Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: The Year In Review Adventure Setting


Favorite TV of 2017
The rogue city-state of Hellsalem's Lot sits like a madhouse on the borderland between worlds. It is a city of chaos and crime, of uncontrolled magic and regularly scheduled existential threats. Terrorist cells breed like fruit flies, cults pop up like weeds, rogue sorcerers lurk in every unattended alleyway, gang wars are so regular they're made into serialized television, and the eclectic members of Libra have to, as their name suggests, keep the balance of it all.

And deal with the vampires.
  • It's very easy to die and very difficult to stay dead in Hellsalem's Lot. Don't question it, it stops working if you question it.
  • The Blood Breed don't fall prey to typical vampire weaknesses: you're going to need a true name and some potent blood magic to seal those bastards away.
  • It's easy to tell if Femt is behind the current disaster; The King of Depravity loves hacking into video billboards to make his announcements. What a ham.

Favorite game of 2017
In the harbor there is an island: a prison that once housed the city's criminals, now overrun with beasts and monsters. The prison's layout is ever-changing, kept a-flux by the weakened dimensional boundaries of its parent city. Creatures within are often possessed of dead cell mutagens, which may in some cases become self-aware and capable of puppeting about corpses as their own bodies.

  • A mad inventor is known to live on the Island, trading powerful magical weapons for dead cells harvested from the bodies of fallen monsters.
  • The great eldritch Watcher still keeps its post in the Insufferable Crypt, guarding the depths of the island from any intruders or would-be escape artists.
  • There's an assassin up in the Clock Tower - who was she sent here to kill, and why is she still here?

Other favorite game of 2017
Beneath Hellsalem's Lot there is another city: the ancient grounds of Hallownest, home to the old insect-folk. But the city's time has passed, and the lonely tunnels are now filled with the remnants of that lost civilization. Spelunkers and treasure-seekers are still found every so often in the caves, uncovering the mysteries of the long-dead and long-forgotten.
  • The caves are filled with undead husks, possessed of a terrible infection. The vessel within the Temple of the Black Egg is breaking apart, but none can get inside without releasing the Dreamers' seals.
  • The moth-shaman in the Resting Grounds knows how to cut ones way into the dreams of the dead.
  • The fungi are not to be overlooked. Simple-minded they might be now, but with the leadership of Mr. Mushroom they will inherit the age to come.
Favorite game-book of 2017
Further below Hallownest, in the furthest dark abyss, there are the Veins of the Earth. Here there are no friendly faces, there is no bench to sit awhile and listen. There is only darkness and death and unimaginable hunger. There is only cold, blood-slick stone.
  • In the terrible black abyss did the Pale King and his five great Trilobite Knights discover the Radiance ages ago, and build the city of Hallownest by her light. When they turned from her, she delivered a terrible infection upon their dreams, and Hallownest was no more.
  • Fossil vampires, older and more cruel by millions of years than the Blood Breed, still lurk in the stony dark. They are feral and mindless, and can smell blood spilled even miles above.
  • The dErO conspiracy seeps outward, like lead in an aquifer. Rumors of it have even reached the Thinking Machines of the surface world. Tell us what you have seen in the Thinking Machines. There are no Thinking Machines. Tell us what you have not seen. We know what you have and have not seen.

Other other favorite game of 2017
Far beyond the walls of mist that wreathe Hellsalem's Lot there is the Downside: a purgatorial landscape of great beauty and great danger. Bands of outcasts make a rough life here, partaking in the holy Rites that might see them returned to civilization
  • The Nightwings have been broken apart. In their absence, the Liberation Rite atop Mount Alodiel cannot be held, and no one may be freed from this hellish land.
  • The bog hags of Flagging Hands have gathered at the Pit of Milithe, to call forth Yslach Astral-born. The stars are not yet right, but soon they shall be so, and the earth ripe for its devourer.
  • "I hear that bastard Volfred Sandalwood is trying to fix the Rites, just to stick it to the old Archjustice. And get this - he knows how to build a machine that can make books! Can you believe that?"

Other other other favorite game of 2017
Out past even the Downside there are ruins of an older world, green with life and brown with dust. Here the YoRHa androids do battle with the alien machine lifeforms over a world that has lost both its human and alien masters.
  • Broadcasts from the secret human moon enclave are a regular occurrence, but lately they have been a bit irregular: they've always lacked specific details, that came with the territory, but now they keep mentioning something about dErO machines, and YoRHa hasn't got a clue what the old humans are on about.
  • A pacifist machine enclave has emerged in the forest out near the old amusement park, and to everyone's surprise they've decided to focus their single-minded obsession with imitating the humans of old through the study of existentialist philosophy. YoRHa hasn't got a clue what they're going on about.
  • And now a message from everyone's favorite immortal gay teenager junk salesman, who is also a magical skeleton and has definitely seen some shit: "Every day's a sale, ever sale's a win!" 

 ------------------------------------------------

Man, it's been a big year. A pretty rough start and a lot of shakeups throughout, but you know, it turned out pretty okay. The blog's going strong (Seven months now? Holy guacamole.) and I feel like I'm in a better place than I was this time last year, even if only for having a place to yell about games online.

Happy new year, folks!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Return to the Old School

 
You hear it in the earth, the rumbling of the ancient herds...
This is a revisit to this old post, now made useful with GLOG.

The Humble Art


Any human can use the Humble Art. You have spell dice equal to your WIS modifier, and these dice can only be used for casting spells of the Art. If you have at least 1 spell die, you know WIS - 10 spells. Learning new spells requires the tutelage of another individual. Spells of the Art cannot be written down or copied in spellbooks or scrolls.

Wizards do not use the Humble Art. Years of academia have blackened their opinion of it to such a degree that they would not consider using it except in a most desperate situation, and even then only after the rest of their magic has been spent.

Spells of the Humble Art can be improved if the correct sympathetic components are in place. Add +1 spell die when casting with the components listed below. Additional dice are burned out upon use and do not return.

The Old School Spell List


Augury
R: touch  T: self  D: 0

In reading the entrails of sacrificed animals, you look for an omen of what is to come. You have a [dice] x 10% chance of successfully foreseeing a future event, plus [1 die] per hit die of sacrificed creature or hour spent cloud-watching.

Even if successful, omens will often have multiple potential meanings.

Call Upon the Folk
R: 100'  T: Folk  D: 0

Roll under WIS. If successful, the local Folk will appear to you, and you gain [dice] to your reaction roll when conversing with them.

Summoning a specific being requires one of the following:
  • The location is strongly associated with a particular entity 
  • [sum] > 15
  • The Folk's true name is known (automatic)
Contact Other Plane
R: 100' T: extraplanar creature  D: 0

Roll under WIS. If successful, you successfully make contact with another world.
    • If [sum] < 10, the recipient plane and being is random. 
    • If [sum] > 10, you can contact a random being on a specified plane.
    • If [sum] > 15, you can contact a specified being on a specified plane.
    Gain +1 [dice] by consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms. Automatic success with the true name of an extraplanar being.

    Detect / Locate
    R: 30' + [sum] x 5 / 100' + [sume]x5 / see below T: Object or creature D: concentration / 0

    Detect: The caster can tell if the target is passing within range
    Locate: The caster can determine the specific location of the target
    • 1D: general noun (ex: dog)
    • 2D: specific noun (ex: my dog, Old Yeller)
    • 3D: vague or immaterial (ex: love, help)
    If you have a piece of what you are trying to locate, you will be able to know its exact location at the time of casting.

    Exorcism
    R: 20' T: spirit possessing object or creature D: 0

    Cast out an evil spirit of [dice] HD or lower from an object or creature. This will not destroy the spirit, just remove it from its host.

    Gain +1[dice] from holy water or other objects / substances anathema to the spirit
    Gain +2[dice] if you know the spirit's true name

    Identify
    R: 20' T: Object or creature D: 0

    Effect depends on the [dice] invested.
    • 1D: Caster can determine if something has been changed by magic, and the potency of the enchantment. Mundane properties and names are revealed (ex: "this is phosphorus, it can burn underwater."
    • 2D: Caster can determine the above, as well as what kind of magic was used, when it was enchanted, and the effect of the enchantment. Advanced mundane properties are revealed (ex:
    • 3D: Caster can determine the above, as well as who created the enchantment
    • 3D + physical piece of target: Learn the true name of the target or of the original caster.

    Hunter's Mark
    R: sight T: creature D: permanent

    Marked target takes [dice] extra damage from all of your attacks, and you are aware of its general location within [sum] miles.

    Magic Circle
    R: [sum] T: spirit D: until broken

    A circle is marked out on the ground which may hold and bind a spirit of [dice] HD or less. The Folk will consider this a grave insult.

