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Posts Tagged ‘dungeons & dragons’

Monday Maps #13: A Quick Tutorial on Caves

May 18, 2020 1 comment

Happy Monday! I hope you and yours are all staying safe.

 

I haven’t posted a Monday Map in a little while, but I came across this YouTube tutorial that is worth seeing. If you’re like me and the only things you can draw are a breath, a bath, and a conclusion, invest 1 minute and 14 seconds of your time and take a look.

 

 

Hammers and Dragons has a Facebook page here with links to a free downloadable maps, including this one. Of interest to Warhammer and WFRP fans will be the Skaven temple posted on May 7th. Here’s a small-scale preview:

 

Skaven Temple Small

 

One of the things I especially like about Hammers and Dragons is that artist Tomasz Ratajczak is teaching himself to draw, so he’s not presenting some lofty masterclass that makes the rest of us feel like idiots. And yet, his simple techniques produce results that would not look out of place in a professional publication. He’s only just getting started, but I’m looking forward to seeing more from him.

 

Links

Hammers and Dragons YouTube Channel
Hammers and Dragons Facebook page

 

Making Monsters: Cinco de Mayo Edition

May 5, 2020 2 comments

I’m still pushing ahead with my monster-related #secretproject, despite several delays. In honor of the day, here’s a creature from Aztec folklore.

For first-time readers, this post is part of a series in which I am trying to develop a system-agnostic format for describing monsters, relying on your suggestions and feedback to get it just right before I launch this particular #secretproject formally. The Comments section is at the bottom of the page, so let me know what you think.

 

 

The Ahuizotl

 

The Ahuizotl is a medium-sized predator, about the size of a dog and combining the physical appearance of a dog and a monkey. It has black fur and four limbs ending in dextrous hands and a long, flexible tail ending in a fifth hand.

It lives in rivers and watery caves, hiding beneath the water and using its prehensile tail to grab victims and drag them to their deaths. Sometimes it will mimic the crying of a lost child to lure victims close enough to be grappled.

It eats the corpses of its victims, especially relishing the digits, the teeth, and the eyes. If prey is plentiful it will leave the rest of its victims uneaten. An Ahuiztol lair is usually an underwater cave, strewn with bones and uneaten corpses.

The name ahuizotl translates from the Aztec Nahuatl language as “spiny aquatic thing.” Although reports of the creature do not normally mention spines, optional rules for spines have been added under “Special Abilities” below.

 

 

RANGE

ArtStation - Ahuizotl, Jean Vervelle

Image by Jean Vervelle, borrowed from his ArtStation page (https://www.artstation.com/doctorchevlong).

Real World: Mexico

Fantasy World: Tropical rivers. Lone or pack (2d4).

 

TYPE: Animal

 

SIZE: Medium (4ft/1.25m long)

 

MOVEMENT

Run: 50 feet (15m) per round

Swim: 30 feet (10m) per round

 

ATTRIBUTES

Strength: Animal, medium (e.g. wolf)

Dexterity/Agility: Animal, medium, dextrous (e.g. monkey)

Constitution: Animal, medium (e.g. wolf)

Intelligence: Animal, intelligent (e.g. wolf)

Willpower: Animal, intelligent (e.g. wolf)

Hit Points/Health: Animal, medium (e.g. wolf)

Armor/Defense: Fur + Agility (e.g. wolf)

 

ATTACKS

Bite: Animal, small to medium (e.g. medium dog, wolf)

Grapple: High skill (65%)

Stealth: Moderate skill (35%), underwater only

 

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Aquatic: The Ahuizotl is fully aquatic and capable of breathing underwater.

Spines (Optional): Sharp spines, up to 1 foot/30 cm long, erupt from the creature’s vertebrae. They confer a slight armor advantage against attacks from that direction. Any character trying to grapple the creature must make an appropriate skill or attribute test (wrestling, dexterity/agility, or similar) each round: failure means the character suffers damage as from a successful dagger or short sword attack.

 


 

Links
If you would like to know more, here are a few links. Any search engine will find many more.

A 5th edition SRD version

Wikipedia

YouTube

 


 

More Like This

Chupacabra

Water Leaper

The Jersey Devil

 

 

 

 

A Load of the Blings

April 23, 2020 6 comments

This time, there’s no theme – it’s just a few bits and pieces that have caught my eye.

