The Coral Tower Of Naaman al-Raman

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My Arabian Nights inspired Dungeons and Dragons game is still running and I found myself a few weeks ago needing somewhere to send the players to look for a certain item.  I’d already mentioned that the caravan route they were on crossed the Sakina River at the villiage of Talv and made its way up the east bank so as to stay away from a sorcerer’s tower of evil reputation so therefore I went looking for a wizard’s tower.  Dyson’s maps are always amazing and his site was my first stop yielding up just what I was looking for.

The Tower Of Naaman al-Lazan

Dyson’s  awesome Shattered Tower has now become the Coral Tower of Naaman al-Raman, restocked and reskined for an Arabian Nights feel.  Now a tower of this magnitude needs a good story behind it and therefore I give you

The Legend of Naaman al-Raman
and the
Genie Prince Khedive Murrah Abu Zobaah

Naaman was an elven sorcerer of great reknown.  Magic of all varieties was his obsession, not willing to rely on genies alone but also not willing to ignore their wisdom and skill he bridged the domains of Sha’ir and Sorcerer.  Naaman even dedicated himself for several years to the worship of Zann The Learned exploring the divine mysteries of his clerics.  His long life allowed him to extend his studies beyond those of shorter lived races and deepen his understanding and skill.

As the years lengthened his studies moved more and more towards the realm of flame.  He was not only a powerful elemental sorcerer but also often seen with an Efreeti companion who bound himself to Naaman.  It was even rumoured that he frequently visited the City Of Brass on the elemental plane of fire and the court of Marrake al-Sidan al-Harig ben Lazan, ruler of the Efreeti.

Unknown to most of the genie race Naaman worked at creating a devastatingly strong genie prison known as “The Liquid Heart”.  Some say that the Efreeti helped him to construct it, knowing who his target was, but it is almost certain that some of them knew of its construction and did not move to stop Naaman’s work.  Nobody is sure how Naaman arranged a meeting with Murrah Abu Zobaah, esteemed Khedive of the Great Padisha of the Marid, Kalbari al-Durrat al-Amwaj ibn Jari, Pearl of the Sea but somehow he managed it.  Somehow Naaman also tricked Murrah into lowering his guard and ensnared this mighty Maharaja of the oceans within The Liquid Heart.

When the court of the Citadel of Ten Thousand pearls discovered the fate of the Khedive they wept and raged.  For any genie noble to be enslaved by a mortal is grievous but for such a noble marid to be subjugated thus was unheard of and all understood that action had to be taken.  Yet the Padisha Kalbari was counselled to caution by her vizier wary of open hostilities breaking out between The Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls and The City of Brass.  While the genie races keep their own counsel and the political machinations of their courts are deliberately veiled from the eyes of mortals there are rumours that an unnamed faction of Efreeti seeking war between the realms of fire and water were working the situation towards just such means.  Through the Padisha’s patience and care peace was maintained between the nations but the delay that diplomacy caused was the downfall of poor Murrah Abu Zobaah.

Long had Naaman worked on the prison of Murrah and his plan was not some careless fancy.  With such a noble and powerful captive ensnared Naaman bent all his skill and power into one single project.  Binding powerful sorcery with rituals dedicated to Zann The Learned the enslaved Murrah found his power tied to the creation and protection of a great coral tower in the foothills of the Furrowed Mountains.  Naaman perverted the normal bindings by which geniekind are enslaved by mortals, binding Murrah to him until the tower should fall while also linking the noble marid’s very essence to the tower.

When the forces of Padisha Kalbari were free from concerns that rash action would start a war with The City of Brass they arrived at the Furrowed Mountains to find that the enchantments protecting the coral tower were such that they could not even approach within a mile of it.  Indeed not even the Efreeti, whom it is rumoured were involved with the building of The Liquid Heart, found that they could not approach the tower unless summoned by Naaman in such a way that they were powerless to take action against him.  The court of The City of Ten Thousand Pearls used its influence among the mortals to try to recover The Liquid Heart and free Murrah from his slavery but Naaman’s power was too much for those who set out to assail the tower.

Many are the stories of Naaman but while more than forty years have passed since he was last seen his assumed death is clouded in mystery.  His tower remains standing, the region around it shunned by mortals and immortals alike rumoured to be populated by the petrified remains of those who once sought to free Murrah from his captivity.

The players didn’t seem quite as pleased when they saw the tower as I was when I did.  I can’t imagine why🙂

My D&D Campaign Creation For Kids

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Last school year I ran some Hero Kids games for my youngest son and some of his mates.  We used the Space Heroes set and it went really well.  We discussed it and they said they wanted to try 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons this school year so I’ve been designing a campaign for them.  I decided that I wanted to set it in Zakhara as I run an Al-Qadim campaign for adults and am really enjoying that world.  I’ve also bought a load of material which I need to justify to myself. There is a great version of the Zakhara map online.

With a game aimed at ten year olds I am aware that I need to give them a certain amount of structure and keep the action coming where with my adult Al-Qadim campaign things often happen at a far more leisurely pace.  The real advantage of running a campaign for kids is that I can blog about the process of creating the world and adventure without any of them reading it.

So this is what I’ve got so far, it’s rough and ready and it’s as much stuff that I need to get straight in my mind as it is written for someone else to read and use.  If I end up with something that I think is usable I might end up putting out a pdf but for the moment these are just my notes that I thought I’d share.

