Thursday, April 27, 2017

Elephantine Ooze


It doesn't look like an ooze.  It looks like a steam roller ran over an boneless, faceless elephant.

Grey lumps of shabby flesh, heaped around the room, draped over everything, as limp and as heavy as wet blankets.  Featureless.  Just dirty wrinkles of elephant skin.

There are a few scars. Some of the scars are stretched, distended, and faded.  These are the scars that it got when it was very young, before its skin thickened.

Like all oozes, it's slow to rouse but creepingly determined when it does.  It clings to ceilings, launches clumsy ambushes.  When it falls on you its like someone throwing a pile of wet blankets on a puppy.

It doesn't crawl; it walks.  It is a sack of muscles, and when it crawls it looks like a dozen deformed bodybuilders crawling under a blanket.  You can see it flex and twitch, like a cow's flank without the cow.  Even under two inches of elephant skin, you can see the huge muscles on this thing.

When it grabs you, it pulls you in.  It's like being grabbed by a mosh pit.  And once you are inside it, it quickly and methodically begins breaking all of your bones.  It starts with the largest bones--usually your femurs--before moving on to the rest.

It seals itself around you, and keeps breaking you.  Eventually, you become a broken pulp, which it pumps from chamber to chamber, through openings no larger than your fist.  In the end, you are more liquid than it is.

Only then does it spend time regrowing its mouths.  The mouths are small things, as small and as toothless as a baby's.  And then it pumps you inside itself, and finally the acid finds you.


Elephantine Ooze (Medium Size)
HD 10  AC leather  Grab 0
Move as dwarf  Int 1  Str 20  Morale 12

Crush -- It can grab any number of adjacent creatures.  At the start of its turn, grabbed creatures automatically take 2d6 damage.

Thick Hide -- Half damage from slashing and bludgeoning.

Ooze -- Can compress itself under doors, etc.


Elephantine oozes always attack elephants, if there are any present.  They will go out of their way to kill and digest an elephant.

Anyone who eats a piece of an Elephantine Ooze and fails a Con check will contract Elephantosis.  Each day, their skin grows thicker, taking up an inventory slot and giving them +1 AC.  This armor bonus stacks up to +6 AC and does not stack with any worn armor.   When the disease is cured, the skin returns to normal at the same rate.  There is a 50% chance that the last point of skin becomes permanent.

Monday, April 24, 2017

How To Survive Death

Adventure is infinite in all directions, eternal through all timelines, and utterly inescapable.  There is no room where Adventure cannot find you; no door that can keep it out.  You cannot shrink below its attentions; you cannot grow beyond its reach.

Death is no exception to this philosophy.

So here are rules to fight off Death when he comes for you.

What Happens When A PC Dies
  1. They get some last words.  Time to read that death poem your knight wrote.
  2. They get a bonus action.  Make it count.
  3. They play Psychopomp Roulette to see who comes to collect your soul.  Depending on how this goes down, you may end up dragged to Hell, guided to judgement (where you may earn entrance into Heaven), or even end up as a ghost.
by Josep Segrelles

Psychopomp Roulette

This is a minigame that involves putting cards into a hat and then drawing one out randomly.

EXCEPT WARLOCKS: Warlocks don't get to play this game.  Their afterlife is already decided by the terms of the deep soul-bond they made with their patron.  For most of them, death is just the beginning of their servitude.

Here's how to play:

First, put the following three names into the hat: Weary Penitent, Very Specific Death, Demon.

Second, if they have been member of the Church in good standing (paying their 10% tithe, haven't committed any mortal sins since their last confession), remove the Demon from the hat.  This won't apply to many PCs.

Third, check the list below to see what other psychopomps they qualify for.  Add all qualifying psychopomps to the hat.

Fourth, roll a d10 on this table.
1 = Double booked.  Two psychopomps show up to claim your soul.  Draw twice from the hat (in the next step).
2 = Delay.  You died seconds earlier than predicted, and as a result, there is no psychopomp present at the moment of your death to greet you.  If you flee immediately, you'll probably get away.
3-10 = Nothing special.

Fifth, pick a name from the hat to see which psychopomp shows up, and then follow those instructions.

I'm pretty sure I remember this level from Super Ghouls and Ghosts
by Josep Segrelles
Psychopomps

Weary Penitent

HD 3
Qualification: Default

Some poor soul still serving in purgatory.  Leaden sandals, wings bound with wire.  Lantern and appointment book (contains schedule of deaths).  The light from the lantern makes all other paths impossible to take.

Weary penitents have no power over life and death.  They're just here to show you the way to your Final Judgement.

Very Specific Death
HD 4
Qualification: Default

Skeleton in a black robe with a scythe.  Will grab you and drag you away.  This small Death will be collecting souls of a very particular type.  For example, the Death of Blond Women Crushed by Bronze Gears will show up to collect all of the souls of blond women who were crushed to death by bronze gears.

If you rolled "Double Booked" in step 4 and the first name pulled was a Very Specific Death, assume that there was a collision between categories, and two very specific deaths showed up.  Expect them to play a game of chess to settle the question of who gets to collect your soul.  Expect them to keep a very close eye on you while they do so.

Unlike the other psychopomps, deaths are capable of stopping time for themselves and the people they collect.  They use this time to chat, play games, etc.  You are free to negotiate with them, but under no circumstances will they ever return you to life.

Demon
HD 1d6+2
Qualifiation: Default (unless in good standing with the Church)

It'll probably have at least one or more of the following traits: horns, red skin, barbed tail, bat wings, lion's mane, horrible gargoyle face.  It intends to devour you and carry you off to the Underworld.  Souls are useful things: they cannot be destroyed and they are infinitely transmutable.  Whatever it has in store for you is probably going to be horrible, though.

Devil
HD 1d6+2
Qualification: Harmed the Church in a significant way.

Devils are just demons that have taken the Oaths.  They'll wear symbolic shackles to indicate their status, and they'll explain their actions as they devour you, but they'll devour you just the same.  Expect no judgement from the courts of hell.  If you weren't already pre-judged, they wouldn't have sent a devil to collect you.

If that PC was guilty of a particular sin, this will be represented by the Devil.  For example, a greedy PC might be collected by a golden demon who spews molten gold and chains.

Asmodeus
HD 12
Qualification: Majorly pissed of the Church.

Asmodeus is prime among the Satans, and is a loyal servant of the Church Below.  He/she/it gets tapped for chores like this, sometimes.  Collection is a joy, a breath of fresh air.  Expect him/her/it to relish it.  Probably a much more pleasant experience than being collected by a demon (unless you draw attention to the shackles Asmodeus wears in his/her/its sleeves).  Asmodeus never rushes anything.

If Asmodeus is busy, they'll just send one of the lesser Satans (balors), as the Church Below has several among the ranks of the faithful.

by Josep Segrelles

Dead Family Member

HD 3
Qualification: Helped the church in a significant way.

