Monday, January 27, 2014

The Submerged Spire: Wandering Monsters

So on Sunday I posted an entire underwater dungeon: The Submerged Spire of Sarpedon the Shaper. You can take a look at it here. This is the wandering monster table for that place. But you could use it for any underwater adventure.

Chris Burdett

The Rules

For every 3 turns spent within the Submerged Spire, there is a 1 in 6 chance of encountering a wandering monster. There are two exceptions to this rule.

(1) Within dry areas (1, 22-23, 25-32), no wandering monsters will be encountered.

(2) Within the Open Room of the Central Tower (area 6), wandering monsters should be checked for every turn (10 min.).

Wandering Monsters (d8)

  1. Mako Shark HD4 AC4 MV15 Att: Bite 2d6. 
  2. 1d6 Sapless Ones HD2+2 AC7 MV12 Att: grasp 1-4 + strength loss. These are the shades of Sarpedon's experimental subjects. They steal furtively throughout the spire, always watching, appearing as the queer shadows cast by their former mutated forms. In the dark waters of the Submerged Spire, Sapless Ones surprise on a 1-5. They will bide their time until a lone party member is vulnerable, and then attempt to swarm him. They ignore armor when striking, and if they succeed on a to hit roll, the victim loses 1 strength for 1d6 turns.
  3. Necrophidius HD3 (24) AC2 Att: Bite 1d8+save vs. magic or be paralyzed for 1-4 turns. Special: +2 on surprise rolls, immune to sleep and charm, and may perform the dance of death: all viewing must save vs. magic or be hypnotized and rendered defenseless. This is the creature whose lair is in area 8. If it has been killed, substitute Replacement 1 below.
  4. 1d6 Luminous Jellies (small) MV12" HD1 AC8 Att: Tentacles 1d4 + save vs. poison or temporarily lose 1 point of constitution.
  5. School of Fish Wow, look at that, a whole school of fish
  6. 1d3 Cenarachs HD4 (16, 18, 20) AC6 MV12" Att: Bite 1d6+poison save or die. These are the Cenarachs whose lair is the Base of the North Tower (area 13). If they have all been killed, substitute with Replacement 2 below.
  7. Muscle Jelly HD6 HP30 AC10 SPD12' Att: Slam 1d8+2. Immune to mind affecting spells. This is a much smaller Muscle Jelly that escaped from the Bone and Muscle Workshop (area 25) to wandering the rest of the Spire. 
  8. 1d6 Apparition Shrimp HD2 AC2 MV9 Att: pincer/pincer 1d6/1d6. These massive (2' tall, 4' long) shellfish have been changed by feeding on the mutagen infused carcasses of Luminous Jellies. They have translucent, ghostly blue shells, and long wicked razored appendages. They travel in packs and are aggressive. 

Replacement 1: Rival Adventuring Party (Sahuagin)

This Sahuagin band has made its way into the Submerged Spire to collect luminous jellies for their unpleasant sacraments. They are in holy terror of the Spire, which they hold to be a sort of forbidden zone, sacred to The One Who Hunts, their dark deity. They are likely to flee if surprised, or if they suffer a casualty. But they are cunning, and will return with others, laying a careful trap.
Jannell Jaquays

Leader HD4(24) AC5 MV12 Attk: Lone Trident 1d10
Braves(x2) HD2+2 (11) AC5 MV12 Attk: Spear 1d6 (one riding a shark)
Shark Rider HD 2+2 (15) AC5 MV12 Attk: Longspear + Net 1d8
His Shark HD4 (18)  AC4 MV15 Attk: Bite 2d6
Priestess HD3(12) AC5 MV12 Attk: Claw/Claw/Bite 1d4/1d4/1d6 or spell: darkness, protection from good, cause light wounds

Replacement 2: Necrotic Shark 
After consuming Muscle Jellies within the Submerged Spire, this shark has undergone terrible changes at the cellular level. Its exterior is now covered with a bony carapace, not unlike a white lobster shell. It is slow (for a shark), and partially blind owing to a weakened sense of smell. But it is still a mighty hunter. Anyone bitten must save vs. disease or develop a similar affliction (natural ac 5, -6 charisma).
Necrotic Shark HD5 A2 MV9 Att: Diseased bite 2d6+sickness

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Submerged Spire of Sarpedon the Shaper

JC Barquett
“Sarpedon was a pioneer in the construction of biological forms. He held in contempt the usual method of sewing rotting pieces of flesh together with wires or hinges, and referred to its practitioners as morons and hatchet men. In its place, he developed a method of mixing living forms that he compared to the blending of notes into harmony. He likened himself to a composer in the music of flesh and bone..."

Excerpt from The Lives of the Sorcerer Lords

The Submerged Spire of Sarpedon the Shaper lies to the West of the Isle of the Dismemberer. On the northwestern shore, crumbling steps lead from the islands edge directly into the sea. There, a seaweed choked stone path can be glimpsed winding down into the depths. At low tide, a quarter mile along the path, a lone onion dome may be seen poking through the waves. In the twilight of the sorcerer lords, The Submerged Spire was the jewel of the Shattered Isles. Now, its forlorn spire the roost of seagulls, its secrets slumber beneath the waves. 

[Note: The following dungeon takes inspiration from +Gavin Norman 's forthcoming PDF The Complete Vivimancer. It will be available in a free PDF being put together by Gavin entitled From the Vats.]

The Upper Towers (Levels 1-4)

Looking down into the water from the parapet of the onion dome, a main tower can be seen to arise from the base of a central keep. Around the central tower were once arrayed four smaller towers. The south and west towers are intact, but the upper levels of the north and east towers have crumbled into ruin. The four exterior towers were originally linked by stairs that wound around the exterior of the central spire. The spire may thus be entered from seven locations: from the stairs within the bell tower that lead down to 2, from the entrances to 5 and 7 on the exterior stairs connecting the two remaining exterior towers, or from the doorways into the base of each of the four exterior towers 10, 11, 12 and 13 on the top of the keep at level four. The keep itself is sealed by two large portcullises that are rusted into place. All areas above the keep are submerged, except for the bell tower at low tide. Unless otherwise noted, the floors of all submerged room are covered by 6 inches of silt. For wandering monsters, use this table. (You may use these all purpose rules for underwater adventuring.) 

1. The Bell Tower [Not shown on map]
An arched entryway leads from the parapet into the onion dome of the central tower. Like all the exterior doorways in the tower, it is faintly inscribed with the traces of (now defunct) magical runes. It is possible to walk inside the dome, in about 1 foot of water at low tide. Much of the space is taken up by a massive metal bell that now lies on its side in the water, covered in a layer of barnacles and green rust. If these are scraped away, the bell will be revealed to be beautifully worked bronze, previously inlaid with lapis lazuli and gems. These gems were pried off some time ago, although 25gp worth of lapis lazuli can still be extricated with persistent effort. A narrow staircase leads down into the dark water. 

The third to last step down to 2 is trapped with magical runes. Stepping on it causes fleshy pink brambles to grow from the wall, encasing those on the bottom end of the stairs in a mass of thorns. Save vs. breath weapon or take 3d4 damage. It takes 10 minutes to hack someone free from one side, and another 10 minutes to clear a path through to the other side. (Formerly this trap also shut off the barrier on the dome that held out water, drowning the imprisoned trespasser. These barriers, once ubiquitous in the spire no longer function, except within the western wing of the keep.)

Level 1

2. Shrine to Aramesh [Central Tower]
A barnacle encrusted marble statue occupies the north wall. It is vaguely humanoid, but a multitude of indistinct faces and limbs press out from it, as though they seek to escape the marble. There is an inscription at the base, which reads in ancient Ghinorian, “Hail Aramesh, ever flowering, whose body is home to infinite forms". Next to the statue there is a marble altar. Beneath a crust of barnacles and seaweed it is inlaid with lapis lazuli, tourmaline and black pearls. Along the west wall, several rusted flutes, and a wicked knife protrude from a pile of silt.

