Thursday, September 22, 2016


Sorry (to my no-doubt limitless future readers) about the string of days without moving any further on my hexcrawl project.  Trying to get my various creative projects organized has led to this being moved to the backburner, but hopefully not for too long.  I will get back to this by October 1 at the latest.  Meanwhile there is another creative D&D-related thing I've neglected for too long that I'm trying to get finished, see my deviantart entry on or about 9/22/2016 for detailz.

Friday, September 16, 2016


More About the Purple Plains/Thunderfolk

Items in No Order
1) The Purple Plains stretch about 720 miles East to West and average about a fifth of that distance North to South.  I derived this distance starting with the assumption that, on average, a herd of Ghost Cattle migrates about eight miles in a day.  Their leisurely transit between the East and West poles of the grasslands occupies about 180 days of the year.  8 x 180 = 1,440 miles round trip, meaning the crossing from West to East should cover about 720 miles.

2) The Thunderfolk are seminomadic.  They essentially roam around in a closed circuit, with regular stops that are more like seasonally-occupied homes than temporary campsites.  In fact, these "stations" all have little communities that live there permanently, though the vast majority of the Thunderfolk bands are continually passing through.

3)  The Thunderfolk hunt the Ghost Cattle/Phase-Oxen, but leave the bovine herds offerings of milk, almonds, sweet-grass and occasionally even sugar (must be imported from the far south, very precious).  They do this by placing the offering in a great bowl ahead of the herd's path and backing far enough away to remain in sight while looking non-aggressive.  The beasts are allowed to come on and eat the offering in the sight of the officiant.  The cattle never see dismounted Thunderfolk (or by extension, other humanoids) as a threat (although they may expect offerings), and as long as you avoid the herd's bull you can walk among them quite safely. 

4) Thunderfolk hunt via archery, using recurved oxhorn-and-oak composite bows from knolls 60-100 yards away (obviously, the greater the distance at which you hit your mark the more plaudits you win, and Thunderfolk men set great store by the range at which they can hit a target).  This is far enough away that the cattle will not even realize they are being hunted.  It is extremely important to shoot the ox or cow behind the breast-bone or in the neck and kill the beast instantly, and in this way the Ghost Cattle never see mankind as predators and so never use their phasing ability to escape them.  The Thunderfolk believe that a sloppy archer who must shoot multiple times to make a kill risks disabusing the Ghost Cattle of the truth of their true relationship to Man.

5)  The Thunderfolk, as mentioned previously, are so pale that in places their skin shades into a faint blue.  Their eyes are blue or hazel, and their hair is a near-platinum or golden blonde.  Men and women alike dread their hair and tie the dreadlocks into plates or knots in various styles, often held in place with bronze or bone tubes.  The thickness of their long hair is the first protection of their pale flesh against the harsh sun of the Purple Plains.  Almost all of them wear thick leather mantles or hoods, a few of the richer ones wearing cloaks/serapes of interwoven thick white Ghost Cattle fur, and wound about face and neck on a hot day they will wear whatever linens they can.

6)  Although still hairy in Spring to Summer, it's in Autumn to Winter that the Ghost Cattle's coats of long fine white hair begins to grow truly shaggy and enormous.  By February the enormous coats trail to the ground.  

7) Here are the things you can be in Thunderfolk society:

Horse trainer/breeder
Carver (of bone, wood, etc.)

Weavers, Carvers, Smiths and Saddlers occupy the otherwise almost-empty permanent settlements along the circuit of the Thunderfolk's migrations.  Saddlers are actually generalized tanners/leather-workers but saddles are the most prestigious objects they can make.  The Thunderfolk make saddles as fine as any more materially elaborate civilization, in styles suitable for riding, fighting and pack-bearing.

Weavers actually weave great blankets, cloaks, mantillas or serapes out of the Ghost-Cattle's long white fur.  That's all they do, and it's an extremely prestigious and important position.  These half naked dudes in their hide tents patiently knitting for 14 hours a day have the prestige of a royal tailor.  The furs aren't even fancy.  It's considered irreligious (or at least gauche) to die one of the Ghost Cattle furs, although they will be decorated with attached horns or extra bone pins.

Midwives are also generalists who help women to give birth and horses to foal.  They travel from band to band and even if their services aren't needed it's a good idea to pay one a bowl of fermented mare's milk whenever you see her.  

Horse trainers are like midwives although sometimes they might stay with a band for as long as a year or two years, breaking and teaching up young horses.  Every Thunderfolk knows something about handling horses but for a particularly willful beast sometimes you need a specialist.

If it has a particular need for a midwife or a horse trainer, a band can leave word with other bands they pass on the plains.  Invariably the word will get out to the nearest professional.

Smiths usually just make ornaments, often incorporating precious stones, bones, and bits of glass (natural or traded for) into elaborate armlets, rings, plugs, necklaces etc.  They have very little access to iron; what's found in the Purple Plains naturally is copper and tin, so the smiths produce bronze with a great degree of skill.  (There are a few mining communities of Thunderfolk.  They are basically untouchables and otherwise not worth mentioning).  The best smiths make bronze swords like this:

 Yes, technically Iron Age I know.

The Thunderfolk call these blades "Horse-Swords," and they are the primary preferred weapon for raids and duels (of course Thunderfolk bands raid each other, just never in the scattered towns.  What happens on the plains stays on the plains).  When two Thunderfolken duel, the gentlemanly way to do it is to ride at each other on their best horses and slash at each other on the pass with their Horse-Swords.  Yes, lances and spears are technically the better weapons, but you know what's better than those?  Composite bows, and every Thunderfolk has one of those.  If the Thunderfolk ever get into a real conflict with outsiders it's time for bows and steel mail; for everything else there's Horse-Swords.   
Apprentice carvers make poles, planks and whatever else the Thunderfolk need in bulk.  Buxus sempervirens and quercus robur are strong hardwoods and very common on the Purple Plains. These are usually bought up by traveling bands by the bundle for tentpoles, planting, cooking spits and whatever else.  Bowyers are a highly specialized and elite order within this group.

