Monday, April 02, 2007

Running for Their Lives

The characters are pursued through the forest and run across Yoster, a human druid who has found himself in the same mess. They rescue him but not before he takes near-fatal wounds. They engage in a furious battle with a flock of harpies, but one harpy escapes, cursing them at the top of its lungs and promising to bring "Egar" down on their heads.

As the last dead harpy slides down Shara's sword, thunder and lightning overhead announce the arrival of something far more frightening. Lucas, sensing the nearing danger, climbs atop a rock and prepares to draw the enemy's attention away from the rest of the party, who have wisely decided to make themselves scarce and look for an angle of surprise.

A blinding blast temporarily stuns everyone and sets some trees alight, and then Egar Geza, a huge blue dragon, crashes through the tree canopy in the pre-dawn gray and confronts Lucas. Lucas' taunts pay off as he is able to get the drop on the creature and leap onto its neck. It is so startled, it takes off again immediately, the paladin wailing away at it.

In a blind barbarian rage, Crom Grumdalsen pursues and makes the leap onto the dragon himself. Thunderfoot makes his own, magically enhanced leap, and the dragon begins to drag them on the ride of their lives, banking and trying to throw them off. Thunderfoot, clinging to the Egar's tail, is whipped away into the treetops. He turns out to be the lucky one. Crom and Lucas disappear, still riding the monster. Screams and lightning are heard not long afterward.

The party faces a crisis of will, but Shara prays for guidance from her god, and they decide to continue the quest to retrieve the archives in Olemcorro. As dawn breaks, they reach the base of the tree, and then witness an explosive battle between the eagle guardians of Olemcorro and the harpy invaders. The eagles prevail, and the party begins the climb up into the orulin.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Game Session, 2007.03.31

Posted to Google Docs.

Friday, March 30, 2007

New Class: Voudin (draft)

Vaudin are a divine caster class, based loosely on voodou practitioners. A male vaudin is called a houngan, and a female one a mambo. Vaudin gain spells from the same list as druids, but not in the same manner. Instead of praying for spells, and casting them as they need them, vaudin must either prepare potions or bind a task spirits. Both of these things are focused on the loa.

A mambo's loa is a powerful spirit that stands as an intermediary between men and God. The mambo serves the loa by bringing it offerings it likes and allowing it to ride her. The loa, in return grants some measure of power to the mambo by imbuing power into her potions and granting her some authority over its children and underlings as task spirits.

In preparing a potion, the mambo prepares a mixture of things that she feels her loa will like. This rocess takes no less than caster level time spell level, in hours. This process can only be sped up with the help of another vaudin, so creation of high level potions necesitates vaudin work together. She then must add something that contains the essence of the person for whom the potion is made. This is easiest with blood, but can also be accomplished with hair, if it is freshly pulled. The potion must then be consumed by the person for whom it was intended before the next moonphase, or it will spoil. For the purposes of this rule, a given phase takes three days to complete. Because of the greater preparation involved, a mambo's potions always have maximum effect. Potions are used for spells that will affect things with souls, such as people, many extraplanar creatures, and the higher order undead. Not that certain mage spells can seperate a person's soul from their body. In these cases, it is much more difficult for the mambo to work magic upon them.

A mambo can also bind task spirits to her. These spirits are capable of perfoming the necesary intercession with the physical and spirit world to bring about spells much faster and with less preparation than the mambo can through potions. They also can be used to hold a spell for duration that is only bounded by the casters endurance and charm. Whenever a mambo gains access to a new spell level, she has the option to seek out a new task spirit. If she finds one and makes an accomodation with him, she can task him to cast any spell of that level or below in a given day. That is the only spell he will cast that day, but he will cast it as often as the caster makes a Diplomacy check DC Spell Level + task spirit HD + number of times he has cast the spell previously today, where the task spirit is considered to have the same number of hit dice as the caster did at the time she bound him. Unlike potions, variable effects listed for spells cast via task spirits are variable, not maximized. Task spirits are for spells that affect plants, animals, and nature. They can also be useful for their knowledge of the planes.

A mambo advances in hit dice, skill points, saves, and feats like a druid. She does not receive an animal companion. She may wear any armor and weild any weapon she chooses, though she does not receive proficiencies beyond those alloted to a druid.

