Monday, October 31, 2011

What You Did While You Were a Werewolf

Who wouldn't want to be a lycanthrope?  You get strength, invulnerability, near immortality for just a bit of anger issues.  Point your aggression at foes and it's win-win.  But, what if characters that catch lycanthropy have no control over it whatsoever and in fact only learn after the fact what they did while changed.  This seems more in line with the original folklore than later Hollywood and D&D renditions.  I'm imagining this as a Rientsian carousal type table.  Some ideas:

  1. Killed the party's livestock
  2. Killed all the livestock in a campaign hex
  3. Killed a party member's animal friend
  4. Killed a random hireling
  5. Smashed up the local tavern/hangout
  6. Infected a family member
  7. Killed the local priest/clergy
  8. Infected the local priest/clergy
  9. Killed the local ruler
  10. Infected the local ruler
  11. Wake up next to unconscious young person (infected?)
  12. Wake up next to unconscious child(ren) (infected?)
  13. Wake up next to sleeping animal of lycanthropy type
  14. Wake up in a bell tower
  15. Wake up under a bridge
  16. Wake up on a an altar
  17. Stashed bodies in a bell tower
  18. Stashed bodies under a bridge
  19. Left bodies on a an altar
  20. Infected all of a local orphanage
  21. Infected all of a local brothel
  22. Destroyed local apothecary gardens, good luck finding healing/potions
  23. Accidentally set fire to childhood home/friend's home
  24. Accidentally set fire to local place of worship
  25. All your equipment is missing/scattered
  26. Accidentally set fire to the docks
  27. Dug up a corpse from local cemetery and brought it back with you
  28. Dug up all dead in local cemetery
  29. Slaughtered a city guard patrol
  30. Let yourself be seen clearly from the highest point nearby, hunted now

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Symptoms & Side Effects II

Follow up from here.  I've given mechanical effects to symptoms that could come from diseases, drugs, or just magical traps.  These are temporary physical effects mostly.  Mental afflictions will need their own separate madnesses chart.  Here is the pdf.

I realized that in a campaign world where disease matters, where it can spread and kill people, visible symptoms will have serious in-game effects.  Rashes, pustules, or skin coloration might prevent you from shopping, or even entering town depending on the context.  I suppose that means that neither this nor the disease chart I've been working on are truly "one-pagers" because they are dependent on each other.  The more deadly the pox causing disease is in your campaign the more npcs will freak out when they see Joe fighter has them.

I think another big effect is interfering with spell casting.  I put "miscast" in the chart to make things more interesting I might interpret that as:
  1. Wrong memorized spell cast
  2. Wrong target
  3. Too weak, half power
  4. Too strong double effects
 I suppose you could make all those symptoms interfere with prayers and petitions too.  Hard, with a blasting headache, to pray for anything but relief.

The specific number mentioned for seizures is taken from Zak's lucky numbers-- player chooses a number, say 9, any time they roll it they have a seizure, whether its from trying to hit in combat or trying to save from something else.  Though, maybe it should be a number from 1-6 to include more possible rolls, like listening at doors etc.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Escape from Animal Island

This is from the session last Friday.

Z - F
    Pita - hireling
    Mika - hireling
Spike - F
Darkyo - F
Derrick - F
    Jimbo - hireling
    Zigfried - trained baboon
Athydas - MU
Gessup - DP

G's player decides to try out a cleric (divine petitioner) so his one-eyed fighter and hireling are shelved for the time being.  The rest of the session is essentially one tense battle.  The party realizes there is a room with bent bars that no one has ever gone into.  Spike and Athydas then impulsively enter said room to get the action going.

In the room is a puma-pheasant, the most beautiful of all beasts.  Just the sight of it charms Spike, Athydas, Darkyo, Derrick and his hireling Jimbo.  Zigfried the baboon saves but runs off in terror.  Z and company are outside.  Gessup doesn't look.

First round the creature drops Athydas to 0 with one blow.  Next round it drops spike to -1.  Next round it breaks poor, faithful Jimbo's neck.  Gessup has saved and gotten off a few sling stones in the meantime wounding it. 

