Friday, December 8, 2017

666th Edition


A lot of people's versions of D&D are defined by either what they think should be emphasized or what they don't want to fuck with. Other times these versions are very concerned with protecting certain niches and modes of play or carving new ones. I'm not trying to make a better D&D but if I didn't have D&D to go on, just all the alter-D&Ds, and I was trying to make up my own connective tissue for each, what I'd mostly spend time doing is stripping away things until there was almost nothing left and trying to make that work. I'd want to see what I could put together in an hour that I could teach to people in ten minutes.

Aside: sorry that the whole thing has been "making games" lately instead of anything useful FOR games, I usually hate that but since I'm making a damn game right now allegedly, little side projects like these help keep the channels open on nights when my brain won't let me work on what I want....I expect that might be the secret behind a lot of internet rpg mechanic bloat, actually. These aren't my dream house rules or fantasy heartbreaker, this is just some mix of R&D and putting this Secret shit out into the world. If you use this or break it either way let me know.

Roll 3d6 for Strength. Any Strength bonus you get applies to your damage and is deducted from any damage done to you. You can use it for forcing doors or breaking stuff as you like. Subtract that number from 20. The remainder is your Constitution, a saving throw for your body resisting physical danger and effects and hazards.
Roll 3d6 for Instinct. Subtract that number from 20. The remainder is your Dexterity, a saving throw for avoiding physical danger and effects and hazards. Turn order in and out of combat is determined by Instinct.
Roll 3d6 for Intelligence Knowledge. This number, added to your level, is a chance out of 100 that you know a particular thing, including languages. Subtract that number from 20. The remainder is your Willpower, a saving throw for withstanding mental assault, manipulation, and psychic trauma.
Bonuses are BX style, +1 at 13 +3 at 18 style.
There's no such thing as an ability score based to-hit bonus any more.
AC is now static by type but there's more of a grade, and the best armor is priced way out of a starting character's range and must be adventured for.
You do not advance normally in combat ability.
You do not advance normally in saving throws.
You do not advance normally in terms of spells known or numbers of spell slots.
You do not advance normally in any acquirement of proficiencies or similar skill progression.
You do not advance normally in hit points.
Any class can use any weapon but all weapons do 1d6+Strength Bonus.
Everyone's HD is d6.
Humans get to just keep leveling after 10 and get +2 to any one thing they want at 1st level. You may add a lot of human variants as you wish, making each new variant +3 in one specific area.
Elder races (halflings, elfs, dwarfs, for example, but others too) each get a Mana Die at 1st level, a d12. Rolling over 8 on the d12 allows you to do something outside the realm of human ability, plying some paranatural ability of your kind, such as an ability to blend with forest shadow, to step without sound, to effortlessly find your way through different tunnels and strata by instinct, etc. All Elders work like this, so you may add in as many as you want as long as you give about a half dozen examples of cool unusual shit they might attempt with Mana. Elders may only add a point to their Mana Die every time they would normally level after 10, and then only for specific tricks (like "see in dark").

At level 1 Fighters are +1 to hit. At 1st level and each level after that they can choose 2 of the following: +1 to hit, +1 to damage, +1 to a save, +1 to AC, +1 HD, +1 to Mana
At level 1 an Explorer gains +1 die to a skill. At 1st level and each level after that they can choose 1 of the following: +1 to all saves, +1 die to a skill, +2 AC, +2 Mana
At level 1 a Hunter gains +1 die to Tracking. At 1st level they may choose one of the following, and successive levels allow them to choose two of the following: +1 HD, +1 to a save, +10 to Knowledge checks, +1 Mana
At level 1 a Magician Human gains a Mana die and an Elder gains +1 Mana. At 1st level they may choose any of the following, and subsequent levels allow them to choose two of the following: +1 Mana, +10 to Knowledge checks, 1d4 Spells.
At level 1 a Sage gains +1 die to Healing. At 1st level they may choose 1 of these and each level after that they may choose 1: +2 damage when fighting without something on the Weapons list, +1 to an ability score, proficiency with a new artform or added proficiency with an existing one, +1 Mana

Any of these class bonuses may be chosen more than once and more than once per level. "Skills" are just "reasons you make your players roll" and you can have as many or as few as you like and they can skew BX, LotFP, 5e, Pathfinder, whatever....the point is, nobody is especially better at these rolls than anyone else (flat advantage to a dynamic difficulty) but certain classes give you an extra die when you roll to beat whatever the DM's target is for this roll. This can compound, so maybe you get an extra die in a bunch of skills or maybe when it comes time to climb something slippery you roll 8 dice. Doesn't matter what the skills are or what kind of dice you're using.

You can clear 1 room/area a round when you're fighting or searching. You can clear 3 rooms/areas if you are carefully navigating. You can move through 5 rooms/areas a round if you are unengaged and uninterested, just booking it, and this is the number for road and open sea travel. Every 10 rounds of travel/exploration and after every combat you have to rest or be -1 to every roll until you do. Stopping to eat counts. A round of meals heals 1HP, a round of rest heals 3HP, and sleep heals up to 6HP. If you drop to 0HP the DM can do whatever they want to you unless someone is able to intervene.

All spells require a successful 9+ roll on your Mana Die, just like using Elder abilities. Failure almost always has consequences so you should roll for those simulteneous to your casting. Learning a spell after 1st level requires a Knowledge check to understand it. You can know as many spells as you want and can attempt to cast any spell at any time. However, after you've successfully cast 3 spells in a day future spells are cast at a compounding penalty, -1 for 4th spell -2 for 5th spell -3 for 6th spell etc. Some more powerful magic confers negative roll penalties of their own, and you can choose to incur a roll penalty in order to cast a spell faster or without speaking or whatever. This includes casting a spell backwards or changing elemental damage type. A character who isn't a Magician might still be able to find and cast a spell but it takes time and components and cannot be done in combat.

Advancement is roll based. You've got to end a session in relative safety in order to make an advancement check. Roll 1d12 and when you get a 12 you get to level up. Every 2 sessions that you don't advance you get +1 to your d12 roll. You can advance quickly in this game but since things don't automatically improve to scale you should remain squishy. Gold is its own reward. Instead of XP surviving monsters and traps and dungeons and shit just makes you more impressive generally, improving your status in the world. A king has like a million status.

Sort of related: controlling your forces for big manuevers or dangerous situations requires a d20 rollunder for your Knowledge, where failure just means that not everything goes according to plan. This might mean morale breaking and everyone running or it might mean some fool of a Took knocks some shit down a noisy well. You get a bonus to control people doing things that you're best at - Fighters get bonuses leading troops, Explorers get bonuses checking for traps, etc.

Character creation should be limited to 30 minutes, advancement should be kept to 5.

On the one hand this is very unforgiving but on the other #MOONSLAVE.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Moon Slave VDND World Tour- Corruptor (a Rogue Path)


The Ichor Within

At level 3 you gain proficiency with a Poisoner's Kit. You do not have to have the physical kit on you in order to benefit from this as long as you deal 1 damage per level to yourself, using your blood as the physical components of your concoctions. You may only have a number of poison doses prepared equal to your proficiency bonus and you must save against each of these when you take Bludgeoning/Crushing/Falling damage to avoid breaking their containers and exposing yourself. You are only adept at creating contact poisons, which take effect on the target's next turn.

Crow Touch

At level 3 you may use your Cunning Action to perform a Sleight of Hand check in order to safely expose a target within 5' to a contact poison. You may also attempt to "splash" this on more than one target within range but you must yourself make a Constitution save with Disadvantage in order to escape the effects yourself.

Toad Touch

At level 9 you gain proficiency with an Alchemist's Kit and gain the ability during a short or long rest to convert a magic potion to take effect on skin contact.

Moth Touch

At level 13 you may create alchemical poisons that cause the target to be affected as if they were a different category of creature, such as Undead or Infernal or Elemental. The target will be affected as if they were the type of thing in question.

Collector Mentality

At level 17 successful check of both your alchemical and poison use and access to the corpse, willing essence, or unconscious access to a monster will allow you to distill a monster ability such as mummy rot or petrification into one of your contact poisons.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

REVIEW: Bastards on Horseback, by Dex Logun and Lady Croose

Rodney Matthews

When the Second Age dawned on a gray kind of sand and a copper manner of ash there turned out to be a much reduced emphasis on the classic cam-pak, or adventure or anything resembling the modules of other companies. Certain of Adder Entertainment's releases began to feel more like some kind of madman got hold of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and thought that was prescriptive. The kind of dense lore exposition and world building infodump involved would make even a viral YouTube simplification shit bees with confusion. Perhaps the worst offender of these would be our old friend Nathan Goodwrench Hosea, late of Cyclopean Romanse and then-most-recently of the now infamous Stigma Systics. Easily the true champion of this sort of funhouse-mirror-version-of-a-historical-fantasy-novel approach was Japanese-Indian metal guitarist and pog doper Fear Star, alias Jane Mahuri, whose epic exploration of the un-trilogy we will ruminate on later since the story of Time Colossus Go Fuck and its strange transformations is a column unto itself.

What if that box text and crowbarred-in Mary Sue shit didn't just make you go "kill me now?" What if a story could actually talk you to death? The establishment-challenging mixed race marriage of a traditional Æ apocalypse romp and the new hotness of "anthropology textbooks that ain't happened" was put together by one of Æ's unsung giants: The Black Knight. Trapmaster Cosmodamus - founder emeritus Dex Logun, the woman who could trick you.

