Thursday, November 1, 2012

Clark Ashton Smith - Some Ideas and Descriptions from his Stories - 7

Clark Ashton Smith - Some Ideas and Descriptions from his Stories

If you have not read this story TURN BACK NOW! or risk losing forever the unspoiled appreciation of Clark Ashton Smith's prose.

Inspired by the rules and setting of the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyberborea boxed set and the discussion of the same on the OD&D Forum I have started sifting through my collection of Clark Ashton Smith for ideas.

7). The Planet of the Dead

Altanoman [NPC]
Antarion [NPC]
Chamalos [PLC]
Haspa [NPC]
Phandium [PLC]
Saddoth [TWN]
Thameera [NPC] female
Urbyzaun [TWN]

He was standing on a road paven with cyclopean blocks of grey stone - a road that ran interminably before him into the vague, tremendous vistas of an inconceivable world. There were low, funereal, drooping trees along the road, with sad-colored foliage and fruits of a deathly violet; and beyond the trees were range on range of monumental obelisks, of terraces and domes, of colossal multiform piles, that reached away in endless, countless perspectives toward an indistinct horizon. Over all, from an ebon-purple zenith, there fell in rich, unlustrous rays the illumination of a blood-red sun. The forms and proportions of the labyrinthine mass of buildings were unlike anything that has been designed in terrestrial architecture; and for an instant, Melchior was overwhelmed by their number and magnitude, by their monstrosity and bizarrerie...

He, Antarion, a renowned poet of the land of Charmalos, in the elder world that was known to its living peoples by the name of Phandiom, had gone on a brief journey to a neighboring realm...

...and glad that he was now approaching his native city of Saddoth, where dwelt her dark and splendid palace of past aeons the beautiful Thameera, whom he loved.

...the world where in he walked as Antarion was incomputably old, and the ages of its history were too many for remembrance; and the towering obelisks and piles along the paven road were the high tombs, the proud monuments of its immemorial dead, who had come to outnumber infinitely the living. In more than the pomp of earthly kings, the dead were housed in Phandiom; and their cities loomed insuperably vast, with never-ending streets and prodigious spires, above those lesser abodes wherein the living dwelt. And throughout Phandiom the bygone years were a tangible presence, an air that enveloped all; and the people were steeped in the crepuscular gloom of antiquity; and were wise with all manner of accumulated lore; and were subtle in the practice of strange refinements, of erudite perversities, of all that can shroud with artful opulence and grace and variety the bare uncouth cadaver of life, or hide from mortal vision the leering skull of death. And here, in Saddoth, beyond the domes and terraces and columns of the huge necropolis, like a necromatic flower wherein forgotten lilies live again, there bloomed the superb and sorrowful loveliness of Thameera.

He and she were the last representatives of noble ancient families, whose untabulated lineage was lost in the crowded cycles of Phandiom. Like all others of their race, they were embued with the heritage of a complex and decadent culture; and upon their souls the never-lifting shadow of the necropolis had fallen from birth.

Thameera was even more sensitive, more visionary by nature; and hers was the ultimate refinement that is close to an autumnal decay. The influences of the past, which were a source of poetic fruition to Antarion were turned by her delicate nerves to pain and languor, to horror and oppression. The palace wherein she lived, and the very streets of Saddoth were filled for her with emanations that welled from the sepulchral reservoirs or death; and the weariness of the innumerable dead was everywhere; and evil or opiate presences came forth from mausolean vaults, to crush and stifle her with the formless brooding of their wings. Only in the arms of Antarion could she escape them; and only in his kisses could she forget.

Antarion was once more admitted to the presences of Thameera by slaves who were invariably discreet, being tongueless. In the oblique light of beryl and topaz windows, in the mauve and crimson gloom of heavy-folded tapestries, on a floor of marvelous mosaic wrought in ancient cycles, she came forward languidly to greet him. She was fairer than his memories, and paler than a blossom of the catacombs. She was exquisitely frail, voluptuously proud, with hair of a lunar gold and eyes of nocturnal brown that were pierced by fluctuating stars and circled by the dark pearl of sleepless nights. Beauty and love and sadness exhaled from her like manifold perfume.

They saw below them the ruinous and forgotten roofs of Urbyzaun, which had lain unpeopled for more than a thousand years; and beyond the roofs, the black unlustrous lake surrounded by hills of bare and eave-corroded rock, that had once been the inlet of a great sea.

...the crumbling palace of the emperor Altanoman, whose high, tumultuous glories were now a failing legend...

Beneath the black midnight that hung above them like an imminence of, unremoving wings, the streets of Saddoth were aflare with a million lights of yellow and cinnabar and cobalt and purple. Along the vast avenues, the gorge-deep alleys, and in and out of the stupendous olden palaces, temples, and mansions, there poured the antic revelry, the tumultuous merriment of a night-long masquerade, everyone was abroad, from Haspa the king and his sleek, sybaritic courtiers, to the lowliest mendicants and pariahs; and a rout of extravagant, unheard of costumes, a melange of fantasies more various than those of an opium dream, seethed and eddied everywhere.

Late in the evening, Antarion left by a postern door the tall and gloomy mansion of his forefathers, and wended his way through the hysteric whirling of the throng toward Thameera's palace. He was garbed in apparel of an antique style, such as had not been worn for a score of centuries in Phandiom; and his whole head and face were enveloped in a peculiar physiognomy of a people now extinct. No one could have recognized him, nor could he on his part, have recognized many of the revellers he met, no matter how well-known to him, for most of them were disguised in apparel no less outre, and wore masks that were whimsical or absurd or loathsome or laughable beyond conception. There were devils and empresses and deities, there were kings and necromancers from all the far, unfathomed ages of Phandiom, there were monsters of medieval or prehistoric types, there were things that had never been born or beheld except in the minds of insane decadent artists, seeking to surpass the abnormalities of nature. Even the tomb had been drawn upon for inspiration, and shrouded mummies, worm-gnawed cadavers, promenaded among the living. All these masks were the screen of an orgiastic license without precedent or parallel.


I have plundered 'The Planet of the Dead' for ideas concerning the isle of Ix, the city-state of Yithorium and a festival for the Zangeriosans.