A vaudin receives the following powers:

4th Aspect of Loa 1/day
8th Aspect of Loa 2/day
12th Aspect of Loa 3/day
16th Aspect of Loa 4/day
20th Aspect of Loa 5/day

Aspect of Loa -- When a mambo is being ridden, she takes on the aspect of her loa, while her spirit is being occupied. Since she is not present, she cannot command her tasked spirits, and since her loa is occupied with riding her, he cannot respond to her potions. However, the loa's aspect will grant the powers of its creatures, and some of these are great indeed.

While being ridden, a mambo has one of following:
1) Attack forms, Special attacks, BAB, and Strength of the creature
2) Movement modes and Dexterity of the creature
3) Size, hit dice, and Constitution of the creature
4) Any one category of special quality of the creature

If viewed from the astral plane, the mambo appears to be an axiomatic version of the creature. However, physically her form does not change. If the powers confered upon her would require a physical form change, the mambo behaves as though her form has changed, and the effects are the same as if it has, but without magical vision, the mambo simply appears to be behaving erratically at first blush.

The mambo does not have access to any creature that might be associated with her loa. She instead selects, at the levels she gains this ability or it improves, from the two creatures available to her at that level, or to advance a creature chosen in a previous level. The list of acceptable creatures is specific to the loa. Creatures chosen for a particular power level should have a CR less than or equal to the level at which it becomes available minus 2, although creatures should be advanced to match. Note that different creature types advance at different rates.

Should the mambo elect to a assume the Size, hit dice, and Constitution of the creatre, it is entirely possible that when the loa leaves her, she will have taken more damage than she can survive. In this case, scale the damage so that the mambo has a like proportion of hit points remaining.

Should the mambo elect to assume the attack forms of multiple creatures, she also gains the ability to make the cumulative number of attacks those creatures would get, as a full attack.

Sample Loa -- Brother Jallum

Brother Jallum is a swamp loa, associated in particular with insects, fungus, moss, and other things that grow in profusion. His people strive to make the most use out of any situation, and to have many simple plans so that the loss of any one is no great loss. He is pictured as Mannannan mac Lir, and also as a corpulent man with pale skin and many bulging pockets. Brother Jallum is called upon for healing and self-improvement, as both of these are seen as signs of adaptability, and also in trickery and crime, as he is known to turn any situation to his benifit.

Aspects of Brother Jallum
4th - 2 Stirges (1.5 CR), Giant Ant (2 CR) - fix this
8th - Shambling Mound (6 CR), 2 Phase Spiders (6 CR) - fix this
12th - Treant 15HD (10 CR), Hellwasp Swarm - fix this
16th - Colossal Monstrous Spider (32 HD) (11 CR)
20th - Formians (Special) (CR 18) - fix this

If the mambo assumes the aspect of Formians, she picks an uneven group of Formians that add up to CR 18. She assumes the aspect of the most powerful one, and and assigns the others to willing creatures within range of her Formian hive mind (no matter what benefits of the Formians she takes, the mambo always gains hive mind). These creatures can use their aspects just as if they were vaudin, and had taken that aspec themselves. They also gain the benefit of the hive mind, and at her discression, the mambo can elect to take her turn from the body of one of her vassals, casting spells, moving, or taking attack actions using her own modifiers, but with the body of her vassal. This happens on her initiative, and does not cost the vassal his turn.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

House Rules updated

The House Rules have been updated with a new rule regarding unbalanced multi-class characters.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Harpy Attacks

The players, camped near Olemcorro during the night, are awakened by the shattering of the earth a mere half-mile from their rest. The opening in the ground spits out a leviathan of a blue dragon and then a cloud of harpies fills the air. The harpies spread out across Olemheiden while the party loses track of the dragon. The characters are forced to leave the safety of the lowlander burrow so they can try to reach Olemcorro and the archives, but hunting harpies find them and attack.

Game Session, 2007.03.10

Posted to Google Docs.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ecology of the Lowlanders

Legend and History

Pre-Orulin Elves

In ancient times, it is said that there were no lowlander elves and orulin elves. All elves made their homes on the ground. It was these early elves, who predate humankind by millenia of millenia, who altered the trees, changing them from within to grow.

