Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Moon Slave VDND World Tour- Let's Talk About Moon Slave

1. So nonspecific evil.

Picture a good person, not even a great person. Would that person do a thing? No? Then that thing is evil. Picture Sir Galahad, the quintessential paladin. Would HE do a thing? No? Then anyone who mostly looks and acts like Sir Galahad is an ANTI-paladin.

Look at how useful this is! You could get twos of ideas out of that.

Evil is the May Contain Nuts of D&D's stupid morality alignment system. There might NOT be nuts but there's not the pure and wholesome certainty of the absence of nuts so To Be Considered Nutted until further notice by order of Her Majesty.

The thing to me is that most people don't go about their lives considering whether something is evil, like platonically evil in the Red Tim Curry sense. We know evil. We see evil. But when we see evil we know it in horrifying specificity. I won't belabor this at the moment. I needn't. But it's not just the sum of all bad things, it's something specific making the world more terrible in some very specific ways. Often the subject of something being EEEEVILLLL will only come into the conversation because, somewhere, someone decided that something was so bad that God Himself (or gods themselves or whatever) actively hated it and despised it, sometimes discussing something so bad and onerous that you HAVE to believe there is a force actively campaigning to rid even the notion of, say, murder from the world in order to store much faith in the power and beneficence of such an entity.

In this way evil things are shown being a subset of bad things.

Ah, now bad things: without bringing culture or religion or manifestations of Not Goodness into the mix we could all list off several hundred bad things without much effort because bad things are self-evidently bad from a practicality sense. Hurricanes are bad because shit gets fucked up and people die. Earthquakes are bad because shit gets fucked up and people die. If you're in a nice Germanic Grimm situation then witches are bad because babies get stolen and corn gets blighted. Or maybe you live in a fertile flood plain, and, yes, you understand what a flood plain is, but look at how fertile those floods made this plain! Until one spring when oh shit FLOODS ARE BAD AGAIN NOW.

None of this is evil. In fact some of this may be happening for a very good reason or have a beneficial side to it. Sure maybe Hecuba cursed your crops but maybe doing so appeased Fangfagor the Despiser, or at least scared idiot farmers away from His unholy place of rest. But still: bad things. Things that make the hard millstone of life considerably more difficult and sad and dangerous and depressing. You still don't need morality in that gradient because you can always easily identify the baddest worst no-goodest thing around. It's whatever the rich people/king/president/emperor is pissed about. You know that because something has to be pretty bad to pierce the cushion of convenience the well off have and make their lives as miserable as a poor person, or at least you know that because they TELL you so. Of course by that point the actual poor people are being ground into cornmeal.

2. So mythology.

People don't remember the Japanese or Norwegian or Egyptian or Sumerian or Greek or Hopi or Aztec pantheons because they make such a cool list of names, or because their statues are all so great, or because it's nice to know who the local fertility god is in case of time travel-induced-sterility. People remember all these gods because of their stories. For that matter people remember Jesus and Allah and Buddha for the stories around them as much as their philosophies. There are stories that come from wants and desires, even when the desire is to eliminate desire. Not always those of the gods themselves but they come into the story because of how they react to the desires of others, and so DO SOMETHING.

Let's take Ares. I could tell you Ares' position in his pantheon the way some people discuss the placement of constellations: rival of Athena, patron of Sparta, son of Zeus, dad of Fear and Dread, lover of Aphrodite, God of War. Ok that's a nice enough list. OR I could tell you about him and Aphrodite getting caught in a net trap left by Hephaestus, who suspected their union, and all of the other gods coming over to look at their naked god asses and laugh at them and poke them. That's better.

D&D gods by and large don't have that story because they are their station. We started getting setting information and the gods who literally stride across the world are a big part of that. OK, I get that. But D&D gods usually break down into one of two paths, either the path of having nothing to differentiate them or make them special or notable other than a generic Genus-Species listing of what they cover for mechanical purposes and easy field identification, or they have way way too much history because they got written into a novel series at one point as a patron or antagonist and oh my god shut up shut up.

It gets worse when the D&D alignment system comes in, because god of Neutral Evil has never been a helpful descriptor.

Sometimes you get both, like you get with Lolth, and if the demon queen of spiders' overexposed ass can't get some due consideration what choice does say Lirr have?

It's extra frustrating because we are all rolling in the shadow of the ultimate god of GENERAL, vague evil who nonetheless has specific personality and resonance and who we all associate with specific things he did and will do: Sauron. Sauron is the mack daddy of D&D gods and while he can't get in the books by name he still haunts the hobby, D&D and otherwise, in the form of all his imitators. Some people are pulling their hair out because Sauron isn't technically a god but he fits every definition of what I think makes a good god so I'm counting him.

3. Quick aside here for later clarity, when I was a kid and I played with GI Joes and Cobra, I didn't own Duke or Sgt. Slaughter or Cobra Commander or Serpentor. I did however find a Warduke toy at a comic shop, bagged loose, and I bought the shit out of him, not knowing what he was (but guessing). From then on he and his machine gun and ninja sword ruled Cobra as Warlord (close!), a muscular warrior soldier who was also a wizard. I basically just put Skeletor in charge of Cobra.

GI Joe was run by King of Cars, a living talking green monster truck whose headlights shot lasers.

I'm great.

4.  When I first wrote about Moon Slave I wasn't specifically thinking about Warlorduke or Sauron or anything. I wanted to frame him as that kind of "this guy was great and terrible and powerful and let's worship him" cat that your old Norse myths or even Arthurian mythology is full of. Zeus had a lot of shitty boring kids but like Hercules or Orion were big deals, all the more because they EARNED their place in the canon. So I looked at it from a perspective of "Beowulf's Greatest Hits." If this guy was this much of a badass, A) what did he do that people remember him for, B) what sounds like something you'd get in a story where, say, Thor tries to drink all the seas? And even that was only to get a starting point to free associate how fucked up his kids must be.

If I had to lay out his D&D Domains I would say they were Smoke, Nightmares, and Witches. If I had to give him an alignment I'd say fuck off with that, but if I had to had to had to then I guess he'd be CN or CE because he's the god of fucking up things in his way and taking everything he's already fucked up and making it weirder. If I could I would make him the god of Everybody Run Away From Him.

He is also a family man, a fathering god, the kind of figure you get in mythology whose big job is shooting someone full of gods and monsters and forces of nature and creating, basically, end-stage-bosses for your campaign. There is a Dr. Wily element to Moon Slave.

If he has edicts then they would be...
  • The terror of you is a form of worship, so let some survive.
  • Fire is life, spread the seed of life wherever you can.
  • You are not owed ever waking up.
  • The creation of strange, new, dangerous, surprising magic is scary and great, and those who do these things are priests to Moon Slave. Those who do so in his name, or in the name of fear and discovery and the destructive transformation of creation, are saints.
  • Never kill someone in defense you can murder later, gruesomely and publicly, in revenge.
  • Do everything fast. Do everything hard. Do everything loud.
  • Life is meant to be lived high on the drug of terror, the drug of power, or just some kind of drugs.
  • Your family will kill you. Progeny are life. Play with fire.
  • You understand mercy. You afford mercy. But you do not brook escape.
  • If Moon Slave has chosen you you're dead already so fucking take some risks.
Moon Slave can be communed with through the smoke in front of the moon by any who A) believe, B) tempt him, C) offer meat, D) have ever killed someone.

Moon Slave has wives but everybody is too scared to ask about them. They are his equal and they are many and though custom dictates it never be spoken once suspected pretty much everyone is sure they killed Moon Slave so don't get their attention. They continue to give birth to his children. One day, one of them will give birth to Moon Slave, if they haven't already. It may be that Moon-Slave-Not-Yet-Moon-Slave walks the world now, waiting for his flesh to awaken to his soul.

