Monday, April 30, 2012

1-Page Dungeon: Ship of the Lost

I had the idea for this 1-page dungeon for a couple of months now, but I finished my entry for the One Page Dungeon Contest on the very last day before the deadline. It's my homage to Das Schiff der verlorenen Seelen, an adventure module for Das Schwarze Auge, and the first RPG module I bought back when I was 10 years old.

You can download it HERE.

Note to my players: Don't read it, we're playing this next Thursday.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Al-Qadim: More Formalhaut

I’m a bit behind with the write-ups of my Al-Qadim campaign, so here’s a summary of a session 4 weeks ago.
The Isle of Hakiyah
Last time, the group had begun to explore the Isle of Hakiyah (The Isle of Arsinoi, renamed). This session, the PCs continued to explore the isle. In the ruins of a small port city, they fought killer vines, and entered the storerooms of Batrakheias. There they found the bodies of giant frogs, stored in wooden vats, an altar to an unknown frog god, and the shambling putrefying form of Batrakheias himself. While Bakri, Shihab and Zobeida attacked him, Jamal (the nine-eyed dwarf) decided to offer one of the giant frogs to the altar. It had no effect (because the frog was already dead), but when Batrakheias was slain, his body turned into a tide of giant frogs.  Of course the other PCs blamed Jamal.
In the open amphitheater of the town, the PCs witnessed rehearsals for a play conducted by a serpent demon and performed by an ensemble of skeletons and shadows. The demon was looking for actors in the play, and because the PCs were afraid they would have to fight the 45 skeletons if they refused, they agreed. It turned into a funny improvised version of Romeo and Juliet, in which old man Bakri played the female lead with the help of a change self spell.
The Isle of Molonei
So we finished the scenario, but it was still early, so started another adventure: The lookout on the ship saw storm clouds ahead, and the ship had to moor at another island. I have selected a number of scenarios from different sources for this campaign sequence, but I don’t actually have a map of the sea with the location of the islands. So I used another old school technique to decide which island the characters landed on: I rolled a die. By coincidence, I ended up with the Isle of Molonei, another one of Melan’s islands in Knockspell #4.
The island existed of two mountainous peaks, towering over thick woodlands and inhabited by pterodactyls. A city was built into the side of the mountains, still inhabited by a refuge of hedonists. Among the ruins the PCs encountered a group of lovers, which invited the PCs to join them. They refused, as id proper for enlightened Zakarans, except for Jamal, who undressed and followed the hedonists into the subterranean city. Now the others had to get them back.
The city’s inhabitants believed the PCs to be sent by Snolog, their benevolent snail-god, to see an end to the amoeboid monsters that dragged off so many. The PCs agreed that the hedonists should be enlightened, and Bakri, the mystic priest, decided to tell them about the Loregiver. He climbed the stairs to the temple of Snolog, but that put him within range of the idol and fell under it’s spell, filling him with all-consuming lust. Soon he joined the hedonists in their lovemaking, until the old man passed out from the effort and the others could drag him outside.
This was a funny session, and the players later remembered it as that session (that is, the session Bakri went sex-crazy).
The scenarios are light on detail, but they contain everything I need and they are very easy to run. Much easier than the Al-Qadim modules, in fact, where the information I need is often buried in too much more detail.

Friday, April 27, 2012

On WotC reprints and 5E

No posts on the Weird Opera world this week, because I'm very busy with stocking Castle Verge. I'll post the completed castle levels here when I'm done.

So instead, I decided to do a post on 5E. Grognardia has a post on "D&D Next" here, in which James writes:

Here's the thing, though. I still don't understand the purpose behind "D&D Next" or whatever the heck it's going to be called. I think, at this stage, WotC (and D&D itself) would be better served by keeping several versions in print or at least available via print-on-demand, with some portion of each version's support materials also available.

I agree with him 100%. I think WotC's goal of uniting all D&D players is a good one, and necessary for the D&D brand to survive. I don't think trying to rally existing players around a new edition of the game is the way to go, however. In the comments on Grognardia I wrote:

I think the D&D audience isn't really split up that much as people say. It's split up, but basically, there's only 3 groups: Old School, 3.x, and 4E. You could argue the "old school" is split up in 0E, B/X, BECMI, etc, but I think all TSR versions of the games are compatible enough.

