27 November 2017

Known World Magic Items: Avrine's Lockpicks

Avrine's Lockpicks
New Magic Item

Avrine Nimblefoot is a legendary figure among the folk of the Five Shires and western Karameikos, especially the Hin. She lived about 50 years ago, and was a daring swashbuckler of a lass, living a life of wild adventures and daring deeds. Among the stories told about her are the tale of how she retrieved the jeweled crown of Penhaligon from a bugbear bandit who accosted the Baron on the Road on a trip to Specularum for a tourney, and a wild yarn about a game of dice with the gods which lasted the entire harvestfest holiday week and earned Avrine the enchanted lockpicks that now bear her name when she tricked the god into admitting defeat (even though he was obviously winning, the storytellers add with a knowing wink and grin).

Avrine's lockpicks are a set of exquisitely crafted thieves tools made of platinum decorated with diamonds of various colors. When used by a non-thief, they grant the user the ability to Open Locks af if he were a thief of 1/2 his current level. Example: Giano is a 4th level halfling. When using the lockpicks, he can open locks as if he were a 2nd level thief.

In the hands of a thief, they are even more powerful, granting a bonus of +3 effective class levels when calculating the Open Locks chance on the tables. For example, Magwell, a 7th level thief, steals the lockpicks and then tries to unlock a door with them. Using the lockpicks, he has the Open Locks chance of a 10th level thief!

The lockpicks are a unique item, and worth about 5000 gold pieces if sold.

25 November 2017

Known World Magic Items: Saudamard's Club

Saudamard was a strange and unique hero, an orphaned Hin (the name halflings use for themselves) raised by animals in the wilderness. Saudamard himself claimed that he was raised in a nest of rust monsters in the Cruth mountains, but for the majority of his life, this was not taken seriously.

Saudamard didn't take offense, and though he remained wild and uncouth for a Hin, he gained some popularity among the locals as a vigilante of the backroads, sometimes showing up to aid travelers beset by bandits or monsters.

When the Hin of the Shires began to resist the abuses of the Black Eagle barony, a corrupt fief of Karameikos, Saudamard was in the thick of things, wearing his usual battle worn and trail dusty leather armor, but carrying only a simple club. A fitting end to a people's hero, Saudamard fell a the battle that freed a band of his kin from the atrocities of their wicked neighbor, but odd stories began to spread, tales that during the battle, enemies hit by Saudamard's club saw their armor and swords crumble apart into ruin, and were forced to fight defenseless and without arms or flee the field. Dismissed at first, the tales became so common and popular that Saudamard's old stories of being raised by the rust monsters started to be taken seriously.

Saudamard's Club appears as a well made but battle worn club, about 2 feet in length, with the handle wrapped in stout leather and stone rings, etched with tribal art style depictions of rust monsters, where a normal club might have rings of metal.

The Club is foremost a Club +1, granting its bonus to the wielder's hit and damage rolls. In addition, any successful hit on non-magical metal (including armor, weapons, etc) causes the target to Save vs. Paralysis or have that metal item immediately crumble away into rusty dust. Unlike a real rust monster, the club has no affect on magical metal.

Due to the chaotic bumping and jostling of combat, there is a 5% chance per combat (not per attack) encounter of the wielder accidentally striking his own armor or possessions, invoking the club's power.

This flaw is realized by the weapon's owners rather quickly, and is the reason none have kept the club very long since Saudamard's death. It might currently be found around the Five Shires or Karameikos, abandoned or sold by its last owner.

23 November 2017

Known World Magic Items: Culinary Magic

I always like fun and interesting new magic for the game, things the players least expect. I had some notes on magical food concoctions in my notes, and remembered them while reading about the Chef class in an old issue of Polyhedron magazine. I decided to type up my notes, and convert some of the Chef magic stuff from AD&D to Classic D&D, here's what i came up with.

Miija's Gingersnaps (75 gp for 6 cookies)
The crunchy and tasty cookies, invented by the famous (in the Five Shires, at least) Hin baker Miija Copperkettle, grant the eater the effects of a Haste spell for 1d4 rounds. Attempting to eat more than one per day, however, will cause the eater painful heartburn and debilitating cramps, inflicting 1d4 points of damage that can only be cured by a full night's rest (not even magical healing spells will help).

Miija's Bayberry Tea (10 gp per cup)
This rather bitter tasting brew, common among the woodland folk of Alfheim, acts as a mild healing draught and a full cup will heal 1d4 hp of damage. Drinking a full pot (4 cups) will either heal 4d4 hp of damage, or cure any single non-magical disease or posion.

Miija's Peculiar Pepper Sauce (100gp for one bottle, 6 chugs)
Another invention of Miija Copperkettle, this extremely hot blend of chili peppers from around the islands of the Five Shires and Ierendi allows anyone taking a gulp of it to spit forth a gout of flame with a 15 foot range and causing 1d6 points of damage to anything it hits.
The sauce burns its drinker as well, however, causing 1d2 points of damage for every gulp taken. In addition, for each gulp taken beyond the first each day, the drinker must make a Save vs Death with a cumulative -1 penalty or die from choking.

Miija's Basil Cakes (10gp for one tart)
These vile tasting herbal tarts require a successful CON check to eat without gagging and vomiting, but if kept down, they guarantee  success on any one Save vs Petrification within the next 24 hours.

Miija's Elven Carrot Cake (50gp for one cake, 4 slices)
Eating a slice of this sweet treat grants the eater infravision with a 10 foot range for one hour. Repeated consumption of the cake the same day has no effect.

Miija's Amazing Applesauce (30gp for a 12oz jar)
This thick, sweet and slightly chunky apple sauce is not only delicious, it's extremely filling and nourishing. One 12 oz. jarserves as an entire week's worth of rations.

Miija's Potent Peas (5gp for 12 peas)
Three of these dried peas will create an entire serving of a nourishing, if rather bland tasting, pea soup when placed in a bowl with hot water. One serving satisfies a humanoid of man size or smaller for one day.

Miija's Regiberry Tea (20gp per vial, 3 sips)
Three of these dried peas will create an entire serving of a nourishing, if rather bland tasting, pea soup when placed in a bowl with hot water. One serving satisfies a humanoid of man size or smaller for one day.

Miija Copperkettle owns and runs a small bakery in Leafkindle, where these items (including the two druidic recipes) may be purchased, but she has also sold her recipes to other bakers who promise not to open a competing shop in Leafkindle, so the DM can have the items turn up at a market or bakery just about anywhere.

Miija is also constantly on the look out for new and rare ingredients for her culinary creations, and may serve as a minor patron for PCs looking for work.

21 November 2017

Known World Magic Items: Poor Man's Feast

Whatever poor soul first kept his share of the day's hunt too close to the campfire and happily discovered that putting a char to a piece of meat vastly improves its taste is sadly lost to the fog of prehistory, but in the Shirelands, every Hin worth his or her toehair knows the name Blossom Goldenspoon.

Long ago, in the days when the Hin first learned to tend their fields and keep pantries, cooking became the high art that it is today. One of the earliest, and still most revered Hin cooks of this time was Blossom Goldenspoon. A creative genious in her kitchen, Blossom is still credited with first creating most of the foundations of every Hin's recipe collection, and in fact, telling a Hin that her dish "could've come straight from Blossom's hearth" is considered a compliment of the highest order.

With success often comes the envy of others, and such was the case for Blossom. Many of her peers sought to outdo her skill, and at least one stooped to magical cheating to help, but as the Hin like to say "ye eat what ye cook"...

Cotter Bramblepatch was a well intentioned apprentice cook, at first desiring only to win the praise of his clan by feeding them the best meals he could muster, but he had the misfortune of living in the same town as Blossom, and grew weary of hearing his dishes compared to hers, never favorably, mind you. Frustrated, he traveled east, to visit the Traladara folk and hoped to learn new culinary secrets that would impress his kinfolk.

Cotter was quickly dismayed at the fact that Human cookery was far inferior to that of the Hin. He had almost given up on his quest when he met a a young Traladaran magic user who promised to help him achieve his goal in exchange for 10 years of service as the magician's personal cook. You see, although Cotter's skills in the kitchen didn't wow his peers, to a human, his dishes were divine. He faithfully completed his decade of service, at the end of which, his master presented him with a fine silver soup bowl, "Cotter, my lad" the old magician said, "any you serve from this vessel will find it the grandest meal they've ever eaten." Cotter took the bowl skeptically and returned home to the Shires.

The grandest meals ever, indeed. Hin flocked from miles around to have a taste from the table of Cotter Bramblepatch! Word around Eastshire, and beyond, spoke of meals fit for the Immortals themselves, selflessly offered to any who came asking. Cotter reveled in his newfound fame.