If he has a realm to speak of it should be a cracked plane of lava and stone and once-great castles constantly smoldering, his victims and his Swordtouched all mingling in a great throbbing Godzilla-refugee mass, while his throne waits empty atop a mountain shaped like an eagle.

Tradition says his body was burned and its ashes rest on the moon.

If you manifest an aspect of him, for as long as he remains in the vessel, everything he says casts a spell. For every sentence, some spell effect goes off. These all revert once his aspect departs, EXCEPT that for every question you ask one effect is permanent, and for everything you ask him to DO consider him as casting a powerful ultra Wish. Invoking his restless spirit briefly in aspect is difficult, and the dangerous secrets of this ritual are well guarded.

Believers may summon him more easily and less riskily in nightmares, at the consequence that you save or die in your sleep, and you wake up pants-crapping insane.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Gardeners

It’s okay. You’re safe. You’re with us now. We’re safe. We’re not afraid. We trade with Monsters.

Don’t be frightened. They won’t hurt us. Just...keep still. Keep quiet. Smell less. They will make of you food.

We don’t raise them as we would our own. We raise them as one tends a vine. We nibble at its fruit. It sustains us. It shelters. We groom only the finest of the crop to serve us. Some we allow to grow unchecked, become rampant, useless. They kill themselves, and in doing so strengthen the Monsters, and in doing so strengthen us.

They’re fearsome. They are deadly. We aren’t, so we have become accustomed to them. Our homes are the horrors, and few dare creep in to challenge us. There are always bigger monsters, of course. There are always better and wiser Gardeners.

It is not much of a life, making your life theirs. There is a security, and there is dignity in security. In cleverness. But we are not free. We are tethered to the world by our Responsibilities. We dare not abandon our gardens lest they grow so gnarled and wayward that we are strangled. That everything is strangled.

Our Songs are soothing. Our Songs are whispers. The Wind is always with us, for we know a beauty of hers which no Kind else do. But we are not her favored, no.

We have no riches. We have nothing but what we take, what we steal, the shade and tremble of others, louder voices which Eater heeds better than our own. We have nothing to offer him except challenge, for we do have foresight.

We are not strong.
Our Songs are soft.
Our food is humble.
We are not free.
Our lives are fated brief


We have invented Friends.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Turning D&D Monsters Into Dinosaurs

I know some of these aren't dinosaurs go away. This is only half an idea, I know, but here goes.

Orcs- These are now cavemen. Not Flintstone cavemen or Ringo cavemen or Ron Perlman cavemen. These are Vandal Savage cavemen. They are smarter and more powerful and more dangerous, and we didn't out-evolve this kind of caveman because we were better, we won the gene race because they were busy. They invented the wheel, as in the TSR great wheel, as in they opened a big door and let all the elemental rage and magic of the universe pour in. In our world this killed the dinosaurs. In this one it made them stranger.

Flailsnails- Akylosaurus, but with 2d17 clubs for a head and 1d5 clubs for a tail. Each limb is also three clubs. It strains its sustenance by sludging through swamps and lakes.

Displacer Beast- No not a sabretooth tiger. Utahraptor. Who needs a pack of hunters when you can be a one-dino "clever girl?"

Beholder- Eye Tyrannosaurus, a floating T-Rex head (including his little arms on his chin, MODOKlike) with 14 eyes set evenly around its skull.

Owlbear- Slothodactyl.

Bulette- Stegosaurus rolls himself into a ball and spins around to burrow and get places, Sonic the Hedgehog-meets-excavator style.

Hydra- Seven-headed elasmosaurus

Mind Flayer- Some kind of duck billed dinosaur, clearly.

Minotaur- Gallomimus with triceratops head.

Chimera- Hindquarters of a deinonychus, torso of a sabretooth tiger, head of a wooly mammoth.

Centaur- Parasaurolohpus torso on a dimetrodon body.

...And so on for all the "this plus this" mythological monsters.

Now the elephant in the room is Dragons because those are just flying t-rexes anyway when you get down to it. Now normally a dragon is basically an enormous lizard that is magic and breathes fire, but its reptilian nature isn't exactly essential. That's just what makes our brains go "gross" and it's weird to think of one that big and deadly. So in a world dominated by giant lizards, I think perhaps dragons should be ENORMOUS BATS, or enormous flying rats, who are magic and breathe fire.

There, now I can say I put something up today.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Moon Slave VDND World Tour- Background- Unspeakable

Moon Slave Moon Slave Moon Slave spoke to you screamed at you His name must never be spoken, must never only be spoken, Moon Slave. The nightmare stabbist. The world burner. The mountain rider. His voice is not the sun because it is closer, His voice is not the thunder because it scores flesh from bone, His voice is not gentle because fuck you that's why MOON SLAVE.
On one holy day, at some sacred massacre, His sword fell upon you and in that moment you were mankind no more. You were the changed thing. You were fleshtoken. You were pawnkind. You are the fingertips of Moon Slave, His ear in the world, existing only to hear Him shouting his rage at it. You are not evil. You are not wrong. Moon Slave is a volcano. Moon Slave is the murderer who keeps you safe. Moon Slave is just also the murderer who changes His Mind. He has changed Your mind.
When you choose this background, first of all, your alignment is Chaotic, whatever it is. Secondly, understand that you're worshiping the god of what you picture when you listen to Iron Maiden while super drunk. This means, thirdly, that any time anyone else says Moon Slave, you must scream His name like a power chord.

Skill Proficiencies: Arcana, Athletics
Vehicle Proficiency: Longships, War Kites, Chariots
Tool Proficiency: Leatherworker Tools, Smith Tools (for restraints, interrogations, fun)
Equipment: Battlehorn, chains (30'), torches (6), 1d5 trophies, 1d2 cloaks, 1 enormous sack


You shew yourself to be Moon Slave's creature in the following way.

1. Your eyes (d6: 1- catlike, 2- green, 3- red, 4- white as if you were blind, 5- never blink, 6- constantly weep blood)
2. Your voice (d4: 1- is accompanied by distant thunder, 2- can be heard in a loud room at a whisper, 3- slurs your sibilants  like a motherfucker, 4- echoes in normal conversation)
3. Your hair (d6: 1- has fallen out, 2- is missing large clumps, 3- has begun to grow at an alarming rate, 4- has gone all white, 5- has a big red lightning bolt pattern in it, 6- is always filled with bugs, not like fleas or lice but big ones.)
4. Your scar in the shape of (1d4: 1- sword, 2- skull, 3- crescent moon, 4- screamprayer to Moon Slave)

Feature: You Were There.

It was the deciding battle of the war. It was a sudden and horrible natural disaster. It was the slaughter that moved the kingdom to action. So recent yet already so legendary.

You Were There.

Most people you meet will have heard of it, and be impressed if you can convince them of this. The specific parties involved (including instances of Speak With Dead) know what you did. The military authorities, regents, and magicians of these lands know you and your deeds by name. The churches know you to be servant of Moon Slave.

This helps cut through the bullshit a lot of times. For better or for worse. If nothing else it's a good way to get any attention in an area snapped toward you: just start talking about it. You'd be surprised at what you can accomplish with this badge of honor.

