Saturday, December 13, 2014

Purple Spiders

"The scrubby brush was almost like a grove of small trees, for it reached as high as the heads of the two girls, neither of whom was very tall. They were obliged to thread their way in and out, until Dorothy was afraid they would get lost, and finally they were halted by a curious thing that barred their further progress. It was a huge web—as if woven by gigantic spiders—and the delicate, lacy film was fastened stoutly to the branches of the bushes and continued to the right and left in the form of a half circle. The threads of this web were of a brilliant purple color and woven into numerous artistic patterns, but it reached from the ground to branches above the heads of the girls and formed a sort of fence that hedged them in..."
Glinda of Oz
by L. Frank Baum

Purple Spiders (Enormous)
No. Enc.: 1d4 (2d6)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 5 [14] (as Chain-Mail)
Hit Dice: 4+
Attacks: 2 (claws) or 1 (bite)
Damage: 1d4 (claw), 2d4+poison (Bite: Save or Sleep for 1d4 Turns per HD of spider)
Save: T4 or MU4 (see below)
Morale: 9 [+3 bonus if led by King / -6 penalty if confronted by White Crabs]

Special: These spiders are intelligent and may advance as either thieves or Magic-Users. They all have the ability to cast Charm once per day.

No one knows for certain when these massive tyrannical arachnids first made their way from the Purple Forest into the woods and copses surrounding Wermspittle. Highly intelligent and eminently social creatures, these spiders possess unusually big heads, wicked sharp claws, small yellow-glowing eyes and fuzzy hair all over their massive purple bodies. They typically communicate by means of a peculiar whistling--speech, but a few have taken the time to learn other languages from their slaves.

They prey upon the unwary and imprudent by weaving partially incomplete domes or sacs of vivid purple webs strung between trees, working together as a group to quickly and quietly finish the web-trap behind those who have crossed the threshold, cutting off any chance of escape. The vivid purple silk of these spiders glows slightly in the dark and is incredibly tough, requiring +1 weapons or better to cut through it. Lumberjacks working the deeper, darker parts of the Purple Forest have been harvesting the webs from old traps and defunct enclave-nests in the hopes that someone can eventually figure out how to use the stuff to make durable fabric or something equally useful.

All those captured by the spiders are thoroughly inspected and either delegated to serve as cattle or relegated to particular work-groups according to their obvious characteristics or qualities. Any captive willing to teach the spiders new languages or fresh spells will receive preferential treatment over those who can only serve as dumb-labor. The spiders will bite their slaves daily to keep them pliable and weakened and hence more manageable. Some of the spiders' slaves have been in their service for centuries--regular doses of their venom apparently can prolong the victim's physical longevity, but often at the cost of their minds. The venom of the Purple Spiders is also very valuable to various distillers as it lends itself to the formulation of a potent violet liqueur much sought after by Oneirists and other dreamers.

Those prisoners deemed unsuitable for whatever reason are massively envenomated, wrapped in webs and dragged through the Purple Forest to a place of gnarled old standing stones on the edge of a bleak and deadly desert region prowled by nightmares, phantasms and vicious figments. Few ever wake up; those that do are rarely seen again.

Purple Spiders greatly fear White Crabs since the crabs are one of the few creatures that can slash through their webs with their pincers.

It is unknown just what, if any, connection these spiders might have to the Purple Clouds...


Purple Spider King
No. Enc.: 1
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 5 [14] (as Chain-Mail)
Hit Dice: 9
Attacks: 2 (claws) or 1 (bite)
Damage: 1d6 (claw), 1d8+poison (Bite: Save or Sleep for 10d4 Turns)
Save: MU9
Morale:11

Special: Can cast Charm once per day in addition to the normal spell-casting abilities of a 9th level Magic-User (Spells per day: 3,3,3,2,1.)

Suggested Spells First Level: Comprehend Languages, Detect Magic, Magic Missile. Second Level: Amnesia, Mirror Image, Ray of Enfeeblement. Third Level: Feign Death, Hold Person, Protection From Normal Missiles. Fourth Level: Arcane Eye, Charm Monster. Fifth Level: Feeblemind.


Bloated and corpulent, the King of the Purple Spiders maintains a harem-kraal where he imprisons dozens of female spiders, both purple and other types. Any females that show signs of becoming any sort of a threat to the King are summarily executed. He greatly fears a return to the Old Ways that would put a Queen on the throne...a Queen who would almost certainly kill Her male consort in the midst of their mating...a prospect that gives the aging King nightmares that He suspects may be something more...



