The Pumpkin Lord of Lankshorn

I’ve decided to run a Halloween-themed one-shot entitled the Pumpkin Lord of Lankshorn. Set in the Dolmenwood, it will use my house-ruled Labyrinth Lord system and may feature the survivors from the Barrowmaze campaign. I’ll post a session report after we play.

Here’s the introductory blurb:

The chill of fall was in the air the night that a fiery ball fell from the sky near Lankshorn. There were few witnesses to this event, but by late morning all of the residents of the village had learned of the occurrence and many had looked for where this meteor from the heavens had fallen.

The great pumpkin field a mile south of Lankshorn, owned by one Merle Branbrook, became the object of much speculation when it was discovered to be the crash site. In the center of the field was a large, charred pit too hot for anyone to approach. There was an ominous cloud over the field that gave the uneasy feeling that the crater stood for something sinister. All through the day the crater smoked, and old Merle scratched his head at the loss of over half of his pumpkin patch. If the residents of Lankshorn were apprehensive about the crater, they were downright fearful the morning of the following day.

At dawn, Merle made his rounds to feed the livestock. When he went out to the pumpkin field, he discovered an immense, tangled vine dome that had sprung up in the night! The pumpkin vines at the periphery of the crater had grown to great proportions, and twisted into an impenetrable mesh of vine, leaf, and pumpkin. They had completely encompassed the smoking pit discovered the day before. That is, except for one small opening, about the size of a doorway, on the south-east side of the green dome.

For days the cursed place drew much fearful curiosity, until a band of brave adventures happened by, and decided to enter the green doorway…


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Black City – Special Starting Gear

Characters in the Black City campaign are already experienced adventurers and can select 1000gp worth of “special” starting equipment (500gp for henches) before play begins. Characters will retain any leftover gold, but note that once you arrive at the Thule Archipelago you’ll be restricted to purchasing goods in Trade Town at inflated prices.

Warrior-types will likely be interested in mastercraft arms & armour, while magic-users should take a look at ceremonial trinkets. This is a tweaked version of a previous post, with some additions from the ACKS Heroic Companion.

Hyperborea HR

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The Dark Spire

Here’s some rumours/backstory/lore for the Dark Spire. Players from the introductory Session (Thulian Echoes) may recognize Tolbert…

The Dark Spire – also known as the Wizard’s Tower – is usually the first unusual feature spotted by ships approaching Thule. The massive basalt pillar rises like a charred finger above the rocky coast, casting a long shadow in the low northern sun. Within this tower dwells a wizard. Or many wizards, rather. All named Tolbert. First encountered by Thorfinn Karlsefni’s expedition in 1010 CE, the Tolberts remain on the island to this day.

Although their ornamentations vary, all Tolberts are clearly the same individual. Each resembles a classical Greek philosopher. Dressed in togas made of pale leather, Tolberts are often adorned with rings, necklaces, or skullcaps made of bone. They record everything they encounter – constantly scribbling on leathery parchment with crimson ink. Many Tolberts appear pale or sickly, and some even suffer from open sores and bleeding ulcers.

Beware – all Tolberts are skilled wizards and masters of theurgy! They commonly call upon eldritch illumination and command unseen servants, but they are rumoured to conceal even more powerful magics. Their true number is unknown, but there could be dozens.

The Tolberts may be approached peacefully but note: they do not understand Norse. Only speakers of Latin or Greek may converse with them openly. It may be worthwhile to cultivate a relationship with the Tolberts, as they richly reward those who perform their bidding.

It is said that Thorfinn’s original expedition came to some agreement with the Tolberts and were gifted with a treasure horde of silver in exchange for services rendered. It was these riches – massive spools of thinly-drawn silver wire – that attracted later expeditions to the Thule Archipelago seeking glory.

About the Name:

“Tolbert” is actually a mis-translation. His true name and sobriquet is “Tolmedes the Bright” (except Greek; Τολμίδης το Φωτεινό). However, in Thorfinn’s original expedition there was only a single viking who could act as a crude translator. Not quite understanding the name, he mistakenly shortened it to “Tolbert”, which kind of stuck (much to the chagrin of Tolmedes).

It was like that scene in The 13th Warrior:

Hyperborea HR

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Thoughts on Barrowmaze (Part 3)

This is my third (and final) post about Barrowmaze in my recent DolmenBarrow campaign. You should probably start by reading my first and second posts on this subject.

Before I begin, I’d just like to say that this Barrowmaze campaign was closest I’ve come to running a “canonical” dungeon in D&D. For that alone it deserves great praise. I’d like to thank Greg Gillespie again for publishing this adventure and making it awesome.

Today I’m covering escalation of wandering monsters, setpiece encounters vs. Quantum Ogres, and thoughts on material from other modules.

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Equipment Availability in Trade Town

(I’m getting pretty excited about my new Black City ACKS campaign. I’m working on a bunch of ideas in the background, but want to post some reference material now. Here’s one about buying stuff in Trade Town.)

When fully populated during high summer, Trade Town is considered a Class V market (as per ACKS Core Rules, p.40). However, in the “shoulder season” (early and late summer) it is only Class VI. And for the remainder of the year, the settlement is essentially abandoned.

Due to the remoteness of the Thule Archipelago and the limited number of merchants, inflation in rampant and prices can be two times (or more) than in Scandinavia.

