Monday, August 21, 2017

My take on Curses in DnD


    Curses, in most recent iterations of dnd, are incredibly boring. I realized a long time ago that to make the game fun and interesting for myself and the players involved, I needed to go in and do a little extra work. I’m sure a lot of you will say ‘these rules are game breaking,’ but I really don’t care about any of that. DnD curses are boring. These curses are going to be dark and twisted: just how I like them. Below are my homebrew rules for curses. These are only the first curses that’ll be incorporated into my games. I’ve got ideas for more later. I’ll share when I have them down on paper. I hope you enjoy!


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The Lowdown

    Only the Maleficar and the Magic User can use curses. These things should be really difficult to come by. They also should be very dangerous to use because they’re so powerful. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t use this for a villain in a campaign, I just wouldn’t drop it in a random library for the first adventurer to find… or would I…

    So first thing’s first, you need the components. A lot of these aren’t going to be lying around in a components pouch, because that shit’s lame. Most of these you’re going to need to go out into the wide world and find. When you have the components, and you have a secluded space, you’re ready to begin the ritual. Again, it’s strongly advised to have a SECLUDED SPACE. I’m not talking about an Inn where some plebe is going to walk in on you all half mast. I mean out in the wilderness, in some dark ancient tomb. This is because if you’re disturbed in any way, there’s a good chance the curse will backfire on you. Anyone else within the vicinity will probably suffer an agonizing death as well. However, in the event of a backfire, the caster must Save vs Magic. If  worst comes to worse, and the curse backfires, Cast the Bones. If you succeed, the components get burned away in a vibrant flash of light and smoke. Nothing else happens. If you fail, it’s probably going to end badly.

    I decided to leave a lot of these open ended to give the referee room to wiggle when it comes to their specific rulings. Obviously, this is all homebrew, so steal, change, and/or use whatever you want; these just work for me.

    If you’re going to use this for 5e or pathfinder, just change the ‘save vs magic’ to any ol applicable save. If you’re going to use it for Savage Worlds… you’re on your own...

Mechanics

    Curses go up to 4 Tiers, and are more powerful the higher the Tier. The trade off to this is they’re more fickle the higher the tier. However, *any level caster can bestow a curse from any tier… but the question lies, can one handle that kind of power? If one attempts to bestow a curse that is beyond their power/knowledge, they must then save vs magic at a -2 every tier above their own [tier].

Eg: A 1st level Maleficar tries to use Rivers of Blood. She must make a save vs magic at a -6 penalty at the beginning of the ritual. Oops, she failed the the roll, and automatically rolls the bones. Now she turned into a pile of steaming goo.

Below I have a rough breakdown of the tiers:

      Tier                  Level Requirement*                      General Effects   
1st Tier                             1st- 4th                          individuals, small objects, etc...
2nd Tier                            5th -9th                         families, multiple people, generations.
3rd Tier                         10th -14th                         towns, small cities
4th Tier                         15th- 20th                         permanent changes to geography
A curse may be empowered by using the lunar cycles and planetary alignments. Some curses may even require them as a component


1st-Tier Curses

Idle Hand
Casting Time: 12 hours
Range: touch
Components: Arcane Circle (Item worn by victim, rat blood, snake venom, sage, 1 gp)
Duration: Until the hand is removed

    Save vs magic or the victim’s hand loses feeling and falls limp after an hour or so. After a week, the hand begins to gain a mind of it's own. The only remedy is to remove the hand.

Ghastly Visage
Casting Time: 1 day
Range: Touch
Components: Iron Cauldron, red with heat(Clothing worn by victim, bottled breath of a dying man, pinch of sand, gnomes nose, 1sp)
Duration: until curse is removed

    The victim must save vs magic or begin to become a hideous shadow of what it once was. Their skin and begins sloughing off of the body, their teeth and nails fall out as well.This progresses over the course of weeks, or months.

Self Harm
Casting Time: 12 hours or more
Range: 3 miles
Components: V, C, Arcane Circle(Pinch of salt, lock of victims hair or piece of fabric worn by victim, fresh eyeball, water, 1 sp)
Duration: Until caster dies

    Save vs Magic or the victim is compelled to mutilate itself in it's sleep. It systematically gets worse over weeks and months. Save vs magic fights off urges for 12 hours.

2nd-Tier Curses
Remove Tongue
Casting Time: 12 Hours
Range: touch
Components: Arcane Circle(Pinch of dried bat blood,  Article of clothing or hair from victim, copper shavings)
Duration: Until Curse is removed

    Save vs magic or the victim’s tongue shrivels up and falls out of their mouth, turning into a pile of flies and maggots as it hits the ground.

Eternal Sleep
Casting Time: 1 week
Range: n/a
Components: Apple, nightshade root, willo-o-whisp dust
Duration: Until dispelled

    The Maleficar curses the apple into a tool of control. Once the victim takes a bite of the apple, they fall into a magical sleep, bypassing immunities to magical sleep. Only one person can be cursed in this manner at a time. Save vs Magic negates the effect. On a successful save, the apple turns into blood and maggots into the mouth of the victim.

