Wednesday, October 9, 2019

the known planes of existence

These are the dimensions my players have had direct contact with. They're getting high level and this stuff is coming up more and more frequently, sometimes in worrying ways. They haven't traveled personally to any other dimensions yet (pretty sure), but have dealt with interlopers from or have had to deal with the effects of them.

Reality -- this of course is where everything happens

Plane of Fire -- they've met a handful of conjured fire elementals, and found a puzzlebox that seems connected to the plane of fire somehow. Most recently they've met the elemental Salliflax, who keeps the Flying Fortress of the Sky Witch afloat. He's basically Calcifer.

Hell -- they helped a young noblewoman at a black market auction buy a magical diving bell which can transport those inside directly to Hell. What is Hell? Common knowledge says devils come from Hell, and bad people go to Hell when they die, but the slain Demon Lords were on Earth from the start. Players have not yet made the journey to Hell. It's hard to find the time, but the noblewoman who took the trip reported that she had a direct view of Castle Satan.

Realm of Fenrath, God of Wolves -- in very first adventure, players found a magic glass that looked into a vast, darkened forest. The gods retreated to their separate realms after they defeated the demon lords, and do not venture out.

"Hot Car Dimension" -- players looted a ring from a trio of beast-headed demons that can conjure a scalding hot door, behind scalding hot door is a small, metal, scalding hot room. They put things in there they want to forget about, like frost demons. They aren't sure of its true nature but it's definitely another plane or demiplane. Hot Car Dimension is just what they call it.

Whatever's embedded in the Hyperplasmic Gap of the Silk Wall -- they found a path through the massive wall that separates the Blighted Lands from Orostranthy, but when they looked within, they found a great ocean of gold, a foreign sky, and an alien creature sunning itself on obsidian plinths. They declined to explore and flew over the wall instead.

Whatever's surrounding the Thrice Cursed Prison of Dendric Vast -- crawling over the ramparts from the inside of the prison leads to a darkened, blighted landscape covered in ruins and alien creatures. Three alien moons float in the sky, the stars are too close and bright. What is this place?

Other possible planes of existence?

Other Elemental Planes -- I'm not sure they've ever met or conjured other elementals than fire, but given the spell options they must exist, right?

Plane of Slime -- they found a triumvirate of slaad conjuring a river of slime from a tortured unicorn. Also issuing forth, a variety of horrible insect monsters. Killing the slaad closed the portal, so no chance to explore further.

Carcosa -- they've stumbled on a handful of references to this place. Might be an alien planet, might be another plane of existence, maybe it's somewhere in reality?

Other "stars" and "planets" -- these seem to be places one could travel to. They found a magic orrery that lets them project their mind to these places. They found hideous monsters of alien intelligence that blasted them with psychic assaults, among other mysteries.

The Other Celestial Realms -- where are they? how does one get there? How many exist? It's widely known Belm, Izorides, and Otin have retreated to their own realms, but are there others? The wizard Malagon of the Cruelest Eye desires to kill a god and steal their blood for his divine crucible, in order to forge a ring of flight, but cannot find a way in.

Astral Plane -- Astral plane, what's that? It's on the 9th level spell list so it must exist, but . . .

Wherever demons come from that's not reality and not Hell -- they've met many many demons that are summoned or at least seem to appear from somewhere else, and that place is not Hell, probably. So.. what is it?

Planes that do not exist

Heaven -- absolutely not

Ethereal Plane -- I disallowed the spell etherealness because I don't like how it lets you phase through objects so freely, and because I think the ethereal plane is lame and boring.

Any of the other standard D&D outer planes, like, I don't know, Limbo, and any alignment focused planes. They are so many of them I can't keep them straight and I don't like the monsters.

Shadowfell and Feywild -- just not my jam

The Abyss -- Cool high fantasy concept but I prefer demons to be a little more malleable and variable. The word "demon" seems to be a catch-all for a variety of horrible spirits and monsters, most of them connected to or allied with the slain Demon Lords, but many of them not. Anyway, the Abyss as imagined in second through fifth edition D&D does not exist.

I think that covers it for now.

Monday, September 9, 2019


king has stairs in his chest leading down
king kills anyone who comes before him, this is widely known and accepted
king has gone to live on foreign star, promises to return
king wields sword, only weapon that can slay him
king has killed all the dragons except one
king can see your moral failings
king has one red side, one human side, red side exists in hell
king has dagger in his chest from attempted assassination, if dagger removed, king dies and kingdom goes with it
king has flooded throneroom with swamp water
king has flooded throneroom with his own tears
king has flooded throneroom with blood from own subjects
king emits strange song whenever his mouth opens
king is completely silent, never talks or moves
king will move again in 25 years, until that, you're on your own
king is weak and easily subdued
king enjoys watching children, children are with him at all times
king is only one who knows the way to the true throneroom
king is only one who knows he is not the true king
king has locked his double in a tower underground, if they come within 10 feet, they both die
king holds a scepter that determines the true heir
king has strange wife
king has evil wife
king's wife has disappeared
king has four princes and one princess, each is battling for control of kingdom
king has forgotten his identity
king has been cursed to be a strange object or animal
king has been cursed so that his hands are extremely heavy
king always sees one day into the future
king knows how his kingdom will fall, desperately working to prevent this
king has kindly wife
evil king
king is jealous of other king, works his subjects far too hard in order to beat this other king
king plotting to gain control of sun or moon or important weather (storms, winter), in order to further shore up his claim to the throne
king can bring the dead to life
king has one golden hand
everything king touches turns to wheat
king is guarded by two angels, who give him divine guidance and friendship
king is wisest in all the land, except he is too old and no one listens
king has trusted councilor who gives evil advice, is working for evil end
king has sworn fealty to an evil emperor, cannot see or overlooks his flaws
king desires a surplus of beautiful maidens
king's wife desires of surplus of exotic fruit (pomegranates, tangerines, cherries)
king has been appointed by demon of hell, maintains reign by demonstrating demonic power