Z manages to drag Derrick outside, his hirelings trying to rouse him.  Gessup is then mortally wounded.  Darkyo broke the charm and begins to flee.  Then Z puts on his beautiful cap and re-enters the hall (the cap worked the last time one of these was encountered).  There is a tense "charm-off," but both Z and the creature save.  A few rounds and Z slays it in combat.  Gessup cries out to his god for aid and is answered!  The party tends to Athydas.  Spike's player doesn't want him saved, chooses to roll up a new character.

After discussion and poking about, the party finds a passage heading down, a boarded up door, some shining objects on the ground.  Derrick falls into some soft, burrowed-out earth in front of a door injuring himself. In the chamber they find a chest.  Z has suspicions that it is similar to one they saw long ago, they test it and it teleports each of them back into some catacombs in the Maw, next to Nidus.

Some thoughts

The last time the party saw the other of the pair of chests was almost a year of real time ago, Nov 25th, 2010.  The last time they've been in Nidus was in February this year.

There is unexplored stuff on the island, I wonder if they'll go back, now that they know they have a way.  Though, I think they are sick of it.

The mage, who just died last session, reaches death's door again!  In talking with him about it, he feels someone has to do something or the rest of the timid/undecided party will never move.  They need to work this out as a group or play will never be fun, bursts of annoyed action that results in deaths because it was incautious.

I didn't like so much that Gessup managed to escape a mortal wound the way Athadys did just last session.  Maybe this mortal wound thing isn't a good idea after all.  Although, it was just a chance.  His petition had to be answered and he then had to roll enough hit points healed to live.  Both happened.  Maybe I'll let it ride.  I think it's much less likely to work again.

I really like the charming monster, that thing is dangerous.  I also like Z's cap.  I thought it would be too powerful, but when I started making all his hirelings and party members roll to save or just following him around dumbfounded it limited greatly when he can use it to good effect.

I screwed up with Spike's character.  She didn't want to play him any more so, sure, roll up another character.  But the one she rolled up was a total scrub with multiple stats below 7.  I said, sure roll another character.  This one got multiple 14s.  I should have made her stick with the scrub, if she wanted to switch, but I was distracted with the rest of the game (still ongoing) and wanted her to have fun (but thinking high stats will make play more fun is the wrong philosophy if you ask me, she could still fail her save versus the puma-pheasant with this new character if she's just going to run into rooms willy nilly).

Have no idea what they'll want to do tonight in Nidus.  I'm trying to make some NPCs and rumors.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cleric Petitions Again

Here's a pro-tip for you rules system designers, try explaining your rule to a drunk.  Last Friday, one of my players decided he wanted to try a cleric to mix up the fighter brigade.  He'd been imbibing before I even arrived.  And I had to explain my cleric petition rules about five times.  Now, I'm not saying all rules should be so simple that buzzed folks understand them, but the multiple attempts at explaining how my petition rules work certainly forced me to think of them holistically and from every angle.   I've never really been satisfied with them anyway.  The difficulty is that I've wanted to incorporate diminishing returns for asking for miracles over and over and for asking for miracles of more and more power.  I've found it hard to be simple and work with both axes.  Here's another attempt:

I'll give a cleric 3 glass beads and this little chart. They can put their bead anywhere they want but only three times. Any miracles of an order below their level will work 70% of the time.  I think I'll give them 3 more beads at 4th and then again at 8th level. I also give permanent miraculous powers to these holy people at those levels (think halos, healing touch that works 100% but limited times per day etc.)  This is weaker than a traditional cleric, but maybe not too much.  An 8th level cleric in S&W Core has 10 spells, and my cleric will only have 9 and then no guarantee they will work.  But then, my clerics could choose to use 4 6th level spells at 70% where the S&W cleric can't even cast that level spell at all.  So I guess what I'm trying to do is inject power and uncertainty; if the entities you're petitioning listen, a cleric in my world can do powerful things, but you can never be so prideful to expect things to happen for you.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Resurrected Mage and The One-Eyed Fighter

Wanted to capture what happened last Friday before we play again tonight.

