Monster: Death Pillow

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Death Pillow
A mass of bloated, semitransparent inky bubbles with vaguely visible skulls, bones, and other half-digested bones inside them.

CR 9; XP 6,400
N Gargantuan Ooze
Init –5; Senses blindsight 30 ft., lifesight; Perception –5

AC 1, touch 1, flat-footed 1 (–5 Dex, –4 size)
hp 230 (20d8+140); fast healing 10
Fort +13, Ref +1, Will +1
Defensive Abilities absorb death; DR 10/—; Immune ability damage, ability drain, death, disease, negative levels, ooze traits; Resist acid 10, cold 10, electricity 10, fire 10, sonic 10

Speed 30 ft., climb 30 ft., swim 30 ft.; ignore difficult terrain, ooze around minor obstacles
Melee swarm (10d6 plus energy drain)
Space 20 ft.; Reach 0 ft.
Special Attacks energy drain (1 level, DC 15), pulling strands, swarm-like

Str 30, Dex 1, Con 24, Int —, Wis 1, Cha 1
Base Atk +15; CMB +27; CMD 32 (can't be tripped)
Languages moans in Necril

Environment underground and ruins
Organization solitary
Treasure incidental

Absorb Death (Ex) Effects that would heal undead creature use on the death pillow, on creatures within its space or by creatures within its space, grant the death pillow equal amount of temporary hit points. The death pillow's energy drain grants it 5 temporary hit points for each creature affected. For each accumulated 20 temporary hit points, the death pillow issues a long, resounding ringing which attracts attention of undead creatures within 1 mile. Undead creatures within 100 feet gain a cumulative +1 profane bonus to attack rolls, weapon damage rolls, and saving throws (to a maximum of +5), as well as 5 temporary hit points (to a maximum of 50 temporary hit points) for 1 minute.

Pulling Strands (Ex) As a standard action, a death pillow can fire strands of sticky slime at up to three living creatures within 60 feet of its location, making a combat maneuver check against each, and pull them 5 feet on success, plus 5 feet per 5 points its combat maneuver check exceeded the target's CMD.

Swarm-like (Ex) A death pillow is a single entity composed of many bubbles of loosely connected bubbles of ooze that can move over other creatures, occupy their space, and attack them like a swarm. Death pillows space is considered difficult terrain for other creatures.

Death pillows are strange, necrotic oozes that consume the living and attract and empower the dead. It is said that the fist death pillow had been spawned in the lair of an ancient deity of death and decay out of vile slime oozing out of the entity whenever it laid to sleep.

Occasionally a death pillow might absorb a lingering incorporeal entity, gaining vestiges of sentience, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores of 3d6, and malignant personality. On at least one occasion, a death pillow absorbed spirit of a lich, whose phylactery it swallowed, becoming particularly intelligent and vile being, though unable to use the lich's own magical powers...


Wayfinder #19!

The new issue of Wayfinder is live now and available for FREE on >>Paizo<<.
My contributions are: gelatinous z-sphere and trashbot.


Fantasy NPC: Mrra-T'loq, The First Princess Of The Crossriver Marshes

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Mrra-T'loq, The First Princess Of The Crossriver Marshes
On the top of a large mantis stands a frogfolk wearing a sort of dress woven out of swamp vines, scales, and strands of spider-slik. Both her green and blue skin and the chitin armor of her mount are covered with red and orange tribal markings, and she carries a spear adorned with matching feathers. 

CR 7; XP 3,200
Female grippli bard 4/verminous hunter 4
NG Medium Humanoid (grippli)
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft., Perception +13

AC 22, touch 14, flat-footed 19 (+5 armor, +3 Dex, +3 shield, +1 size)
hp 47 (8d8+8)
Fort +6, Ref +11, Will +7; +4 vs. bardic performance, language-dependent, and sonic

Speed 30 ft., climb 20 ft.
Melee +1 spear +11/+6 (1d6+2, ×3)
Ranged javelin +10/+5 (1d4+1)
Special Attacks bardic performance (12 rounds/day, countersong, distraction, fascinate, inspire courage +1, inspire competence +2)
Bard Spells (CL 4th, concentration +6)
2nd (2/day)—path of gloryshare memory (DC 14)
1st (4/day)—cure light woundsexpeditious retreat, vanish, ventriloquism (DC 13)
0 (at will)—detect magic, mage hand, prestidigitation, resistance, sift, spark
Hunter Spells (CL 4th, concentration +6)
2nd (2/day)—aggressive thundercloud (DC 14), barkskin
1st (4/day)—air bubble, commune with amphibians (like commune with birds but consults local amphibians), good berry, magic fang
0 (at will)—detect poison, guidance, know direction, light, purify food and drink, stabilize

Str 13, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 13, Wis 14, Cha 14
Base Atk +6; CMB +6; CMD 19
Feats Boon Companion, OutflankB, Power Attack, Spear-Dance, Vermin-Tamer
Skills Acrobatics +14, Bluff +13, Climb +13, Diplomacy +6, Handle Animal +13, Knowledge (nature) +7, Knowledge (other) +3, Linguistics +5, Perception +13, Perform (sing) +13, Ride +14, Sense Motive +13, Survival +13, Swim +8
Language Common, Grippli, Boggard, Duk
SQ bardic knowledge +2, improved empathic link, teamwork feat (1 choice of teamwork feat, changable 2/day, shared with companion), track +2, vermin companion (Large mantis), vermin empathy +6, vermin focus (4 minutes/day), versatile performance (sing)

Notable Gear +1 spear, +2 studded leather, +1 large leather shield, +1 studded leather barding for her Valiant Steed.

Mrra-T'loq was a capable hunter and her tribe's memory before she met and befriended a tall, skin-changing hairyfolk from beyond the marshes bearing the exotic name of Skela Tur Veir-Barrin. From her new friend, Mrra-T'loq learned of hairyfolk beyond the marshes and their customs. One amused her particularly, prompting her to call herself "the princess of the Crossriver Marshes"... Now Mrra-T'loq has to deal with neighbors and outsiders in the name of her tribe...

Her Valiant Steed, is a giant mantis vermin companion. It has AC 25, 45 hp, Fort +7, Ref +8, Will +3, Atk 2 claws +9 (1d6+5 plus grab), Str 20, Dex 16, Con 14, Int —, Wis 12, Cha 7, CMB +11 (+15 grapple), CMD 24. When it successfully grapples a foe, it can make an additional attack with its mandibles (+4, 1d6+2). It can make a full attack in a surprise turn. It has Outflank and one another teamwork feat shared by Mrra-T'loq through her teamwork feat ability.

New Feat: Spear-Dancer
You can fight with spears with great agility and versatility.
Benefit: You can use Dexterity instead of Strength when you make attack rolls with a spear of any sort. You can wield two-handed spears in one hand.

New Feat: Vermin-Tamer
You have greater influence over vermin than most.
Benefit: You can use Handle Animal skill (with –4 penalty) and harmless mind-affecting effects on vermin.


Concept Art: Lorm

I have described >>Lorm<< race some time ago (wait... it was over two years ago? how the time flies!), but today, I got myself to recreate their old concept art on plain paper... As opposed to the less suitable for scanning original sketches made on graph paper—don't judge me, I am no graphic artist and without the background reference frame I am lost like a child when drawing!).

I blame impulse purchase of a sketchbook a few weeks ago...


Blood Mist, Rust And Starvation: Review Of Forbidden Lands

Earlier this year, I had a pleasure of playing Forbidden Lands role-playing game, a recently-released gloomy, survival sandbox dark fantasy from Free League Publishing. The game focuses on exploration of a half-desolate region after generations of isolation enforced by a magical cataclysm.

Blood Mist And Rust
— or the history of the world as it was told to us

The setting itself is quite dour, though not devoid of hope for better future. The past history of Ravenland story involves waves of human settlers intruding on the lands of elves, dwarves, and halflings, intermingled with periods of peace and coexistence. An evil human sorcerer, Zygofer the Spellbinder led his followers in conquest against the others. Elves, dwarves, and many humans rose against him, defending their lands, the former two sending hordes of enslaved orcs to fight the invaders as their main force. Faced with the determined resistance to his vile rule, Zygofer called upon forces of darkness, unleashing throngs of demons upon his enemies. And then the Blood Mist came, blanketing the realms with a red, malignant fog that separated the land into small domains, as it ended the lives of those who dared to travel at night, with only the inhabited household and underground warrens being safe. Some of its victims were found in the morning dead without visible reason, as if they merely lost the will to live. Others were torn apart as if demons lingered within the mist itself. Only the bravest or the most foolish would venture further than half a day of travel from their homes, facing almost certain death. Except for Rust Brothers—an evil sect serving and following Zygofer, whose acolytes held a secret of traveling through the Blood Mist safely. They were the only force capable of maintaining a degree of contact between their outposts and thus some semblance of organization. The Blood Mist lasted for centuries, isolating settlements from each other for generations... Until it slowly faded recently. Mostly. A pockets of Blood Mist appear from time to time, but they no longer deny travel. Now, months since the trails became passable again, the bold, the greedy, the desperate, and the industrious start moving out of their old settlements to explore the land and the ruins of the old times.

The old threats are not gone, though, for Zygofer is said to be still alive, transformed into a demon himself. His Rust Brothers continue to haunt the land, hunting for elves, half-elves, and their dwarven allies, and attempt to subdue other people, now stronger than ever, for they can finally send mercenary forces with their mist-walking acolytes. Tribes of orcs who never forgave elves and dwarves their enslavement stay in the depths of the forests, ancient demons roam the land even now, and undead lurk in the ancient ruins.

The People Of The Ravenland

The game includes some staple fantasy options—humans, elves, half-elves, dwarves, halflings, goblins, and orcs, as well, as less classic wolfkin, though there are twists here and there. Humans, elves, dwarves, and half-elves are rather typical—with half-elves being lineages of descendants of elven and human intermingling generations ago as well, as recently. Halflings and goblins are single people divided by an ancient curse—whenever a child is born to a halfling or a goblin mother, it can be of either kin, so both live near each other and pass such children to live among their own people. They also tend to help each other—with halflings being better at things such as agriculture and crafts while goblins hunt and secretly protecting the halfling villages from threats. Orcs are playable race, though unsuitable for playing with humans (because they fought each other), elves or dwarves (because of the immense hatred held after generations of slavery followed by being thrown against Zygofer as a cannon fodder), and being at odds with other kins as well. Wolfkin are wolfish humanoid that are dedicated hunters and survivors seeing other kins as weak, unfit for the hardships of forests and mountains of the Ravenland.

The Explorers, Scroungers, and Scoundrels

The choice of kin (aka race) determines the favored attribute and an unique kin talent that allows spending Willpower points to do things such as use one skill in place of another if you can come with a good explanation (humans), recover from critical injuries after a period of meditation (elves), push a roll multiple times (dwarves), avoid being hit (halflings), avoid being seen (goblins), follow scents (wolfkin), or recover from serious wounds (orcs). Half-elves talent makes their first Willpower point spent on activation of a talent or spell count double (more about that later).

The second choice the players make about their character is their profession: druids, fighters, hunters, minstrels, peddlers, riders, rogues, and sorcerers. Each profession determines a favored attribute (again), offers a number of favored skills that can be higher at character creation, and provides a list of profession-specific talents that allow spending Willpower to gain certain benefits in line with the profession—better attack and defense for fighters, better marksmanship, bonding with animals, and dealing with matters of survival for hunters, minstrels inspire their fellows to withstand adversities, peddlers can produce unaccounted for goodies from their vast stashes, riders bond with steeds and fight mounted, rogues disguise themselves, backstab enemies, and procure various poisons, while druids and sorcerers invoke different kinds of magics.

The last major choice is the characters age: young, adult, or old. Younger characters get more attribute points, older get more skill points and more talent picks. Elves are immortal and all count as adult characters.

The game uses four attributes: strength, agility, wits, and empathy. Strength covers ability to exert force, withstand physical injury, and resist most physical afflictions. Agility is quickness and precision of movement. Wits is reasoning, memory, perception, and cunning. Empathy summarizes charisma and compassion. Attributes are supplemented with sixteen skills, four for each attribute: Strength is tied to Crafting, Endurance, Melee, and Might (exertion of pure force). Agility governs Marksmanship, Move, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth. Insight, Lore, Scouting, and Survival are Wits-based, and Empathy covers Animal Handling, Healing, Manipulation (social interaction), and Performance.

Attributes are rated between 2 and 6, with a pool of 13–15 split between four of them. Only favored attributes can be raised to 5, and 6 can only be assigned to an attribute that was favored by both kin and profession. Skills start at 0, non-profession skills can be raised to 1 at the start, and profession skills can be raised to 3 at the beginning, using a pool of 8–12 points.

The skills and attributes are supplemented with a number of general talents that anyone can learn. Like professional talents they have three levels each, granting various bonuses and unlocking new options. Unlike the former, they don't use Willpower in any way.

Finally, the character has a Dark Secret, and a Pride, a sentence that describes what he is good with—once per session when making a dice roll to which the pride could be reasonably applied, the character can claim an extra D12... But on a failure the Pride is erased and replaced after a session with a new one.

Roll The Dice, Suffer The Consequences

When you roll the dice, you create a pool of six-sided dice equal to your attribute plus your skill plus your bonus gear dice, with each source of dice using different colors (like white for attribute, red for skill, and green for gear). This is important distinction because the dice from different sources behave differently. Each six rolled is a success, and a single success is generally enough, though more successes means more damage when attacking, less damage when defending. If you failed to rolled the amount of successes you desired (which usually means rolling no sixes) you can decide to push the roll. Set aside all dice that rolled "6", and all attribute and gear dice that rolled "1". Roll the remaining dice again. Sixes are additional successes. Ones on attribute and gear dice are bad news now, though. All the ones rolled, both in the initial roll, and the re-roll either cause damage to attribute rolled or the gear used (this is why different pools use the different colors, and also why skills are so valuable—they increase your dice pools without negative effects of ones). Damages to attributes from pushing diminish the attribute like other injuries but also generate Willpower, a scarce resource that is used to power kin and profession talents and casting spells. Each roll can be pushed only once, unless you are a dwarf and spend a Willpower point to push remaining dice again. It is easy to push oneself into unconsciousness but the damage is easily healed during rest or basic medical attention. Repairing gear is harder.

Attributes can get damaged in other ways as well—mainly fighting (with combat damage dealt to Strength, unless fighting ghosts and weird demons that can target other attributes), fear (which diminishes Wits), but also various kinds of afflictions and deprivation: hunger causes damage to Strength, thirst damages both Strength and Agility, lack of sleep hinders Wits, and being cold saps your Strength and Wits. The various conditions may also block your ability to recover attributes without resorting to magic.

This can easily lead to a death spiral—failing to get enough sleep can diminish your Wits, hindering your attempts to gather food, damaging your Strength via hunger, making you unable to deal with the threats, which prevents you from sleeping...

When an attribute is reduced to 0, the character becomes broken, losing consciousness, being incapacitated with exhaustion, paralyzed with fear or confusion, or getting unresponsive until healed (or for D6 hours when you recover on your own with 1 point in the broken attribute). If Strength or Wits were broken by an attack (never by pushing and rarely by conditions, which have their own rules for fate of incapacitated character), a D66 roll is made for a critical hit using an appropriate table—blunt, slashing, or stabbing for physical injury to Strength, horror for mental injury to Wits. Some of the critical effects are temporary, some are permanent, and some are lethal, usually after a listed amount of time, though the worst (typically 65-66) are immediate...

Occasionally, when rolling the dice, the characters can get artifact dice (or more likely a single artifact die). Those are granted by Pride (once per session), high level talents (which can grant a D8 artifact dice when using specific type weapon, for example if you are a master of a bow) and magic items, and take the form of D8, D10, or even D12. Rolling 6–7 on such dice is a regular success, 8–9 counts as two successes, 10–11 three, and 12 as staggering four successes.

The Exploration And The Starvation

The game is very sandbox in the nature, with extensive rules governing traveling, exploring new hexes on the map, foraging and hunting for supplies, breaking camps, taking guard, and so on. In the exploration mode, each day is divided into four Quarters, morning from dawn to noon, afternoon from noon to dusk, evening from dusk to midnight, and night from midnight to dawn. Most exploratory activities take a Quarter and involve a dice roll—with rewards for success and a roll in one of many random mishap tables on a failure. You can easily run into a boar while scrounging for turnips, capture a sick mouse when hunting, fall into water when fishing, or make a camp on an anthill.

Counting Quarters is important, as the time is running without waiting for anyone—limited supplies need to be tracked risking starvation, thirst, and lack of sleep if you fail to manage you days well. Survival is an absolutely necessary skill in this game, as well as taking your time to carefully replenish food and water rations. Especially if you want to keep your gear in working conditions, which takes time as well.

In addition to specific food rations and gear, each character has one or more of resource dice—representing packed food and stored water (and potentially arrow and torch supply). Each time the player consumes some of the stored resources of that type, they roll the dice with 1–2 meaning the die diminishes by one step (D12–D10–D8–D6–No supply). Those can be improved by getting surplus food and water, or crafting arrows and torches. It helps and complicates things with keeping track of supplies at the same time, but generally works in players' favor, giving them chance to extend duration of their supplies for a longer time than simply tracking consumption would.

