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Oh noes! Giant Otter!

18 Apr

Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor supplement is where the Giant Otter first appears in D&D.
I have never used this creature in a game, but I see that it could be a great encounter for any wilderness adventure.

Different varieties of otter live in many climes, so anywhere there is a river, lake or ocean, you could insert one into an adventure.
They are a carnivorous mammal and will eat just about anything that they can catch in their environment.Except when feeding, they are not typically aggressive. They use high-pitched vocalizations to communicate.

The terrifying Giant Otter!

The “real life” Giant Otter is a species that lives in South America. You could use these stats for a more realistic Giant Otter in your campaign or as a basis for creating a truly huge Giant Otter:

Males are between 1.5 and 1.8 meters (4.9–5.9 feet) in length and females between 1.5 and 1.7 m (4.9–5.6 ft). The animal’s well-muscled tail can account for as much as 69 centimeters (27 in) of total body length. Early reports of skins and living animals suggested exceptionally large males of up to 2.4 m (7.9 ft); intensive hunting likely reduced the occurrence of such massive specimens. Weights are between 32 and 45.3 kilograms (70–100 pounds) for males and 22 and 26 kg (48–57 lbs) for females.

The otter is perfectly suited for an aquatic life. Long and sleek, it has short legs, webbed feet, and a long tapered tail.
The giant otter has the shortest fur of all otter species; it is typically chocolate brown but may be reddish or fawn, and appears nearly black when wet. The fur is extremely dense, so much so that water cannot penetrate to the skin. (This is why the Giant Otter’s velvety fur is so prized!)

They live about 8 years in the wild.

When hunting these creatures, I suggest you take along siege engines and make sure you acquire at least a +2 weapon vs. Giant Otters.
Personally, I think they would make a better Druid companion creature than a fur coat.

-Jeff
“Retro”

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Kobolds in Germanic Folklore

13 Apr

Kobolds in Germanic Folklore

A Kobold in German folklore is a mischievous household spirit (geist) who usually helps with chores and gives other valuable services but who often hides household and farm tools or kicks over stooping persons.

Images of Kobolds were sometimes placed in gardens to attract them to come and work for a household. It was sometimes said that if you gave Kobolds human clothing for their labor, it made them think that they were now human, therefore too good to be a house “slave”. Perhaps this is why Kobolds originally appeared w/o clothing in the Monster Manual, etc.

The Wiki says of them:

The kobold (or kobolt) is a sprite stemming from Germanic mythology and surviving into modern times in German folklore. Although usually invisible, a kobold can materialise in the form of an animal, fire, a human being, and a mundane object. The most common depictions of kobolds show them as humanlike figures the size of small children. Kobolds who live in human homes wear the clothing of peasants; those who live in mines are hunched and ugly; and kobolds who live on ships smoke pipes and wear sailor clothing.


THE KOBOLDS [a]
(from the Sacred Texts website)

Von Kobolt sang die Amme mir
Von Kobolt sing’ ich winder.
VON HALEM.

Of Kobold sang my nurse to me;
Of Kobold I too sing.

THE Kobold is exactly the same being as the Danish Nis, and Scottish Brownie, and English Hobgoblin. [b] He performs the very same services for the family to whom he attaches himself.

When the Kobold is about coming into any place, he first makes trial of the disposition of the family in this way. He brings chips and saw-dust into the house, and throws dirt into the milk vessels. If the master of the house takes care that the chips are not scattered about, and that the dirt is left in the vessels, and the milk drunk out of them, the Kobold comes and stays in the house as long as there is one of the family alive.

The change of servants does not affect the Kobold, who still remains. The maid who is going away must recommend her successor to take care of him, and treat him well. If she does not so, things go ill with her till she is also obliged to leave the place.

The history of the celebrated Hinzelmann (http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/tfm/tfm087.htm) will give most full and satisfactory information respecting the nature and properties of Kobolds; for such he was, though he used constantly to deny it. His history was written at considerable length by a pious minister, named Feldmann. MM. Grimm gives us the following abridgement of it. [c]


[a] This word is usually derived from the Greek κόβαλος, a knave, which is found in Aristophanes. According to Grimm (p. 468) the German Kobold is not mentioned by any writer anterior to the thirteenth century; we find the French Gobelin in the eleventh; see France.

[b] In Hanover the Will-o’the-wisp is called the Tückebold, s. e. Tücke-Kobold, and is, as his name denotes, a malicious being. Voss. Lyr. Ged., ii. p. 315.

