Wednesday, August 10, 2016

out in the swamp where the water is dark

monsters in dungeons and dragons can feel very taxonomical, as if some fantasy Linnaeus separated the ghoul from the ghast and the wight from the specter. In practice, it's just palette-swapping. However, I like the idea of monsters that suggest an unusual and inscrutable method of specifying one kind of creature from another.

by Tim Waters
distributed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

However, I also want there to be something of a blur between kinds of monsters. Monstrosity is something afflicted or achieved, it is a political category, a caste, a title. Bluebeard and Christman Genipperteinga are as much ogres as men; Elizabeth of Bathory was a woman, witch, and vampire. Monsters and witches can and should step on each other's conceptual turf, just because neither are wholly one thing. 

witches with beautiful hair
Such a witch keeps his or her hair in a long braid, ornamented to look like a snake. A single strand of it, teased free and tied around the finger, wrist, or neck of a victim, ensures their compliance in all things; so long as the strand is still attached to her head, the witch can command it to sever the member around which it is tied. Neither distance no scissors are protection against this; a witch's hair can stretch across oceans or over mountains, and no conventional means can cut it.
     Witch-hair is exceedingly fine, but a watchful witch-hunter can follow the hair from victim to owner. However, the witch can always use his or her victims as hostages no matter how far they may be, or even blackmail them into fighting their would-be rescuer.

blood-swallowing witches
A witch of this ilk has learned a very beautiful song that summons great swarms of mosquitoes. The witch then disperses them across the countryside to collect blood from her neighbors. When the mosquitoes return, they vomit the blood up into the witch's pots and pans, which the witch then brews into vile liqueurs. Some are fatally poisonous; others simply delicious, while the most coveted restores a measure of youth to the drinker.
     A witch-hunter knows a blood-swallowing witch by their love of music, by their hidden or strangely stained pots and pans, and by the barrels they keeps but never seems to tap. Imprudent enemies of a blood-swallowing witch might find themselves exsanguinated by a storm of mosquitoes.

witches whose shadows have eyes
The most mysterious kind of witch. shadows cast by these witches have eyes, as if their owner had two holes in their head and light was streaming through. Their shadows do their bidding, rising up off the ground, gaining strength and substance. A witch's shadow crawls about unnaturally, like a person trying to walk on all fours, but runs as fast as a horse and possesses the strength of two.
     These witches can only be caught by close examination of their shadow, or by their shadow's absence when they have commanded it to run off and perform some wickedness. Witches whose shadows have eyes have been known to hide their nature and rise to positions of great power and prestige.

witches who live under the mangroves
These witches can hold their breath as long as they please. They carry heavy cudgels and live out in the mangrove swamp, where they float facedown in the waterways or thrash like a drowning swimmer so that they can bludgeon their rescuers unconscious and carry them away to a half-submerged larder. When they are not hunting, these witches sleep in the dark waters between mangrove roots, thinking black and briny thoughts and trading secrets with passing crocodiles.
     Witches who live under the mangroves are betrayed by the mud in their mouth, which they can never quite spit out and which prevents them from speaking well. The eldest witches of this kind are trapped below their mangroves, transfixed by slow-growing roots over the course of their century sleep. They are easy to destroy if discovered, but their mgic is powerful and filled with venom.
by Guillaurme Schaer
distributed under CC BY NC 2.0

Monday, August 8, 2016

upon the ancient shores of albion...

A Most Thoroughly Pernicious Pamphlet has received an Honorable Mention in the distinguished 2016 Ramanan Sivaranjan Awards for Excellence in Gaming, an honor I will treasure until my dying day, and one I will clutch in my bony fist long after.

I've decided to lower the price of the Pamphlet to $2, so if you've been holding out in hopes of a lower price, your day has come. You can get it here. If Gumroad gives you any trouble, which has been known to happen, let me know in the comments of this post or over on Google+ and I'll get you a copy.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

New Barbary Session 1, Delivery in La Habana

I ran New Barbary/La Habana yesterday, and it went very well.

