Sunday, January 31, 2016

that old time religion

"Later he saw Jesus move from tree to tree in the back of his mind, a wild ragged figure motioning him to turn around and come off into the dark where he was not sure of his footing, where he might be walking on water and not know it and then suddenly know it and drown."
 from Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood

Thinking about this post. Also thinking about Mononoke. The standard old school D&D cleric worships an impersonal, benevolent god. That's an okay model, but I like the idea of deities as more present, dangerous, and visceral. A little more animist, I guess. Clerics can befriend gods, or form grudging alliances with them, or press them into service. Sometimes, clerics have to kill them. In this model, gods are NPCs and spells and adventures in one, and they influence clerics (shamans really, I guess) in direct ways.

Anyways, here's a sketch of what this would look like:

She rebelled against her masters, so they tied her to a tree out in the scrub and left her there to die. When she finally became too tired to kick away the coyotes, when she had nothing but three days of hunger and three days of thirst, when her will to live exceeded anything her body could do, she swore by the blood in her mouth and then sun in her eyes that there would be a reckoning.

There is a tree in courtyard of the mayor's house in the village of Segundo. It grows the most remarkable red flowers and draws the most remarkable red butterflies. The mayor ignores them, but every morning he pours a bottle of excellent red wine on the tree's roots, and girdles its trunk with another red sash. He is a fine man, the nephew of the old lord, so the Segunderos ignore these eccentricities, but they wonder why he would lavish so much attention on a tree while ignoring the fruits of his labor, or why he would grow so fearful when he found out the merchant wouldn't be bringing any shipments of wine for the second season in a row.

La Dama Roja, Goddess of Blood and Sunshine
AC 16 HD 3+1 MV 90’ (30') ATK Spear DMG 1d8+1 ST Fighter 3 AL Chaotic
Spells, at will: Light, Command, Cure/Inflict Light Wounds

The true name of La Dama, the one that will let a shaman make a pact with her, is carved into the trunk of the tree in the mayor's courtyard, beneath the dozens of tattered red sashes. If the shaman botches the pact-making ritual, she will do her best to brutally murder the mayor, who was the man who tied her to the tree all those years ago. If the shaman helps her kill the mayor, her Loyalty will increase by d4. 

If a shaman wishes to extract a favor from a god without making a Loyalty check, they can make it an offering. La Dama accepts only blood. A small task, like casting a 1st level spell, participating in a fight tipped in the Goddess' advantage, or translating the words of a creature that can't communicate with humans, might require d6 HP. Major favors, like casting a 5th+ level spell, joining a fight with desperate odds, or revealing a powerful and ancient secret, might require 5d6 HP.

The Goddess of Blood and Sunshine makes a Loyalty check or requires an offering when the shaman violates one her her taboos in front of her, or when the shaman asks her to violate one of her taboos:

Sunday, January 24, 2016


I don't like Find Familiar or Conjure X spells in 5e D&D, and I've been circling around the idea on how to fix them for a while. I think this is how I will do it next time I run Type V--spells that call up a critter what does as you say, but prevents the caster from recovering the spell slot used until the creature is dismissed. This sort of amortizes the benefit of a spell slot over the course of a day, as opposed to making them a single-use get-out-of-jail-free cards. It also gives me a measure for what these creatures should be able to do--there needs to be a reason to pick this spell over any other 1st level spell. Finally, it means I don't have to fuss with class mechanics, which is a big plus. How to implement this:
  • Wizards can get this spell as is.
  • Warlocks can get this as an Invocation that lets them use a Warlock slot to cast it 1/day.  (Being able to cast it 1/short rest would let warlocks be able to easily circumvent the cost of losing the spell for the day, since they could just dismiss the creature and take a short rest.)
I'll probably make a version for 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th levels, as well. Stronger versions might only be for a single creature.

Minor Covenant
1st-level conjuration 

Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: 10 feet
Component: V, S, M (an opal, ruby, piece of quartz, or sapphire worth at least 50 gp)
Duration: Permanent

You summon a lesser spirit that appears in an unoccupied space that you can see in range. A spirit summoned by this spell disappears when it drops to 0 hit points or you choose to end the spell, which takes an action. As long as this spell is in effect, you cannot regain use of the spell slot you used to cast it.

The kind of material component you use determines the kind of lesser spirit this spell summons.
  • An opal summons a sylph
  • A ruby summons a least djinn
  • A piece of quartz summons an true gnome
  • A sapphire summons an undine
The spirit will not attempt to harm you or your companions. It receives its own place in initiative. The spirit obeys any verbal commands you issue it (no action required by you). If you don't issue any commands to it, the spirit will follow you without taking any other action.

As an action, you can temporarily dismiss the lesser spirit. It disappears into the Void where it awaits your summons. As an action while it is temporarily dismissed, you can cause it to reappear in any unoccupied space within 10 feet of you.

The spirit can break free from the bonds of this spell. It may make a Wisdom save whenever
  • you give the spirit a new command
  • you insult the spirit or place it in egregious danger
  • you command the spirit to perform an action that requires it to ignore one of its compulsions or perform one of its taboos.
If the spirit succeeds its Wisdom saving throw, it breaks free from your control, becomes hostile to you and no longer obeys your commands. You cannot temporarily dismiss it, and ending the spell no longer causes the spirit to disappear, though it does allow you to recover the spell slot used to cast this spell.

from bravely default
Small elemental, unaligned                                                          
AC: 15
HP: 6
Speed: 0 ft, fly 30 ft.                                              
STR: 4 (-3) DEX: 20 (+5) CON: 8 (-1)
INT: 10 (+0) WIS: 10 (+0) CHA: 12 (+1)                   
Skills: Perception +2, Sleight of Hand +7, Stealth +7
Damage Resistances: slashing, piercing, bludgeoning
Languages: Common, Sylvan
CR: 1/8                                                         

  • Innate Spellcasting (at will): The sylph can innately cast the cantrip Gust. Its spellcasting ability is Charisma. 
  • Keen Smell: The sylph has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell. 
  • Ethereal: Sylphs can squeeze through spaces as if they were Tiny creatures
  • Superior Invisibility: The sylph magically turns invisible until its concentration ends (as if concentrating on a spell). Any equipment the sylph wears or carries turns invisible with it.
Sylphs are spirits of air and propriety. They despise rudeness, ugliness, and violence, and delight in courtesy, beauty, quietude, and refined conversation. Despite their ostensibly peaceable and orderly natures, sylphs will steal, murder, and torment to punish those they have deemed transgressors. 

from final fantasy 12 revenant wings
True Gnome
Medium elemental, unaligned                                                    
AC: 11 (natural armor)
HP: 19
Speed: 30 ft                                                              
STR: 15 (+2) DEX: 10 (+0) CON: 14 (+2)
INT: 4 (-3) WIS: 12 (+1) CHA: 12 (+1)                   
Skills: Perception +2, Nature +4
Damage Resistances: slashing, piercing
Languages: Common, Celestial                                 
  • Innate Spellcasting (at will): The true gnome can innately cast the cantrip Mold Earth. Its spellcasting ability is Charisma. 
  • Quiet Strength: The true gnome has advantage on Strength checks to lift, carry, bend, break, and otherwise manipulate inanimate objects
  • Punch: Melee Weapon Attack. +4 to hit, reach 5 ft, one target. 2d4+2 bludgeoning damage.
Ursulines are spirits of earth and obligation. They dislike dishonesty, destruction, and disorder, and appreciate respect for wildlife, honesty, prudence, and sleeping. 

from final fantasy
Least Djinni
Small elemental, unaligned                                                    
AC: 15 (natural armor)
HP: 2
Speed: 0 ft, fly 40 ft                                                              
STR: 18 (+4) DEX: 12 (+1) CON: 10 (+0)
INT: 10 (+0) WIS: 8 (-1) CHA: 14 (+2)                   
Skills: Stealth +3, Athletics +6
Damage Resistances: slashing, piercing, bludgeoning
Damage Immunities: fire
Languages: Common, Primordial                                 
  • Innate Spellcasting (at will): The ursuline can innately cast the cantrip Control Flames. Its spellcasting ability is Charisma. 
  • Discern Desire: The least djinni touches a creature and magically knows what the creature most desires at that moment. 
  • Bite: Melee Weapon Attack, +6 to hit, 1 reach 5 ft, one target. d4+4 piercing damage, and the target must succeed in a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or become poisoned for 1 minute.
  • Invisibility: The least djinni magically turns invisible until it attacks or casts a spell, or until concentration ends (as if concentrating on a spell). Any equipment the least djinn wears or carries is invisible with it.
Djinn are spirits of flame and desire. They dislike equivocation, moderation, and cowardice. They love the exertion of power, achieving desires, and eating.

