Monday, March 16, 2020

The Superhero Game

Leftover notes from a game I was going to make for some friends. I don't know that this fully works but it works enough, as well as a lot of those one-page rpgs do at least.....

Origin Story: This grounds you in a place and background, and the attendant connections, experiences, and knowledge you possessed before becoming a super-person. This is also how well you can relate to your friends, enemies, and strangers, like a normal person.
Secret Identity: This number represents your real-world "job" and lifestyle; the kind of skills you could reasonably study up without super-abilities; and your ability to balance your private life and your public life, even if your "private life" is "Billionaire playboy who is Iron Man sometimes." It comes with a suite of job contacts.
Alter Ego: These are your powers and abilities beyond mortal men. Name something you can't do. This is that, as well as your general standing and connections in the super-world.

You give each of these a descriptive name/trait like Over The Edge or Risus so we know what capabilities are or aren't implied.

Rate one at d10, one at d12, and one at d20, in order of how important each of these is to your hero concept. The name of the game is to roll low. When you're rolling against an opposing character/force, the DM will roll whatever die assigned to that baddie. The lower the die, the badder the dude. When rolling against a modeled difficulty the DM rolls the same die as the player.

Low roll wins. The DM always has the option of trying to roll the next highest die and try to roll a lower number on a larger die. The player and DM can go back and forth like that until one side fails, upt to 1d20+1d10. The Players on the other hand always have the option to roll against any challenge - even ones normally outside of their skillset - using a d100, as a sort of Luck mechanic. The DM can't try to one-up a successful d100 roll.

Every time a player rolls the max number on one of their die actions, they take a point of Struggle. As long as you can roll over your Struggle on your Hero Dice you're still up and fighting. If you fail a Hero roll you might be temporarily taken out of the fight from harmless incapacitation, injury, or mortal peril. Don't worry about that too much, mortal peril is always relative with superheroes and isn't the obstacle to overcome it would be for us normal dudes. Hero Dice increase by level:

Level 1: 1d6
Level 2-3: 2d6
Level 4-6: 3d6
Level 7-11: 5d6
Level 12: 6d6

The DM rolls 1d100 and gives that out as XP at the end of a session but can give out XP for other things. Every 2000XP you can Advance and take one of your three attributes down a die size. If this happens mid-session then everyone is awarded some kind of inspiration/rallying bonus by the DM. Call every "level" after 5000XP from here on and add another Hero Die for every two levels

At level 12 you've gotten every trait down to a d4 so every "level" after that you can start generally making permanent improvements in the world (Domain play in a super game?) starting at d20+d10 (instituting a global teleportation network for example).

(Alternatively, use the TSR Marvel Super-Hero Universal Chart and rate one at Remarkable, one at Excellent, and one at Good. Use your Alter-Ego for HP, Origin Story for Karma Points, and Secret Identity for Resources and Popularity. DM has the option to use built-in Karma mechanics to allow rewards but because that game hatttttes advancement your characters will be pretty stable, so allowance should be made for improvements in-fiction)


For super powers do one of three things:

1) Just say "Like Iron Man" and your character's strengths and abilities will be assumed from whatever the DM knows about Iron Man. Not what you know, what the DM knows.
2) Do a random roll on the Ultimate Powers Book from TSR's MSH at and figure out coverage and limitations as we go
3) Name an obscure or obtuse Grant Morrisony superpower and define it with three things it CAN do and three things it CAN'T do

For feeling out the range of your abilities you can try a stunt and depending on how much of a reach the DM may either let it happen or make you do a harder roll starting with d20+10/d30. Next time you attempt it it's an easier roll, and it keeps getting easier until you're making your normal roll. If you make it there before three failures then this is something your guy Can Do. If you fail three times before you lock in a stunt this is something you Can't Do and those times it worked must have been one in a million chances. You can develop any number of things you Can Do until you've developed a list of five things you Can't Do. Feeling out "stunts" for your Secret Identity and Origin Story are up for grabs too I guess? DMs won't make you work for something that should be obvious gets, though, so you can rack up Can Dos quickly.

