Friday, December 20, 2013

NPCs for Fun and Adventuring: The Kobold Mariachi Band


A new feature at Don't Split the Partyis NPCs for Fun and Adventuring where I will introduce new NPCs that you can fit in your campaign. We will start with a light-hearted idea I developed with my kids - the kobold mariachi band! Please note: I alone am responsible for any lame jokes. Please hold my family blameless.

Backstory: Decades ago an unscrupulous bard used his songs, magic, and some items to rule a remote kobold band as a demi-god. The bard, named Jalascience, son of Huasteca, had the kobolds play music as part of their worship of him. Over a number of (kobold) generations they became very proficient and eventually the Jalascience would pick the best 10 kobold musicians each year to perform with him. These ten kobolds, the Sons of Jalascience, were a vital part of the kobold community.
  After many years Jalascience (realizing he was dying) told the band that he was returning to his celestial hall and would continue to watch over them from there. He left some of his personal items with the Sons of Jalascience and vanished, never to be seen again.
  After this the best singer of the Sons, called Little Black because of his small black horns, began to lead the kobold band. Over the next decade they gained wealth and influence by becoming mercenaries to other humanoids. Now the Sons of Jalascience are highly sought after by other tribes of humanoids for their help on the battlefield.

Appearance: the Sons of Jalascience dress in tight trousers with flared legs, tunics, and short jackets with wide-brimmed hats. Their clothing is highly decorated with embroidery and buckles. Four of the Sons play violin, two play guitar, one a rather large 'rhythm' guitar, and three play trumpets. All can, and do, sing.

Abilities: The Sons are all 'kobold bosses' with maximum hit points and fight as 1+1 HD monsters. When singing and playing together they have the following abilities, usable one at a time:
  - +3 on morale on all allies within 60 yards
  - -2 on morale on all foes within 60 yards (only foes who speak kobold, goblin, orcish, or giantish)
  - negate all sound-based attacks (harpy song, dragonne roar, etc.) within 60 yards
  - drown out all sounds within 40 yards, making it impossible to hear orders, yell alarms, etc. Spellcaster trying to cast a spell within this effect are 20% likely to fail to cast any spell with a verbal component (the spell vanishes from memory but is not cast)
  - +1 to hit and damage for all allies and -1 to hit and damage for all foes within 30 yards

Using them in your campaign: While largely for fun, the Sons of Jalascience can make a big difference on a battlefield and could be introduced as the 'secret weapon' behind the sudden battlefield success of a humanoid force. Also, perhaps some of the things left behind by Jalascience are important! They could be anything from a map to a lost treasure to the command words for a folding boat. Or simply a few magic items.

Changing the NPC: Simply avoid the mariachi  symbols and make them a group of kobolds with bard powers. Maybe throw in some magic left behind by Jalascience, such as: one of the trumpets is a Horn of Blasting and one of the guitars acts as Pipes of the Sewers

Friday, December 13, 2013

The 'Inverted' 2e S&P Skills Chart

  One of the things that bugs me (and my players!) about 2e S&P is the mechanics of doing s skills check. Want to hit a Hobgoblin? High is good! Wnat to save vs. dragon breath? High is good? Want to make a skill check?
  Low is good!
  So I finally, after a decade or so, reversed the numbers so that now when you check a skill - high is good! Below is the alphabetical list of the skills from S&P and S&< with one or two skills form my campaign. CP costs are listed, as are the abilities and sub-abilities. To get your target number do this
[[(base number listed) - (ability modifier from S&P) = target number].
  So a low INT/rea score will make your target number for the Administration non-weapon proficiency higher than your base score but a high INT/rea will make your Administration target score lower than the base score. To make a non-weapon proficiency a skill check roll a d20 and if you get the target number or higher you succeed. Just like with saves and 'to hit' rolls.

  NOTE: the background formatting of the blog page may interfere with your ability to see the chart. Printing in black and white or doing a cut and paste into a text editor should fix that.

  The notes on the chart are particular to my campaign, but I included them for your comments, too!

