Thursday, June 30, 2022

Stories for a Bed

You are traveling in the farther reaches of the realm, the backroads, the quiet country. Perhaps you are on your way to an ancient ruin in a far off place, or this is a simple leg of a longer journey. As night falls, you pull into a tiny village. The hamlet is tiny; only a few hundred people live here at most- the largest building is the old stone church on the hill with an adjoining graveyard. You go to a farmer pulling an empty wagon and ask where is the local inn for you to stay that night. All you get back is a stare, and an offer.

Not every town or village is going to have an inn or tavern where you can spend the night. It's too small of a town, not enough travelers- there would be no business! You could just try camping out on the side of the road, but that's a good way to draw even more of the villager's distrust. Instead; more then likely, you'll want to be spending the night with the locals. You probably have more then enough coin for them; but these people are humble, and probably view guests as sacred. You offer them something more valuable then a simple monetary exchange for their service- a look into the wider world.

Hospitality
Hospitality is a very serious thing. It is a sacred pact between host and guest. Groups of adventurers are very likely to be offered a place to stay if they spend any time in the village or if they appear in need in any way. If you think it's unrealistic that a random villager would offer to open their doors to armed and dangerous looking vagabonds and freaks; consider that these armed vagabonds could probably just force their way inside if they wanted- and the villagers know that. Invoking the rights of hospitality solves the problem for everyone.

If your setting is more mythological; then consider the rules of hospitality to be actually magic and the pact actually supernatural. To violate the rules of hospitality is to evoke the wrath of the Gods, the Home's Protector-Spirit, or some other force.

The rules are simple; the Guest must not harm the host, and the Host must not harm the guests. The host offers any accommodations they can provide without too much hardship- usually food and lodging- while the guest must provide a story.

These stories do not have to be true.


The Story Circles
Take out a piece of paper and draw a Venn Diagram with three circles. Draw big. Label one circle Fantastic, one Grim, and one True. Then, use any six sided die.

Your players will be telling a story. Tell them to get creative; recap their adventure to this point, go over what happened the last day, how the fighter lost an eye, whatever.

In most cases, you will be telling a story as a party. In this case, begin the die on the section of the chart that makes the most sense, and keep it on a one. Whenever any player/character adds something to the story- move the die one section towards whichever direction they are veering the story towards. For example; if you begin the story about how you defeated a powerful dragon; start it on Fantastic. If the quarter-master goes into a anal-retentive rant about how they got the wrong kind of goat to feed this specific subspecies of dragon, move it a step towards True, putting it into the Fantastic/True zone, and then move the die's value up to two. 

You can also use this as a rough estimate of time; each value on the die is one turn unit or ten minute interval of time used to tell the story. 

To determine exactly where the die should move each turn, consider the subject matter and how the player tells it. Each "subject" of the story is what moves the die- not details. If you tell about how you smashed a bunch of spider eggs, which attracted the spider queen, who then poisoned and killed a friend of yours- that's all one 'subject' of the story. If you then say you traded these spider eggs to the nearby goblins for safe passage through their territory- that can be a second subject. 

Each circle on the diagram sort of represents a genre of story or overall vibe as opposed to specific elements. Grim stories are anything related to survival, brutality, meanness, revenge, injury, etc. Fantastic are more for anything that is related to the wonderful and mystic- tale of far off lands and true love's first kiss are as relevant as a fight with a dragon. Finally, True stories are are for anything that is both mostly true, grounded, and relevant to the villagers or people you are telling the story to. Talking about intrigue at the divine court of Gods won't count as "True" even if it is, but if you say you slain a local monster- that is relevant. You could also rename this category to "Local" or "Believable", which might work better now that I think about it.

At the end of the story- either when the events of the story are concluded or the players have nothing more to add, check the value of the die. 

How the Story Lands
Check the value on the die first-
One or Two: The story was too short- boring. What about news of the outside world? Where's the adventure, the intrigue?! What a bunch of graceless guests you are. (Nothing)
Three or more: Good story! (Check Gracious Host table below)
Maximum Value on the Die: Too long. The children are falling asleep and the wife excused herself to do some cleaning. (Nothing)

Also; you can use a bigger die (meaning longer, more impactful stories) under these conditions;

  • You have a Bard in the party (+1 die size)
  • Somebody telling the story has a Charisma modifier of +1 or better (+1 die size)
  • You have a physical piece of proof of the story- like a monster's head, wicked scar, or magical treasure (+1 die size)

(Die sizes go d6 > d8 > d10 > d12 for maximum story power) 

Then, check the location of the die on the chart-

If the die is on the Grim portion, then the Host(s) will think you need help. They will supply you with a number of cheap items or low-cost services equal to the die number. If your story had a value of 3, then they will supply you with three rations of food, or the local hunter supplies you with three quivers of arrows, or the old woman will supply you with three pairs of gloves- after all, you did say those frost wolves nearly froze you to death. What a dreadful story! Dress warmly dear.

If the die is on the Fantastic portion, you have brought more wonder and a little bit of magic into the world. You are inspiring people with your stories, and further spreading your own fame just a little bit by telling them. You gain bonus XP. The amount of bonus XP will vary depending on your game- but I'd say something like each character in the party gets (5 x their level) x value of the Fantastic die.

If the die is on the True portion, your stories are the most morally correct and useful to the villagers; not just because you aren't lying but because you are fulfilling the sacred duty of the guest. Essentially, it's a good deed. You could think of this literally, like the winds of fate or the direct intervention by the Gods to reward your kindness, or more abstractly, as a sort of meta-game currency to reward players for staying in character and immersing themselves in the game world. The number of points on the die is written down and the next die roll used by or against the party will be manipulated by that number in their favor. The first arrow shot by an orcish ambush has its To-Hit roll reduced by three points- miraculously turning a hit into a miss.

If your die is on the portions between any of the three categories- divide the die's value evenly among the categories- if the value is two or less, it is ignored. So if you have a story that ends on a Fantastic/Grim note, but only has a value of four, then you get no reward for the story (you can round up for odd numbers at least). You can also see that getting in the center of the wheel makes it impossible to get a reward with a six sided die- it may sound unfair, but remember, you're the one telling an unfocused jumbled mess of a story.

You can also totally use this graph/Venn diagram as a story generator table. Just roll + drop a die over the piece of paper and wherever it lands and its number is the mood and length of the story. So when you ask your hireling where he is been since he creeped out of camp a fortnight ago and he goes off on an epic ballad of saving a princess, you can be sure it's 100% bullshit, but at least it makes a nice story.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Thirsty Ghoul

Art by an Anonymous contributor

Thirsty Ghoul
HD:
3 to 5
AC: +3
To-Hit: +3
Attacks: Two Claws (1d6+1), Proboscis (1d4)
Powers: Dark Liquor, Lair

The Thirsty Ghoul is an undead creature. It is very solitary, and unlike most ghouls, has a great deal of intelligence. It is very fond of conversation; mostly with itself. The easiest way to avoid this monster is to listen for chuckles and witty observations coming from rank passages.

Like all ghouls, this creature has an unnatural hunger for dead flesh. But this one has no hunger- only thirst. It ferments the body parts of its victims and cadavers it finds, spitting their blood, marrow, and other fluids into canoptic jars in little corners of the dungeon; marked with little scratches to catalog their vintage. All of them will have a favorite vintage; perhaps the spinal fluid of a dwarf, or the lymph of a young human- it drinks these brews luxuriously with a long black proboscis- capable of punching through skin and muscle to drink blood beneath- though it much prefers room temperature. There is no quicker way to spur the wrath of a thirsty ghoul then busting up one of their "wine cellars".

If you are using a ruleset with "heroic actions" or "lair actions" for higher creatures, then this ghoul probably gets one of those.

In addition; this ghoul's attack do not paralyze. Instead, they inflict Drunkenness. All damage this ghoul deals adds up points of Drunkenness to the character wounded. Easy method; if the number of points equal your Constitution- you start flailing around and acting really drunk, getting disadvantage on anything requiring grace or thought. More granular? Bust out your favorite drunkenness or carousing table. The ghoul prefers to inflict its victims into a state of bumbling confusion, before gently removing their organs and tucking them away under some stone recess in the dungeon so one day, many decades later, they can finally savor its delicious taste; aged as fine as any wine.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

6 Deadly Daggers


[1] Lungpiercer
- +2 Magic Dagger
Stats- 1d4 + 1d6 + 2 "Asphyxiation" Damage

This magical dagger is a fearsome tool for assassins. Every wound made by this weapon seems to pull the breath away from the victim; even wounds cut into the arms and legs. Blood drawn by this weapon bubbles, as though your breath is escaping through each open cut.