In these early times, elves were as simple and barbaric as human tribes are known to be today. In the forest, survival through the cold winter was chancy at best. Little else is known about the primeval forest as it existed then, but it is thought to have been even more dangerous than Olemheiden is today. The elves did not yet control it unconditionally, and it is nearly certain that there were other kindreds than elf, also vying for supremacy of this land.

Taming the Orulins

But the elves developed horticultural skills, taming the forest and making it yield fruit and raw materials to their tending. They also made trees that grew larger and larger, yielding more of the raw materials they needed to survive, building their culture from the cloth of arboreal agriculture and, when the trees became large enough, living out their lives within the branches. It was only after thousands of years of such husbandry that the familiar orulin came to exist in its present form.

During the millenia that it took elfkind to change trees into orulins, the elves themselves changed. Taming the forest gave them the tools they needed to control Olemheiden itself, until there were no other significant humanoid presences within its boundaries; a reign that has continued almost unbroken to this day. The elves, more confident in their domain, now a unified political force, began to crave political and trade power to better the status of their nation within the world.

The War of Faeriekind

A war was fought between the elves and faeriekind. It is said that the dryads attacked the elves when elves tried to make orulins produce metal, gems and gold. This War of Faeriekind lasted many years.

Elfkind itself split politically at this time. One faction supported the alterations to the trees and fought in the war against the dryads; another wanted from the trees only what they could produce naturally and sought to protect them. When the blood finally finished soaking into the forest earth, the dryads and protectors prevailed against the alterers. The alterers had lost so many of their men, women and children that but a trickle of them moved from the orulins to the forest floor.

The banished elves, left with no knowledge and no culture by the dryads, became the lowlanders, determined never to enter the orulins again.

In victory, faeriekind welcomed back the elves, but stripped all of them of the arcane knowledge they used to create the orulins. What elves know today of the tending of orulins has been hard-won knowledge developed from scratch by recent generations.

Culture and Family Structure

After the War of Faeriekind, orulin elves relinquished the idea of a "nation of Olemheiden" and became tribal, with each orulin governing itself. At the same time, the lowlander elves spread themselves even more thinly, living few and far apart on the forest floor.

As the history would suggest, the number of lowlanders is far less than the number of orulin elves. The numbers are actually dwindling, ever-so-slowly, to just a few hundred today in a few dozen scattered clans. There are many factors contributing to their slow decline, including: migration to the orulins, danger from wild animals and monsters, the limited number of safe granite outcrops for dwelling places on the ground in Olemheiden, and the fact that a clan's enclave cannot be expanded easily to accommodate more family members.

Lowlanders keep tight-knit, extended families, who all live together inside a burrow or enclave. The elves inside the burrow usually number around 10-20, from several generations. There are a few dozen of these enclaves within Olemheiden, widely spaced from one another. Lowlander families like to keep to themselves, interacting only to trade, only rarely making social visits even to other lowlander families. Lowlanders born inside a burrow will usually live out their lives there.

Lowland elves also fiercely value their independence from the orulin elves, and rarely trade with them. However, there is no animosity between these two races, and lowland elves will sometimes offer help to orulin elves when the situation calls for it. Because of the limited relations and trade, lowland elves are considered primitive by orulin standards, keeping few manufactured comforts in their dwellings, and building the tools of their lives out of the things they can make or gather themselves from the forest. Even their dress tends to be simple and down-to-earth. They wear no textiles, making clothing from animal skins. They augment this clothing with camouflage makeup and leafy headdresses when they are outside.

Lowlander Dwellings

Lowlander burrows, or "enclaves", are carved into the base of granite outcrops which are a common feature of Olemheiden. They are built for defensibility and seclusion, camouflaged from their surroundings to the point that even other elves cannot find them.

An enclave starts with a large granite outcrop in the forest floor. It is considered advantageous if there are other natural defenses around the outcrop such as a water barrier, thick tree growth on one side, a steep slope, etc. but these are not prerequisites. The enclave is carved out of the raw stone, descending below ground level at first, where there is generally a utility room and entrance chamber. Then the rest of the dwelling is carved up into the rock, so all the living space and storage is above ground level. This prevents most problems with flooding. The granite and the angle of the carving protects against forest fires and enclaves usually have two sets of reinforced doors to keep out hostiles monsters and animals.

Lowlanders are able to carve and maintain their enclaves through a combination of metal tools and magic. Druidic magic is common among lowlanders. As for the metal tools, lowlanders typically trade for these.

Enclaves have the aforementioned vestibule, a workroom, three large sleeping rooms, and a community room (usually the largest of all the rooms), arranged vertically from lowest to highest in that order. These rooms will be separated by doors for maximum defensibility. Naturally, with space this cramped, lowland elves tend to do a lot of their daily activities outdoors where they have room.

The enclaves protect lowlanders through a combination of factors. First, lowland elves protect themselves through a low-profile existence. They don't keep herds of animals or large crop boundaries outside their dwellings, but they might have one or two family animals, to keep from drawing attention. They disguise their territories with camouflage, especially at the entrance to the dwelling, so they cannot be seen even if the general vicinity of their home is known. The small outdoor area a lowlander family defines as its own is usually marked by the growth of natural-appearing hedges, undergrowth and briars. The style of this boundary growth is one aspect of lowland elf culture that is shared by all the families, and it is recognizable to other lowland elves; they regard it as a warning to stay away unless invited when they come upon the boundary of some other family's domain. Outsiders such as orulin elves might not recognize these boundaries unless they are familiar with lowlander culture, so the growth usually contains some thorny plants to keep such outsiders from blundering through.


As already discussed, lowlanders do not grow large crops or keep herds of animals. They eat by hunting and gathering in the forest, although they might maintain a special deer herd which, though free, is considered part of their territory; other lowlanders will not hunt outside of their own section of forest. Lowlanders often have a family garden for fresh produce, small in size; they do not trade from this garden, only growing enough to feed themselves. If they have family animals, they will probably be quiet, low-profile animals such as goats that they can let out to feed in the forest and bring back in at night.

Though their dwellings are too small to contain forges or manufacturing devices of any kind, lowlanders nevertheless can make a few things for trade: art created from wood and stone, finely-made fur clothing, and things fashioned with magic. If they can, they will make their own tools, but most families have at least a few tools they traded for and kept. Compared to orulin elves, lowlanders have easier access to some things, such as stone and root vegetables, so they sometimes trade these things to orulin elves.

On the whole, lowlanders are as economically isolated from the rest of the world as orulin elves and perhaps moreso.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Summary of 2007.02.27 Game Session

On the night before the characters left for Olemcorro, Dev ir'Wyren decided to do some investigating of his own into the mysteries surrounding his sister. The session log details everything that happened that night. This post is a summary of those events for the benefit of the players who weren't there.

Dev Pays Emil ir'Wyren a Visit

Dev decides to visit his father, Emil, in connection with the writing he found on Spyridon's notepad. Having previously found his father's new address in Tulerohk through the grapevine, he travels upstairs until he finds the place where his father has been living with another conclave member, an elf who shares his political views by the name of Jecob. Dev investigates the area and finally decides to knock on the door.

Jecob, who is cooking himself dinner, lets Dev in and chats with him briefly in the kitchen. They talk politics, with Jecob bringing up the new Cataract proposed to be built underneath Tulerohk, modeled after the Cataract that was destroyed under Jeraslan. He says, "We both agree, the faster the cataract is built for Tulerohk, the faster Jeraslan can recover economically from its disaster." He also probes Dev to find out whether he has a hostile relationship with his father, to which Dev says, "No, far from it. We've had our disagreements, but I think that is due to a common temperament." Jecob admits that work on the new Cataract has been slow due to recalcitrance from the lowlander elves in lending assistance. The primary difficulty in procuring their help (whatever "help" might mean--he does not elaborate) is that the lowlanders do not need anything from the orulin elves. "When someone builds their life around not wanting what you have, how can you possibly offer them something of value?"

Dev, listening intently for the sounds of his father in the back room, starts to suspect that his father is listening in on this conversation. Dev lets Emil know that he's aware of his presence, and when Emil comes out, the two visit a local restaurant and sit in the back to talk.