    Gain +1 [dice] if the circle is made with salt, iron flakes, or other substances the spirit does not like.
    Gain +2 [dice] if the circle is inscribed with the target's true name.

    Mending
    R: touch T: object D: 0

    An object weighing [sum] pounds or less, made of stone, clay, wood, or fiber, can be repaired. Mending metal in this manner requires 2 [dice]. Using this spell a second time on the same object carries a 1-in-6 chance of breaking the object completely, increasing by 1 each time it is mended.

    Purify Food and Water
    R: touch T: food or water D: 0

    You can clean and prepare [sum] tainted rations. Roll a second d6: on a 1, the removed toxins become a rotball sprite. (0 HD, 1 HP, AC as unarmored, 1 damage, save vs poison or 1d6 CON damage until cured)

    Produce Flame
    R: 40' (when thrown) T: self D: as below

    Liberally inspired by Mateo's pyromancer. Damage = [sum]. The size of the fire is determined by the dice invested:
    • 1D: candle (STR 10)
    • 2D: torch (STR 30)
    • 3D: fire (STR 40, two hands)
    • 4D: inferno (STR 70, two hands, takes full turn to cast, movement speed halved)
    • 5D: fire breath, 30' cone. (STR 50)
    +1 [dice] for possessing the heart or blood of a dragon. Bonuses stack from different dragons.

    Skywrite
    R: 1 mile T: clouds D: [sum] x 30 seconds

    You can shape or create [sum] cloud-glyphs, which last for [dice] hours. Each glyph will be a simple word or idea: one cannot make the statement "Help! We are under siege by orcs!" but "Help (needed) / orcs / danger" is a viable message.

    Spare the Dying
    R: Touch T: Creature D: [dice] hours

    The target, upon hitting death's door, can cling to life for [dice] hours, so long as they are not injured again. The caster must save against poison each hour or take 1d6 damage from shouldering the target's pain.

    Speak with Dead
    R: touch T: corpse or other remains D: 10 minutes

    You can communicate with lingering spirits that have died within the last:
    • 1D: day
    • 2D: month
    • 3D: year  
    To call up spirits older than a year, the caster must know the language of the dead and invoke 3 [dice].

    Ghosts are imprints of an individual, and so do not possess all of that person's knowledge, nor are they able to provide incredibly specific information unless it was incredibly important to the target.

    Woman's Work
    R: n/a T: n/a D: n/a

    With the proper equipment (material components, a cooking pot, water), you can make [sum] doses of contraceptive, proconceptive, or contramenstrual. These are universally-accepted trade goods, and can be redeemed for favors, mundane items, and information. This spell can also be invoked for the safe delivery of an infant.

    Weave Tale / Song
    R: n/a T: n/a D: n/a

    This spell requires another post all on its own, as it has no set form. Until I make that table, have a look at Jeff's post here, pick any of the fairy tales listed, and adapt it. You don't even have to read the story, just write up your own using that title.

    Aboriginal rock art, photo by Graeme Churchard


    Special Spells



    Control Weather
    R: local region T: environment D: 6 hours+

    The ritual has a base [sum]% chance of success, but there is no limit to the amount of people (and their dice) that can be added. Attempting to change the weather to something unseasonable or unnatural (ex: snow in summer, rain of frogs) halves the percentage of success.

    Roll +1 [dice] for every two hours beyond the six required.

    Coming of Age
    R: touch T: adolescent D: permanent

    The boy stands before his father and the elders of the community.  The girl, having bled to the first time, is taken by her mother to the local wise woman. They must go out and accomplish a task: hunt a beast, make a pilgrimage to a holy site, outwit their elders, prove their bravery, perform a rite before the community, solve a seemingly-impossible task, learn of a great secret, accomplish some act in the community's benefit, or so on.

    Upon completion, the target gains 1 level. They are now permitted to marry, and will be welcomed as an adult of the community with all responsibilities that entails. (Translation: You take 2 extra convictions and must pay 50% of your earnings back to the community). In some regions, couples engaged to be wed are assigned the same task, and must complete it together.

    Failure through cowardice or other personal weakness creates an evil spirit, which will haunt the individual and prevent them from gaining XP until they succeed at the task, or defeat the spirit.

    Passing the Torch
    R: touch T person: D: permanent

    A character of level 7 or higher bequeaths some or all of their [dice] to another individual.  This does not compound across generations (ex: A has a +2, and gives it to B, who has +1. B now has +3, but would only be able to pass on +1 to C).

    Tuesday, December 19, 2017

    Obligatory Star Wars SpoilerPost


    This will begin with a different story.

    In worldly matters my father held two things in utmost reverence: baseball, and Star Wars. He introduced me to the series, encouraged my love of it, and was ever there to listen to the ramblings-on of an over-imaginative and obsessive child.

    He died early this year. (Cancer's a bastard, friends.)  No real need to say that it puts everything else into a different perspective, but I'll say it anyway.
    In watching The Last Jedi, I was able to put into words a fundamental disconnect between the Star Wars I know and the one that sits on the screen before us. If you were to ask me to distill Star Wars, I would tell you "well, it's the perfect space adventure setting" (I cut my tweenage teeth on the Essential Guides series, and still have most of them, so I know far, far too much background information), or I would tell you "It's about the relationship between a young man and his father."

    That's they key there, the thing that made the whole myth click with me, because Star Wars was such a fundamental part of my relationship with my own dad. Luke has to come to terms with both his father's humanity and mortality by the end - and that's now something I have personal experience with.

    And Star Wars without that connection feels hollow. A stranger. I felt it with the Prequels, I feel it now with Disney, and I have reached a point of peace with it. Mostly. It won't come back. I could be chasing the next fanboy high but I know it's never going to happen again, at least not in the way it did back then.

    Spoilers below the break.


    Sunday, December 17, 2017

    40 Questions for Mother Stole Fire

    As a follow up to this post, I present answers to setting questions by +Jeff Rients (here) and +Jez Gordon (here).

     

    Jeff's 20



    1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?


    The Gods of Man number in the teeming thousands. There are big gods and small gods, those with priesthoods and churches, those without. Chief among them are Ama Adimatha, her husband Baba Tubalkhan, their children, and DOG - they don't have much in the way of official priesthoods and are revered by just about everyone to some extent.

    For those who want a bit more hands-on approach, there are the Powers of the World - which is really just a blanket term for any sufficiently powerful being that might be willing to lend you power and favor in exchange for service. Orca is one of these.

    The Grand Heresy is the antireligion held by the inhabitants of Hell. Its practitioners seek to subvert, enslave, and destroy the Gods of Man, and hate Mother and her family most of all. It is a brutal and sadistic hierarchy, used by the powerful to crush the weak underfoot.

    The New Gods live in secret cities on the Moon, and wish to inherit the next age of the world. Their followers give up all connection to their humanity, the Gods of Man, and the world itself.

    2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?


    The general store, farmers' market, and public square are good places to start, and you'll find those in any modest town or greater. Alternatively, you can find more unique (but still relatively standard) items through the 100-Eye Merchant Cult, the Samson & Angel Journeyman's Catalog, or any number of enterprising traveling salesmen. Packages delivered via amazons on bicycles is not out of the question.

    3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?


    Big John & Sons is the best smithy in all the Russet Hills. You can find branches elsewhere - always check if the head smith has got a badge stamped by the man himself. If so, they're the real deal.

    4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?


    This is a dangerous question, as past a certain point figuring out an answer means catastrophic arcane war. Current favorites are Mier the Red, Hadzan Ramathavan, Cota-Jan, Ozwald Wirralbin

    5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?


    Again, there are many, depending on who you ask and where you are. Gold Enesh would be the most common answer, but he is getting on in years. Sofi Scarbelly is shaping up to be the best warrior the amazons have seen in generations. Abride Larn, while having killed multiple drakes single-handedly, has put adventuring on hold to do tours for his book. Zedrithon Taraxus is a barmy lunatic who worships his sword and is planning a wedding with it.

    (The actual greatest warrior is a tag-team of an old man and his adopted grand-daughter, who run a soup stand in the leper-quarter of Janaskut)

    6. Who is the richest person in the land?


    Mammon, Duke of Hell, is so wealthy that entire currencies are backed by his existence. The second-richest is Jemadi Atel Dur, Overlord of Cinnabar, but just barely over some scions of the Dragon Guilds.

    7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?


    The Petal Houses of Ool have a monopoly on healing potions. Otherwise, you can try your luck with a fleshcrafter, a church-run hospital, or a magimedicus.

    8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?