The perpetrators:
  • An amnesiac Castilian deserter with a talent for fighting and a real gift for lying. He still remembers that the fort he was assigned to (Castillo de San Marcos in La Florida) is threatened by a mysterious curse or god.
  • Sol, A mysterious maskmaker practiced in botany and superior pact-making skills. She had a hard time lying and a nearly supernatural ability to get people to tell her the truth. She was contracted by a devil to repair its mask, which was destroyed by the same entity that threatens the Castillo de San Marcos--or so the devil says.
by Christophe Meneboeuf, distributed under CC-BY-SA license
They owed their cantankerous one-legged landlady 100 pesetas by the end of the week or she was going to sell off all their stuff, evict them, and alert the constabulary. They decided on approaching the Red Hibiscus Society for work, and were led to the bathtub-bound towering ex-bandit who led the Society: Uncle Yusuf. He told them to pick up a package from the House of Honey and Salt and deliver it to a dead drop location at the Old Royal Park.

On the way, they evaded a pack of coyotes gnawing on a body in the abandoned urban areas around the Souk, and tripped over the body of a (extremely stabbed) courier. The letter clutched in his hand was addressed to Frederico Buendía, the owner of the biggest distillery in Cuba, warning him that the infamous pirate Sayyida al Hurra had stolen a major molasses shipment, which would cost him an enormous sum of money and drive up the price of rum catastrophically.

Bearing this in mind, they pick up the package from the Saints. It's pretty disturbing--they are told not to open the package, get it wet, breath heavily around it, or spend much time touching it. Sol asks for an extra blanket to wrap around it, and pretends she's carrying a child. On the way out, she notices it's a bit warmer than body temperature and might even be moving subtly. 

On the way to Old Royal Park, they notice a man with a hat pulled low over his face following them. They set up an ambush and successfully capture him, forcing him to reveal he works for a rival gang (the Ivory Palm Guild). The Deserter knocks him out, and they steal his machete, a flask filled with a floral-smelling liquid, and a brick wrapped in paper--possibly a decoy for the package they are trying to deliver.

They reach the Park without complication, hide the package, and successfully flee a group of Ivory Palm Guildsmen, including a limping figure clutching his head. However, while running away they stumble into two sorcerers who manage to catch up with them, helped by a dimly seen creature that blinds the Deserter. It's a man and a woman--Rosa and Rodrigo--who Sol guesses correctly work for the Klatch. They were trying to prevent the Saint's package from being delivered to the Red Hibiscus Society, but now that it already has been, they want Sol and the Deserter to figure out where it is being kept. They agreed, realizing the Saints and Society were probably up to no good and also recognizing that Rosa was probably going to shoot them otherwise.

They return to the Red Hibiscus Society's headquarters and receive their reward from Uncle Yusuf, with a small bonus for fending off the Ivory Palm Guild. Then they alerted Frederico about the impending rum-market disaster. He gave them a small award and agreed to let Sol and the Deserter join his expedition to get the molasses back (the Deserter lied about his Navy experience, and since Frederico thought he possessed "the steady gaze of an honest man", he let them join). It would leave in a few days.

The next day, the party, wanting more money so they could outfit themselves for their coming adventure, asked for more work at the R.H.S. They were told to deliver a sealed cask to the bastard Castilians, but on the way a mysterious, ragged man named Jorge asked if he could poison the cask, with the promise that it would only "cause digestive distress" and that his days as a smuggler would let him tamper with the seal without chance of discovery. They were very hesitant, but as Jorge enjoyed a cigarette they decided to let Jorge do it if he and his "many friends in lofty office" agreed to search for the R.H.S.'s hidden and guarded package. Jorge poisoned the cask, and the bastard Castilians took it without even looking Sol and the Deserter.

Flush with cash, they went the Souk and bought themselves a rusted breastplate and a suit of tattered leathers for armor. Sol purchased some sacrifices so she could form a contract with one of the Souk's Mercenary Gods, and settled on The Beast Among The Lilies, a jaguar-spirit that could strengthen the Deserter or fight on its own.

We ended the session with Sol and the Deserter ready for the hunt for the pirate Sayyida.

