Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Banner of Promised Valor

"Give me ten warriors as brave as any,

And I promise to personally bloody as many."

These rare banners from various cultures have in common some kind of inscription in which the holder promises future battle valor in exchange for aid.  When the holder says aloud the inscription, they promise to wound in melee as many foes in the upcoming battle as will be granted to them.  Then that number of ghostly allies will appear.  The warriors will appear and fight as the warriors of the banner's culture, whether bare-chested rhompaia-wielders or mail-wearing knights.  

The ghostly warriors can be defeated themselves, but they fight as picked champions.  They will fight until all foes are subdued and then disappear.  If the oath-maker does not wound as many warriors as were granted, they will age a year for each they are short.  So, if they call for ten warriors, they can sit back and let them do the fighting, but after the battle is over, won or lost, they will age ten years.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Player Race: Starfish

This is meant to be fun for players that enjoy roleplaying.  

These starfish have developed the ability to live on land, speak, and approximate human movement with their arms.  They grow to various sizes.  You can roll 1d6 for how many feet tall they are or just choose.  While they can use weapons, shields, and various human implements, they are less dexterous than a normal human (-2).   Although they are able to slowly climb most surfaces and ceilings using their tiny tube feet.

These starfish are incredibly difficult to kill (+2).  Unless dissolved in acid or burnt to ash, whatever tiny part is left after they are "killed" will grow back into a new starfish in 1d12 days (1d6 in warm salt water).  

But life on land is rough on starfish bodies so they only last a short time (1d4 sessions of play) before they have to spawn a new offspring.

The offspring of a starfish will retain all the memories of its parent, but have a different personality.  To determine personality roll 2d6 and apply them to this split table:

  1. Assertively (A)
  2. Awkwardly (E)
  3. Flamboyantly (I)
  4. Mischievously (O)
  5. Quietly (U)
  6. Naively (OO)
  1. Curious (th)
  2. Helpful (sh)
  3. Lazy (ch)
  4. Distracted (nd)
  5. Diligent (st)
  6. Protective (nt) 

To name your intrepid starfish adventurer, you can choose a consonant and then add the appropriate results for your current personality.  For example, if I choose "T" and roll 1, and 1, my name would be Tath.  Then after 1d4 sessions, my starfish would have to spawn and then I'd roll again, say 2, 2 and get Tesh.  I add that to the previous name and get Tathtesh. This way your character's name is a running record of each generation. 

Though, your newly spawned character has all the memories of past starfish, they may view things differently through their new personality.  So, the time you risked yourself while Assertively Protective, could seem ridiculous if you are now Flamboyantly Lazy.

A starfish offspring that has a the same personality as an ancestor, because they share all memories, might seem like a reincarnation of that ancestor: "Hey, Tath is back!"

A curious Starfish might serve as a decent scout, but they would have difficulty picking locks and such.  A starfish might make a good magic-user because they are tough and will remember any learned spells even if they "die."

Design Notes 

Obviously, pick your own name if you like, or change the personality words to others you like better.  I did try to pick some that could be fun without necessarily causing friction in a party.  It's mostly a proof of concept for how you could add a variety of personalities to a party without having to change characters.

I thought about making a table for color/appearance for new offspring, because of the potential vivid color possibilities, but I'll leave that to you and/or your players.

I don't have races in my game at all.  I'm much more interested in having the weird and wonderful be encountered by humans.  But I remember the fun of rolling up gnomish thieves or half-orc fighters, so I hope someone will find this idea fun.

My undergrad degree was biology and I was always fascinated with starfish and radial symmetry in general.  I would daydream about how different types of biological life might have evolved intelligence and then into different types of cultures.  For starfish I always imagined how a culture might develop if offspring retained even a part of the skills learned or memories of parents.  Anyway, that's your bonus science fiction idea.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Ghost Hone

The first sage said, "The Ghost Hone is lumpy, meteoric rock the size of a loaf of bread. It has a rough slot worn in it from blades being dragged edge-down, across it.  If you do this to a blade it will ruin it for normal foes (-2 to hit) but allow you to hit things that could not otherwise be touched."

