Random Encounter: Itinerant Berserker

Clad in black, faces painted in stark white, itinerant berserkers resemble the wraiths of long dead warriors. Cultists of the War-Father, they roam across the land following the whims of their brutal patron.

Hit Dice: 3 to 9 (13 to 40 hit points), saves as a fighter. Itinerant berserkers have Advantage on saving throws to resist spells and effects that cause instant death.
Armor: Low (Light armor + average Dexterity)
Movement: As a normal human.
Demeanor: Roll 2d6

ResultMood
2-3Raving – Plagued by vivid hallucinations.
4-5Fractious – Willing to fight over the slightest provocation.
6-8Smug – Believes their fighting prowess is without equal.
9-10Grieving – Performing funeral rites for a fallen comrade.
11-12Pensive – Mulling over a cryptic message from the War-Father.

Attack: Heavy melee weapon (1d10); an itinerant berserker gains an extra melee attack for ever 4 hit dice they possess.
Special:

  • Devotee of the War-Father: As a free action, the berserker can enter a state of ecstatic frenzy, gaining the the following benefits: double movement speed, resistance to non-magical damage, and immunity to fear. The frenzy lasts for a number of rounds equal to the berserker’s hit dice. When the duration ends, the berserker is spent physically and emotionally, suffering Disadvantage on all rolls for twice the number of rounds the frenzy lasted.
  • Bang Heads: After performing a melee attack (hit or miss), the berserker can use a bonus action to head butt a creature within melee range. On a hit, the strike deals 1d4 damage and the target suffers Disadvantage on all rolls until the start of the berserker’s next turn.
  • Battle-Madness: This ability can only be used by a berserker with 5 or more hit dice. As their action, the berserker can induce a state of violent rage in a number of intelligent creatures that they can see equal to their hit dice. A creature that fails a Wisdom saving throw begins frothing at the mouth, incapable of any actions other than melee attacks or moving into melee attack range. This condition lasts for 1 minute or until the berserker who caused it is killed.
  • Murder of Crows: This ability is only available to a berserker with 7 or more hit dice. The berserker is accompanied by a flock of carrion crows that alert the berserker to approaching foes, rendering them immune to ambushes (always acts during surprise rounds). In combat, the crows fight as a single creature with half the hit dice of the berserker that deals 1d6 damage in melee.

I Search the Body: Roll 1d10

RollLoot
1-51d4 silver coins per hit die
61d4+1 applications of white and black face-paint
7Iron and silver icon of the War-Father; a secret compartment holds 1d6 doses of a hallucinogenic drug
8Leather pouch of divinatory runes
9Riveted black leather armor (1-in-10 chance of actually being a havoc jack)
10An exotic weapon (1-in-100 chance of a piece of the Regalia of the War-Father)

NEW SPELL / MONSTER: Servants of the Warsmen

Witch/Wizard (Necromancy)

At some point in history, blood has been spilled at every location. This spell calls out to the vestiges of violence that permeate the landscape and incarnates them as grotesque warriors under the control of the spellcaster.

1d4 turns after the spell is cast, the servants of the warsmen will emerge from the ground anywhere the caster chooses within a 30-foot radius. A spellcaster can summon a number of servants with a total hit dice equal to their caster level, divided into any combination of whole numbers (for example, an 8th-level wizard could summon 8 1-HD servants, 4 2-HD servants, 2 4-HD servants, etc.).

SERVANT OF THE WARSMEN

Medium Undead
Hit Dice: Variable, saves as a fighter
Armor Class: 1-2 HD – equivalent to light/leather, 3-4 HD – equivalent to medium/chain, 5+ HD – equivalent to heavy/plate
Movement: As a normal human
Attack: By weapon (1d8 damage) or unarmed strike (1d4 damage and target must succeed a Constitution saving throw or contract a deadly wasting disease). A servant of the warsmen deals additional damage equal to the number of other servants within 30 feet of it.

Servants of the warsmen will obey the commands of the magic-user who summoned them, but otherwise will not acknowledge anyone else, except as the target or object of a command. Should the controlling spellcaster die, the servants will abandon whatever task they were given and attack the nearest living creature.

Once summoned, a servant of the warsmen will persist until destroyed.

