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Thursday, 28 April 2016

A little update.
Wolf-packs and Winter Snow is available to download on drivethruRPG. I'm working on getting the layout done for a print version.
After this, the plan is to get 15 Years in a publishable form, and stick that up too. This might be tricky, due to the need to find art that's not massively copyright-infringey. I don't think I'd get away with just using black silhouettes and claiming its a stylistic choice again.

I'm working on a couple of Wolfpacks modules, fillable character sheets and pre-genned characters, and a DM-screen and player-cheat-sheets package. The modules in question are:
Spires Dreaming Beneath The Ice, a dungeon crawl into antediluvian ruins in the far north. 
The Princess Clad In Amber, a location/event based scenario dealing with a mad cult stealing people's babies.

How I run Clerics and so forth.

More LotFP houserules. 


Here's how I handle alignment. 
Lawful refers to the divine plan for the cosmos. It is associated with things that are holy (such as nuns/monks, relics, holy sites, and so on), with destiny, and with spiritual enlightenment. The divine is beyond human understanding. The western church's worship of 'God' is a manifestation of this, as are various eastern spiritual traditions. 
Chaotic refers to things that are outright against the divine plan. Magic draws on things outside of our universe and is directly in opposition to the natural divine harmony. Chaotic things are magical, unnatural and alien. 
Neutral refers to the mundane world. It is, essentially, broken. Impure and flawed, since it is no longer proceeding according to the divine plan. It is not, however, actively against the plan in the same way as chaotic things are.
All clerics must be lawful, since their abilities are directly powered by the divine. All magic users and elves must be chaotic, as the magic they use is fundamentally against the divine plan. If a cleric stops being lawful, or a magic user or elf stops being chaotic, then they lose all their spells and any other supernatural abilities.
Most other characters are neutral, but they don't have to be. A chaotic character might have a bloodline tainted by magic, or a lawful character might have been touched by a saint and brought back in line with the divine plan. 
Particularly powerful contact with magic or the divine might make a neutral character become lawful or chaotic.

Clerics are mostly religious figures from their local communities. I'm assuming a game run in essentially late-medieval Britain here, so the majority will be Christian priests, monks, nuns or similar. In a different setting, clerics would come from different walks of life - Roman haruspices and pontifices, or Indian yogis and fakirs come to mind.  
Clerics prepare their spells like in the core book, at a set time each day; generally at dawn, midday, dusk or midnight. To prepare spells, you need to consecrate an area first, with at least the following:
  • The consecrated space must be clearly delineated.
  • All chaotic or otherwise magical things must be removed from the area. 
  • A symbol of the cleric's faith must be present. 
  • A turn must be spent cleaning and ordering the space.
If this is done, the process of preparing spells takes hours if the most valuable holy symbol you've got is wooden (or of a similar value), turns if the most valuable holy symbol you've got is steel (or similar) and minutes if the most valuable holy symbol you've got is silver (or similar). You can only prepare each spell once - you can't have two slots hold the same spell.

If you had prepared a spell for the day, and used it, you can re-fill that slot with another spell of that level you haven't yet prepared. You still can't prepare the same spell twice in a day. If you missed your allotted time to prepare spells, you've got to wait until the next day.
To do this, again you need to consecrate a space and pray/meditate for the spell. This takes as many minutes/turns/hours as the spell's rank. Once this is done, make a save against magic; if successful the spell is prepared. If failed, the spell is lost and you can't prepare it again that day. You can improve the power of your consecration with all the following:
  • For each silver piece of food or wine you offer as a sacrifice during your consecration, improve your save by 1.
  • For each lawful supplicant who takes part in the ceremony, improve your save by 1. Neutral supplicants can also join you, but only actually help if they succeed on a charm skill roll. Chaotic supplicants aren't welcome.
  • For each supplicant who takes 1 damage offering blood as a sacrifice, improve your save by 1.  

Clerical Scrolls, Holy Water Etc.

Things like creating scrolls of clerical spells, holy water, and so on all work exactly like in the core book. They can't, however, research new clerical spells. Any cleric can automatically read and use any clerical scrolls (and similar items) that they find.  Any lawful or neutral character can identify and translate the scroll with a successful appraise roll. A lawful character who can't cast spells can still use a clerical scroll (or similar) if they can read it and make a successful save versus magic. If the roll is failed, then the spell fails and the power is used up.

The religion a character follows defines which spells they can access. The default cleric spell list in the core book is for Christian faiths; members of other cults will use altered spell lists, which may include custom spells just for that cult or spells from the magic-user list. I'm not sure if Jewish clerics would use the same spell list (since it's essentially biblical in flavour) or have a slightly different one. When a player wants to play a Rabbi, I'll work it out.
You can't use spells from outside your own spell list, including casting them from scrolls or similar. You can, however, convert to a new faith. This probably takes a few months, but other than the role-playing and loss of access to some spells, there's no penalties for it.

An Example Cult - The Sol Invictus
The cult of Mithras, the Sol Invictus, worship the sun as a manifestation of the divine. They were a mystery cult at the time of the Roman empire, and persist to the modern day, in an underground, secretive form. The cult's mythology contrasts darkness and light, with symbolism of secrets and mysteries being uncovered by the light of enlightenment, and this is reflected in their spells.
Rank 1 - Bless, Command, Cure Light Wounds, Detect Evil, Identify, Light, Protection from Evil, Sanctury, Turn Undead
Rank 2 - Augury, Continual Light, Enthral, Forget, Heat Metal, Heroism, Resist Cold, Resist Fire

Rank 3 - Cure Disease, Detect Illusion, Dispel Magic, Magic Vestment, Remove Curse, Sacrifice
Rank 4 - Cure Serious Wounds, Detect Lie, Divination, Protection from Evil 15' Radius, Spell Immunity, Wall of Fire
Rank 5 - Commune, Cure Critical Wounds, Dispel Evil, Quest, Secret Chest, True Seeing
Rank 6 - Anti-magic Shell, Forbiddence, Find the Path, Heal, Tongues, Word of Recall
Rank 7 - Holy Word, Earthquake, Remote Surveillance, Vision

Monday, 25 April 2016

How I do combat, and also house-rules for gear.

That's right, more of my Lamentations of the Flame Princess house rules. One of these days I should probably actually gather them all up in one place.
By and large, monsters and enemies will use these just as much as PCs. If you're fighting a human soldier, don't be surprised if they use these options to get an edge. 

Combat Options
Rather than the combat options listed in the book, every character can use the following options. As well as fighters themselves, if  a class gets access to fighter combat options in core LotFP, then they count as a fighter when using these options.
  • Flurry - you get +2 to hit, and -4 armour class. If you're a fighter instead get +2 to hit and -2 armour class. Only usable in close combat. 
  • Back Up - you get -4 to hit, and +2 armour class. If you're a fighter, instead you get -2 to hit and +2 armour class. Only usable in close combat.
  • Go for the Throat - you get -2 to hit and -2 armour class, but deal +2 damage, or +4 damage if you're a fighter. This even works on enemies without throats, so long as you can explain where the Weak Spot is that you're hitting for Massive Damage.
  • Parry - you don't get to make an attack, and spend your entire action defending yourself. +4 armour class, or +6 if you're a fighter. 
  • Aim - you skip your action this turn to get +4 to hit with a ranged weapon next turn, or +6 to hit if you're a fighter.
  • Sneak Attack - make a Sneak Attack skill roll. If you succeed, your attack deals damage directly to flesh. To do this, you actually need a way to get the drop on your enemy - shooting from a hidden position, no sign that you're armed, etc.
If you have a second weapon in your off-hand, get +1 to hit with close-combat attacks. No, you don't get multiple attacks for duel-wielding, it just gets easier to land a blow. If you've got a pistol in both hands, you can also do this - firing both (meaning you use up ammunition and will need to reload) gives you +1 to hit, as its likely something will hit.
If you've got a shield, buckler, cloak (of cloak-and-dagger fame) or similar parrying item in your off-hand, get +1 to your AC. If it's a shield, you get an extra +1 to your AC against arrows, thrown weapons and so on.
If both hands are on your weapon, get +1 damage.

