Thursday, January 23, 2020

What's Going On In My Town?

I like cities and towns a lot! However, the core loop of most OSR games is focused on towns as often little more than glorified item shops and inns. The interesting things happen in dungeons, or on hexcrawl maps, or in strange pocket dimensions. This has changed recently, what with fantastic books like Magical Industrial Revolution or Electric Bastionland, but both of those presuppose quite a bit about the settings involved and really package a whole game setting in a book. The tables I've made in this post are for general use; slottable into any table where you quickly need a new town for the players to rest at, resupply at, or pillage.

Here I'm trying to "solve" three problems I run into when I'm running towns in my games. One, they all feel the same. They look right out of generic fantasy MMO #8975; all thatched rooves and those white walls with cross-bar wood frames, with a big walled castle somewhere. The first table is supposed to provide a little bit of flavor to differentiate them on a more macro level; what the PCs have heard about the town from afar, and something that probably permeates the fabric of the town's day-to-day existence.

Two, the towns-as-menu-interface problem. When the PCs go to a town, it's usually just an opportunity for them to meet quest-givers, rest up, and take a look at the item charts to see what's available and what they can buy. There's precious little else I can whip up on short notice; so this is a group of other things the PCs might be interested in interacting with. It could use a list of NPCs related to the buildings as well; that's a challenge and table for another day.

Three, towns as places where nothing happens. On one hand, towns should be a place of relative stability as opposed to the random-encounter-filled wilderness; that's the whole point of a town. On the other, towns are boring if the players are the only driving force! Giving a little bit of motive force to the players' actions, forcing them to deal with new situations (or ignore situations that could cause problems later) is a great way to fill time if nothing else, when the table gets stagnant because everyone's looking at gear lists.

by Raphael Lacoste

What makes this town special?
1. A fortress, impregnable by attacking forces.
2. Birthplace of a major religious figure, site of many pilgrimages.
3. Built around an institute of higher education.
4. Built atop a vast, ancient structure.
5. Covers for a secret town nearby or hidden in plain sight.
6. Everyone who's born here, or lives here longer than a year and a day, develops a particular mutation (roll on your favorite mutation table to figure out which).
7. Farms something that isn't plants (d6: 1. Glass, 2. Flesh, 3. Books, 4. Weather, 5. Fire, 6. Dreams).
8. Freak constant weather pattern (d6: 1. Rainstorm, 2. Strong winds, 3. Oppressive humidity and heat, 4. Bone-chilling blizzard, 5. Permanent twilight, 6. Incredibly pleasant)
9. Home of the most delicious food in the region.
10. Military town. Everyone's armed to the teeth.
11. Moves around over time.
12. One big building with the entire town under one roof.
13. Openly run by a cult based around (d6: 1. Cult of living personality, 2. A powerful local creature, 3. A deity proscribed by the dominant culture, 4. A local philosophy, 5. A powerful supernatural phenomenon, 6. A band of mythical heroes)
14. Rebuilding after a recent disaster.
15. Run by a cruel and capricious noble, whom the peasants live in fear of.
16. Split in two. Ongoing conflict between the two sides.
17. The monarch built their seasonal home here.
18. They revere their dead. The whole town is a cemetery, and spirits are part of the community.
19. Train and rely on a unique beast that hasn't been domesticated by anyone else.
20. Roll twice, it's super special and has both.

by Artur Zima
Buildings that the PCs might want to frequent besides shops or inns
1. A blacksmith who knows how to imbue items with (d6: 1. sparkly gems, 2. spirits, 3. magic words, 4. stronger materials, 5. clockwork mechanisms, 6. elemental energies)
2. A castle with a local noble who's easily impressed
3. A mercenary company's local camp, with loose morals and heavy armaments
4. Abandoned sewer system full of secret passages and hideaways
5. An abandoned tower full of strange machines
6. Art gallery
7. Bardic college
8. Cemetery with restless spirits
9. Church that gives blessings freely
10. Gladiatorial arena
11. Library with eldritch tomes
12. Mine, with valuable metals within
13. Observatory to view the stars and faraway locales
14. River or sea-side port
15. Stone ritual circle, where the walls between worlds grow thin
16. The haunt of a not-so-secret society of philosophers
17. Town forum, where ideas and gossip flow like a river
18. Underground hot spring with hallucinatory vapors
19. Well of mutating radiation
20. Witch's haunt

by Elizaveta Lebedeva

When The Party Returns to Town
1. "Any last words?" One of the party's friends is about to be executed publicly!
2. "Burn the heretics! Take their tithes!" An inquisition is rounding up faces familiar and strange and preparing a bonfire. Better hide your loot and magic items!
3. "Excuse me! You still owe me!" Someone's come to collect...
4. "Fire! FIRE!" The town's going up in flames!
5. "Halt, in the name of the law!" The city watch accosts the party! Mistaken identity? A shakedown? Legitimate grievance?
6. "Help, help! Who will defeat the beast who has taken up residence in my home? I can pay..."
7. "Oh, the horror! There's been a murder! A noble's been found dead!"
8. "Please, teach me!" A young scamp has heard of your deeds, and demands you take them on as an apprentice. They don't even want pay, and they're willing to do menial labor...
9. "ROOOOAAR!" A great beast has broken loose from its chains!
10. "There's a war on, don't you know?" Recruiters see your heavy armaments and think you're perfect saps to press-gang into service.
11. "Trinkets! Talismans! Tigers! Towers-in-a-box!" A wizard's come to town, hawking esoteric wares from their flying cart.
12. "Who will fight the MIGHTIEST WARRIOR IN THE LAND!" Someone's bragging about their strength, and wields a weapon you've never seen before. They're starting trouble with anyone who looks tough, and are bound to come over to you sooner rather than later...
13. "You seem like a discerning customer. I have exactly what you need!"
14. *CRASH!* A bar brawl spills into the street!
15. *KABOOOM* Something nearby explodes! And there's a shadowy figure darting away from the scene...
16. *Slap* "How dare you speak, dress, or breathe like that in my presence! I challenge you to a duel!"
17. An incredibly rich person (a noble? an artist? a priest?) has arrived in town, and everyone's scrambling to raise their prices to cater to the foolish among their retinue.
18. Someone screams! They're far too close for comfort...
19. Whoever the party wanted to see? They've closed up shop and disappeared - under mysterious circumstances...
20. Roll two - they're both happening at once!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Fleshcrafter Intrigues of the Idle Nutrient-Rich

Who are the nutrient-rich? The leftover scraps of fleshcrafter dynasties from the Cyclopean Empire that once ruled (and killed) the Turtle. In a world where the basics are, in general, vastly overabundant - one can just pull meat out of the ground, so long as the area has not yet begun to decay - what does nobility mean? In the final days of the Empire, the dynasties claimed vast quantities of resources and land in the Final City (that would one day become the Meatropolis). They intended to use it to maintain control over the shattered remnants of civilization, parceling it out as necessary to the needy and the hungry as they once did on the barren shell.

But the ways of the organ-dwellers bypassed them entirely; as the Meatropolis grew, they realized they had no leverage but space, and even that was barely important as vertical dwellings grew on the side of the heart like a patchwork of scarification. The average dweller of the Turtle takes what they need, and no more - what use would they have?

And so this is the problem that the nutrient-rich face: they took far more, and now need to find things to do with it. Most leave them to their intrigues, or involve themselves when it would be fun. or they want access to these resources for their own ends, for their plans need vast quantities...
Igor Vitkovskiy
Clone Schemes
There are innumerable ways in which a clone of oneself can be used (and misused). Keeping it for replacement parts is merely the most pedestrian of schemes, and would be scoffed at by any truly decadent noble. Keeping it as a delicacy? Now that's more like it. Flash-implant it with a piece of your soul, so that it can behave as you at various social functions that you are far too busy to attend. Make many such clones, and see how they tackle problems that you have exhausted yourself on. Have a family all of clones of yourself. Pass down your inheritance to your clone just so you can giggle at writing the worlds "all to me" in your will. Clone other people - with their consent (good if creepy), or without (evil, but you're a noble, that's practically part of your job description). See what it's like through someone else's eyes for a day - or the rest of your (their?) life.

Clone someone else's descendants to sow discord and mischief in their household, or besmirch their good name. Challenge someone to a duel, then send your clone in your stead (rig your clone to explode when killed, your rival isn't getting out of this one unscathed). Disappear on sabbatical without anyone noticing that your clone is running the day-to-day in your stead. Use clones of yourself (or your clients) as surgical, mutational, or alchemical testbeds for your newest experiments so you can be sure they'll work on their intended recipients. Clone yourself as a team of adventurers to do your bidding - who can you most trust, if not yourself?

Grow an entire garden based on your genome. Why must your clones be limited to your own form?

Impersonation Balls

The masquerade has always been a staple of the noble caste. With fleshcraft, it has only become more popular, more precise, and more ghoulish. Each week brings a new event to a new bone-spire or subcutaneous ballroom. Between masquerading as creatures, faceless replicas, other members of high society, or characters of their own design, they bore none and are each the site of intrigues petty and grand. If vengeance must be taken, reputations made, new flesh-fashions tactically deployed, or fortunes broken, it is sure to happen here. Gossip flows as freely as lymph, every back room fills with trysts ostensibly forbidden by convoluted noble etiquette.