NEW SPELL: Cloaked in Nightwinds

Sorcerer/Warlock/Wizard/Witch (Conjuration)

Invoking dark elemental powers, you wreathe your body in umbral force and fade into a wraith-like state.

While the spell is in effect, the caster takes on the appearance of a dim, translucent apparition. They are difficult to see in normal illumination, gaining Advantage on Stealth checks, and practically invisible in dim light. The caster is also intangible, capable of passing through solid matter, and can fly at twice their normal movement rate.

The powers the spell calls upon are fickle – cloaked in nightwinds lasts for a number of rounds equal to the caster’s spellcasting modifier plus 1d6. But, the caster can extend the duration of the spell by passing through living creatures, thereby draining away some of the creature’s life force. The target of this action must make a Constitution saving throw; on a failure, the creature loses one hit die’s worth hit points and the spell’s duration gains a number of additional rounds equal to half the hit points lost. With a successful save, the targeted creature merely feels a slight, sudden chill, like someone just walked over their grave.

SKUNDER & MELDA MAZ

Photo by VelociJACKtor

Skunder is the tall one; they never speak, except in whispers only audible to Melda Maz. In fact, Skunder hardly makes any sound at all, unless they want to, and they can make those sounds (footsteps, the rustle of clothing, breathing) emanate from anywhere within 60 feet of where they actually are. They have an uncanny ability to find and disable traps and open locks. 

Melda Maz is incredibly strong despite their short stature, capable of extraordinary feats of athleticism. They speak with a gravelly voice and an affable, if slightly menacing, aspect. There’s a 50/50 chance Maz is fluent any language they hear. Maz has keen senses and is an expert at identifying and appraising items. They will instantly know if they are being targeted by any sort of telepathic or mind-affecting spell or effect and who is targeting them.

If violence is unavoidable, Maz is a dangerous oppoent with the black-bladed knife they’ll draw from the folds of their cloak. Skunder will somehow pull an ebony-hafted, black-tipped spear out of theirs. If either is disarmed, the weapon will vanish into black smoke and a new one will appear in their hand on their next turn.

Neither Skunder or Melda Maz appear to be affected by extreme heat or cold. They each seem to intuitively know where the other is and what they are planning to do. If you lose sight or take your eyes off either of them, they can vanish and reappear somewhere else you weren’t looking.

SKUNDER medium humanoid | HD: 8, saves as a thief | AC: High (supernatural dexterity) | Movement: twice as fast as a normal human | Attack: spear +3 (1d6 damage and target must succeed a Charisma saving throw or become mute for a number of rounds equal to the damage rolled)

MELDA MAZ small humanoid | HD: 8, saves as a fighter | AC: Medium (above average dexterity + small stature) | Movement: as a normal human | Attack: knife +6 (1d6 damage and target must succeed a Constitution saving throw or one limb becomes numb and useless for a number of rounds equal to the damage rolled)

Who are these weirdos? I dunno, I just saw this photo and got inspired. Maybe they’re after the same MacGuffin your PCs are searching for. Maybe they have a lucrative, if dangerous, job to offer. Maybe they’re just vibing.

BLOOD DOMAIN (5E)

Domain spells:
1st – expeditious retreat, false life
3rd – enhance ability, ray of enfeeblement
5th – vampiric touch, haste
7th – aura of life, death ward
9th – hold monster, raise dead

Matters of Life and Death – At 1st level, you gain proficiency with Martial Weapons and Medicine. You have Advantage on all ability checks and skill checks related to determining causes of injury or time of death.

Sanguine Vitality: Also at 1st level, you become proficient in Constitution saving throws. You gain 1 additional hit point per character level.

Channel Divinity – Bound by Blood: Starting at 2nd level, you can forge a temporary link between the vital forces of you and your allies. As a standard action, you can brandish your holy symbol before a number of creatures of your choice that you can see equal to your character level. Whenever an affected ally would suffer damage from any source, they take half damage and you take the other half.

This effect lasts until you drop below 0 hit points or 1 minute, whichever comes first. 