Whenever this dagger deals damage, the total value of damage is applied as a magical curse. If the amount of damage an enemy has from this dagger equals their Strength score (or HDx2 + To-Hit bonus of a monster), they are unable to yell or call out for help and can only speak under the lightest whisper. They also cannot run or sprint, as though they just can't catch their breath, or cast spells. Beings which do not need to breathe are immune to this power.

Naturally, those harmed by this weapon are in great danger even if the assassin leaves them before the job is done. Only a healer will know how to open the airway and restore the victim's breath before they go under for good.

[2] Blade of the Barracks - +1 Magic Dagger
Stats- 2d6 + 1 Damage, +2 AC

Broad blade with a gold-leaf decorated face. Barely suitable as a tool of a stealthy killer, but renowned in the world of duelists and armed city officials. While wielding this dagger, you get +2 to AC as it magically aids in deflecting enemy blows and parrying the strikes of others.

The blade is a handsome weapon; and one of the few reasons a stealthy killer might announce their presence to their victim before striking- even giving them time to arm themselves and prepare their guard. It is a tool for a gentleman killer. Even if you get caught by your target before you strike, they will find you strangely approachable despite you planning to kill them and all. Anyone openly carrying this weapon also gains a +1 to their Charisma modifier, improving reaction checks and increasing their loyalty with retainers and making them more likeable.

[3] Medicine Knife - +2 Sorcererous Implement
Stats- 1d4+2 Damage

Made of sharpened antler and inscribed with arcane symbols- this magic item is rarely seen without a sheathe of fox fur and stone beads adorning its side. It is the tool of the shaman and witchdoctor, and may have been the preferred weapon of a very ancient and powerful sorcerer. While any shifty eyed killer could make good use of this knife, its true power is more aligned with the mystic and natural world. It has the aura of ancient, primal magic and is known to be "strong medicine".

The first power of the knife is its mystic ability to penetrate through magic barriers and defenses. AC gained from magic spells is ignored by this dagger. This does not apply to magic armor, whose protection is physical as well as magical. This knife can simply penetrate invisible barriers and magical protective auras; making it an ideal end to sorcerers.

The second, and more deadly power of this knife is that it can "hold" a spell inside it. If a magic user casts a spell on this knife and binds the spell within by cutting their wrist and taking 1d4 damage from the bloodletting- they can imbue this knife with a single magical spell. Later, the knife will activate the spell on the next target that it strikes. The knife could be charged with a powerful offensive spell, dealing direct damage on an enemy upon a successful stab. Or the knife could even be given a healing spell; you make a light scratch and suddenly wounds all over your body are closing. However, the knife will always activate this spell on the next target it hits, so you cannot use the bound spell until you are sure this is the one you want.

[4] Eight of Pentacles - +1 Magic Dagger
Stats- 1d8 + 1 Damage

This weapon looks like it was made by an apprentice blacksmith. Its metal is warped and the forgemarks are still blatant above the metal; but it has a strange power. Every time it takes a life, it seems easier and easier for the blade to be guided for the organs, arteries, and other weak points of a living creature as if it learns within the hands of a killer. It is empowered by occult magic and undoubtedly sadistic.

Each innocent person you kill with this knife gives it 1 minimum to its damage roll. If you kill 8, then it will always do maximum damage. This lasts until the dagger is lost; each owner must score these kills again for this effect.

[5] Polecat Point - +2 Magic Dagger
Stats- 3d4 + 2 Damage, +2 Dex Modifier

Possibly the greatest and most infamous of all magical assassination weapons. The Polecount point is a sharp stiletto with a black point along its light-silver body- not unlike the animals for which it is named. The dagger deals a very reliable amount of damage; and grants its user an increased Dexterity score of +2.

This weapon also grants the speed and flexibility of the mink. Anyone who wields this weapon becomes extremely flexible, and can move at a full running speed while crawling, climbing, or stooping under things. This ability extends beyond the simple increase to Dexterity when wielding this weapon- the most lumbering will become almost contortionist-like in their flexibility. Once, this weapon was the signature tool of a great killer-for-hire, who could hide within the smallest spaces to await the right moment to strike.

[6] Rainbow's Edge - +1 Magic Dagger
Stats- 1d4+1 Damage

This neochrome dagger constantly shifts and changes its color. While the dagger alone only hurts the same as a slightly enchanted dagger would; its true power is in the colors of its blade.

Whenever this dagger is unsheated, it turns a random Normal Color. The dagger passes through anything of the same color as it as though it wasn't there. If you strike an opponent wearing a bright red tunic, for example, and the dagger is red, it is counted as an automatic critical strike as it passes through their skin and muscle and strikes the organs within. Every attack hit with this dagger against a creature wearing or of the same color as it takes enough damage to drop to 1 Hit Points remaining, or an automatic killing blow if the attack roll is a 20.

If you aren't sure the color matches, roll a d6 with an x in 6 chance of it passing through, with X being how close the colors are to each other.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

[Class] Crow Reaper

Crow Reaper
HD-
d6
Max AC-
14 / Minimum Hit-Points- 2

You are a Crow from another world. The bipedal birds are swift, dexterous fighters- though not as tough and durable as other races. When generating a character, roll 2d8+6 for your Dexterity score. Otherwise, roll your stats as normal. You start with +1 To-Hit and AC from passive evasion.

Your job is to harvest the souls of beings from other worlds. Most beings will simply pass on when their time runs out; but especially powerful souls have ways of extending their lifespan. When souls get too old and powerful, they begin to go insane and become demonic, hence the need for specialists when a Soul gets too tough to pass along on its own. This is where you come in.

Crow Reapers gain +1 Damage at 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th level.

Crow Reapers gain +1 To-Hit at 3rd, 6th, and 9th level.

You can also cast spells. You have no ability to learn or prepare spells yourself, but if you are ever granted spellcasting abilities, magic dice, or other elements of magic you can use them yourself- use your To-Hit bonus as your effective caster level when you cast a spell.

At 1st level, you are assigned to collect the soul of a powerful immortal being in the setting. This could be an immortal lich or vampire, an elder dragon, an aboleth, or any other powerful being that has lived far beyond when it should. Technically, you are an immortal yourself; but your aging is "unpaused" as long as your "door" remains open.

You come from the Land of Doors. When a soul is assigned for collection, a door will open- this is your door. Your character will appear from seemingly thin air- a magical locked door that keeps the riff raff out of the Lord of Door's domain while you do your business in this living realm. When you collect the soul, you will need to bring it back through this door before it can manifest itself a body again, or fly away from you when you're not paying attention!

Upon reaching 10th level, you become a Gray Crow and can now retire to the Land of Doors as a secretary or manager role. Besides becoming almost immortal, this will grant you the ability to call in some favors and open doors between worlds. Anyone entering a door will enter into the Land of Doors, a safe neutral zone where no wandering monsters exist, and can exit out of a different door to rapidly travel between places in the campaign world. You are also free to explore the living world yourself; but the longer your door remains open, the more you will age.

While the power of the Lord of Doors is awesome, it comes with limitations. Doors cannot be placed in an area where the crow has not been, except for the first door that begins their contract. Also, doors aren't placed within random chambers, but instead at crossroads. You couldn't place a door in the treasure room of a dungeon to easily haul it all out, but you could place one at the mouth of the dungeon and one at the town, thus bypassing the need to carry it back home.


Note- Is this overpowered? Almost certainly. However, I kind of like the idea of a 1st level character being told they have to kill a giant monster or demigod and the whole campaign they're kind of gearing up and preparing for it. I think that's fair in exchange for something a decently high level magic user can just do multiple times per day anyway.

Monday, May 16, 2022

The First Eight Spells

In the beginning, all magic was natural and instinctual. The first beings who wandered the world; the ancient hyborean great ancestors to mankind, the first highest of all high elves, the lizard-men of the most ancient humid days just after the end of Primordis; whoever they be, magic came easy. It was not formula, but as per intention and imagination.

