Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Feng Shui Prep Free Association

We're still in 1984

Scorpions Because Always Scorpions

Need a Feng Shui site, which Site?

Street of Ghost Law
Emerald God Grotto
Crying Sister Garden
Big Old Cock

Open problems: Claude is on money, New protection racket, Owe noodle shop owner money

Who controls 1984? Oh wait duh.
Reread Warren Ellis comics soon.

Twilight Hour

Where's the door to the Netherworld?
There's one in a suite at the Hong Kong Hilton, established in previous game.
Where else?
Bootleg tape store

Party needs
Steady gig
Info on getting to Netherworld
Info on Time Travel
Find out why Claude is on money
Feng Shui site to attune to and/or Base of Operations

Street chase, police, one legged owls with human faces, bell of heaven, scroll traps, skipping stones, gambler from the future, three of the same man will die, prostitute wizards, motorcycles, apes, Ricefist, snake days, School of Left Standing Rock, German tourists, paper airplanes, REO Speedwagon, bazookas.

Monday, November 25, 2013

RPG Person Profile

I'm currently running (at home): Weird BX mashup D&D, Feng Shui, occasional weird things.

Tabletop RPGs I'm currently playing (at home) include: Nothing. Damn it.

I'm currently running (online): I don't have any open online games right now (that may change soon) but I do always have people in the above games who Skype in.

I would especially like to play/run: Some new edition D&D, some Atomic Robo, Call of Cthulhu.

...but would also try: Nobilis, Unknown Armies or something like that.

I live in: Atlanta

2 or 3 well-known RPG products other people made that I like: Deep Carbon Observatory, Planet Motherfucker/Dudes of Legend are the same book to me, ConTessa counts as a product right? Because fucking YEAH ConTessa.

2 or 3 novels I like: Catch-22, Cat's Cradle, Small Gods

2 or 3 movies I like: We're Going To Eat You, Phantom of the Paradise, Castle of Cagliostro

Best place to find me on-line: G+, this site, and maybe Skype, which I usually game through.

I will read almost anything on tabletop RPGs if it's: content or perspective I can use, historical tidbits that are interesting, and generally unique things or unique ways of presenting or looking at things. Also: tables and classes.

I really do not want to hear about Edition wars, "type" wars (story games vs OSR or whaever), industry drama, "What's good for role-playing games," and any kind of evangelism that requires you to go around slagging off on people you never met. I have religion for that if I need it in my life.

I think dead orc babies are ( circle one: funny / problematic / ....well, ok, it's complicated because....) something that probably happens in theory and it's probably not great but we can play a game about whether Dr. Evil's henchman's widow will be able to pay her mortgage now or we can play a game where beavers are worth 100 points and carry money so which one do you want to play?

I talk about RPGs on G+ and various other people's blog comments under my own name, just like when I post here.

Carousing in Doublecrossroads

So we have this and that's pretty much all you need for most circumstances and will even sit just fine in most of this wild-west-D&D campaign world but for the actual town of Doublecrossroads you're just a bit more isolated than that, so any carousing is going to be just a little different. As in the above link, spend d6x100gold to carouse, and you earn that much XP, usually. However if you don't have enough money to cover this cost it means you overreached yourself and stuck the town with the check and can consider most of the town to be hostile to you until it's paid back, not to mention people who might be calling in this debt or the possibility of time in jail.

Anyway, then save vs. Poison, and if you don't make it roll on the table below:

  1. You've made a fool of yourself. You get no XP and have to draw down from the deck of fate. Your card represents the way you made a mess of things, and now you have to deal with the consequences.
  2. You shot your mouth off, then tried to shoot the other guy's off. You were involved in a duel. The GM sets a number, and you both try to roll over that number, remaining as close to that number without equaling it (e.g. the GM sets 65, you want a 66). Ties mean your bullets hit each other and fuse together (These items give you a free draw from the deck of fate during the game). If you both miss, it's your turn to set a number, and you and the GM roll again. You keep doing this for up to 6 rounds, at which point cooler heads intervene when you reload. If you have ammo or a second gun and your opponent is empty, set your own number and roll over. The loser of the duel saves or dies. The winner gets no XP or loot for this kill, and may be on the hook for murder depending on the circumstances (Charisma check or spend money equal to initial carousing roll, gain no bonus XP for this expenditure).
  3. Where'd your vulva go? You wake up a different age, race, and gender. Your new form is a complete being with its own drives, desires, ambitions, and skills. Basically keep your gear and XP and level but roll up a new character otherwise. CAVEAT: If you had spells and slots you keep them but can gain no more until you change back, unless your new form also has spells (see table below).
  4. Minor misunderstanding with local authorities. Roll Charisma check. Success indicates a fine of 2d6 x 25gp. Failure or (inability to pay fine) indicates d6 days in the pokey. Roll any die: odds means you broke an obvious existing law, evens means you broke some local ordnance or custom or taboo that's out there and how could you know that seriously and the GM makes something up.
  5. Gambling losses. Roll the dice as if you caroused again to see how much you lose. (No additional XP for the second carousing roll.)
  6.  Beaten and robbed. Lose all your personal effects and reduced to half hit points.
  7.  Gambling binge. Lose all your gold, gems, jewelry. Roll Wisdom check for each magic item in your possession. Failure indicates it’s gone.
  8.  Hangover from hell. First day of adventuring is at -2 to-hit and saves. Casters must roll Int check with each spell to avoid mishap.
  9.  Invest all your spare cash (50% chance all gems and jewelry, too) in some smooth-tongued merchant’s scheme. 1-4 it’s bogus 5 it’s bogus and Johnny Law thinks you’re in on it 6 actual money making opportunity returns d% profits in 3d4 months.
  10.  Major misunderstanding with local authorities. Imprisoned until fines and bribes totaling d6 x 1,000gp paid. All weapons, armor, and magic items confiscated.
  11.  You stumble into the wilderness following a vision. Roll wandering monster table. Intelligent creatures will take advantage of you, those of animal intelligence will react normally. You must successfully navigate your way back to town in the morning using normal rules. PS you now consider any creature you meet a Spirit Guide, even if that creature was an orc or Kenneth or something.
  12. You are accused of high crimes and must stand trial. You'll be in jail the whole time unless someone posts your bail. Roll d6, 1-2 public safety charge 500g bail, 3-4 murder or rustling charge 1000g bail, 5 heresy charge 666 bail, 6 witch trial, 2000 bail.
  13. A group of miscreants is counting on you serving the town up for them, as per an arrangement you no longer remember. 1-4 on a d6, no one saw you talking to one another, 5 the law knows, 6 everyone knows, and will hold you accountable for their misdeeds, never mind how your "partners" will feel if you don't follow through on whatever the hell it was.
  14. In drunken largess you've donated a sum equal to a new carousing roll to one of the churches, very publicly, and now the others are pissed off at you and will refuse you service.
  15. Your suggestible state left you open for parley with some dark thing which slumbers in the wastes or the beneath. You are under the Quest effect of a monster god. You may save vs spells but this grants you a madness regardless of current Shock Value if successful, the scars of the tearing in this war of wills.
  16. The drink taints your perception, the night is like a dark carnival, and then the nightmares come. Roll 1d3. Earn that many points of Shock, along with any new effects.
  17. Your luck has taken a turn for the worse. You can't use any Barrel Points the next day, and can't use any again at all until your luck changes and you crit something.
  18. "Don't repeat that, man, that'll stick!" You did something stupid or said something stupid and earned yourself a nickname. Roll Charisma. Success means it's stupid but cute, failure means it's horrible and no one will ever call you anything else until you leave town.
  19. What do you do when you're Branded? Some mark has been seared into your flesh, roll d4, 1-2 it shows you to be property of some god or powerful figure, 3 it's embarrassing, 4 it's actually kind of cool looking but nobody knows what it is or who did it.
  20. You went to piss up a building in the night and were eaten by a horrible monster. In actuality you're under a curse. Roll random monster table plus random mutation table. You're that. Your party wants to avenge you and the town may want to eat you. You can't speak unless the creature in question can, but you still know all your languages and your abilities remain the same. Any armor is destroyed in the transformation and you cannot cast spells unless the new creature can cast spells, in which case you know the spells you knew as a man.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Authentic Frontier Gibberish

