Wednesday, June 29, 2016

les petites mortes

Lately I have been thinking about the excellent Last Gasp Grimoire, that most estimable house of ick, so have some gross monsters to tide you over until +Logan Knight 's terrible return.

The Saints of Honey and Salt are a faction of horrific holy biomantic sybarites. Their Houses of Honey and Salt are hospital-brothel-temple-laboratories where you can get just about any disease or injury cured, but also might get abducted and turned into goo. They might bring you back from the brink of death, or they might make your life the plot of The Thing and Fatal Attraction at the same time.

Players can also go to a House of Honey and Salt for extreme body modification--swapping ability scores, gaining claws/fangs (and natural attacks), gaining ogre strength*, or receivingany cosmetic alteration within natural human range, and a few that aren't.

Anyway, here are some enemies and monsters a party of characters might run into if they fall afoul of the Saints.

Saints of Honey and Salt
These are the saints you are most likely to meet in the street or the temple: the spies, the courtiers, the paramours, the healers.

Stats as dervish. Following abilities are cumulative with each rank:
  1. Servant: Can whisper Commands at will.
  2. Saint: +1 HD. Victims take d6 damage per round of skin-to-skin contact, no Save.
  3. Ecstatic: +2 HD. Can cast Charm Person at will on anyone standing close enough to smell their perfume (spear range)
  4. Delectator: +3 HD. Can cast Inflict Poison at melee range at will.
  5. Revelator: +4 HD. Immune to normal and silver weapons; only takes damage from cursed weapons and weapons coated with someone else's blood.
Hierophant of Bliss
Ancient Saints that have cast off any pretense of humanity. They are huge--eight or nine feet--and beautiful in a toxic sort of way, appealing like too-ripe fruit just before the first traces of rot reveal themselves. They are ogre-strong and frequently responsible for brewing a temple's supply of poisons and drugs.

Stats, abilities, attacks as troll. Fire and acid do not halt health regeneration, but weapons coated with someone else's blood do.
  • Casts spells as 6th level cleric. Always memorizes Fuse, a third level spell that causes the target to permanently combine with the next creature they touch as a chimera (save vs petrification to avoid, can be resolved with Remove Curse)
  • Can heal a target for 1d6 HP by wounding itself (1d6 damage) and spraying them with the resulting blood, aspergilium-style.

Hungry Chrism 
from Dark Souls 3
Sometimes, the ecstatic alchemical regimens of the Saints fail, and an acolyte becomes a quantity of Hungry Chrism (also known as holy slime, saintsblood, the Velvet Blessing) instead. In its true form, Hungry Chrism is the red of fresh blood, mucus-thick and bubbling with intent. It smells of rotting meat, jasmine, and sweat.

Holy Chrism generally remains loyal to the Saints of Honey and Salt, but its alien intelligence and traumatic birth makes it an unreliable ally--it is most often destroyed or sealed away in casks for particular tasks.

Stats as grey ooze, cannot deal damage, but enjoys a +4 bonus to grapple attempts. 

Hungry Chrism at first appears as a person it has consumed, perhaps a little healthier and attractive than before, perhaps a little more bright-eyed and flushed. When a Hungry Chrism sheds its disguise, hidden seams open up around its skin, and its flesh unwinds itself from around its bones, oozing to the floor and leaving a clean skeleton behind. So long as it is still attached to a skeleton, it can assume the form of any creature it has consumed (as the Polymorph spell) 

If Hungry Chrism succeeds an attack roll after it has successfully grappled a creature, it forces itself into their body through their mouth, nose, eyes, and pores. There, it begins to insinuate itself through their tissue, replacing their substance with its own. So long as the Chrism lives in the victim, all natural and magical healing restores twice as many HP. However, once the total amount of HP healed exceeds the victim's maximum HP, the Chrism has completely replaced their body, and the victim becomes an NPC Hungry Chrism with +1 HD and several more gallons of volume.