Skill Type CP Cost Base Number Ability Note
Administration Priest 3 12 INT/rea
Agriculture General 3 14 INT/kno
Alchemy Wizard 5 15 INT/kno
Alms Priest 3 13 CHA/lea
Anatomy Priest, Wizard 4 16 INT/kno, WIS/int
Ancient History Priest, Wizard, Rogue 3 15 WIS/int, INT/kno
Ancient Languages Priest, Wizard 4 16 INT/kno
Animal Handling General 3 14 WIS/wil
Animal Lore Warrior 3 14 INT/kno, WIS/int
Animal Training General 4 16 WIS/wil, CHA/lea
Appraising Rogue 2 13 INT/rea, WIS/int
Aquatic Fighting Warrior 4 - STR/mus, DEX/bal
Arcanology Wizard 4 16 INT/kno
Armorer Warrior 5 16 INT/kno, STR/mus
Astrology Priest, Wizard 3 16 WIS/int, INT/rea 1
Blacksmithing General 4 15 STR/mus, INT/kno
Blind Fighting Rogue, Warrior 4 - WIS/int, DEX/bal
Boat Piloting General 2 15 STR/mus, INT/rea
Bookbinding Priest, Wizard 3 13 INT/kno
Bowyer/Fletcher Warrior 5 15 WIS/int, Dex/aim 2
Brewing General 3 13 INT/kno
Bureaucracy Priest 3 13 INT/kno
Carpentry General 3 14 STR/sta, INT/kno
Ceremony Priest 2 14 WIS/int
Cobbling General 3 14 DEX/aim, INT/kno
Concentration Priest, Wizard 5 15 WIS/wil
Cooking General 3 14 INT/rea
Cryptography Rogue, Wizard 3 15 INT/rea, WIS/int
Dancing General 2 15 DEX/bal, CHA/app
Deep Diving General 2 16 DEX/bal, CON/hea
Diplomacy Priest 3 15 CHA/lea
Disguise Rogue 4 16 WIS/int, CHA/lea
Dowsing Wizard 3 16 WIS/int
Endurance Warrior 2 18 CON/fit
Engineering General 4 16 INT/rea, WIS/int
Etiquette General 2 13 CHA/app, WIS/int
Fire Building General 2 13 WIS/int, INT/rea
Fishing General 3 15 WIS/int, INT/kno
Forgery Rogue 3 16 DEX/aim, WIS/wil
Gaming General 2 16 WIS/int, INT/kno
Gem Cutting Rogue, Wizard 3 15 DEX/aim
Glassblowing Wizard 2 14 DEX/aim
Healing Priest 4 16 WIS/int, CHA/lea
Heraldry General 2 13 INT/kno
Herbalism Priest, Wizard 3 15 INT/kno, WIS/int 2
Hunting Warrior 2 14 WIS/int
Hypnotism Wizard 4 15 CHA/lea
Investigation Priest 4 15 INT/rea, WIS/int
Juggling Rogue 3 14 DEX/aim
Jumping Rogue 2 13 STR/mus, DEX/bal
Law Priest 3 14 INT/kno
Leather Working General 2 14 INT/kno, DEX/aim
Local History Priest, Rogue 2 13 INT/kno, CHA/app
Mental Resistance Priest, Wizard 3 16 WIS/wil
Mining General 5 16 WIS/int, STR/sta 3
Modern Languages General 2 12 INT/kno
Mountaineering Warrior 4 14 STR/sta, WIS/wil
Musical Instrument General 2 14 CHA/lea
Navigation General 3 15 INT/kno, WIS/int
Observation Priest 3 14 INT/rea, WIS/int
Omen Reading Priest, Wizard 3 16 WIS/int, INT/rea 1
Oratory Priest 3 14 Cha/app
Orienteering General 3 14 INT/kno, WIS/int
Painting General 2 14 DEX/aim, WIS/int
Papermaking Priest, Wizard 2 13 INT/kno
Persuasion Priest 3 16 CHA/lea
Pottery General 3 14 DEX/aim
Prestidigitation Wizard 3 14 DEX/bal
Reading Lips Rogue 3 14 INT/kno, WiS/int
Reading/Writing Priest, Wizard 2 13 INT/kno
Religion Priest, Wizard 2 15 WIS/int
Research Wizard 3 15 INT/rea
Riding, Airborne General 4 16 WIS/wil, DEX/bal
Riding, Land General 2 13 WIS/wil, DEX/bal
Riding, Water General 4 14 WIS/wil, DEX/bal
Rope Use General 2 13 DEX/aim, WIS/int
Running Warrior 2 16 STR/sta/CON/fit
Sage Knowledge Priest, Wizard 4 16 INT/kno 4
Scribe Priest, Wizard 2 14 DEX/aim
Sculpting General 2 16 DEX/aim, WIS/int
Seamanship General 3 13 WIS/int, DEX/bal
Set Snares Rogue, Warrior 3 15 Dex/aim, WiS/int
Singing General 2 16 CHA/lea
Spellcraft Priest, Wizard 3 14 INT/rea
Stonemasonry General 4 16 STR/sta, WIS/int
Survival Warrior 3 15 INT/kno, WIS/wil
Swimming General 2 12 STR/sta
Tactics of Magic Wizard 3 15 INT/rea
Tailoring General 3 14 DEX/aim, INT/rea
Thaumaturgy Wizard 3 16 INT/rea
Throwing Rogue 2 13 DEX/aim, STR/mus
Tightrope Walking Rogue 3 16 DEX/bal
Tracking Warrior 4 14 WIS/int
Tumbling Rogue 3 14 DEX/bal, STR/mus
Undead Lore Priest 3 15 INT/kno
Ventriloquism Rogue 4 16 INT/kno, CHA/lea
Weaponsmithing Warrior 5 16 INT/kno, Dex/aim
Weather Knowledge General 2 14 WIS/int
Weaving General 3 15 INT/rea, DEX/aim


1 only available to specialist Diviners or clerics with major access to the sphere of Divination

2 a successful check grants a +2 on Healing checks

3 Gnomes have a +1 bonus to this skill, Dwarves have a +2 bonus

5 a specific specialty must be chosen; different specialties are separate skills

Monday, December 2, 2013

DM's Log: Blackstone Campaign - Group 2. Underwater!

  Blackstone 2 needs a lot of sessions - after the long Giants/Pack arc of Blackstone 1 Blackstone 2 is '2 years behind' in the game universe!
  The main party is low level (average of 3rd) and is a pretty tight group:
  My son J. plays a 2/3 Illusionist/Thief Gnome named... Steve.
  My son A. plays a Half-elf 2/2 Fighter/magic-user named Drake
  My son S. plays a Half-elf 2/3 fighter/Thief named Sir Neun Hammerfist
  My son N. plays a Human 3rd level Fighter specialized in the falchion named Tellon
  My wife plays a Human 4th level Cleric named Marigold
  The party has taken up residence in an old, formerly abandoned, lighthouse which has some rooms Wizard Locked and with a broken light. They have an NPC maid, Matilda, who is an amnesiac they found washed up on the beach, lashed to some ship timbers. The lighthouse and the tiny island it rests on are the inheritance of Sir Neun, the youngest son of a minor noble.
  This session began with Matilda letting the players know something was washed up on the strand. They found a wounded locathah warrior. Marigold cured him of damage, allowing him to mutter something, but died of the poison still in his veins. Matilda told the party the dead fishman warned of a koalinth warband trying to start a war between the sea elves and teh locathah. In the dead locathah's pouch was a kepl paper map and some potions marked with Gnomish runes.Steve determined that they were Potions of Water Breathing with a 24 hour duration each.
  The map  showed the location of a sea elf village, a locathah village, and a koalinth camp. The sea-elf village was closest so at dawn the next day the party loaded up their small ship and sailed that way, bringing matilda for her newly-discovered abili8ty to speak locathah. Drake and Tellon made their seamanship rolls and there were no encounters on the way.
  Once at the location of the amp they sounded and were surprised the sea was shallow enough for them to drop anchor (if just barely). and began to discuss going into the water. The discussion was interrupted by a ring of sea-elf warriors who surfaced around the ship! After a discussion they all drank one of the potions and dove into the sea.
  They learned that their anchor was resting on a sort of watchtower that overlooked the sea-elf village. they were escorted to an air-filled room where they met the village chief. The chief explained that the daughter of a sea-elf noble was missing after her group was attacked and that locathah weapons were found nearby. The noble was rallying sea-elves for a raid on the nearest locathah settlement to look for his daughter, a move that might start a small war.
  The party showed them the locathah map and the coral spearhead that had killed the locathah, a weapon the chief recognized as koalinth in design. The chief explained that koalinth had been a problem ever sine their underwater city had been assaulted and captured by a kraken. The sea elves had driven the refugees away, but there were obviously some still about. If the sea-elves and locathat were to fight and weaken each other a koalinth war band could thrive in the area for years.
