Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Monster Manual has Frogs in It

The back of the 5th Edition Monster Manual, tucked away in Appendix A, there is an entry for the lowly frog. Not a magical frog, mind you, just ordinary pond frogs. It states the following things:
  • Frogs are amphibious.
  • Frogs can jump up to 10 feet.
  • Frogs have no attacks.
  • Frog stats can also be used for toads.
The poor seahorse is even worse off, as we are so helpfully informed by Wizards of the Coast of the singular defining fact:
  • Seahorses can breathe underwater.
It is probably obvious at this point that I have issues with the Monster Manual, and sizable Opinions on the matter, which can be summarized as “the 5e Monster Manual is a mostly-useless pile of hot garbage.”
I like hyperbole as a rhetorical device. It’s the best!
The actual point I’m going to be making in this rant / essay is that I find that the Monster Manual contains great amounts of useless information, spawned by two particular design choices.
1) Encounters are viewed through the lens of combat, even when it makes little sense.
2) Excessive categorical granularity.
The first point is fair enough for its first half. This is the Monster Manual, after all, for a game focused around killing said monsters and taking their valuables. Combat is going to be a major focus of a great many encounters.
However, people aren’t going to be marching into combat against frogs and seahorses. Representing these incidental creatures in the context of a combat encounter is a waste of space.
Gamebooks are designed around a function – their contents are meant to not only be read, but also to be used. Presenting incidental creatures (frogs, seahorses, etc) in the context of a combat encounter (something where they are not useful) does not serve this core functionality. Now, if the incidental creatures were presented in a way that provided a means to utilize them in-game in a non-combat context, (even if this use was a single sentence evoking potential uses) then they would be fulfilling their proper function – giving Dungeon Masters something that they would want to use in game.
As for the second design choice, my illustrative point shall be that 35 pages of the 5e monster manual are devoted to dragons. All fine and good for a game with dragons in the title, but these 35 pages contain the same four stat blocks (wyrmling, young, adult, ancient) repeated ten times over with only minor variation, plus the Shadow Dragon and Dracolich.
These dragons are functionally identical: a large, intelligent, flying reptile with a breath attack. The primary variables are the breath weapon, environment, and behavior, all of which can be economically fit onto a table. Those 35 pages could be easily cut down to five, providing a general dragon stat template for each age group, a list of variant traits that can be applied to different breeds, lore, art, and guidelines on making unique dragons. 30 pages could have been saved to add more creatures into the book, or add other useful features to supplement the creatures already present.
A third and final example of all this is the sphinx, a wonderful creature that has been thoroughly and utterly given the shaft by Wizards of the Coast by both design choices. The monster manual contains two separate stat blocks for sphinxes, split between male and female – it contains nothing devoted to helping DMs with riddles, which seems a massive oversight for a creature known for asking people riddles (even before attacking them). One of the stat blocks could easily have been sacrificed to provide a page-long table of riddles, but somewhere in editorial the idea was turned down, if it was ever brought up to begin with. The most known signature of a monster was completely ignored.
The end result of all of this, I find, is, a much poorer manual than what could have been, and what I believe should have been. I find it a poor book in a lot of ways, but it can be a valuable teaching aid. Its existence does not do anything to detract from the OSR cleanliness of one-line stats (HP / AC / Attack / Special Abilities) or impede the many, many folk out there who are making their own fantastic monsters that avoid these foibles.
Make your own manual, pack every page with things you want to use.
Like this:
Frog: As a means of preserving an emergency heir, royal bastards are occasionally polymorphed into frogs and hidden away until needed. These frog princes are infamous for their flamboyant pondside mating displays, designed to attract wandering princesses.
Seahorse: Seahorses are believed by many to detect poison, grant potency if dried and eaten, stave off seasickness if worn around the neck, and determine the direction of incoming storms.
All of this is true. It cannot, however, breathe underwater. No one is sure how they survive.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

