Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Edge of Death Metal

While writing the Brood Ventricle I listened to all sorts of metal from the 80s to take myself back. There is just something synonymous with metal and old school gaming. The lyrics and album covers just power up your imagination if you let them. A while back I touched on just how the imagery of metal music is such juicy RPG material. Today I was mulling over how much further death metal takes us into the realms of the otherworld. For example Lovecraftian horror and Conan-esque type savagery often colors the themes and lyrics of death metal bands. Just for clarification I’m using the term death metal loosely here to mean extreme metal.

Admittedly death metal singing has never really been my cup of tea. That being said, I have friends who know the lyrics to some songs that sound like nothing more than guttural snarling to me. I do however like the aggressive guitar complexities and the epic vibe of death metal. Much of the music sounds like the potential cadence of some army of hell or alien horror from the abyss. Below I have displayed a few of my favorite death metal album covers for your continued inspiration:

Finally below please find a new relic for some lucky (or unlucky) player in your campaign to find. The only caveat being it may induce mosh pits in your game room and herald a new era of combat in your games! 

Death Metal


Death Metal is a two handed sword which has been forged from a single piece of adamantine. Legend holds that the hammered blade was cooled in the blood of ancient dragons. When hefted and swung, Death Metal issues forth a distortion of growls which resemble a mighty beast singing.


Death Metal revels in the fight and seeks out combat so it may sing new songs of glory. The wielder of this antagonistic sword always fails charisma based rolls related to social interaction and diplomacy. Once per day the wielder may also invoke the sword’s Wall of Death power. All allies and enemies within a 60’ radius must make a difficult wisdom saving throw or charge each other violently. This charm of fury lasts until a saving throw is successfully made on subsequent rounds or until everyone is unconscious or dead.

Death Metal has a +3 enchantment bonus and can be considered morally ambiguous in terms of alignment. The wielder of Death Metal is immune to all Fear both mundane and magical.


Death Metal is said to have been crafted for a mighty king who became complacent after years of peace and opulence. Worried their realm would soon fall victim to outside forces several wizards conspired to find a way to push the king into action. The result was the creation of a notorious weapon that was gifted to the king on his 60th birthday. What followed was the unbridled conquering of several nearby nations when all efforts at continued diplomacy failed. When the king was laid to rest many years later history tells that a strange calm filled the land.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Brood Ventricle

In 1985 my grandmother gave me $10.00 to spend on my 12th birthday. It was the summer and I was staying at her home in Philadelphia for two weeks along with my sisters and a cousin. I still recall walking all the way to the Roosevelt Mall that day to find my way to Allied Hobbies. I spent time pouring over the shelves of goodies in the RPG section. Then an image caught my eye that I will never forget. It was a bright blue book with the most awesome looking skeletal creature on it I had ever seen. It was entitled the Fiend Folio and it appeared to be some lost tome of AD&D power! I spent the rest of the day reading through this birthday present filled with monsters of badassery.

The Githyanki in particular really resonated with me. Alien like creatures with withered skin stretched over bone wielding super awesome swords! After learning some of their backstory it made me look at the mind flayer in a new light. The githyanki inspired me to make my own gonzo material at a very young age.

It was not until many years later that I learned readers were first treated to the githyanki by Charles Stross in the pages of White Dwarf magazine. Furthermore, that the word githyanki was originally coined by no other then George R. R. Martin himself in his novel Dying of the Light. Now decades later the githyanki have survived multiple iterations of the D&D game. They remain as an icon of old school D&D and symbolize everything that is metal, lethal and off the hook.

I decided to enter the One Page Dungeon contest this year and used the githyanki as my adventure foundation. I wanted to make something that my 12 year old self would have dreamed up. Githyanki are known to incubate and hatch their eggs on the prime material plane. So I thought what better place than the buried heart of some ancient dead god. The Brood Ventricle is designed completely to be system agnostic so you can open up any edition and just plug the monster stats in. All you really need is your favorite version of githyanki, mind flayer or red dragon of the appropriate level.

I included the suggestion “for character levels 10-14” for two reasons. First to emphasize to any potential DM that this adventure is designed to be very hard if not downright lethal. Secondly it is a nod to some of my favorite early published AD&D material. The Brood Ventricle is an extradimensional space so I encourage you to expand upon it beyond the four corners of this one page dungeon.

The contest aside if I spun this adventure correctly it will have players grumbling about it around tables for years to come. So without further ado I present to you The Brood Ventricle!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Magic Pillow Table

In one of my current campaigns we had a rather comical moment when the party found a plush yet simple red pillow. There was a tug of war between my wife’s character, a 14 year old thief and Tanya’s character which is a Brixie ranger. For reference in Ultanya a Brixie is a brownie/pixie mix which resembles a Kender in terms of personality. The red pillow has become a running joke now with the players in that campaign. As I was preparing our next Roll20 session for this weekend it dawned on me that a table of magic pillows may be fun to make. So without further ado I present you with an arcane collection of cushioned support for your players to find.

Magic Pillow Table (d10)

1.    A plush pillow with a silky red cover. Any creature of young age or small stature will be inexplicably attracted to this pillow. Sleeping on the pillow grants the user 1XP as they learn from their experiences while dreaming. Useable once per week.

