Joneen The Untarnished: NPC for Shadow of the Demon Lord

SotDLRecently having finished a Shadow of the Demon Lord campaign, I have much content and several maps that I wish to polish and release online. Today, I released a one-page PDF that details a unique changeling clockwork-maker named Joneen the Untarnished. She refuses to hide her true changeling nature. Unfortunately, beastmen seek Joneen for a vile ritual. If she is kidnapped, she becomes the great and terrible Joneen the Tarnished and Defiled, a horrid fusion of demon and changeling. Enjoy the free PDF for Joneen the Untarnished! It includes the stats for the poor changeling’s great and terrible demonic form. Feel free to give feedback!

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Symbaroum Adventure Contest Entry – Rite of Passage

Mitchell Wallace (of Penny for a Tale) came to me with the Symbaroum Adventure Contest and suggested a collaboration.

All together, Mitch and I are very proud of our Symbaroum adventure Rite of Passage. If you like the free adventure, please vote for it here

It began with some hard muffins and tea, we started to work on a scenario that could be used to start a Symbaroum campaign, but in a different way than had been done before. Traditionally, Symbaroum campaigns start with Ambrian characters (basically ‘civilized’ Europeans) coming to Symbaroum from the south, exploring a new and dangerous land.

We decided to create a scenario that showcases the other side of the world, from the barbarian tribes living in the dark of Davokar forest. We wanted it to be a coming of age story, ceremonial and solemn, representing the characters growing up and going into a wider world than they have ever known. We wanted to showcase the culture and worldview of the various barbarian tribes, which get little attention in published Symbaroum content, introducing the Huldra leader of the witches, and Tharaban, the high chieftain of the barbarian tribes. The scenario gives the characters connections to several NPCs from various tribes, and ends in a place where it is easy to hook into other published Symbaroum adventures. And they get to wrestle a bear!

Once again, here is Rite of Passage. If you like the free adventure, please vote for it here!

Xulub’s Festering Corpse – Original Public Domain Lovecraftian Fiction

I have always admired Lovecraft’s writing style, if not the man himself. He shows horror in a way that resonates with me, bringing up fears from deep parts of my mind that I didn’t consciously acknowledge, but were always there.

Some of his work is clearly gothic and inspired by Poe, such as The Outsider, Rats in the Walls, The Terrible Old Man, Pickman’s Model, etc. In these stories, the horror is personal, it is you or your kin that are tainted by the darkness. You can’t escape because it is your family, your friends, or yourself that embody the evil of the world.

The other side of Lovecraft’s legacy is his Cthulhu mythos. He, and authors in his circle, bought about a growing collection of stories of cosmic horror, showing that the vast uncaring universe is populated with things that humanity would rather not know about.  Great incomprehensible beings move through the cosmos, bleakly indifferent to our sufferings, or meandering lives, our very existence on this planet. These stories awaken  a deep feeling of insignificance, as if we are an animal in a small box, trying to not be noticed by the large, strange predators that stalk nearby. I have made my first addition to the mythos cycle in the form of Xulub’s Festering Corpse.

The short story is available for free, and is released under the Public Domain, meaning anyone can use the story or the elements introduced in it for whatever they want, commercially or otherwise. If you want to create stories based on Xulub’s Festering Corpse, you may do so! If you want to include Xulub in a video game, use it without fear of copyright restriction. This adds to the lovecraftian entities in the Public Domain, along with the work of Lovecraft, Chambers,  Frank Belknap Long’s Hounds of Tindalos, and others to continue the expansion of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Soon, I will be publishing a story based on the chapultenoks introduced in Xulub’s Festering Corpse, written by a family member of mine. He was inspired by the original Xulub story and sought to try his hand at writing horror instead of his usual science fiction. This story delves into what exactly makes these strange twisting growths so hideous, and I am quite excited to unveil it.


CC0

To the extent possible under law, D South has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Xulub’s Festering Corpse. This work is published from the United States.

The art for Xulub is from reddit user al666in, who started a Public Domain Lovecraftian project known as Necronomica which has been inactive as of late, so the art is not public domain yet as far as I know

Audio clips for Call of Cthulhu – Panacea scenario

In the scenario book Petersen’s Abominations for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, there is a chilling scenario called Panacea that involves characters, each for their own reasons, investigating a strange medical corporation ZyMedBio. This company seems to have produced a miracle cure; but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Throughout the scenario, the investigators are taunted by a strange digital voice, bringing up painful parts of their history or offering them salvation. Keepers can now play these free downloadable audio clips from a nearby speaker as the investigators get deeper and deeper in the scenario, keeping the players on their toes. Who is this voice, where is it coming from? And how does it know so much?

Sneak peak for upcoming lovecraftian horror story “Cold House”

 

I first noticed it when I saw steam billowing slowly out of the drain of my sink. I felt it again when I sneezed and the lights all flickered. And then again when my neighbor yelled at his dog and I could feel the room get colder. I know the woman beneath the house wants something from me.

That is the opening line of a short story tentatively called Cold House. This story will likely be released under Public Domain once it is completed, to add to the Public Domain Cthulhu Mythos stories, meaning it can be used by anyone for any purpose, even commercially. Here is a sneak peak:

The cracks in the wall. I can’t deny it now. I can’t deny her. That piece of the paint on the crack fell off, and now I can see it. It’s there, at the point where the two deepest cracks intersect. I wish it would blink.