Lessons Learned
  • Vornheim remains the most useful rpg book I own. I went into that session with my blogposts on New Barbary and the following prep. Everything else I scribbled in during breaks or generated/rolled up from Vornheim.
  • This WaRP hack is going very well. The Klatch sorcerer that blinded the Deserter was just "Rodrigo: spirit of darkness 3D, 10 HP" and he did everything he needed to do.
  • D&D has a lot of granularity and mechanics I don't really use because of the types of games I tend to run. If I were to run San Serafin has a hard dungeon crawl, I would definitely use D&D, but WaRP seems to work quite well for what I want to run right now.
  • San Serafin is still a location and the players actually laughed out loud when I said they could go there to look for treasure.
  • The players really like the shrines of Mercenary Gods at the Souk.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

things to do in La Habana

It occurs to me that jinetero is a perfect term for adventurers, even if it doesn't perfectly match the real-life contemporary definition. Anyway, here's the lowdown on some of the player-adjacent factions in La Habana.

Red Hibiscus Society
A social club/trading consortium/gang based in La Habana. Their affinity for bypassing the Emir's taxmen has made them natural allies of the Castilians of La Florida.

The chief of the Red Hibiscus Society is Yusuf, a colossal ex-bandit who has given up direct robbery for the relative ease and comfort of running a medium-sized crime syndicate. He always smells of violet water, and is rarely seen outside of his bath--he's had a porcelain clawfoot tub installed in the Red Hibiscus Society Hall where he conducts most of his business so he doesn't have to get out even as he works.

The Society regularly employs vagrants, vagabonds, and soldiers-of-fortune to carry out its interests, both legitimate and illegitimate, with at least one layer of plausible deniability.
  1. Deliver a sealed cask to the bar next to the Castilian embassy by the Docks. Expect trouble on the way, and do not open the barrel.
  2. Retrieve a package from the House of Honey and Salt, and deliver it at a dead drop location at the Royal Park. Wash your hands thoroughly with hot soap and water afterwards, do not breathe heavily around the package, and do not get it wet.
  3. Yusuf's step-daughter is attending the Emir's birthday and he suspects some pencil-necked egghead at the College is going to ask her to attend it with him. Explain to him why this is not a viable decision, but don't do anything worse than breaking his knees.
  4. That bastard Admiral is holding out on Yusuf--the Castilian has, through various semilegal channgel, acquired Gran Morado, violet water made from the purest and most fragrant violets, said to restore vigor lost to age, bring good luck, grow your hair back, whiten your teeth, dispel melancholy, etc etc, but now he won't sell it to Yusuf as promised. Help the Society seize some La Florida-bound shipments of fine liquor to help the Admiral see reason.

Saints of Honey and Salt
A religious order of sybaritic assassin-surgeons who operate out of hospital-brothel-temple-laboratories called Houses of Honey and Salt. They're the best doctors in town, but also the best murderers-for-hire, so everybody needs them and nobody trusts them. Their influence is mostly a network of debt and favors--if you don't owe something to the Saints, you owe something to someone who does. Everyone agrees they are Up To Something, but nobody really knows what it is.
  1. The Saints need a jaguar for their experiments. Definitely healthy and whole, preferably alive, but with a minimum of injuries if that isn't possible.
  2. One of the Saints makes weekly rounds in Old Habana, giving free care to the sick. An upstart guild of sawbones have begun to threaten her and interfere with her work--guard her  this upcoming Sunday.
  3. A deliriously ill patient undergoing an experimental treatment has broken out of the House of Honey and Salt. Find them before the metamorphosis completes their illness gets the best of them.
  4. There was a pirate raid out east two days ago, and the Saints are expecting an influx of patients. Secure an emergency shipment of bandages and laudanum from the Castilians--and you don't have to be friends with them afterwards.
The Klatch
A loose society of brujas, brujos, shamans, sorcerers, exorcists, theologians, and philosophers who frequent La Habana's coffee houses and salons and who maintain correspondence with practitioners across New Barbary. They tacitly and informally police the supernatural community (such as it is) of La Habana, ensuring that devils, the dead, and hostile gods cannot hunt unchecked by more mundane authorities.
  1. The La Habana chapter of the Klatch believes a devil has taken up residence in the city. A reward of 50 pesetas to anyone who brings information leading to its banishment.
  2. The Emir's favorite dancer has been possessed by a malicious spirit, and it's taking most of her caretakers' efforts just to keep it under control. Take a trip out to the Hungry Grandmother's shrine and ask her for a purgative.
  3. An ambitious young thief has found a a djinni (again). His first wish was for a king's fortune and his second was for 100 wives. Since you can surely imagine how well that's going, get that brass ring off of his finger before he causes another international incident.
  4. The New Barbary Trading Company of Castile wants to build a warehouse and offices on what the Klatch believes to be the tomb of Blood Dews Upon The Lilies, a sainted ancestor liable to wake up again if disturbed. They aren't listening to a bunch of witches, but perhaps you can find a way to be more persuasive?
The Souk
Almost any merchant in the Souk will part with goods or services in return for a favor. You can buy most things there, but here are a few of the odder services you can get:

  • a nice hot meal. 10 pesetas. A hot meal and a rest fully heals your HP, though you might have lingering injuries, depending.
  • ingredients. 5 pesetas. If you have the skills, you can cook a hot meal without paying a premium for it, and you can do it out in the jungle or bush if you bring the right equipment. 
  • snack. If you take 10 and eat a snack, you recover 1d6 HP. You can only do this 1/day OR 1/genuine hazard faced.
  • emperor ghost spider. The most reliable form of transportation in New Barbary, these colossal spider spirits are bound and trained to carry passengers and cargo. Their castle-sized carapaces are hollowed out: the abdomen holds lodging and cargo storage, while their handlers work in the thorax and head, where the blood of their animal sacrifices propagates through channels carved into the spider's chitin, and where the handler's soothing prayers can more easily heard. The largest emperor ghost spiders can traverse across the shallower parts of the Caribbean, their legs long enough to reach the sea floor. 
  • magot porter. New Barbary macaques are big enough to stare a draft horse in the eyes without getting off all fours. They aren't particularly fast, but they are strong enough to carry a person and all of their gear, and can traverse dense jungle and mountainous terrain. Overall reliable, handy, and peaceable, but if you do manage to anger or spook them they can pull your arms off without trying very hard. 
  • sedan chair. Mostly used in the city of Otra Tétuan. They have a faintly sinister reputation, since devils and the dead can use them to travel unseen, and powerful brujas will travel on sedan chairs carried by zombis. The spouses of Dead Ixe are infamous for being carried by their husband's mummified servants. Normally, though, it's old money, D-list royalty, and regular joes willing to pay a little extra for some swift and discrete transportation. 
  • cars. rare, expensive, loud, smelly. They drive spirits crazy, and most cars require apotropaics from front bumper to back just to keep ambient divine rage from shutting it down. Beloved by the nouveau riche and Flowerland industrialists. They can be rented. 
  • Competent mercenaries and guards will work for 50 pesetas a day, plus danger pay.
  • Hooligans, desperados, and ne'er-do-wells will work for 15 pesetas a day, and might try to squeeze danger pay out of you if they think they can get it.
  • Minor ghosts and spirits will work for 50 pesetas in sacrifices a day, though they are more erratic than the living and might demand further favors.
  • Godlings, loas, orishas, and the like don't really have a pay rate--you have to negotiate on a case by case basis, and you usually have to find a medium in good standing with the entity to want to call on first.

Friday, August 5, 2016

westward the course

Been wanting to run a little like Morrowind, a little like Tekumel, a little like Tartary. Magical realist Latin America if the Reconquista failed and some enterprising Berber made that fateful trip to what would become Hispaniola instead of Columbus. Think City of Saints and Madmen, Deathless, Dictionary of the Khazars, the Etched City, One Hundred Years of Solitude, House of the Spirits, Ficciones, Trickster's Choice, Mononoke, and Wide Sargasso Sea.

Because I am fascinated by but incapable of novelty, I am stealing Richard's Countercolonial Heist Crawl rules, and applying a few changes to soothe my trad gamer anxieties.
New Barbary
La Habana
The game starts here. The dastardly Castilians of La Florida have parked a flotilla of the coast, ostensibly to await the Emir of La Habana's response to their treaty proposal but in actuality to violently extract concessions should he refuse. This has proven to be quite a kick to the anthill--the surrounding loose confederacy of caciques, sheikhs, bandits chiefs, and pirate captains who technically owe fealty to the emir are all scrambling to pick sides and ensure they come out on top once the dust settles.