He said the sheriff is near.
This here be a table of rumors, tall tales, folklore, and superstitions native to the wyrd and fantastic west. I call both the world I made this for AND the base town for the campaign within that world Doublecrossroads, and it seems a cursed game, as every time I try to run it some horrible emergency comes up. Anyway, some of this is true, some of this is truthiness, some of this is folksy insanity disguised as good sense, you know how this goes:

  1. Red-eyed cats spare those with a conviction worth living for, only hunting those who despair. Saying "It's a good day" keeps them at bay.
  2. The rock witch lurks in Slaughter Shack. They say it's built on tortoise back
  3. The Doublecrossroads saloon, Bloody Pissed, serves only alcoholic blood strained from a river of red sand.
  4. The howl of the fuck ape means a second sunrise a'comin'.
  5. No man has seen the desert's endin'.
  6. The golden cities of the elves can make one immortal.
  7. Everyone else is robots.
  8. Spider bites are good luck.
  9. Creatures that eat sin creep into town when there's misdeeds, and they don't care for justice, so even a right killing must be blessed.
  10. There's a lost ship of bones which sails the sands.
  11. Live to see a three-armed man and you'll regret it.
  12. Hospitality must always be extended to skeletons.
  13. The unnamed dead play mournful tunes on boot hill in the moonlight. If their killers hear them, they die of shame.
  14. The Sirocco Trail runs through the desert. One end goes to heaven, the other to hell, and no way to tell which is which.
  15. Serve your guest burned black flesh, for ghosts get into the cattle.
  16. Mesas were invented when the sky peoples took their mountains and flew away to escape the greed of dwarves and men.
  17. The shadowmen strike at noon.
  18. A man in a dream ate all the land west of Whisper Canyon, dreaming it was his supper, and eventually he became the moon.
  19. A snake for a sheathe will keep you from havin' a girl.
  20. A dead elf turns into gold.
  21. Old Geary Cable buried himself with a fortune, so his children couldn't get it, only for his children to strike it richer than Geary ever dreamed. Now Geary wants out, and you can hear him screaming by Skyclaw Creek.
  22. Nockawillow-Nockawillow hears you when you pray, count to ten then cuss ag'in or else get stole't away.
  23. Fish are abundant in the streams of the rockier mountain valleys and surprisingly numerous in the arid wastes. No fish was meant to die out here, though. Kill a fish in the sand and you'll never be able to swim again.
  24. No one knows how deep the Wyrmcoach goes, or why it travels like it does. Some say it keeps a passenger who rides alone, that they're still riding further down, forever.
  25. Don't shoot at the sky or it just might break.
  26. The victims of a gun follow that gun forever. When the man pullin the trigger dies, they put hooks into his soul and drag him around for eternity, followin the new owner of the gun. The Dead Trains extend all over, their tracks stretching across the continent and crossing one another frequently. Some magicians look for such places, the idjits.
  27. Mirages know exactly what they're doing.
  28. Solving the riddle of Church of Mudclay Tunnel unlocks the power of Hungry Mountain.
  29. You'll meet the means of your death before you die, only once, and if you never do then your death won't be a true death, and you'll become a thing. This is common enough knowledge that even cowards and children seek exploration and danger time to time, to avoid such a curse.
  30. The village of Slattern earned the ire of Pumagod's daughter, and so the "cat people" there have been cursed with no thumbs.
  31. Carve your true love's name into a bullet and sleep on it for a month. If you dream about them every night, the bullet will never fire and gunfire will never take their life. If you don't, then you're doomed to kill them one day with that very bullet. Throw it in a fire or a lake, it won't help.
  32. Wash a machete every full moon with lavender. It has the bloodiest history of any weapon, and an unwashed machete quickly smells of meat.
  33. The Horsemen watch you, and  follow you, and run your town in secret, and slaughter entire territories when threatened with exposure.
  34. Cropper knows a spell that can turn all the badlands green with life, water and trees, but he will never cast it. He sits in a cave, counting the money he made selling the trees that were here before the Forefathers, trees he sold to the Folks Beyond The West. It's all the money in the world, and he hasn't counted through it once. If you find him and ask him the secret to his magic, he'll lose count, and cast the spell on your heart in a moment of existential depression.
  35. Bat breath is good for rheumatism, and the elderly surround themselves with bats.
  36. Doublecrossroads is home to witches what outlaw other witches, and gods what eat other gods, and the Man Who Knows Everyone.
  37. Sheep have a power they can only use for rape revenge.
  38. Wolves are actually all part of one great pack and the Akela of this pack can bring wolves back from the dead.
  39. There exists somewhere in the hills a fountain of youth, as well as a fountain of evil. Beware when there are too many children about.
  40. Clocks, sundials, and timepieces showing sixes on them are bad luck.
  41. Stars only come out to watch something, so sleep soundly on dark nights.
  42. The badlands lead to hell, which is why so many horrible things come out of them, living where nothing ought be able to.
  43. Never mark a birch tree.
  44. There's places where history isn't right to be found.
  45. Sometimes sand eats.
  46. Those who claim to have found the southern ocean are lunatics, or else a part of something entirely different from the polite world.
  47. There are paintings in the cliffs and tableaus in the canyons which tell the story of people from before the Forefathers who aren't any native folk anyone's familiar with. They aren't kinds of FOLK anyone's familiar with. They aren't SHAPES of folk anyone's familiar with, and lookin at em hurts the eyes. Most look and are changed, but few ever look and see. None look and understand, but some look and learn. If all you see are pretty pictures, the pictures will come after you.
  48. Guns were made when a man wrestled a god, and man's iron and the god's fire got all crushed together during the grab. You can kill with a gun, but no one's sure if that's blasphemy or worship. No one can agree on the god, either.
  49. Branderson. This is a story of the common folk. Branderson went into the earth and learned how to make. Then he went into the mountains and took enough to make things from. Then he went East and built the towns there, and they looked so empty that Branderson built himself a wife, and other Brandersons, and other wives. Eventually his kids grew up and married and had their own kids, and those kids called themselves humanity to avoid confusion with real people, dwarves, and elves. They forgot Branderson and all their history. When they all finally got too big for their big cities, they came back West looking for room.
  50. We all sell our souls to the sun, and the only cure is whiskey.
I'll add more of these as time goes on.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Neat New Header +Arnold K. Made Me

+Arnold K. did the whole thing and I messed with the cave background and letter border colors a wee bit. And by a wee bit I mean "no that red doesn't quite....no...no how about...no...maybe Better Two....no?...fucccck...."

