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Monday, 5 December 2016

Four Steps to Divinity

Four new spells for Wolf-Packs and Winter Snow. They make the caster into a god. Maybe not a particularly mighty one, but a god none the less.
Probably don't introduce these into your game unless you're absolutely sure you want to run a game where your PCs are deities. It can be fun - BECMI had the Immortals rules, after all - but it's the sort of jump in power that can make things get weird.

Bestow the Divine Touch
Rank: 8
Duration: Permanent
Range: self
This spell allows a magician to grant their worshippers supernatural gifts; it is of most use to those who wish to become - or at least be perceived as - divine patrons.
This spell requires a full day, not a turn, to cast, during which the magician must be anointed with three magical reagents. In addition, another person must be present, who must offer heartfelt worship to the magician.
Once the spell has been cast at least once, the magician remains under its effect permanently. 
Whenever a being with the Divine Touch is aware that they are being offered worship, they may - at their whim - cast any spell they have access to, as if they were in the place of the one offering worship. This does not require rolls (for a mystic), use up memorised spells (for a magicians or morlock) or damage flesh (for a wendigo). However, unless the worship is coming from an actual Mystic, the divinity must make a Save against Magic when they cast in this way; if failed they suffer backlash.
They can - if they wish - relinquish control of the spell to the petitioner who offered them worship. In this case, the petitioner gets to choose all the details of the spell such as its targets and other variables. The spell scales with the level of the worshipper, not the deity, if this option is taken.
There is no additional benefit to casting this spell a second or further time. The sensation is, however, extremely pleasant.

Consume the Harvest of Divinity
Rank: 8
Duration: Permanent
Range: self
This spell requires a full day - not a turn - to cast, during which the magician must be anointed with five magical reagents. In addition, another person must be present and offering heartfelt worship to the magician as part of the process.
The spell empowers the magician with a divine appetite. Whenever they are aware that they are the object of an act of worship, they are invigorated by it. They heal all damage and wounds done to them; cure all poisons, diseases and other afflictions; and can dispel any magical effect on them if they wish.
The sensation of receiving worship in this way is powerfully euphoric. The sheer joy of it surpasses any narcotic, food or sexual experience, and can become addictive for those of week will.
There is no actual benefit to casting this spell more than once. It is, however, very enjoyable.

Demand the Tithe of Souls
Rank: 8
Duration: permenant
Range: touch
This spell requires a full day - not a turn - to cast, during which the magician must be anointed with eleven magical reagents. In addition, another person must be present and offering heartfelt worship to the magician as part of the process.
This spell makes the one who casts it able to consume souls. Whenever they are aware that a person (IE a creature capable of speech) has been killed as part of an act of worship in their name, they may consume the sacrifice’s soul. They may also consume the soul of any being they directly kill themselves.
A being whose soul has been devoured cannot be resurrected in any way - they cannot be cloned, brought back as undead or any other such thing. They do not pass over to any afterlife such as the Gardens of the Dead. They simply cease to be.
Consuming a soul in this way causes the devourer to gain 100 experience points for every hit dice that the victim had. This process of consuming souls is extremely addictive.
There is no benefit to casting this spell more than once. It only makes the hunger for souls stronger.

Partake of the Bounty Of The Divine
Rank: 8
Duration: Permanent
Range: Self
This spell takes a full day (rather than a turn) to cast. In the process, the magician must be anointed with seven Magical Reagents, and  another person must be present - this person must offer heartfelt worship to the magician as part of the spell.
When it is first cast, this spell makes the caster a god. A minor one, confined to the material world, but still divine.  They gain no mechanical benefits simply for being a deity - if they wish to remain divine for long they probably require additional magic.
Every time an act of worship is directed to the new god after this spell is cast, they become aware. They instinctively know who it was that performed the act, and what was done in their name.
If the petitioner is offering worship in the hope of receiving a specific gift, then the new god is aware of this, and of the specifics involved.
There is no additional benefit to casting this spell a second or further time. The sensation is, however, extremely pleasant.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Hacking LotFP classes for high fantasy

So, here's a thought. You want to run Lamentations of the Flame Princess, but you want to do so in a more high fantasy setting. Rather than coming up with a bunch of new classes - with all the potential for balance issues and mechanical problems - it's not hard to adapt the existing classes.
So here are some examples. This isn't about giving you more character options so you can minmax harder, but when a player goes 'hey, can I play a kobold', this is how you might go about it.

Orcs use fighters as their base class; they're reasonably tough but nothing special, and they're well enough experienced with combat that they can use fighter combat options. Their combat prowess comes not from training, but brute force. As such, they get the same +1 to hit-bonus as any other character. On top of this, the fighter's to-hit bonus is instead applied as a bonus to damage whenever their strength bonus would apply.
If you wanted to play a human with no real military training but who fights well - maybe a common thug, a (non-clerical) religious zealot, a raging berzerker, something like that - this also makes sense.

Goblins use the same stats as halflings, since both are small, sneaky, tricksy little gits. However, they have none of the halfling's affinity for nature but a rather worrying ability to crawl up walls, through tunnels and across treetops; instead of Bushcraft, they get an equivalent chance in Climbing. 

Ogres are big, tough and brutal. They use the same stats as dwarves; the good saves and hitpoints representing the ogre's bulk, and likewise the improved carrying capacity representing the ogre's size. Ogres aren't particularly bright, but they are good at breaking things. Replace the dwarf's Architecture skill chance with an Open Doors skill chance. Likewise, they're strong instead of tough, so they get an improved Strength bonus rather than an improved Constitution bonus.
Other big dumb brutes can also be done this way.

Various Types Of Elves
The elf in the book represents your common urban elf that can be found around human settlements. For less familiar elves, swap out the Search skill chance for a different skill, as follows.
Dark Elves: Sleight of Hand
High Elves: Languages
Subterannean Elves: Architecture
Wood Elves: Bushcraft

A paladin needs to be reasonably tough, with decent hit-points and good saves. They should ideally get some holy magic, and be a trained fighter, too. So, use an elf (with their decent saves, d6 hit-dice and ability to use fighter combat options), but restrict them to Lawful alignments, and have them use the cleric spell list rather than the magic user's. They still use a spellbook (rather than getting spells just by praying), representing a copy of the various vow's they've taken and the holy gifts granted, but otherwise cast like a cleric rather than a magic user.

Vampire Slayers
So, a vampire slayer should be resistant to supernatural nastiness (since they're blessed up to the eyes or have read about this before and know what to expect), have decent fighting skills, and be able to deal massive damage when they catch up to their target.
As a base for the class, use the halfling - the halfling's excellent saves correspond to the vampire-slayers ability to shrug off (or be prepared for) various supernatural problems. They lose the halfling's stealth, and replace it with sneak-attacks for quadruple damage. Rather than the skill in Bushcraft, a vampire slayer gets equivalent skill in Searching, as they're good at finding tracks, hidden crypts and so on. 
A vampire slayer doesn't get the halfling's bonus to AC or Dexterity, and doesn't have the halfling's weapon restrictions, since they aren't small and sneaky like a halfling. Instead, they can use fighter combat options.
Other thing-slayers might have a different skill instead of Searching. Dragon-slayers might get Architecture from all the time they spend in a dragon's underground lair. Demon-slayers might get Languages from all the nasty occult tomes they've read. Giant-slayers might get Climb what with all the time spent clambering around buildings sized for people twenty feet high.

Kobolds are small and annoying, so like goblins they use the halfling as a base. However, they aren't sneaky or good with nature, instead being expert miners and engineers. Replace the halfling's Stealth chance with Architecture, and their Bushcraft with Tinkering. They keep the halfling's extra to AC, due to the slight protection from scaly hides, but get an improved bonus to Constitution rather than Dexterity - they're tough rather than agile.
Gnomes are dumb, but if you want them in your game, use the same rules for them as for kobolds, since they occupy basically the same niche whilst being less interesting.

