Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Shadow Elves of Thunder Rift

One of my players ( Gladys) decided to play an elf. She's a fan of World of Warcraft, and she named her PC after a Night Elf character that she played in that game. I don't know much about 'night elves' or WoW, but D&D/Mystara shadow elves seemed like a good fit...

A race of elves quite different from the fair elves of Gauntlin Forest inhabits parts of the Grakken Wood. Where the Gauntlin elves love the open air and sun-dappled meadows, these shadow elves favor dim caves and overgrown gullies. They live in earthen warrens dug beneath the roots of ancient trees; lairs which provide some protection from the monsters that infest the Grakken Wood.  Owlbears and ogres are fond of eating shadow elves, so the elves spend a lot of time either hunting or hiding from such creatures.

The shadow elves look like other elves, but with unusually large ears, big eyes and pallid skin. Bright light hurts their eyes, and their skin burns easily in the sun. In-breeding has left some shadow elves subtly deformed. Dark clothing helps them blend into the woods at night, when they do most of their foraging.

Poorer and more isolated than the Gauntlin elves, these reclusive elves use flint to tip their arrowheads and are far more likely to wear hide armor than coats of mail.

 The elves of the Grakken Wood are so secretive that, until recently, most people assumed they were only a story for children. A young elf named Neblina has been sent out as an ambassador of sorts (or perhaps encouraged to leave on account of her disagreeable personality, according to some of her band mates).

Note- Unlike the shadow elves of Mystara, these elves live near the surface. I imagine them as looking like the shadow elf illo from the Creature Catalog, but also a bit like the ugly/weird wood elves in the animated Hobbit.

20 questions

Jeff Rients posted a series of questions for campaign use. It seems to have caught on with other bloggers/DMs, and after looking over the list, I can see why. It's quite useful for the DM and his players.


Here's my version-

For the use of my players in Thunder Rift-

1. Where and how can we get magic items?

Look for them in ancient ruins or in the lairs of monsters. You probably won't find many such items for sale in town, but on rare occasions a trader may offer some sort of magic for sale. Let the buyer beware!

2. Are there any special limits on buying non-magical gear in town?

Most mundane gear found in the Rules Cyclopedia can be obtained in the town of Melinir, the largest above-ground settlement in Thunder Rift. Unusual or exotic items might be available as imports, but will cost extra. Only one smith in town, Shar the Dwarf-maid, knows how to make suit armor.

3. Where can we get magical healing?

It's free for all 'good and faithful' at the temple in Melinir. Those outside the church and those in poor standing may be required to first make offerings, or even refused help. Known evil-doers will either be refused help, or required to do penance. Pagans and skeptics might be turned away, but more likely will be the subjects of attempted conversion.

4. Is there a Thieves Guild?

Yes, some sort of shadowy criminal organization exists in Melinir. The thieves mostly prey on foreign traders, rather than robbing from locals.

5. Is there any sort of guild or association of magic-users?

No, but there was a famous school of sorcery in olden times. It was destroyed in the Wars of the Sword and Wand, along with the Fighter's Academy.

6. Where do clerics get their powers and training?

Lawful clerics honor the holy saints and train in the schools of Mother Church. Pagans and druids learn their powers from the study of nature spirits. Renegade servants of Chaos and wicked witches are said to draw power from demons and evil ghosts, but you don't know much about all that.

7. Is there any sort of mercenary brotherhood, arena, or other place for fighters?

There used to be a great school of combat, but it was destroyed long ago by angry wizards. It's a haunted ruin in the Gloomfens, now.

Fighters can train at a hall in Melinir. Death matches are not legal, but brawls, blunt sword duels, and so on are popular events, open to the public.

You've heard stories that the Black Knight, down the valley, is recruiting veterans for his guard.

8. Who is the richest person in the valley?

Karyn the Halfling, moneylender and banker of Melinir, is said to be the wealthiest person in the valley.

9. Who is the most powerful magician in the valley?

The Wizard of Mage Island may be the mightiest wizard since the ancient days of the Academy, but other stories claim that a powerful black magician lives on Wizardspire.

10- Who is the most famous warrior in the valley?

Valum, the Mayor of Melinir, is a doughty fighter and the veteran of many battles. He is a member of the Quadrial; a great honor.

11. Who is the most infamous thief?

Raven! He was gone for a long time, and people began to believe he had died, but lately there are whispers of his return. The merchants are all buying better locks and hiring extra guards...

12. Who is the highest ranking or most renowned cleric?

That would be Elena, the High Cleric and Matriarch of the church in Melinir.

13. Where are the dragons?

Scorch the Red lives in the Bone Hills. He is very dangerous.

15. Where are the dungeons?

Ruins are scattered over the whole length of the rift valley. Any of them might hold monsters and treasure.

