Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Making an Adventure pt.4: The House of Amber Lanterns

The Treasures of the House of Amber Lanterns

I originally came up with the idea of developing the adventure tentatively called The House of Amber Lanterns based on a twitter exchange which can be seen here. After creating the Possessed Carp as a bit of a gag monster - and while I was taking a long time on research on my article on Punk RPGs - I decided I would do a run-through of my Accelerated Adventure Planning tool while timing myself. I wanted to see how long it would take me to create a 20+ encounter adventure with the tool.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi 1798-1861 was a one
of the great masters of the Ukiyo-e wood-
block art. His images ranged from famous
battles and historical figures to monsters
and mythical creatures.
As usual with adventure design, however, I got a little carried away. For the purposes of the exercise, I could very easily create a dungeon using entirely stock monsters and treasures, and completed the adventure to a playable creation in just a few hours. My preference is always to create original content for things I want to share however, and my creativity got the best of me. I ended up writing out eleven detailed NPCs and six original monsters. This took me three and a half (admittedly distracted) hours beyond what I had used for creating an adventure with the tool. And that doesn't count getting sidetracked on reading about the finer points of Kabuki or getting lost in the artwork of Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

By making creatures and magic items that are unique to your adventure, you keep your players from falling into a rut of familiarity. If they know the monsters and the treasures, they are able to predict how they work, plan their tactics, and use the items withput experimentation. It works against immersion: it makes the monsters less terrible and the magic items less wondrous.

I have one step left in using the Planning tool, but first, I wanted to carry on with the more enjoyable creative work of inventing magic items for the adventure that I am imagining.

I am running two timers for this project. One timer tracks only the time spent on doing the necessary planning to use my tool and have a playable game. The other tracks total time spent.

Time So Far: 6 hours 26 minutes 00 seconds
Time on Essential tasks to the AAD Method:  2 hours 40 minutes 24 seconds

So, On to the Fun Stuff...

Amber Lantern

The claim to fame of the House of Amber Lanterns is their ostentatious displays of art, music, and especially magic. A few decades ago Nikki Morano, The Wizard, mastered a new alchemical process that could trap objects, spirits, even spells in resin, frozen in time. Anything trapped in the Amber remains unchanging until either the amber is dissolved using a catalytic wand or is shattered with considerable force.

The biggest display made of The Wizard's incredible discovery are the lanterns around the castle. Hundreds of festive paper lanterns lit by tapers trapped in amber. The fire in the lantern never burns out and sheds a pale, yellow-tinted light, equal to a candle. It emits no heat and cannot set things alight. There are hundreds of these lanterns scattered about the castle. There was a time when the Nikki family made a fortune selling them and gained much influence by gifting them to noblemen. The lanterns are what gives the castle its name.

A character with a Strength of 13 or higher can throw the taper from the lantern up to 20' and cause the amber to crack. When it does so, all the potential energy in the lantern explodes out at once, dealing 1d4 damage to the target and lighting them on fire.

Amber Firework

The art by which The Wizard, Nikki Morano, figured out how to freeze candlelight in amber can be significantly scaled up. In order to make the displays of fireworks over the House of Amber Lanterns exceptional he began capturing the charges of fireworks just as they ignite creating a ball of bright sparkles trapped in a shard of amber.

During the Nikki Family's heyday, The Wizard would attach the trapped explosions to arrows and tap these amber arrowheads with his catalytic wand once the arrows were knocked in one of the family's retainer's bows. Within a few seconds the flying arrow would explode in a colorful pyrotechnic display. This made for some of the fastest, most elaborate fireworks displays in the Dragonfly Empire.

When touched with a catalytic rod the amber begins to disintegrate. On the beginning of the next round, the explosion is released in a 30' radius blast of bright fire, smoke and flaming paper. The blast deals 5d4 damage to all creatures within the blast and blinds them for 1d4 rounds. Any creature in the blast that succeeds a Save vs. Dragon Breath takes half damage and is not blinded. The firework can also be released instantaneously by crushing the amber with a melee attack, but the creature doing the crushing automatically fails the saving throw.

Amber Spell

The highest expression of The Wizard - Nikki Morano's alchemy. Nikki Morano has mastered the art of trapping spell effects at the moment of casting in Amber. This functions a great deal like a spell scroll. The user must tap the amber with a catalytic wand. Then the user must throw the melting chunk of amber at the target or desired center of the area of effect.

These amber spells look like chunks of blue crystal with a glowing mote of light. Only an analyze spell can tell what the spell inside is for sure, although most of these spells have a glyph carved into them naming the spell.

Amulets, Gofu

These strips of paper are specially prepared by a Sohei and are written on with magic inks. Each one must be prepared for a specific purpose from the list below.

Protection from Evil: This talisman must be pinned to the wearer's clothing. It is activated by spending a rond focusing on it. The wearer then gains the benefit of a Protection from Evil spell. At the end of the duration, the talisman is consumed in heatless blue flames.