Unspeakable Ix is a land of dark dreams and brooding evil. The isle at the rim of the world reaches far beyond any geographic boundaries and the great cyclopean roads that cross the isle run interminably into a 'vague, tremendous vista of an inconceivable world'. It is as if all the dead cities, necropoli, forgotten and abandoned temples, monuments and mausoleums of not only this world but also of untold alien worlds, bizarre and monstrous, can be found stretching endlessly into a distant horizon. That Ix sits not only on the rim of this world, but countless worlds and times, Wandering into these lands it easy to become lost and few who venture forth are ever heard from again.

But it is the living cities of Ix that those from Hyperborea first encounter; Great Saddoth, the capitol of Altanoman's small empire, the city-states of Charamol and Phandiom, and Urbyzaun, ruinous and crumbling, which lies on the outer edge of the kingdom, where the undead servants of necromancer's outnumber the living. Evil dwells in this land whether in the cities of the living or the dead.


Thameera, witch-queen of Yithorium, was once a princess of Saddoth. Her father, Altanoman necromancer-king of Saddoth, conqueror and ruler of Phandiom, Chamalor, and Urbyzaun, the last city-states of the living upon the isle of Ix, had dark sacrificial plans for his beloved daughter. With the help of her lover, the poet Antarion, she escaped and fled the isle, but Altanoman cursed them both. His power over the dead and death itself was boundless and so he cursed his daughter and her lover with eternal life. Thameera is immortal but each day is a torment, only with Antarion does she truly feel and though his curse is a kind of immortality he lives for only a month inhabiting the body of a man of his lineage before fading again to exist in a nightmare realm of the necromancer-king's devising.

Thameera's immortality has 'turned her delicate nerves to pain and languour, to horror and oppression' and without Antarion such is her rulership of Yithorium. Constantly she looks for ways to break Antarion's curse, though she has come to welcome the endless youth of her own immortality.

Yithorium is now a rich city, but it is tightly controlled by the witch-queen and her soldiers. There are parts of her city that are still no more than the ruins which Thameera and her band of mercenaries found long ago, but slowly she is rebuilding Yithorium, house by house and street by street.

There is a constant need for workers, both in the city, clearing and rebuilding, and in the mines where Thameera gathers her wealth. Adventurers of all types are sent to explore the ruins and all such are welcome, but the laws of the city are strict and the punishment for breaking those laws can be months or years working in the mines. Any male entering the city who bears a resemblance to Antarion will find himself invited to a private interview with the witch-queen, but eventually any relationship that develops will end badly.

Thameera is always eager for news regarding Ix or her father, the necromancer-king.


In Port Zangerios and the Zangerios Islands they celebrate the first night the Green Death came upon them in an orgiastic, night-long masquerade that flows through every town and especially the streets of the City of Masks.

This festival is called 'The Night of Death', but while the people of Zangerios honor the dead upon this day, the night is a celebration of life at its most primal. Children born nine or so months from this day are considered blessed with life but no one examines their parentage too closely.

From the most lowly beggar to Governor Haspa himself, all can be found in masked costumes ranging from rags to the most elaborate, unheard of, and extravagant. From the last rays of the sun through the deep of the night till the first glimmer of dawn, the celebration illuminates the streets in a river of multi-colored lights like a flood of jewels spilled from the coffers of a dragon's hoard.

The revellers rule the streets on this night and the laws are few. Murder and robbery are frowned upon, but appearing without mask or costume can quickly become a sentence of death if the fickle, cruel, drugged and drunken mob has its way. Those who do not wish to participate in the celebrations bolt their doors, shutter their windows and pray for dawn.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Catacombs of Ptolemides - IV

AREAS 16-18

These areas of the dungeon are filled with thick and clinging spiders' webs (except for where noted). The passages and rooms average 10ft in height except for room 16 whose ceiling arches to a 15ft peak at the center. The walls are smooth stone. Entrances to passageways are arched and framed in stone. Doors are thick, hard wood with iron bands and hinges hidden in equally thick beams used as frames. The average door takes 300hp of damage to knock down. 

The spiderwebs  are thickest near the ceilings and thin near the floor. They obscure vision and make it hard to move. Vision is down to 10ft even with a bright lightsource. Movement is also slowed down to 10. Fighting within the webs is at -2 to hit and damage for all weapon types except for piercing weapons which receive no penalty. 

The webs are sticky and clinging, but not strong enough to hold up more than a hat or a small dagger. 

The webs are unusually moist and have a sickly sweet smell. An open flame will cause the lower webs to crinkle and blacken while emitting a thick smoke, but to set them afire requires an open flame to be held to them for at least 2 combat rounds or the use of magical means.

If the flames do catch fire the results will be spectacular and a bit explosive.


The upper few feet of the webs near to the ceiling are heavily permeated with fumes from enchanted embalming barrels (A new item noted below). Any open flames which reaches reaches to the ceilings, such as a torch thrust above 8ft or burning webs, will cause the fumes to ignite in a greenish flame. Anyone within the 10ft block where the fire began must Save versus Dexterity or receive 1d8 damage (The save will reduce this to 1d4 damage and the character will have dropped to the ground). There will be a 1 in 6 chance that the fire will ignite clothing, hair, etc... though a successful Save versus Avoidance will negate any potential damage. 

If the webs are ignited there will be several effects:

Flames will spread through Area16-18 at a rate of 20ft per combat round. 

All Giant Ogre-Faced Spiders will take 1d8 fire damage.

All Pickled Zombies (New Monster) outside of their embalming barrels will be ignited. 

All seals on embalming barrels will crack though the barrels will not automatically open.

All open doors will slam shut unless prevented.

The cracked walkway at 16b will collapse. Specific damage and effects are noted under 16b's description.

Area 18a will explode. Specific damage and effects noted under 18a's description.

AREA 16-18 cont...

Wooden embalming barrels are stored throughout this area. Several of them have been cracked open and are releasing a sickly sweet stench whose fumes have filled the webs along the ceiling.

This entire area is home to a large colony of Giant Ogre-Faced Spiders. They have been attracted by the fumes coming from the cracked embalming barrels). All Giant Ogre-Faced Spiders in this area are slightly poisoned and inebriated do to the inhalation of these fumes. They are at 1/2 hp and are -3 to hit.

