Saturday, October 19, 2019

Another holiday treat

In the same spirit as my last post, here's another preview of content that will eventually appear in The Heroic Legendarium that seems to capture that creepy Halloween-season vibe. This was originally drafted as an encounter area in a dungeon,  but in Gygaxy fashion I realized I could generalize it into a class of monster. There's some conceptual weirdness here that all makes sense in my mind, but I might not have explained clearly. Comments letting me know if you are or aren't able to follow the description here are welcome.


FREQUENCY: Very rare
MOVE: 12
% IN LAIR: 100%
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1 – 4/1 –4/1-10
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Silver or magic weapons to hit
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil/nil
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: V/ 320 + 5/hp

These nightmarish creatures dwell in non-dimensional space and are only able to access the Prime Material Plane when two mirrors are set up in direct opposition to as to create an endless series of reflections. When such a conjunction is created there is a 5% chance per turn that a group of mirror-fiends will be drawn to it. If so, they will initially appear in the 12th reflection deep (which is typically the very limit of where any detail can be made out by an individual standing before the mirrors) of one mirror or the other, though if more than one mirror-fiend is encountered some may appear in each mirror. When they first appear, someone looking into the mirror only has a 5% chance to notice their presence, but each round they will move 1-3 panes closer, and with each pane the chance of noticing them increases by 10% (so they will always be noticed in the first or second reflection). Moving, covering, or breaking either mirror (or plunging the area into total darkness) will prevent the fiend from approaching, but if the mirrors are again aligned within one hour the fiends will still be there, in the pane they had last reached. Otherwise, they will wander off and a new check will be made to see if a different fiend appears when and if the mirrors are realigned.

While within the reflections, mirror-fiends cannot interact with the reflections of the characters and cannot be affected by individuals in the Prime Material Plane unless they are able to reach into either the Ethereal Plane or non-dimensional space. If the fiends reach the first reflection, they can climb through the mirror into the Prime Material Plane, where they can both attack and be attacked. They will typically attempt to grapple opponents - if both claws hit the victim suffers no damage but is held fast and can only escape by means of a successful bend bars check, or a successful counter-grapple or attack (both made at -2 “to hit” and, in the latter case, limited to a knife, dagger, or similarly small weapon as the character’s arms are held). The next round following a successful grappling attempt, the mirror-fiend will lift its victim and climb back into the mirror. The fiends will usually carry victims back to them lair in the 13th reflection - passing through 1-3 reflections per round - and will then devour them with their oversized and razor-sharp teeth.

Each reflection-space looks identical to the Prime Material Plane space being reflected except that (1) any reflected beings are only silent images that cannot be interacted with, and (2) the space only exists in the area that is included in the reflection plus a few feet beyond in each direction, beyond which is pure black non-dimensional space. Beings within the reflection only appear in the reflection in which they are located, not any of the others and can only be communicated with via telepathy or similar means. If the mirrors are taken out of alignment, covered, broken, or plunged into  while a character is within the reflection then that character is trapped in non-dimensional space unless he or she has some means of traveling across planes. If the character does not move and the reflection-pattern is recreated exactly then he or she will still be present in the reflection when it reappears. Otherwise, the character will be forever lost in non-dimensional space (with perhaps a miniscule random chance of wandering into another reflection-pattern, or perhaps into the back end of a portable hole).

Even if a character who has been dragged into the mirror manages to slay the mirror-fiend, they will still face a considerable challenge returning to the Prime Material Plane, for they cannot cross through mirrors (nor can they break or move them in the reflection-space). Unless the character has some means of traveling across planes, the only ways to get back to the Prime Material Plane are (1) to force or convince a mirror-fiend to carry them, or (2) to cover him or herself with the blood of a freshly slain mirror-fiend. Each mirror-fiend has sufficient blood (a nasty-smelling, sticky black ichor) to cover up to three human-sized individuals and their possessions, but the blood only retains its potency for three turns after the mirror-fiend is slain. A blood-coated individual can pass through one reflection-level per round. If the character wasn’t keeping count it may be a matter of trial and error how many reflection-levels they must pass through to reach the Prime Material Plane, and if there are no companions there to serve as an anchor, it may not be immediately obvious which layer is actually the correct one until they try to move beyond the reflection-area.

Mirror-fiends’ treasure is always stored in their lair on the 13th reflection-level. While this lair can be reached by following the reflections in both directions from the Prime Material Plane, there is only one lair, not two. If two or more characters have entered their lair from opposite directions at the same time they will end up in the same place and temporarily can return to the Prime Material Plane in either direction, unless all of them leave in the same direction.

Mirror-fiends communicate with each other telepathically and do not speak or make any noise.

Description: These creatures generally appear as a distorted, horrible version of the individual(s) looking into the mirrors in which they dwell - their flesh is pallid, their teeth and fingernails sharp, and their eyes featureless and black. Their true, natural form is as thin and gray-skinned humanoids with sharp talons, oversized jaws and pointed teeth, and stringy white hair, but this form is only likely to ever be visible to an individual with true seeing or similar ability.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Three seasonally-appropriate magic items

As work continues on the Heroic Legendarium one of the additions I've made to balance the material I cut is about 30 new magic items. Looking over these, I realized that at least a few of them are seasonally appropriate to Halloween, in a way that would both make for a nice post here to remind people that this blog still exists, and also a preview of things to come once the new book is released, of the 40% or so of the final page count that will be made up of new, original material that wasn't in the previous version. So, without any further ado:

Animated Puppet: This wooden puppet stands 30 inches tall, but can be folded to fit inside a 1’ x 1’ x 6” box, which is how it is most likely to initially be found. If detected, the puppet radiates an aura of alteration magic. A command word is carved onto the back of the puppet’s head in magical runes. If spoken, the puppet animates and will follow the orders of its master, with the following stats: MV 15, AC 4, HD 2+4, hp 20, #AT 2 or 1, dmg 1-2/1-2 or by weapon, SA hide in shadows 75%, SD +1 or better weapon to hit, immune to piercing and blunt damage and mind-affecting spells (but see below), susceptible to normal fire, +1 dmg/die from magical fire. The puppet can wield a knife or dagger in each hand with no penalty, may throw knives, daggers, darts, or throwing stars, or may wield a larger melee weapon (up to shortsword size) two-handed. The puppet follows the orders it is given unfailingly to the best of its ability, however, every time it is activated there is a cumulative 5% chance that it will become alive and free-willed, in which case its Intelligence score is determined by a roll of 2d6+6 and its alignment is determined as follows:

1 lawful good
2 neutral good
3 chaotic good
4 lawful neutral
5-6 neutral
7 chaotic neutral
8 lawful evil
9 neutral evil
0 chaotic evil

The now-living puppet has complete memories of its former pre-life, and depending on how its alignment corresponds with that of its owner it may continue to serve, may attempt to escape, or may plot to murder its former master. To any of those ends, the puppet may choose not to reveal its new status, as even after it comes to life the puppet does not breathe or require food or water, and can remain perfectly still for as long as it chooses.

Puzzle Box: Only six of these objects are known to exist in the multiverse. They were created in eons past by infernal beings, originally as protectors for their soul objects, but may hold other treasures by now. Each puzzle box is a 1’ cube of meteoric metal chased with intricate inlays and patterns - each box is unique in design and distinct in appearance from the others. All of them radiate alteration magic and strong evil if detected. 

The box is opened by twisting and shifting parts of the box in order to arrange the pattern in such a manner to unlock the box. Because of the complexity and intricacy of the pattern, finding the correct combination of moves is extremely difficult and requires three rolls of the character attempting to open the box’s intelligence score or less - the first rolled on 4d6, the second on 5d6, and the final roll on 6d6. A successful Remove Traps roll or Legend Lore (spell or bard ability roll) will reduce the total of one roll by 1d6 (roll all dice normally, then roll an additional 1d6 and subtract it from the total of the first roll). One week of study and research provides a -1 adjustment on one roll (up to a maximum -6 per roll). The box must be physically grasped by an intelligent creature in order to manipulate and attempt to open it, and cannot be operated by means of telekinesis, an unseen servant, a mechanical contraption, or any other means besides direct physical contact. The individual holding the box may follow directions from another as to how to manipulate the box, in which case the intelligence score of the character providing the directions is used in place of the character holding the box. However, if that individual is not operating under their own free will (i.e. if they have been charmed, possessed, hyptonitized, dominated, etc.) then an additional d6 is added to the roll to reflect the partial disconnect between that individual’s mind and body.

Failed attempts to open the box produce cumulative effects. The first failed roll produces no ill effect in itself. However, the second failed roll creates a feeling of foreboding and the character holding the box will have a  -1 penalty on their next saving throw). If that character makes another failed attempt to open the box, on each failed attempt starting with the third, a roll is made on the following table to determine what occurs:

1 the box shifts and resets (erasing all prior successes)
2 the box holder is struck by a poison needle (save at -4 or die)
3 the box releases an acidic cloud (6-36 damage to the holder, 2-12 to all within 10’; save vs breath for half damage)
4 The box-holder is teleported away (1-2 100-1000’ in a random direction; 3-4 100-1000 miles in a random direction; 5-6 to another (randomly determined) plane)
5 The box-holder’s soul is trapped within box and replaced in that character’s body by the soul of last victim trapped by the box
6 A Gate is opened to the box’s creator

Only a wish can reset the count of failed attempts (and even a wish will only provide one success and will not automatically open the box).

If successfully opened, the box reveals an extra-dimensional space of 10’ x 10’ x 10’ size. Anything (or anyone) stored within that space will have been held in a state of temporal stasis that is automatically broken when the box is opened, but reinstated on anything within the space once the box is resealed. The GM must determine what will be contained within the box when it is first discovered - whether a demon’s or devil’s soul object, a hoard of treasure, one or more imprisoned beings, or something else altogether.

Anyone who successfully opens a box once can open that box again without requiring any additional rolls (barring exceptional circumstances such as the individual having his or her memory wiped) but if such a character attempts to open a different puzzle box then the normal process of rolls must be followed again.

Skeleton Key: This device appears to be an ordinary skeleton key made out of bone and approximately six inches long. It radiates alteration and faint conjuration/summoning magic if detected, and also radiates an aura of evil. It will infallibly open any mechanical lock and is 90% likely to open any magical lock unless set by a wizard of 21st level or higher. It can be used once per day safely, but every use beyond that has a cumulative 1-in-6 chance that the portal or object opened will reveal not to its normal location or contents but instead is a gate to the Fourth Hell, where those whose sin was greed meet their punishment. The individual who opened the gate thus is subject to immediate judgment by the devil Belial. A lawful evil character who immediately swears fealty to Belial (or a lawful neutral or neutral evil character who is willing to change alignment and swear fealty) will be geased to perform some service to Belial in order to prove their worthiness. Any other character will be dragged down to Hell by a company of 1-4 bearded devils to face eternal torment unless they are able to defeat the devils in combat or have some other means of escape. In either case the key will disappear, having been reclaimed by its master to be re-seeded on some other world.