Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Few Quick Notes from the Wilderness

I've spent a great deal of time out in them there woods. You couldn't tell it from my physique, but backpacking/ minimalist camping* is one of my favorite avocations. I haven't made time for it in far too long.

Anyway, for those of you who're less outdoorsy, here a few things to keep in mind when playing or running a wilderness survival scenario.
  • Water is your Savior and your Killer
    • As Savior - So much of survival in the wilderness is centered of finding clean drinking water. Go for a couple days without it (or drink some disease-ridden swamp water), and you probably aren't walking out the wilderness alive. Also, if you stumble across a watercourse, follow it. It's very likely that water will eventually lead you to people.
    • As Killer - Getting wet outside can kill you. Even in 60-70°F weather, falling into a stream can result in hypothermia. There's a reason shelter is primary to human survival; we aren't really biologically suited to living in many of the environments we inhabit. (Even damp, wool will insulate you better most other fabrics. A wool wearing peasant will likely have a much easier time out in the elements than his noble counterpart, all bedraped in silk and linen. See Below.) 
  • You'll be looking Down and You won't be Running
    • Those used to sidewalks, lawns, parking lots, and well groomed park pathways may have hard time understanding how uneven the footing is out in the sticks. You've got to quite literally watch your step. Running across uneven ground is dangerous skill to master and a great way to break your ankle. An unsteady jog is about the best you manage without a undue amount of risk. 
      • All that watching your feet makes it easier for people to sneak up on ya, too.
  • You've gotta Dress for the Weather
    • Wear layers and wear enough of them. Death from exposure is a very real threat in the wilds.
    • See above notes about wool.
  • Where you Sleep is an Important Choice
    • That comfy looking, moss-covered depression is going to turn into a soaking wet hole when it rains. Enjoy your hypothermia.
    • If you sleep next to your food or food scraps, there's a chance a bear may pay you a less than friendly visit in the night.
I could waffle on, but I think that's a pretty good place to start.

But why the hell should I care about this shit in my game of fantastic fantasy?

Well leaving aside things like "character immersion" and "breaking suspension of disbelief", adding these kind of things to your campaign makes adventuring more dangerous (and therefore more adventuresome [and therefore more fun]). The untamed, trackless wilds are deadly enough, even without dragons and giants and manticores.

Besides, imagine a squinting, weather-beaten Ranger pointing out any of the above.

"Out here, water's yer lifeblood and yer killer, lass."

"Looks comfy, eh? You ain't gonna like it when it rains."

"Watch yer feet. If ya break yer leg, I'm a'leaving ya here."

"You gonna wish that silk were something homespun afore the days done, milady."

That alone should be enough incentive.

*Take only what you need. It amounts to less than you'd think, way less. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Superbly Strange Thing Floating in Space

A Fan-Made Mission Brief for Cosmic Patrol

The Setup
You've all pulled an easy assignment, for once. You’re on a long-haul, exploration mission to a seemingly empty section of space. The top brass science-types didn't want to send out such expensive instruments without a guard. So you’re gonna take a long nap in stasis, each of you will work a week-long guard detail to give Doc Headson a break, take yet another nap, and then collect your paycheck made fat with 4 months of Hazard Pay. Subjective time for you, 10 days. Cake-walk, right? Nothing’s ever that easy in the Patrol…

You all awaken to this message on the MedaPod ViewScreen (click to enlarge)

So now all systems are on absolute lockdown for 23 more hours, there’s a possible hull breach that can only be confirmed with actual eyes on scene, and the Doc’s gone missing.

Just another day on the job, it's time to earn that Hazard Pay.

>Stop the Leak near Airlock C
>Locate Doc Headson and Return Him to the Ship
>Hold it together until the Abeyance is Over
>Report In and Head Home

>Damn Lockdown >Strategic Abayence >Odd, Even for the Patrol >Space Mansion? >Ghosts?! >It’s Never Easy >What the Hell >Metatherions?

>Horror in Spaaaace >Haunted House >Hedgemaze >Creepy >Specters >Abduction >Mythos-ish >Unsettling >Scary Gentlemen

The Setting 
This is what appears to be a Victorian era Townhouse floating in space. Because being in the Patrol isn't weird enough, right? It’s got it’s own atmosphere and Earth-norm gravity. The ship seems to have crashed into the Townhouse’s rocky hedgemaze. Airlock B stands wide open, leading into this surreal nightmare.

