A place wherein this Dwarven Cleric can share his love of maps, dice, miniatures, and all things involving gaming and general geekery--not to mention the occasional witty non-gaming observations--whilst escaping from the humdrum existence of his routine Terran existence.

Hail and Well Met, fellow traveler! May my Stronghold provide a place for enlightenment and amusement, and somewhere to keep your dice dry. Enter and rest awhile.

31 October 2012

Happy Hallowe'en!

Just wanted to wish everyone a terrific Hallowe'en!

May it be suitably scary or sweet, depending on your holiday bent.

May you all be well and truly chocolated!

May you all be safe.

And this last is particularly for those on the East Coast of the U.S. May you be protected, cared for, and get back on your feet as soon as possible. May you be blessed in this time of trial. After all, it's a fun holiday, but there are bigger things in this world too.

29 October 2012

Monstrous Monday: Bottled Spirits

I must apologize for the lateness of today's entry. Between courtroom dramas, professional angst among the staff, and a parent in the hospital, the hobby had to take a backseat for a while today.

Boy, could I use a drink.

But I wouldn't want to try one of these Bottled Spirits.

Bottled spirits are undead beings consisting entirely of foul bodily liquids and ectoplasm. They poison opponents and reduce them to liquid to create others like themselves.

Originally created by a necromancer with some skill at alchemy, a bottled spirit looks like a dark liquor with swirling silver streaks. They inhabit chosen vessels, typically bottles or flasks, from which unsuspecting creatures may drink. If released from its chosen vessel some other way than being imbibed, a bottled spirit can move quickly, but is usually harmless, as it has lost both the element of surprise and its favored method of attack. A cleric of at least 15th level can create a bottled spirit with the create undead spell.


Bottled Spirit

Small Undead
Hit Dice: 2d12+3 (16 hp)
Initiative: +2
Speed: 40 ft.
AC: 14 (+2 Dex, +2 natural), touch 12, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +1/+6
Attack: Slam 1d6 + poison
Face/Reach: 5 ft. by 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Poison, Energy drain
Special Qualities: Fast healing 3, turn resistance +2, undead traits
Saves: Fort +2, Ref +4, Will +2
Abilities: Str 10, Dex 15, Con —, Int 7, Wis 10, Cha 12
Skills: Hide +7, Jump +5, Move Silently +7, Spot +5
Feats: Improved Grapple (see text), Toughness
Climate/Terrain: Any land and underground
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 2
Alignment: Always chaotic evil

Bottled spirits typically attack only when a creature attempts to drink from their chosen vessel. They attack alone, enveloping the victim’s head and forcing its way down the creature’s throat. A bottled spirit will remain attached until it is either forcibly removed, destroyed, or the victim is dead. If forcibly removed, a bottled spirit will quickly retreat and attempt to sink into cracks, crevices, or other hiding places until it can return safely to its vessel, or a new chosen vessel.

Energy Drain (Su) This attack saps a living opponent’s vital energy and happens automatically when a bottled spirit’s slam attack is successful. Each successful energy drain bestows one negative level to the victim. If a bottled spirit scores a critical hit with an energy drain attack, it drains two levels. For each negative level bestowed upon a victim, the bottled spirit gains 5 temporary hit points (10 on a critical hit); these temporary levels last for one hour.
A victim takes a -1 penalty on all skill and ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws, and loses one effective level for each negative level. A spellcaster loses one spell slot of the highest level of spells she can cast and (if applicable) one prepared spell of that level; this loss persists until the negative level is removed.
Negative levels remain for 24 hours or until removed with a spell such as restoration. If not removed within 24 hours, the victim must attempt a Fortitude save (DC 12). If successful, the negative level goes away without further harm to the victim. If the save fails, the negative level goes away, but the victim’s level is also reduced by one. A separate saving throw is necessary for each negative level.

Fast Healing (Ex): A bottled spirit regains hit points at an exceptionally fast rate, 3 hit points per round.

