Thursday, August 22, 2019

Knights and their Towers

Knight's towers were fortified self-standing buildings, several-stories high, most often erected on a plan similar to a square. They contained both living and utility spaces. They were also a way to bypass a law. In the Middle Ages, special permission of the sovereign was needed for the construction of a castle. Clever people got around this ban by building so-called knights' towers.

A fortified residence was needed not only to defend a knight's family. It stressed the feudal power over his subjects. To live in a magnificent citadel, towering over the area, was emphasizing the knight's social status and clearly distinguished him – not only from the peasants – but also the minor knighthood. Stone walls, earth embankments or even a wooden palisade forming a closed circuit around the building, marked a sacred and inviolable place of residence of a noble (or not) knight.

Who were the inhabitants of the knights' towers? Most famous were the men who had the reputation of Raubritters, knight-robbers, adventurers, and tyrants. Hence, it is no coincidence that they often chose for their headquarters a place located near a busy trade route, or right next to a convenient river crossing...

Tower Fortifications

1. wooden palisade
2. wooden palisade and earthen ramparts
3. stone wall
4. stone wall, moat, watchtowers
5. internal and curtain walls, moat
6. internal and curtain walls topped with crenellations, pincer gates, a moat with a drawbridge

State of the Tower

1. ruined
2. half-ruined
3. half-ruined, half rebuilt using low-quality materials
4. well-kept 
5. pristine
6. well fortified, recently expanded using high-quality materials

Each tower is ruled by a knight, usually a self-styled baron. 
Each knight has a number of lieutenants and many unarmed servants. 

What's your deal, Knight?

1. Knight Diplomat forged numerous alliances with his neighbors. If he's threatened, a small army (3d6 lieutenants) will arrive in 2d4 days to defend him. 
2. Drunken Knight's tower houses a famous brewery and a popular inn. There are large transports of booze coming out of the tower weekly in various directions.  
3. Knight Torturer is a vampire who rides a giant bat into battle. His men are mindless thralls who always succeed their morale checks. The dungeon under his tower is filled with captured victims and their corpses. 
4. Zealot Knight is a paladin and his lieutenants are clerics. His tower houses a cathedral, under which there's an ancient crypt. The knight believes the crypt's lowest level houses the Ordained Vessel he's destined to recover for his church. 
5. Sage Knight is a wizard, each of his lieutenants has a 50% chance of being a magic user as well. He's also a skilled diviner and will be able to predict in advance whether someone threatens his tower. The tower itself houses a voluminous library, however, the knight diligently guards it and gives access to it only to those he trusts. 
6. Barbarian Knight comes from a faraway land. His sheer heroic deeds inspired brave warriors to follow him. He's armed with a vorpal greatsword and seeks glory above all else. 
7. Rat Knight is a wererat as are all his lieutenants and soldiers. This particular wererat variant is more like Thundarr's groundlings mixed with Warhammer's skaven, than the shapeshifting D&D wererats. One day Rat Knight and his minions emerged from a secret underground passage and devoured the previous inhabitants of the tower. Nowadays it's known as the infamous Rat Tower and is rumored to be protected by a multitude of deadly traps, as well as housing a subterranean temple dedicated to Vexarus. 
8. Necromancer Knight's lieutenants are all undead and his military units consist of zombies and skeletons. His ultimate goal is lichdom. All living things deserted his lands a long time ago. He ambushes travelers passing through his territory to grow his army and his power. 
9. Knight Robber is either (1-2) a folk hero who robs nobles and gives to the poor, (3-4) a bloodthirsty ruffian, or (5-6) a revolutionary working to destabilize the region for the gain of another political entity. Peasants and other low-born denizens of his domain are fiercely loyal to this knight either out of love, fear, or promises of a move up the social ladder and an improvement in the standard of living. They will hide the knight, lie about his whereabouts and generally protect him. 
10. Bedeviled Knight was cursed by a witch to turn into a mindless monster (1. mongrelman, 2. eywing, 3. feyr, 4. troll, 5. hook horror, 6. wight) if he ever removed his armor. Half of his lieutenants share this affliction. He seeks a cure for this condition with grim determination and regularly pays small fortunes to various magicians and charlatans brought from faraway lands. To be able to afford this, he imposed unusually high tolls on rivers and roads passing through his territory. At night he and his soldiers rob merchants and other travelers — seizing their money and cargo, sometimes even kidnapping minor nobles for ransom. Unbeknownst to the knight, the only way to lift the curse is for him to forswear the tower and simply leave it behind. 