Suggested Characteristics

You are not uncontrollable, but you are not subtle. You are not simple, but you are direct. You are not berserk, but you do glory in the right people being murdered. You may not be brave, but you are terrifying. You may not be evil but you have no comfortable hole in modern society. Remember Moon Slave prizes no piety or ascetics: the only form of worship Moon Slave rewards is getting out there and doing the most metal thing possible. "Turning off" is a sin.

d8 Personality Trait

1. You are always a little too interested when a victim recounts their story.
2. You are hard to separate from your torches. You may light small fires and scream into them in your down time.
3. To know Moon Slave is to fear Him, so you sleep little, and can be easily confused.
4. You are much more relaxed at night and in dungeons than during the day, in cities.
5. Your mode of dress is...unconventional.
6. Your livelihood is/was fairly prosaic, but you have elected to bring Moon Slave's touch to that part of the world. You may own a metal-as-fuck farm. You may own a murder library.
7. You listen longer than you should to the exhortations of the mad and the cruel and the butcherous. They have a point, after all.
8. Mmm...dogs...

d6 Ideal

1. Action. Never talk when you can do.
2. Fear. Never talk when you can yell curses and bellow animalistically.
3. Surprise. Never be anticipated.
4. Magic. Never use a sword when you can use a cursed burning sword that eats souls.
5. Choice. All dichotomies are false dichotomies.
6. Beauty. Blood is life. Fire is life.

d6 Bond

1. There are others like you, Unspeakables, and you must find them. There is work to do.
2. There is another like you, a survivor, not Swordtouched, and you must avenge yourself upon them.
3. You hear her calling in your sleep, a great witch. She has need of you. She will not let you rest.
4. There is a creature who has defied Moon Slave, awesome in his terror, and you must seek him out and smote him for the glory of smoke.
5. You must raise a beacon to Him and His, an enormous bonfire, visible for miles, on darkmoon-before-Harvest Night.
6. Your charge, and your trade, is secretly that of Jack Ketch.

d6 Flaw

1. You attract a lot of attention. Obviously. A lot.
2. You always reek of smoke and meat.
3. Your pyromania has a tendency to interfere with your other aspirations, as you burn whatever you can get away with, including important things like maps, including magic things like cloaks.
4. You sleepwalk. You sleepfight.
5. You will not deliver the killing blow to any creature who hails Moon Slave in scream song.
6. You've got red on you.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Holy Man- Shotgun Preachers and Servants of Monsters for Cowboy DND

Sidney Poitier
  • Holy Men use 1d6 for their Hit Die.
  • Their Defensive Number is 17.
  • They may use any Normal weapon (d8).
  • They may also use shotguns.
  • They speak Lawful, the maddening tongues to their god, and a language of their choice.
  • If they have Wisdom 16 they level using the XP requirements for Professionals instead.
  • At level 1 a Holy Man gains a gift of prophecy which grants them the answer to questions from their god. A caveat here: most gods aren’t omniscient, and may change the subject, but all information they impart for the purpose of THIS feature will be valuable. A Holy Man can beseech their god for this kind of guidance a number of times per day equal to 1/4 their Wisdom score, rounded down. Holy Men with Wisdom 18 can beseech an additional time, for a total of 5 in any 24 hour period. When they seek answers while awake they may only be rewarded with YES or NO answers, or NO ANSWER. In their dreams, however, the questions they pose are answered in the form of cryptically detailed visions which may impart additional information or context.
  • Holy Men get spells beginning Level 2. These are mysteries revealed to them by their gods, mighty boons they can pray for. Their power grows as they level and their relationship with their god becomes closer, their understanding deeper. They may find holy spells in sacred scriptures. Learning a found spell takes an hour per level of the spell. Otherwise these blessings are revealed gradually, and any spell the Holy Man knows may be prayed for and may be granted by the Holy Man’s god/gods. Whenever they become capable of casting a new Tier of spell, they learn 1 spell and a number of spells equal to their Wisdom bonus. Like other magic-using classes, the Holy Man’s spells are rolled randomly, with one exception: they may always choose to learn Turn Undead instead of any other First Tier spell.
  • At level 2, a Holy Man has a 27% chance that their First Tier prayer will be answered. When their understanding deepens, their faith in old ways strengthens; when a Holy Man becomes capable of casting Second Tier spells, they have a 27% chance of casting Second Tier spells and a 39% chance of casting First Tier spells. Each time the Holy Man is granted a new Tier of spells, their chance of their prayer being answered by their god for the previous Tiers improve by 12%. Failing to cast a spell means your god has not answered your prayer. You will not be able to request that blessing again until you perform a service for your god, which they will specify at some point, often immediately.
  • At level 5 a weapon or item or possession of the Holy Man takes on a divine blessing simply from association with the Holy Man and comes to signify them specifically. This object, usually a mundane weapon, takes on a magical property and can affect creatures accordingly. Additionally if you have not learned the spell Turn Undead already the item in question becomes vested in its power.
  • At level 9 a Holy Man may elect to raise a Mission. Performing a favor for their god/gods bestows you fortune and lets you build it for half cost. A Mission attracts other Holy Men, Soldiers, and Folk. These are true believers and will fight for you and your cause til death.
  • Holy Men may advance to Level 16.
Features Level XP HP
Prophet 1 0 1d6+1+Constitution bonus
Spells 2 1650 +1d6+Constitution bonus

3 3300 +1d6+Constitution bonus

4 6600 +1d6+Constitution bonus
Holy Weapon 5 13200 +1d6+Constitution bonus

6 26400 +1d6+Constitution bonus

7 52800 +1d6+Constitution bonus

8 105600 +1d6+Constitution bonus
Mission 9 211200 +1d6+Constitution bonus

10 323000 +2

11 435000 +2

12 547000 +2

13 659000 +2

14 771000 +2

15 883000 +2

16 995000 +2

Moon Slave VDND World Tour- Barbarian Path

Exhorted in the name of Moon Slave to ruin. King of smoke and witches. Starlight blacksmith. You are the sword which is broken against the bone. You are the god smasher and the drunken night fire.

Blood For Blood

Beginning at 3rd level, when you Rage you take on the armor of no fuck YOU. Roll 1d12. Lose that many Hit Points and add half the bonus (rounded down) to AC and the rest to your Damage. When your Rage ends you lose both these bonuses. Bow your head beneath your weapon and anoint yourself in its blood. Roll your weapon's damage die. Gain that value (plus any applicable remaining damage bonuses, such as from Strength) in Hit Points as a bonus action. Neither of these effects count towards conventional healing.

Blade to Blade

Beginning at 3rd level, your weapon is soaked in your own blood and the blood of your enemies, and you are attuned to its scent like a bloodhound, like a shark. You can always find your weapon if you are separated, so long as you are within your Constitution x20 yards of it.

Eye to Eye

Beginning at 6th level, you see Moon Slave in those around you. He whispers their glories. Regarding any intelligent or animal creature reveals to you the last thing they killed: its identity, its nature, and the method used to dispatch it. You do not learn WHY. Why is always Moon Slave anyway. Intelligent creatures can save against this effect if they are aware of you observing them, but they have Disadvantage. When you are Raging they may not save.

Steel to Steel

Beginning at 10th level, while you Rage you can destroy objects and sunder weapons more easily. When consulting the material strength chart the DM should consider any matter targeted by you to be 1+ Constitution modifier categories weaker, so that a Barbarian with a 17 Constitution would treat material as 4 categories weaker. You also do not suffer any penalties tohit for calling your shot against a nonmagical weapon.

Ashes to Ashes

Beginning at 14th level, while you Rage your skin and weapon are considered On Fire for incendiary purposes, and anything you hit must save or take fire damage equal to the number of times you have hit while Raging. This effect DOES extend to any mundane equipment you are carrying but not to any magical items you carry or wear.