Grampa is overjoyed to see you again, of course.  He looks forward to showing you to your mansion in the Immortal Mountains (provided that you pass your judgement, of course).  How are your cousins doing?  And the twins?

A Saint
HD 8
Qualification: Helped the church in a major way.

There are a lot of saints.  Expect them to be serene and beatific.  Friendly and unshakable.  They still bear the marks of their martyrdom (all Hesayan saints are martyrs) and are missing the body parts that have gone on to become holy relics.

For example: Saint Dorbaine is a tall, thin man with broad limbs.  Like all saints, his hair has been turned by his transfiguration.  He lacks a tongue (it's a relic now) but can speak with the voice of a tolling bell, which is miraculously understandable to all creatures.

Somewhat Specific Death
HD 8
Qualification: Has escaped death at once before OR character is at least level 5.  Put two of these guys in the hat and remove the Very Specific Death.

These are deaths that are one step higher on the totem pole.  Ten feet tall and bulletproof.  While the Very Specific Deaths are sort of sweaty and perfunctory, the Somewhat Specific Deaths are specialists.  Expect lectures, accusations, and name dropping all the famous people they killed.

Somewhat Specific Deaths have names like The Death of Wizards Trapped In A Maze or Death of Those Driven To Autocannibalism By Sorcery.

Death
HD 12
Qualification: Has escaped death more than once before OR character is at least level 10.  Remove all of the other deaths in the hat and replace them all with Death.

This is it.  The big guy.  If you impress him he'll petition Heaven to let you become one of his Reapers (see below).  He's polite and educated and knows all about you.  He actually has an amazing sense of humor.  Unlike those who serve him, he's quite reasonable.

Reapers (Special Collection Team)
HD: 1d4+2 dead heroes of HD 1d4+4
Qualification: Killed a death OR violated the sanctity of death via necromancy or resurrection.

These are dead heroes that Death keeps on hand to troubleshoot special problems.  Basically another adventuring party, except they are all undead and armed with scythes (part of the uniform, unfortunately).

When they aren't out kicking the spleens out of rebellious souls, they fight on the eternal battlefield of Balora (conveniently located next to the eternal mead hall), which they share with a bunch of other dead heroes (Saint Ferragun's faithful, etc).  They're the goth dudes in the viking bar.

Spirits
HD 1d12
Qualification: Had a significant interaction with the spirit world.  Put as many cards in the hat as appropriate.

This is sort of a catch-all for characters that helped/harmed druids or river spirits.  If you were helpful, expect them to resurrect you as a badass bear or something.  If you were a dick to them, expect them to put you into a snail or something, forever and ever a million lifetimes of snail.

Dead Death God
HD 12
Qualification: Had a significant interaction with Zala Vacha.  Put as many cards in the hat as appropriate.

Zala Vacha is collective of gods who have been killed or displaced by the Hesayan Church, who they are dedicated to destroying.  Have I blogged about them before?  I know I wrote about the Lavei family at one point.

Summary: They're a doomsday cult of anarcho-gods and iconoclasts.  They're evil, they want to sacrifice millions, but they have a valid point to make, too.

Anyway, the Church steamrolled hundreds of religions during its unification of the continent.  Many of those religions had death gods of their own.  Many of those death gods went on to join Zala Vacha.  So it stands to reason that Zala Vacha is glutted with dozens of death gods, war gods, harvest gods, and the like.

Expect a very old-fashioned god.  The gods that were originally just and forthright have been twisted by the long years of culthood and pseudo-oblivion.  A Sumerian death god reimagined by H. R. Giger and Clive Barker.

GHOST TIME!!!
HD Not Applicable
Qualification: Had some unfinished business that you were very dedicated to.  "The king sent me to find the grail" doesn't count unless you are all about finding that grail.  Put as many cards in the hat as appropriate.

You do not reach the afterlife.  Instead you become a ghost, bound to this location.  The list of things you can do as a ghost (disembodied soul) deserves its own post, but you can basically continue to help out your friends at the cost of going insane and becoming an NPC.

by Josep Segrelles
What Happens After You Are Collected?

If you were taken by a Church-affiliated Psychopomp (penitent, saint, a death, Death) then you go on to your Final Judgement.  The path goes along the River of Souls, which exists in both the Material and Ethereal planes (albeit in different forms).

If you were taken by a demon or devil, you're going straight to hell (since you've already been pre-Judged as unclean).

What's The Final Judgement?

Your (ethereal) heart is cut out and weighed against a sparrow's egg containing all the souls that weren't born so that you could be born.  If your heart is heavy with sin, you are found to be too impure for Heaven, and are sent to Hell.

Here's how you do it:

Characters have a base Goodness of 10.

The DM and the players recount all of the morally significant things that the character has done.  +1 Goodness for giving your last ration to the starving child.  -4 Goodness for literally throwing a baby into a manticore's mouth.  +6 Goodness for saving the city of Trystero.  -1 Goodness for each instance of blasphemy.  -1 Goodness for sex outside of wedlock.

Add them all up, and then roll a d20.  If you get at less than your Goodness, you go to Heaven.  Yay.  Here's the address to your new mansion in the sky.  Don't worry about the streets of gold--penitents keep them clean.

If you roll your Goodness exactly on the d20, you are destined for 1d6 * 100 years of Purgatory.  You're going to go to Heaven eventually, but you need to purify yourself more (via honest labor).  Welcome to the life of a penitent.

If you roll above your Goodness, you fry like a pork sausage.

Can I Fight These Psychopomp Assholes?

Hell yes!  That's why they have stats and hit points and things.

Just remember that fighting saints and deaths counts against your Goodness.  It's like resisting arrest.


What Stats And Equipment Do I Have When I'm Dead?

You use the same character sheet, except you can fly.  The Ethereal plane overlaps with the Material plane, and you can't really interact with the Material plane in anyway.  So you're an invisible ghost that can fly through walls (but so is everyone else on the ethereal plane, really).

You own everything that hasn't been claimed by someone else.  You still have your sword as long as no one else has plucked the sword from your cold, dead fingers.

In Centerra, ownership is not just a human-made condition, it's an obdurate state, like mass or conductivity.

When you die, you get to keep all of the things on your body, and all of the things that you were buried with.  This lasts as long as those items stay with your body (nobody plucks the sword from your hands) and no one loots your tomb.

So if your teammate dies, don't be so quick to pry the magic sword out of her hands--she might be fighting Death on the ethereal plane with that sword at the moment.

Slaves do not remain your property after you are dead.  How can the laws of nature judge competing claims and degrees of slavery?

However, servants do continue to serve you after you are dead.  After all, contracts are part of the natural laws of the cosmos, just like ownership.

Most servants are going to have contracts that end each New Year and must then be renewed.  But a few very foolish people might be willing to write contracts that extend into the afterlife, perhaps in perpetuity.