Zombie, Pickled
No. Encountered: 1d6
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Size: M
Movement: 20
Dexterity: 3
Armour Class: 6
Hit Dice: 2
No. of Attacks: 1 (Pummel or Bite)
Damage: 1d6 Pummel or 1d3 Bite
Saving Throw: 16
Morale: 12
Experience Points: 52
Treasure Class: J,K,L,M

Pickled Zombies are the result of unhallowed corpses left inside enchanted embalming barrels. These barrels (combined with a specific fluid) are normally sealed with a clay and wax ward that inhibits reanimation, but over time or if the seal is damaged, the bodies placed in these barrels will reanimate as a slightly weakened form of a normal zombie.

In appearance these Pickled Zombies are undecayed. Their flesh is moist and covered in a viscous goo which exudes from their pores, mouth, nostrils and other bodily openings. This goo smells sickly sweet and the fumes which come from it are flammable though the goo is not. Anyone trying to grapple with a Pickled Zombie will be at a -2 disadvantage. They are literally as slippery as a greased pig.

2 or more Pickled Zombies will attempt to grapple or overbear an opponent. If they are able they will then stuff the victim in an enchanted embalming barrel in an attempt to create another zombie. It takes at least a week for a body to ripen in a barrel and emerge as a Pickled Zombie.

Pickled Zombies are immune to fire based attacks. If exposed to flame, magical or normal, they will ignite with a shimmering blue flame, but the viscous goo that they exude protects them from fire damage. A burning Pickled Zombie does an additional 1d4 per attack with a 1 in 6 chance of setting their opponent afire for 2 combat rounds (at 1d4 damage per round). Save versus Avoidance for no damage. This blue flame will last around a Pickled Zombie for 1d6+3 combat rounds unless reignited by another flame source.

Pickled Zombies smell sickly sweet and attract spiders of all sorts. The fumes are a mild poison to spiders as well as an intoxicant. A spider exposed to these fumes for more than a week will be poisoned at 1/2hp and intoxicated for a -3 to hit penalty.


Enchanted Embalming Fluid
This fluid is normally found in conjunction with Enchanted Embalming Barrels and Pickled Zombies. Though it can be found on its own, it has a shelf life of only 2 weeks before losing its potency when not in a Enchanted Embalming Barrel or Pickled Zombie. It is a mild poison which will reduce most non-magical creatures to 1/2hp if exposed to it for more than a week. It is a greenish, thick liquid that emits a powerful sickly sweet smell. This smell attracts spiders from as far away as 60ft+1d10x10ft


Enchanted Embalming Barrel
These were designed years ago to preserve the bodies of the dead for a more elaborate interment. Each was sealed with a priestly ward set in clay and wax around the barrels lid after the body was placed inside. Unfortunately these wards decayed after only a few months and were easily damaged. A body placed in an unwarded Enchanted Embalming Barrel will become a Pickled Zombie after a weeks marination. 

3 poisoned Giant Ogre-Faced Spiders reside in this area. They will attack anyone passing through the center section of the room.

In the South-West corner of the room there is an over-turned hand-cart with a broken wheel. Beneath the cart is a large wooden chest. The chest is unlocked and has inside a large quantity of spoiled trail rations, 3 skins of dank but drinkable water (1 quart each), a glass jar  with a waxed top containing 1 pint of moonshine. In a secret compartment at the bottom of the chest are 2 healing potions and 1/2 a dozen empty potion bottles.

Along the North wall are 6 Enchanted Embalming barrels, 4 of which contain Pickled Zombies.

AREA 16a
These corridors contain webs, Pickled Zombies, poisoned Giant Ogre-Faced Spiders, and Enchanted Embalming Barrels,

For every 20ft of corridor there is a 1 in 3 chance of encountering the following:
1). 1d2 poisoned Giant Ogre-Faced Spiders
2). 1d3 Pickled Zombies
3). 1d3 Enchanted Embalming Barrels that are:
a). Empty 
b). Sealed with the body of a corpse - Treasure Class - L,K,M
c). Unsealed with a Pickled Zombie
4). The drained hulk of some creature
a). A dog
b). several rats
c). The body of a man in leather armor. He clutches a short-sword in his withered hand. A small case on his belt contains ink, quills, parchment and a partially completed map of this level.
d). A man in robes. He wears an enchanted +1 silver dagger on this right arm. Inside his robes in a hidden pocket there is a tube containing a scroll of Burning Hands and another scroll of Flame Missile.
e). The body of an Giant Ogre-Faced Spider on its back with its legs curled around it. It is not dead, only dead drunk and poisoned like its fellows. It will spring to life if awakened.

AREA 16b
This 10ft section of hallway is piled with a score of Enchanted Embalming Barrels. At some point these were used as a make-shift platform to reach the ceiling. Some took a hammer and chisel and did substantial damage to ceiling, even gouging a few holes to the passage above. The barrels have no fallen and several are cracked open and oozing a greenish viscous goo. 

The heavy fumes in this spot have attracted 1/2 dozen Giant Ogre-Faced Spiders who lair in this passage. They are both poisoned and drunk like their fellows in other areas. 

If exposed to open flame these webs will ignite with a powerful explosion. Anyone in the 16b square will suffer 3d8 damage (Save versus Breath Weapon for 1/2 damage). Anyone in the two adjacent squares will suffer 2d8 damage, Save versus Breath Weapon for 1/2 damage). 

If an explosion occurs the ceiling will crumble and now have a 5ft diameter ragged hole (or from above a 5ft diameter hole in the floor of that passage). All barrels in and around 16b will split apart and 8 flaming Pcikled Zombies will crawl from the wreckage.

This room is littered with smashed barrels, the dismembered bodies of 5 Pickled Zombies and 7 dead Giant Ogre-Faced Spiders. The door to the East is open, but has been severely damaged and hangs only from an upper hinge. The secret door beyond is closed and a bar has been dropped across the inner side to keep it shut.

The webs in this room have been hacked apart at 6ft high and lower, but the upper webs are still thick and permeated with embalming fumes. These webs will ignite if exposed to flame but will cause only 1d3 damage to anyone beneath them and a Save versus Dexterity (which will mean dropping to the floor) will negate any damage.

