Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tales from the Slush Pile

Odds and ends:

After your service on Spill Street, the Gutspills have decided to give you a gift.  This baboon fights as a wardog for  as long as it's mohawk is maintained.  During the night, it bites its tongue and/or lips and writes on the wall with its blood.  Roll a d6.  1 - new spell (strange version of common spell, like a fireball that does acid damage).  2 - paranormal shit.  The third time you get paranormal shit, the baboon is consumed by a HD d10 demon of Demogorgon that bursts from its form.

Just as dwarves claim that all treasures of the earth belong to them ("All gold is dwarven gold!") so do all elves claim that natural beauty belongs to them.  Elves will try to avoid going to war over things like farmland, but they will IMMEDIATELY invade your city if they decide that it has the best sunsets, or they want to build houses behind your waterfall.

Demons, as the opponents of all that is natural, speak in opposites (or backwards, but that's harder to do on the fly) and have their gravity reversed.

Since combustion and electricity do not work near demons, they are largely invulnerable to firearms (unless shot from far away).  This is why firearms are seen as people-killing weapons, whereas, if you carry a sword, you're probably a demon-hunter or something else admirable.  (This is from my Eldritch Americana setting.)

Quantum Duality
Wizard Spell Level ???
Caster splits into two identical copies and controls both of them.  At the end of next turn, one of them discorporeates (caster picks).

Lady of the Fountain. Your first sign that she is coming is a shimmering wave of glittering sandhoppers (shiny locusts) that will come crawling over the sand. Try not to squish any. Then, some of the tiny desert antelope will hop along and sniff you/lick your fingers. You are supposed to throw down any weapons you have when they do that and walk forward. If you don't fuck it up, the Lady of the Fountain will be there. She knows everything that is destined to happen and she is supremely merciful. After you ask her your question, she will answer it, as long as the answer is destined. She doesn't give answers that aren't guaranteed. But be careful! If you are destined to die a terrible death--say torture--she will do the merciful thing and sing you to death right then. It's supposed to be a real pretty lullaby. You just get sleepy and pass on as easily as falling asleep. Not a bad way to go.

The Lotus Dens are unique to the Doglands. They are actually a kind of cactus that is capable of growing into a huge mound, full of hollows and nooks. On the surface grow the lotuses, which are hallucinogenic and sopophoric. At night, they lotuses open, attracting great clouds of moths, who attract flocks of bats in turn. The bats are aggressive, and attack with their highly acidic feces.

Don't go inside of a Lotus Den, though. That's where the Lotus Wives live.  They are fierce if disturbed and will flee by sqeezing through tiny openings in the interior of the Lotus Den, where they may try to strike back by biting or scratching. Merely touching them can duplicate the effects of eating a lotus, and being scratched or bitten is the equivalent to eating a couple of lotuses. Interestingly enough, if a Lotus Wife is prevented from eating lotuses for a few days, she stops being crazy and sort of returns to normal (of course, kidnapping a Lotus Wife is supposed to draw the Lord of Jackals wrath, and is seen as a very unhealthy choice). Even more interestingly: it is considered a decent life choice for Fangolian girls--at least it is preferable to suicide. No "Lotus Husbands" or pregnant women have been found inside a Lotus Den. Presumably, the Lord of Jackals takes care of that.

The Dustwind is full of packs of zombies.  They haunt the petrified forests.  They're armless, screaming, sprinty-bitey types.  Anyone who dies in the Dustwind turns into an armless, dessicated zombie.  Their arms just fall off and crawl away.  No one knows where they go.

SECRET: All the arms go to the Zaris Malgannun, the dungeon in the center of the Dustwind.

If you put your hand into the hole, a blade will fall, severing your hand and dropping it into an alchemical bath.  A few seconds later, your hand will return to you, animate and friendly, like Thing from the Addam's Family.  It is intelligent and friendly (Int 10, Morale 10) and will guide you through the dungeon (it knows where all the traps are), but will be paralyzed with fear if it ever meets a Cleric of the Five.  It will help you fight and it is good at this.  If and when the PCs enter the Womb, the hand will transform as soon as the light hits it, turning into a Giant Monster Hand that automatically attacks.  (This is the boss of the dungeon.)  Included in the treasure hoard is a golden mechanical hand that has 18 Str, but only for tasks that only relate to that hand (holding onto a ledge, squeezing something).

The second most addictive drug in the world is odochrysm, which looks like jizz, is made from reified pain, and allows you to relive any memory you wish, or allows for perfectly lucid dreaming.  Wizards use it to do 24 hours of work every 24 hours.

The most addictive drug in the world is eruch (eh-RUKE) which is also called lulu or soup.  It is produced by the stingers of astral beetle larva (which are corporeal).  Although astral beetles don't exist in our dimension, they do they their eggs here.  Eruch "factories" contain boxes of sterilized meat packaged in vacuum containers.  Junkies duplicate this feat with a process that involves meat, upside-down bath tubs, hard liquor, and sucking on hoses.  Eventually the beetles will find the meat and lay there eggs there, and hang around (since one location is such a good source of meat), laying eggs reliably.  For this reason, you can't move a soup factory once its established.  Junkies and producers have a million superstitions about what attracts and doesn't attract the beetles (they like burning cinnamon, they hate virgins, etc).  They treat them like ghosts.

Reputable sellers will just sell little boxes of stingers, but junkies will sometimes just let the larva crawl on them and sting them.  Then they will dissolve into a euphoric puddle of flesh for an hour, and the larva will lap them up.  (This is why you always need a second person there, to pull the larva off you.  Otherwise it'll eat crucial bits of flesh, and when you re-corporeate, after your trip, you'll be missing things like the tip of your nose or part of your liver or something.)  If two or more people trip out simultaneously, they can trip out together into one big puddle.  A puddle that sighs and grunts and crawls happily on top of itself.

If allows to mix, the puddle will eventually reconstitute crazy humans that are a mixture of the original ingredients.  It mostly produces androgynes with two- or three-colored hair and really mixed up memories.  These people are often confused most of the time.  (Game mechanic: swap one random stat with someone else.  Chance of physical fucked-up-ness afterwards is also pretty high.)  These people are called jumblies, and they form their own marginalized communities.

Soup slums are sometimes dangerous, if the junkies allow the larva to reach their 4th molt, because juvenile astral beetles are ravenous and deadly.  (Not much food on the astral plane, so you gotta eat before you migrate there.)  Authorities don't like the slums because of the occasional vermillion-and-red beetles that phase through shit (like your armor), but at least such tragedies are usually confined to the slums.

The Beautiful Plague was created by the Heralds of the Immaculate Morning.  It's a divine disease.  If you catch it, you get more and more beautiful and pacifistic.  (Charisma gain, increasingly difficult saves if you want to engage in violence.)  You wander around in a calm fever, singing beautiful hymns to the True God for a few days or a week.  Eventually, you turn into a soft column of light that causes feelings of peace, contentedness, and sedation in those who gaze upon it.

I want to write a scenario for the Beautiful Plague, where the PCs have to enter a quarantined plague city.  Everyone is beautiful and babbling and radiant and dying.  There's a cure somewhere.  There's a mischief beast eating people in the chaos somewhere.  There's cultists of Nurgle there, trying to cure this blasphemy.  (They believe that people who die from the Beautiful Plague are erased, soul and all.)

Travel to the plane of Orzelle requires you to be submerged underneath 100 feet of wine.  Wizards build "wells" and bathyspheres for this purpose.

The only form of instantaneous long-range communication is going to involve demons.

If you're a wizard, you're going to need to get involved with demons eventually.  That's where all the good spells come from.

Crucifix golems always appear with some type of dominated undead, usually a ghoul or wight.  If you kill the undead, the golem will try to grab a replacement to carry around.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Arrows of Zao

I wrote about the Huntresses of Zao here.

Each hunting party will have a leader.  The leader will have 1d6-2 (min 0) magic arrows with her.  50% all same type, 50% all different.

Back home, inventing magic arrows is a favorite past time.  Huntresses trade them like baseball cards, and prize them highly.

plus poisonous bite
plus bird that lives in their imagination
plus they ride giant weasels and shit
  1. Fire Arrow.  Ignites when nocked.
  2. Headless Arrows.  Deal damage as if they were magic, but only damage things that require magic arrows to be hit.
  3. Rose Arrow.  Charm effect on the target (remember -2 penalty for combat).  Faeries of fond of them.  Red fletching, green wood.  Turns into a rose upon a hit.
  4. Arson Arrow.  Ignites when nocked.  Splashes a small amount of lamp oil on a hit, so it just doesn't do extra fire damage, it also makes sure that you're on fire.
  5. Loyal Arrows.  Can steer this arrow with whistling.  Among other things, the first time this arrow misses, you can whistle to make a second attack roll.
  6. Armada Arrow.  When fired, splits into 6 different arrows.  Make 6 different attack rolls, each with a -2 penalty.
  7. Exploding Arrow.  Explodes with a 5d6 fireball wherever it hits.
  8. Messenger Arrow.  Whisper a message into the fletching.  Whatever is struck receives the message in their mind.
  9. Twin Soul Arrow.  Splits into two arrows when fired: one mundane arrow and one incorporeal arrow.
  10. Smoke Arrow.  Disintegrate after striking, leaving no evidence.  All who witness the arrow must then save or forget that they ever saw it.
  11. Rat Arrow.  Actually a mutated rat, not an arrow.  On a hit, begins gnawing the target for 1d3 damage per turn until the target spends an action yanking it out.
  12. Gregarious Arrow.  Can automatically hit any location where another gregarious arrow is lodged.
  13. Phantom Zone Arrow.  A target hit by this arrow is removed from the universe for 1d6 rounds.
  14. Snake Arrow!  It's a snake.  It bites.  It's poisonous.  Even works if the target catches the arrow!
  15. Frog Crotch Arrow.  Never misses a rope.  Does double damage to amphibians.
  16. Humanbane Arrow.  Double damage against humans.  If it kills a king or leader, their castle will fall down.
  17. Bird Arrow.  Imitates a birdcall of your choice when fired.  It it hits a bird, it will painlessly remove feathers from the bird, suitable for use as fletching.
  18. Coffin Nail Arrow.  Ignores armor.  Can pin small targets to the wall if they fail a Con check.
  19. Silver Arrow.  It's made of silver.
  20. Cloud Arrow.  Creates 20' diameter cloud on impact.
  21. Shadow Arrow.  Must be fired at target's shadow.  Deals 1d6 Charisma damage and immobilizes target (pins their shadow to the floor) until the arrow is removed.
  22. Light Arrows.  Create a light effect where they hit.
  23. Sun Arrows.  Create a daylight effect where they hit.  If fired into the sun (AC as unarmored) the ambient light will increase in the area, as the sun shines brighter.  If fired into the moon, the moon will shine as bright as the sun for 10 minutes.  (The effect is only local, say within a 1 mile diameter.)
  24. Grappling Hook Arrow.  On a hit, conjures a rope, one end looped around your bow hand, and the arrow turns into a grappling hook lodged into whatever you hit. Yes, you get to keep the rope.
  25. Talking Arrow.  Roll up a personality like a hireling.  Knows lots of interesting things.  Wants to be fired.
  26. Ice Arrows.  Can extinguish a torch simply by passing near it, or hitting the person carrying it.  Sometimes used by drow or gretches.
  27. Infinity Arrow.  No range penalty.  Must still have line of sight.  Length of arrow seems to change each time you measure it.
  28. Holy Arrows.  Create a light effect where they hit and deal double damage to undead + demons.
  29. Deathstroke Arrows.  Does normal arrow damage.   If the target has 2d6 or less HP afterwards, it dies.
  30. Screeching Arrows.  Screeches like a rutting harpy when fired.
  31. Banshee Arrows.  Shrieks when fired.  All in a 50' cone in front of arrow subject to fear (as spell).
  32. King of Arrows.  Once fired, any normal arrow that passes within 10' will change course in order to land beside the king of arrows.
  33. Secret Giant Arrow.  Doubles in size once fired in order to deal 2d6 damage.
  34. Arrows of the Infernal Instructor.  If this arrow kills a target, you gain 100 XP.  If it misses the target, you lose 50 XP, you memories drained away to feed the Abyss.
  35. Traveller's Arrow.  After firing this arrow, you teleport to the nearest safe spot adjacent to where the arrow landed.
  36. Acorn Arrow.  If buried in the ground, will grow into an oak tree overnight, and produce enough acorns to feed 1d6 people.  Requires baking or grinding.  If shot into a treant, it must save or turn into a mundane tree.
  37. Bully Arrow.  Hits hard enough to shove an orc 20' back.
  38. Black Arrow.  Does normal arrow damage +1 per target's HD.
  39. White Arrow.  Denatures any natural poison the target has inside its body (making poisonous snakes non-poisonous).  If stabbed into someone's chest (1d6 damage) like in Pulp Fiction, it'll cure any poison they are suffering from.
  40. Eagle Arrow.  Turns into an eagle mid-flight and attacks the target.  Stats as eagle.  Lasts 1 min.
  41. Slaying Arrow.  Does double damage against (d6): 1 - dragons, 2 - demons, 3 - undead, 4 - fey, 5 - beasts, 6 - orcs.
  42. Chicken Arrow.  White-fletched.  Target must save or flee in fear.  If you sit on one for a full minute, it'll turn into a white chicken.
  43. Evil-seeking Arrow.  Flies unerringly towards the most evil creature within range.
  44. Gravity Arrow.  When embedded in a creature, that creature is affected as if the gravity were +50% stronger.  Enough to slow them down -25%, but multiple arrows stack.
  45. Wind Arrow.  When fired, the wind will blow in that direction for 10 minutes.  Other arrows get -2 to hit in this wind.  Wind arrows are not affected by wind.
  46. Immovable Arrows.  On a hit, target must save or be immobilized for 1d6 rounds.  As immovable rod, except it affects the target's center of mass.
  47. Blood Arrows.  On a hit, this arrow converts some of the target's blood into a new arrow, giving birth.  Basically, for every arrow that hits an opponent, you can recover 2 arrows after combat.  As soon as you roll a 1, all blood arrows in a "family" melt into sticky blood.
  48. Queen of Arrows.  On a hit, target must save or be unable to use any type of projectile weapons.  Basically, nothing that requires a ranged attack roll.  Lasts 10 minutes.
  49. Phase Arrows.  Arrows pass through everything except flesh and bows.  Ignore all walls, cover, and armor (except armor that is part of the creature, like scales, since those count as flesh.)
  50. Skydoom Arrows.  When fired straight up (requires no ceiling within 200'), a rain of arrows will fall, making 2 attack rolls against all creatures within 200' of the shooter.  Each arrow is +5 to hit and does 1d6 damage.  If fired into the moon, there are 3 attack rolls per creature instead.  If fired into the sun, the arrows are fire arrows, and each does an additional +1d6 fire damage.
like this
but also like this

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sinister Folk

They look like nobility.  Fine silks, glittering rings.  Petticoats flapping in the wind, coattails snapping.  They speak only dead languages, and call to each other with nonsense names (like Eggy-weggy, or Mr. Pounce), but never the same name twice.  They call the PCs these names, too.  They move like puppets, jerking on invisible strings, their feet not quite striking the ground fully.

