Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Drum and the Crib

I just got home from running through the solo session I talked about on Monday. Rather than go into detail about those events, as the hour is late and work beckons tomorrow, let me present you with two new magical items for your consideration. The drum is new; the Crib not so much, as it appeared over on Grognardia in the past. Rather than have to direct people off of this blog should I need to refer to it again, as well as to give it a chance for some new readers to take a gander at it, I'm reprinting it here.

Drum of the Beasts

XP Value: 2,500
Gold Piece Value: 6,000

This drum is crafted from wood and tanned animal hide held in place by leather cords. Around the lip and bottom of the drum are carved crude, almost symbolic, representations of animals. When found the drum will have 1d20 + 10 animal carvings on it. Inspection of the drum may reveal that in some places the carving appear to be missing. When played, the drum summons one animal from the list below. Roll 1d8 + 1d12 to determine what is called:

2 -3: Ape, Carnivorous (AC 6 HD 5 THACO 15 At# 3 Dam 1d4/1d4/1d8)
4 – 6: Leopard (AC 6 HD 3 + 3 THACO 17 At# 3* Dam 1d3/1d3/1d6 Special if both claw attacks hit may rake with rear paws for 1d4 each)
7 – 8: Wolf (AC 7 HD 3 THACO 18 At# 1 Dam 1d4+1 Special +1 save vs. charm)
9 – 10: Rat, Giant (AC 7 HD ½ THACO 20 At# 1 Dam 1d3 + 5% chance of disease)
11 – 12: Dog, wild (AC 7 HD 1 + 1 THACO 19 At# 1 Dam 1d4)
13 – 14: Jackal (AC 7 HD ½ THACO 20 At# 1 Dam 1d2)
15 – 16: Hyena (AC 7 HD 3 THACO 17 At# 1 Dam 2d4)
17 – 18: Wild Boar (AC 7 HD 3 + 3 THACO 17 At# 1 Dam 3d4)
19 - 20: Brown Bear (AC 6 HD 5 + 5 THACO 15 At# 3* Dam 1d6/1d6/1d8 Special a paw hit attack with a roll of 18+ does a hug for 2d6 additional damage)

The summoned animal obeys the commands of the drummer, remaining in existence for 10 rounds before vanishing in a warm breeze. Each use of the drum causes one of the animal carvings to vanish as if it were never there. When all the carvings have disappeared, the drum may still be played as a musical instrument, but summons no further animals. Note that the carving that vanishes does not necessarily depict the animal summoned.

The Crib of the Sleeper

Description: The Crib of the Sleeper appears as a reliquary measuring 2’ wide x 1’ tall x 1 ½' deep. It is constructed of the darkest mahogany and bound with gold and brass. It bears lapis lazuli, carnelian, onyx, chrysoberyl and ruby gems as ornamentation. The Crib is warm to the touch and seems to pulse and hum if held for more than a few moments.

History: Much of the history of the Crib remains obscured by the shadows of time and secrecy. The little that is known has been pieced together by sages, priests and madmen.

It is said that during the Years of the Rotted Moon, a cult of devil idolaters arose in the cities to the South. Their hunger for wealth, power and prestige led them to bend their knees to one of the Dukes of Hell, offering grim sacrifices in return for his aid. Those who have witnessed the powers of the Crib believe that it was unto Mammon that these idolaters gave tribute, although Baal and Belial have also been connected to the Crib’s origins, albeit in hushed whispers.

Regardless of their patron’s identity, he was pleased with their devotion. In return, a dark messiah was promised: A child born of human and devil who would lead the cult to the assumption of their desired position of power in the lands of Men.

So it came to pass that on the night of the first new moon of winter, the cult gathered to bear witness to the birth of their infernal master’s progeny. Amongst screams and blood and the clash of steel, something was given entrance into this world. But something went wrong.

The sages debate what exactly occurred on that night. Some argue that the child was stillborn, arresting the promised campaign before it could even begin. Others adhere to the belief that the child survived its birth, but had not yet come fully to term. In either case, what was born that night was placed within a reliquary and secreted away by the cult.

In the following years, a schism arose between factions within the cult. Crumbling from within, it was not long before the secrecy of the cult’s activities was breached. Alerted to this threat, the paladins of Law were marshaled and put the cultists to the sword, the pyre and the noose. Amidst the chaos, the cult’s heresiarch and the Crib of the Sleeper escaped.

During the years that followed, rumors of the Crib’s reemergence have appeared. For a short time it was said to lie within the treasury vaults of Eastern merchant-prince, only to be stolen by two rogues during the Feast of St. Amencia. One of those thieves was found the following night; his massive frame emaciated as from hunger, his mouth sewn shut by green silk thread and his eye sockets filled with flax seeds. The fate of his partner is unknown. Others have whispered that the Crib is now in the possession of the Snakes That Walk as Men, who dwell in the southern jungles. Still other rumor-mongers speak of torch-lit rites that are practiced on a certain rocky strand abutting the western sea.