Expelling Hungry Chrism is beyond all but the most powerful magic or direct intervention by the Saints of Honey and Salt. However, the Chrism's growth can be halted by cursing the victim--hexed flesh is immune to the slime's ability to assimilate.

Beast Saints
A Saint of Honey and Salt can make you believe anything. Sometimes when the Saints have captured an enemy of great physical strength, they subject them to a mind-crushing mutagenic process, making the victim frightfully strong, utterly loyal to the Saints, and subject to the delusion that they themselves have become an animal. These Beast Saints primarily serve as guards, but they might be used to track down a refugee or sold as a novelty to (staggeringly) wealthy clients.

Beast Saints are naked humans, bodies distended with muscle. Their limbs are altered so that they can run on easily on all fours as they can on two.

Stats and attacks as werewolf. Cannot spread lycanthropy. Immune to normal weapons and silvered weapons; take damage from weapons coated in blood that is not their own. Can spider climb.

*Gauntlets of Ogre Power/Strength are vague in what they do or strictly mechanical. My rule for characters with inhuman strength doesn't modify their ability scores at all: 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. Initially came up with this for my Bound Djinni class.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

deep dungeon fishing

Thinking about ways characters might acquire goods in a D&D campaign with more altruistic assumptions than your standard mercenary fare . Hunting and logging are good possibilities, but I feel like they are pretty easy to model using existing rules (Find A Certain Monster, Go To A Location And Retrieve Object are time honored D&D tasks). 

Fishing, on the other hand, is a little bit harder to model interestingly. I think there's a lot of potential in making it tense, especially since it is time consuming, but much of D&D games take place with random monster encounters looming over the player's heads. Anyways, here's a stab at it.


Anyone can fish. For each turn you spend fishing at a regular spot with standard gear, you have a 1 in 6 chance of hooking a fish. Certain spots and certain baits are better than others and afford better odds of catching something. Fishing spots deep in dungeons tend to have rarer and more valuable fish (multiply the dungeon level by the base value of the fish to determine how much gp it is worth). If you take a fish back to town while it's still fresh, you can tin it, letting you build up a stock of imperishable rations without needing to special order them.

Once you hook a fish, roll 5 six-sided dice and check to see if they match any of the following categories:
Two of a kind: d12 gp, 1 ration
Three of a kind: d20 gp, 2 rations
Four of a kind: d100 gp, 4 rations
Full House: 2d100 gp, 8 rations
Small Straight: d1000 gp, 10 rations, can be used as an alchemical ingredient
Large Straight: a random consumable magic item
All of a Kind: a Speaking Fish, will grant a Limited Wish if you let it go.
 If you rolled one of the above categories, you can immediately reel in and catch a fish of the corresponding size and quality, or you can reroll in hopes of getting a better result and a correspondingly larger fish. However, 
  • the quality of your fishing pole limits the number of rerolls you get before it breaks, and if your final roll when reaching that limits doesn't result in a catch, your fishing pole breaks.
  • you can only reel in the highest category you've gotten this fishing attempt. If you pass up on a Full House, you can't reel in a Two of a Kind on your next reroll.
A single fishing attempt takes 1 Turn, no matter how many rerolls you use.
Bamboo Stick: 3 rolls
Hickory Rod: 4 rolls
Alchemically Treated: 5 rolls
Almighty Dragon Fishing Rod: 6 rolls
Fisher God's Favorite Rod: 7 rolls

I am always looking for ways to simplify or replace Vancian magic. It is hard to explain, and while I like it quite a bit, it reflects a very particular kind of fantasy that my games very rarely draw on. For Idyllic D&D, I'd want something more like Dianna Wynne Jones's magic: friendler, more common, more whimsical, less earth-shaking. Loosely based off of this old class.

from final fantasy 14
HP, XP, Saving Throws, and Equipment Restrictions as Magic-user.
You have Witchery dice equal to your level. When you cast a spell, you can roll as many as you like; the more dice you roll, the more powerful the spell.
  • For each die that comes up a 6, remove a Witchery die from your dice pool until you take a long rest.
  • Count each die that comes up 1. If the number of 1s exceeds half your level rounded down, the spell goes wrong or fails to take affect.
You start with 2 spells of your choice and gain another every even level. You can learn more, but must learn them from (rare) books or (grudging) tutors.

