Monday, March 28, 2022

OSR: The Hearing Menhir

Tucked among the modest brick houses of the sleeping village of Torins protrudes a 50-foot-tall opal menhir. Its rune-covered surface diffracts the falling sun light. A bronze basin rests on top, where every night oil gets dosed and lit by the villagers, without exceptions. This tradition being carried on by generations.

The highly superstitious simpletons swear that failing to do so will cause a thousand ghosts to awake and accost the living. This rumor is false. In truth, it will shatter the menhir, revealing its entombed contents, and the entrance to a prison dungeon of civilizations long forgotten.

The ears of a thousand foes of old, slayed in battle, rest buried under the phallic structure. Since the pile of bodies after war was eclipsing the sun, a more practical approach prevailed. Together with them a long-forgotten (cursed) magical sword known as Repentant is hidden, wrapped in stained rags.

Repentant is a +1 Sword (+2 against Clerics, Priests, and those resurrected).

Marta Sokołowska


Population: 220
Ruler: Mayor Sico (Thief 4, Neutral), stoic, lean, in his youth a renowned trapper and woodsman. Has 5 archers, and can gather up to 20 militiamen if in dire need.
Main occupation: local trappers (rabbits, foxes), apple farming. Laughable economy. Locals are known for their brawn and resilience, and get their water from a nearby stream.
Features: an inn, "The Repentant", a repurposed barn, poorly mended. Sees the odd pilgrim elated about the Hearing Menhir, and disappointed traders in search of stocking on furs and apple cider.
Oddity: the singing of local cuckoos is interpreted and recorded as omens by the inhabitants, and used sporadically for important decision-making.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

OSR: Languages and Common as Trade Common

As languages came up in an interesting r/osr Reddit thread, and people seem to like this small tweak I've been using, I will leave it here for everyone else that doesn't frequent that particular cesspit of the internet :-) :

In (most of) my long-term games, exluding one-shots and short one and done adventures, Common is Trade Common, a signed language. This has several implications:

  1. It normalizes signed languages.

  2. Makes PCs have to drop their weapons to be able to communicate. Better chances of negotiation and faction play.

  3. Implies that mostly humanoids will be using it. To speak with dragons, unicorns, oozes, etc you better come prepared and bring a wizard linguist or translator. Another money sink for wealthy adventurers!



In the above, I usually regard encounters where no language is shared between both parties (case #3) with a 3d6 take lower 2 reaction roll, then adding/substracting appropriate Charisma modifiers, of course. And make a heuristic X-in-6 chance for a given group of humanoids to have at least one individual speaking Trade Common (based on group size, remoteness and isolation, etc.).

Note that I think languages have a strong untapped potential, since it is hard (at least I think so) to come up with interesting and satisfying procedures and methods to make it as interesting as they are in the real world. It is a tough nut to crack!

I like what Dwiz proposes, creating a tree of languages and their relations before game starts. I also like things like Lamentations "Languages" skill, and giving different difficulties based on where the language is from in the game world, if it's a dead one, etc. The language tree could par well with this other tweak u/Falendor proposed on the Reddit thread:

Partial fluency can be quick and fun. I've rolled 2d6 and picket that many words the NPS and PC share. Required both of us to get creative. Idioms are great but take a little forethought in my experience.

You can of course go to one extreme, and make Everything be able to talk, as MartinO proposes. Which of course has profound worldbuilding implications and will change the flow of the game significantly, I suspect.

Of course, we cannot forget the importance of Alignment languages. I recently read Three Hearts and Three Lions, and one can see how prevalent the concept is throughout the Appendix N! It is, however, something that I think hasn't aged well, and most novice players not familiar with the sources scratch their heads at the concept. (At least that has been my experience.)

I'm sure there are a ton of neat house rules and procedures that have evaded my ageing eyes.|
Please share away!

Saturday, March 19, 2022

OSR: The Cage of Death

A metallic symphony echoes through the boulder-peppered plains.

Tethered by a hundred feet of rusted chain to a boulder, floating in mid air, you see this cage covered in moonstone lichen. The size of a building, it holds the bones of a female hill giant, clutching with her last breath at a chest made of oak. The chest itself is embraced in a tangle of chains and locks.

Legend goes, Atiange, the Devil Titan, walked these plains with a hair-string belt. In her sleep, as she twisted and tossed, clumps of hair stuck into the soil. As she woke up, spitting with the morning phlegm, the rocks were formed.

The chest contains 4000 silver pieces of ancient coinage, and a basin covered in gold (worth 1000gp). There is also a mummified feline as big as a stallion. The ghost of Atiagne's pet cat will haunt anyone touching the giant's goblet without first burying the master's skull.


Atiagne's Ghost Cat
HD: 5
AC: as leather
Attacks: +[HD] to hit, 2 x Claw (d4 + 1), 1 x Bite (d10)
Movement: 150' (50')
Saves: as Fighter [HD]
Morale: 10
- Pursuit: always pursue prey that flees
- Terrifying visage: seeing the cat for the first time, succeed on a Save vs Spells or flee for 2d6 rounds.
- Incorporeal: can pass through solid objects. Can only be damaged by silvered or magical weapons, and magical effects.