The greatest mosque in the whole of Zakhara to the goddess Selan the Beautiful Moon is not in great shining Huzuz where the Grand Caliph Khalil al-Assad al-Zahir holds court among the shimmering spires and golden domes.  Instead it is far to the South East on the Isle of Afyal (the Isle of the Elephant) that the Great Mosque of the Moon was built, nestling among the polished marble and gleaming carved hardwood buildings of that fabled island.

Long had the priests of Selan longed to own the legendary carving of the likeness of The Loregiver by the great sculptor Essafah ibn-Rashad al-Nulhat, carved at the behest of the first Grand Caliph at his ascension before the Golden Mosque had been built.  The carving though was kept by the priests of Zann The Learned at their mosque in Dihiliz.  As the priesthood of Zann cared for knowledge rather than beauty the priesthood of Selan could find nothing of significant value to trade and the statue’s legendary beauty remained seen only by those who did not appreciate it.

Immam Karim ibn-Zann was invited to visit the Mosque of Selan in Tajar (eastern most of the western Cities of the Pearl) by Immam Khadiga bint-Selan min-Tajar who advised Karim that she had information of an ancient secret library.  Khadiga hoped that the information that had been unearthed in a forgotten tome in Afyal would be worth trading for the sculpture (significantly increasing her status in Afyal into the bargain).

The party start the adventure in Tajar (the City of Trade) where they have signed on as caravan guards for a woman named Najiba.  Najiba runs large caravans regularly between Tajar and Magrib with goods bound to and from the Golden City of Huzuz.  The money isn’t bad but it isn’t good either and the inhabitants of Tajar are fabled for their shrewdness in business and in parting people from their coin.  While the route they take is generally trouble free nobody is going to get rich working for Najiba.

On this morning Najiba has agreed to take an Immam with the caravan (Karim) however he is late and several of the merchants are keen to get underway before the day gets too hot.  Najiba asks the party to stay behind with two other guards (Mahmood and Ahmed) to wait for the Immam and catch up with the caravan at the Jamal Oasis.  If the priest hasn’t shown up in two hours (nine in the morning) they’re to advise old Jafar, who minds the business while Najiba is away, and catch up with the caravan.

Karim has concluded his business with Khadiga but she has kept him waiting this morning and thus he arrives at around eight forty-five, quarter of an hour before the deadline.  While the opportunity to relax a little early in the morning was pleasant by the time the guards escort Karim, riding a camel bedecked in beautifully colourful riding gear and towing a mule, from the city gates the temperature, as well as the sun, has risen.

Although the group have been in the desert many times with caravans, being out with such a small group feels unnatural.  As the fields outside Tajar and its valley drop back out of site and the landscape becomes sandy rock all seems eerily quiet.  The footsteps of the guards and the animals are muffled by the sand and little lives out here between the city and the mountains.

The caravan route climbs the foothills of the local mountain range becoming ever more stony before it turns to the northeast running along the face of some steep cliffs toward the pass through the mountains to the Jamal Oasis.  It will take several hours to reach the start of the pass.

With a Sense Motive check (DC10) characters will realise that Karim seems very pleased with himself and they find that while not talkative he’s far more open to conversation than they would expect him to be normally.

Around an hour after the route turns alongside the cliffs the party will spot (DC12 Perception check) movement alongside the cliffs both in front and behind them.  Not long after this three large scorpions (each the size of a medium sized dog) come scuttling out from the cliffs, one in front and two behind.  They do not advance too fast, testing the way (no surprise round).  Twenty feet to the group’s right the edge of an escarpment drops steeply away leaving the group with nowhere to go.

Initially Karim will not aid the party as he is busy trying to control the camel and the mule who are spooked by the scorpions.

Large Scorpion

Small Beast, Unaligned

AC 13 (Natural Armour)

HP 12 (2d10+2)

Speed 20ft

STR     DEX     CON     INT     WIS     CHA

11(0)   13(+1)  13(+1)  1(-5)   9(-1)   3(-4)

Senses: Blindsight 20’, Passive Perception 12

Languages: —

Challenge: ½? (50XP)

Actions

Multiattack: 3 attacks per round, two claws and one sting, one creature only

Claw: +2 Melee, reach 5’, target one creature only – Hit 2 (1d4) bludgeoning

Sting: +2 Melee, reach 5, target one creature only – Hit 3 (1d6) piercing and poison.

        Poison – DC10 Con save or shaken for 1 round

In the mountain pass, nearly to the northern side, the party are attacked by several gnoll bandits.  They have been left behind to keep watch but decide to attack due to the size of this group (six guards on foot leading a camel and an old man).  Their pack had been keeping watch for Najiba’s caravan and is now heading to the east waiting to ambush the caravan on the next day when they have left the Jamal Oasis (and the protection of the Fajirik Military Camp nearby).  They throw javelins as Mahmood and Ahmed (Mahmood and Ahmed are not expected to survive, at least they’re unlikely to be combatants after the first round or two) before swooping down on the group.

Karim is not a fighter but he calls on Zann to protect his guards casting Aid, Bless and several other spells.  The gnolls boast laughingly that the guards aren’t missing out on much life as by tomorrow evening they’d be slaves to their tribe anyway.

