Strong Drink and Bitter Herbs~Remedies for What Ails You

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Arden of Granden Hall looked nervously at his man-at-arms. A bandit’s spear had pierced his leathers and drove deep into his shoulder. Arden had been a farmer with little taste for combat until his home was overrun by orcs. He shuddered, thinking about the wholesale slaughter at his lord’s manor. It was a long time before he could close his eyes and not see the fire or hear the screams.

“Arden, hand me the linen bag in my backpack, if you will,” Martin spoke, bringing his attention back to the injured man. Martin, the knight templar-in-training, was the most skilled among them in healing.

“Meklin, there’s no broken bones, I’ve staunched the bleeding, but you need to lie still,” he said while directing Thane the dwarf to boil some bitter herbs in a small kettle.

Ten minutes later, Martin gave the hot tea to the man-at-arms. Meklin grimaced, “Bitter…”

“Yes, but good for you regardless. Now drink it all down while I finish a poultice for your dressing.”

Thane the dwarf looked with contempt at the proceedings. “Hrmmphhh! We’d not be brewing tea in the Five Kings. Bitter herbs as they come, straight out of the sack!”

Martin smiled at his dwarven friend, “Yes, and you know that dwarves have iron stomachs, no? I’ve seen dwarves eat things that would kill a mountain goat!”

“Well, that’s ’cause we wash it down with Shoveler’s Lament or any other brandy we had on hand,” Thane grinned wide, his two front teeth missing.

Martin just smiled, nodding his head, “Hmmm….interesting.” He wondered if the dwarf hadn’t rotted his teeth out with that brew. Martin thought he’d tried Shoveler’s one time, but couldn’t remember any events of that night in the tavern.

“Well, Thane, I suppose a good stiff belt of something could shock the system and provide some temporary benefit. Regardless, I’d rather stay with my bitter herb tea.”

Melkin, the man-at-arms, rested by the fire. The herbs were working. His color was returning. Martin was relieved to see this. The cleric did have the power to channel some divine energy into healing, but he kept this ability in reserve for the most dire of situations. The tea would suffice for now.

Notes on healing remedies.

[My take on healing herbs is slightly different from the rules (Pits & Perils) as written. The main difference is that I am having the user make a saving throw on the first use and also on subsequent uses. Also, if the user brews a tea, the adverse affects are lessened.]

Healing herbs such as comfrey, St. John’s wort, willow root, feverfew, and many others can be found by searching the woods for a few hours. The seeker must make a saving throw (7+ on 2d6) to find one bunch of healing herbs. An outstanding success (12+) means that 2 batches are found. Wisdom ability adds +1 to the roll.

Healing herbs chewed or brewed into tea can restore 1 hit point.

Chewing the herbs can make the user violently ill for 1 turn if they fail a saving throw. The herbs will still heal one hit point of damage, but no further healing can be done with the herbs that day. Additional uses will cure 1 hit point so long as no saving throw has been failed.

If the user takes the time to brew a healing tea, 10 min or so, then the saving throw is not necessary and drinking the tea will heal one hit point. Any additional brews will require a saving throw as if chewing the healing herbs, but with a +2 bonus to the saving throw.

Strong Drink

Any type of strong drink (brandy, fortified wines, etc) will restore 1 hit point. If the user takes a second or third drink, they may gain additional hit points BUT will have to make a saving throw or become intoxicated for 1 to 2 hours (all attack rolls and saves will be at a penalty equal to the amount the imbiber missed the saving throw.) Example…Arden takes one swig of dwarven brandy. He regains 1 hit point and all is well (no save needed). He decides to take another belt of his dwarven brandy and must make a saving throw. He rolls a 4 but needed a 7…failed his save by 3 points. Arden will be at -3 to all attack and saving throws for 1 to 2 hours. Failing two saving throws in a row while using strong drink to heal means the imbiber has drunk himself into unconsciousness! He will need to sleep it off for 1d6 hours.

I will revisit this in the future with additions and possible changes.

Other types of healing need to be discussed…healing ointments, poultices, and also the effects of broken bones and other injuries.


Heirloom Weapons

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Leiber Fritzsohn touched his forehead and breast quickly with his right hand. He wasn’t a devout worshiper of Eos, but making a sign of reverence to him seemed like a good idea. Laying around him in a grisly circle were the remains of a small group of travelers. They dressed in the garb of the rural folk of Falmead, woolen tunics, dyed blue, and gray cloaks to keep out the cold. The clothes of good quality, were now soiled and ripped to shreds.

Bandits would do no such thing. They might kill those they robbed, but with a slashed throat or heavy blow. The scene before Leiber made the bile rise in his throat. Grimly he gripped his axe tighter as he heard the scream. It sounded like the chorus of the damned. No human or animal would ever make that sound. The dawn was breaking and the cry seemed to echo across the forested hills.