1d20 Memories of Old Wars

El milagro de Empel, by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau
  1. Immaculate legions of red and white arranged in the grass. Shield lines, snapping banners and sun-glint spears opposite the teeming hordes of deathless wildmen.
  2. Rotten boots on the muddy gray edge of a river vomiting forth the damned. Shapes in the mist, just out of reach.
  3. Swords plunged into the earth and left to rust. Kings hung from their castle walls. Men, brothers all, marching home.
  4. Flooded tunnels and lightless catacombs, chamber to chamber. Stone pressing down from above, bones stabbing up from below, darkness swallowing up men and spitting back their echoes.
  5. Armies shambling out of timeBefore one has been defeated, another appears. Choking red dust. Maps pinned to shantytown walls, evacuation routes drawn in blue.
  6. Stained glass skyships above pink sandstone towers, tendrils plucking men from the streets. The Whores’ Army, the Cloud-Kings, the Penny-Knives, together in once-impossible alliance.
  7. Mangrove swamps choked in red flowers. Men drowning on the air. Toothless mercenaries
  8. Glaciers like blue tongues, mountains like broken gray gums, sunlight like all the terrible teeth. It is too cold. There is too little food. There are too many mouths.
  9. A fox tearing out a man’s throat, squirrels dropping stone blades from their branches, porcupines breaking the front lines. Rats with blood-bead eyes and yellowed teeth. Pattering paws on the floorboards above.
  10. Fallen knights in black iron ride broken-boned steeds. The mountains bleed. The trees weep.
  11. Dead men sewn back together. Carcinogenic growth in the head heart and belly; the foot grows fewer. White eyes with crowns of fire.
  12. Amoebid war machines dot the landscape, a battlefield like a confectioner’s jellies. Rainbow bubbles embedded with bones and armor and scraps of masonry, piping their childlike songs.
  13. Prayer-soaked men breaking fast under the bleary gloom of the inner sun. A ragged column through fungal rainforest. Formless demons seep up from cracked charcoal soil.
  14. Nobles on the hillside, slaves holding sun umbrellas. Barbecue and picnic lunches. “Very good, very good!” cries the fat one.
  15. Dirt-smeared children with kettle helms and wooden swords. A pale piper with a head like a stuck pig, marching out to the Hills, the Hills, the Hills.
  16. Dripping candles, scroll dust, inkspatters. Shelves up to the heavens, rows out to the horizon. Books burning, librarians throwing themselves into the fires.
  17. Men and women aglow with power, aloft on wings of will. Balls of fire, lances of thunder, crumbling earth and lashing rain. Gunpowder saints and cutter’s tools.
  18. Bloody coral ridges above stinging saltwater, tropical waves awash with rotting fruit and garbage. Carrion gulls keening, sand-tiger sharks circling.
  19. Jackboots and goose-steps. Cellar rendezvous, bottles of alchemist's fire. Firebrands. Pamphlets. Wheels and their turning. Hope.
  20. Running through a moonless night. Men strung up among the trees. Long, long arms. Fingers with too many joints.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Courts of the Álfar

by Dimitri Armand

The Folk were once a unified people, but the coming of man shattered them. The Fairest, the álfar, would offer no friendship to the usurping ape; Dominion of the world was rightfully theirs, or so they believed. And so they dwindled in the age of civilization, under the weight of fire and iron and the wheel and the law and the university.
Still, out under the Hills, the lords and ladies of the Fair Folk hold their courts. In their wisp-lit halls, among the roots of ageless trees, there is feasting and dancing and music of the spheres beyond man’s knowing. Of scheming, riddling, and plots, there is no end.
The álfar possess neither empathy nor altruism. No amount of danger will make them fearful. They cannot love. They obsessively seek excitement, amusement, frivolity, beauty, all that rewards them, and will not stop.
The álfar hate you. They hate your ugliness, your stupidity. They hate your fire, your tools, your iron, and your laws. They delight in your confusion, your suffering, your impotence at their power. The torment and trickery of the usurping ape is the most pleasing of their hobbies.
The people who live near the Hills have not forgotten. Never accept food from strangers. Don’t travel by night, and stay on the road by day. Don’t follow lights into the woods. Always carry an iron nail in your pocket. Be polite to strangers. This is the way of life, as it has been for centuries.
Most other Folk in the world reject the álfar and do not recognize the authority of the Courts. But this is often because the authority is not enforced, but still many will take up the cause of man as they have since the beginning when the Courts reach out their hands.
Nothing good comes from the álfar. It would be far simpler if they were just evil.
by Jeff Simpson
Of The Lords and Ladies
The following list can be used for changeling character patrons, pre-made Courts, or to make your own. The houses listed are just illustrative, and can be easily substituted for the Seelie / Unseelie courts, or the courts of the fours seasons, or coats of specific places. The Lords and Ladies should only rarely appear, so there’s a lot of wiggle room.
To build your own Court Under The Hills, you will need the face cards, aces, and jokers from a standard playing card deck.
The suit of the first card drawn will determine the house of the reigning King, the second will determine the house of the reigning Queen. Those specific cards can be put back in the pile.
With the monarchs chosen, draw 1d6 more cards. More or less can be used as one wishes. If the king or queen is redrawn, it can be discarded.
A Jack drawn of the King or Queen’s house will be treated as their heir. If no such card is drawn, there is no heir.
House of Hearts
King The Crestfallen Lord – Despair was as an ulcer in his stomach, and so he fell upon his own sword. The bone blade has snapped off, but the fragment remains, lest the dark bile rise up in his gut again.
QueenThe Rose Queen – She raises hawks of magnificent size and plumage, and of likewise unmatched ferocity. They can pluck out an eye at three miles.
JackOne-Eyed Jack – His left eye is made of striped glass, and watches when the other closes. He lost his true eye in a duel with a priest, when he had been too deep into mortal cups.
AceSister Evening – She sleeps in her chambers, a rose clasped in thorn-pricked hands. The spell is one she cast on herself, and the answer isn’t love.

House of Diamonds
KingThe Headsman – In his prime, the ruddy, hairy man lopped off the heads of giants with a single strike. His joyful hunting songs still echo in the stone axehead, but he has grown gluttonous and slow.
QueenLady Brilliance – Even in highest summer she wears a gown of ice crystal, so sharp and fine that it might cut the air around it. But that is a dull and edgeless blade compared to her vanity.
JackThe Laughing Boy – He dances through the garden with a lion-headed cane and a silver watch, chuckling at a joke without a punchline. He is ever punctual for tea, and always unannounced.
Ace Star-Watcher – She spends the night gazing upwards, and recording the movements of the stars in the chalk. When she speaks, it is the language of the heavenly bodies.

House of Clubs
KingThe Fisher King – Each gray morning, he stands one-legged upon a pole in the center of a pond, spear in hand. Each noon he dines upon a single silver fish. Each evening he passes to the underworld, and returns with the setting moon.
QueenLady Bluebird – She lives at the bottom of a deep well, where she devotes her time to the study of true names. Her quill is that of a phoenix, and the spells it inscribes might never die.
JackDuke of Knives and Flowers – Each flower braided in his hair is the last of its kind. To pick a petal will unleash a terrible spell, and nevermind his gentle words.
AceWolf-Maid – She gave up speech long ago to run with the children of the forest. She wears nothing but a necklace of her own teeth and the calluses of the hunt.

House of Spades
KingMound-Raiser – During the war among the folk, he raised the tombs of the ancient lords. His gnarled staff is carved out of a holy white oak, and still possesses the magics of its parent.
QueenThe Black Lady – She dresses as if mourning. Her veil is made of midnight and moonlight, and her somber voice stirs the restless spirits under the Hills.
JackJohn Houndsman – He tends to the hounds of the Court, all six vast hell-beasts. He walks with a limp, from where his father beat him.
AceSpinster White – She spins and spins, and stomps spiders underfoot. Her tapestry is not of fates and bindings, but of some mad pattern only she knows.

JokerThe Fool – The Fool belongs to no house, and wears motley of white and black. Among all the Fairest Folk, he is the only one who might be called a friend.
Copyright JokerThe Crooked Man – A king, crippled in the war among the Folk. The others fear him. They are right to do so.


