Sunday, May 26, 2019

Life and Death in a Mode of Play (Quick Fighter Showerthoughts)

The thing is that if you look at D&D as a game that's about fighting then I don't particularly agree with you but it makes sense a bit why you have a dim view of the standard fighter and cleric. One comes without any obvious extras and the other just slows your party's overall gradual ablation from all the fights you get into. You don't get to do anything COOL. I don't agree with this perspective but I understand it.

If you strip away a lot of the things a cleric grants you - plentiful healing, extra lives, cures for curses and poisons and diseases - you can leave the fighter mostly intact. With their extra armor class, extra hit points, and quickly improving saving throws they sort of become something new: the old cleric.

They're not blowing up skeletons and purifying your tacos or anything but they have become that line of surest defense. Their abilities now take on the importance not just of helping them to survive but helping EVERYONE to survive. See without the net of magical healing (which it really fundamentally changes things to remove entirely so let's just say plentiful or default expectation of ready magical healing) then a fight becomes not something to endure and then patch up afterward. It becomes a real question of survival, promoting avoidance and escape where possible.

People who play games rooted in older styles know this. Elemental edition fighters and clerics are fairly close in a lot of game metrics, including defense and damage output, they just trade some personal survivability for a limited supply of help-others-survive. I'm accustomed to rolling randomly for my spells so a cleric whose big contribution is blinding the troll so we can leg it instead of healing us up from troll damage is par for the course, really. Absent a true cleric role or removing them from the game entirely the sole weight of survivability lies with the fighter and to a lesser extent the race-as-class elf.

First thing most people would replace either class with is a Paladin, which is just a fighter or cleric that has more of the other's bits in. Says it all, just about.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Jeff's Questions for Old Shadow

  1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion? You probably practice one of the five major real-world religions, but you could also be in a small mystery cult devoted to one of the pantheons of antiquity or in the service of some alien power.
  2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment? In America? Sears. A good general store or department store can set you up for most gear. Weapons are more difficult to acquire, usually from specialty stores, and most D&D style arms must be purchased from auction or antique shops. Bulletproof vests are more difficult to come by, and medallions of protection require special contacts. Walking around with obvious weapons on your person is begging for police intervention which, even if they're not affiliated with the Enemy, puts you in for a bad scene.
  3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended? Monsters who aren't shaped like us and don't possess the capability of shaping themselves like us are too shocking and dangerous to walk around with. They'll be destroyed, or else spirited away by some government agency or cult or council of secrets.
  4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land? There's a person named Triangle most believe to be a woman. Her agents and avatars have no power or insight of their own; they draw from her, and many go so unwillingly, unknowingly. They make themselves known through her sign.
  5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land? There's a person named the Shepherd who some believe is a MI6 agent, some believe is a mysterious kung fu wizard from mainland China, and some believe to be a Jewish gangster. Or a ghost, or all of the above. Enemy to all organized crime he is known by his calling card, a Passover mark in blood.
  6. Who is the richest person in the land? Some oil sheikh in the Middle East, I should imagine. There may be wealthier kings under the moonlight.
  7. Where can we go to get some magical healing? Any adventurer worth their salt has some familiarity with ancient sutras to make the body repair itself, found in obtuse manuals. A church or place of safe worship and meditation can bolster these powers. Some people do specialize in the touch of vitality, and any community where magic and malevolence are known has one such person in their rolodex. They keep office hours, except for friends and emergencies.
  8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath? You can file a motion against the body responsible for these afflictions and they'll often be cleared up in time. There are always mystic underworlders, however, willing to do black market blessings.
  9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells? If you're capable of doing anything more impressive than coin tricks then another Magic-User will find you: looking for other MUs is the main thing that they do.
  10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC? Try your local college, university, or local library.
  11. Where can I hire mercenaries? Any decent bar, dock, or rubbish-shadowed alley.
  12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law? Again walking around with a sword or walking around with a shotgun will get you locked up. Walking around blasting people with magic will bring down heat from cops, mystics, demons, you name it, so keep that shit under wraps.
  13. Which way to the nearest tavern? Most practitioners keep a well stocked bar at home and at least one flask in their coat or purse. Finding social functions to drink at is never tricky. Bars may or may not be abundant but are at best indifferent to you, never welcoming.
  14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous? There is an incursion from Hell that many believe is a sign that Lucifer walks on Earth. Their influence is rarely direct, often unnoticed, but ever present: things like that existing in the world allows other things to exist, too.
  15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight? You may have just come back from Nam. There's always some conflict in the world but it's going to be a second before the next big clusterfuck.
  16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes? Sports those are called sports.
  17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight? The ancient mythical races, particularly the moonlight councils of the faeries, hold contempt for mortal life and all magical kind who partake in the modern world. Many societies believe the apocalypse is coming soon, and a few are determined to ensure it.
  18. What is there to eat around here? A steak and scotch is the preferred repast.
  19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for? The answer to this is basically anything from an Indiana Jones movie.
  20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure? They say at least one dragon still lives, though where is unknown. If you want to find giant monsters, though, go out to the open ocean at night.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Request Line: Doomseer

Doom Slayer class. Rip and Tear the forces of hell
So am I right that this is just the space marine from Doom? Because that's what Google thinks. That's just a Fighter or maybe a Paladin with a different equipment list though, I think. It's hard to extrapolate when we get less about this cat than we got about Master Chief. How about

So an early Dying Earth story concerns this woman created in a pod by a science wizard but he makes her wrong. She thinks beautiful and good things are vile and monstrous and responds to everything with hate and violence. Her perceptions aren't inverted, it's more like the scale just shifted drastically: the truly abominable still registers as horrible, but in fact seems EXTRA horrible. By the end of her initial story she has come to understand that the world is not as she experiences it, what she has believed from birth is a lie, and she sets herself a path to strive for goodness and beauty and hope in a world where she experiences none of these. She just has to follow an inner compass that knows these things exists but there's no North, no needle, so she has to spin wildly and try to rely on trial and error and degree of revulsion and...

actually she shows up again immediately and gets fixed. By a guy who turns pretty and then they love each other. My. How interesting, Jack. Good write job.

How about this:

You can choose to level as a dwarf instead of a fighter. If you do, then you're in hell. Everywhere you look, everyone you see, carries the taint of the infernal wrack. The DM has to describe anything you ask them to in diabolical terms. This puts you on high alert: you are only surprised on a 1/6, and never surprised by demons or devils. Moreover, a true devil/demon can never hide itself from you, because they stand out as truly grotesque things. Illusions, charms, invisibility, polymorph, whatever would hide a hellish influence from another person falls away for you. These creatures shine out like a beacon. And when you see them, they KNOW you see them, magically, and make a Morale check.

It's a pretty simple mod that can add a lot of flavor and be played a few different ways, while giving you some mechanical advantages that will mostly play off later in the game when your crew goes a-horror-hunting.

The Value Of A Player Is Not Their Character: Duh

There's a line I see when people talk about Apocalypse World derived games. I think it's probably printed in some of the rule books. And I know I know before you even respond how late I am to the post on this but it's only now really sticking in my craw. "The DM [never the DM but they mean the DM] is a fan of your characters."

I just

I am a Homer Simpson aged man as evidenced by the fact that I grew up in a period where referencing the Simpsons at all as anything but a cautionary tale was acceptable. I've endured a lot. I've had blessings. I've worked with great people. But do you know when the last time I got around a physical table to play a physical game for more than a single session was? All this to say I am out of touch.

But if I'm able to sit down and start up a game with someone there's a few possibilities:

1) We are all strangers because this is a convention or a library meetup or something. Maybe a craigslist thing and we're all blowing each other after this, I don't know.
2) We are all acquaintances, or at least most people are, because this game is organized through some kind of organized play structure at like a store. The table is probably open, or it's cast from friends and friends of friends. Most online games end up in this category.
3) We are friends and this is something we're doing because we like doing this AND we like each other so it all works out.

"The DM is a fan of your characters." Why? This is session one, maybe session zero. Your characters have not done anything. Why am I a fan of these characters? I'm a fan of Doctor Doom. I can tell you lots about Doctor Doom. Cool things, funny things, ice cold things, metal things, the occasional sweet thing, ludicrously maudlin things. People been doing cool things with Doctor Doom for almost 60 years, I've got no end of things to be interested in. Things that make them distinct and unique. But Sarah and Heather both wanted to be Barbarians in this Dungeon World campaign so their ability scores and starting traits are all more or less identical and they have one of four names. I am a fan of these characters?