    • Poison - Cured by witch or alchemist.
    • Disease - Cured by witch or alchemist.
    • Curse - Requires a specific ritual to break. A witch can point you in the right direction.
    • Level drain - Rest, recovery, physical therapy.
    • Lycanthropy - Can be suppressed, but not cured, by a wizard.
    • Polymorph - Can't be undone, but a wizard could further transform you into something more palatable.
    • Death - None. Undeath is a sidestep, not a cure.
    • Undeath - Exorcism (for spirits) or fire (for bodies).

     

    9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?


    Wizards coalesce in universities, alumni organizations, and generic cliques. Smaller schools and traditions are everywhere, mostly sidelined by the bigger circles. The exception are the non-hierarchical wizards of the Magelands.

    10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?


    Ask around, someone will be able to direct you to the local witch or cunning man. A typical small town will usually have an apothecary, alchemist, or scholar, and it's about half-half odds on whether they've got an actual education.

    11. Where can I hire mercenaries?


    Dungeon hobos are common wherever there are monsters to slay, ruins to delve, or odd jobs for strange folk. For the services of more traditional, notable (and expensive) companies, you will have to go to their offices and make your offers directly.

    Of the larger companies, most feared are the Sableswords of the City Magpie. 

    12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?


    Public weaponry in civilized areas will generally require some sort of trade license or the permission of a patron or organization. Magic is difficult to outlaw, but it helps to have your diploma handy, just in case you need to prove you're legitimate. Wizards in positions of power love sumptuary laws, usually about hats.

    13. Which way to the nearest tavern?


    Right over thataway. If you can't find a close one, there's always a Pub Crawler: they're monsters that look like giant fuzzy caterpillars with taverns built on top of them

    14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?


    The Great Manticore of Ist, the Tyrant Swan of Celendais, the Beast of Bracewell, the All-Monitor, the Cantordevil all fit this descriptions, as do dozens of others.

    15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?


    There's always a war of some sort that's going on or wrapping up. Formalized proxy wars via mercenary company are gaining in popularity, as you get all the fun of war with less collateral damage and bad press - these are generally held on the deadly island continent of Austrollac.

    16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?


    The Thousand Emperors of Hespir cling to the pageantry of old in the Crumbling Coliseum., sportsball stadiums can be found wherever there are wizards in large numbers, Cinnabar has cook offs in the Pavillion of Delights, and there are always rumors of the dread Blood Bath House lurking down some darkened alleyway

    17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?


    Wizards love them, and so they can be found anywhere wizards are. Many of them are more like arcane social clubs or open-secret societies, and so sinister agendas are not necessarily required.

    18. What is there to eat around here?


    Wandering flavormages have spread new and exciting schools of monster-based cuisine across the world, shaking up the very foundations of food arts. Monster-hunting for cooking purposes is a healthy and profitable trade.

    19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?


    Plenty. Darvatius' empire left countless ruins behind in its global conquests, not to mention all the war-material and arcane machines that got left behind in the chaos.

    Ba-Vradesh, the emperor of Acephavara some centuries ago, was economy-shatteringly rich (just ask the economy) and some of his secret vaults still remain.

    20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?


    True dragons are extinct. Mostly. False dragons, metaphorical dragons, and temporally-misplaced dragons do still exist, but most common variety one can find is the common drake: a large, angry reptile with wings and fire-breath.

    Jez's 21

    1. Why were settlements founded here?


    The DM said they were there, and lo, they were there.

    2. What are the local funeral customs?


    To prevent the body from being inhabited by a rogue spirit or some other power, the eyes are removed and coin-capped bronze nails are driven into the sockets (Eyes, being the gateway to the soul, are the primary path of possession).

    Cremations are tricky, as they are very effective in preventing possession but can birth a cinderwight if performed improperly. The appropriate ministrations of an ashwarden can prevent this from happening: if you absolutely need to do it on your own and don't have the supplies, remove the eyes, stick a hot charcoal in the mouth, and hope for the best.

    3. How do neighbouring settlements communicate with one another?


    The Post Office, through a complex system of runners, riders, hot air balloons, and trained gargoyles, will deliver just about anywhere. They are fiercely independent and do not take well to attempts to bring them under the control of another party. They have their own divine patron, Postmaster Fennic.

    4. How dramatically does your campaign location change from season to season?


    It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. If you're in Distant Lands, it might be hot or cold all year, or cold in the summer and hot in the winter. Sometimes the weather goes nutty and just stops making sense, but that's usually the fault of wizards.

    5. What are the biggest local celebrations each year? 


    Springtide, Summerseve, Goblinwatch, and Wintermas mark out the seasons and man's relationship with the Folk. Mother's Day is celebrated in late spring. The rest of the year is filled up with the feast days of various gods and saints, historical celebrations, and whatever else the locals feel like celebrating. People in Distant Lands have different, strange holidays.

    6. Where is the safest place for someone to stash a considerable sum of coins and treasure?


    Banks, hidey-holes, secret caves, or inside a Hoardgobbler. The last option is favored by more adventurous types, as the creatures have a reputation for being both loyal and incessantly clever, as well as mobile and  gastro-intestinally extra-spatial.

    7. What is the local standard of medical technology in replacing missing bits and body pieces?


    Fleshcrafters can manage grafts and transplants (watch for alien hand syndrome), and thaumechanical limbs can be crafted by skilled arcanoartificers. All of these options are pretty expensive.

    8. What are some local superstitions?


    Spill salt, toss pepper over your shoulder; shark teeth are good luck; keep a smooth stone in your pocket while traveling; hostile Folk can be sniffed out by their reaction to mismatched socks; witches dispel all luck, good and bad; spookums can't get you with whiskey in you.

    9. What is the scariest local myth?


    The Hesselgraüm (Broken Man) is a portent of ruin: its appearance foretells eschatonic madness and destruction, the loss of self in the face of greater powers, and the ultimate self-destruction of man. 

    10. Who collects tribute and taxes for the powers that be?


    The Tax Lads of Mammon are not your friends. They will find you, and you will pay what you owe.

    Outside of them, there are the regular old taxman of the local king / overlord / wizard / elected representative / other head of state.

    11. What are the best places to get a drink round here?


    The Golden Hammer is a hole in the wall on the distant wasteland border. The local beer and mead are fantastic, it's good for some news, and can be fortified if the local tribesmen get too rowdy. It's run by a cheery (if not incredibly bright) woman by the name of Jubilee and her business partner and possible-lover-we're-not-sure, Briggs (who is the local sheriff).

    The Crow's Foot is an utter madhouse, attracting the freaks from far and near like a metaphysical magnet. People will swear it changes locations and burns down regularly.

    12. Where can you buy animals round here?


    The local marketplace for mundane, which might have some visiting breeders of exotic animals.

    13. What is the local settlement missing?


    Exotic magics and rare goods from Distant Lands are always in demand, as is problem-solvers for local monsters and undead.

    14. What is the local mascot of the town or region?


    The cloud manta is a common sigil of good fortune and freedom across all of the Mare Interregnum and beyond. In a more literal sense, there was the ill-advised and disastrous attempt by old Acephavara to re-brand their empire by personifying their outdated, colonial-expansionist attitudes as a cute mascot girl.

    There's also Mundo.

    15. Where's the best place to pick up a few hired hands?


    Daily or migrant laborers (hobos) will take and offer jobs in the public market, usually alongside a posting board. Most won't use the board, and will just have the sign or tool of their trade as their identification.

    16. What's the local take on the end of the world?


    It doesn't come to mind often, as Mother seems to have the world well-enough in order. This doesn't mean that the world is safe from existential threat, of course, and of those there are four.
    • The Eleventh Dragon (the past catching up)
    • The New Gods (the future bearing down)
    • Hell (self-destruction)
    • The Tolling, Ticitok, God of Time (running out of it)

    17. Is there a local hedge wizard, witch, or shaman of no great power but one who cares for the locals and helps deal with their tribulations?


    There's always someone of that sort within a day's travel of civilization (unless you are supremely far out there).

    18. What games do the locals like to play?


    The most popular spectator sport is wizardball (also called sportsball), which is more or less Calvinball played by wizards, with some human-scale chess for player classes, American football for violence, and magic for cheating.


    19. What crimes are punishable by death?


    Murderers and rapists will see themselves on the gallows. Wizards tend to love bizarre, ironic punishments.

    20. Have any great disasters destroyed local settlements?


    The city of Osterite was eaten up in a single night by the nightmares of a terrible monster. It has been seen to emerge from nowhere on poor-omened nights.

