Monday, March 27, 2023

what if there were a few more status effects?

 D&d 5e has some decent status effects, they're pretty significant and kind of make sense. They all pretty much impose disadvantage to something in some way or another, they made it that way to be easy to remember, I guess. But I really like long lists of obscure status effects that you have to cross-reference and imagine what they do, so let's make a bunch just for fun.

Madness - you've succumbed to the madness of the cosmos. +4 to attacks and damage of any spells or powers that involve starlight, summoning demons or aberrations. advantage on knowledge checks about the cosmos.  you can't sleep, make a DC 15 wisdom check to get a good night's sleep. disadvantage on charisma checks with people unaffected by madness. disadvantage on saving throws to resist mind-affecting powers.

Out-of-it -  something's on your mind ... -4 on saves to maintain concentration, -4 on checks to do anything that takes longer than a minute. -2 on saves versus mind-affecting.

Stressed - -2 on strength and constitution checks, -2 on saving throws to resist mind-affecting powers.

Sadness - -1 on attacks. You are unable to rage, make music, or create. 

Fury - an otherworldly anger fills your mind, clouding your judgment. +2 to melee attack and damage, +4 to strength checks. When you hit, roll an additional d20, and on a 20, you crit. you must make a DC 15 wisdom check when you interact with an NPC, on failure, go berserk and try to kill them

Suppressed - All magic originating from you deals -5 damage, has -5 to attacks, and saves against your spells are at +5.

Insanity - your mind has broken under strain. you can only run, cower, scream, gibber, or make a single melee attack without any class powers. 

Minor Hallucinating - you're seeing random visions out of the corner, it's distracting and you're freaked out. -4 to Perception checks and -4 to Wisdom saving throws, and disadvantage on any saves to avoid fear effects.

Major Hallucinating - you're seeing some crazy shit all over the place. Disadvantage on all attacks and ability checks, and -4 to Perception and Wisdom saves on top of that. If you make an attack, you have a flat 25% chance of missing before you even get to roll because you're so confused.

Envenomed - you've been bit or stung by something poisonous and it hurts like crazy. Attacks and ability checks are at disadvantage (like with poison), and speed is at -10. Your speech is slurred so talking is hard, so casting spells requires a Check with your spellcasting ability at DC 10.

Fatally Envenomed - your blood is coagulating or something. Attacks and ability checks are at -10. Movement reduced to 5' and you have to succeed on a Strength check DC 15 to stand up as an action. Every hour, make a Constitution save DC 10, if you fail you die. Also every hour the check gets worse by 4. 

Short-sighted - Blind against anything further than 5 feet from you

Finger-snapped - one or more of your fingers are broken. -10 on attacks and checks involving your hands

Hobbled - your feet or legs are damaged somehow. Your speed is reduced by some amount (5-30 depending on the industry) and you get a -4 to acrobatics, athletics, and dexterity checks. You also tire easily - if you walk more than a mile, you automatically gain the Tired effect as well.

Hamstrung - your hamstring is severed and you're hamstrung. Speed is reduced to 1/4 and the pain is crippling, -4 to attacks, checks, and Dexterity saves. This can only be cured with a healing spell that involves a successful Wisdom check DC 18.

Frozen - you're frozen solid in a block of ice. you're aware but you can't move, you can maybe speak to move your lips but you can't move your hands. You're restrained. Until the ice is broken, you're immune to physical attacks. The ice has AC 10 - 20 and like 10 - 80 HP, and any extra damage spills over to you. You have resistance to magic damage.

Bonked - you've been bonked on the head and don't feel good. -8 to attacks, checks, and Dexterity, Strength, and Intelligence saving throws. 

Sleepy - -1 to perception checks and checks involving staying still for more than ten minutes. If you fail one of those checks, you fall asleep.

Stigmata - you've been blessed by a god and you have open bleeding wounds somewhere on your body. -2 to any checks involving the open wounds, including attacking with weapons if they're on your hands. Blood from your wounds counts as holy water.

Dimly-glowing - you radiate dim light in a 5' radius. You're visible in darkness so hiding in darkness impossible, and at -2 otherwise.

Spider-infested - you're infested with spider-babies just under your skin. You're severely itchy, so -2 to ability checks, but -4 to Charisma checks because your skin is mottled and alarming-looking. Every round, roll a d6. On a 1, spiders burst from your skin, dealing 1d6 points of damage, and you must have a DC 15 concentration check or fail whatever you're currently doing (concentrate spell, hold a sail rigging, shave, etc). If you're fighting, then you attacks are at disadvantage and -4.

Dissolving - your flesh is melting off!!  You take double damage from all sources. You have disadvantage to attack and disadvantage on concentration checks for spells. At the end of every round, you take severe damage and your condition gets worse:

    (Cumulative extra status-effects): Movement halved -> Movement set to 0 -> Blind -> Unable to take actions -> Dead

Sunday, March 26, 2023

GHYLAK THE MANY-MOTHER (boss fight stats)

 Here's an example of a tough boss I ran for my players this week. They spent the last few sessions searching through the swamps of the Lower Citadel for her, and I thought she was maybe going to be too tough to take down but they got her. This was run according to 5e rules, with the new estus healing we've been doing.