Patriarchs are simply the leader of a Thunderfolk Band.  I probably need to think up a better name for this but I don't like "chief" or "jarl."  Bands can be as small as a family of 4-6 or a unit of several families with 36 adults.* The Patriarch is always the toughest dude and has at least 2 HD (or at least two class levels, for 3rd Ed+).  Patriarchs are almost always between the ages of 25 and 45.  Richer Patriarchs (at least three families in their band) will always have a steel sword and a mailshirt.  Steel swords and mailshirts are considered redolent of wealth and authority.  A mailshirt will be crudely mended as necessary and passed down in a Band for generations, while a steel sword will always be buried with its owner. 

*Incidentally, every adult Thunderfolk of the migrant bands who isn't a child, elder or pathetically poor owns at least two horses and a packbeast, often a pony.  So in a band of 36 adult, non-elder Thunderfolk that's a herd of 108 equines.  The noise that herd makes crossing the Purple Plains is the actual reason they are called Thunderfolk, not the first thing I thought of with the cow-horns.  Horns don't even sound like thunder, what was I thinking with that first idea? 

After the age of 45-50, a Thunderfolk is considered an Elder, and all Elders are Priests.  Priests interpret dreams and omens, prepare poultices and medicines, occasionally cook, and are considered the moral center of Thunderfolk society.  There is no requirement for this position other than aging into it (and likewise once one is old, no escaping it).  The Priest(s) of a Thunderfolk Band are councilor, apothecary, psychologist and judge all rolled into one.

8) Thunderfolk don't believe in an afterlife.  They believe that the mind remains within the body of the deceased person for a time, dreaming and insensate, until the decay reaches a certain point and consciousness dissipates.  The origin of this strange belief may be skewed perceptions of the Raise Dead and Speak With Dead spells.   A dead Thunderfolk will be buried in their finest garments with a few choice items, perhaps a finely carved horn or favorite bronze necklace.  There is no shroud or box; rather, the deceased is arranged seated with legs-crossed and stitched so as to stay in that position. They are buried sitting upright, at the bottom of a narrow pit.  If the deceased owned a steel sword, that will be laid across their lap.  In this dignified final posture they are interred. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Point of this Purple Plains Stuff

I actually got so far ahead of myself I forgot to mention: the reason for all this writing inspired by a randomly-generated biome (aside from the obvious occupying the empty hours of my finite span) is that my ultimate plan is to weave three randomly generated biomes together into a modestly-sized but hopefully entertaining hexcrawl.  The other two have already been generated, but I want to come up with a decent mini-gazetteer of the Purple Plains before I get to them.

Monsters, Randomly Generated

I came up with these monsters starting with names from a random generator on Seventh Sanctum, here.

Also, because no one else will, and since I was exhausted and barely conscious when I wrote these last night, I'm going to rate them in the cold light of day with my rational mind and see how much justice I did to the name.

Doomvine - The name refers to 'doom' in its antiquated sense, for it is a very old thing first bred centuries ago in an Emperor's perfumed garden.  Now it is encountered in the wilds, a densely woven vine like jasmine but far tougher, with coarse tripartite leaves and pale-pink trumpet buds.  When the perennial plant is in bloom these many mouths speak, a chorus of tiny voices prophesying and answering queries with ironic truths.  The plant sees far into many possible futures and deep into the past.  The payment it demands for useful answers is blood be spattered on its buds for it to drink, and the fragrant buds slurp fresh blood up greedily. If payment is promised and not given, all the trumpets begin to peal and cry, calling dangerous predators to where the impertinent interrogator stands.

Rating: A;  I really love the idea of weird plant species created by magic.  I mean for every owlbear you think there'd be ten weird strains of flora, right?  Also it's not necessarily a threat in its own right, but creates an interesting dilemma (do you try to feed it by "just" slashing your palm or arm, sacrifice someone to it, do you dare trick it and run away? etc.)

Dusttorture Siren - Encountered on dunes or stretches of billowy sand.  A living cloud of swirling silicates bound by ancient magic and terrible purpose.  The cloud can assume any shape but can only speak with the roar of angry wind or a gritty, choked voice created by vibrating its particles.  It solidifies atop dune hills in the day's glare, a lone feminine silhouette with the gentle wind like an alluring song spiraling outwards.   The unfortunates who respond to this lure are trapped within the walls of a sudden dust storm, now solid, now shearing like razors.  The siren can keep its victims alive for hours or days, buffeting them with sharp particles, sand whirling fast enough to strip flesh from bone.  Eventually the siren leaves nothing of its victims but bleached bones stretched under the sun.  It kills for no reason save to briefly alleviate its eternal boredom.  Dusttorture Sirens can speak, but they have little to say beyond the desire to inflict pain.  Each is bound to its dune, a roiling spiral of immortal frustration.

Rating:  A;  I had "Skin of Evil" in mind (an underrated early TNG episode IMO) when I came up with the personality of these things.  They're spirits of pure evil, lonely and miserable.  They're incredibly powerful (how do you fight a living dust cloud?) but sadistic enough to give a PC plenty of time to work out a way to escape if they get trapped in one. 

Illusion Corpse - A simple type of undead, an immobile corpse that projects an insubstantial image of itself above the spot where its body lies.  If the corpse is buried it can project this image over the hummus or stone sealing it, or the image can appear directly over a body.  The image can appear as the creature did in life, now luminescent, or pale-and-spooky, but it is an illusory spell-like ability not a true ghost--the undead will is still in the corpse beneath.  The illusion can speak.  Illusion corpses are usually benign and may answer questions when encountered.  Occasionally one might be an asshole and try to lure you into a trap.  They may ask to be taken to a more proper resting place (or at least a more interesting one).  If the body is moved, the illusion moves with it.

Rating: B;  I like undead that aren't evil, just kind of sad and bored and want someone to talk to.  Like the Doomvine it's not a threat in of itself, but a clever DM could figure out ways to make them menacing or helpful.

Murkchoke Brute - Imagine a walking clump of mud, tottering on elephantine legs sporting two Popeye arms.  They range from the size of a dwarf to that of an ogre.  Bodies sprouting reeds, twigs, dead leaves, splotches of algae or mold, they speak with burbling, sourceless voices.  They are old, crotchety assholes.  They would pummel you with their slimy fists as soon as talk to you.  They will usually see intruders on to their bogs off with a stiff beating rather than kill, but they can drive their silt down an enemy's throat Clayface-style.  They are a little more tolerant of Druids.  Murkchoke Brutes are almost impossible to harm with ordinary weapons, but fire hardens their silt bodies with fatal consequences, as does freezing. 

