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Friday, July 3, 2009

New Animals and Creatures

Greetings!

I present below a small selection of some unusual animals and creatures that inhabit the Aghanda region. Such creatures may be suitable for any jungle or rain-forest environment in particular. It's always nice to have some different animals for the players to encounter beyond normal, standard animals, or creatures that are otherwise *too magical* or possess too strong of a *stage presence*. These creatures may be unusual or strange, though at the same time can easily form a background presence in the environment that may be commonly encountered.

Dru-Nogg
Frequency: Uncommon
No. Appearing: 5-12 (1d8+4)
Armor Class: 4
Move: 15"
Hit Dice: 6-8
% In Lair: Nil
Treasure Type: Nil
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: Bite: 2-12 (2d6) or 4-24 (4d6) Crushing Charge
Special Attacks: Crushing Charge
Special Defenses: Nil
Magic Resistance: Nil
Intelligence: Semi
Alignment: Neutral
Size: L (5'-6' high at the shoulder, 10' long)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

The Dru-Nogg are large, reptilian beasts standing 5'-6' tall at the shoulder, and roughly 10' long. Dru-Nogg are very broad, and weigh upwards of 3,000-lbs. Dru-Nogg have thick, angular and wide heads, with broad mouths full of strong teeth. Dru-Nogg have a social, pack-centered society, and are aggressive and stubborn creatures. Dru-Nogg hunt in the wilds in their packs, and use simple, group tactics to attack and feed off of large herd beasts, as well as bringing down larger, more formidable creatures. The Dru-Nogg are strong, and well-armoured, with thick, tough hide that forms in small, dense scales over the body. The Dru-Nogg are not especially fast, though they survive by their ferocity, group tactics, and adaptibility. The creatures are enthusiastic swimmers, and are eager to wade into water of all kinds. The Dru-Nogg have a peculiar, rugged metabolism that makes them immune to the effects of most venoms and poisons. While the Dru-Nogg are generally omnivorous, and will eat anything from tropical plants and grasses, various kinds of eggs, and any giant insects they may find, as well as fish, and eels, the Dru-Nogg prefer to be carnivorous, and especially devour raw, fresh, meat from large types of animals, both mammals and reptiles.

Dru-Nogg have six strong legs, with short, thick claws, and a short, thick tail. Dru-Nogg make a deep hissing and growling sound when they are excited or hungry, and can survive up to a week without water. Dru-Nogg have been domesticated by various tribal cultures, as well as several more advanced kingdoms. The Dru-Nogg make excellent mounts, and while not as swift as horses, and more expensive to feed and care for in some aspects, the Dru-Nogg are very rugged and easily trained and domesticated. Tribes and kingdoms living in deserts, as well as marshes and tropical jungles, often prefer Dru-Nogg as both mounts and beasts of burden, as in such environments the Dru-Nogg are especially valuable and generally superior to horses, camels, as well as mules and donkeys for such purposes.

Rhunnib Tree
Frequency: Rare
No. Appearing: 1-3
Armor Class: 4
Move: 6"
Hit Dice: 10
% In Lair: Nil
Treasure Type: A
No. of Attacks: 5
Damage/Attack: 1-6/1-6/1-6/1-6/2-12
Special Attacks: Poisonous Spore Cloud; Pod Disease
Special Defenses: Regeneration; Surprised only on a 1-2.
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Average or higher
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Size: L (15'-30' tall, or higher)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

The Rhuunib Tree is a terrifying, monstrously evil tree-like creature of dark, savage cunning, bloodthirsty, voracious appetite, and wicked cruelty. In some ways, the creature may be a macabre, alien blend of tree, otyugh, and the demonic. Whatever it's origins, the monster's true nature is cloaked in mystery. The monster has the rough form of a tree of various kinds, typically a willow tree, or some breed of tropical tree, though others have been encountered as well. The Rhuunib Tree grows typically between 15' and 30' high, though larger specimens are found, depending on the type of tree. The Rhuunib Tree has branches and leaves, but portions of the branches are barkless, and like skin, with blood vessels and veins clearly visible upon close inspection. Intermixed with the tree branches are tough, rubbery barbed tentacles, and at the lower, central section of the tree, approximately 3'-4' from the base of the trunk, there is a huge, oval-shaped maw of enormous, savage teeth. Smaller psuedo-pods rimmed with three to six large eyes also grow in various places about the creature, making it especially difficult to surprise.