So yes, one of the things you can hire in cities are suicidal mercenaries.  They take your money, do an incredible amount of fabulously expensive drugs for a few days, and then die.  In return, they promise to help you fight off any psychopomp that comes to collect your soul.  (But remember that their soul might be collected before it can help yours out.)


by Josep Segrelles

Friday, April 21, 2017

Death, Trauma, and Retirement: I'm Gettin' Too Old For This Shit

So, with my current group, I'm trying something new.
Let me tell you why I'm doing these things.

by Jose Segrelles
click it

Trauma

PC retirement is a replacement for PC death, not an additional risk.  I'm making death less likely in order to make retirement more likely.  Retired characters are more interesting and more useful than dead ones.  (And a lot less demoralizing.)

For example, ". . . and then he bought a turnip farm and swore never to leave it" is more satisfying end to a character's story than ". . . and then he died in a filthy hole, and the rats nibbled his eyes until he was quite dead".

And of course, forcibly retiring a character still accomplishes the primary punitive aspect of dying: you lose the opportunity to play your character.

So here's my first draft:

Whenever you have a near-death experience (roll higher than a 10 on the Death and Dismemberment Table) and survive, you gain a point of Trauma and put a question mark next to it (if a question mark isn't there already).

Whenever you return to place where your character could conceivably retire, erase the question mark and roll a d20.  If you roll equal-or-less than your Trauma score, your character decides to retire.  You cannot stop them.

The player can dictate the conditions of the retirement.  They are free to give away their magic items if they wish; they will have no need of them in their new life as a turnip farmer.  They are also free to retire penniless if they desire; surely a beggar will have a longer life than those fools venturing back down into the maw of the earth.  (But see Retirement, below.)

Give them a bonus to this roll if they are on an Epic Quest and are deeply invested in it.  They're more than just a mere murderhobo.

Give them a penalty to this roll if the retirement is especially tempting.  If a grateful king offers the hobbit a bucolic tobacco plantation, for example.

Retirement

I started writing up a big set of rules for how to adjudicate this, but now I think it's probably just best for the DM to rule on an ad-hoc basis.  

So here's my first draft:

Retirement is just retirement from adventuring.  It can be literally anything they way, as long as it's not adventuring and they do not continue on as a player character.  They become a friendly NPC instead.  If they retire with enough loot, they can become a friendly and powerful NPC.  You can retire at any time, not just when Trauma forces them.

Inform the players about everything in the last paragraph.  This rule needs to be mostly transparent.

1. When a player retires, ask them what sort of retirement they intend, and how much wealth they are retiring with.

2. Multiply the wealth by the character's level, and look up the result on the table below.  Adjudicate the details of the new NPC using your vast prowess, using the numbers below as a guide.

Level x Wealth = Retirement Points (RP)

Less than 100 RP
Probably going to die in a nearby gutter.

100 RP
A chance at a normal life.  Apartment, job, loans, loyal dog, relationship problems, taxes.  Just a citizen.

1000 RP
Comfortable retirement in position where they can give modest assistance.  A bartender who gives you free drinks and rumors.  A rancher who gives away horses and rations.

10,000 RP
Excellent retirement in position where they can give major assistance.  A tavern keeper who can give you secure lodging and introductions all over the city.  A master assassin who will do a couple of jobs for free.  The captain of the guard who lies under oath in order to get your case dismissed.

100,000 RP
Go wild, bro.

A Softer Death Table

My most recent groups have been getting less hardcore and more casual.  More beer and cheese, less blood and grit.  Which is fine--we have a lot of fun.  But I'm getting the impression that they don't like how easily their characters die.  It's true; I put death on a low shelf.

Luckily, death rules are very easy to tweak, since they usually don't interact with the rest of the game at all.  So I'm rewriting my Death and Dismemberment Table (for the fifth fucking time lolololololol).  I'll probably post it once it's been playtested a bit maybe?

From a game design standpoint, the purpose of a Death and Dismemberment Table is two-fold.  
  • When players start Losing The Game, the Death Table delivers the most final punishment the game offers: death and all its lesser cousins.  It answers the question of "what happens if we lose?"
  • It introduces complications and that should drive the type of gameplay that you want.  This is a complicated question, and I've spent a lot of time thinking about best tweak it so it can drive the game towards its intended gameplay.
But here are some design goals for the rewrite:

1. Lingering injuries aren't that much fun.  They're fun to give out, but they're a pain in the ass to track, and it creates a need for a lot of downtime, which doesn't always mesh with the player's goals.  Also, it requires a lot of mandatory downtime in town while player's rest, and although my Downtime Event tables produce interesting results/plots, they usually aren't as much fun as the rest of the well-prepped dungeon shit.

Plus, players never keep track of negative conditions (they only remember bonuses) and so it's up to me to remember that their skin is all burned off and they can't wear armor for 9 more days.

So no more "Broken Leg: half speed for 75 days", despite that injury being both accurate and metal.

Injuries will last for minutes, 1 day, or 1 week.  I think I'm going to try to do away with permanent mutilations, because I think the 

2. Less instant death.  It's still going to be on the table (because dragons need to be able to bite people in half), but I no longer think it should be something that has a chance of happening when I goblin bites your hand.

And anyway, it's more tactically interesting to have to choose between stabilizing a dying friend or stabbing the owlbear that just spit him out.

3. No permanent mutilations.  In my Willows game, I'm pretty sure we had 3 players lose a leg across 6 months of gameplay.  That's a lot.

And anyway, I think the forced retirement thing (see below) will help drive them away from adventuring without gimping them towards the end.

Because one of the reasons why I liked the idea of players losing arms and legs, is because it would (a) motivate them to go find a cool new hand, or (b) encourage them to retire their character and roll up a new one.  In practice however, I find that players tend to just drive their characters until they fall apart like an unlubricated Corolla.

So why not create a mechanic that takes a straight path route to that goal, and forces characters to retire directly?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Heaven, Hell, and the Souls Betwixt

I started writing a post about the various psychopomps who come to collect your soul after you die, and how you can fight them off and live forever, but I realized that I need to write a bunch of background first, about souls and the afterlife.  So consider this a preamble.

I’ll write the psychopomp one next.


Heaven and Heavens

Everyone knows that Heaven is located in the Immortal Mountains.  I mean, if you stand in the right place, you can fucking see it.

The big heaven—the Heaven with a capitol ‘H’—is of course the Hesayan heaven, ruled over by Zulin and his court.  But there are other heavens: some small, some secret, some dead, and some still thriving.

<sidebar>Remember that Centerra tries to avoid using planes.  What would be another plane in another setting’s cosmology is instead a specific location on the Centerran globe you can walk to.  What Centerran wizards call “The Plane of Air” is actually the Sirium nation of air spirits, located in the air high above Outer Basharna.  Similarly, the Hesayan Heaven and all the lesser heavens are also located on the map somewhere.</sidebar>

Most of the Fire Cult heavens have been discovered and razed by the Hesayan Church.  After the Fire Gods were killed, there was nothing to stop the Church from finding these heavens, rounding up all the resident souls, and sending them to whatever corner of hell is reserved for unrepentant pagans.

