Harlequin Effigy

As far as cursed items go, there's nothing quite as boring as a "sword -1".  Here's the great treasure of the Painted Men, which bears a much more interesting curse.  If sold at the Bazaar Incomparable, much like the Malicious Mirror, its new owner will be seeking the party out - so it's an adventure hook as well.

Harlequin Effigy
The effigy is a 1’ tall statuette of a clown, carved from ivory with jade inlaid in a checkerboard pattern. The statue is worth 700 gp to a collector of fine art, assuming said collector is unaware of its curse.

Anyone possessing the statuette for more than a few hours will begin hearing circus music in the distance. Over the next week, the music will come closer and closer, until it sounds like it is in the next room – at this time, the harlequin spirit will appear.

The spirit appears as a faceless clown, and is visible only to the owner of the effigy. The spirit will torment the viewer day and night, even appearing in the owner’s dreams.

During the second week since the statuette was acquired, the spirit will stay on the periphery of its victim’s vision, sneaking around, rifling through his belongings, and so forth.

During the third week it will appear with knives, cleavers, and instruments of torture, getting ever closer and making threatening gestures at both the victim and his associates.

Beginning in the fourth week, the victim’s associates will be murdered in bizarre circumstances. Oversized bloody shoe-prints will be found at the crime scenes, and swatches of bloody green-and-white motley may be found clutched in the corpses’ hands. If held by a party member, other player characters should never be murdered this way - henchmen, innkeepers, and other NPC's are all fair game, however.

If the curse has not been lifted after the fourth week, the spirit will kill its victim.

Prior to the spirit appearing, transferring the effigy to someone else is sufficient to end the curse. Once the spirit has appeared, however, disposing of the statuette is no longer sufficient – the harlequin visions will continue on their murderous course until the curse is broken or the victim is dead.

The sacrifice of a clown (or painted man) before the effigy will sate the harlequin spirit’s need for blood.  The effigy’s cycle of bloodshed and murder will be effectively “reset”, and in a week’s time will begin anew with circus music being heard again by its owner.

Remove curse will not dissuade the spirit - only the death of a clown is sufficient.


Tome Powder

Tome Powder
Chance of Addiction: 20% per use, cumulative
Cost: 2,500 gp

This intoxicant is manufactured by grinding millennium-old tomes of ancient, forbidden knowledge into dust.  The dust is then sifted until only grains with ancient ink upon them remain, and the resulting powder is snorted.

Visions of the far past are revealed
25% chance that a fact from the tome is known (e.g. a new spell, the location of an ancient treasure, or the secret name of a potent extra-dimensional entity)

Addiction:  Addicts suffer from writing appearing on their skins in a long-dead tongue.  This writing will hold secrets desired by wizards and liches, and they will eagerly seek the addict’s skin.  The addict’s skin may likewise be ground into more tome powder, effectively "recycling" the ink.

Withdrawal:  Addicts require more tome powder every seven days.  In the absence of such, they will begin unconsciously reciting any forbidden knowledge that they know – causing potential for accidental summonings and spell-castings.


Variegated Eye-Leech

Variegated Eye-Leech
Chance of Addiction: 75% per use
Cost: 300 gp

These colorful leeches subsist on ocular fluids, injecting a powerful narcotic as they consume the user’s sight.  A leech will feed for 1d4 days.  The leeches, for some reason, will only feed in pairs, with one on each eye.  One-eyed men are thus unable to experience the ecstasies of eye-leeches.

Visions of the future, that May or May Not come to pass
Leech-Sight - while the leech feeds, the user has 30’ of vision into the ethereal plane
Blindness - it’s hard to see through a leech sucking out your eye juice
Eye Humor Loss - 1 hit point per day is lost to the leeches

Addiction:  Addiction is caused simply by permanent blindness, as the leeches suck out the last of the ocular humors.  Once this occurs, the user is compelled to acquire more eye-leeches to make use of their leech-sight.

Withdrawal:  Withdrawal is likewise simple - if a blinded eye-leech addict is unable to acquire the leeches, he cannot see.


Mortician's Alembic

Mortician’s Alembic
Chance of Addiction: 5% per use, cumulative
Cost: 75 gp

This peculiar drug is a glass instrument that has been used for at least a year in the practice of the mortuary sciences.  Such instruments absorb the preservative chemicals and embalming airs that surround them, and when ground into powder become potent intoxicants.

Peace of the Grave (user recovers all spells, and heals 1d8 hit points)
Appears dead
If corpses are nearby, user may Speak With Dead to commune with them

All effects last 1d4 hours.

Addiction:  Sad is the life of the alembic addict, forced to travel from town to town and city to city, breaking into funeral homes to steal their equipment.  Addicts have pale, corpse-like skin, and sunlight hurts their eyes (-1 on attack rolls in direct sun).

Withdrawal:  An addict requires another alembic every 4d6 days.  For each day past that, the addict will become increasingly weak, suffering -1 to CON, until the addiction is broken (5% per day) or they die.  Addicts who die of alembic withdrawal will arise again as zombies if placed near any alembics in funeral homes.



Hunter S. Thompson's fictional drug (based on a genuine chemical without any such properties), game-ified. Please do not murder people for their adrenal glands, this is all made-up silliness.

Chance of Addiction: 10% per use, cumulative
Cost: 50 gp

This fluid is extracted from the fresh adrenal glands of a human being.  Extraction is typically fatal for the donor, but such is the price of pleasure.

Increased strength (+1d3 STR) for 24 hours
Hallucination (if in combat, consumer may be treated as under the effects of a confusion spell) for 24 hours
50% chance of euphoria (+2 morale), 50% fear (-4 morale) for 24 hours

Addiction:  There are no visible signs of adrenochrome addiction - the addict appears to be a normal person.  Until they strike.

Withdrawal:  Adrenochrome addiction is permanent.  Each day that the user goes without adrenochrome, he has a 5% cumulative chance of snapping and cutting off the nearest person’s head to get at their adrenal gland.  He will, in desperation, even try cutting off a demi-human or humanoid head - but the adrenochrome from such sources is of poor quality, and will not satisfy the addict’s cravings.


Mendifex Spider Venom

Mendifex Spider Venom
Change of Addiction
: 25% per use
Cost: 5 gp

This spider venom is sipped from small vials.  It provides its users enhanced reflexes and a deeply fulfilling feeling of consummate skill.  It is prized by thieves and athletes.

Greatly improved reflexes (+1d3 DEX) for 24 hours
Improved confidence (+2 morale)

Addiction:  Addicts develop tumors on their necks and face, filled with tiny mendifex spiders.  The tumors will hatch within 2d6 days, causing 1d4 points of damage as the hatchlings gnaw their way out.  While the tumors are present, users suffer -2 to their CHA.

Withdrawal:  There is no withdrawal period – addiction consists solely of spider-filled tumors.  After the tumors break open, releasing the spiders, the user is back to “square one” with respect to spider venom addiction.


Sewage Lichen

Another fictional intoxicant.  In our mundane world, I expect this would just make you violently ill.  In gonzo world, it's all the rage amongst the begging class.

Sewage Lichen
Change of Addiction: 10% per use, cumulative
Cost: 5 cp

This foul growth is consumed by the dregs of the city.  The lichen grows exclusively on the dry ceilings of sewer tunnels, feeding off the miasma from the sewage passing below.  It is scraped off and mashed into an intoxicating paste.

Repulsive (-1d3 CHA) for 24 hours.  Addicts are permanently repulsive and do not lose additional CHA.
Stupid (-1d6 INT, -1d6 WIS) for 24 hours

Addiction:  Addicts may be noted by their brown teeth and feces-breath.  Successful withdrawal cures the breath, but the tooth-browning is permanent.  The addict is permanently repulsive (-3 CHA).  An addict who has gone through withdrawal is only mildly repulsive (-1 CHA).

Withdrawal:  Sewage lichen addicts require a dose every day, otherwise they suffer from a massive hangover, causing -4 on all attack rolls and a nasty disposition (+4 to reaction checks against a withdrawing addict).  Withdrawal takes 3d6 days to complete.


