2018-06-24

Haunts: An Abandoned Laboratory



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Haunts Of An Abandoned Laboratory
All haunts are mind-affecting fear effects, although their effects might include tangible results that will affect creatures immune to fear or mind-affecting effects.

Sorting Door CR 1
The door to the laboratory has an elaborate handle with an outline of the master's mark.
XP 400
LE persistent Haunt (a door handle)
Caster Level 1st
Notice Perception DC 15 (to notice an outline of the mark on the handle)
hp 4; Trigger touch; Weakness erase disables the haunt for 1 hour; Reset 1 minute
Effects Anyone touching the handle receives arcane mark of the owner of the laboratory. The mark lasts for a day marking them as property of the master and subjects to further experiments.
Destruction the master of the laboratory or someone appearing to be the master (Disguise DC 20) has to cast erase on the handle.

Sorting door contain vestige of a servant who sorted the newly acquired subjects for the master.

The Blinded Subject CR 2
A desperate whisper comes from behind the locked door to a cell.
XP 600
CE Haunt (a door to a 10-ft. cell)
Caster Level 2nd
Notice automatic (unintelligible whispers from behind the door, weak light visible through the peephole)
hp 4; Trigger looking through a peephole inside the cell; Reset 1 day
Effects The first person trying to peep inside the cell via the peephole sees an image of a needles rushing toward their eyes and is subject to blindness spell (DC 13). Creature that listens to the whispers is instead affected by deafness (DC 13).
Destruction A blind person has to sit in the cell for a day and then have their sight restored.

The cell was inhabited by a subject who was blinded in an experiment by the master of the laboratory.

The Crippled Assistant CR 3
A complex alchemical laboratory occupies this room, with many bottles, alembics, and ovens interconnected by a tangle of pipes coming in and out of the walls.
XP 800
CE Haunt (an immobile alchemical laboratory occupying 20-ft. room)
Caster Level 3rd
Notice Perception DC 25 (fluids start to boil and flow through the pipes)
hp 6; Trigger examining the laboratory; Reset 1 hour
Effects Sifting through the lab exposes the searcher to the ectoplasmic fluids that bestow –2 penalty to saving throws for 3 days on a failed Will saving throw (DC 13), as per disfiguring touch spell.
Destruction The laboratory has to be disassembled, cleaned with holy water, and reassembled by a skill alchemist taking extra steps to ensure the installation safety.

The master's assistant was crippled during a risky alchemical experiment here.

Never Split The Group CR 5
A large yard with numerous doors leading to different parts of the laboratory.
XP 1,600
CN Haunt (a 50-ft. × 50-ft. yard with numerous doors)
Caster Level 5th
Notice automatic (the doors start to shake and rumble)
hp 10; Trigger the yard contains more than three creatures for more than 1 minute; Weakness does not affect creatures hidden from undeadReset 1 day
Effects All the doors open, all the creatures in the yard vanish affected by mass invisibility for 5 minutes or until they attack someone (Will save against DC 20 negates the effect), and the door close loudly. As usual, the affected creatures can't see each other, making the scene look like if their companions where pulled into the doors.
Destruction All the doors at the yard have to be nailed shut using splinters of metal from chains and manacles that were used to bind the test subjects.

At this yard, the master and his minions split their test subjects sending them to be held or processed in the various parts of the laboratory.

2018-06-17

Short Story: Insertion


25 hours. The planet shines in the distance, cut out of the surrounding void, stains of white clouds over dirt marble. The ocular implant projects a map of the surrounding debris and drop pods, all falling toward the target along carefully planned trajectories. The big number just dropped below ninety thousands. Ninety double keys, ninety key-es. Fifteen thousands behind us, the big boom of the the dropship, now almost invisible, the gasses move faster than the debris, so they already dispersed to negligible densities. Our combat fleet backed off hours ago, deterred by damage that looked worse than it actually was. Smoke and mirrors, well, gases and mirrors, actually. The defenders hadn't sent orbital kill vehicles to end us, so it worked. The debris is small enough to burn in atmospheric entry, and too fast to stay in the orbit so they shouldn't bother shooting it down. Not like we can do much about it, twenty five hundred key-gee bolids with enough reaction mass to make the final braking before hitting the planet too hard to survive. Evasive maneuvers are not part of the plan.

