Sunday, August 17, 2014

Goldmother's Vale - Unfinished Alpha

So... my Goldmother's Vale Hexcrawl isn't done, but it's at a point that's semi-coherent enough to call an "unfinished alpha". There are still big, gaping holes, but you can snag the PDF here:

I'd love any feedback you've got. =)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Cult of Blood and Briar

Cultists by Matthew Adams

The Cult of Blood and Briar is a relatively recent institution in Horned Mountain Valley, dating back only a couple of generations. They began rather benignly (probably as a response to the valley's growing population) holding low key ceremonies among old growth trees, to mark important yearly celestial events such as the solstice and equinox. Over time they became more and more radicalized, preaching your run of the mill pro-wilderness/anti-civilization doctrines. They took to planting brambles and other painful plants, like poison sumac and nettles, throughout the vale to promote a "return to the wild". Although they possessed no real power, they had a great flair for elaborate ritual and a deep, burning hatred of the Goldmother. Their hatred springs from two fonts. First, they believe the Goldmother abandoned the valley and took her blessing from the trees and land. Second, they believe she should never have allowed humans to settle in, and thus profane, the valley in the first place (lots of self loathing).

Sorceress Orana and the cult took to one another immediately upon their first meeting after she arrived in the valley. She started talking about "points of light in the wilderness" beliefs, displayed actual power, and they swore themselves to her cause without hesitation. In turn she taught them a number of magical rituals so they could aid her as she leads the valley and then the world into the new wilderness.

Cult members are almost all from the Flam(tallowmakers), Mull(merchants), and Textor(weavers) families and HIGHLY secretive. There is no official rank or hierarchy to the cult but Rowan Mull[STATBLOCK] is in many ways the de facto leader due to his successful infiltration and manipulation of the Utag clan (and he's the only one who communicates with Orana directly). Max Flam[STATBLOCK] and Violet Textor[STATBLOCK] are effectively his lieutenants and give the most consistently powerful and impassioned speeches.

Nudity, Red Paint and Briars:
Eschewing robes and common cultist attire, members of the Cult of Blood and Briar hold their meetings and perform their rituals naked and masked as it is the closest to nature they can be. Now that Orana has come to the vale they have adjusted this in two subtle ways. The cultists now mask their face using thorny briars (see Briar Shield below), and they paint their bodies completely red. This red paint makes them immune to poison and impervious to the effects of painful plants (e.g., poison ivy, poison sumac, etc).

What does the Cult Want?
To return the world to a primal, natural state
To assist Orana in any way possible
To find where the Goldmother fled and make her suffer for abandoning them

What does the Cult NOT want?
To be discovered or found out
To rapidly induct new recruits
For the valley folk to be united on any front or topic. There must always be dissent.

What else?
Orana taught the cultists five rituals of wild terror. Under normal circumstances, require 20 minutes of preparation, and 10 minutes of casting, or a total of 30 minutes from start to finish. At least two cultists are required for a ritual, and they must each cut themselves with a natural blade (quartz or bone preferred), and incorporate 1d4+1 HP worth of their blood into the spell. They can cast rituals into Splinters of Corruption (detailed below), but doing so requires at least four cultists and 1d6+1 HP of blood from each. Prepared splinters can be broken to instantly release the spell within.

Splinter of Corruption
Splinters can only come from a plant or animal that has died due to a splinter of corruption, and the cultists favor using fragments from antlers and blighted aspens. The normal ritual (2 cultists, 30 minutes, 1d4+1 HP of blood from each), can create 1d6+1 charged splinters. Each additional cultist participating in the ritual ad adding their own blood, charges an additional 1d4 splinters. A virgin may be sacrificed in place of cultists providing their own blood, and will yield 1d6 splinters for each cultist participating in the ritual. Charged splinters glow with a black aura and splinters loaded with another spell glow red (not enough to see by but enough to be seen).

If a charged splinter is inserted into a living organism it will burrow deeply into it and cause it to rot from the inside out. This prevents any natural healing and deals 1d6 HP of necrotic damage each day. Attempting to remove one by non-magical means is extremely difficult. The infected organism must make a Constitution DC20 save whenever the bloated, feverish wound is touched, or immediately go into a feral rage, striking and biting at anything nearby. The pain of touching the wound is so great that even trees will try and hit you away. Anything dying to a splinter will begin to split, crack, and ooze purplish goo. Particularly dense sections of the organism (bones, antlers, hardwood, etc) will appear to blossom into vile looking fractal flowers of potential splinters. The number of potential splinters yielded by a corpse depends on its size and amount of dense biomass, so a small dense creature with bony plates will likely yield more than a medium sized creature made of mostly squishy stuff.