Doing magic by singing really well is daft and no sensible GM would allow it. Bards are scholars and performers, but not spellcasters because that's ridiculous.
If you want to play a Bard, take the Halfling as a base. Instead of stealth, you get 5-in-6 Languages because of your great knowledge. Instead of bushcraft, you get the same skill chance in Sleight-of-Hand due to your skill at legerdemain. Instead of the Halfling bonus to Dexterity, you get +1 to your Charisma bonus. Instead of the +1 to AC, you get an extra +1 to reaction checks and retainer/hireling loyalty and morale. Yeah, you're charming as hell.

Druids, Evil Cultists and other variant religions
Get your GM to write up a different spell list in place of the cleric spell list. Same number of spells at each level, though.
No, I can't be bothered to come up with the full spell lists, use your imagination. Druids get all naturey focused spells, evil cultists get the creepy necromancy and stuff.
Hell, if your GM is truly dedicated they'll give each religion a different spell list for their clerics.

Frank Frazetta's Barbarians
It's a fighter. A leather posing-pouch, chainmail bikini or scary helmet provide the same AC bonus as leather/chain/plate armour on a normal person, and costs the same. A barbarian can't wear normal people's armour, and visa versa.
Hell, maybe woad or whatever can give the same bonus to AC as armour if you really want.
You might also get the orc-style bonus to damage rather than to hit, if you're a rage-powered barbarian rather than a smart one like Conan.

Martial Artists
It's basically a fighter. A kung-fu master's different martial arts are represented with different 'weapons' - defensive fighting works like a shield, a flying kick works like a two-handed weapon, a sudden lunge like a spear, and so on. You can't lose these weapons or give them to somebody else. They cost the same as normal weapons, since kung-fu training means giving up worldly possessions. Because of the strain such martial arts training puts on your body, you're just as encumbered as if you had actual weapons, since you need to travel light.
If you want to throw chi blasts at people (and you're GM allows it), you can do that with crossbows or whatever.
You probably have to be lawful.

It works like a cleric, except that it has to be chaotic. The holy symbol used is probably blasphemous and horrible. Also the only spell on it's spell list is Summon, and it has Summon at every spell level. Every spell slot gets Summon prepared in it. You can make spell scrolls like a cleric, but only of Summon. You can still make holy water, protection scrolls and so on, and will probably need them. Good luck with that.

It's a specialist.Take sneak-attack.

It's a specialist.Take bushcraft.

Tieflings, Dragonborn, Kitsune
No. Play something sensible.
To preserve any but the most kitchen-sink tone, you probably don't want to have all these options all at once. A game world with (say) PC's that can be orcs and goblins as well as the 7 rulebook classes is going to feel very different to one with paladins and vampire slayers.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

The Hollow Ones

There are entities - in the depth of space or other worlds - that are best described as hungry. These beings are filled with a gnawing, all-consuming need to devour, to draw light and life and substance into the sucking void within them.
Thankfully, their very nature restricts them. Everything they contact directly is devoured, and their empty, formless bodies have little way to influence the world.
There are ways, however. By intangibly reaching out, they can forge a connection with thinking beings, hollowing them out within to become an extension of the all-consuming void. The hollow ones are people who have suffered this fate.

Hollow ones come in two forms. Lesser hollow ones are the vast majority, pitiful empty things constantly trying to fill the gap within them. Greater hollow ones are far more unusual. A Wendigo already understands and harnesses their hunger, so when hollowed they can use this to far greater effect. A greater hollow one forms a link to the void much like between a mystic and their patron, drawing on the emptiness to enhance their own power.

A lesser hollow one remains like the character they once were, with a few exceptions.
  • They require three times as much food each day to avoid starvation; three full meals worth.
  • They heal slowly. They never heal more than a single point of damage from any source of healing (including Medicine rolls, rest, spells, herbalism and so on).
  • They are emotionally numb. Any magic that would influence their emotions automatically fails.
  • Their unarmed attacks deal normal damage, but also stand a chance of hollowing out the victim. The victim must make a Save against Magic. If they fail, they immediately take d20 damage to their Charisma score. If this damage is enough to kill them, their body crumbles to ash and is utterly destroyed. If they survive, then they are hollowed out and become another hollow one (greater if they are a wendigo, or lesser otherwise).
  • If they are a Mystic, then their connection to their patron is devoured and the void becomes their patron. Re-roll all of their spells immediately. The next time they attempt to cast a spell, the Charm roll fails and they must roll on the Fickle Whims of the Divine table automatically.
  • If they are a Magician or Morlock, the Void seeps into their minds and infects their ability to cast spells. Whenever, they would suffer Magical Backlash from casting unsafe or experimental spells, they must also roll for the Fickle Whims of the Divine.
  • They are infertile. They will never have any children, and cannot be cloned or resurrected. Consuming their flesh gives a wendigo or hollow one no benefit. 
  • A hollow one can be easily identified as 'wrong' on casual observation. They are gaunt, pallid and anaemic looking, and are constantly hungry. The precise nature of the problem is not clear unless the observer is already familiar with hollow ones, of course.
A greater hollow one has all the effects of a lesser hollow one, as detailed above. A wendigo can, however, still heal fully by consuming human flesh like normal. Furthermore, whenever they deal charisma damage with their unarmed attacks, their condition progresses further.
Each time their condition progresses, their unarmed damage goes up a dice-size. First d4, then d6, d8, d10, d12 and finally d20.
  • After the first progression, the void overtakes their ability to cast spells. From this point on, rather than choosing spells, they pick a spell level and then roll a random spell. They can avoid taking damage when they cast a spell by rolling on the Fickle Whims of the Divine table.
  • After the second progression, the hollow one heals fully whenever they hollow out a victim of their unarmed damage, just as if they'd consumed human flesh.
  • After the third progression, they can command other hollow ones around them. A lesser hollow one must obey any order given to them by the greater hollow one, much like if the spell Command had been cast. At this point, the void infects their mind fully, slowing their ability to grow; all their XP costs to gain levels are doubled.
  • After the fourth progression, the hollow one automatically devours the magic from any magical item they touch. The magic item becomes completely mundane, and the hollow one heals fully just like they'd consumed human flesh.
  • After the fourth progression, no save can be made to avoid being hollowed out. A victim who is damaged by the hollow one's unarmed attack takes charisma damage automatically and is hollowed out if they survive.
  • After the fifth progression, anybody who touches the hollow one is automatically hollowed themselves. They only take charisma damage if they were attacked.
  • After the sixth progression, the hollow one no longer heals by any means (including magic, rest and consuming human flesh). The only exception to this is when they hollow out a person, which heals them fully as before. After this, there is no further progression to the hollow one; they have achieved their maximum potential.
Like Driders and Eloi, becoming a hollow one is another means of sideways progression for the game, at least for Wendigos. Of course, as well as this, an outbreak of hollow ones can become a horrible threat to the local community, so they make excellent monsters too.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Drider Teeth

A magic item from my weekly WP&WS game.

Drider Teeth are found in sets of six. Each is a glossy black chitin false-tooth, essentially shaped like human teeth but longer and sharper.

Each tooth fits into a single tooth-socket in the gums. Extracting a tooth (so that the socket is free for the false tooth to fit into) deals a single point of damage: if your system uses flesh and grit, the damage goes directly to flesh. Once placed in the gums, the wound rapidly heals over, and the Drider Tooth becomes part of the user's normal dentition. 
Each tooth has a different effect on the wearer. If they haven't been identified, then which tooth is selected will be random: roll a d6 to see which tooth is selected first (and then a d5 for the second tooth, a d4 for the third and so on). 

Roll a 1: The tooth gives the host perfect tremmorsense. They can feel any movement on the surface they are standing on, accurately pinpointing its location by tracking subtle vibrations.