Most of the old Fire Cult heavens were beneath volcanoes, now dormant and mostly collapsed.  They’d make good dungeons.

The Heralds of the Immaculate Morning have their own private heaven.  It’s rumored to be even nicer than the Hesayan heaven.  It's certainly less bureaucratic.

Even Zala Vacha has their own heaven, although it is technically located somewhere in the Underworld.

The Underworld

The Underworld isn’t the Underworld because it’s bad.  It’s the Underworld because it’s literally underneath the entire world—everything trickles down there eventually.  It’s the psychic drip tray beneath the continents.

The Underworld is bad because everything trickles down there eventually, except the souls who are saved by their religion and transported to their appropriate heaven.  Unless your deity makes an effort to scoop you out of the River of Souls, you’ll end up there.

<sidebar>The River of Souls is located on the eastern side of the continent.  It empties into Greywing Bay, near the Abominable Colossus.  Mortals view Greywing Bay as a placid bay ringed by mud flats and sea birds, but on the Ethereal Plane it is a screaming vortex of struggling souls.  It’s a hole in the psychic world, and the negative spiritual pressure it creates pulls souls in from all over the continent.  Unless you die deep in the Madlands, your unclaimed soul will end up here.</sidebar>

And because decent, caring people tend to band together and form religions, they tend to be the ones that go to Heaven (or at least, one of the heavens).  And since all of the decent folk don’t trickle down to the Underworld, and most of the terrible people do, the Underworld ends up being a pretty horrible place.

Hell, by the way, is only a small part of the Underworld.  It’s merely the known fraction, populated by the psychic ejecta of the Hesayan religion.

The rest of the Underworld is full of the architecture of dead civilizations, dreams whose dreamers have died, and souls who have forgotten who and what they ever were.  Lost continents, some impossible and some merely forgotten, grinding through eons of abyssal geology.

The Underworld is enormous.  Zulin didn’t arrive until about a millennia ago, at the end of the Time of Fire and Madness.  And since Heaven wasn’t constructed until then, most clerics believe that everyone who died prior to that has ended up in the Underworld.

The Soul

You have seven, according to Church Doctrine.

The first three are the lower souls.  They stay with the body when you die.  The last four souls are the upper souls.  They 

Identity is a more nebulous concept in Centerran culture than in our own.  Don't think about it too hard.

Mineral Soul

This soul stays with the corpse.  Its the deepest soul, and the oldest soul.  It's the type of soul that stones have.  It is the one you are talking to when you use speak with corpse.  It knows facts about material interactions ("A knife entered the ribs and blood filled the space where air once was.") and a few facts (“I am the corpse of King Amontep the Illuminated.  This body was born on the island of Mesos.”)

Vegetable Soul

Molecular biology doesn't work the way you think it does.  This soul is the second oldest and the second deepest.  It builds cells and tissues.  It formed you in the womb.  It knows a lot about your endocrine system.  It's what animates a zombie, if your body is ever a zombie.  

Animal Soul

Concerned with istinct, food, shelter.  Sex and violence.  Maybe a little bit of rock and roll, if its played loud and enough.  Elves lack this one.

Purple Soul (Memory)

If you lack this soul, you have total amnesia.  You are a stateless mind.

Red Soul (Personality) 

This is the soul's syntax.  Not so much what you say as much as how you say it.  It's the one that most people would most strongly associate with style and individuality.  Are you a good fuck?  That's something your red soul handles.

It is said that dwarves lack this one.  (They all fuck the same.)

White Soul (Goals)

This is your intellect and your goals.  Not so much the knowledge you have (that's purple soul), but the machinery that pumps that knowledge around.  It's also the part of the soul that wants

Blue Soul (Spirit)

This is the highest and most important of the souls, because this is what allows your connection with the divine and the magical.  This is the religious soul, the intuitive soul.

24 Illuminating Items of Interest

Weaponized Animals

Always a popular category.

1 - Ripper Eggs

Rippers are fierce little things.  A bit like gaudy red raptors (the lizard kind, not the feather kind) with a row of black spikes running down their spine.  They imprint very quickly when they hatch, and are exceptionally easy to train.

They are popular pets, due to their intense loyalty (starting morale = 20) but they are hyperaggressive.  Whenever they see something that is red, loud, or even vaguely threatening, their owner must succeed on a loyalty check to keep them from attacking.

They abhor being left alone.  Each time you leave your pet Ripper alone, it loses 4 points of loyalty, in addition to all the things that stress out a pet.

Just stat them up like little raptors/lizards.  They eat an incredible amount: about 1 days worth of food per HD.

2 - Throwing Snakes

HD 1.  Str 8.  Will try to strangle anything you throw them at.  A well-trained snake can can tie itself into very strong knots (useful as part of a self-releasing rope mechanism).  And the best snakes are capable of the "suicide knot", where the snake knots itself to death and creates an incredibly strong loop.

Popular among the people of the Fog Caverns in Outer Basharna.

3 - Acid Slug

Transported in glass vials.  Thrown from glass-bucketed slings.  As acid arrow.  Will also crawl inside locks and melt them.  Single use.

Can also be fed in order to grow them larger.  This is a bad idea, but I'm sure adventurers will do it anyway.

4 - Murder Urchins

When taken out of their oil-filled sacks, they die within 24 hours.  They grow 1' in diameter for every sentient creature killed within 1 km of them.  They eat corpses telekinetically.  When they're large enough, they eat people the old-fashioned way.

A scattering of these urchins in a city's streets during a battle will quickly fill the streets with rapidly growing urchins.

5 - Termite Swarm

A 1 oz vial holds 500 lbs of termites.  Will devour a cabin's worth of wood in 1 hour, and then disperse outwards to terrorize more distant climes.

6 - Giant Zombie Hand

A proper mount for necromancers. The wrist functions as a back rest.  The necromancers of Kel Dravonis also use them as scribes, for all those times you need your message clawed into the side of a castle.

7 - Horse Train

Just take a bunch of horses and sew them together into a caterpillar thing.  Zombie horses are notoriously stupid, and this way you only have to keep track of one of them.  Popular among vapor-maddened wizards.

8 - Proxy Mouse

If you breathe into this mouse's mouth, you exchange all wounds with it, up to a mouse's capacity to absorb damage, which ends up being about the same as a normal healing potion.

Magic Items

The eternal engine of our hobby.

1. Dawn Tent

Can only be used once.  Anything inside this silken tent when it is sealed is sent forward in time until the next dawn.  For someone inside the tent, it is as if dawn arrived suddenly.  Effect ends immediately if someone destroys the integrity of the tent.