Cotter's soup bowl, enchanted by his Traladaran friend, whose name is not known in these tales, did exactly as promised, every meal served from it was thought to be the finest that diner had ever tasted! So great was its power that even burnt, spoiled and rotten dishes were greedily slurped up, to the very last drop or scrap. The bowl's power proved to be Cotter's downfall in the end.

Cotter was very generous, far preferring fame and praise to coin, but after a while, his money purse ran low and he could no longer afford fresh, wholesome ingredients for his recipes. You probably see the bowl's folly already. Although a dish served from it tastes like the finest fare one has ever eaten, the actual quality of the food is not affected at all. Thus, a meal that is burnt, undercooked, spoiled, or even poisoned will still cause heartburn, sickness or even death to those consuming such tainted fare.

Thus it was that Cotter's peers began to question his methods, despite enjoying his meals as usual, and continuing to praise his skill, quiet doubts began to accompany the cramps and achy bellies that were sure to follow. Colter himself eventually used the bowl to liven up some improperly preserved salted pork loin one lonely and hungry afternoon, and lacking a competent healer nearby, died from food poisoning the very next day.

Poor Man's Feast (aka Cotter's Bowl)
Cotter's bowl is a footed soup bowl crafted from fine silver beaten into a pattern of flowers and knotwork. The dish always feels comfortably warm to the touch, with a faint aroma that most who have examined it describe as fondly reminiscent of "mum's own kitchen".

Any food or drink placed into the dish and then served will taste to those eating or drinking like the single greatest thing they've ever had the luck to experience. Even the coldest campfire gruel will seem to be a meal fit for a king, and the foul tastes of minor spoilage, weevil infestations and the like will become undetectable.

The downside of using the bowl is obvious from Cotter's tale. Poisons in the food or drink in the bowl become extremely difficult to detect, gaining a 50% chance (1 or 2 on a d4 roll) of evading notice by magics intended to detect poison.

Also, because the user is so fooled by the pleasant taste of the fare from the bowl, he will tend to gobble or slurp up the very last bit, making it more difficult to avoid the ill effects of a poison one would normally spit out due to the foul taste. All creatures poisoned by fare from the bowl receive a -2 penalty to their saving throw against that poison.

19 November 2017

Known World Magic Items: Druid's Honey Mead

Druid's Honey Mead

The druids long ago mastered the techniques of fermenting honey from beehives into a potent and tasty beverage that is popular across the known world even today. Though the meads vary a little from region to region, the general theme is the same. Honey is harvested and prepared in the autumn and allowed to ferment over the winter, reaching maturity in early spring and brought out as part of the spring planting festivals. For most creatures drinking this beverage, it is simply a thirst quenching and slightly intoxicating elixir.

For the druids and their followers, however, there is a potent effect to be gained by drinking these meads during spring celebrations as part of their festivities. In game terms, any character who raises a toast to the gods of nature before consuming their mug of ale will be healed as if they had imbibed a lessened strength Potion of Healing, recovering 1d4 points of damage. This benefit may only be gained once per day, and may only be used during relatively calm, quiet moments of introspect and piety, thus the drinking of honey mead during battle will have no beneficial effects.

It is important to point out that although the druids know of this blessing from their gods, they do not explain it to persons buying or trading the mead from them. They prefer that people discover the gods' gift through an honest and sincere display of faith and respect, which in many cultures of the known world is expressed in the form of a toast or dedication of libations to the nobles and deities important to the local people.

17 November 2017

Known World Magic Items: Mask of the Eagle's Talons

Mask of the Eagle's Talons

The Eagle's Talons are an old, well established thieving guild based in Specularum, though the exact location of their guildhouse is a closely kept secret. Despite many attempts, including recent ones by Duke Stefan, the secrets of the guild, and the identity of its headquarters remains unknown to most of the city's residents.

Since most of the guild's activities take place at night, and their membership is primarily human, vision has long been a problem for the Talons, who like most thieves abhor the thought of needing to carry a torch or lantern along with them while they work. To resolve that dilemma, the guild has long secretly employed the services of Specularum's Magic User's guild to create these magical masks, which grant them a limited ability to see in the dark like their demihuman peers.

These Masks are lightweight half-masks, made from fine black leather, shaped to resemble the face of an eagle. An adjustable buckle on the rear of the mask allows it to fit any wearer of Hin to Human size. The masks are stylish enough to be worn around at night without causing one to look out of place, but doing so in Specularum is risky, since most of the city watch instantly recognize one as the mark of a Eagle's Talon thief.

When worn, the masks grant their wearer Infravision to a range of 30 feet. If worn by a creature that already has natural infravision, they instead bestow a bonus 15 foot range to the existing Infravision. Magical Infravision, from any other source, is negated for the duration that the mask is worn, providing only the mask's 30 foot infravision range, though the magical Infravision will return upon removing the mask, unless its duration has expired, of course.

The Masks are fairly rare outside of Specularum, and are worth about 1,500 gp on the black market. Any non-guild member who is caught with one of the Masks is usually beaten severely and robbed of it, with a stern warning about the consequences of opposing the Eagle's Talons. Repeat offenders will be subject to attempts by the guild to kill them.

The wearing of festive masks by nobles (and wannabe nobles) while socializing is considered a statement of style in Specularum, despite the fact that the city isn't really all that cultured, compared to the wealthy cities of Thyatis, but some of the petty nobles there like to act fancified, so in the nicer parts of town, wearing masks out at night is considered acceptable.

04 November 2017

Location of Bywater on Karameikos Maps

I recently noticed, after reading The Tainted Sword (Penhaligon trilogy, book 1) that some of the maps on Pandius.com show the wrong location for the town of Bywater, in Karameikos. The top map is a quick and dirty scan (I'm not going to cut apart my book for a proper flatbed scan, sorry) from that novel, and the one below it is from the Escape from Thunder Rift adventure module. Hope this sets people straight.

03 November 2017

Karameikos: the "Basics"

When starting a new Mystara campaign, Karameikos tends to be my usual starting point, mainly because it is the most standard Euro-Medieval fantasy of the various regions of the Known World that still has a human focus. I also love using Humans and Halflings as the main 'civilized' folk of the campaign, and having the Hin of the Five Shires right next door is a bonus too. The only problem with Karameikos being the most developed of the regions of Mystara is that some later material conflicts a little with early stuff, and to me, the region loses it's wild and unexplored allure.

With that in mind, I've decided to strip the Grand Duchy (It's not a kingdom!) back to it's original presentation, then examine the later material and suggest some of my own ideas for using it in a campaign.

We'll start with module X1: The Isle of Dread. Along with what is essentially a slightly expanded version of the Expert Rule Book's map of the Known World and nearby island chains, a brief paragraph summary of each nation and region is included. For Karameikos, it has this to say:
Grand Duchy of Karameikos. This part of the continent is a wild and unsettled land claimed by Duke Stephan Karameikos. In reality, little of the land is under the duke's control. Large areas are overrun with monsters and hostile humanoids.
Following the brief "gazetteer" of the Known World, there are a few brief notes on climate and weather. Given Karameikos' relative position to the countries mentioned, I think it is safe to assume the statements about Thyatis and Darokin would apply to the Grand Duchy as well. I've bolded the relevant information for reference.
Weather & Climate
The general weather patterns of this part of the continent move from west to east. Hence, much rain falls on the western edge of the Altan Tepe mountains, while little or none falls on the Alasiyan desert. The warm offshore currents near Thyatis and Minrothad modify the weather somewhat in the south, making the climate there similar to the Mediterranean.

The southern farm lands are extremely fertile, due to a thick layer of rich ash from the ancient volcanic hills. The farmers here have discovered better ways to grow most crops. The heavily irrigated and terraced gardens of the southern farmlands produce more food than any other area on the map.(1)

The climate in the Thanegioth Archipelago is tropical, similar to the Pacific South Seas islands (Oceania) and the Caribbean. The climate south of the Cruth mountains (running west to east) is moist and temperate, with mild winters. The climate of Darokin and Glantri is warm and sunny, similar to that of southern France. The climate of the Ethengar steppes is mild in the summer, but cold and bleak in the winter; like the Russian steppes around the Black Sea. The climate of the northeastern coast is wet and mostly overcast, similar to that of Denmark.
(1) I make the assumption that in Karameikos, the strip of coastal lands, one or two hexes wide on the X1 and Expert Set continental maps, where there are no forest map icons, is mostly rolling plains, small hills and grassland, with farmsteads and ranches scattered about, most notably near the cities of Specularum, Luln and Kelvin, with a smaller farming community around Threshold, as shown on maps of that city, found elsewhere.