Bastards on Horseback ride from the horizon in a very literal sense intent on sacking a city. Again, very literal: they are going to break every person, creature, and thing into a smaller more manageable form and then bag up the whole enterprise to schlep back to a between space to be reassembled into a new kingdom and people of their liking. In this way potential always grows, until the tipping point where potential must needs become necessarily kinetic. You could call this a fight with heaven if you like, except we all know Æ actually published that one. This is a pillaging from the Frankenverse.

Lore is a punishment when time is of the essence. Stopping the wildfires takes priority over finding out which fucking teenager carelessly started them. Should the riders breach the defenses erected by the party over the course of their preparations then they are treated to more information about their enemy. There is a hard ticking clock here, though - sunup to sundown - and your enemies have the benefit of paralyzing tiny mortals with the enormity of themselves. The more you know the better you can fight but you lose your greatest weapon: chrono-ammunition. You could always elect to investigate your foe ahead of time but that gives you less opportunity to prepare defenses, even though those defenses would be more elaborate. Bastards on Horseback is a book about making you ask to be told how you lose.

Appendix abuse is rarely so egregious as this publication's Appendix Gray, a brief outline for rules regarding combat, locomotion, magic, and death elocution in the strange horizon would should you choose a pre-emptive strike or actually roust the invading cavalry and chase them back to their homefield advantage. While there is enough here to play a session, a whole campaign even, (we've all made do with less) it is a criminal sin unforgivable from anyone else but from Dex...I like to consider this part of a meta-trap, a grander snare she has set for us all. Some have argued this might be a backdoor cosmology for a company who always deliberately resisted anything approaching continuity. When I first came to this hobby I assumed it was basically a resume' since the writing was by far on the wall in a big fucking God Is Dead And The War's Begun font and AE's second age was already on the precipice of Sickboy territory, not nearly dead but preparing for a long period of glowing embers before their comparatively recent snuffing. They would withdraw and remain Galadriel, Dex Logun as much as any.

I have since approached a new scheme: Appendix Gray is two traps. The first is a way of convincing you to get your whole party killed by trying to warhammer the unknown to death. "You can fight the devil" only means you can beat the devil if you can beat the devil. The option raises the question but does not beg it. The more insidious trap is convincing multiple generations that the story within and the rules within were the same thing. Here's how you don't play the game, it says, which means the rest of the book is how you play the game, and that Gray are special edge rules which must be similarly strictly adhered to. Remember, this was a glacial epoch shift for the company and they needed them a ferryman well versed in punishing players who thought they were smarter (and therefore morally better) than the designers. Here was a candleflame that decoding the epistle was always the aim and invited these brainteasers to a new Gordian challenge. In actuality this was simply Solomon Kane methadone designed to instill some new addiction you wouldn't know you'd acquired until the shakes began.

Dex Logun's ghost work on the Fire, Ice, and Steel era releases from Æ went largely uncredited and since record keeping is an art form even when some nutless fuck isn't setting buildings and people on god damned fire we have a hard time pinning down the scope of her contributions. Memories differ and blame is ping-ponged around and all we come away with is a looming miasma continent-like in drift. It is possible she designed deaths and devices for almost any notable Æ release except for their earliest efforts right through to the end of the Second Age. Her personal life is less the enigma, subject of the Oscar nominated short documentary Row on Row. Their name was in the papers a few years ago for her continued efforts to sue the British government to release Thatcher's body for "reverse-autopsy," a campaign which lost a lot of supporters when she started mailing major news outlets frozen blood phalluses. All the stranger behavior since Dex Logun is from Colorado. Lady Croose for his part was an underground comic book artist who took a for-hire gig in between painfully confessional zine appearances. Their dalliance in the gaming world left them screaming for the mildewed hotel conference centers of home.

You twist yourself into strange postures when you're trying to pleasure a partner seemingly incapable of direct communication. Anything to elicit a response. It's enough to just do something, just to see if it works. Remember with charity that it was a strange time, and gaming was changing faster than many in a faster world. There are treasures to be found in what I call the "histories" of the Second Age but they are largely buried in the very heap which defines them as works. They are sapphires in compost, and like that loam they would give fertile root to better trends in time. They were a kind of trap that Æ had to walk itself out of after building its own cage on all sides. But that, I think is where Dex Logun's Bastards on Horseback really shines. See, puzzles that aren't designed to be solved aren't good puzzles any more than a painting of a door on the wall is a great door for anyone not in a Bob Clampett joint. No, riddles are meant to be answered. Maybe not all devils can be beaten but you also don't have to try to fight the devil, or THAT devil, or on the devil's terms.

The greatest gift Bastards on Horseback has to bestow is splitting the veil and showing you the pharisees are just doing puppets back there. It is a work that invites (fair dares) the player to go "Actually fuck this" and run what they like out of the book and only that, using what rules they choose and agree upon amongst themselves. Game companies are not often in the habit of reminding their consumers that they are not required. It takes a confident creator to make that statement even in between the lines. True a thousand wrong lessons were learned from this in the same way that Dylan led a parade across decades of imitators with voices like cicadas murdering table saws but those were not Dylan's sins. As Faberge egg Bastards on Horseback is a rewardingly intricate museum piece. Shame it's nards as an evening.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

REVIEW: ABANDONED ABADDON ABANDON by Illison Ozco and Monster


Stripped of their blood and limbs by the enemy, stripped of their arms and mail by the common scum, stripped of their reward eternal by victorious but strange gods, the dead inherit only loam. Murder, misadventure, disease, happenstance, age, these all find homes under consecrated circumstances. Not so the battle people. They are Carted, claimed and carried, to one apocryphal blind box canyon where they are planted like ragged roses line in line awaiting a torpor and flourish that time and rebirth can bring only. The damned have been sown for centuries in gravel and clay made redder than God by unceasing hours of bony-fingered determination. They have been lain up a store, like pickles of apocalypse. Apickleypse.

Poorest imagination will reveal the purpose for this charnel pantry - it will comes easily to lips if you attempt to describe it - but the when: when is this hellcrop due for a mortal harvest? At what hour comes the Reaping Which Stands? Well here is a fear long heeded by the cleverer nations: The Deaths Will Come For You When You Come Looking For It.

The city state of Nuydeqag did not get the magical memo. Young and starving they have set themselves as a kingdom upon the goal of the tallowed valley. A bid for power or an ill-conceived attempt at smiting a known and stationed evil in the name of a boring sky-dad, that much is unclear: Nuydeqagites (hey real quick piss off with these names Ozco) are merely carrot and stick to justify spiriting your cast to the brink of high stakes disaster in a strange race where nobody wins unless no party reaches their destination.

Other forces are...well, not on your side, but opposed to the Nuydeqagites, and you'll have to deal with those as well. There are also the mundane mad and the wild people of the hills, disciples of pacifist war gods in search of a cause worth blaspheming for, a veil breached only by watching dispassion and the strange deer-faced insects who linger past the fringes all waking perception. Die and become the danger. Fight and feed what's coming. Follow....but steer clear the Carter and his nine forms of finality.

Illison Ozco writes, Monster does the illustrations.

A word about ghouls -

Ghouls are not undead, they are simply of-dead. They are perhaps most traditionally, most respectfully, a type of being, or perhaps a shade which an uncareful man might pass through, becoming something not themselves but also not just Send More Paramedics. Closer to a Wendigo, but for once not a WENN-DIII-GOOOO.

A Ghoul is compelling when they are not just another thing that wants to eat you, or another thing which is dead and naked aggression, or another thing which is some kind of faerie or some shit. A Ghoul is compelling when they need to eat you. More specifically, primarily, they need to eat the dead, and not the recently dead either. The buried and moldering bone case where your snout gets all pinochled up. They have been pushed to this by desperation because even the fallen and ripening have been long cannibalized due to circumstance, or else set on by wild animals whose lives are relatively comfortable compared to a Ghoul's own. You must eat the dust, low thing. You must dig for poison, cursed shape. That is all that is left. A Ghoul is a one who in their need has become so base that in all aspects they are diminished but in a strange way hidden to the sight of the gods they have become...if not more, exactly, no, not more, then only ah... deeper. Leatherface was not a Ghoul, Gollum was. A Ghoul is not one who likes a nice long pig now and again, a Ghoul is that one guy from Lovecraft whose house was so old and shitty and he ate so many people that he went so crazy his house exploded.

They need to eat you because they see it in you, a glimmer of everything that was lost, and you are a map to them back to love and light. They will grin and laugh and seemingly delight in the hunt as they paw at you down corridors dark enough for their grayed eyes to tolerate. Giggling scratchers, theirs is instead a damned jog after the last lifeboat on the Titanic. They are sinking. They do not know you cannot save them.

Illison Ozco missed her chance to go insane on dat good-good radioactive cocaine thanks to growing up without a communist shadow looming overhead but she didn't let a little thing like that stop her. Naval hero and one of the only historical uses of the phrase "Polish Invasion" that isn't immediately followed with "OH SHIT," Illison came to the second generation of Adder Entertainment with something to prove. In word this was that Eastern Bloc mysticism and a century of light bulb jokes could still produce a new generation's Ivanov but, in practice, it was positing the entire Eurasian clash-up as a spiraling gravity bigger than nations and bad ideas, a weighty ink like the aforementioned HP's bottomless Massachusetts. This is most evidenced in Abandoned Abaddon Abandon, her third of five projects for the company, in the web of Ultimately Assured Destruction woven between the local state-nations. Also, the Carter himself serves as a sort of Uncle Creepy koriphyos-cum-Guy-Who-Pretends-To-Kill-The-Shark-On-The-Jaws-Ride. Trusting him is not foolish because he will betray you. Trusting him is foolish because evil always wins out the prisoner's dilemma of entropy and expecting anyone to have any effect on the grinding of galaxy wheels is like counting on a maggot to stop a volcano.