    21. Where can you find maps of the region?


    Mapping services (as well as exploratory) are handled by the Royal Cartographers' Guild (i.e. the Kingless Brotherhood of the Directionally Challenged). They make wonderful maps


    Thursday, December 14, 2017

    Class: Calimarimancer

    by frogbians

    Have you ever wished that your wizard was more squid-themed? Do you wish to join the ranks of the the calimarimancers of the Oa Atoll? Worry and fret no longer! Now, you too can become a dread servant of the Cephalogods!

    Calimarimancer Features

     

    • You will not be attacked by cephalopods without provocation.
    • You can safely drink salt water.

     Calimarimancer Spells


    Ink Splash
    R: [sum] x5' T: line or cone D: 0

    Covers [dice] x 10'^2 in slick, colorful ink. Those walking across the effected area must make a check to avoid slipping. Creatures directly hit by an ink splash must save vs blindness.

    Marker Tag
    R: 30' T: Creature D: 1 attack

    Target is hit with a bright splash of ink, granting the next attack against it +[dice] to hit.

    Inkscreen
    R: Touch T: Self D: [sum] rounds

    Creates a blinding, stinging haze of ink that spreads to [dice] x 10' in all directions of caster.

    Book Liquor
    R: Touch T: Book or scroll D: Permanent

    The contents of a book or scroll are reduced to a liquid that may be carried around in a vial and drunk as a potion. Drinking a mundane book will impart the contents of the work. Scrolls will be cast immediately upon conversion to liquid. For spellbooks, the spells inside will fight each other for dominance until 1d3, at random, are left.

    Jet Stream
    R: [dice] x 10' T: Self D: 0

    Propels caster in a straight line, leaving behind a trail of ink.

    Blob of Bioluminescence
    R: 40' T: Point D: 0

    Launches an orb of STR 45 glowing ink that will stick to surfaces and burst after [dice] minutes, turning a into [sum] x 10'^2 puddle of STR 5 glowing ink.

    Dazzling Display
    R: Touch T: Self D: 1 minute

    Your skin pulsates with chromatophoric patterns, depending on how many dice are invested.
    • 1D: Simple color and pattern changing, no light produced.
    • 2D: Complex colors and patterns, weak light produced.
    • 3D: Chaotic pulses of color, bright light produced.
    This spell can be used to gain an advantage on sneaking, but the caster must be nude to take full benefit.

    Tentacular Lash
    R: 15' T: Creature or object D: 0

    The caster's arm transforms into a tentacle which may grapple and drag enemies of [dice] HD or lower, pulling them towards the caster. If the object or creature cannot be pulled, the caster will be pulled towards it.

    Independent Arm
    R: 50' T: Self D: [sum] turns

    An arm is removed and imbued with its own life. it can crawl and wiggle about according to its owner's wishes.

    Squid Now
    R: Touch T: Self D: [dice] rounds

    Caster transforms into a squid. They cannot attack, but can cast spells and move at swimming speed (2x normal) over ink-covered areas.

    Inkdive
    R: Sight T: pool of ink D: [die] x 5 minutes

    A continuous patch of ink becomes [sum]' deep.

    Cephalopodic Communion 
    R: n/a T: Self D: see below.
    • [sum] < 5: Speak with Cephalopod
    • [sum] < 10: Hear the whispers of the Cephalogods - gain +2 to a roll of your choice, but all saves are made at -2 until it is spent.
    • [sum] < 20: Mouth of Madness - Enemies within the sound of your voice take -[dice] to their next roll.
    • [sum] > 20: The Bentantacled Ones manifest, all present check morale at -[dice], targeted enemies must save or take [sum] damage (splittable)
    • [sum] = 24: Transform permanently into a Herald of the Cephalogods, gaining the following:
      • 15' aura of fear, effecting both enemies and allies with disadvantage on morale and saves against fear.
      • Brain removal - Do 1d8 damage to a grappled humanoid opponent. On an 8 or a killing blow, their brain in removed and you gain 1d8 HP back.
      • Mouth of Madness - as above.
      • Permanent Speak with Cephalopod.
      • You cannot cast this spell again.

    Backfires


    1. Ink-blinded for 1d4 hours
    2. Speak only squidlish for 1d6 hours
    3. Stuck in squid form for 1d6 hours
    4. Fire a second random spell
    5. Moment of crippling existential fear: save against or be fearful for [sum] turns.
    6. All saves at -1 for 24 hours

    Dooms


    1. Cannot create ink or commune for 24 hours
    2. Cannot create ink or commune for 1d3 days
    3. Mind devoured by the Cephalogods. Cannot commune, INT, WIS, CHA reduced by 2d6.

    by Martin Kepler

    IA! IA!

    STAY FRESH!

    Tuesday, December 12, 2017

    Play Report: Blood In the Chocolate

    There are times when being proven wrong is a wonderful and welcome thing. This was one of them.

    After a long while of warming up to the idea, I decided to run +Kiel Chenier 's Blood in the Chocolate in the Distant Lands of DIY (with a healthy amount of FLAILSNAILS character options) and it resulted in one of the best nights of gaming I've ever hosted. There was a point towards the end where I was curled up on the floor, laughing hysterically.

    The first-level party, gathered under the employ of a Scarabae-Umberwell chocolatiers' guild, consisted of:
    (Most of the characters went without names during the session itself, so I provided fill-ins for this report.)

    A note of appreciation is in order for Robin's player, who supplied everyone with turkey and mashed potatoes before we got to playing.


    The Arrival



    They steps off the boat in the early morning, amidst the bustle of unloaded cargo. Martell Company sailors and Lucia's dockworkers scramble about with carts and crates, unloading raw goods from the Swordfish Isles and loading chocolates ready for market in Vornheim, Corpathium, and elsewhere. It is frigidly cold, of the sort where the sky is completely clear and the sun uncomfortably bright.

    The party quickly introduce themselves to Karl Weiss, who tells them that tourists are always welcome to observe the factory from the loading area, but they are to come no closer. Dark figures can be seen in the guard towers. The factory itself was described as "huge and brutalist, like the inside of a Vogon spaceship but on the outside."

    A plan is swiftly hatched to gain access to the dock office. Simmons, being a skeleton and thus immune to drowning, bumps into one of the sailors and throws himself in the water as if pushed. Robin raises the alarm, and Karl starts shouting for a rope. In the resulting commotion, Augustine slips into the dock office building. They steal the lockbox, the pistol shot, and a glimpse of the guards' timesheets before making an exit.

    With the help of some sailors, Simmons is pulled from the freezing water. Being a skeleton, he is at no danger of hypothermia. Augustine and Octon make a convincing cover that he is some eccentric northerner, and so his swiftly-freezing clothing is of no concern. The frazzled Karl agrees that this makes sense and tries to recover his stalling work-shift. He's so distracted that he doesn't notice Simmons swiping the elaborate golden key hanging from his pocket.

    The party convenes behind the office. 108 breaks open the lockbox with his big, meaty claw. Augustine gives the notice that the guard shift will be changing soon, and soon enough there are two whistle blasts.

    Octon takes the opening to lead the group in a flat-out sprint up the path to the main doors. The mad dash is miraculously successful, if completely ridiculous.

    "Shit! Shit! Shit!" Octon shoves the key in the door and hurries everyone inside. The doors swing back closed behind them, and lock with a solid kla-chunk.


    The Smash and Grab



    Upon entering the factory, the party swiftly sheds their heavy coats and gets geared up. The smash and grab begins: Xeno steals the mink coat in the foyer, pocket-fulls of chocolates are swiped but not eaten, several bottles of alcohol were picked up by Mel, Xeno, and Octon (108 decided to drink much of the rest), and Augustine raided the guest bedroom. Octon was able to identify the opal broach by its twin-headed raven insignia, marking it as belonging to the Von Vorg family of Vornheim.

    With nowhere left to check, the party  attempt to open the locked door in the east hallway.

    The locked door in the hallway gives way to Robin's shoulder, and the paladin manages to resist the poison gas. The group enters the main river-room, to the horrifying sounds of "Primus in the Chocolate Factory" (courtesy Augustine's player).

    More looting follows. Mel and Xeno pour out their rum and fill up bottles of chocolate.  Simmons and Octon fill up their backpacks with whatever plant life they can find (much of it clearly imported from the Swordfish Isles).

    There is some debate as to where to go next, but the group decides to pass on taking the paddleboat or crossing the bridges and instead exits by the southwest door into the west hallway. From there, they enter the stairwell and storage room, and happen across a mummified corpse.

    "Everyone stand back! I'm a doctor!"

    Augustine, of course goes to investigate the thief's corpse, which collapses into a cloud of sugar-dust. The beaked mask and goggles do nothing, and the good doctor is infected with Bubblegum Gasbags (A re-flavored Terrible Swells, appearing as clusters of neon-pink tumors that swiftly inflate) Robin takes the map from the dust, revealing that the bottom floor has two rooms: one marked with a skull and crossbones, the other with the phrase "what the fuck?"
     

    The Descent



    The now-buoyant Augustine is tied to 108 with a length of rope, and the crew descend the stairs into the darkened hell of the boiler room.

    The pygmies working the boilers are a horrific lot; shrivelled, macrocephalic things colored like jellybeans. They attack the intruders immediately, but manage to do little. One fumbles his attack roll, and stumbles into a grinding gear. Augustine manages to drop a knife on one, 108 gurbles a crab-man war-cry, a dead pygmy in each claw.

    But the violence, though intense, is short-lived: Octon shoots a Blob of Bioluminescence at the ceiling, and the flash of psychedelic ooze-light (plus the deaths of about a third of the pygmies present) breaks their morale and sends them scurrying back into their hidey-holes, beady glowing eyes peering from the darkness and evil chitterings heard under the noise of the boilers.

    The experimentation room is next and contains in the far corner an elephant-sized blob of marshmallow goo. This is ignored to deal with what is brewing in the cauldrons. The party grabs whatever beakers and flasks they can find and gets to grabbing:
    • 11 pints of chocolate liquor, which is then used to overencumber Augustine so he's only bobbing a few feet off the ground, instead of up by the ceiling.
    • 2 pints of normal milk chocolate (stolen by Octon)
    • 3 pints of hazelnut chocolate (stolen by Simmons)
    • The last cauldron explodes all over the floor, and is lapped up by the blob.
    The some of the hazelnut chocolate is fed to Augustine, in hopes that it might cure him. It gives him Brittle Throat Disease instead.

    The prison is broken into, and they find a blue-skinned man there, body covered in scars and tattoos. No one can understand his babbling, but the pleads of an imprisoned man are universal. Robin, being sworn to liberate the oppressed, frees him from his shackles and leads him into the light of the laboratory...


    The Ojou-sama Laugh



    Enter stage right, Lucia de Castillo. There are four guards with muskets in the lab's two doorways, all aimed at the party.

    "Hello hello hello," she says. "What have we here? Mice in my walls, nibbling at my pantry?" 

    [Aside] The timing here was perfect, and completely not my doing: by the time the party was down in the lab, Lucia had just finished her tour of the factory floor and had descended there herself, with prior warning from Karl

    Also, this moment is why you buy this module, guys and gals. You get to do the laugh. You could do the laugh normally without buying the module, and the module is really good on its own, but Lucia is designed specifically for this moment and it is wonderful. [/Aside]

    There is a moment of knife-edge tension, and then Simmons throws his spear at her, which successfully wounds.

    "Oh fucking hell..."

    (Augustine's player comes in again with the music)

    Lucia draws a pistol and puts a bullet through Simmons' skull; the skeleton collapses to the floor with a clatter and clang. The factory guards open fire to cover her strategic retreat back upstairs, but it appears that Lucia hires fresh graduates from the Stormtrooper Academy, as their shots (which could have easily killed several of the party right off) miss.

    All is chaos. Octon hides himself by jumping inside the marshmallow blob. Mel rushes a guard pair and successfully knocks them down, pushing on to the boiler room. Blue takes cover behind a table. 108 and Augustine charge the other pair and together fail to injure them.

    Octon notices now that the blob is purring, and he starts receiving psychic visions: scenes of gothic towers choked in snow and rust. Vornheim.

    The two standing guards retreat to the stairwell, to block off Mel's path out. Robin gravely wounds one of the downed guards, who is left crying and bleeding on the floor: the other manages to right himself and retreats into the boiler room, just in time for Xeno to dash into the boiler room, stab him in the side, and nearly topple him into one of the furnaces.  (Like, she has got him hanging over the edge, it's super-metal). The pygmies cheer from the darkness, howling for more blood.

    Octon continues to get visions from the blob; the two-headed crow of the von Vorgs on a tapestry, hanging across a long, knife-angular hallway.

    Simmons reforms, picks up a dropped musket, and runs to the boiler room, just in time to see Augustine toss a vial of acid at the base of the stairs: an act that breaks the guards' defenses and forces further retreat, while simultaneously melting through most of 108's carapace and killing Mel in the friendly fire (his player immediately takes up the role of Blue, arming himself with the machete of the fallen Guild Dog). Augustine, being a balloon of healing, is able to aid 108. Xeno stabs the grappled guard in the chest and dumps him into the furnace. Blue and Robin take to the stairs. Tiny, technicolor hands pull the wounded guard into the machinery.

    A third and final vision is delivered unto Octon: a table with a box of chocolates marked "Complimentary", and an invitation addressed "My dear Cordelia..."

    What I'm getting at is that the squid-wizard successfully seduced a giant blob of marshmallow. 

    Cordelia, now carrying Octon aloft, cascades out of the lab and up the stairs, the remainder of the party right behind.

    The two surviving guards have planted themselves right at Lucia's door, and manage to avoid getting killed by Robin and Blue, but they ended up failing their saves vs. gigantic marshmallow ooze and are splattered all over the doors in a pulp (Robin and Blue manage to survive by pressing themselves against the walls)

    "My dear Cordelia," Octon says in his best Lucia impersonation. "The rest of these traitors are in the next room. Open the door."

    The ooze extends a pseudopod and taps out the musical key-code. The doors swing open.

    Lucia stands before the party, bloody bandages wrapped around her shoulder and a pistol in each hand.

    "Cordelia. Put him down. Now." Her command is like a hammer dropping down.

    "No, Cordelia! I'm the real Lucia! You know me! I don't bleed, I never lose!" Octon counters.

    The ooze, terribly confused by two of its mistress, cannot withstand the voice. It deposits Octon before Lucia.

    GUN VS INK, LET'S GO

    GUESS WHAT TIME IT IS
    GO ON, GUESS.

    The squid-wizard's Ink-Splash is faster than Lucia's trigger finger, and just barely. Blinded, Lucia's shot goes a hair's-width wide. Simmons takes this opportunity to commando-roll out from behind the ooze and take a shot with his new musket. He rolls minimum damage, which in this case is sillier than missing entirely.

    Robin, being the paladin and thoroughly fed up with this sort of tyranny, walks up past the deafened calimarimancer and the aimless skeleton and stabs Lucia right through the stomach with her greatsword.

    Final Words: "Hurk, blugh"

    Now dead, Lucia's corpse gains all the years and pounds it had hidden away, which was pretty gross. Robin takes the silver necklace, which upon closer inspection is a fat elf lady getting a bit handy with herself. The vial in Lucia's pocket is given to Augustine, thinking that it is a cure.

    It was marshmallow serum. The poor doctor is now a marshmallow blob, help aloft by bubblegum gasbags.

    [Aside] The table (and Augustine's player in particular) just loses it in the best way here. I end up doubled-up on the floor with laughter.[/Aside]

    When the laughter subsides, the safe is opened with Lucia's key. The recipe book is lost to the acid trap, but the silver bars are there for the taking, as well as shipping contracts with the Martel Company, details of their Swordfish Island expeditions, and receipts for Carcosan slave-traders.

    The group decides then it is best to take over the factory themselves, which they do.  With the recipe book lost, the factory is sure to hit some hard times, even with Octon and Cordelia acting as the pygmies' new god-king. But the Old Growth remains, and the jungles and ruins of the Swordfish Isles offer greater mysteries to unfold. So to does the frozen waste of Carcosa, and the palace intrigues of Vornheim.

    But mostly Hot Springs Island because dammit, I want to run Hot Springs Island.

    Final Notes

     

    Man, I love this adventure. I know that I said I didn't before, but past me is an idiot and a notorious liar besides.

    Friday, December 8, 2017

    The Holy Man's Anger

    by Flibbertyjibbeth

    You are defined by your convictions. The vows are your strength and solace in the world. They are the millstone at your shoulder. They are the fire burning in your heart. The vows are as integral a part of your as your own blood and the air in your lungs. In your deepest self, those words are inscribed.

    You knew what would be asked when you prostrated yourself on the cold marble floor and swore that oath. You could have chosen anything else - your father's trade, the girl down the road with a face full of freckles, an ordinary life of ordinary pains and ordinary joys - but you believed, you knew, that this was your place, that the sword and the millstone was your life.

    But no conviction goes without testing.

    You have seen good men die and evil men walk free, and too many men in-between do nothing.

    You have watched the law twisted out of shape to shield the wicked and trample the innocent.

    You have killed men and buried them in the frozen earth.

    You have delivered boys back to their mothers in pinewood boxes.

    You have comforted more battered wives and heard more desperate confessions and said more prayers over shoebox coffins than a human being should ever have to.

