The forces of evil claimed that Vance's Vial of Victory would bring power to all - in fact, it helped only them.
From The Con Director
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to Princecon XX. Each year at this time the Princeton Simulation Games Union fills a weekend with a unique role-playing experience which we hope you will enjoy.
After you finish registering at Hireling Hall, take some time to peruse this manual and familiarize yourself with this year's theme and system. Then choose your character's race, class, and religion. From this information, our computer will produce a character sheet with appropriate statistics.
This character sheet allows you to participate in as many adventures as you wish. At the end of each adventure, you should return to Hireling Hall, where the sheet will be updated with your newly gained experience. If you happen to die, you may begin again with a new character.
Throughout your travels, you may gain magic items, which will be distributed on index cards. You may keep these cards over many adventures. If you die, you may retain your magic items unless your body is irretrievable.
Adventures can take place anytime; just gather together enough players to form an expedition and approach the GameMaster of your choice. Registration opens at 3 p.m. Friday, and the first scenarios begin at 5 p.m. Most adventures will run from 4 to 6 hours. All adventuring will end at 3 p.m. Sunday, when everyone will convene in the Senate Chamber of Whig Hall to discuss the weekend's events. Awards will also be presented at this ceremony.
This year's system is very similar to last year's, but has been refined. You are advised to examine the rules before selecting your character class. As previous years, thieves have been replaced by Scouts as a PC class.
We have revamped the two nature religions, and made their deities consorts. Accordingly, the female Danu has replaced the male Alhazien. The new descriptions have proven much more enjoyable in our campaigns. Please note that followers of either are treated as followers of the the other for spell purposes. We hope that devotees of these religions will enjoy the improvements.
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the many people who have helped bring this convention to fruition. The con system is the product of countless people over two decades, but we would like to recognize in particular Howard Mahler, the primary of the combat and magic systems, whose campaign system started it all. Bob West developed our religion system in 1985, using ideas from his campaign, and edited the changes for this year's conbook. The mage spell modifier concept is primarily the work of Dan Eisenstein.
York Dobyns and Tim Oliver are responsible for the computer software. Shantanu Saha prepared the prizes. Bruce Berger, York Dobyns, Dan Eisenstein, Elliot Fertik, Hugh and Margaret Huntzinger, Dahlia Kang, Scott Kitchen and Jen Doyle, Keith Kline, Mark Krumholz, Howard Mahler, Aaron Mulder, Tim Oliver, Ron Shigeta, Bob West, Matt Zinno and Andy Zovko are our GM's this year. Finally, we would like to thank all the other members of the SGU who have helped with playtesting and running the con.
To all, the best of luck and good adventuring,
Director PrinceCon XX
Best Character Awards
This year, every GM will judge the characters that participate in his scenario by three criteria: strategy, role-playing, and tactics. Strategy represents progress toward the long-term goals of the Con and the scenario, including gathering and passing along information. Tactics means using the resources at hand to deal with immediate puzzles and combats. Finally, role-playing is how well you play your persona and interact with other characters and NPCs. Each character, surviving or not, will be rated in these categories and receive an overall score for the convention.
Based on these total scores, an award will be given to the best character (not player) in each class: fighter, mage, cleric, and scout. In addition, certificates will be presented to the players (not characters) who rank as the best role-player, strategist, and tactician. Please be aware that players who run more than twice with any one GameMaster will not be eligible for awards.
PrinceCon XXI will run from March 9 to March 11, 1996. See you there!
A Note to all Participants
Please respect the Whig Hall building. We are here as guests, and if the facilities are abused we will not be able to hold PrinceCon here in the future. Sleeping in the building and shaving or washing up in the bathroom are not allowed. Also, please dispose of litter and soda cans in the containers provided.
Player Theme Pack
Player Theme Pack
The Kingdom of Penlu has been long dividing into two factions: High Magic and Low Magic. The origins of the conflict are complex, involving economic and political concerns, but there is a philosophical difference as well. The Low Magic faction is concerned that unrestrained use of great magical power will upset the Pattern of the World. The High Magic faction rejects this as silly, noting that responsible use of magic has been done for millennia without noticeable ill effects.