Their eyes roll in their skulls, and their lips are pulled back in a rictus, the sides cracking and bleeding under the strain.  Laughter escapes them like steam from a kettle.

They bleed easily.  Their skin is like tissue paper.  And their blood is so watery, that it only takes a prick to ruin all the black crepe they are wearing.  They dress as if for a funeral.

You'll find them in incongruous places.  Dungeons, dead towers, fetid battlefields.  They'll be reassembling a tea cup, or smelling dead flowers, or cleaning off a skull with their handkerchief.

They aren't people.  They're probably faerie-folk, doing such a poor job of impersonation that it's appalling.

You can't talk to them.  They're all mad.

They want to cut out your heart, wrap it in their handkerchief, and eat slowly, over the course of a day, with tiny nibbles.  They want to have time to appreciate it, sniff it, savor it.  Discuss the terroir.

Sinister Folk
HD 2
AC as plate + shield (most from high Dex)
Attack with claws 1d6*
Speed as human
Morale 12
Can only be heard with the left ear.  Can only be seen with the left eye.  Can only be hurt with weapons wielded entirely in the left hand, or spells cast using only the left hand.
*After damaging someone, the wound will be mirrored 1 turn later on that person's best friend, dealing equal damage.  If their best friend isn't nearby, their closest ally, then.

Upon being killed, they turn sideways to the left and disappear.

Unless they were killed with an iron weapon or killed to smithereens, they will curse their killer before vanishing.

d20 Curses

Step 1 - Get cursed.

You can get cursed by a witch, a fairy, or your familiar.  They'll usually tell you what the curse is.  "I curse thee, oaf, with the curse of Doom!" but not all the details.  You suffer from the curse, exactly as described.

Give them the most appropriate curse, or just roll a d20.

Step 2 - Get the curse identified.

Talk to a different witch, fairy, or familiar and they'll be able to give you the details, as well as what it takes to lift the curse.  You can also go to your local church.

Each curse can be lifted by doing a specific action, usually related to what provoked the curse in the first place.  Like if you were too stingy to give to an old beggar lady, she'll curse you to be bad with money forever.

Step 3 - Get the curse lifted.

You can either (a) do the specified action, or (b) get a high level cleric at the church to lift it.  Clerics will expect a favor in return, either a large donation or the retrieval of some McGuffin from the local death hole.

d20 curses
1 Dog hatred. They will attack you, if given half a chance. Cured by living as a dog for 1 year, or doing 1 dungeon "as a dog". 11 Delicious. Monster that enjoy eating people will prioritize attacking you. Can be cured by eating an entire manticore.
2 Will never find love. No one wants to sleep with you. Cured by helping 2 other people fall in love. 12 Dreamlessness. Reduce all XP gained by 5%. Immune to bad dreams. Cured by insanity.
3 Doomed. Will automatically save the next save vs death. Cured by the touch of a wight. 13 Bad with money. 20% chance to lose all money when entering city (thievery, taxes, etc). Cured by sacrificing your most valuable possession.
4 Blinded. Cured by cutting out your tongue. 14 Crippled. Movement is halved. Cured by spending 1 month in a desert without moving more than 5'.
5 Babies cry when you are nearby. -2 to all Reaction rolls when you are in a party (all, not just babies).  Can be cured by having a baby within wedlock and treating it well. 15 Breakage. Treat all your equipment as shoddy quality. Cured by giving all of your possessions to the poor and doing a dungeon naked (except 1 item).
6 Foggy eyes. Cannot see more than 30'. Cured by serving a crone for 1 year. 16 Curse of bad luck. -2 to Save. Can be cured by sacrificing a bull atop a mountain.
7 Nightmares. Only get restful sleep 60% of the time when sleeping. Cured by sleeping alone in a dungeon or other dangerous place. 17 Cursed to die in a fire. Fire does double damage. Cured by killing a dragon, or serving one for 1 year.
8 Hiccups. Always fail stealth checks. Never surprise anyone. Cured by suffering a genuine fear effect (doesn't count if cast by friends). 18 Moon curse. Turn into an (NPC) werewolf 1 random night during the week of the full moon. Cured by drinking hemlock (save vs poison or die).
9 Grim hearted. Can never benefit from positive morale or positive emotion effects. Cured by helping a bunch of children (big donation to an orphanage, saving children slaves, etc) 19 Crops and animals do not thrive when sharing a property with you. No fruit, no milk, etc. Cured by planting 1000 trees by hand.
10 Mute. Cannot cast spells. Can be cured by plucking out an eye and sacrificing it to a god. 20 Sour Milk. 50% chance that food turns rotten when you put it in your mouth (chance of wasting a ration). Cured by fasting for 2 weeks.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rival Adventuring Parties

The leader of each party is the first one mentioned.  They're whatever level is best for your campaign, but I recommend Level 1d4 for the whole party.  Make the leader one level higher.


Sken the Rogue, wears a dirty old noose around his neck.  When killed, the noose will resurrect him in 1d20 hours.  If you remove the noose before he self-resurrects, he'll return as a wight capable of tracking the noose.  If you break his neck, he stays dead permanently.  Nervous, bold.  He often kills people out of fear.

Molly the Rogue.  Sken's girlfriend.  Loves Sken more than he loves her, and it breaks her heart.  She carries a map of the first level of the dungeon.  Has a symbol of disease (save or get slimy doom) on the inside of her eyepatch.

Flanders the Fighter.  Brother to Sken.  Bad teeth, rotten breath.  Insulting oaf, but has a surprising amount of HP.

Corwin the Wizard.  Dedicated to studying undead.  His tongue was cut out years ago for the crime of "heretical wizardry".  Now he can only speak through his owl familiar.


Bosh the Ogre.  Wears horse barding as armor.  It fits very poorly.  Raised in by overly optimistic monks, Bosh is as smart as a human and speaks Common.  (He pretends to know Ogre, but he doesn't.)  He's an asshole, but not an unredeemable one.  Incredibly greedy.

Furyk the Fighter.  Glaive.  Magnificent mustache.  Proud of his skills.  Envious of Bosh's strength.

Gadwell the Fighter.  Deadly with a bow.  Alert at all times.  Eats black bread.  Reads stolen love letters, often stolen from people he's killed.

Mancy the Cleric.  Blessed by her goddess, she can never get dirty.  Wears white silk.  Has sworn an oath to heal anyone who gives up their weapons.  Charitable.  Kind.  Averse to gore and filth.  Driven by strange dreams.

Mandrake the Rogue.  Manipulated Mancy into this dungeon expedition.  Carries an absurd amount of gold on his person, hidden inside his fake leg and wrapped in felt so it does not clink.  Paranoid.  Friendly.  Evil.

Turlock the Rogue.  13 years old.  Mandrake's son.  Loves horses, fishing, gold, and murder.  Sniffle-nosed, but otherwise a handsome kid.  Polite.

Father Drum the Fighter.  Old as shit.  Has quested with Mandrake for over 20 years.  Both men hate each other but greatly respect each other's talents.  Very tough for an old dude, but he's getting slow.

Quisling the Fighter.  Hired to be here less than a week ago.  Weak chin.  Wants a soft bed.  Morale 6.  Infested by lice, constantly itching.  Would do pretty much anything for a cure.  


Faust the Fighter.  On a quest to kill the succubus who destroyed his father and then his mother, but destined to be killed by goblins, of which he has an irrational fear.  Long goatee tied around a gold ring.  Wears red silk.

Grimface the Orc.  Faust's best friend.  Reliable, trustworthy, sexual, and violent.

Gooley the Goblin.  The party's butt boy.  Carries a treasure chest strapped to his back and a torch.  He even sleeps with his torch.  Has a thing for torches, and fire in general.

