, he was certain that he could defeat the provincial armies piecemeal.
Were it not for the vigilance of Crog’s guards, the war would have been over before it started. Thankfully, however, the border guard warned their lord and Crog immediately took action.
Dispatching one of his trusty messengers to request aid from the capital, Crog mustered the provincial army and led them to Catharyn Pass, a narrow gorge though which the Taji army would have to travel.
The two armies clashed dozens of times, and each time the Pemulions held up the horde, thanks, in large part, to Crog’s magically endowed ability to soar around the battlefield, so as to hunt down enemy mages and leaders. Each time the Pemulion army seemed on the brink of a rout, Crog would rally them to his sword and repel the invaders.
After almost two months of the the Pemulions’ heroic defense, the Agarorian army grew near.
The Taji army planned to launch one final, all-out assault against the Pemulions, and in preparation, Malkoon, the Taji King’s wizard, magically created a weapon that was literally identical to Crog’s sword. Utilizing a spy within the Pemulion camp, Malkoon arranged for the two swords to be exchanged, and had the real one teleported to his tower.
The Taji launched their final assault, and Crog, stuck with the fake sword, could do nothing about the wizards who obliterated his army from afar. However, when the Taji led their charge, Crog was the last Pemulion to fall, the false sword in his hand.
Cavrin, the Taji general, believing this sword to be the original, claimed it for himself. He then led the taji army into Pemulio and made it into a state of Tajik, with himself as governor.
Thankfully, Crog’s sacrifice had enabled the Agarorian army to get into position so as to repel all further assaults.
Malkoon eventually attempted to draw the real sword’s energies into himself, destroying it in the process (not to mention warping himself to another dimension).
The False Sword remained with the family of Cavrin until one-hundred years had passed, when Molkoth, a mighty dragon and the high priest of a large draconic cult, attacked the province, slew the governor’s family, and took their treasure for himself.
Another hundred years passed, culminating in a successfull plot by the highest ranking dragons in the cult to do away with Morkoth. Then, after sufficient bloodshed, these dragons divided up his treasure amongst themselves. The sword was acquired by Gavastor the Titanic, one of the largest dragons ever to walk the world. It remains in his horde to this day.
The False Sword of Crog was created without any magical properties, so as to permit its construction in the span of a single day.
However, due to fact that Crog died with the weapon in his hands, it has taken on some of the aspects of his spirit.
First, it is unbreakable. It also never rusts. While it can be damaged, any sort of physical change to the weapon (notching, edging with silver, etc.) requires ten times the normal amount of effort.
Second, the sword has a sort of loyalty to its owner, and if he would be disarmed due to a disarm attack or a critical miss, the sword is merely stuck in something instead.
Finally, the weapon has an obvious psychological value. The fact that this weapon is in every way identical to the sword described in every legend of Crog may result in the wielder’s gaining an advantage due to his or her belief that this is truly the sword of Crog.
As a side note, it should be remembered that all modern legends claim that Crog was a half-dragon. This may lead to any dragon or half-dragon’s possession of the blade being hailed as a sign that they are, in fact, a descendent of Crog.
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The Lingonberry Report By: Murometz ( Items ) Books and Scrolls - Non-Magical
TOP SECRET! A Pickled Herring
Full Item Description
No one knows what the Lingonberry Report actually is. There are as many theories and claims to its nature as there are blades of grass in the fields. What is agreed upon, is that the Lingonberry Report exists, well…mostly agreed upon. There are those afterall that claim it never existed. What really is agreed upon, is that it was some sort of document, alas, almost universally agreed upon. There are those that ascribe far greater attributes to it than that.
The Romantic versions
As mentioned, there are countless theories. Here are but a few, ranging from the mundane to the ridiculous. These are the Six Factions.
1- The “Spymasters” claim that it was a top secret diplomatic document, sent from one ruler to another, which contained dreadful political secrets. It was named using cryptic code. “The Lingonberry Report” is a spy cypher these people claim, but no one has been able to unscramble it to anyone elses satisfaction thus far. Those that subscribe to this theory, get quite annoyed when told its meaning would now be irrelevant, as the Lingonberry Report dates back three hundred years or more, according to the calculations of the Spymasters themselves.