G - F
    La Bouche - hireling
    Janis - hireling
Z - F
    Pita - hireling
    Mika - hireling
    Fabrino - hireling
Spike - F
Darkyo - F
Athydas - MU

The lineup keeps changing, and Z and Spike's players coming late, so information sharing has been a problem.  So, not too much accomplished.  Some poking around the outbuildings of the villa at the top of the terraced island they were shipwrecked on.  Then the party decided to mess with the animal hybridization machine some more.  G decided he wanted a little dog.

The machine is upstairs, the animals appear in a large room downstairs.  So G tells Athydas, to go downstairs an wait for it to appear.  It appears, I roll dice and it streaks off into the jungle.  Athydas yells up "your dog ran away."  I rolled for wandering monsters and sure enough got one.  Now I had rolled earlier that some Headless tribesmen had been encountered and gotten complete surprise on the party, but that they were 70 feet away.  So I ruled that they were going to watch, wait and look for an opportunity to strike.  Apparently this was that time.

Three headless with spears entered the front door of the villa's main building.  Athydas saw them, got initiative and took off running for the stairs.  The headless all threw their spears miss, miss, hit.  Roll damage.  Max at 6.  Athydas has 3 hitpoints.  I looked at that roll and was sorely tempted to fudge it-- here was the only mage back to play and he was dead in one blow.  But they had sent him foolishly off on his own, he was hollering foolishly in an unsafe place, and he had chosen to memorize magic missile instead of sleep which might have saved him here.  So I let it stand, but I remembered musing on mortal wounds to make death less anti-climactic.  So I told Athydas' player: "you have a spear through your gut and you are dying, you'll be dead in a few rounds.  What do you want to do?"  He asked if he could cast magic missile at his killer.  I said sure, he did and killed that headless.

At this point the rest of the party is rushing down the stairs and engaging the remaining two headless.  Everyone is rolling bad and Fabrino, Z's long-time hireling is killed.  The other headless are finally dispatched.  I ask Athydas' player, if there is anything he wants to say this round.  He says "Can I cast The Fortunate Punishment?"  Aha, I realized the genius of this.  This was a scroll the party had found in his absence and given to him this session.  He actually has this spell in his book but had not memorized it.  The spell allows the casted upon, instead of dying, to lose 1d6 points from a stat of their choice permanently.  So, I ruled that with his dying breaths he could cast this spell.  He chose strength and rolled a 2, (can't remember if that leaves him with 7 or 5 now).  He saved himself in a completely badass and unexpected way.

Later, G who has had to lead Darkyo around everywhere because she was permanently blinded by a spitting cobra, decided to try something drastic to help her.  He has an Obsidian Blade, that will heal someone for as many hp as you bleed out of yourself.  He decided to try and cut out his own eye for Darkyo.  I though this is crazy, it wasn't meant to be used that way, but I liked his boldness.  I rolled to see if it worked and the dice said no.  But even the very next day, I decided it was too cool to not let work.  So tonight I will tell them them both have vision in a single eye.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Staff Shall be Splintered

A magic-user with a magic staff or wand can choose to use it to absorb an incoming spell, ruining the wand or staff beyond repair.

What do you think?  I imagine it as a last ditch attempt to survive a powerful foe.  I didn't put anything about level because that probably would depend on how rare and dear a magic staff is in your campaign.  If they are hard to come by, it would seem okay to sacrifice one even to a high level spell such as finger of death, and regardless of the level of the staff's owner.

Alternatively, you might let them absorb multiple spells with a chance each time that it will blow up catastrophically, say 25% chance for each spell, though I don't know that those would look like worthwhile odds to me as a player.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

More Thoughts on Old School Dual Classing

It seems there are two reasons a player would want to dual class: 1) to intentionally obtain the powers of both classes-- become the sword wielding mage, for example, or 2) because they became dissatisfied with the class they started with.

I'm not really interested in 1.  You can do a ton to personalize your characters before needing to slide into another archetype's realm.  Want to be a badass fighting mage?  Research a lesser version of a spell like 1e's Tenser's Transformation, get a magic staff or darts, learn the protective spells that will enable you to enter combat.  Want to be a magic wielding fighter?  Find some potions, protection scrolls, some magic rings and learn how to use them.