Medium elemental, unaligned                                                    
AC: 2
HP: 9
Speed: 25 ft, swim 40 ft                            
STR: 6 (+2) DEX: 12 (+1) CON: 8 (+2)
INT: 11 (+0) WIS: 10 (+0) CHA: 16 (+3)                   
Skills: Persuasion +5, Performance +5
Damage Resistances: slashing, piercing, bludgeoning
Languages: Common, Primordial                                 
  • Innate Spellcasting (at will): The undine can innately cast the cantrip Shape Water. Its spellcasting ability is Charisma. 
  • Translucency: The undine can become invisible in water as a bonus action
  • Amorphous:The undine can squeeze through a space as narrow as 1 inch without squeezing
  • Claw: Melee Weapon Attack, +3 to hit, 1 reach 5 ft, one target. d6+1 piercing damage, and the target must succeed in a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or become poisoned for 1 minute.
Undine are spirits of water and vanity. They dislike dirt, modesty, poverty, and circumspection. They like performance, ostentation, and cleanliness. They really love drowning people.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

kingdom of the midnight hour

A little interested in the new 5e SRD/OGL thing going on. DM's Guild is far less attractive, but it does have me thinking how I would run Forgotten Realms. This is how I'd do the Shadowfell.

Kingdom of the Midnight Hour
whence all darkness springs and whence all shadows return. Without light, it is simply an endless void; with light, the shadow of everything that every that ever was or ever happened lives there. The thinking shadows maintain desperate radiant cities. The poorest shadows huddle half-real around hexed coals, while the shadows of kings live in white-hot palaces of imported steel.

The more powerful the shadow, the brighter the light it needs to exist.  The shadows of gods, down in the Deepest Dark, would need a stolen star to truly exist; instead, they lie nascent and semireal in the dim radiance they have managed to hoard, manipulating events in the Prime Material so that they can breach into reality.

a city in the Kingdom located on the shadow the moon casts upon the face of the earth during a solar eclipse; its periodic emergence into the Prime Material plane has made it a center of commerce. It is best known for its aircraft: undead giant moths, their carapaces hollowed out for passengers, their wings filigreed with occult silver wire. These are chiefly designed, built, and piloted by a society of exiled Moon Elves, come to live on the shadow of their former home.

Shadows do not and cannot die, barring extreme and magical circumstances, but in darkness, they must wait in helpless semiconscious potentiality until illuminated once again. Since the Kingdom of the Midnight Hour is infinitely large, falling into darkness might mean years of centuries or millennia or an eternity of imprisonment. Shadows of sentient creatures will, naturally, make any effort to avoid this. Some sell  themselves to wizards in the Prime Material plane as familiars, while others labor as indentured servants to extraplanar masters in return for a magical source of light. Some, however, find a physical medium for their bodies, and it is these that can become adventurers.

Shadows speak a dialect of the Lingua Obscura, a shadow of a long-lost language. In its classical form, it is used to speak the unspeakable and describe the indescribable, but even creatures as esoteric and sentient shadows struggle with such powerful idioms.

The nominal ruler of the Kingdom of Midnight is King Evening Falls Not Gently, more commonly known as King Gently. It is a dragon eaten by its own shadow, and administers its erratic and violent rule from the White Hot Palace.

King Gently's rivals include
  • the Holy Terrors, a triumvirate consisting of the shadows of angels
  • Baron Bar Vashar, an ancient vampire of noble bearing, charitable disposition, and bottomless appetite
  • the Inverse Princess, the less of whom is spoken the better
  • The Resplendent Kingdom of Noon (i.e. the Feywild) is home to fairies and reflections. 
  • Kara Karakai, the City At the Bottom of the World (i.e. Sigil)
  • The Gardens of Flame (Plane of Fire), home to everything ever burnt to ash, a paradise and inferno in one.
  • The Abyss: a hell divided into an infinite number of layers, each one dedicated to an infinitely specific kind of sin. An inquiry into the nature of evil.

Friday, January 15, 2016


So I found this mess while digging through my unpublished blog posts. It's Pernicious Albion circa January 2013, back when it was based directly off of Carcosa, as you can probably tell from the amount of gonzo science fiction elements.

Aurelian is a lich that has blasted himself into space with stolen Moth Elf technology, strapped himself onto an arcane satellite, and parked himself in geosynchronous orbit above Silver Fork Carcosa, observing it with grafted-on telescopic eyes. He projects his magic down to the surface with great metal dishes, and is the terror of several small towns scattered across the Western Hemisphere, though cities generally have enough magicians to keep them safe. He also has a small network of spies, which he maintains through magical communication. He often sells information to various Dark Lords, Fairy Sorcerers, and Lunar Giants, as there is nothing he cannot see. However, his field of view when zoomed in is incredibly narrow (the party doesn't have to worry about being Fireballed from high orbit), so while he can watch everyone that passes through a town, he can't find them wandering the countryside. Aurelian covets the space station occupied by the gravity dragon known as Charles V, as it is both secure and filled with texts describing the strange space-warping and cthonic magic of the station's inhabitant. If the party makes a name for themselves and the lich's spies find out, he will offer to pay them an outrageous sum of money if they kill Charles V. Aurelian will provide the transportation.

Charles V is neither chromatic nor metallic; the dragons of Carcosa are affiliated with greater powers and stranger frequencies. He has taken up residence in an abandoned Moth Elf space station, which traces a crazed trajectory high above Carcosa's surface. His size is immaterial; Charles V occupies several planes and can snake his away around obstacles along alien axes. He does not attack with anything so unsubtle as fiery breathe, and favors tearing of chunks of his enemies with small gravity fields. Depleted uranium weapons deal double damage against him. In addition to various magical tracts, Charles V's hoard contains maps marking the locations of several other dragon lairs. More on this later.

Include gamma dragons, are white hot and cause terrible sickness in nearby communities; tidal dragons, which manifest themselves as waves (regardless of the material they travel through, so they are like sentient, mobile Tacoma Narrows Bridge disasters); entropy dragons, which induce catastrophic disorder through their breathe.


This is actually recycled stuff from an abandoned campaign
I hate pointy hats and robes, so in Silver Fork Carcosa, all sorcerers have something terribly, terribly wrong with them.
About this sorcerer
  • Is bound in an immense brass coffin; carried about on a palanquin by blindfolded and gagged slaves who act in perfect coordination
  • Has a furnace for a heart; requires coal to live
  • Only has one eye located in the back of their throat; must open mouth wide to see
  • Has long, stilt-like legs that terminate in iron spikes
  • Has a head is put on upside down
  • Has lungs that don’t work; golem servant pumps a set of bellows stuck into abdomen
  • Has been embalmed and stuffed with rose petals; perfectly ambulatory
  •  Exudes a powerful odor of lemons
  • Has the voice of a screaming choir
  • Has a millipede instead of legs
  • Has a face (not a mask) carved from ivory; if removed, you can see their brain
  • Is always on fire
  • Has elephant tusks growing from their elbows
  • Has smoke instead of blood
  • Has extra-long, exposed, articulating ribs
  • Has small tentacles instead of teeth
  • Moves in time with the ticking of the giant clock embedded in chest
  • Verbal components of spells manifest themselves as razor blades tumbling from sorcerer’s lips
  • Bulging chameleon eyes afford panoramic view 
  •  Nearly limp body carried about on spider-legged apparatus

Sunday, January 10, 2016

call you up

Spirits that a level 1 summoner can choose from. 
Ursa Minor
from etrian odyssey
A lesser bear deity who lost all of her worshipers to a single landslide. She is polite, lugubrious, and faintly maternal. While in her youth Ursa was a goddess of war and wild, she has become domesticated over the last few centuries, preferring the slow pleasures of novels and teatime to the rush of the hunt. Nevertheless, she is always keeping an eye out for potential worshipers, who would put her on a path to becoming the ferocious Ursa Major once again. 
  • Stats as a 3 HD black bear
  • If fed three rations, she can Enlarge herself as a 3rd level magic-user.
  • A talented cook and a passable patissier

The Darker The Hour
by Patrick Feller, released under Creative Commons
A wayward young demon taking the form of a small, black cat. Its relative youth and the fact that it has been separated from its siblings has left it afraid and impressionable, if no less malicious. The Darker The Hour craves approval and authority. It loves things that are cool and hates things that are lame. It will cause the greatest amount of chaos possible if left to its own devices.
  • Stats as goblin
  • Can force itself into the mouth of any creature in melee range, though they can Save vs Paralysis to resist. Once in their body, it can make them Charmed by any human in line of sight, though the host can save to resist. Moreover, it can place insert thoughts into its host's mind. These must be short enough to be said with a single breath, and the host is under no compunction to act upon them--they simply believe the thought to be their own. Hosts do not remember being possessed.
  • Hosts will respond with confusion or hostility if summoners start barking orders at The Darker The Hour while it is possessing them.

The Damascene Spider
screenshot from Bloodborne
Something like a spider, something like a man, born in a crypt as a simple spider, but has grown fat on dead saints. It has acquired something of their benevolence and all of their wisdom, and is the size of a large dog. The Damascene, on one hand, wants to aid the sick, comfort the dying, and give to the poor, while on the other, it wants to wind everything up in silk and slurp them up when they've gone all runny. It has given up anthropophagy for now, but views lapses on this front as more venal than mortal.
  • Stats as crab spider. It does not have fatal venom.
  • The Damascene's bite is not venomous, but it can drool some venom onto a wounded creature, healing them for 1d6+1 HP. This is exhausting for the spider--it must rest 1 Turn and consume 1 ration before it can repeat the procedure.
  • The Damascene can extrude 10 ft of silk (as strong as a rope) per exploration turn.