2- Much, much older than that, say the “Antediluveans”, as this next school of theorists call themselves. They claim, the Lingonberry Report dates back several thousand years, and that it was written by none other than the now extinct, but once nearly immortal Forest-Lords. “Oh! What ancient wisdom could be gleamed in those pages!” the Antediluveans preach, as they search the lands for it, consulting druids and when possible, Treants. The quickest way to anger one of these people, is to mention that the Forest-Lords would probably not call something the Lingonberry ‘Report’. Nor were they known to have any particular connection to the tiny tart red berry of its namesake.
3- The “Brownrobes”, as another LR sect is called, believe that this was not a document between rulers, but an earth-shattering religious secret sent by one head of church to another. The Brownrobes claim, that the LR reveals a faith-changing exclamation! They whisper that it confesses to the One True Faith’s “Great Fraud” and that it is written on its pages that THE SOURCE was invented by the One-King, his cronies and advisers in a bold effort to gain control of the populace!
This group is tragically fun! They have stumbled upon the ultimate religious truth of their own particular world, but the LR, much to their ignorance, has less than nothing to do with it.
4- There are those that say the LR is not a document at all, but the “First Berry”. When the gods were creating the flora of the fields, mountains, and forests, the very first edible plant they made, was a Lingonberry Bush. It was when the gods tasted their creation that they got the idea to create Man, due to the sublime taste of the scarlet little berry, and the Divine Brethren’s need to create some new creature to appreciate it. The “Redmouths” as this group is known, due to their incessant eating of the berry, claim that the original berry is still out there, and holds incredible powers of healing and longevity. This is another group that huff and puff when questioned as to why in the world the word ‘Report’ would be attached to such a Divine Miracle. They proceed to offer thousands of incoherent and convoluted explanations.
5- Then there are those who simply go too far. “The Realists” as they laughably call themselves, claim that everyone else has it wrong. They claim to use logic and say that if LR is spelled backwards, one gets the words, Troper-Yrre-B’Nognil, which as everyone knows, is the name of the lamb-headed Abyssal Lord of the six hundred and sixty sixth plane. The Realists have a clever theory. They say that the LR is a trick played upon mortals by the demonlord. Its only purpose, they claim, is to stir the curiosities of the conspiracy and mystery loving humans. The sinister notion is that whenever “LR” is said aloud by anyone, the demonlord takes one step closer to earth, and when LR is spoken for the 666,666 time, HE will come! The problem with these chaps is that they themselves engender more interest among people, simply by denouncing the LR and warning against its evils.
6- A final group of interest are the “Treasure Hunters”. These adventurous chaps, full of piss and vinegar, claim that the LR was nothing less than a spectacular treasure, which was sent from one King to another, as a dowry for his daughter. These people claim that it was innocently enough called the LR, to throw any possible shady characters from learning of its grandeur during its transportation. As to what this treasure is, they are divided and unsure, but whatever it is, this group is convinced that the LR is an oak and mahogany crate or chest, and that it is out there somewhere for the intrepid to find! This group cant be reasoned with at all. They laugh off all objections and queries. They are happy being the only ones who “know”. Less competition to find the LR and get rich!
The Bitter Truth
The Lingonberry report does date back from approximately three hundred years ago, so the “Spymasters” have at least that right, as well as that it was a communication between kings. It was an annual letter King Yail sent to King Draved, asking for updates on the crop of lingon berries he so loved. Yails lands did not grow the scrumptious fruit, but Draved’s did in abundance. Every year Draved would reply and soon after, when the berries ripened, he would send his friend an oaken crate filled to the rim with Yail’s favorite food. The “Treasure Hunters” seem to have the crate part correct ironically. Draved’s farmers first learned of ligonberry cultivation from a reclusive Forest-Lord, therefore the “Antediluveans” kind of have that going for them. The Pope of Yail’s land was another fan of the fruit, and would often come to Yail’s palace to partake in the delicacy. It was said he once exclaimed, “Oh Lingonberry, Thou art surely the greatest and first fruit of the gods!” Thats about as close to the truth as the “Redmouths” and “Brownrobes” get with their bizarre divine theories and notions, and its a stretch to say the least. Finally, the “Realists” are simply ignorant.
