Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Random Encounters with Illuminated Texts

Sometimes writing random tables is hard. You know you need a few more interesting entries, but your brain isn't working right. 

Well, worry not. The internet exists, and it has Pinterest boards of Medieval Bestiaries


Look at those cool pics. Look at those weird creatures. Look at that strange scenario. What's going on there? Filling out your random encounters is only a matter of answering that all-important question. 


Let's do a few together, shall we?

d20 Illuminated Text Encounters

1. Eclipse Wyvern
You know, of course, that dragons are elemental creatures. Wyverns are the dragons of the air. 

A wyvern is always trying to fly to the sun, but the incredible heat always turns it back. They're like moths flapping into candle flames. A wyvern's only desire is to eat the sun, but it's attempts are always frustrated. 

Except during an eclipse. 

During an eclipse, the wyvern can actually fly into the sky and start biting that sweet, sweet sun.  Like looking at an eclipse, though, the experience is still harmful--but tolerable. 

The encounter: The PCs are riding along. Unless they have an astronomer who's been paying attention or access to the advanced astronomical codices of the dwarves, they'll probably be very surprised when the sky changes tint and they see the moon slowly crawling across the sun's face. 

They'll be more surprised when a wyvern, who makes its nest on the nearest mountain peak, wings its way into the sky and begins gnawing on the corona around the moon. 

As the wyvern bites, it screams in pain and pleasure. It's body is burned and prickled by the sun's sharp beams. The wyvern bleeds. The blood falls like rain down on the PCs. 

Wyvern blood is extremely cold. It's like dry ice. It smokes it's so cold. Collecting it is difficult. 

Wyvern blood is extremely useful. It has healing properties. If collected and distilled, wyvern blood acts grants regeneration. Roll the drinker's HD--the regeneration effect lasts that many rounds. 

2. Mantyger
The heraldic beasts were not made by God. They were made by sorcerers. 

It was men who started thinking up "What if lions had a human face and a scorpion's tail and maybe a bat wing" and then put them on their shields and banners. It was men who said, "The lion has an eagle's head and eagle's wings and a serpent as a tail." 

It was sorcerers who said, "OK. Now that exists. Neat." And they cast their spells and drew these beasts forth from the tapestry, forming them out of the weirdness of dreams, and then let them loose into the world. 

Once the heraldic beasts were in the plane of flesh, they obeyed the rules of that place. They ate. They died. They bred. 

Like an invasive species, heraldic beasts are a nuisance. They have no ecological niche that they really fit into. They outperform God's beasts in almost every way. They're like kudzu, or Asiatic carp. They swarm. 

Luckily, heraldic beasts are extremely good sport, and nobles love to hunt them. If your family's sigil is the griffin, and there are an overabundance of griffins in the mountains, it's considered very good luck to go out and bag a few for the Yuletide feast. 

The encounter: The PCs hear a man's rich bass voice proceeding through the forest, saying "Roar. Roar. Roar." It's a handsome voice. It sounds like George Sanders voicing Shere Khan in the Jungle Book

If they investigate, they see a mantyger strolling along. The mantyger has a large tiger's body, a kingly head, and three rows of teeth. When the mantyger notices them, he asks why they do not bow before their king. 

(Mantygers perceive themselves to be the kings of the wilds. In fact, they are false kings. The lion is the true king of beasts. Do not mention this to them, or they will eat you.)

If the PCs show deference, the mantyger will allow them to pass unmolested. Otherwise, it's time to roll for initiative. Unfortunately, because the mantyger is a false king, he requires a lot of flattery. He really wants you to pile it on. He wants you to, literally, kiss his feet. He wants you to malign the lion as a false usurper. 

Will the PCs put up with his bullshit to avoid combat?

Mantyger
HD: 3
AC: Medium
Attacks: 2d6 pounce, which knocks its target prone if the mantyger does damage. If the mantyger attacks a prone foe, it does Blood damage (not Sweat). If the mantyger ever scores a critical hit against you, it bites off your head (ala vorpal)
Special: The mantyger ALWAYS goes first in initiative. 
Move: A mantyger is extremely fast. It gallops faster than a horse. It can leap up to 50'. 
Wants: Compliments, to humiliate and put down others
Hates: Trueborn nobles, plays that feature deus ex machina, lions
Smells: Like sandlewood, like old straw
Sounds: Like a deep-voiced man speaking with an extremely attractive, foreign accent

3. All the King's Horses, All the King's Men

The encounter: The PCs hear the sounds of battle nearby. If they investigate, they see two knights and two horses fighting. The knights are from nearby rival fiefdoms. One, bearing the red shield with a red lotus, is from House Hedonix. They're known for their lotus wine exports, and for being huge sluts. The knight bearing the blue shield full of bends and lozenges is from House Diamondelve. They're known for being fuck you rich. 

Both knights have horse companions, who are aggressively hugging this fight out. The horses are both intelligent, well-trained war horses. The horses both speak several words of Vulgaris. 

The knights are obviously flagging and getting winded. Plate mail is wonderfully protective, and their arms are cramping up from trading blows. They've been at this all day. Even the horses are looking extremely tired. 

Both knights beg the PCs continue the fight as their champions. If the PCs want, both knights will sponsor a PC to fight in their stead, and let two PCs actually duke this battle out. 

