Thursday, November 23, 2017

Modded Maze Rats

I've been out of DMing for several months now, but had some bored friends on Monday and it was decided to do some dungeon crawling. I've had the framework of a custom ruleset building itself in my head for almost a year and felt ready to do some playtesting, so I bolted the important bits onto a Maze Rats chassis and rolled out with the Tomb of the Serpent Kings. Play reports will be progressively added below the rules (more for my reference than for general enjoyment, haha).

Rules as Maze Rats, except:

Dice, Skills:
  • Uses a different dice mechanic that I'm testing for a future system. Stat value, from 1-5, dictates base number of dice a player rolls for actions using that stats, looking for dice to come up as "successes." (Most tasks require 1 success, but some tasks require more, and extra successes may boost the speed, safety, or efficacy of the task.) Characters usually roll with 2-in-6 for success (a result of "1" or "2" counts that die as a success), while proficiency raises this to 3-in-6 and mastery to 4-in-6. Bonus or penalty dice may apply, but rarely more than +/-1.
    • No attack value; roll with stats. (Many characters will end up proficient in some kind of weapon.) Number of successes (hereafter: #s) are compared with monsters' dodge scores (usually 0-2) to calculate a hit. Damage is:
      • 1 damage for unarmed attacks
      • #s for improvised weapons
      • #s+1 for light weapons and ranged weapons
      • #s+2 for heavy (two-handed) weapons
  • Health equals Str+Lvl
  • No Attack stat (see above)
Hazard Die:
  • When in dungeon:
    1. Light depletion (torches burn out, lanterns use one out of six portions of oil)
    2. Hunger (characters must eat a ration or gain a point of exhaustion; a great opportunity for a one-hour rest, below under Rest and Recovery)
    3. Thirst (characters must drink water - a waterskin holds three uses - or suffer as Hunger)
    4. Mishap (save or break a fragile item, suffer a fall, make a loud noise, or there is a disadvantageous environmental change like flooding or quakes)
    5. Trace (signs of an encounter that could be pursued or avoided; the next roll of 6, below, will reveal this monster unless measures are taken)
    6. Encounter (roll off your favorite encounter or wandering monster table!)
  • When in wilderness:
    1. Weather change (bad weather may cause poor visibility, food spoilage, exhaustion...)
    2. Hunger (as above)
    3. Thirst (as above)
    4. Mishap (save or become lost, suffer a fall, lose an item...)
    5. Trace (as above)
    6. Encounter (as above)
  • When in town:
    • No hazards, at least for the current campaign. Waterskins replenish, and lifestyle costs may need to be paid (see below, under Rest and Recovery).
  • Combat and dungeon hazards often incur harm:
    • Each point of Exhaustion incurs a one-die penalty for all physical checks. If built up to a character's Strength value, that character will gain a (possibly) permanent physical disease or disability (asthma, fever, cancer...) when they next sleep.
    • Each point of Stress incurs a one-die penalty for all mental checks. If built up to a character's Will value, that character will gain a (possibly) permanent mental disease or disability (depression, paranoia, psychosis...) when they next sleep.
    • Wounds occur when a character has taken total damage exceeding half their health; a random body part (1d6: 1-head, 2-chest, 3-L-arm, 4-R-arm, 5-L-leg, 6-R-leg) becomes wounded, incurring a one-die penalty for all actions using that body part.
    • Body parts become crippled when a character is reduced to 0hp, or takes damage while at 0hp. That body part becomes unusable; depending on the nature of the damage, a crippling wound to the head or chest will often result in death.
Rest and Recovery
  • A one-hour rest (a break), with food and water, removes one point each of exhaustion and stress per character. (Roll a hazard die if this rest was not prompted by hunger or thirst on the hazard die, above). 
  • A ten-hour rest (making camp), with food and water, removes one point each of exhaustion, stress, and damage per character. The party must make camp each two wilderness turns or fifty dungeon turns (or combination thereof) or suffer a point of exhaustion and stress. The party may not make camp more frequently than one wilderness turn or twenty-five dungeon turns.
  • A full day of rest in town removes all exhaustion, stress, and damage, and costs one silver per character.
  • A full week of rest in town removes all of the above and heals one wound, costing ten silver per character.
  • A full month of rest in town, with skilled medical care, heals a crippled body part (though usually a permanent loss of one point of an appropriate stat occurs), and costs one hundred silver (doctors are expensive!). Non-crippled characters merely pay ten silver per week, and can usually find a job to offset such expenses.
  • Silver standard!
  • Prices:
    • 1sp for simple items and most bundled consumables on the Maze Rats item list (rations x3, waterskin, torch x3, bedroll...)
    • 3sp for most other non-combat items (bear trap, lantern, shovel...)
    • 5sp for shields
    • 10sp for most weapons
    • 20sp for light armor
    • 40sp for heavy armor
Character Creation:
  • Start at level 1.
  • Roll a profession (I used Ten Foot Polemic's 200-item list, but the Maze Rats table - item 8 on the Character Creation page - is just fine). Characters are proficient (see above, under Dice) with anything related to their profession.
  • Gain weapon and item as per the profession list above, then roll five more items off the Maze Rats equipment table.
    • Again, with default Maze Rats backgrounds, just roll six items instead.
  • Choose one of the following for combat gear:
    • A light weapon
    • A heavy weapon
    • A ranged weapon
    • Light armor
    • A shield
  • You have 3d6 silver. Spend on any further equipment (above).
  • Choose one extra thing you are proficient at (or, gain a spell slot).
  • Choose or roll for a cosmetic detail or two; default Maze Rats tables are fine.
  • Name your character. 
Levelling Up:
  • At the end of each session, each character may become proficient (see above, under Dice) at one thing they did that session, like using a certain weapon, sneaking, lifting... or may gain an extra spell slot.
  • One person is also chosen to level up their character. You can work out a fair method, but I use The Hat:
    • First session of a campaign: place each player's name in a hat.
    • End of each session:
      1. Check if any new players have joined the campaign since the hat was filled. If so, add their name(s) to the hat.
      2. Draw a name. If at the table, this person levels their character (below). If not at the table (skipped/missed this session/no longer playing), keep drawing. Do not replace drawn names.
      3. When the hat is empty, start again, as if it were the first session of the campaign.
    • Leveled characters gain one health (remember, health = Str+Lvl) and may choose to attempt to increase one stat by rolling a d6. If the result is above the value of the chosen stat, that stat increases by one point.

