Tuesday, October 23, 2018

More of An Alignment System

Maybe I should come up with a name for it, but anyway sense I've written my alignment post I've had more thoughts on it. I still haven't playtested it yet so hopefully there isn't a issue at the core of this idea that will cause this additional post to be for naught once it's thrown into the field. Regardless...
Do you know how to illustrate a cosmic force without using squiggly lines? Because I don't.

So I've read this interesting take on divination on Mastered by Marquis's blog and decided to mash it together with my alignment system. Rules wise this doesn't change anything, but justifies how Mancy works. Mancy is the practice that allows you to talk with the Power you're aligned to and ask it questions(in my last post I called them "Alignments" but "Powers" makes more sense after someone else used it). Since Powers usually "thinks" in favor of those it is aligned with, the Power will freely give answers to the person. The problem is that elemental forces and abstract ideals are not people and do not "think" like people, so there is a significant barrier in communication between the two. Vague and cryptic prophesy is the result of translation error, where either the Power poorly understood the question or misinterpreted how much the diviner understood. The diviner gets worse results the more they divine in a single day, ironically, because they start thinking more in tune with their Power. If a part of you're mind is thinking in Ocean or Law, it isn't able to think in person and the information more difficult to use, even if part of your brain understands it better. It's nothing a good night's sleep can't fix thought. Be warned if you start using it excessively (by divining 6 or more times each day for a while) you can permanently gain decreased maximum result.

Now you may be wondering, if mancy allows you to ask informative questions of things greater than man, than can it be used to ask a Power to do something? I don't see a reason why not, I'd say the rules are the same as for gathering information but the Divination Die is ruled on this table instead, and it counts as a preformed mancy.

1: The Power interprets you're request in the worst way possible. Everyone at the table is free to suggest what could go wrong and the terriblest result happens.
2-3: The Power misinterprets what you wanted to happen and it goes bad.
4: The Power doesn't understand what your request, so just ignores it. Nothing happens.
5: The Power misunderstands what you want, and does something fairly harmless instead. It's obviously supernatural and NPCs will react accordingly thought.
6: The Power does exactly what you told it to do. This only has a risk of monkey-pawing you if you are hurrying.
7+: The Power does exactly what you want it to do, with no if, or buts.

Asking a Power to do something is generally a very bad idea, so most sensible diviners will go out of their way to avoid doing so. When they do request the great powers the results are always memorable, so people assume that's what diviners do all the time.

World Building Implications:
  • Necromancers as respectablish profession for contacting those who have pasted away.
    • The necromancer is able to contact the dead thought the medium of their Power, "inside" of which the spirits of people end up.
  • Wizards Know Something You Don't.
    • Wizards don't understand nearly as much as they'd like you to believe.
      • They will be blindsided by both their personal biases and the bias of the Power they consult.
  • There is good reason to be weary about attacking the court magician even if they just lounge around all day and look at the stars periodically.
  • Ambitious magic users scheme about many things.
  • A few famous oracles are no longer people, just vessels that spout prophesy and the thoughts of great alien minds.
  • People bind minor imps to act as pocket sized diviners, this results in predictions that are both more understandable and less accurate.
    • As a GM roll a d6 behind a screen. The lower the more the imp twists the truth to their advantage.
  • Someone who divines with cards could be aligned with the Game, or with something else, as the major arcana are based around astrology. You can figure this out by how the person talks about their prediction.
    • e.g. If they use words like "piece" or "move" when referring to you're future, they are likely Game aligned.
  • Mystic hobos that know everything that can appear anywhere in the city.
  • Fortune Tellers are dangerous.

Design Notes:
As I'm a Pratchett fan I want to make rules that encourage Granny Weatherwax play.  Which entails having magical powers and not using them. Having magical powers and not using them doesn't sound that fun thought, so I wrote explicit magical powers to be highly risky. You'd ask the a Power of something if either you have a clever plan that you've carefully laid out (and would you look at that, the normal use of mancy is an information gathering tool, a helpful thing for forming clever plans), which is the kind of combat-as-war play that the OSR is based around, or as a Hail-Mary when cornered. Because seeing you're wizard get exploded from tampering with powers beyond his control is it's own reward, and if that wizard does somehow make it out alive, than it's surprising. This is intended to exist along side Arcanum as a more flexible but less reliable power.

Arnold's Orcs in this system always hate their aligned Power. They curse it and spit at it for what it, an orc who doesn't hate the Power is not really an orc.(the exception is Family, but that is hidden by the much louder other Power) Sky is popular because that's where the gods are. The Show is also popular because that's what the gods make of their lives. War is also a good bet when it comes to orcs. It may not seem like it, but orcs hate War, there are not enought words to describe how much they hate it.
Void monks practice the Mancy of Nothing. Speaking with Nothing never gets you any information, however if you do it enough than you you're mind will be eroded away, which is the point for void monks.

