Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Djinni's Tower

Building on the previous post, here are a map and area descriptions for the djinni's tower, along with suggestions for using that location and character in space fantasy campaigns.


The Tower
This structure, also made from sandstone blocks, rises above the surrounding orchards.

1. Entry
Broad double doors here (hardness 5 and 20 hit points; DC 25 to force or DC 30 to open) provide access to the ground floor, which is little more than an open space with the twenty-five-foot ceiling supported by thick stone columns. Tall, narrow windows (six inches wide) allow light into here.

2. Lightwell and Lift
In the middle of the tower is an open space through which light descends all the way from the skylight in the ceiling. There is also a lift, a wooden platform suspended by eight thick chains from a mechanism that is located on the top floor.

3. Guest Quarters
Each of these rooms is furnished with a washstand, a desk and chair, a wardrobe and a hammock. There is an additional set of hooks from which a second hammock can also be strung, above the first one.

4. Library
Three walls of this room are lined with shelves; they, in turn, are filled with all manner of books, scrolls, tablets, works of art and other items. There are also two round tables, each surrounded by four chairs, at which visitors can peruse texts. Note that this room is also a good opportunity for the GM to introduce new plot elements, such as a piece from an ancient map, a statue with a curious inscription, and the like.

5. Music Room
Numerous cushions are arranged about the floor of this room, providing places for the performers and their audience to seat themselves. If needed, servants can bring low tables for holding instruments, as well as trays with beverages and other refreshments.

6. Dining Room
A long, low table, surrounded by seating cushions, fills the majority of this room. Otherwise it is mostly open, leaving space for servants to bring around food and drinks. There are two storage areas, one on each side, in which are kept such items as linens, extra candles, more cushions and the like.

7. Servants' Quarters
Each of the four Janni employed by Khalid is quartered in one of these rooms; they are furnished in much the same manner as the guest rooms (Areas 3, above).

8. Kitchen
A large stone hearth fills one side of this room; there also two broad tables for preparing food. Various tools, pots and pans, spices and the like hang from the walls. What is more, doors lead to two storage rooms, one for dry goods and one for perishables that is kept cold through arcane magic.

9. Master Bedroom
Khalid's own sleeping quarters are furnished with a hammock, desk and chair, wardrobe and trunk—all sized, of course, for a large creature. The wardrobe contains spare clothing items, while the trunk and desk can be a source for all manner of interesting texts and items (at the GM's discretion). Note, however, that those who might wish to take things without permission must also watch out for the invisible stalker that is the djinni's bodyguard. Additionally, in the event of an attack on the tower, there is a trapdoor that can be raised to seal the lightwell and barred from within (hardness 5 and 15 hit points; DC 18 to break or 25 to open).

10. Roof
At the top of the lightwell stands the mechanism for the tower's lift. It consists of four heavy beams that form an A-shaped structure, from which the basket is suspended on its chain; there is a large crank for raising and lowering it. Four unseen servants that have been made permanent operate the device. Finally, the rooftop is surrounded by an open railing and provides an excellent view of the sky island's grounds.

Khalid the Djinni: Refer to page 139 in the Bestiary for details.

Jann: Refer to page 141 in the Bestiary for details.

Dragonnes: Refer to page 104 in Bestiary 3 for details.

Invisible Stalker: Refer to page 181 in the Bestiary for details.

Using the Djinni of Freya in an Aetherial Adventures Campaign
There are plenty of ways that could become involved in the events of a space fantasy RPG campaign; presented here are a few of the possibilities.
  • A major source of income for visitors to Frey is crystal mining on the surface of the planet. While Khalid is not involved in this business himself, he does keep an eye on those who are—including a ship crewed by hags and their servants.
  • The djinni does like to trade in fine incense and tobacco, and relishes visitors who are performers or storytellers.
  • Indeed, Khalid is most intrigued by the theoretical “music of the spheres,” a notion some scholars have that the various heavenly body is the Sol System have an inaudible tune, and that understanding it might grant power to reshape those bodies.
  • The djinni has also learned of an Efreeti plot to corrupt the faithful worshipers of Sol; it seems that an efreeti has introduced the heretical idea that fire is a manifestation of Sol's power, and a weapon that should be used against enemies of the deity. Just how much this heresy has spread among them is unclear, however.
  • Angered by the djinni's meddling, certain of the efreeti's followers seek to acquire any devices that would let them control Khalid, such as a ring of djinni calling.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sky Islands of the Djinn on Freya