The impersonation itself, too, is perennially a subject of contention. While most basic changes can be wrought by any amateur fleshcrafter, far more detail, innovation, and art must be present if one is to share tables or furtive conversations with the truly important. Such art is in high demand - despite the abundance of the Turtle and the gross overabundance of the nutrient-rich's claims, skill (and style) remains seductively rare. Many intrigues surround mere access to renowned fleshcrafter icons, whose proclivities and interests are as fleeting as wizards' lives.

d10 Themes
1. Extinct animals
2. Heroes of legend
3. Facelessness
4. Come as someone else who you know will attend
5. Change faces over the course of the night
6. A particular architectural style
7. The alien
8. Sin
9. Fables, myths, and tales
10. Dreams

Skyscraper Topiary

Architecture in the Meatropolis takes a staggering variety of forms, from the scrimshaw of the Siding to the jerky-streets of the Butcher's Quarter to the soaring rib-spires that mark its iconic skyline to the hulking bloodiron foundries on the coast of the Blood Sea. Fleshcraft in its most extravagant form is the raising of entire towers from raw meat and wet bone, weaving floors and windows and facades together into a cohesive whole that's more art than living space. Most such endeavors take dozens of fleshcrafters working in teams, or one fleshcrafter to devote years to growing one from a custom tailored gene-seed.

Like prize vegetables of the past, competitions are held every growing-season (a description of such a thing would require a full account of the calendar and what passes for seasonal variance in the decaying husk of the Turtle, take it on faith that there is such thing as a growing season). Miniature castles are displayed at impersonation balls like bouquets, ready to mature into their fully-fledged magnificence a few months hence.

The seeds of such a building are carefully cultivated and bred on small scales, or pruned from the side-rooms of buildings expected to bear strong, healthy young. Meat-architects then mutate and carefully inscribe the seed with patterns that will guide its growth as it matures into an adult building. Often, the final structure is never truly known until it has grown to completion, revealing fractal halls and hidden pathways unplanned by any mortal mind. In some schools of thought, minimizing these is a sign of great skill, in others, maximizing them is a sign of great artistic vision.

There are many different architectural styles and accompanying trade secrets, and all can be found lauded in noble halls - of course, ones grown by the architect whose praises are sung. Of course the architect themself may be willing to reveal features of their creation unknownst to those who dwell in it, for a favor...

Artisanal Resurrections

Resurrection is no longer the provence of heavenly bureaucracies or clerical conduits. Fleshcrafters can weave new vessels from the barest scraps of the old. So long as a corpse is recoverable (which is more difficult than one may expect, in this bloody new world of deepest pits and voracious parasites), it can be regenerated by one of great enough skill. Of course the wait lists are long. It takes much power, much raw meat, and much time - not to mention the risks of mutation, of amnesia, and the still-extant suspicion that the person you once knew is long, long gone.

The nutrient-rich have turned this into a status symbol, because of course they have. The accumulating mutations of many resurrections is a testament to many things - keeping up with the latest fashions in a holistic, full-body manner, or the foolish bravery to take on challenges and set records that are universally fatal, or simply the status needed to become the victim of political assassinations several times over. Beleaguered fleshcrafters find time for their personal projects between scraping the remnants of their patrons off of floors and walls and ceilings, and resurrecting them to the requested degree so they can continue providing their obscenely vast resources.

These gruesome customs have spread like wildfire through those with the resources to participate. Often, the end of a fashion season is marked with a mass resurrection - and a corresponding mass grave.

Fungal Emporiums

In the vastness of the cosmos, there lie trillions of spores from millions of worlds, cast off into space in search of ever-further lands in which to lay down tendrils and expand, expand, expand. Ogoath's defenses against such an invasion failed catastrophically when the Cyclopean Empire slew the World-Turtle, and now the fungi feast upon the greatest banquet of rot in existence. They seed microcosms of their old worlds, then war between each other in fractal wars at every level of biology. These alien wars from alien worlds, upon a biology familiar but of scale unimaginable, create biomes utterly hostile to mortal life - and beautiful in their violent throes. Expeditions to the Turtle's extremities returned decimated, but rapturous, and the nutrient-rich couldn't get enough.

So go adventuring party after adventuring party, seeking out beautiful or interesting fungal varieties to bring back as spores for the nobility to grow in specialized gardens. They brave toxic atmospheres, extradimensional fungal beasts, creatures vaster than anything that existed in the Old World, clouds of disassembler-wasps, semantic blossoms that will consume through one's comprehension of them, geometries that change as the battlefields between duelling ecosystems advance and recede. Any who return are feted handsomely. The hermetic emporiums of the nutrient-rich span stadiums, entire sealed gardens as art statement or biological experiment or eldritch farm. The truly obsessive may fund adventurers not to venture out into the dangerous extremes of the true biomes, but to steal or sabotage a rival's work. So goes the arms race.

Organ-Theft Games

Heists! Intrigues! Back-alley fleshcraft! All these things keep the attention of bored heirs and tired nobility. Those of a more active persuasion than fungal gardeners or skyscraper topiarists spend their days planning elaborate ventures to steal each others' unique and valuable organs out of their very torsos. Black markets do a thriving trade in instruments of spycraft and surgery, teams of adventurers are hired to baby noble heirs seeking the thrill of the game (or protect nobles who're likely to be targets), fleshcrafters who want to join in the fun grow organs as decoys, or as incredible luxuries that can't help but attract the attentions of self-styled master thieves.

In this way, organs change hands (and bodies) again and again. A heart may beat its way through the chests of a dozen heirs, a pair of hands is used to burgle and is burgled in turn, even one's brain may find itself on the inside of a keratin-glass trophy case (in good taste, it is of course returned, though not without initials carved into its grey matter). Such trophies are displayed in tantalizingly visible ways, hanging from ballroom ceilings or sitting on pedestals in personal chambers, inviting the game to continue. Some spectacular braggarts install the organs inside themselves, becoming patchworks of their hard-won victories, and high-profile targets themselves.

Escaping the game is a trial in and of itself. To be unvaluable, rather than invaluable, takes effort and time and attention. One's attempt to leave may only invite more scrutiny and thefts, and one's last heist may prove their greatest achievement of all. A foolproof way, as always, is to pull off a trick so impressive that none wish to tarnish your reputation by sullying it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Modern Mimics

by iguanamouth (more rad art in the link!)

"Watch out! It's right behind you!"

"Where, in the dumpster?"

"No, it is the dumpster!"

Mimics are anxiety in monstrous form. It's not paranoia if everything you touch really could be out to get you. Keep a stack of post-its on hand for labeling things you know aren't mimics. Trust nothing. Trust no one.

Mimics only have near-perfect mimicry. Sometimes, they slip up; sometimes, they leave traces. Roll the tell before they discover the mimic. Bigger and older mimics may have no tells at all, but ensure that players have some sort of countermeasure against them - it's not just an instant kill when they open it, that's no fun.

Mimic Tells
1. breathing slowly
2. bulging at seams
3. droppings in surroundings
4. fetid stench
5. holes underneath for limbs
6. making the wrong sounds
7. mirrored/illegible writing
8. moving parts don't move
9. part of another form
10. ridges for eyes
11. warm air
12. wound leaking ichor

21st Century Mimics

Pizza box. In supernatural suburbia, pizza eats you! Sneaks into trunks of delivery cars, devours a pizza, then replaces it. The delivery driver doesn't know what doom they're bringing to your door (but it smells delicious).

1 HD. Armor as leather. d8 damage bite attack.

Email. The most dangerous chain letter. Open it up, and it'll try to eat your data, then your brain.

1 HD. Armor as leather (or more, if it's on a chunkier device). Animates the device it's on, giving it legs and teeth. If you can delete it (easier said than done when it's trying to chomp on your hands), you instantly kill it. Can bite for d6 piercing damage, or static discharge for d4 lightning damage to everything within 10'. Any electronic device that can receive/display email must save or receive a copy of the email mimic.

Trash can. Subsists on a diet of possums, raccoons, squirrels, and dumpster-divers. Leaves an acidic trail behind it that exudes a noxious stench of decaying flesh. The closest thing to a normal treasure-chest mimic you'll find in the city. Each has a designated hunting ground; fights heard in alleyways are occasionally a pair of trash can mimics fighting for dominance.

2 HD. Armor as leather. 2 attacks per round (any combination of tentacles (d6 bludgeoning, save or grabbed, 15' range), bites (d8 piercing), and lobbing a wad of sludge (60' range, d6 acid, 10' radius detonation, sticky - targets are slowed (save ends)). Gets a free bite attack against everyone it's got grabbed.

Corpse. Poor fucker, but looks rich enough to have something juicy on it. When you try to loot it, it splits open lengthwise into a toothy maw. Speaks in a genteel human voice. Will morph back into humanoid form and run once reduced to half HP - and the PCs are gonna look like they're attacking a hapless bystander. Likes hiding in dumpsters, car trunks, rivers.

2 HD. Armor as leather. 2 attacks per round (any combination of tentacles (d6 bludgeoning, save or grabbed, 15' range) and bites (d8 piercing). Gets a free bite attack against everyone it's got grabbed.

Sidewalk. Step on a crack, it'll break your back and then digest you. Attacks at night, when there's no one else around. Spans d4*10 sidewalk tiles. Looks like a centipede made of concrete and sinew when it fully reveals itself. Hunts in packs; often an entire street has been colonized by sidewalk mimics.