Complete in an instant any task a barehanded person could complete in a number of Turns equal to the number of Witchery dice rolled. Creatures can make a saving throw to resist if the spell affects them.
Create objects worth a total of 10 × number of Witchery dice rolled in gold pieces. If you are Lawful, they vanish at midnight. If you are Chaotic, they vanish at noon.

Ignite, extinguish, or move a flame that fits within a number of cubic feet equal to Dice. If used offensively, damage dealt equals the sum of Witchery Dice rolled, and targets may save for half damage.

Transform into a 1 HD animal for a number of Turns equal to Witchery dice rolled.

Compels a creature with HD equal to or less than Witchery dice rolled to obey the letter of a promise it is making to you.

Extinguish all artificial lights in earshot. Cannot be reignited for a number of Turns equal to Witchery dice rolled.

Control the direction and intensity of the wind in a mile radius for a number of Turns equal to Witchery dice rolled.

This spell transforms the caster into a whirlwind and transports them a number of miles equal to Witchery dice rolled before transforming them back. 

Ghost Mail 
Deliver an object light enough you can carry it with one hand to a person or place within a number of Miles equal to number of Witchery dice rolled.

The caster and everyone they touch at time of casting can breathe underwater for a number of Turns equal to Witchery dice rolled.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

playing cute

My players tend to be murderhobo-y because that is the game they want to play and that is the game I run for them. However, I've been thinking about what it would be like to run a game that is still about digging around in strange places underground, still about fighting monsters and taking their stuff, still about most of the things that makes Dungeons and Dragons what it is, but is centered more around community and building stuff. I've been chewing this over since I read Ryuutama, which has a lovely aesthetic and a lot of good ideas, but isn't something I'd probably want to play. Scrap Princess's G+ post here had me digging up my old notes and thought on the matter.

Anyway, here are a handful of systems you can graft onto most editions of Dungeons and Dragons to make it a little more Miyazaki and a little less Leiber.

from riviera: the promised land
All characters get a family name, and 6-7 family names make up the majority of the random table. If a PC shares a family name with an NPC and can explain how they're related (Oh, your mom is Anabel? She's my aunt's favorite cousin), they get a +1 or +2 bonus to their Reaction Roll.

Each monster gets a table of Sentiments, things that trigger Morale checks and make them want to talk instead of fight. Each Morale check requires a novel appeal to a monster’s Sentiment–if your display of bravery didn't win the dragon’s respect, you have to prove your bravery in some other way. Monsters of the same time within an encounter/lair share the same Sentiment, though appeals to a group’s Sentiment is mitigated or temporary unless you successfully appeal to the group’s leader.

  1. Their parents have gone missing, and they're afraid and angry. They make a Morale check when confronted with kindness and authority.
  2. They don't have any food and they're half-starved. They make a Morale check when given a gift of food.
  3. Humans desecrated the Goblin Shrine. Make a Morale check when greeted with a sincere apology and display of respect.
  4. Something has been disturbing their sleep. Whispered condolences and a promise to look into the problem trigger a Morale check.
  5. They have a new leader who has driven them to the life of the marauding monster. They make a Morale check when sternly admonished or told to stand up for themselves.
  6. They have been cursed into a frenzy. Make a Morale check when blessed with a prayer to return them to their senses.

