CROW–a New Spell for Pits & Perils

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Photo by Tyler Quiring on Unsplash

Otis Bramble, the hedge wizard, looked across the field at the pack of worgs. There were five of them, big ones. The wizard stroked his beard for a moment and set his burlap sack down. He had four nice-sized trout, freshly caught, and he wasn’t in any mood to share.

Raising his gnarled staff over his head, he paused a moment and then spoke the incantation. He started out softly, but the incantation grew to a sharp crescendo. All was quiet for a moment. The worgs loped towards him, black tongues hanging lazily in their slavering jaws. Then it happened.

Suddenly the air around Otis Bramble was filled with a rush of black feathers, cawing, Cawing, CAWING cries of countless crows. The murder of crows seemed to swirl forever. The yelp of startled worgs was the only other sound. When the crows flew away, two dead worgs lay at the wizard’s feet. Three more were running back into the dark woods. Otis Bramble bent down, picked up his burlap sack and headed on his way, happy to be dining alone this evening.

Notes:

CROW summons a flock of murderous crows centered on the caster. Any creature not touching the caster will take 1 hp damage per round while within a 30’ radius of the caster. All attacks within this area will be -2 to hit for the duration of the spell. Duration is 1d6. The caster adds +1 round per 3 levels gained.

Rainy Days and Mondays

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Photo by Ivan Vranić on Unsplash

Farmer Barleycorn was miserable. He wrung his hands and prayed for rain. The midsummer sun beat down on his wheat like an Irendall hammer. His crop wouldn’t be worth two coppers if the drought hung on for another week. He grabbed a stalk of grain and rubbed it between his calloused fingers. If this crop fails, he’d need to sell off the pair of milk cows he’d bought at the summer fair last year.

Spending his time between praying for relief and cursing his misfortune, he decided to change tactics. If Eos wouldn’t listen, he would pray to the Green Man. And why shouldn’t I? he mused. If Silvanus is good enough for the elves, perhaps he would hear the prayers of a hardscrabble dirt farmer.

Uncertain as to how to begin a prayer to the Green Man, Farmer Barleycorn thought of how an elf would do it. He’d never really seen an elf up close, and they never did attend services at St. George’s. Maybe he could ask Cornwall the Odd? He looked like the kind of person that would fraternize with elves. No, Farmer Barleycorn thought, the wizard was best left alone. No telling how far into his cups he’d be. It would be best to stay clear from a drunken wizard.

Broggna the Witch, also crossed his mind. Farmer Barleycorn spat on the ground and crossed his fingers as well. No one every got the better end of a deal with the miserable old crone, he thought. The farmer wouldn’t admit it, but Broggna scared the hell out of him.

Elves seemed to spend much of their time singing and frolicking around half naked, but Farmer Barleycorn didn’t think the Missus would appreciate him dancing in his birthday suit in the bean patch. Instead he sang the only elven song he had heard. It hadn’t even come from an elf, but some wandering singer at the Dead Pony Inn.

Farmer Barleycorn had no sooner finished croaking out the first verse when he saw his savior coming over the hill. The wind was blowing gently over the hill and seemed to be pushing the man along. Dressed in some kind of minstrel cloak, patched and splashed with liberal daubs of mud, the stranger came wandering down to stop before him.

“Looks like rain,” the man said.

Farmer Barleycorn looked up and to his amazement, saw a group of dark clouds coming up over the rise. “Mister, we haven’t had rain for over a month.”

“How lucky for you,” the man said, shaking out his coat. Farmer Barleycorn nearly fell over in shock when he saw water droplets fly off the patchwork cloak.

“I don’t know,” the stranger said. “Seems like it’s been a wet summer. Everywhere I’ve been, the rain keeps falling.” He looked kindly at the farmer, a hopeful smile on his face, “You think I could seek shelter in your barn for awhile? At least until the storm blows over?”

Farmer Barley was speechless. In the time he’d begun talking to the stranger, the clouds had grown and he could feel the wind picking up. He nodded numbly at the stranger’s request. As the rain began to fall, he came to his senses, “Hey, stranger! Who are you?”

The fellow turned, pulling up the collar of his cloak, “Bracegirdle…Evelyn Bracegirdle…”

One week later.

Farmer Barleycorn was miserable. He wrung his hands and prayed for the rain to stop. Prayers to Eos and the Green Man went unanswered. He wasn’t about to pray to Orcus, for Orcus was only concerned with the damned not the damned rain.