23 hours. It's easy to space out while flying through the void at one kilometer per second when your brain is filled with synthetic neurotransmitters. No fear. No anxiety. No PTSD afterwards. Just enough care to avoid doing something stupid. No wonder once a while one of us gets inconsequentially philosophical during sub-lunar insertion. You can, you should actually, switch to sleep for at least a part of the flight but there will be time for that later. What are the alternatives with absolute radio silence? Play a game? Read a book? Dictate a book? Green Wife is actually writing xenobiological article about mating behavior of some toad-fungus or other shit. Black Boomer entertains himself modeling kinetic kill impact craters over the maps of our previous drops, to see how much could we screw the things if the insertion went awry. He often claims we would change things more failing, than we are succeeding. It would require us to fly much faster than we actually do—a big screw up in the early deployment phase could do that, but it's unlikely. It's his pass-time during the insertion, though. Let him have his fun.

20 hoursBoth of the local moons are going through a conjunction with a lovely nebula in the background. Of course it required a bit of coloring by the visual system, it would not look half that impressive to a naked eye. A cloud of hot stellar gases and dust, maybe a dwarf galaxy. Of course we are probably the only people in the universe to see it that way. From the planet the angle would be quite different.

19 hours. The debris and the pods form entrancing patterns on the tactical AR overlay. Running them backwards at great speeds show our dropship reassembling itself in the nothingness. A new batch of synthetic neurotransmitters is released by the metabolic editors to balance the effects of space hypnosis and avoid phasing out too much.

18 hoursThe plan is a variation around standard drop. We come in with drop ships and assault fleet big enough to give a decent fight, but not big enough for outright win. They intercept us. The dance of dodging and firing starts. We let them hit us a few times, let them get confident, but not without taking out some of their defenses. We blow the dropship during a maneuver, sending debris and pods toward the planet. Our fleet draws away and we fall down to the planet to disable their key infrastructure. Assuming enough of the company survives the flight to remain operational. The usual loses are between zero to four, due to orbital trash, mostly. We lost Blue Blue on the last drop. Mild sadness but no sorrow. There are synths for that.

15 hours. Our company is composed of a hundred and twenty seven folks. We operate below nominal strength of a hundred and fifty. Loses and transfers. A bunch of humans augmented with gene-adjustments, implants, and metabolic mods, stuffed into advanced smart combat armors, a mixed techno-organic filling for each drop pod. A rather unpleasant surprise, unless we get detected too early. Or if the enemy has, contrary to our intelligence reports, powered armors comparable to ours. We can tear through armored regiment generation behind us.

13 hours. The sweet spot. The universe is behind me. A world in front me. Companions around me. So close, and yet so far, beyond reach, beyond help. If anything goes wrong, each of us is on our own. Magnitude of universe humbles us, and yet at the moment you feel being one with the vastness of space. This moment could last forever...

12 hours. I think I'll go to sleep now. It's easy with all that technology inside making your body doing exactly what you want. No wait. Just an internal switch — sleeping now.

2 hours. Metabolic editors make awakening easy. No drowsiness, no disorientation. Only smooth passage from a dreamless lack of awareness to full cognition. Landing getting closer.

1 hour. The worst part incoming. Trash is the thickest in the lowest orbits. If we are going to lose someone, it will be in the last half an hour, maybe last ten minutes before braking. We can't really do anything about that without revealing ourselves in turning into sitting ducks. We haven't lost anyone yet. What will be will be.

10 minutes. Thermosphere. Pods open their back to extend cooling filaments. Soon it will get hot here. Near orbit is surprisingly clear. Little use of sats on their part? No orbital kill vehicles? No complaints from us for that.

1 minute. Outer layer burned away nicely. The pods open and fire braking torches. Sixty seconds of two gees of deceleration. If they paid attention to the debris, they see us now.

10 seconds. Slow fall. Light forest beneath us, blue-green sky above. The mountains across the horizon. Target arcology to the north-north-west.

T-Zero. The last layer of the pod opens. The comm silence ends, the data flow between units, the AR's update with the tactical information. The wait ended. Time to fight.

2018-06-10

Fantasy Races: Faerzon Andal

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Fantasy Races: Faerzon Andal

Born of eldritch tears and fey blood, faerzon andal consider themselves aristocracy of the Otherworlds, dwelling where fey world touches mortal realms.

Faerzon andal are cold in their demeanor most of the time, maintaining distanced and blase dignity of an ageless aristocrat, but can occasional show great passion when roused by extreme anger, insult, lust, or desire for vengeance. They are used to living in luxuries provided by their numerous servants, but at the same time they have less base needs, withstanding natural cold and heat with ease. They keep to themselves in their timeless realms but they occasionally fall for a mortal paramour. They profess loyalty to mythical sovereigns of their race, but scheme among themselves vying for position, favors, and fancy titles.