Scene 1 - All crewmembers are accounted for except Doc Headson. The possible breach near Airlock C must be investigated and stopped. To add to the fun, because of the Abeyance all equipment lockers are autolocked. The viewing ports display an unreal vista, an old-fashioned townhouse floating amongst the stars?! A bloody trail leads from the Command Deck, out through an open airlock, and into a creepy Hedgemaze... 

Scene 2 - The Hedgemaze is infested with an unbelievable mix of foes: Uth, Killbots, Mindplants, and more…  And they seem to be incorporeal! (Use stats out of the book minus the armor pips, and they can only be harmed only by Rayguns or other energy attacks [fire, electricity, etc.].)

Scene 3 - The Townhouse proper is protected by Zombie Butlers (use stats for Space Pirate Minion, always attack last using weapons of opportunity, bite can transfer zombie disease)and illusions of a multitude of horrors. In a second story bedroom there resides a tentacled Monstrosity dressed as a proper Victorian Gentleman. What’s left of Doc Headson lies on a gurney. The Monstrosity fancies himself a collector of sorts. The crew has to defeat the monstrosity, save the Doc if possible, and get back to the ship alive!

Good Luck, Patrolmen!

This made possible by this license. More Cosmic goodies available here. Cosmic Patrol and some other things (Uth, Metatherion, etc.) in this post are totally ©Catalyst Game Labs. You should probably just go ahead and spend $5 on the Corebook PDF. It is beyond worthwhile.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Everyone's Favorite Class

An experimental, untested class for your favorite retroclone.

Above Awesomesauce by William Blake

The Bard

Examples: Skalds, Troubadours, Warrior-Poets, Master Manipulators, Cult Leaders, Mountebanks, Wandering Minstrels, Con Artists, Savvy Politicians, Libertines, and Charming Rapscallions.

Requirements: Charisma 10, Wisdom 10

Who is this?
This is the person who knows that a well-placed smile or just the right words have far more power than a sword or a spell. He/she can pick up on very subtle social cues, and always seems to know the right things to say.

Bards are also typically performers of some kind: whether the formal recitation of epic poetry, erotic dance, historical lecture, proselytizing, playing an instrument, juggling, gossip, or anything in between.

Weapons and Armor Allowed - Any.
Advancement - As Thief.
Hit Dice - 1d6.
THAC0/BAB/Attacks - As Thief.
Saving Throw/s - As Cleric.
Alignment - Any.

Class Abilities :
Level 1 - Preposterously Charming - Bards have a permanent +2 on all Reaction Rolls (in addition to whatever bonus his/her Charisma may provide).
Level 2 - Inspire - Once per day per level, Bards can provide a +(½ of Bard's Level rounded down)* to a single action attempted by a companion. For every +1 (or +5%) given the Bard must spend 1 minute boosting the confidence of his/her companion. This can take the form a few words and a pat on the back, a brief recounting of a cultural hero's accomplishments, or a well chosen greeting card. The Bard can opt to give less than the full bonus as time-saving measure.
*For less granular systems like Lamentations of the Flame Princess's Specialist skills, have the character roll two dice and take the better of the two.
Level 3 - Mesmerizing Performance - Once per day, Bards can use a performance to achieve the equivalent of a Charm Person spell. Only a single sapient creature with at least neutral regards towards the performer can be affected. The affected need not understand the language of the performance (if any), unless language is somehow key to the performance. For instance, the movements of a dancer are obviously not language specific and even a poet could possibly rely on the rhythm and sound of his works to woo across languages; however, for a gossip or a lecturing professor, language would remain a barrier.

You probably don't want to play this class if...
  • your group never uses reaction rolls. 
  • even sapient monsters are always considered hostile.
  • you don't want to talk your way through the campaign world.

Are the Bard's abilities magic?
If your setting has that Tolkienian conceit that words and music are a type of magic, then sure it's probably magic. If not, then the character probably just has Jim Jones, Napoleon Bonaparte, Mae West, or Oprah Winfrey** levels of charisma/charm/social-acumen.

What about the Jack of All Trades character? 
Just play a LotFP Specialist.

What about Bardic Magic?
Just play an Elf who sings.

