Sunday 28 December 2014

A Litany in Scratches

Several astute readers have wondered where adventure #3 is.. here it is!  A Litany in Scratches.

This was the scenario I concocted for a Torchbearer playtest some years ago - though of course at the time it was a few scribbles and bullet points, rather than clean maps and a PDF.

I was fascinated by a style of pacing I'd seen in a one-page dungeon, 'Zombie Elves': the players go quite a ways in, through creepier and creepier stuff, before finally the ceiling falls in and they're suddenly fighting for their lives.

Torchbearer is largely about dungeoneering logistics; players are constantly aware of the load of their packs, the limited space they have for anything extra, and the short distance that their food and light will take them into (or out of) dark, dangerous places.

This scenario unfolded slowly; the two adventurers inching their way through the darkened gatehouse, searching and finding little, and wondering where all the doors had gone. They got a bit scraped up in the ravine after tangling with a vampire bush, which was good as it made them pretty wary of the tree branches in the cloister. When they figured out what the tree was up to, they were properly creeped out!

This didn't deter them from climbing down into the shrine, however, for a scene whose memory I treasure: the duo desperately trying to decide what to toss out so they could carry more treasure, all while listening to the Master's cackling, and the sloshing of the undead advancing on them. This cemented in my mind that defeating the dungeon is not the end of the adventure, it's just the start of what might be a long and dangerous journey home - especially if you've left your tinderbox behind.

For reasons I forget now, the players decided to flee through the catacombs, running directly into the barricade.

That was awesome - it was like the sickening punchline to a long joke. I had mentioned the missing furniture at every opportunity, and now, standing in knee-deep water lit by their last torch, listening to an army of crypt servants coming to tear them limb from limb, the mystery was solved. Alas!

As always, the adventure and all the art is released under Creative Commons cc-by-nc.

Sunday 7 December 2014

The Nuss

The Nuss first appeared in the extraplanar wilderness adventure, Extent of Gamandes.

Hunger for the Form

Far off, in the void between worlds is a region of chaotic, vital energy. There is no matter there, but the ether is thick with a potentiality of form and movement.  The beings that dwell there, the Nuss, clamor for material existence.  

The essence of each Nuss expresses a different, unique form. They long to inhabit mortal flesh, "erupting" it into whatever form they have waited an eternity to express.

The Nuss look with contempt upon mortals that express only one stable form during their long lives, vainly resisting change. Worst of all is the mortal habit of producing near-identical offspring - an act of supreme selfishness!

If they had the chance, they would use the material realms more wisely. They want bodies, to share if they must, so they can show the selfish the blessed joy of eruption!

While most Nuss express random, distorted and frequently crippled shapes, a few are chosen for the sacred duty of converting mortal flesh to their joyous cause: the Harbingers of Nuss.

The Harbingers of Nuss

Harbingers are 8' tall abominations with trilateral symmetry (three wings, three legs, three arms), topped with an eye-encrusted mass.  Their blade-like wings beat constantly, emitting a constant, fluttering hum.

They move and fight with equal ease in any direction, though they are somewhat ungainly on the ground. They can fly at incredible speeds, however: faster than the eye can see, tearing the sky with a deafening noise.

Their hollow-tipped spears inject the essence of a Nussan form; anyone stabbed must resist with restorative magic or heroic fortitude, or begin 'erupting': taking the shape of the Nuss whose essence was injected. From the moment of injection, complete transformation can take as little as 6 days.

Harbingers are not interested in martial glory, only bringing forth new eruptions. They will retreat from stiff resistance and wait for a chance for an ambush, but they are determined: unworthy Harbingers are recycled.

Each Harbinger carries d6 doses of Nussan essence.

B/X D&D Stats

Armor Class: as +2 Chain
Hit Dice: 9*
Move: 90' (40')
Attacks: spear / kick
Damage: 1-8 / 1-6
No. Appearing: 1-2
Save As: Elf 7
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 1600

The first target injured by the spear must save vs. Poison or be infected by Nussan essence.  If the saving throw is failed, a transformation starts immediately, completing over the next 6 hours.

Roll randomly to determine the limb and what it is transformed into:

1-head, 2-left arm, 3-right arm, 4-torso, 5-left leg, 6-right leg

1. Warty spheres
2. Tough, rope-like umbilicals
3. Tentacled mats
4. Branching worms, with many legs or none
5. Toothy, stud-like protrusions
6. Dozens of tiny, bead-like eyes

Unless it is removed by cure diseasewish, or similar spell, another transformation will occur each following day for a total of d6+1 transformations.

Dungeon World Stats

Intelligent, Devious, Cautious, Planar
Poisoned Spear (d10), Near
HP 10; 1 Armor

Instinct: to inject transforming essence
Land and strike suddenly
Weave and change directions
Leap into the heavens with a thunderclap