“I loot the random bag”

For when players want to loot something, and you don’t have anything specific to give them. A mix of wonderful and mundane items.

“Busy pub where someone might steal from a bag.”

“There’s some boring stuff in there, but also…”

  1. Fragile, glass orb. Roll sleight of hand to avoid smashing it, drawing attention. Unbroken, is just a pretty bauble, worth 10sp.
  2. A paper bag of dog treats.
  3. About 1 rations worth of dried fruit.
  4. 1d8 copper pieces.
  5. 2d8 copper pieces.
  6. 2d10 silver pieces.
  7. 3d20 gold pieces. (Why does this person have this much money in a bag?)
  8. A half thought out wizard’s spell. If a spell caster spends 10 days of downtime decypering it, they gain a cantrip. A non-spell caster with a high enough Int, and a mentor, can learn the Light cantrip in 20 days of downtime. (“How long will this take to learn?” “A long time.”)
  9. A note written in druidic. Recipe for a homebrewed healing potions which needs about half the normal amount of ingrediants.
  10. An x-marks the spot map which reveals a secret passage that the characters have so far missed, or is coming up.
  11. A bottle of antihistamines, unlabeled.
  12. The address of a fence (guy who sells and buys stolen goods). Theives cant symbol explains this, but is otherwise unlabelled.
  13. Raw fish. Can be cooked for about 1 day of rations, or sold for 1d8 silver if sold quickly.
  14. An “IOU” from a nearby shop for 1d20 silver pieces.
  15. A list of names. “Trilby. Tha’feth. Trillax. Toast.” The first three are crossed out.
  16. A complete set of dice and some rough rules for something called “Castles and Chimeras”.
  17. A whistle. It can be used to draw the attention of the last or next beast species the characters bump into. “It’s a whistle, but it’s not quite clear what for.”
  18. One of those squeezy-hand exercise things.
  19. A sending stone. The other is in the posession of the next NPC they talk to.
  20. A set of silver lockpicks.
  21. A packet of ballons and tiny Canister of Holding, filled with more helium than anyone could ever need.
  22. An purple spotted egg, wrapped in straw and paper. It’s a Flying Snake egg and appears to be viable.
  23. A lidded pot of Granny Ramsfords’ stew, one ration worth. Grants 4 tempory hit points. Also has a recipe for the stew if they check thoroughly.
  24. A roll of paper, with six chocolates inside. They give weed-like affects after twenty minutes.
  25. A very cool abacus. Is about the size of your hand, and has three rows of beads. You cannot move them. “You don’t know what it’s calculating, but it’s doing something.” Rung one counts the number of hostile enemies or traitors nearby. Rung two counts the number of sentient non-creatures nearby. (Includes mimics, sentient magic items, and petrified creatures.) Rung three counts the number of shape-changed creatures nearby. Maybe the creation of some paranoid ruler?
  26. A fine wrist-watch. Must have been made for someone as a present, because the inside (if they take the back off) has an inscription in silver. Plus, it’s basically unbreakable. This is a lich’s phalactory. He’s got no real way of finding it though and isn’t likely to die-and-be-resurrected anytime soon. This may never come to anything.
  27. An wooden carven, about six inches high, of an owlbear. This is instantly obvious to any cultured person what it is: a very rare collectable. The artist made maybe six of these. Wow!
  28. Pencils, inks, paper. Nothing rare. Seems to just be some student’s backpack. One of the inks are invisible ink. The pages are filled with the most naughty erotica. Goodness.
  29. A little, black book with contacts and addresses. This has three “charges”. The next three times the PC’s look up someone in this book, they’re most likely there, with a sure fire way of getting in touch with them too. After three uses, it likely doesn’t include the person they’re interested in.
  30. An independant, far-left, twelve page newspaper which talks at length about workers rights. There’s an interesting passing mention of an important NPC, which reveals a little more about the plot.
  31. A wind-up music device. It plays the intro to Welcome To The Black Parade for some reason. In the home of whoever they’re stealing this from, the music unlocks a chest with at least 4d20 gold pieces in it.
  32. A beard trimming kit. Comes with scissors, a mirror, and inside a pouch is a Beacon of Light, a device that casts Light in a cone ahead.
  33. It’s a Bag of Guarding, which can only be accessed when wearing the corresponding ring. 2d8 piercing damage and try your best to not yell loudly in pain. The owner has the ring (obviously). Inside is a different item from this table.
  34. A whetstone and a dagger. These two items are magically linked and only work with each other. When sharpened, the dagger becomes +1 for a day.
  35. 3d8 gold pieces. A decent passive Perception will alert the PC that one of the pieces is very light. This piece is a tracking coin. It needs to be soaked in salt water over night to unattune it from its owner, and then it can be attuned to.