Use group initiative unless there's a compelling reason not to. The group's initiative roll is modified by the best Dexterity modifier in the group. 

Assume a silver standard - prices may be converted down from gold if a supplement assumes a gold standard.
Use the firearms and related equipment from the back of the book, but not the historic armour given. 
If you can't afford a spell-book, you can record your spells in a blank book. One book is enough for a spell. Alternatively, you can spend twice as much as for a blank book to have the spell inscribed onto something, such as tattooed onto your skin or carved into the interior of a wagon.
Wooden holy symbols can be made into a part of any wooden item. Likewise steel holy symbols into any steel item and silver ones into any silver item. Yes, you can have a wooden stake that's also a holy symbol if you really, really hate vampires. Doing this costs double, but makes the item non-encumbering and means you don't need a free hand to brandish it.
Ignore the armour types listed (other than shields) and instead use the rules for armour given later.
You can buy bucklers, but only in the city. They cost 5 SP, and give you +1 armour class but don't give you the extra AC versus missiles.
Specialist's Tools are split up into surgeon's tools, artist's toolsthieves tools, and engineer's tools. All cost the same, specify which you're buying when you take them. They cover basically everything you'd need for the profession given. If you can think of something else you ought to have a tool kit for, it's probably doable.
You can (and probably should) have everybody in the group cash in a bit towards buying some sort of transport for you all.

Firearms have no chance to misfire in normal conditions, because remembering to track that is fiddly. Instead, in moist conditions, matchlocks suffer -2 to hit and flintlocks -1. In very wet conditions, matchlocks suffer -4 to hit and flintlocks -2. Wheel-locks don't take penalties for the damp.
Rather than ignoring a certain amount of AC, firearms simply cap the enemy's AC at 16. (Similarly, Light and Heavy crossbows cap the enemy's armour at 18 and 16 respectively).
You can buy firearms that are crude. These cost half as much as normal and don't cap AC.
You can totally buy artillery pieces if you're rich enough, or pool your money with other players. However, turning up to a town with a big-ass cannon will cause its own problems, as will trying to fit one down a dungeon. 

So, I wanted to have mix-and-match armour as a thing. The early-modern armour in the back of the LotFP book is a step in this direction, but I wanted to take it a bit further. This way, you can have adventurers scavenging bits of armour here and there, and decking themselves out with a mixture of leather, chain and plate depending on what they can afford. 
It just feels cooler to say that you're kitted out with a brigandine, tassets, gauntlets and a sallet helmet than to say you're in chainmail, even though both are AC 16.
You don't buy armour in whole suits, you buy it in bits. Each bit of armour you wear improves your AC by 1. However, you can only have one bit of armour on a given body-part (your body parts, for this exercise, are the head, shoulders, arms, hands, torso, groin, legs, and feet). Better armour types cover less body parts meaning you can fit more on you for more protection.
The armour you wear counts towards the number of items you're carrying. The more heavily armoured you are, the more individual items you've got on. Ignore all that stuff about '+1 encumbrance if you're wearing chainmail', and just work out standard encumbrance.
Where you're wearing armour matters for things like attacks that target your head specifically; wearing armour on a given location might let you soak damage with your Grit rather than it going straight to your flesh.
You'll notice that all the leather armour costs as much as 'leather armour' in the core book, and gives the same protection (although it encumbers more, you can even wear it with a helmet!). Similarly, all the mail armour costs as much as chainmail in the core book and all the gothic plate costs as much as plate armour in the core book.
The pieces of armour available to you are:

Leather Armour
  • Leather Jack. Worn on the shoulders, torso, and groin. Costs 10 SP in the city, or 20 SP in the country.
  • Cuir Bouilli. Hardened pads and plates of boiled leather. Worn on the arms, legs, hands and feet. Costs 15 SP in the city, or 30 SP in the country.
Mail (or chain) Armour 
  • Hauberk. A long shirt of chain armour. Worn on the torso and groin. Costs 25 SP in the city, or 50 SP in the country.
  • Chauces. Mail worn on the legs and feet. Only available in the city, where it costs 30 SP.
  • Voiders. Mail worn on the arms and hands. Only available in the city, where it costs 30 SP
  • Mail Coif. Worn on the head and shoulders. Costs 15 SP in the city, or 30 SP in the country.
Partial Plate Armour
  • Sallet. Worn on the head. Worth 25 SP in the city, or 50 SP in the country.
  • Tassets. Worn on the groin and legs. Only available in the city, where it costs 40 SP.
  • Pauldrons. Worn on the shoulders and arms. Only available in the city, where it costs 40 SP.
  • Brigandine. Worn on the torso and shoulders. Only availible in the city, where it costs 40 SP.
Gothic Plate Armour
  • Closed Helm. Worn on the head. Worth 75 SP in the city.
  • Spaulders. Plate armour worn on the shoulders. Only available in the city, where it's worth 150 SP.
  • Cuirass. A breastplate and backlpate. Worn on the Torso. Only available in the city, where it's worth 350 SP.
  • Cuisses. Worn on the groin. Only available in the city, where it's worth 175 SP.
  • Greaves. Worn on the legs. Worth 100 SP in the city, or 125 SP in the country. 
  • Vambraces. Worn on the arms. Worth 100 SP in the city, or 125 SP in the country.
  • Gauntlets. Worn on the hands. Only available in the city, where it's worth 50 SP.
  • Sabatons. Worn on the feet. Only available in the city, where it's worth 50 SP.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

How I run Magic Users

Once again, these are LotFP house-rules, but they should work just fine for other systems too. Magic users work basically like they're presented in the Lamentations core book, with these add-ons.

I don't refer to spells as having levels. Character classes have levels, spells have ranks. So, for example, a Magic User gets a second rank spell slot at character level three.
Your spell-book doesn't need to be a book. Just some way of carrying lots of writing around. A blank notebook from the equipment list can hold a single spell, whilst a spell-book can hold up to twenty. Other options include tattooing spells onto your skin (or your assistants), carving them into the interior of your wagon, or etching them into your armour. Recording a spell on an item costs as much as a reading-book, but doesn't weigh anything.

Preparing Spells
You don't need to get six hours rest to prepare spells. Instead, you just need to ritually prepare a space to work in. This takes a turn, and requires as a bare minimum:
  • your spell-book
  • at least three lit candles
  • a circle drawn with chalk, charcoal, paint or similar, to define the space you are working in
Once a ritual space is set up, you can prepare spells. This is a lengthy process, during which you almost finish casting the spell, with only a single final trigger required to set it off. Each spell takes as many turns as its rank to prepare. You can prepare as many spells as you have slots left open.

Sleep is still required to properly relax the mind and safely hold spells ready to cast. Since you last slept, you can prepare spells once without any risk. If you prepare spells any more times than this, you're at risk of some sort of mishap. After you finish preparing spells on the second or subsequent attempt that day, make a save versus magic to see if you can hold the magic in safely. If the save is failed, roll on the 'Magical Backlash' table given below to see what bad shit happens to you.
You can improve the safety of your ritual by making a more elaborate ritual space, using the following methods.
  • For each silver piece's worth of incense burnt (and therefore used up), improve your save by one.
  • For each silver piece's worth of rare pigments used to draw your circle, improve your save by one.
  • For each chaotic-aligned assistant who helps you prepare the space, improve your save by one. If an assistant is neutral-aligned, they are only actually any help if they succeed on a Research skill roll. Lawful assistants can't help.
  •  If you prepare the space in a state drug-addled intoxication (or at a pinch, massively drunk), improve your save by one. For each assistant similarly intoxicated, likewise improve your save by one.
You can prepare a spell into the wrong rank slot, such as putting a fifth level spell into a first rank slot. When you cast such a spell, make a save versus magic; if failed, the spell does nothing and you roll on the Magical Backlash table instead.