16. What's the political situation, in a nutshell?

The humans, elves, dwarves, and halfings are mostly allies but are not united under one government. Each settlement runs its own affairs. Mayors or burgomasters rule the human dominated towns, with advice from local councils. The demihumans govern themselves through ancient clan laws.

The chaotic and monstrous races are less organized, but are numerous and present a chronic threat to the towns and farms of the civilized folk.

The Black Knight is a wildcard- nobody knows for sure which side he is one-- apart from his own side.

17. Are there any laws dealing with magic, weapons, taxes, etc. that my PC should know about?

Using dangerous or destructive magic in the towns will get you fined or thrown in jail, unless a magistrate rules that you acted with justification. Be careful about slinging spells. Weapons are legal everywhere, but drawing 'live steel' in a tavern brawl is usually looked on as tantamount to attempted murder. Goods are taxed in all markets (included in the listed prices). Anyone selling gems or treasure in town will pay a 10% tariff ( figure may vary). Anyone who owns a building in Melinir must pay a seasonal wall tax.

18. What's the greatest honor a local hero can obtain?

Admission to the Quadrial, the honorary generals and champions of the four allied races

19. What sort of hirelings and retainers can I get?

Linkboys, shield bearers, rowers, flunkeys, and other unskilled types may be recruited in any of the towns or villages. Skilled retainers and specialists are rare outside Melinir. Pickman the Sage is the only well-known sage for hire. Available mercenaries are mostly tavern bravos or ex-watchmen.

20. What about strongholds and dominions?

If you can afford a stronghold, feel free to build one. It's possible for name-level PCs to becomes 'Lords of Thunder Rift'', a lofty goal that would require years of work.

" I CAN HAZ POOP? ",The Otyughs of Thunder Rift

Otyughs of Thunder Rift

According to rumor, a creature that might be an otyugh lives in one of the old mine shafts near Melinir, a delve long used as a cesspit and trash dump by the townspeople.

Intrepid scouts and would-be settlers in the Black Swamps and the Marshwood report otyughs living in those wetlands.

Nature blessed otyughs with very efficient digestive systems. They excrete nitre in long strings that resemble cobwebs, and puffs of aromatic gases. They also produce small amounts of remarkably clean water; this purified liquid almost invariably mixes with the fetid muck the otyughs inhabit. Alchemists and wizards value the nitrous waste of otyughs for use in fire potions, incendiary mixtures, medicines, and so on.

The ghouls of the Marshwood avoid otyughs because the ‘ughs will eat them. Undead or dead; it’s all just delicious rotten food to an otyugh.

Lizardmen and newts often dispose of offal by feeding it to the local otyughs.

Pickman the Sage speculates that otyughs are related to the legendary decapus.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

BOOM! Gunpowder in my current D&D campaign

‘Smoke-powder’ in Thunder Rift

Black powder is an uncommon and rather expensive mixture, created only by a few alchemists. It is used for fireworks. A handful of craftsmen have begun to build simple weapons that use the stuff, and the dwarves have begun to explore its use in mining. The powder has a tendency to become separated during transport, and must sometimes be remixed before use. (Corning has not yet been discovered.)

Fire elementals and similar creatures reportedly love the stuff—and just a bit too much! Horror stories of crazed elementals appearing in alchemists’ shops and burning into barrels full of smoke-powder have discouraged large scale manufacture of the explosive.

The main source of sulfur in Thunder Rift is the Burning Hills--a region infested with goblins and kobolds.

(The bit about elementals came from a GURPS Banestorm play tester. I don’t know his name.)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Return of the Ghoul!


I've been super busy working on a short story and finishing my BA in history---
 But the Ghoul hath returned!

My Thunder Rift campaign is going well. We had a break for the holidays, but now we are gaming pretty regularly. The PCs have set goals for themselves and are busy exploring the Rift. Along the way, they have done some good deeds for the people and for the Church (one PC is a cleric). Right now, they are up against an evil lumber operation that uses zombie labor. Tomorrow's game should be fun. I may post a summary of the campaign thus far or perhaps just occasional updates.

My online SW game, Great Tatooine Gang War, is coming to a climax. The gangster PCs on Tatooine are now involved in an uprising against the Empire- allied not with Rebel Alliance fighters but with the Sand People.

My OTHER online game, Ghosts of Gauntcliff, is proceeding nicely. It's a continuation of about three years of steady gaming on the Fraternity of Shadows website. The characters are on vacation, but of course there's something terribly wrong on the 'island paradise.'

The Pendragon tabletop game I ran last semester with guys from school is on hiatus, but I think we can wrap it up with one last big session. 

The two online games in which I'm a player both move very slowly, so they take up less time than responding to important email.

Hmmm, maybe I should game less? Naw. :)