Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Weird Races as Weird Classes

When I first posted about my new hack, 2 blogposts and one whole month ago, I said the following:
"I have a complicated relationship with race/folk/ancestry/background options in tabletop games. On one hand, I love the ability to mix and match folk/calling (race/class, for those of you who can read those words and not get distracted by what they signify in meatspace). On the other... race really doesn't end up having a mechanical effect on the game, certainly not to the same degree that class does... There's a few ways to solve this that I'm poking at - one is including race-as-class as a multiclassing option... and another is including it as a background skill, like previous failed career, putting it on similar mechanical footing to skills."

So this is my attempt at the race-as-class multiclassing part of the deal. Stuff like Elf or Dwarf or Goblin or Human can be just backgrounds, but some like tieflings or vampires or whatever come with other abilities that are a little weightier than just how you grew up. These will rarely have 4 templates - I've tried to innovate in a few ways here, from single-template classes to classes you could take forever if you wanted to. I think it came out nicely, plus it's still (as always) compatible with the rest of the GLOG.

Taking a level of a race-as-class later in your character's path just involves them discovering part of their ancestry and family tree that was previously hidden from them, or them being turned into something new - contracting a troll-cancer, or being bitten by a vampire.

I want to write more of these. Angelspawn, lycanthropes, dragonborn, generic undead, a psychic... we'll see how it goes. I don't want this to feature creep any more than it already has.

Hellspawn
 

Way back down the family tree, one of your ancestors made a pact. Perhaps it was for love, or for victory, or for riches. Perhaps it was a grief-maddened sacrifice; perhaps it was freely chosen in pursuit of ill goals; perhaps there was hellish trickery afoot. Maybe, just maybe, the demon was doing something for itself for once (instead of its infernal masters). Regardless, you are the product of a child born of an unholy union between mortal and devil. The traits reemerge every few generations, to raise havoc and bring dark plans to fruition. You are marked as one of hell's, and hell follows with you.

Hit Dice: 1d6 Grit, 1d6 Meat
Failed Career: 1. Artist, 2. Demon Hunter, 3. Noble, 4. Preacher, 5. Soldier, 6. Thief 
Starting Equipment: Nothing but the clothes on your back.

There is only one template for hellspawn. Everything beyond that is up to you.

Template 1: Devil's Tell, Infernal Lineage

Devil's Tell: You have a mutation that clearly marks your hellish nature. You should probably try to conceal it.
1. Animalbane. You have an aura of unease. Mortals feel queasy and are instinctively standoffish towards you. Animals keep their distance; they won't attack you unless you attack them first.
2. Ash-trail. Everywhere you go, you leave the stink of sulfur and a trail of ash. You can write in indelible ash with your fingers, and eject a small cloud of blinding sulfurous ash at will.
3. Burning Hair. Your hair is a pillar of flame. It counts as a torch. You can't stifle it and it only burns out upon your death.
4. Cat Eyes. You have infravision and can see magic.
5. Claws. Your fingers twist into rending spines of keratin and bone. Dual wield d4 damage unarmed attack.
6. Clockwork Heart. There's a mysterious ticking everywhere you go. You always know the time, and can speak with contraptions.
7. Corpseflesh. You are a walking corpse. Your heart does not pump; your blood dried long ago. You count as undead, can't be poisoned or contract disease, and wounds cannot incapacitate you (only kill or scar).
8. Fractal Fingers. Your fingers have fingers, and those fingers have fingers, all the way down. You can finely manipulate anything down to the level of a hair.
9. Goat Legs. They bend forwards and backwards and end in clacking hooves. You can't be knocked down and can climb uneven surfaces without rolling.
10. Goldilocks. Your hair and nails grow as coinage of hell like overlapping scales. You sink in water. Who would take the devil's coin?
11. Heat Metal. Any metal you touch with your bare skin heats to the point where it'll boil water. Your weapons cauterize the wounds they leave. Touching metal armor will start to cook its wearer alive.
12. Honeytongue. Your words are like the anesthetic a mosquito injects before it drinks from a vein. When you lie, if someone catches you, they will give you at least one more chance before lashing out.
13. Horns. Great horns twist from your skull. Have fun with hats. d6 damage unarmed attack.
14. Leech Mouth. You can bite others and siphon their blood as rations. This deals d4 meat damage and counts as 1 ration. Looks like a round toothy maw.
15. Levitating. You're always floating at least 1 inch off the ground (and up to 6). This lets you avoid rough terrain, pressure plates, leaving tracks...
16. Magnetic. Metal that touches you takes a strength test to remove. You sink in water.
17. Many Mouths. You have mouths on your palms, in your navel, and a few others scattered across your body. You can digest anything. Counts as 2 slots of free hidden inventory space, though it'll be a little sticky.
18. Shifting Skin. Your skin constantly bubbles and burns. You don't mind the pain, not anymore. You look unrecognizable every week.
19. Skull Face. Your face lacks skin and muscle, just dry bones and the hint of a flicker of life in your eye sockets. You're the most terrifying thing in the dungeon. You count as undead and can't be blinded/deafened/frightened/etc.
20. Tail. Prehensile. Works like an extra limb.

Infernal Lineage: Your family traces its line right back to a devil. Perhaps there was a contract. Perhaps there was a sinful love. Whatever the case, you have power, and every time you wield it your heart sings and sears with delighted flame. Send others to the fire. Revel in your power. Pick a lineage, and gain the accompanying ability. You can use it at will, so long as it's making someone else's life worse.

1. Commander. Your ancestor was a commander in the armies of Hell. Anyone who you outrank must save or obey orders you give them in combat. If they succeed on a save, they're immune to this going forwards.
2. Duke. You have royal devilblood and your family name is recognized by anyone who's anyone. You are automatically obeyed by devils of lower status and non-sapient undead, and can summon d6 impish minions (1 Meat, wings, 1 damage unarmed attack) to do your bidding.
3. Hell Itself. Hell is a vast creature in and of itself, separate and yet inextricable from the devils that call it home. It has kids. You are one of them. Your flesh, like that of hell, is conducive to heat: you have a d6 damage ranged attack that sets things on fire.
4. Lawyer. The devil makes deals. Any contract you write, signed in blood and of the free will of the parties involved, is binding. It will be enforced by hell's forces to the letter, even and especially if that means inflicting consequences on you.
5. Lost Soul. Not all in hell are devils. There's an ocean-underclass of souls, tormented and fluid, both laborer and fuel for the fires. You can see and speak to these lost souls and spirits when you find them in the world, and can tell what's anchoring them to heaven, hell, or the mortal coil. You don't have to make someone's life worse with this ability.
6. Reaper. Every life ends. Reapers speed it along, showing up at the moment of death to usher the soul to the pit (or the gates of the heavens, or the elemental realms, or stranger worlds beyond). Pick a method of death (falls, poisonings, disease, magic, assault with a bladed weapon). You know how people will likely die if you do not intervene (a duke may die of poison, a knight may die of a rival's blade). You have advantage on rolls to bring that likelihood to pass, and revealing someone's fate to them rings true - you don't have to explain your powers.
7. Seer. Hell's predictive modeling department is lean, mean, and efficient in the way that only corporate bureaucracies can be. On one of their many department retreats (to a backwater village, that leaves nothing but a smoking crater after a week of debauchery), your ancestor made a deal that would eventually produce you. When you rest, you can ask a question about the future (between then and the next rest you'd be able to take of that type) and get a response if hell deems this knowledge appropriately actionable in the service of suffering.
8. Temptation. Pick one of the seven deadly sins (or one of the twenty-one lesser sins, or the manifold sin-like actions disputed by scholars of heaven and hell alike). You can induce others who can hear your voice to act in accordance with that sin, implanting subconscious commands to give in to a desire they already possess. They must make a Wisdom save or act upon it. You can smell sinful desires and differentiate the sins involved, though not the specifics.
9. Torturer. Hell's currency is pain, its motive force agony. Lost souls cannot be threatened with anything besides torment, and reward is antithetical to the very premises of the infernal ecosystem. You have inherited the predilection to torture that your ancestor inflicted, and can induce physical or mental agony with a touch. This deals d6 damage, and can't deal Meat damage. You can cause specific pains and insert specific torturous mental images with this ability.