Poison (Ex): Ingested, Fortitude DC 17, initial and secondary damage 1d2 Con. The save DC is Constitution-based. A creature whose Constitution is reduced to 0 in this manner is dead. One minute later, the corpse vomits forth a vile substance–a mixture of ectoplasm and bodily fluids that constitutes a new bottled spirit. The original bottled spirit has no control over this new creature. The new bottled spirit thereafter searches out its own chosen vessel. The transformation process can be delayed by casting consecrate, gentle repose, or delay poison on the body (delaying the process until the spell runs out), or negated entirely with heal, neutralize poison, or remove disease.

Improved Grapple: If a creature intentionally attempts to imbibe a bottled spirit, the spirit gains a +4 bonus on all grapple checks; it attempts to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity.

Undead Traits: Immune to mind-affecting effects, poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, necromantic effects, and any effect that requires a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects. Not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, ability drain, energy drain, or death from massive damage. A necroplasm cannot be raised, and resurrection works only if it is willing. The creature has darkvision (60-foot range).

25 October 2012

A Giant and a Ranger Walk Into a Stronghold....

I've been meaning to write this post for two days. Unfortunately, a barometer-induced migraine intervened and I've spent many hours with an ice pack and pain medication in a dark room instead.

Early Monday afternoon the mailman brought me a great surprise: a well-packed, stiff envelope from Ireland.

Yes, I said Ireland.

After months of back and forth e-mails (mostly from me apologizing for real life getting in the way of PayPal payments), Jay Penn relinquished two of his babies to my care on October 19th. I was surprised to get them so quickly, to be honest. Only three days in transit from Ireland to The Stronghold? Really?

Somehow I doubt it was the doing of the USPS.

But I digress. For those of you not familiar with Jay Penn's work, well, first of all: SHAME ON YOU!! But second of all, Jay Penn is known for, besides other things, giving pictorial life to the pages of Loviatar by Christian, which I may have discussed here on occasion.

Back in July, I stumbled across a link to Jay's website, Realms of Faerie. He was in the midst of a "31 Day Drawing Challenge" project. It just so happened that the day I visited his particular picture just clicked with me. I had to have it. As I said above: after several months of e-mails back and forth, it arrived on Monday in perfect condition (something I was really truthfully worried about) and ready for framing (if I can find a suitable frame and a reasonable professional to help me do it right). I think it'll look great in my study.

I don't know exactly why, but it spoke to me. I'm not well-versed in artistic theory; if you must know, when it comes to art, I somewhat ascribe to the theory put forth by Justice Potter Stewart when describing pronography: I know it when I see it. In other words, I know what I like when I see it. I generally like watercolors. And there's something about the "twist" of the giant figure overlooking the serene farm and under the watchful eye (or not-so watchful eye in this case) of the manor house on the hill. It all looks so "normal" until your eye falls upon the hazy giant figure.

During the time we were working on getting the watercolor to me, Jay decided to offer for sale a limited run of prints of his cover art for Loviatar #9: a fellow named Morgan Stringman, who certainly seems more than capable of taking care of himself. See for yourself. And pick one up for yourself while they last!

So I picked one of those up as well. I love the fine line-work and the action suggested by the drawing, not to mention the details. The attraction was helped by the fact that, over the years, I also have had several rangers amongst my players. Those characters share a soft spot in my heart; one of them even looks a bit like Morgan. This one is going to look terrific hanging on my study wall too. I can hardly wait.

I can't say enough about Jay and his artwork. I'm a big fan; it's simplistic, I know, but it's true. I think he's summed up best by Christian's words: Someone needs to come along and take Jay Penn away from Loviatar. He's too damn good to be illustrating this humble rag. His work should be on the shelves of a FLGS and he should be signing copies of his work at GenCon.

I wholeheartedly agree: he's good. Very good. (But please, Jay, don't leave Loviatar!) I'm just proud to say, "I own a couple of Jay Penns." And thanks, Jay, for trusting me with these two of your children. I'm honored.

Check him out. You won't be disappointed.

22 October 2012

Monstrous Monday: Bloat Zombie

From Zombie Pandemic dot com
Today's Monstrous Monday gets a little bit sickening with the Bloat Zombie.

