Monday, August 28, 2017

Rogue Time Lords

Related image 

HD, Saves, Advance as Cleric. No armor or shields, no weapons. Time Lords never gain XP from treasure looted but do gain XP from treasure they deny their enemies. They may use any magic item or scroll. They may advance to level 16.

Time Lords have five abilities.


When a Time Lord is reduced to 0HP make a save vs. Death Ray. On a successful save you Regenerate. Roll d100; if you roll above your Constitution, you survive and take on a new form. You keep your XP and levels but re-roll all ability scores and re-roll your HP. You may do this 12 times. Everyone at the table except you gets to describe some new affectation of dress or personality quirk by which you must now abide.


A low-level psychic ability allows you to speak and read any written language; the DM may roll 1d8 twice in a row to make an exception but must get an 8 both times. If dealing with creatures with no spoken or written language who are nonetheless capable of language you may get only vague emotional states.

Plot Devices

Once per day you may produce from your pockets some gizmo or other that allows you to roll 1d30 in order to accomplish a task. If you still fail you must make a save vs. Wands/Devices or the DM may make up some worst-case-scenario bullshit to complicate your current situation. If you roll a 30 you not only succeed but may use the same gizmo once more before the day is out.


A target must save vs. Petrification/Gaze or be under your influence. You are considered to have Charisma 20 (+5 bonus) for purposes of extracting information from a neutral party, intimidating/forcing a morale check for your enemies, or controlling your hirelings in a complex or life-threatening situation. An ally may choose to fail this save.

Oncoming Storm

If you survive to 9th level or your 9th incarnation, whichever comes first, you gain proficiency with all weapons and armor, gain the Thief's Sneak Attack ability, and gain a one-time-only d100 roll with a Plot Device (though rolling 100 gets you a second use). You detect as Chaotic Evil.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Hobbits As Consolation Class

Image result for rankin bass hobbit
Inspired by this and this and I guess this and this.
HD, Saves, Attack as Thief. Requires 2 Ability Scores of 7 or less. You may use no armor but leather and may use one-handed weapons/small weapons/d6 weapons, but nothing that needs two hands apart from a shortbow. You may use a shield with a melee weapon but if you do then your weapons only do 1d4 damage. The shield grants you an extra point of AC bonus from what normal folk get. No speed penalty but you can carry a quarter of what a normal human can.

Instead of tying your bonuses to which specific values took the hit when you rolled up your pawn I'm just going to give you a list. You have up to 6 pts to spend, 1 for each shitty ability score. None of these effects improve as you level and you can't choose any of them more than once. If your scores are reduced below 6 later in game you do not get new abilities, but neither do you lose these abilities should your scores later improve.

Speaking of leveling: if you are part of any successful adventure or perilous scrape that results in a member of your party leveling up then you level up. You don't track XP and certainly not gold for XP because. Your fortune is the fortune of others. You may still only advance to 8th level.

At 8th level you gain any 3 Hobbit powers you don't already have, are free to establish your own private Estate and attract a bunch of distant relatives to live on your lands, are considered fluent in the language of any creature you met in your journeys, and may choose to Retire. Retirement is important because you can come out of retirement ONCE and be treated like a level 16 Fighter by those around you, also gaining equivalent to-hit and save benefits.

The effects you get to choose from are:

Charming Manner: +3 Reaction roll. Note that this does not confer a Morale bonus for retainers.
Escapist: Like "shields shall be splintered" without the shield; if you can explain how being little, thinking carefully, or leaps of faith might have spared you from what might have been a disastrous magical effect, hazard, or killing blow, then congratulations - you made it. Usable once per day. You can expend your use for the day to conveniently be able to wriggle out of bonds or through bars or whatever and get away, so long as there is the narrative possibility.
Barrel Rider: You gain a swim speed equal to the fastest land speed in the party, can hold your breath for at least 2 minutes, and do not suffer check/attack roll penalties associated with being underwater.
Forager: You have a 3/6 chance of finding enough food to feed the party in wilderness or grassland, 2/6 in a city, 1/6 in a dungeon.
Bravery: Whenever a fight breaks out you may elect to suffer from Fear, as the spell, and immediately make a saving throw, making a save at the top of each round. If you save against this effect then you may consider enemies you engage this round to be under the effects of Fear for a number of rounds equal to what you experienced, minimum 1, no save.
Christina Ricci: If you wander away from the party for one Exploration Round and are not immediately accosted or killed then you may rejoin the party at any point by declaring yourself to be inside something nearby, like a chest or barrel or cabinet or monster corpse. You do not have to explain how you got there, it just has to be barely big enough for you to fit into; rooms, closets, wagons, etc are not a suitable use for this.
Plain Hobbit Sense: You always use your best/lowest save when dealing with mind-affecting magic/effects unless the source of that mind alteration is beer or drugs, in which case you are a lightweight and take any penalties for the effects after one dose.
Redecorating: You make anywhere you sleep more homey. A Hobbit camp lets everyone who rests there regain 1 extra HP cumulative per night they and the Hobbit have slept there/settled in. If your players automatically reset to max HP after a night's rest, don't, but if you do anyway then add this bonus instead to the first healing the characters receive between safe night's rests, under the logic that a morning's invigoration puts one on the right foot throughout the day. Add 1 to the odds of a wandering monster check when Hobbit camping in the wilderness or dungeon.
Overlooked: Your enemies who ambushed your party literally just don't look down and see you. You never act in a surprise round but are never targeted, unless you are alone.
Hustler: Hobbits are passingly familiar with most common games and better at learning new games. If a Hobbit engages a NPC in a game as a distraction or tries to cheat at the game they add their level to the attempt.
Dressed For Movement: Hobbits dress for comfort and like lots of layers, because it's like taking a blanket with you. The first missile attack targeting a Hobbit always makes a hole in their clothes but leaves them unscathed, although arrows and bolts will pin them in place. When falling this has a 1/10 chance of snagging them halfway down the fall, but when climbing it has a 1/10 chance of snagging them and causing a fall.
Far From Home: A reminder of your life back home - being able to score your favorite tobacco, hearing someone else sing an old folk song, running into another Hobbit - eases your homesickness so much that it can overcome the effects of game elements like level drain or sanity loss, and in the presence of these players who are cursed or wield a cursed object are not affected by this curse. All these examples have a limited shelf life/benefit proximity so you're not untouchable but you can endure the strange foreign lands you encounter a bit better.
A Bit O' The Drink: You respond well to a little liquid hospitality. A tall warm pint reinvigorates you as from a night of rest.
Sworn to Carry Your Burdens: Magic or cursed items never count toward your encumbrance.
Friendship is Magic: If there is another Hobbit or halfling (meh) in the party you are each +1 AC. If there are three Hobbits (but not halflings) in the party you each gain +2 to hit. If there are Hobbits, FOUR Hobbits, in the party then you all gain +1 Constitution. If this puts your Constitution above 7 you do not lose your existing abilities.
Hillfolk: You wayfind and identify herbal, fruiting, or decorative flora as a Ranger of the same level, or 3/6 chance. You also have a 95% chance of tracking foxes and sheep.
Reputable: Your exploits have a life of their own, even if you toil in obscurity. Once per session you can confer a boastful title upon yourself, your allies, or one of your carried weapons.This duplicates the effect of an NPC's failed Morale check.
Bill: Any ponies you ever own gain +2HP every time you level and can Hear Noise/Search and Hide/Move in Shadows/Sneak as a Thief/Specialist of your current level. You may also use a Thief/Specialist's Climb rating to keep your saddle or navigate difficult terrain with this pony. They gain Morale 12 while you are alive.
Rally Monkey: When you suffer damage from a critical hit your allies benefit as if from a surprise round on the next round of combat.
That Dank Shit: You can always find pipe weed when shopping, and you (and only you) can always exchange pipe weed for spell casting or alchemical services.

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

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
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 7 and under you may also be a Hobbit regardless of roll. Hobbits are a consolation class where each ability score  and lower unlocks bonus abilities. 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.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Crazy Boys (Lovecraft Level Drain)

What the FUCK, yugioh, that's awesome! Where is THIS show?

Everything I can think of that does Level Drain is either some unspeakable abomination, some crazy weird eldritch trinket or trap, or something along those lines. People hate Level Drain because it can be hard to recover from without shlepping back to town and paying a bunch of money. Not every party cleric is going to roll something capable of helping you. You are determining your spells randomly, right?

And I get it. Putting your cool stuff from next level further away is a bummer. Taking away toys you thought you already earned can feel disappointing. The loss of HP involved could be deadly. In the past I have usually made Level Drain work more like XP debt, something extra you have to clear or be cured of before being able to advance. That's not a fix in fiction, though.

Cort the Druid doesn't head back to the tavern going "Ah hell, I got Level Drained." Or even "That spirit raked its claws upon me and I did feel my essence weaken; it will be long before I am what once I was, longer still before I am up to the challenge of the Hazeon Hex." That second example sounds fine in fiction except for focusing on the energy lost. That kind of thing, from a monster's perspective, puts focus on energy GAINED and opens us up to a boring Ecology Of post that describes all these hoary horrors in knowable, safe terms. How does the Friggit use the energy it takes from level drain? Does it sustain it? If so how often does it need to feed? What happens when it doesn't? If it just gets more powerful from level drain why isn't that reflected in a called-out monster level-up mechanic?

That kind of thing makes for an interesting episode of Planet Earth but I don't want someone interested in my nightmare creature. I want them to go OH SHIT.