"No," said the second sage, "it is as you describe, but dragging a blade across its rough surface releases the soul of a creature that blade has formerly killed to, now, fight for you (summon undead of last creature slain)."

"No," said the third sage, "there may an item such as you describe, but the true Ghost Hone is a cursed jian that the three liches of the Southern Archipelago war over even now.  If a spirit is struck with the blade it carves away the weakest part, each blow making it stronger.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Fakir's Bed

 Once, a Fakir saved the daughter of a Caliph from drowning when she fell from the royal barge.  The Caliph offered him anything his heart desired.  The Fakir, replied "Grant me a bed of nails I don't have to carry to the market place."  Taken aback, the Caliph did as he wished-- his most sage magicians imbued a thousand nails with magic so that, however scattered, they would fall into perfect lines, balanced on their heads.  And with a single magic word they word fly back into a bundle tied with a golden ribbon.

Centuries later, the Fakir's Bed, is just a few hundred rusted nails bundled with a dirty linen strap.  A local rogue is said to possess the bed, and throw it out behind her when she flees the guard.  Late at night, you might hear her call the nails back to her by singing out the magic word.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Shepherd's Stone

Shepherd's Stone - These simple enchanted stones of various sizes are prized by merchants.  If domesticated animals are allowed to see one and smell it and it is placed on the ground, they will cluster around it.  Even if stolen or driven away by predators, the animals will eventually wander back to the stone.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Prayer that is Answered is Eternal

When then hill tribes came down conquering the city states of the coastal plain, nothing could stop them.  In desperation, the King of Kings, Ur-melem-nungal, had the heads of the great priests that died in those battles, saved.  His alchemists placed them in lead boxes mounted on poles.  And the boxes had a hinged front with a thin brass chain attached.  And they were carried in front of the army like standards.  And when the enemy was met they pulled the chains and opened the boxes.  And the hollow mouths of the heads continued their last prayers.  But they came out as a high keening and would stop for nothing.  It is said, a whole army dropped its weapons and fell asleep at the dark prayer of one, that another caused a wind of fire, and a third had to be buried for it wouldn't stop raining for as long as it screamed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Vigilant Bullet

The Vigilant Bullet - This almond-shaped, lead sling bullet has an image of a closed eye molded into it.  When placed close enough to a fire to be warm to the touch, the molded eye will appear to open.  If danger approaches it will warn its owner by flying through the air and striking them hard enough to wake them.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Choose Your Columns Charts

One of the last mini-games I posted about was for shopping.  And, in play, it didn't work that well, most of what it did was make what you wanted to buy harder to get- it wasn't available or the wrong size, or too expensive.  It wasn't fun.  (I have a different solution I'm fleshing out).  But what surprised me in looking back at that post was how I had players choose which dice to apply to which column.  I had no recollection of using that mechanic whatsoever.  And looking at it now, that seems like the coolest part of that whole idea.

What other uses could we have for a roll all the dice table which let players choose which dice should apply to which column?  I'm at work, a bit under-caffienated, but it seems like the general principles are: higher is better, but smaller columns are less important.  So, for example if you roll a "1" on your d20 you really want to sacrifice a result lower on the table to bump up that d20 column's result, like moving a "6" on you d6 column up and taking the "1" on the d6 column.

So, one idea that springs to mind is a wild magic mini-game.  It would be just a matter of fleshing out the columns.  I'm thinking of something along these lines, though that was more designed for completely random effects.  Players would want to have a bit more control over being able to cause damage in combat etc.

What other possibles uses?  Maybe monster breeding where you select for traits.  Maybe an abstracted NPC conversation mini-game where it lets you choose what you learn from them and what you have to reveal in turn.  Maybe potion making where you are trying to get the best balance of ingredients that have side effects.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Dice Stack Mechanic

 I had an idea for a mechanic that might be fun for in-person games.  I'm always on the lookout for mechanics that 1) use stuff people have around (like cards or dominoes), 2) is dramatic fun (players gather round to see how it will turn out), and 3) kind of matches up with the situation in game (a Jenga tower feels like an oncoming inevitable disaster).  So, what about stacking dice?  We all have them, it will be amusing to watch, and it can simulate pushing your luck to get some gain.  Here are some ideas of what you might use it for:

  • DM places down a d20 to start the Dreaded Stack. Any time a player gets a damage roll they don't like, place that die on the stack and roll again with a different die to try for a better result.  But, when the stack tumbles that player's weapon breaks.  Or, maybe, you roll an additional immediate encounter.
  • Magic user variant that uses dice for casting determines how many dice they use for a battle/session by stacking.  The stack tumbles, you  get half that many.
  • Skill use, the shopkeep's wisdom is worth 5 dice, you've got to stack more dice than that for him to believe your lie.