2 HD. Armor as chain. 2 attacks per round (any combination of smashes (d6 bludgeoning, save vs. knockdown) and bites (d8 piercing)). Runs at double speed, can climb walls and ceilings.

Grand piano. Attacks when played. The strings within whip into a frenzy; anyone within 15' takes 1 slashing damage on their turn (no save) and must save or take another 1 when they try to move within that radius. It snaps its lid to bite, and charges far faster than its bulk would suggest. Kept half-domesticated by the rich, powerful, and guilty.

3 HD. Armor as chain. 3 attacks per round (any combination of strings (d6 slashing, 15' range), bites (d8 piercing), and charges (d6 bludgeoning, target chooses to either be pushed 10' or be knocked down)).

Streetlamp. Like an anglerfish. Exudes a clinging supernatural darkness within 100'. Can't move from its rooted foundation without great effort. Grabs travelers walking along the highway, or victims of car accidents.

3 HD. Armor as chain. 2 attacks (bite (d6 piercing and save vs. grab), lash (d6 bludgeoning and save vs. knockdown to all in 180 degree arc; range 30') or blinding beam (target is blinded (save ends)) per round. Will retract into sky and drop grabbed targets from 30' up.

Taxi. Waits to pick you up on the corner. Tinted windows. Can perfectly mimic human voices. Interior looks like a worn taxicab with distressingly human leather interiors. The front seat is occupied by a lump of misshapen eyes, teeth, flesh, and tendrils. When someone enters, the mimic reveals itself (as the entire taxicab) and tries to eat them.

4 HD. Armor as plate. Will try to run over characters as it moves (d12 damage, DEX save to jump out of the way). Has 3 tentacle attacks per round (d6 bludgeoning damage and save vs. grab) OR 1 tentacle attack and a move. Anyone it grabs, it will pull inside the following round. Anyone inside takes d6 piercing damage and d4 acid damage per round as they are chewed and digested.

Structural Mimics

The two following mimics have grown fat and vast over decades; slowly becoming entire buildings. Do you know what every building in your city is? Have you ever really looked at the skyline? Could you truly tell if that one was where it was yesterday?

Kill a structural mimic through defacing its component rooms (hammers, spray paint, and fire are your friends here), or by destroying its vital organs.

Gas Station. Convenient. Local. Hungry. Does actually provide gas, occasionally. Full-service; go inside to pay. That's when it gets you.

2 vital rooms. When destroyed, it convulses, spewing gouts of flame through cracks in the parking lot. Everyone within takes d10 fire damage (save for half).
Heart is in basement (see ambnz's post), stairs down are behind the counter.
Brain is on the roof, encased in what looks like an AC unit.
3 attacks per round. Within parking lot, can spread gasoline in 10' square puddles, then set it on fire. Inside or adjacent to building, tentacle lash to grab (d6 bludgeoning and save vs. sticky grab) and bite anyone who's been grabbed for d8 piercing (save for half).

Skyscraper. Ostensibly an insurance company, but no one knows anyone who works there or has a plan from them. Who would, these days? It's just another cog of the unfeeling, uncaring corporate machine. Some people still venture inside - urban explorers, lost tourists, people walking around late at night who need to get in from the cold. They're never seen again.

4 vital rooms. Elevators still work, against all odds, though they'll still try to eat you.
Brain in penthouse.
Heart in sub-basement.
Lungs on ground floor. Blows characters out of room, or slams them against walls.
Stomach in building core, in middle of elevator shafts. Constantly sloshes with incredibly corrosive acid; need armor or a hazard suit to even think about entering (and it'll ablate quickly).
When it's down to 2 vital rooms, will stand up and sprint down city streets in mad dash to eat as much as it can before it dies.
Inside, riddled with parasites. Carrion crawlers, smaller mimics, ropers, rust monsters, etc.
Has 4 attacks per round. Tentacles and bites against grappled enemies (you know the drill at this point in the post), or room convulsion to knock everyone in the room over (save negates).

Monday, December 23, 2019

Secret Santicorn 2019: The Shellcraze

So every December, the OSR Discord runs a Secret Santa where we all throw in our names, a quick prompt, and get someone's prompt to fulfill. This was my first Secret Santicorn, and I hope I've delivered! ambnz's response to my prompt was fantastic, and can be found here: Skyscraper Mimics

semiurge requested the following: The latest fashion craze (refer to: tulip mania, ostrich feather boom) has made an unusual and inconvenient-to-get commodity into a valuable treasure (while it lasts). What is the commodity? What are the lengths people must go to get it? Who stands to lose the most when the market crashes? And so on and so on"

I'm setting this in the Meatropolis because it could always use more development! And it seems to be compelling enough that others won't mind.

The hatcheries of Ogoath's many wombs bear bitter, mutant fruit. Turtletomas, stillborn or soon-to-die, shatter their eggsacs and plummet into the benighted abyss of stars. Some are plain, pallid, twisted things. Others have shells that shine like gems: brilliant, cold, vibrant, twinkling. It is the latter that now possess the attentions of the idle nutrient-rich of the Meatropolis's fleshcrafter houses. This season's fashion trend is turtletoma gem-shell, and it adorns every eligible heir's clothes to a dazzling degree.

Gem-shell is worn in jewelry, or as charms, or bracers, or studded into flesh. Cloaks are woven out of thinly pounded castoff dust; the odd fully-intact shell forms a pauldron or even is worn alone. A minor heir may have teeth replaced with shell, or fake eyes, or horns. A fleshcraft liege these days goes nowhere without a full assortment of shell trinkets like stained glass, in their house's ancestral colors. They jingle as they walk. The louder the better, so as to alert the masses that their better approaches.

Living turtletomas grow scarce these days. The shellcraze has driven hundreds of enterprising adventurers to the hatcheries, and Ogoath's corpse can no longer bear young. While millions of eggs in every stage of development form great walls of eggsac, adventurers are tenacious and endlessly inventive. They crack the shells by the dozen, extracting the stillborn fetal turtletomas and checking their shells for rare patterns. Most are discarded; perhaps 1 in a hundred is worth bringing to market. The few that resist are made short work of, like clubbing seal pups in aeons past.

There were people in the hatcheries long before the shellcraze. Turtle-breeders and turtle-riders in villages of eggshell, caring for the few hatchlings they found and nursing them to health. Some have decided to capitalize on the new trend, flash-growing and mutating strains into ever-brighter patterns - even custom-growing them to nobles' specifications. Of course, this has led to a cottage industry of stealing and sabotaging each others' designer turtletomas, and adventurers are always looking for more work. This has started to destabilize the strains, however, and many have made this their entire business. When the shellcraze ends, they'll be ruined. And the rampant experimentation with mutations and new patterns is hard to control - new, dangerous mutations aren't uncommon with such quick work.

1. Bladed; while plain it's sharp around the edges to the point where you could use it as a combat discus.
2. Bloodsoaked. The stains won't come out. It keeps leaking, as the marrow inside continues to pump even after death.
3. Fractal pattern (d4 for which: 1. mandelbrot, 2. julia, 3. sierpinski triangles, 4. koch snowflake)
4. Furred, the turtletoma's shell mutated to be covered in a layer of incredibly soft hair.
5. Gridded (flip a coin for whether it's hex or square)
6. Jagged and broken, a confusing dissonance of bright clashing colors
7. Map of the Old World
8. Metallic sheen (d6 for metal: 1. gold, 2. silver, 3. copper, 4. platinum, 5. mirrored, 6. cobalt); while it's not actually metal, it happens to be magnetic
9. Pareidolium; the features on the shell resolve into a snarling mortal face - it may look like someone important...
10. Piped, like an organ. When wind passes through, it produces dissonant tones.
11. Rocky and speckled like granite.
12. Single gem, to be cut and polished (d8 for which: 1. diamond, 2. ruby, 3. emerald, 4. sapphire, 5. topaz, 6. opal, 7. smoky quartz, 8. amethyst)
13. Snakeskin
14. Solid matte color
15. Spotted with polka-dots like a ladybug's carapace
16. Stained-glass mural depicting an event from the turtle's genetic memory
17. Starry, a void filled with a swirl of shining pinpricks that gleam with an inner light
18. Striped between d6 colors
19. Unadorned bone. Sometimes simplicity is elegance.
20. Words and letters cover the shell in a bizarre script. Translated, it may carry secrets, or hidden magics.

The shellcraze has given rise to other nascent trends. Shellomancy, divining someone's future from the shells they wear and how they catch the light of a burning turtlefat candle, casting undulating shadows on the wall. Counterfeit shells, fleshcrafted from whatever spare bone lies around, and a variety of "professionals" who purport to tell the different between the fakes and the real thing (often, they run a thriving counterfeit shop on the side). Defrauding the nutrient-rich has always been a favorite pastime of the Meatropolis, and every new fashion is merely a new coat of paint for every old scam.

Everything ends. The shellcraze is no exception, as greater terrors rise. The hatcheries are an ecosystem, even in death. The half-formed spirits of the millions dead animate swarms of corpses into hurricanes of cheap shell and turtleflesh. Hydratomas break free of deeper eggs, seeking the newly-liberated food with their under-developed clusters of eyes and snapping beaks-within-beaks. Scores of adventurers plummet to their deaths before the day's harvest is done, and soon only the luckiest and most well-prepared survive. Shell spirals in rarity to the point where even the rich dare not bother with it - they've moved on to artisanal custom-grown masses of grey matter.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Wizards Die Messily

Wizards aren't stable. I think this post speaks for itself pretty well; magical catastrophes are a staple of the arcane arts and there's so many different ways for things to go wrong that are more interesting than "rocks fall, everyone dies". Not all the explosion effects kill - but all of them will do something nasty.