If WotC reprint 3.5, they have product for all three groups. I think it's a smart move on their part; they provide the rules that can be used to play 3rd party products, and it shows they're serious about supporting all versions of the game. Hopefully, Wizards will follow up by offering their backcatalog in pdf or print-on-demand. If they leave the DDI available for the 4E people, they will have their bases covered.

I think the success of 5E will largely be depended on ease of use with other editions. If 5E products are easily converted to Pathfinder or Labyrinth Lord, and vice versa, so players can use everything that's published, that would (re)gain them a lot of customers. However, ruleswise, I don't see how that's possible. Especially 4E is mechanically too different from the rest.

To be clear, with "easiliy converted" I mean conversion on the fly. In my experience, because TSR editions of the game don't care about balance that much, 3E-adventures are relatively easy to convert to older editions, because you can convert most monsters by name (that is, if there's 4 orcs in the room, that's still 4 orcs in the conversion). New monsters require some more work, but not that much.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cieloretta Spire

Description: Cieloretta Spire is one of four ancient arcologies surviving into this age. The soaring, slender tower is made of an unknown metal alloy and unbreakable glass. It is said the tower is indestructible, and it will stand long after humanity has gone.
Closest to the ground are the fungus farms, Cieloretta’s primary food source. On the levels above are the workshops of Cieloretta’s craftsmen and residential districts. On the highest level are the governmental offices and the residences of noble families.
Ruler: Cieloretta is a democracy ruled by an elected council. All citizens over the age of 20 are eligible to vote, including the women. However, the system of election is a very convoluted affair of designated voters who appoint councils who appoint electors, which means that in reality the outcome of elections is controlled by a very small group of influential patriarchs. The current chairman of the council is Arturi Lorenzia, the charismatic son of a minor noble house. Lorenzia is very popular and seen as a strong leader, but he’s nothing more than a figurehead for the council.
Population: The Cieloretti are the result of carefully controlled breeding programs rigorously executed over a period of centuries. This artificial evolution maybe can best be described as survival of the most beautiful, for a very narrow definition of beauty. Cieloretti are tall, skinny, and young-looking, and prefer an androgynous look. Men are frail and grow their hair long; women have slender, boyish figures and short hair.
Cieloretta is an isolationist nation, and most of the inhabitants never leave the tower. The arcology is entirely self-sufficient and has no ties with the outside world. The Cieloretti revere a small pantheon of sky gods unknown outside the spire. Religious services are held on large plazas open to the sky.
The Warrens: Cieloretta Spire was built in an earlier, more crowded age, and the arcology is big. In fact, it is much bigger than is needed for the 70,000 people who live there now. Whole regions, some the size of city districts, are abandoned and forgotten. This is where the outcasts of society make their home. The ugly, the deformed – either by birth or as the result of an accident – and even overweight people have no place in Cieloretti society, but are taken in by the residents of the Warrens. Here they lead a meager existence of poverty, invisible to the general populace.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


There are no dwarves, elves, halflings, goblins, or orcs in the Weird Opera world, at least not in a traditional Tolkienesque sense. “Elf” and “goblin” are terms for the pagan nature spirits dwelling in the invisible world: Oakwoman, Firesprite, Father Forest, etc. “Dwarves” are often grotesque humans of normal birth. Short, deformed, and hunchbacked, but humans nonetheless. The supernatural dwarves from fairytales are called gnomes. They steal babies from their cribs, play riddle games with very high stakes, and strike bargains involving your firstborn. And they’re a player race.


