Magical Monday: Zetherith’s Gold

It is time to put my previous entry, Random D&D Inspiration to the test! First thing is first — generating a random page number for each of the three core books. After excessive clattering of dice, I came up with the following:

 

Monster Manual page 285:Succubus/Incubus! That is a promising start.

 

Player’s Handbook page 134: the Hermit character background!

 

and finally Dungeon Master’s Guide page 117: underwater visibility, “The Sea” and “Navigation” and a beautiful painting of an adventuress opening a treasure chest at the bottom of a shallow sea or lagoon.

 

The above collection is a pretty good example of why I believe that random elements in both gaming and storytelling are of worth. It is not that any individual aspect of an idea must be unique or revolutionary, but rather that with the right combination of even common tropes and images (and what of the above elements is not an old fantasy trope?) you are empowered to create something new. By absolving yourself of the responsibility of coming up with a “great idea” and letting Fate decide, you are freed from your own limitations and biases in at least the most foundational aspect of creation: brainstorming. For my part, I can imagine having come up with come idea built around a succubus, a hermit or underwater treasure hunting, but not likely one combining the two and certainly not all three.

 

Let’s get to work, then.

 

The first thing to do when trying to weave these disparate results into a cohesive idea is to put them into a larger context. In this example, I have two specific things that contextualize the idea: 1) this is a Magical Monday entry, which pushes the idea in the direction of something wondrous rather than monstrous, and 2) it must be useful for my Valley of Tombs adventure setting — with TotalCon coming up fast, I can’t afford to waste any creative time and energy on anything else. With those two requirements in mind, I can start to figure out what to do with these three random elements.

 

Since this is not a Wicked Wednesday entry, I am not looking to create a villain or monster to plague explorers of the Valley of Tombs. That throws out the idea of a villain succubus or incubus, which is well enough since it is a tired idea anyway. Instead, reading the Hermit entry and thinking on the charm aspect of the succubus and incubus, I decide the following: the Hermit was once a wealthy money changer who lived in the town of Lakehold. We will call him Zetherith Ennar (random name generators abound on the internet — find one that works for you!) and say he is a half elf. He was charmed by a fiend, however, that used his wealth and influence to cause pain and heartache among Zetherith’ family and clientele. Just to buck the usual “evil woman” trope, I’ll say Zetherith  was charmed by an incubus, whom we’ll call Adoth Firefair. Eventually, the fiend tired of his game with Zetherith and decided to drain the life from the moneychanger but before he could murder his mortal pawn, Adoth was attacked and driven back to the Hells by Church Inquisitors (I am keeping this bit intentionally vague: I like having players be able to define their character’s religions and organizations, which means leaving much of the larger world in which the Valley of Tombs fits into undefined). Because Zetherith was never able to shake the magical charm Adoth had placed on him, even after the incubus was driven to his home plane, Serveris Ennar harbored an abiding and tragic love for the fiend. Moreover, Zetherith was exposed and blamed for the damage caused under Adoth’s influence and driven from Lakehold, becoming a hermit living in an ancient abandoned lakeside light house a few miles from town.

 

This is a good background for an NPC, but it is not yet much of an interactive element for explorers of the Valley of Tombs. For that part, I will take inspiration largely from the image on DMG page 117:

 

While under the power of Adoth Firefair, Zetherith Ennar continued his money changing and money lending business. Using wit and guile, he tricked many of his customers into bad (but perfectly legal) investments and gambles and invariably those people lost their wealth. Adoth Firefair knew that those who lost everything were capable of the most desperate acts and enjoyed watching chaos spread through families and the community. Each gold piece Zetherith collected this way was cursed by Adoth’s taint and the incubus convinced Zetherith to collect it all into one treasure chest. When the inquisitors came for Adoth and the townsfolk turned against him, Zetherith cast the chest into the bay of Lakehold for fear that the evil of Adoth would follow that money forever and bring misery to whoever held even one silver piece of it. While no one saw where Zetherith drowned the chest, rumors persists still ten years later of its existence.

 

Player characters coming to Lakehold may hear rumors of Zetherith’s Gold and might be able to hunt down the hermit and find out the truth of the story (Zetherith will only willingly give up the location of the gold if the PCs indicate they can cleanse it of its curse and promise to give it to the Church that drove Adoth away). The chest contains 531 gp, 2398 sp and a small collection of gems (12 worth 1d6x10 gp each). Adoth’s curse is real, however, and anyone keeping the money for themselves or spending it on selfish desires is cursed to suffer Disadvantage on any and all saving throws made against the effects of magical charms. In addition, this curse is obvious to any evil outsider that possesses a charm ability. The only way to remove the curse is to atone by giving away 3 times as much wealth as they kept or spent for themselves.


For Wicked Wednesday this week, I will roll randomly again and see what pops up!

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Random Inspiration

I sometimes have trouble with the most basic step in the creative process: inspiration. Usually, if I can get an idea, or am given one, I can run with it and make it into something fun, interesting or novel. This is one of the reasons I enjoyed role-playing game writing so much: I was given an assignment and then let loose. Within the confines of that assignment, I was free to do whatever. I have found, though, that when I am writing for myself, or for a handful of imaginary blog readers, or even with hopes of sale and publication, I want for that initial inspiration. My “writer’s block” is usually less about being unable to form prose and more about being uninspired to start in the first place.

 

One thing I have always found helpful, especially in the context of gaming (whether in preparation or at the table itself), is the use of random tables. There are many great collections of random tables for everything under the sun — I have even created a few — but here, with the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons relatively fresh, there is an easier way to spur creativity without worrying too much about how to translate the results to the game’s systems. By simply using the three core D&D 5E books as the “random tables” themselves, we can create interesting mashups of ideas that are easy to include into our games.

 

While you could simply open to a “random” page of each book, that method has two problems: 1) it is not really random at all and your results, over time, will cluster toward the middle pages of the books, and 2) it does not involve the rolling of dice and that is inherently bad. Moreover, not all sections of the books are created equally and are not necessarily helpful in producing fun, playable content.

 

The basic idea works as such: for each book (Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide) we will generate a random page (using DICE!) and draw something from each of those pages. Then, we will combine each of those things into a cohesive whole, hopefully one that is both interesting and fun. This kind of random generation helps spur creativity while at the same time avoid cliches.