This delicate memento mori ring would look good on the hand of a gothic lady, or even a female necromancer. In the latter case, it might be enchanted – giving a bonus to dice rolls when casting necromantic spells, perhaps, or protecting the wearer from necromancy or the undead.

This ring and bracelet combination is a lot less subtle, and could have some serious necromantic properties. It might give the wearer’s touch the same effects as a touch-range necromantic spell, for example. Or the wearer might gain the touch ability of some undead monster, like the Chill Grasp of a WFRP4 Cairn Wraith or the paralysis of a D&D ghoul.

Not magical, but still quite useful, is this ring with a concealed pin. No well-dressed assassin should be without one: just a dab of blade venom, and you’re good to go. A targeted strike to the bare neck of an unsuspecting mark might even merit a small bonus to hit if your GM is in a good mood. Damage will be poison only.

This one made me think of Ranald, the god of thieves and gamblers in the Warhammer Old World setting. Appropriately, its effects depend on the dice that are handily built in: a 12 might win you a full-blown miracle, while a 2. . . well, it was nice knowing you.

Clocks are large, cumbersome devices in most medieval fantasy settings, but a sundial like this one tells the time more or less accurately – provided you understand the seasonal shifts in the sun’s path.

Here’s one that every Dwarf engineer will want. The telescope function is useful by itself, of course, but add a compass and you’ve got a primitive theodolite for making maps.

That’s all for this time. Stay in, stay well, and stay safe!

It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Bling

If you like this kind of post, you’ll also want to see these:

Armillary Rings: Handy for astronomers, astrologers, and navigators.

Compartment Rings: Hide your true allegiance, or carry a secret message.

Poison Rings: An old classic.

Gun Rings: Add more punch to your punch.

Eye Rings: Protection, divination, gaze weapons, and more.

Let us Bling: A Ring for Clerics that unfolds into a portable shrine.

Monday Maps #12: Castles

April 20, 2020 4 comments

 

Castles are a huge and complex subject. The European castles that inspire those of the Old World developed over a thousand years or more. They vary widely in size and shape, according to the time and place when they were built. They have a dizzying array of parts and features with strange-sounding names (this article is an excellent introduction) – but don’t panic.

 

Don't Panic, May 25th is Towel Day | WIRED

 

All castles, whenever and wherever they were built, share a number of key characteristics, and when you understand those, you can design a castle of any size, in any place.

Concentric defense is the watchword. All castles are built around a fortified tower called a keep, which houses the family. The keep is an island, able to hold out against attackers even if the rest of the castle falls. In early medieval castles of the motte and bailey type, the keep stood on an artificial mount called the motte (not to be confused with “moat”).

 

Photographic Print: Keep of Rochester Castle Built in 1127 by William De Corbeil : 24x16in

The keep of Rochester Castle in England.

 

The keep is surrounded by a curtain wall, which is fortified with several towers. The area within is called the bailey, or ward. In the center is an open courtyard that can act as a killing zone, with attackers exposed to fire from multiple towers as well as from the keep. Around the edge of the bailey are non-essential buildings like the chapel (there is normally a private family chapel in the keep), the kitchens (even in stone castles, these were separate to minimize the risk of accidental fires spreading), as well as stables, a smithy, kennels, and the like. There may also be a postern gate, a small and sometimes hidden rear exit.

The bailey was entered through the gatehouse, which was the most heavily fortified part of the castle. Town and city gates, which were covered in an earlier post, had a similar design and function. A heavily-fortified gatehouse, or barbican, could become a small castle in its own right.

Goodrich Castle, England. Borrowed from British History Online; click for link.                            The keep is against one side to take advantage of the cliff. The barbican was built to create a killing zone by the adjacent cliffs

 

Larger castles may have two or more sets of curtain walls, creating an outer bailey which acted as a first killing zone where enemies assaulting the inner curtain wall would come under fire.

 

fantasy castle 3d model https://static.turbosquid.com/Preview/000266/491/G1/fantasy-castle-3d-model_D.jpg

This castle is large, but has a simple design. It would probably have at least one more ring of fortifications. Notice the steps leading to the keep entrance: as well as looking impressive, they make it harder to use a battering ram and they limit the number of attackers who can approach the door. Image borrowed from TurboSquid. Click for link.