But something changed; perhaps the old bloodlines grew weaker as they were distanced from creation's womb. Perhaps logical thinking and language took over the earliest societies- and this too shaped minds from flowing with pure sensation and instinct into logical and analytical. Something given a name is forever changed by it; more reliably and knowable, but not more powerful.

The first eight spells were created by the first great sorcerer; an ancient shaman who grasped the mysteries with his boney old hands. He was killed by a jealous rival, who drank from his skull and diluted the first great mysteries as their blood mingled together. But these first eight spells are pure. Perhaps in your setting, these are the only spells that exist at all; magic can still exist outside of spells, but these spells are their own "thing" in the wider world of magic.

All of the spells below are powerful, primordial, and flexible. Any magic user or sage who wishes to learn them must embark on a vision quest and connect with the cosmos to learn them. Once learned, they can be cast whenever you wish- expending mana points/spell slots as per GM discretion to whatever end or level of power the spell is trying to achieve. There are no spell levels. The effects of these spells are spontaneous and flexible; these first spells are infinitely more restrictive then the flexible magic before words; but are still rooted strongly in the ancient past of experience over understanding.


The First Eight Spells

[1] The Creation of Flames
With this knowledge, the caster can create fire. Fire requires something to burn; wood or linen for small flames. To burn a living things requires an amount of strength and malice out of proportion with those who first crafted this discipline. While these are the first eight spells, this itself is the ancestor to all of them. This is the first spell, most simple and pure of them all.

The type and shape of the fire is determined by its maker. Originally, simply lighting a small fire to survive the night is enough. With enough focus, the fire can be created in air, shaped into a ball or blasting wall that moves forward to consume. All fire created from this magic is "real", not magic, it burns as the elemental flame. Anything it warms or cooks is as warmed or cooked as it would from a natural wildfire, lit by a strike of lightning.

Simple strikes with this spell of conjured bolts or jets of flame deal 1d6 fire damage to anyone within a stone's throw. The number of dice increases to the number of targets; a bigger conflagration is also hotter and more intense by its design. The ultimate pyromancy would be to be consumed with ones own flame; Hit Points may be added freely to the damage of your magic blast at a ratio of 1:1 for increased damage and strength.

[2] The Calling of Beings from Other Realities
To summon a being from another realm; one requires the correct portal or threshold from which to call them. To summon a creature from the depths from the sea, one must stand on the shore. To call the spirit of the dead, one must stand at the threshold of a cave or great hole in the earth; of where the dead go. More arcane beings require more arcane mediums with which to appear; a smoke black mirror or a creation and graph of numbers to commune with beings from the realm of pure logic.

The beings from other realities operate under their own morality and have their own goals; they may not answer a call. The only way to ensure they come is to have a connection; the descendant by blood of the ghost you wish to speak to. Sacrifices of blood or treasure may appease or excite one entity, while it will disgust and repel another. Once the threshold and lure have been completed; the being will come when called by its name.

As has been known since the dawn of time; to simply call something does not mean one has any control over it. Any caster of this spell can safely call upon a being of HD equal or less to the caster's own. Otherwise, you have the means to call them, but not the means to force them back from whence they came.

[3] The Guise of Invisibility
Pull over oneself a cloak. It can be seen thru in all directions; you have become invisible to the naked eye. This spell grants the gift of the night. Putting this spell on makes the caster and all they immediately carry invisible in all directions, though no other senses are yet fooled. Footsteps still crunch against the snow, and anything new that falls onto their unseen body remains visible. Leaves, paint, or water all collect on their shoulders and frame, revealing where they are.

This spell fools only the eyes; but how the eyes see varies. Those of exceptional vision may be able to see the slight ripple of dust and air around the otherwise invisible figure. Certain other methods may be able to counter the effect, such as a silvered mirror or looking through a hole in a standing stone, which are known to allow those of normal sight to see the invisible. It is not only the spellcaster who can be put under this spell however; an object or even location can be masked in this way, disappearing from sight.

The only limitation of this spell is time and number. Someone who pushes the limits may be able to cast their glamor over several people who are touching them when the spell is first cast. The spell will last a number of turns equal to the level of the caster, or a number of days for a stationary, nonliving object or place. Parts of a larger thing could also be hidden away; a single door on the side of the tower, or the caster's own hand, pretending it was cut off in a fierce battle.

[4] The Gift of False Life
Life is a gift. Living things grow and change, where as the inanimate does not. It can only act when acted upon; life and the spirit are one in the same. But what of those things with life and motion, but no soul? With this spell; the caster may imbue life within a nonliving thing. Objects given life in this way are unnatural, they move and bend as best they can, obeying only the commands of their creator. The price of false life is true life; ones own life force or the life force of a sacrifice must always been given up in exchange to give false life where there is none. Every Hit Point drained from the caster or a living sacrifice is granted to the false life of the subject of the spell; or one day of deep, true exhaustion to equal one hit point.

Larger objects take more life to animate. Animated things have stats abilities equal to what they would be if they were alive; along with the properties of their inherent material. Things more in line with a living shape, and things with material more similar to living material, are easier to animate. For this reason, the bones of a long dead person are very easy to animate into a skeletal servant. Random familiar objects; tomes which scramble their own letters and broomsticks that fly, can be animate for a larger cost, but may remain animate forever as long as they aren't destroyed.

It should be written here that using the life force of an animal, plants, or a living person as a sacrifice is one method of powering this ancient magic. But be warned; those who go unwillingly into the item will make the item also unwilling; a glowering hatred forms when one steals a life to create their own, trapping it into a prison for their own purposes.

[5] The Journeying between Distant Places
Before any map was drawn, places where only known by their direction and the landmarks that led there. To the north was snow and ice, far beyond the mountains of the spine. For one to reach a distant place in a moment, this spell was created.

This spell allows the caster to travel alone or with a group and everything they carry along a distant horizon. Perhaps a small trip of a day's worth of travel would allow a whole army to travel in an instant with a powerful magician, but any farther or faster and the spell will only take a small handful of people along with the magician.

However, as with the ancient people's knowledge of the world, the caster can only travel to places they have knowledge of. They must either have been there before, or know it well enough for some other means for them to create a pathway that allows for the instant transmission of their bodies.

[6] The Swaying of Lesser Intelligences
The ability to control minds. To magically enhance ones words and actions to impress your will on a lesser will. This power works on living beings, such as animals, as well as other people. Supernatural beings, who may have lived for eternities and whose minds are alien to your own, are naturally immune to this spell; and require more spiritual methods of binding.

The caster's own intellect is used as the fulcrum for this spell. As long as they are smarter and have a higher Intelligence then the target's own Wisdom, they can sway their mind and point of view towards the caster's own. For each point higher, the caster can slightly bend their opinion, emotion, or mind towards doing what the caster wishes them to do.

The power to sway is a great one, but is limited by time and place. One of the most ancient magics is speech; the ability to take a sound or thing and put it into words. When separated and with enough time passing, the swaying wears away, and those tricked by this spell are seldom to risk getting tricked again. To stuff ones ears full of cotton may be the second ever conceived counter to magic; with the first being to simply not anger the mage in the first place.

[7] The Foretelling of Future Events
Telling the future and divining the fate of men is one of the first magical powers the first mage sought. From telling the weather to knowing the eventual destiny of any living thing; the signs of what has already been decided are present everywhere is one has the skill and nerve to look.

The future is always divined with a tool and a method. Rolling the bones, examining the entrails of birds, or the study of a fire when a question is asked. Even if you know how to cast this spell; the skill of divining the future properly is a discipline all on its own.

In game terms; prophecy is hard. For each "thing" you want to learn from this spell, a keyword is locked to a Hunch roll. (Hunch Roll = roll a d20 and save the number for later). You can use these hunch rolls in place of your own rolls, or the rolls of another being as long as the keyword is relevant to the roll.