 

The Monster Manual is the most straightforward of books to use, as it is almost completely filled with usable (read: inspirational) content. From page 12 to page 350 there is naught but monsters, beasts and NPCs. First, roll a d12. For any result other than a 1 or a 12, subtract one from the result and multiply by 30. Then , roll a 30 sided die and add the result for the final page number. (Example: roll a 9 on a d12, so 8×30=240; roll a 16 on a d30, for a final page number of 256 — Quaggoth!) If the initial d12 result was a 1, simply roll a d20+11 for the final page number. (Yes, this statistically makes Blights ever so slightly more likely a result than other creatures in the book. Sue me.) If the initial d12 result was a 12, roll a d20+330 for the final page number.

 

For both the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide, there are sections of the books that are primarily rules oriented or otherwise unhelpful for generating ideas. As such, the method for generating page numbers is going to be a little convoluted.

 

For the Player’s Handbook, two sections stand out as providing potential inspiration results: the section in which options for characters are presented (pages 18-161; 144 total pages) and the portion dedicated to magic spells (pages 211-289; 78 total pages).First, we will roll a d6. If the result is 1-4 we will be generating a result from the character section; on a 5-6 we will be generating a result from the spell section. In the former case, to generate the final page number roll two d12 dice and multiply the results (generating 1-144) then add 17. For generating the final page number in the spells section, the easiest method (since the total number of pages is less than 100) is to roll d100, ignoring any results greater than 78 and adding 210 to the result.

 

The Dungeon Master’s Guide is a treasure trove of inspiration in and of itself, mixing practical rules information with random charts and inspirational art. For our purposes, I want to avoid including the rules based discussions, so we will be limiting our potential results to pages 7 to 232 (227 total pages). Roll a d12. If the result is 2 to 11, subtract 1 and the multiply by 20 (generating a result between 20 and 200) and then roll a d20 and add the result. If the initial d12 result was a 1, roll a d20 (reroll any result greater than 15) and add 6. If the initial d12 result was a 12, roll a d12 and add 220.

 

Of course, you can always wimp out and head over to a website like www.random.org to generate your results without dice.

 

Remember, we are looking for inspiration on these pages, so read all of the text and look at the art! Sometimes all it takes is a throwaway phrase by the author or a tiny detail by the illustrator to inspire an entire adventure.

 

This week, for both Magical Monday and Wicked Wednesday, I will be using this method to generate the content for those columns, as well as tie them to The Valley of Tombs.

 

New Year, New Focus

bring it

 

The tail end of 2014 was a thin one for this blog. Between end of semester class stress, the holidays and a little bout with writer’s block, I did not make many posts. As 2015 opens, I intend to get back in the groove and dedicate the time and energy necessary to keep things lively here in my tiny little corner of the internet.

 

First and foremost, I will be continuing to make 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons a major part of this blog. Both Magical Mondays and Wicked Wednesdays will continue. Much of the work I do on that front will be based on developing content for The Valley of Tombs, my “massive multiplayer table top RPG” that should see plenty of play in 2015. Most notably, I have  six four hour slots set up at TotalCon in Mansfield, MA this February 19-22. With 24 hours of play and potentially 48 unique players, I want to have lots of content on hand. In addition I am going to be occasionally be developing content for the Valley Obsidian Portal Page, which I hope to use to build interest for the game.

 

While D&D is certainly a passion of mine and a big part of this blog, I will continue to provide the occasional unsolicited rant, non-review or opinionated screed of any geeky thing that strikes my fancy. Sometimes I will even make a cogent point or two. We live in a time when geeky subjects have gone mainstream and larger cultural issues collide with niche interests, whether it is the intersection of feminism and video games or questions regarding the less palatable views of genre titans like Lovecraft. As nerds, geeks and dweebs, we are all affected by these issues in some way or another, and they are worth talking about.

 

Finally, 2015 will be a year of refocusing on my own fiction writing. I don’t know how much of that will show up here. I don’t intend to make this blog a showcase of my fiction like I had in the past, but I will certainly be talking about it and whatever process in which I engage. I plan on writing one novel this year, but I have a lot of world building ahead of me before I can even hope to start writing. I may give self publishing short stories a try, and if I do I’ll surely be fretting about that process here.

 

Happy New Year and thanks, as usual, for reading.

Magical Monday: Treasures of the Timeless Tower

My 5th Edition open world “massive multiplayer table top RPG” The Valley of the Tombs (VotT) finally saw actual play this weekend at Carnage Con in Killington, Vermont. While I will have a full write up based on the event in the near future, I thought I would use an element from VotT for this week’;s Magical Monday.

 

Among the location discovered by the adventurers during the 20 hours of VotT I ran this weekend was the Timeless Tower. Located atop a large hill that may or may not be a giant king’s barrow mound, out from which metallic smelling springs flow here and there, the Timeless Tower is a quat structure, just 50 feet tall and 40 feet in diameter at the base. From a distance it seems mundane, if in exceedingly good shape for being located in the ancient, lost region known as the Valley of the Tombs. Upon closer inspection (after dealing with the flock of Perytons living atop the tower) it becomes obvious that although vegetation has grown up on the stones, they are as perfect as the day they were hewn. In fact, the entire tower is unperturbed by the elements or the passage of time (hence the nom de guerre). In fact, the windows allow both light a wind through but no precipitation may pass into the tower through them — and adventurers, they too may pass with ease.

 

Haunted by the unquiet spirit of an abused servant and her daughter and full of tricks and traps laid by the vicious former owner, the Timeless Tower is a brief but engaging adventure locale in the Valley. It’s real worth is in its treasures, I think, so I present them here:

 

The Bookstand is exactly as it sounds: an ornate wooden device intended to be placed on a desk and table and upon which a book is supposed to be put for easier reading. The bookstand has a powerful enchantment upon it, however. Anyone who places a book on the stand gains a magical psychic link to the contents of the book. Whatever language the book is written in, the user of the stand may understand its contents (note that it does not actually translate the book so onlookers gain no special insight). Moreover, the user may magically turn to any page or even find any subject within the book with but a thought. Finally and most impressively, the user may consume the entire contents of the volume. It is a temporary effect, lasting only one minute, but in that time the user may call upon the knowledge and make a related skill roll (usually Aracan, Religion, or Nature but technically any knowledge based skill check is possible) with advantage. As soon as the knowledge is used, the information leaves the user’s mind. While the book stand may be used any number of times per day, the process of consuming an entire volume of information is mentally exhausting and any character who does so suffers a level of exhaustion for any such uses after the first. Note that the stand can be used to comprehend any written work that can fit on it, from tomes to maps to scrawled notes.