REVIEW: In Mansions For Flowers, by Bloom Rose, Uriel Uter, Kimberley Keane-Felton, INRI, and The Sorceress Sisters

Baroness- Red

1979. And here I'm lost.

There is far too much written today about the history of RPGs by people who read something once, who owned this game, who remembered that rumor, who were mad about something on Usenet before I'd even heard of bbcode. There is far too little cobbled together from multiple fisthand accounts, almost as if we can't trust anybody who was actually there, who actually made history, or the people around them. It does seem that small communities (and we are SO small) can be smaller still in their pettiness, and perhaps that is the real history of RPGs.

Nah that's the history of a bunch more stuff, too. Anyway I so hesitate to add to the signal noise yet here I am.

We come to "the Bloom Rose Sequence," an adventure series in the loosest sense, and one which is hard to talk about. Released decades apart, containing no common story thread, without the expressed intent of being considered part of a larger whole. The Bloom Rose Sequence is nonetheless discussed as a unified critical unit by game historians and the tattooed masses for three reasons.

Chiefly, each of the modules contains a "contribution" of some sort (We'll get to what THAT means) from Bloom Rose, co-founder of Adder Entertainment, chief creative director, payroll accountant,and author of every. single. foreword. to every adventure, game, and A Tunnel until her death in the great Donnybrook fire. Secondly, while artists like Tiny Mitch, Ivanov, and Philip Jaksun contributed art during the series, and while Lain to Rest was completed by Steve Olsen, all the books have the distinction of being written and designed by women, curated by Bloom.

Third and last: they got Bloom killed.

In Mansions For Flowers is one of the Adder Anthologies that Bloom specialized in, and probably the second best they ever made. Its name comes from Bloom's actual botany background showing itself in the interstitials between adventures. Articles about how flowers die. Articles about how flowers fuck. Articles about how flowers kill. Articles about how people kill for flowers. The lessons I always chose to take away from these articles were:
  1. Nature is a vicious two-faced prick.
  2. Campaign matter is everywhere.
  3. Do not fuck with the Palm of Christ, which Sunday School had already taught me sort of.
...but looking back I think it's about context. Gardens must be tended, pruned, fed, and even plowed under to make way for new growth. So to it is with adventures and dungeons. You gotta kill the fuck out of Buddha or he'll never take you to Enlightenment Prom. You could fill a monster manual with everything you remember from your Bullfinch you swear you bought in high school or you could skip that and fill a book with interesting ideas, written well, and presented attractively, and trust your customers to think goblins are cool on their own.

I think it's about context. There is cleverness in addition to beauty. There is danger, not just delicateness. There is utility, history, and a far and wide shadow cast by the rose bush, not only thorns and sweetness. Did I mention that this was a lady gamer showcase? There's probably no reason I mentioned that again.

Bloom's Seventies Sunshine feminism aside, the adventures themselves are all illuminated with a jarring cocaine fashion twinge  by the Sorceress Sisters, Sara and Sybil Sobcyznski, as well as the modest map and monster contributions of the individual designers. Most of the art is...cute, and good enough. I always feel bad for shitting people on art, especially people for whom the expression is a means to an end, a bridge by which they can reach their end goal and truly express themselves. Uriel Uter's Moat Man is a standout favorite, since he's made entirely of whatever is going on with Magneto on the cover of X-Men #1. On the other end of the spectrum, whatever Bloom's other virtues her life as a cartographer was thankfully put in the hands of a horse doctor early on.

The Cabin At The Castle by kickboxing columnist Uriel Uter is a weird little puzzle adventure where a shotgun shack appears in the middle of the royal gardens and nobody can get it open. The guy inside, Elias Pelias, is one of my favorite NPCs to play ever because for almost the whole adventure he talks like an old John Ford Cookie type and I freebase that shit. It plays out a little like There's A Hole In The Bucket but with wizards and knights and Moat Mans and shit but once that pinata pops open I can guarantee nobody at the table is anticipating the death to follow. We lost the kingdom once. Not the castle, I stress.

Nobody Sculpted the Gods by self proclaimed silver dollar Kimberley Keane-Felton starts with a talking pocketwatch and ends with murdering the sea in this anarchic romp against enlightened self-interest through the Roman pantheon and the British History Museum. Like most people my favorite part of this brief adventure is the encounters table, particularly the Bulldogs. However I don't think enough attention is paid to Docent the Docent, one of the best examples of GMPC I've ever seen executed. Or heard of. While Kimberley's title is great and all, I do think this would be better remembered if it were titled after its penultimate set piece and her finest, Last Supper-inspired illustration, the House of Mummy Lords.

Many Dragons by INRI of Pet Shop Boys and QVC fame is perhaps the most popular of these, a race against time cited as an influence by a lot of video game designers. It mostly revolves around tense negotiations, a wagonload of save-or-die spelunking, and sleep poisoning. The answer to the final riddle in this section ("I was a king. Then I was a son. Then I was the dawn. What am I?") was left out of Appendix Red and it's still doctrine for the Tattoo Society that INRI had this secret on her body somewhere. Her noble sacrifice tending to the wounded in Bosnia means we'll never know for certain, but the Society's annual exhibition games of Many Dragons have yielded some interesting responses. The seances haven't, though.

Lastly there is Appendix White, featuring short essays by Bloom describing six hidden regents: The Eastern Phantom, Spire, Queen of Barnacles, Mummy Lord Pharoah, Terrible Thunder Chief, and the Revolving Crypt. These NPCs seem more inspired by the work of her collaborators than anything, since none of them actually appear in this book, although Crypt King Revolving would eventually make it into the Bone series of releases.

Reception to this one was interesting. Decades later the RPG community has become much more interested in engaging discussion on important issues of expression and inclusion in a way that leads me to believe, were it released today, the response would be entirely the fucking same. Bloom didn't shy from it, though, and for the remainder of A Tunnel's first volume she printed every letter criticizing In Mansions For Flowers without response or commentary, letting the dedicated letterhacks write in and take her biggest and most beligerently sexist detractors to task for her.

I DO agree, however, that Appendix White, however good it might be, might have been jettisoned in favor of expanding one of the adventures. In particular Many Dragons could/should have been its own expanded release. You can do a lot in eight pages - hell you can do a lot in one page - but there's a sense of scale and ghost details that gets lost with an adventure like Many Dragons when it only has room to hit the high points. I've always been curious whether running it as Many Goblins would feel substantially different, actually.

We'll continue looking back at the rest of the Bloom Rose Sequence from here, meaning that up next is the so-called "pregnancy adventure," My Judgment Day Clothes.

Career Tables for Doublecrossroads and the Fantastic Never-Was-West

Pearl Hart
Anyone who wishes can choose a Career at character creation or choose, during a campaign, to decide to fill in their character's back story with some possibly useful experience. Careers come with certain social standing depending on what they are so like a ditch-digger would get on better interacting with other ditch-diggers. However, the big things Careers grant are A) an explanation of what it is you do all week when you're not being awesome and therefore B) how you earn your bread. It also C) gives you some visual signifiers that you can use imaginatively to form some advantage and D) some kind of bonus.

Basically think of anything listed here as either a new LOTFP style Skill that you start with a 2/d6 in (or add the appropriate 1 point bonus point to a real Skill if one is listed) or a conditional bonus to your Saves.

You can choose which table you qualify for that you want to roll on but all Careers are assigned RANDOMLY.

It's there, like a lot of things in my character generation checklist, to be used or not, and ignored at your leisure once chosen.