Vermillion Nudibranch of Diminished Inhibition

Vermillion Nudibranch of Diminished Inhibition
Change of Addiction: Not addictive
Cost: 25 gp

The flesh of this river organism is prized by students and decadents for its ability to remove all inhibitions.

Consumers will remove their clothes, engage in carnal behavior with all willing partners, be generous to the point of giving away everything currently in their possession, and will otherwise be highly euphoric.  The effects last 2d4 hours.

Each use has a 5% chance of causing a mild stroke, resulting in a loss of 1d3 INT.



Once again, if you've come looking for information your science project, you're going to be disappointed. And do not ingest hafnium, it will probably kill you in some horrible way - the effects listed below are entirely fictional.

Chance of Addiction: 25% per use
Cost: 75 gp

Hafnium is a weak substitute for genuine lanthanides, and is occasionally sold as such by unscrupulous narcotic merchants.  It lacks many of the more positive effects of lanthanide use, and is much more habit-forming.

Reckless (-1d3 WIS, +4 morale)
Hallucinatory Visions (30% chance of causing effects of confusion spell during any combat)
Hunger for More - has a 50% chance of going for another dose if available.  4 doses in a short period of time is enough to cause the smoker to enter a coma for 1d3 days (75%) or simply die (25%).

The effects of hafnium last for 2d4 hours.

Addiction:  Hafnium addicts may be identified by the metallic coating on their teeth.

Withdrawal:  Hafnium withdrawal causes a loss of 1d3 DEX per day until withdrawal ends (20% chance per day) or 0 DEX is reached (at which point the addict dies).  Lanthanide use will prevent hafnium withdrawal.  Using hafnium (or a lanthanide) after withdrawal results in immediate re-addiction.

OSR booth at GenCon

If any of you are at GenCon, remember to stop by the OSR booth - ASE1 is there (although 99.9% of people reading this blog must already own it), and there's a ton of other good stuff as well.

It's at location 1359, and the booth is accepting credit cards.


Mind Spices of the Lanthanide Wastes

Mind Spices
Change of Addiction: 5% per use, cumulative
Cost: 800 gp

These brown clumps of vegetable matter grow a few inches beneath the surface of the Lanthanide Wastes.  Occasional windstorms will reveal the spices to lucky prospectors, who bring them back to the drug markets of Denethix.  The spices are eaten to produce their effects.

Nausea for the first hour (-4 on all attack rolls, and unable to cast spells)
Clairvoyance for 1d3 hours (after nausea passes).  User is comatose during this period.  Scenes viewed are nearby (within 10 miles) but attempting to focus on a particular area has only 25% chance of success.
Extra-planar viewing for 1d3 hours (after clairvoyance passes).  Attempting to focus on a particular plane has only 25% chance of success.  User is comatose during this period.
User awakes knowing a random spell (1st level for non-casters, of a level one higher than the caster is currently capable of for spell-casters)
5% per use, cumulative, of attracting unwanted attention (roll 1d6):

  1. An angel has noticed the user.  He hears voices whispering that he must mend his evil ways, learn to love others, and stop using those abominable mind spices.
  2. A demon has noticed the user, and manifests invisibly to torment the spice-eater.
  3. A devil has noticed the user, and offers a diabolical deal.
  4. An ethereal parasite has been attracted to the spice-eater.  Lose 1 INT per day until the parasite is slain.
  5. The Hounds have spied the user from the angles between time.  They are relentless and remorseless.  Good luck!
  6. The spice-eater has attracted the attention of the demi-lich.  The demi-lich’s tomb appears in the vicinity (within 10 miles), and each day comes closer to the user’s location, until one morning he opens the door to the inn and the tomb entrance is staring him right in the face.  Moving to different towns only slows down the inevitable.

:  Individuals afflicted with mind spice addiction have a "third eye" visible on their forehead to other mind-spice addicts.  Non-addicts cannot see this.

:  Once addicted, the addict feels compelled to take the mind spices once per week.  Failing that, he will be helpless and comatose as he goes through a five-day withdrawal period.  His agonized extra-dimensional cries have a 50% chance of attracting unwanted attention on the table above.



Well, if you've gotten here by a google search for your science report, this will not be helpful to you. Sorry. And please do not actually suck on lanthanides, the results described below are entirely fictional and you will probably die in some horrible way that is new to medical science.

Chance of addiction: 15% per use
Cost: 1,000 gp

The lanthanides are the most sought-after of narcotics.  They are sold as half-inch spheres of pure, unoxidized metal.  The consumer coats the sphere liberally in an electrolytic jelly and places it into his mouth, where it slowly dissolves into bright blue sparks and liquid metal.

Reckless (-1d3 WIS, +4 morale)
Strong (+1d3 STR)
Healthy (+1d3 CON)
Extreme Euphoria
Hallucinatory Visions (20% chance of causing effects of confusion spell during any combat)
Hunger for More - has a 50% chance of going for another dose if available.  4 doses in a short period of time is enough to cause the user to enter a coma for 1d3 days (75%) or simply die (25%).

The effects of the lanthanides last for 3d4 hours.

Each particular lanthanide element has its own individual effect as well – see the table of Additional Lanthanide Effects below.

Addiction: Lanthanide addicts may be identified by the metallic coating on their teeth.

Withdrawal: Lanthanide withdrawal causes a loss of 1d3 DEX per day until withdrawal ends (20% chance per day) or 0 DEX is reached (at which point the addict dies).  Hafnium use will prevent lanthanide withdrawal.  Using a lanthanide (or hafnium) after withdrawal results in immediate re-addiction.

Additional Lanthanide Effects
Roll 2d8 to determine the particular lanthanide
2.YtterbiumSkin extrudes thin metal coating, giving bonus of -1 to armor class
3.ErbiumUser’s flesh becomes invulnerable to damage from fire or heat (although his belongings may still be damaged)
4.DysprosiumUser may breathe out metallic fumes once per dose taken, that will coalesce into a small metal object (such as a dagger)
5.GadoliniumConsumer’s ancestors, despite his drug-addled behavior, deign to assist him. Their whispered advice gives the consumer +1 on attack rolls
6.SamariumIncreased pheromone production gives -4 reaction check bonus with persons of the opposite sex
7.NeodymiumConsumer is pain-free, and may fight until -10 hit points (at which point death occurs, of course)
8.CeriumUser has ability to consume anything he can chew, with no harm (including poison), and an appetite to match
9.LanthanumUser gains metal-sight – the ability to see metal behind up to 1’ of stone or earth
10.PraseodymiumThoughts of all those within 30’ appear briefly written in blazing metal upon the consumer’s bare skin
11.PromethiumUser’s metal-coated lungs no longer need to breathe, and he is immune to drowning, poison gas, green dragon breath, etc
12.EuropiumUser can detect presence of lanthanides within 120’ by their enticing metallic aroma
13.TerbiumUser has a healing touch, and is able to extrude metal stitching and bandaging to heal himself or another of 1d8 points of damage once per dose taken
14.HolmiumConsumer becomes invisible to demi-liches and other extra-dimensional visitors that may be seeking him out
15.ThuliumUser sweats pure gold. 5d4 gold pieces may be recovered (10d4 on a hot day)
16.LutetiumUser gains a poisonous metallic bite (1 point of damage, save vs. poison or die)


Colloidal Silver

At the tail end of the last session, the party stopped in at a tavern run by Blue, a colloidal silver addict.  I had put together a list of exotic drugs and their effects for the Fight On! random table contest.  No idea when it's actually coming out, it's been quite a while now, so I'll just dump the entries out here on the blog.  They'll be included in ASE4-5, where drug smuggling in and out of Under Miami is going to be a major theme.  But for you blog readers, you get it early.

Note to readers - people actually take this stuff in real life.  It has no actual health benefits, and will turn your skin blue, among who knows what other terrible side effects.  Remember, only losers are (colloidal silver) users.   The effects below are purely fictional (except for turning you blue, which is real).