All in all, this bare bones bit of information makes Karameikos sound like a great locale for adventures using the "standard" Euro-fantasy medieval to early renaissance D&D genre. Consider also the fact that every major terrain type is present in, or fairly close to, the Grand Duchy. Forest, plains, coastlines and mountains abound, and snowy, wintry locales can surely be found in the heights of the Cruth mountains. The vast deserts of Ylaruam are a short trek to the northeast, while the murky depths of the Malpheggi swamp lie just west of the neighboring Five Shires. With a major port such as Specularum, the tropical islands are within easy reach as well.

Speaking of the Five Shires, it's interesting that the homelands of the major Demihuman races are all close by as well. The Hin (Halflings) are direct neighbors to the west, while the Elves of Alfheim and Dwarves of Rockhome are both a short trip (across the neighboring human realm of Darokin's rather unsettled eastern wilderness) to the north. This makes it quite easy to justify having all four of the standard PC races present in the towns of the Grand Duchy, rather than force the players and DM to concoct rambling backstories to explain what a particular character is doing there.

The Expert sets (both Dave Cook's and Frank Mentzer's editions) have some more detailed information on Karameikos and the city of Threshold, but I want to take this examination of the Karameikos subsetting one step at a time and not get mired in referencing too many sources in each post, so we'll take a look at those next time. Even if you stick with what we have so far from X1's map and map key notes, you could easily start to build a campaign, so to put it bluntly, everything else is basically just fluff anyway.

That's the foundation for our campaign setting with the bare basics found in the Isle of Dread adventure module. Now it's time to poke around the various products that lead up to Gazetteer1: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, the first stand alone sourcebook (meaning, that's all it is, it's not otherwise a rulebook or adventure that happens to have setting info within) for the Known World campaign setting.

The logical place to look first is the actual D&D rulebooks, so that's where we'll go next.

The first two Basic Sets (Eric Holmes' and Tom Moldvay's editions) contain no reference at all to the Known World. They arguably contain no mention of a setting as we define it now at all, beyond the scope of "There's this town called Portown and there's a dungeon nearby" and "There's a haunted ruined tower over there outside of town".

The sample Group Dungeon in the DM's book from Frank Mentzer's Basic Set is accepted now to be set in Karameikos, in the town of Threshold and the nearby ruins, but a careful reading of the rule book on simply its own content reveals no such tie to the setting. The PCs are in a town with a tavern called the Gold Dragon, there's a ruin called Mystamere Castle nearby where the evil icky-bad villain Bargle is hiding out. That's it.

The Rules Cyclopedia contains a sort of mini-primer on the Mystara campaign world, published after the bulk of the Known World Gazetteers and at roughly the same time as the setting was being prepared for conversion into the AD&D 2nd edition world of Mystara. The various "Basic Sets" that followed the RC return to the early trend of not assuming or describing any larger setting for their sample dungeon.

That brings us to the Expert Sets. Starting with Dave Cook's edition. The sample wilderness key and map section has some information.
...the map shows a section of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. The Duchy is a large tract of wilderness and unsettled land claimed by Duke Stefan Karameikos the Third. Although he claims control of a large area of land on paper, large portions of it are held by humanoids and monsters. The two main settled areas are the coast near the main city of Specularum and the Black Eagle Barony on the Gulf of Halag.
Two new bits here. First, Duke Stefan is "the third". This part of his title was not mentioned in the Isle of Dread material. Second is the introduction of the Black Eagle Barony and the naming of the large bay/gulf between Karameikos and the Five Shires as the Gulf of Halag.
The weather throughout the area represented on this map is generally temperate and mild with short winters of little or no snowfall and long summers. Rainfall is ample but not heavy and easterly winds blow cool breezes from over the sea.

The mountain range running along the north edge of the map is known by different names by the peoples of the territory including the Black Peaks, the Cruth Mountains, or The Steach. The two large river systems that provide drainage from the area are left for the DM to name.

I really like that second part. While canon, including the maps from Isle of Dread, calls those peaks the Cruth Mountains, the locals also call them the Black Peaks or The Steach. These are great imagination joggers for a DM wanting to expand things. What evils lurk in the mountains that gave rise to these other names?
Due to the climate, large sections of this map are heavily forested. Humans engage in lumber operations near the edges of the forests, but are loathe to venture too deeply without good cause. Timber, both hardwood and softwood, is a prime resource of the area, and is either exported or used to build ships in the shipyards of the port of Specularum.
Again, the hint of mystery and danger lurking in the depths of the forests. While the map shows some of the major monster types to be found in various regions of Karameikos' forests, literally anything could be waiting for those adventurers brave or foolish enough to wander off the loggers' trails.
Specularum - Originally a trading port founded when this area was first explored, Specularum has become the major city of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. Approximately 5,000 people live in or immediately around the city. The Duke maintains a standing force of 500 troops and may raise an army of 5,000 from the surrounding countryside in times of war. A small fleet of warships is maintained in the harbor.

The city is primarily noted for its excellent harbor facilities and shipyards. Walled on the landward side, the city is also protected by 2 breakwaters that extend into the harbor, restricting passage to a narrow entrance. Overlooking the harbor is the Duke's castle, providing ample defense of the harbor.
Without dictating too much of the local flavor, this gives us a general idea of what Specularum is all about. It's a maritime trading city with a strong military presence. Safe and secure. I quibble with the low population a little, but this is one case where later material (the Karameikos Gaz, in fact) fixes that, bumping it up to 50,000.
Black Eagle Barony - This area of the Duchy has been given as a fiefdom to Baron Ludwig "Black Eagle" von Hendriks. The central town is Fort Doom, a forbidding structure. It is rumored to have dungeons filled with those who have displeased the Baron, an extremely cruel and unpopular man. The Baron may have possible connections with evil slavers and disreputable mercenaries. The Baron maintains a garrison of 200 troops, using them freely to quell dissent and cruch attacking non-humans.
Again, without force feeding us a bunch of detail, this paragraph manages to conjure up quite a few ideas for adventure. Rescuing allies from the Baron's dungeons, fighting off the slavers (or being captured by them and forced to escape!), run ins with corrupt troops or mercenaries. Fun stuff.
Luln - Composed primarily of persons who have fled Black Eagle Barony, merchants who have come to trade with the Baron, and some non-humans who have left the wilderness, Luln is a base town for adventurers exploring the Haunted Keep, also called Koriszegy Keep, and the surrounding land. Somewhat lawless and open, the town can provide most of the basic needs to any group of adventurers. The town is poorly defended, relying on the goodwill and capabilities of both the Baron and the Duke for its defense. Approximately 500 people live in the town.
Although later material devoted to Karameikos shifted the presumed base of operations of the PCs to Threshold, this entry shows that Luln is an ideal spot to center a campaign around. Lots of adventure opportunities abound nearby, and the possibility of local adventurers being called upon to defend the town until reinforcements from the Baron or Duke arrive.

The text goes on to add a little detail on the gnomes of the Duchy, including a small sample dungeon based in a typical gnome stronghold. This stuff isn't especially relevant to a larger examination of the setting, so I'm not going to reprint it here.

Lastly, a fairly small scale,  detail map of Karameikos is included. The most useful part of this map are tags detailing what types of monsters are found in the various regions. The area that they chose to place the keep on the borderlands module in is infested with Frost Giants! Watch out!

01 November 2017

The Hin (Halfling) Sneak, an optional PC Thief variant.

Here it is, The Hin Sneak, an optional halfling "thief" class for Classic D&D!

The Hin Sneak (150kb PDF)

This file is provided for your private use. Please do not redistribute it without discussing it with me beforehand. Thanks!

31 October 2017

The Hin (Halfling) Friar, an optional PC Cleric variant.

AD&D 1e (in Unearthed Arcana) and AD&D 2e allowed the major PC races to take the cleric class, but for the demihumans, level limits in the rules prevented them from accessing the high level spells. In a setting like the Known World, where all the major PC races have their own nations and cultures, it is a little awkward that the demihuman classes lack religious leaders and the ability to ask their gods for the same favors humans can.

We can assume, as the game always did, that these personages exist, but are left to the NPCs of the world, but I've always disliked the idea that NPCs get options that are not there for the PCs. That is why I present this optional class for Hin “clerics”, originally developed a few years back with my friend Rich Trickey. The Hin (Halfling) Friar, an optional halfling "cleric" class for Classic D&D!

The Hin Friar (236kb PDF)

This file is provided for your private use. Please do not redistribute it without discussing it with me beforehand. Thanks!

30 October 2017

The Thunder Rift, the "other" D&D default setting

The Known World, later rebranded as Mystara, is a rather sprawling, large campaign, and choosing where to begin can be a little daunting to a DM or group just getting started, but here's an option that is ideal for those groups who just want a smaller scale map with some settlements and a wilderness in which to find adventures.