This sounds like a George Carlin rant, "Fuck you I'm not getting on the plane I'm getting IN the plane!" Another old man moment and old man reference. I get the intent here. At least I think I do. Because some other language seems to suggest that I want your characters to succeed and that's not entirely the case either. I want them to do interesting things that reveal things about their characters and/or advance the plot through their failures AND successes. That's the definition of a RPG narrative, that's close to the definition of a narrative.

Is it just making "The DM Is Not Your Enemy" an official rule? Because anybody who requires that rule not to be an asshole is the exact kind of asshole who won't stop being an asshole just because a book told him to. We're all friends here, under a loose enough definition...bosom chums, comrades in affection, perhaps only curiosity seekers united in experimentation. If I'm running a game I'm just happy everyone showed up, and I'm sure not playing with people I don't like for very long. The DM is a fan of you. I want you to be bold.

If your bad experiences have been baked in to the point where your default assumption of a player-DM relationship is an antagonistic one then that's tragic but positioning yourself in this way begs the question of the alternative, assumes a world of play where game breaking players and dictator DMs are constantly at war. This game won't be like that, we're working together. Of course we are. It's a game. Of course we are. We're people united in purpose of amusement and likely bound by shared trials and triumphs, we're all trying to have a good time and if we've been at this for more than an hour we're trying to make sure everyone else has a good time, too.

I hope to become a fan of your characters. Pippin the sorcerer who dared and so became all bears. Doctor Sun the Pootie Tang Wong Fei Hung. Dave, obviously. And obviously that goes both ways, I want to fall in love with my DM's NPCs and actually care when they thrive or die. But a DM telling me someone is interesting or a PC matters to me is not enough to make it SO. Neither should it be with your PCs: again, it goes both ways.

It's fine as a saying, "The DM is a fan of your characters," but what's it saying? That I'm invested in your survival? Not necessarily. That I'm invested in the group having fun regardless of my initial agenda? A given, surely, and if not a given it's harder to instill: you might as well just replace it with "Be a good DM." And what does that even mean?

To me, a good DM/Player relationship should be competitive but not adversarial. The goal is not to one up or top or defeat the other side of the screen. It's to SURPRISE the other side of the screen. Ideally this would not be through hacky rocks fall mimic health potion cursed sword of seppuku bullshit but there's ways to put even that in and still spare the rod. Surprising your players can mean just paying attention, noticing the things they say and value about their character's performance and aims and rewarding those values, even if it just means instituting a new NPC who shares them. Sometimes it's an ambush, sure, but sometimes it's an unrequited romance, and sometimes it's an unrequited romance that causes more problems than an ambush. You want to start a session with them asking "What do I see?" but end it with everyone saying "I didn't even THINK about that!"

Last time I ran anything a player drove a pterodactyl by choking it with its own baby, both of whom survived. Neither of us thought any of that was on the table when we sat down to play. NOW I'm a fan of that character.

I just think that as a safety net or warranty it won't actually stand up to the conditions that would require such a principle. And the rest of us already know better than to get ourselves into that position. If your DM doesn't then it's time you all had a little chat.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Hope Rules

I have been known to fuck with Honor and take different stabs at Sanity and I have messed around with Luck and more modern dillies like Advantage/Inspiration. I think I can make all that one thing, maybe touching on combat morale, that fits with my whole darkness-only vibe I love to revel in...

Do I also dare to move away from Hit Points as kung fu and Hit Points as vitality and just....use HP as an abbrev for something else?

Level 1 characters begin with 10 Hope.
  • For every negative modifier your ability scores granted you, gain 1 Hope. 
  • If you're a cleric, druid, paladin, one of those types you gain 1 Hope. 
  • If your starting gold roll results in less than 60 gold gain 1 Hope. 
  • If you begin with 1HP gain 1 Hope. 
  • Finally, all humans of other classes and all Hobbits gain 1 Hope. 
Since I don't split race and class that means your max starting Hope is 19 I think?

Your Hit Die is now your Hope Die. Each session you roll your total HD . If the total is higher than your current Hope (HP) you may choose that as your new HP value. After a certain point you stop gaining HD and just get bonus 1-3 pts a level, like Hit Points used to work. We can justify Constitution bonuses modifying this roll because if you're hale and fit you're probably more generally optimistic about your chances in life versus an elderly or feeble person.

Lose 1 Hope when you...
  1. Face the undead or demons
  2. Take psychic or necrotic damage
  3. Suffer a Fear/Terror/Horror effect
  4. Witness the death of a named character with which you are allied
  5. Are betrayed
  6. Cannot see in utter darkness
  7. Go a day without rest, or without food or water 
  8. Get real drunk
  9. Lose face or breach etiquette
  10. Get your heart broken
  11. Catch a disease
  12. Suffer an Injury or Scar

Gain 1 Hope when you...
  1. Witness any Player rolling a natural 20
  2. Fell any enemy when outnumbered
  3. Keep your promise, though it costs you dearly
  4. Free a prisoner or slave
  5. Forage enough supplies to feed your company
  6. Have a night of safe, healthy romantic or sexual activity
  7. Heal another through any means
  8. Engage in rousing song or tale-telling

When it's uncertain whether or not you would lose or gain Hope you can roll 1d20. If the roll goes over your current HP you may gain 1 HP if the situation warrants. If it goes under, you may lose HP. The more you have, the more you have to lose, more to fear.

Always regain 1d6 Hope from a night of safe rest, up to what you started the session at. Everything's better in the light of day. Well... SOME things. Some things can't be seen in the light of day, so that always helps at least.

You can spend Hope on...
  • Inspiration (lose 1HP, target gains 1HP)
  • Determination (lose 1HP to add +1 to a saving throw or skill roll you've already rolled)
  • Meditation (spend 1d4HP to gain 1d6HP; yes, this can break bad for you, just means your chi is all fucked up)
  • Provocation (challenging another by a code of conduct, or courtly intrigues, or invoking single combat; spend 1d4 Hope to add that number to a target's d20 roll, if they roll over their own HP then you have compelled them to act within the bounds you've set)
  • Intimidation (Spend 2 HP to impose a HP roll-under from your enemy, with success meaning they value their life more than victory and fuck off. Enemy must have less HP than you do.)
  • Direction (When we begin to despair there is often a sign... Sacrifice 2HP for some hint or clue about a course of action)
  • Connection (Spend 1-3 Hope [DM's Discretion] to establish knowledge of an existing person or resource in your nearby [day's ride] vicinity, or to make an established contact more favorably disposed toward you)
  • Retribution (Spend any amount of Hope to gain that value as a bonus to attack and damage against a specific enemy who has attacked you or an ally)

Damage and healing are not directly related to HP. It's not strictly vitality. The assumption is that you always get hurt, you always suffer, but you are able to overcome your wounds and impairments so long as you have Hope. Only then might your lacerations and broken bones catch up with you, the way your body starts noticing its pain and damage once adrenaline wears off. Like adrenaline, Hope is a drug.

Whenever you succeed in an attack you may or may not cause your target harm but you definitely winnow their resolve. In the same way your confidence and focus may be rattled and shattered by an opponent's force of arms or superior numbers.

Any time you would lose HP from weapon/trap/etc you may, once per session, roll your Hope Die +Con bonus. If this value is greater than the HP loss you would suffer, you can instead take an Injury and just lose 1HP as outlined above. Injuries impede your other in game abilities. The big flaw in this system is that I don't have a list ready to paste here but I'll put up a separate post when I do, then copy the text into here. Scars occur whenever you are hit by a natural 20, whenever you critically fail a saving throw, or whenever you heal from an Injury; they are largely cosmetic but you do lose 1HP for each. Magical healing actually makes way more sense than ever if you're restoring someone's faith Hope, and remember whenever you heal another character through any means your own PC gains 1HP.