AREA 18a
This small room is jammed with Enchanted Embalming Barrels, the Southern 10ft square is packed floor to ceiling with over 25 barrels alone. All the barrels are cracked and leaking fluid.

The door to this room is shut but not locked. Anyone opening the door will need to Save versus Breath Weapon or become immediately nauseated and subject to vomiting. Each combat round that this door is open or anyone is within the room, a Save must be made. This door is partially cracked and leaks fumes from the concentrated source within. If the hall outside the door is ignited then area 18a will explode violently.

The door will be shattered and cause 1d10 damage to anyone standing in the 10ft block front of it (in the 18b hall). Anyone inside the room will suffer 3d8 damage. After such an explosion the room will contain only a large amount of shattered barrels and body parts. If anyone sifts the wreckage they may find 280gp, 584sp, 2,000cp and 12 30gp gems. To recover these items by mundane means will be slow and disgusting work.

AREA 18b
The Northern door to this hall is shut with a bar across it, but is also nailed shut with iron spikes from the other side.

The Eastern door leading to area 18a is shut and the door is cracked

The West door is open.

This small hallway is filled with webs. See area 16a for possible encounters.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Catacombs of Ptolemides - III

9a). At both of these spots marked in the corridor there is a large pool of dried blood. Between these marked spots on the map and location 9b there are smears and drops of blood streaked across the stone floor in the direction of area 9b.

9b). This area is layered with debris; wood that has been splintered, cloth torn into strips, even vegetation such as roots and wild vines. The debris is spread across the room and several feet thick. At a point near the center of the room a man's foot and lower leg is half buried under this mess.

If anyone pulls at this foot it will resist slightly then pull away revealing a foot with a leg severed a few inches above the knee. If the leg is pulled free or if anyone searches or disturbs the debris 2 swarms of baby giant ticks will erupt from their layered nest and attack. There are a total of 5 baby tick swarms within this room. After the initial 2 that attack, another 1 will form and attack whenever anyone disturbs the debris or tries to search.

If the debris is searched carefully, a long, messy and disgusting job, they will discover the upper body of a man in chainmail, a severed hand with a gold ring with ruby chips worth 10gp, a chipped and dulled longsword that radiates magic, which is -1 to hit but +2 to damage, and 32gp, 15sp and a small bag containing 5 uncut diamonds which appear to be cloudy crystals but are worth 50gp each.

New Monster:
Tick, Giant (Baby Swarm)
No. Encountered: 1d6
Size: S
Movement: 25
Dexterity: 12
Armour Class: 9
Hit Dice: 5
No. Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d4
Saving Throw: 10
Morale: -
Experience Points: 50
Treasure Class: -

A swarm of baby giant ticks represents 40 of these little monsters. Each is about 3 inches long and has 1hp. Any damage to the swarm represents the actual number killed in the attack.

Fire will keep them at bay
Piercing weapons do only 1hp damage per attack
If reduced below 16 in number the swarm will dissolve and the surviving baby giant ticks attempt  to skitter away.

10). This circular niche off the west side of the corridor contains a fountain and a small pool that is about 2ft high and the diameter of the niche. The water pours from a pitcher in the hands of a statue of a voluptuous naked woman. The water is collected in the circular pool at the statues feet. Followers of Lunaqqua will receive a blessing following their first drink of this water. This blessing will give them a +1 advantage in all dice rolls for the next 6 game turns. Subsequent drinking at this fountain will be refreshing but does nothing but dispel thirst.

Anyone desecrating this fountain (which includes attempts to damage it) will receive a curse of lycanthropy unless a save versus magic succeeds.

An overturned wooden bucket is at the edge of the stone pool.

11a). The door to this room is ajar. It can be barred from inside the room but no crosspiece is in evidence. It can be locked but the key is nowhere to be found.

11b). Three long tables are set side by side toward the center of this area. On each table is a nude body, two men and one woman. An overturned metal tripod and metal basin is near the west-most of the tables and half-burnt coals, now long cooled, have spilled from it. (The coals can be gathered and will burn for an hour, giving off a good deal of heat but very little light). Under the coals is a dagger made from a chunk of obsidian and wrapped with leather. It radiates magic if detected.

New Item: This is a Dagger of Mordezzan. It is a +1 magic weapon, but its main use is in the creation of animated skeletons and the production of Skins of Mordezzan. The dagger can make incisions in dead flesh that when complete will animate up to 3 skeletons per day. These skeletons will be at the command of their creator, except they will take no actions against a follower of Mordezzan who wears a Skin or bears the symbol of Mordezzan. A follower of Mordezzan who is a cleric or necromancer may wrest the command of these skeletons if they are of higher level.

New Item: The Skin of Mordezzan is the specially prepared skin of a sacrificial victim. It radiates evil and is worn by a follower of Mordezzan granting him the same armour class as that of leather armour, provides +1 to saving throws, and protection against paralysis, cold based and charm spells and abilities. Arcane markings are placed on the victim's skin, then they are submerged in a vat of enchanted liquid, then a Dagger of Mordezzan is used to remove the skin. Anyone trying to wear a Skin of Mordezzan who is not a follower  must save versus poison of suffer 1d6 hp damage per combat round (save for half damage) and will suffer 1d6 hp damage per combat round until such a save is made even after the suit is removed. (Only 1 saving throw is necessary once the Skin is removed, but a save must be rolled each turn the Skin is worn.

A giant tick sits on top of the man's body on the center table. It has been poisoned while trying to drain the body. The tick is at half-hp and -1 to hit and damage. The bodies of 4 dead giant ticks are scattered around the floor north of the tables.

If anyone examines the bodies they will find arcane markings on the flesh that a necromancer will recognize as part of a ritual to animate the dead. Each body has bone deep incisions and it would take little effort to remove the skeletons from the surrounding flesh.

11b). A set of spikes on the east wall holds 7 human skins. These are completed Skins of Mordezzan. No trace of internal organs or bones are in evidence.

11c). The drained and dry body of a man in a dark blue robe is crumpled here. If searched it is revealed that he wears a Skin of Mordezzan beneath his robe, but it is damaged beyond repair showing many knife wounds in the back and head of the Skin and the man almost completely severed, hanging together only by the skin at the back of the neck.

