Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Supplement II - Blackmoor Part 5


The first official D&D adventure is an odd one, that's for sure. It's as old-school as it gets, really - there are no guidelines on what levels to run it for (I would say about 10th), or how to get the PCs there. It's just an adventure site presented as is, for the DM to use as he sees fit. The basic setup is that of a Temple in a remote swamp where the priests are breeding killer frogs, but there's a definite Arneson-style twist to the affairs. There's a good adventure in here somewhere, but it needs a lot of work to sort out the haphazard notes and make it playable.

I won't go into depth about the adventure itself, but there is a load of info here that pertains to the World of Greyhawk and to Blackmoor in particular. There are some probable spoilers ahead, as well.

The temple is placed near Lake Gloomey, in the Swamp of Mil nearby. These are prominent terrain features of Blackmoor, I assume.

We have the Brothers of the Swamp, a sect believing that man is an abomination, and animals more fit to populate the world. They started breeding killer frogs, and trafficking in slaves to help them increase their frog output. About 100 years ago they made a pact with bandits, who pretty much took things over until the current High Priest named Stephen the Rock sorted them out. Since then the temple's power has grown, and the swamp is teeming with killer frogs.

There adventure3 also features intelligent humanoids that are either from another dimension or another world. They are highly technologically advanced, with hovering satellite stations, and at least some of them are interested in policing dimensional nexus points from other invaders. It sounds a little Star Trek, actually, but what it establishes is that there are worlds out there in the universe that are scientifically advanced, rather than everything operating by magic.

That's all the stuff of wider importance. The adventure will be there for the PCs to stumble across from the start, and eventually they will start hearing rumours of killer frogs infesting the swamps, and slaves being taken to the Temple. If the players don't bite I might have an authority figure in Blackmoor hire them to investigate. Pretty simple plot hook stuff.

UNDERWATER ADVENTURES: This section begins by mentioning the sunken cities of Mu, Atlantis and Lemuria - as well as the treasure therein. There's my adventure hook to entice the PCs to explore underwater, then. It also fits with the backstory given to the Sahuagin - these cities were submerged when the world was flooded.

It follows with the effects of being underwater on movement and combat. In general you can't swim in armor heavier than leather, and both hands must be free. Missile weapons don't work underwater, but there are special crossbows that can. Melee weapons have their damage halved, except for Tridents. It's noted that electrical attacks electrocute anything in range, and that fire attacks are completely useless.

Then there is a list of various terrain features, those being seaweed and sand. Not much of interest here.

Following that are random encounter charts, one for underwater and one for when you are sailing. It's nice to see these being expanded on when appropriate.

SAGES: Sages are greatly expanded on here. Whereas before the sages you hired were knowledgable on a wide range of subjects, they now have special areas in which they excel - things like Botany, History, Folklore, Philosophy, Astronomy, etc.

The Guild of Sages gets another mention, and it's noted that the prices listed to hire them in OD&D are for low-level types. I guess that explains their lack of specialisation.

There's stuff about chances to succeed, with a great bit about sages giving wrong answers rather than saying when they don't know something. Arrogant bastards.

You can buy a library to aid the Sage's chance of success, but that's an expensive affair - you could be looking at an expenditure in the hundreds of thousands of gold pieces.

Dismissing your sage could be risky business - if the guild deems you did so without reason, they'll never provide you with a sage again. And even if they change their minds, they're likely to present you only with the same guy you got rid of. These guys could stand to learn a thing or two about customer service, but I suppose they have a monopoly.

Sages must have some kind of cosmic significance, because killing one automatically makes you Chaotic, unless the sage was Chaotic. I suppose that they are favoured of the gods. They also have the power to bestow curses if they've been brought close to death through violence. A high-level sort can curse you to never make a saving throw again! And don't expect Remove Curse to bail you out there - you'll need some sort of Cleric-assigned quest.

DISEASE: Ah disease - yet another tool in the rat-bastard-DM arsenal. This is the first time that the subject gets dealt with in D&D, and we get a number of interesting types to inflict upon players.

The diseases included are: Grippe (a catch-all for colds, flus and belly aches), the Bubonic Plague, Dysentery, Cholera, Malaria, Small Pox, Tuberculosis, Typhus, Typhoid Fever, Yellow Fever, Advanced Leprosy, Crud (various nasty rashes), and Spotted Fever.

Each disease has an environment and seasonal conditions under which it might be contracted, a percent chance of catching it, incubation, duration, recovery time, and a fatality percentage. These numbers are modified by a high or low Constitution as would be expected. It's surprisingly detailed, but I think including them would really change the tone of the game, away from fantasy adventuring and more towards gritty and medieval.

Some random notes:

A Chaotic Cleric can use a reversed Cure Light Wounds to give someone the Grippe. Hmmmm, inflicting the flu or 2-7 points of damage? Tough choice...

There's an extremely rare type of bark that can cure Malaria - it's also relished by both Displacer Beasts and Blink Dogs. Perhaps that's the root of their enmity? There's a certain simplicity in this that I like; not everything can be ancient wars and epic hatred. Although, the idea of ancient and epic Bark Wars between these two have a certain charm.

Spotted Fever is the disease transmitted by giant ticks. Not only is it potentially fatal, but it can drive victims insane.

Advanced Leprosy is the disease that Mummies inflict with their attacks. Whereas before it just slowed a character's rate of healing, now it is 95% fatal, and characters killed by it can't be raised.

Since all of these diseases get introduced at once, I'm planning to make their release part of an agenda by some evil organization or another. The PCs can investigate and tackle it if they want, or perhaps the plan will simmer away as diseases take their toll?

AAAAAAND that's it for Supplement II: Blackmoor. I've also caught up to myself on this project, as it had started as a thread on So over the weekend I'll be back to new material, and resuming with The Strategic Review #5 on Monday.

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