On Ophir, The City of Slaves – Avenue of Lost Souls

The first two parts of Ophir can be found here and here. For information on the pantheon of Ophir, click here.

Before I continue, I should mention that this work presents the concept of slavery as it has often appeared in pulp fiction. Slavery was fairly common in the ancient world, and thus appears often in fiction. The slave girls, gladiators and galley slaves of pulp fiction and sword & sandal movies, however, do not do justice to the suffering of real life slaves. Unfortunately, the crime of slavery and human trafficking is alive and well in the world. For a more serious take on the subject, you might want to visit this wikipedia page or this website. I hope nobody takes this work of fiction as belittling the plight of actual slaves. I know I promised no politics on this website, but I don’t think taking a stand against slavery is too controversial.

D. Avenue of Lost Souls
The streets that surround the Temple of Lotan are paved with basalt tiles, several bearing brass holy symbols of Lotan (in the shape of an eel wound around a trident). They are usually quiet, people avoiding the temple whenever possible, and they are never profaned with laughter or other loud noises.

At night, the streets are all but deserted due to the priests being about, hunting for sacrificial victims. The streets are patrolled by wary guardsman during the day and servants of the nobles who live near the temple going about their business.

3. Beggars: A band of seven beggars dwell in this ramshackle, two-story brick building. Once a fine townhouse, it has fallen into disrepair, missing wooden shutters on the windows and its entryway, tiled with blue marble, now cracked and dingy. The beggars are lead by Jumbi, a mischevious and secretive young man with a scruffy beard and a crescent shaped scar on his cheeck (made by the signet ring of an aristocrat who meant to teach him humility. The building was left to Jumbi by his maternal aunt. Jumbi and his friends are religious beggars of Shedu who have taken a vow of poverty. They are less obnoxious than the average Ophirian beggar, but no less wily. They keep no treasure, spending all of their money on food for themselves and giving the remainder to the Temple of Shedu [56]. They are aware of the change that has come over the priests of the temple, and are on the lookout for adventurers who might be able to help. As religious beggars, they are capable of blessing those who give them coins. The blessing, once made, can be invoked by the blessed at any time, and then acts as the cleric spell of the same name. They are likewise capable of cursing those who abuse them or commit blasphemies in their presence.

4. Tapestry Weaver: Alulla’s work hangs in the palaces and temples of Ophir and other city-states. An elderly woman with a small, wrinkled face, long silver hair and a hunched back, Alulla is well read in history and mythology and has a 1 in 6 chance of answering obscure questions on these subjects. Her building is two stories tall and built of dark grey stone with a flat roof. The arched windows on her second floor are covered from within by tapestries, and two fine tapestries for sale (100 gp each) hang outside during the daytime. Alulla owns a pair of intelligent, talking ferrets (Zim and Yip) who keep her up-to-date on the goings on of the city-state. Alulla’s home is simple and neat. She keeps her loom near the window and her treasure (135 gp) under the floor boards. Most of her earnings go to the Temple of Shedu [56]. Alulla has a long-standing loathing of Hogo [8], whose family stole her father’s fortune and may have murdered him long ago.

6. Temple of Lotan: Lotan is the demonic god of the sea of the Ophirian pantheon. His temple is a large structure built of black stone and topped with a roof of grey slates. The entrance is barred by an iron gate night and day. During the day, a priest stands behind the gate to accept offerings to the temple and give Lotan’s blessing (a dab of blue paint on the bridge of the nose). At night, when the priests of Lotan hunt for victims, the streets around the temple are deserted.

The interior of the temple is covered in plaster and painted an amber color. A thick, purple carpet leads from the entrance to the great idol of Lotan, which appears as a massive merman with a curled, black beard, stern countenance, golden crown and trident (plated and too large to remove) and gem-encrusted breastplate (three sapphires worth 3,000 gp each, twelve garnets worth 500 gp each). To the left of the entrance is a thick, wooden door that leads to a four-story tower that contains the apartments of the priests and an observatory. Behind the idol there is a trap door that leads to a series of catacombs that run beneath much of the city, connecting (via secret door) to a number of cellars. The catacombs nearest the temple of Lotan house treasure vaults and tombs of former priests. Further away, the catacombs are used for storage of supplies. The very far catacombs are haunted by monsters and avoided by even Lotan’s grim priests.

The high priest of Lotan (and pontiff of the city-state of Ophir) is Aralla, a stately woman with pale, clammy skin and large, glassy eyes. Aralla is a sorcerer whose mother had congress with the demonic servants of Lotan. Aralla is served by Mugo, Harah, Jumbi, Says, Ibiq and Farba.

The temple’s treasure is hidden in multiple vaults in the catacombs. Each vault is locked and guarded on the inside by an iron cobra and (10%) a mummy of a former priest. In total, the treasure consists of 500 ep, 2,300 gp and a lapis lazuli dolphin worth 125 gp.