For each man-turn (10 min.) spent working at the altar, the pcs may take 100gp worth of precious stones up to 500gp in total. However, the finest of the stones—a large black pearl—is cursed. Removing it from the Spire activates the dreadful mutagens locked within it. Anyone carrying it out of the tower will be haunted by increasingly vivid dreams of twisting flesh running in rivulets and blossoming like rosebuds. On the first night these are experienced as fevered nightmares, leaving the owner of the pearl exhausted (-1 to all rolls). However, by the third night, and increasingly thereafter, the dreamer begins to experience them as strangely erotic and profoundly compelling, awakening with an unnatural vigor (+1 to all rolls). On the seventh night, the dreamer will realize that the flesh he has seen is his own, and Aramesh will claim her lover in an orgy of melting and blooming flesh. The only way to halt the effects of the mutagen is to return the pearl to her altar room. Should the pearl change possession, the curse will only spread to each of its successive owners. 

Level 2

3. Curios [Central Tower]
This room once served to display wonders and curios. If players search the silt, they will discover the lacquered shell of a translucent crab (5gp), a pair of once-fine but now badly corroded swords fashioned of a queer iridescent metal (25 gp as a curiosity only), a small tarnished silver box engraved with fantastic representations of swirling waves and foaming sea (75 gp), and a clockwork canary that is corroded beyond use (worthless as is). A master clockmaker may repair the ingenious canary over a period of 2 weeks. Should he do so, it will play haunting lullabies when wound, no two ever the same. Someone listening to these songs while falling asleep has a 1 in 6 chance of arriving at The Unbidden Shores. [The dream lands.]  

4. The Glowing Pillar [West Tower]
A glass column, through which runs an eerie beam of green light, dominates the center of the room.The column is cracked and filled with water; where the cracks show, motes of green light spill from the glass into the surrounding water. The light emanates from a hole in the ceiling at the top of the glass column. At its bottom, copper tubes run from its base into the wall. Clustered around the cracks in the column are many Luminous Jellies. Sensing movement and life in the water, 1d8 jellies will attack. Should anyone be unfortunate enough use magic in the room, all the jellies will swarm towards her in a deadly, shining wave.

Luminous Jellies, Large (x3) MV12" HD3+3 AC10 Att: Tentacles +3 1d6 + save vs. poison or temporarily lose 2 points of constitution. 
Luminous Jellies, Small (x20) MV12" HD1 AC8 Att: Tentacles 1d4 + save vs. poison or temporarily lose 1 point of constitution.

5. Empty [South Tower]
This circular room is 25’ feet in diameter with 12’ ceilings. On the east side of the room a staircase goes down. Dim light enters the room from two doorways to the exterior in the NW and NE side of the room, inscribed with faded runes. From them, stairs wind down along the exterior of the central tower. The NW stairs lead down to room 7 on Level 3. (Note that the final step into area 7 is trapped--see the description of area 7 below.) The NE stairs lead nowhere, having crumbled along with the eastern tower to which they once led.

Level 3

6. Open Room [Central Tower]
Dappled natural light spills into this large open room from two doors that  lead out into the open ocean with views over the ruined debris of north and east towers to the base of the keep (Level 4). Fish swim freely through the space, and currents can be felt. (There is no silt on the floor here.) The west side of this room is largely taken up by a long stone table, inlaid with elegant tortoise-shell. Several remarkable chairs remain standing around the table: the opalescent shells of giant clams that have been fitted onto long bronze legs (200gp each, 3 total). On the east side of the room one small stone table remains, as well as some metal pokers. The secret door in the west wall of this room will is a door that pushes back and then slides along a track into the wall. It is now stuck and requires a bend bars check to open (or a combined strength of 30). It will not be easy to spot unless someone examines the wall closely. There is a 50% chance that the necrophidius is in his lair (7) and will emerge 3 rounds after the players enter the room. If not, there is a cumulative 10% chance per turn that it will return.

7. Rainbow Coral (Trap) [West Tower]
A set of wide copper pipes run down the west wall of this room from ceiling to floor. At the base of these pipes, a large rainbow coral has grown up that occupies the bulk of the western side of the room, partially blocking the steps going down. It emits a kaleidoscopic light. In this phantasmagoria, myriad fish swim and dart, traveling in and out of the open doors. It is truly a wonder to behold. The secret door in the eastern wall is clearly visible from this side. Two doorways, one NE and one SE, lead out to the steps that wind up around the central tower.

Having absorbed the mutagens from the leaky pipes, the rainbow coral possesses strange alchemical properties. If a piece of it comes into contact with a magical object roll on the following chart (d10):
  1. As it approaches the item, dazzling colored sparks fly between the two. If touched, they cannot easily be pried apart. (Bend bars check to separate them.)
  2. As it touches the item, the coral rapidly spreads like a fungus across and over the item, engulfing it. Before your eyes it gains in bulk and sprouts rocky tendrils. The coral will now grow at a rate of 1 cubic foot per turn. It will not be easy to extricate the item now with anything short of an acid bath.
  3. The item touched acquires a blackened look, while the coral pulsates with an inner light. It has absorbed the magical properties of the item. (If a potion, if can be consumed with the same effect, if a scroll, it acts as a ring of spell storing, etc..) 
  4. The coral runs like a rainbow hued quicksilver, roiling over the surface of the object. Within 2 rounds it has been absorbed entirely by the object, which now has a rainbow sheen. The object is now more powerful.
  5. As it touches the object, the coral melts open. Within can be seen waving, layered cilia of a purple hue. Nestled in their center is a blackened nodule, like a dead black eye.
  6. As it touches the object, there is a horrible hissing sound, and a violet fluid sprays from the coral. Everyone in the area must save vs. breath weapon or be covered in a virulent mutagen. They should roll on this chart. 
  7. As it touches the object, a beautiful sound fills the water (or air), like the unearthly strains of a distant harp. Both tremble, like the petals of flowers in the breeze. 
  8. As it touches the object, a pulse seems to flow from the coral into the object. The object is now unstable. Whenever it is used roll d6: 1-2 Fails to function, 3-4 Functions normally, 5 Functions more powerfully, 6 Explodes causing 4d6 damage to those within 25'. 
  9. When it comes into contact the object their is a flash and everything looks for a moment like the negative of a photograph. The coral is now inert, and the power of the item is reversed. 
  10. White light explodes from the point of contact, blinding all those within 50' for 1d6 rounds. Both the coral and the item are now spent and blackened. 
Wizards and alchemists would pay a fine price for an active chunk (1000gp for a single large chunk; the entire coral would fetch 10,000gp). Unfortunately, the coral is difficult to transport and highly dangerous. If simply broken off and exposed to air, a piece will harden and the magical properties will fade within one week of being harvested. To transport successfully with powers intact, the coral will have to remain in a tank with salt water, in close proximity to a constant source of magical power. (It will drain the magic from an item placed in a tank within 1 week.) Furthermore, those within 100' of the coral over an extended period of time, must save vs. poison or roll once on Logan Knight's Transmutation Table.

The staircase from the SE goes up to area 5 in the South Tower. Anyone who looks carefully at the bottom step in front of the SE door will notice a faint rectangle of runes inscribed within the stone. From the rectangle rises a 3'x3'x7' trapped area in the water in front of the door. Any human (or demi-human) sized object passing through this cube will trigger the trap, which causes the water in the warded area to instantly boil, causing 4d6 damage, save vs. breath weapon for half. There was an identical trap at one time on the NE doorway, but the top step has cracked and crumbled as the stairs collapsed, and the magical ward was broken. The room can be safely entered through this door.

8. Lair of the Necrophidius [South Tower]
The floor of the room is littered with bones of various sizes. There is a particularly large pile along the south side of the room, and the light glints of several objects with the refuse. This is the lair of the huge Necrophidius that prowls the spire. There is a 50% chance that is here, and if not, a cumulative 10% chance per turn that it will return. The pile contains a bunch of a bunch of ancient Ghinorian cookware (20gp), and coins (10gp).

Necrophidius HD3 (24) AC2 Att: Bite 1d8+save vs. magic or be paralyzed for 1-4 turns. Special: +2 on surprise rolls, immune to sleep and charm, and may perform the dance of death: all viewing must save vs. magic or be hypnotized and rendered defenseless. 

Level 4

9. Entertaining Room [Central Tower]
The room contains several basalt statues, one of an octopus, another of snakes, and a grotesque bust. Scattered around the room, there are some low marble tables, including one inlaid with a made topaz chessboard (100 lbs, 200gp). Strangely, there is also one intact wooden chair, the back of which is carved with a face blowing wind. Sarpedon used this chair to spy as on his visitors, as he entertained them with his ostentatious hospitality and empty pleasantries.

This chair allows the one sitting in it to read the thoughts of all within 100' at will (saving throw to resist) three times a day (10 rounds duration per use). The chair may be moved anywhere within the Submerged Spire, but if taken outside, its enchantment will be forever broken. If employed in range of a being held in stasis, a still and silent presence will be noted.   

10. Base of the West Tower (Trap) 
Light trickles in from an open doorway, leading to the open surface of the top of the keep. Wide copper pipes run from the floor to the ceiling by the door on the west side of the room. Anyone who looks carefully at the roof of the keep directly in front of the door, will notice a faint rectangle of runes inscribed within the stone. This is a potent magical ward protecting the West Tower and the pillar housing the mutagens (area 7) from intruders. From the rectangle rises a 3'x3'x7' trapped area in the water in front of the door. Any human (or demi-human) sized object passing through this cube, will trigger the trap. A tremendous force will push the being upwards in a column of water, sending him all the way to the surface and 30' into the air. He must then save vs. paralysis. If he fails, he will black out for 1d10 rounds from the rapid change of pressure and the force of the impact when he hits the water on the return, taking 2d6 damage in the process. If he makes his save, he will retain consciousness and suffer only 1d6 damage. Any gear worn on his back or about his person will be thrown off, scattered and fall back into the sea, landing in a wide area. If he is going light, then he will float on the surface of the water and need to make his way back down. If he is going heavy, he will probably sink back to the bottom 100' from the keep in a random direction (d4: 1 North, 2 South, 3 East, 4 West). After the trap is triggered, there is a heartbeat before it resets. During this time it is possible to cross, if one moves very quickly. The player should make a dexterity check with a -4 penalty if he is going heavy, and no penalty if going light.

11. Base of the South Tower (Empty) 
This circular room is 25’ feet in diameter with 12’ ceilings. Light trickles in from an open doorway, faintly inscribed with runes, leading to the open surface of the top of the keep. Within the SW of the room, a staircase leads up to area 8. There is a large fireplace built into the west wall that vents through a magical flue. Sitting in the fireplace is a huge copper cauldron, stained a deep green. Other cookware is scattered throughout the deep silt on the floor of the room.

12. Base of the East Tower (Empty)
Light trickles in from an open doorway, faintly inscribed with runes, leading to the open surface of the top of the keep.Within the SW of the room, a staircase formerly led up into the East Tower. The ceiling is partially collapsed from the crumbling of the floors above, and stone rubble now chokes the stair, spilling into the room. This was once the wine cellar. A few bottles protrude from the thin layer of silt that lines the floor. They are filled with a sludgy residue and will shatter if handled.

13. Base of the North Tower (Lair of the Cenarachs)
Light trickles in from an open doorway, faintly inscribed with runes, leading to the open surface of the top of the keep. On the eastern side of the room, a staircase formerly led up into the North Tower. The ceiling here is partially collapsed from the crumbling of the floors above, and stone rubble now chokes the stair, spilling into the room. Starting 5' into to the room, thick white strands of viscous material run, crisscrossing from this rubble and fallen masonry, to the walls, forming a webbed interior. Suspended, nestling within the webbing, can be seen several white pods, roughly man-sized. Bones litter the floor, and among them there is a glint from metallic objects.

This room is the lair of three Cenarachs, one of Sarpedon’s blended monstrosities. They have a human form, bent over backwards. From the base of the spine, think spider's legs emerge. The top of their head opens into a spidery maw, and above it are set eight black eyes. They cannot swim, and can only travel like crabs along the floor, or like spiders up a wall. They are intelligent and filled with hatred. There is a 50% chance that 1-3 are present in lair. For each turn spent in the room there is a cumulative 10% chance 1-3 will return. If one is attacked, it will send a telepathic call for help to the others, who will return in 1-6 rounds.

Alberto Carrera Avila

Cenarachs HD4 (16, 18, 20) AC6 MV12" Att: Bite 1d6+poison save or die. The pods within the webbing contain corpses (one small shark, one sahuagin) in which they have laid a brood of eggs. Their treasure trove, scattered amongst the bones, includes a nearly complete set of fine silverware, the handles of which are engraved with octopuses (200gp), a ring set with a decent topaz (70gp), and a smattering of ancient gold coins, stamped with a ziggurat (100gp).

The Keep (Level 5)

The keep is the heart of the dungeon. It consists of the living quarters and mad laboratories of Sarpedon the Shaper. It is home to his most powerful guardians and his strangest creations. Note that the western wing of the keep is not submerged. Nor are areas 21 and 22, at least not initially. In these magically protected air pockets, PCs may breath air as usual. I include here another copy of the map, so you don't have to scroll quite so much.

14. Central Hall
 This massive hall was once the main entry into the Spire. The ceilings are 20’ high, it is 100’ long and 30’ wide. Currents can be felt moving through the water here. In the center of the hall a spiral staircase winds up. At either end of the hall stand two massive portcullises, rusted into place. In front of the Southern portcullis, a massive figure stands facing out through its bars. He wears a black hooded cloak and seems to arise from a bewildering mass of tentacles. He is holding a silver spear in one hand. A blue shimmering cube surrounds him, as though he were within a flickering box of blue glass. [If the north portcullis is viewed from the exterior of the keep, this unmoving figure can be seen to wear a featureless silver mask.] This is the The Tentacled Guardian. 

The three openings on the west wall shimmer blue. Beyond them can be glimpsed dry corridors. Along the east wall, only the north most opening shimmers. On the east, through all the openings, the same watery environment in the hall is visible. Should any of the blue shimmering fields in the hall be breached, the stasis field surrounding the Tentacle Guardian will drop. He is under a potent geas to pursue and kill intruders. He will take 1 round to shake off his torpor. At this point he will turn and face the hall. If he can see the PCs, he will move to attack. If none are visible, he will travel swiftly to area 15 in order to release the Bulbous Toucher, the Ctenophoric Maiden, and the Star Maw. They will then hunt the intrudes as a freakish pack. They know the layout of the keep and will use it to their tactical advantage, seeking to surprise the intruders, or drive them into an ambush.

Chris Burdett

Tentacled Guardian HD8 (40) AC2 Mv15' Att: Spear/Tentacle/Tentacle (1d6+4/1d4+2/1d4+2) + squeeze. On a successful tentacle strike, the victim must save vs. paralysis or be constricted and receive automatic damage from a tentacle strike every round until dropped. The Tentacled Guardian wears the Mask of Horrors, which is silver and featureless. The mask has 6 charges. Using its mask it can use each of the following spells as though cast by a 12th level illusionist: Fear (1 charge), and Phantasmal Killer (3 charges). The silver spear is wondrously wrought: up its shaft curl vines and leaves in a fine silver filigree. It will never rust, age or break. (700gp)

East Wing (Areas 15-24)

15.  Hall of the Bio Horrors
This room is 30x25 with tall ceilings. There is a stone table running along the north wall, in which a large ball of polished pink quartz has been set. Five ornately carved basalt pedestals stand along the west wall. On three of them a shimmering blue cube encases a stationary form. The other two are empty.

Pedestal 1: Over the first pedestal, a huge black starfish floats, suspended in air. At the spots where its legs meet, a ring of mouths lined with teeth like needles can be seen. Star Maw HD4 (20) AC4 Mv 12' Attk: Slap/Slap d6/d6 + Grab. When the starfish scores a hit, the target must make a dexterity check, or be pulled towards its ring of maws. If he fails the check, on the following round the star maw may sacrifice one of its attacks to deal him an automatic d12 damage. The Star Maw can feed up to two targets to its maw simultaneously.

