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.

1d12 SAMPLE ODD GODS:

  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.
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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. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Land Beyond Beyond, The World Past Hope And Fear


Ten years of Christian school successfully beat out of my head any predilection to calling someone I admire a "hero" unless they save babies and shit. But I have a few heroes. My parents, certainly. I think I can safely list my wife, who helped save my life and the sanity of me and my family during some dark times. But as much as I love comics, Stan Lee isn't my hero. As much as I love reading, Kurt Vonnegut or Alexandre Dumas aren't my heroes. I like poetry, but Li Po isn't my hero. And yes I'm a film major but Orson Welles or Yasujiro Ozu aren't my heroes. Kurosawa is close but still not quite, and what a hell of a bar that is.

I think Ray Harryhausen is my hero.

I might not be the man I am today if I had never read certain books, or achieved certain goals, but I absolutely wouldn't be the man I am today without the Disney Channel, a station which was home to repeats of Harryhausen's works as well as the original documentary Aliens, Dragons, Monsters and Me. It broke my tiny mind.

You could do that.
You could make something from nothing.
You could make everything from nothing.
You could love monsters just as much as I did BUT FOR A LIVING.
You could make movies without being a pretty boy or being handy with a turn of phrase or having oodles of dollars.
He could. I could. You just had to want it and love it and be willing to work yourself to the bone.

Harryhausen is a one-man rebuttal for all my problems with the preponderance of autuer theory in cinematic academia, at least how it's usually presented. Without wanting to minimize the efforts of the directors and producers and writers he worked with, especially Charles Schneer, it was Ray who literally brought movies to life, in a way that only Victor Frankenstein or Jim Henson have ever really rivaled. One person, toiling away on his own. And yet he wasn't. As much as he's an example of someone's vision other than a director's defining and informing a project, Harryhausen was a shining example of why film is so excellent as a collaborative medium. He was like Jimmy Page but he screwed fewer black people.

But he was a kind, gentle man, a teacher and a friend, a humble man but not one prone to false humility: he took pride in his work, in work, and in what he had accomplished. I've never wanted to be another man, apart from my dad, but I wanted to be Ray Harryhausen.

----

My dad.

Let's go back a bit to me saying my parents were my heroes. They were. But while my mom alternating between working and staying home to raise us, she was an ever-present figure in my earliest development. My dad wasn't as present, not because he didn't want to be but because he was busy working. My dad literally worked himself to the bone and we didn't see him as much. When you're a kid time is weirdly elastic...it was never enough time to play, but the time waiting for him to come home and rest and play for just a little always seemed longer. My memories, even my earliest ones, are filled with fun and happy memories with both of my parents, but while my mom was always along for the ride and up for anything, bless her, I remember my dad a lot as a distant example I wanted to live up to.

There were two movies one week on the Disney Channel, back before they showed exclusively shit and Gravity Falls. One was the Rankin-Bass Hobbit and one was the original Clash of the Titans. My mom identified both as my dad's favorite movie, which, looking back, is odd, but at the time it just meant my little brain just grasped the concept of APPOINTMENT TELEVISION. We set our clocks and we sat down and watched them and we recorded that shit and it was just the best. You can draw a straight line from those experiences to me writing up dwarf priest variants right now.

If Clash of the Titans fired my imagination, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad shaped and cooled it into its current form. That movie had everything. On some early Harryhausen interview, probably the aforementioned Disney doc, he mentioned the trick he used with the Cyclops, though not unique to that creature, of giving him animal-jointed goat legs so that kids wouldn't feel cheated and think it was just a guy in a suit.

I watched movies once. Hearing that was the first moment I loved movies.

----

I know it had to end, the era of effects which Ray pioneered. I know it but lament it, an artform as valid as any other. I also know one day Ray's life had to end, but no matter when it would be too soon. I'm a grown-ass man. I understand death. The part of me that still knows the chant used to summon Barani by heart is just 5, maybe 4, and it's never going to be fair to him.