The Rhuunib Tree makes four barbed tentacle attacks per round, and a single ferocious bite attack per round. Once every three rounds, the Rhuunib Tree can discharge a poisonous spore-cloud; the poisonous spore-cloud effects every creature within a 30' radius, and causes all such creatures affected to save vs poison or suffer the effects of being slowed, and 1-6 points of nerve damage as the poisonous spores burn through the victim's system. The poisonous spore cloud affects a victim for a duration of 3 rounds. Creatures that make a successful saving throw vs poison suffer no damage or debilitating effects. However, creatures that fail a saving throw vs poison, but also manage to survive the lingering after-effects of the poisonous pollen, are also affected by a Barbed Pod Spore.

The Barbed Pod Spore burrows deep into the victim's system, and begins incubating inside the victim's body. Meanwhile, the victim suffers a loss of 1-6 points from each ability score, and becomes increasingly weak, frail, and severely ill for a period of 8-13 days. (1d6+7 days). At the end of such time, the victim seems to begin to return to health, and regains any lost ability scores, and over the next 3-5 days, appears to have a wondrous recovery.

All is such an illusion, however. The pod has merely been incubating, and now, at the end of the apparent "recovery" period, bursts forth. The victim's mind and entire system undergoes a massive, catastrophic change, as the victim is suddenly and horrifically transformed into a Rhuunib Tree. The victim's alignment changes to Chaotic Evil at this time, and now proceeds to set out in search of a suitable forested or marsh environment from which to live, hunt, and grow. The mature Rhuunib Tree preys upon all manner of life forms, from normal animals, to the fantastic, whether they are reptiles, birds, or mammals, though humanoids are especially favoured. The evil Rhuunib Tree will occasionally gather together in small groups of other Rhuunib Trees, and cooperate to better gain more food and victims, as well as occasionally cooperating with other powerful evil monsters in some kind of alliance for mutual gain. The Rhuunib Tree speaks its own language, and horrifically, any languages that the host victim knew as well. The Rhuunib Tree has the capability to move, though slowly. Rhuunib Trees typically enjoy staying in the same area for months, even years at a time, and it is about them that such treasure as they may possess typically collects. Such coins and treasures fall from the devoured victims, as the Rhuunib Tree pierces the victim's body with branches and shoots, wrapping them in their tentacles, and slowly drains the victim's body of all blood, and then eats through all the creature's flesh, leaving physical possessions, clothing, armor, and so on, to drop to the ground. Rhuunib Trees often make alliances with evil hags, savage bands of humanoids, as well as ogres, trolls, powerful giants, and bands of brigands and adventurers.

Nyeghori Ape
Frequency: Rare
No. Appearing: 2-12
Armor Class: 6
Move: 12"
Hit Dice: 6+6
% In Lair: 10%
Treasure Type: C
No. of Attacks: 3
Damage/Attack: 1-6/1-6/2-12
Special Attacks: Rending
Special Defenses: Nil
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Low to Average
Alignment: Neutral
Size: L (7'-8' Tall, very broad)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

Nyeghori Apes are massive, powerful creatures that inhabit the dense jungles and rain-forests throughout the continent of Aghanda. Nyeghori Apes have thick, black fur that covers their bodies, and large mouths full of strong teeth. Nyeghori Apes have large heads, with thick limbs, and four arms. Nyeghori Apes are otherwise bipedal humanoids. The Nyeghori have excellent vision, hearing, and sense of smell. Unlike normal apes, the Nyeghori possess a rough intelligence that provides them with the capacity for verbal speech. Nyeghori Apes live in tribes of several families, typically numbering 20+1d20 members. The Nyeghori dwell amidst the great trees of jungles and rain-forests, making their homes from rough huts of logs, leaves, and earth. The Nyeghori have close bonds with family members and friends, and are led by the oldest male and female ape. The Nyeghori language may be learned with great effort by non-Nyeghori, though there is no written form of the Nyeghori language.