Scrolls, Potions, Wands and So On
Creating these items works just like in the core book.
Any neutral or chaotic character can identify the spell bound into a scroll, potion, wand etc. with a successful Appraise skill roll. 
A chaotic character can cast from a scroll without using Read Magic if they succeed on a save versus magic. A chaotic character who can't normally cast spells can do the same with a wand also by making a save against magic. If failed, the spell still happens, but a roll for Magical Backlash needs to be made. Anybody can drink a potion, but all potions have the fun side effect of being intoxicating.

Learning Spells
A magic user starts out with Read magic, and three other spells in their spell book. Two of these will be rank one, and a third will be be between rank one and six. Spells are selected randomly; roll a d6 to determine the rank of the third spell. When a magic user levels up, they pick a rank and learn a random spell of that level.
A magic use can learn spells from the cleric list if they find them on a magical (IE chaotic) scroll, or in another magic user's spellbook. They can also research them with a library and laboratory, just like researching a magic user spell. They normally can't, however, start out knowing spells from the cleric list.
A Magic User may choose to follow a specific esoteric tradition. Whenever they randomly learn a spell (IE the three learned at first level, and when they level up), the randomly generate the spell from that tradition's list. An esoteric tradition's spell list will be much smaller and more focused than the full spell list. It may have some cleric spells on it, or some totally unique spells.

An example Esoteric Tradition - The Vitruvian School
The Vitruvian school focuses on manipulating the classical Hellenic elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water, and their manifestations in the human body - Black Bile, Blood, Yellow Bile and Phlegm. A practitioner has some skill dealing with raw elemental forces, and with the basic stuff of mortal flesh.

Rank 1 - 1  Cure Light Wounds, 2 Detect Magic, 3 Faerie Fire, 4 Feather Fall, 5 Light, 6 Mending, 7 Shield, 8 Unseen Servant
Rank 2 - 1  Delay Poison, 2 Heat Metal, 3 Resist Cold, 4 Resist Fire, 5 Stinking Cloud, 6 Wall of Fog
Rank 3 - 1  Cure Disease, 2 Explosive Runes, 3 Gaseous Form, 4 Gust of Wind, 5 Water Breathing, 6 Water Walk
Rank 4 - 1  Cure Serious Wounds, 2 Dig, 3 Extension, 4 Minor Creation, 5 Wall of Fire, 6 Wall of Ice
Rank 5 - 1  Airy Water, 2 Cloudkill, 3 Major Creation, 4 Stone Shape, 5 Transmute Rock to Mud, 6 Wall of Stone
Rank 6 - 1  Contingency, 2 Disintegrate, 3 Heal, 4 Lucubration, 5 Move Earth, 6 Stone to Flesh, 
Rank 7 - 1  Earthquake, 2 Part Water, 3 Reverse Gravity, 4 Statue
Rank 8 - 1  Clone, 2 Permenancy, 3 Polymorph Any Object
Rank 9 - 1  Imprisonment, 2 Lost Dweomer, 3 Shape Change

Magical Backlash
So, you messed up your magic, and something bad happened. Roll a d20 and check the table below to see what it was.
  1. Something is transformed. Roll a d10 for what is transformed, and a d12 for how. For the d10 1=The magic user, 2=everybody nearby, 3=all nearby weapons, 4=all nearby clothing and armour, 5=all animals nearby, 6=the magic user and anybody related to them by blood, 7=everybody looking at the magic user, 8=the next thing the magic user touches, 9=all plants nearby, 10=everything chaotic nearby. For the d12, 1=grows to four times it's normal size, 2=shrinks to  a quarter of its normal size, 3=glows in the dark, 4=turns to stone, 5=turns to ice, 6=turns to stone whenever exposed to sunlight, 7=turns to stone on holy ground, 8=grows leaves, 9=starts seeping warm blood constantly, 10=turns into the same weight in spiders, 11=is invisible, 12=is turned to wax. Characters aren't ever rendered unplayable by the transformation, they just become animate statues and so on. Any neutral character affected becomes chaotic.
  2. Plants start rapidly growing in a ten foot radius, and within a minute a lush thicket of small trees will have sprung up.
  3.  There is a sudden Cacophany of gibbering voices. Everybody nearby immediately casts Contact Outer Spheres, and gets to ask the voices a single question.
  4.  Time unravels for a brief moment. Everybody present stops ageing, and any magical effects become permanent.
  5.  Information floods everybody's minds, most of it useless but some of it profoundly insightful. They each gain 2d20 times a hundred experience points. Anybody who levels up as a result becomes in some way insane, and if they were neutral they become chaotic.
  6.  Each person nearby is cursed such that, when they die, they will ressurect as a (playable) undead monster of some sort - see the Vampire class for one possibility.
  7. The magic user is infected with some sort of symbiotic insect. Whenever they take damage to their flesh, the bugs will repair it at a rate of one flesh a turn by replacing the missing meat with swarming insects. For each point of flesh healed in this way, the magic user loses a point of strength, dexterity, constitution or charisma (randomly determine which) permanently as more and more flesh is replaced by bugs. If this process kills them, they will resurrect as a Walking Hive.
  8. Everybody nearby must save versus magic, or fall asleep. Those asleep in this way have vivid dreams - the lawful dream of horrific punishments meted out by the divine, the neutral dream scenes from their childhood, and the chaotic dream things of such exquisite beauty and sensual pleasure that they will be utterly distraught if somebody wakes them.
  9. The magic user vomits out a slew of 2d6 internal organs of various types. They don't seem any the worse for it. If the organs are eaten, they're just like the fish created by Strange Waters II.
  10. All corpses nearby resurrect as undead monsters. Roll up what they're like using this.
  11. For the next ten minutes, colourful bubbles come out of everybody nearby‘s mouths instead of words. The words are released when the bubbles are popped. Any spells cast during this time will be similarly delayed.
  12. A big Easter-Island-style stone head appears.  If a gold piece is placed in the stone head's mouth, it will briefly animate. It's incredibly intelligent and knowledgeable.
  13. The magic user instantly casts the spell Summon. No preparation, and the summoned monster has hit dice equal to double the magic user's level. Whoops.
  14. Pressure builds up inside the magic user's head. D6 damage to flesh. If this damage drops the magic user to 0 or less hitpoints, their head explodes. This results in them dying, and everybody nearby takes as much damage as the magic user did from bits of bloody shrapnel. 
  15. 2d20 frogs, fishes, lemmings, snails or crabs fall from the sky. They might not be dead whilst they're falling, but they certainly are when they hit the ground. 
  16. Time suddenly lurches forward. Everybody and everything ages 3d6 years.
  17. Any coins present begins to heat up, at the same rate as if a Heat Metal spell had been cast. On round four, if they aren't immersed in cold water or similarly cooled down, the heat will be sufficient to melt them into shiny blobs.
  18. Everything nearby becomes weightless and floats a few feet into the air if not fastened down. The effect lasts for d12 turns.
  19. A solar eclipse occurs. Astronomers are baffled.
  20.  All food and drink nearby spoils.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Clay Path Necromancy

This is part of my little project to give necromancers in Vampire the Masquerade a little more utility, by giving them a number of paths for necromancy that's vaguely comparable to the number for thaumaturgy. In this case, the path in question is the Clay Path, that lets you mess around with corpses for fun and profit. 

The Clay path is primarily practiced by Samedi necromancers, although it's not unknown to other necromancers. In particular, the Dunsirn family of clan Giovanni have some knowledge of the Clay path secreted away, and make good use of it in their work. 
The path deals with the physical remains of the dead. Similarly to vicissitude, it allows dead flesh to be shaped and sculpted, and a skilled necromancer can produce quite impressive (if macabre) creations with this path. The path is mostly used in conjunction with the Bone path, to alter and improve the corpses to be reanimated.
The Clay path only affects inanimate, dead flesh. The bodies of vampires, the Risen, zombies or anything else that's in some way animate aren't affected by it unless the necromancer first renders them properly dead and inert.  