Otra Tetuán
The biggest city in New Barbary, located near the real-life Panama City. Ruled by a cartel of traders and pirates, this is the metropolis where you can buy any good, purchase any service, or find any piece of information you might need.

San Serafín
Ruined nightmare island-city, filled with curses and monsters and treasure. 

Hacienda San Cuervo 
Lands in Western Cuba held by Ohache, the despicable Dead Man famous for the blood he demands from his tenants, servants, and slaves.

Step 1: Determine Ability Scores
Roll 3d6 for Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma. Only record the modifiers, except for Constitution. The total equals your HP.

Step 2: Traits (Professions, Skills, and Specializations)
  1. Pick a Profession, like pirate or blacksmith or spirit medium. When you attempt a task that draws on the knowledge of your profession, roll 2D+ability score modifier. 
  2. Pick a Skill, like sailing, melee combat, metalworking, marksmanship, sorcery, charm, or pickpocketing. When you attempt a task that draws on your proficiency of this skill, roll 3D+ability score modifier. 
  3. Pick a Specialization, like seduction (versus the more general “charm” skill), swordsmithing (versus the more general “metalworking” skill), fist fighting (versus the more general “melee combat” skill), or curse-throwing (versus the more general “sorcery” skill). When you attempt a task that draws on your proficiency of this specialization, roll 4D+ability score modifier.  
When you attempt to perform a task that does not comfortably fit any trait, roll 1D+ability score modifier.

If all dice in a roll come up 6, you can roll again and add the new result to your initial roll. Keep on doing this every time you get all 6s. 

Step 3: Determine Wonder
Roll 3d6. Your Wonder trait has a number of dice equal to the modifier (treat negative modifiers as positive in this case). If the result is one or more, roll on the table below to determine what your Wonder is.
  1. Cursed to Die Unscrivened Upon The Banks of the Bosporus
  2. An Unnerving and Green-haired Beauty
  3. Knows the Secret Language of Spiders
  4. Receives Letters from the Prince of Monaco
  5. Tells and Is Told the Truth
  6. Dreamt of by Nearby Sleepers
  7. Courted Maniacally but Cannot Fall in Love
  8. Possessed by a Freakish and Crude Strength
  9. Served by an Erratic Spirit of Flame and Desire 
  10. Pursued by Storms
  11. Utters Prophecies in Ancient Greek
  12. Believes Self to be Reincarnation of the Queen of Sheba
You can use your Wonder like any other trait (so if you are Cursed to Die Unscrivened Upon the Banks of the Bosporus, you can roll it to withstand any other form of impending death). The Referee may occasionally ask you to make a check with your Wonder to see if it comes into play in a certain situation.

Step 4: Determine Gear
Use Richard's rules.

We are using Richard's collective action rules. This is mostly important for caciques, sheikhs, captains, chiefs, etc because when your posse is confronting another, you'll be using this mechanic. This will be handy for brujas and sorcerers, since spirits count as helpers and magical warfare largely relies on how many ghost friends you have made.

Magic is subtle and specific. Most standard-issue D&D spellcasting, like creating light, throwing fire, or raising the dead is the preserve of spirits and demigods--ignoble humans like PCs might be knowledgeable in the supernatural (what repels types of undead, rituals to prevent a corpse from being raised as a zombi). If they're very talented, they might be able to change the direction of the wind, give someone nightmares, or bless a couple with fertility. Otherwise, they have to bind or form pacts with spirits, find places of power, or work in concert with many other practitioners. 

Attacker makes a roll with their most relevant trait against the defender’s most relevant trait. If the attacker wins, the defender takes 1d6 - Armor damage (damage die might be higher with particularly effective weapons, but that’s the standard). Attackers can also attempt to disarm, tackle, shove, or make trick shots.

