Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Through Rain or Sleet or Swarm of Bugs

Here's my take on weather for hexcrawls and other overland exploration! I haven't published my proper exploration rules yet, but these are intended to be easily modular so you don't need any in particular. Snap off a chunk, drizzle it over your game like fudge over ice cream or blood over the last unspoiled acre of no-man's-land.

Weather comes in five degrees: Clear, Ominous, Dangerous, Storm, and Disastrous. Build a bespoke d12 or d20 table for your region's weather; sample tables are provided at the end of the document.
The weather builds every day, then breaks in a storm. Roll a d6 at the start of a day exploring (or whatever die the table says to start with), then whenever a result says step up, roll a die of the next highest size (to d8, then d10, then d12, and finally a d20). Not every day should have bad weather! Players should be able to just deal with the random encounters and normal stressors of the journey most days.

The first few results should be Clear to give your players a reprieve; Ominous weather only forecasts dangers to come, Dangerous forces players to make choices between pushing on through danger,  exhausting themselves, or finding shelter. Storms cut those decisions down to shelter or danger; exhaustion happens regardless. Disasters are acts of god, altering the terrain and the weather itself, and are as unstoppable as... well, a natural disaster.
Don't show players the weather table you've cooked up for the region. Let them wonder, extrapolate the dangers from the ominous weather, or ask the locals about what they have to deal with.
Storms might kick in part-way through the day, not immediately. Stuff should be happening during storms, too - random encounters, visiting settlements, the whole rest of the adventure. Bad weather is no fun if everyone's just trudging their way through mud and ash the whole time. When you're building the region's weather table, pick multiple storm types! Storms on rolls of 10-12 will show up before the dread d20. Put weirder ones on the d20, more mundane on the d12.
All turns referred to are exploration turns. You get 6 a day in Sawn-Off (fewer, when exhausted), so each is approximately 4 hours by default.

Building shelter takes an exploration turn, during which you're exposed to the elements. That, of course, assumes you can make shelter from what you have on hand.

Bad weather is exhausting. Exhaustion, in Sawn-Off, reduces the number of exploration turns you get each day (each level of exhaustion is 1 fewer turn). It just takes longer when you're struggling through soggy food, dripping buckets of sweat, wading through fields of mud, or being eaten alive by swarms of gnats. For other systems, exhaustion could reduce max health, limit access to abilities, slow movement speed, give disadvantage on rolls, limit healing, or more. Recovering from exhaustion takes a warm bed, fresh food, and a day of uninterrupted rest and relaxation - the everyday creature comforts you're used to when you aren't trudging through endless drifts of blood and ash.
Fungal Jungle Weather
1. Clear.
2. Clear.
3. Clear.
4. Foggy.
5. Buzzing, step up
6. Rain, step up
7. Heatwave.
8. Flooding, step up
9. Rain.
10. Thunderstorm, step up
11. Bugstorm.
12. Thunderstorm, reset
13. Pollenstorm.
14. Hallucination Fog.
15. Thunderstorm.
16. Thunderstorm.
17. Pollenstorm, reset
18. Hallucination Fog, reset
19. Bugstorm, reset
20. Hurricane.
Shifting Desert Weather
Starts at d4.
1. Clear.
2. Clear.
3. Melting.
4. Melting, step.
5. Rumbling.
6. Heatwave, step.
7. Melting.
8. Sandstorm, step.
9. Windstorm, step.
10. Sandstorm, step.
11. Solid Lightning, reset.
12. Spellstorm (Fireball), reset.

Entrenched Battlefield Weather
Starts at d4.
1. Clear.
2. Dusty.
3. Foggy.
4. Smog, step.
5. Rumbling.
6. Smog, step.
7. Buzzing.
8. Artillery Barrage (as Micrometeor Storm), step.
9. Bloodstorm, step.
10. Dimensional Rifts (Ground, enemy army's mages), step.
11. Bloodstorm, reset.
12. Spellstorm (any combat spell), reset.
Wizard's Wasteland Weather
 Starts at d6.
1. Clear.
2. Clear.
3. Clear.
4. Winds
5. Gleaming, step up
6. Dry Lightning, step up
7. Buzzing
8. Gales, step up
9. Smog
10. Gravity Flux, step up
11. Windstorm
12. Spellbirth, reset
13. Bloodstorm
14. Solid Lightning
15. Worms
16. Dimensional Rifts (sky)
17. Spellstorm (Raise Dead), reset
18. Spellstorm (Cloudkill), reset
19. Cityfication, reset
20. Judgment
Generate Your Own

Pick temperature and features however you'd like to flavor the region. This doesn't impair the party in any way.

This doesn't do anything directly to the party, but forecasts further dangers.
1. Buzzing. It's omnipresent; the grinding hum of something just beyond your sight. Forecasts swarms, or psionic catastrophe, or mechanical contraptions, or lightning crackling in the stratosphere.
2. Cloudy. Forecasts storms of all kinds. The color may give hints to the storms' nature - greyscale for rain or snow, red for blood, black for ash, octarine for spells.
3. Dusty. The grit works its way into your mouth, your nose, your eyes, your pockets. Forecasts sandstorms, ashfall, gale winds.
4. Foggy. You can't see the landmarks, just the road beneath your feet and your companions at your side. Forecasts rainstorms, pollen storms, hallucinatory fog.
5. Freezing. It's really cold out. Forecasts blizzards, hailstorms, solid lightning.
6. Gleaming. The stars twinkle even through the bright day sky. Their light glitters off metal and scatters shadows like shards of glass. Forecasts meteors, or temporal/dimensional shenanigans.
7. Melting. It's really hot out. Forecasts heat waves, ashstorms, spellstorms.
8. Winds. Hold onto your hats. Forecasts gales, vaccuum, sky-rifts.

Each turn the party is exposed, they choose whether to collectively take a level of exhaustion or each save vs. effect. Saves are Constitution unless players have a good reason to save otherwise. Effects last until the weather ends.
1. Dry Lightning. Each turn, if you don't take a level of exhaustion, choose to either ground yourself and take 1 damage or roll 1d20 and get hit by lightning (4d6 damage) from a rainless sky on a 1.
2. Flooding. Exhaustion is mandatory through waterlogged terrain. Lowland will be impassable or underwater. Swim!
3. Gales. Save or d4 light items that aren't tied down blown away.
4. Hail. Save or take d4 damage.
5. Heatwave. Save or take d4 damage. Counts as 2 inventory slots.
6. Rain. Save or become waterlogged. On fail, water in your clothes and shoes and bag takes up 2 inventory slots until you get dry.
7. Rumbling. Move at half speed. If you want to move at full speed, save or fall - movement canceled.
8. Sand. Save or blinded in sand for the turn. New save each turn.
9. Smog. Choked by thick pollutant smog. d4 damage, save for half.
10. Snow. Save or chilled. -2 max health (minimum 1) until you return to warmth.

Each turn the party is exposed, they collectively take a level of exhaustion and each individually save vs. effect.
1. Ashstorm. Save or fall and be buried in flurries of ash; you'll have to be dug out.
2. Blizzard. Save or frostbitten (as Snow, but lasts after the blizzard ends, until you have warmth to heal in).
3. Bloodstorm. It's like someone murdered a cloud. Gashes in the sky spill salty crimson, slick and sticky and burning with the fire of life. Take double damage in a bloodstorm, but also heal twice as quickly. You can open your own veins and mingle your blood with the sky's; this will mutate you in accordance with the local ecosystem. Once for temporary, twice for permanent.
4. Bugstorm. Save or take d6 damage as they descend upon you. Can choose to fight them off if you fail the save - but you might take more damage engaging them than you would just running. Could be distracted with offerings of food... or corpses. They denude the hex of anything edible.
5. Cityfication. The land morphs and shifts; trees grow into buildings, hills hollow into halls, rocks grow together into cobblestone streets as nature shares in the light of the city. The fauna sell their wares at market; predators take up billy-clubs and stalk their prey through alleyways to accuse them of victimless crimes. Finding your way will be a challenge; you're trapped within this imitation city until either the storm ends or you barter your way out. Each turn, Wisdom save or accidentally violate some strange social custom.
6. Dimensional Rifts (Ground). Replace the random encounter table with a different one until the storm ends.
7. Dimensional Rifts (Sky). Random esoteric weather effect each turn.
8. Gravity Flux. The weight of the world pulls and tugs. Everything wobbles; pebbles float in air, birds fall from trees too heavy too fly. Save or be caught in a flux. Roll a d20: on a 1-10, you're carried 10*that many feet in the air until next turn. On an 11-20, you're flattened into the ground and must beat that result on a Strength test to move under your own power.
9. Hailstorm. Choose to either be chilled (as Snow) or take d4 damage. No save.
10. Hallucination Fog. Every time you roll on the random encounter table, you find 3 results. Only one is real; you'll have to figure out through trial and error. The GM has free reign to describe whatever to the party. Filtration gear or some kind of independent air supply will prevent this, but otherwise you get no save.
11. Micrometeor Storm. The heavens rain stone like water. Take d4 damage if you can't find something to ablate over your head (whatever you picked gets smashed to pieces).
12. Pollenstorm. Blustering, aching, itching, snotting plant-ejecta fills the air. Halve your maximum Health. Each time you pass the save, restore 1 to your maximum health. Once you've returned to your maximum health this way, you're immune to this region's pollen storms.
13. Rain of Crabs. They pinch! They crush! They follow with a horrific malice! The crabs will have your ankles and swarm in your wake. Save or 1 damage, but each time you pass a save, double the damage for next time. You may choose to fail saves.
14. Sandstorm. Each turn, choose to either be blinded or take 1d4 damage. No save.
15. Solid Lightning. Bolts crash down and cast neon illumination across the land - then hang like vast fractal glowsticks in the night. Destroys your shelter, if any. If unsheltered, save or solid lightning spears through you for 2d6 damage. It feels like a live wire, and removing it will deal d6 more if you don't neutralize it first somehow. They dissolve by the next day, or upon exposure to moonlight.
16. Spellbirth. Octarine light spills down from the opening mouths and eyes of spell-clouds. Save or a spell enters your brain; you can cast it if you have magic dice. It leaves once cast. If it sticks around for longer than the day, it'll try to leave - casting itself to deal maximum damage to whoever's brain it occupies. You can choose to fail this save.
17. Spellstorm. A spell's reached vast and worldshaping power. It rolls across the land, discharging at random, gleefully wreaking havoc. The GM rolls a random spell when the storm occurs. Save vs. getting hit by the spell. Starts at 1 die, each subsequent time it hits you it'll hit at 1 die greater than the last. Will also affect the environment.
18. Thunderstorm. Save or become waterlogged as Rain. On a 1, get hit by lightning (4d6 damage).
19. Windstorm. Your ears pop, there's a thunderous bang, the wind rushes at random. Save or choose from the following: deafened, lose an item at random, or thrown away from the party in a direction at random for d4 damage.
20. Worms. Spontaneous generation. Grubs pour from every crack in the earth, every knot in the trees, wriggle from every rotting carcass. They lightlessly seek meat to gestate in. Save or implanted with d20 grubs the size of grains of rice. They'll hatch if you don't dig them out. Can be distracted with corpses or other, larger, warmer creatures. You don't want to know what the grubs hatch into.

Something catastrophic. A day of horror, the aftereffects of which temporarily replace the weather with a new table.

The sky turns grey with soot and ash falls white as charcoal. It's like someone put a ceiling on the world. Bursting, burning rock falls for a day; as Ashstorm and Micrometeor Storm and Smog and Heatwave all at once for a day. Start new table at d4.
1. Micrometeor Storm.
2. Ashstorm.
3. Heatwave.
4. Smog. Step up.
5. Micrometeor Storm.
6. Ashstorm. Step up.
7. Smog.
8. Heatwave. Step up.
9. Smog.
10. Heatwave. Return to previous weather table.

The ground shakes, shatters, and splits. Save or fall into a chasm (you've got about one round to figure out reactions to grab anyone who falls); buildings must save or fall flat - crushing their occupants. Aftershocks rumble for days. Start new table at d4.
1. Dimensional Rift (Ground), underdark encounter table. Rumbling.
2. Worms. Rumbling.
3. Smog from a burning underground oil reservoir. Rumbling.
4. Dimensional Rift (Ground) underdark encounter table. Rumbling. Step up.
5. Rumbling.
6. Rumbling. Return to previous table.

It breaks against the shore, tearing trees to shreds, rubbling building, carving new shapes into the coastline. Boats smash miles inland. Rivers spill their banks, fish play in the ruins of cottages. When it makes landfall, Thunderstorm (but chance of lightning is doubled), Windstorm (but choose 2 effects instead of 1 on a failed save), Flooding. Further storm effects are as usual. Start table at d4.
1. Thunderstorm. Windstorm. Flooding.
2. Thunderstorm. Windstorm. Flooding.
3. Thunderstorm. Windstorm. Flooding.
4. Flooding. The eye of the storm. Step up.
5. Thunderstorm. Flooding.
6. Windstorm. Flooding. Step up.
7. Thunderstorm.
8. Windstorm. Return to previous table.

It cuts a swathe through the region, picking up things at random and depositing them elsewhere. The winds lash structures back to earth. The tornadoes start in a specific hex in the region and travel in a random direction each exploration turn (without returning to hexes they've already visited). In each hex, windstorm, buildings in its path must save or collapse. People save or get sucked up (as Gravity Flux, but 11-20 is yet further upwards, and on a 20 they end up... elsewhere). Start table at d4.
1. Rain of Crabs. Return to previous weather table.
2. Spellstorm. Return to previous weather table.
3. Bugstorm. Return to previous weather table.
4. Solid Lightning. Return to previous weather table.

Someone's fucked. Not the party, though, not just yet. An adjacent hex at random is flattened into powder. Trees fall, dust fills the sky, fires start from the heated ejecta that broke off as it entered the atmosphere. If there was anything in the hex, tough shit, it's a crater now. If it was underground, it might be around, just shattered. If it was aboveground, no chance. Start new table at d4.
1. Micrometeor Storm.
2. Gravity Flux.
3. Windstorm.
4. Choose one of: Dimensional Rifts (Ground, aliens); Cityfication; Solid Lightning; Bugstorm (alien bugs). Return to previous table.

The stars wink like eyes. At you. Thou hast sinned, and are found wanting. Each day for a week, one of the following occurs to whomever has committed that deadly sin. You could have prevented this by repenting. No longer. Everyone is overcome with an itemized list of their transgressions, and everything you do for this week of atonement will be judged in great detail. (Feel free to replace these with any set of 7 sins, themed to whichever powers the party may have annoyed. They're ironic punishments. This list is specifically sins against the great ghost-guild of adventurers who died within a session of their creation).
1. Cowardice; retreat in the face of certain death (especially if others face it in your stead). Frozen in place until the week ends, or until you fight off a random encounter on your own.
2. Greed; but only in the case of hoarding wealth or power from your comrades-in-arms. All your items weigh you down fourfold until the week ends.
3. Leaving Your Friends Behind; letting a comrade die. Yes, including hirelings. Self-sacrifice exempted. Until the end of the week, whenever one of your comrades takes damage, you take half in their stead.
4. Trust; relying on a comrade who let you down, or being failed in a predictable manner by those you really shouldn't have trusted. Until the end of the week, you can't communicate with others.
5. Martyrdom; sacrificing yourself for another. Until the end of the week, your touch drains life (as a melee attack, but heals you for the damage dealt).
6. Forethought; planning for the future beyond the next adventure. Lose one class level for each venture you've invested in until the week ends.
7. Provocation; creating a threat where none exists, turning potential allies into enemies instead. Until the end of the week, you can't deal more than 1 damage with your attacks.

Generic Weather Tables 
Starts at d6.
1. Clear.
2. Clear.
3. Clear.
4. Ominous
5. Ominous, step up
6. Dangerous, step up
7. Ominous
8. Dangerous, step up
9. Dangerous
10. Storm, step up
11. Storm
12. Storm, reset
13. Storm
14. Storm
15. Storm
16. Storm
17. Storm, reset
18. Storm, reset
19. Storm, reset
20. Disaster
Starts at d4.
1. Clear.
2. Clear.
3. Ominous.
4. Ominous, step.
5. Dangerous.
6. Dangerous, step.
7. Ominous.
8. Storm, step.
9. Storm, step.
10. Storm, step.
11. Storm, reset.
12. Storm, reset.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

SAWN-OFF: Prayer

The world is full of powers and entities, few of which fit the conventional mold of gods. Just as you can speak with anything if you know its language, so too can you bargain with them and ask things far more powerful than you for favors.

I based this on Arnold K.'s fantastic new rules for religion. He writes about how conventional models of religion in tabletop RPGs - limited to clerics and paladins, focused on a pantheon of gods who've divvied up the domains of the world between them - approach the subject backwards. I've taken a lot of the ideas within, and expanded them into a slightly larger set of abilities and powers that all characters can access.

Anyone can pray for aid, and any power may listen. To pray, name what you pray to, make all your preparations, then the GM secretly rolls a d100. If it’s equal to or below the % success chance, it succeeds. Augury and Blessings take a 10 minute turn each. Success chances start at 0%, and increase in a variety of ways.

Don’t bother a power by demanding the same thing over and over again. They’re capricious and petty, especially if they pretend not to be.

Augury. Ask a question. The power will show approval, disapproval, or a fell omen of disaster. Success gets a true answer, failure gets a random one. A priest may coax out more detailed answers or even portents.

Blessings and Curses.
The power will provide aid that’s within its purview (like getting a temporary background, temporarily learning a spell, or a free success on a specific type of roll), or hinder someone likewise. Blessings last until you displease the power or the end of the adventure; curses on your enemies last until they atone or the end of the adventure. If you’re working at cross purposes to the power you're petitioning, you’ll get cursed instead. Powers are smart; trying to game their intentions is like playing dice against the dice themselves.

Oath. Swear a binding oath enforced by the power. If swearing on a holy symbol, +50%. On a success, all who swear will be cursed if they break it. Your GM won't tell you if it's been successful. Why would you want to swear an oath? You wouldn't. You'd want others to swear oaths so you can trust their word, and you might swear one in return.

Calling and Binding. Every connection is a two-way street. While powers are far stronger than you, you can wield what little leverage you have to demand, instead of asking. This lets you get a piece of the power to do what you want it to do, pissing it off commensurately. Think of that piece as a demon, a spirit, a subprocess (to use crude computer analogies) that acts independently under both your command and in accordance with the power's personality, will, and aims.

Make a prayer roll to call such an entity. On a success, it comes. It'll do things for you until it gets bored, hurt, or the power needs it back. The more powerful it is, the more likely its services will be recalled swiftly. If your needs conflict with the power's, make a roll under the original calling roll to see who it'll listen to (success: you, failure: the power).

At any time, if you've called an entity, you may make another prayer roll to Bind it. On a success, your further rolls to call it are made at +50%. On a failure, it departs.

Minor, like a bird, a sword, a familiar. Base chance 0%. Calling takes hours, and it'll help you for a few days.
Major, like a person, a demon, an angel. Base chance -50%. Calling takes days, and it'll help you for a few hours.
Total. Bring the full nature of the thing into the world. Reality distorts around you in accordance with its will. Base chance -100%. Calling takes weeks, and it will perform one service for you.

If you know an entity's true name, the calling only takes the time it takes to say the name. This can still fail, and will annoy both it and its parent power: imagine someone shouting your name over and over again until you did them a favor, how would you like it? However, the true name will also let you win any conflicting interest rolls. The bill, of course, will one day come due.

Mortals don't have true names until they die, at which point their true name becomes the name(s) they knew themself most closely by. Calling ghosts is possible, though their parent power might not be at all what you expect.

Intervention. In direst straits, facing imminent death, you can pray for salvation. Divide all bonus %s by 10. You may make oaths of devotion or promises of future sacrifice in this moment to increase your chances. If you succeed on the intervention roll, you will be saved, and all oaths sworn in the frenzied pressure of the moment are binding.


If a priest performs the ritual, +10%. Might not literally be a priest, depending on the nature of the power; that's just shorthand for someone who's gone above and beyond in their service or worship of it. An incredibly rich man may count as a priest for the power of Profit; a berzerker in the midst of their blood-frenzy for War. A player character can become a priest by satisfying certain conditions set by the Power, which are not easy to revoke or take back.

If you’re devoted to the power, +10%. It takes successfully swearing an oath to devote yourself, and you can only be devoted to one power. Devoting yourself to another will get you cursed, or hunted, or worse (Powers are jealous, especially when they say they aren't).

Certain items like holy symbols may provide bonuses (usually +5-10%). Holy books, vestments, incenses, saints' knucklebones, etc.

At a holy site like a shrine, +10%. You can build one in an Explore turn unless the area is desecrated. Holy sites only count if they're dedicated to the power you're praying to.
At a temple or church, any gathering place for worship, +25%.
At a uniquely wondrous site, like Uluru or the Kaaba, +50%.

Make a sacrifice. If the power has reason to especially favor the specific sacrifice, double the bonus. Can’t make multiple sacrifices of the same level for the same prayer.
    Minor, like a bottle of good wine: +10%.
    Major, like a cow: +25%.
    Epic, like the leader of an enemy army: +50%.

Many Powers 

Some great posts follow, as well as my own d6 x d10 list of general Powers.

Social Powers
1. The Church
2. The State
3. The People
4. The Temple
5. Your Ancestors
6. A Holy Book
7. War
8. Profit
9. Art
10. Progress

Worldly Powers
1. Life
2. Death
3. Nature
4 The Sun
5. The Moon
6. The Land
7. The Sea
8. The Sky
9. A Dragon
10. A Plague

Elemental Powers
1. Fire
2. Water
3. Earth
4. Air
5. Lightning
6. Ice
7. Metal
8. Acid
9. Shadow
10. Radiation

Para-Elemental Powers
1. Ooze
2. Blood
3. Sound
4. Plant
5. Flesh
6. Paper
7. Space
8. Time
9. Void
10. Gravity

Otherworldly Powers
1. A Petty God
2. A Vengeful God
3. A Dead God
4.  A Pantheon
5. A Prophecy
6. Celestial Bureaucracy
7. Infernal Bureaucracy
8. A Faerie Court
9. A Legendary Hero
10. A Sorcerer-King

Outer Powers
1. Fate
2. Chaos
3. Order
4. Knowledge
5. Dreams
6. A Baleful Star
7. The Alien Invasion
8. The Future Machine
9. The City
10. Your Future Self

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