This disgusting, bloated undead poses a grave danger to those unfamiliar with its peculiarity. Its massive size belies the speed with which the creature can move and attack. The creature is so engorged with gasses and infection that it seems to be larger than the creature was in life.

Bloat zombies extrude an incredibly nasty smell of rotting tissue, decomposition, and death gasses. The smell is so bad that it almost immediately sickens those who come near it and causes physical damage to those it affects. When defeated, these bloated gas bags take their revenge upon their victors, infecting them with undeath, gradually weakening the still-living until they eventually die, spawning a new bloat zombie.

Bloat zombie is an acquired template that can be added to any corporeal creature (other than an undead) that has a skeletal system (referred to hereafter as the base creature). The template utilizes the same changes as a regular zombie, with the following changes:
  • “Special Attacks” outlined below 
  • while the base creature's size remains the same, some aspects are treated as if one size larger (Strength, Damage, Natural Armor, AC/Attack, Grapple, and Hide modifier)
  • the base creature’s HD increases by 1 
  • the base creature's CR increases by 3


Bloat zombie (Human Commoner)

Medium Undead
Hit Dice: 3d12 +3 (22 hp)
Initiative: -1
Speed: 30 ft. (can’t run)
Armor Class: 12 (-1 Dex, -1 size, +4 natural), touch 8, flat-footed 13
Base Attack/Grapple: +0/+6
Attack: Slam +2 melee (1d8+5) or club +2 melee (1d8+5)
Full Attack: Slam +2 melee (1d8+5) or club +2 melee (1d8+5)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Undead reek, Explosive decomposition
Special Qualities: Single actions only, damage reduction 5/slashing, darkvision 60 ft., Hide -4, undead traits
Saves: Fort +0, Ref -1, Will +3
Abilities: Str 20, Dex 8, Con --, Int –, Wis 10, Cha 1
Skills: --
Feats: Toughness
Environment: Any
Organization: Any
Alignment: Always neutral evil
Level Adjustment

CR 4

Undead reek (Ex): The smells of death leak from the over-sized bodies of bloat zombies with the least movement. The reek of decomposition and gasses is so potent that it sickens nearly every form of animal life. Any living creature within 30 feet of a bloat zombie must succeed on a DC 15 Fortitude save or be sickened for 10 rounds. (Save DC is Constitution-based.) An affected creature also takes 1d4 hp of damage per round for each of the 10 rounds. Creatures that successfully save cannot be affected by the same bloat zombie’s stench for 24 hours. A delay poison or neutralize poison spell removes the effect from the sickened creature. Creatures with immunity to poison are unaffedcted, and creatures resistant to poison receive their normal bonus on their saving throws.

Explosive decomposition (Ex): When a bloat zombie is reduced to 0 hp, it explodes in a violent blast of gas that deals 5d6 poings of damage to all creatures within a 30-foot radius (DC 15 Reflex save for half damage). Every creature within that radius must also make a DC Fortitude save (Constitution-based) or be infected by the gas. Each day thereafter, an infected creature must succeed on a Fortitude save or take 1d6 points of Constitution damage. When the creature’s Constitution reaches 0, the victim dies and becomes a bloat zombie. A remove disease spell cast on a an affected creature before it dies destroys the infection and prevents any further Constitution damage.

15 October 2012

Monstrous Monday: Dragonette Swarm

Inspired by the pile of MegaBloks "Dragons Universe" mini-dragons** in my desk drawer, I give you today's Monstrous Monday entry: the Dragonette Swarm!

Dragonette swarms are composed of tiny dragons, or dragonettes. These tiny dragons are approximately 2-3 inches in length and have many of the same abilities as older dragons of the same color, but in a more compact size; several could fit on the palm of an average human hand. They are, however, not as intelligent as true dragons. The swarms are composed of dragonettes of all one color; however, it is possible that multiple swarms may be encountered that each have distinct colors (i.e., a swarm of red and a swarm of green that co-exist in the same nest area).

On average, one quarter of the dragonettes in a swarm may use their breath weapon each round. The swarm itself may therefore produce a breath weapon each round. Dragonettes possess no spell-like or spell-casting abilities, but each possesses the distinct breath weapon type of its corresponding true dragon form.