Troll
by TheDijb
Trolls are cancerous. Not in a perjorative way - their bodies are literally unchecked growth, mediated not by programmed cell death but by inevitable environmental ablation of their outermost layers. Anything living can become a troll, if the right switch is flipped in their biology. And after enough time, all trolls tend towards the same gangly, knobby, chunky, warty physique with a few more limbs than polite company appreciates.

Hit Dice: 1d12 Meat
Failed Career: 1. Impromptu Siege Weapon, 2. Sheepeater, 3. Toll Collector
Starting Equipment: Club. Sack.

Take Template 1 to start. You may take Template T (for Troll) any number of times.

Template 1: Trollhide
Template T: +1 Meat die. Heal a Scar.

Trollhide: Regenerate Meat at the end of each turn equal to the number of templates of Troll you have. You may restore Meat instead of Grit during rests. Roll for two Troll Weaknesses. Your regeneration does not function when exposed to them, and when you take damage to your Meat from that source or in those conditions, you permanently reduce your maximum Meat by the amount of damage you took.

Troll Weaknesses
1. Acid. Bursts cells and scours veins, leaving behind blanched tissue that refuses even to rot.
2. Cold. The frost chills your blood, and your cells go into hibernation - choosing survival over reproduction.
3. Darkness. Anything darker than the light of a full moon. When the torches fail (and they always do), death slithers its way atop your shoulder and whispers its soporific song in your ear.
4. Faith. The miracle of life falls quite short of the miracle of, well, miracles.
5. Fear. The little death that brings utter obliteration. When flight beats fight and you turn tail to save your skin, you are most vulnerable.
6. Fire. A classic. Turns out cauterization cures all wounds, including you.
7. Impacts, such as from a fall, or the blow of a warhammer. Don't trip. Second floors are the work of malevolent sorcerer-architects.
8. Metal. Iron, gold, copper, silver, bronze - exposure is like an allergy; their bite is as death.
9. Poison and disease. Death slips beneath life's guard in many guises, and it finds life wanting.
10. Pungent smells, like that of sewage, or a broken sack of spice, or a rotting corpse. You keep meticulously clean.
11. Sunlight. Its light is the light of law, and death is its most absolute command. You travel by night and sleep entombed in earth.
12. Water. The pure stuff, from a spring or a canteen or the sea. Your dreams are plagued by drowning.

 Vampire

Vampirism is a pathogen as old as death. The things that lurk in the night, the predators that call humans prey. We are as livestock: even the more "moral" vampires merely act as shepherds (and of course occasionally butchers). Their seductive offer is the only thing more dangerous than their bite: what would you give up, to taste immortality?

Hit Dice: 1d8 Meat
Failed Career: 1. Artist, 2. Doctor, 3. Noble, 4. Vagrant, 5. Vampire Hunter, 6. Virgin Sacrifice
Starting Equipment: Cloak, blade, brooding diary, flask of 2 Meat points of blood

To take the first template of vampire after starting play, you must find a progenitor who is willing to turn you. As you level up as a vampire, you may take Template V up to four times, until you have all the Vampire Weaknesses (you can't get the same one twice). After that, you may take Template V+, and become a Lord (or Lady or Liege or any other title that strikes your fancy).

Template 1: Bloodsucker, 1 Vampire Power, 2 Vampire Weaknesses
Template V: +1 Vampire Power, +1 Vampire Weakness
Template V+: Vampire Lord, +1 Vampire Power, +2 Meat dice

Bloodsucker: You're a vampire; an undead creature of the night. You can consume nothing but the blood of living, thinking, mortal beings (humans and goblins are in, cattle are out). Your teeth count as a d4 damage melee weapon, and for each point of damage you inflict with a bite (if your target has blood to consume), you can restore that many of your Meat points. You can't heal lost Meat in any other way.

Whenever you return to full Meat, heal a Wound. Whenever you restore Meat points equal to your maximum, heal a Scar. You may spend a Meat point to reroll a failed Strength, Constitution, or Dexterity test. You cannot truly die unless killed via one of your Vampire Weaknesses; you will only take more Scars after being reduced to 0 Meat. These can keep you very well incapacitated, but nothing more.

You are enthralled to whichever vampire turned you. You cannot refuse an order from them, nor can you hurt them directly or indirectly.

Vampire Powers

1. Apex Predator. You move utterly silently, don't have to roll to climb rough surfaces, and have double movement speed. Your nails sharpen into claws that deal d6 damage unarmed. You can no longer pass as a mortal, and everyone has opinions about vampires.
2. Fleshcraft. You can mold your flesh and that of others like clay. This inflicts 1 Meat damage on anyone you mold, including yourself, for each change you want to make (on the level of facial features or adding a hand). If you try to use this on an unwilling target, you must make an attack roll as normal and it counts as a d6 damage attack.
3. Hypnosis. If you're making eye contact with a mortal, you may issue them simple commands. They get to make a Charisma save against the command. If they fail their save and follow the command, you must spend a Meat point for each word in the command.
4. Leech. When you drink something's blood, you can gain a skill or ability they possess for 10 minutes for each point of blood you drank. This doesn't let you change your physical form (unless you also have Fleshcraft).
5. Shadowstep. You can walk between shadows of the same light level as if they were adjacent, so long as you have line of sight to them. You have infrared vision.
6. Shapeshifting. You can turn into a creature of the night. This costs half your Meat, and lasts up to that many minutes*10. Roll a d6 when you get this power to determine what you can shapeshift into (1. Cloud of bats, 2. Giant python, 3. Murder of crows,, 4. Scourge of mosquitoes, 5. Smoke cloud, 6. Wolf).

Vampire Weaknesses
1. Faith. Sincere prayer and/or the touch of a holy symbol can turn you away, forcing you to either flee the scene or take 1d6 damage.
2. Pungence. Powerful spices like garlic or cinnamon or saffron overload your senses, effectively pacifying you. It takes 1d6 damage to push through the scent. Rot, decay, and blood do not have this effect on you.
3. Names. Any name you have gone by or that you recognize as your own can be used to command you by voice. Ignoring a command deals 1d6 damage to you. You cannot make up false names that are not anagrams of your name or otherwise derived from it.
4. Running water and thresholds. You can't cross either unless invited by someone who has permission to do so. You cannot be seen in mirrors.
5. Sunlight. Direct sunlight (i.e. if you can draw a line of sight between you and the sun) sets you on fire. Fire won't go out until it's either smothered or you're totally consumed.
6. Wood and silver. Both deal double damage to you, and HP lost to them can't be healed until downtime.

Vampire Lord: You are free from your progenitor. You can create new vampires by feeding a victim your blood after feeding on theirs. Each thrall you have under your control reduces your maximum Meat by 4. You can release them to get the Meat back, but not many people take kindly to being turned into undead killing machines who can't taste chocolate anymore.