Rating: B; it's just an amphibious, less evil version of the Wizened Elder (MMIV3.5 I think) but I like the personality of a crotchety old Embodiment of the Wilds that just wants you to get off its lawn.  

Ochre Root Hornet -  It's a big mean hornet, 10" long, which burrows in soft soil with its tuberlike thorax sticking in the air like a big carrot bulb.  Pull it up at your peril, its bite and sting are poisonous.  They spend most of their lives mostly buried,  eventually laying eggs out of their mouths.  They are delicious, a common folk delicacy.

Rating:  A.  I love the idea of peasants having to battle one of these things to bring it back for Grannie's Secret Ochre Hornet Pie.  More monsters should be like this---weird, annoying, but not truly dangerous, just something that adds a little more character to your Weird Fantasy World. 

Shade Mummy -  A wizened, emaciated corpse bound in faded wrappings on which is written the long form of a darkness spell in an ancient language.  They generate an aura of darkness and creep silently, guardians of ancient tombs and warrens.  Their touch spreads sickness and blindness.  They can melt away in one shadow and reemerge from another in line-of-sight.

Rating: C+;  It's just a generic stalker undead, but easier to kill than Shadows.  I should probably remove Mummy Rot altogether and just have its curse simply be blindness. 

Shadowy Talon Warrior - Related to the warrior caste of fey known as Thorns (see MMIII3.5, pp whatever), Talons are the height of dwarves.  Their spindly bodies appear made of brown to straw-color briar vines, forming trunk, limbs, severe faces under spiky hair of throns.  They wield two blades made of folded-up dry leaves and stalks.  A select cadre of these are "shadowy," imbued with the power to virtually disappear in dusk or low light, teleporting between shadows to surround the foes of the fey.  They can't go long though before their nature takes hold and they shout bold challenges and boasts before darting into battle.  They serve one fey lord or another, their loyalties changing like the seasons in the eternal power struggles between the Seelie Courts.

Rating: B-;  Of all the monsters, this one needs a good illustration the most to make it be more than just a generic warrior enemy.  As it is, it's basically a variation on a monster that already exists (the Thorn), although I like the combination of dual-wielding ninja skills with snarky fairy attitude.  I know I have a good picture in my head for these things, I just might have to rescue it with a good picture.

Tangler-Slime - It looks like an ordinary green slime, until it spews part of itself upon its target.  The sacrificed mass hardens into a resin-like casing that fixes the victim's limbs, rooting its feet where it stands and allowing the core slime to feed at will.

Rating: B-;  It's not bad, but it's just another type of slime, with a very straightforward gimmick.  You fight one on Level 1 and never think about it again.

Tearspore - Parasite that infects unwitting hosts, then reproduces via gelatinous ochre-colored "tears" that seep painfully out the tearducts.  At this late stage of infection the host body hardens, freezes, and then the parasite begins to feed from within.  The tears trickle and splatter to the ground, releasing another generation of the airborne parasite.

Rating:  D+;  I like the name but all I could do with it was another generic "ahah you ingested an underground spore roll three Fort saves now you're dead" asshole trap-monster.  Personally I feel like fungus is played out as a thing at this point?   I would never use this in a campaign as the idea has been done better elsewhere.  Maybe I'll try to reuse the name for something else another time.

Wolverine Hunter - All the worst parts of a weasel or mongoose with the size and limbs of a bear.  A highly territorial apex predator.  Actually wolverines win their skirmishes with these vicious mammals about half the time (wolverines are just too B.A.)  Still, the ferocious shrieks of these predators instill terror in all that hear it.

Rating: B-;  I shouldn't like this one as much as I do---it's just Animal + Other Animal, but how often do you see fantastical mammal predators?  Basically never.  Partly that's because there's lots of large mammal predators that can kill you already, it's not really a niche fantasy needs to fill.  Also I have a soft spot for weasels, almost as much as for wolverines.

Lakefear Stealer - If you can, imagine a cross between a fish and a walking stick insect, about 9 ft long.  With their skinny legs they cling to the surface of the water, but from beneath, drifting like a barely-submerged log.  They stick to the bottom of fishing boats and occasionally clamber aboard to attack.  They are attracted to shiny things: you can draw one off by flicking a coin into the water.

Rating: B+;  a walking stick with the face of a river pike, basically--this is another monster that demands an illustration.  I really like the fact that it's physically horrific but also really just a common nuisance.  I imagine fishermen and other coast-dwellers get a laugh letting them scare outlanders before flicking a copperpiece in front of its face and sending it off.  Like the wasp, this one is more "weird world flavor" than true threat.

Killing Thinker - Macrocephalic humanoid with gelatinous, purplish flesh.  Their bodies are atrophied and weak.  Their brains are huge and powerful, contained in swept-back, bulbous ridged skulls.  They can kill with the unblinking stare of their huge, white eyes.  they usually employ their telekinetic powers to hover, clad in simple flowing robes.  They can read your thoughts, but they don't care.  They experiment on humanoids for no apparent purpose, often kidnapping and dropping them into the middle of dangerous labyrinths.  They can dominate a creature with their stare, or influence with whispers of their thoughts at long range.  They pit creatures against each other and concoct strange scenarios for their own alien purposes.

Rating: C-.  Another Star Trek/Beneath the Planet of the Apes style Big-Brain, I think every OSR bestiary has a version of these.  The one gimmick these guys have is they will abduct you and drop you in a dungeon for no reason, but "their motives are beyond your ken" is a cop-out, and these guys lack personality.

Overall I started strong with the Doomvine and Dusttorture Siren but sputtered out towards the end.  I'm not really one of those writers whose creativity benefits from being addled.

More on the Purple Plains

I see now that I made a mistake rolling on the "wet" column for landmarks in a grassland terrain, but I think I can still make it all work.