In her full radiance, she creates innumerable witches, which scatter like dandelion seeds across the air. They are barely intelligent, shrieking, laughing, naked women, they sleep in dirty piles, they burn and torture the living. But she is a goddess of the old age and she loves her children.

art by Frank Besancon

CR 28

Size huge (15x15)

HP 700

AC 28

Saves: Strength +10, Dexterity +10, Constitution +10, Intelligence +12, Wisdom +14, Charisma +14

Movement: Fly 80, Teleport 40, Walk 40

Immunities: Charm, Mind-Affecting, Movement Reduction, Disease


- The first time on every turn that someone approaches within 20', she can teleport 40' for free

- When she hits 350 hp, a divine aura surrounds her which makes her invulnerable to all damage until the end of her next turn. Arrows and projectiles that enter the aura turn to frogs or lizards, energy or magic turns to harmless swamp mud, melee users must make a Strength check DC 20 or the weapon goes flying the other direction 100'. Furthermore, all dead witches that she's created during combat come back to life with half-health.

- She's riding on a ram (or is it a goat?), but they are one divine entity. She can't be dismounted and any damage done to the ram just damages the goddess as a whole. 


- Shoot four rays of moonlight, range 200' or 600' with disadvantage, +16 for 8d8+10 radiant damage each

- If an enemy is within 20', her ram can also shout, causing an enemy's flesh to strip off. Attack +16 for 10d6 slashing damage.

- When she lands after flying for any distance, an shockwave explodes from the ram's hooves. This is a 20' radius, everyone has to make a Dexterity save DC 24 or take 4d10 damage and be knocked down.

-  (Recharge 1/2): She can cause an enemy to explode. A single target must make a DC 26 Con save or take 30d12 damage, save for half. If this brings you to 0 hp, you instantly die as you explode into bloody chunks.

Legendary actions (taken during player turn, after a player acts):

- (Every round) Spawn 1d4 witches, which bud and fall from her arms. They land prone and can act immediately on the enemy turn.

HP 80, AC 10, Fly 60'. Attacks: Shoot a fireball, DC 19' Dex save or 8d6 damage in 20' radius (standard fireball), or melee touch +12, then a DC 18 Wisdom save or be paralyzed, save at end of turn to end.

Then only one:

 - (Recharge on 1/2/3 out of d6): Kill a witch within 80' of her and heal for 8d10 hitpoints.


- (Recharge on 1/2 out of d6): Command all in a 120' cone to bow. They must make a DC 22 Wisdom save or bow with their face pressed to the ground. This leaves them prone and probably blind until the end of their turn.

When she dies, she falls off her ram and transforms back into her crone form. She is helpless and has one hitpoint in this form, and she begs for mercy.

more monsters from the monster manual I haven't done



Oh no, this picture. Okay so they're like miniature, somewhat more primitive hobbits with basic illusory magic. These are the fairies that can repair anything with their magic tools. Sometimes they act as fairy-tale house elves for some reason.

Well, if we're going the fairy-folk route, the first thing that needs to happen is they need to be unpredictable and strange. I like fairy stuff when they force you to play by bizarre and arbitrary rules, like, oh I can help you, but first you have to, like, walk counter-clockwise around the hill seven times. That's from a story I read growing up about a girl who gets kidnapped by the goblin king because she accidentally threw her ball into the fairy-world somehow. 

But brownies? I'm imagining weird little guys who follow around elves in the woods, they have faces that change shape arbitrarily. I always have the impression that brownies specifically are made from wood, bark, and moss, though I'm not sure what to do with that.

I like the idea maybe of brownies that have sort of enslaved random villagers out in the wilderness. They show up offering to fix their stuff, but the more stuff they fix, the more stuff breaks. Then after a while the house is full of brownies, like a party where too many people show up, and then they start getting violent, in a teasing playful kind of way, until eventually the victims find themselves doing the slave work. And the brownies won't leave. 

For the kilmoulis, they're just smaller versions of brownies. I don't mind there being different sizes and versions of brownies. These ones are specifically rat-like, sounds like they steal food. Maybe they have a similar disposition, they beg for food, but if you feed them, more and more show up, and when you refuse, they eat you.


Don't think I've done a bugbear either. "Giant, hairy cousins of goblins . . . bugbears are large and very muscular, standing 7' tall." My players would try to fuck them probably. So they are bestial in appearance, bear-like, with a strong sense of smell. The Monster Manual specifies that they live in caves, which I reject.

Not sure what to do with this. I'm not generally very interested in humanoid tribalist monsters, they're boring and played out, and there's not much to differentiate these guys. I don't even like the picture, he actually looks very proper and noble, like a knight that's been transformed.

Well, I definitely can't imagine more than two bugbears. God, even the name is bad. 

I can imagine some far off lord employing these guys. Maybe there's just one. He doesn't need to justify his appearance, he came out of the wilderness, he knows how to fight. He's some kind of goblin, I don't know. His eyes are reflective in the dark, he smells too well . . . it's kind of shading over into wolf-man, to be honest.

The best I can imagine is maybe having a couple of these guys as background characters at a monster keep. If all the inhabitants are a different kind of goblin, skeleton, vampire, fairy-creature, or whatever, having a couple bugbears drinking at a table in the great hall seems natural. Like a one-off alien in Star Wars.


I did a bulette once in high school and regretted it, the idea seemed so cool when I was 15 but as soon as he came out and started fighting I realized how lame he actually was. A shark with legs that burrows? The monster manual even specifies that his name is pronounced "Boo-lay" which makes it even more laughable. It's French? Come on.

Breath of the Wild did a good version in the desert, what was it, tortuga or something? Molduga. That one however is finned and swims through sand, which is much more palatable. The bulette specifically tunnels through dirt somehow. Honestly, I'm not even a fan of regular sharks. What's scary to me about sharks is that they're just passively out there in the water and you can't really see them, and they're much more mobile than you -- you're in their environment, you're the intruder, and they have the advantage. 

Now I read a bunch of shark attack accounts and I'm creeped out but now closer to figuring out how to translate that to a landshark. I just doesn't work. Moving on!