The Thunder Rift
Many Classic D&D players who got their start in the early 1990s cut their teeth on the Thunder Rift campaign, a small scale "world" made up of a large valley about 40 or 50 square miles in area. The Rift is home to a handful of settlements, as well as a fully mapped out wilderness with a few planned adventure locales and plenty of room for the DM to add his own. The trick is, Thunder Rift is a demi-plane of sorts; and though some fans have plotted a physical location in the known world for the valley, access between the realms is extremely limited to magical portals. The sheer, towering cliffs that form the valley's walls are impenetrable to mundane methods of escape.

Thunder Rift starts out with the Thunder Rift adventure and setting (TSR 9357) and continues with a short series of adventures that develop the encounter areas noted on the map in that book

Quest for the Silver Sword (TSR 9342)
Assault on Raven's Ruin (TSR 9350)
Sword and Shield (TSR 9387)
The Knight of Newts (TSR 9434)
Rage of the Rakasta (TSR 9435)
In the Phantom's Wake (TSR 9436)

Finally, DMR1 Dungeon Master's Screen (TSR 9437,black cover with green dragon art) include the mini-adventure Escape from Thunder Rift, which allows the heroes to venture out into the Grand Duchy of Karameikos (or wherever the DM wants to put them next).

The 1992 Character & Monster Assortment (TSR 9363) bears the now familiar Thunder Rift graphic presentation on its cover, but it's just a collection of fold up 3-d cardboard gaming miniatures and doesn't offer any new material specific to the Thunder Rift setting.

To those who just want to use the adventures but not the setting, the good news is that these are mostly generic adventures in the tradition of the other Basic D&D adventure modules, and adapt easily to wherever you want to place them.

29 October 2017

Roots of the Known World as D&D's default game setting

Although the early incarnations of OD&D and Basic D&D (namely, the Holmes and Moldvay Basic Sets) included sample adventures and teasers for Greyhawk and Blackmoor, the Expert set (Cook edition) was the first to truly present a setting to set your adventures in. Cook's "Sample Wilderness" introduces us to the Grand Duchy of Karameikos for the first time, and includes notes on the folk, terrain and settlements of that region. That Expert rules set also included the adventure module X1: Isle of Dread, but we'll get back to that in a bit.

Prior to its publication, the Known World had existed as the home campaign world of Tom Moldvay and Lawrence Schick, and though their world map is strikingly different, many of the locales and names later included in the published Known World are instantly recognizable.  Lawrence Shick recently posted some background information and early maps from that era at the Black Gate website: http://www.blackgate.com/2015/02/07/the-known-world-dd-setting-a-secret-history/#more-95547

It's a great bit of nostalgia and trivia, and it would be possible to use Lawrence's maps with some of the later material to construct an alternate Known World setting, but that's left to individual fans with the time and desire. Let's get back to the Known World as published in the Classic D&D rulebooks.

With the relaunch of the Classic D&D with Frank Mentzer's BECMI series, it was once again the Expert set that really adds material to the Known World setting, though some of the background info in the Basic Set group adventure was later adopted into the setting. The Expert set once more delves into the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, this time showcasing the town of Threshold, a moderately sized city in the mountainous wilderlands of the region. This edition of the Expert set also included the X1: Isle of Dread adventure module, more on that later.

The BECMI series of rules sets continued with the Companion rules, and while there is not a lot of text devoted to the Known World therein, the inside back cover of the player's manual includes a drastically larger map of the world around the "Known World" region, and sets the framework for the fantasy multiverse in which the Known World exists. The next set in the series, the Master's rules, continues in the same vein, presenting the entire world map, and further developing the settings multiverse of planes. Likewise, the final rules set, the Immortals rules, contains a lot more material on the multiverse and the immortals (the Known World's "gods") that inhabit it.

The information contained in either Expert set is plenty for many DMs to start a great, long lasting campaign, and the expanded Companion and Master's world maps add a lot of places to develop a home game, most of which were never detailed in later material.

After the BECMI series, the Classic D&D rules were compiled into the Rules Cyclopedia, a great book that includes an entire chapter presenting the Known World as a ready to use campaign setting, with color maps of large areas of the world and enough information for extensive campaigns in the setting.

The later, black box "Classic D&D Game" Basic sets don't contain any material relevant to the Known World setting, though their sample adventure, Zanzer Tam's Dungeon, could be placed in any setting you wish. It's actually not surprising that all of the Basic D&D rules sets include no real setting information. The Basic game is about dungeon crawling, and the world beyond isn't really dealt with until the Expert level sets.

Some of the Basic level adventure modules do touch on the world around their dungeons, and many of adventures published for the game, at all levels of play, include material expanding the Known World. I'll go down the list, with a brief mention of what material is in each adventure, so you can tell which ones would interest you as Known World resources, not just adventures.

B3 Palace of the Silver Princess (TSR9044)
Look for the orange cover original version, as it includes a map and brief details on the Barony of Gulluvia, a province of the Principalities of Glantri.
Palace of the Silver Princess exists in two published forms, the original orange covered version, and a revised edition with a green cover. The revised edition replaced some controversial artwork (that supposedly represented some TSR employees in an unflattering light) and more importantly, removed the setting map and a few encounters the PCs face on the way to the Palace.

You'll want to get the orange cover version, which sadly fetches insane prices on ebay and online outlets if and when you can find it, but don't fret, for many years, TSR/WotC offered this adventure as a freebie pdf download on their website. Now lost on their site due to years of reorganizations, you should be able to easily find the file for download on google.

As mentioned above, the Barony of Gulluvia is part of the Principalities of Glantri, but it features everything you need to run adventures with no further setting material, including settlements, wilderness areas and of course, the Princesses doomed Palace. If your players grow bored with the adventure hooks in the small barony, just send them out into Glantri and beyond into the Known World.

B6 The Veiled Society (TSR9086) This adventure is set in the city of Specularum, capitol of the Grand Duchy of Specularum, and includes maps and details on locations in the city. Be aware that this early version of Specularum's maps differs considerably from the revised version seen in later products.

B10 Nights Dark Terror (TSR9149) This adventure explores many different locales in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, including Threshold, Rifflian and Xitaqa, an ancient ruin.

B11 Kings Festival (TSR9260) Another adventure set in Karameikos, introducing the town of Stallanford. Note that the king referenced in the title is Halav I, a historical figure. In this adventure, Stefan Karameikos is still Grand Duke, not King. There's quite a bit of Karameikan history spread throughout this adventure, it's a great resource for that region of the setting.

B12 Queen's Harvest (TSR9261)
This module continues where B11 left off, and includes more information on the Stallanford region of Karameikos, including maps.

CM1 Test of the Warlords (TSR9117) This adventure expands the Known World setting northward, into the lands of Norwold, and includes maps and information on those lands.

CM2 Deaths Ride (TSR9118) This module continues exploration of the Norwold region, with a close look at the Barony of Twolakes vale.

CM7 The Tree of Life (TSR9166) The first half of this adventure takes place in the elven realm of Alfheim, and has some information on the land's locales and personalities.

CM9 Legacy of Blood (TSR9210)
An adventure set in the Republic of Darokin, including material on Darokin city and the town of Fenhold.

DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor (TSR9172)
DA2 Temple of the Frog (TSR9175)
DA3 City of the Gods (TSR9191)
DA4 The Duchy of Ten (TSR9205)
This series of adventures takes the Blackmoor setting, by D&D co-creator Dave Arneson and sets it explicitly in the northern realms of the Known World. A mini-setting in and of itself, the four volumes include plenty of maps and information on the history, personages and locales in Blackmoor.

DDA1 Arena of Thyatis (TSR9284) As the title implies, this adventure explores arena fighting in the capitol city of Thyatis, and includes a lot of information on the cities locales and people.

DDA2 Legion of Thyatis (TSR9296) Continuing on the DDA1 adventure, this one includes more material on Thyatis city, and a lot of information on the Thyatian army.

DDA3 Eye of Traldar (TSR9271) Set in Karameikos, this adventure features material on the Black Eagle Barony, Fort Doom and the town of Luln.

DDA4 The Dymrak Dread (TSR9272) Another adventure in Karameikos, exploring the Dymrak forest and its surroundings.

IM2 The Wrath of Olympus (TSR9189) This extraplanar romp starts off in the Republic of Darokin, and includes maps and a portal in the Republic's broken lands region leading to Mount Olympus.

M1 Into the Maelstrom (TSR9159)
Before venturing out into the planes, this adventure is set in and around Norwold, and includes maps of the coasts of Norworld and Alphatia, and the seas between them.

M2 Vengeance of Alphaks (TSR9148) Another adventure in Norwold, with more information on the history of those lands, and new color maps.

M4 Five Coins for a Kingdom (TSR9204) This module revolves around the city of Lighthall in Norworld, and includes some information on that city.