Requirements: DEX 9, INT 9
Ability Modifiers: STR -1, DEX +1
Gnomes are the mysterious, supernatural little men from dark fairytales. They generally dwell in dark forests and caves. They are very diverse in appearance, much like humans, and average about 3 feet and 60 pounds. They often have skin, hair and eye colors in earth tones.
Due to their short height, gnomes cannot use two-handed weapons or longbows. However, they can use any other weapons or armor allowed by their class. Because they are so small, gnomes gain a +2 bonus to armor class when attacked by creatures greater than human sized.
Gnomes are very talented users of magic. They gain the following spell-like abilities: auditory illusion, curse, dancing lights, speak with animals. The caster level for these effects is equal to the gnome's level. They get a +4 racial saving throw bonus against illusion spells or effects, and a +2 against all other spells or spell-like devices.
Gnomes have an uncanny ability to disappear in the wilderness. In bushes or other outdoor cover, gnomes can hide with 90% ability. They can also hide in shadows or behind other forms of cover when underground in dungeons or caverns on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6, but they must be silent and motionless. Gnomes can see in the dark with infravision up to 60 feet.
Gnomes speak the common tongue, gnomish, giant, goblin, rat, and their alignment language.
Gnomes may select from the following classes, with the indicated level limits.

Gnome Classes Available
Level Limit

Gnome thieves receive the following bonuses and penalties to thief abilities:

Gnome Thief Skill Adjustments
Pick Locks
Find and Remove Traps
Move Silently
Climb Walls
Hide in Shadows

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spelldancers: Multiple Dancers and Spell List

The comments on my spelldancer class inspired me to cook up some more rules for the class, as well as a spell list that includes some cleric and illusionist spells. Thanks to Knobgobbler and Jacome!
Multiple Dancers: Spelldancers can work together with other dancers to boost the spell being cast. These dancers do not have to be spelldancers themselves, but they must have at least some performance ability as well. By channeling the combined energies of the dancers into the casting of a single spell, the spelldancer can often accomplish magic that is beyond her alone. For every 4 dancers beyond the spelldancer herself, the spelldancer can modify the spell in one of the following ways. In very large groups of dancers, more than one may be chosen, but each can only modify a single spell once. For example, when dancing in a group of 10, the spelldancer can enlarge the range and extend the duration, but she cannot enlarge the range twice.
·         Empower Effect: All variable, numeric effects of the spell are increased by one-half. Saving throws are not affected, nor are spells without random variables.
·         Enlarge Range: The range of the spell is increased by 100%.
·         Extend Duration: The spell lasts twice as long as normal.
·         Heighten Level: The effective level of the spelldancer is increased by +2. All effects of the spell dependent on the level of the caster (such as the total number of HD affected by a mass charm) are calculated according to the heightened level. This has no effect on the Dexterity check made to see if the casting succeeds.

Spelldancer Spell List


1.       Allure
2.       Charm Person
3.       Dancing Lights
4.       Hypnotism
5.       Jump
6.       Manipulate Fire
7.       Protection from Evil
8.       Remove Fear
9.       Shield
10.    Sleep


1.       Augury
2.       Bless
3.       Blindness
4.       Blur
5.       Fog Cloud
6.       Hypnotic Pattern
7.       Mirror Image
8.       Reveal Charm
9.       Scare
10.    Snake Charm


1.       Call Lightning
2.       Cure Blindness
3.       Cure Disease
4.       Hold Person
5.       Insect Swarm
6.       Paralyze
7.       Protection from Evil 10’ radius
8.       Protection from Fire
9.       Protection from Normal Missiles
10.    Remove Curse (reversible)


1.       Charm Monster
2.       Confusion
3.       Dimension Door
4.       Exorcise
5.       Fire Shield
6.       Fear
7.       Globe of Invulnerability, Lesser
8.       Ice Storm
9.       Implant Emotion


1.       Confusion, Greater
2.       Contact Other Plane
3.       Control Winds
4.       Cloudkill
5.       Feeblemind
6.       Hold Monster
7.       Plane Shift
8.       Teleport


1.       Anti-Magic Shell
2.       Conjure Fire Elemental
3.       Control Weather
4.       Globe of Invulnerability
5.       Heal
6.       Lower Water
7.       Project Image
8.       Stone to Flesh


1.       Conjure Earth Elemental
2.       Control Weather (Greater)
3.       Fire Storm
4.       Power Word Stun
5.       Prismatic Wall
6.       Restoration
7.       Summon Demon
8.       Vision


