Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sereth's Cellar

Sereth runs a small inn in the village, it is a favorite among the locals and you have been there a few times. Sereth knows you are an adventurer and he comes to you one evening with an interesting tale. It seems his cellar floor has recently fallen through. So far, nothing vile and terrible has crawled up from the depths, but Sereth is not one to take chances. For a sizable amount of money and a good portion of any treasure found, he would like you to explore what lies beneath and remove any possible threats to his establishment.

In the cellar a large hole has opened beneath the small round "cold" room Sereth used to store perishables. No one has entered the chamber below the cold room but the sound of flowing water can be heard faintly, coming from somewhere far below.

Sereth has unknowingly stumbled upon the ancient ruins (or fully active if the GM so wishes) of a little known dwarven passion: the gladiatorial arena! A long dead dwarven king had the arena built to entertain himself and his friends. Typically they would travel by small watercraft from somewhere upstream and  dock at the small bay. Their are rooms for banquets and relaxing as well as the gaol where the creatures used in the arena were kept. A balcony overlooks the arena where the King and friends could observe the battles waging below. The small complex of rooms near the balcony would serve as visiting chambers, sleeping rooms, and even a small study the King's chief mystic would study the slain creatures' bodies to look foretelling the future.

Though the King and those who served him are long gone there are still things that haunt the shadowed corners of the arena complex:

  • Numerous ghosts of creatures and men slain in the arena haunt the actual arena floor. GMs should flood this area with dozens of strange and unique ghosts. Perhaps some can hurt the players and some unable to touch the physical world.
  • The balcony area is haunted by one of the King's rivals. He had the dwarven prince slain as he watched gladiators fight below. The ghost of the Prince has gone insane watching the ghost of the arena fight for a millennia 
  • A handful of bugbears have moved into one of the rooms near the docking bay. Survivors of a vicious attack on their home, these bugbears are desperate and aggressive. If cornered they will fight to the death with everything they have.
  • A young Otyugh has taken up residence n one of the northern rooms. It prowls the ledge along the underwater stream, cleaning the path of waste and debris. An astute observer might notice the strange cleanliness of the ledge when they first come across it. This Otyugh is not especially violent and will be willing to work with the players in exchange for friendship and food.
  • A very young Aboleth has discovered the water of the bay area and recently moved in. A day ago it enslaved one of the bugbears and is having him collect food for the young Aboleth ot feast upon.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

The Garrison

A quick side note- I have had this map drawn now for probably a few weeks and have been itching to share it with all of you. I had ideas about the place but nothing etched in stone until this last weekend when I sat down to work on the text below. I really think it turned out great and hope you enjoy it.

The town is sufficient to house, and require the services of, a small garrison. The building is rather unique in the fact that in its construction that took a different approach. Funds were low and the local lord refused to support the construction of a large stone structure. Calling upon the many retired adventurers they devised an interesting plan: A smaller stone structure on the lower level was surrounded by sturdy, thick pillars of hard wood. Within this smaller stone structure is a circular stair leading to the second level. Behind the stone structure lies two room created by wooden fencing. These are additional storage space for the garrison and hardy contain items such as firewood, spears, shields, horseshoes, and other various items the garrison might use. There is not likely to be something of such value that a person might risk breaking in unless they were very desperate.

While made of wood, this second level has sides and a roof sheathed in tin, providing excellent protection against fires and projectiles. Certainly not as sturdy as a full stone building, this building has proven to be formidable for defense and thus far, impregnable. The second story is full of offices, storage and some tight quarters for the small number of soldiers that call this home. Securely safe in the second level, the soldiers can easily rain terror on any force attempting to assault the garrison. The one fault in the design is that the building is drafty and no fireplace was incorporated into the design.

At any moment there will be 2d6 soldiers on duty in and around the building, often either heading or returning from, a patrol of the surrounding countryside. If there are more than four soldiers present, roll on the table below to which personality is also on duty.

Who is on duty today? (roll 2d6)
2-5   Private Nataker - The private is a recent addition to the garrison roster and he is having second thoughts on his decision. He envisioned grand adventures, patrols deep into the forest, and daring missions to save damsels. So far he has cleaned the toilets, cleaned up the slop, swept and mopped the floors. As he is from the area he can provide rumors and information on the surrounding area. If offered a chance to leave the garrison (be it on a mission or even to desert he will likely jump at the chance).

6-8   Corporal Braggert - The Corporal is on duty most days and be found making the rounds, checking out the windows for anything approaching the village. He is serious about his chosen profession and goes about his duties in a determined manner. He is dedicated, determined and will do his best to follow orders to the T, especially if they were given by Sergeant Corwellia, for whom he has feelings. Though he is unaware, the sword he wears at his side, is magical and provides a bonus to attack all creatures of an evil nature. The blade was a gift from his father who was known in the area as a brave and honorable soldier how fought in defense of the town during its early days.

9-10 Sergeant Corwellia - The sergeant is an oddity among the garrison, a bit of a tomboy, she joined the garrison after her younger brother was slain by bandits. Ignoring the pleads of her parents, she has served with exemplary heroics and risen in the ranks to her present assignment as the second in charge at the garrison. Sergeant Kendall does not approve of her and will make any attempt to degrade her position or stain her good name if he is able. Corwellia is a tough, strong-willed and confident sergeant and the garrison would do well to have her as the leader. 

11    Sergeant Kendall - A poor leader, and if not for his relations, he would surely have been relieved. He is an unhappy man and rarely have anything worthwhile or complimentary to say to those around him. This does not count his cousin, to whom he will grovel and do his best to please every moment during his infrequent visits. He skims resources and gold off the garrison's accounts and his larder is always full while the troops suffer with half full plates. He dislikes visitors to the village and absolutely does not trust any adventurer who wanders into town. When his cousin is away he serves as the second in command of the village, this causes a generally unhappy and gloomy atmosphere to settle upon the village.

12    Sheriff Holblindan - On rare occasions one might find the local sheriff in town, though while he here he will refuse to stay at the garrison, preferring to stay at a cozy local inn. In his late forties, he will frequently complain about the draftiness of the building and how Sergeant Kendall should look into having that fixed before he returns. The sheriff is is a bit of a pompous ass who believes he is due much greater than he has earned and will demand respect from the characters, even though he has done little to deserve any. His distant cousin, Sergeant Kendall, will do all he can to please the sheriff, though his groveling will have little effect to this end.



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Sunday, October 5, 2014

SideTreks 02 - The Village, vol I

Today I am releasing the second volume of our popular SideTreks series, this time focusing on the building maps I have been creating lately. I have taken the entries posted on to my blog and added to them to create a more fully realized encounter for GMs. Volume One focuses on five locations and subsequent volumes will contain additional locations for the time-pressed GM.

Each entry contains a color map, a description of the location and who players might encounter there, along with a table to determine further details on the location such as NPCs they might encounter or food for purchase. Additionally, each contains a short not for the GM on how to utilize the location in their game. Below you can see an example of the entries in SD02.

I hope you enjoy this and look forward to creating more. If you are interested in purchasing a copy it is now available at RPGNow & DriveThruRPG. I look forward to your thoughts on this volume of SideTreks and any ideas you have for future volumes.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Homes, and those who live there

One thing I have found in my too numerous years of playing is that there are almost no normal people populating the worlds we game in. You know what I mean, there is a blacksmith, probably a dude that runs the general store, of course, the innkeeper, maybe a local priest or something. Normal people? You know the guy who retired from whatever and now chills at his small cottage, bought with the money he saved up over the years. Maybe he sits in their with his wife of thirty years and reads, maybe he is the local lord's bailiff, or maybe he is a tenured professor at the local wizard school (you did not think they all lived in musty towers or messy laboratories...did you?)....

Anyway, I made some plain jane old style homes, places where us normal folk might live in our fantasy world. Hope you enjoy them and find a use in your games.

Who lives here? (2d6 yadda yadda yadda)
2-5 Bryan and Carolyn of Meadowton This lovely couple are artists that spend most of their days painting and sculpting. The local lord is a favorite client and most often the two will be found hard at work on their latest project for him. On 1-4 in 6 they have additional pieces for sale to those interested.
6-7 Gillrondy's Tailory, a small tailor shop ran from the front half of her home. After losing her husband six years ago she began doing tailor work for locals to get by and she has grown a decent sized list of clients and is making a good income. She is skilled and friendly and will do minor tailor work for very reasonable rates.
8-9 Sir Furdburt, a brutish, large man hired on by the local lord to serve as his bailiff and ensure his taxes are collected on time. Furdburt is rude, crass and often drunk, except when taxes are due and then he is all business. If the characters simply pass him and look as if they have money Furdburt will immediately determine that it is tax collecting time. 10-25% is the common rate.
10-11 Clinrood, Hedgewarder, a servant of the local lord Clinrood inspects the lord's hedges and fences, determining when repairs are due and leading the repair teams. He is also the eyes of the lord on his land, a blast from his horn will signal the time of reaping, calling all the lord's servants to the fields to being their harvest.
12 Willhiem de Carto, a well known cartographer in the area. He is an elderly man, hunched over from his many years spent studying and redrawing old maps. His hands are permanently stained a mixture of red, blue, green and black hues. He will take great interest in any discussion of old maps, especially those that are of a unique nature. He will also have hundreds of maps available...for the right price.


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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Miechaloob's Fae Emporium

Miechaloob's Fae Emporium
This two-story cottage sits a third of a mile down a nearly hidden lane, if one is not actively searching for it, one would easily overlook the narrow lane. As one nears the cottage, small birds will begin chirping, rather loudly one might note, and grow in ferocity as the observer continues to approach. As the person steps to within forty feet of the cottage the birds suddenly stop and the surrounding forest becomes eerily quiet.

As one steps over the forty found boundary surrounding the cottage everything changes: dark clouds roll in overhead, a sudden gust of chilly wind begins battering the characters, a faint but disturbing moan seems to surround the characters......and a general feeling of uneasiness is felt by all. Even the cottage's appearance changes, the walls are grimy, the roofline sags dangerously, evil and twisted vines scale the walls, and pitch black emanates like a dark spirit from the blank windows.

This is all for appearance's sake and to scare off those that would be of lesser will. Once a person turns the handle on the front door and pushes it open the spell fades and the party can see the inside of a quaint and friendly shop occupied by a small gnome. He is generally pleasant to speak to and will offer details on the surrounding area (50% true). He will always sport short breeches that stop just below his knees and a large billowy shirt with a red box. A small, low and red hat sits atop his brow, the crooked point juts off to the side.

Miechaloob is a merchant of a rare and unique product: fairies. Depending on the season he carries a variety of dead specimens - full and partial pieces that can be used in spells and rituals. For those who ask, and a small 25gp fee, he will show them to his back and private sales room. Use the table below to determine what trapped fairies he has for sale.

Miechaloob currently has the following on hand for purchase (roll 2d6)
2-3 Nymps, are trapped within a small wooden box about the size of a matchbox. When released the nymph is under a curse that forces them to perform ONE task for the person who frees them. Once free, they will speed off to where ever they are bound and continue their sad existence.
4-5 Vila,  held in a small clear bottle stopped with a wax stopper with a letter pressed into the top, the Vila appear to be a faint cloudy form swirling around rather quickly. The figure will not stop but when freed will burst forth from the bottle with such force that it will easily knock down a small house that is in front of the bottle opening. The Vila will immediately flee the area, glad to be freed.
6-7 Wisps o' the Will, captured and trapped in a large glass bottle two feet tall and a foot and a half in diameter, it is very heavy and any time the bottle is moved, even slightly, the trapped Wisps glow brightly
8-10 Aos Si, trapped within this small wooden box has a ornate carving of a tombstone on its lid, a small latch secures the box shut, whenever death approaches the Aos Si will emit a low howling that will crawl up a listener's back and be complete unnerving. If the lid is opened the Aos Si will escape and no longer confined to her box.
11 Jogah, this round, amorphous greyish glob floats inside a glass jar, about six inches tall and four inches in diameter, Miechaloob will inform the purchasers (after purchase is made of course) that four drops of blood must be dropped into the thick liquid within the jar every day, failing to do so will cause the Jogah to be slain. This rock spirit floats about in a thick blood-like liquid and when brought within sight of a secret or false door made of stone will glow within an intense brightness that causes the entire jar to glow a deep blue color.
12 Peris, trapped inside a round cage made of wood about a foot tall and four inches wide is a ten inch tall creature with an appearance much like a Walking Stick bug, except more human. These fairies are the trapped spirits of people who did evil deeds in life and were not admitted into paradise upon death. Now, they must do a proscribed penance before their spirits are set free.


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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Molyndix Stables


Molyndix Stables 
The stables are a rather simple building: a two story building made of local wood with a simple dirt floor on the lower level. The lower floor contains nine stalls, from all indications these stalls are normal. The only obvious indication that something is afoot is the height of each floor: the second floor is almost twelve feet above the ground floor, the second floor is another thirty feet above that. This creates a massive amount of vertical territory. 

The owner, Myrin Molyndix, is a rather clever gnome and a rather devious one. He trades exclusively in exotic steeds* and uses his illusionistic magic to hide this fact from all but the most magically enabled folks in the realms. While some are magical, many are not, but all fetch a hefty price tag. All are captured, and in some cases broken, but all are expensive. Flying mounts are keep on the upper level. 

Types of Steeds (2d6)
2-4 Stag, a large ten foot elk with a massive rack 
5-6 Unicorn, as per rules 
7-8 Rhinoceros, tough hide provides protection 
9 McGriffen, smaller mount, suitable for demihumans 
10 War Eagle, massive eagle that can carry two humans 
11 Jackalope, odd deer/rabbit hybrid but seven foot tall 
12 Players choice (within reason) 

Broken? (2d6) 
2-5 No
9-11 Yes 
12 Yes, makes immediate connection with character, reduce price by 10% 

*Hattip to +James D'Amato and the wonderful folks behind the One Shot podcast for the idea of a stable that holds interesting creatures. Mine does not hold Nightmares however.


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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Skellerdeed's Brewery

Skellerdeed's Brewery
The well-known gnome named Skellerdeed, or simply Skeller to those who know him, is a renowned brewmaster. A true master craftsman, and not only a master of the art of brewery but of magic as well. 

You see, Skeller likes to mix his brews with just a hint of magic, enough so that anyone able to detect magic will easily detect that these brews are not your atypical fare. Skeller is a very able spellweaver who was once a successful adventurer who participated in many of the famous battles and encounters all over the region. After decades of success he grew tired of seeing his friends killed off on continuing adventures and opted to settle down. Turning to his two favorite things: brews and magic. 

Mixing the two proved to be a challenge but one he was able to overcome and his brews have become favorites...not only for their flavor but also for the side effects. Though not common knowledge, some are aware of the magical effects and most of those are his friends. 

Skeller keeps a very tidy shop and the place is always clean and swept. Two local boys named Merdin and Tuck currently help him run the brewery, they are not aware of the magic. A front room serves as a meeting area and has two tables and chairs. One or two barrels of the latest brew will be on tap to be served to visitors (usually for a very nominal fee). While not an official pub, usually a local or two will be found here coming to taste the few brew. The back room serves as the large brewery and contains very tall metal and wooden vats Skeller uses. 

Outside a large and thick canvas tarp provides cover for the numerous wagons that come to pick up their stock for the week. Barrels, some full, some awaiting brew, are stacked three and four high under the tarp. Usually the boys can be found here loading a wagon, waiting for a wagon, or playing a game they devised about knights fighting dragons. 

The second floor is used as a residence for Skeller. The larger room serves as a kitchen/living area where he will occasionally entertain a friend who visits. Observant folks will notice he has many, many friends. The back room is is private residence and also where he practices his magic, including the enchanting of the powders and flavors he later puts into the brew to provide the magical effects.

What's on tap today: (roll a 2d6 to find out what Skeller is currently brewing)
2-5 Skeller's Common - Skeller's usual fare, it is popular is somewhat bland in flavor, this is common ale almost always found being served in the region. While the magic is faint in this ale, Skeller has managed to provide a healing factor, a single mug will heal a single point of damage. Multiple mugs heal additional, up to who ever many might be consumed before the drinker hits the floor.
6-7 Thorjn's Ale - Named after a former friend who was a talkative fellow. Skeller has gifted the power of gab into this brew. Anyone drinking this is more likely to open up and speak directly and truthfully. 
8-9 Einbeck's Haus - This notable, and very strong, lager is well known in the area. Known for its exceptionally strong flavor. 
10 Alhimdin Lager - This dry, clean and crisp pale lager, named after another former friend, this lager contains a hint of magic that causes the drinker's awareness to perk, providing a +1 bonus to Perception and Awareness checks.
11 Urquell - Skeller uses an ancient and famous recipe. As Skeller is very old he knows knowledge and Wisdom are important. Anyone taking a mug of this will gain a bonus of +1 to either Intelligence or Wisdom checks for d4 days (GM picks attribute to grant bonus to).
12 Black Hops - This powerful yet flavorful brew is a rare find indeed, mixed with just a hint of clean and crisp green apple. Blacks Hops has a fruity after taste, a side effect of the magic imbued which focuses on health and vitality, providing a d4 additional Hit Points for 2d20 hours.


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Sunday, September 14, 2014

[review] The Ruined Abbey of Saint Tabitha


You are all likely aware of my love of lite game systems and Pits & Perils is one of my more recent finds, so when I found out Olde House Rules had dropped this on RPGNow I could not wait to read it. As a side note, I was provided a copy by the publisher.

First, I am completely in love with the design aesthetic James & Robyn George use for their products. This booklet looks like you could have bought it 30 years ago at a garage sale: old typewriter font, simple formatting and layout, and all black and white art. It may simply be nostalgia but I WANT to read this in a terribly bad way. So I printed out a copy to read by the pool with a cup of joe.

One thing I noticed immediately upon printing this out to read was the subtitle on the cover - "An Adventure Setting" and this truly is more than a simple adventure. While the booklet does have an adventure of a ruined abbey at its focal point, this booklet goes to great depth to present the lay of the land and really does provide a starting point for an entire campaign setting.

The Ruined Abbey
The first half of the booklet details the ruined abbey, providing two maps with twenty-eight locations for exploration and pillaging. All the rooms are fleshed out adequately with enough details for GMs to provide an engaging encounter and adventure

Here I would like to take a moment to discuss something I find unique about the booklet. Each encounter area is described as seen in the picture below. A quick paragraph the GM should have knowledge of, but not the dreaded "Boxed Text" unpopular by many. These paragraphs provide a basic overview of the location the GM can use to describe and 'operate' within the room. Traps and basic layout are discussed here. There is also a block of lines for additional notes the GM might make. I find this interesting and likely very useful for GMs as they read through this in preparation to run the adventure. I found myself coming up with ideas on the room and wanting to drop quick notes to myself here.
You may notice that creatures, treasures and the like seem to be missing here and you would be correct, these are listed out later in the book:
I find this an interesting method for describing the abbey. At first read I liked it, a good deal in fact. I was able to read through the abbey and get a solid feel of the layout, the former and current uses for the rooms. I felt I had a good mental picture of the ruins and could run a group through the place. Then I got to the "Matrix" as it is called and that all changed. I found the two locations of text, pretty far from each other, to be a tad annoying as I flipped back and forth.

This could just be me as I like to read the room description and then look at the map. I tend to use my visual senses to to piece information to tie text to image in my mind (I know this from my military training and reading mission orders and maps). So I found myself having  to flip from the description text, to the map, then to the matrix to get a clear picture of what the room is like. This is not terrible, but certainly a design choice that I would think twice before using myself. I certainly DO LIKE the empty area for GMs to write notes, this is brilliant and something I may incorporate into my own publishing material.

Overall, the Abbey is nice but man I think it will be deadly. The details laid out in the Matrix are pretty tough, and numerous enough that it will take a pretty good, and smart, group to make it through the place alive.

The 'Setting' Part of the Adventure Setting
The second part of the book is a combination of a setting, the Matrix and a local lore section, adding up to approximately half the book.

The setting is great, this part of the book truly shines. Normally some adventures have a page or so about the area around the dungeon but this is about ten pages and details the locations, the religions a good section on the important NPCs in the town. This section is simply stupendous. It follows the same format as the Abbey section: a short paragraph with details on a location or place and a section for notes form the GM.
This may seem trivial to some but I can clearly see it being used and being very useful during the game. Perhaps the GM drops in the name or detail not in the booklet when his players visit the chapel, he can write it directly there. Most GMs I know keep a notebook for notes they take during the game, I myself have horrible memory and run the game by the seat of my pants, so having a spot right there in the book for me to take notes? Brilliant!

Below is the only map you are going to see of the town. I love it. Has the feel of the rest of the artwork in the book and certainly evokes the feel that this book is going for. You know I love maps but this one is perfect. I think it fits in with some of the Carcosa-ish maps you see floating around as well.

After reading this book I really feel the setting portion of the book is a winner. The adventure is good as well but I felt this part of the book really shined. It hits just the right level of details, provides enough interesting facts for a GM without becoming some massive historical guide for a fantasy world. I particularly love the historically sound bits about a newer religion absorbing and slightly changing the pagan religion it replaced to help it gain acceptance.

Final thoughts
I really like the booklet and think it is a great product. While I am not enamored with the splitting of the treasure/monsters from the description of the rooms (too much flipping) it is not something that would make me not like the product. The layout is perfect, the art is fitting and they have done a great job on writing and editing this booklet. As P&P is simple but still old school, this adventure setting can easily be translated over to another game system. In fact, I am thinking of running for my group which is currently enjoying D&D 5e, the switch over would be a very simple thing to accomplish.

There is nothing outlandish or crazy or off the wall here, so do not go in expecting a homosexual hydra with laser for eyeballs or giant space rocks that cause people to sprout a penis in their forehead. This is an old school, straight laced adventure of heroes vs monsters.

I would recommend this to others, especially those who like Pits & Perils and old school games, but even to those who enjoy other game systems. I would say 4 out of 5 stars.

You can pick up the booklet here: RPGNow & DriveThruRPG.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Patreon Maps

I just dropped my latest map on Patreon, above you can see a sample of the PDF I also uploaded. If you were a patron you would see all five versions of the map right now as well as a downloadable PDF to have handy at your game table.

What are you waiting for?    ;-) 

Patron levels start at just $.25! Sign up today and get all the maps you might need for your games. Patrons also get the opportunity to influence the maps I draw by providing me with ideas. Click here or the image below to visit the Patreon site and sign up today!


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Forge

The Forge
This business is ran by a smart young man named Rogthrall, a tall and muscular human with blond hair. Rogthrall is openly friendly to those who visit his establishment but he rarely opens up. Rumors have circulated about his mysterious past and many a watchful young females have their sights on him. So far he has not taken the bait on any of these fair maidens. What little is known of him is that he is an excellent blacksmith that has cultivated quite a good reputation for his skills in the little time he has been in town. He has also proven himself capable with weapons, having to defend himself in a few squabbles with customers who demanded prices lower than he felt acceptable.

Rogthrall moved into town last year and purchased this empty two story building, it is rumored he was previously an adventurer due to the sizable amount of gold he paid. He quickly hired a few locals to make modifications to the building: removing about half the lower level and installing a large forge facing the front of the building and restructuring the upper level to serve as rooms for renting out. Six months later he added a larger forge on the side of building. Locals have noted that he seems to use the old forge in the morning and the newer forge in the afternoon (if asked he will say that is simply a matter of getting a better breeze between the morning and afternoon).

The truth is much more sinister however. Rogthrall is a vampire, though he is nearly perfect at keeping this hidden. The switch in forge use is to keep the sun off of him (it would occasionally shine into the work area in front of the old forge). While the occasional sunbath will not destroy hum, he found it rather annoying. While he is an excellent smith (his previous employment prior to his transformation) he now uses the forges, which are always burning as a method to discard of his victims.

Products available: (roll 2d6 to determine products available)
2-5 Sword, Ax, or halberd of good quality
6    Fine suit of plate mail, human sized
7-9 Sword, fine quality, +1 to hit (non-magical bonus)
10 Ax, fine quality, +1 to hit (non-magical bonus)
11 Hammer, fine quality, +1 to all damage rolls (non-magical bonus)
12 Very fine quality sword, +1 to hit and damage (non-magical bonus)



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