Questions, Comment, Vitriol, Dirty Jokes, and All Other Forms of Feedback are Welcome.


**Personally, I despise Oprah, but it is pretty obvious a fuck-ton of other people do not. Actually I had a bit of a hard time coming up with a good generic list of charismatic women. I can think of plenty of examples of individual females I find to be highly charismatic, but few of them are generally known. I don't expect many of you know who Poly Styrene was. Anyway, I really didn't expect trying to generate that short list of examples to become an object lesson of gender bias; possibly revealing some vestigial bit of my own gender bias. Interesting.***
*** YMMV.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rumors of Booze Giants

  1. They are foul and sweaty, like troll farts. (True)
  2. They use small hollowed-out mountains as brewery vats [ +Joachim Heise ] . (True-ish. The brutes periodically flood certain caverns with wort. The flora of the caves give their brews unique properties.) 
  3. A Giant's belch is like the roar of a lion. (True)
  4. The drunker the Giant becomes the bigger they get. It's said that if a Booze Giant were to ever sober up, they would be the size of a halfling. [ +Delos Adamski ] (Unknown. No one has ever seen a Booze Giant even approach sobriety.)
  5. They tend to alternate between extreme violence and loud, incoherent melancholy. (True.)
  6. Booze Giant shamans are master brewers, each one specializing in a different alcoholic intoxicant. [ +Michael Fuller ] (False. Despite many legends to the contrary, the potency and flavor of their brews are accident of cavern flora and stolen grains.)
  7. They bully smaller creatures into stealing rye from human fields so that they may brew their strange intoxicants. (True. However, they're willing to use any grains or fruits to cop a buzz.)
  8. Individually, Booze Giants are not terrible opponents in battle. They pack one hell of a wallop, but are slow and clumsy. (True. Though, they are absolute hell on fortified positions.) [ +J B Bell ]
  9. Booze Giants rarely parley and never barter. (False. If they are sad and find a sympathetic ear, they're far too willing to talk. Fun fact, they're close talkers. [ +Aaron Carlson ] Booze Giants are willing to trade away almost anything for stout Dwarven spirits.]
  10. Their eyes are rheumy and unfocused. (True. Not only are they naturally myopic, they're constantly cross-eyed drunk.)

Booze Giant Quick Stats
Size - 12' - 16' tall.
Hit Dice - 1d4+3 . 
THAC0 - 19. [Strikes as a Creature of 2 HD] 
AC - 7 [12]. 
# Attacks - 1 or 2 (Club or Fist/Fist or Fist/Stomp)
Range - Melee or 30-60-90 yards for club (see below).
Damage - 1d10+3 - Big-ass Club (always a wild swing or angry hurl). 
             or 1d6+3 - Fists (only throw haymakers).
             or 2d10 - Stomp (only prone/supine opponents, +2 to hit). 
             Successful Melee attacks knock Normal size opponents down on 1in6, Small on 2in6. 
Typically encountered in packs of 3d4. 

When encountering Booze Giants roll 1d6 : 
1-2 → Sad. 
3-4 → Sleeping. 
5-6 → Angry. 

My thanks to everyone who contributed, I've attempted to place your names close by your contributions.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Creepy Spell

Rough draft of a Wizard spell from an adventure I'm writing.

Bone Reaping
Level: 1
Type of Magic : Fleshcrafting, Necromancy, Alteration
Duration: Permanent.
Saving Throw: Negates.
Reversible: (Bone Sowing? Too much sex-pun.) Not Reversible.
Required Components : Moral Ambiguity, a Strong Stomach, and a Ritually Prepared Bone; See Below.

By means of weird and frightening magics, this spell removes all the calcified minerals from a single bone within a living creature's body. These minerals are summoned into a porous ball of bone-salts, appearing in the caster's left hand.

The creature takes minor damage (1d2 to 1d4), and he/she/it will be stunned for 3d6-HD rounds. The remaining gelatinous bone is unsuited for supporting any amount of weight. The process is extremely painful and may result in a permanent lack of mobility for the victim (if, for instance, a leg bone was reaped). The calcified minerals are summoned into a single porous ball of bone-salts, appearing in the caster's left hand.

