Saturday, August 23, 2014

Three Paragraphs about Dwarves

Introductory explication: This doesn’t count as one of the paragraphs. Dwarves in the setting I’m working on, and should be running in tomorrow, are basically vikings. In fact, they are literally vikings. They are vikings who issue forth from their Nordic mountain fortresses, take to the sea, and plunder worthless humans settlements. Of course it’s like 1750 so their chain and axes are passé and somewhat outmoded, but dwarves don’t quit. A dwarf can take a musket ball to the guts and just keep churning through, axe still reaping blood. So when five or six longships show up, folks are scared shitless, even while hiding behind cannons and guns. There’s no way to tell if the dwarves come to slaughter and loot or have come to trade. That is until somebody winds up dead, or silver changes hands. Dwarvish steel is the highest possible quality and extremely valuable.

(Dwarves are mechanically unchanged from the LotFP standard.)

Dwarves are stolid. A dwarf cannot lie. Dwarves are physically incapable of it. Should a dwarf break a promise, he/she will slowly wither into nothingness. They are good to the very letter and spirit of their word, which is why they rarely promise anything (and try not to speak unless necessary). Dwarves, unsurprisingly, have a very demanding sense of honor. It is very easy to insult a them, and death is the only possible repayment. If your grandfather accidentally insulted a dwarf, you must die. Insults are, evidently, hereditary in dwarvish culture. (Some scholars believe these inherited slights are the motivation behind dwarvish attacks.)

Dwarves are grim. Dwarves do not laugh. Certain blasphemous legends claim that Loki once tricked Odin into fucking a pile of stones. Dwarves have maintained their mother’s sense of humor. If you see a dwarf laughing, he/she is an outcast from dwarvish society. (In fact if you see a dwarf alone, more than a few hundred yards from a longship, he or she is almost certainly an outcast.)

Outcasts don’t really seem to recall their former home and family. Their past is a half-remembered fever-dream of purpose and contentment. The only piece of their previous life an outcast can distinctly remember is the Great Shame which caused his/her exile. So, while outcasts are the only dwarves that can laugh, they rarely do. (Besides which, everyone hates them. Almost every person has lost some friend, relative, or storied ancestor in a dwarvish attack. Being a dwarf is kind of like having a visible swastika tattoo and visiting a holocaust museum.) However, the outcasts are rarely melancholy or emo at all because dwarves are refusal. Dwarves do not quit. Not ‘til they’re dead.

(All PC dwarves  are outcasts.)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

How do you take your tea?

The goblins of Feywode, that dangerous fairy-tale other-place which borders some few worlds, are of course personifications of petty human emotions.

But what then of the Goblin Farm, and do you drink the tea?

The goblins at the Farm are helpful, friendly, and kind. Sure they smile their crooked smiles, showing their crooked teeth, but there is genuine glee in their shining eyes. They are truly pleased to have you as a guest.

But do you drink the tea?

So far as the sages know, this is only place in the Feywode where the opium-smoke tendrils of Narcosa do reach. Nevertheless, the Goblin Farm appears to be quite wholesome and pastoral.

Sure the goblins grow some hemp, but they’ll offer you the finest rope you’ve ever seen and refuse even a half-penny in payment. If you do show some interest they’ll gladly give to you of their finely carven pipes, as well. Oh those are certainly poppy fields, but don’t they just glow so red, in the morning sun? However, have you a game knee then shall their apothecaries give to you finely incensed tinctures of the poppy’s dew.

Ah, and their great brews: those fields are barley and rye, and there, just past them to the south, yes just there, are those not the finest sun-soaked vineyards your eyes have ever seen? Their beer is blessed good, hearty and light, sweet and sound. Their wine would make the sourest sommelier weep so sweetly. And that whiskey? It tastes of summer days, smoky evenings, and oak shaded back lanes. Try them all, they won’t insist, the goblins just smile and bring you all the more.

But do you try their tea?

They’ll feed you full of barley stew and melons overripe. They’ve such cheeses as to please any and all types.

But would you take some tea?

And did you see, that mirrored pond? It is where the blessed lotos grows. Some fine plum-blushed mornings, I’ve seen them there, goblins you see. They dig amongst the lotos roots in some strange, old-fashioned goblin revelry.