People try to align with Everything, and become one with the universe. The Mancy of Everything is about as useful as the Mancy of Nothing, but for precisely the opposite reason. When connecting to Everything there is to much information for a brain to make any use of. It also take a lot more time to do than mancy usually does. A character who's becoming one with the universe can't be adventuring at the same time.

Alignment Develpment
A person's alignment grows and changes with them as a person. Often rapidly as a child and more slowly with adults. When a child is in the womb they are first aligned to their Mom, who greater beyond comprehension at this stage. Than when they are born and start learning about the world, it expands from Mom to Family and/or Home and spirals out in any number of directions from there. Usually children pick up their parent's alignment along with all the beliefs and values that a family instills in them. Teenage rebellion often relates to a change in view on an aligned Power rather than a change to a different force.

Further Quibblings
Sea and Ocean would be the same Power viewed from slightly different angles as they refer to the same thing. Same with the Show or the Spectacle or the Play, it's all related to the central concept of viewing the world through the lens of performance. I think it's fine to refer to the same Power by multiple names, as many of these concepts are to large to be contained within a single name. There are some places where you could argue either way if something is the same Power. For example, Mountain and Earth can be considered the same. Both relate to stone and both are things dwarves would be aligned to. However, on the other hand by associating the two, you're associating surface dwelling mountain goats with underground creatures like the horrible things in the Underdark. It all depends on what feels right to you and you're players. Another example is that I won't align all the fish in the sea with the Sea, because, everyone who lives on land isn't aligned with it either. However you could rule it either way.

In my mind there are several ways you could organize the Powers in a setting. Either have a fluid and disorganized mess of various concepts and (super/un-)natural forces like I've been describing in the two posts on the topic, or you could have a carefully structured set of Powers. Something like MtG Colors or Homestuck Aspects, or even D&D's alignment chart that I dread so much. Both of the former tie concepts with physical things and would give the world an distinctive flare than if a confusing hodge-podge is used, but also doesn't allow alignment to be as personally significant for almost all characters. I am not yet sold on either direction for this, and in retrospect I definitely had Aspects in the back of my head when writing the original post.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

OSR Guide For The Perplexed Questionnaire Answering

1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me: This post. For it exemplifies the concept of player induced shenanigans.
2. My favorite piece of OSR wisdom/advice/snark: If it doesn't work, fix it.
3. Best OSR module/supplement:
I'm not sure I haven't used many of them, I guess Maze of the Blue Medusa, as it's the one I both have and actually run with some success. From what I've heard of it, Yoo-Suin is something I'd like, I should get around to getting my hands on it.
4. My favorite house rule (by someone else): My favorite rule is the rule by Chris McDowell that all attacks hit. It is so simple and elegant and eliminates an aspect of the game that I frankly can't care less about. Technically, the it's the official rule in Chris's game Into the Odd but all rules are house rules from the right perspective.

5. How I found out about the OSR: Arnold's Goblin Punch was the first OSR blog I came across, the rest were accessed via his blog roll.
6. My favorite OSR online resource/toy: Um, blogs with random tables? This is the first one that jumps to my mind.
7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers: I generally talk to people via Discord. Blogs would be great if I was able to get notifications about comment threads I'm following.

8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games: This blog, and um, I don't know. I have a tumblr for art purposes.
9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough: The real powers of the wizard isn't bending the universe to their will, it's convincing everyone else that they do. (Nobody appreciates it because I haven't dedicated a full post to it, but it won't click with most people the way it does with me.)
10. My favorite non-OSR RPG: Unknown Armies. It's a game that captures the fear of having agency that we don't see nearly enought. Also it has the most realistic "urban wizards" in my opinion.
11. Why I like OSR stuff  I want to make Secondary Worlds according to Tolkien's terminology. Doing it through books/movies/comics/etc requires me to write plot, video games require a lot of man power to make a living world and other rpg systems care about different things. With OSR it's easier to focus on presenting a world and not worry about stuff I'm not interested in. I also appreciate the DIY spirit of tinkering that is visible on display.
12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yet:Here's a cool blog which shows a lot of care put into the process of running a game. Here's another cool blog that shows another care with put into putting the medieval into the game and sometimes running really hard sci-fi.
13. If I could read but one other RPG blog but my own it would be: Bastionland, all the posts there are succinct and strike at the core of things. 
14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is: My post about playing dead people.
15. I'm currently running/playing: I'm currently playing two play by posts in the Discord I previously mentioned.
16. I don't care whether you use ascending or descending AC because: I use ItO where there aren't ACs.
17. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice:
Technically it's a gif, sue me.

I apologize for the formatting nonsense, I don't know what's causing it.

Friday, September 28, 2018

An Alignment System

I greatly despise the alignment grid, I could go into detail but many others have succinctly pointed out it's myriad of issues already. I feel better about the original three option one, but grand cosmic conflicts aren't something that has grabbed me that much. My brain has formulated a system that is grown from the personality determining parts the gird has grown over the years and taken into a completely different direction.