Searing Hatred
Casting Time: 1 Hour(Ritual)
Range: Same plane of existence
Components: Arcane Circle(Coffee bean, silver coin,  Lock of hair from victim)
Duration: Until curse is removed or objective is met

    The victim is sent into a murderous frenzy with only one objective in mind: killing the one they love most, only then does the curse lift. Save vs magic the first time negates the effect. On a failed save, the victim must save vs magic every 12 hours to fights off urges.

Demonic Offspring
Casting Time: 1 day
Range: 1 mile
Components: Arcane Circle (Blood from a demon, 1 gold coin, teeth from newborns relative, boiled cat tail)
Duration: Cannot be undone

    The fetus is imbued with the blood from a demon. The child shows signs early on by their sadistic nature and horrendous temperament. However, before it reaches adulthood, the child will murder it’s family and go to the one that created it.

3rd-Tier Curses

Slow Polymorph
Casting Time: 1 Week
Range: touch
Components: Iron Cauldron(A strip of human skin, pinch of animal fur, glass shards, black mushroom cap, water)
Duration: Until curse is lifted

    The victim must Save vs magic 3 times in 3 days, or he begins to turn into a creature dreamt up by the caster. On the first failed save, the victim begins to feel uneasy, like they’re being watched at all times. On the second failed save, the victim feels a call to them, from beyond the veil. On the third and final failed save, the victim loses his mind fully, and disappears into the night. If the victim gets 3 successful saves before 3 failed, the curse is broken.
    The transformation is in stages that takes over a month to complete. By the end, the creatures goes to you and is under your control. The nightmare can increase one ability score by 2, and must choose to lower one ability score by 2. The creature has no magical abilities, but can be added later under the referee’s discretion.

4th-Tier curses

Plague
Casting Time: 1 week
Range: touch
Components: Arcane Circle,  Ending the Ritual on a Full-Moon, (Child to be sacrificed, Bar of gold worth 400 gp as an offering to whatever dark god you seek the favor from, pig feces, 1 pound of flies, and putrid water )
Duration: Until the caster dies

    You create a contagious plague that begins where you see fit. You must create the epicenter by physically touching it: person, water supply, food resource, etc… Once the curse takes effect, the grain begins to wilt and spread the disease, livestock dies, and people grow boils and blisters all over their bodies. The first to die are within a few weeks. Eg: the bubonic plague

Rivers of Blood
Casting Time: 2 weeks
Range: Self
Components: Arcane circle, Solar Eclipse(gold bar worth 200gp, river rock, living locust, iron shavings, pinch of leather)
Duration: Until dispelled or the caster is killed

    All rivers and streams in a radius of up to 100 square miles turn to blood. The water, at first, is still drinkable but tastes of copper and smells of rot. Anyone who consumes the water after a certain time set by the caster must make a save vs poison or die(this effect is a placeholder, it can really be anything).

Cast in Darkness
Casting Time: 3 weeks
Range: same plane of existence
Components: Arcane Circle, The totality of a Solar Eclipse (discarded gum wrapper, a small doll, a crushed button worth at least 1cp)
Duration: Until dispelled

     The sun itself get's blotted out as if obscured by a celestial object. Once the moon passes, the sun stays as black as it was during the actual eclipse. Everything is dark. Creatures of the night reign supreme, once again.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Breaking it Down- 5e Classes as Races and Using Self Contained Skills

      This is hopefully the first of many episodes(?) of breaking it down. This is where I take the rules we all love or hate, and break them down into something new(or old, depending on where you're coming from). I'm coming from the position of a Dungeon Master, where the player characters feel extremely powerful early on. It seems that in 5e, you begin at a heroic starting point. This, I don't like. I aim to change this. I've already broken down a few systems to where I like them, most notably is the xp system and character creation. I feel I should take character creation one step further. Although, I feel it may be suicide in the gaming community. But, I'll be glad to die a martyr preaching change. Let's begin...

     I'm really wanting to make character creation similar to an old school game. I haven't tested this yet. I'm just playing around with some of the rules. Mind you, I'm doing this strictly from a hex crawlers stance where I've had MANY players bitch about me killing their characters that "they put a lot of thought into." I don't want to deter players away from making characters they care about; however, I want to change the dynamic of character creation for 5e where it's not as painful for a character loss. This is all while still leaning on most of the same mechanics from 5e, and borrowing some from Lamentations, and in the future other retroclones. This should make character creation not only faster, but easier. For now, I'm focusing on the Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, Wizard, Dwarf, Halfing, and Elf as classes. The first four are human, and the rest are demi-human. 

Changes

  • Nobody has darkvision. To me, 5e gave that stuff out way too much. So, I'm going on the opposite end of the spectrum. What this does, is make torches really important. 
  • Nobody gets cantrips. Other than that, treat spell progression as normal. 
  • Ignore any bonuses to proficiencies from classes other than what's noted here. 
  • No Multiclassing.
  • Skills are using the d6 system, and the rogue is the only one who can get better at them. Again, this has to do with the roles. 
     I don't really care too much about balance during combat. I feel the ingenuity of the players will be what gets their characters through most situations. Nothing is going to be fair. Just not how I do things. I care only that each class serves a specific role. If you don't have a rogue, have fun picking that lock or disarming that trap. If you don't have a wizard, have fun nuking that group of baddies coming your way... You get the point.