2. Spinal Bow

Made by the bone-and-metal worshippers of the Ashen Archipelago from your own spine (which is then replaced with a piece of metal that was once part of a ship's mast).  Your spinal bow is a bow +1.  If you sleep with an animal spine beneath you, the spine will turn into an arrow +3 that is functional against the same species.  Usable 1/night, but the arrows it creates are permanent.

3. Black Sheep's Wool Cloak

Whenever you sleep in this cloak, you are safely entombed 4' beneath the ground.  This is true for both magical and non-magical sleep.  As soon as you wake up, you return safely to the surface of the ground.

4. Nostalgia Poison

Causes creatures to reminisce.  Once combat has died down, they are compelled to immediately return home and/or seek out a loved one they haven't seen in a while and/or seek out their grave.  As suggestion.  Intelligent creatures will take time to pack, inform people of their decision, but they will not be halted.

5. Crown of Chaos

All spell's cast within/into 100' of you have their targets randomized.  The crown is actually an especially lazy slaad.

6. White Lotus Powder

Kills the drinker, no save.  Exactly 13 hours later, they wake up at full health and without diseases (as long as their body hasn't been  mangled during that time).

Oddly enough, the powder is black, as are the flowers it is made from.  (It's just a play on black lotus powder, of course.)

7. Alternate Self Ring

When this ring is put on the finger, you are replaced with a version of yourself from an alternate dimension.  This effect is reversible, and ends as soon as the ring is removed.  The effect is consistent with each person--that is, each person who wears the ring will turn into the same alternate universe self each time.  If the ring turns you into a corpse (from a timeline where you are dead), you will always turn into that particular corpse when you put on the ring.  For someone else, the ring might switch their gender.

Whenever a new character tries on the ring, roll a d6 and a d4 together.  (You're probably going to ignore the d4 roll.)

1. Minor difference, such as a facial scar or a goatee.
2. Different gender.
3. Different class.  (Roll randomly.)
4. Inverted stats.  (18s become 3s.)
5. Corpse.
6. Actually an evil twin that will reveal themselves only at the worst possible time (basically turning into an NPC at that point, but let the player play them as normal until then, and don't even tell them).  Roll a d4 to see what alternate version they seem to be.

Alternate selves, although basically the same character under the control of the same player, still notice things that are different from their home timeline.  As in: "Whoa, the sky is blue here!  Weird!"

8. Demon Blood

You get +1 Attack and deal +1 Damage each turn.  This stacks.  Make a Con check at the start of each round.  After you fail two checks, or after 6 rounds (whichever comes first), you are paralyzed as all of your muscles attempt to clench at the same time.

9. Shacklebolt

Struck targets take nonlethal damage from this arrow and must then make a Str check or be wrapped in a full set of manacles.  Only binds 4 limbs.

10. Choodoo Doll

Perfectly imitates the actions of the person whose lock of hair is affixed to it.  Mostly used to spy on people, since you can see what actions the person is performing at any given time.  If you build a model of their house, you can see what part of the house they are in at any given time.  If you give them a miniature pencil, you can see what they are writing as they write it.

11. Mountain Maker

Looks like a propeller attached to a chain.  When bolted to the ground, will immediately fly up, pulling the ground with it and creating a hill.  The resultant hill is 10' tall for every maker used, and 40' wide for every maker used.  Chance of toppling a castle, if used adjacent to a castle = X in 20, where X is the number of makers used.

12. Blood of Luroc

If poured on the ground of a building, will cause it to grow 1d3-1 hallways and 1d6 new rooms, riddling the structure like a cancer.  Will spread outwards from your current location, distorting the position of current rooms) until it reaches an outer area where it can grow rooms there.  Each room has a 50% chance of containing a creature (equal chance NPC or monster), 50% chance of containing a treasure, and a 2-in-6 chance of containing a trap.  These creatures are drawn from the Halls of Luroc (a living, moving, sentient dungeon that is obsessed with collecting history, as recorded by architecture.  Expect mad librarians, living gates, and collections of keystones, keys, and/or bricks that hold thumbprints).

13. Skeevu Stingers

Heal you similar to a healing potion, but your HP total decreases by 2 points each time.

14. Sacred Cake

Heals you like a healing potion, but it makes you fat.  Fat takes up inventory slots, the same as items do, and you can't just throw it away.  Every 2 weeks of adventuring will remove 1 inventory slot's worth of fat.  This can be accelerated if you are starving in a desert, or halted if you are feasting in a city.

15. Stoneweaver's Needles

Basically allows you to cast a version of the stone shape spell, except it's much more dramatic--you're drawing out strings of stone from the earth and weaving them into shapes.  It's actually a version of a crochet needle.  You can control the hard and soft parts of your stoneweave, so you aren't limited to only shapes that you could knit.

24. Blood Pillow

When this small hand pillow is drenched in a creature's blood and then wrung out, the blood will begin flowing in the direction of that creature's home.  If the creature knew the way to get back home, so will the blood.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Paladins of the Blue Kite

There are 77 orthodox orders of paladins in the Hesayan Church.  They include:
  • The Sons of Saint Arquette, who use cannibalism to fuel their gigantism.
  • The Order of the Moth, devotees of Saint Caldi, who each swear to spend 50 years fighting the undead.  Those who die in service are raised as undead to continue their duty.
  • The Order of the Red and Blue Rose, who are wrestlers and swordbreakers.

There are at least 3 heretic orders that are in hiding.  They include:
  • The Winged Legion, who followed the Simurgh after her divorce from Zulin and subsequent excommunication.
  • The Order of the Shepherd's Crook, who seek to bring the kingdom of Hell to earth.  Not literally, but they do want to use enslaved devils to police the world.  (Officially, they are condemned by the paladins of hell and have no affiliation.  They're just fans.)

And although the Celestialist Hesayans of the north do not have paladins, they have schools of swordsmanship that often serve the same function.

Anyway, this post is about one of the orthodox orders.

The Order of the Blue Kite

They're also known (somewhat mockingly) as "those naked paladins".  This is a little misleading.

Zulin's divine divorce caused quite a few shockwaves throughout the Church.  One of the secondary or tertiary effects was the relaxation of quite a few nuptial laws.  These were mostly sensible, good things.  Farmers no longer had to have their horses married before siring a foal, for example.

In this new marital climate, one vocal personage was the North Wind.  He had many lovers, and sought to make his trysts honest and open.  After a long period of debate, this was granted to him, and in less than a year, he had taken his first three wives.

Although the North Wind, the Windwives, and the House of Miraculous Windmills originally set itself up to be a religious power center similar to Concrayda, but it eventually failed at this task.  After being marginalized for half a century, the Blue Kites reinvented themselves as a martial order.

The first set of Windwives (now retiring into old age and death) were soft things, full of poetry and expensive wine.  But in the decades that passed, the North Wind's amorous tastes changed.  His newest brides are all warrior women and lawyers.  The formation of a paladin order was inevitable.

His newest bride is a man: Thornis Oglafar, possessor of a magnificent mustache, dyed a magnificent blue.