As you see, ‘tis such a grand place, and I shall never wont to leave.

Oh but won’t you try some tea. Can’t you see their sacred motions, portioned so carefully? How they start to offer, but shake their heads so nobly?

They want to share, but can’t be rude and are so afraid you might refuse, oh won’t you take some tea?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Staff of the Flesh Smith

An ancient wizard, well versed in the transmogrifies of living flesh, forged this staff as his penultimate achievement. It was a powerful tool, aiding in his mad quest to fold back the bounds of nature.

The staff itself is a strange combination of blackened bone, bronze, and lizard flesh. At its top, a large uncut ruby is embedded into the head of a fire-blackened thighbone. The bone is sunk into a long twisted haft of smoothly polished bronze. Towards the staff’s bottom, the dead metal slowly fades into living, scaled flesh ending in a razor-tipped claw. (Can be used a spear or staff). Any spell-casting class may use the Staff of the Flesh Smith (Clerics, Magic-users, Druids, Necromancers, Gnomes, or Whatevers [Though Druids and Lawful characters will feel a strong aversion to the staff]). 

The staff radiates powerful magic, to the point that even non-spellcasters can sense it. Those with the staff in their possession are subject to strange dreams each night. 

Roll 1d6:
1-2 - Dream of old bones, moldering under leaf litter on a forest floor. Every time a character has this dream, he or she will become more certain of where these bones are located. The compulsion to visit them will grow.*
3-4 - Dream of an old man dying in a strange tumult of arousal and fear.
5 - Dream the Whispered Command Word to [Roll Again: 1-5 Embed; 6 Transpose Flesh]. 
6 - Dream the Whispered Command Word to Mold Flesh.


If a character in possession of the staff becomes greatly angered by a living being (regardless of possessor’s class), the staff will Lacerate the subject of the possessor’s rage. When there is some confusion as to whether or not the possessor has lost his/her temper, the possessor may roll a d20. If the roll is under his/her Wisdom Score, the character maintains control of his/her temper. If not, the Laceration occurs.  

Lacerate (+1 Modifier) – Painful wounds suddenly burst open all over the victim’s body causing 2d6 damage. Additionally, the victim has a penalty of -1 on all actions until he/she has healed 1 hit-point. Save for ½ Damage. (This power also exists as a level 2 spell.)

Embed (+1 Modifier) – This power embeds a small item into the flesh of a living being. The item can only be removed by cutting it out or the use of Mold Flesh. If the item happens to be a wearable magical item (such as a ring or bracer), the subject does receive the benefit (or curse) of the item. (This power also exists as a very rare level 1 spell.)

Mold Flesh (+2 Modifier) – This power causes the flesh of its subject to become as malleable as soft clay in the hands of the caster for 1 turn. This can be used for the closure of wounds or more unusual or torturous effects. Unwilling victims can save at +2 to avoid this effect. If used to close-wounds/heal a victim, it can heal up to 4 hit-points worth of damage (up to 12 hit-points worth of damage if the caster has knowledge of anatomy). Regardless of the purpose to which the flesh molded, it is agonizingly painful experience. (This power also exists as an extremely rare level 2 spell.)

Transpose Flesh (+4 Modifier) – This extremely powerful effect causes the flesh (muscle, skin, claws, hair, horns,) of two beings to be swapped. Their skeleton and other internal organs remain in place and functional, but their outer layers of flesh will be permanently changed. (This power also exists as a level 5 spell. It is written in a single spell book, hidden away and lost. Though one could carefully study the staff to recreate this spell...)

Adjudicating Flesh Swaps – These effects are either gained or lost depending on how the swap works out for the victims. 
Scales or Thick Hide  + or - 2 AC
Strong/ Tough Flesh – + or - 2 to Strength and Constitution or Double/Half Damage and Hit Dice for Monsters.
Natural Attacks – One Victim may gain a natural attack of 1d3, 1d4, or 1d6 while the other victim potentially loses a natural attack (or now has a weaker attack). 
Additionally, there may be other consequences as dictated by the logic of situation and adjudicated by the Dungeon Master. (e.g., swapping the flesh of an octopus and a human may make the human unusually flexible and give him/her suction cup grips but require that his/her skin stays constantly moist. The octopus would probably die without its porous skin.) 

