Thursday, March 12, 2015

The music in my games

Music is an important inspirational tool in my gaming. I listen to music when i write stuff, i listen to music when i play games and when i listen to music my drifts into those imaginary realms that are such a big part of my life.

Following is a selection of music that connects me to the realms of my imagination. Feel free to supplement with your own in the comments section.

Steeleye Span - Seven Hundred Elves

Play D&D for a long time and you are bound to become ambivalent towards the tolkienesque elves of the vanilla settings. British folk rock band Steeleye Span hearkens back the elves of mythology, "(...) foul and grim they were", in this song lending them some much needed authenticity. 

Blood Ceremony - The Great God Pan

I can never get enough of heavy brooding metal, mythological references and stunning female vocals.

Blood Ceremony was actually recommended to me by Jefferey Talanian of North Wind Adventures who has created Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea the retro-clone that really opened my eyes to the OSR. Encounters with dark satyrs are bound to crop up in my games.

(This live video contains a bit of "concert atmosphere" before the song starts)

Ozzy Osbourne - Old LA tonight

This song was sort of special to me back in my teens when we played Kult and swedish cyberpunk/euro tech-thriller game Neotech (the 1st edition, 2nd was crap).

It was a great time. Our characters were typically based on Predator comics character Detective Schafer and some of them looked like Lorenzo Lamas on Renegade.

The combination of melancholy and action-movie aesthetics was very moving to my angsty teenage self and it still gets me every time.

Frederick Curzon - Robin Hood Suite

Not everything needs to be rock and roll. Curzon's Robin Hood Suite feels like that Robin Hood movie with Errol Flynn, a movie that took my mind to other places long before i even knew what fantasy was. (I've always wanted a PC that looks like Errol Flynn, why haven't done that?). Enjoy!

Hawkwind - Chronicle of the Black Sword

I don't think i need to explain this. Hawkwind and Moorcock's collaboration on giving the saga of Elric the Melniboné a musical expression is just awesome. It is the audio expression of so much of the inner landscape I've been playing in since childhood.

My personal favorite on the album is probably "Needle Gun" though which always makes me think of fletchette-gun toting original razor girl Molly Millions from William Gibson's Neuromancer. (Although I'm aware that it is supposed to reference Moorcock's character Jerry Cornelius).

There is a live concert movie with the songs from Chronicle of the Black Sword available on YouTube. Including, if I'm not mistaken, Michael Moorcock himself.

p.s I usually use Spotify for listening to music so i added the albums where these songs can be found and few other treats of Norwegian fantasy inspired prog to a public spotify playlist.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Nymph for 5e

Anders Zorn (1885)
The nymph is a creature that appears every so often in D&D. The first time was in the Blackmoor supplement in 1975 and after that in the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual. In later editions, the nymph seems to have lost popularity.

The nymph does not appear in the 5e Monster Manual and apparently didn't show up until Monster Manual III of the 4th edition (i have never played nor been a fan that edition).

So what is wrong with the Nymph?

Fighting beautiful forest women who really are somewhat nice, is not as motivating as taking out that beholder in those ruins over there. I get that. The Nymph is not really a «monster».

The fact that the fight might be a bit hard since you can go blind just looking at her and that you could even die if she happens to be naked is also a bit boring. A Nymph could end your character fast and probably without much fun.

Death by nudity is not just silly...

The death by nudity thing is troubling in terms of sexism as well. It reinforces the view that female sexuality is somehow dangerous, which again leads to the classic double standard about sex. The impossible demand that women should be both chaste and erotically available at the same time is a staple of how many cultures have controlled women.

It also robs the Nymph, as a character, of so much agency. If she is to avoid causing blindness (or death) to those around her, she has to stay hidden and out of the way. (I am aware that some editions have stated that a Nymph can suppress these abilities, which makes it better, but the point still stands)

But I like Nymphs

I like having strange, powerful and erotic forest women as monsters/NPC's in my campaigns. Nevertheless, i want them to be a less silly and more interesting as an ally or patron to the characters.

So what do i do? I make my own Nymph:


Medium fey, chaotic good
Armor Class: 11
Hit Points: 154 (28d8+28)
STR 10 (+0) DEX 12 (+1) CON 12 (+1) INT 16 (+3) WIS 20 (+5) CHA 28 (+9)
Skills: Deception +13, Insight +9, Nature +7, Perception +9, Stealth +5
Damage immuities: Acid, Poison
Damage resistances: Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing
Senses: darkvision 60ft., passive Perception 19
Languages: Elvish, Sylvan
Challenge: 11 (7,200)

Blinding beauty: The nymph's otherworldly beauty makes attacks against them hard. Creatures attacking a nymph must make a DC 21 Charisma saving throw or have disadvantage on their attacks.

Spellcasting: The nymph is a 7th-level spellcaster. Her spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 17, +9 to hit with spell attacks).

  • Cantrips (at will): Druidcraft, Guidance, Thorn Whip
  • 1st Level (4 slots): Entangle, Faerie Fire, Fog Cloud, Healing Word
  • 2nd Level (3 slots): Barkskin, Gust of Wind, Hold Person
  • 3rd Level (3 slots): Call Lightning, Conjure Animals, Wind Wall
  • 4th Level (1 slot): Confusion


Improvised Club. Melee Weapon Attack: +1 to Hit, reach 5ft., one creature. Hit: 2 (1d4) bludgeoning damage.

Change Shape. A Nymph can use her action to magically polymorph into a beast with a challenge rating no higher than its own, or back into its true form.

In the new form, the nymph retains its alignment, hit points, Hit Dice, proficiencies, lair actions, and Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma scores as well as this action. Any other statistics and capabilities are replaced by those of the new form, except any class features or legendary actions of that form.

Fey charm. The nymph targets one humanoid or beast within 30 feet of her. If the target can see the nymph, it must succeed on a DC 21 Wisdom saving throw or be magically charmed. The charmed creature regards the nymph as a trusted friend to be heeded and protected. Although the target is not under control of the nymph, it takes nymph's actions or requests in the most favorable way it can.

Each time the nymph or its allies do anything harmful to the target, it can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect itself on a success. Otherwise, the effects lasts 24 hours or until the nymph dies, is on a different plane of existence from the target, or ends the effect as a bonus action. If the target's saving throw is successful, the target is immune to the nymphs Fey Charm for the next 24 hours.

The nymph can have no more than one humanoid, but any number of beasts, charmed at a time.
Soltice Night by Forest Girl at deviantart (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Nymph lairs

Nymph lairs are beautiful natural places. Deep forest groves or spacious natural caves covered in rich moss. Water is always present in a nymph’s lair. A deep pool, a hole in a flowing river or a trickling silvery brook.

It is common to find animals inside or close to a nymph lair. Assume there is at least two beasts of challenge rating 1 or lower near a nymph lair at any time.

Other fey also usually flock to nymph lairs. Pixies, Blink dogs and Sprites are all common. Nymphs take Satyr lovers from time to time as well.

Lair actions:

On initiative count 20 (losing ties), the nymph takes a lair action to cause one of the following effects:
Black Puma by Lizars Mariomassone
  • Can cause any intruder into her lair to go blind. The creature is allowed a DC 17 Constitution saving throw to avoid this effect. This condition is removed normally.
  • Can cause any part of the ground, up to a 20-foot radius, in her lair to twist and sprout pikes and thorns. This area becomes difficult terrain and a creature moving into or within the area takes 2d4 piercing damage. The area is not camouflaged in any way.
  • Can conjure a vine that sprouts from the ground in an unoccupied space within the lair. This vine can lash out at a creature within 30 feet of it. The creature must make a DC 17 Dexterity saving throw or be pulled 20 feet towards the vine. The vine will restrain the creature until it succeeds on a DC 21 Strength (Athletics) check or is released by the nymph.
  • Can conjure one beast of challenge rating 1 or lower; or can conjure one fey of challenge rating ½ or lower.
Responses and constructive feedback are always welcome.
PS. after writing this i came across the suggestion in the Swords & Wizardry Monstrosities book that looking at a nymph could change someone into an animal. That is also very cool and i would probably add that power to my 5e nymph version.