I met Ray Harryhausen once. I want to say it was 2000, at Dragon*Con in Atlanta. I got a lot of shit  signed and met a lot of cool people but Ray Harryhausen was the only one I cared about enough to wait in line. And what a line! My heart was filled with the same sensation I felt the first time I saw someone other than me purchase Throne of Blood, a sensation only ever felt by lonely nerds isolated in rural areas in a pre-internet age when a budding cineaste's best option for expanding his horizons was dumb luck and pirated satellite. I had my VHS copy of Clash of the Titans, but I wanted a photo. I bought one in the dealer room not realizing this was apparently a breach of ettiquette. He was miffed! At least I bought one of his other pictures, one with Medusa in it. At least I let him know how great I thought he was.

Doubtless he had no reason to remember that conversation but at least just once I let him know what he meant to me. By the way, before I left the con I purchased that Disney Channel documentary on a limited release VHS. It's one of my favorite nerd possessions still.

----

I heard about his passing while at work. I was super bummed out and resolved there and then to honor him somehow, to mark the passing of a great man. I've got no money. I've got no resources. But I have time, friends, and dice.

Last week I ran my players through a Harryhausen Gauntlet. While guarding a silk ship as it traveled to a distant port, It Came From Beneath The Sea and sank their ship. Arriving on a Mysterious Island, the party was set upon by massive crabs. One PC died to be replaced by a backup pregen.

Moving into the jungle interior, they met a wizard who was a combination of Sokurah and Mako from Conan the Barbarian. Though warned against allying with him by a shadowy figure, the wizard (named Obuzu) told them of the six princesses of a distant golden kingdom. Here they were imprisoned by the warlord who sacked their country and killed their parents, and Obuzu was here to help them escape and take back their throne.s.

The first princess was in the Quarry of Bones, a place guarded by a fearsome hydra. Charm Monster was used, but not before the hydra ate my wife's wizard. I let her play Obuzu so we could keep moving. Next stop was the Valley of Gwanji, where the Hydra helped to kill a tyrannosaurus rex and save a princess trapped in something that looked like where the humans lived on the Herculoids. The third was rescued from the cyclops' lair, and dual ass-stabbing from our thieves helped the still-ensorcelled hydra finish him off. Next it was the top of Skullcrusher Mountain, where our fourth princess was guarded by four fearsome sabretooth tigers. The tigers killed Raven again, but were ultimately dispatched, partly through blowing them off the mountainside using a gust-of-wind spell.

The fifth princess was in the Caverns of Medusa, a dark place where lighting a torch meant coming face to face with death and staying in the dark meant being shot up with arrows. She turned the hydra to stone and set about filling the party with ammunition. They were preparing to leave this particular butterface princess to her fate when the shadowy figure from the jungle, Kalibos, showed up with a pet who'd traveled 20 Million Miles To Earth. The party was caught in a run-down. They killed Kalibos and severed his fork-hand, using that as an improvised thrown weapon in FULL darkness to drop Medusa to 1hp and send her slithering away with a failed morale save. The wizard spider-walked up the ceiling and hit the space monster in the face with her stick until it died. The final princess was lashed to the Clashing Rock, set just a few feet into the water from the main beach. As soon as Raven's 3rd character stepped into the water to save her, ONE! HUNDRED! SKELETONS! burst up from the sand and disassembled him.

A pegasus which sprang from Medusa's blood was ridden by the surviving warriors, turning undead from above until the Kraken appeared. Kraken made his charm-monster check but failed his petrify check and turned to stone, toppling over onto the chained princess. The party was bummed but decided to cut their losses and skedaddle. While climbing back over the mountain they discovered a secret chamber wherein lay a flying saucer, which the party hit Auto-Pilot on and which ferried them...somewhere, but off into the sunset for now at least.

It was my first time GMing drunk, and I gotta say I think it went pretty well.

----

If I have a point other than "FUCK!" it's this:

I never needed to be taught how to imagine, or taught TO imagine, or taught WHY to imagine. But Ray Harryhausen was the first person I'd heard of who made me not feel as much of a fruit loop for spending so much time imagining more awesome things during school. His admonishment that his films didn't feature monsters but creatures who behaved monstrously because of circumstances they found themselves in was an eye opener at 5 years old. There were giants, in those days, and Ray Harryhausen was certainly one of them...one of the last living giants, a fossil record of an alien era, one of the few I was privileged enough to see and follow and watch and study in my lifetime.