Character Creation

  1. 3d6 down the line, dropping the lowest. Switch one pair of abilities if you want.
  2. Pick a class. Max starting HP.  
  3. Roll gold Gold is 3d6 x10.
  4. Buy Equipment.


The Fighter
You begin play as normal, but only gain levels as the Battlemaster once you reach level 3. You gain +4 hp after 10th, continuing to use your Con modifier.

The Rogue
You begin play as normal, but only gain levels as the thief once you reach level 3. Furthermore, you begin with 4 skill points to put in any skill you choose. You gain 2 more skill points each time you level up. You stop progressing at skills at level 10. Skills are as follows: search, stealth, sneak attack*, lore, pick lock, survival, sleight of hand, and climb. You gain +2 hp after 10th, no longer continuing to use your Con modifier.

The Cleric
You begin with a 2 in 6 chance in lore involving the supernatural. Increase to lore is 3 in 6 at 5th, 4 in 6 at 10th, and 5 in 6 at 15th. You gain +3 hp after 10th, no longer continuing to use your Con modifier.

The Wizard
Your HD is 1d4(2+con). Wizards begin play with a +3 in lore. Increase to lore is 3 in 6 at 5th, 4 in 6 at 10th, and 5 in 6 at 15th. You gain 1hp after 10th, no longer continuing to use your Con modifier.

The Dwarf
Your HD is 1d8(6 + con) and level as a champion. You gain advantage vs being poisoned and begin play with a 2 in 6 lore regarding architecture. Increases to lore is 3 in 6 at 5th, 4 in 6 at 10th, and 5 in 6 at 15th. You gain +5 hp after 10th, continuing to use your Con modifier.

The Elf
Your HD is 1d6(5 + con). You begin play as a fighter, but gains levels as an Eldritch Knight once you reach level 3. You also have advantage vs being charmed, and magic can't put you to sleep. Furthermore, you have a 3 in 6 chance in search. You gain +4 hp after 10th, no longer continuing to use your Con modifier.

The Halfling
You begin play as a rogue, and you only gain levels as the Scout archetype when you reach 3rd level. Furthermore, you have a 3 in 6 chance in stealth and survival in the wilderness. You have advantage on saving throws vs being frightened and feared. You gain +2 hp after 10th, no longer continuing to use your Con modifier.

Dying
I don't like death saves, but I'm meeting the players in the middle with this. Once you're downed, make a constitution save. Add in any bonuses or penalties beating 8 + the damage sustained. If you pass, you're stable. If you fail, you die. If someone hits you while you're unconscious, before or after the save, it's an auto kill. If you take more than double your HP in damage in one hit, you're dead.

Skills:
Everyone has a 1 in 6 chance to succeed in any given skill, that is a 1 on a d6. Rogues are the only ones that can increase skills where it's easier for them to succeed. Skills are as follows: search, stealth, sneak attack*, lore, pick lock, survival, sleight of hand, and climb.
*Sneak attack counts as a multiplier. 2 points in sneak attack is x2 damage, 3 is x3, and so on.... to successfully use sneak attack, you must attack from a hidden place, or from behind.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Complications Table

     I've played in quite a few games where the referee will throw a random monster at the party, and it just feels meh... Sometimes, I think to myself, "the same thing again?" Personally, that's a pretty huge problem when running DnD... or really any game. This is especially true for a hex crawl, a style of game that has a lot of randomness associated with it. A lot of times, a hex crawl just feels as though you're running through the same combat sequence over and over again. Now, I'm not saying every encounter has to be more in depth, but it does help to build verisimilitude if you had a complication or two mixed in. Sometimes, it is better to just have a regular ol fight.

     The beauty of a complication is that it shows that your world is a living breathing thing that, from time to time, interferes with itself. It's actually a simple concept that can make your encounters come to life. Sometimes, I even get surprised by the results. If anything, you can use this for inspiration to make your encounters feel more dramatic, or just be a little more compelling.

     From my experience, you get a little brain-dead by the end of the night when it comes to making interesting things on the fly. Using this table, coupled with my random monster tables, creates a believable world that my players seem to enjoy.

     The way it works is pretty simple; although, it may require you to prepare a few encounters in advance since the process itself is quite lengthy.

Step 1: Roll for your random monster; 6 Bandits

Step 2: Roll for your complication; 168 feet away, north, Running from creature

Step 3: Reroll if applicable; Troll

Step 4: Put it all together; About 160 ft away to the north, a group of 6 bandits are running away from a troll. 

Note: Try having this prepared on a notecard to give out to the lookout who spotted it. This is so they can relay what they saw to the rest of the party. They'll actually feel like they were a lookout, and not just a conduit of what the referee says.


     Granted, I wouldn't pitch it quite like this to my players the "About 160 ft away to the north, a group of 6 bandits are running away from a troll," but you get the picture. I know I could have made an encounter from the ground up, but it saves me brain power when where I need it most. I usually don't prepare for a game until the day of. When I do, I turn to these tables. This probably isn't the best way to do things, but it's the best way to do things for myself. Hopefully this helps others out as well.

     That about wraps it up, folks. I hope you guys enjoy. Below is my Complications Table. Let me know what you think!


