Saturday, December 26, 2015

una isla

Working on the region surrounding San Serafín. I want there to be more to do than just this one, giant dungeon. I think my players are chafing against having to dungeon crawl every session. I also want to develop a Morrowind/Tekumel-ish setting, a kind of Mozarab Latin America, or a Colombian Exchange with Al-Andalus instead of re-Christianized Spain. 

Anywhere, here are six locations. 

Twin creatures of mysterious nature and sumptuous dress sell strange wares beneath a red silk canopy on the side of the road.
  • Arre has the grinning head of a coyote, tongue lolling, eyes a dull red. She is polite, accommodating, and will not insist on anything but a price. She sells magic-user and cleric scrolls (all spells with a level of 6 or higher). She does not take money, but requires a live captive with HD double the level of the scroll’s spell.She fights as a gargoyle (AC 5 HD 4 MV 90 ATK 2 claws/1 bite/1 horn DMG 1d3/1d3/1d6/1d4 ST Fighter 8 ML 11 TT C AL C, Immune to non-magical weapons)
  • Erre has the head of a monkey, expression neutral, eyes a lambent red. He is profane, deceitful, and delights in insult. He sells magic items (three random magic items in stock, changes out each midnight). He accepts only ancient coinage, and each item costs 500+d1000 gp. He fights as a wraith (AC 3 HD 4 MV 120' (FLY 240') ATK 1 DMG 1d6+Energy Drain ST Fighter 4 ML 11 TT E AL C, Immune to non-silver and non-magical weapons)
A small and unpleasant village. The well has been spoiled recently and a spirit haunts the village chief, a man called Nazario.
  • The well was spoiled by the brother of Nazario’s dead wife, who wants to be chief and is sabotaging Nazario’s rule.
  • Nazario is haunted by the spirit Búho because he murdered his wife, the daughter of the last chief, five years ago. He rules the village benevolently, but will kill again to maintain his secret.
  • The villagers blame the haunting and the spoiled well on the nearby encampment of half-djinn. They would have driven away or killed them by now if not for the efforts of the village chief.
An encampment of half-djinn outcasts. They have thus far maintained a measure of peace and prosperity through the power and guidance of the great djinni Al-Ra’ad al-Kasif, but he has been missing for over a month.
  • A band of slavers has been kidnapping djinni across the Isle. The leader of the encampment, Fátima, wants the slavers killed and her fellows freed.
  • Shams, the great-grandson of al-Kasif, maintains his ancestor’s house, buried beneath the encampment. It contains immense wealth, but its guardians are vigilant and powerful.
  • Befriending the encampment allows players to create half-djinn characters.
  • The half-djinn fight as elves (AC 5 HD 1+1 MV 120’ ATK 1 DMG 1d8 ST Elf 1 ML 8 TT E AL Neutral, Know a random 1st level magic-user spell)
A decaying monastery occupied by a society of necromancers. A small shantytown has sprung up around the monastery’s walls, full of indentured servants paying off the necromancer’s services.
  • The necromancers can raise any human from the dead, as long as a corpse and their true name is provided. The dead raised this way have the mental attributes, knowledge, and abilities they had in life, but the physical characteristics of their new body. This service costs a number of gold pieces equal to the experience total of the one to be resurrected. Anyone raised this way cannot gain XP.
  • The indentured servants despise the necromancers for their abuse and cupidity, but each is desperate to bring someone back to life.
  • The necromancers know the secret of summoning Las Muertas, but will not teach it to anyone outside of their ranks. A summoner must enroll in the society or else just steal the ritual.
A band of hunters makes their camp here, hidden inside a thicket. Several of their children have gone missing, and in the weeks since their search started, something has begun to mutilate the horses.
  • The children have been stolen by the spirit Angroda, who maintains her lair in the bole of an immense black tree in the same hex as the camp.
  • The horse-killer is one of the hunters, cursed with lycanthropy. He killed an ancient jaguar while searching for the missing children, and it bit him as it died. He is too frightened to set off on his own and even more afraid of being killed by his friends and family, so he has been satisfying his new hunger with the band’s horses. He fights as a weretiger (AC 3 HD 5 MV 150’ ATK 2 claws/1 bite DMG 1d6/1d6/2d6 ST Fighter 5 ML 9 TT C AL N, Immune to non-magical or non-silver weapons, can summon 1d2 jaguars 1/day)
An abandoned hacienda. Withered cattle, untouched by insects, lay dead in locked barns, and the silos are filled with rotted grain. In the manor, the two dozen bodies hang from the rafters.
  • The hanged were once the hacienda's household. In life, they sacrificed humans to an Old God in return for bountiful crops. When the Saint-king sent an agent to investigate the disappearances, they killed themselves when discovery seemed inevitable.
  • The dead are restless in this house. The bodies will reanimate and attempt to kill anyone who enters the manor. They will do their best to keep anyone from entering the basement, where they kept the remains of their victims.
  • The basement contains the remains of the sacrificial victims, as well as the body of the Saint-king's agent. Unbeknownst to the murderers, he tripped down the stairs and broke his neck while investigating. He is an immobile skeleton, but is quite friendly and rather voluble.
  • The murderers fight as wights (AC 5 HD 3 MV 90 ATK 1 DMG Energy Drain ST Fighter 3 ML 12 TT B AL C, Immune to non-silver and non-magical weapons). As long as they are still tied to a rafter and nothing living can see them or their destination, they can teleport to any other rafter in the house. If cut from the roof, they cannot teleport, but can move freely.

Friday, December 25, 2015

the happy dead

Another revision of my summoner class, along with two more spirits.

