Saturday, November 5, 2016

American Ranger- Magic Free Variant For VDND

We're going to make a Ranger I feel like playing. This is an American Ranger.

First of all, let's get a new fighting style just for rangers.

Natural Weaponry

You do not have claws and shit. Instead you are considered proficient with improvised weapons but you cannot do damage with them. Instead you may create makeshift traps and weapons using the surrounding environment. A successful attack with these allows you to impose the Blinded, Deafened, Prone, or Restrained condition on the target of your attack for 1 round.
My rangers don't get spells. They can get them at level 3 as a class option, the same way they can get a wolf friend or extra murder power, and the same way fighters and thieves can get spells. You have to pick. I know Bobby S. didn't have to pick when he made Purple Rain: Fanciest Spider Boy but hey that's a book and also I don't care. Take a wizard level.

So without spellcasting or primeval awareness I want to make some additions to keep the ranger versatile without getting bogged down in a whole bunch of stuff. You still get to choose a path at level 3 and apart from spellcasting and primeval awareness everything else in a ranger is the same. You also get these:


At level 2 you get +1 to your Initiative, +1 to your AC, and +1 to your Stealth when stalking or fighting your Favored Enemy. These bonuses increase by +1 at levels 5, 9, 13, and 17, for a maximum of +5 at level 17.

Second Nature

At level 2 you get +1 to your Initiative, +1 to your Perception, and +1 to your Saves against natural phenomenon and Druid spells when in your Favored Terrain. These bonuses increase by +1 at levels 5, 9, 13, and 17, for a maximum of +5 at level 17.

The Back Of Your Hand

At level 3 you double your proficiency bonus when tracking your own allies, even without regard to bonuses from Favored Enemy or Natural Explorer. However, within your favored terrain you know the distance and direction of your allies for 500' x your ranger level

Follow My Lead

At level 9 you can use your reaction or a bonus action on your turn to allow an ally to make a save against the Charmed, Frightened, Stunned, Grappled, or Restrained condition. This can be explained as offering words of wisdom, throwing an ally a timely dagger to aid their escape, coaching them on the time to shift their weight, etc. They may do this multiple times in a round but may only do so a number of times equal to their Wisdom bonus. This ability refreshes after a short or long rest.

I've Been Around

At level 13 if you so choose whenever you make a Charisma roll to obtain information from an individual (or about an individual) you can force the subject of your check to make an Intelligence save. If they fail the save then they have heard of you, or heard something about you, and you get to decide what it is.

Greatly Exaggerated

At level 17 you gain an additional strike on your death saving throws before expiring. Also, you never suffer an automatic death saving throw failure from one of your favored enemies, unless you are unconscious. Also, you have advantage on death saving throws in your favored terrain.


Finally, my rangers get an option whenever they would receive an ability score enhancement. They may take this instead of an ability score increase, and in lieu of other feat options. They may take this feature multiple times, giving them a maximum of 5 potential uses by level 19.

Begin the Hunt

You are so invigorated by the beginning of a hunt, the preparation for a mission, that pain cannot catch you, the stone cannot cut you. You gain half your max HP in temporary hit points. While you still have temporary hit points you can elect to roll 1d10 after a successful hit, reducing your THP by that amount and dealing that amount in bonus damage.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

REVIEW: Your Dead, by Calvin Turtle

Dreamcast psychopomp and esoterica calculator Calvin Turtle was the world's champion single-legged roller-blader years 1991 and 2013, a popular lecturer on the Believe In A You That Achieved Without Dope kind of circuit for middle schools and hip youth groups across the fabled Canados. His deck chair stewardship during the Second Death of Adder Entertainment was something of a slight diversion from more positivity-focused message. Thrashers and backyard wrestlers alike, however, were more familiar with Calvin from his deck art and guerilla publishing efforts. He was one of the first people on TBN to formally denounce the Phelps cult and, always tech savvy, he was one of the first seventeen people on Twitter outside of the development team.

Always tech savvy, he is currently angling to be the first person to 3D print morphine. Calm down, it's for hospitals mostly. 90/10, tops.

The final three releases during the Second Death bear the tacky jammy thumbprints of Calvin Turtle. The penultimate release, Your Dead, is no bungle or mistranslation on the part of the low-bidding Philippines printer. These dead are yours, and you are responsible for them. You have to put your toys away.

Subtlety and Æ always went together like Rick Allen and clapping, after all, so a farewell to bygone adventures could only be slightly more on-the-nose. Nonetheless, this is a noteworthy enough release on the strength of the fact that Æ were not known for playing around with ghosts and undead that much, not when compared to some of their contemporaries. Particularly during the Great Awakening they had shied away from even the demons and should-be-deads in favor both of more sober, simulationist fare (like Goest-Thou Hawking) and of more banana pancake gonzo (like Robot Zoner). That meant that anything they did when dallying with the dead deserved naught but the direst and highest of dread fantasies. They turned to Calvin Turtle, ill equipped for the task and ill at ease with the subject. Calvin's editorial ethos bade him basically put everything into Your Dead that he was ever whipped for as a youth.

Oh, you pretty thing....

Quite apart from the Stair and its literal death spiral, the economy of Animus ticking away as you descend turning how you handle an almost literal railroad into something resembling a modern megadungeon's branching path of choices...

Quite apart from the honored tradition of the Binder and the call to include all your players' dead characters as woeful bygone spirits to torment them with their failures, having the metagame effect of driving a wedge between their allies at exactly the same time this is happening IN-game...

Quite apart from the Ridress and her ephemeral veil, the Zoetroopers and their flickering dance of smiles and spikes, the Choir and the Hourglass, Riddle and Chain, the Pit Pope and Its armor of savior flesh and heretical scriptures containing actual Cainite passages...

Wholly discounting the apocalyptically offensive Hoodoo Jim in accordance with the Rule of Vonnegut....

We have the sublime experience of revisiting the Æ dramatis personae in "6. Ballroom Falling." You'd have to play through the same adventure multiple times in order to meet everybody so let's talk about some of the big names here:

Phantecore. Soulange. Countess Farther Coming Now. The Slinking Prince. Omen Dog. You meet Nicod. Rabikian. The Hate God. You meet Good Old Mr. Hell. But I said big names: Ivanov is the miniboss of the encounter in that, if you do not face and defeat him (by ART-ing at him so hard that his only means of defense is MAKING A DUNGEON EXIST AROUND HIM so there is an exit through which you can escape!!!) you have lost; there is no penalty but your life will be counted measurably less than my life.

All of Æ is represented here, from their far out space nuts to their arty fart storybook heroes to their tragic heroes to even some Hosea characters for some fucking reason. You play chess with the souls of those you have personally slain all while they curse you. There are contests which can only be resolved by arguing around the table about who has the better tattoo. You yourself survive the fire. The fire.

It is a goddamn mess but it is beautiful in that way, like the last episode of your favorite show which, hey, it's shitty on its own, but look there's that guy and they finally said what that thing was and man aren't you going to miss these guys? Emotional manipulation was never Æ's strong suit and it wasn't exactly Turtle's, this thing is like a Christmas ornament from the 70s, tacky and overdone but if you actually think for a second that it isn't utterly singular and starlike in its execution, that an experience we would never have been able to even experience without this work isn't worth a thousand fools and a billion failures, then just damn you I guess. Just god DAMN you.

...and YET. And yet just remembering things exist does not make a great product, all told.

Calvin was no chameleon so his attempts to ape assorted Æ artists are able but, at times, amatuerish. The art is not enough by itself to recommend the book except in a trading-card-set-that-never-happened kind of way. That's not to say that Turtle doesn't turn in some fantastic pieces, like the book's bugfuck French cover or the Banshee Map. I had the opportunity to purchase his proof of Tanifer at a convention some years back when it went to auction. I did not, obviously; sorry, spina bifida sufferers, goodwill is not worth a man's very soul. (I kid, I dropped them a ten and so should you. They also had Festus Caber's minotaur from Ye Minotaur but gods balls, man, I am but a peasant....)