Profession examples
If you want to be handy in a fight:
  1. bandits
  2. pirates
  3. mercenaries
  4. bouncers
  5. caravan guards
  6. veterans
  7. deserters
  8. vaqueros
  9. boxers
  10. fencer
  11. knight/faris
  12. fencers 
If you want to be tricksy, knowledgeable, or particularly able to navigate society:
  1. blacksmith
  2. student
  3. aristocrat
  4. poet
  5. burglar
  6. cacique/sheikh
  7. dancer
  8. prostitute
  9. journalist
  10. mechanic
  11. pickpocket
  12. merchant 
 If you want to be occult, holy, or generally magical:
  1. bruja/brujo
  2. spirit medium
  3. sorcerer/sorceress
  4. grave digger
  5. shrine tender
  6. exorcist
  7. charm carver
  8. herbalist
  9. savant
  10. oracle/prophet/prophetess
  11. maskmaker
  12. monster hunter

Saturday, July 30, 2016

mean as the summer sun

This is kind of a self-indulgent post but whatever. Been thinking about mashing The Curse of Strahd up with the Mozarab Latin American setting implied by San Serafin. I never quite understood why Strahd doesn't't just kick the shit out of the party as soon as they show the smallest signs of competence (the adventure has an explanation, but I don't find it satisfactory). I've tried to give it a more fairy tale/folklore vibe with constraints that make the cat-and-mouse game between Strahd and his hunters more interesting. Anyway, I'm changing Ravenloft to Hacienda San Cuervo, which is perfectly exactly as dorky as the original. ANYWAY...

There are seven Dead Men of New Barbary, each given special dispensation by the gods of death to reside in the Lands of the Living. They may only leave the darkness of their house on their assigned day of the week.

Dead Ohache's day is Friday, and he lives in an iron house.

His flesh is flush with false life, his teeth are like a coyote's teeth, and he licks them with a long red tongue. Everyone knows of his eyes, for they are as yellow and as mean as the summer sun, and they can see lies on a speaker's breath.

Dead Ohache wears a calabash on his belt, from which he drinks and from which he draws his power. It is filled with blood: the fresh blood of his servants, subjects, and slaves, the cold blood of his brides and grooms, the bubbling blood of the ancient beast that hangs helpless and eternally wounded from the rafters of his house.

He has six spouses who administer to his hacienda when he is confined to his house. They are beautiful and evil and love him dearly, for he keeps their hearts locked away with his most valuable treasures.

His house is iron, it is narrow and tall, it juts from the earth like a nail from flesh. His house is a place of disorder, and he does not rule his land well. By Dead Ohache's decree, all blood and all corpses in Hacienda Cuervo are his by right to take. The dead are not buried, but put to work, and the living are hunted and used for labor like animals. Dead Ohache is is a careless master, and his administrators are many and fractious. The villages on his holding's border have attained some measure of prosperity, but everyone has a friend or relative carried away to labor in Dead Ohache's fields, struggle in his mines, or bleed out for his supper.

Things to do in and around Hacienda San Cuervo
  1. Dead Ohache's depredations have awakened a mummified holy ancestor from its funereal repose. Rozerie, the Monday Regent of the Hacienda, will pay you to take care of it before the Tuesday Regent hears about it.
  2. The brother of one of Dead Ohache's kidnapping victims has put out an exceedingly generous standing offer to anyone who can rescue his sibling from the Dead Man's mines.
  3. A scholar in Otra Tetuán is writing a necrography of Dead Ochache and wants to know why the Sheikha and Sheikh of the Dead have given him permission to reside in the Lands of the Living. The University is backing up their research with a reward.
  4. Pirate-cleric Sayyida al Hurra wants a crack at Dead Ohache's treasure, and she wouldn't mind exorcising him either. Figure out where he keeps his vault and not only will she pay you, but she'll let you come along on the heist for a share of the spoils.
  5. Rumor has it some rebels are getting ready to raid Dead Ohache's sanguinary. Both sides are putting out an all call for anyone who can pick up a weapon.
  6. There is a particular and exceedingly beautiful flower that grows in the yard of Dead Ixe, Ohache's bitterest rival. He wants a cutting so he can grow it for himself.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