Thirsty Blade: Beginning at 6th level, whenever you deal slashing or piercing damage to a living creature, you gain temporary hit points equal to your proficiency bonus

Crimson Strike: At 8th level, you can imbue your weapons with divine energy to increase the severity of wounds you inflict. Once on each of your turns when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d4 necrotic damage to the target, plus another 1d4 necrotic damage each round until they succeed a Constitution saving throw. When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d4.

Undead creatures and creatures without circulatory systems are immune to this effect.

Reign of Blood: At 17th level, you gain Advantage on all Constitution ability checks and saving throws and you become immune to non-magical disease. When you use your Bound by Blood ability, you can telepathically communicate with the allies you affect as long as the effect lasts.

JON PROFERATUS, NOT-SO-CUNNING MAN

illustration by Kata Kane

One cool spring morning, a young man named Johannes Proft ventured into a deep, dark forest. He was a junior contributor to a publication called The Almanac of Complete World Knowledge and he was keen to make a name for himself as an investigator of all that was strange and mysterious.

A year and a day later, he stumbled back out of the woods with a head full of fractured and scrambled memories, clutching a smooth gray stone with a perfect hole worn through it, and the name Jon Proferatus on his tongue.

From a sheaf of crumpled, frantic notes he found in his coat pocket, Jon learned how to channel his will through the stone – the Hag Stone according to the notes. For the most part, his disorganized thoughts could only create flames of varying intensity and project frightening or confounding imagery into the minds of others.

While living on the outskirts of civilization, Jon met a young wilderness scout named Cal Shrigley and through Cal became part of a troupe of adventurers. While exploring the catacombs beneath a ruined castle, Jon answered a mystical call emanating from a pool of water. Plunging into the pool, he found a sword and became bound to it. Despite having no training in fencing or fighting – that he can remember anyway – Jon discovered he could wield the blade to deadly effect.

Jon was last seen plummeting out of the sky in a dragon-shaped flying machine with all his friends.

Jon Proferatus is a character I created for a friend’s Sword & Backpack game, illustrated here by another friend and player in that game, Kata Kane. Please check out more of her work at https://www.patreon.com/katakane

RANDOM ENCOUNTER: White Warden

The White Wardens are a martial order dedicated to maintaining peace and order wherever they travel, or so they proclaim. Beyond rote-sounding answers about justice and defending the defenseless, white wardens will deflect or evade questions about the principles of their organization. [I leave it up to the game master to decide whether there’s something nefarious about them, or if they’re just a bunch of officious pricks.]

White Warden
Hit Dice: 2 to 8 (9 to 36 hp); saves as a cleric, has Advantage on saving throws to resist emotion-manipulating spells and effects.
Armor: High (Heavy armor + shield)
Movement: 3/4ths normal human
Demeanor: roll 2d6

RollDemeanor
2 – 3Triumphant: They’ve just subdued a major adversary.
3 – 4Pondering: They appear to be lost in thought.
6 – 8On the Hunt: They’re responding to a report of a threat in the area.
9 – 10Despairing: They’re having a crisis of faith.
11 – 12Paranoid: They believe they’re surrounded by enemies.

Attack: Medium melee weapon (1d8 damage) or shield bash (1d6 damage and target is pushed back)
Special:

  • Quenching Blade: As their action, the white warden can make a melee attack that deals no damage. Instead, the target must succeed a Wisdom saving throw or be overcome with feelings of tranquility. While under this effect, a creature cannot attack or cast spells, and moves half their normal speed. This effect ends immediately if the affected creature suffers damage or the white warden is killed or rendered unconscious. A white warden can have a number of creatures equal to their hit dice under this effect.
  • Veil of Tears: As their action, a white warden can touch a creature and force them to re-experience their most painful memory. If the target fails a Wisdom saving throw, they become wracked with negative emotions and are incapacitated for a number of rounds equal to the white warden’s hit dice.
  • Lance of Light: Only white wardens with 6 or more hit dice can use this ability. As their action, the white warden emits a beam of brilliant light at target they can see within 100 feet. The target must succeed a Dexterity saving throw or be struck blind for a number of rounds equal to the white warden’s hit dice and lose their next set of actions. Using this ability leaves the white warden momentarily drained – until the end of their next turn, they have Disadvantage on all Strength- and Dexterity-based rolls.

