Thursday, 12 December 2019

[OSR]D66 Mad wizard's research into immortality

D66 Mad wizard's research into immortality 

The Circle of the Lustful: Paolo and Francesca, from Dante's Inferno, Canto V

Introduction

I was reading the introduction of "return to white plume mountain" yesterday and Keraptis, the wizard bad guy was said to be researching in the field of immortality, following 8 leads (one of them detailed in the book and relevant to the plot). I started wondering what were the other leads he was following and this is the result of my bedtime musings.

Immortality as a trigger for madness

Wizards and magic user in general make very good enemies.
Often, their pragmatism, thirst for knowledge, hunger for power are their tipping point. Each of these traits is all right, even combined, as long as they don't bring you to the point where you start twisting the accepted moral principles.
Research is a point which might tip the scales and bring a magic user to "the dark side" when they start considering that their "crucial research" is worth more than human lives, for example. The research into immortality, for the magic user's own use or for one of his patron's, is a characteristically commonplace goal for extremely powerful magic users. And test subjects are needed, else the magic users won't be able to rework their experiments if they don't work from scratch...
Magic users reaching for immortality are not even bad, per se, just overly enthusiastic (and generally insane).
Here is a table to determine which area of research your batshit crazy big boss was looking into. For really crazy results, roll 3D66 and COMBINE !