[c] Deutsche Sagen, i. p. 103. Feldmann’s work is a l2mo vol. of 379 pages.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/tfm/tfm086.htm


Some Gamemasters prefer a more accurate mythological take on the varieties of fey creatures in their campaigns, but there is nothing wrong with choosing the typical Monster Manual-style Kobold, either. It is a matter of preference. Personally, I think both varieties are great fun in any campaign, but I pick between the two kinds based on the type of campaign I am running at the time.

Kobold from "The Little White Feather", a fairy tale

Appendix J of the Dungeon Masters Guide

12 Apr

Appendix J


The Advanced D&D Dungeon Masters Guide contains a most unusual and either useless or extremely useful Appendix J: Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Vegetables.

Many character types could make use of the plants listed in it. “Woodsy Types” such as Druids, Rangers and Forresters could find these plants in the course of their normal duties. Such plants could be sold to merchants & Herbalists of the local populace, where they might enter the hands of other PC types, such as the alchemists of the Hermetic Order of Wizardry, Healer Types, and Rogues. Courtesans would desire many herbs as aphrodisiacs. The potential uses in a campaign are limited only to the interest and imagination of the DM and the players.

Some of the plants have multiple uses. Some will be reputed, but non-effective folk medicine placebos. The Uses And/Or Powers listed are for healing, but in larger doses some could be poisonous, therefore useful to Assassins and the like. As mentioned before, alchemists and Magic Users might use them in potions or rituals, etc.

I noticed that of the ones listed in Appendix J that a few had a question mark to denote unknown uses. I decided to take a peek at what the Wiki had to say about the uses of 3 of them that had a “?”.


Bay leaf (plural bay leaves) refers to the aromatic leaf of the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae). Fresh or dried bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinctive flavor and fragrance. The leaves are often used to flavor soups, stews, braises and pâtés in Mediterranean cuisine. The fresh leaves are very mild and do not develop their full flavor until several weeks after picking and drying.

In the Elizabethan era, some people believed that pinning bay leaves to one’s pillow on the eve of Saint Valentines day would permit one to see one’s future spouse in a dream.

Bay leaf has been used as an herbal remedy for headaches. It contains compounds… which have proven useful in the treatment of migraines. Bay leaf has also been shown to help the body process insulin more efficiently, which leads to lower blood sugar levels. It has also been used to reduce the effects of stomach ulcers. Bay Leaf has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Bay leaf is also an antifungal and antibacterial and has also been used to treat rheumatism, amenorrhea, and colic.

Some members of the laurel family, as well as the unrelated, but visually similar mountain laurel and cherry laurel, have leaves that are poisonous to humans and livestock. While these plants are not sold anywhere for culinary use, their visual similarity to bay leaves has led to the oft-repeated belief bay leaves should be removed from food after cooking because they are poisonous. This is not true – bay leaves may be eaten without toxic effect.

So, we see that the lowly Bay leaf has many potential gastronomic, healing and (if an improper variety that could be quietly slipped in instead of the regular variety) a poison. Perhaps powdered bay leaf could be used to keep Shriekers from alerting wandering monsters to the presence of PC in a fungal forest in the Underdark.


Lotus


The lotus tree (Greek: λωτός, lōtós) is a plant that occurs in two stories from Greek mythology:

In Homer’s Odyssey, the lotus (tree) bore a fruit that caused a pleasant drowsiness and was the only food of an island people called the Lotophagi or Lotus-eaters. When they ate of the lotus tree they would forget their friends and homes and would lose their desire to return to their native land in favor of living in idleness.

In Greek Mythology, the lotus-eaters… were a race of people from an island… dominated by lotus plants. The lotus fruits and flowers were the primary food of the island and were narcotic causing the people to sleep in peaceful apathy.

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the nymph Lotis was the beautiful daughter of Neptune, the god of water and the sea. In order to flee the attention of the violent deity Priapus, she invoked the assistance of the gods, who answered her prayers by turning her into a lotus tree.

Botanical candidates for the lotus (tree) include Diospyros Lotus, which is a sub-evergreen tree native to Africa that grows to about 25 feet and has uninteresting yellowish green flowers. Other Lotus plants are discussed in the Lotus-eaters article.


The lotus tree is also mentioned in the Book of Job 40:21-22, verses which refer to a large hippopatamus-like creature referred to as “behemoth“. The passage states: “He lies under the lotus trees, In a covert of reeds and marsh. The lotus trees cover him with their shade; The willows by the brook surround him.”

Ok, now we have a mythical type of lotus tree as well as the various varieties of real world water flowers we can inject into the game.
A quest for the fruit or flowers of the elusive “Lotus Tree” complete with a Behemoth guardian may be necessary for the PCs to successfully undertake. In the Arduin Multiverse, the infamous “Black Lotus” was extremely lethal and used as a poison (and perhaps a dangerous hallucinogen). Some lotus types might be needed to open the user to the Dream Lands in a campaign that has Cthulhian aspects to it. White lotus has been used as incense and other types as food.