Potential Splinters

Mutate Beast
Works on unintelligent beasts and animals and is pretty much what it says on the tin. In addition to the mutation animals mutated by this spell have a 25% chance to gibber incessantly, and of those, a 10% chance to whisper one true, evil secret over and over in an ancient language.

Mutation Table 3d4
Mutation Table (3d4)
Two Heads
One head is "obviously evil" (black with red eyes). When not foaming at the mouth it breathes fire (5' cone, 1d8 damage)
Fungal Friend
Tiny black and purple mushrooms sprout in its footsteps. Hallucinogenic.
Inner Glow
Stops breathing, sweating and excreting, and begins to emit heat and light. May catch on fire if it gets too active. Normally live 3d6 days before burning up from overexertion.
Glistens with sweat and pants continually. If stationary for 5 minutes, sticky puddles form beneath it. They stink and should be treated as difficult terrain.
Walks Wrong
The creature moves at normal movement speed, but now, walks on its hind legs, moves sideways only, moves backwards only, or has large hairy spider legs.
Sprouts 1d6 coral snakes on its body. 25% chance the animal and snakes don't get along.
Its skin cracks and stuff drips out that looks like strawberry jam. Gains pseudopod attack (1d6 bludgeoning)
Creature bloats and struggles to walk (half speed). If its skin is cut or punctured it will burst, forming a poison cloud (10' diameter, DC12 constitution save, 3d6 damage and poisoned on failed save)
Obviously Evil
Turns black with red glowing eyes. Poisonous or painful plants grow faster when it is near, but the animal is totally normal in all other regards.
Poisonous Carnivore
Grows a scorpion tail and hungers insatiably for raw meat. Tends to live about 1d6 days before succumbing to hunger and eating itself.

Vile Plants
As a ritual, Vile Plants can be cast with half the requirements of others (1 cultist, 15 minutes, 2 HP of caster's blood). The spell can have two different, but related, outcomes (determined by caster).
1. All poisonous, carnivorous or thorny plants in an area 20' in diameter will grow from seed to full adult size over the next 24 hours.
2. The caster can pass through plants and undergrowth without leaving any traces of their passage for 2 hours (no broken branches, torn leaves or bent grass). Footprints are still left in the dirt, but the plants provide exceptional cover. Additionally, any intelligent creature disturbing any plants touched by the caster for the next day will break out with a severe rash, as if they'd been in poison ivy.

Briar Shield
The caster is able to instantly grow thorny briars on or over an organic object. As the briars grow the caster can shape them to their wishes and must determine an "unlock" passphrase. The thorns dig into the organic material covered (causing no real pain), in such a way that if they are forcibly removed the object covered is destroyed, or at least defaced. The Cult of Blood and Briar uses this spell most frequently to hide their faces so that if their mask is removed without their consent their face is ripped off with it, preserving the secret of their identity. They have also been known to use this spell to hide hostages and treasure. Being covered in the briars provides protection as leather armor (AC 11) and deals 1d4 damage if used offensively. Briars last for 3 days or until unlocked.

Sweet Thorn
This ritual requires two whole thorny plants (roots and all), which transform into 10 sweet thorns (plus an additional 1d4 for each extra participating cultist). The thorns look like large bramble thorns (2" to 3" long), and smell like buttery cookies pulled fresh from the oven. If these thorns are stabbed into, or carried by a creature, the cultists who created the thorns are able to scry the carrier using a bowl filled with the blood of animals less than 6 weeks old.

Aster Flam, proprietor of Tallowyck's Candle Shop in Shearing, recently began making short, fat, sweet smelling candles using these thorns as the wick. When burned in this manner they emit a strong, but initially pleasant, cloying scent that sticks to clothes and hair for about 6 hours. While the cultists cannot track or scry anyone covered in these odor clouds, the smell attracts albino ravens[PAGE].

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hex 0809 - 0804

The game begins in the fall, before the snows have come. All plant descriptions reflect this. Entries are roughly structured in the following way:

HEX - Point of Interest Name (encounter table)
Unmissable: What can be seen[more information about it]

The Dark: DM only information about the point of interest

0809 - Heaven's View Peak (Mountains)
Unmissable: trail[dirt, runs up mountain, well traveled], alder trees[clump around path, smooth red-brown bark, bark partially stripped on several, loaded with small brown fruits (inedible) that look like tiny fuzzy pine cones],  boulders[pink granite, rough, rubble, recent, crushed alders beneath], ferns

The Dark: The Karsta family (Weavers) and Garva family (Tanners) visit this spot frequently to care for the alder trees and harvest their parts to make dye.  Can be used to make red-orange, black, and yellow dyes for cloth and leather, and a bright flame-red hair dye favored by the young men and women of the valley.