Stepping around the campsite, Leiber strode with purpose. Although he did not know the fallen, they were still his kinsmen, and he was charged with collecting a blood debt. Whether beast or demon mattered not to him. If it could be killed, he would do it. The confidence the northman had in his abilities was the product of generations of warriors. As a boy, he had sat near many a hearth fire in the winter nights listening to tales of his people. He was of Falmead, his people pushed back against the gnoll hordes during the Ravening. They pushed back HARD, cutting the gnolls like sheaves of wheat. The legends of giant blood grew as tales of the tall warriors of Falmead became known.

Leiber didn’t know if giant blood ran through his veins, but his blood was growing hot. Legends did nothing to defeat your enemy. A warrior needed a strong axe with a stout oaken handle and the room to wield it. Nothing more.

He hefted the heavy blade. Its hardwood handle polished by calloused hands and stained dark by the blood of his enemies. This was his father’s axe, and his father before him. Not enchanted by any sorceror, but nevertheless imbued with power. This was no ordinary weapon. This was Wulfgang. The warrior knew that when he grew too old to wield it, he would give it to his son. Whether old age or an early death, Leiber would pass the axe down to his heir.

An early morning mist snaked around the hills as he tracked his foe. The leaves rustled in his wake as he approached the creature. Leiber heard the crone before seeing her. She lay against a dead tree, lethargic from her deadly feast. No longer an old woman, but more a broken and misshapen mockery of humanity. She was a changeling, a bloodthirsty witch from some fey bog.

The creature stopped its mewling and tilted upwards, sniffing the air. She cocked her head and closed one eye at the sight of Leiber striding down the hills. Pushing herself up from the tree, the changeling tottered, heavy and bloated on two spindly legs. She moved slowly at first, picking up speed as she charged towards the warrior.

The axe handle felt good in Leiber’s grip. He thought of his father and grandfather. The screams of the changeling had little affect on him, nor did her hideous visage give him pause. Leiber could not predict the future. He charged forward knowing that his axe would not fail. He may live or die, but Wulfgang would not fail.

The witch-turned-changeling stumbled onward, dirty talons grasping for soft flesh. Even after gorging on her recent victims, she quivered with anticipation of another warm meal. With practiced grace the warrior shifted sideways as the foul creature rushed to him, her claws raking his tunic, ripping jagged rents in the cloth.

Wulfgang rose and fell, propelled by the sinewy arms of the warrior. The axe bit deep into the witch and was immediately yanked free. In desperation the changeling clawed for the handle, but it did little good. Wulfgang bit once more, and once again. The shriek of the creature cut short by the last blow.

Wiping the blade clean on the witch’s garments, Leiber turned to walk back to the campsite. The one remaining thing he could do for his kinsmen was to give them a proper burial.

Notes on heirloom weapons

This idea came from one of my players in our Pits & Perils campaign. Thanks, Paul

Heirloom weapons have an important family history to them. They are not magical, but if wielded by someone with a family ties to the weapon’s owner, special powers may manifest.

The most basic benefit would be granting the wielder one Luck point per level while using the heirloom weapon. This Luck point could be spent to alter any single die by one point. So, if Leiber had rolled a total of 11 (with all his bonuses), he could use the Luck point to get an outstanding success (adding one point to make the roll equal 12). This may seem minor, but as the PC gains levels, the Luck bonus increases. The weapon would have two Luck points at 2nd level and so on. The Luck point on the weapon would be kept separate from other Luck points for the PC, and only usable while attacking with the heirloom weapon.

Other special benefits may occur as the GM sees fit. One possible idea is to allow the wielder to simulate the effects of one of the combat maneuvers or something else, such as sundering the opponents weapon. This could be limited to a number of uses per day, perhaps once per day for every three levels. (1x at 1st level, 2x at 3rd level, etc.)

To simulate the confidence a warrior gains using the heirloom weapon, the GM could allow any Luck points bestowed by the weapon to be applied to any saving throws verses magical fear or morale affecting spells.

The possibilities are only limited by our imagination.

One thing I would require is that the player with an heirloom weapon must write a backstory about it and play their character in a manner that reflects the importance of the weapon.

This way the weapon may outlive the characters and become legendary in its own right.




The Leaf Men of Spiritwood

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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).

Naming Conventions and Time

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I was never really comfortable coming up with new names for months, and it didn’t feel right to use the common names for a fantasy world.

So, this is my compromise…not to have any names. What?!

Here’s what I’m going to try. Instead naming each month individually, I will use the seasons and adjectives to name specific times of the year.