  36. Looks like a towel. Smells like a gym towel. It’s a Dry Towel. It’s the size of a bath towl, but folds down real compact. It’s super strong and can absorb a large amount of liquid. Needs to be twisted to get the liquid out, otherwise feels totally dry. The magic doesn’t stop it getting dirty though.
  37. A Magic Eight Ball. One charge per day. Ask the player to roll a d100, and then a d8. Spend a few moments looking through “the table”. Then scoff to yourself and ask for a d4. “That was close! Okay, it says…” Then make something up. Follow this procedure very closely each time and see how long it takes them to figure out what’s happening.
  38. “Key with X written on it”, where X is the result of a d100. When they try to use it on a door, secretly roll a d100. If you roll below X, it opens the door. After that, it only works with that specific door.
  39. A cat collar. Nothing special about it.
  40. A picture of someone who looks very much like the current Prime Minister of the UK, but if they were a hobgoblin. If tested and looked at specifically, the picture is slightly magical. It needs a focus before its magic works (like a magic picture frame, any decent arcane shop has them). Once it has that, it behaves like a Harry Potter inspired magic portrait. Its other frame is somewhere else in your world, possibly in storage but maybe on display.
  41. A bag of marbles. That’s it. Just a bag of marbles. (One of them is a glass eye. It has darkvision.)
  42. Two almost filled loyalty stamp-card things from the local ale house.
  43. An unhealthy number of junk food wrappers.
  44. Enough lottery tickets for each PC, which are for tonight’s draw! They roll 5d6 to figure out their numbers. If the PC’s remember to check, roll 5d6 to find the results. I heard the prize is game-breakingly large.
  45. Some tissues. It’s an endless pack!
  46. A small box of live crickets, waiting patiently to be taken home and fed to whatever pet the owner has. The crickets appear to never die whilst in the box. The box gives any creature inside it 1 temporary HP every six seconds. Only insect-sized creatures can fit.
  47. A Waterskin of Endless Holy Water. I bet not even a priest could tell this was holy water, until it was tested. Tastes like water. Smells like water. Waters plants just fine. The current owner, and the six owners before them, all assume it’s just a Waterskin of Endless Water. A tiny creature can squeeze into the bag, and with the aid of waterbreathing, can find their way to the realm of the water god.
  48. A cursed Ring of Invisibility. Put it on. Go on. It has three charges per day. When used, ask the PC to make a difficult Wisdom save. On a failure add two dislocation beasts to the next combat desperate to get that ring back. If they critically fail, a green hag appears soon. She’s finally found her Ring.
  49. A piece of identification that will help gain access to somewhere. It is photo ID though.
  50. A glass cube with a fiery ball bouncing around inside. Older PC’s will remember the fade of forcing motes of various types down to size and carrying them around. These are considered cruel now, and almost entirely forgotten. Breaking it will release the mote, which returns to full size quickly.
  51. A wrapped gift, with a label. “I’m sorry I missed your birthday again. Lots of love, from daddy.” It’s a rather fancy doll. Three times a day is can cast disguise self on itself.
  52. A trained, pet spider is sleeping in the bag. If woken, it’ll bite for 1d4 damage. Con save or become poisoned for twenty minutes or so. It can’t speak, but understands druidic.
  53. A scroll labeled “Fireball”, in Common. If a wizard sees or tries to cast this, they can make an easy Arcana check. Other classes, not used to reading runes, do not get to make this check. This is not Fireball. (Whatever tricksy enchantment this scroll has means it ignores normal scroll casting rules.) This is Summon Lesser Demons. A blood circle appears automatically around the caster.
  54. An out of tune flute. Sounds okay, I guess. If they attempt to fix it, they discover a Wand of Magic Missiles inside.
  55. A bag of climbing chalk.
  56. A waterskin of orange juice. The lid wasn’t put on properly and it has leaked all over the bag. Very sticky.
  57. Three tickets to see that band you like, playing next week.
  58. A moist block of clay, wrapped in plastic, ready to be moulded and fired.
  59. A make-up kit for a particularlly emo person. Dark blues and blacks.
  60. Three postcards which haven’t been sent yet. “I’m having a lovely time in Duransk!” Duransk is a beachside holiday resort, miles from here.
  61. Two knitting needles and a ball of very soft yarn. It’s not possible to tell what the end result will be.
  62. A map of the route between their home and their work. Includes some interesting details that only locals would know.
  63. A wax seal stamp. Since these are used as proof of sender, these are usually kept safely at home.
  64. A small, but heavy duty, nail file set. Probably used by someone with claws.