12). The west wall of this room is lined with skeletons who stand motionless until someone approaches within 20ft, opens the northern doors or who attacks them from a distance. There are 9 skeletons lined up in two rows facing the west wall. In each of their hands is a human thigh-bone, one end spiked with nails, which they use like a spiked mace, damage 1d6. A stack of boxes three high is on the north wall and the south. Each box contains 2 skeletons. These will attack if the crate is open. These skeletons will obey the commands of anyone in a Skin of Mordezzan and will not attack anyone showing a symbol of Mordezzan.

12a). This door is shut but not locked. It can be barred from inside the room. The wooden crosspiece is on the floor near the door.

12b). This door is shut but not locked. It can be barred but no crosspiece is in evidence.

13). There is a large vat in the center of this room 5ft high and 10ft in diameter. The walls of this room are set with iron spikes and the bodies of 12 men are hanging upside down from the spikes. Each has been marked with arcane symbols and the sign of Mordezzan. Their bodies show lines of deep incisions head to toe.

An iron chain hangs from a pulley above the vat. Inside the vat is a thick, dark liquid that radiates magic if anyone detects such. The liquid is a primary ingredient in creating a Skin of Mordezzan, and a flask of it would be worth 5gp to an alchemist, Necromancer or seller of spell components. There is enough liquid in the vat to fill 1,000 flasks.

If anyone peers into the vat an Undead Minion of Mordezzan will reach out from the liquid and try to first grapple with the character then drag them into the vat. If this is successful the character will be attacked by 5 Undead Minions of Mordezzan

If the attempt to grapple the character fails, all 5 Minions will burst from the vat, pulling themselves over its edge and attack.

At the same time the Minions attack the bodies on the wall will begin to writhe and shake. In 2 combat rounds 5 of the bodies of the wall will have had their skeletons pull free of the flesh that surrounds them. They will drop to the floor and attack. 2 combat rounds after that 5 more will pull themselves free and 2 rounds later 5 more till a total of 15 skeletons have left their skins hanging on the walls. The empty skins are not yet enchanted and are merely dead flesh.

New Monster: Minion of Mordezzan Undead Type 3
No. Encountered: 1d6
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Size: M
Movement: 40
Dexterity: 10
Armour Class: 7
Hit Dice: 2
No. Attacks 3(Claw/Claw/Bite)
Damage: 1d3/1d3/1d6
Saving Throw: 15
Morale: 10
Experience Points: 41
Treasure Class: S,T

Minions of Mordezzan are similar to ghouls but lack the ability to paralyze their prey. At one time they were loyal members of the Mordazzen cult and wore sacred Skins of Mordezzan. Upon the death of the cultist this Skin bonds with their own flesh and they rise after a short time as an undead Minion of Mordazzen.

Immune to poison, paralysis, fear and cold-based attacks
Protection from evil holds them at bay

14). This chamber has walls covered in torn, blood spattered and shredded tapestry. 2 of these hangings have gold thread woven into them and are worth 25gp each, even in their mangled condition. In the south-west corner is a pile of broken wood made up mainly of chairs but some larger furniture of unknown type as well. Along the north wall there is a table, swept clear but covered in dried blood, as is the floor around the table. Against the east wall there is an overturned and smashed cabinet. Mixed in with the cabinet are torn books and scrolls and broken glass.

If the cabinet is searched there is a 50% chance that a hidden drawer at the bottom of a splintered shelf will be found. The drawer is locked and a thief can attempt to pick it. If the secret drawer is smashed open the two glass vials in will be smashed.

The drawer contains 2 potion vials and a small spell book.
Potion #1 is of Healing
Potion #2 is of Fire Resistance

The small book holds 3 spells; Animate Carrion, Extermination, and Skeleton Servant.

14a). A bench runs along the south wall of this alcove. Huddled against the east wall on the bench are two figures in blue robes. If approached closer than 10ft these 2 Undead Minions of Mordezzan will attack. If attacked from a distance they will also attack.

14b). This alcove at the south end of the main room is hidden from casual view by a torn tapestry. There are pegs running down the west wall and 5 dark blue robes are scattered beneath them on the floor.

Most noticeable is the Undead Minion of Mordezzan, stripped of its blue robe and nailed to the south wall with iron spikes. The creature is at only 5hp but is still animated and struggles to free itself.

15). This door is locked and barred shut from the east side of the door. A glyph has been carved into the wood of the door. If shown around the city above it will be found out that it is the mark of Ptolemides Thieve's Guild, but such questions will be noted and the Thieve's Guild will be informed. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Catacombs of Ptolemides - II

2). The center section of this hall is blackened from a recent fire and there are also signs of battle, but one that happened long enough ago for the stink of burning flesh to have faded to a mere memory.

2a). The secret door at this location has been made to look like part of the wall, but it is partially ajar and anyone searching this area will have a +1 chance of noticing it, while any thief passing within 10ft will have the same chance at detecting the secret door as if they had performed a search. If a thief actively searches for a secret door at thus location they will automatically find it.

The door opens inwards away from area 2 but pushing at it will not open the door, It will take a combined strength of 25 to move door and then it will only open wide enough for 1 person to squeeze through at a time. What anyone slipping through the door encounters is described in area 5.

2b). This secret door is fully open. If shut it is undetectable with the wall and will latch itself closed. It opens inward to the small room and can be opened or closed from the inside. The latch can be picked, or magicked open, or forced with a test of strength, or battered down if 300hp damage is inflicted on the door.

2c). In this area there is a wide burnt space centered around a smashed lantern. Within the burned area are the bodies of 3 dogs and a man. They have all been rat-gnawed and what remains of them has been crisped by the fire.

If searched the man's body has a fire-blackened dagger in his fist and a shortsword in a serviceable sheath beneath him. The remains of his belt, again underneath his body, has a set of thieve's picks and tools in a leather case attached.

The pack he wore was burnt by the fire and gnawed apart by rats. If it is touched it can be lifted waist high before coming to pieces and the contents spilling out on the floor. Inside the pack is a congealed pile of twenty lead sling bullets which can be picked apart and reused, a hammer with a charred handle that will snap at the head if used, 12 iron spikes, a knife in a gnawed leather sheath, 12gp, 23sp, 18cp (once in a small pouch but now loose. The entire mess will come cascading down and scatter across the floor. This may, at the DM's discretion, attract the creatures from area 4.