A creature without Hope is the toy of fate, and what happens to them at 0HP is at the DM's Discretion.
  • Maybe their psyche is shattered, their spirit broken, and they are helpless before any injury or danger. In this case a "free interrupt" can be narrated describing their dispatch.
  • Perhaps the DM decides it's appropriate for them to take an Injury and bolster their Hope through their brush with death, granting them 1d6 HP and an Injury effect. This is an act of mercy that is not expended often, so go less boldly next time.
  • If it's not a situation like a fall or a trap or a combat that leaves them open for mortal harm, the DM may simply decide this person's influence or safety are utterly compromised. They may be arrested or they may run into hiding but whatever power they represented is considered broken. The party responsible, whether it's the DM or the Players, determines what that means. The individual in question, if they still live, can always return again when their Hope has been rekindled by a new cause or ally. Or power.
  • The Hopeless are the most prone to creeping madness, and anyone reaching 0HP may be permitted to operate like normal, only according to specific insanity conditions imposed by the DM. Think of this as how an undead husk is animated by an outside will. Each Insanity has a weight of 1d20, and the person in question will not get "better" until their Hope exceeds this weight.
Tables of Injuries and Madnesses are a dime a dozen in RPGland so shouldn't be too hard to source but I'll put one back in here later anyway. In summary, White Fang is a gripping tale of perseverance and survival, a love letter to wilderness and natural splendor, and a signed confession of man's savagery. You can find out more at your local library. Thank you, won't we?


EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that someone could read this as somewhat desperate or cry-for-helpy given my last post. I appreciate the concern if that's the case. You don't have to do anything for me. Sharing this article wherever you like and maybe kicking a buck into my donation button wouldn't hurt though, we do have some ironic medical bills right now.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Hey Y'all My Dog's Dyin.

Going to be an interruption of normal service here for a while. Hell of a New Reader Drive I know but I'm never going to put my gamey goofs ahead of what my wife needs. And really what I need. More than I'm ready for.

When I put something up again it's probably going to be a notice of restored service in place of this post, as well as a notice of expansion to a few existing articles/resources. Until then you can please leave article requests here.

Monday, April 15, 2019

New Reader Drive

Right now I have six "DUNGEON MIX" articles on the site. By the end of the year I want to make that TEN.

Right now I have 18 Adder Entertainment articles. By the end of the year I want to make that TWENTY-FIVE.

Right now I have only six reviews of OSR-And-Adjacent products on the site. While I try to only review things I adore, by year's end I want to make that number TWENTY.

I'm also going to continue making bugfuck classes, weird rules/setting mods, bad 5e content (is there any other kind?), the continuing adventures of Chefy, Elma, Moon Slave, Breaka, Hercules Jesus, Dawnstar Racing, Green Room, and more.

I'll probably even have something looking very like an actual book by the end of the year. Honest.

You can help with all of this. I won't ask for any Patreon donations, that went badly last time. No, instead the collapse of my only social platform and the removal of a couple of my biggest boosters from my life (for very good reasons) has left me with a much-shrunken audience. A lot of that is my fault, from brain problems. But I'm doing good work now and mostly avoiding those brain problems so I'd enjoy another crack at the bat.

You can help with all of this.

Just, every time you see something of mine you dig show up in your reader feed, or in Discord, or on Reddit, or pop up on the blogroll of someone more popular


reshare what you like with other people who might like it too.

Don't get me wrong, sharing my Donate button wouldn't hurt my feelings and would help keep my internet on for me to keep working. But that's not what I'm after. Right now I just want to find people and with the old blogosphere and G+ so fractured I don't even know where the choir WENT to preach TO them.....but would really love to get in front of some new eyes.


Some of my favorite things I've made have been from other people's prompts, be they G+ ramblings, free associating from someone's weird gif, Secret Santicore, the Chaos Request Line, or whatever. So here's what I'm asking. Share when you see something you like.

Then, put a prompt or request on this page. I'll pick a random prompt each week and do something with that. You either get something useful or just get something to read while shitting, or maybe just have fun challenging me.


Monday, April 8, 2019

Evolutionists- I'll Make A Man Out Of You

If you have clerics then use those numbers. If you have druids even better, use those numbers and use these guys instead. You can't use weapons and armor.

You have three abilities.

I Choose You

You can transform any animal with less than 1HD into a humanoid who acts/saves as a Fighter of half your level (min 1) with 10HP, whose unarmed strikes deal 1d8 damage. You can only have one such effect active at a time and the transformation only lasts until they defeat the enemy you summoned them to fight - not "the guards" but "Greg the guard" - or until they are reduced to 0HP or you revert them to their animal form at will. There's no limit to how many times you can use this per day. At level 6 you can do this with creatures who have 1HD and all creatures retain any special abilities that it would make sense for them to have, like echolocation for bats or heat detection for snakes.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

You have a number of Primal Forces equal to your level, choosing which new ability you gain each level. These may be taken multiple times. On your action you may invest one of these Primal Forces in an animal or animal-humanoid you have created. These are refreshed after a night of snoring and farting. You can also regain one Primal Force through the expenditure of Amber.

Healthy- Target gains 1d8 to their HP even if this takes them above their starting HP.
Ferocious- Target's unarmed attacks deal +1 damage and are considered magical.
Gentle- Target's unarmed damage uses 1d12 but only does non-lethal/stunning damage.
Arms- They already have arms but now they can have either a big fuckoff melee weapon that reaches 15' away or a powerful shortbow with unlimited ammo; all weapons and ammo vanish when the animal reverts.
Surprise- An animal's target suffers from the effects of Confusion until it is reverted.
Cautious- This can be activated when the Evolutionist or one of their animals would be hit, even from surprise: the animal transforms and becomes the target of the attack.
Will- The animal gains a mind of its own, along with the capacity for speech. It is totally obedient.
Move It- The humanoid gains any special movement the animal possessed, like burrowing or flight
Feast- The humanoid kills itself but stays at its big size, providing delicious rations for a whole party.
Defense- NOTE: ONLY WORKS WITH TURTLES. The humanoid's head and arms collapse into its chest. It gains +4AC, blindsight, and its kicks become magic.

Power of Nature

You can carry up to your Dexterity score in small animals on your person. If you would take damage from a weapon attack you can say that one of your animals stunted the blow, subtracting the dead thing's HP from the damage you would take. In addition, you can use any animal as a weapon. Snakes become nunchuks, hedgehogs become shuriken, alligators become greatclubs. They deal damage according to the weapon they are emulating but they suffer the same amount of damage. Once they're dead they no longer function as a weapon. You can invest a Primal Force in these animals in order to heal them and send them on their way.

Toad Style

At level 9 you gain the ability to turn a willing or terrified humanoid into an animal of 1HD or less and carry them with you. If they take damage from any source they instead revert to their pre-animal state.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Six Paper Mario Spells

Duration is 1 exploration Turn.

2D Shape - You can turn two-dimensional, capable of slipping through cracks of less then a millimeter wide or slide under most doors. You maintain your class features and ability scores but you cannot physically attack, though you can surprise enemies on a 3/6. While 2D you are immune to fall damage but cannot swim and take double damage from all other sources.

Boat Up- You are a boat, capable of carrying one comrade and moving under your own power at normal encounter movement; the wind at your back grants you full movement even in a combat encounter. Your comrade may communicate with you and can spot for you and help you steer, for while you can innately follow currents and wind changes in this form you can't "see where you're going."

Action Command- While this spell is active, whenever you make a melee attack each of your fellow players also rolls 1d20. If any of their d20s gets the same number that yours does, you do +1 damage and can roll another attempt to hit, with the player you matched sitting out. This can in theory go on forever but probably not right?

Showboat- You gain a +2 bonus to saves for every successful Morale check your retainers make. Additionally, the number of retainers or civilians present, up to 15, represents your minimum roll at any action attempt. These bonuses last until you unequivocally fail a roll.

Buddy Shield- You can declare your place in individual initiative and simple/side initiative. If you go last, no enemy can target you unless they would target every one of your comrades as well. You gain a bonus equal to a targeted ally's Level to hit any creature that targeted them on your initiative.

Bowser Parts- Your movement speed and jump height is quartered, you gain 5 pts of AC, and you can breathe fire. You weigh as much as a catapult. If you are injured you must save vs death or cry. If you are confused you must save vs paralysis or lose your temper and breathe fire on the person or problem who is annoying you, even/especially if you shouldn't.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Lionfish Dungeon

My wife made this.
We’re all familiar with invasive species. Those creatures transported to a new habitat who lack any natural predators or deterrents, often coming equipped with big appetites.