by Beckjann
An infant vanishes from its crib. An open window, a full moon, a misplaced horseshoe. 
Left behind in its place is a hungry, squalling, sickly thing. A void lingers behind its eyes, its tongue is incapable of speech. Unless it is very lucky, it will die in a few months, perhaps a year or two. An unmarked grave, whispered confessions to the village priest.
The Fairest are dying. Their children are rare enough, and nearly all of them lack any spark of life. Magically inert, minds impossible to parse by man or Folk alike. Their own bodies reject themselves. The Fairest trade these fading infants for healthy human children – wish for a wish, tooth for a tooth, child for a child. They care nothing for their own sickly offspring, and delight in the chaos it causes the apes.
The stolen children are swept down under the hills and shaped in the image of the Fairest. They are no longer human, but they are not true kin to the Folk.
Attribute Modifiers: Changelings receive +2 to an attribute of the player’s choice, and + 1 to another. Player choice may be substituted with random rolls.
Size, Speed, Age: Changelings are Medium, with Speed 30. They cannot die of old age, and retain a vague youthfulness to them.
Languages: Changelings speak and read Elvish. They have a 70% chance of speaking either Elemental or Draconic (player’s choice), and a 25% chance of speaking common.
Background Skills: Changelings do not take a normal background. Instead, they receive proficiency in Nature, Deception, and the Elf Pipes (can be used to cast Charm Person 1/day, roll under CHA)
Fair Parentage: Changelings have advantage against magical charms, and cannot be put to sleep through magical means.
Sociopathic: Changelings mirror their masters’ morals. They lack empathy for other beings, and act according to their own whims and for their own ends: others are tools to be used or amusements to observe. Gain advantage on Deception, Persuasion, and Intimidation rolls to manipulate other people for your personal gain (this may overlap with the party’s gain.)
Bound to their Lord: When children are snatched up from their cribs and taken to the halls of the Lords and Ladies, they are bound from that moment of passage to their lord and all the servants of that court. Most will be taken as a retainer by a lower member of the court, but those who show promise will be granted their Lord’s authority to act as representative in the mortal world.
Unearthly Form: Long years in the Courts transform the human child into something other, something that straddles the line between human and faerie. This comes with physical changes as well as those to mind and soul. All changelings will possess the following.
  • An emblem of their lord or lady – clothing jewelry, heraldry.
  • Dogs will react poorly. Cats will treat as an equal.
  • 1-in-10 chance of the sign of patronage manifesting bodily.
  • 6-in-10 chance of albinism.
  • 4-in-10 chance of horns or antlers.
  • 5-in-10 chance of red hair (3-in-10 if albino).
  • 7-in-10 chance of catlike eyes.
  • 5-in-10 chance of a third eyelid
  • 1-in-20 chance of ignoring all of the above – hairless, grey skin, small mouth and nose, large, black eyes.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Magnificent Mundo! Mundo the Bastard!

Mundo knows the North – if it swims, flies, stalks, lives, dies or elsewise exists in the lands of ice and snow, Mundo knows about it.

However, it is important to understand that Mundo, despite knowing everything in the North, is a tricksy seal and a thief besides. The polar bears hate him, and the whale hunters hate him only slightly less (Mundo has a great weakness for salt pork and is willing to trade some of his less valuable information for it - this is something that all the whale hunters know). The seal hunters have a running bounty for Mundo's life: five head of the finest kiviaq and a magical canoe that can ride upon the northern lights.

Mundo speaks in riddles and sing-song, and he always means what he says. Though, what he means to say is not always what people mean to hear. He doesn't ever lie, but he is very fond of elaborating upon the truth.

Examples of things Mundo knows:

  • How to find secret hot springs frequented by Valkyries.
  • How to read secret messages from beyond the stars, hidden in the aurora.
  • The final resting place of the Gallant Celestine and the treasures within.Gossip from the latest troll-moot.
  • What happened to that expedition a PC’s father led, twenty years prior.
  • A hidden route to the Hollow World.

Mundo does not part with his knowledge freely, and will require something of those who encounter him – retrieving his girlfriend from an ice-hag, getting him into space, a kiss from an attractive party member (It doesn’t matter which; all are equal in the eyes of Mundo), payment of whatever possession (usually an important one) that has caught Mundo's eye, and so on. If he is feeling particularly troublesome, he will state his part of the bargain in vague and uncertain terms, so as to both befuddle the party and worm out of paying his end of the deal.

Mundo’s pelt can be worn as a Cloak of the Selkie, transforming the wearer into a seal, with swim speed 60, resistance to cold damage, and the ability to hold their breath for 1 hour. The pelt loses these properties if it is treated or changed in any way past the initial skinning. Finding a buyer would not be difficult.

Mundo does not have to be killed for one to acquire his skin – one must simply be very, very tricksy bargainer. Perhaps he will trade it for a new skin, but which is the right one?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Crow's Foot

The sign above the glowing door is an elderly witch, a crow perched on her shoulder and another at her feet.

This is geared more towards weird and a bit silly.

The Following Things are Always True

  • The owner has a third eye, and comes from an unmapped land.
  • The corner table with the scarred top is a domesticated mimic. It can play chess.
  • The postman will regularly drop off unmarked packages directly to the owner.
  • Not all the bottles behind the bar have been identified. Some cannot be identified.
  • The chimney sometimes spouts colored smoke, filled with laughing faces.
  • A hag’s cottage once stood here.

How Busy Is It? (1d6)

  1. The place is empty.
  2. A few stragglers / early eaters
  3. Normal night
  4. Normal night
  5. Notably busy night
  6. Packed to the rafters
Typical Visitors

The Crow’s Foot will always attract the local townsfolk, will generally have a traveling merchant or local hedge mage offering goods or services on a given night.

Special Visitors (1d20, 1d4 times if you want more options)

  1. Cultist looking for willing virgins to sacrifice to his dark god. Down on his luck. Will pay handsomely for tips and even more for volunteers.
  2. A golem pierced through with a rusted harpoon. Faded paint on its body shows a flowery drawn in a child’s hand. 
  3. A naked woman, covered in psychotropic snails. Speaks to angels and dead relatives. 
  4. Three traveling dwarf merchants selling hair care products. 1 bottle containing 20 uses sells for 5gp and is guaranteed to keep lice out of hair, with a 1-in-3 chance of causing beard growth per use. 
  5. A masked noble and their servants and bodyguards. Is attempting to avoid an arranged marriage. Thinks the Crow’s Foot is quaint. 
  6. A quiet man who had his ears, nose, and the tips of his fingers cut off long ago. 
  7. A red oni with a hole where his heart would be. He’s drinking the Crow’s Foot dry and won’t leave. 
  8. Two human historians, arguing like an old married couple about antiquated politics Knowledgeable on anything in the region over a few centuries old. 
  9. A band of street cats, led by a one-eyed calico. They register as magical. 
  10. A herd of 1d4 + 2 albino deer, standing on their hind legs. They do not speak, and pay in human baby teeth. 
  11. A haggard-looking drow woman and her young daughter. Will approach party begging for money for passage west. Transporting a chained-up coffin. 
  12. A Knight of the Thimble and his three stalwart beagles. On a quest to seek his lady love. 
  13. A thorny, dark-barked dryad. Shrikes nest in her branches and impale tavern mice on them. Traveling to watch the blood sports. 
  14. A man wearing a turtle-shell helmet, drinking tea from a bowl. 1-in-3 chance of attacking someone with a metal club during the course of the evening. 
  15. An ooze, wearing a human skin. Will vehemently deny it is an ooze. Claims to be pregnant: fetus is a dead calf. 
  16. A blemmeyes from the far south, dressed in leopard hides. He seeks the top of the world. 
  17. A rogue meme. The phrase passes from person to person during the night until the entire bar is infected. 
  18. A bloodstained stone altar, carried by bands of woodland creatures. Offerings of meat and liquor burn away. 
  19. A traveling judge, hunting a murderer. A criminal-in-reform, still in shackles, is acting as his assistant. 
  20. A priest of Most Harmonious Union, who will attempt to marry party members to his acolytes – will not discriminate by gender. Undoing a marriage of Most Harmonious Union requires a trip to a Temple of Serendipitous Divorce, which is hundreds of miles from wherever you are.
  • 1) Dragonborn guild heiress (F) – Spoiled and demanding. Fantastically wealthy in currency not accepted on this continent.
  • 2) Human ranger (M) – Wendigo hunter. Wears a necklace of snow elf ears. Intense PTSD.
  • 3) Amazonian warrior (F) – Hunter of whales in the great north. Carries oil and whale fat for dark rituals. Head-over-heels in love with PC. Will offer ambergris totem-egg to female PC (20% chance of feeble, albino male child, 80% of healthy amazonian girl. Gestation of 3 months before hatching). Will attempt to castrate male PC and initiate him into rites of priesthood as foreplay. (Completed ritual results in immediately gaining a level of Death Domain Cleric, at the cost of 1 hit die.)
  • 4) Demon hive-lord (M) – Births 1d3 stirges every day. Doting father to his mindless, disposable children. Will occasionally eat them.
  • 5) Human evocation wizard (F) – Kind, but kind of a doormat. Incredibly bad acne. Is having issues with paying her student loans.
  • 6) Iron Knight (M) – Never takes off his armor or helmet. Centuries old, by his language and mores.
  • 7) A floating glass sphere (None), containing a writhing mass of teeth and eyes and red muscle. Communicates via jolly pictograph projections.
  • 8) Owlbear (???) wearing a schoolgirl uniform.