Because of the unusually dense atmosphere on the planet Freya, it's possible for lightweight structures to float in the air. For this reason, certain enterprising djinn have crafted sky islands on which to live. One example of such is this location, the home of Khalid al-Nasr—known to some of the locals as “Jibal al-Nasr,” or “Mountain of the Hawk.” It consists of a large body of crystal, with three docking platforms extending off from it. In addition to a broad forested grove, which boasts various fruit trees and contains the island's elemental obelisk, there are a long, low building for stables and storage, and the djinni's tower. 

Please refer to the appropriate maps for the following location descriptions. 

Not far from the docking platforms is this two-story stone structure. The bottom half is filled with barrels, crates and other items; a row of pillars supports the ceiling, twenty feet high. The second story is laid out in a similar manner, but is filled with nests for the dragonnes that patrol the skies around the sky island. Both floors have sets of double doors on either end. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Flags Post and Compilation PDF

This post finishes up another PDF compilation, to which I link below. At the same time, it presents two flags, and provides suggestions for using flags in a ship-based RPG campaign.

Aetherial Adventures 8


An important element of interaction between vessels—be it at sea or in the aether—is how they communicate with flags that they carry. In addition to drawing up deck plans for their vessels, it behooves players to design the emblem under which they sail. What is more, here are two more flags for organizations in the Sol Space campaign setting.

The Dwarven Mining Guild
This flag includes the crossed pick and shovel, the tools of the dwarves' trade, along with
their organization's initials. The darker grey represents the stone from which they
claim valuable ore, while the lighter color represents the refined metals.

The Sol Society
Central to this ensign is, of course, the sun. It sits amdist a bright blue background,
which represents the light of hope that comes from worshiping Sol.

Using Flags in a Ship-Based RPG Campaign
The flags that ships carry can be used in all sorts of ways during a ship-based campaign; a few of the possibilities are listed below.
  • Since flags provide—ostensibly, at least—confirmation of a ship's loyalty, it should come as no surprise that ne'er-do-wells often carried flags from many different countries and organizations, in order to deceive possible foes.
  • In battle, an important objective for soldiers is to fight their way aboard an enemy vessel, strike its colors, and then hoist their own.
  • Pirates were particularly creative when it comes to designing flags; many incorporate images of death, of course, but others included elements that identified and thus threatened specific locations considered to be enemies.
  • Certain solid-color flags conveyed important messages. For example: white implies surrender, or good intentions for parley; yellow identifies a vessel that is infected with disease; red indicates that the officers and crew will neither ask for nor give quarter in battle.

Friday, August 4, 2017

RPGaDAY 2017 Posts

I apologize for the cross-posting, but I'll share my answers to these questions on all three of my current blogs.

Q1: What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

A1: Right now I wish that I was playing more of the Star Wars RPGs from Fantasy Flight Games, especially Age of Rebellion. Right now I really only have time for one weekly campaign, however, and so something more familiar to my players has taken priority. We'll see how the 2016-17 school year develops, though.

Q2: What is an RPG you would like to see published?

A2: I would love to see a space fantasy setting for Pathfinder that's in the vein of the old Spelljammer setting for D&D. The new Starfinder setting is interesting, but I'd rather not add so much technology to a fantasy RPG.

Q3: How do you find out about new RPGs?

A3: I regularly visit sites such as ENWorld and for my general RPG news, as well as the message boards for Paizo Publishing and Fantasy Flight Games when I'm looking for info about their lines.

Q4: Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?

