Saturday, September 29, 2012

Protection from Evil

Weevil by kampang
Weevil, a photo by kampang on Flickr.

I’m running a game in which one of the PCs is a paladin, meaning that we have to figure out what that permanent protection form evil spell is all about.  We are using Labyrinth Lord rules with the Advanced Edition Companion.  According to those rules, Paladins “radiate protection from evil in a 10 foot radius at all times.”
Protection from evil refers to a 1st level cleric spell (also quoted from LL AEC):

“This spell wards a creature from attacks by “evil” creatures. It creates a magical barrier around the subject that moves with the subject. The subject gains a bonus to AC of –1 and a +1 bonus on saving throws. Both these bonuses apply against attacks made or effects created by evil creatures.

In addition, this spell prevents bodily contact by summoned or created creatures. This causes the natural weapon attacks of such creatures to fail, and the creatures recoil if such attacks require touching the warded creature. However, these creatures can attempt missile attacks. The protection against contact by summoned creatures ends if the warded creature makes an attack against or tries to force the barrier against the blocked creature.”

Despite the scare quotes and alignmental relativism, we could figure out the bit about “evil” creatures.  But what about “summoned or created creatures?”  If a creature is not “created” then what is it?  By one logical interpretation, a paladin and five of his closest friends are completely immune to undead touch attacks and a lone 1st level paladin could sit down and have a picnic whilst surrounded by mummies, wraiths, and spectres.
The 2e rules are nicely succinct and don’t make a mistake of referring to a spell without seeming to think through what that spell really says:

“A paladin is surrounded by an aura of protection with a 10-foot radius.  Within this radius, all summoned and specifically evil creatures suffer a -1 penalty to their attack rolls, regardless of whom they attack.  Creatures affected by this aura can spot its source easily, even if the paladin is disguised.”
I like the 2e rules, but I don’t mind granting a little extra protection in the case of “summoned” creatures as long as I can be sure what that means.  So, for the purposes of my game and maybe yours, here is what the paladin’s protection is:

·         All “evil creatures” (which includes bad people of all sorts and almost anyone or anything that would attack a paladin in earnest-- except for things like giant frogs, green slime, and crazy drunkards) get a -1 to hit the paladin and anyone else within the spell’s area of effect.

·         The paladin & co. get +1 to saving throws against attacks from such creatures even if the creatures are attacking (by missile or magic) from outside the area of effect.

·         Summoned creatures are those creatures that were called into battle by some unnatural means.  The bats summoned by a vampire and a demon summoned by an evil cleric would not be able to touch the paladin or his friends who were within the area of effect.  If the summoned creatures successfully goad the paladin into battle (perhaps by threatening to attack innocents outside the area of protection) then the protection is “waived” with regard to those summoned creatures that the paladin attacks.

·         Created creatures are golems.  Undead are not created, but reanimated.  I can’t think of anything besides golems that would be “created” in this sense.  Such creatures are subject to the exact same rules as summoned creatures.

·         Creatures affected by this spell do figure out the paladin is the source of the protection.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hommelet is not impressed. Hommelet is also not completely unimpressed.

There’s a new gang in town. They’ve made two trips to the moathouse and back, and so far not one of them has been killed. The people of Hommelet have started making a point of remembering their names.

Except for that paladin. That one’s too good for a name. (And obviously marked for death. Both times he returned from the moathouse with terrible wounds. Many tears have been wasted on the hero too good for a name.)

His confessor, Arpad, must have the easiest job in the world. Father Terjon says that he’s all right. Minds his own business and that never hurt anybody.

There’s one woman in the group. Her name is Godith. Based on her advanced reading skills, it seems likely that she’s had contact with the elves. The young men of Hommelet admire her from a safe distance.

Oh Lem, you sweet buffoon, the animals love you. He tried to start an argument with good ol’ Squire Denton about whether giant marauding demon pigs need their tusks. And he loves those colored frogs he brought back from the swamp.

Angus has also shown a keen in the frogs. Jaroo of the Grove says he all right, just very very inquisitive about certain things. Like the Weaver’s son. But now he’s moved out of the inn to live in an old widow’s barn.

That one guy, Roark, we don’t know about him. Yes, we do, he’s a reekish cur. We don’t want to look at him and we don’t want to let him out of our sight. But Father Terjon says that those frog belts he sold to Melubb, they may be ugly but there’s no evil in them that can’t be fixed by melting them down.

So, one day we were all sitting in the bar when there was the terrible garralumping of a trio of terrible too-tall, too-big demon pigs with tusks that were most hideously twirly and pointy, tentacles growing out of their faces, and flapping wings at the back their heads that-- in their smallness compared to bulk they would need to carry into the air—epitomized vestigial. The Paladin assisted Denton’s sons with the horses while Arpad slipped out the back door to do mind his own business. Godith did something elfish.

The stampeding juggernauts threw a dog into the air, smacked the horses with their tentacles and then passed out of the village, taking their terror to parts unknown. Squire Denton had a little fun with Lem and Roark, but could not goad them into a wild demon chase. Instead, after a brief (and unnecessarily private) conference, this new group, led by The Paladin, manifest their intention to follow the tracks of the horrible beasts and find out not where they were going but where they came from. A most shocking example of wisdom for these people. This wisdom was surpassed by the many other patrons of the Inn who chose instead to continue with their meals.

What follows is based mainly on accounts provided by those who enjoyed the honor of tending to The Paladin as he recovered from the wounds of his battles.