Thursday, March 14, 2019

6 things

g+ dead, back out cold, computer dead, i’m home from work. guess i’ll blog

6 jewels
1. bright red, set in campire to burn it brighter, rest for 1 hour get 1d10 temp hitpoints
2. cold and clear as night sky, sought by Vernalus Varn to contain his unruly twin soul
3. small can fit in fold of palm, gleaming green. piece of sky of shattered Janthus, can empower spells that cause flight to last twice as long, or affect one other person but last 1/2 as long
4. smoky, knuckle sized. crystalized thoughts of self entombed dwarf mage. inside is spell flesh to crystal
5. a pin, on head of pin is fleck of diamond, inside diamond fleck is fortress, the fortress of Yorgund Grasl, hidden king
6. livid purple, shines in starlight bright as a torch. skeletons seek the holder

6 enemy (boss?) powers
1. set all in sight on fire
2. spell cast on it empowered, gets cast by enemy for free next round
3. gleaming shining anime tears (always crying), its sadness gives it unbreakable strength (strength 30), and it can dodge one attack for free every round; if you cheer it up it cant do this
4. its allies are weapons — has like 5-6 guys fighting with it that it can transform into overpowered weapons (scythe, double sword, massive sword, meteor hammer, etc) that all deal at least one dice extra in dmg and like does cleave and are magical
5. turn into shadow when moves, only corporeal when still or attacking
6. shiny rubber skin. can fall from any height. projectile weapons bounce off.

6 friendly NPCs
1. Roga Lorn, bread baker, hates her neighbors, handmakes
miniature figurines to put in her breads as surprises
2. Ferelda Blight, a fine but little known pianist, is always out buying flowers for her house and piano, likely witness to anything the PCs do in public
3. Xelda, a blue-nosed dog, desiring meats and friendship, her owner is always drinking at whatever bar the PCs are at, so Xelda is also always around
4. Posl, gender ambiguous but attractive and a little too rambunctious, training in same weapon as the PC but a little more advanced, eggs PC on to do things maybe not such a great idea
5. Mundo Mon, a walking cleric of the Glass Hills, shows up exclusively when PCs have taken a hard hit, can offer very limited healing for a cheap price, and advice on good nearby views
6. Ultra Vog, a princess in disguise, she appears to be an older man practiced with the machete and hammer, a fan of the PCs, but gets herself into trouble and takes foolhardy risks as soon as she meets them, every single time

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

here's a post

so it's been determined beyond a doubt that zak sabbath is an evil man and should be ostracized from our communities. unfortunately i used to support and admire him. i defended him at times and i'm ashamed of it. certainly his blog and his work is what drew me into the online gaming communities. and in fact, it was his ideas that brought me back into playing dungeons and dragons, and revived my interest in the game. out of all the ideas and theories and writings and books i found, his were the freshest and most intelligent, most usable, clearest, and most aligned with the way i wanted to play the game. and many of his ideas have done well by me over the years, and i use them often.

unfortunately he is also a manipulative narcissist and abuser. i was one of those taken in by him. much could and will be said about the processes by which he manipulated people. for myself, the desire to be cool, to be part of the scene, to be validated and liked by a celebrity, the reluctance to fight, and other more painful insecurities. at times over the past couple days i've felt nausea, anger, disgust, sadness. i take this to be a grief.

finally for me, the decision to break contact with him happened about a year and a half ago, after a long conversation with him, when he failed to follow his own rules, particularly to answer all questions and to assume good faith. and also because of his insane and dehumanizing stated belief that the consequences of a person's actions are inseparable from their core identity. and more than that, his contempt and disdain for the feelings of those he despised and attempted to control, which contempt is the necessary prerequisite for the more serious evils humans perform. i wish i had said something publicly.

others have said this but mandy's post immediately created the feeling of a spell having been lifted. what had been obvious for a long time is simply true. it is a relief.

i do believe that the beautiful things a person makes are separate from them. i was even about to write a review of the immortal zoo of ping feng, which i ran for my new players last month. it was a fun filler dungeon, very engaging and scary for my players, but without the zip of self-created content, and a little bit tough to run due to being disorganized in the writing. however now i can't look at his books without feeling repulsion.

at the same time google plus is dying. for a long time this was my primary way of interacting with other gamers. i've met many people and formed a handful of relationships and done a touch of collaborative work. but to be honest, i preferred the days of blogging. in blog form i found fuller ideas than the brief, social media-y conversations that often happened on g+.