Durian the Wizard.  Alcoholic.  Speaks to birds, usually asks them to tell him dirty jokes.  Looks like a hobo.  Incredibly knowledgeable about lots of stuff.  This is his last journey before he settles down to become a seer.  Always dozes off when its his turn on watch.  Wants to spend a couple of days trading spells.

Marian the Wizard.  Durian's sister.  Sort of like a clean, less talented version of her sister.  He joined the party to take care of her, but she ends up taking care of him more often.  She drinks expensive wines and eats expensive cheeses, and always carries a couple.


Greenfellow the Troll.  Surly and dumb, struggling to understand the magic sword that is possessing him.  The sword is called Firelight, and it is on a holy mission to purge the world of all orcs and other evil things that hide out in dungeons, while protecting the innocent.  Greenfellow cusses a lot and seems to change his mind, but his actions are all Good (thanks to Firelight's whispers in his head), even if his heart is in the wrong place.

Tarf the Fighter.  Thinks that Greenfellow is a saint.  Would fallow him into hell, despite all the time Greenfellow has cursed Tarf's name.  Lawful stupid.  Captain America.

Scarleaf the Elven Thief is just here for the bitches.  Has a magical disease on his back (it's growing eyeballs now!) and so he'll never remove his shirt.  Anyone looting his body will touch his weird dorsal tendrils and must save vs disease or contract it themselves.

Gimbie the Wizard.  So short that he is often mistaken for a dwarf or a halfling or something.  He's a decent guy, but he has very poor impulse control.


Reya of the Nine Towers, Fighter.  Travels everywhere with her loyal polar bear mount, named Vosko.  Is destined to save the Temple of the Nine, or destroy it.  Six feet tall.  Likes cold puddings and lame jokes.  Kind to her friends, callous to everyone else.

Visha the Cleric.  Reya's girlfriend.  Wears seashell armor and has a crossbow.  Carries 3 lightning bolts that turn into 3d6 lightning bolts when fired.  Green eyes, wears a lot of jewelry.  Worships the god of the Edgeless Sharp (who is not evil as much as he is merely understood).

Tameerleon the Cleric.  She carries a boomerang and a poisoned sword.  Anyone struck by it must save or begin turning into a frog (takes 3 days, can be cured by submersion in pure water, after 3 days becomes permanent).  Is also in love with Reya and it's awkward for everyone.  Is always the one to volunteer to scout off alone.  Plays chess, carries a chess set.  Worships dogs, all dogs.  Is technically the first cleric of her religion and is defensive about this.

Smatha the Fighter.  Is an amazing swordswoman, the best in her home city of Shangalore.  Gets +2 to hit and damage with sword when wielding them right-handed, but is currently training her left.  Will switch hands if she thinks the fight is getting serious.  Wants to fight the best opponents possible.

Gung the Rogue.  14 years old.  Already an accomplished assassin.  Is posing as the link boy, pretending to only carry the lantern.  Is on a mission from the Temple of the Nine to kill Reya if she shows any inclination of wanting to destroy the Temple.  Clever, pragmatic, handsome, cute butt.  A string tied to his molar goes into his stomach, where it is attached to a very tightly sealed vial of deadly poison.  Doesn't talk much, but smiles knowingly sometimes.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Kellertown Incident

Warning: NSFW, graphic content, etc.

I've written about the Awakened before, but hopefully this post is more interesting/usable.

Here's an adventure suitable for a party of levels 1-3.

How to Use this Adventure:

Your campaign probably has a town that the PCs use all the time.  It's full of shops that the PCs have shopped at before, and it's full of NPCs that the PCs know.  This adventure is about destroying that town.

Last night, a piece of madstone fell from the sky.  Benjamin Moss found it and brought it to show Father Albuscone at the church.  The next morning everyone woke up full of malice and murderous contempt.

There are two towns described here: one before the madstone, and one after.

Before: Draw a map of the town and fill it with people.  Happy ones, cynical ones, troubled ones.

After: Approaching PCs will notice that the bakery is on fire, and there are screams coming from the tavern (there is also smoke rising from the Hunting Lodge).  There is only one random encounter: the huntsmen, detailed in the Hunting Lodge below.  Most Awakened will attack the PCs on sight.  If they have the slightest reason to attack the PCs, they will.  They talk constantly, mocking, jeering, laughing, and telling secrets that they should have no reason to know.

The Madstone -- Anyone falling asleep within 1/2 mile of the madstone (includes all of town and a couple of nearby farms) will wake up as an Awakened (stats at end of post).  It has significantly more powers in the hands of high level wizards, none of which are common knowledge.  

0 Approaching the Town

Before -- It's farmland.  It's boring.  Turnips and shit.

After -- There's plenty of evidence of the Vassen family's hunting rampage.  Lots of empty farms.

On their way in, the PCs will go past a empty farm, with the door wide open and the cows out standing in the yard (someone left their gate open).  Maybe someone will mention that some farmer probably left his cows out, and it would be a good deed to bring them back into the paddock.  If they look for the farmer, they won't find anything except a large bloodstain in the kitchen, a broken lock on the back door, and a great deal of hoof prints around the house.  A careful search of the field will reveal a stray arrow.

Other empty farms will have similar details.

1 Blacksmith

Before -- Burgan Horseface is famous for being ugly and famous for being friendly.  He always gives fair prices.  He is fond of his horse, Snooker, and anyone bringing an apple for Snooker is entitled to a discount.  His wife Silla spends a lot of time in the house, writing letters.

After -- Burgan slit his wrists, tried to get Snooker to drink his blood, and then climbed into his furnace.  His charred legs are still sticking out, and the blood-covered Snooker is half-crazed with fear, and trying to break from his pen.  A note can be found in the bedroom, explaining that Silla will be visiting her sister for the next week, and misses her hubby already!

2 Butcher

Before -- Yanis Crooley has been fat his whole life.  An unhappy man, he takes a great deal of joy in his work.  Humorless, but professional.  Gives fair prices unless he thinks he is being mocked.  Takes butchery very seriously, and will talk about types of cuts ad nauseum if given a chance.  His wife, Madeline Crooley,

After -- Sitting atop the counter in the front of the store is Madeline Crooley, who cut off the top of her own head and swirled her fingers around in her brain.  After her self-lobotomy, she can only sit and babble.  Her bloody fingers paint spirals in the countertop, and she will die from her wounds in the next 24 hours.

Yanis is out in the meat locker, carving up Micah Copperfield, the baker's boy.  He is naked and wearing a pig's head on top of his own.  If he hears the PCs disturbing Madeline out in front, he will set the meat hooks swinging the back and hide among the dead pigs.  He hopes to lure the PCs in, then close the door behind them, trapping them in the dark with himself.

Encounter: Yanis.

3 Baker

Before -- Lena Copperfield runs this bakery with the help of her son Micah Copperfield.  She is warm and friendly and full of gossip (good for another roll on the local rumor table).  She loves baking and it is apparent.  She is looking to get married (halfheartedly; she knows she is not much of a catch) or at the very least, someone honest to help run the bakery.  Planters in front of the bakery are filled with fragrant violets.

After -- Lena has set fire the bakery.  If the PCs arrive in time, they'll see her standing in the second story window in a nightgown, looking out impassively.  She will burn to death in the next few minutes with the same utter lack of emotion.  If the PCs "rescue" her, she will not be grateful.

Encounter: Lena, if rescued.

4 Town Square

Before -- Mostly empty except for mornings, when people gather by the well to get water and exchange gossip, and Saturdays, when all the farmers come in from the countryside to sell their wares.  On any given Saturday, there are 1d4-2  travelling merchants.  A few feral chickens also live in the square, who ostensibly belong to Widow Crabtree (Orphanage).