[8] The Sealing and Binding of Ancient Forces
Even the first men, greater then we, and the first magician, stronger then all other men, did not stand alone in the world. Greater beings existing since before time began, beings beyond mortal comprehension or reach. The ability to lock away such horrors, or bid their attention, was one of the first wishes of mankind. This spell helps bind and control magical creatures. Devils, Fae, Angels, Spirits of Nature, and all other souls and beings not tied that are beyond the mortal realm. It can either seal these spirits away in an object or place (preventing them from manifesting) or bind them to the control of the spellcaster. The former is far more reliable then the latter, but both require great skill and magical might to accomplish.

To Seal an Ancient Force away, one must prepare a vessel whose ritual adornments or material is equal to 500c per HD of the spirit. Then, the spirit must be called or confronted, and trapped within; the sorcerer needing to be defended and survive as the spirit fights back against its enslavement. To Bind an Ancient Force, one must call or confront the spirit, and make it an offer that it accepts.

Even the first ancient men knew how dangerous the primordial forces of nature and the spirit were to them; and even though it was the last of the first spells, its power is still revered even to this day.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Whale People & Their Magical Hotsprings

In the frozen cold north, the people who live there are whales. Big, bipedal whale people. They can hold their breath for a long time, and are excellent in the cold, but are big and fat and clumsy on land as anyone would imagine a whale to be.

The Monads are whale people. They look like Belugas or Narwhals. They live in tribes with semi-permanent fishing grounds. You can't grow anything up here, so they survive pretty much just on fish. No wood, so they just use bones and metal for everything. But to supplement their health- they have their magical hotsprings. Also, some of them are magic. You can play as one if you want.

Monads
Base AC- 11
You are large sized.

  • Generate Strength & Constitution as 2d8+1d6
  • Generate Dexterity as 2d6
  • Generate all other stats as normal
  • You are Resistant to Cold. (Take half damage from cold attacks or spells)
  • You can hold your breath for two exploration turns (20 minutes)
  • When you reach 3rd level, you have a 1 in 6 chance to grow a Horn. The Horn grows out of your head, and can be used as a Holy Symbol. You don't get anything if you don't grow a horn, but hey, at least you can fit through normal people doorways without craning your neck and can wear hats.

Monad Culture
Highly nomadic and sociable, the Monads live in loose groups and fit in well in almost any culture, including human and other foreign races. They can be found in almost any port town or sleazy pirate haven. Even an inexperienced Monad is likely to get hired if just for their size and strength- and not to mention their inherent abilities in the water.

Monads tend to gyrate between extremes; they want all the physical comforts and luxury in the world and to be surrounded by company in one moment, and in the next, crave solitude in a very cold or very barren place, as though to test their own limits. Part of this spiritual desire for hardship and self growth may be the result of their magical horn. Monads subjected to many life experiences may end up falling more towards the side of spirituality, and grow a horn.

The horn is a symbol of potency and wisdom among the Monads. It is their witch-mark, though for the whale people, it is a purely positive connotation. Because the horn is only in a small number of their population and it has an inherent use as a Holy Symbol, those with it are often promoted to higher ranks among their society- usually mystics or priests to keep watch over the dead.

Of course, those with horns are free to be adventurers if they so chose. But one should know that a Monad's horn makes for a very fetching prize in many kingdoms as a magical material or aphrodisiac. As such, Monads with horns are more distrusting of outsiders- else they get harvested for their ivory.

Magical Hotsprings
The Monads live in the north. While many camps and places there are within glaciers and ever-frozen ice flows, some of the places there are sparse, green covered arctic lands. While the land and water is cold, the space between the earth may be very hot; the energy underneath the earth churning magma or gas. Upwards it rises to create geysers, pits of burning tar, and more comfortable hot springs.

The Monads use these hot springs as gathering places and holy sites. As they are more comfortable in the water then on the land, these are their "thrones" to where the most comfortable among them may sit. Most homes are built over a hot spring or pool. But deepest inland and most secretive of them all are the magical hot springs; water from the earth enchanted with ancient magic that gives its waters a unique property.

These hotsprings have magical potency when drank or spilled over the body. However, the magic of the hotsprings loses its potency as it cools- only a fraction of it remains once removed from the pool. Due to the difficulty and cost of traveling rapidly depreciating liquids; little industry exists around these hotsprings except for the adventurers within the local area. As long as one has not offended the head-horn around these parts; a quick dip for a guest is never out of the question.

Each tribe of Monads will have one magic hotspring- roll on the table to find out what it does. The "Hot" Effect happens only if the water is still warm from the spring itself; one turn if you soak in it and get out, one hour if carried in a waterflask, and a constant effect if you're in the spring. The "Cool" effect is what the water does once cooled off- has unlimited shelf life.

Magic Hotspring Table - Roll 1d6
[1] Toughness Spring
Hot Effect:
AC of 16 to all wet.
Cool Effect: Adds +1 AC for one combat encounter (turn) if dumped on a person, protects wood or cloth equipment if soaked from a single Destruction effect or until dried.

[2] Sidhe Spring
Hot Effect:
Charm Effect (to anyone not in the Spring)
Cool Effect: Adds +1 Charisma modifier for one roll if mixed in with makeup- usually lasts about a day until it is sweat away or cleaned off.

[3] Healing Spring
Hot Effect:
Restores +1 Hit Points per Hour Soaked
Cool Effect: Can heal a minor wound (stubbed toe, cat scratch, etc) that it is poured on. If you drank a barrel of this it would act like a minor health potion.

[4] Cleansing Spring
Hot Effect:
Reverses 1 Day worth of disease progression per day soaked. Curses are put on hold if you bathe here at least one hour per day.
Cool Effect: Can be splashed on one undead creature; creature is Turned for 1d4 rounds.

[5] Arcane Spring
Hot Effect:
Allows the Magic User to prepare a spell one spell level higher then their highest possible. This spell is prepared for up to 1d6 hours after leaving the Spring.
Cool Effect: Drink a beer stein's worth to recover a 1st level spell.

[6] Prophetic Spring
Hot Effect:
Advanced knowledge of who will appear before the spring to whoever is sitting within. Can see the next result on an Encounter table.
Cool Effect: Adds +1 or -1 to your next roll, declared before you make it.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Dimension of White Castles & Black Forests


This world has no color. Everything you see is black, white, or a shade of gray. This is the people and the places. The people here know what color is; they can see it, though they can't easily describe it. The animals react very strongly to color- sneaking is almost impossible for any being not monochrome, or at least dressed in very muted tones- even the soft pinks and browns of human flesh is like a ultra-saturated glowing neon to the beings so used to the colorless expanse.

The sky is always overcast during the day, though at night it gets very black. Shadows are long. The clouds and mists are white. This land is an endless array of forests and hills, mountains which can be climbed and over it; yet another forest and more hills.

To enter this world requires magic, or to find a time and place in your world where the sky and earth are so gray, so washed out and the fog is so thick there appears to be no separation of any. If you walk on without thought of where you are going, you will arrive here on a 1 in 6 chance. Getting back is much more difficult.

Everything here grows like a plant- including the people. The only civilization in this place are the great walled fortresses, which grow from small stone huts or single standing towers, mushroom out, and grow organically to fit new spinnerets and chambers over hundreds of years. The residents of these fortresses bud from them spontaneously; also growing the same way. They begin as tiny gnomes or pixies; a librarian as big as your thumb in the newly grown library ward, born into their job and position- no childhood or marriages make these people who they are, they just are as they were made. Eventually, they grow to a near human size, but will always be distinct from their black and white features and alien personas. Near the end of their lives, the people grow huge and gnarled like an old tree; a giant philosopher-king sitting on his throne, knees taking up most of the space in the great hall. The woodsman on the hunt for the big bad wolf, white bearded, his head peaking over the endless pine. Eventually, when they die, they will fuse back into the earth, once again returned to the cycle of the Strange and Eternal.

The White Woads
These are the tended, game-filled wood around the castles. They are their own simple ecosystem- all white deer and all black wolves, little gray riding hood walks through the trees to pick flowers while a big gray wolfman watches from the bushes. All white fish promise you knowledge if you put them back when you hook them out of a river filled with black stones.

Occasionally, the nobles and huntsmen of the white castles go out into these woods. They hunt gray foxes that dart through the underbrush under the snapping jowls of dogs- every color of the monochrome rainbow. Whenever you explore these lands, you are bound to run into somebody or something mildly friendly, but unmovable from their task. These places are mostly safe; perhaps even safer then inside the organic walls of the great growing castle.

