Friday, April 19, 2024

Magic Item: Mirror of Dire Portent

Brahl screamed in terror and pain as he stared into the mirror. "It has me! It has me!" 

The mirror had shown him a possible future in which he would suffer a horrible outcome. In this instance an unseen creature, obscured by mists or smoke, lashed onto him with barbed tentacles and began squeezing the life from him. The image was just an image, but the pain was very real.

Stenodus had placed the mirror here on purpose, surmising that his enemies would be vain and conceited, pausing to gaze into the dire device. His own earlier perusal had warned him of the flames that would consume much of his flesh when their sorcerer attacked. 

Mirror of Portent

The tall mirror is framed in a polished brass stand and bears the word Prophesy embossed above the glass.  Looking into the mirror results in the viewer receiving a full sensory experience of a possible future event. The vision requires the viewer to make a DC14 Wisdom saving throw. Failure results in 2d6 psychic damage and when the possible future comes about, suffering the frightened condition for up to one minute, and making a DC14 Wisdom saving throw to recover from the frightened condition at the beginning of each turn after the first turn. Success on the initial saving throw results in 1d6 psychic damage and no fear condition being imposed during the encounter or event depicted. All depictions are vague and uncertain, though very real to the person gazing into the mirror.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Ptolus Campaign Wayward Sons is Dust in the Wind

 After a long stretch of time dealing with vision problems I was trying to get the campaign back on track, but alas it is not to be.

I'm also trying to get the in-person group back to the table. We'll see if that happens.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Cuppity, Cup, Cup, Cup. Actually Mug.

 Time for more shameless self promotion. The blog's Zazzle store has these mugs and some other things for sale. Follow this link to see what's available. If you like something order it. Thanks!*     <----- Link

Below are the designs on three other mugs. Pardon the duplication of images. The banner design mug image copied fine, but the rest came out, well, not as mugs.

There are cards with these images, you can send to folks for whatever reason or to invite them to a special game session. 

Also there are a banner pin and a banner magnet available.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Skulking Below - Dungeon Magazine 81

Five adventures from one issue of Dungeon. Five. This is the fifth module in the issue that seemed worth talking about in regard to fitting it to a Ptolus campaign.

Central to the story are a group of evil Skulks that have stepped up their robbery and murder efforts. This has the City Watch thinking the thieves guild has gotten bold, and the Watch plans to crack down.

The PCs can become enmeshed in the situation through a number of approaches. The Watch can hire them because their own men are stretched thin and there's some urgency to get things resolved. Or they might owe a Watch Captain a favor. Maybe someone they know was a victim and they decide to investigate.

The thieves guild has enacted a plan to put an end to these skulks plans by luring the Watch right to them. They have a doppleganger find and ally with the Skulks to fool them into thinking they're working for the guild and push them to greater, riskier activity. 

It might be interesting to have the Killraven Crime League be the ones trying to set the Skulks up to take a fall in order to get rid of minor competition and take some heat off of their people in the district.

As written, part of the action takes place in the sewers below the Docks District, but in Ptolus there's nothing below the docks except deep water. The district itself is a construct partially held up by magic. This means we need to move that activity to another location.

If you have the Skulk bandits operating in Oldtown it would ruffle enough feathers to get the Watch working hard to find the perpetrators. It also opens up the possibility that the characters might go to Skulk Alley seeking insight. This could prove interesting because it's not certain that these Skulks would rat out the others. In fact, if they know about the plans to deliberately have them hunted down by the law, they might do some misdirection.

The Skulk bandits are operating out of a hidden lair reached through the sewers. This old lair was once used by criminals who worshipped a deity of shadows and thievery. Based on the bloodstained altar and other factors the best choice is Maleskari.

Years ago some members of the City Watch raided this location and sealed some of the occupants inside a section the Skulks haven't broken into yet. Those occupants died and turned into ghouls and ghasts. Why they were stuck inside is a mystery since there's another access point down a set of spiral stairs descending several hundred feet into a set of catacombs and passages the author left undetailed so DMs could fill in what lies below. You can either plan ahead for why they couldn't escape or omit the stairs altogether.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Khazefryn - Dungeon Magazine 81

This is the fourth adventure in issue 81 of Dungeon Magazine that I've chosen to write about. 

