Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Scribus vs InDesign

I had the idea that since I'm looked up in my house now is probably the best time to sign up for InDesign and see if I can convert some of my Apocalypse World playbooks into InDesign. I gotta say, InDesign feels like a very slick and user-friendly interface for somebody who wants to work quickly and easily, but the obscurity of their terminology is absolutely frustrating. Every time I want to do something I have to google it, literally. The interface is so unintuitive that I spend several minutes scrolling through every option and still can't ever find what I'm looking for.

I just started building the second page of this pdf, and only just discovered (on accident) how to create wider margins for the columns. When I try to go back to the first page and adjust, it changes nothing. Which means I can do one of two things:
1) google several tutorials on how to adjust text, images, and preserving the layout since adjusting the margins doesn't automatically do all of that
2) just rebuild the first page with wider margins

2 sounds easier, but both are ridiculous options. Scribus, at least, just moves things around when you change the spacing of objects.

Everything about Adobe's monopoly on these sorts of tools is stupid, and I hate it. And now I'm part of the problem too. Cheers!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Completely re-writing D&D combat; or, Blocking, Dodging, Hit Points, and You

Eva M Brown wrote "Instead of hit points use your hit die. When you're hit you can roll any number of hit die. If you roll higher than the damage, you keep your hit die. If you roll lower, you lose all that you bet.
Alternatively, you can just sacrifice hit die acting that they are maxed value. So, if you're a 4th level barbarian, and take 24 points of damage you could just take 2 HD worth of damage and call it good or roll any number of your HD hoping to roll higher than 24.
" and thinking about how this would change combat to being much more active is how I started on this idea.

Let's say Hit Points are supposed to reflect stamina instead of health, and Hit Dice are the real deal for determining whether a character is healthy. Low-level characters? Still easy to kill. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Ignore the magic system of D&D for a moment and let's just focus on combat. Hit points are a measure of stamina, and when they run out you're exhausted, can barely move, are incapable of taking action, and can only barely defend yourself from being attacked.

Hit points are still there, but when you attempt to block an attack your armor (and shield and weapon altogether) provide a defense dice pool against the damage you take. You roll the dice of your armor and if the damage exceeds it, you take the difference against your Hit Points. You can add Hit Dice to this defense, but if the damage exceeds what you roll you lose the Hit Dice instead of the Hit Points.

Shields add 1d4, 1d6, or 1d8 depending.
Armor ranges from 1d4 to 1d12.
Weapons add small bonuses, anywhere from +1 to +5.

Meaning, a low-level enemy like an orc is at a disadvantage against a well-armored opponent, but the breath weapon of a dragon is going to damage its victim regardless of how well-armored they are.

If your Hit Points are reduced to zero, you can only wager Hit Dice and one piece of armor/weapon to avoid damage.
If your Hit Dice are reduced to zero, you are unconscious or soon to be dead.

Every character has a dodge modifier that starts at +10 and is only decreased by what sort of armor they are using and the weapon they are carrying.
Most weapons are -1, but a few are -2 or -3. All polearms are -4.
Armor ranges from -1 to -5.
Shields are -1 or -2.
Meaning, yeah, you could have a -1 Dodge if you're wearing full plate and carrying a heavy shield with a halberd.
You roll a d10 and add the modifier to your roll, if it exceeds the attack roll then you successfully dodge. You can't dodge forever though because it costs Hit Points every time you use it.

She failed a dodge roll.

What about attacking?
It changes a lot. Though I think this sort of modification would work better with Lamentations ruleset, to fit it in other systems you'd need to get rid of class-based attack bonuses. Weapons would have to add modifiers to attack rolls, or you could have weapons give a variable bonus similar to the way Dungeon Crawl Classics gives warriors an attack bonus with a dice roll.

I'm not sure what the best way to modify it would be, but having an active defense is certainly more appealing to me.

I have never seen a ttrpg create an elegant way of using parrying effectively. I'm all ears if you have an idea how to apply it in this system. For now, I expect making an attack roll against the attacker's roll is the only way to do it. Leaves a lot down to luck instead of skill, which I don't like.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

re-introducing the Haunted

Everything we have is robbed from graves, from corpses entombed in their own homes, from the dead cities buried under dirt and water, from the past and its memories. Do you think they see you, with their crowpicked eye-holes? Can you hear them speak, with their black and bloated mouths? Yeah, go ahead, son. Brush it off. But there’s more things under these shattered heavens than you think. The dead far outnumber the living now. And I have to wonder: is there still room enough in hell?

I realize that it's been a whole fucking year since I worked on these playbooks, and I'm sorry. All of the work was done, all of the artwork was finished, but one day I was just lazy about sitting down and formatting the pdf, and then I kinda forgot that I had this project to finish. One day turned into a week which turned into a month, and all of a sudden people online are asking if more of these playbooks have been converted to second edition and I think "Oh shit! I never finished those playbooks!"