Friday, November 15, 2013

What I Want When I Game

  • I want to be able to explain how a game's basic resolution mechanic works to someone who has never played a game, let alone a specific game, in under 5 minutes.
  • I want to be able to roll up a character in 5 minutes.
  • I expect some chance and fortune to come into play when using these resolution mechanics or when creating a character. True, this means not all characters at every table will be made equal, but....
  • Neither will the threats they face, and...
  • There's nothing preventing every character from still being PLAYED equal.
  • I want to be able to, in theory, put everything I need to play on either side of a single piece of paper, and ideally a medium-sized index card.
  • It should not be essential that more than 1 person own the game being played.
  • It should not be essential or expected for people to do studying and homework regarding a specific setting or campaign world, but this material should be generally available.
  • I don't expect anybody but the GM to have a book open while the game is in progress. If we have to stop and have a pass-around or read-along to clarify something, so be it.
  • I don't expect to have to do that often, though. If something can't be worked out between GM and player, the rules should be the arbitrator, and if they are unclear, the GM's discretion should be relied upon. Sometimes that means waiving rules for a common sense reason in a situation, and sometimes that means the players don't get what they want.
  • I expect goals provided to players to be clear, and expect a clear way of determining how to achieve other goals.
  • I want goals to be earned, rather than given or withheld.
  • I expect choices that the players make will matter in how/whether something is resolved.
  • I expect those choices to be clear and meaningful choices and not boil down to "Door A or Door B" whenever possible.
  • I embrace that actions have consequences, because that's how things work in real life AND games AND fiction. They're not always big or dramatic but they're real.
  • I embrace that actions often have unintended consequences, because that's how things work in real life AND games AND fiction. They're not always big or dramatic but they're real.
  • I embrace that failure and inaction both have consequences, because that's how things work in real life AND games AND fiction. They're not always big or dramatic but they're real.
  • I understand that I may not be entirely aware of the full range of consequences any action/inaction/failure might have at all times, because that's how et cetera.
  • I don't believe that every obstacle present in a situation (enemy, wall, mortality) is one that you SHOULD ALWAYS be able to be overcome.
  • I do believe that the possibility of overcoming any obstacle does always exist, and should ingenuity and fortune allow then that obstacle should be overcome.

  • I accept that whole sessions or even several sessions will go by without the GM throwing me or my character a bone, because this is a group enterprise and not all about me.
  • I accept that I have a responsibility to bring my own awesome to the table and attempt great things.
  • I believe that I also have a strong duty to support my fellow players, in and out of character, in being awesome.
  • I believe that GMs should reward people being awesome, regardless of what other rewards the game or situation provide.
  • I believe that rewards shouldn't be based on how much time or money you have to stack the deck in your favor, but on how well you play the hand you're dealt.

  • I will play in anything, though I may ask someone to make my guy for me.
  • I will run only what I have and feel I mostly understand.
  • I will not run a game when it inconveniences my wife, because I got into this hobby as an activity the two of us could do together, and it should never be an impediment between us.
  • I may play in games, though, because I do believe that I take on responsibility by joining a campaign and I owe the GM and the other players my best effort just like a company softball team. Playing in games also usually doesn't involve our living room, so is less of an inconvenience for her.
  • I expect my players to have similar Hard Limits, but also expect them to have that same kind of loyalty and to do their best to make it to games, and on time, like I do. I wouldn't leave a buddy hanging if we were going to see a movie, and I wouldn't want that same buddy to flake out on something I've put actual effort into. I have little love for the guy who guesses they'll show up and play if something better doesn't come along, because who likes to be settled for?
  • I expect players in my games to give the game, me, and their fellow players their full attention, as I give my fellow players when I play.
  • I expect players to provide the GM snacks if asked, or at least take care of their own snacking needs before the game begins (for the most part; if we all break to order a pizza, fine, but don't make it so we HAVE to break to order a pizza).
  • I expect the table to be a mostly clean space, reserved for character sheets, dice, writing implements, and like a drink and your cell phone. The GM needs room to put down cool things like maps and minis and terrain, or, if not, then it's just nice not worrying about something extraneous getting in the way.
  • I expect everybody sitting down to play next to one another at a table to be freshly showered and toothbrushed if at all possible. We all have times where we play straight from work, I get it, but other times it's just courtesy. I've never been at a table where this hasn't been the case but I have been part of conversations where this was seen as downright Hitlerian.

  • I expect a clear line of communication and feedback going both ways between players and GMs. I expect open communication among players.

  • I will never run a game I dislike.
  • I will never run a game I don't own unless paid.
  • I will never badmouth a game to a customer, instead I'll help them find something they'll enjoy.
  • I will never purchase or play a game for art alone, but I will ALSO never purchase or play a game if I feel like I could have drawn better art. This disqualifies shockingly few games.
  • I will never have my character do something they would never do (barring mind control and shit of course).
  • What my character would never do is arbitrated between the GM and me.

  • I look for games (movable bits that set off other bits in unexpected ways, a combination of strategy skill and dumb luck) that a story can be told around because that builds UP infinitely. I don't usually like to tell a story (real or imaginary people and actions with a beginning middle and end) whose twists and turns are defined or restricted by a game, because that's LESS freedom than just sitting around with your friends telling stories would afford.
  • I want my character sheet to tell me who my character is, not how they will behave.

  • The fewer dice a player needs, the better.
  • The fewer standard rpg dice they need, the better.
  • The fewer nonstandard rpg dice they need, the better.
  • The fewer dice the GM needs, the better.
  • The closer to $0 that the entire table has to spend on a game and all its supplies, the better.

  • I like games that let me decide when I've won.
  • I will always play to win.
  • I will always help my players win if I can, but I will not just gold star sticker them and tell them Mister Rogers is still alive.
  • Campaigns are meant to end, and sometimes that's decided for a group.
  • Rules are meant to be changed.
  • Settings are meant to be changed.
  • Maps, monsters, traps, riddles, science, physics, religion, and above all PLANS only live through change.
  • The universe is chaos.
  • You don't have to know what you're doing to have a good time.
  • Neither do I.
  • I may not always play rpgs, lord knows I haven't always in the past.
  • I WILL always try awesome things.
  • RPGs are about always trying awesome things.
  • If your game isn't, you're playing something else.

  • Nobody ever runs out of "Why not?"

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Day 6

Thumps hide in packs.

They live in forests and caves and some small towns. They're not only not frightened of fire, they're attracted to it. Thumps can lie dormant for a decade in spent ashes, waiting for hosts. Once could call them a pest or vermin but considering they don't eat or destroy anything and seem to grow on their own perhaps weed would be a better description.