M5 Talons of Night (TSR9214) This adventure introduces the Isle of Dawn, a large region northeast of the Known World between Norworld and Alphatia, and includes details of that island and the history of Alphatia and Thyatis's efforts to conquer it.

02 Blade of Vengeance (TSR9108)
An adventure set in the Canolbarth forest region of Alfheim, including maps and details of that area.

X1 The Isle of Dread (TSR9043) I mentioned this adventure while running down the Expert Rules sets because both versions of those rules included X1 as their sample adventure module. Aside from a fun "lost world" style wilderness adventure, X1 includes a nice map of the Known World, including the Sea of Dread and the Island chains to the south. To supplement that map, there is a handy directory of all the Known World's nations, with a thumbnail description of each. Tanoroa village, and the others like it on the Isle of Dread itself is well detailed also.

X3 Curse of Xanathon (TSR9056) This urban adventure is set in the city of Rhoona, in Vestland, and serves as a great source of information on that city and the realms around it.

X4 Master of the Desert Nomads (TSR9068) The desert wilderness where this adventure is set is located west of the Republic of Darokin, providing details on those lands, and the western fringe of Darokin.

X5 Temple of Death (TSR9069)
Continuing the adventure in X4, this module ventures into the Black Mountains and the land of Hule, greatly expanding the Known World to the west of the X1 map.

X6 Quagmire (TSR9081) This adventure details the Wild Lands of the Serpent peninsula, the long strip of land at the southwest corner of the Known World.

X7 The War Rafts of Kron (TSR9079) The adventure in this module takes place mostly on the floor of the Sea of Dread, and details the locations found there.

X8 Drums of Fire Mountain (TSR9127) The Isle of TekiNuraRia, where this module takes place, is located in the Sea of Dread, southeast of Thyatis. The adventure details the island and its inhabitants.

X9 The Savage Coast (TSR9129) The Savage Coast is a big expansion of the Known World setting, far to the west of Hule and the Serpent peninsula.

X10 Red Arrow Black Shield (TSR9160) Combining elements of the Companion Rules War Machine mass combat system and the AD&D Battlesystem skirmish rules, this adventure pits the nations of the Known World against the Desert Nomads from X4 and X5, with details on the armies of all the nations, and some interesting maps.

X11 Saga of the Shadow Lord (TSR9165) This module introduces the realms of Wendar and Denagoth, just north of the Principalities of Glantri, with material on both regions.

X12 Skardas Mirror (TSR9188) The quest for the artifact this module is named for explores some more minor locales around Karameikos.

X13 Crown of Ancient Glory (TSR9218)
The background material for this adventure offers a lot of history and current events information for Vestland, and explores some new locales in that realm.

XSolo1 Lathans Gold (TSR9082) This solo adventure expands on X1 a bit, visiting some new locales around the Sea of Dread, including a nice map of trade routes among the coasts and islands of the Known World.

Beyond the rule books and adventure modules, the Known World blossomed into a complex and detailed world setting with the release of the D&D Gazetteers, each of which explored a different nation of the setting.

GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of KarameikosGAZ2 The Emirates of Ylaruam
GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri
GAZ4 The Kingdom of Ierendi
GAZ5 The Elves of Alfheim
GAZ6 The Dwarves of Rockhome
GAZ7 The Northern Reaches
GAZ8 The Five Shires
GAZ9 The Minrothad Guilds
GAZ10 The Orcs of Thar
GAZ11 The Republic of Darokin
GAZ12 The Golden Khan of Ethengar
GAZ13 The Shadow Elves
GAZ14 The Atruaghin Clans

The Gazetteer boxed set, Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia rounds out the Gazetteer series.

28 October 2017

Side Treks from the Known World - Castle Amber and Averoigne

If you've enjoyed adventure module X2: Castle Amber (aka Chateau D'Ambreville), you've dabbled in the fantasy realm of Averoigne, whether you realized it or not! That adventure, in which in the PC heroes explore a strange, seemingly haunted mansion which acts as a sort of planar gateway into the world of Averoigne; a fantasy realm inspired by real world historical France.

I'll be honest here, I've not read a lot of CA Smith's work, and I can't speak authoritatively on his worlds. I include Averoigne in the Known World setting mainly because it is a canonical D&D offshoot setting in adventure module X2: Castle Amber. The adventure presents a stand alone quest for the PCs that is inspired heavily by the material it is based on, and Iecommend further research and reading to DMs who want to create further adventures in those worlds.

To learn more about CA Smith and his fantasy writings and worlds, check out the following sites:

http://www.eldritchdark.com/ Eldritch Dark - The Sanctum of Clark Ashton Smith
http://www.blackgate.com The Averoigne Chronicles at the Black Gate fantasy fiction site. There's a really cool little hex map here of the province of Averoigne that would work perfectly as an "area map" for X2: Castle Amber if you establish that at certain times, the "castle" manifests in the Known World, and at other times into the fantasy France inspired Averoigne "demiplane", similar in size and scope to the Thunder Rift setting for D&D.

27 October 2017

Weapons for Halflings and other small sized creatures

The Known World holds a bit of a distinction among the major D&D campaign settings; it's the only one with a detailed, developed Halfling homeland central to the campaign world. Sure, Forgotten Realms has a Halfling nation, but it's way off the beaten path in a corner of Faerun pretty much ignored by the setting material. Other worlds, like Greyhawk, just throw Halflings in as an afterthought, giving little or no thought to where they came from.

Taking that into consideration, it makes sense that the Hin, and their nation, militias and "military" (limited as it is) would craft weapons of their own, rather than just borrow from their human neighbors. With that in mind, I put together the following chart, modified from the D&D Basic Set:

WeaponDMGHands Cost  Notes
Hand Axe 1d4 3 gp
Battle Axe 1d6 5gp
Hin Crossbow 1d4 20gp May be used 1 handed by larger creatures, Known as a "hand crossbow" to humans and dwarves. Ammo cost is 6gp for 30 quarrels.
Short Bow 1d6 25gp
Hin Bow 1d4 18gp Too small for use by larger creatures. Ammo cost is 3gp for 20 arrows.
Hin Dagger 1d2 2gp Silvered version costs 20gp
Hin Greatblade 1d8 15gp Basically the same thing as a human normal sword
Hin Sword 1d6 1 Hand 10gp Basically the same thing as a human Short Sword
Hin Smallblade 1d4 5gp Basically the same thing as a human Dagger.
Hin Mace 1d4 3gp Usable by Clerics
Light Club 1d2 1gp Usable by Clerics
Hin Halberd 1d8 4gp
Sling 1d4 2gp Same as human version. Ammo cost is 1gp for 30 stones, or they may be foraged (DM discretion on availability) at the rate of 1d20 per hour.
Short Spear 1d4 1            2gp Also known, among humans, as a javelin
Hin Battlehammer 1d4 3gp Usable by Cleric
Hin Smallspear 1d2 1gp Too small to be used as a missile weapon by larger creatures, may be used by those folk as an improvised stabbing weapon though. Human original is found in the Expert Set.
Shortstaff 1d4 1gp The Shortstaff is about 3.5 to 4 feet long. Human original is found in the Expert Set.
Hin Hilt-and-a-half Sword (aka Hin Bastard Sword) 1d4+1 (one Handed)

1d6+1 (two Handed)
1 or 2 8gp Human original is found in the Companion Set.
Hin Fork (Hin Trident, among mariners) 1d4 2gp Human original is found in the Companion Set.

The Hin versions of the Bola, Blackjack, Net and Whip, from the Companion set are effectively the same weapons as their Human counterparts.

There are no Hin versions of the Blowgun or Heavy Crossbow, from the Companion set. In addition, the Hin are a little less deviously innovative with weapon variants than their Human neighbors, and the only common Pole Arm type found in the Shires is the Hin Halbard, listed above.

Likewise, the Hin are not common practitioners of artillery or siege warfare, and these machines are not usually found within the Shires. Where Catapults and Ballistas are found, they are identical to their Human equivalents, except that when the crew is made up only of Hin, one extra crewman is required per machine.

The basic rule, derived from the D&D 3rd edition Arms & Equipment Guide supplement, is, take the normal, human version (aka "medium sized weapon"), decrease the range by 1/2, rounded up, and drop the damage down to the next lower die type (so 1d6 damage becomes 1d4, etc). Price is roughly 1/2 of the human version, rounded up. This should suffice for a quick conversion of any nonstandard weapons you've added to the lists in the rulebooks.