A4: The clear winner here is Pathfinder, since I'm playing in a monthly campaign (the Skull & Shackles adventure path) with some college buddies an I just finished up a weekly campaign (a more traditional fantasy campaign loosely set on the Freeport setting's Continent).

Q5: Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

A5: For me, this is an easy one; the cover for The Concordance of Arcane Space has always been a favorite, capturing the essence of the Spelljammer space fantasy setting for 2nd Edition AD&D

 Q6: You can game every day for a week. Describe what you'd do!

A6: My gut reaction here is to say that I'd gather a group of players, create some OD&D characters, and finish Keep on the Borderlands once and for all. That's something we tried to do a number of times when I was younger—including an epic effort on a snow day in college—but for which we never succeeded.

A more serious answer is to say that I'd run a series using one of the rulebooks that currently sits idle on my shelf. This could include Wonderland No More using the Save Worlds rules, or perhaps Pirates of the Spanish Main using the same. 
 Q7: What was your most impactful RPG session?

A7: When it comes to sessions in which I've played, the most impactful is probably a weekend-long, epic campaign finale to a Spelljammer campaign that my brother ran. He and I, along with two buddies, had been playing in that campaign for more than a year. For the finale, my aunt took us all out to the family cabin, where Nick ran the module Under the Dark Fist. We played for much of Friday night before going to bed, and then for as much of Saturday as we could, before finishing things on Sunday. In addition to being the action-packed conclusion to that campaign, it was the first taste that I had of really epic adventuring—our characters save the Known Galaxy from the Vodyanoi threat, and then were granted demi-god status because of what we'd done. That extended session, to me, set the bar for what RPG campaign finales could, and should, be.

Q8: What is a good RPG to play for session of 2 hours or less?

A8: For me, the first answer that comes to mind is the d6-based Star Wars RPG from West End Games. Although it's been out of print for almost twenty years now, it still strikes me as an excellent rules-light system that really captures the feel of the setting that it's supposed to emulate. While other games can be run in such a way that the rules seem to be “invisible,” that one, to me, still seems like the best.

Q9: What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

A9: This, to me, seems like a good chance to try out something unusual, or something that's not so well suited to extended campaign play. (Pathfinder or D&D and Star Wars strike me as really well suited to long campaigns, by the way.) I've been wanting to use Savage Worlds for a short series inspired by Ash vs. Evil Dead, for example, or even something based on RoboCop. Those, in my mind, would make for good ten-game series: ones that have a higher possibility of PC fatality. For that reason any incarnation of Call of Cthulhu also comes to mind, even though I don't have much experience with it.

 Q10: Where do you go for RPG reviews?

A10: As mentioned above, I spend a good deal of time on ENWorld and If those don't provide what I want, then I just Google “Title of RPG Review.”

Q11: Which “dead game” would you like to see reborn?

A11: This is an easy one: the D6 version of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game.

 Q12: Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

A12: I'll give a shoutout here to the old Al-Qadim campaign setting. The art wasn't fancy, but TSR did a nice job of keeping one artist—Karl Waller—for the whole run of the product line. This established a really consistent feel, and I liked it.

Q13: Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

A13: Running sessions at conventions and for the RPGA had a big impact on how I plan for and run sessions. Much of that comes from the fact that I needed to tell a complete and satisfying story in a four-hour time period, and one in which all of the characters (and thus players) play an active part. That also pushed me to work on my organization and pacing.

Q14: Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

A14: This is a hard one. On the one hand, I think games like Pathfinder and D&D work really well because the level-based system of character advancement makes for really satisfying development. Eventually, however, characters become so powerful that it's hard to challenge them without having character death become all too common.

 Q15: Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

A15: Savage Worlds stands out for this one because of the ease of adaptability for it, and because its “Fast, Furious and Fun” nature makes it a good fit for lots of cinematic genres. I've written some supplements for using it in the Aliens universe, and have been kicking around ideas for Ash vs. Evil Dead and RoboCop, too.