Friday, April 17, 2020

The GLOGblin

it's happening again. it has happened before and it its happening now and it will continue to happen and never stop happen. the glog metastasizes, the glog grows, the glog collapses under its weight and rots and births new glogs fed on its rotting flesh. the glog spreads. the glog mutates. the glog becomes more-than-glog. the glog apostasizes. the glog ascends to godhood, falls, rises, damns itself to an eternity of glog. it is the far future and there is only glog. any sufficiently advanced technoglogy is indistinguishable from divinity. praise. praise. sing and write and disgorge rules and templates and classes from your yawning maw. fear the goblins who bring the laws on stone tablets and scrolls of skin, for once you have read of their words you shall never escape.

i wrote this for april fool's day. it's a while later but yknow what, that only makes me more of a fool. time means nothing in quarantine anyway.

GLOG Author

Affront to God

GLOGblin
portrait of the esteemed author as a young gob

Level 1: Blog, Oblogatory Cannibalism, 2 Blog Dice, 2 Classes
Level 2: Table Topper, +1 BD
Level 3: Blogroll, +1 BD
Level 4: GLOGhacker, +1 BD

Hit Die: d4
Starting Equipment: Set of polyhedral dice, nice pens, paper, map of the Tomb of the Serpent Kings (sans annotations), barbed spear (as spear, can lodge it in a hit target who takes 2 damage upon removing it)
Skills: 1. Poetry, 2. Squabbling, 3. Theft

Blog: You have a blog! Congratulations. Write some content for it! What's that, a class? Nice job! Everyone's gotta start somewhere. Either roll the classes that are on your Blog randomly on the BIG LIST, or pick ones you've actually written yourself on your real GLOG blog.

By scribbling madly and rolling any number of your Blog Dice (d6s), you can create a post that when read bestows (dice) templates (template A, then B, then C, then D, or levels 1/2/3/4) from a class on your blog upon its reader. It then crumbles into foul-smelling dust. Its abilities can be used (sum) times, and the reader may expend 5 uses from that reserve to create an appropriate resource die (like a Magic Die or a Rage Die) that they can use for those abilities. Blog Dice that land on a 4, 5, or 6 are expended.

Restore expended Blog Dice after a long rest.

Oblogatory Cannibalism: You can learn new classes and add them to your blog by eating someone of that class, or by eating another GLOGblin who's written that class.

Table Topper: You have seen the secret tables that the universe is played upon. Find a random table you like. Put it on your blog. When you would roll on a random table, you may expend a Blog Die to roll on a table on your Blog instead. Whenever a random table is rolled on (by a player or by the GM), you may expend a Blog Die. If you do, look at the table, and adjust the result by up to +/- the value you rolled. Whenever you level up, find a new random table to add to your Blog.

Blogroll: You can call upon the work of the GLOGblin collective, and write posts that gives a random class' templates from the BIG LIST. Roll the random class when the post is written.

GLOGhacker: You've written a whole dang GLOGhack! Good job, you. Post it up there and never run a game in another system ever again. You can bring its rules into the game. Restat your character in a GLOGhack of your choice (or your own). Play it in this one. You can enforce rules from that hack in any interaction your character is actively part of.

GLOGhacks are my Comfort Food

It's tumultuous times. I have lots of ongoing, half-finished, scope-creeping projects, and no structure in my day to get any of them finished to my satisfaction. It's why I haven't posted in almost a month, despite this blog being one of my darlings. So instead of going higher and farther and innovating in RPG theory and pushing the bounds what an OSR game can be, I'm going to write another GLOGhack. There's some new(ish) bloggers doing the envelope-pushing who are absolutely incredible, and have inspired me by proximity to put in the work on a new as-of-yet untitled game that's going to try to incorporate a bunch of the ideas that I was too new and too chickenshit to crowbar into Mimics & Miscreants.

As for all of my "projects", I guarantee no completion. However, the stuff in this post should be broadly compatible and slottable into GLOGgy games - even M&M.
So here are my lofty aspirational goals:
  • A new combat system that doesn't ask a lot of fiddly stuff from players or the GM - whether it's weapon ability tracking, damage die balancing, or a million different wounds. That's what's in this post. It hasn't been playtested at all, but I like the core of it and I've played with lots of the ideas within.
  • Separate Meat and Grit health pools. I sing the praises of Cavegirl's Esoteric Enterprises, which introduced me to lots of the little mechanical tools I'm trying to fit in here, and this is one of the best ones. I'm taking more of an inspiration for them from video games with separate Shield and Health pools - and this is a great conceptual way to adapt them from a sci-fi setting into a fantasy one.
  • Crunchy bits, like the best part of slightly overcooked bacon. I've realized there's a bit of me that loves the crunch of fitting weird options together - not to the degree where I'll pore over obscure 3.5e splats for weeks, but enough to enjoy accidentally overpowered bullshit player option combinations. I'm including hooks and bits and bobs to appease that part of my brain, along the lines of the Fighter techniques in this post.
  • 10 level GLOG. So here's my problem: I love the speed and concision of 4 template classes, and spreading 4 templates over 10 levels hurts my soul the same way that 5e does. But I like awarding levels as session milestones, and I don't want players to end up capping out their book-granted power that quickly. I've played with this idea before, with the idea of classless upgrades in between template levels, and I'm not quite sure where I want to go with this. But I have ideas!
    • Some classes have 6 templates. Some have 4. Some have 2. Some only have 1. Mandatory multiclassing if you want to get to 10 levels. This isn't a new idea, some authors have proposed 5-template GLOG with 4-template classes for the same reason. I'm just extending it ad absurdum.
    • Optionally spreading out abilities across multiple levels, when you'd gain multiple things at one level. I hate the idea of dead levels, where you don't get anything but more hit points and your saves tick down, but a lot of the classes I write end up squeezing eight or more features into 4 templates. This is pretty easy to stretch out.
    • Abilities no longer tied to specific templates. This is a weird one and doesn't work for some classes, but I think it makes a lot of sense and I've played around with it in any class that has a table of options that you gain over time (like my Thieves, either the original one from Type1Ninja or my new Thieves' Guilds). We'll see if I can make it work.
  • I have a complicated relationship with race/folk/ancestry/background options in tabletop games. On one hand, I love the ability to mix and match folk/calling (race/class, for those of you who can read those words and not get distracted by what they signify in meatspace). On the other... race really doesn't end up having a mechanical effect on the game, certainly not to the same degree that class does. Fortunately, the OSR has an obvious answer to this problem: race-as-class! Unfortunately, that takes away the mixing and matching that I love. There's a few ways to solve this that I'm poking at - one is including race-as-class as a multiclassing option, and yes you can take levels in it after level 1 or mix and match race-as-class options, and another is includng it as a background skill, like previous failed career, putting it on similar mechanical footing to skills. Want to carve a tunnel? You could roll engineering... or you could roll Dwarf! Available to dwarves, those raised around or by dwarves, etc.
  • Failed career path table instead of Skills. I already pretty much had this, just not obviously. I love these in other games, and skills always feel like a bit of a cop-out. Overall, you'll get two rolls from your choice of the following 3 tables: a big table of generic ones, a table of folk paths, and calling-specific failed careers. It's kinda like a life path, except you can't die in the middle of it.
    • Yet.
  • Hireling rules. I've had these in the wings for like six months now, they aren't anything special, but with the number of hirelings I expect Fighters, Clerics, Jacks, etc. to end up with it's honestly a massive oversight that I haven't already.
  • Spell experimentation, like in Esoteric Enterprises. It's really good. Works like a charm. Don't have much more to say here besides the fact that it'll give me an excuse to dig up my Ways Wizards Explode chart.
  • Ability scores that are 3d6 down the line, with the option to invert them if you roll poorly, or the option to just do Esoteric Enterprises' point-buy thing where you get 3 of each value from 1 through 6 and can build your own array out of those dice, summing 3 values of your choice for each score. It just works.
  • Deed levelling! Loved it when I wrote it, and while I tend to just use milestones (or run one-shots), it's a system that fits together so much better with my playstyle than gold-for-xp.
  • d100 Alignments, yet another post I wrote and love and want to put in a proper doc so it can get the exposure it needs.
  • A solid diverse spread of weird classes and "normal" ones. Fighter, Butcher, and Fleshcrafter all have places in this system.
  • Abilities that expand diegetically, hooking into the material world of the game instead of the mechanics. See the fighter's Talismans, Scarred, and Legend-Smith for examples. You progress by doing things and getting rewarded for it in the fiction, rather than solely through abstract processes of XP accumulation and poring over item lists.
  • From Mimics & Miscreants, stuff that worked and I love
    • My GLOG levelless spell list. It's a travesty that it hasn't caught on. I'm gonna keep using it forever.
    • Modifierless. Fuck modifier tables. We use sum-to-20 in this house and never add more than 2 numbers together.
    • Scores-as-saves.
    • How You Know The Character To Your Left
Without further ado, here's my new combat rules. They aren't exactly a centerpiece - or, I'd rather they not become the centerpiece - but undeniably combat is something that I fall back on to fill time in sessions, and therefore it needs a solid procedure. Plus, it's fun.

Combat

Initiative is determined at the start of each round by everyone making a Dexterity test, or another appropriate roll for the situation. Succeed and you go before the monsters. Fail and you go after them. Players get to figure out what their characters do during these phases; actions are treated as simultaneous or whatever order the players wish.

Each turn, you get to move up to 60', and attack. You can split these, do one in the middle of the other, forego movement to take other actions like reloading or pulling levers or whatever, it's not a big deal.

You only get one attack per turn unless something says otherwise.

Don't roll to hit. All weapons deal d6 damage and are solely differentiated by what else you can use them for.

Spears and polearms are long and let you make an attack against characters who try to close to melee with you.
Daggers are concealable, lightweight, and balanced for throwing.
Hammers reduce enemy armor on a hit.
Swords mark their wielders as members of the nobility (or as someone who killed a member of the nobility and took it off their corpse) and are hard to come by.
Axes are great tools for stuff other than war, and also will fuck up a shield something fierce.
Bows can hit targets at range.
Staves and the like are, at the very least, better than fighting unarmed.

Two-handed weapons, like a battleaxe, warhammer, or greatsword roll a d8 for damage.

Dual-wielding two one-handed weapons lets you reroll 1s for damage (unless it's a 1 from missing an attack against an armored enemy), if you're in any way trained martially to do so or the weapons are small enough that you won't trip over yourself.

Unarmed attacks deal roll damage with disadvantage, and don't get the reroll benefit from dual-wielding. Grab a length of pipe at least, come on.

There's other stuff you can have in your off-hand that'll be more useful than a weapon. Torches or lanterns. Shields. Your spellbook or holy icon. A rope. Your friend's hand. Swapping items on your turn gives you disadvantage on using them (or otherwise mitigates their utility).

Health
Player characters have two health pools, Grit and Meat. When you take damage, it first is dealt to your Grit pool. When Grit is depleted, further damage goes to your Meat pool. Grit gates Meat; if you have even one point of Grit the damage won't spill over into Meat. Grit can be restored during short and daily rests, or by magical healing, but Meat can't - it can only be healed in town.

When you drop to 0 Grit, take a Wound. A Wound is a temporary penalty to an action that lasts until you return to maximum Grit.

When you drop to 0 Meat, you may either gain a Scar and an associated permanent mechanical penalty, or make a death save. Roll your Meat dice and try to match or beat the amount of damage you've taken since you last dropped to 0 Meat. If you fail, you die.

Defenses
If you're wearing armor, when monsters attack you, you may make an Armor save. Roll under your Armor value. Leather is 6, chain is 10, plate is 14. Shields give +1 armor (or, if unarmored, base AC 4). If you succeed, you take 1 damage as the attack glances off you. If you fail, they get to roll for damage. Similarly, to attack an enemy who's wearing Armor, make a d20 roll vs. the enemy's Armor Class. A failed test glances off their armor, dealing 1 damage. If you succeed, roll damage as normal.

Players who have Grit, and no Armor, can roll to Dodge. Make a Dexterity test. If you succeed, the attacker rolls damage with disadvantage. If you fail, they roll with advantage.

After damage is rolled, a defender can voluntarily sunder their shield or helm (if they've got one handy) to reduce an attack's damage by 1d12, but the shield or helm breaks and falls to the ground.

Maneuvers
If you want to make a called shot or trip an enemy or some other maneuver, make a skill test as part of your attack. If you succeed on the test, the maneuver works as well as the attack dealing damage. If you fail, the maneuver fails, and the attack only deals 1 damage.


Retreating
Roll over your current Encumbrance to successfully retreat from battle. You may drop items to decrease the target number. Success means you scape into the previous area/corridor/etc, wherever's safe and nearby. Enemies get a chance to pursue you into that area; they must make a d20 roll over your retreating roll.

Rests
When you start the game, begin with max Grit and max Meat.

Once per day, you can eat lunch. Spend an exploration turn and a ration. Roll your Grit dice and restore that much Grit.
During a daily rest, with eight uninterrupted hours of sleep and a full meal of rations, return to maximum Grit.
Back in town, a week of proper downtime (i.e. no sudden movements, bar brawls, a roof over your head, 3 square meals a day) will restore you to maximum Meat.


Fighter
by Matt Dunbar
"You call combat a fail-state, and yet you keep hiring folks like me."

Hit Dice: d8 Grit, d8 Meat
Failed Career: 1. City Guard, 2. Criminal, 3. Gladiator, 4. Hunter, 5. Knight, 6. Soldier
Starting Equipment: 4 random weapons or 2 weapons of choice and 1 random weapon, chainmail armor, helm or shield, scar with history.

Level 1: Tools of the Trade, Trophies, 1 Technique
Level 2: Threat Assessment, Scarred, +1 Technique, +1 Grit die
Level 3: Commander, +1 Technique, +1 Meat die
Level 4: Legend-Smith, +1 Technique, +1 Grit die, +1 Meat die

Techniques: You've trained, and warred, and learned from the mistakes of your allies, self, and enemies. These techniques of battle have ingrained themselves into your muscle memory. See below for a d20 list (not all-inclusive). Feel free to reflavor them into whatever fits your concept - special moves, a fighting style, a property of your weapons and armor...

Tools of the Trade: You have an additional 4*level inventory slots, exclusively for weapons, shields, and armor. You may switch weapons and held items during combat on your turn for free.

Trophies: Whenever you personally kill an enemy, you can take a trophy from their corpse or gear. So long as you have the trophy prominently displayed to your enemies, or constantly reminding you of its presence, you have a small benefit related to their abilities. Can't be more significant than a technique, niche skill, +1 armor, or advantage on initiative rolls. Each trophy takes up an inventory slot, all must be visibly unique, and no two can have the same ability.

