Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Smoked Cockatrice

There are many ways one can cook a cockatrice but smoking it for Thanksgiving Day maintains the moisture and flavor the best. The cooked appearance will be different but don’t let that deter you. If you do not want to attempt hunting your own cockatrice and smoking it the Adventurer’s League will be selling 20lb smoked cockatrices by pre-order. This great deal is by market pickup only the rest of the month for 1000 gold pieces.

If you're smoking your own cockatrice, here's what you'll need:

•    Fresh cockatrice. Be careful when hunting!
•    Smoking pit. Arcane vessels are fine. Avoid using a cauldron of the witch.
•    Apple wood for generating the smoke. Aged treant adds a nice flavor but is not advised.
•    Fuel for your fire with prestidigitation or thaumaturgy if possible.
•    Sharp knife – adamantine is best.
•    Metal rack. Your local blacksmith will be happy to make you one!
•    10’ pole.

First use your knife to carefully remove the beak of the beast. Even in death the slightest scratch could turn you to stone. Every year fledgling arcane cooks become holiday statues because of this. For an extra 100 gold pieces you can have the beak professionally removed which is highly advised.

Be sure to remove any scales on the cockatrice with your knife before smoking. This is especially true if they have any red hue indicating potential draconic like resistances to heat and cooking!

Prepare the smoking pit with your spell of choice. Once the heat in the smoking pit reaches a degree that it would incinerate a goblin, rub the cockatrice with a spice blend of your choice, although the added spices are not really necessary.

Place the cockatrice in the middle of the smoking pit on a metal rack. Add your chosen fruit wood to start the smoking process. Never use any wood which contains large quantities of sap such as pine because of odd flavoring. Additionally check your wood for fairies and other malicious fey which may ruin the smoking process.

The cockatrice should cook for at least one hour before you start checking it.  At this point pour over the smoking cockatrice an even mixture of brown sugar and your favorite holiday ale. 

If the wings are getting too dark, use your 10’ pole to flip the cockatrice now and again inside the smoking pit. This is a great time to practice using the pole before your next dungeon delve!

It will take about 3 to 3½ hours of smoking before the cockatrice will turn a golden brown color. This indicates a nice even arcane smoke has been achieved all around the cockatrice. At this point you will want to remove the cockatrice so it does not become over smoked and dry. Allow it to rest for five to 10 minutes before carving and serve!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Metal Imagery and Inspiration

One of the things I like to do when dreaming up new adventures for my campaign world is look at different pictures. People are visual by nature and fantastical imagery is a big inspiration for me. When I begin working on an OSR/O5R style adventure nothing conjures up that vibe more than retro style art. That being said, one type of edgy stuff that has often inspired me is Iron Maiden album covers. I love the mixture of gonzo with heavy metal because it just feels old school to me. Maybe I’m just remembering a nostalgic time when it all seemed so relative but then again that’s also the era that Dungeons & Dragons reached critical popularity.

Admittedly, I’m not even a big Iron Maiden fan but I sure loved the early artwork of Derek Riggs and his portrayal of Eddie, a.k.a Eddie the Head. The leathery skinned undead creature was the trademark of the band since the early 1980s. As a young kid and fledgling DM the imagery created by Derek Riggs was just synonymous with the style of D&D I enjoyed. Below I have picked some of my favorite album covers that have spawned creativity in various game scenarios over the years.

Very Ravenloft black carriage feel to this cover.

Edward the Great or any other undead king you would like.

This screams gonzo and sci-fi meets D&D.

What horrific abomination is being kept alive here?

Stranger in a strange land. Star Frontiers anyone?

A lich using alien technology to birth a new servant?

Necromantic creatures hiding inside foul ancient trees?

My favorite of all time. The pyramid of the Lich King.

One thing that Eddie the Head really resembles is the notorious Githyanki. For the uninitiated the githyanki are astral sea dwellers who were once enslaved by a malevolent and cthulhu-esque race known as the illithid or mind flayers. The githyanki first appeared in the 1979 issue #12 of White Dwarf, in the "Fiend Factory" column. However they are most famous for being depicted on the cover of the 1981 Fiend Folio AD&D book. Interestingly the name githyanki was first coined by George R. R. Martin in his 1977 sci-fi novel Dying of the Light. With that background in mind checkout the below mash-up by artist Ryan Lesser of the Iron Maiden Killers album and the Fiend Folio githyanki.

It looks awesome on this "metal jacket"

Finally no post mentioning Iron Maiden this much and D&D is complete without some music. So as you craft your next dungeon delve and consider old school style encounters and challenges maybe the Number of the Beast will help motivate you. Just be sure not to include the big hair on game night!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fun with Zombicide

As a big fan of all things zombie apocalypse related last month I finally purchased Zombicide. After one or two playtests of the game I was instantly hooked. The price always deterred me when I picked up the huge box in the game store but I finally found a discounted deal. That being said, the game tiles are beautiful and the box is crammed packed with detailed plastic miniatures. The former was a big selling point for me since the game pieces are reusable in other games and RPGs.

Zombicide uses a collaborative system which remains my favorite type of board game since it makes the experience team based. Sure elimination games have their place but who really thinks going broke in Monopoly and sitting out while the game grinds on is fun? Another great aspect of Zombicide is everyone gets to play a survivor character with their own individual themes and abilities. This makes the game edge up on the periphery of an RPG without getting overly detailed. 

The rule set is very simple to learn (cake for gaming veterans) and the actual play is very fast paced.
Granted certain scenarios can take several hours but you never really feel bogged down. Instead you feel a sense of urgency as the hordes of zombies grow and the threat level increases. The season 1 base game comes with 6 unique survivor characters. Since the release of Zombicide (2012) there have been tons of new characters created for season 2, 3 and various expansions. Additionally you can find many fan created characters on or with a simple Google search.

With so many miniatures and game pieces I decided to take a cantilever toolbox and create a DIY storage system. The theme is obviously based on a traveling medic kit that has been heavily used during the zombie apocalypse. After ordering the season 2 game box and several expansions I now need another storage system. I think my next DIY project will be some sort of olive drab US ARMY ammo box theme. I then plan to use one toolbox for game parts and the other for miniature storage.

I love the Walking Dead so I decided to create my own version of some of the iconic characters from the TV series. I plan to also write some of my own scenarios based on the show and comics to run the characters through. The scenarios will be difficult so my Zombicide versions of the Walking Dead survivors are a tad buffed up with that caveat in mind. Please find them below and feel free to download, print and take out some walkers!

"Team up, gear up, level up, and take 'em down!" is the tagline of Zombicide and I can say the game really delivers that experience. Check it out if you think you have the BRAINS to survive!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Cave of the Great Bell

This adventure was a light bulb moment which occurred after my children asked me about Fraggle Rock this morning. The show launched in 1983 which is also the year I discovered Dungeons & Dragons. In looking for some good pictures online to share with my kids I stumbled across the cave of the great bell map. It is seen in Episode 301: The Bells of Fraggle Rock.  

I decided to take some of my favorite Fraggle Rock memories and incorporate them into a system agnostic dungeon crawl. The Cave of the Great Bell is intentionally not completely fleshed out. I encourage any DM using it to add, modify and delete as they see fit for their respective table top groups. I hope some of you have as much fun using it as I did creating this tongue-in-cheek delve.

DM Background
An ambitious young necromancer found her way into the Cave of the Great Bell. The harmonic chime of the angelic bell was soothing to the necromancer and she wanted it for her own. After subjugating the race of fey creatures which cared for the bell her own lust for power proved to be an undoing. A risky experiment with a gelatinous cube went terribly wrong and the necromancer was dissolved by her own pet. That being said, her evil will remained and tainted the cube. It became distorted in shape, oddly intelligent and able to wield the magic of undeath. It is now simply known as the Glob.

Cave Overview
The caves are considered small by human standards but were voluminous to the Fraggles who stood maybe 25” tall. Most halls and chambers support between 6’ to 8’ ceilings and very narrow widths. The map is not meant to be 100% to scale with the grid so adjust accordingly to accommodate various circumstances. When in doubt remember the theme to fall back on is small and constrained environments. Unless otherwise noted the caves have no special illumination although glowing fungus could grow in patches in various areas of the DM’s choice.

Former residents of the cave
Fraggles were a noble race - fearless, dignified, and intellectual. They represented the very pinnacle of civilization and culture. Music was the greatest of the Fraggles’ art forms, but Fraggles also possessed uncanny curiosity and great athletic ability. Fraggles naturally had physical prowess and a dance-like grace.


Stories of ancient caves and the haunting sound of a great bell fill the tables of a local tavern. The locals are always ready to share rumors over a frothy mug of ale.

