Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Wastes of Hellas

Once, long ago, the world was good. The Hellenes lived under the protection of the Olympian gods, and made sacrifices in their honour. Life was not always easy, but it was right. Then came the opening of Tartarus, and the terrible Titans walked the earth once more. From that day forth, a dark cloud spread over humanity that has never yet lifted.

Today, most of Hellas is a burning wasteland. The survivors of the human race dwell in a few isolated villages and walled city-states. The Olympian gods are all dead or missing, while the Titans roam the land committing random acts of destruction or extracting terrible tribute from the Hellenes. The wilderness is overrun with monsters - chimerae, cyclopes, sirens and hecatonchires. Only a few heroes, possessing the diluted bloodlines of the Olympians, can stand between these horrors and the last bastions of civilisation.

Beyond the borders of Hellas are the lands of the barbarians, similarly devastated. There dwell a few uncivilised tribes, including the ferocious Amazons and the bestial Centaurs. Across the oceans lie the lost islands of Odysseus, the ruins of Troy, and the silent sands of Egypt.

The Olympians are gone, but they left behind their ancient relics, the mysterious creations of Hephaestus and his craftsmen. Some adventurers seek to gain power and riches by excavating the works of the Olympians, while others aspire to discover Mount Olympus itself, which is rumoured to hold the secret of the Gods' destruction.

Other locations of note:

- Thebes, a city formerly ruled by the wise Oedipus. After he exiled himself, the city was struck with a plague and today is inhabited only by the shambling undead.

- Crete, a dystopian island state where slaves from the mainland are routinely sacrificed in the depths of the Cretan Labyrinth. It is rumoured that a Titan dwells in this Labyrinth, and the constant sacrifices are the only thing keeping Crete from being destroyed.

- Sparta, a fascist military city-state whose people are renowned for their discipline and bloodlust. The Spartans have survived the inhospitable conditions of the new world by making themselves into inhuman killing machines.

Monday, October 15, 2012

100 districts for a fantasy city

(probably fantasy London)

1. Maggot's End
2. Scullion Corner
3. Crow
4. Menagerie
5. Guts
6. Greater Clacking
7. Holy Word
8. Heavy Rocks
9. Archetype
10. Stupid Hedge
11. Yeast-Infection
12. Babbling Tower
13. Keepsilent
14. Freezy Narrows
15. Blue Barge
16. Harbardsljod
17. Vixeny
18. Ottoman
19. Freakshoe
20. Blackheart-by-the-Bay
21. Scorn
22. Flaxen Flats
23. Scoddy Crossroads
24. Harm-Path
25. Herpes Ridge
26. Escutcheon
27. Tlaxcala
28. Nevermore
29. Gilgamesh Pike
30. Whiskey Corner
31. Herne Park
32. Fig Town
33. Nobody-Knows-Who
34. Monarch's Sorrow
35. Paladin & Shrub
36. Demonology Campus
37. Hate Mansion
38. Reverend-Upon-Dream
39. Thirty Fathoms
40. Craven's Isle
41. Pirate Heights
42. Halloween
43. Feldspar
44. Procession
45. Wyrd
46. Ananse Row
47. Hoppington Market
48. Grumpkin & Snark
49. Yellow Lane
50. Babel Square
51. Shahnahmeh
52. Playhouse Court
53. Ginger Grove
54. The Mellows
55. Seven Sisters
56. St. Witchettins
57. Cream Puff
58. Barricade Road
59. Wyrm Rock
60. Triggsford
61. Pebble Park
62. Swampy Bottom
63. Pie Avenue
64. Urdsbridge
65. Gallowsbridge
66. The Shadow Market
67. Hiddeny Hollow
68. Hopscotch
69. Tintagel Island
70. Highroad's Edge
71. Greed's End
72. Goblin-Barrel
73. Serpents Mill
74. Lord's Redoubt
75. Hunter Street
76. Etchings
77. St. Plover
78. Ettin Hill
79. Timpani
80. Croak Hill
81. Gehenny Waters
82. Herpecide Moon
83. Mount Beryond
84. Thripsey Shee
85. Bridgetown
86. Thistle Park
87. Merrow Point
88. Harper's Estuary
89. Lawyer's Lock
90. Ransom Canal
91. Quickling Pier
92. Jerrow Downs
93. Fort Urizen
94. Typhon's Field
95. Frotter's Corner
96. The Pit of Licentiousness
98. Hand-Me-Down Town
99. Bezoar
100. Radishscape

Friday, October 12, 2012

Five Ghouls


Ghouls are people who have given up their mortality through the consumption of human flesh. While occasional cannibals are merely degraded in their soul, those who eat their kin constantly will be transformed bodily as well. They take on a grave-like pallor, grow long limbs and lose their hair. Such twisted creatures do not age, but they pay the price of being unable to stomach any food besides human flesh. 
Some who fear death will deliberately make ghouls of themselves to live longer, although ironically most ghouls die fairly quickly because it is so difficult to keep up a steady source of human meat. Those  few who find a way to feed regularly may live for centuries.
Ghouls do not lose any intelligence or speech when they are transformed, but they rarely have much to say to humans.


Ghuls are a race that have lived alongside humanity for as long as history has been recorded. They have long brown limbs, doglike snouts and leathery flapping tongues. They dwell mostly in the desert or other secluded places. Ghuls usually live in a single house with a single family, multiple generations living together. 
By all accounts ghuls are kind and loving to one another, and in most respects are neither evil nor aggressive. The one exception is that they have a taste for human flesh, and are psychologically incapable of feeling any sympathy for humans or recognising them as sentient beings.