Long story short, once upon a time Johnstone Metzger granted me permission to convert his Heralds of Hell playbooks into a legal-size format, and I asked him again for permission to revise those same playbooks to the second edition rules for Apocalypse World, which he granted.

Here is the Haunted, with new artwork provided by Marie Ann Mallah.

letter size
legal size

(only one Herald left!)

Thursday, April 2, 2020

River Banshee

When newborn daughters are thrown into rivers, the grim necessity of a desperate family to rid of itself of another mouth to feed, they sometimes rise again as the whispering undead. These creatures become one with the waters of the river, seeing and hearing everything along the ripples of water. They will whisper sweetly along the riverbanks, hoping to draw the curious out to them. Legend says that any who draw near a river banshee are stricken with deep sadness, and their voices will become paler and softer until they can only whisper out their words. In truth, a river banshee collects secrets and often places slivers of these secrets into a victim's head, literally. Someone who has succumbed to a river banshee's whispering will have a razor thin line of flesh that is scored or scarred. Anyone living with a river banshee's secrets in their head will slowly start to die, their sadness will slowly overtake everything they do until they collapse and refuse to move, or simply never rise out of bed in the morning. Only magical intercession can remove the secrets in one's head, for the secrets must be drawn out of the victim's head through placation and inducement.

A river banshee literally opens its victim's skull and whispers the secrets into their brain. Being interrupted in this task can mean the victim will be instantly killed. The safest time to approach a river banshee is while it is trying to lure a victim to the river it resides in.

A river banshee is frail with malleable bones that protrude from skin mottled and thin like lace. If one is near, the whispering sounds like a young girl's voice, eager to share her knowledge with a wily accomplice. If it is tricked into revealing itself it rarely fights and always flees when outnumbered. Lights and loud noises can also prevent a river banshee from appearing.

HD 1
Defense as hide
Attack +4 or DR 13
Ribcage grapple 1d6
Save vs Petrification or Wisdom, to avoid the lull of their whispers
Morale 5

Sunday, March 22, 2020

d20 cryptic things for NPCs to say and then laugh

1. With enough reason we will make slaves of ourselves.
2. I wish I could see those fields of green once more.
3. All your life will be for naught when you find what you seek.
4. Small, simple things are all that is required to change one's soul.
5. Prison is a blessing for those who need it.
6. There are stranger ways to seek one's fortune.
7. Our fates always have surprises waiting for us when we least expect them.
8. The swamp can be a cold place, but I find it very warm.
9. This light suits me, if I need more darkness I can always make more.
10. Who holds the strings of our marionettes?
11. The things we tell ourselves to afford succor.
12. Where will you be when you are relieved of your fears?
13. I knew at once you were not to be trifled with.
14. When men lose their salvation, where will devils hide?
15. Share your spirit with the light, you still have a chance.
16. Falling down a deep dark hole wouldn't be the worst thing to happen to you.
17. My allies have abandoned me. Or did I abandon them?
18. I have always suspected that the gods don't approve of mortals such as you and I.
19. Do not eat. Do not drink. Nourishment is its own reward.
20. Light. Life. Violence. Forsaken.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

goblins are a nematodal disease

Goblins don't fear death because they have a very peculiar form of immortality: As long as a dead goblin is eaten by another goblin, all its memories will be passed on to that goblin - including any memories from previous consumed goblins! And since goblins are voracious cannibals, most goblins remember dozens or even hundreds of lives (and deaths), and see it as little more than an inconvenience. Goblins are not cowardly, they are gleefully suicidal with absolutely no concept of self-preservation or survival instinct.

Goblins throw themselves at opponents in giggling hordes no matter how many get slaughtered, knowing that only a single brethren needs to survive to 'resurrect' their accompanying horde. Goblins have little sense of individuality, believing themselves to be fragments of one mind, cursed to grow and splinter into many selves for all eternity.

Goblins don't reproduce like any other animal. As they age, they grow bulbous sores on their body and eventually their skin molts off and this 'skin' grows like a fungus, clinging to tree trunks or along cavern walls. It thrives in darkness, but this 'skin' will flourish in virtually any environment with moisture. It grows larger and eventually bursts open, shedding one to two dozen baby goblins that are virtually identical to the one who molted them in the first place. Goblins never eat this shed skin.

Goblin bites can get infected very easily. Anyone suffering from a goblin bite is likely to have skin that slowly turns gray or sickly green. After a few weeks, they may begin to forget who they were and start behaving like a goblin. After three months they will have completely transformed into a goblin, with no memories of their previous self, and no memories from the goblin who bit them either. Nothing short of magic can reverse this infection once it has taken hold.