The Thugs

Dev brings up Spyridon, testing Emil. Referring to the session in the Conclave that day (in which Dev accused Spyridon of kidnapping), the father says: "
For once you had my full approval today. Whatever may have happened to your sister, it is certain Dara was involved somehow. Are you seeking my help in breaking him down? You may have it." They talk about Dara, whom Emil refers to as "unscrupulous and dangerous". Then Dev shows him the notepad with the impression on it and Emil's address. Emil is shocked to see this. He says, "20 gold! And this is my .. was my address! Dara had this! It proves Dara had my home trashed."

He proceeds to tell Dev that he and Dara had a political conflict at Jeraslan, trying to block one anothers' votes, and Spyridon retaliated by having his home trashed. The thugs who did it got away, but not before Emil put an arrow in one of their arms and forced him to drop the payment for the vandalism: 20 gold. Dev suggests that they go pay a visit to the kidnappers in their holding cells at this point.

That night they descend to the guard level, where Emil asks one of the guards to let Dev in to see the prisoners. There, Dev discovers that one of the two kidnappers has a suspicious wound through his left arm, the same place Emil claims to have injured one of the thugs. When questioned, the kidnapper claims his arm was punctured by a rusty gnoll pike while he was in the camp.

On the way out, Dev tricks the thugs by telling them that he knows they dropped their gold, causing one of them to blurt out that they "want it back".

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Game Session, 2007.02.27

Published to Google Docs.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Game Session, 2007.02.24 (manual transcript)

(Unfortunately, the game transcript was lost after the game session of 2007.02.24. This recap will be from memory.)

(Play begins around 7:30 PM.)

We are joined by our cast, currently consisting of: Dev the Rogue, Shara the Paladin, and Elrymbor the Arcanist. Crom the Barbarian appears later on.

The characters return to Tulerohk the morning following the successful destruction of the gnoll huddle. With the smoke of the gnoll bodies still lingering in the air, the conclave calls the characters in immediately and they account for the attack. This immediately clears Dvethan ir'Wyren of charges of murder, as there were many witnesses to the fact that his sister, Illuvien, is still alive. Unfortunately, his hearsay testimony that Spyridon was responsible for her kidnapping is not accepted as evidence; her kidnappers are placed in holding cells on the guard level of the orulin, but no charges are brought against Spyridon Dara for his alleged part in the conspiracy.

After the conclave, Lucas leaves the characters, saying he has business of his own to attend to. The characters return to Shara's rooms, where they lay out their next plan of action. Spyridon Dara has ired Dev, and the characters suspect Lucas is already there interrogating him. They go visit his apartments, and send Elrymbor to knock on his door with a ruse. Lucas spots them out, and invites them in; he has indeed been there.

They interrogate Dara while Dev searches the apartments. There are some revelations. Dara reveals some interesting tidbits. He claims not to know how Illuvien got kidnapped, but he suggests that Emil ir'Wyren, father of Dev and Illuvien, is the culprit. He reveals that Illuvien was looking for a "red agent". But he doesn't know what that is. While Spyridon is giving his testimony, Dev is searching his apartments, and finds a notepad with pen impressions on it.

Here, Lucas threatens to have Spyridon hanged if he turns out to be a red agent, but Dara continues to protest that he doesn't even know what that is. Lucas immediately leaves the room, saying he's going to get Perletinius.

It is at this point that Crom returns.

When Lucas and Perletinius return, they bicker over whether to reveal something of great import to the characters; Lucas wants to tell them, Perletinius protests. Lucas finally prevails, saying, "It is time for new Blue Companions."

Lucas and Dev tie up Spyridon and throw him into the bedroom with the door closed.

Lucas then asks the party to swear, each individually, to keep the information secret "for the rest of their lives". When each of them does, starting with Crom, then Shara, then Dev, and finally Elrymbor, he reveals to them the true purpose of the Blue Companions.

Perletinius and Lucas reveal the following:
  • There are two Gabbents, Blue and Red. These are connected by something called the Soft World.
  • The Blue Companions exist to protect the forest Olemheiden in this eternal war against Red Gabbent. But their numbers have dwindled almost down to nothing.
  • There is something called "tincture" which differentiates the inhabitants of Red Gabbent from the inhabitants of Blue Gabbent. It is not visible to the eye and the Blue Companions do not know of a way to see it. (But Illuvien might.) Tincture is innate at birth; a person born on Red Gabbent has red tincture, a person born on Blue Gabbent has blue tincture.
  • If Illuvien can be believed, there is a Red agent somewhere in Olemheiden, maybe even in Tulerohk. A method to detect tincture is needed so this person can be found.
  • The Red agent may have been the one who caused the earthquake.

The DM breaks here to give a tutorial on using MapTool, specifically how to roll dice (/roll, /rollme and /rollgm), use aliases (/alias command..), and use the macro buttons (right-click on the button to change it). See this reference to chat commands.

Now the party commits to a course of action: the (new and old) Blue Companions will travel to Olemcorro, location of their informational archives, and research a way to detect red tincture. With a way to detect red tincture, the Companions might have a better chance of protecting the orulins from some new catastrophe, by fighting the red agent who is causing all the trouble (if that is indeed the cause of the trouble).

Dev investigates the contents of the notepad at this point, and is able to see a partial address, enough to know that the address that was written was the address of Emil ir'Wyren where he lived in Jeraslan!

The next day the part travels to Olemcorro through Olemheiden. Along the way, Lucas makes brief stops at the homes of lowlander elves just to reassure them that the gnolls have been taken care of. The lowlanders are extremely grateful for the assistance of the Jeraslan elves in killing the gnolls and freeing the kidnapped elves.

At sunset, the party reaches the base of the Olemcorro staircase. With night coming, it would be impossible to reach the lowest branch level before midnight, so the party makes a decision to return to the nearest lowlander burrow, and ask for shelter for the night. There, they are given a room to sleep in, safe from the nighttime forest, within the walls of the burrow.

That night, the travellers are awakened by great stentorian thuds reverberating through the forest, coming from below. This continues for several minutes before Elrymbor goes outside to investigate. No sooner does he do so than the forest is lit up by a beam of light, seemingly flashing up from the ground and crackling among the treetops like reverse lightning. In this flash, he sees something leviathan and blue, and in the afterglow sees shapes, small and clawed, exploding into the air from a rift in the ground.

(Play ends at 11PM.)

Plot Recap as of Saturday, February 24, 2007

A brief recollection of the events that have transpired so far during the Nest of Candles campaign, "The Precarious Earth".


The Nest of Candles is the name of the campaign set on the world of Gabbent. The campaign so far centers around a forest region named Olemheiden. You will want to read this background material to start with, which describes the chapter known as "The Breaking of Jeraslan".

The story continues in Grimcatch, where the players fought and defeated a grimlock army that could have killed Jeraslan outright.

Returning from Grimcatch, the characters are forced into political intrigue in their new home, the orulin named Tulerohk, at the Conclave of Servants. There, one of the characters, a rogue named Dev, is accused of murder--the murder of his own sister. This accusation occurs at a time when the party is needed to destroy an infestation of gnolls which has kidnapped many of the "lowlander" elves, the elves which live on the forest floor in burrows and do not climb the orulin trees.

The captain of the Blue Companions, a paladin named Lucas, is put in charge of Dev during the raid on the Gnoll Huddle. (Follow the link for a description of the events in the Gnoll Huddle as well as the confrontation in the Conclave of Servants.)

Against a storm of gnolls, the party holds the prison where the lowlander elves were being kept successfully, keeping the prisoners safe long enough for Lucas to storm the village by surprise. They slay every last gnoll, and make a pyre of their bodies.

Among the prisoners they discover Iluvien ir'Wyren, sister of Dev, the very person he was accused of murdering. She is still alive, and she tells a story of being kidnapped by thugs sent by Spyridon Dara--the very council member who accused Dev of murder! This discovery clears Dev's name, but no sooner are brother and sister reunited than Iluvien flees rather than be taken back to Tulerohk. Dev chases her, with Shara close on his heels. She runs into the forest near the village and, with a twist of her arm, summons some sort of globe that squirms around her and then vanishes, with her still inside.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Game Calendar

Nest of Candles Calendar—Nest of Candles Calendar