Monday, November 23, 2020

OSR: Burrowwurm

Enter the Burrowwurm

Materializes in the guts of an innocent individual who gets their first sin by killing another innocent without motif or benefit. The sinner has to feed on eggs for a full moon after the killing. Hence Burrowwurms can proliferate within the members of upper layers of society (noble children, and other families that can afford all those pricey eggs). Or in times of war. Or in a family of chicken farmers. The Burrowwurm comes to existence, just like that.

Diminutive at first, the wurm keeps crawling and growing within the host's guts, insatiable. Contrary to belief, Burrowwurms are not necessarily creatures of evil. Too dim-witted, they are however germinated from the purest evil. It's their gestation puddle, not their essence.

A kid that starts inexplicably drinking gallons of milk, and eating like a pig is a huge sign of a latent Burrowwurm inside them. It has to be dealt hastily, and with efficiency. Arduous task, if the kid is to remain alive after the cleansing.

Sunlight kills the Burrowwurm. Milk attracts it. This is obscure and bizarre knowledge, appropriate for a sage or long-forgotten tome. That is why past a certain size threshold they dwell underneath the surface, creating tunnels and passages without rest. The surface area will experience increasing intermittent mild earthquakes.

(Un)justified Devotion

Molekin, roachlings, slugfolk, and earth & mud elementals all could suffer from the delusion of taking the Burrowwurm for a minor deity. Or an envoy of one at the very least. At the Deftowurm size, who could blame blem? In a sense, they are right in their devotion of absurd power.

For instance, molekin are creatures of sheer law and obedience. Taking the most despicable and unwanted jobs in a society: sewer maintenance, dung collecting, corpse collector. You name it. Scattered in local colonies, they have an inclination to worshiping worms and maggots, recognizing the resemblance with the molekin lifestyle. And a Burrowwurm will be a magnet to the buggers, if they ever have the honor to come across one. Despicable, yet mighty. Shrines will be opened, prayers chanted. Out of an inner instinct, almost unconsciously. Sadly, the buggers end up as more fodder for the wurm.

Andrea Chiampo

Burrowwurm Stages

  • Hatchling (1-2 HD): still inside the host's guts. Lure it by hanging the victim upside down, and putting a bucket of fresh milk inches away from their open mouth. It may take minutes, but the Burrowwurm should bait. Snake-sized, and as thick as a pinky, it's a matter of pulling it out. Painful process for the host, but they'll survive.
  • Grubewurm (3-6 HD): size between a dog and a small pony. Host gets killed in a brutal manner, their bulging stomach missing adequate space.
  • Minewurm (7-10 HD): size of a stallion up to a small elephant. Territorial, creates complexes of tunnels in search of underground calories.
  • Deftowurm (11-19 HD): size of a whale, and then some. Causes local earthquakes.
  • Postmortem (20 HD): a chrysalis, with uncertain outcome. A town-sized butterfly? Prodigious intelligence and telepathy. Maybe those molekin weren't wrong all along...?

Burrowwurm finds some tasty adventurers
A Deftowurm finds some tasty adventurers


HD: 1-20 HD (see "Insatiable Growth" in Special).
Omen: varies on size. A corpse with their abdomen area exploded. Shaking ground.
Appearance: a wrinkled worm with sucking teeth-filled maws
Number Appearing: solo
Wants: food, milk
Armour: as chain.
Movement: Normal. Burrow through flesh and soil as Normal. After 11+HD, also stone and metal.
Morale: 10 (assuming 12 will never give up combat)
Saves: as fighter
Attacks: 2 attacks, as polearm
  • Insatiable Growth: Eat, burrow, destroy, annihilate. Size, growth, and Burrowwurm are synonyms. At the start of every week, roll a d20. If the number rolled is higher than the Burrowwurm's current HD, it gains 1 HD. If the Burrowwurm was damaged in that time, roll 2d20 and choose the highest value.
  • Sunlight Aversion: slowly dies when in contact with sunlight. 1HD permanently lost per exposed minute. HD lost this way get regained when out of the light at a rate of 1HD per hour
  • Regurgitated Gravel: (requires 7+ HD) 3 times/day the wurm can puke gravel and rocks. As lightning bolt, but force damage.
  • Swallow Whole: (requires 7+ HD) replaces one of their attacks. Can target a single creature to save or be swallowed whole, causing death in one turn.
  • Tunneling: (requires 11+ HD) Burrowwurms of a certain size can burrow through earth, soil, rock and metal. This creates a shifting lair, as tunnels are created and collapse with the wurm's passing.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Calaveras Campaign Map


This is where our Calaveras campaign is taking place.

Every hex is 6 miles. There is sea to the west, and this map (roughly the size of Switzerland or the Netherlands) is where the adventure unfolds. There is more land to north, east, and south, so nothing is preventing them of going off limits. The focus is on three autarchies, where nations of equivalent power but different philosophies struggle for power. Natural catastrophes have been destabilizing the landscape. Plenty of dungeons and holes in the ground to recover riches and gain glory & fame.

The game started with gold=XP, but has shifted to defined goals when we changed to Macchiato Monsters. These goals get discussed at the beginning of each session, and we have a list that both me and the players can reference at all times.

To ease my work and preparation, I have dotted the landscape with known OSR modules and adventures. In here you will find: The Hole in the Oak, Tomb of the Serpent Kings, Bone Marshes, the canyon level of Stonehell, Castle Xyntillan, Tower of the Stargazer.

Every hex has an obvious landmark that gets revealed when the group simply goes to a given hex for the first time. These are interesting adventuring locations, towns/cities, etc. Then, if they decide to spend significant time and explore that hex, they get to uncover an additional "hidden" location. Six mile hexes are vast, but this is a sensible compromise that works for us and our 2-3 hour sessions.

Each terrain area has their own encounter table, usually 2d6. Entries are different and unique between for example the four different forest regions in the map.

In addition I started using a similar method as what is described here to track potential drama with the party (and making use of the prevalent Usage Dice of Macchiato Monsters). I have a list of potential drama that is likely to catch up with the party, and roll each between sessions. If the day fizzles from Δ4, the drama catches up with the party (or is no longer relevant, another adventurer group solved it, etc).

And... that is all! I might post the encounter tables or start putting the hexes in the blog, if they get a second pass to depart from the "mad scientist's scribbles" state they're at.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

OSR: The Calaveras Campaign 9, 10

This is an ongoing Knave Macchiato Monsters campaign, a smallish sandbox of sorts with new players to the hobby. Read what happened before here.

The cast of characters:
Zemalayou (iagson) - carrying a crossbow and knows some spells. Ranger-like. Face heavily scarred and mutated. Speaks through some tattoos.
Solbion (iagson) - dwarven smith apprentice of the city of Falkcrest. On a sabbatical year, seeking to see and experience the world.
Nerisse (Mo) - redhead bow-woman, who wakes up in the first visited dungeon without any memory of how she ended up there. Has some newly discovered Fae-powers.
Angan Enge (Copernico) - beastman of the Biber Hills, assigned by Rhys to accompany the adventurers.
Hirelings/Animals - Sprig, the freelancer astrologer-wizard

Session 9

A lesson is learnt from the night skirmish with the fungal goblinoids (and Ber the goat's demise). The group barricades the windows and lower doors of the sergeant's building to have a safer rest for the night.
With a fresh morning start, they go to the nearby Quartermaster's building, two-story as well. There are also evident signs of struggle in the building. Broken windows on the lower floor. Blood stains on the main door. Individuals with bows and crossbows and red leather vests get out of the upper windows, pointing their weapons to the adventurers! Bandits? Brigands? Guards? Agents?
Through parley, the reaction of both groups is wary, but not hostile. Ultimately these individuals understand there could be a mutual benefit in avoiding conflict. And potentially working together? Nerisse asks for answers to her Fae past nature and origin. If someone inside that building can provide any insights about the Fae. Well, it turns out these red vests are traveling with an individual named Sprig, that could help her for a price...
Sprig, art from OSEs Rogue Gallery I
There is some back and forth with the negotiations. Tension drops very slowly. And an accord can be struck. Sprig, turns out, is an astronomer-wizard versed in the Sylvan language. Claims to know Nerisse's origin to be intertwined with Ynn, and a passage to that place could be uncovered in the very near future... Sprig is interested in the characters. And apparently only associated with the red vests for this job. But why are the red vests here? What do they want? Turns out that the juicy delobia, currently at the watchtower with the manticore.
Now to plotting and scheming. The group puts Ber's corpse on the courtyard, and cover it in oil. In the hopes it drives out the manticore as bait. Then the group of seven (our party and the red vests) takes cover in the different buildings, missile weapons ready. And the thing takes the bait.