We know about them from bugs, for example the Stink Bug, currently found in 44/50 states accidentally brought over from Asia. I remember when this things first started taking over in my childhood home from another invasive species of of ladybug-like Japanese beetles. They do about $37 million in damages to commercial fruit farming annually.

We know about them from nutria, who have grown to scourge several continents and fuck up wetlands and compromise levees all over the US. Where the stink bugs came over accidentally from east Asian commercial imports (like so many pests) the nutria was usually brought along deliberately for the fur trade and then just....lost track of? Deliberately released or accidentally escaped, no one wants to admit.

We know about them from birds. One thing I found funny is that the common mallard, that green headed bastard who has become a byword for “duck,” has become considered to be invasive for a lot of reasons birds usually are (like pushing out native species by taking nesting sites and eating too much plants and shit) but are also A) believed to be a big vector for the spread of diseases to other birds, and spreading bird flu to humans; B) and my favorite, they just fuck everything into extinction. Yeah. They just interbreed to the point where some ducks just cease to be considered a separate species, in the process potentially undermining the wild ducks genome. That’s bananas, ducks really are the Rolling Stones of birds aren’t they?

We know about them from plants and I won’t pick on Asia any more but even barring kudzu and bamboo there’s a great well known example the red and blue gum eucalyptus trees that were imported to California only to, first, spread like wildfire, then start exploding and causing wildfires. As invasive species go there are not that many suicide bombers. This is what the kids today call Extra.

There’s a lot to deal with when it comes to combating these encroachments in the name of protecting indigenous habitats vegetation and wildlife (here considered separately from any danger or inconvenience posed to people). Sponsored arboreal genocide. Proactive herbicides. State and federally sponsored bounties. Aggressive culls. Relocation is often cost prohibitive or so dangerous to the creatures anyway as to be discounted but it does happen. Sometimes a species’ predators are introduced to keep them in check, which sometimes works and sometimes leads to an old woman who swallowed a fly scenario. Or stink bug: in addition to a huuuuuge pesticide increase, some regions are fighting stink bug proliferation “safely” by deliberately releasing something called a samurai wasp which HOLY SHIT WHAT! That sounds awesome and terrifying. Oh my god it is in fact BOTH!

One reason methods of dispatch varies is because what constitutes an invasive species can be uhhh a conversation, not a definition. It’s not that these terms don’t have meaningful scientific value but there’s not always consensus. One entomologist I saw on Space Ghost one time gave the definition of a “weed” as any plant that’s not where it’s supposed to be and is causing problems for the plants around it, which was also more or leas his definition of a “pest;” if it’s chill and integrates with the rest of the ol food chain then fair’s fair, welcome to my Crib, but if they start making things hell for the lifeforms around them then it’s time to exterminate. This is me paraphrasing a 20 year old cartoon so it’s not the strictest rigor of terms but it’s a good guide I think, especially for us humans. We can live places without fucking them up but we just often fuck em up anyway at which point we’re an invasive species, which is a wholllle conversation people take very seriously. If you think the DUCK will fuck anything and spread disease don’t open a history book.

It should certainly be transparent that all of this is entirely gameable. The gag of the "dungeon exterminators" has become such a cliche that "clear out the rats" is the definitive shitty level 1 quest in almost any video game. Anybody who has played Gauntlet has eventually made some kind of pest control joke and when Adventure Time published their Gauntlet reskin that was the literal premise of the game. So yes, by all means set some fires to clear away the invasive vines, that can only create interesting problems. Put out glue traps for the kobolds. Speak with animals to make the ducks question their sexuality and gender identity. Do whatever. Do all those things. But that's not what got me thinking about this. No, the impetus of this article was one James Fenimore Buffett, the salty boat man song guy.

James Tiberius Buffett is involved personally and financially in the fight against lionfish, a species which has been invading the tropical Atlantic thanks to human carelessness and other factors. As the population has exploded conservation concerns have naturally arisen. One solution espoused by James K. Buffett is to just make people want to eat 'em. It's sound in theory: we've fished so many other species to near exhaustion, why not an invasive one? So we have a situation where, as opposed to the above where commercial interests have helped spread the influence and speed the growth of these lifeforms, we now have a commercial project launched for the localized eradication of a species IN THE NAME OF CONSERVATION and that's

something? I don't honestly know how sustainable this plan is or how humane it is or whether the cheap, underwritten food stock JB's restaurant chain stands to gain out of this might outweigh its actual impact. Or whether such a program can help more than harm. I mean I know that Dr. Paradise Cheeseburger is on board with a lot of oceanology peoples so maybe this will be keen?

But in D&D land

The idea of a large company taking it upon themselves to protect a habitat through slaughter of an encroaching creature for profit is very alluring to me. This isn't a king's edict or a command from the gods. This is Bors Bier and his merry band of woodland killers being called into action to protect their forests, their game, their livestock, and the overall health of the land. The Grey Wardens do not rail against Darkspawn here, but the hog hunters who know that the invasive shadow beasts threaten to encroach on their locally spawned devils stand ready to defend the homeland not with holy powers but counter-blasphemies, emboldening the devil you know while guarding against the Orgdru-Jahad.

It's got legs, if what I'm saying. As a player party enterprise, as a faction within the world, as opposition? Any organization that driven to do something for people can always find itself some enemies, maybe these guards simply need guards. I'd be willing to wager that there's something in your world that doesn't belong. That's almost the definition of an RPG setting. But is this creature out of place because of dimensional whimsy or because a crate of the fuckers fell off a coach? Human greed and human carelessness is often reason enough to put your whole countryside in turmoil.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Choose-Your-Own-Houserule Fighters

Balance is for playground equipment
Some of these rules are from other games, some are from other bloggers....I'd like to credit these but I don't usually keep track, frankly. Please tag yourself or the original author if I miss a citation. Fighters can use any armor, any weapons, and they usually have the highest HD in the game; I'd give them d8s. Additionally:

1) Fighters have 10% chance each level of attracting a Great Companion, a once-in-a-lifetime partner. There is a 25% chance this is a monstrous mount like an owlbear, 25% chance this is a normal mount of unusual intelligence skill and heartiness, 25% chance it's some sort of like-hearted fellow warrior, and 25% chance it's something buckwild like a monstrous warrior or the ghost of their ancestor or an intelligent sword. Once this Companion is destroyed you don't get another one so handle with care. (Encounter Critical/No Signal! clued me into this)

2) Fighters add their level +1 for to-hit rolls for attacks, grapples, etc. (This may be a lot of things but I namecheck LotFP)

3) They gain +1 Saves whenever they defeat a warrior with higher HD in single combat. It doesn't even have to be lethal combat, it can be an organized sporting match. (All me, and should be easier to manage and faster to boot opposed to just remembering to add +2 every three levels or so; easier to modify, too).

Finally, Fighters also get to choose three of the following at first level. Choose or be metal and roll. (An idea stolen from Telecanter)

  1. Veteran Edges- Every level they gain a Veteran Edge, which automatically improves five levels later. (Me)
  2. Swords AND Shields Shall Be Splintered- A Fighter can sacrifice their shield to avoid damage when hit, or can sacrifice their own weapon to inflict damage when they're missed. (Trollsmyth, modified)
  3. Changing Stances-  A Fighter can Press (+2 to hit/-4 AC) or Fight Defensively (+2 AC/-4 to hit) (modeled from LotFP)
  4. Three Strikes- A Fighter dropping to 0HP can save each round against death. 3 failed saves and they're down forever. Further or ongoing injury automatically counts as a strike. A Fighter can elect to keep fighting at 0HP but incurs an immediate strike. (5e style, modified)
  5. Fireballers- At level 5+ you roll 1d20 for any weapon's damage die. (I know who I first saw mention this but I associate this more as a common FLAILSNAILS hack)
  6. Deed Die- At level 1 it's a d4, and it increases every odd level until you're rolling a d20 at level 11; when you want to describe some daring combat maneuver or do something not-smitey in combat then you can roll that Deed Die and on a 4+ you're successful; for every multiple of 4 you succeed by you get an added situational bonus. (DCC, modified)
  7. Two Weapon Fighting- Make one attack roll with no offhand penalties. On a hit you roll each weapon's damage and the highest damage before applying bonuses takes effect, if both weapons do the same damage then both weapon's damage is applied. On a crit both weapons' damage is doubled. (Not sure this one. Little help folks?)
  8. Title- You gain lands, a title, and a small castle immediately, conferred by some lord you currently serve or have aided, and can engage in domain-level activities. (I mean they can do all this anyway whenever they have the money, this just skips a step)
  9. Die With Your Boots On- A Fighter is never encumbered by nor do they suffer penalties to sneaking or rest for armor they wear or weapons they carry. (Me? I can't be the only guy for this one.)
  10. Field Commander- A Fighter can, once per fight, use their action to allow another character to make an additional action. They gain additional uses per-fight equal to their HD. (This was inspired by Warlord classes and builds)
  11. Critical Shift- For any roll a Fighter may declare they are shifting their critical range. They can alter their range for a critical hit up to their # of HD, but their range for critical miss increases by the same range. (Too many to name I think)
  12. Horde- At level 9 a Fighter attracts a horde of warriors to their side numbering 10,000. (I think the Barbarian from Unearthed Arcana could do this)