Roll a 2: The host's saliva can spin webs. A small gland under the tongue allows the host to 'spit' strands of silk. This silk is as tough as normal silk, and can be woven into ropes, cloth and so on. The host can produce an area ten feet across of woven silk, or fifty feet of silk chord or rope, before their glands run dry and need a day's rest to recharge.
Roll a 3: The host's bite is poisonous. They deal no more damage than normal unarmed attacks, but enemies taking damage from an unarmed attack must pass a save vs poison or else suffer an addition 15 extra damage.
Roll a 4: The host can walk up walls and over ceilings just as if Spider Climb had been cast.
Roll a 5: The tooth lets the host move without creating any vibrations, and prevents them ever being trapped in webs. 
Roll a 6: The tooth allows the host to talk to spiders as if Speak With Animals had been cast on them. 

In addition, the teeth cause the host to be physically transformed; the more teeth in their mouth, the more their body is altered. The body naturally rejects these transformations; at two stages in the process, the host makes saves against magic as their body rebels against their transformation into a Drider. Failure indicates that the transformation continues to warp them, whilst a successful save results in the body fighting-back against being mutated.
With only one tooth, small chelicerae unfold from within the host's cheeks. These can be kept concealed inside the mouth normally, but emerge from the corners of the mouth if they wish to spin webs, use their poisonous bite or convers with spiders.
When a second tooth is worn, a Save vs Magic must be made; success means that the second tooth falls from the gum and is not worn. Another tooth must be extracted to put the tooth into its socket if the applicant is really keen. With a second tooth, the host's eyes split into eight pairs, around their head. They have an arc of vision far wider than most people, and can see to their sides as well as in front of them. This makes them quite hard to flank and gives them accurate peripheral vision. At this stage, the host's transformation begins to cause them difficulties; the XP costs for each additional level is doubles.
Once a third tooth is worn, the host's limbs extend and develop a third joint, causing them to bend in odd ways. This may give an advantage (+1 on a d6, +3 on a d20, or +15 on a d%) on rolls to wriggle through spaces.
When a fourth tooth is worn, the host's arms split length-ways, giving them two sets of arms. This lets them carry either: a ranged weapon like a bow as well as their close-combat weapons; two ranged weapons (letting them make two shots rather than one); a two-handed weapon AND a shield; several melee weapons (letting them attack twice in close-combat); or else weapons and utility items such as torches or holy symbols.
When five teeth are worn, the host's skin thickens into a glossy black exoskeleton, giving them +3 AC.
Like when two teeth are put in, trying to put a sixth tooth results in a Save vs Magic. Again, failure results in the tooth 'sticking' and further transformation. A successful save shows the body has made a last-ditch effort to return to its natural state; all six teeth fall from the host's mouth, and all benefits from the teeth are lost. When all six teeth are worn, the host's lower legs likewise split into multiple limbs. They sprout a bulbous lower abdomen, and their body re-arranges itself to resemble the classic 'Drider' anatomy. They gain an extra Hit Dice of their normal size (this will be a Flesh dice if your game uses flesh and grit). They no longer gain any benefits from gaining levels save for extra Hit Dice (which will all be Flesh Dice if your system uses them) and improved saves.

Drider teeth can be extracted once worn, undoing the transformation they cause.

(For reference, a full Drider has the following alterations from a normal character:
Permanent Spider Climb and Speak With Animals (spider only). Spin webs. Tremor-sense. Immunity to webs and causing vibrations. Poison bite for 15 damage. +1 hit dice. +3 AC. Multiple arms (potentially allowing two attacks). A bonus to wriggling. Double XP costs and no benefits save for hit-dice and saves from the point the teeth are put in.)

Like the Eloi I mentioned in a previous post, this is a sort of 'sideways advancement' that takes the character in a different direction compared to imply gaining levels.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Neanderthal Apothacaries (A work-in-progress class for WP&WS)

Here's a thing I'm working on. It's about Neanderthals and what they do instead of Magic.

Magic is not an easy skill to learn. Like the more abstract areas of advanced mathematics, modern physics or linguistics, it relies on concepts not commonly encountered in day-to-day life, and which the mortal mind is not adapted to deal with. Many of the thought-structures required for the practice of magic can only be approached by means of metaphor and analogy, grasped at but never fully understood.
It is an unfortunate fact that the Neanderthal mind is poorly adapted to this way of thinking. This isn’t to say that Neanderthals are unintelligent. Far from it, the Neanderthal mind excels at intuitive, practical tasks, and most of this race display an understanding of their material surroundings that put any human’s expertise to shame.
However, the side-effect of this is that the Neanderthal mind struggles with abstract or symbolic thinking. There are few Neanderthal artists, and fewer still could ever show any skill in modern fields like programming and mathematics. As such, no Neanderthal is capable of the thought-structures required to record, memorise and cast spells, or of the ecstatic states of mind to contact a mystic’s patron.
Instead, Neanderthals practice magic in a much more practical, patient form. They study the effects of plants, minerals and other substances, learning how to combine them to produce remarkable effects. This alchemy comes naturally to the more intelligent Neanderthals, where their stolid mindset proves an asset.
Is this magic? It's hard to say. A Neanderthal would say not, claiming that they are simply unlocking the natural properties of the ingredients they use. The practice has none of the sense of ritual and majesty that Human or Morlock magic does. However, an apothecary will often struggle to put into words exactly how their preparations work, and non-Neanderthals cannot reproduce the effects. It seems likely that the laborious process of combining ingredients unlocks something distinctly supernatural.

Here's how it works.

Apothecaries use the same XP chart and saves as a standard Neanderthal. Flesh and Grit are just like for a normal Neanderthal, but roll a d8 rather than a d10.
An Apothecary can't use combat options without penalty, unlike a normal Neanderthal.  
Rather than the skills a Neanderthal has, Apothecaries start off with a basic Medicine, Foraging and Crafts skill chance of 3 in 6, which slowly improves as they gain levels. These skills progress at the same rate as a standard Neanderthal's skills.

An apothecary can make herbal preparations like any other character, but has the additional option to make potions when they do.
A potion is a preparation that mimics a spell’s effect. When drunk (or eaten, or inhaled, or however the potion is prepared), the spell is immediately cast on the drinker.
A potion requires an Active Agent and a Medium, just like a drug does.
When an apothecary rolls to determine what effect an Active Agent has, they can select one of the options for Basic Active Agents. This determines what spell the potion mimics when consumed.
When an apothecary rolls to determine what effect a medium has, they can also select one of the options for potions (as given on Table A). The medium may modify the effects of the spell, for example by delaying its casting.
When putting a potion together, the apothecary can add a Magical Reagent (determined by rolling on table 23). If they do, the spell mimicked by the potion will be taken from the Enhanced Active Agent column.

In addition, it may be possible to find specific unique ingredients that can be used to make potions mimicking other spells (or even effects that are not spells). For example, the bile from a wyvern’s pyroclastic glands might be used to make a potion that allows the drinker to breath fire (as if they had just cast Fireball).

Spells such as Dispel Magic and Antimagic Shell have no effect on an apothecary's potions; they do not count as magical. An apothecary's potions cannot be recognised with Art rolls, however, a successful Medicine roll will reveal what the potion does.

Monday, 10 October 2016

D&D alignment is cosmic

So, I saw that the publishers of Pathfinder offered a rules clarification recently. If you're Good aligned, and cast an Evil-aligned spell (such as Animate Dead) twice in a row, you become Neutral. If you're Neutral and cast an Evil-aligned spell three times in a row, you become Evil.
This is, suffice to say, rather stupid.
But this raises the question 'what does Good and Evil mean' in that kind of game? You know, the ones with the 3x3 alignment grids. Because it strikes me that being 'Good' has very little to do with being, you know, a decent human being. And it's very possible to be 'Evil' and be the kind of person I'd happily associate with.

