Jul 29 2013

Monday Monster: Mourning Haunt

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This is a Pathfinder adaptation of the “Mourning Haunt” creature in the “Mark of Prophecy” adventure from the Eberron Campaign Guide (4E). (Note that this is a CR 5 version, because I was running this adventure at 3rd level. For a CR 3 version, reduce it to 2 HD and lower its natural armor to +6, which will give it AC 16, hp 27, change its to-hit to +4, and change its Haunting Fog ability to DC 12, 1d4 damage.)


Demon Monkey King by ~Emerii on deviantART

A Mourning Haunt resembles a white-furred demonic ape, and is about 7′ tall. Tendrils of dead-gray mist unwind from its fur, concealing it in a cloud of fog. Its eyes are blank white orbs, and its mouth is full of long, sharp teeth. Four curling horns jut from its skull.

Mourning Haunt

CR 5/XP 1600
CE Medium Humanoid (demon)
Init +0; Senses blindsight, darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +4
Aura mourning aura (constant)


AC 18, touch 10, flat-footed 18 (+8 natural)
hp 57 (6d8+21)
Fort +4, Ref +5, Will +4
Defensive Abilities displacing hit (at will); Immune electricity, poison; Resist acid 10, cold 10, fire 10


Speed 30 ft.
Melee Bite +7 (1d6+2/x2) and Claw x2 +7 x2 (1d4+2/x2)
Spell-Like Abilities Haunting Fog (2/combat) (DC 14)


Abilities Str 14, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 9, Wis 10, Cha 12
Base Atk +5; CMB +7; CMD 17
Feats Iron Will, Multiattack, Skill Focus (Acrobatics), Toughness +7
Skills Acrobatics +5, Climb +6, Perception +4


Displacing Hit (Reaction) (Su) When hit by a melee attack, the mourning haunt instantly teleports to a safe space of its choice up to 60′ in any direction. It does not require line of sight, but cannot teleport through force effects. The creature must use this ability when hit by a melee attack, but may choose to teleport as little as 5′ away. This is an instant reaction and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
Haunting Fog (2/combat) (DC 14) (Sp) A 10′ square area is filled with swirling gray mist that burns all within and may immobilize them. Anyone who enters the fog or is in the fog at the beginning of their turn take (1/2 hd)d4 fire damage (3d4) and must make a Ref save or be immobilized. Once placed, the fog remains until the haunt dispels it or is slain. Mourning haunts are immune to this effect.
Mourning Aura (Constant) (Su) The mourning haunt is surrounded by a 10′ radius aura of swirling gray mists. It has full concealment against creatures outside of the aura, and regular concealment to creatures within it. It takes no penalties from the concealment itself and its darkvision can see perfectly through the mist.

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Pathfinder® and associated marks and logos are trademarks of Paizo Publishing, LLC®, and are used under license. “Mourning Haunt” and its lore ©2009 Wizards of the Coast, from material written by James Wyatt, Keith Baker, Ari Marmell, and Robert J. Schwalb. This conversion is fan material only, no assertion of ownership is intended or should be inferred.

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Jul 28 2013

Dinner and a OHMYGODWHATISTHAT

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(Spoilers for “Mark of Prophecy” from the Eberron Campaign Guide ahead.)

Session two of the Eberron Pathfinder campaign began with incorporating Squant the ratfolk summoner into the story, which was quite easy, actually. Hired by Magister Thyrane of the Esoteric Order of Aureon, a self-appointed “arcane watchdog” over Sharn, Squant was given an “extraplanar compass” and tasked with tracking down mysterious and worrisome summoning energies that had been detected in the city. With a cry of “This sounds like fun!” he was off.