• Aralla, Cambion Adept Lvl 7: HP 14; AC 9 [10]; Save 9; Special: Adept spells (2nd); Purple robes, golden torc (300 gp), silver dagger, potion of human control.

• Acolytes, Adepts Lvl 2: HP 2d6; AC 5 [14]; Save 13; Special: Adept spells (1st); Ring armor, shield, black robes lined with crimson, light mace.

7. Inn of One Thousand Delights: The best inn in town, it features two taverns (one for wine, one for dark ale), a restaurant specializing in goat cheese, spices and ground lamb on flat bread. The taverns consist of long tables and booths hidden by thick, velvet curtains. Besides the booze, one can shop for prostitutes and hookahs (black lotus is extra) in the taverns. They also have dancing girls and musicians most nights, and games of dice run by employees (usually assassins) of the inn.

The inn is owned by Ophir’s brotherhood of assassins, who occupy the top floor. The innkeeper, Hood, is in their employ. He is a wicked man, malevolent and overbearing, but unskilled in fighting or assassination. The rooms in the inn are sumptuous and expensive (5 gp per night). The inn has its own stables, and baths and a laundry service can be purchased.

The top floor consists of apartments and meeting/training rooms. The assassins are ultimately led by Prince Zargo, but day-to-day operations are overseen by Joram, his lieutenant. The assassins’ most proficient killed is the Black Lotus.

• Joram, Assassin Lvl 4: HP 16; AC 5 [14]; Save 12 (11 vs. death); Special: Cheat death, decipher script, diguise, sneak attack for double damage, stealth, poison; Short sword, dagger, darts (3), leather armor, black mask, 4d6 gp.

• Black Lotus, Assassin Lvl 8: HP 37; AC 4 [15]; Save 8 (7 vs. death); Special: Cheat death, decipher script, diguise, sneak attack for triple damage, stealth, poison; Short sword, +1 dagger, leather armor, disguise kit, vials of poison (2), vials of acid (2), burglars’ tools.

• Assassins: HD 2d6; AC 9 [10]; Atk 1 dagger (1d4 + poison) or 1 dart (1d3 + poison); Move 12; Save 14; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Sneak attack. Dagger, darts (3), black mask, 1d6 gp, vial of acid.

8. Noble: This is the manse of Hogo, an old, haggard-looking hedonist. Hogo lives in a large, two-story building of exposed brick. Ornamental metal works adorns the entrance and the windows. Hogo is a minor nobleman who lives by the old ways. He is cruel and sadistic and given to indulging his lusts. He keeps a small harem of five women (all slaves) and a small staff of slaves to cater to his every need. Hogo throws lavish orgies that are widely attended by the chaotic and evil aristocrats of the city-state. Hogo employs a large bodyguard from Lyonesse called Morgo the Black. Morgo guards the entrance to Hogo’s domicile when his master is in, and accompanies when he is out (usually carried by slaves on a sedan chair). Morgo is tall and lank, with thinning hair and a drooping black mustache. He is as wicked as his master, and would turn on him for the right price. Hogo keeps his treasure in the bank, though he is suspicious of the banker. Hogo has set his eyes on Ramma the dancer [18]. His entreaties have so far fallen on deaf ears, so he is planning to send Morgo and some thugs around to kidnap her.

• Morgo, Fighting-Man Lvl 3: HP 14; AC 4 [15]; Save SV 14; Chainmail, two-handed sword, dagger, 10 gp.

10. Bloody Bones Tavern: After a few years in the army, Nosir retired and purchased this tavern with his plunder. The walls of the tavern are decorated with weapons and shields (gifts, mostly) and is frequented by soldiers, guardsmen, mercenaries and fighting-men. Nosir is a cruel man and always on the lookout for an opportunity to profit off of another’s misery. He has lost three wives (the last under mysterious circumstances) and the wenches he employs would probably leave if they didn’t enjoy the protection of their clients. Nosir allows them the use of the back room to entertain for a cut. He has chambers above the tavern, but can no longer make it up the stairs. He now sleeps in the back room. He keeps his treasure (36 sp, 180 cp) in a locked strongbox under the bar.

• Nosir: Evil Human Fighting-Man 1, HP 10, AC 10, MV 9, ATK falchion +2 (1d6+1), SV 18, AB Str 10, Dex 9, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 10, Cha 7, EQ falchion, buckler (kept behind the bar). Wavy hair, birthmark on right arm, lewd and miserly.

E. Square of Ineffable Damnation
Named for the many slaves that travel through this square weekly from the harbor to the slave pens [16]. The alleys here are reddish dirt and overgrown with weeds, but the square itself is tiled with reddish marble. The southern part of the square has a large fountain, and it is believed to be lucky to throw a copper coin in (retrieved by the priests of Adonis and Astarte each night and used as alms for the poor).

Crowds here consist of prospective slave buyers and those who wish to watch the auction, laborers moving from one place to another and peddlers selling bits of roasted meat on kabobs (often rat), salted dates and clay pots of beer.

14. Slaver: Muta is a wicked elven slaver. He is a mature elf, remembering well the days when the Purple Kings still ruled the coast. Muta is immaculate in dress, loquacious in speech and forceful in personality. His home is built of white stone and has a green door covered with brass tracery. Muta has been a member of the Brotherhood of Slavers for several decades, rising up through the ranks as a slave driver. He has a keen intellect and expects that he will one day run the show (which is highly unlikely). Muta employs a ogrillon bodyguard called Jaroom. Jaroom has purple skin and flaming red hair, and dresses in a black leather jerkin and mail kilt. He carries a curved two-handed sword called a zulf-i-khar and wears a necklace of rat skulls. Muta’s household is run by an old slave called Mumba. He suspects Ramma the dancer [18] of being involved in sneaking slaves out of Ophir, but does not feel ready to move against her, especially because he fears the involvement of the Temple of Shedu. His treasure consists of 10,000 cp, 1,000 sp and 100 gp.

• Muta, Elf Slaver: HD 3 (12 hp); AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 long sword (1d8); Move 12; Save 14; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Elf abilities. Chainmail, curved long sword, dagger, 3d6 gp.

• Jaroom, Ogrillon: HD 2 (8 hp); AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 sword (1d10+2) or 1 dart (1d3+2); Move 12; Save 16; CL/XP 2/30; Special: None.

16. Slave Market: This mini-fortress contains the city-state’s slave pens. The building consists of three stories of barred cells along the perimeter, with an empty space in the middle that serves as a barracks and stables for the slavers. The building has a flat roof that is patrolled by archers in azure cloaks.

In front of the fortress is a broad plaza and a large wooden platform shaded by a blue tarp. Every day, 4d6 slaves are auctioned off here by Aliq, the auctioneer. Aliq and his unfortunate charges are always under the watchful eye of the archers and their amazonian Cushite commander, Hova.

• Aliq, Talking Weasel (treat as halfling) Thief Lvl 3: HP 9; AC 9 [10]; Save 13; Special: Back stab for double damage; Thick saffron robes, dagger, darts (3), platinum ring worth 100 gp, ring of keys, 3d10 gp. In play, Aliq ended up sounding like Joe Pesci. This struck one of my younger players so funny that I got requests to “do the weasel voice” almost every session.

• Archers: HD 3; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 long bow or curved long sword (1d8); Move 12; Save 14; CL/XP 3/60; Special: None. Chainmail, shield, long sword, long bow, 10 arrows, 1d6 gp.

• Hova, Fighting-Woman Lvl 5: HP 32; AC 5 [14]; Save 12; Special: Immense strength (+1); Two-handed sword, longbow, 10 arrows, ring armor, gold hoop earrings worth 50 gp, 5d6 gp.

Random Slaves
1-5. Bearer (20 gp)
6. Courtesan (60 gp)
7. Entertainer (60 gp)
8. Eunuch (40 gp)
9. Gladiator (60 gp)
10. House servant (40 gp)
11-19. Laborer (20 gp)
20. Specialist* (600 gp)

* Specialists may be animal trainers, sages, etc. or adventurer-types, in which case the price is per level.

17. Barber: Visits to the barber should be relaxing, but such is rarely the case with Lathiq. Lathiq is a rough looking customer with thick eyebrows and several chins, but he is also a skilled storyteller and surgeon. The ground floor of his shop is given over to his operating room, where he gives haircuts, bleedings and tooth extractions. The second floor consists of living quarters for himself and his two “wives” (Gala, a raven-haired beauty, and Aneth, an elven slave girl). He keeps his money in a locked chest trapped with a poisoned needle. The chest contains 700 gp and an onyx worth 30 gp.

• Lathiq, Bard Lvl 8: HP 43; AC 7 [12]; Save 9; Special: Decipher, inspiration, legend lore, fascinate; Leather apron stained with blood, silver dagger, three darts, razor, shears.

18. Dancer: This is the home of Ramma, a beautiful dancer who plies her trade in the Inn of One Thousand Delights. She has caught the eye of some dangerous folk, but feels herself capable of handling them. Ramma lives in a one-story, flat-roofed, adobe building near the Slave Market. She is a member of the “underground railroad” in Ophir. Her treasure consists of 85 gp kept in a locked iron box. If things get too hot in Ophir, she may try to join a band of adventurers on their way out. She has two small caches, large enough to hide humans, hidden beneath her home’s tiled floor.

• Ramma, Bard Lvl 1: HP 8; AC 8 [11]; Save 16; Special: Decipher script, inspiration, legend lore. Costume jewelry worth 25 sp, long sword, dagger. Seductive, whispery voice, joking and sociable.

20. Alchemist: Nabe’ is a true alchemist. He is a middle-aged man with a paunch and thinning black hair. He is clean, obsessive and forceful in personality, a bachelor with a penchant for the bordellos and gambling dens of Ophir. Nabe’ keeps a shop and small laboratory on the ground floor, a larger laboratory and study on the second floor, and his bedroom on the third floor of is adobe building with its scattered blue tiles and blue doors and latticed windows. A failed experiment (a synthoid) is locked in the attic and fed through a small hole in the ceiling of Nabe’s bedroom. Nabe keeps his treasure in a lead-lined wooden chest. It consists of 1,000 sp and 200 gp.

• Synthoid: HD 2+2 (8 hp); AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 slam (1d4); Move 12; Save 16; CL/XP 2/30; Special: None.

21. Sage: Lathba the sage specializes in the subject of molds and fungi. He has an extensive collection of molds and oozes (including green slime and black pudding) kept in hermetically sealed glass globes displayed around his library. Lathba’s home is three stories tall, with a reception area on the ground floor, a library and den on the second floor and a bedchamber on the third. Lathba is currently single, but he has a penchant for elven men and is a terrible flirt. He has an impressive wine collection that he keeps in an old sarcophagus propped against one wall of his reception area. Several other artifacts, including a stone seal bearing the elder sign, hang from the walls of his reception area, which is also decorated with a soft couch covered in lion hide, an oak chair with blue cushions embroidered with star patterns, two wicker chairs that have seen better days and an amberglass globe with a permanent light spell cast on it (kept under a black velvet throw when not needed). In his youth, Lathba was quite the rake, and he still retains some fighting ability.

• Lathba: HD 3 (12 hp); AC 9 [10]; Atk 1 short sword (1d6+1); Move 9; Save 14; CL/XP 3/60; Special: None. Crisp speech, extroverted troublemaker, argumentative.

22. Renegade Monk: Ob once served the Monastery of Melkarth [39], but was cast out when his cruel, violent nature was revealed. He now works as an enforcer for the den of thieves [60] and as a part-time adventurer-for-hire. Ob’s house is a two-story affair and constructed of grey stone. The bottom floor is a patio of sorts, with vine-covered pillars and a small fountain. The upper floor consists of a living area and simple bedroom. Ob keeps no treasure, for the guild sees to his daily needs. He has a +1 shield (projects an aura of darkness once per day with the command word “F’taghn”) hanging over his mantle.

• Ob, Half-Orc Monk Lvl 5: HP 33; AC 7 [12]; Save 10; Special: Move 17, unarmed strikes deal 1d8 and 1d4 damage, stunning attack 5/day, deflect missile 1/rd, harm creatures only struck by +2 weapons, slow fall; Jade pendant of a coiled serpent worth 155 gp.

23. Boardinghouse: Ib is a wretched man with greasy, thinning hair, a bushy beard and lazy eye (right). He is flatulent, insensitive and irresponisble, and runs this decrepit three-story boarding house. The building is in disrepair and sparsely furnished. Rooms cost 1 sp for a night or 5 sp per week. Food is not served on the premises, and the smell that pervades the place would make it an unappetizing place to eat. A number of secret corridors exist between rooms, with secret doors and spy holes that allow Ib to do some business as a spy for the guild. Ib is married to a harridan called Zora. He has three children, all very shy girls between the ages of 5 and 10. Zora despises her husband, but remains with him for her daughters sake. Given the opportunity to move on (or throw him out), she would happily take it.

• Zora, Barbarian Lvl 2: HP 13; AC 9 [10]; Save 14; Special: Cannot be flanked or back stabbed, fears magic; Meat cleaver, 1d6 sp. Fat, imposing, crooked nose, wears too much make-up.

25. Ibhad the Mason: Ibhad is the finest mason in Ophir, though his appearance would mark him as a simple laborer. He owes much of his success to a +3 light hammer that he stole from a drunken dwarf many years ago. His home is a masterpiece of the mason’s art, the stone being unplastered to display Ibhad’s prowess. The interior is a mess. Ibhad’s has two wives, Lahi (age 38) and Ima (age 16), a maiden of Zinj purchased from a slave trader. Ibhad’s home is three stories tall, with a kitchen and work area on the ground floor, a den on the second floor and living quarters on the third floor. At night, Ima is kept chained in the kitchen when not entertaining her husband. Ibhad’s fortune in a stone chest. It consists of 100 gp and 10 pp. He knows of several secret entrances into the catacombs, including one that leads into the treasury!