There are many members in the Order of the Blue Kite.  The Windwives are merely the ones that tend to occupy most of the high positions (but not all of them).

Can a starting PC play a Windwife?  I don't see why not.  Perhaps a Windwife just starting out, or one who has fallen from favor for some reason.  Have fun DMing the inevitable sex scene when hubby visits.

Crusades of the Blue Kite

There are two:
  • To catch the rebellious South Wind and either bring it among Hesaya's faithful, or kill it.
  • To protect the sanctity of marriage.  There's a lot of debate about what this actually means, though.  The North Wind has a fairly lax interpretation of marriage, but he isn't in charge of the Blue Feather.  His wives are--and their opinions are as varied as the clouds. 
And so the paladins sometimes work with things like domestic abuse, reconcile estranged spouses, and investigate claims of infidelity.  I mean, they fight dragons, too, but dragons aren't one of the official crusades, so. . .

like this, except with swords instead of brooms
and also they're the good guys and you can play one
by Luis Falero
Class Abilities

Originally, I was going to put them all in a little level progression for you.  But fuck that--there's too many systems, and too many scales of power level.  I'm just going to list them all here, and you can assemble them however you want.

Okay, fine.  I'll type something up, just so people can refer to it if they want to a FLAILSNAILS game I'm running or something.

Level 1 - Wind Squire, Speak with Wind, Gust of Wind (1x per day per level), Armor of Wind
Level 2 - Throw Arrow, Immunity to Wind
Level 3 - Negotiate Windstorm, Lightened Body
Level 4 - Flight, +1 Attack

Wind Squire

You travel with a squire wind.  It mostly hangs on you, messing with your hair and making sure that no one ever smells your farts.

Speak with Wind

Each day brings a new wind.  At a minimum, this functions similar to gathering rumors.  You should also roll a d10 to see what direction the wind is blowing from, since the wind will bring news from that direction as well (and not only the stuff that is visible from the sky).

You can talk to your squire, of course.

Gust of Wind

As the spell, gust of wind.  You'll get a lot of castings of this.

1 - North
2 - East
3 - South
4 - West
5-10 - The predominant wind direction in the area.

<sidebar>I actually have an old map of Centerra with all of the prevailing winds drawn on it.  I used it to figure out which side of the mountain range got all the rain, and which direction the trade winds blew the caravels.  I was much more interested in simulating a realistic world then.  Nowadays, it seems like useless fussing--pointless unless you want to publish a gazetteer.</sidebar>

Armor of Wind

This is the reason why so many of the Blue Kites walk around naked.  Those who have always trusted the wind will be protected by the wind.  This benefit is lost as soon as the trust is betrayed: i.e. the paladin willingly wears conventional armor at any point after they take the oaths.

Make your own level chart, but here's an example:
  • Level 1, AC 11, AC 13 vs small projectiles (arrows or smaller)
  • Level 2, AC 12, AC 14 vs small projectiles
  • Level 3, AC 13, AC 15 vs small projectiles
  • Level 4, AC 14, AC 16 vs small projectiles
  • Level 5, AC 15, AC 17 vs small projectiles
  • Level 6+, AC 16, AC 18 vs small projectiles.
A sacrifice now for a payoff later.  And not all of them are naked.  Many wear simple robes.  And others just wear armor like a normal person.

This ability is useless against really big things.  At a minimum: a boulder hurled by a giant, a dragon's claws.

Throw Arrow

You don't need a bow to fire an arrow.  Your squire accelerates it for you.

At high level, you can use this to fire around corners, as long as your squire can see the target.

Immunity to Wind

Lame now, but useful later on when you can summon a windstorm.

Negotiate Windstorm

You will need to negotiate with a local wind in order to do this.  Probably a wind duke, actually, since most minor winds don't have the ability to call in a windstorm.  (Military actions are regulated among the winds, just as they are among us.)

Windstorms are environmental, usually last for at least an afternoon, and only work outdoors.  Arrows are impossible.  Speech is difficult.  Shoving people is very easy (+4), and everyone gets -4 to attacking and defending (which usually cancels itself out).  Flight is impossible.  Shoddy buildings will be torn apart.  

Expect pissed off treants to show up the next day, cradling broken limbs.  They usually wish to repay one broken arm with another.

Lightened Body

By controlling their breath, a Blue Kite Paladin can make their body much lighter. This lets them walk across water and stand on tree branches that are normally too small to support them.  This doesn't let you jump any further, since the lowered mass also means that you have less momentum.

It also makes you immune to fall damage.  Fun!

"Flight"

It's not quite the same as the fly spell.  It's more like being picked up by a huge wind and carried through the sky in a horrifying vortex of deafening winds.  Expect bruises from your clothing as it flaps around (unless your clothing is tied down tight).  It's like skydiving, while the wind teases you and tries to crack jokes.

You can bring your friends with you, of course.

Not coincidentally, skydiving is a popular past time among the Blue Kites.  

You can fly large distances (miles) but not small ones.  Small hops of less than half a mile are out of the question.  And you will take 1d6 fall damage when you land, unless you can find a decent spot of water to land in.  (By default, 50% chance that your Wind can find one in time.)

Many Blue Kites wear an enormous silk scarf tied up around their waist.  Enormous, as in 30' long.  You might think that it's a swordswoman wrapped up in a weird, bulky burka, but then the wind unfurls it and BAM it's this huge scarf tied around their waist, shaking like the arms of God.  

The giant scarf makes sense: it means that the Wind will pull you through the air by your center of mass (your waist/ass) and not by the part of your body that has the greatest wind cross-section.  This prevents you from spinning uncontrollably as you fly through the air (a common blunder among first-time flyers).

This is their love token.  It's given to them by the North Wind as a sign of his favor.  And it serves a function: it allows you to make an attack for double damage upon landing.

Blue Kite strike teams usually blow in the window, and open up with an attack like that.

This also requires talking to a powerful local wind, and negotiating the cost.  What does the Wind want?  See below.

Other Stuff

Swords of the North Wind

If the love token scarves were a sign of approval, then a sword is a full-fledged admission of love.  If you aren't already a Windwife, you will probably be one soon.

These are +1 swords given out by the North Wind only after some seriously big favor has been earned.  They can be used to attack anything within 50', since they "throw" their slashes through the air.

Every Paladin of the Blue Kite aspires to own one.  The magic of the blade is dwarfed by the immense prestige it confers.

The House of Miraculous Windmills

This is your home base.  It's a cross between a church and a mansion, and it is covered with short towers that are themselves covered with windmills, large and small.

The house uses minor Winds as servants.  But since Winds have a hard time clearing the table after dinner, they mostly just turn the windmills and sing mariner's work songs all the damn day.  Expect a high level of automation within the house.  Crudely automated dishwashers, that sort of thing.

Nabba Sunbeam runs the house.  She's 55, a Windwife, and an inventor.