The Ruins And The Strongholds

Once the party explored a suitable location, they might claim an old outpost as their own stronghold. Or, if they have excessive resources at hand (usually when they control one or more strongholds already) built a suitable outpost from a scratch. This changes the gameplay a bit, giving a number of benefits and generating new issues. First of all, the party that has their own stronghold can gain point of Willpower once per session (two if they built a shrine for a deity they are aligned with). Additionally, they can expand the stronghold with a number of functions—facilities that that can be used to store supplies for extended period of time, procure new raw materials (e.g. quarry produces stone while garden produces fresh veggies), convert materials into supplies and gear (inn turns various fresh foods into longer-lasting food supplies while tannery allows making leather out of pelts and sewing leather armor, waterskins, and such), or grant other kinds of bonuses. A functioning stronghold has to be manned by servants, workers, and guards, though, creating constant expenses. The players have to find people suitable to work for them and secure a supply of coins to pay them (though they can man functions themselves... until the number of jobs in the stronghold exceeds their number straining their ability to go adventuring...), which can make them go exploring more, to finance their developing demesne.

The Challenges Of Fun

The game is demanding, and challenges the players on every step, forcing them to make choices that can bite them later—do I push the roll to hunt, risking my health and my gear to get food, or do I play it safe, while risking my supplies. Should we spend a few more days building a surplus so we can safely explore later? Do we press on or do we withdraw to regroup and recover? Do we try to learn what happened? Do we help the others? Are we the good guys, or the guys that survived?

All this choices are deeply entertaining, and Forbidden Lands often manages to make failures worthwhile too, adding more elements to the story of exploration and survival in the forsaken lands.


Monster: Foulflow

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A rusted armor awkwardly hangs on this barely anthropomorphic silhouette made of brackish water.

CR 5; XP 1,600
CE Medium Undead (water)
Init +6; Senses darkvision 60 ft., tremorsense 60 ft. (water only); Perception +11

AC 18, touch 12, flat-footed 16 (+3 armor, +2 Dex, +2 natural, +1 shield)
hp 52 (7d8+21)
Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +8
Defensive Abilities amorphous, rejuvenation; DR 10/magic; Immune undead traits
Weakness water-bound

Speed 30 ft., swim 30 ft.
Melee longsword +10 (1d8+5/19–20/×2 plus 3d6 cold)
Ranged 2 wave strikes +7 touch (3d6 cold and bull-rush or trip)
Special Attacks water burst

Str 20, Dex 14, Con —, Int 11, Wis 13, Cha 15
Base Atk +5; CMB +10 (+14 with bull-rush or trip); CMD 22
Feats Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Nimble Step, Toughness
Skills Intimidate +12, Knowledge (history) +7, Perception +11, Stealth +10, Swim +12
Languages Aquan, Common

Environment rivers and lakes
Organization solitary, pair, or troop (3–12)
Treasure standard

Rejuvenation (Su) A foulflow is bound to haunt the place of its death until it is dredged and all the remains are given a proper burial, the waters are hallowed, or a powerful water entity purifies the waters and banishes the foulflow. A foulflow that was reduced to 0 hit points reforms at the first dusk following its destruction with full hit points, or after 1d10 days if destroyed with positive energy.

Water-Bound (Ex) A foulflow is bound to a body of water where it died. It can walk on water or swim through its currents, but it can't move more than 30 feet from the edge of water. It heals 1 point of damage per round as long as it remains in contact with its body of water.

Water Burst (Su) A foulflow can take a full-round action to merge with the water it is bound with. On the following turn, it can re-emerge from the same body of water within 60 feet as full-round attack, striking each creatures adjacent to its new location with a wave strike that doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity.

Wave Strike (Su) A foulflow can create a sudden wave in the water it is bound with, striking a single creature within 60 feet for 3d6 points of cold damage and allowing the foulflow to make a free bull-rush or trip maneuver against the target with a +4 racial bonus to CMB involved. On a confirmed critical hit, the foulflow uses both bull-rush and trip on the target. A foulflow can produce two such waves as a full attack action.

Foulflows are malicious spirits of warriors who died violent death while crossing a river or at the coast of a lake, usually during a battle or while fleeing from one. Now, their corrupted will animates bodies made of discarded armor and tainted water to attack the living or fight endless battle with their former comrades and foes alike.


Bundle: A Song Of Ice And Fire

As the Game Of Thrones TV series are coming to an end, Bundle Of Holding is offering SoIF RPG pdf package available >>here<< for $15. The extended bundle includes two out of three of my Green Ronin contributions. Just saying...