Q16: What RPG do you enjoy using as is?

A16: For me, Pathfinder is the one that just works well in the setting for which it is intended. While the rules become a little cumbersome and slow at really high levels, most campaigns don't run that long.

Q17: Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

A17: That award probably goes to the Masterbook system version of The Adventures of Indiana Jones.

Q18: Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

A18: This one is a toss-up between the various incarnations of D&D and Pathfinder, or to the range of Star Wars RPGs. When it comes to Star Wars, I can recall half a dozen D6-System SW campaigns, along with a few using the d20 System (including lots of activity for the Living Force campaign), one for Saga Edition (the Dawn of Defiance series) and a couple for the new system from Fantasy Flight Games. On the other hand, it feels like I've run or played in a D&D/Pathfinder campaign just about every year for the past quarter century: four in the Freeport setting; a massive Spelljammer epic; various hodgepodges of Dungeon Magazine scenarios in junior high and high school; one based on Against the Giants using 3rd edition; two set in ancient Greece; one in Lankhmar; one that ran to 20th level and ended with the Coliseum Morpheuon super-module; and my current one, playing in the Skull & Shackles adventure path. Additionally, I've run most of those systems and editions at conventions, game days and the like. Let's call it a draw at a dozen of each.

Q19: Which RPG features the best writing?

A19: I really enjoyed reading the 1st Edition of the Star Wars RPG from West End Games because the authors included a good deal of humor in their explanations of how the rules worked.

 Q20: What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

A20: For pure efficacy, Amazon is probably the best way to find and order them. Even so, I still like to hit the used book stores to peruse the shelves; there's more of a sense of adventure to it.

Q21: What RPG does the most with the least words?

A21: For this one I'll go with the Mini-Six version of the old D6 System, updated by AntiPaladin Games using material from West End Games. The whole booklet is only some twenty pages long, but provides a complete RPG.

Q22: Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

A22: My answer for this is the same as for previous ones: either Pathfinder or the D6-System Star Wars.

Q23: Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

A23: Right now, any full-color RPG is in contention. My collection is not the most diverse, so there are probably a lot of them with really pretty aesthetics of which I'm not aware. Even so, I do recall that the One Ring RPG looked really nice.

Q24: Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

A24: While I don't buy as many PDF products as I used to, one publisher stands out here: Rite Publishing. I know that they have lots of material with normal prices, but their Pathways e-zine has consistently provided quality content for more than sixty issues.

Q25: What is the best way to thank your GM?

A25: For me, having players tell stories from sessions is the highest form of praise. While not every session is memorable—indeed, I think I have forgotten the majority of them—it's the ones that players tell again and again that make me feel like I've done good work.

Q26: Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

A26: I'll go with the various Star Wars RPGs on this one, since they've helped explore and expand that Galaxy Far, Far Away.

 Q27: What are your essential tools for good gaming?

A27: In addition to books, minis, maps and dice, I always have note cards for keeping the initiative order and paper for taking notes. Throw in some poker chips, too, if I'm running Savage Worlds.

Q28: What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

A28: I'm not sure about this one, since people will quote from many different sources. When we're playing a Star Wars RPG it's usually the clear winner, but beyond that I don't know.

Q29: What has been the best-run Kickstarter you have backed?

A29: Far and away, the Kickstarter for the Sixth Gun RPG went the most smoothly; the book was released on time and is beautiful. Beyond that, one was late, I'm still waiting on one, and one just disappeared. I'll give a shoutout, though, for Buccaneer: Come Hell and High Water and Harlem Unbound, both of which are currently in progress.

Q30: What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

A30: I would love to see a mashup of games with various setting and rules, all linked together using a time-traveling and world-spanning plot via Army of Darkness.