What is agreed upon is that whatever sleeps within the Crib must one day awaken, and if the powers of the Crib are any indication, the Sleeper will awaken hungry…

Game Details: Whoever possesses the Crib of the Sleeper gains several powers. They may cause darkness 15’radius 3 times/day, gain the benefits of a ring of protection +2 while physically holding or touching the Crib, and are immune to any sort of fear during their ownership of the Crib. In addition, they may cast suggestion up to twice a day and, with their bare hands, causes serious wounds on a successful attack. The major power of the Crib, however allows the possessor to bring forth the assistance of the Nine Hells itself. The Crib’s owner may once a day summon either 1 bone devil (25% chance) or 1-2 bearded devils (75% chance) with a 70% chance of success. Drawing on this power awakens the hunger of the Crib, causing any creatures friendly to the possessor, but excluding the possessor himself, within 20’ to take 5d4 points of damage as their life force is drawn from them.

In addition to the powers granted by the Crib, ownership has its side-effects. The possessor of the Crib serves as a conduit between the physical world and the Sleeper itself. The Sleeper gains nourishment threw the owner of the Crib, causing him an intense hunger and thirst. The owner must eat and drink six times the normal daily amount to sustain both himself and That Which Sleeps. Failure to obtain the required nourishment results in 5d4 points of damage as the Crib siphons of the life force of the owner.

Also, the Crib of the Sleeper requires further nourishment in the form of the blood and the souls of living sentient beings. Before each new moon, 45 HD worth of such creatures must be sacrificed to appease the hunger of the Sleeper Within. Failure to do so brings about dire repercussions for both the owner and those around him. If the Crib does not get the required sacrifices, it draws the life energy of its owner, perhaps slaying him in the process. The Crib draws (45 – total number of HD already fed to the relic) levels or HD from the possessor. For example, if 32 HD of creatures had already been slain to appease the crib, the owner would lose 13 levels of experience or HD. If this number is equal to or greater than the owner’s total number of levels or HD, he is slain and is unable to be resurrected by any means. Should this total still not reach the required 45 HD, the Crib will begin siphoning of energy from the next closest living sentient creature, continuing outwards until the full 45 HD has been accumulated. This effect has no distance limit, ending only when the Crib has been satiated.

The above powers are suggestions for use requiring no additional work on the part of the DM. For DMs wishing to customize the Crib of the Sleeper for their own campaigns, the suggested number and type are listed below in accordance with the template described in the 1st edition AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide:

3 x I ____ ____ ____
2 x II ____ ____
1 x III ____
1 x IV ____
1 x V ____
1 x VI ____


Gamer Dude said...

While both are very cool magical items, I still absolutely ADORE that crib. I'm going to make many honest attempts at inserting it in my game.

Kudos Mike, that's got to be one of the grittiest, crunchy magic items that I've EVER seen. Bar none. I bow to your superior imagination. ;-)

thekelvingreen said...

Hellblazer reader by any chance?

Michael Curtis said...

@Gamer Dude: Thank you very much. I'm not usually as crunchy when it comes to designing things, but since the Crib was an artifact I figured I'd had to be pretty precise about the limitations and the bad juju that accompanied the ownership. As for the whole history behind it, see below.

@kelvingreen: Not so much anymore, although I do flip through the trade paperbacks from time to time when I see them at one of the box bookstores. But I know what your going for. I did read the Bradstreet illustrated issue that featured The Crib, which was the initial germ for the idea of the Crib of the Sleeper. While that issue might have been the more obvious source of inspiration, my own version draws from a pretty deep well of other sources.

The idea of something sleeping in the Crib is mostly Lovecraft or even John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness. Much more interesting than a dead mouse in a matchbox! The Paladins of Law are a nod towards Moorcock and Poul Anderson. The two dead thieves are a sort of alternate history Fafhrd and Gray Mouser. The Snakes that Walk as Men are obvious Howard nods and them dwelling in the jungles to the south is a reference to Dwellers of the Forbidden City. The Years of the Rotted Moon is an indirect allusion to something in a Leiber short story, the title of which escapes me at the moment. Most of the powers are directly lifted from the 1st edition DMG.

All in all a pretty thick soup of pulp and fantasy sources, but the Hellblazer nod is close to the surface.

thekelvingreen said...

Yes, I didn't mean to imply that it was a shallow ripoff. There's a lot more in yours than Ellis conveyed in his twenty-two pages, and it makes for a very neat item. I may try to slip it into a Call of Cthulhu game.