Source: Glinda of Oz by L. Frank Baum, with a wee whiff of the infamous spiders of Tolkein's Mirkwood and those notorious nasty-brutes that dwell in the cold wastes of a host of Dreamlands beyond the plateau of Leng...


Friday, December 12, 2014

Gleiben

"...Rats. Rats. Rats! Thousands! Millions of them! All red blood! All these will I give you if you will obey me."
Renfield's Journal

Gleiben
No. Enc.: 1d4 (3d4)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 7[12] (as Leather)
Hit Dice: 1 (Can advance as Thief or Minion)
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d4 or by weapon
Save: As zero-level human
Morale: 6

Special: No Resistance to Mind Control. Vermin Affinity--Gleiben possess a peculiar rapport with vermin and often bond with rats, bats, and all manner of other vermin. They can cast Charm Vermin once per hour as a standard ability. 

Peculiar, eccentric, off-beat would-be thespians and performers, Gleiben dress in out-of-date styles, smell like moldy cheese and always have dirt of some kind under their untrimmed nails. Awkward both physically and socially, Gleiben prefer to dwell in caves or in cellars and attics in abandoned properties, and occasionally dilapidated old windmills or crumbling, overgrown keeps that have been stricken from the tax-rolls or otherwise left open to squatters. Unlike Moundfolk, the Gleiben desperately want to make their mark, any mark, on whatever village, town or city they can sneak into and not get kicked out of.

Fish-belly pale and slightly hunched, the Gleiben tend to congregate around theaters, show-houses and cabarets desperately trying to snatch-up even the most insignificant roles in any production. They will take any menial job just to be close to actors, playwrights, or anyone else even slightly involved or connected to the theater. While few of them have any talent or aptitude for the stage, they also have no shame and will do anything they are commanded, which makes them appealing to directors, producers and managers who often hire-on one or more Gleiben as flunkies, minions and valets.

Born followers and henchmen, the Gleiben have no defenses against Hypnosis, Charm, Suggestion, Mesmerism, or Somnambulism. They willingly serve as thralls to anyone they recognize as 'their' master, quickly developing an empathic awareness of their master's deepest wishes and darkest desires that they then use to guide their efforts to please, appease and earn praise from their masters. They will do anything for their masters. Anything.



Source of InspirationThe Vampire Bat (1933) which can be seen at Youtube or at the Internet Archives, has a character named 'Gleib,' (played by Dwight Fry) who is hounded to his death by a mob who believes he's behind the 'vampire killings' in town. Mr. Fry's performance in The Vampire Bat was more than a little reminiscent of his portrayal of the unfortunate Mr. Renfield in Dracula (1931), and then there is his turn as Fritz in Frankenstein (1931). There's also more than a little bit of Willard and Ben which takes the whole Pied Piper thing down a very creepy path. Add to that a touch of The Eloi from The Time Machine and HPL's The Lurking Fear and the in-bred troglodytic Martense Clan and you have a Gleiben...which is also a bit of nonsense-German that made quite a splash back in the day...so not only do these poor souls hang around hoping to pick-up some bit-part in a play or performance, they really like loud music...which means you could bring in a little bit of Erich Zann's unearthly music as well if you like...oh and they hand-craft very well-made bone flutes...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Grotesk: Zaalu

Modified Version of
Drie monsters, by Anonymous, Arent van Bolten, Pierre Firens, c. 1604 - c. 1616.

Zaalu
No. Enc.: 1 (1d4)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 60' (20')
Armor Class: 8[11] (as Leather)
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d4 or by weapon
Save: F2
Morale: 9 [Improves by 1 each time they roll a natural 20 to hit.]

One of the more commonly encountered forms of Grotesks, the Zaalu are typically covered from hoof to head in light gray, white or yellow-white hair and never willingly wear clothing, preferring to charge into battle naked. They possess a pair of stunted wings that form a protective mantle about their shoulders. Despite the wings they are flightless. Sure-footed and excellent climbers, they cannot swim and generally avoid bodies of water. They are often mistakenly categorized as sexless, but this is not exactly correct; each individual is an egg-layer and they can produce 1d4 eggs every three months with or without the assistance of any other Zaalu. They do not sell their eggs to non-Zaalu, but have been known to cook and eat their own eggs while engaged in long-term guard duty or military service.

Zaalu prefer to wield short-spears that have spiked-hafts just behind the diamond-shaped tip that can be used as long-handled maces. They also carry short swords or daggers as secondary weapons and tend to rely on slings as their preferred missile-weapon as their hands tend to be too small for anything other than a light hunting bow or child's prodd.