There really isn't much work needed to fit this into your Ptolus campaign. You kind of get the impression that the author originally wrote more for the scenario and the editors had him cut it down, but that extra wouldn't likely have provided hooks useable for connecting it to the city.

Khazefryn as written can easily become a slaughter-fest, especially for hack and slash happy murder hobos. 

Getting the characters involved in the adventure is very easy. Outlined in the scenario are a few options. 

1) Player characters are travelling through caverns and discover this place during their journey. They can pay up in order to pass through (it's very expensive to avoid a fight), or they can back off and seek a path around the place. Make this a costly and dangerous shortcut, or just something they stumble onto. They'll learn that it exists and can always come back to it later if they choose to avoid the place.

2) If the party is searching for something specific they might encounter some underdark denizens that can clue them into the idea that it was taken to Khazefryn. Further questioning can reveal that it is inhabited by a number of different type of creatures, but try not to reveal the presence of the dragons.

3) A bounty might be placed on the head of a resident and the party might decide to fetch the wanted individual. The adventure suggests a certain Drow thief along with an interesting deal to agree with in order to take him away.

4) Another group of underground dwellers wants to find out details of the goings on in Khazefryn and sends the PCs. In this instance they can be following up on the rumor that a dragon runs the place.

Khazefryn consists of 6 "islands" in a lake. The islands were enormous mineral columns that had their tops broken off by the previous inhabitants so they could build a monastery. After they left or were driven away some Drow turned the location into an outpost. Since that time other creatures have come along to make some of the islands their abodes. 

A pair of poorly named dragons later arrived and took control, killing off those of the Drow that refused to accept their rule and subjugating everyone within the cavern. Stalagmite and Stalactite? Come on, we can do better than that for dragon names.

Should you choose to do so, the adventure presents the opportunity to further develop the intrigue between the various factions within the cavern complex. It is hinted at, but not pursued. There are also doppleganges that have begun infiltrating the tribes. The residents, under the rule of the dragons, pull together to fight off invaders, but otherwise bicker and skirmish among themselves.

Among the island residents are tribes of Kuo Toa, Lizardmen, Troglodytes, a bat-like humanoid race that can't fly, called Bainligor, and Drow. In the lake are some eels big enough to have a swallow attack, and some aquatic gargoyles. In the caves to the side the dragons have their lair.

Take care to read this module a couple of times and make appropriate preparation to run it. There are also some cursed magic items present you'll want to account for, including one that can disintegrate a wearer, and another that insta-kills characters that try to read the rune written on it (with no saving throw, you know I'll change that aspect if I run this).

It's possible for the characters to be captured (drow poison can knock them out). In that event you have a plethora of options for what to do with them. The writer suggests that one PC gets selected to become a blood sacrifice to Gorgoth-Lol (Lolth) and the others sold to a number of monster types as slaves or food. The party would have all of their possessions taken and added to the hoards of the dragons. 

Rescuing a party beset by this situation can be either an off-screen event or you could have the players run back-up characters to do their own rescue. There's also the aspect of wanting their stuff back to motivate them to return for round two. 

Friday, March 1, 2024

The Door to Darkness - Dungeon Magazine 81

If you're looking for a short adventure for introducing a party that has just arrived in Ptolus, take a look at this one. 

A wizard has become mad with jealousy toward some dwarves that he feels upstaged his accomplishments as a hero for his town. Two of the dwarves open an inn and he decides to use his illusion magic to haunt it. What nobody knew is that the inn sits over a source of evil shadow magic. As written, the worst aspects of the scenario are caused by a dark evil in the ruins of a fallen elven city below the inn. 

What can we work with here . . . Crazy illusionist, and an inn above a source of evil shadow magic.

Let's work backwards a bit.

Ren Sadar of House Sadar will get wind of the events that happen at the inn when the scenario is finished. He will be very interested in this matter since he is heavily focused on shadow magic. A few days afterward he will probably come to the in and investigate. He could even hire the party to delve down into the dungeon to find the exact location of the source.

As a source for the evil shadow magic manifestations it makes sense that one of Ghul's labs has been tapped into and when the illusionist used his magic with bad intent things began to get nasty. Alternately, the source could be a section of the lair of Kagrisos the Ghost Lich that was previously undiscovered. Old parts of his former lair include the area in and surrounding the Undercity Market.

The player characters could have gotten involved simply by needing a place to stay when they first get to Ptolus.

Wackjob the wizard became mad at the dwarves for succeeding where he failed in the dungeon.

So now we just need to place the inn and then design the section of the labyrinth directly beneath it, oh, and the section of affected sewer between the two for when the PCs follow this scenario with the job from Ren Sadar. Let's put the inn on the corner of Tavern Row and Center Street directly across from Row Bathhouse. 

The module is simple and short, but with a little thought it lends itself to being a starting point for other adventures.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Divisions of the Mind - Dungeon Magazine 81

Psionics was not to my liking in AD&D so it's no surprise that a couple of decades ago I overlooked this adventure. Going through it now however, I can see a place for it in a Ptolus campaign.

Originally the module is set near a small town in some forested hills where the Beholder that kicks the story off resides in the caves. The Beholder attacks the town without assaulting people, destroying only buildings and objects. The goal is to draw would-be heroes to its lair where it hopes to convince them to investigate something it discovered in the deeper caverns below.

Opening the adventure with a Beholder attack in the city doesn't feel right to me since there would likely be quick reprisal and little chance of negotiation if things begin with violence. Of course anything is possible. It seems more likely that the Eye beast would be fully aware of how dangerous that would be and would instead choose a saner approach. 

Acting through one of its minions perhaps a message is carried into The Ghostly Minstrel and the not-too-bright creature seemingly at random, drops it onto the table where the player characters are sitting. Yes, it's the "you're sitting in a bar" trope, this time the monsters are seeking help. Then the minion turns and walks out, all without a sound. Scratched into the surface of the large piece of slate is the phrase "follow it". 

Assuming the players know a plot hook when it's just been shown to them, they should follow the creature through part of town, maybe near the city wall in North Market, and down into the sewers and dungeon below, eventually getting to the caves in which our quest-giver resides. Have the miniion enter ahead of the party and be one of the two victims of the giant Trapper/Lurker in area #2,  At that point the adventure can run almost as written.

I suggest placing the caves and deeper caverns of this scenario under the area just outside the city walls to the north of Ptolus. 

There are Derro thralls as well as Derro mutants in the adventure as written, but I vaguely recall Derro not being part of the Ptolus setting. I don't recall where I saw that information. Don't let that stop you from using them in your campaign. In this adventure it might make sense because of how different everything in the citadel is from the norm.

There is a lot of system conversion work to be done if you're running this in something other than 2nd edition AD&D. 

In the great cavern below is a floating crystal and stone citadel inhabited by illithid variants that are hostile to regular mind flayers, but might not be hostile to the characters depending on how the party behaves.

The evocative descriptions of things within the crystal citadel make for a fascinating experience.

It is possible to make allies and enemies of various NPCs from the adventure with opportunity for future plots.

Lazat Lan is a prisoner that looks human, but is an illithid that for some reason did not transform fully when undergoing ceremorphosis. He will try to get help escaping, and given a chance he'll turn on the PCs, maybe even trying to crack open one's head with a weapon in order to eat their brain. The potential for shenanigans in the city exists if this NPC escapes into Ptolus.

Once their exploration of the citadel is finished and the party returns to the beholder, it will expect a full report as well as the share of treasure it demanded at the start. Anything less than it expects will trigger an attack. The party needs to be ready for that eventuality. Escaping from the beholder without vanquishing the foe will leave them with a recurring enemy.

Overall the module will probably be great fun to play through and players will get a good sense of the culture of both illithid and their abnormal variants. 

Friday, February 2, 2024

A Race Against Time - Dungeon Magazine 81

A Race Against Time is an adventure that years ago I wrote off without much of a thought because it wasn't a match for the campaign I was running, and it didn't appeal to me. Decades later, and running a Ptolus campaign, it deserves a second look. This scenario will take some re-engineering. 

The premise is that a criminal has decided to break his friend and superior Bruce "Bruiser" Holloway out of prison while wreaking as much destruction and death as he can, and play a challenging game. The death and destruction is an overly elaborate distraction for the jail break. Gecko, as he is known, is crazy that way.

Gecko has gotten his hands on some magic bombs that will go off at a set time at various places throughout the city. We'll come back to the discussion of his source for these bombs in a bit. 

Who Gecko and Bruiser work for could be interesting. They are not highly placed in the criminal food chain, but aren't bottom feeders either, they have underlings. Their list of crimes don't sound like the kinds of things the Longfingers Guild would be involved with. Extortion and Murder are more in line with both the Balacazars and the Killraven Crime League. They aren't in the know when it comes to where secret operations of allies are hidden so one of the targets I selected would still work. I chose Killraven.

The first problem to solve is how to, or if to involve the prison. In Ptolus the prison is in a very different place than most would imagine. It's not a building on the surface, but is deep below ground, accessible by boat from the Bay of Ptolus.

It seems that a better option might be to have Bruiser not yet in prison, but awaiting trial in a City Watch jail cell. Which one is up for you to decide since they are all over the city. Recommendation is to pick one far from any of the planned bombing targets. We'll return to this as well shortly.

Player characters get involved while in a busy market, definitely North Market since it is described as being crowded with merchant stalls. A flying snake approaches bearing a scroll along with one of these magic bomb crystals, and won't leave the PCs alone until they take the message. This thing could easily be the familiar of Gecko's sister, an arcane spellcaster.

Reading the message starts the countdown for the detonation of the Fire Crystal. Getting rid of safely is the first challenge of many. The message explains the nature of the "game" and provides clues to the seven other crystals locations. 

Originally the gargets included a blacksmith shop, the privy at an administration building where the Duke might be working, a College of Astronomy, the courthouse, the base of a dam, a tavern on the docks, and the town square. There are some easy parallels for a few, but other will require thought.

Clues and Targets:

Clue #1 can remain the same. It's vague enough to provoke thinking and hesitation, but working with NPCs in the story can aid the PCs if they're stuck.

There are many blacksmiths and other smithies in Ptolus. Narrowing down just one might be tough, and a small shop doesn't provide for massive damage and casualties. The obvious target becomes the Foundry in the Guildsman District. There's a secret Shuul operation below it, but even a Killraven agent wouldn't have a clue about its presence.

Clue #2 can also remain as it is written.

The natural location for the second target is the Administration Building in Oldtown. It might not specifically be the Commissar's throne, since he doesn't actually have one, but it is where his decisions are handed down from and they do have a privy.

Clue #3 Keep the third clue as well. Again NPCs can help narrow it down.

Third would be the Temple Observatory of the Watcher of the Skies in the Temple District. More for show than for casualties.

Clue #4 is fine as it stands.

Wanting to hurt the legal system which is making their lives difficult, the obvious choice is the courthouse and a specific judge. Oldtown.

Clue #5 needs the last two lines rewritten. I suggest the following: Beneath a pillar of faith and stone, To keep it all abridged.

Ptolus doesn't have a reservoir with a dam, so how about the Blessed Bridge crossing from Midtown into the Temple District. This time he's going for casualties, and it might piss off a bunch of religions.

Clue #6 this one also works, though vague. Some searching around the building might be enough to solve the riddle.

The adventure identifies the Docks location as a tavern called The Moxy Maiden and there's a chance it and some other buildings nearby could burn down. I would stick with that instead of involving important locations from the setting. I considered the legal brothel, Esser's because it is the only place less likely to be tied directly to organized crime or if so, the Balacazars.

Clue #7 is another that can remain the same way it is given in the original module.

Delver's Square is another obvious location for clues to lead the party, but from there it becomes less obvious. The clue is actually pointing to a mirror in the window of an antique shop in which you can see the reflection of a confection shop. There is room for these in Delver's Square so that's not a problem. The antique shop can sit between Bull and Bear Armory and the Watchhouse. The bakery/confectionary can be to the immediate right of Potters. The actual target is a children's hospital nearby and the bomb is in the sewers beneath the building. This hospital makes sense to be the building directly southwest of St. Gustav's Chappel.

Of course there is an eighth location where a Fire Crystal is being planted and that's the Watchhouse where Bruiser is being held. The clues to that come from Gecko's sister as she tries to steer the party there for her purposes without being revealed as working at cross purposes to her crazy brother.

The goal then is for the characters to prevent as many of the bombings as possible and to stop the jailbreak.

For the location of the jail where Bruce Holloway is confined there are plenty of choices that are far from all the chaos. Of the districts that aren't involved, we can rule out both the Necropolis and the Warrens. We're left with Nobles Quarter which is unlikely since they would be pushing for quicker resolutions in court, Rivergate, and South Market. Either of those districts seem ok, but perhaps Rivergate is better since it has a bridge leading directly to Oldtown where the court is located.

Regarding where Gecko got his explosives, here's where a future adventure can spring from. In the original module the source was a disgruntled mage that had been exiled from the city. You could keep that or maybe have his source be a Drow spellcaster seeking to do harm to the city and its people. There are a number of disguised dark elves in Ptolus so this is easy to make happen. Gecko wouldn't even have to be aware of his source's true identity.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Stage Fright - Dungeon Magazine 77

Here's one ripe for expanding a bit. It begins in a theatre which can be just about anywhere in Ptolus. This one would probably be in Midtown or one of the two Market districts.

The plot involves a mishap during a summoning that was supposed to be a scary special effect for a play.

In the original scenario a Red Slaad gets summoned, gets out of a flawed magic circle, kills a bunch of actors, implants one with an egg, and then poof, back to it's plane of origin. We know that last part won't work in Ptolus so it most likely goes out on the town. If it did go rampaging there could be other infections to deal with. 

Most likely the City Watch or some nearby delvers would have taken the Slaad down. Maybe the characters were the delvers that happened to be there. Plant that encounter in the campaign some time before this scenario.

Three months are almost up and the Slaad Tadpole inside the theatre owner is about to burst out of him.

The scenario intends for the player characters to be in the audience when things go wrong again. Maybe they received tickets to this show as thanks for their help last time.

The lead actor and theatre owner hatches the tadpole from his insides right on stage and promptly dies. The tadpole rips up a piece of the stage floor and slithers into the basement.

It's here that we see if the PCs will jump into action or let matters get worse. Delaying action gives the Slaad time to morph into more mature forms becoming much more dangerous.

If the characters defeat the Slaad, the City Watch will show up shortly afterward.

The theatre will go out of business after this event. Maybe a bard character will show interest in buying the place.

Friday, January 5, 2024

Fruit of the Vine - Dungeon Magazine 76

 This is another of those, made for one session, type of adventures. It will fit well in Ptolus' Midtown district.

Somehow a Yellow Musk Creeper that hybridized with an Olive Slime has taken root on an abandoned property that was once owned by a delver. An interested party is looking for a new place and goes in to investigate, becoming infected.

The infected individual is acting on a compulsion to draw others in to get infected.

An encounter in the market is what gets the player characters involved. Ideally they go to investigate the house.

In the abandoned house here's a comedic beat concerning a bathroom filled with potentially explosive gas and having a stuck door.

The chimney contains a slimy cat zombie.

Out in the garden shed are three dog zombies. Bits of food litter the yard and have been put there to lure animals in to become infected.

The corpse of the former owner can be found in the bedroom. He stole from the wrong person and was poisoned. This can lead to another adventure because the trapped ring he stole that killed him was meant for the wife of someone the carrier wanted to marry, and needed to get the wife out of the way.

There's a box of adventuring gear under the bed that includes a dagger with a command word on the blade. This lets the wielder turn invisible.

Destroying the Olive Creeper results in victims that have not yet become slime zombies recovering. You may want to complicate this just a bit by requiring a low level restoration spell or cure disease.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

One Year Ago the OGL Scandal Broke.

 January 4th of 2023 delivered the news of what Wizbro was up to in the way of trying to revoke the irrevocable Open Game License. The backlash was immediate and huge. It eventually led to them walking things back and putting 5e into a Creative Commons license by way of apology.

You can easily find a wealth of information about the matter on YouTube and elsewhere so I won't belabor the point in this post.

Monday, January 1, 2024

MCDM RPG - Yup, 4e on Steroids.

I have come to the conclusion that at present, this isn't for me. I cancelled my pledge on Backerkit and my Patreon subscription. I will revisit this in mid 2025.