Ah, frog-men. Frog-men are great when they worship alien outer gods and have utterly terrifying, alien, implacable expressions as they kill you. I've done slaad and frog-demons but I'm not sure I've done frog-men, and if so, I've missed out. 

Cat, great

Big cats. I'm a little tired of the claw/claw/bite of great cats. But each great cat is interesting and charismatic in different ways so I'll try to go through them.


Apparently they are actually quite small. Now, it's hard to imagine a place where a cheetah would exist in my world. Lanky, family oriented, warm. I can actually imagine a cheetah-man, a pleasant, warm-blooded guy, lean and harsh, very far from home.


Pretty sure I've done these. Jaguars are so magical, it's easy to imagine them talking. 




Lions are lame. The only suitable lion I can imagine is an old, dusty, lion pelt... even that kind of diminishes the world somehow. Aslan kind of killed lions. I do like the idea of rogue lions, I've heard some very scary stories out of India. The lion is the land version of the shark, for sure. Maybe a lion that's doing something entirely unnatural, it slithers, or burrows, or walks on its hind legs even though it's still a cat. A lion that's learned to do something it's not supposed to, I kind of like that idea. 

Mountain lion

These are fine. I'm okay with regular mountain lions existing in the mountains.

Spotted lion

Did they really have to include this? Moving on.

Giant lynx

"Prefers cold coniferous and scrub forest . . . the giant lynx never attacks men . . . they can communicate in their own language with others of its kind." What were they on to here? Anyway, this reminds me a little bit of the giant stork. I'm okay with a giant lynx moving through the cold, foggy, snow-laden coniferous forest, distant as a spirit. It will not be speaking and I imagine it's intelligent enough to know now to attack adventurers. I'm okay with this.


Yes, I did blue dream tigers at one point. Okay.


It just seems over the top. Do tigers REALLY need giant fangs to be even more threatening? They just look goofy. If they players even traveled back in time, it wouldn't be sabre-toothed tigers, it would be proto-demons and primordial dragons and shit. Sabre-toothed tigers are too reminiscent of cave-men, and I prefer imagining early humans as more or less like us, but in savage and early Conan-like civilizations, with wars that lasted millennia, building forgotten cities on top of the the ruins of even earlier forgotten cities. As soon as a sabre-tooth tiger shows up, all the cliches are crowding behind it -- animal skins, fires, caves, cave drawings, etc, and for what? A +2 to attack and damage? 

Part of the appeal of the sabre tooth tiger is the implication that tigers used to be even worse. This is already undercut in a game of dungeons and dragons by the existence of, like, dragons.

However, if the players did happen to travel deep into dusty badlands, fought past the legions of flightless birds etc. and came upon a savage warrior queen who happened to have a couple sabre-tooth tigers, maybe that would be okay.

Cat, small

I've put so many cats in my game.

Domestic? Check. Wild? Check. Elven...?

Yeah, no. Cats are already elf-like, adding "elven" on top is just killing it. The elf cats speak elven, are slightly psychic, can cast enlarge and trip, etc ... I don't know man. I'm okay with a cat having like a 2% chance of responding if you talk to it, that starts tipping the game into haruki murakami but that's okay. But I can't wrap my head around an elf cat legitimately existing. I'm gonna pass.


Never done these. Monstrously ugly monsters that shoot death rays out of their eyes.

Maybe it's just so ugly that looking at it kills you. I like the detail that it seeks out fresh meat under the full moon. It probably goes into lonely old couples' houses, reveals itself, and then eats them, and makes their house its lair. It gets overgrown by the swamp and the catoblepas trambles everything down like a stupid but malicious animal. I'm okay with this.

Cave fisher

I do kind of like the idea of a crunchy exo-skeletal spider-crab perched in a crevice dangling a long silvery thread down, and when you touch it, you're anchored to it inexorably. It would have to be something that's mechanically really overwhelming, so it feels like you're really trapped. I like very obvious traps that are horribly punishing if you decide against your better judgment to interact with it -- this could be like that. You're pulled upwards and at the top you see the giant bug that's about to eat you, with black glittery eyes, too many claws, fibrous hairs sticking off, it pulls you into its crevice... Sure I'm down.

I also like that they're a predator animal, so there could be, like, a lot of them. You wander into some ruins deep under ground and there are these threads dangling everywhere. I like it when bug wildlife is just too profuse, it's disgusting. So this could play off that also.


Never done a centaur. They're just too fuckable. Hot, sexy, hairy centaur men with giant horse dicks? On the other end of the spectrum, they're just kind of twee and whimsical, just really magical guys that live, like, in the forest? I'm going to have to think about this. I'll pick it up next time.


Sunday, March 19, 2023

monsters from the monster manual i haven't done

I grew up on the AD&D 2e monster manual so I'll do that one!


Well, they would have to be evil degenerates. Bird-men that live on rain-streaked mountain-tops and tear apart travelers. Drop from high peaks. Vulture heads to bury in guts. If they have magic, it's blood magic. They have no culture or society but they are highly intelligent. It's just, they can fly, so they've chosen a better path.


Christ. My first thought is this would probably be a one-off NPC, but I've already done that with a mantis-man. Maybe I can just change the things I dislike? Ok... Instead of agricultural land and forests, they infest neglected quarters of cities, castles, fortresses, anywhere where people are close not being attentive enough. They don't burrow but they do fit into really narrow spaces, but they're still big, so when they unfurl from the gap between the walls it's like, how was that fitting in there?? I guess I'm thinking cockroach. The acid spit is good, like can dissolve NPCs into bloody goo. 