Zaalu claim to be descended from ancestors who were abandoned, lost or trapped in the Low-Lands and while most do try to see their deformities as a mark of distinction and pride, as they have been taught by their elders, there has always been a lingering sense of resentment among the Zaalu for those who were able to leave the Low-Lands and whose ancestors escaped the ravages of the plagues, poxes and pestilences that have so twisted and changed them into what they have become...which is still a matter of strenuous debate among scholars, surgeons and other authorities.



Source of Inspiration: Drie Monsters, a print from the 1600s. The Zaalu and numerous other varieties of Grotesk-kin can be found all over the Low-Lands outside Wermspittle thanks to the lingering effects of ancient weapons that still pollute the soil, water and air with strange teratological compounds... 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ahool

Thank You Ernst Haekel
“I can't say I'm unhappy about it,' added the bard, 'I get along well enough with mice, and I've always been fond of birds, but when you put the two together I'd just as soon avoid them.”
by Lloyd Alexander


Ahool
No. Enc.: 1d4
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 60' (20')
          Fly: 180'
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 3
Attacks: 1 (bite or claw)
Damage: 1d4 (Save or suffering Bleeding [see below]) / 1d4 (Save or be knocked prone)
Save: F1
Morale: 8

Special: The victim of an Ahool's bite attack must roll a Save or suffer 1d4 points of damage per round for the next 1d4 rounds from excessive bleeding. 

Huge bats covered in mouse-gray fur with ten-to-twelve-foot wingspans, the Ahool are notorious for carrying off small children and young farm animals. They also are fond of fish and have been known to actively hunt Fog Fish such as Red Herring. The Ahool are nearly as quiet as an owl, and often strike with surprise as a Thief (+4 to hit, double damage on first attack).

All other types of bats avoid the Ahool. On the other hand owls will attack them until one or the other is dead. When the owls win they carry off the eviscerated Ahool carcass deep into forested areas where they drop them into steep ravines or other trackless, difficult to find areas. If the Ahool wins they consume the owl then hunt-out its nest in order to devour any eggs they might find. It is for this reason that Strixin have come to loathe and revile the Ahool, and why they have begun to trap the beasts using special snares and nets in order to feed them to giant owls.

Winged Monkeys suffer a -4 penalty to Morale when confronted by Ahool, especially when they make their infamous 'AHHhoooooollll!' cry that can be heard for miles.

Ahool are not native to the region. Those encountered around Wermspittle were originally brought into the area on the Airships, sometimes as pets or mascots, other times as experimental test-subjects. There are numerous travelers' tales and unsubstantiated rumors of larger specimens being encountered in the Septagoorean Archipelago where their guano is an integral part of the manufacture of gun powder.


Source of Inspiration: The Ahool is a type of flying cryptid that may or may not be native to one or more of the islands of Indonesia. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bujilli: Episode 112

Previously...
Hedrard, in her shiny new cocoon and accompanied by her entourage of Marching Morons has gone off to her rooms. The authentic Sprague has left. That old Rat-Tosser Putney has made his exit as well, leaving Ex-Headmistress Shael, Bujilli and Leeja behind in the shambles of what used to be the residence of Gnosiomandus with the bodies of four dead mercenaries scattered across the floor...


Shael coughed. A trickle of blood rand down her chin where her flesh melted into hazy glass. She struggled to get up off of the couch. Her quilt slipped out of her grasp, fell to the floor. Most of her left side was slowly crystallizing into some weird form of milky-glass. It was as elegantly grotesque as it was painful. And inconvenient. Leeja moved to help her aunt rise to her feet. At first she refused. Then she had to allow her niece to help her up.

"We're not going to get very far this way..." Leeja adjusted her grip.

"No. We're not." Shael closed her eyes as a spasm of pain jolted through her body.

"Before we worry about that...how did these mercenaries get here? I mean, how did they get all the way to Gnosiomandus' rooms without having to fight their way past whatever defenses or guards or wards there might be in this place?"

"Check the officer..." Shael made to gesture but stopped herself. She was already bleeding enough and they hadn't gotten started yet.

Bujilli hunkered down and looked over the corpse of the Tsalalian officer. The heavy over-coat looked shabby and worn in places, badly patched in others. Shael's spell had caved-in his chest, killing him instantly. His trench-pistol lay mere inches from his cold, dead fingers. The strange purplish gills wriggled slightly along the side of his neck. There were more of the growths along portions of his chest that protruded around the tatters of his uniform, harness and armor. It reeked of stale wine and cloves, which was better than the usual bowel contents and blood.

Then Bujilli saw it. A blue-enameled band around the officer's right fore-arm. He used his hand-axe to lift the dead man's arm to show off the device to the others.