Complications Table
1d20
1-15: 3d100 ft away
16-20: 1d100/2 ft away
1d4: 1-North, 2-East, 3-South, 4-West

1-11
Nothing unusual
12
Aligned with creature, roll again
13
Injured by creature, roll again
14
Fighting creature, roll again
15
Running from creature, roll again
16
Setting up ambush, DC 15 perception check to detect
17
eating
18
camping
19
drunk
20
Dead, roll again for tracks

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Rewarding XP for my West Marches game

The way I've awarded XP in the past is by, like everyone else, giving it out by slaying monsters. But what I've found is that by making that the only way the characters can gain xp, the players in question get this murder-hobo mentality... where they feel they need to murder EVERYTHING in their path. It's incredibly fucking annoying. It's one of the few things about dungeons and dragons I highly dislike. I have eradicated that way of thinking from my table. It's really difficult at first, but it soon becomes a habit. The way I now award XP is solely through exploration. Yes, crazy right? "So you just go somewhere and you get some XP and level up?" Yes and no. There are a few steps that make this work, and they are as follows:

Step 1: Discover a location and plot the point on the map

Gaining discovery XP is a 2 step process. The first thing the PC's must do to acquire ANY kind of XP is:
  1. Discover the location. That means getting close enough to it that they can easily make out what it is they're discovering. 'Is it a pile of rubble in the distance or is it the remains of a castle? Nah, it's rubble.'
  2. Once they do so, they need to record it on their shared map. It doesn't even have to be accurate. You, the referee, know exactly where it's at. Doesn't mean they have to. But, they should be involved in the game world. This earns each character the discovery portion of the XP. This is probably the easiest, and quite possibly the most broken part of my rules... but I'm okay with it, because they're mine. 
Note: Traveling is and should be really dangerous, especially at lower levels. The world's a big place, they risk a lot by leaving the relative safety of the city walls. Let the players feel it so they don't take advantage of the discovery system.

Step 2: Explore the location

The PC's need to fully... and I mean fully explore the entire location, leaving no stone left unturned. OR, if applicable, make peace(LOL) and some sort of a treaty or agreement with whatever denizens that dwell within the given location. Maybe it means 'killing the carrion that infest the lower levels' or 'take this mckguffin to this asshole.' Whatever the case may be, it needs to be an agreement of some sort. If that falls through, which it very well may, then revert back to the 'leaving no stone left unturned' bit, because they aren't getting XP, and I'm sure the fighter of the group is waiting for that to happen. To expand on this, make the explored location XP fucking challenging. That's a ton of XP. Make them fight for it if they want to fight.

Step 3: Make it back to their home base with the loot

It's as simple as that, navigate back through the forest, desert... whatever, and bring home that bacon. Don't play games with the PC's either. They ran through your little gauntlet, they earned it. If they have the proper amount of gold(and time), they level up. If not, go back out, earn more gold and XP.

Note: Use your best judgement when determining what is discovery and explored. Typically, places with one to two rooms or outside man-made features ONLY count as discovery, unless they're massive and take time to explore. The word explored is the key word; if the characters can just happen upon it and walk away, that would be discovery. If they need to take time to explore it fully, that would be exploration. Again, use your judgement. 

Below is the table I use for dividing out XP. Each area in a given region has a challenge rating associated with it. Each location has an XP amount associated with it based on the challenge rating of that region. The experience noted may seem like a lot, but the players have to work their asses off to earn it. Usually someone, if not all of them, ends up dead. It's totally worth it in the end. The mortality rates for my games are pretty high. If you have a softer group, lower the xp thresholds. However, I'd give something like this a shot. It'll change how the table operates. It's a nice change of pace. Give it a shot and tell me how it goes.

Furthermore, here is my West Marches hack for 5e that should tie this all together. Enjoy.

Experience Points by Location

CR 1-2
Discovering Location 75xp
Explored Location 225xp
|
CR 3-4
Discovering Location 200xp
Explored Location 400xp
|
CR 5-6
Discovering Location 2825 xp
Explored Location 8475 xp
|
CR 7-8
Discovering Location 5000xp
Explored Location 15,000xp
|
CR 9-10
Discovering Location 7,500xp
Explored Location 22,500xp
|
CR 11-12
Discovering Location 9,000xp
Explored Location 27,000xp
|
CR 13-14
Discovering Location 10,000xp
Explored Location 30,000xp
|
CR 15-16
Discovering Location 13,750xp
Explored Location 41,250
|
CR 17-18
Discovering Location 17,500xp
Explored Location 52,000xp
|
CR 19-20
Discovering Location 22,500xp

Explored Location 67,500xp

Monday, August 14, 2017

My maps and flavor pics... stuff I think is cool

     This is going to be a rather short post for now. It'll keep growing though. FYI, I'm no artist by any means, but the maps I draw are pretty effective. The first two are the maps for my first West Marches Campaign Diary. The rest are just random stuff I made a while back. I'll update this every so often.

This is the interior of the main temple. Note, I have all of the flavor 
written out on the top left. I never have very much planned out. I know 
better than that.
This is the map showing the general location of the main temple, and all of the 
entrances


This is something I made a few months ago in photoshop. I call it the dread bog. It's for my campaign setting called Lasiris. But I feel I can use this for anything really. Feel free to use it for yourself if you want.