1 doesn't really make sense to me either in that you are gaining your experience serially, so if you want the fighting mage you have to plan several levels of one class and then a switch. See here for my personal experience with that.
2 I'm quite sympathetic about.  My players starting out usually have no clue what the classes can do.  Fighters are a straightforward safe bet.  If, after three levels of fighter they realize they are missing out on a lot of cool stuff available to magic-users, and wish they had tried that class many months ago, I am quite tempted to let them switch.

The interesting thing is that the rules seem to assume situation 1.  By raising the bar for dual classing to a 16 required in the second classe's main attribute, it seems intended to limit the occurrence of these potent combined power characters.  And yet, this rule makes 1 much more likely to happen then 2.  Unless you are doing a newer school style of stat rolling, 16's will be rare.  My fighters wishing to switch are out of luck.  The more experienced player who knows the rules will see the 16 when he rolls it and know he can dual class this character.

Another thought is, for situation 2, why not just give them a new character of the class they desire?  I see two sticking points.  One, if they roll up stats the way we do there is no guarantee they will get the numbers needed for that class, and two, they will lose all the experience they gained unless you jump the new character in level.  I hate jumping people up in levels.  Yes I know Gygax did it, yes I know there are con events that play high level pregens.  To me that is like setting up a Jenga game with half its blocks already missing.  D&D is about progression, about the hard-scrabble gaining of power, no one is jumping to third level in my campaign (will I change my mind on this as I become more enlightened, maybe, but it's how I feel now).

Maybe a compromise for me is my player could switch classes and keep their hitpoints and save but nothing else from the original class and ignore the stat requirement.  This would mean all the experience they earned was not wasted, those hitpoints will help buff their feeble apprenticeship in the new class.  That doesn't solve the problem of having appropriately high stats for the new class, but heck, maybe my world needs some dumb magic-users and puny fighters.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Old School Dual Classing?

If one of the many fighters in my campaign said they wanted to become a cleric, how should I handle it?  How about magic user?  I think my conception of the latter involves years of book study and it wouldn't be possible, but maybe I'm thinking too narrowly.  Do you have any simple dual/multiclass rules for old school play?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Technical Difficulties

Having problems with my desktop.  I'm limited to dinky netbook, phone, or work computer until I figure something out.  Quite frustrating and stifling, especially since I have an idea of how I might do a visual encounter chart in the shape of the probability curve for that chart.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Drug is Actually . . .

At work, so I'll make this into a nicer chart later.  So, tired of the drugs in your campaign being plant parts that are smoked or chewed?  Here are 30 other possibilities.  Actually the ideas from alternate potions might work too, but here I worried less about the strict time limit implied in many of those options and tended more towards rare and slightly taboo stuff.  Keep in mind they aren't spells, I would make them all still addictive to varying degrees.
  1. the bite of a live ant, tiny farms must be carried around
  2. a mantra from a forgotten language chanted several times
  3. tiny human-like creatures that are gazed at in wonder
  4. a lamprey the size of a mouse, attached to the body under clothes
  5. feathers burnt
  6. tiny pastries made exquisitely with rare spices
  7. the exudations off the back of a giant toad
  8. ashes of ancient heroes snorted
  9. paste made for the fat of the executed
  10. entrancing figure made with string as in cat's cradle
  11. the rarest drug, only the blood of someone previously intoxicated
  12. reptile scales held under the tongue
  13. animal spines used to pierce the flesh
  14. clothes woven from the hair of an anti-saint
  15. dust taken from the footprint of witches/giants/demons
  16. nymph tears
  17. centaur milk
  18. a Feng shui-like arrangement of furniture, candles, and flowers
  19. a temporary tattoo from plant sap
  20. an arcane pattern painted across the face
  21. plant pollen of low efficacy so that the user must be covered with it
  22. breath of a dying mage
  23. heavy water
  24. distillation from the scraps of an ordination feast
  25. Yogic-like poses performed in a particular sequence
  26. pink crystals from deep in the earth
  27. palm-sized clay coin, broken for effect
  28. Ent water
  29. Tomb salt, scraped from the mineral buildup on tombs
  30. Temple tar, scraped from the smokey residue in the dark corners of busy temples
Update: I made it into a chart and bundled it with the one-page drugs for your phone or tablet here. I'm not too happy with the "drugs" icon, doesn't seem as iconic at a small size, but I'll worry about revising it a little later.

I was thinking the mantra and yogic poses would be a little different because the character can partake any time they want.  I might adjust the addiction rules to make them require them more and more often, until the mantra chanter would be unable to pray, cast spells, or be quiet in the dungeon.  The yogi would have to withdraw from adventuring to perform the postures full time.

The lamprey seems gross to me, I might roll randomly to see what it does, then make it a fad in Nidus.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

More Castaways

Saturday night I had two brand new players.  One had played D&D long ago and some Vampire, the other no rpg experience as far as I know.  They both rolled up fighters.  Which means the party looked like this:
G - F
    La Bouche - hireling
    Janis - hireling
Z - F
    Pita - hireling
    Mika - hireling
    Fabrino - hireling
Derick - F
    Jimbo - hireling
    Zigfreid - trained baboon
Spike - F
Darkyo - F
Gilda - F
Didi - F

That's 7 fighters my friends, and 12 if you count the combatant hirelings.  Also, all but two have plate and shield.  This is more a little army than adventure party.  How did this happen?  I think mostly because brand new players tend to pick fighters as an easier option to try out -- they have enough to pay attention to without figuring out spells.  And my new players have trickled in over time.  My most experienced players were generally the ones that picked mages or clerics and they've had to move and leave the game group.

I think this is actually pretty survivable at low levels of my old school D&D (my interpretation of it anyway).  Low level magic users are good for that sleep spell to knock out a lot little critters, or you could just have a lot of fighters and kill them.  My players also have some interesting magic items that give them choices- one can turn into a wolf, etc.  As for clerics, well, I probably need them to meet some more undead.  As for the plate mail, yeah, maybe a rust monster.

Anyway, G and Darkyo reached the top of the island fresh from burning down a village of legless creatures.  They met two tough but dashing looking women, Didi and Gilda, and their old compatriot Derick. (people that like plotted games would probably have an aneurysm at the dream logic of my players popping in and out of play, but I see no other way to handle it with a shifting player base).

At the top of the island is a villa with quite a few buildings, some large.  G and his hirelings proceeded to investigate an unfinished but large barn, Derrick and the new women headed off to investigate a peacock cry, and Darkyo circumnavigated an out building looking for a door.  She found one, entered, and was engaged in combat by a spitting cobra amidst the wreckage of a kitchen.  She was blinded and her trained ferret Otto was killed before she retreated.

The other crew found a huge set of double doors with a big crude pad lock on it.  Didi tried picking it open and did ( what the hell, I gave her 5d6 and had her roll under her dex of 12, is that ~10% chance?  I did say it was big and crude).  Opening the doors revealed a huge room with mother and baby Pit-Elephants, yes that's elephants crossed with pit bulls.  They seemed unperturbed, until a giant pit bull appeared amongst them and they started to fight.

This was created knowingly by Z and Spike inside the villa at a animal hybridizing machine they had figured out.  The ruckus eventually led the party to all get together outside.  G wanted to hunt so they could cook something (and heal an extra hp during the night-- thanks Talysman)  He saw and bagged a zurkey with his bow, its white and dark meat in stripes, was delicious after roasting.  The party all ate, and slept in the barn.

The next day the traveled to the opposite end of the main building to an identical but finished barn.  Inside the saw a pile of bodies.  They quickly formed an imposing shield wall.  A Stitcher appeared out of the straw and managed to stitch the trained baboon's arm to his chest before being slain by a battle axe blow from Didi. They found a treasure cache and that was it for the night.

Some thoughts
All this time I've been using reaction rolls for when I don't have a strong preconception of what creatures/npcs will do.  It's nice to off-load that responsibility and inject unpredictability into the world and the emergent narrative.  Except the more I play, the less unpredictably the damn reaction rolls appear to be.  More often than not monsters are confused/uncertain, which means players get the drop on whacking them to death.  I think I'm going to have to move that result to the lower end of the bell curve and replace it with violent reaction to reflect the dangerous world I imagine my campaign to be.