Physical Description: Faerzon andal are anthropomorphic in shape, though taller than humans, lithe and beautiful, often described as elf-like, with horns of various shapes adorning their brows — some faerzon andal have curled ram-like horns, others have longer horns like a deer's, or small thick stubs resembling calf ones. Despite their threatening appearance, faerzon horns are usually too soft and delicate to be used as a natural weapon. Their legs are animalistic too, resembling legs of deer, goat, or other hoofed animals, covered with a delicate fur and ending in actual hoof. Their skin varies in color, ranging from pale ivory, through various shades of tan, into mahogany and deep browns. Their hair are usually raven-black, green-black, various shades of red, or silvery, and their eyes are emerald, sapphire, amber, or amethyst. Some males may grow goatees, though their beards never extend to checks.

While faerzon andal horns are too delicate to be used as weapons, they also regrow easily, often being used by faerzon to fashion trinkets of affection, magic items, or to carve them into seeds. Another notable thing is that faerzon horns can go through significant changes across their lives, altering their shape while regrowing or going through significant change of status or outlook.

When faerzon andal are close to death, their flesh hardens starting to resemble ivory, hardwood, or soft stone, with corpses of deceased and those who went into endless sleep after passing their allotted lifetime of five centuries turning into statues, slowly weathered by time for centuries before they erode into dust.

Society: Faerzon andal consider themselves fey gentry, and live as such in realms where they play roles of aristocracy attended by their own stunted spawn and lesser fey. Each faerzon andal realm is headed by a single faerzon sovereign, though their actual participation in government varies — some sovereigns are despotic tyrants managing every aspect of life in their dominion, others are affable royals that follow the council of their favorites, while some are merely spiritual presence, distant from the affairs of their subjects. What links all the faerzon sovereigns is their power to bless the seed of faerzon andal letting it grow into a full-blooded faerzon andal instead of a stunted mignon.

Majority of the faerzon andal is divided into courtiers—who dwell close to their sovereigns, forming complex courts rife with intrigue, and vassals, who oversee the land and infrastructure further from courts, usually more focused on military matters, though often participating in intrigues from afar. Nominally all faerzon andal can retract their loyalty and move from one court to another and from one realm to another, though it requires learning the power structures and rebuilding social network from scratch, and might leave bad feelings from members of abandoned group.

A few faerzon andal are freeholders, keeping their own independent demesnes without the full mythical might of a faerzon sovereign. Unlike true sovereigns, they are empowered to bless a single seed in their lifetime only, giving life to the heir of their demesne. Without the ability to bless many seeds they are less likely to attract faerzon vassals of their own, either living solitary lives, served by their mignons, or forming small courts out of minor fey and humanoids.

Invariably, all faerzon andal settlements and realms rely on work of others to sustain their economic needs, mostly the mignons, but also servants, serfs, slaves, and hired workers from other races, preferably those having some connection to fey.

Relations: Faerzon andal prefer to maintain distance of mortal races, having some occasional alliance of convenience with elves. They trade with dwarves and hire their artisans and builders, to supplement meager engineering skills of their mignons. They often expect therigens and small races such as gnomes, halflings, and goblins to be servants and pay them little respect or attention. Troldhrym are sometimes allies and sometimes foes to be repelled or raided.

Alignment And Religion: Pride and sense of superior birthright are defining faerzon andal traits, they revere their sovereigns as lifegivers, and don't care about afterlife, well knowing they will exist in timeless reverie of their petrified bodies for centuries, until they fade away into dust and nothingness. Faerzon also lack much in the field of compassion, being cold, often borderline callous and merciless, and yet passionate on a whim. Even those of them who are good, act that way because of their individual sense of nobility and propriety rather than empathy.

In addition to their semidivine sovereigns, faerzon andal hold a group of eldritch fey powers known as Cruelty, Sorrow, Vanity, and Vengeance in reverence, considering them their mythical role models, and possibly progenitors or at least legendary early members of their race.

Adventurers: Each faerzon andal is a hero of a story in their own minds. Many faerzon andal participate in local adventures pertaining to their realms affairs, hunting monsters and intriguing, and each is expected to hone skills in blade, words, or magic above and beyond capabilities of mortal commoners, but only a few become full time adventurers. Those who do, often follow a narrow path between being a hero and a villain, with their penchant for callousness, wild passion, and cruel vengeance. Bloodragers, slayers, and casters of various sorts are the most popular paths for faerzon adventurers.