Whoever wins gets the other knight's armor, sword, shield, and horse. The knight has to walk back to their castle, naked and ashamed. If a PC fought as a champion, the victorious knight is willing to split this loot with them. Or, alternatively, they might offer them an unspecified favor to be collected if they follow the knight back to their castle. 

4. Mermaids and their Cetus (Cetii?)
Mermaids live near shore and are vassals of the sea god. They prefer human spouses to mermen because humans are better looking. Mermen have fish faces. Wouldn't you rather marry someone with a human face than a fish face? 

A cetus is a big ass fish. I'd say "It's the size of a whale," but in truth, a cetus can grow much larger than a whale. It's said a cetus never stops growing. They're sometimes called apocalypse fish because a cetus can whip up a giant tidal wave. A large enough cetus can call up a tsunami large enough to wipe out Atlantis--which may (or may not) be exactly what happened. 

The encounter: The PCs hear the sound of female voices arguing down near the seashore. If they investigate, they see two mermaid astride their cetus mounts lingering in the shallows of the water. The mermaids are having a hair-pulling argument about which one of them are lovelier than the other. As soon as the PCs see them, they spot the PCs and cry out for help.

They ask the most striking PC to help them settle an argument (whoever has the highest Charisma). Both will be quick to present their assets: the roundness of their belly, the wideness of their hips, the straightness of their teeth, the whiteness of their eyes, the sharpness of their nipples, the fullness of their lips. They'll also be quick to point out the deficiencies of the other: the veins on their hands, the redness of their neck, the weakness of their chin, the tangles of their hair, the smell of their breath. 

Frankly, though, both mermaids look pretty much the same. The mermaids will never accept this as an answer, however. To be compared to the other is an insult. Taking this tack will cause both mermaids to grow angry at the judge. 

The PC judge must answer artfully, because whoever is declared the loser in this beauty contest will seek revenge by having her cetus flood the nearest town. She'll make sure to tell everybody why she's doing it, too. The PC might very well find himself as an unwilling ecological terrorist. 

(If it comes up...)
Mermaid
HD: 1
AC: Unarmored, but roll with advantage if in the water
Attacks: Grab and drown. The mermaid is surprisingly strong (Str 17). 
Special: Clerics of the Sea God: Mermaids are the hand-maidens, wives, concubines, and clergy of the god of the sea. As such, they are all clerics with a number of Faith points equal to their rank in the undersea hierarchy. 
Smite: By expending a Faith point, a mermaid can deal an extra d6 of damage. This becomes 2d6 damage when fighting their favored foe: cheating spouses. 
Lay on Hands: By expending a Faith point, a mermaid can heal a HD of damage. 
Miracles of the Sea God: Roll a d6. If the result is 5 or 6, the sea god hears the mermaid's supplications and grants a miracle equivalent to a spell. The most frequent miracle granted summons a nearby random sea monster. 
1. 2d4 skeletal pirates 
2. Water elemental
3. Giant jellyfish
4. Giant sea snake, still gripping the skeletal remains of Laocoan
5. Coral golem (as a stone golem, but fishy)
6. Kraken
Ocean Bounty: Mermaids keep vast hordes of drowned treasure to use as bargaining chips. At any point, a mermaid can fetch one of the following:
1. 1d100 silver in sunken treasure
2. Potion of Water as Air -- When drunk, the imbiber has complete freedom under the water; can even fire bows or run along the ocean floor
3. Pearl of Fish Speech -- When placed under the tongue, you can speak to fish.
4. Black jellyfish -- This is a rare jellyfish with a deadly poison that can be harvested by assassins and alchemists
5. Altar Turtle -- These turtles are low level functionaries of the sea god. They will serve you like a trained pet if you pay at least lip service to the sea god. 
6. Animate Figurehead -- A wooden figurehead carved from livingwood, this figurehead is treated as an additional crew member if fixed to the prow of a ship; knows lots of sea shanties and folklore; excellent at star maps and directions; will often taunt pirates to "just come and try" (which is how her last boat got sank)  
Move: Normal in the water, Slow otherwise
Wants: A human husband, gossip, fresh meat 
Hates: Insults, "drama," clerics of the land
Smells: Coconuts
Sounds: Like Dutch sailors, pronounce "see" as "zee," curse demurely and then blush

Cetus, or, the Apocalypse Fish
HD: 4 for cetus the size of a whale (more HD for bigger cetus; there's no upper limit)
AC: Medium
Attacks: Slam 1d10+1 per HD / Bite [HD]d4 
Special: Inhale: The cetus can take a big sip of water. Everything nearby floods into his mouth. If the PCs are a) in the water and b) close enough to him to engage in melee combat, there's no save. If the PCs are further away, a Strength check can be made to avoid the intake.
While the water is inhaled, the cetus is left floundering on a now muddy, puddled sea bottom. If killed, set on fire, or tickled, the cetus will release his swallowed water prematurely. 
If you are swallowed, you are suddenly in a dark hell of saltwater. There is no air or light. No, you cannot attack the cetus from the inside. Make a Wisdom save each turn to avoid swallowing water. If you fail, you take d4 Blood damage. 
Exhale: If the cetus has held his swallowed water for 3 uninterrupted turns, he will expel it forcefully. This causes a flood. The displaced water will move inland for [HD] miles and drain back towards the shore over the course of two weeks. 
Move: Normal (swimming)
Wants: Smaller fish to eat (to grow large enough to fulfill its destiny and flood the entire earth) 
Hates: Being tickled, vikings
Smells: Salt and vinegar  
Sounds: A thunderclap right overhead, a barn falling down

05. Boars Making Love
The encounter: Do boars fuck in the woods? The answer is yes. You can see them right there. Doing it. 