The weather switches between bright summer day (white) and stormy (gray)- to finally night (very black). There are no seasons, though the people of this realm will babble on about how its a good season for their crops- when there are no seasons and there are no crops. "Everyone knows the fisher boy goes by the river during a nice summer's day!" meanwhile, everyone is still wearing their cloaks and coats.

The people here only live in stone places; and only stone places are civilization. If you were to chop down some trees and build a house, they wouldn't recognize it. They would think of it is a very strange tree. Even the witch on the outskirts of the castles who knows spells and lures children to be eaten still lives in a little stone house.

All the animals here can talk. Farm animals tell rumors, birds curse you if you disturb their nests, and wolves will let you go if you give them something bright red- inherently attracted to the color of blood despite the blood of everything here being a slick silver. The most dangerous are probably the wolves. Occasionally, you might find a stone bridge that gives birth to a big troll who demands payment to cross; but he's pretty easy to trick.

Gray Witch (3+2 HD, +1 AC, 1d4+1 gnarled cane, casts Spells)
Morale- 8
Numbers- One or Two (Sisters)

Magical old woman. Relatively friendly, but primarily eats children to survive. Will settle for a gnome or halfling- even a dwarf if its a lean season. She'll invite you into her home if you have a positive or neutral reaction check- and there will be a 1 in 3 chance she's got a kid in a cage waiting to be tonight's supper. Any implication that you disagree with this or will try to free the child and the spells will start flying. It's nothing personal, that's just her role.

When killed, the speckled witch will have a collection of runes and odd trinkets that could teach a magic user a random Black or White spell; rolled below.

Black & White Spells
Roll 1d3 for a Black Spell
Roll 1d3+3 for a White Spell
Roll 1d2+2 for a Gray Spell
Roll 1d6 for a totally random colorless Spell.

[1] Great Black Beast
Summons forth a great riding beast- the size of an elephant. Its woolly body is pitch black and is moves almost noiselessly. There is no better transport for moving over huge distances in the dead of the night. Whoever rides the beast may bid it to march or charge- this creature has no tusks or trunk but can be a formidable siege weapon. It takes 1 damage per candle size light source every round that is nearby it- and it dies instantly in the sunlight. Even starlight will make it weak and eventually cause it to collapse 1d3 hours after it is produced. Only during an eclipse or in the pitch black night will this monster survive longer.

[2] Panther Straps
Dark leather straps burst from the object in question and fashion strongly to whoever wields it next. They are fit so tightly that any object bound with these is immune to being disarmed or knocked off even from the effects of a Loose spell or other magical effect. They cannot be stolen free by imps or other little thievish creatures. Poorly fitting armor is strapped well; granting up to +1 AC from the armor if their body could not make full use of it before.

This straps can be cut by metal over the course of an exploration turn, but are otherwise permanent. If used on an object that is burning hot or lined with spikes, makes an effective trap that is a pain to remove. Add an exploration turn to the time to doff any armor equipped by use of this spell.

[3] Beetleskin
Gives any object a shield of shiny, dark gray carapace. The carapace-shield levitates just an inch off of the object; absorbing all attacks coming from a single direction decided when the spell is cast. The carapace has 14 AC and caster level in hit points before it is destroyed.

[4] Powdered Silver
Conjures a light handful of light silvery metal powder. This dust has the same properties as silver does; weapons given a coat of it harm werewolves, for example. Circles drawn of the silver will be antimagical in nature. Cursed items shriek when dusted by this; and it can be used as a holy symbol of a pinch is thrown at an undead creature or vampire.

The dust is very lightweight, and as such blows away easily in the air. It has a 1 in 10 chance of being blown away every round when outdoors; with an instant loss if the weather is bad. Indoors it can remain more stable, but will blow away if a door is opened nearby or if the party moves past at anything but a snails pace in walking speed.

[5] Healer's Smock
Garbs the caster and up to two others in white aprons, masks, and gloves. These clean pieces of clothing are barriers to disease and sickness; and miasma breaks upon their touch. While performing first aid or healing, you restore +2 more hit points per healing item or procedure used. Diseases are beaten back by one extra day's worth of progression. While this provides no help at curing or ending curses; anyone dressed in such clean and pure garments will be immune to catching them themselves, even if the disease is highly transmutable.

Every time you use this smock or heal someone, it becomes slightly less pure, slowly changing its color from white, to off white, to silver, to gray. After healing or defending oneself against disease 5 times, the protection of these clean garments are lost and they will rapidly degrade into black matted rags.

[6] Angel Switch
This spell must be cast on an all white twig. Common in this Dimension, hard to get anywhere else. The twig is imbued with holy energy, dealing 1d4+1 damage to undead and being able to be used as a holy symbol. The switch remains sanctified in this manner until the switch is stained with blood- or in other words, you strike a living thing too hard.

The switch has a second property. If used to spank an intelligent being, the switch causes them great pain and forces them to make a save or tell the truth on one question being asked. The switch snaps and has no power against someone who is already aligned with Good or Order.


The Living Castles
The castles here are alive. These fortresses grow on their own and spit out civilization, like spores, or perhaps a defense mechanism. It is an upright dungeon. They are also played like dungeons.

Despite being the "civilization" of this world, they are by no means any safer then the gentle wilderness outside- far from it. Interior chambers of the castle sometimes trap beings or rooms that are meant to be connected to the outside- a giant princess wishing so badly to see the outside world again- her towers windows encased in the stone of the rest of the castle- she will lash out at anyone who dares enter this chamber. Not all of the people in this place are friendly; while there are those formed as the King and Wizard, some are created in the guise of the Executioner or Highwayman. The newly borns may be small; a tiny rat-sized hooded man with a proportionally "giant axe"- deals 1d2 damage, but eventually they will grow up and become huge, their minds more twisted with age as they yearn to be returned to the soil.

Everyone in the castle is a medieval stereotype. Think of fairy tales, or Shrek, and that's generally what the people there should follow. They don't have names- only titles. The thought of needing that much differentiation between two individuals is pointless; after all, people only are what they do. Kings are noble, Queens are pretty but schemers. Princesses are naive and lovely in all way, Princes are charming and adventurous. To give one of them a name is received as a secret treasure- held close their chest. "This is my name? Just for me?" They cannot think of or even imagine names, only the intruders from other worlds and realms have that power. Some will trade their goods or services for a strong name. Others will call the guards on you for trying to cast a witchcraft on them.

The people and places here are intentionally anachronistic. The castles feel more like Hollywood movie sets, or a Disney film, then an actual medieval castle. They are always made of undressed stone with some tapestries hung around. There may be a garden in a courtyard or a tiny plot of cabbages outside the front gate, and peasants leading around donkeys with ropes, but there's no farming economy. It's nowhere near enough food to support this population; the castle provides for these people. Storerooms that open in its interior are already full of food. There are no hovels and villages for the serfs; they just sleep on the stone floor of the great hall or in a side passage. "Where else would peasants sleep?"

The castles reproduce via budding. They always begin as a small structure of a different purpose- a lonely wizard tower, a stone circle or monument for fairytale creatures to congregate, or a tiny gatehouse. They are always made of stone though- the forests here are untouched. The treasure trove of white and black lumber is only of interest to a single "character" that these castles spawn- the Woodsman or Lumberjack. He's the one that is most "awake" to reality, the one most distant and aware of the world outside of the fairy tale fiction of the castle- he's the one who knows most about the forest and its creatures. Only by his axe is the forest held back from consuming the great white castles. He is a part of this process too- he is the clear cutter that opens up space for the castle to grow. He's an evolutionary measure- he destroys the competition and opens up the ground for this kind of arcane "flora" to expand- but he's most aware of his place in the cycle.

The Black Forests
Far away from the growing castles are the wastelands- the Black Forests. The trees here are darker, with deeper shadows and shade. You will need a torch to wander these woodlands- even during a dreary overcast day. Wood from your world burns red and yellow, wood from here burns a very pure titanium white. Both attract the eyes from the lurkers in the dark places.

The Black Forests are more cruel then the White Woads. There is still a fairytale logic, but this is where the rules are more Grimm. Human wanderers, monochrome as they are, are replaced with little men with unpronounceable names and weird hybrids of various animals. This is the other side of this realm's ecological coin. The landscape itself is more chaotic; drawn from a primordial state of being. And in the darkest forests you can find the ruins of what was once a White Castle- a Black Ruin.