26 October 2017

Five Shirefolk

Good D&D campaigns always need interesting NPCs, and Classic D&D caters to this need with the excellent Shady Dragon Inn supplement, a collection of myriad pregenerated characters with thumbnail sketches of their personality and background to get the DM's imagination going. For those who lack access to that book, or who want some NPCs tied a little closer to the Known World setting, I present the first in a (I hope) ongoing series of articles introducing a handful of personalities to use in a game. Whether they act as contacts, hirelings, villains, or even replacement PCs for players whose luck is less than ideal is up to you.

Keeping with this month's "Hinuary" theme, here are 5 Hin from around the Five Shires to add to any campaign.

Liam "Bearclaw" Longbuck
3rd level Lawful Halfling, male, age 35; ST 13, DE 13, CO 12, IN 9, WI 10, CH 14; HP 12; AC 5 (Chain Mail); Money: 43 GP; Items: Sling +1

Liam is short, even for a Hin, standing just an inch under 3 feet, but he makes up in spirit what he lacks in stature. Always a gung-ho soul with little thought of fear, he's a hero of sorts in Ober's Mimbur, having once killed a large brown bear that had wandered into the field behind the Grinning Elf tavern single handedly by perching atop the tavern's roof and pelting the beast with sling stones. He collected one of the bear's paws and had it turned into a necklace that looks comical on him given his small size, thus gaining the nickname Bearclaw among the town's residents.

Liam will gladly join an adventuring party, given that he sees enough risk in their endeavor to make it "fun". He's loyal and enthusiastic, not given to complaining about long marches or sitting watch at camp, but his penchant for gambling and tendency to react to encounters with a volley of sling stones, even when a more subtle approach might be better, may cause the party some minor headaches now and then.

Liam owns a small cottage in Ober's Mimbur, and will gladly offer it to PCs who enlist him in their party or befriend him in town, since lately he's taken to camping in the hills around town, searching for Ober's lost treasures (see D&D Gazetteer 8: The Five Shires for details on this lost treasure hoard), a place that most other folk in town are terrified to even approach given the tales of ghost sightings near the ruin. Liam is eager to find the treasure, and the dungeon rumored to contain it, and has started trying to encourage adventurers who pass through town to join him in "poking around a bit," but so far, he hasn't succeeded in rallying help.

If encountered outside Ober's Mimbur, Liam will generally be on his way home, fresh with stories of his latest adventure, or may be in the company of other NPCs, eager to enlist the party in aiding in whatever quest they are off to undertake.

Sherl Watcheye
2nd level Lawful Halfling, female, age 30; ST 17, DE 14, CO 14, IN 7, WI 9, CH 11; HP 9; AC 7 (Leather); Money: 5; GP Items: Dagger +1, +2 vs. Kobolds

Sherl's an imposing Hin, fully 4 feet tall and well muscled, reflecting her early life as a mason's daughter. Although her first couple adventures, exploring caves in the Achelos Woods with some other adventurers from Wereskalot, went well, earning her the magic dagger she readily brags about to anyone who will listen, she hasn't had any luck joining a real adventuring party, and is eager to do so. For now, she's reluctantly helping her father (Rand Watcheye) with his masonry business and tending to her young brother, since their mother passed away 3 summers ago from a nasty bout of the flu. In Wereskalot, she'll be encountered mostly at night, frittering away the meager pay her father gives her on Rockhome mead, which she has a notable weakness for, and attempting to latch on to any adventuring party she comes across. During the day, she might be found at her father's workshop (which doubles as the family home) or out running errands.

Outside of Wereskalot, Sherl will be encountered with her father and kid brother, attending a fair or festival around the Shires or Karameikos, or meeting with miners about new supply contracts. Rand will be annoyed at seeing her run off with adventurers, and although he's no more than a nuisance, he'll hold a lengthy grudge against the PCs if they recruit her, hassling them a bit whenever they visit Wereskalot, even if she eventually moves on or goes home.

Sherl is a capable fighter and stalwart companion though, if perhaps not the brightest girl the PCs might meet. She dreams of a heroic career adventuring, and longs to visit Shireton one day to see the "big city". She then hopes to settle back in Wereskalot with a wealthy husband, as long as he isn't a mason, she resents that life.

Ronwyn "Fish" Idelwise
5th level Chaotic Halfling, male, age 48; ST 12, DE 11, CO 13, IN 10, WI 12, CH 10; HP 22; AC 3 (Leather +1); Money: 37 GP; Items: Leather Armor +1

Ronwyn is a quiet, grim fellow, unhappy with his life as a guard on Tothmeer's docks, but lacking the ambition to do much of anything else with his life. He's known around town as one of the few Fangs (Militiamen) assigned to dock duty that can't swim, and jokingly called Fish by those who know him.

Adventurers who try, for some reason, to recruit Ronywn will be met with a doomsday speech about the futility of trying to do good in the world, and only the most outrageous offers of pay will give him the inclination to run off on an adventure. He's grudgingly friendly with his fellow Fangs, but few who know him really trust him. When not on duty or at the dockside Fang station sleeping, he can usually be found at the Riverwalk tavern nearby, playing in a quiet game of dice with other Fangs, or just drowning his sorrows in a glass of brandy. He's somewhat of an oddity in the Shires, proclaiming an intense dislike of beer and ale.

Asking about the fine leather armor Ronwyn wears is a quick way to earn his (brief) admiration, since he is extremely proud of it. The story around town is that when Lora, the now teenaged niece of Sheriff Sildil Seaeyes, was a youngster, she was accosted by thugs while playing on the docks with some friends. Despite being outnumbered and unarmed (he was on the way home from the tavern and out of uniform), Ronwyn lept to the rescue, leaving the troublemakers clinging to a small raft floating in the harbor. As a reward for his courage, Sheriff Sildil held a feast in Ronwyn's honor, and presented him with the handsome suit of leather armor. Ronwyn loves to brag about this, and PCs trying to get in his good graces will go far by flattering him on this, as well as buying a round of drinks or two "to toast the hero".

Ronwyn's secret
Fish isn't above being bribed, in fact, it's one of the few things in his miserable life that makes him feel important. PCs up to shady business on the docks would do well to get to know Ronwyn for this reason alone.

Caution is wise though, Fish is only loyal to hard coin, and rivals, or authorities, willing to beat the PC's bribe will find themselves quickly betrayed by the dour little Hin.

Giana "Gee" (as in "Gee Whiz!") Hairytoes
4th level Chaotic Halfling, female, age 41; ST 11, DE 18, CO 11, IN 13, WI 8, CH 14; HP 22; AC 4 (Leather); Money: 1570 GP; Items: Rope of climbing, Elven Cloak

Giana is a self proclaimed master burglar, usually found around the shadier taverns in Sateeka, selling her pilfering skills to the highest bidder. While generally friendly and easy going, she is pretty cocky about her abilities and stubbornly overconfident, often accepting jobs she is under-qualified for and getting herself into a world of trouble. She's been lucky so far though, escaping harm's way and landing only short stints in the jails of Karameikos and the Shires.

Giana will gladly join a party that can meet her price (left up to the DM to reflect the economics of the individual campaign), but she bores easily, and if there isn't enough action and danger, she's likely to wander off in search of thrills elsewhere.

Gee is pretty good at what she does, but she's got a little history that her new friends will have to contend with sooner or later. About a year ago, she took a job looting some artifacts from a College of Magic in Specularum for the infamous magic users Bargle, in the Black Eagle Barony. Although she successfully retrieved the books she was hired to, she decided the Baron wasn't paying her enough, and sold them to a rival buyer (an anonymous magic user in Luln) for 3 times the price. She is hunted by agents of Bargle (usually magic-users, devise them to rival, but not overpower, the party), who are fairly nasty folk and have no qualms about roughing up the party to get at Giana.

Gerro Weefoot
8th level Neutral Halfling, Male, age 84; ST 14, DE 12, CO 18, IN 10, WI 9, CH 15; HP 52; AC 5 (Chainmail); Money: 10 GP; Items: Short Bow +4

Gerro is a little old for a vigilante, but he's still spry and crafty, and spends his days patrolling the streets of Shireton with his merry band of fellows, which he has affectionately dubbed "The Defenders". For many years, banditry in the city was a major problem, with Jaervosz Dustyboots, there's still a few bands of hoodlums out making mischief. Gerro, a veteran of the Fangs, has decided to continue his patrols, and has attracted a band of 15 to 20 (the number varies as members come and go, or perish in their "duties") to help him.

PCs will likely first meet Gerro and his band if they are accosted along in town. Within 1d4+2 rounds of combat ensuing with bandits, Gerro and 1d6 of his men (err, Hin...) will charge into the battle, aiding the PCs (unless of course, they are the bandits...) Goodly PCs will find Gerro to be a gruff but useful ally, devout in his self imposed duty to protect the people of Shireton from villainy.