Session 1 - 11/20/17
Quillis, sinecure
Mestis, sinecure
Happenings (spoilers!):
Rolled up starting characters.
Little exposition: just plopped the players up an uninhabited vale several hours from town, told them their paperwork had turned up an ancient map, and that, as minor bureaucrats of the Church, the pagan tomb noted on the map needed to be verified so the map could be filed away if it was accurate.
Cracked the tomb, players slowly and cautiously explored the four coffin rooms, avoiding cracking the sarcophagi but triggering three hazard rolls (rainstorm threatening flash flooding into the now-open tomb, distraught moose outside and unable to enter due to antlers, and an agitated venomous snake washed into the tomb by the rain.
Open the coffins, didn't crack the clay shells until the sorcerer's coffin was opened and the cursed ring revealed. Quillis was very cautious and moved on, Mestis got greedy and pulled the ring off, getting a full dose of gas (incurring one point of damage and one point of exhaustion under my system).
Remaining clay shells cracked from a range with a hefty rock fragment, amulets looted.
Quillis' careful search for trapdoors revealed the hammer trap. Bar carefully removed without triggering trap, Mestis stood ready to trigger trap as Quillis opens the door.
Skeletons (awakened by earlier encounter roll) grab Quillis' wrist; Quillis sacrifices the amulet from his wrist to get free, then signals Mestis, who releases the hammer as Quillis throws the door wide. Three skellies wasted.
Bones sealed into coffin, hammer trap reset, with a tensioned rope across the doorway ready to trigger it (if escaping, the players reasoned, they could slide under the rope and cut it to waste whatever might pursue them).
Rainwater entering the tomb was discovered to drain under the snake-god statue. Party resolved to temporarily seal the tomb, return to town, inform the bishop that the tomb needed cleansing, and acquire more goods and equipment for a second venture to line their pockets with artifacts.
Snake ring "bit" Mestis the next morning. He persists in keeping it on.
Bishop didn't want to waste resources on a sealed tomb, but was persuaded after being given 5sp from "the sale of pagan grave goods." Authorized a return, next time [hopefully] with aid.
Quillis leveled up, now having five hitpoints (Str3+Lvl2) and proficiency in searching for things.
Maze Rats is a great chassis.
Limited backpack space is a bummer. (But a good rule.)
My first time using hazard dice went well.
Crowbars are great.
I'm used to 5E, where it's comparatively uncommon NOT to have darkvision. That is bad. Limited lighting and encumbrance is kind of a needed rule.
First time playing an actual module! (Because I wasn't planning on this session and needed something quick, haha.) Tomb of the Serpent Kings 3.0 has treated me well; I've been able to parse it quickly and effectively. The first level of the dungeon was a perfect size for one session, as advertised.
Players liked the consistent themes so far, and puzzling with the door hammer.