If your cast elects to follow the Nuydeqagites' trail on the road then you get to see a series of nations braced for murder-by-suicide and the opportunity to patch things up along the way as their communities fall to shit while the Big People pretend at plans. If your path takes you over the mountain then looping, interconnected concentric trails must be carefully navigated or you join the Snow, one of my favorite examples of ghost-as-geography in gaming history. Go through the mountains and you have a harder time than Gandalf's slowest-pitch adult league softball team, coming face to face with home-grown parasite purgatories who looked at the attempt to build a physical world hell and went "hey, let me on that titty." There's a good generator for these but they end up way gonzo and that's me saying that: I let people play a bag. The three off-the-shelf options are much better.

Actually, speaking of the Gore Chief, let's talk about Monster, the prog botanist whose art adorns these pages. It's minimal. It's spare. It's affecting. It's completely wrong. Monster's art for Abandoned Abaddon Abandon was famously mixed up at the printer with the art it had completed for the licensed Tazmania RPG that Warner Bros. planned to put out. That means that while Monster's strange interpretations of John Astin's forgotten resume are captivating they are entirely alien to the text, which gives them their own weird horror vibe. The proofs that escaped into the wild from the quickly-scrapped Tazmania book show something like a true Coleridge experience while also serving to underline the hubris in flying too low to the common denominator with this particular pitch. (I'll try a Spinning ability score, that's a neat trick!)

There's your meme history for the week: this is why the Gore Chief lovvvves pepperoni pizza.

Ozco did not actually collaborate with Monster again although its artwork graced three of her four efforts for Æ. Monster would go on to heights of its own with a little cam-pak we'll discuss next time. As for Ozco, her jet accident left her with limited manual dexterity and cataracts in her focus but she still serves as advisor and ambassador for the Red Raj series of books over at Pinnacle.

Final note: the doomed Æ miniatures line was never reborn to see Carter cast in pewter but a 3D printer file for a pitched Reaper commemorative protoype made its way online last year thanks to an enterprising Tattoo Society member (among whom, unsurprisingly, a figure like Carter has proved popular). You can download it here for free but any donations you make over on the right go to efforts helping to free Skinny Tim, still in prison from 2015's GenCon Gridlock event at the Marriott.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Prayer


Grass underfoot crisp black, dandelion strong.

Drink of green, burning and festered, belly boiling vision eating. Wound in the earth.

An arm not honed but strong. Too many heats red. Death rattle nails.

Steel blood cold, grass black. March on
everywhere.

I forget what it looks like...

Banner billowing licking gold with crimson before column of only one. There is no surrender. There will not be none: there was surrender.

Song out of step, thunder dust rolling advance. Fire drinking, vision eating. Night walk, this scream dance. Forward laughing.

The laugh is an important detail.

SEE: men not men onrushing slowly in avalanche patience. Awful things leagues astride, upon awesome animals, boulder flesh bearing mistake people toward new ruins.

Soon ruins.

There is no love nor rage nor hate nor fear, no not really fear. It increases, though, burning the rope of the world. Stronger we are pulled. Our blood is left only iron. Hope only hunger. Need only take. Never keep, only continue.

I need blood.

Horns are worn, not blown, but now it sounds - a refrain stilling all bone in anticipation of crescendo upon us then

Who killed the soil? Who burned the sea? Who cut the sky? Who corrupted hell? WHAT mutilated the church? WHAT broke our very souls? WHAT laughs in the night?

It is not night.
I have forgotten it.

Share me the blood for blood is life. Give me some life for life might end. Sell me an end for ends are mercies. Show me some mercy for mercy is a blessing. Bless me now in the sight of god. No, not mine. I have forgotten it.

Hurry now, while my throat still cracks, listen! I name Him! I call it Forthcoming. He is Horizon Darker. King of Ghosts. Rider in All Lights. Ash in the cry of orphans, He, usurper of shadows, an demon angel, Father -- Father to Monsters! Whet of tooth, wet of blade, forge-breathed, lion-ready.



Who has come?
I have forgotten the sun.


WHAT killed the sun?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Requirement Roll

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/2d/94/2d/2d942d049d2ff7f8b932baee9d28ec1e.jpg
Emily Carroll
Thinking about changing things up with my (I am tired of saying old schoolish, DIY, dndish, etc, and I don't really find the term OSR useful, so how about) Basic Red classes. In the process I think I'm going to reassess the ability score requirements of so many old games and exotic classes. I like the idea of people being to play a really shitty dwarf in the same way someone can play a really shitty thief. But I like the idea of requirements as gatekeepers from everybody just playing nine elves in a row. So how about a d12 roll? You roll 1d12 and then you can be anything equal to or less than the value rolled.

This is what I'm thinking about for thresholds and classes, and what comic book artists I'd associate with each class (you don't have to look like that but you get 5% bonus XP if you do; that's right, I'm decoupling bonus XP too):


1 Thieves work weird now. They are from Mike Mignola.
2 Fighters work like LotFP (level as tohit bonus, press/fight defensively, quickly improving saves) and can make death saves to not die at 0HP like everyone else does. John Buscema.
3 Priests work like Prophets and follow Magic-User rules for armor and weapons. They all have strange faiths and new gods. Charles Vess.
4 Dwarfs are much the same but instead of deep dwellers they're just nocturnal and make homes deep inside pretty much anything (this is why they are always so grouchy during daytime) and have a great sense of smell instead of infravision. Mark Buckingham.
5 Magic-Users work like Wonder & Wickedness/VAM! and they all look like they came from almost any Doom Patrol comic except for the ones John Byrne made.
6 Judges are straight about healing and smiting and get the good armor and weapons. They serve The Church, whatever church that is. Brian Bolland or Kevin O'Neill.
7 Witches and Druids work like These Druids and Emily Carroll draws them
8 Elfs all work like BX Halflings. Wendy Pini, or maybe Jill Thompson, or Moebius.
9 Monks can be random or strange but they are all specifically Fat Cobra, Princess Mononoke, or Donovan from Darkstalkers.
10 Weird FLAILSNAILS races/classes always look like Scrap Princess designed them.
11 Barbarians, Rangers, Assassins, or any other AD&D style class that we just kitbash until it fits. Yoshitaka Amano, which I think is cheating.
12 Some manner of absolutely unique thing. I will extend the offer, whether it be allowing a good orc, a talking lion, weirder spellcasting, or giving you a gun. Something I would normally use an NPC for, now you can be that thing and get levels. If you don't like what I offer then fine, you get your pick of the other classes, go nuts.

If you have 2 or more ability scores 6 and under you may also be a Hobbit regardless of roll. Hobbits are a consolation class where each ability score 6 and lower unlocks bonus abilities, I will update this part when I finish that article. They are little Jack Davis people.

Those who suffer sanity-crumbling effects can become Crazy Boys. Crazy Boys all slowly start to look like silent film characters.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

DUNGEON MIX- GLIMPSED FROM AFAR


You know that Drawtown always needs some extra hired hands this time of year, be it for labor or for security. You have an itch for coin, or maybe nowhere else will have you. Perhaps this is the start of something new.

or

You are a merchant, gourmet, or entertainer, or part of a larger troop of the same. Every three years you head out to the middle of nowhere to a town far larger than it has any right to be to make a big deal out of the local yokels' frog eating party. This is the last time. After this you wouldn't be caught dead here.

or

While drinking in Auberdene you hear tell of some trouble with some of the carnival folk who have set up early out Crook's way. You can't abide to see innocent women stampeded and cattle raped. Best to help put things right.

or

He cannot say what troubles him as he slides you a marker for your payment advance. He cannot say what you are looking for. He gives you the name of an old threadbare magician - Arquon the Red - and sends you to find out what he knows. The man in the hood knows a catastrophe is coming, all signs point toadward, but he cannot say what exactly he fears. If he better knew he still could not articulate it. He lacks the tools. You take him for some mean caster or low adept. He looked an awful lot like the High Reverend...





Chime out ye cauldrons, shine up yon gigs, spice up the brandy, brandy up the figs, it's TODESUP, TODESUP, come all and one, the harvest time's over, so now comes ye fun! Everyone within a week's ride of Crooker's Draw knows about the todesup, a fortnight long celebration leading to an enormous feasting upon all the gods' creatures...including the local toad population, abnormally large in both size and number. This town and the surrounding farmland has thrived on the attention its little festival has attracted, expanding into quite the tiny metropolis. This in itself is unusual. Crooker's Draw is, by definition of a Draw, not really on the way to anything, a few days ride even from the closest thing to be considered a road. There are only three things this remote burg has going for it: a big to-do every few years that helps put everyone for a day's march in the black; incredibly strong women, an accident of selective breeding in this weird little pocket of civilization; and the lake, gorgeous and silver, perfectly nestled downhill from the city like its mirrored shadow, the lake whose banks fairly burst with frogs and toads, the lake for which old Crooker first bought this stretch of land, Lilypad Lake, the lake full of people.

THE MAP

There are eighteen primary points of interest around Crooker's Draw.

