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Against the Giants (Personal 3.5 Redux) LONG

 
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DrassustheGaunt
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 9:51 pm    Post subject: Against the Giants (Personal 3.5 Redux) LONG Reply with quote

Here's a rough take on my ideas for the background of the AtG series.

It occurs the same time as the original module...

Decades ago, a dying/degenerating illithid city dwindled to a population of 203. However, it was at that time - the lowest point in the history of that vile metropolis - an ulitharid¹ was born to the city. Underpopulated and severely weakened by starvation and acrimony (both internal and external), the city had hope in this wickedest of messiahs.


Upon reaching maturity, this ulitharid devised a complex plan. Using existing underdark tunnels and dungeons beneath certain prominent giant leaders’ demenses, circuitous routes to and from the city were constructed. These routes have the purpose of food transportation.

These paths deep within Oerth have directions carved in the walls at regular intervals. However, these carvings are completely useless to non-Illithid races since:
1} The directions are in Qualith², which is nigh on indecipherable (DC 35) to other races.
2} They are placed high on the cavern walls which must be reached by levitation, thus making them nearly impossible to find, let alone decipher.

Only one illithid travels with a slave-caravan from a giant’s stronghold. The rest of the overseers/guards are heavily conditioned thralls. The illithid acts as little more than a guide and manager.


The trip from a giant’s dungeon to the home city is easy for a slave-caravan but impossible for adventurers due to the reasons previously mentioned. Plus, there are many “false” tunnels leading the naïve astray, into danger or both.

The way is long and meandering but it is both safe and easily found by those with an illithid guide.


The ulitharid’s agreement/treaty with the giants is based on his extraordinary Diplomacy skill and the Lawful nature of his race. The ulitharid supplies the giants with a degree of strategic acumen they could never achieve on their own along with vital information to which they’d otherwise never have access. The ulitharid and elder brain provide the former; their network of bribed or controlled agents offers the latter. Needless to say, matching the above with the physical power and brutality of the giants makes for a terrifying and powerful alliance.


The ulitharid’s high Diplomacy, INT and pertinent skills keep this evil machine running smoothly with chilling efficiency.

The various races of giants involved have little contact with one another, yet the ulitharid informs them all of the others' accomplishments, thus promoting competition.

The ulitharid constantly reinforces the dynamic of this allegiance by emphasizing the fact that all the associated intellectual burdens (planning, intel-gathering, supply schedules, mapping transportation routes, et al) are off the giant leaders’ shoulders.


This arrangement is ideal for many reasons:
1} Illithids are cowardly, always preferring to have others do the tasks involving serious risks.
2} The giants are mentally much weaker, therefore the illithids retain much of an upper hand.
3} The Lawful nature of the illithids is well suited to such symbiotic undertakings.
4} This bargain makes the giants appear far more advanced, tactically skilled and cunning than they ever could on their own. This means their respective reputations increase in beneficial ways while the illithids get to remain (comfortably and safely) in the shadows; the mind-flayers care nothing for “credit”.
5} In fact, only those giants inside their respective leadership’s inner-circle even know of this sinister cooperation.


As the illithids are far more concerned about acquiring a steady source of food, the giants are given the preponderance of pillaged treasure from the raids. In exchange for this, the raiding giants accord the capture of prisoners a much higher priority.

Once the enemy is in captivity they are cast into the giant’s dungeon as quickly as possible (another high priority). From there, the prisoners are taken via the aforementioned underdark passages to the illithid city.




1 = Lords of Madness, p. 158
Quote:

MIND FLAYER, ULITHARID
Large Aberration
Hit Dice:12d8+36 (90 hp)
Initiative:+6
Speed:30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class:20 (–1 size, +2 Dex, +5 natural, +4 mage armor),
touch 11, fl at-footed 18
Base Attack/Grapple:+9/+16
Attack:Long tentacle +11 melee (1d8+3)
Full Attack:2 long tentacles +11 melee (1d8+3) and 4 short
tentacles +11 melee (1d8+3)
Space/Reach:10 ft./5 ft. (10 ft. with 2 long tentacles)
Special Attacks:Extract, improved grab, mind blast, psionics
Special Qualities:Spell resistance 27, telepathy 200 ft.
Saves:Fort +7, Ref +6, Will +13
Abilities:Str 16, Dex 14, Con 16, Int 21, Wis 17, Cha 21
Skills:Bluff +15, Concentration +18 (+22 casting defensively),
Diplomacy +14, Disguise +5 (+7 acting in character), Hide +8,
Intimidate +17, Knowledge (any) +15, Knowledge (any) +15,
Listen +8, Move Silently +12, Sense Motive +8, Spot +18
Feats:Combat Casting, Improved Initiative, Improved Natural
Attack, Iron Will, Spell Penetration
Environment:Underground
Organization:Solitary or court (1 ulitharid, 3–5 mind fl ayers,
and 6–10 grimlocks)
Challenge Rating:12
Treasure:Double standard
Alignment:Usually lawful evil
Advancement:By character class
Level Adjustment:+9

Sinister and regal, this towering humanoid-shaped being stands
almost 9 feet tall. Its flesh is rubbery and mauve in color, glistening with slime. It wears ornate robes that sweep the ground. Its head is octopoidal in form, with four short tentacles and two much longer ones where its mouth should be. Its eyes are blank orbs of silver-white.


An ulitharid is in all ways a bigger, stronger, nastier mind flayer.
It towers over other illithids, and in addition to the normal four
tentacles of its race, it has two much longer tentacles that are
nearly the length of its body. It is also smarter, worse-tempered,
and much more dangerous than its smaller kin. Fortunately,
ulitharids are also quite rare.
An ulitharid is the result of unknown forces playing
on a mind flayer tadpole at a very early age. Even the
mind flayers themselves cannot identify ulitharid
tadpoles until after they are implanted into the skull
of a victim. Their potential becomes apparent only
after ceremorphosis has progressed far enough to
show that the creature possesses six tentacles. Fewer
than one in a hundred illithid tadpoles become
ulitharids.
Ulitharids are treated almost as
minor deities within those communities lucky enough to claim one as a
resident. They occupy a position just
below the elder brains in the illithid
social hierarchy. Their egos expand to
match their stature; they look down upon
normal mind flayers in much the same way
that mind flayers look down on urophions.
COMBAT
An ulitharid is a tremendously
dangerous foe in combat, because its
potent mental attacks are backed
up by 10-foot reach and a grapple
ability reflective of the creature’s
large size. An ulitharid can
protect itself with psionic
mage armor (reflected in the
statistics above), and it normally
maintains this power at all times.

Extract (Ex): An ulitharid that begins its turn with at least
four tentacles attached and that makes a successful grapple
check automatically extracts the opponent’s brain, instantly
killing that creature. This power is useless against constructs,
elementals, oozes, plants, and undead. It is not instantly fatal
to foes with multiple heads.
Improved Grab (Ex): To use this ability, an ulitharid must
hit a Small, Medium, or Large creature with its tentacle attack.
It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without
provoking attacks of opportunity. If it wins the grapple
check, it establishes a hold and attaches the tentacle to
the opponent’s head. An ulitharid can grab a Huge
or larger creature only if it can somehow reach the
foe’s head.
If an ulitharid begins its turn with at least one
tentacle attached, it can try to attach its remaining
tentacles with a single grapple check. The opponent
can escape with a single successful grapple check
or an Escape Artist check, but the ulitharid gets
a +2 circumstance bonus on the check for every
tentacle that was attached at the beginning of
the opponent’s turn.
Mind Blast (Sp): An ulitharid can
discharge a devastating psionic attack in
the form of a cone 60 feet long. Anyone
caught in this cone must succeed on a
DC 21 Will save or be stunned for 3d4
rounds. The save DC is Charisma-based.
This ability is the equivalent of a 4thlevel spell.
Psionics (Sp): At will—charm
monster(DC 19), detect thoughts (DC
17), dimension door, levitate, mage
armor (self only), plane shift,
suggestion (DC 18); 1/day—
dominate monster (DC 24),
mass suggestion (DC 21).
Caster level 12th. The save
DCs are Charisma-based.



2 = Lords of Madness, p.71
Quote:
Mind flayers use a unique written language known as Qualith. Qualith has no spoken form; it is a record of pure telepathic communication. Qualith script resembles four parallel lines of raised dashes and spaces, intended to be read by touch. Each line carries an independent train of thought, but to understand the message, all four lines must be read simultaneously. The
cadence of the writing attempts to capture the rhythm and sensation of multilayered telepathic communication. The effect is nearly impossible for nonillithids to understand or translate without years of study (DC 35 Decipher Script check).
Qualith script is common throughout most illithid architecture. In many cases, it runs in unbroken expanses on every wall. Explorers and intruders who don’t understand the significance of the geometrical markings mistake them for religious symbols or decorative carvings.

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SirXaris
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 8:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a very logical twist on the source behind the rising in the Giants series.

I remember that the Ulitharid was first introduced in a Dungeon Magazine adventure called Thunder Mountain. They are an excellent addition to the Mind Flayer civilization.

SirXaris
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DrassustheGaunt
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 9:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SirXaris wrote:
This is a very logical twist on the source behind the rising in the Giants series.



Many thanks, Sir Xaris Smile

This brings to mind a belief of mine:

Many often say "this/that isn't realistic, so I don't like it" when they read something in fantasy (D&D, specifically, in this context).

What I personally believe they mean by that is "this/that lacks internal consistency".

Recall, "the willing suspension of disbelief" is to permit the existence of dragons and magic, not to support plot-holes and/or poor structuring.

SirXaris wrote:
I remember that the Ulitharid was first introduced in a Dungeon Magazine adventure called Thunder Mountain. They are an excellent addition to the Mind Flayer civilization.


Cool; I had no idea. I looked and found this:

Quote:
Originally found in Dungeon Magazine #24 ("Thunder Under Needlespire", Jul/Aug 1990, James Jacobs), and Monstrous Compendium Annual One (1994).




- D
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SirXaris
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DrassustheGaunt wrote:

Cool; I had no idea. I looked and found this:

Quote:
Originally found in Dungeon Magazine #24 ("Thunder Under Needlespire", Jul/Aug 1990, James Jacobs), and Monstrous Compendium Annual One (1994).


Yes, that is correct. I remembered less than perfectly. Razz

SirXaris
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DrassustheGaunt
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No problem.

I just wanted to mention it in case you felt like revisiting it.

My sincere apologies if I gave offense as I certainly intended none.




Side note: I've noticed you posted various campaign write-ups.

You'd recommend I start with which?



- D
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SirXaris
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DrassustheGaunt wrote:
No problem.

I just wanted to mention it in case you felt like revisiting it.

My sincere apologies if I gave offense as I certainly intended none.


No problem. Smile


Quote:
Side note: I've noticed you posted various campaign write-ups.

You'd recommend I start with which?

- D


Well, I prefer The Keep on the Borderlands, but there are many excellent starts. Others that come to mind are The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, The Village of Hommlet, In Search of the Unknown, and any of the Paizo APs from their stint in charge of Dungeon Magazine. My personal favorite of those is The Savage Tide. Wink

SirXaris
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DrassustheGaunt
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2014 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some more notes for my redux of Against The Giants that I uncovered during my move:



Some time ago, the ulitharid made a deal with the troglodyte tribe beneath the hill giant steading to act as slavers for the illithids.

In this situation, there are a few reasons why troglodytes make ideal guards for the incoming food supply:

1} Illithids will only eat troglodyte brains as an absolute last resort.

2} Troglodyte stench overpowers the scent ability, thus making them more difficult to track.

3} Troglodytes are well-suited to deal with the (unlikely event) of a slave revolt in the caravan. Their stench will non-lethally quash the uprising without a loss of “food”.

The troglodyte guards are accompanied at all times by a single illithid that acts as overseer, guide and translator (via telepathy).

Like all illithids, it is both a bully and a coward. Although the importance of its mission will embolden it, the creature will still flee, should the slave caravan be overwhelmed by a much more powerful force. It has a few magical means of escape (DM's discretion).


The illithid overseer will use its mind blast at the slightest sign of trouble since it is non-lethal. This denies prisoners a chance to organize some sort of escape.

While the captors make every effort to subdue their captives rather than kill them, the guards are armed with standard weapons.

The troglodytes retain free-will (they are not mind-controlled thralls), they have been threatened, intimidated and terrorized so thoroughly as to appear enthralled. Thus, since they are always afraid, they can use their Stench at will.

The troglodytes are compensated well, in better weapons than they’d normally possess (they have a desire for steel) and food (they’re given the – literally – brainless husks remaining after illithid meals (along with other illithid culinary cast-offs).

Needless to say, this tribe of slave drivers is the most powerful troglodyte tribe in a vast area of Greyhawk. However, they are never permitted to forget who their indisputable masters are.

Again, the ulitharid continually frames the bargain as symbiotic. It is not lying.

As previously stated, steel weapons (taken from warriors slain by the giants, of course) are the remuneration given to the troglodytes. This has helped them to obliterate or forcibly assimilate most of the nearby tribes into their own.

The troglodytes, as a race, are “usually Chaotic Evil”. However, due to the combined influence of both the ulitharid and the Elder Brain, this particular tribe has been made Neutral Evil.

A mixture of fear and awe keep them obedient to the ulitharid.¬
As with the giants, the ulitharid takes care of all of the wearisome logistics (such planning, organization and efficient use of resources were definitely weaknesses of both the giants and the troglodytes.

Really the genius of the ulitharid’s grand stratagem is simply:
1} Have its allies show up and do what they do best.
2} Request very little of them, at least as far as they perceive things.

Plus, considering the towering intellect of both the ulitharid and Elder Brain, the demands of the giants and troglodytes are nigh on inconsequential.

The ulitharid, with some assistance from the Elder Brain, administers the banalities of the hill, frost and fire giant kingdoms along with the now-largest troglodyte tribe in their part of Greyhawk.

The ulitharid’s INT 21 and Diplomacy +19 are -put to constant use both with and for thralls it manipulates.

Make no mistake; none of this is done from a sense of altruism. The ulitharid and Elder Brain have simply learned that carefully constructed cooperation nets much larger gains than subjugation and exploitation.

None of the troglodytes used to guard the captives speak or understand any human language. This negates almost any chance of trickery or bribery.

Prisoners faking (or actually somehow suffering from, though it would be odd to be captured in such a condition) serious illness or injury will automatically (although, unbeknownst to the faker/sufferer) will be that night’s dinner for their troglodyte captors.

So long as such occurrences remain infrequent (though they certainly need not be rare), the illithids will not protest or punish. To them, it is far better to be safe than sorry.

The troglodyte guards cannot find the illithid city without an overseer/guide (too stupid, lazy or both). Nor do they know much beyond guarding – and sometimes eating – the slaves. Thus, should any/all of them be captured, they've precious little information to supply interrogators.

The troglodytes don’t know the illithids eat the brains of captives. Illithids give the butchered remains to the troglodytes. This gives another benefit to the alliance while costing the illithids nothing. In fact, the remains are butchered so that the troglodytes remain ignorant of the illithid diet.

The troglodytes do not know much about the illithids besides the overseer assigned to them.

The troglodytes don’t know about the city due to the way the slaves are delivered. Troglodyte guards are unaware of the full extent their tribes treaty with the illithids.


The hill giants were the first to be brought in line. Though there was a legitimate negotiation between the hill giants and the ulitharid, it was child’s play to make a deal that was, and remains, appealing and rewarding for all parties concerned. Once that bargain was struck, the frost and fire treaties came quickly and easily, each of them being a learning experience.

Meticulous records kept by the ulitharid. These are thorough, exhaustive and kept current. They cover every aspect of its alliances; everything including prisoner counts, supply needs, battle strategies, casualty reports, et al. These are copied onto thin sheets of copper in Qualith.



The elder brain does much of the seneschal tasks for the various giant clans and troglodytes via a heavily conditioned, female drow. These works are in the Infernal tongue, due to its distinct lack of ambiguity.




- Ð
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