Santa Fung

Pedestal 2: Above this pedestal, a beautiful female body floats. From the mouth up, it appears that a jellyfish covers her head, with its tentacles curling down around her neck and torso. Ctenophoric Maiden HD2 (10) AC6 Attk: Stinging Tentacles 1d10 or mind powers. The Ctenophoric Maiden may use the following mind powers once per day: (1) Levitate, (2) Hold Person, (3) Magic Missile (2d4+2).

Pedestal 3: From a misshapen and bulbous head, the white tentacles of this giant squid dangle, ending in what look like the hands of a child. Bulbous Toucher HD4 (20) AC5 Attk: Shocking Touch 1d8/1d8/1d8.

If someone touches the quartz ball, lights will begin to flicker within it. Roll d6: 
  1. Stasis field on pedestal 1 drops
  2. Stasis field on pedestal 2 drops
  3. Stasis field on pedestal 3 drops
  4. All stasis fields drop
  5. Stasis field rises over the empty pedestal 4
  6. Cracking and popping sound at pedestal 5, followed by an electrical explosion, 3d4 damage in a 20' radius, save vs. breathweapon for 1/2. 
The creatures in stasis are all under a strong geas to hunt and kill any intruders to the keep. If any of the stasis fields are dropped, its occupant will attempt to free his peers for help. If given the chance, the group will also release the Tentacled Guardian in area 14 by breaching his stasis field. This pack of monstrosities will then relentlessly hunt the PCs.

16. Materials Workshop
A bewildering array of corroded metal objects poke up through a deep layer of silt (3') in this big room (3'). Digging through them is timely, since doing so will quickly stir up the silt, and occlude vision. A quick search will reveal useless items such as the corroded remains of metal tools (bone saws, hammers, etc.) , corroded piping, spools of copper wire, etc. A more methodical search over three man-turns, will turn up the following (semi) valuable objects: hatchet with a pearl handle (25gp), a round saw blade that is tarnished but intact (75gp), and an iridescent sealed metal tube (empty but waterproof, 100gp).

17. Container Storage
Along the west wall metal cubes are stacked. These metal crates have rusted shut, and may be broken open with some forcing. Most are empty, but a few contain 1d4:
  1. Empty glass balls with screw in metal stoppers
  2. Small lead rods (corroded)
  3. Ceramic jars filled with bitumen
  4. Skulls of all shapes and sizes.
Against the south wall, four large, corroded metal capsules rest on the floor. They are roughly the size of coffins (8' in length). Their tops are set with glass windows at the point where the head would lie. This glass is cracked in three out of the four. These capsules are filled with water, and seaweed. The fourth is intact, and inside an empty dry space can be seen. At the foot of the capsules, two polished balls of quartz are set, one pink and one yellow. These controls are inert in the three cracked capsules. Touching the pink quartz in the intact capsule will cause it float to shoulder height (5'). At this point it can be moved by gently pushing it along, no matter how heavy its load. (Otherwise, they weight 700 lbs each and are very difficult to move.) Touching the yellow quartz will cause the capsule to open with a hiss, the top swinging on a hinge. If it is opened in the water, it will fill quickly, and the controls will pop and cease to function. If opened in a dried environment, it can be resealed by snapping the lid back into place. Previously, these were used by Sarpedon to transport living beings or materials between the then dry east and west wings, through the then submerged area 14.

18. Scribing Station
This 20x20 room is covered in a layer of deep silt (3'). A fine stone archway leads into area 19. If examined, metal brackets that once supported shelving can be seen protruding from the south and east wall at regular intervals. Searching in the silt will quickly obscure vision and is time consuming. But 1 man-turn (10 min) of searching will turn up antique writing instruments: a bronze stylus (5gp), a lead inkwell engraved with flames (30gp), and 5 unused wax tablets (15 gp).  

19. Library
This 15x30 room is covered in a layer of deep silt (3'). Fine stone archways at either end lead to areas 18 and 20.  Several layers of built in stone shelves line the east and west walls.  Moving through the silt or searching in it produces clouds that reduce visibility. Searching from 2 man-turns (20 min) will turn up a wax tablet containing a Web scroll. Unfortunately, the silt here is infested with red parasitic worms. 1 in 6 chance of being infected for each round spent moving through or searching here. Treat as Rot Grubs.

20. Reading Room
This 25x15 room has a fine stone archway leading to area 19, and an opening to the passageway to the east. The eastern wall has built in stone shelves at a variety of heights. In the middle of the room, there is a stone divan. Incongruously, in the northern wall a thick wooden door still stands. It is elaborately carved. In its center is set a grotesque face, from the tongue of which a metal knocker depends. It has no handle, and is set into the stone.

This door blocks the way into Sarpedon's Special Library. It has a permanent 16th level wizard lock set on it. Using the knocker will cause the mouth to ask, "Through the splendid might of his potent sorcery, what has Sarpedon the Shaper mastered?" The correct answer is, "The principles of life." If the correct answer is not spoken within 1 round, the eyes of the face in which the knocker is set will fire purple beams that strike for 3d6 damage (save vs. wands for 1/2). It will also drop the stasis field around the Tentacled Guardian in area 14. Although they are massive, with enough work (10 man hours) the stones around the door can be loosened enough to remove the whole door. Note that opening the door, or loosening surrounding stone will fill area 21 with water. 

21. Special Library
This 15x25 room is dry and filled with breathable air. A large wooden door, with grotesque carvings on it leads south to area 20. (From this side it opens by turning a handle.) To the north, the secret door in 22 is clearly visible, appearing as a plain wooden door. The east wall has built-in bookshelves, which are filled with tomes of all shapes and sizes. The bottom shelf has numerous rolls of parchment resting on it. Along the western wall there are several beautiful wooden reading chairs, with rotting cushions and small reading tables. The middle of the room is occupied by the statue of an octopus supporting in its eight arms lanterns held at various levels. If these lanterns are touched, they will glow with a warm light. (They can be broken off, and will continue to glow for 1 hour before going dark forever.) 

The special library was sealed to the outside elements by the magics protecting the doors to the north and south, and so remained dry when the barriers failed and the rest of the east wing became submerged. If either of these doors are opened, water will rush into the room, filling it floor to ceiling in 1 minute. Those opening the door must make a dexterity check or find themselves washed, head over heels, and thrown, disoriented about the room (1d4 dam, and 1 round recovery). Unfortunately, the ancient parchments and precious manuscripts in the room will not be able to withstand a rough immersion in salt water. If sturdier manuscripts are immediately hauled to a dry space (for example in the west wing), the DM may allow some portion of a few texts to survive, at his discretion. But if drastic and immediate action is not taken, you can assume that nothing from the following list survives. 

Here is what the shelves contain
  • Reference works, some otherwise lost, on naturalism, alchemy, geology, demonology, divination (10,000gp total, an unbelievable addition to a wizard's library).
  • Works of history and poetry written during the age of the Sorcerer Lords, some otherwise lost (1,000gp)
  • Spells scattered throughout myriad books of diverse appearance, containing numerous spells [my players failed to acquire these, so I haven't recorded them yet] 
  • Twelve scrolls [ditto]   
22. Control Room
This 15x15 is dry and the air is breathable. However, as in area 21, if the PCs enter the room by opening a door from a submerged area (e.g. 23), then the room will fill up rapidly with water. The secret door from room 23 is plainly visible here, appearing as a stone door with a handle. (Touching the handle causes the door to melt away, as in area 23.) In the NW corner of this 15x15 room, there is an L-shaped stone table, into which 3 balls of polished quartz have been set: (1) Yellow with red streaks, (2) Grey, (3) Pink. The south wall has a bust of Sarpedon. He is very handsome and wears a smirk on his face. Pushing in one of Sarpedon's eyes opens the secret door to the south that leads into area 21. If a PC touches one of the crystal balls, then it will begin to hum, and lights will rise from its depths to flicker across its surface. Here are the effects of touching them.

Ball 1: This is a viewer. The PC should roll a d30. He will see a vision of the room of that number as it currently is. This effect may be repeated indefinitely. Of course, nothing will indicate where the room is, if the players have not yet visited it.