Colloidal Silver
Chance of addiction: 10% per use, cumulative
Cost: 150 gp

The beneficial effects of colloidal silver are offset by the blue coloration and paranoid disposition of its addicts.  The solution of silver flakes dissolved in protoceratops plasma is ingested orally to achieve the desired effects.  Injection is instantaneously addictive, and thus not a preferred method of delivery.

Unusual Health (+1d3 CON for one day)
Cures one disease per dose
Paranoia (+4 on all reaction rolls when dealing with someone under the influence)

Addiction:  Addicts develop argyria, a condition in which their skin turns blue.  The condition is irreversible, even after a successful withdrawal.  Argyria will cause a loss of 3 CHA to the sufferer.

Withdrawal:  An addict requires a dose every 3 days, otherwise they will suffer 1d3 points of CON loss per day until dead (at 0 CON) or the addiction is broken (15% chance per day).  After withdrawal, CON may be recovered at a rate of 1 point per day.


session recap, 8/8/2012

Mongo the Fighter (4), his henchladies "Bunny" the Thief (1) and Nancy "the Wrathful" the Fighter (1), and his soil-bearers Malazar and Benarto
Gutboy the Cleric (4), his henchman Trezgar the Elf (1) and his dog Rufus II

When last we left, the party had joined up with the Badenovs and were waiting outside the dungeon in ambush for Slezgar's Excellent Elven Edventurers.  Razoe and George disappeared mysteriously during the wait - but such comings and goings did not bother Mongo or Gutboy.

Eventually, Slezgar did emerge - with another elf, a painted man, and five humans.  Unfortunately for them, the Edventurers were surprised, and Gutboy and Trezgar slept and held the all but Slezgar.  His jaw dropped in surprise as his former employers and the Badenovs rushed him, hacking him into pieces.

Mongo and his henchladies quickly dispatched the other Edventurers, to ensure that the Badenovs couldn't question them about the cutting of the rope that had stranged the Badenovs.  They then split up the booty - several hundred gold, the silver-and-emerald circlet on Slezgar's head, and a false beard made of aluminum hexagons.  One of the Badenovs put the circlet on his head for a laugh, and assumed a sly expression as he began cutting Slezgar's head off.  "Oh, just a trophy, you know..." he mumbled when questioned.

They quickly came to an agreement to split all the loot evenly, even the henchmen getting an even share - and Mongo and Gutboy agreed to take the "clearly magical" false beard in exchange for letting the Badenovs take the "clearly cursed" silver crown.

For safety's sake, the two groups decided to venture back to Chelmsfordshire together. The fears of a curse appeared to be justified, when Mongo witnessed the crowned Badenov furtively gnawing on Slezgar's hand during his watch ("Don't you judge me!")

They parted ways at Chelmsfordshire, and Mongo and Gutboy headed back towards Denethix.  They decided that they wished to loot the high-velocity stream of gold they had previously seen in the dungeon, and commissioned an engineer to design a contraption to remotely project a steel plate into the stream, diverting the flow of gold into the flooded room.  While the spring-loaded machine was constructed, Mongo and Gutboy visited the Grand Temple, and queried the priests about the consequences of two contradictory orders from the gods ("Oh, that's unfortunate when that happens - do your best to obey both gods!"), what the punishment for disobedience was ("Holy trial before the priests!  Sometimes the gods interject their judgment, and sometimes they leave punishment up to the council"), and whether they would be safe in the wilderness from the gods ("The gods are everywhere!").

Their questions answered, although not in ways that suggested a happy ending regarding the Kiod/Nisus dispute, they returned to their engineer and picked up the disassembled machine, wrapped in a heavy-duty canvas tarp for transportation purposes.  Then, back to the dungeon.

En route, in Chelmsfordshire, they witnessed something unusual - an Exalted Brother on a sedan chair, being carried by eight slaves, was pointing at the henchman-recruiting-tents of the various adventuring parties, and dictating to a clerk.  Nervous about being fingered for Slezgar's murder, the duo asked Fitzy the adventuring-gear-merchant what was up - "Ehhh, just another one of the Exalted Brethren looking for a piece of the action, I bet. Wherever there's money, those clowns show up, wanting a cut."

