Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Tales From the Thousand Lakes

This album cover was suggested by Doomsayer. Interestingly enough, when I was deciding on album covers to inspire Dungeon Crawl Classics content, this is one that I had considered, but had put on the back burner as being difficult. I wasn't sure what inspiration I could glean from its ominous artwork. Whether or not I rose to the challenge is something the reader will have to determine.

Before we dive into the cover, a confession. If you listen to the Sanctum Secorum podcast (and if not, you should), you are aware that Bob Brinkman always has interesting musical picks for each work discussed thereon.

I am no Bob Brinkman.

If you listen to the Drink Spin Run podcast (and, again, you should), you will note that, when I was a guest, I had been listening most recently to the soundtrack to Moana. My musical tastes run from classical to Iggy Pop, but there is a lot of 80s pop and even country in there. Most of these albums aren't really on my radar.

I am devising material based on the covers plus a little very basic research. And, yes, I have made use of YouTube to give the albums a listen-through or find related videos.

If you run into me at Gary Con or elsewhere, though, I am not going to be able to discuss these things intelligently. Seriously. You are, gentle reader, are to a person all cooler than I am.

Without further ado....

Kala Vale and the Thousand Lakes

The village of Kala Vale is located in a region known as the Thousand Lakes, where waterfalls, rivers, ponds, and freshwater lakes both great and small are found among the high hills and mountains. Everywhere there is the sound of water, running and falling, from spring to autumn. Even in the depths of winter, water runs beneath the ice. A few warm days can lead to a sudden thaw, and those traversing the straight path across previously-frozen ice can find themselves immersed in frigid waters without warning.

Deep magic runs with the waters of this land. Runestones give hints of lost spells, or mark the focal points of arcane powers. Here music has power, and many of the region's legendary figures sang and chanted to shape their adventures as they would.

Many are the mysteries of this land. A few of them are described below.

Mårtenson's Ring of the Eagle's Shape

This curiously carved ring is made of finnstone, a blue-green material with a slick texture not unlike that of soapstone. It has been carved with many strange runes and sigils from Elfland. Whoever wears the finnstone ring and knows the hidden song of Mårtenson may take a sea-eagle's form, for as long as he wills, but each time he does so, some portion of his soul remains in that form.

In sea-eagle's form, the PC has exceptional eyesight for spotting creatures when flying. He can fly at a rate of 60', and has an AC of 14. The character's gear and accouterments within 5' of his body transform with him; larger items must be dropped or carried. Magic items retain their effects unless they must be manipulated in some way, but armor loses its normal bonuses. A sea-eagle can make a claw attack for 1d3 damage, and, if diving from at least 50', has a critical range increased by 2 (i.e., a level 1 wizard would crit on 18-20, and a level 1 warrior on 17-20). The character can only cast spells which do not require a human voice or somatic component.

Each transformation to sea-eagle's form requires a DC 10 Will save. On a failure, the character takes 1 point of permanent Personality damage and must roll 1d5 on the table below. Rolling the same result multiple times has no additional effect, but each time the character gains a new result he is reduced by -1d on the Dice Chain when making further Will saves due to transformation.

1d5 Effect
1 The character refuses to eat any food other than fish.
2 The character blinks far less often than normal.
3 The character has a tendency to stare at others.
4 The character's preening behavior reminds onlookers of a bird cleaning its feathers.
5 The character has a marked preference for being outdoors under an open sky.

If the character's Personality falls below 3, he never transforms back to human or demi-human form. After 2d6 rounds, the character is lost forever to his new form. The finnstone ring falls to the ground as the character flies away to live the remainder of his life in the wild.

At the judge's discretion, the character's allies may undertake one or more adventures to restore the lost character's humanity. Such an undertaking is fully in the nature of DCC's Quest For It ethos, and would require, at a bare minimum, locating the lost character in sea-eagle form and destroying Mårtenson's Ring of the Eagle's Shape to release his soul. Indeed, some say that the great bard-wizard Mårtenson of the Keys was lost to his ring, and still haunts the world in avian form.

The Drowned Maid

The ghost of a fair young maiden wanders the shores of Tomi Lake, north of Kala Vale. This unfortunate maid slipped into the cold gloomy depths through a crack in the ice one black winter day. She appears now fair but cold, with skin that is bluish-white. Seldom does she appear as a wraith, and often she is mistaken for a living maiden, solid to the eye if not to the touch.

The Drowned Maid seeks forever her lost lover, although she can no longer remember his face. It is said, in folklore, that she was drowned  on her way to a tryst with the youth. Some say he sought for her high and low through the Land of the Thousand Lakes. Others say that he was with another, and that the Drowned Maid was a suicide.

This spirit is drawn only to those young men with exceptional good looks, or who have a Personality of 13+. She seeks only to draw them to her, but her touch causes 1d12 cold damage each round. Only when her one-time lover, reborn into a new body, willingly comes into her clasp and speaks her name can the Drowned Maid be laid to rest.

The Drowned Maid: Init +2; Atk incorporeal touch +1 melee (1d12 cold); AC 10; HD 2d12; hp 15; MV 30' or fly 40’; Act 1d20; SP un-dead traits, immune to non- magical weapons; SV Fort +4, Ref +5, Will +3; AL C.

Holopainen's Lost Ship

Somewhere amid the Thousand Lakes, an ornate anchor of black iron rises up from the water and rests on land. Its chain leads below the surface to the lost ship of Holopainen Ironhand, a reaver of great renown, whose heavy metal axe of meteoric iron, Esa, remains the subject of many legends in the Land of the Thousand Lakes.

Holopainen's ship, the Darkland Queen, is said to be carrying many precious things ravaged from the gorefest of the Chaosbreed in lands to the east. Should the ship ever be recovered, who knows what treasures weigh it down?

According to legend, the winged witch Louhi brought Holopainen low. His ravagers, the Chaosbreed, drowned in the waters of a many-leveled lake, amid waterfalls and ringed with hills. At least one artifact was lost with the ship: The Sampo, which takes many forms, and which brings good fortune to whomever can keep it.

The Blessed

Perhaps the Sampo brought fortune to the Chaosbreed even as they flailed beneath the waters of that unknown lake. Perhaps the malice of Louhi transformed the warriors of Holopainen. Or perhaps some other story is true, but the waters where the Darkland Queen was lost are now  inhabited by creatures which call themselves the Blessed.

The Blessed are amorphous things with dark leather skin, capable of growing any number of limbs, either jointed or tentacular. Most of the Blessed are man-sized, hinting at a perhaps-human origin. Others have grown to a colossal size. All hate human life - perhaps because they were once human, or perhaps because the harpy-witch Louhi nursed dark emotions within them.

The following represents a typical member of the Blessed. Larger ones have far more impressive statistics.

The Blessed: Init +3; Atk claw +2 melee (1d3+1) or bite +0 melee (1d5); AC 14; HD 1d8+4; MV 20’ or swim 50'; Act 2d20; SP regenerate 1d3 hp/round while alive; SV Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +0; AL C.

The Finnish Connection: As a side note, The Land of a Thousand Lakes is Finland, and this album takes the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, as its inspiration. Amorphis is a Finnish heavy metal band. I have a family connection to the Finns who settled the Upper Peninsula region of Michigan. I hope, therefore, that I have done at least a halfway descent job at threading the album cover, the lyrics, and strands from the Kalevala into gameable material. 


  1. SO f'n brilliant! What an amazing storyteller you are. Musically, whether you have these albums in your library isn't the point. In fact, the notion that the album art is fresh to you and your tales are inspired by it seems to be at the very heart of the exercise...for you and us. What you've come up with here is remarkable as far as I'm concerned. Thanks for taking the suggestion.
    That being said, this particular album is very "accessible" by the standards of atmospheric death metal, and I hope the listening experience was a good one. The other 2 albums I recommended are much more caustic (especially "Blessed Are The Sick", which is THE high watermark for Lovecraftian Chaos in musical form) and may be an acquired taste. Again, thanks for this. Beyond my expectations; truly.

    1. ps- I will, in fact, be attending Gary Con this year. So, I'll bet we will have things to converse about outside of music. Tho I am a huge fan of Grieg, Korsakov and Holst as well as selective 80's pop.

    2. Thank you for your kind words. Look forward to seeing you in March!