Session 2 - 11/23/17
Quillis, sinecure
Mestis, sinecure
Friga, weaver
Tubal-Cain, outlaw
Happenings (spoilers!):
The bishop, having pulled some strings to gain two extra helpers, sent the party back to the Tomb of the Serpent Kings. The short journey to the tomb was accomplished quickly and without incident ["traces" of moose rolled on the hazard die].
Carefully rolling the ominous snake-god statue aside, the party descended into the lower tomb and found a hallway with six serpent-man statues - one, misaligned. Taking note of this, the party discovered an octagonal atrium with six more doors and an open passage leading off, and bad oily water in a pool in the center.
Returning to the misaligned statue in the hallway, they discovered it to move aside and reveal a secret guardroom with a valuable silver icon [20sp] and two functional polearms.
These taken, the sinecures used their quasi-magical wax seals to ward the doors in the atrium, and explored the last passage, which led to a room of clay snake-men (with no loot within). The sound of smashing ceramic awakened two mummy fragments in the oily pool, who stirred and prepared to strike. The Friga and Tubal-Cain noticed this and struck preemptively with a polearm, only to be surprised when it returned from the pool with a hand gripping the polearm's head!
A quick quarrel from Mestis' crossbow sent it back to the pool, dead, while a second hand crawled forth and scratched ineffectually at Tubal-Cain's leather armor, who brutally smashed it with his shield and kicked the fragments back into the pool.
Reasoning that if there is a burial in the pool, there might be burial goods too, the party made use of a fishing net Friga luckily had to trawl the gross waters and pull up 1) a heavy golden chain [35sp], 2) an astrolabe [20sp], and 3) a insane and very angry mummy head making quite the racket. Tubal-Cain smashed it too, out of frustration [but the sealed doors all around prevented any wandering monster checks at the noise].
The party decided to explore the doors in clockwise fashion. Quillis and Mestis removed their seal on the first door to the left from the entrance hallway and slid the stone slab open. Unfortunately, thick dust had covered an electrum plate on the ground, and Quillis' tread triggered it, sending a powerful lightning bolt shooting down the cramped hallway! Quillis and Mestis both fared badly, but Mestis weaker constitution [3hp] failed him and his heart stopped [3 damage inflicted a crippling wound in the torso location as determined by a d6 roll]. The party, discouraged, assembled a quick net-and-polearm litter and bore Mestis out of the deadly tomb, resolving to return with reinforcements.
The bishop approved much of this plan, given the gift of the valuable silver icon from the hidden guardroom.
I feel a little unhappy with my ruling regarding the lightning trap. Electrum shines, and the party had light, but I reasoned the plate would be covered with dust as the rest of the dungeon and wouldn't be visible without a search (which wasn't attempted). Still, perhaps a will roll for the leader (Quillis) to spot the sparkle of danger would've been reasonable. I granted a dexterity roll upon stepping on the plate (to avoid putting full weight on it), but that was failed. Still debating, too, how to translate 4d6 lighting damage into modded Maze Rats - I just did 4 damage (with resistance rolls under strength to reduce it), but perhaps I should've done 2 damage and 2 stress, or 4 damage and 4 stress (which would've given Quillis a mental illness, while also killing Mestis!). I'll have to pay closer attention to translating the damage Tomb of the Serpent Kings dishes out to the very low health modded Maze Rats characters have, and taking opportunities to incorporate stress and exhaustion.
It was a very pleasant post-thanksgiving game. Quillis, Friga, and Tubal-Cain were all played by persons unfamiliar to D&D, and I very much appreciated the down-to-earth approach the immediately took when introduced to Maze Rats - playing it like life(-and-death), rather than a power fantasy (as I've seen too many people starting in late D&D editions to embrace).

Monday, November 20, 2017

Session Reports: Yea or Nay?

Just DM'd a (quick) session today. Probably one or two more over Thanksgiving as friends gather.

I ask you, Reader: are short session reports a good read, or a clutter in your feed?

(I find it to be the latter, but I know some people enjoy them and I'm writing them up anyway for recordkeeping purposes. Just asking if I should polish and post them.)

Please leave a quick comment if you've got an opinion!

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Living and Dead Lights

"The Astral Mystics have a story which I will tell you now. They say the Archons built the Sun and the Moon, the lights to circle our cosmos and give life to all growing things; a Greater Light for the day, and a Lesser Light for the night. But, when they built these lights, they put too much of themselves into their creation, which became like them and began to think and feel and desire. Seeing the other as their only peers in all the cosmos, it is natural that they began to love one another. Long did the Lesser Light strive to draw near to the Greater, but the Greater feared for the safety of the Lesser and kept distance. One day, the Sun gave in, moved to indiscretion by the Moon's steadfast devotion."

"On that day, the Moon perished. Now, it gives no light of its own, only a charred and burnt reflection. Now, too, its course is inconstant, with no will to guide and regulate it."

"The Sun, the Greater Light, still makes its steady course across the sky. One only wonders what it must think, having destroyed the only one it loves. So say the Mystics, at least."

"You wonder why I tell you this, Disciple. I tell you this tale of the Astral Mystics because, though they have wandered from the Light in many regards, they have grasped in this tale an important truth: intellect begets desire, and desire begets destruction."

"A firm grasp is attained by letting go."

- From The Fivefold Discipline of Aldonis of Evandra, "The Weaver of Five Strands"

This post is a reject from my music-inspired gaming challenge from last week - I came up with a fairly non-gameable idea but couldn't let it go. (It was inspired by "Timeless" by Textures - but if you listen, make sure to listen to the previous track in the album first - "Zman")

Sunday, November 12, 2017


"Some call it the Winter Isle, others the Dead Island. Most call it Thule."

From Insomnium
"It seems it was not always thus. Even after the Great Winters, there were Hardy Folk living on the island, who seem to have prospered in the warmer weather after the Great Winters and the Northcoming. But, it grew colder once more, and they burrowed deeper and deeper into the gnawing rock in search of the infernal heat that beats in our world's heart. Some thought it futile, knowing that very little food can be grown without sun. Some thought it suicidal, knowing that the deeper from the guarding lights of the sky one flees, the more the world itself twists around itself and becomes wrong in ways beyond our ken. Of these, only some survived their flight from the island and the delving of their people: Winter took many, and the Grinding Sea even more. They landed in the far north of our land and burned their ships, never to return to their former home. Since they settled in the vales of our land centuries ago, not a word has come from their kin they left behind."

"Bold tradesmen of the Inner Six, guided by lodestones, have ventured to find Thule in recent decades, building trading posts on its snowy shores. These settlements find their wealth not in furs or timber (for Thule is devoid of most life), but in "salvage." Every year, curious coins, artefacts, wondrous gemstones, devious weapons find their way into the ports of the Inner Six, though the trickle of treasure grows thinner and thinner and trading posts are lost quicker than they are established. Now, none but the boldest or most foolhardy of sailors venture to find the Winter Isle, even guided by lodestone in the height of summer. Yet, it is said the "salvaged" wealth of the Dead Island remains largely untouched."