Names: Faerzon andal have long and complex names, including many epithets and titles. Faerzon andal that lack title related to their sovereign often include Seed Of... to indicate the sovereign who blessed their existence. Sovereigns and their champions lack first name whatsoever and are only known by their titles and epithets.

Sample Names: Enseylos Red Spear Worm-Slayer; The Vines-Grown Throne, The Leaves On Autumn Wind, Queen Of Thrice Tied Serpent.

Faerzon Andal Racial Traits

Ability Scores: +2 Strength, +2 Charisma, –2 Constitution. Faerzon andal lithe bodies are surprisingly strong, matching their focused will, but they are not built for endurance and durability.

Type: Faerzon andal are fey.

Normal Speed: Faerzon andal have land speed of 30 feet.

Low-Light Vision: In dim light, faerzon andal can see twice as far as humans.

Fey Agelessness: Faerzon andal don't age like mortals, remaining active for five hundred years before falling into a state of dormancy and slowly turning into a statue of oneself while in a deep sleep-like state until their bodies crumble away to dust centuries later. They ignore any magical effect that would age them.

Fey Magic (Sp): Faerzon andal can use prestidigitation three times per day.

Inured To Elements: Faerzon andal are far above mere mortals when facing harshness of nature. They can exist comfortably between –50 and 140 degree Fahrenheit without having to make Fortitude saves.

Ivory Repose: Dying faerzon andal's flesh hardens starting to resemble ivory or mahogany. A faerzon andals gain hardness rating equal to the negative value of their hit points.

Mignon Retinue: Faerzon andal can keep a retinue of their misbegotten spawn, grown from seeds that weren't blessed by a faerzon sovereign, having up to 2 + Charisma bonus mignons at their services at any one time.

Right Of Way (Sp): Faerzon andal are rightful denizens of the fey Otherworld and can sense presence of gate, rifts, and passages between that realm and the world of mortals. With a round of concentration, faerzon andal can locate nearest such connection as if using locate object spell. By extending the concentration to a full minute, they can sense the general direction toward the nearest such connection within 1 mile, and after 10 minutes of concentration, within 100 miles. After reaching 10th level, faerzon andal can use fey road (works like shadow walk, except uses border of the fey otherworld to skirt the distance and can be used only in forests, hills, mountains, or at crossroads) once per day.

Language: Faerzon andal begin play speaking Common and Sylvan, though they speak a very characteristic courtly dialect with distinct accent. Faerzon andal with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following languages as well: Aklo, Draconic, Elven, Giant, and Gnome.

Faerzon Andal Alternate Racial Traits
Some faerzon andal have slightly different racial abilities.

Barren: Some faerzon andal lack even the smallest spark of creative power without their sovereign's blessing, unable to grow mignons from their seeds. Such lone spirits often grow to be master hunters living off the land instead of relying on their mignons' work and gain +2 racial bonus to Survival checks and single Craft or Profession skill of their choice. This ability replaces mignon retinue.

Otherworldly Exile (Ex and Sp): Some faerzon andal are severed from the otherworlds, denied link to their fey heritage. They gain +4 racial bonus to saving throws against teleportation effects and can use detect fey (as detect animals and plants but detect fey creatures) three times per day. This ability replaces right of way.

Faerzon Sovereigns, Seeds, And Mignons

Faerzon sovereigns are mythic beings, bound to their realms but also wielding great power over them—controlling weather, animals, paths, and boundaries of the land itself. In addition to their varied powers, all sovereigns can bless a faerzon seed allowing it to grow into a full-blooded faerzon andal instead of spawning a lowly mignon. When a faerzon sovereign dies, their power passes to a designated heir, or passes back to the land itself if there is no heir, marking the decline of the orphaned realm until a faerzon andal of great will performs a mythic deed to reclaim the dormant sovereign power.

Faerzon seeds are tokens carved by an individual faerzon andal out of wood, bone, stone, or horn and anointed with their own blood or other bodily fluids. Faerzon andal often use pieces of their own horns (which regrow within months) to carve such tokens. Faerzon lovers often mix their blood and their saliva to anoint the seed. Once prepared, the token has to be planted, usually in royal gardens or parks of their realms, though it is not necessary. If the land is fertile, a small tree or a menhir grows out of the seed after a few weeks. If the seed or the place where it was planted was blessed by a faerzon sovereign, the tree or stone will grow for a season and then will crack or splinter in the presence of the sovereign or the parents, revealing a young faerzon andal within, blood-tied as a child to anyone who donated fluids used to anoint the seed.