i don't know what will happen with the future. certainly i will keep playing dungeons and dragons. i love this game. i have two gaming groups right now. one is my long-standing group from back in Philly, they're all around level 15 now and digging into a megadungeon i've arranged for them. everything hits like 3-4 times a round, or automatically hits from around corners, or deals damage just for moving, or drains experience points, or permanently poisons, or is immune to and reflects all damage, and meanwhile they're creating a small army and trained their giant wolf to wield a sword in his mouth they've trained their mantis-man to fight with his claws and they've hired a famous cook who's also an ex-mob-leader and they have a diving bell which can transport them to hell and their most used and powerful and often exploited tool is a pair of teapots whose top openings creates a teeny-tiny portal between the two teapots and their potionist can make them potions that cast two spells at once, and they know their rival party "the deadboyz" is somewhere in the megadungeon but they're just not sure exactly where and they're terrified. while my new group in oakland is around level 2-3 and we've had two character deaths so far and they've broken into the royal goblin palace, where david bowie sleeps in a glass coffin in the tallest tower and king nurgle rules over an endless party and communist rats are trying to unionize the anarchist crocodiles who just eat them.

and i've changed a lot over the past year as a dungeon master. more open to the unpleasant feelings the game can create, the fears and insecurities that losing and dying create in people, but which are crucial to the creation of an engaging game. and i'm more explicitly interested in running a game that exists in a zone between easy and frustrating, the zone of pleasant challenge that is unique to every game group.

and i've been working piece-meal on publishing my module, the thrice cursed prison of dendric vast. i'm leaning towards just giving it out for free. finishing the job is better than searching for a publisher and never finishing it or delaying it, i think.

that's all for now.

love, nate

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"A Place of Thorns"

This is another overland area, directly to the east of the beastman forest in my previous post. Again, it covers an area that can be covered with one day's hard travel. My players pretty much stuck to the west side of the map, where the forest begins, but still encountered a bunch of enemies, before investigating the fire cave, saying no to the fire skull's offer, and going back into the forest.

I present to you...


This is a dried, cracked landscape. An empty, keening wind whistles ceaselessly. A forest of black thorns springs from the plains, far higher than a man's head. 

ENCOUNTERS: Roll d6 every 6 hours

1 d4+1 Golden skeletons of Urizen. These look like Terminator 2 type metal skeletons twice as big as a guy. They're constructed by the Demon Lord Urizen for the same purpose as the terminators. Gold skeletons, HP 60 AC 19 Claymore +12 d10+6, Magic Resistance 50%, at half health releases electricity in a 10’ aura dealing its remaining HP in damage.  
2 A Purple Knight on a Purple Clad horse, demands payment of a single person or one-on-one combat for safe passage. HP 100 AC 22 3 attacks +10 2d8, Strength +10, unable to do dirty maneuvers, when takes 30 damage his helmet comes off and starts shooting purple fireballs 5d6 damage +10. Can only be harmed when fighting 1 person at a time. Has like 12 severed heads on his horse.
3 d12 clouds with horrible human faces descend from the sky and rain swarms of worms.  Each produces a 4HD swarm which deals d4xd4 damage per round, slows and nauseates target.  The clouds hover about 100’ overhead, laughing.  Immune to normal weapons, but 10hp each.  As the PCs take damage they lower long tubes to suck up their juices.
4 11 goblins riding hogs, they can each fire d4 arrows per round, HP 7 AC 12 +8 d6 damage, move 40’, if killed they fly back screaming like 100’ and bounce across the landscape in 100’ bounds.
5 Nada
6 Nothing


2d20 MAN-EATING HORSES — gallop and try to overtake the caravan, bloodstained slavering mouths, bites deal d10 damage, HP 20, AC 12 when 5 or more are killed they flee, screaming horsely curses. 

HEAVY THORNS: A dense thorn forest. Thorns are as big as hands, or longer.




GRAVEYARD: in a hollow surrounded by low hills, dozens of graves stripped by the rain and the wind, at center of the graveyard stuck in a patch of barren earth is a weathered greatsword sword. If the sword is removed, d12xd12 zombies emerge from the earth and it begins to rain. If retained, the sword can be commanded to seek a foe’s heart 1/week, dealing a critical hit (if the attack hits) and if the foe is slain, the wielder will heal the amount of damage dealt. Thereafter crows will gather and watch the wielder closely.

TROLL: Crawls among the gravestones, keening and moaning, a long fat troll, instead of a face it possesses a bottomless pit, it will grab foes and tip them back into its face. 

HP 100 AC 17 Speed 40 2 ATKS in 10’ area +8 2d8+6 dmg, or CHARGE 80 feet and one attack +10 2d8+6 and knock back 2d6x10’; THROW GRAVESTONE 120’ +8 8d6 and then travel in a straight line 50’ 8d6 more damage. THE HOLE!!! — GRAB +8 then GRAPPLE +15 to put you in the hole! everything a player describes gets like another +2 to prevent this. INSIDE is a sickly black void that flashes red, at the bottom 200’ feet down (20d6 damage) is a flickering expanse, a pile of gold d10x400gp,  Regenerates 20 hp/round.

SALT LICK: A mineral lick. At the center of the salt lick, a giant's face formed of salt protrudes. Numerous animals come to lick the salt: boars, chickens, goats, possums, all led by a magic peacock.

Hiding nearby is a party of evil adventurers (in my game, the DEADBOYZ), about to unleash a powerful spell (Fireball or Circle of Death or something) to kill all the animals and harvest their bodies.