- from the writings of Erbius the Loremaster, Magus of the Fifth Order

Get your d6 ready. We're going to Thule.

Who will take us to Thule? Roll two or three times, but no more. Not many ships attempt the journey.
1. He calls himself Griegis the Great. His sailors call him Greg Groglord. His cog's timbers seem soaked with the stuff.
2. Didn't really catch his name - accent is from a different continent. You think he has dark skin, but you can't tell under all those furs. His crew come from all parts, and seem to speak a bastard mix of seven languages with gusto.
3. Pelias, Magus of the Fifth Order. His academy is funding this expedition for research purposes. He is serving as captain, and though he's never sailed before, he's read plenty of books about it. How hard can it be?
4. Cruach. Dark hair, darker eyes. Is that hood made of human skin?
5. Meliss. Red leather gloves, fine figure but too much cheap makeup. She is secretly running away from a convent her family placed her in, and even stole the clipper she sails. Her sailors are also fellow runaway nuns.
6. A grizzled captain named Ysper. He has one eye and stinks of fish, but he and his crew bear weapons and mail that have seen battle.

What's the port we reach like? Roll two or three times.
1. Good docks, but they're locked in ice. You beach/cast anchor half a mile away.
2. The tavern's the only warm building in town. Tough to breathe with all the smoke, though.
3. Fine log buildings. Those few occupying them tell you that they tear three down each year for firewood.
4. Centered around a shrine to Winter. The icicles that hang off it are blood.
5. Five huts. Only three are occupied.
6. Clustered warily in the midst of sprawling ruins reaching to the sky and into the sea. You're afraid of getting lost just finding your way inland, and surprised your ship didn't run aground on the sunken buildings that make up the "harbor."

What are the rumors about places to find treasure? Roll two or three times.
1. "There's a massive gate set in the biggest mountain in that there range. No, no idea who could even open something that big."
2. "We've got a mine up in those hills. You want treasure? Get digging. I'll sell you this pick for half off."
3. "There's a dead city a couple day's slog north of here - no one's come back from setting foot in it, but imagine what treasures lie inside!"
4. "The coniferous forest west of here practically oozes valuable gums and resin when spring comes - but it's been years since a good thaw. And prospectors aren't the only things in those woods."
5. "Follow that stream for a couple days into a small valley - tombs are carved into its walls. Sure, most of the doors are woven with ancient magics, but that one expedition got filthy rich from cracking one! Pity about that shipwreck just within sight of shore - can't dive for the salvage in these waters, unless you want to end up an iceberg."
6. A wild-eyed woman tells you that the only treasure you'll find here is death.

What's the terrain we travel through? Roll as needed.
1. Glacier-ridden mountains. Rockslides and glacial rifts aplenty.
2. Fir forest. The only sound you hear is the occasional whump of snow falling from overladen branches.
3. It takes you hours to even realize you're walking on a frozen lake.
4. Bare grey granite. Some gravel sinks and rifts carved by frost action, but the horrendous winds keep even snow from gathering here.
5. Bog. Ancient muck beneath a thin crust of ice. Tread carefully.
6. Just snow as far as the eye can see - which isn't far, in this weather.

What's the Weather? AND What should be our soundtrack while travelling? (Or the GM's soundtrack while prepping?) Roll 3d6, or 1d20 if preferred, for weather. If using music, re-roll weather when the album ends. If not, merely re-roll as needed.
3. Steady sun. You feel warm for the first time since coming here. "Ótta" - Sólstafir (BandcampSpotifyYouTube)
4. Heavy clouds, light snow. "Echo" - Apocryphos, Kammarheit, Atrium Carceri (Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube)
5. Blizzard. "Exercises in Futility" - Mgła (Bandcamp, YouTube)
6. Blizzard, broken by periods of calm, drifting snow. "Winter's Gate" - Insomnium (Spotify, YouTube)
7. Bright sun, freezing air. "The Bones of a Dying World" - If These Trees Could Talk (Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube)
8. Heavily overcast. "Of Dawn and of Ice" - Kammarheit, Phelios (BandcampSpotify)
9. Bright sun, biting wind. "The Great Cold" - The Great Cold (Bandcamp [FREE DOWNLOAD])
10. Bright sun, drifting clouds. "Helluland" - Northumbria (BandcampSpotify, YouTube)
11. Slate-grey sky. "Markland" - Northumbria (BandcampSpotify, YouTube)
12. Steady snow. "The Illusion and the Twin" - Aythis (BandcampSpotify)
13. Slate-grey sky, steady winds. "Akrasia" - Sinke Dûs (BandcampSpotify, YouTube)
14. Heavy snow, no wind. "Stone Speak" - Apocryphos (BandcampSpotify, YouTube)
15. Light grey sky. "Black Soma" - 36 (BandcampSpotify, YouTube)
16. Steady sun, but still a chill in the air. "Earthshine" - Tides from Nebula (BandcampSpotifyYouTube)
17. Whipping snow. "Without" - Solip (Bandcamp [FREE DOWNLOAD]Spotify)
18. Heavy snow, biting wind. "Funeral in an Empty Room" - Blood Box (SpotifyYouTube)

You should be using rules for the toll freezing temperatures take on an adventurer in all weathers but the first.
Sun will hinder visibility in most areas (painfully bright reflections off snow and ice).
Overcast skies offer the best visibility.
Snow hinders visibility, obviously.
Winds make checks to resist cold more difficult.
Blizzards are death. You can't see (you will get lost if you move), and you'll freeze if you stay put without excellent shelter and fire.