Reasons a Wizard (or Warlock, or Sorcerer, or Witch, etc) Might Explode
1. Angered the gods
2. Ascended to the astral plane
3. Ate something funny
4. Bred two spells together that hate each other
5. Captured a spell that overwhelmed their brain
6. Cast a Wish spell and fucked up
7. Died with too many spells in their brain
8. Failed a save (pick a save, any save)
9. Lost a wizard duel
10. Orgasmed
11. Patron wants to punish them
12. Purposely triggered it just to see what happens
13. Read the spellbook backwards
14. Research gone horribly wrong
15. Ritual components were wrong
16. Rolled quadruples on casting a spell
17. Someone walked up behind them and shouted "Boo!"
18. Spell mutated too many times
19. Tried to channel too much power
20. Tried to finagle the laws of magic

d66 Ways a Wizard Explodes
11. Angelic Ascension. The wizard shines with inner divine light and ascends to become a terrifying angelic figure, growing more eyes and wings out of every pore. Save or fall to your knees singing hymns; everyone who witnesses the event is now part of a religion whether they like it or not. They'll be held to the same demands and standards as everyone else who follows that deity.
12. Birdsplosion. Everything that isn't animate for d10*10' around the wizard turns into a bird and flocks to attack people in the area (thanks, Hitchcock!). The swarm as a whole has like 5 HD, takes up a [radius] area, and gets to attack everyone in the radius once each turn. It can fly around at the speed of birds.
13. Bismuth. The wizard crystallizes and metastasizes. Oily rectangular rainbows of sharpened bismuth cut through the air itself, rooting themselves into the ground and everyone within d10*10'. 2d6 piercing damage (save for half) and pinned to the spot. Removing the bismuth that's pierced through you is going to be a challenge.
14. Bloodsplosion. Everyone within d10*10' is soaked in scalding blood (d6 fire damage, no save) as the wizard is violently exsanguinated. Anything bloodborne is contracted (no save). The wizard instantly drops to as near-death as the system you're using allows. Everything's soaked through in blood, destroying all papers and writing. You can't get the blood out of any items affected, no matter how hard you try.
15. Bone Rebellion. The skeleton war has come and you're ground zero. d20 of each bone-haver within d10*100's bones squirm their way out of their body and assemble into a great bone golem with 1 HD for each person exboneguinated. It wants the rest of your bones, and gains another hit die for every human-sized person it kills and exboneguinates. Can cast Debone once per round.
16. Cancer. The wizard's flesh boils and ruptures, reduplicating explosively to encompass a d10*100' sphere. Save to run. If you fail, you are engulfed in pulsing flesh that crushes inwards for d6 bludgeoning damage each round until someone can free you. The wizard takes 1 Stress every time their new horrible flesh is cut at, though they lose no hit points. They can try to control it by making Charisma tests, though if they fail it will act against their wishes.

21. Chain Detonation. Everything within d10*10' explodes in shrapnel, taking 3d6 damage. Everything destroyed this way deals 2d6 damage to everything within the same radius of it. Continue, decreasing the number of d6 each time until you run out of d6s.
22. Clonesplosion. Everyone within d10*10' is cloned d3 times. Each clone is d6. (1. evil, 2. more good than the PC, 3. different race, 4. different class, 5. different appearance, 6. roll twice).
23. Compulsive Murder. For everyone within d10*100' for d20 days, to gain the benefits of a rest you must murder someone.
24. Dataclysm. All information within d10*100' is wiped. Lose all backstory, name, XP, and return to level 1. You no longer know why you are here or what you are doing or who your allies are. All books and other methods of information storage are wiped as well.
25. Dinosaur. Summon a tyrannosaurus rex from 65 million years ago. You have saved it from certain death; it responds with the only thing it knows - hunger. It's basically a walking, feathery, dragon, so stat it up as such. It will eat, cronch, and swallow you whole. Armor is no match for a mouthful of six-inch enamel knives. The unfortunate wizard begins in its jaws.
26. Ennui. Everyone within d10*100' feels an inescapable wave of existential "why bother"? Charisma save to take additional actions past the first one - this applies to rounds, exploration turns, hexcrawling, etc. Wears off when you succeed your third Charisma save this way.

31. Escher Explosion. Each opening within a d10*1000' radius now leads to a different, random opening within the space (can be outside the radius). This includes pouches, but not orifices. If two openings have a size difference, anything passing through is rescaled accordingly.
32. Everyone Reincarnates. Make new level 1 characters. Randomly roll for everything; don't get equipment. They wake up in the bloody shreds of each previous character.
33. Everyone's a Wizard Now. The wizard collapses into a pile of robes and teeth. Everyone in the vicinity now has a chunk of the wizard's magical power and a corresponding little copy of the wizard's mind in their head. It'll chime in with bad advice, but you have 1 MD and can cast one spell the wizard used to know.
34. Flesh-Eating Bacteria. Everyone within d10*10' contracts a bad case of incredibly contagious and virulent flesh-eating bacteria on a random area of their body. Save each round or take d6 necrotic damage. It ends once the bacteria are removed or you succeed three times. Anyone you touch contracts it too (no save).
35. Fountain of Youth. The wizard transmutes into a well of antitemporal thaumatic energy, reversing the age of everything within d10*10' by d20 years. Things reduced to 0 or fewer years of age undisintegrate, never having existed. Touching the well after the initial burst of energy ages you by d20-10 years the first time (so +/- 10 years); each additional time roll an additional d20 and subtract an additional 10. The well lasts for years equal to the wizard's age at time of explosion.
36. Fusion. Everything within d10*10' must save or be fused into a horrifying monstrosity. The wizard doesn't get a save. Each round, everyone in the monstrosity gets to collectively vote either democracy or anarchy.  If democracy wins, a plurality of minds get to choose what they do, and if there is no plurality then nothing happens. If anarchy wins, everyone must come to a unanimous consensus within 1 minute or the turn is allocated randomly to one mind of the monstrosity.

41. God Says No. The effect that caused the explosion stops. The wizard stops. Everyone within d10*100' stops. A voice informs you, loudly and politely, that what you've done is not allowed. Time is rewound to before you considered doing such a thing, and that effect is no longer possible.
42. Gun. The wizard is transmuted into a random legendary gun (see Vault Hunter rules here) and becomes its onboard machine-spirit. It must kill something every day to remain intelligent.
43. Lightning! A massive lightning strike obliterates the wizard (4d6 lightning damage, no save) and scars everyone nearby (2d6 lightning damage within d10*10', save for half). Metal objects are charged with static electricity and remain so for the next 24 hours, attracting or repelling other metal objects (50% chance of each) as well as discharging when touched with bare skin (1 lightning damage).
44. Magic Dead Zone. d10*100' radius sphere becomes an anti-magic zone. Magical creatures, items, and effects persist for 10 minutes in the zone before disintegrating.
45. Mindbomb. Everyone randomly passes their character sheet to another character (including NPCs, hirelings, monsters, etc).
46. Miniature Sun. For 10 minutes, the wizard shines with the light of a sun. This magically leaves the wizard unharmed, but melts everything on their body. This also blinds permanently and deals 4d6 radiation damage to everyone within 10', blinds save ends and deals 3d6 damage within 100', and save vs. blinding (save ends) and deals 2d6 damage within 1000'.

51. Mutations! Everyone within d10*100' rolls d100s on the mutation table until they roll a positive mutation (they get all the mutations they roll).
52. Paintbomb. Roll 8 times on the Esoteric Colors table. Each cardinal direction is soaked in one of those colors for a d10*10' long cone. The wizard is coated in all 8.
53. Seeking Spores. The wizard's body sprouts with fungus that reaches for everyone within d10*100'. The spores are paralytic (save negates) and will grow rapidly once they encounter biomass. This weighs you down by 1 inventory slot, doubling every round until you're immobilized. Then you start taking damage as they crush you (d6 bludgeoning per round). The spores can be neutralized with fire, water, acid, etc - but there's lots of them, and growing fungi will release more spores.
54. Spellified. As a 4-die Spellify, applied to everyone within d10*100' of the wizard (they end up in the wizard's brain). They can interact in the wizard's mindscape (see Cavegirl's Astral Projection rules for how this might look).
55. Tear Open a Portal in Time. A d10*10' radius circle below the wizard becomes a portal in time to a random prehistoric era and everyone in the circle falls through. It lasts for 1 hour.
56. Teleport. Find the nearest thing that passes for a map in your campaign; whether it's the dungeon map, city map, region hex-map, world map... or sketch something quick. Then, throw a dart at it (drop a pencil if you don't have darts on hand). Everyone in the party teleports there.