 

The Wine Chiller is a curious magical construct. A beautifully crafted silver wine bucket on a three legged stand, the wine chiller is magically enchanted in two ways. First, the interior of the bucket is always frosty cool and any bottle or other vessel placed inside is instantly chilled to the perfect temperature for consumption (it will not heat liquids, however, nor will it freeze them solid). In addition, the chiller walks around on its three legs attempting to service anyone within 30 feet. It is a stupid construct and does not know whether there is a bottle in its bucket, let alone if the subject of its attention possesses a wine glass. It merely stands by a subject for a minute or so, then moves on to another subject, visiting everyone within range and then starting the process over again. There are command words to make it be still or to come immediately, but they are long forgotten. The wine chiller seems ties to the parlor in which it was found and ceases to move of its own accord if removed, though the bucket remains chilled. It is likely it merely needs to be attuned to a location with another lost command word. It would fetch a pretty platinum to the right noble buyer should one discover the command words.

 

The Imperial Suite is a whole room that is a magical creation. Located on the second floor of the tower in a space no larger than a linen closet, the Imperial suite is actually a vast apartment in an extradimensional space. Through the open door a viewer can see the opulent room, with is huge bed and massive hearth, multiple soft couches and exquisite marble bath. Upon passing over the threshold, they find themselves teleported to the center of the room, at least 50 feet from the door. The room is warm but never uncomfortable and smells of perfume and pleasure. It is large enough to comfortably sleep six on the various couches and bed, but a small army could camp within if they rested on the floor. In either case, anyone who takes a short rest within the room recovers as if from a long rest, and anyone who takes a long rest within the room loses two levels of exhaustion and regains all used hit dice. No one can gain the magical benefit of any rest, short or long, more than once in 24 hours (although one could take a short rest to gain the benefits of a long rest and then later come back and take an actual, unmodified long rest later in the same 24 hour period). The suite is, sadly, immobile, and not apparently accessible from any location on any plane other than through the doorway to the room.

 

The Timeless Tower was full of other magical object, most enhanced versions of mundane items. The owner of the tower, whoever he was (it is known to be a he based on the depredations he performed against the servant and their daughter) left with most items of real power or value, apparently a very long time ago and with careful intention. Perhaps he will one day return and be miffed that some of his favorite baubles are missing.

 

Please come back on Wednesday when I give an overview of Madra Nocht, a night hag who haunts the Valley and has a penchant for manipulation and intra-monster politics.

 

Magical Monday: Everyday Magic

The Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Player’s Handbook is chock full of magical abilities and spells, power at the fingertips of the player characters. While the PCs are arguably the most important characters in their world — at least they should be the most important character in their combined story — they are not alone in the world. Where medieval peasants and feudal nobles exist alongside powerful wizards, where the gods let their might be known through overt action on the world, where mighty dragons and giants spar for dominion, magic would permeate every level of society and every aspect of life. The magic in the PHB may be sufficient for describing warriors and wizards raiding the tombs of long dead kings or bringing the fight to the doorstep of the Dark Lord himself, it does not serve the needs of the everyday world that is the backdrop for the PCs’ grand adventures.

 

Practitioners

 

The first issue to address regarding everyday magic in a D&D world is: who are the practitioners of this magic? While clerics and sorcerers other than the PCs surely inhabit the world, those  spell-casters and their kind serve a function usually directly related to the PCs, as either aid or opposition. Warlocks and druids have greater concerns than the peasantry or even the local lord.

 

Most everyday users of magic are specially trained in the use of magic. They are hedge wizards whose powers pale in comparison to that of real wizards but whose art is far more useful to the common man. They are priests and priestesses, and while they do not act as direct conduits to the divine as do clerics and paladins, they provide the benedictions and blessings that the faithful need. They are witches and oracles, not born of or bound to otherworldly powers in the way warlocks and sorcerers are, but still they can hear the whispers from beyond the veil and sell the secrets they learn to the vengeful and the lovelorn.

Religion and Ritual

 

The degree to which religion influences culture cannot be overstated, at least in our own world.. If the goal is to create a recognizable world in which our adventures take place — even if it is an anachronistic and idealized one — then the presence of religion in the lives and cultures of the people that inhabit that world is equally important. That is not to say that a monolithic entity like the medieval Church is required (although for certain sorts of stories, it helps)but rather the religious beliefs of the population must be present. In such a world where magic is a part of the everyday, that religion would be the source of much of that magic.

 

While clerics are the main source of overt, powerful divine magic in a D&D world, not every preacher, priest or friar is a cleric by class. Most are normal, unclassed NPCs, perhaps with proficiency in Religion and a decent Wisdom and/ir Charisma score. They maintain their influence over their flocks with a combination of oratory skill and ritual magic. Unlike clerics, who can heal the sick and create miracles on demand, these religious leaders must engage in religious ritual to invoke even the small magics available to them. Prayers, offerings, sacraments and other accoutrements are all part of the ritual magic and, when performed with precision and faith, they can produce small but notable effects.

 

Blessings: First and foremost, religious magic is used to provide blessings. Usually, these blessings are over a particular action or institution, such as to plead for a fair trial or to provide for a good harvest. In these cases, any one individual involved directly in the execution of the activity may invoke an Inspiration one time with the goal to produce a positive result. For example, a barrister in charge of the trial of an innocent man may use this free floating inspiration on her final Diplomacy check against the jury, or an aged farmer might make his Profession check using inspiration to advise the younger farmers in the town on when to plant. Once any one person has used the inspiration, it is considered exhausted and only a new ritual, if such is allowed, can allow another. Alternatively, a blessing may be granted on a longer term institution or situation, such as a new courthouse or a marriage. In these cases, the blessing grants a simple +1 to any roll by any person involved on any check that will determine the fate of the institution, from the simple (a Charisma save by a husband to avoid seduction) to the complex (the Craft rolls by an architect and builder during the remodelling of a public structure). This sort of blessing is not exhausted upon use, but may only be invoked once per day.

 

Hedge Magic

 

After religious services, the next most common form of everyday magic is hedge magic — the use of so-called lesser magic by trained but ultimately minor magicians to produce limited results. These “hedge wizards” may go by that name, but might also be called magicians, enchanters, illusionists, alchemists and any number of names. Many calling themselves by these titles are likely charlatans, but some few know real magic, however weak, and offer their services to common folk and lords alike for recompense.