The Black Ruin was once a shining White Castle- still organic in shape, but now decayed. Just as a classic dungeon, it crawls with monsters, traps, and strange beings. The stone itself has changed color- it is not merely a trick of shadow, but the dead castle stones literally turn black when dead for so long, creating a shadowy spot of darkness in the world. The old bones of the residents of one of the white castles remain here- wishing only the castle remain strong.

The only people who live around these are criminals, vagrants- negative stereotypes. Even the witches of the White Woads go by a series of logical steps- they can be tricked by clever young boys and impressed by brave little girls. In a Black Ruin, there are thieves and tomb robbers, monochrome black and gray, who have never actually stolen anything, but yet rely on it as their career of "choice". You can hire some of these to be your retainers if you wish; though their loyalty and personalities will remain as thin as the shadows on the wall.

Black Knight (7+1 HD, +6 AC from Armor, +4 To-Hit, 1d8+2 Midnight Broadsword, Magic Shield, Unyielding Strength)
Morale- 13
Number- Just One

Honor bound black knight. Always fighting for some promise- nobody shall cross this bridge, or nobody will touch the sacred tree's treasure, and so on. Upon the final hit that would kill the knight- the Knight gets one final attack in revenge to anyone in melee which deals +2 To-Hit and Damage. This Black Knight will always be carrying or guarding an Achromatic Treasure- roll 1d4+4 on the table below.

Treasure Table
Roll a 1d4 for treasures found in the White Woads
Roll a 1d8 for treasures found in a White Castle
Roll a 1d4+8 for treasures found in a Black Ruin
Roll a 1d12 for a treasure found in a Black Forest OR for a totally random Treasure.

[1] Silver mushroom. Cures blindness.
[2] Chalk dew. Can be drank to recover +1 Hit Point or be used as paint thinner.
[3] Little Fairy, trapped in a jar. If you let her out she'll cast a 1st level magic spell for you.
[4] Milk Spiderweb. If you sew this into a garment you can repair it as per the spell Mending, or you can spin it into a bowstring which will make the bow +1.
[5] Mesa Dust. Can be sprinkled over a horse or donkey and it will find its way back home.
[6] Little Eagle Carving. Worth sentimental value to a villager living in a castle; equal to a favor.
[7] Black and White Portrait of a Noble. Worth novel value to someone outside of this realm.
[8] Vantablack Handkerchief. Wizard can use this to cast Darkness, once per day, or you can burn it to cast a bright-white flash which blinds creatures with Darkvision for 1d4 rounds.
[9] Fortress Enchantment. Magical force in the air that rolls for a random encounter if you speak above a whisper in this area. Its just a sullen wooden plaque that says "Quiet Please!"
[10] Ashen Ring of Might. Grants +1 to your Strength modifier each day you wear it. After four days, it becomes stuck on your finger and would need to be amputated. If you reach 23 Strength with this, your heart bursts in your chest and you die.
[11] Pale Ring of Wisdom. Grants +1 to your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma each day, until all three are at least at a +1 Modifier. If you take off the ring, you instantly lose these stats.
[12] Silvered Golden Cache. Chest of off-white metal that is this realm's gold. Worth quite a lot to a scholar, worth quite a lot more to a banker. Like 30,000c worth.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

12 Reasons why you need to hit the Quest Giver with the magic weapon you just recovered


[1]
They believe a strong elemental or magical strike will reset their body's flow of energy and help cure them of a malady. There is a 50/50 chance this is true and it actually works!

[2] It hit in the right time and in the right way, will put them in a 'death like state' that they can be woken up from with a special process. They will use this to fake their own death to (1d6);

  1. Get away from the nagging wife and kids. They'll come back in a couple weeks.
  2. See how people get along when they're gone and see if anyone even cares
  3. Tax benefits- They're about to come into some wealth- best to collect when deceased.
  4. Become a martyr for a religion they aren't really super serious about following
  5. See what's on the other side
  6. Avoid an assassin or bounty hunter trying to kill them for real. (This one is stolen from Oblivion)

[3] The weapon is cursed and fated to take the life of their whole bloodline. If they can get you to hit them with a healer nearby or make sure you do it softly, eventually it will do enough points of damage to kill them all- but survivable. That will wiggle out of the curse on a loophole, right?

[4] The weapon's magic effects actually grants a boon to anyone who "is struck by this weapon and lives to tell the tale". Having a nice, safe way to get that benefit is worth the trouble- just don't let any of your enemies live after getting hit by this!

[5] The quest giver has magic blood which actually extinguishes magic items. They don't think anyone should have this one; even if you kill them afterwards for lying to you you'll still just have a normal hunk of metal instead of some earth shattering cool magic sword. It's for the best.

[6] They're writing a novel and really want to understand what a +2 Vorpal Flaming Mace of Shattering feels like for their character. They need that authenticity.

[7] They're a Cleric or a Whitemage and need to test out a new healing spell.

[8] They're an Alchemist and prepared a secret "blade lotion" to protect themselves against this weapon and want you to hit them in public to advertise it. 1 in 4 chance the lotion doesn't work.

[9] The blood or wound from the blow will make a cool portal that leads to a demon's realm- the same demon who has been haunting them. They didn't tell you this to begin with; because now if you don't go into that portal and kill that demon it will get out and attack everybody.

[10] Need to talk to an deceased ancestor whose soul is trapped in the blade or in an afterlife where only people killed with X weapon go to. As for how to get back? They didn't think that far ahead.

[11] Made a stupid bet with another blowhard they know on who is tougher. This magic item is +1 stronger then the one their rival already survived getting hit with.

[12] They're honestly just straight up done with life.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Vagueposting- Static Module & Creature Designs is a Feature not a Bug + Party Size Dynamics

Something I've been thinking about recently is the differences between video games and tabletop games, especially in the design or and mechanics behind how the game works with a plurality of players in a single instance, party, or map.

In most co-op video games where the co-op is optional or drop-in and drop-out, the challenge of the game's enemies tend to scale up in damage and/or health in proportion to the number of players currently playing the game. There are exceptions to this; in games where multiplayer is expected or even required, such as an old school MMO, enemies do not scale on purpose as to make grouping up encouraged. Did this concept come around from tabletop games?

Art @Stephen Andrade
Even now, tabletop games are a very social and "word of mouth" hobby. Despite what some believe may believe even with the explosion of "geek chic" in popular culture, very very few people actually play tabletop games even after things like Critical Role and a wider audience. It is still a microhobby- and of those few, almost everyone who does does so because they had a friend that did first, or began a group to play with their friend circle who was interested. It has been this way since tabletop gaming's inception; I would struggle to think of any hobby more social then tabletop gaming.

Notice that in pretty much every monster manual, adventurer module, blogpost, etc. everything is almost always static. In other words, an orc will always have 2 HD of health; the game is not written to "scale" this enemy up or down with the players level or more importantly the number of players.

Now obviously there are practical reasons why this is- why create such bloated rules or math for something so inconsequential? If the DM has a group with only one or two player characters, they could just artificially lower the number of monsters, or grant magic items for a powerful one-shot kind of experience that patches over this issue. No author or publisher is going to want to waste all that space in books for something so fiddly and situational.

I want to make it clear that I am way too young to have been around for the oldschool D&D days. I am not a classic grog playing with Gygax or Anderson. This is 100% conjuncture; but I get the feeling that classic D&D groups may have, at least subconsciously, allowed for more players leading to more power for the purposes of boosting game recruitment.

Once again, let me stress that I know this isn't some genius level marketing tactic done on purpose by old TSR back in the day; those creators were very focused on a totally different kind of game experience then modern OSR games- group dynamics were different. Tabletop roleplaying today tends to focus on smaller numbers of individually controlled characters, where as in the past characters often controlled small armies or squads of units. I don't want to pretend that I know otherwise. But I have a strong feeling that the intentional or unintentional reluctance to change the fantasy space to accommodate the players, both in terms of "dumbing down" for new players or weakening monsters or challenges for small or unprepared groups acts as a strong motivator for game recruitment.