"As I suspected; a Transition Mechanism. It was improperly attuned, otherwise they would have barged right into the room from wherever they came from, much as you yourself did when you first arrived." Shael grinned lop-sidedly at Bujilli.

"Can we use this?" He looked more closely at the band. It shimmered.

"Get Back!" Shael yelled hoarsely.

VLLLLLLLLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!

The corpse, most of it, was gone.

"No. I guess not. So do you have any suggestions for how we're supposed to get you to Idvard's place? I don't think that dragging you along on an improvised travois is going to work any too well..."

"No." Shael scowled at the thought of what such a jarring mode of travel might do to her.

"Urmigan. Do you know of a way that we can contact Urmigan?" Bujilli had the beginnings of an idea. It might even work. Maybe.

"Why would you want--"

"I should have some credit on account with Urmigan, if Idvard kept his word*. When I returned the amulet to him that controlled his drones, her promised to have Urmigan set aside a few drones for my use."

Shael started to nod. Stopped herself. Grimaced. Her right hand reached out and performed an almost calligraphic figure in the air before her. Three soft words wheezed from her clenched mouth. An ivory toad plopped onto the ruined carpet from somewhere else. It stared at her with gleaming topaz eyes.

"Take a message to Urmigan. His message." Shael waved to Bujilli; "Then guide them back to us."

The toad hopped in front of Bujilli and stared at him expectantly.

"Tell it what you want it to repeat for you. It will find Urmigan." Shael sank back down onto the couch with Leeja's help. It had been a minor spell, but it still taxed her.

Bujilli thought about what to say then just told the toad that he needed some sturdy drones to carry a grievously wounded friend back to Idvard's place. The toad solemnly nodded once then hopped away through the broken door and was gone.

Leeja and Bujilli set about rigging-together some sort of palanquin for Shael. something that the drones could carry and that would not jar or jostle her too badly.

It was amazing how empty the place was without all the books he remembered being heaped and mounded across the shelves and floors.

Gnosiomandus was gone. Everything had shifted, changed out from under him. He had come here to learn things he needed to know, to study new spells and refine his technique, to become a better spell-caster, a more powerful sorcerer.

He thought that meant enrolling in classes at the Academy.

But now he wasn't so sure.

In all the time he'd been here, he had not attended a single class.

But he had learned a few new spells. Made friends. And enemies.

He'd changed things, met and changed the lives of Sharisse, Gudrun, Idvard, and others...and Leeja. He'd changed himself. And this place, this Wermspittle, had changed as well.

"Scheiss!" Shael sat up abruptly, disregarding how much it hurt, or caused her to bleed; "We need to get out of here--"

"Congratulations. You've breached my defenses. Fat lot of good it will do you!" Gnosiomandus stood in the middle of the room. Lambent orange light smoldered around the edges of the image. It looked younger, better groomed and taller than the original.

Leeja and Bujilli helped Shael get on her feet and the three of them hobbled as fast as they could toward the ruined door.

WWWWHHHOOOMMMMPPPPFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF!

Golden flames swirled through the room, a turgid tempest of noise and fury signifying the former occupant's indignation at having his privacy violated.

They only just made it out the door before the flames roared forth.

"Putney had spoofed the wards so we could meet here. When he left, it was up to me to maintain the subterfuge, but I let them slip..." Shael looked more miserable than ever.

"We're fine. We got out in time. If anything, this will make it harder for anyone else to get much out of there..."

"And it ought to make following us a bit more difficult, at least remotely." Leeja quickly glanced down the hallway in both directions before nudging them forward in the direction of the Main Hall.

"Remotely?" Bujilli considered the prospect of being spied-upon at a distance. His Uncle had used several different such spells to explore deep dark places Bujilli could not reach easily as a child. He had used a spell that let him see what was happening miles away and across the great black sea, even on another world. All were based on Extra-Sensory Perception or some form of Clairvoyance. He himself knew the most basic form of a spell for both, but he'd not yet learned the more advanced forms his Uncle used. His hand slipped to his collar. Hedrard's Amulet**.

Did he want the hag knowing where he was, where he was going? They were...what? Friends? Allies? He wasn't entirely sure, not after their time in the Gormenstille and the drastic transformation Hedrard had undergone. She was an enigma to him now, floating inside a big red cocoon and attended by a tribe of Morons, some of whom spoke on Her behalf as though she were some little tyrant-goddess.

Perhaps she was. Now. Maybe she always had been and he never realized it.

There was a lot about this place he did not know.

They reached a marble staircase and Bujilli was jarred from his thoughts as they focused on assisting Shael down one painful step after another.

It wasn't ideal, not by a long shot, but they all three felt the need to keep moving.

The Main Hall was empty.

