Musical Inspiration, vol. 14 - Nile

This week's musical inspiration comes courtesy of Greenville, South Carolina's Nile, technical death outfit heavily inspired by Ancient Egyptian and Near Easter culture, art, and religon/mysticism.Their use of traditional Egyptian instrumentation and in their songs have helped produce a symphonic, almost cinematic sound that appeals widely in the metal world.

To paraphrase vocalist Karl Sanders, "Sarcophagus" is a continuation of the Nephren-ka saga (an ongoing story in their music, heavily inspired by H.P. Lovecraft), and portrays what happens when the antagonist is awoken from his years of slumber in his ancient tomb. The latter half of the lyrics show the ancient Nephren-ka, having just vanquished his tomb's interlopers, reflecting on the torment and anguish of the atrocities that led to his eternal entombment. Pretty heavy stuff, and great fodder for a game of tomb robbing, or as motivation for a player in a Mummy: The Curse or Mummy: The Resurrection game.

I, however, prefer to let the song speak for itself.

Nile - "Sarcophagus"

Who Dares Disturb
My Blissful Sleep
Again in Anger
Must I Rise
How Long Unknown
I Lay Emtombed

My World
So Long Forgotten
Did Disown Me
I was Scorned

The Suffering They did Inflict

Stained With Cosmic Black Sins
The Sun No Longer Sets Me Free

*As always, I don't own this, blah blah blah.

A Guardian Under the Yellow Sun

In this second of a series dedicated to NPCs available for different games, I offer up a superhero born of hero-worship and delusion. This is a hero like another, purposefully shaping himself toward being just like someone else, with varying reasons and means dependent on the game system you want to use them in.

I present to you... Sentinel

The following Aberrant character was created using the standard rules from the Core Rulebook, but could probably make a closer approximation of the character desired if drawn from more sources. Also, it's noted in the description that Trevon is close to the edge of Taint, but has no starting Permanent or Temporary Taint, as this should be up to the Storyteller.

Trevon "Sentinel" Parker
Trevon Parker was a simple young man. Moderate at all pursuits, not excelling in anything or having much motivation beyond cruising along at whatever speed life took him at, but not a trouble-maker, just a normal guy.

This all changed in 1998. Shortly after the Galatea incident, Trevon was on the roof of his apartment building reading a Superman comic when he heard what sounded like a woman crying. Turning around, the young man witnessed a horrific sight - the sobbing woman, holding a baby, took a step off the roof.

Trevon erupted.

Before he knew it, he had the woman nestled in his arms and was touching down on the street below, to cheers of onlookers. The young man soaked it up. Superman had recently become a motivational tool for Trevon and now he was Superman! A black Superman, at least, calling himself "Sentinel" (the first 'S' word he thought of when asked who he was), he was quickly taken in by Project Utopia in their first recruiting drives. The young man picked up on how to control his quantum energies fast, and through practice, force of will, and knowledge gained by the classes Utopia provided in quantum physics, he began to shape his powers to emulate his hero.

After commissioning a costume that resembles Superman's, Trevon left Utopia with the hopes of starting his own team, but is having a hard time finding more novas that share characteristics of the Justice League, because Trevon is actually starting to think he is Superman, even going so far as recently trying to get a journalism job at a major metropolitan newspaper. The constant practices with his powers and pushing himself will soon form taint, and he's already well on his way to suffering a delusion derangement, which may only be strengthened with the corruption of his M-R Node.

Image: Trevon certainly strikes an imposing image since his eruption. His muscles have become more pronounced and the young man seems to have an almost perfect athletic build, the likes of which the Greeks depicted in their statuary. Despite this, Trevon's features are rather plain, his height at a little over two meters being his most notable feature when people don't recognize him as Supe....err...Sentinel.

Gear: Red, blue, and yellow costume.
 Nature: Survivor (The strongest manifestation of his growing delusions, as he thinks he survived the destruction of an alien planet)
Allegiance: His not-yet-formed Justice League
Attributes: Strength 5, Dexterity 3, Stamina 5, Perception 4, Intelligence 2, Wits 2, Appearance 2, Manipulation 1, Charisma 3
Abilities: Academics 1, Arts 1, Athletics 2, Awareness 2, Brawl 5, Computer 2, Endurance 5, Etiquette 1, Interrogation 1, Investigation 2, Might 5, Rapport 2, Resistance 5, Streetwise 2, Survival 1
Backgrounds: Cipher 2, Eufiber 1, Node 2, Resources 2
Quantum 2, Quantum Pool 24, Willpower 6
Powers: Mega-Strength 2 (Lifter), Mega-Dexterity 1 (Enhanced Movement), Mega-Stamina 2 (Hardbody), Flight 1, Quantum Bolt 1 (Frost Breath), Quantum Bolt 1 (Heat Ray)

This Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game rendition of Sentinel was also created using the standard character creation rules for an inexperienced hero in the game, and as a result has wildly varying stats from what one might expect due to the randomness of the card draws, card placement, and limits based on "inexperienced".

Trevon "Sentinel" Parker
Strength: 9C (9 str)
Intellect: 6D (6 wil)
Agility: 5D (5 str)
Willpower: 3X (3 doom)
Edge: 1
Hand Size: 3
Calling: Responsibility of Power
Hindrances: Addicted (Serum must be consumed daily or all abilities drop to 0), Mental Disability (Delusional - If another hero gets more glory or is the one to succeed in a scene, Willpower drops to 0 until he "redeems" himself), Obsessive (Sentry - must act in manner consistent with or rush to meet if Sentry is present or all abilities drop to 0)
Personality: Desperate, dependant, guilt-ridden, duty-bound
History: Trevon Parker was a mutant, once. His powers were miniscule, only an ability to make subtle shifts in the ambient light levels of his surroundings, and small flashes of light akin to the striking of a lighter or match. "The Boy Dazzler", as some of his friends call him, however, did not take well to the thought of being different or the seeming ridicule over his powers and turned to help through the only place he knew to look, Dr. Henry McCoy, leading mutant biologist.
Dr. McCoy found in Trevon a kindred spirit, reminding him of himself in his youth, and in due course let slip that he, himself, had created a serum that he hoped would cure his own mutant condition. Though meant as a cautionary tale, Trevon latched onto this nugget of information and began researching his own such serum, a chance to be normal again.
Then, the Sentry burst onto the scene. Trevon became obsessively jealous of this man's manipulation of light and great heroics, and redoubled his efforts to cure himself. Through research into Sentry, and coupled with his own findings and the Beast's notes, Trevon finally finished his serum, an oddly glowing mixture he was certain would reverse his genetic malady.
If only the young man had left the Sentry serum research out, he may have succeeded. Instead, the serum intensified Trevon's light control powers and gave him an enhanced suite of abilities. Now, Trevon's wishes to be normal are vastly intensified, but at the same time he feels like he should use his abilities for good while he has them, to show those back home that he is more than Kid Dazzler, or whatever.
Trevon's powers are permanent, but his need to succeed in curing himself pushes him to tweak his serum recipe daily and try its effects. So far this has caused no change to his abilities. In addition to his obesssion to cure himself, Trevon has become obsessed with the idea of being like Sentry and needing Sentry's guidance since he has gained a similar suite of powers, and maybe heaping a little bit of blame on the hero. He desires to live up to the ideals of Sentry so much that if he is not the first to succeed, he loses hope in most situations.
Skills: Strength - Brawling, Sonic Slam; Agility - Flinging; Intellect - Biochemistry
Powers: Energy Blast 7, Flight 8, Invulnerability 10 (Kinetics), Light Control 7 ( 7 Int)(Fireworks)


Reliquary: The Black Satchel and Diente de Jaguar

The Black Satchel

This tattered bag shows years of wear from use and travel, but its quality is unquestionable. Made of sturdy walrus leather with steel rivets and clasp, this must have once belonged to someone with a very successful practice or was a fine gift for a new doctor from a benefactor.

The battered look of this satchel, however, belies the great good that any wielder of this item can bestow by offering many boons in the form of mystical cures the owner can use to rid their patients of anything from minor scrapes and bruises to AIDs.

This help comes from the imprinting of many long years of successful healing the original owner had in their practice, but is tainted by unspeakable acts performed on or by the owner in their last days. Due to this taint, the black satchel asks a steep price for its use.

No black satchel can be created on purpose. Each is imprinted with the spiritual and emotional gravity of the situations of their use and gain their enchantments through unknown means, originally being nothing more than a normal doctors bag.


Pathfinder: This artifact, for it indeed carries such power, at first seems nothing more than a normal doctors bag which refills stock of bandages, medicines, and unguents. In addition to constant replenishment, the owner of the bag, when using the mundane items from it, gets a +5 to any Heal checks performed.

This, however, is just a minor effect compared to the awesome healing powers the owner of the black satchel can perform. Each time the character attempts to use their Heal skill, the bag offers a helpful empathic nudge for the character to use its greater abilities.

The bag allows the use of the following spells: 1/day - Cure Light Wounds, Cure Moderate Wounds, Cure Serious Wounds, Cure Critical Wounds
1/week - Heal, Neutralize Poison, Remove Blindness/Deafness, Remove Disease, Regeneration, Restoration
1/month - Resurrection (within an hour of the subject's death)

The price the bag exacts, however, makes using it less attractive as the owner realizes that the balance of life given is life taken. On the night of any use of spells by the bag's owner, they must make a Will DC 35 save or be possessed by the bag until they take the life of a sentient creature and spend at least an hour dissecting their kill, though the owner of the bag will only have hazy recollections of even meeting the victim, even under magical scrutiny - effectively making their save for any divinatory magic used in a subsequent investigation. The bag will never require the owner to kill any patient previously saved, but all others are free game. In addition, if any such save is failed, the bag cannot knowingly be discarded or destroyed. The character might remember getting rid of the thing, only to have it among their gear the next morning.

The satchel seems to want to help. Each time the owner approaches someone in need of medical attention, the bag is suddenly in his hand and sends the empathic nudge to use one of the bag's magical powers and imprints the effects it can create on the mind of the owner. The first time it does this, it only takes a Will DC 5 saving throw to overcome the suggestion, with the DC increasing by 1 with each failed save. It can take many a year for the owner of this item to realize its cost, but once they do, the owner is almost compelled to use the satchel so that it can sate its twisted needs.

In Golarion or Eberron, this medical bag once belonged to a doctor who truly dedicated their life to practice. On the day he wished to retire, while riding back home after collecting the final fees of his practice and doing welfare checks of his patients, his apprentice attacked the old man with the intention of stealing his fortunes and medicines, many of which he had become addicted to during his apprenticeship.

The old doctor was left in a ditch to die, the bag he used to heal so many through the years lie, blood-soaked, just out of reach. When he was found, it was obvious he was reaching for the bag, and he and it were taken away, with the satchel finding its way into the office of the apothecary of the morgue. Once he was arrested for murder, the black satchel disappeared, but it is out there somewhere, causing great relief and grief.

New World of Darkness: The black satchel, for those that know of its existence, is said to have once belonged to Jack the Ripper, himself. Rumors of the killer of Whitechapel being a doctor lend credence to this story and may explain why the good doctor turned to murder in what many also think were the days leading up to the Ripper's own death.

The black satchel has truly extraordinary healing capabilities, allowing the owner an additional die to any Medicine dice pool as well as a replenishing stock of medicines and bandages. The true power of the doctors bag, however lies in its magical restorative abilities, as noted below.
Each day, the black satchel grants 10 boxes worth of bashing healing. Optionally, the owner may spend two boxes worth to heal a single point of lethal damage, or three points to heal a box of aggravated damage. This healing may be split up however the owner deems.
Once per week, the black satchel can be used to fully restore a single person's health track if they are still alive, rid the body of a patient of any toxins or disease, restore any senses dulled or nonfunctioning by natural means or injury - such as blindness or deafness, though the sensory organ must be present, and even regrow limbs or organs, though the patient must have previously had the organ or limb in life for this to work.
Once per month, the owner of the satchel may restore life to any patient that has expired in the last hour, though the body must be mostly intact for this magic to take hold.

The satchel will always appear handy or even in-hand when the character approaches someone in need of medical assistance, and it will send a mental nudge to use one of the mystical powers it has to the owner, instructing him on its use. The owner of the bag gets to roll Resolve+Medicine+Willpower, without the extra Medicine die added from the bag, to resist this urge. With every two failed resistance rolls against the bag, the difficulty goes up by +1. Additionally, any time any of the black satchel's magical healing is used, that night, the bag will attempt to compel the owner to commit a murder and spend time with the body, dissecting it and studying the inner workings. This roll can be resisted, as well, with a Willpower roll at difficulty 6, but few have the mental and emotional fortitude to fight the black satchel's need for blood. This roll can be modified by spent Willpower for a single success or three dice to the roll, or the owner may burn a Willpower dot to automatically succeed, but that only makes it harder to resist future urges.

Diente de Jaguar

Literally "tooth of the jaguar", these daggers are constructed by primitive jungle tribes from strong leg bones of their eponymous sources and have teeth of the large cats magically embedded all along the "blade", making them resemble something akin to a shortened macahuitl, though with teeth instead of obsidian shards..

Although lacking a proper blade, for all purposes the diente de jaguar acts as a normal dagger, slightly enchanted. If a more telling blow is struck, however, the primary enchantment kicks in, inflicting an additional grievous wound that appears on the flesh as a tearing bite wound. When this happens, one of the teeth lining the blade disappears. Diente de jaguar daggers are usually made with twenty teeth and once they all are gone, the weapon loses the additional "bite" damage enchantment, but retains the minor enhancement.

In addition to the dagger version, short sword variations have been seen, as well. These are constructed with thirty teeth along the blade, but otherwise function as the dagger version, presented above. All diente de jaguar are treated as metal weapons for the purposes of break attempts and other rules that take an item's durability into account.


Pathfinder: Both variations of this weapon are +1 weapons. When a critical hit is confirmed on a roll of 19 or 20, in addition to any other effect the critical may have, the weapon deals another 1d8+4 damage, leaving a bite wound on the subject resembling that of a jaguar's.
The diente de jaguar is treated as steel for the purposes of hardness and break DCs.

In Golarion, these daggers are sometimes found in the hands of shamans of the Shoanti peoples, and are regarded as a sign of status. Most diente de jaguar are made from the bones and teeth of firepelt leopards, but the Shoanti have been known to make them from carnivorous lizards and other natural threats.

According to tribal taboos, no shaman may wield such a weapon he did not create on his or her own, but no such restriction applies to the warriors of these tribes.

In Faerûn, these daggers and swords have been found among the tribes of both the Chultans and the Mazticans, especially among both cultures' Jaguar Warrior castes, lending further credence to theories stating that these peoples share a common ancestry.

In Eberron, the drow of Xendrik have been known to employ these daggers in their skirmishes with the explorers of the dark continent. Some of the weapons scavenged from these elves seem to be made of chitin instead of bone, with spurs of barbed stingers embedded instead of teeth. Instead of additional bite damage, this variation injects the poison of a giant scorpion, as below.
Sting - injury; save Fort DC 17; frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect d2 Strength damage; cure 1 save.

New World of Darkness: These weapons usually have a primary enchantment that grants them +1 accuracy. That, however, is the least of anyone attacked with one of these weapons' worries, for if the attacker scores an exceptional success, the weapon deals an additional 3L damage dice and leaves a bite wound resembling that of a jaguar's upon the flesh.

Daggers of this type are likely to be found used by the indigenous people of the jungles of South America, but it wouldn't be out of the question for peoples of Asia or Africa to wield similar weapons made from the bones and teeth of tigers or lions. These might even deal more additional damage, reflecting the immense power of the true great cats, and would be deadly weapons, indeed.


Rise of the Runelords, Session 17 - The Skinsaw Murders

When we resumed, Vic made his way to the door of the Seven's Sawmill and knocked. The door was answered by a man in an odd, jester-like robe and funny mask, who then questioned Vic about his purposes being there, to which the guardsman stated that he was meant to make the drop, and that the "Master" that the man had mentioned in the questioning was dead.

The man led Vic to the work floor of the mill, where a dozen more figures were assembled, all in the odd robes and masks, to a man with a slightly different mask, who also asked Vic a few more questions, then suddenly cast a spell that made the warrior attack himself. At this, the man who had led Vic in ran back up, doffed his robe and mask, then ran out into the street, yelling to the rest of the party that Vic had suddenly began acting funny and that "something was wrong."

This prompted the group to rush to their friend's aid, and they heard a scream for help from Vic as they hit the door. The man that led them in slung his robe and mask on and began to engage the party in the door, but a few made it past to try to get to Vic's side, surrounded as he was by the cultists. Walt took the man trying to bar their way down and Walt and Elspeth mopped up with area spells; Walt calling down the judgment of his god upon those without virtue and the wizard incinerating the group with a fireball, which also killed the seriously wounded Vic.

The leader of the cultists had gone invisible, and tried to take advantage of the group's letting down of their guards after the spells had dropped and they had seen their friend dead, but short work was made of the man.

After this, the group went out and found a patrol of clerics to Abadar who were working as guards and reported what had happened. One of the men, however, had a loose tongue and blurted out that the leader of the cultists was Justice Ironbriar, a prominent city lawmaker with strong ties to the Watch. The sensitivity of the information was impressed upon the party and a "gift" of cooperation was given in the form of spoils as the clerics began to take care of the crime scene.

One of the Abadaran priests had rushed to take Vic to the temple, Rissi and Elspeth in tow, since he was a follower of that faith, for preparations to do what could be done for their fallen comrade. Once there, the group decided to have Raise Dead cast, bringing back their friend at a heavy cost of gold and goods.

Deciding to collect themselves and regroup, the party obtained lodging and got rest, then investigated what information they had to lead them to the heart of the matter, going back to the sawmill and purchasing a raven from the rookery there then turning it loose, with Walt following it in flight to Underbridge, one of the most dangerous districts of Magnimar.

Here, we left off, and our newly-raised fighter has uttered nary a word since his ordeal. What will this mean in the coming days?

Cast of Characters
Walt Thrune, Chelaxian Human Cleric 7 (Merciful Healer) of Sarenrae - Paul
Rissi Scuttle, Ratfolk Alchemist 7 - Angela
Vic Alvaraz, Varisian Human Fighter (Mobile Fighter) 7 - David
Elspeth, Elf Wizard (Evoker) 7 - Tami
Hyrum Vassal, Chelaxian Human Tyrant (LE Antipaladin variant) 4 of Urgathoa/Monk 1 - David (secondary)
Natasha Caine, Chelaxian Human Rogue 5 - Angela (secondary)


Musical Inspiration, vol. 13 - Slash

It's Saturday, and that can sometimes mean that Musical Inspiration crops up, and this week's is a powerful delivery from Guns N' Roses guitarist, Slash, and Wolfmother's Andrew Stockdale.

I chose this song because on Wednesday, I lost a character that echoes a lot of the meaning. Cameron, like the warrior in the song, had lost everything, and was to slowly come around to realizing that all that was lost can be reclaimed. The portrayal of both my character and the subject of By the Sword, neither one were or are very hopeful, but shows that there's always a glimmer.

Enjoy the song. I do.

Slash - "By the Sword"

With the horses that you ride,
And the feelings left inside,
Comes a time you need to leave all that behind,
Well they claim they'd like to know,
And they'll fight you there to go,
And they're gatherin' around for all the show,

Well there is a reward,
To live and die by the sword,
Well they tried to complicate you,
But you left it all behind,
All the worldly possessions,
Are left for recollections,
And finally it's all gone!

They're releasing all the hounds,
What is lost can still be found,
When you're walking with your fear down on the ground,
Well there's those who choose to run
Following the setting sun,
And now it seems the journey's has begun,

Well there is a reward,
To live and die by the sword,
Well they tried to complicate you,
But you left it all behind,
All the worldly possessions,
Are left for recollections,
And finally it's all gone!

With the horses that you ride,
And the feelings left inside,
there's a time you need to leave it all behind,

Well there is no reward,
To live and die by the sword,
Well they tried to complicate you,
But you left it all behind,
All the worldly possessions,
Are left for recollections,
And finally it's all gone!

*As always, I don't own this, blah blah blah.

On a final note, Blogger tells me this is my 300th post! That's kinda neat.

Age of Worms, Session 24

The party complied with the guardsmen's request that we visit their post and be questioned, but Cameron, already in sorts due to being accused of a crime he didn't commit, raised a fuss and was held until he calmed down and his status as a noble and reasonable certainty could be obtained that he was not, indeed, the attacker on Tarquin. The evidentiary lynchpin being a key, found by Tarquin, that none of the party had familiarity with that featured a crest depicting a giant octopus pulling a ship down.

New lodgings were made, a change of address was left with Eligos, and the group sprang into investigation, trying to discern who had it out for them and why. The best leads were found after throwing gold at people who frequent the Crooked House, in hopes that more booze money might loosen tongues. There, we found the name of Cameron's accuser as well as leads on the key, being told that it was the symbol of a trading coster no longer in service, which had several holdings in the River District, warehouses all bearing the same symbol, one of which still stood.

Hiring a guide off the street to lead us to this River District, and the warehouse of interest - a place called Sodden Hold, since that name was painted on the side.

Waiting a short while, looking for anyone exiting or entering, Mullins decided to ask around (which was aided by Cameron failing at intimidate) to see what we could find out about the place. We turned up no leads, and so decided to go in through the door, which had to be forced in. Therein, we found a normal storage room of a warehouse with various doors leading off to the sides. Moving to the first door, however, we found that some of the crates and barrels were mimics, which posed enough of a threat to keep us occupied for quite some time, and though some were caught and at least one party member had fallen unconscious, we fought through to a win against the beasts.

Once everyone was back to fighting shape, we pressed on, finding a dangerous pit trap in front of the first door we checked, and then moving on to search the other chambers, which held nothing of great interest. Katain pressed forward past the pit trap to inspect the chamber beyond, with the others slowly making their ways through by jumping or being pulled through with a rope. The pseudodragon had discovered chests under a flight of stairs which held a few valuables, as well as another door leading off which led to a hall with cells holding several prisoners with a set of double doors at the end.

Informing the prisoners that we would come for them once any danger had been assessed and taken care of, we moved forward through the double doors to find a chamber with the floor fallen out. Water filled with rusted old weaponry sat a little below support struts that once held the floor in place and now seemed to be the only way across the chamber. With a few false starts and an incident with Mullins falling into the pointy water, Cameron started to make his way across the beams by lying down and scooting. This was a poor decision, however, as soon he and the rest of the party were attacked by invisible air creatures that had no problems attacking us, but presented a very tough foe to fight.

Cameron made it to a stable piece of flooring with the healing aid of Able and Katain, but the aid proved futile and both he and Katain were struck down. Mullins disappeared from sight and Dairon saw that being out in the open was a death warrant and retreated into the hall with the cells. Able and Caine both retreated to the doorway to a more defensible fighting position and the four remaining men (well, three men and a gnome) were set to make a final stand when we left off.

Cast of Characters
Cameron val Dane, Human Knight 7 - Me (deceased)
Dairon val Eite, Human Bard 5 - Me (cohort)
Mullins, Gnome Rogue 3/Wizard 3/Mirror Master 1 - Paul
Able Nightengale, Human Healer 7 - David
Caine Smithe, Human Marshal 5 - David (cohort)
Katain, Pseudodragon Warlock 2 - Tami  (deceased)


A is for Golarion!

So, this was supposed to be part of the other Campaign Alphabet post, but I did the most awesome thing and X'd the tab the post was on and lost the whole thing, then posted the entries for Khardtha and Wilderlands separately, and now will present you with two(!) entries for Golarion, Paizo's in-house setting and the backdrop of my Rise of the Runelords campaign.


Aldern Foxglove

A young up-and-coming noble, Aldern Foxglove was on track to becoming an important figure in Varisian politics. Lord Foxglove had forseen the importance of Sandpoint and had made trips to visit, networking among the locals and procuring hands to help restore his familial holdings close to the small coastal town. His charisma and easy attitude, as well as his generosity helped gain him aid in restoring his home as well as helping make friends of a local adventuring band, who were also becoming somewhat important in the area.

Delving into his family's history and his ambitions to bring his goals to fruition brought many boons, like his lovely wife, Iesha, but also brought the attentions of an organization called The Brotherhood of the Seven, as well as the corrupting influence of necromantic energies coursing through Foxglove Manor - the holdings he was hoping to restore as his familial home.

Through unknown events, Aldern was changed. Warped into an undead monster who became obsessed with his former friends, especially Vic Alvaraz, and their demise at his hands to appease "the Master's" will and bring them "into the pack". During the time after his transformation, he claimed many lives and raised around him a small army of undead fiends to help carry out his twisted plans and to sow horror and death in the surrounding area.

The attacks by his brood and the murders Aldern personally committed, however, ultimately brought his friends to his doorstep after having dealt major blows to his ghoul packs roaming the farmlands around Sandpoint. There, in the bowels of the earth, beneath Foxglove Manor, the band put an end to the creature that used to be their ally and ended his reign of slaughter and terror for good.

This was not the final chapter, though, as the party has begun to follow leads to end the masterminds behind Aldern's threat, making Sandpoint safer, and perhaps exacting a little revenge in the fallen noble's name.


Though not much is known by the adventuring band about this woman, they have seen her likeness in ruins below Sandpoint, and know her to have been one of the seven Runelords to have ruled during the times of ancient Thassilon.

Since they have also seen ruined likenesses of the Runelord Karzoug, it has been posited by the local sage, Brodert Quink, that Sandpoint lay very near or directly on the boundary between the territories of Karzoug and Alaznist, and he in fact believes that the Old Light was a weapon tower, not a lighthouse, that the ancient queen may have commanded.


Messenger and Spy

In this first of a series of NPCs that you can fit into your own campaigns, I'm bringing you the second Transformer to make an appearance in the "original" - Generation 1 - cartoon series (after Wheeljack), and that is the series I will be making the characters based on.

Bumblebee acts primarily as Optimus Prime's spy and messenger, using his wit and small size, as well as his nondescript alternate form to find him easy access to those places that his larger commanders cannot go. The drive to please the other Autobots with his performance, and to live up to the standards of bravery and valor that the other members of his faction do, however, often leads to Bumblebee getting in over his head and either captured, harmed, or putting others in jeopardy. In the end, though, the Autobots would suffer greatly without their scout.

Below, I've put together two character write-ups for Bumblebee, one from Wizards of the Coast's d20 Modern, using additional rules found here, and another using Marvel Heroic Roleplay from Margaret Weis Productions.

This d20 Modern version of Bumblebee is made quite simply using the rules presented, and doesn't properly reflect his sensor array, any aerial propulsion that may have been used, or any other ability necessarily shown on the show. Also, though the threat linked above mentions mecha equipment, a mecha-grade plasma pistol would drop Bumblebee in one shot, and so an enlarged normal version is given as equipment.
Also, those with keen d20 Modern knowledge will spot that Bumblebee has one less feat and eight fewer skill points. This is because the system assumes that characters are human, and thus those advantages have been stripped, as Bee is a Cybertronian.

Bumblebee                    CR 5
Autobot Investigative Fast Hero 2/Smart Hero 3
Large construct (living construct, Transformer)

Init +1; Senses low-light vision,  Listen +3, Spot +3
Defense 14 (+4 Def, +1 Dex, -1 Size) touch , flat-footed
hp 24 (2d8+3d6+10)
Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +1; evasion
Immune poison, sleep effects, paralysis, disease, nausea, fatigue, exhaustion, energy drain
Speed 40'
Melee unarmed +5 (d4+5)
Ranged plasma pistol +3 (4d8)Str 16, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 16, Wis 8, Cha 13
Base Atk +2
Feats Simple Weapons Proficiency, Personal Firearms Proficiency, Stealthy, Ride with Me, Gearhead
Skills Computer Use +6, Drive +12, Hide +9, Investigate +9, Knowledge (Earth Culture) +4, Listen +3, Move Silently +9, Repair +6, Research +6, Search +6, Spot +3
Languages Cybertronian, English
SQ  Action Points 7; Talents (Evasion, Savant[Investigate], Trick)
Special Abilities
Transformation: Transformers have an innate ability to transform into some vehicle-based form. This is a purely mechanical transformation, and parts required for its vehicle form are visible in its normal bipedal form.

As a standard action, a Transformer may assume into its chosen form or back again. While transformed, they lose any attacks that require appendages (although they may keep any ranged weapons that are mounted on weapons mounts).

At first level a Transformer chooses a civilian vehicle of the same size category as it’s base form. A Transformer becomes a standard version of the vehicle, but may later add gear (such as mounted weapons.) Whenever a Transformer would gain a new feat due to hit die, it may also change it’s vehicle form, so long as the new vehicle is of the same size category as it’s base form.

While in vehicle form they use all of the stats of the chosen vehicle form with the following exceptions: The Transformer keeps it’s own hit points, class defense bonus to armor class, and treats the listed vehicle’s hardness as Damage Reduction /-. A Transformer also retains any benefit from it’s feats or class talents (such as a fast hero’s increased speed or a tough hero’s damage reduction.)

While in vehicle form the Transformer follows all rules for vehicle movement, maneuvers, and stunts. The Transformer is treated as it’s own driver, but may relinquish (or regain) control to a passenger in the driver’s position as a free action once per round.

Alternate Form
1984 Volkswagen Type 1 "Beetle"
Large economy sedan

Init +0
Defense 13 (+4 Def, -1 Size)
hp 24
DR 5/-
Maneuver +11; Movement 220 (22)
Crew 1; Passengers 4
Cargo 275 lbs.

The following Datafile for Marvel Heroic Roleplay is my first attempt at making a scratch character from the system, so excuse any apparent fumbles.

Team: d8
Buddy: d10
Solo: d6

Some of my best friends are humans.
The least likely can be the most dangerous.
Danger Magnet

Power Set 1: Robot in Disguise
d10 Roll Out  (Shapeshifting)
d8 Burnin' Rubber  (Enhanced Speed)

SFX: Hop in: Replace Burnin' Rubber die with 2d6 or 3d4 on your next roll if you have human passengers.
SFX: That was close!: Spend 1 PP to reduce Physical Stress when using Roll Out. Activate only if More than Meets the Eye Power Set is active.
SFX: Unpredictable Luck: Instead of spending 1 PP, add d6 to the doom pool to create a Robot in Disguise stunt.
Limit: Alternate form. Shut down all More than Meets the Eye powers. Earn 1 PP and add a die to the doom pool equal to any stress suffered.
Limit: Autobot. Earn 1 PP when affected by Cybertronian-specific Milestones and tech.

Power Set 2: More than Meets the Eye
d8 Cybertronian Steel (Durability)  
d6 Plasma Cannon (Attack Powers - Weapons)
d10 Sensor Array (Senses)
d8 It's Good to Stretch My Legs (Shapeshifting)
d6 Strength
SFX: Versatile. Replace Sensor Array die with 2d8 or 3d6 on your next roll.
SFX: Rash Decisions: Step up or double any More than Meets the Eye die in a single scene. Create a Watcher opportunity and add a die to the doom pool equal to the newly adjusted die type/amount.
SFX: Make this one count. Shut down Sensor Array to step up Plasma Cannon by +1. Recover Sensor Array by activating an opportunity or during a Transition scene.
Limit: Alternate form. Shut down all Robot in Disguise powers. Earn 1 PP and add a die to the doom pool equal to any stress suffered.
Limit: Gear. Shut down Plasma Cannon to gain 1 PP. Take an action vs. the doom pool to recover.
Limit: Autobot. Earn 1 PP when affected by Cybertronian-specific Milestones and tech.

Covert Expert: d8
Tech Expert: d8
Vehicle Expert: d8

Milestone: Prime is Watching
1 XP: when you overstep your abilities in the middle of a fight
3 XP: when you do something outrageous to impress Optimus Prime and/or the other Autobots
10 XP: when you give up hope of ever pleasing the other Autobots and strike out alone or you end up captured as a result of trying to do something to get back in the other Autobot's good graces

Milestone: Homesick
1 XP: when you mention a connection between your current situation and your experiences on Cybertron
3 XP: when your experiences in Cybertron cause a conflict or confrontation
10 XP: when you choose to have your memories of Cybertron wiped or you abandon your memories of Cybertron for your friendship and new home with the humans of Earth

A is for Actually Starting My Campaign Alphabets!


The Aeries

On many continents, towers and battlements are sometimes kept suspended for decades or centuries past when the main bodies of their structures have fallen, be this due to ancient conservatory magics still upheld, or phenomena such as powerful hauntings, suspension of time, or things of even weirder nature like the tower 'forgetting' to fall when the castle did, for instance.

At first, the Aeries may be mistaken for such things, and indeed, some of the smaller Aeries are of similar shape and size, but few make the mistake of failed recognition more than once, for these are the home of a winged race called the Lahim (LAH-hïm).

These 'bird-men', as many call them, live and raid and make war from their Aeries, with each such flying fortress only beholden to itself and the clans that live within the soaring spires. The lahim that leads any particular Aerie lives on the highest spire on the place, with the order of ascension decreasing as importance decreases. 

The Aeries, themselves, are constructed of varying materials, depending on the clans that build them. Part magical construct and part technological marvel, some Aeries resemble mountaintops that have been ripped from the world and hollowed out, while others seem to be made from various flying machines, dirigibles, and what have you. All, however, bristle with weaponry, ranging from arcane cannons that rain down spellbombs to energy weapons that sear flesh and bone alike. Some are even rumored to be able to fire great lightning cannons or energy weapons from their undersides that could devastate entire villages and towns.

No Aerie has ever been recognized as captured, or even explored, and it seems the lahim, though known for their raiding and war-like tendencies, treat the sacking of another Aerie as a breech of the rules of engagement. Just what exactly goes on in those ominous flying cities (and what powers them) may never be known to the outside world.

Wilderlands of High Fantasy

Atavik's Hammer

+2 Holy Evil Outsider Bane Warhammer

Found by chance as the Unbreakable adventuring company headed south from Bugbear Falls to Modron,  the hammer lay entwined in mutated vines that were being dug at by an ettercap, who sprung to attack the party when approached, for fear of losing its prize. The hammer was claimed after the battle by Jadazh, who knew as much lore about the thing as one could possibly hope.

Atavik's Hammer, for any name Atavik may have given it is certainly lost to time, was forged for that warrior during the Demon Siege of 3227 BCCC by forces loyal to the Overlord to help combat the demon hosts of the World Emperor, though the fate of its wielder was ultimately lost to time.

The warrior Atavik would, himself, be lost to time, if not for the hammer's unique design. Though seemingly carved from a block of white marble, the grip is fairly plain and obviously crafted for function, the rest of the handle and the head are crafted to look like angels, back to back, with their wings in mid-beat, wrapping around the heads of both sides. A serene look on the faces of the angels of both sides affirms that this weapon is a tool of Good, and indeed, Atavik's hammer functions as a Holy weapon. In addition, the hammer functions as a Bane weapon against evil beasts from other planes of existence.

With the rarity of magical weaponry, an item like Atavik's Hammer has the tendency to draw eyes, and Jadazh's ownership is now known, due to flaunting it at his hip and on his tavern table in Modron, and their is no telling what kind of trouble that might eventually lead to, if any.


Musical Inspiration, vol. 12 - Joy Division

In 1996, thanks to a booklet included in InQuest Magazine's polybag, I got hooked on Vampire: The Masquerade and immediately recruited my closest friends to play the game. This was a good year before I ever even played a game of D&D. Vampire was my first love.

One thing I found neat about the game back then was the inspiration pages (little did I know Gygax had done it decades before), and I delved into all the suggestions, looking for the moods and themes that I never really could get to gel in my own chronicles.

After all these years, only one of those songs has been a near-constant staple in my playlists. Shadowplay is eerie, haunting, and a little dangerous. There's imagery early in the song that hints at what one is able to do beyond death, and it wraps up with the harsh lessons learned through the practice of Prestation, the favors and boons that fuel the vampiric Jyhads.

Joy Division is classified to most as goth, cut from the same scenes as Siouxie and the Banshees, et al., but also have a familiar intensity that bands like Thin Lizzy and Iggy and the Stooges were cultivating in that era.
I understand that some might prefer the Killers' cover of the song, but nothing beats the original.

Joy Division - "Shadowplay"

To the center of the city where all roads meet, waiting for you,
To the depths of the ocean where all hopes sank, searching for you,
I was moving through the silence without motion, waiting for you,
In a room with a window in the corner I found truth.

In the shadowplay, acting out your own death, knowing no more,
As the assassins all grouped in four lines, dancing on the floor,
And with cold steel, odor on their bodies made a move to connect,
But I could only stare in disbelief as the crowds all left.

I did everything, everything I wanted to,
I let them use you for their own ends,
To the center of the city in the night, waiting for you,
To the center of the city in the night, waiting for you.

*As always, I don't own this, blah blah blah.

Rise of the Runelords, Session 16: The Skinsaw Murders

When our band approached the gates of Magnimar, they were greeted by members of the Watch upon noticing Vic's Sandpoint Guard insignia on his pauldron. From there, a watchman led them to the House of Lords and into the Lord Mayor's office. Lord Mayor Grobaras outlined some of the interactions their investigation would have with the city's bureaucracy and then turned them loose after making them sign a form requesting their presence be recognized as a law enforcement action of Sandpoint (basically increasing their jurisdiction to Magnimar, as a holding of the city-state).

Firmly reminded that they were on their own until the paperwork processed at a...indeterminate time, the PCs first made their way to the Magnimaran HQ of the Sandpoint Mercantile League, from where they sent a missive to Belor Hemlock, and then inquired about lodgings, and were directed to a popular area for visitors littered with inns and taverns, where they went high-end and settled in with baths and a meal before continuing their investigation.

The first stop was the townhouse previously owned by Aldern Foxglove, which was easy enough to enter, but the group was startled to find two occupants in residence: Aldern and Iesha Foxglove! A short visit wherein the group described what happened at the manor and their shock at seeing their friend and his wife alive coupled with the Foxglove's shock and despair at the state of the manor, which they had left just weeks earlier, culminated in a dinner invitation to further discuss things, leaving the group to go about a few personal errands before convening once more at the townhouse.

The door was answered by a housemaid, who took leave as the group arrived, leaving the nobles and their guests to themselves, and Aldern began to lead the party through the house to the veranda at back, with Iesha bringing up the rear of the line...and then they attacked. Some of the group immediately recognized who they thought to be their friends as Faceless Stalkers, vile shapechangers who can take on the appearance of anyone. Vic was especially concerned as he had a bad experience with one no more than a couple of weeks ago, but the experience of the past few weeks had given the party an advantage and they took the duo out quickly.

Natasha assumed the appearance of Iesha with the aid of her new mask and rushed outside, searching for the housemaid that had just left, questioning her part in events, but failed to see her, at which point she notified a nearby watchman about a possible theft of the silverware and to be on the lookout for the help, if he could. The man took note and Natasha retreated back to the house. During this time, the rest of the group had been doing a search of the place and Vic had turned up a copy of the deed to Foxglove Manor and some keys that had been returned to the fake Foxgloves that Aldern had on him, which in turn led to the discovery of a hefty sack of platinum, the original deed,  and a ledger, both implicating the Brotherhood of the Seven in shady dealings.

References to the Seven's Sawmill had been found in multiple places, so the group set about plotting an investigation of the place, with Natasha using her mask once again to pose as someone looking for a job in the mill and doing some quick casing, which turned up no luck. Further references in the ledger to a money drop to be made on Oathday led the group to wait out until the drop night, with Vic about to approach as the person meant to make the drop.

Cast of Characters
Walt Thrune, Chelaxian Human Cleric 7 (Merciful Healer) of Sarenrae - Paul
Rissi Scuttle, Ratfolk Alchemist 7 - Angela
Vic Alvaraz, Varisian Human Fighter (Mobile Fighter) 7 - David
Elspeth, Elf Wizard (Evoker) 7 - Tami
Hyrum Vassal, Chelaxian Human Tyrant (LE Antipaladin variant) 4 of Urgathoa/Monk 1 - David (secondary)
Natasha Caine, Chelaxian Human Rogue 5 - Angela (secondary)


Age of Worms, Session 23

This session was fairly short mostly because we got started later than usual, and Steve was in and we chit-chatted more than played, but it was fun and set up some interesting hooks for coming sessions.

Since we were waiting on Eligos to get back to us, we pretty much just hung out near the Crooked House and did nothing while the mage took his sweet time to get to us. During the following couple of days, the men that Dairon had pledged to Cameron's cause came back and took their first pay from the knight (I have to pay them since I miscalculated my Leadership score and won't have followers until next level. Sadface.), and Able gathered his band from the local temple to St. Cuthbert. Those who had ordered items special made were able to retrieve them, as well.

This lounging about, however, was possibly not the best thing to have done, as someone attacked and nearly killed Tarquin, the owner of the Crooked House, then fled. When the group rushed down to the commotion in the taproom, a patron claimed to have seen Cameron rush upstairs after stabbing the man, which the party began to dispute, but the accuser attacked, inciting a small riot with the dozen or so patrons howling for blood at such a heinous crime, at which point we defended ourselves.

Being careful not to fully harm those gathered, the band began to subdue the patrons one by one, but were being dealt very real damage, indeed. Cameron went to confront his accuser, who tried to do him serious harm, and who Cameron tried to return the favor to, but the man slipped out the door, leaving the group to deal with riotous patrons, which were quelled before too long.

Able had managed to help some men get Tarquin into another room and heal him fully, then get his complete story of the attack. When the guards showed up a little while later, there was a bit of a debate about the treatment the tavern patrons were receiving and a dispute over who the real culprit was, but thankfully Tarquin just asked that we leave though the guards were not finished with us or the investigation.

We left off here, and like I said before, I think this sets things up nicely for something deeper. As a reminder, we need to send someone to check on Eligos, in case this is related to our visiting him.

Cast of Characters
Cameron val Dane, Human Knight 7 - Me
Dairon val Eite, Human Bard 5 - Me (cohort)
Mullins, Gnome Rogue 3/Wizard 3/Mirror Master 1 - Paul
Able Nightengale, Human Healer 7 - David
Caine Smithe, Human Marshal 5 - David (cohort)
Al'lah, Synad Divine Mind 7 -Steve

Rise of the Runelords, Session 15: The Skinsaw Murders

After laying to rest the corpse-beast their friend Aldern had become, the PCs gathered a few things from his sanctum, finding a letter from one Xanesha, who gave herself the title of Mistress of the Seven and telling Aldern to finish his business and return to Magnimar.

Deciding not to spend too much longer in the house, they backtracked as quickly as they could, not disturbing anything further, then made their way outside where they were set upon by flights of undead crows, which Rissi mostly took care of with bombs while the others did what they could to scatter the flock.

With that behind them, the company rushed back to Sandpoint, riding without incident to welcome meals and beds. A rise in spirits after their time in the haunted Foxglove Manner came early as the group socialized with the Guard in the barracks mess over breakfast the following day. Sheriff Hemlock agreed to meet over lunch with the group to go over the situation in the area with the scarecrows, and what was done to deal with it, as well as the letter they found in the Misgivings and how further investigation would aid the town in the long run.

During this meeting, various other leads and happenings were discussed, and the Sheriff put forth that he would like the party to be firmly in the mayor's corner, as the ramifications of Lonjiku Kaijitsu's death were starting to ripple through the town's political currents. Belor wrapped up the meeting, telling the group to leave for Magnimar at their earliest convenience to continue their investigation, and that he would confer with Mayor Deverin and they would send a missive ahead of the group to the Lord Mayor to facilitate their investigation without coming to loggerheads with local authorities.

Five uneventful days of travel led the band to the gates of Magnimar, where the session ended. (Okay, not really. The session went a little further, but I'm retconning the last bit of the session, to correct a mistake and to let Paul and Tami - who missed this session - come in at an important decision-making juncture.)

Cast of Characters
Rissi Scuttle, Ratfolk Alchemist 7 - Angela
Vic Alvaraz, Varisian Human Fighter (Mobile Fighter) 7 - David
Hyrum Vassal, Chelaxian Human Tyrant (LE Antipaladin variant) 4 of Urgathoa/Monk 1 - David (secondary)
Natasha Caine, Chelaxian Human Rogue 5 - Angela (secondary)