Angan has spent the last hour preparing his Roots spell to bind the flying manticore to the ground, but with the side effect of binding and immobilizing himself in the process (this takes the HP cost down to something manageable).
And it works! The flying beast is immobilized for some seconds when it approaches the goat. They pepper it with projectiles, ignite the oil, and make a general mess. One of the red vests perishes in the assault, being caught by one of the tail's spikes. We see the heavily wounded beast flap its wings away from the tower into the horizon, leaving the area.
Delobia gets handed to the remaining red vests, and Angan finds an obsidian spear in the tower. Objective done! Sprig, seeing the utility of the party, offers to tack on and show them the entrance to the Hole in the Oak, just south in the forest...

Session 10

Sprig leads to the site in the Glenry Wood, south of the Biber Hills. Or where he recalls have read it being in the dusty tome at the academy...? Answers to Nerisse's background await, as well as a wizard's lair to potentially pilfer for reagents and items. Bozurah the Imperishable!
Crossing the forest, Angan takes the lead to make sure the group keeps on track with Sprig's vague indications and general instructions. Thick webbing becomes evident as the group advances, hanging from the trees like rotten fruit. Obscuring, and covering the way like strong, fixed curtains. With the choice of push forward (for a faster arrival) or taking a detour to avoid the thick webbing, the group decides the former. And...

Four crab spiders jump the group. The adventurers are carrying torches and have an attentive Angan in the front, so there is no surprise. A deadly skirmish ensues, spells are chanted, bolts are shots, and Zemalayu is bitten by one of the spiders, dropping dead on the spot (SECOND PC DEATH). Angan is bitten too, and will have to worry about the poison later, but can carry on. The survivors manage to kill and scare the spiders away, but have to run away themselves, the murmur of something bigger coming to the site. Zemalayu's body, alas, stays there as a free meal for whatever is coming next.

After a jog through the forest, adrenaline levels dropping with the recent horror behind them, the group resumes their journey. Arrival to the Hole in the Oak glade occurs before nightfall. Time seems to slow down, a silence is cast among the unnaturally thick roots scattered around the bare oak. Near the tree, a dwarf examines an interesting graffiti "The most delectable night-tomatoes grow down there". After proper introductions, Solbion joins the group. 

With clever use of ropes and equipment, they are able to descend down the hole between the roots. In there, the natural tunnel and a bit of exploration reveals a left-handed leather glove, a message among the moss covered wall "NOLLY'S KINGDOM", green glowing roots covering the path to their right. So they decide to take the left. Which reveals a corridor, a ghost, phantom, or illusion giving a cryptic and broken message...

Wizard, from the Hole in the Oak module

"That was, friends, Bozurah the Imperishable!", suggests an excited Sprig.

Referee Commentary

I was very proud on how the group handled the conflict with the manticore. They allied with the red vests and Sprig to get to the common goal, and used a good assortment of preparation, spells, positioning and fire to deal with the scary foe. Handling that recklessly could have ended much much worse for them. They then went on next session to do the complete opposite with the giant spiders... I also decided to make the spider's poison a little bit less immediate, but something they will have to solve in the next 24h.
Macchiato Monsters narrative goals are very not OSR. Or rather, they are taking a bit of muscle effort to define between me and the players. Some seem to obvious or trivial, and we have in general a hard time agreeing on them (or harder than I'd like, anyways). 

We are getting better and faster at resolving the flexible and free-form spellcasting, as predicted. And I really like the freedom and creative problem solving it provides.


  • Daniele - woman-at-arms, sword & board.
    Mauled to a pulp by an animated serpentine statue in session 4.
  • Pancho - guy with a lance, and a tendency to grab shiny stuff in front of him.
    Dropped from great height by a giant eagle in session 5.
  • Ber - a goat granted by Rhys the beastwoman shaman.
    Eaten and scratched to death by fungal goblins in session 7. Instrumental even after death.
  • Zemalayu - carrying a crossbow and knows some spells. Ranger-like. Face heavily scarred and mutated. Speaks through some tattoos.
    Bitten dead by giant spiders from the Glenry Wood and their poison in session 10.