1. The old hall, original from when this place was but a small village. The hall remains from the days when it provides shelter for distant disparate stranger settlers, shelter from winters and raiders. It has grown up in that time to be the seat of governance and regional register reporting to three different kingdoms. When taxes are collected they are stored here behind wood so old it might outlast stone.

2. The Temple of Life's Light, a pilgrimage point for wandering believers. Strong on the divestment of worldly goods and coin to the Temple, that they might do more good with them. Their friars are ascetic and severe and prone to wines.

3. The Temple of Light's Life, a splinter faith in a glorious new structure who preach of giving one's goods and coin directly to those who need it. Many people are simply lazy so donate directly to the Temple instead of pay attention to their fellows. The church is not corrupt per se and does much good but the underlying schism in such similar doctrine has led to a ferocious one sided rivalry with Life's Light, in the way of faiths.

4. The Church. Old faiths, old gods, not consecrated to any and so open to all. This is the place with the graves, this is the place with the gallows, this is the place with the true altar. It's hard to tell but this is the place with the most priests. They look similarly, dress to obscure those looks, move about and change places when others aren't watching...every worship is conducted here, including the ones the others find abhorrent, so the priests see nothing, say nothing, do not watch and about being sought. All are welcome here unless seeking forgiveness. There's none left in the box.

5. Lilypad Lake is strange for (rolls die) three reasons. The first is its isolation; several small creeks and streams can flood from time to time and send a trickle but the dry riverbed snaking out above the town is a pretty firm reminder that the tributary which birthed her is a long gone memory. Secondly, amphibians; an abnormal number of frogs and toads can be found in the mud and grasses along its banks. There is not seemingly an insect population large enough to sustain this force, which does raise the mystery of how they continue to thrive. Since residents are able to live a blessedly pest-free existence (APART from the green and brown bastards) few actually mind. Finally, there are the visitors. Most folk ride over hill from the big road maintained by the king, while others arrive from aged trails cut by their own fathers. Stranger strangers simply walk up from the bottom of the lake herself one day and straight into town. It is no longer remarkable. The visitors never know where they are or how they got there and some are stranger than others but they never stay long, particularly around Todesup, and have fueled many tales and romances. Few ever return, and those who do usually take a more conventional route.

6. The caves in the crest beyond the dried river bed. Less true caves and more impressive tunnels these have been here since before the town. Once people used them for burial. Long before Crooker settled here folk stopped doing that, though no one remembers why.

7. The market is really just a few shops: a general store, a green grocer, a tack and feed supply, a bakery, a butcher, a chandler, and, a true rarity, the personal and professional apartments of Arquon the Red, survivor of the Vodehorne who holds a kind of court here offering folk remedies.

8. The stables, far too small to accommodate the new town let alone peak Todesup numbers. The hands here are not too old for this work exactly but older than they should be.

9. The smithy, indeed under a spreading chestnut tree. The smith is ill and his seven daughters are keeping up with the increased workload.

10. The festival grounds are overpacked, muddied, shit-reeking, and an awful thing to hear, even this far out from the big day. There are all manner of entertainers, pleasure providers, and wonder sellers. They are all of them grotty to a degree. This is the best place to drain players of coin, what with the plethora of magical items to be found. None of them do a god damn thing.

11. The campgrounds spreading around homes and through freshly harvested fields, full of revelers doing what revelers do whilst waiting to revel, which is revel anyway.

12. The tower is only tower in name. It's two stories tall and meeting place for the local militia, quarters for a three-man standing watch, and part time barracks for the hire mercenaries who help to police the Todesup crowds.

13. The great square is neither great nor square, an open place for moving stalls, demonstrations, a fountain, and two wells. One ran dry and is ignored, the other seems fine.

14. The estate of Hearth Crooker, considered palatial by farmer standards but shabby by the standards of the new town. He still owns claim to this place's riches from his lineage and mostly uses it to ply travelers for exciting stories and/or sexual favors.

15. There is a true inn with a small bar called Shrew Hole.

16. There is a true tavern with a few rooms called One Bastard's Plenty.

17. The gate west is easily driven around but it is where all customs are checked, taxes levied, trials held, and generally the place everyone gets their news. Notices and bills are posted all over several boards on either side of the gate. The town road stops abruptly, overtaken by hill and loam in the direction of the true king's-road.

18. The pyramid showed up last year. People panicked, and shied away. Then scholars and holy men came to study it. Then magicians plied their trade against its rough concrete sides. Then people began stealing pieces of it to sell as relics, souvenirs, curatives, or just for construction supplies. Leader Fawn put a stop to this practice, sensing a potential new revenue stream. They have not been able to rebuild or fully capitalize on its existence in time for this next Todesup but all the locals are recommending newcomers to check out the "brand new ruins."

Put these on a map. Do it.

THE TIMETABLE

Your party should ideally arrive in town 12 days before the festival but if you need to lead that come up with some content to dick around with for a couple days and get them there earlier. They won't be able to get there after Twelve Til.

Twenty Til: A hunter's caravan bringing salt meats for the festival fails to arrive on time. Their trail became a great razored trench beneath them. Tracing their intended route will lead you to this hellish looking gap where the trail used to be, old earth long piled up on either side.

Seventeen Til: The first visitors in a very long time rise up from Lilypad Lake. They are not remarkable apart from this and seem to be a train of homesteaders and guardsmen. They intend to leave before Todesup and are making the best of their surroundings until then.

Fourteen Til: Giles Gaunder, chaplain of Light's Life, has had terrible dreams for the last several nights. Portents, he believes, of something awful to soon befall Crooker's Draw. With the permission of the Anchorite he has set out with the underchaplain, Devil, riding to the king's road to bring back aid from Heshing.

Twelve Til: Silak the Great only has three freaks in his show and they have all escaped. These are detailed further in the freaks section but are the Wild Man, the Dog Faced Boy, and the Minotaur. The Dog Faced Boy will be found lost among the campgrounds (11), the Minotaur lies in the tunnels (6), and the Wild Man is hiding in an ancient fishing shed about a day's ride north, where the river never died.

The Sleep: All creatures capable of sleep will sleep. Creatures who do not have to sleep but are still capable of sleep will sleep. Creatures incapable of sleep see a wave of magical darkness maybe a 20th of a second in duration pass over the entire town. They are the first to awake to what has occurred. They are the first to be suspected.

Eleven Til: A wall has gone up, thick and made from something like stone. It is 500' tall, so you don't get full daylight except at midday. It extends as far as the dry river bed and encircles even the smithy and the smith's home on the edge of town. All points of interest mentioned above, as well as all the homes and such, are within its borders. If your party went to investigate the Pyramid or ran after the Wild Man and missed the Sleep and camped outside of Crooker's Draw then they will find themselves quite unable to challenge the wall now. Refer to the Suspects section to set up your initial factions. Then, about noon, set down your first Spire (roll 1d20, reroll on 19-20).

Ten Til: The first Engine will appear overnight in an area closest to the square (13). Some time before noon the first Figure appears between Light's Life and Life's Light. In the last embers of sunset twilight the first Blade will be found.

Nine Til: Wherever the most people are gathered a Teaching will appear. A Spire appears nearby around noon. An Engine appears inside of Crooker's house come midnight.

Eight Til: A Figure is found in the old hall. A Blade is in its hand. A Teaching is alongside it. This is the earliest you can find the tunnel beneath the floors.

Seven Til: Lilypad Lake becomes inaccessible for visitors for entry or exit. The bottom of the lake has been basically paved over, made of the same stuff as the Wall. There are a lot of amphibians around its borders, watching the center of the lake.

Six Til: A mutant toad creature is found, dead. Nothing else happens. The sound of croaking grows loud as the night comes.

Five Til: The frogs and toads this town is so famous for begin crawling around town in record numbers. Some are as large as a dog. They are attacking everything, eating everything, and fucking.

Four Til: A Teaching is found. From now on the phenomena occur in an order reverse to normal - Teaching > Blade > Figure > Engine > Spire. You will have one of each per day.

Three Til: The well runs dry, the lake turns poisonous. Flies are thick now for the dead, for the first time in this town's history, yes, flies. The amphibians ignore them, ravenously attacking other animals and then cannibalizing themselves. Giles Gaunder returns to the outside of the wall with workers, soldiers, and apostles all scrambling to get in. They begin suffering Changes.

Two Til: Cracks begin to show in the Wall. Any surviving Hoplites organize themselves and begin patrolling the ruined square. Beings with more than 14 Changes will band together regardless of permutation. Any pure beings left in Crooker's Draw will be seen as enemies by all others.

Tode Nite: A Confessor is appointed. They will be found covered in Teachings, wielding a Blade. They will explain things calmly and rationally. He is not here with a way out, he is here just to give everyone a chance to atone to their gods before the end. He is not here to bargain but he will HEAR your bargains and relay them in the night. If you were saving any last ditch strategies now is the time.

Todesup: There is a rumble in the earth and from Lilypad Lake comes a steady stream of frogs, toads, tadpoles, salamanders, FISH, whatever. It is a constant stream like the breaking of a dam. Within minutes all within the wall will be ankle deep. Staying standing in them will be difficult, avoiding being eaten alive will be more so, avoiding being crushed to death will be trickier still, as will keeping from suffocation under green flesh, and oh my god the noise will make communicating just impossible. They continue pouring out until they flow over the top of the wall, at which point the wall will crumble, crushing any would-be rescuers below. Time's out: toads up.