What might we find while travelling?
1. Once a tree, now a carven totem. May bear a curse, or a blessing.
2. An ancient cairn. Is there treasure?
3. An adventurer. Frozen. Gear (and possible treasure) is intact.
4. Unexpected ruins. May be as small as a standing stone, or as large as a city.
5. Food (winter berries, game, etc.)
6. This frozen pool doesn't reflect back faces, but something else entirely...

Encounter checks shouldn't just be for monsters. Use this table, PLUS the monster and event table below and the weather table above, to manage encounters.

What monsters might we encounter?
1. A sasquatch/yeti/wampa. It watches, and flees if noticed, but next time this encounter is rolled, it will return with several others and attack in bad weather.
2. A tribe of orcs. Several bear ancient, strange weapons (see below).
3. Wolves. They are gaunt and starving, and will attack if their numbers are greater. If the battle goes badly, however, they will flee.
4. A group of 2d4 adventurers. If the party has treasure and is weakened, they will fall upon you. Otherwise, they will talk and give you false directions (4-in-6 chance of becoming lost if followed.)
5. A dream-shade.
6. A ghost of the whiteout.

What else might happen to us?
1. Equipment breakage!
2. Temperature drops dangerously low!
3. Trap! Placed by furriers, or by something more sinister?
4. Does dusk really come so soon?
5. Specific environmental hazard (avalanche in mountains, thin ice on lake/river/bog, whiteout or glare blindness on plains...)
6. Tracks/traces. Roll on the next table to see what made them - that creature will be the result of the next encounter check unless action is taken.

What treasure might we find at our destination, besides coin?
1. Art:
     1. Silver nose piercing, set with a diamond.
     2. Enamel triptych of an indistinct set of faces. Ancestor or deity?
     3. Circlet. May or may not constrict around the head of the wearer during sleep.
     4. Bejeweled belt. Eat four times as much, gain twice as much weight.
     5. Decorative mirror. You always look better in it than you do to the naked eye.
     6. Musical instrument made of a strange metal. It only plays five notes, but each note has a host of faint but manipulable harmonics.
2. Furniture:
     1. Couch, for reclining on one's side.
     2. Folding screen enameled with nudes.
     3. Throne. Good luck carrying that.
     4. Uncanny bust. Valid channel for speak with dead or the like.
     5. Exquisite sarcophagus. It is carved and enameled to look skeletal, but the body inside is perfectly preserved.
     6. Erotic statuary.
3. Stone tablets about...
     1. Fungal horticulture.
     2. Twelve kinds of ice.
     3. Coal inventory.
     4. A royal genealogy of millennia past.
     5. You don't know - you gain a mental illness before you can comprehend it.
     6. A random magic spell.
4. Toy...
     1. Sasquatch/yeti/wampa. Fuzzy.
     2. Waterworks. Water still flows up and down through this tiny model.
     3. Catapult. Intricate, functional.
     4. Gyroscope.
     5. Ship, made of iron, and without sails. (Floats in water.)
     6. Tin soldier. Bears a spear of three points, and wears a horrific mask.
5. Grave mask. They are said to bear powers:
     1. As charm or similar, 1x/day.
     2. +1 armor, and spell as shield or similar, 1x/day.
     3. Grants infravision/darkvision.
     4. As eyebite or similar, 1x/day.
     5. Lies ring hollow in the ears of the wearer.
     6. As wish or similar, once.
6. Ancient weapon:
     1. The names of each person killed appear in fine script on the blade. There are already 27.
     2. Cuts through stone just as well as through flesh.
     3. Always hot to the touch. Minor burn if you do more than brush it.
     4. Blade of +1, but lets loose piercing shrieks while in contact with another metal object.
     5. Cuts through wood effortlessly. Fell a tree with an idle swing.
     6. Drinks blood - no blood splatters when cutting or piercing. Very clean, and each blow that does damage grants +1 to the next attack made within a minute (stacks to a limit of +5, at which point the next blow does double damage and the count resets to +0).

For a week, I'm challenging myself to write SOMETHING gameable (monster, NPC, magic, location, item, etc.) each day. To make it interesting: it must be inspired by the first song that comes up on shuffle from my music library each morning. This is a (bonus?) 8th post, inspired by "Eos" by The Great Cold (Bandcamp [FREE DOWNLOAD]). I was able to make it significantly "bigger" than the rest. It wasn't a ton of work, but still, a couple (fun)  hours went into this. Let me know if something this size is worth reading - or, even, worth using!


(pronounced: Denialists)

These are sad people.

It began when they decided that the one great truth is that there isn't one.
It seemed true, at the time.

It worsened when they decided that they knew only one thing, and that one thing was that they knew nothing.
It seemed wise, at the time.

Now, they don't know if they know anything, and they don't know if they know that, or that they know that.