61. There's a Crater Here Now! It's d10*1000' in radius. Good job. Everyone gets shunted to the outside and saves vs. being pulped by the air friction.
62. Transmuted into X. The wizard and everyone within d10*10' must save or become a random substance. Roll on the periodic table of elements, or a substance table of choice (see Mimics and Miscreants' spells section for mine). Dispel magic effects can return transmuted characters to their flesh-and-blood state.
63. Tunguska Event. Everything in a d10*1000' radius falls inwards. Save to remain standing. Stuff will fall on the characters; more saves as appropriate. The wizard, at the nexus of this shockwave, implodes for 6d6 bludgeoning damage (save for half).
64. Turn To Moon. Save vs. blindness as the wizard turns into a great orb of marble and ascends to the heavens. This absolutely obliterates anything in its path. You may save to jump off the new moon; if you succeed, roll a d10 to figure out how many d6s of falling damage you take. If you fail, you have about a minute of oxygen in your lungs. Make it count.
65. Uncontrollable Cackling. Everyone within d10*100' starts laughing uncontrollably. Save vs. suffocation, then unconsciousness, then 1d6 bludgeoning damage per round as your skeleton starts to shake apart with the force of your mirth. Passing a save ceases the cackling.
66. Vacuum. A d10*100' radius sphere around the wizard becomes airless for 10 minutes. Even the air in your lungs disappears. Every action in the bubble, without air, also requires a save vs. unconsciousness. You can survive 3 minutes without air in your lungs before irreversible brain damage. Good luck.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Far Traveler

The Traveler is probably the class I'd like to run a mono-class game of the most, with something like a d100 list of locations and a caravan-based plot. Such is their design that they're very modular; they could work for practically any genre or setting - merely replace the Been There table with planets for a sci-fi game, or nations, or just other biomes familiar and strange.

by Daarken

Level 1: Been There, Done That
Level 2: +1 Done That, We've Met (2 Contact Dice)
Level 3: +1 Done That, +1 Contact Die
Level 4: +1 Done that, +1 Contact Die

Hit Die: d6
Starting Equipment: Sturdy warm cloak, heavy boots, random melee weapon, leather gambeson, leather greaves, set of dice or cards, telescope, annotated map of surrounding lands and logbook
Skills (d20, roll twice): 
1. Animal Handling
2. Astrology
3. Banditry
4. Begging
5. Butchery
6. Cartography
7. Foraging
8. Fortune Telling
9. Herbology
10. Holding Liquor
11. Hunting
12. Languages
13. Medicine
14. Merchantry
15. Pilgrimage
16. Riding
17. Sailing
18. Surviving Improbably
19. Tinkering
20. Use Rope

Been There: Roll three times on the following table for exotic locations you've traveled through. If you roll a duplicate, instead pick from the results above and below it (or just roll until you get a unique result). Each comes with a corresponding perk. When in similar locations, or the locations themselves, you have advantage on wayfinding/navigation, know the dangers of the region and their tell-tale omens, and double your party's travel speed.

These locations are specific to the Meatropolis and the Turtle-Corpse. Make new ones or rename these ones to flavor your setting. Or don't, and just assume there's a gigantic meat wasteland somewhere out there (that might be more fun, tbh).

1. The Meatropolis. The last city in a world gone rotten, pretending it's somehow immune from the pervasive rot and decay. They haven't seen the Turtle like you have. They think they're safe in their bone-spires, protected from parasites and disease by their reliance on blood-iron. They talk a big game, but they're soft like unworked muscle. You never settled down there; you brought trophies from the rest of the Turtle and feasted for weeks on the resulting riches, then left drained and bare-footed once the spoils ran dry.

You have a debt of d10*d10*d10gp (or indentured servitude until you complete a task to recover something worth same), and begin at level 2. You cannot level up until you've paid off your debt.

2. Cyclopean Shell-Ruins. Vast halls carved for people twice as tall as you, now frosted over from exposure, condensation, and neglect. The howls of fleshcrafted creatures too stubborn to die (and giants snoring in their stored slumber, awaiting a war for their awakening) still resound across its barren shellscape. You still remember the stars twinkling their baleful songs high above, and the comforting loneliness of the jagged ice.

You can map spaces with echolocation. Reveals room shapes and hollow walls. Makes a high-pitched keening audible anywhere within the mapped range.

3. Arterial Lattices. The Turtle's disparate organs are stitched together by arteries and veins, each as thick around as the greatest towers of the old world. While the blood clots and drips away at Ogoath's extremities, auxiliary hearts continue their frenzied pumping - for now. You crewed a subsanguine, ferrying passengers and cargoes from organ to organ and port to port, dodging blood cells playing sentry, cancerkrakens, parasite bloodworms, and - of course - vampirates.

You can identify things by tasting their blood. Pick one of the following to learn when you do (can't get more than one kind of info per creature):
- Time since blood separated from owner
- You can recognize the owner by smell
- Types of recent stressors, afflictions, substances in the owner's blood

4. Fungal Forests. At the skin and scales and fins of the turtle, the rot has set in deep. Spores from the farthest stars have taken root, growing mycological ecosystems and spreading their roots far. They've become a hunting ground for their own mutant food chains, all ultimately scavenging the rancid yet omnipresent meat of Ogoath. Gasbags floating on toxic fumes, sinuous insects twisting their way through tall stalk-forests, rains of glimmering spores whose appearance belies their danger - it's a realm of plenty, and power, and beauty, and if you make even one wrong move you could get eaten by the very ground you walk on. You harvested exotic spores and sap and carapaces from the deadly alien ecosystem, touching the ground little more than once a week, rappeling between trees and hunting in the choked vertical maze of decay.

You can scale surfaces at your walking speed, and can catch yourself midway when you fall within arm's reach of a surface (roll a d6 to see how far you fall before catching yourself, 6 is near the top, 1 is near the bottom). You still take falling damage.

5. Incubator Fields. They boil with eggs, birthing and metastasizing and hatching. Orphaned turtletomas (as the mutant hatchlings are affectionately termed) flock in hunting packs through withered egg-tubes. They're good eating, and even better trained as pack-beasts, mounts, or pets. Your travels brought you here, to the lands where all disputes are settled with custom-bred turtles, and cities are hacked into the side of giant eggshells.

You have a pet turtletoma. It's the size and personality of a round, slow german shepherd and has d6 each of eyes, heads, tails, shells, and legs, as well as a random positive mutation. Whenever you level up, it gains a new positive or mixed mutation and a new hit die (d6).

6. Starfolk Refuges. In sheer metal, woven and forged, dotting Ogoath's underbelly, lie the Refuges. Generation ships from worlds that ended long ago, seeking a new world undying. They failed in their quest, but bring strange devices and creations to the Turtle which may someday prove its salvation - or its final doom. You learned some ship of starfolk's tricks, and lived among them for a time, swathed in iron, breathing through a mask.

You speak a star-language. You have whatever new organs are needed to speak it - mandibles, internal gizzards, hooting membranes... The star-languages are spoken by certain starfolk, and carry the force of the dominions of stars with them. No lies can be spoken in star-language, and creatures from the stars will respond to it instinctively (if not necessarily positively).

7. Gigaparasite Corpse. The whalefall (turtlefall?) of Ogoath's death brought forth the vast gigapredators and scavengers between the stars. They gorged themselves and burrowed deep; some remain chewing through the bounty, others were brought down by heroic (Pyrrhic) effort when they encroached on people's homes. The corpses themselves often became shantytowns, where undesirables were sent to hack apart the star-hardened carapace and convert it into weapons. You traveled through a corpse the size of a nation, where the abundance of weapons and scarcity of meat pushed many to war and many more to eat the inedible.

You can prepare and eat the rotting dead. Your immune system will tolerate 1 ration's worth of rotting, awful, impossibly decayed meat a day.

8. Liveria. Where everything ends up, eventually. A mass of the purified dead, walking again as even entropy is purged from their flayed bones. Toxins and bile drip from the liver, to maintain fabled utopias of salt-crystal spires atop the gorged organ. The livches trade blessings for baubles, trinkets, mementos of the world outside, unable to leave the source of their immortality. Bring rot, and treasure, and you will leave rich in purified flesh.

Owed a favor by a livch. The favor comes in the form of a glob of stem cells in your liver. When you need them most, they will become what you need, and the livch's debt will be paid.

9. Alveol Tradewinds. Winds and weather systems gust furiously through the cavernous gaps between organs. Skyriders fly skin-gliders on the currents, leading charges through bloody thunderstorms against their fellows over petty grievances. The shrieking winds drive one to ever-greater feats of strength and madness, creating and destroying heroes every day, abraded like children's toys. Elementals spark to life in the bitter-cold sky, tearing themselves from winds and flesh into necromantic ravagers that know only hate. You flew the horror-skies with wild abandon, for fun or glory or repentance. While your time there has ended, the winds still howl in your nightmares.

You can pick out specific sounds from the background noise no matter how loud or quiet an area is. You cannot be ambushed by anything that can make noise.

10. Cemetery Brain. Ogoath's mind was always impenetrable, both in content and in location, until it died and began to rot. Instead of fungal blooms or parasite infestations, it serenely crumbles away, eroded by the stellar winds and the footsteps of plunderers. Ghosts of memories flit between barely-active neurons, and qualia jump into the minds of other mortals, desperate to be experienced once more. In life, Ogoath learned secrets of the stars and the worlds and deep time; secrets that still call to travelers and adventurers from across its corpse. You sought knowledge, tightly bound your skin with rags and bandages to protect from the scouring thoughts and burning winds, and came out alive - perhaps wiser, perhaps more knowledgeable, perhaps less you than you went in.

