In Springfield USA
sometime in the 1980’s
terror lurks in the mall…
Unknown to the shoppers at Springfield Mall, a reality-jumping alien ship has arrived, invisible and untouchable, in one of the closed stores. By day, everything appears normal. By night, strange beings prowl the dark shops stealing and causing mischief. But something far worse awaits the people of Springfield on Black Friday. Terror beyond imagining lurks within the ship, preparing a campaign of mind-bending domination. (more…)
Posted in 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons, Location, rules agnostic and tagged Class of 198X, ClassOf198X by Adam A. Thompson with no comments yet.
In a distant age, at the edge of the galaxy, on a planet named Voek ( UWP: D525A76-6), industrial facilities in the wasteland churn out power generators, spaceship parts, and other machinery for the Grand Imperial Duchy of Abiodun.
Overview – Gamma Complex* is a city-sized science-fiction role-playing setting where a monopolistic corporation, criminal syndicate, royal family, communist dictatorship, or other totalitarian group controls every aspect of life for the residents of the technocratic, massive, hyper-efficient habitable Complex. In the below case it is presented as part of the Skein Reach setting.
Posted in Campaign Setting, Location, Lore / Worldbuilding, Region, rules agnostic, Science-Fiction, Traveller and tagged Class of 198X, ClassOf198X, Paranoia, Skein Reach by Adam A. Thompson with no comments yet.
Upon the black sand shores of far north-eastern Findor, a few miles up the road from an isolated fishing village, there is a three-story monastery of basalt stones. Beside it is a shrine to no named god, built beneath the shelter of the upturned prow of a wrecked sailing ship. The monks there will tell visitors that the monastery was founded by a sailor who washed ashore after a great storm, and who took shelter and a vow of silence beneath the wreckage of the ship. He built gardens and started building the monastery tower, and others joined him there in a peaceful life of contemplation of the dark ocean and the cold wind.
Now the monastery is well established, with a well, two fishing boats, an apiary and meadery, numerous chickens, and flocks of sheep and goats. Three monks oversee things, Brother Trausti, a mute human who teaches unarmed combat* and stonework, Brother Fardinb, a friendly half-elf who oversees the work of the younger monks on the monastery’s farms, and Sister Gretta, a studious hill gnome who oversees the library that takes up the top floor of the monastery tower.
Unknown to all of the residents the monastery has a magical connection to the astral plane. The sailor who founded the monastery had a vision of the Sea of Stars when he was dying of drowning, and meditated on it until he discovered how to travel there in his mind. His frequent psychic travels formed a weak connection between the training room that makes up the first floor of the monastery and the astral plane, and as a result planar travel and communication with the outer realms is slightly easier in the first floor of the monastery.
Through his meditation, and his time carving the stone of the training room, Trausti has begun to receive visions from the deep astral, as have the rest of the monks in the monastery. These visions, like those received by others scattered around the world, relate to the impending apocalypse of the Summer Frost, and are the result of White Eye’s secret spell to locate the pieces of the long lost Ring of Runes. With it in his grasp and reforged, White Eye intends to use its world-altering power to encase the world in eternal ice.
*Because one player wanted to play a monk in my Monday D&D game, I came up with this place on the fly during Session Zero. It turned out to be a great place to tie the plot threads into since we decided the warlock PC would also come from the same place. Good brainstorming in Session Zero really bore some great fruit, in terms of plot.
Posted in Location, Lore / Worldbuilding by Adam A. Thompson with no comments yet.
I came up with this dungeon when my players wandered into hex C2-20 in the classic Dungeons & Dragons adventure Descent Into the Depths of the Earth, a great old adventure which encourages DMs to fill inthe blank encounter areas with dungeons of one’s own design.
One of the players was playing a Warlock with the Far Ones pact, and I wanted to introduce a re-occurring Mind Flayer antagonist who would be a contact for the Warlock for their pact. The result was a nasty little dungeon filled with traps and horrors. When the Mind Flayer within contacted the warlock telepathically to offer magical secrets the Player Characters followed them right in.
The evil architects of this stronghold forced their slaves to build it as a spiraling trap, with a raised, hidden central area from which they could use their psychic powers on hapless intruders. As their prey make their way through the outer areas, encountering the mind-controlled slaves who dwell there, the Mind Flayers will lurk, peering through hidden peep-holes to use mind blasts and charm powers on their victims. If discovered, the Mind Flayers will retreat up 20 foot vertical shafts to the central passages and behind further secret doors.
Posted in 1st edition D&D, 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons, Adventure, Fantasy, Location, Lore / Worldbuilding, rules agnostic, Trap and tagged Descent into the Depths of the Earth by Adam A. Thompson with no comments yet.
After 12 years and 799 articles detailing new magic items, monsters, spells, characters, encounters, locations, and adventures, Unicorn Rampant Publishing and Claw Claw Bite Magazine are thrilled to present you with this free adventure for Dungeons & Dragons or other fantasy role-playing games.
Thanks for coming with us on this amazing journey of the imagination, and look for this and so much more in the next issue of Claw Claw Bite!
In the land of Findor, where the Hadevar River meets the Soral Sea, the gray city of Grimsport broods. Dark stone buildings with slate roofs cluster around the main square, a short walk up the cobblestone road from the docks. There are found the homes of the ruling Captains’ families. Stone walls separate the inner city from the wooden homes of the tradespeople and serfs. Farms dot the banks of the river further inland.
It is from this city that the region gets it’s moniker “The Pirate Kingdoms.” Grimsport is the largest city in the region and the closest thing to a capital, and the primary source of the raiders that plague the Soral Sea. But in Findor no one rules an area larger than a stronghold or city, save the goblins of the northern wastes.
The Town of Grimsport
The boat-owning worthies who make their homes in the city center form the Captains’ Council, the closest thing to a government in this violent port town. They own most of the farmland and assign it to serfs. They serve as the bankers and trade in many goods. Some families have small fleets. Others have but one ship to their names.
The most important Capitans’ families are as follows:
- VonWaldemar – The wealthiest and oldest of the families, with the largest home on the central square. Said to be the descendants of some of the first humans to come to this wild, cold land many generations ago. Old man VonWlademar hasn’t been seen in public in years, and people sometimes whisper about pale, ghostly figures peering out of the heavily curtained mansion windows at night.
- Thyra Askrdottir – Daughter of Askr Vulfethson, Thyra’s exploits as captain of her father’s ship have earned her a reputation as a skilled and ruthless pirate.
- Addis Rígson – Addis owns two ships, which are captained by his two eldest sons Victor and Ricus. His youngest son Sigurd wanders the land seeking his fortune and could be a NPC or hierling met here or elsewhere.
- Soljev – Captain Soljev sails the Drunken Siren.
- Ragnhild – Captain of the Kraken’s Maw and the Burning Spear.
- Kromulf – The new captain of the Black Hydra, an infamous pirate ship that Kromulf wrested from its previous captain.
- Gunnar Smithson – Owns a small fleet of fishing vessels, sailed by his extended family, and the ship Silver Wave.
- Malte One-Hand – An old captain, now mostly retired due to his ship being in poor repair.
- Gull Erland – His ship is in drydock for repairs which he cannot afford.
- Eberhard the Bloody – Has one small ship and a reputation as a unpredictable and violent man.
- Bjarke Littlebear – Sails a large fishing boat with his five sons.
- The Wailing Wench – This rowdy tavern sits on the road between the main square and the docks, and is always full of sailors. Thieving, fighting, kidnapping and every other type of crime are regular occurrences here. A fenced pen and stables are attached to the back for travelers animals.
- Church of the Sky Father and Sea Mother – attended by a priest and priestess, with smaller shrines to other local dieties such as Krom, etc.
- Smithy – Worked by a smith and a team of apprentices and journeymen, with a good assortment of tools, weapons, and armor, used or ready-made.
- Shipwright – Currently building a 20 foot wooden currach.
- Hanging Tree & Godswood
- Ruined Watchtower – built long ago by the Captain’s council, no repairs have ever been made to the watchtower. Over the decades it has fallen into ruin, and the whole north wall of the two-story tower has collapsed. None know about the small cache of treasure buried there.
Adventures and Encounters in Grimsport
- Thieves in the Swamps – A band of thieves operates out of the swamps to the west. They secretly use Malte One-Hand’s ship as storage for their stolen goods.
- Pressed into Service – Press gangs round up drunks and force them to crew the captains’ ships. While the Player Characters are crewing the ship any sort of mishap or adventure could befall them. The ship could sink in bad weather, throwing the heroes upon some unknown shore. Perhaps they are forced to scout a fortress the Captain wishes to raid, or perhaps the PCs are forced to be the first wave of the attack. The Lilend at the Stormking Rocks might lure them to her isle and send them after the Rune of Life in the shadowlands at the edge of the Land of the Dead.
- Pickpockets and Muggers – The rough rogues of Grimsport will take any opportunity to enrich themselves if they see people not paying attention to their purses, or who they think are weak enough to rob (preferably one character who they follow until they outnumber their victim).
- Dueling in the Streets – Disputes in Grimsport are often settled personally, and duels are a common form of conflict resolution, weather to first blood or to the death. In such a place the Player Characters could easily become embroiled in a dangerous situation. Mistaken identity, false accusations, or just disrespecting someone or being in the wrong place at the wrong time could result in a duel.
- Escaped Slaves – Some slaves captured in a raid have escaped and a reward is offered for their return.
- Beggars – Old crippled fisherman and seamen beg for alms in the square and by the docks.
- Grave Robbers – Graves dug on the hill behind the church are always found empty a week or so after burying. No one in town really seems to care, as this has been going on for as long as anyone can remember. Under cover of night, the ghouls who crew the VonWaldemar’s ships and attend them in their mansion are digging up the graves to feast upon the rotten bodies. Investigation after the next burial (a common occurrence) will lead the Player Characters to the basement door of the VonWaldemar mansion.
- Land Dispute – One of the Captains wants some land currently owned by another Captain and the Player Characters are asked to undertake some skulduggery. Burn the crops, poison the well, kill the farmers, or whatever is needed to get the current tenants off and new tenants on.
- Missing Servant Girls – Player characters who spend much time in town will hear that servant girls sometimes go missing. Investigation leads to the ghouls in the basement of the Von Waldemar mansion (see map).
VonWaldemar Mansion Areas
- The stone exterior, high windows, and peaked slate roofs of this mansion site like a dark and gothic castle on the town square. A fence surrounds the front and sides of the windowless bottom floor, and a stair in the back leads down to the basement entrance. The front door will not be answered unless it is being battered down, and then by ghoul butlers and Matrok, an armored wight who will demand to know what business interrupts the VonWaldemar’s rest.
- The ground floor has several mostly-empty halls, a decorative armory, and a small library of dusty common books. An undead shadow, the restless spirit of one of the long-dead Von Waldemars, haunts these halls and will warn Gunnar of any intruders.
- The basements are overseen by a ghoul named Harod and a flesh golem doorman named Pip. Peasant servants prepare food while ghoul footmen serve the vampires upstairs. The locked vault contains a large amount of plateware, iron ingots, and other loot pillaged from around the Soral Sea, along with several chests of gold, silver and copper coins, and two empty caskets where the vampires will flee if defeated.
- The sub-basement holds cells, a half-flooded chamber where corpses float in briny water, and their horrible feeding area. VonWaldemar, the vampire master of the house, is sometimes found here feeding with the ghouls among the cracked bones of countless people. A secret passage leads to a small, rough-hewn passage which leads to the town well, and is guarded by a gargoyle.
- The VonWaldemar family quarters are upstairs, as are the quarters of their wight guards and ghoul servants. Gunnar VonWaldemar and his daughter Helde are centuries-old vampires, and the only remaining members of the family. They are attended by several ghoul servants. Their quarters contain much finery, and any victims that they are feeding from. The windows in the vampires’ quarters have the shutters nailed closed and reinforced so that no sunlight can enter. Gunnar is a 7th level wizard, and his chambers contain his spellbook, many magic scrolls, and correspondence with someone who signs with a unique snowflake-like rune (the evil lich White Eye), and who has asked Gunnar to use an enclosed scroll of glacial onslaught to draw the oncoming unnatural summer ice south, down the river. If necessary, the VonWaldemar vampires will become bats or rats and use the ratholes, which crisscross the entire mansion with a network of rat-tunnels, to escape.
VonWaldemar Mansion Sub-Basement
Background image by Nikolai Rerikh, Guests from Overseas, 1901, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow (public domain)
Posted in 1st edition D&D, 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons / d20 fantasy / Pathfinder, 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons, 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons, Adventure, Fantasy, Location, rules agnostic and tagged Soralia by Adam A. Thompson with no comments yet.
In the Chillgrove Woods north of Allenwood a settlement of wild wood elves hides, well secured within a vast mountain grove. Their hunters deter the ice kobolds from the north and the humans from the south from encroaching on their territory, and any who could sneak past them face an enchantment that protects the settlement.
For where the mountain stream becomes a river, the water splits and forms an island, where their dwellings nestle among the towering trees. The water around this island is enchanted such that only elves may cross to the island. Any other who tries will find themselves crossing all the way to the other side of the split in the river, magically bypassing the island completely. This ward may only be bypassed by use of the password, or the spells knock, dispel magic, etc.
Within, their settlement is a pristine embodiment of wood elf culture in the Pirate Kingdoms. Their fierce hunters protect the territory of the animals they hunt from other hunters. Gatherers and cultivators of informal gardens of edible plants, they feast on the wood’s mushrooms, berries, acorns, honey, rabbit, and deer. Patient makers of fine tools, garments, and art, mainly without the use of metal. Good friends with the druids of the region, and host to a grand old druid.
Their homes are mainly built up in the trees, such that one might not notice them if not for the rope ladders hanging down here and there, and the stairs built up around the largest tree in the center of the island. In that tree lives the town’s eldest druid and their family.
They follow the creed of the wood elves, which is that everyone must be free to do as they wish, as long as they harm none. A handful of humans, half-elves, haflings, gnomes, and other forest fey live here in this peaceful haven. When something of import presents itself to the town, a meeting is called, and the people decide as they will, by consensus or vote. Occasionally they must mobilize themselves against the ice kobolds, goblins, and humans who surround them, but their overwhelming advantage in their home woods has led to a fearsome reputation as “the Death Elves of Chillgrove Woods” among their periodic foes.
Posted in Fantasy, Location, Region, Uncategorized and tagged ProphecyoftheSummerFrost by Adam A. Thompson with no comments yet.
I created this dungeon to use in the caverns of the classic AD&D adventure Descent into the Depths of the Earth, so credit for the inspiration goes to E.G. Gygax.
My players had fallen into an underground river and been washed down to the Sunless Sea. From there they proceeded south to one of the undefined major encounter areas. There they found Dhald’holth, long lost to the dwarves who built it, and now occupied by dark elves, who use it as a fungus and lizard plantation worked by troglodyte slaves.
I expanded upon the area that I ad-libbed at that time to submit to the 2016 One Page Dungeon Contest.
Licensed under the Creative Commons Share-Alike License.
Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Location, rules agnostic by Adam A. Thompson with no comments yet.
Highly adaptive, fast-evolving, scavenging insectiods, the Mantid are an alien species spread through the Skein Reach. Terrans describe them as looking like a cross between a praying mantis, a wasp, or a humanoid ant.
Individuals and colonies vary considerably as the Mantid’s genomes will adapt newly laid members to their environment within a few generations. Thus it is common so see a population of Mantid that are adapted to a tiny abandoned space station, or a world with an otherwise toxic atmosphere. Their carapace can be of any color based on available minerals and their place in Mantid society. For example, warriors will often have dark stripes or patterns contrasting with grays or earth tones. The statistics presented below represent typical examples of those who are adapted to living on starships or space habitats.
The Mantid are extremely social creatures and demonstrate high degrees of cooperation and devotion to their colony. Though their language is not well understood, xenobiologists postulate that they communicate both with a spoken symbolic language and through pheromones. These chemical communications seem to generate simultaneous emotional responses through a colony – if one is attacked the fight-or-flight response rapidly spreads to all Mantids in a group. Most other sentient creatures find the Mantid’s pheromones unpleasant and describe their habitats as “smelly” or “stinky”. (more…)
Posted in Creature, Location, Race, Region, Traveller and tagged Mantid by Adam A. Thompson with no comments yet.
Once again we return to the adventure The Ruins of Old Soguer, being posted piece-by-piece here on Tailslap. Today’s post details the first two floors of the Mage’s Guild Tower in the central portion of the ruins. There, a figure from the past languishes under a mysterious curse.
Previous sections of the adventure can be found here:
The Ruins of Soguer – Introduction
The Ruins of Soguer – Start of the Adventure in Aguies Town & Castle
The Ruins of Soguer – River Journey to the Ruins
The Ruins of Soguer – The Western Ruins
The Ruins of Soguer – the Central Ruins
The Ruins of Soguer – The Mages’s Guild Tower, Part 1
I – Haunted Mirror – here a cursed magic mirror shows the night of Soguer’s destruction and serves as a conduit to the Shadowfell.
Stepping into the thick fog at the top of the stairs you see the corpse of a long-dead man in worn leather armor. Patches of fog fill the room and partially conceal the tables and chairs scattered about. Corpses of men in ragged leather armor and light hand weapons surround a stand-up mirror near the center of the hall.
A DC 10 Arcana check reveals that the mirror is magic. DC 16 Arcana reveals that is is useful for scrying, DC 21 Arcana to know that it is somehow broken. A DC 25 Arcana check reveals that the barrier between the worlds is thin in the city, and that the mirror is stuck showing scenes from the land of the dead – the Shadowfell.
Looking at the mirror causes it to show scenes of the twilit city as it once was – bustling with people and commerce – with the regal king in gleaming mail astride a green dragon outside a magnificent palace. Then, the scene turns to night. Some type of calamity seems to grip the city. Some people shuffle down the street with blank looks, transfixed by some type of ominous droning, while others scream and flee in the opposite direction. Then shadowy figures are drawn to the scene, approach the mirror’s view, and come out of the mirror into the hall.
Encounter (level 12 +, xp 2400 / 3000 / 3600)- Wraiths from the Shadowfell come through the mirror and attack the players. A DC 28 Arcana check is required to control the mirror enough to stop the additional wraiths from coming through, or a DC 25 Strength check to break it will stop the tide of wraiths. Otherwise another wraith comes through the mirror every other round.
2 x oblivion wraiths (level 14 brute – xp 1000)
1, 2, or 4 vortex wraiths (level 9 soldier – xp 400 each) + one additional vortex wraith every other round.
Treasure – the dead adventurers carry shoddy armor and weapons, and 500 gold worth of scavenged jewelry, flatware, and other art objects.
J – Dead Journeyman’s Apartment – Here a dead journeyman, Malaki guards his chambers and his spellbook.
These chambers feature two small apartments, each with a disheveled bed, and a chair and small table broken and knocked to the ground. Debris litter the floor, including a large illuminated tome lying open on the floor, its pages open to reveal some type of arcane diagram. Standing above the book is a ghostly apparition of a young mage wearing robes and wielding a runed dagger and a wand of oak.
Encounter – xp 1200
1 x watchful ghost (with magic ritual dagger instead of sword and spectral wand instead of crossbow) – (Open Grave)
Treasure (parcel 8) – The ghost’s ritual book contains the following rituals: Water Walk, Phantom Steed, Silence, Shadow Walk, Wizard’s Sight, Water Breathing, Arcane Barrier, Detect Treasure and Shrink.
K – Crumbling Masonry – An open pit that falls through to area A.
Level 10 Warder – xp 500
The bottom ten feet of these stairs have collapsed, leaving a large hole that plunges down to the floor of the main hall twenty feet below.
Hazard – Careful climbing or a great leap are needed to ascend these stairs. Failure results in a painful fall.
DC 21 perception or dungeonering check to notice the cracked stonework at the edges of the pit.
Trigger – If anyone comes within 5′ of the edge of the pit.
Attack – immediate interrupt
Target – the first creature coming within 5′ of the stairs
+13 vs Reflex
Hit – 2d10 falling damage and secondary attack from falling stones
-Secondary Attack – +13 vs Fortitude, 1d10+5 damage
-Effect – the floor at the edge of the pit crumbles, widening the pit that looks down into the Main Hall (area A).
– DC 16 Acrobatics check to to gingerly stand at the edge of the pit without the masonry opening up further (player is attacked as above on failure).
– DC 21 Athletics or Acrobatics check to cross the pit (player falls for 2d10 damage on failure).
Master’s Chambers – these rooms contain only fine furniture in various states of decay, except one chamber.
R – Alidol’s chamber
This chamber’s walls and ruined furniture bear are cracked, scorched, and twisted. Above the door a curse still burns on the wall in letters of cold black magical flame – it reads “Alidol – you are cursed to languish here, un-helped within your tower until you have died here.”
Master’s Workshops – The landing at the top of the stairs leading up to this floor features doors carved with stars and constellations over tall mountain peaks.
L – Master’s Workshops – these chambers contain tables and a few pieces of discarded alchemical equipment but are otherwise empty.
M – Alidol’s Private Laboratory – The door is arcane locked and requires a DC 21 Strength or Thievery check to open it. The laboratory is currently occupied by a mute, mad naked old man who is an incomplete simulacrum that looks just like Alidol, and a shield guardian that guards the clone.
Overturned tables and broken alchemical equipment litter this chamber. A stone door leading to a side chamber on the north wall lies broken on the ground. A large humanoid made or stone, wood and metal stands still near the southwest corner for the room, and in the middle of the chamber stands a naked old man with a long beard that hangs to his knees and a mad gleam in his eyes. Catching sight of you, he screams wordlessly and lunges at your throat!
A DC 16 Arcana check identifies the old man as some type of magical copy of Alidol. DC 21 Arcana reveals that it is a simulacrum – a copy made of snow – that is incomplete and therefore not controlled by its creator.
Encounter – level 12 – xp 2800
Uncontrolled simulacrum (use flesh golem stats) – xp 1400
shield guardian – xp 1400
N – Warded Treasury – The secret door to this area is DC 21 Perception check to find, unless they specifically search that wall, in such chase it is a DC 16 Perception check. Within is a magic staff and a tome guarded by two deadly traps.
Opening the secret door reveals a small vault, with a table at the west end. Upon the table are a steel staff tipped with a pointed mason’s plumb and a brass-bound tome.
Traps – spectral tendrils – level 13 trap – xp 800 – (DMG p.91) will attack any entering the treasury, and a kinetic wave (level 19 trap – xp 2400) which wards the staff’s display table and will also attack any who approach the table.
Treasure – PARCEL #1 – Architect’s Staff +3 (level 15, Arcane Power), Summoner’s Tome +1 (level 5, Arcane Power) – contains the Summon Fire Warrior (Arcane Power) and Summon Shadow Serpent (Arcane Power) powers.
O – Simulacrum Creation Chamber
The stone door to this chamber lies broken on the floor outside in the laboratory. Within a large metal coffin covered with runes lies empty, and various labeled vials and boxes of reagents stand on some shelves and a table.
A DC 16 Arcana check reveals that this coffin is the focus for a ritual used to make magical copies of oneself.
Treasure – PARCEL #9 – 1,000 gp worth of arcanum and 2 emeralds worth 500 gold each.
P – Master’s Hall
A large stone table is set in the middle of this solemn hall, surrounded by four stately chairs and flanked by stout pillars. Surrounding the table is an engraved magic circle.
A DC 10 Arcana check reveals that the circle is some type of runes of protection or privacy, and a DC 16 Arcana check determines that the circle is inactive.
Q – Roof
From the wide, flat platform that is the top of the mage’s guild tower there is a magnificent view of the ruins of the city – the river, the trees, the ruined buildings, the walls and gates, and towards the sea, another stone tower. Near the south edge of the roof there are faintly glowing arcane runes in several overlapping circles.
A DC 21 Arcana check reveals that these hastily summoned but very powerful runes ward the tower and permanently protect it from intrusion by demons.
Posted in Adventure, Location and tagged The Ruins of Soguer by Adam A. Thompson with no comments yet.