Think about it- a party with five characters will always be inherently stronger then a party of four; even if that last character is weak, like a first level wizard or a poorly rolled character, they are still providing more damage, more carrying capacity, more resources and/or skills in game terms, and another player to bounce ideas off of. Having the game be a "player vs DM" arena with a harsh and challenging world really encourages people to have a strong party- and in this case, more players directly correlate to more strength. It's the classic throwaway line in D&D adjacent media, or nostalgia bait movies and TV shows- "oh you gotta show up for the game this Friday, we're going to fight a cave troll!" or something to that effect often comes up. I wonder how true it really was; either back in the day and now.

As a bonus; how does party size affect the game? These are just my observations when I run games; and may not at all apply to your experiences.

Big Parties

  • More Powerful (obviously)
  • Individuals are less important / mistakes are punished less as there is a "safety net"
  • Generally slower and less stealthy
  • More "risk averse" (more people to get browbeaten by)
  • More mechanically oriented / requires Caller moreso

Small Parties

  • More individually engaging
  • Characters are more developed
  • Higher camaraderie / victories more earned
  • Has more "Epic moments" (individual actions are more impactful)
  • More roleplaying oriented

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

10 Camp Spells

I write too many combat spells. Here's some non-combat spells.


10 Camp Spells
[1]
Water Reversal
This spell takes an amount of water equal to a large cooking pot or less and "reverses" its heat and temperature, from cool to boiling. Boiling water becomes cool and and can be drank instantly after being purified for instance, cool water becomes boiling to speed up cooking. This spell works best on a large amount of water in one place; if the spell is used on a puddle of water it will hit a few cubic feet, if used against water splashed on someone's skin it will only be able to hit a few droplets; roughly equal to a handprint in size.

[2] Many-Colored Pool
This spell is used in a body of water. It requires touch to use, and is often used by those relaxing in a hot spring or those within a noble's pool. From the caster's hand comes bright and colorful lights which fill the water with it. While this spell can be used for entertainment purposes, it can also be used to light up dark pools of water or to more safely swim at night; granting it a use for exploration.

[3] Queue Spell
This spell magically creates slips of paper, marked sticks, or some other form of item that denotes number. When handed out to people, grants a number. If the slip of paper is ripped up, stolen, or altered it will revert to whatever number the person should have, making skipping in line impossible. If a person with a number dies or is disjointed from the plane, everyone with a number above theirs automatically skips down a number. The mage can also "clear" someone with a number to remove them once whatever they were doing is done, letting everyone know how many more people are ahead of them in line by their number.

This spell is used by wizards at busy markets, in fairs, and even more clever uses like long distance communication. However, it was originally created by healing mages to hand out from the hospital tent in army camps after grievous battles- that way, the many who died before being seen wouldn't need to be searched for when a bed opened up.

[4] Cleaning Solution
Squirts a thimble of acidic fluid from the tip of your finger. After a few seconds, it puffs up into a froth that can be washed away with water, making it perfect for cleaning pots, pants, as well as removing rust in small amounts from weapons and armor. The acidic isn't strong enough to hurt living things except cause a little skin irritation. If you squirt this into someone's eyes I guess it can do one damage MAYBE.

[5] The Clean Smelling Pants
Due to a quirk of this spell's arcane formula; it can only be cast on a pair of pants. If you don't plan ahead, somebody is going to go around in there breaches to use this spell. If you're playing in a Greek or Roman fantasy world, these may be harder to get then you think.

This spell is cast on a pair of pants and strung up on a tree or pole- similar to a flag. The pants make everything in the area smell fresh, clean, and blows away foul vapors or miasmas. Has the strength to cover one campsite or a decent sized cavernous chamber- extremely useful while traveling through the blightlands, horrible abandoned battlefields, or the toxic swamps. This spell also has the knock on effect of covering your party's own scent and animals in the area, but clever creatures may realize that a lack of smelliness from nature is a hint that you passed through this area.

[6] Good Times Spell
Makes clothes and costumes more colorful, adds bangles to your bracelets and rings, fills the air with the scent of wine, and makes music carry and cheerful. In practice, this is a wide-scope illusion spell that increases the atmosphere of any party or celebration; everyone here is guaranteed to have a good time.

Any sufficiently neutral creatures who like to party (satyrs, goblins, etc) are treated as though under the effects of the Charm spell for up to two weeks after this spell is cast and they participate. This isn't a magical compulsion, they're just thankful for the good time and consider you a friend.

[7] Sala
Salt is extremely useful for many things, like cooking, cleaning, preserving food, making magical circles, banishing ghosts, and killing slimes, so it makes sense somebody made a spell to create it. But salt is a magical material, so you can't just make it from nothing- So this spell creates a small handful of salt by drawing it out of your body.

At the first casting per adventure, does nothing.
At the second casting, deals 1d4 nonlethal damage to yourself.
At the third casting, deals 1d4 more nonlethal damage and you take the same in damage to Dexterity.
At the fourth casting, deals 1d6 nonlethal damage hit points + Dex, and you have a 1 in 6 chance to throw up when you're sneaking around (later), alerting enemies to your presence.
At the fifth casting, deals 1d10 damage to yourself and pass out. If you drop to 0 or less, you slip into a coma and will die without some serious help.
Any more castings and you just die.

[8] Faithful Cat
Like the Faithful Hound, but a kitty instead. It can't fight or warn you of intruders, instead it just kills rats. When you wake up in the morning, they'll be a pile of 1d6 mice or other small pests by your bedroll.

This spell is a bit of a cheat; because you probably could actually use it in combat if you really needed to. Then again, I think if you summoned a regular cat  in front of a giant hoard of flesh eating rats it would probably just run away.

[9] Light Weight Heavy Weight
This spell can be cast on any item that could fit in a backpack, sack, or satchel. The item in question automatically rises to the top or bottom of the sack over time; from being jostled around during a hike or carried on horseback, etc. Using the "heavy" version of the spell will make an item sink to the bottom, making it harder to find by a guard's search or using a "light" version of the spell will make something useful rise to the top consistently so you can pull something important out of your pack whenever you need it.

Does this work on bottomless bags? Yes. Just be careful about casting "heavy" weight on something in there, as you won't be getting it back.

[10] Animal Decoys
This spell can only be cast on animals. Animals of every size can be used for this spell; but the effects might be a little wonky if you're casting it on rats or elephants and stuff. If you can get a dog to ride on the back of a horse you could totally cast this on a caravan group as well; but not on animals pulling wagons or actually doing anything useful; just ones standing around.

Every animal in your camp or entourage is magically gifted clothes, stilts, wigs, and other such adornments from thin air which creates the illusion of them being a person. From a distance, every animal will appear as one "person" to scouting enemies or thieves. This means your tiny adventuring party of like 6 people could appear as a huge patrol of like 20 soldiers but its really just dogs and mules in wigs and stuff like that.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Hand-Face-Hand Guard Generator


Every Hand-Face-Hand starts with;

  • TWO Hands (4 HD)
  • ONE Face (8 HD)
  • AC equal to its material
  • No Morale (Never Routs)
  • Cannot move
  • Each round- ONE Hand can act, and the Face acts. Then the other Hand acts next round. If you need more specific speed values- assume the hands are as slow as a golem.
  • If a Hand is defeated; the Face loses half of its remaining hit points. The other hand still only acts once every other round.
  • If the Face is defeated; both hands become inanimate and are defeated.
  • One Special Hand Attack. Either hand may use it on their move.
  • Alignment of True Neutral

Material Table - Roll 1d6
[1] Flesh (AC 10, +1 Initiative) Stapled or stitched. Or is this massive creature alive?
[2] Skeletal (AC 12, Undead, Can Turn on a hand to stun it or release grip) Bone hands of a giant.
[3] Stone (AC 18, Weak to Cold) Block, inorganic shape- its made of bricks.
[4] Metal (AC 16, Weak to Lightning) Giant animated armor; or a clockwork automaton.
[5] Wood (AC 14, Weak to Fire) Carved wooden pieces; took a shipwright to make this.
[6] Djinn Skin (AC 12, Gains 50% Resistance to one Element, Eye Blasts deal 1d8 damage of this element) Has a color matching its element; Red skin for Fire, White for Ice, Blue for Lightning; etc.