Q31: What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

A31: At the risk of being self-serving, I'm excited to run a couple of scenarios at Con of the North in February, 2018, using the Aetherial Adventures material that I've been writing for this blog. I think it's going to be a lot of fun.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Strange Meteorites from Beyond the Sol System

It's relatively common knowledge that the surface of the planet Wodan is pockmarked with creaters caused by meteorite impacts. What not so many know is that some of those meteorites come from beyond the Sol System, and in fact originate in the depths of space between distant stars. What is more, some of those meteorites contain an unusual greenish, liquid metal, one that is known to cause deformities and mutations among those who are exposed to it.

To determine a random deformity, roll 1d12 and consult the following list; refer to pages 180-1 of Bestiary 5 for details.

1. Blind
2. Deaf
3. Fragile
4. Fractured Mind
5. Lame
6. Light Blindness
7. Mindless
8. Misshapen
9. Poor Ability
10. Spasms
11. Useless Arm
12. Vulnerability

To determine a random deformity, roll 1d20 and consult the following list; refer to page 181 of Bestiary 5 for details.

1. Armored
2. Bulbous Eyes
3. Celerity
4. Echolocation
5. Extra Arm
6. Fast Healing
7. Feral
8. Gills
9. Increased Speed
10. Leaping
11. Mental Armor
12. Rage
13. Resistance
14. Rugged
15. Sealed Mind
16. Slam
17. Spell-Like Ability
18. Stench
19. Telepathy
20. Wings

Little is known about the origin of these meteorites. Some claim that they are crafted by unknown but bizarre entities—possibly the goddess Lamashtu, the Void itself, or even some unholy union of those two powers—and then sent drifting toward Sol and its planets. According to that theory, the rocks are a means of corrupting and perverting those worlds and their inhabitants. Others postulate that there must be some area of powerful, weird energy in which they originate, but do not know just what sets them into motion through the aether. Finally, at least one scholar has theorized that they might be produced by a sentient nebula, one that somehow became subject to madness.

Using the Strange Meteorites in an Aetherial Adventures Campaign
There are plenty of ways that a GM can work these unusual objects into a space fantasy RPG campaign; presented here are a few of the possibilities.
  • As mentioned previously, the fire giants of Wodan are known to seek out craters on that world in which these have impacted and then mine them for their ore; they then use them for magical experiments, the purpose of which is not entirely clear.
  • When a meteorite lands in the water near a coastal village, creatures and even people begin to develop mutations; local authorities look for adventures to investigate.
  • One mutant that develops the Telepathy mutation becomes highly valuable as a spy, and its ally or master could use it to steal information from unsuspecting victims. Just what those secrets are, of course, and how one can exploit them, provides nearly limitless opportunities for intrigue and adventure.
  • A ruthless military leader might try to harness the power of mutation for improving soldiers' combat abilities. While some, such as the Disciples of the Destroyer, might embrace such an ordeal, most others would resent it.
  • Indeed, the subjects of those experiments might even turn on their commanders and look for a crew with an aethership who can help them escape.
  • The PCs could encounter a ship that collided with one of these asteroids and must deal with the crew and passengers who have been exposed to its weird mutations.
  • In the aftermath of such an incident, the powers that be might call on the PCs to help find a cure for the mutations; that could entail a visit to the fire giants of Wodan, or even an expedition to the region of space from which they come.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Fire Giants of Wodan, Part 2

Here's the lower level of the fire giants' stronghold.


 14. Watchtower
From the stronghold's ground level, the spiral staircase leads up through the natural rock and into a tower that rises fifty feet above the surrounding cliff face. At the top it is open to the sky overhead, except for a waist-high (for fire giants) railing along the outside. From here, the two giants normally stationed here watch the surrounding terrain for potential enemies and other developments. What is more, four ballistae are located here in the event that the giants need to stage a defense.

15. Hallway
A broad hallway leads from the base of the staircase to the other rooms on the stronghold's lower level.

16. Troll Warren
The door to this chamber is barred by a locked iron gate (hardness 10 and 60 hit pints; DC 25 to force or DC 30 to open). It is here that the trolls who serve the fire giants in mining activities and other labor. There are piles of straw for their beds, among which one can find odds and ends that they've kept as trophies or tools.

17. Hell Hound Pen
This room is laid out in much the same way as the troll warren, except that it is slightly cleaner. The hell hounds are kept here.

18. Torture Chamber
Two broad tables, with shackles mounted in their corners, occupy the middle of this room. There are shelves on the inside walls, too, filled with various unpleasant implements. On the inside wall there are four cells, each built for three prisoners and sealed with doors similar to those in the troll warren and hell hound pen. A single fire giant can usually be found here, preparing for the next session.

19. Workshop
One corner of this room is filled by a large furnace, used for heating liquids as well as metal items. There are barrels of fuel to one side of it, and a cask of water to the other. In the middle sits a broad work table, and shelves containing esoteric ingredients, tools and the like line two of the walls. The fire giant oracle and/or an assistant can often be found here, along with the tophet that serves as an unsleeping guardian.

20. King and Queen's Bedroom
A huge bed dominates the center of this room; large wardrobes and storage trunks stand against the walls to either side of it. This is, of course, where the fire giant oracle and magmablade take their rest. As such, the wardrobes and trunks contain many of their personal items, including extra sets of clothing along with any treasure items that the giants don't generally carry on their persons. Note, however that the trunks are sealed with good-quality locks (DC 30 to open and DC 25 to break).

21. Meditation Chamber
This rather Spartan room contains only a low table with an incense burner and writing materials, and a seating cushion. It is here that the oracle performs her rituals and other activities.

22. Trophy Room
Tapestries depicting the glories of the magmablade's deeds hang along the walls of this chamber. Additionally, four suits of armor taken from fallen foes are arranged on stands. At the GM's discretion, one or more of these could even be magical—something that is too small for the magmablade to wear, but suitable for the PCs. Additionally, a DC 25 Perception check reveals the secret door that provides access to the escape tunnel (below).

23. Escape Tunnel
This narrow passage, some ten feet wide and fifteen feet tall, provides a means of escape in the event of trouble that's too much for the fire giants to handle. It leads to an exit in the surrounding hillside.

Stronghold Inhabitants
Detailed here are references for those who inhabit the stronghold.

Fire Giants: Refer to page 148 in the Bestiary for details.

Fire Giant Strongarms: Refer to page 58 in the Monster Codex for details.

Ettins: Refer to page 130 in the Bestiary for details.

Hell Hounds: Refer to page 173 in the Bestiary for details.

Trolls: Refer to page 268 in the Bestiary for details. Note, too, that some of these trolls have suffered deformities and mutations as per pages 180-1 in Bestiary 5.

Fire Giant Doombringer: Refer to page 61 in the Monster Codex for details.

Fire Giant Magmablade: Refer to page 60 in the Monster Codex for details.

Tophet: Refer to page 271 in Bestiary 3 for details.

Using the Fire Giants of Wodan in an Aetherial Adventures Campaign
There are plenty of ways that the PCs could interact with these fire giants during a space fantasy RPG campaign; presented here are a few of the possibilities.
  • Given the inherent power of the fire giants, it goes almost without saying that those who deal with them should rely on diplomacy and skulduggery rather than outright use of force.
  • The lack of natural resources on Wodan means that PCs can find a market for foodstuffs and similar goods here, in exchange for precious ores, worked metal goods and the like.
  • The PCs might be recruited to rescue a prisoner who is being held by the fire giants; whether or not that imprisonment is deserved, of course, is open to debate.
  • It is rumored that the fire giants receive regular efreeti visitors; although the exact nature of their mutual business is unknown, some claim that they've had discussions about the church of Sol on Homeworld.
  • Some of the meteorites that strike the surface of Wodan are ones that originate beyond the Sol System; the fire giants use their trolls to mine those impact craters. Because of the deformities and mutations caused by exposure to that metal, it's possible that one or more of the trolls could approach the PCs seeking to escape from that dangerous job.
  • Finally, other organizations could be interested in studying and even exploiting those mutative properties—especially if and when they are faced with a major threat of some kind.