Once the gnolls have been defeated the group will make it to the Oasis and Karim (if the party haven’t already suggested it) will suggest to Najiba that she sends to the Fajirik Military Camp and get reinforcements to defeat the gnoll bandits.

Karim is impressed with the party and (possibly charitably) is convinced that the party have saved his life, saved the caravan and are just the people he is looking for.  He has already agreed with Khadiga that if the information about the ancient library is accurate Immam Al-Murib Mutamin Wasat at the Mosque of Zann in Dihliz will deliver the sculpture to Afyal.  He now needs a group who can follow the instructions he has and verify that the library exists.  He’s convinced that the party are just the people for the job.

Karim takes the party to Huzuz and arranges a sea voyage for them to Dihliz where Al-Murib will outfit them.  From Dihliz the party will head out in search of the Shrine of Yuantra, buried beneath the ancient ruins of Djadoth where the unenlightened heathen Kadari ruled a thousand years ago.  They will need to head up the Abda River, through the Grey Jungle to the al-Sayaj Mountains without allowing the residents of Mahabba to find out what they go in search of and for whom.

If they return to Al-Murib with confirmation that the library exists intact (especially if they return with a legendary tome bound in the skin of medusa hair) then they will most likely lead a full expedition of clerics to catalogue and pack the wonders discovered.  Then who knows what wonders these books will hint at and what treasures the party will be sent in search of.

Hollow Earth Expedition – The Sands Of Time

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I’ve been promising myself that I’d play in some online games that weren’t with people I know in real life for a while. I don’t often get to play so I’m the idea of jumping into an online game was a bit scary but when The Rogue DM said she was looking to run a Hollow Earth Expedition one shot I decided that the time was right and went for it.

The game took place the night after Liam (who plays in both my Al Qadim and Woodshed Poets campaigns) finished a HEX adventure for our Monday night group and he decided to join the game too.

Jenny ran a great game and getting to play with Alex and Frank was a real bonus too. It was a lot less scary than I was expecting and I’m definitely thinking about running a D&D one shot online soon. Anyway for those who are interested the video is below.

All That Glimmers – Review

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There’s something about having a source book full of goodness which shouldn’t be shared with players.  Flipping through looking at hidden secrets which you can’t wait to introduce to your games. When doing my flip through of Raging Swan’s Dungeon Dressing book I mentioned that I hadn’t got round to picking up All That Glimmers. Well the very nice people at Raging Swan sent me a hardback copy and asked me to do a flip through of it and it is exactly that type of awesome GM only book which I love.  I still haven’t recorded the flip through (which I feel really bad about) but I have gone through the book and done my prep for it which I thought I’d share here.

I have, and use, pdfs but personally I find them uncomfortable and clunky and would much rather have a physical copy. I’ve had All That Glimmers on pdf for a while and I knew it had good stuff in it but because it was electronic I hadn’t really explored it. When I got Dungeon Dressing as a hardback I didn’t give the excerpt of All That Glimmers in the back of it as much attention as I should have but to be fair there’s a vast amount of other cool stuff in Dungeon Dressing to get distracted by. Now that I’ve got a hard copy of All That Glimmers in my hands I remembered how much awesome and inspiring stuff it’s packed with.

Split into sections on general treasure hoards, armour, weapons, coins, gems, miscellaneous objects, spellbooks, intelligent magic items and treasure maps it gives you flavour, background and a way to increase immersion, or even just interest, in all of those. I hate hearing myself describing a weapon or armour as “being of really good quality” because while it sounds better than “it’s a masterwork whatever” it still just feels really lifeless. While I won’t use All That Glimmers to describe every gold piece or sword my players find, for those items that I want to have stick in their mind I know I’ll reach for it almost immediately.

As with Dungeon Dressing while All That Glimmers is mechanically designed for Pathfinder most of it is immediately useable for D&D 5th Edition and probably any other fantasy game on the market.

The review is going to be quite long as I’m going to go into detail on each section but I really don’t feel that I can do it justice any other way.  Since having the book I’ve used it several times for everything from working out which gems were in stock in particular price brackets when my players decided to buy something that looked expensive but was actually cheap through to stocking chests and book cases in an adventure that I wrote.  Each time I’ve gone to it for inspiration I’ve come away with exactly that in boatloads.

Treasure Hoards

The first chapter is packed full of ready built treasure hoards. There are 12 level one hoards (each worth between 250 and 270gp), 12 level two hoards (each worth between 540 and 590gp) all the way through to 12 level twenty hoards (each of which has a value between 60,000 and 73,000gp). That’s two hundred and forty ready built hoards each one of which is made up of assorted coinage and several items which are described in loving detail.  Each level comes with a quick random roll table that summarises the value of each followed by the detail of each.  Picking a couple of items from hordes at random immediately shows why these spark my imagination (I’ve summarised the descriptions slightly).

  • A packet of wasabi spice that is folded and twine tied in waxed paper (worth 20gp;DC20 Appraise values).
  • Masterwork manacles (Pathfinder stats – worth 50gp; DC20 Appraise check values it) which uses a star shaped key.
  • Never-dull shears are magically sharpened scissors, sized for humans (Pathfinder stats -faint [DC17 Knowledge {arcana} transmutation];DC17 Spellcraft identifies; worth 200gp).
  • A gilded ship’s sextant with gold trim and studded with opaque pink coral and lavender jade (worth 1,550gp; DC20 Appraise values).