Baker's Pool - Actually a lake, long and kidney-shaped with the concave bank facing East.  The north end terminates in a high promontory-cliff of dusty sandstone, in the escarpments of which sprout many examples of opuntia chlorotica and towering carnegiea gigantea from which it takes the name "cape cactus."  The north side of the escarpment is difficult to approach, with many protruding and strange sandstone monoliths.

 Baker's Pool flows out of caves at the foot of the cliff, and as one proceeds south a little more than a mile it grows shallower, the water more still and fetid.  It is the single greatest watering hole known to the Ghost Cattle (only persnickety scholars insist on the name Phase-Oxen), although they must pass through dangerous stands of box elder and hardy juniper where the Canopy Owls lurk in bands.  By the lake's eastern shore they mate, and their annual migration makes Baker's Pool one of the termination points of the Thunderfolk's wandering circuit.  A small permanent community of Thunderfolk is built up on the west shore mainly  consisting of a dozen smithies, giving it the name of Iron Town (although most native metal produced by the Thunderfolk are bronze alloy, as the Purple Plains have a few seams of copper and tin but very little iron.  Any steel items owned by a Thunderfolk band will have been traded for, but they make many ornaments, harness bits, and nails from bronze, as well as the sharp, curved swords they call Horse-Cutters). 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Some magic items I made up

Old Lucky
This battered and scratched bastard sword has the words "Old Lucky" etched in common near the base of the blade.  This sword grants a +1 to all saves as long as it is held in the wielder's hands.  If before any perilous situation the wielder kisses the sword and says "baby, don't fail me now" or anything to that effect, they may reroll their next saving throw with an additional bonus of 1d6, and must accept the second result.  Once this ability is used, Old Lucky becomes an ordinary bastard sword. 

Hell and Damnation

This is a brace of magical, sentient flintlock pistols whose names respectively are Hell and Damnation.  Both pistols are masterwork with silvered metal and cherrywood furniture, with brass buttplates and engraved sideplates bearing their names in fanciful lettering. They have two barrels apiece which can be rotated as a standard action (or free with the Rapid Reload feat), making each a two-shot pistol. The pistols have an orthopedic grip, Hell being made for the left hand, Damnation for the right.  Both pistols are Chaotic Neutral in alignment and have the personality of wisecracking, lusty adventurers (though only the wielder can hear their telepathic voices). 

+2 Anarchic Pistols of Distance.   Flare with a tendricular pink aura when ready to fire.  Chaotic Neutral alignment.  INT 14, WIS 10, CHA 14, 120 ft vision and hearing.  Hell has 10 ranks in bluff and can use faerie fire 3x/day.  Damnation has 10 ranks in intimidate and can use faerie fire 3x/day.  Likewise in terms of personality, Hell is avuncular and sly, while Damnation is the more hot-tempered (although both "speak" in the same voice, it can be difficult at first to know which is presently talking).  Both pistols speak common, infernal and abyssal.  Both have an Ego score of 10.
Hell and Damnation live for excitement and adventure.  They are not evil and can be charming, but ultimately their attitude is one of ruthless selfishness and if they go too long without being "entertained" they may try to manipulate or force their wielder into provoking fights or purposefully lead their wielder into danger.  On the other hand if they genuinely like their wielder they can be redoubtable companions, calling out and marking targets with their faerie fire.  Hell and Damnation  despise authority, considering it something that exists only to be defied, and they will treat with contempt any wielder who knuckles under pressure to conform.   They will bestow a negative level while held by any Lawfully-aligned creature. 

Locket of the Lost Love

This gold-plated locket hangs on a fine chain and is of common quality.  Inside is a small chamber holding a lock of old auburn hair.  On the reverse of the lid is a tiny cameo painting of an auburn-haired maid to whom the hair presumably belongs.  She is lovely, pale, wearing white and regards the viewer with big solemn eyes. 

If one falls asleep wearing the locket, they dream of walking down a dirt road under cloudy twilight beside a low wooden fence.  Beyond the fence is a pasture of tall, yellowed grass featureless save a lonely elm tree in the distance. In its shadow stands the maid in her white dress, her back to the dreamer.    If on a second night one falls asleep wearing the locket, one dreams of approaching the tree very closely now and the young woman turns and smiles.   On the third night, one dreams of a sad, final encounter---to the dreamer comes the knowledge that he is someone the girl loves, and he is going far away, perhaps never to see her again.  

But the girl whispers to the dreamer, holding him (the dreamer is an unseen man in the dream regardless of their actual gender) in what should be their final embrace:  "there is a way..." 

After experiencing these dreams, the amulet grants the wearer the ability to use Ethreal Jaunt as if cast by a 10th-level wizard, 1x/day.  The first time the wearer turns ethreal there is a 10% chance that he or she is attacked by a ghost of the mysterious woman on the ethreal plane, who will attempt to use her draining touch or corrupting gaze abilities to drain away the target's Charisma.  If the ghost succeeds, the target falls unconscious, and another ghost--belonging to the maiden's departed lover--possesses their body (using his malevolence ability).  It is possible for the target to simply end the Ethreal Jaunt effect by pulling off the locket, which immediately sends them back to the Material Plane.  However if the Maiden's Ghost is touching the target at that moment, she will travel back with him.  Each time the wearer uses the amulet's Ethreal Jaunt, the probability of the Maiden's Ghost appearing increases by 10%.  If the Maiden's Ghost is destroyed, the amulet continues to function as an Amulet of Ethreal Jaunt.  

If the Maiden's Ghost successfully drains her victim and sends them into unconsciousness (permanent unless the Ability Drain is restored) and the ghost of her lover possesses the victim's body, the victim will awaken into a broken, deformed version of the somber pasture where the lovers had their last embodied meeting.  The second ghost will be there, "steering" the victim's body, while their conscious mind remains trapped in a dreamscape.  This may afford the PC the chance to speak with their captor, although any attempt to attack the ghost is fruitless. 

