Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Magical Graffiti of Samehz the Lesser

One of the most successful and celebrated adventuring bands of recent years was the group known simply as the Riders. All known members are either dead, missing, or retired from active adventuring, but a decade or two ago they wandered Cinder leaving behind a path of destruction littered with emptied treasure chests, broken foes, and fatigued doxies.* In time even the dread Lava Lords grew to fear the wrath of the Riders. Some tales tell that the Riders stopped using ordinary steeds and in their later years the whole company rode across the sky on the backs of subdued dragons. Among their legendary accomplishments the Riders are the only known adventuring party to enter and return from the ancient inhuman city deep below Ploonkoon, the Castle That Drips Green Blood. But not all returned from this harrowing expedition. Many henchmen and miscellaneous cannon fodder no doubt fell to the traps and monsters of the Greenblood Dungeons, but the greatest blow to the company was the loss of two of its three wizards.

Samehz the Greater was already past his prime when he joined the Riders. Through years of magical toil and political intrigue he had risen to occupy the Chair of Ivory and Pearls, one of the seats on the grand council of sorcerers that rule the city of H’kaag. Samehz the Greater was among the minority on the council who disagreed with the Adelian Compromise and found himself ousted during the most recent troubles with the Necromaster of the North. However, his apprentice Tullius managed to secure his master’s old position following the eviction of the Necromaster’s forces from the Midrealm. In many ways Tullius surpassed the learning and powers of his old teacher, but he never forgot the man that put his feet on the path to greatness. Thus when the Riders attempted their pillage of Greenblood, Samehz was invited to share the risk and reward as a full member of the band. With him Samehz brought what was to be his final apprentice in sorcery, a young man also named Samehz. The story goes that, years ago, the elder Samehz had saved the life of a noblewoman, who in thanks named a child after him. Rumors that Samehz the Greater was secretly the father of the younger man circulate to this day.

The two mages Samehz and their ally Tullius were joined in the expedition under Greenblood by some of the finest adventurers of the past generation, among them the fierce fighting-men Naach Argentius (who once famously boasted that no man had ever killed him twice) and the slayer Lundar the Profound; the adventuring priest Nebrod (now patriarch of the Glittering Cathedral of Hauteville); the dwarves Oyt of the Jagged Scars and Zerob (called the Son of Ice); and the mysterious elves known only as the Brothers of the Black Wind. Accounts vary as to whether the barbarian Loogrim the Haughty, the amazon Maxinelle or the sorceress Divanna Star-Wanderer accompanied the Riders on this adventure.

What little is known of the Riders descent into the Underworlds of Ploonkoon comes from half-heard whispers and guesswork, as all who made it out alive seem silenced by some still-lurking fear. Even the carouses of the ever-exuberant Lord Naach grow still when the subject of Castle Ploonkoon is raised. And Lundar strikes to maim before the last syllables of a question about the matter dare be uttered. Once before his death Oyt the Dwarf was asked about the expedition. He purportedly sobbed uncontrollably, weeping tears that flamed and burned like greek fire.

Given the reticence of the Riders to discuss the affair, it is no surprise that the fate of the wizard Tullius, one of the two not to return with the group, remains unknown to this day. Some cite the Grand Council of H’kaag’s unwillingness to find a replacement as evidence that they know Tullius to still be alive. Others say that some unknown internal squabble prevents the chair from being filled. The Council elects its own members and it is not unknown for an empty seat to go unoccupied for years if the councilors are evenly split in opinion. No Rider objected when Tullius was declared legally dead and his estranged wife/presumed widow auctioned off his tower and magical paraphernalia. But Tullius, ever extravagant in his magical experiments and pharmaceutical recreations, owed money to several of the party and by this they were able to recoup some loss.

Hints as to the ultimate doom of the apprentice Samehz have recently come to light, as a new generation of treasure-hunters takes its first tentative steps into the gloomy realms beneath the Castle of Green Blood. It seems that all these years later Samehz the Lesser is still down there, wandering lost through that dismal hell. The primary evidence for this supposition is the signed graffiti that can be found in some out-of-the-way places in the dungeon. Written upon the stone with ash as if from the charred end of a splinter of wood, each grafitto purports to be a magical spell that Samehz apparently transcribed from his addled memory. The years of imprisonment within that midnight realm have taken a toll upon the mind of the apprentice, as the various incantations have become jumbled in Samehz’s mind. Some adventuring magic-users who copy down the wall-scrawled spells and study them at length have been able to puzzle out a castable spell. Since the psychic-mathematical formulae for Samehz’s spells are less exacting than most spells, the chance to understand them, as per my house rules, is halved. But when successfully understood the results vary wildly in utility. Below are three examples from the dungeon wall ‘spellbook’ of Samehz the Lesser.

Hold Web
Level: 1
Duration: 2d6 turns
Range: 10’

This spell affects webs of both spell and spider. By means of it the web becomes hardened to a consistency somewhat like old dried glue and it loses all stickiness as well. Anyone doing at least one point of physical damage with a blunt implement or three points with a blade will shatter the webs completely. Someone trapped inside a held web can shatter the web by rolling their Strength or less on d20. The web is no longer flammable, but can be melted in 1d6 rounds by use of torch flame. When this spell ends the webs regain their normal properties.

Secret Downside: If the web is shattered all trapped inside and anyone else within 10’ (including possibly the poor schmuck who just cast the spell) will take 1d6-1 points of damage from web shrapnel. Then when the spell is over you’ve got these gross hunks of web-snot lodged in your wounds. Yuck!

Self Clairvoyance
Level: 1
Duration: 2d6 turns
Range: Caster

The caster of this spell is able to see the world through their own eyes. This effect is of no benefit whatsoever unless the caster’s eyeballs happen to be somewhere besides in the caster’s head. Which I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Self Clairvoyance cannot circumvent any blindness effect aside from physical removal of the eyeball.

Secret Downside: The caster must make a saving throw versus spells or the psychic recursion of hacking one’s own ocular nerves will cause the caster to do nothing but babble incoherently for the duration of the spell. It’s a pretty good high, but one is not allowed to intentionally fail the saving throw.

Charm Shield
Level: 2
Duration: d12 rounds
Range: 60’

This spell can only be cast upon a shield held ready for use. If the owner of the shield fails a saving throw versus spells, the shield flies to the caster, dragging its owner behind it. The shield will then dance about the caster, deflecting blows. This grants to the caster the normal Armor Class bonus associated with the shield in question for the duration of the spell. If the victim of the spell dies before the duration ends the spell continues to function, dragging and flinging the corpse about like a gruesome ragdoll.

Fairly Obvious Downside: The victim of the spell is now standing right next to the caster. Hello! Although probably befuddled thanks to being jerked around by their otherwise-faithful shield, the foe may attack the caster at -2 to-hit. Note that the victim of Charm Shield cannot drop the shield for the duration of the spell, though they may (10% per 10’ distance travelled) drop any weapon held in their other hand when yanked across the battlefield.
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* I’m pretty sure I stole this line from S. John Ross. He probably did it better the first time, but at the moment I don’t remember where I read it so I can’t be sure. S. John may have said “exhausted wenches” instead of “fatigued doxies”.