 

Neuschwanstein Castle in the fall | Autumn in Germany

High ground is a good place for a castle, as Schloss Neuschwanstein in Germany demonstrates.

 

Olavinlinna Castle, Savonlinna

Water also provides a useful defense, whether it is natural, as at Olavinlinna Castle in Finland. . .

 

. . .or artificial, as at Bodiam Castle in England. Note the lack of a keep: the wide moat takes the place of a bailey and curtain walls, so the whole castle is effectively a keep.

 

Moats around castles were less common than movies would have us believe, and comparatively few were routinely filled with water. Instead, they were broad, steep-sided ditches intended to hamper attackers’s attempts to bring up heavy equipment to attack the walls and trap them in yet another crossfire zone as they tried to approach.

 

Château de Vincennes is a 14th century French royal castle located in the town of Vincennes, now a suburb of Paris.  This castle constructed during 1340 - 1410 A.D.  The castle is surrounded by a 7-meter dry moat and accessed over stone bridges.  During the 18th century, after the castle was abandoned by the royal family, it was used for a time as a porcelain factory, then as a prison, and later as a military fortress and arsenal.

The dry moat at the Château de Vincennes in France has been lined with a vertical stone wall, making it even more challenging.

 

Castles are large building complexes, and a GM may feel intimidated when setting out to design one for the first time – but there’s no need. Once you understand the basic principles of how they work, a castle of any size is easy to lay out.


 

If you’ve enjoyed this, click here to check out the other #MondayMaps.

 

Have a good week, and next Monday I’ll be back with another map, or possibly something else.

 

Oh, and if you’d like a re-usable castle plan for WFRP, the 4th edition adventure collection Rough Nights and Hard Days includes a chapter set in Castle Grauenberg, overlooking the mighty River Reik.

Bling V: I’ve Got My Eye On You

April 16, 2020 7 comments

The eye has been a symbol of protection since ancient Egyptian times, and quite possibly longer. To this day, fishermen in many parts of the Mediterranean paint eyes on the bows of their boats, and all over the world, stylized eyes made of glass are worn as pendants or hung from rear-view mirrors.

Trad

A few antique and traditional designs.

And then, of course, there’s the Eye of Sauron. The Egyptian goddess Sekhmet was called the Eye of Ra when she nearly destroyed the world at his behest. And when you think about it, doesn’t the Death Star look a lot like an eye, shooting a deadly glance at the unfortunate planet Alderaan like an angry god?

Evil

You’ve heard the expression “looking daggers”? That’s nothing.

In the course of looking at other interesting bits of bling, I came across a lot of rings set with eyes. The eye is a potent motif with a number of possible interpretations and functions, and I started thinking about what such these rings might do, if they were found by characters in a fantasy roleplaying campaign. Feel free to take, use, and adapt any ideas that appeal to you – and if you have any ideas of your own, please share them in the comments section.

Protection

Most game rules include rings or amulets of protection, and some of them might incorporate an eye motif.

Vision

The wearer gains some form of enhanced vision. This might be night vision or dark vision, or immunity to visual illusions, or a bonus to spotting secret doors, traps, and other hidden things, or a bonus to general perception skills, or even an all-of-the-above option like D&D’s true seeing. 

Alternatively, the ring might simply function as a third eye, allowing the wearer to peek around a corner or over a wall without risking their whole head.

Gaze Weapon

From the petrifying gaze of Medusa and the basilisk to the death glance of the catoblepas to the D&D beholder’s terrifying array of attacks, gaze weapons are well known in fantasy games, and a ring with an eye might be capable of using one of them – especially if the eye is from the creature in question, and not simply made of glass.

Beast

If those were real monster eyes, what might they do?

Divination

The eye might be capable of seeing through time, showing the scene as it was in the past – or possibly the future. The wearer would be well advised to close their own eyes while using this ability: otherwise they may see past and present overlaid upon one another in a very disorienting way.