It is unclear how dragonette swarms reproduce; some hypothesize that they are hive creatures while others envision vast nests of the tiny creatures. Every supposed solution fails to answer one conundrum: the wide variety of colors that co-exist in each apparent colony.


Swarm, Dragonette

Tiny Dragon (Swarm)
Hit Dice: 8d12 +8 (63 hp)
Initiative: +10
Speed: 5 ft., fly 40 ft. (average)
Armor Class: 16 (+2 size, +4 natural), touch 12, flat-footed 16
Base Attack/Grapple: +12/--
Attack: Swarm (3d6 + breath weapon)
Full Attack: Swarm (3d6 + breath weapon)
Space/Reach: 10 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Frightful swarm
Special Qualities:Blindsense 60 ft.; Damage reduction 5/magic; Darkvision 90 ft.; Energy Immunity (per type); immunity to sleep; immunity to paralysis; Spell resistance 10
Saves: Fort +10, Ref +6, Will +6
Abilities: Str 16, Dex 10, Con 15, Int 8, Wis 11, Cha 10
Skills: Fly +8, Intimidate +10, Listen +10, Spot +10
Feats: Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative
Environment: As corresponding color of true dragon.
Organization: Solitary, clutch (2-4 swarms), or horde (5-8 swarms)
Level Adjustment

CR 8

Breath Weapon: Any creature within the swarm is a target of the breath weapon(s) of the dragonettes. The breath weapons have no range beyond that of the boundaries of the swarm. The breath weapon’s damage and DC are as the breath weapon of a wyrmling of the corresponding true dragon type.

Frightful Swarm (Ex): Any living creature that begins its turn with a dragonette swarm in its space must succeed on a DC 18 Will save. Any creature that succeeds on the Will save remains immune to that swarm’s frightful effect for 24 hours. On a failure, creatures with 4 or less HD become panicked for 4d6 rounds and those with 5 or more HD become shaken for 4d6 rounds. Dragons ignore the frightful effect.

Energy Resistance (Swarm): The dragonette swarm enjoys a protection from energy attacks, as the spell Protection from Energy (CL 3). The swarm has a natural protection from the energy type that matches the breath weapon of its corresponding true dragon form.

Many thanks to my buddy Simonathi Starym for a bit of game testing, advice, and tweaking.

**Yeah.... Turns out that when I went looking for the names of these toys after I finished the entry, MegaBloks actually calls them "swarm dragons." I had no idea. Maybe my sub-conscious was working over-time on me.

08 October 2012

Rival Adventuring Party: The Stumble Hollow Trine, Part 2

Rizac the Pious

Rizac the Pious (a self-assumed title) is a follower and true believer of Bil, the Goddess of the Sun and War. Rizac was born in Ninthstair Dale in the country of Inaith; he has forsaken any claim upon Ninthstair Dale in favor of his citizenship from Mezan. He will, in fact, violently protest any connection with Ninthstair Dale or Inaith, despite the fact that his Mezanite citizenship is completely and utterly fraudulent.

Rizac is an excellent representative for Bil, as he is every bit as war-loving and arrogant as his goddess. He also shares her blond hair, although his is dyed. He is extremely suspicious, and does not give his loyalty or trust easily. He rarely smiles; when he does, it is typically a quick twitch at the corner of his mouth–there and gone.

Of all the Stumble Hollow Trine, Rizac has been a companion to Lord Alotharo the longest. He does not have a lot of respect for Lord Alotharo, as he believes the man to be a minor noble at best and a bumbling braggart at worst. However, being part of the Trine has been quite lucrative for Rizac financially and has given him an outlet to worship Bil through warfare, combat, and mayhem. Deep down he believes himself to be the true leader of the Trine; he allows Lord Alotharo to act as the leader, but Rizac knows that he is better suited to the role and that the rest of the group feels the same way.