Also, you can earn a POW! Point by voluntarily attempting a harder roll than you have to. You get the PP (heh) whether you fail or succeed, and you can spend the PP to let a fellow hero have an easier roll. You can't have more PP at once than your level number.

Friday, September 13, 2019



So Tossers are also called Hucksters, Fastballers, Throwmeos, and Motherchuckers. And they are in all respects FIGHTERS with one step better HD than normal in your game. In all other respects they are Fighters.


They are proficient with no conventional weapons. They are proficient exclusively in found, hurled weapons, which they can hurl their Strength-plus-Level in feet. This includes enemies. This includes fellow PCs.

When throwing an unattended object..... 

Treat it as a 1d3 item and use the higher of your Strength or Dex bonus to determine a hit. If it isn't something you could conceivably shove with your same Strength score, like a wall or an obelisk, you can't throw it.

When throwing an enemy....... 

You may attempt an unarmed attack roll plus your Strength bonus (if any) to grab an enemy on a hit. You can elect to keep the enemy grappled/held as per normal rules or you may throw them as part of the same action. At 1st level you may hurl any enemy with 1HD or less. At 2nd you may hurl any enemy 2HD or less, and so on, up to 9HD. Enemies of roughly humanoid/demihuman size and shape with more than 9HD may also be hurled as long as 1) their total HD is lower than your level and 2) they get a saving throw vs Paralyze/Petrify to land safely.

Enemies who take fall damage this way are treated to have fallen an additional 20'. An enemy making contact with a solid object take 1d8 damage plus your Strength bonus (and if the solid object is like spikes or a trap or on fire they may suffer other effects).

An enemy colliding with one or more enemies means you roll 1d10 damage plus your Strength bonus, and then the DM distributes the damage among the victims as she sees fit.

When throwing a Party Member.......

You may use the higher attack value between you and the thrown PC, and the higher damage between the two of you, and the PC gets a Death save to land safely. This effectively uses the thrown PC's turn in concert with yours so ask for consent and Throw Responsibly(tm). If the PC gets any bonus to a successful hit like Sneak Attack or a magic weapon effect it can go off thanks to your roll. This by definition moves the thrown PC. You cannot throw a PC with more HD than you.

Summing up the main rules of this class are:
No Weapons
Throw anything you can move normally through Strength
Throw any enemy or PC with HD equal to/less than yours
Throw high level enemies if they are basically people of a lower level than you who fail their save
Throwing distance is your Strength+Level in feet.

Tossers may wield no magic weapons unless they are specifically meant to be thrown, like Thor's hammer, and may only wear magic rings and gloves that improve their throwing power or accuracy. Also potions and uh....capes. Magic capes.

At level 9 they do not establish a kingdom or attract a bunch of acolytes but they become proficient in all weapons. They also become famous for throwing things, and can earn lots of money throwing things for people for fun and show, and signing autographs.

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Pokemon Sword (and Sword)

First let's break enemies down into 14 types a la Pokemon. This will be at least as sensible and at least as arbitrary as the way D&D currently does things.

Dude- Dude Types are women and men who can blend in with 90% of the population but could really bring anything to the table. Orcs and halflings also go here, neat!

Goblin- Gob-Hogbog-Bugbear is the most natural pokevolution parallel in D&D but this tree also includes kobolds, gremlins, quicklings, anything gob-adjacent.

Fae- Elfs, pixies, sprites, pucks, wisps, so on.

Yucky- Cubes, oozes, puddings, Dragon Quest guys with faces, mimics

Bug- Carrion crawlers, umber hulks, rust monsters, stuff that crunches.

Arcane- All Magic-Users but also animate brooms and familiars and so on, or chimeras like the owlbear.

Rocky- Dwarfs, gnomes, piercers, ropers, neanderthals.

Elemental- The specific element doesn't matter, you're just infused with primordial power or made only of that.