Any character may roll 1-10 Day Job +1 roll bonus Trappings

1. Legal assistant Confusion Spectacles

2. Student Ignorance Saves Ink stains

3. Apprentice Roll again; lore of same Satchel, notebook

4. Waiter Mixology Small coins, leftovers

5. Farmhand Spook animals Scars, callouses

6. Homebody spouse Lying Crude disguise

7. Stablehand Ride Reek of manure

8. Messenger Endurance Saves Sturdy boots

9. Prostitute Seduction Perfume, well-groomed

10. Shepherd Calm animal Crook and wineskin
Any character with Intellect 9
may roll on this table
Day Job +1 roll bonus Trappings

1. Teacher Esoterica Chalk, parchment, quill

2. Clergy Faith Collar, chaste clothes, holy writ

3. Accountant Appraising Abacus

4. Nurse First Aid Gloves, bloody rags

5. Cook Herbology Apron

6. Mercenary Search Battle scars, tattoos

7. Cartographer Know Direction Parchment, quill

8. Blacksmith Repair Burns, leather apron, soot

9. Hustler Bluff Cards

10. Deputy lesser Intimidation Star
Any Folk may roll on this table, or any character with Constitution 9 Day Job +1 roll bonus Trappings

1. Tailor Disguise Chalk, tape, nice outfit

2. Butcher Anatomy Blood everywhere, apron

3. Baker Smell and Taste Flour, rolling pin

4. Candlestick maker Arson Singed cuffs, wax spots

5. Tanner Animal Identification Furs and leathers

6. General store Diplomacy Sharp haircut

7. Cobbler Running Amazing shoes

8. Telegraph Languages Small notebook

9. Carpenter Architecture Hammer, level

10.Engineer Tinker Oil stains, metal filings
Mountain Men, Agarthaurum, and characters with
Wisdom 9 may roll on this table
Day Job +1 roll bonus Trappings

1. Fisherman Swimming Flies, line

2. Animal trainer Extra trick for beast Helpers Treats, flags

3. Trapper Find Trap Small pelts

4. Furrier Appraise Creature Fur

5. Prospector Tunnel Navigation Dust, mud, whiskey

6. Guide Wilderness Walking stick

7. Woodcutter Force Door Hatchet

8. Explorer Climb Sextant, backpack

9. Bounty hunter Interrogate Handbills, license

10. Distiller Identify Liquid Flask(s)
Any character with Charisma 9 may roll on this table Day Job +1 roll bonus Trappings

1. Snake oil salesman Persuasion Extravagant costume

2. Coachman Drive Whip

3. Musician Distract Instrument, fakebook

4. Dancer Tumble Exciting underwear

5. Gambler Detect Lies Cards, dice

6. Gravedigger Shock Checks Shovel

7. Bartender Listening Suspenders, towel, apron

8. Executioner Examine Corpse None outside of duties

9. Undertaker Soothe/Comfort Top hat, tails

10. Engraver Identify Corrosive Electric tinny smell

Friday, January 9, 2015

Roll For Majesty (Bird Thing Excerpt)

You have 5 stats: Power, Grace, Secrets, Wing, and Majesty.
  • POWER is the strength of your vessel. Each Type gets a BASE POWER number and a POWER DIE to roll to add to that number.
    • You begin the game with your Power in HIT POINTS. You gain 1 additional Hit Point per level. If you reach 0 HP Eater comes.
    • You add 1/8 your Power (rounded down) TO HIT in terrestrial or two-dimensional melee, or when using a conventional ape weapon of any kind, plus any Type bonus.
    • You SAVE against Power (rolling higher than your Base Power on your Power Die) when someone in terrestrial melee/fighting like an ape tries to HIT you. You also use Power to save vs biological weapons (gaze attacks, poisons), mutation, and firearms.
    • In squalid, cramped, ratlike terrestrial melee, you do your Power Die in DAMAGE on a successful hit. If your opponent critically fails their save (by rolling a 1) you do your Power Die plus your Base Power.
    • You can lift or carry weight equal to your Base Power x30 for up to Base Power x10 minutes at a time before having to rest, without impeding your Grace.
  •  GRACE is the elegance of your movements and the style with which you fly. Each Type gets a BASE GRACE number and a GRACE DIE to add to that number.
    • You add 1/3 your Grace (rounded down) TO HIT in normal everyday decent aerial combat and when throwing things.
    • You SAVE against Grace (rolling higher than your Base Grace on your Grace Die) in normal aerial combat, vs mundane projectiles, against traps, and when attempting MANEUVERS.
    • You do your Base Grace number in DAMAGE on a successful hit in civilized combat. If your opponent critically fails their save (by rolling a 1) you do your total Grace value in damage.
    • If you are weighed down or injured your total Grace value is reduced by 1 every 10 minutes until you find a chance to rest and unburden yourself. If your Grace reaches 0 you cannot fly.
  • SECRETS represent the sum of all your knowledge, how quickly you learn, and how well you SING. Each Type gets a BASE SECRETS number and a SECRETS DIE.
    • You always roll your Secrets Die IN SECRET, but anybody can ask to see your result at any time. This means you are free to LIE. If you are caught lying your Total Secrets value is reduced by 1 PERMANENTLY. Eater has this power as well.
    • Your Base Secrets value is the number of SONGS you begin play knowing. Your Total Secrets value is the number of Songs you can learn over the course of the game. You can discover new Songs in the course of play or learn them from other Characters. You must roll against your Base Secrets number, like a Save, in order to learn any new song you find or are taught.
      • Otherwise, you learn 1 Song at random every 2 levels, up to your maximum.
      • When you Sing you must roll against your Base Secrets like a save. If you are successful your Song is heard on the Wind and changes her. If not then YOU HAVE FAILED THE SONG. THE SONG ABANDONS YOU. You cannot Sing that Song again. You may relearn a different version of that Song later from the sources mentioned above.
      • Eater's Eye may be used when Singing.
    •  You SAVE against your Secrets (rolling higher than your Base Secrets on your Secrets Die) when subjected to another creature's bastardized Songs, environmental conditions of the Wind, when subjected to the effect of an enchanted object, and when attempting to recall or puzzle out vital information. On the opposite end of "vital" you also Save to speak an ape language.
  •  WING represents your swiftness and reach in the air and sets your other speeds. Each Type has a BASE WING value and a WING DIE they roll and add to that number.
    • Your Total Wing value x20 is your base speed in the air.
      • Your Total Wing value x4 is the amount of distance you cover in a combat round in the air.
      • Your Total Wing value is the distance you can travel crawling around on the ground like a goddamned animal.
      • Your Base Wing value is how fast you are in a terrestrial combat round.
      • IF you have a Swim speed it your Total Wing value and is not reduced during aquatic combat.
    • You SAVE against your Wing (rolling higher than your Base Wing with your Wing Die) when you are hit in aerial combat in order to remain aloft, when pursuing prey or being pursued by predators in order to maintain advantage when faced with opponents of equal speed, to read the environment and any hazardous conditions, and to find your way and remember where you've been.
    • Your Total Wing value (NOT Base value) increases by 1 every level until this value reaches 20.
  • MAJESTY is how awesome you are in the literal and colloquial sense. How charismatic, how fearsome, how gorgeous, how dangerous looking. Each Type has a BASE MAJESTY value and a MAJESTY DIE they roll and add to that number.
    • FLOCKS you control during terrestrial exploration are limited to the number of your Total Majesty value or fewer.
    • Your Total Majesty value determines the literal pecking order in any party, who's in charge and who gets listened to. In ties it goes to Base Majesty, and in the event of a tie THERE it must be settled by blood.
    • You SAVE against your Majesty (rolling higher than your Base Majesty with your Majesty Die) whenever you try to be especially convincing, intimidating, deceptive, or attractive. This is especially important when dealing with lesser creatures, apart from attractiveness. Gross. You also save against Majesty from explosions (or big area/cone/burst attacks) because it looks more badass that way.
    • Speaking of which, saving against Majesty is the only way to stay Eater, by rising gloriously from the dust to kill again.
[[To Hit values are for the benefit of mixing characters with general D&D-esque characters for FLAILSNAILS purposes or whatever (Continue to save as indicated here. Consider AC to be the highest Total Value of any stat). These characters also mix well with Feng Shui characters (ditto the AC guideline for Dudge. Max out your TWO stat's associated Dice for your Total Values. Consider them Supernatural Creatures. Use Power for Martial Attack, Secrets for Sorcery, Grace for Toughness, Wing for Speed, Majesty for Fortune).]]