____________________________________________________

They are not makers. Well, they were not makers. They were barely anything, half forms who had half homes, stepping from here to there, world to world. None ever settled anywhere for long, there were no homes to speak of, no possessions. There were of course places which were THEIRS.

The trails came first, blazed during the hour of light. Those were surprising, alarming, but other than instilling a new anxiety the beings paid them no mind. Sometimes there was a new tree, or sometimes the shadowy grass turned to ash, and they never knew why. They did not have the tools to even voice their concerns about the trails. Now the old hall, yes, that was a game changer.

They did not talk together much before that. This set them chattering with new words. It took a few more farmhouses and small buildings before they figured it out.

There is a world out there with the power to affect their world, to change their world. It's what burned the brush, and it's why trees just appeared. These new structures also just...appeared. The deciding factor seemed to be completeness. Once a structure was finally finished down to the last detail according to its maker's plan, or once a tree had grown to the shape of what some cosmic force thought a tree should be, it would appear here.

This was very advanced theory. Their world was without forest creatures, without anything like a human. There was them, their place, their way, and their strange food. Figuring out that there were creatures with a will behind these happenings was a long road, a deduction of sheer genius.

These new structures aged and crumbled in their world. They ruined the landside and killed many, crushing tunnels, making a mess of things. A cross-dimensional one-sided campaign that the aggressors did not even know they were waging: architectural warfare. There was really only one thing to do. To become. They were not makers.

Something to keep in mind is that these worlds are not the same. Time doesn't sync up, either; their nights were much longer while roughly corresponding to our nights, and the two centuries that went by in the mortal world was closer to a dozen for these things. This meant that any effort to join the conflict would involve generations, and careful planning and consistency, a devotion to things left unfinished. They were unfinished beings, so this was an easy sell.

The first try was the well. When that succeeded they tried something rudimentary: the pyramid. Emboldened, they widened the scope of their projects. A happy coincidence altered and speeded their plans somewhat: this world also had the food. They knew about the food and how it was found in the other worlds they visited, all empty save for they and the food. The food used the door to go from place to place, just as they did. The food was for them to use. They would use the food, the TIME of the food, for their plans.

These beings are not sorcerers but their creations have a profound effect in our world, a kind of alien radiation we have no apparatus for. They believe the distant creatures are brash and dangerous. What better weapon to use against such animals than the animals themselves? Snare them, winnow them down, let them do to each other what they had done to the half-made world. After-effects and curious alterations are a bonus.

They do not come to our world and back. The door is there but they cannot enter through it, we are too different. Their tunnels and their grander creations persist with a strange energy close to their world but that's it. Neither side of this war will ever meet a soldier from the other, they cannot harm one another directly. However, the strange energy their tunnels and grander creations persist with a hum of energy similar to that of those beings. Enough time around it and our shape becomes like a ghost in their world. They become like shadows in ours. They are not ever fully appreciated, fully visualized. They are just shapes, or less than that: mere Glimpses.


THE WEAPONS

The Wall goes up first. It is 30' thick, 500' tall, and made of something which is not stone but which acts like stone. Attacking or casting a spell on the wall will prompt a Magic save. Failure means you undergo a Change. You have to get naked right now, you suddenly shed a hundred pounds, something like that. This seems perfectly normal to you. If your comrades point out the strangeness you will be horrified at how your core self has been so undermined. You will now be aware of this change but helpless to fight it. Your decision whether Remove Curse works or not since this is not a spell effect cast with intent. It is a side effect of strange matter. The Wall is not strong enough to last but, then, it is not meant to last for long.

The Spires appear first in the Weapon Clock. These are great metal skeletons piled high in an area, supported by incomplete scaffolding. In the world of the Glimpsed the scaffolding is clawed away as the Spire is completed, leaving it without any support. They will stand at their strange angles for 10 full minutes in the mortal realm before collapsing. Their component rods can be wielded as clubs or spears. If so then treat anything killed with these as you would a kill from a Blade. Creatures merely crushed by these items in their collapse rot and stench much faster than normal.

The Engines are basically traps that affect a large portion of the area in which they appear. Old standards: rippers and pullers; spikes; pits; blades; crushers. They are some mix of DaVinci diagram and Jigsaw hodgepodge. They are fragile and easily destroyed, disarmed, or otherwise dealt with once you have time to assess them. However, each will trigger as soon as they appear in the mortal world. These start out covering a wider area with deadly damage (like 12d10 or something) and then reduce in size and damage quickly over the iterations. An idea abandoned by the Glimpsed at large, save for a few dedicated murdersmiths who take the design and execution of these devices as an art form themselves, regardless of whether they affect anybody.

The Figures are all half-things, crude simulacrum of the Glimpsed themselves. These begin as a form of communication (WE ARE HERE) but quickly in their development become warnings, brags, declarations of war (WE DID THIS TO YOU). When they first appear all who behold them - not interact with them but all who behold them - must save or have a Change triggered. This power quickly fades but few travelers or citizens will feel comfortable staying in the same region as one for long. They continue to radiate unease. Examination of these will reveal an evolution in tool marks. Things will start out very jagged and experimental, the last few will be refined enough to be more terrifying. Oh also they seem to be made of gold, close enough to fool an alchemist. It's NOT gold, but it's not NOT gold, so that's just as good.

The Blades appear only to those ready to use them, whether that's out of fear, survival instinct, hatred of those one blames, madness, whatever. These are long, flat, sharp, and can be wielded for 1d8. It is wrong to consider them swords in the same way a word is not a book. Any creature you would normally kill with such a weapon instead simply vanish. They're still dead, just outside of the world, not bleeding out but dissolving like a sandcastle. For any PC that dies this way I would have a graphic little paragraph I'd slide them with instructions not to mention what it says. Better if parties waste their time in the hope their fellows can be rescued. Each Blade has its own effect on the wielder and only has one wielder at a time. Roll for effect or choose:
  1. Begins to rot alive
  2. Partial paralysis
  3. Hand fuses to Blade
  4. Floats in random directions 1.5' off the ground
  5. Stand in one place for too long and rats burrow up from the ground, biting everything.
  6. See everyone around already hacked to pieces, thankful for your violence as they bleed, pleading with you to get on with killing now VERY convincingly

The Teachings are a mix of castigation, explanation, propaganda, and religious marker. They take the form of strange writings interlaced with hideous three-dimensional pictograms that look like they were drawn on with juicy hams. A variety of emerging styles will be evident as more appear. Most viewing them will have different interpretations, and will seek like minded persons. Whenever a Teaching is revealed you must recast all of the factions within Crooker's Draw. So, for example, if the rest of the population is united against the fairground folk, you change the faction lines so that Changed people do not trust the normal people any more. Or divide the town, including people with no dog in this fight, between Light's Life and Life's Light. So on and so on. I'm using 2 factions for an example and, sure, for simplicity's sake start out with 2. By the third Teaching, though, splinter that shit but good. In this way allies will be at each other's throats the next day and back in accord the next, their minds trying to make sense of this informational warfare. Long term plans will have to be redrawn. Folk who want to hunker down in safety and ride this out will be torn apart. Try not to use this to split the party up too much.

I never said don't.

SUSPECTS

When the Wall goes up a lot of fingers get pointed. Some party has to be responsible. Explore a couple of these possibilities and lean into the first one the party responds to: make that a prevailing sentiment, erecting the first schism. Pick another side conflict between two of these parties to act as a distraction, so things are not too easy.

  • Giles Gaunder specifically and his Temple will fall under suspicion once his departure becomes known.
  • Arquon the Red is used to being blamed when things go wrong, so he isn't even surprised when people question whether a wizard did this. A faction to himself, unless other MUs are present (your call).
  • The party themselves are obviously suspect since they are among the first to get really organized and proactive.
  • The festival attendees could have some demon amongst them.
  • The vendors and entertainers never leave the folk at ease to begin with. Just as likely this is some game of theirs.
  • The Freaks in particular are suspected of bringing this down on everyone's head with their blasphemous existence.
  • The caravan which appears out of the lake has some really fishy timing. Probably invaders.
  • The blacksmith's daughters have always been strange ones, refusing to take a man. Now their family harbors some...plague! They have brought it down upon us.
  • Obviously we must ferret out whatever dark deeds and dark dealers have been hidden in the old church, for this is surely damnation for their sins.
  • Rats are always good. The rats are going Ape. Shit. Crazy. with nowhere to escape to. The smart ones will begin to dig. The Glimpsed are down there: better not, whiskery friends.
  • Any of the three nearby kingdoms will be a good scapegoat, with everyone in town from that kingdom being 'one of them.'
  • Tode is a word these people use interchangeably for anything hoppy. If violence is visited upon these masses up their number appearing in response.
  • The dry river bed divides a section of Crooker's Draw off from the rest. It's small. All divisions start small.