My players were telling me Didi's player was really skeptical about D&D and didn't want to come, but after the night was having fun and wants to come back next week.  It probably helped that she picked the big lock successfully and got the killing blow on the Stitcher, neither of which I planned.  Gilda said she had a great time to that this was a "new side of me" she'd never seen (yeah, I'm her boss).  I gave both the new players magic items to try and give them a buy in, an amethyst ring to Didi, a bone stylus to Gilda.  I also told them they'd heard of pirates around this island . . .

The party seems at a loss of what to do next, there was talk of building a boat.  I asked "Do any of you know how to build a boat?"  They seemed puzzled about where to go on the island which is odd because the two who went inside the villa's main building know there are places unexplored.  They may have forgotten since it's been weeks since that session.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Silhouettes XXVIII

Tired tonight, but figured why not post what I got rather than letting the blog go quiet.  Here is a female fighter:
And what the book called a Nima Nima warrior, couldn't find info on that tribe:
Here is a deadly hare:
And here is what a deadly hare tribesman looks like:
I've added these to the zip file found to the right. I also added a license text to try and clarify that these are all in the public domain, and free and clear.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

One-Pagers for Phone

I've come to realize my phone is quite handy on game nights.  If I forget something I have pretty much everything I've made on my blog somewhere.  I've also put some pdfs directly on myphone for expediency's sake-- no need to search the blog.
The new pdfs upper left, then a draft.  Hard-to-read chart example lower left.
But the problem with those pdfs is that, at that tiny size, my charts tend to all look alike.  So I used my silhouettes and blew them up so you can easily see what each chart is about.  I also added in the "The Potion/Ring is Actually . . ." as a third page.  That way my base and possible weird variants is right where I need them.

The only hiccup I had was learning how to create my own page style to switch from portrait to landscape to portrait again.  Otherwise, you should be able to customize the one pagers to your heart's content and do this for yourself.

Here is my phone pdf for Potions and for Rings.  This makes me think, what would a chart of "The Drug is Actually . . ." look like?  Better get on that.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My First Real Character

My first real character was . . . wait for it . . . a bard.  Now if you're someone who hates the class, relax, my poor dude never got there.  That's right, I was playing the 1e bard which is more an aspiration than a class.

You may wonder what I mean by my first "real" character.  I just mean we played tons as kids that I don't even remember.  We played crazy Monty Haul campaigns.  I had a 27th level ranger at one time.  But as we matured and got closer to high school we took things more seriously and this bard character of mine would serve me all through those years-- the bulk of my play.

Why a bard?  Well, it was a mysterious option in the back of the players handbook.  Keep in mind we rolled up hundreds of characters of all races.  We had evil parties made up of Anti-paladins, and half-orc clerics.  I had thieves of every kind of demi-human.  But the bard, the bard you had to work for.

For those of you that don't recall, here is how the bard worked:
Bards begin play as fighters, and they must remain exclusively fighters until they have achieved at least the 5th level of experience. Anytime thereafter, and in any event prior to attaining the 8th level, they must change their class to that of thieves. Again, sometime between 5th and 9th level of ability, bards must leave off thieving and begin clerical studies as druids; but at this time they are actually bards and under druidical tutelage.
So, what did I do after reading his?  I thought, "Hey, if I want to be a powerful bard, then I should get to 7th level fighter before switching." And so I played seven long levels of D&D, all through high school . . . as a fighter.

Then the moment of triumph came, my DM said I needed to find a guild and join.  I somehow did and became a lowly 1st level thief.  ?!?!  It made no sense.  Why would I, a powerful warrior, decide to become less effective in fighting, suddenly limit myself in the kinds of weapons I would use, and decide, "Hmm, I'm a great warrior, but I really would like to learn some petty thieving skills."

I'm sure someone might come up with a character it would work for, but as an archetypal class it was an abysmal failure in practice.  It was one of the many small lessons I've had in my several decades with D&D about how what is "logical" or "makes sense" (a bard would be a combination of fighter/thief abilities) often has little to do with how the game plays at the table.

