Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Location: The Hills of Hunger

 Location: The Hills of Hunger

Having recently enjoyed Phlox’s hex in the earnest fantasy style of Deltora Quest, I thought I would try my hand at making it a trend. Remember that the average problem is not so easy that anyone could solve it, but not so difficult that a clever blacksmith’s apprentice or good-hearted stableboy couldn’t figure it out. As with the original post, this entire module could fit in a 6-mile hex and should be able to last at least one session. 

This location will be written up with the assumption that this is the backwater of some evil empire, and the PCs have learned to actively avoid attention of the dark lord’s forces.


1. The Rathburn’s are hoarding foreign delicacies and gluttonously supping on them every night. Let the Creator send the Council to stop them before the Grey Fog does! (Partially T. The Rathburn’s are supplementing their diet somewhat, but no more than everyone else)

2. Codger’s brother’s apprentice says a girl from the next farm over told him she saw lights in the Grey Fog. Could be there’s people what live in there! (T. Sharn the Hermit) 

3. The City Council manipulates the Brothers Teal behind the scenes. Everyone knows Abbot Tilford is just a figurehead (F. The opposite is true).

4. They say that the previous royal governor barricaded himself in his throne room with the Scepter of Jade rather than fight the Dark Lord’s forces. (F)

5. The last Lady of the city was known to be effortlessly beautiful, but tried to betray the city. Her husband ordered her executed for her treason. (T)

6. Criminals will resort to anything! Seems like every other day there’s fewer people in the Glutton Pit than they’ve thrown in. The punishment’s bad enough. They shouldn’t be allowed to eat each other. (Partially T. Some are escaping through the secret tunnel).

Random Encounters in the Hills

1. 1d4 Brothers Teal, armed with staves, moral authority, and legal authority

2. Strange lights in the Grey Fog (Sharn the Hermit, perhaps visible in cornhusk clothing)

3. A gang of gluttons (4d4) recently escaped from the Glutton Pit. Planning to rob you unless you beat them in a game of riddles. They ask riddles like these, which are more jokes than riddles.

4. A traveling merchant selling fertilizer, seeds, and foreign food at inflated prices

5. Patrol of 2d4 Imperial Goons (as orcs, with special +1 blistering slingstones that lose their potency in a day)

6. Roll a random encounter from the hills encounter table.

Random Encounters in the City of Jade

1. Lady Lothaire’s ghost, looking for wanton revenge

2. Sharn the Hermit scavenging for supplies

3. Justicar Golems (as animate statue)

4. Ghost of a despondent servant. Still a gossip.

5. Lord Helix’s Ghost, who weeps for whom he has lost. Gripping a spectral scepter in his hand.

6. A wonder of the past age, now brought to ruin.

1. A clockwork horse, now rusted and leaking springs

2. A mechanical bird that sings the same song incessantly

3. A marble statue of incredible skill, it’s beauty fouled by long rents of some unknown vandal

4. A whole shelf of scrolls containing now lost medical knowledge, now burnt.

5. Paper money, now worthless

6. A pipe organ, half the keys rusted shut.

Hex XXXY- The Hills of Hunger

Each two hours outside of civilization, there is a 50% chance of an encounter.

The main road through the Hills of Hunger leads straight through a large bank of the Grey Fog, and is thus impassable. Sparkling towers and emerald domes from the City of Jade can sometimes be seen in the middle of the fog when the sun hits them just right. A new road, unpaved but well traveled, snakes a path through Huskon then on to Antipathos. Farmhouses are everywhere tending to ailing rows of cornstalks and very occasionally soybeans. The people are friendly enough and curious about any outsiders, though they appear strangely underfed.

Huskon is a small market village astride the main road. The people there are all suffering from severe malnutrition, but they will insist that it is any outsiders who are the ones who are truly starving. They will point to the obvious signs:

1. Their hands are so languid and steady, they hardly shake at all!

2. Their eyes lack the common yellowed pallor and appear shallow in the face.

3. Their skin is swarthy and not at all clammy.

4. Their fingernails are so tough and rigid.

5. Their muscles are swollen and they can work for hours without being able to rest.

6. Their blood clots at an abnormal rate and disease seems reluctant to touch them. It’s not natural!

This is because the folk of Huskon and throughout the Hills of Hunger maintain a diet of exclusively corn. (Everyone sometimes cheats and eats “foreign” foods, but they feel awful about it and certainly wouldn’t tell anyone). When the locals discover that the PCs have non-corn food, they will be shocked and alarmed, warning that the vapors of the food will strengthen the Grey Fog. They are aware that some barbarians selfishly consume victuals in this way, but as a civilized people they would never permit it. Foreign foods must be ritually destroyed in the central town of Antipathos by the Brothers Teal to avoid the smoke drawing in the Grey Fog.

Antipathos was once a suburb of the City of Jade before it was consumed by the Grey Fog. Farmers occasionally bring foreign food to the city so it can be “ritually destroyed” by the priesthood, and indeed people “know” this is done because they see the telltale teal smoke burning from the central dome. But the corrupt Brothers Teal do no such thing, they feed the food to the City Council in exchange for a near monopoly on power in the region. Everyone feels dreadfully ashamed of this arrangement except for Abbot Tilford, leader of the Brothers Teal and the only knowing servant of the Dark Lord in this module. He alone knows the truth, that the Grey Fog is repelled by corn but that consuming other foods does not help it in any way. He continues this charade in order to keep the populace under his thumb at the behest of his infernal master. Content to rule from behind the scenes, he will send City Councilors to do his will and crack down on troublemakers. Though not actually malnourished, the City Council affects malnourishment by intentionally shaking their hands and applying makeup to seem pale. Councilor Fasil is a portly man who considers himself a real armchair detective. He will try to do good cop/bad cop all by himself. Councilor Ruth is a portly busybody. The moral core of the Council, she is always the first and loudest to advocate for throwing malcontents in the Glutton Pit. The Glutton Pit is a hole in the middle of town where the punished must subsist on corncobs thrown at them by cruel children. Half covered in smushed corn casings, one of the walls of the pit is an old sunken storefront, a faded sign proclaiming it was once a bakery. Every manner of baked good has a depiction chiseled into the wall. A faint inscription read:

I am a thin man. Red is my name, though brown is my color. In my season, my race is created by others in our image and destroyed by the same. My clothes are made of nothing but imagination and ice. What am I?”

Manipulating the image of the gingerbread man on the wall will cause the wall to slide away with a faint click, revealing a secret passageway out of the Pit and to the outskirts of the city.

The Grey Fog dominates most of the rest of the hex. It is an eerily quiet, immense swarm of grey hornet-like creatures. With unyielding vim they spit acid on any and all living things. Due to some chemical property, the only thing that keeps the Grey Fog at bay is Corn. Cornfields grow everywhere throughout these hills, often at great effort from the local farmers. Occasionally, patches of soybeans are grown to replenish the soil but only with great planning and significant risk that the Grey Fog might spill out. Within the Fog, Sharn the Hermit (+2 reaction if approached silently or in a calming way, otherwise -2 reaction) lives in utter isolation, unknown to society except by occasional glimpses of his lantern. He survives through having fashioned full-body clothes made of cornhusks and cornsilk. He has sensory issues that make the sound of a conversation or a chorus at Belltide nearly impossible for him to bear. The hum of the Grey Fog gives him more peace than anything else ever could. If confronted in conversation he will likely flee to his home in the City of Jade or turn violent if cornered, unless the tone of the conversation is deliberately soothing and relaxed.

The City of Jade was once the centerpiece of this loyal province of the True King before shadow fell on the world. It’s governor, Lord Helix, was a warrior of great renown who answered his lord’s call on a dozen campaigns in his time. Eventually, he married fair Lady Lothaire, who ensnared his heart with love and tried to betray the city to the Prince of Lies. Forced to pass judgment on his one love, Lord Helix could do naught but grieve and weep in the time his people needed him most. By the time he came to his senses, the city was already half conquered by the latest strategem of the Adversary, the Grey Fog. With the last of his resources, he ordered his wise men to create an elixir that would save the city. Alas, alas, alas, their efforts came too late. Now the City of Jade lies in the heart of the Grey Fog. The palace is haunted by Lady Lothaire’s ghost, and is protected by Justicar Golems, whose artificial forms do not enrage the Grey Fog and whose service to the governor will not end in mere lifetimes. Sharn the Hermit (who is illiterate) lairs in the Royal Observatory, which contains the formulae for Frenzy, an aerosol concoction that causes widespread infighting amongst the Grey Fog. In the Throne Room there is a note in a regal hand:

Damn them all, Sedgwick. Have I not answered the call enough? If you have true need of me, then you shall find me with my greatest treasure”

The Interment Chambers of the city’s nobility begin with a faded shrine to the city’s founder and grow more recent the deeper one travels. After the shrine for Lord Helix’s father and mother, a massive statue of a knight blocks the way with an oversized shield. Inscribed in faint lettering around the shield, it reads:

"You can only keep me once you've given me to another."

If someone says aloud, an “Oath” or a “Promise”, the shield clicks open, allowing entry to the Mausoleum

The Sceptre of Jade lies forgotten at the foot of Lord Helix’s corpse  beside Lady Lothaire’s Mausoleum. A perfectly spherical polished orb of jade is gripped by a brass claw. Promises made to and by it’s bearer are binding, and it grants a +4 to saves against fear to all allies who can see it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The World is Four, but I am Five (4DJ class)

In Phlox’s new Gloghack, Four Divine Judgements, the setting and game design enter into a unique harmony. Everything fits together perfectly, and everything is built around the number four. Enter the Pentarch, a class designed to subvert not only the game’s setting, but also it’s design and designer.

Pentarch, a 4DJ class to profane the setting and core game design.

Starts with a weapon bred from two of the sixteen breeds of weapon at random, a pentacle necklace, voluminous robes.

1 (Acolyte) Profanity

2 (Journeyman) Hypocrisy

3 (Parson) Organs, Heart

4 (Heresiarch) Fifth Judgement

5 (Supplicant Complete) No new abilities

If everyone in the party is a Pentarch, it is a Recession. Whenever a player rolls a multiple of 5, add two to the result.

Profanity: when traveling, any party with a Pentarch rolls a d6-1 for each judgement rather than a d4 (giving a result from 0 to 5). Pentarchs are proficient with none of the sixteen breeds of weapon and are not affected by default ideologies, however they are proficient in all new weapon breeds and are affected as normal by newly breed ideologies. You may change which judgement you are resistant to with a one hour ritual.

Hypocrisy: you gain a fifth stat called Hypocrisy, starting at five. You may roll Hypocrisy whenever performing a fateful or treacherous action. Whenever you lie pointlessly to an authority or goad an ally or neutral against you, increase your Hypocrisy by 1. 

At 10 Hypocrisy, grow a second tongue.

At 15, your hands become clawlike and pointed.

At 20, your skin becomes cracked and bright red.

Organs: gain one hit point, lose one inventory slot, and you are nourished by poison. 

Heart: on a successful Hypocrisy roll you may learn the secret heart of anyone who trusts you. On a failure, they learn your secret heart.

Fifth Judgement: whenever you roll a multiple of four, you may spend one Hypocrisy to reroll (spent Hypocrisy returns after a five hour ritual)

Hopefully, by the end of the Pentarch’s journey they will have as few multiples of four on their sheet as possible. They will have caused random chaos and devastation. They will be excellent liars with clear signs that they aren’t to be trusted. They will have seen the order of the world and bent it to their will. And the poet will weep.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Arm of the Law

 Born Better and Knows It

You are the lowest rung of nobility, the core of the warrior caste. You maintain your position by being willing to serve in your lord’s army and by spending more than you make. Part of chivalry's zealous cult, you are sworn to uphold justice and defend the meek, although most knights rarely do.

Knight    (Tank, Warrior, Cavalier, Noble Psion, Herald)

Starting Equipment     A sword, shield, lance, and a sidearm of your choice. Pick one the following: a horse, a manor, heavy armor. You have that option and it operates perfectly. Otherwise you have a starving nag, a dilapidated manor, and medium armor. You are in debt for 30 gold pieces to someone more powerful than you. 15 silver pieces.

Class Ability: Standing    For each level in knight, your veneer of respectability deepens and your prestige grows. People are more likely to recognize you and to see your actions in an honorable light, to grant you safe passage, shelter, and other favors. You and your retinue are exempt from road tolls.

1: Parry 1/encounter. Double damage when charging with a lance, 2 in 6 chance the lance will break.

2: Duty You can usually take things from common folk if you promise to repay them. They probably don’t like this.

3: Chevalier When you charge someone while you are on horseback or in heavy armor, they must make a morale check or else break. Gain a trusty squire.

4: Quest If a religious authority blesses your quest, up to 20 devout hirelings gain +2 to morale when aiding you in that quest. You may challenge a single foe per day to personal combat, giving you +1 Attack that must be used against them.

5: Parry 2/encounter, +1 Attack, you always know which legitimate authorities nearby might be willing to help you.

6: Ascension Your trusty squire becomes a trusty fellow knight deeply indebted to you. You and anyone who accompanies you gets +2 to reaction rolls at high-class social functions.

7: Quell The minimum taxation in any province you administer increases by 1.

8: Grandmaster You either found or take over a chapter of a knightly order. Gain 10 knightly followers who follow your martial code. They are zealous, strong boned, and energetic.


Goals for classes in my To Be Chained to the Earth Campaign include that they are:

  • Players have one major choice of starting equipment
  • The class should integrate the character into their place in society. 
  • Each class should feel distinct   

    The knight has my favorite choice of any class for starting equipment. Knights will eventually be well-equipped, ride the best mounts, and rule a small fief. But at game start you have to choose which is most important to you, a signal not soon forgotten.
    Knights imply service to a lord, a ripe area for adventure. Starting in debt is thematically appropriate and gives an important first step to why you might enter your first dungeon.
    Tolls for taking the roads are exceedingly common. Most parties without a knight have to make a choice of whether to rough it far from the road or if they want to mostly travel on the roads and try to dodge the reeve when the tax collector comes a'calling. Instead, parties with knights are constantly reminded of their societal role. "My arm is my tax".

Thursday, October 21, 2021

TOR 2e Treasure Hoard Generator

     With the forthcoming release of The One Ring 2nd edition, I have been making my way through the early access PDFs. One thing that strikes me is how well they leverage the existing Middle-Earth lore by importing as much of it as possible into their rulebooks and trying to make it gameable. That being said, I have always liked the mood and atmosphere of Middle Earth more than the canonical history and locations. In order to facilitate what I personally want to get out of the game, I'm planning on using Spwack's excellent HTML generator to make automatic tables for rumors/quest hooks. To help get me back into the swing of it, here is an automatic treasure hoard generator. I chose to leave the form of the wondrous objects ambiguous so unusual combinations of blessings can be resolved on the fly. Based on the advice of the rulebook that finding Famous Arms and Armor should be game-changing, I have also chosen to leave those generic as well. Let me know if anyone else finds this helpful, or if you notice any issues with the table.

What have we found?

Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Card and Calendar of Gentry

A Class That Appreciates the Finer Things In Life

   My great-grandfather was a conqueror, my grandfather was a ruler, my father was a steward. But nowadays, we have people for all of that. Besides, that's really Albie's horse and pony, he is firstborn after all. And besides, Cousin Willie always had a better head for numbers. And that Danish Prince, what a stud! Absolutely capital! So wonderful to have so many, so wonderful, friends. 

    Enter the dandy, purveyor of foppish fashions, who knows that nothing is so urgent that it is not worth doing while looking one's best. Well aware that their position proximate the source of power is the only thing separating their well-manicured hands from actually having to work for a living, Dandies have learned that the best skill to learn is how to make friends you can rely on to help you out.

    In many ways "The Scarlet Pimpernel" in class form, the Dandy focuses on social skills amongst high society, with abilities that give access to information and encourage dirty tricks in combat.

Dandy (fop, gentleman, rake, fraud, charlatan)
Starting Equipment: A fine light weapon (1 slot), a weapon disguised as grooming equipment (1 slot), a fine cloak to keep out the chill (0 slots), a surprisingly compact makeup kit including a bottle of spray perfume with an intense fragrance(1 slot), 30 silver pennies or a well-trained pet.
Class Ability: See Past the Facade. For every level in Dandy, 1/day you may quick read a character, detecting an insecurity or major clue about something they would rather keep hidden. This ability works against anyone who hasn’t spent a decade or more learning to maintain a steely or false facade.
(Examples: You notice the butler is agitated. He quickly asks you to leave. Quick reading the butler using See Past the Facade might reveal: 
                -The butler is trying to hide something in his hands. That's why he keeps putting them behind his back!
                -The butler is concerned for your safety. That's why he's nearly in tears!
                -The butler is trying to clear the room for a romantic encounter. That's why he's so flushed!
                -This isn't the butler, he's been replaced. That's why his eyes are always looking at two different people!

1:    Prominence: You may choose to be the most or least prominent person in a group
       Attractive: +1 to reaction rolls to those attracted to your gender,
2:    Rumormonger: You know all the gossip of your home and whenever rumormongering you either gain an extra rumor or a bonus on encouraging otherwise recalcitrant targets to gab. 
       Sleight of Hand: If you make a powerful distraction, you are particularly adept at making a break for it without anyone noticing right away. Against any but the most perceptive individuals, doing something flashy with one hand will totally distract from what the other hand is doing.
3:    Extravagance: You know how to impractically expend wealth better than anyone else. You instantly make friends with fops in other cities
4:    Trendsetter: A quirk of your fashion begins to catch on. 
       Quick Disguises: All that work switching outfits between courses at dinner has paid off. You can complete simple disguises in ten seconds, or complex disguises in a minute.
5:     Spot the Fault: You may use your Sleight of Hand ability in combat to perform otherwise ineffectual combat maneuvers.
6:     Arch-Gentleman: So long as you do not maintain a useful occupation, you may expend uses of your See Past the Facade ability to produce beautiful artistic performances, lead a state, or perform tasks traditionally associated with the landed gentry.

    I'm quite pleased with this class, and look forward to seeing how the Dandy in my weekly game develops. They are already waiting impatiently for their level four ability to make men's house coats the new rage throughout Deseret

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

In-Universe Books to Keep


    I love books. Other than magic swords, they are my favorite kind of loot, probably because the best treasure is the kind that permanently changes your character. What better way to change than by learning! I have made an effort to make books and reading more central to character advancement in my Deseret Hexcrawl, and I realized that the only way to make that viable was to have an easy way to make lots and lots of books for characters to find while crawling through ancient temples, vaults, and castles. This HTML generator, using the tool created by Spwack, is my attempt to produce a GM-facing tool that will help make that happen.

Location: The Hills of Hunger

  Location: The Hills of Hunger Having recently enjoyed Phlox’s hex in the earnest fantasy style of Deltora Quest , I thought I would try my...