What even is this? Blue giants with multi-jointed fingers in ROBES? Oh my god, dimensional traveling merchants. So they're supposed to be alien. That really won't do, but I guess the core of it is gigantic blue merchants, which isn't entirely out of the question. A really big blue guy who just kind of appears in a dungeon and offers to sell some black-market stuff, and goes invisible because he's a coward. The issue is I've already filled that role -- I had a notorious blue sorcerer a while back, and I've got a dimensional traveling merchant who appears when a special candle is lit. 

The other way to go with this is to say, no they're not merchants, but they are a race of eighteen-foot blue people from outer space... Okay I give up.


This picture is awesome. Put this guy in an empty room and we're good to go. Okay what needs to change... Levitate/fly, no. Smell like flowers, no, they smell like rotting meat. Carry gear in their bodies, no, they're not intelligent but they do wield weapons. This little mini-game with the eye-powers is really bad though. If they need eye-powers, just have them shoot lasers out of all their eyes at once in a horrible super-attack that slices everyone up in a 10' radius, otherwise all they need to do is chomp and poke.


Please... This dipping into the AD&D obsession with just slapping a few extra pairs of legs on an animal and making it really big. They eat gold? I don't know... This whole thing about the aurumvorax economy and market has gotta go. I do kind of like the idea of a pure gold and highly malicious giant badger that eviscerates everyone who comes after it. It's really valuable and really magical but it's so aggro that no one's been able to get it. Gold stained with blood is good aesthetic. 


Okay, the baatezu. The only time this word has ever worked for me was in the specific context of Baldur's Gate, when it was describing a specific kind of demon in a specific world. In my game, they are only called demons, and people tend to call anything they're scared of demons. As for real demons, most of the demons out in the world are incomprehensible and reality altering. Anyway, the baatezu.

Pit Fiend

I don't think I've ever done a pit fiend. They seem basic. I am most drawn to the idea of Satan in Dante's Inferno though, he has a good pit fiend quality to him. So maybe a giant pit fiend frozen in ice in the vast, icy pit of hell.


They're like, gargoyle dragons? A huge swarm of winged lizard-demons making a cloud in the upper air of hell, maybe that would work.


Wait, have my players ever met a bear? They seem so tame and sweet, I can't imagine a bear surviving long in my world. This would be another one I might want to juxtapose. A bear hunting them in the city could be fun. 

Beetle, giant

Come on. Oh my god there are so many sub-types. Let me just scrap all of that and replace it with a really, really big beetle, the kind you'd only find in a deep forest, as big as a tank, or bigger. So big it has its own ecology, moss, lichen, its own beetles... 


The beholder was hard enough to pull off. I deployed it as a surprise second boss after they had already defeated the obvious first boss. It was like, demon cancer that grew around the Skoros Orb and gained sentience. What I maybe COULD do, though, is flying eyes. So, let's ignore all the subtypes, and just go with giant flying eyes with eye matter wafting behind it like tentacles.


Sure, my players have met a bird ... wait, what are all these subtypes, geez...

Blood hawk

What? They attack people for gems? That's a waste of a name. These are probably trained hawks that go directly for the jugular.


Why is this in here? It's a giant stork, seriously? Okay, giant storks probably live in a swamp somewhere, or maybe the Merelunds. But they're really giant, the mists of the swamp part, you see a giant stork... They're background animals, I guess you could kill one for 5 XP.


I like the pictures of the condor I've googled. They now exist in the mountains somewhere. Small humanoids do not ride them.


The pictures of the trained Mongolian eagles are simply so iconic. I love a bird that's just a little too big, working for a person. While the blood hawks are precise, the hunting eagles are like missiles.

Eagle, giant

"Like eagles, but bigger, and get a +4 bonus when they dive." What were they thinking? I can once again only picture these on snowy mountaintops. Maybe this is a deliberate callback to Tolkien, but in my game, they would not be compassionate. There is a sense that eagles have a society, separate and far above hours. I'm sure the giant eagles, if they exist, would hate the aarakocra. Players meeting a single, bloodied giant eagle, or maybe facing a conclave of giant eagles, in the thin, icy air, that might work.


Oh my god, storks again, but this time they can cast spells? "An eblis community consists of 2d4 huts" just kill me. Now apparently, the word eblis refers to Satan in Islam? I don't really know what to do with this, to be quite honest. Giant storks was hard enough. Maybe if a player of low morals goes around killing the giant storks, there's a chance they can cast spells and are psychotic murderers . . . these are the eblis. But no they don't have society, covet jewels, or live in huts. Swear to god.


My players have never met a falcon? I don't think so. This one I'm really having trouble with. Falcons are smaller, kind of sleeker I guess. Maybe a lord somewhere has a room of falcons. I wouldn't be surprised if Malric Godson of Two Fang Castle has falcons, he seems like a degenerate. Most important though is that there cannot be intelligent falcons. Don't know why.

Flightless bird

Maybe in some dusty wilderness somewhere, kicking up clouds, there will be flightless birds. There will probably be too many of them and they will probably be too aggressive, but also simply animals, so my players will feel guilty if they decide to fireball them.


Are you fucking kidding me? The writers of this book were insane. Okay, a hawk. "Hawks target eyes and have a 25% percent probability of striking an eye," this is a very specific eye sub-system. It would be kind of funny if my players met a wild hawk and they just went straight for the eyes. 

Owl, giant

I'm remembering that horrible owl from Secret of Nimh. I would probably have to go that route.

Owl, talking

What? It's just a good aligned owl that can talk, and feigns a broken wing in order to test good adventurers? That's kind of hilarious, actually. I would put this in the game. "Ah, adventurer, I see thou art good of heart! Therefore, I shall accompany thee on thy quest!" This note about they have Wisdom 21 is ridiculous. I don't know, I'm charmed by this stupid idea. If my players raised eyebrows, I would say it's from the book, and that would be the joke.