Rank 1 ~ Preservation
This ability lets the necromancer preserve a corpse for future use. Whilst it doesn't restore the corpse to its previous state (and so is best used on relatively fresh bodies) it won't rot any further, being preserved as it is indefinitely.
System: The player rolls intelligence + occult, with the difficulty set by the age and state of decomposition of the corpse. A fresh corpse is difficulty 9, a corpse that is starting to decay but still largely intact is difficulty 7, a corpse that is severely rotted and coming apart is difficulty 5, and a skeleton is difficulty three. If successful, the corpse won't rot any further, being perfectly preserved indefinitely. Natural wear-and-tear can still be accrued, however. 
This art can also be used to prevent the body of a vampire that has suffered final death from crumbling to ash. If the necromancer gets there in time, then the roll has a difficulty of 9, since the body is still more or less fresh.

Rank 2 ~ Masquery
This ability lets the necromancer alter the superficial appearance of a corpse. They can change the rough shape, size, pigmentation and other physical features of the corpse. They can even use this art to cover up signs of the cause of death (including quite dramatic injuries), or introduce clues that would fool a coroner. However, the corpse will always remain in the same basic state of decay as when the necromancer started work - the art can't reverse the process of decay.
System: To make basic alterations, the player must spend a blood point, then roll intelligence + body crafts, with a difficulty of 6. For each success, one feature of the corpse can be altered. Covering up, or creating false, signs of the cause of death instead as a difficulty of 8, and one alteration can be made per success. To duplicate another person requires a manipulation + body crafts roll, with difficulty 8, and five successes are required for a flawless copy; fewer successes leave minute, or not-so-minute flaws. 

Rank 4 ~ Grotesquery
Grotesquery allows the necromancer to alter bodies in order to improve their effectiveness as servants when reanimated or possessed using Bone path necromancy. Although the changes made are startling, the corpse cannot be altered too far with this art, or else it will lose integrity and fall apart. As such, the creations produced will generally be roughly humanoid, if bizarre looking. 
System: To make alterations, the player must spend a blood point, then roll dexterity + body crafts, with a difficulty of six. For each success, the necromancer may improve the body in one of the ways listed below, so that its stats are better than those of the basic zombie or possessed corpse. If Grotesquery is used another time on a corpse already altered by it (or by the rank 4 ability Artifice) it must first be reverted to its natural state (removing any improvements it had been given) or else it will lose integrity and crumble away; you can't stack multiple uses of Grotesquery on a single corpse. A corpse may be given the same improvement many times, and if it is then the effects are cumulative. The possible improvements a corpse can be given are-
Bone armour - gives the corpse a dice of armour that can be used to soak all damage. 
Natural weapons - the corpse's unarmed attacks deal +1 damage and the damage they deal is lethal.
Delicate fingers - the corpse gets an extra dice to dexterity rolls involving fine manipulation.
Bulk - the corpse gets an extra health level.
Whipcord limbs - the corpse gets an extra dice to dexterity rolls involving physical agility.
Climbing hooks - the corpse gets an extra dice to rolls to climb.

Grasping appendages - the corpse gets an extra dice to rolls to grapple.
Extra sensory organs - the corpse gets an extra dice to perception rolls (zombies have perception 0 normally).

Other modifications are possible, and will probably give a bonus of a single extra dice or similar effect. More exotic modifications are possible, but their effects are down to the storyteller's discretion.

Rank 4 ~ Artifice
With this ability, the necromancer can warp their subjects flesh into strange new shapes. They can create whole new structures in the corpse, such as new limbs, mouths and organs. Further than this, they can warp the body into astonishing new shapes, creating macabre furniture and curios from the bodies of the dead. Indeed, like with vicissitude, the necromancer is limited only by their imagination as to what they can create, and many produce startlingly strange things this way.
System: To make basic alterations, the player must spend a blood point, then roll dexterity + body crafts, with a difficulty depending on the complexity of the task. A simple alteration such as sealing a mouth shut has a difficulty of 5, whilst truly complex work such as creating an ornate chandelier from a corpse would have a difficulty of eight. Only one success is required to only alter a small part of the body, such as the face, whilst five are required to alter the whole body. Creations made with artifice cannot be animated using Bone path necromancy.

Rank 5 ~ Thanotechnology
This ability is the peak of the Clay path necromancer's power. With this ability, they can create huge, shuddering machines of dead flesh and bone, suitable for reanimation. Several corpses must be fused together, in a process that takes several nights to complete. 
Their flesh is intricately shaped to form the working parts of machinery, with bone and sinew in place of motors, viscera replacing coolants and pumps, and dead brain matter and nerves in place of electrical components. Though the whole thing is as grotesque and unnatural as any Tzimisce creation, a skilled necromancer can make a necromantic facsimile of almost any piece of technology, from a simple automatic door to a working supercomputer.
System: To create a piece of thanotechnology, the necromancer must use at least three corpses, likely for particularly large and involved projects. Most machines consist of around six or seven corpses. Fusing them together costs one blood point per corpse, and requires a successful intelligence + occult roll, at difficulty 6.  
Once the machine's bulk is there, it then needs to be shaped into a working machine in a process similar to the power Artifice. This costs an additional two points of blood, and requires a dexterity + body crafts roll, with a difficulty depending on the complexity of the machine. A simple device, such as a printing press, has a difficulty of 6, whilst the most complex machines, such as a computer, has a difficulty of 10. In addition, the necromancer must understand how the machine they are replicating works, which may require them to have a certain number of dots in a relevant knowledge such as Technology or Computers. At least one success must be scored for each corpse that makes up part of the machine, although this can be made as an extended roll, accumulating successes over time.

Once the machine has been given shape, all that remains is to animate it. The powers Apprentice's Brooms or Shambling Hordes of Bone path necromancy will both work for this, as will the power Demonic Possession. If the thanotechnology is intended for combat use (such as a necromantic artillery piece), then the Shambling Hordes or Demonic Possession must be used to animate it. If the thanotechnology is to have any independent thoughts or will of its own, then only Demonic Possession will suffice. Once animated in this way, the machine will continue to work indefinitely, requiring no fuel or instruction, until its creator commands it to stop.

Giving the Giovanni a bit extra.

Let's talk about blood magic in Vampire: the Masquerade. The Tremere get to pick between 28ish different paths for their thaumaturgy. Meanwhile, the Giovanni use necromancy, which has a grand total of six paths. Of these, the mortuus and vitreous paths are exclusive to the Harbingers of Skulls and Nagaraja, meaning your average necromancer gets to pick from 4 paths. This seems a little unfair.
On top of this, I don't think there's enough home-brew floating about for WoD, and I do love me my Giovanni.  So, to fix this, I'm writing some homebrew necromancy paths.

First up, lets look at what the different paths can do.

Scepulture Path - summon and command wraiths.
Bone Path - make zombies and put souls in new bodies.
Ash Path - reach through the shroud.
Cenotaph Path - interact with haunts and fetters.
Mortuus Path - make things seem like corpses.
Vitreous Path - interact with Oblivion.

This leaves a few areas open to play around with. Playing around with angst, pathos and memories seems possible, maybe taking some ideas from the Usury and Mnemosynis arcanoi. Doing things with dead flesh, beyond turning it into a zombie, isn't really covered either - this could work similarly to moliate or vicissitude but for dead meat. A path that gives control over a haunt or haven, making it stereotypically spooky, could be thematic. A lot of rituals deal with mortals' fear of death, so we could make a path for that. We could probably do some stuff that affects the process of dying and the soul, as well, and then a more mundane version that deals with entropy and decay. And, for good measure, it would probably be good to give the necromancer ways to buff up their wraiths, as a sort of carrot to Scepulture's stick.
So, from this, here's the basics of a few new paths. I'll write them up individually in future posts.

Clay Path - Fleshcrafting on dead bodies.
Mist Path - Invoke fear of death in mortals, and make pacts with them.
Arachnis Path - Wards and controls a building.
Salt Path - Strengthen and support wraiths.
Lacrimose Path - Deals with wraiths' desires and memories, and with pathos.
Bitter Path - Deals with the process of dying and entropy.

Friday, 22 April 2016

How I do Skills

This is how I run Skills in LotFP. It's also rather similar to how they work in Wolfpacks. Odd, that.