The most interesting room is the Flight Room, stocked with skydiver's wingsuits and with several ways to take to the sky.

Generating a Wind NPC

Roll up starting attitude and personality normally.  You may want to use this altered goals table, though.

This Wind NPC wants. . . [d6]
  1. To punish a particular piece of the earth, which has offended it.  Please roll this impudent boulder into the ocean, explain the Wind's displeasure, and sink it someplace cold and lonely.
  2. A wife, like the North Wind.  Not only does this mean finding a willing bride, but it also means convincing the Church to perform the ceremony.
  3. Less smoke.  Get these people--those ones over there--to stop burning fires.  I don't care how you do it.
  4. To go on an adventure.  Take me with you!  Expect to have a very difficult time lightning a campfire, having a quiet meeting in the library, and having all of your arrows miss.  Remember that Winds can't go underground or in confined spaces.  (Or more accurately, they can, they just risk dying if someone shuts a door and traps them in a space too small for them to circulate.)
  5. To kill some noxious creature.  Perhaps a monster that controls wind, a wizard that captures wind, a roc, or a sky whale.
  6. A vacation!  You'll have to do the wind's job for it.  Turning the windmill, spreading seeds, drying laundry.  Expect bewildered villagers and hilarious complications.  The Wind will probably bring you a souvenir from wherever the fuck it goes.  Probably something stupid, like 800 pounds of snow.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Sky Executions

Shitty Fiction

They had found his victims tied to stones at the bottom of the pond.  And so, for irony’s sake, they tied him up as tight as they could.  The coarse twine made red valleys of his flesh, crisscrossing his limbs like rings on an aspen, and it was still not tight enough.

The wind was picking up.  Even with all the dried blood weighing it down, the murderer’s hair was a tempest.  It thrashed in the gale as if striving to escape his head.

One by one, the people came up.  Each carried a kite, each string taught in the wind.

While the paladin took the kite and affixed it the condemned, the person recited their condemnation.  Their tears dried in the wind.

By the time they were done, the crucifix was covered in over a hundred kites, straining at their leashes like sled dogs.  The wood groaned; the murderer was silent.  He was watching the sky.

And then the crowd marched down the hill, the paladin following.  The condemned was alone on the hilltop with the priest.

A few words were exchanged.  No one heard them, not with the wind roaring like an angry sea.  No one read their lips, not with their eyes squinting against the stinging dust. 

And then the priest raised his arms.  The wind cracked like thunder.  The trees bowed their heads.  The crowd knelt, or fell.  On top of the hill, they could see the unruffled priest, untouched by the hurricane.

And the crucifix, it was gone.  Like a stone fired from a sling, they watched it arc out over the patchwork of pasture and farm, bleeding torn kites all the way down.  When it landed in the Sinner’s Field, they could see splintered wood tossed out from the dust of the impact.

The paladin wasn’t watching.  He was calming his horse down.  In a couple of minutes, he would ride down to the Sinner’s Field, confirm the execution, and ensure that nothing was buried where the vultures couldn’t find it.


It didn't take long, but by the time the paladin got returned, most of the crowd had drifted away, scattered like clouds in the wind.

If No Priest Is Available

In that case, the condemned is merely thrown off a cliff.  It is considered more respectable to walk off the cliff yourself, and those that request it are allowed to do so.

If no sufficiently high cliff is available, it's a journey to the nearest one.

Weaponizing the Wind

What kind of spells do you think high-level wind clerics have access to?

In the War Against Heaven, Emperor Tamerian's entire army was picked up and hurled, like chess pieces swept off a board.  They found dead soldiers up to four miles away.

Of course, the Nivian elephants and horses were too large to be thrown, so the wind merely rolled and dragged them for about half a mile.  Scavengers reported that their meat was quite tender, being well pulped by all the pounding and abrasion.

Emperor Tamerian's body was found on what is now called the Emperor's Hill, pierced by over a hundred swords that had been stripped from his honor guard and thrown in the tempest.  

While the emperor's corpse was removed, the swords remain.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Cave of the Druid

This is a mini-dungeon.  Plop it down wherever there is a forest.

Why is the Party Going Here?

  1. They could always stumble across it, in true Vancian fashion.
  2. They might want a question answered, or a favor returned.
  3. They might be seeking revenge against the high druid, or looking to take hostages to use as bargaining chips against him.
  4. Hell, maybe they want someone resurrected via wolf.

The Approach

The forest around the thicket is full of Irritable Trees.  The party will encounter 1d6 of them on the way there, or 1d4 if they avoid the most obvious path.

If the party is belligerent (loud, carrying fire, visible axes, threatening the forest, attacking trees) they will be attacked by an additional 1d4 Hateful Trees and 1 HD 8 Treant.  The party will not be attacked if they show deference to the trees (e.g. avoiding their roots, addressing the trees with terms of respect, asking permission, leaving axes behind) they'll get attacked by one less tree for each action taken.

Irritable Tree

HD 8  AC none  No Attacks
Move 0  Int 8  Morale 12

Drop Branch - Take 1d12 damage if you fail a Movement check.  Usable 1/day.

Irritable trees will drop their branch on the first person in the group (50%) or a random person in the group (50%).

Irritable trees sleep at night.  Duh.

Being aggressive towards the forest is a very terrible idea.  It's a bit like attacking a city, while you are in the middle of the city and vastly outnumbered.

The average tree strongly dislikes humans (-4 to reaction rolls).  Humans are things with the metal bites and the domesticated fire.

Trees are slow things, with thoughts that flow like thick sap.  To them, humans are as fast and as ephemeral as gnats.  Fire moves as fast as an explosion.  Chopping down a tree happens as fast as they can react, and is an act of sudden, unexpected horror, more similar to being struck by lightning than an act of premeditated malice.

With the egocentrism common to pretty much all sentient species, the subject of human sentience is the subject of both ridicule and speculation among trees.

the Cave of the Evil Spirit, Niagara Falls

The Cave Mouth

A bloodstained menhir.  Biting flies cause pain but no damage.  Parties would be forgiven for thinking that the real danger is a fly swarm.  The flies attack anyone who is not sufficiently dirty; if the players have been living rough for at least a week, they may pass the flies unmolested.

The guardian of the cave mouth is a Hateful Tree.  It doesn't let anyone into the save except those that it recognizes, and the only people it recognizes are the High Druid and his family.

Off to the right is a refuse pile (mostly plant waste and feces).  The party can hear a stream a few hundred feet off to the right.

Animals avoid this place unless they are here to petition the druid for some favor.  Roll a d4 to see if an animal is waiting a respectable distance away:

1  No animals are waiting here.
2 A wolf is here.  She wants to forget all memories of her dead mate.  They are too painful.
3 A fat chickadee desires that his romantic rival be devoured by a hawk.  He is willing to offer lifelong servitude, so great is his hate.
4 An opossum.  She has lost her baby.  She offers her flesh for his safety.