Psionic- Berbalangs and all that stupid shit but also like whatever the Battlemind is supposed to have been...

Spooky- Skeletons, Vampires, Liches, Mummies, Witches, Werewolves, ghoulsghostsghasts anything very Halloweeny.

Mythic- Medusa, Coatls, Minotaurs, Goliaths, Angels, Demons, world religion and mythology creatures.

Zoo- For like regular animals and giant versions of the same.

Ninja- Shadows, invisible stalkers, and other things you can't see.

Lizard- Pretty much all reptile stuff, from yuanti to dragons, because D&D has a lot of lizard shit.

So we see how application of these principles to existing enemies is easy. Drow are Night Fae, Acererak is Spooky Arcane, Vecna is Spooky Mythic, Shadowfax is Zoo Mythic, Conan is Rocky Dude, Lava Children are Yucky Elemental, Venom is Bug Dude,dragons can be Arcane Lizards but Tiamat is obviously a Mythic Lizard, while regular old drakes are Zoo Lizards.

We'll arrange these on a diagram. That's right, this magic item requires a diagram. That's right, I'm doing all this for the sake of a single magic item. A Type is Weak (1/2 dmage) against the two types adjacent to it, and Strong (2x damage) against the two Types across from it that it can draw a straight line to on the star. Arrange these howeeeever it makes sense to you: in my example here, Rocky Types are Weak against Arcane and Elemental but Strong against Fae and Ninja. Our needs aren't as complicated as Pokemon's, though, so we can still have Arcane be Weak to Rocky without making things too complicated. I'll include a blank diagram I ganked from Google so you can lay out your own typings. Your actual layout doesn't matter a ton so long as everyone is on the same page about it.

OKAY SO HAVING DONE ALL THIS SHIT, this weapon is a magic sword that does +1 and overcomes magic resistance bla blah. ALSO it absorbs the essence of those it wounds. Write down two blanks and number them 1 and 2. Whenever you roll the highest number on this sword's damage die - be that a d6 d8 d12 whatever your DM decides - your sword will absorb the Typing of the creature you inflicted that damage on. You can decide not to take a target's Typing but you have five seconds to make up your mind or the effect fails.

Whenever you roll 20/d20 with this sword, you pick up a SECOND Type. This only changes when you roll a crit to hit and you don't get a choice in whether this Type changes or not, it just does. These modifiers stack and combine to mitigate or multiply bonuses.

If you have a player who spends all their time looking up obscure errata or arguing the wording of spells, give them one of these instead and it will take up all that time. Just try to be firm and consistent with what categories you sort things into. If you want this sword to work for existing dnd monster types or even alignment then I guess that works too..... I think if I were going to modify it any I'd just use this same concept but affecting what language if any the targets spoke.

............god DAMN it that's such a better iDEA i made this whole GRAPHic mother FUCKer....

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Man In The Way

Impossibly tall does not mean that he disappears into the clouds like the peak of a mountain. It means that the man you see in the doorway is taller than a man can be. By far. Taller than a man should be? I mean I don't make those kind of judgments. One love. But the wrong outline. No mere hormone is at play here. Nor is he a funhouse man stretched out like a badly poured mirror. He is too fucking tall. It's no laughing matter.

He is also too old. He is older than the building he guards. The door that was built behind him has rotted away into moldy mulch. It has been replaced with something like the ghost of the door, what the door had always intended to be. This new door is the shadow of the too-tall-man. He fills the space the way horizons fill your vision. He blocks the way like the forest blocks wildflower fields. He is not gaunt with time or wrinkled with age. He simply lived longer than a man can live. His face betrays a day when the stones were all different shapes but he is not an old man. Only his laugh lines are deep, deep like the cracks in a volcano. His brow knits steeply, as steep as the cliffs at the sea.

Too damn big too damn old. Too stubborn, too quiet, too distant, too secret, too strong, too fearsome, too kind. Too kind by far. As gentle as a brook, as careful as a spider. His hands are great ceramic pillows, tattooed in whorls around the knots of a tight fist closed too long.

He smells like cellar door says. Right, and satisfying, the perfect unwashed scent of the world. He is dressed like a good graveyard.

You cannot fight the man in the way. You could try to scale the walls but the man is taller than the walls, somehow, though he barely fits in the door. You could tear down the walls but the man can hold them together. You could dig beneath but any ground the man stands on must be incredibly firm indeed. Steel-hard shovel-eating gloaming loam rich with life and an ingredient to life.

There is a wall around a home. You are welcome in this home. You are not allowed in this home. It is not a home for you. The man is in the way with his back to the home. It is not his home either. No one lives there, so he does not guard them. He does not keep them from coming out. He is there for your protection.

Don't make him protect you.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Monster Manual of Corduroy Realism

Demons- Not distinguished from daemons or devils or whatnot. Can be applied to "evil god" or "evil angel." One religion's avenger is another religion's abuser, all that jazz. Sometimes in the flesh, often appearing through proxy vessels. Dealing with them always requires faith and hate.

The Devil- I like to think of The Devil as the god of truth and consequences. His omnipotence is something of a subset of true omnipotence but he can do anything that's asked of him. He just holds humanity to the same impossible standard he holds himself, and of course he holds himself to a high standard that's the Devil's whole radioactive spider. Dealing with him always requires obedience.

Haunted Houses- Ghosts are not monsters but they can be thought of somewhat as curses and under this thinking a haunted house is most certainly monster-by-gestalt. Dealing with them always requires empathy, cleverness, and sympathetic magics.

Psychomorphs- Men and creatures transformed or born from the investigation of psychic ability and phenomena. These are real Monsters of hideous shape and low or vacant intelligence. Terrifying creatures of mind shattering strength. These always require calmness and violence.

Zombies- The hollow-eyed sleepwalking voodoo kind, pawns of your hidden enemies. Dealing with these requires brute force or esoteric knowledge.

Vampires-These are full on movie vampires and there's no quibbling about folklore or what works there's just vampires. Almost always the most dangerous thing in the room. Dealing with them requires wealth, taste, and God on your side. If you meet them and they are anything less than a hungry wolf it is because they are sowing your fall so that God isn't an option for you.

Evil Magicians- There is of course such a thing as a secret society of magicians in the world but magicians build secret societies around themselves like wasps build nests. These require discretion and bureaucracy to deal with through traditional channels but, in the moment, be prepared to spend all your martial experience and your most carefully laid spells against them.

Aliens- Not in a close encounters sense but in a sense that....imagine the world as a nature sanctuary. These would be a habitat-destroying parasite or blight. These are Lovecraft's star spawn and monolith intelligences. Dealing with these requires magic, plain and simple, but usually magic larger than the PCs can bring to bear alone.

Cultists- Mundane mystery practitioners who permeate all levels of society in all places. Not every cult has a global reach but wherever you are there is someone ready for the end of the world. Dealing with them requires guile, help from the law (both mundane and mystic), and bullets.

Killers- Not killers for hire but the mostly-mad slasher we often call a serial killer, sexual murderer, or just a lunatic. Some are highly ritualized, some strike in a frenzy, and some even know how the world really works. Dealing with these requires no special tricks but catching them can be time consuming.

Cursed- The cursed are intense, man. Often they are cursed with knowledge or stewardship of a secret or power. This corrupting force of power causes them great discomfort and makes them hard to get along with. Dealing with them safely often requires the completion of some trial such as performing a service, taking part in a ritual, killing someone, or simply answering a riddle. Trying to strongarm a cursed person usually ends badly, often with their curse passing to you.

Monsters- Supernatural or mutant beings of all descriptions, from babies to basilisks. Each comes with a trick up their sleeve and figuring out how to neutralize that is almost always the key to defeating them. Monsters are not overwhelmingly common and each one is more or less unique, with very few exceptions. Not a werewolf but The Werewolf, not a giant spider but The Giant Spider, etc.