The two factions lived in increasingly uneasy peace, until Montgomery Vance, King Felgreth's chief wizard, invented a ritual that allows mages to boost their casting level temporarily. Vance's Vial of Victory (VVV) is a potion that can be readily made from a few hit points' worth of blood from any willing non-mage. If drunk with due ritual, the Mage gains a full level (including new spells!) until the next midnight. If drunk in haste, the effects only last an hour.
The Low faction, led by Nathan the Prophet, declared VVV to be, "an abomination against the laws of the gods and man," and claims to have evidence of ill effects. Few of the High faction believe them. Claims include that VVV is addictive, builds up in the body, shortens life span and causes birth defects. The Royal Institute of Magic has examined these claims, and found VVV to be "Safe and Effective when used as directed."
When King Felgreth ordered all mages in His Majesty's Service to regularly use VVV, the Low faction rebelled. While some of the Nobility held back, to see how the fortunes of war would turn, the most powerful were of the High faction, which held loyal to the King. Hireling Hall, of course, supported King Felgreth from the outset. Soon, only fanatical true believers remained on the Low side, which was quickly bested, largely through the use of VVV.
Now, the nature of the war is changing. No longer a clash of army-vs-army, it is turning into a siege of the few remaining strongpoints, and the occupation of the Low provinces. Oddly, now that the war is almost won, the voices of disloyalty can be heard, faintly. There are rumors of ill deeds done in the name of the King, and whispers that VVV was invented to goad the Lows into war. Perhaps these rumors are spurred by the recent increase in casualties.
Still, wars are not fought by saints, and if some of you have begun to doubt the absolute righteousness of the Cause, there are sure to be opportunities in abundance in the post-bellum period to exercise your individual conscience.
Hireling Hall is a free city in the Kingdom of Penlu. The physical location is on the High side of Penlu, somewhat south of the capital. Hireling Hall has fought on the side of the King since the beginning, against the Lows' unreasonable demands upon mages. It is no more the place of a selfstyled Prophet to dictate magic to mages, than it is the place of a mage to dictate religion to a true Priest. Clearly we have been justified in our beliefs, Prophet or no. There have been no ill effects from VVV, and the Lows are facing defeat.
As members of Hireling Hall, you have been serving as specialist and auxilliary forces with the Royal Army. In lieu of a regular rank, adventurers are designated by "circle". This corresponds roughly to what we know as level, but factors such as political position and type of service also factor in. Roughly speaking, adventurers of the fourth circle and above rank as officers, and are sometimes called upon to lead troops.
The lands around Hireling Hall are peopled with retired adventurers who have settled down to a more routine existance. Hireling Hall itself is endowed with magical protections put in place ages ago. These protections allow most of our adventurers who return alive to be rapidly restored to full health. Unfortunately, in the closing phase of the war, there appears to-be an inexplicable increase in the casualties among adventurers. Perhaps the Lows are adopting anti-adventurer tactics in the hope of weakening the realm for another day of rebellion.
Nonetheless, the magical protections and the formidable militia combine to make Hireling Hall one of the safest places in the realm. Even most Hermit clerics do not remember the last time that any foe has dared to attack.
Vance's Vial of Victory and the Mages of Penlu
VVV is a potion made from the blood of a willing non-mage. This costs the donor ld3 HPs, and preparation takes a turn. The potion lasts a week, or until consumed. If consumed with proper ritual (which also takes one turn), the mage gains an effective level until the next midnight. If drunk in haste, as a normal potion, the effect is the same, but lasts only one hour. Please note that High mages have been using VVV for the duration of the war, and there have been no side effects of any sort.
All mages in the kingdom of Penlu are members of the Assembly of Wizards. The organization was founded over 150 years ago by a mysterious mage who was sick and tired of all of the fighting between mages that threatened to turn the kingdom into a smoking ruin. By a combination of diplomacy and magical might he managed to force all of the mages to meet. There, after months of debate, they announced the Compact - a treaty between all wizards there and in the future. This agreement stated:
- All wizards shall be members of the Assembly of Wizards. All wizards agree to hunt down renegades who use magic without belonging to the Assembly.
- The Assembly shall be established in a new city, Arcania. All wizards shall be welcome there upon progressing to the Fifth Circle (i.e. 5th level). No other beings shall be in Arcania unless they are the guests of a wizard.
- The Assembly shall elect a council and a Speaker to conduct the day to day affairs of the Council.
- No vote of the Assembly shall be binding on all wizards unless it passes by a 2/3 vote.
Since then, many have heard about the wonders of Arcania. All wizards know of it, and joined the Assembly when they become apprentices (generally just a formality), but none know the exact location. Most mages actually go to Arcania infrequently, at best, and there have been no significant votes that passed with the requisite majority. It's hard enough to get that many mages to agree about anything, and these days, there are never enough mages there.
In the recent war between the lows and the highs, the Assembly has remained officially neutral. However, many mages are rather sympathetic to the King and his minions, because of the quite correct perception that the Lows have an anti-magic bias.
When the gods first came from somewhere else so many years ago, they gathered together. In the Void, their speech echoed throughout the empty universe as they debated their course of action.
We must create a world as an outlet for our energies, said Daglir. I feel the urge to create stone, and matter. It shall be a beautiful world, never changing, to please us until the end of time.
But who will inhabit this world? Thus spoke the Great Mother, Danu. Who will share its beauty with us? We can not be selfish, keeping such a wonder to ourselves. And static beauty is not true beauty. There must be change on this world, and for real change there must be life.
Then spoke Carrunos, the consort of Danu. There must be competition on this world. Life without competition, the sport of one against another, would be just as static as my brother Daglir's vision of unchanging rock. This life must compete, even as we should compete among ourselves to make the most original and beautiful creations on this new world.
I agree that there should be competition, roared Leo. But it should be not be strong preying on the weak. Only equals should fight, meeting in glorious battle.
What is the point of battle without purpose? fumed Janda. There should be order among this life, and each should only get what they deserve.
Why must there always be conflict. It originated among ourselves. We argue among ourselves, when we should only have harmony. We should not make this new world soaked with blood. Life must be preserved as well as destroyed. Thus was spoken the quiet voice of Isaiah.
Among this conversation, one god did not speak. This was Menthax, the Dark One, whose true form even the gods could not clearly see.
Thus did the gods argue among themselves. Finally, the wisest of them all. Hione, spoke. Let us all make the world. Each of us shall give one gift to the world, and let none of his or her brethren gainsay this gift.
Thus did the gods agree, and so they spoke.
Let this world have FORM, said Daglir. Let it have substance, in a multitude of forms.
Let this world have LIFE, said Danu. Let all manner of creature and plant inhabit it.
Let this world have CHANGE, said Carrunos. Let all within it change, ever striving and competing for survival. Let those within it have their own place, but let this place never be fixed or permanent.
Let this world have COMPETITION, said Leo. Let those within it use this competition to determine the most worthy among themselves, competing for glory. May they always strive to improve themselves in contests among themselves, and may the winner rule.
Let this world have JUSTICE, said Janda. May there be those who protect the weak, and may those who abuse their power and rulership get what they deserve.
Let this world have PEACE, said Isaiah. May there be those who abstain from violence, and strive for harmony between life.
Let this world have KNOWLEDGE, said Hione. May those who will have this world strive to know the world around them, and if they strive enough, let no secret be forever hidden from them.
Then the gods congratulated themselves. But as they turned to making this new world, one more voice spoke.
You did not ask me, my brothers and sisters, what my gift would be. Thus, spoke the Dark One, Menthax. I did not want this world to pollute the purity of the Void in which we inhabit. Thus, I give my gift: DESTRUCTION!
Let Daglir's form crumble. Let Danu's life die. Let Leo's competition bring oceans of blood. Let Janda's justice wither away. May Isaiah's peace never endure. Let Hione's knowledge include engines of death and methods of destruction. And may Carrunos' change bring all of these things about, so that one day this world will perish and bring back the purity of the Void forever!
When the other gods heard these words, they howled with anguish, for they knew that Menthax's words could doom this world that they had created. They made war upon Menthax, and bound him forever in retaliation for what he had done. But his words still haunted the gods, and they knew that if Menthax were ever freed, he would carry out his words.
But the gods went ahead, and created the world as they planned. Many creatures sprang up upon it, each of them living according to the gifts that the gods had given to the world at the beginning of time.
Among the creatures that came about were the elves, and they were particularly beloved of Danu. Danu taught them to revere life, and in exchange she taught them the secrets of the elements from which the world was made: earth, water, air, and fire. Thus, for long millennia, they prospered. The elves believed that they were near perfection, basking in the glory of Danu's gifts and the knowledge that she gave them.
But Menthax's gift eventually made itself felt among all peoples, and the elves were no exception. There came those elves who questioned the sanctity of life, who argued that because life did not last, it was not perfect. Since the elves were perfect, it naturally followed that all other life did not deserve it, and so must be destroyed.
Most of elven society, however, was horrified by these thoughts. A great civil war came among the elves, and those who valued life defeated those who wanted only to destroy. The losers of the war, now know as dark elves, fled underground. There they licked their wounds, and changed...
Many were the changes that came over the dark elves. Their skin, once tawny and rich with life, became ghost white from the lack of sunlight. They developed the arts of war and destruction to heights unheard of among the surface elves. But greatest of all was there discovery of a spirit who shared their hatred of life and love of destruction: Menthax. Somehow, with the aid of great magics and arcane knowledge, the dark elves managed to reach the place where Menthax was imprisoned. Finding one who shared their philosophy only made the dark elves more sure that their hated surface cousins were wrong. Menthax promised them power and knowledge to carry out their crusade against life, and in exchange asked for two things: their worship, and for them to work to break the prison in which he was held. The dark elves accepted eagerly.
Menthax further gifted the elves. Since mana, the stuff of magic, is part of the flow of life that surrounds all living things, the dark elves became resistant to it. But the dark elves did not hesitate to use the mana, the essence of life, against itself, developing magics of destruction on an unheard of scale. They discovered how to twist the elements, the essence of form, into their negative elements, what all the world would become if the dark elves' plans came to fruition.
The dark elves prospered under the leadership of Menthax's priests. But they gained a weakness from and hatred towards light, so much so that they were unable to even stand moonlight, let along sunlight. Thus, they were unable to go to the surface except on moonless nights. Fortunately for the rest of the Gods' creations, this was not long enough to take revenge upon the life on the surface as they wished. The dark elves of today are nothing more than an empty threat aimed at misbehaving children, and Menthax exists only in the mythology.
Penlu is divided into Eastern and Western provinces by an incomplete spine of mountains. Each half has a great central plain, and it is upon these plains that most of the set-piece battles have taken place. The valiant and reknowned cavalry of the plains of Forrest in southeastern Penlu have been almost as important to the war effort as Vance's Vial of Victory itself.
Dragonspire Pass sits high atop the northwestern edge of the northern mountains. It is a site of vital strategic importance, as it is the only known pass through the mountains for a week's travel in either direction. The area has been held by the Highs since the beginning of the war.
Almost nothing is known about the native inhabitants of the mountains. They are nomads who are not part of any kingdom or fiefdom, and the mountains are only sparsely inhabited. These nomads are known to be fervent followers of Daglir.
The dwarven city-state of Ras-Alhague sits in a hilly pass through the Saiph mountains. The city is, of course, old and has been a dominant and independent realm for much of its history. As the human lords began to cluster and the current kingdom arose, Ras-Alhague took a somewhat slower course. While many dwarves still maintained that the state was sovereign and an equal of the human king, in truth it had fallen into a satellite position. The growing importance of the economic and political web left no choice but for the dwarven lord to join the councils of the human nobility, and when that nobility became united by the current house, Ras-Alhague had little choice but to affirm the state of affairs. While it has never sworn its fealty to the king, it has made concessions and payments similar to those of the human nobles.
This situation has certainly led to a fair displeasure within the dwarven elite, not only because of their past dominance but also because of their Low Magic sentiments. Thus, when the Low revolt against the King came, the dwarves of Ras-Alhague chose to speak against the King, denouncing the use of VVV and calling upon King Felgreth to defuse the situation by rescinding his order. While they committed no troops to defend other Low nobles, they did give some material supplies and prepared themselves. Felgreth declared Ras-Alhague to be in revolt against its liege and declared that it would be stripped of the mines of Alioth, certainly its most prized holding save for the city walls themselves. The mines, whose openings lie ten miles outside the city yet whose extent is unknown to all, are precious to the dwarves both monetarily and spiritually. Surely Felgreth knew that a demand such as his would require nothing short of the total conquest of Ras-Alhague!
Yet Felgreth did not make his order until after the human Low nobles had been largely defeated and scattered. With the nearby lands under full control, he sent a large host toward the hills with orders to seize the mines and bring the Lord Merak to Penlu to swear his renewed loyalty and fealty.
Note the large crater to the north of the capital. This region is known only as "The old capital." No one seems to know much about it, except that it's well known to be a very unpleasant place. One rumor reports it to be haunted, others say it is occupied by Bog Wumps, still another that it's all quicksand. And there's supposedly a mountain in the middle somewhere. In any case, your military duties will not take you near there, and when times return to normal, we advise you to stay clear of it.
Next is the happy little dukedom of Kimagh. Duke Dizwal, an older man, has been leader of Kimagh for over 20 years. The country has been prosperous during his reign: people come from far and wide to visit the happy little dukedom and its beautiful mountain scenery; no monsters challenge its borders; a lovely white castle has recently been constructed; and the war ravaging the land has seemed to pass it by. All is well in Kimagh.
Finally, the region of Orsino has been somewhat isolated from the rest of Penlu for a long time. We know they're there, and vice versa, but communication has been a problem. Although we seem to speak the same language, our written languages now differ. Although their written language seems to be a dialect of ours, the alphabet is sufficiently different that it is not very easy to understand each other's written communiques.
Princecon XX - Vance's Vial of Victory
Also known as Monty's Munchkin Magic
MMM is a potion made from the blood of a willing non-mage. This costs the donor ld3 HPs. The potion lasts a week, or until consumed. If consumed with proper ritual (which takes one turn), the mage gains an effective level until the next midnight. If drunk in haste, as a normal potion, the effect is the same, but lasts only one hour. High mages and Necromancers will be using MMM on a regular basis.
Bad effects of using MMM will be conwide and will be expressed in terms of a Convention Condition (ConCon) from 0-20. ConCon effects will be posted in Hireling Hall as they occur, but will not be revealed before they happen. The ConCon in effect at the start of the expedition will appear on the run sheet. ConCons will apply sequentially, the effects will be cumulative, and will not be reversible (with the possible exception of ConCon 1). When a ConCon goes up a runner will inform all running GMs, who may apply it at the end of the round, or not until the end of the run, at your discretion.
ConCon will increase at a rate given by Hours/6 + Uses/l6. The clock starts Friday at 6PM. Uses only count upon completion of the expedition. If there are more than 13 uses before Fri 9PM, only 13 will count. Though the PCs presumably represent the general population, enoueh non-PCs use VVV to slowly increase the level. This will result in a minimum of ConCon VII for the last run.
The formula will be secret and may be changed if things go awry, but the players will be allowed to hose themselves. Also, scenarios should be set up so that it will take real ingenuity or heroism to avoid using blood magic to bail yourself out of fixes. Thus we expect the final ConCon level to be somewhere between 12 and 16.
The number of times a PC has used MMM should be reported at the end of each run. It will be recorded in the GM-only area, but there will be no individual hose for using it, unless the player is clearly overusing it, in which case the hose is to be determined by the GM or the Con Director.
Princecon XX - Necromancers
The Necromancers are standard mages, with two additional morphic spells: Conjure Undead and Control Undead N. The GM should feel free to add any other suitable spells for the Necromancers appearing in their scenario.
There are 169 Necromancers in existence, of which the 13 Greater Necromancers will spend their time in their Ivory Towers, casting the Super-Magic spells. There are a number of initiates and apprentices, who won't venture out much. Finally, 39 Lesser Necromancers will occasionally join the High armies, or otherwise appear in the world. Thus each GM shouldn't plan to kill off more than 3 or 4. They will frequently spend their time raising and controlling undead after a battle. Once ConCon 7 is reached, they will appear more frequently, as their capacity to control undead is limited only by their ability to raise them.
Princecon XX - The Dark Elves
All dark elves are in fact nearly bone white in color, like an albino. Unlike an albino, however, they have jet black hair and dark eyes. They are usually dressed in dark, comfortable fitting clothes with their special elven chain mail beneath. They also wear great sweeping cloaks, which often serve to conceal the elves in dark places.
Dark elven psychology and society is dominated above all by one belief: that everything should be destroyed, and the universe should be restored to its holy simplicity that existed before the creation of the world. Their battle-cry is "Death to Life!" This makes them absolutely fearless in battle, since they believe that they should die like all other life.
However, the dark elves, like all elves, take the long view of things, and are willing to be patient. They are cunning and vicious, but are willing to cooperate with those who can be used as pawns to further their goals: the necromancers fall into this category. They are even willing to bargain, or call a truce with their enemies if it is to their advantage.
Dark elves have a particular hatred for surface elves. Their extermination has alwavs been a high priority, but the deceptive agenda of the pact with the Necromancers is putting the dark elves under particular stress to accomplish both: In battle, allied elven warriors will go unsupported longer than necessary in hopes that the Lowlanders do the job for the dark elves. Less skilled dark elves may make this inaction appear to be suspiciously purposeful (it is).
Because of their hatred for life, dark elves will try to kill large amounts of people at a time, particularly women and children, because the women can bear more life and the children are symbolic of new life. Atrocities are very common by the dark elves, and will probably be one of the first signs for the PC's that they are on the wrong side of the war.
The dark elves seem to be strangely resistant to magic, and carry weapons and armor that are unnaturally powerful, but rapidly decay when removed from their person. Dark Elves also have weaknesses, however. They cannot seem to stand sunlight, and even milder moonlight can be painful. Simple magical light appears to be bothersome, but not necessaarily harmful.
The dark elves are similar to surface elves in terms of character classes. All seen during the con are at least second level. The dark elves represent the special forces of the Highs. Though vastly outnumbered by the PC races, dark elves will frequently be given more difficult assignments, and will encounter PCs more often than their numbers would suggest.
The dark elves are very skilled in battle, and will use intelligent tactics to defeat their enemies. The fighters will usually rush enemies, spread out so as to avoid area effect spells. The dark elven clerics will hang back, casting spells to pick off enemy magic users.
At The Con
At The Con
The PCs began on the High Magic side of the war - after all, the Lows decried nearly all use of magic, a ridiculous proposition. To aid their forces, the High Wizards provided the fruits of their latest magical research - Vance's Vial of Victory. This potion, conveniently made with only a small amount of fresh blood, brough extra power to any mage who partook. And, of course, there were no side effects.
Or so the wizards claimed. The brave adventurers were brought together before long by the leadership of Hireling Hall. They announced conclusive proof that VVV was simply a ploy of evil Necromancers, who were using the High Magic side of the war as a front to scour all other mages from the continent, conveniently building their power through the blood magic at the same time. VVV, henceforth to be known as Monty's Munchkin Magic, was to be avoided at all costs, as Hireling Hall was throwing its weight behind the Low Magic side of the war instead.
The Lows were in a desperate situation, having lost ground to the Highs all along the border. Their mages were underpowered compared to the Highs even without MMM aiding the opposition. The world suffered with every use of MMM as the Necromancers' power grew, but even the PCs could not avoid it entirely - the extra boost could mean the difference between life and death! The noble exploits of the fearless adventurers, however, overcame the foul wizards, and bolstered the flagging effort of the Lows. It was not long before the tides of battle shifted, and the Lows were saved. The minstrel's epics will surely last for generations...