So, first up, if you have a 6-in-6 chance on a skill roll, you roll two dice, and if both come up a six, you fail. Otherwise, you take the better of the two rolls.
Likewise, if you have a 0-in-6 chance, you roll two dice and if both come up a 1, you pass. Otherwise, take the worse of the two rolls.
Skills can't go above 6-in-6 or below 0-in-6.
By and large, you won't be rolling for skills at all. I'll judge how stupid or smart the plan is, and you just succeed or fail based off that. Sometimes, I'll just look at how good you are at the skill, with no roll; for example anybody with at least 2-in-6 in climbing can probably get up a cliff face just fine.
I try not to use roll-under-attribute rolls, since skill rolls have way less chance to succeed than attribute rolls. By and large, I'll use the closest approximate skill to whatever you're doing for a roll.

Your attribute modifiers apply to your skill chances - that's bonuses AND penalties.
Strength applies to your Climbing and Open Doors chance.
Dexterity applies to your Stealth, Sleight of Hand and Sneak Attack chance.
Intelligence applies to your Languages and Tinkering chance.
Wisdom applies to your Architecture, Bushcraft and Search chance.
This bonus applies to the basic 1-in-6 chance everybody gets, to the improved chance a specialist gets if they've put points into a skill, and to a non-human's improved skills. You might occasionally get told to use a different modifier for the skill - for example, modifying your Stealth by Charisma rather than Dexterity to blend into a crowd without attracting attention.

There's four unlabelled dice for skills on the base LotFP sheet, and I'm never going to let the opertunity for homebrewing go to waste. As such, I've come up with four new skills to fill these gaps, detailed below. On top of this, I've altered how Sneak Attack works to fit in with my damage system.

This skill lets you know what that treasure you got is. A successful Appraise roll lets you tell if an item is magical (and therefore chaotic) or holy (and therefore lawful), and perhaps gives you a rough idea what it does. You might know that a sword is magical, or that a cloak is protective, but not much more than that. Appraise rolls also tell you how much the treasure is worth to a collector, to a pretty accurate degree, and might let you notice other useful features. It uses your Wisdom modifier.

Charm lets you deal with NPCs better. You can use it to slip a lie past somebody, to fast-talk or intimidate somebody into doing what you want, or to get your hirelings to do what you told them to when the going gets rough. A successful Charm roll lets you modify the result on the encounter reaction chart or a hireling's morale or loyalty check by the amount shown on the dice.
Charm is modified by Charisma. I mostly put it in so that all the rolls you might need to make can be skill rolls rather than attribute rolls, and Charisma didn't have a go-to skill.

Medicine lets you fix people when they get broken. What it does is basically summed up in my post on hit-points, damage and healing. As I state there, it uses your Intelligence modifier.

Research lets you find things out in down time. It doesn't matter if you're going through books in an old library, listening to gossip in the pubs, or interrogating prisoners, it basically works the same. If there's doubt over if you'll find the information you need, or if you'll find it in time, then make a roll. If you can just keep on going, eventually you'll find what you're looking for or somebody will blurt out what you want. This way, if you just say 'I keep researching until I find out' you can (slowly) learn what you need, and the game doesn't stall while you roll dice to be allowed to continue. Research uses your Intelligence modifier.

Sneak Attack
Rather than multiplying the damage you do like in basic LotFP, this works a little differently. When you want to shank somebody, you'll need to be in a position to do so properly. Snipe at them from concealment, get behind them, attack them before they know you're armed, whatever. So long as you catch them at a disadvantage, you get to make the roll. If you succeed on the skill roll, your attack (if it hits) deals its damage straight to their flesh.

How I handle Hitpoints

Oh, hit-points! With enough experience,  in standard D&D player characters will rack up a truly astounding amount of them, letting them do things like:

  • Get shot repeatedly at point-blank range and shrug it off.
  • Jump off a cliff, land face first, and walk away just fine.
  • Survive getting stabbed by a lower-level character, and proceed to beat the crap out of them through sheer attrition and superior hit-points.
  • Get set on fire and walk to the nearest pond at a leisurely pace in order to put it out.
  • ...and other silly things.
To fix this, I use the following method in my games. Normally, I use LotFP for medieval-style fantasy, which these rules are adapted for. They're also, as it happens, roughly the rules used in Wolf-packs & Winter Snow.

Flesh and Grit points
Hit-points are divided into two distinct types. You have flesh points, which are actual physical toughness and resistance to injury. Losing flesh points represents being seriously wounded. You get cracked ribs, broken limbs, gaping wounds and blood everywhere. It's nasty as hell. 
Grit points, meanwhile, are what people mean when they talk about how hit-points represent things like 'endurance' and 'luck'. Losing grit points explicitly doesn't represent being physically injured. Sure, you might be bruised or scratched, and you're losing stamina from the battering your taking, but you aren't actually taking any crippling wounds yet. Grit is, ultimately, an abstraction. 

Normally, damage hits your grit first, and when all your grit is gone, the remainder rolls over onto flesh. Losing all your grit has no serious repercussions (other than making you vulnerable to real injuries), but without grit you're probably totally knackered and exhausted, covered in sweat and grime, with battered armour and torn clothes.
Maybe you're unable to defend properly against an attack. Perhaps you're shot by a concealed sniper, unexpectedly stabbed in the gut in mid-conversation, or caught prone in a brawl. Perhaps you've picked up a red-hot chunk of metal without protective gloves. Perhaps you've fallen in acid, or been knocked off a cliff. Point is, you can't back away, parry frantically, catch the blow somewhere that doesn't matter or otherwise try to fend it off. In this case, the damage ignores any buffer of grit you have left. Instead, it goes straight to your flesh. 
In some cases, the protective gear you have will protect you from taking damage straight to flesh in this way. If you've got heavy gloves on, the damage from picking up red hot metal is buffered by your grit like normal. If you've got thick protective boots on, you can wade through acid and take it to your grit. If a mystery assailant bonks you on the head with a club, but you're wearing a sturdy helmet, grit represents your helmet's protection.

How much Flesh and Grit do you have?
For player-characters, your first hid dice (including any bonus points from constitution) are of flesh. 
When you level up, your second hit dice (including any bonus points from constitution) are of grit. On top of this, every time you level up, you get an extra point of flesh, until you have the maximum possible result for your hit dice; that is to say the maximum possible roll plus your constitution bonus. 
For monsters, it's up to the GM to eyeball it for each monster. Human-sized monsters probably only have one dice of flesh, and the rest as grit. Larger or particularly fearsome monsters like ogres and wargs might have two dice of flesh and the rest of grit. For particularly huge monsters like dragons, you can expect half of their dice (round down) to be flesh dice.
Monsters that need to be physically hacked to pieces and lack any real anatomy, such as oozes and zombies, have all their hit dice as flesh dice. Monsters that are supernaturally tough and lack real biology but still feel pain,  perhaps vampires and demons, might have only one or two dice of grit and the rest as flesh.

Running out of Flesh; the simple version
So, what happens when you run out of flesh points? There's a two different versions of the rules here.
The simple version (which Wolfpacks uses) is that you're just dead. No more flesh, no more life. Do not pass go, do not collect two-hundred quid. You can also use this version for unimportant monsters and NPCs even when using the other ruleset, which speeds things up some.

The Complex version, or, How Flame Princess Got That Way
The more complex version works like this. When damage reduces you to 0 flesh or less, or you take any damage when you already had no flesh, look at the exact amount of damage dealt and get a result from the list below. It doesn't matter how far 'into the negatives' you are, just look at the result of the dice. Except for the penalties from actual injuries, you can keep on going just fine on 0 flesh; adrenaline can do impressive things.