Decorative swans are fine. I feel like a two-headed swan is a natural progression, for some reason. I'd do that. 

Vulture, giant

Too much cross-over with the Changer of Ways. But a trained giant vulture crouching in the corner of some barbarian's throne room sounds good.

And that's it for birds! Cool.

Brain mole

Look like normal moles and are rarely seen. Hmm I wonder why I've never done these guys... so what, they're just psychic moles that attack psychic people from inside their tunnels? I mean, I do like the idea of psychic moles that are hunted by poachers. They don't even need to have personality or dangerous attacks, just like, a mildly psychic cute little guy whose dried brains are used as medicine or something. They probably just generate little static fields. I do like the idea of a court magician going, "Yes, I have prepared a tincture created from the spinal fluid of the Brain Mole..." It's kind of dumb. I'm not sure.

Broken one

Oh, so they're like, animal/person cross-breeds as the result of magical lab experiments? Seems like it's treading on the territory of ratman, panther-man, wolf-man, etc. The idea of a lab experiment guy is just so cliche, I don't know if I can get on board. Perdido Street Station did it pretty well with the grafting, and Elden Ring does it with the Misbegotten. This idea seems like it's striking directly at the heart of someone who's been experimented on, and are now pathetic and horrible. In that case, they would really have to be truly evil sickos, Texas Chain Saw Massacre like, or giallo-esque, to exploit the urge to pity them.


Please... Okay I've reached my limit. I'll pick up here later.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023


 There is a gouge in the earth south of the Lord's Tits, the two hills which house the Church of the Claw and the Pit of Demise. Here the ground falls away and plunges almost two-hundred feet, down there you can see the ruins of an older city. Tumbled down towers, broken houses of old stone, cracked church spires, and flooded promenades fill the valley. And a swamp fills its center. You can see dense trees spanning the thick purple swamp that stretches almost from the northern cliff-face to the south. Ruins even jut from the water. Also there is a high tooth of land, upon which is crouched a small fortress. This is Two Fang Castle, where lives Malric Godson, Lord of the Lower Citadel, and his family and retinue.

It is said that the holy waters from the Radiant Chalice flow endlessly, but the water that ends up in the Lower Citadel has been poisoned somehow. You cannot drink it or swim in it. Maybe the deathrot curse of Liofnir, Lord of Death, has pooled in the water, for many beings afflicted by deathrot gather in the Lower Citadel. Small crocodiles, blighted frogs hungry for curse, three-legged crows, and other creatures made unrecognizable by the curse dwell here. But also the Tarnished are drawn to the Lower Citadel. At night the screams of the Tarnished can be heard all throughout the empty streets. Uncivilized people dwell in the poisoned swamp too, Poison Nomads, who are hunted by the militiamen of Lord Godson, the cursed beasts, and the mindless witches alike.

There is also a coven here. It is well known that a plague of witches has been spreading in the Lower Citadel since ages past. There are shrieking, laughing, naked women with no civilization or culture. They sleep in the daytime in piles in the ruined rooftops, and fly up in clouds to pull down any mages foolish enough to pass through the skies over the Lower Citadel. They can conjure fire and paralyze with a touch, and when the Golden Order has tried to exterminate them, those slain are reborn by a being called the Many-Mother, who dwells somewhere in the swamp.

Her nature is unknown. Those who have laid eyes on her speak of her budding arms, from which her children drop like fruit. There are older gods that once ruled in this old city, who were slain or driven underground by Vellisex and his Golden Order. It is said that Murgo's corpse wanders in the Shade Sanctum which stretches far underneath the Goldenwood. West of Two Fang Castle, at the furthest west point of the Lower Citadel, is an old cathedral, the Exiled Church, once dedicated to the Flame, which was Beheaded. But the cursed abominations throughout the city whisper the truth -- there are, in fact, two Exiled Churches, and one is buried far below the other, where the poison of the city pools deeply, and it is there that Gut-warp the Abomination holds her heretical mass...


If you swim in the water or fall in or wade in it, make an easy saving throw to resist disease. Every round you remain immersed, the saving throw becomes more difficult. When you fail, you become poisoned. Your speed is halved, and you take two points of damage at the start of each turn.


The plague spread by Liofnir, Lord of Death.

Those afflicted with the deathrot can spread it like a disease. If you are damaged by a diseased being, or even come into close proximity with one, make a difficult saving throw to resist disease. When you fail, you are afflicted with the deathrot, and take 2d8 damage at the start of each turn until you reach one hitpoint. Those afflicted with the deathrot are also contagious. 

Some creatures have adapted to live with the curse. Their breath and touch are cursed, and if they touch or damage you, they may cause you to gain stacks of the deathrot curse, typically one, but sometimes as many as four. An additional saving throw is typically not allowed. These cause no effect until you reach ten stacks of the deathrot curse, at which point you instantly die as your body rots apart. 

In either of its forms, it can be removed as either a curse or a disease.