This is the Ghost Fort I made. A lone adventurer heading... probably to certain doom.

West Marches Campaign Diary

This is my first campaign diary. I hope you guys enjoy it! I labeled each section in case you want to skip around.


The Backdrop

     The land is uncharted territory 25 days on a ship to the West of the Sword Coast. The only settled location is a small fortified town called Brokenstone. It has everything the adventurers need for survival, but the locals have no actual knowledge of outside of the walls, aside from a few hunters and farmers. Even their knowledge is highly limited.

The Party


     The group slowly began to pour in: Ricky, Jacob, Justin(his house), and Chris. They each rolled their characters up pretty much on the spot. A couple of them already had an idea of what they wanted to play, but nothing was detailed out. I instructed them to specify out all of their weight, determine their marching order, speed of travel, and roles. The party was made up of a (Chris)Dwarven fighter named Magni, motivated to find the secrets of his families past. (Justin)Human Wizard named Willem, a grizzled old man from Candlekeep in his last days looking to explore and adventure. What better place to die than in this land, he thinks. (Jacob)Human Bard named Carter Warfer, just arrived and has a twisted sense of humor. (Ricky)Kenku Rogue named Cutter, an extremely curious one. With their own reasoning of coming to this forlorn land, they began their adventures. 


The Hook

     The adventurers were quick to run-down a rumor; it was of a strange standing stone with intricate carvings just off of the road to the West. It's located maybe four or five miles out from town. The hunters who discovered it said that they had found some strange animal tracks –they looked really large too– leading passed the standing stone and that "[they] felt uneasy" in its presence. The possibility of gold and adventure was too much to turn a blind eye to because... well, they were all broke. Maybe they could sell what beast they found or become local heroes... or something. So, with what little money they had left, they had purchased a few more provisions for the journey: a mule and a sturdy saddle bag from the local stable. Now they were really broke, and desperate. On the road they went...


The Journey To

     The sky was cloudy and the wind was cold coming from the hills. The sun wasn't bright enough to penetrate the heavy clouds. To top that off, a storm was brewing and headed directly their way. Lighting and carpets of rain were seen off in the distance. Magni, in the lead, looked towards the north, "Aye, let us move with haste." The rest followed, with the mule in tow. 
     About an hour and a half to two hours into the trek, Carter began hearing a low hum in the distance moving their way. "Does anyone hear that?," asked Carter. The sound was getting closer, louder, and deeper. It was like a wave of bass heading directly towards them. Each of them darted across the road, away from the noise, into the tall grass. All of a sudden, as if the clouds shed a piece of themselves, a gargantuan swarm of rather large blood sucking insects burst through the tall grass, and hovered just feet from their position. Luckily, the wind was in their faces; for that, they dodged a big bullet. The whirring cloud picked up, and took off. Not eight hours into this new land, and they've already spotted a life-form that would love to tear them to shreds. Like true adventurers, on they pushed.


The Obelisk

     Some time passed, Cutter the Rogue spotted a set of tracks that led towards the north. They were off of the road, just like the hunters said. They couldn't quite pinpoint what the tracks were made from, too much time had passed. However, they were large nonetheless. They followed the tracks and came upon a clearing with a giant, black obelisk set in the center. Again, the story checks out. It stood around five average men tall, and two to three men – shoulder to shoulder– wide. "The stone seems to be made from... maybe obsidian," Willem the Wizard surmised. Pieces of carved out bone in the shape of human skulls adorned it. Under the miniature skulls, were writings in a strange language nobody in the group seemed to recognize. Willem instinctively pulled out a piece of parchment and some charcoal and began to methodically copy the script. "Look there, beyond the trees," the Kenku said. In the distance they spotted a single spire that seemed to be just past the tree tops. 
     "It's getting late in the day," said Magni, "we camp here for the night." They sat their camp up right beside the obelisk, out in the open with a roaring fire. They shared stories of their past life for a few hours and slowly began to lay out their bedrolls for their sleep. An hour into Magni's watch, he saw some movement through the treeline. It was a group of humanoids stalking them. He didn't say anything until he saw the figures approach. He called for the group, "wake up, and get ready." However, the people didn't seem very keen on combat. They were more curious than anything. They wore animal skins for clothing and had stone tipped spears and arrow heads. After the wizard's quick wit and good trading, the group made peace with each other. 
     The wizard pointed towards the tower that was then bathed in the moonlight. The largest of the men, obviously the one in charge, gave a look of absolute fear and shook his head. "Seems they fear that place," said the wizard in a serious but flat tone, "I wonder why." After a while of very strange communication, the people left and the party slept, albeit wakefully. 