You know what it is like to be the Turtle. Your spine is its spine, your mouth its beak, your hands its fins. Your mind knows the scale of aeons and the rumblings of continents upon your shell. When the world comes knocking, you can muster the strength of a world to resist its imposition upon your splendor. Retreat into your mind-shell and become unresponsive for a day, to resist any mental effect.

11. Fleshplains. Muscle fibers from here to the horizon, twitching with the last electrochemical rivers of neural input. The ground trembles, but still you run, for there's still a week's travel between here and the next bolthole. If you aren't there, then, you'll be crushed as the muscle folds in on itself. Life on the fleshplains is an unending race against time, hiding from the landscape itself contorting in death throes. You are stillness where the world is convulsion, you have learned to read the faintest quivers in expression and the tremors in the ground to stay on your feet both literally and metaphorically.

You can't fall down or be knocked over when on a flat surface. You can read hidden meanings and emotions in microexpressions.

12. The Blood Sea. The Cyclopean Empire sliced the top off the heart in their final turtle-shaping project, and revealed an ocean of blood as vast and as deep as a world. You plied its seething, bubbling currents, visiting ports around the sea and islands of clotsam that float atop its surface. All manner of dangers and defenses lurk below the opaque surface, but you've come to an uneasy detente with them - enough standoffs and near-misses has accustomed them to your presence.

Creatures borne of the Turtle will not attack you if you personally don't provoke them first.

Done That: Your journeys have changed you and given you power. Whether it's techniques other travelers have taught you, ways the environment has twisted you, or tricks you picked up along the way, these have kept you alive - and will continue to do so, Turtle willing.

1. Positive mutation
2. Supernatural mutation
3. Mixed mutation
4. Cosmetic mutation, roll again
5. Negative mutation, roll again
6. Random spell and 1 magic die
7. 3 random cuts (as Butcher)
8. Random talent (as Thief)
9. Random fighting style (as Fighter)
10. Random formula, can make with 1 die (as Chemist)

We've Met: Spend Contact Dice in a social interaction to realize you know someone in the interaction from your travels, and roll 1 die for each feature you want them to have. The extent and usefulness of the feature is based on how well you roll. You can spend multiple dice on one feature to take the highest of those dice. If you roll doubles when making a Contact, also roll a Complication. Spent Contact Dice return on a long rest, or when you enter a new settlement.

Sample Features
Information: 1. Common local wisdom → 6. Secrets known to few
Item: 1. They've got something similar, but you'll need to be creative → 6. They've got exactly what you need and are willing to share
Location: 1. Temporary access to a generic kind of place you're looking for → 6. Round-the-clock access to the exact venue you need
Relationship: 1. You met once, a long time ago → 6. You've been close since childhood
Skill: 1. Decent at a relevant skill → 6. Multiple class levels
Loyalty: 1. You met them once on the road and parted amicably → 6. You travelled the Turtle together, sharing fortune and hardship, and are as close as family

1. They want a favor from you before they help you out.
2. They're in danger and can't do anything that would attract attention.
3. They don't remember you. Oops.
4. They're doing something you find distasteful, perhaps at cross purposes to your aims.
5. They're working with/in a relationship with someone who doesn't like you, who's around making their own demands.
6. Their value to you has been misrepresented somehow. Decrease their highest feature by 2 (if it goes negative, they're actively going to hinder you).

Monday, November 11, 2019

Dungeons are Gender-Neutral Washrooms

We as game masters elide lots of little parts of the human condition in the name of convenience and decency. Players rarely have to deal with the mundanity of their characters drinking water, shuffling items around in their bags, or dealing with the assorted traumas of slaughtering dozens (minimum) of other thinking, breathing, people for money and power. Still, sometimes digging a little deeper can reveal parts of the adventuring lifestyle that are rather horrifying, when you put your mind to it. Case in point: when you're delving into a megadungeon, a multi-day trek into the bowels (pardon the pun) of a vast ruin, where do you go to the bathroom? Let's reducio ad absurdum the idea of simulating more bits of survival for greater immersion and explore some possibilities for how adventurers dispose of their waste.

Monsters. Carrion crawlers subsist on virtually any organic waste in a dungeon. Think of them like house centipedes, except instead of amalgamating all the bugs in a house into one larger bug, they amalgamate all the waste in the dungeon into one larger disgusting mass. Incredibly efficient; they don't seem to leave any waste of their own, and they leave dungeon floors spotless. Otyughs can also do this, though they prefer live vermin. If a dungeon seems particularly clean, despite no sign of habitation, watch the ceilings and the pits. Occasionally, adventurers bring their own creatures into the dungeon to clean up after them. Tame gelatinous cubes in buckets are favorites, though you have to ensure it's fed - but not too much.

Destroy it. An enterprising efficiency-minded wizard once spent their life developing the cantrip Remove Waste. A very tailored, watered-down version of the Disintegrate spell, it scours 1 square foot of offending detritus and leaves the area shiny and clean. Does no damage to living non-waste tissue (if it did, you wouldn't be able to wipe with it). The wizard in question, now possessed of the power to never leave their laboratory for want of a wash, proceeded to realize that they spent decades more time developing the spell than the time they managed to save, and went mad.

Hide it. You can't afford to leave a trail when wandering monsters are looking for any evidence of a tasty next meal. Loose cobbles can work to bury shit, as can dirt floors. Sometimes you might even find something valuable while you're digging! Score! Alternatively, if no loose dirt is forthcoming or you (heavens forbid) forgot to bring a shovel on your ill-fated expedition, you can always pack it away in a bag of holding or something else desperate. Bring strong perfumes if this might become the case.

Digging In A Dungeon
1. Loose change. 2d10 copper.
2. Someone or something's skull.
3. Older buried waste.
4. Nest of small monsters.
5. The next floor down's ceiling!
6. Lost memento.
7. Graffiti.
8. Shiny rocks! Not valuable, but pretty...
9. Random mundane weapon, rusted away (1d4 damage and both wielder and target save vs. tetanus)
10. Pottery shards from a bygone age.

Don't reinvent the wheel. Dungeon locals need to dispose of bodily fluids too, and they've usually found their own solutions. Even goblins have a limit to their propensity for filth. Finding outhouses in dungeons can be a chore, especially if they're currently occupied, but it's usually far more convenient than any other method once the dirty work has been done. Also, no one will usually notice the stench of monster bodies you've hidden in the foulest parts of the dungeon.

Portals. Perhaps an extension of the "Hide" and "Destroy" options, more enterprising wizards in the days before Remove Waste created several pocket planes to store a variety of things too hazardous to keep anywhere in the material world. Lazy wizards extended this to other kinds of waste, and a few civic- and environmentally-minded ones connected entire sewage outflows to great portals to prevent the spoilage of the natural world. While great for the world in the short term, all these waste-planes merged due to their conceptual similarity, and formed one great Elemental Plane of Refuse. Its emergent denizens - elementals of sewage, smog, radiation, and other awful pollutants - now loose themselves in the landfills and septic tanks of the world, the byproducts of civilization returning with a vengeance. While you can absolutely open up portals to dump your trash and shit, and it's a very convenient option, be warned that these doors are very much two-way.

A less potentially-horrific version of this is the Summon Outhouse spell, developed by a cabal of wizards who realized how much they'd messed up after the Great Interplanar Landfill Collision of 1XX6. There's only one outhouse and everyone using this spell has to share. 2-in-6 of it being occupied by a disgruntled wizard when you summon it.

Nothing. You animals.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Exploring the Meatropolis

Imagine a heart, the size of a country. Hang it from arteries as thick around as a mountain, that weave around impossibly great ribs. Slice off the top of the heart with a clean cut; this creates a great ocean of blood, advancing and receding as the heart slowly, powerfully beats its last beats. Its coasts of muscle are scarred thick and high, crusted in scabs and running with rivers of pus. Upon these coasts lies the Meatropolis: the largest city that still stands in the corpse-belly of Ogoath, the turtle who once bore the world upon its back.

The towers of the Meatropolis are spines of freshgrown bone banded with blood-iron from the shoreline foundries. Less fortunate citizens live in the jerkied slums of flash-grown muscle, or worse yet in the parasite burrows beneath that serve as impromptu sewers. It is a brutal city, where food is plentiful but health is in short supply. Fleshcrafter families curry favor with each other and the Council in the highest towers, ever-modifying themselves to fit the latest fashions. Butchers work tirelessly in the streets below, hawking meat from every corner of Ogoath. Chemists purify water from what passes for weather, or from the shores of the Blood Sea. And everywhere, life goes on, so far from the encroaching decay and the inevitable final night.

Igor Vitkovskiy
Walk down the scar-streets of the Fleshmarket. The perpetual half-light shining through cracks in the shell miles above casts everything into stark relief; lower down between the streets, floating bioluminescent bladders shine a soft cream-yellow. Hear the rhythmic thwack of cleaver against board. A thousand merchants hawking their wares, shouting in dozens of languages (most notably the warbling creole of Tongue), pervasive smells of meat in every stage of life or death. Customers barter prices in scraps of blood iron, purified rations, gobs of brain matter, or sacks of salt, eyeless fleshbeasts laden with sacs of goods meander between stalls. Every facet of mortal life is on display for perusal and sale.