After -- The well is absolutely painted with blood.  2d6 headless corpses can be found in the well, their pockets containing 3d6gp.  This is where the Vassen family has been dumping the corpses of the farmers that they kill on their "hunts".

5 Felson's Farm

Before -- Old Man Felson hates adventurers!  He also hates his neighbor, Farmer Moss.  Adventurers borrowed his scarecrow once and never returned it!  He also hates shaving and showering!  Now, unless you've got some business here, git off his pumpkin patch!

After -- Old Man Felson has crucified Farmer Moss in the middle of his pumpkin patch and stuck a burlap bag on his head.  Then he sat in his rocking chair on his porch and opened his wrists.  Now he's dead.

6 Moss' Farm

Before -- Benjamin Moss and Turica Moss live here in relative harmony.  Together, they bake the best onion pies in the county, and any one stopping by is invited to try one.  Anyone who is friendly and grateful will be invited to spend the night in the hayloft (a cheap alternative to the tavern) if they don't mind working a couple of hours in the morning.  They're both pranksters, though, but most of their pranks involve telling humorous ghost stories and sneaking pies into player's backpacks when they aren't looking.  They're also both religious, and will speak about how trustworthy Father Albuscone is.  And would you mind if we read some excerpts from the Book of Good Intentions?  The Book is featured prominently on the mantlepiece.

After -- Turica Moss sits alone in the barn, arranging freshly slaughtered farm animals into disturbingly sexual tableaus.  When the PCs enter, she will ask them if they want to see a corpse, then cut out her own heart (immediately before falling over dead).  In the corner is Old Man Felson's scarecrow, stolen long ago as part of a prank.  A water barrel shows recent signs of movement, and buried beneath it is a burlap sack containing 100g and a deed of ownership for a townhouse in the nearest metropolis (worth 2000g but with possible legal complications).  Out in the field is the crater, where the madstone fell.

eyes that have seen too much
7 Church

Before -- Father Albuscone is 48, balding, lonely, and incompetent.  He has no redeeming traits except his treatement of Matty the Bellringer, an albino and his adopted son, formerly the ward of Widow Crabtree's orphanage.  He is prim, polite, and condescending.  Above all else, he wants his small church to have a relic of its very own, which he hopes will cure Kellertown's flagging attendance.  He will offer generous sums to the PCs if they can recover a lost relic of the church.

After -- Father Albuscone stands in the 30' belltower, overlooking the town square.  He is chewing off his own lips and swallowing them, and is now snarling out what are still recognizable as verses from the Book of Good Intentions.  If the PCs approach below, he will jump on them.  He takes only 2d6 from the 30' fall and dealing 2d6 to whomever he falls upon.  This will also break both his legs, limiting him to Movement 3.  Otherwise, he will climb down into the church and attempt a clumsy ambush, hindered by his constant muttering.  His salt-and-pepper beard stained with blood and spittle, he will not stop preaching until dead.

The interior of the church has been defaced, and anyone who deciphers the dead languages on the wall must make a save vs suicidal depression.  If they fail, they will fall into a deep despondency, sit on the pew, and refuse to do anything until they are cheered up (DM's discretion, but I say that if you can make the table laugh at this point, it counts).  If they roll a natural 1, they attempt immediate suicide, now and a second time later in the day.

The baptismal font is opaque with blood, but hidden beneath the  murky water is the body of Maddy the Bellringer, weighed down will all the golden jewelry in the church.  He was stabbed and drowned.  The golden jewelry is worth 500g, half of which comes from a necklace depicting cupids.

Clutched in Matty's hands is the madstone, a smooth black rock with prismatic banding.  It has a weight of 1 pound, but a mass of 100 pounds, if that makes any sense.  Easy to pick up, very hard to swing back and forth or throw.  Matty's hands have nearly fused together around the stone, and will need to be cut free.  The lines on his palms and fingers have also rearranged themselves into spirals.  Anyone touching the stone will feel a powerful sense of unease.  The stone is priceless, and if the PCs can locate a buyer they can basically set their own price.  The only complication is that any sane person will want to see the madstone thrown a volcano, and the PCs imprisoned for not turning it over to the authorities immediately, or for bringing it to where it could endanger more people.  Anyone willing to actually buy it will be Not a Nice Person, and probably the type that would just as soon hire assassins than pay some outrageous price.

Encounter: Father Albuscone.

8 Town Hall

Before -- Magistrate Tomlin lives here with Cynthess Tomlin, his young wife from the city who is impossible to please.  She hates this backwater.  The mayor is nervous and aloof, and often refuses to meet with people simply because he feels awkward.

People also meet here to discuss town affairs.  The small auditorium (~30 people) is empty and doesn't show signs of recent use.

After -- The magistrate and his wife are on the bed, kneeling together and embracing.  Their white nightshirts are soaked with blood.  They have chewed through each other's necks and bled to death.  A lockbox under the bed (trapped with poison needle, save or take 1d20 Con damage) contains 20 platinum coins and 200gp worth of promissory notes, valid in the nearest metropolis.

9 Orphanage

Before -- Well, it's not really an orphanage, but Widow Crabtree lives here with 6 children that she has adopted.  It's not an entirely altruistic act, because she expects (and gets) the village to finance her and her orphans.  It's a two story building where the orphans make poor quality candles.  There is usually one kid outside selling candles during the day.

Molly Wier is the oldest orphan, at 16.  Her parents died of pneumonia one winter and she came here to live with her brother Charlie Wier, 13.

After -- The orphans have killed their oppressor and are finally enjoying a meal at her expense.  They are practicing their cannibalism on the kitchen table, and trying to get the cat to join.  They are all armed with knives.  Ranger Vassen asked them if they wanted to join his hunt, but the children declined.

Encounter: 9 awakened children, 2 HD each.

10 Lucky Pig Tavern

Before -- Humble Partridge used to be an adventurer.  He's a huge man with an eyepatch and a peg leg.  It was pirates that took his leg, though, and anyone making pirates jokes will find that drink prices have suddenly doubled.  He wants to tell his stories, and he wants to hear the PC's stories.  Any good adventurin' story is worth a round of ale, on the house.  His wife Kellerbee (a common name hereabouts) Partridge is usually out back, brewing the black beer that she loves to drink.  She is quietly friendly often tipsy, quick to share samples (as long as there isn't a crowd), and anyone hanging out with her will be sent to pick up more black bread from the baker's, because it goes so good with the beer.

People staying at the tavern: Sour-Nose Pete, a semi-disguised bandit on the run, Curtis a deserter from the army trying to drown his sorrows in drink, Yaffer, an ex-urchin in an oversized jacket who makes his living by cheating at dice games, and Runa and Maduri Lanwater, two cartographer sisters who travel with a big white dog and sell maps even as they make them.

After -- Last night, Curtis and Yaffer stayed up late dicing, eventually getting into an argument that lasted almost until morning.  And Sour-Nose Pete hooked up with Maduri Lanwater, so they were up late as well.  So it came as a surprise to them when the Partridges burst into their room at 6am and butchered Curtis.

Now, Sour-Nose Pete, Yaffer, and Maduri have barricaded themselves into the last room in the hallway while the Partridges are attempting to break their way into the room.  Humble Partridge is attacking the door with a battleaxe (1d8, +2 damage in Humble's big hands) while singing a work song.  His wife, Kellerbee, has a crossbow trained at the door and is humming along.  And Runa is sitting on a chair in the hallway behind them, topless, idly carving shallow spirals into her belly with a fruit knife while she calls out to her sister to "come out here and give your sister a kiss; I'm family, Maduri; I'm your sister, you bitch; let's go to the marketplace and pick out some nice red dresses."  They are all distracted and will be caught by surprise if the party is stealthy or in a 4-in-6 chance.

