Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Verminators and Conviction

Verminators are muscular dudes with worm heads.  Little beady eyes.  Stinky pink skin and sticky pink lips and a little red tongue that they lick themselves with.

Verminators are the grossest things ever.  Whenever they barf, they eat some of their barf.  And they barf a lot.  This means that when they barf, some small component of that barf has been barfed out like, a thousand times.

Verminators live inside Hungry Joe, and anywhere else that is really gross.  They sleep in big slobbery piles inside tiny round houses made of dried pus.  They pack themselves in there like clown cars.  They barf in their sleep.

Verminators have big hands, and they are proud of them. Verminators wear big spiky gloves to make their hands bigger, and also so they can punch better.

Verminators are so gross, that they can make the party ragequit the dungeon.

like this, except COMPLETELY OPPOSITE
by Jan Fabre
HD 2  AC leather  Punch 1d8
Mov 12  Int 10  Mor 6

Stink - You'll smell them before you see them.  (0% chance of surprise.)  The round before combat, every must make a Con save.  Those who succeed get a round to prepare for combat.  Those who fail spend the first round of combat barfing.  Barfing characters can walk, but can take no other action.  Barfing characters get another Con check at the start of each subsequent round to end the effect.  Those who have time to acclimate to the stink (PCs sneaking into a verminator village) can spend a couple minutes acclimating slowly, but if they charge in, roll vs barf as normal.

Barf - Usable once per day.  10' cone.  Target takes 1d6 acid damage and must make an easy (+4) save vs charm.  If they fail, they are Officially Grossed Out and will take reasonable actions to leave the dungeon and wash off.  Since leave the dungeon alone is usually very dangerous and your companions may not want to leave, what usually happens is the party will leave together once a majority of its members are Officially Grossed Out.  Headless verminators can still barf, but it erupts in a vertical fountain, only hitting the adjacent 10'.

Using Verminators

I know it looks like a lot of text, but it's simple in play.

The stink only comes into play when the verminators are appearing, so it's easy to remember, and easy to explain.

And the barf thing is no different than any of the other six billion monsters that shoots cones.  (I could make a monster manual called Cone Shooters, and just fill it with all the cone shooters.)

The Officially Grossed Out Status is what's really interesting here, and that's what I want to talk about.

Officially Grossed Out

I know that Officially Grossed Out looks like a joke, but its not.  This is genuinely the part of verminators that I am most interested in using.

We already have mechanics for charm.  (Loose, oft-unsatisfying mechanics, but we have them.)  This is similar, except instead of a compulsion to love a person, it's a compulsion to leave the dungeon and take a bath.

In that way, it's potentially a lot less disruptive than charm, and people use charm all the time.  Officially Grossed Out is, in that sense, a lot milder since it allows the party to pull out of the dungeon on their own terms, which just means that they're going to retreat safely.  Sometimes earlier than they would like.

I've already had monsters that could convert you to their religion.  This is just an extension of that.  The system needs a little polish, but its a cool idea.

Part of the whole philosophy of "attack the whole character sheet" means attacking their Convictions/Ideals/Bonds/Etc.  Which is fun because they don't usually get attacked there.

Conviction and Barf

The GLOG uses a system of Convictions, which have two functions: (a) explain why a character would venture into a dungeon in the first place, and (b) explain why a character would take a non-optimal action (i.e. why they would deviate from the murderhobo ideal).

And these convictions are not set in stone.  They are intended to change over the course of a campaign.  Usually as a result of player-driven choices, but sometimes they can be put there through unhappy circumstance.  (The geas spell, for example.)

Using that, we can rewrite the barf ability to:

Barf - Usable once per day.  10' cone.  On a hit, takes 1d6 acid damage (save for half) and gains an equal number of gross-out points.  Once a character has gross-out points equal or exceeding their Charisma, they gain the Conviction of "Get to Safety and Take a Bath".  This conviction disappears once they actually take a bath.

. . .

I like that.

Because D&D doesn't model willpower very well.  Monsters never convert the PCs (except with dominate spells).  Demons never sway the Chaotic Neutral players to come kill some orcs with them, although it would be cool if they could.
How would you adjudicate this:

A paladin needs to stick his dick into a Bene Gesserit pain box in order to save all the babies.  Is his willpower strong enough to actually do it?

What are you gonna do?  Make a Wis/Con/Cha check?  A Will save?  Or just let the player say, "Yeah, Sir Goldenwand sticks his dongle in the box and it hurts but he keeps it there."

None of those are satisfying.  So, I propose Convictions and Willpower, which is equal to Charisma (or you could use Wisdom, if that feels better).

Rules: Each turn a creature places a body part into the pain box, they gain 1d6 pain points.  If their total pain points exceeds their Charisma score, they nope out of this pain box business altogether.  The pain points gained each turn are reduced by 1 for each relevant, opposing Conviction (min 0).  A player with a relevant, opposed conviction can spend a Conviction Point to reduce pain points by 1d6.  A player must keep their hand in the pain box for 5 rounds to save all the babies.

I like that better.

There's time to build tension.  There's 5 rolls, not just 1.  You can describe the paladin sweating and shaking after each one.

There's a big dependency on both Charisma and Convictions (especially convictions).  This means that it might not be the Level 5, Cha 16 paladin who passes the pain box test, but the Level 0, Cha 11 housewife, if the housewife has the Conviction of "save all the babies", while the paladin has the convictions of "punish the wicked" and "never trust anything with horns".

If you think about it, this might be a more reasonable result of a fear spell.  Not to run away screaming, abandoning your friends when they need you most, but simply to make your character unwilling to continue in the dungeon any further, maybe forever.

And that--by itself--is a potent price to pay for failure.  It's a potent punishment to the player ("Your character is so scared that they'll never go back into the dungeon again.") and sort of a poignant penalty to drop on the character.  Example:

The party fights the dracolich.  Most of them fail their initial save vs fear, and spend the first round cowering behind the paladin.  But though they recover their nerve and fight the dracolich, the tide still turns against them, and they are forced to retreat.

After resting back in town, the paladin is still eager to quest for a dragonbane sword and then return, but his companions are not interested.  They are still psychic cripples.  All they dream about is the dragolich.  They hear his wings whenever a cloud passes in front of the sun.  All they can do is shiver and shake their heads no, because they fought the dracolich and it crippled them. They will never willingly set foot in those darkened halls as long as they live.

earthworm jim is way to handsome to be a verminator