Adventuring Supplies
1. Autowomb: A basketball-sized hairy sphere with a slavering maw splitting it into hemispheres. When fed with 2 rations, an autowomb will gestate a particular item over the course of 24 hours and regurgitate it through its mouth.
2. Bladder: Glass is expensive, custom-grown organs are cheap. Holds liquid.
3. Blood Vials: Dark, smoky glass filled with blood. Restores 1 health and lets you travel for another 4 hours without rest; more expensive strains of custom-bred blood will restore more or have additional benefits.
4. Ink Sac: Fist-sized sac of smoky ink, dark as the void. Break it to create a 20' radius ink cloud, or dip a stylus in it to tattoo indelible messages deep into flesh.
5. Long-Eyes: A human eye, rubbery, and inflated to the size of a fist. A long optic nerve (30') trails from the back, with a needle at the end. Stab the needle into your pupil to see through and move the eye.
6. Meat Hooks: A set of iron hooks connected with sinews that grip deep and won't let go. Anyone with a set can climb vertical surfaces without rolling, and trying to remove one against it's wielder's will deals d4 slashing damage to whoever it's stuck in.
7. Osteopath: A roiling mass of bone, too heavy for its small size. Throwing it at something biological causes it to grow over the area as a spiky, hard shell (radius 10'). Disintegrates after an hour.
8. Scarstick: Bonds together two bleeding surfaces. Works to seal wounds, or in larger quantities to stick two sections of meat together.
9. Sinew-rope: A 50' length of extensible corded tendon. Slash it to extend it or retract it.
10. Sterilizer Tabs: A chalky pill that when broken purifies 1 ration's worth of water and meat, but leaves it barren of life and nutrients. Any ration created this way fills your belly, but won't restore health or cure wounds.
11. Thinker: A blob of brain tissue in an eyeless, jawless skull. Give it a logic problem and it will attempt to solve it (the base Thinker has INT 13). The GM will always tell you a solution that the Thinker provides, but will not tell you if it passed its test or not.
12. Tunnelgrubs: A flask of small yet voracious grubs in a suspension that keeps them docile. When broken, they hunger greatly, and their rotating serrated jaws go to work on the nearest meaty surface. The grubs multiply rapidly, and will bore a 5' diameter tube through 20' of flesh before their little bodies expire. Too slow to use as a decisive weapon (d4 damage per round), but a brutal interrogation tool.

Children of Meat
One shop with reinforced walls descends deep beneath the surface. In the pit that dominates the shop floor hang dozens of cages, each with a different fleshcrafted beast inside. The proprietor specializes in chimeras: from insects that crawl on fingers for legs and act like cats (if cats had bulging many-pupilled eyes and wings of rough dry skin); to great reptilian pack mules on a hundred legs of knitted human limbs, and you can find yourself a seat to ride deep within the warm recesses of its toothy carapace.

Minor Fleshbeasts
1. Bone Spider: Weaves webs of bone. Hates bright light. Size of a dinner plate. Slow, but turns up just where it'd be most unnerving. Some find this endearing.
2. Crabcat: A crab, with small furred paws instead of claws. Common, loyal housepet. Adorable, curious, cowardly.
3. Hands Octopus: Too smart for anyone's own good. Forty sticky fingers of trouble. Likes taking things, but not having them.
4. Skinmoth: Cloaked in skin. Blends into any skin. Content to relax, violently rends with fangs when disturbed. Can grow to size of a cape.
5. Trained Mimic: Trained" is perhaps a strong word. Mostly means that the mimic won't bite hard enough to break its owner's skin. Shapeshifts into useful things with the right command word, and if it's been fed well.
6. Turtletoma: Like a hydra, if the hydra was a turtle and covered in eyes and tails. Tremendously strong, if slow. A popular conveyance when not in a hurry. Not bright enough to realize that you're bringing it into a dungeon.

A Whole Mu You
A stall you're directed to by a series of brightly-colored advertisers sells temporary mutations in the form of small blobs of undifferentiated, throbbing stem cells. Some give cuttlefish skin or chameleon tongue or any number of other minor animal traits of things long extinct, others just compound upon existing functions, creating extra organs that protrude from beneath the skin.

At any point, 10 non-negative mutations from the list are on sale. All mutations have a 1 in 10 chance of coming with a complication, giving a related negative mutation as well (let the buyer beware). All wear off in a week's time, unless you pay double for a month-long upgrade.

Bloodbath & Beyond
A goliath with four arms on one side and two on the other urges you up a rickety set of stairs to their emporium. They sell weapons, and run a well-renowned sword breeding program responsible for many designer lineages. Each has its own characteristic patterning, wicked sharpness, and nigh-magical effect borne of its alien biology. Feed your blade, wield it, and fight with courage, and it will trust you for life.

Living weapons are just as common as unliving ones. Figure out what base weapon it's most like, then add a mutation from the list below. It only works when fed, and requires rations as if it was a party member. Hungry living weapons can't use their abilities and step down their damage dice. Starving living weapons can use their abilities, but only to try to eat whomever's closest (usually, their wielder).

Weapon Mutations
1. Acid Secreting: Deals acid wounds in addition to its normal damage type.
2. Biting: The business end is actually a mouth. Can grab enemies and tear at them. Can't be used while it's biting someone. Escaping the bite either requires a successful DEX test or the sacrifice of d4 HP.
3. Carving: On 6+ damage, leaves a random Cut behind as Butcher.
4. Edible: Counts as rations (3 per inventory slot it takes up, each consumed part gives -1 damage until it's all gone)
5. Flying: It has wings! It's rather clumsy and can't sense anything but it can keep going in the direction it's pointed, and fly back to its owner. Can be thrown at targets without penalty, and returns at the end of the round.
6. Implanter: On 6+ damage also implants specialized grubs in the target.

1. Marker fly larvae: Hatch in 24 hours and fly back to you, will show you path to target
2. Spider eggs: They're actually rather harmless, but they hatch in 24 hours and hundreds of tiny spiders crawl out of the wound and imprint on the target as a parent. They love the target very much and won't leave them alone, or even leave their body. Hope they aren't arachnophobic!
3. Tunnelgrubs: Truly awful. Tear through flesh to beating heart. 1 damage per round until removed. They dig deep, fast.

7. Metamorph: Can transform into another weapon type or tool at-will.
8. Sanguine: Drinks blood. Grows as it drinks more. Each HD of blood it consumes steps up its damage die once until the end of the day. Needs to feed daily.
9. Shattering: Can be detonated in a massive directed blast of bone and gore. 30' cone, d8 slashing damage (save for half) and covered in blood. This kills the weapon.
10. Tongue: Sticky, can taste through it, can reel things in as whip.
A large, spindly creature at a simple skin-tent hawks mutant fruits from the under-city orchards. The fruits keep very well as rations, though they tend to whisper when they don't think you're looking. They also have a selection of  spices traded and harvested all across Ogoath, and the creature informs you that its master left it in charge of the shop while venturing out with old adventuring comrades to discover new flavors in the fleshy wastes.

1. Boomberry. Like a grapefruit-sized raspberry. Explosive in d6 minutes (as hand grenade) when damaged unless neutralized with stomach acid.
2. Hydranana. Rapidly multiplies when chopped with a silver blade (into d20 hydranana). Delicious grilled or in ceviche.
3. Hyperlemon. Uniquely acidic. Juice melts through anything besides meat.
4. Kiwi fruit. A strange combination of flightless bird and fruit. It walks around, chirps, and tastes juicy and delicious when you bite through its furry skin into the green, seeded flesh beneath.
5. Screapple. Screams while eaten.
6. Sprouts. When planted and watered with spinal fluid, will grow into a d10*d10' tall meaty facsimile of a tree within 10 minutes. Bone for bark. Hair for leaves. Flesh inside. 

The Hormone-monger
A woman in a long coat (how does she wear that in this weather? she must be sweltering) ushers you into a back alley. You visit her regularly for her services as a hormone-monger. Ogoath's many bile-soaked pancreata bloat with hormones known and strange, from the common sex hormones, insulin, and adrenaline, to the arcane phlogistin, necrine, and octarin. The inside of her leather trenchcoat is lined with vials and syringes. Many glow. She knows every adventurer in the Fleshmarket, and ensures they each get their own personal touch.
All hormones are delivered in metal and bone syringes, and last for 24 hours unless otherwise specified.

1. Adenosine: You can gain the benefits of a daily rest in 4 hours by taking adenosine after waking up. Addictive.
2. Adrenaline: Succeed on all initative rolls, but can't do tasks that take more than one round.
3. Cytokinetics: For 10 minutes, grow one size category, as an Enlarge spell. When you shrink, you're left immobile for the rest of the day.
4. Dopamine: Disadvantage on all mental tests while blissed out on happy juice.
5. Necrin: Causes sleep instantly. While sleeping this way, the body stops moving and mimics a death state, breathing once every ten minutes. Wake up upon taking damage or in d6 hours. While asleep, inflicts horrifying dreams of being digested.
6. Octarin: Extracted from the roots of wizard teeth. Provides the user with one empowered Magic Die for spellcasting (a d4+2). The die is expended after use.
7. Ostein: When you're wounded, the wound seals with bone. Disadvantage on DEX tests with that area, but the bleeding stops.
8. Phlogistin: Every ration you eat causes you to heat up. 1 ration makes you comfortably warm, even in freezing temperatures. 2 rations makes you hurt to touch (1 fire damage). 3 rations at once sets you on fire.
9. Polymorphine: Each dose gives you a random temporary mutation. The first is positive, the second is positive or mixed, all further can be from any table.
10. Psionine: Comes in paired doses (or larger sets). Everyone with a dose from the set can empathically communicate ideas and concepts. Can't lie or obscure truth over empathic connection.