3). The stairs from all 4 entranceways to this area lead down in the direction of the map arrow so that the floor of this chamber is 15ft lower than the surrounding halls and passages. The roof is also higher and angles upward to meet a single, large beam in the ceiling. From floor to roof is a 40ft distance.

Hanging from the ceiling beams are 3 giant ticks. 1 tick will drop upon the first person to pass more than 5ft into the room from any of the sets of stairs. The other 2 giant ticks will leap down the following combat round. All 3 ticks will jump down if attacked.

In the corner along the west wall is a pile of debris which includes the carcases of 2 dogs, sucked dry of fluids by the ticks, as well as the drained bodies of several giant rats. The exoskeletons of 5 giant ticks are also scattered among the debris.

While the ticks possess no treasure their exoskeletons are worth 5gp each if sold to an alchemist or dealer in spell components. Each exoskeleton is 3ft in diameter and weighs several pounds.

4). This room may once have been used for storage and along the west wall can be found the broken staves of barrels as well as their rusted iron bands, broken bottles and glass fragments. If someone sifts through this they will find 1 unbroken bottle of lamp oil.

More recently this room appears to have been used as a campsite. There are half-a-dozen blankets and bed rolls spread out along the south wall and some gear such as armor, cloths and weapons along the east wall. If anyone approaches the south wall they will see that 3 of the occupants are still wrapped in the bedding.  On close examination, within 10ft, it will be apparent that the occupants are long dead, their faces dried and withered.

These 3 adventurers have, at some past time, succumbed to wounds received from zombies and are now zombies themselves. They died while sleeping and were abandoned by their comrades. When inactive they return to their bedrolls and attempt to find the sleep they are now denied.

If anyone comes within arm's reach of any of the bodies the corpse's eyes will flash open and the zombie will attack. If attacked themselves they will awaken and attack. Loud noise may also rouse these zombies and they may proceed into area 2 to investigate.

The zombies themselves are wearing only the clothes they had on when they died. Their gear and weapons, that were unwanted by their comrades, were left piled against the east wall.

In this pile can be found 3 dagger and sheaths, a hand axe, a halberd, scale-mail sized for a large man, chainmail sized for an average man, a helm, a shield, 2 backpacks.

Backpack #1 contains: A skin of spoiled wine, trail rations which are now a hardened rotten lump, a small throwing dagger in a sheath (+1 to hit if thrown due to exceptional craftmanship, non-magical), 50ft of tightly coiled rope, a half-dozen iron spikes and a small mallet.

Backpack #2 contains: A flask of whiskey, rotted trail rations, a set of prayer beads, a pair of thick gloves such as a smith might use (non-magical but helpful when dealing with sharp or hot objects) a polished steel mirror in a soft cloth bag, and at the very bottom, a small gold signet ring worth 15gp, but if asked about in the environs of Ptolemides it will be discovered that the crest is of a local family and a 100gp reward is offered for its return.

5). This good-sized room may once have belonged to watchmen of servants. Its most recent use has been as a nest for giant ticks. A large fire was set in its center and the cracked and worthless exoskeletons of a dozen ticks are scattered among the ashes.

The west door is shut but unlocked. Both this door and the southern secret door can be barred shut, but the crossbeams to both are missing.

5a). The bodies of several dogs are jammed against the southern secret door. These dogs have been dead for some time but were obviously killed by sword or axe. There is even a broken arrow head lodged within one body. If the bodies are removed the door opens and closes without problem.

6). There is a 3d6 chance of encountering 2 giant ticks battling 5 wild dogs when entering this juncture for the first time. These animals will battle each other or any other creature that enters the fray. If 2 of the dogs are killed the remainder will run for the northern passage (and then east if followed). The ticks will battle to the death.

At any future time entering this juncture there will be a 1d6 chance of encountering a single wild dog which will immediately run away up the northern passage or on a roll of '2' or '3' on a d6, the chance of encountering a pack of 6 wild dogs that will attack the party and retreat to the north if half their number are killed. This encounter can happen again and again unless the source of the wild dogs is discovered and actions taken to prevent further attacks.

7). This long hall is filled with long niches cut into either side of the passage. Each niche contained the body or bodies of the dead, but that was long ago and now only the fragmented remnants of those bodies can be found. Fire has scorched this long hall and ash and bone fragments are brushed up against either wall though a clear trail down the center of the floor shows recent use.

This hall has become a resting place for giant ticks.

7a). At each of these points 1d3 giant ticks are located within the niches. These ticks have all filled themselves with the blood and precious bodily fluids of their many victims, rat, dog, human, etc... and are slower to react than their more hungry kin (-1 to surprise rolls). They will still spring out and attack anyone passing in the hall or examining their niche, as will any ticks in an adjacent 10ft section.

7b). Someone dropped a heavy wooden box at this point. The lid has snapped and the box was overturned. If a 30ft area of hall is cleanly sifted 312cp, 31sp and 3gp can be found among the thick ash and bone fragments.

8). 2 giant ticks have taken up residence in this area. The will lurk around the corner near the ceiling opposite whichever way the party is approaching. If undetected they will attack the last person in the group to pass near to them.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Catacombs of Ptolemides- I

Continued from Clark Ashton Smith - Some Ideas and Descriptions from his Stories - 6a

The Catacombs of Ptolemides

Rooms and passages in the catacombs normally have ceilings roughly 10 feet overhead and sconces or holders where torches or lanterns can be set, but are no torches or lanterns will be found unless specifically mentioned. Light must be provided by the player characters otherwise the catacombs are lightless black (unless the described areas mention illumination).

The initial area is formed from carved stone with wooden supports for the typical entranceway. 

1). The platform that the characters are standing on is circular and a little over 20ft in diameter. Large torches (taking two hands to hold) are set around the edges of the platform in metal standing brackets welded to the platform. These torches will burn for a full hour before guttering and going out. A slow but continual circulation of air bends the flames from the torches slightly to the west.

As the platform nears the last 10ft to the floor the PC's will see skeletal bodies in ancient armor affixed to the north, south and east walls. Iron spikes are set into each 10ft section of these walls the bodies of these long dead warriors have been thrust upon the spikes with enough force to pierce the ancient verdigris encrusted chest plates they all wear. 