Zucchini Wars

I don't know how it is for the rest of the world but if you live somewhere very rural in the States you're probably accustomed to waking up one morning and there are six crates of corn on your front porch. Or maybe you come out of Wal-Mart and the bed of your truck has a huge bag of green beans in it. Every year around harvest time I've even known there to be cases of people entering people's cars and homes illegally to reverse-rob folks. Signs on the road, Okra By The Bag only they mean a big institution sized burlap sack. These vegetable Santa Clauses are guilty of squash crimes out of desperation, only uniquely for the poorer peoples of this country this desperation is born from too much of something. When you have eaten and dried and canned and pickled everything you can, when you have given everything away to relatives before they stop returning your calls, when you have sold everything you can (but remember there's an upper limit to that, because all your neighbors' crops are coming in, too) and you have to either just get rid of 500 lbs of carrots or find a way to deal with 500 lbs of rotting carrots...

Hospitality of effect can often be intended practically. This is one thing at the root, for example, of "southern hospitality," and the explanation for any dissonance with the spirit of true charity espoused by Christ and the often pragmatic what's in it for me when is enough enough kind of giving many Christians practice. Big digression....

The point is there comes a point where a gift can be a burden. We all know this, I don't have to list any other examples do I? But what gets talked about less is when having Plenty presents a Problem.

The funniest way to address this in your game is a kind of anti-hoarding dragon. They acquire a big pile of magical bullshit from everyone coming to slay them. NOW word has spread of a cave filled with magical wonders and powerful artifacts, so the dragon is being pestered and endangered even more! Best to just get rid of as much as they can, and so a large rumbly voice from the bushes starts offering free potions, the Lady of the Lake has swords to spare these days even though her arm seems green and scaly, a mysterious peddler with catlike eyes is practically giving magic weapons away....

Honestly a common take with dwarves is eschewing tradition (TRADITION!) and having them be more or less over gold. It's not very useful and it's not valuable in dwarf society since it's everywhere. It really only has any value in trading for surface goods. We had this phenomenon at the store where people would come in stateside from Puerto Rico or wherever and they had this huuuuuuuuuge list of Warhammer minis and board games and hard goods that were more expensive or difficult to acquire, and they'd have big wads of cash and prepaid gift cards, practically begging to overpay us just for the relative convenience of being able to haul this stuff home and make a tidy profit disseminating it. Hm different kind of class commentaries at play in today's article... The point is that from there it's not hard to imagine a dwarf merchant happy to be "taken to the cleaners" over some good goats that are going to populate their mines and power their elevators for generations, all in exchange for a mere tin kettle full of gold coins.

But if there's a fantasy culture ready built for the concept of hospitality as something you do TO someone rather than FOR someone it's the Hobbits. Halflings, Smidgen, Havlin, whatever. Every year the harvest festival represents not just the completion of a year's efforts but the beginnings of months of gourd-centric conflict. It's the calm before the storm, a Halloween Armistice where last year's potato grudges are set aside because you just know that you're about to have to deal with a whole new set of enemies. They're your neighbors, so you're surrounded. You can ally yourself with folks on the other side of the county but that'll involve an accord whereby you distribute their peanuts to your extant allies in exchange for them moving your barley flour.

This is what all Halfling adventurers are training for: to become Sheriffs and Marshalls and such, folks capable of keeping the peace in their rural communities. They've seen the corruption and violence the good Samaritans leave in their wake. They can lead these family feuds with the trust and insight it would take a seasoned human general a decade to obtain, but that's just it, so can all the other halflings around them. So they venture out, leaving the battles to wage without them year after year, learning the esoteric crafts of the great societies and plundering far off places for..riches? Sure, but knowledge. Experience not XP. Along the way they'll happily relieve a winged lizard of its +3 dagger, eagerly swap some recipes with a deep pocketed dwarf, and they'll happily trade news and stories and secrets and brave every danger because what's waiting for them at home will be worse simply because it's family, and familial conflict can be the truest and cruellest razor.

Along the way, everywhere they go, they leave a trail of radishes and confusion.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Rumor Hasn't

You are preparing to go to Duck Dungeon? Why is it called Duck Dungeon? Well, rumor has it...

You are preparing to go to Duck Dungeon. Here are (1d6) three rumors about Duck Dungeon: there is a secret passage behind the Big Duck; Duck Dungeon can only be found when the lake is still; there was a translation error and it's actually a Dick Dungeon.

You are preparing to go to Duck Dungeon. Each of you makes a Reaction Roll/Streetwise Check/Carousing Roll/Something to see if you pick up any rumors. Now we check the rumor table...some of you earned more rumors than others, some of them are the same, a lot of them are about treasures or monsters just the location of Duck Dungeon.

You are preparing to go to Duck Dungeon. You followed a rumor from distant Forestall here to Grubbom and now you have to run the dungeon down. You collect rumors in Grubbom and, cross-referencing with your Forestall intelligence and judging from local landmarks, have determined the Duck Dungeon to be real.

You are preparing to go to Duck Dungeon. You don't need rumors or NPCs, you have like 20 skills that everyone can take turns checking in order until you've blown out any mystery this place might have had. The DM can contradict this information but that's too close to robbing you of the consequences of your good rolls! Thinking about it, you're also not going to Duck Dungeon because that's not in the latest published adventure, which you also know because you bought and read it already yourself.

In the first example we get the Lede that represents the sum of all your rumor harvesting efforts: there is a Duck Dungeon, it's filled with duckosauruseses, it's in Goose Pond to cleverly throw you off the trail. In the second we have several rumors which may or may not be true and there's not much of a way to tell. This is still abstracted as the result of the group's efforts and scrounging. In the third example each PC's own contacts and guilds and favors are being employed to turn up largely the same results, although we can spread the love around. This gives us way more rumors, lowering the overall accuracy rate (without accounting for overlapping info) but doesss have the advantage of different players believing different things about the game they are playing. Result. Our fourth example gives another step to the process, multiple rumor tables for different locations and a process of verifying rumors. In the fifth example I am bitter.

Finally there's two other distinctions when it comes to your rumors. Either the DM knows what's true or not already, or they are letting the players' investigations and relative enthusiasm "write" sections of Duck Dungeon. While the latter has its place it's largely in the margins, and no one needs to read someone telling them to "have margins." So we'll go forward assuming the DM knows truth from lies.

So here's a way to do rumors. You're already doing rumors fine. Okay then go read about the Monster Truck class again.

1) Generate 1d10 rumors ahead of time. Hand these out whenever someone makes a Reaction Roll to gather aid or intelligence for a mission, or for Carousing Rolls. Rumors will be filled in order, concerning...
a) An enemy/monster
b) A treasure/reward
c) A location/destination
d) A mystery/secret
e) A unique/special feature, like a garden maze
f) A guide/survivor
g) A trap/hazard
h) A death/tragedy associated with this place or quest
i) A rival/guardian
j) A puzzle/riddle
2) Decide their veracity ahead of time. Try to divide the rumors up evenly between types.
a) True rumors
b) False rumors
c) Half-truths, like Monster Island actually being a peninsula
d) Maybes, which may or may not be true in any way
3) Each player's character can Validate one rumor, revealing whether it's True, False, or Other.
a) Validation occurs by class/race, grouped according to how they Attack.
I- Thieves can Validate treasure and traps
II- Fighters can Validate monsters and rivals
III- Magic Users can Validate mysteries and puzzles
IV- Clerics can Validate anything because Jesus loves them
V- Halflings/Hobbits can Validate locations and guides
VI- Dwarfs can Validate treasure and deaths
VII- Elfs can Validate tragedy and special features
VIII- Anything weird that doesn't scale their Attack like these can Validate any one type of rumor of their choice.
b) Half-truths can be revealed but you never know for sure what has been concealed
c) Maybes Validated by a PC can be dismissed for free or upgraded to True with a Hard save like Magic/Spells.