  65. A business card for a shipping company that runs from the docks. They’re well known for being on time and doing only legit work. They send ships all over the world and will sometimes take on passengers.
  66. A flyer for Findo’s Embirdium. It’s a gnome-run business selling homing birds. Birds are trained to return to Embirdium branches and return to their owner, carrying messages each way. The flyer has a discount code.
  67. A diary listing past and future astrological events. The owner has written something auspicious about today.
  68. Three wax candles. Each cast Speak With Dead and last for the duration of the spell.
  69. A deck of cards. Instead of the normal suits, it has pictures of members of higher society with their names.
  70. Four or five song sheets with music on them, originally meant for a lute. It’s not good music, unless you recognise it from when it was first released, one thousand years ago. Those people may enjoy the memories it brings. (There are probably some people left that old.)
  71. A wedding ring worth 1d20 gold pieces. (Why isn’t the owner wearing it?)
  72. A childrens book of non-magic magic tricks. False shuffles. Make a coin disappear. Things like that.
  73. x-acto knife and a set of blades. Real sharp. Can cut through glass cleanly.
  74. A small set of black, brown, and white shoe polish, with a buffing cloth. A single drop in a body of water will make the water instantly change to that colour. In a mug of water it might last a few hours. In an ocean it was barely flicker (but will still work). No other qualities of the water will change.
  75. A very detailed drawing of the interal anatomy of a monkey. Druidic runes run around the edges. “Blessed be the forefathers. Only inside them can be we our own truth. Purge self and return to feral.”
  76. A hand radio device. It only picks up a pirate radio frequency. It’s very secret. Run by goblins and wererats. No one knows how it works but them, and they’re not revealing anything. Seems to work anywhere in the material plane.
  77. A highend lock keeping a journal closed. The journal is boring, but the lock is worth stealing. The key is in a nearby coat (which maybe the owner is wearing).
  78. Lotions and oils for someone with scales. Everyone needs a skincare routine.
  79. A set of goggles. They glow red when activated (hard to hide) but then give thermal vision. This special sense can see Invisible creatures.
  80. A magic boomerang. Always comes back, even if it has to spend hours looking for you. Even if you run away from it and hide in a maze. No attunement necessary, always returns to whoever threw it. Harmless if not insistant.
  81. A vial of pale, yellow liquid. It’s somekind of lycanthropy venom that will turn the drinker. It’s not possible to tell what type. (It’s wererat.)
  82. The first draft of a story someone is writing. It details the fictional pursuits of a clockwork loxodon.
  83. A sleeping mask that grants the attuned the Trance (Elf) ability.
  84. A spellcasting focus, worth 10gp. The owner doesn’t realise it’s gone until an unfortunate moment.
  85. A miniturised bicycle. It keeps folding out until it reaches full size. Has “Gimble Hingeworker” etched into it, presumably the original creator.
  86. A four inch idol to the god of war, showing them in a compassionate position. The temple to this god would be very interested in purchasing this (either to hide this unusal side of their god, or attempt to understand it). It can be used to cast Spare the Dying.
  87. A silver bell. When no one is attuned, acts as normal. Can be attuned by multiple people. When rung, only they can hear it (if they’re close enough to hear it ordinarily).
  88. Most of the uniform for the previous or next location the PC’s are going to.
  89. An hourglass. A theif would know that this is a Theive’s Hourglass. The sand falls in an almost imperceptable pattern. A message can be encoded in the sand by twisting the wooden casing.
  90. Deactivated Sentient Hunter’s Trap. When activated, has a move speed of 5, as it silently vibrates to get closer to its prey. It always knows the locations of nearby Beasts and will approach the closest. Once close enough, it anchors itself and waits, just like a normal Hunter’s Trap.
  91. A trainee wizards actual spell book. Includes: Featherfall, Jump, and Longstrider.
  92. A souvenir from a local tourist attraction.
  93. A portable window. When placed on a wall less than three inches thick, you can see right through it. Works both ways.
  94. A blackjack. Same stats as a club (1d4 bludgeoning, light) except when target is surprised by the attack they must make a DC 15 Con save or be stunned for 1 minute.
  95. A voucher for Ev’s Day Workers, a company who operate a network of hirelings. The voucher is for 1 day of skilled work. The note with it says, “you deserve some time off.”
  96. A small tube of Sovereign Glue.
  97. Fire/heat proof gloves. Wear ’em to hold hot things.
  98. A pearl (worth 100 + 1d20 gp) and a feather.
  99. A Scarf of Pass Without a Trace, 1 charge per day.
  100. A Bag of Holding! Inside is another item from this list. (If you roll this again, the bag explodes at it is jostled.)