Let's look at Good here. A Good character can - and indeed is expected by the game - to be highly violent. Even murderous. Those orcs over there are objectively evil (you can tell, because magic says so). So what do you do? Slaughter them all and take their stuff. Having the 'evil' tag (or more accurately, the 'monster' tag) means that they're acceptable targets, and the game expects that you will invade their homes, slaughter all of them, loot their possessions. Sure, maybe you don't kill their children, and instead deposit them in an orphanage. Maybe you don't murder the babies is not the pinnacle of morality. Hell, a truly pacifist group of PCs will merely mind-control them into behaving how they want; normally to the monsters' detriment. How nice.
Bear in mind that this is a world where the spell Atonement exists.
Now, let's look at Evil. Evil is really easy in these worlds. Cast too many of the wrong spells, and BOOM you're now objectively Evil. It doesn't matter the circumstances, or what you achieve with that magic, you're now Evil. In fact, you could cast Animate Dead a few times, and become Evil, and stay that way, whilst being a much nicer and more morally upright individual than the orc-slaughterers above.
And then we get to the nitty-gritty of magic. Why is mind-control not evil? Why is it evil to animate a corpse (by putting some extra-planar spirit in it, apparently) whilst doing the exact same thing to make a golem is OK? Honestly, because the rulebook (and thus the game world's laws of physics) say so.

So how do we resolve this?

Good and Evil are, in these settings, objective things. They're measurable forces that have a concrete, real existance. Hell, in the outer planes you have whole worlds made of absolute, solidified Good and Evil. So, really, you just need to think of them as being forces of the world.
Alignment just means which side of the big cosmic battle you're on. It has nothing to do with your personal morality, or anything like that. Casting a spell with the 'evil' tag is no more morally wrong than casting one with the 'fire' tag might be.
Being Evil doesn't mean you're the bad guys, necessarily. 

Saturday, 8 October 2016

The Six Rites of Eloi Creation

So, a thing came up recently in my Wolf-packs and Winter Snow campaign. My players met a lich who was one of the ancient Morlocks; old enough that he remembered being a slave during the final days of the Serpent-Folk empire. I hinted at something I've decided as being canon for my own game; the Morlock slaves created their own gods as a weapon against the Serpent-Folk. The 'War In Heaven' between the Serpent-Folk and Morlock gods was responsible for their empire's fall.
For reference, I'd place the Serpent-Folk empire as first coming into existence 4 million years ago, during the late Pliocene. The Serpent-Folk may have existed for some time before that, but not in any significant form. They first began breeding Morlocks around 2.5 million years ago, from Homo Habilis, in the earliest days of the Pleistocene. The empire fell around .8 million years ago, during the mid-Pleistocene. Our lich, Abraxus, will have been alive at this time, making him around eight-hundred thousand years old.

Now, I portrayed Abraxus as being urbane, cultured and sophisticated. Although his technology level is still stone-age, his practice of magic is far in advance of anything his modern descendants the Morlocks, or their cousins the Humans and Neanderthals, are capable of. He describes these people as 'fallen from glory'. I think there may have been a civilisation populated by former slaves in the ruins of the Serpent-Folk empire, and that they were not the degenerate simpletons that the Morlocks of the 'modern' age are. Certainly, a lot of their magitech will have been scavanged, but they should have been capable of their own works, such as (for example) the creation of their own gods.

An idea occurred to me: what if these ancient Morlocks, rather than being inherently smarter and more civilized than their descendants, instead had ways to 'elevate' their own kind to a higher state? This, then, is where the idea of Eloi came from; the magical elites of Morlock society who have become post-human beings through a magical transformation. Here, then, is how I think this could be accomplished. It's only canonical in my own game, but feel free to include it in yours as well.

To become an Eloi requires a series of rituals, each of which brings the subject one step further down the path towards becoming an Eloi. Each step along the path must be taught to the Eloi-to-be, and requires a ceremony be performed with the mentor guiding them towards Eloi-hood. An undead Morlock can perform the rites, but will typically gain less benefit from them.
The process of becoming an Eloi causes a Morlock to neglect their physical prowess in order to focus on magical growth. As well as the listed effects below, the Eloi increases the attribute modifiers for all mental attributes (Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma) by the number of rites they have completed. The actual score remains unchanged. Likewise, the modifiers for their physical attributes (Strength, Dexterity and Constitution) are lowered by the number of rites the Eloi has completed.
(So, for example, after completing the first step, an Eloi with 10 strength and 10 wisdom would have a strength penalty of -1, and a wisdom bonus of +1. These increase to -2 and +2 after the second rite, and so on.)

The First Rite
The first stage is, in many ways, the most significant; it is the point of no turning back where the Eloi commits to the path. 
The first rite is very simple: the Eloi-to-be renounces mundane matters in pursuit of magical perfection. The rite consists of a dire oath to the mentor, ceremonially 'signed' by branding the mentor's palm-print over the Eloi-to-be's heart; to do this the mentor's hand will be coated in hot tar to allow their palm to scorch the Eloi-to-be's skin. This brand deals d4 damage to the flesh of each.
An Eloi who has completed the first rite has all the XP requirements to gain levels doubled. They understand that they will learn only slowly, and their minds no longer develop as normal. Instead, much of their advancement will come as steps down the path to Eloi-hood.
After completing the first rite, an Eloi no longer ages, although they will finally die of old age when their time comes. They become completely infertile. Although they can still catch diseases, they will never transmit them to others; they are never infectious.
After only the first rite, an Eloi cannot perform the rites to make another Morlock like themselves.

The Second Rite
The second rite expands the limits of the Eloi-to-be's mind, granting them a greater understanding of magic and breaking the curse of simple-mindedness bred into them.
This rite requires that the Eloi-to-be's mind be altered. To do this, the Eloi-to-be is rendered immobile or numb to pain, by the use of narcotic drugs. Using long, thin needles, the mentor drills a number of tiny holes in the Eloi-to-be's skull, into which a number of ritually prepared substances are inserted to unlock the magical potential of the Morlock brain. These substances are, in game terms, three magical reagents, each of them unique to the specific Eloi-to-be's anatomy. Determining which reagents will be required (and where they must be placed) requires several days of careful study on the part of the Eloi-to-be and their mentor.
Once completed, the second rite allows the Eloi to perform experimental magic. They can cast spells in unusual forms and research new spells; they have all the capabilities of a human magician. They can also, if they wish, record spells on a sanctum wall just like a human magician would. In addition, the Eloi gains an Art skill chance equal to their Perception skill chance.
Again, an Eloi cannot perform the second rite at this stage of initiation.

The Third Rite
The third rite is where the Eloi gains full understanding of their state. It is the tipping-point midway through their initiation, where they finally become more Eloi than Morlock.
The rite is more complex than those before. The Eloi-to-be must be brought into a hallucinatory state through the consumption of psychadelic substances. There, their mentor guides their visions carefully, pulling their gaze inwards. In order to truly unlock the potential in their genetics, the Eloi-to-be must open their 'third eye'. They direct the mentor to a particular spot on their forehead, and the mentor cuts away a flap of skin and then drills out a disk of bone. A single magical reagent (again uniquely chosen for each Eloi, as in the second rite) is placed in the new socket and covered again with skin to form a mystical third eye.
After completing the third rite, the Eloi can now mentor other Eloi-to-be through the first to third rites. They do not require a mentor for any further rites, instead instinctively understanding what they must do to achieve the next step on the path (but not what effect it will have on them).
In addition, the Eloi becomes innately aware of the state of their body. They can simply understand, through concentration, any diseases, injuries or disorders they are afflicted with, and the effects these have.

