Wednesday, December 23, 2015

killing time

I'm already experimenting a little, but I don't like the way this map turned out. For one thing, I accidentally put the crosshatching around the entry door to this dungeon. I thought it would be a good idea if I just created a crosshatching pattern that I could insert digitally as a background. As you can see, it's taking some time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I blame Fallout 4

I've been slacking in many of my creative efforts lately. I still haven't finished drawing the maps for Hexvouna and I've started to beat myself up over it, but I also just can't get into the habit of sitting down and working on the dungeon. Too many other distractions. Fallout 4 is one of them, but it's really the only thing I'm doing that's leisurely and everything else occupying my time is either stressful or time consuming or both.

Yesterday I picked up a graph paper notebook at the art store and resolved to draw one map every night while I'm at work. Primarily for the practice, but also just to get into the habit of drawing and working. This is what I'm currently drawing...

...the Dysonized lines around the edges take 2 to 3 times longer to draw than the actual map. I'm already trying to think of shortcuts to this process as I experiment with different ways of drawing them. Every time I have a map finished, I'll scan it properly then release it to the blog here. I'm not going to promise that I can keep up the pace and post four maps every week, but I will certainly try.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

that's the third TPK

"Yeah, this game is seriously deadly."
"I just don't want this character to die too."
"Oh well, can I have a magic-user character sheet this time?"

These are all things my players said Sunday afternoon as their characters fell, one by one, to the blades of the Jade Fang cultists that they strolled up to and picked a fight with. They were only fighting four cultists, but it only took three bad rolls put them all down and out. One PC managed to survive the fight and was taken prisoner, but that's the same player who asked to make a magic-user next so I guess their character died too.

I've finished copying all of my notes for GMing Hoard of the Dragon Queen onto this blog.

Their next group of characters, two magic-users and a fighter, are on the same world* but are investigating a different location on the other side of the Vythurian Mud Flats. They spent the rest of the session climbing a mountain, trying to reach a tower abandoned 400 years ago, only to walk straight into the feeding grounds of a manticore. They spent the rest of the game running away.

It was glorious!

* - NOT the Forgotten Realms!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Powered by the Dungeons & Dragons

I apologize for this post. I'm mostly just ranting because I'm trying to formulate some coherent thoughts of my own about my game, and since I have few people to discuss it with I'm just going to vent here and maybe come up with something.

I've been running Freebooters on the Frontier for the last few weeks, which could be described in one of three ways:
1) it's a narrative based roll system that seeks to emulate D&D
2) it's a Dungeon World hack
3) it's the closest feeling to classic D&D that any game Powered by the Apocalypse has achieved

Somewhere between D&D and Apocalypse World is my sweet spot for gaming.

The 1-minute round
The 1st edition AD&D Player's Handbook states (on page 105) that each combat round is supposed to last 1 full minute. Often there is much confusion as to why only one attack can be attempted during sixty seconds. Apocalypse World has the answer when it instructs you, as the GM, to zoom out of the action. Every time I play Apocalypse World I imagine that each individual roll during a fight is accounting for a series of maneuvers and feints and parries, much the same way AD&D accounts for a minute passing during each round of a fight. Somewhere between 1st edition and 3rd edition, a Turn went from being 10 minutes to 1 minute as the combat round was shortened to 6 seconds. The 1st edition rules had some other issues which are related to timekeeping.

gang warfare VS. NPC army
When a large group of people fights another large group of people in Apocalypse World, it uses the same combat system that is present in the normal rules except that damage is applied to the group as a whole. A confusing aspect since many players don't know how to determine who in that group should suffer harm specifically. The gang fighting rules in Apocalypse World allow a GM to fall back from the specifics of who attacks where and how and sum up the fighting with a single roll, but it also requires that the GM be coherent and creative enough to narrate exactly what is happening with those gang members. In AD&D, when a PC has several followers that they want to coordinate attacks with, often it is the GM left rolling dice over and over again for each individual hireling/follower.

seeking solutions
Rolling a lot of dice is boring. Especially if the GM is doing all of the dice rolling. I played in a game once where the GM spent literally eight minutes (I timed it) just rolling dice for things that were happening before our PCs showed up, when he could have just rolled once and extrapolated the events that occurred from a single result. I really like the economy of the Apocalypse World system because it allows the players to focus on what they want, and it allows a GM to interrupt that focus with problems easily, but every time the dice are rolled I feel this intense pressure to make something interesting happen regardless of the result and I think I get burned out pretty quickly from it.
Funnily enough, I think Freebooters could be a superior D&D-like game if it used combat moves that more closely emulate Apocalypse World.
Unlike most PbtA games Freebooters asks the GM to roll for followers and hirelings, and I think keeping the straightforward combat move of Freebooters works for NPCs. Yes, it may involve rolling for a lot of 2d6 results, but only if there are a lot of NPCs and since NPCs tend to go down with 1 hit it doesn't make it terribly time-consuming. One round of combat and pretty soon the PCs will see that they need to protect their fragile helpers.

naming conventions
Apocalypse World calls everything a PC can do a Move. There are Basic Moves which everybody has access to and then there are Playbook Moves which essentially function as Class Abilities. These last few sessions I've had non-Thief characters trying to sneak around like Thief characters and it doesn't feel right because the Thief has their own Move for sneaking around and not being seen, and the way I've been having players roll for sneaking around is technically better then how the Thief does it, but it also somehow takes away from the Thief anyway if everybody is sneaking from place to place with the same frequency. This got me to thinking that sneaking around is not an inherently Thiefly thing to do, it's an inherent thing that anybody will do when confronted with overwhelming opposition. I decided that Thieves shouldn't have a Sneak ability, they should just be better at sneaking then anybody else.
Thieves therefore get the Stealth specialty from Tricks of the Trade for free.

2d6 or 1d20
Apocalypse World uses a very balanced 2d6 system, and in contrast D&D uses a wild 1d20 that always has to be vaguely high. What if D&D used the 1d20 roll in a balanced way? If you look at the percentages in AW and compare them to D&D then you have partial successes happening on rolls of 9 or higher and you have complete successes happening on rolls of 18 or higher. This would mean that every roll of 9 or higher is always some kind of success, and the natural 20 roll would no longer give some extra special effect. Without looking at probabilities, I would be inclined to make rolls of 15 or higher successes, and rolls of 10 to 14 partial successes, everything else below that is a miss but the GM could always choose to offer a partial success with a cost.
This would take a little more work, and might as well be it's own hack by the time I'm done.

gang warfare again
One of the glaring issues I've had when using Apocalypse World is that gangs tend to trump combat. This means that PCs often can't be heroes, even though the AW rules make it pretty clear that the PCs are central and important characters who are difficult to kill. Surround a fighter with five goblins in D&D and there's a lot of dice to be rolled, surround a fighter with five thugs in AW and there's a small gang fighting that character. It simplifies things, but it also makes it deadlier and a little one-sided.
Freebooters gangs roll 1d6 damage and have 0 armor for small gangs, 1d8 damage and 1 armor for medium gangs, and 1d10 damage and 2 armor for large gangs. Instead of +1harm for size differences, the damage die types adjust along with armor (up to a maximum of 4 armor).

what next?
I'll have to playtest some of this to see how it works.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

extra rules for Dwimmermount

Thulian Passion
Rage class ability, a Thulian-compatible Background
The Thulian people are an intensely passionate people, and the ones who have mastered their formative arts of combat are sometimes... a little too intense. You can initiate Thulian Passion during any kind of social interaction, this counts as one of your uses of Rage until you take a Short Rest. You cannot be both Passionate and Raging at the same time. While you are being Passionate you gain the following benefits:
- You have advantage on Charisma checks and Wisdom saving throws.
- You can apply your Rage Damage bonus to any rolls you make to Intimidation or Persuasion.
- Others have disadvantage when trying to use Deception, Intimidation, or Persuasion against you.
If you are able to cast spells, you can't cast them or concentrate on them while being Passionate.
Your Passion lasts for 1 minute. It ends early if any of the following conditions get applied to you: Charmed, Frightened, Incapacitated, Paralyzed, Petrified, Poisoned, Prone, Stunned, or Unconscious.