In daylight, they're almost invisible, little flea-like things. In darkness, they only have physical form when they wish, and appear in the image of some kind of squid-tailed rabbit. They find a nice campfire and the pack goes to work. Like so:


They make noise to draw their hosts, be they of humanoid or animal intelligence, away from their place of rest and safety. They don't pounce upon them once isolated and take them down, though. The rest of the pack skitters in where the victim just left, filling their hay lofts or bedrolls or backpacks with their fluid forms, then poof-mostly vanishing. They're almost undetectable. But they're with you.

Thumps don't seem to eat anything, or have any waste, or breed as anything but little asexual clones. The next night some will sneak away from you in the darkness so that the litters they've had in the night can run free, making noises of movement, breaking trigs, clanging pans....

Ghost rats.

The longer you have a Thump problem, and it is hard to tell that you do, the less sleep and rest and peace of mind you have. The sound of invisible intruders everywhere - some say they even hiss like a whisper when happy - drives many hosts quickly mad. You'll start with some basic penalties to your rolls, then abilities, and then HP as exhaustion sets in...until you rid yourself of them or die gibbering. Then the Thumps hide in the dust, in the ash, in shadows, and wait for someone else they can sneak aboard.

There's no reason to think the little buggers aren't everywhere. They don't seem to want anything. There's also no reason to think they'd need to rattle and bang and distract and terrorize people the way they do: there's not much to stop them from coming and going when they please, releasing their spore litters, and just living apart from man and animal. Some theorize they do these things for fun, which makes them an exceedingly evil creature if true.

How one gets rid of Thumps is by burning all their possessions (Thumps are drawn to campfires and to dry ash but are not fireproof), or taking a long trip underwater, or having a Protection From Evil spell cast on you. You can never be sure you got them all, though. Some may still be under your toenails. Better take them off. Some may be in your mouth. Better kill em with hot oil. Some may live in your eyelashes. Take the torch to them...


Day uhhhh 5?

A great insect, constantly growing, constantly molting, possessed of no skin nor really a hawk. Their ragged, papery "fleshes" look leafy and spectral in flight, and when they molt they leave behind skins that hang in trees and tangle in carriage wheels. They're also known as corpse moths and gypsy tanners.

The begin as eggs which start out as small as a frog's but grows to the size of a Kender egg. Their hatchlings are nymphs looking like small, already folding and hollowing, slightly batlike humanoids. They're about as big as an old school Cobra Commander toy. They begin shedding quickly, doubling in size about once a week. Some of their skins are more grotesque than others, and some of these early skins are mistaken for goblins, fairies, or even dwarfkin.

Where this becomes your problem is that skinhawks work like botflies, landing and impregnating you with multiple eggs (d20) in the point of contact. These mature within a week and if allowed to fully mature and hatch fully destroy whatever area of the body they're in. The area will take on the papery, cracking texture of the creatures themselves, flaking away in sheets until the eggs are exposed and hatch, leaving big holes and shell fragments embedded with hooked barbs. When infested, you need a druid or ranger to handle the extraction surgery, not a cleric or chirurgeon. If you can't find one, a short-term remedy is to remove your normal clothing and wear the skin of a skinhawk next to your skin, "tricking" the egg into thinking it's still inside of a parent.

Skinhawks are seahorses, see: the males die quickly and their only purpose in life is to meet a female, receive eggs, fertilize them, and distribute them. Females are rare and live a lot longer, growing truly enormous and monstrous. Some of their forms are mistaken for dragon skins, or giants, or worse...once they exceed ogre size they can't even fly, they just billow across the land like a crawling, empty-eyed bed sheet. They see in the dark and love caves and canyon groves for their roosting places.

Female skinhawk husk is prized as an aphrodisiac, ground up and snorted.


Day 4
Seeing them in flight, from a distance, one might suspect a parliament of ravens, or a bellowing of bullfinches, or a raft of ducks. Up close they are a bit more gruesome. In magical cities they're more of a nuisance, getting filthy fingerprints on everything. More than one murderer has claimed that the handbirds must all have fingerprints and some of these MUST overlap with normal prints, which has never been proved or disproved. They are more scarce in the country, usually taken as a sign that the forest has gone bad and that bad magics now roost within.

Typically they cling to branches or cave formations loosely and with their whole bodies, like spidery bats. It's not uncommon to find one holding on to the back of one's shirt at night, going for a ride. They only roost "at prayer" to breed, and each particular applause of handbirds will breed among itself once a year. They will stay clasped like this for a month unless threatened, at which point they give flight and drop their eggs.

Now a handbird egg is like a fine opal and can fetch a tidy sum from a gem merchant. These eggs have a 25% chance of being inert, a 25% chance of hatching into a new handbird (adult size; the gem egg grows as it matures, making it worth more later on), and a 50% chance of shattering immediately when dropped by its parent.

These things are both nature and magic so breaking an egg is a sin against both, and shattering an egg triggers a "Summon Whatever Random Monster You Just Rolled" effect. The monster grows to full size over 3 rounds and only then will attack, but it has its full defenses, saves, and hd/hp at 'birth.'

Handbirds themselves are meek and rarely fight but unpaired handbirds will defend the roost of the mating pairs of its applause, scratching and throttling, especially with its bony lower hands. It can approximate punching someone by going into a power dive; with sufficient altitude, this can be like getting hit by a mace! In other regards they have similar stats compared with falcons.

They communicate over a distance of miles with rhythmic codes of snaps and claps. Their upper hands are wide and fleshy, while their lower hands are knobby and clawlike. They can be successfully raised as pets or familiars but they carry an association of doom and inconvenience. Their palms sweat a lot, which seems to be a form of waste excretion. It is not known what they eat, or how.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Circus Parade (also Drunken Dragons #whatever crossover)

Day 3
DIGRESSION: I never played YuGiOh but during the height of the show and the game's popularity here in the west I did work at a couple of Books-A-Millions that held tournaments every Saturday, during some part of which I invariably worked. Society broke down. I have never seen anything more closely resembling the Lord of the Flies in my own life. So to try and at least understand what these kids were even close to talking about for my actual job, I started watching that horrible cartoon when there was nothing else on. It is a terrible terrible thing and My desire to never again experience anything like it is only outweighed by the amount of anime like it which exists. There is a phrase FROM the show, however, which sums up one of my favorite kinds of rpgable D&Dish antagonist or obstacle: the Trap Monster. I love these in nature, from the antlion to the pitcher plant, and so I love them in games.

Okay now this is gonna sound like a digression but totally isn't: I'm a fan of the 7 Faces of Doctor Lao.

Not because it's a great movie, because it's not, and not because I'm a big George Pal fan, because yes I am but he doesn't get as much a chance to show off here as he does in other movies, and not because I'm a huge Tony Randall fan, because my favorite Tony Randall moment is a SNL sketch where he mostly stood there while Tom Hanks was great. And it's not because I'm a huge fan of horrifyingly racist caricatures, either. It's because I think any morality play is made better by the addition of monsters and/or cowboys.

Anyway if you haven't seen it: Tony Randall is Chinese (OH MY GOD) and also a yeti and Greek and Merlin and so forth, a tour de forcey and stuff, and also Medusa is there and the guy trying to commit graft is also a snake for a minute. And there's a point in the movie where every weird thing in Dr. Lao's circus comes out, before the entire assembled town because there's nothing else to do in this town, and slowly the acts which they've already seen all weekend parade past, leading to a big showstopper wher Dr. Lao lazerFloyds the audience of western yokels into not giving up their railroad land to Hedley Lamar. Also Tony Randall is clearly right there sitting in the audience the whole time that other Tony Randalls are wandering around which at the time was brain KABOOOOMMMMM.....