Las Muertas
If a summoner learns the True Name of a dead human, they can call their spirit forth from the Lands of the Dead. These ghosts are invisible to all but their summoner (or those with the means to see magic) and care utterly incapable of interacting with the physical world. However, if their summoner commands them to possess a corpse, they can use it as an intermediary to interfere with the living. Las Muertas retain all of their knowledge, mental capacity, and abilities from life, but acquire all of the physical capabilities and limitations of their host. When a host is destroyed, its possessor is banished back to the Lands of the Dead and cannot be summoned until the following midnight.

While the personalities and motivations of Las Muertas vary as much as the living, they are uniformly incapable of boredom, though they may enjoy some activities more than others. One of the dead can spend a decade at the bottom of a well unphased. Moreover, leaving the stultifying Lands of the Dead makes them labile and manic--Las Muertas have a notorious taste for rich food, liquor, and tobacco. 

There are rumors of a town in the northernmost reaches of Las Taifas where summoners call up the dead and willingly release them into the Lands of the Living. The sheikhs denies such speculation.

Búho is a spirit consisting of 12 porcelain owl dolls.
  • Their heads turn to face the most powerful Chaotic creature in the immediate vicinity
  • Their bodies rattle in the presence of magic. 
  • Each time someone lies in Búho's presence, one of the dolls breaks. 
The dolls must remain within 12 feet of each other. They can move as fast as a human, but only when nobody can see them. While unobserved, they can carry small objects. As long as an area has an egress accessible to a normal human, they can leave, even if they aren't large or strong enough normally (so if Búho is in a room with a closed door, the dolls can leave if nobody can see them. If the door's locked or actually a heavy portcullis, they're stuck) If all the dolls break, Búho is banished. Búho cannot speak.

Búho always tries to reveal secrets and uncover the truth, regardless of the consequences. The older and darker the secret, the more Búho tries to reveal it. It most commonly comes into conflict with humans when it comes across a powerful secret--murder, infidelity, falsified noble lineages. It haunts those it believes to be responsible, hoping that observers can figure out the rules of its abilities to put together the truth.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

to slay a king or rout a host

My abridged copy of 1001 Nights is filed with dubious Victorianisms, but every once in a while it just really comes together. The genie Al-Ra'ad Al-Kasif to the puckishly homocidal fisherman Judar:

Ask what thou wilt and it shall be given to thee. Hast thou a mind to people a ruined city or ruin a populous one? To slay a king or rout a host?

So now I'm thinking about summoner types again. The last iteration was a bit too complicated and wasn't quite doing what I wanted it to do. Here is yet another iteration, one that's probably pretty close to complete, incorporating some advice from +Arnold K.

Summoner 3.0
by Kawanabe Kyōsa

HP, XP, Saves as magic-user
Summoners cannot perform magic under their own power, and instead call forth spirits to do it for them. First, a summoner must acquire the true name of a spirit. They can do this by finding it while adventuring or extracting it from the spirit itself, through trickery, violence, or diplomacy. Then, they must bind it. This is analogous to a magic-user preparing spells; the spirits a summoner has bound determines which ones they can summon over the course of a day. Finally, they can summon the spirit, which requires the traditional Loyalty roll (2d6 under a target number between 3 and 12).

At midnight, summoners can bind spirits whose true names they know. This takes as long as a magic-user memorizing spells from a spell book. Bound spirits, whether they are currently summoned or not, count against a summoner's retainer total (if applicable to your rules of choice. Otherwise, they can bind a number of spirits equal to half level+Cha mod).

Summoning a spirit takes as long as casting a spell. When you summon a spirit, make a Loyalty check to see if you retain control of it. A spirit's base Loyalty is increased by 1/3 your level (if your ruleset of choice does not provide a method for retainer loyalty, start it at 6) If you succeed, the spirit performs a single task for you to the best of its ability, then returns to the void, ready to be summoned again. If you fail, the spirit is free to do as it pleases until you subdue it or bind it again. Malicious spirits will attack you or otherwise sabotage your progress, while benign or neutral spirits will just leave or watch you get eaten by skeletons.
  • If you command a spirit to cast a spell, add the spell level to the 2d6 roll.
  • Spirits commanded to perform exceedingly long-terms tasks might require multiple Loyalty rolls. A spirit commanded to guard its summoner for an entire day would require Loyalty rolls every time it sustained significant damage, for example.
  • For every spirit you have currently summoned, you suffer a -1 penalty to Loyalty rolls.
  • Spirits have their own motives and personalities. If you command a spirit to act against its truest nature, you suffer a -1 to -3 penalty to the Loyalty roll, depending on how egregious the breach of its code would be.
  • You can gain a +1 bonus to a single Loyalty roll by giving the spirit an offering. This can be anything from a bottle of rum to a live goat, but the upshot is a single offering encumbers at least as a significant item and costs at least 50gp×the spirit's HD.
  • A summoner can banish any spirit under their control at will, but they must be in earshot.
  • Spirits that die return to the void, and cannot be summoned until bound again.
Example Spirits
from legend of zelda: wind waker
Spirits of hexed ink and sublimated shadow, about as intelligent as a human toddler. They possess a catlike susceptibility to affection, but also delight in cruelty.

Stats: As goblin
Can spider-climb and squeeze through spaces coin-sized or larger. Inklings take d4 damage per turn in lightless environments are their substance bleeds off into the ambient darkness.

from dark souls 2
A crow the size of a mastiff. She has many red eyes, and speaks through the small human face hidden inside her beak. She is obscene, manic, funny, and enthusiastically anthropophagous. Agrode holds power over sight and thought.