The Nyeghori Apes live simple, primitive lives as hunter/gatherers, and are entirely self-sufficient. Nyeghori Apes are primarily vegetarian, though they supplement their diet with smaller mammals and reptiles. Rumours and legends abound about tribes of Nyeghori Apes being ferocious man-eaters, and falling upon groups of humans or other humanoids in savage attacks and feasting upon the screaming humanoids in bloody glee. While it is true that some Nyeghori tribes eat humanoids--most Nyeghori Apes live in quiet seclusion, and are generally inoffensive and peaceful.

The fur of the Nyeghori Apes can be skinned and prepared as a warm cloak, as well as other clothing and trimming for boots. Nyeghori teeth possess mystical properties, and a necklace of Nyeghori teeth may provide the wearer with a bonus to strength, ranging from +1 to +3. Many tribes of humans hunt and eat the Nyeghori Apes, as the meat is dense, lean, flavourful, and nutritious.

Kree-akk
Frequency: Common
No. Appearing: 2-12
Armor Class: 4
Move: 18"
Hit Dice: 4-6
% In Lair: 30%
Treasure Type: Nil
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 2-12 (2d6)
Special Attacks: Poison
Special Defenses: Surprised only on a 1
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Semi (Occasionally, higher)
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Size: M (4' long, 6' wingspan)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

The Kree-akk are a strange, vibrantly coloured predatory bird, appearing to be much like a huge raven, though with brightly coloured white, black, blue, and purple feathers. The Kree-akk beak is long, and sharp, and full of razor sharp teeth. The bite from a Kree-akk carries a poison that slows the victim by 50%. The Kree-akk have bright, black or purple eyes, and various individuals may possess greater intelligence than the norm, including the capacity for eloquent speech. The Kree-akk live in small groups, and are very aggressive and territorial. The Kree-akk are disciplined, and cooperate amongst themselves, defending each other fanatically. The Kree-akk are roughly 4' long, and weigh 50-100 pounds. Kree-akk are bizarre and cunning, with intelligent Kree-akk forging alliances with other creatures, as fitting their motives and ambitions for more food, and favoured homes of certain groups of trees, access to water, and such. Kree-akk possess their own language, which is complex and very difficult to learn for non-Kree-akk. Intelligent Kree-akk often learn other languages, and are keen to converse and form relationships with allied creatures. Such intelligent Kree-akk are more ambitious, and have developed a love of treasure, personal power and gain, among other desires.

Jhoubah Baboon
Frequency: Uncommon
No. Appearing: 10-100
Armor Class: 7
Move: 15"
Hit Dice: 3+3
% In Lair: 30%
Treasure Type: Nil
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 1-8
Special Attacks: Nil
Special Defenses: Climbing
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Low to Average
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Size: S (4'-5' tall)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

Jhoubah Baboons are fierce, savage humanoids that live in huge tribes, making their homes along the ground at the base of clusters of trees and within the denser reaches of the jungle, as well as throughout the rolling savannahs of Aghanda. The Jhoubah possess a primitive capacity for speech, and may occasionally use simple tools. Jhoubah Baboons are largely vegetarian, though they will attack and eat various mammals, reptiles, and birds. Jhoubah Baboons are especially ferocious in defending their territory, and use group swarm tactics and their hands to grab their prey, and biting them with their large, powerful teeth.