Now back up here with me for a moment okay?

The parade doesn't end.

Pause while I drink more scotch.

You walk in and sit in some chairs. The show begins. A grotesque being appears. You applaud, because that's what is expected of you.
Another comes out, this one more bizarre than the last one. You clap, a bit more nervously, and the audience begins to murmur.
Another being appears, and now the audience is silent, occasionally clapping, unsure how long this is going to go on now...
and it goes on
And on
And on

They're all unusual, captivating, exciting, and new, each more strange and unique than the last. They're real, too! You can touch them, smell them, hear them, taste them, they do their thing, SOMETIMES bow or approximate one, and then venture on past you behind another curtain, one which leads....?

This is mistaken for a spell effect but instead it is a creature which makes other creatures. Saving means you get to fight your way out against all of the horrors you've seen, and you get to save after each act exits...in theory, but the longer you stay the more likely your death is because the more monsters you'll have to face.

Sometimes the creatures are benevolent, so if you hold out long enough maybe there will be a powerful ally who...damn, okay maybe the next one...damn, okay maybe the NEXT one....

You know you can't get up and leave until it's over. You are convinced of that much more than you are of your own existence. But it will never be over. Neither will you: you are not immortal, truly, or trapped in time. You will AGE, like TITHONIUS, and you will watch forever, and the longer you watch the more monsters you will make.

The act of watching and being horrified by the monsters creates more monsters from within the monster, who is a place, and therefore also a trap, and the act of escape involved you either being dragged out a helpless sack of potatoes or fighting your way past the entire assembled horrors of the defiance of imagination. In a way it's like that Treehouse of Horror and you have to save against sprinkles.

Circuses like these can be killed by completely destroying or immolating them. There's a Frieza final form kind of thing that shows up sometimes, again like the end of Dr. Lao, but otherwise will go quietly. Surprising nobody, this conceptual creature often hides in underground places like cave systems, sanctums, temples, or dungeons.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Day 2
Smokebats are magically occurring. Normally they're a spell effect. Casting "smokebats" on a normal fire (as long as you can see the light of that fire) causes all smoke produced by the fire to turn into a swarm of bats. Fires enchanted in this way create 1 swarm of bats every round. The swarms attack each other and anything in sight. The big danger from the smokebat swarms is that they just keep coming, so just like with regular smoke eventual suffocation is a concern. Fires using specially prepared incenses for religious practices are immune to this effect. One can cast smokebats on a magical fire, with a 30% chance of snuffing that magical fire and a 70% chance of creating a massive explosion (as fireball) with smokebats beginning to form the next round. Smokebats will continue forming until the fire spawning them is extinguished.
Smokebats may also be "baked in" to a piece of kindling, something between a Duraflame log and one of those firework snakes, which will spawn 20 rounds worth of smokebats when lit. This magic effect may also be put into a wand or staff, triggered when the end of the utensil is held to fire of any kind (without consuming the item). Some high level casters can bind this enchantment to their clothing or as a ward on their person, as a defense against fire attacks.

A spellcaster may expend a use of Fireball to summon 12d6 swarms of smokebats, or 6d6 swarms which will not attack the spellcaster.

Smokebats are only ever dormant or dying. If encountered alone, they function like normal bats except they're harder to see or hear yet easier to smell. They can only survive for long in the wild as breath vampires, and will try to cover their target's face and suffocate them if afforded an opportunity (like during sleep), drawing oxygen from their lungs and using the drowning rules.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Crawling Scream

Day 1

Bright banana slug yellow and covered with a thick, jam-like, blood-red mucous, the crawling scream has the appearance of a chain of letters joined together, like one of those shitty Happy Birthday banners. Legs and arms of various letters dangle limply or probe around, seeking their own direction and sustenance but never escaping the original mass. It is lethargic until it detects the nearby breath of a creature, at which point it lunges quickly and slithers around its prey on a hit.

The scream's mucous is actually a psychotropic toxin, and it affects those who fail their save like a Fear spell, specifically a fear spell that induces horrible screaming. The crawler then squirms its 'head' into the mouth of its victim, slurping up all those yummy yells. This causes the forward section of the creature to grow in size. It will continue growing off the victim's screams until it is large and powerful enough to crush its victim to death via constriction. Then its own tiny mouth opens and the scream stretches, enveloping its victim like an anaconda and then quickly digesting them over the next hour.

There are also, of course, variants to this creature (Laffy Taffy blue or Horde Slime Pit green) that simply use the victim's screaming as an access point, wriggling inside them and devouring their corpses more slowly from the inside out.

The crawlers' new bodies segment grow in the shape of characters from a language spoken by the screamer. Their bodies over time become composed of dozens of different scripts, with their back ends composed of weird, forgotten, sometimes arcane symbols. Their flesh is littered with the last words of warlords and sorcerers; in fact, another name for them is Wizard's Last Words, for their propensity to devour shriekers, a warlock's usual early warning system, and slink away into the night....or into the wizard's tower.

They reproduce by budding, in the form of umlauts.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Omen- A Cleric Variant Class

HD: d6
Saves: as Cleric
Attacks: as Cleric
Advances: as Cleric
Prime Requisites: Wisdom and Constitution. Characters with a 13 in both Wisdom and Constitution get +5% to XP.
  • Omens do not wear armor, but add their Wisdom bonus to any Dexterity bonus they get to AC. They may use any weapon a Cleric can use, as well as Holy Symbols. An Omen wielding a holy symbol may burn any evil creature it comes into contact with as holy water for every round it remains in contact.
  • Omens are by definition Marked: they have some visible, obvious identifier (like the little horn on the guy from Tai Chi Zero) and some unique effect associated with it (you're invisible to orcs, or maybe you can run your blood across the door to act as a limited protection spell). You may just roll one mutation on any table for this, remembering only that your difference must be obvious from looking at you or spending a brief amount of time with you. Some Omens may use their own Mark as a holy symbol.
  • Each day you can ask a number of questions about your dreams or the dreams of others equal to your Wisdom bonus +1.
Omens are not powered by faith. They do not choose to serve. They are not chosen to serve, either, being exemplars of their weird religions. Omens are things a god makes in the womb for the express purpose of sending a message. Sometimes that's a message of forthcoming doom or blight. Sometimes it's some specific task in the world that it maneuvers the Omen into place to demand. Where they go whispers and fear spreads. Even they rarely know their purpose or for what they are the harbingers; mysterious ways, after all.

At first level and each time you level, roll once on the table below.