All they do is deny anything that is said.
This can be a very bad thing.
If you say you are friendly, you mean no harm, they will deny this, and attack you as if you were an enemy.
If you ask directions to a nearby location, they will tell you which way not to go. (This will, in fact, be the best way to get there.) Or, simply tell you that there is no such location.
If you say that you don't want to talk, they will deny this, and offer the cheerful balm of conversation. Ad nauseum.
If you say that you need to leave, they will deny this, and follow you. (They will not stop, until you state that they are following you or somesuch, at which point they will deny and leave.)

They are called the Denihilists - though they will deny this, too.

Use this instead of a monster encounter.
Put it on your encounter table.
Put them on some dank city streets, doing something totally worthless and very conspicuous.
Let me know how it goes, if you do.

For a week, I'm challenging myself to write SOMETHING gameable (monster, NPC, magic, location, item, etc.) each day. To make it interesting: it must be inspired by the first song that comes up on shuffle from my music library each morning. This is post 7, inspired by "No Paradise" by Solip (Bandcamp [FREE DOWNLOAD]Spotify).

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Emancipati

"If you live in any city of the Inner Six, you've heard of the Emancipati."

"Nominally heretic freedom-fighters, liberators of slaves and serfs, decapitators of nobility and clergy, most do not in fact aspire even to the dubious level of murderers with morals. What started as, perhaps, a vigilante movement with purpose and ethics (of a sort), has become an excuse for base and vulgar criminality of all stripes. Emancipati spicerunners, Emancipati assassins, Emancipati pimps."

"Still, if they find that popular tolerance or noble suppression of their activities grows, they are even now liable to leave a prominent lord's head in a cathedral and whisk said lord's serfs into (wretched, criminal) freedom."

By Piotr Jabłoński
"Individual Emancipati petty criminals are easy to catch, though they are legion. Disturbingly, higher-ranking Emancipati seem much more difficult to apprehend, reportedly exhibiting abilities abnormal to an unSchooled commoner - swimming through walls, dashing through midair, becoming invisible in broad daylight."

"Popular rumor links them to the Sand Baptizers, though, as a professional, I doubt this is more than ill-founded scapegoating."

- from the writings of Erbius the Lorekeeper, Magus of the Fifth Order

For player characters with a more criminal bent, it might be fun to introduce them to the Emancipati.
They claim to be about the elimination of oppression and the breaking down of barriers - and they're not entirely lying.
They also operate in nearly any criminal activity imaginable.
Plenty of gameplay opportunities here, with a moral dilemma or two thrown in for players who care about that kind of thing.
Furthermore, if a party is planning on starting a full-out revolution of any kind, the Emancipati are the first they'll have to get in touch with.

For a week, I'm challenging myself to write SOMETHING gameable (monster, NPC, magic, location, item, etc.) each day. To make it interesting: it must be inspired by the first song that comes up on shuffle from my music library each morning. This is post 6, inspired by "Emancipation - Mike Humphries Remix" by Ronny Vergara and Mike Humphries (SpotifyYouTube).

Friday, November 10, 2017

Ghosts of the Whiteout

When you become lost in the whiteout of a blizzard, when the road and the fields, the sky and the trees, the clouds and your breath all blend together, you may hear moaning and shrieking chilling to your already chilled eardrums.

It is not just the wind.

When a traveler dies in a blizzard, unable to find their way to their destination or to any kind of shelter, their ghost often remains, waking only in the direst of winter snows to seek their way home.

from Insomnium
Those who hear a ghost of the whiteout gain a hefty penalty to their resistance to the cold so long as they can hear the keening and wailing of the voice so much like the wind around them.

If one seeks the source of the voice, whether to rescue it or defend from it, the way becomes lost and cannot be found again until the ghost is encountered and exorcised. (It will follow, even if fled from, seeking a way home).

If one perseveres - bearing the biting cold - the ghost of the whiteout will follow, and the blizzard will continue, until civilization is found. Then, a wondrous thing happens: the blizzard dissipates, and the spirit finds rest, having finally found its way home.

For a week, I'm challenging myself to write SOMETHING gameable (monster, NPC, magic, location, item, etc.) each day. To make it interesting: it must be inspired by the first song that comes up on shuffle from my music library each morning. This is post 5, inspired by "Whiteout" by Hanging Garden (SpotifyYouTube).

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Fire-Gazers

"Truth is found in flame..."
- folk saying

"Though the Church's emphasis lies on Truth, and Order, and Memory, and Certainty, there is a place even for those without these. The Fire-Gazers, a Holy Order of the Church, are made up of those who, for one reason or another, devoted themselves to the discovery of what is finally True and Real. They may often be identified by the unique open-topped censers that they bear, and the many candles they carry with them and light in their places of duty."

"In censer-flame or candle-flame or pyre-flame those devoted as Fire-Gazers are said to see the indubitable truth of things beyond the flame: in judicial trials (the most common place to find a Fire-Gazer) they sit in the judge's throne and look through the fire of their censers to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused party. In reading-rooms they light candles to gaze through at the books they survey, to discover what truths lie in the text. At a pyre of execution, they confirm and pronounce the guilt and crimes of the offender."

by docolucci
"It is a dangerous Order. Many Fire-Gazers go mad over the years and decades of their service - perhaps there are truths that should not be seen. (It seems that many who join in the first place are also mad in one way or another - uncertain about what is real, or whether anything IS real. The promise of certainty the Order gives can be an irresistible draw to such an unstable mind.)"

