Sunday 5 February 2023

Encounter: Granny Grindle

Hooray - Granny's in Town!
Art: Fritz Mock

Granny Knows All

"Granny" Grindle (AKA Granny Grind-Your-Bones, AKA Granny Tattle) is a greenhag who lives alone in the wild a few miles from the nearest village, in a turf cottage built in front of a cave on a mossy outcrop of rock which is accessed through a stout wooden door. She is evil, sure, but she has a weakness for knowledge which she hoards almost as obsessively as she does the bones of her many victims.

When divination has failed and sages have shrugged their shoulders, those that are desperate, foolish, or greedy enough might consult with Granny Grindle.

Granny has 39 hit points and a collection of what she calls "nicknacks". Most of these are in fact bones she's carved to pass the time, and quite a lot are folkitems - macrame, basketweave, and even knitted goods brought to Granny as offerings by people in the local area. These people she doesn't eat very often; she likes the status she has amongst them and their offerings of local gossip are worth more to her than jewels. She uses the information gathered to subtly stir up trouble in the local villages, stoking grudges and creating misunderstandings with carefully worded ambiguous statements which can never quite be proven to be malicious on her part. It's like a 200-year-old soap opera, and Granny loves her soaps.

"Outsiders", other than ogres and giants whom she enjoys the company of, are a different kettle of fish. A poor reaction roll will see them eaten before negotiations of any kind are opened. Assuming that a party approaches her with the intent to consult her and she doesn't take an instant dislike to them, then a fee may be arranged. Granny is a plot device, so her chance of knowing the answer to a question must be decided based on the DM's campaign and the nature of the question but generally it should be high if it deals with history or magic within about 100 miles. She should have a good chance to identify rare magic items too, again depending on the DM's conception of the campaign world. But assume that Granny has some supernatural sources of information.

Granny will generally work by giving a partial answer to show that she knows whatever it is a party is interested in, then demand that they agree to perform a task for them. If they refuse, she will kill them. If they agree she will use her special power group quest (1/week). This is like the normal quest spell (cleric, 5th level) but it will affect any number of creatures (of Int 3 or above which can understand the language of the demand) within 6" who are willing. The spell will dissolve if any member of the group fulfils the demand or of the demand becomes impossible (e.g., a quest to find and bring a certain person back to the caster will dissolve if that person dies). The members of the group will magically know if the quest is dissolved. The task is a single collective one - each member can not be assigned a different task even if they are related, for example each member may not be quested to retrieve a different part of the Rod of Seven Parts. Finally, the spell fails if the caster tries to change the quest from what was agreed; but otherwise there is no save. Other than this ability she has the normal powers of a greenhag.

Her demands are invariably one of two types:

  1. Bring back some information about something or someone. She is willing to entertain suggestions about what she might like to learn about but she's always on the lookout for information about other hags and witches or anything about local nobility which might be good for blackmail.
  2. The death of someone who crossed Granny and escaped. This includes people who found a way to break their quests, even if the spell was dissolved automatically for some reason. Granny only cares that they didn't come back with the results she demanded.
Once the quest is fulfilled, of course, there is no ongoing obligation on either side. If Granny thinks that a person might perform other useful jobs, or is in fact a bit dangerous, then she will feign friendliness and bid them good day.

Any outsider who seems unlikely to be of interest to Granny again will go in the pot for stew.

If you are using the previous post's map, I'd place her on the Copeland Island (Hex 0400).


Granny has some "real" treasure, mostly collected from the remains of those who ended up in the pot:


346 pp, 471 gp

Blue Sapphire (1000 gp)
Chalcedony (50 gp)
Deep Green Spinel (100 gp)
Freshwater Pearl (10 gp)
Golden Yellow Topaz (500 gp)
Total value = 1660 gp

Magic Items
Cubic Gate - 1: PMP, 2: Happy Hunting Grounds, 3: Seven Heavens, 4: Ether, 5: Nirvana, 6: Elysium (17500 gp)
Potion of Fire Resistance (400 gp)
Total value = 17900 gp

Total value 21761 gp

The cash is scattered about in little clay pots in the cottage; the gems are woven into dream-catchers in the windows along with lots of coloured glass and ceramic. Magic items are hidden in the cave behind various heaps of bones.


Granny generally looks like a little old human woman in dirty but normal clothing. However, she is habitually invisible when not in her cave/cottage, travelling around her domain using pass without trace and spying on locals to increase her knowledge. If she sees a party approaching she will (assuming that she doesn't just attack them) ensure that they encounter her in whatever form seems most likely to aid her negotiations within the restrictions of her change self power. She may appear as a human, halfling, or half-elf. She may even appear in her natural form if she thinks it will help put the party on the back-foot.


All discussions will take place outside the cottage in an area around a cauldron with tree-stumps for seats. She will insist on everyone sitting and she will sit with her back to the open woods, not the cottage. She's been nearly cornered in the past and will not let herself be pushed into a confined space.

If negotiations break down or Granny feels that something is amiss, she will turn invisible and then use pass without trace and her 90% move silently ability to quickly withdraw and evaluate the options. Her preference will be to pick off a party one at a time but her surprise chance will be only 1-4 against a party who have seen her turn invisible and are expecting trouble. 

Her terrible strength is her main weapon and if she is able to surprise a target without a helm from behind each successful attack with her clenched fists during surprise will do 6 damage and result in unconsciousness if she succeeds in a roll on the assassination table. If there is no one within 12", an unconscious victim will have their throat cut (instant 0hp and bleeding out). Note that any attack negates her invisibility, but once she has resumed that she may mimic the dead figure's voice to lure others into her grasp.

Granny is particularly deadly against humans at night.


Granny will be found just on the edge between inhabitation and wilderness; a few miles from the nearest village just inside a forest or scrubland. Maybe on an island that can be reached by rowboat without too much danger. 

If you are using the previous post's map, I'd place her on Copeland Island (Hex 0400).

Don't forget that a greenhag can swim as fast as an unencumbered human can walk and can breath water.

Thursday 2 February 2023

Getting started, thinking small

Last time, I uploaded a map of the area we normally think of as constituting what we call "Ancient Greece" - a designation that the people living there may have struggled to understand given that they so rarely thought of themselves as being anything other than rivals until Alexander the Great rolled in and told them all to shut up. After he died, of course, they went back to not thinking of themselves as one nation until the Romans rolled in and told them all to shut up and pay their taxes.


That map is fairly typical of a small campaign map. For comparison, the individual map sheets in Judges Guild's seminal Wilderlands campaign are each about ⅙th the size of the Greek map in area, but there were 18 of them in the full campaign, which comes out at 3 times the area. The famous Darlene Greyhawk maps cover about 10% more than that again. So our "Ancient Greece" campaign is not exceptional but it is a massive geographical area to cover. If you are starting out running a campaign, this sort of thing can be very intimidating. Where to start?

Let's have a look at a smaller map - the one used in the thumbnail above. There's a jpeg of this map scaled so that it will fill an A3 sheet at 300dpi (or A4 at 424dpi).

The hex size on this map is 6 miles face-to-face (the size of the small hexes on the Greek map) and it is a very special map because it is the map I live on. But more than that. It is the map:

  • I was born on (hex 0201)
  • My parents lived on when I was very small (0101)
  • I went to school on (0301)
  • I was legally married on (0301 again)
  • We had our wedding reception on (0304)
  • I had my first programming job on (0101)
  • And, as mentioned, we now live on (in a specific hex with almost no other inhabitation, so I'm keeping that to myself)
I have lived and worked away from this map - I recently returned after 10 years in England - but my parents only left it - ever* - for holidays and my grandparents maybe only even did that once or twice.

Since I've spent a lot of time on this map I can tell you something useful about it: those 6m hexes are huge

Even with modern motorised transport and decades of living here, there are entire hexes on this map I have never passed through and many places in the hexes I have which I have never seen or visited. This is a map you could explore on foot for a lifetime.

This little map of 22 hexes is in fact big enough for a campaign.

At this point, I suggest you try to make a similar map for where you live now. At A3 size, the scale is 1"=2m, or 1:126720. If you use QGIS and save an area to that scale from the Open Street Map dataset (included) as an image you can import the image into Inkscape and add the hexes with the Inkscape Hex Map Extension. Be aware that the extension currently takes "hex size" to be point-to-point, so you need to give it sizes which are 1.155 times what you would expect to.

Even searching a sea hex takes time.
(It took me about an hour and a half to track this
bloody image down and I'm not sure it was worth it).
Art: Don Simpson's Megaton Man

If you do that then you will immediately see what I can see on this map - finding something the size of, say, a tomb in one of those hexes is going to be bloody hard unless the tomb is Mausolus's or the hex is made of flat glass, or you have magic.

Going back to the post "A Lorry-Load of Sand" from last year, I would guess that most of the hexes on this map would have been forest with the exception of the Ards Peninsula (running south from 0401) which would have been, in ye olden time, forested hills; 0101 would be forested hills and marsh (plus sea). Civilisation/patrolled would have been basically restricted to 0104, 0204, 0205, 0301, 0302, and 0305 (Belfast is a very new city, if you're wondering about that large conurbation in hexes 0101/0102 on the modern map).

If we plug in the details to the sandbox generator and selecting only plains, forest, hills, marsh, and shallow salt sea we get (seed 3645131196):
  • 0101 3 forest lairs, 0 marsh, and 1 salt water shallow lair. I've divided the results from the table to reflect the distribution of terrains. All plain wilderness.
  • 0102 3 forest lairs, wilderness.
  • 0103 I'm classing as patrolled and we get no lairs
  • 0104 is densely populated and we get no lairs again.
  • 0105 is patrolled and we get 2 forest lairs.
  • 0106 is patrolled, 1 forest lair.
  • 0201 (hex 7 on the table) is sparsely populated hills (Craigantlet) with no lairs.
  • 0202 is wild forest with 2 lairs.
  • 0203 is sparsely populated forest with 1 lair.
  • 0204 is densely populated and probably plains (Downpatrick area), so no lair.
  • 0205 is half populated hills and half patrolled (fishing boats and traders for Dundrum) shallow sea, giving us 1 sea lair (I rounded up).
  • 0301 (hex 12) is the area around what will one day be Bangor abbey/monastery and is basically populated hills, with no lairs.
  • 0302 is about half and half sea lough and hills, busy enough to count as densely populated. No lairs.
  • 0303 is unpopulated low-lying forest, no lairs.
  • 0304 is semi-populated and divided between plain and shallow sea. 1 lair on the land.
  • 0305 is semi-populated woodland, 1 lair.
  • 0306 is shallow sea. Semi-populated by boats trading up and down the coast (and some actual patrols to protect them). One lair.
  • 0401 (hex 18) semi-populated sea and hills. One lair in the hills.
  • 0402 unpopulated forested hills and patrolled shallow sea. 2 forest lairs (4 indicated, halved), no sea lairs.
  • 0403 as 0402 with 1 forest lair.
  • 0404 same again but no lairs at all, and finally.
  • 0405 open shallow sea with nothing in it.
That's a total of 20 lairs in total.

What are the lairs? Let's develop one of these hexes and see. Things will depend on your mix of acceptable monsters for your campaign, of course, but for hex 0101 four rolls on the DMG temperate tables for forest and salt water gives:
  1. Tribesmen (20)
  2. Pseudo-dragon (1)
  3. Shambling mound (2: 11 HD and 9 HD)
  4. Giant shark (1: 11 HD) 
The giant shark doesn't actually lair and technically I should have re-rolled (just as I did for the merchants I rolled for #1) but I decided that perhaps this shark just patrols here a lot. 

Why does it patrol here a lot? Well, maybe those (Celtic) tribesmen are doing something. Let's look at them in detail.

The base 20 is augmented by another 20 women and 20 children, so that's 60 in the tribe. There is also (some of this is rolled, some is a set number from the MM text): two 3rd level fighters, a 4th level fighter, and a 5th level chief. Additionally, two 4th level "druids" under the leadership of an 8th level witchdoctor (also druidic).  There's 20 slaves, but no captives.

They have ivory - probably walrus or perhaps whale products like narwal horns - worth 4,000gp. The village itself is just a bunch of huts; there is no wall of any sort

The slaves will be a mix of tribal taboo-breakers and useful captives from other tribes. 

The 5th level fighter leading them has stats that look like this (from More IV):

Str: 18
Int: 6
Wis: 15, Alignment Neutral
Con: 12, hp 37
Dex: 12, AC 7
Cha: 15
Com: 16

Basically, a charismatic lunkhead. Presumably the witchdoctor is the brains. Let's look at him:

Str: 16
Int: 12
Wis: 17, Alignment LN
Con: 8, hp 50
Dex: 10, AC 7
Cha: 7
Com: 12

Yes - everything you'd want in a leader except no one likes him.

So let's say that they have no normal captives because they worship the giant shark and normally captives get sacrificed to him. Having run out they're on the lookout for someone else to sacrifice. The slaves know that they'll be next if no one else is found, so their reaction dice to strangers will be at -20% in terms of rebelling. The full tribal members will be even worse at -30%. However, they will deliberately hide it.

I've always assumed that the indication of "druidic" casters in tribesmen does not necessarily mean that the casters are strictly druids with druid alignment restrictions, so I would definitely go with a Wicker Man or Burn the Witch feel.

The shambling mounds will be in the marshes where the river flows out into the tidal mudflats - the area which has extensively been reclaimed and modified on the modern map. They - or the remains of their victims - are rich in treasure:
  • 1000 cp,
  • Jewelry (4): 7000 gp Seal, 3000 gp Chain, 2000 gp Crown, 2000 gp Buckle,
  • Scroll of Protection - Electricity, 
  • Spell Scroll (Magic User: Transmute Rock to Mud, Mass Charm, Mass Invisibility, Glassteel, Cone of Cold, Rary's Mnemonic Enhancer),
  • Bracers of Archery, 
  • Potion of Speed
The pseudo-dragon might be an ally against the tribesmen due to its N(G) alignment, but even if a party hears a rumour of such a thing existing how would they find a 1½' long creature in a 6 MILE hex which is, as mentioned previously, bloody huge? They would need magic, of course.

In any case, its treasure consists of gems:

2 x Aquamarine (500 gp), Black Pearl (500 gp), 2 x Bloodstone (50 gp), Blue Quartz (10 gp), Carnelian (50 gp), Deep Blue Spinel (500 gp), Fiery Yellow Corundum (1000 gp), Freshwater Pearl (10 gp), Lapis Lazuli (10 gp), 2 x Red-brown Spinel (100 gp), Tourmaline (100 gp), Turquoise (10 gp), 2 x Zircon (50 gp)  for a total of 3590gp.

So, there it is. A small campaign map into which to place your first dungeon and a hex fleshed out with some tougher opponents for later. Roll up the rest of the encounters, add a few settlements (I'd go with 0204 for the major one) and maybe a patron sending the party on their first expedition.

Get a ring binder or some electronic equivalent (or my Campaign Map Book!) and use a page for each hex, noting down what the PCs do in each which may affect other inhabitants and their views and actions in response.

If you can, once the ball is rolling get someone to role-play the leaders of particularly strong lairs - whether large groups of bandits or individual intelligent monsters. Then you'll get some use out of all those hexes you rolled up and someone else will do some of the work for you!

*Actually, Dad was evacuated during the war off the top of the map, but that was a bit exceptional.