As the male ghost will patiently explain (he has all the time in the world, after all), he was in life one Ambiro, captain of a seagoing merchantman.  He fell in love with a witch, Maefydh, but duty called him to a dangerous voyage---but, Maefydh swore, she had a way to ensure that no matter what they would be reunited.  Not understanding the magic at play, Ambiro enacted a ritual with her.  When disaster indeed struck and his vessel was lost, Ambiro's spirit was trapped in the ethreal plane---alone until Maefydh herself finally passed away, and was able to enact the second part of her plan, to steal for herself and her lover new mortal bodies.  Ambiro admits that, had he understood Maefydh's plan, he would have balked.  Nevertheless, after years of a lonely existence in the ethreal, there is no crime he wouldn't commit to live again.  Now in command of the victim's body he will try to lure a second victim--of either sex---into donning the locket so Maefydh might herself take a mortal form.  
So long as the PC is a prisoner in their own skull, the DM may do well to expand the "world" of their subconscious or mindscape into an adventure in its own right.  The disembodied PC might explore wildernesses built of fractured memory and fantastical dreamscapes while hoping for rescue from their fellow party members. 


Wish I could remember where I got this

Medium Animal
HD: 2d8+4 (13 hp)
Init: +1
Spd: 40 ft
Armor Class: 14 (+1 dex, +3 nat), touch 11, FF 13
Atk/Grp: +1/+2
Attack: Hoof  -3 melee (untrained) (1d4+1)
Fl Atk: Same
S/R: 5 ft/5 ft
SA: ---
SQ: Low-light vision, scent
Svs: Fort +5, Ref +4, Will +2
Ablts: Str 13, Dex 13, Con 15, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 6
Feats: Endurance, Run
Organization: Domesticated only
CR: 1/2

Also known regionally as "biponies," horsadoodles are a magically created breed of two-legged equine created by wizards who wished for a more economically sized mount.  They range from 12-14 hands tall at the withers.   Not taking up much more space than a large ostrich but with far greater carrying capacity, these animals breed true and healthy despite their bizarre appearance. 
Horsadoodles were created from lighter horse breeds and require a daily feed amount equivalent to that of a donkey or mule, which again makes them ideal for the adventurer exploring trackless wilds. 

Randomly Generated Ecosystem

So I found a thing via this guy's excellent blog
Specifically, an eco-system generator which creates names of major flora and fauna and provides landmarks and encounter tables ready to go.

Anyway, here's what I got

Plant: Violet Grass, Mercury Berries
Herbivore: Phase-Oxen, Thunderfolk
Carnivore: Canopy Owl, Manticore-Scorpion
Apex Predator:  Curse Phoenix
Scavenger: Circular Larvae, Vile Urchin(s?)
Weird Thing: Umbral Child


Phase-Oxen herds shift in and out of the ethreal plane, becoming solid to eat, passing like ghosts over the violet grass during the hottest parts of the day.   They must be caught unawares in order to be successfully hunted.  The Thunderfolk often leave these herds offerings of crushed berries and sweet grass.   When they hunt the oxen it is with the bow, and they always shoot to kill the animal with a single arrow through the breast or neck.  Phase oxen rapidly grow a white, electric-blue tinged shaggy coat like muskoxen in Winter, shedding most of it in Summer.  Translucent "ghost strands" of their dropped fur are carried on the wind like stringy pollen in Spring. 

The Thunderfolk use much from the Phase-Oxen to sustain their way of life.  Dung for fuel, the electric-colored furs for mantles, their great horns for instruments (the use of massive signalling horns is the reason for the name Thunderfolk).   They follow the herds in a semi-nomadic pattern, digging and reusing dug-outs with simple hide coverings to complete the structure.  These coverings can be folded up and carried with the Thunderfolk wherever they go.  Despite the simplicity of their material existence it would be a mistake to dismiss the Thunderfolk as primitives, for the Violet Planes stretch across a key trade route and the Thunderfolk commonly interact with merchants from the West.  Every band has some sets of swords and mail in case of war, modern saddles for their rangy ponies, and fashionable dresses and ornaments for their women.    Among themselves they use "milkstones" (polished white opals) as a kind of limited currency , usually just to make up the difference in various exchanges. 

Depending on the band Thunderfolk will sometimes expect "tolls" from travelers or caravans passing through their territory.  The kingdoms of the west consider this no more than unlawful banditry and such impertinence to their subjects fit for death.

The Thunderfolk venerate the being they call the Umbral Child, seen listlessly wandering the grasslands alone.  To them it is prophet and the will of the gods incarnate.  They leave offerings along the Child's path but rarely approach within 100 yards of it.  The offerings are always ignored by the steadily walking Child, but for tradition's sake they are always left.  Offerings are usually grass dolls, oxhorns, strings of teeth (human, ox, horse), shards of glass, precious stones etc.    These offerings are hung from reed poles stuck into the earth along the Child's path, and thus these pathways are marked with hundreds of such poles snaking along the plainlands.  Children are often told it is bad luck to run across the path of the poles, but this is just a wives' tale.  A more complicated spin on the story is that it is good luck to run through the path if one is behind the Umbral Child, bad luck to run through if ahead of the Umbral Child.  Multiple crossings will cancel each other out so removing ill-luck is as easy as running back through the path, but good luck will be canceled out if one recrosses the pathway, etc.  In practice since these pathways stretch in serpentines and loops all over the Purple Plains, crossing them is a common occurence. 

If you actually have the stones to approach the Umbral Child, it will prophecy at you.  The prophecy always comes true but never in the way you'd expect (or  usually want).  The few Umbral Child prophecies on record (the Thunderfolk use a simplified Dwarven runic system  written in berry-ink on strips of oxhide for such records) are poetic gibberish and there are literally dozens of possible exegeses for each.    If the Umbral Child prophecies at you and you start demanding explanations, it will likely strike you dead.  The Umbral Child will never harm children, pregnant/nursing women or the very old, but never prophecies at them either.   Everyone knows that if you are somehow stupid enough to actually get within six armspans (~10 ft) of the Umbral Child, you will fall dead at once (though nobody remembers anyone ever actually trying this).  If you shoot an arrow at the Umbral Child, you will explode---the Priests are very specific on this point.  
Many people claim to have dreamed of the Umbral Child, or that the Umbral Child came to them in dreams and told them such and such, and so-on.  The Priests of the Thunderfolk declare about 90% of these experiences to be fatuous.  If you answer a series of questions correctly ("did you see the Umbral Child in a house?"  "did the Umbral Child pass over a stream?" etc.) the Priests will conclude your dream was real and send you on a quest to hear the Umbral Child prophecy at you.   Most Thunderfolk conflate actually hearing the Umbral Child prophecy with asking for trouble, so if you pass under a saddle and dump a bowl of milk on your head while groveling about how sorry you are, you are permitted to not do the quest.  Lots of people just talk about their Umbral Child dreams without ever going to the priests, which is considered slightly blasphemous but permissable. 

The Umbral Child is an adolescent figure, about four and a half feet tall with a bald crown.  It walks swathed in a moving darkness like a cloud of thick dust, and the planes of its features are only scarcely visible when it moves for the Umbral Child appears to be made out of solid darkness itself.  The Umbral Child is never seen at night, only in daylight, and it is visible from a long ways off as a flickering blackness like a fire walking the purple grass.   Close-up, the whites of the Child's eyes and its white teeth are perfectly clear amidst the darkness.  It's said that the Child will smile at you if you manage to annoy it. 

Vile Urchins are not well understood but believed to be created by the Umbral Child for an unknown reason.  They are grey-skinned, dirty creatures that look like children about nine or ten years of age (making them a little taller than Halflings).  They dress in greasy rags and wrappings, their long unkempt hair always as pitch black as their eyes.  They have enormous, gaping mouths with big flat teeth ideal for grinding, their gums pitch black.  Vile Urchins are host to a wealth of parasites themselves, flies and gnats always swirling around them, buzzing and stinging.   They travel the purple grass in gangs of six to twelve, looking for carrion which they seize with the speed of crows.  Vile Urchins will not attack humans unless interfered with.  They are usually encountered tailing a band of Thunderfolk on the move, eating any offal, spoiled meat, or other edible remains the band leaves in its wake.  The Thunderfolk are always careful to maintain a distance from the Urchins while leaving them alone, and after feeding for a while the Urchins will usually latch onto some other band and move on.   It's said that Vile Urchins are the reincarnated spirits of children who died in childbirth, relegated to the sad fate of a lonely and marginal existence.  They are believed to prophecy, and sometimes in exchange for a gift of meat or marrow-bones they will spit out a snatch of future happenings.  The relevance of what they say is not always obvious; some warn that the Urchins are liars and cannot prophecy at all.   Urchins are so hideous and frightening that people who see them closer than at the edge of the horizon will often perform a small ablution ritual just to be safe.  On the other hand, if a child becomes lost the Urchins will always find him and return him to his parents.  They are both unclean and acknowledged as not evil, and occupy a strange place in Thunderfolk society. 

Manticore-Scorpion seems redundant, since Manticores have the tail of a scorpion already.  Manticore-Scorpions, or Scorpion-Manticores, also have a huge pair of armor-shelled claws similar to the Emperor Scorpion, and beneath the chest a smaller pair of mole-like digging claws, for they are burrowing creatures.  They are wingless; their four-legged body is vaguely leonine, but hairless (like the naked molerat).  They have a human face which bears resemblance to an ugly, hairless, wrinkly old man.  Like the regular kind of Manticore they can speak, but they are stupid as hell.  When burrowing they cover their face with their armored claws and dig away with their lower pair of hands.  They usually burrow at a depth of 6-10 feet, and at that depth can sense the presence of heavy animals such as horses and Phase-Oxen overhead.  They prefer to burst upwards from the ground and attack with their tail first, which secretes a paralyzing venom (this is a necessary tactic when hunting Phase-Oxen).   Manticore-Scorpions often suicidally attack bands of Thunderfolk---again, they are stupid as hell and prone to overestimating their own prowess.  Their shell-platings are used for armor, their venom sacs for hunting arrows, their claws for adornment or affixed to the heads of warclubs.   A cloak of the pale-pink Manticore-Scorpion hide is often the choice adornment for Thunderfolk patriarchs. 

Canopy-Owls are a horrific predator that combine the worst parts of owl, stingray and flying squirrel.  They lurk in trees and tall bushes, their "wings" enclosed over their heads showing a dull bark-like outer coloring.  In this way they can be mistaken for burrs or wood galls even on close inspection.  When the Canopy-Owl "opens" its great smooth wings sweep up dramatically and join together over its owl-like head, two natural hooks joining so that the Owl's "wings" fully encircle its head like a big bell or parachute.  The Owl releases its single clawed "leg" and drops out of the tree, making a fast and precision-controlled descent at its prey with a razor-sharp beak.  If this first fall doesn't kill the prey, it unhooks and twists its wings and drives itself back into the air with a whirl to repeat the attack.  The inner side of the Canopy-Owl's wings and its head are snow white, occasionally spotted.  The skin of its wings is smooth while the head is feathered, just like a normal owl's.  It is presumed this beast is wholly unnatural and probably the creation of some deservedly forgotten wizard.  Their beaks are as big as daggers and wickedly curved; they will hunt any creature unlucky enough to pass under their bough but they seem to prefer humanoid targets and know to strike for face and throat first.  The Thunderfolk call these things "deathshriekers."

Circular Larvae (or just Circle-Larvae) are bizarre and aggressive scavengers that congregate on any large corpse left lying on the Violet Grass long enough.  They usually appear to be a smooth, pinkish convex lump of flesh lying on the ground like some kind of big wart (they are about 18" across).  If the creature smells rotting flesh, it extends its body out of this near-flat disc, which looks like a long accordionlike worm with a maw of four tearing hooks beneath its foreskin-like hood.  The Circle-Larva advances by literally hopping its round base forward, which is a very slow and clumsy way to move.  Once they settle close to a large piece of carrion they feed with  violent tearing and mulching, leaving very small eggs attached to the bones which eventually hatch into tiny droplet-like baby larvae.   If a Circle Larvae survives long enough it burrows into the earth and grows into its final form, which is rarely seen and highly deadly. 

Circle Larvae will attack anything that approaches a feeding-ground, but they are slow and clumsy on the move.  Once rooted to the ground though, their long bodies can strike with fast whiplike motions.  Thunderfolk treat them as target practice, shooting larvae by the dozens from a safe distance with arrows.  This is considered a good exercise for children.  Their slightly gelatinous, putrescent bodies are not used for anything, but occasionally their four-bladed beaks are harvested for ornaments, or ground up for a male virility enhancement (one look at the Larva-Worm will explain why it occurred to someone this might work). 