If the party waits, the second or third wife will emerge from the cave to perform some chore (foraging, drinking water, examining petitioners) after 1d6 turns (10-60 minutes).



The First Chamber

This is where the high druid lives with his three wives, eight year old son, and two babies.  The babies are non-combatants, and the remaining ones are level 1 fighters except for the first wife.

Eight-Year Old Son  HD 1  AC none  Handaxe  1d6

Third Wife  HD 1  AC none  Grapple  She "wears" 4 vipers (poison 1d6) around her neck, wrists, and the breast that her baby isn't currently suckling on.  She's young.

Second Wife  HD 1  AC none  Antler Sword 1d6  Casts entangle 1/day.

First Wife is an actual grizzly bear.  She sleeps a lot and will only be roused by someone shaking her awake (probably the eight-year old).  HD 5.

The high druid isn't here.  (He's decided that the village of Quarterway needs to be brought back to nature in a swift and brutal manner.)

The second wife speaks Common, albeit reluctantly and with obvious shame.  She has some family in Quarterway.  They're all assholes, which is why she ran away those 10 years ago.

The third wife has never known anything but the woods.  She reacts to language and metal with horror.  She reacts to money and manners with deep belly-laughter.

Everyone is naked, in case that wasn't obvious.

The Second Wife can function as a sage.  She can identify things, describe the area, etc.  She doesn't accept money or anything that isn't a natural product.  Bread is an abomination, but milled grain might be okay for porridge.  A fresh-killed boar would be a very welcome gift.

What they want:

  • Fresh boar, obviously.
  • The 20+ dog heads, harvested from Oakengate, a day's ride to the west.  Fuck dogs.
  • Kill the giant crayfish down in the stream.  (Plot twist: there are actually 2 giant crayfish down there.)
  • A living cleric of any religion.  They won't tell you why.  (Grandmother wants to eat a cleric's heart.  She thinks it will improve her visions.  She's correct.)
Inside the cave is just three piles of animal furs and a shallow depression that collects water.

If they hear combat outside (such as someone trying to chop down the hateful tree), they'll come out.

There are two more chambers deeper in this cave: one to the left and one to the right.

The Left Cave

A carpet of bones.

A deep pit, filled with toads and crickets (lured to this place by impulses they cannot understand or hope to overcome).

Grandmother squats on a rock, mumbling to the mosquitoes that perch on her hears, trading blood for news of distant places.  She holds a despondent toad.  Occasionally she'll raise it to her mouth an lick it.

She will not leave this cavern for anything, but she will almost certainly notice anyone entering.  She'll be watching for anyone coming into her cavern.

She will not respond to anyone except to growl at anyone she doesn't recognize.  Despite her appearance, she's not insane, just very grumpy.  She's also tripping pretty hard right now.

Behind her heel is a Phung pod, a very rare type of fruit that must be infected by a very rare fungus at a certain stage in its development.

If combat breaks out, if she is threatened, or if anyone walks into the room, she'll throw her Phung pod at them.  She's immune to the Phung pod's effects.

She has a second Phung pod, hidden in a hollow beneath her rock.

Phung Pod

Upon being crushed, releases a thin cloud of spores 50' in diameter.  This cloud causes paralysis (no save).  On each subsequent turn, a creature may make a Con check to regain the use of one limb, determined randomly.  If a non-paralyzed limb is rolled, do not reroll--you don't regain the use of any limbs that round.

Make a Con check at the start of your turn.  If you succeed, roll a d6:
  1. Left leg.
  2. Right leg.
  3. Left arm.
  4. Right arm.
  5. Head (but not voice).
  6. Voice.
Grandmother is a level 1 fighter.  Her strategy is to run around as fast as she can, coup-de-gracing people by clubbing their temples with a rock or just biting out their jugular.  Either way, it's a Con vs Death, with success upgrading your condition to Dying.

Licking a Toad [d6]

  1. Nausea
  2. Vomiting 1d6 hours.
  3. Unconsciousness 1d6 hours.
  4. Hallucinations 1d6 hours.
  5. Wizard Vision 1d6 hours.
  6. Extremely useful precognition of future events.  Permanently lose 1 point of Wis.

The Right Cave

The passage goes on for about 10 feet, then dead ends with a short upslope.  The dirt is loose back here, and a couple of red ferns grow on the walls.  

Anyone digging out more than a couple of inches will reveal a crawl space.  The tunnel continues; it was just hidden by a minor amount of loose dirt.

The tunnel continues for another 50'.  The air grows warm and wet.  The walls become blanketed in those same red ferns.

Finally, the tunnel opens up into a circular cavern.  A pool sits at the center, surrounded by enormous red ferns and fed by a single drip from the ceiling.

At the bottom of the pool is the Origin of Species, clearly visible through the glass-like water.

The Origin of Species

Huge and translucent and full of unrecognizable organelles.  The Origin of Species looks like an enormous egg cell.  The Origin of Species is an enormous egg cell.

Any living creature that touches it with their bare flesh is sucked in (no save).  Inside the egg cell, their flesh is pulled apart, their bones melted, and their brain rendered down into its component parts.  The egg rapidly begins to divide and grow.  Doubling in mass, quadrupling.  A symphony of organogenesis.  It is rapidly filling the cave.  Anyone who touches it at this point is also sucked in.

The Origin of Species will never suck in more than a total of two animals.  (If the first person who was sucked was carrying beef jerky or something, that will count as the second animal, and it will cease sucking in additional creatures.  If they are carrying multiple traces of DNA, use whichever sample is larger.  If a second animal doesn't touch it, assume that it sucks in a random cave organism [d4]: mushroom, cricket, salamander, mole.)

If a PC is sucked in, ask them about their character's personality.  Goals.  Habits.  Mannerisms.  Genetic defects.  Et cetera.  It'll be important.

The Origin of Species then rapidly gives birth to 2d6 x 10 creatures of a brand new species.  They'll be a mixture of whatever two species were used to initialize the egg.  This is the birth of a new species.  Revel in it, and extrapolate as much as possible.

For example, if the elf was sucked in while carrying a few strips of jerky and nagahide armor.  Since the armor is larger than the jerky, the Origin of Species produces a race of elf nagas.  

Take this as far as you can.  If the elf PC used to laugh at fart jokes, then the elf naga race will probably develop a culture where fart jokes occupy an intimate and essential social function.  Marriages will be official when the bride and the groom fart in unison.  That sort of shit.

If the elf knew the grease spell, then all of the elf nagas will probably all know it innately.

The brand new race will be friendly to the party if the assimilated person was friendly to the party.

God help them if they throw in something weird, like the corpse of the death knight who hated them and wears dragonscale armor.

But, assuming it was a PC that died, let the player recruit a new character from the freshly-spawned race.  The new race is probably going to have a major impact on the local environment, and the PCs are in a prime position to leverage that chaos to their own advantage.

Make it awesome.