FIRE CAVE: shoots fire in a plume visible from miles away, especially at night. It’s like a charred mud cone, ground all around it is thick and black. Up close can be heard endless screaming. Inside there’s just a narrow tunnel that goes down 300’ into a vault. Fire deals 4d10 damage per round, within 10’ its 2d10 damage, feels hot within 60’. 

VAULT: Charred marble walls. Two halves of a statue of a sexy woman.  Skull is a barbarian warrior who slew an army of women “TULRU KARQ” He can provide a skill that’s so complex it works only once! versus woman only — if attack hits, woman will move up to 30’ and attack nearest woman, if hits then chains endlessly. 

"Rumors of Beastmen"

My high level players have been traveling south to a megadungeon for a few months now. I made a dense overland hexcrawl for them to navigate. Basically what I do is for each hex I draw an overland map with landmarks and encounters and write details either directly on the map, or in my notes text file. It's been working really well. I originally intended each map to last for about a session, but D&D being D&D, everything takes about three times as long.

This is a small, creepy forest filled with beastmen. Players, I doubt you'll be back here, I guess you can read this if you want. There are secrets but I guess that's okay. I'll just change everything around.

I present to you...


A thick, old-growth conifer forest. Visibility quickly becomes very short. Owls during the day and night watch from high trees. At the borders of the forest, carved into trees, are beastman runes denoting their territory.

Notes on running this:

The map covers an area that can be crossed with one day's hard travel. In my game this is about twelve miles. The paper is rectangular, but I short-handed it by saying both width and length is 12 miles. This worked alright. Describe that can be seen from the players' location, and/or draw a sketchy map of what they can see. From the ground this is typically three miles, or one quarter the length of the sheet of paper. In this area the players' will have to climb trees or fly to get a good sight of the area around them. In that case, you can use this calculator here figure out how far they can see:

RANDOM ENCOUNTERS: Roll d6 every 6 hours.

1 GIANT “NAMEROT” cast out of the Fortress of Snow, roaming the wastes in hatred, devouring all it comes across, locked into rage. It can be heard from a mile away and carves a path through the forest.

The Nightmare Paladin of Deirregex the Black Dragon and his adherents came to the Fortress of Snow to utter a decree, that they choose one among them to exile. NAMEROT was chosen as the weakest and smallest, stripped of his clothes and possessions, and forced out into the wastes. He wanders in desolation and anger, killing and eating all he comes across. 

I used the stats from Frostbitten and Mutilated for this giant (his aura destroyed all written material within 100'), except HP is multiplied by 2 and damage is all +2d6 at least. Basically just think of the worst biggest stats you can imagine and send them at the players.

2 d6+10 Forest goblins with moss and ferns growing all over skin, 1 or 2 have wicker cages for kidnapped victims. HP 12, AC 16, Touch +8 cause target to shriek ceaselessly for 24 hours. DEFENSE: when killed with anything but cold iron or live wood, immediately reborn from nearby tree. POWERS: Can cast level 1 witch spells, also ONCE PER DAY (TOUCH): TARGET SHRINKS TO MOUSE SIZE (24 hours). All milk curdles in presence. Always accompanied by: 1 forest goblin with overgrown antlers, can cast witch spells up to level 5. They are searching for eggs and children to bring back to Havith Orr, will try to kidnap BASHRO (a child in the players' caravan) or shrink and kidnap a few people. SNEAK +6
3 d100 lunatic woodsmen, they each have HP 8 and Strength 20, they wield rusty axes +6 d8 damage and makeshift arrows +8 d8 damage, they are screaming and crying and some of them are naked or clad in furs and they are killing all animals they find. If they see the moon, they moan and cry and turn into trees. SNEAK +4
4 A Black Wyrm 100 feet long. HP 80, AC 18, its gaze causes paralysis as long as eyes are locked plus 1 minute afterwards, Wisdom DC 20 per round to break out after, Bite is poison 10 damage every hour and “poisoned”; can swallow anything horse-sized or swallowed given like an hour. Can sneak +10 and will attack stragglers or people alone, if rolled PCs should roll perception, describe a rustling of leaves if they hear it.
5 2d6 owls watch from above, next time this is rolled its 2d6x2, next time this is rolled its 2d6x4 and they suddenly and senselessly attack as a swarm.
6 Nothing


FOREST PATH: Narrow, overgrown, covered in forest needles, crossed by logs, the smell of fungus and leaves.

CRUDE BEASTMAN RUNES OF GOAT ARMY: These disgusting runes cause fear in Elkmen on sight.

3 IMPALED GUYS: Staked through the throat, Cannibal-holocaust style. These were priests. d100 GP. Holy symbols to BELM trampled by hooves at their feet. Divine magic cast here won’t work within 30’ unless the symbols are blessed somehow.

CHEST IN POND: bullfrogs, thick reeds, the chest pokes through the water. Chest contains: eel, d10x100gp, silver dagger.

GOBLIN TRAPPED IN SOAPBUBBLE: can’t be broken from the inside, if popped with a sharp object (like a latex balloon), it explodes and bubbles everyone within 30’ (DEX save 16). Floats around as if 0 gravity. He found the bubble in the ground and poked it. Goblin named GRABBLE, has lion hands and a purple face, if released will tell of a nearby danger. Has d100x10 goblin gold he will not part with.  

BEASTMAN GUARD: a tall spiral tower, beastman on top is keeping watch, able to see over the trees. Has a horn and a bow with 4 special arrows with range 300’, these deal 8d6 damage and impale you to the ground (restrained Strength DC 15, and when you do you take 8d6 more damage). The ancient watchtower anchors spells: any spell cast within 50' of the tower causes it to seek the tower instead.

TROLL UNDER BRIDGE: Ruined, barely holding together stone bridge. TROLL HP 100 AC 17 Regenerates 20 hp/round. Can cast “FORGET THE PATH” in a 30’ radius at will, this causes the map to rearrange (I was just gonna cut it up and tape it back together). Demands payment of 1000 gold pieces to allow passage. Has a pile of gold underneath, just d100x10 left, as he is eating it for sustenance. 2 atks per round +10 2d8 and knock down. Looks like a THIN, BULGING EYED, DRIBBLING man 20 feet tall, he clutches at bars beneath the bridge which give him cover +2, but he can rip them open in 1 round. If angered but not slain he will go to the beastmen.

2 BEASTMAN CAPTAINS IN DUEL: VORKETH THE INSANE (goatman) and BLOODTHIRSTING RASHUL (elkman) locked in duel now lasting a week. Each are 20 level fighters, their duel has trampled a long area, they are both weary and at 10 HP each. VORKETH wields a BONE AXE, RASHUL wields a 9-HEADED WHIP and CURVED DAGGER OF FROZEN BLOOD. Their duel is for obscure old-timey reasons. Whoever wins, the opposing beastman warband must leave the forest. The bottomless pit near them goes down for 300’, at the bottom is a boneless eyeless man who on a successful hit sucks the bones out of a random limb.

HP 200, AC 20, 4 attacks per round, STR +15, BLOODTHIRSTING RASHUL may deliver a FESTERING BITE that deals 20 disease damage every morning, cumulatively increasing by 10 every day (CONSTITUTION DC 20).  VORKETH THE INSANE is immune to all mind-affecting magic, psionics, illusions, and so forth, and may deliver an INSANE BLEAT 1/round (recharge 5/6) which causes all enemies to move and attack their nearest ally (CHARISMA to resist DC 20).

2 WAITING BEASTMAN WARBANDS: They are waiting for the duel to end. Tents of animal skin, great hocks roasted on spits, stench, cannibalism. Each warband consists of 50-80 beastmen. A typical beastman is level 3 (HP 21), can command animals at will, in addition to normal weapon attacks can bite or gore for 1d10 damage. Beasts and animals will not harm them under any circumstances.

LIGHTNING HILLS: Under these hills are buried necromancer siamese twins. Their vile power causes lightning to strike the tops of the hills incessantly and simultaneously.

ELKS: bloodier, savage, impale animals on their horns, cannibal, may eat a fallen comrade to gain full health, speed 50
GOATS: religious for BELPHEGOR, 50% chance of able to cast any 2nd level cleric spell DC 15 once, able to climb any surface and jump vertically 20’


roll d20
1-5nothing + weapon
6-7d10 gold
8skull of beastman’s friend, knows secret about beastman
9jar of grubs, will eat the flesh off a corpse in an hour, devour the bones in another
10soap made from woman fat
11necklace of human teeth
12-15d100 gold
16young pig
17beastman stick figure, will ward against opposing beastman as antipathy spell 8 hours
18green arrow, if target is in range and you know their name, it will seek them as a normal attack and ignore any cover
19bag with cat skeleton inside, name “grinder”
20 d100x4 gold

BIG TREASURE (in leader’s pavilion)

Black panther “JUSTICE” being prepared for biocombination with a BOA CONSTRICTOR “RAGDA”
BRACELET made of GREEN METAL, if slid up onto the bicep it turns the wielder’s ARM INVISIBLE for 1 minute per day (but not anything they’re holding)
d1000xd10 gold


A giant goat, its hind and forelegs bound together, it writhes across the ground making a tormented sound, its head is going to be split in two as soon as they can find a good cleric. Then it's gonna be a two-headed giant goat.
d1000x10 gold

ANCIENT TREE: Covered in crows which see with the eyes of the ancient hag imprisoned in its roots. ‘BAVOR ORAMIS” is her name, she longs for freedom, if freed will grant a level 6 spell. She is wholly evil and was trapped by a good wizard hundreds of years ago, she will immediately return to her evil pursuits of killing all women younger and more beautiful than her, as well as forming a coven.

HUT HAS SKELETON OF WOODSMAN: He is clutching an axe, which 1/day can cut down a tree in a single stroke.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Village of Fishtown

I wrote this town as a starting point for my group of new players. I used to live in Fishtown when I lived in Philadelphia and this place is dedicated to it. It's meant to be a simple sandbox village that's not too big and only dangerous if the players get into big trouble. I sort of intended it to be fun for only a session or two, and eventually less engaging and not very lucrative, so there's good reason to get out into the world. However, my players are obsessed with this place and honestly so am I, so I'm building in ways to change and expand it as time goes on.

I present to you...


The squares are buildings.

The BLACK TREES cluster closely to the edges of the stone city. The trees press against the outermost houses as if trying to get in. Here it is only day-time for SIX HOURS A DAY, and when the sun rises it is a WAN WHITE, but warm. Everywhere under the stone eaves and stone cobbling and sitting upon stone benches and upon the edges of the fountains and perched on the rooftops are the CATS. They live among the people and say nothing — they keep their own secrets.

These are only a small population, the forest is well known for the cats. In the forest they are as common as squirrels and birds, of which there are now few. There are rumors of LUCKY CATS, cats made of SILVER AND GOLD, cats that can FLY, cats that can SEE THE FUTURE. It is thought the Forest of Cats used to hold a city, before the forest overtook it, and the only remnants of the city are its population of cats, and the ruins which still lie under the trees. 


CONVENIENCE STORE: POLLIS MUDGROT bent, old, numb, a smoker, sells gum, candy, liquor, beef jerky, cigarettes. 2 cats: OIL (orange) and MARGARET (fat). 4 old ice-cream sandwiches in parchment paper, 10g each.


PAWN SHOP: TENNRIS RILYA, 1 white cat named CHORT. Tennris can buy treasure and other random junk players might recover from dungeons, almost no questions asked.

THRIFT STORE: TONRUX BELTON, an older gentleman, grey-haired, a little sad. Imagine the sort of guy who used to work at a small town video store. He lives over his thrift store and owns 4 cats: 2 greys, a black, and a siamese.

INN:THE DIRTY DOZEN” Proprietor CORNTER YUN. This place is a little nice. Rooms are 1g a night, and 1g can get you 5 beers. Here they are fond of a dice-game called ROLLING ROCKS, the point is to match 6s and 2s. 2 cats: HATHBORN and TULCH.


Staying here is a rich novelist from Castle Vortaric, BLENSOME OTE. Every day he doesn’t write, an imp comes through his window and scratches him horribly. He put this curse on himself.

WEST BAR: “THE WET WELL.” Bartender VINX OLTOON is pouring heavy. This is a dive bar with a fine back patio. There is a ruined car back here but no one knows what it is. 1g gets you 10 beers. Bands play here on the weekend. Prominent corner table with lamp. 4 cats: BORT, JULIUS, ASHLEY, and CRAB, who always has a real crab riding on his back. Dinner: sausages, mushrooms.


In bathroom: graffiti contains spell of ENLARGE, BUT NOW YOU’RE BLUE.

EAST BAR: “WET BAR” Proprietors KORCHULA LOGAIN and MADISON LANK. 1g will get you 1 drink or 2 beers. A fancy bar. No back lounge. Mounted on wall is leopard fighting snake, hidden inside leopard is gem worth 100g which if dropped into water turns it to glass (10’ cube).  Aquarium holds SEA CUCUMBERS. 3 cats.

CHEESE: ARJAX DROPE sells all manner of cheese. No cats, the man likes dogs.

HOSTEL: VACKNEY MORRIS, a cruel man, is mean to people he befriends. A bed is 2sp a night, but you’re in a room with 4-8 other people. 1 calico cat: PLATOON.

Staying here are a party of 4 CAT-CATCHERS from CASTLE VORTARIC. ANDU, CRAFF, OLGA, and BENTON. They have caught 8 cats, and need to catch 8 more before they can return to the castle. News of them has spread among the cats, and no cat will appear in sight of them. There are 4 of them, all 1st level thieves armed with nets and loop staffs. Every day they go out into the forest and return with d4-1 cats.


The heart-shaped pond is to the east half a days travel. It is surrounded by blue frogs. The silver cat appears only at sunset, as if materialized from air, to hunt the frogs and drink from the pond. It is a familiar to the witch Malice Astarion, who lives in an invisible palace carved frozen night, far to the south east.

The Cat Seeketh: HP 12, AC 14, Dex +6. May jump 30 feet. If anyone touches the cat, they are stuck to it, and then infinite skin chain with permanent duration. Arrows that strike it turn to flowers. 2 attacks: Claw/claw +4/+4 1d4/1d4. If it is stolen, Malice Astarion and her other familiars will seek it relentlessly.

After 4 days the cat-catchers will be attacked by 3 evil panther sisters, and only ANDU will return with his life.

WET WELL: 40’ down is water. Under the water is a wooden door emblazoned with a rose and skull. The door seems stuck, but if you open it (STR 15) it opens inward. Inside is a waterless room, dark and sparkling, as if filled with water. This is the home of the spirit HENWE VLO, who appears as a red skinned man with no eyes. He sits upon the couch, completely still until someone approaches. Comfortable but spare, a couch, a low table, a statue of an owl, a lamp. HENWE VLO says (in spirit language, which sounds like hissing electricity but is nonetheless intelligible): “I have been captured by Ectinel the Warlock! My flesh is put to crude purposes. Do not let me be a slave! Free me!” Henwe Vlo then turns transparent and disappears. In his place is a blue egg, inside the egg is a key that will unlock any door in Ectinel’s tower.

Ectinel’s tower lies three days to the south. 

In the couch: d100 gold. The statue of the owl turns into an owl when exposed to moonlight, and will perform 1 task. The lamp burns continuously, but as long as the lamp burns it cannot be moved. 

DRY WELL: has a stone covering. if you go to the bottom and close the top, a skeleton will rise from the ground and strangle you.  

NAIL SALON: DORDA YENT. Nails: 5g to 50g.


The evil town was called Selfoss. They betrayed each other, stole from nearby towns, tortured criminals, and refused to help those in need. Eventually they started to form raids on Castle Hexx and attempted to take the castle, so Lord Hexx rallied a party and routed the town. Now it’s a ghost town, with a handful of evil merchants, thieves, and monsters.