1-20: +1 to hit.
21-40: +1 to saves.
41-50: You get a spell slot, roll for a spell on the appropriate table.
51-55: Roll for a spell, and you can attempt to cast that spell (by rolling a 1 on a d6) a number of times per day equal to your Wisdom modifier. Roll this again and 2/6, etc. Failure has consequences.
56-60: You get a Magic-User, Druid, Bard, Illusionist, whatever, some weird spell because your god is weird like that.
61-62: You're a tool of the gods. Once per day your god possesses you bodily and wields you as a weapon. You do double damage for a number of rounds equal to your Wisdom score but take double damage as well, because the gods aren't blocking and shit because you're considered disposable.
63-67: Roll a mutation. You get the opposite of that.
68-70: Roll a mutation.
71: Animals steer clear of you, and you reduce all wandering monster checks by 1. When you corner someone or something, though, you inflict a -1 reaction adjustment on the group.
72-74: You can instantly kill plants and animals possessing less than 1 hit die, a number of times a day equal to Wisdom bonus.
75: Your skin is etched with some cleric spells, roll these up like a magic scroll. The entire spell must be visible to be cast, so you may end up naked.
76-80: Your blood is a healing potion. You can, at will, do 1d4+1 damage to yourself to restore 1d6 HP to a willing creature.
81: You can wear any armor.
82: You can use any weapon.
83-90: You have 2/6 chance to Detect Evil, which you may attempt without consequence as many times per day as you wish. Roll this again for 3/6, etc.
91-95: Your blood is poison. Anything biting or physically contacting your blood must make a save or take 1d6+1 poison damage.
96: You know everything there is to know about a specific place, including its history, the major figures of its past, or its key figures. No secrets. This will come into play within 2 sessions.
97: You know everything there is to know about an object or creature (50%). This will come into play the very next session.
98: Choose a mundane material. Once per day, your touch ruins Wisdom+Level pounds of this material.
99: You can transfer the power of your god to your allies. You go into a fit and spirits leave your body. Reduce any ability score by 1, improving the same ability in an ally by 1. You may do this as many times as you want, but be warned: your allies lose this bonus at the end of the day, but you do not regain these points automatically, and must rest for a full day for each point donated in this way in order to properly recover.
100: Choose a specific kind of monster. Skeleton, red dragon, spider, anything but like humans and normal demihumans. That monster will never attack you unless you attack it first.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Odd Gods and Sods

Yes you can worship Dio.

Gods should all be monsters, not cloud-dads or Catholic But or distant naked women. We want our naked women HERE and our gods pants-crappingly horrible. Also, god lists are boring and a waste of my time. I write a big list of gods and their imaginary feuds and traits and stuff only for someone to come in and ask "Can my cleric pray to Satan?" Of course your character can pray to Satan. "Can I worship the god of crocodiles since I have a pet crocodile?" Absolutely, we'll just make a god of crocodiles....Goes that way every time, and then when they know all the gods it's not new or scary of interesting when they run into a cult of Orcus. The dudes learned about Orcus in seminary. They've been waiting their whole life for this.

I figure that should be Plan A instead of Plan B: have your players tell you what weird god they want to worship, then write it down and add it to the canon, growing your heavens as cool stories and prophets come along. That's how these pantheons likely grew anyways, right?

Players can't come up with a god on the spot? NO PROBLEM! These are written specifically with a mind to use them for Doublecrossroads but the monstrous gods generated here could fit into most settings, or the charts could be easily modified to make them fit. Roll 4d20:

Yeah some of these might give you seemingly conflicting or redundant traits but the thing generates 16,000 distinct gods so I'll forgive a few things like that. You're all big boys and girls and can figure out how to reconcile those for yourselves. After all while the chart can be taken very literally (the blank blank blank of blank) I use it more to free-associate random qualities with a god before further fleshing them out. After all, it's not what they can do or what they're god of, it's what they DID and what they DO, the stories about the gods, that matter. I think +Patrick Stuart  was writing about that recently?

Also, yes, you can get "man-man-BLANK-man." That just means you worship L. Ron Hubbard or some shit.

Have trouble coming up with names for your odd god? No problem: roll 1d4+1 d20s, putting breaks wherever you feel like it:

  1. Ra
  2. Ma
  3. De
  4. Ko
  5. Chu
  6. Lo
  7. Ur
  8. Sur
  9. Tan
  10. Dam
  11. Kel
  12. Jun
  13. Wo
  14. Por
  15. No
  16. How
  17. Fas
  18. To
  19. Ze
  20. Sha
Yes you can end up worshiping King Dedede from the Kirby games. Deal with it or reroll or hey make up your own name, look how amazingly easy it is! STEAL A NAME! We can have more than one Thor.


  1. Kelde, hideous forgotten birdlord crow
  2. Surlo, DOUBLEHAWK Destroyer and Bringer of Utter Madness
  3. Kofas-Jun, forgotten snake-man from outer space
  4. Chuko Zeporfas, trickster reaper of golden fog
  5. Sha-Fas-Tan-Dam-No, gigantic insect merchant of hope
  6. Tanra Dam Wo, benevolent puma protector of the crossroads
  7. Rachuto Rato, lost giant flaming statue (How the fuck do you lose a flaming statue? CAN'T WAIT TO FIND OUT DURING PLAY!)
  8. Shachuno, shining mad statue of traders
  9. Lolo-Ur, mad man-eating sex ape
  10. Howsha, butcherous man-eating fire snake
  11. Fas-Jun-Por, golden griffon collector of the sky
  12. Tohow, cruel skeletal sex demon
Remember that in a polytheistic world where the gods often have physical addresses and may know your specific name, picking a religion isn't like picking a sports team. Feel free to not believe in the gods but that'll have about as much positive effect as not believing in thunderstorms or werewolves. Otherwise, while you may respect the practice of worship of most not-entirely-terrible gods and monsters, you yourself should venerate up to 3, just to keep your bases covered in case one ends up pissed at you for no reason.Clerics and monks and other variants and shit, of course, must worship at least ONE god. It doesn't really matter which one, though, at least for most BX games (and certainly my games), so have fun with it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Brainiac

I took some inspiration from the Lamentations of Flame Princess Specialist and Rolang's Illusionist and decided to try a very Specialist-y, self-policing, self-defeating mentalist. Think of it as a form of magic limited to extending a user's direct physical influence, instead of a whole new power source or anything.
HD: d4
Saves: as Thief
Attacks: as Thief
Advances: as Dwarf
Requirements: Constitution 9, Intelligence 9
  • Brainiacs may wear leather armor and use any weapon a Magic-User can use.
  • Brainiacs can enter a trance once per day for four hours, gaining all the benefits of restful sleep.
Brainiacs have seven gifts. You roll 1d6 to use them, except for Biofeedback.
  • Intuition- Guessing the intent of something or someone.
  • Telepathy- Conveying a thought, image, or idea mentally, at an effective range in feet of the Brainiac's Wisdom.
  • Telekinesis- Manipulating physical objects with mental force. Use Wisdom as range and Intelligence as strength.
  • Pyrokinesis- Lighting things on fire as if you had a torch. Use Wisdom as range.
  • Misdirection- Confusing or misleading a target's perceptions. They get a save for this one, against the Brainiac's Intelligence.
  • Empathy- Reading or imbuing an emotional state. Range is Brainiac's Charisma.
  • Biofeedback- Force of will and total control of mind and body give you a bonus to AC.
Your chance in 6 for each of these to be successful can be improved by spending points on them. When you have 6 in an gift, you must roll a 6 followed by another 6 to fail your test. Biofeedback begins with 1 point in it already so you begin play with a 1 point bonus to AC, and improve your AC further for each point you spend. You begin play with 4 points to assign anywhere, and gain 1 point each time you level.

At level 7, a Brainiac may receive information with Telepathy, as well as transmit.
A Brainiac may attempt to use her gifts as many times per day as she likes, with two major caveats:

1) DM rolls their die, and may allow them to believe an erroneous result.
2) A normal botch (6) results in psychic backlash, reducing Constitution by 1 point. A major botch (6, then 6 again) reduces Constitution by 2 points. Brainiacs lose all Biofeedback bonus until their Constitution is restored, at a rate of 1 point per day. It is possible to die from psychic backlash if the reduction in Constitution reduces your Hit Points to 0 or fewer, and it is possible to die if your Constitution is reduced to 0 or less.

At level 9 Brainiacs may convene a network of Psychic Friends. These may be other PCs or NPCs but always equal the Brainiac's level. These beings can always sense one another, can freely communicate with one another, and their communications and sensations are not impeded by distance.

Brainiacs may advance to level 16. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Random Wizard's Questions for Doublecrossroads


(1). Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no? Everybody is human, except the Aurum who are human-plus and the Machines which are unliving. Those, yes, are race-as-class.

(2). Do demi-humans have souls? Agarthaurum have weaponized souls, for the guard Hell. Machines do not.

(3). Ascending or descending armor class? Ascending, though if you've statted up for Descending no biggie I've got the conversion chart right here.

(4). Demi-human level limits? Every class has a level limit. Soldiers may advance to 20. Others usually cap out at lower levels.

(5). Should thief be a class?
I have no problem with it per se in most RPGs or when I run B/X. However, in XXR everyone's a bit of a fighter, everyone's a bit of a thief, everybody's scrambling to survive. My closest 'thief' is based more off the LOTFP Specialist.

(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills? Yes, usually associated with their Career or Classification. Very few of these can advance those Skills normally, otherwise they must luck out rolling on the Level Up chart.

(7). Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)? Ughhhhhhhhh this question is so boring. If anybody ever suggests that they're having less fun because someone else is awesome, my suggestion would be to be more awesome. If you want more toys we'll talk after the game but enjoy something that isn't all about you and your Drow.

(8). Do you use alignment languages?To the extent that everyone speaks Lawful. Otherwise I don't really use alignment.

(9). XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc...)?
Both. XP for more than that. XP for everything. Though I'm on a silver standard, and I'm not handing out piles of the stuff: I'll spread a little coin around and give you the XP as if you found the whole lode, but you're back to working your shit job for your daily wage come Monday.

(10). Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E DD, 4E DD, Next ?
I'm using stuff stolen from or inspired by.....what six of those?

Bonus Question: Unified XP level tables or individual XP level tables for each class?

Magic-Users, What They Mean And Don't Mean, And Easy Spellcasting Variant Options

So they're not called wizards because that evokes specific images. Gandalf, Merlin, Harry Potter. They're not called witches because that evokes something pretty specific too. Margaret Hamilton. Snow White bitch. Ron Weasley. They're not sorcerers or mages or spellcasters or enchanters or illusionists or bards or mystics. They're Magic-Users.

There aren't always knights and paladins and rangers and mercenaries in old school D&D but there are always Fighters. Thief is a pretty specific appellation but they also cover pirates, assassins, ninja, and so on. We have Clerics instead off priests, prophets, friars, Benedictine monks, or Jedi. Each of these very broad classifications can cover any of these kinds of characters or ones I haven't listed. Not just archers but like pikemen, not just pickpockets but like spies. So on. They're just grouped according to what they use to get the job of exploring a Dungeon or fighting a Dragon accomplished, but also imply their use to a specific end. Fighters use weapons and armor to help them fight. Clerics use their faith to help them survive and care for others. Thieves use skill and guile and surprise to steal things. Magic-Users use magic.

A Magic-User is a Fighter who decided making people pass out so you can stab them in the eye was a good way to fight. A Magic-User is a Thief who decided that Knock would be more generally useful than Open Lock. A Magic-User is a Cleric who decided that the gods who have temples are great and all but The God In The Bowl is pretty righteous, too.

That's it. I mean there's a mystique to it but the default D&D assumption is that anybody can use magic with enough time, study, and fortune. You have to sacrifice some things (you don't have time to practice enough to get skilled at other more esoteric practices, will never be as fit or hardy as a fighter, you've probably pissed off the gods too much to ever get much  out of them) but you get a wide range of abilities and some very powerful ones. The Magic-User spell lists would befit a politician as much as they'd be useful for slaying a manticore. And that's entirely possible because the only end that the existence of Magic-Users as a class implies is existence as a Magic-User. That knowledge and growing more powerful is its own reward.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess implies that all Magic-Users are twisted and shunned from polite society, which is why there are so many adventuring Magic-Users. I think that's a good idea but I think it's as likely that the kind of people who don't fit into society anyway and go a-wandering are the kind of people who put in the trouble and struggle to learn how to use magic in the first place to get some more specific end. I think that interpretation sits well with more people than even realize it because it's a specific end and the method by which it's accomplished that would really differentiate someone's approach to how they use magic and for what and would obviously produce some vastly different Magic-Users in the course of play, from a pure role-playing perspective.
This is where some people have a sticking point with the Jack Vance inspired spellcasting in D&D. I don't really bat an eye at it because it's one of those things like separate classes, saving throws, halflings and medusas that I just shrug off. I mean, that is the game, right? There are lots of other games without those things but those games, while awesome fantasy rpgs, aren't D&D. If I wanted to play "D&D But" I'd play one of a dozen games like that, but I'm not so I deal. However, it does rely on a very specific literary point of reference and a lot of people (who usually phrase this problem as "realistic spellcasting") vastly prefer a completely different-yet-specific literary influence on their magic. Most players I see just shrug and get on with it but it's definitely why Magic-Users seem to have so many class variants over the years. It's not just flavor, it's physical limitations and such that people build whole classes to get around. This is part of what led me to try something like the Scrivener, the class I put together mostly for NPCs but made a PC option. Now, looking back, I kinda think it wasn't worth the effort, because going forward....

1) If a normal regular Magic-User is not to your liking, you can play one of the mere specific/weirder magic classes people have introduced over the years, from Illusionist to Muscle Wizard to Bard. Know of course that you're usually still dealing with a very Vancin structure, if not Vancian methods. However before you make that decision know that....
2)  There's nothing stopping you from playing a normal Magic-User and us changing some things very simply and keeping you very the same while feeling very different.
  • You want to be a bard? You get a free instrument, I cherry-pick you bardy spells, and you can cast magic by playing music. You can use your instrument as a weapon, El Kabong/El Mariachi style, but if it gets broken as a weapon it's broken as an instrument, too, and you can't cast spells til it's replaced.
  • You want to be a sorcerer? You don't have to keep a spellbook, but you as a player also don't get to write down all the spells you know; you have to remember them or someone at the table has to remind you, and you're still stuck with only so many slots per spell level.
  • You want to be a Magus or Swordmage? Normal progression of spell slots, slots are "charges" you can expend for free in a round to give yourself an AC bonus equal to the spell level or do extra damage, or they may be filled as a spell normally with all touch spells or spells targeting the caster being cast on the sword.
  • Enchanter, artificer, magical armsman? Normal spells and you can wear chainmail or less but can't use shields, you can NOT cast spells but instead store them in weapons, armor, and items for one day, and you (or whoever) trigger them using a touch and a command word.
  • Alchemist? Spell slots are potions you can brew per day. A potion of that spell level can be anything from the normal spell chart for that level but suffers a percentage of Failure and a much higher percentage of Side Effect.
  • And so forth. There's lots of little changes we can make. Hell, you want greater spell flexibility or more spells per day? We can talk about that, tradeoff and consequences, like DCC spell failure and backlash effects or something.
Those are just the obvious ones. Playing an Elf but instead you want to be Dobby? Well I hate you. Also, for every elf perk you ditch other than your spells, you get additional first level spell slots per day and need 100xp more to level up to 2, with that xp change compounded every level like normal. Ice King? All your spells change to cold related spells and we can work out some kind of at-will ice zap equal to your hit die. Maybe all of your spells are drugs you have to take, and there's a risk of overdose. One of my friends likes to complain that in 4e "everyone has spells but nobody has spells." Want some permanent spell effects you can use at will? We can have a conversation.

That's what D&D is about, really, at least these old school versions like I'm running: you want something special, we can talk and bolt it on no problem, and we don't need Mike Mearls' seal of approval to do it. Let me be clear I have no problem with all the different class variants, but say the Scrivener's Enchantment I did? There's no reason I can't just say "Have an Int of 9 and you can cast a spell or do that for each slot." Having that codified and written out for people to browse and take and use as an off-the-shelf option is cool, sure, but it's not necessary to make a whole new class and new subsystems and rules to the extent of full class design for every little change from Strict Vance. But neither does changing something about the Vance style (full range of movement, some physical components, magic words, memorization that's like putting a demon in your head and it's hard to do anything else) and D&D spell structure (spell levels, so many slots per spell level per character level) aren't necessarily married til death do they part, and a lot of what gets accomplished by reinventing the wheel altogether can be taken care of by just fiddling with one aspect or the other quite slightly.

Doublecrossroads Looks Like...

A little inspiration to get my players in the mood, starting and ending with a classic...

Friday, August 2, 2013

50 Level 1 Spell List for BX/ODND/OSR/ETC games

I don't hate on the 12-spell table. It is great and there's not a spell wasted there. It's all lean. I mean I make protection vs. evil work differently but screw it it's a fantastic spell list. But when every Magic-User and Elf is drawing from that same list, and know more Level 1 spells than any others for so much of their careers, and so do all NPC spellcasters who are drawing from the same list, and then you're also generating a bunch of scrolls with the same list for NPCs and PCs to stumble upon and use...Eventually a little more variety can be really cool, and there are so many great spells out there. I want to try them all. I want my players to have the chance to try them all.

I've got no problem with an entire party where the spellcasters all know Charm Person, and they fight a group of Ogre Mages who all know Charm Person, and their loot has a scroll of Charm Person...that all sounds fine to me. Actually it sounds like a hoot. But if I've got a larger pool of Level 1 spells that implies a larger world of magical research and study and invention, and thereby a larger, weirder, more unpredictable world. Running into a new spell has a bit more of a WTF factor and makes any new encounter with a spellcaster a little more dangerous, which is always good.

This is nowhere near all the level 1 spells I could have collected, obviously, but it's what I limited myself to. This also meant not putting in any of my own spells, but merely spells found in the Basic rules, modified spells from Dungeon Crawl Classics, some from Lamentations of the Flame Princess/Better than Any Man, and a few from Labyrinth Lord Advanced. I also threw in a few level 1 spells (or ones I'm using at Level 1) from Playing D&D With Porn Stars, and, recently, added a few from this Space Age Sorcery document.

Make a percentile roll, re-rolling if you get a result above 50 OR doing the good ol' divide-by-half-round-down routine. You can also drop the first four results off the list and just roll 5d10:

1. Rugosity
2. Side-Step
3. Melt
4. Memories of the Trailblazers
5. Summon
6. Cantrip
7. Charm Person
8. Detect Magic
9. Read Magic
10. Comprehend Languages
11. Light
12. Shield
13. Sleep
14. Ventriloquism
15. Magic Missile
16. Protection Circle
17. Hold Portal
18. Floating Disc
19. Bookspeak
20. Enlarge
21. Faerie Fire
22. Feather Fall
23. Mending
24. Message
25. Spider-Climb
26. Unseen Servant
27. Allure
28. Burning Hands
29. Erase
30. Jolting
31. Jump
32. Manipulate Fire
33. Shocking Grasp
34. Be Impressive
35. Detect Undead
36. Speak with Insects
37. Enhance Sensation
38. Detect Weapons
39. Deflect Damage
40. De-Age
41. Read Brains
42. Cursed Utterance
43. Drunk Reversal
44. Animal Summoning
45. Mystical Mask
46. Force Object
47. Obsession
48. Ildiko’s Hideous Minstrels
49. God-Bet
50. Patron Bond

 I do tinker with these spells a bit, particularly in the naming. God-Bet was called Sacred Contest on Zak's blog, for example, but those kinds of changes are few and simple to figure out using those lists. 

I also redo the "protection from evil" spells to be general protection circles: they will protect you from what you ask them to protect you from when you draw them out. Level 1 is a protection circle you can fit in. Then there's a protection spell to ward a room, and everyone in it. Then there's the blood-above-the-doors warding that casts protection on a whole building (under a certain cubic footage of course).

The weird spells on the list are Patron Bond and Cantrip from DCC and Summon from LOTFP. I admit I'm mostly taking the spirit of these spells. 

Someone with Cantrip can add a little bit of magical flair to everything they do, like a good stage magician, or keep a spoon stirring the beans. There's no mechanical benefit other than style but being stylish can often be a benefit in itself.

Patron Bond works kind of like it does in DCC. You have to roll to connect with a Patron at first level and you can keep trying until you get a taker but you do take a negative effect each failure. Once a Patron (say Thor) is bound to you, you have "Invoke Thor" instantly prepared in your mind, and then a few level 1 spells that someone calling upon Thor could reasonably expect help with. This becomes a floating spell effect for that particular slot, balanced by having to make contact in the first place and potentially losing that slot for the day, the additional crummy failure effects (mutations, increase of Shock Value, loss of Barrel Points), and having to do shit to pay Thor back OR ELSE.

Summon has a base floor of mechanics I can rely on which is fantastic. In general though I use something like Animal Summoning and Charm Person as a baseline and give it a 89% chance to summon a 1HD critter of some kind, similar to those other level 1 spells. I add an extra 11% of failure chance depending on how high a spell level I think any greater summoning would be, so that at level 1 a Level 9 summoning would have 99% chance of failure or going awry. When you can cast 2nd level spells, that same 9th level summoning improves to a 12% chance, and so on. I eyeball it. This does mean that a caster who can cast level 9 spells effectively gets another level 9 spell, sort of, but there are some other variables from the LOTFP rules I can use to mitigate that a bit. Also it's something I'll worry about when any of my players actually get to level 9 spellcasting.

It'll be a long while before I expand the chart any but hey I've still got bard spells/illusionist spells/my own spells to cherry pick from.

And yes I do plan to expand the Cleric spells a little...but ONLY a little. Nothing like this.