1. Team of outriders from Two-Fang Castle in boats made of painted bark with painted eyes that see invisibility. They are hunting for tumorous growths within creatures afflicted with rot (humans too)

2. 3d10 witches, cackling, flying, swooping, their touch causes paralysis, they shoot fireballs, they are resurrected by the power of the Many-Mother, thus they are careless of their lives, basically kamikazes having lots of fun

3. Giant curse-frogs which eat those afflicted with deathrot, they breathe poison/curse combo

- Some cursed try to be eaten by these frogs because they believe it will save their souls from Liofnir

- They remain living in the upper gullets of the frogs, and the frogs use them to lure

4. Rot hunters from Two-Fang castle on foot, more careful and sneaky, wearing hoods with blackened tassles

- “Wax candies” made from refined human fat that inflict a minor poison but greatly improves hearing and vision

- Surgical implements and wax lined bags containing still-wet tumors

- Blowdarts cause sleep and memory loss (if woken up, severe disorientation)

- Tongs, clamps, restraints

5. Curse-laden Idol: A black idol in the shape of a jolly man, worshipped by cursed creatures mangled almost beyond recognition; anyone afflicted with the deathrot can stave off death by worshipping at its breast (it is said to represent Liofnir’s great embrace)

6. A black ram that walks through the air, an undead monkey clings to it, a scout for the witches

7. Lord Agrocot, a nobleman from the upper citadel, escorted by two grafted knights (four arms) and 10 men-at-arms, they are seeking a sacred prostitute who is said to be able to lift a man's sin, and he has with him his wife in a carriage on animated legs.


A ruined church in a pool of clear and pure water. A great tree grows out of its roof. The buildings surrounding the church and the tree have hundreds of curious bark figurines pressed to them. They are flat and plainly cut, but if you approach or disturb the bark figures they rise in a fluttering swarm which make a sound in the air like laughter and plunge into your flesh. 

Inside the church is a statue of a woman holding five infant sons. A thick carpet of moss covers the church floor. There is a natural basin of water at the woman's feet, inside is a medallion depicting a naked man embracing a bat. You can use it twice a day to give yourself an extra half-action.

If you pray at the statue, you are healed of your wounds.


From a far distance you can see a pink light shining in the top window of a house. When you get close, you can see it is an unruined house, and its windows are leaden and opaque, but the top window has an image of a belltower incised into it, through which the pink light glows.

If you knock, a great knight in corroded armor answers the door. His name is Ser Caradoc, and he does not speak. You may be able to talk your way in and speak with the lady of the house. She is attractive and perfumed and speaks well and she is expecting the company of Lord Agrocot. Players without morals may be able to trick her into providing them company. She takes the sins of those she sleeps with and sends them to Voyra of the Hidden Ways, but as the way to Voyra is lost, the sins will be lost also.


Three bell-towers at the north edge of the district. Crumbled stairs climb their exterior, they are broken in many places. Thick chains lead between the towers, you can climb them if you are careful. It is said that if you ring all three bells at the same time, something happens...

The north tower has a chain that leads to a doorway into the cliff-face. Here is the entrance to the Shade Sanctum, known to some as the Utter Dark. 


Deep within the swamp, you may come across an intact stone house. The windows are broken, a cold, damp smell comes from within.

On the first floor is a ruined dining room, a corpse covered in moss lies near the table. His body is mangled. In the kitchen is a silver knife. Stairs lead down to a flooded cellar. 

On the second floor, spots of black mold can be seen on the walls. There is liquor in the bedroom. A bathroom has a cracked mirror and an alligator in the bathtub.

The stairs to the third floor have rotted away. But you can see the black mold grows thick like a fur on the walls up there, and there is a rotting stench...


This hasn't been fully explored, but picture an old, old fortress, which predates the family that lives within it. It is decorated with an emblazoned lion, covered with the golden banners of Vellisex. But Malric Godson has no love for Vellisex or the Golden Order.

A lift brings you up from the swamp to the main gate of the castle. Inside, the courtyard is flooded, but this water is pure, and stone walkways lie just under the water and allow the inhabitants to walk. A giant frog monster lives in the water (is it friendly...?). There are docks, where the castle keeps its boats. 

House Godson lives in the main keep, which is too big for them. It is squat, ugly, and cold, with narrow, low-ceilinged hallways. Malric Godson is a large, blunt, hairy, hostile man. His wife, Viola Godson, is shrill and untrusting. Their wizard, the Poison Sorcerer Lockley, is reported to be searching for a cure for the deathrot, he is gathering curse-laden tumors from the bodies of the afflicted. They have a young son and a daughter.

They can tell you that they believe the Many-Mother is connected to a gnarled tree-stump to the south of the castle.

In the East Tower is housed the barracks, where the militia-men and rot hunters live, as well as their families. This is a more comfortable and warm tower, there is plenty of food and light. Three young orphans here are brave explorers, and know the way to many secret places in the castle, if you befriend them.

The West Tower is said to be haunted, and is entirely boarded up.

No one is allowed into the castle dungeons, but there is said to be a secret entrance at the base of the castle cliff, hidden behind thick thornbushes.


A muddy stretch of land amidst the swamp. At its center grows a great tree-stump whose tangled roots form a hollow you can walk into. A white lily grows there in the darkness. If you stand in the hollow and look west, the trees that grow there have the appearance of hands reaching towards the sky.

Ruined buildings jut from the water around the island. If you peek inside, you can see they are full of witches, sleeping in piles.

At nightfall, crowds of frogs, lizards, and small alligators crawl from the swamp and gaze inward toward the stump. Thousands of them and their croaking intensifies into a discordant song. As the sun is pulled down under the western horizon by the trees' reaching hands a the black ram appears from the sky and steps lightly toward the tree stump. From the earth in the hollow crawls out an aged woman, blind, she is covered in dirt, and she pulls herself onto the ram's back. She reaches up, her arms bloom in profusion, a crown can be seen on her trunk where her head had been a moment ago.

Her arms begin to fruit, here is where the witches are born.


From a distance, it appears to be a great cathedral decorated with grotesque frog-like gargoyles. The water of the swamp pours underneath its stones. Its doors are shut, but a ruined highway leads from Two Fang Castle to the church. The inhabitants of the castle can tell you the church is one of the oldest structures in the city, and that for a time, Vellisex was worshipped there. But now the gates are shut, and no one goes within.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

we tried estus!!!