I Search the Body: roll 1d10

RollResult
1-51d6 gold coins per hit die.
6A string of white jade prayer beads.
7A letter of introduction to a local official identifying the bearer as a White Warden.
8A coil of white and silver silk rope. Its knots can only be undone by the person who tied them.
9A white enameled silver amulet. People speaking to the wearer have difficulty telling lies (Disadvantage on rolls to deceive).
10A beautifully illuminated pocket-sized book containing detailed instructions on performing rituals of warding, sealing, and banishment.

NEW SPELL: Polychromic Bolt

Sorcerer/Wizard (Evocation)

As you speak the incantation, you gather chaotic energies into the space between your hands. The power coalesces into a projectile that shimmers with all the colors of the rainbow as it streaks toward your chosen target.

A polychromic bolt can affect on creature within a range of 30 feet plus 10 feet per caster level. The target can avoid the spell with a successful Dexterity saving throw.

On a failed save, roll 1d8 to determine the effect of the spell:

d8ColorEffect
1RedThe bolt burns the target for 1d6 points of damage per caster level and the target catches on fire.
2OrangeThe target is blasted backward 10 feet per caster level. If the target strikes a solid object (like a wall or another creature) it takes damage as if it had fallen from a height equal to the distance it had traveled.
3YellowThe target is incapacitated with pain as arcs of crackling yellow energy crawl over their body. The target is unable to perform any actions for a number of rounds equal to the caster’s level. Any creature that touches the target must make a Constitution saving throw or become incapacitated as well.
4GreenThe target is limned with sickly green light as their vitality leaves their body. For a number of rounds equal to the caster’s level, the target moves at half their normal speed and has Disadvantage on all rolls related to physical activities.
5BlueThe target’s eyes take on a faint blue glow. For a number of minutes equal to the caster’s level, they regard the caster as a friend and will take no hostile action towards them.
6IndigoThe target clutches their head as their mind is overwhelmed by psychic turmoil. For a number of rounds equal to the caster’s level, the target must must roll a 1d6 to determine their action: 1-2 – Stagger about in a random direction; 3-4 – Stand still and stare vacantly; 5 – Make a melee attack against a random creature within reach, or themselves if no other target is available; 6 – Act as normal
7VioletThe target is surrounded by an aura of purple light and floats up 10 feet off the ground for a number of rounds equal to the caster’s level. While floating, the target can only move by pushing off of, or pulling across, a solid surface.
8WhiteThe target disappears in a flash of brilliant white light. A fist-sized hunk of clear, multi-faceted crystal rests on the ground where the target stood. An image of the target appears inside the crystal – they are trapped inside for one hour per caster level or until the crystal is broken. While trapped, the target is conscious and can see and hear, but cannot be heard, outside of the crystal.

Random Encounter: Mercenary Pyrotheurge

Pyrotheurges are mystics with a great affinity for fire. Most spend their time cloistered in small communes or in secluded hermitage. But some, who chafe at a life of quiet contemplation, have found their calling in setting things on fire for money.

Hit Dice: 5 to 10 (22 to 45 hp); saves as a magic-user, has Advantage on saving throws related to fire.
Armor: Low (Heavy robes + average Dexterity); takes no damage from non-magical fire.
Movement: As a normal human.
Demeanor: roll 2d6

RollReaction
2 – 3Just got paid! Who’s down to carouse?
4 – 5You all look like you’re on the way to some action. Mind if I tag along?
6 – 8Need some firepower? Mine is yours, if the price is right.
9 – 10Get out of my way! Time is money and I’m wasting both talking to you.
11 – 12Nothing personal, but someone paid for you to burn.

Attack: Light melee weapon (1d6 damage)
Special: Pyrotheurgy – Each of the following effects requires the pyrotheurge to sacrifice 1d6 hit points to activate.

  • Serpentine Fire: The pyrotheurge uses their action to summon a sinuous stream of fire that can be wielded like a whip (1d4 damage + 1d4 fire damage, if a 4 is rolled for the fire damage, the target catches on fire) or thrown as a ranged attack (2d4 points of fire damage and the target catches on fire, 30 foot range).
  • Hell’s Wind: The pyrotheurge uses their action to unleash an arcing wave of flames with the sweep of their arm. Every creature in a 30-foot cone that fails a Dexterity saving throw takes 1d4 points of fire damage per hit die of the pyrotheurge and catches on fire.
  • Fire Walk with Me: The pyrotheurge uses their action to levitate off the ground, their feet surrounded by flames. For a number of rounds equal to their hit dice, the pyrotheurge can fly with a 50% increase in speed.
  • Smoldering Gaze: The pyrotheurge uses their action to enhance their vision. For a number of rounds equal to their hit dice, they can see normally in total and magical darkness, detect illusionary images, and see through invisibility.

I Search the Body: roll 1d10

RollLoot
1-42d10 silver coins
5-6A flask of potent, spicy liqueur
7Bronze and garnet jewelry worth 1d4x100 silver coins
81d4+1 firebombs
9A hooded robe, singed in places and smelling of smoke, but impervious to fire
10A heavy leather-bound tome with bronze fittings – a pyrotheurgical text.

LIFE IS A HIGHWAY, I’M GOING MY WAY: The Vagabond

You’ve tried your hand at a lot of things, some more successful than others. You’ve lived in a lot of different places, some longer than others. But in your heart of hearts, you’re a nomad, a wanderer, and wherever you lay your head is home.

You have hit dice, saving throws, and XP progression as a thief.

CODE OF THE ROAD
You’re fluent in a system of marks and symbols that vagabonds use to pass on information amongst themselves.

PRIZED POSSESSION
You like to travel light, but you always keep this item around for sentimental reasons.

Roll 1d6:
1 – Antique Weapon: The blade has a few notches, but it keeps a fine edge. You gain a bonus to rolls to attack with this weapon equal to your vagabond level.
2 – Secondhand Musical Instrument: Playing a tune helps you unwind after a long day on the road. Anyone listening to your music while resting recovers as if they had rested under ideal conditions.
3 – Rugged Boots: Well worn footwear that fit just right. You have Advantage on all rolls to keep your balance.
4 – Lucky Charm: A shiny trinket that caught your eye from the side of the road. Once per day, you can make any one roll with Advantage or force another character or creature make a roll with Disadvantage.
5 – Cookware: A cast iron stew-pot or skillet. A character who eats a meal cooked in it gains Advantage on their next roll to resist poison, disease, or any other physically debilitating condition.
6 – Book: A journal of your travels and experiences. You can consult it to attempt any knowledge-based check with a bonus equal to your vagabond level.

If you are subject to an attack or effect that would kill you, you can sacrifice your prized possession to stay alive. You cannot acquire a new prized possession until you gain another experience level in vagabond.

ADVANCING AS A VAGABOND
At first level and whenever you gain a level, roll twice on the following table. If you have sacrificed your prized possession to save your life, only roll once.

Roll 1d30:
1 – Ain’t Got Time to Bleed: Once per day, you can ‘defer’ one instance of hit point loss from any source for one minute. Every time you roll this again, you gain another use of this ability per day.
2 – Another Mouth to Feed: You’ve picked up a travelling companion equivalent to a 0-level hireling. Every time you roll this again, you can gain another companion or one already accompanying you gains a level in vagabond.
3 – Bloody Knuckles: Your two most reliable allies are your left and right hands. You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls with unarmed strikes.
4 – But It’s a Dry Heat: You gain a +2 bonus to rolls related to resisting the effects of non-magical adverse weather conditions.
5 – Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker: Every now and then, you’ve had to pick up and odd job to make ends meet. You gain a +2 bonus to rolls related to a craft or trade of your choice.
6 – By the Pricking of My Thumbs: You’ve learned that danger can lurk behind any curve in the road. Once per day, you can automatically detect an ambush or hidden trap. Every time you roll this again, you gain another use of this ability per day.
7 – Call Me What You Will: You brush aside petty insults and threatening looks. You gain a +2 bonus to rolls to resist intimidation and coercion.
8 – Conjuror of Cheap Tricks: Your hands are so quick, some might consider it magic. You gain a +2 bonus to rolls related to juggling, palming, and sleight of hand.
9 – Folk Medicine: You’ve cobbled together some rudimentary healing skills from home remedies and old wives’ tales. You gain a +2 bonus to rolls related to diagnosing and treating injuries and illnesses.
10 – Friends in Low Places: Name an inhabited area; you have a relatively loyal contact living there who provides you with information and advice. You can also call in a favor from them, after which they will no longer be your contact.
11 – Gotta Have Faith: Pick a religion; you know enough about its doctrine and traditions to convincingly pass as an adherent. Every time you roll this again, you can pick another religion or gain a +2 bonus to rolls related to one you already know of.
12 – Hardy: You gain an extra hit die’s worth of hit points.
13 – I Walk the Ley Line: You’ve developed a sensitivity to the web of magical power the envelopes the world. You can detect their presence with a successful Wisdom/Perception roll. Every time you roll this again, you gain a +2 bonus to the detection roll.
14 – In the Pale Moonlight: You know an occult ritual to summon an otherworldly being. The ritual can only be performed at a crossroads at night. Roll 2d6, modified by your Intelligence; on a result of 10 or more, the ritual succeeds. On a 7-9, you summon something, but not what you intended. A roll of 6 or less indicates failure. Every time you roll this result again, you gain a +2 bonus to rolls related to interacting with the being you summoned.
15 – Intestinal Fortitude: You gain a +2 bonus to rolls to resist poison, intoxication, and food- and water-born diseases.
16 – It’s All in the Reflexes: You gain a +1 bonus to your Armor Class when not wearing armor.
17 – King of the Road: You gain a +2 bonus to rolls related to wagons, carriages, and other wheeled vehicles.
18 – Know When to Hold ‘Em, Know When to Fold ‘Em: You gain a +2 bonus to rolls related to gambling and games of chance.
19 – Let’s Make a Deal: You gain a +2 bonus to rolls related to bargaining, haggling, and negotiating.
20 – Mysterious Ways: The first time you roll this, you no longer leave a trail or tracks unless you wish. The second time you roll this, you can move at full speed without incurring a penalty to rolls related moving stealthily. The third time you roll this result, you can attempt to hide while being observed. The fourth, and every subsequent, time you roll this, you gain a +2 bonus to rolls related to sneaking and stealthy movement.
21 – Polyglot: You become fluent in a language of your choice. (If you roll this result twice, you can elect to know one secret language – like thieves’ cant – instead of two common languages.)
22 – Sing for Your Supper: You gain a +2 bonus to rolls related to a visual or performing art of your choice.
23 – Stowaway: You are adept at getting into and hiding in cramped spaces. You can squeeze through openings as if your were one size category smaller. Every time you roll this again, you gain a +2 bonus to rolls related to hiding.
24 – Survival Instincts: You gain a +2 bonus to rolls related to finding food, water, and shelter in the wilderness.
25 – Sweat the Technique: You gain a +2 bonus to rolls related to a combat trick (strike to disarm, strike to stun, trip, etc.) of your choice. Every time you roll this, you can pick an additional trick or gain an additional +2 bonus to one you already chose.
26 – Tongue Twister: You have a talent for tying people into rhetorical knots. You gain a +2 bonus to rolls to deceive others.
27 – Traveling Without Moving: You know a ritual to induce an out-of-body experience. An Intelligence/Arcana roll determines how many minutes your consciousness can safely exist outside your body. While out of your body, you are intangible and invisible, and you can fly at twice your normal speed. During the experience, your body appears to be asleep and is completely helpless. Every time you roll this again, you gain a +2 bonus to the ritual roll.
28 – Unnerving Stare: As you action, you can stare down an adversary that meets your gaze. Make an opposed Charisma/Personality roll; if you succeed, you can make one demand of the creature you’ve unnerved. If you fail, the creature becomes hostile towards you. Every time you re-roll this result, you gain a +2 bonus to the opposed roll.
29 – Wild at Heart: You gain a +2 bonus to rolls related handling and interacting with animals.
30 – You Can Never Have Too Many Knives: No matter what you’re carrying or how thoroughly you’re searched, you can always reveal a hidden dagger. Every time you roll this again, you can produce another, different, mundane item of similar size – a candle, a length of wire, a deck of cards, etc.