An Alignment System

People don't exist as islands, they cannot exist in isolation. They require a connection to something beyond them to function, it's simply how they are wired. This connection is refereed to as alignment, it is a mystical pull between an individual and something greater and usually somewhat abstract force that greatly influences their life. Alignment is written on a person's character sheet like it in usual D&D and has the three following effects on a character.
  • Alignment Shapes Character: The alignment of a character is a central pillar around which their personality is built. This doesn't mean that everyone aligned with the same things have similar personalities, only that they all care about the same thing. The connection between a character and their alignment can be reverent, matter-of-factly, antagonistic, subconscious, positive, it doesn't matter as long as it's important. A authoritarian and an anarchist can both be aligned to Law just in different ways. The sailor who cannot swim and the mermaid tempting him beneath the waves can both be aligned with the Sea.
    • Players are free to interpret their alignment any way they wish. They can have as shallow or complicated relation with it as they like.
    • Everyone with shared alignment shares a kind of kinship and understanding between each other. Which results in them either getting along splendidly or terribly.
      • Reaction rolls where someone talks to someone of the same alignment are shifted one step away from the neutral response. In ItO make the reaction roll have more extreme results.
    • When writing your alignment feel free to include and adjective to describe your relationship with it. "True Lawful", "Begrudgingly Lawful", "Un-Lawful" Go nuts.
  • Character Shapes Alignment: A character's alignment will favor them due to the kinship between them. These are subtle and unreliable shifts of fate that could easily pass off as coincidence to the skeptical. Things like managing to was ashore alive rather than dead for the Ocean, not getting lost in your city if your're aligned with your City, having a knack for not getting small burns for Fire. You can have consistent and blatant protections and powers related to your alignment but that requires sacrifice.
    • Alignment is a valid reason to rule some things in a character's favor, but it's still within mundane and normal limits.
      • If the players ask, they know if they have favor. The character will feel it intuitively.
    • The sacrifices can justify magical(or psychic,mystical, etc.) class powers, be part of an ItO style Order or Mark.
      • Needless to say, make it a serious Dilemma. 
  • Destined Death: As a character's life is intertwined with their alignment, so must their death be. This doesn't mean that you can't die in a way unrelated to your alignment, but it does mean if you do than they will become restless, and become unquiet dead until they are properly buried. This is one of the purposes of burial ceremonies.
    • Surprise, this was secretly a continuation of my previous post all along!
Your alignment can change and evolve if you have a significant life experience, but generally it's going to be a change in your relationship with the alignment not switching to a completely different one. It should be rare and impactful enought to be ruled on a case by case basis. Maybe you can have up to two alignments per character? I don't know maybe one is complicated enough. If two alignments are on one character than the destined death would probably involve them both.

Un-Definitive List of Alignments:
Kind of Person Boons Proper Deaths
1. Family
A normal person who cares about the people closest to them. A lost son. Being able to accurately predict things about your family, having a better time talking with them. Dying to save one's family. Dying surrounded by your loved ones. Funeral with all of them attending.
2. Home
Someone who loves the place they lived. Someone who is indebted to where they live. Knowing if something is wrong and not as it should be. Being buried at home, possibly with an apple tree planted on top.
3. The City
Someone who lived in the city all their lives, and connects with it. Sam Vimes basically. Navigating through confusing streets or losing someone tailing you. Being buried within the city's cemetery or rotting in it's gutter depending on your class.

4. A Community 
Someone who extends empathy towards a group beyond their family or a pariah of said group. Getting a reaction you want out a crowd from this community. Dying for the benefit or despair of a community. Being buried by their traditions.
5. A Dream
Someone with a grand goal that they strive towards, or a cynic who lost that drive, but can't let it go. Convincing others that the dream is a good/bad idea. Ignoring the penalty of sleep deprivation for short while.  Dying with the dream achieved or handed off for someone else to do it. Dying secure in the futility of doing so.
6. Love
A romantic who has found true love or someone who vehemently denys such a concept. Somehow guessing the vague direction of where one's love is. Being buried side by side. Going full Romeo and Juliet is only necessary if your a teenager.
7. Law
Someone who believes in the value of order or someone preoccupied with determinism. Getting somewhere on time. Dying without any unfinished business or loose ends. A neat and formal funeral. 
8. Chaos
Someone who believes in personal freedom or someone painfully aware and afraid of Murphy's Law. Being able to find something in your own messy room. Dying unbound from some bullshit. Who cares about the funeral.

9. The Game
Someone who views life like it's a game, and people as players in it. Gamblers, Machiavellian schemers, the meta aware.

A knack for understanding rules. This soul will rest if win or lose, they've played well.
10. The Show
Those who see the world as a spectacle. Actors, glory seeking leaders, bards, storytellers.

A knack for the dramatic. What matters is that there is a good story around it.
11. The Open Road
Wanderers, traveling merchants, drifters and postman. People who can't settle down. Being able to sleep in traveling scenarios, Good sense of direction. Dying while traveling. Funeral treated like a pit stop for another journey.