Eater's Eye holds the power of life and death. Apes call it a d30. If you do not have a d30 then Eater does not smile on you, and you must make pitiable semblance with a d20.

Eater's Eye may be rolled ONCE per session when attempting a save or check. NOT ONCE PER CHARACTER. NOT ONCE PER PLAYER. ONCE. For the entire party, for the entire session.

In interactions, Eater and His Eye are one. You will always be judged by Eater's Eye. That means it gets rolled as much as he wants.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


Grover: O.G.
There are people who make a whole month out of something like this but fuck that I'm busy.

A- Asia. My default fantasy land isn't fake Europe. There are kappas and Monkey Kings and rakshasasasases in it. The monsters aren't all stand ins for Swedes or Celts or Jews. They're here to remind you the natural world around you will fuck you up and never care.
B- Backup Character. Always have one, one you want to play at any moment. Don't get too attached to your guy. Take risks because that's the only way your guy is any fun and if things don't work out just play your other guy.
C- Conan. Inevitable. Thankfully. Another post and time.
D- Do It Yourself. This need not be a hobby where we wait to be given something. This must not be that. The life and liberty of this medium is the ability of any idiot who knows how to make a 4 and what pencils do to create everything anyone needs to play anything on the spot. At DENNYS.
E- Easy. GMml equations are not tricky per se but they are my threshold for how difficult it has to be to engage your system, or your world, or your dungeon, or whatever. For my players I want everything to be even easier. If resolving any one particular judgment takes more than four steps piss off with that.
F- Funny Business. Do not force comedy but let comedy happen. I ask that people enjoy playing the games I'm in and take enjoying them (and that the rest of us want to enjoy them) seriously. I never demand they take the lich king seriously. Either I or the other DM can MAKE them take the lich king seriously or he deserves to be laughed at, and yknow that's a fun night too.
G- Good, Giving, and Game. Line Dan Savage always uses about being a lover. In bed you always want to be Good at what you're doing or try to get better, Giving and caring and selfless and attentive and communicative, and Game for all kinds of new experiences, knowing that not everything is going to be your cup of tea but that discovery is part of the fun of all this. So all that, but at the table with cheetos and acquaintances.
H- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. No, fuck you. Shut up. The animation is slow and like 3 guys are pretending they're not the whole cast and sometimes there's Andy Griffith Hobbits or Orko but I'd rather watch this than read Pern or whatever. There's a word for people who can't find a metal dungeon in even the worst episode of He-Man. Asleep.
I- Intrigue. I have never run a game or at least never run one long enough where all the high hall dealings that frame the web of activity has been fully explored, and often it goes unnoticed. But it's important to me as a player and it simplifies your life as a DM sooooo much to have some bigger behind the scenes revenge across centuries because did you hear what she said about Our Richard going on.
J- J.R.R. Tolkein. Unavoidable also. Quick aside I actually think his biggest contribution to fantasy and to literature/culture in general is just going "Hey Academia, let's maybe give people from the past the benefit of assuming they had a brain in their head and that, say, whoever compiled these "quaint" little anecdotes in Beowulf made some authorial choices that might be interesting to look at and revelatory, okay?"
K- Kirby. Never use a good idea when you can use a great idea, never use one great idea when you can use five. Fill the world with interesting characters. Everything is color. Everything is motion. Everything is important and urgent. Don't build in meandering of placeholders or Normal, players will do that for you. Make things big and detailed even when you don't have to. Revel in the petty evils and the power from physical expression but know how small these things are in the grand cosmic scale. Have lots of robot space devils.
L- Low Cost. If I'm playing a game that makes my players feel like they all have to buy more than a core book to enjoy something or they'll be missing out on the complete experience, fuck that we're not playing it. In fact I prefer games where nobody at the table has to spend any money because I spent that money for them. I of course also prefer those books to be really affordable, or even free rules. One of the big barriers to entry for me into this hobby was the outsider assumption that you HAD to spend gobs of money because everyone did and publishers seemed to expect you to. I face that at work daily, that expectation of financial bitchslapping for even thinking about RPGs. I resist it. If you buy an RPG book buy from me, I'll try to save you money and still get us all paid. But you know you don't HAVE to buy these rules, right? All you need is an afternoon and the assent of the friends you're going to play with and you have your RPG.
M- Miyazaki. Airships that flap, the inherent sadness of forgotten and unloved places, the ability to connect with Rightness even if the rest of our beliefs divide us, the idea that there is this big grand spiritual side to our world and that it's BUSY and everyone has chores, that everyone has to earn their keep and prove their worth and test their convictions.
N- New Player Friendly. When I got into this hobby and wanted to start running things I very quickly ran into the situation of wanting to run games that nobody around me was running or had run before. I've had to introduce a lot of games to a lot of people and for a couple years there I ran for a lot of first time RPGers and prided myself on trying to make that as accessible as possible. When I say New Player Friendly I don't mean you take the time to include five pages explaining what a RPG is. I mean your How To Get Started and then How To Do Stuff conversations about your game go quickly, and that information is laid out simply and easily referenced in your rules.
O- Online Gaming. Majority of games I've played, vaster majority of games I've run. I don't go in for Roll20 and similar products because prepping material for that is time i could spend prepping other weird shit for my adventure. I don't worry about having one unified die roller everyone can see because I trust my players. (After all players have to trust the DM rolling behind the screen. Nobody wants to use cheat codes and we're all friends here, and if we're not then why are we playing this game together?) I don't worry about a camera usually (partly because I sometimes run games shirtless because I get hot easily) but that's going to change once I find my camera again (uh with my shirt on though). POINT IS there are people out there disappointed they can't find a local group to play a game they want to try where I feel like if you put in the effort and do the legwork and make some accommodations there isn't any reason you shouldn't be able to find a game to get in on online unless either you are the game aren't really worth the trouble. Or to phrase that less shittily if I can do it with my stupid cowboy game then anybody can do it.
P- Podcasts. I like actual play podcasts. With games I do not care about review podcasts, interview podcasts, news podcasts, or roundtable podcasts, except where +Topher Kohan is involved. I wish there were a greater variety of really fun to listen to rpg actual play podcasts that do campaigns instead of a rotating series of games. I've made peace with the fact that the only way I'm going to get an extended Feng Shui campaign podcast is if I do one.
Q- Quick Prep. I want to be able to sit down and be ready to roll twenty minutes after I've decided to run something, if I have to. A lot of that's on me (tools vs tomes and all that) but don't make it any more challenging than it needs to be for me to put together a chainsaw baboon on the fly.
R- Ray Harryhausen. The fucking man. The twin poles of monsters who are only monsters because we make them monsters and HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THAT THING.
S- Stealing. Not plagiarism or anything but always be on the lookout for good ideas, good TOOLS, good set pieces, and rip that shit the hell off for your table. Do not wait for say Dark Sun to become more awesome. Make Dark Sun more awesome with five minutes and Google.
T- Thunder Lizards. Games can choose to never have dinosaurs in them. I don't know why they would do that, though.
U- Ultra-Violence. Everything is dangerous. Everyone wants to kill you. Nothing is safe. Everyone RUN. Never settle for "You kill the basilisk" when "You slice off the front half of the basilisk's face and concrete blood spills out on you, wash that off before it dries or attracts stone-eating scavengers" could do instead. Mother invention with murder opportunities.
V- Victory Conditions. When I play Mario Kart it decides what I have to do to win. When I play Uno it decides what I have to do to win. Same with even a relatively flexible game like Fluxx or Betrayal at the House on the Hill. When I play a tabletop RPG (or to an extent a full Skyrim style sandbox) I decide what it means to win. Maybe it's leveling my character as high as possible. Maybe it's marrying the prince. Maybe it's becoming President. Maybe it's getting revenge on someone or just getting to the ocean like Merriwether Lewis. Survival alone could be my goal or leading a revolution and then retiring to open a shop. I am always playing another game, a secret game, private to me, layered over whatever you people are doing.
W- Warrior Code. I read someone saying that Howard was a good example of the adage that we create our ideal world when we write because he fetishized the noble savage so he took every great "savage warrior" culture from history, barely renamed them, and put them all on the map and same time period to coexist each other to death. If I have a particular kink of that kind it's for the code of honor. Bushido and Klingons and vampire rules and Enemy Ace. My Conan world would probably be just a world of everyone politely barely murdering each other, then I introduce Space Godzilla into it.
X- Marks The Spot. Fuck Xorn. Anyway in the board game sense of the game, in terms of that part of our DNA, the object is to complete enough goals to have the most power, which get abstracted largely with XP and levels and TREASURE. The default game was a treasure hunting survival horror game, Raiders of the Green Inferno style. The monsters were just there to make things interesting. Honestly it's iterations of the game where monster killing become the focus of these goals that are generally turnoffs for me unless I know that going in. A campaign where we're basically the crew of the Orca keeping the waters safe for trade through murder could be fun. Replacing all the Monty Hauls with more gnolls with healing surges does not interest me. This doesn't have to be a physical reward, even; I still roll for hoard size in GP and just award the XP, keeping my players poor to reinforce my Dungeon Crawling Is Fight club motif of working class survival horror fantasy exploration. The game isn't exactly about that reward but about everything that happens in getting the reward.
Y- You Can't Always Get What You Want. You know how the rest of that song goes. I'll give my players a lot of liberties, I'll let them have a lot of stuff they ask for, but anything important to actually accomplishing the matter at hand is going to have to be earned with blood and sweat and fires. It has to be or else it never fucking matters. It will be hard and not everybody is going to come back happy. In fact my favorite way to prep is to put my playrs into a scenario where whatever they do SOMETHING will be mad at them for it and things domino from there, and then sit back and watch them write the adventure.
Z- Zen and the Art of Character Maintenance. There is no "supposed to have happened." I ran Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess and they never went past the hedge, they just went home to make invisible sausages. That was not a wrecked game or an unsatisfactory result. It meant they missed some stuff I think they'd enjoy but the GAME is what HAPPENS in the GAME. It isn't what you want the game to be or what the game should be or could be or can be. Did you crit miss? That's supposed to happen. Did you FAIL something? That's supposed to happen. Because life and chaos meeting artifice and order is the game. The game is what happens in the game.