Agrode adores children, and most commonly comes into conflict with humans when she starts kidnapping sons and daughters. Despite the fact that she is a giant, filthy, demonic crow, she actually takes quite good care of them, loving them with all her evil heart and teaching them all the secrets of her wicked wisdom. Some of the greatest witches in history were raised by Agrode. Occassionally, desperate parents leave their children out where Agrode is known to roost. She gratefully accepts them, then kills the parents for neglect.

Stats: As giant bat, no blood drain, Alignment is Chaotic
Can cast Comprehend/Obscure Languages, Phantasmal Force, and Forget at will. She can cast Charm Person at will, but only on those below the age of 18.

from final fantasy xii
The Queen of Lions
The spirit of the Queen of Sheba's consort. Her features are concealed behind red lacquer armor and samite, but she stands a full head taller than the tallest man. She is taciturn, patient, suspicious of magicians, and wrathful towards liars. Hers are the powers of fortitude and purity.

Stats: As Ogre, Alignment is Lawful, cannot be harmed by man-made weapons
Can Turn Undead as a 3rd level Cleric, can speak to animals

Al-Ra'ad al-Kasif
from tales of vesperia
An ifrit, once immensely powerful, now sadly dissipated. He appears as a louche, middle-aged man in rich clothes. He is a knowledgeable accountant and talented lawyer, though leaving him to his own devices in financial matters is not necessarily wise, as his reach exceeds his considerable grasp.

Al-Ra'ad is a traditionalist djinn, and does not try to push too hard against his summoner's orders. However, he desperately wishes to repair his ring, broken millennia ago by the wife of an old master, in hopes of restoring his former power. He is also a gourmand and a minor alcoholic, and his appetites occasionally surpass his best efforts and good intentions.

Stats: As Gnoll, Alignment is Lawful
Can Change Self at will. Al-Ra'ad is abnormally strong, and can carry twice as many items as normal. He can easily perform any feat of Strength a normal human is capable of, and automatically succeeds all such Strength checks. He only makes checks for tasks that would exceed the capabilities of a single person.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

serafino artifacts

An indestructible sword feared and coveted as a weapon of immense destruction. Any sparks struck by its blade ignite fires that cannot be extinguished by means magical or mundane; they burn until they consume all available fuel or else forever.

a black bone
A charred tibia, one end wrapped in wire for a handle, the other chipped to a point. This is an weapon that cannot and should not be; to kill someone with it is to disrupt the natural course of Creation. Anything its victims ought to have done will go unfinished, and the events they would have prevented will now proceed. It can be used to subvert prophecy and kill those protected by destiny, both for good and for bad, but each use weakens the relationship between Cause and Effect just a little more.

la lengua oscura
As we cast shadows, so too does language; in the distant west they call this speech La Lengua Oscura. Those fluent in it can ponder the unknowable and devise the impossible; there are kings and queens, now long dead, who used it to order their subjects to commit unspeakable acts. True mastery is all but impossible in these latter days, but acquiring basic knowledge has its advantages.

The Zahir
A divine weapon that brings salvation to those it destroys. The Zahir slowly consumes the mind of anyone who sees it, filling them with thoughts of Immanence. When any sentient creature sees the Zahir up close, they must make a Saving Throw vs Magic every day thereafter or lose a point of Intelligence as more and more of their mind dedicates itself to pondering the Zahir. Once their Intelligence reaches 0, they become Lawful and fall into a coma. The Zahir can take any form: it can be a penny, a book, a house.

The Bottom of the City
There ruled a king in distant West, a king for the ages, a king to rival Solomon, a king to shake the firmament. He was Yahya, or El Pastor, or Prestor John, but today his names are not spoken, and his works are cast away. He is just San Serafin now. His 99 Histories record his fall from grace, but each chapter ascribes to him a different sin and a different punishment, so that all must be held in suspicion and none can be trusted. Whether he is dead or asleep or imprisoned at the bottom of his hated, buried city, all of the Histories  agree on a single point: anyone who finds him will be granted a single, omnipotent wish, a gift from the Almighty, the power to redeem the world or destroy it.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Miami Pseudomonarchia Character Creation

The mayor's nephew has been hanging around the wrong kind of the wrong kind of people, and now he's missing. A mayor's aide has discreetly approached you and your associates with his last known whereabouts, a list of friends, and the promise of a sizable reward if you can find him without kicking up a fuss.

All rolls are just a 1d10+Relevant Attribute+Relevant Skill vs a target number. All PCs have a reason to stick together, even in the face of a danger.

1. Revelation
All player characters know the truth about the way the world works. Write down how your character found out, though you don't have to tell anyone.

2. Attributes
Roll 1d6-3 for each. Arrange to taste.

3. Hit Points

4. Background
Examples: Snake Handler, Veterinarian, Veteran, College Student, Burglar, Accountant, Cashier, Refugee, Santero
Any time you can convincingly say "I should be able to do this better because I'm a [your class], you get a +2 to the roll, on top of attributes and skills.

5. Skills
Examples: Lockpicking, Athletics, Marksmanship, Andalusi Romance, Theology, Computers, Driving, Beauty, Lying
Pick 5 skills. Their values are +5, +4, +3, +2, and +1.There isn't a list of skill, so you can make them up. Skills can help you recall information about supernatural things, but they don't let you do anything a normal human couldn't. Miami Pseudomonarchia is not necessarily combat intensive and you don't have to pick combat skills, but if you want to be a fighting type, this is the place to make it happen.

6. Talents

Examples: Gematria, Monstrous Strength, Tarot Reading, Pyromancy, Demonology, Exorcism, Lycanthropy, Ouija
Talents function as skills, but they let you perform supernatural acts. All magic is Tampering In What Man Ought Not, and comes with certain risks. Every time you use a talent, you acquire an additional Catastrophe die. Each time you use that talent, you roll your Catastrophe dice with it. They do not modify the situation in any way, unless any of then result in a 1, in which case you fail at the supernatural act you were attempting in a spectacular and interesting way (the demon gets loose, the fireball explodes early, etc). You can clear all of your Catastrophe dice by resting in a place of safety (a good meal, a night's sleep, whatever).

You have 4 points to distribute across you talents. You can have two talents with a +2 bonus, or one talent with  a +4 bonus. Catastrophe dice accrue per talent, so having several, weaker talents can be safer.

You can forgo having any talents to add +1 to all of your skills.

7. Gear
You have d10×$100 worth of stuff. Use Google to price it out. Don't get put on a list.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

bound djinni class

 Bound Djinni
a class for Old School D&D-alikes
by edmund dulac
HP, XP, Saves, Attack Bonus, Equipment Restrictions as Elf.

You are a spirit of flame and desire, sealed inside a magical vessel such as a ring, lamp, or sword. You must obey the commands of the person who holds your vessel. In fact, you must try to bring about all desires they verbally express in your hearing, whether they want you to or not (they can, of course, tell you to immediately stop what you are doing). You must always follow the letter of your vessel-carrier's wishes, though you can otherwise interpret them however you want. This isn't a matter of threat of punishment--this is simply what bound djinn do, though they certainly don't always like it.

You do not need to eat, drink, breathe, or sleep. However, once you have completed all outstanding wishes, you are compelled to return to their vessel until called forth again. You must be within a few feet of your vessel into enter it. You cannot take any items with you.

Djinn vessels are indestructible, barring Wish-level magic, the fire of an ancient dragon, or divine intervention. Should you manage to get your vessel destroyed, you will be free to do as you please, assuming a magician doesn't manage to cram you into a snuff box again.

Water and earth are anathema to djinn. You take d4 damage per turn of submersion or interment. 

by edmund dulac
Act of Change
When outside of your vessel, you can assume any shape you desire, within the parameters of Polymorph Self or Disguise Self. However, your height and length cannot exceed twice your level in feet. Changing shape is also tiring--every time you do so, Save vs Magic or take d4 Constitution damage. You do not need to make this Save the first time you assume a shape after resting inside your prison.

Act of Creation
Starting at level 3, you can create objects from nothing, but only to fulfill a command by the owner of your djinn-prison. The total value in gold pieces of objects you create over the course of a day cannot exceed your current experience total divided by 10. If a created object leaves your presence a number of turns greater than your level, it vanishes into black smoke. Djinni-created food and drink nourishes like any other meal if eaten before it vanishes.

Act of Strength
Starting at level 5, when in human or demihuman form, you can easily perform any feat of Strength a normal human is capable of and automatically succeed all such Strength checks. You only need to make Strength checks for tasks that would surpass the abilities of a single person. You can carry twice as many objects without being encumbered, as well. This does not confer any bonuses to combat.

Act of Nature
Starting at level 7, when in human or demihuman form, you can fly on a whirlwind at will, albeit clumsily, as the Chariot of Air spell.

Act of Desire
At level 9, you can grant a Limited Wish to the possessor of your vessel 1/week.

  • Typically, the carrier of a djinni's prison is another PC, though it could be some magician who decided to give the mercenaries a little help. The relationship between a bound djinni and the carrier of their prison comes down to the players, though circumstances will probably conspire to keep them from outright wanting to kill each other--if a djinni engineers a TPK, they might end up stuck in their prison in the bottom of a dungeon for a couple centuries.
  • If you see a tower of diamond or a castle of steel, it probably has a powerful djinni bound at the bottom, supporting the structure's existence with their presence. Releasing them destroys the edifice, and releases a barely-sane spirit of epochal rage into the world at large.
  • You could have a djinn-binder class who has half thief skill progression and MU XP who automatically gets an NPC djinni. For the semi-competent hero who stumbles onto awesome magical power.
  • There are plenty of people who want a bound djinni of their own. Careless owners of a djinn-prison might find their former servants fighting against them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Tried to make a 5th edition D&D warlock pact for Final Fantasy-esque summoning awhile back and I'm still not happy with the result. This fits more neatly into the way 5th edition classes work, leverages the large number of existing creatures in the Monster Manual, and allows for pokemon-style critter-collecting.
Otherworldy Patron: The Monarch
from tactics ogre: let us cling together
You are the student of an asura, deva, or legendary monarch in the Art of Royalty and have learned to command fealty from lesser spirits.

Starting at 1st level
You can spend your action to bind a willing or incapacitated elemental, fey, incorporeal undead, celestial, fiend, or dragon with a CR equal to or less than your warlock level divided by 3, rounded down (If your level is 1, you can bind creatures with a CR of 1 or less). You can only have 1 bound creature at a time. If you exceed this limit, you must choose a creature to release from its binding. Released creatures appear in a space adjacent to you. If they are neutral or friendly, they will simply depart. If they despise you, they will give you at least a 24 hour running start before they start trying to kill you.

You can spend an action to conjure a bound creature for 10 minutes.. The creature appears in a space adjacent to you and is friendly to you and your companions for as long as you maintain concentration.  The creature gets its own initiative and turns. It obeys all spoken commands you give it, and commanding it does not require you to spend any actions.

If your concentration is broken, the creature breaks free from your control. If it was hostile before you bound it, it again becomes hostile towards you and your companions, and may flee to cause greater mischief. If it was neutral or friendly, it might require you to convince it to enter your service again, possibly demanding a bribe. You cannot dismiss an uncontrolled creature, and uncontrolled creatures do not count towards your bound total.

The creature vanishes once the 10 minutes expire. Dismissing a controlled creature early is a free action. Bound creatures can die like any other.

You can conjure a bound creature once, and regain your use of this ability when you take a short or long rest. 

Starting at 6th level
You can bind up to three creatures.You can conjure any one of them once, and regain your use of this ability when you take a short or long rest.

Starting at 10th level
You can bind up to five creatures. You can conjure any one of them once, and regain your use of this ability when you take a short or long rest.

Starting at 14th level
You can bind up to seven creatures. You can conjure any one of them once, and regain your use of this ability when you take a short or long rest.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Most Thoroughly Pernicious Problem

I've had some technical and personal issues, and I'm waaaay behind on mailing the last few orders of _A Most Thoroughly Pernicious Pamphlet_, so I'm refunding them. I'll be send out print versions for free once I have my life and printer in order. I can't find a way to tell people through Gumroad, so I'm just putting up announcements on social media. Sorry about this, guys.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Meet the Witch

A class! This is another draft of one I've done before, except I cleaned up the layout a lot. This art is by Alphonse Mucha--the previous picture by neev is going elsewhere in the zine now.
click me i get bigger
You can get a pdf of the witch class here.

And yeah, I'm thinking that San Serafín is going to get some sort of print release. I've finally figured out the look of it, I think.

magic items and the people who use them

There aren't many magic items locked away in chests in San Serafín. They're usually in the possession of someone or somebody, whether they be an adventurer or one of the Dead. Someone lucky enough to find a magic weapon is pretty much guaranteed to become a local celebrity, and someone tough enough to keep it probably has a successful career as an adventurer ahead of them.

1. Six Ways To Sunday
A six-shooter revolver machined by an infamous exorcist. On a successful hit against on undead creature, the gun Turns them as a cleric with 2 more levels than the wielder's level and deals damage equal to the turn result. If shot at a living creature, it simply deals 2d6 damage. This gun takes regular ammunition, but can only be reloaded on Sunday at noon.

Six Ways to Sunday is carried by Soledad (Lawful Fighter LVL 3). She is looking for the body of her son and she wants to find the Body of San Serafín so she can destroy the city permanently.

2. Glorious Face of the Sun
A mask that once belonged to a member of an extinct clan of devils. Anyone who wears it is considered the 12th Solar Devil by all other devils. It can create a temporary field of Day or Night once every 24 hours, but each use attracts the attention of a random devil looking to expand its portfolio.

Glorious Face of the Sun is currently being worn by Usmail (Chaotic MU LVL 4). He is on a search for immortality without joining the ranks of the Dead.

3. The First Sword
Anyone with this broadsword in their hands cannot be harmed by edged metal weapons.

The First Sword is now in the possession of the Hummingbird Knight (Neutral Fighter LVL 4). She wears a feathered mask, and has become an adventurer simply out of a desire for wealth. She can also polymorph into a hummingbird at will.

4. Galconda
A red-bladed shortsword blessed by the blood of the First Saint. Its wounds do not bleed or hurt, and it is said anyone killed by it is guaranteed a place in Heaven. A successful Sneak Attack with Galconda does not alert the attacker's presence to the victim.

Galconda's owner is Amorente (Lawful Cleric LVL 2). She is a Saint of Honey and Salt and adventures to gather the wealth and power necessary to start a radical utopian commune.

5. Sunshine
A six-shooter that fires projectiles sanctified by the Sun. It doesn't take regular ammunition; one turn in direct, bright sunlight recovers 1 bullet.

Sunshine is owned by Jaguar Boy (Neutral Fighter LVL 6), a high school students who moonlights as an adventurer out of sheer boredom.

6. The Cutting Wind
A one-handed war fan. When waved, creates a gust of wind that cuts like a knife, dealing d8 damage. Range is as spear, and it uses Dex for the attack roll.

The Cutting Wind's wielder is Doña Yolanda (MU LVL 2), a washed up opera singer with an axe to grind. To wants to become an indefatigable warrior and extract bloody retribution from her former employer.

7. The Hot Black Flame
An ugly black cinder that shimmers with dark flame, which can be used to throw fire for d10 damage at javelin range. A two handed weapon; the wielder must hold it in one hand and pull fire to throw with the other. (Uses Brendan's ammo die rules. If you run out, you have to find a flask of Midnight Oil to refresh the flame)

The Hot Black Flame's owner is Yuma (Chaotic Cleric LVL 3). She wants to unmask the devils and restore them to their former, (relatively) benevolent divinity.

8. The Finger of God
A ring of silver metal, about six inches in diameter. The wielder can reach inside the hoop to pull out a spear of lightning, which they can throw at longbow range for d8 damage. A two handed weapon. (Uses Brendan's ammo die rules. If you run out, you have to find a flask of Oil of Joy to reconsecrate the ring.)

The Finger of God's wielder is simply called the Padre (Lawful Magic-user LVL 5). He has formed a pact with the Dead and works to further their goals.

Unaccounted for:
  • The Zehir: a divine weapon rumored to have the power to destroy minds
  • The Aleph: a fragment of omniscience
  • Tizona: a sword with power over fire
  • Colada: a sword that frightens the wicked
  • The Book of Sand: contains all human knowledge
  • The Body of San Serafín: grants a Wish

Saturday, October 10, 2015


  1. I made a spellcaster based off of Pearce's ROT classes.  
  2. You can get a pdf of it here
  3. It has a NSFW picture by neev.
  4. The layout needs some finetuning probably but it's just about done.
I've been talking about San Serafín a lot so here are some of J Rient's 20 Questions

What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
  • The Saints of Honey and Salt are emissaries for Love and Spite, and bow to no one but the First Saint of their order
  • Witches consort with the diabolic and demidivine denizens of San Serafín all the time
  • There are some knights who pledge themselves to the mad demigoddess Madama Yaguar
Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
  • The city of El Segundo, located on the base of the mountain upon which San Serafín sits, has merchants and with any piece of hear you could imagine.
  • There are some Devils and some Corpses in San Serafín who will sell you gear at a premium, in case you need some equipment but are afraid the city will rearrange while you're gone.
Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
  • Rosario the Godsmith can make just about any piece of gear you can imagine, but he's somewhere in San Serafín. 
  • As long as it isn't outright magical, you can probably find a gearhead somewhere in El Segundo who can weld something together for you.
Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?
  • There's a couple hundred magi in El Segundo ready to claim that title, but most in the know would put their money on the Sage in Red or the First Saint. 
Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
  • The Prince of Knives, the Jaguar Child, the Blue Swordsman, the Bloody Knight, Lazaro the Ugly...
Where can we go to get some magical healing?
  • The House of Honey and Salt can cure most of what ails you, but if you need some major miracle working, you have to track down the First Saint. If you want to raise the dead, you have to appeal to the Holy Corpse and Queen of San Serafín, Heche Ke Eche, herself.
Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
  • Most adventurers will swap spells with their peers, but if you want real sorcery you should start going through the ruins of the University in San Serafín. The Sage in Red might teach you some, too, but his prices are steep.
Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
  • The Dead know everything. El Segundo has any number of experts if you're feeling cautious.
Where can I hire mercenaries?
  • El Segundo is filled with them. You can sometimes acquire the services of a Corpse or Devil in San Serafín, but they are unreliable and dangerous allies.
Which way to the nearest tavern?
  • El Segundo is filled with them. There are also many tea houses and restaurants in San Serafín, but they are attended mostly by Devils and Corpses.
What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
  • Heche Ke Eche, Madama Yaguar, any of the Greater Dead, any Devil
Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
  • El Segundo's neighbors are a fractious lot, eager to have access to the treasure in
    San Serafín, but wary of having such a dangerous place in their territory.
How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
  • El Segundo, of course. There are rumors of strange games played between the Dead and the Devils, using living humans as intermediaries.
What is there to eat around here?
  • The food sold within San Serafín has near-miraculous properties. Raiders treasure it.
Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
  • The Corpse of San Serafín, of course. 
  • The Zehir
  • The Aleph
  • The Book of Sand
Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?
  • San Serafín contains wealth beyond measure. It's a terrifying time hole ghost city. What else besides money could get people to go there?

San Serafín Play Report #1

Keeping track of the necropolis exploration game I'm DMing.

The Suspects
Sarro the Wandering Swordsman: searching for a beast to bind to his service

Joaquin the Monk: sent to retrieve the soul of a saint from the city.

Ankara the Skull Elf: looking for a particular necklace lost in San Serafín

San Serafín is a giant cursed city sunken into a mountainside, inhabited by Devils and the Dead. Our intrepid adventurers arrived early in the morning, and upon entering the city from the east, decided to follow Sarro's lead and head north. They very quickly encountered a huge ursine figure wearing a mask, with a basket strapped to its back. Sarro proposed a pact and the creature approached, speaking in a language that made everyone's noses bleed. When nobody understood, it produces a chained human translator from the basket, who explained the beast was the 72nd Sky Devil, and it was interested in forming a pact, but first required Sarro to demonstrate his worthiness with a task.

Sarro instead demanded that the devil prove its power. It responded by summoning a torrential downpour. When Sarro pressed it for yet more demonstration, the 72nd Sky Devil proposed to prove Sarro's worth and demonstrate its own power through combat, and then attacked. Sarro's companions helped him fight the devil, but they ignored the growing glow of its internal fire until it vomited a fatal torrent of flame on Sarro, at which point Joaquin and Ankara surrendered.

The Devil demanded 100 days of service, and after some hedging, the surviving party members agreed. The 72nd Sky Devil gave them directions to "one of this city's nobility" and told them to kill the aristocrat and retrieve a certain scroll in their possession. On the way, they stumbled across a small band of humans, but Ankara got off to the wrong start by mentioning they were working for a devil, and the band attacked. A crossbowman (Sarro's replacement), sent by the 72nd Skt Devil to aid them, intervened, but the party was outnumbered and quickly fell, despite some impressive maneuvers on Joaquin's part. The party rolled up new characters and we called it a night.

For next time
The Background/skill system I posted earlier worked nicely, but I think I need to include a canonical list of backgrounds.

I have no good way of seeding treasure throughout the city. Need to make a generator for that.

I need custom equipment tables. Six-shooters, flashlights, radios. I think I want to base armor on brands, so like the Gatiko label makes light armor and Dolores makes all the plate.

A good rumor table would be really handy also. The players don't know as much about San Serafín as their characters should.

I need to flesh out the town that's a sort of base camp for San Serafín explorers. Right now it's empty and boring.

The city needs to be a little denser, I think. Too much going on in empty streets. I do like how the monsters as written all have immediate and easy to DM motivations, so even simple encounters complicate the PC's relationship with the city. The very first encounter landed the party in hot water and 100 days of servitude to a fire-breathing jaguar devil.

Friday, October 9, 2015

simple backgrounds

When a character attempts a task that requires specialized knowledge or training (Is this mushroom poisonous? Can I pick that lock? Can I determine if that diamond is enchanted? Can I communicate with that bear?) they must roll a 6+ on a six-sided die. Rolling a natural 1 is always a failure, regardless of any bonuses. This is called a skill roll.

During character creation, players pick a background. It can be from a list offered by the Referee or one they created themselves. When the player is asked to make a skill roll that pertains to their background, they can declare themselves trained in the skill and add half their level to the roll (and all similar rolls in the future). However, their experiences before adventuring are limited--a character can only declare a number of skills equal to half their Intelligence score.

Why is this good?
  1. I don't like how adventurers are not that good at adventuring. Fighters can't sneak? Magic-users can't pick locks? Nobody can fucking climb? This lets tomb robbers be tomb robbers while still allowing thievery to be somebody's shtick. Drop Thief/Specialist as a class and just offer Burglar as a background.
  2. New school classes like Barbarians and Druids now don't actually need classes. If you want to be a Bard, just pick it as your background as declare Millinery, Lute Playing, and Adultery as your skills. Druids are Magic-users with Botany, Animal Friendship, and Orienteering.
  3. This lets me have race-not-as-class without much cruft. Anyone with the Elf background can declare themselves trained in Flower Arrangement and Stealth. Drow can declare themselves trained in Poison Making, Echolocation, and Opera. Tieflings can declare Demonology, Hexing, and Pickpocketing.
  4. Spears of the Dawn and Stars Without Number backgrounds are really cool and really useful, but my attempts to write out all of them and then make sure each skill had roughly equal representation across backgrounds was kind of exhausting. This just lets me come up with a list of careers/species for a given region and then let players go nuts figuring out what skills they want. Character creation as world-building without much work.
  5. Making players decide when to spend a skill slot is a fun and slightly cruel minigame.
  6. No giant lists of skills to wade through during character creation. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

righteous punching for justice

Early edition monks manage to be both incredibly boring and hideously complicated. Later editions are just kind of enhh. I want something 1. simple 2. wuxia-ish 3. appropriate in terms of power level for old school D&D. Here's a try.

Monk, a class for old school D&D

HP, XP, Attack Bonus, and Saving Throws as cleric. In LotFP, monks receive the non-fighter attack bonus, but only suffer a -2 penalty to attack rolls or AC when they Press or Parry. They also learn two Techniques of their choice and invention (and Referee's approval) every level.

Techniques allows monks to recreate the effects of a particular weapon or armor their bare hands. A monk who has mastered the Hundredweight Hand (Battleaxe) technique can chop lumber, bash through doors, and deal battleaxe damage just with the edges of their hands.

Techniques bring all the advantages and disadvantages of the weapon or armor, so if it mimics a two-handed weapon, a technique requires two free hands. If a technique mimics plate armor, the monk must move as slowly as if they were in heavy armor to maintain the effect. Also, armor-based techniques require the monk to limber up for as long as it would take to don armor of the same AC.

All techniques must be be justifiable fictionally. A monk with the Heron Fist (Spear) technique could use it to probe for traps (as someone with an actual spear might) and claim to avoid the pitfall or whatever by virtue of the technique's speed. But they couldn't use it to hook the guard's keys off her belt from far away. 

Oh, and players get to make up names for their techniques.

I'd suggest being generous for techniques that are odd/interesting/useful in non-obvious ways and conservative with techniques that are very powerful and direct (e.g. a technique based on heavy artillery). Here are a few weirder possibilities for starters:
  • Heavenly Kick (javelin): The monk can jump as far as they can throw a javelin, dealing damage to whatever they kick/land on.
  • Pure Flame Technique (torch): The monk's punch deals d6 fire damage and ignites anything flammable
  • Bone Cage Technique (net): struck enemy counts as heavily encumbered until they take an action to steady themselves.
  • Armor Peeler (gun): Ignores AC bonus from armor. Only usable in melee range.
  • Blessed Palm (holy water): counts as holy water for damage (so it deals 0 damage against regular creatures and harm undead). Only usable in melee range.  
  • Cursed Fist (magic weapon): Counts as a magic weapon for purposes of damage immunity and reduction.
  • Empty Hand Shield (shield): +1 AC as long as the monk keeps one hand free

So ideally you have an unarmed and unarmored warrior encouraged to use a combination of lateral thinking and direct confrontation in their fights, with enough weird talents that they can be of use in that crazy heist the party has just planned.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

heaven help us

I figure it's about time to hammer this old nonsense into something I can actually playtest. For this iteration, I wanted to make the religion-building aspects a little more baked in. Anyway, if you play in any of my games, you are free to choose this class (unless somebody else is already playing it. Running two of these at once is probably pretty dicey).
Shrine, a class for old school D&D-alikes
by sydney sime
You are an intangible, invisible spiritual presence, unable to interact with the physical world except through your shrine and those who worship it. You can speak with anyone in earshot of your shrine, and you can see anything in line of sight. If your shrine is destroyed, you lose your only connection with the real world until someone decides to build a new one for you.

The Cult
Worshipers are a mercenary lot, so inducting someone into your cult requires you to hire pay them like any other retainer (LotFP has good procedures for this). Once you've indoctrinated/bribed someone into your religion, you perceive everything they sense. You can also speak directly to your retainers, as well as anyone in line of site of them.

If you wish, you can possess one of your retainers. When you do so, you control them directly and use your abilities and attributes in place of theirs, including HP (so rolling Strength during character creation wasn't a waste). However, if you are reduced to 0 HP while possessing a character, you both die. Extricating yourself from a retainer's body takes a number of turns equal to your level and causes them to make a Loyalty/Morale check as soon as you've left them.

by harry clarke
Starting at level 3, you can acquire a Saint, who functions as a henchman in LotFP (they are a classed character two levels behind you, and get half of your treasure). Saints never check Morale, and all followers in their presence get a +1 to Morale.

In a typical D&D system, you cast spells just like a cleric. If your DM is cool and has Wonders and Wickedness, you cast spells as a specialist sorcerer. Your school of magic and flavor of Maleficence determines your portfolio as a minor divinity. You don't need to prepare spells--you can expend a spell slot to cast any spell you know

Casting a spell does not require any of your retainers to take an action--it's your divine intervention, after all. However, you must use one of your retainers as the origin point for any spell you cast so if a spell has a range of 100 ft, your target must be in 100 ft of your shrine or one of your followers). Furthermore, your might probably have some funny ideas about what participation in a cult entitles them to and get mad when you ignore their invocations (when a retainer calls on your power and you don't provide a miracle, they make a Morale check). 

You can't learn new spells through research or transcription. Instead, whenever your followers burn a scroll or spellbook in your name, you learn all spells inscribed therein. If your followers sacrifice a wizard to you, you can choose to learn a single spell he or she had memorized.

If a hireling fails a Morale check, you can't perceive with their senses, possess them, or use them as the origin for spell/miracles. However, if you manage to reconvert/rehire them, they get a permanent and cumulative +1 bonus to Morale/Loyalty.
Grow in Power
You don't get experience just by collecting money. Instead, you get 1 xp for every gold piece spent improving your shrine. You also gain xp for building additional shrines. Establishing a shrine costs 2,000 gp. You can acquire worshipers in any town you have a shrine.

In addition to your HP, saving throw, and spell progression, you must issue an edict each time you gain an even level. An edict is a behavioral restriction that all of your followers must carry out. This might make adventuring life more difficult for them, but each gives all followers a permanent +1 bonus to Morale.

Other Stuff
LotFP has a bunch of kinds of retainers, but weirdly doesn't include easy options for hiring mercenaries singly or day by day. I'll say godlings (and only godlings) can hire cultists (who function as 0th level fighters, elves, halfings, or dwarves, to be randomly determined) for 10 sp a day + 10% cut of the treasure. Otherwise it's linkboy's and butlers.

An angry employer/divinity can compel a retainer or follower to reroll a Morale/Loyalty check through intimidation, threats, or show of force, but this causes a permanent -1 to Morale/Loyalty.    

Friday, October 2, 2015

care to guess my name

They were the gods of the beasts, but grew decadent and cunning with the passing of time. They fell, finally and irreversibly, when they gave themselves names and rose to walk on two legs. Now, they are rejected by the wild and spurned by civilization. They have retreated to San Serafín where they wage a glacial and mostly invisible war on the dead. 

The greatest of their number is Madama Yaguar, the first beast to hunt and the first being to kill. She is sick now, and will teach the secrets of her illness to the strong

The forms of the devils are confused, they are furred and scaled and feathered and fanged. They hide their shapes in ragged finery and ivory masks and golden wire armatures. 

If defeated or entreated, the may agree to form a pact with an adventurer. To do so, the signatory character must sacrifice 15% of the XP needed to reach the next level. They learn the devil's true name, and can summon it at any time with 1 turn of effort.

Once summoned, a devil makes a reaction roll. If it doesn't try to eat everybody, the signatory can ask it for a favor. It might demand a service, a soul, or a burnt offering, depending on its Reaction.

Signatories can ask a devil to perform a favor pertaining to its domain.

  1. Wealth Devil: Will sell you anything on the standard equipment list for 10 times the original price.
  2. Weather Devil: Will change the weather to anything you wish for one day, as long as it is appropriate for the local climate (so no snowstorms in deserts)
  3. Weapon Devil: Will sell you any standard weapon for 10 times the original price. +1 to damage and +1 to hit for 24 hours.
  4. Desire Devil: has power over a single random MU spell with a spell level of 1d4. It can grant the ability to cast it once to a single person. It can grant the ability to cast more spells by eating scrolls.
  5. Warfare Devil: will fight for you until it fails a Morale/Loyalty check. Loyalty/Morale is 2+signatory's level. Warfare devils do not fear being outnumbered.
  6. Beauty Devil: Will change the Morale of all hirelings to 11 for a day, but failure means they have become enamored with the beauty devil and will henceforth follow its wishes in all things.
  7. Ascended Devil: Will grant three Wishes. They can be made one at a time or all at once, with any amount of time between them. Once it has granted them all, the pact terminates and it will try to kill you.
  8. Blood Devil: Will make a creature at 0 or fewer HP immune to damage for a day or until they reach 1 or more HP.
  9. Knowledge Devil: Has a 4 in 6 chance of truthfully and correctly answering any yes or no question asked of it.
  10. Truth Devil: Will enforce any oath made in its presence. Should any party break the oath, the Truth Devil will do all in its power to kill them. 
When in a pact, devils add half their signatory's level to their HD. They can cast spells as a MU with half as many levels as they have HD. The appearance of all devils is similar, but they have stats as one of the following creatures.
  1. Medusa (can turn into an azure jay)
  2. Immature Red Dragon (can turn into a jaguar)
  3. Earth elemental (can turn into a caiman)
  4. Banshee (can turn into a howler monkey)
  5. Werewolf (can turn into a maned wolf)
  6. Harpy (can turn into a dolphin)