12. The Sea
Sailors, sea creatures, coastal people. Those drawn to the sea.

Being able to hold your breath for longer. Drowning. Burial at sea.
13. The Earth
Dwarves, miners, spelunkers. Those who aren't afraid of going into the Veins of the Earth or are fascinated in their fear of it.  Not falling to panicked claustrophobia. Dying in a ravine. Being buried in the ground.
14. The Sky
Airheads, Blue Folk, pilots. Those who look at the sky's big wideness with wonder.
Feeling changes in the weather ahead of time.
Decomposing under the open air. Ashes scattered to the wind. Throwing a corpse from a really high cliff.
15. Fire
Pyromaniacs, smiths and fire fighters. People who can stare at an open flame for hours. A knack for avoiding minor burns and handling hot objects. Cremation, intended or otherwise. Pyres.
16. A Forest.
Druids, lumberjacks, elves, rangers. Trees and and forest critters. Not getting lost in the woods, guessing which berries are poisonous. Decomposing in the woods. Having one's body nourish a tree.
17. The Sun
Early birds, outdoorsy people. Shockingly The Children of the Sun. Getting a nice tan rather than terrible burns. The service is held during the day, at a higher elevation preferably.
18. The Moon
Werewolves, literal lunatics, people who's emotions are influenced by the pull of the moon. The witches that dance naked under moon light. Night owls.

A bit of luck under the moonlight. The service done under the moon's glow.
19. Darkness
Creatures of the night, secretive folk, weirdos who always wear black. Also those never stopped fearing bogeymen under closets.

Good night vision, tendency to blend in well into darkness. Rest the body somewhere nice and dark. Even better if it's hidden.
20. None- no great cosmic connection.
Listless and adrift. A person who is isolated and alone. Nothing, except they aren't registered by alignment based divination. There isn't one. They are bound to be a aimless specter.

Ideally, the table that is properly weighted so that more adventurer friendly alignments would show up more often than the less friendly ones. However since this is a un-definitive list, it's more meant to give you a gist of what the the alignments entails. The Boons table is meant to bring up examples rather than explicit bonuses, it's also the thing that is going to need the most playtesting, telling people to "adjust for taste" is a bit of a cope out. Even with the OSR's DIY mentality a system should have knobs to adjust and details to ignore.

World Building Implications:

  • Rather than a setting with a grand cosmic war, it leads to a complicated and messy world with various forces and people that care about their own personal problems and bump heads through that.
  • Aside from violence, the dead can be laid to rest by figuring out who they were as a person and by honoring them correctly.
    • Shamans, exorcists and so forth do this professionally.
  • Funeral rites are made important in a way that is obvious to players.
    • There is knobs and options in what they do that can be messed with, space for both hijinks and discovery.
  • Knowing things about someone's personality can give you insight in how to mess with them magically or how you don't want to mess with them.
  • Beings of the same alignment have come into conflict and that can be exploited by third parties.
  • The line between the mundane and the supernatural is more of a gradient that a solid line.
    • Does a mother tear someone to pieces in defense of her children because of a sudden burst of adrenaline or due by mystically evoking that it's her Family? Does this matter, is there actually a difference between the two.
    • Is that guy just very good at acting or is he's performance taping into something divine.
    • Magic is less of it's own force, but more what happens at the extremes of other forces.
      • That guy isn't lighting a fire without any implements because he's manipulating the aether, but because Fire likes him a lot.
      • There isn't a correct Unifed Theory of Magic, same way there isn't a Unifed Theory of Science.
      • Spells have alignments, that's why they can manipulate the world.
  • Friendship power is a thing.
  • Some great monsters are the direct decedents of great forces, and killing them will is tricky because of it.
  • The nature of these forces, whether they are beings, mediums we exist in, both, neither so forth, is the great topic of theological debate in the world.

Design Notes:
Like my last post this is more of synthesis of various tropes and ideas rather than anything new. It also associates these common tropes with each other in a way that would not be obvious otherwise. As a game mechanic it leans the game closer to storygame, by giving more focus to the internal lives of the characters. It also establishes relationships between various npcs and monsters that can be interacted with in interesting ways, so it doesn't stray to far from OSR design. Plus, it adds a fun element of character identity. There are a lot of questions about how this would work. How many alignments does a person get? Is it really necessary to have both Law and Chaos if you can have an antagonistic to either of them? Should alignments be more organised? Are some of these a bit too redundant? Is this system to convoluted to explain to people at the table when everyone is sitting around and making their characters?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Odd Dead

I've had an idea of how to play a ghost in Into the Odd. I started writing this post trying my best to keep to the minimalist aesthetic of ItO but I ended going on several wild tangents that led to a ranty manifesto about fantasy fiction in general. So moving on.