One damage fucks your eye up. Maybe sight can sort of be restored by a skilled surgeon, with a successful medicine roll. This will take a day of treatment and require a month's time to heal before the eye's good to open. Otherwise, it's eye-patch time.
Two damage ruins a leg. With one leg, you're reduced to hopping about or relying on crutches. If both go, you're on the floor unable to get about at all. Roll a d6 for it. 1=left leg broken, 2= left leg mangled and useless, 3=left leg severed, 4=right leg broken, 5=right leg mangled and useless, 6=right leg severed. You might be able to fix this with a successful medicine roll. A broken leg will take a turn's worth of first-aid to treat, and need a week to heal up. A mangled leg will take a day's worth of surgery to treat, and need a month to heal up. If the roll to treat the injury fails, the best you can hope for is a peg leg. If your leg's chopped right off, well, you're fucked.
Three damage ruins an arm. Roll a d6 for it. 1=left arm broken, 2= left arm mangled and useless, 3=left arm severed, 4=right arm broken, 5=right arm mangled and useless, 6=right arm severed. A broken or mangled arm can be fixed with a successful Medicine roll. A broken arm will take a turn's worth of first-aid to treat, and need a week to heal up. A mangled arm will take a day's worth of surgery to treat, and need a month to heal up. If the roll to treat the injury fails, all you can hope for is a hook. If your arm's chopped right off, well, you're also fucked. 
Four damage sets you bleeding. Each round, you lose a load of blood. You can bleed for a round for each hit dice you've got, and your constitution bonus (not a penalty, though) adds to this. A successful medicine roll to stem the bleeding means you're losing blood at a rate of of turns, not rounds, and a second medicine roll to stitch you up properly stops the bleeding completely. Any magical healing also fixes you completely.
Five damage knocks you out cold. You're unconcious for d12 turns, and you're bleeding out like above.
Six damage means you're gonna die. Bullet through the lung, horrible brain damage, innards ripped out, whatever. You get one more round to act in, and then you're dead. No medicine or healing magic will save you.
Seven or eight damage means you're dead instantly. Head chopped off, bullet to the brain stem or what have you. No last words, just gone.
Nine or ten damage means you're dead instantly, in a particularly nasty way. Maybe you've been chopped right in half through the ribs or had your guts exploded violently out. 
Eleven or more damage turns you into something resembling salsa dip. Not only are you dead instantly, there's not even enough of you left to bury, resurrect or zombify. By and large, this calls for a polite round of applause from everybody who witnessed a death this impressive. 

On top of this, certain really nasty attacks ignore flesh AND grit. Stuff like getting chewed up and swallowed by a dragon, or maybe a clockwork bomb grafted into your flesh just went off. You don't get to defend yourself with grit, and your flesh can't soak up any of the damage either. Even if you still have flesh left, look up how much damage got dealt, and get that injury. This is really, really rare however, and represents situations which would basically be instant-death in other systems.

Healing up
All your grit comes back when you have a proper rest. Standing guard whilst the party thief fiddles with a locked door doesn't count, but the party stopping to cook and eat dinner absolutely does. You also get your grit back when you sleep. If you're particularly ill, weighed down by unreasonable burdens or whatever, you don't get grit back, however. You also don't get grit back if you've got no flesh left, assuming you're using the complicated rules for dying.
You get one point of flesh back when you sleep for the night. If you had a hot meal of proper food before you slept, you get an extra point of flesh back by sleeping. If you're sleeping in a warm, comfortable bed, you also get an extra point of flesh back by sleeping. 
If you've got no flesh left, you only recover a single point of flesh by sleeping. If your sleep is disturbed, such as by a shift taking watch or bad dreams, you likewise only recover a single point of flesh.

When I run, I include Medicine as an extra skill. Like other skills, it has a base 1-in-6 chance to succeed, and like Languages you modify that chance by your Intelligence modifier. Specialists can put points in Medicine like normal. 
You can roll medicine once to treat a fucked-up eye, arm or leg. If you fail the roll, then the body-part is ruined for good, save for magical healing. Injuries like having a tongue ripped out and so on might also be treated in this way.
You can roll medicine to stop characters bleeding. You can try this as often as you like, but it uses up a round's actions so you can't cast spells or fight when you do it. The first successful roll means the patient bleeds out in turns instead of rounds, and the second stops them bleeding completely.
Finally, you can use medicine to heal up lost flesh. If you succeed on the roll, look at the actual number shown on the dice. The patient gets that many flesh points back. If you fail on the roll, however, they take an additional point of damage if they had 2 or more flesh remaining. If they had only one point of flesh, or no flesh at all, roll a d6 and look at the results for How Flame Princess Got That Way to see what malpractice you just did.

Since you may be wondering, this is basically the same system Last Gasp Grimoire has, but altered some to suit my own tastes.

Let's roll up an undead monster~

A little system to randomly generate horrible undead freaks. I'm assuming LotFP for the system, but you can probably use it for other stuff just fine.
You'll want to roll the following dice, all at once: A d6, a d8, a d10, a d12 and a pair of d20s. Then check the charts below to see what these produce.

For the d6:
The monster is a reanimated...
  1.  ...human corpse. 2 hit dice.
  2.  ...body part. Roll a d4. 1= head, 2= hand, 3= arm, 4= leg. 1 hit dice.
  3.  ...child's  corpse. 1 hit dice. Roll a d4. 1= baby, 2= toddler, 3= young child, 4= older child.
  4.  ...animal corpse. Roll a d4. 1= bird (1 hit dice), 2= wolf (2 hit dice), 3= horse (3 hit dice), 4= rat (1 hit dice)
  5.  ...collection of stitched-together body-parts, roughly approximating human form. 3 hit dice.
  6. ...collection of stitched-together body-parts, with no rhyme or reason to their placement. 4 hit dice.

Saves are as a Fighter (hit-dice = level). Armour class starts at 12, as normal for unarmoured creatures. All undead are immune to things like poisons, pain, starvation and so on, and are vulnerable to things like Turn Undead and holy water.

For the d10:
The monster's body is...

  1.  ...skeletal. Hit dice is a d12.
  2.  ...mummified. Hit dice is a d10.
  3.  ...bloated with corpse-gas. Hit dice is a d8. On death, explodes dealing d4 damage to everything nearby (save vs breath avoids).
  4.  ...fresh, but horribly diseased. Hit dice is a d8. On encountering, save vs poison or contract some horrible disease unless precautions are taken. 
  5.  ...infested with maggots and writhing horribly. Hit dice is a d8. On a hit, save vs breath or take d4 extra damage as the maggots surge forth.
  6.  ...papery and dessicated. Hit dice is a d6.
  7.  ...rotten and squishy. Hit dice is a d8.
  8.  ...crushed down, hard and brittle. Hit dice is a d6. +2 armour class.
  9.  ...waterlogged and boneless. Hit dice is a d10. Gets +1 per hit dice to wrestling attempts.
  10. ...flayed, wet and oozing. Hit dice is a d8.

For the d8:
The monster attacks...
  1.  ...completely unarmed, for d2 damage.
  2.  ...with horrible claws or fangs, for d4 damage.
  3.  ...with improvised weapons, for d6 damage.
  4.  ...with a rusted sword, for d8 damage, and wears chain armour, increasing AC to 16. 
  5. hurling itself bodily at the enemy, for d4 damage but knocking it prone on a hit.
  6.  ...with a horrible miasma of decay. No roll to hit, those nearby save vs magic or take d4 damage.
  7. ripping parts of itself off and throwing them at the enemy. Roll a d2 to a d12 on a hit, but the monster takes that much damage too.
  8.  ...with a concealed blade, for d4 damage. Double damage against unaware or surprised enemies.
For the d12:
The monster...
  1.  ...hunts in snarling, howling packs like a wild beast.
  2.  ...lurks somewhere hidden, lashing out at those who come too close.
  3.  ...believes it is still alive, acting like its living counterpart would. Potentially perfectly friendly.
  4. a skilled warrior. +1 to hit per hit dice.
  5.  ...hates its undead state, and charges at its enemies, sobbing and wailing and begging for them to kill it. +1 to attack and -1 to AC per hit dice.
  6. a mindless automaton that obeys the last instruction it was given.
  7. a frenzied killer that mindlessly seeks to destroy all life. +1 to attack and damage per hit dice.
  8. a cold, inhuman genius. Saves as a Magic User (level= double hit dice)
  9. empty and hollow. Will sit uselessly until interfered with, at which point it will attempt to destroy everything that disturbs its rest.
  10. filled with endless, bottomless hunger, and has been driven mad by the compulsion to feed on raw flesh.
  11.  ...seeks only to protect some place or thing that is important to it.
  12.  ...serves the cause of entropy and oblivion with almost religious devotion. Saves as a Cleric (level= double hit dice).