 So I talked to my players about trying out estus-style healing and we've given it a shot for a few sessions, and it's fun so we're gonna stick with it for a bit. Here's how it works:

Players no longer track hit-dice and cannot use hit-dice to heal.

Instead, every player has six charges per day they can use to heal. I feel like this might be a bit high, but they're in epic levels so it seems to work. It takes an action to heal, and they get to roll all of their hit-dice together and heal that much. In our game, we're saying that this action simply means you're taking a moment to steal your resolve and get your head back in the game. 

So a level 10 barbarian/level 14 thief would roll 10d12+14d8 and get that many hitpoints back. It usually ends up being about 1/2 - 2/3 of a player's health.

 When they long rest, they get all their estus charges back and all their hit-points. If they sleep in the rough (like in a campsite or a dungeon), they get half their hitpoints, but still all their estus. They can't use estus if they can't take an action (like if they're unconscious or paralyzed), and other characters can't use their estus for their (like pouring a health potion into their mouth or casting a spell). 

The main feedback my players have is they say it feels like they can adventure for longer before taking a rest. They say that the main limiter for resting has been hitpoints, and that they tend to run out of hitpoints before running out of their other abilities, and that resting so soon kind of takes them out of the adventure when they'd rather keep adventuring. I think that sounds great.

It also interacts a little confusingly with fifth-edition abilities that key off a short rest. There are various class abilities that improve healing from hit-dice, or that require a short rest to recharge, and removing healing from a short rest either makes those class abilities a little confusing or nerfs them somewhat. For instance, bard has an ability that gives extra healing from a short rest, which seems pretty nerfed, since the bonus healing is now negligible compared to what self-healing provides. We've had to spend a moment here and there clarifying how other items work, for instance our wizard has a power that improves his hit-dice healing only during a short rest.

I'm not sure how this will interact with healing spells on a meta-game level. We still need healing spells to bring unconscious characters back into a fight, and it might be helpful bonus healing. Our bard has said he enjoys being a healer, so we'll see how that plays out.

The change incentivizes the use of powers that self-damage. Our barbarian has a magic lantern that shoots a fire laser and heals heavy damage every round it's used. Since hit-points were a scarce resource before, he literally never used it, but now he's been able to use it. It was fun but I wonder if it's balanced. On the other hand, he had never considered using the lantern before, and now he got to shoot screaming lines of fire at swarms of cursed bark totems.

It also makes any abilities that limit healing much more dangerous. Our barbarian also had a necklace that gave him a huge chunk of bonus hitpoints (like, +25%), but nerfed healing by 50%. This seemed okay back when the main source of healing was a short rest, but now that combat healing is more common, being able to heal for only 60 hitpoints instead of 120 is a big deal when you're surrounded by enemies dealing 40 damage a hit.

I've been playing around with more dangerous monsters now. I feel like I have a little more leeway to introduce some really fucked up enemies that can tear apart the group without completely breaking the flow of the game. Last session, they were chased by a team of knights into a random dungeon and found themselves in a statue-filled catacomb on the borders of Plastiboo's Shade Sanctum, I put like 20 completely silent damage resistant / magic resistant AC 34 grabby golems in there and let them sneak attacked in a tight corridor. 

Previously, the penalty for getting into trouble like that kind of felt too severe to me. Taking a chance and getting ganked and dying isn't that fun, in my opinion, but taking a chance and having to spend a bunch of estus to survive a shitty battle feels a lot more tractable. And after the players had spent almost all their estus and spells to survive, they had to decide how to get out, and felt empowered enough to make a mad dash past the golem group. One of the golems critted for 120 damage, which is exactly the kind of result I like -- the guys could have died, but they thought fast and escaped.

So we're gonna stick with it for now!

Friday, January 20, 2023

The Sky (what we've been up to)

 So in the course of polishing off the Shattered Labyrinths of Illith Varn, my players happened to defeat the Sky Witch Jupiter Volaris and came into possession of her flying fortress. It took, from my perspective, a long time for them to think to simply fly straight up, but when they did, I had a sky map ready. "Okay, to the north from far off you see what looks like a floating island with a tower on it, and to the south, it looks like a floating island with a dragon statue on it ..."

Thus did my players explore Tower Island (time wizards keep a parasite-man hostage up above, automatons of the gods protect an ancient secret underneath), Dragon Statue Island (20-40 rolling furry abominations swerve around lakes of lava pouring out of a dragon statue's mouth, a fire goblin just wants to eat the lava unmolested), Palace Island (a fragment of the Palace of Sublime Authority from the surface, protected by knights with seared eyeless heads who can shoot giant arrows up to a mile away), and Mountain Island (a mountaintop monastery where the wet-nurse of Voyra of the Hidden Ways still lives; at the mountain's base, a village of ancient halflings, once servants to the gods, are kidnapped and cannibalized by gigantic trolls).

On Mountain Island my imagination started to go a little crazy. They found a ravine, inside the ravine is a giant moth whose wing-scales cause skull-tumors to grow on your flesh. Also inside the ravine, they found ancient tombs. Inside the ancient tombs, they found a moonlight sword. At the bottom of the ravine, they found a door of darkness, which the moonlight sword pierced. And past the door of darkness, in a secluded cave, they found a mansion kept by servants made of knives and red cloth, who bowed and let them enter.

Here we had the DISMAL ABODE of CALAGON, THE DISMAL TWIN: a run-down, nearly abandoned mansion of a cruel and hated god, so despised by his own family that he was locked underground, never to be seen again. It is said that his love was so great, that anyone who encountered it was utterly destroyed. And no matter how many he loved, his love ever grew. Thus a torrent of sacrifices were brought before him, and still he called for more. 