Rizac the Pious
Aristocrat 4 / Cleric 5 (Domains: Battle, Death)
HP: 52
Init.: -1
Speed: 20 ft.
AC:16, Touch 9, flat-footed 16 (Chainmail, Heavy steel shield)
Base Attack: +6
Grapple: +8
Attack: Mace, Heavy (+9) 1d8+2
Full Attack: Mace, Heavy (+9/4) 1d8+2; Gauntlet, Spiked (+2) 1d4+1
Alignment: LE
Special Attacks: Turn Undead
Saves: Fort +8, Ref +1, Will +11
Abilities: Str 14, Dex 9, Con 13, Int 11, Wis 17, Chr 12
Skills: Bluff 4, Concentration 10, Diplomacy 8, Gather Information 1, Heal 8, Intimidate 6, Knowledge (Dungeon) 2, Knowledge (Geography) 2, Knowledge (Religion) 3, Listen 8, Sense Motive 8, Spot 8, Survival 7
Feats: Combat Casting; Extend Spell; Great Fortitude; Heavy Armor Proficiency; Light Armor Proficiency; Martial Weapon Proficiency; Medium Armor Proficiency; Shield Proficiency; Simple Weapon Proficiency; Toughness; Tower Shield Proficiency; Weapon Focus (mace, heavy); Widen Spell
Languages: Common

Spells Known:
Level 0 (5) DC 13
Detect Magic X 1
Inflict Minor Wounds X 2
Resistance X 2

Level 1 (5) DC 14
Bane X 2
Cause Fear X 1
Deathwatch X 1
Protection from Good X 1

Level 2 (4) DC 15
Cure Moderate Wounds X 1
Darkness X 1
Death Knell X 1
Spiritual Weapon X 1

Level 3 (3) DC 16
Contagion X 1
Extended Death Knell X 1
Magic Vestment X 1

CR 7
(XP: 3200)

Chainmail +1
Gauntlet, spiked +1
Mace, heavy +1
Shield, heavy steel +1
Helm of Blasting (minor) (as Circlet of Blasting (Minor))
Wand of Cure Light Wounds

**Many thanks to WotC's "PC Portraits" Archive for the image.

Monstrous Monday: Soot Drake

This two-legged dragon* is red with a black underside and is perpetually wreathed in puffs of soot. They are the abominable spawn of a red and a black dragon. They have all of the rage and maliciousness of their parents while lacking in the reason and intelligence of true dragons. They are unsubtle bullies who terrorize all lesser creatures around them.

Because of their temper and lack of intelligence, soot drakes are rarely if ever found in groups larger than two; even two together is unusual and would represent a mated pair. Such pairs will fight with coordinated attacks and will viciously protect their mate.

Soot drakes mate year-round with the females laying clutches of three or four eggs in hidden mountain nests. Parents raise their offspring for only one year before abandoning them. Soot drakes mature in 3 years and can live up to 200 years, although few survive that long. They generally grow to 10 feet long with 7-10 foot long tails, and weigh 1,500 pounds.


Soot Drake

Large Dragon (fire)
Hit Dice: 6d12 +15 (50 hp)
Initiative: +5
Speed: 20 ft., fly 60 ft. (average)
Armor Class: 18 (+1 Dex, -1 size, +8 natural), touch 10, flat-footed 17
Base Attack/Grapple: +6/+12
Attack: Bite +10 melee (2d6+5 + 1d6 acid), tail slap +5 (1d6+2)
Full Attack: Bite +10 melee (2d6+5 + 1d6 acid), tail slap +5 (1d6+2)
Space/Reach: 10 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Stinging soot cloud
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft.; low-light vision; scent; spot +10; listen +10; immunity to fire; immunity to acid; immunity to paralysis; vulnerability to cold
Saves: Fort +8, Ref +6, Will +6
Abilities: Str 21, Dex 13, Con 16, Int 9, Wis 12, Cha 10
Skills: Fly +8, Intimidate +9, Listen +10, Move Silently +6, Spot +10, Survival +10
Feats: Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative, Power Attack
Environment: Temperate mountains or hills
Organization: Solitary or pair
Level Adjustment