When you die with unfinished business, from certain oddities or simply without noticing it, you can become a ghost.
  • Ghosts don't have Strength or Dexterity scores. 
    • All rolls attempted with those abilities automatically fail. 
    • Impairments or damage to Strength or Dexterity do nothing to a ghost.
  • A ghost's Will score cannot be healed normally.
  • A ghost can come back from Critical damage after a couple of days, but not from hitting 0 Will.
  • Sleep, food, air, warmth and other biological problems no longer apply, but you loose 1 Will foe every day of strenuous activity since biology no longer repairs itself.
  • Ghosts can spend 1d4 Will to physically interact with the world or possess a target which get's a Will save to resist. Inanimate objects instead get a save based off their sympathetic relation to the ghost, with 10 being a casually known thing.
  • A ghost can gain 1 Will by draining, stealing or eating 1d6 Will from a target.
Nothing revolutionary here, but what happens if we swap around those attributes?
  • Zombies don't have Will or Dexterity scores. 
    • All rolls attempted with those abilities automatically fail. 
    • Impairments or damage to Will or Dexterity do nothing to a zombie.
  • A zombie's Strength score cannot be healed normally.
  • A zombie can come back from Critical damage after a couple of days but not from hitting 0 Strength.
  • Sleep, food, air, warmth and other biological problems no longer apply, but you loose 1 Strength foe every day of strenuous activity since biology no longer repairs itself.
  • Zombies can spend 1d4 Strength to woo someone with unnatural charms or make a target into a enthralled zombie upon critical damage. If the critical damage roll result is 15 or greater than new zombie is free to do what it wants.
  • A zombie can gain 1 Strength by draining, stealing or eating 1d6 Strength from a target.

  • Skeletons don't have Will or Strength scores. 
    • All rolls attempted with those abilities automatically fail. 
    • Impairments or damage to Will or Strength do nothing to a skeleton.
  • A skeleton's Dexterity score cannot be healed normally.
  • A skeleton can come back from Critical damage after a couple of days but not from hitting 0 Dexterity.
  • Sleep, food, air, warmth and other biological problems no longer apply, but you loose 1 Dexterity foe every day of strenuous activity since biology no longer repairs itself.
  • Skeletons can spend 1d4 Dexterity to apply a decent amount of force, or have their bones act while separated. Your bones can also be rearranged into novel body plans without spending anything.
  • A skeleton can gain 1 Dexterity by draining, stealing or eating 1d6 Dexterity from a target.
   My intention with this design is to offer an alternative to losing a dead character that doesn't cheapen the death of said character. The two ways I see this playing out is that either the undead character doesn't consume anyone and gets burnt out out eventually while allowing the rest of the pcs to complete the dungeon or they become a monstrous creature and that places a lot of interesting issues for players to deal with. Either of which would be a good result in my book. The former might be made more likely depending on how much a player misses being able to use all three attributes. 
In either case the hijinks factor of immunity to two of the attributes should be quite fun, except zombies end up getting a raw deal because strength is the most likely to be damaged and Dexterity is most likely to be saved for in a usual game. To that my answer is to allow zombies to form a horde, which is limited by horde always being blocked off by bad terrain and most of the zombies will have lower Str scores. If an enemy is ready for it, cover or elevated ground with copious amounts of fire should take care of the infestation.
   If applied to all undead in the setting, they will generally become more pathetic than threatening. Sometime even in a comedic way. I like this from a thematic perspective because it brings the horror of undead back where it belongs, to the fear of death and the absoluteness of entropy.
   I also vary deliberately avoid saying anything about the undead being inherently evil, simply because I feel that limits what you can do with them. The themes the undead revolve around include death, loss, the past's effect on the present, disease,entropy and humanities attempts to extend it's existence. There are a lot of interesting angles to work with here, beyond purging the world of abominations against nature. This is simply a personal preference, but I prefer all the characters in my fantasy to be sympathetic and someone you can talk to.

World Building Implications and additional ideas that fit in here:

  • People generally don't like walking corpses, because grandma eating you is worse than when a some wolf does it.
  • Being undead is unpleasant and people don't willingly do it without a damn good reason.
    • The undead are still who they were in life, but degrading on all levels, physical, mental, spiritual.
    • The undead will do things for their living friends and relatives.
  • The great hero who defeated many foes even after taking a lethal wound is technicality the same as the monstrous creature that gave up it's humanity and prowls at night for victims. Nobody wants to admit that.
  •  Some backwoods places have a tradition of where people sacrifice bits of themselves to their ancestors.
  • There are special drugs brewed from highly poisonous mushrooms that allow you to lose your attributes for a couple moments. Allowing you to use the abilities of death without the commitment. Those who use this concoction are commonly called Berserkers.
    • The most potent of these drugs destroys all three of your attributes, making you immune to all harm for a couple minutes. The only problem is that you irreversibly die afterwords.
  • There is a notorious thief out there that has never been caught. His secret is that he has a ghostly brother on his side.
  • The evil Mr.Chatter is a skeleton who has added a lot of bones to himself over the years, too many really. He has 18 Dexterity, a crocodile skull on one of his hands that does d8 damage and gambling addiction. He'd be quite the gentleman if it weren't for his terrible dread cackle and habit of stealing peoples bones in their sleep.
  • It isn't clear if a zombie, a skeleton and a ghost can simultaneously be created from the same person. The intellectual and spiritual authorities on the topic deny it, but there are rumors.
  • Since they fall to pieces if they move around to much, the unquiet dead are transported around the same way the quiet ones are. On a wagon, in coffins if budget allows.
  • Vampires are dead that have found the secret of effectively draining people, thus are able to pass off as human if well fed.
    • When a vampire drains, steals or eats from someone they get the full value of the die rather than just one.
    • Vampires can drain the other two attributes instead of just the one. However when these attributes are damaged they loose at least half of it rounded up.
      • So if a skeletal vampire with 10 Str takes 2 damage it will go up to 5 and if they take 6, it will stay at 6.
    • Vampires can pass off as living humans if all their attributes are high enough, even if they are usually a skeleton or ghost underneath.
  • Lichs hide parts of themselves in phylacteries, as long as it remains unbroken the lich is static and eternal. Should it break the lich dies instantly.
    • As long as their phylactery is whole, a selected attribute of the lich will never change in any way. If broken, the selected attribute is instantly vanished as well.
    • Lichs are not able to change or adapt without messing with their phylactery. Which caries the risk of killing them. Changing opinions is like performing open heart surgery on yourself and forming new habits is that on top of what humans already have to do.
    • As such liches range from are either barely functioning old people or omnicompetent super geniuses who have thought of everything in advance, there is no middle ground.
      • In the worst cases they are both.
  • Some unquiet dead have a a remaining Dexterity attribute but are more spectral than skeletal. They lack both a body and a will but they still have their movement about them. They are poltergeists and whispering winds. You can only see them by their remaining shadow or the glint of an eye that isn't there. They can be slain if you are able to restrict their movement.
    • I decided to go with skeletons as the player option to make each type have their own distinct thing.
    • It's known that when someone dies on a phantom steed, they will become this kind of spook.
      • There is a debate on if phantom steeds are themselves a kind of dead or a manifestation of the platonic ideal of SPEED. Studying them is difficult because they keep running away.
  • Undead armies! 
    • Zombie infantry!
    • Ghost scouts and spies!
    • Skeleton rangers and shock troopers!
    • Living officers, because they don't have to worry about falling apart.
    • A culture that believes that death is no excuse for being lazy.
  • The undead don't have to sustain themselves on people, animals also have meat, bones and a spirit. The undead that do however become gain animalistc features and behaviours.
    • There is a group of vampires who deliberately eat certain animals so they can have their features, either because they idolize those animals or for a fashion statement.
    • Now you know why the pale thing in the sewers has a rats tail and whisker-like mustache.
  • Corpse Bride style towns of the dead exist, except they are generally more lethargic and slower paced, as there is no rush and rushing around will shorten you death span.
    • Some cultures have festivals once a year where the dead literally rise up from the grave to visit their living family like Dias Los Muertos. In these places, the towns of the dead have been deliberately built to house everyone's extended family.
  • There is a specter stumbling across the waste, with tattered clothes and sun bleached bones. An old bag filled perturbs his gait, as useless boots get scratched on stones. And a quite mutter escapes those teeth, he repeats his mantra again, again, like he's spirit is kept alive by the sounds. "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds"
    • 6 Dex, 0 HP
    • The pcs can just tip him over and take his bag, he's too weak to resist.
    • His bag contains old letters, and not much else. It could contain interesting adventure hooks, tidbits of flavor information, tragic stories or what have you.
    • If snapped out of his daze the specter may ask the party to lend him some of their strength(dexterity actually) so he can make the final leg of the journey. He has nothing to offer you, except a speech about the importance of delivering mail and an appeal to moral ideals.
    • He will fight tooth and nail to keep he's bag if force is used to take it from him, you don't need to bother rolling damage, he can't do anything.
    • If he thinks your also a postman and is convinced to swallow he's pride for the greater good of completing the rounds, he will give you the bag with directions to it's destination and peacefully crumple into dust.
   I'll stop there, as I could go on endlessly coming up with cool tidbits and spin off new tangents. Almost of of it is a remix, reinterpretation or riffing on already existing ideas, either from other rpgs or other media. While I initially wrote this in a stream of consciousness kind of way, I have assigned a purpose onto onto this after the fact. The purpose is to create a good fantasy world that is both fun to play in and results in cool stories. One of the central pillars of any fantasy is how the magic works, and equally importantly what we understand about how the magic works. If put on a scale, there are two poles, on one is is we have complete systematization of the magic world, this can often lead to a world where the magic is banal and boring, many versions and variations of D&D have is problem I could go into detail but I'm lazy so here's a post where the issue is explained among other things. On the other end of the spectrum we have magic that is completely unexplainable and undefined. This approach has merit but it's not something you can experiment with to achieve something, a core part of OSR playstyle (arguably as OSR is vague term). So what I want is something in the middle. Coherent rules that have sufficient predictability that you could come up with hi-jinks but still have the flexibility to have unknowns that aren't accounted for. When you see something zombie, you can be fairly confidant that it is perpetually decaying and that it will be incredibly clumsy, and you can literally smell the decay on the zombie and you can see that the pieces needed for coordinated movement hanging out, it makes sense. However you can't be complacent about your zombie knowledge because sometimes life throws you a curveball and you see a zombie running at you from across a tight rope, and you have to adapt. Maybe you need to reevaluate what you know about zombies or ask if this is really a zombie and not someone in convincing make-up. There is an interesting conflict at play here, something to think about, and choices you need to decide before you receive a perfectly executed somersault to the face.
    I think that this is a good area for a fictional world to be at because it speaks to how our world works. The rules we live by are fairly reliable but not infallible. The more you find out about the world, the more you see what you don't understand, there are intricate details and complicated systems, there are atoms spinning with unknown particles, two lethal poisons somehow combine into salt a resource vital for life, and I don't know where to start on how complicated animals are, we do not fully understand how even our own brains work. All those things are also interconnected, and interact with each other, weave between, push and pull on each other. You can connect any human endeavor with another by some common feature, each natural phenomenon is tangentially connected to all the others and it is so big and complicated and always changing in brilliant whirls and swirls that we can't precisely grasp.  But we can grasp some understanding, and we can use that to get something done that we couldn't before we sort of understood. It's amazing, exhilarating, terrifying and awe inspiring. That is something I want to capture that magic of discovery in fiction, that slow creep towards knowing and the shenanigans that happen along the way.