A GM can have fun with this and introduce the Lingonberry Report at any given time in a campaign. It could be the Giant-Red-Herring-DaVinci-Code-Dingus-Wannabee-Thingy that it is, or it could be the holy grail the PCs have been looking for all this time. Plus meeting the “Six Factions” could be fun, watching PCs choose whom to believe and whom not to.
Dedicated to a Norwegian friend and his welcomed Lingonberry Report!
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The Prophecies of Aeriolaineus the Sage By: Kinslayer ( Items ) Books and Scrolls - Non-Magical
This millennia-old book is one of the most famous books of prophecy in all of the realms, second only to the Book of the Cannon itself, and takes the front seat in the minds of most as the quintessential book foretelling the future.
But all is not as it seems
Full Item Description
This is one of the most famous books of prophecy in all of the realms, second only to the Book of the Cannon itself. As most people don’t consider that a prophetic work (as it is a religious text), the Prophecies of Aeriolaineus the Sage takes the front seat in the minds of most as the quintessential book foretelling the future. This text purports to be the work of an ancient Elven scholar, diviner, and loremaster, one Aeriolaineus. These prophecies are over seventeen-thousand years old. As such things often are, the prophecies are encoded in cryptic and poetic form, and offer no explanation of their true meaning or intent. 2014 different poems make up this text.
No living Elf remembers meeting this prophetess of old, and no documentation of her life exists before the first printing of this book. The book’s proponents say this is proof of the true antiquity of the prophecies. Furthering the book’s ancient heritage, the text was originally compiled by the great Elven historian Telliu, who in turn employed an unnamed Kobold scribe for translation & copying. Some accounts state that the unnamed scribe was Dwarven, but the introduction to the Prophecies (written much later) is silent as to the species of the hand that penned it.
The Prophecies have been translated into several languages: notably Anglan, Bizzannite, Elven, Killian, and Runic. The Anglan edition is the most popular, and most agree that the re-translation back into Elven is lacking, with most of the poetic art completely lost in the process. Part of the problem with selling this book to an Elven audience could simply be that most Elves find the name ‘Aeriolaineus’ to be dreadfully ugly, and wonder what sort of parents would name their little girl that.
Depending on how one interprets the individual prophecies, anywhere from 60% to 90% is estimated to have come to pass. As the prophetic poems are not listed chronologically—instead placed according to writing style—there is no easy divider as to what has become history and what is yet to come. The book’s proponents often cite unrecognised and unfulfilled sections for any number of contemporary issues, despite the unlikeliness of a seventeen-thousand year old prophecy covering such things.
Look ye to where
The clouds touch the fields
The shadows rise among them
And none were found
Who could stay their wrath
And none were found
Who could withstand their teeth
And none were found
Look ye to the soil
Covered in ashes and tears
Darkened by dread
Brightened by bone
Inspiring in sadness
And wrath knew its place
Lost and wandering
Even roses wept
The above example illustrates the confusion over some—indeed most—of the book’s prophecies. Some believe that it foretells an invasion by the Hobgoblin forces amassed in the Farreaches. Others feel it has already come true as it prophesied the birth of the Olde Empire in the first place. Hobgoblins themselves typically believe that it either refers to the foundation of the Kingdom of Formour, or that an as-yet-unknown enemy will emerge and destroy that land.
None of this is true. The book is a fake. There never was any Aeriolaineus. She didn’t exist. The unnamed scribe didn’t exist, in either Kobold or Dwarven form. Telliu however, did exist. She (though some later commentators get the sex wrong) was the foremost writer of her time of history and historical novels. Many of her works are now considered classics, with Song of the Crossroads, The Journey through Mist, and the fictional Bitter Cherries still in popular circulation. Telliu had nothing to do with the Prophecies of Aeriolaineus the Sage, however. She loathed poetry, according to those who remember her, and would have had better sense than to get involved in something like this.