2.    A stone burial pillow (10lbs) originally placed under the head of a mummy. If slept on gain knowledge to the location of an ancient tomb but make a saving throw versus mummy rot. Additionally the user of this pillow will experience ongoing nightmares about being paralyzed yet awake during a horrific embalming process.

3.    A soft kneeling pillow used during prayer to some forgotten god. Interaction with the pillow causes the character to permanently speak in tongues at random times. A cleric or someone learned in ancient history may be able to decipher some of the ancient dialect. Remove Curse will ameliorate the issue but leave the character plagued with broken memories of the past.

4.    A beautifully carved jade headrest with arcane runes. With eight hours of uninterrupted sleep the user gains +2 to their intelligence for one day. Unfortunately if the sleep is interrupted they suffer -2 to their intelligence for one day instead.

5.    A comfortable pillow which appears to be designed for a child. Stitched into one side is the name Nodwick. If slept upon the user will not require any rest for 1d6 days. However this comes at a price as small fairies will extract 1d6 teeth while the user sleeps. 

6.    A big decorative pillow ordinarily found in the home of a noble. If placed in a space no larger than 10x10' it will transform the area into a comfortable sleeping chamber. The temperature will be perfect, the lighting conditions dimmed and noise baffled. Anyone inside the space will have their perception reduced by half.

7.    A white cozy pillow filled with owlbear feathers. If slept upon there is a 25% chance it will produce 1d6 similar pillows. If this occurs anyone within a 25’ radius will immediately become compelled to pick one up and engage in a pillow fight. This humorous rage will not end until the last pillow is burst of all feathers.

8.    A large, high-backed pillow with two "arms” used for reading. The magic of the pillow allows the user to read any text in half the normal time required. This includes studying a spell book to commit magic to memory. However this will leave the user in a state of exhaustion for one day with -2 to all constitution saving throws.

9.    A lavender scented eye pillow crafted from an unknown but extraordinarily comfortable material. If used during a period of rest the pillow comforts the mind cleansing it of any madness just once. There is a 50% chance any pillow of this type found will already contain a madness which is immediately transferred to the new user. The pillow then turns to a pile of purple dust. 

10.    A silvery cushion which sparkles in the moon light and always feels cool to touch. When used the owner will hear the whispers of the fairy king while they sleep. In the morning the cushion will produce a small crystal which contains dreams which may be watched. There is a 5% chance per hour slept that the dreams belong to a prior owner of the cushion. The crystal vanishes once the dream sequence has ended.

Having an all-night game and need some DIY thematic pillows?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Trinket Trove Table #1

I really like the trinket table in the 5E Player’s Handbook. Random curiosities that a player can use to develop some back-story are just a wonderful addition. One of the humorous things about the table are some of the pop culture references on the list such as #35 A white, sequined glove sized for a human. With April Fool’s Day behind us and the spirit of the fun (for some) it generates I decided to make an additional table.

The biggest difference being each of these twenty trinkets has a magical property of some type. They could be used as normal trinkets during character generation or just found as a piece of treasure by adventurers. Game and pop culture references may be easily noticeable in some and harder in others. I had fun making these today and could literally keep going I think all the way to #100. Depending on the response to these initial twenty I may just do that!

Trinket Trove Table #1 (d20) 

01.    A silver ring with the name “Aleena” engraved inside. Spare the Dying as spell once per week.
02.    A wooden bear toy that screams loudly when in the immediate presence of fire.
03.    A blanket which makes you invisible but only when you are snoring.
04.    A lucky rabbit’s foot with a “Made in Caerbannog” label. +1 AC versus diminutive creatures.
05.    One sock riddled with holes which attracts vermin when worn.
06.    A comb that randomly changes the hair color of anyone using it once per day.
07.    A small obsidian rooster which crows loudly at dawn. Only heard by the current owner.
08.    A picture amulet showing an opalescent blue altar. Provides lighting resistance 1/day underground.
09.    A small demon idol with red crystal eyes that glow when in the presence of reptiles.
10.    An ugly perfume box which releases monster pheromones once per week.
11.    A blank coin which progressively weighs more and more in the vicinity of gold.
12.    A dull spoon engraved with the name Heartseeker. Critical on a 17-20, 1d2 damage.
13.    A pair of obnoxious dragon tooth cufflinks. Wearer compelled to act haughty in public.
14.    A crystal cube with light trapped inside. Squeeze to illuminate a room for 1 round a day.
15.    A rusty old fisherman’s hook which becomes a grappling hook when near water.
16.    An antique wooden box engraved with a forest scene. Fills with chocolate treats once a week.
17.    A strange mechanical eyestalk. If peered through see twice as far but speak in a staccato delivery with rising inflection for 1 hour.
18.    A tiny skull themed toy castle with a hinged jawbridge. Inside are 9 miniature mundane weapons which expand to normal size if removed. Can be replaced after a long rest.
19.    A tiny adamantine box of curiously strong mints. Refills every week.
20.    A crumpled piece of parchment with an inked grid. Can be written on and then erased if crumpled again. 1974 charges remain.

Need trinket ideas? Visit your local antique shop for inspiration!