 

Hedge magic is similar to traditional wizard magic in that it involves complex formula, strange reagents and esoteric ritual in order to produce real results. The difference is that hedge magic can be performed by anyone with the proper training, while real wizardry is the result of a combination of training, birthright and arcane mystery. Some hedge wizards could have become real wizards if they had been whisked away to a proper academy early enough, rather than having been trained by a hedge wizard master as an apprentice, but most do not possess the magical talent to be real spellcasters. For the commoner, though, hedge wizards are magical enough and anything more spectacular is considered alien and dangerous.

 

Charms: Hedge wizard specialize in charms, magical talismans that provide very specific benefits under very specific circumstances. There are no “good luck” charms that work in general, and any purported hedge wizard trying to sell you one likely also has a bridge you may want to take a look at. Rather, a charm is usually used to provide a small bonus (+1 to d20 rolls) while performing a certain task. A charm might benefit gambling, for example, granting a +1 on skill rolls to attempt to win at gaming. The power of the charm is permanent, but can only be used three times per day. In addition, invoking the power of a charm requires a minor ritual in itself (rubbing the rabbits foot, for example) that while brief (requiring one turn to complete) is obvious to anyone witnessing it. Most charms are made for professional tradesmen who both have the money to purchase said charm and could use the advantage against their competitors. Charms of this sort cost between 1 and 10 gold pieces, depending on their use and the local economy. Note that charms must be related to a proficiency or tool use under a specific set of circumstances; attack rolls, saving throws or other broad categories of action cannot be the subject of a charm.

 

Witchery

 

In the alleys behind the hedge wizard shops and in the shadows of the temples, in the wilds beyond the druid graves and hovels far from village elders, there are places where darker desires can be fulfilled. Not all everyday magic operates in the open, for everyday people often have secrets: secret desires, secret pain and secret sins. When folk need magic to fulfill those desires, to salve that pain or to absolve — or indulge — those sins, they seek the power of the witch.

 

In this context, a witch is any practitioner of everyday magic who specializes in the unpleasant aspects of the art, willing to invoke power from dreadful places within themselves, their patrons, the world itself and even beyond. While some witches claim to be in league with demon lords and dark gods, such pacts are far beyond these folk. Just as priests are taught the liturgy of church rituals and hedge wizards study manuals of complex rules, witches too learn to work minor magic through arduous training at the foot of a mortal master, not a wicked entity. Nor are witches inherently evil, though they are almost always outcast from normal society: trade in desire, whether it be of the flesh or of fate itself, is oft looked down upon, especially by those who trade in the status quo.

 

Brews: While witches are known to offer something like the blessings of priests and craft charms similar to those of hedge wizards, witches are most (in)famous for their brews. Falling somewhere between mundane alchemy and magical potioncraft, the art of the witch’s brew is a closely guarded secret and the origin of much of the mystery behind the witch. Always bubbling and noxious, witches brew is like a bottled ritual or a single use charm, usually offered in return for more than simple gold. Many a maid has sold her beauty or her sweet voice for a love potion. Yet other times, the witch asks no payment at all. A brew is designed to create a specific effect one time. In the case of a love potion, for example, drinking the brew grants the imbiber advantage on any Charisma checks against a single target for one interaction. Other brews are more explicitly magical, such as allowing the drinker to pass as another for a short period or grant one the ability to perceive the true meaning of a liars words. In any case, the powers of a brew are temporary and uncertain and often come with an unexpected price.

 

Magical Monday: Tons of Tomes

A wizard’s spellbook is her greatest treasure, the link between herself and the very fabric of the cosmos. It is no surprise, then, that spellbooks often outlive their owners, turning up in ancient libraries, dusty tombs and dragon hoards. The existence of these lost manuals often motivates other wizards to adventure, pulling them out of their cramped laboratories and thrusting them into danger  in the company of swordsmen and thieves.

 

What follows is a system by which the Dungeon Master can create, in short order, such a lost spellbook with just a few dice rolls.

 

Step One: Determining the Spellbook Owner/Creator

 

Who owned the spell book before it was lost? What sort of wizard amassed the knowledge within before the perils of wizardly life consumed him? To determine, first roll a d10 with the following results: 1-4: Apprentice 2); 5-7: Journeyman (4); 8-9: Master (7); 10: Archmage (9). The number in parentheses indicates the highest level of spells found in the book.  The DM may either determine the actual spells found in the book by random roll or assume that all spells of that indicated school (see next paragraph) are found in the book.

 

Next, determine what sort of Wizard created the book by rolling a d8 and using the following results: 1: Abjurer; 2: Conjurer; 3: Diviner; 4: Enchanter; 5: Evoker; 6: Illusionist; 7: Necromancer; 8: Transmuter. This determines both the kinds of school of spells found in the book as well as the impact on arcane abilities granted by the book.

 

Example: If you roll a 5 on your first d10 and a 3 on the following d8, the owner of the spellbook was a Journeyman Diviner, meaning that it contains Divination spells up to 4th level and any other abilities the book has or enhances will be limited to the Divination school of magic.

 

Step Two: Determine the Name of the Spellbook

 

Roll 2 ten-sided dice separately to determine the two parts of the name of the spellbook. The name has no mechanical effect, but is a lot of fun to create:

 

Name Part 1 (d10)

1: Arcane; 2: Bewitched; 3: Eldricht; 4: Esoteric;5: Mysterious; 6: Mystic; 7: Orphic; 8: Sorcerous; 9: Uncanny; 10: Weird

 

Name Part 2 (d10)

1: Book; 2: Codex; 3: Compendium; 4: Lexicon; 5: Manual; 6: Omnibus; 7: Primer; 8: Tome; 9: Treatise; 10: Volume

 

Example: Rolling two d10 and getting 7 and 9 results in Orphic Treatise. So far, we have the Journeyman Diviner’s Orphic Treatise.

 

Step Three: Determine Additional Abilities of the Spellbook

In addition to merely containing spells of the associated school, all found spellbooks possess additional traits and abilities. Roll a d8:

 

1) When using the spellbook to prepare spells, the wizard may prepare one additional spell. The spell must be one found in the book.

2) When using the spellbook to prepare spells, the wizard gains an additional spell slot. Unlike other spell slots, the spell to be cast using this slot must be pre-determined. It must be a spell found in the spellbook, must be a lower level than the max spell level found in the book, and must be able to be improved by casting it using a higher level slot. Ex: Using a Journeyman Evoker’s book with this ability, the wizard can prepare magic missile using a 4th level spell slot for free.