If you’re stuck for inspiration for an adventure simply picking a hoard would make an interesting starting point by thinking “who would have gathered a hoard like this”.

Armour

The second chapter is all about armour.  In total there are a couple of hundred different descriptions of armour and shields all of which come with descriptions that will help your players to feel like they have an actual item in their hands rather than a generic helmet with a +2 sticker on it.  Again there are random roll tables first for picking the category of armour and then for individual items with each item’s price listed as well as a nice description.  Again I’ve picked out a couple of examples of items that caught my eye reading through them

  • Blood red studded leather armour covered in sharply pointed black steel studs and fastened with toggles made from bear claws.
  • Matt black chainmail, with a fine silk lining to minimize chinking when the wearer moves.  Popular with the Gray Rooks, spies and assassins of Kjarran.
  • Iron banded mail, engraved with intricate knotwork designs; the iron helm has ram’s horns and is studded with yellow citrines.
  • Light weight black steel shield of drow manufacture, damascened in silver with a delicate spider web pattern; very light weight.
  • Leather barding with air bladders affixed fashioned to allow the mount to float in water.

You can see immediately from these why I’m excited.  I’d make my characters roll a local knowledge or history check for the chainmail and give them the background if they succeeded.  If they didn’t then the next time they’re in a strange tavern they may be getting strange looks from a couple of old men.  If another party member asks them about it then maybe one of them would talk about memories of seeing someone in their family being cut down by soldiers from Kjarran fleeing from local soldiers.

The section on armour also has five famous suits or armour including names, appearance, history, who owns it, etc, etc.  I won’t go into details but certainly I can think of characters in my game who would be very interested in some of these and may in the near future go questing for them, especially if they think that the dread armour of Prince Kaspar may give them an edge against the rising forces of Braal.  A trek all the way to the ruined tower on the Blasted Steppes to see if it is still worn by the mysterious skeletal corpse reported in the last known sighting would be a great addition to my campaign.

While still on the topic of armour there are some great random tables with adventure hooks and complications.  Whether the iron helm with ram’s horns and yellow citrines was stolen by Myrtle Thornbury from Basmar Teletz who will stop at nothing to regain it or just stinks of blood and old sweat it’ll be more real to the players as a result of a roll or pick from these tables.

Weapons

The next section gives weapons the same treatment as armour had in the previous chapter.  My players are always more interested in weapons than in armour and so this section is possibly the most useful in the book to me.  During a roleplaying encounter with a ghost at the Priory Of Cymer in Raging Swan’s excellent adventure Retribution the cleric in our Woodshed Poet’s game was gifted with a silver blessed aspergillum (a mace that can be loaded with holy water which it douses opponents with on a successful hit).  Various of the party have masterwork weapons but this one really lives in the imagination of not only the player whose character owns it but the whole group.  They’re always looking for an opportunity to use it and I know that they see it as a specific item rather than as an abstract way to do damage.  The tables in this section are full of such items and if you can find a drawing to go with some of them when you describe them (especially one the player can file with the character sheet) then you’ll see them relish the ownership of the item.

Some examples from the standard tables are…

  • A punching dagger with a wooden hilt carved with snakes and grinning devils.
  • A javelin with a barbed iron head, mounted on an elm shaft carved with angular patterns.
  • A bronze throwing axe with a whalebone handle covered in scrimshaw depicting dragonships.
  • A heavy pick decorated in gold with the stern likeness of the dwarf king Odvin Hammerschlag.
  • A black iron great sword with a dragon skull shaped pommel; the skull has red spinels for eyes.
  • A maple short bow with a handgrip of camel hide dyed red; the limbs are embellished in gold leaf with desert scenes.

Again there are famous weapons (seven this time) which like the famous armour will bring life to your campaign.  I personally love the idea of the urgrosh of king Odvin Hammerschlag which is said to still lie undisturbed atop his remains in his sarcophagus, in a hidden trap-filled tomb.  Certainly letting the characters discover both the history of Hammerschlag, of his urgrosh Trollslayer and the renowned weaponsmith Yorrim Flintheart who forged it can’t help but immerse the players further into the campaign.

For slightly less unique and deeply detailed items the hooks and complications tables for weapons have you covered.  Was the maple shortbow lost in the Tangled Wood by Tarrin Longstrider or does it bear more than a passing resemblance to a bow that shot the young white dragon Hoarfrost the Red-Eyed out of the skies?  Unlike armour though weapons also have tables for inscriptions and marks (which could also be used with armour if you wanted) as well as further complications.  A perceptive adventurer may notice that the black iron greatsword is marked with the clenched fist and sword symbol of the Ever-Resilient Blades mercenary band and notice that it becomes warm to the touch in battle.

Miscellaneous Treasure

Chapter four is a catchall for other types of miscellaneous treasure.  As in the previous sections there is a lot in here.  If you want to make your coins stand out in your players mind then you may want to use the table that describes the reverse side of the coin or the one that describes strange shapes/types of coin.  If you need to describe gems (as I did in a recent game when the players wanted to visit a gem merchant to purchase something to front a bluff they were trying to make) then this really has you covered with detailed descriptions of four different categories of stones from purely ornamental and costing around 10gp per stone to gems starting at 1000gp each.  Jewellery is often overlooked but is more than just the sum of its parts and if your character rolls low on their Appraise check they’re unlikely to realise that the disc-shaped pendant made from a black and white patterned spider shell hanging on a delicate silver chain is actually worth 250gp.  There are five tables of jewellery each for different values allowing you to roll for something appropriate to the party/location regardless of whether you’re looking for something only worth around 100gp or something worth 20,000.  There are sections similar to these (all just as creative) for books and scrolls, art objects and truly miscellaneous objects.  Again the section is ended with four tables of hooks and complications which are all screaming to be used.

Spellbooks

Chapter five takes a shift away from the previous types of items and focuses entirely on spellbooks.  I’ve used spellbooks as treasure before, especially on the occasions when the party have killed wizards, but this section really made me realise that I could up my game when it comes to describing them.  None of mine have previously had titles or authors for example, this is definitely about to change and I can see my party finding The Profance Dissertaion of Inhipel the Ratblooded or The Treatise of Charcoal by Valendorn the Bronze.  I’ve seen random lists in other places that suggest possible materials for pages and covers of books but the ones given here go way beyond those (if the cover is made of the skin of a familiar it suggests possible inscriptions) and also includes the cover condition, paper condition, distinguishing features, the type of ink, what is written in the book other than spells and what kind of protection is on the spellbook!

In a minute using this section of the book and some dice I randomly rolled up the following tome which I’m sure will live in the memories of my players far longer than the black leather spellbook with brass corners which my Al Qadim party found recently…

The Unknowable Manual of Toadmaster Sandovan Hawkeye.  The title is obvious as it is burned into the scratched minotaur leather cover.  A small plate is inside the back cover which reads “This book is made from the enemy of Grodge the Mighty, unstoppable warrior, inescapable tracker and master taxidermist.”  Opening the book reveals robust parchment made from cleansed yellow musk creeper pulp while any who have the skill to identify this will also note that the ink used is wolfsbane tincture.  Flipping through the book it is noteworthy that there is a recipe for brewing mushroom ale scrawled in a different ink (possibly cecaelia ink) on the third page.  It’s also obvious that there are small drops of dried blood and smears of ashes at the bottom of some of the pages, a DC20 knowledge arcana check will reveal that whenever the Sandovan Hawkeye scored a kill with one of the spells from this book he marked the spell with a drop of the victim’s blood (or ashes where blood was no longer available).  If the character manages to roll a DC25 check then they will also remember a song about Sandovan being abducted and dragged underground to entertain a particularly sadistic group of duergar which was written by a young bard several years ago.

Of course in order to be able to find out most of this information the character opening it will need to get past the explosive runes and sepia snak sigil (DC 14 reflex save each) hidden by the spell secret page (level 5).  I won’t bother to list all the spells although there are random tables for that.

Intelligent Items

Chapter six is all about intelligent or sentient magic items. One of my players became the owner of a Vizier’s Turban recently (a symbiotic creature who bonds with spell casters but looks like a turban from second edition AD&D) and I know from that how effective realisation that what they thought of as an object is actually a being. As in previous sections the number of ideas packed into a very small space is huge.

There are a good number of awesome example items many of which will also inspire further ideas in the minds of creative GMs almost all of which made me want to drop them into a campaign somehow.  Each one features lore about the item, details of its personality and its background turning each into an NPC rather than an item. The random table of initial encounters with the item (how do my players find this item) is a full of great ideas and a brilliant kicking off point.

The examples include armour, weapons, clothing, rods and some great miscellaneous items which include a psychopathic flying carpet and intelligent folding boats. The only problem I have with this section is that intelligent items should be rare and I want to use all of these.

Treasure Maps

The final chapter is on treasure maps.  Everyone loves a treasure map, including one in a hoard somewhere instead of treasure itself is a great way to get players interested without feeling short-changed about what they’ve found.

The section is short and while it’s got a couple of examples it’s not packed full with them but that isn’t really its strength or what you’re probably looking for as a GM.  There are lots of places to get maps from and if you’re planning to have your characters explore somewhere you’ve probably got something in mind anyway.  I recently gave my players a map of Hadramkath and replaced the one that is in this book with something taken from Dyson’s Dodecahedron because of what I thought the players would enjoy.  The excitement from my players has been palpable and they’re desperately trying to pick up clues about where Hadramkath is so that they can use the map.

What this section does do is give you ideas and random roll tables for map veracity, distance and location, likely protection of the location and how difficult the location will be to explore.

Conclusion

If you haven’t guessed already I can’t believe that I had the pdf of this sitting around for over six months without properly realising what I had.  In the month or two that I’ve had it I’ve used it multiple times for various different purposes and every time I’ve been inspired in ways that I otherwise wouldn’t have been.  The Dungeon Dressing book is absolutely awesome but I’m genuinely surprised to find that at only 152 pages this book is giving me almost as much inspiration and is definitely having me reaching for it regularly both while planning games and also in session when my group do something unplanned.

If you’re not sure there are excerpts available from the Raging Swan website but basically I can’t recommend it enough and yes a video flip through will be on the blog soon, honest.

Al Qadim – Hidden Treasures – Session 9

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I realised that I’ve missed posting some of the Al Qadim sessions so apologies for those that have been waiting.  You can find the rest of the Al Qadim sessions here if you’re interested.