06. The Hairy Thing
In town, there is a rumor of a werewolf in the nearby woods. There is a general panic. People are bringing their sheep into their cottages for safe keeping. Nobody goes out after dark. After all, didn't the werewolf drag the alchemist John Subtle into the woods, never to be seen again? You don't want to end up like that nerd, do you?

The encounter: You catch a glimpse flashing in front of you of a hairy thing. It runs on all fours into the brush. 

If the PCs give pursuit, they quickly run down a man covered in brown hair. It wears no clothes. It looks wild, savage, and nasty. 

It cringes away from the PCs, trying to hide itself behind trees. It whines. 

If the PCs try to kill it, they can do so pretty easily. Roll initiative as normal, but the beast mostly just tries to escape. It cowers and dodges away. If they bring its corpse back to town, the village rewards them greatly for ending the werewolf threat. They'll get sheep! Maybe a daughter to marry! Maybe even some coins! 

If the PCs ask about the phase of the moon, a Wisdom check will reveal that, no, last night it was only a waxing crescent moon. An Intelligence check will reveal that folklore confirms that werewolves only stalk during the full moon. 

If the PCs have second sight or similar ability, the creature before you is not an illusion. It is not transformed. This is its "natural" state. (This is misleading. Read on.)

The hairy thing cannot talk. It can only whine and grunt. It has large tusks and teeth that prevent it from speaking intelligibly. It can understand speech, however. It can pantomime. If the PCs have quill and ink and literacy, it can even write. 

This hairy thing is in fact the vanished alchemist John Subtle. John was experimenting with potions to increase his male potency; to increase his strength; to regrow his hair; to get rid of his paunch. And boy howdy did it work! The potion he drank inflicted a permanent change on his person. 

John doesn't know really how to cure or reverse his condition. The PCs might be able to find an alchemical cure, but it will take weeks of experimentation. Use Lamentation's spell research rules to figure out how long and how expensive it is. 

The village might be able to accept John Subtle if the situation was explained articulately to them. Heck, John might even like his new life as a bizarre beast. This will take an 80s montage of love and acceptance to accomplish, however. Mostly the villagers will just want to scream "Werewolf!" and "Get 'im!" 

07. The Gluttony Devil 
Devils range from small to titanic, and are riots of corporeality. Gluttony devils are on the smaller scale--devils that lurk in the second level of the pit. Gluttony devils are covered with mouths. They are nothing but mouths. Their joints--elbows, knees, wrists, etc--hide hungry little mouths. Their stomachs are spheres of annihilation. 

The encounter: A gluttony devil meets the PCs near a graveyard, where he's recently de-interred several corpses. He's currently messily devouring them with both of his ends. 

He'll offer the PCs a bargain: for the rest of their life, he'll bring them whatever food they want to eat. In exchange, when they're dead, they give the devil permission to eat them. What do they care? They're dead! 

Obviously, this means the PC will never have to care about food ever again. If this isn't a huge deal in your D&D games, reevaluate how you play D&D. 

If the PC agrees, the devil will present a contract written in shit on a hog's skin. The contract is written in an archaic language; roll Intelligence to see if the PCs can speak it. Roll again to see if the PCs can parse the legalese. To seal the contract, the PC must kiss the devil on his ass mouth. The devil will try and slip him some tongue. 

(Some loopholes in the contract: the contracted must eat all of what the devil brings them; the contracted must never give away the devil-brought food, being devoured means that the PC can never be resurrected--not even during Judgment Day, etc.) 

If threatened, the devil will just run away. If caught, here are his stats:

Gluttony Devil
HD: 2
AC: Light
Attacks: Bite d6; can't be healed except by magic
Special: Undying: A devil can only be killed by magic. If brought to 0 HP by normal weapons, it is merely stunned. A stunned gluttony devil expels all swallowed opponents. 
Unholy: A devil cannot step foot onto consecrated ground. It is repelled by holy water. 
Swallow: If the gluttony devil grapples you, it will use its action next turn to swallow you. Make a Strength saving throw. If you fail, you are swallowed. When you are swallowed, during your round you make another Strength saving throw. If you fail 3 times, you fall into his stomach and are annihilated. If you succeed 3 times, you make the devil vomit. 
Shit and Vomit: If you can make the devil vomit (either by punching his guts while swallowed, or any other way a PC can devise--like forcing it to swallow holy water), the devil blasts a 30' cone in front of and behind him of shit and vomit. Roll twice for the miasma spell from Wonder & Wickedness as one cloud is expelled from his front and one cloud is expelled form his back.  
Move: Surprisingly fast!
Wants: For people to accept his bargain, to eat people, to turn people into cannibals
Hates: Vegans, clean water
Smells: Like a diaper that washed up on the beach 
Sounds: Squishy, like a garbage bag full of water

08. The Grumblepig
Some heraldic beasts are better than others. The griffins, the sphinxes, the manticores--those houses got all the good beasts. 

Some people got the grumblepig. 

The encounter: The PCs hear the blowing of a horn and the baying of hounds. Soon, they find themselves in the middle of a great hunt--gentlemen and their attendants race forward on haggard horses while goofy dogs bark and run amok around them. Just ahead in the wood, the PCs can see the hunter's quarry: a grumblepig. 

The grumblepig is about the size of a boar. It's head is that of a large hawk. It's rump is that of a large pig's head. It's runs around on two chicken's legs, but badly. It makes a sound like "root root root root" as it runs and snuffles. It's favorite food is truffles. 

The hunting party is of House Grundle. They're all mildly inbred and quite poor, but mostly good-natured folk. Catching grumblepigs is pretty easy, and once the hunt is over, they invite you to share in a feast of the meat. It tastes a little like chicken. 

House Grundle doesn't know why their heraldry is a grumblepig. They wish they could trade up for something nicer. 

09. The Marvelous Menagerie
The encounter: COME SEE  ALBERT THE LESSER'S MARVELOUS MENAGERIE!
BE EDUCATED BY HIS FABLES DIVERSE AND VIRTUOUS.
BE DELIGHTED BY HIS ANIMAL PLAYERS.
WATCH THE STORIES OF REYNARD THE FOX, YSENGRIM THE WOLF, AND THEIR BESTIAL FRIENDS.
DO NOT BE FRIGHTENED, LADIES.

A magician is putting on a travelling puppet show using real life farm animals controlled by a Dominate Animals spell. The animals all wear shabby costumes. Being put under the spell terrifies them. Their bodies are forced into farcical shapes and poses. They're made to dance, play instruments, and act out battles. It's awful. Albert the Lesser provides all the voices via ventriloquism. 

You can pay 2 copper to watch the show. Or don't. 

10. The Starveling Cat
The starveling cat, the starveling cat
It knows what we're thinking
And we don't like that!
Cats have nine lives. Everybody knows this. 

What many do not realize is that a cat can have more. They do this by eating lives. Each human life eaten adds another life to their tally. 

The starveling cat has lived for over four-hundred years using this one simple trick. 

The encounter: When the PCs camp, a little grey kitty climbs down out of the tree and mews and runs through their feet and kneads at their bedroll and looks pitiful. Its ribs stick out. It looks hungry. 

If the PCs don't shoo it away, the starveling cat will begin to follow them everywhere. It hunts for itself and is generally agreeable, but will always hungrily eat any food offered it. They have a pet. 

However...

Whenever the PCs engage in combat, if an enemy falls in battle but is not deathblowed, the starveling cat LEAPS into action. The cat rushes over to the fallen foe and begins biting at its mouth. The cat strangles the fallen foe, then sucks out his soul as it flies away with the death rattle. 

The cat will also do this if one of the PCs falls and starts making death saving throws. 

Stats? The starveling cat doesn't have stats. It's a cat. It has like 1HP. 

What the starveling cat does have going for it is meta-think. The starveling cat knows everything the GM knows. It can use this knowledge against the PCs. It's old enough to know that he's actually in a game. He understands that he's not real, and neither are the PCs. Sometimes, the starveling cat will look at the players. Not the player characters. The players. 

11. Aeolus's Bags 
Aeolus is what some people call the Daemon of Winds. He lives on the Isle of Winds. It would be a nice place, except that the Winds dwell there. The Winds are sort of like frat boy caricatures. They'll call you "buddy," but you're not their buddy at all. They knock your hat off and give you a noogie and mess up your hair. They drink too much. They fuck shit up and then say, "Relax! It's just a prank!" Aeolus tries to keep them under control but is only mildly successful. When they go on real ragers, hurricanes happen. 

There is a rare plant that grows on the Isle of Winds which is called "Aeolus's Bag." It has a brushy top, but most of the plant is hidden beneath the earth. When dug up, it resembles a large, fleshy tuber. Sort of like an organic bagpipe. When you cut off the very tip of its root, it releases a steady stream of air. A human can breathe on this for about an hour. 

The encounter: The players are crossing a field covered with strange plants. A successful Intelligence check will reveal them to be Aeolus's bags. (A Wind drunkenly brought the seeds with him as he came to shore and scattered them around nearby.) The players can spend some time harvesting them if they want. It requires a successful Wisdom check to harvest d4 of them without puncturing the air root and spoiling them. 

These are nice treasures. However, next time the PCs try to cross a body of water, they will be stopped by an undine. She accuses the PCs of blasphemy and crimes against the ocean. All creatures who live underwater hate these plants. As long as they're carrying them, no water dweller or elemental spirit will let them cross their domains. Forget trying to travel by boat--it'll be Odysseus all over again. This problem will escalate from the undine to leviathans in a relatively short amount of time if the PCs continue to hold onto the bags. 

12. Normal Medieval Lions

Medieval lions are pretty different from the creatures that you or I know. What if the monster you encounter in the game is a Medieval breed of lion? 

The encounter: You encounter the scat of lions. There is a family of them nearby. If you spend too long nearby, you'll soon encounter them face to face. 

Medieval Lion
HD: 3
AC: Medium
Attacks: Savage with claws and teeth 3d4+3
Special: Noble: A lion will never kill a prostrate or surrendered enemy.
Roar of Life: If a creature dies without sin, a lion's roar can bring them back to life. Usually only children are without sin, but maybe an adult could be sin-less if they've JUST gotten cleansed by a sin-eater or god or something and haven't had time to have any covetous thoughts. 
Untrackable: If a lion knows it is being hunted, it will cover its tracks with its trail. This prevents both magical and mundane efforts to track it. 
Move: FastWants: A mate, fresh ape meat
Hates: The sound of creaking cart wheels, white chickens, fire
Smells: Like a horse, but better 
Sounds: Like a clarion call, but better
* A lion and lioness mate face to face. They produce five cubs their first liter, four cubs next year, then three, and so on. After their sixth litter, the lions become sterile. 
Lion cubs are born dead. After the third day, the parents bring them to life. 
** A lion can also mate with a great cat called a pard. The offspring of this union is a leopard. 

13. A Siren's Bargain
People who illuminate manuscripts rarely go outside. This is why lions all look like horses that got smashed in the face with a "bad haircut" stick. Because sirens live in the ocean, crafty illustrators convey that information to you by giving them fish tails. They make them look like mermaid. Adventurers and sea-goers will tell you that this is fanciful and false. A siren is half woman and half bird, like a harpy. 

Actually, harpies, furies, valkyries, and sirens are all related creatures. They see each other as cousins, and they do not get along. They are spirits of the far realms: those planes of existence that are tangential to our own. A siren is a spirit of the weird, the realm of dreams. 

A siren is dangerous, sure. The sea is also dangerous. But sailors bargain with the sea. Men can also bargain with sirens, if they dare. 

The encounter: A siren comes winging over the ocean and alights on either a rock out of bow shot or, if unmolested, will come aboard your ship. 

The siren is seeking new songs. In a fortnight, she will attend a musical contest with some of her cousins, and wishes very much to win. She thinks a new song will be enough to clinch the deal. 

If the PCs can trade her a new song, she will give them an echeneis. 

An echeneis is a small fish about six inches long. It has a sucking mouth like a remora. If you affix it to a ship, it acts like an anchor. Well, it acts better than an anchor. A ship fixed with an echeneis cannot be moved. It cannot be capsized. Waves will not overturn it. Winds will not blow it. A cetus cannot swallow it. It is stopped. Removing an echeneis is pretty easy--you just have to tickle it under its chin. 

The siren has an extensive musical knowledge. It knows every song from the PCs homeland and any song the PC has previously sang in front of others. 

If a player comes up with an entirely new song and sings it at the table, the siren is very impressed. She will happily give that character an echeneis in an amphora filled with sea water. 

(If it comes up...)
Siren
HD: 2
AC: Medium
Attacks: Claw for d6; plucks out an eye if she scores a critical success; can pick up and use normal weapons
Special: A siren can sing as a free action. A siren can sing a variety of beautiful songs, and interweave melodies and themes effortlessly. When a siren sings, everybody close enough to hear (30' or so in an oceanic environment) makes a Charisma saving throw. People attracted to women suffer disadvantage to their saving throw. People who have been harmed by a siren gain advantage to their saving throw. Players can elect to do things like stab themselves to keep their minds clear. They gain a bonus to the saving throw equal to the damage taken. GMs can adjudicate this in an ad hoc way. 
If a target fails his saving throw, the siren inflicts one of her song's effects on them. 
If a siren takes damage while singing, everybody under one of her effects makes a new saving throw as her song falters. Otherwise, the effect only ends when the siren quits singing. 
Charm: The target is charmed by the siren. As long as the siren does not directly attack the target, the target cannot attack the siren. 
Come Hither: The target moves towards the siren in the most direct manner possible. If piloting a ship, they immediately pilot it towards the siren. If just standing on deck, they will leap into the water and start swimming. If the siren is over a big pit, they will walk headlong into the pit. 
Sleep: The siren's most potent attack. The target falls asleep until the siren stops singing or somebody slaps him in the face. All damage done to you while you're asleep and defenseless is dealt to your Blood. 
Move: Normal speed; can fly, swim, or walk
Wants: Flowers, new instruments made from exotic things, to eat you
Hates: Being read poetry, sour tastes
Smells: Storms; ozone
Sounds: Like Morissey, if Morissey was a woman

14. Sir Peter Shows Up Again
Put Sir Peter on your encounter tables. Watch your players groan. 

The encounter: CALM YOURSELVES AND STEEL YOUR HEARTS, COMRADES. JUSTICE HAS PREVAILED AGAIN. SIR PETER IS HERE. 

You turn around from whatever you were doing. The owlbear was basically already slain. The bandits were already running away. You were just about to get the princess back to her castle. And then? 

He comes flying down from the sky. Again. Like a big jerk. 

YOU HAVE PERFORMED ADMIRABLY GIVEN YOUR LIMITATIONS. I AM PROUD OF YOU. DO NOT FEEL BADLY THAT YOU DID NOT DO AS WELL AS I DID. YOU DID YOUR BEST. 

I mean, seriously. Look at his dang outfit. He's wearing plate mail. His horse has wings. His winged horse has plate barding, even. He's wielding that big +3 scythe all one-handed. Jeez, how much did that cost? Where did he get that stuff? 

NOW, MY JOB HERE IS DONE. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, ADVENTURERS! ONE DAY, PERHAPS YOU SHALL ACHIEVE GLORIOUS DEEDS! 

And just like that, he's taken credit for your hard work. And then he's off. His horse neighs and flies into the sky. Into the fucking sky. Can you believe that?

(If you get Sir Peter's tabbard or a splinter of his shield or something, you can sell it to a rube for a solid 10s. I mean, you hate the guy, but silver is silver.)

15. The Saint and the Dragon

The encounter: Everybody knows the best saints are tended by fierce beasts. Everybody knows that the truly holy can handle asps and adders and not be bitten. Everybody knows that lions, the kings of beasts, will actually bow and pay homage to holy men. 

That's what Tomás the Living Saint thinks, anyway. That's what he calls himself. The Church has yet to recognize Tomás's status as a saint. He knows that if he's going to get canonized for real, he's got to do some real saint shit.  

The PCs encounter Tomás at the base of a mountain waiting patiently by a shrine. He wears a gaudy clerical costume. He promises to give the PCs some dispensations if they can venture to the top of the mountain and raid a wyvern's nest for eggs. It's his plan to raise the wyvern from infancy to make it tame. Then, everyone can see how holy he is that he's tamed a wyvern. 

His plan is poorly conceived. Will the PCs brave a dragon's den for this man? 

16. The Wounded Cyclops

The encounter: The PCs hear a thunderous moaning and groaning from a nearby valley. If they investigate, they find that the valley is rocky with a black mere in its center. Seated on one of these large, glacial stones is a cyclops. The cyclops seems to be in some distress. He's holding his head, which looks bandaged. He's continually complaining and crying. 

If the PCs approach, the cyclops will tell them that he has a toothache which is bothering him very much. He's bound his head to put pressure on his jaw. If the players can fix his toothache, he will tell them their future. 

The cyclops will generally operate in good faith, and his powers of prophecy are potent. However, a cyclops with a toothache is an unpleasant creature. If the players go about trying to pull the abscessed tooth, the cyclops will kick his feet in pain, sending PCs sprawling across the stony ground. If they try and cast soothing spells on him, he will jerk back reflexively and accidentally step on their horse. He wants help, but he doesn't know how to sit still or be good. He is, after all, an ogre. 

17. The Pale Rider
The encounter: As they travel over a green and grassy field, the sun suddenly darkens, the air suddenly grows cold. The PCs are shocked to see, standing in the middle of the field, Death. 

He wears no flesh. He carries two golden spears. He rides a horse-like-thing. In his shadow, the grass wilts. 

Death stands implacably. Passive. He doesn't really notice the PCs yet. He thinks he is invisible. 

Death has come to this field for this afternoon a great battle will take place. He waits to harvest the souls and carry them on to the otherworld. He knows he is a bit early, but he is fine waiting. 

If the PCs try to interact with Death in any way, Death will be quite surprised. How can they see him? Who sent them? What do they want? 

Once Death realizes that his magic cap of invisibility has fallen off, he will ask the PCs for one of two favors: 1) Find the cap for him, and quickly. (Of course, someone else has found it in the meantime, and now they are invisible.) Or, alternatively: 2) Borrow his spear, stay here, and harvest souls at the battle while Death rides back and retraces his steps.

Performing these favors for Death will give the PCs one "Get out of Death free" card. Just one, not one per person. Anybody in their party can call on it at any time. They can use it for themselves, or for loved ones who die. 

Of course, if the PCs play their cards right, they can walk out of this with a cap of invisibility and the spear of death. And Death, of course, will have neither of these implements. The world might just become very weird

18. The God of Wine
Pagans incorrectly worship the spirits of the far realms, whereas the just and virtuous followers of Mythrys worship the True God, the many-faced Monad. Powerful spirits from the realm of weird are called genii (sing. genius). The genius of wine is sometimes called Bacchus. 

Bacchus is a spirit of revelry. He is a spirit of inspiration. He is a patron of madmen and poets and town drunks. 

Bacchus is the medieval fantasy equivalent of a party bus. He is always surrounded by his followers, who are half spirits/half flesh (you know, spirits who have sort of "gone native" and mortal followers who have become a little preternatural). Some of his companions include:

Silenus - An old drunk dude. He rides a donkey backwards. The donkey is also drunk. 

Comus - An extremely sadist and sexual pervert, Comus is a cup-bearer and servant of Bacchus. He carries a torch which he is constantly dropping. 

Acratopotes - A cool rival adventurer who is taking a summer off adventuring to drink some wine. He is treated as Fighter 5. 

The Maenads - A bunch of insane women.  They will tear apart anybody who pisses them off. I mean this very, very literally. 

Bacchus himself is a handsome youth with dark hair. He wears a wreath of grape leaves and flowers. His red robe is falling off of him. He bears a wand tipped with a pinecone. He is incredibly fun, extremely outgoing, and seems to genuinely get you. He throws the best parties. 

The encounter: The PCs come across the encampment of Bacchus and his retinue. They are welcomed with open arms and told that they were just about to start the evening's festivities, and beg that PCs join them. They freely offer food, drink, and a good time. 

It seems that Bacchus has recently come into two treasures while traveling in far lands: a griffin and a unicorn horn. He enjoys riding the griffin around (and even asks the PCs to "joust" him just for fun). He wears the unicorn horn tucked into his leafy crow, but will let you carry it around for a while if you want. 

Should the PCs agree to share some drinks with Bacchus, things get progressively out of hand. Ask a few PCs what shenanigans they get up to. Frame each successive question as "And THEN, after you drank another bottle, what happened?" 

Annnnd...scene. Blackout. 

Then, roll for a new random encounter. The next thing the PCs know, they are thrust unwillingly and unwittingly into a new situation. The PCs wake up with a splitting headache and find that they are in the middle of some trouble. The PCs do not have context for this new encounter. Everybody knows the plot but them. 

Here are some ideas:
1. The PCs have slept with somebody's wife. 
2. The PCs wake up and find out they all got Vegas married to one of the maenads. 
3. The PCs wake up and find out that they are in the middle of a parade. Everybody is cheering. 
4. The PCs wake up and find themselves in jail.
5. The PCs wake up and find out they stole Bacchus's new griffin and unicorn horn. He's probably pissed. 
6. The PCs wake up and find themselves in a goblin fighting pit. They're the new crowd favorites. 

Whatever happens, the PCs get to piece together the full story of last night's revelries, like they're in the movie Hangover. It's a mystery, and the PCs are the villains in their own story. 

19. Hellmouth
A mountain and an ocean are two very different places. A creature from the ocean cannot live on a mountain, and visa versa. 

This is also true for the far realms and the plane of flesh. However, there are places where the far realms prolapse into our world. This creates a meeting of two planes. 

When the realm of the wastes--the gloomy realm of death and decay--bubbles into our world, the result is a hellmouth. A hellmouth has the appearance of a giant's head protruding from the earth. The giant has empty eyes and a mouth like a cave. 
It looks like this.
When a hellmouth is open, spirits from the waste can invade. These spirits crawl inside the mouths of dead bodies and use them as vessels. Everybody that dies in the general region of the hellmouth comes back as a ghoul. 

Sometimes, bigger and stranger entities from the wastes will find the hellmouth and crawl out into our world. These leakages are notable events in the history of the world. 

The waste does not invade our world without impetus. It takes root in our world when a symbol of Platonic importance becomes so charged with psychic energy that the wastes cannot help but spill out. This object is called a key. 

A key can be anything you'd find in a horror movie. An adopted orphan killed his new parents with a hammer because Mr. Smiley told him to. That hammer is now a key. Six mean teens bullied a retarded kid until he jumped off a bridge. The wooden doll he used for comfort is now a key. A guy bricks up his best friend in his wine cellar because of some insult. The bottle of wine the victim is holding is now the key. You get the idea. 

If the key is destroyed or purified, the hellmouth closes. The world returns to normal. 

The encounter: The PCs come to a village named Queensburg; preferably the PCs have visited before or have some contacts here. You notice there are only women and children here. They are all weeping. Even the animals are weeping. It is a terrible sound. 

If the PCs try to talk to a villager, between sobs they will tell you (in order):
  • Everybody in the village is under some terrible curse
  • I am so, so sorry that I 1. slept with my husband's brother 2. stole a pie when I was twelve 3. masturbate so much 4. killed my first daughter
  • It all started when a strange new river began flowing into town
  • All the men left town to follow the fell-river to its source
  • I really am so truly sorry
Everybody in Queensburg has drank from Acheron, the river of lamentations, one of the five rivers of the wastes. The river is issuing forth from the hellmouth about a day's ride from the village. Whoever drinks from the river suffers a) disadvantage on any task hampered by heavy crying, especially perception (from tears) and speech (from blubbering) and b) must constantly confess their greatest sin and apologize. This curse lasts 20 - Wisdom days. 

The PCs can follow the river out of town, following the same path that all the village men took. About a day's journey north, the PCs will encounter the source of the hellmouth. 

This is what they find. 

There is a monastery here called St. Aceso's. It acts as a sanitarium for the sick and insane. It seems that the river is issuing out from beneath the sanitarium. 

St. Aceso's is run by somebody named Alphonso of Rederra, though he is usually just called "The Doctor." The Doctor is an extremely well-respected natural philosopher who is the foremost regional authority on the internal workings of the human body. He has speculated (correctly) concerning some basic tenants of hygiene. He recommends that chirugeons wash their hands and instruments before undertaking their surgeries. He has written treatises on how and why women become pregnant. 

The Doctor is also a mass murderer. 

St. Aceso's is secretly the home to rampant human experimentation and medical torture rivaling that of Mengele or Unit 731. The basements of the monastery are a mass grave. When the Doctor determined that a particular pilgrim's afflictions were too severe (or just interesting and applicable for his work), they were taken into his intensive care. They were then vivisectioned and exposed to various mutagenic poisons. The Doctor has so many questions. Can you attach severed limbs again? What about severed animal limbs? Can humans regrow the brain? Why do women miscarry? Is baldness a disease? What happens when a wound is cauterized? Can a baby be carried by the father using surgery? Can one's sex be changed? What makes twins? Is decapitation always fatal? 

Most of the Queensburg's men are encamped outside of St. Aceso's. The men are currently engaged in their second assault on the sanitarium. Their initial attempt to go into the monastery was rebuffed by the living dead. They lost four men during this time. All of the men are currently weeping, having drank from the waters of Acheron. 

The men of Queensburg would give up and go home if it were not for the cries of help from the belltower. The Doctor is trapped up there. They can't let such a good man fall victim to the hordes of hell. 

St. Aceso's is full of the undead. The Doctor's experiments have risen again. Picture Hellraiser-style body horror. Men and women stitched together. Corpses with flesh peeled apart. Corpses dangling with hooks and chains. Eyes and noses stitched shut. Sexual organs bisected and inverted. Elaborate scars that map the internal workings of the body. 

The basement of the monastery is the location of the hellmouth. A river flows from it and floods those chambers. The flood bubbles up and out, rushing in a river. 

