Saturday, October 7, 2017

Magic-Users in Groat's End

Magic-Users in Groat's End

The Lady Cynewise
Human M-U, 12th level

I 18, W 13, C 6, CH 16, AC 6, HP 18, AL LE

middle-aged, foppish appearance, very stable, helpful, inquisitive, extroverted, friendly, sensitive, brilliant, vengeful, greedy, truthful, craven, spendthrift, amoral, saintly (in the context of lawful evilness), interested in: legends, collector of porcelain/china/crystal

Notable equipment: Ring of protection +2, Bracers AC 8, ring of invisibility, wand of paralyzation, staff of command, other magic as determined by the DM

Spells available:

(1st level) charm person, comprehend languages, dancing lights, detect magic, find familiar, hold portal, identify, mending, mount, protection from evil. read magic, shocking grasp, unseen servant

(2nd level) bind, darkness 15’ rad, detect evil, flaming sphere, forget, invisibility, know alignment, leomund’s trap, locate object, magic mouth, mirror image, protection from cantrips, scare, whip

(3rd level) blink, clairvoyance, gust of wind, haste, invisibility 10’ rad, leomund’s tiny hut, monster summoning I, phantasmal force, protection from evil 10’ rad, secret page, slow, suggestion, tongues, water breathing, wind wall

(4th level) charm monster, confusion, dispel illusion, fear, fire trap, leomund’s secure shelter, magic mirror, minor globe of invulnerability, massmorph, otiluke’s resilient sphere, plant growth, remove curse, shout

(5th level) bigby’s interposing hand, cloudkill, contact other plane, distance distortion, fabricate, hold monster, leomund’s lamentable belaborement, monster summoning III, mordenkainen’s faithful hound, passwall, sending, stone shape, transmute rock to mud, wall of force

(6th level) contingency, death spell, ensnarement, glassee, project image, reincarnation, repulsion, stone to flesh

Spells normally memorized: (4/4/4/4/4/1) (1st level) charm person, protection from evil, shocking grasp, unseen servant (2nd level) bind, forget, invisibility, whip (3rd level) blink, clairvoyance, suggestion, slow (4th level) charm monster, confusion, minor globe of invulnerability, otiluke’s resilient sphere (5th level) bigby’s interposing hand, hold monster, leomund’s lamentable belaborement, transmute rock to mud (6th level) project image

Cynwise is eternal in the eyes of your average Groat’s End citizen. Well over 200 years old, she both founded the town and removed herself as its titular ruler outside of living memory. Now she’s more like a force of nature: outside the law, inside the walls, and beyond anyone’s ability to resist.

It’s unknown how she manages to live on, by appearance in the prime of life, beyond all reasonable mortal allotment. While from a distance her alluring facade seems perfect, at arms length its unnatural strain subtly but surely contrasts with her demeanor – presented to the uninitiated as warm matronly concern. Those who fear her shadow falling across them if alone know her more fully: superior, demanding, punishing. The more meager the person, the more likely the suffering. Her presence in the streets of Groat’s End is often announced by scurrying dogs and cats as if woodland creatures fleeing the fire – she hates animals and uses her whip spell whenever one remains in her presence.

She has an imp familiar, though it is rarely seen and less discussed. Outside, she is sometimes accompanied by a zombie servant; always so within her tower. If any new acquaintance expresses outrage at this she raises her eyebrow and lightly mocks their provincialism.

Her saving grace is her indolence and possessiveness; lacking the drive to truly advance the cause of evil, too proud to allow GE to be taken from her by someone more dynamic, and content as a shark in a pond of guppies, Cynwise is left alone to terrorize her isolated rump domain. She usually keeps at least one apprentice for the drudge work, and does turn out capable prestidigitators; although nearly all graduates prize distance, first and most – she inevitably becomes hostile to any caster of power rivaling her. Recently she quietly whipped up a mob against the only other (known) magic-user in town, and his charred remains are still chained in Hangman’s Court.

Adventurers will usually encounter her whenever seeking magical services (the locals will all direct them to her tower) or possibly randomly on the streets. However encountered, Cynwise will recognize an adventuring party for what it is, even if otherwise credibly disguised, and greet them warmly (and discretely, if necessary). She’ll likely agree to consult with them if needed, at rates befitting her ability (or for a service – she often has uses for an adventuring party). There’s something in the dungeon she wants, so she desires the ability to inspect items taken from it. She is obsessed with delicate or porcelain dolls (and researched several defense spells involving them for use in her tower) and will also pay premium coin for other like treasure, such as fine vases, exceptional silverware, etc.