I recently Kickstarted Kobold Press’ Arabian Nights setting for Pathfinder – Southlands.  I’m really looking forward to getting those books later this year however in the meantime I really fancied doing some Arabian Nights inspired roleplaying (my band Secret Archives of the Vatican have long been inspired by those stories).  A friend suggested I look for the old TSR setting Al Qadim and I really liked what I found.  Initially published for 2nd edition AD&D it took some time to convert it to Pathfinder but my players (most of whom are also in my “in person” Lonely Coast campaign) thought it sounded like fun.

So here it is the ninth session of our Al Qadim campaign…

Al Qadim – Inside Sakina Falls – Session 8

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I realised that I’ve missed posting some of the Al Qadim sessions so apologies for those that have been waiting.  You can find the rest of the Al Qadim sessions here if you’re interested.

I recently Kickstarted Kobold Press’ Arabian Nights setting for Pathfinder – Southlands.  I’m really looking forward to getting those books later this year however in the meantime I really fancied doing some Arabian Nights inspired roleplaying (my band Secret Archives of the Vatican have long been inspired by those stories).  A friend suggested I look for the old TSR setting Al Qadim and I really liked what I found.  Initially published for 2nd edition AD&D it took some time to convert it to Pathfinder but my players (most of whom are also in my “in person” Lonely Coast campaign) thought it sounded like fun.

So here it is the eight session of my Al Qadim campaign…

Al Qadim – Sakina Falls – Session 7

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I realised that I’ve missed posting some of the Al Qadim sessions so apologies for those that have been waiting.  You can find the rest of the Al Qadim sessions here if you’re interested.

I recently Kickstarted Kobold Press’ Arabian Nights setting for Pathfinder – Southlands.  I’m really looking forward to getting those books later this year however in the meantime I really fancied doing some Arabian Nights inspired roleplaying (my band Secret Archives of the Vatican have long been inspired by those stories).  A friend suggested I look for the old TSR setting Al Qadim and I really liked what I found.  Initially published for 2nd edition AD&D it took some time to convert it to Pathfinder but my players (most of whom are also in my “in person” Lonely Coast campaign) thought it sounded like fun.

So here it is the seventh session of my Al Qadim campaign…

Al Qadim – Sakina Falls – Session 6

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We ran the sixth session of my first online campaign tonight (you can find the rest here).  A little odd as one of our players had lost their voice and therefore had to join in only using the chat, but still a good session.

I recently Kickstarted Kobold Press’ Arabian Nights setting for Pathfinder – Southlands.  I’m really looking forward to getting those books at the end of this year however in the meantime I really fancied doing some Arabian Nights inspired roleplaying (my band Secret Archives of the Vatican have long been inspired by those stories).  A friend suggested I look for the old TSR setting Al Qadim and I really liked what I found.  Initially published for 2nd edition AD&D it took some time to convert it to Pathfinder but my players (most of whom are also in my “in person” Lonely Coast campaign) thought it sounded like fun.

So here it is the fifth session of my Al Qadim campaign…

The Lonely Coast – Shadowed Keep On The Borderlands – Session 12

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Session 20 (2nd Mar 2015)

For the second adventure in our Lonely Coast campaign I turned once again to Raging Swan.  This time I went to the brilliant Shadowed Keep On The Borderlands which got amazing reviews and makes for a totally different style of play from the groups previous adventure Retribution.  If you’d like to read the whole campaign’s adventure log it’s posted in order here.  The previous session can be found here and the whole of the Shadowed Keep sessions here.

Note if as a player your GM is likely to run Shadowed Keep On The Borderlands by Raging Swan please do not read any further, the adventure is one that will be wrecked by spoilers.

Four figures advance warily from the broken doors of Ironwolf Keep into the muddy courtyard.  The drizzle is getting heavier as the morning wears on and the clouds darken. A shout from the hooded figure standing, bow in hand, atop the watchtower battlements raises their spirits and they increase their pace with more surety in their steps.

Minutes later the group are reunited and swapping stories, everyone relieved that nobody was badly injured in the foray beneath the keep.  A rest is on everyone’s minds as the emotional and physical stress of the morning weighs on them.  First though some sort of plan needs to be made.

Elrohir volunteers to continue to stand guard while the others rest, his spirits bouyed by the knowledge that his companions are alive and safe.

The bodies of the bandits slain in the taking of the tower had not been properly removed and before the main dormitory could be used to rest it was going to be necessary to shift them. Not wanting to risk the courtyard the group spend an unpleasant time carrying the corpses, now two days old, up to the roof where they were piled.

As they work Dvadi finds himself brooding on the tales told of ogres by the old warriors of clan Anvilbeard.  The fury of an ogre unleashed, finding half eaten corpses of friends and kin, showing even in that state signs of terrible tortures.  Knowing how often patrols of veteran warriors had been decimated by battles with these vile adversaries he finds himself turning over in his mind their last battle below ground. Were they just lucky, are they close to being out of their depth?

Arris is likewise lost in thought, trying to balance the euphoria of survival with the dark terror through which he had just lived. Fighting with the Church armies against both human foes and gnoll slavers had steeled him to standing within a field of whirling blades, the smells and sounds of battle overpowering his senses. Those had not been the claustrophobic darkness of subterranean corridors. The reality of the stories his comrades had told him of the battle beneath The Priory is sinking in as he reflects on his recent experiences.