 The Curse Phoenix is a skeletal bird wreathed in flame that is a kind of locally feared undead.  It is believed to embody the spirit of a grassland or patch of turf that was burned out of its season, due to warfare between bands (starting brushfires is a common area-denial tactic) or to create a better topsoil for short-term planting.  It typically terrifies by spitting fireballs and catching other grass fields on fire with its sweeping tale of flames.   Every Curse Pheonix has one potent curse.  According to legend it will deploy the curse on the one who slays it, but in fact it often starts fights by dropping its curse on an unfortunate victim.  Once the recipient of the curse dies, the Curse Phoenix regains the use of its curse. 

Random Encounters
1. Partially-Eaten Grove of MERCURY BERRIES
2. PHASE-OXEN peacefully munching on a grove of MERCURY BERRIES
3. THUNDERFOLK peacefully munching on a grove of VIOLET GRASS.  Several CANOPY OWLS lurk just out of sight, waiting to attack.
4.  A migrating band of PHASE-OXEN, the adults keeping watch.  Several CANOPY OWLS lurk just out of sight, waiting to attack.
5.  A MANTICORE-SCORPION is wrorrying at a slowly dying THUNDERFOLK.
6.  Several MANTICORE-SCORPIONS are chasing a couple CANOPY OWLS away from a fresh-killed PHASE-OX.
7. A slowly dying MANTICORE-SCORPION.  Its flank bears the unmistakeable marks of a CURSE PHOENIX.  A couple of VILE URCHINS are already beginning to pick at it.
8.  A band of CANOPY OWLS that hasn't eaten in a couple of days.
9.  An unrecognizable mass that used to be a THUNDERFOLK.  It's being torn to shreds by a dozen CIRCULAR LARVAE.
10.  A small cave which a couple of small VILE URCHINS are making a den in.
11.  An enormous VILE URCHIN that follows the PCs from afar.
12.  A CIRCULAR LARVA nesting site.  Contains a couple of adults, a number of babies and bones.
13.  A band of MANTICORE-SCORPIONS fleeing a CURSE PHOENIX, which will arrive in a couple of rounds.
14. A CURSE PHOENIX that hasn't eaten in a couple of days.
15.  A panicked PHASE-OX trapped in a grove of VIOLET GRASS.  A CURSE PHOENIX is somewhere in the area and the PHASE-OX can sense it.
16.  A slowly dying CURSE PHOENIX, taken down by a maddened band of THUNDERFOLK.  A number of CIRCULAR LARVAE are waiting for it to die properly before they approach it. 
17.  An UMBRAL CHILD performing cruel and mysterious experiments on a PHASE-OX.  It will take no notice of the PCs.
18. An UMBRAL CHILD standing perfectly still and silent.  If the PCs get within 10', it will attack.
19.  A curious band of CANOPY OWLS sniffing at an UMBRAL CHILD, which pays them no heed.  The CANOPY OWLS will see the PCs as easier prey.  The UMBRAL CHILD will watch with interest.  It may intervene on either side.
20.  An UMBRAL CHILD collecting samples of MERCURY BERRY.  It will assume the PCs are also plants and try to collect them as well. 


Baker's Pool
landmark encounter: Rival Adventuring Party

Cape Cactus
landmark encounter: A lone traveller, trapped in a high or otherwise defensible place by a band of MANTICORE-SCORPIONS.  She has been there for days and is very hungry.  Will reward you for rescuing her, as for escort back to civilization.  Is evil.

The Singing Ravine
landmark encounter: Resting place of a gypsy caravan and their tame herd of PHASE-OXEN (unless they themselves are PHASE OXEN???!!!) Have codes of hospitality but take them less seriously than they pretend.

The Ghost Barrens
landmark encounter: Hermit's hut.  Isolated, surrounded by elaborate series of ditches, pit graps with colony of VILE URCHINS lurking at bottom.  Hermit regularly feeds them, is a wizard maybe. 

12 Adventure Ideas

1.  In this region a local ruin is haunted by a Medusa with a tragic past.  She is centuries old and the tale of the curse that turned her into a monster is famous.  The local Count is fascinated by her legend and wishes her brought to his castle.  The PCs are charged with breaching the Medusa's lair and presenting her with his invitation.  2000 gp is the reward for obtaining a reply from her, with 3000 more if she returns with them.

2. A while back some adventurers raided a sahaguin city under the sea.  Making their triumphant return laden with strange treasures from the deep, they left a nine-foot tall bronze statue of a four-armed fishfolk god in the square of a coastal hamlet.  Recently, locals have begun to disappear.  A local spinster is convinced the statue (which most locals consider lucky) is connected to the disappearance, and hires the PCs to stake it out. 
The Twist:  The statue carries a curse which is driving the locals mad and causing them to walk into the sea one by one. 

3. An ogre who was raised among humans now makes his living as a circus strongman/attraction.  He has grown tired of living among humans and wants to be with his own kind, but doesn't know where to find any.  He asks the PCs to help him trek through the wilds to find an ogres' den.

4. The baron's executioner has quit his job and gone missing.  Worse, he took the baron's +2 keen greataxe as his severance.  the baron tasks the PCs with getting the axe back.
The Twist:  Unfortunately, the headsman has taken up his trade once again, now in the local dungeon. His new patron is a hobgoblin warlord.

5.  A village is renowned for its annual beer festival, where Brewer-Wizards from all over the kingdom come to enter their recipes in a wildly popular contest (the local baron, bishop and magistrate form the judges' panel).  The festivities always begin with an appearance and blessing from a local nymph known as the Beer Maiden.  This year, the Beer Maiden did not appear.  The PCs are contracted to enter the wilds and learn what if anything befell the beloved local celebrity.
The Twist: The Beer Maiden is not in her leafy bower, located beyond a deadly maze in the forest.  She actually fell into a well not far from the village and has been nursing her hangover there for some days.   If you want to soften the blow somewhat when the players don't find her, perhaps she left a journal mentioning she was leaving for the village. 