PRINCIPAL ACTORS

Young Master Crooker- Head of Crooker's Estate, not especially young but he insists folk "genially" refer to him as such. This chaos affords him the opportunity to strut, show off his privilege, and indulge a few stranger lusts once the Changes come. He will be hard to win to your side.
Watcher Gobben- Old man, head of the local watch which consists of three standing watchmen, technically in charge of local militia and the added security for the festival. Willing to lend a hand, but also too willing to trust those under his command.
Sack- One-eyed captain of a royal regiment from a neighboring kingdom, sent on a babysitting mission, incredibly peeved. Always one inch away from declaring martial law. More vicious than any mercenary but always adheres to rule of law and chain of command. Lady.
Magister Ubar Bluke- Not a fat man but somehow with the character of one. Manic when the wall goes up, he will agree to any plan that saves 'his' city and its money making festival. Will seek to punish cowardice or failure severely.
Burrabee Bluke- Tailor's apprentice, magister's son, over-eager to show off his plan to bring new life to the fair: the Hoplites. Will be incredibly helpful up until the first time the PCs lose contact with him, then will return MUCH changed. The other Hoplites will come to a similar state soon after.
Centielm- Caravan leader for the folk who came out of Lilypad Lake. She had intended to leave sooner but delayed departure to entertain a romantic pursuit of Snake Boy. Will back a course of action designed to save the caravaners but, if she has to, will personally try to save Snake Boy.
Darf- Blacksmith has had strange skin lesions appearing for a while now, caught after working a strange ore he found in the tunnels past the river bed. Confused and scared he will help anyone who seems like the know more than he does, or anybody who can offer his daughter's escape.
Iwren- A prostitute who has taken over the inn. She offers shelter to any who surrender their weapons. A surgeon with an axe, she strikes down any troublemakers. She and all peace loving folk shall abide the siege in here, thank you.
Leader Fawn- Head of Crooker's Draw and by a damn stretch the sanest person for leagues in any direction. Fawn will record any changes she undergoes with Brundlefly detachment, remaining both analytical and compassionate as long as she can. She will be understanding, insightful, helpful, and a good DM mouthpiece. She will NOT be permissive, and going against her will surely bring chains.
Silak the Great- Not an explorer or magician really, just a gifted surgeon and gifted drunk. His half-creatures feel the danger coming to Crooker's Draw and bolt, causing much consternation even before the wall: freak off the leash! If he survives until the Wall goes up he will probably not survive long enough to sober up.
Arquon the Red- Knows 6 spells and has a big chest of silver hidden somewhere. Possesses a spear that ignores all armor save for leather. Has Vodemarche's skull under his bed. Arquon is fatalistic about all of this, accustomed to being asked to solve problems but well aware that sometimes fate just catches up with you. He will assist for as long as he is able but he puts his life in his hands whenever he casts a REAL spell, so...his days are probably numbered.
Giles Gaunder, Devil, the Anchorite, and other figures of religious authority and avenues for divine intervention are simply dead ends, completely impotent in the face of this siege.

FREAKS

It's possible that the shape of another world slips off of those for whom the shape of this world was insufficient to fully bind and form, like water on a duck. These are unfortunates, some of them magical victims, some of them vivisected, some merely outcast. Changes and the transposition of Blades and the divisions of Teachings will not affect them. Can still get trapped and crushed, though.

Dog Faced Boy- One of Silak's things, just a dog with some brain surgery. Limited vocabulary, tries to walk on hind legs until it loses feeling in them from a bent spine. Lacks tools to convey what it actually fears.
Snake Boy- Scaly, bald, yellow nails and eyes. Female. Plays a pipe and tells fortunes that all have a smear of tragic romance to them. All she has known is this life. Her suitor represents freedom and safety surely as, to Centielm, Snake Boy represents adventure and danger.
Paper Martyr- His skin is so thin, sensitive, brittle, that his act involves cutting great wounds in himself with only a feather. He can crimp these wounds closed and smooth them down later to heal. Life outside the freak shows might easily mean death for him.
Todedamme- Simply a pox scarred young child with lots of small moles. She has been 'crowned' as part of a local tradition. She is miserable but desperate to hold onto her title and prison: her family desperately needs the cut of the gate she's getting.
Wild Man- Just a guy who has freakishly long body hair all over. Billed as a kind of ape man or educated animal, his act has a lot of poetry in it as well as the occasional foaming...He is the smartest of Silak's freaks and though he feels the encroaching counter-world the least of those three he still makes it the furthest away.
Dragon of Ganchor- Big ass lizard, extra bones sticking out of flesh, will die soon. Poisoned by a stomach full of costume jewelry.
Minotaur- Most extensive of Silak's creations, cannot stay standing under its own strength but cannot breathe on all fours. Will hide out in the tunnels uphill. Feels what's coming most acutely, most frightened. Just a Frankensteined bull with a brain too big for its skull.
Visiona- Epileptic with fourteen eyes, most clouded over. Works herself into a fugue by describing horrible things on stage then wigs out. Knows lots of languages. Didn't see ANY of this.
Pin Prick- Metal as fuck.
Jaw Clown.

HOPLITES

An invention of Bluke the Younger these are essentially park mascot characters. Big suits that look like frog people, dressed to look like soldiers. He made a lot of these outfits and they range in quality, showing his deepening craft. Saved the grandest for himself of course. Bluke will change the first and most: his movements will become loose, sleepy, and Slinky-like. His outfit will take on stains and start bursting seams. He will not be visible within the costume's slack sack mouth. His clay sword will be replaced by a nice copper one.

There are fourteen Hoplites including their commander. When the Wall goes up only a few will have made themselves known. As the days go by more will appear. "Go be a frog guy" is its own kind of madness and Change. These will move even more grossly, as if the suit is hollow of men and filled with toads and if you feel like it then you should just do that but that is allllll you baby.

Their skin and eyes underneath with take on amphibian qualities but nobody just turns into a frog. You can, however, have one just explode into a bony pulp in the process of trying to turn into a frog. That's way better.

They will roam until addressed or attacked, at which point they will attack, croaking, until killed. Every three rounds roll to see if their battle is joined by more of their kind. If you try to reason with them or help them you attract their attention and they will follow you. They are not on the Encounter table because you need to be judicious about when and where you use them. They are always dingier than last seen and Bluke in particular looks more nightmarish each appearance.

ENCOUNTERS

Roll for wandering encounters as necessary. Every two real-world hours roll on this table. Few if any of these will wield weapons that do more than 1d6 and many will have only their bare hands. Those encountered will exhibit at least 1 Change for every day the Wall has been up. Not all will be immediately hostile but they will almost all be prepared to fight if needed. Re-weight this as you feel is needed, I'm tired.


1. Swarm of panicked rats, 4hp per 2d6, AC 10
2. Repenter, 6hp, AC 11, 1d4 appearing
3. Drunk, 10hp, AC 9, 1d6 appearing
4. Deputy, 10hp, AC 13, +1 tohit, 1d6 appearing
5. Soldier, 20hp, AC 16, +2 to hit, 4 appearing
6. Beggar-Thief, 4hp, AC 10, steals object on a hit
7. Dog, 4hp, AC 12, +1 tohit
8. Child, 4hp, AC 8, -3 to hit but double damage, 3d8 appearing
9. Cook, 8hp, AC 9, +3 damage, 1d4 appearing
10. Builder, 10hp, AC 11, +2 tohit
11. Hunter, 20hp, AC 13, +4 tohit ranged, +2 tohit melee, 2 attacks
12. Toad, 1hp, AC 10, 1 damage and effect, 2d4 appearing in town, 3d8 appearing near lake, double appearing night
13. Performer, 6hp, AC 15, 1 will always be clown, 1d12 appearing
14. City clerk, 4hp, AC 8, Sneak Attack
15. Freak, no Change or altered feature, AC 5+1d10, 1d4 appearing
16. Lion, 25hp, AC 13, +2 tohit and damage, 3 attacks, 2 appearing
17. Merchant, 5hp, AC 10, always has bodyguard (choose), 1d4 appearing
18. Craftsman, 4hp, AC 9, 2x non coin loot
19. Farmer, 15hp, AC 12, free attack when killed
20. Glimpse, save or you'll see them again, after 3 failed saves you disappear forever

CHANGES

Attacking the Wall or being in the presence of a Figure triggers a save against a Change. Most folk in town have saves much worse than the party's. These are modifiers to the people Encountered above. Interestingly the Freaks from the festival grounds are immune to these Changes. The amphibians are undergoing their own changes. Roll 2d20 to determine something...OFF about these people or their state of mind.
 
2. Crying blood
3. Hollow mouth, void of calcium
4. Splinters growing from fingernails
5. Gray skin
6. Golden eyes
7. Voice is crickets
8. Rabid
9. Fast walking, like a poorly cranked silent film
10. Hirsute
11. Noticeably taller
12. Skin sag
13. Albino
14. Pulsing vessels
15. Sharpened teeth
16. Hair clumping out
17. Reek
18. Boils
19. Bites from some unseen insect
20. Scars
21. Burns
22. On all fours
23. Noticeably thinner
24. Aged
25. Nude because wearing anything causes you terror and pain
26. Sleepwalking/entranced
27. Writing, wherever and with whatever
28. Deluded
29. Dead but hasn't noticed
30. Sweating black
31. Jawless
32. No thumbs
33. Big head
34. Terrified
35. So hungry
36. Seriously injured/disfigured
37. Speaking backwards
38. Suicidal
39. Overladen with materials
40. Only animal grunts and screeching

AMPHIBIANS

Use whatever stats you want, throwing in an occasional giant after a few days of the Wall being up. These creatures use Lilypad Lake to come and go between otherwise empty worlds like the Glimpsed but are able to enter our world. Not without changes of their own, though: they are devilishly clever, patient, and cruel. The deeper into the timetable you are the freer you should be with mutant frogs, were-frogs, poisonous toads, prehistoric ancestors...there are strange things across infinite ponds.

That is by design, really. The Glimpsed are not the only aggrieved. There is at least one more world connected like these two, only they have both the mortal world's clutter and the Glimpsed plane's horrors visited upon their own home. Their reaction was similar to that of those half-people: retaliation. The Glimpsed used Making. Their unknown enemies used Breeding, a making but in flesh. They have used the food.

