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 pass√© 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.