Ball 2: This ball operates the blue shimmering curtains that appear throughout the complex.When touching it roll d6. Note that to the PCs, it will seem that nothing has happened.
  1. The stasis field on the Tentacled Guardian in area 14 drops.
  2. All the stasis fields in 15 drop.
  3. One of the shimmering curtains in front of the passages drops in area 14. Roll d4 to see which one. If it is a curtain in front of a passage in the west wing, that wing will fill with water within 1 turn (10 min)
  4. Nothing happens
  5. Nothing happens
  6. Nothing happens
Ball 3: This ball operates the Spire's defenses. When it is touched, the PC should roll d6. Note that this will have no apparent effect. 
  1. Disarms the trap on the stairs from area 1 to 2.
  2. Disarms the traps guarding the West Tower (see areas 7 and 10).
  3. Disarms the lasers on the door in area 23.
  4. Nothing happens
  5. Nothing happens
  6. Nothing happens
23. Storage
This 15x20 room is empty. On the east wall, an ornate metal picture frame still stands bolted to the wall, although the picture itself was destroyed long ago. The frame is decorated with the sun, moon and stars. Pressing on the sun causes the secret door to area 22 to open--the wall literary melts away revealing the room. (Note that this will submerge area 22.) A search in the silt reveals odds an ends--a corroded metal brush, a queer copper bandolier, some empty jars.

24. Privy
This room contains two privies. Along the east wall, a stone table is set into the wall. Over a copper basin stained with verdigris a faucet emerges from the wall. The faucet no longer functions

West Wing (Areas 25-32)

25. Bone and muscle workshop
This 40x25 room was one of Sarpedon’s main workshops, dedicated to the creation of biological wonders. To the east, beyond a shimmering blue curtain, the water of area 14 can be seen, as though through the wall of an aquarium. A stone arch leads south, and a fine wooden door is set in the SE wall. The room has a pungent, acrid odor.

Running up the long north wall, there is rack upon rack of orderly arrangements of bones and skulls of every imaginable shape and size. The more unusual pieces are set in brass frames. From within glass cases, skins of diverse kinds are stretched, including one from which hanging faces peer.

In front of this strange display, a massive heavy wooden worktable stands, on which are laid various odds and ends of bones, wires, tubing, and fine metal tools (200gp).

In the north west corner of the room an old, wooden grandfather clock stands. The face of a satyr glowers down form the top, and a glass door shows the pendulum within, which no longer swings. Springing the glass case opens the secret door to area 32. Along the south wall, west of the stone arch, three large (5' tall, 5' diameter) stone tubs stand. Hanging from racks on the wall are a variety of large tools: long handled spoons and tongs, huge metal pans, a massive stretching rack, saws. If approached, the pungent odor in the room seems to be emanating from the tubs. They are storage for enchanted muscle cultures. For centuries these cultures have been roiling within them. The central tub has given rise to the horror known as Muscle Jelly. If approached it will rise up and attack.


Muscle Jelly HD12 HP60 AC10 SPD15' Att: Slam 1d8+4, save vs. paralysis or be stunned for 1 round by the immense blow. Immune to mind affecting spells.

26. Costume Room
This holds the costumes with which Sarpedon delighted in dressing his creations. Wooden manikins of all sizes stand in rows, dressed in elaborate antique fashion drawn from diverse cultures. Bins of hats, many outrageous, piles of sashes and epaulets, and footwear of all kinds stand in neat rows. Although once nearly priceless, these sartorial splendors are now all ruined. Along the south wall stand a few suits of armor, and a rack with some arms. None are magical, but some are of fine construction. Alongside normal fare, more weighty than valuable, the notable items include:
  • Two suits of plate mail. The more elaborate of the two has a bronze helm that reveals only the eyes, and is sized for an ogre. (500gp)
  • Two shields. One is a kite shield, resplendent with the stylized image of a rising sun against which the black lines of twisted trees stand in sharp relief. (100gp) The other is an ingeniously designed buckler in the center of which a lantern has been set. (50 gp)
  • a matching pair of queer short swords, the handles of which are grotesque yawning faces. (75gp)
  • a polearm fit for a giant   
On a long shelf in the NE corner of the room, an arresting row of masks are mounted on wooden busts. Some are imitations of animals, real and invented. Others are grotesque faces, or elaborate ceremonial masks from religious orders now forgotten. The more valuable masks will be difficult to transport without damaging, but if a means could be devised, will fetch up to 700gp from collectors. Mixed among this lot are two masks of a forbidding magical nature.

This serenely smiling golden mask is the Interrogator. When donned, hooked barbs spring from the inside of the mask, binding it to the face of the wearer (1d10 damage, -2 charisma permanently). While the mask is attached, the wearer cannot utter any lies. Only another person can make the barbs retract, by placing his hand on its forehead and uttering the sentence, "I am finished with him". Tearing off the mask does 3d10 damage, and leaves the face horribly scarred (-4 charisma). The mask can be used five more times before its enchantment expires. 

Micah Vogel

This queer double mask is the Mask of Hidden Wrath. The exterior of this wooden mask is the face of a remarkably carved eagle. But within the mask lies another, a reddened, swollen, rage besotted human face. As soon as the wearer dons this mask, it will snap shut. It will only open if he enters combat. When the mask opens, the wearer will enter a rage, receiving +4 to his strength for the duration of the combat. However, there is a 1 in 6 chance that he will also lose control, attacking friend and foe alike. The mask has four charges remaining.

27. Baths
This room has a handsome wooden door (unlocked) to the north, and a stone archway leading south into area 28. The west end of the room is occupied by a huge white marble tub. Two silver spouts emerge from the wall above the tub. These spouts magically produce hot and cold water when touched. The east side of the room is occupied by a vanity. The mirror is huge and supported by baroque gold plated fastenings. In front of it there are various jars formerly containing cosmetic salves, powders and ointments, all of which have been reduced to a hardened paste. Inside a drawer there is a silver comb (50gp).

28. Wardrobe
This is an elaborate walk-in closet. All manner of fine robes, dressing gowns, vests, caps, shoes, belts, hang from racks in immense wardrobes. Although once valuable, these clothes are now in ruins. (A few dry outfits can be cobbled together.) In the center of the room stands a tall mirror, surrounded by filigreed silver satyrs (200 gp, but heavy and fragile). A jewelry box rests on top of a cabinet. The clasp is trapped with a poison needle, but it has lost its potency. Within there is a thin gold circlet set with fire opals (500gp), a silver ring ostentatiously flashing with diamonds (1000gp), a scarab broach inlaid with lapis lazuli and mother of pearl (200gp), and a gorgeous bronze bracelet of intertwining serpents with carnelian eyes (400gp).    

29. Master Bedroom
The elegant door to this room is lacquered black with seahorse motif in gold leaf. The dust covered floor was once a gleaming cherry, and the faded oriental rugs were lustrous. In the western end of the room, a massive four-poster bed rests, draped with rotting white silk. A book lies open on a night table by its side. It is an old edition of a work of poetry still read in the present day. On the east side of the room there is a white divan and some plush sitting chairs. In the corner, as in area 22, there is a metal statue of an octopus, each of its limbs supporting a lantern that will light if touched. In the center of the wall, there is massive fireplace, in which a single log sits. Next to is a box long matches. If lit with these matches, the log will immediately spring into flame, giving light and warmth, but no smoke. (There is no flue.)

30. Laboratory
The door to this room is made of heavy wood, and has a grotesque face from which hangs a knocker (as in area 21). However, the door is slightly ajar and can be opened easily. Apart from a central walkway through the room that ends in an unlocked wooden door (leading to area 31), the room is entirely occupied by a a maze of open shelving. On these shelves sit the strange tools and materials of Sarpedon's forgotten art. On one shelf, the preserved specimens of alien of creatures lear from within a tank, on another shelf fetal anomalies float in brown liquid baths, another seems to contain jar upon jar of pickled organs, another contains jellies of dazzling colors, and so on. 