Rain had poured for weeks without letting up. The rain beat down on his crop like an Irendall hammer. There was little Farmer Barleycorn could do, except sit in his hut and listen to the stranger sing mournful ballads while strumming an ill tuned lute. In addition to his large repertoire of awful songs, the bard had a large appetite. Hams and wheels of cheese flew into his mouth as often as poor lyrics flew forth.

Farmer Barleycorn had had his fill…not of ham, but of the stranger. In mid verse, Evelyn Bracegirdle found himself out the door and on his head. His lute was next to be unceremoniously chucked outside.

As the stranger gathered himself together and shuffled off down the muddy road, the rain began to lessen. By the time he’d reached the hilltop, sunlight began to peek out from the clouds. Farmer Barleycorn sat in his leaky hut vowing never to pray for rain again.

Notes on Evelyn Bracegirdle

Bracegirdle is the son of a poor noble with too many sons. Being the youngest of them, he was soon to discover there was nothing left to inherit. Unwilling to become a landless knight, he took up the lute instead of the sword. As his brothers hacked a living with the sword, he hacked a living with the lute. He never became more than a mediocre performer, Bracegirdle lacked any kind of empathy for his audience. No matter where he played or who he played for, he always seemed to insult his listeners. Unintentionally of course, but it seemed to be a fatal flaw for the inept bard.

The low point of Evelyn Bracegirdle’s career came when he met Silvanus, the Green Man. Bracegirdle had just completed a month’s tour of the the Silverwoods, much to the relief of many an elf. Even with the elves renowned patience and amusement at the human race, they could only stand so many mispronounced elvish lyrics.

The Green Man was nature personified. He would often wander the land looking for amusement. This was his intent when he met the noble bard. One song…and three hours later…the Green Man was so insulted and dismayed at the bard’s ham handed rendition of The Feywood Follies, that he cursed Evelyn Bracegirdle on the spot.

From that day forward, the bard would continue to roam the countryside followed by gathering storm clouds. If he stayed in one spot for too long, the rain would continue to grow, reaching epic proportions. In addition, he would only remember recent events, never to realize the burden placed on him. Silvanus was not an evil being, but he certainly did not want the bard to linger in one spot for too long. He considered it a blessing to all that heard the bard’s performance. The curse would only be broken if Bracegirdle received a standing ovation.

To this day, the bard continues to wander, pushed by storm clouds.

The Leaf Men of Spiritwood

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Photo by Natalie Thornley on Unsplash

The Leaf Men of Spiritwood

The idea for Leaf Men is an inspiration from the excellent children’s book, The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs by William Joyce.

Pits & Perils monster stat:
Leaf Men: 1 attack, 1-6 level, move 50′, side N, size S, number 10-60, treasure B/I

Leaf men are fairy warriors that live in fey touched forests such as Spiritwood. They are smaller than most fairies (at 3″), wear oak leaf armor, and are green in coloration. Alone, the typical leaf man is weak, but as a fighting unit they are formidable.

Any number of leaf men that fight as a group should be considered as one enemy. Every 10 warriors will add +1 to their level. 20 warriors would be considered a 2nd level enemy. 30 warriors would be 3rd level.

60 leaf men (level 6) is the largest fighting unit that they will form. If a larger number of warriors are encountered, they will form into additional units.

Leaf men have 2 hit points per level.

When a group of leaf men take damage, their level will decrease as well. It will take 2 hits to reduce their level by 1.

So, if a fighting unit of 60 leaf men take 2 points of damage, it drops to level 5 (and will have 50 warriors).

As a fighting unit loses levels, it also loses fighting effectiveness. For example, 60 leaf men would be a 6th level enemy and have a +2 bonus to hit. If they take 2 points of damage and are reduced to 5th level (and 50 men) they will only have a +1 bonus to hit.

Leaf men cannot cast spells. They are excellent jumpers and can jump as far as a grasshopper. They can speak with animals, ride sparrows, jays, other birds and also bats and large flying beetles. Leaf men can hide in natural surroundings with a 5 in 6 chance if they remain still.

Due to their size and camouflage, leaf men gain a +2 to initiative. If they win the initiative, they have surprised their opponent and also gain a +1 for the first attack.

Leaf men use tiny bows to shoot arrows similar to porcupine quills. They melee with razor sharp rapiers. One arrow or sword cut would be little more than a nick, but the combined attack of greater numbers of leaf men can cause greater damage.

Their first attack is usually meant demoralize their enemy. If an attack hits, the leaf men may forgo doing damage and instead cause one of the following to happen.

  • The buckles and straps on the armor or shield are cut causing a -1 to armor protection until repairs can be made.
  • The target’s bowstring is cut.
  • The target’s backpack, purse, or water skin is slashed.
  • The target’s hair or beard is cut off.
  • If they wish to inflict harm, they do 1 point of damage on a successful hit and 2 points for an outstanding hit (12+).

If they wish to inflict harm, they do 1 point of damage on a successful hit and 2 points for an outstanding hit (12+).

Leaf men speak the language of forest animals, elvish, and goblin.

They may carry small bits of gold and silver jewelry (treasure type B/I).

The Spiritwood

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Photo by Lukas Neasi on Unsplash

Ham Coggins stumbled against a large oak. Sweat beaded his brow as he tried to catch his breath. He checked the burlap sack slung across his back. It was heavy with chickens he’d nicked from a farmhouse several miles down the road. Was it my fault the farmer and his wife had gone off, leavin’ them fat hens for the taking? he thought.

The chickens would be a change of fare from the stringy rabbits he’d been eating. Coggins was new to the area, but not a stranger to living on the road. He had a knack for finding crude men like himself and convincing others to part with their goods. He’d left Haversham in a hurry over a dispute with a tavern owner. The argument ended with a knife in the man’s belly, prompting Coggins to flee the town in a hurry. Too bad, that was my best knife, he remembered thinking.

Alone for the moment, he’d just crossed a stone bridge in an odd bit of the woods. The east side of the road was wooded and showed some sign of cutting, but the west side looked untouched. Large oaks towered in the woods making a canopy of shade. The forest floor was open and easily traveled.

The sound of riders made Coggins run to the west to hide in the old growth. He didn’t wait to see who came galloping along the road. Confronting mounted men was not Coggins’ style…a lone farmer or some milk maids, yes, but not armed men.

The forest seemed to open up before him. The large oaks kept vegetation down near their base. Coggins decided to amble for a bit through the woods. Maybe this would make a good hideout for a week or so? Something flew past the robber, high and swift. Before he could focus on it, it was gone. Then he heard the rustling of leaves.

A whirlwind of oak leaves blew around him in a frenzy. Coggins felt a hard tugging at his cloak, his purse, and even his beard. He swatted around him, batting fiercely and falling to the ground. The sack was split open wide, chickens flapping away into the woods. His coin purse, light enough to begin with, was cut. Copper pennies fell to the ground to land among the remnants of his cut beard.

This was more than enough for Coggins. He pulled himself to his feet and ran. The woods no longer looked open and inviting. He could feel the trees closing in. Coggins ran for the road, but must have lost his bearings. An open glade stood before him. In the afternoon sunlight he saw a carpet of emerald green grass and a strange circle of toadstools that reached up to his knee. Cursing his luck, he kicked one of the toadstools in frustration. The purple and yellow fungi sailed into the nearby woods. Then Coggins saw the leaf men for his first and only time.

The branches of the trees were filled with them. More came diving in on sparrows and jays. The toadstools swarmed with an army of tiny green warriors. Arrows that were no more than porcupine quills, pricked his skin, some sinking deep. Tiny warriors climbed onto his shoulders, slashing his face with razor sharp rapiers. Each cut was little more than a nick, but the wave of leaf men washed over the robber.

Coggins fell onto his back and looked up at the sky. The trees ringed his view as the leaves trembled and then grew still. His life ebbing away, he had no time to review his misdeeds and transgressions. He simply thought, I wish I had gone the other way…

Notes on the Spiritwood

There’s a short stretch of woods just south of the town of Bree. The locals have heard tales of this patch of woods for as long as anyone can remember. Don’t go travelling through the Spiritwood. If you’re wanting to hunt or cut timber, you’d best stay east of the road. Everyone in the border town of Bree knows this. The hunters, woodcutters, and even the highwaymen know to stay clear–at least anyone with any sense.

What happens to those that enter the Spiritwood, no one can really say. Maybe a bit of bad luck will befall them or sometimes they just don’t come back. No matter. A good dose of superstition has kept many a traveler safe.

It’s a custom for locals to cross their fingers as they cross the ancient stone bridge that borders the Spiritwood. Cross all the fingers you want, it will do no good if you decide to trample through the Spiritwood.

Stay tuned for part 2 in which I detail the Leaf Men.

 

The Siege of Fort Halberd

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Photo by Aldo De La Paz on Unsplash

 

Sergeant Arneson rubbed his eyes and poured another mug of wine. He was tired, the kind of tired that only soldiers could know. Better tired than dead, he’d figured. He worked his arms and winced at the pain in his side. Less than a day previous, the sergeant was wading through a mob of goblins and one large wolf.