The trail: half a mile long, up the mountain, moderate climb, ends at large flat area of pinkish stone, 50' in diameter with clear views of the Horned Mountain Region.

Pink Stone Clearing:
Unmissable: boulders[pink granite, ring the clearing unevenly, white lichen spots, one missing], smooth gravel ground, standing stone[10' tall, black obsidian, jagged, center of clearing, round "window" through stone 6' off ground, grey lichen, faded ancient runes (sun?, people? unclear)]

The Dark: Looking through the hole at sunset will reveal a secret you seek three times in your life.

Views from the clearing:
            West: Black Orchid Bog[bright red leaves of twisted birch trees, hammered silver mirrored water, waves of yellow grass]

            South: Icewater Lake and Screeching Forest[dark pine woods, wispy drifts of fog, the lake is a clear deep silvery blue, glimpses of the east-west trade road through the trees]

            East: The Mouth of Horned Mountain Valley and Screeching Forest[dark pine woods rolling over broken hills, hearthsmoke rising from Mendel's Cross[1009], stained grey and white walls and tower of the Reliquary of St. Claudia[0908] with conic roofs of red-orange tile]

            North: Horned Mountain Valley with Stoneface Mountain rising beyond[dark pine woods, hearthsmoke from the town of Shearing, silver flash of Logfloat River through the trees, tiny white houses of the shepherd clans (Utag, Gordic, Roken) on green hills, rugged peaks and snowfields]

0808 - The Crack (Mountains)
Unmissable: small, treeless, rocky, valley between peaks, huge crack in the ground[250' long, uneven width, 20' wide in some places, 4' wide in others], foul stench[carrion? rot?], no breeze, feels stale here, streaks in the dirt[large, uneven, like things have been drug into the crack]

The Dark: Numerous (2d10+5) Giant Spiders of varying (large) sizes live in The Crack. Function much like trapdoor spiders. Weave webs inside the crack but send fine runner threads into the valley throughout the area. When a runner thread is tripped the giant spider who owns it emerges rapidly (surprise DC 21). The spiders usually keep their territory in the valley evenly divided so tripping multiple lines will often only result in a single spider unless you run as fast as you can parallel to the crack. The crack is so full of webs, spider eggs and desiccated corpses that it will burn rapidly. This will however encourage every spider to emerge nearly simultaneously.

0807 - Gold Needle Ropes (Mountains)
Unmissable: Huge pine and fir trees [70'-120' high], small buildings[3, field stone, wood shingle roofs, heavy wooden shutters, heavy wooden doors, yellow banners], pavilions[5, 10' diameter, cloth, rust colored, wooden tables, chairs and crates under each], tents[1d10+3, can sleep 4, cloth, rust colored], campfires, square wooden towers[2, 50' high, no door, multiple ropes connect towers to each other and to trees, bumps and knobs visible on sides], wooden platforms[in trees], ropes and nets and chains[strung between trees, ceramic bells, yellow flags and boards hang from them, look like suspended bridges in some places]

The Dark: Known to people from the valley. This is the training area for the Gold Needles [PAGE]. Young men and women from the valley between the ages of 15 and 17, live here throughout much of each summer and fall. They are trained by the Gold Needles in running, hiking, climbing, wilderness survival skills, and all things archery. Everyone loves the ropes course and ziplines and a valley wide midsummer festival is thrown here every year.

0806 - The Sunburst of Rope and Bells (Valleys of the Damned)
NOTE: The only "easy" way into this hex is by following a mountain path that begins in hex [0906] next to the Gold Needle Lodge. If players insist on entering it through a different way, it will take them 1d4 days to find a usable trail through the rugged mountains here.

If the players are following the path from [0906]:

The mountain path enters a deep canyon with sheer, 100' walls. The Sunburst of Rope and Bells is encountered just past the first bend in the canyon.

Unmissable: giant rope "web"[resembles a spiderweb, completely blocks path, 30', like a tangled dream catcher], giant representation of the sun[animal hides, painted yellow, stretched on ropes, 20' diameter], gourds[hang from ropes], strings of ceramic circles[hang from ropes, chiming ring when moved (normally by wind)], crystal fragments[hang from ropes, scattered on ground in rough line across path, iridescent], pyramidal twig sculptures[twisted, hang from ropes, scattered on ground], strips of cloth[some yellow, some rust colored, hang from ropes]

The Dark: The Sunburst of Rope and Bells was constructed as a joint effort between the Clearwater and Whitefeather families (Shamans). The back of the hide sunburst is painted with the face of a male warrior with wild black hair and golden warpaint who appears to be screaming in rage. The hides generate a small amount of heat that can be felt when nearby. Many of the Gold Needles say this heat is the fury of the warrior, but it serves to prevent snow from accumulating on the construction. Large sheep horns (made by the Whitefeathers) are attached to the warrior side of the sunburst, and from the warrior side, the gourds that hang from the ropes have been cut to resemble eyes.

If undead approach the sunburst from the warrior side and are seen by the gourd eyes all the horns will begin to sound, as if each were a large war horn. This sound is loud enough to be heard clearly at Gold Needle Lodge [0906].

The small crystal shards on the sunburst collect sunlight during the day and glow softly at night (or in the dark). The light emitted by these crystals functions like true sunlight, with a radius of about 5', but they only emit the amount of sunlight they absorb each day (e.g., if they are in the sun for 6 hours then they will emit sunlight in the dark for 6 hours).

The only way to pass through the sunburst (without cutting) is by crawling or climbing through the openings made by the rope "web". Each of these openings is adorned with strings of circular ceramic bells (made by the Clearwaters) that, when disturbed, rings a twin strand of bells in Gold Needle Lodge. It is possible, but relatively difficult (Dexterity (Acrobatics) DC 17) to pass through an opening without sounding the bells. High ranking members of the Gold Needles and members of the Clearwater family know how to temporarily disable to bell alarm for silent passage.


NOTE: Hex [0804] and [0805] are part of the Hidden Valley of Aspens [0804 and 0805]. This valley can only be entered easily by passing through The Valleys of the Damned and Restless Paths [0906 -> 0806 ->0905 -> 0904 -> 0804 -> 0805]. Attempting to enter this hex from another way may be possible, but will take an additional 1d4+4 days due to the rugged and mountainous terrain.

Hidden Valley of Aspens - General Information - Ground rocky and uneven like crumpled paper. Tall aspen trees with white trunks and yellow leaves. Pale white flowers grow among the leave litter despite the coming cold and bright blue lightning bugs fly high up in the treetops every night. It feels peaceful here, except at the blighted points of interest, and sleeping in the valley confers [SOMESORTOFBONUSIDON'TKNOWYET].

0805 - The Oozing Pentagram (Valleys of the Damned)
Unmissable: black substance[on the ground, goopy, bubbly, tarry looking, unbroken lines and curves 3' wide, seems to undulate when glimpsed out of the corner of your eye], fungus[small, white, like large wrinkled rasins, grows in the black goop], noxious odor[like the unwashed feet of lepers, it's the fungus], dead aspens[completely black with dripping leaves, only aspens touched by the black lines, others are fine], low humming noise

The Dark: The black lines and curves form a pentagram nearly 500' in diameter. At each point of the star there is a ring of white fungus 4' in diameter. At the center of the pentagram is a twisted and ancient pine tree, with no needles, made of sparkling white stone and marbled with the black goop. This tree was once a gold pine like the one found in hex [0907], before being corrupted and petrified by the necromancer Salmu Seru as part of his ritual to defeat the Goldmother (more info on [PAGE]).

Anything touching the black goop will become stuck (Strength (Athletics) DC 20) and be slowly (1d6+2 days) sucked into the black line. With the right ritual, a powerful necromancer can command anything that was sucked into the pentagram to be "spat out" as a skeletal thrall that drips black goo.

What's stuck in the goo? A 2d4 table
  • 2.    An ochre jelly... just kidding, it's not stuck
  • 3.    A cultist sent by Orana to "perform an important spell" (i.e., test the effects of the pentagram)
  • 4.    Tiny fluffy woodland creatures
  • 5.    Elk
  • 6.    A ghoul attempting to eat a trapped elk
  • 7.    A zombie sent by Orana to test her most recent spell/theory
  • 8.    An evil wizard who once followed Orana but attempted to claim the pentagram's power for himself

0804 - The Broken Spire (Valleys of the Damned)

Unmissable: Crumbling Tower on a hillside[grey stone, rippled, lumpy, organic stone, veins of reddish mortar, toothy crenellations, arrow slits like serpent's eyes, top two floors mostly collapsed, lichen like mold on bread], aspens[dead, like white skeletal hands, bend away from the tower, cracked, splintered], path[below tower, well worn, heads south into 0805, puddles of black goop, tar(?)], elk heads on spears[no skin, varying states of decay, candles in eyes lit at night]

The Dark: This will be a dungeon.