They spent the night on the floor of the Pig's Bride - the tavern's owner explained that soon he'd be building an expansion, with all the money the adventuring was bringing in, and then he'd be able to put them up in a proper room that wasn't covered in sawdust and puke.  In the morning, they slunk off towards the dungeon, but were noticed by the Exalted Brother's clerk, who scribbled something in his notebook.

In the dungeon, they quickly made their way to the stream-of-gold room, placed and assembled the spring-loaded machine, ran a string from the trigger to outside the room, closed the door, and yanked the string.  There was a cacophony of sound as gold pieces flung themselves about the room, and then nothing.  Back into the room they went, feeling about under the water for all the bent and banged-up gold pieces - they netted 750 gp for their efforts.  The machine's plate was bent upwards on its tracks, and wouldn't collapse properly, so they abandoned it to rust in the dungeon.

On the way out, they ran into the Badenovs again (one member short this time, although the Badenovs were cagey about revealing what they had encountered or what happened to their missing member), and asked about the Exalted Brother in the village - "Yeah, he was spouting some bull about the dungeons being unsafe, and how we had to think about poor missing Slezgar".  They also noted that the crowned Badenov was still keeping up his habit of gnawing on body parts - he had a troglodyte claw in his mouth for most of the trip back.

Concerned about being hit up for taxes, Mongo and Gutboy parted ways with the Badenovs once they reached the road to Chelmsfordshire, and they headed for the next village to the south - a place called Tarryfield.  Following the weed-choked road, they passed an abandoned mansion on the way towards town.  A horrible stench of ammonia came from the place, and when they peeked through the windows and opened the door, they saw countless cats inside the building. The repulsive stink discouraged further investigation, and they headed into Tarryfield proper.

The village was incredibly poor, with only rude ramshackle huts and a single tavern - the top half of the sign read "The Wretched", and the bottom had long since rotted away.  Inside, a man with blue skin served up ale to the party.  One of the old men at the bar explained that the bartender had turned blue from his colloidal silver addiction.  They asked the old man about the abandoned mansion - "Years ago, when I was a boy, this old fellow Norton Terhou lived there.  Disappeared, don't rightly know when, because he didn't come to town too often.  Place has been empty ever since.  Sometimes you see a light in there at night, don't know who'd go there though, place stinks like cat piss.  No, nobody owns it to stop ye from moving in yerselves, but those councilmen from the City'd probably want a piece if you fixed 'er up.  Can't stand the greedy bastards myself."

After querying the old man about the possibility of seizing the mansion as a home base for themselves, Gutboy and Mongo turned to find that the blue-skinned bartender was extolling the health virtues of colloidal silver to Nancy, Bunny, and Trezgar.  To their disgust, their respective henchpersons readily agreed and were quickly soused on silver.


Kickstarter and RPGs

I've got to write up a billion coherent, interesting, and self-consistent rooms before the session on Wednesday so naturally I'm not doing that. Instead you get an opinion post.

Since the crazily successful Dwimmermount Kickstarter, everybody's been getting on board, and everyone's been yabbing about how this is great because it removes risk from the publisher.

I'm baffled by that.  What risk?  There is almost no risk with print-on-demand.  All you cough up for up-front is art.  Nobody needs a Kickstarter to put an RPG product out there.

So why do people do it?  For the mad phat l00tz!  And then they dance around that fact, presumably to avoid alienating the customer base.

My points?  It's not that I dislike Kickstarter.  I'd do it if I wanted a super-high-quality hardcover print run that print-on-demand couldn't provide, but there's no way I want to be an order fulfillment center.  So no Kickstarter for me.  Shipping books is not something I want to make a lifestyle out of.

Rather, my point is that pretending a Kickstarter project is about anything but making the "big bucks" (well "slightly bigger" bucks may be more accurate) is balogna, and I do a mental facepalm when I read otherwise.  Print-on-demand has already lowered the cost of publishing to near-zero.

Now that I've had my rant, I'll defang it by saying that I'm not thinking of anyone specifically, this is entirely based on overall impressions over the past few months, and if you think I'm calling you out, I'm really not.  I like commerce and approve of it.  I'm selling stuff right now!