Obviously, some dice are easier to stack than others.  I can't stack my precision d4s at all.  But anyone rolling d4s for damage is probably not going to want to re-roll anyway.  If you needed to give players a pool of random dice to stack from and want to vary which ones they have to work with, you could grab a handful, roll them, and then let the player choose dice from all the even results.

Anyway, I might try it for a simple mini-game at least.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Serendipty XXX

   When I go looking for images I need I often find cool things I never expected to find I went looking for. These images are all in the public domain:


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Folk Dance Adventure Hooks

You've got villages full of people, there's going to be dancing.  Here are some ideas of how to use folk dance to give players reasons to explore the sandbox and talk to some npcs.

There is an important ritual dance to drive off plague, but too many people in this village are sick.  They need performers.  Can you tour local villages looking for possible dancers (yeah, don't worry about spreading the disease, those other villages don't have any miasma surrounding them).  Maybe the dance requires mother-daughter combos that know the proper steps.  Maybe it requires sister pairs and players have to:

  • convince a reluctant daughter to take part.
  • talk to the elders to see if an adoptive daughter would work (sure, why not)
  • settle an argument about which younger sister would get to come perform from a family with lots of sisters.

In the end the dance might look something like this:

The village was recently raided by bandits and they smashed or stole some props the village needs for the upcoming festival dance. Players might have to 

  • talk to dancers to find out the exact specifications of these props.
  • find the bandits and get the props back.
  • find an old craftsman that can make the props or has some on hand.
  • find materials needed to make the props.
  • convince a rival village to lend their props.

The props might be something like these Banga pots used here:

Or the props could be elaborate costumes like these the scissor dancers wear:

This is just participants on hard mode, but maybe this particular folk dance requires superb skill or rare knowledge.  Maybe they need you to find another fighter for their fighting duel dances and:

  • convince an old fighter to teach the skill to youngsters.
  • convince dancers that hate each other to not actually hurt each other.
  • convince a troupe to let a younger fighter have a go at it.
  • rescue them from bandits (not a real fighter)

the dance could look something like this:

Or maybe the village needs you to find a particular dancer who knows their secret "floating step"and:

  • convince the dancer to come back and perform one last time.
  • convince an aristocrat to let them have time off to come back and perform.
  • convince the dancer to teach the secret to a rival village.
  • convince the dancer to teach one of the player characters.

the dance in the end could look something like this:

Other Ideas
Maybe the dance is not something traditional performed the same way each time, but more a competition between several villages to out do each other in choreography.  And the players will have to:

  • find a legendary choreographer.
  • spy on a rival villages practices.
  • find participants of various ages or sizes to complete the ensemble.

Maybe these folk dances need to take place in a particular location and players need to:

  • clear the area of monsters
  • find the lost location of the mountain meadow or forest clearing.
  • find someone to bless the cursed spring or fountain before the dance.

And, hell, all these dances require music!  We haven't talked about traditional instruments or musicians.  Where are we going to find them in time . . .

Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Haunted Spear

The Haunted Spear - When found, it doesn't look like much, a spear of cornel wood broken on both ends.  When grasped with both hands, smoky figures will start to appear, each carrying a spear 6 yards long.  Over the course of a turn, 256 will shuffle into place around the wielder to form a ghostly phalanx.  As long as the wielder can stand in place and keep their grip, this formation will remain and nothing can push through it.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Greater Kulning

When we saved the vis kvinna from the filthy pen, she was so happy she'd see her grandbabes again, she taught me the Greater Kulning.  Now, once a day, when I sing this sound, every animal comes from miles around.

It sounds something like this: