Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gnomes, Svirfneblin and the family of illusionist trickster Wee Folk

Gnomes are the only demi-human race in 1e who can become illusionists.  Gnomes are remarked as being cousins of the dwarfs, but just as equally, they appear to be cousins to the illusionist-trickster races.   In fact, it appears most likely that gnomes are  actually a half-breed race, resulting from the union of the Wee Folk and the Dwarf family.

In the DMG, they are described as "lively and full of humor - often on the black side or practical jokes".
They are described as living in homes: "sometimes based upon earthen burrows, although 75% of the time it will be made in rocky hill formations" (MM), and that they "enjoy the open world of growing things almost as much as their mines and burrows" (DMG).  In short, just as we would expect someone with the instincts of both Leprecauns and Dwarfs.

In the MM, they are rumored to have "magical abilities".  This is revealed in the PH to be illusionist skill, up to seventh class level (casting 4th level spells).  These innate illusionist  powers are developed more fully in the description of the Deep Gnomes, the Svirfneblin.

Svirfneblin: 3' tall with pointy ears, home: far beneath the surface of the earth
powers (1x per day):
change self
non-detection and silent movement (constant)
unlikely to be surprised (1 in 12)
immune to illusion
(20-40% magic resistance)

Wee Folk - The  Illusionist Tricksters

The Wee Folk have been classified according to a number of different titles, including leprechauns, brownies, pixies, sprites, and bookas.  They seem to have a number of traits in common, suggesting they form something of a family group.

Their similarities to the Gnomes are manifold, including the pointy ears.   The MM suggests that Brownies and Leprechauns are the result of a Halfling/Pixie combination.  It seems just as likely that Gnomes are the result of a Dwarf/Leprechaun combination. 

Brownies: 1.5' tall with pointy ears, home: quiet, pastoral areas; "friendly but shy"
powers (1x per day):
invisibility in nature (at will)
dancing lights
continual light
mirror image
dimension door
protection from evil
cannot be surprised

Leprechaun: 2' tall with pointy ears, home: fair, green lands with lush hills and dales; "mischievous nature"
powers (at will):
polymorph non-living object
create illusion

cannot be surprised
(80% magic resistance)

Pixie: 2.5' tall, with wings and pointy ears, home: most idyllic of woodlands, "highly mischievous"
powers (at will):
polymorph self
create illusions (2x per day)
know alignment
cause confusion
dispel magic (1x per day)
dancing lights (1x per day)
ESP (1x per day)
Otto's Irresistible Dance (1x per day)
(25% magic resistance)

Also related:

Sprites: 2' tall, with wings and pointy ears; home: meadows and wooded glens, "shy and reclusive"
powers (at will):
detect good/evil
move silently

Booka: 1' tall, with wings and pointy ears: home: attics, roofs, chimneys; "mischievous but hates evil"
powers (at will):
(10% magic resistance)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

On the origins of Giants and giantism

Our society has long been plagued by the ravages of giant creatures. Throughout the years, numerous attempts have been made to sweep the hinterlands of dangerous giant beasts. No matter how successful the efforts at eradication, the giant beast always seem to reappear a year or two later.

Our Council of Sages, after extensive and dangerous investigation, has at last solved the riddle. The giant beasts are not members of giant animal species that can be eradicated. Rather, they are the result of some sort of natural process which turns normal animals into giants!

Giantism Mutation

This process, this giantism mutation, appears to be most associated with areas of high mana concentration, such as tall mountains, powerful rivers, natural springs, and cave openings. Beasts in those areas are born to normal-sized parents, but due to some magical enhancement, undergo a spectacular growth rate which vaults them to giant-status by the time they mature.

Giantism in Humans

It has been previously assumed that giantism in humans was related to the dark arts or dealings with demons. Many a witch has been burned at the stake when her child evidenced giantism. The Sages now recommend that the Trial by Burning sentence be considered non-mandatory in these cases, allowing the mothers of such children the opportunity to defend themselves in court before being wed to the Burning Man.

Origins of Giant Races

The Sages have even determined that the different mana sources produce different effects in the humans affected with giantism:

- the mana of the river waters produces the race of Storm Giants
- the mana of the volcano fields produces the black race of Fire Giants
- the mana of the underground caverns produces the race of Hill Giants
- the mana of the high mountains is more variable, producing either Stone or Cloud Giants.

As few adult females are ever seen among the Giants, perhaps boys are more prone to giantism then girls. Or perhaps the young human females who are cast out of their homes, when their parents see the giantism at work, are simply less able to survive into adulthood. At any rate, this discovery helps explain why no babies are ever seen among the Giants.

The Rise & Fall of Giant Hordes

This discovery also helps explain the rapid rise and fall of giant hordes, as well as their general state of primitive culture. Giant culture is primitive because all of them are essentially orphaned children, cast out of their homes and villages at a young age (the few that somehow escape the mandatory penalties, that is). As adults giants are unable to produce their own offspring, there is little continuation of culture among them.

Giant hordes tend to rise and fall as people move into areas with high mana. It is an odd twist of fate that these hordes, which usually end up destroying those advanced human settlements, are actually the children of the would-be settlers.

The dynamic goes something like this: after a generation or two of settlement, enough giants arise to be able to destroy the settlement. The lack of settlement leads to a lack of giants, allowing a later generation to attempt to settle the magically-rich area.

The lesson is clear, and has been emphasized by the Council of Sages: the mandatory sentence that falls upon children with giantism must be enforced with renewed vigor! Only when children with giantism are fully eliminated will human settlement in mana-rich regions be secured.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Magic value of Gold

Magical power enters the material world following several well-known channels. The primary source is, of course, the sun. The moon, planets, and stars also exert their own magical influence.

However, magic also streams upward from below. Vocanoes and natural springs, as everyone knows, are locations of powerful magic. Items that have their origins in the earth often retain powerful magical properties, such as crystals and, of course, gold.

The Magical Properties of Gold

The obsessive attraction exerted by gold upon magical creatures is well-known, and of course, felt by humans as well to a certain degree.

Dragons are the most notorious hoarders of gold, jewels, and gems. The possession of these magically-potent items appears to be connected with the longetivity of those magical beasts.

Some have speculated that dragons consume the treasures as food, but this idea is contradicted by the fact that dragon hoards never seem to shrink, only grow. The well-attested observation of dragons swallowing piles of gold seems to be explained as the method by which the dragon carries the treasure back to its lair. Presumably the treasure is regurgitated bird-style into the dragon's hoard, although this has not been observed (by anyone who lived to tell of it) to this point....

The Hoard of the Goblin King

The lure of gold upon the subterrainean goblinoids is also well known, most legendarily in the case of the hoard of the goblin king. Goblins who lair amidst the piles of gold appear to grow large and strong, perhaps owing to the magical properties of the magic-charged gold itself. The gold also appears to be used in their mating practices, as the significant presence of gold in their breeding pens attests.

The Minotaur Lords of Bullhead City

The shifting labyrynths of Bullhead City are reported to be awash in gold. The multitude of aggressive and powerful minotaur who constantly struggle for dominance there, however, has precluded much investigation.

It has been noted, however, that minotaur encountered in the wilds can be distracted and/or diverted by the surrender of bags of gold. Examination of human victims of minotaur attacks indicates that the bullmen have no interest in humans as a food source, only as a source of wealth.

The Secrets of the Dwarven Mines

As everyone knows, the Dwarven Mines are rich in two items: gold and magic weapons. How the dwarves produce magic weapons has long been a mystery, as they show no aptitude for magical ability in any other sphere.

It is suspected that the dwarfs somehow harness great magical power from the gold (and other magic susbstances) as they harvest it from the rocks in their deep caverns. This magical over-exposure may account for madness that overcomes those few humans who attempt deep delves into the Dwarven Mines. The hearty natural anti-magical resistance of the Dwarfs seem to shield them from the ill-effects associated with repeated exposure to these high concentrations of magical power.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

1e Oriental Adventures - reconsidered and reintegrated at Sin City

I am no expert on the industry, but I gather than the 1e Oriental Adventures never made that much of an impact. I remember buying it when I was 12 or so, and being excited by the possibilities (I mean, playing a NINJA or a SAMURAI, dude, sweet!!!).

Getting into it, I think we were a bit put off due to all the foreign vocabulary and never really used much from it. I think the reason it never took off, more than anything else, was that it was designed to be its own campaign world, it was not really well suited to plug-n-play into the regular D&D world.

However, re-reading it as an adult, I am really appreciating it for its amazing creativity and thoughtfulness. I do not intend to run a "oriental-only" campaign, but I have thought of some cool ways of incorporating it into my campaign milieu.

Integration into AZ Adventures

The premise of AZ Adventures is a dawn-of-civ frontier-type scenario, in which multiple colonizing groups are converging in AZ, struggling for dominance. I had previously postulated that a group of "Asya monks" had set up a monastery nearby Sin City (see here I am going to run with that idea and expand it further: In fact, the monks are just one aspect of another major colonizing group (the Asya) approaching from the northwest.


Aside from being an Asya population center, Sin City will be run by Yakuza gangsters clans! Reading the description of Yakuza, it is as if they were perfectly designed to run the place. The text even says Yakuza come with 3 proficiency slots, one of which is automatically GAMING. Ha!


And, yes -- NINJAS! Ninjas will definitely be part of the Sin City experience. They are basically Thief Acrobats with the ability to Assassinate, but they have to maintain secret identities, going by night as Ninjas but by day as something else. Special Ninja powers include walking on water, and, at a high level, passing through walls!


Presiding of Sin City on the "official and public" level, will be one noble clan, with the family leader (Daimyo) and crew of Samurai. While they function as the public face of the city, they are not, however, the true rulers of the city, which is controlled by the Yakuza clans. Lots of intrigue, plot lines, and adventure hooks to be explored there.


The Shukenja are the religious priestly-monk types, close in kind to Clerics. They have one temple in Sin City itself.

The Sohei are the warrior-priest monks, essentially like Paladins, great fighters who are able to cast cleric spells at a high level. They live with the Shukenja.

Wu-jen are powerful spell-casters, but they are more like wild shamans than civilized magic users, and they do not live in the city. Their spell abilities are like a combination of Magic User/Illusionist/Druid.

The Bushi are the low-class common fighters of the city, and the Kensai are the "sword-obsessed" martial artists. While PCs might run into a gang of bushi who would attempt to beat them up and rob them, an encounter with a Kensai would be a challenge to a one-on-one duel, like a shootout on a Wild West street....

All in all, as you can tell, Sin City would be a very fun place to adventure in.

Asya Colonizing Pressures

As a colonizing group, the Asya would be pressing in two directions: southward down the Colorodo River and eastward across Rt.666. A conflict point with the Arya would be in the river-side trade town at Blythe. Conflict with the Derjuden would be focused along the northern roads, as they Yakuza tried to move into control of the trade routes.

The Wu-jen would be naturally friendly with the shamans of the Dineh, and unfriendly towards the Druids of the Arya. Perhaps some Monmore missionaries would be present in Sin City, but not much direct contact between those groups would be evident, as they are on opposite sides of the state.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Being detected while Scrying - the perils of assisted-astral travel and remote viewing

Very interesting note on page 119 of the 1e DMG:

"Various devices for seeing at a distance (such as crystal balls, various scrying devices such as dishes or pans of water or mirrors, and spells such as clairaudience) are DETECTABLE."

The astral nature of remote viewing

The explanation for this potential detectability is the fact that they scrying device is a form of assisted astral travel. The astral spirit of the remote viewer actually goes to the location being viewed. That is why someone viewing a scrying device goes into a trance while viewing, as their spirit is actually undergoing astral travel, their conscious mind cannot be with their physical body.

Countering the Scrying Attempt

If the creature being observed is a magical creature/spell user/psionic, it has a change of realising that he is being observed.

Detection of Invisibility Table, pg.59 of the DMG
detection of invisibility table

As per the DMG, if the creature realizes he is being observed, he can cast a darkness or a dispel magic upon the spot of observation (described in the DMG as a "small disturbance in the air caused by the magical viewing"), which is the location of the remote viewer's astral body.

Vulnerability to astral attack

If the creature being observed, or anyone at the remote viewing location, has psionic powers or the ability to see into the astral plane, the remote viewer would also subject to psionic attack. Attempts at "soul capture", such as a magic jar, could be conceivable as well....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Devas - Astral and Psionic Monster Profile

Devas are basically angels: golden-skinned, amber-eyed, with white-but-gold-tinted-wings, tall, slender, and graceful, with a charisma effect of 20. 
According to the ancient concept (which I am duplicating in my AZ Adventures milieu), the Heavens were not on "another plane", they were above us, up in the sky.    That is where the Devas live, up in the sphere of the heavens.   Devas will be encountered on earth either physically or astrally.   
Astral Contact
As Devas can astrally project their spirits quickly through the heavens, astral contact will be more common.
In their astral form, they appear to people mainly in visions, especially in people's dream.  People with psychic sensitivity ("whose awareness extends to the ethereal and astral planes") could also see their astral forms while awake.  
Psychic mediums and shamans can also allow the devas to temporarily possess their bodies to deliver messages or do healings.  
While spirit-projected in the astral state, they can engage only in psionic combat, not physical combat.  In certain cases, their special powers could also be applied, but these could only be things that deal with the spiritual realm, not the physical realm, such as Know Alignment or Remove Fear.   
Physical Contact
On occasion, Devas might also physically journey down from the heavens to accomplish some task on earth, in person.   
As they can become invisible, go ethereal, polymorph self, and teleport at will, even while physically present, it might be hard to tell, as they can "come and go like a ghost". 
Even if their physical form is destroyed (which would be quite the trick, given their speed, etherealness, and teleport-at-will abilities), their astral spirit would return to their celestial home.
HD 9+36
attacks: Mace of Disruption: 2 strikes (4-15 +6 dam.)
INT: genius
Magic resistance: 65%, +1 to hit, immune to level drain, soul imprisonment, or death spells
Psionic Ability: 210
attacks: Psionic Blast, Mind Thrust, Ego Whip, Psychic Crush
defenses: Mind Blank, Thought Shield, Mental Barrier
Special Powers:
at will:
detect evil
detect illusion
detect magic
protection from evil
dispel illusion
dispel invisibility
know alignment
polymorph self
read magic
remove curse
remove fear
7x per day:
cure light wounds
detect traps
3x per day:
cure disease
cure serious wounds
1x per day:
blade barrier

Monday, May 16, 2011

Agathion -- Psionic Monster profile

The Agathion is NOT a classic monster. It is right there opposite the Aboleth at the beginning of the 1e MM2, bit it never made an impression on me, I think probably because it has no illustration.

Reviewing it now with more mature eyes, I see pure role-playing gold. Especially if you are running a psionic campaign, the Agathion is a must-have.

The Agathion has no picture, because it can take any form, even an object. They are basically manifestations of spirit beings who come for the specific purpose of combating some great evil.

I would explain them as stars, who look down upon the earth night after night, observing and seeing, finally putting on an earthly form to take action in some intrigue they have been observing from on high.

The natural form of these living "star creatures" is described as elf-like, with "opalescent, luminous" skin and shining eyes. Your players would only see this form if it was astrally traveling. Otherwise it will appear as follows:

Human form - 60%

Roll randomly to determine appearance.
Clerical spells per day (equal to 7th level cleric with 18 WIS): 1st level - 5, 2nd level - 5, 3th level - 3, 4th level - 2

Creature form - 30%

Attacks and spell powers of the form chosen (such as unicorn, lammasu, shedu, etc.).
Turns undead as 14th level cleric.

Object form - 10%

A ring, talisman, flask, vase, key, etc... Bestows on possessor:
1st level cleric spell ability, detect evil at will, turn undead as 6th level cleric

HD 7+7 (save as 14th level cleric)
attacks: as form, by weapon, or energy touch of 7-14 points
INT: Very to genius (11-18)
Magic resistance: 35% (+1 to hit), immune to level drain, death spells, disintegration, and negative energy attacks

Psionic ability: 177
attacks/defenses: all/all

Psionic powers (14th level):
clairaudience, clairvoyance, object reading, suspend animation, aura alteration, dimension walk, mind bar, telempathic projection

Other powers:

at will:
Astral Travel
detect evil
Telepathy (any language)