D66 Research Topic
11
Clone: this spell is a way to immortality. But, what if the spell doesn't exist, though? Or if you didn't have the time to grow your clone to a suitable age before you were to die of natural causes?
12
Golemization: create an indestructible or very durable golem and transfer your consciousness into it. Who cares if you now are now a construct? They don't have to drink, eat, breathe or sleep! That can't be a bad thing, even if it means losing your humanity, right?
13
Reversing the "fall of man": this highly theological theory is based on the common creation myth than humans were immortal until they angered God (or a god) and were stripped of their immortality as punishment. Maybe if you ask God nicely?
14
Conscience imprinting into a spell: Keraptis' main research effort was to imprint his consciousness on a spell that would replace any reader's consciousness with a copy of the caster's consciousness. Since this process doesn't kill the caster, his consciousness could be around more than once at the same time. What could go wrong if the separate consciousnesses of a megalomaniac were to antagonize each other?
15
Controlled rebirth: this one is morally darkisk-gray. Trying to not forget anything before being reborn is not too bad. It starts getting dodgy when you also choose to which unborn child you want your consciousness to be sent to, after your death. And what happens to the soul of the unborn child?
16
Near Death Experience: If there is a way to go to hell/hades/the underworld, why not try mapping it and its surroundings, looking for a way back to the living. What can go wrong during a near death experience anyway?
21
Parasitizing: Your body is old and used. Why not using someone else's? If their will is weak enough, you could impose yourself into consciousness around 90% of the time. What could your host do against you in his 10% time anyway?
22
Alchemy: This has been a standard since the beginning of this discipline. Finding the right ingredients can be an infinite source of quests. What blight do failed potions cause on the test subjects?
23
Dragon blood: Drinking it? Bathing in it like Siegfried? How do you get the blood anyway? And how fresh must it still be?
24
Find the source of immortality: Is it a wellspring of Longevity? Do you have to eat Idunn's apples, or the Hesperides’ golden Apples. Do you have to go to the source of the river separating the lands of the living and those of the dead?
25
Life draining: mythic evil swords often drain health from the enemies of the swordbearer. Draining youth, life expectancy is rarer, but worth much more to an aging dodgy character. Draining the life force can be ritually done, too. Is the life given willingly or unwillingly? Is the ritual cabalistic, demonic, bloody, amorous, spiritual? And how much youth is drained? What does an 8 years old page look like after having got 30 years of his life-span drained?
26
Vampirism: Why drain life if you can be immortal drinking blood? Who needs a reflection in the mirror? Can you tame the thirsty beast within? Can you be a "light"-vampire drinking only animal blood? What about sun tan? Can you become an immortal vampire without losing your humanity, without becoming a Monster?
31
Stealing Cat Lives: It is well known the feline bastards have multiple lives. Some say 7, other say 9. Fact is: are they gonna miss one? Will Bastet suddenly pay you an unfriendly visit? Or will the reduced lifetime of the cats cause a plague outbreak?
32
Lichdom: Eternal life is too difficult to reach? Try eternal undeath! Raise your family, or raise yourself a new family, or servants, or an army! The graveyard's the limit! Just be caful with your Phylactery...
33
Body function control: eat healthy, harden your mind, be ascetic. Live like a Monk. Supposedly, their timeless bodies can age very slowly. And if the dieting, asceticism, and constant meditating get on your nerves, maybe dissecting a few monks will help understand how to emulate that slow aging without the exhaustingly boring lifestyle...
34
Pact with a higher patron: There are very powerful beings roaming the material plane, which are no gods, but not far from it. Some will exchange some of their Magic for your eternal servitude. But if what you seek is not borrowed magic power, they will certainly exchange some life energy for your enslavement. Is the Queen of the unseelie court not immortal, herself?
35
Stasis: there are certain drawbacks to being immortal in stasis. You can’t do anything physical and imposing your will and the world is a tiresome “mind over matter” activity. It’s a bit cold and boring, but you’re not ageing, so there’s that. Who’s the poor person that acts on your behalf? Willingly?
36
Dorian Greyism: Find an object that ages in your place. What happens if the object is destroyed? What happens if your connection to the object is broken? What if you are on another plane? Maybe that bag of holding is not the safest place to store it...
41
Grafting: What about exchanging your old body parts against new ones? If a family sells you their kid, you can do whatever you want with that kid, couldn’t you? Anyway, you need those organs more than he or she does… A certain Doktor Frankenstein seem to be able to graft anything… Marvels of this age… A Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless grafts mechanical improvements, maybe that’s better? And if you don’t like metal, have his Excellency Momir Vig graft you the cytoplasted hand of an owlbear, claws inclusive...
42
Decorporation: in this case you would not cheat death, just the “go to another plane of existence”-part of it. After your death, your point is to stay around as an unchanged spirit, forgoing the “getting mad” process. Sure you lose some part of your ability to interact with the world, but now you can go through walls, that counts for something, doesn’t it? Your laboratory might be haunted by a lot of angry spirits though...
43
Cryomancy: everything decays slower when you keep it cold. Maybe that’s the secret? Keep your body cold but functioning? Maybe you should move to a polar location… Do not forget to get rid of the ice statues of your test subjects before leaving, though...
44
Gem-Embedding: Dwarves are capable of doing incredible stuff with gems. You might want to embed your consciousness into an incredibly valuable gem. Whoever wears the pendant holding the gem would then be your puppet. Better not lose control or that gem might land in a very lonely safe...
45
Godhood: Gods are more or less immortal. You just have to ascend to godhood. Easy peasy. Maybe you should kill an unpopular god and take over his place in the pantheon? Be ambitious!
46
Alcohol: You can preserve a lot of stuff in Alcool. But there is one alcohol that will keep you alive for years: Ambrosia, the wine of the gods. Who cares that they use souls to fertilise the divine grapes? Who’s your dealer anyway? And what does he want in exchange?
51
Blight: How about harnessing the power of the land and transform its energy into life force? Tapping into the leylines sounds a bit dangerous for beginners, but you are able of mind! And the withering of the land around you is a small price to pay to live a few centuries longer, isn’t it?
52
Corruption: Everyone has a price, any powerful ruler knows that! Even the ferryman can be bribed. That might be a quite heavy tribute, yearly, but what the heck, if you have the money it’s worth it. Even if the price includes a soul every year. As long as it’s not yours...
53
Dark dealings: There is a life force exchanger, just around the gates of hell. Sure he does look like a devil, and his price in souls is steep, but it’s worth a yearly pilgrimage… And those kids would soon have died of famine anyway...
54
Timenapping: Steal your younger body from the past and implant your consciousness into it. Who cares about time paradoxes? It’s always easier to implant your consciousness into your own body. It’s a bit traumatic, but nothing you couldn’t handle, right? Or is that the reason you keep experimenting on others?
55
Chronolooping: This is another time trick to cheat death, sending your consciousness into your younger body, decades before. You relive the same years again and again, but you can relive your life and try to avoid the mistakes you made… Maybe you’ll find another way to live longer along the next try...
56
Law: you can try foolproofing a wish spell. Read all laws of hell, heaven and the planes. Try to find a dumb Genie. Try your hypotheses on your poor apprentices. The genies were always wiser, up to now...
61
Augment durability: Statues can overcome millenaries. Stone is just durable. If you could become stone without losing your mobility, that’d be perfect… With “flesh to stone” and “animate statue”, you can try to cast everyday until the effect is permanent… Might work one day. Sadly, you missed one “animate statue” on Igor and it seems it does not work on his statued self anymore...
62
Reverse aging: There is a legend that if you are able to reverse your blood flow, you will get younger again, reversing the aging process. Just have to find a way to do that. And do it again once you’re much younger… It would be sad if you’d forget the ritual and die of getting too young...
63
Devilish pact: you’d have to have a really yummy soul for a devil to grant a longer life. Unless he thinks you’d die of unnatural causes before your time anyway. The strings attached might be really daunting. Are you sure you read all the fine print?
64
Self-mummification: Mummification is a long process. Find the right bandages, not too itchy, but still long lasting… And once you’re ready to never rot, there’s the mess with having your bowels removed. And all this gold for your mask! A pity everyone that worked on you gotta die...
65
Angel’s grace: Angel are immortal, thank to their grace. It is not easy for a mortal to extract it, and even more trickier to ensnare it. You have to consume it with parsimony, but one grace won’t last for long… How many Angels are you read to kill over your immortality? Do you think you’ll go anywhere else than directly to inferno?
66
Gambling: Death is a gamer, but the odds are always in his favor. He will always accept a game before taking you. The more you gamble, the more death is interested! Cheating death, now, is quite another matter… Maybe you should challenge him to survive the original “Tomb of Horrors”, with unloaded dice...

Do you miss any kind of fantasy research in this list?
Then, add it in the comments!

Monday, 9 December 2019

Module Review: "Blood Moon Rising"

“Blood Moon Rising” by Small Niche Games is not part of AEG’s "Adventure I", from which I have been mostly reviewing modules up to now. “Blood Moon Rising” is a Labyrinth Lord module for 3-6 characters of 1st-3rd level. Actually 8-10 total party levels, which is a good indicator, I think.



Spoilers:

You might get severely spoiled by this review. Consider yourself warned!
“Pleasure is often spoiled by describing it.” - Stendhal.

What is it and where do I find it:

This is Module for Labyrinth Lord (LL), an OSR based on D&D B/X by Moldvay/Cook.
It is available on drivethrurpg.com as a pdf and as an A4 Print on Demand book (bundle possible)
Blood-Moon-Rising

Difficulty:

Since I am not really fluent in LL stats, i’m not really able to say. But it looks easy enough, because no encounter has to be a combat situation. I suppose that it can be quite lethal for murder-hobos, but there is plenty of room for sleep and “avoid danger”-behaviour.
If I was gonna run it with 5E, I'd adjust the difficulty to my party during the conversion and re-creation of stat-blocks. A friend who has run the module with 5E argues that it works best with level 1 characters, though...

Kind of Module:

This is a “timeline” module. Events happen, players can influence their outcome and bring the story forward or ignore everything and face the consequences. This not really linear and let’s a lot of place for the DM to improvise and add his own spice...

Motivation for the PCs to resolve the module:

I think curiosity and friendship made in the village / at the fair will be the main reasons to go investigate what’s happening. Being a good-doer is helpful for this module.

Cartography:

If you ask me, the cartography is the biggest misstep of this module. Not only do I find it ugly as a hag, I tend not to understand the lay of the land from it. The village map is okay-ish, because the village and the fair are mapped as expected, but the surroundings and the topography around the village is either missing or not readable on the map (is it a river, is it cliff, is it a hill, who knows?)
The dungeon called “The tomb of St Garan” is clear, to be fair, but since it’s only 3 rooms, how hard would it be? Still, I probably would recreate the maps from the text, which is, at the other end of the scope, very clear and descriptive.

Art:

Apart from the cover, there is not a lot of art. We have a medieval sword fight illustration and an illustration of the night demons (who look very much like gargoyles). The Gargoyles illustration is also the cover and the medieval sword fight illustration is not referenced, leading me to believe that it’s extracted from a real medieval codex and is therefore in the public domain (and don’t get me wrong, I find this practise very good, but the academic asshole inside of me wants the reference). On the other hand, I don’t think that it needs more art: the text is descriptive enough to spark the imagination. This point is not something I’d give the module bad shit for. It’s not great art, sure, but it’s really unnecessary thanks to the text quality, so what’s the big deal? I’m content with what I got.

Twists:

There is one big twist in this module: the Saint adored by the village was not the good guy they think, and is actually one of the main opponents of the module.
It’s central to the module, well done and fun. I really liked this part

My impressions:

I really liked this module. Sure, there are small things I did not like, but mainly I found it really good and fun. Enough that I want to convert it to 5E and run it afterwards (which means creating a new group and explaining 5E to most of them, too, so it’s not a trivial task).

What I liked:


  • The town and it’s description. I feel the size of it is perfect, and the annual fair is a good reason to bring any NPC you want to be there. Still, without adding anything to the village, I feel all I need is described.
  • The religious aspect of Saint Garan, around whom the plot twist of the module revolves.
  • The timeline of the “sandbox”. There is not a lot that must happen each day, so there is a lot of space and freedom for the DM to improvise around.
  • The “random encounters” at the fair each are a wonderful scene worth playing
  • The “tournament” is kept simple, but very enjoyable, and players love tournaments
  • The NPCs are nice, not all antagonists, and not everyone of them too serious
  • The antagonists and monsters of this module are well chosen and described
  • The flair delivered by this module is really nice


What I disliked:


  • The cartography, obviously
  • The lack of relationships between NPCs (as ten foot pole also noted, making this obvious to me)
  • The lack of details on the fair. It’s up to the DM to know what happens at such a fair and give it life.
  • The name of the inn and its keeper, which means something like “shithead” in french (nothing really bad, but that’s the kind of name that can kill the mood of a whole game if you’re not attentive to changing it beforehand or you slip and use it in game)


What would I change before running the module:


  • I would re-draw a few maps, at the least the map of the village and its neighbourhood to include the locations that are missing, like the quarry (which is far outside of the village, to be honest)
  • I’d probably add a level to most NPCs and re-create their stats using a character class.
  • Research medieval fair or steal ideas from modern “medieval fairs” to populate and recreate the flair of the fair (bad pun intended)


What adaptations would I make to run this module in DREAD’s World::


  • I would rename St Garan to Saint Garaniel and make him an Elf (and his 2 brothers, too), and base the “misunderstanding” of his past not only on missing information but also translation errors
  • For the shadow demons, I would use the stats of the dretch but with 
    • a Flying speed of 20 (instead of just speed 20)
    • “Light Sensitivity” and “Shadow Stealth” of the Shadow Demon
  • The “demon gate” would be opening on a shadow bridge leading to Ginnungagap (the Void Chasm between Niflheimr, the realm of primordial ice and cold, and Muspelheimr, the realm of primordial heat and fire) and carved with old-elvish runes (that no one knows how to read)


How would you rate the module?

I'd give it 4.5 stars out of five.
It would need better cartography to reach the 5 Stars.
But, as it is, it’s definitely worth the 5$ asked for the pdf.

Would you recommend it?

Yes, I would and I actually intend to run this module, once I get to modify as written above. I think I would not send the characters as level onem though, but for their 2nd/3rd adventure, sent by their patron to bring a donation to the monastery in exchange of the blessing of a weapon of the patron.

Disclaimer:

The drivethru-links included in this article are affiliate-links.
One day, I will have a few dollars credit on Drivethru and I'll buy indie products with the price tag "Pay What You Want" (PWYW) that I have found very useful. So somehow this is supporting indie creation, right?

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

[D.R.E.A.D.] Legacy of the 1st Age

Fragments of knowledge concerning the mythical 1st Age

Bragi, holding a harp, sings before his wife Iðunn (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.

Rules

Characters proficient in history, and Elves, can start the game with one fragment of knowledge about the first age.
Read the skill check result first on the general knowledge table here, then on the specific one.
On the general table, the characters knows all entries up to his result, on the specific, he only knows that one.

Reference

This article refers to the 1st Age of the setting, the Age of Yggdrasil

General Knowledge Table:

History check Knowledge
12+
The Gods created Middellærd and the Elves, the Jötnar created the Giants. Elves and Giants fought a 1000 year warThere was a 3rd side to the “eternal war” - Asgardians vs Jötnar vs Vanirians (“gods” vs “titans” vs “primal spirits”)
14+
Asgardians & Vanirians were allied at first, but treachery tore them apart
16+
The Gods certainly created the Elves, but Middellærd was created before (this opinion is considered to be blasphemous for the elves)
18+
The Eternal War went on for over 1000 years and ended in the “Trinity compact”, which strongly limits the influence of divine beings on Middellærd
20+
The Eternal War was sparked by the abduction and desecration of Idunn, the asgardian Goddess of Apples and Youth
22+
The young Jötunn Thiazi had abducted Idunn as a reprisal for the abduction of his daughter Skathi by the Vanirians