And bards?  Well, I have no desire to play one.  I suppose you could say my fighter was a bard in some ways.  He carved our adventures on his oaken staff, the keeper of our tale.  He had a rare and beautiful harp he would play around the camp fire.  But mostly he just cleaved the skulls of monsters with his bastard sword.

Bard was never really an archetype for me.  I'm not sure where it came from (in D&D).  Most discussion around bards seems to be just an attempt at justifying something that has been around for a long time in the game.  But, hey, some people don't grok clerics, and as a boy raised on stories of biblical miracles and Knights Templar, they was never a problem for me.  So maybe someone feels similarly about the bard.  I think I found how I'd like to handle bards in my own campaign, though. Check out the bard as hireling.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Magic as an Old Language

I know the idea of language being magic is not new- heck, it goes back to the bible being the Word, and I'm sure beyond that.  And I'm sure some of you might give me examples of this very idea: magic being the use of a older, more primal language.  But I want to think a little about what the implications might be.

So, what if spells were just sentences in the right language?  The language of the long lost elders?  You would need to find examples of that lost language: inscriptions, scrolls, books.  Even second-hand citations might be valuable.

You might find a book written in that tongue and use it to reverse engineer things: nouns, verbs, sentence structure.  What you could do would be very limited and simple.  Saying the word for light would create light.

You might find a dictionary written in the old tongue.  Now it is more clear what the names of things are.  Perhaps with its help you can learn more verbs too.  You can affect more things now.  When you say flee, foes flee.  When you say "light flee" light sources are extinguished.

You might find a grammar book, or rhetoric.  Now you can learn the structure of the language to make more complicated utterances.  You can have multiple effects happen to multiple things.  You can include contingencies and qualifications.  "Take me to safety." Or maybe: "Make the tracks of he who wishes me harm visible to me."

With a magic system based on this concept, all spell effects would essentially require some research.  Well, unless that's what guilds are, the accumulated, simple knowledge.  But leveling would be based on treasure.  Because to learn how to do more complex things would require the finding of the books in the old tongue, the grammars, etc.  This might be a kind of individualized achievement based leveling for magic-users.

That all being said, the more I write about it the less different this seems than the way the game is set up now: spells being kinds of arcane "recipes," and guilds being centers of recipe knowledge, and magic-users hunting the wilderness for lost and rare recipes.  Hmm. . .

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Silent Horn

Blowing into it makes no noise.  But every person told its magic phrase will hear it sound, deep and clear.  Its signal has been used to win battles and in the assassination of seven sultans.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Serendipity XI

These posts are about the weird, cool, or beautiful images I find when I'm looking for a completely different weird, cool, or beautiful image.  So, they aren't necessarily going to be useful in a game.  But they don't take long to save, clean up, and share.  And they're in the public domain, which means they're yours, so I figure it would be a shame not to share them every now and then.

A rendition of the, now, classic mushroom forest:
1d6 fez-wearing hirelings:

uhh . . . a friendly ghoul?
This one is crying out for t-shirtization:

Finally, some little stuff maybe useful for decorations in text:

Update: Ha, that gave me a laugh I needed fictivefantasies, so here is your new friend in yoga pants:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Memory Palaces

Ever since I first read of these I've been fascinated by them.  If you aren't familiar, the story goes that Simonides of Creos was at a banquet and happened to step outside just before the roof collapsed.  He realized he could remember who was at the banquet and which body belonged to which person based on their location around the banquet table.  This became known as the method of loci, a way to memorize a great amount of information by relating each bit to imagined locations in our minds.  Later, it became quite a fad, with the locations known as memory palaces.

What if you could access someone's memory palace?  Find the magical phrase, use the proper ritual and you are transported to a structure.  Each room might have odd objects, texts, and maps that the creator wished to remember.  It might be a kind of mini-plane the players are actually transported to, or more an ethereal dream.  I like the former even better, but would limit time in the palace to an hour a day and exiting would drop you back in the mundane world exactly where you entered it from.