CAKE STORE: GRUULA LORM creates fabulous cakes, miniature cakes, cupcakes, sheetcakes, cake-bites. Full window display of amazing cakes. Limited supply of cake slices per day. Cakes range in price from 100g to 1000g. Once per year cakes are commissioned from Castle Vortaric for the wedding anniversary of Lord and Lady Moan. 

CAFE: Only serves milks and tea-milks. 1g gets you 4. 1 cat: CHAMPAGNE. Proprietor ORIANG TORCHULA. Must be dressed fancy to attend. Fanciest ladies in town come here to tell secrets.

SCHOOL: A boarding school for girls. No boys allowed. Excessive schoolgirls learning sums, sewing, history, etc. Ballet class, chanting, bullies, menstruation. You could go full Suspiria with this if you wanted. Staffed by nun sisters SISTER AGRATE and SISTER FRET. On moonless nights they take the most gifted girl to a frozen pond deep in the forest and perform loathsome rituals, in order to unlock latent psychic powers.

They worship a creepy Virgin Mary analogue called the GREY LADY, who is severe, overbearing, cruel but claims to be kind, insistent on celibacy, manifests to annihilate her enemies, and worshipped by only women across the continent. Male priests claim this goddess does not exist, while her worshippers claim she is simultaneously the mother, wife, and daughter of whatever god is primary in the area.

Magic girl: YOVA BARU, age 17. HP 3, AC 20 until hit once, and then her power breaks and she has AC 9, Powers: Eyes bulge and she DOMINATES PERSON to bring her sweets and kill enemies, MIND BLAST in a 15’ cone 1d8 damage (Cha save DC 12 for half), ARM ERUPTS AND BURSTS into 2 TENTACLES provides 2 attacks 10’ range +5 1d6 damage and grab

SISTER AGRATE: HP 6 AC 15 (monk-like reflexes) Wavy dagger +4 1d4 and poison, 1d4 poison damage every hour until CON save DC 12. 1 spell: She radiates a sickly moonlight, healing allies within 30’ for 1d8 and inflicting a level of exhaustion on enemies within 30’ (Con DC 12).

SISTER FRET: HP 9 AC 12 Cruel gaze: unable to directly attack Sister Fret while she is looking at you (no save)  Serrated dagger: 1d4 damage and then bleed for 1d4 damage for 1d4+1 rounds or until Medicine check DC 12.

SHRINES: Here are the shrines to the deities of the forest: TORUN (TOTORO) and the GIRL GODDESSES: GRETA (CHIHIRO), LORDA (MONONOKE), and ARGA (PONYO). No cats.

The local deities here are meant to be almost explicitly analogues of the Miyazaki girl heroes. I'd say it's definitely okay if the players recognize this. 

GRETA: She bested a cruel sorceress who operated a bath-house for the spirits, and who was subjugating the mortals of the forest by turning them into pigs. Greta reunited the sorceress with her doppelganger, ending her power. Domains: anti-magic, trickery, domesticity.
LORDA: She allied with the God of Cats and the beasts of the forest against an army of invading humans who sought Its heart. Domains: beasts, nature, war.
ARGA: She came from a secret ocean in the forest and married a human boy, to prevent the forest's destruction at the hands of her father. Domains: magic, water, love.
TORUN: A spirit of the forest, who protects travelers and finds lost things. He was befriended by two princes, who came to the forest after their mother the queen died of illness. Domains: spirits, friendship, travel.

FOUNTAIN: fountain of a fish spouting water. The fish is of an ancient species turned to stone. If turned back and eaten, gain 2d8 temporary hit-poits. 18 golden koi fish. 1 is black. they get 1 bite attack +2 1-2 dmg — this is why the cats don’t eat them.  1 white cat.

GUARD HOUSE: 10 guards, each 3rd level fighters in chainmail, armed with swords, nets, bows. they don’t guard full-time, there’s usually one 1 or 2 on duty, with 4 more on back-up back at the house. CAPTAIN FLENDER GRAVE is a level 6 fighter

JAIL: If you’re caught by the guards for something minor (theft, public nuisance, etc), you go to jail for 7+d10 days, or you can buy your way out early by paying a medium sum (d8x100 or something) . They’re tired of public nuisances and adventurers, so Charisma checks are made with disadvantage.

Bigger crimes (murder, etc) are jailed indefinitely and then transported by armed guards to Castle Vortaric for trial.

CITY HALL: Basically just full of government functionaries during the week, and only open during business hours. Lightly guarded at other times. There's a very small public library, a big echoey public bathroom in the basement, and in the main rotunda are statues of a serpent, a woman, and a two-headed man, under which is hidden THE SECRET GARDEN OF LORD VYRE.

BUS STOP: Just an iron bench and a lamp-post. Ancient. People call it a bus-stop, but don't know what a bus is. If you ask around, someone may tell you a spirit used to transport allies of Torun throughout the forest, and would come to the bus-stop. If players guess it's the cat-bus, you better use your best poker face.

ANTICHURCH: 45 minutes travel south to Fishtown’s gothic-style graveyard. Tall iron fence, 9 cats, claw-like trees burst from the ground and send roots under the stone paths, which were made from headstones found in the graveyard before. At center of graveyard is stairs down to an upside-down cathedral, upside-down saints, upside down candelabras. Scattered chairs where penitents pray for the dead. 