Knight Power

1. insignificant, 3 HD/level, 2 lieutenants
2. weak, 4 HD/level, 3 lieutenants
3. fair, 5 HD/level, 5 lieutenants
4. strong, 6 HD/level, 7 lieutenants
5. dangerous, 7 HD/level, 9 lieutenants
6. scary, 9 HD/level, 12 lieutenants

Each lieutenant is two levels below his baron (but no lower than 2nd level) and commands a unit of 10 soldiers (unless stated otherwise in the table below), who are 2 levels below the lieutenant (but not less than 1st level, obviously). 

Lieutenant's Military Unit

1-2. light infantry
1. light armor, helmet, shortsword, shield
2. no armor, two-handed sword
3. light armor, helmet, shortbow, dagger
4. light armor, helmet, three javelins, spear, shield
5. no armor, sling, shortspear
6. light armor, halberd, helmet, dagger
7. light armor, helmet, shield, battle axe, dagger
8. no armor, helmet, longbow, mace
3-4. heavy infantry
1. chainmail, helmet, longbow, club, shield
2. chainmail, helmet, battle axe, shield
3. chainmail, helmet, pike
4. plate, helmet, flail, shield
5. plate, helmet, maul
6. plate, helmet, heavy crossbow, tower shield, military pick
5-6. light cavalry
1. fast horse, light armor, shortbow, scimitar
2. warhorse, light armor, helmet, spear, shield
3. fast horse, no armor, five javelins, shield, shortsword 
4. warhorse, light armor, helmet, lance, mace, shield
7-8. heavy cavalry
1. warhorse, scale mail, helmet, lance, horseman's pick
2. armored warhorse, chainmail, helmet, lance, mace
3. armored warhorse, plate, helmet, lance, warhammer, shield 
4. two armored elephants, a rider (chainmail, helmet, polearm) and an archer (chainmail, helmet, shortbow) on each
9. siege engine
1. catapult + five crewmen (ring mail, helmet, longsword)
2. trebuchet + ten crewmen (no, armor, helmet, dagger)
3. battering ram + four crewmen (chainmail, helmet, morningstar, shield)
4. ballista + two crewmen (no armor, falchion)
10. special
1. ninjas, no armor, shortsword, four throwing stars, caltrops, poison vial, smokebomb
2. trained monster (1. wyvern, 2. ettin, 3. giant scorpion, 4. giant slug, 5. cockatrice, 6. katoblepas) + d4+1 tamers (no armor, whip)
3. berzerkers, rage as barbarian, no armor, great axe, dagger
4. golem (1. flesh, 2. clay, 3. stone, 4. iron, 5. necrophidius, 6. scarecrow) + keeper (magic user) 
5. two ogres, hide armor, cudgel 
6. six bugbears, ring mail, heavy flail 
7. halfling wolf riders, light armor, spear, shortsword, shield, longbow
8. 5d6 goblins, no armor, shortsword, shield

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Spirits of the Selk'nam

Photograph taken by Martín Gusinde in Tierra del Fuego (Chile) in 1920 of the Selk'nam in the Hain ritual

Selk'nam male initiation ceremonies, the passage to adulthood, were called Hain. Young males were called to a dark hut. There they would be attacked by "spirits", who were people dressed as supernatural beings. The children were taught to believe in and fear these spirits at childhood and were threatened by them in case they misbehaved. Their task in this rite of passage was to unmask the spirits; when the boys saw that the spirits were human, they were told a story of world creation related to the sun and moon. In a related story, they were told that in the past women used to be disguised as spirits to control men. When the men discovered the masquerade, they, in turn, would threaten women as spirits. According to the men, the women never learned that the masked males were not truly spirits, but the males found out at the initiation rite.

Before the European encounter, the various rites of the Hain lasted a very long time, perhaps even a year on occasion. It would end with the last fight against the "worst" spirit. Usually, Hains were started when there was enough food (for example a whale was washed onto the coast), a time when all the Selk'nam from all the bands used to gather at one place, in male and female camps. "Spirits" sometimes went to female encampments to scare them, as well as moving around and acting out in ways that related to their characters.

The last Hain was held in one of the missions in the early 20th century and was photographed by missionary Martin Gusinde. It was a shorter and smaller ceremony than they used to hold. The photos show the "spirit" costumes they created and wore.

Friday, July 19, 2019

d100 Curious Treasures

Whenever my players find treasure and I feel it should be at least a little bit interesting, but I didn't have anything specific prepared, I roll on this table. I generally keep it on my dm screen and cross out entries they already rolled. During downtime, I replace the crossed-out items with other wacky ideas. Stuff ranges from mundane items, which players can still use in creative ways, to completely bonkers shit, which can potentially be plot hooks galore or even powerful magic items. I didn't include concrete values, because it will vary system to system, setting to setting, merchant to merchant. Some of this crap is worthless, some of it priceless. 

1. amber-studded, red silk dress embroidered with golden thread
2. jug of exquisite, white, sparkling wine
3. bottle of orange liqueur
4. malachite vase with engravings depicting titans battling giant toads
5. large jade vase decorated with triton erotic scenes
6. tiny, black porcelain bottle of musky perfume
7. small bronze statue of a lioness
8. golden candlestick
9. tiny bag of pearls
10. leopard skin
11. leather pouch filled with small, polished, blue jade beads
12. tin jar filled with green tea leaves
13. small agate box containing a bezoar
14. adamantine longsword with a broken blade
15. porcelain box filled with dried rosemary
16. jug of plum brandy
17. amphora full of olive oil, the intricately decorated container is far more valuable than the contents
18. bag of colorful, glass beads
19. iron lockbox containing powdered snake bones
20. bag of duck or goose feathers
21. 6d6 flacons of snake oil
22. small lockbox containing an assortment of glass eyes
23. long glass pipe
24. a cloak made of bone-white silk
25. 6 wooden stakes in a pewter box
26. d30 gilded arrowheads in a wyvern skin pouch
27. hourglass filled with tiny white spiders
28. wooden statue of a one-eyed owl
29. ancient, elven helmet with mask visor, decorated with horns of a greater yugoloth guardian
30. bag of extra strong pipeweed and a clay pipe
31. sack of turtle eggs
32. 2d6 silver throwing stars
33. enormous, cockatrice feathered headdress
34. huge, steel bear trap
35. bottle of ambergris, sealed with white wax
36. artificial chrysanthemum made of gold foil
37. ebony box filled with golden needles
38. spider silk gloves
39. small, worn book of centaur poetry
40. barrel of varnish
41. large brass key
42. spear with green dragon tooth head
43. small silver knife
44. heavy golden chain
45. a small vial of blue dragon blood
46. large, bronze coinbox with a couple old copper coins inside
47. dragonhide skullcap
48. rich, red velvet cape, embroidered with a symbol of Tiamat
49. cyclops skull
50. basket of hop cones
51. crystal ball filled with mercury
52. jar of mutagenic ooze
53. bejeweled estoc
54. a set of 8 different potions in a cedar wood case
55. small glass vial of clear, odorless, flavorless poison
56. ancient, ceremonial, stone axe
57. massive, golden ring with a hidden compartment, currently filled with black diamond powder
58. sack of beaver tails
59. barrel of salted herring 
60. golden axe
61. small sundial made of solid platinum 
62. amulet of Lolth with etched niello spiders on adamantine plate
63. a shofar made from a minotaur horn
64. sacrificial dagger, blade made of cobalt-colored glass
65. medallion made out of a single ancient gith electrum coin
66. bronze crown decorated with obsidian spearheads
67. mask made out of delicate, silvered chains
68. vargouille skull in a small, worn-out coin pouch
69. demijohn full of human blood 
70. gold dragon scale in a tiny, adamantine lockbox 
71. masterwork sycamore crwth
72. unholy symbol of the demon lord of beastmen carved out of a baby skull
73. spool of thin, copper wire
74. ancient locathah trident carved out of leviathan bone, decorated with aragonites and nacre
75. bronze greaves decorated with a mask of Beltar with opened fangs poised to bite
76. brass scepter crowned with a chalcedony sphere
77. auricupride armband decorated with an aurumvorax ornament
78. large, bronze war horn shaped in an image of a coiled behir
79. flaying knife with red gold inlays shaped like blood drops
80. iron figurine of a six-armed humanoid wearing armor clad with skulls and wielding a weapon in each hand: a spiked flail, a battle axe, a battle pick, a longsword, a mace, and a falchion
81. flint axe blade inscribed with an ancient illithid curse
82. a set of five lead weights of different sizes, shaped like beholders
83. silver carrion crawler-shaped armband
84. smilodon's head helmet made of orichalcum 
85. a shield fashioned out of a trilobite exoskeleton
86. a lantern made of an ancient lich lord's severed head
87. silver bracelets in the form of catoblepas inlaid with turquoise, lapis lazuli, and carnelians
88. amphora of hippocras
89. golden gauntlet in the form of a grasping hand holding a broken coin 
90. skeletal remains of an infant lamia frozen in translucent ichor
91. incense burner in the form of a shedu made of human bone
92. nephrite box containing a mummified head of a slaad
93. ornate shield carved from a head of a galeb duhr 
94. a small vial of unicorn horn powder
95. bottle of vodka
96. crystal necklace containing a single drop of blood of an elder god
97. fossilized petty god heart
98. wooden box containing 12 bottles of spiced black rum
99. small velvet-lined casket with a piece of meteorite inside
100. a small bag full of amber, one chunk has a little sprite frozen in it