Random Events (1d20)
  1. Reps from the KMU (Kobold Miner’s Union) Local 543 are accepting donations and volunteers for the widows and orphans benefit dinner.
  2. A new myconid-made spore-ale has been added to the drink list, and side effects are cropping up. 
  3. Mysterious bloodstain on floor refuses to go away. 
  4. It’s cleaning day, and someone found some contraband stuck underneath a table 
  5. Angry customer causing a fuss. 
  6. The cat takes a liking to a PC. It keeps bringing them dead things. 
  7. A horrible storm has hit, and the crowd is skittish and reluctant to leave. 
  8. Traveling cleric left pamphlets on all the tables, is possibly still evangelizing at people. 
  9. A clown has appeared in the Crow’s Foot. His intentions are unknown. 
  10. An anchor falls through the roof. 
  11. It’s an obscure local holiday today – time for weird hats, weird beer, and weird sausages. 
  12. It’s migration season for the dinosaur herders, and rival caravans have stopped in town. 
  13. Pixies steal booze, declare Independent Pantry Republic 
  14. A farmboy with a sword and an old man enter. They are both criminals. 
  15. Paladin customer left behind enchanted sword last night. 
  16. Depressed social worker refuses to leave. 
  17. The taxman cometh. 
  18. Mellified man found in a sealed ale cask. 
  19. Salamander infestation in the fireplace. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Play Report: Tomb of the Serpent Kings

I decided to do a one-shot of Skerples' (of Coins and Scrolls) trainer dungeon for a couple of friends. Both of them died, and both of them had a lot of fun. Neither had much experience with RPGs in general, much less OSR style play (and to be honest my familiarity with the latter has long been more academic than practical), so it was a learning experience for us all.
For ease of reference, the players were A (a witch, as from Phantom Seas), and J (a mutant, as from Ruination of the Dust Princess). The setup was nothing special. Witch and her horrible mutant assistant digging around in desert tombs for ancient loot and lore.
Some notes.
  • The 1d100 list of OSR classes I bundled together from across the blogosphere was a great idea.
  • By some good luck of the dice, both A and J managed to avoid the hammer-door trap.
  • Both of them were very wary about traps, even in the early rooms before said hammer-door trap. On the second level, they flat-out avoided rooms that they could potentially enter (and thus missed out on a lot of loot)
  • They did not put on the sorcerer's ring at all, and pawned it off in town.
  • Both of them fled from the dungeon immediately after waking the snake king. For this, I had the king wander into the town at night to feast upon the living. (Though they did not find this out by night two).
  • I used Ten Foot Polemic’s familiar rules, so when A died (one hit from one of the snake brides, ripped her throat out) her familiar imploded into a Summon spell, resulting in a horrible mushroom creature with beautiful lady arms and perfectly manicured nails. This was her character for the rest of the session.
  • We ended with ambushing the serpent king skeleton as it stumbled into town. J, weakened by providing most of the combat for the session, died. A tackled the fleeing skeleton to the ground and finished it off with her perfectly manicured nails.
  • We end with the horrible mushroom thing from between the stars shuffling off into the cold desert night, alone.
I’m definitely going to try running this again with different groups, to see how reactions match up, especially with more experienced players. My two neophytes were very cautious, but in the way that was more about avoiding the dangers entirely than coming up with ways to get around them. I'm sure the lessons will sink in with time (there was a wonderful spark upon realizing that crowbars are incredibly useful)
Definitely a good intro adventure for players, and a good brush-up for DMs.