Several large mallets, some of wood, and some shaped from human thigh bones, are scattered near to the walls, and these can be used to beat upon the armor of the dead hanging upon the walls. If hammered for more than three combat rounds this noise will alert Tomeron's servants who man the winches above and they will begin to draw up the platform. If the room is dark a circle of light will appear 50ft above as the iron cover is first lifted before the chains take up the slack and the platform begins to rise. It will be several combat round before the platform begins to rise after the winches begin to turn but then the platform will be drawn up 10ft every 3 combat rounds. No amount of shouting will get Tomeron's servants to stop or bring the platform back to the ground once they have begun drawing it up, unless it is the command of Tomeron himself.

If anyone begins beating on one of the chest plates, tries to remove the armor or searches the bodies, a normal sized rat (stats as per the ASSH rulebook) will leap from the mouth of the dead body and attack. 1 combat round after this attack, 6 rats will begin to pour from the various bodies and attack the PC's. 6 more will appear the following combat round, and finally 6 more after that in the next combat round for a total of 19 attacking rats. 

If more than 8 of their number are slain the rats will flee toward area 1b where a rat-hole has been gnawed at the bottom of the secret door. 

The 20th Rat

There is one rat that will not take part in the combat but will be the last rat through the hole at area 1b. If it is attacked it will continue in its attempt to flee. If it is slain and the body examined it will be revealed as some type of autonomaton formed of wood and metal enclosed in the pelt of a rat.

*Clockwork Scout
No. Encountered: 1 or 1d6
Alignment: Neutral
Size: S
Movement: 15
Dexterity: 12
Armour Class: 4
Hit Dice: 1
No. Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d4
Saving Throw: 17
Morale: -
Experience Points: 15
Treasure Class: -

Clockwork Scouts are part of a mechanical species developed during the height of Hyperborean civilizations in ages past. They have survived and can be found mainly in the ruins of Hyperborean centers of learning and sorcery.

Clockwork Scouts have a rudimentary sentience but what will and independent thought they might have is subsumed by the greater purpose and willpower of more powerful members of their species. They have no known language but can somehow communicate all the have seen, heard and experienced to there more powerful Clockwork beings. 

Each clockwork scout is shaped into a skeletal version of a small animal and covered with such creatures fur, flesh or hide.

While a Clockwork Scout possess no treasure of its own their non-functioning bodies can be worth from 10 to 50gp depending on the type of damage. A function Clockwork Scout is easily worth over 250gp.

*The Clockwork Scout is from Frog God Games 'The Tome of Horror Complete S&W version' though slightly altered for my Astonishing Swordsmen campaign.

1a).  The dead body of a mangy dog is crumpled in the upper corner of the south facing passage. It is a thin and rat-eaten corpse, mainly skin, hair and bone. If closely examined a fragment of blue cloth can be found in its clenched teeth.

1b). This is a secret door that has been well-crafted to appear as a section of the north wall. It even has one of the old dead bodies and an iron pike set into it. At the bottom edge of the door the rats have gnawed a small hole. If a lightsource such as a bullseye lantern is directed through the hole a space or chamber can be seen on the otherside.

The door is stoutly build and an iron bar is set in place. It will take at least 300hp of damage to batter down the door. Any noise may attract a wandering monster but will not in itself signal for the platform to be raised. 

(To be continued...)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Clark Ashton Smith - Some Ideas and Descriptions from his Stories - 6a


If you have not read this story TURN BACK NOW! or risk losing forever the unspoiled appreciation of Clark Ashton Smith's prose.

Inspired by the rules and setting of the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyberborea boxed set and the discussion of the same on the OD&D Forum I have started sifting through my collection of Clark Ashton Smith for ideas.

6a). The Epiphany of Death
(Written January 25, 1930)

Ptolemides, Catacombs of [PLC]
Ptolemides, City of [TWN]
Tomeron [NPC]

"Somehow, Tomeron seemed never to belong to the present; but one could readily have imagined him as living in some bygone age. About him, there was nothing whatever of the lineaments of our own period; and he even went so far as to affect in his costume an approximation to the garments worn several centuries ago. His complexion was extremely pale and cadaverous, and he stooped heavily from poring over ancient tomes and no less ancient maps. He moved always with the slow, meditative pace of one who dwells  among far off reveries and memories; and he spoke often of people and events and ideas that have long since been forgotten."

"I cab readily recall, however, the studies to which Tomeron had devoted himself, the lost demonian volumes from Hyperborea and Mu and Atlantis with which his library shelves were heaped to the ceiling and the queer charts, not of any land that lies above the surface of the earth, on which he pored by perpetual candlelight."

"He maintained that life and death were not the fixed conditions that people commonly believed them to be; that the two realms were often intermingled in ways not readily discerned, and had penumbral borderlands; that the dead were not always the dead, nor the living the living, as such terms  are habitually understood."

"Carrying torches, we left the mansion of Tomeron and sought the ancient catacombs of Ptolemides, which lie beyond the walls and have long been disused, for there is now a fine necropolis in the very heart of the city. The moon had gone down beyond the desert that encroaches toward the catacombs; and we were forced to light our torches long before we came to the subterranean adits; for the rays of Mars and Jupiter in a sodden and funereal sky were not enough to illumine the perilous path we followed among mounds and fallen obelisks and broken graves. At length we discovered the dark and weed-choked entrance of the charnels; and here Tomeron led the way with a swiftness and surety of footing that bespoke long familiarity with the place."

"Entering, we found ourselves in a crumbling passage where the bones of dilapidated skeletons were scattered amid the rubble that had fallen from the sides and roof. A choking stench of stagnant air and of age-old corruption made me pause for a moment but Tomeron scarcely appeared to perceive it, for he strode onward, lifting his torch and beckoning me to follow. We traversed many vaults in which mouldy bones and verdigris-eaten sarcophagi were piled about the walls or strewn where desecrating thieves had left them in bygone years. The air was increasingly dank, chill and miasmal; and mephitic shadows crouched or swayed before our torches in every niche and corner. Also, as we went onward, the walls became more ruinous and the bones we saw on every hand were greener with the mould of time."