  The chief would send word to the noble to wait on his raid on the locathah but asked the party for help. The map showed the koalinth camp as between their lighthouse and the Great Stones and within 4 leagues of the Bay of Zane - a treaty between the Prince of the Sea-elves, King of the Locathah and the King of Blackstone prevented the sea-elves or locathah from entering that area. Only the party could go. The party agreed. The chief then loaned them 5 hippocampi and promised to keep Matilda safe until their return.
  The party set out with a sea-elf guide as far as the treaty border. I rolled positive for a random encounter, rolled on the chart, and...
  Let me take a break from the narrative.
  I am not a cruel man, nor am I a killer DM. I do, however, tend to let the dice fall where they fall and for numbers to stand.
  Back to the narrative.
  Near the border there was a gout of muck from the seabed and a mottled worm consumed the guide in one swallow. Now, I expected the party to take advantage of the tremendous underwater speed of their loaned mounts and turn this into a 'man, underwater adventures are scary!' encounter.
  I should know better. The party immediately attacked the mottled worm. A long handful of rounds later and the party was cutting Neun out of the worm (successfully). Marigold healed everyone up and they continued - except for the still-wounded guide, who headed for home rather than wait for them at the 'border'.
  As another aside, I was amazed how the party just piled on and killed the creature.
  Before long the party was near the location on the map and the thieves began to scout. They found a small hut of coral within a clump of seaweed. With a little maneuvering they ambushed and killed the guard without raising an alarm and found that the hut was....
  Some searching followed and they eventually found the trap door leading down into the seabed. The rest of the party joined them and in they went. The tunnels twisted up and down as much as left and right and they were a bit disoriented. Steve spotted a hidden guard and the party eliminated him, again without raising the alarm. Eventually they found a room where they could barely make out the captive sea elf princess in a cell with guards nearby. Throwing caution to the winds they swam in and just started fighting.
  The koalinths' advantages were reduced in the tight quarters, although the squad leader put up a stiff fight. After a few rounds the koalinth were all down and the princess was saved - and every member of the party was still wounded after all healing was used up..
  The party searched through the tunnels and eventually found a hidden room that was magically full of fresh air - it was a study! Some research revealed that these tunnels were the last remnants of the dungeon beneath the long-destroyed tower of Juthan the Sea mage, a powerful figure from the early days of the Emerald Empire. The scrounged out 2 1st level spells and left.
  They had no more than mounted their hippocampi when they heard the roar of a pride of sea lions! Exhausted, wounded, and effectively out of spells they had to rely on the tremendous speed of their mounts to escape which, luckily, they did. They were grateful for the help of the princess for the mottled worm had killed their guide and they would have been quickly lost without her assistance.
  Once back at the village of the sea elves the party returned the princess, averted war, received a modest reward, and returned home!

Magic Item of the Week - Ring of Maniacal Strength

This week's item is an old favorite of mine and some of you may figure out where it is found in the 1e DMG - sorta'. These rings are usually simple and unadorned. While worn it grants the wearer 18(00) strength. That's it - a just a ring of strength. It is just one of the first meta-game tweaks I ever did.