Quick 'n Dirty Notes: This is the ruined tower of Salmu Seru, Necromancer of the Garnet Eye and Blight of the Silk Fields of Noor. He grew this tower like a cancer from the mountain with black magics that can still be felt like lightning in the ears. He cursed the Valley of the Aspens and used its corruption to fight and trap the Goldmother. Imperfections in his ritual to trap the nature deity, vaporized him, and destroyed much of the tower. It remained empty for many years.

A sorceress named Orana has recently moved in. She knows something powerful is trapped in Horned Mountain Valley, but does not know exactly what. She's heard of the Goldmother but it doesn't really mean anything to her. She spends much of her time trying to enter and research in Salmu's libraries in the tower's basement to find a way to corrupt this thing she can fell and make its power her own. Big Bad Evil Gal. More Info to come.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Nightmares in the Valley

As far as I know I didn't have nightmares last night, but when I woke up I wanted to write some for Horned Mountain Valley. My thought is that they would be good ways to hint at bigger things and potentially ratchet up the intensity. The plan would be to put the dreams on slips of paper and pass them to the players after their first or second rest, and let them take or leave them. It may also be fun to only give the dreams to a single player with an empathetic or naturey character since in many ways these dreams are very much "Help me! Save me!" kinda things.

DALeast in Vienna
What did you dream last night? A 1d12 table
  1. No visuals can be recalled but "She fights in the dark" repeats in your mind.
  2. A clearing at night in the snow. Five white skulls, each mounted on a black spear, stand at the five points of a pentagram made of blood. Long gold "hair" grows from each. The first is golden flowers. The second is yellow aspen leaves. The third is gold pine needles. The fourth is wrinkled, honey colored fungus. The fifth is your flesh, as is the blood.
  3. It is sunset in the pines. The ground is their rust colored needles. The sky is golden through the trees. You hear a baby crying. You cannot see it but know you must find it. You run and the rusted needles stab your feet and tear your naked body as you fall.
  4. A male elk with large antlers and no flesh oozes black. It eats a faceless man you recognize as your grandfather and births you in black blood. Gold ravens scream from the trees.
  5. Owls hang upside down from tree branches. Burdened by the weight of their antlers. They screech and fall. Piercing hands and feet. A skinless elk watches from afar as you struggle and rip your flesh.
  6. A giant man with a red beard of soft wavy hair kneels in a clearing as if in supplication. Ropey black ooze restrains him. He rips out of his body to be free. Skeletal hands tear off the beard and face, and it explodes into blue flowers.
  7. Red foxes with gold eyes run through summer meadows carrying fluffy yellow chicks in their mouths. White foxes with black feet bring the snow as they run. White swallows red with a single gulp and grows antlers.
  8. Wind moans and sings out of cracks in the ground. Black gashes on pink fleshy granite. Yellow aspen leaves spin in a whirlwind from the cavern maws. They cut your face as white trunks splinter around you.
  9. A naked man wears a black wolf's head on his own. It's fresh blood paints his chest and shoulders. His stomach smiles red and spills his guts to hide his nakedness. Sun melts from the wolf's eyes.
  10. She was there behind the stone turned flesh without the skin, but ran. The meat grew thorns of rot and bullfrogs vomit clouds of flies to hide her from you.
  11. White pinpricks in black pits. The fleshless elk keeps his eyes locked on yours as you keep your antlers locked with his. Your velvet itches with fever and your hands claw at it blindly. Bloody fuzz sluffs off and into him. White pinpricks in black pits.
  12. The bear that drank the river lies bloated in the winter sun. Brittle in your hands it cracks and spills it all back out again. Gold fish in blocks of ice drown you as the leeches suck your blood. It tries to save you again. Tries to plug its shattered self, but the light wanes from its enfeebled eyes.
Build your own
  • Positive symbol fragments: gold, yellow, blue, flowers, aspens, bear, ravens, wolves, "her", "she"
  • Evil symbol fragments: black, snow, stone, elk, skinless, frogs, ooze, pentagrams, "him"
  • Can go either way: owls, foxes, pines, wind, bones, pain, blood, antlers, maleness, femininity
Alfonso Casas Moreno - Yellow (throwing up butterflies) - 2013