Goblins frequently try to force their own blood and flesh into the mouths of victims because ingesting goblin flesh will turn a humanoid creature into a hobgoblin. This transformation is similar to when a person transforms into a goblin, but it's much quicker taking only a month for a complete transition. A goblin who eats a hobgoblin not only gains the memories of that hobgoblin, but will begin to grow into a hobgoblin with the personality and memories of the hobgoblin; this process also takes about a month. Hobgoblins will always keep some goblins around, despite their obvious contempt for their inferior cousins - when a hobgoblin dies, assuming it's a hobgoblin the others still want around, they'll go grab the nearest goblin and feed the corpse to it.

However, one hobgoblin eating another is a severe taboo, because of the result - a bugbear, a monstrously huge goblin that hunts and eats other goblins and hobgoblins. A humanoid creature that consumes the flesh of a hobgoblin will also turn into a bugbear, this process takes about three months. Bugbears tend to be solitary and avoid each other, even goblins and hobgoblins don't want them around.

A bugbear who eats another bugbear will turn into a troll. Trolls will consume anything and everything, but no further mutations are possible.

- - -
The concept of goblins as nematodes was originally created by Sam Anderson. I just expanded it a little.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Monday, November 4, 2019

Fate RPG

If I'm playing a game and my character is a super badass who is really good at one thing then I shouldn’t be left rolling the dice and feeling like I have a completely average result.

The first time I played in a Fate game it was a science-fiction setting and I made my character to be this ace pilot. I had the maximum skill that I can possibly have in flying my space fighter, and I remember rolling the dice (A LOT OF DICE) and the result that I got was completely average. I didn’t even successfully complete a basic maneuver. It wasn't so much that it was a very bad roll, it was just that it was not a good roll. I looked at it at the dice and asked "doesn’t this mean this is always going to average out?" and the GM said "yeah it pretty much always averages out" and I said "then I'm not an ace pilot, it doesn’t matter how good my skill is, I’m always going to be average and everything I do is going to be average"

There was a lot of hemming and hawing from the players around the table who loved the concept of this system, and somebody said "that’s not exactly the way that it works because you have other things to draw upon" and I said "I don’t think I should have other things to drop upon, I should have the skill, and then I should roll the dice and do something cool, or do something skillful, or at the very least competent"

I wasn’t even competent

The other thing I don't like about Fate is that there's no character progression.

I asked about experience points at the end of the session and was basically told there’s no leveling up, there’s no buying more skill points, you basically just spend experience to move points around or shuffle your skill levels around. That doesn't appeal to me, either as a player or as someone who enjoys fiction. If I’m playing an ace pilot in the first session then I should still be an ace pilot in the 14th session, regardless of anything else. Just like Walter White is a chemist in the first episode of Breaking Bad, he's still a chemist in the last episode of Breaking Bad, but he's definitely picked up some other skills along the way.

I asked "I'm a pilot, I’ve maxed out my skill, what is stopping me from just moving all those points from being a pilot into becoming a neurosurgeon?" and I was told "you have to justify the changes, so it would very unlikely that you would be this great pilot and then all of a sudden become a great neurosurgeon, because you have to explain why" and I said "you mean, an average pilot becoming an average neurosurgeon" but I went a bit further with this inquiry too and said "well it’s in the rules that I can just move these things around, so if I can find a way to become a neurosurgeon you’re telling me that’s all I need to do, contrive a way to connect it?" and the GM said "yeah, it's highly unlikely you'd have a character that is a great pilot who becomes a great neurosurgeon, but if you really want to find a way to do it then you just need to explain it"

Well, that's my only goal with this character now: to become a great neurosurgeon who dies while flying because he's forgotten how to pilot his ship.

I remember somebody saying that character growth is not tied to skills, and my response to that is "But it is!" I'm a completely different person today than I was when I played Fate. I'm not only a different person but I've picked up new skills along the way. That's what's key about character progression, you not only have to progress but you have to feel like you're progressing. I feel stale and stagnant if I stop doing new things but the great thing about progressing through life is that I can still do the old things that I haven't done in a long time. Accounting, bartending, making a latte, I still remember how to do all of those things alongside being able to write a joke and drive a semi. I'm not an ace pilot or a top notch neurosurgeon, but I definitely still think Fate is a dumb system.

2 out of 5 stars, for this years-late review of the Fate RPG

Friday, October 25, 2019

Dark Souls the Role-Playing Game

tl;dr You don't want to play Dark Souls the RPG.

What would a Dark Souls tabletop role-playing game actually look like? I think it would be a d20 rip-off. One of those 3rd edition open game license d20 fantasy heartbreakers that just has some new cover art but is a game you've already seen, already played, and probably already own. The rules were written on the back of a napkin. Somewhere buried back behind the "new" feats and prestige classes is an appendix with the original concept for an alternative way of treating D&D modules, and that's the true heart of the Dark Souls RPG.

It’s basically a way of modifying existing D&D modules and the entirety fits onto one page, but this company paid for the Dark Souls license and that's why you had to wade through a 300-page cookie cutter d20 rulebook with recycled artwork from the Dark Souls Design Works hardcovers to read this one page.

You would start at 1st level and the first time your character fights anything, whether it’s a skeleton and or an orc, they need to roll a 20 to hit. There’s no attack modifier, there’s no armor class, each PC tracks what their numbers to hit different creatures are, and they all start at 20 as the default. Your character sheet starts just as your Level and what weapon you're carrying.

The first time you fight something you don't roll initiative, you get to go first, but you need to roll a 20 to hit. If you miss your roll then your number to hit that creature decreases by one permanently. Example: If you fight a skeleton you need to roll a 20, and if you don't roll a 20 then that number decreases to 19, and then the next time you attack if you miss that number decreases again, perpetually, every time you miss, until you just always hit the skeleton.

That skeleton you're fighting though? It ALWAYS hits you. And you have as many hit points as your level.

You don't roll damage, instead it is a reflection of your level versus your opponent's Hit Dice. You need to hit them a certain number of times based entirely upon their Hit Dice divided by your Level, plus one. Example: If a skeleton is 1 Hit Dice, then at 1st level you need to hit that skeleton twice in order to kill it [(1÷1)+1=2]. Dividing always rounds to the nearest, so at 2nd level you still need to hit a skeleton twice (1÷2=0.5) but at 3rd level you only need to hit the skeleton once (1÷3=0.3). All of this means that combat in the Dark Souls RPG is very tedious and boring.

You can probably have a simplified version of this where PCs only track their To Hit numbers versus the number of Hit Dice a monster has. Thus, instead of tracking what you need to roll against a skeleton, you track what you need to roll against any creature with 1 Hit Dice, but your character sheet would just be a list of what it takes to hit creatures of different hit dice levels.

And death, every time you die the module resets and you return to where you last rested. The GM would have to either include bonfires in modules or just have designated resting areas. An entire party of PCs could work, if they are able to avoid a Total Party Kill (which repopulates the whole map) and at least one PC survives the battle then the other characters could be "summoned" back, but only survivors receive XP.

If you have a spell instead of attacking then you can avoid rolling dice to hit, but you’re still going get hit, especially by ranged attacks.

How do you level up? I don't know, probably the usual D&D way. I didn't think that far ahead. The point being: Dark Souls makes more sense as a video game, it doesn't make any sense as a tabletop RPG.

That’s pretty much the whole idea, but this sprung out of the idea that if you’re playing a role-playing game and you’re taking on a particular role you should be really good at that, right? You don’t want to play Dark Souls the RPG because it is as boring as it sounds.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Dark Souls magic

The series starts with three kinds of magic: sorceries, miracles, and pyromancies.

Sorcery is a form of magic that is implied to have been created by Seath, the "grandfather of sorcery," the scaleless dragon who betrayed all other dragons for a chance at immortality. Anyone with a high Intelligence and a catalyst (usually a staff of some kind) can cast a sorcery. There are less than 28 sorceries in the first Dark Souls and that number only grew to 39 by the third installment.

Miracles are stories retold so many times that they have become a form of magic, the story evokes an effect. Though miracles do require both a Talisman to cast and a high Faith score. The first Dark Souls has 23 miracles and that number exploded to 38 by the third game.

Pyromancies originated as flame sorceries that only the Witch of Izalith and her Daughters of Chaos knew. When they failed to recreate the First Flame, pyromancy was one of the resulting side effects of their failure. Within the lore of Dark Souls, learning to wield a pyromancy flame requires that you produce the flame from your own body. There is no stat requirement for casting a pyromancy spell. There are only 20 pyromancies in the first Dark Souls, but by the third game there are 30 of them.

(In the second Dark Souls game they introduce hexes, which originate as a subset of sorcery from the Abyss that deals Dark damage, but it is implied that this same Dark magic has tainted some miracles as some hexes are cast the same way that a miracle would be.)

Suppose you apply these forms of magic to D&D. Sorceries are the domain of wizards, miracles would apply to clerics, and pyromancies would most easily fit with druids. Bards would, predictably, dabble with all of them. But a magic system that only requires the proper stat requirement and the tool to use it appeals to me more than a class-based system. The lore behind each spell usually explains where it originates within the game's backstory. Consider the in-game description for Fall Control, the Dark Souls equivalent of feather Fall:

"Sorcery developed by a certain surreptitious sorcerer at Vinheim Dragon School. Reduce damage and noise from fall.
This sorcery, along with Hush, explains the extravagant cost of hiring Vinheim spooks."