The three non-Awakened people are trapped in the room, screaming out the (barred) window for help.  If saved, they can tell you last night's events.  Dice games, a visit by a brothel recruiter, and most importantly, they know that a meteorite came down last night: Farmer Moss came into the tavern and everyone took turns holding it.  They don't remember where Moss said he was going to take it, just that he said he was going to take it to the right authorities.  Sour-Nose Pete and Yaffer are eager to leave town as fast as they can.  Yaffer will give you his lucky (rigged) dice as a good luck gift before going.  Tearful Maduri can be persuaded to stay and help the PCs, but she just wants to sleep for a bit first, as she didn't get any sleep last night. . .

Room 1 was Maduri and Funa's.  They had a chest full of maps (worth 200g) and a locked scrollcase that contains a map to the nearest dungeon and a reliable map of the first floor.  Each carried a dagger and 1d6g.

Room 2 was empty.

Room 3 was Curtis's.  Wrapped in his jacket are a bunch of medals, hacked off the chests of dead soldiers and worth 25g.  He had chainmail (not worn to bed) and a longsword.

Room 4 was Yaffer's.  It's empty.  Even the bed hasn't been slept it.  Yaffer keeps all his wealth in his jacket: 2 sets of loaded dice, 2 sets of fair dice, a small jar of talakeshi jelly (~amphetamine), and 55g.  He's a coward.

Room 5 was Sour-Nose Pete's.  The heavy bed has been used to barricade the door.  Tangled bedsheets in the corner.  Sour-Nose Pete (Fighter 1) is armed with a flail and a poisoned dagger (save or die after 10 min).  He also carried 60g.  He's not a nice man, but he is a practical one, and will worth together as long as it takes for him to get out of town.

If Maduri, Yaffer, or Sour-Nose Pete decide to flee to town, there is a 70% chance that they will be caught and killed by the Vassen Family.  If the PCs go to the Hunting Lodge later, they might even see them again, as corpses that Donnel is cleaning.

11 Brothel

Before -- Mama Gracious runs the brothel, along with her three sleepy runaways, Prith, Vandel, and Hurma. They make most of their money on the weekends, from travelling merchants and local farmers.  During the week they're pretty busy weaving.  The looms take up the entirety of the first floor.  If there are are 3 or more people in the inn and one of the girls isn't too tired, she might go over there and try to drum up business at the end of the day.  Mama Gracious has been trying to recruit Molly Wier (Orphanage) for the last couple of years now, but the girl is too much of a prude.  Mama Gracious wants business of course, but she also wants a better life for her girls.  She's looking for any sort of business opportunity that gets her into the nearest metropolis.  (If the PCs are trying to sell stuff, she'll try to arrange for her girls to go sell the items in the big city for a cut of the profits, that sort of thing.  Or she'll ask if the PCs want to invest in a small business, so they can get a start in the big city.)

After -- All four of them are among the looms, undoing all of their past weaving.  Mama Gracious is wrapping wool thread around her head so tightly that her face is deformed and purple.  They're all armed with huge shears.  If the encounter the PCs, they won't attack, but will instead just talk.  If they're attacked, they won't fight back.  If you disembowel one, they might try to dip their fingers in their blood and then gently caress the PC's face with the bloody hand, etc.

They'll talk about the usual Awakened stuff (see below): about how everything is contemptible, boring, and cheap, and how the PCs have forgotten their lives prior to their births.  How pain is meaningless, and fear of pain only holds you back.  Anyone listening to them must save vs depression or become morose, getting -1 to all d20 rolls until they perform a good deed, or see someone else perform one (thereby restoring their faith in humanity a little bit).

The four women will only attack if it looks like the PCs are going to restrain them in some way, or take away their shears.

Encounter: Mama Gracious, Prith, Vandel, and Hurma.

12 Hunting Lodge

Before -- Silas Vassen is the head ranger.  Since the duke is fond of hunting the nearby forest, he is also the warden there.  He lives there with his wife, Londi Vassen, his son Donnel Vassen, and his daughter Haria Vassen.  All of them are accomplished hunters.  They keep a pack of a eight hunting hounds (2 HD each) behind the house, which are all well-trained dogs.  The Vassen family has a rigid code of honor and family, and are quick to protect their town.  Anyone who causes trouble in Kellertown will likely be tracked down by a posse led by Silas, Londi, and Haria (who is a better shot than her brother).  Silas once caught a dangers bandit and collected the bounty; the act is famous in nearby towns.

After -- The Vassen family has decided to go hunting throughout all the farms in the region.  They are all wandering, except for Donnel, who has been given the job of cleaning to corpse to make trophies.  At the moment, Donnel is sitting by the fire, decapitating dead farmers and lifting the skin from their heads in preparation for taxidermy.  If questioned, he will mockingly reveal his family's intentions, while trying to get close enough to stab a PC with a knife hidden up his sleeve.

Each family member is a 3 HD Awakened, except for Silas, who is 4 HD.  Haria is also a crack shot with the bow, and gets +4 to hit with it.  They travel with their eight hounds (2 HD each) and prefer to attack from range, with a bow.  If they suspect that the PCs are in a building, they will take up positions on opposite sides of the street, where they can cover all exits and each other.  Haria will aim for PCs knees, hoping to cripple a PC in the middle of the street, so as to draw out other PCs to try to rescue them.  Londi will send in the dogs as soon as it seems prudent, but will call them back if it looks like the dogs will run into a building without them.  Silas surprises on a 4-in-6, and does double damage with his backstab.  If the PCs bunker down inside a building, they will not hesitate to burn it down (Silas has a couple of fire arrows).  They will call to each other with complicated bird call messages that are only known to each other.  Silas' bow is magic and of elven make: it can fire 3 light arrows per day (fletching lights up as per the light spell, and deals +1d6 damage to undead).

Each member of the family has a horse.  They usually ride out on their horses, and return from their hunts on foot, with their trophies lashed to the back of the horses.

Encounter: Donnel.

Encounter: Rest of the Vassen Family (they're the only wandering encounter in town).


After one day, the king will send mounted knights to ensure that no one enters or leaves the town.  They'll ride around in squads of 4 mounted knights, accompanied by 2 archers/messengers.  After one week, the king will have assembled a squad of adventurers and clerics who will be numerous and high-level enough to handle the situation competently, albeit heavy-handedly.

The Awakened

HD 3
AC 10
Attack 1d6+2
Move as human*
*Can sprint as fast as a horse, but this causes them to take 1 damage.  Each time they attack, they also take 1 damage.  Whenever they deal maximum damage, they shatter their own arm.

Awakened have transcended the normal limits of their body.  They run fast enough to tear their own lungs and fray their own tendons.  They punch and kick hard enough to break iron hinges, but at the cost of breaking their own limbs.  They feel no pain nor emotion except scorn, and they have knowledge of more than should be possible.  They do not normally fall asleep, but if they are magically induced to sleep (away from the madstone), they will restore themselves to normal.

They live, but death is equally preferable.  They work together, but killing each other is equally preferable.  They kill people, but they do this almost out of irony.  (This) life is pointless, and any deaths they bring are as trivial as the lives they ruin.

Awakened remember everything from before, and still have the same base personality.  It's just that they've now realized how meaningless everything is, and worthy of contempt.  If your fiancee became Awakened, for example, she'd mock you with old love poems and laugh at your tears.  But old hatreds are remembered, faintly, and they often seek out the people that wronged them in previous days.  And of course, hobbies are still pursued, although with boredom and cruelty.

A person normally becomes Awakened by staying awake for over a week.  Under the influence of the  madstone, however, people turn into Awakened overnight.  There are no physiological changes for becoming an Awakened--all this means is that the person's eyes have been opened, and they remember their true life before they were born, and where they will go when they die.  Realizing the crude, pointlessness of this life, they are filled with either contempt for it, or an overwhelming urge to exit life via suicide in order to rejoin a more significant existence.