This doesn't require a ton of extra effort on the part of the players and is tied to who their characters are without making rumor gathering its whole separate session. Any PC can learn any rumor but they can't necessarily trust it, and surely a Fighter would fall for a story of woe and trouble more easily than a Bard who knows without a doubt that that's just the Tragedie of Honrberry with the names changed round. It doesn't require more WORK for the DM but does require more PREP from the DM, in that they have to write/roll their rumors before play begins instead of as they're asked for. It's abstracted so that no one NPC is going to know the complete history of the Duck Dungeon for no fucking reason just because someone rolled a 30 Charisma. It's got enough of a process in Validation to feel like a mini game and underlines that not all NPCs' dialogue should be trusted, but you knew that right? Finally, it affords an opportunity for the "Yes And" crowd to decide that, actually, Duck Dungeon *IS* filled with dicks instead, but they have to earn it.

Friday, March 22, 2019

PSA- Help Josie X Please

METAL vs SKIN is one of the best blogs from the whole scene. I'm not arguing with you about this. Josie is someone who I've had the honor of playing with exactly once, and she let me be an army deer in Adventure Time. But I don't care about content right now. I have had


in my career. I have been a stone's throw from needing to pick up a Planet Fitness membership just for a place to shower and some free pizza, once or twice. I have been SAD, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me.

Even now I'm trying to balance which debt collector I owe three grand to I can put off for another month and which one is most likely to hit me with a lien.

But I've had breaks. There have been angels. Grace I haven't earned or deserved which is the definition of grace.

Josie Lindsey could use some angels now. By the time I get paid again it'll be too late for me to help with this current crisis. If you can assist in any way beyond just demanding twitch streamers say "TRANS RIGHTS" which is nice but won't keep a roof over someone's head over the next weeks


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Surf Rockers - Why Stop At Bards?

I think Mel Taylor's the one who looks like he's from Lazy Town.
HD, Advance, Saves, Attack, etc as a Cleric. No spells, no turn undead. No weapons or armor but your instruments can double as clubs. You can wear any cosmetic magic item or play magic instruments.

Shoot The Curl

If you are rolling simple/phase initiative then the Surf Rockers roll a separate initiative. If you are running individual initiative then the Surf Rockers can instead Save vs. Spells, with a success meaning you go first and a failure just being your unmodifiable initiative roll. The name of the game is trying to go first, as you'll see below.

One Two Three Four

Surf Rockers number at minimum a drummer, a guitarist, a bassist, and can include horns, keyboards, or 1-7 additional guitars. For simplicity's sake you are a four-person combo. You make decisions and investigate a mystery as a group, and if you are attacked then what hurts one of you hurts the band. Metaphorically. But I mean your hit points reduce. You almost never attack during normal combat but you can Waylay outside of combat if you have surprise on an enemy.

Tempo Tantrum

During a fight you can Rock A Gig to play gnarly surf music. This doesn't require spell components or slots or anything. It's just A) all you can do, and B) it requires the PLAYER to make surf music sounds with their mouth the entire time. Bowwdirdridwowdow gowwwgagiggabow bow duffe dududanan maaa ba gigga din dow.

While doing this and distracting all the other players, the Surf Rockers' player must pay close attention.

Write down everything that happens in a round that occurs AFTER/CONCURRENT TO the Surf Rocker's position in initiative. Every attack, movement, damage, spell, save, etc that other players and NPCs and monsters and shit make. KEEP MOUTH ROCKING or the effect wears off.

Once a round is finished, Surf Rockers can shut the hell up. They can now dictate the rhythm of the combat itself, determining what order everything happened/the order everything is resolved. Doing fuck all and being a hugggge target and BOWW GIGGA DOW DOW the whole time lets you, effectively, role play a character whose class is "Initiative."

Surf Rockers can Rock a Gig a number of times per day equal to their level.

Let's Split Up Gang

Surf Rockers who have Rocked a Gig are vulnerable and decidedly the center of attention. They double their movement and gain a Charisma bonus to hiding (their actual +1 or whatever from Charisma for d6, or their full Charisma score for d100) for the rest of combat.

Show Must Go On

Surf Rockers add their level to all saving throws during a combat.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Creating Basic Red Classes + 5 Examples

I'm both guilty of and exhausted by normal D&D class bloat. I feel like all too often a new class is just an existing class with bits on. Next thing you know we're adding feats and then traits as a distinct function from feats and where does it end? But the beauty of stripping things down to a very tight core, even having split race and class which is not usually my boogie, is that expansion for a particular gaming group is easy to do. While I'm happy to one day host some Basic Red extension of the FRACAS -- that'd be something to see -- it won't happen; everyone who wants a D&D experience is either playing some version of the normal game since those are all readily available again; they're playing an existing clone; they're playing GLOG. I mean prove me wrong and if your table does put together some Basic Red content link me to it.

Point is I think any expansion to the rules I provide should be largely on a by-table basis. Now most of my games involve my wife, who I specifically had in mind when designing this game. If we expand on our core five classes it has to be something that you can picture any of the Strangers doing and it has to be something that can be codified without too many codicils. We're talking about a small set of options that can be used to build a few different character types each. So let's try this. We'll use the existing classes and make sure that each new class complements an existing class or fills a need that a given class would have.

Add your Master's Control bonus to any Skill attempts in those conditions
Level 1: +1 Die Craft
Level 2+: Pick One, +2HP
+1 Die Heal
+1 Die Craft
+2 Willpower
+2 Mana

+1 Control in Cities/Courts
Level 1: 500c, 1 language, Pick One
Level 2+: Pick Two, +1HP
+1 Die Speech
+2 Status
+1 Mana

+1 Control during a Rite
Level 1: 1 Rite, 1 Name, Pick One
Level 2+: Pick Two, +1HP
+1 to One Save
+2 Rites
+10 Experience
+1 Mana

+1 Control for Ambushes, Surprise, and Sieges
Level 1: +1 Troops, Pick 2
Level 2+ +2 Troops, Pick 1, +1HP
+1 Control
+1 AR
+1d6 HP
+1 Mana

+1 Control during Exploration rounds in dungeons, ruins, temples, etc.
Level 1: Gain 1d6+1 HP
Level 2: Pick One, +2HP
+1 Die Detect
+1 Die Fitness
+1 Die Dodge
+2  Mana

So if the Magicians are spell mules then Summoners become spirit mules. We get Daredevils to cover all kinds of treasure hunters, thieves, barbarians, and anything that the other paths might have already fit just fine but stripped of some of their other fighty or interacty options. Servants are, well, just mules, built to work in concert with another player, stronger together. Envoys are mostly useful in strictly diplomatic affairs but can help buy a lot of wiggle room, and so are like a diet-Financier in the same way Basic Red can be used as a diet-dnd. And the Marshal is for everyone who wants to really lean in to the mass combat options. There is overlap with the existing classes but they fill in some gaps and, most importantly, this is something any of the Strangers would be at home doing while not presenting tooooo many options for combo abuse.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Old Tailor Is Dead


I did this subclass a while back and it never sat quite well with me. It's too much without feeling like anything distinct. After the Amber article, though, I think I cracked them. I think they must even be a full class now, so let's have them work like Thieves without any thief stuff. Correction, they can get Sneak Attack damage but only with bit-ass knitting needles.


A BLT has the power to infuse all the magic of Amber into a particular pattern, instead of activating its normal abilities. There are 6 such magical patterns known only to the tailor elite and there may exist more. A BLT's Suits are obviously bespoke and only fit the individual they were tailored for, usually the BLT herself although they can work for anyone. Making one of these Suits costs 1000g/level but all BLTs begin play with 1 Suit that fits only them. Suits cannot be re-tailored, but must be built from scratch. Suits found in the world as treasure will only fit BLTs. Each level the advance a BLT will learn a new Pattern until they know them all. At level 7 they can work with the DM to create a new magical Pattern using what they've learned, and at level 8 (as high as they can advance) they can open a Shop, take on an Apprentice (level 1 BLT), and can make Suits for half price.

Awakening a Suit with Amber activates one of the Suit's magic powers until the suit takes damage. Even 1HP of damage or catching a thread on a nail undoes the magic. Suits that are damaged can be repaired without interrupting normal reprieve benefits during a ten minute rest. Raw Amber can activate 1 power at a time, Polished Amber can activate 2 at a time, Pure Amber can activate all 3. Which abilities are activated is determined by the BLT at time of activation. Suits can't benefit from more than 1 piece of Amber at a time.

Normal Amber abilities are not activated when Amber is expended BUT you should always roll the appropriate dice anyway to see if you get a Summon. In the event of a Summon the Prismystic instead appears dressed in their own version of the Suit in question with all its attendant abilities.


Throw- A successful attack throws the enemy your Strength in feet unless they are a larger size than you.
Thick Shell- 3 pt AC Bonus
Mandibles- Attacks as a magic axe, can clear brush for 5' per round.

On Your Feet- Immune to fall damage
Purr- Pacify/mesmerize one intelligent enemy for as long as you keep it up
Bad Luck- Enemies take a penalty equal to your Level for all saving throws if they can see you

Hop- Leap your Dexterity in feet per round
Climb- Adhere to sheer surfaces, climbing without a check until your Suit wears out.
Amphibious- Hold your breath for up to 10 minutes, full speed while swimming

Burrow- Spend 1 round to hide in earth, can tunnel an additional 7' each round.
Outrun- You gain free movement while running, able to swoop around the battlefield without worrying about positioning or attacks of opportunity or whatever, +10' to your encounter movement speed.
Snowbunny- Immune to cold, invisible in arctic climates/white background

Hickory Dickory- Allow an ally to rewind their entire turn (movement and spell or attack or whatever Melissa did when it was her turn) and do it differently. Spell slots are not regained.
Churchmouse- Move Silently 6/6
"Blind"- Has darkvision, immune to Illusions and Charms.

Flight- As the Amber power.
Sneak- Hide in Shadows 6/6
Nevermore- Enemies who miss you cannot target you with an attack again until your Suit wears out.

Player Knowledge As Class Abilities And Setting

A quick one:

Do you know Dragon Raid? The Adventure Learning System?

Christians love two things above all else:

A) talking to no end about how anything from The World must be abhorred and abstained from because it is wicked
B) making their own shitty version of literally everything.

To this end we've had to put up with cartoon frogs on tshirts saying "God's" "Wise" "Er!", DC Talk, and Bibleman. We also had Dragon Raid, where enemies, puzzles, a rock, anything more or less could be overcome by knowing enough Bible verses and Sunday School trivia.

Now this is provably lame. However, I also feel like things should work like this?

If you want to be a Bard then "bardic knowledge" should take the form of you being able to quote an in-game text (say the Book of Moon Slave?) prepared by the player or DM. The more lines you can cite in a row, the more powerful your spell effects/higher level the spell you can cast. Want to justify some serious bullshit? Don't rules lawyer, tell everyone a story about how Conan overcame such an obstacle in the same fashion. Give us a short story to look up when we get home!

Do you want to be a Samurai? Then take a Fighter or something and have it level like a Dwarf and whenever the samurai engages in/abstains from behavior in accordance with the principles of bushido then you get XP and +1 to your next attack, and you get a Reaction bonus for knowing courtly etiquette.

Have you always wanted to play a Yu Gi Oh? Or the Green Knight? The Ancient Mariner? Are you a Fight Club? Be prepared to quote chapter and verse.

If you establish a code of conduct, a base of knowledge, a way of applying rules, etc within the world then you've established in a few lines a hundred hanging threads a DM can pull at. The game world is a ball of Silly Putty, eager to take in anything it can. Feed it some good stuff. Encourage people to bring some more interesting and beneficial reading material to the table than Mike Mearls' Twitter.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Power Ups

So. Numenera and its kin have a thing where there's a ton of one-use magic items about, for lack of a less annoying term. This makes magic items less special and more special at once; their lack of scarcity means you'll probably never be too far away from uncovering/receiving/bartering for one, but once you have it there's no X charges or uses per day, you just have to be judicious in when and how you apply these powers.

We can go deeper. We can go dumber. What if they worked like the ? blocks in Mario Kart? What if we ditch a lot of the magic item tables and just do video game power ups? Magic items become both more common and less common; if these are "all" of the magic items in play then finding a +2 weapon suddenly becomes a lot more exciting. In a FLAILSNAILS game it means you can be free with handing out party favors without worrying about how you're going to wreck the curve for Ed's game or whatever. In public play you can have some fun handing out physical power ups, or using edibles as markers (the way I do for enemies). Basically since gaseous potions affect a whole room of people at a time there's what the kids call free real estate, so I'm moving magic items out of their nested percentile trailer park and into Potion Corners, a new community for living.

Still want some magic armor or weapons or shields? Ornament slots! An Amber equipped weapon is always +1 and overcomes magic resistance, magic armor or shields are always +1AC....if you want to prime these up and get into +8 territory be my guest. HOWEVER, once a piece of Amber ornamentation is activated in a weapon/armor/shield/etc it activates evvvverything that it's set with.

In the year 20XX of the third age of Glamorhammer or whatever there is (hm not mana I'm doing something stupid with that already how about) Amber, the crystalline sap exuded from the tree connecting all worlds itself. This is a substance that is of the gods, that traps pure magic, that has a physical shell, and so it's kind of all three major planes of existence in one little package. Smashing it apart produces some wondrous powers or conjures some needed boons. Some are...strange...but who can argue with results?

Amber is unpredictable, producing a wide variety of effects. We'll get to the different colors of Amber in a minute but first: There is Raw Amber, Polished Amber, and Pure Amber. You can find Amber anywhere, in the wild, in deep mines, some people have even endeavored to find and collect the stuff to sell! It goes without saying that anywhere wealth is gathered, such as a dragon's hoard, some Amber may be found. It can be hidden in a ring or amulet for good luck or just for fashion. Once destroyed/activated, though, all evidence of the Amber will vanish. It's believed that using the magic in the Amber sends it back to the tree that is road to worlds, so the more "magic items" you use the stronger you make heaven. That's a nice thought.

Pure Amber is rare. It's tied to one specific effect from one specific color of Amber. You never roll any dice to determine its effects, but you still roll 1d6 to determine its duration in rounds. Pure Amber designed to Summon is in fact very rare.

Polished Amber is definitely one of the colors listed below and it's gorgeous, but it has bits of bug and plants and stuff in it so it's not pure; these imperfections can still make their effects unpredictable. Roll 1d6 to determine type, plus 1d6 to determine duration. Rolling 6+6, Boxcars, activates the Summon for a color, which causes a Prismystic to appear. These are angelic seeming abstractions of raw interdimensional magic; any personality assigned to these Prismystics is a coincidence. Surely. Probably. They are made of color and cannot be affected by anything that does not affect color, but they can affect whatever they want because they're from a place of perfect color that's too strong for our world. They act independently of the PCs but may - may - act in accordance with/anticipation of their wishes.

Raw Amber doesn't look very impressive and can be cloudy; as such, it's hard to tell what magical effect breaking Raw Amber will achieve. Roll 1d6 to determine the color of Amber, then follow the rules for Polished Amber. If you roll 6+6+6 then you instead manifest Reignbow, a combined form of all the Prismystics who has all their abilities and a bow that does a complete "screen clear" of any enemies and obstacles with less than 50HP. Uh, including treasure.Oops.

Red Amber

  1. Attack Bonus- Roll two dice whenever you attack something.
  2. Damage Bonus- Double all damage dealt for the duration.
  3. Magic Attack- Ignore any resistances or immunities.
  4. Charge Attack- Run into an enemy, knocking them over, then attack; enemy takes a minimum of 1 damage and is on the ground. Ignore normal movement rates; once you start moving to an enemy you keep moving toward them until you make contact, even if the duration expires.
  5. Rev Up!- Every round of the duration you refrain from attacking, you gain an extra attack when you do attack. You can Rev Up the whole duration and then unload or you can split it up.
  6. Knockback- A hit pushes the target back equal to your current movement rate.
The many-armed Crimson is unparalleled at hand-to-hand. Uses your movement value.
Multi-Attack- Make an attack against every enemy you can reach at some point during movement, 1d4 magical damage.
Paralyze- Any enemies struck by Crimson must save vs Paralysis/Petrification/Constitution or be stunned for a period equal to Duration.