The goblins were quick to dispatch, ill armored as they were and poorly trained to fight. But the wolf was more than a normal wolf. It was a goblin wolf or worg, and although the sergeant didn’t actually speak with the wolf, he believed it was of an evil disposition.

The sergeant was thrown off balance while parrying a goblin spear and the worg bit him hard in the side. Thank Eos that his mail bore the brunt of the attack. Still it pained him and would for many days to come.

Things were moving fast now and like a good military man, he had to take advantage of the situation. Several days ago, Sheriff John Briarfoot received a trio of sell swords in response to a job notice to scout Fort Halberd. The sergeant wanted to do the same, but he didn’t have the men to do it. Six men were all the garrison at Bree had to offer. He and his men were busy patrolling the area around Bree. Goblins had been seen along the roads and lone merchants were being picked off.

The three strangers that had come to town got straight to work scouting the fort, burning down the old mill whilst rooting out more goblins, and then preparing to assault the goblins once again. Sgt. Arneson couldn’t believe how foolhardy they seemed to be. Upon discussion with the sheriff, the sergeant decided to march to the fort and either support their assault or bring the bodies back to Bree.

Luck must’ve been on their side, for the adventurers managed to break into the fort and open the doors for reinforcements to join them. One of the adventurers, a young footpad named Ernest, was captured in the initial scouting of the fort. His companion, an elf, used sorcery to conjure a mass of twisting vines that pried one of the doors off its hinges. Eos be praised, none of soldiers fell that day.

The keep was held by no more than a few dozen goblins backed up by a couple worgs. A tall ax wielding warrior from the north led the assault on the keep. The sergeant had never seen such ferocity. Surrounded by goblins, the warrior slashed and hacked until the floor was slick with goblin blood.

Their leader made a desperate escape, but the goblin shaman was not so lucky. Even after the shaman used his evil sorcery to turn himself into a giant spider, he still met his end by a hail of arrows.

The sergeant picked up his quill once again and began to carefully write a letter to his commander in the town of Haversham. He felt more comfortable with a sword in his hand instead of a pen, but knew that the capture of Fort Halberd would mean a promotion for him. A promotion, more men, and more writing. He didn’t know whether to thank the adventurers or curse them.

The sergeant scribbled a few more lines, took another drink of wine, and wondered if he could hold Fort Halberd until reinforcement arrived…

 

Game notes on Fort Halberd

This event occurred during our Fatbeards Roll20 Pits & Perils game. The three players are doing their best to upset the townsfolk of Bree. It began with the theft of a couple turnips from one of the local farmers. Ernest, the thief, did what every dishonest young thief would do. His success yielded no more than a couple turnips and later that evening I believe he bought a round of drinks for the victims!

The PCs also explored an old mill outside of town, where they managed to kill a nest of giant rats, flush out some goblin spies, and nearly get beheaded by a giant spider. The spider met his end. Its death scene was dragging its wounded bulk up to the top of the old mill while flames consumed the building.

Let us hope the town of Bree is spared a similar fate!

Agnes Gumm

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Photo by pina messina on Unsplash

Rain came in from the Five Kings, catching a ride with a southeasterly wind. Agnes Gumm sat at her kitchen table, pulling her robe close about her and stirring a bone china tea cup with a delicate silver spoon. Rain’ll be good for the roses, she thought absentmindedly. At least that bumbling wizard’s chicken hut hasn’t trampled through her rose bushes this week! She scowled at the thought of the hut.

She tried to have Sheriff John throw the wizard in jail for not keeping his property off of her own. The sheriff promised that Cornwall would make restitution. He did in fact restore her roses, but somehow managed to turn them into giant purple monstrosities with an appetite for starlings.

Agnes Gumm made an effort to prune them back but had to retreat under an onslaught of thorn covered assailants. Marshaling her forces by recruiting Mutt Wilton, the sheriff’s deputy, she mounted a frontal assault. The deputy whacked at the roses in a flanking maneuver on the right side, his rake laying the enemy low. Victory was finally hers, and Agnes vowed never to let that wizard come near her rose bed again.

Agnes had lived in Bree all of her life, which was fifty-two years to be exact. She knew everything and everyone in the town, but she couldn’t figure out that strange wizard. He was a odd one at that. Someday, she’d pry his secrets from him. Everyone had a story to tell and Agnes’ job was to learn it and share it with everyone she could. She wasn’t a spiteful woman, nor hateful, but there was some sort of thrill that came from gleaning some bit of knowledge from a person, better yet, something they didn’t mean to part with. Like a squirrel running off with a nut, Agnes would make her way through town, wheeling and dealing in information.