3) When using Arcane Recovery, the total level of spell slots the wizard can recover is increased by 1.

4)  Any spell prepared from the book has its save DC increased by 1.

5) The wizard may choose one spell when preparing spells from the book. That spell may be cast once without expending a spell slot.

6) The spellbook grants one additional known cantrip, which must be from the associated school. This cantrip is lost if the spellbook is lost, sold or destroyed.

7) When casting any spell prepared from the spellbook that has requires concentration, the wizard gains +1 to concentration checks to maintain the spell.

8) Possession of the spellbook enhances one of the wizard’s Arcane Tradition abilities:

Abjuration: gain an additional use of the Arcane Ward ability per long rest

Conjuration: Minor Conjuration may be up to 5 feet on a side and 100 lbs.

Divination: gain an additional d20 Portent die.

Enchantment: Hypnotic gaze may be maintained up to 30 feet away and the subject need only see OR hear you

Evocation: the number of creatures included with Sculpt Spells is increased to 3 + Spell Level

Illusion: increase the duration of minor illusion to 10 minutes

Necromancy: Hit Points gained from Grim Harvest a doubled

Transmutation: Minor Alchemy no longer requires concentration

 

Step Four: Determine Spellbook Quirks

 

Whether due to the eccentricities of their former owners, magical mishaps, or just the march of time, many spellbooks posses strange quirks or even dangerous curses. Roll a d20:

1) The spellbook emits a powerful, pleasant perfume.

2) The spellbook emits a powerful, disgusting stench.

3) Whenever opened, the spellbook makes a clearly audible, lovely tone.

4) Whenever opened, the spellbook makes a clearly audible, painful noise.

5) Candles, torches and other natural sources of firelight within 30 feet of the spellbook dim to half their usual illumination.

6) Candles, torches and other natural sources of firelight within 30 feet of the spellbook brighten to half again their usual illumination.

7) The wizard enjoys pleasant dreams every night while in possession of the spellbook.

8) The wizard suffers constantly from surreal nightmares while in possession of the spellbook.

9) So long as the wizard has a spell prepared from the spellbook, all food tastes like sweet buttercream.

10) So long as the wizard has a spell prepared from the spellbook, all food tastes like rancid milk.

11) The owner of the spellbook needs half as much food as normal and can go twice as long without food before suffering Exhaustion.

12) The owner of the spellbook needs twice as much food as normal and can only go half as long without food before suffering Exhaustion.

13) The clothes of the owner of the spellbook never get wet from the rain.

14) The clothes of the owner of the spellbook do not dry after having gotten wet from the rain.

15) Animals are attracted to the owner of the spellbook (+2 on Animal Handle rolls).

16) Animals are repelled by the owner of the spellbook (-2 on Animal Handle rolls).

17) While preparing spells from the spellbook, the wizard speaks loudly in an incomprehensible tongue.

18) While preparing spells from the spellbook, the wizard enters a deep trance and is unaware of his surroundings. If the wizard takes damage he emerges from the trance but no spells are prepared.

19) Opening the spellbook (such as to use it to prepare spells) requires a minor sacrifice of 1 hit point of damage. This sacrifice need not come from the wizard.

20) Roll twice, ignoring additional results of 20.

 

Final Step: Put It All Together

 

Once you have rolled or chosen all the traits of the spellbook, see if a story emerges from the collected results. Do the results suggest something about the owner that would make for an interesting future adventure? If you are designing the book ahead of time, consider what the results suggest about where it might be found; if you are rolling up the book afterward, what to the results say about how it got there in the first place? Consider also who might want the book once word gets out. Will a rival of the PC wizard come looking for it, or will a collector want to buy it off the character? Would either resort to outright theft, or worse?

 

Magic Monday: Arcane Auras

In worlds where magic permeates the very earth, air and water, it is not surprising that some places become so infused with magical energy that they are overcome by it. These are the places where ley lines cross, where the membrane between dimensions is weak and where events so fateful have occurred the laws of nature themselves are twisted and tainted. These are areas where Arcane Auras are found.

 

An Arcane Aura is a zone of magical energy with a particular nature. It may be that the aura is caused by the very close link between the Prime Material Plane and the Elemental Plane of Fire, so the effects of the aura are based around heat and flame. Or it may be that the location was the site of a battle between sorcerers that was so fierce it broke the laws of normal magic and now wild magic rules there. Some rare Arcane Auras do not remain in place but move, following the lines of magical energy called ley lines or orbiting some other more “massive” center of magical power. No matter the specific nature of the arcane aura, a single fact is true for each one: the normal rules regarding the way magic works in the world are altered. This fact makes Arcane Auras highly sought after by scholars of magical study, as well as any who might benefit from a given aura’s effects.

 

Three factors define an Arcane Aura: its scale (how widespread the aura is in a geographical sense), its scope (how specific or general its effects are), and its power (roughly the equivalent of spell level, defining in game terms its Challenge Rating). Note that many Arcane Auras have additional descriptors, such as energy types or alignments, but these aspects are not required and vary widely between Arcane Auras. In addition, an Arcane Aura may itself change over time in any of the three factors, some regularly (for example, with the phases of the moon) or randomly by the whims of fate. Finally, most Arcane Auras are permanent (that is, player characters have no hope of changing or dispelling their effects) but some few can be modified with the use of strange rituals, powerful artifacts and other quest-worthy efforts.

 

General Rules: Each Arcane Aura is different in scale, scope and power as well as specific effects. Generally speaking, however, Arcane Auras operate by the following rules: the effect of the Arcane Aura occurs on any subject that enters the area affected by the aura. If saving throws are called for, they are made immediately upon entering the area. If a saving throw is called for every turn, it is rolled when and if the character or creature starts its turn with the affected area. All saving throws are against a DC of 10 + the Aura’s Power; the ability score of the save is called for in the text. Unless otherwise noted, the effects of the Arcane Aura leave the affected creature or character as soon as they leave or are taken out of the area of effect. If th effect of an Arcane Aura mimics or closely resembles the effect of a given spell, treat it as that spell and/or school of magic in regards to resistances, immunities, vulnerabilities and other special rules (i.e. if an Arcane Aura puts creatures to sleep, it does not affect elves).