If the seed isn't blessed prior to planting or within the first week or so afterwards, the tree or stone is much smaller, and splits open after around a month, revealing a full grown mignon, ready to serve faerzon andal who grew it. Each mignon is a Tiny fey creature with 2 hit points AC 11, 20 feet speed, ability scores of 8, and +0 bonus in Craft and Profession skills relevant to their service to their faerzon progenitors. They are completely incapable of fight cowering in threatening situations. They are particularly talented in making feycrafted items of various sorts, and performing daily services for their progenitors, using materials such as leaves, cobwebs, moonlight, morning dew and other mystical materials, which remain of utility only when worn or carried by fey beings, falling apart when unattended and touched by mortals. Mignons gain +10 insight bonus to Craft and Profession checks while producing such items, and can finish their creation withing one night for most items, with the check result determining quality of the created goods.

Favored Class Options
Faerzon andal can select following options as their favored class bonuses.

Bloodrager: Gain 1/2 point of hardness while bloodraging.

Bard: Add 1 to the maximum number of loyal mignons.

Commander: Add 1 to the maximum number of loyal mignons.

Metamorph: +2 to Constitution when determining the negative hit points at which death occurs.

Oracle: Add 1/4 of a druid spell with a level up to one spell level lower than the current highest spell level available to spells list and spells known.

Slayer: Increase speed by 1 feet (this has actual effect in combat every five levels).

SorcererAdd 1/4 of a druid spell with a level up to one spell level lower than the current highest spell level available to spells list and spells known.

Summoner: +1/4 enhancement bonus to natural weapon attack and damage rolls of creatures summoned with summon monster spell-like ability.

2018-06-03

Monster: Devil, Erhazzu

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Devil, Erhazzu

A plump, anthropomorphic fly, with enormous multi-faceted eyes. Its thin, seemingly useless legs dangle below its fat belly.


CR 3
; XP 800
LE Medium Outsider (devil, evil, extraplanar, lawful)
Init +1; Senses darkvision 60 ft., see in darkness; Perception +9

Defense

AC 15, touch 11, flat-footed 14 (+1 Dex, +4 natural)
hp 33 (5d10+5)
Fort +5, Ref +2, Will +6
DR 5/magic or silver; Immune disease, fire, poison; Resist acid 10, cold 10

Offense
Speed 20 ft., fly 20 ft. (average)
Melee 4 claws +6 (1d3+1)
Ranged improvised thrown weapon +6 (usually 1d4+1)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 5th, concentration +6)
At Will—floating disc (one disc active at a time), putrefy food and drinksanctuary (3rd level, DC 14)
3/day—apport objectscreate food and water (creates vinegar-like wine and maggot-ridden food, edible but odious), dispel magic, summon (2 lemures)

Statistics
Str 12, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 15, Wis 15, Cha 13
Base Atk +5; CMB +6; CMD 17
Feats Blind-Fight, Hover, Throw Anything
Skills Diplomacy +9, Fly +9, Knowledge (local) +7, Perception +10, Profession (clerk) +10, Profession (merchant) +10, Sense Motive +10, Sleight Of Hand +9
Languages Celestial, Draconic, Infernal; telepathy 100 ft.
SQ change shape (alter self, always overweight, with bulging eyes), cut the red tape, devil's little helpers
Ecology
Environment any (Hell)
Organization solitary, pair, or bureau (3—6)
Treasure standard

Special Abilities


Cut The Red Tape (Su) Erhazzu are supernaturally adept at dealing with bureaucracy gaining +10 profane bonus to Diplomacy checks to deal with bureaucrats, gain permits, and so on. They can create small amounts of coins or minor luxurious items for bribes and gifts, such items always bring some sort of woe to those who willingly take them within 2d6 days. 

Devil's Little Helpers (Su) An erhazzu can offer his blessing to a willing mortal, granting him +10 profane bonus to one Craft or Profession skill and allowing him to reap benefits of that skill with six hours of work per day, until the recipient deliberately rejects the blessing with atonement, break enchantment, dispel evil. As long as the blessing last small amounts of food, materials, and finished goods regularly vanish from the settlement the recipient lives, but never from places protected from evil or warded against teleportation.


Erhazzu, sometimes called devils of logistics, promote wastefulness and inefficiency among mortals and acquire and manage material goods and resources for infernal forces. Erhazzu try to avoid fighting unless cornered, preferring to make deals, and offering bribes and their cooperation for being let go—they can be quite jovial and friendly to those who show laziness, waste things, or are unimportant magistrates that give in to corruption.