The Doctor is safe in the upper story of the monastery. He has barred the door against the undead. He is safe for now, and has enough food and water to last at least one or two days. 

The Doctor has not drank from the river Acheron. He is clear eyed and sharp minded. The Doctor does not regret his experiments. In his mind, he has been furthering medical knowledge. In his mind, he is saving future lives. 

The key to the hellmouth is the Doctor's Grand Working, a magnum opus of medical lore. This text is the most systematic and complete explanation of the physical machinations of the human body, surgical techniques, neurological theories, and natal medicine to date. The text could very well modernize medicine in a medieval setting. 

If the text is not destroyed, the hellmouth remains open. The river will continue to flow and eventually poison the landscape in this country. If the river eventually flows into the ocean, the ocean could become tainted with waste mana as well. And, of course, all who die in the region will raise again as the undead. 

What will the PCs do?

20. Pretty the Pink Monkey

A familiar is made when a sorcerer feeds an animal one of his spells. He loses access to that spell permanently. Its sigils are burned out of his spellbook. The spell rewrites itself on the animal's brain. If you crack open a familiar's skull, you can harvest the spell back by drawing down the symbols imprinted in their pink brain flesh. 

Familiars are not normal at all. They have an arcane physiology. They can sometimes speak. They sometimes know things they shouldn't. They grow clever and wicked--in fact, they're smarter about acts of evil than they are about acts of kindness. They have powers based on the spell that lives in their heads.  

Apes make some of the best familiars. Cats and bats are fine for witches, but real sorcerers are all about ape familiars. They're smarter than dogs. They're quicker and stronger than a henchmen. They have graspy little hands to open doors and chests and hand you magical implements. Apes are great. 

The encounter: A sorcerer and astronomer of some infamy, Guennar, has dwelt for many years in his observation tower outside of town. He spent his life looking upwards into the heavens and drinking quicksilver in the belief that it expanded his mental prowess. He had a familiar named Pretty, a pink monkey often seen in a rich, blue cape. Pretty has the spell of Opening and Closing wrapped around his brainstem. 

Pretty is a fairly common sight in town. Guennar would send him to run errands for him; fetch food and supplies; sell tokens and charms. Nobody liked having a pink monkey familiar around town, but what were they going to do--complain to the sorcerer? No thank you. 

Nobody knows it yet, but Guennar has died. Pretty is now without a master. And he is getting up to mischief. Here are some things that Pretty is going to do:

  • Pretty will creep into the PC's room at night. He wants to look through their stuff. He likes adventurer's stuff. It's interesting to him. The PC with the highest Wisdom can attempt a Wisdom saving throw to see if they wake up with Pretty in the room. If they awaken, Pretty will leap out of the window that he crawled in through. 
  • Pretty is going to unlock every door in town. Petty theft will go up. 
  • Pretty is going to unlock the church lockbox and steal from the tithes and offerings. The local priest is going to be upset. 
  • Pretty is going to open the animal pens and attempt to ride them. 75% of the town's animals will get away. Despite the town's careful efforts, 10% of their livestock will go missing, and weeks of legal issues will ensue as farmers renegotiate who owns what. 
All of these headaches will continue until the PCs manage to deal with the issue. They might decide to try and enlist Guennar's help in dealing with his familiar (in which case they'll find an undefended sorcerer's tower with its sole occupant dead) or they might try and take Pretty's fate into their own hands. 

In any event, here are his stats:

Pretty
HD 2

AC: Medium 
Attacks: Claw for d6
Special: Open: With a touch, Pretty can open any locked door or chest. If Pretty tries to touch you, make a Dexterity saving throw. If you are wearing armor and fail, Pretty unlocks all the buckles and straps on your armor. It just falls off. If you are not wearing armor and you fail, Pretty unlocks your chest cavity. Your chest is now open, exposing your guts. This is magical, and so doesn't hurt--but you now take 2x damage that goes straight to your Blood points. This can be cured by having someone cast Close on you. 
Close: With a touch, Pretty can lock any door or chest. If Pretty tries to touch you, make a Dexterity saving throw. If you fail, your mouth seals shut. You cannot speak or eat for an hour, or until someone casts Open on you. 
Move: Fast walking and climbing 
Wants: Shiny things (especially magical trinkets), to laugh at other people's misfortunes, practical jokes and slapstick are hilarious to him
Hates: Being told that he's not a "real adventurer," being put into extradimensional time out
Smells: Like a barnyard
Sounds: High pitched laughing, constantly giggling


It seems necessary to shout out to Coins and Scrolls whose very excellent post got me off my ass and made me finish this. 

3 comments:

  1. Dang! Your creative cookery is some good eatin'! I like especially the Bacchus seed (among many other likes) - The Hangover-style situation players deal with, and reconstructing what happened, could be a lot of fun. Much more fun than a Memento-style reconstruction or a Sunset Boulevard-type of thing. I'm trying to learn how to do more light-hearted adventures with players. I should become a better person. I should get out more. Maybe exercise. - Speaking of better - I hope you post more, but no pressure, BUT I do very much enjoy what you write and there are probably more of us, but they don't rise off their asses and comment... yet. So, um, keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheers! Very kind of you to say. My current job takes a lot of my time, but I have like 6 or 7 posts 50% finished. Whenever I have an hour of free time, I know I'll get one polished up. Thanks again!

      Delete
  2. There are indeed more of us lurkers, so keep up the good work ;) Fight on!

    ReplyDelete