 

An Arcane Aura is intended to be a unique effect based on a unique location that injects something of the weird or strange into the adventure and setting. The origin of every Arcane Aura need not be given to the player characters, or even necessarily developed by the Dungeon Master. These magical worlds have thousands, perhaps even millions, of years of lost history embedded within them, dominated by races and civilization incomprehensible to those that scour their ruins for gold and glory. The DM should allow his imagination to run free with Arcane Auras (indeed, with all aspects of setting and adventure design) and trust that the players will be suitably awed, terrified and/or impressed that the questions of “how?” and “why?” are moot, or at least satisfying in their unknowability. Certainly it is worthwhile to use an Arcane Aura as a plot point or a way to build the world in a knowable way, but the DM should be careful not to shackle themselves too much to the explainable.

 

With all that out of the way, here are some examples of Arcane Auras for use by the DM:

 

Ley Junction: Ley lines are the arteries that carry the power of magic through the world. Certainly, magic flows freely outside these ley lines, but its potent force is concentrated in the ley lines. Those with knowledge and means can discover the location of ley lines and sometimes build their towers and laboratories along them. True power is found where ley lines cross and meet, however. These ley junctions are rare, as most ley lines runs nearly parallel, but sometimes powerful magics can cause lines to bend and thousands of miles away they cross. In the most rare of instances, perhaps only at one location per world, three, four or even five ley lines cross at a single point. At these places, magical energy seethes and flows like water.

Scale: A ley line junction creates an empowered magic zone in an area 10^Power Level feet in diameter, centered on the point of junction or crossing.

Scope: Ley Junctions affect all magic within the area of effect.

Power: The power level of the ley junction is equal to the number of ley lines that cross. All ley junctions, by definition, consist of at least two crossing ley lines. To determine additional crossing ley lines at the junction, roll a d10 10. On a 1, the number of ley lines at the junction increases by 1 and the die is rolled again. For example, if the die is rolled and comes up 1, then rolled again resulting in another 1, followed by a 5, there are 4 ley lines crossing at the junction and the power level is 4.

Effect: Raw magical energy pulses at a ley junction, there for the taking of any arcane caster. The DC of all saving throws against spells cast within the radius of the ley junction is increased by the Power level of the junction. In addition, the Power level adds to any total damage or other effect roll (add it in just once, not per die). Finally, an arcane caster in the area gains a free spell slot equal in level to the Power of the junction while within. This slot is always available, but comes with a danger: any time a caster uses the slot gained from the ley line and rolls a 1 on an attack roll or a target rolls a 20 on a saving throw, the caster over channels magical energy from the ley junction and takes 1d10 arcane damage per power level and uses up all remaining spell slots. The caster may still use cantrips, if any, but gains no benefit from the ley junction. These effects end after a long rest.

 

Elemental Node: There are places in the world where the membrane between the Prime Material plane and the Elemental planes is thin. Magical energy of the elemental type leaks through the membrane and a small part of the Prime becomes very much like the elemental plane and elemental magic is empowered. Those arcanists that specialize in elemental magic often build bases of operation within arcane auras of this sort, as do creatures tied to the element in question (either of the Prime or the Elemental plane itself).

Scale: An Elemental Node has a radius equal to 100 feet times the Power level of the node.

Scope: The magical effects of the node only function for a single element (earth, air, fire, water) but its effects are conferred not only to spells of the specific type, but the special attacks of creatures with that type and weapons that deal elemental damage of that type.

Power: An elemental node has a power level of 1d4+1.

Effect: Any damaging effect or spell of the proper elemental type used within the node is increased by the Power level of the node. In addition, any creature that has resistance against element loses that resistance while within the area of the node. Immune creatures are reduced to having resistance. The saving throw DCs for all spells and abilities of the elemental type are increased by the node Power level. Creatures of the elemental type gain 5 x Power level temporary hit points while within the node and an increase to their Proficiency bonus equal to the node Power level. The area of effect of the node is often hostile to creatures not of the elemental type of the node. Every 10 minutes within the node, unless protected by some form of magic, such creatures must make a Constitution saving throw (DC 10+Power level) or gain a level of exhaustion.

 

Temporal Rift: This kind of arcane aura is almost always caused when great magical powers — gods, demons, or archmages of supreme power — battle in the mortal realm. Whatever other destruction their wrath causes the world, evidenced by shattered mountains and dried seas and deserts turned to glass, time itself is torn asunder. Those that wander into a temporal rift may never find their way out as they are caught in a loop of a small amount of time, doomed to repeat the same actions over and over without memory of the relative eons they have spent trapped within. From the outside, a temporal rift appears to be something of mirage, within it just the briefest glimpse of those trapped inside, so subtle and quick that the viewer can never be sure they saw anything at all. On rare occasion, an evil spellcaster or other creature finds the temporal rift and turns it into a trap for its enemies, even going so far as to build its entire fortress around the affected area.

Scale: A temporal Rift arcane aura is relatively small, just 5 feet in diameter per Power level.

Scope: Time only. Unlike other arcane auras, the Temporal Rift is very specific in effect.

Power Level: A Temporal Rift has a power level of 1-6. The higher the power level, the greater the event that spawned the Rift and the more apparent that events impact on the land for miles (1 per power level) around. At power level 6, the destruction is evident even thousands of years afterward.

Effect: Any living thing that enters the area of the Temporal Node is likely lost in a short time loop. the creature is allowed an Intelligence saving throw DC 12+Power level. On a successful save, the creature manages to pass through the rift and out again, completely losing the time it was within the Rift. To determine how long the creature was lost in the rift, roll 1d6: 1=1 round x Power level; 2= 1 minute x Power level; 3=1 hour x Power level;4=1 day x Power level;5=1 week x Power level; 6= 1 month x Power level. On a failed save, a creature is lost in the Temporal Rift forever, never to return to the normal time stream except through the use of a wish or divine intervention. Inside the Rift, the creature experiences a number of rounds equal to the Power level of the Rift, during which it may act freely. At the end of those rounds, the creature returns to the exact place and state they entered the Rift with no memory of any time passed within the Rift. Even death does not free the creature, as it just returns to its living state at the point it entered the rift once the appropriate number of rounds have passed. While within the rift, the creature is invisible and inaudible to those outside it and is considered to be on another plane of existence to determine what spells and other magical effects allow others to interact with those within the Rift.