6. A gentleman naturalist is absolutely obsessed with chokers.  For whatever reason he just loves the shrieking little homicidal monkey bastards.  Get him a dozen viable choker eggs and he will reward you with cash and a stylish/unique suit of choker leather. 
The Twist:  If you want, the choker suit may have some property such as granting a short burst of haste to the wearer, or exuding a scent that makes chokers regard the wearer as another choker. 

7. The big city has a local boxing league, which everybody knows is rigged by some local wizards who always buff up the champion.  A wizard wants one of the PCs to enter as a challenger, promising he has a cocktail of buffs that will make them unbeatable.  The challenger can have the purse money, the Wizard just wants to prove his superiority over the riggers. 
The Twist:  The cocktail of buffs is more than enough to overwhelm the champion.  Unfortunately it also turns the challenger into a raging Hulk-like monster for 24 hours.

8.   Amalda Ferox is a past-her-prime adventurer/gladiatrix who is suffering severe health effects from long-term magical potion abuse.  Between coughing out a hail of frogs and a bunch of gas-spores budding off her back, she asks you to obtain a relic that can restore her.  She'd get it herself but she has to stay in the city for her pending suit against the Wizards' Guild. 

9. Sir Amalyr D'Winter was once a Paladin of great repute, rewarded for heroic deeds with a small fief of his own.  Lately he has inexplicably become an abusive and mercurial tyrant whose tenants live in terror.  The PCs are asked to discover the source of his madness, as  adventurers with interesting stories to tell are the one type of person Amalyr still respects. 
The Twist: An old enemy of Amalyr's, a demon he once banished from the material plane, has managed to spread his influence over Amalyr's castle through a magic mirror and is driving the Paladin and his court insane with paranoid dreams.  If the PCs sleep in Amalyr's castle they will begin to go crazy too.   Alternatively, wealth and power just turned Amalyr into an asshole.  Whatever you want. 

10. An elven aristocrat (aren't they all?) has been touring human lands in his elegant pleasure barge.  Unfortunately, the boat recently foundered on a stony spit close to a village known to plunder/scavenge any watercraft unlucky enough to beach on their territory.  The PCs must recover all valuables from the barge and the luckless elf to prevent an international incident.
The Twist:  The elf is quite alright and staying in the village, totally unaware that half a dozen townsfolk are hiding his "lost treasures" in their homes.  He and they will encourage the PCs to scour the wreck and the rocks for his valuables.  There is a cave under the rock promontory exposed at low-tide the PCs might explore if they are actually dumb enough to believe the villagers. 

11. Two mages of great repute have built towers of study in an otherwise quiet mid-size town.  Unfortunately they have developed a fierce rivalry trying to outdo each other in their experiments, the results of which (mutant animals, crazed golems, living spells) are terrorizing the town.  The townsfolk will reward the PCs for convincing one or both wizards to leave. 

12.  The baron has become besotted by a brazen enchantress, long ago branded a Rogue Wizard by the Arcane Order.  His lands founder as he lavishes his fortune on the adventuress, who has caused him to banish anyone capable of reversing her charm.  The PCs are hired to break into the castle and get the enchantress out without harming her ensorceled victims.

Basic Retainers/Hirelings

Knobby Sally -
TN Human Thief 1.  Leather Armor, thieves' tools, pair of daggers, hunter's crossbow & bolts.  She's a very bony girl, but they're very long bones and she stands an astounding 6' 1".  Could become very pretty if fed a few decent meals but then why would she stick around with you? 

Morgar the Heavy -
LN Human Fighter 1.  plated leather armor, heavy wooden shield, morningstar, shortbow & arrows.   Obese, pallid and bald as an egg.  Tries to give his extremely round head more definition by means of a dashing scarf.  His mom was a wealthy baker but all he ever wanted to do was become was a knight.  He has a slice of cake painted on his shield which will be his arms when he's knighted, someday, he says. 

Fulk the Younger -
TN Human Fighter 1.    Ring-and-leather armor, heavy wood shield, arming sword, shortbow & arrows.  Blandly handsome, 20something generic young human warrior.  Will claim this isn't his first rodeo; if forced to be more specific, will say he's been in "a few" fights before.  If pressed further than that he'll mutter something about militia training exercises being very realistic.  He is the most likely to fall for any kind of monster that uses girly allure such as a Dungeon Nymph or a Succubus, and he sort of hopes that happens. 

Olgier the Drunk -
CG Human Fighter 1.  Ring-and-leather armor, greataxe, javelins x12.  He is the town drunk and he knows it and owns it.  Actually the bravest hireling but alcohol makes him more selfish and prone to abandoning his post.   Has actually seen some military action, although he mostly just rowed a longship and waved his axe back in the fifth rank.  Still, a brush with genuine greatness makes him able to recognize it so he will be more loyal to people that deserve it. 

Hawke the Rogue -
NE Human Thief 1.  Leather armor, club, sap, shortbow & arrows.  Much less cool than his nickname implies.  He has a pretty sweet fu-manchu and chin-strip thing going on along with Prince Valiant hair and a fancy circlet to hold it in place.  He stole that circlet, it is the nicest thing he owns, everything else he owns is spotted and dirty.  He's one of those dudes who just seems to exude a natural grease somehow.  Thinks he's a wise-cracker but mostly just a snipy complainer.   Prefers to break and enter or crack some heads rather than pick locks. 

Brann the Reckless
CN Human Fighter 1.  Leather armor, buckler, spear, handaxe, shortbow & arrows.   No one actually calls him "the Reckless" except himself, in the hopes it makes him sound tough.  Actually is reckless, but more in the panic-and-flail-wildly way than the raging-shieldbiter way.  Gels his bright red hair up in tremendous spikes and doesn't wear a helmet, so that's pretty reckless.   His father owned a printshop and he is, surprisingly, literate.

Toastif of Mugwose -
TN Human Thief 1.  Leather armor, short sword, crossbow and bolts.  Woodsman and hunter around Bryden Wood near the Village of Mugwose.   He is on the run for poaching, which is what the Bailiff of Mugwose calls it when commoners hunt for their own table.  He knows how to make mushrooms safe to consume for trippy fun times and is waiting for a chance to pop down his last one.   He has all kinds of fucked up rural peasant beliefs like leaving coins in his boots at night or hopping on one foot three times if he steps on a crack.   He is pretty much used to being fucked with and just takes it.