The Prophecies of Aeriolaineus the Sage were actually written by two Formourian men some 150 years ago. Kevin of Oak Hollows and Pol Barber wrote every last stanza. After the Elves had closed off all ties to the world outside their borders, interest in things old and Elven was high. Kevin and Pol sought to capitalise on that. They set a fictitious original publication date far enough back that they were sure not even an immortal Elf would remember. Pol researched history for events they could ‘prophesy’ to occur, which Kevin would then set to cryptic poems. This would give their book some veracity. Both men then contributed original work to be unrealised prophecies. Neither man had any fortunetelling talent nor skill in divination. They were con artists, not prophets. The pair had planned to drum up interest in the fake prophetess Aeriolaineus, and then release other ‘newly discovered’ works. However, the two had a falling-out shortly after releasing their first book, so no future editions were forthcoming. As each still profited from copies of the Prophecies, neither spoke the truth about it, and each took the secret to his grave.
The knowledge that the book is fake is not common. Only a few loremasters have unearthed the truth, and most of them don’t care much for books of prophecy anyway. Rather, they see it as a book of bad poems. To the vast majority of Midianites this book is honest and accurate, down to the last word. The Prophecies has almost no literary merit, neither poetically nor even as a way that two men at least saw historic events when viewed from a cultural lens of 150 years ago. It serves more as a means to drive true-believers to action, based on their interpretation of one or more of the prophecies. It is also certainly possible—that either from spurring a reader to thought or through sheer coincidence—one of the unrealised prophecies comes true.
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The Thing That Goes Beep By: Dragon Lord ( Items ) Other - Magical
Well it’s got to do something, but I’ll be damned if I know what
A small slab of polished granite about 7 inches long by 3 inches wide by half an inch thick, with hieroglyphs engraved on one face. The hieroglyphs are recognisably part of an ancient language, now unreadable to all but a very few (highly specialised) sages. There are no other identifying marks.
There are no moving parts or mechanisms of any king. However the slab does radiate a faint magical aura, which is visible to those who can detect such things.
When any of the hieroglyphs is touched the slab emits an audible "beep", of the type that would be called "electronic" in a more technical universe, but nothing else appears to happen. There is no variation in tone or note between the hieroglyphs, all of the hieroglyphs producing exactly the same sound.
The slab is actually the control unit to an ancient magical device or mechanism of some kind (think TV remote control). This can be almost anything the GM can envisage (a slave golem, an air conditioning system, an entertainment device, whatever). Unfortunately, the device is long since lost so the controller now does nothing at all.
Oh, and the beep sound was included by the original enchanters as a kind of "feedback" to confirm to the user that a hieroglyph had been touched.
Just drop this into a treasure hoard somewhere then sit back and watch your players get really confused.
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Useless quest By: manfred ( Plots ) Discovery - Single-Storyline
An ordinary seek-the-artifact scenario gives a valuable lesson why you should always check your employer.
The Cool test plot is back now! What was originally submitted for mere test-purposes, was (slightly) improved with a little twist. Enjoy the original masterwork:
Get message. Meet a powerful but reclusive wizard. Pass tests. Shall get a legendary item. Long dangerous road. Very dangerous place. Secret things, monsters, traps. Somehow found the item. Back to the wizard. A BIG problem emerges…
Now, the update:
As the messenger is quite talkative, information about the wizard and his apprentice can be obtained:
- the wizard is busy and absent-minded, though he treats people well and pays better
- leaves some of the work on his apprentice
- has quirks common to older wizards, including the need for privacy
- ...and more
On the way there they meet the apprentice. An experiment went awry, exploded and destroyed the laboratory and partly the tower, or so he says. So the wizard has now little time arranging the repairs, but the heroes have already a few tests determined, to see if they are worth.
See: the wizards lands have neglected for many years, atracted a few monsters and should be finally cleaned up. A few orcs here, troll in a cave, dead seen walking somewhere…
Given a simple map with a to-do list, let them report in a week or two at the wizard’s house, also on the map.
Insert a few micro-adventures, that would be challenge only for low-level types. Job done, in the half-ruined tower the wizard gives the details: The legendary Storm Orb (insert mythical powers) is long rumoured to lie in the Temple of Four Winds (or anywhere). But recently he found in some book just the bit of information needed (insert mythical riddle), which can be solved on the right spot.