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Madame Merkia’s Myriad Murderous Mouths

Madame Merkia’s Myriad Murderous Mouths
is a rare spell, known only to the most conniving magic users. 
Wizard/Warlock/Witch/Summoner 3, range 10'/level, instantaneous 

Random extraplanar entity emerges from a portal, attacks the target and jumps into another exit portal – in one fluid motion.

roll d12
1 • Portal of Steel • a masterless Saint of Blades delivers a +5 cut for 3d6+3 damage with his great sabre, save negates, triple damage on a crit 2 • Portal of Law • a Justiciar of the 11th Tower of Elim – using the knowledge of the target’s True Name – banishes the target to another Plane 3 • Cat Portal • Sabre-Tooth Duelist claws (+8 for 2d6) and bites (+8 for 2d8) the target 4 • Timeless Portal • a Twice Murdered King throws a diamond dust storm at the target dealing 4d4 damage and blinding it for d6 turns, this attack leaves 2d12 x 10 gp worth of diamond dust in the vicinity of the target 5 • Mycoworld Portal • bioluminescent spores land on the target making it easier to hit (roll twice and use a better result), the spores have a 1 in 6 chance of overloading the target’s brain and temporarily giving it a +2 bonus on attack & damage rolls and causing it to charge directly into combat with the nearest creature for d10 turns 6 • Prophesied Portal • a Burning Spoke of the Many-Eyed Wheel turns undead like a third level Cleric, target counts as undead 7 • Portal of the Envenomed • High Sting of the kim’Waa makes the target weep poison for d6 turns, giving it -6 penalty on all rolls, anyone in physical contact with the tears is also affected, save ends 8 • Gate to the Stars • the light of faraway stars gives the target a random insanity, save negates 9 • Portal to the Mutarealm • radiation from the portal makes the target swell grotesquely, doubling its height and multiplying its weight by 8, has a 2 in 6 chance of being permanent, otherwise lasts a minute 10 • Punch Dimension Portal • a disembodied fist punches the target in its solar plexus, suffocating it for d6 damage for 2d6 turns, save negates 11 • Portal of Khag Æsar • creates a 30’ sphere of magical darkness and silence for 2d6 turns, temperature drops to -20°C for the duration 12 • roll twice and use both results, cumulative

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Map of the Twins

Click to enlarge!
Made with Medieval Fantasy City Generator by watabou and touched up in Photoshop a little bit. 

When I posted this map on G+ about a year ago, the Twins were a prosperous metropolis, but as of right now, the city is torn by a brutal civil war. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Isometric Map of an Early Medieval Palace

Potentially D&D-able. This is a visualization of an early medieval palatium/palace/Pfalz of Mieszko I (10th century ruler of Poland) located on Lednica Holm. Just found it on Polish Press Agency page, accompanying news about new archaeological excavations planned in the area. Such a building would typically contain a throne room, the ruler's chambers and a castle chapel. Not really what comes to mind when you think "palace", but quite common in early medieval period. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019


Sprayosaurus (or S-Rex) combines staggering power of a 15 ton bipedal theropod with a mechanism that can squirt various fluids. 

AC 23, HD 18, Saves as Fighter 9, Morale 11, XP 5,000

Attack: +12 spray for 6d6 damage in 60' cone, save for half, acid for green specimens, napalm for red, anyone hit suffers additional 2d6 damage for 1d6+1 rounds, unless the harmful substance is somehow neutralized, any non-magical item caught in the spray has 30% chance of being destroyed