1.       Incendiary Cloud
2.       Irresistible Dance
3.       Mass Charm
4.       Power Word Blind
5.       Spell Resistance


1.       Astral Projection
2.       Gate
3.       Power Word Kill
4.       Prismatic Sphere
5.       Time Stop

Thursday, April 12, 2012

New Class: The Spelldancer


Requirements: DEX 15, INT 15, WIS 15
Prime Requisite: None
Hit Dice: 1d6
Experience, Attacks and Saves: As Magic-User
Spelldancers are an unusual subclass of magic-user. They may use the same small weapons as magic-users and are unable to use shields or wear any kind of armor. Although they share all of the same restrictions that apply to magic-users, dancers do not gain bonus experience points for high ability scores and so they have no prime requisite. Spelldancers may use many of the same magic items available to all characters. Most spelldancers are female, but spelldancers can be of either sex.
Spellcasting: Spelldancers have access to all magic-user spells. However, they do not use hand gestures or spoken words, but wild, passionate dances to bring about magical effects. Spelldancers do not have to memorize their spells. They are not limited in the number of spells they can cast per day, or in the level of the spell they try to cast.
To perform her dance, the spelldancer must have at least an area of 20’ diameter to dance in. The spelldancer slips into a magical trance and is unaware to her environment while dancing. Anyone attacking a dancing spelldancer automatically has surprise. However, the frenzied movements make the spelldancer more difficult to hit. While dancing, a spelldancer’s AC is reduced by 1 for every 2 experience levels of the character. For example, a 7th level spelldancer has a-3 bonus to her AC when dancing.
To cast a spell, the spelldancer must dance a number of rounds equal to the level of the spell. She may improve the chance of producing the desired effect by dancing longer, for a maximum number of rounds equal to her CON. After the desired number of rounds have past, the spelldancer must make a Dexterity check. The roll is modified as follows:
·         -4 for each level by which the spell exceeds the level of the spellcaster.
·         +1 for every two additional rounds the character dances, a + 1 bonus is applied to the roll.
·         +1 bonus per dancer beyond the first. No more than 8 spelldancers may aid the spelldancer at the same time.
When the spelldancer’s concentration is broken or her dance is interupted, and she has not danced the required number of rounds equal to the spell’s level, the casting fails and the spell doesn’t take effect. If she has danced the minimum number of round required to cast the spell, she may make her Dexterity check, but with a -4 penalty because of the abrupt end to the dance.
No matter if the attempt to cast the spell was successful or unsuccessful, after dancing the spelldancer is fatigued. While fatigued, all attack rolls and saving throws the character makes suffer a -2 penalty.
The spelldancer must rest for a number of rounds equal to the number of rounds spend dancing in the attempt before she can dance again.
Evasion: Instead of casting a spell, a spelldancer can use her dancing to make herself more difficult to hit. When attempting to evade an attack, a spelldancer is able to reduce her Armor Class by 1 point per level. The spelldancer must be aware of the attack. A spelldancer can use evasion for a number of rounds equal to half her CON (rounded down). Thus a spelldancer with CON 15 can evade for a maximum of 7 successive rounds. After using this ability, the spelldancer is fatigued and must rest a number of rounds equal to the number of rounds the character has been dancing, just as after spellcasting.
Reaching 6th level: When a spelldancer reaches the 6th level, a spelldancer may use her dancing to emulate the effects of a Hypnotic Pattern spell. The spelldancer cannot use this power at the same time as dancing to cast a spell. The target may make a save vs. spells to resits.
Reaching 10th level: When a spelldancer reaches the 10th level, a spelldancer may use her dancing to emulate the effects of a Sleep spell. To use this ability, the spelldancer must be of higher level than the intended target. Characters of higher level are immune to this ability. The spelldancer must dance a minimum number of rounds equal to the target’s level, after which the subject may save vs. spell.
NOTE: If the campaign uses skills or proficiencies, the spelldancer should gain Dancing, Perform, or the equivalent thereof as a free bonus skill. Instead of Dexterity, this skill should be rolled when attempting to cast a spell.