Specific Knowledge Table:

History check Knowledge
12
The Elves of the first age were mostly organised under the influence of three very important families, all wearing the name of the first important member of the family (the Nerijorites descending from Nerijoriel, the Tanevonites descending from Tanevyr, and the Alrindelites descending from Alrindel)
13
Nerijoriel was the “First Elf”, supposedly created by Odin himself, using branches of Yggdrasil, a scale of the Jörmungandr (the world serpent) and a tear of Jord (the Jötunn / Titaness of earth)
14
Tanevyr was the “First Mother”, at least the first to bear a child from a non-divine being, and organised the first clan, therefore was also known as the "First Matriarch"
15
Alrindel was known as the “the Wisest” after receiving the gift of knowledge after pledging himself to Mimir, thus also becoming the “First Cleric
16
After the war, Idunn (asgardian Goddess of Apples and Youth), Skathi (jötunn Titaness of bowhunting) and Bekkra (vanirian Archomental of Sea Life) created together an apple orchard as a symbol of appeasement. The salty apples grown there are supposed to give eternal life and the trees' branches make the best possible bows
17
The “Trinity compact” was negotiated by Jorodiel of the Nerijorites, Loki disguised as a Giant named “Ikolag”, and Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon, representing the Vanirians
18
At the end of the Eternal War ruled the very talented King-General Jorodiel of the Nerijorites. His armor is supposed to make unvulnerable to mundane weapons
19
Triandel “Jötunn-Slayer” was an exceptional archer and the “First Assassin”. After proving himself to Bragi, God of Poetry, the god offered him a magic brooch, to help him assassinate the Jötunn Thiazi, who had abducted Idunn, Bragi’s wife (thus asserting “revenge” as a poetic notion)
20
Evondiel “the Trapper” is known to be the first non-divine being capable of trapping a Vanirian and tap into his elemental powers for his own profit.
21
Idunn’s orchard is protected by the “Trinitan druidic Order of the Avellenau Orchard
22
Freyja gave her amber mirror (named Spegillsokr) to Völfyr of the Alrindelites, thus giving her the gift of glimpsing in amber the fate of her petitioners. Volfyr was the first of the “Seidrakona”, the amber seeresses, able to foretell the future. They must be female and virgins to keep their gift
23
Foreseeing death all around the world, Hel decided to build the Gjallarbrú as a network of invisible gates (to the living) leading to the bridge, and appointed Modgud as the guardian of the Gjallarbrú. One such doors lies at the bottom of the Œdramarr (the Lake of Madness)
24+
Roll twice 1D12+11 and give the player both results

Who's who and What's what


  • Odin the All-Father: Patriarch God of the Argardians. Creator of the elves.
  • Bragi: asgardian God of Poetry (married to Idunn)
  • Idunn: asgardian Goddess of Apples and Youth (married to Bragi, abducted by Thiazi)
  • Thiazi: jötunn and notorious for his abduction and desecration of Idunn (Father of Skathi)
  • Skathi: jötunn associated with bowhunting (daughter of Thiazi, she was married to Soffereim, the Sapphire Dragon as compensation for her fathers assassination)
  • Nerijoriel the “First Elf”: founder of the Nerijorites lineage
  • Tanevyr the “First Mother”: founder of the Tanevonites lineage
  • Alrindel the “First Cleric”: founder of the Alrindelites lineage
  • Hel: God or Jötunn (unknown) of the Underrealm, watcher of the unworthy deads
  • Modgud: guardian of the Gjallarbrú, the bridge over the river Gjöll, which encloses the underworld
  • Gjallarbrú: bridge to the underworld
  • Œdramarr: the Lake of Madness, where a door to the Gjallarbrú is situated
  • Loki: the most well known Jötunn, infamous for his uncanny capacity to fool all beings. His spectacular misdeeds outweight his goods deeds, but he is not per se an evil character
  • Middellærd: the continent that saw the birth of the Elves and the surprising arrival of the humans
  • Avellenau Orchard: the holy apple tree orchard founded by Idunn, Skathi and Bekkra, after the Eternal War
  • Bekkra: vanirian Archomental of Sea Life
  • Bahamut: vanirian Platinum Dragon, king of the good aligned dragons
  • Soffereim: vanirian Sapphire Dragon (married Skathi after the war)
As always, remarks, comments and questions are welcome !