The Search

     The next day was hot and muggy, the sky was beginning to darken with a storm. The group gathered themselves after a quick breakfast and sat off towards the tower. After about an hour and a half of traveling, the party broke from the small forest. Suddenly, the sky seemed to open up as did the view of the newly discovered ruins of an ancient city. Blankets of rain and hail pelt the adventurers while bolts of lightning streaked across the sky, illuminating the vista; the large tower ended up being the top portion of an odd looking pyramid that was located on the other end of the clearing. There seemed to have been three others, but were all lying in ruins. "Step pyramids maybe?" The Wizard said, scratching at his bald scalp, with rain water running down his face and into his eyes. The party ran for the closest buildings not wanting to be completely drenched. They found a small sturdy structure made of dry stacked stone with a small skylight and wishing well. It soon filled up with water, and ran outside. The party decided to wait out the storm. In the shelter, they found a few urns with intricate geometric shapes painted on them; although, they were almost completely faded. Inside of them, they found bones, and one that contained a sword made of bronze with a heavy flattened tip with a few oddly shaped copper and silver coins. The party wasted no time in quickly scooping them up. They determined that it was probably burial urns for the various families that resided there years and years before. Again, more of the strange writings were on the walls. The Wizard took his parchment and charcoal and began copying. 
     After about two to three hours of monsoon like rain, it finally began to clear up. So, the party began their search of the place. The made their way to the still standing pyramid. It was roughly thirty foot high, not including the spire. The other pyramids were arranged in a square pattern, with this one being the one furthest to the north west. The steps were cracked and falling apart. The outside of the pyramids were made of some naturally occurring stone. "Possibly... there's a quarry around here," Willem said, "Maybe that's where they get this type of stone from. This is not man-made. I'll tell you that." The group half listened to him, but the Dwarf nodded his head in approval. The pyramids were described as Mayan-like, with some of the same base architecture as from south american cultures. 
     They made it to the top. A stone double door blocked their way. Without missing a beat, the Dwarf shoved it opened, worrying about nothing. A slight hiss erupted from the door, cracking the seal revealed the interior of the building. From where they could see, the support structures in this building were actually statues acting as pillars. The statues all had outstretched arms, pointing towards the back of the room. The back was cast in shadow and dust. Magni lit a torch, and began walking in. In the room contained four large statues, an altar with a golden idol atop it, and two more urns to the left and right of the altar. The back of the room was more of the strange writing from before. The Wizard again, began copying what he could. The rogue walked to the idle and immediately snatched it off of it's pedestal. Everyone held their breath... but nothing happened. The Kenku marveled at his new prize, then stuffed it into his sack with glee. "If I die here because of you..." Magni said... and the Kenku just cocks his head to the side and walks off, examining the rest of the room. Once they felt the room was sufficiently... plundered, they walked back outside. 
     With a better view, they were able to see something odd. The wizard pointed out, "There seems to be something missing. In the back center of the field, there's a large square. Possibly where the main pyramid should be." They walked back down the steps and to where the square was, and began examining it. Willem poked the air in front of him with his staff and exclaimed, "It's not invisible! It's just not here! Ahhhh, I see now!" Proud of his discovery, he began trying to figure out where it may have gone. As he was pondering the others were searching. 
     Magni got back on top of the step pyramid and began ordering the others around, thinking he has a superior vantage point. After some time, they discovered a small cavern hidden away in the back side of the abandoned village. "I say we head back to town and regroup there. We may need our strength to continue on." The rest of the part agreed. They all backtracked their way to town. The next day, they sold the idol for a pretty good amount... enough to afford better equipment, a lot of ale, and the ability to train for a few days. Carter and Willem studied with the local wizard, Vildathrat. Magni trained with the city guards, and Cutter trained with the scouts. Once they were ready, they set off following the same path as before. 
     In Willem's studies, he discovered a spell that allowed him to read the script. He finds the group and said, "the standing stone is filled full of warnings saying to keep out of the pyramids or perish, more or less. I say we leave at first light," said Willem. The others agree, and drink the night away.


The Discovery

      After making it back, the group gathered at the mouth of the cavern. They tied off the mule near the entrance. The group entered the cavern. It was pitch black. Only the dwarf was able to navigate without a torch, so he lit one for the others. Onward they traveled. They made it about 300 feet or so, and found a small chute. Magni the dwarf looked down, tilting his helm back to normal and said, "I'll anchor you, so you can descend. It's about thirty feet or so down." 
     Willem asked, "What about you?" 
     "I'll be fine, I've fallen further." So one by one, they began to descend down the chute. At the bottom was slight gradient. It was just enough to barely cushion a fall. After the last one was down, the dwarf slid through the chute. He rolled and smacked his face on the bottom, giving himself a bloody nose. 
     "I'm sure this isn't your grandest moment," said Carter with a slight chuckle. The  Carter reached out his hand, but the Dwarf picked himself up and stood as tall as he could, glaring at the little human. Carter laughed more. Further on they went, the cavern got smaller and smaller, curving and winding, and starting to become thick in webbing. They all look at each other, and draw their weapons. At the end of the cavern, an extremely large web blocked their path. The dwarf looked back to the rest of the party, shrugs and sets the thing on fire, flash burning all the way up. In the distance they spot a strange sight: the missing pyramid illuminated by giant luminous mushrooms; however, it hangs from the ceiling like a stalactite some forty feet in the air. The room it is located in is gargantuan. It spans beyond even the Dwarves darkvision. The ever curious Cutter runs out to the front to get a better look. All of a sudden, six large spiders descended upon him. The Bard instantly casts sleep on the two nearest to Cutter, inadvertently putting him to sleep too. The Kenku and the spider fall into a deep slumber The one directly to his left is unscathed by the spell and lashed out, sinking his fangs into the Kenku's neck as he falls to the ground, injecting the deadly venom into his veins. The Kenku writhed in pain, and starts to foam at the mouth. The fourth spider began to drag the Kenku back up the spider silk to the safety of the ceiling. The group lashed out with a vengeance and starts cutting their way through them one by one. The dwarf smashed one over the head with his maul, instantly killing it. The wizard blasts another one with magical fire, incinerating some of its hairs. All while this is happening, the Kenku is being spun into a web on the ceiling. Finally, the last few were easily cleaned up. After a few minutes, the Kenku, still attached to the ceiling, succumbs to the poison. The group waited for over an hour trying to watch for some type of movement. Sadly, he was lost.
     After a few more minutes of tossing rocks up to the Kenku, the Bard hears some movement towards the back of the cavern. The dwarf instantly spots what it is. A lone Kobold. The Dwarf charged ahead, ready to destroy it. But stops when he noticed his hands were up and weapons aren't drawn. The dwarf holds his maul to the thing and asks "Who are you?" 
     "I am Dosk(Ricky), I come to you asking to travel with you. I was expelled from my clan because I was different. I wanted to do good in the world," nervously said the Kobold. After some time, and questioning, the group finally accepts the Kobold into the party. Onward they went. 
     They made their way underneath the mammoth pyramid. (This pyramid looks more akin to the Pyramid of the Sun) It was obviously the missing structure the party was after. But 'what brought it here, and why', they wondered. Most importantly, how were they going to explore a structure that's upside-down? The group began investigating the surroundings. They went around the room to find some mechanism or something to lend them a hand. Nothing seemed to show itself. Finally, the wizard tossed a rock at the structure in annoyance... and strangely, it didn't fall... "It didn't fall!," he said. Right away they concocted a plan. The wizard summoned his familiar, lashed two ropes together, gave the imp the rope, and instructed it to tie it to a nook. As swiftly as the wind, it took off with the rope in hand... or foot... either way, the plan was initiated. After a few minutes, the rope was secured to a pillar. The first adventurer, Dosk, began to climb his way up the rope, down to the top of the pyramid. But what they didn't take into account was the shift in gravity at the event horizon... Once Dosk hit that point, he plummeted to the ground with a great crash, taking the rope with him. Luckily, the pack broke most of his fall on the way down. The Kobold tossed the other end of the rope back down. The adventurers found a place to anchor the other side off, and began to climb the rope, one by one. They each were able to fight the change in gravity to keep from plummeting to the floor. 
     
The Pyramid

     Standing on the top of this pyramid at the ceiling of this massive cavern gave everyone a strange feeling of vertigo. They all managed to come to their senses and push forward. Before them stood a massive set of double doors. It had beautiful and intricate carvings in it. The great archway the doors were set into, were actually two giant sized humanoid statues with their hands clasped in the middle, where the seam of the door began. They altogether pushed open the door. Inside it was pitch black. Magni, lit up a torch which illuminated the room a bit. Four large statues lined two by two on each side of an ancient walkway leading to an alter. Again, another idle gleamed in the torchlight. Behind the alter was a horrifying high relief set into the wall. It seemed to be some sort of narrative scene that began on the far right and left sides and ended in the middle. The sides of the walls depicted people in some sort of servitude or prayer to something in the sky. Rays of sunlight shined down onto them. But further to the right, carnage and war filled the scenes. Warriors with swords and spears battled strange beasts with three arms and conical shaped heads. The tides of battle seemed to shift to the beasts. The scene furthest to the right shows many many wounded and dead. In the center is a very high relief, almost a statue in the round of a beast like the others, but more defined. It's eyes peered out towards the room and what's left of it's massive clawed hands reached out to the alter. Most of this statue lay in shambles, although, the story still stood. "Seems we've stumbled onto a bit of a mystery, haven't we?!" Gleefully exclaimed the wizard. 
     "I don't like it," grumbled the dwarf.
     "I found something!," said Dosk. The party moved around the alter to find a hole leading down to another level. "How did they manage to make it back and forth, with magic?" asked Dosk. 
     The Wizard quickly took in his surroundings and let out an "ah ha!" and pointed towards the remnants of a ladder. "But good thinking my little friend!" 
     Magni peaked his head into the hole peering left, right and down the way. "Clear." One by one, they lowered themselves into the next level. "So strange... there's nothing and no one here." The others looked to each other and nodded, pulling out their weapons. To the left and right were shoddy wooden doors. Further down the hall was a stone doorway, with the same style of archway as before. The walls were less maintained down here. The floors were covered in rubble, making everything difficult to move through. The ceiling looks as if it's a breath away from caving in. Onward they moved, clearing room after room. Finding more burial urns filled with silver, remains, ancient bronze weapons, and ancient jewelry. 
     Dosk quickly gathered up what they found and put it in his many pockets. Noticing everyone was staring at him, he grinned and explained, "We'll split everything later, friends," Everyone agreed, and carried on. They finally moved on down the hall. About halfway down, the Dwarf stepped down on a loose tile and heard a click. Out of the walls sprang two large spears, they broke against his helm and armor, knocking the wind from his lungs. He was not pierced, however. 
     "Shit traps, they are..." The gears that would have retracted the spears back in place ground to a halt. Further down the hall they moved, until they made it to the large stone double doors. Everyone feeling for traps with their daggers turned up nothing. So, Magni pushed the doors open revealing the exterior second level of the pyramid. On the other side of the structure, they found another hole leading a lower level. This hallway was larger and even less defined than the one before it. Each member was struck with an odd sensation in the lower levels. 'Something wasn't... right' they though. Again, they cleared room after room, finding more weapons and silver. Again, they only worried about the coinage. The poor Kobold was about to spill over, the others decided they'd carry some of the weight too. Further down the hall, the group pushed. Magni, walking on the left. He had a sixth sense at that moment. Before anyone else could react, the floor gave way out from under him, leading to around thirty or forty feet down to a pit full of spikes. Magni was able to jump back before he fell in. "Are ye trying to get me, or what ye damned gods!?," Magni yelled, echoing throughout the entire chamber. Everyone was dead silent for a moment... thinking maybe the gods may answer his call, but nothing came. They moved down to the end of the hall, with another large set of stone double doors. This time, they had beautiful carvings all throughout it. The party searched for traps the best they could, the torchlight bouncing off the walls before them, beginning to become dim. 


The Escape

     Magni, pushed open the double doors effortlessly revealing an astonishing sight. Before them, floating above an alter was a glowing green orb. The energy pulsating from it was intense, shock waves rippled through the room, snuffing out the torchlight, leaving only the eerie green florescent glow from this thing, creating shadow shapes that seemed to dance on the walls and many doors in this room. There were statues in this room, like the ones on the first level, facing towards the altar and the orb. The faces of these were twisted in disgust and fear. The party froze, partly out of fear and partly out of wonder. Willem the Wizard was the first to approach. Upon closer inspection, the orb seemed to warp space around it, giving off a slight humming sound. With his staff, Willem prodded the thing. It made a slight tink tink noise when he poked it. Other than that, nothing else happened. The wizard looked back and licked his lips, sweat trickled down his head... with one deft motion he grasped the orb. Like a blink, the orbs light was snuffed out. The room was pitch black, even to the dwarf. "Me eyes!," the dwarf yelled. The room seemed to come alive. Clawing noises emanated on the other side of the wooden doors in the room. The group quickly realized things were going downhill, and fast. The dwarf fumbled for a torch and struck it up. The light gave way to many skeletal hands clawing through the wooden doors. "Wizard, what's the count!," cried the dwarf.

     Willem took a moment to analyze the situation, "Maybe 90... 100, more maybe. Let's make haste!" The group sprinted back to through the doors and up the stairs, the Dwarves eyes began functioning again like normal. 
     "More up ahead!" the Dwarf exclaimed. He dropped the torch and ran head long into the group of skeletal warriors, screaming a war cry of his people, swinging his maul into them, crushing the first one with a mighty blow. The rest of the party followed suit. Seven skeletons stood in their way, armed with the bronze swords they left undisturbed in the burial urns, and an untold number behind them. They each cursed themselves. The group lashed out at the skeletons, sending bolts of fire, arrows, and blades their way. The skeletons fought on with an undying fury: no fear, pain, or remorse. The dwarf took a blow to the shoulder, nearly downing him, the ancient blade broke off into his armor. He raged on, filled with more fury with his wounds. The group made quick work of the skeletons, finding purchase in every blow. The skeletons were nothing more than a pile of dust by the end of it. The Dwarf yelled, "They keep coming! Who was the last one out, and why isn't that door shut!?" It was too late the horde was pouring through. Luckily, the heavy debris is obstructing their movements somewhat; however, they moved as one through the wreckage. The party made it to the hole leading up to the second level... but realized they didn't lower themselves in using a rope. They hung by there arms to drop in. The horde moved closer. 
     "What should we do?" Dosk asked, nearly in panic. "Maybe I can run up the wall?" He attempted and failed landing flat on his back. The wizard and bard shot bolts of fire at the oncoming horde. They moved closer and was nearly on top of them. The Wizard forgetting he had a familiar, sent it up to the top with rope, ordering it to tie it off securely somewhere. After moments that felt like hours, the familiar telepathically communicated that the rope was tied off. One by one, the group made their way up to the second level, back to the outside. Not wanting to risk backtracking through the pyramid, they began lashing two ropes together to tie off. In the middle of all this, two more groups of archer skeletons made their way around both sides of the pyramid, pelting the group with arrows. 
     "Hurry it up! They're going to turn us into pin cushions!" As the group had long range battle with these undead warriors, the familiar again flew up to where they anchored the ropes off the last time and began tying the rope. The wizard took a shot to the leg, and the bard one to the shoulder. Everything seemed bleak until the familiar gave the 'all clear.' One by one they moved up the rope, narrowly escaping death with a strange other worldly possession in hand. Once they made it to the bottom, they cut both of the ropes, and ran out of the cavern, leaving this place in the past. 
     On the way back, Willem pulled the now inert orb out to examine it. It's a deep dark black, almost as if it's absorbing some light around it. He shoved it back into his pack and moved on, "I hope it was worth the price," said Magni as he began untying the mules. As he did that, Dosk and Carter fill the saddlebags up with their loot. The unlikely party sets off, back to town with new stories to tell and ale to buy.


End