This shop is a mimic! While it appears to be a nice resting place on the scrimshawed side of a fallen rib, when unwitting patrons enter it shifts and opens its fleshy maw to reveal the goods of everyone who's passed through and refused to buy something. It's jovial, if rather confused as to why some fight, instead of staying to browse and purchase, but such is the life of a mimic.

Roll up 3 new adventurers. Their corpses and items are neatly laid out before the party, on stands or in glass cases.

Internal Beauty
A goliath of the Mhorl family has deigned to descend from his bio-laboratories in a rib spire to sell entirely new organs for people to implant within their abdomens! They unerringly improve some function you find lacking in the human condition (this changes with the seasons, as all fashions do). Still, with the speed he develops them, he hasn't the time to work out all the side effects, so let the buyer beware - new organs come with a rather short warranty.

The Mhorl family is an illustrious gene-line of fleshcrafters dating back to the Cyclopean Empire. Read their following promotional materials for more: Adulterated Lineages of the Primordial Flesh.

As Above, So Below
Three starfolk, one green and chitinous, one made of a strangely chunky grey substance, and one blood-red with bone nubs all over sell trinkets from beyond the stars! Many peoples came to Ogoath fleeing their own dying worlds. Ironic, for they found this world dying too, just far slower. With them, they bring new ways of being and knowing, machines of improbable function and incomprehensible material, unique among the stars - for the factories that made them are worlds away.

They sell items from this table of oddities, or any other Weird Items table (sci-fi items fit well here - they might have cybernetics, or a worn-out mech...)

Relics of Yester-aeon
A gnarled old human sells relics of the Old World out of a curio shop. No one remembers the gods on the statues or the languages in the parchment scraps of book. Many buy them for some hope that the world will yet return from tumbling through the endless void; others buy as historically significant objets d'art, building a collection to impress their friends and family. The proprietor is notorious for sending adventurers to seek these wherever they go, whether the rumors they've heard are true or not.

Ancient things of dubious provenance and potential historical value, or any other item table you want to throw in that doesn't seem to fit anywhere else.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Chemist

I've had a whole bunch of cool ideas locked up in my Mad Scientist Witch for a long time. I've also been looking for another class for The Turtle Moved, my meatpunk setting, to replace clerics. The solution? The miracle of chemistry!

by Daeyoon Huh
"Two parts boil, one part bubble, one part toil, one part trouble... nonsense. Bring me the saltpeter and sulfur."

Level 1: Alchemy, Reagent Hunter, 2 Formulae
Level 2: 1 Trick, +1 Formula
Level 3: +1 Trick, +1 Formula
Level 4: Magnum Opus, +1 Formula, +1 Trick

Hit Die: d6
Starting Equipment: Cauldron, alchemical tools (tongs, vials, solvents, etc), book of formulae, 3 reagents
Skills: Alchemy and d6: 1. Cooking, 2. Cultistry, 3. Herbology, 4. Philosophy, 5. Poisoning, 6. Witchcraft

Alchemy: With a cauldron and your alchemical tools, you have the training to make alchemical Crafts out of the Formulae you know. To do alchemy, you invest a part of yourself into your work. When you make a Craft with a Formula, you expend one or more magical or valuable Reagents (some examples: d100 Catalysts), and roll up to (level) d6s. Subtract the (sum) from the listed ability score, until the Craft is used up. Use the chosen number of (dice) and the rolled (sum) where listed in the Craft. The Craft's effects will vary based on the properties of the Reagent you used.

Reagent Hunter: You have an eye for magical trinkets with alchemical properties. You can lick an item to determine if it's magical (or at least not-mundane-enough to be worth turning into a Craft). When you're in an interesting location, you can harvest a reagent from the area on a (level)-in-6.

Tricks: Little things you've figured out to make your job easier.
1. Alchemic Grafts: You may fuse your Crafts into the bodies of living things. When fused, they apply the stat penalty to their host, but last for their maximum duration.
2. Magic Maker: There's magic in anything if you use enough layers of metaphor. You can construct a new reagent from a mundane item, given a laboratory and a daily rest. Crafts made with these reagents are capped at 1 die and 1 sum.
3. Mass Production: When you mix a Formula, you may make up to (sum) Crafts with (sum) divided across them. (dice) for each of these Crafts is 1.
4. Mutatis Mutandis: You can add an extra (die) to mutate your Craft on the spell mutation table. Don't add this die to (dice) or (sum), but do subtract the result from the listed score.
5. Quick Mix: You can mix a Formula in one turn, instead of ten minutes. If you do, subtract (dice)*6 from the listed score, instead of (sum). Takes the whole turn, you still need the cauldron.
6. Scrimper: You can reuse reagents once. When reused, (sum) = (dice).

Magnum Opus: Invent a new formula! Sacrifice points from a random score each time you mix it.

1. Bomb (STR): Invest your strength into a purely destructive tool. When used, it explodes, dealing (sum) damage of a type relevant to the reagent (save for half) in a (dice)*10' radius and applying an effect based on the reagent's properties. Can set to detonate on a timer or on impact (or both!). Spent points return after detonation.

2. Drug (STR): Create a drug that when taken gives +(dice) to one score and -(dice) to another, and a relevant positive and negative mutation or a relative mixed mutation. Lasts for (sum) hours. After the duration ends, anyone who takes the drug must CON save vs. addiction. Failure makes the penalties stay around until you've spent a week sober for each hit you've taken. Spent points return after the drug is taken.

3. Creation (DEX): The reagent becomes a (sum)*(sum)' cube of related material! Can be set to transmute on a timer or impact. Lasts for (sum) minutes/hours/days/months (1/2/3/4 dice). Spent points return after duration expires. You may make it expire early with special solvents from your kit.

4. Ray (DEX): Slowly release the built-up magical energies of the reagent to fire rays that deal (dice)d6 damage of a type relevant to the reagent and apply a relevant effect (range 100'), equivalent to a minor wound. May make the effect stronger (equivalent to a major wound) by forgoing damage. Has (sum) charges. Spent points return after it runs out of charges.

5. Salve (CON): Restore or remove (sum) HP when applied (your choice) and give the applied creature either a temporary relevant mutation or resistance or vulnerability to a relevant damage type or effect. The effect lasts for (sum) minutes/hours/days (1/2/3+ dice) or until the salve is removed (it's probably not waterproof). Spent points return when effect expires.

6. Scroll (CON): Convert the reagent into a spell-capturing device that imprisons a relevant spell on a prepared piece of vellum soaked in pungent alchemical lures. It becomes a scroll with (dice) and (sum) equal to what you invested in the formula. Spent points return when the scroll is used.

7. Philosophy (INT): Write literature and theories inspired by your studies of a reagent. Disseminate it in town to get (sum) followers with skills and social status relevant to the reagent. They treat you as a near-spiritual leader, and form a cult of personality around you - though they won't actively go into combat for you, they'll do favors for shreds of your wisdom. You may also pick (dice) of the following.
- One follower has a class level in a relevant class
- d6 of your followers are of a higher social class, with connections in relevant places
- (dice) of your followers are willing to die for your cause
- Your followers have 10^(dice)gp they're willing to spend on the cause, no strings attached
Spent points return when you leave the development of the philosophy to others, causing your cult to leave you, or when you break the trust of your followers and they decide the philosophy is better off without you.

8. Spirit (INT): Summon and bind a powerful, intelligent spirit that's drawn to the reagent. It will perform (dice) favors for you. The spirit's power and capabilities are determined by (sum) (1 is a dog, 6 is a person, 12 is a wizard, 18 is an angel). When you dismiss it, or when the favors run out, you get the  points back.

9. Transmutation (WIS): You convert the reagent into a new similar magically potent thing. Any crafts made with it can't have (sum) higher than the first (sum) rolled for this. Needs an additional (die) to convert something already converted. Get points back when the reagent is destroyed or made into a Craft.

10. Paint (WIS): Apply a relevant property of the reagent to the surface or item you paint. Makes (sum)*dice square feet of paint. Restore points when paint is removed (you can do this with a paint scraper or with solvents in your alchemy kit).

11. Food (CHA): Cook a dish with up to (sum) servings. Each serving counts as a ration, provides a relevant temporary mutation ((sum) minutes), and has a property of the reagent (like keeping well, or tasting excellent, or poisoning the eater - see Butcher Cuts for inspiration). Points return when dish eaten and mutations wear off.

12. Homunculus (CHA): Create a being that follows your orders. It has base 8 in each ability score, with +(sum) to (dice) of those scores of your choice. It takes a form influenced by the reagent's nature, and has (dice) properties derived from the reagent. It's more independent the more (dice) you invest (dog/child/adult/outsider (1/2/3/4 dice)). It lasts for (sum) hours/days/weeks/months (1/2/3/4 dice). Points return whem homunculus is destroyed (you may destroy it yourself, though life preserves itself at any cost...)

Anyone else who wants to make a Craft out of a formula can try, with appropriate instructions (an elementary alchemy textbook would be a good start), but the value of each die is capped at the number of the following they have: advanced books on alchemy, an additional copy of the reagent, an expert on hand to help out, a year of alchemy training (this stacks up to three times).

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