The Fourth Rite
The fourth rite cuts the Eloi off from the world around them. They renounce their former lives and become something other than mortal.
The rite is incredibly complex, requiring the Eloi to perform a ritual fast for three days before beginning. After a series of complex gestures and syllables, the Eloi must consume the heart of another Morlock, although it need not be fresh and the donor need not have been killed for this purpose. This is left to digest, and then ritually vomited up, symbolically purging their species from them.
After the fourth rite, the Eloi's heart can no longer be substituted for a magical reagent or sacrifice. Neither they nor their body can be used for magical reagents or sacrifices. A wendigo gains no benefit from consuming their flesh. Their material form loses its magical potency and their souls are of no interest to the gods and spirits; they are only vessels for the Eloi's magical nature. The Eloi will no longer die of old age.

The Fifth Rite
The fifth rite causes the Eloi's spirit to become seperate from their body, with only the most tenuous of links.
The rite must be performed alone and in total darkness. The Eloi must remove all tattoos, scars, and brands from their skin, flaying any bodily modifications down to the flesh. They must be left with no spells recorded on their skin, and no marks of the previous rites. Each spell deals 1 point of damage to flesh when removed. The Eloi can spend as long as they wish to complete this rite, but once begun it must be completed in a single attempt. If the Eloi enters light or the company of another person before it is completed, then the fifth rite, and any subsequent ones, are forever cut off to them.
After completing the fifth rite, the Eloi no longer requires food, water, sleep, or air. They do not feel pain. They merely exist, without requiring any external support.
After the rite is performed, the Eloi can re-record any spells they wish into their flesh.

The Sixth Rite
The sixth rite is the final rite in the process. Unlike those before it, it does not merely affect the Eloi themselves, but all Morlocks in the world. It is unknown if it will also affect other hominid species.
Completing the Sixth Rite requires many hundreds of mortal lifetimes, and is incredibly complex. The ritual's requirements include, but are not limited to the following:
-All the Serpent-Folk must be killed with no chance of returning.
-All the Serpent-folk's gods must be destroyed completely and permenantly.
-A number of complex geomantic monuments must be placed around the planet to extend the rite's effect.
-At least one Serpent-Folk (alive, undead, in an embryonic state or otherwise) must be ritually sacrificed for every Morlock that has ever been born. This is probably best achieved through the rapid mass production of embryonic Serpent-Folk that are killed in huge numbers before reaching maturity.
-The Eloi performing the rite must truly die at least once. Unless this is the final step they perform, they had better have a way to return from it (most likely as an undead being) afterwards.
At least one Eloi - the Lich known as Abraxus - is currently working on completing the sixth rite, and has been doing so for several thousand years. It is unknown if he has assistance from other Eloi in this endeavour.
It is unknown what the completion of the sixth rite will actually do. Abraxus, in his transcendent madness, believes that it will free all Morlocks and their descendants from the shackles of mortality.
The sixth rite is not a practical goal for PCs to pursue over the course of a campaign; the scope and wide-ranging effects of it are far beyond what can be modelled in a table-top session. Instead, the pursuit of the sixth rite is a plot device, driving the actions of NPCs. It is possible that an Eloi pursuing the sixth rite could become a 'patron' of low-level PCs, setting them quests that help towards their completion of some step of the sixth rite.

Non-Morlock PCs might be able to perform and benefit from the rites. In my campaign, they cannot, but variant versions for each other species can be developed. The effects of these rites are broadly (but not totally) similar, and can only be performed by human Magicians and Mystics, or by Neanderthal Apothecaries. Where for Morlocks, the rites rely on body modification, for humans the rites require the creation of magical artefacts and monuments, whilst for Neanderthals the rites require the use of alchemy.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

A quick round-up of things

So, news. 
Patrick Smith (of False Machine) did a review of Wolf-packs and Winter Snow recently. He said some very nice things about it, too (and sales shot up as a result afterwards, which was nice). The bit which caught my interest, though, was this:

"What does it mean that random weirdos are now creating perfectly interesting games in the OSR style, on their own, and apparently just dropping them on the internet?

I have no idea, its a kaleidoscope community and I've never seen more than a fragment at any one time? Is it getting bigger? I couldn't tell you. The core OSR-type personality is an odd combination of flinty and arty and there are relatively few people who are like that so I doubt it is growing at any speed."

Which got me thinking somewhat. There's definitely something consistent to the design choices and tastes in a lot of OSR gamers and writers. You get this wonderful darkness in the games. Not bombastic grim darkness like in warhammer 40k, or melodramatic angst-ridden darkness like in Vampire the Masquerade. OSR darkness is very much more dirty and primitive. A lot of the best stuff I've read - Deep Carbon Observatory, The God That Crawls, and basically everything from Goblin Punch - has this sense of decay and forlorn-nes to it. Things break, people die pointlessly from their own mistakes, and nothing has a grand meaning behind it. Things just happen, and often those things are bad.
I love the contrast in OSR stuff. On the one hand, you get these pretty mundane, familiar PCs, using old familiar mechanics. By this point, basically everybody knows what fighter-cleric-thief-wizard means, and how stuff like hit-points and saves work. It makes your little 'self' in the game world feel normal. So then when you get all this weird shit thrown at it (A game I'm running at the moment has featured trees that bleed like humans and moan when you cut them, giant barnacles in a cave with three-foot razor-sharp tongues, and the Great God Vorm - the bird who eats snakes.) and that contrast really highlights the scary otherness of the stuff you come up against. 
I dunno where I'm going with this.

I don't like the book for WP&WS enough. I'm working on a new version. It's gonna be hardback. It's gonna have actual art in it (public domain art, admittedly, but it's still a step up from only silhuettes). I'm adding some new content, too. Extra monsters (now you can fight glyptodons, severed hands and walking mushrooms!), new hazards (because one of my favourite bits in the book were the example slimes and spores and stuff, and more of them is always fun) and stuff like that.
Also, a new class; Neanderthal Apothecaries are a little squishier than normal Neanderthals, but get pretty good at Medicine. Plus, they can brew potions that mimic the effects of spells. This brings the classes to a round ten, so now you can pick your class by rolling a d10, if you're hardcore.

I might put some of the extra bits up on the blog once I like how they look.

I'm getting interviewed by the guy who writes Vacant Ritual Assembly. Mr Krausse is a lovely bloke, and the back-and-forth of emails has been pretty enjoyable so far. Everybody should get interviewed at some point, it's very satisfying.

I've been rubbish at updating the blog recently. Stuff in my real-life, and so on. But I'm gonna try and change that.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Bloodline: The Strigoi

A homebrew bloodline for Vampire: The Masquerade

The Strigoi are a minor, yet largely successful, bloodline confined to the far north. The origins of the bloodline are murky, but they are believed to be an ancient offshoot of Clan Lasombra that became isolated in the far north and developed their own crude culture. 

The Strigoi hold that, since fire and sunlight are anathema to Cainites, they are therefore creatures of cold and darkness. Aligning themselves with winter and the empty, snow-filled wastes, they see themselves (and, indeed, all other vampires) as manifestations of the empty, gnawing cold at the heart of creation. Outsiders have drawn parallels between the Strigoi's reverence for Winter and the Lasombra's reverence for the Abyss, although any Strigoi questioned on the matter claim that it is the Lasombra who have become confused.
The Strigoi have abandoned the lordly ways of many Cainites, instead forming small broods of sire, childer and grandchilder that roughly match a mortal family unit. These broods are linked my a mess of interweaving blood-bonds that pull the family together into a largely cohesive whole, although the elders tend to dominate due to their greater strength and more potent blood.
A Strigoi brood spends a large chunk of the year - the arctic day, when the sun never dips below the horizon - torpid. Sealed into the permafrost, the brood waits for the sun to drop lower, and emerge tentatively as the brief nights begin. As the nights grow longer, the brood will grow more confident, and range ever further each night in search of prey. Eventually, the sun sinks beneath the horizon and does not rise again the next morning, and the brood has free rein over their territory, attacking when and where they like to feed at their leisure. This savagery will continue until the sun begins to rise again in the spring, and the Strigoi retreat to their hiding-places to wait for the next arctic night.
The bloodline are fiercely independent, without any interest in the Sabbat's grand crusades or the Camarilla's politics. They disdain the idea of keeping a masquerade, pointing out that in their territory humans are still isolated and vulnerable, and the sun does not rise for months at a time. They have some friendly contact with other nomadic savages, mostly limited to clans Gangrel and Ravnos, but beyond this tend to be largely isolationist.