They only have two emotions: contempt and boredom.

If you want to apply Awakened as a template: +2 HD, +2 to hit and damage, each attack does 1 damage to themselves, a limb breaks when an attack does maximum damage, and they can exceed the natural speed limits of their species at the cost of dealing another 1 damage to themselves.


1. Someone hires the PCs to investigate the cause of this disturbance.

2. Rescue some NPC.  Roll 1d12 to find out which one.  Wizards and clerics have heard of Awakened, and know that a cure is only a sleep spell away.  (As long as they are far enough away from the madstone.)

3. Rescue some McGuffin in the town.  Roll 1d12 to find out where it is.

4. Maybe they'll just have a favorite NPC in town and want to rescue them of their own volition.  Hopefully its not an orphan.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Attempting to elude assassins and old age, Mologon the Magician decided to clone himself.  Although he was a potent wizard, he was an utter novice at cloning.  His creations spilled from the vats, spitting spells and afterbirth, and strangled Mologon with their own umbilical cords.

Creating creatures is simple, as any wizard will tell you.  Creating creatures that you can control is very difficult, and this is where Mologon failed.  But creating creatures that can breed true is much more difficult, and so it is very surprising that he succeeded there.

Wizlocks are born from spherical eggs.  They resemble crystal balls filled with a thick mist, or perhaps miso soup made from milk and glitter.  They procreate asexually, with each adult wizlock laying 2-3 eggs a year, during full moons.

Since there is no genetic recombination, and since the genetics of wizlocks are so unstable, they each inherit the mutations of their ancestors.  Each generation they get weirder, and farther from their progenitor.

They resemble Mologon himself. . . except with mutations.  Although they have genius IQ, they are too distracted and insane to ever actually put it to good use.  The only thing they use their great intellect for is debating minutia (such as who pooped in the bread basket, and the forensic methods by which it could be determined) and critiquing PC spell-casting.

They are shattered echoes of a great wizard.  Like what dementia leaves behind after it devours another hero.  They're half the height of a human, so that we can kill lots of them without feeling bad.

They desire the trappings of wizardry, but they have forgotten their functionality.

Treasures and Madness:

  1. Tiny bottles, each filled with a different color water (mundane).
  2. Wands made from hair and hardened mucus.
  3. Hand puppets resembling wizlocks.
  4. Stuffed mice and toads.  Sometimes with wheels and pulled by strings.
  5. Hippogriff sculpture made from trash.
  6. Chalk pentagrams drawn on the center of each and every room.
  7. Hands painted white to resemble gloves.
  8. "Alchemy lab" made from clay bowls, clay spirals, painted thermometers, etc.
  9. Solid bricks, painted to look like books, carefully shelved amid a huge "library".
  10. One of their number who has been bullied into playing the part of the demon.  He's been painted red and has had horns affixed to his head.  He'll run around yelling "Evil!  Rape!  Doom!" in the demonic tongue, attacking PCs and fellow wizlocks both.
  11. Scrolls written in cyphers, obscure languages, and bizarre dialects.  The actual content involves stupid stories, e.g. "Moop and Moopy fall in love and have all the babies, chapter 1 the sequel".
  12. 1d3 actual scrolls or potions.

What's interesting about this tribe of wizlocks?

  1. Have smaller wizlocks on leashes.
  2. Two-headed.  Harder to sneak up on.
  3. Just a head.  Movement halved.
  4. Macrocephalic.  Psi blast (as mind flayer) for 3d6 damage.
  5. Deformed skull shaped like a wizard hat.  Not actually wearing a wizard hat.
  6. Centauroid, made from a human top and a black cat bottom. +50% speed.
  7. Octopoid, with a human head atop an eight-branched superbeard.
  8. Amorphous.  Add up all of the wizlocks in the encounter and smoosh them together into a big, roiling, yammering blob.

Number appearing: 2d6
HD 1
AC as unarmored
Attacks tiny daggers (1d4)
speed as human
Morale 6
*Each tribe of wizlocks has a different spell or ability.  Each of them can cast it once per HD.
  1. magic missile
  2. color spray
  3. eye laser
  4. ice breath
  5. sonic screech
  6. special power (d3) + roll again
    1. permanently invisible except for eyes
    2. flight 150'
    3. magic absorption (75% spell resistance, gain 1 HD whenever they resist a spell, max 3 HD)

Spells wizlocks probably can't teach you directly:

Eye Laser
Level 1 Wizard Spell
R: 200'    D: 0
Make a ranged attack roll with +4 to hit.  Target takes 1d6 damage and catches on fire, if flammable.

Ice Breath
Level 1 Wizard Spell
R: 20' cone    D: 0
1d6 damage, save for half.  Also extinguishes all fires torch-sized or smaller.

Sonic Screech
Level 1 Wizard Spell
R: 20'    D: 0
All creatures in 20' take 1d6 damage, save for half.  The caster automatically succeeds on this save.  Glass in that radius has a chance to shatter as well: 50% for thin potion bottle-glass, etc.

"You hath pierced my eldritch eye with your vulgar assault!"
"Ontology recapitulates your defeat!"
"Wizard wizard wizard wizard SPELL!" *casts spell*
"You are too strange to be a familiar!"
"I will bite you with my spells!"
"Leave before I summon the froghemoth!"
"Scrollbabies!  Erghk!"

If you kill enough of them and throw them in a hot tub, you are like 90% of the way to making your own cloning vat, so I guess they're pretty valuable in that respect.

if you average out all of the pictures on this page EXACTLY
you'll know what a wizlock looks like

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Heartbreaker Magic System

Still writing my fantasy heartbreaker and I'm trying to decide on a name.  Goblin Bones?  The Goblin Doctrine?

Today I'm spending a lot of time thinking about the magic system.  It's going to be 100% opinion.

I've already decided that the game will have a soft cap at 3rd level, with character advancement tapering off swiftly after that.

Since I'm going to be writing the magic system from the ground up, I might as well brainstorm on which aspects of the old one I don't like.

  • How shitty level 1 wizards are.
  • How some spells are way better than others, even within a spell level
  • That only wizards can use wands and stuff, and everyone else is assumed incompetent.
  • How incomparable effects are (arbitrarily) made comparable by sorting them into spell levels
  • Rigid Vancian spellcasting
  • Some spells bypass huge areas of the game, or make gameplay feel more like superheroes and less like Farfhd and the Grey Mouser (even Fly does this)

Flexible Vancian Spellcasting

I've already decided that wizards will use an MP-preparation system where they get a fixed amount of MP at each level and spend it during spell preparation.

Level 1 = 1 MP = one level 1 spell
Level 2 = 2 MP = two level 1 spells
Level 3 = 4 MP = two level 1 spells and one level 2 spell; four level 1 spells; or two level 2 spells

No Read Magic

Wizards can decipher a wand or a scroll with an Int check, or they can cast Detect Magic to do it automatically.

Magic items are the same: you can get a big clue about their powers + learn their activation by either (a) spend an hour making an Int check in a wizard-level laboratory, (b) cast Detect Magic on it, or (c) pay a sage.

You Cannot Make Your Own Scrolls

Each spell is a spirit/angel/demon that lives in a parallel and overlapping dimension to our own.  It lives in your spellbook.  You coax it into your brain with meditation and lies.  You cast it by opening a window in your head.  And then it flashes into the hostile world, burns like magnesium powder as it does (observable spell effect), then flees back into the safety of the spellbook.

Each spell, then, is a particular instantiation of a spell-species, and they have names, and some can be said to have minds.  One wizard's fireball might be named Oswald (a name the spell gave itself), and when cast, is slightly different than another wizard's fireball, who is named Magistrix Imperilla Sastane.