The trail led him to the Ambassador Towers district, where Yamashi, Nienna, and Cirano were all attending a ceremony of remembrance as guests of Lord-Major Bren ir’Gadden. It had been four years exactly since the Day of Mourning, and ir’Gadden hadn’t forgotten the mercenaries who rescued him on that day. Other ceremony attendees included other survivors who had been in or near Cyre that day and escaped the tragedy (including the Cyran solider whom Nienna had shot in the leg as he tried to escape the tower four years ago), or displaced Cyran nobles now at the Cyran embassy in Sharn. Doing their best not to commit too many gaffes in such a highbrow crowd (well, except for Cirano), they’d been mingling and eating hors d’oeuvres for a bit by the time Squant arrived. Squant had just managed to get a guard to go fetch “someone in authority” to let him into the ceremony, when a clock chime indicated that it was the exact moment that the Mourning had occurred. Lord-Major ir’Gadden started to make a speech, but then a door slammed open and swirling gray fog came spilling out, as if the Mourning itself had come to Sharn.

Panic, naturally, ensued.

The mist turned out to be an aura effect around a demonic creature known as a “mourning haunt,” which could not be seen from outside the mist, but was visible once you were in it. Looking something like an enormous four-horned demon ape, the mourning haunt began attacking ceremony attendees. The PCs engaged it, as did Lord-Major ir’Gadden, the Sharn guardsmen on hand, and shot-in-the-leg guy. (Shot-in-the-leg-guy, later revealed to be named Talsar, was suffering from a case of bad dice rolls and having a hard time fighting effectively, leading naturally to several jokes about one’s adventuring career being over once you take an arrow to the knee.) Unfortunately, the mourning haunt had a very annoying habit: every time it was hit with a melee attack, it would teleport away, usually to the far side of the map, where it would attack bystanders again. The first several rounds were a Benny Hill-esque chase back and forth from one end of the map to the other, until the PCs figured out the pattern and decided to hold their ground in strategic locations, letting the Sharn soldiers do the chasing and attacking the mourning haunt when it teleported back to being near them.

This chewed up the mourning haunt fairly quickly, causing it to change its tactics. Although killing bystanders was fun and part of its overall agenda, its real mission turned out to be assassinating Lord-Major ir’Gadden, Yamashi, Cirano, Nienna, and Talsar, for reasons unknown, and it began targeting them specifically. By that point, however, the PCs had figured out its gimmick and worked around it, dispatching the thing quickly. As it died, its body dissolved in a flash of arcane energies that briefly formed the dragonmark from the tower of prophecy– “Five at the brink of destruction stand as one against the tempest’s roar.”

Once the immediate crisis was under control and introductions were made, Squant explained that he’d been tracking the mourning haunt, and that the extraplanar compass suggested that the ritual that had brought it to Sharn was still going on. Lord-Major ir’Gadden tasked the PCs with finding the ritual and shutting it down; Talsar insisted on joining them. Like the PCs, he’d had recurring nightmares since the Day of Mourning that contained voices whispering that damn prophecy. “I don’t know how or why, but I’m part of this.” ir’Gadden basically replied “Fine with me,” and off they all went.

This led to a skill challenge sequence in which the PCs questioned shopkeepers, followed the extraplanar compass readings, and searched for traces of the wispy fog or other clues of the haunt’s passing as it traveled from its summoning point to the attack at the ceremony. Two failed rolls led to a pair of complications: the first came when, tracking the gray mists down a drainage pipe, they got battered (and in the case of Talsar, washed away as the dice failed him again) by a flash flood that dumped them into a cold, dark cistern. The second came when, climbing out of the manhole access to the cistern, they disturbed a murder of Sharn crows, a particularly aggressive breed that swarmed all over Cirano. The swarm was quickly dispersed by one of Yamashi’s bombs and some well-place arrows, and the group went on their way.

Eventually they reached their destination: a normally-unremarkable townhouse at the base of one of the towers in the Center Bridge district. (“Normally” unremarkable because at this particular moment, it was anything but: from inside came noises suggestive of a storm, a roaring sound punctuated by peals of thunder.) They decided, as PCs tend to do, to go in the side door, but in this particular instance it didn’t matter: the bottom floor was devoid of any light or activity, everything was happening up above. On the lower floor they did find some personal effects, including a holy text of the Blood of Vol (Divinity of Blood Revealed, sort of the Pocket Bible of the blood cult) which had the name “Blacktree” written inside the back cover.