Face Table - Roll 1d6
[1] Darkness (+1 AC) Empty hole- or the eyes and lips float on a black smokey mass.
[2] Serene Mask (+25% Magic Resistance) Placid features while it crushes you in its grip.
[3] Giant Crystal (Casts Spells as though one Caster-Level Higher) Glows with energy.
[4] Animal Head (Hands have +1 to Hit and Damage) Is it an idol to a long lost god?
[5] Big Eyeball (Sees Invisible, Cannot be Surprised, Face takes double damage when hit directly) Looks angry and scary but it's really just a big dumb weakpoint.
[6] Gibbering Mouth (Both hands get different Special Hand Attack- roll once for each hand. If you cannot escape a hand's Grip after one round- will bring you to the mouth and bite in a save vs death) It chews that air and flicks its tongue crazily, but says nothing.

Special Hand Attack Table - Roll 1d8
[1] Morph (Turns Hand into Giant Weapon, deals 1d10 damage) Hand into hammer, axe, or sword.
[2] Got-Your-Nose (Silences one party member- cannot cast spells) Holds their voice for one round.
[3] Rocket Fist (As Punch, but holds until next round. Deals 1d12 damage) Shakes as it charges.
[4] Snap (Random character must save or take 2d6+2 Damage) Something tears within from the echoing snap- immune if you're deaf. Powerful Gestural Magic.
[5] Spider (Hand "runs" around the arena on fingers, knocking people prone and dealing 1d4 damage) Skitters on fingers like a giant spider- this move happens once more when the Hand is defeated.
[6] Power Palm (Save or be pushed back along a straight line) Creates a ghostly hand that pushes you along like a forcewall. Add spikes along the wall or a pit around the edge of arena for more "fun".
[7] Finger Gun (As Magic Missile) Might be a little on the nose for a fantasy setting; if you don't like the idea of "Finger Guns" being taken seriously, just make it a finger of death style point instead.
[8] Rock-Paper-Scissors Duel (Play RoShamBo with the DM. If you lose, hand gets a free hit against you, otherwise you get a free hit against this hand) Playful.

Combat Rules
The Hand-Face-Hand is an immobile guardian meant to protect one room, doorway, or important item. The Face hovers above a platform / or is suspended by a large upper torso and is out of reach of melee weapons except for spears, polearms, whips, etc. Any "Attack" uses an attack roll to hit, otherwise a "Move" just happens.

Hand Actions - Roll 1d6
[1] Slap - Attacks two or three targets in a row. On hit, deals 1d6 damage and knock victims prone.
[2] Punch - Attack. On a hit, deals 1d8 damage and knocks the victim back (and prone).
[3] Special Hand Attack - (See above)
[4] Block - Move. Raises a palm to block incoming ranged attacks and spells for the face. They damage the hand instead, using its AC and damage resistance values.
[5] Grip - Move. Save or be gripped by the hand. If you are grabbed, you are squeezed for 1d10 damage each round until the hand takes at least 10 damage to release you. Supernaturally strong characters (+3 Strength) can roll to break free. Prone characters are immune.
[6] Slam - Move. Hovers a balled fist over someone, then slams down. If you're standing you can just move away, if you're prone you'll need help or have Dex +1 to jump away in time. If you get hit by the slam you just die- or deals 3d10 damage or something.

Face Actions - Roll 1d4
[1 or 2] Eye Blasts - Attack. On a hit, deals 1d6 magic damage. If the "Face" is a giant crystal, this can be a big energy beam instead to make it look cool.
[3] Observe - Leans in to observe the party closer. The Face and Hands gain +1 To Hit each time it does this for the rest of the battle. Also an opportunity for you to attack the face.
[4] Casts a Random Spell. The Face has a total number of spells equal to its HD.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Vampire Survivors is Goated + Random Thoughts on Damage

I think this game may be a flavor of the month thing. Still, it's pretty awesome. I really like Vampire Survivors. It's an indie Roguelite with some permanent progression- heavily inspired by Castlevania's art, monsters, and weapons. It's an autobattler; you only control your characters movement while your weapons fire automatically- every time you level up you can get random weapons or support items and using different combinations let you create combos and evolve weapons into higher forms. Half the fun of this game is seeing how powerful your combos can get, while the game spawns literal screen-full waves of enemies to slowly walk towards you and attack.

It's a really fun little game, pretty addicting, surprisingly strategic, and it's only 3 dollars. Sadly, I missed telling you about it when it was on sale for 10% off. You could have saved 30 cents, lmao. Developers are still active on the game, and have a LOT of content planned. I know a lot of people out there refuse to touch early access games- and I don't blame you- but even if that is your concern, there is more then enough content here to justify this purchase easily.

But anyway, this isn't a shillpost for the game- though I do hope this encourages you to check it out. The real purpose for this post was that this game is at its surface incredibly simple; your attacks just do damage. There's no elements or damage weakness types, very few "status effects" really, almost no mechanics, and yet you can screw yourself over if your build has a bad combination of weapons and items because you need a diverse arsenal. Even something simple, like vampire bats or medusa heads being immune to holy water since it's on the ground, isn't in the game. But when every enemy pretty much just slowly walks at you- how can there be a game with some actual depth and thought behind it?

Despite its apparent simplicity, there is a bit of complexity in how the weapons in this game work. Every weapon has a specific firing pattern. For example, the Wand shoots rapid fire but weak bolts at the nearest enemy. It's a highly reliable source of damage against the biggest threat to you in the moment, but bad against crowds and bosses. Several weapons, like the Holy Water and the Rune Tracer, deal great AoE damage but you have zero control over them- not amazing against bosses but strong against crowds of weaker foes. There are also weapons that are very strong, but have a long cooldown, like the Lightning and the Bible. Some weapons, like the Whip or Axe, always shoot in a reliable direction- the axe up and down, and the whip horizontally. This lets you cut through crowds of mobs to escape getting trapped. Finally, the knife is a weapon that shoots high damage, rapid fire, but small and hard to aim projectiles directly in front of you- excellent for killing bosses, but meaning you have to run towards the bosses to aim at them, since your movement is the only way to aim anything.

I hate these red bats so much its unreal.

From this, we can extrapolate a sort of system for other games, including tabletop games, which add granularity to the relatively simple game mechanic of "hit things until they die". Despite all of them just "doing damage", the concept of different fantasy classes or roles in a combat focused game having defined and useful combat roles despite the apparent simplicity is really appealing to me.

For example; characters like crossbow users or rogues can deal very high burst damage all at once to individual targets. The implied combat "role" here is taking out high value targets. Enemy spellcasters, monsters on their last legs, and really dangerous monsters like level draining undead or creatures that have many attacks to take out at range.

What are all the different ways you can do combat when it comes to fighting monsters or groups- ignoring things like in universe fiction or damage types? There are four ways to think of damage in a non-timing environment (turn based) against all other concepts like in universe fiction, elemental damage types, random chance to land a hit, and so on. These four types will be near and far in range, and many targets with low damage, or few targets with high damage.

Range

Damage

Target

Class Fantasy Equivalents

Near

Small

Many

“Tank” Warrior, Paladin, Animal Companion

Near

High

Few

Dervish, Barbarian, Rogue

Far

Small

Many

AoE Blaster Mages, Clerics, Bards(?)

Far

High

Few

Rangers, One-Shot Wizard Spells

As you can see, it doesn't really work 100% to import this kind of system into a fantasy game world. The fiction of the game space doesn't line up with this concept of damage. Fighters are both "tanks" but also can do a lot of damage- they swing around big weapons. In the same vein, it's rare to see characters designed around the concept of doing slow, consistent damage- especially at range or with an area of effect, since by necessity focus firing attacks or spells on one target to get rid of them quickly is more important then dealing 2 damage to all goblins in a room even if that will mathematically kill them all faster.

This may also be the reason that fantasy games tend to have more elements thrown in. Most games have some amount of randomization when it comes to attacks- at least randomized damage plus chance to hit or absorption of hits depending on the ruleset. This is probably to stop games from being mathematically solved quantities- like if the rules say every attack with a human swordsman does 3 damage and the troll has 9 health and recovers one health per turn you can do the math to see exactly how long it would take or how many counter attacks you'd be forced to take; thus letting you know the outcome before it happened.