Jhoubah Baboons have excellent eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell. While primitive, Jhoubah Baboons are fond of raiding smaller, weaker tribes of Jhoubah baboons or other monkeys and apes, and taking control of the new territory and resources. Most of the male baboons and such are killed and eaten, while the females are taken and kept for breeding. Jhoubah Baboons enjoy killing and eating other humanoids as well, such as humans, and any wandering bands of humans are treated in the same fashion that foreign tribes of baboons are--the males are typically killed and eaten, while the females are kept for the purposes of slavery, breeding, and entertainment.

Jhoubah Baboons are typically covered in pale grey fur, have a humanoid appearance, though they are bipedal, they spend much of their time moving and traveling on all fours. Jhoubah Baboons are excellent climbers, and also fast sprinters. Jhoubah Baboons have large mouths, with large, deadly teeth; large, sloped and peaked heads, with a muscular, strong back and deep chests. Jhoubah Baboons have hairless faces, however, with occasional coloration ranging from white, to pale blue, teal, and purple. Such facial coloration and markings are unique to each individual Jhoubah, and serve as some kind of visual indentification, in addition to unique smell and scent to each Jhoubah Baboon. Jhoubah Baboons usually have eye color ranging from amber, gold, blue, or black.

Gharrnu Leopard
Frequency: Rare
No. Appearing: 1-3
Armor Class: 7
Move: 15"
Hit Dice: 6
% In Lair: 25%
Treasure Type: Nil
No. of Attacks: 4
Damage/Attack: 1-8/1-8/1-6/1-6
Special Attacks: Rear Claws for 1-6/1-6
Special Defenses: Surprised only on a 1
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Neutral
Size: L (4' high at the shoulder, 7' long)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

Gharrnu Leopards are fierce, powerful predators that live throughout the jungles and rain-forests of Aghanda. The Gharnnu Leopard is a strange abberation, possessing two heads, each with broad jaws full of powerful teeth. The Gharnnu Leopards have rich, luxurious coats of shimmering black fur, and silver, amber, or blue eyes. Gharnnu Leopards are excellent climbers and swimmers, and hunt voraciously. Gharnnu Leopards live in small groups, typically a mated pair, and 1-3 younger leopards.

Gharnnu fur is extremely valuable, and a rough pelt may be sold for upwards of 2,000 gold pieces, while a finely tailored cloak typically may be sold for 5,000 gold pieces. Various other types of clothing, from tunics and trousers, to boots, may also be fashioned using the beautiful Gharnnu fur. Such items generally post with a value from 2,500 to 4,000 gold.

Gharnnu Leopards are cunning, ferocious carnivores, and hunt and eat anything smaller than themselves, as well as some creatures that are larger, from antelope and buffalo to humanoids. Gharnnu Leopards possess potent eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Strange New Lands--and the Unexpected

Greetings!

Well, the gaming group decided to roll up additional characters, and lay the groundwork for a new, second campaign. I was surprised that after I reviewed the race and culture selections with them, that they largely chose to play some far-out characters, at least somewhat in a cultural sense. The second campaign for "Old School" AD&D is titled "Swords of the Dragon Sea", and is initially set in the southern region of the Tegheran Empire. The Tegheran Empire is a rough analog of an independent, magically powerful Egyptian Empire. The characters so far are all Tegherans, or otherwise from the Dragon Sea region, and the continent of Aghanda. Aghanda is a continent like Africa, though about 50% and larger in scale. Aghanda has civilizations that range in technological advancement from primitive Stone Age bands of hunter-gatherers and tribes of chieftain-led societies in the Bronze and Iron Age, to kingdoms at the medieval level of technology, as well as one large, sophisticated empire that is at the High Medieval level. The land is so vast, it provides some insight into why much of historical Africa was largely isolated from Europe, and why historical African societies advanced along very different scales than Europe.