One last part tomorrow.

The All-New, All-Different NOD #1

Okay, actually neither new nor different, but I did fix a few things and turned it into a zip file to make downloading easier. Apparently, since Friday it got 147 downloads, which blows me away. Thanks to all who downloaded it, and I truly hope you get something useful out of it.

So, far, NOD #2 looks like it will have:

Books & Scrolls
Ophir: City of Slaves
Some Ideas on Weapons
Scientist NPC class
Thieves and Assassins
Trade Items – alternate treasures
Urban Settings

Maybe a serialized fantasy story (via Project Gutenberg, if I can figure out how to do it without breaking any laws)

Previews of the magic system and some spells from my PARS FORTUNATM project.

When I get enough material to fill an issue, I will release it. Next one might be free, or might carry a small charge. I would like to eventually have some original art in these things, and that will cost some money. Still, I’ll keep them as cheap as possible.

Lin Carter’s The Barbarian of World’s End

Ganelon Silvermane, a name to conjure … well, to conjure the imagination of a thirteen year-old boy. Lin Carter’s Gondwane epic, of which The Barbarian of World’s End is fourth book (hey, I started the Lord of Rings with Two Towers, I guess it’s a habit), is a strange thing. Reading the book, I felt like I was reading a bizarre fairy tale meant for children (or children at heart). There is very little dialogue, and the dialogue there is is not the stuff of Shakespeare. The prose is written as though the story is being told to you by an uncle – and from the subject matter, probably a very strange uncle whose had a bit too much to drink.

I am aware that this sounds like I’m trashing the book, but I really rather liked it. It is not great literature, but it is as imaginative as hell. The characters, creatures and city-states of Gondwane would feel right at home in Encounter Critical and any campaign setting that you could imagine would feel at home in Encounter Critical. Mobile cities, flying castles, tiger men, noseless brigands – dozens of things to fire the imagination of any Referee trying to run a retro-stupid world and have a blast doing it. When I started the book, I was not that impressed. When I finished the book, I was determined to find the rest of the epic and see what other bizarre creations Lin Carter had up his sleeve.

On Ophir, The City of Slaves Part 2

As mentioned in a previous post, I only detail a small part of a city-state. This gives the players a “home range” that they understand, and tends to make the various NPCs more important and meaningful because they are interacted with more often. Naturally, if an entire campaign were to be set in a city-state, I would detail more of it.

Most of the inhabitants detailed below do not have combat statistics presented for them. In these cases, use one of the following sets of statistics:

• Academics: HD 1d4; AC 9 [10]; Atk 1 fist (1d2) or weapon (1d4); Move 12; Save 18; CL/XP A/5; Special: Skills depend on the academic’s profession.

• Aristocrats: HD 1; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 12; Save 17; CL/XP 1/15; Special: None.

• Commoner: HD 1d6; AC 9 [10]; Atk 1 fist (1d2) or weapon (1d4); Move 12; Save 18; CL/XP B/10; Special: Skills depend on the commoner’s profession.

A. Purple Street
Named for the old Purple Kingdom, of which Ophir was once the capital. The Purple Kingdom was named for the purple dyes that the people of the Wyvern Coast once specialized in. Purple Street has the look of a fancy street that is showing its age. Most of the entryways are set a few feet below street level. The street is paved with prophyry tiles (a purple stone) and lined with limestone troughs filled by water bearers in the employ of Zargo.

Crowds along this street include foreigners just arriving to the city (including adventurers), street walkers, citizens going about their businesses, noisy fishwives, sailors looking for a good time, urchins practicing their pick pocketing (1 n 6 chance adventurers lose a purse or other small item while on this streets) and guardsmen. Priestly processions also move up and down this street, as do herds of animals purchased in the Beast Market and headed for a merchant galley or cog.

Following this street north, one eventually reaches the Palace of Zargo and the manor of his grand vizier. To the south, the street reaches the banks of the River Asphodel and the quays and warehouses that line them.

Grand Vizier: Lathta is Prince Zargo’s grand vizier. He is a youthful cousin, dandyish and pessimistic, but completely honorable. His four-story manor abuts the palace and connects to it with secret tunnels that also, via trapdoors, connect to the catacombs. Lathta does not like Zargo, but fears to act against him, though he does his best to intercede for victims of the Prince’s cruelty. Lathta’s wives, Jamila and Hasda, live on his country estate with his seven children (all sons). Lathta keeps his treasure (150 pp, 580 gp, 480 sp, a large red garnet worth 400 gp) in a locked vault in his cellar. His manor is always under the guard of twenty men-at-arms (chainmail, shield, battle axe, light crossbow, 10 bolts).

• Lathta: HD 3 (14 hp); AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8+1); Move 12; Save 14; CL/XP 3/60; Special: None. Masterwork long sword, masterwork chainmail, shield, silver dagger, torque of office (gold studded with amethysts, worth 800 gp).

Palace: The palace of Prince Zargo dominates the center of Ophir. Composed of six-foot thick grantie walls, it is five stories tall and features two onion-shaped domes covered in beaten gold. The palace’s courtyard features gardens and fountains and leads to the prince’s stables, which house his twelve racing stallions.

The palace is under the constant guard of thirty men-at-arms under the command of three sergeants, a lieutenant called Galim and Elektra, the captain of the palace guard. The entrance to the palace is guarded by Korvos, an ogre. Korvos is virtuous and honorable, and much beloved by the children of Ophir. He is known to be loyal to the prince, and has never been known to be derelict in his duties.

Zargo keeps most of his treasures in the Treasury, but he keeps numerous art objects (15,000 gp worth) spread throughout his palace. Zargo has a harem of twenty wives and 43 children. Zargo’s older children live outside the city-state on his manors. His younger children (fifteen of them) live in the palace with their mothers. Zargo’s harem is protected by five eunuch bodyguards (HP 13, 11, 10, 10, 10), all wearing chainmail hauberks and armed with curved two-handed swords.

Zargo is advised by his grand vizier (see above). His court magician is Jamala, a necromancer with access to the catacombs beneath the city-state and a laboratory in which she experiments with re-animating dead tissue. Zargo’s chapel, dedicated to Lotan, is overseen by Taru the Black, a rival and ex-lover of Aralla, the pontiff of Ophir and high priestess of Lotan. He still bears the scars of their romance.

• Elektra, Fighting-Woman Lvl 6: HP 38; AC 1 [18]; Save 11; Platemail, shield, curved long sword, silver dagger, longbow, 20 arrows, 5d6 gp, ring of spell turning, a gift from Jamala to seal a secret deal. She wears a full helm with a brass wyvern crest and a red tunic emblazoned with the gold sea wyvern of Ophir over armor.

• Galim, Fighting-Man Lvl 3: HP 13; AC 1 [18]; Save 14; Platemail, shield, curved long sword, dagger, longbow, 20 arrows, 3d6 gp. He wears a red tunic emblazoned with a gold sea wyvern over his armor, and a helm topped by two leather horns painted yellow.

• Jamala, Magic-User Lvl 9: HP 32; AC 10 [9]; Save 7; Special: Magic-user spells (5th); Silver dagger, spellbook, chime of opening, 9d6 gp. Jamala’s laboratory is protected by six zombies. She wears crimson robes traced with golden runes and flashy (but mostly brass) jewelry worth 50 gp. Jamala walks with a limp, one of her feet being mauled once by a chimera and replaced in a semi-successful experiment with the foot of a dead dancing girl.

• Korvos, Beastman Fighting-Man Lvl 7: HP 43; AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 two-handed sword (1d10); Move 9; Save 10; CL/XP 8/800; Special: Tremendous strength (+2), only surprised on 1 in 10, fights blind with no penalties, can detect invisible creatures and discern lies on a 1-22 on 1d6; Chainmail, shield, two-handed sword (used in one hand), 5d6 gp.

• Taru, Cleric Lvl 4: HP 24; AC 3 [16]; Save 11; Special: Cleric spells (2nd); Plate mail, shield, heavy mace, holy symbol of Lotan, scroll of cure light wounds, 4d6 gp.

• Zargo, Assassin Lvl 11: HP 40; AC 3 [16]; Save 5 (4 vs. death); Special: High dexterity (+1), cheat death, decipher script, disguise, sneak attack for quadruple damage, stealth, poison; Dagger of poison (save or +1d6 damage and searing pain), silver darts (5), elven chainmail, periapt of proof against poison.

B. The Market of Braying Beasts
At the intersection of Purple Street and the Processionary is the racous animal market. Temporary pens fill the center of the square and hold goats, sheep, cattle, horses and camels (and occaisionally more exotic and dangerous creatures). Surrounding the pens are numerous merchants selling the beasts, almost always in large lots, to other merchants, who might then march them down Purple Street to an awaiting galley on the river. Animals are never moved north from the market, as this is forbidden. They enter the market in large, noisy herds from the Processionary, either from east or west. The assassins of the city conduct most of their business here in the din and cover of the crowds.

C. The Processionary
This is the main street between the gates of the city -state. It has considerable cart and camel traffic, and is thronged by peddlers, tinkers, sailors, prostitutes and cutpurses. It is paved with limestone cobbles, which are in poor repair and present a hazard to those who would engage in a fight (save each round or fall prone). Following the Processionary east leads to the Garrison, and to the west leads to the Chancery and Royal Treasury.

Chancery: This is the manse of Riba, the Chancellor of Ophir (meaning she is in charge of the city-state’s finances and tax collection). Riba is the prince’s aunt and holds her office despite her stated distaste for many of his actions and methods. She is an old woman, moody and blustering and feared by her tax collectors. She suspects that Zargo is the leader of the assassins and would dearly like to expose and destroy him and take the throne herself. She is served by several servants who are led by her valet, Horak. Riba is tall and stately, with long, braided silver hair and thin lips often turned down in a scowl. She dresses in robes of dazzling colors and keeps her jewelry simple and understated (gold, 300 gp worth).

Royal Treasury: This building is a fortress of limestone blocks with a single entrance protected by an steel portcullis. It is guarded by thirty men-at-arms (fifteen archers with ring mail, shield, light crossbow, 10 bolts and hand axe and fifteen heavy footmen with chainmail, shield, pole arm and curved short sword). The treasury’s commandant is Balulla, a Cushite with sharpened teeth and an absolute dedication to duty. Balulla is assisted by two sergeants, Jali and Hasif.

The treasury contains the following treasures in locked (and poisoned gas trapped) iron strongboxes. The sum total is 13,000 sp, 500 ep, 12,100 gp, 20 pp, a silver aquamanile worth 4,800 gp, 15 ingots of gold (45 lb, 100 gp/lb) and 30 pounds of purple dye in terracotta pots (worth 3 gp/lb).

• Balulla, Barbarian Lvl 3: HP 21; AC 7 [12]; Save 13; Special: Cannot be flanked or back stabbed, fears magic, berserk; Battle axe, throwing irons (treat as hand axe), leather armor, necklace of polished bone and quartz crystals worth 150 gp, 3d6 gp.

• Jali: HD 3 (14 hp); AC 5 [14]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 12; Save 14; CL/XP 3/60; Special: None. Longbow, curved short sword, ring armor, shield, 1d6 gp.

• Hasif: HD 3 (10 hp); AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 12; Save 14; CL/XP 3/60; Special: None. Chainmail, shield, pole arm, short sword, 1d6 gp.

Garrison: The garrison is a large keep of limestone with five tall towers. The commander of the garrison is Lord Amiral. Amiral has chiseled features. He is mysterious and philisophical and worships the Ogdoad, agents of Chaos. He has five wives, the eldest handling the day-to-day affairs of his house and, truth be told, his command. He has twenty children (12 sons, 8 daughters) ranging in age from 3 to 26. Two of his sons, Zarkon and Farim, serve under him. His eldest daughter has received extensive training as a magic-user. His treasure consists of 10,000 cp, 10,000 sp and 1,100 gp kept in a vault in the keep protected with a fire trap (4d6 damage). Amiral makes no bones about his religion. He devoutly worships the chaotic Ogdoad. This has raised the ire of the Temple of Lotan, but worship of the frog gods has spread among his soldiers.

• Amiral, Fighting-Man Lvl 5: HP 31; AC 0 [19]; Save 12; Masterwork platemail, shield, masterwork long sword, silver dagger, masterwork lance, golden holy symbol of chaos worth 100 gp.

• Zarkon, Fighting-Man Lvl 2: HP 12; AC 0 [19]; Save 15; Masterwork platemail, shield, long sword, dagger, lance, ring of protection +1.

• Farim, Fighting-Man Lvl 2: HP 7; AC 2 [17]; Save 15; Platemail, battle axe, pistol (treat as light crossbow), 10 shots, dagger.

• Kelara, Magic-User Lvl 3: HP 10; AC 8 [11]; Save 13; Special: Magic-user spells (2nd), can maximize one spell per week; Staff, silver dagger, spellbook.

Tomorrow I will finish up the denizens of Ophir (well, not all of them, I have to save something for NOD #2). I’m then going to post some ideas on wilderness campaigns and strongholds and then delve into the Nabu desert sandbox to the east of the Wyvern Coast. Somewhere along the line I’ll post the druid and illusionist and do some previews for PARS FORTUNATM.

Inspiring Churches and Undersea Gardens

Visit this site for photos of 50 amazing churches – good inspiration for those who need to erect a few astounding temples to forgotten gods in their sandbox.

Visit this site for photos of undersea gardens in Asia – good inspiration for those who have dedicated themselves to treating the aquatic portions of their sandboxes the same as they treat their non-aquatic ones (what the heck was I thinking?)

And visit my site later today for my first downloadable issue of NOD. I hope. It’s going to be a long day.

Emphyrio by Jack Vance

While I was on my trip to Chicago, I managed to finish Emphyrio by Jack Vance, published in 1969. In enjoyed the book, but I always enjoy Jack Vance, so that might have had something to do with it. Like all of his works, it was full of lovely (or at least interesting) descriptions; full of wonder yet believable – the wondrous mundane, if you will.

The story concerns the life of one Ghyl Tarvoke, inhabitant of the planet Halma and member of a slightly repressive society. The story follows Ghyl’s life from boy to man, and is reminiscent of the journeys of Cugel (but with a more respectable protagonist). The story is science fiction, but really only in terms of the setting. Like all of Vance’s material, Emphyrio is about the characters and the interplay of the characters and the world they find themselves in. I was satisfied with the story’s conclusion, though the “twist” that leads to it was pretty obvious in retrospect, and I’m surprised I didn’t pick up on it until Ghyl did.

Vance is always a fun read for me. He does a good job of writing into his stories a pervasive danger derived from the way the stories within the story so rarely play out the way they “should”, and from Vance’s willingness to deny characters, important and unimportant, a pleasant ending.

Back from Stoink!

My three day conference in Chicago, as good as it was, is thankfully over and I’m back in Vegas. I have a book review to write, a PDF to get out (about 90% done, little art left to deal with) and some encounters in the infamous city of Ophir to write about. And the artwork to the right – has nothing to do with anything. Just a coffer corpse strangling a mildly peeved high-level cleric. And congratulations to those who get the reference in the title …

On Ophir, The City of Slaves – Part One

  • Size: Town (5,000 citizens)
  • Race: Human
  • Temples: Lotan; also Astarte, Baal-Zebul, Kothar-wa-Khasis, Melkarth, Shedu, Tangadorn
  • Ruler: Prince Zargo (Human Assassin Lvl 11)
  • High Priest: Aralla of the Temple of Lotan (Human Cleric/Magic-User Lvl 7)
  • Guildmaster: Ketha (Human Thief Lvl 10)
  • Theme: Barbary Pirates, Swords & Sandals
  • Accent: Vaguely Middle Eastern
  • Vistas: Towers, raised highways, remnants of an ancient city, worn and weathered walls, tarnished domes, lazy citizens, humanoid soldiers
  • Cuisine: Lamb, mutton, oysters, fish, squid, gamebirds, flat bread, rum, spiced wine, ale, short beer
  • Common Names: Aida, Aliq, Ama, Balma, Diyulla, Far, Haba, Hakin, Hasmila, Hoob, Ibrah, Jumnah, Kar, Ketha, Lath, Muhad, Naam, Nabee’, Nood, Rasha, Riha, Says, Shad, Ubaamir, Wasir, Zargo, Ziyad
  • Strange Customs: Never look a person in the eyes, only whispers after sundown (tongue sliced on first offense, removed on second)
  • Monetary Unit: Shekel

Ophir is a city of corsairs and cut-throats, slave markets and crowded bazarres, opium dens and danger around every corner. It is the great black market of the Motherlands, where anything is for sale.

Ophir is a center of the slave trade and a black market for stolen goods, especially magic items. No questions are asked in Ophir, so long as the guild and the prince get their 50% cut. Most nearby city-states keep factors in Ophir to hunt for desired magic items.

The archetypal Ophirian has blue-black hair, brown eyes and tanned skin. Citizens wear colorful robes over tunics and sandals on their feet. Turbans are common among the men, while women wear silk scarves or tie their hair up with ribbons, strings of pearls or golden chains. It is common for people to anoint their hair with scented oils, and guests in Ophirian homes always have their feet washed and anointed with oils when they arrive.

Ophir’s men-at-arms wear distinctive red scarves around their pointed helmets. They are equipped with chainmail, shield, short sword (falchion), light crossbow and 10 crossbow bolts. One guard in ten carries a heavy crossbow. Every group of more than three soldiers is accompanied by a sergeant-at-arms, and there is always one sergeant for every ten soldiers. Groups of twenty or more are commanded by a captain.

The people of Ophir speak with a rough, earthy dialect. Many are wanted by the authorities of other city-states and are kept in line by their fear of Prince Zargo’s assassins and the might of the guild of thieves.

Random Punishments
1. Chain Gang (1-6 days)
2. Fine (10-100 gp)
3. Lashes (5-20, 1-4 subdual damage each)
4. Loss of Hand
5. Pilloried (1-4 days)
6. Prince’s Dungeon (1-4 weeks)

Gambling is a common past time in Ophir, usually using dice. The locals also enjoy pit fighting (to the death). Horse and camel races are conducted in some of the dry river beds near the city. The city-state boasts two champions of the Herculean Games held in Guelph.

Ophir’s economy is based on the slave trade and the black market. Ophir’s domain is composed mostly of dry, volcanic soil. The city-state is surrounded by a cedar forest and a few pleasant meadows that support goat and sheep herding. Most commoners make their living from the sea as fishermen or sailors.

Next, a map of the “adventurer’s quarter” and I begin to detail the folks who live there.