Proceed with the plot…
Should the heroes ever return, whether they have the Orb or not, comes the real Twist:
The wizard is not to be found. People just don’t know who they they ask about, never seen any wizard in these quarters. Oh, and that was a ruin for over 200 years!
A group of beginning adventurers died before they could do something of note. The remaining couple, a low-level wizard and a thief, sought other ways to fortune. For all their money they got some cheap land. Cheap things have but a reason to be cheap. But all these “reasons” were nicely removed by the heroes themselves! Heroes sent on a heroical quest, the lands fetched triple the price or more. With little expenses :-)
Finding this all out should be hard, for the “apprentice” and the “messenger”/“old wizard” were careful. Now they are stuck with an artifact they did not want (possibly cursed), without the heavy reward promised. They may feel like fools. Anger may be the next emotion…
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Wheels of the Akh-Tzilmzil By: Murometz ( Items ) Jewelry - Non-Magical
Spools, disks, plugs, and other giant ear ornaments of a bygone age.
These bizarre artifacts, wagon-wheel sized, solid disks of bronze and jade, appearing as giant cymbals, each possessing intricately carved spokes and patterns of seemingly meaningless concentric circles and swirling spirals, have dumbfounded historians and sages for generations.
The wheels differ in size; ones anywhere from four to seven feet across have been found over the centuries. The strange designs differ slightly or more so from each wheel as well.
These items are relics from antiquity. That is agreed upon. No one to date however has surmised how these disks were once used or what they may have signified, much to anyone elses satisfaction. Most frustrating of all, they radiate a mild magic charge, yet no powers have yet been discovered by the few arcanalogists who have been able to examine one of these wheels at length.
In truth, they were merely the many discarded and buried ear spools of an antediluvian race of giants, who once eons ago, ruled the human lands, and whose civilization was wiped out long before the human races even kept track of history. These giants particular societal traditions and vanities included the wearing of ear-spools, not unlike some Amazonian or Central American native tribes of our world do to this day. Slits were cut into the lobes of the ears, and engraved and stylized bronze and jade plugs or disks were fitted into the holes, causing the lobes to stretch expand greatly over time.
As in the mentioned cultures, these antediluvian giants wore the disks as jewelry, often using them as symbols of societal status. It should be noted also that these were no hill or stone giants, but a progenitor race of behemoths, some towering eighty or even a hundred feet into the air. Their earlobes therefore stretched over many years, could indeed become obscenely large, and quite able to hold huge decorative objects in their fleshy grasps. Few human texts today if any, even mention these gargantuan beings, and they are almost forgotten to history, not to mention the knowledge of what might have passed for jewelry back in their day.
There are those convinced however, that the Wheels of Akh-Tzilmzil are something else entirely. And this is how in fact these mysterious objects acquired their modern names. Legends speak of this Akh-Tzilmzil, the Great Destroyer, a demonic being asleep for eons. It is written in foul texts, that Akh-Tzilmzil will return one day, when the sixty four wheels of his magical chariot are found. The chariot itself was long ago destroyed, but the same ancient, foul texts speak of it in awe, claiming that the juggernaut blotted out the sun as it rolled, and was drawn by sixteen dire bison, huge undead beasts, with matted, rotted fur clinging in grotesque clumps along their blackened spines. It is written in apocryphal scrolls that this great chariot, the Akh-Tzilmzil, was a machine of doom, and obliterated the great walled cities of men, as it crashed into them, leaving the inhabitants helpless to stop the ravenous hordes of the Sleeping Demons minions from descending upon them. It is believed by some erroneously, that the ear ornaments of the ancient giants are in fact the wheels of this erstwhile chariot, and that if the mighty thing was built once more, and the many wheels, scattered about the world re-assembled, no force could then withstand the rider of the Akh-Tzilmzil.
So there are those to this day, who search the globe for the sixty-four "wheels", at the behest of dark masters, and there are those who seek the materials to rebuild the fearsome weapon of destruction itself.
Maddeningly, (to sages and others), the wheels do radiate with slight magic vibration if detected for, however they possess no known powers.
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