A good excuse for beautiful youths locked in rooms and protected by friendly but evil individuals. As they were working for a rapist and a god, my players killed almost everyone they came across, and saved everyone else they could. Some of the once beautiful youths had been transformed into screaming slug people, etc. There was a witch. They befriended a behir. Etc etc. 

In the final chamber they confronted Calagon, a guy made of stinking skin presiding over a bed of gore, and protected by a gigantic golden insect named Vithra, who seemed really keen on keeping Calagon in his bedroom. Anyway a final battle ensued, which seemed maybe a little too easy (that's all it took to kill a god?), and they found a gate in the closet to the aforementioned Radiant Citadel, guarded by two priestesses of Vellisex, and to their dismay discovered the truth: Calagon was fine and had escaped long, long ago, and was busy hanging out with his brother in a palace in the middle of a city in the sky.

Gazing at the city from a rocky island just off-shore, where the Tower of the Divided Eye casts its light across the murky red ocean --

"Smoke rises from the city. You hear distant screams. Here and there picking their way over the rooftops you can see gigantic golden spiders, like the Half Life striders. The gigantic goblet rising over the city looks a little off somehow, its light kind of muted and patches of it are tarnished."

So now we're in a city. Encounters have included:

- One of the Beloved of Vellisex (that's what they call the giant spiders -- up close you can see they're covered in a kind of platinum gold fur, their heads are covered in goats horns, and they have hooves instead of spider-feet, and grasping claws that dangle down from their bulbous bodies which carry nets made of bone, hooked spears, and other horrible weaponry) protected by a retinue of the Golden Order (the elite knights of Vellisex the Golden) . . . the Beloved has a princeling in his net, who cries out for help

- The Golden Order declares a sudden quarantine zone, the streets are blocked, and Rot Hunters rush forward to put the diseased block to the torch

- A group of deathrot slimes look like tar patches with bones in them, actually they can climb walls and inflict death rot (you take damage each round, also if you get 10 stacks of deathrot you die)

- A drug-dealer who sold the players "fluke" which is a little worm you put in your eye and it makes you high. They got too fucked up and insulted the Golden Order and Sad Ed got thrown in jail. Luckily, he is level 25, so it wasn't too hard to break out, and received an invitation to work with the Perfumer (drugdealer), he is said to reside in the Church of War, somewhere in the Old Citadel.

The cultists of the Divided Eye had the players travel to the Church of the Claw to deliver a message (a list of goods -- candles, incense, holy water, sheep ...), and the Terminal Unguis of the Church of the Claw, a friendly fellow named Hector Brute, asked the players if they might be willing to put to the sword one of the Tarnished, a Once-Beloved of Vellisex named Ash-Drinker, who's taken up residence on the Lordsbridge. The Procession of the Convent of Beauty needs to process to meet with Vellisex in three days (one of the Claws of the Church of the Claw is a tower filled with nuns so beautiful that they can never be looked upon, therefore they process under a giant opaque tent; the other claw is filled with monks who spend all night speed-writing religious texts and all day training in violently high-speed acrobatics) and it would be best if they could cross the Lordsbridge, instead of going the Long Way Around.

So the players checked out the Lordsbridge, and I once again failed the "write a small dungeon challenge." On top of the Lordsbridge -- Ash-Drinker, a gigantic insane spider that breathes acid slime and is wielding the spiked corpse of a golden knight as a weapon, being worshipped by one of the Goldmasks (those afflicted with Deathrot sometimes choose to don the Goldmasks and thus come under the protection of the Golden Order, they are allowed to pass freely through the city), and protected by a group of grafted men shaped like dogs. Stairs down leading into the bridge, a causeway of narrow hallways with glowing trees, a Tarnished Knight, a Star Creature, a Cleric of Vellisex, a Swarm of Cast-Off Limbs, and Spite-Tooth, an Abomination of Rathor, who suggested the players seek the Exiled Church in the Lower Citadel to speak with her sister Gut-Warp, who might assist the players in their rebellion.

Luckily, an elevator down to the Lower Citadel was just a few rooms over. Down there -- piles of corpses, poison water, an endless parade of slugmen dragging themselves from the swamp . . . they went back upstairs.

After dispatching Ash-Drinker, they thought, hmm, what to do next? Why don't we go meet with the Perfumer in the Old Citadel? And in short order mixed up Old Citadel and Lower Citadel and found themselves back down the elevator and wandering in the Bad Part of Town: empty ruined streets of a city that was here before the city was here; distant shrieking; purple sludge swallowing up entire blocks; far away amidst the swamp of the Lower Citadel, a castle, said to be called Two-Fang Castle; and flocks of shrieking flying witches way too eager to die, which they were told are birthed anew by the Many-Mother, who resides somewhere in the ruins of the Lower Citadel...

They realized eventually they were going in the wrong direction, but, "It's okay Nate, you already drew us this nice map." And anyway, they have a quest to kill the Many-Mother, another quest to meet with Gut-Warp, and they hear that the lord of Two-Fang Castle, Malric Godson, might give them somewhere to stay.

I left out a lot of stuff about like their new lightning pterodactyl, their flesh-steed named Gorgo, the knock-off Griffith named Vladweth they rescued from Palace Island (upon learning of the sky gods: "What must it be like, to be a god?" My players are resisting meta-gaming so they haven't murdered yet), and I didn't even touch on the Windskier Mountains and the plot to resurrect Ancibin, Demon Prince of the Air. Anyway that's what we've been up to!