Specialty Priest of Typhon
Lawful alignment, Knowledge Divine Domain
- When you cast Guidance, the target rolls the highest die type equal to your level (i.e. if you are 6th-level they roll 1d6, if you are 8th-level they roll 1d8, and so on).
- The duration of any abjuration spell you cast is now doubled.
- You may use Channel Divinity to cast Banishment. The spell functions as if cast using the highest spell slot you have access to.
Also, you really cannot lie anymore.
- You always have disadvantage on Deception checks, regardless of the circumstances

Friday, November 13, 2015

no playbooks Apocalypse World hack

Character creation
1. Character.
What's your name? What do you look like?

2. Stats. The stats are Cool, Hard, Hot, Sharp, and Weird.
You have 3 points to spend to raise your stats up.
You can't spend points on a stat to bring it higher than +2.
You can lower a stat to raise another stat, one-for-one, but raising a stat from +2 to +3 costs -2 from other stats.
+3 is the max, -2 is the lowest.

3. Moves. Choose 3 moves, some moves come with gear for free.

Choose moves straight out of the rulebook/index. The following comes with gear:
Artful & gracious gives you 1 piece of luxe gear, per the Skinner playbook
Battlefield grace comes with an angel kit
Deep brain scan comes with 1 piece of brainer gear, per the Brainer playbook
Fortunes comes with followers
Hypnotic gives you 1 piece of luxe gear, per the Skinner playbook
In-brain puppet strings comes with 1 piece of brainer gear, per the Brainer playbook

Some moves won't work without a gang, a holding, a bike, or a car. In order to get these you need to give up one of your starting moves in place of the gang/holding/bike/car.

4. Gear. You have 8-barter to buy crap with. (see page 237)

5. History (Hx). You have Hx +1 with all other characters. Choose 1 character and tell them +1 Hx, create a positive relationship between your two characters. Optionally, choose a second character and tell them -1 Hx, create a harsh relationship between your two characters.

6. Improvement. Miss a roll (6 or less) and mark XP. At the end of every session, go around for Hx as usual and mark XP when your Hx with someone resets from +4 to +1. 10 XP can be spent to buy new moves, 10 XP can be spent to raise a stat by +1 but you can't raise any stat higher than +2.

7. Play.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

using HotDQ with Freebooters on the Frontier
Hoard of the Dragon Queen (HotDQ)

When I was running Hoard of the Dragon Queen last week, it was a spur of the moment decision to take the book down and start an adventure with the village raid in the first chapter. I was a little familiar with the book and thought I could wing it pretty easily but soon I noticed that the monsters and enemies described in the book didn't have stats, because those are in the online supplement for some reason, and at the time I didn't have that so I just made up the stats the best I could.

This adventure is not written very well at all. Hoard of the Dragon Queen is organized like a railroad adventure, which I thought I could ignore, but now that I'm reading the later chapters I see that the whole thing is just a series of setpieces. Here is a list of chapter summaries with a little information about how they're linked:
Chapter 1, the PCs help defend a village from being attacked by the Cult of the Dragon.
Chapter 2, the PCs are supposed to track and infiltrate the Cult's encampment to free a druid NPC.
Chapter 3, the druid NPC asks the PCs to return to the campsite where they are supposed to destroy the dragon hatchery nearby.
Chapter 4, one piece of evidence in the dragon hatchery is meant to compel the PCs to travel for 2 months to Waterdeep (this chapter is nothing but lots and LOTS of side quests with lots and LOTS of NPCs).
Chapter 5, tracking the cultists to, through, and beyond Waterdeep leads to a laborers' roadhouse where the PCs are supposed to find out what the cultists are doing without letting the cultists know they're being followed and watched. This whole chapter is weird anyway, the cultists go from marauding raiders to sneaky smugglers and I'm having a hard time understanding why they need to smuggle anything if they already have a strong presence in the roadhouse and the nearby castle.
Chapter 6, infiltrate a castle where the Cult is in charge. I'm not really sure what the connection is here because there is nothing directly linking any of the previous chapters to this one. It starts with the words "The tunnel from the roadhouse..." but the tunnel that is described is buried in the adventure text before the description of the roadhouse, and the tunnel is never described ever again! Not even in the room where the tunnel can be found.
Chapter 7, some villains are supposed to get away from the castle in chapter 6 and lead the PCs to a hunting lodge where more cultists live.
Chapter 8, the PCs are supposed to interrogate one of the cultists to find out where the last castle they're need to invade is.

So, we've got a bunch of side quests when on the road, a camp, a cave with a dragon hatchery, two castles, and a roadhouse. I can work with that.
The first three chapters I'm going to run pretty much as presented in the book, but I'm going to add some ideas used by Zak Smith and Courtney Campbell...

inspirational reference material
the Jade Fang of Tiamat
the Pale Eye of Tiamat
the Cobalt Claw of Tiamat
the Red Hand of Tiamat
the Black Wing of Tiamat
Courtney Campbell's invaluable notes

...the last few chapters are side quests and locations. If the PCs manage to investigate the dragon hatchery then I'll pepper some clues in the warrens there suggesting that the Cult is far-reaching and has an already-established smuggling business, and see where that takes me.

Finally, here is my evolving document of notes for running Hoard of the Dragon Queen

Character Creation
Ask players...
...who their characters' favorite person in town is? make those NPCs targets of the cult, for either obvious or secret reasons
...what their characters know of the Cult of the Dragon? incorporate answers into some aspect of the cult
...where they live in town? place major landmarks in the village near their homes long their characters have been friends? establish clear displays of friendship and camaraderie

Deities in this world:
Pogon - god of roads, patron of travelers & nomads
Metzger -
- goddess of comfort & hearth, patron of whores
- goddess of tricks, patron of thieves
- goddess of life
- god of death

Chapter 1: Galapagos in Flames (my players renamed Greenest as Galapagos, so I renamed the Mayor)
Mayor Green is a coward, a drunk, and swears alot:
"By Metzger's tits!"
"Under Pogon's flacid cock!"
"Where is that orcsucker?!"

The cultists raiding Galapagos wear green robes and use kobolds as support troops, they're part of the Jade Fang of Tiamat. However, several kobolds are commanded by Cyanwrath, a blue-scaled dragonkin, he of the Cobalt Claw of Tiamat. Cyanwrath brought the kobolds as fodder for the Green Fang. When the Jade Fang cultists are done raiding Galapagos, Cyanwrath is meant to travel back with them to the Cobalt Claw's campsite in the northwest.

I took the missions from the chapter and used them as individual challenges to bring into the game as they felt appropriate. These were notes that I wrote as we played and before our second session.

The Mill is on fire!
Cyanwrath is commanding these kobolds and appears out of the smoke after two missed rolls

The Old Tunnel
Mayor Green will shout at the PCs to find his Castellan, who has the keys to a secret underground chamber beneath the keep
the Thief could pick the lock (10+), but on a 7-9 kobolds (1d10) and an ambush drake have broken into the chamber as well
searching for the Castellan means finding where he's hiding,
if the Magic-user uses magic she'll find his dead body (10+) - behind the brothel, stabbed in the back while trying to get inside
if anyone uses Perceive: "where is the Castellan hiding?" - "probably the brothel, he's a known lech and fornicator"
if anyone uses Establish: 7+, he's at the brothel

6-dot countdown for the battering ram to break down the door
- battering ram crew is 4 jade fang cultists and 4 kobolds, battering ram countdown can't fill up if they are engaged
- mob of 15 kobolds, missed roll will bring them circling around the temple
- rear mob setting fire to temple is 8 kobolds (+1ongoing to any attacks made against this group)

Lennithon, the blue dragon
HP 12, Armor 4 - if Lennithon drops to 8 HP, he flees the battle
miss three rolls in a row and the dragon swoops down and destroys something
if anybody attempts to flee Galapagos during the raid, they will have to face Lennithon

in the aftermath of the raid Mayor Green will offer to pay 50 gold to anyone who will journey to Cold Cliff Keep and warn them of the raiders' approach
an additional 20 gold to anyone who follows the raiders trail and reports back
- where they're headed
- how many are with them
- who their leaders are
- where/when they plan to strike next
the Mayor will buy provisions for characters who agree to follow the raiders

during the first session Cyanwrath confronted the Magic-user at the mill and the Magic-user disarmed him before he was soundly defeated, the Fighter *punched* a cultist so hard that he killed them, the Thief spent a lot of time sneaking around and stealing from cultists/kobolds
during the second session the Thief tried to rescue Mortimer, a herbalist NPC, from being kidnapped and got subdued by kobolds; the Fighter punched a Jade Fang cultist so hard that he died, then the Fighter tried to get the Castellan to open the keep by setting the brothel on fire, he was rewarded by being stabbed to death by kobolds; the Magic-User used her spells to kill kobolds, disarm Cyanwrath, and then escaped Galapagos when the fighting went poorly, she was killed by the dragon who circled overhead