    You have seen the absolute black depths of humanity. 

    You have cried out to heaven, and have heard no answer.

    You continue.

    You do not despair. To despair is to die. You must not stop.

    If you are to be the last voice raging against the dying of the light, so shall it be. You shall rage to shake the pillars of the earth itself.
     

    Paladin Class 

     

    • XP, HP, armor and weapons as fighter.
    • Saves as cleric.
    • AB begins at +1, then increases as fighter.
    • Can cast 1st level sacraments and use relics.
    • Begin with 1 spell die.
    • Minimum stat requirements: 13 STR, 13 WIS 
      • CHA can be used instead of WIS, as one prefers.
    • Begin play with additional convictions: these are the vows of your order.

    by einsbern

    Clash of Convictions


    When your convictions collide with an impediment that you cannot overcome (that is, you have been handed a sound and significant defeat), roll against your WIS.
    • If you roll above your WIS, you manage to cope with the failure and carry on. Better sense prevails over the will. 
    • If you roll below WIS, the conflict between reality and your ideals puts more strain on you than you can easily shake off. You take 1d6 points of damage to your convictions.
    (Conviction damage can be healed by re-affirming your vows. 1 point can be returned through a pilgrimage, meditative retreat, acts of penance, the counsel of a spiritual advisor, or by otherwise fulfilling your vows.)

    When your conviction damage is equal to your WIS score, you have reached the point where unstoppable force has reached immovable object. There are two paths now. (The choice can be made by the player directly, or left up to the dice in a final WIS check, as desired. Option 1 is roll over, Option 2 is roll under.)

    Option 1: You recant of your vows. The millstone is too much to bear. You lose your spellcasting abilities, the support of your order, and all convictions linked to your vows. You will not be permitted to return.

    Option 2: You gain a new conviction. This one will be unique to the circumstances at hand, but will share the following traits.
    • It is directly focused on eliminating the obstacle that has thwarted you.
    • It does not have moral qualms on how the obstacle is eliminated or otherwise stopped
     When acting according to this new conviction, you gain the following:
    • +2 damage to all attacks
    • - 4 AC
    • Half damage received
    • -2 morale to all applicable enemies
    (It's a targeted rage, nothing ground-breaking here)

    Additionally:
    • Your spell die's burn range increases by one each time you act on your rage.  (ie: after the first rage it will burn after casting on a 5-6, then 4-6 on the time after that. At 1-6 it will burn out after every spell, and at the step beyond [6 steps from the beginning] all casting ability will be lost). 
    • You gain +1 to hit / + 1 bonus damage on alternating pips, max of +3 for each.
    • -2 to reaction rolls for people aware of your actions. This penalty is increased by 1 for every other burnt pip on your spell die for your targets or their allies.
    This conviction and all the effects it grants will remain with you until it is either fulfilled, or you die.

    The damage to your casting ability and reaction rolls made towards you are permanent.

    I think FromSoft has a thing for this archetype.

    Redemption Arcs


    By the time you have fulfilled your conviction, you may be more monster than man. You can no longer gain levels as a paladin in this burnt and exhausted state (You can gain levels in other classes). But if there is still a glimmer of goodness within you, you might redeem yourself.

    To redeem yourself, you must do the following:
    • A recover all of your conviction damage, through the methods listed above, until you reach your cap.
    • Gain a level - All XP must be gained through donations to your order.
    • Public penance and renewal of your oaths
    A redeemed paladin has:
    • Additional spell die equal to their WIS modifier. (If WIS modifier is +1, gain 1)
    • Protection from all further conviction damage caused by defeat of their vows.
    • -1 / +1 to reaction rolls for those aware of your actions. A reformed sinner rarely finds themselves in the good graces they once enjoyed, alas, but there are many who are less judgemental.

    Nah, probably my imagination.

    Addendum


    I wrote a post on knightly orders a few months ago that provides four paladin orders with pre-made vows. The Order of the Sable Maid is a good choice if you want a standard paladin, but I am certainly eyeing the potential that can be had with less-traditional oaths.









    Thursday, December 7, 2017

    1d20 Answers to an Important Question...

    The world may never know!
    1. Noblemen's sex party; featuring a vat of honey, silken whips, and a live rhinoceros.
    2. Accountant-wizard breaks math, is devoured by the equations of his own ledger, regurgitated, and devoured again in terrible recursion.
    3. A fuzzy white void containing an old man with a mangled nose and gigantic eyebrows, angrily staring back at you.
    4. Clowns meditating upon mountaintops. "Ohmmmmmhahahaha..."
    5. Crucified woman wearing tiger pelt discusses astronomy with passing merchants.
    6. Sturgeons in sedan chairs, carried aloft by sunburnt slaves.
    7. Schoolchildren calmly and competently performing open brain surgery on a placid teacher.
    8. A grainy scrydeo feed of a dirty, darkened room, empty. Minutes later, a filthy man with a mantis-shrimp head stumbles into view.
    9. Chinchillas dance, are startled by something unseen, and explode in a puff of fluff.
    10. A tree falling in the jungle, utterly silent amidst the blind cacophonous birds.
    11. A glacier bleeding in the pains of birth. Leopard-seals keep midwife's vigil.
    12. Sunflowers stretch out to the horizon, intermittently broken by crooked, oily smokestacks.
    13. Migratory march of the landsquids to Big Head Pimple Mountain.
    14. A parliament of talking swords discussing trade embargoes, powdered wigs dangling from their pommels.
    15. Horrific fused mass of livestock goes about its daily business; grocery shopping, stopping by the bank, returning a sweater that was too small.
    16. Singing miners connected by golden chains, digging out a mountain of mouse bones.
    17. A gaudy game-show; the players, host, and audience are all long-dead corpses. The music, commercials, and camera switches are still working as normal.
    18. Soldiers drink coffee from tin cups atop the stooped shoulders of a gargantuan vampire.
    19. Eight temple prostitutes attempt to order takeout, can't decide on how many orders of Admiral Tung's Cockatrice they want.
    20. Headless giraffe gives newlyweds a ride around town.

    Tuesday, December 5, 2017

    Clerical Relics


    Fun fact: St. Anthony's chapel in Pittsburgh contains
    the second largest collection of Catholic relics in the world.

    The D&D cleric spell list is, as +Skerples  has pointed out, rooted in Sunday School miracles and Hammer horror movies. This is fine and good if you want to play as Peter Cushing (and let us be fair, that is hardly ever a bad thing), but it perhaps does not get you the most bang for your buck in the field of religious fun-times in your games.

    Now, there won't be any new mechanics here, just a method to provide some extra flavor. As such, it should be compatible with whatever cleric variant you are using. (For alternate clerics, see  +Lungfungus' hierophant, +Skerples  generic cleric, or Logan Knight's mystic.) 

    Sacraments


    First level spells are sacraments. These are the rites and outward signs sacred to your god and the basic building block of the religion. DMs, this is the easy way to change the ground-level flavor of your clerics. Swap out spells, give them some kind of spiritual / symbolic purpose, backronym till your heart is content.  (A single sentence will get you by. Dark Souls away!)

    Relics


    Mechanically, relics are just scrolls and wands. (But don't tell the wizards that, they'll have a fit. There are three categories of relics, courtesy of the Catholic Church (providing quality gameable material since AD 325.)

    First-Class Relics are the physical remains of a saint. Items of direct divine influence or origin would also fall under this category. 

    Second-Class Relics are possessions and other objects notable within the saint's life or work. If they belonged to a central figure of the religion, they may classify as first-class.


    Third-Class Relics are items touched to a first-class relic, and so have inherited some of the mojo through the commutative property of holiness. Game Usage: treat these as scrolls - a single cast, then it's all used. Note: the wording here might indicate that you could make thousands of third class relics with a single first-class. For game purposes I would say limit it to 1d4, unless you want the big mess.

    Based on this, what is to follow is geared towards a pretty standard not-Catholic fantasy church, for the sake of making a baseline example. It's also what I'm more familiar with, so don't be beholden to it on my account - relic classes can easily be swapped out for whatever hierarchy or lack thereof you wish, they all cast the same.

    Die-Drop Relic Generator


    d4: What Kind of Relic Is it? 
    1. First Class (see d12)
    2. Second Class (see d10)
    3. Third Class (see d8)
    4. Fake (roll 2d6)
    d6+1: What Level Spell Does it Hold?
    • Roll on whatever spell table you happen to use for the spell in question.
    • Optional: for second-class relics, only count 1-4. For first-class relics, only count 4-6.
    d12: First-Class Relics
    1. Blood
    2. Bone
    3. Skin
    4. Flesh
    5. Hair
    6. Head
    7. Limb
    8. Organ 
    9. Tongue
    10. Eye
    11. Other bodily fluids
    12. Entire body
    d10: Second-Class Relics
    1. Walking stick
    2. Book of psalms
    3. Prayer beads
    4. Sandals
    5. Item associated with their trade
    6. The means of their execution
    7. Original manuscript of a theological treatise
    8. Piece of artwork
    9. Holy symbol
    10. Mark of office
    d8: Third-Class Relics
    1. Piece of cloth
    2. Jar of oil
    3. Medallion
    4. Holy symbol
    5. Prayer card
    6. Icon
    7. Vial of holy water
    8. Incense
    d20: Who is This Relic From?
    1. Minor, obscure saint
    2. Companion to a martyr
    3. Popular local saint
    4. Warrior saint
    5. National patron
    6. Martyr
    7. Foreign convert
    8. Amalgamation of several historical individuals and local folklore
    9. Noted scientist or artist
    10. Developer of important doctrine
    11. Spearheaded reform movement
    12. Founder of notable religious order
    13. Origin and deeds hidden by time
    14. Famous debater of heterodox factions
    15. Doctor of the church
    16. Figure of legend
    17. World-traveling missionary
    18. Potent hierarch
    19. Prophet
    20. Angel or equivalent celestial being
    d20 alternate version: Who is This Relic From?
    1. Argrabahd, who would preach until he turned purple and passed out.
    2. Lox, who could read a man's heart like a book.
    3. Shejen, who was almost entirely unmartyable (not for lack of trying, mind).
    4. Brother Coal, who ministered to the Russet Country miners for forty years.
    5. Altook, who was cooked up in a stew and eaten by yetis.
    6. Quen-Liu the Pirate Queen, who bought her canonization alongside amnesty from the government.
    7. Elia, who decided that being a virgin martyr wasn't all it was cracked up to be and escaped her captors. Died at 104 after the birth of her fifth great-great-grandchild.
    8. Percival Tuckett, who survived thirteen nights of goblin pranks in a failed attempt to convert the warren on Puckawanakee Hill.
    9. Anne of Redrosen; gambler, cheat, patroness of the out-of luck. Had her fingers cut off for trying to con the House of Silver Dreaming.
    10. Henry Parson, the first priest to come to Tin Jacobstown; chartered the first agreement with the Black Amazons.
    11. [Redacted], who has been stripped from the record for posthumously-revealed crimes.
    12. The Sable Maid of Orlei, who led the campaign against the Dukes of Hell, and challenged Darvatius himself before the walls of Dis.
    13. Orichus Alm, tender of the Angelic Engine and wise teacher of technical theology.
    14. Stossisan, who oversaw the building of the  Obsidian Cathedral on the slopes of Mt. Kathualo.
    15. Hauteliwika, who lived on nothing but the morning mist and a single acorn a day.
    16. Bogab the Ogre, who held the gates of Dunson shut against the invaders with one hand and blessed the soldiers' weapons with the other.
    17. Iridalus, one of the rare wizard-converts and author of a masterful catalog of spirits.
    18. Grey, who forsook his name and tended to the ghoul-lepers of Janashkut.
    19. Kaeltophe, who is said to have fought off ten thousand demons with his enchanted spear, and ridden a gigantic bristleback boar.
    20. Navima, who crossed a sea a neophyte, and returned from unknown lands wise beyond all telling.
    I am an Idiot and Bought a Fake Relic, What Happens? (2d6)
    1. Your knowing and unrepentent blasphemy has called down doom upon you. 
    2. Horrific spell backfire! Gain 1d4 mutations.
    3. Normal spell backfire. Gain a mutation.
    4. You are blocked from intoning the gods for 24 hours
    5. You are blocked from intoning the gods for 1d6 days.
    6. Nothing happens. Save vs fear, as your faith has failed in time of need.
    7. Nothing happens. A spell die is burnt / a spell slot is lost until tomorrow.
    8. Nothing happens. There is a sense of relief.
    9. Take 1d4 damage from the relic melting in your hands.
    10. It works, but the spell's effects (duration, range, damage, etc) are halved.
    11. It works, but casts a different spell of 1d4 levels lower.
    12. Well what do you know? It was actually real.

    Monday, December 4, 2017

    DCO with Randos: Session 2

    Picking up from where we previously left off, the party departs up the river from Carrowmore, leaving the ruined town behind them. A fourth member of the party was introduced, leaving us with a fellowship of four.
    • Eren, human ranger
    • Alteriel, human monk
    • Durlan, wood elf life cleric
    • Ganel, fallen aasimar paladin
    Since we were playing over Discord, I took advantage to throw in some musical cues, which shall be scattered about in link form. For normal boat travel, it was the wonderful sounds of Sunless Sea.

    Into the silent, elegiac, greyness they went.

    The Sarcophagus of Ambatoharanana

    The party attempts to throw a rope to the two survivors clinging to the sarcophagus, to no avail. Pulling up alongside the coffin reveals that one is already dead, and the other is barely alive and non-vocal. He is taken onto the skiff and cared for by Durlan.

    After a bit of equipment scrambling, Eren produces a crowbar and with Ganel's help opens the sarcophagus, revealing the mummified king inside. Ganel goes for the treasure.

    King Ambatoharanana lives! The mummy springs up, laying about with his sword. Several solid hits are made by Alteriel and Ganel, but Ganel is struck by the king's attack and is overwhelmed with the sure and certain knowledge imparted in his animal hindbrain - that he shall be pursued to the ends of the earth for his transgression against a god-king.

    Ganel  panics and runs to the back of the boat with Durlan. Alteriel is the next hit and is dropped in one shot. He passes his save on death's door, Durlan pulls him out of harms way and heals him.

    At this point Eren tackles the mummy and both plunge into the water. A shaken Ganel pulls him up, and Durlan heals Arteriel. The king dissolves in the deep water, and soon that remains is a muddy smear on the water, and some limp silken bandages floating downstream. His treasure is lost to the muddy river bottom.

    Fool's Duel

    Grey silence again envelops the expedition, until they come to the dueling wizards, Rem and Ruskin.

    The party attempts to learn what is happening by making authoritative demands, but the wizards are immune to such things as befitting their ego. Conversation goes nowhere, Ruskin is hit with a magic missile and demands their aid. But to no avail for the scrawny wizard, as the group leaves the two to their squabbling.

    As they paddle away, they are able to watch the blue eggshell of Ruskin's shield disperse, and the wizard is knocked into the water by a second magic missile. A sleek, black, spied fin rises from the water, and the frantic splashing swiftly ceases.

    The group was understandably enthusiastic to reach the dry land ahead.

    Church of Selminimum Tem 

    The party reached the overturned church without much incident. Ganel uses his hand axes to carve out footholds in the soft and water-damaged foot, so that he can climb up to the doors and gain entry. The party follows, and make a quick investigation. Ganel opens the shrine and finds the wafers and vials, Eren harvests some dry pew-wood for a fire. With evening approaching (and several players in need of retiring for the night), a watch is set, with one outside the church to keep watch over the boat and make sure that the giant pike has not been following them.

    END OF DAY 1

    The string of good, if short, sessions and good luck continues. Thanks are to be give to +Daniel Davis, whose notes on DCO really helped smooth things along.

    Also, it appears that I really, really like to run pointcrawls!

    Sunday, December 3, 2017

    Some thoughts on the Tome of Beasts

     
    Had some leftover Amazon giftcardbucks, picked up the Tome of Beasts. Here are some thoughts on it.

    This is a Fifth-Edition product

    If you're the kind of person that rolls their eyes at challenge ratings and HP in the hundreds, it's still certainly usable, but you'll have to put more work into making it work for you. If you're a 5e fan, that's not going to be much of an issue.

    The art is great

    Exceptions exist, but even then the entries that are just mediocre in comparison to the rest of the art outnumber the properly bad ones, and the good stuff outnumbers both. It's solid, nicely evocative stuff, and "monsters that I want to use just because I think they look cool" is my baseline for judging a bestiary.

    The words are poor

    The quality of text in Tome of Beasts is, frankly, unacceptable. I have not read a single entry that is not stricken with redundancy, fluff, chaff, dead weight, bloat, stating the obvious, or filler - they're all generally as evocative as a brick. They're tiny little entries and they paradoxically manage to still waste space.

    Ignore it. Stick a post-it note in there and write your own, the names and pictures will provide all you need.

    "The hulking bearfolk are intimidating creatures", says the text near the picture of a bipedal grizzly bear with an axe.

    It reminds me of the 3.5 Monster Manuals

    In both good and bad ways. It's filled with obscure "why did you think of this?" variants of common monsters,  strange "how am I ever supposed to use this" monsters, "this is cool, why is it designed as a combat encounter" entires and "what is even going on with this page?" entries.