from etrian odyssey
from etrian odyssey
You gain XP for spending you gold or using goods you retrieve, loot, or steal on your adventures.
  • For every gold piece you invest in your village, you gain 1 experience point. Constructing new buildings, improving existing ones, paying villagers to plow fields all count. You only need to invest value, not actual gold coins; if you retrieve 500 gp worth of lumber on a logging expedition and use it to build a house, you gain 500 XP even though coins never changed hands.
  • For every gold piece you spend on behalf of villagers, you gain 1 experience point. Buying medicine, purchasing gifts, hiring tutors, going on dates, throwing parties and festivals all count. Again, you get XP for value, whether it is in gold coins or goods; hiring a doctor for Auntie provides XP, but if you steal 500 gp worth of feast supplies from the Bandit King and throw a party, you get XP, too. (Credit to +Alex Chalk for this idea)
It costs 1,000 gp to upgrade a building for the first time, and doubles every time thereafter.

General Store
  • Only sells rural area items on the Miscellaneous equipment list from the LotPF handbook. 1 in 6 chance of a given item being in stock, and only 1d4 will be available. Their stock changes every week, since the caravan arrives each Monday and villagers buy and sell goods there. You can put in a special order for 1 item each week and they'll have it in by the next, but it costs double.
  • Each upgrades improves the chances of stocking a particular item by 1 in 6.

The Inn
  • Staying at the Inn during downtime lets the party reroll their maximum HP.
  • Each upgrade allows a player to reroll one of their character's hit dice.

The Tavern
  • A night of drinking at the Tavern allows players to attract 1d6-4 potential hirelings. Use the LotFP process to determine interest and loyalty.
  • Each upgrade gives a +1 bonus to the number of potential hirelings.

The Farms
  • As the village prospers more and more, villagers can give more more stuff without needing payment. For each upgrade to the Farms, you can get an additional free use of a service or facility.
  • The blacksmith only makes weapons and armor on request, and each piece takes a week. Initially, the blacksmith can only forge weapons that deal d6 damage or less and make armor with 14 AC or fewer.
  • Each upgrade allows the blacksmith to forge weapons that deal 1 die step more and make armor with an additional point of AC.

Witch's Cottage
  • The witch has a 1 in 6 chance of curing a disease, poison, or curse per week of care. Some particularly dangerous poisons, diseases, or curses will also require rare or expensive ingredients.
  • Each upgrade improves the witch's chance of successully curing a poison or disease or lifting a curse by 1 in 6.

The Wandering Devil Merchant
  • The Devil Merchant has a 1 in 6 chance of being in town each week. He has a 1 in 6 chance of having a scroll of a given magic-user spell, with a penalty equal to the spell's level. his stock changes out every time he visits town.
  • Each upgrade improves the Devil Merchant's chance of being in town and having a given scroll by 1 in 6. 

from final fantasy tactics a2

There is a 1 in 6 chance that a Downtime Events will occur each week. Should probably be d100, but this is just proof of concept. Based off of the Hazard System.

Downtime Events
  1. A random villager becomes very ill, beyond even the curatives of the town witch. Their cure requires an herb found only the peak of a nearby and monster-infested mountain.
  2. The River God has become restless, and the stream that runs through town has been flooding worse and worse. Venture to his shrine in the nearby Caverns to find out what troubles him.
  3. The Lunar Festival approaches and bandits attacked the caravan that was bringing goods for the sacramental feast. Retrieve the ingredients before those slobs eat them all and anger the Moon Goddess.
  4. Harvest is almost here and the goblins know it. See if you can prevent them from attacking so that the village can get its crops harvested and safely stored.
  5. A random villager has gone missing, with evidence that they were taken by the local gang of werewolves. Save them!
  6. The local bandit gang has sent a messenger, hat in hand. Quite a few of them are frighteningly sick, and they wonder if you'd be willing to send help?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

here in the house of death

a few gods with a focus on the way they interact with people and the way their worshipers perceive them. also, a demihuman race-as-species you should be able to slot in to most nearly any game. i tried to make it play distinctly from human characters without demanding a lot of buy in from players. borrowed some of the d&d language as word game rules in this dungeon of signs post.