Now he's gone and while the world had bigger problems with that and hell I certainly have more immediate concerns right now than mourning a dead man who never knew my name, I'll likely never shake the feeling that the world became at least .221% more mundane with his passing.

What can I say about a man who changed my life? Apparently the answer is 1,934 words...and not enough.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

B/X Selkie Class


I've seen a lot of monster classes including a lot of caveman types, a lot of mermaids, and a lot of werewolves. I don't see why we can't have all three at once, so I made this.
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Sea Monster!
HD: d6
Saves: as Halfling
Attacks: as Halfling
Advances: as Halfling
Requirements: Constitution 9, Dexterity 9
Prime Requisite: Strength; Selkies with Strength 13 or better gain 5% bonus xp, Selkies who also have Charisma 13 or better gain 10% bonus xp.
  • Selkies can wear leather or fur armor in human form but find anything else too constricting. They cannot use shields. They can use spears, staffs, javelins, daggers, or clubs. They get +1 irony bonus to hit and damage with clubs.
  • Selkies can communicate with other Selkies in either form.
  • Selkies who die in their human form turn to seafoam, and can only be resurrected using their seal skin.
  • Selkies can advance to 12th level.

Selkies are a kind of leopard seal which hunts in packs and can transform into a beautiful if fearsome human form by removing their skin. Removing the skin takes a Turn followed by Save vs Petrification to avoid muscle fatigue from the transformation; a failed save means the Selkie will be unable to act for another Turn. In human form, the Selkie is an outsider, excited by new experiences and sensations. Becoming a seal again requires going back to their skin, re-dressing in it, and spending some time acclimating their muscles to the new form, processes which also take a Turn and a Saving Throw..

A Selkie can carry her skin with her at no encumbrance penalty but can only carry half the load a character of their strength normally could; their backs are not accustomed to that particular strain. A Selkie never wears her skin as armor in human form for reasons that we'll get to in a second.

In leopard seal form, the Selkie attacks as a 5HD monster (+4 to hit basically) at first level but can use the Selkie's to-hit-by-level if that is higher. She has an AC of 4 (15 ascending, 17 LotFP), and can attack twice per round, knocking their enemies prone or doing bite damage for 1d8 damage. Their land speed is 45'(15') and their swim speed is 180'(60'). Actually, even in human form they can swim at a full movement speed, rather than a reduced speed normal humans do. They do not take extra damage from silver weapons.

A Selkie's appetite is always enormous, and they prefer their food raw.

raw? more like RAWR! What were we talking about again?

If a Selkie's skin is lost, or seriously damaged, or tampered with in any way, only a powerful blessing or Heal spell can change them back to leopard seal form. The Selkie does not respond well to being trapped in human form, and their body distorts. Their eyes become all-black and they gain their seal form's bite attack, their unsettling jaws tipping off their inhuman nature. They never kill a living creature any more without eating part of it, and must lean on their weapon for support between fights. A Selkie will remain feral like this for another two levels before they pass away.

Selkies reaching 10th level with access to a sea can collect a harem of seals. Seriously it's called a harem. Anyway, they attract 3d10 seals a year, with each seal having a 15% chance of being a Level 1 Selkie.

Selkies can smell the sea on a person, and can identify anyone who has traveled by sea in the last month. They can also smell out fish at 500 yards.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Shyguy B/X Class