Common Folk- A Baseline Class For Cowboy Cosmic Carnage in Doublecrossroads

Daniel Freeman

  • Folk roll 1d6 for their Hit Die.
  • Their Defensive Number is 14.
  • Folk use any Simple weapons (d6).
  • They can also use pistols.
  • They speak Lawful and 1 Language of their choice.
  • If they have Dexterity 13+ they may add their Dexterity Bonus to Wilderness rolls made to travel safely and Stealth rolls made to hide.
  • If they have BOTH Strength 13+ AND Dexterity 13+ they may use any Normal weapon (d8).
  • They receive a free horse at the beginning of the game.
  • Folk may either hold two Career benefits at once or receive an extra point in their Career benefit.
  • Folk are +1 to their Saves.
  • At any level, Folk may elect to forgo a normal leveling roll and instead automatically receive +1 to Saves.
  • Folk may build a small town with minor outlying homesteads and appoint themselves Sheriff whenever they have the coin to do so.
  • At level 8, they may assume the position of Mayor in their town handily by election or showdown, or the previous Mayor stepping down in respect to serve as deputy, or whatever. At level 8, a fully vested Mayor can collect taxes, form posses, run trials and summary executions, and a host of other fun wild west things, including passing and enforcing laws and marrying people. They also have a +1 reaction adjustment from their townspeople.
  • Folk may advance to level 8.
Features Level XP HP
1 0 1d6+1+Constitution bonus

2 1000 +1d6+Constitution bonus

3 2000 +1d6+Constitution bonus

4 4000 +1d6+Constitution bonus

5 8000 +1d6+Constitution bonus

6 16000 +1d6+Constitution bonus

7 32000 +1d6+Constitution bonus
Mayor 8 64000 +1d6+Constitution bonus

Cannibal Cowboys- A Doublecrossroads Class (BX/LOTFP/SBVD compatible-ish)

de Goya, Saturn Devouring his Son (with the nice backside)

  • Cannibals roll 1d6 for their Hit Die.
  • Their Defensive Number is 14.
  • They can use any Normal weapon.
  • They may use a pistol but never get a bonus from aiming.
  • They speak Lawful.
  • A Cannibal begins play with a Shock equal to their Wisdom score but do not suffer the usual effects of this.
  • Cannibals may gain a bonus from Dining on human flesh a number of times a day equal to their HD. The flesh must come from a different subject each time. When they Dine roll 1d6: they gain that much HP until they land a hit on another target, and gain +1 to hit and saves. These bonuses stack up to their total number of HD (e.g. a level 4 Cannibal can have +4d6 bonus HP and +4 to hit/saves) but all of them vanish as soon as the Cannibal lands their next hit. It’s a rabid frenzy thing.
  • Cannibals add their level to damage rolls. They do not double this damage bonus from a critical hit.
  • At level 4, the bonuses to hit and saves a Cannibal receives increase to +2 if its subject is still alive and kicking while they Dine.
  • At level 6 a Cannibal may score a critical hit on a 19-20.
  • At level 9 a Cannibal becomes a Demon. Their Defensive Number becomes 17 and they may use Major weapons. Roll for a spell as from a scroll: they can cast that once per day. Roll for a mutation: they gain that. They suffer 1 point of Shock and its associated effects, and will never default to an NPC from Shock.
  • At level 10 a Cannibal may sacrifice any number of languages which they know in order to improve their crit range by 1. They are rudderless, of animal intelligence, and only know their base urges and instincts.
  • Cannibals may advance to level 10.

Level XP HP
1 1500 1d6+1+Constitution bonus

2 3000 +1d6+Constitution bonus

3 6000 +1d6+Constitution bonus
Vicious 4 12000 +1d6+Constitution bonus

5 24000 +1d6+Constitution bonus
Lethal 6 48000 +1d6+Constitution bonus

7 96000 +1d6+Constitution bonus

8 192000 +1d6+Constitution bonus
Demonic 9 384000 +2
Mindless 10 768000 +2

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Everything Has Teeth

Daniel Dean
Nov 12, 2014
Is there actually anything that anyone would like me to write about?