Their steps echoed.

"Where is everyone?" He was taken aback. He only ever saw this place when it had been packed with people hustling and bustling past one another on their way to classrooms, lecture halls or wherever.

"Ah. Fresh meat." A Morlock in antique banded-mail dropped down in front of them. He wielded a jagged-edged hacker's blade, some sort of basket-less airship-men's cutlass in his right-hand and a toothsome lash in his off-hand.

SSSSSSSSnnaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakt!

The lash bit Bujilli on the cheek, drawing blood.

"We have no argument with you--"

"Piss off pretty-pretty. My children are hungry and with Winter coming in early and sharp, a father's got to do what needs to be done to provide for them."

Bujilli tugged at his hand-axe--TTTTHHHHWWWIIIIIIIPT!

The lash stung his hand. He jerked it away. Blood spattered onto the marble floors.

Leeja pulled Shael back to give Bujilli more room. Shael groaned in agony.

"Shame you haven't much meat on you hairy-barry. But you'll do for a start." The lash streaked out once more. Bujilli almost ducked aside. Instead he grabbed the lash. Teeth interspersed along the length of the thing bit into his hand. More blood flew from his punctured flesh. He gritted his own teeth against the pain--it was intense--and drew forth his hand-axe.

The Morlock slyly loosened the lash, flipped it to one side, rudely jerked it back nearly taking off one or more of Bujilli's fingers with it.

"Stop this. Don't you know who this is?" Leeja pointed at Shael incredulously.

"Do you interview the cattle you eat? I don't much care if it's that bitch Shael herself--you're all three meat for the pot."

"Idiot! This IS Shael."

The Morlock held back his next strike of the lash to look more closely at Shael.

Bujilli split his skull with the hand-axe.

"In the flesh." He wrenched his weapon free from the Morlock's head.

"The Old Covenants are null and void until someone takes my place and renews the pacts and restores things..."

"And someone has been chosen to handle this matter, right?"

"I...do not know. After the Privy Council punished me, I was sent away. I have no idea of what happened afterward, nor what the Regents, those left of them, are doing or have opted to do. The Senior Staff are scattered, some dead or imprisoned, others have left..."

"So everything goes down in flames while you all bicker and argue?"

"For the most part, the answer is yes.Maybe one of them will play the violin..." Shael sagged and would have fallen to the floor if Leeja hadn't steadied her.

"That's not entirely true and you know it." A voice roared from above.

"Ulricht. You are still here?" Shael sounded incredulous. It was some sort of hunchback or dwarf in chain-mail riding on a Dodo. Both sported elaborately plumed head-gear, but only the bird's included a bit fitted to its beak and reins.

"I remain. I endure much. The old pacts are not so fragile as you would believe." The figure spurred the plump bird forward and it hopped atop a rail then jumped down before them, its silver-shod talons scittering slightly across the marble tiles before it regained its balance.

"But...I have been removed from my position--"

"Really? Truly? And yet I remain. How is that possible, hmmm?"

"The Privy Council--"

"Have no real authority in this place." He nodded to emphasize his disdain for such interlopers.

"Then..."

"Don't dwell on it over-much madam." A tall, thin figure wrapped head-to-toe in cerulean blue velvet and black silk stepped out from a section of wall that held no door. "It was merely a simple oversight. One I am here to correct."

The ivory toad burbled something untranslatable from atop the rail. There were some spindly-looking drones stood in a line directly behind it waiting for orders...


What should Bujilli & Leeja do next?

You Decide!


* See Episode 49.
**Presented to Bujilli in Episode 26.

What to do, what to do?

First we need to roll Initiative for 1) Bujilli, 2) Leeja, 3) Shael, 4) Ulricht, 5) The Gauntling, 6) The Ivory Toad.

Second, if someone would be so kind as to roll 2d4 to determine how many drones were sent along with the Toad, that'd be much appreciated. 

Thirdly, could use a few d20 rolls. Because well, impending violence. Or something.

Then you the readers determine what Bujilli and his friends do next. Should they attack the Gauntling? Seek to evade them or run away? Order the drones to attack? Cast a spell? (which one?) Or should they try to parley with the would-be assassin?

Let me know in the comments below, or via email and we'll resume things next week!

What do they do next?
You Decide!