Alternatively, the ring might see through space rather than time, allowing the wearer to see a distant place to which the ring is bonded. This might be a specific place, or it might be the location of another ring with which this one is paired. Or the ring might function like a crystal ball, showing visions in the wearer’s mind rather than in its own depths.

Detection

The eye sees into hearts and souls, showing it wearer the subject’s alignment or intentions in the form of a colored aura. Most fantasy games include spells and items that detect good and evil, and any necessary rules can be adapted from them.

Or perhaps the eye sees magical auras, allowing the wearer to detect magical items and residues of magical energy. Magical energies of different types might show up as different colored auras.

Unspeakable Evil

Instead of helping its wearer, the ring might be working for a distant evil, like an evil deity or a demon prince. This being might give rings to cult leaders and other favored servants, watching over them through the magical eye. If things look particularly grim for the cultists, and their role in the Big Evil Plan is critical, perhaps the deity or demon can possess the ring’s wearer – or manifest through their body in a suitably spectacular and disturbing way – and join the fight in person.

Eyelid

With some powers, it’s good to be able to shut them off.

Pictures borrowed from around the Internet. All images copyright their original owners.

It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Bling

If you like this kind of post, you’ll also want to see these:

Armillary Rings: Handy for astronomers, astrologers, and navigators.

Compartment Rings: Hide your true allegiance, or carry a secret message.

Poison Rings: An old classic.

Gun Rings: Add more punch to your punch.

Miscellany: No theme, but lots of possibilities.

Let us Bling: A Ring for Clerics that unfolds into a portable shrine.

Bling IV: This Time It’s War

April 2, 2020 1 comment

It’s a funny thing about Pinterest – well, it’s probably a carefully planned, algorithm-driven, site stickiness enhancing sort of thing – but once I started looking at trick rings and other jewelry there, my feed filled up with more and more of the same. So here’s another type of cunning ring. I can see them appealing to Dwarves in particular.

Rings inspired by the American Civil War, by Patrick C. Walter. Sadly his website has gone offline. Image borrowed from The Carrotbox jewelry blog.

Gun Rings

Images from around the Internet. Copyright original owners.

Cased French pinfire pistol ring, 19th century. From imgur. Click image for link.

In a blackpowder fantasy setting like Warhammer, rings like these could be practical weapons. They can give an enemy a nasty surprise, though between their tiny caliber and short barrel length it’s not certain that they could do very much damage. Still, they are exactly the sort of unusual item that a group of PCs might find a Dwarf gunsmith tinkering with, and if you like a James Bond pastiche they might be issued to Imperial secret agents by their equivalent of Q Branch.

Just for fun, here is a quick set of weapon stats for WFRP4. Feel free to add a comment with any feedback, suggestions, or playtest experiences.

Gun Ring Stats

It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Bling

If you like this kind of post, you’ll also want to see these:

Armillary Rings: Handy for astronomers, astrologers, and navigators.

Compartment Rings: Hide your true allegiance, or carry a secret message.

Poison Rings: An old classic.

Eye Rings: Protection, divination, gaze weapons, and more.

Miscellany: No theme, but lots of possibilities.

Let us Bling: A Ring for Clerics that unfolds into a portable shrine.

Monday Maps #11: A Forge

March 30, 2020 Leave a comment

 

Today’s #MondayMap comes from the ArtStation page of the very talented Guillaume Tavernier. Unlike some of the building plans I’ve shared in recent weeks, his work is all fantasy, and ideal for gaming. Use the following links to check his work out and support him:

ArtStation

Patreon

Kickstarter

Guillaume’s Fantasy Maps blog

 

Copyright Guillaume Tavernier. Use the links above to support his work.

 

Guillaume’s map keys are in French, but we Anglophones can figure them out with a little help from Google Translate or a French-English dictionary. For example, the key above reads as follows:

  1. (Main) room
  2. Foyer (possibly a typo for fourneau, “furnace”)
  3. Storeroom
  4. Stables
  5. Smith’s bedroom
  6. Storeroom (although réserve can also mean “sanctuary,” so perhaps this private balcony is the smith’s relaxation area)
  7. Apprentices’ rooms

 

A forge or smithy is a common location in fantasy adventures, where Our Heroes might go to have equipment repaired or to have some custom piece made. The village smith was a respected member of the community, and can be a useful friend to make. He (or she – there were plenty of female smiths in history, and there should be even more in fantasy settings) will know plenty about what goes on locally, and can provide introductions to everyone important in the local area.

 

And of course, it’s not just player characters who engage a smith’s services. Here are a few ideas for adventure hooks, and I’m sure you can come up with more. If you do, why not share them with the other readers by dropping them in the Comments section at the bottom of the page?

 

  • The villain’s evil plan requires an unusual piece of equipment, and the local smith has been engaged to make it. Designs, prototypes, and work in progress are clues that may help Our Heroes anticipate the plan and take steps to thwart it.

 

  • The greatest smiths in most fantasy worlds are the dwarves, and they are very protective of their secrets. Stolen designs or techniques could make a human or halfling smith rich, and the local dwarven community very angry. Adventurers might be hired to find stolen manuals, materials, and designs or other evidence in advance of a court case or some more direct punitive action.

 

  • Medieval guilds defended their members’ rights fiercely – or, to look at it another way, they established a closed monopoly of their particular craft or trade in a city, town, or county. The same could very well be true in a fantasy world, especially a low fantasy setting such as the Old World of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. A smith’s forge could become a battle zone if he had the support of the local community and either refused to join the guild or refused their orders to shut down. The guild might mount a campaign of harassment or hire rogues to sabotage the illicit forge. If matters come to a head, the PCs might find themselves involved in a Seven Samurai style defense against a mob of hired thugs.

 

Whatever the story may be, a forge is an interesting place to stage a combat, full of unusual hazards and weapons of opportunity such as shovels of hot coals. For inspiration, watch the forge fight scene in the 2003 movie Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

 

I’ll be back next Monday with another map, or possibly something else. Until then, have a good week, and may you and yours stay healthy.

 

 

Monday Maps #10: Bridge and Toll Houses

March 23, 2020 2 comments

 

The Enemy in Shadows Companion for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay includes a chapter on the Road Wardens who protect the Empire’s highways and collect tolls. Road travel can be an entertaining and challenging part of adventuring in almost any fantasy world, and toll houses are an interesting class of location.

 

They are hybrid buildings, partly accommodation for the toll keeper and their family and partly a stronghold built to withstand attacks by bandits and others who want to get their hands on the cash inside. In heavily-frequented areas, they can be the size of small castles, able to house a garrison or to act as a waystation and supply base for local forces, perhaps including a cell or two for arrested miscreants on their way to the local town for trial and execution.

 

Toll houses are most often placed in strategic locations such as road junctions or river bridges. Here is one from 19th century Germany, on one end of a bridge. Click the image for a larger version.

 

 

From the Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin, via Europeana.eu

 

Some toll houses may incorporate arches over the road like city gates, which I covered in an earlier post. Here is a more rustic-looking building:

 

By Park Hwanhee, via Artstation.

 

Some may form part of a city’s walls and gates, like the Monnow Bridge that protects one of the entrances into the Welsh town of Monmouth. This arrangement makes a perfect customs barrier, although it may lead to serious delays at busy times, such as a market day when nearby farmers bring their crops and livestock to market.

 

monnowbridge

 

An encounter at a toll house can take many forms: here are a few ideas, but I’m sure you can think of many more.

  • Heroic outlaws might try to liberate taxes wrung from the oppressed local peasants, or lawful adventurers might help the beleaguered officials fight off an attack by bandits or monsters.
  • Perhaps bandits have already taken the place over, added some improvised upgrades to its fortification, and started imposing their own “unofficial” taxes on all who pass by.
  • Someone might need to be rescued from the cells.
  • If the toll keepers are corrupt, a second set of books would provide proof and help Our Heroes restore justice – if they can be found and brought to a sympathetic magistrate or local lord.
  • Perhaps the toll keepers are prejudiced, overtaxing those of a particular race, nation, or other class, and the PCs have been sent to investigate after complains were made to the local lord.
  • Cultists might have intercepted a vital treasure on the road and turned the toll house into a makeshift temple for an unspeakable ritual.

 

I’ll be back next Monday with another map – or something else. Have a good week!

Monday Maps #9: A Town Hall

March 16, 2020 Leave a comment

 

Across most of medieval Europe, the towns and their guilds won a long fight for independence from the feudal nobility. As trade began to drive economies and the merchant class grew richer, some towns were able to buy royal charters from the king, exempting them from the feudal pyramid and placing them directly under royal jurisdiction. Instead of a feudal lord, these towns were ruled by a council made up of senior guild members, and instead of a ducal palace, the grandest building in town was usually the council house, also known as the town hall.

Just like a ducal palace, a town hall was designed to show off the wealth and power of its owners – in this case, the town council and the trade guilds that underpin it. Tall towers and lavish architectural decoration are the order of the day.

 

town_hall_complete_plan_by_built4ever_d5mtci2-fullview

A medieval town hall by Francois Beauregard, from Built4Ever on DeviantArt.com. Click to link to the Deviant Art page.

 

Within a typical town hall one might find to expect two council chambers, one large and open to the public and one smaller and private. There would be offices for the council members, each with a couple of smaller adjoining offices for their clerks and other staff. The town’s archives would occupy a good-sized room, part library and part document store. A lobby and reception area would be staffed by one or more doorkeepers who act as a first line of defense, telling visitors that they need to make an appointment and directing those with appointments to the appropriate office. The town’s bureaucratic apparatus can be expanded as necessary, with more offices in proportion.

In most small to medium-sized towns, the town hall also accommodated the town’s courts and judiciary, with one or two courtrooms, judges’ chambers, offices for the clerks of court, an archive for the court records, and perhaps even a couple of cells. “A Day at The Trials,” the second chapter in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay supplement Rough Nights and Hard Daysincludes a map of a town courthouse.

rathaus

 

Town halls and town councils can be important in urban adventures,presenting Our Heroes with a web of politics to negotiate as they seek the necessary authorization or information to pursue whatever adventure has brought them to town. Small-town politics can be every bit as vicious, corrupt, and self-serving as those of a nation, which is why I have always found it grimly satisfying that the German word for council house is “Rathaus.” True, “Rat” does mean “council” rather than “rodent” (deriving from the same ancient root as the Old English word “rede,” meaning advice or discussion) – but even so….

Tune in next week for another #MondayMap – or perhaps a Monday Something Else Entirely – and follow my blog so you are automatically notified when a new post goes up.

 

Have a good week!

 

 

Bling the Third: Poison Rings

March 12, 2020 6 comments

The poison ring. It’s one of the oldest trick rings in fiction, but who knew there were so many different designs?

Poison rings

Poison rings from various online sources. All images copyright of their respective owners.

And of course, you can put other things than poison in the secret compartment. Healing balm, perhaps (though it had better be magical for such a small amount to be effective), or even a secret message, in very fine writing on very thin paper: no bigger than the slip of paper that might be tied to the leg of a carrier pigeon. Larger cargo might be carried if it is magically shrunk down – though things could get interesting if the spell is dispelled or wears off to early!

No doubt ingenious players will be able to think of many other uses for such a tiny hidden space. Meanwhile, here are a few pictures for inspiration, and search terms like “poison ring” and “secret compartment ring” will find many more images, and quite a few vendors.

So the next time you are at a gathering, keep an eye on your drink and watch the hands of your fellow guests!

Poison rings 2

Poison rings from various online sources. All images copyright of their respective owners.

A More Serious Point

Sad to say, that last advice is as necessary in real life as it is in a roleplaying game. While you’re Googling poison rings, search for “date rape awareness,” too: I’ve added a few links below.

Date Rape Drugs: The Office on Women’s Health (U.S.)

RAINN: The largest U.S. organization campaigning against sexual violence

Sexual Assault hotlines in the U.S.

Rape Crisis England and Wales (UK)

Look after yourselves and each other, and let’s work to create a time when warnings like this – and organizations like these – will no longer be needed.

It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Bling

If you like this kind of post, you’ll also want to see these:

Armillary Rings: Handy for astronomers, astrologers, and navigators.

Compartment Rings: Hide your true allegiance, or carry a secret message.

Gun Rings: Add more punch to your punch.

Eye Rings: Protection, divination, gaze weapons, and more.

Miscellany: No theme, but lots of possibilities.

Let us Bling: A Ring for Clerics that unfolds into a portable shrine.