What if Mirror Image was just a spell you could find out in the world? And you knew it was developed in a city called Riverport? So if you want it, you'd venture toward Riverport to look for it, right?

These are all things I want for D&D: Lore for spells. An origin of magic. Smaller spell lists.

Monday, October 7, 2019

October 2019 - summer ennui

We haven't played D&D in almost 2 months. This seems to happen to me every year, around July or August we take a break and then we just never return to gaming or it's such a huge break from the table that I wonder if we should continue with the game we had going in the first place. Christmastime seems to have a similar break, but players are always eager to return. Probably has something to do with the weather.

Monday, September 23, 2019

my Appendix N

In 1979 when Gary Gygax first compiled his list of literature for Appendix N, he was drawing upon literature that he had grown up with and read for decades. The earliest stories were written by Lord Dunsany and he was published as early as 1905, but from what I can gather the most recent story on that list was published in 1978 (The Pirate of World's End by Lin Carter), though some of the series mentioned were still having stories written after 1979. My experiences with fantasy and science fiction are far removed from much of this literature. If I were to compile my own list of inspirational literature it would be ironic that I would end up listing several D&D books as my inspiration for playing D&D. Additionally, so much of pop culture and nerd culture is wrapped up in movies and video games, it would be impossible for me to write an Appendix N without including these cinematic and interactive media, despite the fact that much of it is likely also influenced by the existence of D&D.

Caveats in place, I give you my Appendix N:

Alexander, Lloyd: Chronicles of Prydain
Barker, Clive
Findley, Nigel: Into the Void; GURPS Illuminati
Howard, Robert E: Conan series
Jackson, Steve and/or Livingstone, Ian: the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series
King, Stephen
Lewis, C.S.: Chronicles of Narnia
Lindsay, David: A Voyage to Arcturus
Lovecraft, H.P.: At the Mountains of Madness
Maitland, Karen: Company of Liars
Martin, George R.R.: Saga of Ice and Fire
Matheson, Richard
Pratchett, Terry: Discworld series; SMALL GODS
Tolkien: The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings
Weis, Margaret & Hickman, Tracy: Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy; Death Gate Cycle

comic books
Conan (anything published by Marvel or Dark Horse)
Heavy Metal magazine
Lone Wolf and Cub
Swamp Thing (volume 2)
Usagi Yojimbo

film & television
The Dark Crystal
Doctor Who (both series)
John Carpenter's The Thing
Mad Max; Road Warrior; Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome; Mad Max: Fury Road
Time Bandits
The Twilight Zone

video games
Dark Souls and it's sequels
Dwarf Fortress
Elder Scrolls series
Fallout series
The Legend of Zelda series
Ultima series

Saturday, September 21, 2019

what I think I want in D&D

  • the gods are physical beings, existing within the world and can be talked to and/or killed
  • there is no turning undead
  • spellcasting doesn't even use levels or slots, spells just work or require an expenditure of HP or ability score loss (draining STR or CON) or something that replenishes with rest
  • spellcasting is something anyone can do if they have the right stats
  • there are no classes
  • only humans
  • static DCs for d20 rolls
  • equipment and gear more important than stats
  • exploration is more important than fighting
  • combat as war
  • leveling up is an explicitly magical THING that you have done to yourself, it doesn't happen often but could be something characters work towards
  • lore is baked into the world, if the Magic Missile spell exists then people know who created it, where it's been used, and how they might find it

    I have no idea if any of this is doable, but I'm going to try
  • Monday, July 1, 2019

    July 2019 - clerical error

    I've changed my mind about clerics: they shouldn't have the ability to turn undead.

    This decision has upended everything I've been working on!

    I have more options with undead creatures now, but also don't know how to revise clerics to compensate for the loss of class ability.

    There's a concept in Dungeon World that a PC cleric is THE cleric for the world, so you wouldn't be seeing them in large groups unless they were "very important" NPCs or, more likely, villains and opponents. I'm thinking about taking this concept into OSRenstein and saying there are very few clerics overall, but they end up being leaders or chamopions of their faith.

    Where does that leave PCs?

    I don't know yet, but I'm working on it.

    Sunday, June 30, 2019

    Hey Dave! this is Dark Souls

    My brother asked me to explain Dark Souls to him, I told him I'd make a video explaining the basics - here it is:

    Monday, June 17, 2019

    some Hot Springs Island bullshit

    I never explained who the players' characters are:

    Zora is a Chaotic Human Fighter, she signed up as a mercenary with the Martell Company to spy on their operations and she wants to find some precious elven relics before she tries to leave the island

    Allmah is a Neutral Human Thief, she was sentenced to work for the Martell Company to pay for her crimes back in the city (a 9 year sentence), she and Zora kept each other alive during the war and Zora helped her escape her chains when their ship wrecked upon the island, she hopes she can leave the island with enough wealth to never work another day in her life

    Diera is a Good Human Magic-User, she signed up as a mercenary with the Martell Company because her cousin, Zora, had as well, she she hopes to find powerful magic on the island which she can claim for her own use

    One of our "heroes," Zora, decided she wanted to burn down the glade of pine trees swarming with bees. She snuck off in the morning with her Lava Rug to burn the glade down and immediately stumbled across a nest of vyderac seekers and swarmers. She used the Lava Rug to roll over the swarmers and it protected her from the seekers well enough, but she still got bit through her boots and the seeker dust made her hands go numb, causing her to drop the rug as soon as she made it to the glade. She soon learned the bees will extinguish fires fairly quickly, and they can overwhelm vyderac seekers. After reconnecting with the others, they decided to move their camp closer to the glade.

    During the hours of traveling back and forth between the shoreline and the glade, Allmah crossed paths with an earth imp named Gode, who seemed very curious as to why humans have returned to the island. She answered all of his questions and explained about the Martell Company and the lizardmen and salamanders she had encountered. Gode corrected her, "Well, actually, those are the Goa and they're very unfriendly." and "Well, actually, those are the Fuegonauts and they're really stupid."

    Zora insisted on exploring around the glade and they found a ruined hilltop that Gode was reluctant to approach. He claimed there were more elementals like him living there and they were cheats and liars. Zora ignored his prattling and walked down the only stairwell amongst the ruins to find a gambling den filled with steam and fire creatures, all drinking and gambling, and being super annoyed that another earth imp, Gode, had arrived. The bartender bet each of the humans one gold bar that they wouldn't be able to get the earth elementals to leave, and Zora took the bet. She talked to the other earth imp, Grine, for a very short period of time before he agreed to follow her. As they left the gambling den, they found there were already steam imps at the top of the stairs with gold bars. This was not so much a bet as it was a payoff. The steam imps helped construct a ship for the humans to sail of the island and then returned to the den, asking the humans not to return with their two "friends."

    They moved the second ship, a very simple but large rowboat, closer to their pirate skiff along the shore, then proceeded back into the jungle where they found a copper arch standing in a pond of white lilies. Allmah swam through the pond and found an ornate golden box with a strip of perfectly preserved and tattooed skin inside - nobody could read the runes etched into it. Diera proceeded to study the archway, and they were soon approached by lizardmen who held their hands up peacefully. Some tense conversation led to an understanding that these were Arva, "good lizard people" as Diera put it, and they wanted to know what the arch did. When Diera concluded her study, she shared her knowledge with them: a teleportation gate that required a chime to operate.

    "I bet that chime is in the gambling den!" said Zora. The party returned to camp resolved to explore the gambling den, and at the very least attempt to steal the elemental core that dominated the archway over the bar.

    Some DMing note:
    At first the players thought that Gode was cute, but I emphasized that his questions are tedious, never stop, and are potentially hazardous. "So your hair just gets longer every day? Can you feel it? How can you not feel your hair? are there other parts of your body you can't feel? Does it hurt when I poke you like this? How about here? How about like this?"

    Describing the gambling hall, the House of Tranquility, was difficult but I think I pulled it off well enough for the players to understand that this place is part of an elemental society built upon elven ruins. One of Diera's INT checks revealed that these imps weren't summoned, they came here on their own - now she's wondering if there are portals to find on the island. When I described the gray core in the bar, table talk immediately turned to "how can we steal this thing?!" and it became a focal point for returning to the den.

    While reading the description of the Arva I realized that their motivation of not wanting "any non-Arva to know who or what their leader is" was not going to work. There didn't seem to be any other way for me to have the players hear the name 'Damadar Deodan' so I ignored this motivation and had them be very open about it, even bragging about how powerful he was. I also really like the character of Damadar Deodan so I placed him in hex 19-03, because why the hell not? It gives the Arva a place to congregate to after they explore, and it's close enough to the bathhouse that Damadar might ask some adventurers to go find the source of power the Arva sense there.

    Monday, June 10, 2019

    Kamutra, the Umbral Drake

    Kamutra was once an ancient dragon, obsessed with extending his own life he explored every possible avenue to fins the secret to immortality. He imprisoned his own kind and discovered ways of inflicting magics and curses, documenting the effects they had. Kamutra pursued the only method he knew to extend his own life, by consuming the blood of his fellow dragons, though this had despoiled his body and he found himself growing more despondent with each passing year.