Healing Draught: This amulet is burned, mixed with water or wine, and drank. It will allow a character who is diseased to re-roll their save with a +4 bonus and be instantly cured idd successful. Drinking it also restores 2d8+3 hit points.

Seal Yokai: When this amulet is held outward towards an undead or planar monster, that being must make a save vs. Paralysis or be stunned for 1d3 rounds. If it is applied to such a being's forehead when it is stunned or otherwise immobilized, that being becomes permanently paralyzed until the amulet is removed using a bestow curse spell.

Seal Door: If this amulet is placed across the inteface of a door, it acts like a Hold Portal spell. At the end of the spell's duration it tears apart.

Remove Curse: This amulet is burned and its ashes smudged onto the face of the wearer. When used it removes curses from the wearer.

Ghost Touch: When this amulet is folded up and sealed with wax, then either tucked into a weapon's hilt-wrappings, or hung from it by a string, it grants the weapon the ability to harm incorporeal creatures like wraiths.

Blue Koto, the

This unique and ancient 13-string Koto is a relic from the earliest days of the Empire. It's braids are of a fine-spun mixture of silk and mithril, making it much easier to tune. It's body is laquered sky blue, and it is decorated with images of clouds blown in the wind. The bridges are made from impossibly hard horn taken from an Oni, and are engraved with bars of musical notation. It's cover is embroidered with images of Kamaitachi riding whirlwinds. The picks included are made of mithril, and are sharp enough to allow the wearer to make a claw attack that does 1d4 damage. They will shred a standard silk Koto string.

A proficient musician can use the Blue Koto to two effects. First, if shrill and aggressive notes are played on the Koto it can create a slashing wind that cuts so finely it causes no pain, but profuse bleeding. The player may use their action to target one creature within 60'. That creature must make a Save vs. Wands or take 2d4 damage.

If the melody notated on the bridges is played, the Blue Koto summons 1d3 Kamaitachi. Roll an NPC reaction with a +3 modifier. If they have a friendly reaction,the Kamaitachi will attack anyone hostile to the PC. If they are hostile, they will attempt to kill the PC.  This melody takes 4 rounds to play, during which time the Blue Koto's slashing wind cannot be used and no other actions may be taken. This power may be used once per day.

Catalytic Wand

This unique cherry-wood rod is hollow, and contians a delicate glass apparatus within leading to a hardened silk applicator on one end. When it is squeezed, internal devices powered by heat from the bearer's hand mixes a unique catalyst that soaks the applicator. If the applicator is then touched to an object frozen in Amber, such as an Amber Lantern, Firework, or Spell, that object will be free at the beginning of the next round.

There are only three of these wands in existence, each jealously guarded by The Wizard. A skilled alchemist can experiment on the wand to reverse engineer the catalyst, but not the amber. When found the wand has enough catalyst inside for 2d20 applications.

Daizen's Katana

Nikki Daizen's Katana is fairly new, and has little to set it apart visually from other swords of the same style and quality. However, when the curse fell on the House of Amber Lanterns, The Evil Samurai used it to butcher all of his loyal retainers to spare them undeath. He was not able to fall on the blade before he was taken by the curse however. The grim and desperate act has caused the sword to become haunted.

Any magical inspection will only reveal that the sword grants a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls, and can both be wielded by and harm incorporeal beings. However, the longer a character wields this sword, the more they feel compelled to act out Daizen's terrible deed. At the end of each battle where the sword is used, the wielder must make a Save vs. Spells with a +5 bonus. This bonus reduces by one each time the save is made. Once the wielder fails the save, they are compelled to try to murder the nearest allied PC or henchman to them. They will do nothing but chase and attack that character while cackling madly for 1d4 rounds before regaining their composure. Whether they succeed or fail to kill someone, the saving throw bonus returns to +5.

Daizen's Mengu

The battle mask of the Evil Samurai, Nikki Daizen, is a cursed magical object that is centuries old. It is made in the image of an Oni, and is made of red ceramic dyed with cinnabar backed with steel, and has several cracks that have been sealed with gold. It is currently attached to Daizen's Kabuto helmet, but can be detached,

When worn, the Mengu makes its wearer terrifying to behold. When an enemy or someone the wearer wishes to intimidate first looks into the wearer's face, they must save vs. spells or suffer a -2 to all attack rolls and be unable to willingly walk towards the wearer for 1d4+1 rounds. They will respond to the wearer with fear. This save only needs to be made once each day by a given target. An analyze spell will immediately reveal these effects.

The wearer of the Mengu is cursed after killing someone  who is under the fear effects of the mask. The wearer becomes addicted to the fear enemies feel looking at the mask. They must wear it for every battle. If a battle starts where they are not wearing it, they must spend their first round putting it on. On a day where they successfully frighten someone with the mask, they are at +2 to all saves vs. Spells. If a day goes by where they do not use it, they are instead at a -4 to saves vs. Spells until they can frighten someone.