Gerro is a grizzled veteran of many adventures in and around Shireton, and knows the city well. He'll be reluctant to leave his Defenders alone for long, and wont actually join the party for any missions away from the city, but he can serve as a handy contact when the party is in that area, being well aware of pretty much every rumor that spreads on the streets and alleys of the town..

Gerro's also a close personal friend of Sheriff Jaervosz, and will gladly send a letter to him vouching for them if they are acting in what he sees as the best interest of the city and the Shires and need his assistance.

25 October 2017

Hin (Halfling) Specific Level Titles in the Known World

The demihumans of the Classic D&D game kind of get cheated in regard to their level titles. Generally, the game just takes the fighter class titles and adds a "dwarf/halfling" modifier, or with the elves, just compounds the fighter and magic user titles.  I decided that the Hin of the Known World are common enough, and established enough in their own homeland that their culture should assign its own titles to its heroes. Here's what I came up with:


Standard D&D Title

Five Shires Hin Title


Halfling Veteran

Gaffer (m) / Gammer (f)


Halfling Warrior



Halfling Swordmaster

Protector (of the Five Shires)


Halfling Hero

Hero (m) / Heroine (f) (of the Five Shires)


Halfling Swashbuckler



Halfling Myrmidon

Cohort (of the Five Shires)


Hafling Champion

Advocate (of the Five Shires)




Inside the borders of the Five Shires, the "of the Five Shires" formality of some of the titles is rarely used, other Hin know what you are a protector, hero, cohort or advocate of with you telling them. Most Hin characters only use the full, formal titles when travelling abroad and introducing themselves to folk who might not know of their homeland.

Sheriff is a word often used informally to show respect to accomplished militia or military servicemen, retired or otherwise. I wanted to remove the confusion between actual Five Shires sheriffs and other high level Hin characters.

Similar to the generic use of Sheriff to show respect to an accomplished warrior, some Hin also use the term Gaffer/Gammer to honor non-combatant neighbors (Hin consider everyone living in their city or town to be a neighbor, and all the natives of the Shires to be almost-neighbors, be they fellow Hin or otherwise) of fame and accomplishment in their profession. This is similar to how 1st level Halfling, as well as other demihumans and human fighters, are called veterans. They are above and beyond the average 0-level common folk of their race.

Example: Miija Copperkettle, a renowned Hin baker, owns and runs a small shop in Seashire. It is the custom of most Hin to refer to her (directly) as Gammer, and indirectly as Gammer Copperkettle.

24 October 2017

The Mind of the Mule (or, The Wise Ass of Eltan's Spring)

One show I like to have on for background noise is Travel Channel's Mysteries at the Museum, a random collection of interesting stories connected to obscure items from the artifact collections of different museums. The other night I was working on reports for work while a 'marathon' of reruns played in the background, and one fun story caught my attention.

Lady Wonder, the mind reading mare of Richmond, Va. tells the story of horse whose seeming ability to not only understand and communicate with humans but also possess prophetic psychic abilities enthralled 1920s Virginia. Although supposedly debunked by scientists of the time, the story got me thinking about how to use the idea in my game. Here's what I came up with.

The Mind of the Mule
While resting at the Crock & Goblet tavern in Eltan's Spring, or even one of Threshold's alehouses, the PCs hear strange rumors of Juliana Ironshoes, a Hin mule breeder who has a small ranch north of Eltan's Spring near the woodbridge, where she and her sons raise mules to sell to folk around Lake Windrush. The Ironshoes mules are known as sturdy and reliable, though unremarkable in intelligence, but recently visitors to the ranch tell wild tales of Miss Petunia, a young molly (female mule) who can tell the future!

As the stories go, the molly is kept in a comfortable barn on the ranch, where gammer Juliana charges visitors a Royal (1gp) to see her and ask her a question. Petunia then scratches her answer in the dust of the barn's floor, using the old Traladaran runes, which the eldest Ironshoes son, Lorello, then translates for the patron.

Lorello Ironshoes & "Miss Petunia"

PCs who investigate the matter discover that the stories are absolutely true! Upon visiting the Ironshoes ranch and inquiring, Juliana leads the party to a small but sturdy barn among the oak trees near where the woodbridge crosses the small river. The double doors on the front of the barn each bear a bright, cheerfully painted symbol, one of the Immortal Faunus, patron of Centaurs and equine creatures, the other of the Church of Karameikos. Juliana then requests a donation of one Royal (1gp) from each visitor to help with Petunia's upkeep, since she feels it wwould be an affront to Lord Faunus to sell the blessed beast like the other mules she breeds. If pressured on this matter, she explains that she also donates half of the coins donated to Petunia to Patriarch Sherlane at the Church in Threshold, to help with "feedin' and learnin' the poor orphan chillun' of that burg". If the PCs get overly rude or violent, Juliana whistles loudly, summoning a number (equal to the number of PCs + 2) of her hired hands (treat as normal Halfling 'monsters' per the Basic rulebook to calm things down.

Once inside the barn, the PCs meet Lorello, a tanned and healthy looking Hin teen in clothing typical of a farmer, brushing and feed fresh hay to a young molly with pink and green ribbons in her mane. A few coins and minor knick knacks (valuing 1d6gp total) are scattered among the hay at the mule's feet. Lorello instructs each party member with a question to politely and clearly ask Petunia their question, upon which the mule scratches her hoof in the dust and hay, clearly spelling out old Traladaran runes. If noone in the party reads that forgotten script, Lorello translates.

Petunia's answers are generally correct, Roll 1d6:
The base chance for a false answer is 2 in 6, so if a 1 or 2 is rolled, the answer given in incorrect. The DM should roll this secretly, neither Lorello or the PC asking the question will immediately know the nature of the answer.
For characters who are either Centaurs*, Neutral or worshippers of Faunus, the chance for a false answer drops to 1 in 6. A character who qualifies as all three of those options has no chance for a false answer.
In either case, true or false, Petunia's answers are fairly vague and open to interpretation, unless the die roll results in a natural 6, in which case the answer is fairly clear and direct. For all results, the wording and accuracy of the answer is left to the DM's discretion to suit the campaign story.

Adventure Hook: The Mule Thief!

As one might expect, rumors of a magical fortune telling mule are bound to attract nefarious persons wishing to control the beast's power. Bradenial of Darokin (Chaotic human Merchant, level APL*+2) is no exception. Outcast by his Darokini peers for dishonest business practices, Bradenial has taken up residence in Threshold for now, where he conducts shady and even outright illegal business as a fence and agent for clients too disreputable to show themselves in public at the Gold Dragon Inn, a popular gathering place for adventurers in the city. Bradenial dreams of the deal that will restore his reputation and allow him to return to his comfortable life in Darokin, and a magical prophetic mule to amuse his peers seems like the perfect score.

Bradenial visited the Ironshoes ranch, perhaps the same day as the PCs to allow them to make the association between him and the coming crime, where he was escorted away by Juliana's hands after refusing to pay the donation and threatening her. After returning to Threshold with a growing grudge, he hired a band of brigands he'd contracted for some minor "legbreaking" and other intimidation jobs in the past. Last night, under the cover of a strong, cold rain, Bradenial's thugs broke into Petunia's barn and absconded with her, causing an uproar in Eltan's Spring, where the PCs are when Lorello contacts them at the Crock & Goblet Tavern in a panic, begging them to help rescue the mule before she comes to harm, which he says is inevitable.

Lorello explains that for reasons known only to Lord Faunus, Petunia's gift works only in her barn, where she was born and raised, being too small and frail for the normal training given the other mules. Lorello fears, correctly, that the thugs will become enraged when they discover that Petunia's gift is "gone" (though it will return if she's brought home to her barn) and kill the poor molly, who is useless as a mount or pack animal. On behalf of his mother, he offers the party 150 Royals, the amount of coins in Petunia's stash not set aside for Baron Sherlane. If the PCs are hesitant or ask for more, Lorello reluectantly offers them all 300gp, as long as the "swear solemn-like to make right with the Church" later. Either way, Lorello only has 1d4 x 10 gp on him at the time to offer up front, the rest will be paid upon Petunia's return.

If the DM feels the party could use another swordarm, Lorello's younger brother Stevan (Normal Halfling 'monster', short sword, short bow) comes into the negotiations and offers his service, free of charge.

Tracking and overtaking the thugs is rather easy, since they are dragging a scared and angry mule along with them. They offer to betray their employer for the amount of 500 Royals, twice what he is paying them to deliver the mule. If that is refused they attempt to continue along the road, fighting only if blocked or threatened. There are a number of Brigands (as the 'monster') equal to the PCs, including Stevan if he's there, plus 1d4.

If successful in saving Petunia, the party is paid, and earns the friendship and hospitality of the Ironshoes, their hired hands, and the folk of Eltan's Spring. Bradenial is another story, after 1d8 days have passed, he will confront them in Eltan's Spring or Threshold. If he feels he has a reasonable chance of defeating the party and taking their valuables, he will attack them immediately, using his Merchant magic in whatever way seems best. If the DM prefers, he may simply curse and threaten the party, slinking off to return at some point later to harass them.

*Centaur PCs are explained in the Creature Crucible: Tall Tales of the Wee Folk sourcebook.
*APL refers to average party level, just add up the total levels of all PCs and NPCs (discarding minor nocombatant hirelings) and divide by the number of PCs for a rough measure of their 'total hit dice' for assigning monsters to challenge them.

If the party looks into it, perhaps by asking Petunia herself, her gift is a result of being an equine born in that barn, which was unknowingly built upon the ancient, forgotten burial site of a Traladaran Cleric of Faunus, who simply communes with the world through Petunia in order to aid good intentioned individuals in the quests and toils.

06 October 2017

House Rules - Magical Wands (Includes New Known World Magic Items!)

New enchanted wands for your Magic User PCs, and some thoughts on Basic D&D's 'evolving' rules on wands.

As you may have noticed, the different editions of the Basic Rules have different notes on how many charges a wand has:

Original D&D (Book 2, Monsters & Treasures): 100 charges (1d100/d% when found)
Holmes Basic: 100 charges (1d100/d% when found)
Moldvay Basic: 10 charges (1d10 when found)
Cook Expert: 20 charges (2d10 when found)
Mentzer Basic: 10 charges (1d10 when found)
Mentzer Expert: 20 charges (2d10 when found)
Mentzer Companion: (DM's option) 30 charges (3d10 when found)
Rules Cyclopedia: 20 charges (2d10 when found) and DM's option 30 charges (3d10 when found)
"Challenger" (Post RC) Basic: 10 charges (1d10 when found)

To reconcile these differences, I simply use 4 classifications of wands:

Minor Wands have 10 charges, 1d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Standard Wands have 20 charges, 2d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Major Wands have 30 charges, 3d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Epic/Legendary Wands have 100 charges, 10d10 remaining when found, purchased or traded

The different classifications of wands otherwise function as described in the relevant rule book. Roll d%/d100 to determine which class of wand is found:

d100   Wand Classification
0-25   Minor
26-70  Standard
71-95  Major
96-00  Epic/Legendary

When a PC or NPC wizard is creating a wand, minor wands halve the time and money required to complete the task, and major wands double the time and money required. In addition, the DM may require the creator (or her PC customer) to procure a rare, exotic or magical material to be used in the creation of a major wand, sometimes requiring a side quest by the party.

Epic wands are the stuff of legends, created in the distant past or on the exotic planes of the Immortals and otherworldly beings. Such items are beyond the ability of mortal magic users of the Known World to create.

It is important to remember that the classification of a wand has nothing to do with its powers, it reflects only the number of charges the wand is capable of holding.

For all types of wands, unless specifically noted in the description of the item, each use of one of the wand's powers costs one charge, and a wand may only be used once per round. Note that in both the Moldvay and Mentzer basic rules, in the general notes on all magic items with charges, it clearly states that unlike other (advanced or d20ish) versions of D&D games, in Classic D&D, charged items may not be recharged. Though many DMs will surely houserule and override this, I will present this material in compliance with "canon" rules-as-written. In any case, even if you do bend the rule and allow PC or NPC magic users to recharge wands, Epic/Legendary wands may never be recharged, for the same reason they cannot be created by mortals of the Known World.

These are standard Classic D&D items, a couple of which are tied to the Known World setting. Don't need to use my Casting & Components stuff to use them!

"Wand of Panic" - When used, this wand causes extreme fear and dread in the target creature. If the target fails a save vs. RSW, it will panic and immediately flee from the wand's user via the most direct route available. After 1d4 rounds, the panic fades a bit, and the creature may once again approach the wand's user, but after a failed save, subsequent saves against the same wand are made at -2.

Non-Intelligent creatures, constructs, mindless undead, and similar monsters are unaffected by the wand, and a Remove Fear spell will instantly nullify the wand's effects, including the penalty to subsequent saves.

"Wand of Paranoia" - Conjuring within the targets mind visions of whatever it is he fears most and leading him to mistake the creature nearest to him as the object of that fear, this wand causes a target who fails a save vs RSW at -2 to immediately attack the nearest creature (PC, NPC or Monster) to him for 1d3 rounds, or until that creature is slain. The DM should determine which creature, enemy, ally or neutral, is closest if miniatures are not used.

A Remove Fear spell grants the affected creature a second save vs RSW, without any penalty, to remove the effect of the wand.

"Wand of Intense Magic" - This wand is used in conjunction with spellcasting, and causes the spell cast to be extra-potent, causing a -2 penalty (or -10% to magic resistance or anti-magic) to any saves against it. At the user's option, two charges may be spent, doubling the potency of the spell to provide -4 to the save (or -20% MR or AM).

"Wand of Reach" - This wand similarly empowers spells cast while it is used, allowing the range of the spell in question to be doubled. Only spells with an actual range are so empowered. Personal, zero-range spells and those requiring the caster to touch the target may not be so enhanced.

---The above two wands were created in part to satisfy players with a background in 3rd edition/d20 and later editions and variants of D&D who are fond of 'meta magic' feats which allow tinkering with the ranges and other variables of spells by the caster. Given the limited charges of most wands, and the fact I have intentionally left out a wand that flat out increases the damage caused by a spell, I don't think they unbalance the game too much, and let the magic users have a little fun for once---

"War Wand" - Created by human magic users for use when their daily spells were used up, these wands grant one of the following boons, chosen at the time of activation, to the user for 1 + user's level rounds:

+1 to all to-hit rolls
+1 to Armor Class
+1 to all damage rolls

Only one boon may be active at any time.

"Eirak's Frost Wand" (Unique item, major wand) - Eirak the white was a self styled 'frost mage' from Noslo island, in Ostland. Adept at blending into the snowy terrain during winter raids with his band of brigands, Eirak lamented being easily seen when tromping through dungeons or out on rare spring and summer expeditions. After years or research and trial and error, he created the wand that bears his name, to hinder those who would see the face of their foe.

Eirak's wand creates a 20 foot diameter cloud of wet, icy mist anywhere within 100 feet of its user. Any flame based, non-magical light sources within the cloud are immediately extinguished, and more importantly, any creatures within the mist cloud who rely on infravision to see must make a save vs. RSW or be blinded for 1d6 rounds by the sudden shift in temperature around them.

"Andreja's Coffin Spike" (Unique item, minor wand) - The young magic user known only as Andreja is a newcomer to Specularum, having fled the terror filled rumors of Vandevicsny village. Having seen her family killed by the restless dead that stalk that sleepy town, Andreja now lives and studies magecraft in the city, hoping to gain the knowledge and power to rid her home of its undead scourge. Sadly though, her prized possession, a self made wand she calls Coffin Spike, has been stolen!

If the PCs are in Specularum, they may be approached by Andreja, seeking help in recovering her wand from the thieves who robbed her of it, otherwise they might come across the wand in any usual fashion as the spoils of conflict in their adventures.

Andreja's wand is aptly named, having been crafted from an ash stake once used to destroy a vampire near Vandevicsny. The wand must be activated by touching the undead target, requiring a to-hit roll against the target creature (though AC is calculated at 10 - magic and dex bonuses, if any. Armor is ignored for this 'attack'.) A successful hit deals the creature 1d8 points of damage per hit, using one charge. A failed attack roll means no charges are spent.

"Wand of Introspection" - These wands are rumored to have been created by the mischevious but kind hearted pixie folk of the Alfheim woodlands. The fact they tend to be only 6 or 7 inches long gives credence to that rumor (though that size would still make them a staff to a pixie who wielded one). While causing no direct harm to a creature, and designed merely to incapacitate a foe long enough for the fey folk to escape, the lingering effect of the wand's magic could put a target creature in temporary grave danger.

The target of this wand must succeed at a save vs. RSW or be overcome by feelings of peace and introspection, causing her to simply stand (or sit, or lay, if already doing so), smile and ponder how great and wonderful life on Mystara is. The victim becomes oblivious to everything around her except for actual damage to her person, which immediately ends the magic's effects. While in the trance, though, she suffers a -2 penalty to all saves, loses any dexterity bonus to AC, automatically fails any ability check and is incapable of any actions up to and including combat. The trance ends after 1d10 rounds, or upon physical HP damage to the victim.

"Wand of Procrastination"
- The target of this wand's magic suddenly becomes lethargic and unmotivated unless a save vs RSW is made. If the save is failed, the target automatically waits till the last possible moment to take any actions, causing him to automatically go last in initiative order for 1d6 rounds after which the magic fades.