Previous                            Next

Series Indexes
One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six  |  Seven


About Bujilli (What is This?) | Who is Bujilli? | How to Play

Bujilli's Spells | Little Brown Journals | Loot Tally | House Rules

Episode Guides
Series One (Episodes 1-19)
Series Two (Episode 20-36)
Series Three (Episodes 37-49)
Series Four (Episodes 50-68)
Series Five (Episodes 69-99)
Series Six(Episodes 100-ongoing)

Labyrinth Lord   |   Advanced Edition Companion

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Map: Joy's Farmstead



Here is a map of the area surrounding the Farmstead where Joy begins her adventures. The hex encompasses approximately 5 or 6 miles, give-or-take. It is meant more to show relative placement of landmarks and actual distances may vary on a case-by-case basis. All in all, it's about as useful or accurate as any map ripped from a children's storybook might be...



What's In the Immediate Area?

The Enclave. The oldest section was built into the hillside and connects to at least six small, zig-zaggy tunnels that run out to the old hop yard, the Still Shack, the Old Owl's tree, the edge of the Pastures and one or two other well-hidden and trapped exits. The second-story protrudes out over the ground floor forming a flagstone-paved porch area where a series of heavy old manlets and shutters can be pinned into place before the first hard frost. Around the main manor-structure are a number of apiaries, trellises, herb gardens, a pumpkin patch, some out buildings and roofed-over wood-piles--all the things you'd expect on a working farmstead. The main well is located at the base of the three-story stone-and-timber square tower set to the back of the main structure. The family has managed to defend this place through many a hard winter.

Briar-Lands. A natural barrier of dense black thorns, nettles, brambles and purplish-black, yellow-green, and red roses. The family has a pact with the roses and the plants form a tough barrier every autumn that both hinders travel and makes the main Farmstead more difficult to locate.

No-Go Mound. Joy's mother told her to never-ever go near the old mound for fear the Moundfolk might take her.

Cave. Joy discovered this cave just this Summer and she has been thinking about exploring the place one of these days...

Bear Hill. A Medium-Sized Bear dwells somewhere under this hill. The Bear used to trade old books and other things it brought with it from its time in the city for honey, molasses and Grampa's hootch in the Summer time. Joy's father always set aside a portion of maple candy for the Bear each Spring as a special treat.

Rubezahl. Sometimes a small group of the very tall folk from the Southern Mountains would come this far north in search of their favorite mushrooms. They also engaged in a little extortion or banditry along the Trade-Road if they thought they could away with it. One of Joy's grandparents drove them off more than thirty years ago and they still won't go any closer to the farmstead.

Black Trees. There are some gnarly old trees toward the South who spend their days complaining and grumbling about the good old days when thieves were hung from their branches and the crows came round to gossip. A few of them are so old and venerable that they still have a shield or some piece of armor embedded in their trunks from the times when knights and nobles were ambushed by peasant-gangs and their corpses were bound into the trees to hide the evidence from the sheriffs.

Spiderwood. Huge spiders and their kin have held dominion over a small, but very fiercely defended copse ceded to them by ancient kings no one remembers any more. Over a hundred years ago all the wolves were driven into this copse and the spiders finished them off, hence the absence of wolves in this area until just recently. The Spiders eagerly hope to receive a petition from the local land-holders proposing another wolf-hunt.

Feral Orchards. Twisted old apple and pear trees that have been left to grow wild ever since Vizri ran off to Wermspittle quite a long time ago. The apples can be bitter or sweet, depending on the time of the year and how well you bribe the tree. There are some very strange purplish apples in the orchard, but they only seem to be found during the dark of the moon. The Western edge of the orchard has been overgrown by thorns and roses, so there are some strange fruits in there as well.

Old Owl's Tree. A majestic oak older than anyone can rightly say. This tree was old before the Farmstead was first settled and there has always been an owl in this tree. If you know how to make friends with it, the owl can teach you a spell or two.

Sometimes Bridge. There is a low stone bridge that crosses the stream here, but it can only be seen or used during certain times, like during a Full Moon in Autumn or high noon in Summer. Sometimes the bridge leads to somewhere other than just across the stream.

Lamiak's Stream. A small family of Lamiak has lived near this stream for longer than anyone else has been here. They were nearly exterminated by vigilantes who blamed them for the crimes of an Iaralei that drove people mad with its singing, but one of Joy's ancestors intervened and protected the duck-footed marsh-folk. They are reclusive, shy people, but they still feel gratitude toward the family and will help anyone descended from Good Steven to safely cross the stream.

Tartulo's Cave. Amidst many massive, overgrown megaliths and standing stones is a cave that leads deep under a hill where an old one-eyed Tartulo resides. He has been a shepherd and something of a hermit living peacefully here on the northern edge of the Pastures for many decades. He raises several varieties of sheep and has traded wool and mutton to Joy's family ever since he settled in this area. He is very fond of Joy's mother's knitting, especially her socks and mittens and the extra-long scarf she made for him. Joy's family has a Pact with the Tartulo and he helps defend the Farmstead by re-directing travelers, misdirecting officials and scaring off nosey-types. He also fought beside the family a few years back when a large group of bandits passed through the area looting, pillaging and burning as they went. He hand-crafts excellent pipes and other household objects from bone and horn.