Example: Sir Havart’s flesh is swapped with that of the Black Dragon, Viscivialistross. Sir Havart now has supernaturally resilient flesh covered in glossy black scales (+2 to his AC, when unarmored and +2 to both his Strength and Constitution). Viscivialistross is now covered in tender, pinkish flesh (-2 to his AC, ½ Damage From Attacks, ½ Hit Dice); flesh that is so comparatively soft, it is beginning to split under his great weight.
All subjects of this spell (even willing subjects) must roll a Saving Throw. If either of the two creatures successfully Save, both suffer the effects of the Laceration Power at full (12) damage. Each subject will also be stunned for 1 round.

Charges - The Staff of the Flesh Smith doesn’t contain a certain number of charges; rather it works according to forgotten magical cycles, tied to the phases of the moons and stars. After every use of a Power, intentional or not, roll 2d6+ Modifiers. These modifiers are cumulative (so using Mold Flesh after twice using Lacerate means rolling 2d6 + 4). Any roll over 15 results in the staff being rendered   useless until the next full moon. The cumulative modifiers reset each day at midnight.

*If a character does find these specially enchanted bones** (those of the Staff’s creator), the Staff will attempt to Transpose Flesh. If the possessor fails his/her saving throw, the flesh will be ripped from his/her bones, and Andron Comutus the Flesh Smith will rise again!

**Andron Comutus actually carved both the subtle seeking spell and flesh stealing spell into his still-living bones while making use of the “Mold Flesh” spell. He was not a man to trifle with…

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Demonic Rituals and Your Average Joe

Last time, I wrote about trashing the cleric class, giving that spell list to magic users, and adding in some mechanics for mystic rituals. If you haven't read that article, please do. This post won't make much sense otherwise.

Anyway, a really obvious question comes up, what if just-some-guy performs a ritual?

Well, just-some-guy has to make a Saving Throw vs Spell with a -1 per-spell-level penalty. He is, however, entitled to a bonus based on his ability score modifiers for Charisma, Intelligence, and Wisdom (these could of course be another penalty). Failure results in something like a permanent, irreversible Charm Person being laid upon the would-be Sorcerer. He/she would always view everything about the deity/entity/spirit in the best possible light. (This is where incongruously enthusiastic Slime God cultists come from.) Failure for spells of Level 3-4, results in a Geas (GM's choice as to what it's about) and a Charm Person being brought down on the guy/gal. Failure on spells of fifth or higher levels, result in complete removal of the unfortunate would-be Sorcerer's mind; he/she is now simply a meat-puppet controlled by the entity. Rolling a 1 on any of these Saving Throw checks, results mind-shattering insanity.

Magic Users don't have to make this check for spell rituals of a level they can cast, because their rudimentary training is sufficient to shield their brains from alien influence. (Drawing forth the strange energies of the Feywode seriously rattles the old brain-box.) If, however, a Magic User is attempting a spell ritual at a level he/she is unable to normally cast, the Saving Throw check applies.

And now I have contrived a mechanical reason for weird, slavish cultists following the inscrutable demands of alien entities. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

No More Clerics

I do not like clerics. They don't fit their supposed niche as holy warriors. They're just sort of half-assed spell casters who only use blunt weapons for… reasons. They aren’t anything like St. George, a Knight Templar, nor Sir Gawain. Paladins actually fill that role and do it well while looking the part.

I did/do like specialty priests in 2e. In fact when I ran 2e, I only allowed specialty priests. If you wanted to worship a god for magics, you should look like you worshiped that god, instead of say, looking like a dude/dudette with a mace who said “Thor” instead of “Zues” or “Jesus” or “Whateverius”. So while I've been busy house-ruling LotFP, I've decided to drop clerics entirely.

Yet, there is a long tradition of gods, demons, and godlings granting folk magical power via ritual in history, myth, and literature.

So I gave all the cleric spells to magic users, with some caveats. 

To be able to cast any particular spell from the cleric list, a wizard must seek out forgotten demonic grimoires or lost holy texts. Therein, he/she will learn the sacred/blasphemous rites with which to entice power from some particular demon/godling/angel/saint/whatever. (None of these powers will have a monopoly on any particular spell so a character can seek out a different source if a ritual happens to be too repugnant. [Unless, of course, you want a particular power to have that monopoly on a spell for some reason.] These spells are castable daily, in addition to the character's normal magic user spell slots. One cleric spell cannot be traded for another

Here is a short ritual generator, to give you an idea of what sort of rituals I was thinking of…

Just roll three d4s, one d6, and interpretate.  

Click to Enlarge
How often does a caster have to deal with this nonsense?

Level One – Once, perform the appropriate ritual but once.
Level Two – You’re going to need to ritually appease the god-thing annually.
Level Three – Commence with the rituals upon the equinoxes and solstices. (It’s like a quarterly report.) 
Level Four – You gonna need to do that there ritual on the equinoxes and solstices; additionally the spell will require an expensive and/or difficult to acquire material component. The material component is not consumed upon casting. (Examples of material components, statuette of the god from an ancient temple, one pound of discarded hawk feathers, a liar’s pinky finger, ashes from a hero’s funeral pyre, a big-ass ruby, space honey, etc.)
Level Five – Upon the equinoxes and solstices do yer ritual; additionally the spell will require an expensive and/or difficult to acquire material component. The material component is consumed upon casting.
Level Six – The would-be caster must first build a shrine to the god/whatever and perform the appropriate ritual there each month.
Level Seven – The would-be caster must first build a public temple to the god/whatever and perform the sacred ritual there each week.

Alternatively, the caster could convert X number of heathens or corrupt X souls to obtain his/her holy/unholy spells.

X defined by Spell Level
Level One – 2 Souls; Level Two – 4 Souls; Level Three – 8 Souls; Level Four – 16 Souls; Level Five – 32 Souls; Level Six – 64 Souls; Level Seven – 128 Souls.

If a magic user wishes, he/she can give up 2 of his/her 3 starting magic user spells to be able cast a randomly determined Cleric Spell. It will be assumed that he/she already sacrificed enough souls or completed the appropriate ritual or whatever. (This will of course give the character two spells to cast daily at level one but with fewer options.)

Those who master both ritual and academic magics are known amongst the initiated as Wizards. Those who seek the indirect path to mystical strength and rely on fickle entities for power are commonly termed Sorcerers, Witches, or Warlocks. Finally, those who abstain from entanglements of forgotten godlings and other petty spirits term themselves Mage or Magi. (Common folk, of course, simply call them all scary as fuck and burn such folk at the stake [if the common folk think they can get away with it].)

Alright, so if clerical magic comes from demons or angels or whatever, where does the other kind of magic come from?

Do you just want me to design your whole setting too?

Anyway, it comes from the Feywode, Álfheimr, the Land of the Hidden Folk. This is a twisted, dreamscape that mirrors and intersects with the mundane world but is inhabited by fairies, angels, demons, and other weirder things. It’s also full to the brim with “Creation” or “Chaos” or “Terrible Radiation” depending on your perspective.

Academic magic teaches specific, repeatable mental and physical practices which breach this other world and draw off some of its power. This power is then carefully directed by the magic user to accomplish a specific task. 

Every time a magic user learns a new spell from the magic user list, he/she must make a saving throw vs. spell with a penalty equal to the spell level. (At the DM's discretion, wisdom, intelligence, and/or charisma modifiers may be applied to this roll.) If he/she fails this saving throw, roll on your favorite horrible mutations chart. If you are a dick, you can make starting characters roll saving throws for their beginning spells too…

(For my home campaigns, I allow/force magic users to spontaneously learn a single spell when they obtain access to a new spell level. This happens overnight, and the character may sacrifice a night of sleep to feverishly record the spell into his/her spell book. Of course, he/she may instead immediately cast the spell to divulge his/herself of its influence [and therefore not have to chance a roll on the mutations chart].)

And that’s what I’ve decided to do with Clerics and to Magic Users.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess & the LotFP abbreviation are totally © James Edward Raggi IV.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Gnomes: Driven, Sexless, Clever Gnomes

Elves embody passion, liminality, and violent natural forces.