Did I mention none of the game rules here have been playtested at all?

"Secret Lore":
Here are ideas that would be hidden information within the setting, secrets players could figure out themselves from observing the game world. Now I don't have a specific campaign or players to hide this from and OSR blogs are mostly viewed by GMs so the chance of accidentally ruining close to none, but better safe than sorry.
  • There is a monastery fortress that holds a great treasure, it is guarded by immortal guardians in armor without eye slits. Nobody is able to best them in battle.
    • The secret of these soldiers is that they are ghosts who trained in life for this role. Their bodies are puppets made with their own bones and belongings for the strongest sympathetic link. Each guardian has partnered monks who channels their Will to their guardians threw meditation. They regularly switch shifts to allow for rest and recuperation. In combat the guardians are basically impervious to all physical attacks, but will sloppily pretend that they aren't and avoid using ghosty powers to keep up the charade. They are safe from harm as long as they have connection with their monks that are safely hiding behind the walls of the monastery. Those with mystical vision are able to see a cords of energy that lead to the monks. If you figure out that the guardian can only be harmed thought their Will, it will take several rounds for more monks to arrive and bolster the guardian, unless all of them are occupied with something else.
    • I'll eventually write up this monastery as a dungeon.
  • Anyone can turn undead, all it requires is confidence in your own authority to turn undead and yelling.
    • This is because zombies and skeletons have no Will, thus they don't get any save when they are yelled at and will instinctively turn the other direction.
    • Ghosts do have Will to resist being yelled at, but stressing them out is also how you vanquish them.
    • Do not tell this to the PCs thought, include wards, charms and holy symbols at various price ranges in the game and tell them they are used to ward off the dead. The power of these artifacts is a placebo effect to both the dead and the living, as everyone knows that the certain important symbols and holy words can do this.
      •  A symbol or charm will always work if the it's part of the undead's culture and they feel guilty or wrong for being  unholy abominations against nature.
      • The undead gets a save if they only one of the above applies, the symbol or charm is from a different culture but still obviously intended to ward off the dead.
      • If the undead is shameless and/or doesn't recognize the power of the charm they don't need to save against it.
    • Peasants usually use their local charms to defend themselves. Nomads, sailors and other traveling folk pick up a various trinkets from the various cultures they visit, at least the ones who believe in ghost stories.
    • There are people who know this truth, most of them are sorcerers, religious figures and other mystics that have a professional interest in keeping it hidden. As so much of that trade relies on placebo.
      • This is fantasy, so the line between placebo and supernatural powers is none existent. Most mystics would probably frame this in terms of belief and will power being able to change the world.
        • This thread of thought has tumbled away from the topic of the undead, put a pin in it, as this deserves it's own post.
      •  You also don't want the dead to know that they can just stop fearing wards and charms, those things are a major advantage against them.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Boy vs the Maze of the Blue Medusa Actual Play Session 1

On my little brother's whim, I ran Maze of the Blue Medusa using Into the Odd. My solution to running a dungeon that has adult themes with a little kid is to work my way around them when I get there. It's not something that came up because I  skipped the first room with it's specific entering instructions and plopped him down in room 2, using the fact that he had a Space Folder arcanum as justification. I'm also using a fake name for the sake of not throwing real names on the internet.