Rumor Table

1   There once was diminutive anthropomorphic creatures living in the cave. (T)
2   The bell ringing is caused by evil dwarves. (F)
3   Avoid the mist because it brings death (T)
4   In ancient times there was a legendary sword lost in the cave (F)
5   All who enter the cave must pay homage or be cursed (T)
6   A terrible horror has made the cave its home (T)
7   Diamonds grow everywhere inside the cave (F)
8   There is an area of the cave overgrown by toxic plants (F)
9   The bell is worn on a collar by a great dragon (F)
10 A garden of giant vegetables is in the deepest parts of the cave (T)

Room Key

1. Entrance: A natural cave, small animal bones crunch in the underfoot. A barely decipherable phrase is etched onto one of the walls at knee height: Dance your cares away, Worry's for another day, Let the music play, Down at Fraggle Rock. Any PC walking past the cryptic phrase without playing some sort of music or singing a song must make a saving throw or immediately fall under the effects of Otto's irresistible dance.

2. Mossy Cavern:  Dense clumps and mats of multi colored moss; toxic smell, heavy air; strange bulbous eggs. Hiding under the moss are Poison Cacklers (6). They have large teeth, long, protruding tongues, and tails similar to a scorpion's. The poison cackler emits a terrible shrill like a hyena when attacking. Use a variation of a Giant (poisonous) Spider for statistics. Inside a 3’ high pile of toxic offal is 5 gems (20 gp, 3×75 gp & 200 gp value)

3. Falling Rocks: Crumbled rock litters the floor; impenetrable darkness after 6’ of height; skeletons amidst the rocks; chirping of crickets. The chamber is magically trapped and will drop rocks on anyone passing through for 4d6 damage (saving throw for ½). One of the skeletons still holds a battle axe +1 in its boney grasp.

4. Golden Apple Grove: Sickly Sweet smell; 10’ tall tree with phosphorescent glowing apples; small wicker baskets. The tree has not been tended to and the fallen apples have become a source of nutrition for a Yellow Mold (1) colony. The remaining golden apples can easily be picked and if eaten will heal 1d6 points of damage per apple.

5. Radish Garden: Massive red leafed taproots protrude from the soil here. Bitter smell; damp and squishy ground; strange clicking sounds; many chew marks on the leafy parts of the plants. The garden is no longer cared for and now home to a community of Giant beetles (12). Although they are herbivores they will defend their food supply violently. Metallic colored with great jumping ability.

6. Great Bell: Enormous metallic bell (8’ tall) encrusted with rock; eldritch runes etched in the stone floor; chill air; decaying smell; broken gong in east corner; thick cobwebs. Fraggle Ghouls (6) wait in ambush behind a crack in the bell. Fraggle Ghouls are able to cast Tasha's Hideous Laughter each once per day. They are also considered diminutive and should receive a bonus to their armor class to reflect their very small size. The runes upon the ground are the remnants of a preservation ritual.

7. Batworm Cave: Upturned earth; guano smell; clumps of hair all over ground; stalactites.  A colony of Flying Batworms (40) calls this place their home. There is a 50% they will be sleeping and not awaken if the PC’s do not disturb the ground. If the colony feels threatened it will launch from the soil and swarm any intruders. These creatures appear as large bloated earthworms covered in thick black hair with membranous wings. Use standard bats (or bat swarm) for statistics. The one caveat being mucus the batworms spit which causes Cackle Fever. Saving throw or succumb to disorientation, and frequent bouts of hideous laughter.

8. Terrible Tunnel: Supernatural chill; feeling of being constantly watched; pulsating walls and floor; strange warmth; gold filled treasure chest end of the tunnel. This sentient and malicious cavern feeds on anything which dares to enter. Any PC who spends more than 1 round here must make a saving throw or immediately lost half their hit points. This damage effect will continue every round with a 50% loss of hit points on every failed save. Those affected will feel as if something is chewing them and see thick pools of saliva at their feet. The chest is an illusion created by the cavern and really conceals a sticky pit of tar. Any PC stepping here becomes mired in the tar and must make a strength check (DM’s choice) to escape.

9. Echo Hole: Flimsy Miniature Bridge (fraggle sized) spans 10’x10’ hole; amazing sound echoes; fungal smell; bulky adventurers backpack other side of chamber. The Echo hole is an approximately 10,000 feet abyss, creating a unique echo unlike anything the PC’s will ever hear. The adventurer’s pack is all that remains of the last spelunker to fall victim to the hole. The pack is 15’ past the far side of the hole and stuck on a stalagmite. Floating in the darkness on the other side are Gas Spores (4). Any PC who finds a way to cross the pit will then see the creatures and probably mistake them for Beholders. Characters falling into the Echo Hole should be considered dead unless they have a means to prevent their decent.  The adventurer’s pack contains 3 pine torches, tinder & flint, 20’ of hemp rope, rotted rations, potions of healing (x3), potion of giant strength and wand of fireballs (3 charges).