A wizard who scribes a scroll then, is giving up his private spell.  He's putting Oswald in a cage so that he can be bought and sold.  (Many wizards do this, when they need quick money.)  That is why scrolls are so precious: they're aren't instructions to be memorized; they're jail cells for a metasentient psycho-pelagic bioarcanum.

Wands are more like zoos, or animal collections.  They're also more stable.  (Spells are social and tend to go mad when confined to a single scroll for a century or two.  This is also why level 1 wizards begin play with 2 spells in their spellbook.)

You Don't Have To Be a Wizard to Use a Wand or Scroll

One thing I learned to like about roguelike games is that scrolls and wands aren't strictly the domain of the wizard.  Any class can learn to a particular wand or scroll once a sage or party wizard (who deciphered it earlier) mentors them through it.  They can use the wand/scroll with another Int check, failure just means that you spend a turn waving a wand around like a dope.

This doesn't add to a party's power, since they already had the scrolls and wands.  It just makes them more versatile, which I think is the fun of magic-spells-and-stuff.  Plus it gives the players more options, and therefore more tactical depth.  Should they give the scroll to the rogue or the wizard?  The wizard can cast it more reliably, but if the rogue has it, the party can potentially cast two fire spells in the first round.

This is also part of my "all adventurers are assumed to be competent at all adventurey stuff" philosophy.  I consider using wands basic adventurin' stuff.

Some Spells I Don't Like

Any spell that brings dead people back to life.  Teleportation.  Sending.  Detect Traps.  I even get grumpy about Fly.  (Sure, you might be able to bring someone back to life, but it'll be a dodgy quest, not a level 5 spell).

The reason I don't like these spells is because they make gameplay very different from an easily relatable set of tools.  Farfhd might bypass a moat of crocodiles by feeding them poisoned meat, but he'd never teleport over.  (Okay, He might fly, but it'd be a one-time thing.)  They also let magic solve too many problems that cleverness and hard work should overcome.

So those spells are out.

(A Rant: I Don't Understand Spell Levels)

I understand that you want to put the most awesome divination spells in the highest levels

Sure, a level 5 spell needs to be a lot more damaging than a level 1 spell because the monsters a level 9 wizard fights have a lot more HP.  Makes sense.  But pretty much everything else is equally useful no matter what level the wizard is.  Speak with Dead is fun and often useful at every level of play.  Same thing with being able to see through a door.  Invisibility is awesome against goblins and manticores, both.  Being able to ask a god a yes-or-no question is as useful at level 1 as it is at level 20.

It's like they made a list of all the illusion spells they could think of, and then spread them across nine spell levels.  Then they did the same for divination, conjuring objects, etc.  It's like they don't want you to have any fun with spells at level 1.  The idea of balancing these effects for a certain level is bullshit because they are essentially incomparable.  You can't compare a 9d6 fireball to invisibility, or polymorph to augury.  They are incomparables.

And I don't think these spells are unbalancing, because (a) is a minute of invisibility at level 1 really better than a sleep spell?, and (b) balance isn't a huge priority anyway.

No Spell Levels

Since I'm basically writing a game for levels 1-3ish, I first got rid of all the spells higher than 2nd level.

Then I decided that that was a bit too drastic, and wrote low-level versions of a lot of the spells that I just removed.

Then I decided to go for simplicity, and made everything a level 1 spell (that costs 1 MP).

But then I still wanted level 3 wizards to be more powerful than level 1 wizards, so I wrote up boosting.

Boosting Spells (i.e. Spells Don't Get More Powerful Just Because Your Caster Level Goes Up)

Basically, you can prepare a spell at a higher level to have it get more powerful.  (5e has pretty much the same thing).  Magic missile does 1d6+1 damage no matter what level the caster is.  But if you prepare it as a level 2 two spell, then it shoots out 3 missiles.

You can use the same concept to create a level 1 version of Fireball.  If you cast it as a level 3 spell, it does 5d6 damage, just like you remember.

Fireball (level 1 spell, like all others)
R: 200',  T: 20' diameter,  D: 0
1d6 fire damage.  Boost: +2d6 fire damage.

I should also mention that fireball is a rare spell.  It's not something that characters will begin play with.  It's a legendary spell.  Rumors that a dungeon holds a scroll of fireball is enough to get adventurers knocking on the door.

All Spells Are Useful And/Or Interesting

I feel bad for some spells.  Detect poison, read magic (already addressed), floating disc, alarm, light.  A lot of spells just don't stack up to other spells like sleep or color spray, either because their usage is too niche or because there are too few ways to use them creatively.

So, a lot of spells have been rewritten to make them more powerful at level 1.  Ideally, everything should be as useful as sleep, which is sort of what I used as the benchmark.  (i.e. "Would I consider taking this spell instead of sleep?")

For starters, detect spells last all day.

Before you accuse me of power creep, remember that

Wizards Don't Suck at Level 1

The original idea for wizards was that they would suck for a few levels.  The rest of the party would have to help carry them, with the exchange that the wizard would be crazy powerful at higher levels.  Nothing inherently wrong with that, as long as players are down for that sort of power-schism.

But if I've putting a soft cap on progression at level 3, wizards need to start being useful now, and for more things than just sleep spells.

No Stacking Spells

You can't prepare more than one copy of a spell.  No stacking fireballs.  They're like cichlids fighting in your brain.

Here are Some Sample Spells

Cure Wounds
R: touch T: creature D: 0

Target creature is healed for 1d6+1 HP. Undead are instead harmed for an equal amount. Boost: +2d6+2 HP healed.

Yes, you get AoE control spells at level 1.  Sleep is the benchmark here.

Color Spray
R: 20' T: creatures D: variable
Creatures are stunned for 1d6 rounds, minus 1 round for every HD they possess. No save.

R: 20' cone  T: creatures in cone  D: 1d6 rnd
Targets save or flee in terror. No effect on creatures with more than 4 HD. Boost: +2 maximum HD or +2d6 rnds.

R: 50' T: 20' dia D: 1d6 min
Targets fall into a deep sleep. Only alert targets (in combat, heard a suspicious noise) get a save to negate. Shouting is not enough to wake a sleeper, but slapping is. After the spell wears off, targets will usually remain in a normal (non-magical) sleep. No effect on creatures with more than 4 HD. Boost: +2 maximum HD or +2d6 minutes.

Invis as a level 1 spell is pretty similar to Invis as a level 2 spell.

R: touch T: creature or object D: 1 min
Target is invisible until it makes an attack roll. Boost: +2 minutes.

Divination at level 1:

R: 10' T: point in space D: 1 min
You can see and hear through the point in space that you designate. Unlike most spells, you do not need line of sight to the target, allowing you to cast this spell through walls. Boost: +20' range.


Floating Disk
R: 5' T: conjured disk D: 2 hr
You conjure up a floating disk. This disk will either follow you around, or you can stand on top of it and direct it. It can carry up to 1000 pounds. It can either hover a few inches above the floor beneath it, or it can maintain it's current altitude, allowing it to float across pits. Lastly, it can reach terrifying speeds if used as a frictionless sled.

So the thing to remember when judging shocking grasp is that (1) fighters can be doing 1d8+1 damage on a hit just fine, (2) wizards don't like making melee attacks for multiple reasons, and (3) the spell is wasted if you miss.  Having said that, here is a level 1 wizard's best chance for crazy spike damage.  [And consider the same spell in an enemy wizard's arsenal: if he misses, he's going to be standing right next to a pissed-off PC fighter.]

Shocking Grasp
R: melee T: creature or object D: 0
With a successful melee attack, you deal 2d8 electric damage. Boost: +2d8 damage.

Also, I sort of envision electrical as being the best element at high single-target damage, so it seems appropriate.