Pastures. Gently rolling hills and meadows mostly given-over to the Tartulo's flocks. Bitter-clover and a few other herbs grow here that can't easily be found elsewhere, so children were often sent here to gather such things as they came into season.

Hop Yard. Always a fragrant green place in the Summer, everyone always had to pitch-in to collect the hops once they were at their peak. Then the old-timers could get to work brewing fresh batches of beer for later in the year.

Jentil's Lands. A tribe of Jentils, large hairy folk who raised spiral-carved dolmen and standing stones very different from those set-up by the Tartulo whom they avoided and distrusted because he killed and ate sheep. The Jentil know a great deal about the local herbs, plants and growing things and have taught various members of Joy's family quite a number of secrets, recipes and lore. The family has a Pact with the Jentil who have long come to their aid and defense in times of trouble, and like the Tartulo, they misdirect and scare off would-be trespassers to the best of their ability. They are very gifted wood-workers and vine-crafters and are quite fond of the family's hootch which has attained a legendary status among the Jentil who zealously guard and defend the old still as though it were a holy relic...which...to them, it might well be.


What About the Trade-Roads?

Trade-Road to the West. This heavily-rutted and poorly maintained track leads past the  No-Go Mound through Jentil territory and on towards the Desolate Western Hills. It doesn't get used much any more but lately there have been sightings of Tripods and Refugees using it as they head South, though a few groups of desperate people have left the Trade-Road to cut cross country through the Briars, Black Trees and Spiderwoods to try and reach the Trade-Road that leads to Wermspittle. A few of them make it. The road splits just before it reaches the foot of the old Bear Hill. No one uses the road leading South-West.

Trade-Road South. This rocky, steep-sloping trail leads off to the Southern Mountains. It cuts through very dense woods and crosses at least two other Trade-Roads and passes by an abandoned trading post before reaching the banks of a great river. Nomads and merchants use this route to go to the West until that road connects with another route that leads towards Wermspittle far to the North. It is a long detour, but it is easier than cutting through the dense woodlands and many of them prefer not to take the more Southerly route but tend not to say why.

Trade-Road East.  This route leads East through a vast forested region that is dotted with marshes, small lakes and criss-crossed with streams and creeks. The way gets very twisty and splits several times before finally reaching the Eastern Reaches and the campsites of the various would-be settlers looking to claim and establish new farmsteads.

Trade-Road North. This way leads to Wermspittle, eventually. It is the direction all Joy's older siblings and cousins have used, as well as most of the rest of her family who have had to make the trip before her. Few of them came back that way. There is a coach that travels along this route from time to time, but it is not reliable and the driver always seems to be in a great hurry as though fleeing pursuit.



Joy in Wermspittle

Monday, December 1, 2014

Joy's First Adventure: Jody's Play Report

A Little Cave...

Hi Everyone! Jody here. We thought it would be fun for me to post on playing Joy in Wermspittle, to give a player's perspective on all of this. We played our first session the other night and I had a wonderful time! My experience with gaming has taught me that if I don't walk away from the table saying, "How are we going to get out of this one!" and if I don't wake up in the morning still gnawing on that same question, then I'm not really playing. I've done both with this one.

 Jim's already posted a bit on Joy's initial background and character development. She's a ten year old Mostly Human girl of average build for her age. Like many kids, she loves to explore, which is how she ends up one fine summer's day at the mouth of a little cave she found on her family's property....

Joy enters the cave, poking the ground in front of her with a stick to make sure she doesn't step on anything sleeping. It's cooler , leaf-covered, with some tracks, both animal and human, but none particularly new. There's no sound of movement from inside. After about 15-20 feet she feels something is definitely wrong and pokes at a spot in front of her. She finds a shiny bit, a gold hoop earring of the style a Wanderer might wear. She looks around more closely and sees signs of definite obfuscation. Someone's been carrying stuff back and forth a few times in this passage. She uses the stick to pick up the earring and drop it in her pocket.

Her curiosity piqued, Joy wants to explore further but doesn't want to use a torch. She does have the ability to alter her senses (part of being Odd, to be detailed in another post) and takes some time to adjust her vision to the darkness. A bit further in the passage branches in two. She takes the left branch, following the tracks. It opens into a chamber [A] containing six reddish pods, packed in leaf-litter. They're moist and look like large, people-sized milkweed pods, tapered on either end. They seem inert and there is a spell holding them quiescent. They make her skin crawl. As she stands on the edge of the chamber one of the pods splits open slightly and a small bit of foam slowly starts oozing out. She backs away from the chamber and it seems to stop.