Of course, life is not that neat. Neither is business. The company limped along another three weeks after this hit shelves, announcing their shuttering and boxing due to pure market-share loss on the very eve of their final release, Calvin Turtle's Lovely Pink Walls. But that would not be the only echo of Æ's glory days. As any student of American history knows, there was a second Great Awakening.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Zombie- A DNDish Class

HD: d8
Saves: as Fighter
Attacks: as Fighter
Advances: Special
Requirements: Special
  • Zombies begin play with HP equal to their Master's Intelligence score.
  • Zombies may wear no armor. They may not use shields.
  • Zombies may use any weapon but they will use it gracelessly and receive no tohit bonuses with weapons except bonuses from magic items. They gain their full tohit and damage bonus with their bare hands.
  • Zombies automatically Know Direction concerning a specific person, item, or building about which their Master has instructed them.
  • Zombies may Hide in Shadows/Stealth as a level 1 Thief.
  • Zombies may roll 3d6 whenever they want to attempt something bordering on supernatural, like choking someone with great strength, smashing through a wall, ignore damage, walk across the bottom of a lake, etc. Rolling a 1 means they have the gift of the Evil Eye and succeed for 1 round/partially succeed; use 1d8 to set damage/duration/extent of success. Rolling two 1s means they are gifted in the Eyes of the Serpent and super succeed. Rolling greater than their Master's Intelligence means they fail and the Zombie becomes Confused.
  • Zombies confronted with their past lives, skilled rival mentalists, or who find their quest wholly interrupted (say they were supposed to retrieve a vase that gets shattered) must roll against their Master's Wisdom, with failure indicating Confusion: all orders are now jumbled and must be interpreted as broadly and disastrously as possible.
  • Zombies advance normally as a Magic-User. Zombies whose Masters level up automatically gain enough XP to level up.
  • At level 3 Zombies are immune to charm, fear, sleep, and paralysis.  
  • At level 4 Zombies improve their AC by an amount equal to their Master's Charisma bonus.  They gain this bonus again at level 8.
  • At level 6 they do not need food, sleep, water, or air.
  • At level 10 they neither age nor burn.
  • Zombies may advance to whatever level their Master may advance.
  • Zombies do not speak unless they speak a short message delivered from their Master. They only understand whatever language their master uses to speak to them. They are +1 to saves against spells cast in other languages.

The idea here is to have a sort of Monster As Magic Item. Like say you find an amulet, what does this do? It binds one soul forever to yours and is otherwise worthless. The DM should use this sparingly and have fun thinking up genie wish/EC Comics ways of having this boon backfire. And of course the party aren't the only ones who can turn people into Zombies...

Zombies all have a Master, either a PC who knows the secret mesmeric, chemical, and ritual methods of zombification, or else some NPC. If it's a NPC then you get your marching orders from the DM and how you execute them is left to your interpretation. This has fuck all to do with flesh eating and while they may be a kind of walking dead these are NOT reanimated corpses. More gifted Masters are capable of creating more gifted Zombies.

Zombies can only operate with single-minded purpose according to their Master's wishes. This kind of character is really meant for a very specific kind of player, one whose main contribution to the night is not in the form of tactics but in the form of atmosphere. Zombies should do everything as brutishly, slyly, and creepily as possible. Zombies with another PC for a Master are programmed by that PC, and Zombie players with NPCs for Masters must submit their programming to the DM. A Zombie may be programmed with as many distinct nuances to their orders as the Zombie has Hit Dice. A level 1 Zombie may receive the order "Bring me Jessica." A level 2 Zombie may receive the order "Bring me Jessica and make sure she is not harmed," or "Bring me Jessica and kill Margaret." All commands must be 5 words or fewer. Zombies given commands that seem to conflict with one another must roll for Confusion as outlined above.

Zombies who awaken from Zombification are useless normal people unless they were secretly awesome before getting Zombied. A Master can allow his Zombie to wake any time the Master wishes, with no memory of what they did as a Zombie. A Zombie who drops to 0HP or less does not ever die, they just lose all animus and all resistances/immunities...a Zombie who is dropped to 0HP and thrown in a river will lie at the bottom of it drowning forever until they dissolve. They are sustained in this way so long as their Master lives. Likewise, if a Zombie's Master is killed then the Zombie must make a save vs spells. On a success the Zombie simply dies, assuming an appearance consistent with being dead for weeks or months. On a failure the Master's mind inhabits this Zombie body, possessed of all the Zombie's abilities but with the full mental faculties and skills of the Master. Though they still cannot speak these are deadly creatures called Revenants.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The OG Dungeon

1. A caveman has awoken in your home setting, a primordial man. He is spreading primitivism as he goes. In his wake people have fought one another tooth and nail, blood was spilled, lived ruined. He's holed up in the old monastery where his new "tribe" are too cowed to challenge him, afraid of what he might do next.

2. The adventure begins when it's 16 Celsius outside. For every in-game hour that passes the temperature drops by 2. This affects about a ten mile radius around the caveman. He will plunge the region well beyond winter unless he is stopped today.

3. Before the session begins have your players write down 100 words. When they enter the monastery all characters lose their vocabulary except for 1 word, rolled randomly from the list. Wizards get 1+Int bonus words. Nobody can read. Players must communicate using only this word which almost no other character will likely know. Instead of treasure once a concept has been demonstrated enough to be explained, or once a familiar item or idea resurfaces, the DM may allow players to regain another word. Actually speaking of treasure any relics or silver that go missing from the monastery will be chalked up to the mad monks or the caveman, so...

4. Being in the same room as the caveman reduces your Intellect by 1 every ten minutes until you have dumb animal intelligence, say Intellect 2. If you ever reach that you lose even the one word you know. The brothers here are all basically animals now and they will defend their territory on sight. They are young and virile and that's actually weird...

5. When you find the caveman you will fly into an uncontrollable rage and must attack something ever round until the caveman is dead or you are. Keep in mind that the temperature effects and intelligence loss effects will still progress in this period.

6. The caveman has missed a lot of time and he needs to make up for it; yours will do. Every time the caveman touches you or every round he sustains that touch you de-age by a year.

7. Successfully kill or re-Captain America the caveman and you get his extra time, aging 1d100 years and gaining an absolute shitload of XP, a bunch of new languages, and knowledge out of step with your setting, like maybe firearms or trains or lasers or cloning.

8. If the caveman touches the idol mounted in the cloister alcove then the caveman will wither to dust as the Saltpeter Madre takes HIS fluctuating time and awakens herself, like a living statue, from a sleep she entered before the current gods. Do not fuck with her run away just go go away and be somewhere that is not here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


They are a little mad.

She was a great woman who touched the lives of thousands. He was a philosopher in his own way and he changed the way the game was played. She was a villain and brute but her legacy shaped the known peace. He was an idiot who left whole nations as dead swamps. One invented the modern world, at least through property of transference. One reinvented the very notion of evil.

They are remembered.

No one remembers them.

The shape they pressed into the world lingers. The edge of knowledge remains of their knowledge and deeds and faces. All who their reach touch, a reach of centuries, a grasp of continents, have an inkling of their import. Their existence, implicit, is never intellectually wondered upon. It is only a fleeting inkling, a sensation like you forgot someone's name at a party but a thousand times more vague, as a thing unto

QUICKLY before you can think only answer: who invented stairs?

Three two one time's up. You've done it to them again.

An extreme example but by no means a rare one, these are lives no one even knew they would need to know. Some people have never thought of them as a person, only a role, a hole in time. That's closer to the truth now.