Ghouls are stunted creatures, about 3 feet tall, that dwell in graveyards. They make their nests in mausoleums and burrow into the graves of the recently dead to devour the rotting corpses. They are not often aggressive toward living humans, though they can be difficult to eradicate once they take hold in an area.
There is a distant land where it is considered ill luck to leave corpses buried in the ground, perhaps because of a plague of undead in the distant past. The people of this land keep a colony of ghouls in each graveyard and even venerate the creatures. Some travellers come from this place, posing as tinkers or circus performers, and bring with them a secret collection of ghouls that they distribute to each community that they visit. From their point of view, they are bringing good luck to the uncivilised citizens of a foreign country.


Ghuls are demonic desert-dwelling spirits, each one a descendant of the great fire-demon Iblis. Eternal tricksters, they possess the ability to mimic the appearance of any animal, and to mimic the appearance of a particular person or creature if they have devoured that person's corpse. Their powers grow in proportion to the isolation of the location. A ghul in the pathless desert is fearsome to behold, but even a simple road is enough to weaken the ghul considerably. In a town or city, a ghul is reduced to a miserable trembling creature that is easily caged. To counteract these weaknesses, ghuls will use their powers of illusion to lure travellers away from the road and into uncharted lands.
Some ghuls are captured by wayfarers and trapped in the heart of a large city, where they are displayed for the edification of sultans and commoners alike. Each of these captives is considered a grave insult by the ghuls. Legend tells of a sultan who grew too greedy and kept too many ghuls captive in his marvellous zoo. As a result, a great fiery dust storm destroyed his city and his people were scattered across endless wastes.


Ghouls are creatures of dreams that hail from the vicinity of the evil star Algol. There they dwell in astral darkness, far from any planet or moon, frozen and sleeping. They can only escape this place when a deranged dreamer looks up at Algol while they are dreaming, and thereafter a ghoul will enter the person's dreams. 
Ghouls can leap from one dreamer to another by links of sympathetic association, and they do so in order to find an easy victim. When the victim's dreams are utterly overtaken by the ghoul, it will devour their soul and then emerge from their nose to feast on their body as well. Other than this, ghouls are loath to come into the physical realm unless they are chased out by an experienced dreamer.
None can say what happens to a ghoul after it devours its host. However, a few witnesses claim to have seen the ghoul vanishing into the sky, perhaps to sleep in astral darkness somewhere in the vicinity of our own sun.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dice Drop Terrain Tables for D&D4E

One of the complaints that people have about D&D 4th edition is that it encourages 'My Precious Encounter' style DMing. That is, you spend ages crafting a beautiful encounter with complex monster powers and dynamic terrain, so your players are damn well going to encounter this encounter, whether they like it or not, whether they come up with a clever way to bypass it or not! And thus, railroading.

Here's a (partial) solution to this: instead of preparing distinct terrain setpieces for every encounter, just use a table of terrain features for each environment. Toss 2-4 dice onto the battlemat when the encounter begins, and draw in the terrain features wherever they land. Of course you can still override this system when you need to, but it's just a tool. It means not only that you don't have to put so much sweat into any one encounter, but also that you can easily relocate an encounter from one area to another if the need arises. This does have the side effect of creating a world where more or less every location is full of potentially deadly environmental hazards, but I don't see this as a bug.


City Streets (d8)
1: Winding stairs down from terrace that divides the battle area in two. Fall 10'/1d10 damage.
2: Deep ditch full of shit. DC 15 Athletics to climb out.
3: Street vendor who is angry at the combatants for driving away business. 20% chance of throwing alchemical vials for 1d8+2 damage.
4: Circular fountain 4x4.
5: Large brazier - attack roll to kick over, 2d8 damage + ongoing 5.
6: Thoroughfare 3 squares wide. Each round, 50% chance of a cart racing past at speed 8, dealing 2d8 damage to anyone it runs over.
7: Huge dungheap - anyone knocked into it it slowed and grants combat advantage - standard action to try and wipe it off (saving throw).
8: Rickety scaffolding up against a wall, with ladders. Poles have AC 15, 1hp. 20' off the ground.

Tomb (d6)
1: 1d4 coffins; Athletics DC 17 to put a lid on the coffin, whereafter anyone trapped inside must make a DC 25 Athletics check to bust out.
2: Large spikes along nearest wall - knocked into or thrown onto them, take 2d8 damage and be impaled (immobile, save ends).
3: Dart trap, triggered by pressure plate, fires across room at +10 to hit for 2d6 damage.
4: Hole to lower level 2x2, with a 1-square ring around it of unstable ground that will collapse under the weight of a person. Fall 20'/ 2d10 damage.
5: Large statue, Athletics DC 12 to push over, 2d8 damage and 50% chance to pin down (save ends).
6: Bone pile, 8-10 squares in irregular shape, difficult terrain.

Wild Forest (d6)
1: Beehive hanging from tree. Can be grabbed & thrown, DC 13 Nature or Thievery to not get stung, if you hit them they get stung, stinging is ongoing 5 damage and grant combat advantage (save ends).
2: Embankment dividing up the play area. When sliding down, DC 10 Acrobatics to not fall prone. When climbing up, DC 13 Acrobatics/Athletics.
3: 2d4 thickets, 2x2 each, difficult terrain.
4: Stream bisecting the play area. 3-4 squares wide, difficult terrain.
5: 2 animate thorn bushes that get angry if anyone runs into them. 2x2, will attack at +6 for 1d8+5 damage.
6: Tarn, takes up all the space from the die to the nearest side of the map; some banks are up to 5' high, can't be climbed out except with a DC 20 Athletics, so you're better off swimming around.

Sadly, the damage expressions and hit bonii and the like are still going to become obsolete fairly quickly as the PCs' and monsters' stats inflate with every level. Sigh...