1d20 trophies, retrieved from the corpses of lesser fighters you bested in battle
1. A baleful-star warlock's cracked telescope
2. A berzerker's nose ring
3. A noble's glass eye
4. A skull pulled from the sludgy remnants of a gelatinous cube
5. A splinter of mimic meatwood, twisted mid-ambush
6. A vampire's cracked silver chalice, still filled with dried blood
7. An owlbearskin cape that lets you glide
8. Bag of saffron off a nobleman's chef
9. Bloodspattered page of a mage's spellbook
10. Hairball hocked up by a dying goblin
11. Hip flask full of jellied dwarven liquor
12. Locket with a picture of a mercenary's sweetheart
13. Scrap of a cultist's unholy standard
14. Scrap of a necromancer's dried, tattooed skin
15. Scrimshawed shark tooth
16. Silver piece paid to an assassin to kill you
17. The hilt of a rival's sundered rapier
18. The luminous eye of a machine from beyond the stars
19. The visor of a duke's helm
20. Vial of acid-preserved troll brain
       
Threat Assessment: You can ask the GM one question about the capabilities of an enemy force for every 10 uninterrupted minutes you have to observe them, or ask a question about a specific enemy when you hit them in combat.

Scarred: Whenever you take a Scar, in addition to taking a permanent penalty, take a permanent bonus of similar weight based on the lesson you learned from the scar. When you gain this ability, you may retroactively apply it to any scars you've gained in the past.

Commander: You have the reputation to hire a band of mercenaries on the promise of equal shares of the loot. They count as hirelings, and bring their own equipment, supplies, and weapons. One, your lieutenant, has a level in a non-casting class. You can hire up to level*d6 mercenaries at any town; their equipment and quality will depend on the town itself. If you lose their respect, or the shares can't cover their expenses... well, they're mercenaries. They go where the coin flows.

Legend-Smith: Whenever you personally kill a powerful, renowned enemy, you can write the weapon you used to strike the killing blow into legend. When you do, it becomes a magic weapon, empowered by your mighty deed. Name it, give it an appropriately legendary epithet, and it gains a supernatural ability based on the enemy you killed and how you killed them. A bow shot halfway across a battlefield may no longer have a maximum range. An axe that decapitates an archmage may shatter curses and banish summons. A sword that kills a king may bestow the right of kingship on its wielder. A weapon does not grow in magical power the more great deeds it performs (this only works once per weapon), but its reputation may grow - and reputation is its own sort of magic, in a way.

d20 Techniques
1. Ablate: You may sunder your shields and helms twice, and may sunder your own weapons as if they were shields (but only once per weapon).
2. Bastion: Unarmored people behind you can benefit from half your Armor Class.
3. Beastmaster: You have a pet! It has a d3 of Grit and a d3 of Meat, deals d6 damage, one special ability (like flying, poison spit, or being large enough to ride), and you control it on your turn. If it dies, you can train another beast when you're back in town.
4. Brawler: While you're unarmed, you count as dual-wielding, and make an extra attack on turns where you're fighting unarmed.
5. Cleave: When you kill an enemy, you may immediately make another attack against another enemy within range.
6. Combat Reflexes: At the start of each round, instead of rolling initiative, you can choose whether to go before or after the monsters. Doesn't work in surprise rounds.
7. Esoteric Armory: Step up the damage die size of any weapon you wield against an intelligent enemy unfamiliar with the weapon.
8. Fireblood: Whenever you deal damage, you may deal additional damage by spending Grit or Meat. 1 spent point = +1 damage.
9. Giantslayer: You can wield weapons made for creatures larger than you. When you do so, you can never go before enemies in initiative, but you roll a d10 for damage.
10. Gourmand: Once per day, when you eat a full meal, restore all your Grit.
11. Opportunist: Once per round, you can make a free attack against an enemy that enters the range of your weapon.
12. Parry & Riposte: When you successfully Dodge, you may attack back.
13. Precise: Reroll 1s for damage. If you already would reroll 1s on that damage roll, reroll 1s and 2s; if you would already reroll 1s and 2s, reroll 1s, 2s, and 3s, etc.
14. Push Through: Once per day, when you would take a Wound or choose to take a Scar, you may ignore it and restore 1 Grit.
15. Reaver: Whenever you deal maximum damage with an attack, you may inflict a Wound.
16. Shieldbreaker: Whenever you deal damage, 1 point of dealt damage goes directly to Meat regardless of the enemy's Grit or Armor.
17. Sneak Attack: When you attack an opponent who doesn't know you're there, ignore Grit and Armor. Once you've hit them with this technique, they know you're there.
18. Splatterjack: When you roll maximum damage on one of your damage dice, you can roll it again and add that to the result.
19. Tactician: You may forego an action on your turn in order to provide an ally with an action of the same type. Forego your attack to let an ally make an additional attack; move for move, etc.
20. Tough as Nails: Increase your Armor Class by 2. If you're unarmored, you have an Armor Class of 4. You can still Dodge when unarmored, despite having an Armor Class.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Giant Robots Deserve Giant Monsters

I wrote the Mechwarrior class a few months ago and I'm still unreasonably proud of it. Let's give our brave pilots something to fight. Specifically, kaiju, because that's a challenge floating around the discord. So here's something I threw together in 24 hours, as well as some setting tidbits I've mercilessly ripped from Pacific Rim, Evangelion, a pinch of Worm, and a little bit of that most horrific of settings: the gig economy.


WORLD

It's 20XX, year 1X of the Kaiju Era. 1X years ago, LEVIATHAN HEAVEN fell to earth, levelled what is now the San Francisco Exclusion Zone, and made humanity shit its collective pants over its place in the universe to the tune of 12 million casualties. The Survival Paradigm and Eschaton technology is all that stands between human existence and a swift, brutal death at the claws of titanic biomechanical horrors from beyond.

The kaiju kept coming. From everywhere. The depths of the sea, deep underground, materializing in rifts of ozone, falling from space, crawling out of secret labs, assembling from otherwise mundane technology, emerging from the fallout of other kaiju attacks. We couldn't stop them until we reverse-engineered Eschaton technology from their corpses and built the first mechs.

The Survival Paradigm is the democratization of mech construction, pilot training, and kill-op organization. It's the only strategy that survived the first year of kaiju attacks, the collapse of the short-lived United Nations Defense Accord, and a United States bid to monopolize anti-kaiju defense efforts (nuclear weapons have been written off ever since their strike on DEVOURER RADIANT, which escalated a category 3 to a catastrophic category 5 event).

Corporations immediately co-opted this framework, turning mech pilots into the highest-death-risk sector of the gig economy. The influx of capital for pure research and emergency crisis response developed some incredible technology: the Eschaton Core, the kinetic burster, direct neural interfaces, to mention only the ones that are in every mech on the planet. But once those designs were made free and open and public, the vultures of finance and the military industrial complex moved in.

You can buy a prefab for the same price as a used car, customize it in a makerspace, order baseline heavy weapons off of Triple-B (bloodbathandbeyond.ca). Get in the giant robot, give it a test run during the 3am curfew hours (the cops can't do anything but look the other way, you're in a mech and the one thing the govs did right was ban police access to eschatological weaponry). Then sign up for emergency response alerts, and wait for the call.

Sign into TacNet, the app that cornered the market on kaiju response command and control. find a handle some other joker isn't using already. deploy and hope your rival won't use a moment of weakness to accidentally push you into the path of the monster's jaws.

Win.