Three things from Batman Begins

Yesterday after a long and frustrating week, I decided to watch Batman Begins. After it was finished, I wanted to hang out in that world a bit longer, so here’s some stuff for your D&D game inspired by things from that movie that you won’t find on a utility belt.

NightCafe, “Batman brooding.”

Plot point: Approaching, unstoppable danger

In the movie, Ras has a machine that vaporises the water supply, turning the haluconagen filled water into a gas. The machine is travelling along the train system, vaporising the water below it as it goes. Massive amounts of chaos is happening. Once it gets to Wayne Tower – the centre of Gotham, and coincidentally the central water reserve below Wayne Tower – it’ll knock the pressure so high the entire city will be engulfed in the gas.

A version of this plot point is actually already in Rime of the Frostmaiden. It was very good and very tense there! Other versions you can do:

  • A series of dams are set to explode on a timer. (Why not all at once? Maybe fear is the villains motive, rather than simply killing everyone. Maybe it’s a ransom thing.)
  • A curse is spreading through the city. The good news is that there are bridges and guards keeping the blighted in quarentine in certains parts of the city, but every once in a while someone scared townsfolk manage to break through and continue to spread the curse.
  • A slander – an outright lie – about the group (or the group’s patron) is slowly making its way around the country. If enough people hear it, it won’t matter what the truth is. Getting their reputation back will always be mared. Proving the slander as a falsehood is a key way to resolve the whole thing, but doing so takes time. Maybe shutting people up is the first step?

The key bits of this plot point are: 1) the threat must have already started. The damage its causing is obvious. It can’t be allowed to go on. 2) There is a way to stem to the flow, and doing so will mean fewer impacted lives. Focusing here migth mean the actual villain has a chance to escape. 3) There’s a way to stop the villain, and end the whole thing, but in the meanwhile lots of people will be affected before that happens.

Contacts: Making connections

After writing about contacts before, I’m pleased to see that they’re such a big deal in Demon City too, which I just received.