Scrap Princess
Nov 12, 2014

Daniel Dean
Anything in particular?
Nov 12, 2014

Scrap Princess
Displacer beasts , mimics or elementals?
Nov 12, 2014
1. Monsters

They are the most beloved and traditional, most Core To The Brand, of all the stupid monsters. Independent of other cues they border on Player Punisher, with emphasis on any new players going and fucking themselves. Oh you DIDN'T just ASSUME this box would eat you? What an asshole. It's also a monster who represents the idea that players need to study the playbook before sitting down, having intimate familiarity with the monster manuals and bestiaries, and that the DM should then stick to that playbook so not to buck player expectations. A principle I loathe, and maybe that's an article to itself. Remind me. Anyway mimics ALSO represent one of those things that slowed down so many junior high games across the lands. Better take twelve minutes to open any door or step into any room in case it eats us. Fucker the goblin who stole the royal pants are four rooms down, let's wrap this up before DS9 comes on.

Mimics can really be anything but it's that image of the chest wanting to eat you which endures because nothing else but a dragon in old school D&D so neatly sums up the experience in a single image: you're trying to get wealth, but you'll be killed and eaten a lot in doing so. Monsters have endured for dumber reasons than being a good image, so it's hard to begrudge their existence entirely. But what do I do with them? Especially when D&D over the years tripped over itself to get into the mimic's way. Mimics could be anything, but suddenly they were nothing, because we had other creatures who were rocks who ate you, other creatures who were tables who ate you, other creatures who were pants who ate you, other creatures who were stalagmites and stalactites and ceilings and walls and floors who ate you. Now they were just the chests, just a set of numbers that really only had one idea, "Make something they don't expect to eat them eat them," but almost immediately all surprise was vacated from that concept.

Fire is scary and once upon a time someone wanted to invent double-fire. Not just big fire, which could kill you, or spreading fire. They didn't put legs on fire to make it chase you because fire already does that. They put arms on fire so fire could reach out and grab you as it chased you. They gave it a Scooby Doo villain quality which suggested WANT and boom: elementals, driven by the desires of their conjurer, but surely if they can HAVE desires they can have their OWN desires? This is how we end up with fire universe. Fire chairs, fire tables, fire ham. And if there's fire universe then surely they're friends with air universe, hate water universe, constantly pick on earth universe, etc. I find all of this a little too rock paper scissors and that's one thing when it comes to other elements but oh my Crom do I hate this for fire. It suggests A place where fire comes from, originally, and the point of fearing fire is it can come from anywhere. It suggests, accidentally, the reverse: a place fire can go, or is supposed to go, or may be sent to. That is terrible. Fire must be FOUGHT, it must be QUENCHED, it must be allowed to run wild and BURN ITSELF OUT through its must be STARVED, SUFFOCATED, fire must be stopped. Fire cannot be dismissed. Dismissed?! Waited out?! Fire should not be easier to get rid of than Randy Quaid from a Vacation movie. And if we don't tolerate that shit for fire it's unpatriotic to start tolerating that for mud and diamonds and hurricanes and crap.

I think you can make cool drawings of these and I think you can have a memorable fight with these but I don't think mimics and elementals will be what is memorable ABOUT it. Even the Temple of Elemental Evil was memorable for the scale things were playing on, not say Ogremoch. Yeah I maybe spelled that wrong but I'm not stopping to look it up, guess what Ogremoch called and said it's okay. I ran an entire chest dungeon once, nothing but chests and locked monsters, and couldn't even get excited about putting the mimic in there.

2. Alignment

BX alignment to my mind works like this: Are your interests served by the current status quo? Then you're Lawful. Even thieves, because if society collapses A) who are you going to steal from and B) who will honor the coin of the realm? Even if you want to take over the kingdom, you want a kingdom, that kingdom, more or less as it looks on the tin. Are your interests served by the removal of organized society, or with completely supplanting it with the kind of society which cannot coexist with the organized society which exists at large? You're Chaotic. You don't want the king's castle and the king's fortune. You want the king's midden and a palace of decay to Ruinous the Entroloper. Can your needs be met or will your life remain largely unchanged no matter what the prevailing organized society is? You're Neutral. You pick sides in a given conflict like a mother fucker but you're your own closed system, or you're part of an open system which doesn't intersect with an existing one.

But who cares.

Traditional ideas about D&D involve a lot of planes of whatever and to my mind one of the biggest wastes in the 5e dmg is the attention given to this and how early they want to throw you into the idea of using your space boat to go to fire world. I played Mario 3 a lot too but you're not getting to that shit for a while and psyching your players up with that is going to just make them disappointed when you throw them in a land dispute between the Rat Prince and Orklops or a dungeon full of screaming bees.

I will never use those planes.

There are three I care about. Physical plane, sandwiched between Spiritual plane and Magical plane. The world we know is the occluded front between The Potential For Existence and the Animating Factor Of Life, a medium for these things to actually occur. Earth is a scab. I keep doing this. Once they were actual sheets rolled out on each other like a science class example but for my weird cowboy D&D game the world is built around Hell, which is built around the Magical sphere, and outside the world's atmosphere is where the Spiritual plane kicks in. The earth is more like a pearl here. Seemed more westerny interpretation.

Fire does come from the Magical sphere because we're talking about the fundamental potential of existence and creation. So there's something for pissing off Neil Tyson.

3. The takeaway here:


A table.
A puddle.
A frog.
The wall.
The air.
The forest, and its individual trees, and individual animal KINDS, and individual animals.

Has a Physical, Spiritual, and Magical component. In theory.
You touch these three perspectives of the world at all times.
This is what Alignment means to me, by the way. Most of the time you aren't particularly aligned one way or another, but Clerics are more closely aligned with the Spiritual plane, Magic-Users are obvious, and Druids are aligned obviously with the Physical plane. Other esoteric types beyond that are Aligned as makes sense.
This is where Alignment languages also make sense to me. Nobody bats an eye at the notions that, say, only a Cleric's prayers are directly answered, only MUs read magical writing, only Druids speak their secret cant. Well, that's what that is.

This is spirits poking their heads out of objects as you pass by in a Miyazaki movie. This is Le Guin style controlling the world because you know the secret names of things and can address the spirits and demons within, say, a rock directly. Hell this is even Final Fantasy explaining how a buzzsaw faced clown robot can come from the after-effect of a dead person, really: the influences of the other planes of being override and corrupt the Physical form.

This isn't exactly my monstrous-magical string theory or anything. If you still want to pull off any level of surprise or fear or wonder then one-stop-solutions are death, and if we didn't already know that we have 90s superhero universe startups to remind us. But it is a default assumption I carry with me without usually expressing it as doctrine. It seems to creep in to a lot of what I do. Some people have chaffed at this in discussion until I cast it in terms of gods. To me, gods=monsters, and Crom can sit and spin next to The God In The Bowl. If we're talking about alien forms of understanding, we're really just talking about monsters regardless of their intent. A love for getting wasted and doing incest as a goose may make them more relatable but if you read the beginning of this sentence again I don't think you can say it doesn't make them more monstrous. If it helps to think of it as Heaven, Hell, and the Old Gods, well that's not right but it's close enough.

So Mimics.
So Elementals.

A box can't sprout a face and teeth and try to eat you, except it can because Magic.
A box isn't a feeling, sapient creature, except when it's possessed, which is always.
Fire can't sprout arms to grab you except it CAN and is sometimes ALIVE, and then it does.

So sometimes something wholly impossible happens and sometimes forces of nature come to life and sometimes statues develop a bucket list.

4. Summary

What you're really asking, +Scrap Princess, is what kind of games I run, and I think despite delusions and aspirations otherwise the answer is fundamentally "Muppets Survival Horror."