I'm a huge fan of the first two Paper Mario games, and to a lesser extend the third one. I've long kicked around the idea of doing a table-top game with it since it's ready made for the idea, at least if people stick to playing the kinds of characters who are often Mario's sidekicks in these games. The Shyguy works really well as a kind of Fighter-Also but I ultimately think I'd go with Savage Worlds or something for a full-on game of Mario RPG.
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HD: d6
Save: as Halfling
Attack: as Cleric
Advance: as Cleric
Requirements: 8+ in all Ability Scores.
  • Shyguys cannot use armor or shields. They are pretty much always dressed as some variant of Shyguy, mask and all. They get +/- 2 AC for this.
  • Shyguys can use any weapon, but only one kind of weapon at a time. Their name changes to reflect this, e.g. if they pick up a spear at first level they are now Spear Guy and can use any spears they find but only spears. They may learn a new type of weapon in play, but are then restricted to that. It takes a full day for every session you've spent with your previous Name Weapon to get used to a new Name Weapon. Shyguys add their level in damage to their Name Weapon.
  • Shyguys are all either Clever, Sneaky, Nimble, or Tough.
    • Clever Guys have a magic comic book that describes a number of First Tier spells equal to their Intelligence Bonus.
    • Sneaky Guys have all the ability to Hide as a Thief of their level, but no other Thief abilities. If you're using LOTFP I guess this would mean they have Stealth 5/6 at level 1 and then Stealth 6/6 after.
    • Nimble Guys can make a free movement whenever they are attacked. They get a +1 damage bonus with ranged attacks.
    • Tough Guys ignore the first attack that any creature makes against them. This does not include things like gaze attacks or paralyzing touch or magic missile, but it does include big area attacks like Breath Weapons which would include them.
  • Shyguys are considered to have Charisma 18 for the purpose of hiring or keeping Shyguy retainers.
  • When retreating, Shyguys will always trip on their robes once, because that's just adorable.
  • Shyguys speak the Common tongue as well as the secret whisper-language of the Shyguys. 
  • At level 5, a Shyguy's Name Weapon may be a magic item like a rod, wand, or staff. If these items do damage then the Shyguy's Name Weapon bonus will apply to all damage. If the item is limited to a number of charges, the Shyguy gets 1d6+1 additional charges out of the item. If it is limited to a number of uses per day, the Shyguy can use that item an additional time per day.
  • At level 8, they get a Job. Their Job determines their additional abilities and also lets them order any Shyguy without a Job as if that Shyguy were one of their retainers. Shyguys become either Generals, Scholars, Crooks, or Knights
    • As long as Generals have retainers they can elect for a retainer to take damage from an attack or from falling instead of them. Morale and reputation never suffer when Shyguy retainers are sacrificed in this way.
    • Scholars know a number of total languages (including the languages and any bonus languages from 1st level) equal to their Intelligence, and a number of First Tier spells (including any spells gained at 1st level) equal to their level.
    • Crooks gain all additional abilities of a Thief half their level. If you're using LOTFP that means pick two skills other than sneak attack, you have those 6/6.
    • Knights can use all armor, and reroll any save which they critically fail a number of times per day equal to their Constitution score.
  • At level 10, they may assemble an Engine, a land-going vessel which can house a deceptively large number of Shyguys (up to 100), has AC -3/21, can absorb 10+1 HD of damage, and does damage equal to the Shyguy General's hit points. For every million points of XP a Shyguy acquires beyond level 10, their Engine's HD is improved (10+2, followed by 10+3, etc).
  • Shyguys may advance to level 10.

Sexy-Librarian-Guy
If a Shyguy's mask is lost, they will cover their face and fall prostrate before their true face may be seen. If this mask is not returned immediately, they will vanish in a puff of purple or green smoke and are considered dead. A Shyguy vanishing in this manner always leaves behind 1 gold per level, regardless of coins and equipment carried.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Arcis Enumre- Gnome Class

art by Kate Laird




HD: d6
Save: as Thief
Attack: as Thief
Advance: as Thief
Requirements: No ability scores of 7 or less, or 5+ on 1d12
  • Gnomes can use any armor except plate. Gnomes cannot use shields, or wield two-handed weapons.
  • Gnomes speak Gnome and Common, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling.
  • Gnomes can Hear Noise as a level 16 Thief. 
  • Gnomes get an additional bonus language each level. This can allow the Gnome to speak a new language or dialect, conversing with a new bunch of humans and demihumans, or as a very limited Speak-With-Animals ability; like, at level 1 you could choose "rats"... 
  • Gnomes can change size between 6" and 3' at will. Clothes and items they have made change with them but armor and weapons others have crafted do not.
  • Gnomes can advance to 8th level. At level 8, gnomes gain an entourage and can use their status to find free food, drink, and quarters anywhere they are already known.
  • Gnomes are also considered to always have chalk. 
  • Gnomes can eat rocks or gems to survive.
  • Gnomes also receive a free pet or mount at 1st level.

art by Raven Mimura