The character choices serve to prove to myself at least, that a campaign does not need half-dragon/half-pixie centaurs to be exotic in the slightest! Human civilizations, with different magical and spiritual beliefs, different social systems, as well as different ethnicities, languages, cultures, technology levels, and geographical environments provide campaign ideas and settings that are entirely alien and very exotic! Which, of course, is all very exciting, and perhaps a little bit intimidating, to be sure. As the DM, I have had to review sections of notes made long ago, for areas of the campaign world that seldom gained much attention. I have quickly had to make thorough reviews, updates, and changes to fully prepare the region for a full-set campaign.

The Tegheran Empire is somewhat medieval in technology, though perhaps not as advanced in some areas as the Vallorean Empire, at the western end of the Dragon Sea. From a cultural perspective, the Tegheran Empire is radically different from the typical medieval European assumptions, and has much more in common culturally with the feel of Antiquity and the Ancient Mediterranean World. Virtually everything in Teghera is vastly different from what the players are typically accustomed to. In my initial review, a few things leaped to the forefront of my mind as to the different base assumptions and realities of the milieu. For starters:

(1) Distinctly Different Human Appearance: Everyone in the region is either some shade of brown, or black skinned. This is generally rather superficial of course, though nonetheless something of stark contrast for many players that are accustomed to most all humans encountered in the campaign to be generally like northern and western Europeans.

(2) Radically Different Climate: The temperatures are typically very *hot*--or, along the coastal regions, deliciously pleasant and balmy. Expeditions into the wilderness face very different and even lethal climatic environments, and supplies of water are crucial. The distinctly different climate of the region has a dramatic impact on fashion, attitudes, and so on, and generally necessitates a very different style of clothing and dress--in the sense that many people wear very little, and the type and style of clothing is also very different; loose, light, flowing material, and the extensive trade networks of the Tegheran Empire also provide a much greater diversity of such materials and a higher availability of finer, exotic fabrics, and unusual, vibrant colours. Culturally, public nudity in Teghera is quite acceptable, especially for men, and many women go about entirely bare-breasted, and often wear very little to conceal themselves.

(3) Distinct Religious Environment: The Tegheran Empire, like Ancient Egypt and the cultures of the Ancient Near East, embrace a very different religious pantheon, and also have in comparison to medieval Europe, a much greater degree of religious tolerance and acceptance of diverse religions and philosophies. (Certainly, of course, before the imposition and dominance of Islam). Generally speaking, I have adopted the feel of the Eastern Mediterranean World, roughly from 200 BCE to about the 5th Century CE, though without the cultural dominion of Hellenization. This period--as well as in centuries previous to it--saw an explosion of diverse religions, and the establishment and thriving success of numerous distinct official "state" religions, from the religion of the Greeks, to innumerable tribal and "barbarian" religions, mystery cults, Zoarastrianism, the Egyptian religion, as well as the different religions of the Phoenicians, Isrealites, Babylonians, and smaller civilizations, such as the Elamites, Ammonites, and the Philistines. Not to mention the various religions from Kush, Nubia, and Ethiopia. Thus, there is plenty of real-world historical inspiration to draw upon, as well as integrating several fantastic religious traditions and elements.

(4) Slavery Is Culturally Accepted: The institution of Slavery is everywhere, and common. The Tegheran Empire, like Ancient Egypt and the cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean World and the Near East practice slavery in diverse forms, and slavery is accepted everywhere. Slaves are of course treated differently depending on the local society, but also depending on *who* the slaves are, and *why* they are slaves. Slavery systems range from temporary slavery, say several years for debts, for example, to sophisticated slave-scholars captured in foreign cities, to enemy soldiers, civilians, and children captured in wars, as well as "barbarians", and other primitive peoples, and slaves from a neighboring culture or region that the enslaving society considers to be sophisticated, cultured and civilized. Each particular kind of slave may be treated very differently, and in many areas, possess specific rights and priveleges.