March, April, and May will be early spring, mid spring, and late spring
June, July, and August will be early summer, mid summer, and late summer
September, October, and November will be early fall, mid fall, and late fall
December, January, and February will be early winter, mid winter, and late winter

So instead of a message from the king stating Sir Kevin must attend the council meeting on October 5th, it would read the 1st week of mid fall.

Well, it sounds a little more medieval anyway!

Kingdoms as Characters [Using Pits & Perils]

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Here is an idea I am playing with. It is nothing new, but I want to use the Pits & Perils rules to focus it for my campaign.

Each kingdom has two abilities as advantages and one as a disadvantage. These characterize the nation.

Strength–military might, fighting prowess, well funded armies and/or navies
Intelligence–higher learning, libraries, better technology
Wisdom–strategic thinking, planning, good decision-making
Dexterity–ability to mobilize quickly, nomadic people, quick to organize
Constitution–hard to kill, quickly rebound from adversity, toughness
Charisma–diplomatic, leadership roles in groups

Example…the dwarven kingdom of Irendall is led by a conservative king. They are a tough people but sometimes allow the lure of gold to take precedence over other matters. The kingdom is small in size but has strong defenses and are quick to respond to threats within its borders.

I will give the kingdom the advantages of constitution (tough people) and dexterity (quick to respond within their borders). They will have the disadvantage to wisdom (gold and nationalism get in the way of seeing the big picture at times).

So…The Dwarven Kingdom of Irendall will have these stats.

The Dwarven Kingdom of Irendall
Dexterity and Constitution (+1 each), Wisdom (-1)

These stats will be useful in determining how each nation responds to events that will occur during the year…such as floods, famines, political unrest.

Saving throws and/or combat rolls can be made for events. The result will help me as DM to determine what will occur and how well the nation has responded to an event.

Perhaps each nation can be given hit points or even character classes and levels to reflect their strengths.

Needs quite a bit of work yet, but I wanted to see if anyone out there has some thoughts on the matter and how they might use something similar to this in their game.

What do you think?

I would love to get some comments on this!

Brewing Potions (a Pits & Perils Recipe)

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On the edge of Bree, past the stream and through a tangled copse of birch trees, you will find a small hut. No woodcutter lives here. That is evident by the surrounding trees with their branches draped in all manner of witch charms and wards.

The smell coming from this hut will vary according to the wind direction and the day. All residents of Bree know that this place belongs to Brannog the Witch. Immediately on entering the small clearing, one hears cackling. Not the kind you are thinking of! A flock of hens strut about the clearing, catching bugs and an occasional worm.

Be warned! Brannog is not the most welcoming of hosts. People who seek her help yet show disrespect, will often leave filled with regret. It is rumored that the hens in her yard were once very rude people.

Brannog is a wise woman, a healer, and a brewer of potions. She will easily take offense but is a hard bargainer. Her remedies can often come at a dear price. Bring plenty of silver or the willingness enter into a pact.

Notes on brewing of potions

Some spells can be distilled into potion form. It requires a recipe that must either be created or found. Creating a recipe can take 1d6 months, 1d6 x 100 silver pieces, AND one special ingredient (i.e. the hairs from a giant spider). [note-in my Bree campaign, silver replaces gold as the standard currency]

After this research is complete (money spent, time used) a saving throw is made adding a +1 for Wisdom ability. If successful, a working recipe is crafted and the brewer has made one dose of the potion.

Additional potions may be brewed using this recipe at the cost of one week’s time, 100 silver pieces, and a pinch of whatever special ingredient was originally used. At the end of the brewing, the brewer must make a saving throw (Wis adds +1). A 7 or better means the potion is good. If the caster fails, she has made a bad brew with possible ill effects. This bad potion may still be usable, but with a risk. For each point the caster missed her brewing roll, the potion will have a -1 save. For example, if Brannog needs a 7 to succeed on her brewing roll, but rolls a 4, the potion is bad and will have a -3 modifier to the imbiber’s save. (7-4=3)

The imbiber of a bad potion must make a saving throw when drinking it. A 7+ means the potion works as intended. A 6 or less means some temporary side effect will occur (DM’s choice, but the side effect should be minor and somehow relate to the potion. I.e. if the potion is flying, the imbiber grows bee antennae or buzzes instead of talking.) The side effects should only last for a short while (perhaps 1d6 hours). A score of 2 or less means something bad and permanent should happen. If a natural 12 is rolled, something unexpectedly good and permanent might occur.

Some typical potions (and ingredients) that may be brewed…

Flight of the Bumblebee (giant bumblebee hairs or fairy dust)

Spectral Brew (invisibility, hair from a leprechaun)

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (change appearance to that of a specific person, hair of the person)

Wolf’s Brew (animal form, hair or feather of specific animal wolf, owl, possum, etc.)

