Sunday, 30 June 2013

Dungeon 215: The Rolling Tomb

William O'Connor's depiction of  Sacrademus, a villain from my "Rolling Tomb" adventure.

Around this time last year my first adventure pitch was accepted for "Tears of the Crocodile God". The last twelve months have been amazing - I've written four adventures for Wizards of the Coast, and I'm currently wrapping up my fifth. My third adventure - "The Rolling Tomb" - has just now been published in Dungeon 215. It's a piece of writing I'm quite proud of, and I really hope you get the chance to read through and play it!

"The Rolling Tomb" was based on one of Chris Perkins' ideas: a moving pyramid that crushes everything in its path. I'll admit taking on an epic-tier adventure was a bit of a challenge - I hadn't much experience running high-level games under 4E, so I had gravitate back to my longer-running 3E campaigns for inspiration. If you read through the encounters, you may notice nods to my favourite sourcebooks: "Sandstorm" and "Dungeonscape" in particular. For encounter construction I owe a lot to Sly Flourish's "Running Epic Tier D&D Games", whose advice inspired a number of villainous twists. Mike Shea is a top-notch designer, and I'd recommend his guide to DMs tackling high-level adventures in any system. "Running Epic Tier D&D Games" is currently being given away for free, so there's no excuse not to check it out!

Speaking of freebies, I'd advise any 4E fans here to check out fellow blogger frothsof's awesome fanzine "4E Forever": a mammoth 154 pages of houserules, monsters, traps, adventures and other crunchy goodness, dressed up in a pleasing OSR style. Frothsof really liked my Scalemail mass combat system, and asked me if he could include it in the fanzine - for which I'm very honoured. He even did a guest interview with me over on his blog, which you can check out here.  Scalemail has been reflavoured to fit the fanzine's own in-house world, and is now the chosen mass combat system for further submissions. Thanks frothsof! 

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Maps of the Drowned Kingdoms 6: Bastion

A village in the Stonewold.

Bastion nestles in the pinewoods at the head of the Sob river. It is said the stone thanes have forgotten its existence - or shun it lest they awaken the horrors hidden in the mountains behind. 
Population: 93 (57 human, 23 dwarf, 13 halfling). Though the village is mostly inhabited by humans, dwarves have settled here too, drawn by the promise of mountain gold.  
Government: Bastion resides in the shire of Groal, yet its giant rulers claim no tribute, nor have they sent a governor to lead its people. Since the last giant left two hundred years ago, the villagers have elected their own headman to settle disputes and marshal supplies. Such responsibilities usually fall to the eldest resident, so the dwarf Bhaldur is the current headman, having lived here for over a hundred and fifty years. 
Inns and Taverns: The halfling-run "Weeping Giant" is the village's only inn. Years of harsh winters have driven the villagers closer together, and now the inn serves as a communal feasting hall, with residents pooling their produce and paying the halflings to cook stews. Visitors to Bastion are likely to find its entire population eating in here most evenings. 
Supplies: Bastion has no shops, but the villagers come together every month to hold a small market. Iron mined from the mountains is worked by the dwarves into simple farming tools, or when needed, weapons.  
Temples: Most villagers keep small shrines in their homes, but there is no central place of worship. An ancient menhir dedicated to the Wild Sisters stands in the market green, and offerings are sometimes laid before it if the weather is particularly bad.     
The Gate: Bastion's vast gate is said to lead under the mountains to the cities on the coast, but nobody has passed through it for hundreds of years. The portal was kept closed even under giant rule, leading some to suspect that something terrible is kept beyond. Sometime lights are spied in the darkness, causing the villagers to stay in their homes and lock their shutters.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Drowned Kingdoms Gazetteer 2: Familiars of the Sea

Meet Castavan, Murl, Gurgo and Wodlock! 
The wizards of Ebb are known to take their familiars from the sea: choosing crabs, turtles, lobsters, or seabirds such as penguins or gulls. Each wizard imbues a portion of his or her soul into their familiar, forming an arcane bond between them that can never be broken. In doing so, they also take on a measure of their familiar's own primal essence, mutating their mind and body in subtle - and sometimes not so subtle - ways.

Those who choose the gull sometimes grow sleek feathers on their forearms, or develop a gnawing hunger for raw fish. As their arcane bond grows, some even learn to project their own voices on the winds, calling out over many leagues.

The penguin grants their master unmatched underwater prowess. Such wizards may grow scaly webbing between their fingers, but this is purely cosmetic: their watery skills are entirely magical. These wizards also gain the ability to hold their breaths for longer, allowing them to dive below the surface for extended periods of time.

Those who take the crab as their familiar may find themselves inadvertently walking sideways rather than turning, or subconsciously developing a grumpy temperament around other wizards. Their most striking ability is their grasp, which is said to be as strong as the grip of an umber hulk. These wizards' hands are always flushed red with blood, and may even develop chitinous lumps and blisters.

Similarly, those of the turtle may find their skin becomes leathery and wrinkled in places. Such wizards typically have enhanced endurance, and sometimes develop a minor magical resistance to blows (offset somewhat by their unnaturally languid gait).