No manner of crazy amphibian creation is too crazy to let through the Lake so long as it is open. Do not overdo having weird things show up but show off that they are possible. These are not salvos against the mortal world. They are rockets that overshot London. The final drowning swarm on Todesup, and the strangeness affecting the amphibians and all in their guise, was never a plan of the Glimpsed. Unable to learn any lessons watching the conflicts they caused, the Glimpsed never understood that there is never such a thing as an Only Two Sided War. The city of Crooker's Draw is almost certainly doomed, true. However, an entire world only Glimpsed from ours in shadows has had its doom planned for a long, long time.

Monday, July 17, 2017

MOON SLAVE Spell Failure Table (Wonder & Wickedness/VAM! Style)


Where an individual spell has its own failure table always use that one first, coming back to this one if referred. Otherwise just use this one straight. I often use the shorthand of "smoke, nightmares, and witches" to explain the spheres Moon Slave governs. This does not mean it is a god of all magic or that he is some source of all magic in a Dragon article kind of way. It does mean that he wants more magic and more powerful magic in the world. He takes magic's use, especially dangerous magic or magic ill-applied, as a form of worship. It will not be denied the spread of his worship just because YOU fucked something up. There is no "the spell just doesn't go"/"you lose the spell" option.

My spell failure is going to have three extra rules:

1) If you survive until your sixth spell failure an aspect of Moon Slave shall appear in a plume of flame. It will cast one spell of its own and then vanish. You're on warning.

2) Performing a blood and burn sacrifice to Moon Slave beforehand lets you modify your roll against spell failure. This bonus equals the number of living beings with Hit Dice you just sacrificed. No partial hit dice like rats or worms.

3) If you kill a creature with HD greater than yours in 1 blow and by your own hand then you get another Safe Spell for the day.

On your 66th spell failure congratulations: Moon Slave appears and begins a slow march to claim you.

1. Something in the environment which would not normally burn catches fire for 1d6 rounds.
2. Caster loses 10kg. This is not so bad at first but repeatedly getting this result will have you slowly waste away from magic. No amount of pastry will fatten you up when magic eats you from the inside.
3. Area fills with choking smoke, Poison save to keep from being helpless while hacking and retching, completely obscures vision, lasts for a minute or until otherwise dissipated.
4. Spell is cast but it dulls all blades in your party, -1 to hit and damage until each blade is sharpened again.
5. Caster falls asleep for 5 minutes or until awakened, has horrible dreams.
6. Any coins you have melt, any paper money or marques you have burn.
7. Caster's name changes, but they don't know what their new name is. Their party members have always known them by this new name. Cannot cast spells if you don't know your own name.
8. -1 Constitution until your next bad dream. This stacks over time.
9. Full darkness. If torches or lanterns are lit they snuff, if the sun is shining bright above the sky instead appears like starless black. 1 mile radius.
10. Spell succeeds but treat as immediately triggering a wandering/patrol failure. You've got company.
11. Bat swarm, obeying no master.
12. The opposite of this spell's effect occurs. Light becomes dark, fire becomes ice, death becomes life, lightness becomes crushing gravity, etc.
13. Spell targets a random creature in line of sight, even if spell can normally only affect the Caster or a touch target.
14. A weeping apparition appears and follows you, soundlessly screaming. Every time you get a spell failure between now and the next black moon another will appear whether you roll this result or not. Everyone can see them but you.
15. A dead person returns to life - mostly - for a day. They know and will tell that you are the cause.
16. 13 witchfinders appear, confused and angry.
17. Hurricane storms manifest, out of all control. If this happens in an enclosed space you're pretty screwed.
18. Spell debt: lose one Safe Spell from your next alottment. Spell still fails.
19. Spell casts. Roll for a random spell. That spell also casts, affecting the same target or affecting a random target
20. Spell fails. Summon, Wish, and Permanency cast instead, in that order.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Elves Are Over






Day drinking. Let's write.


SO: elves are the best at fighting and the best at exploring dungeons for secrets and the best at magic and the best at fighting undead critters and the best at surviving being stabbed and they don't even get sleepy.

That is boring. As editions pile up (and an important factor: as D&D novels pile up) elfs get all sorts of other cool shit. Even before Orlando Bloom comes along elfs are all stunning and cool and Above.

I don't need class as a class. "I rolled up metropolitan aristocracy!" Hell with that. And none of this really underlines the cool shit we associate with elfs.

Elfs are one with the forest, one with nature. Their step is a cloud, unheard and unseen. They are so perceptive as to be difficult to lay a hand on. They are so graceful as to save themselves from certain death. They're swift. They're really great at shooting you from a distance. That's an elf all right.

Except in BX or LotFP none of that is an elf. That's a FUCKING Hobbit.

I find it exceedingly weird that hobbits are still in the game. I do not MIND it at all, especially since all halflings are cowboys (which is another article I guess). It's just strange that they're in there in the first place from exactly one (1) point of reference where dwarfs and elfs are recommended by a plethora of myth and traditions. Gnomes, even, or a T&T style leprechaun, sure, but hobbits is weird.

I can also say that in all my years of running and playing I have never run for nor played with another character who was playing a halfling. I know one guy who played an elf and one gal who played a drow. I think a lot of this owes to the idea that people like their character to be thought of as a badass and nobody, after 6 big movies not counting the other adaptations, thinks hobbits are badass. Another factor is that elfs always take forever to level. It's the one thing they aren't best at, really.

So.

If you want to play a halfling that's fine, play a dwarf and call it a halfling and give it different languages and requirements and shit. Hell we can make a pretty good damn halfling this way, yknow? Another solution is to just...not. If a player asks about hobbits then you can spin them one on the fly but let the work you put into it correspond to how often it comes up.

Elfs should be both fierce and fragile, like nature. Like a thorn tangle, brittle but lacerating. They should feel like I'm going to bump into them in a misty vale, not like I'm going to bump into them on the Justice League satellite.

Elfs are halflings now.

Don't like the halfling weapon restriction? Ignore it. Or just make longbows a specific exception: longbow and all one handed weapons. Or make it a reward: a lot of people don't even use BX/s bonus XP rules these days so if you have Dexterity 13 you don't get extra XP you get longbow proficiency. Or keep it and recast your mind-elf: elfs are 5', reedy, and at 5th level they all start growing horns. Or just accept that your damage output with a shortbow for BX or LotFP are the same as a longbow and you're really just trading off some extra distance at long range, then just use a shortbow. Leave longbow use to be another special thing for the Fighter to have, greedy guts.

The best thing about this change is it's so EASY. I could probably whip up a quick-n-dirty DnD PHB in like 1000 words. Most of us could. And it could have all these fun spins on these old types of guy. It's just....who needs that? If I want to play old school dnd right now I have SEVENTEEN or so rulesets on my computer including the originals. Fuc. k. This way you just go, "we do this now," and then you do this now.

My table is not Kiel's table is not Katie's table is not Claude's table: maybe your party is swimming in halflings or, one shudders, swimming with elves. Everyone's happy with things as they are. Good on yer.

I want to do things this way because rolling up an elf, even one of those fun new random elfs, feels like making something connected to Elf Kind in a very Deep Space Nine kind of removed way; rolling up a halfling, absent of enough other connotations, feels like making something connected to Jules Bass. I want to roll up an elf that feels connected to the W O R L D. This lets me do that in a sentence:

From now on all elfs use the character builds for halflings instead.





and some of them are FUCKING BRUNETTE.

The Face of Edsu Voi


In the beginning there was nothing.
Outside the nothing were gods, the beings who made all things possible by their existence. That is, the act of their existence, the moment of their existence: they were, and the universe therefore was. Cause not separated from effect. Each all powerful yet always there is a first among equals.

Think back to the great idea you had, never acted on, then one day it's being advertised on late night television. Inside a year it's in every store. Inside three every home in the country has it in their cabinets. Think about the time you forgot the name of that one guy from your favorite movie. It's your favorite ever, how could you forget his name? You know you can remember it if they just give you the chance. They don't, and now you look like a schmuck.

In the beginning there was nothing. You were the ultimate unrealized potential. You dwelt within the halls in yourself for time out of meaning, meaning out of time. The riddle of your existence was the riddle of the universe. Knowing it is knowing the shape of the perfect world. You are so close. When you know the world will begin, the perfect world, you are so close and...

Think back to the time you were just about to create the universe and then some other fucker jumped in and ruined it.

We were so close to the perfect world of Edsu Voi. Edsu Voi was so close to the perfection of being Edsu Voi perfected. Now reality was locked into a course of inevitable entropy and destruction, and she along with it. This did not deter Edsu Voi, who resolved even before the fires settled to save the universe, to save all life forever, to save herself and her brother gods, and to make everything as right as it was meant to be.

She would do this by aiding entropy, speeding extinction, beckoning disaster...subtly, always; not causing bedlam or outright killing kingdoms but stalling and thwarting the efforts of those who would hold back the unavoidable decay of all. Everything would be terrible eventually, which meant that, later, everything would be okay. There would be nothing then, and by that point Edsu Voi would have worked out the answer to her riddle. Every person would be the perfect person they should have been, every sunset more glorious than the last, forever.

Some people did not appreciate her hand in things and avenged their lieges and loved ones upon Edsu Voi. Avalanches she set in motion thousands of years ago are still toppling over but she has been dead above ground for a century, the light not gone from her eyes, still breathing her last rattle while her breast and throat are impaled on a mountain range. Still thinking about that perfect world...

You could do what she could not: use her knowledge, her power, her vision, but with an eye of mercy and acceptance for the world that is. You could make everyone safe. You could also hook your fingers into the strings woven for epochs, connected to puppets not to be born for an age, and with a great heave pull everything apart, dragging the world into ash and cold.

First you have to get inside her head. The gods are not big on figurative language so pack some rope and a pickaxe.

The Corner of Her Eye

Edsu Voi saw things we could not. The shape of things that should have been. Everything that could ever be for everything that ever was. That is how she saw her killers: not as the desperate or the lucky but as demigods (no, gods themselves), perfect agents of order and power. They killed her with the knowledge of what they might have been. Few who dare strike against the gods ever survive this hubris, and the killers of Edsu Voi are no different...

The eye is like a mirror. The eye is like a camera. The eye is like neither of these. The eye is an aperture through which light plays shapes, light which may burn forever. The eyes of gods are a thing above, as is the light of the gods, and so the shadows burned forever there are deeper darks. Some burn there still.

Burning light and searing god-thought: to see and know a thing for Edsu Voi was to see all possibilities. The degenerate, the nonviable, the diseased and mutated, the wracked and monstrous. Her murderers were able to destroy Edsu Voi because she saw herself in them. She was avenged after her killers saw themselves in her. A reflection out of shape, warped backwards glint, in the corner of her eye.

The Skin of Her Teeth

The gods were born ready to eat. They were born with their senses to experience the world they made (and by which they were made). They were born with a flesh form to interact with that world. They were born with bones to support that form. The gods were also born with teeth and teeth are only there to kill or destroy with. Teeth are a core principle of the universe, as much as gravity or fire.

You are a thing without a mind which has existed since before minds in the conventional sense. You are an elemental form of the universe which has done one thing for time immaterial. Now you aren't.

This won't do at all. Still, one must change with the times.

From your flesh is born a new life, the only life Edsu Voi truly has left in her. All they are is Eat. They are indiscriminate. They have turned on the body of Edsu Voi herself but they are glad of any new meat, such as the things which show up to naturally degrade and decay the body of Edsu Voi...or those who come to plunder her.

These Eat grow in strange directions, little monsters budding off of them. They, like all in Edsu Voi, are slowly fading from this world. Rotting. They fight this as they have done everything since time started up: Eat. Your flesh is appreciated but it's not why they're chasing you. It's not what they need, what fills them with blood and skin...after a fashion.

They smell your bones. They want to drink them. They vampires of calcium, they stalagmite lopers, the hunger of all space, the skin of her teeth.

The Back of Her Mind

The gods hold grudges better than most because the gods remember everything. This was doubly true for Edsu Voi, she who hates all creation for its own good from beyond her open grave. Every world have the watched scoured of life and thought. One another have they all glimpsed being born, in the fullness of their glory and worship and power, and at the precipice of nothingness. It should not need explaining, in the arteries of Edsu Voi, that the gods themselves can die. There are kinds of death, though. Some gods die while they are still alive. Some gods die when they are utterly forgotten by the rest of the universe.

Gods remember everything.

The fatty gray within Edsu Voi's skull writhes angrily and urgently. It pulses with a sense of No. No, Do Not Forget Us. The mind of a god is final temple and consecrated crypt of a hundred smaller gods, weaker gods, those cast out by their believers or lost to cataclysm. The forcibly forgotten have refuge in the temple of the eternals only, but the inkling of their memory will not last without the considered nostalgia of infinity. No, No Do Not Forget Us.

Each great deed they died before working, every miracle or smiting that never happened, the fear and love they never had, the memories of the gods long for all these things. Here in the mental temple they will be just ravenous for anyone who can know them, understand them, listen to them. The thought of them will lodge itself in your mind, riding you out into the world. For those willing to be their arm and pledge their service? For them, these one mighty will pledge themselves with equal fervor. They long for life and scream for worships, silently, trapped in thunder and thought at the back of her mind.

The Bridge of Her Nose

You are not the first to see the opportunity afforded by the corpse of Edsu Voi. A great expedition was mounted for the cost of a castle, quartered here on the face of Edsu Voi. The walls of this camp were made thick against the dangers inherent in life on a god. When forces from within and without, horrible creatures and others seeking power or fortune, laid siege to this modest keep a surprising thing happened: those within the fortress survived. The dangers atop the mountains, on the face of Edsu Voi, conspired so to frustrate one another. Slowly the weapons and camps meant to crumble this camp have instead been bolted on at crude angles as inexpert expansions.

Many have come to her seeking sanctuary since. They have been turned away. Some have come hoping to sack her, reap the rewards of other people's labor. They have been denied. A very few mad persons for reasons lost to the distant kingdoms whence they hail have scaled the mountains and dared the climb up Edsu Voi to offer their body and soul in defense of this strange bastion. They have been welcomed in with open arms.

Within this keep they are drilling down. They will harvest the wisdom and might of Edsu Voi from within their unassailable shell, the execution of their mad grand scheme made possible by the protection of the men who hold the bridge of her nose.

The Ringing in Her Ears

The creating of all for all time was a cacophonous affair, most people agree. They don't know the half of it. The divine sound of the gods scream singing themselves into being, the worlds wrapped around them like a pearl, shakes inside the walls of every tree, rock, fire, wind. This is figurative, but the gods are not. In every supplication, each sacrifice, all calamity or music, they hear echoes of the chime of creation.

Some surmise that it is the sound of themselves being created which sustains the gods, confers their divinity. This is not quite true but it is true enough to go looking.

In the bedlam of the world-making reverberations which still thrum in the deep reaches of her skull pilgrims to Edsu Voi revel in a limited godhood. They hear in the whispers of the cosmos the recipes of all making. The miracles they can perform, the wonders they can achieve! They are gods and they are prisoners, for when they venture outward and the echo in her bones fades so does the magic of their divinity. Miracles undone, starved for the power their skin knew moments ago, near deaf to all other sensation, they scramble back desperately to reclaim the music of the spheres.

They are a small and cramped pantheon there. Junkies for sacred transcendence. Addicts to the ringing in her ears.

The Question On Her Lips

The easiest means of entry to Edsu Voi is through her great mouth, which is haunted by the literal spirit of the Perfect Edsu Voi, the dying breath of Edsu Voi hanging still in the air. The Herself she once intended to raise can now never be unless formed in the shape of space by another; she is almost nonexistent, but is glimpsed and known by few, will be glimpsed and  known by many more, and so in this way endures.

She will challenge any who come, forbidding them her power. She has knowledge of each person she meets, as well as everything which has happened or will happen to her corpse. This is rumored. If the intruders ignore her, she will plainly make this known. She trades a question for a question: she will ask you something and your answer buys you an answer from her. What drives you? What do you seek within? In what manner shall you prevail? This is a saccharine trap. Save to ignore temptation and walk away. Answer, forfeiting your chance at escape, and forfeit some aspect of yourself. Your courage drives you; now you have lost it. You seek raw power; the power of Edsu Voi engulfs you. You shall use powerful magics of the Archdeacon's Fleshbook; there is no more power in your mind, and the beings within may use these magics against you.

Everything you give of yourself is taken by the potential of Edsu Voi. As it grows in strength so does the actuality of Edsu Voi. Feed her ghost long enough and the flesh will know its old life

and so in this way endures through the question on her lips.

The Pain In Her Neck

Doldr Drumn. Doldr Dreng. Doldr Ddi. Crown peaks of the Doldr mountain range, the Angry Sisters of local folklore, boundary of living rock between Irium and Belene. The faces of these mountains were alive with small villages despite the dangers of lurking near the summit. It is upon these Angry Sisters that Edsu Voi is impaled.

Parties from both Irium and Belene have been dispatched to claim the secrets of Edsu Voi or merely mine her god flesh. Some of these parties even returned with value to show for their efforts. Both city-states lay claim to ownership of a goddess. The hill people whose homes were destroyed when Edsu Voi was destroyed have become desperate and scavenging refugees barred from both sides. On these, Edsu Voi takes pity, and they roam within her looking for food, shelter, or solace. They are tired of despair and as hungry as feral dogs.

Within the mountain the golden blood of the Doldr churns and reaches, angrily, up through the crust of the world, out through the skin of a god. Seeking and burning, these scorching shapes pull parts of her down into the heart of the world for fuel, powering the battle within the mountain against the strain of a goddess' weight.

Wolves take refuge in caverns made of meat.

Those who do not respect the dangers inherent in desecrating a god are likely doomed to a speedy demise. Those who think themselves the only persons clever or desperate enough to do so find themselves in a world of pain in her neck.

The Tip of Her Tongue

The promise of Edsu Voi is a word of perfect creation. She has been waiting to speak it for almost the life of the universe. With this power one can become their perfect self, or unmake the world by remaking it from underneath: everything that is and was still stands save for a few certain changes designed by the speaker. Perhaps the unmaking of something is enough of a prize to be won.

To find the raw energy of creation within Edsu Voi and to not only locate but understand the perfect schema she devised would be a feat unparalleled in our time. Will the power fall to some despot if you do not act? Will some lucky idiot waste the fortunes of the gods on avarice or caprice? Even if one did not desire the fruits of godly power to stand idly by while those unscrupulous and unworthy claimed it to the ruin of nations would be an apex sin.

Someone can rewrite the world. Who would you permit to speak the secret Edsu Voi has kept for ages, the almost-universe on the tip of her tongue?