The Tech Guy. Lucius Fox. Has access to tonnes of gadgets and is more than happy to share them with their Character Contact. Knows what tools are needed for a particular job. Keeps his ear to the ground for other interesting tech that is cropping up. Unfortuntaely: their not exactly his gadgets to be giving out, so he has to have some measure of care and getting their returned is crucial. Others know about The Tech Guy’s ability and inventory and will try to make moves for it. Keeping Lucius as a Contact will require side missions to keep him safe.

The Bent Officer. Arnold Flass (Gordon’s partner.) He’s got a dark side, but he’s not bad. He takes bribes because everyone takes bribes. Why lose out on the money? Because of that, he often knows where he’s been told not to be which may be of use to his Character Contact. He’ll do his job and arrest the little guys, and turn the other way when it’s just common sense to do so. Unfortunately: he only ever knows enough to get the Character started on their investigation. The actual Bad Guys don’t share anything with him. He’s also prone being blackmailed by the mobsters, and he may need help getting out of those situations.

The Sherpa. Alfred. As close as family to their Character Contact and loves them enough to buy into whatever their current passions are. They’ll do their best to mind matters whilst the Player is away, collect them when they’re left for dead, and make a nice smoothy. Unfortunately: they’re not a fighter, nor are they particularly strong. Their loyalty to the Character often puts them in situations they can’t handle and need to be rescued from. Their dedication to the Character’s safety might also at some point be prioritised above the player’s objectives.

Feat: Why Do We Fall?

Why Do We Fall?

Gain the Restless Endurance (Half-Orc) trait.

In addition, when you use this trait make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a success, you’re hard as fuck and gain (10 + Con modifier) temporary hit points which vanish in 1 minute.

In addition, when you use this trait make a DC 15 Intimidation (Con) check. On a success, you’re cool as fuck and the creature that triggered the trait is Frightened of you until the end of your next round.

“Variant: Skills with Different Abilities”

"An owlbear carrying a large treasure chest on her back through a burning forest." (NightCafe)

I’m writing an adventure at the moment, which features an organisation called the Reclamations Agency, the state sanctioned thieve’s guild. Most people know a bit about them, but do your characters know a little more? What’s the skill check for this? D&D lacks any kind of Culture (Starfinder) or Street Skills (Shadowrun).

A dry Int check might be the easiest thing to reach for but the problem is that they’re pretty boring. We can do better.

Both the PHB (page 175ish) and DMG (page 239ish) talk about using different ability scores skills, which potentially allows using proficiencies in surprising ways.

To intuit why the Agency works a certain way, I might suggest Insight (Charisma); understanding the social protocols you’ve spotted and trying to understand why they might work like that. Or even Insight (Intelligence) to piece together the clues you’ve collected so far. Deception (Intelligence) to make use of your knowledge of the underhand methods you’d use to sneak something out the city.

The problem is that all these require a bit more maths from the player. They don’t have these numbers written on their sheet already. If you find you’re using them often (or want to persaude your DM to start usign them), you could always note them down though. After all, the DMG says:

If a player can provide a good justification for why a character’s training and aptitude in a skill should apply to the check, go ahead and allow it, rewarding the player’s creative thinking.

Here are some more ideas:

Acrobatics (Int)* How difficult does that climb look?
Animal Handling (Int)* Should the animal be behaving like that?
* How much weight can this owlbear carry?
* Can a druid turn into something like that?
* Is that a beast or a monstrosity?
Arcana (Cha)* Is that person charmed?
Athletics (Int)* How long would it take to run that far?
Athletics (Wis)* How strong is that guy?
Deception (Con)* Can I hide how gross this food is?
History (Wis)* Does that sound like something the Queen would have done?
Insight (Cha)* How does this social structure work?
Intimidation (Str)* Can I punch the wall to scare the guy?
Investigation (Wis)* Does anything feel off here? (More active version of Perception (Wis).
Medicine (Con)* Will I get poisoned if I drink this much ale?
Nature (Cha)* Can I say the right things to persaude this Dryad?
Perception (Str)* Is that guy pulling his blows?
Performance (Int)* Can I remember the correct thing to say here?
Persausion (Con)* Can I out drink this Dwarf to win her respect?
Religion (Cha)* Can I fool this bumkin into thinking I speak the words of a god?
Sleight of Hand (Wis)* What are my odds of pick pocketing that person?
Stealth (Wis)* I do think I’ve been spotted?
Survival (Str)* Can I pull this bear trap off my leg?
This table wasn’t even what I had planned today. I timeboxed it to 15 minutes – but look how many cool things already!