General adventuring equipment can be purchased at double normal cost, with availability governed by base (non-inflated) price. Weapons and armour a bit different, though, since the inhabitants of Trade Town are of Norse descent and forge weapons and armour appropriate to their homeland.

Here are the culturally-appropriate weapons that can be purchased in Trade Town:

Weight Range
  Hand Axe 8gp 1d6 (1H) ⅙ st. 10’/20’/30’
  Battle Axe 14gp 1d6/1d8 ⅙ st.
  Great Axe 20gp 1d10 (2H) 1 st.
  Short Bow 12gp 1d6 (2H) 1 st. 50’/100’/150’
  Crossbow 30gp (30%) 1d8 (2H) 1 st. 80’/160’/240’
  Club 2gp 1d4 (1H) ⅙ st.
  Throwing Hammer 8gp 1d6 (1H) ⅙ st. 10’/20’/30’
  War Hammer 10gp 1d6/1d8 ⅙ st.
  Javelin 2gp 1d6 (1H) ⅙ st. 20’/40’/60’
  Spear 6gp 1d6/1d8 1 st. 15’/30’/45’
  Polearm 16gp 1d10 (2H) 1 st.
  Dagger 6gp 1d4 (1H) ⅙ st. 10’/20’/30’
  Short Sword 12gp 1d4 (1H) ⅙ st.
  Long Sword 20gp 1d6/1d8 ⅙ st.
  Great Sword 30gp (80%) 1d10 (2H) 1 st.
Other Weapons:
  Darts (5) 4gp 1d4 (1H) ⅙ st. 15’/30’/45’
  Net 4gp ⅙ st. 5’/10’/15’
  Sap 2gp 1d4 (1H) ⅙ st.
  Sling 8gp 1d4 (1H) ⅙ st. 45’/90’/180’
  Staff 2gp 1d4/1d6 1 st.
  Whip 10gp 1d2 (1H) ⅙ st.

And below is a revised table of “Viking-flavoured” armour available in Trade Town:

Light Armour:
  Soft Leather 20gp +1 1 st.
  Quilted Gambeson 20gp +1 1 st.
  Leather Jerkin 40gp (80%) +2 2 st.
  Sea Leather * 80gp (50%) +2 2 st.
Medium Armour:
  Studded Leather 60gp (60%) +3 3 st.
  Chain Byrnie 80gp (50%) +3 3 st.
  Chain Hauberk 160gp (20%) +4 4 st.
Heavy Armour:
  Double Chain 320gp (10%) +5 5 st.
  Plate Mail Not invented yet!
Helmets & Shields:
  Light Helmet 0gp† (10gp) -­1 AC if not present
  Heavy Helm 40gp (80%) +2 v. mortal wounds
  Shield 20gp +1 1 st.

* Characters in Sea Leather can swim without penalty and the armour is not damaged by salt water.
† A light helmet is included in the cost of any suit of armour at no additional cost.

“Availability” indicates the chance that a particular item is in stock in Trade Town (a Class V market); I’ve tweaked some of these from the RAW to suit my own purposes. Items that are not available can be commissioned from local craftsmen and artisans. Allow 1 day per 10gp value for fabrication (e.g., a chain hauberk would take 16 days).

Hyperborea HR

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Further Thoughts on ACKS Thieves

Thieves suck, as I noted in earlier post on Thievery in ACKS. I mitigated this by tweaking the odds on Thievery skills (and other, similar proficiences) – particularly at lower levels.

I’m gearing up for a new ACKS campaign, which leans heavily on material from the forthcoming ACKS Heroic Companion. Those rules take a different approach – allowing for Dexterity modifiers, encumbrance modifiers, and equipment for Thieves to improve skill odds.

I’m going to stick with my own house rules here, though, and I’ve got three reasons to justify this:

  1. Thieves suck the most at low level. If you don’t have the gold to buy the good gear, then you can’t get the bonuses. But those who can’t afford it – apprentice Thieves – are precisely the ones who need the biggest boost.
  2. Tracking all the bonuses from gear adds another level of bookkeeping to the game. Do I really want to double check that the character has his ear trumpet, padded shoes, thieves’ garb, companion kit, and superior (or masterwork) tools accounted for properly? Not really.
  3. And third; I go back to my original complaint that this opens up the slippery slope of variable “target numbers” on checks. In ACKS, most probabilities are intrinsic to the character, which seems more “pure” to me.

Anyhow – this is my justification for using my own Thief house rules, rather than adopt some of the Thievery rules from the Heroic Companion. I’m going to try and use the Revised Thief Skills guidelines, though – the fumble and “near miss” rules are too interesting to ignore. And I reserve the right to swipe some of the Equipment for Thieves as enchanted gear…

Hyperborea HR

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Thoughts on Barrowmaze (Part 2)

Last week I posted some of my thoughts on Barrowmaze, and it turns out that I still have a ton of notes jotted down about the game.

Today I’ll write about some of the ways in which I customized Barrowmaze for my own purposes, how I maintained the pace to ensure closure to the adventure, and some more thoughts about maps.

(By the way, the image at right is by Von Allen and is entitled “fleeing from Barrowmaze”. I put a printout of it on my referee screen to remind the players that not every encounter can be defeated.)

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