10. Gelatinous Greetings: Steamy and humid air; multiple small geothermal pools; smoothed crystal walls, unnatural darkness. The Glob waits for the PC’s here in the shadows and will roll toward them for a surprise round. The Glob appears as a large gelatinous ball filled with swirling black magic and bones. Treat the Glob as a Gelatinous Cube for statistics and a 3rd level Wizard for spell allotment. The Glob’s movement rate should be increased to reflect its ability to roll and squeeze past objects. Room contains 512 gp,
potions of poison (x2), a wand of magic missiles (9 charges), and a Necromantic spell book with seven 1st level spells, four 2nd level spells, and two 3rd level spells, determined by the DM.

Fraggles can turn up anywhere!

This blog article and website is not affiliated nor connected to the Jim Henson Company, the Walt Disney Company or any sister companies. This is fan material only.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

5E Background: Techlore Sage

In my own campaign there was a realm changing event which heralded pieces of other worlds falling into Ultanya. Several of these worlds were indeed alien in nature and strange devices and curios have been found by the players. With the release of the 5E Dungeon Master’s Guide preview on alien technology I thought this was a perfect time for a new background. If you enjoy magitech and gonzo themes in your own games then this may be a background for you!

Techlore Sage

You have studied alien devices and technology from other planes of existence for years. Your evidence while sometimes anecdotal has not stopped your tireless review of the subject. You intend to prove to those that remain skeptical that there are other forces at work in the multiverse beyond the arcane and divine.

Skill Proficiency: Intelligence (Arcana); Intelligence (Investigation)
Tool Proficiency: Artisan Tools
Languages: Pick any 2
Equipment: Artisan’s Tools (hand tools), set of study clothes, technology notebook, magnifying glass headband, a belt pouch containing 15gp.

Feature: Alien Technology Expert

While others may find curios and devices of alien nature complex you instead are fascinated by them. Your cerebral research allows you to understand alien technology on a deeper level than anyone else. Because of this you never need to roll to determine the complexity of a simple item (such as a cigarette lighter, calculator, or revolver). You also only need two successes to determine the properties of complex item (such as a computer, chainsaw, or hovercraft).

Suggested Characteristics

d8 Personality
1.  Inquisitive: You wish to understand the inner workings of all alien technology and treat every found device with excitement.
2.  Explorative: You believe alien devices are the portal to new worlds and intend to design experiments to test that theory.
3.  Persistent: You are determined to never be stymied by the most complex alien technology.
4.  Creative: You believe the best way to understand alien technology is to develop your own.
5.  Analytical: You intend to record every iota of alien technology evidence you find for future study.
6.  Rational: You see no connection between arcane or divine magic and alien technology and intend to argue it until proven otherwise.
7.  Humble: You think the best way to end superstitions about alien technology is to share all your knowledge with those willing to accept it.
8.  Open-minded: You do not pretend to understand the complexity of all alien technology. Therefore you are willing to always investigate free of bias.

d6 Ideal
1.    Helpfulness: I want to use alien technology to make life better for everyone. (Good)
2.    Control: Alien technology should be carefully distributed and used in a controlled way. (Lawful)
3.    Freedom: Alien technology cannot and should not be controlled hence the name alien. (Chaos)
4.    Power: I believe that alien technology should be harnessed to defeat my enemies. (Evil)
5.    Inventiveness: I want to find ways to use alien technology in my everyday life. (Unaligned)
6.    Recognition: I want to be known as a leader in my field. (Any alignment)

d6 Bond
1.    I have been secretly hired by a wealthy individual to locate a cache of alien technology.
2.    As a child I recall a home world of alien technology. I must find this place again soon.
3.    Another Techlore Sage got me started and I owe them a big favor because of it.
4.    A friend of mine has a curse magic cannot cure. I intend to find alien technology to help them.
5.    I believe my body is just an alien host. I must find the truth behind this and my lost memories.
6.    Inside an alien device I found was a consciousness. I agreed to complete a task for the entity.

d6 Flaw
1.    I will go to dangerous lengths to not leave potential alien technology behind.
2.    I often grow angered when alien technology is destroyed by others even accidently.
3.    I cannot help myself from hording alien technology that I or others find.
4.    I will spend any wealth I have on acquiring alien technology so it can be studied and used.
5.    My interest in alien technology often clouds my thinking to the potential detriment of my group.
6.    I will exaggerate my expertise on alien technology if it leads to a potential find.   


5E DMG Alien Technology preview