    Kamutra was fortunate to cross paths with and befriend Sanglorious'es child, Aspehnen, and they discovered the two shared a connection within dreams, able to converse whenever both were asleep. With the help of Aspehnen and her brother Verlamm, Kamutra developed advanced magics and skills within dreams, researching a way to transpose his physical form into dreams in order to become truly immortal. There was only one catch: in order to live forever Kamutra would have to ensure that there were always dreamers.

    After toiling for an age, Kamutra finally achieved his goal of immortality through the creation of dreamwalkers. However, the transposition did not come without a price. As the dragon retreated into dreams, his desires and passion became muted and insubstantial, his mind became as mercurial and unfocused as a dream. Kamutra would probably have tried to escape, but he had so committed himself to traversing dreams that in the end he became one. Eternally trapped within dreams, Kamutra flew far and wide across dreams to teach the art of dreamwalking to any who might dream deeply enough to catch his attention.


    Prime Requisite: Charisma (minimum 9, opt.)
    Hit Dice: d6
    Weapons: Any
    Armor: Any
    Saves: as Fighter

    Dream Magic
    Spells must be selected when the character first enters sleep. The maximum number of spells active is equal to the Dreamwalker's charisma modifier (minimum of 1). Spells have effects upon waking the next morning.

    connect to others through dreams

    Effect: The Dreamwalker can link to a number of PCs and NPCs dreams equal to their level, these connections must be made with people the Dreamwalker has at least met face to face. While awake, the Dreamwalker can recall knowledge of or have communicated with the PC or NPC. This knowledge can be used to receive bonuses for skill checks, or supplant the character's knowledge with information they might not have access to in the waking world. For example, linking to a priest from a secluded monastery might bestow knowledge of the layout inside the monastery.

    acquire skill in waking world from dreams

    Effect: The Dreamwalker can learn a skill, at the maximum for their level, for use in the waking world. The knowledge of this skill is lost upon entering sleep again, unless the Dreamwalker continues to use this spell to acquire the same skill.

    Armor of Sleep
    dream-realized armor in the waking world

    Effect: In the waking world, the Dreamwalker's body manifests a shadowy armor that pushes away enemies and protects the Dreamwalker from harm. Any damage received is reduced by a number of points equal to the Dreamwalker's level, to a minimum of 1 damage.

    Umbral Ally
    summons dream ally into waking world

    Effect: Upon waking, the Dreamwalker has a shadowy ally that follows them obediently and without question or hesitation. The ally has half the HP of the Dreamwalker (round down), but otherwise has the same stats for combat purposes. The ally disappears if their HP are reduced to zero or when the Dreamwalker sleeps again.

    Dreamed Weapon
    conjures dream weapon into waking world

    Effect: The Dreamwalker awake with a shadowy, wispy weapon of their choosing. It cannot be broken and leave their hand unless the Dreamwalker wills it. As soon as the weapon is put down it begins to fade into nothing (in 1d6+1 rounds) unless the Dreamwalker picks it back up.

    Mass of Nightmares
    surrounds dreamer with nightmares pulled from dreams, can be used as weapons or armor

    Effect: Upon waking a number of Nightmares equal to their level hovers around the Dreamwalker's head, these wispy orbs of darkness can only be seen by someone who gets within 15 feet of the Dreamwalker, otherwise it appears as if an aura of darkness surround the Dreamwalker, though actual light around them is unaffected. Each Nightmare has 1d6 HP, and the Dreamwalker can dispatch one as a weapon to inflict damage equal to it's HP. A single Nightmare can be sacrificed to bestow Disadvantage to an attack against the Dreamwalker.

    Sunday, June 2, 2019

    Hot Pirate Island

    The players in this game are all women. I feel like I should point that out before I mention that the first thing they did in the second session is seduce the last surviving pirate into having a lesbian orgy with them. It feels like not a lot happened in this session, but there WAS quite a bit of character development. Its difficult to remember in-game conversations, but they definitely spent a lot of time discussing what they wanted to do and what their goals are. My players also don't have a lot of experience with rules so I'm sort of keeping the nuts and bolts rules secret but just offering a lot of options and trying to make "Yes, you can (do that) if you (do this) first" statements. I'm essentially using an Apocalypse World 'success/partial success/miss' kind of roll for everything, but the players always roll a d20.

    They had dumped the bodies of the dead pirates into the water of the cove, and the blood attracted some salamanders - Fuegonauts. The salamanders attempted to capture them, but the magic-user in the group, Diera Fireflame, cast a spell called Song of the Poisonous Memory. Diera Fireflame has been having bad luck with her magic, she keeps failing to cast a spell and the magic twists and warps into ways she doesn't intend. So far she has inadvertently and unintentionally possessed a magic club, sent a charm spell backwards in time to convince a hive of bees that she's their queen, turned her eyes into black inky portals to the Abyss (she can still see with them), turned all insects within 100 feet into geniuses, and that's just what I can remember. She finally cast a spell successfully, and infected the salamander brains with brain aneurysms, causing them all to die instantly. Later, she would do the same to a swarm of giant centipedes.