She goes back to the split and takes the other branch. The ground is moist but undisturbed by human feet. After a short way it opens into a larger area [B]. To her left there's a small rise with some stonework at the top. Joy climbs to the top and finds its a sarcophagus. There are niches on the side that are full of debris and the top is caked with dust. She clears the top of the sarcophagus. It belongs to Elsbeth Winfree, a distant grandmother. Joy is saddened by the neglect of this ancestor's burial place and decides to clean it up as she has been taught to do for the rest of her family in the family plot. She clears all of the elaborately carved niches along the sides. Once she clears the top she notices it's chipped a bit, as if someone had tried to break into it. When she steps back to admire her handiwork she sees a mangy cat watching her. She says hello but the cat just watches her, as cats are wont to do. It has one gold eye and one not, so Joy decides to call it Goldie.

The tomb is clean but not decorated. Joy picks some pretty purple roses she noticed outside the entrance of the cave and puts them on the tomb. As she surveys the rest of the platform she notices picks and axes and crowbars and parts of skeletons embedded in the far walls. They look like they've been blasted into place. Joy congratulates Grandma Elsbeth on her defense and moves deeper into the cave.

A bit further back she finds a branch to her right that slopes deeply down to a still pool [D]. The ground is becoming muddier and the cave cooler. It looks like there are more shiny bits in the pool, maybe coins, but Joy decides they're not worth getting wet for so she leaves the pool alone.

To her left the passage widens and there is another rise [C]. At the top of this one Joy finds the skeleton of a winged monkey, curled up in a fetal position and covered in ochre. It is encircled by a chain belt on one side and three monkey-sized javelins on the other. After spending all that time cleaning up Grandma Elsbeth's tomb, and seeing what happened to those who tried to disturb her, Joy decides not to mess with the monkey's final resting place.

Further back the passage narrows and slopes down more. It quickly becomes muddier and muckier and slipperier. Joy has to work to find firm spots to step on or she'll be in the yuck up to her knees or maybe hips. The passage opens to another chamber [E] with a rise at the back. As she enters the chamber she smells something nasty. Realizing it's Soporific Aether she quickly works her way as high on the rise as she can before she succumbs.

Joy wakes up cold, wet, and hungry. She decides to head for home. Everything in the cave is the same until she peeks in on the pods. The one that had been foaming is now entirely open. There are tracks leading from the chamber that look like Joy's footprints, only barefoot. This freaks her out a bit and makes her want to get home more.

The entrance to the cave has lots of dry vines and leaves covering it, not at all like when she came in. Outside everything is definitely fall. Joy realizes the Soporific Aether had her out for quite some time. All of her landmarks are the same, though, so at least the Moundfolk didn't find her and take her somewhere else.

Joy makes her way back to the house. It's quiet. No lights, no smoke, no voices. One of the hives is missing, the rest are destroyed. The shutters are already on the house, some are half-open. Everything seems to be set for Winter, but neglected. It shouldn't be like this.

Knowing not to approach any of the doors when the house is Winter-prepped, Joy works her way to one of the family's hidden entrances. The tunnel brings her to the root cellar, where she hears a tiny voice singing a sad-sounding song. She opens the door to the root cellar and says hello, but the singing stops. There are some things left in the cellar, a box or two of cabbages, some old and questionable jars of preserves, but for the most part it's been cleared. Joy notices a stinky mass in the corner. It quivers and moves toward her a bit. She quickly heads for the stairs up but they've been locked into position as a ramp. Starting to panic a bit Joy throws her weight into the lever and is able to flip the stairs back into steps. She quickly climbs to the top and enters the kitchen.

All three hearths are cold. As she approaches the table a hand-fashioned candle lights. There are bundles of stuff and a note from her parents. The whole family has moved East to start a new farmstead. "It's just not worth staying here any more." She can try to join them, if she wants. Her uncles are supposed to come back "sometime." Her father left her the Ledger and the Key to the house. It's all Joy's, now. She's the last member of the family here.

Joy hears a slight rattling. Quickly, she goes to the window, grabs the pitcher on the shelf below it, and pours some water in the tin cup on the windowsill. She almost forgot the libation to keep the potato peeler still. She could have been flayed alive. So many little wards and traps and tricks to be aware of.

Joy eats one of the cans of peaches her mother left, gets into a clean, dry set of clothes, and lays down for a quick nap. She has a lot of decisions to make.


So that's Session One. I'm ready for Session Two!

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