The upper two floors of the house had been gutted and converted into an eldritch machine that opened a gate to the Mournland. The machine was attended by a dolgaunt and a pair of shifter mercenaries, who seemed to be frantically trying (without much success) to keep it under control. The machine was the source of the roaring thunder, and the sound and lightning cascades from it were growing more intense by the moment– if allowed to keep going, the machine would open an interplanar rift that would cause an explosion that could take out most of the Menthis Plateau. The PCs quickly dispatched the machine’s attendants, then disassembled the device, getting only partially battered and singed by the lightning strikes in the process. As the last piece was smashed, the gate to the Mournland popped like a soap bubble and an unnerving quiet fell over the building.

At this point, Talsar said, “You realize what just happened, right? Five at the brink of destruction stood as one against the tempest’s roar.” Yamashi replied, “Don’t you just love being in the middle of a prophecy?”

The session wrapped up there for the night, with the characters heading back to report to Lord-Major ir’Gadden what they found and did about it. They have also been promised a reward from a Cyran ambassador who survived the attack at the ceremony of remembrance, but they have precious few clues to the scope of the plot at hand and what it all means. Written instructions they found on the slain shifter mercenaries indicated that they were to shut the machine down after two more mourning haunts had come through the gate– it appeared to be mostly luck that hadn’t happened yet. And other than the implication that Aric Blacktree and a man described by a witness in the skill challenge as having “a peculiar curved posture” are involved somehow, they’ve got little to go on.

Perhaps more will become clear next time…

-The Gneech

PS: This scenario was written as 1st level for 4e, but it’s been fairly simple to convert to 3rd level for Pathfinder. I will provide stats for the mourning haunt tomorrow as a “Monday Monster” entry. The skill challenge I ran pretty much straight as written, although I altered the complications for things I thought were a little more interesting than just “random fight with thugs.” Finally, the shifters were changelings in the original scenario, which is more cosmetic than anything else. I was surprised that the group didn’t try to intimidate or otherwise get the shifters to flee, that’s a tactic this group often uses and the shifters were already looking for an excuse.

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Jul 25 2013

Thoughts On My Eberron Game

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We’re finally getting to session two of my new Eberron game this weekend; I’ve been champing at the bit for the past two weeks to get back to it. It’s also probably the last session before one of the players moves out to California, which fills the rest of us with terror and dismay. Regardless of whether we set up an iPad in his chair and have him here remotely, or he moves on to something more local to himself on Saturday nights, our group is about to go through another one of its periodic sea-changes, and as the current configuration has probably been the best our group has had in years, we’re anxious as to what will come. But that’s another topic! I want to talk about this Eberron game and what’s got me so eager for it.

Normally when I come up with a campaign idea, I start with a general vision of what kind of experience the campaign should be, try to figure out potential ways my players might engage with and enjoy it, and present it to them, knowing that they’ll probably come up with something at complete right angles to it and we’ll have to work as a group to synthesize it all. I often try to emulate a particular feel for a campaign, whether it’s Howardian sword-and-sorcery, loopy CRPG/cartoon silliness, or “old-school dungeon crawling.” Sometimes it works beautifully, sometimes it crashes, and sometimes it just sorta sits there.