WIZARD: The tower of the wizard Craxus. The true tower is actually in Castle Hexx, but Craxus projects his tower into this one at times in order to do business with the denizens of Fishtown. When Craxus is not projecting his tower into this one, this tower is an empty ruin. I imagine him to be a cruel and myopic man, obsessed with power, condescending at all times, unable to admit fault, and annoyingly powerful. He can assist with anything magic related, but only for a steep fee or an over-involved quest.

Craxus: HP 60, AC 18
Spells: Black Lightning (at will), targets 1d4 targets, deal 3d10 damage with a +8 attack bonus; Hideous Shrinking (1/day): target shrinks to 1 foot tall, but looks like a hideous old man with Str 1, Dex 1, and movement 5; Club Foot (1/day): target limb grows 3x, becomes impossibly heavy, duration permanent; Vomit Spiders: target vomits spiders for 1d4 rounds, takes 2d10 poison damage on the first round, and then the spiders bite you, dealing 5 poison dmg every hour and you swell horribly until you die.

Protected by 2 shadow apes restrained by collars. HP 18 AC 15 Bite +6 1d8 dmg to maximum health. 1/2 damage from normal weapons.

Stuff to steal on his desk:
Glass orb with a spider in it (this contains his familiar demon JORGIT)
Sword with a face on the handle (this is the face of DUKE VLATH, who opposed the wizard 600 years ago)
Green crystal lamp worth 600gp
Spell book (inside the desk; the book is trapped: when you touch it you're launched backwards out the window)


Fishtown's stats are as follows. If the players wanna know if the town has something in particular, just roll d20 under the target stat, or under half the stat if it seems unlikely.

STR 12 (Military Strength) 
DEX 15 (Economy) 
CON 9 (General Safety and Health) 
INT 7 (Books and Smarts) 
WIS 13 (Spirituality) 
CHA 12 (Beauty)


Roll Sleight of Hand vs. Opponents Perception (Base -1 for a drunk idiot, d4+1 for a first level opponent, or +7 at max for a canny thief)

On failure, you're caught. On success, roll d20:

1. nothing
2. d100 copper
3 d20 silver
4-10 d20 gold
11 d100 gold

roll d10 as above, and:

12 scorched black coin with blood drop carved into it, present to a vampire of visigardia and they spare your life for the night 
13 invitation to castle vortaric anniversary party, however it is personally addressed to Naima Salm
14 mouse, dex save DC 10 or bites you 1 damage 
15 butterfly knife with matte black knife and handle
16 expensive salmon-colored handkerchief worth 75 gold 
17 tissue paper wraps a single chocolate enchanted with a spell of protection — next time you take damage, you take none
18 d6 dice
19 house keys with address
20 architectural map of city hall indicates a secret door under statue of 2-headed man, but not what lies beyond

Some other options when you run out:
locket contains hand-drawn picture of very handsome bearded woman
a sleeping kitten

rough map of Vomic Leth indicating location of the lost town SELFOSS


1 Bolura Gren, a fortune-teller, is staying at the hostel. She plans to travel to Castle Hexx as soon as she can hire a bodyguard or four.
2 Cashra Bolt, a mage, has been wandering drunk through the streets and hexing people. The guards are scared of her and need her to go. She can cast Bestow Curse at will. She got broke up with by a stable-boy she loved.
3 Collaldo Mines, a reptile-owner, is staying at the inn. She is selling reptiles: crocodile 200gp, iguana 50gp, bearded dragon 20g, gecko 15g. She is also buying any reptiles or reptile eggs for at least 50g a pop.
4 Grenda Volsh, a carpet-weaver, has moved into town. She is selling fine rugs and carpets.
5 Boldin Breck seeks to open a cat cafe and is going door to door to raise the funds. He needs at least 3000 gold. When he funds, he’ll open a cat cafe / adoption center for cats.

6 Sir Olvey Varn, an aging knight from the woods, has wandered into town and is sleeping in public squares. Plants are growing on his armor and horse. He is lost and needs escort back to the Heart of the Woods, past Castle Hexx.


10,000g SPA 


Roll d10

 -3 A Palace can be seen in the roiling clouds up there.
 -2 A thunderstorm for half an hour at least, lightning streams across the sky, very windy, movement at half-speed. Then roll again at -3.
-1 Pounding rain lasts for an hour, then rain until day-break. Roll at -2.
 0 Overcast, light rain for d6+1 days. Roll at -2.
 1 Humid and misty, everything is shrouded in moisture. Roll at -1 next time.
 2 Mounded, sparkling clouds high in the sky
 3 The stars seem close and bright, spells of enchantment and illusion are at advantage
 4 Foggy and misty, visibility reduced to 100’
 5 Heavy fog, visibility reduced to 15’
 6 A gold aurora streams across the sky from the north
 7 The shards of the Egg Moon are visible in the sky tonight
 8 The Skull Moon sits in the sky tonight
 9 A cold, clear night. A rainbow aura shines around the moon. 
 10 Very cold, persists d6+1 days. Roll at +1. 
 11 Light, sparkling snow, a dusting of sugar. Next roll at +2.
 12 Heavy snow, covers the ground for d6+1 days. Roll at +3 during this time.
 13 So cold the very air seems to be frozen. Words uttered tumble to the ground like crystals. Spells freeze in the air upon casting and must be thrown like snowballs. Next roll at +2 .



1 Calico
2 Tabby
3 Orange
4 Siamese
5 White
6 Black
7 Tuxedo
8 No fur
9 Grey
10 Fat
11 Ugly
12 Red