Dwarves are built of dedication, intractability, and stolid grim refusal.*

And, Halflings personify serendipity, curiosity, and grinning pastoral acceptance.*

Gnomes, then, represent drive, ingenuity, and independent creative invention.
Perhaps Slightly Less Cartoonish

Gnome, a new class for LotFP.

Gnomes, so far as anyone can tell, spring fully formed into the world.  Gnomes have no real conception of their beginnings. They exist. There are new things to be learned, problems resolved, progress to be made. The past is useful because of lessons learned, but nostalgia is without purpose.

Most scholars suppose that gnomes are formed from the dreams and desires of men leeching into the Feywode. Other scholars believe that gnomes are born from the despair of great men who failed to accomplish great ends. Some scholars are clearly frustrated poets. It is likely best that they only haunt us with their mediocre scholarship and not their abysmal poesy.

Gnomes, though actually being sexless, appear to be very short men or women, on average slightly taller than most halflings. Silver, white, or gray hair and prodigious noses (whether hooked or bulbous, gnome noses are large) round out their defining physical features. Otherwise, they can have any features that men have. Gnomes typically live for 100-200 years unless slain.

At the center of every gnome’s being is the desire to practice some particular manner of art or craft, his/her Drive. Be this craft mechanical, scholarly, or artisanal in nature, the gnome is compelled to perfect his/her Drive. Most gnomes are well received by human communities excepting those tradesmen with which they compete for business. Adventuring gnomes simply have a Drive that requires travel or field testing. For instance, a knife maker may need firsthand knowledge to perfect the smithing of fighting blades, or an apothecary gnome may need to visit odd places to gather new knowledge and specimens of diverse flora. (Having traveling companions insane enough to try experimental blends of medicinal herbs would be a boon to the apothecary gnome as well.)

Game Stuff:
Gnomes have the saving throws and hit dice of a Cleric. Like halflings, gnomes can’t use large weapons and must use medium weapons with both hands. Gnomes are exceptionally gifted at identifying the form and function of mechanical contraptions. Therefore, they begin play with a 3/6 in Tinkering. This rises to 4/6 at level 4, 5/6 at level 7, and 6/6 at level 10. Gnomes also have 5/6 skill in their Drive (which becomes 6/6 at level 10). Finally, gnomes may cast a single spell per day from the Gnomish Spell List so long as they are unencumbered.

Gnomish Spell List:
Illusion (New Spell, See Below)
Light (Many gnomes instinctually cast Light as they continue working late into the night.)
Fairy Fire (The outlining hyper-light of Fairy Fire is often used by non-adventuring gnomes to detect flaws in workmanship and materials not quite visible to the naked eye).

Level: 1
Type of Magic: Gnomish
Duration: Special
Range: 30’ Radius centered on Caster
Saving Throw: Save (-1 for each sense engaged) to realize it’s a phony or just disbelieve.
Required Components : Complete Concentration.

By means of this spell a gnome may create an illusion of anything he/she desires. This illusion may be composed of elements interacting with the following senses:

1. Sight
2. Sound
3. Hearing
4. Smell
5. Light Tactile Sensations
6. Mild Temperature Differences; Warmth/Cool
7. Very Minor Pain/Discomfort

The caster can create an illusion with a number of sensations equal to his/her level.

The illusion lasts so long as the gnome maintains complete concentration. He/she may speak in short, simple sentences but may not move at more than a snail’s pace. There is one exception; a gnome may perform work related to his/her Drive while maintaining an illusion. In fact, many gnomes do this spontaneously while working. This allows them to plan out complicated procedures as they’re performing them.

Tactile sensations are a definite weakness of illusions.


I've also got an alt-history/fantasy early colonial Americas setting bouncing around in the back of my mind. The weird elves, gnomes, halflings, and dwarves would be in it.

*Rules As Written. These Dwarves are gonna be hard-ass vikings, I think...