Blue Amber

  1. Amber Armor- As Full Plate but with none of the weight/stealth/spellcasting restrictions
  2. Force Field- Everything stops 1' from you, including your allies
  3. Energy Field- Roll 1d4, 1 Electric 2 Fire 3 Cold 4 Radiation (as acid), anyone touching you takes this damage
  4. Decoys- You gain illusory duplicates equal to your Duration roll who persist, popping out when they would be damaged or touch an enemy.
  5. Immunity- This makes the DM give you a conditional reprieve. If you are underwater this may mean drowning immunity, if you are in lava this may mean heat immunity, if you are infected with mummy rot this may cure you. Be gentle with this DMs, and be reasonable in your expectations Players.
  6. Extra Life- Gain "temporary HP" equal to half your max HP. If you die, this Amber activates and instead restores you to life with half HP.
Lithe and limber Azure is not slowed by their shining gauntlets, possessing Free Movement.
Reflection- While Azure's gauntlets block melee attacks, any spell or missile attack Azure blocks is bounced back, targeting its originator.
Bullet Time- Azure can move use their free movement to intercept any number of attacks in a round, whether on the players' turns or the enemies'.

Green Amber

  1. Re/Gain A Spell- Get back a safe spell or spell slot you spent, or gain a bonus spell slot for the highest level you can cast
  2. Re/Gain All Spells- Get back all safe spells/slots used, or gain a bonus spell slot
  3. Invisibility- Lasts for duration, enemies cannot attack you directly unless they are also invisible.
  4. Healing- Restores your HP at a rate of your Level per Round for the Duration
  5. Levitate- This is really "hover all around like a limited flight deal" but it ends if you take damage
  6. Fireball- The effect is immediate, as the spell, but you can generally direct it.
Puckish Viridian thinks walking and running are pointless.
Polymorph- Viridian can use their action to turn a target into roll 1d4 1 a toad 2 an overturned turtle 3 an emerald 4 a cactus.
Teleport- Viridian can move themselves or enemies anywhere they want through the use of glowing green portals.

Purple Amber

  1. Ultra Sneak- No need to roll to hide in shadows/stealth for the duration
  2. Mega Jump- Jump or fall safely for your full movement each round without any rolls
  3. Epiphany- A clue or insight about something or everything around you. The DM has to be nice to you and go here's a hidden puzzle here's a weak spot here's a hidden door, describing up to the Duration in hidden information
  4. Quickster- Your movement rate is doubled for the duration
  5. Spell Craft- You work on some creation or other at 10x normal speed; after the duration is over, you have produced an item or dance or story or cake or whatever of exceptional quality. Anyone you share it with consentually can be considered Charmed, and if you know any spells you can hide a spell in the work.
  6. Big Payoff- Multiply the loot gained from an enemy or party (but NOT a hoard) by the Duration.
Sour-faced Plum is all business but never hurries (20'/combat round)
Unlock- With a snap of their fingers Plum can open any lock or door, even magically sealed ones. A number of charges equal to Duration.
Sneak Attack- Anyone Plum actually catches up to takes 5xDuration damage.

Orange Amber

  1. Hookshot- Hookshot can instantly yank you across any distance like Batman's grapple gun. It can also haul enemies toward you if they weigh less than you. Duration equals charges.
  2. Flying Guillotine- Only hits on a flat contested d20 roll, no bonuses applied; on a hit, anything with fewer HD than you is decapitated.
  3. Trick Arrows- Durationx4 indicates number appearing, roll 1d8: 1 glue 2 grease 3 blinding flash 4 fire 5 acid 6 sleep 7 l o u d 8 anti-magic
  4. Bombs- Duration equals number of rounds before it explodes with the force of a Fireball, everyone in 100' blinded for 3 rounds
  5. Poison Powder- Duration begins when the powder is blown in the face of a target, roll 1d4: 1 laughing powder 2 itching powder 3 vertigo powder 4 confusion powder; all of these can incapacitate in different ways, but confusion powder requires an enemy save vs Death each round to move, attack, or use items, failure meaning the player can rewrite that portion of the enemy's turn.
  6. Chainsaw Axe- Duration indicates how many feet of material you can chop through in one go, and otherwise acts like a normal axe in combat except it instantly fells anything with 1HD or less. This item stays until you miss with it, which indicates it falling apart.
Rusty looks like a machine and is too heavy to move much at all; half player movement.
Raygun- Deals Player's HP in a straight line to # of targets up to the Duration.
Homing Attack- Mystic missiles fired by Rusty will chase their targets for the Duration.

Yellow Amber

  1. Giant Size- You can smash through most obstacles like they aren't there and gain a damage bonus, but if you get hit this goes away before the Duration ends; your size and damage multiplier is your Duration.
  2. Animal Form- Choose frog, bat, cat, snake, rat, crow; gain all the reasonable abilities of that creature for the Duration and fit through tiny spaces, not to mention be less likely to be targeted. Keep your normal movement rate. If your Duration is 1 that's kind of lame so instead you turn into a person-sized version of that animal.
  3. Elemental Body- Roll 1d4, 1 Marvel Comics' The Thing 2 tornado 3 bubble 4 big fire with arms; can't be hit by nonmagical weapons and you can do about what you'd expect those things to do in a Hannah Barbera cartoon.
  4. Shadow Shape- You can hide in an ally's shadow, turn 2D to fit through cracks or under doors, and attempt to scare enemies away (Morale check)
  5. Double You- Heads you turn into a copy of an ally, Tails you turn into a copy of an enemy; if your Duration is Even you get to choose who, if it's Odd then you don't.
  6. Roll Out- You turn into a big ol' round head face and just bulldoze over anything in your path. You bounce in this form! Arnold K. Seal of Approval. Your Durationx2 is how many feet in diameter you are.
Goldie's draconic magnificence blocks out sunlight, rendering movement moot.
Fire Breath- As the monster ability, using player's HP; flames will spread.
Invulnerable- Only Goldie can be targeted while Goldie is around, and Goldie is invulnerable to damage. Dispel Magic works, though.

Want to make this a little bit more OSR/Flame Princess/Lovecrafty? Change the Summons to demons and swap out some abilities. Include some special Amber with its own power tables? Why not! You can expand this or modify it as much as you want. Mutant setting? Cans of Ninja Turtle ooze. Pulp heroes in a lost world? The cutting edge science of "serums." Words of power and madness. Faerie gifts. You can bend this all sorts of ways.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Donald Sutherland and Dragons

You want to know the D&D I want to play?
Image result for body snatchers

You want to know the D&D I want to run?

It's the D&D I was warned about.
Image result for wicker man 

It's D&D for and about grown-ups

"Urbane. Worldly. Mature. Sophisticated. Seductive."

Culpable. Fallible. Susceptible. Callous.


It's a D&D where you take the given assumptions of the best D&D

The world is old

The world is large

Our tragedies cannot be stopped

Because no one is coming to stop them for us

We must endure them

We must stop them ourselves

Sometimes we can't do either.

There is victory

But that's not a happy ending
Image result for donald sutherland don't look now

There are dungeons all around us

The monsters coming or they're here or they were inside our neighbors all along

We were the worst that could happen

We can be better


And you put them in turtlenecks and drape them in the tatters of the new age and give them a claustrophobic crisis to deal with and give them problems a plane ticket can't help them to escape and you color shift the fuck out of it. Replace armors with like AC charms on all that jewelry everyone wore, maybe scale to-hit down a little, elfs and dwarfs and so on are among us even now but it takes special senses or esoteric knowledge or the touch of their own kind in order to even sense this second world.

It's dirty. It's beautiful. It's...largely white, but we can fix that. It's horror, damn it. It's what they told my parent's generation about the adult world. Is it any wonder the 80s happened? Corduroy realism. Get out of the 70s alive? Perhaps. Unchanged? No way. No how. Maybe it's not always the 70s. Maybe sometimes it's Mario Bava. Maybe sometimes it's David Bowie. You said forever. But the feel of the thing is entirely that this. won't. end. well.

You'll be different. You have to start now. There's much to do.