CR 5

Stinging Soot Cloud (Su): A soot drake may exhale a cloud of stinging, acidic soot as a standard action in either a 30 ft. cone or a 20 ft. radius spread. The cloud persists for 1d4 rounds. Any living creature in the area is blinded by the smoke and takes 1d6 points of acid damage per round of exposure (DC 13 Reflex save negates blindness but not damage). Creatures in the cloud take a -2 penalty on attack rolls and Spot skill checks for as long as they remain inside and for 1 round after exiting the cloud. Anyone in the thick smoky cloud benefits from concealment as well.
A creature who breathes in the smoke must make a Fortitude save each round (DC 15, +1 each additional check) or spend the round choking and coughing. A creature that chokes for two consecutive rounds takes 1d6 points of nonlethal damage.
The stinging soot cloud can also smother unprotected flames and can choke protected flames (50% chance).

*Yeah, yeah...I know. A "drake" in 3.X is a four-legged creature and a wyvern is two-legged; it's Pathfinder that has the two-legged drakes. I liked the idea in this instance better as a two-legged drake and used the Pathfinder drakes as a model/template for this beastie.

01 October 2012

Monstrous Monday: Eye Imp

The eye imp is a sub-class of the devilish imp family. In appearance, it looks identical to the typical imp: red-skinned, winged humanoids with bulbous features. However, the eye imp is a diminutive creature, approximately the size of a small bat. In addition, it has abnormally huge, bulging eyes which dominate its face and grant it enhanced vision.

The eye imp is difficult, if not impossible, to see directly. However, when viewed from one’s peripheral vision, it is readily apparent. Unfortunately, the eye imp’s erratic flight patterns seen out of the corner of the eye appears as a random flickering or other similar confusing motion, which easily distracts the viewer making attacks, spell-casting, and other visual skills more difficult.

Eye Imp

Diminutive Outsider (Evil, Extraplanar, Lawful)
Hit Dice: 3d8 (13 hp)
Initiative: +3
Speed: 20 ft., fly 40 ft. (perfect)
Armor Class: 22 (+3 Dex, +4 size, +5 natural), touch 17, flat-footed 19
Base Attack/Grapple: +3/-5
Attack: Sting +8 melee (1d4 + poison)
Full Attack: Sting +8 melee (1d4 + poison)
Space/Reach: 1 ft./0 ft.
Special Attacks: Poison, Spell-like abilities
Special Qualities: Damage Reduction 5/good or silver, darkvision 90 ft., distraction, fast healing 2, immunity to poison, invisibility (limited), resistance to fire 5
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +6, Will +4
Abilities: Str 10, Dex 17, Con 10, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 14
Skills: Hide +20, Knowledge (any one) +6, Listen +7, Move Silently +9, Search +6, Spellcraft +6, Spot +12, Survival +1 (+3 following tracks)
Feats: Dodge, Weapon Finesse
Environment: A lawful evil-aligned plane
Organization: Solitary
Level Adjustment – (Improved Familiar)

CR 2

Like their larger cousins, eye imps are craven, but not so timid to pass up an opportunity for a surprise attack. An eye imp attacks with the wicked stinger on its tail. It quickly flies out of reach if a foe manages to strike bake effectively.

Poison (Ex): Injury, Fort DC 13, initial damage 1d4 Dex, secondary damage 2d4 Dex. The save DC is Constitution-based and includes a +2 racial bonus.

Spell-like Abilities: At will–detect good, detect magic

Distraction (Su): The eye imp hovers at the edge of a creature’s peripheral vision, causing the subject’s mind to wander and distracting her with the perception of odd, annoying movement at her side. The affected creature is allowed a DC 14 Will save, or suffers a -4 penalty to all Perception and Sense Motive checks, as well as to Attack rolls. If the affected creature is attempting to cast a spell, the creature must make a DC 14 Concentration check (instead of the Will save), or the spell fails.

Invisibility, Limited (Su): Twice per day, the eye imp may cast a form of invisibility upon itself which allows it to be invisible when viewed directly, but is visible when viewed peripherally by a creature. When using this effect, the eye imp’s distraction ability DC increases by +2 to a DC 16 save. Limited invisibility lasts 3 rounds and is not terminated by an eye imp’s attacks.

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