toil and trouble

Extensive rewrite for the 5th edition Warlock class. It's actually my favorite to play in 5e, but there are many interlocking abilities. This version
  • conforms more to the pattern established by other classes
  • has abilities that stand alone, and don't require extensive cross-referencing
  • smashes the cleric, druid, and warlock together. I want to get 5e down to four or five classes and get a wider spread of character archetypes with kits. Ideally, I'll have fighter, warlock/witch, rogue, and wizard
  • is based on archetypal things that witches do, like turn into animals, call up spirits, or brew potions.
  • has an element of risk. Shapeshifting warlocks can get stuck as animals, potions can go wrong, familiars can get loose.
  • makes some assumptions about the kind of campaign. Probably can't go toe to toe with a monster of equivalent CR the way most classes-as-written can, most of the healing is shunted off to potion-making, so healing is a bit more important as a resource, and I cut out damaging cantrips.
a Type V D&D class
from tactics ogre: wheel of fortune

click to make legible
Hit Dice: 1d6 per warlock level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 1d6 + Constitution modifier, minimum 4
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d6 + Constitution modifier per warlock level after 1st 

Armor: Light armor
Weapons: Simple weapons
Tools: Choose one from herbalism kit, poisoner's kit, and alchemist's kit

Saving Throws: Wisdom, Charisma
Skills: Choose two from Animal Handing, Arcana, Deception, History, Intimidation, Nature, Religion, and Survivalism

Cantrips. You know two cantrips of your choice from the warlock spell list. You learn additional warlock cantrips of your choice at higher levels, as shown on the Cantrips Known column of the Warlock table. 

Spell Slots. The Warlock spellcasting table shows how many spell slots you have to cast spells of 1st level and higher. To cast one of these spells, you must expend a slot of the spell's level or higher. You regain all expended spell slots when you finish a long rest.

Spells Known of 1st level and higher. You know one 1st level warlock spell of your choice. The Spells Known column on the Warlock spellcasting table shows when you learn more warlock spells of 1st level or higher. Each of these spells must be a level for which you have slots. When you gain a level, you can replace one of the warlock spells you know with another spell of your choice from warlock spell list that you have slots for.

Spellcasting ability. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for your warlock spells. You use your Wisdom whenever a spell refers to your spellcasting ability. In addition, you use your Wisdom modifier when setting the saving throw DC for a warlock spell you cast and when making an attack roll with one.
     Spell Save DC = 8 + proficiency bonus + Wisdom modifier
     Spell Attack modifier = proficiency bonus + Wisdom modifier 

Spell Recovery. When you finish a short rest, you can choose expended spell slots to recover. The spell slots can have a combined level equal to or less than half your level (rounded up).

Spellcasting Focus. You can use an arcane focus as a spellcasting focus for your warlock spells

Pick one of the following Otherworldly Patrons. At levels 1, 5, 9, 13, and 17, your patron teaches you additional spells; add them to your list of spells known and do not count them towards your limit.

from mononoke

1st: bless, purify food and drink
5th: augury, lesser restoration
9th: clairvoyance, remove curse
13th: divination, locate creature
17th: greater restoration, scrying

from black desert

1st: animal friendship, speak with animals
5th: animal messenger, spike growth
9th: plant growth, water walk
13th: conjure woodland beings, dominate beast
17th: awaken, commune with nature

from final fantasy

1st: create or destroy water, thunderwave
5th: blindness/deafness, gust of wind
9th: call lightning, sleet storm
13th: control water, ice storm
17th: cone of cold, planar binding

At level 3, your patron rewards you for your service. Choose one of the following First Gifts.

You can polymorph into any beast with a CR equal to or less than 1/3 your level. When you cast polymorph in this manner, it lasts until you lose concentration, with no other limits on duration. If you fail your Constitution Saving throw to maintain concentration with an odd result, you become trapped in your beast form until you take a short rest. If you reach 0 HP while in your animal form, you do not transform back, but continue to deduct hit points from your true form's HP pool. You must take a short rest before using this ability again.