For the few days it was unmoving, I had almost convinced myself that it was never going to move. But it did. I was foolish to hope otherwise. I couldn’t bring myself to touch it, but I needed to know if it was real. I must have spent hours staring at it, trying to memorize the cracks that had birthed it. After the sixth or seventh day, I thought I saw it twitch. Then in a couple of days, I was holding my hand out, so close I could almost touch it; that’s when it opened. It looked right at me, its iris the color of a wound that hasn’t healed properly. The woman beneath the house wants me to know that she is watching.

She watches me. Day or night, it never stops. Doesn’t this mean that I am important? That I am part of her slow, deliberated future? That there is a part I must play? How could I be noticed by something so abstrusely and providential? I will know soon. She will grant me understanding.

The neighbor’s dog never barks anymore. I don’t see him take the dog for walks past my window. Maybe they can feel it too, this ennui, this suffocating pressure. As if the air itself is shuddering slightly, or as if the sky were something hateful, something to shun for fear of it pulling you in; you must slink back between the walls lest you linger too long away. And once inside you can feel the slight warmth from below, as if something slowly shifts between the floor and the carpet beneath your feet.

This godless tension, it must break soon, I can feel it. I cannot bear it much longer.

She has chosen me. I must be obsequious; I must go down to her again. It doesn’t matter if I want to. Just the thought itself makes my eyes jitter and ache, and my lungs seem as though they never truly fill with air. I will go. I must go when she calls.

I see the bloated thing on the wall and it sees me. God I hate it. I wish it would blink.

Shadow of the Demon Lord – House Rules

Shadow of the Demon Lord (SotDL) is a tremendous game. I love how dark it is, how the combat is rapid and intense, there are enemies that are genuinely challenging, and player characters aren’t always assumed to win every encounter. Characters start as fragile commoners, and growing into powerful forces to be reckoned with.

SotDL

If you haven’t seen it, I created a free SotDL Player Cheat Sheet (and printer-friendly version) with things new players to the system often forget or misunderstand. Check it out!

As with any game, I like to tweak the rules once I understand how the rules work as written. This fine-tunes your campaign and helps emphasize the important themes. Personally, I love how SotDL gives GMs tools like disease, insanity, corruption, and other nasty things for the PCs to deal with, but I find that some of these threats don’t really pack much of a punch. These rules help adjust that.

1. The optional rules for Insanity are used from Unhinge the Mind.

Reasoning: Honestly, characters in Shadow of the Demon Lord campaigns really don’t ever go mad because it takes so long to accumulate Insanity. Madness is typically a null-issue, which means that character paths that have abilities that occur because of going Mad never come into play, like Berserker and Demonologist. With liberal use of Unhinge the Mind, Insanity becomes something for characters to manage, weighing their options to reduce insanity, like taking quirks or resting.

2. Except for clockwork, all ancestries that are ordinarily immune to the afflictions diseased and/or poisoned (as well as damage from disease and/or poison) are instead resistant to disease and/or poison; this grants a boon to challenge rolls made to avoid or remove the affliction. See Fever Dreams for more disease mechanics, and a host of horrid infections.

Reasoning: When a GM invents a sinister plague that slides through town, making villagers fall left and right, it is really anti-climactic when most of the party are completely immune to disease. They could roll in the pox pus of infected orphans and nothing would happen, which doesn’t seem to fit with SotDL’s grimdark themes. Now they still get a significant benefit, but it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of them getting infected.

3. Creatures lose their frightening or horrifying traits for characters of a certain level or higher, according to the creature’s difficulty.

Character Path (level) Creature difficulties that are no longer frightening or horrifying
Starting (0) All creatures retain their frightening or horrifying trait
Novice (1) All creatures retain their frightening or horrifying trait
Expert (3) 25 or lower
Master (7) 50 or lower

Reasoning: Does it really make sense that a level 10 Orc Warrior-Berserker-Deathdealer would still be terrified and go insane when they see an animated corpse, or a size 1/4 demon that they could kill easily in a single attack?

4. The effects of Cure and Greater Cure (SotDL page 133) are changed. The list of benefits for the spells are replaced with:

  • Remove one of the following afflictions from the target:
    fatigued, impaired, dazed.
  • Temporarily remove one of the following afflictions from the target:
    poisoned or diseased. If the poison or disease is an ongoing effect (i.e. the victim must make a Strength Challenge roll each day), the affliction returns after 1 hour.
  • If the target has gained Insanity in the last minute, remove 1 Insanity from the target.
  • Reduce any penalty to the target’s health by 2d6.
  • The target heals damage equal to half its healing rate.

Reasoning: Cure and Greater Cure spells are very effective. Very, very effective.

As discussed, diseases and poisons in SotDL are not threatening. The Cure spell normally removes the diseased condition without a roll, meaning no disease or poison can threaten you for more than a single round until the priest gets there. This is boring, turning plagues and poison traps into tedious acts of casting Cure. With the change, for ongoing effects like plague, the spell now temporarily helps the symptoms but doesn’t remove the cause. It is still useful, but you have to do something more to get rid of those oozing blisters…

Normally, with any down-time between adventures and at least one caster with the Life tradition that the party can reduce their Insanity to 0 simply by casting Cure multiple times each day. Insanity thus is never going to be an issue throughout the entire campaign, because of a rank 1 spell. With this change, the spell is still is useful to reduce Insanity, but you must act quickly, adding tension.

As written, Cure can remove all health penalties (a rank 1 spell can be used to remove a -50 penalty to health inflicted by a Hag’s curse). With this change, it is limited, but still very useful and can remove small penalties easily, with multiple castings required to remove large penalties.

Have other house rules that you use in your Shadow of the Demon Lord games? I would love to hear them, or any thoughts on my house rules, let me know in the comments below.