The now heavy rain did not improve the work and having finally finished Elrohir ys goodbye to his comrades as he prepaes himself for sentry duty while the others wearily descended the stairs towards a well earned rest.

Before the companions could even reach the bottom of the first flight of stairs a deep bellow sounded in the courtyard. As Elrohir turned he heard the gutteral sound of the goblin language but from the throat of no goblin. Even the cursed bugbears would have sounded shriller than this deep bellow.

“Humans… humans…”, the voice hung in the air, loud even through the splattering of the rain on the stones.

Elrohir turned and moved towards the edge of the roof, bow in hand. The sight that met his eyes stopped him in his tracks. The ogre that they had slain in the lair of the Bloodmoon Clan had been huge but the infernal beast that stood before the doorway of Ironwolf Keep was vast. Fully ten feet tall this spawn of evil sprouted horns from a huge bald head, his vast belly sagged over his loin cloth, muscular arms and legs hidden by plate armour. In his hand he held an enormous falchion, fell runes etched into it’s blade and spikes running down the back of the blade. Behind him stood three large female goblins holding two near naked men between them, haggard, beaten and terrified. Six more goblin warriors stood ringing them, their eyes burning with hatred, axes held in their hands.

As Elrohir became visible atop the tower the beast roared again.  “Those who dare to challenge the might of the Bloodmoon Clan should fear their vengeance.”

Two of the female goblins forced their captive to step forward, holding his arms wide. Terror wracked the man’s face and he struggled feebly between his captors. The vast figure drew a vicious dagger from his belt and slowly slit the man’s belly open, the scream from his victim rising endlessly in pitch as the knife cut deeply. As his guts and intestines spilled out the goblins let their screaming and spasming victim drop into the mud. Behind them the other captive screamed and thrashed, terror not being enough to allow him to break free of his captors.

Hederas, Dvadi, Arris and Armitage reached the wall in time to see the dying man fall to the floor. Suddenly there was a loud twang from their left and an arrow buried itself deep in the chest of the remaining captive. Wheeling round they saw Elrohir unhurriedly nocking another arrow to his bow as the cries of terror in the courtyard turned to that of pain.

“What the hell was that for?” bellowed Hederas at the elf, amazement and anger vying for attention in his mind. Dvadi, next to Hederas, was simply staring at the elf, unsure of what to think of his actions.

Ignoring the reactions of his comerades the Elrohir called down, “I thank you for the tribute to our greatness.”

“If you’re going to shoot him at least kill him.” called Dvadi.

The elf sent a second arrow into injured captive leaving the surprised goblins holding a corpse.

“Should I put him out of his misery?” asked Elrohir gesturing at the victim of the ogre’s brutality, his screams turning to gurgles as he slowly died.

“If you have enough arrows.” replied Armitage.  Another arrow flew straight to the dying man and having jerked once more he fell still and quiet.  Arris clasped his symbol of Darlen praying for the souls of the dying prisoners as they passed to the next world.

“Do we take the battle to them now or wait?” the elf asked, nocking another arrow to his bow.

“What were you expecting to achieve with that?” shouted Hederas into the courtyard.

The gigantic figure raised his massive sword, pointing it to the companions. “You may stop your comrades suffering but you will still die a slow and painful death at my hand.” he bellowed.

“They were not our comrades.” the cleric retorted.

The ogre turned his attention to the goblins, “See how they cower with fear?”

Hederas walked to the stairs and quickly descended, his companions swapping questioning glances between them.

Dvadi’s blood was boiling with anger at the ogre.  The execution of the prisoner and the obvious delight that the beast took in the pain he inflicted beat in his head, inner voices urging him to take whatever steps were necessary to join battle.  Had it been possible he would have simply jumped to the courtyard and charged.  The best he could manage was an ancient curse aimed at the creatures mother.  His comrades did not understand the giantish language but it was obvious from the reaction in the courtyard that the barb had sunk home.

In the cells in the basement of the tower Hederas addressed the oldest of the captive bandits.  “The goblins in the basement, what was your relationship with them like?”

“That scum?  We’ve been fighting them for months.”

“But you live in the same building?”

“Yeah?” answered Adhearne, as if he didn’t hear the question in the statement.

Hederas’ mind went back to their first impressions of the watchtower.  “So it was them who set light to the tower door?”

“What do you think?” the aging bandit grunted back.

Shaking his head the cleric unlocked the goblin prisoner’s chains and dragged the struggling goblin out of the cell and up the stairs.  “I’m not going to kill you” he grunted in the terrified creature’s own tongue.  Hardly reassured the goblin at least let himself allowed himself to be towed up the tower.

On the first floor Hederas met Dvadi who was on his way to guard the main door of the tower and check it was fully secured.  The dwarf’s eyes showed a blankness as he struggled with the conflict raging in his head.

From the roof Elrohir, Armitage and Arris watched Ruknar and the clan.  Finding his son’s mutilated corpse in the guardroom below the keep had come as a terrible shock.  Discoveing that the tribe’s shaman, his guards and the bugbear mercenaries he’d hired had all also been killed, for the first time since he had killed the orc who had previously ruled the tribe, Ruknar could feel doubt in the minds of his warriors about his leadership. The ogre could feel the insults being slung from the tower, first by the dwarf and now by a cursed elf, challenging his superiority in the clan’s eyes still further.  Raising his falchion he roared and charged the tower, not even feeling the sting of a crossbow bolt as it bounced from him.