Jubei's Khakkhara

This bronze-headed staff has rings hanging off of its end to serve as chimes, and is ornately decorated with glyphs in amethyst. While carried the wearer cannot sneak, but creatures with an intelligence of 1 must save vs. Paralysis in order to approach within 10' of its bearer. Insect swarms will avoid the bearer as well.

This staff can serve as a holy symbol. A cleric or sohei using it can affect lowlifes and undead alike with the Turn Undead power - although lowlifes cannot be destroyed by the power of this staff.

Kokeshi, Prison

These simple wooden dolls are made from exotic woods and treated with magical resins and oils. They are designed to trap an incorporeal undead, elemental, or outsider. When the spell binding or magic jar is cast by someone holding the doll, the targeted spirit is sucked into the doll where it is imprisoned. The face and clothing painted on the doll change to match the target of the spell. The spirit trapped within can hear its surroundings and whisper faintly. It can only be released by burning the doll.

Onimaru Kunitsuna (Ningyo's Tachi)

This ancient, ivory-handled Tachi (a 2-handed sword) was once used to slay a terrible ogre magus, and was blessed by the ancestor spirits of everyone whose families were threatened by the monster. It acts like a +2 two-handed sword, but can harm incorporeal creatures. When the sword strikes a planar monster or undead, that creature must save vs. Paralysis or be stunned and unable to act on its next round. This blade is holy enough to be able to cut through sacred rope. If it is used to attack an innocent or harm a prisoner, the wielded bursts into fire, taking 3d10 damage.

Sacred Rope

A special twisted rope of silk and plant fibers and hung with sacred folded amulets, a sacred rope is a distinct magical object instantly recognizable to any character native to the Dragonfly Empire. The rope cannot be cut with non-magical or cursed weapons. Even magical weapons that are not holy have a hard time and act as though the rope had an AC of 2 and 50hp.

When it is placed around a small area, it acts like a permanent protection from evil 10' radius around it until it is cut. It can also be stretched around an archway, sealing that archway and the room or landing it protects as if they were surrounded by a hallow spell.

The rope can also be hung across a door and wound around its handles. This effectively creates a Wizard Lock that also prevents any undead or planar monsters inside a building so sealed from being able to leave.

Each 60' length of sacred rope can only be used once. A Sohei, like Jubei can make one sacred rope each month with 250gp worth of materials.

Time So Far: 8 hours 00 minutes 54 seconds
Time on Essential tasks to the AAD Method:  2 hours 40 minutes 24 seconds


Spellbook: The Amber Princess'

The Amber Princess' spellbook is a set of folio that are elegantly illustrayedcwith vibrant illustrations of the act of casting the spells which animate when observed. They are bound in a four-hole stitch with thread-of-gold and have thin camphor wood covers wrapped in silk and screened with an elegant mountain scene. If observed an image of the eight-headed dragon Orochi emerges from the fog. It contains the following spells:

Level 1: Charm Person, Hold Portal, Magic Missile, Sleep
Level 2: ESP, Mirror Image, Phantasmal Force, Web
Level 3: ClairvoyanceDispel Magic, Fly, Lightning Bolt
Level 4: Hallucinatory TerrainWall of Ice

Spellbook: The Wizard's

This heavy brass case contains numerous scrolls of laquered bamboo slats with ornate diagrams. All of the scrolls are mounted on separate spring-loaded dowels, and can be pulled down by a charm made of illusions trapped in amber. Aside from the spells, the spellbook contains the formula for The Wizard's Amber, catalyst wants, and the ritual for summoning and controlling Kamaitachi and Shinigami. It contains the following spells:
Level 1: Analyze, Hold Portal, Magic Missile, Sleep
Level 2: ESP, Invisibility, Phantasmal Force, Web
Level 3: Create Air, Dispel Magic, Fly, Lightning Bolt
Level 4: BindingWall of Ice



Fourth Level Magical Spell
Range: 30'
Duration: Permanent Until Broken
Effect: One Creature

This spell requires a magical vessel in the form of a lamp, doll, bottle, mask, or ornate prison. This object must be worth a multiple of 50gp, to a maximum of 1,000gp. Much of this cost is in magical components for the object's creation. The spellcaster targets an undead or planar creature. If the vessel is worth at least 50gp per hit die of the creature, it must make a save vs. Spells. If the creature fails it's save bound into the vessel. It becomes incorporeal and shrinks to fit within the vessel. It is forced inside and cannot leave.

Once bound, the caster can attempt to force the creature to use its powers at his command, although it gets a new save each time it uses one. This save has a -1 penalty for each 50gp value of the vessel above the minimum amount required. If it succeeds the save, the vessel breaks andvthe bound creature is free.

At the DMs discretion, this spell and a significantly more complex process to create a magical vessel, could allow a magic-user of 11th level or higher to create items such as Efreeti Bottles with this spell.

Time So Far: 8 hours 24 minutes 40 seconds
Time on Essential tasks to the AAD Method:  2 hours 40 minutes 24 seconds

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. By Brian C. Rideout. And is done under the Open Game License 1.0a.

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