Lamentations of the Flame Princess & the LotFP abbreviation are totally © James Edward Raggi IV.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Definitely Not Award Winning Magical Item

One of my entries for the OSR Superstar Contest:

The Eggs of Creation / Seeds of the Enemy

“The Scrolls of Light speak of these cursed things. The Seeds were the Old Enemy’s greatest weapon. It forged them in the Gray Ages when the forces of Chaos controlled much of the world. These fell Seeds blossom into bloody change, perpetuating disorder…”

“The Eggs, the Eggs, they are stark hard beauty. Inside is a small piece of Creation itself. Breaking them releases Creation to crash again against the Stagnation of the ordered gods. The Eggs are wishes fulfilled. They are the hope of forward motion. They are ruthless, random elegance…”

The Eggs of Creation, also known as Seeds of the Enemy, are found in clutches of 3 or 5.

These small, pearlescent, slightly flattened ovoids seem unassuming enough. They certainly appear to be valuable, but this belies the stunning power held within them. The only clue to an Egg’s unusual nature is that sunlight reflects black on a Seed’s surface. They radiate no magic.

The powers of Law fear the change, violence, and disharmony the Seeds represent.

The powers of Chaos see the Eggs as sacred reminders of the inconstancy of existence.

The Eggs/Seeds cannot be broken by accident. They are harder than adamant until a being intends to break one. With that intention in place, however, the Eggs/Seeds are as fragile as thin crystal.
When one is broken, a single Boon may be asked. This Boon must be spoken aloud in a single non-compound sentence (no conjunctions, semicolons, etc.). Anything may be requested, similar to an Unlimited Wish. When an Egg/Seed is broken, roll 1d6.

1. The Boon Happens as Desired with Mild Repercussions. Something odd but ultimately inconsequential on a large scale happens: E.g., everything within a 1d100 mile radius is now blue [or red or green or yellow]; or perhaps the requester is now part flower (but which part?).

2. The Boon Happens but Reality is Altered - One randomly determined sentient species no longer exists. Those present at the breaking of the Egg/Seed and the gods are the only beings that remember this species. For all others, this race simply never existed. Some gods may be particularly unhappy with this result. Those present at the breaking of the Egg/Seed are not affected. (Alternatively, if this option is rolled more than once, a whole new species may be suddenly born into existence.)

3. The Boon Happens but Reality is Altered - All the gods have their alignment and temperament flipped, but keep their portfolios. (Chaotic to Lawful, Lawful to Chaotic, Neutral to Chaotic or Lawful [choose whichever is most interesting or flip a coin]) Example: Suddenly there is an orderly and benign god of murder and an insanely violent god of justice. Everyone remembers the way things used to be, except for the gods. Angry confusion ensues.

4. The Boon Happens but Reality is Altered - Everyone/thing within 1d100 miles of the requesting character has their biological sex flipped. Non-sexually-dimorphic creatures now have sexes. The requesting character is now biologically nonsexed. Everyone remembers the way things were and few are happy with their new equipment.

5. The Boon Happens but Reality is Altered - Magic is fundamentally different now. Was magic exceedingly rare? Now it is very common. Was magic a gift of the gods? Now it is an innate part of sentient beings and a blasphemous affront to the faithful. As an example: All Clerics now cast Wizard Spells and Wizards now cast Cleric Spells. This is the way it has always been. Spell-casters present at the breaking of the Egg/Seed are unaffected, and only those present remember the way things were.

6. The Boon Happens but Reality is Altered - Nocturnal Creatures all become Diurnal; Diurnal Creatures all become Nocturnal. Eyesight for the creatures changes as appropriate. This is the way it has always been. Only those present at the breaking of the Egg/Seed remember things differently and remain unaffected.

Eggs/Seeds from the same clutch CANNOT undo what is wrought by another Egg/Seed. Those from another clutch may be used to undo both the Boon and Repercussions of an Egg/Seed (but not the Boon or the Repercussions alone).

Ancient verses speak of several clutches hidden throughout the wide breadth of the world. The forces of Law strive to have the Seeds remain forgotten and lost in their dark, forgotten corners. Creatures of Chaos seek to bring the eggs forth again, shining black in the bitter daylight.

Once a Repercussion has occurred, the GM may wish replace that entry in the chart with some other consequence.

You may recognise a version of that chart from another article. If you do then you are paying far more attention than I suspected.