Lover’s Brew (victim must drink the potion, effect will be +2 to reaction of first person the target sees)

Warrior’s Brew (add 2d6 hit points for one hour)

Fortune’s Brew (add 1d6 Luck Points for the day)

Fool’s Brew (ventriloquism, hobbit or leprechaun hair)


Simplified Religion

Olaus Magnus Historia om de nordiska folken

In a minimalist campaign, it serves me well to keep the pantheon of gods simple. Here are three gods that I will use in my new campaign. I can’t recall how many hours I’ve spent trying to come up with a pantheon of gods to represent various aspects of the world. Those days are over! Three is plenty and I’m done! Well, not completely…I do want to add a few saints and servants of chaos here and there to spice things up. But that is for later. For reference, I will consult Pits & Perils author James and Robyn George’s manuscript.

Three deities and their tenets for my Bree Campaign.

Eos, the One Light


Tenets of Eos (lawful)

  1. One Spirit. All are connected to Eos.
  2. One Path. One cannot follow two paths (nor serve two masters).
  3. One Journey. The beginning, the path, the return. All make the Journey but take different paths and complete at different times.

Silvanus, the Green Man

Tenets of Silvanus, the Green Man (harmony, balance, and nature personified)

  1. In nature there is harmony and balance. [I will need more here, perhaps. Any suggestions?]


Orcus, God of Death

Tenets of Orcus (chaos and death personified)

  1. All light will someday be extinguished.
  2. Send your enemies to set your table. [The more enemies you defeat, the better your position in the Halls of the Dead.
  3. I am the shadow on the path. [Orcus is the monkey wrench in the machine of Eos.]



Jousting Rules for P&P


I’ve been tinkering with the Pits & Perils rules and wanted to add some house rules on jousting. This is my third go at this and hopefully I’m on the right track.

But first, some observations.

  1. Fighters all hit with the same relative frequency, but more experienced fighters can stay in the fight longer.

In Pits & Perils, a fighter’s skill and experience is largely represented by the increase in hit points. It makes sense that as a fighter grows more experienced, he should be able to stay in the fight longer. One thing P&P does not do is give bonuses to hit as characters advance. I’m okay with that, because there are other interesting things for fighters to specialize in, for example combat maneuvers.

2. Falling off horses need to be quicker and have an element of chance.

My problem with jousting is that I don’t want to have fighters whittle each other down to the last hit points before they are knocked off their horse. Somehow, I need to add some bonus for more experienced fighters.

At first, I tried just a straight up contest of two fighters, but it didn’t reflect the nature of a joust. I needed to have knights flying off horses, left and right, instead of falling out of their saddle from lack of hit points.

Saving throws to the rescue! If a fighter is hit during a round of jousting, I figured he’d need to make a save to stay in the saddle. Now this is where it gets interesting. Fighters all make saves at the same frequency regardless of level. I needed a way to add some advantage for the experienced fighters.

Using a Braunstein concept. In the P&P Complete rulebook, the Braunstein game is mentioned and the use of Luck as hit points. I really didn’t want to just replace hit points with luck points because I’d be back in the same boat. Instead, I opted to give each PC one luck point per character level. The luck points would be used to modify the dice result on any given saving throw. But once the luck points are spent, his fate is up to the dice.

If the fighter is hit during the joust, he will take damage and then need to roll a save to stay in the saddle. It makes for an unpredictable contest but gives the experienced fighter a slight advantage. Not much for fighters of approximately the same level, but a large advantage for fighters of widely differing levels.

Anyhow, here is my house rule on jousting, warts and all….

Jousting Rules for Pits & Perils

Each opponent receives 1 Luck Point per character level.

  • All jousts are considered simultaneous attacks.
  • Charging gains a +1 bonus and fighters have a +1 bonus for class (+2 total modifier).
  • Attackers roll to hit. 9 to 11 = 2 points damage, 12+ = 3 points damage (due to lance being a large weapon).
  • Any target that is hit must make a saving throw (7+ succeeds) or be unhorsed.
  • If the saving throw is failed, Luck Points may be used to improve the roll with each Luck Point adding +1 to the score.
  • Critical hits (natural 12) on any attack results in the target being unhorsed. No saving throw!
  • Critical miss (natural 2) means that the attacker slips in the saddle and falls from his horse. No saving throw!
  • Optional modifiers–characters with either the Strength or Dexterity modifier gain a +1 to all saves vs unhorsing.

And that’s it. I think it is fairly simple but gets the results I was hoping for. The Luck Point rule is something that I want to incorporate for characters at all times. Luck points can always be used to modifier any roll affecting the character, regardless of it coming from the character or an opponent. Luck Points will recharge completely after a night’s rest.