Elrohir fired arrows into several of the goblins who paused before following their leader while Armitage pulled out the wand he had recovered from the clan’s shaman waiting to time his one remaining shot for maximum effect.

Ruknar hit the door to the tower with a blow that splintered the massive bar holding it shut.  The tremor of the impact ran through the tower, on the first floor landing Dvadi spun to face the top of the stairs, ripped from his thoughts and certain from the sound that foes would soon storm through the broken door.  Planting his feet he weighed his axe in his hands preparing himself for the onslaught to come.  Yar, the goblin prisoner held by Hederas, panicked at the sound and struggled free of the cleric.  Bolting for the stairs he almost made it past Dvadi when the dwarf’s reflexes took charge, the creature was dead before he reached the third step.

In the courtyard Ruknar drew back howling, preparing to slam the door a second time.  The Bloodmoon Clan had swarmed up to him when Armitage spent the last charge from his wand.  A line of webbing drew a line in the air from the halfling’s outstretched hand to the ogre where it spread at incredible speed binding not only his mighty bulk but almost all the goblins, in thick and sticky bands.

When it had become obvious that the clan would attack Arris had finished his prayers and realised that, as grizzly as it was, the obvious choice was to use the bodies of the bandits to attack those below.  By the time the Armitage had entrapped the clan and their leader the first body was plummeting over the side.  It struck Ruknar and the goblin nearest to him with a sickening wet slapping impact momentarily stunning the mighty foe.  As Elrohir poured arrows down from the top of the tower Arris continued to heave bodies with terrible results.

Seeing the carnage below Armitage quickly dug through his belongings for the scroll case that he knew he carried.  As his eyes scanned the scroll the summoning spell sprang from his lips as if it had been pent up inside his head for months desperate to be free.  Focusing on the largest beast he could think of which the spell allowed him to call the air shimmered above the battlements, twisting in impossible ways.  Suddenly the air snapped back but where moments before there had been nothing instead a large aquatic beast lay tottering on the battlements.  The companions barged it and several hundred pounds of flesh and bone fell into the middle of the havoc below.  A wall of sundered flesh lay piled against the door, only three goblins remained alive and free of the web and at this last terrible impact those turned and ran.  Armitage cast a sleep spell, feeling the last of his magic ebbing from him as he did and the closest of the goblins crumpled.  The last two stumbled slightly but pressed on, the fear of what they had seen overcoming the slightly weakened spell, and they fled into the darkness of the donjon.

Hederas witnessed the final destruction of the clan’s chief from the first floor door to the battlements.  As the final goblins fled he walked out into the pouring rain, scrambled down from the battlements and strode over to where the female goblin lay sleeping.  The pause as Hederas questioned what he should do was longer than the watchers expected.  This was the same man who had returned from the tower with the heads of both the shaman and ogre as grizzly trophies of the battles.  With a sigh he raised his mace and brought it down hard into the head of the sleeping form in front of him.  As the blood flowed into the puddles, the rain flowing down his arms washing the gore from the mace head Hederas was a different man to the one who had only short days ago arrived at the tower eager for the fight.

Savage Sands Of Time

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My youngest son just seems to keep coming up with interesting ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of.  This time he asked if we’d be able to run a Prince Of Persia: Sands of Time game.  I’m a massive fan of Arabian Nights type games, I’m running an Al Qadim campaign, am looking forward to getting my copy of Southlands by Kobold Press which I Kickstarted last year and am seriously tempted by Hellfrost Land Of Fire by Triple Ace Games so the idea of running a Prince Of Persia game sounded good.  The characters would need to be low armour and high agility knowing that lots of acrobatics would be expected.  The interesting thing was my son’s immediate assumption that at least one character would be able to turn back time like you could in the computer game.

While walking to the car from my “local” games shop (Gamer’s Guild in Redhill) he was chatting to my brother and me about ideas for the game.  My brother suddenly suggested that you could simply give the Dagger Of Time it’s own bennies.  Very simple and the mechanic is almost built into Savage Worlds as it stands.

I’ve spent a week or two thinking about how to tweak it, encouraged by youngest who keeps talking about it.  Like several of my game ideas I doubt if I’ll ever run it but it’s fun to think about.  So this is what I’m thinking at the moment…

  • While it is simple to have the dagger simply allow for a reroll as a normal bennie I actually like the idea of making it rewind an entire combat round (for all combatants), either back to the last time that character had their action or simply to the beginning of this combat round giving the character with the dagger a joker for his initiative.
  • Reloading used bennies to the dagger obviously has to be something that has a penalty to it.  My current thought is that if you attack and get a raise then you can choose not to wound and instead get a bennie back for the dagger.
  • The dagger will have to have a maximum number of bennies.  I’d probably start with three but allow that limit to rise by one if it’s reloaded when at maximum four times in a row (e.g. if you’ve got three bennies in the dagger, don’t use any of them and reload the dagger four times in a row you’ll end up with four in the dagger and a from then on the maximum number of bennies in the dagger is four).

If anyone does run a game with these rules I’d love to hear about it, or hear your thoughts on it even if you don’t.

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