    For my own part, I find a sort of charm in it - the odd sort of weird that doesn't want to let go of "palatable to a wide audience" and dive headfirst into the "OSR-land of cannibal mutant snake cultists" just yet.


    Many of the monsters have a shared theme or origin

    This is something I found quite nice and helpful - an easy way of populating dungeons with encounters that mesh well together, and you can build up factions and their interactions with each other or within themselves easily enough.

    There's a setting behind the book

    From time to time there are side notes and boxes detailing Kobold Press' published setting, which is often reflected in the creatures themselves: there's the Norse-themed monsters, the Egyptian-themed monsters, and an underground empire of ghouls.

    It's not particularly intrusive, and overlaps with the point above, and so can be handy for the same reasons.

    Please be more creative with your usage of breasts

    I'm not going to harp on you for featuring lady-monsters in diaphanous states of undress, Kobold Press. But I will absolutely harp on you re-printing the same monster four times. Five times? They blur together

    "Watery tart who lures men to their doom with sex appeal" applies to the eleinomae (swamp-nymphs), the lorelei, and the rusalka. Then you've got the abominable beauty (who isn't aquatic, but picks up the slack on diaphanous undress from the rusalka, who remembered to get dressed this morning), two very visually boring dryads, and the drowned maiden, who is just the rusalka again, except just angry and sad about being dead instead of seductive. She's cool.

    Vary it up, guys.

    Please start using templates instead of repeating statblocks

    Like the 5E Monster Manual, Tome of Beasts provides a separate stat block for every stage of life for all six variants of dragon, all seven varieties of giant, and every other creature that could easily be summarized with "as [creature], with [special features]".

    Please, for the love of all gods above and below, please stop referring to everything in the plural. It's okay to have unique monsters

    The difference between a monster and the monster is a valuable one to make, and can have a  dramatic effect on how a monster is viewed and the impact it has on the players.

    _Tome of Beasts_ does not make this distinction, which I find to devalue of cool or goofy monsters. Granted, if one ignores the text that the book provides, as I already recommended, this is far less of an issue. I'm still annoyed by it.

    There are some fantastic monsters in here that I absolutely want to use 

    Including but not limited to:
    • Horrible little guard-homunculi with huge underbites that PCs can grow inside their own bodies.
    • Dark cloaks filled with dozens of arms that can unbalance a player's humours.
    • Fat little dragons who live in pubs and love gossip.
    • Demons that set up brothels, restaurants, casinos and so on to lure people and then devour their hopes and dreams.
    • Kobold techpriests.
    • Evil pixie barbers.
    • An oasis that is actually a giant ooze.
    • Men of Leng, who will definitely find a home collectively being the _Resident Evil 4_ merchant.
    I like the elemental dragons

    They're pretty neat.

    There are at least two instances of the text describing the creature with a beard and then the art showing no beard at all.

    There are standards a man must hold himself to.

    They gave the sphinx a table of riddles 

    That's a gold star on the Good Noodle board for you, Kobold Press. 

    Final Thoughts

    The book doesn't set out to break any boundaries or break up any statuses quo, it falls short in places but succeeds quite well in others. Definitely geared towards people very much wanting more 5e for their 5e. I wouldn't put it on my recommendations list, and would recommend that anyone interested in it buys it on sale.

    Wednesday, November 29, 2017

    Mother Stole Fire

     
    Ama Adimatha, Mother of Multitudes


    The gods of man number in the countless thousands, but Ama Adimatha stands honored above all of them. Go anywhere in the world, even to the top of Sky-Eater Mountain or the deepest pits of Hell, and you will find her.

    She is the soft voice you heard in the womb, the gentle arms that held you close, the guiding hand of your first tottering steps. She is the shield against evil, the keeper of woman's secret wisdom, the source of love and bountiful life. She is strong as the pillars of the earth. She's a joker, a japester, a right-up prankster. Vast is her compassion, unbreakable is her spirit, clever is her tongue, and most terrible is her wrath.

    She is our mother.

    Here is a story of how she stole fire.

    *****

    Long ago, in the green and timeless days before the coming of the ice, there was a goddess of the ape-men named Clever Lu. She was always getting into trouble: playing pranks on the tribe chiefs, gossiping with songbirds, stealing fruit from the highest trees, racing the gazelles, dancing with the Folk come the rains. And she she got it in her head that she ought to steal the crown of fire from Hō-ō, King of the Heavens and Highest of the Dragon Lords.

    Clever as she was, Lu could not match the guile and power of the king. Not just yet. She went forth into the world to find her greatest trick and had a great many adventures, some of which were even true.

    She escaped the clutches of Pan-Pongo, savage god-chief of the ape-men, by getting him drunk on palm-wine and leaving him lost in the woods. She ventured into the halls of the star-nosed Mountain King and feasted there with the dwarves. She wrestled the great catfish Tija Gnood for four days and four nights, and then cooked him up for breakfast. She stole the words out of the mouth of Fantool the River Serpent and sold them back to him. She made friends of the Old Ones, made enemies of the Álfar, and started a war in the process. She belched out a song to impress the Great Goblin Queen. She beat Aran Stone-Brow in a game of riddles, and walked all the way to the edge of the world. She moved a mountain from Here to There Over the Horizon by chaining it to the sun with a braid of her hair, and so won a cloak of feathers from Raven.

    When finally she came to climb the Crown of the World, she was no longer the nut-brown girl who had left the forest domain of Pan-Pongo; She was now a goddess grown, taught well by time and trial. By the magics of Raven's black cloak, she disguised herself as a saurian priestess come from the distant deserts to give homage to the Mesozoic King, and so gained entry to his milk white palace on the mountain peak.

    She was brought before Hō-ō, who was as glorious as the setting sun. Clever Lu bowed before him, and presented her most honeyed words. The king was taken by her tribute and by the comeliness of her disguise, and so agreed when she offered to dance for him. This was her trap, for she wove a spell into her dance so that the king and all his court would fall into a deep and dreamless sleep, and so it was.

    Grinning to herself, Clever Lu shed her disguise, shimmied up the throne, and stole the crown of fire right from Hō-ō's head. The great dragon snuffled in his sleep. She departed the throne room by tiptoe.

    But dragons have potent magic of their own, and her spell of sleep quickly faded. Hō-ō awoke, and realizing that he had been tricked, roared up to the night sky:

    "THIEF! THIEEEEEEEEEEEEF!"

    He tore through the his chambers, following the scent of ape. The milk-white palace collapsed around him in his rage. Claws glistening, teeth alight with dragonsfire, thunderous wings outstretched, he bore down on the escaping Lu, chasing her to the very edge of the mountain peak.

    She stood there upon the cliff, knee-deep in the snow, the burning crown in her hands, and realized that she had made a terrible mistake.

    She offered to return the crown, to leave and never return, but Hō-ō, blinded by rage, ignored her pleas and tears. The King of the Heavens vowed to her that he and his kind, their children and all their children's children, would hunt the ape-men to the ends of the world, to slaughter them to the last. None would be spared. Their forests would be put to the torch, their plains made barren, their gods broken and cast aside. To the last mewling child Hō-ō would see them devoured. With a terrible howl he summoned the ranks of his dragons, and Lu watched in horror as they flew out from the Crown of the World.

    There was a moment, where Lu thought of throwing herself from the mountain there, but despair melted in the blast furnace of newborn anger. They had threatened her people, her children... 

    Her fury a-burning about her, Lu reached up a hand to the sky and grasped a star in her fist. With all her rage and love and hate and hope, she tore that iron star out of the sky, screaming...


    "FUCK YOU!"

     ...and brought it down upon Hō-ō, his castle, his mountain, and all the world: the fist of an angry goddess.

    Thus the world was broken and remade, and passed from dragons to man. The green and timeless days gave way to a white and frozen age. Continents and seas were shaped and re-shaped. The dragons and their children died. Mankind was born of the ape-men. The Folk warred among themselves.

    Standing over the corpse of Hō-ō, Mother placed the crown of fire upon her head, and led her children into winter.

    *****

    This is it, then, the proper opening to this setting I've been working on. There will be more to come, of course, most of it far more gamable than this. Next up should be the famous 40 questions.

    But to prevent this post from being totally ungamable, I present the following table for other stories about Mother:

    How true is it? (1d12)
    1. Bullshit
    2. Double bullshit
    3. Absolutely true
    4. Embellished
    5. Not entirely false
    6. Jury is still out
    7. Way more truth than you wanted
    8. Given value of true
    9. Have to squint at it
    10. The truth you needed
    11. All of the above
    12. Roll twice