Peppermint has a long tradition of medicinal use, with archaeological evidence placing its use at least as far back as ten thousand years ago.

Peppermint has a high menthol content, and is often used as tea and for flavouring …It is the oldest and most popular flavour of mint-flavoured confectionery. Peppermint can also be found in some shampoos and soaps, which give the hair a minty scent and produce a cooling sensation on the skin. Used in this way, it has been known to help with insomnia.

Peppermint has promising radioprotective effects for cancer patients undergoing cancer treatment.

Peppermint flowers are large nectar producers and honey bees as well as other nectar harvesting organisms forage them heavily. A mild, pleasant varietal honey can be produced if there is a sufficient area of plants.

Peppermint oil has a high concentration of natural pesticides…

I could see some weird Gamma World use for Peppermint, due to possibly having radioprotective properties. Giant Insects might be battled with the oils of the peppermint plant. It is certainly a pleasant flavor that would be valued in many foodstuffs, etc.


It really doesn’t take much to find a use for Appendix J in a campaign – just a little imagination and maybe some research into the plant’s possible alternative medicinal, magical and alchemical usages. It may be perhaps the least gleaned appendix of the Dungeon Masters Guide, but it can become more than fluff in the hands of a good DM.

-Jeff
“Retro”

Forest of Kynmerley

7 Apr

Forest of Kynmerley

click for larger image

[update: I tweaked the map some more after pondering it… added in a river and repositioned the keep, making the old location an Inn. Also added in the town of Luindel near the Lord’s keep.]

I generated the basic map using Wildgen at The Isomage’s House ( http://axiscity.hexamon.net/users/isomage/wildgen/ ).

Next, I used a graphics program to add a few simple places of interest, the two place names and the compass. Lastly I placed an island on the lake. This was fun for me, as I have not made any maps of any sort for adventuring in some time. Thank goodness for the OSR for kicking me in the butt to make these first steps back into it!

Kynmerley is Old English and just means “Royal Forest.”
Lac des Bois is the French name of The Lake of the Woods.

For my purposes, this is a temperate zone forest with a mix of coniferous and deciduous trees, with ponds, lakes and wetlands.

I envisioned this map as having several possible uses. This is a small wilderness setting based around a wayside inn, town, keep or castle. It can be easily placed in any campaign or used to create a stand alone adventure. The map can be expanded on the borders to create a wilderness area of large or small size. This is one of the reasons I chose this iteration of the maps I generated.

I am going to use this map to help me build the ground up part of my campaign. I am fairly good at Meta World-building, but I need to stop that for now and start with something small somewhere!

While the Gamemaster can re-key this map anyway they wish, I have decide to go with this:

1 – Wayfarer Inn on the Whispering River
2 – Forrester’s Boat House & Stable
3 – Hut of the Swamp Witch
4 – Grove of the Sleeping Druid
5 – Wyvern’s Cave
6 – Green Isle
7 – Town of Luindel
8 –
Falconcrest atop Mount Aeroth
(Keep of Lord Erreth, master of Kynmerley and surrounding environs)

Based on the map and the names, there are a lot of options:

What forces of good and evil lurk unseen by most in Kynmerley?

What truth is there to the “Swamp Witch”, a “Sleeping Druid” or a Wyvern in a cave? Are these folk tales about places that spook the local populace or are these things real?

The Boat House & Stable is a good place to have adventurers go from the Keep. The PC’s could be hired as Forresters to watch over the Royal Woods or could be caught poaching, themselves!

Perhaps the characters could be hired to deal with Goblins in the hills, Wolves, Outlaws making a base in the woods or to deal with the Wyvern itself, thereby gaining the favor of the noble. Is there a dungeon complex at the Cave of the Wyvern or is it merely an empty cave?

Does the “Witch” know anything about the Wyvern? Are they in league with each other? Is she evil or a benevolent Fey being, feared by an ignorant human population?

Who or what, if anything, lives on Green Isle? What legends are told about it?

This could be the training ground of Rangers or low-level druids, etc. So often in games, the characters are just speeded through wilderness areas like they contain nothing except random wandering monsters. This setting would be a great opportunity for “woodsy types” to learn about forest ecology and to have many adventures within the area of Kynmerley.

The possible tales and plot hooks just leap out endlessly!

——
I know the quality is not on par with many hand-drawn or professional maps out there, but in only an hour’s time of searching for a map generator, using a graphics program and writing free-style ideas as they came to me. Now I have something for quick use as an introductory adventure in my upcoming campaign… and I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel 🙂

-Jeff
“Retro”

Grove of the Sleeping Druid