Friday, May 12, 2017

1d20 Lingering Effects of Petrification

  1. Calcified Cataracts – The character is permanently blinded.
  2. Feet of Clay – Disadvantage on STR checks to push or resist being pushed.
  3. Stoneface – The character’s face becomes a stone mask, incapable of movement, though they can still speak and eat (food placed before them will disappear from the plate)
  4. Copralite – Incredibly uncomfortable, but no significant effect.
  5. Erosion – The character permanently loses 1 CON for every 20 HP lost. This cannot be reversed, even when HP is recovered.
  6. Fossil Arthritis – Penalty of -4 DEX and -10 movement speed.
  7. Marble Nails – Character can add proficiency bonus to all unarmed strikes.
  8. Gastroliths – Character is capable of digesting matter normally considered inedible.
  9. Pebbleskin - +2 AC from natural armor, -2 to reaction rolls due to appearance and damage to vocal cords.
  10. Bezoar – A stony growth forms in the character’s stomach. This will provide an instantaneous cure to any poison ingested, but will dissolved after use. It retains its properties if removed from the host body.
  11. Molten Core – Character immediately takes 5d100 + 700 damage and explodes. Everything within 5 feet catches on fire and takes 10d6 fire damage. (For those who don't like random death, make it a normal Fireball.)
  12. Tectonic Drift – Body parts and features have been slightly re-arranged, giving character a misshapen appearance.
  13. Statuesque – Character retains perfectly sculpted proportions. +2 on reaction rolls.
  14. Silicate brain – Character gains +4 INT in sub-zero temperatures. Character is affected by cold as normal, and bonus is reduced to +2 if they are insulated.
  15. Stratification – Character’s body is now composed of layers of different color.
  16. Made of Money – Gemstone and crystal growths appear on the character. A 100g gem can be acquired by sacrificing 1 max HP.
  17. Terrafying – Character gains intense phobia of the earth and gains a desire to get as far away from soil and stone as possible. Roll under WIS to resist urges as seen appropriate.
  18. Vandalism – Rude markings have been carved into the character’s body, appearing now as scar tissue. In addition, 4-in-6 chance of losing nose
  19. Memories of Earth – Character is now fluent in the appropriate languages of earth elementals and extinct creatures. Will have vivid dreams of the surrounding environment millions of years in the past.
  20. Golem Awakening – Reversing the petrification only awakened the soul – the body remains stone. The character is now a construct and requires no food, water, or sleep.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Greasetrap Lesson

My first D&D character ever was a swashbuckler for 3.5 named Greasetrap. He was an ex-pirate and a ship’s cook (the latter of these was debatable), who favored swinging around a big old cleaver. I met with the DM a few hours before the game began and got a step-by-step walkthrough of building the character – I still have his loose-leaf character sheet stowed away. There was all that bubbling excitement that often comes with a first character, fun was had.
The rest of the group showed up, the session began, and Greasetrap died.
First encounter of the first session, dead as a stone.
The party had been crawling through some caves, and came upon one where the exit was across a pool of water. I volunteered Greasetrap to swim across and set up a guide rope for the rest of the party.
Of course, I got away from shore and was attacked by a crocodile. The beast grappled me easily, dragged me underwater, and began a death roll.
In my panic, I began trying to strike it in the eye with my cleaver, thinking that the shock and pain would make it release me. Considering how difficult it is to hit something in the eye while drowning, the dice were not with me, and I was far enough out in the water that the party couldn’t help me. A few frantic turns later, Greasetrap was dead.
It was incredibly fun. My first night playing Dungeons and Dragons and I had gotten thrown into the thick of it – and learned a very potent lesson. Greasetrap’s death was my fault. In the combat, I had forgotten that I had ten ranks in Escape Artist skill, which might have let me wiggle free.
Note: Wiggling free of crocodile jaws is not advisable without several layers of abstraction
Whether or not it would have succeeded is irrelevant to the Greasetrap Lesson – There was an alternative route I could have taken, and making the choice I did had consequences. Consequences for going into the water, consequences for trying to fight my way out.
You own your choices in an RPG, and sometimes they backfire to produce an end result worth a laugh or two years later.  Failure can be a lot of fun.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


I've decided to return to this blog and start anew. Granted, there was so little here before that the move is mostly symbolic, but symbols that move towards writing are always good.

Posts that were once here have been taken down for polishing and may re-appear in the future. New material shall be coming shortly.