Friday, April 17, 2015

#SWApDay2015 Post #1: A Stone's Throw

As you probably know, today is Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day 2015. Now, I'm not exactly the best at planning, so I tried to come up with a viable plan for this "holiday" and here's what I've got: what about making a series of scenarios inspired by the covers of iconic releases of Swords & Wizardry? Shit yeah! So, this first post, A Stone's Throw, is inspired by the excellent +P Mullen cover to Swords & Wizardry Whitebox. 

This short scenario is designed for use whenever 3-5 characters of level 5-7 are trying to pass through mountains and is designed to drop right in to most campaigns.

The Giants

Rahg and Shupek are hill giant brothers. Ostracised from their tribe for activities that even hill giants consider unsavory, the brothers barely eked out a living in the hardscrabble mountains until a chance encounter with a member of their prior tribe turned the brothers into kin-slayers. They kept the body of their victim hidden in the mountain snow, lest any of their former tribe find it, hidden until harsh winter conditions changed the brothers yet again; changed them into cannibals. The brothers soon started preying on their old tribe as a matter of course, for their slow-witted kin might expect treachery, but few expect the brand of treachery that Rahg and Shupek dish out. After many months of careful culling of the tribe, the brothers were approached by a crone they Hasharag (giant-tongue for "beautiful one"), who now directs them in their endeavors and has steered their faith in a new direction.

The brothers dress in poorly-tanned hides that at first look like vast buckskins. It is only upon truly close inpection that the real nature of the cannibals' clothes is determined, for these transgressive oafs waste no part of their kills...

The Crone

The annis hag the brothers call Hasharag is a secretive being. She uses her polymorph ability to assume the form a hill giant, but not one of great beauty (at first, she thought the brothers were mocking her with the name "beautiful one," but she learned better after she saw the females of their tribe). She is a servant of the demon-prince Ishassass, He-Who-Walks-On-Wind and patron of cannibals, and she has come here in his service. She acts as a spiritual advisor, mother and lover to Rahg and Shupek, coercing them to greater and greater homophagiac depravities. So far, Ishassass seems to be answering the prayers of the three well as lone vigilantes from the hill giant tribe stalk off into the mountains to find whatever curse is claiming the lives of their tribesmen. Hasharag takes care of brothers in as many ways as she can stomach so long as they honor the rites and blasphemies of Ishassass.

Monsters

Hill Giant (2): HD 8+2; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 weapon (2d8); Move 12; Save 8; AL C; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: Throw boulders.

Annis: HD 8; AC 1 [18]; Atk 2 claws (2d8), 1 bite (1d8); Move 12; Save 8; AL C; CL/XP 10/1400; Special: Hug and rend, polymorph, call mists.

Cave Bear: HD 7; AC 6 [13]; Atk 2 claws (1d6+1), 1 bite (1d10+1); Move 12; Save 9; AL N; CL/XP 7/600; Special: Hug (3d6).

The Approach

As the PCs approach the brothers' cave, attentive characters will note two large silhouettes on a nearby mountain that seem to be piling up rocks. As the PCs draw closer, the brothers begin throwing these rocks, but as soon as the PCs close to melee range (or if they present overwhelming missile fire), the brothers retreat to the relative safety of their cave.

The Cave

The brothers' cave is permeated with the foul stench of rancid fat. What at first appear to be titanic sides of beef hang from the cave ceiling here, clustering close to a large fire. The skins of mammoths and bears dot the floor here, as well as artifacts carved from their bones. In an alcove off to a side, stands a bone carving of a gaunt figure that would be man-shaped were it not for its long, vicious talons and wickedly-curved tusks. The figure is blood-stained about its hands and face and its belly has the strange distention of famine-ridden. This is, of course, the idol of Ishassass that Hasharag has carved from the bones of Rahg and Shupek's victims.

Rahg and Shupek will retreat here if attacked by the PCs, who will warn Hasharag of the incoming "pests." Though the trio is confident in their victory, they see little to be gained from the confrontation and prefer to warn off or negotiate with the PCs. They may even try to bribe the PCs, presenting them with bone medallions of the demon-prince in return for being left in peace (see below). If forced to fight, the brothers and Hasharag defend their homes and look forward to the appetizers that can be made of man- or dwarf- or elf-flesh.

If the party includes more than 22 levels of characters, include a cave bear along with the giants and Hasharag.

The Curse of Ishassass

There are lots of things that could be cursed in this scenario. If the brothers offer the PCs medallions as bribes -- which may even be valuable on their own -- they also bear the Curse of Ishassass. If the PCs steal or deface the idol of the demon-prince, again, Curse time. Hasharag may bestow the curse upon her death with her last gasp. Unless the PCs take huge precautions, they're going to get cursed. Totally doable, but not terribly likely.

A character afflicted by the Curse of Ishassass must make a saving throw vs. spells or become immediately ravenously hungry. One turn later, his hunger is so strong that he will become irritable and take umbrage at the smallest slight. If he has any rations, he will immediately consume them and attempt to acquire more food. With each passing turn, the hunger deepens. Within a day, the victim has likely eaten all food in sight and will begin to consider... other alternatives, especially if he has attacked and killed anyone during his period of "hanger" mentioned above.

The ultimate goal of the curse is for Ishassass to turn the PCs into cannibals and therefore to put them under his purview. The hunger curse will only abate if removed or if the victim consumes the flesh of another sentient being.

Questions for the Referee

What treasure have the brothers been hiding from Hasharag?
Does Hasharag have secret magical knowledge she keeps from the brothers?
What reward will Ishassass bestow upon those who consume the flesh of his most devout worshipers?
Now that the PCs have denied the hill giant chief his just vengeance, which of his Mighty Hunters is now tracking the PCs?