"Each year, as Autumn becomes Winter, the Order holds a festival in which they honor the Everburning One who first brought Fire to us, and to the Burning Saint who emulated the Everburning Sun and in whose name the Order is founded. A Fire-Gazer of great determination and unrelenting fervor steps into a prepared pyre, as the Burning Saint had done, and, it is said, sees the Truth of All as their life burns away. The names and lives of each Burnt One are forgotten as their ash is scattered to the winds, but the Prophecies of Seeing each one makes with their dying breaths are carefully recorded and never revealed to one not devoted to the Order. Such prophecies are said to be of inconceivable value - insights into truths most persons can never see."

"It is said the first and greatest Prophecy of Seeing, that of the Burning
Saint, is still in the holding of the Fire-Gazers, unopened and unread; perhaps it will only be seen on the day our frail world sees its end. Perhaps the Prophecy itself will bring such an end - or hold the means of preventing it."

- from the writings of Erbius the Loremaster, Magus of the Fifth Order

Well, I guess like my last post this one's about another aspect of the Church of the Hundred Saints. And, again, the gameable aspect of it is a feature of characters devoted to the Saint / Order in question (I kind of wish it was something else, but hey, I come up with what I come up with). Namely, Fire-Gazers can see the capital-T Truth of things they see through fire. This is pretty open-ended - "truesight" is clearly implied, as well as the ability to tell truth from lie, but beyond this there are plenty of things that could qualify.
Feel free to include a saving throw or whatever each time a character uses this ability, as it is a risky endeavor that may result in the loss of wisdom or sanity or whatever your system uses.
Also, those Prophecies of Seeing could be super-useful to a party. What if the party were to hear rumors of a prophecy related to some piece of knowledge they were seeking... (or even that the First Prophecy is to be opened... or was stolen...)
Flavor-wise, a Fire-Gazer cleric is likely to be respected, feared, and bat-bait crazy in at least one way. They are often the judges, detectives, and prophets of the Church, a powerful and ancient Order.
Oh, and they like setting things on fire.

For a week, I'm challenging myself to write SOMETHING gameable (monster, NPC, magic, location, item, etc.) each day. To make it interesting: it must be inspired by the first song that comes up on shuffle from my music library each morning. This is post 4, inspired by "Man On Fire" by Bury Tomorrow (SpotifyYouTube).

This post is also kind of the seventh in my The Hundred Saints series.
Previous Saints:
Saint Bordoch the Hewer
The Three Sisters
Saint Oro-Bora One-Eye
Saint Grenna of Merthis
Saint Be'lak the Bard
Saint Cryndwr Firebeard of Wealdvale

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Saint Bordoch the Hewer

"Saint Bordoch the Hewer, Bordoch the Bull"

"Numaris had gathered all his chieftains together for the assault upon what was Ilos-Cirion and what became Numar, in the Great Winter when Numaris led all his warriors across the frozen Sea and seized the Lost Isle from the wood-devils. Many remained and settled around the shores of the Isle from whence Numaris began to rule, many more returned northwards to settle the lands they had ravaged the previous summer. Bordoch the Hewer, one of Numaris' most mighty lords, knew that their new lands would never be safe until the wood-devils had been completely pacified, and so he set out westward with warrior and woman alike to plumb the extent of the Inner Sea's shore and bring it all under his heel."

"All that summer, and all the next, they marched, turning the trail they hewed through the tangled wood into a road of beaten earth and wood-lined embankments suitable for the largest wains. Half the fighting men stood guard against the wood-devils with spear and shield, and the other half worked with axe and spade, but always with a sword at their belt. The Great Road of Innersey still remains as a lasting testament to their work - it runs from inner Knuthe all the way to Caerlûn, all but the eastern third being built upon the work of Saint Bordoch and his vassals."

By Dawg Gone

"Caerlûn itself was founded by the industrious Saint (though the eponymous walls of the City of Walls are much later work built upon earlier foundations) when he finally stopped and declared that the shores of the Sea were now clean, and that his new city would be the bastion that kept them so. And so, ever since, Caerlûn has stood against passage around the west of the Sea. Saint Bordoch guards us still."

"Unsurprisingly, Saint Bordoch is venerated with especial devotion in Caerlûn, being its founding Saint. He is often also invoked for protection, safety, and perseverance by explorers, builders, and even warriors. His auspices include the crossed axe and adze, the hewn log, the bull, and the flat-topped shield, which appears on the very flag of the City of Walls."

- From the Hagiograph of The Hundred by the Venerable Viebalde

Okay, but let's make this gameable (see below).

Clerics (and lay folk, I suppose, depending on the game rules) can venerate Saint Bordoch, with the same mechanical effects as worshiping a god. Minutia will depend on the game system being used (domains? moral prohibitions?), but I suggest that the most important thing is that a follower of Saint Bordoch gain xp for laying roads and walls, or paying for the creation of roads and walls.
If your system awards xp for killing monsters or acquiring gold, evaluate the amount of work a PC puts in and award an analogous amount of xp: putting in a path between two outbuildings on a manorial estate or building an embankment around a flower garden would be worth as much xp as a goblin, while building a road spanning a kingdom or a wall enveloping a city would be worth as much xp as a minor god.
If your system awards xp for spending gold, a PC would simply earn double for spending on roads and walls.
Flavor-wise, a cleric of Saint Bordoch would have no compunctions about violence, a desire to "civilize" wild areas, and a commitment to founding lasting infrastructural works to bring about order.