Chapter 2: Raiders Camp
following the raiders will only require a SCOUT AHEAD roll, 10+ result nets knowledge of a group of stragglers (4 Jade cultists, 8 kobolds)

• wet hills
• muddy sinkholes
• large rock slabs poking through the mud
• patches of matted, dead grass
• acrid smell as muddy tracks fill with water
• small creaks and ponds of brackish water
Horseshoe Plateau, perilous, evil
a single piece of curved rock that forms a wide plateau and in the center is dry dirt where the raiders of the Dragon Cults camp
when you approach the raiders' camp openly roll+CHA, on a 10+ the raiders welcome you assuming you are new initiates, on a 7-9 the raiders are cautious and question you, on a miss somebody recognizes one of you from Galapagos and they open fire with bows and spells
the Thief Circle, legendary
a muddy sinkhole surrounded by the dried out desiccated remains of 20 thieves, anybody may attempt to establish what they know of tales about the Thief Circle:
a thieves' guild fell to bickering and petty grandstanding, and in the night one of the members attempted to run off with the guild's most sacred treasure, he was hunted down by members of the guild but in recovering the treasure they fell into fighting one another, only one emerged victorious but the treasure was destroyed in the competition and now marks the site where one thief rose above all others through brute force
when a Thief steps into the sinkhole as if it were solid ground roll+LUC, on a hit they recover all burned ability scores (excluding Luck), on a 10+ they may take the Mercenary move (if they're eligible), on a miss they fall within the sinkhole and should be considered dead unless somebody ventures down into the sinkhole (60 foot fall) and checks the body per BITE THE DUST
the Rearguard, 6 Jade cultists, 2 Cobalt cultists, 1 guard drake
the Rearguard is actively preventing anyone from tracking the raiders' camp - the stragglers know about the Rearguard

the Raiders' Camp
Grim Portents

• having laid her eggs, the dragon Lennithon flies off
• prisoners in the camp are taken to the cave as food for the hatchlings
• the raiders vacate the caves, leaving the prisoners to be herded by Frulam Mondath and the kobolds
• the raiders begin to pack up, preparing to march on another town (Cold Cliff Keep?) with the Cobalt Berserkers
Impending Doom: the raiders disperse, some marching eastward to pillage and some traveling southward to set up their smuggling ring

the Dragon Hatchery
Grim Portents

• the fires are lit
• the prisoners are stripped of their clothing
• Frulam Mondath casts a spell to locate intruders
• the kobolds sweep the tunnels looking for for intruders
Impending Doom: the dragon eggs hatch and the prisoners are devoured

Jade Fang
Cobalt Claw cultist, HP 5, Armor 1, shortsword 1d6
Instinct: to steal power, to defame rivals
always wears green robes, bossy, arrogant, prefers to let subordinates do the heavy lifting
moves = call for reinforcements, set something aflame, coat weapon in poison (+stun)

Cobalt Claw Cultist
Cobalt Claw cultist, HP 5, Armor 1, spear 1d8 throw reach, sound alarm, take enemy by surprise, cast snake summoning spell

Pale Eye
Pale Eye cultist, HP 5, Armor 1, staff 1d4, turn ethereal, summon self from future for aid, cast curse upon enemy

Red Hand
Red Hand cultist, HP 5, Armor 1, battleaxe 1d10 reach two-handed, destroy object with magical fire, turn opponent's attack against their ally, reflect magic upon wielder

Black Wing
Black Wing cultist, HP 5, Armor 1, longsword 1d8, regenerate wound (1d8), instill fear, inspire follower to turn against leader
Instinct: to force compliance, to sow fear
wears black or purple robes, silent, patient, prefers grand displays of power
moves = cast a spell, destroy equipment/cover/part of a building

Frulam Mondath, HP 9, Armor 2, halberd 1d10 reach two-handed, regenerate wounds, cast paralysis upon enemy, attack twice

Rezmir, HP 11, Armor 2, greatsword 1d10 close reach two-handed, acid breath (1d8), cast a spell (listed below), wears the Black Dragon mask
Repulsion target must make a save with WIS at -1, 10+ no effect, 7-9 -1ongoing vs Rezmir, 6- cannot move closer or attack Rezmir
Extreme Bellow deafens and panics those who hear it, target must make a save with INT, 10+ no effect, 7-9 deafened for encounter, 6- deafened and terrified (must make a save with INT in order to act around Rezmir or flee)
Zero Content any writing not dedicated to Tiamat burns in Rezmir's presence
Mortification any who look upon Rezmir must save with CHA, 10+ no effect, 7-9 +1xp for committing reckless acts, 6- stab yourself with your own weapon
Impetigo acts like a disease, make a save with CON to resist, 10+ no effect, 7-9 burn 1 Dexterity, 6- your shadow attacks you (same stats as PC, but no armor)

other monsters
Dragon-dogs, HP 5, Armor 0, bite 1d8
poison = make a save to avoid being coated in slippery toxic sweat (7-9: -1forward) or succumb (miss: 1d4 dmg & -1forward & stuck wiping it off)
their dark scales secrete a slime and sometimes globules of this poisonous sweat drips off of them as they pounce onto opponents or run circles around them
moves = tackle to ground (also covers target in poison), pull prey to the ground, drive opponent into a corner

Ambush Drake, HP 6, Armor 1, bite 1d6, tail 1d8, surprise enemy (roll damage twice and take better result), attack two opponents at once

Guard Drake, HP 6, Armor 1, bite 1d6, tail 1d8, wrap tail around enemy's neck, attack two opponents at once

Cobalt Berserker, HP 9, Armor 1, greataxe 1d10 reach two-handed, unleash electricity (battleaxe blasts everyone for 1d6 1P), spit venom (-1forward)

Ropers and Troglodytes are in the DW rulebook, but I made the Roper tougher
Roper, HP 13, Armor 3, surprise prey, climb to ceiling, restrain in tendril (then) bite 1d8+2

magic items
Black Dragon Mask powers are in effect while being worn
cannot be harmed by acid; if Charisma is 13+ then +1 armor; can see in the dark; speak and understand Draconic; can breathe underwater

Monday, November 9, 2015

the random spells of Freebooters on the Frontier

This Sunday we started a new game, a hack of Dungeon World called Freebooters on the Frontier that emulates the randomness of old school D&D fairly well.

I like the Spell Name Generator from Freebooters so much that I made a page for it on Abulafia. The Magic-User in the group rolled up two spells: Winyop's Door of Despair and Murzmut's Call of Steel

The beauty of the Freebooters system is that the spells can have a more malleable and open-ended use, provided you can fit what the spell does within the themed name of the spell. Right away, Murzmut's Call of Steel was being used to snatch swords away from enemies, fling weapons around in a magnetic tornado, and draw daggers out from small groups of kobolds so that they'd all stab one another. Winyop's Door of Despair was less useful in such a direct way, but I allowed the "door" it could create to drop magical liquid out from it so that the Magic-User could attempt to extinguish fires and scald enemies who were running from house to house, attempting to set the PCs' home village on fire.

I was drawing from the first chapter of Hoard of the Dragon Queen for inspiration, as I wanted the session to start with a tense fight. This is everything I wrote during the session:

the village of Galapagos (one of the players named the village)
dirt poor, steady population, no militia, resource (balsam-pears), safe (village has walls from a collapsed keep), remote (large dwarven population), oath (to Cold Cliff Keep)
Temple of Rheezele, goddess of nature (and trickery)
the One Legged Cat, tavern
dwarven pathways: when a dwarf or halfling tries to sneak through the cracked walls surrounding Galapagos, roll+INT. On a 10+, you get where you want to go without being seen or heard. On a 7-9, you get where you want to be but not without being seen or heard. On a miss, some stones collapse and you're trapped in the pathway.

Danger: Siege of Galapagos
the keep is surrounded (half the kobolds have been routed)
□ the mill burns down (currently on fire)
the dragon attacks
the dragonkin commander arrives (he was defeated)
□ the temple is set on fire
□ the south wall collapses
Impending Doom: the village is overrun

cultists, HP 5, Armor 1, shortsword 1d6, set house on fire, call for reinforcements
kobolds, HP 4, dagger 1d4, surround an opponent, retreat and regroup
Cyanwrath - the dragonkin commander, HP 7, Armor 2, lead kobolds/cultists, challenge opponent

And that was enough to keep me busy. Next week I'll actually prepare some fronts to further this Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure, but the critics are right: this adventure is not written well.

The PCs ended up capturing some kobolds, killing some cultists, and taking the blue dragonkin commander as their prisoner. When the keep was surrounded, Mirren and Matti routed the kobolds successfully. Gerda stole the dragonkin commander's sword before anybody was forced to fight him. The fire at the mill was extinguished, but when Gerda was forced to flee from the mill some kobolds set it on fire again. The dragon swooped around the village several times, and two sections of the village were set aflame by it's fire breath.

Just for fun, I also rolled up quite a few extra spells:
Ward of the Pestilential Boon, I imagine it could be used to bestow immunity from disease or infection
Cloak of the Bloody Curse, the first thing that comes to mind is a red cloak that permeates fear in others and/or causes harm to any who approach too closely
Binding Rot of Ingoth, paralyzing/destructive magic
Zza-leo’s Venom Blast, I would use this to spit poison at enemies or even trap objects to explode with a poisonous gas/spray

Character creation plus the PCs' home village being under siege was plenty of fun, and a welcome change from playing 5th edition D&D.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

my house rules for 2nd edition AD&D (circa 1994)

I turn 39 today. I've been gaming since I was 7 years old, and if you count video games then a few years longer than that. I'm pretty sure the first time I played Pac-Man I was 3. These last few months I've been clearing out boxes and dusting off old books, figuring out if I should really keep six bookcases worth of games lodged around my house. Part of this housecleaning means I keep finding old notes that I wrote, some of which date back to my teenage days. This particular list of notes rested on a single page, and I remember it was stored in a .txt file that I could print off easily from my computer. The .txt file no longer exists but this one page still does.

I'm almost embarrassed to transcribe these, but I was only 17 years old so what the hell?! This is word-for-word what was written on my printout. Modern commentary will be in italics.
ALL CHARACTERS: regardless of PC or NPC status, receive maximum HP for first-level.
AT 10TH-LEVEL, ALL CHARACTERS: must complete secret "special" quests which I assign to them before they can raise to the next higher level. These quests will always involve playing "in character," following your set alignment, completing a goal you've set for your character, etcetera, and so on. Upon reaching 10th-level, your character may begin to have certain "feelings" that I'll tell you about. These will often be pointing you in the "correct" direction. I don't know why I'm excessively using quotation marks. I also don't remember actually ever handing out any of these "special" quests.
FALLING DAMAGE: is revised from the "official" rulebooks. My system is more elaborate, and also more damaging. I remember having these rules but I don't remember what they were.

SPECIALIST WIZARDS: get a +15% bonus to learn spells in their school of specialty, and receive a -15% penalty to learn spells in the opposition schools of their specialty. Specialists CAN casts spells from opposition schools, except in certain instances where the class warrants special spell usage (i.e., Magician class from BIRTHRIGHT, Preservers and Defilers from DARK SUN, etc.). Nobody ever played a specialist in my games.
THIEF SKILLS: can be brought above 95%, but, when rolling for successful determination, a roll of 96 or higher is always a fail. This is so the PCs can have superhuman scores, so that when penalized heavily they might still have a chance of success.
BARD KITS: do not get any True Bard skills when choosing a kit, except the Legend Lore ability, which all bards have access to. Nobody ever played a bard in my games either.

AMBIDEXTERITY: is open to all classes. This Weapon Proficiency allows the character to use a weapon in each hand with only a -2 penalty in the "off" hand. Basically, Rangers get this proficiency for free. I don't remember anybody playing a Ranger either.
NON-WEAPON PROFICIENCIES: characters get a +1 to put towards any proficiency every level they advance. A +1 earned at the same time a new proficiency is added cannot be added to that proficiency. For instance, at 3rd-level you can't put a +1 on the new proficiency you just learned. Was this a rough draft?

CANTRIP: is not a spell. The cantrip is an ability granted from any Spellcraft ability (except Priestly). A mage, or other character, with the proficiency can use a cantrip specific to the school he has Spellcraft with. For instance, a mage with Spellcraft-Illusion and Spellcraft-Conjuration can use cantrips that have effects indigenous to those 2 schools. A mage with a Spellcraft proficiency can use a number of cantrips equal to his level per day. All rogue classes with Spellcraft get half that number, rounded up. All other classes can use a cantrip, with a wizardly Spellcraft proficiency, once a day per 5 levels. The influences of Mage the Ascension
CASTING SPELLS: requires a Spellcraft proficiency related to the school of magic. If a character is not proficient in a school of magic, she can't cast, or even learn, that spell. However, if a character wants to learn and cast a spell that has multiple schools, but ONLY one that she is proficienct with, she can still learn and cast the spell. Priests need only learn a a Spellcraft proficiency for Priestly magic. I remember somebody playing a wizard and being really cross that the cleric didn't have to use as many proficiencies on magic.
WIZARD SPELLS: can have double the number of memorized spells (5 minutes to memorize one level of spells) and when casting can use a spell multiple times that they've memorized once. Memorized spells are lost after 2 days and must be re-memorized.
MEMORIZING SPELLS: can only take up to 4 hours of the wizard's time a day. Or else, the mage suffers a -2 cumulative penalty to THAC0 and proficiency scores for each hour spent in "extra" study. This means, a mage is limited to memorizing 48 levels of spells per day. I don't remember why that limit was there, seems arbitrary at a glance.

Friday, November 6, 2015


A meme is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.

Imagine the radioactive hazard symbol. The fact that you are imagining a yellow circle with a black center circle and three trapezoidal shapes at even intervals is a testament not only to the visibility of the ionizing radiation symbol but also to the definition of a meme. A symbol is a meme. It can communicate a vast array of ideas with its seemingly simple imagery. A word is similar to a symbol. A symbol is composed of lines and shapes and sometimes colors in order to communicate a complex concept within a small space, a word is composed of lines shaped into various letters when arranged in the correct combination communicates a concept. Words need to be known before they can be read, as is the case with symbols, but what if simply seeing a symbol instantly communicated what it was?

Imagine a word that doesn't exist. Flabonic. That's a word that doesn't exist. Except now it does, it exists now as an example of a word that doesn't exist. But it exists. Flabonic communicates nothing, other than it doesn't mean anything. We don't want to use an example word and I don't want you imagine a word anymore, we want to escape the language barrier, so instead: imagine a symbol that doesn't exist. I'm going to tell you what it means. When you see this nonexistent symbol your conscious mind reads it and tries to make sense of it and perhaps you dismiss it as a scribble or graffiti or garbage, but it plants an idea into your brain, the idea that your death is imminent and that it could occur at any moment. Seeing the symbol is simple and causes no reaction, but as the symbol is absorbed by your brain it dissolves into its component parts and attacks your thought process. Within a few minutes you start to fear that something bad is about to happen. Within an hour every movement and sound is causing you to flinch in fear as you await your death. You might try to accept this fate and just relax, this is going to happen and you can't stop it so what is the point in worrying about it, but this thought will be coupled with the thought that you might just have a chance to escape your death if you pay very close attention to what happens next and if you react quickly enough you can save your life for one more day. You may try to fight these thoughts, telling yourself it's all in your mind and you're jumping at nothing, but this thought leads you to think that it is while you are not paying attention that death will strike most painfully. Only if you pay attention carefully will you have a chance to evade your fate, which you know is certain and cannot be avoided, but if you don't pay attention then your fate will be slow and drawn out and you will suffer in agony. You are in a dungeon where the walls are scribbled with this symbol. As you venture farther down the symbol begins to take hold, and your progress is slowed by your own inability to act rationally, soon you have very little ability to act as you find yourself sitting in a corner of the dungeon awaiting what will happen next. The room you are in is littered with the bones of previous explorers who were all killed by something terrible in this room, and now you are here awaiting something terrible and it hasn't happened yet but it will any minute now, and you grow hungrier as the days pass but it could happen any minute and you need to stay alert. Best to just sit here and wait.

This is the terror meme. It paralyzes it's victims with fear and uncertainty. It is not magical, it is not a curse, it's a meme.

Of course, there are other memes. There is the one that tells your brain you need to run as fast as you can and if you slow down for any reason you're going to die, you better keep moving whatever the cost. There's the one that tells your brain if you take one more step then your heart will stop. The one that tells your brain if you urinate again your soul will slip out of you leaving your body an empty husk. The one that tells your brain if you dance you'll live forever, and can actually spread to anybody who approaches you and tries to make you stop dancing, and soon whole villages are dancing. There's one that tells your brain you need to share it with everybody you meet and you do this by talking about the weather, and soon everybody is talking about the weather, what it's like right now and what it will be like tomorrow and what it was like last year and how that's different from now. Sometimes, instead, you share the meme by talking about what a meme is.

Perhaps you've encountered one of these memes, perhaps you will encounter a new one soon. Flabonic.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Most people in Marakāven are human, though a handful of masadhi come and go with travelling caravans. The city is on the coast, and the outer districts are made up of small islands, most of which are connected by ornate, incredibly long bridges constructed in a previous age. The southern side of the city is walled by an immense mountain range, and on the lower slopes where these mountains begin many of the wealthiest families live and look out over Marakāven. The mountains of the Crown can be seen on the northern horizon, and smaller communities of dense townships connected to Marakāven spread upward along the coast, on a map the dots are a blood spatter of civilization.

Most of the buildings in Marakāven are constructed out of stone, but the outskirts are built out of wood. With no outer walls, the elite of Marakāven rely on a great river for protection which splits the city into northern and southern sections. The north of Marakāven is a compact archipelago of islands, all of which are joined by bridges of various sizes and differing artistic license. Some of the buildings tower over the islands, connecting into the buildings of neighboring islands.

Marakāven is divided into six districts:
Central, while it is not the true center of the city this district covers the biggest area as most of the islands that make up the northern archipelago fall within the Central district;
Mountainwall, where the city's nobility lives, a collection of buildings and castles built into the side of a mountain hugging the southern end of the city;
Portside, the coast of the city's southern section and where most of the city's trade is conducted, if you're looking for a bank or a storefront you can find it in Portside;
Rum Barrel, a "newer" section of the city where the homes are mostly simple wooden structures and where much of the city's labor force lives;
Scorpion, this small district comprises the northernmost islands of the archipelago where the city's buildings are tightly packed together and the canals are too thin for all but the slimmest boats to pass through, it is named for an infestation of water scorpions that once plagued the city;
Statue, the section of islands just north of the Crowkut River that also serve as port of calls for the city's trade so named for the prominent statues erected on every island - the Ghost Tower falls within the Statue district.

The shore of southern Marakāven is the primary trading port for the city. Almost all of the city's nobles live in the southern districts, Portside and Mountainwall. The southern districts are cut off from the mainland by the sheer face of the mountain, and the Crowkut River separating them from the rest of Marakāven.

Some of the bridges on these islands have stiff outer gates, making the residents capable of cutting off their island from their neighbors, while other islands have ways of collapsing their bridges and still others have no methods of protecting themselves. The ornate geography of how these islands connect together makes Marakāven a difficult city to pillage, but since the city extends onto the coast and has no outer walls the poorer districts have fallen victim to sieges and raids. The south of Marakāven is connected to the north by three large bridges left behind by the city founders. With so few access points to the southern districts of the city, the locals have become adept at protecting what is theirs.

Though magic was obviously used to construct parts of Marakāven's housing and many of its bridges, magic is today a rare commodity. There are a few magicians in Marakāven, but they either operate under a pseudonym or they are noble and can afford to protect themselves with guards and the relative safety of a home in Mountainwall. Any open display of magic will cause awe, surprise, or fear in the common citizenry. Trying to pawn an item as magical is more likely to make a merchant assume you are a crook, or a simpleton.

Castle Coldtrail sits at the top of the Mountainwall district and is home to Queen Enves Maliri, a skilled fighter and rumored sorceress. Her family owns or controls almost all of the land surrounding Marakāven, and plenty of properties within Marakāven itself. A parade of commissioners work under her direction and each governs their own section of the city, divided up into municipalities that seem to change and shift borders from month to month so that the commoners are never entirely sure who exactly represents their interests.

The younger sister to Queen Maliri is Princess Yvette, she resides in the Blue Tower of Castle Coldtrail and she is in command of the royal guards. Many believe she is a magician as she frequently hires mercenaries for work outside of the city who recover trinkets and artifacts from Wuunrlaan cities. She is a collaborative patron of the arts and her tower is often populated with artists who are also possibly her lovers. Though she never leaves the Blue Tower and has absolutely no interest in taking the regency from her sister, stories and rumors swirl about her intrigues with the other noble families. To receive an invitation to her parties in the Blue Tower is a prestigious honor that any noble would kill for, and a few have.

Trade, commerce, and production are all controlled and dictated by guilds and the nobility. Each island has it's own guilds for every profession and due to their territorial and competitive natures none are willing to cooperate with similar guilds on neighboring islands. This is exactly how Queen Maliri wants it, and keeping the guilds and their attendant nobles fractured is how her family has maintained control over Marakāven since they rose to power two centuries ago.

The Church of Sanglorius - the Proud Savior, the First Man, Creator of All Life - handed down from an oral tradition, they believe Sanglorius created all of humanity and strove for perfection in all things. The tales of Sanglorius are filled with sex and violence as he is said to have been an undefeated fighter and took many lovers. There were once temples to Sanglorius everywhere in Kosranon and his symbol can be seen in some of the ancient architecture of Marakāven. The Church now operates out of these buildings associated with his symbol and is strongest in this part of the world. Priests are trained fighters and many temples double as dojos for martial combat practice.

The Divine Heritage of the Three Kings - this church has a small presence in Marakāven and many of the locals are wary of them, even as they grow in numbers. Rumors of their church's crusades in the far west have reached Marakāven and nobody wants to see a holy war pour out into the streets and canals. The Divine Heritage has set up several churches within the Rum Barrel district.

Cults are everywhere in Marakāven, and though they are not technically illegal they often come to blows with Templars of the Divine Heritage or overzealous devotees of the Sanglorius Church so most do not advertise their presence.

Openly carrying weapons is illegal throughout the city, and city guards have the authority to execute anybody they feel is hindering their duties or causing a danger to themselves or others. People who carry weapons either keep them concealed or risk being arrested. City guards, however, don't patrol all of the neighborhoods and are more common the further south in the city one goes. Nobles often carry weapons for dueling, but also never venture far without a bodyguard or two.

There are few laws in Marakāven, anything that obstructs trade or imposes upon the nobility can be considered a crime. There are laws to protect the common citizenry, but city guards are often subject to bribery and will often look the other way if a noble is abusing one of their lessers. The harshest punishment that can be meted out by the courts is for a person to walk the Ghost Tower. Since nobody has ever returned from the Ghost Tower, this is assumed to be a death sentence.

Cities that serve as inspiration for Marakāven:

Venice, Italy

San Marino, Italy

Ronda, Spain

Saturday, October 17, 2015

no more reports

I don't plan on writing any more session reports for my Dwimmermount game. We've had three sessions since my last update and writing out what happened feels more and more like a chore to me.

Some interesting things that have happened in the last three sessions:

1) they destroyed the chaotic psychoplasm but now that room is just filled with rotting gore and intestines, some of it still levitating in the air under it's own unnatural power
2) the demoness, Aishapra, was slain and the library she was lairing within has become an outpost for Tsetsig and a small band of horngoblins
3) a band of goblins from a town neighboring Muntburg have ventured to Dwimmermount to pledge service to Queen Ilona
4) they re-activated the power on the 3rd level then used a portal to visit the Manufactory level where Ilona temporarily allied with the Termaxian cultists there
5) Horatius captured one of the doppelgangers who had been impersonating a dwarf, they slayed the rest
6) many magic items have been discovered and identified
7) led by Varazes the wizard, the Orcs who had retreated down to the second level had finally regrouped and surged back onto the first level to slay the horngoblins and anyone else they found, but they were routed and fled back down to the second level, Varazes was slain - literally cut in half by a horngoblin's sword
8) Queen Ilona has decided to stay on the first level and commanded Horatius to "go downstairs and slay every orc you can find!"

All of the PCs are at 7th or 8th level, which means some of the encounters in the dungeon have become tedious or downright boring. We had a fight during one session where I realized the green guardians spread across two rooms could only hit the two main fighters if I rolled a 19 or 20.

I resolved the mass combat between the orcs and the horngoblins by treating ability and skill checks like Dungeon World moves and having a narrative declaration for the roll results. The beginning of the battle seemed like a losing fight, with orcs streaming up from below and a few horngoblins falling while the rest of the horngoblins seemed hopelessly outnumbered. But the tide of battle turned after a series of lucky rolls, and soon the players were having the horngoblins rush forward to take out the wizard before he could unleash any more magics.

We're taking a short break at the moment, and when we get back into the swing of things I can't say for certain when I will write about the campaign again, or what it will be about. But for now, the session reports as I have been writing them are done.

the image is Marilith by zelldweller

Friday, October 16, 2015


Back when 3rd edition D&D first came out I was still playing quite a bit of Legend of the Five Rings and I was really excited when I heard Wizards of the Coast acquired the L5R license to remake the Oriental Adventures rulebook as a Rokugan sourcebook. I remember being really disappointed that Oriental Adventures merely reskinned conventional D&D classes while lavishing an Eastern-inspired theme over all of it. I immediately set out to write up Shugenja correctly!!!

These stats come from my original notes. I remember writing it as a rough draft and I handed it to a friend asking for his input, he wrote up a shugenja and tested it out then handed back the pages and said "This is great! They should have hired you to write this sourcebook." Validation! I tucked the pages away into a folder and then they disappeared, and occasionally they've surfaced whenever I clean out my bookcases or move my library around, but this is the first time I've pulled them out of the folder and said "Let's take a look at this again."

Originally for 3rd edition D&D:


LevelBase AttackFortRefWillSpecial
1+0+2+2+0Spellcasting +1, Scribe Scroll
2+1+2+2+0Spellcasting +1, Ability Increases
3+2+2+2+0Spellcasting +2
4+3+2+2+0Spellcasting +3
5+3+2+2+0Spellcasting +3
6+4+2+2+0Spellcasting +4, Ability Increases
7+5+2+2+0Spellcasting +5
8+6/+1+2+2+0Spellcasting +5
9+6/+1+2+2+0Spellcasting +6
10+7/+2+2+2+0Spellcasting +7, Ability Increases
11+8/+3+2+2+0Spellcasting +7
12+9/+4+2+2+0Spellcasting +8
13+9/+4+2+2+0Spellcasting +9
14+10/+5+2+2+0Spellcasting +9, Ability Increases
15+11/+6/+1+2+2+0Spellcasting +10
16+12/+7/+2+2+2+0Spellcasting +11
17+12/+7/+2+2+2+0Spellcasting +11
18+13/+8/+3+2+2+0Spellcasting +12, Ability Increases
19+14/+9/+4+2+2+0Spellcasting +13
20+15/+10/+5+2+2+0Spellcasting +13

SKILL POINTS at 1st LEVEL: (4 + Int mod) x 4
SKILL POINTS per LEVEL: 4 + Int mod
CLASS SKILLS: Concentration, Craft, Decipher Script, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Heal, Knowledge (any), Meditation, Listen, Ride, Scry, Spot
WEAPON and ARMOR PROFICIENCIES: Shugenja are skilled with two simple weapons and one martial weapons (player's choice). Shugenja are not proficient with any type of armor nor with shields. Armor of any type interferes with a Shugenja's movements, which can cause spells to fail.

SPELLCASTING: A Shugenja doesn't cast spells, but allows their own energy to mingle with an element, thus gaining its favor and influence. Spells are grouped into five elements, each with an effect that corresponds with the nature of that element. Shugenjas receive scores for each element based on their ability score modifiers. These bonuses, or penalties, help guide a Shugenja's growth.
AIR (Dex & Wis): Air, or Wind, cannot be seen directly, but its effects can. Air is the element of storms, although a Shugenja's abilities to influence storms is minor. Air is also the element of birds, and therefore the element of travel. Lastly, Air is the element of intuition and influence.
EARTH (Con & Int): Spells that invoke the quiet strength of the Earth are those that effect resilience and resolve. Earth also represents health and growth.
FIRE (Dex & Int): Fire is a symbol of intelligence as certainly as it is of destruction. Fire spells can invoke raging firestorms as well as inspiration and creativity.
WATER (Str & Wis): Water washes away stains and tarnish, and so it is the element of clarity. But water is also adaptable and can fit into any container which is why Water also represents transformation.
A Shugenja's quantity of spells is directly based on their ability scores.
For every 7 points worth of ability scores, the Shugenja can cast one spell per day (round down). Example: a Shugenja with all of his ability scores at 14 could cast 12 spells per day (14+14+14+14+14+14=84, 84 divided by 7 equals 12). All Shugenja start with the Sense, Commune, Summon, and Counterspell scrolls, as well as a number of scrolls equal to their Wisdom modifier (minimum of 1).
SCRIBE SCROLL: This is NOT the Item Creation Feat of the same name. Scrolls that Shugenja use are distinctly different from the scrolls that clerics and wizards use, and only other Shugenja would understand them.
ABILITY INCREASES: Shugenjas get twice as many ability increases as other characters because of their strong attunement with all of the elements.
CASTING A SPELL: Every spell has a DC that the Shugenja must roll against. He uses his Spellcasting bonus (based on level) and adds his Element bonus (or penalty, see above) for that spell to the roll.
PREPERATION: By doubling the casting time of a spell, the Shugenja can receive a +5 bonus toward casting the spell. Alternately, the Shugenja can take a -5 penalty to lower the casting time by 1 round (minimum of 1 action).
RAISES: Some spells mention that the Shugenja is capable of raising the DC for casting the spell, these are called raises. There is a way Shuganja can avoid raising the DC for a spell and receive raises. A Shugenja can spend an extra spell slot for the day to receive a raise on the spell they are casting.
RITUALS: Some spells are designed as rituals, in which any number of Shugenja can participate in the casting. Each participating Shugenja adds their Spellcasting bonus (modified by Element score) to the lead Shugenja's roll against the DC of the spell. Any Shugenja participating in the ritual can be the lead caster. A ritual can be cast by a single Shugenja, but a standard spell cannot be performed as a ritual.
CONCENTRATION: Each Shugenja spell has a Concentration level, since Shugenja spells are not categorized by levels, this is used to determine the DC of a COncentration check is the spell is interrupted by the Shugenja taking damage or being distracted. Spells that require no concentration cannot be interrupted, except by magic dispelling effects or a Counterspell. Total -15, Full -10, Focused -6, Casual -3, None = no roll.
MASTERY: Each Shugenja spell has a MAstery level, this number tells at what level the Shugenja must be before the spell becomes an "innate ability" and he no longer requires a scroll to cast it. A spell must be known for at least two levels of the Shugenja's career before he can master it. A spell with a Mastery of 7 can become "innate" for a Shugenja who learned the spell at 5tgh level or earlier, but only if the Shugenja is 7th level. Note that the four basic spells for all Shugenja start Mastered, and a spell with a Mastery of 3 can be mastered at 3rd level if it was one of the Shugenja's starting spells.

SENSE (basic spell)
Casting: 2 rounds, DC 10Save/SR: none / no
Range/Area: 60 foot radiusConcentration: none
Duration: instantaneousMastery: automatic

COMMUNE (basic spell)
Casting: 1 round, DC 10Save/SR: none / no
Range/Area: see descriptionConcentration: Focused
Duration: 1 roundMastery: automatic

SUMMON (basic spell)
Casting: 3 rounds, DC 20Save/SR: none / no
Range/Area: 1/2 cubic footConcentration: none
Duration: PermanentMastery: automatic

COUNTERSPELL (basic spell)
Casting: 1 action, DC 20Save/SR: none / no
Range/Area: line of sightConcentration: none
Duration: instantaneousMastery: automatic
When cast, a Shugenja must target another Shugenja who is in the process of casting a spell. The Shugenja must summon energies that directly oppose the Element of the spell being cast. Opposing Elements= Earth and Air, Fire and Water. If cast successfully, this spell raises the DC of the spell the opposing Shugenja is casting by 10 plus the level of the Shugenja casting Counterspell.

And THAT, is apparently, all of the notes I still have saved from this experiment. I know that I wrote up a few of the L5R spells, because I remember having Benevolent Protection on a 3x5 index card. I don't know what happened to the index cards I used, or the notes I had for the spells PCs learned, but outside of my friend's personal playtest, I used Shugenja in a short D&D campaign that lasted a few sessions and they worked really well. Rereading these notes now, there are obviously some gaps that need to be filled, and I wonder how high level play would look, but it's rekindled my interest into going back to Rokugan.

UPDATE: I found another piece of paper tucked away in a notebook that has a few spells written up: Benevolent Protection, Bo of Water, Call Upon the Wind, The Fires That Cleanse, Immortal Steel, Know the Mind, Mists of Illusion, Tempest of Air, and Wings of Fire. Plus, some basic stats for three Shugenja with examples of each spell.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Advanced Languages

Languages are composed of both Dialects and Literacies.
Dialects are spoken languages, Literacies are written languages.
Not every Dialect has a Literacy and not every Literacy has a Dialect, but most Languages have both.
Character sheets have separate boxes for Dialects and Literacies.
Characters start with 1 Dialect, their native tongue.
Some classes start with a Literacy in their native tongue (if it has one).
Some classes start with extra Dialects and/or extra Literacies.

Learning a Dialect is easy and can come quickly.
Characters have a 6-segment Wheel to track learning a Dialect.
Every time a Dialect you don't know is spoken and you wish to interact with the speaker, roll 1d20 and add your Wisdom modifier plus the number of segments in your Wheel.
On a 20+ you understand what was said and can communicate successfully.
On a 10-19, you understand essentially what was said but when you try to communicate you sound like an idiot
On a 9 or less, you misinterpret what was said and you sound like an idiot.
Whenever you roll a success (the 20+ result), you fill in a segment of the Wheel.
You cannot fill in more than one segment of a Dialect Wheel per day.
After all four segments are filled and you fail another roll, you've learned the Dialect and no longer need to roll 1d20 in order to be understood.
Having at least one segment in the Wheel means you can understand basic and simple ideas like "where is food?" and "can I sleep here?" but complex ideas like "can you help me scout this mountain?" or "let me show you how we should ambush those bastards in the valley!" or "don't kill him, we need to use his magic later!" will require a roll.

Learning a Literacy is difficult and time-consuming and requires study.
Every Literacy is different and some are more complex than others.
Each Literacy has a period of time in which in takes to learn.
Having a tutor can cut this time in half.
Having a skilled tutor can cut this time in half twice.
Common takes 3000 hours to learn, with a tutor it takes 1500 hours, and with a skilled tutor it takes 750 hours.
A skilled tutor is any character who knows the Literacy and has a combined Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma modifier equal to +3 or higher.
When you try to translate written text without any training, roll 1d20 and add your Intelligence modifier.
On a 20+, you understand the basic message of the script though nuances may be lost.
On a 10-19, you will miss something crucial in the translation or your translation is time-consuming and delays something important, GM's choice.
On a 9 or less, you have no clue what it says.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

six swords [5e]

the Silmite Sword
Fashioned of a silvery metal, with a simple hilt and a rounded pommel, this blade is completely smooth and somewhat cylindrical with a single edge molded out of one side.
1d8 slashing, 2 lb., versatile (1d10)
...while holding this blade, you believe you are the best at everything you do, regardless of whether you are or not. This confers disadvantage on Charisma checks, but your boosted confidence means you're immune to fear, both mundane and magical.

Blade of Liberation
This steel sword has a fine tracing of electrum along its side, the ornate metalwork depicts an optical illusion of a sphere flying along a path that reverses back upon itself. The pommel and hilt are made of fine steel and leather, but are worn from use.
1d8 slashing, 3 lb., versatile (1d10)
...while holding this weapon by the hilt, you are always under the effects of a freedom of movement spell.

Tooth Smasher
This iron scimitar has a dull and beaten blade, while it appears old from use it shows no signs of rust. The hilt is threadbare wrapping of silk which could easily be replaced.
1d6 slashing, 3 lb., finesse, light
...when you attack with this weapon and roll a natural 20, the weapon deals an additional 2d6 damage (beyond the normal critical damage) and the opponent struck loses a tooth (there is no saving throw to resist this effect). If the opponent does not have a tooth to lose then no additional effect is incurred.

Sinner's Sword
This powerful cutlass is made of adamantine metal, with five wide purple gems embedded along its length, a silver hilt wrapped in platinum wire, and a small pommel to provide balance.
1d8 slashing, 3 lb., versatile (1d10)
...while you have this sword in your possession you are immune to banishment and are proficient with Deception and Persuasion checks (if you are already proficient then you receive advantage). Additionally, regardless of your alignment, others will always detect you as being evil, and you are effected by protection from evil effects as if you are evil.

the Demon Blade of Aishapra
A sinister looking scimitar of black metal. The hilt is wrapped in a soft but drying leather, with a pommel shaped like a snake's head - the blade extends like a great black tongue and has many whorls and hooks and does not easily fit within a scabbard.
1d8 slashing, 3 lb., finesse, light
...while using this weapon you add your Charisma modifier to the damage rolled. Additionally, when you slay a living creature with this sword (undead and constructs don't count) you receive HP equal to half of your opponent's maximum HP, if this takes you over your maximum HP then you receive the extra HP as temporary HP which will disappear after your next short rest.

Skull Piercer
This rapier has a blade of steel with a hilt wrapped in dull purple-stained leather. The large, round pommel is stamped with the image of a thorny stem, and a hornet within a banner (as emblem). Four quillons shaped like talons surround the blade.
1d8 piercing, 2 lb., finesse
...while you have this sword in your possession you can detect thoughts at will (as a bonus action) and you can read any language or writing as if you were under the effects of a comprehend languages spell.

Friday, August 21, 2015

the Purple Planet for [5e]

Saving Throws
Fortitude becomes Constitution (or Strength, if applicable)
Will becomes Wisdom (or Intelligence, if applicable)
Reflex becomes Dexterity
Anything that doesn't have an immediate correlation just use Charisma and if the players question it just wave your hands in the air, adopt a spooky Scooby-Doo villain voice, and say "it's weeeeird man!"
Increase all DCs for Purple Planet mushrooms, plants, and poisons by +5

Double their Hit Points, but leave the stats the same. Kith are worth 200 xp.

Death orm
They make four attacks per round with their paddles and no longer make a bite attack. Increase the paddle's damage to 1d8+3. Anyone struck by a Death Orm's paddle must make a Strength save vs DC 17 or be swallowed whole. Death Orm are worth 900 xp.

Non-native characters take one level of Exhaustion for every day of exertion under the dying sun. One level of Exhaustion can be healed by taking a Long Rest in a well-shaded and hydrated area. If a Short rest is not completed in the shade than the character receives another level of Exhaustion at the end of the rest. Dehydration rules should be followed strictly. Long and short rests follow my normal 5e house rules

Moon-milk of the Tiger Mushroom
Drinking one pint of moon-milk heals all Exhaustion levels lost to the werdling sun, and grants a temporary +2 to Strength and Dexterity (until the next Short Rest).
Partaking of multiple pints of moon-milk grants multiple bonuses, but risks toxicity. Each additional pint after the first grants an additional +2 to Strength and Dexterity but the PC must make a Constitution save vs DC 10 or take 1d12 damage and be rendered unconscious for 1d4+1 hours, for each additional pint the save DC increases by +5 and the damage increases by +1d12.

Greenstone shards
One greenstone shard can impart 1d10 charges to a lesser relic, or a wizard can use a greenstone to power his spellcasting (grants advantage to a spellcasting roll). Either use burns out the greenstone shard and reduces it to ash.
Casting mending on greenstone shards acts the same as described in Peril on the Purple Planet.

True Greenstone
Melon-sized crystals of dark green, a single greenstone can be broken into 5d20+50 shards. Using a greenstone to power a spell automatically turns a spellcasting check into a natural 20 roll, but it burns out the entire greenstone and the wizard must make a Wisdom save vs DC 30 or suffer 1d3 corruptions.

Because corruption doesn't normally exist in a 5e game, while on the purple planet any spellcaster is subject to possible corruption. If a spellcasting check is made and a natural roll of 1 occurs, or if a saving throw is rolled against the caster's spell and results in a natural 20, then the spellcaster suffers 1 corruption. Spending inspiration cannot prevent this. The roll is 1d10 minus the spell's slot level plus the caster's Charisma modifier. The level of the spell slot used determines the level of corruption: 1-3 = minor, 4-6 = major, 7+ = greater
Having an active familiar will still negate half of the corruption effect

maybe I'll add more later, but that's all I've got for now

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Support me by buying games

For the last year I've been a part of the affiliate program on DriveThruRPG (or RPGnow) which means that when I provide a link to a product on dtRPG the link includes my affiliate number in the web address, and if somebody purchases a product after following that link then I get a little bit of store credit to use at dtRPG. I've managed to gather about $55 in store credit which averages out to about $2.25 a month and that is really cool considering each click nets about 15 to 30 cents of store credit. I would have been surprised to even accrue $10 total. I don't have a large need for store credit but I do like reading new books. I have a pretty nice sum sitting there for buying a few pdfs right now but I've spent most of that store credit already.

My Pledge to YOU
I can promise you that I will NEVER start a Patreon or put a donation button or a gofundme link on this blog. Everything I publish here will always be free to use and abuse. I don't like handouts and I certainly don't like asking for handouts, but if you buy gaming books from DriveThruRPG or RPGnow then please consider using my affiliate links to go to the site since it costs you nothing extra.
The store credit I accumulate will always be posted publicly here and I will always blog about the items I purchase with the store credit you provided to me. You will always know what I'm doing with your assistance. This post will also always be linked in my upper banner and I will update this post every month to show how much store credit I have and what I've been spending it on. And with that out of the way, here is the hard data

Total sum generated $107.35
Current unused credit $2.75
Last updated May 25, 2017

Products purchased
AD&D Players Handbook (1e) ($10)
Greyhawk Ruins ($5)
Planarch Codex: Wintry Plane ($5)
Deep Carbon Observatory ($4*)
(my review)
Bootleggers ($5*)
E-Z DUNGEONS: Basic Set ($6*)
EX1 Dungeonland (1e) ($10)
Lords of Gossamer and Shadow ($40)
AD&D Player's Handbook (2e) ($2*)
AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide (2e) ($2*)
AD&D Monstrous Manual (2e) ($2*)
Planescape Campaign Setting ($2*)
Planescape Planes of Law ($2*)
Planescape Planes of Conflict ($2*)
Planescape Planes of Chaos ($2*)
Planescape In the Cage: Guide to Sigil ($2*)

* rounded to nearest dollar, part of a bundle/sale

Thursday, August 13, 2015

return to the dungeon
[5e Dwimmermount]

Queen Ilona had spent some time with her horngoblins cleaning out parts of Dwimmermount while the rest of the party were absent. She took several horngoblins down to the cloning chamber and left one of them there as a guard, to insure the cloning chamber would not be used. Surveying the equipment she learned that the power was drained and it may take several days for the machinery to be powered up for another cloning experiment. As she returned to the elevator, her group encountered two minotaurs in the corridor and brief fight and chase ensued down the passageway. There were more minotaurs near their dead king's throne room, and soon only one was left standing. Ilona demanded for it to bend the knee and he did, on the condition that she allow him to clone himself and live on this level. The minotaur, Mangarak Vigileye, told a story of a room that had a stairwell down but it was being blocked by a pool of flesh and muscley sinew, he offered to show Ilona the room but cautioned that her view would have to be quick.

For the minotaur negotiation I googled, and was not entirely surprised to find, a minotaur name generator. It worked pretty good actually!
Because Ilona was by herself, I gave index cards to the other players with stats for the horngoblins. Everybody had fun using the horngoblins' racial abilities during the fight, but in straight one-on-one fights they were clearly outmatched against the minotaurs.

Ilona spent the rest of her time delineating work to the horngoblins. She sent a squad to scout the level the orcs were on and they quickly returned with reports that the passage was blocked, trapped, and set with an ambush. More horngoblins reported seeing dwarves running to the eastern stairwell, and a single kobold had been captured and locked into an unused storage room. Ilona questioned the kobold, Folly, and learned that the dead dwarf, Guran, was a custodian to Dwimmermount, and there are more dwarves living in the lower levels.

She made successful Persuasion checks to get the information out of him, otherwise he would have spat on her.

Days passed and her advisors finally returned. Ilona allowed Mangarak Vigileye to describe the fleshy object blocking the stairwell to Sulla and he immediately noted that the creature sounded like a Psychoplasm, though he wouldn't know what variety of disease had spawned it (atavistic, chaotic or retributive) unless he saw it for himself. They took the elevator down to the level with the cloning chamber and Sulla insisted they stop at the door where the woman Melissia had been trapped. Her voice could be heard inside and he opened the doors with his newly learned Knock spell.

Inside they saw a fairly spartan circular chamber with a beautiful redheaded woman sitting in the center of a summoning circle. She stood up and pleaded that they break the seal of the circle so that she could leave. When questioned about how she had gotten here and why she was trapped in the circle she decided to be honest with them and explain that she was a demon, summoned 200 years ago by a wizard who fled during the fighting of the Typhon Rebellion against Turms Termax, she wanted to find the descendants of this wizard and torture them to death before returning to her home in the Abyss. Horatius didn't have a problem with that and he cut a line in the circle, but this made Sulla and Levity immediately do everything in their power to prevent her from leaving. Melissia charmed Ilona in order to assist her escape but in the end she simply could not get away, and was cut down by Levity and Sulla's magic. As she died Ilona realized she had been charmed and congratulated them on killing her before she could escape.

They finally ventured to the object of their search and prepared themselves to enter the room holding the Psychoplasm.

That's where we ended. It seems like it was a short session, but only because most of it was filled with fighting.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

the Alchemist
[a Rogue Archetype for 5e]

Rogues who study alchemy are adventurous botanists and chemists, always searching for unusual or strange flora in exotic or distant environments. They obsess over the natural world as much as they do their laboratories. Many alchemists spend their time making potions to heal but are often the first people to turn to for an adequate poison. In the magical world, an alchemist is an ideal person to turn to for specialized knowledge. They have a tendency to be homebodies, with endless projects and experiments that can keep them busy for weeks or months. But there are occasional alchemists who take an active role in exploring the wild world around them, and these explorers are the true pioneers of alchemy.

Starting at 3rd level, if you don't already have them, you gain proficiency with Alchemist's supplies and Poisoner's kit.

When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you gain the ability to mix alchemical formula using Alchemist's supplies at half the cost. The process by which alchemical formula is created is magical but the finished products are not always magical.
Additionally, an Alchemist can use their Alchemist's supplies to Identify (as per the ritual spell) any liquid or potion.

At 9th level, you can attempt to create a missing rare ingredient for a special formula (such as Wyvern venom for a poison) using Alchemist's supplies. Assume it takes at least eight hours and supplies worth 2d6 x 50 gold pieces to adequately create a substitute ingredient.

By 13th level, you have the ability to create your own potions using Alchemist's supplies and in half the time as described in the DMG. You can make any potion that you have ever used, Identified, or come into physical contact with, but cannot brew your own creations.

When you reach 17th level, you can produce Alkahest. It costs 10,000 gp and requires 200 days to craft a single vial using Alchemist's supplies. Alkahest is a powerful disintegration solvent and does not count as a poison or a magical potion. The spell purify food and drink will immediately neutralize the acid if the Alkahest is within range.
If thrown or poured onto a single object or creature, Alkahest immediately deals 4d8 points of damage, and another 4d8 points of damage each round thereafter until it is neutralized. Magical objects have damage resistance against the Alkahest, but assume they will be destroyed just like a regular object of their type once their hit points are reduced to zero (page 246, DMG). A creature which is reduced to 0 hit points by Alkahest is reduced to black residue, and cannot be raised or resurrected. Preventing damage can be done by either submerging the subject in water or wiping it off with clothing, rags, or something similar (both methods will reduce damage by 1 die each round of submersion/activity, but in the latter case the objects used to wipe it off take 1d8 damage each round they are used or until destroyed).
A creature which drinks Alkahest must make an immediate Constitution saving throw versus DC 30. If the saving throw fails, the creature dies immediately as its tongue, jaw, and esophagus melt away. If the saving throw succeeds, the creature takes 25d4 corrosive damage to their internal organs, any damage is interpreted as viscera melting out of the body. In either case, the result is not pretty.