Cynwise tries to avoid putting her brittle body in combat at all costs; she’s likely to flee any violence immediately unless it’s around her tower where she has prepared defenses, and can likely expect the townspeople to rise up in a mob to defend her. Terrified as they are, she is the devil they know (and they know it can be worse), along with a touch of civic duty besides. She makes frequent use of the spells suggestion and forget in combination, to the extent townspeople use the commonly-experienced blackouts as plausible excuse for personal lapses of all sorts.

Simon of Left End.

5th level M-U
I 15, AC 10, HP 11, AL LE

youthful, non-descript, unstable, moody, mischievous, abrasive, proud, intellect: average, unforgiving, very honorable, miserly, interests: history, legends

notable equipment: spellbooks, fake scroll sheets and wands

Spells available:

(cantrips if/as used in campaign as determined by DM)

(1st level) armor, detect magic, friends, grease, melt*, protection from evil, read magic, run*, unseen servant*

(2nd level) irritation, magic mouth, melf’s acid arrow*, preserve*, ray of enfeeblement, scare, shatter, whip*

(3rd level) item, monster summoning I, phantasmal force*, protection from normal missiles, sepia snake sigil*

* spells marked with an asterisk are known, but Simon has no spellbook containing them

Spells memorized: (1st) armor, friends, grease, cantrips (or read magic) (2nd) irritation, ray of enfeeblement (3rd) protection from normal missiles

Simon is a former apprentice of Cynwise living secretly in Groat’s End. Unlike most others, he attempted to stay in the area and inevitably a few years ago their relations grew sour. Exact details remain unknown, but Cynwise slew him, animating his corpse as a zombie which serves her to this day.

Unknown to her, Simon had a contingency placed upon him that reincarnated him upon his death. Finding himself in a new body, he quickly gathered what caches of secreted goods he could and re-established himself in the city as an arriving common day-laborer at the thresher’s guild; working there while making and revising plans to gain his revenge. His blood boils whenever he sees his zombified body following Cynwise around town.

Adventurers looking for standard hirelings have a 50% chance of employing Simon, increasing by 10% per service sought. Simon hopes to gain entry into a group of adventurers this way, to gain allies in an eventual assault on Cynwise. If the group looks capable enough, he’ll present himself as a low-level magic user secretly associated with some group favorable to the PCs and ask to join them, slow-rolling his ability unless in extreme danger (which will be disguised as a “scroll” or similar distraction). By most criteria, he’ll be a reasonably reliable comrade – he wants to curry favor. If the party obtains any contingency and/or reincarnation magic, however, Simon will want it, giving a premium if need be.

There’s one problem though: Simon is dunning-kruger personified. His ability in his field is poor, his suggestions are bad, his tactics are worse, and his surety of their brilliance is boggling. He’s not a keystone cop of a party member, but whatever decisions he gets to make are more likely to hurt than help. And he’ll insist that the party have no dealings with Cynwise if he is a member, although refuse to explain why. While he’ll adventure away from the area as-needed, he won’t agree to relocate from GE while Cynwise lives. When he feels it appropriate (almost certainly before it actually is) he’ll approach the party and propose killing Cynwise.

Simon delights in secretly casting annoying cantrips on people having ill-will against him in his former body.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The clerics in Groat's End

Comonoc the Spry
Cleric of Xan Yae, 11th level

S 4, I 15, W 18, D 3, CH 15, AC 10, HP 39, AL N

Psionic Ability 150 (75 att/75 def)

attack modes: psionic blast, mind thrust
defense modes: mind blank, mental barrier
Disciplines: (minor) domination, ESP, object reading, precognition; (major) energy control

Spells normally memorized: (7/6/5/4/2/1) command, CLWx2, light, remove fear, sanctuary, augury, hold person, messenger, slow poison, withdraw, wyvern watch, cure disease, dispel magic, magical vestment, meld into stone, speak with dead, implore, CSW, divination, PFE 10’ rad, commune (if unable to memorize commune then golem or insect plague instead), true seeing.

old, sane, precise, violent, diplomatic, cheerful, active intellect, hard-hearted, intellectualist, scrupulously honest, interested in husbandry and athletics

Comonoc is an emaciated, legless whisp. He’s well-regarded by the poorer masses because of his frequent assistance to sick or injured children and his financial support of the soup kitchen. Although the town isn’t particularly fervent, Comonoc is influential while working quietly towards his own ends, which are invested in the status quo. He often changes the course of events small and large without anyone being the wiser.

He makes his way outside of the temple either by chair (carried by bearers) or on the body of a rope golem (created via magic). While usually at his temple, he may be in the streets either on market or holidays, or when making a house call. Inside the temple he may additionally be carried by his personal servant.

Despite his own physical condition, Comonoc is intensely interested the hardiness and fitness of his community. Financed from the sale of his spells to adventurers and the rich, he maintains a training ground open to the city’s youth where they can learn the classic arts of boxing, wrestling, and gymnastics; the gifted also can learn some basic weaponry, or subjects such as reason and theology. He often observes on the fields outside his temple the activity and the instruction given by those he’s hired (from as far away as Greyhawk.) He’s also one of the best judges of horseflesh in Groat’s.

Comonoc’s services aren’t entirely altruistic: they place him in direct contact with many and allow liberal use of his precognition; casting about for those with strong potential and/or intent to impact the status quo of Groat’s End. (This rarely includes such transient folk as adventurers.) For those foreseen: the healing doesn’t work; the training results in accidents causing lameness, or rarely, worse.

Comonoc is merciless in combat, dominating opponents to slay themselves or their former allies. If using a rope golem, he may (if safe to do so) direct it to strangle an opponent while he reads it, only letting the noose slip loose if he senses it beneficial to his ends to do so. He’s either AC 10 if immobile, or has the AC of whatever is carrying him (60% of hits to the carrier, 40% to Comonoc.)

If he senses he’s outmatched, a favored tactic is to meld into stone while employing his psionic blast, then exiting to finish what’s left.

Comonoc and Wizardess hate each other, but for entirely personal and petty reasons as opposed to ideological ones. Although Conomoc has frustrated some of Wizardess’ goals in the past, and if she ever found this out the enmity could explode into open conflict.

Spells normally memorized: (7/6/5/4/2/1) command, CLWx2, light, remove fear, sanctuary, augury, hold person, messenger, slow poison, withdraw, wyvern watch, cure disease, dispel magic, magical vestment, meld into stone, speak with dead, implore, CSW, divination, PFE 10’ rad, commune (if unable to memorize commune then golem or insect plague instead), true seeing.


Erik of Blue
half-orc cleric/assassin 3/3

W 15, D 16, AC 5, HP 13, AL LE

Notable Equipment: leather +1, dagger of venom.

Spells (4/2) commandx2, darkness, fear, hold person, silence 15' rad

old, immaculate, barbaric, obsessive, introverted, secretive, easy-going, anti-intellectual, jealous, greedy, energetic, lusty, interested in gambling and athletics.

Erik poses convincingly as a bawdy, loud, and rugged man-at-arms; an old comrade of the red shirts boss who survived long enough to retire and mentor the young red shirts at the guild. In reality, he’s an aging cleric/assassin of Gruumsh who took on the boss as a protege years ago, and now serves in turn as the group’s spiritual adviser. Erik doesn’t assassinate commercially in the city, although if red shirt leadership considers it necessary his services are available to them.

Erik gambles big on animal fights (and everything else). The boss quietly covers any losses every month with Jimmy directly. Erik secreted tools of his trade in a couple stashes at the Spur that Jimmy doesn’t know about, and discretely killed there before. He gets angry if someone goes on a winning streak against him, especially clerics of other gods; but only 50% chance he starts a fistfight over it – otherwise he plots.


Human 1st level cleric of Yox/Magog

S 7, W 14, C 15, AC 10, HP 6, AL CE

Spells (3) fear, portent, endure heat/cold (whichever appropriate to the season)

scant possessions, ancient rough appearance, pessimistic, superstitious, diplomatic, harsh, anti-intellectual, miserly, liar, cowardly, interested in nature and legends.

Maisee will tell you she’s been a cult leader for Yox since before before you were born, and that the cause is doomed because of the weaknesses of the current generation. She’s also brutally honest in her abject pessimism, and yet in her utter worminess finds a way to honey her truth so the listener has someone else to blame for why its necessary to take her advice and not <insert activity here>.