 

Little Stories

For some months, I have been having trouble with Writer’s Block, especially when trying to write fiction. But here’s the thing: as soon as I decided to refocus this blog on 5th Edition D&D, I have written over 8,000 words — I know, that is not a lot compared to many of you, but compared to the 0,000 I was writing before, it sure is. A small portion of that has been my Guardians of the Galaxy review, but the majority has been writing game related articles. At first I was surprised,a nd then I was concerned: am I incapable of writing fiction? Have I exhausted my ability to create stories? Don’t get me wrong: I love game writing. I cut my professional writing teeth on game writing, for White Wolf Publishing’s Exalted and for Sword & Sorcery Studios’ Gamma World d20. But real life intervened and it has been a very long time since I have done any professional game writing. And, if I am being honest, I do not foresee a career in writing game material at $.04 per word.

 

Then, something occurred to me: the little articles I have been writing here for D&D 5E are stories. More specifically, they are made up of many little stories. I am not a game designer — they do math and play test things and generally make games work correctly. I am a game writer — I come up with some wacky stuff that makes for a fun experience around a table with a bunch of your friends. When I write about Fantastic Fountains, Vicious Monster Variants, or Pommel Stones of Power, what I am really doing to creating a handful of small stories in each of those articles and asking you, the reader and game player, to jump into that story. I could limit my Vicious Variants to a couple of sentences adjusting the monsters’ game statistics — after all, the stated goal is simply to provide more utility from those creatures while awaiting the arrival of the official D&D 5E Monster Manual — but instead each one gets a couple hundred words. Why? Because tabletop role playing games like D&D are themselves stories, series of linked tales that comprise one grand epic (which may or may not end with the “heroes” in the stomach of a hungry troll).

 

Realizing this has been helpful. I know that I am not stuck in the ghetto of game writing instead of writing actual stories. I am writing stories, and it is a short step from here back into the world of prose fiction. And, just as importantly, there’s nothing wrong with being here in the first place: game writing isn’t a lesser form, and even if the pay isn’t as good, well, no one is paying for my fiction at this point either. ;)

 

Thanks for reading, and if you are enjoying what I do, don’t forget to Share and Like.

Magical Monday: Pommel Stones of Power

Magic swords are perhaps the most iconic of items found by adventurers. Their presence in Dungeons and Dragons is based on some of the oldest myths of mankind. The sword, in all its various forms throughout human history, has been a symbol of power. In the world of myth, where power is granted (and sometimes revoked) by the gods, so too are swords. Unfortunately, magical swords have become rote in D&D. Forgotten are their names and the list of their deeds; all that seems to matter is the type of weapon, and the bonus conferred to the wielder.

 

Some years ago, I created a system by which to create one million magic swords, complete with names and histories.  I won’t repeat that here. Instead, this article looks at accoutrements to be added to an otherwise bland “+1 Sword” — specifically, in the form of pommel stones meant to be attached to the base of the sword handle. These magical gemstones confer special properties to the blade, but not simple numerical bonuses. They are intended to add flavor and utility.

 

Finding and Using Pommel Stones of Power

 

While it may be that the player characters find a magical sword complete with a powered pommel stone attached, I think it is more fun and interesting for characters to find the stones separately. In some cases, the stones might be found on existing swords that have lost their magic through destruction or dispelling. Pommel Stones of Power cannot be disenchanted, but must be attached to a functional magical blade in order to provide any benefit. This requires a craft check (DC 20) as well as an Int (Arcana) check (also DC 20). Failure on either means the craftsman failed to successfully link the Pommel Stone of Power to the magical sword. If either roll results in a natural die roll of 1, the sword is disenchanted during the process.

 

Once a Pommel Stone of Power is successfully attached to a magical sword, it’s benefits are conferred any time the sword is wielded (not simply carried). A Pommel Stone of Power may be attached to any one or two handed sword that is of +1 or higher magical enchantment.  The Dungeon Master is the final arbiter of what sort of weapon qualifies as a “sword.”

 

Example Pommel Stones of Power

 

Amber: After an amber Pommel Stone of Power is attached to a magical sword, the weapon has a unique property: on any successful critical hit, the target is not damage but instead is temporarily covered in a translucent orange glasslike material. The target is paralyzed and has damage (any) resistance  for the duration of the effect. Every round after the first allows the victim a Strength saving throw (DC 14) to break free. Three consecutive failed saves results in permanent encasement in amber (the character is effectively dead, but preserved).

 

Bloodstone: This red flecked green stone is polished to a sheen. Once it is attached to a magical sword, it absorbs the life’s blood of enemies killed by the sword. Each enemy killed by the sword adds 1 “blood point” to a pool accessible by the sword’s wielder. Each such point may be spent to add either +2 to hit or +2 to damage. More than one blood point may be spent on a single attack. The bloodstone holds a maximum of 4 blood points. The wielder must choose to spend one or more blood points at the time of making an attack, prior to the rolling of the dice. Every day the bloodstone goes without gaining a blood point creates a deficit in the bloodstone (effectively, a negative blood point) that must be filled before usable blood points are collected, to a maximum of 4.

 

Fire Opal: This orange, red and white stone seems to glimmer with an internal flame. When attached to a magical weapon, it confers upon the wielder resistance to both mundane and magical fire. In addition, the damage caused by the sword is considered magical fire for purposes of determining vulnerability and resistance or immunity.

 

Moonstone: Under the light of the moon (the new moon portion of the cycle does not count, nor does it work underground regardless of the cycle of the moon), a magical sword fitted with a moonstone Pommel Stone of Power confers advantage to all attacks by the wielder.

Magical Monday: Fantastic Fountains

Magical Monday is one of a few weekly Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition columns I plan to write, as both a way to build a good posting habit as well as explore ideas for the new D&D.  Every Monday — fingers crossed — I will be writinga  short article for 5th Edition centered around magic — spells, items, locations, its impact on society, and so on — with game rules included for using those magical elements. As we are still months away from a full release of the game, early posts like this one will be utilizing rules found in the Starter Set and the free Basic Rules PDF. With each major release (Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide) the scope of these articles will expand. Enjoy, and thanks for reading! Also, come back in a couple days for the first installment of Wicked Wednesday, my weekly installment of tricks, traps, monsters and other methods with which to torment player characters!

 

Fantastic Fountains

 

Magical fountains are a mainstay of what is now considered Old School gaming. The original Dungeons and Dragons game modules and imitators included all kinds of weird magical fountains into the underground labyrinths and lost cities. Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition is designed at least in part to embrace all modes of D&D play, including that old school vibe. Therefore, iconic magical fountains seems like a perfect place to start for Magical Mondays.

 

What is a Fantastic Fountain? At their most basic, fantastic fountains are actual fountains, including a basin and some sort of spout from which liquid flows. They are found in any adventure locale, sometimes integrated into the architecture (perhaps in the central square of a long abandoned and overgrown city of antiquity) and sometimes completely out of place (a beautiful marble cherub and pool in the depths of an underground, monster filled maze). No matter the form or the location, a fantastic fountain possesses strange and wondrous (and sometimes dangerous) qualities. The fluid that flows from its spout is no longer simple water — though it may appear innocuous enough — but is instead a powerful potion or strange brew from another world. In some cases, fantastic fountains were enchanted upon their original creation, blessed with powers for the benefit of any and all who could drink from their waters. But far more often, the fountains gained its power by accident — perhaps a great hero bathed in its waters upon her death and her blood empowered the cool water, or perhaps the malevolence of a vile necromancer’s lair leached into the water over the length of an age. Some fountains are actually conduits between worlds, the liquid within actually essence from some far off dimension, while still others tap into the primal magic of the world itself, the mystical waters representing the smallest drop of the true power of unfettered magic.

 

How to use a Fantastic Fountain. Because magical fountains are usually anchored to the adventure locations in which they are found, they generally do not count as “treasure.” Instead, they are just another weird element with which the player characters must contend, perhaps beneficial and perhaps treacherous. (It is possible, of course, for PCs to gain permanent use of a Fantastic Fountain if they take ownership of the site in which it is located, but that is beyond the scope of this article.) The characters will encounter the fountain, either use it or avoid it, and then move on, but may return. The more beneficial the fountain, the more likely the characters will come back to it or even choose it as a base of operations; the mare dangerous, the more likely they are to avoid it. It is best, then, to couple both beneficial and dangerous qualities of the fountain in order to make the choice to return to it one of debate between players and consequence for characters. Placing a powerful healing fountain in an area heavily patrolled by enemies not easily eliminated is one strategy. Another element to consider is how much use an individual fountain can provide. Some fountains are essentially limitless, their waters unending. Other fountains may have but a single use: only the first one to sip from it or throw a coin in and wish will gain the benefit or other effect. In these cases, clearly establishing that the fountain is fantastic with some general clues about its powers will help make the debate over not just whether to use it, but who gets to do so, much more lively. Between these two extremes are fountains with some limited number of uses, which may be known or unknown to the characters, that may or may not recharge after a period of time. It is generally a good idea to limit the more powerful fountains, but this is not a requirement, especially if the effects are temporary in nature.

 

Two Fantastic Fountains: Following are two examples of fantastic fountains for use in 5th Edition D&D games.

 

Spring of Renewal: Located deep in rugged hills infested with orcs, ogers and worse, the Spring of Renewal is a fountain created by a good and just deed. For centuries this wilderness has been a place where newly knighted paladins have come to test their mettle and fight the forces of darkness. Many earned their first battle scars here, while many more perished unequal to the challenge of their vows. Among those lost was a knight called Lady Morn, who abandoned her husband and children to become a questing knight after a righteous vision. She killed many beasts and fell warriors in the wilderness, but one day heard the cries of a traveler waylaid by orcs. She ran to the rescue, but the orcs were many and she barely overcame them and even then after the one she was trying to save had already fallen. When the battle was over Lady Morn saw that the victim of the orc attack was her husband, who had followed her to the wilderness to beseech her return to their family home. Lady Morn carried his corpse to a gently flowing spring and washed the blood and dirt from his body. She built a cairn over the spring and interred him there. That night, she wept for him and prayed to the powers she had chosen over her family to return him to life. At dawn, Lady Morn’s husband woke to find his wife a statue overlooking the bowl shaped cairn she had built for his grave. He returned home to raise their children and the tale of her sacrifice and the Spring of Renewal spread. Any character that comes and bathes at the Spring of Renewal (this takes approximately 1 hour) is affected as if having drunk a Potion of Vitality. An individual character can only gain the benefit of the Spring once per day but there is no limit to the number of uses total per day the Spring has. Only up to four individuals can bathe in the Spring at a time. The Spring of Renewal can be located in any wilderness adventure area and a DC 15 Intelligence(Religion) check reveals its history and powers.

 

Font of Shadows: In eons past, when slithering things ruled and their foul gods crawled the earth, shadows cloaked the world. It was an age of darkness and cold and few good things walked in the twilight. Eventually, a spark broke through the gloom and a long war between umbral power and luminescence took place. In the end the slithering masters were destroyed and their gods burrowed deep to escape the light, going into hibernation far below light of the sun. But even as they were forgotten and the younger races grew to power in the light, they slumbered and did not perish. When those races learned that the deep earth held treasure — gold and jewels for the taking with just a few lashes of the whip — they began to dig. Inevitably, in their greed, they dug too deep and they followed their veins of ore into the very bodies of those sleeping elder gods.Most perished. Some were consumed. But one resisted the horror just enough to feed upon its power. Already a wicked taskmaster, the one known as the Night’s Gaoler converted the mine into a cathedral dedicated to evil and darkness. The shadow power that seeped from the dead god’s wound transformed slaves into twisted minions and the Night Gaoler emerged on moonless nights to capture victims for foul rights and prisoners to torment. Over the place where the elder god bled gloom, he built the Font of Shadows, distilling the darkness into a black, viscous liquid. One drop would turn any mortal into a thing of night under the Night Gaoler’s command. Eventually, the depredations of the Night Gaoler reached the ears of the good and valiant. War between light and dark waged again, if in miniature, and once again light prevailed. They forces of light sealed the dark place and destroyed all knowledge of its existence — or so they thought. The Night Gaoler had built many exits and some still stood open so that the degenerate spawn of his slave things could yet hunt the dark of moonless nights centuries later. The Font of Shadows is located in any deep dungeon populated by horrors from beneath the earth. It appears as a twisted obelisk with a basin full of black liquid at the base. Anyone who tastes the liquid must make a DC 18 Con saving throw or die instantly. If the taster succeeds, she must make a DC 19 Int save. If she fails, she falls into a coma for 3 days before rising as a Nothic. If during that time the victim is brought into the full light of the sun, she is granted a second second DC 18 Int save. Failure this time grants a merciful death while success cures the condition. Success on the original DC 18 Int save grants permanent dark vision (double the range of the darkvision if the imbiber already possesses the ability).