(5) Scale of Society: The scale of society as a whole is vastly different from the medieval mindset. The cultures in the region have not recently emerged from barbarism and darkness, but have often existed and been thriving and incredibly wealthy and advanced for hundreds, and sometimes thousands of years. The cities and urban settlements are often ancient, and huge, with enormous base populations, and of course, gigantic, awe-inspiring architecture, and ancient, colossal monuments. The urban populations can often easily be in the tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands, of people. Some cities may have populations of a million people or more. Armies, as well, can typically be in the tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of troops. Economically, while there are often hordes and multitudes of urban poor, wealth in general is exotic, lavish, seemingly proliferous, and nearly everywhere by comparison to the average Western European milieu.

(6) Strange and Fantastic Animals and Creatures: In the Tegheran Empire, and neighboring regions, there are an entirely different range of animals and creatures than what is typically encountered in a Western European milieu. Elephants, hippopotomi, rhinoceri, apes, baboons, monkeys, giraffes, lions, leopards, innumerable snakes, lizards, huge crocodiles, as well as a diverse range of various herd-beasts, colorful birds, and hordes of exotic insects are all fairly common. That does not even begin to scratch the surface of potential fantastic and mythological monsters and creatures available for the milieu.

Thus, with some of these basic concepts and ideas as background material and inspiration, the second "Old School" AD&D campaign is taking shape! I hope that some of these thoughts prove to be helpful and inspirational to any of you as you set about developing new campaigns as well. It is an excellent reminder that the "Exotic" does not have to be uber-fantastic to be different, fun, and interesting!

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Campaign Log

Greetings!

Campaign Logs are very useful, and I have begun the new campaign with the campaign's first campaign log. The first group is running in an area along the northern frontier of the Vallorean Empire. I have a vast home-brewed campaign world that I have been developing for some 20 years now, and yet, because I planned on running the group through the famous Keep On The Borderlands module, I wanted to be sure to set them up and running in a somewhat primitive, frontier area far from real civilization and any sense of security, as well! I should also note, that I foresee them possibly really enjoying the fleshed-out Keep On The Borderlands area--I have expanded the one-page drawing of the Keep in the module, and revamped it to cover four pages--and thus, I made the Keep a bit more suitable for serving as a long-term campaign base.

My Keep basically has about 65 different businesses and over 100 individual residences and such. I also expect that the group will, as they settle into the area and really get going, will eventually rise in level and prestige, and be awarded lands to rule and develop on their own. I plan for this, and have set the campaign area in a place that thus has a lot of unexplored, unclaimed lands, so that when the player characters do begin to build and colonise the untamed wilderness, they have lots of room to grow, lots of potential problems to wrestle with, and meanwhile they are not unduly contrained by being placed right between two or more areas that have already been highly developed and detailed.

The group went shopping, and met everyone, and got their things together, before setting out for the marshes to the south-east of the Keep. The group has been exploring the marshes, and fought several battles with some fierce Lizard Men, as well as dealing with leeches, flies, mosquitoes, and poisonous snakes. Just before the group entered the marshes, the party encountered a group of suave bandits that claimed they were taxing travelers in the local area for a special "war fund" to increase the Lord's coffers for building up the fortifications of the area. The group cautiously bought the scheme, and they were taxed 20% of any gold that they handed over. The group's leading Ranger, was at first distracted by a young pretty woman that approached them from a side trail to their front, claiming she needed help from bandits following her from the marsh. The young, attractive woman smelled like strawberries, and was provacatively though simply dressed. The party's Ranger bought that deception, and was taken off-guard by the rest of the bandits that laid in wait, and approached them from behind, and surprised them entirely. It wasn't until after the "Bandits" posing as forest wardens and tax-collectors had withdrawn, that the party turned about, looking for the young girl. It was then that one of the girl's in the group, playing her human cleric, exclaimed that the young girl had been a decoy! The player of the Ranger smiled, and realised he too, had been thoroughly deceived. The party had learned a valuable lesson!

The group is currently encamped on a small island in the marsh, with some strange ruins in the distance, through the marsh fog.

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK