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)