She also insists throwing chicken bones is a valid augury to Yox (it’s not), immediately proclaiming any “bad results” as divine warning to stay put. She throws chicken bones before almost any action. Any attempts to refute her claims or her methods result in her mocking detractors mercilessly. Her violent side manifests if she’s ever presented with weakness and plausible deniability.

She lives as a beggar, but can covertly provide cult members some assistance and a place to stay. Although she won’t divulge where or why she received it, Maisee owns the amulet of Roh-Man-Tapf (detailed below) – the shelter she can provide, and where she keeps her shrine. If not going along, she’ll ask how long of a rest is desired, opening up a gate back at the appointed time. Usually. She’s occasionally forgetful. Also, if a lost party is coming near a door, about a day prior to their exit the amulet starts vibrating angrily and Maisee hides it somewhere secluded. Both combine to make longer than expected stays common.

If Maisee hides her amulet, she reclaims it after a few days; after which she goes to the safe space herself for as long as she can supply. People who can make their way out from being lost are all of: unhappy; usually more powerful than she can resist; and likely needing to get somewhere else quickly. A few days out of sight usually passes any danger to her, although she does sometimes also move to a new hovel afterwards.

She also passes word of town events to any cultist quietly moving through town.

Amulet of Roh-Man-Tapf – this ancient ankh provides a gate to a microplane of 25’x50’ that is akin to, but not of, whatever plane would receive the soul of an attuned owner. The plane is empty and safe, except as described below.

The gate opening into the plane is alignment-trapped; those of alignments other than currently tuned to the amulet lose 1d10 days of time if one step removed, and 1d10 weeks of time if farther removed. Those of attuned alignment will step into an enclosed space appropriate to the plane of affinity – an ominous cave if CE, a meadow ringed by impassable trees if CG, etc. At the owner’s determination the gate reopens and those in the plane may exit.

The owner need not be in the microplane themselves, but only one party at a time may use it. If a new group uses the amulet, anyone in the microplane (excluding those lost on paths) is cast out in the amulet’s current vicinity, or, if one of the new group carries the amulet with them, where it left the prime.

Those of other alignments find themselves in a 10’x10’ passage as described above that only goes forward. (Unless through prior experience) trapped characters have no knowledge of either an exit or how long the path is. While there are no hostile creatures on the path, there are either 1d2 or 1d4 deadly physical obstacles of up to 20’x50’ which must be negotiated (no more than one per day). After traversing the path for the time rolled, those trapped come to a door exiting safely back onto the plane of origin in the amulet’s vicinity.

However they do need to survive the march. Having only the supplies they brought, and unable to regain spells, they must be able to survive the necessary number of days to make it to the door. The passage will contain both spirits and bodies; bodies may retain any equipment the DM wishes to place except for food and water – most die of deprivation, and any rare other is already looted by someone who either made it out or died farther down the line. (One exception to this are bodies in the physical obstacles (50% chance of food/water) although reaching them should be an additional danger.)

The amulet can be realigned to another plane by casting a plane shift spell on it for this specific purpose. If done, all the trapped spirits of the same broad good-evil axis as the new plane depart for their afterlife.


Mathias the Chandler
half-elf, 3rd level cleric of Pholtus

W 16, CH 14, AC 10 (or 5), HP 13, AL LG

Spells memorized: (4/3) CLW, lightx2, protection from evil, augury, hold person , know alignment

scant possessions, mature, dandyish, kindly, studious, egoist, cheerful, soft-hearted, avaricious, brave, energetic, virtuous, interested in exotic animals.

Mathias doesn’t advertise his presence in Groat’s – it wouldn’t be welcomed since slavers come through often spending money – but he does keep a watch out for any newcomers who look like they’re good folk. If he sees a symbol of Pholtus he’ll make contact almost immediately; others get a longer period of observation. Where he can offer his services to a flock, he will, if assurances of secrecy are made. Flattery is a path to his favor; he can't resist it.

He’s known instead for his candles, mostly made from the tallow of the beef trade; fewer know him for the obscure treatises he reads by them. His predilection for having few possessions, but only of the highest quality, is also noted by some. He came to Groat’s as low-level eyes and ears for the church after another agent passed through and recognized Erik for who he was, relaying that info to Mathias’ superiors in Dyvers who sent him here after deciding it was worthwhile observing further. Mathias remains watchful, but hasn’t managed to piece together the larger purpose of Erik and his boss for the red shirts.