Other than just filling in gaps where the D&D skills are lacking, this also lets the PCs have more utility. The paladin might not be intimidating in most situations, but when the time comes for a religious intimidation, their Religion (Str) check might be pretty imposing.

The divestment of a departed drow

Valna was first encouraged to become a priestess of Lolth because of her innovative use of magics. It was clear early on that her understanding of magic – especially in dank of the Underdark – was beyond anything that had been studied so far. Maybe she could bring more glory to the Lady of Shadows with her gifts.

Unfortunately, Valna’s scholarly enthusiasm always took priority to her worship, and it was only a matter of time until the inevitable happened. Decades into the relatively luscious life of a Priestess, Lolth called on her for her faith to be tested. Valna never returned.

A necromancer, reading a spell book. Image generated with magic.

Valna was no fool though. She knew that day would come. She left behind two things for her closest followers to continue her work with: her own severed finger (for unknown purposes) and her research.

Within those research notes, written carefully in ink rarely found in the Underdark, were two spells never before seen.

Valna’s Final Embrace.
Level 1 Necromancy spell. Ritual. Casting time: 1 action. Duration: 1 day.
Touch a willing target to grasp a few strands of their soul. For the duration, the target ignores their next Death Saving Throw failure. After this has been triggered, the spell ends and their maximum hit points are permanently reduced by 1d4.

Necromancers are always looking for a way to stay alive just a little bit longer, and there’s almost always a trade off for it. Certain Wizards who want to put the dice slightly more in their favour will want to pop this on along with their Mage Armor.

I also quite like that the Wizard can use this on other people. A good friend is bleeding out on the floor. Now the necromancer has to make a decision for them: give them a better chance of stabilising, at the cost of permanent damage.

A necromancer’s plaything attempts to read the spells that created it. For some reason, the ritual requires… a car? Image generated with magic.

Valna’s Enchained Totem.
Cantrip. Necromancy spell. Casting time: 1 action. Duration: 1 minute. Range: 30 feet.
Your quarterstaff becomes enchanted with souls of trapped foes and becomes rooted to the ground for the duration of the spell. On this turn, and following turns, you may use the Attack action to berate the quarterstaff. To appease you, it will make a Melee Spell Attack on a hostile creature within range. Using your spell casting modifier, bones launch out of the ground and pummel the closest target causing 1d10 bludgeoning damage.
Damage scales with your spell casting level, like similar cantrips.

One of the coolest things about necromancy in every other game in the universe is that it lets you summon undead and fight with them. It’s odd that D&D takes so long to let you do that. This isn’t quite that, but finally you have the ability to be mean to some dead guys, like a real necromancer.

A servant of Lolth, hunting. Image generated with magic.

The quarterstaff stays rooted, but can still break. However, you’ll have to wait for the minute to end if you want to remove the quarterstaff without breaking it. Wizards never use their quarterstaff. What’s the deal with that?

After the first turn, you use an Attack action on the quarterstaff, which allows you to use an off-hand bonus attack! Wizards never do this. (Because their main attack is already strong enough, I suppose.) I think it’d look cool! I feel they’ll need this as the rooted staff will make them stay in place a little more.

Berating might be throwing a stone at it, slapping it, or giving it a good kick. There’s no to hit on this. It’s more of a percussive, psychological abuse of the poor, tormented souls trapped within the magic.