This time, I came to it from the other direction: specifically, certain players had characters I knew they wanted to play, and there were certain fantasy elements I knew I wanted to play with but hadn’t yet, and so I came up with a campaign framework that had room for those things, handed it to the players, and said, “Here you go– as long as you can think of a reason your character would be in situation X, you can play whatever you want.” The players responded with enthusiasm, which is always gratifying. 😉

Note that I’m not advocating one of these approaches over the other: they can both serve a campaign and a group well, but they can also both go pffft. The structure of my usual approach can be very useful for players who don’t know what they want to do and can simply take their cues from the background, but of course it can also be quite shackling to somebody who wants to play a bomb-throwing alchemist in a Tolkien-style fantasy where such things would be the craft of The Enemy and not suitable for heroes (to use a real-life example). The approach I took for this game is great for someone who has a character near and dear to their heart that they want to get some action, but it puts a lot of the burden of “making your character work” on the player and might not provide as in-depth an immersive experience.

In any case, for this particular campaign, and in the context of “play what you want, we’ll make it work,” Eberron is in some ways the perfect setting. Heck, Rule #1 of the Ten Important Facts About Eberron is “If it exists in the D&D world, then it has a place in Eberron.” Human fighter? Come on down. Gnome half-dragon with a crazy quilt of prestige classes? We’ll find a spot for you. That’s what Eberron is for.

In spite of all this wiggle room (or possibly rope with which to hang yourself), Eberron never feels like a giant “just toss it all in” mess. In fact, it’s one of the few RPG worlds I’ve seen where the system artifacts and the game setting actually seem to work together as a cohesive whole instead of actually fighting with one another.

The quasi-medieval default of most fantasy settings really starts to break down when you add magical healing as common, monsters in vast complexes just outside of town, and groups of mercenary adventurers sporting items of power that are worth more gold than the entire kingdom will ever see. Eberron starts from the premise that these things exist and then says “What would a world be like where this happened?” Magic shops? Heck, Eberron has an entire magic economy. The fortunes of House Cannith, House Lyrandar, and House Sivis were built on the manufacture of magic items. That kingdom across the border with an army of the dead? We can’t just go to war with them, we’ve got trade agreements to think of!

There are lots of other cool little touches, too, from “manifest zones” (places where the borders between dimensions get a bit wibbly-wobbly, giving you an in-world reason to have a random sea of lava in a dungeon room if you want one) to “flying carpet races” in Sharn. In short, while having all the underpinnings of Dungeons and Dragons (or Pathfinder, in my particular case), Eberron is a setting that smiles and says, “Go on, have fun with it. I can take it.”

I intend to do just that. And with the players eager to go as well, I expect many good times to be had with this game. Although I originally intended for it to be a self-contained 4-6 level story arc, it may just end up being something that goes on indefinitely. And even if it doesn’t, I’ve now got some cool ideas for future campaigns that could also work in Eberron down the road.

-The Gneech

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Jul 03 2013

Monday Monster: Cthulid

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This one’s not actually mine, so instead of just copying it wholesale, I’ll link it for you:

Errant d20 Designer: Cthulid

It’s a CR 9 large humanoid, something like a cross between an ogre and a mind flayer. Not as huge and epic as a star-spawn of Cthulhu, but definitely an “Oh #&^%@!!!” moment for most parties. Makes a great solo/final boss for a level 7-8 adventure with a Lovecraftian/Howardian vibe.

It’s currently written with psi-like abilities (c/o Psionics Unleashed, which is thought of by many as the “core” psionic rules for Pathfinder, even if it’s from a third party). The ability descriptions are in the d20PFSrd, but if you don’t want to use those, they could easily be swapped out for similar spell-like abilities instead.

Created by Tim Wallace. Nice job, Tim!

-The Gneech

PS: Yes, I know it’s not really Monday. ;P

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Jun 30 2013

Big Damn Antiheroes

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We had the character creation and prologue session of my new Pathfinder campaign set in Eberron last night.

Unfortunately, two players were absent from the session, which threw something of a monkeywrench into my plans for the whole “shared origin” thing, but we decided to roll with it anyway with just the players at hand, since gaming opportunities are so few and far between for us these days. If I’d had time I would have rescaled the scenario a bit, but the group managed to get through it with only one character ever in actual danger of biting the bullet– it just ran longer than I’d planned for with the reduced firepower.

