Adventurers frequently find themselves in places where finding standard treasure might seem unusual and unlikely. If the local sewers aren’t paved with gold, use the following table to add a little variety to your loot or let it serve as inspiration for a story hook. The value of the items can vary at the DM’s discretion but are suitable replacements for a quest reward or as the centerpiece for a somewhat odd collection, although they could be worth anything to the right person. You can roll randomly for a result below using the handy number provided with each entry to figure out your result on a d20. You can also pick one that works for the area in which your characters currently linger.
1. A damaged ebony case containing a masterful set of pearl and onyx engraving tools in extreme disrepair.
2. A locked wooden box. Affixed to the top are half a dozen small adjustable mirrors and on one corner a black cube emits a single point of ruby light.
3. An intricately articulated wooden figure of a multi-headed dog covered in a moldy gray fur.
4. An extraordinarily fine miniature saddle, as though for a small dog, worked in supple leather and decorated with gold and silver thread.
5. A perfectly smooth clear glass square, roughly arm-length along each side, with beveled edges and rounded corners. It may have once been a table top.
6. A scratched and dented locket which, when opened, appears to contain a much larger space.
7. The severed claw of some monstrous scaled creature, preserved and formed into the base of a chair.
8. A large, transparent red tumbler made of some unidentifiable material, its sides textured delicately and a single seam recognizable down one side. Strange characters decorate the bottom.
9. An ornate, hand-inlaid globe seemingly floating within a large wooden cradle fixed to the ground. The globe moves easily beneath your touch.
10. A series of ancient, hand-drawn maps representing uncountable countries and territories in some unknown part of the world.
11. A beautiful, jewel-handled stiletto. The blade seems to shimmer with an ugly green tint.
12. A tiny, brindled rodent scampers back and forth, trapped within a clear glass sphere.
13. A crystal ball containing a miniature frozen landscape. When shaken, the landscape appears to experience simulated snowfall.
14. A polished metal case containing a set of fine needles, similar to those for sewing, several thin glass cylinders, and a single ampoule of a sluggish red fluid.
15. A filthy, mummified monkey’s paw, curled into a fist and clutching what looks like an egg.
16. A small leather pouch containing a double handful of seemingly fresh tree nuts, still in their shells.
17. An ugly gray wine skin, heavier than it looks, sloshes and gurgles in response to any movement.
18. A smooth, white automaton vaguely resembling the shape of a small dog. Perhaps it wants to play.
19. A tiny, polished wooden coffin. The lid is sealed with wax and the sound of tumbling glass shards can be heard as the box is moved.
20. A once-beautiful golden clasp, as for a ladies’ traveling cloak. The shape has been bent and distorted and now resembles a sneering face.
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“The Cimmerian laid his hand on his sword hilt, and the gesture was as fraught with menace as the lifting of a tiger’s lip to bare his fangs.” — Robert E. Howard, “The God In The Bowl”
When it comes to the art of swordplay in literature, none have captured it with the electrifying style and thrilling wit of Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Cimmerian, Kull of Atlantis, Solomon Kane, and many other quintessential heroes of the pulp era. Indeed, grandmaster Stephen King said of Howard’s abilities in his nonfiction essay Danse Macabre, “In his best work, Howard’s writing seems so highly charged with energy that it nearly gives off sparks.” I recall my first meetings with Conan and his contemporaries with a special kind of reverence. Lovecraft was the gatekeeper, along with Scott Gray, a dear friend and gaming mentor who’d recommended I investigate Howard’s Cthulhu Mythos fiction. Suddenly my young mind was immersed in weird worlds of Nameless Cults and Hyborian Kingdoms. And the De Laurentiis films with which I was familiar took on new meanings once I was able to decipher those hallowed origins. The spectacle of cinema (albeit home video) only reinforced the verisimilitude of Howard’s writing.
Despite the visceral and violent nature of these tales, Howard’s craft proves there’s more to combat than the tawdry clash of steel. Unparalleled dramatic tension lurks in those moments before the deadly lunge; and silvertongued swordsmen turn the tides of war with sharpened words. Every battlefield becomes a stage of the spectacular during that “Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars.” It’s only fitting, then, that we look to Howard’s prose for inspiration when it comes to combat in Pathfinder and D&D. And instead of focusing on raw mechanics, let’s examine a few tropes from Howard’s stories and the cinema they inspired.
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What happens to all the treasure that adventurers find? If it’s not useful, it usually gets sold. Should you find yourself frequently liberating others’ possessions, the following can be used to add a little variety to your loot or even as inspiration for a story hook. The value of the items can vary at the GM’s discretion but are suitable replacements for a quest reward or as the centerpiece for a small collection, although they could be worth more to the right person. You can roll randomly for a result below using the handy number provided with each entry to figure out your result on a d20. You can also pick one that works for the area in which your characters currently linger.
1. A pale gray, formless sculpture. While nothing about the piece gives the impression of movement, you get the vague impression that it has shifted every time you look away.
2. A small blue glass butterfly attached to a barrette. When the clip is opened, the butterfly stirs and gently flaps its wings.
3. A plain iron goblet with a cracked rim. It is filled to the brim with a frothy, clear amber substance that resembles a freshly poured lager frozen in place.
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In great laughter, wonder, loss, and grief it is there—water at the corner of eye.
—Archdruid Naqua of Tellwood
Dungeon delvers discover that an abandoned alchemist’s lab has one remaining assistant in today’s elementally imbued scene.
The Forgotten Assistant
Your footsteps echo off the crude stone walls as you proceed down the corridor. Here and there strange fungus grows, and everywhere you hear the persistent drip of water striking stone. Rounding a corner, you find the floor littered with broken bits of clay and glass. Ahead, at the edge of your vision, a wooden door stands slightly ajar along the right-hand wall. A faint bubbling noise can be heard emanating from the room beyond.
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What components will you find in the wizard’s bag? You can roll randomly for a result below, or use the handy number provided with each entry to figure out your result on a d12. You can also pick the one that works for the area in which your characters currently linger.
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