To cast this spell, the wizard speaks the proper phrases while a ritually prepared bone of the same type* is held in the his/her right hand. (*Trying to harvest a human's finger bone? You'll need the same finger bone from another human, ritually prepared of course. Trying to harvest the anklebone of a booze-giant? You'll need an ankle bone from a booze-giant. )

The Ritual Preparation: A still living victim is secured to a meticulously cleaned stone altar. The desired bone is then slowly and carefully removed from the victim's flesh with a silver scalpel. All the while, the wizard chants certain mnemonic phrases, keeping in mind the proper arcane formulae. This takes approximately 1 hour for smaller bones (phalanx, carpus, etc.) and 4+ hours for large bones (tibia, femur, etc.).

An equal amount of time is then spent blackening and drying the bone over a brazier of low-burning flames. Into this brazier should be cast two patinaed copper coins while speaking Death's name.

All throughout the extraction and drying process, the victim must be kept alive. The victim may or may not be sedated depending on the sadistic bent of the wizard.

Finally, the blackened bone should be polished to darkly gleaming.

Notes about Adjudicating the Results: Simply imagine what would happen if the bone in question were suddenly made of jam. That happens: falling down, lots of screaming, dropping weapons, etc.
What about skulls? Skulls are actually multiple bones fused together, but... if the players can figure out how to remove a skull while keeping the victim alive, they totally deserve that win. (Also, they scary.)


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cronnon's Senate of Guilds

These are the Guilds that rule the city-state of Cronnon:

The Bound Brotherhood of Blacksmiths (a.k.a. Soot-eaters) - The Brotherhood lead a voting block of metalworking tradesmen (Redsmiths and Goldsmiths). Their higher officers receive more training in political chicanery than smithying; it's quipped, "Most soot-eaters are better hands with a gavel than a hammer."

Cronnon Company of the Red Metals - This is an association of redsmiths (workers of copper, brass, and bronze). Some few of the Company are skilled in the art of clockwork and capable of producing unusual mechanical devices.

The Good Guild of Goldsmiths (a.k.a. Misers) - The Guild, a desperate alliance of gem-cutters, jewelers, coin-minters, and goldsmiths, was formed just after the Downfall. In this era without luxury, they know that their most valuable asset is a vote on the Senate floor. In fact, the Misers are in secret talks with the Association and Free Fellowship to wrest power from the Brotherhood.

The Modest College of Tinkers - (Whats a Tinker? It's an itinerant tinsmith.) This loose collection of independent wanderers are represented by whomever happens to be in town and also willing to stomach the Senate's blatherings. Traditionally the Tinkers are opposed to whatever schemes the Soot-eaters are trying to pull.

Free Fellowship of Handicraftsmen (a.k.a. Mud-weavers) - The Fellowship is an odd assortment of weavers, seamstresses, chandlers, potters, and other skilled laborers unrepresented by the rest of the Senate. The Mud-weavers are the most internally divided of the guilds. There a so many factions working at cross-purposes within the organization, few outsiders stand a chance knowing how the Fellowship's vote will be cast.

The Undivided Society of Stonemasons (a.k.a. Block-Os) - Being the only folks capable of making lasting repairs to Cronnon's crumbling infrastructure has given the Block-Os undue political capital. They are not above leveraging their skills in obvious or even public acts of extortion.

Sturdy Lodge of Woodwrights- The Lodge is a friendly order of carpenters, loggers, wainwrights, and wood carvers. Most in the lodge display a genuine sense of fraternity for their fellows, in sharp contrast to the other Senate guilds. As fellow travelers in the wild, there are often strong connections between the Lodge's loggers and the Tinkers.

Association of Brewers, Cooks, and Bakers (a.k.a. Cookies) - Though both teamsters and farmers are officially unrepresented in the Senate, these folks have a staunch ally in the Association. In fact, there is some talk of the Association using their strong ties with the teamsters as leverage against the other guilds.

Fraternal Order of Barber-Surgeons and Apothecaries - The Order dedicates itself to guarding the secrets of the healing craft. Most of the Order are aloof, arrogant, and though necessary are not well-liked. Rumors have it that the Order has a great deal of knowledge in the ways of poisons as well.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Tale of Two [Random Results]

What's that Transportation Animal? ← Click to Find Out!
What's the Bard Singing? ← Click to Find Out!

Made Possible By...

Note that you can close the dialogue box and click again for a new result.