Tuesday, August 25, 2020

D&D: Sky Warriors of Phrydias

Here's an oldie I originally posted on EN World more than 4 years ago. It's actually part of CC1 Beyond the Skies. I bet a number of people haven't seen this. This excerpt introduces an order of half-elven knights who ride giant eagles. Their base of operation is a circular structure hanging from a gigantic balloon.

CC1 FLOOR PLAN Phrydias Seminary for EnWorld .png

This order of half-elven knights originally formed in honor of an epic hero by the name of Bambathiel. His legends tell of the first recorded case of a Calderan eagle being tamed as a mount. The giant raptors are reputed for being particularly difficult to approach, let alone to befriend and ride like a horse. Magic sometimes works in this respect, but followers of Thaëldar see this as an insult to their deity. For them, Calderan eagles embody their Lord of the Skies. Being entrusted with one is nothing less than a holy gift requiring utmost respect and devotion.

Bambathiel died in a fight with a night howler, a great beast of evil that had been preying on Calderan eagles in the Kaël Mountains. Though he who became known as the First Knight defeated his mythical foe, his wounds and those of his majestic mount were awash with deadly poison. No prior in Phrydias could stop its spreading, and both died in writhing pain. The High-Prior of Thaëldar prayed for their return to life, but the Great God of the Skies decided to keep them both at his side. Since then, faithful followers of Thaëldar, those who are pure of thought and brave at heart, have created the Order of Sky Warriors in memory of their fallen hero. Bambathiel and Oba Eagle-Lord together became scions of the cult and the order’s spiritual protectors.

The night howler is an enormous beast that sometimes appears late at night. It is born from the nightmares of slumbering evil Phrydians, and vanishes before dawn. What is unclear, however, is why so many people would make the same horrid dream during one fateful night. No Bongorese literature had ever mentioned night howlers. A sect of malevolent wizards or perhaps a demon are thought to be at work, summoning the beast when the moons are right, perhaps as the consequence of an unholy ritual planting seeds of evil into many a weaker or disturbed mind. Priors of Thaëldar have come to believe that in the heart of the eagles lies great spiritual power, which the wicked covet for their evil deeds. What they do with such wondrous power remains a mystery. As the beast unexpectedly rises again to wreak havoc upon Thaëldar’s flock, the knights scramble to deny the odious harvest. In truth, the beast springs from a curse. It was cast by the demon-prince Kokumo, when Thaëldar cast his spear at him.

This order is the armed chapter of the Faith of Thaëldar. Aside from safeguarding breeds of eagles small and large, they live to protect of the Sky God’s temples in Phrydias and elsewhere. A contingent resides in northwestern Alfdaín where the cult has found significant following. Their ethos is neither fundamentally malevolent or purely benevolent. Their philosophy concerns more specifically the order of all things in the universe. Most members of Thaëldar’s fanatical legion stick together as a military organization. Others ride their fabulous mounts, travelling the world in search of clues about who or what lies behind the summoning of night howlers. They are avengers, adventuring warriors looking for a worthy cause for the purpose of acquiring goodwill toward their quest and their faith. Their beneficiaries are to watch for defilers of great eagles and for clues about the night howlers, and alert them if such comes about. Following the belief that evil doers dwell in evil places, sky warriors aren’t loath to exploring dungeons and other places of despair, for hints may lie there was well.

Isn’t a knight anyone who desires it. Prerequisites include being at least a pious follower of Thaëldar. In this regard, race is not an issue. To become a squire, one must already be a fine warrior or a skilled prior (one with the experience of at least a dozen worthwhile dungeon expeditions should qualify). A time will come when the squire will have to seek out a giant eagle’s nest high in the Kaël Mountains and earn its occupant’s respect, a perilous quest on its own. Magic of any kind, clerical or otherwise, is not permitted, and the squire must act alone. Should a glorious fate shine upon the squire, an egg will be available for the taking. It must be safely returned to the order’s sanctum, wherein its new owner will have to care for it until it hatches. The squire must raise the young eagle, nurture its growth, earn its loyalty, and train it as a mount.

Note: The remainder of the chapter goes on about 
risks and rewards of being a knight, and creating a player-character. You'll find all this in CC1 Beyond the Skies

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

D&D: Don't Eat the Purple Lotus

            The so-called purple lotus is a very strange creature. It grows in shallow waters, on ponds, lakes, and slow-moving rivers. Its bloom closes up at dawn and sinks below the surface during the day. When it emerges to take in the light of stars and the moons, the purple lotus is resplendent in its shimmers glowing from indigo to deep violet. Its petals wither and fall off over time for others to replace them, curling up and taking the appearance of a mound of gold coins under the water, around and beneath the plant. Withered petals turn into decaying muck when scooped up. The oddities do not end there.