For each d20:
The monster...
  1.  ...drains a level whenever it deals damage.
  2.  ...can devour raw flesh, and regenerates d12 hit points when it does so.
  3.  ...causes any victims killed by it to raise from the dead as a similar being.
  4.  ...can walk up walls like Spiderclimb was cast on it.
  5. invisible in 'natural' light like sunshine or moonlight. It only shows up by the light of candles, lanterns and so on.
  6.  ...paralyses victims that it deals damage to, for a full turn (save vs magic resists).
  7.  ...hovers above the ground by a few inches, and so isn't slowed by rough terrain and leaves no tracks.
  8. intangible, requiring magic weapons to hit and capable of passing straight through solid objects.
  9.  ...causes victims that it deals damage to to age by 2d10 years.
  10. ...returns from the dead, completely intact, whenever it is killed unless given proper Last Rites by a priest.
  11.  ...can't hurt the truly innocent, such as young children or certain religious hermits.
  12. blind, and must grope around sightlessly to locate its enemies or else track them by sound.
  13.  ...can, once per victim, produce a horrific scream. The victim must save vs magic or die of fright.
  14.  ...causes any weapon that strikes it to crumble to dust, destroying it. Unarmed attacks are fine.
  15.  ...leaves a trail of foul ectoplasm behind it that will attract more of its kind unless burned away.
  16.  ...can mimic the voices and appearance of victims it has killed.
  17.  ...has a shared hive-mind with all other undead of its kind.
  18.  ...cannot hurt anybody who is not afraid of it.
  19.  ...causes, without any concious choice, strange effects around it; milk curdles, animals whimper in fear, mirrors reflect things that aren't really there and unattended objects move when nobody is watching them.
  20. shrouded by a thick fog that seeps from the ground wherever it goes.

For the hell of it, I've rolled up a couple of undead to test this out, and this is what I got:

Attempt 1:
The d6 is a 4 (rolling another d4 and getting a 4. The d8 is a 6. The d10 is a 10. The d12 is an 8. The d20s are a 2 and an 19. This gives us an undead rat, flayed, wet and oozing, that attacks with a miasma of decay. It's a cold genius, can regenerate by eating raw flesh and must make its victims afraid before it can hurt them. Let's put this together...

The Corruption Under The Floorboards.
These creatures are the undead remains of rats that died in traps in certain cursed manors. Prior to their deaths, they had, simply by feeding, absorbed the horrible energies of their homes, and this is what drives and animates them in their undeath - they are as much a manifestation of the mansion's curse as anything else. Their heads are crushed in by the traps that killed them, and their skin has peeled away. Beneath this, the oozing foulness of their nature is revealed, a sticky black puss that produces horrible fumes.
The rats can be heard sometimes, scurrying blindly about behind elegant wallpaper or under sumptuous carpets. Though sightless, they know the layout of their mansions perfectly, and find places where they can lurk unseen, oozing their miasma into the air around them. They prefer not to kill indiscriminately with this method, and instead pick on isolated victims they judge most likely to traumatize the dwellers in their cursed manse. Visiting young d├ębutantes, newborn babies, and priests brought in to exorcise the building all fall victim in the night as they sleep, and when the rats can hear no more breathing, the emerge from cracks in the skirting boards and behind light fittings, feeding on the body in their masses, leaving only a rat-gnawed corpse behind to be found in the morning.
One hit-dice, d8 hit-points. AC 12. Saves as a level 2 Magic User. Those nearby that are already unnerved must save vs magic each turn or take d4 damage. Can regain up to d12 hitpoints by feeding on raw flesh.

Attempt 1:
The d6 is a 4 (rolling another d4 and getting a 4. The d8 is a 6. The d10 is a 10. The d12 is an 8. The d20s are a 2 and a 16. This gives us an undead rat, flayed, wet and oozing, that attacks with a miasma of decay. It's a cold genius, can regenerate by eating raw flesh and is blind. Let's put this together...

The Corruption Under The Floorboards.
These creatures are the undead remains of rats that died in traps in certain cursed manors. Prior to their deaths, they had, simply by feeding, absorbed the horrible energies of their homes, and this is what drives and animates them in their undeath - they are as much a manifestation of the mansion's curse as anything else. Their skin has peeled away, and beneath the oozing foulness of their nature is revealed, a sticky black puss that produces horrible fumes.
The rats can be heard sometimes, scurrying blindly about behind elegant wallpaper or under sumptuous carpets. Though sightless, they know the layout of their mansions perfectly, and find places where they can lurk unseen, oozing their miasma into the air around them. They prefer not to kill indiscriminately with this method, and instead pick on isolated victims they judge most likely to traumatize the dwellers in their cursed manse. Visiting young d├ębutantes, newborn babies, and priests brought in to exorcise the building all fall victim in the night as they sleep, and when the rats can hear no more breathing, the emerge from cracks in the skirting boards and behind light fittings, feeding on the body in their masses, leaving only a rat-gnawed corpse behind to be found in the morning.
One hit-dice, d8 hit-points. AC 12. Saves as a level 2 Magic User. Those nearby must save vs magic each turn or take d4 damage. Can regain up to d12 hitpoints by feeding on raw flesh.

Attempt 2:
The d6 is a 5. The d8 is a 7. The d10 is a 7. The d12 is a 9. The d20s are a 9 and a 12. This gives us a vaguely humanoid mass of rotten body-parts, that attacks by pulling parts of itself off to throw at the enemy. It just wants to be left alone, causes its victims to age, and is blind. Let's put this together...

The Forlorn Autopsy.
This creature is the remains of some mad dissectionist's work. The bodies of various people, taken apart out of morbid curiousity and casually stitched back together in a new form. Empty sockets with no eyes, teeth pulled from its gums, too many fingers on its hands and mismatched limbs.  Left abandoned in the laboratory's cellar, going mouldy and putrid, it spontaneously twitched its way into unlife one night, and is thoroughly miserable about this fact.
It loathes its horrible form, desperately wishing it could return to the constituent parts that made it and fondly remembering the empty nothingness from before it returned to life.. When it does nothing, it finds that the dark, cold silence of the cellar approximates the oblivion it craves. When this nothingness is disturbed by noise and heat, its fits of self-discussed overcome it, and it tears hunks of rotten flesh from its body, hurling them at the hated stimulus that reminds it of its own existence. Those struck by its flung entrails are overcome by the same entropic energy that animated it, visibly withering and ageing.
Three hit-dice, 3d8 hit-points. AC 12. Saves as a level 3 fighter. Attack bonus +1, thrown. Damage is between d2 and d12 (monsters choice) but deals that much damage to the monster too. Enemies hit by the monster's attack also age by 2d10 years.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Fairytale races and mundane humans.

DnD has lots of fantasy races, right? Elves, dwarves, goblins, etc, etc. I find that, if you aren't using race-as-class, it becomes very easy for race to just be something you sort of tag onto your character, and they just become 'pointy eared humans', 'short beardy humans' and so on. On top of this, humans themselves tend to lack character and feel rather bland.

These are some of my thoughts on fixing that. Firstly, this assumes you're playing a system with race-as-an-add-on, such as ADnD or Swords and Wizardry - I wrote races these up for use with S&W. Secondly, it assumes a setting that's vaguely reminiscent of medieval Europe. 

The idea is that humans are the dominant 'standard' race in the game. Humans are your peasants, priests, bandits, miners and scholars. They're mundane, everyday folk, and generally not involved with magic. For most humans, magic is other, it's the domain of fairies and demons and witches. 
On top of this, everything you can play that isn't a human is a fairy of some sort. These are creatures that lurk in the hidden parts of the world - in old ruins, at the bottoms of wells and rivers, in tangled woods and under old burial mounds. All of these creatures are inherently, innately magical.