Heche Ke Eche
Mama Muerte, The Sheikha of the Dead
The first of the living to die, and the first of the dead to return to the Lands of the living. Pray to Heche Ke Eche to raise the dead, speak with the deceased, or save someone from death's door. She is cruel, wise, patient, a friend to the dispossessed and an enemy of the arrogant. She likes rum, cash, cigars, and prefers her shrines and temples gaudy and personal.

Worshipers of Heche Ke Eche pray like this: "Oye mama, I have a favor to ask you..." Praying to Heche Ke Eche is like asking your mom for money. Her most devout followers are scrupulously casual and try to never be impressed with anything. If they do not bow and scrape to their own goddess, why should they worry too much about you?

El Grangúl
Papa Fin, the Sheikh of the Dead
Built the wall between the Lands of the Living and the Lands of the Dead. Pray to El Grangúl to exorcise ghosts, keep the dead in their graves, and your ancestors out of your business. He is orderly, condescending, charitable, and an enemy to liars. He likes sacramental wine (you can sometimes get him to bend the laws of nature if he's drunk enough), golden doubloons, flowers, and prefers his shrines and temples symmetrical and carefully tended.

Worshipers of El Grangúl pray like this: "Permiso, padre, I have something to ask you..." Praying to El Grangúl is like admitting to your dad you did something stupid. His most devout followers keep records of their prayers in black-bound ledgers, so that they always remember what their patron has done for them.

The Gunsaints
Sabata, Sartana, & Django; the Calamity Three; Pistoleros Santos

The three best sharpshooters in the history of Labyrinthium; they killed each other in a three-way standoff and then banded together in a mythical shootout with Death itself. Now they are a tripartite demidivinity with power over Gunmetal, Gunpowder, and Lead. Pray to the Gunsaints to see your bullets fly true, to ruin the weapons of your enemy, and to successfully complete a mission of vengeance. The Gunsaints like bullets, antique guns, and personal mementos, and prefer shrines constructed in moments of desperation.

Worshipers of the Gunsaints pray like this: "I swear by the three I'll kill this motherfucker dead." Praying to the Gunsaints makes you feel fierce and sick and angry. Their most devout followers carry three guns, one for each saint, so that they can better understand the act of murder.

Other gods: Hatüey No-saint, Caracaracol, Shams del Sur, Al-Ra'ad al-Kasif, The Queen of Sheba

The Cats of New Barbary
A race for old school Dungeons and Dragons
The Cats of New Barbary are not cats at all, but something like a leopard, something like an Old Barbary macaque, with clever clawed hands and yellow lamplike eyes. They stand three feet tall when crouched on all fours, and can walk on two, though they don't like to. They aren't quite as intelligent as humans, and they struggle to speak. The Cats of New Barbary often live in ruins claimed by the jungle, but they can integrate into human society surprisingly well--several regional saints are Cats, and an infamous New Barbary crime boss is one as well.

Cats of New Barbary can be clerics, thieves, or fighters. They cannot be magic-users.
  • The Cats of New Barbary cannot wear armor heavier than leather regardless of class, and it costs twice as much to fit their inhuman frames. They cannot wield weapons, but their unarmed attacks deal d6 damage.
  • They cannot use scrolls or magic items, regardless of class, but there are a few methods for making their claws bypass supernatural immunities.
  • They can climb any surface a human could conceivably scale, and they do not need equipment or a skill check to do it.
  • They can run twice as fast when on all fours, but they can't carry anything in their hands when doing so.
  • The Cats of New Barbary have a powerful sense of smell, and can track a scent they know as a bloodhound (4 in 6 chance of success).
  • Outside of New Barbary, the Cats do not enjoy the same legal rights as humans, and Cats unaccompanied by humans are frequently kidnapped, bought, sold, murdered, and chased away without repercussion.
  • The Cats of New Barbary can understand language as well as any human, but a Cat can only speak a number of words equal to its Intelligence score. These are chosen at character creation, and can be from any language. All Cats of New Barbary know sign language, which lets them communicate more freely with anyone who knows it, but their capacity for self-expression is limited--they cannot use any word with more than two syllables when communicating this way.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

lamentation final fantasy

that stupid tonberry shanked your summoner before she got all the words out, and now whatever it was she was trying to call up is coming out wrong.