Collect your hazard pay (30% down since this time last year, because of "innovations in civilian bunker technologies"), collect your meagre kill fee (45% goes to the app), pay down your core loan, pay down your medical bills, pay your rent. Realize that you've gotta get another confirmed Category 3+ kill this month to stay in the black. Expand your fight search radius. Sigh. Kick back with a glass of cheap liquor to forget the fallen.
Dave Melvin

RULES

Let's break this down. Generate a kaiju. One of the big nasties.




DESIGNATION
Base how the kaiju appears on its designation. Many will be hybrids of meat and machine, towering eldritch abominations, giant featureless warriors with god-smiting weapons. Where they come from is up to you: excavated from deep time, summoned from the universe where everything's bigger than here, landing as the vanguard of an alien terraforming machine, mutated after a whatever-comes-after-nuclear test gone wrong. A superhero turning their powers to apocalyptic ends.

You're mech pilots. Handle it.

CATEGORY
Each category requires exponentially more minimum firepower for a confirmed kill. 1 eschaton is the reactor output of a baseline 5-meter mech, distributed over the course of a standard combat operation. You can increase your firepower exponentially, if you are clever and well-supported. Kaiju past Category 1 will require advanced plans, exotic weaponry, powerful reactors, ablative populations, larger mechs, rockstar pilots.

Proposals to rework the category system to include levels above 5 have been deemed irrelevant by experts in titanic studies worldwide. A threat that would require such degrees to classify would ensure that no one would be left to use the revised scale.

1: 1 eschaton (ET). The size of a bus, like an overgrown crocodile. Crushes through townhouses, wields a streetlamp as a crude cudgel. Threatens a population in the thousands, like a neighborhood or fishing village.
2: 10 ET. Building-size. It towers over houses and its roars shatter all the windows on the street. Tank rounds splinter on its skin. You're only making it stronger. Threatens a population in the tens of thousands, like a town or port district.
3: 100 ET. The size of a city block. Its tail slithers down the highway, its claws are the size of a category 1. Fighter jets crash into its eye and it blinks the debris away unfazed. Threatens a population in the hundreds of thousands, like a small city.
4: 1000 ET. It's the tallest building in the largest city. Its footsteps flatten mid-rise towers. It doesn't even notice as it turns and demolishes the Golden Gate by accident. Threatens a population in the millions, like a large city.
5: 10000 ET. Cloud-scraping. Affects weather systems. Wipes out towns without noticing. You can see it from space. Threatens a population in the tens of millions or greater. Could sink Great Britain or lay waste to all civilian populations on the Eastern Seaboard.

CAPABILITIES
Each round, a kaiju gets 3 actions. Use initiative that puts pilots either before or after the kaiju. These actions are more generalized than normal combat actions due to the sheer size of the monster; movement will necessarily also damage anything in the path of the kaiju. Any action that can be construed as an attack wil kill civilians, no save. Instead, roll (category)d10 for casualties in a metropolitan area that hasn't been evacuated.

Damage dealt by a kaiju's attacks to anything mech-size or greater is (category)d10, and may carry additional effects based on the kaiju's capabilities.

A kaiju's capabilities are directly represented by its ability scores, of which it has d3 identified and up to d3 as-of-yet unseen. If you roll a duplicate, increase that score by 10. All attacks deal ability score damage, depending on which weakpoint you're aiming for. Kaiju roll under their ability score to take actions that these capabilities afford it (anything else that a giant monster can do, they can do as well). Kaiju have a number of points based on their category (1: 50, 2: 200, 3: 500, 4: 1000, 5: 5000) to distribute between their ability scores. This means that many scores will be over 20; therefore, these actions will always succeed until the kaiju has sustained enough damage to sufficiently reduce its capabilities.

Any weapons smaller than mech-scale can deal a maximum of 1 damage, and then only on a critical hit, to kaiju of size 1 or 2. The Eschaton Core is what lets something like a mech go toe-to-toe with a kaiju. Conventional armaments, even nuclear ones, will be at best exponentially less effective. The nuclear strike on the category 3 DEVOURER RADIANT proved the obsolescence of nuclear armaments, and escalated the incident to a category 5 disaster.

If you fail or cannot respond: [CATEGORY] weeks of devastation may be enough for affected populations to marshal a response, at the expense of d10*10^(3+category) civilian lives per week. This may result in new pilots joining the force in cobbled-together mechs with a grudge against those who couldn't save them, or the takeover of your company by a more well-equipped force that steps in where you cannot.

TABLES

Name (2d100)
1. ALPHA
2. ANGEL
3. APOC
4. ARCHER
5. ARTIFICE
6. ASCEND
7. AUTONOMOUS
8. AXE
9. BEAR
10. BEHEMOTH
11. BERSERK
12. BLAZING
13. BLITZ
14. BLOOD
15. BROADSWORD
16. BUTCHER
17. CANNON
18. CHIMERA
19. COLOSSUS
20. CORE
21. CORONA
22. CORPSE
23. CRYPTIC
24. CYCLOPS
25. DEIMOS
26. DELTA
27. DEMON
28. DEVOURER
29. DJINN
30. EFFECT
31. ELDER
32. ENGINE
33. ESCAPE
34. EUROPA
35. EXECUTE
36. EXILE
37. EXTERMINATE
38. FALLING
39. FORWARD
40. FUSOR
41. GHOUL
42. GIGANT
43. GOD
44. HAMMER
45. HEAVEN
46. IMPACT
47. INFERNO
48. IO
49. JORMUNGANDR
50. KINETIC
51. KOMODO
52. KRAKEN
53. LEVIATHAN
54. LICH
55. LILITH
56. MECHANIZE
57. MOMENT
58. MOTH
59. NEPHILIM
60. NEURON
61. NIHIL
62. OBELISK
63. OMEGA
64. ORBIT
65. OUTER
66. PANGOLIN
67. PHALANX
68. PHOENIX
69. PREDATOR
70. RADIANT
71. RAPTOR
72. REACTOR
73. REAPER
74. SAUR
75. SCREAM
76. SHARK
77. SIGMA
78. SIMURGH
79. SLAYER
80. SPIDER
81. STAR
82. STORM
83. STRIKER
84. SURGE
85. TERMINUS
86. TERROR
87. THUNDER
88. TITAN
89. ULTRA
90. VACUUM
91. VECTOR
92. VIRUS
93. WALKER
94. WAR
95. WARHEAD
96. WYRM
97. WYVERN
98. XENO
99. YUGGOTH
100. ZILLA

Capabilities (d6)
1-2: Standard
3-4: Monstrous
5-6: Weird

Standard (d6)
1-2: EXCEPTIONAL STRENGTH
3-4: EXCEPTIONAL TOUGHNESS
5-6: EXCEPTIONAL SPEED

Monstrous (d20)
1. FLIGHT
2. BURROWING
3. AMPHIBIOUS
4. AMBUSH PREDATION
5. CAMOUFLAGE
6. PARASITISM
7. ENDURANCE PREDATION
8. HIGHER COGNITION
9. SPAWN
10. REGENERATION
11. TOXIC TRAIL
12. MANY-HEADED
13. TOOL USE
14. ENHANCED SENSES
15. BERZERK MODE
16. ELEMENTAL RANGED ATTACK
17. ELEMENTAL MELEE ATTACK
18. ELEMENTAL IMMUNITY
19. ELEMENTAL AURA
20. ELEMENTAL ESSENCE