Why visit there?  It's the dungeon of a mind.  You might find there:
  • unique spells
  • alchemical recipes
  • secret treasure locations
  • martial arts techniques
  • battle plans
  • secret trade routes
  • faction relationship maps
  • blackmail secrets (of others or the palace owner)
  • serial killer burial sites
  • Western March style maps of a region unexplored
  • monster classification schemes, along with the monsters!
  • daily routine (for assasinations)
You might use it as a way to set up a classic murder mystery where, in addition to the scene of the crime, investigators have access to the murderer or victim's palace.  Perhaps multiple people knowing the incantation can access and change the contents of a palace from different locations, making it a means of long distance, although cryptic communication.  Perhaps you could perform Mission Impossible style (the original cool version) missions where you acquire the incantation, access the palace of a living person who is still using it,  and change it without them knowing to influence them politically, romantically, financially.

The palaces themselves could be locations the players are familiar with.  Perhaps the palace owner is very familiar with that Snake Cult Temple.  Imagine how freaky it could be for players to revisit a dungeon they had cleared, or a tavern, or keep they are familiar with.

As a treasure item, allow a player to create their own palace, and only thus become an alchemist.  Or maybe require one for the vast amount of data needed to research a spell.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Silhouettes XXVII

Here's an alternate mammoth:

And a terror bird!:
I revised the boar to look more fierce:
and here is a possible female mage or priest:
some goofin' around:

Computer Woes, Lost Character Sheets, & Animal Island

I thought my 3+ year old hand-me-down computer was a goner.  Crashing like the ram was bad.  Which sucked because I came home from work and could work on silhouettes or anything.  But it looks like it was a buggy version of Firefox (fingers crossed).

Yesterday before game time, I was frantically searching through all my stuff for my players' character sheets.  I usually keep them all because I figure I'm less likely to lose them.  But they were gone! 

After a few texts, turns out that one player in the mountains thought that would be our last game we ever played and kept the sheets for sentimental reasons.  Okay, go to the house.  No sheets.  Where are they?  Must be here.  Finally decide to just improvise, start writing down ACs and probable amounts of hit points.  And begin playing.

Then, another player arrives with all the character sheets.  Everyone is happy to have their trained ferrets and fairytale spells back.

The session was short
"G" - F
     La Bouche - hireling
      Janis - hireling
Darkyo - F
Athydas - MU

We last left our heroes washed ashore on a weird animal island.  There were four players involved.  Two of those players are now gone.  The three players I was with yesterday had not been there.  It seemed to make sense to have these three wake up on the shore and explore the island a bit and meet up with the two remaining from the original crew.  Because those original two arrived a little late, events were already rolling and they ended up sitting around observing and probably bored.

Ah, for a dungeon and a nearby tavern.  Who knew rotating player rosters would be such a challenge.  I suppose if I was a better DM I could have switched the spotlight to the two late arrivals, but a) I was afraid they would be at mortal risk with just the two of them and b) they are at a part of the island which is sort of central to everything so I wanted all the players together when they tried to figure out the animal machines and such.

So what happened in play?  The three wander through a coastal forest a bit.  They stumble upon a village of strange creatures that walk on their hands and have no lower torsos.  They spot the two hirelings tied to spits near the fire.

G moves into the village, throws some fireworks into the fire- which shocks all the creatures and blinds them.  Then begins walking on his hands-- which, for some reason, enrages them.  Battle ensues.  Darkyo is laying down bow fire from the trees.  Athydas closes to throw some darts and is knocked out.  G manages to cut one hireling free before getting knocked out.  Darkyo's missile thins the ranks of the enemy.  The first hireling frees the second and they manage to turn the tide of battle.  The unconscious are roused and the huts are set afire as the sound of more of the creatures approaching comes from the forest above.

Some Thoughts
I need to figure a way to put character sheets on my blog so I can access them anywhere from my phone.  I thought of uploading photos first, but I suppose I could just type up the stats in the barest numerical form.

I wish I could reboot my whole campaign with a B2-like area and central homebase.  Starting at Nidus on an island has made where players go pretty unpredictable and meant I had to have an idea, not of just one or two cultures, but pretty much what the heck is going on in the whole world.  Once they figure out a mode of travel to get off this island I have only the vaguest idea of where they might head.

I hate nothing more than seeing bored players.  But there was a lot of confusion and it's been months since we've played so I'll go easy on myself and strive to do better next time.