Golden Lotus Field by Samantha Genier, Deviantart. ©2013 Samantha Genier.
            These flowers grow in large patches of at least 10 plants, each one about 10’ apart from at least two others. They do not grow below ground, unless they can receive moonlight which they need to survive along with nutrients from the ground. All of them connect through a network of roots. Called a prime, one among them is a sentient being able to see and hear through each of the surrounding plants. Their number indicates how intelligent the prime is: min. 9, +1 for every 10 lotuses above the first 10. It takes about ten years for a prime to sharpen its mind by a mere point. With an Int of 10, it can cast druidic spells as a level 2 cleric, +2 experience levels per point of Int above 10). There isn’t a limit to how intelligent a prime can grow, but anything above 18 is extremely rare. Such large patches usually breed another prime that leaves with 10-40 plants to establish its own colony. The chart below summarizes the progression.

Prime Lotus Intelligence
Number of Plants
Spellcasting Level

            The prime looks like the surrounding plants, unless someone leans over its bloom and observes its pistil, which will reveal a pair of tiny eyes looking back. It can cast its spells through any of the surviving plants. Although it cannot speak, the prime can respond telepathically to visitors able to speak with plants. The prime is also able to produce written material from its leaves, their veins forming a natural script unique to the region. Local monsters with animal intelligence or better have learned to avoid lotus patches.

Purple Lotus: AC 9 (unarmored), HD 1*, 5 hp, MV 30 (10’), AT 1 cloud, D nil, Save F1, Int 1, ML n/a, AL Neutral, Size: S, XP 13.
            Abilities: Cloud of pollen.
Prime Lotus: AC 9 (unarmored), HD 1-10********, 5-50 hp, MV 30 (10’), AT 1 cloud or spell, D nil of by spell, Save F1-10, Int 9-18, ML 7, AL Neutral, Size: S, XP 13-7,000.
            Abilities: Cloud of pollen; spellcasting as a druid (see chart for experience level).

            When disturbed, these plants shoot a cloud of pollen about 30’x30’x30’ large (enough to fill its 10’x10’ space and eight others immediately adjacent). Each lotus can release a new cloud every 3d4 rounds. The pollen acts as a narcotic for anyone failing a saving throw. Each cloud requires a separate roll. Failing the first check results in several penalties: move at 1/3 MV, cannot cast spells, –2 penalty to AC, saves, and attack rolls. With a second failure, victims stand by the closest mound of fake gold and defend their “treasures” against anyone approaching. With a third failure, victims fall unconscious for another 3d4 hours and possibly drown in the shallow water; golden pollen covers their clothes and exposed skins, and takes 3d6 days to come off.

            The prime lotus will cast its spells at anyone or anything threatening its patch. Its intelligence and spellcasting ability drop according to the number of plants killed. If the prime is destroyed, the entire patch withers and dies. If victims are lying unconscious among the plants after the fight ends, the surviving patch will move to another location. A patch can also move at the behest of the prime at MV 30’/Turn (180’/hour or about 1½ mile per day). They pull up their roots and use either the prevailing westward wind or the water’s weak downstream current.
            Purple lotus patches are more common on far eastern coastal lands which possess many rivers, streams, and lakes. In their own way, they are akin to human clans and are able to communicate by discarding one of their own to carry a message to another patch. The prime can cast a create water spell variant maintaining a safe depth for its patch to survive a drought, or raising the surface of an enclosed body of water. The spell lasts for 24 hours and raises the surface level about 1” per hour (2’ per day). The area affected must be no more than 90’ across plus 10’ per HD, otherwise reduce the speed at which the water rises accordingly.

Black Lotus: Far more uncommon than the purple lotus is one that is undead. Those patches have fallen prey to a water hag, a horrid creature that corrupted and cursed them to guard its lair’s entrance below the surface. It is perhaps the only extant case of an undead creature able to cast druidic spells.
            The hag awaits in deeper, darker waters, dragging into her lair victims falling unconscious. Back lotus pollen is poisonous to exposed skin, inflicting 1d4 hp of unhealable damage per day (no save). Magical or natural healing may resume after the pollen wears off. Those who die of this poison rise 1d4+4 hours later as wights. A cleric can Turn a black lotus patch as an undead corresponding to its prime’s HD. The Turn attempt requires a score high enough to result in the destruction of the undead, in which case the entire patch is destroyed. Black lotuses are generally found in bayous, swamps, or waterlogged moors.

Source: The map was cropped and altered from the revised climate chart by Thorfinn Tait, available as a poster map on DTRPG ©2019 Bruce A. Heard. The purple lotuses as fantasy creatures constitute original content ©2020 Bruce A. Heard.