Contained here are spell components and alchemical materials; although many have been spoiled, a discerning eye find quite a few useful items (1000gp total). The following magical items can be found here as well. (Note that detect magic will be useless here, as pretty much everything will light up.)
  • A small box containing Jade Powder (2 doses): when snorted acts as 10th level haste spell
  • A sealed ceramic jar containing Luminescent Oil (5 doses): liquid daylight as cast by 15th level cleric
  • A small jar with a tiny spoon containing 10 doses of Blackseed Poison. These tiny black grains dissolve in food or drink. If consumed, within a week, gestating black worms fill the victim's stomach and devourer his internal organs.
  • Various poisons, some described on the chart below
  • 3 Blue Algae Tins 
  • Solvent of Androgyny*
  •  Lenses of the sub-world*
  •  Egg of life*
  •  Hive seed*
* These fabulous items are presented in +Gavin Norman's The Complete Vivimancer

If the PCs are hastily searching, you may roll on the following chart for every minute spent looking d20:
  1. Jars containing conjoined fetal twins. 
  2. Boxes containing numerous powders (including Jade Powder and Blackseed Poison, the others are inert)
  3. Still beating black heart preserved in a transparent gelatinous mixture
  4. A set of shelves that has been overrun by a virulent yellow mold that escaped long ago from its petrie dish. Save vs. poison or begin coughing up blood. Unless cured, the infection will only get worse, resulting in something like this if not treated within a week:
  5. Dried eels
  6. Numerous tins, including the Blue Algae Tins 
  7. That tongue
  8. Shelf of dried out aquariums caked with a brown substance
  9. Those colored skeletons
  10. A sealed crystal cube, in which transparent worms are consumed by frantic black insects, that give birth and become worms themselves, repeating the process over and over again
  11. Colored jellies (not edible)
  12. A terrarium, filled with mushrooms and buzzing black flies. These carnivorous mushrooms are covered with gooey deposits that feed the flies. Every once in a while, a mushroom extends a psuedo-pod, snagging a fly and pulling to the underside of the cap, where it disappears.
  13. Individually wrapped, dried cubes (not unlike sugar cubes): exposed to liquid, they will become 1 cubic foot of flesh.
  14. A glass cube, the two halves of which can be separated. In the middle is a tiny seed, in which minute insectoid forms can be glimpsed. This is the Hive Seed.
  15. Tiny pickled brains, suspended in a thick solution.
  16. A pallet of flesh from which black hairs grow. They wave and reach towards the light.
  17. Lead jars filled with Black Puddings
  18. A fleshy plant with sickeningly sweet white flowers that has burst the confines of its pot and now occupies a chunk of territory in the room. What is it eating so noisily?
  19. A single black egg. This is the egg of life whose potent fertility defies the wildest imagination.
  20. A small tub of what looks like liquid mercury. It is a potent toxin that seeks out organic matter. If touched to flesh, it will flow rapidly along it, into the orifices and consume the body from within.
31. Blending Chamber
This western wall of this large room is taken up by a tiered raised dais, on which rests a strange apparatus. On the left and the right, at the first level, two rune covered crystal coffins lie (12' long). Empty glass tubes protrude from these coffins with plungers, like giant syringes. Between them, on a higher platform, rests a marble coffin with a heavy lid, down the center of which a long crack runs. Thick copper pipes running from the ceiling terminate in the two glass coffins. Copper pipes then run from these coffins into the sides of the central raised marble coffin. 

Facing this apparatus, sits a rune covered chair, carved from a single piece of onyx. Attached to the chair is a bronze helmet that can be lowered over the sitters head. Before it is a low stone table, in which are set three crystal balls, all of polished topaz. Along the eastern wall, sit numerous alchemical appurtenances, alembecs, retorts, athanors, and so on. In the northeast corner there is a small washbasin, with gargoyle spout. The secret door to 32 is sprung by depressing the tongue of the statue.

If the crystal coffins are examined, built in restrains can be seen within. Their bottom appears to be caked with a brown residue. The lids are extremely heavy, but can be removed by several people working together. If the central coffin is examined, through the crack a blackened interior can be glimpsed. Should the broken marble lid be pried off, it will be clear that the lid and the base fit together like a mold. The mold appears to have been of an angelic figure, perhaps 8' tall, with four feathered wings. The face is exceedingly beautiful with a third eye its forehead. Both sides of the mold are blackened, as if by fire. The lid seems to have been cracked from within. 

Should one of the PC's sit in the chair, don the brass helmet, and touch one of the crystal balls then (and only then) will lights well up from within them, flickering across their surface.

Crystal ball 1: A thrumming begins, as the mutagen from the pillar in area 7 flows through the copper pipes into the southernmost crystal coffin. Green gasses begin swirling in this coffin and lights pulsate along its sides. If the lid is not on, then the gasses will pour into the room. This acts as a stinking cloud, effecting everyone in the room. People caught in the area must also save vs. poison or make 1 roll on Logan Knight's Transmutation table.

Crystal ball 2: A thrumming begins, as the mutagen from the pillar in area 7 flows through the copper pipes into the northernmost crystal coffin. Green gasses begin swirling in this coffin and lights pulsate along its sides. If the lids are not on, the effect will be as above.

Crystal ball 3: Activates the mold. If any gasses are in coffin 1 and 2, they pour through the copper pipes connecting the crystal coffins to the central coffin. Bright lights streams from within the marble coffin. If the lid is off the effect will be as above. If it is on, the lid will fly off. Everyone within the room must save vs. breath weapon or suffer 4d6 damage from shooting marble debris. This will be followed by the stinking cloud effect.

Should the players think to do the same with biological forms strapped into the crystal coffins, then the DM should feel free to have a creature from his worst nightmares climb from the ruins of the marble coffin instead.

32. Secret Passageway
This is a dark passageway that allowed convenient access from the Muscle and Bone Workshop (area 25) to the Blending Chamber (area 31). The secret doors are apparent and can be opened easily. Midway in the corridor, there is a high shelf on which a tome rests to which Sarpedon ofte refenrred while working. This is a complete early edition of the Hidden Metamorphoses, which contains strange and perilous secrets of the forgotten art of vivimancy.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Fifth Circle

The Sapless Ones

The Sapless Ones are the shades of those who died alone and forgotten, left to rot without proper burial and funeral rites. Those who were cunning in life eventually win passage through the Verdigris Gate into Ushanpor, the great city of the Brass Sepulcher. There they slip from doorway to doorway, past desecrated temples, rank gardens, and silent bazaars to congregate listlessly with their kind in filthy courtyards, where they find brief solace in company with those who share their plight. Over time their memories fade, and with them their dreams, hopes, and personality. They remember only that they do not remember, and driven mad by a dull aching lack, they long for whatever would fill it. They lack substance, and although they are filled with an envious hatred of the living, they are desperate to serve those who can provide it.

To perform the ritual, the conjurer must find an individual soon to leave the bright lands of the living. He must of his own free will agree to bear the Fifth Circle to Ushanpor. It is inscribed on two twin copper coins, made using the same mold, which must be broken as soon as they are cast. These coins are left to molder in a container filled with the damp earth stolen from a grave, for no less than six moons. The conjurer must prepare his messenger as his end approaches, intoning powerful spells that bind him to his living purpose and uphold his resolve so that it may endure even in the Chambers of Forgetting. In the minutes before his death, the conjurer must place one of the coins in an incision under the messenger's tongue. Its twin must be worn about the chest of the conjurer at all times until the Sapless Ones are bound. 

Within a month, they will come, at a time and place of their own choosing. This will not be pleasant, as they press and crowd, whispering, hungry and malevolent, imploring the conjurer for his substance. They speak in Morkavian, the pickled tongue, gibbering language of the dead, in which the negotiations must be conducted.* (It can be learned from any of the grammars popular among necromancers.) The shades desire only one thing: to drink the most precious and vivid memories of the conjurer. Such memories will be lost to the conjurer forever, shared eagerly amongst the Sapless Ones as sustenance. After much sordid haggling over particular memories, an agreement will be reached. Then the Sapless Ones will claim their due. This is the moment of greatest peril for the conjurer, for in their thirsty press, their grasping hands will clutch at more than is their share. They must be held to a firm line, but this is no easy thing to do, even for seasoned necromancers.

Mechanics: The minimum level required for successfully performing this ritual is 11. When a PC performs the ritual of the Fifth Circle, his player should make a saving throw vs. magic with his eyes closed. The initial modifier for this roll is -2. If he is able to consult the great necromantic tome Within the Brass Sepulchre, he may add +2 to this roll. If he can raise spirits and has experience speaking with dead, or has studied under an accomplished necromancer, then he may add a further +2. 

Success: If the conjurer makes the saving throw, he may now summon 1d4 Sapless Ones using Monster Summoning III. Sapless Ones HD3+3 AC7 MV12 Att: grasp 2-5 + energy drain. (Note that their incorporeal grasp ignores armor for the purposes of striking.) If they succeed on a to hit roll, the victim must save vs. magic or lose a level and many precious memories permanently. If an individual is reduced to 0 hp or level, by a Sapless One, he rises in d4 rounds as a Sapless One under the power of the conjurer. At night or in shadowy places Sapless Ones receive +4 to surprise rolls. In daylight they receive +2. The conjurer may also employ Monster Summoning III in a more subtle way. If he can convince a victim to willing accept the copper coin used to summon the Sapless Ones, he may send them to torment and destroy the victim. They will usually haunt and terrorize the victim, slowly draining him of his strength, and memories over the span of a week. During this time they cannot be summoned by the spell. To employ them in this fashion is dangerous, since they often overstep the bounds of their instructions. And when they have fed deeply enough of the strength of the living, there is always the danger that they will assume the form of those they drained, and live a parody of life, passing for the once living victim that they now know so well.     

Obvious Failure: If the conjurer fails by 5 or more, the Sapless Ones press in upon him, jostling and shoving, grasping and roughly handling his inmost memories. Having drunk their due, they are not sated, and press for more in a mad scramble. The conjurer is overwhelmed, and they slake their thirst freely, drinking deep draughts from the conjurer's secret stores. In the first round, they drain 1 level. The conjurer must immediately make a save vs. magic at his new adjusted level. If he fails, the drain continues, losing another level the next round. The process is then repeated. When he finally bars the gates of his mind, the Sapless Ones flee, giddy with their new life and power. They will return later as a doppelganger of the conjurer, of whatever level they have drained from him. Using his memories and appearance, they will attempt to unseat him and usurp his life and power.

Subtle Failure: The Sapless Ones press in upon the conjurer, jostling and shoving, grasping and roughly handling his inmost memories. Having drunk their due, they are not sated, and press for more in a mad scramble. But the conjurer--so he believes--holds them to their allotted portion, and the ritual is a success. The Sapless Ones are bound as above. However, unbeknownst to the conjurer, they drank well above their share. To represent this fact, the DM should begin introducing things from the immediate and distant past that the conjurer does not remember. Start with small things. For example, perhaps upon returning home from the ritual the conjurer finds that someone has been tampering with his previously messy library, and has reorganized his books in a tidy fashion. Slowly more alarming consequences will become evident. For example, when casting each spell for the first time after the ritual, there is a 1 in 10 chance that it will be forgotten. In that case he must relearn the spell as usual. The DM should also feel free to introduce adventure seeds that build on the conjurer's forgotten memories. Perhaps someone whom the conjurer has never seen claims to be his old friend, or even his brother, asking for help. The conjurer has no memory of him, but he seems to know many intimate details that cannot easily be counterfeited. Perhaps he is who he says, perhaps not. Or alternatively, perhaps the conjurer finds himself mysteriously in possession of a coveted magical tome or artifact. Puzzled, but delighted, the player goes about his business. But in a month, a witch, demon, or sorcerer appears, incensed that the conjurer has not upheld his end of their bargain. And so on.

*Years ago, I read a wonderful post on some excellent OSR blog that described a gibbering language of the dead. (It may even have referred to it as the pickled tongue, although I doubt it.) Ever since then I've used it in my games. I tried to find the source to give it due credit, and even asked the great OSR hivemind on G+, but came up blank. If anyone knows, I would be glad.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Textual Corruptions and Ritual Disasters

In any culture where books are copied by hand, textual corruptions abound. Where translation is involved, the problems are exacerbated. As anyone who does scholarly work with texts knows, even the best translations are problematic, and translations are not usually the best. While elsewhere this presents only intellectual difficulties, in books of summoning the perils are spiritual and physical. 

When making notes on the history of a magical manuscript, I like to include a percentage chance that a given editions will contain textual corruptions. For example, later editions of The Book of Six Circles are riddled with errors and have a whopping 75% chance of suffering from textual corruptions. Here's my technique for handling this. It involves several steps, but should take no more than 5 minutes of preparation in total. 

The Problematic Rituals table I present below should also be used to determine the results of trying to perform a ritual under adverse conditions, for example, when one does not possess the minimum required level to do so, or when the ritual is somehow tampered with, or interrupted.

Step 1: Is the Text Corrupt? 

Roll d100. If you get a number equal to or lower than the percentage chance for the relevant edition, the text is corrupted. Proceed to Step 2. (If you have not prepared anything in advance, you may assume as a rule of thumb that there is a 25% that a manuscript your players stumble upon contains corruptions.)

Step 2: How Many Rituals are Affected? 

Roll 1d4. This is the number of rituals suffering from a serious textual problem. Proceed to Step 3.

Step 3: Which Rituals? 

Assign each ritual in the manuscript to a single playing card. Shuffle these cards into a pile and draw the number of cards you rolled in Step 2. These are the corrupted rituals. Proceed to Step 4.

Step 4: Corrupted How? 

For each corrupted ritual, roll d20 on the Problematic Rituals chart below. That's what happens if the corrupted ritual is performed.

Step 5: Does the PC Notice? 

When the wizard begins studying the book, there is a chance that he will detect the corruptions. The DM should roll a d20. The target number is 20 minus (the wizard's intelligence bonus + 1/2 his level rounding up + bonuses for research). The research bonus can only be applied if the PC is has access to a library with related manuscripts: +2 for consulting other texts of summoning, +5 for consulting another edition of the very same text. If the number rolled is equal or higher than the target, the PC recognizes that the text is fishy. Depending on how much he beats the roll by, he may be able to identify what rituals in particular are effected. If he beats the target by 1-2 he definitively locates one such error. If he beats it by 3-4 he locates two such errors. If he beats it by 5 or more, he locates all of them. 

Problematic Rituals (d20)

1-4    UselessWhen the conjurer goes through with the ritual, nothing happens. He feels like a fool.

5-8    More Difficult: The ritual functions, but helpful details have been omitted, irrelevant steps have been inserted, etc. The conjurer's saving throw suffers -2 in addition to other modifiers.

9-11   Much More Difficult: The ritual functions but contains drastic errors. The conjurer's saving throw suffers a -4 in addition to other modifiers.

12-14  Doomed to Failure: An essential step has been corrupted. The ritual functions but is automatically an obvious failure

15-17  That's Not What I Expected: The ritual works, but it summons something different hailing from the same region as the intended entity. The conjurer will have no idea how to bind or deal with this entity, and so his soul and body will be mortal danger. I provide some suggestions for such summoned creatures below. 

18       You Will Never Be the Same: Instead of summoning, the ritual briefly bends reality out of joint. During this time the conjurer's mind opens to visions from the plurality of worlds, and even beyond space and time. As a result, he is forever changed. Roll d4: (1) During his wanderings, the conjurer has become the carrier of a contagion that opens ones mind to the hateful alien intelligences that lurk in the interstices between worlds. The contagion is spread through the sharing of thoughts and emotions. The plague will follow him wherever he breaks bread or engages in earnest conversation. (2) During his sojourn among the many worlds, a terrible wisdom overwhelms his mind. As a result of this dark enlightenment, a baleful golden eye blossoms in his forehead. When the conjurer wishes to draw on this wisdom, he may open this eye. When the eye is revealed, everyone within 100' must save vs. death, including the conjurer. If he survives, he will receive the answer he seeks. (3) The mystical energies surge through the conjurer's body, perverting its natural purposes, leaving no cell or organ untouched. Roll once on  this transmutation table, or three times on this classic chart. (4) The conjurer is forever marked by what he has seen. Other wizards can see the abominations that press in on him, incessantly whispering in his ear, and recognize him for a dangerous, demon touched, fool. His manner becomes distracted, and his ideas increasingly strange. 

19     Opens the Way: As the ritual is completed, the fabric of reality rends. Blood runs from the conjurer's ears, and a searing light blinds his eyes. When his senses return, he can see (from one side only), what looks like a tear in reality, through which an alien landscape can be seen. This is a permanent two way gate to the place from which the conjuror was trying to summon a creature. At some point, entities will begin coming through. The players can also use it to travel in the opposite direction. This result should be a campaign changer, unless the conjurer can find a way to seal the rift he has opened.

20       Total Disaster: Nothing is summoned, but performing the ritual makes something truly terrible happens. Roll 1d4: (1) The conjurer becomes ground zero for some kind of radioactive, mutagenic, blight on reality. The end result is a sort of forbidden zone in which the rules of reality are bent and travel is toxic. The conjurer remains at the heart of the zone, as a bloated living manifestation of its corruption and disorientation. (His character is removed from play.) I would use this as inspiration for fleshing it out. (2) Raw magical forces flow, unchecked, through the space of the ritual. The conjurer must attempt to contain them or be destroyed. He must make a save vs. magic at -5. If he makes it, he is able to suppress the energies, containing them within his own form. He must now release the eldritch energies once per day as a kaleidoscopic bolt of shimmering energy, as per the lightning bolt spell, or explode. If he fails the save, his body is turned inside out and his organs are scattered about. These now function as unstable reservoirs of pure magical power. They may be harnessed for summoning and various other purposes alchemical purposes. (3) Roll once on +Logan Knight's That Which Should Not Be chart. (4) As the ritual is completed, a seemingly infinite series of doorways open, staggered and overlapping, as in a futurist painting. Before they close, d12 entities come through (you may simply use 1 of each creature from That's Note What I Expected below). They promptly engage in a cosmic battle royale, with one another and the conjurer.

That's Not What I Expected

Here are some suggested entities from the regions dealt with in the Book of Six Circles. Alternatively, the DM may use one of the "Special Forms" from the LOTFP Summon spell contained in the Grindhouse Edition, which can be downloaded here free. If the DM is feeling cruel, he could even generate a table using one of the "lesser" demons from the end of the Book of Ebon Bindings.  

From The Moon


Slaver Squid 6 HD AC2 Move: 12' Attk: Tentacle/Tentacle/Tentacle d10/d10/d10 or inflict pain. Slaver Squids are cephalopods whose skin is colored like the starry night's sky. They have a mind that cuts like razors. Every other round, everyone in 100' must save vs. magic or take 3d6 damage and suffer paralysis for d4 rounds from the waves of agony that roll from them. Once per day they can also eject an inky darkness as per the spell. They work tirelessly to build an army of slaves from the many worlds, using them to erect a pearly ziggurat as a great memorial to their dead god. The Slaver Squid will try to enslave the PC and anyone else present and take them to the Ziggurat. [P.S. If you ever need lunar inspiration, see this fantastic series from Worlds of Ix. these encounter tables from Aons & Auguries are good too.]

From The Sightless Labyrinth


Still Prelate HD7 AC2 Move: 12' Attk: By spell. Once per day: Darkness (x2), Cause Fear, Silence 15' Radius, Hold Person, Blindness (x2), Dispel Magic, Insect Plague, and Monster Summoning II (summons 1d6 Compass Worms). Still Prelates are gaunt figures. In the place of a face, a dense manuscript is set, supported by an elaborate iron cage drilled into their skull. They are silent and malicious figures, who revel in pain and suffering. When they cast spells, their manuscript flips open to the relevant page, and the runes inscribed thereupon glow green. They are able to command Compass Worms and other creatures from the Sightless Labyrinth. If summoned, they will attempt to take the conjurer back to their home, or, failing that, maim and disfigure him. Nothing is known about these strange figures. Perhaps they are spiritual leaders of the religion that prevails in the non-euclidean corridors of the Sightless Labyrinth; perhaps they are manifestations of the maze's hatred for life; or perhaps they are what remains of those who were banished there from the earth in earlier times, when men still knew how to open the ways to many worlds. Should they be slain, the manuscript may be extracted from their head. It contains the spells listed above, plus the ritual that binds Compass Worms. However, to consult this text, one risks madness. (I would use the rules on reading grimoires from Realms of Crawling Chaos.) 

From a Black Pyramid Turning in Space 

David Trampier

Cerebral Malice HD6 AC4 Mv 18' Attk: Claw/Claw + Special 1d8+3/1d8+3. These creatures are great hunters, able to follow the psychic signature of an individual who has passed through any terrain up to one week. Their hunger is great, and they receive their sustenance by absorbing the brain matter and psyches of intelligent creatures. When they do so, for d6 hours take on the voice and mannerisms of the one consumed. They otherwise not known to speak. Their method of attack is most disconcerting. In addition to their vicious claws, they are able to dominate the minds of men. Once per round, they may attempt to seize control of a victim who must save vs. magic at -2. If dominated, the individual will follow their every command. They can control up to four victims at once.

From the Unbidden Shores

Vothak HD8 AC1 Mv20' Attack: Claw/Claw/Claw/Claw/Bite d8/d8/d8/d8/d12 + Swallow whole. These pale, leathery horror hail from the lush white bowers of the Dangling Jungle. The offspring of Martian nightmares, they are well suited to their inverted home. Their sucker covered feat allow them to climb any surface, and they are comfortable in any orientation. They move with a brutal speed, and attack with four razor sharp claws. Most terrible of all is the bite of their massive maw, filled with needle like teeth. If a Vothak hits with a bite attack by 4 more than needed, he may swallow whole a creature of man sized or smaller. The harsh stomach acids of this fiend will do 3d12 damage per round, automatically. From within the stomach, one may only attack with medium sized weapons (longswords and smaller), but one need not roll to hit.

An Example

While adventuring in the Shattered Isles, Rackvim the Whisperer recovers a late edition of the Book of the Six Circles. The DM wishes to determine whether the manuscript has textual corruptions. For Step 1, he consults his notes and sees that such editions are usually riddled with errors, and have a 75% chance of containing textual corruptions. He rolls under this with a 55. He proceeds to Step 2, rolling a d4 for the number of rituals affected, and gets 3. The book contains six rituals, and so for Step 3 he shuffles an Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of diamonds into a pile. From this pile he draws an Ace, 4 and 6 corresponding to the rituals of the First, Fourth and Sixth Circles. These are the affected rituals. For Step 4, the DM rolls a d20 once for each ritual affected to see what kind of corruptions they have, rolling a 15, 6 and a 1. Consulting the table, he sees that the First Circle is Not What You Expected, the Third Circle is More Difficult (-2) to perform, and the Sixth Circle is Useless. The DM now rolls to see if Rackvim notices that anything is wrong. Rackvim is a smart cookie with an intelligence modifier of +2. He is also a fifth level wizard. Luckily, he also possesses a decent library with some other lesser texts on summoning. His target number for detecting the corruptions is: 20-(2 for int+3 for level+2 for related texts)=13. He rolls a lucky 16! Having succeeded by 3, he is able to identify 2 of the corruptions. The DM dices randomly to see which ones and rolls the Fourth and the Sixth Circles. The DM tells the player that once Rackvim digs into the manuscript, the text seems fishy to him in spots. In particular, Rackvim is pretty sure there are textual corruptions of some kind in the Rituals of the Fourth and Sixth Circles. The DM indicates to the player that there may or may not be further problems in other spots, Rackvim's not sure. The player is keen to perform the Ritual of the First Circle to bind Lunar Spawn and decides to proceed despite the uncertainty. Looking at the suggestions for That's Not What I Expected above, the DM chuckles: Rackvim will be in for a nasty surprise when he performs the ritual and ends up summoning a Slaver Squid!