Wednesday, August 8, 2018

watched by the waters, watched by the sky

Been playing around with Mageblade, and I quite like it. Working on more monsters for that community-building game, and the system has been a good fit. 

I made these with their relationship with a community of people in mind--the kingfisher spirits might steal fish from the players and their village, but they could also be bribed into helping them sail, for example. The monsters are also the source of potential local taboos--ringing bells in the woods might attract moon beasts, for example, or gutting fish might lead to the local deities noticing and stealing them. I also designed them so that they could be plugged into the magic system, Pokemon-style, but that's another post.

Major inspirations are Mushishi, Shin Megami Tensei and Bloodborne.

from shin megami tensei IV apocalypse

 Two house rules to keep in mind:
  • If a monster does something they're good at, roll under their Aptitude. If they do something they’re bad at, roll under half their Aptitude. Use the tags in their stat blocks to help you decide what they're good and bad at. Unless otherwise stated, monsters are always good at fighting.
  • Spirits appear as a mirage-shimmer to people with +1 Wisdom modifier and can be fully observed by people with +2 Wisdom modifier or more.
Wind Spirits
Wind spirits can raise, banish, strengthen, weaken, or redirect wind in line of sight. The maximum strength of the wind they can control depends on their level.

spirit | small | graceful | fast | perceptive | weak | foolish
Level 1 (4 hits), Defense 0, Aptitude 10, Damage 1d4
Ability Magnitude Gentle breezes
Young wind gods, cat-sized and blue-green, singing with a voice like a panpipe. They are like the glimpse of a kingfisher out of the corner of your eye, even when you manage to look at it directly. They love gifts of ribbons and fresh fish--they congregate in a great viridian haze when the scent of fish blood is strong in the air.

spirit | graceful | fast | perceptive | violent | foolish
Level 3 (12 hits), Defense 1, Aptitude 12, Damage 1d6
Ability Magnitude Stiff breezes and lesser winds.
Minor wind gods, hound sized, a confusion of emerald-blue wings, calling out in a clear contralto. They are like the reflection of a great kingfisher in troubled water, an elfin face peering out of its mouth, sometimes walking like a bird, sometimes walking like a human. They love rare flowers, jewelry of any sort, and the flesh of fish from the deepest sea. They can be seen whirling around leviathans that have risen to the surface, looking for a chance to eat.

greater sylphs
spirit | graceful | fast | perceptive | cunning | beautiful | hungry
Level 5 (20 hits), Defense 2, Aptitude 14, Damage 1d8
Ability Magnitude Powerful gusts and lesser winds
True wind gods, human sized, wings unfolding like petals on a blooming flower, watchful eyes peering from the center. They can take the shape of a beautiful human of indeterminate gender, or else a tempest of cerulean and green wings and flashing beak and claws. They desire the true names of islands, exquisite treasures, and the flesh and blood of sacred fish. They appear singly when artifacts are excavated or when sea-gods make themselves known, looking for a chance to steal or feast.

high sylphs
spirit | large | graceful | fast | perceptive | cunning | beautiful | hungry
Level 7 (28 hits), Defense 3, Aptitude 16, Damage 1d10
Ability Gales and lesser winds.
Elder wind gods, bigger than a draft horse, like a dream of a kingfisher in flight, a corona of wings and feathers that recalls the motion of waves and the arc of sea-spray. In human shape, they are gorgeous giants, but they can also take the form of a flock of brilliant kingfishers or an enormous kingfisher crowned and jeweled.

Ora Marin, the Kingfisher God
spirit | huge | graceful | fast | perceptive | cunning | beautiful | hungry
Level 10 (40 hits), Defense 4, Aptitude 18, Damage 1d12
Ability Whirlwinds and any lesser wind.
The God of Wind-Over-Water. His wings are beyond counting. He moves like a stormcloud of azure feathers or a wave of green iridescence through the sea or a golden-crowned kingfisher with wings to block the Sun. As a human, he is a crowned  dancer, raising fair winds with his fan of blue feathers and sea-oat, whipping up foul winds with his fan of green feathers and palmetto frond.

Moon Spirits
Moon spirits can shed soft white light or summon a pall of darkness. The intensity of the brightness or darkness depends on their level.

spirit | tiny | slow | wise | hungry | gullible
Level 1 (4 hits), Defense 0, Aptitude 10, Damage 1d4
Ability Range As far as light shed by a candle
Larval moon gods, small enough to fit in your cupped hands. They are something like a white-furred moth and something like a flower blossom, always reduced to a milky silhouette as if occluded by mist. They are delighted by the ringing of bells, the scent of burning incense, and warm spilt blood.

spirit | small | graceful | wise | hungry | gullible
Level 3 (12 hits), Defense 1, Aptitude 12, Damage 1d6
Ability Range As far as light shed by a torch
Moon god nymphs, the size of a small dog. They are gracile, fronded, petaled, and winged, with wet human eyes concealed in their folds like pearls in a mound of silk, everything blurred as if by a haze of water. They adore the pealing of bells, the scent of burning sacrifice, and spilt lifeblood, which they lick with deep red tongues.

spirit | small | graceful | wise | hungry | cunning | gullible
Level 5 (20 hits), Defense 2, Aptitude 14, Damage 1d8
Ability Range As far as light shed by a campfire
Imago moon gods, the size of a child. They are thin, pale, sharp-toothed, four-armed, moving as easily on all limbs as their hind legs, and human-like when standing, with a ruff of white hyphae on their heads and necks, a cape of flower petal wings that unfold from their backs, revealing wet raw flesh like the meat beneath a fish’s gill. They are attracted to the tolling of great bells, the burning of the living, and those near death, who they kill and drain of blood if they are able.

from bloodborne
spirit | large | graceful | wise | hungry | cunning
Level 7 (28 hits), Defense 3, Aptitude 16, Damage 1d10
Ability Range As far as light shed by a bonfire
Elder moon gods, the size of a stag. They are pale creatures of gossamer and bone, their many thin limbs concealed behind luxurious effusions of white hyphae, their fronded flower wings trailing like a veil, concealing the gills-slits on their back. They swim as swiftly as they fly and run, but wherever they are, the sounding of old ritual bells, the sudden deaths of many, and living sacrifices prepared in accordance with the ancient agreements draw their attention without fail.

Moon Orphan, the Abandoned God
spirit | huge | graceful | wise
Level 10 (40 hits), Defense 4, Aptitude 18, Damage 1d12
Ability Range A light like the full moon or a darkness like the new, as far as the eye can see
The terrible God of Moonlight, luminous, fronded, billowing. It drives its immense and delicate body through the deepest waters or celestial heights with uncountable limbs, shedding gently glowing clouds through its blue-lipped sporangia, singing lunar hymns through uncountable mouths in communion with the Moon, guiding it through its course in the sky and the cycle of its phases.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

this isn't even my final form

I've been working on a village-building based D&D campaign. One of the things I want to do is tie character progression to exploration, and a way to do that is make classes available based on which NPCs the party has allied with or even brought back to their settlement. For this reason, I picked a random advancement scheme, where players roll 1d100 twice on a table associated with their character class to see what they get when they level up. They can choose choose to roll on the tables of unlocked specialty classes, which means they don't need to roll a whole new character to realize the benefits of making allies and gaining access to new stuff.

Since this model of D&D is based on building relationships and developing a home base, I want making friends to be on the table as much as possible. This class is unlocked by normalizing relations with the Orminger King, the local dragon and source of many monsters incursions (and sagacious-monarch-turned-abhuman-monster). It also complicates the player's relationship with most normative NPCs while potentially making it easier to seek peaceful solutions with monsters. Moreover, since this is a low HP class prone to drawing aggression while still having some pretty piquant abilities, players will hopefully be dealing with the mix of power and vulnerability that makes the archetypes behind this class compelling.

Also also, it's a bit of a rough draft. I'm not terribly worried about balance since it's random and also players need to go to a lot of trouble to make it available in the first place, but it could still be an issue.

Based on: Ganon, Howl, Witch of the Waste, Queen Beryl, Apostles from Berserk, Maleficent, animist wizards, there's probably some Dark Souls in here if I'm being honest with myself

from full metal alchemist
Requisites: make peace with the Orminger King
You are gorgeous and monstrous, magnificent and grotesque. Your magic is born from the darkness of the new moon and the blackness in the deepest earth. People think you’re not entirely human, and they’re not entirely wrong--the wilds and the ruins and the lonely places of the world are filled with the monstrous shells of the god-kings and wicked scholars who were consumed by the power you now bear. By its nature, your magic has left a sorcerous mark somewhere on your body: your palm, your tongue, your belly, your breast. In cosmopolitan areas, people who recognize you as a warlock will be discomfited, wary, and very polite. In more superstitious areas, people will be outright terrified of you--maybe enough to do what you ask, perhaps enough to just try to kill you. 

from magi: labyrinth of magic
  • HD: 1d4
  • Saves: as Magic-user
  • XP: as Magic-user
  • Prerequisite: have an emissary of the Orminger King join your village. New characters can be warlocks once the prerequisite is met, but existing magic-users can select it as a subclass.
The first time you roll on the Warlock table, you gain the ability to assume a monstrous aspect at will, giving you +1 Defense and allowing you to deal d6 damage with unarmed attacks. You cannot wield weapons or wear armor, in this form and most civilized peoples will attack you on sight. If they see you transform, they will seek to jail or execute you, even in human shape. Moreover, while you wear your monstrous shape, the Referee may require you to make a Wis check to resist the impulse to do something greedy or spiteful, if a compelling opportunity presents itself. The appearance of your monster-shape is up to you, though your face always remains the same even as your body changes.

Entries in a list separated by slashes show what is available with each subsequent reroll of that entry.

new ability
+1 Spell Die
+1 Save
Your beast form gains one of the following movement types: climb, swim, clumsy flight. Pick another on reroll.
Your beast form gain skill of your choice from the following list: Track, Sense, Camouflage. Pick another on a reroll.
Your beast form’s size becomes Large and you gain +1 to Str and -1 to Dex checks. Lose the Dex penalty on reroll.
Your beast form has armor as leather/chain/plate.
Wormtongue. Gain a skill of your choice from the following list: Tempt, Deceive, Intimidate. Pick another on a reroll.
Dark Glamor. At will, you can wrap yourself in a mantle of dark power, allowing you to transform your clothing as you please and making you appear taller, more imposing, perhaps more appealing and perhaps more hideous. In this aspect your have +1/2/3 Disposition Die size from those prone to temptation and sycophancy; -1 Disposition Die size from those who value basic decency and bravery.
Minions. You have 1/2/3 Level 0 homunculi allies. They are dark silhouettes of humans, suggestive of ooze in the way their bodies give and sway with each motion. If they wear human clothes, nobody will be able to notice that their appearance is strange. If they die or get lost, you can brew one per downtime up to your max. They are very stupid.
Covenant. If someone breaks the word of a promise they made to you, they suffer a -2/4/6 penalty on their saving throws against your spells, and you instinctively know their direction and approximate distance. It must be a promise you genuinely wanted kept, and this ability ceases to function if you forgive them for their transgression.
All Shall Love Me. +1/2/3 Faction Die size with monsters.
Forbidden Power. When you cast a spell, you can choose to roll with d8s/d10s/12s instead. Each die still expends on a result of 4+.
Menace. Enemies in line of sight of you suffer -1/2 Morale.
Dark Garden. You rule a 1 acre demiplane that contains your lair. Its appearance is a matter of negotiation between you and the Referee. It can house and feed 1/2/3 people per day. It is totally inaccessible, but if you spend a long rest in a civilized place, you can choose to incorporate the gate to your demiplane into the location in such a way that even longtime locals may not notice it. If you close the gate to your demiplane from the outside, you can choose to send it away again. Anything native to your lair taken out of it vanishes into thick black smoke as soon as it crosses the threshold.

from spirited away

A man’s impassive face, pale and immense, set onto a black-furred body, sinuous, graceful, larger than an elephant, walking on the fingertips of splayed human hands. Its great wings are like a crow's. It is mad, mournful, vicious. It lives in the ruins of the Royal Archives, gently turning pages with giant fingertips. It brews and decants shadow-fleshed homunculi to send on raids for occult reagents and, once in a rare while, companions. It knows many spells of darkness and transformation.

I draw on some homebrew rules in a few of the entries, so here are explanations:

You can cast any spell you know. You have a number of Spell Dice, a pool of d6s which represent a combination of your innate magical affinity and experience with your craft. With more Spell Dice, you can cast more powerful spells more often. When you cast a spell, roll any number of your Spell Dice. Examine the result of each die and add up the results. Dice that come up 4+ are expended, and you cannot roll them again until your take a long rest.

from howl's moving castle
Reactions/Personality Dice/Disposition Dice
The Referee makes Reaction Rolls on the usual table. However, they are not necessarily made with the traditional 2d6. One die is the Faction Die, and represents the encountered creature's relationship with the organizations, groups, species, clans, etc the party or party leader is a member of. The other is the Disposition Die, which represents the encountered creature's gut reaction to the party or party leader, a combination of the PC's personal appeal and the creature's mood. Both dice start at d6 and are increased by factors that would improve reaction and decreased by factors that would worsen it. Some characters have explicit bonuses to one or both dice, but the Referee can also apply modifiers ad hoc. Example: A handsome cleric wandering a dungeon encounters an incubus. The Referee determines that the Faction Die should be a d4, since demons find clerics tediously Lawful. The Disposition Die, on the other hand, is a d8, because incubi respect physical appeal.

from sailor moon