    They spent a few days resting, brewing poison, identifying magic items, and converting the pirate cove into a base of operations, then sailed around the southern tip of the island in search of elven ruins. Their surly and rude warrior, Zora Lieng, had come to the island in search of elven relics and their new ex-pirate lover indicated that ancient elven ruins could be found in that direction. After landing on a centipede-infested beach, they made camp and explored for a few hours, finding a grove of trees with massive beehives. Zora has decided to destroy the trees, but it's getting late and so they returned to camp.

    1st-level spell
    Song of the Poisonous Memory
    range: 30 feet
    Wisdom saving throw negates
    failure = target takes 2d6 damage, damage ignores armor and cannot be reduced in any way, only affects creatures with brains
    1st-level spell, cast at higher level to affect more targets (each level adds +1 target)
    if rolling for spell, a critical success turns the spell into an area effect (a DCC spell might also increase damage or be able to affect non-brained creatures with a high enough roll!)

    Saturday, June 1, 2019

    June 2019 - writing is editing

    My job has been exhausting and I have ended up having less time for my hobbies. I only play video games about once a week, and I don't even check my email until the end of the week. I've also run into the problem of constantly trying to reschedule my own tabletop gaming due to everyone's conflicting work schedules. I don't really know how to simplify some of these complications, and I'm inclined not to think too hard about them. My job pays well, and when I'm asked to do extra work I jump at the chance, for now.

    I have been writing scant new material, but I have been rewriting a few things I posted on this blog over the years. I guess the correct word is editing. I should have called this blog Rough Draft, because I usually just spout off a bunch of ideas or nonsense that I come up with and I only check to make sure it's coherent before I hit the publish button. Lately I've been going through old posts about Kosranon and editing them.

    For example, I looked at this:
    The Masadhi are an oddly private race of grotesquely misshapen mystics who feel compelled to constantly travel from one place to another. They are revered for their insights by most of the other cultures they come into contact with.

    and it became this:
    The Masadhi are a race of grotesque nomadic mystics, revered by most others for their prophetic insights.

    There were unnecessary words, and I end up keeping the description while leaving more open to personal interpretation.

    The edit of that first sentence looks like this:
    The Masadhi are an oddly private race of grotesquely misshapen mystics who feel compelled to constantly travel from one place to another (replace with nomadic). They are revered for their (+prophetic) insights by most of the other cultures they come into contact with.

    Stephen King says that he cuts about 10% of everything he writes, and I'm definitely no Stephen King because I'm cutting about half of my words.

    Aos talks about self-publishing here and I have to admit that right now, I have no art budget. I've been handwaving it in my head that I will start commissioning art when I have a finished draft that I'm comfortable publishing but I'm also not saving money for it. I have bills to pay and debts to eliminate before I can consider putting any of my money aside. I set up a patreon page before they hiked their pricing, but I don't know if I even want to use patreon. For now I'm just focusing on writing and drawing maps when I have the time and energy to do so.

    Sunday, May 19, 2019

    Hot Springs Island

    I ran a session and started with a shipwreck, as per the module's suggestion. We started with a Fiasco-like background starter that allowed me to tie their backgrounds together as well as connect them all to the Martel Trading Company. The players instantly started scavenging from their dead shipmates and the flotsam washing up on shore (hex 13). They found boar along the shoreline but didn't venture into the island interior. One of the players has a geology degree and she immediately pointed out that the black sandy beaches shouldn't be there with the volcanic activity.

    They tried to build a shelter and were ambushed by two Goa sneaking around the ship wreckage, then found copperbacks and a magic hammer (Rockcracker) amidst the remains of a scorched battlefield (hex 18). I created a group of pirates who were also looting the wreckage, and the PCs followed them and learned that these pirates had brokered a peace with the Goa and were enemies of Martel. The PCs ambushed the pirates and killed all but one of them, the only survivor a mute and disfigured woman who always wears a mask depicting a white demon. They looted the pirate's cave (along the rocky shoreline of hex 22) and found a couple more magic items (a vest of jungle vitality, see below, and Lava Rug).

    As the session progressed I introduced rules, rather than spelling them all out at the beginning or during character creation, such as time passing in-game and measuring the day/night cycle using colored poker chips. Overall, a productive session, and everyone wanted to keep playing! I'm getting pretty good at GMing.

    Vest of Jungle Vitality
    While the wearer is in a jungle environment they have no need to eat, drink, or sleep.