Comonoc has discerned the truth of Mathias, but says/does nothing as he (correctly) views Mathias as a potential check on the red shirts’ boss’s ambition.

Mathias keeps a suit of chain mail + shield and a mace but is loathe to break cover except in extremis.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Free Town of Groat's End - Twisting Stair Dungeon

Since the party is going back to town, I needed to put one together.  Here's a map for it, and I'll finish detailing out the town over the next few days in blog posts.

Edit - I can already see I misplaced some of the southern text labels, and a couple of misspellings. Stuff to correct on the next rendering.

This town is at the end of the road, more Nulb than Hommlet.  Should be a fun place for low-level adventurers to lose some money and hit points.

The full-sized PNG is available here

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Cultists of Yox

As grodog mentioned at his blog, I'm hip-deep in keying out the dungeon level of Twisting Stair #1 for use in my home campaign (and for a prospective Roll20 online campaign).  It's coming along nicely, although not quite finished in a shareable state.

One thing I like about the Twisting Stair zine is how it drops a tidbit without fleshing out the details.  I find it just enough to jump start my creative process while leaving me completely free to follow my imagination.  One example of this was the "Cultists of Yox" found on the Wandering Pairings random encounter table.

As a little teaser of what turned out to be a major faction in my adaption of the 1st level Twisting Stair dungeon map, here my take on the Cult of Yox.

Frequency: Very Rare
No encountered: 5d6
Size: Medium
Move: 60 ft plus, 60 ft leap
Armour class: 7
Hit Dice: 1d6 HP
Attacks: 1
Damage: By Weapon
Special Attacks: Jump, Climb Walls, Acid Spittle
Special Defences: None
Magic Resistance: Standard
Lair Probability: 80%
Intelligence: Average to Very
Alignment: Chaotic Evil

Cultists of Yox are 0-level worshipers of the aforementioned Yox (also known as Magog on some planes), a unique locust-demon of middling power.  Yox/Magog is rumored imprisoned on a prime material plane, the exact plane a matter of conjecture for sages.

Most worshipers appear as normal humans, albeit chaotic and evil.  If on the same plane of existence as Yox, 0-level cultists gain the ability to jump as per the spell (if not on the same plane this ability is not gained until reaching a full hit die).  Long years of demonic worship, ingathering of additional cultists, and offering of sacrifices slowly transforms the devotee through molting into something more; the first molting raises the worshiper to a full hit die, and each successive molt increases its hit die by one and grants additional powers.  As moltings make non-clerical spellcasting difficult, magic-using cultists do not molt or gain powers as described below (although some research spells which mimic these states for a time).

For every 6 cultists, there is a 1 HD sub-leader who's undergone a single molt, gaining a semi-hard segmented layer of chitin over their bodies (improving AC by 1 while still allowing armor use), small barbs protruding from their hands and feet, and very slightly bulging eyes.   Due to their barbs sub-leaders can crawl on walls if on all fours as per a spider climb, although not on ceilings (and their hands aren't sticky).  At this stage it is still possible to pass amongst regular people if concealing clothing is worn.  Additional sacrifices and cultic energy from larger ceremonies (through successful proselytization) causes further moltings.

for ever 12 cultists there will be a 2 HD leader gaining a +2 to its AC (armor may still be worn) as its chitin further hardens.  The leader also gains locust-like mouth parts which can chew through any non-metal.  Materials as tough as leather or rope can be chewed through in 2-4 rounds, or softened by spitting a foul brown acidic spittle over the area against which the item must save against acid or be reduced to the strength of cloth.  (Cloth can be chewed through in a single round.)  A leader can also spit as a grenade-like missile attack (range 1/2/3) doing 1d6 damage.  The target gets a saving throw vs paralyzation to avoid, and if failed item saving throws may apply at DM discretion.

For every 18 cultists will be an underpriest of between 3rd and 5th level spell casting ability.  This priest will have gained a completely locust-like head, infravision out of 60', and grown an additional pair of locust hind legs.  This allows triple-strength jumping as per spell.

There are rumors of more powerful priests in the cult than these, but this is unconfirmed.