For a week, I'm challenging myself to write SOMETHING gameable (monster, NPC, magic, location, item, etc.) each day. To make it interesting: it must be inspired by the first song that comes up on shuffle from my music library each morning. This is post 3, inspired by "Pioneers" by Cyranoi (SpotifyYouTube).

This post is ALSO the sixth in my The Hundred Saints series.
Previous Saints:
The Three Sisters
Saint Oro-Bora One-Eye
Saint Grenna of Merthis
Saint Be'lak the Bard
Saint Cryndwr Firebeard of Wealdvale

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Leech

"The Leech can be found in Evandra, it is rumored - a chirurgeon of wondrous skill but dubious reputation. He - or she - may cure nearly any physical ailment, even replacing the loss of an organ or limb, but has but one grim price: once your death comes, your body is not to be preserved and buried (as is right and proper) but to become his (or her) own. Even those who ignore this price and seek burial do so in vain - the body disappears under mysterious circumstances, never again to be found."

"The Leech will see each patient only once; after treatment, there will be a recognizable mark upon the patient, and the Leech will recognize his or her handiwork without fail."

- from the writings of Erbius the Loremaster, Magus of the Fifth Order

"...apparently she had brained the thing with a heavy chamber pot from the loft. It left quite a mess, to be sure. I can't be certain, but it looks (and smells) like another of those stitched walkers from last month. I found several of those circular festering wounds; furthermore, the jaw mostly survived, and the lips were indeed sewn shut..."

"...I'm just wondering who makes the things. Obviously they're not stitching up their own mouths, eh?"

- Cramel of the Watch, to his superior officer

From SometimesAliceFX

Use the Leech in your games. If the PCs spend any amount of time in Evandra (or, rather, a city of your choice), they will hear rumors of the Leech and his/her remarkable medical ability. A useful resource for dangerous games where health and limb are at risk!

However, any character who finds the Leech and receives treatment will have a parasitic organism inserted near their brainstem during the (very private) procedure- difficult to detect, and even more difficult to remove. This "leech" degrades the character's constitution (or maximum health or whatever) by one point each winter. When the character dies and the corpse is quiet and alone (perhaps abandoned, perhaps buried), the parasite causes the (un)dead body to animate and return to the Leech as a particularly durable and tame zombie (or equivalent).

What purpose could the Leech possibly have for such reanimated abominations?

For a week, I'm challenging myself to write SOMETHING gameable (monster, NPC, magic, location, item, etc.) each day. To make it interesting: it must be inspired by the first song that comes up on shuffle from my music library each morning. This is post 2, inspired by "Leech" by Sylosis (Spotify, YouTube).

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Blackened Brigade

"They would send outrangers under black flags to treat with the lords of the lands in their path; a suitable tribute of grain and livestock would redirect the Blackened Brigade onto the lands of a rival (with the tributary lord often raising his own troops to make war and take loot in concert), while a cold welcome would earn iron and fire."

"Unique among conquering armies, it was fit men of fighting age who were spared, and women and children and elderly who were butchered or sold. Those remaining men, dispossessed by the Brigade's depredations, from serf to sovereign, were given the choice to remain and starve in the oncoming winter, or to join and share in the spoils taken from their own lands as the Brigade moved ahead of winter to warmer climes; unsurprisingly, many did join, knowing their crops to be despoiled, their lords humbled, and their families dead. They would take the ash of their former homes and blacken their blades and their hands, made permanent by a chemical fixative of the Brigade's devising."

By Delun
"Thus, the Blackened Brigade would march on, ranks ever growing. An army of those with nothing but their blade, plundering to stay alive, creating more hopeless men to join their ranks. A self-perpetuating mass of misery, each man knowing that every Blackened companion was of the same fate and knew their same pain, creating a shared resolve of iron."

"It has been decades since the Brigade has come reaving around the Inner Six, since the Brigade marched southward on the wings of Winter, not returning in the Spring as was their wont. Perhaps they ventured into the Sands and perished; perhaps they found deeper and richer lands further south, as wild seafarers and foreign tradespersons have hinted at; perhaps they took ship beyond the seas we know, to an end we shall never know. I, personally, hope never to find out."

- From the writings of Erbius the Lorekeeper, Magus of the Fifth Order

Use the Blackened Brigade in your games. Maybe they haven't gone south yet, and are still around, and approaching the area your PCs are in. Any male PCs of a fighting age are not directly threatened by the Brigade - so finding a way to hide OTHER PCs (those threatened), or to gather enough tribute to save the local village, or to escape to a new location, or to unite enough lords to destroy the Brigade itself, are all possible adventures.

Jank, some players might even want to retire their characters as Brigadiers.

Posts have been slow and few, lately. But I WANT to be active. (I enjoy writing, and thinking.)
So, just for a week, I'm challenging myself to write SOMETHING gameable (monster, NPC, magic, location, item, etc.) each day. To make it interesting: it must be inspired by the first song that comes up on shuffle from my music library each morning. (I listen to a lot of weird stuff like death metal, post-rock, and dark ambient, so I'm not worried about finding inspiration.)
The above post was inspired (loosely?) by "A Farewell to Arms" by Machine Head (Spotify, YouTube).