They followed the tracks of the terrible creatures that had stampeded through Hommelet. They followed them through the forest, toward the swamp and along the way they saw places where the creatures had battled with men, and among the evidence of these battles was the smashed body of one of those wild men. He was naked and tattooed and bald-headed and his teeth sharpened. Like the ones that burst into the Bekens’ kitchen and spoiled their dinner.

deer blur by BrayoSo this group, The Paladin and his companions, they followed the tracks some more and they came upon a pair of the wild men chasing a group of deer like they must have chased those other creatures.
And cowards that they are, when they saw the Paladin & co., they turned and ran. They ran and hid and with their wicked friends set a trap and waited in ambush along the trail. But The Paladin doesn’t seem to care so much for gold (though he got a good deal from Melubb for those ugly frog belts) so he warned his companions, no, wait stay close.

But Agnus maybe didn’t listen and he got too close to the coins on the road and so the whole lot of wild men, maybe six, maybe eight came crashing out of the forsest screaming like they do and waving their clubs. Lem spends a lot of time talking to the trees and so it’s good to know that he’s made some friends with them. So the trees entangled a good number and pulled them down to ground where they thrashed and screamed while their wicked brethren set upon Angus and upon the Paladin. Arpad is a priest of the old style and he joined his companions in their fight and with the Paladin was grievously wounded. Churlish, reekish Roark turned his reekish chulishness for good this once and we have heard killed several wild men with his arrows.

turquoise frog by moocatmoocatThe Paladin and his companions returned to Hommelet to celebrate their victory, to tend to their wounded (The Paladin’s pale brow!), to sell those ugly belts, and to ask Jaroo about some frogs they found. Beautiful colors of red white and blue, like the one the Bekens found in their kitchen the day after the wild men’s visit. But Angus, unlike the Bekens could not be convinced to give it to Jaroo, and instead bought a basket to carry the frogs with him everywhere he goes. (And then Lem follows him. Poor Lem. Poor Angus.)

After resting, upgrading their armor and in the process completely depleting the stock of Rannos and Gremag, The Company decided to visit the Moathouse itself. The deep tracks left by the enormous creatures were still evident, and the path itself, while overgrown was plain enough. Reaching the moathouse, they encountered the same disgustingly enormous frogs that have troubled other visitors. But bravely led by The Paladin, the Company slew or drove away the foul creatures and planned their entrance into the ruins.

Sensing an evil presence waiting for them in the courtyard, the Company circled or, if you will, button-hooked to the back of the moathouse where they found another breach and collapsed section of wall had resulted into a narrow, but viable entry point. Here, Godith’s dog ran away, and the mule balked at crossing the moat.

Despite these omens, the Company entered the ruins and soon found themselves in the great center hall of the weird people who had built the fortress so long ago. And as they entered, walking corpses emerged from the gloom and attacked the Company. As always The Paladin, encouraged by his dedication to the safety of his comrades, met his foes with unflinching valor, and destroyed them, perhaps single-handedly. (Roark says otherwise, but you know, that’s Roark. And Angus has gone to find a new place for his frogs.) Again the Paladin was most grievously wounded and again his comrades assisted his painful return to Hommelet so that his wounds could receive proper attention.

turquoise frog, a photo by moocatmoocat on Flickr.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hommlet Road

Over the past year or so, the long stretch of road that passes through Hommelet—and with it Hommelet itself— has been struck off the itineraries of most merchants and traders.  It’s not the usual banditry and brigandry that are just part of the cost of doing business.  When entire caravans simply disappear—that’s a risk not worth taking. 

The people of Hommelet are self-reliant and obstinate.  When they can’t make it themselves, they make do without.  Except for certain things, like bacon.

Pigs are dirty animals and people didn’t used to keep them in Hommelet.  But a little ways down the road, two days journey if you push it, the town of Aeigh-o-waugh is famous for its bacon and for its pigs.  A few enterprising young men from Hommelet pooled their savings, made a little trip, and bought a boar and two sows.
The Swineherd by mandolux
The Swineherd, a photo by mandolux on Flickr.
  It was during their return trip that the new swineherds discovered what had been keeping the merchants away from Hommelet.

They reached a crossroads and were struggling with the seemingly simple task of making the pigs turn left.  Neither gentle prodding nor rough cursing had any effect.  Hearing the loud rustle in the trees, the men joked that if only they had a bow among them, they might shoot some deer and sell venison instead of bacon.  But then the “deer”— human bodies, mangled and decayed, obviously lifeless but still walking on their half-rotten legs— emerged from the forest, three of them at once surrounding poor Sebastian, who batted at his assailants with a swine-whip before the monsters  knocked him to the ground and stomped him to death.

“It all happened so quickly,” said Sebastian’s friends, “we could see there was nothing we could do for him.”  More of the walking dead approached from another direction.  They were accompanied by one or two natural, breathing men, both wearing helmets that covered their faces.  The swineherders fled, driving the pigs before them with panicked ferocity. 

“They were setting a trap for us, and if it weren’t for them pigs, we’d have walked right into it.”  Except for Sebastian, all the young men—plus the pigs— made it back to Hommelet alive.

Sebastian himself returned the next day, in a state that put to rest any wicked gossip about his friends’ weird story.  The soldiers from the tower had to be called to do the work that soldiers do.  It wasn’t really Sebastian anymore and his face bore no expression of fear or pain as first two and then three spears pierced his re-animated body.  After the body finally collapsed and lay still, the villagers told the soldiers to drag it to the boneyard on a long rope, and cover it with lime in a deep pit. 

The boys gave up their plans and slaughtered the pigs all at once.  Most of the meat went to sausages and most of the sausages went to the dogs and to the tinkers, too poor to afford fear, who still follow the road that passes through Hommelet.