In appearance, the Strigoi seem decidedly inhuman. Low humanity leaves its mark on them, and most a pallid, shrivelled beings with hollow eyes and prominent fangs. What clothing and equipment they wear is minimal and highly practical, since they don't suffer the cold and have no need for ornamentation. Likewise, their lairs tend to be simplistic affairs; pits and caves beneath the permafrost where the sun cannot reach them, containing various items of plunder in a rough pile, and dug-out hollows where each Strigoi rests during the day.
Strigoi concepts tend towards physical attributes, and the more cerebral members tend to favour perception over other mental attributes. Stealth, athletics, survival and animal ken are all common abilities, and knowledges tend to be a weak-point. Strigoi backgrounds tend to be sparse, typically a few points in Haven and perhaps retainers to represent their progeny. 

Bloodline Disciplines: Potence, Obfuscate,  Rime
Bloodline Weakness: Strigoi can form a third-level blood bond to any number of other vampires, rather than being limited to only one. On top of this, they cast no shadow which, like with the Lasombra weakness, can make them easy to spot.

The discipline Rime will come in a future post, once I've worked out how it all fits together. In the mean time, I'm sure you can use obtenebration and refluff everything from 'darkness' to 'cold'.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Esoteric Enterprises, a potential new project.

So, just a quick one today. 
I got a copy of Orpheus a little while back, and that's been stewing in my head with a bunch of other games and settings. Lacuna (just play it, it's amazing), Shadowrun (great concept, shitty bloated rules), Wraith, hellboy, a bunch of stuff. Out of this, I've had an idea for a game.
Basically, you get a modern setting. It's focussed on ghosts and the afterlife, with PCs as ghosts, mediums and necromancers and stuff. You're essentially a little independent firm in the occult underworld. Gameplay is very mission-based, with stuff like break-ins to get magical artifacts, taking out dangerous hauntings, exploring horrible ruins in the city sewers. Everybody is a weirdo in a black trenchcoat with a pocket full of occult gewgaws and a sawn-off shotgun, and it's after dark and raining, and something's horribly wrong.
In a lot of ways it's an OSR-esque take on the same idea as WoD. No big conspiricies (that players are part of, at least) or grand powers, just the barely-alive and recently-dead scrabbling for their continued existence in the world's most dangerous profession.

So, what do I want to actually /do/ with this as a game? A few things.
  • I'm looking at having undead be playable. There's a class for ghosts and a class for physical undead, as well as a fighter-mage-thief set of classes for living humans. 
  • Classes are front-loaded. You don't really get new abilities as you gain levels, just better at them, and stronger overall. The exception here is necromancers learning new spells.
  • A single save (like S&W does) that's modified by an appropriate attribute modifier depending on what you're saving against. Skill rolls work in the same way - a single value that improves by level and is modified by an appropriate attribute. Basically all the rolls you'll make as a player are either these or an attack roll.
  • The meat of the player-facing rules is in the interaction between physical and ethereal stuff. I'm still hashing out the details, but essentially you get two HP tracks, one for physical damage and one for ghostly damage. Mostly, you only need to worry about one sort (ghosts don't get hurt by physical attacks, for example). 
  • Each of the classes interacts with the physical/ethereal divide differently, so gets a dramatically different playstyle based on what they can do.
  • Unlike a lot of OSR games, I don't want character death to be final like it is in most games. If a living character dies, they get to re-stat as a weaker undead one. Undead characters who are killed will come back again weaker and weaker until they eventually fade into nothingness. Basically, you ressurect one level lower, but if you hit level 0, you die. On top of this, I'm thinking of letting PCs swap classes (with the same penalty of a level) if their circumstances change. This is going to take a decent amount of work to feel right, but it means I can make things SUPER lethal and not worry about PC attrition so much.
  • On the GM's end, I want the game to be pick-up-and-play, without too much prep ahead of time. This means random tables and flowcharts and stuff. I want it to be pretty simple to make a quick mission for an evening's play basically on the fly from randomized prompts and complications.
  •  I also want to include escalating danger. The thinking here is that the party racks up 'heat' the more dodgy/illegal/flashy stuff they do, which means that more and worse random encounters turning up until they go to ground to loose their heat. This should tie in nicely with the equivalent of wandering monster tables, with what type of unwanted attention you attract depending on what sort of job you're doing. 
This is likely going to be another big project like Wolfpacks was. I'll be throwing some ideas around and stuff, as ideas occur to me. Probably I'll have a functional ruleset hashed out fairly quickly, and then stuff like the GM-side procedural game generation will take longer, as will putting it into a workable form and getting it publishable.

Thursday, 12 May 2016


Doctor Moreau, Victor Frankenstein, Professor Farnsworth, clan Tzimisce and various hunchbacks by the name of Igor. There's something fascinating about a scientist meddling in Things Man Was Not Meant To Know.
Because of my tendency to try to build one of these characters in every system (from Lamentations of the Flame Princess, to Don't Rest Your Head, to Changeling the Dreaming), I figured I'd make an actual LotFP class for the concept. Here it is.

Hit Dice, experience, and saves are like a Magic User. All metamorphosists have a 5-in-6 rating in the Medicine skill, and a 2-in-6 rating in the Research skill.
Metamorphosists must be either lawful or chaotic - not neutral. Maybe they're sworn to pursue their understanding of the natural order of the world, placing their faith in the laws and regularities of science. Maybe they're maniacs seeking to usurp God's place as the bringer of life. Either way, their studies have led them away from mundane, ordinary life.

A metamorphosist can replicate some of the effects produced by a cleric or magic user. This, effectively, allows them to cast spells through the application of scientific knowledge. These effects are referred to as procedures. 
Performing a procedure requires the metamorphosist to use at the very least a set of Surgeon's Tools, and to have a safe and secure place to work. On top of this, most procedures will require specific organs or materials, which are used up regardless of whether or not the procedure is successful. A procedure takes one day's work to complete for each rank of the spell being mimicked. The subject or subjects must be present throughout, either willing participants, or else restrained.
To use a procedure, if the metamorphosist is not working in a private, well stocked laboratory (worth at least 500 silver per spell level being mimicked), then they must pass a medicine skill roll to pull the procedure off.
No saves can be made to resist a procedure, even if the spell mimicked would normally allow one.
Regardless of the spell's duration when cast by a cleric or magic user, the any changes made by a procedure last indefinitely. They do not count as supernatural, and so are unaffected by anything that detects, dispels or enhances magic.
At first level, a metamorphosist knows how to perform two procedures - Cure Light Wounds and Embalm. For every level they subsequently gain, they learn to perform an additional procedure, which is set by the level they just gained. 

  • At First level, Cure Light Wounds and Embalm are known. Cure Light Wounds requires no additional materials. Embalm is a custom spell for this class, and requires a glass vessel filled with neat alcohol; unlike other procedures it only takes a turn to perform.
  • At second level, Graft is learned. Graft is a custom spell for this class, which requires a living example of the body-part to be replaced.
  • At third level, Change Self is learned. This spell can be cast on any subject, not just the metamorphosist's self, and requires a few square inches of living skin, and possibly samples of fat, muscle, hair and so forth depending on the changes to be made.
  • At fourth level, Delay Poison is learned. It requires the use of a living leech.
  • At fifth level, Cure Disease is learned. It requires no additional materials.
  • At sixth level, Speak with Dead is learned. It requires the dead subject's preserved brain, rather than their head, and a small paper cone that it is hooked up to to produce the voice.
  • At seventh level, Cure Serious Wounds is learned. It requires no additional materials.
  • At eighth level, Neutralise Poison is learned. It requires no additional materials.
  • At ninth level, Feeblemind is learned. It requires the brain-stem matter from a base animal such as a toad or sheep, which is grafted into the victim's own brain.
  • At tenth level, Animate Dead is learned. It requires only the corpses to be re-animated, a lightning rod and a thunderstorm.
  • At eleventh level, Cure Critical Wounds is learned. It requires no additional materials.
  • At twelfth level, Mind Switch is learned. It requires only the two beings to have their minds switched, and swaps their brains.
  • At thirteenth level, Animate Dead Monsters is learned. Like Animate Dead, it requires the corpses to be re-animated, a lightning rod, and a thunderstorm.
  • At fourteenth level, Heal is learned. It requires a few pounds of living flesh.
  • At fifteenth level, Simulacrum is learned. It requires enough living flesh to build the new body (rather than snow), a lightning rod, and a thunderstorm.
  • At sixteenth level, Unnatural Transplant is learned. It requires only the body part responsible for the power to be replicated.
  • At seventeenth level, Clone is learned. It has the same requirements as when cast normally.
  • At eighteenth level, Trap the Soul is learned. It requires a large glass containment vat, which costs the same as and replaces the gem required when cast normally.
  • After eighteenth level, no more procedures are learned.
A metamorphosist is not limited to only perform the procedures they have already learned. If they can justify in suitable techno-babble how they intend to go about the procedure, then (at the GM's discretion) they can give it a shot. As well as the possible Medicine skill roll, a Research skill roll must be made. If the Research roll fails, then - regardless of whether or not the actual procedure was a success - then Something Has Gone Horribly Wrong. It is up to the GM to decide what exactly this is. It could range from an angry mob of torch-wielding peasants, to an outbreak of a horrible new plague, to the patient becoming Horribly Wrong themselves - whatever the GM thinks would best drive home the metamorphosist's hubris.

New Spells

Rank: 1
Range: touch
Duration: 1 month per level
This spell causes a body or body part to be preserved perfectly so long as it is left reasonably undisturbed. If it was fresh when the spell was cast, then the body parts will count as 'alive' for anything that needs living flesh.

Rank: 1
Range: touch
Duration: Instantaneous
This spell replaces a ruined or removed body-part. Although it doesn't heal damage to flesh, it automatically undoes an injury from the How Flame Princess Got That Way rules.

Unnatural Transplant
Rank: 7
Range: touch
Duration: Permenant
This spell allows the target to gain an ability from a defeated monster by grafting the organs responsible onto them. This could be something fairly mundane, such as gills to let the recipient breath water or venom glands to make their bite poisonous. Alternately, it could be entirely supernatural and bizarre, such as medusa's face stitched over the recipient's own to let them turn enemies to stone, or pyroclastic glands that let the recipient breath fire. The organs to be grafted in must be fresh, and must actually fit onto the recipient somewhere.

Three-fold Models are the Indie version of Fantasy Heartbreakers.

So, inevitably, people take apart games and the people who play them to classify them and what they like or (more commonly) dislike about them.
You get the whole GNS shebang which looks at people's 'creative agendas' and what they want out of the game, and stuff like that. Personally, I find that approach kind of lacklustre, as it doesn't tell us anything about the game's writing itself. Plus, the difference between simulating a genre's cliches and 'exploring the themes of a genre' is something I never really saw the distinction in.
Anyway, I tend to classify games into three broad types, based on the focus of their mechanics. Something about gamers, and particularly the ones that write their own games, seems to love dividing things into catagories, and I'm no exception there.

So, first up, we have crunchy games. These are the games where you have several big chunky books full of rules and interactions between rules. You often have a broad underlying mechanic, and then loads of modifications to it for different situations.
These games tend to put a lot of focus on character builds. What you can and can't do is strongly defined by the decisions you make in character creation. Often, a skilled optimiser can make a character that's much stronger than an unoptimised character. These sorts of games tend to involve a hefty character gen (maybe taking up a whole session or more) spent pouring through books comparing options, and then in play fairly strict adherence to the rules. In play, there tends to be a lot of focus on working the system in your favour, so that the raw mathematics of the situation rigorously defines what happens.
Often, these games are heavily combat focussed, but not always. Examples that I particularly like include the various Old World Of Darkness games. GURPS, 3rd and 4th edition D&D, shadowrun, the various 40k rpgs and loads more all come under this bracket.

Then, we have story games. These games put a mechanical focus on the actual plot, and typically give players tools to control who gets to control the narrative. Rules about who gets to narrate what, mechanics that control spotlight and tempo, collaborative storytelling and experimental games are all in this vague group. Games without GMs, or which give players a lot of tools to take over GMing fit in here nicely.
Usually, the mechanics are pretty abstract and universal. You tend to get the ability to come up with your own stats and powers, limited abilities to force the story in particular directions, and control over things that aren't your own PC. These games have much more of a tendency to think of themselves as Art, and to deal with genres that aren't variations on action, horror, fantasy and sci-fi.
Some of these games that I really like include Don't Rest Your Head, Monsterhearts and Lacuna. Other games you might have come across include Dungeon World (and all the other 'powered by the apocalypse' games), Fiasco, Dread, Fate, and way more indie darlings I've never played.

Lastly, there's rules-light games. These games tend to take the focus away from the rules themselves, treating them as an unfortunate inconvenience. Rules tend to not to be universal, and handle stuff on an ad-hoc case-by-case basis. Ideally, of course, these games don't want you thinking about the rules at all, and instead it's about doing smart things IC.
Character gen is usually quick, and often pretty random. Lethality might be quite high. Unlike story games, these games are pretty firm on the distinction between the GM and the Players: you say what you want to do, and the GM controls the results of your actions and literally everything else in the world. Unlike crunchy games, the game tends to rely on GM judgements more than rules - if the mechanics conflict with what the GM thinks 'ought' to happen, the GM takes control, not the rules.
Most OSR games fall in this category. Other games here that I particularly like include Paranoia and Trail of Cthulhu. To be honest, since this is my preferred style of play, I don't really know many games like this that I don't enjoy.

So there we go. Basically, it comes down to how you determine what happens next: strictly following the rules, using an abstract system to control narrative rights, or DM fiat.
Just my thoughts, and probably not massively useful.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Ageing in Wolf-packs and Winter Snow

So, I'm working (slowly) on a Wolfpacks adventure where one of the key themes is going to be ageing and de-ageing people. There may be creepy babies involved.
For this, I've been scribbling up some rules on very old and very young PCs. This is what I have so far:

Random Ages
When your character's age becomes relevant, if you already know it, then that's fine. If you said your PC was 22, they're still 22. Otherwise, roll up their age at random, using the following methods.

For child PCs (probably only members of the Orphan class in WP&WS), roll a d10 and add 5, to get a number between 6 and 15. That's how old you are.

For adult PCs (most other classes), you use a slightly more complex method. For this game, we're assuming that 'adult' starts much younger than it does in modern life. Historically, kids in their mid teens were often considered adults and expected to contribute as such. Your basic age starts out at 14. Roll a d4, and add that to your age (for a number between 15 and 28). Then roll a d6. If the result on the d6 was less than the d4, you don't add any more to your age - your age is just 14+d4. If the result on the d6 was equal to or more than the d4, add the d6's result to your age and keep going.
If you added the d6, do the same thing with a d8. Roll it, and then do nothing more if it was less than the d6, or add the number and keep going if it was equal or more. Then do this with a d10, and then a d12, and then a d20 for so long as you keep on rolling equal to or better.
This result gives Most PCs an age of about 16 to 25, and older characters become less and less likely. The maximum possible age is 74, but this is really rather unlikely.

For PCs that start out immortal at level one (none in the core book, but I'm already idly considering classes for the undead, and I don't know what homebrew you might be using. Hell, maybe you want your Morlocks to never age in order to make them even elfier or something), use the same method as for adult PCs. After the d20, you roll a d100, and then keep on rolling d100s until the roll was less than the previous.

The Effects of Age
Adults (aged between 16 and 50 for humans/Neanderthals/Morlocks) work just normally.
Children (aged between 6 and 15 for humans etc) are smaller than adults, which gives them +1 to their AC, and reduces their carrying capacity by 1. This is already included in the Orphan class.
Toddlers (aged between 1 and 5) are handled in one of two ways. Mundane toddlers are fucking useless. They have d6 flesh only, can't do much to be useful, can carry maybe five things without dropping them, and primarily get in your way. An adult de-aged to being a toddler is handled slightly differently. If their hit-dice was bigger than a d6, drop it by one size. (Re-roll your flesh and grit points, or just have one less flesh/grit point per dice if you're lazy). They get +2 to their AC, and reduce their carrying capacity by 2, because they're little. Their movement speed is halved.
Like toddlers, babies (less than a year old for humans) are handled in two ways. Mundane babies have d4 flesh, and can't do much beyond cry, poop, and feed. Adults de-aged to become babies get their hit dice reduced by two sizes, down to a minimum of a d4. (Re-roll hitpoints, or just lose 2 per dice, as before). They get +3 AC and reduce their carrying capacity by 3, because they'e so small. Movement is reduced to a tenth of normal.

You will notice that adults reduced to very young ages can often still fight and act much like they would as an adult. This is the creepy kids effect. Picture a six-month-old baby that produces a stone knife from somewhere in its swaddling wraps and proceeds to attack you like a rabid animal. It's just a baby, sure, but that knife is still a knife and it's fighting far harder than normal babies do. I mean, even if you win the fight, that makes you a baby-murderer. 

Humans (and morlocks and so on) have a maximum lifespan after which they promptly die of old age. De-ageing, new bodies and so on can get around this, but normal healing can't. Creeping up on old age is always a good reason to become a lich. Most humans have a maximum lifespan of 50, plus 2d12. You only need to roll this if you're about to get a load older, and risk dying as a result.
If you roll this, and its less than the age you were already, then the good news is that you were on the verge of keeling over as it was, and had maybe a few months before old age caught up with you. Lots of elderly magicians find knowing that they're going to kick the bucket focusses their minds wonderfully.
There aren't any penalties for being Really Old, unless you want to roleplay being cantankerous and having achy joints and missing the good ol' days. 

Some new spells!
Minor Senescence 
Rank: 1
Range: 5 feet per level
Duration: instantaneous
This spell ages the subject by d12 months. For every level the magician has over 1st, the victim ages another month. You may need to check how old you'll be when you die of old age, and if you're aged above that, you die. No saves are allowed, but Remove Curse undoes the effect.

Minor Neoteny 
Rank: 1
Range: 5 feet per level
Duration: instantaneous
This spell reduces the age of the subject by d12 months. For every level the magician has over 1st, the victim is de-aged another month. If you're de-aged to before the point of birth, you become a helpless foetus, and probably die in short order unless somebody has an artificial womb to pop you in. No saves are allowed, but Remove Curse undoes the effect.

Major Senescence and Major Neoteny are rank 3, and work just the same, but use years instead of months. Overwhelming Senescence and Overwhelming Neoteny are rank 5, and likewise use decades instead of months or years.

Salt Path Necromancy

This is another of my homebrew paths of necromancy, designed to give necromancers in Vampire the Masquerade a little bit more flexibility.

The Salt Path is reasonably well known among the Giovanni. It was derived from the practices of another Mediterranean necromancer-family that the Giovanni married into and subsumed. It deals with wraiths, particularly summoned or bound wraiths, much like the Sepulchre Path does, but focusses on ways to bolster their effectiveness. In many ways, it can be considered a carrot compared to the Sepulchre Path's stick.

Rank 1 ~ Reward the Faithful Servant
This power makes willingly obeying the necromancer an enticing prospect for any wraith they encounter. All wraiths gain power from following their obsessions, much like a vampire does from feeding on blood. The necromancer can induce an obsession with serving them, so that a wraith in their service gains supernatural might in reward. Often, these servants require little or no compulsion, and serve willingly and eagerly.
System: This power requires the necromancer to spend a point of Willpower, and to rolls Charisma + Occult. The difficulty is the target wraith's current pathos pool. If it succeeds, the wraith gains the passion 'serve the necromancer' at one dot for every success. The passion will normally be based around an emotion such as loyalty or idealism. If the roll is botched, then instead the wraith's shadow gains the dark passion 'oppose the necromancer', with a rating of one dot for every 1 in the pool. Note that the wraith is in no way compelled to follow the necromancer's orders, and can completely ignore them if they want, but will gain pathos easily if they choose to serve.
The effects of this power last until the next sunset. The wraith suffers no ill-effects when the passion goes away.

Rank 2 ~ Room and Board
This power binds a wraith to the necromancer, allowing them to affect the necromancer more easily, and even to heal damage to their form by slipping inside the necromancer to slumber.
System: Much like Reward the Faithful Servant, Room and Board  requires the necromancer to spend a point of Willpower, and to rolls Charisma + Occult. The difficulty is again the target wraith's current pathos pool. If the roll succeeds, then the wraith gains the necromancer's own body as a fetter, with a rating of one dot for every success. They will have reduced difficulties to affect the necromancer with arcanoi, among other effects. In addition, every time the necromancer uses this power successfully, the target wraith becomes one step more attuned to the necromancer.
The effects of this power last until the next sunset. The wraith suffers no ill-effects when the fetter goes away, although if the necromancer suffers Final Death during the ability's duration, then the wraith suffers the normal Harrowing for losing a fetter.

Rank 3 ~ Grant Sanctuary
A necromancer can repair damage to a wraith by donating their own vitality and strength.
System: The necromancer rolls Stamina + Occult. For each success, they may spend a point of blood to heal one point of damage to the wraith. If the necromancer wishes to heal levels Aggravated damage, they take a level of Lethal damage (which cannot be soaked or otherwise prevented) for each level of Aggravated damage healed.
This power cannot heal wraiths which are currently embodied in physical form, possessing a physical object, Risen, or similar - only those in their normal immaterial form can be affected.

Rank 4 ~ Monitor the Servants
With this power, a necromancer can watch over those wraiths who have a personal connection to them. They can push their conciousness out to these ghostly servants, becoming aware of their surroundings and actions.
System: A necromancer with this power is always automatically aware which wraiths (if any), have a passion or dark passion relating to them directly, or have the necromancer as a fetter. By spending a point of blood and rolling Perception + Occult (with difficulty equal to the target wraith's Willpower), they can observe one of these wraiths. They see, hear, smell and otherwise sense what the wraith senses, looking out from behind the wraith's eyes. Their perception pools are capped at the number of successes achieved on the roll.
The effect lasts as long as the necromancer wishes, but whilst active they have no awareness of their own body, and fall into a dormant state much like torpor. Unless they are physically injured (which snaps their awareness back to their own body immediately and wakes them back up) they are completely helpless.

Rank 5 ~ An Extension Of The Master
By building on the abilities of Monitor the Servants, this power grants the necromancer incredible control of their ghostly servants. Rather than merely observing, the necromancer can actively intervene in their servant's affairs using their supernatural arts.
System: This power grants additional abilities to the power Monitor the Servants. When the necromancer is observing a wraith, they can cast any Necromancy powers they have on that wraith. Doing so costs an additional point of blood, and their dice pool is capped by the number of successes on the roll to observe. The necromancer can also use necromancy powers on the wraith's surroundings as if they were there themselves (for example, on another wraith that their host is in conversation with). This, however, costs an additional point of blood and one of willpower, and again the dice pool is capped as before.