Elemental (d20)
1. BLAZING
2. CORROSION
3. DARKNESS
4. DEATH
5. ELECTRIC
6. EXPLOSIVE
7. FREEZING
8. GRAVITIC
9. KINETIC
10. LUCK
11. MAGNETIC
12. POISON
13. QUAKING
14. RADIATION
15. RAGE
16. SONIC
17. STORMING
18. TAR
19. VACUUM
20. WEAPON

Weird (d20)
1. ABSORBS PROPERTIES
2. AUTO-DISASSEMBLY
3. DATAVORE
4. FEAR AURA
5. HIDES AS HUMAN
6. INFECTIOUS
7. INVISIBILITY
8. METAMORPHIC
9. MIND CONTROL
10. PHASING
11. PILOTED
12. PROJECTS ILLUSIONS
13. RAISES DEAD
14. SUMMONS
15. TELEKINESIS
16. TELEPATHY
17. TELEPORTATION
18. TEMPORAL LOOPS
19. TWIN
20. WIELDS WEAPON


Target Area Modifiers (d20)
1. ACID RAIN
2. ACTIVE WARZONE
3. ADDITIONAL KAIJU BATTLE IN PROGRESS
4. AWFUL PUBLIC IMAGE
5. ELECTROMAGNETIC INTERFERENCE
6. ESCHATON CORE FACTORY
7. EVACUATION FAILED
8. FLOODING
9. GEOLOGICALLY UNSTABLE
10. HEAVILY IRRADIATED
11. KAIJU RESEARCH INSTALLATION
12. KAIJU SPAWNING PITS
13. MAJOR METROPOLITAN AREA
14. MINOR METROPOLITAN AREA
15. ONGOING HURRICANE
16. POLITICIANS DEMAND EVAC
17. POWER PLANT
18. UNDERGROUND
19. VITAL PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE
20. YOU LIVE IN TARGET AREA

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Immortal Art of Fleshcraft

Fleshcraft makes Ogoath go 'round. To hear one of its practitioners speak of it, they are the sole force between the blood-red lamplight of civilization and the total decay of the rotting turtle-corpse. Those who control the meat control the universe, and their powers tap in not to "magic" or whatever "divinity" survived the loss of the Old World and death of its gods, but into the base raw bleeding truth of reality. And while they aren't technically wrong, most fleshcrafters have (in addition to their power) taken on the egos of old-world wizards with none of the pretension of secrecy or solitude.
by Igor Vitkovskiy
If one would listen to the butchers speak of them, fleshcrafters have no respect for the world that's adopted them. They walk openly, twisting meat to their basest whims, capricious children who've stolen their parents' big fancy knives and are chopping up the walls to see the pretty patterns they can make. Their empire killed the world. Their domain is life-made-cancerous, mind without moral, craft without code.

I've given the Butchers their due. Their rivals now demand the podium.

Fleshcrafter

Paint with all the pleasures of the flesh.

Level 1: Fleshcrafting, 2 Techniques, 2 Forms, 1 Flesh Die
Level 2: +1 Technique, +1 Form, +1 FD, +1 HD
Level 3: +1 Technique, +1 Form, +1 FD, +1 HD
Level 4: +1 Technique, +1 Form, +1 FD, +1 HD

Hit Die: d4
Starting Equipment: Scalpel, bone saw (d6 damage and reveal an organ of choice), red leather robes, sheaf of skin-parchment with anatomical diagrams, a bone-vial of each Form you know
Skills (d6): 1. Etiquette, 2. Gardening, 3. Lore, 4. Sculpture, 5. Surgery, 6. Undertaking

Fleshcrafting: Combine a Technique you know and a Form you know to perform an action. Absorb Blood. Grow Bone. Speak to Emotion. Their effects are broad and often self-evident. Roll any number of your Flesh Dice (d6s) in the process. In addition to the damage dealt by the Law of Consumption (see below), they burn out on a 6. 1 can be restored by lunch; all can be restored after a daily rest. If you roll doubles, a Mishap occurs. On triples, gain a Doom.

There's some limitations of what you can do with these. Any numerical effect (damage, duration in minutes or hours, bonus, penalty, etc) can't be greater than either (dice) or (sum); which is the limit is up to the GM. I recommend looking at the Mimics & Miscreants spell list for equivalent effects.

All fleshcrafting follows Three Laws. These laws are well-founded, well-tested, and seem inherent to the Art.

The Law of Consumption. Action requires calories. Greater changes, such as those wrought by magic, require more. Your body will devour itself in your quest for power. Whenever you fleshcraft, you take (dice) damage.

The Law of Contact. Fleshcraft requires touch between the crafter and the form. It is an Art of the body, and so the body is central to its workings. The closer the flesh one wants to shape to their point of contact, the easier it is to shape. Forms separated by a membranous barrier like skin, or like the lining of an organ (if you wish to only affect the material inside) roll your Flesh Dice with disadvantage.

The Law of Continuity. Forms remain the form they are. One cannot transmute blood to bone, or acid to eyes, or skin to cancer, (et cetera), through fleshcraft. That is the provence of mundane biology and naught else.

You may violate one law, and suffer a Mishap.
You may violate two laws, and suffer a Doom.
You may violate all three laws, and be consumed by the Art.


 
Techniques
1. Absorb
2. Animate
3. Bind
4. Burn
5. Command
6. Consume
7. Divide
8. Dowse
9. Engrave
10. Extract
11. Grow
12. Hide
13. Inflict
14. Mutate
15. Restore
16. Shrivel
17. Smooth
18. Speak To
19. Ward
20. Weave

Forms
1. Acid
2. Bile
3. Blood
4. Bone
5. Brain
6. Cancer
7. Emotion
8. Eyes
9. Face
10. Guts
11. Hair
12. Heart
13. Limb
14. Meat
15. Nails
16. Nerves
17. Pain
18. Rot
19. Sense
20. Skin

Fleshcrafting Mishaps
1-2. Decay. Halve a random physical ability score for the rest of the day.
3-4. Mutation. Gain a random negative mutation for the rest of the day. At the end of the day, roll a d6. On a 1, it is permanent.
5-6. Independence. The Form you wanted to manipulate? It decides its had enough of you, and a (dice) HP chunk of it removes itself from you to become an independent being.

Fleshcrafting Dooms
First Doom: Lose a Form. This inexplicably does not kill you, but it will do everything else that losing it would. Losing a seemingly negative form still has negative effects - losing Rot would prevent your cells from dying (commensurately, losing Cancer prevents cell growth).
Second Doom: Lose another Form.
Final Doom: Your individuality sloughs off as you merge with all flesh and organic matter around you. You are not "dead" in a technical sense, but you have become part of something so much greater that you cannot continue play as a player character.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Black Markets

 

When I'm making a random generator, I've always been inspired by Joseph Manola of Against the Wicked City's essay on conceptual density - namely, that each entry has to be better than what I could come up with on the fly. Combining a few thought-provoking prompts is easier on the spot than thinking those prompts up, too. So welcome to a bazaar of bazaars, an emporium of emporiums, a selection of stalls and shopfronts that'll keep your party in business for as long as they're willing to pay...

There's pretty much one archetypical black market for fantasy settings. You've got your shadowy figure hawking illegal wares in a seedy part of town, then break out your list of cursed and rare items. It's all well and good, but not particularly memorable. I like to differentiate my entries by making them recognizably conceptually similar to the archetype, but one or two steps away from what the generic version is. A little more specificity, connecting up a concept that the players wouldn't immediately expect, think out the implications of the existence of a place like this or why it'd sell what it sells. All this requires brainpower I'd want to devote elsewhere at the table, but it makes a fantastic set of generators!




Venue
1. A bar in the seedy part of town. During deals and liasons in dark backrooms you can sneak even further back, into the shop proper. They only admit those intoxicated enough to ensure a purchase.
2. A contraption that displays wares behind a pane of glass and dispenses them when currency is inserted into a small slot on the side. Proprietor tinkers with the machine.
3. A narrow labyrinth of winding alleys leads inevitably to a barred, metal door. A Judas window in the door reveals only the proprietor's eyes. Leaving requires a map that only the proprietor sells.
4. A perfectly ordinary-seeming cheesemonger. Many cheeses are code for a particular black-market service or item, and those in-the-know will order those cheeses for delivery at their place of residence, where the Cheesemonger will personally deliver the item in question.
5. A secret door in the wall of another black market opens into their real moneymaking business. Or is it?
6. Abandoned manor is actually cover for emporium chock-full of surplus banned products hidden under furniture covers and layers of dust.
7. An abandoned storeroom in the lord's castle. Access to the market requires getting into the castle first.
8. An upscale hotel. Calls for a certain order of room service result in a particular individual arriving with an array of wares concealed beneath platter-lids and wrapped in napkins.
9. Beneath a cemetery's mausoleum. Any remains within have been disinterred, and the coffins filled with merchandise.
10. During a particular hour each week, a particular sewer tunnel flushes. It smells not of bile and ichor but of raspberries and thyme. In that hour, the merchant sets up their stall and their wares, and dismantles it all at the end.
11. In the city guards' barracks. It's how they supplement the pittance they get from the city's lords. All items guaranteed confiscated from the "real" criminals.
12. Loud and upfront, with no facade of legitimacy. They're close with exactly the right people in government, and often you'll find said people partaking of their wares.
13. Mineshafts beneath the city drop deep into the earth. They converge on a surprisingly well-lit and comfortable row of townhouses transposed into the rock. One is the market you seek.
14. No venue. Proprietor wears extra layers of coats even in the hottest weather, beneath which lie a staggering amount of product. Accosts adventurers back from their latest looting spree.
15. On the rooftop of a complex of buildings, with no sightlines to the ground. Accessible via service entrance to roof.
16. Street food stall sells new items daily, cleverly hidden beneath the countertop.
17. The back room of a publishing house. Their newspapers and pamphlets detail, in code, the day's stock.
18. The city's public forum hides an open secret. Deliberations are often cover for exchanges of illegal goods, while philosophers ranting at the sky slip in covert ads for their wares. Pledging your support will garner their interest, and an argument of moral principle becomes a coded haggling venture.
19. Wine cellar of a reputable winery does double-business selling illegal goods. Don't tap the oldest casks.
20. Zoo of ill and struggling repute uses animals as cover for the loud sounds and smells of their real business.

Proprietor
1. Cheery, heavily-scarred elf. Doesn't seem to realize illegality of or potential harm caused by products. Willing stooge? False persona?
2. Collective of street urchins. Vicious with both insults and shivs. Brook no quarrel or complaint.
3. Decrepit, but wears the attire of a king. Looks strikingly similar to the royal family. Speaks imperiously, but in whispers, as if being surveilled.
4. Devil, aristocratic, stinking of sulfur. All items come with lengthy fine print, merchant indemnity in case of misuse, and no warranty whatsoever.
5. Elaborately masked being with no exposed skin. Changes mask based on emotion they wish to display. Poetic.
6. Ex-adventurer, took over business from previous owner by force. Not exactly sure how the whole running-a-shop thing works, but knows the ins and outs of the products and the job.
7. Excitable apprentice mage, selling something that they stumbled upon in their research. Definitely way out of their comfort zone.
8. Family, parents and grandparents and children all staffing their business, teaching the next generation their hereditary trade. Rightfully proud, even of the grimmest crafts.
9. Frail, elderly human hunched over an elaborate contraption. They won't look up from their work, and respond with only the barest necessities.
10. Grizzled ex-mercenary. Personally vouches for the efficacy of everything in the store and has a tale of how each saved their life in the field.
11. Immaculate human, speaks like an upscale tailor. Willing to go to great lengths for their regular clientele (or those who may become regulars).
12. Large, boisterous orc in an elegant robe. Mercilessly critiques patrons' taste, but gives legitimately good advice.
13. Middle-manager type from the local mob. Missing a variety of fingers and facial features. Never stops grinning.
14. No proprietor at all. Items are carefully, meticulously labeled and laid out. If you remove one from the premises, the price is deducted in full.
15. Rat king. Served by a swarm of hundreds more chittering rats. Generous to those who respect the city's true, hidden ways.
16. Set of mechanical automatons acting eerily in sync. Will speak with many mouths. Who made them?
17. Shambling corpse. Communicates with a series of index cards laid out in boxes, or by pointing to signs laid out around the shop.
18. Shirtless, tattooed mystic reading from a set of ironbound tomes. Speaks in platitude, metaphor, and verse.
19. Spindly, nosy human with no sense of personal space. Very interested in the party's personal lives, and their exact intents for the items they purchase. They're a big fan.
20. Wizard, selling their failed experiments and outdated products of star-maddened genius. Insists you take some more with you. To test.

Products
1. Absolute tat, guaranteed to come in handy at least once so long as you carry it around religiously.
2. Angry, mutated spells heaving at the bindings of their spellbooks.
3. Blessings of forgotten and murdered gods.
4. Corpses and corpse accessories
5. Dirty deeds (done dirt cheap!)
6. Drugs, potions, alchemical reagents
7. Fine clothing and armors suitable for any occasion - even (and especially) the untoward
8. Incredibly cursed magic items. The curses are a selling point.
9. Magical creatures in small, easily-carried, soundproofed glass jars. A command word opens the lid and returns them to full size. The same word imprisons them again.
10. Maps and floor plans. Usually up-to-date, often of locations otherwise unknown.
11. Mercenaries
12. Mutations!
13. Other adventurers' contact information
14. Other peoples' fortunes - both the money kind and the future kind.
15. Outlandish, impractical, brutal weapons. As dangerous to their wielders as they are to their enemies - but also, very cheap!
16. Paraphenalia of mythical heroes, famous rulers, other notables. 3-in-6 chance any particular item is counterfeit.
17. Poisons, venoms, and flasks of plague. Each is the cure to another.
18. Spices, rare meats, wriggling things presumably for consumption
19. The last copies of lost books and records (all other copies have been destroyed, either before collection, or to ensure this is the last copy)
20. Thieves' tools and guards' timetables

Payments
1. A percentage of any loot gotten with the aid of the shop's merchandise
2. Art
3. Beating the owner in a riddle contest
4. Blackmail on yourself and others.
5. Blood. Lots of it. Cutting your hand won't do the trick here; you need to exsanguinate a whole horse to buy their cheapest items.
6. Captured magical creatures.
7. Confirmed bounties.
8. Contracts for future favors, callable at any time for any reason.
9. Converts to their religion
10. Credit, but they take your body parts as collateral.
11. Currency from a nation long fallen.
12. Exclusive rights to your life story.
13. Ghosts.
14. Good ideas.
15. Knowledge of secret places - or secret entrances to very well-known places.
16. Magic.
17. Raw metals - preferably adamantium, mithril, orichalcum, occultum, but raw gold ore may do in a pinch.
18. Whatever they sell, for far less than they sell it for.
19. Years off your lifespan (in multiples of 13)
20. Your skills and abilities

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