I will admit to being massively inspired by Changeling the Dreaming, Middenmurk's various oddments, and various bits of horrible folklore.

Human Characters
Humans are your normal, every-day people. They live in cities, towns and villages, and make their livings in all the ways you'll be familiar with from history. They display an unusual resistance to magic by the standards of fairy creatures, which makes them harder to enchant but also somewhat limited as spell-casters. Whilst most humans are prosaic creatures, superstitious and unfamiliar with magic, player characters can expect to be a little more worldly and experienced.
  • Human characters can advance to a maximum of 7th level as a Magic User or Druid, or to the maximum possible level in any other class. They may multiclass as any combination of Thief, Fighter, Ranger and Cleric, but may not advance past 7th level in either class if they do.
  • Human characters get a +2 bonus to any save made against supernatural effects. 
  • Enemies get a +2 bonus to their saves when resisting spells cast by human characters.
  • Humans start out speaking the Common tongue, and if they get bonus languages for a high intelligence, can know the Classical tongue, the alignment languages of Law and Chaos, and foreign languages.

Fairy Characters

All other races will be fairies of some stripe. Regardless of type, a fairy character always has the following properties:
  • They always detect as magical.
  • They do not age naturally.
  • They start out knowing the Common tongue, and can learn the alignment languages of Law and Chaos, the Druidic language, and the Giantish, Draconic, Elvish or Goblin tongues.
Changelings are fairies that take on the shape of humans and try to live among them. Some replace stolen babies, whilst others simply arrive in a community unannounced and carry on like they've always lived there. They seem human at first glance, but on further inspection none of them are quite right physically. They may have impossible coloured eyes, a finger with an extra joint, too many or too few teeth or some other minor tell. After some time, their odd behaviour becomes apparent too - their speech is oddly stilted or poetic by human standards, and they obsess over things humans consider inconsequential like the patterns of spider-webs or the colour of rotting meat.
  • Once per month, under the new moon, a changeling can alter their appearance. They can take the appearance of any mundane-looking human, of any age, sex and ethnicity, and their voice, physical health, scent and similar traits change to match. This disguise is complete and perfect, save for a single odd tell (such as odd-coloured eyes, extra teeth, and so on) that the changeling can never get rid of.
  • Changelings can know any language a human can know.
  • Changelings can advance to the maximum possible level as Magic Users or Thieves, or to a maximum of 7th level as Fighters, Druids, Assassins, or Rangers. They may multiclass as Magic User/Fighters, Magic User/Thieves or Fighter/Thieves, in which case they are limited to 5th level in each class.

Some fairies are obsessed with treasure, acquiring useless hordes of ancient coins and jewellery that is left to moulder and tarnish in their hidden burrows. These dwarves are stout, surly folk, more concerned with guarding their troves than their own comfort. In appearance, they are short and gnarled, like little men made of craggy tree-roots with tangled beards and dark, glittering eyes. Those dwarves who become adventurers do so in order to seize more treasure for themselves, which they carefully secrete in their hidden grottos.
  • Dwarves always know the precise monetary value of any horde of coins, any jewellery,  or any other treasure made of gold or silver.
  • Dwarves can spot architectural irregularities, such as false walls, sloping floors, unstable ceilings and so on. They can re-roll any failed roll to spot a trap concealed in an architectural feature.
  • Dwarves can advance to the maximum possible level as Fighters, or to 7th level as Thieves or Magic Users. They may multi-class as Fighter/Thieves or Fighter/Magic Users, in which case they are limited to 5th level in each class.

Also known as sidhe, sylphs and kindly ones, elves are the fairy gentry. They organize themselves into courts elaborate, spending their long lives in a mad whirlwind of elegant banquets, dances, hunts and performances. An elven court is a hotbed of intrigue, romance and gossip, but it is fundamentally hollow - with no subjects to command, save for their charmed human servants, and no land to rule over, their machinations are no mare than an idle game. Those elves found as adventurers treat it with the same empty frivolity as any other pursuit - it passes the time, and nothing more.
All eleves are inhuman-looking, yet beautiful. Their frames are androgynous and willowy, all sharp angles and sleek curves, and their faces are like perfect porcelein masks with radient glass eyes. 
  • Elves can use their beauty to influence the first impression they make. When the GM makes a roll to determine a monster or NPC's reaction, if the elf doesn't like the result they can influence the reaction; the GM re-roll the reaction and uses this second result as the monsters fall under the elf's glamour.
  • Elves don't sleep, suffer no penalties for not resting, and cannot be made to sleep by magic or any other means.
  • Elves can advance to the maximum possible level as Magic Users, or to 7th level as Fighters, Druids, Clerics or Rangers. They may multiclass as Fighter/Magic Users or Fighter/Clerics, in which case they are limited to 5th level in each class.

Goblins are slinking, furtive beings that lurk in the cracks of the world. They nest under floorboards, down wells and behind hedgerows, and creep out whilst humans sleep to explore their world. They steal anything that takes their fancy, and ruin anything that offends them, but there is little rhyme or reason behind a goblin's tastes. Every goblin is a tiny creature, usually around two feet tall, with long scrawny limbs, wiry bodies and grasping hands. Their faces are twisted parodies of human features - all hook-noses, wide staring eyes and ragged teeth - and their voices are shrill and harsh.
  • Goblins get +1 to hit against enemies that don't know they're there.
  • Goblins can squirm through any gap wide enough for a coin to fit through, given enough time.
  • Goblins can advance to maximum level as Thieves or Druids, or to 7th level as Magic Users, Fighters, Rangers or Assassins. They may multiclass as Druid/Thieves, Fighter/Thieves or Fighter/Magic Users, in which case they are limited to 5th level in each class.

In millponds, fens and rivers, there lurk hungry creatures. Patient and spiteful, these rusulkas, nymphs and kelpies wait for unsuspecting mortals to come too close to the water's edge, at which point they surge forward, grabbing hold of their victims and dragging them into the water. After some frenzied, thrashing grappling, the unfortunate mortal is pulled under and drowned. 
Nixies allow their victims' bodies to become waterlogged, gnawing on them at their pleasure and using their bones and teeth to decorate their underwater grottos. Some are horrible to look at, with discoloured skin and lank hair, whilst others take on the appearance of attractive youths - even these, however, can't disguise their aquatic nature, and they have webbed fingers and toes. 
  • Nixies can breath underwater just fine, and never risk drowning. They can even talk intelligibly whilst underwater.
  • Nixies can eat the meat of intelligent creatures safely. It might be raw, rotten, or riddled with disease, but the hag never suffers for eating it so long as its flesh from something that could speak.
  • Nixies can advance to maximum level as Thieves or Assassins, or to 7th level as Rangers, Magic Users or Druids. They may multiclass as Druid/Thieves, Magic User/Thieves, Magic User/Assassins or Druid/Assassins, in which case they are limited to 5th level in each class.

In the crushing, lightless depths of the earth, there dwell the knockers. Constantly burrowing, these strange people brush against the mines, cellars and sewers of the surface world, sometimes even approaching the surface before retreating from the harsh light of day. Knockers are pale, wriggling creatures, with stubby limbs and tiny, glittering eyes. They have no interest in beautiful things, but love ugly, inventive creations. Everything a knocker owns is customized with little spikes and blades, padding, hidden compartments and extra features. They make no art or fine clothes, but excel at creating weapons, mining equipment and instruments of torture.
  • Knockers can see in the dark without any penalties. Even in pitch blackness, they can see as well as a human would in broad daylight. However, bright lights (like daylight on a sunny day) is uncomfortable to them.
  • Knockers can dig with their bare hands and teeth as well as a human using a pick or shovel, and can even dig through solid rock without equipment as effectively as the best human miner.
  • Knockers can advance to maximum level as Thieves or Fighters, or to 7th level as Magic Users, Clerics or Rangers. They may multiclass as Thief/Magic users, Thief/Clerics or Fighter/Clerics, in which case they are limited to 5th level in each class.