Agnes had her secrets too. Secrets that she didn’t care to have told all over town. First and foremost was her wealth. Agnes Gumm was wealthy. Her money didn’t come from adventuring in lost tombs nor did it come from marrying and burying a rich husband. She earned it by being shrewd. Agnes listened to the traders that came through the town and used what small amount of savings she had to invest a little here and there. A few silvers to one merchant, and a few more to another. Eventually, her fortune grew until she had more silver than she could ever spend on her own. This didn’t keep Agnes from looking for other opportunities to make more silver.

She knew that Bree would someday once again be a place of opportunity. Talk of opening the trade route through the Five Kings was on the lips of more merchants nowadays. It required a group of trailblazers, people of strong backs and low character to get it done. Anges was keeping her eyes and ears open for just those people.

Game notes on Agnes Gumm

Every group of adventurers could use a backer. Whether it be a mysterious wizard, a rich baron, or a shifty eyed merchant, patrons will always be a great place to place story hooks. I’d like to develop Agnes Gumm into a source for rumors about the goings on of Bree and as a possible employer for the PCs. Her shrewd business acumen will serve to put some constraints on the deal, giving the PC limited time or budget and expecting results.

 

The Shrine of St. Lark

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Laurent Talen pressed his hand against the child’s forehead. She was burning with fever and barely conscious, and St. Alban’s monastery was still a day’s ride to the north. The cold wind cut through his winter cloak.

His granddaughter was Marielle and worth more to the old man than all the silver he’d earned as a craftsman. The monks of St. Alban could help her if time were on his side. But the sun was disappearing beyond the peaks of the Five Kings and the road would be even more dangerous.

Laurent eased down from his horse and gently laid the child at the base of a cherry tree, its branches bare and offering little shelter. Snow had fallen that morning and he brushed it away and placed his cloak down first. Marielle’s eyes fluttered open and she whispered, Papa, can we pick some wildflowers?

No, my love, you need to rest first and then we shall see.

Sing me a song then, she looked up into his eyes.

Laurent Talen sang the simple song that Marielle often heard while the old man worked in his shop. As he did so, he had a vision of St. Lark pulling a warm cloak over his granddaughter.

Laurent’s voice faltered and stopped. Sing, Papa! He looked down and Marielle was smiling back at him. Her eyes were clear and the fever was gone.

He began to sing again. This time with Marielle’s voice joining his. Cherry blossoms fell around them like snow.

[Game Notes for the Shrine of St. Lark]

The Shrine of St. Lark lies along the north road leading out of Bree. The road has grown wild in recent years, but cart tracks still mark the path.

Thirty years ago the north road was heavily traveled by merchants and pilgrims. Merchants were taking the north route through a mountain pass into Ren Cele. The pass led into the Five Kings and the dwarves of Irendall were open to trade at that time. The faithful made pilgrimages to the monastery of St. Alban to show their devotion to Eos.

No one uses this road any more. Warfare between the kingdoms of man weakened the security of the land, allowing orcs and gnoll raiders to sweep through the north kingdoms.

A small roadside shrine marks the site. St. Lark, the patron saint of music, is honored here with a stone statue. The statue is badly damaged and its left arm is nothing more than a stone stump. There is still power here for the wind dies down and birds gather to warble. It is said that the cherry trees surrounding it bloom longer than any others.

The faithful that come to petition St. Lark may (if they appear truly deserving) receive some blessing from Eos.

The DM could roll 2d6 as a secret saving throw for each petitioner. To this roll she could add a modifier of +1 or more to reflect the nature and sincerity of the petitioner. If the save is made, the petitioner is granted one temporary luck point (no time limit to use it). A luck point may be used to alter by one point (+/-) any die roll that affects them.

If the save results in an outstanding success of 12+ the petitioner may be given one of the following blessings in addition to the bonus luck point. (DM may choose or roll)

1. The petitioner gains the insight of Wisdom, gains Wisdom as an ability and also +1 to saves vs magic
2. One weapon upon the petitioner becomes blessed, functions as a +1 magical weapon
3. The petitioner gains blessed protection, adds +1 to their armor class regardless of wearing armor or not
4. All water or wine carried on their person becomes a healing draught restoring full hit points when drunk
5. The petitioner is protected from all disease
6. Every song they sing for others will be so beautiful that they will receive a +2 favorable reaction

Note that all of these blessings will last until the cherry blossoms at St. Lark’s Shrine have all fallen (mid summer).


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