The background of the campaign is that during the Last War, the characters were mercenaries in the same unit fighting for Breland, engaged in a skirmish action near the edge of the Breland/Cyre border, brought back together four years later by fate or circumstance as they become embroiled in a new set of plots and intrigues. With the reduced group, this changes the background a little– the rest of the group will have to be integrated in at the beginning of the next session– but it still provides a shared background for three of the PCs, anyway.

The makeup of this group is interesting so far, in that instead of being the usual mix of heroes and professional adventurers, it’s a sort of ramshackle collection of ne’er-do-wells, most of whom have little business being out of prison, much less doing that whole “hero” thing:

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Jun 25 2013

Onward to Eberron

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As obvious a thing as it may be to say, gaming is a group activity. You have to have buy-in from everyone in the group in order for it to work. And while some of the players in my group are perfectly happy to play whatever game is put in front of them, I was receiving feedback from other members expressing preference for another direction. On the other hand, GMing is a boatload of work, and so you really have to be interested in what you’re doing to make it worth the effort. So choosing a game and managing a group is an exercise in finding common ground.

To that end, I decided to drop the Coventry campaign; my intention was to pick up and do more with Fortress of Tears, but for whatever reason, I’m finding myself blocked on it. So I decided to stop and think a minute about what I could run that would please the players (many of whom have stated a clear preference for some incarnation of Dungeons and Dragons) but would also please myself.

I was very surprised when Keith Baker’s Eberron setting stepped up and said, “‘ave a go, mate.” I was quite indifferent to Eberron when it first came out… I didn’t dislike it, and I certainly didn’t hate it for not being Forgotten Realms the way so many others in the RPG community seemed to, but it also wasn’t what I was looking for in D&D at the time.

Some of that was because it looked too much like a fusion of D&D and the Star Wars prequels (with Sharn standing in for Coruscant, warforged standing in for droids, etc.), and my feeling was, “There’s already a Star Wars RPG, what do we need this for?” That feeling was so strong that I actually nabbed bits from Eberron for the Star Wars campaign I was running, and sure enough, they felt right at home.

With the passage of time, I don’t think that was an inaccurate assessment, but it’s also less of an issue now than it was then. The Star Wars prequels have faded into the mists of pop culture history, and the other facets of Eberron can start to shine. When you can come back to Eberron on its own merits, there’s quite a lot to like there. It also has several “tweakable” settings that you can play up or down as you wish. Want steampunk? It can do steampunk. Want cosmic horror? It can do cosmic horror. Want jungle exploring? It can do jungle exploring. Want steampunk exploring of cosmic horror in the jungle? Yup, it can do that.

Still, the real surprise to me, was how well 4e treated Eberron– especially when you consider how it did its damnedest to destroy everything else. While Forgotten Realms got blown up (again) and Greyhawk got thrown under the nearest bus, Eberron got away with just having dragonborn and tieflings shoehorned into the corners, plus some easily-ignorable shuffling of its cosmology.

Mark of Prophecy, the introductory adventure in the 4e campaign guide, starts brilliantly. Seekers of the Ashen Crown, the largest of the 4e Eberron adventures, has as much intrigue and roleplaying material in it as any of the 3.x stuff for Eberron did, and considerably more than, say, Revenge of the Giants. It’s still in the “delve format,” alas, but once you get past that annoyance it’s a solid, well-written adventure.

So, I admit, I’m pretty excited about this new campaign. As always, I wish I was playing in it rather than running it, but that’s the story of my life as far as gaming is concerned. I have a rough campaign outline that should take the game from 3rd level to 8th, allowing for wiggle room as the PCs decide to turn left instead of right or what-have-you. Beyond that will just have to see what the future brings. Life changes are surely going to throw a spanner in the works by then, if not before!

-The Gneech

PS: For those curious, I’m running the game in Pathfinder, using fan conversions and/or custom data in Hero Lab.

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