from final fantasy tactics a2

How Is Your Summoner Ruining Ivalice? 
  1. RAMUH. He's gnarled arms and twisted hands, with skin like lightning-blackened bark, braided into concentric rings. They spin like a confused gyroscope around a lone eye, brilliant with the spiteful white flare of a lightning strike.
  2. SHIVA. She's a storm of pale blue flower petals, each frozen stone-hard and razor-sharp. They ring like crystal when they strike each other, producing a beautiful, piercing tone that hurts the roots of your teeth and makes your nose bleed.
  3. IFRIT. He's a creeping patch of consumption, a heaving mass of cinder and charcoal that burns without flame or light everything it touches. Sly yellow eyes well up out of IFRIT as he slides forward, quickly boiling away to nothing from the heat of his internal flame.
  4. MADEEN. She is an endless rotting blossom of wings: swan wings, bat wings, insect wings unfurling, growing, and putrescing off of her shoulders. They twitch and flap, but do not allow for flight; she uses them to drag her limp body on the ground, leaving a trail of black ichor behind.
  5. FAMFRIT. He is a silhouette in the distance of a rainstorm, a shadowy figure seen only in the reflection on the lake's surface, he is slender black hands rising up from the waters, dozens of them, dragging in fishing lines and nets and boats and swimmers, he is a great slick bulk resting at the bottom, where it is too dark to see.
  6. CARBUNCLE. She is a strange and contagious growth, painful cysts filled with crystallized pus, garnet buboes and diamond teratomas that tear at the flesh around them, epidemics of priceless corpses and hospital massacres.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

yer a wizard, henry

Henry Flagler was most famously a Florida industrialist, but he had other, more esoteric interests, pursued in ritual garb on the manicured lawns of his estate or chased down in a naked frenzy among the swamp and cypress. Henry Flagler was a dedicated occultist, and used a considerable portion of his wealth to establish Black Cypress College, a private institution with a mission to plumb the breadth and depth of the magical sciences.

actually Flagler College

You are a magician, possessed of a wonderful and secret power. As such, you have been accepted to Black Cypress College to further your craft and the advancement of magical knowledge. What you find there might be corrupt, venal, sclerotic, and frequently disturbing, but right now, it's all you have.

Character Creation

Factors and Factions

Virgo Invictus
Something like the John Birch Society by way of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a far right secret society dedicated to the propagation, destruction, imprisonment, resurrection, or study (possible all of the above) of an ancient spiritual entity known as Virgo, Victor, or sometimes just V.

The Grecians
A mystic order of alcoholics who hold bacchanals in the cypress swamps. They claim to learn magical secrets during the ecstasies from Dionysus Krocodilia, an etymologically suspect and distinctly Floridian aspect of the Greek deity himself. Several Grecians have gone missing lately, perhaps drowned in the swamp, perhaps devoured by their fellows in a fit, perhaps feuding with the local Santeria community.

The Deans
The quasi-immortal administrators of the College. Nearly a century of access to the generous (and free) faculty dining hall  has rendered them immensely fat, alcoholic, hematomatic, wracked with gout, yellowed with jaundice, and nearly identical in their grotesqueness. There are thirteen of them, each ruder than the last, and they hate each other more with every passing year. Rumor has it they have hatched a scheme to restore their youthful vigor

The ██████
Everyone knows that the College has a ██████, which is odd since nobody can bring themselves to talk about him. Or her. Or it, really, since the ██████ gone unseen since the founding of the school, and the door to their office is always and unpickably locked. Students and faculty have looked into the College's reclusive ██████ over the years, and it has always ended in tears, murder, or mysterious disappearances resolved by sudden showers of gore during Commencement.

Golconda, by Renee Magritte