The Catacombs of Ptolemides

The city of Ptolemides was once a proud Hellenic City-State, but after the advent of the Green Death it shrank to less than half its previous population. Of that half only the ruling elite and the King's guards are pure Hellens. The rest of the city is a mix of various races, the bulk of whom are common men of a hodge-podge heritage. The only recognized temple is of Apollo, though its following is small, but all the gods have their worshipers, their shrines and their hidden temples.

Within the city only the sections near the outer gates and the central citadel are occupied, while entire quarters are abandoned and walled off, for Ptolemides is also a city of the dead.

When the Green Death came it swallowed the city whole and only those within the citadel survived. These survivors were overwhelmed by the number of the dead, and in houses, manors, tenements and even the streets, the bodies were left unhallowed to putrefy and rot. But these unshriven spirits soon began to walk, to haunt the dead quarters of the city, and to prey upon the living.

Gates were shut, all entrances to these dead quarters walled off, closed and guarded. The priests of Apollo joined the city guard in a desperate attempt to drive back the dead. Then, more welcome than they have ever been, came the necromancers, and the greatest of these was Tomeron.

When Ptolemides was first settled, when the foundations stones were first set, these early Hellens found the catacombs, and what they believed, perhaps rightly, was the entrance to the underworld, the land of the dead. These passages were old and endless, already filled with tombs and ancient bones and passages that went deep into the earth. For generations the bodies of the dead were placed reverently within vaults and mausoleums and niches cut into the walls. Over time the nearest of the passages were filled, and the tunnels were followed further and further while a slow sense of evil and darkness crept nearer, and the dead were no longer left undisturbed.

A great necropolis was built at a small distance from the city and the catacombs of Ptolemides were sealed. The Green Death came, and the dead walked, and then came the necromancers, and with them Tomeron.

Tomeron has unsealed the catacombs and from the abandoned manor where he now lives, in a dead quarter of the city, he directs others; magicians, thieves, priests, fighters, adventurers, fools, to do his bidding and search the catacombs. Of what is brought back to the surface Tomeron has his tithe, but always he seems disappointed, as if what he is truly looking for is never found.

NOTE: Here begins my conversion of TSRs 'Legendary' boxed set, the Ruins of Undermountain. I will just be using the maps for the most part (because my cartographic skill is so poor) but I've always loved this particular dungeon crawl and it will be a pleasure to convert for my Astonishing Swordsmen campaign.

Tomeron, as I plan to use him, is a high level Necromancer. Ptolemides, a small human city, old, but not as ancient as Kor or Khromarium.

Reaching Tomeron's manor is best done in daylight. What was once the artisan's quarter of Ptolemides is now a walled and guarded ruin. Only one gate into the quarter is left open, though rumors say that the Guild of Thieves knows of a secret way. 

A small fortress has been built before the gate to this quarter and a toll of 5gp per person is collected to let anyone inside. A toll of 20gp per person is collected to let anyone back out again, and a tax on any treasure of 1 coin, armor, weapon, or valuable, is levied by the king.

There are three gates and a wide circular tunnel that lead to this dead quarter. The outer gate within the fortress will first be opened and as the party approaches the 2nd gate, this outer gate will be closed. Then the 2nd gate will be opened and when the party reaches the gate to the dead quarter, that gate too will close. Finally this 3rd gate will open and the party will be allowed to enter what was once the Artisan's Quarter. 

If anyone wants out there is a bell that can be struck near the gate and a basket will be lowered from the wall to collect the 20gp return fee. After dark the guards will ask for extra coin to allow escape from this quarter, and some will not respond at all, preferring to lock and bolt their doors rather than face what might be ringing the bell.

Once outside the small fortress a returning party will be lead to a counting house next door to the fort and there the tax will be levied.

Shops catering to adventurers have sprung up on the avenue leading to this gate and a large inn called 'The Dirge' sits on the far corner from the fortress. It is common for a last drink to be bought here before entering the gate and all manner or business is transacted within this tavern. Hirelings hired, rumors gathered, notices left and what-not.

The dead quarters of the city are very grim and dangerous places, and Tomeron's is no exception. Most buildings are in ruins and many are unpleasantly  occupied. rats, bats, vermin and spiders infest these buildings, as well as all manner and kind of undead. The main street is kept warded, at least during the day, but at night the undead roam and there is little shelter to be found.

Several necromancers do live within this quarter and far down its streets can be found an almost-palace that is their guild hall, but these buildings are guarded and sturdy and do not welcome visitors. 

Tomeron, on the other hand, welcomes adventurers at anytime. His manor is in a large walled compound three blocks from the gate. The doors to his house are always open and lead to a large entrance hall. Tomeron himself will come to greet all those wishing to journey to the catacombs. 

Inside this hall is a large staircase leading to a dimly lit upper floor, but the players will not be invited to see it more clearly. On its balustrade sits a pair of gargoyles, perhaps mere statues, but their unmoving features are grinning and malevolent. A half-dozen uniformed footmen are nearby, pale men with the stench of carrion about them, and the black beneath the stairs seems filled with something more awful than darkness.

To the left of the entrance-way is a set of double-doors. These open to a long, wide passage that turns and turns as it leads down, and finally comes to a broad square room. A quick estimates shows a ceiling vaulting out of site, and a room at least eighty feet wide as it is eighty feet long. Some tables and chairs are at the north end, at its center is a large round pit covered by an iron plate. Massive chains lead from the plate to four crank mechanisms spaced evenly around its sides.

"I take one coin in five and such items, jewels, gems and such-like as take my fancy. No more than one in three. If you agree and are prepared, that is your way to the catacombs," Tomeron points to the pit and the iron plate which covers it.

If the party agrees and wants to proceed Tomeron will speak a sharp command and four tall and heavily scared men will approach the cranks and begin raising the iron plate. Suspended by chains beneath the plate is a platform. Once the iron plate has reached the ceiling the platform will be even with the edge of the pit and a panel will be  extended to act as a bridge. Once the party is on the platform the panel will be removed and the platform lowered into the pit.

Tomeron  will call down to the party, "From here your adventure begins. Beat upon the armor of the dead to signal your return."

And from here the players' adventure will begin.

(To be continued...)