Level Drain should be about the Oh Shit experience from the character's perspective. Not just fear - running away from the dragon is a pragmatic solution and failing a morale check or a save vs. a Fear spell is no different really than being outclassed by a level 36 wizard's Lock. You're just dealing with a bigger number at that point. Not just the player's anxiety about losing toys. This is something primal, superseding normal mental or physical reactions and mucking about in your soul. Your spirit, your kung fu, is reduced by these interactions. They are less about taking from you and more about shaking you. Creating cracks in your foundation, cracks you might fall into.

Lovecraft's dedicated authors and those of his imitators largely don't have to worry about death-by-octomonkey. A lot of them die from 1200 CCs of sheer crazy.

That's what I think we're talking about with, say, a wight. It's not there to claw you open or suck you dry like Shang Tsung. It's there to stop your heart in terror, cosmic force-of-the-universe terror, and if your body fails from your mind and soul falling away like ashes in a rainstorm then that aperture in creation is what makes your old wormbait start walking around under its own power again, as something outside of nature drives you like a car. It's not enough to leave you a shell of your former self. Nature abhors vacuum. An empty shell must be filled.

I think a lot of monsters are defined by how they can kill you, how many attacks doing how much damage and such. I think it's a pure way to think about a monster in a childlike, fairy tale, folklore, Pearce Shea, wendigo, Dracula, demoniac, Roswell sense to think about how a monster can GET you. I think this is why Slenderman caught on. Honestly it's probably a lot of how Freddy caught on: most movie killers have to chase or trap you, while Mr. K only had to exist. The child murder and rape and stuff was barely necessary except to justify how upstanding lawman John Saxon could ever commit a crime. Those of us more familiar with his filmography know that he's actually committed lots.

That was a big digression but my point is, I hope, clear. We have whole games built around sanity mechanics. We have lots of people trying to adapt those and bolt those on to D&D in some way. We've also got this mechanic for ghoulish apparitions that nobody likes to use. Seems to me an economic sort of rehab would be just folding the new spice into the existing batter.

So, Level Drain:

Level Drain works like it says on the tin. You lose one of your HD worth of HP. If you're one of these fancy classes with d12 for a hit die then sorry bro, you're subtracting 1d12. That's your chi being fucked with by this experience. A lot of those classes with huge hit dice are things like barbarians which, yeah, them having a worse reaction to the unnatural works in the fiction. In this way, though, you can actually survive being LD'd down to Level 0/Normal Human, as long as you are lucky with your HP loss. The only thing I don't love is that this is usually a to-hit roll instead of a save. Making it a save would let you deal more in Presence, so more in atmosphere. The to-hit roll works for Game of Thrones, though, so I'll leave it there. That's easy enough to mod on the fly.

That XP loss though...where does that go?


Every time you suffer the effects of Level Drain you gain what I normally would refer to as "1 point of Shock" or something. Today I'm saying you gain 1 level in Being a Crazy Boy. That XP you lost? It goes here, but there aren't hard XP thresholds. It's abstracted as a level of psycho-spiritual wounds.

A common fix for LD in many campaigns is letting Remove Curse fix it. In that case, this is also a good way to have on-the-fly Curse/Remove effects, damaging your willpower patchwork. Also fun and fast for those crazy monsters later on who drain multiple levels at a time.

When you gain enough XP to level up you may EITHER advance to your new level as normal OR "spend" that XP to remove a Crazy Boy level. Actually, this setup works even if you never reduce the target's XP, it just gets a different KIND of experience from its contact with the weird.

Crazy Boys are:
-X to all saves, where X is their Crazy Boy level.
-X to all healing, where X is their Crazy Boy level.
+X to damage with melee weapons, where X is CBL.
+X to the difficulty of saves against your spells (or +X to your Turn Undead result)
After your first CBL you are +1 to defense/save/whatever vs creatures with Level Drain.
When you have CBL 4 you gain your level as a bonus to morale checks vs the supernatural, attempts to understand madmen, and attempts to interpret the primordial tongues from beyond.
When you have CBL 8 you can no longer sleep and are never surprised.

You can see how some people, especially murderous or power-hungry ones, might allow themselves to gain levels in Crazy Boy. This isn't just good for Sanity effects, this can act as a kind of moral damage.

Characters reaching CBL 9, what would normally be Name Level in another traditional class, basically become monsters. They haven't been consumed and filled by the Outside. They have been changed by it, embraced it, and are now something perhaps no mightier than a man but much much different from one. The DM controls your character now and no amount of house rules and Remove Curse will save you. You're an other thing now. This, by the way, is how Moon Slave finds both his generals and the gristly body offal which greases the spindles of new wars.

Sum up: I can use Level Drain to close off parts of the existing game as written. I think it wouldn't take much, though, to open its victims up to a whole new game inside the one they're already playing.