Distorted and vague, all notion of them is warped echoes. The exaggerated shadows of fire flicker, long and then long gone. Their lives were once so important that today almost everyone in the world sorrrrrrrt of remembers them. They knew themselves, though, and this memory insists upon itself. So desperate are these thoughts for detail and identity that they physically manifest. They are spider silk in an autumn storming wind, desperately reaching in all directions at once, anchoring themselves to what they can, searching for some manner of form and permanence in the world. They earned a permanence in the world, but now must only take what they can get.

These are usually plasma flickers like foxfire. There is no real consciousness so this is not a conscious, sustained effect. Unless, that is, they are seen: then this is how someone will concretely remember them. They will presume. They will personify. They will ascribe a will and aim to these things. The monsters.

The bastards.

Now they are trapped, a combination of a shell of their former life and a whole new existence forced upon them, often at odds with their actual nature. They persist, usually as dread creatures but, sometimes, as strange and mercurial champions.

They share vestiges of what they once were - discoverers, tyrants, magus, nun, fire bringer, lash - so must be considered dangerous. Their indistinct forms are difficult to notice and horrifying to behold. Their nature is somewhat elastic and they have a limited ability to unravel themselves. They cannot, however, truly shapeshift. They cannot take on any permanent, distinct form.

They despise those who can.

They abhor shadows for the true shape denied them.

They hate all undead, especially ghosts, for finding the second life they will never have.

They hate elves. They hate anything older than elves. They should all have known better. They should have remembered.

Most of all they hate you. You forgot or never even thought of them to begin with. You made the scribbly people this way. Everyone.

They are everywhere. They are nothing. They are only traces.

They are mad.

They are angry.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The House Always Wins

So the rules of D&D aren't the boss of you.

The rules say I can be a Genasi. I hate Genasi.

More than Klingon-Orcs, Dragonborn, or the adopted Gnoll, Genasi really represent a trend in certain D&D thinking that became pervasive over the edition and supplement bloat and looks downright epidemic if you ever look at anything like the current 5e wiki (or, to an extent, the FRACAS): taking something that might be a fearsome and dangerous element of the world, something which should at least be rare and surprising and wondrous, and scaling it down to a safe and balanced form that is knowable, freely abundant from the player side of things, and at worst just misunderstood or troubled. If you're going to have dragons in your game you want them to be a big deal, right? Or even Dragon Men. It's harder to get that if your tent-mate is also part dragon herself.

Genies and djinn have even less to do normally in a game, usually present as just fancy elemental lads or introduced as a glorified plot device. I'm not even a great fan of using these guys in games because any elemental magic and wish granting that can be done by them seems like it would be cooler coming out of a dragon, right? But if I am going to use them then I want it to be a big deal that the players met a djinn. It becomes less of a big deal if this big impressive mystical creature is basically "two of Steve's guy taped together." The opposite also holds true: if I'm not going to make a place for Dr. Pepper in my game I'm sure not going out of my way to include Mr. Pibb, no?

There's other reasons they annoy me (races built around class features, how most exotic demihuman options end up being animal people or element people) but I'll stay on topic...

The rules don't say I can be a Kappa. To those rules I say, fuck off Water Genasi: I am one. This is all without changing a single thing in the way the race is written. If I wanted to I could decide that Air Genasi and Aasimar suck so much they need to be combined into one thing, make them beings of corporeal light and color, make a whole new kind of guy I can be. If I wanted I could look at an Earth Genasi and turn them into a reasonable Fungoid. I could even look at Fire Genasi and decide that they're even more useless than normal, since they're almost exactly Tieflings who I already don't love, making them an element-man version of a monster-man built around innate spellcasting. I could look at them and spit them out lukewarm...or I could make them work for me.

The rules don't say I can be a Domovoi, the little house spirit who lives under the hearth and throws a big ol' fit when the people who live in his house piss him off. Posing as the master, moving things around, making noises in the night, rarely glimpsed, something not a demon or a real god but something you beseech and honor. Something who bars evil spirits and crooked people from your home and protects it from disaster. Something that dusts the mantel and waters the plants when you forget, keeps careful accord with the mice, a spirit who talks to the ghosts in your shithouse and the demons who tend your barn.

To that shit I say my name is Ded, short for Dedushka, you may call me Grandfather. So far everyone just calls me "the domovi." So I fucking did it without changing a single thing.

I'll go you one better: the rules say no one wants to be race-as-class any more, you need to be a different thing. NOPE. I'm not a domovoi bard or a domovoi dragon sorcerer. I am domovoi, and my primary goal is to just grab little bits of whatever I have to in order to get the abilities a powerfully vested and fully venerated domovoi from a hale and loving home should have. That means mixing up classes. That means, since this is a newer-edition ruleset, even looking through feats. But my CLASS is always DOMOVOI. I can show you the math and the breakdown if you want but I haven't even made any shit up. Everything is by the book and above board.

The rules say I cast Unseen Servant to rotate the blades of the windmill for me. No I don't: I forfeit the actions and other things that such a spell would require, sure, but I track that myself. What I ACTUALLY do is knock on the windmill with my stick and talk to the house, convincing it to take me up to the next floor. The book says I cast Detect Magic and there's a rainbow aura that tells me its school. That doesn't happen. I can SMELL magic. Fiendish magic smells like Red Hots cinnamon candy, necromancy smells like rotten eggs, demons smell like motor oil. Do I use a cantrip to snuff the flames in a room? Fuck that, I crawl all over and lick em up like a lizard and I eat them.

The rules say I have certain random personality traits. That's fine, but I get way more mileage and a more well-rounded character from using my Muppet Maker.

The book says I have a spiritual connection that powers all my abilities, a connection to some higher remote god. Instead I am a spirit like unto an incredibly minor god. My spiritual connection is to the people who live in my home, and to the friends who make my little pop-up hose (I paid 4x the fanciest tent price to basically have a Fisher Price playhouse I can assemble) FEEL like home. They 'worship' me with their respect and appreciation and with raising tea in my honor, tea I brew with my bare hands.

Certainly the minmaxy Build Bros on any given forum would call me not optimized. To them I say I am entirely optimized. I am a custodian spirit and caregiver whose affection for peaceful creatures and instincts to protect those in danger are paramount. I have never slain the tiger but I have helped to win the day.

I pay for every kind of spellcasting focus and holy symbol and stuff possible and put it all into one big stick, a piece of wood used to bar the door against nighttime invaders and evil spirits. I find myself in a land of vampires and that's fine by me because I and my kind are the reason vampires can't just barge in uninvited. We block the way to evil spirits.

I don't have magic armor. I don't have a magic weapon. I don't have a magic ITEM. I have an old, old, pipe and even though I never have any tobacco I'm always smoking like a chimney.

My flesh is like floorboards, once polished but now splintering with strain and age the longer I am away from my home. There are even little nails holding it to my muscles, and places where the boards meet. I'd be just shorter than an elf at full height but I am "evolved" for sweeping and firetending, so my resting position is a painfully stooped crouch that puts me only at the height of a halfling. My clothes are moth-eaten curtains and threadbare tablecloths; they are ripped clothes and sodden quilts, which I am slowly repairing over time with the needles I pull from my mustache. My teeth are decorated ceramic. My bushy hair and beard has the consistency of broom-straw choked thick with dirty cobwebs. My fingers and toes are long, with extra joints, and my nails are charcoal. My eyes are deep-recessed and shine like smoldering embers. I own a cat.

And I am here to be the HELL out of that guy, and beyond that to help everyone else be a little bit more awesome.

The D&D we play is always better than the D&D we PURCHASE. Never play a game (or play with a DM) who insists that you live up to them. Live up to yourself, and do it in a way that makes them want to live up to you. The rules will never catch up to you. Do not scorn them, no, but pity them, and do not wait for them.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Machine Men of Doublecrossroads

  • Machines all require Strength 13 and Intellect 13.
  • Machines do not use Hit Dice/Hit Points in the traditional manner, instead adding to their Constitution value as indicated on the chart below.
  • Machines have a base Defensive Number of 15.
  • Machines may use any Simple weapon (d6).
  • Machines do not automatically use firearms.
  • Machines speak Lawful and an additional Language.
  • Machines all have a Design. They are either Apprenticed, Bookworms, Crafty, Defenders, or Expendable.
    • Apprenticed Machines begin with 6/6 in their Career Skill. They exist to serve specialized trade roles.
    • Bookworm Machines succeed on Common Knowledge rolls of 2, and make Esoterica checks at an Easy Save. They know their Intellect bonus x2 in extra Languages. They are calculators, researchers, and engineers.
    • Crafty Machines have a Defensive Number of 20. They are the builders and the diggers so are hardier and better protected.
    • Defender Machines may use Major Weapons (two handed, d10) as well as pistols, shotguns, and rifles. These were built for combat and personal protection.
    • Expendable Machines are +3 to Saves. In addition to all the uses you can imagine for expendable machines, these are also used for exploration.
  • When a Machine is hit by an attack or damaged due to a failed save, reduce its Constitution by 1. Constitution Damage repairs itself at a rate of 1 point per night cycle (Machines are solar powered and power down for about 5 hrs. every night). A successful Tinker check lets you regain 1d6 points in a given otherwise restful day. They gain Constitution each time they level. Their Constitution Bonuses count for the purpose of like poison Saves and stuff. At Constitution 0 they are rendered inoperable and will not self repair, and they have to make an Easy Save or self destruct in some way determined by the DM. They never benefit from normal or magical healing, but spells like Mending and such can restore 1d4 Constitution per Tier of the spell.
  • Machines all begin with some special Function. They may use this Function a number of times per day equal to their Level. The power supply for these Functions is their Constitution score. Each time a function is used roll the die associated with it and lose that amount of Constitution. If your Function would reduce you to Constitution 0 or less make an Easy save or else cease to operate. If you make the save you will regain 1 Constitution after a day of non-operation in the sun.
  • At level 4 Machines recover at least 2 Constitution every night cycle. A successful Tinker check can also restore 1d3 Constitution while adventuring.
  • At level 5 Machines may spend 1 Constitution to double their movement speed for a round (240/60).
  • At level 6 Machines may express a new Function. It draws on the Machine’s Constitution score as well and may be used a number of times per day equal to the Machine’s current Constitution bonus.
  • At level 7 Machines may spend 1 Constitution in order to move twice or attack twice in a round.
  • At level 8 Machines recover 1d6 Constitution each night cycle, up to their maximum.
  • At level 8, Machines have both lived past warranty and met the requirements for citizenship. They are also indistinguishable from normal men. Basically, their life begins anew. If they start a business or farm they can attract their Charisma in workers every year, and some may be other Machines (up to their Intellect Bonus). If they choose to keep adventuring then every 350,000 XP gained after 8th level they may take a level in a second class, fully vested in its abilities.
  • Machines may advance normally to level 8.

  • Night Watch. See perfectly in pitch dark. 1d3.
  • Recorder. Perfectly recreate any sound the Machine has heard since its last dormant cycle. 1d3.
  • Seeker. See through wooden walls, through stone up to 1’ thick, through metal 1" thick. 1d4.
  • Doctor. Heal an ally 1d4 HP. 1d4. (Use the same roll for each value)
  • Punisher. A galvanic jolt surges through your skin, doing 1d4 damage and repelling targets human size and smaller 5’. 1d4.
  • Climber. Leap 120’ vertically or horizontally. 1d6.
  • Breaker. Additional 1d6 damage on a successful hit. 1d6.
  • Zapper. Target takes 1d4 damage, no attack roll required. 1d6.
  • Quartermaster. Manufacture a weapon (Minor or Simple) or item from your own body mass. 1d6.
  • Mover. Manipulate an object weighing up to your Intellect x10 lbs., up to your Wisdom x3’ away. 1d6.
  • Gazer. All targets in a 45 degree cone make a Tricky Save or take 1d6 damage, saves take half. 1d8
  • Grappler. Deal your full Constitution score as damage to a target you are currently grappling, no save. 1d8.
  • Charmer. As the spell Charm Person, penalty to their Hard Save equal to your current Constitution bonus. 1d8.
  • Aerial Scout. Fly full speed for 1 round. 1d10
  • Destroyer. 3d6 heat damage in 360’ for 15’. 3d6.
Features Level XP HP
Artificial Life
1 0 n/a

2 2300 +2 Constitution

3 4600 +2 Constitution
Recovery 4 9200 +1 Constitution
Quick 5 18400 +1 Constitution
Secondary Function 6 36800 +1 Constitution
Real Quick 7 73600 +1 Constitution
New Class
8 147200 +1 Constitution

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Moon Slave VDND World Tour - Touch of the Ashen Eclipse

When fighting your enemies you always...
  1. Laugh like a lunatic
  2. Flail and writhe, never staying still
  3. Maintain eye contact at all times with eyes shining like red-black opals
  4. Flare faint puffs of smoke from your nostrils
  6. Sing a disconcerting prayer chant about intestines
  7. Drool like a dog and foam at the mouth
  8. Speak in a language no one recognizes
  9. Okay it looks like you grew about 14 pounds of hair and it's trailing behind you like a tail
  10. Reek of burning death
  11. Turn your skin chalk white, a little lightning storm of bright blue veins braking up the perfect alabaster
  12. Go berserk at any mirror you can see until you can smash it 

Ceremony of Flesh Tea

At level 3 your unarmed strikes also do fire damage in addition to bludgeoning. This will also let you set flammable things aflame after holding them for one minute. The target also carries a noticeable mark of your touch for a day.

Dead Saint's Fingers

At level 6 your unarmed strikes also do necrotic damage in addition to bludgeoning and fire damage. This also lets you kill anything with less than 1 HP by touching it, like a normal silk worm or a flower. Just for giggles. The target also carries a noticeable mark of your touch until the next black moon.

Moon of the Harvest of Hearts

At level 11 you gain two of the following features:
  • Resistance to fire damage
  • Resistance to necrotic damage
  • As an Action you may cause a target who suffered fire or necrotic damage since your last Action to suffer an equal amount of damage of the same type. You can use this a number of times per day equal to your Strength bonus, minimum 1, and regain all uses after a long rest.
Targets of your attacks also carry a noticeable mark of your touch until you die.

Devil Breathing Way

At level 17 you can shift the life energy of Moon Slave coursing through you into an unfit vessel. As a bonus action you may end one of your resistances granted by Moon of the Harvest of Hearts. your next successful attack does an additional 25d4 damage of that damage type. Targets also bear a noticeable mark of your touch even upon their very corpse, beyond your death and their own, a mark visible by moonlight.

Friday, May 13, 2016

New VDND Honor Rules

The 5e DMG talks about Honor and Sanity. You can use them if you want. Is there any reason to? No, but you can use them if you want. Is there a big downside to them that a DM might want to bring into play? No, but you can use them if you want. They are called ability scores but basically exists for Checks Against Being A Specific Kind Of Guy. You know that thing you do where you pretend to be some kind of guy and you and the DM try to work out where the boundaries are and sometimes the DM will say "That doesn't sound like something Dolphin Legend would do" or, if he's boring, "That sounds more lawful good than lawful neutral?" That thing that every person playing a game does, the wonderful give and take conversation we are all involved in? You can have separate number for that if you want, divorced from anything else in the system, floating on top and doing a job your extant ability scores can already model.

You know, if you want.

I don't necessarily care about a system for Honor in my game. Not a codified structure and boundary as opposed to just behaving honorably. But I had a player who was going to join one of my games as a jaguar paladin and even though that never happened it got me thinking about Rokugan and Adventure Time. So, now I have Honor rules, and you can use them if you want.

Skills: Insight
Languages: Any 2
Tools: Calligrapher's Tools
FEATURE: Honor Bound

You gain a resource called Honor. Roll 3d6 to calculate your starting Honor. You gain 1 Honor by pledging yourself to a cause or task and seeing it through; by protecting someone helpless; by openly shaming dishonorable conduct. You can spend a point of Honor to improve a character's Reaction to you (hostile to neutral, neutral to helpful, helpful to friendly, but NOT from aggressive to hostile); to declare some NPC or group has heard of you (though not any specific accomplishment or bit of background, apart from being Honorable); or to make a check against a character's reputation (informing you whether they typically act with Honor or if they have betrayed someone they were pledged to).

We use the system that already exists. I try to stick to the idea Some Guy said where backgrounds don't give major mechanical benefits and yet, also, fuck that a little. Instead of some Charisma based skill you get a new space on your character sheet. Instead of a tool to broadly influence the game in a wide and general way you have a pool of resources that do very specific things more accurately. That's not going to break a game on its own.

We also have a built in reason to run little side quests and pledge yourself to pick flowers for Mrs. Crenshaw or whatever. You're here to help, sometimes that means killing a gobbo and sometimes that means being a mensch. The more you play up your guy's honor and fulfill your commitments the more you get to play with your new toy, replenishing and increasing your pool of Honor. The more you act out of line or abuse your power the more you can be punished by having your toy taken away. I'll say that pool can't exceed 20 like normal ability scores can't.

[[added- Bonds, Flaws, etc, these should come from a more personal place than a table. In composing those think of bonds as Allegiances, flaws as Taboos ("I must never/will never"), ideals as Vows ("I will always"), and maybe replace your traits with a list of Deeds which can be deeds you've accomplished or great deeds you intend to accomplish. Not "slayed a dragon" but "Slaying a Dragon," a phrasing that lets it be something you can be known for aspiring to, achieving, or failing]]

Any person may be Honorable. A Thief? Absolutely, robin hood n shit. A Monk? You bet. How about someone who sold their soul to the devil? Man, even Doctor Doom has a sense of (if not honor) propriety close enough to compel him to keep his word, pay his debts, even if only because of the prospect of being shamed for doing otherwise. So any character can be Honorable...

But c'mon. We have a specific thing in the game that was invented to be warriors sworn to a code of Honor. So, at 2nd level, a Paladin may select the following Fighting Style:

Fair Play

On your turn you may spend 1 point of Honor to receive +1 to hit.

This is not as big a bonus as other class' Archer features add but there's also a greater range of melee weapons doing damage superior to a longbow. It's actually a large benefit but it requires sacrifice of a valuable resource. Hence, it's fighting fairly. There's no real reason to take this fighting style, though, unless you are really making Honor core to your character's being. In that case you'll be needing a Paladin advancement path. I think the word Oath is redundant here...

Code of Honor


3rd- compelled duel, restore honor*
5th- magic weapon, detect thoughts
9th- bestow curse, remove curse
13th- banishment, dominate beast
17th- commune, geas

Channel Divinity

At 3rd level, you gain the following options for your CD.
Turn Dishonored- Gain 1 Honor and Turn creatures within 30' with a Wisdom or Honor less than your current Honor.
Champion's Defense- When you are within range of an attack against an ally and the value of the attack roll is less than your current Honor you may use your Reaction to gain 1 Honor and make yourself the target of the attack. You have Resistance against the damage from this attack.

Aura of Bolstering

At 7th level, allies within 10' no longer suffer from Exhaustion while you have 1 point of Honor. You do not suffer the penalties of Exhaustion.

My Virtue Protects Me

At 15th level, you may use the total of your current Honor plus your Proficiency Bonus in place of any normal Saving Throw. You may use this a number of times per day equal to your Charisma bonus.

Inspirational Paragon

At 20th level your armor no longer counts toward your Encumbrance. Also, after every short or long rest, you gain Temporary Hit Points equal to your current Honor. Finally, once per session, you may confer a point of Inspiration to an ally.

A lot to talk about here. First of all, the spell choices. Rite of single combat. The power of your heart infusing your blade with holy magic like a bunch of anime people and Scott Pilgrim. Like a Battle Princess. The power to know someone's innermost heart. The ability to condemn but, more importantly, the ability to forgive. Dismissing unnatural forces and calming the rage of nature through perfect mu. Understanding the true thoughts and wills of your gods and ancestors. Seeing their will done by the very hands which once opposed you, offering an enemy a chance to earn penance and amnesty or damning them to the service of a cause greater than they. These are all very deliberate choices. I wanted something that would be equal parts Lancelot, Jesus, and Steven Universe.

There's a new spell here which I think should be restricted to Paladins, Clerics, and Druids, even if you have a weird feat that would let you otherwise take it. Nope. Gotta meet those bare requirements. You can't have your honor restored unless you are showing contrition to a great power you have somehow failed, supplicating for the strength to carry on and see their cause won. The great and ancient orders and kingdoms to whom you are sworn, your brotherhood or regent; the gods themselves; the immutable majesty of ancient nature.

*Restore Honor
1st level evocation I guess. (Oh almost forgot, Ritual)
Bonus action
Talking and Moving

You beg clemency of the great powers. This show or respect is rewarded by your sins, failures, and weaknesses being forgiven by those to whom you are forsworn. You make your sign and touch one humanoid, restoring them 1d4 points of Honor.
At Higher Levels: Casting this spell in a slot of 4th level or higher, one may add their spellcasting ability modifier to the Honor restored.

Now I'm not so sure this spell even needs to exist most of the time. It is, however, valuable for when you've been in a dungeon or lost in the wilderness for a jillion years. Showing the proper deference and observing proper ritual has an upside in a world where you can go visit the gods at their rotary club. If someone is spamming this, well, give them less and less Honor reward each time. Being honorable isn't something you can TOP OFF or hoard like a miser or use to get an unfair advantage.

You can of course just decide to never cast this spell because it breaks the fiction or is too 4e or whatever. In that instance your Channel Divinity features give you the chance to do specific and situational cool things while still refreshing your resource in those times when you're Between Mordors. That second CD power requires some common sense to adjudicate, requiring you to basically be close enough to use a movement to interpose yourself somehow. Inspired by me, and the work I did on the Lawman.

That 7th level ability is inspired by lots of things in general but very specifically by that Lone Wolf and Cub story where the guy who couldn't make faces kept killing people when Ogami Itto went into town, so he just sat in a cave until the ninja got so dehydrated he fell out of a tree. Or something, all my books are in storage because my life is so great right now. Fuck I love that book.

"My Virtue Protects Me" represents a kind of Ned Flanders immunity to the grime of life through clean living and also things like that racist ass legend from Ernest Goes To Camp. Originally was a #/day=Charisma but then you never have to make a regular saving throw. I would have left it like that if I hadn't invented restore honor.

All the end game advancement traits are pretty baller but none of them really compare well against each other in terms of scale. Always hard to model, I think. 2/3 of the features here are pretty normal benefits and the kind of thing that 3.5 would have handled with a feat. I do think that creating a unique exception to the way Inspiration works as-written is a good enough benefit. Especially if the DM isn't normally employing that rule or keeps forgetting.

You can use all of these or just the Background or just the Oath path. I think using just the Fighting Style or even just the Fighting Style and Oath path, trying to slowly build your Honor over time, would be a not great idea. But the path has a lot to recommend it even without the subsystem maybe, like you want to have a setup for your specific kind of guy but don't want to be constantly adjusting knobs?

Anyway. Let me know how it goes.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Unfinished Urungus' Towers Two: The Viking Funeral Jobe Bittman Built

Oderus Urungus did not hit me when he died in the same way Bowie did. I said at the time that the jarring disconnect wasn't that Bowie was mortal but that I'd never thought about him not being David Bowie any more. When David Brockie overdosed in the recliner however that seemed exactly like something from the "ways to die" bucket list from GWAR. Dying from too much heroin is GWAR being GWAR, sure as if he had suffocated under a mound of groupies or died from injuries sustained in a cockfight at the planetarium on Laser Zeppelin night. I was also not as large a fan. Oh sure I liked their music well enough in a cartoon idea of transgression kind of way - like when AC/DC says If You're Into Evil You're A Friend Of Mine, which is such an adorable kind of Mumm-Ra turn of phrase - but I've only started really appreciating their musicality in the last couple years. It's probably because, antithetically to a lot of the spirit of metal, I think, GWAR reminds me first and foremost of nice memories about my dad. Those first couple years I went to Dragon*Con were when GWAR would still show regularly enough, and he was super amused by the way they just wandered the floor in character. Did you see that guy with the big foam wiener? That naked chick poked me in the shoulder with their huge spiked tits when they went by. Honestly my folks seemed to enjoy those trips as much as we did, because it was beyond sensory overload for them, often involving things they had no inkling of. Good times.

A lot of my personal connection to GWAR then is not as artists but as celebrities. GWAR were a sort of mascot for a certain epoch of metal, and Oderus was the mascot of GWAR. He was the lead singer, sure, but as the AV Club recently noted GWAR has had a few of those by now. None of them have really been the FRONT MAN Dave Brockie was, though. A kind of ambassador for an aesthetic, he made everything from horse movies to Bam Margera somehow tolerable. He made FOX News watchable. You can call him one note, as has been said about GWAR, but there is a delectably east-Asian idea of the mastery of simplicity that I appreciate from someone who finds their one note (albeit a power chord) and masters it in such a way that they become synonymous with a movement, with a time, with a medium. No one played that note like Oderus & Co.

What their whole scene embodied was a message of fuck yeah but in a joshing way. Like (as Zak noted a while back) Metalocalypse or Beavis and Butthead or for that matter All in the Family, the joke was intended to be on a lot of the very people who became rabid fans. Their characters are dumb as posts but they call people retards. Their personae are sex made foam rubber flesh but with the effect of making everyone lumpy genderless puppets.They sing about how awesome raping stuff is on stage only for other characters to call them out on it in the song, prompting the original fuck demon to defer. They are the id sharpied onto the back of a PE workbook of a thousand virgin warriors. Of course some of those powerless headbangers latched on to GWAR completely unironically. That's not what has kept GWAR going all these years, though; it's the fact that they actually have better musical chops than fellow metal cartoons KISS and a far better sense of humor about themselves. They're a Spinal Tap that kept putting out albums, with Ralph Bakshi and William Gaines as their producers.

What their whole scene embodied was a message of "People who think metalheads are scary, look at us: it's exactly as bad as you feared. BUT, now that you're looking at it, is that bad?" Of course not. Who can actually be scared of foam rubber dildos and still be worth the time spent with them?

Towers Two by Dave Brockie, Jobe Bittman, Jeremy Duncan, Glenn Seal, and Alex Mayo, from James Raggi's Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

Reading Dave's original partial manuscript first, the biggest difference between the two isn't what is in a room but why it's there and how it's described. GWAR acolyte Bittman had the un/enviable task of finishing this manuscript so the rooms that are all him (with help from some of Brockie's other notes and emails I'm sure) are focused on finishing the telling of a story. That story is entitled "What I saw at the GWAR show last night." It is described in that manner, with the blood, shit, come, tits, decapitations, puppets, and special effects center stage. The set list at a GWAR show is never what people talk about on Monday morning. It's more like holy shit I watched Jerry Springer get eaten by a vagina dog. Replicating that experience and finishing Brockie's unfinished draft so that the plot of the module is anywhere close to cohesive are the orders of the day.

With the original text the Why of a room's content is always "to kill you and/or give you a shitload of treasure." The way it is described, though, shows the experience not of just a seasoned dungeon master but of someone who is accustomed to conceiving and executing gags in a performance. The stage is set first and then the freaks show up and maybe do a thing that in itself is grotesque so that the setting, the actor, and the action all are points of interest. This draft is Dave Brockie writing an adventure like he's planning a video or a tour, and the book as a whole is finished through a Vaseline flashback to the GWAR What Was.

The final high concept of this book is that terrible creatures and terrible deeds have consciously and incidentally conspired to take what would be a boring chapter out of any fantasy novel and turn it into a black metal album cover, a window into the fourteenth hell where every single character is the bad guy apart from like four people who are Merely Shits, not actively vile. That's as good a setup as anything but it does mean that this contains all of the worst and most evil and fucked up and gross out things that Guy From GWAR could think of and guess what: that means Towers Two is the world's longest poop joke that strikes the hour and half hour with rapes.

That's onerous, Oderus, but then it's meant to be. There are decades of wrong to be righted here and even the most self-interested or cruel player character will inevitably find themselves the moral superior of the people they meet, if only because so much of the villainy on display is so petty, short sighted, and basic.

Maybe that doesn't even matter. The game in this book is not where you think it is.

Kiel Chenier is showing this off as I type, running this book in a Nintendo tinged campaign. I've seen a lot of people interested in trying similar reskinnings. That's because the trappings of the MTV dungeon are either to your taste or not, and anything that isn't to your taste is effortlessly dismissed with without upsetting any apples in the cart.

I'll let my players run around with a dick sword if they want but genital weapons aren't what's really exciting here. It's who wields them, why, and what powers them. All the non consensual hog porking in the book is interesting as far as "haha, pig sex right?" goes but it's how the creatures involved relate to one another and the power structures in place that matter. Room after dungeon full of Fulci's worst nightmares become honestly a bit of a blur, punctuated by the set pieces and time tables which will tick forward independently of your players.

This is a personal preference: multiple ticking clocks, some or all of which the players may be unaware of without inquiry, are a favorite adventure planning technique. It means if there's a lull or I'm out of ideas or the players take foreverrrrr to figure something out or debate on doing something, I've always got Something Important ready to happen. It keeps things moving without bringing in a random encounter roll. It also means that in almost every way the longer it takes the players to figure something out or take action on something the worse things are going to get for everybody. Things have been getting worse and worse around the Towers Two for a long time, and while nominally at a tipping point the dilemma facing the party is not "save the countryside or don't." It's a question of allowing the grinding down and the toxic spread to continue by degrees or to force an all or nothing gambit.

This is a text which posits an ultimate evil and it isn't exactly Lovecraftian or Biblical even. It's Sumerian, the evil we make as nature --> there is ultimate evil in nature but not ultimate good --> nature is evil and civilization good --> civilization casts a shadow whence evil emerges, and so on. This isn't an evil that gets something or gets back at dad by sowing sin, and it's not a force beyond human scale and comprehension whose existence is corrupting and dangerous. This is a mind with active agency choosing the spread of evil for the sake of the spread of evil. When the world is cinder it starts over not only because of its nature but because also of its decisions.

Now let's step back again for a minute and compare the evil within the Towers Two to the evil of Towers Two: they say rape like eight times, the innkeeper is basically every innkeeper from every fairy tale ever, and there's this Harvey Dent homophobia where there are notes of antiquated gay panic played for a laugh but after the fourth time what is the joke exactly?

If any of that is where you draw the line I totally get it but I also wouldn't want you to confuse the walls with the wallpaper here. While its sheerest ambition lies in the heightened reaches of its stylized debauching this is nonetheless a pony you can ride all day. You can get months of sessions out of this if you play it right. Your players can simply get a ton of use out of this book without ever actually climbing into either tower. The gonzo trophies aren't nearly the sufficient lure they need to be for the absolute threshing machine of the tunnels and towers. The gold (silver, since this is LotFP) is, however, as are the stories. Like the Tomb of Horrors or Death Frost Doom the point of playing a grinder is to be able to talk afterward about how you barely made it out alive or about how awesomely you died. Either way you get a cool new story. Towers Two's story is compelling in its own way but as a generator FOR stories it is really excellent. There are factions at odds in some of LotFP's other big releases like Qelong or A Red And Present Land but there is a grimy quality to the factions in Towers Two because they're tumbling over one another and clipping through each other. One person may be a knowing member of three spheres of intent in this adventure while unknowingly forwarding machinations of another three. The complicated courtly castling of RPL and the spread out surrounded-but-isolated feel of the Qelong hexcrawl are markedly different experiences.

They're both great books, better than Towers Two, but while they both represent cool stories and cool possibilities for story hooks they won't just generate awesome new stories all on their own. Towers Two has more in common with Deep Carbon Observatory in that respect. Even if you put it at the far end of your campaign world and your players don't get there for three years the fact that it exists at all means that within months every neighboring province is going to be affected, dominoing from there. The yellow brick road will lay itself by degrees until it's right under the players' feet.

It's not nearly as deep as any of those three, though. This book is more along the lines of Forgive Us, LotFP's Free RPG Day adventures, or several members of Zzarkov Kowalski's catalog. That's not intended as a knock, really, but the anticipation for Towers Two and the presentation lend it a prestige above "Four awesome hexes or material." The ghost Urungus haunts its contents (quite literally) as this isn't a book to judge as A GWAR rpg, but THE GWAR rpg. With that scrutiny and standard it's a great adventure but honestly Better Than Any Man (which I know I keep praising but it's that good) is more of a game changer. Looking at that release and Brockie's text it really seems they could have put this together with half the pages if they wanted to. Maybe that was closer to the original intent before tying one off made the book's release much more of an event.

(Speaking of events it seems like everyone is streaming rpgs these days so to James, Jobe, and the remaining members of GWAR, I humbly submit my plea to see this streamed in full costume. I know damn well you all can make a better show of it than the competition. Do it as a fundraiser or do it for charity or do it for both, I'm broke and even I'd find ten bucks for that.)

It's also an interesting venture for Raggi in that it stands completely apart from his current publishing slate but also completely typifies it. As the line hews closer ever on to the early-modern real-world setting its biggest successes seem to be the far, far outliers to this operating mode. Towers Two is that, at least. It shares with Raggi's other output, though, a sensibility not of condoning or endorsing the events and viewpoints of, say, redneck horror, giallo rape killers, or any other bump n grind drive in fare, but instead of the lurid style and music box craft found in those films. It takes both, the style and the craft, and I expect that's why we keep getting the kind of books worth an entire hobby going to war over. Nobody worth anything ever tried to publish at LotFP because they had a book full of cocks and no one would take them. They tried to publish there because they didn't have to engineer, didn't have to schedule meetings, didn't have to run it by legal or focus test anything. They can just build, and nobody is looking over their shoulder tut-tutting about the letters they'll get for painting things creamsicle orange, nightmare blue, or pussy.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Towers Two and GWAR all have that in common: the fundamentals and the technical expertise is there but it's easy for some people to miss because it's all so often in service of telling The Aristocrats.

Alex Mayo and Bittman are on point here, double teaming the layout and content here so that not only is information you'll need to use repeated every time you'll need to use it (funny how much sense that makes) but it's laid out in a very clean, uncluttered, open way. That means if you do want to reskin it for Hyrule or write in some quick-n-dirty HP totals or alternate spell lists you have plenty of room to do so. I don't know enough about layout to speak to it too much, beyond this: good layout to me is clear, never suffers the limb while forsaking the body, is attractive, and makes me think not only that I can use this easily but helps to reinforce "I want to use this."

I also can't speak much to the maps. Nice maps. The book is well made as a physical object, too; while their actual subject matter and content are incredibly different LotFP is the game world's equivalent of Archaia over in comic book land, who for my money make the best physical books (as in the actual things you hold) in the business.

Jeremy Duncan's art, now, that I can go on about. Enticing and revolting my wife in equal measure, these are more akin to animation stills than illustrations. Every chink of armor and hair on a snout represents action interrupted. It's not always in the posture or gesture in a How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way vein. It's down to design: everything looks like it is meant to be used, like it is meant to move, and you can easily imagine how everything here moves. That's a quality missing from even some of my favorite art in rpg books. If I had to sum up his style it would be "skate shop on The Dying Earth" making him the perfect candidate to take over Brockie's illustrations. It's not intended as a slight to say that, capable and useful as Brockie's artwork is, it suggests form and detail and experience but not kineticism. Sad that he died but not that he couldn't finish drawing the book. Talk about elevating material to the quality demanded by the suddenly-higher-profile release. Talk about earning those pages. Well done, ace.

There were some things in Towers Two I found not to my taste. That's fine, I can easily wash over those. There are themes which repeat themselves one too many times; to borrow an adage, one dead baby joke is shocking and funny, eight dead baby jokes is a little depressing. But there is too much goodness to be found in Towers Two. The GWARness may be its easiest selling point to promote and it's certainly the easiest thing to object to if your sensibilities are bruised but the food chain of betrayals, interconnected conspiracies, the clustered-in-time precipices of a dozen disasters, that's the real shit. Not the monster makeup or the fanatic recreation thereof but the mind from behind the mask and the affection from behind the enterprise.

Raggi has said Towers Two will never be reprinted so go buy one. This article was brought to you with care and super generosity by Arnold K. He didn't ask me to say this but please stop by his Patreon and throw some nickels his way because we need more articles by Arnold K. Special thanks to +Kiel Chenier for helping me count rapes. And if I may end on a personal note, ask for help.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Old Man Johnson (Fake Ghost FLAILSNAILS Class)

You have Thief saves. You level and fight like a Dwarf. Your weapons and armor will vary as discussed below. You need Intelligence 9-12 to play this because you can't be too dumb but also can't be too smart. Strength 13+ also required why not. Use I guess d6 for HD.

You know who else is a superstitious, cowardly lot? Everyone else besides criminals. Dress your scare tactics up in a little drama, tell a good story, and most of your work is done for you. It's about misdirection and control of expectations. Mostly it's about profit, reaping the rewards of fear. You know what you must become.


A creature must make a Morale check (roll 1d12, equal/less than the creature's Morale rating) in order to approach you or attack in melee. They may attack from distance or cast a spell without making such a check. A creature failing this check may be Menaced on your next action. They may make another Morale check the next time they try to attack you.

A creature succeeding on the check does not have to make a check to act against you again, but if they failed they may still be Menaced.


To Menace a creature who has failed a Morale check against you, or to Menace a Retainer (Retainers may always be Menaced), roll 3d6. If the result is higher than the target's Morale they must flee you as fast as they are able for #Rounds= Menace minus Morale or until they successfully make Morale check against you.

Once a creature has failed a Morale check against you, they may always be Menaced. Retainers as indicated above may always be menaced.


Each session you must spread your legend. It is important to embellish well, otherwise you won't be truly feared. After that the DM knows when someone in that session has heard your legend or not. If they have they must add 3 to the result for their Morale Check before determining success.

There was 
a man/
Personality Who was One night they They met their tragic end Some still say

Proud and cruel The last heir Disappeared In fire They haunt this town

Kind and naive The oldest resident Hid a fabulous treasure In the water They guard their secrets

Miserly and bitter The sole survivor Took it all, ran off in the night In the storm They steal children

Sickly and afraid A great explorer Swore their revenge In the caves The hills are theirs

Hot-tempered and short-sighted A secretive researcher Stood alone against ruin In the ensuing disaster They'll stop any who try

Grave and regal A true beauty Got the axe In the forest It's not safe at night

Weak but friendly Bound for the hangman Got captured in a cemetery Mysteriously, never seen again They are still searching

Devout and mad A prime suspect Wrestled with a demon In the madhouse They still crave blood

Penitent and accepting Friend to the unfortunate Went mad with greed In bed, cursing their enemies They punish their enemies' descendants

Viciously playful Protecting a secret Eloped, or so they thought... Buried alive They were innocent and cannot rest

I did not look at the handy dandy ghost story generator written for me years ago by +Patrick Henry Dollah in the old 2013 Secret Santicore before writing this but I should have cuz it was great. You could do that as well. I'll put a link here later I'm sleepy.


You add your level to attempts to grab.


You can throttle someone I guess or you can shake them like a Yoo-Hoo til they pass out. Either way you may elect to do 1d6+Strength Bonus-per-round automatically to any creature whom you have seized (no larger than twice your size).


You have proficiency with one of the following:
  • Historical Accuracy- All normal weapons and armor. At level 5 your Morale penalty equals your Armor Class bonus.
  • Thematic Resonance- One unique weapon that does 1d6+5. At level 5 this becomes 1d10+4.
  • A Particular Set of Skills- You have 3/6 LotFP style in Architecture, Sneak, and Tinker. At level 5 these all gain +1.
  • Cutting Edge Technology- You can duplicate the effect of a level 1 spell you may use #day=level. At level 5 you may trade 3 uses per day of this spell in order to gain the use of a level 3 spell 1/day. You can trade uses of your starting spell in this way as you advance.


All your powers reside in your Guise. This is a carefully constructed uniform (usually with a mask) allowing you to seem much more fearsome than you normally are. Your Guise affords you 1 point of Armor Class.

If this Guise is ever ruined or if your Guise is removed then you lose all your class abilities and are a suckier Fighter.

If you are able to escape and leave the area you may return with a new Guise after spending 1 day and 500g for each character level. This may allow you to select new Tools of the Trade.


At any time you successfully scare off (or kill, I'm not picky) everyone in a building you may claim that as a Haunt. You incorporate your Haunt into your Legend when you tell it at the beginning of a session. People are more likely to have heard of you before entering (again the DM should have the call here but should also maybe softball this) conferring your Legend's bonus.

While in your Haunt you earn 5% bonus XP, force an additional +1 penalty to Morale checks against you, and have AC +/-1.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


This is going to be a little different. You can use any weapon and wear light armor. You save and you level like Thieves. You need Wisdom 14 to play a Monster Boy.

You are blessed among men. You are plagued by spirits. For there are monsters in the world. The world in a real way is theirs, not yours, yet their ultimate fate is in your hands. You have sought power? Now you have it. You have sought only peace? You in turn were sought out to carry this message of peace. You have insight into the behemoth. You are connected to the thunderers. You're a Monster Boy.

You are filled with Monster Girls.
1. Monster Girls. 2 Calls. Guidance.
2. 3 Calls. Awareness.
3. 4 Calls. Understanding.
4. 5 Calls. Foresight.
5. 6 Calls. Communication.
6. 7 Calls. Protection.
7. 8 Calls. Presence.
8. 9 Calls. Beckoning.
9. 10 Calls. Connection.
10. 11 Calls. Dismissal.
Monster Girls

You may Call the Monster Girls a number of times per day equal to your level +1, but may always Call when you encounter a monster with 9+HD. No one else can see your Monster Girl unless they have greater Wisdom than you.

In instances where they may be targeted directly it is treated as a called shot. Monster Girls who are hit are Indisposed. An Indisposed Monster Girl may not be called again that day. If all of your Monster Girls are Indisposed that's it: you've failed them and the compact is broken. From now on you're just a Thief with no skills.

There are different kinds of Monster Girl.

The Coven- There are five of them and they appear as brightly colored young women of human size. They are like in intent but disparate in spirit, and disagree with one another. When all five are present and their power is united there is a 10% chance that their powers will fail, be ineffective, or work counter to intent. For each member of the Coven not present when appearing (I'M not appearing with HER after what SHE said) that chance increases by 20%. When calling them you either spend 2 uses of your Call to summon all five or spend 1 use of your Call and roll 1d6 to determine how many appear. On a 6 not only do all five appear but their powers have a 0% chance of failure.

The Twins- These Monster Girls can be creepy, sometimes finishing each other's sentences, sometimes speaking simultaneously. They appear as 6" tall women. They do not have a risk of failure associated with the use of their influence. They require 2 Calls.

The Goddess- This is the Monster Girl inside of you. She does not appear separately from you, though you always see her in any mirror or reflection. Instead she transforms your aspect into a more resplendent one, though only the very wise understand your suddenly awesome bearing. She only requires one use of your Call. Because her aspect is in your body she (read: you) may be targeted normally. She does not become Indisposed unless you drop to 0 HP.

Guidance- Monster Girls give you Guidance. When they appear they will answer as many questions about a creature as it has Hit Dice. The more powerful the creature the more they know of it, the deeper the heart into which they peer.
  1. What is it?
  2. Where did it come from?
  3. What does it want?
  4. Why did it do that?
  5. What is it capable of?
  6. Who/what is controlling it?
  7. What are its vulnerabilities?
  8. Is it on our side?
  9. Can it be killed?
  10. How can we stop it? (like specifically does a method exist we can employ; the Monster Girls have limited omniscience when it comes to these creatures so even if the answer is super obscure they can point you to it)
For creatures with 10HD or less ask one of those questions. You may ask 1 question per round. For creatures with 10+HD more open ended questions may be employed. They are here for the super-storms; anything less than that and you're just asking whether it is raining.

Awareness- While they are present you may only be surprised on a 1.

Foresight- You may no longer be surprised except through magic cast from a higher level than your own. In fact, they warn you enough in advance that you have the option of surprising your adversaries.

Understanding- They may understand the thoughts, fears, emotions, and intents of creatures without a language. Think of it as fluent psychic one way communication.

Communication- They may focus their mind to send simple messages (a number of words =your Wisdom or fewer) to any creature without a language.

Protection- You gain a bonus to your saves while Monster Girls are present.

Presence- You may make yourself known as an agent of the Monster Girls for your Charisma x30'. You may elect to target all non-hostile creatures. They will know you on sight, on scent, and will know your sound. You will not have to risk the time it takes to show yourself a friend or powerful foe: you will be known immediately as such.

Connection- Your senses begin to merge with that of the cosmos, facilitated by the powerful bond you now have with your Monster Girls. You Hear Noise 6/6 and may always roll twice for Search or Perception or whatever. If you touch a creature you know how many Hit Points it currently has. You have mild celebrity by this point and have a 1 point reaction adjustment from anyone who has heard of you, 2 points if you are touching them.

Beckoning- A creature within your level in miles, with your level in HD or fewer, begins homing in on your current position.

Dismissal- A creature with HD equal to/less than your own must save against Wands or begin traveling away from your current position.


Instead of Calling on your Monster Girls for their constant effects or the benefits of their presence they can empower you from within. Though they help you there is a price and they may not be able to come when you Call. You may spend any number of Calls per day to achieve Special Effects. They may be present or not when you gain the benefits of Special Effects.


Restore Indisposed Monster Girl
Hide Monster Girls (without dismissing them)
Regain 2 Hit Points
Weapon you wield considered silvered


Charm Person
Comprehend Languages
ESP (with rest of party and Monster Girls only)
Weapon you wield considered magic


Regain 16 Hit Points
Cure Disease
Remove Curse
Clairvoyance (can only let you look at great creatures without a language, the shrine to same, or other Monster Girls)


Guardian Power (+1 AC, +3 to hit, +5 damage, +7' movement, 1d8 rounds)
Teleportation (only to places where you have encountered a creature without a language possessing more Hit Dice than you)


Champion Form (Size, AC, attack, damage, save, move, etc as Stone Giant for 10 rounds)
Resurrection (If you die with 10 Calls your Monster Girls use this Special Effect on you automatically. Whether for your own life or the life of another Resurrection requires the sacrifice of your Monster Girls. Afterwards you are a mundane man who must only remember what it was like to be a part of the bigger picture.)