Pick one of the following: imp, sprite, pseudodragon, or a single beast with a CR of 1/2 or less.
     As an action, you can summon that creature into an empty space within 15 ft. The servant is friendly to you and your companions. Roll initiative for the servant, which has its own turns. It obeys any verbal commands that you issue to it (no action required by you). If you don’t issue any commands to the servant, it defends itself from hostile creatures but otherwise takes no actions. The servant disappears when it drops to 0 hit points or when you dismiss it as an action. If the servant dies, you cannot use this ability again until you take a long rest. The servant recovers all of its HP when you take a long rest.
     This ability requires concentration to maintain. If your concentration is broken, you lose control of the servant, it becomes hostile toward you and your companions, and it might attack. An uncontrolled servant can’t be dismissed by you.
     When you take a long rest, you can choose a different creature on the list of eligible creatures to summon. You must take another long rest to choose again. If you perform a 10 minute ritual using the remains of a fey, elemental, fiend, or beast-type creature with a CR equal to or less than 1/4 your level, you can add it to the list of creatures you can summon with this ability.

Learning. If gain the following proficiencies if you do not already have them:
  • Arcana skill
  • herbalism kit
Ritualist.  If any of the warlock spells you know or learn have the ritual tag, you can cast them as rituals. If you find any ritual spell in a scroll or spellbook, or see it cast, you can attempt to recreate it as a ritual. This requires an Intelligence (Arcana) check vs a DC of 11 + Spell Level. If the spell exceeds half your level (rounded up), you make the roll at disadvantage. If you succeed the check, the ritual proceeds as it should; if you fail, catastrophe strikes as determined by the DM).

Potion-maker. When you find a spell with a level of 5 or less, and that spell has a range of Self or Touch, you can memorize it as a recipe. This process takes 50 gp per spell level and 1 hour per spell level, as you impress the formula into your mind with the aid of exotic drugs. You can learn as many recipes as you like.
     You can brew potions using your recipe book. This process requires
  • 50gp/spell level (in ingredients)
  • 1 hour/spell level (fretting over alembics and stirring cauldrons)
  • A Wisdom (herbalism kit) check with a DC of 11 + spell level. If the spell exceeds half your level (rounded up), you make the roll at disadvantage
If you fail a check, the potion functions as a vial of poison (the DM should roll this check outside of the player's view and not tell them the result). If a spell can be cast at multiple spell levels, you can choose which at the time of brewing, but you must pay the extra money and take the extra time. A potion causes the exact same effects as the spell it is based off of on the creature that ingests it. You count as the caster if it comes up in the spell description.
     The number of potions you have brewed cannot exceed half your level (rounded up). If you exceed this limit, a random potion you have brewed loses its potency.

At level 11, your patron rewards you for your continuing service. Choose one of the following Second Gifts.

You acquire a home and garden in the form of a 1 acre demiplane. Its exact nature, climate, and contents are a matter between you and your DM. The garden is never more than half a day's travel away, no matter where you go or where you are. Only you know the way there, though others can follow you (even without your knowledge)

Anyone who signs a contract with or swears an oath to you must make a Charisma save vs your spell save DC in order to break its terms. They only must follow the letter, not the spirit of the agreement. Paradoxical promises are null and void.

You can cast fly on yourself without expending a spell slot. When you cast fly in this manner, it lasts until you lose concentration, with no other limits on duration. You must take a short rest before you can use this ability again.

At level 18, your patron rewards you for your continuing service. Choose one of the following Final Gifts.

Your patron will grant you a wish when you beseech them directly, requiring no action on your part and sparing you the ill effects listed in the spell's description. However, you must perform an onerous service for your patron before they will grant you a wish again.

You can shapechange yourself into a dragon-type creature without any material component. You receive advantage on Constitution saving throws to maintain concentration for this ability, and you must take a long rest before using this ability again.

You can cast Animate Undead or Create Undead as a 9th level spell without material components. You must take a long rest before you can use this ability again.
At levels 4, 8, 12, 16, and 19, you can increase one ability score by 2 or two ability scores by 1. You cannot increase an ability score above 20.

control flames*
shape water*
mold earth*
minor illusion
Asterisked cantrips are from the Elemental Evil Player's Companion (which is free).

disguise self
feather fall
fog cloud

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.