  • Sanford is teleported in by the Space Folder.
  • He meets Lady Capilli, she hands him paper and pen and tells him to go and right down someone's story that has to be original.
  • Sam checks the three doors available to him and decides to go in the middle one.
  • There he hears the riddle of Cynoxantha and decides to walk across the room.
    • Maybe I should have been stated the riddle more clearly.
  • Where he is made into a mosaic, and has a little scuffle with the snake where in both take two damage.
  • He forces he's way out of the mosaic room back to where he was.
    • Which required him to pass a Will save.
  • Once outside he was still 2 dimensional, but used the Space Folder to become 3D once more.
  • He than went over to the left door and went to the room with weird shadows. There was no one there and he noticed from a sudden draft that there is a hole where his shadow should be.
  • Sam was going to pry a stone from the floor but reconsidered when I told him it was going to cause noise.
  • We went to the door at the other side of the room and was only able to determine that there is blackness in there. As the handle didn't open he decided to leave the door alone and head back.
    • Maybe I should have said that he has the options of smashing the lock or pouring the acid he had there.
  • He walked out of the shadow room to the door on the right, where Lady Capilli was visibly annoyed.
  • He went into the Etcher Stair room where he saw 5 lizard women trying to hide behind the knot of stairs.
    • I started describing them before I remembered that the Chameleon Women will try to stalk the player. So I went with them failing to be sneaky.
  • After a short exchange where they realize their cover is blown they charge Samford.
  • Samford attempts to teleport behind them but in his hastes only ports over his Space Folder.
  • As they are almost upon them he tries to knock one of them off the edge. He ends up falling over instead.
    • Those were two nat 20s in a roll.
  • In a last ditch attempt, Samford throws his acid flask that gently sails over and smashes somewhere.
  • Samford lands on the cold hard ground and blacks out.
    • Failed his Critical damage roll.
  • When he comes back he is tied up and interrogated for information by the Chameleon Women.
    • I rolled up that their sorceress has a Bone Magnet and a Heat Ray at this point, even thought it didn't come up.
  • He truthfully tells them everything he knows. That being the several rooms he's been and the quest Lady Capilli sent him on.
  • They decide not to murder them as to not annoy a dragon and let him go free, without his Space Folder, because who would trust a dirty mammal with such an artifact.
  • He camps in the Stair room for a couple of days to regain his Strength without any incident.
    • Literally, he was down to 5 from the fall.
    • Four encounter rolls and all any of them showed was that he's light was going out.
  • He set off down the east stair way and the session closed there because I haven't read that part of the book yet.
  • Samford doesn't know, but two of the Chameleon Women are defiantly tailing him now.

Questions for next session:
  • What is the relationship between the Chameleon Women's nation and the wizards that sent out Lady Capilli
  • How should I handle resource management?
  • Is a bad thing that I allowed Samford to heal 2d6 Str from camping in a dungeon? 

What went well:
  • I didn't stammer into a hole to much and I didn't start panicing about stuff. I don't know.
  • Referencing things in the book was fairly easy and I had no problems wrestling with Into the Odd that I have with every other system I've tried.
  • I enjoyed playing the Chameleon Women foolishly.

What didn't go well:
  • I don't think I communicated what was going on clearly, me and Samford weren't on the same page about fictional reality nearly as much as we should be.  I'm not sure I've figured out what is the right amount of information to give in any given senerio yet and I don't know if I've called for rolls at the right time. 
  • During the interrogation I ruled is so that they wouldn't kill him, which may not have been the most OSRy way to do it.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Some Artifacts

Here are some artifacts extracted from my brain for you viewing pleasure. I've writing this for Into The Odd because that's what I run, but their fairly system neutral.

1. Mirror of Symmetry:
It's a mirror with a line of onyx inlaid down the middle. When the right invocation is spoken a target reflected in the mirror is enchanted, speaking the same invocation backwards undoes this enchantment. While under this magic any wound, ointment, paint or magic that is applied to one side of the target is also symmetrically reflected on the other side. The line of symmetry is determined by the inlaid onyx when the invocation is spoken. Any damage(or other things that apply to some part of the body) taken by the target is doubled unless care is taken to hit the target right along the line of symmetry. The effect is only skin deep fortunately for everyone who's eaten under the mirror's power.

2.The Heels:
While confidently striding in these extravagant heels, you can be anywhere within your line of sight as you damn well please. It's not teleportation, space just folds seamless, you were just walking yet somehow you ended up at the top of the tower, despite all the space between here and there. Unfortunately they make for very cumbersome footware, it's difficult to balance on these stilettos in even even on even surfaces, and due to their height you'll probably need help getting back up. Your going to have to make Dex saves to keep standing, and Will saves to stand proud for the Heels to work their magic.

3. The Heterofox:
Wait, you a creature, what are you doing in this list? Damn foxes. Either way, the Heterofox is a fox black wire fur that will follow you and whisper sweet blasphemies into your ear at night. If threatened it will jump into someone's mouth and hide under the tongue or between the teeth, shrinking to the size of a flee and flattening paper thin to do so. While it will try to make it seem like your blaspheming, it's really bad at mimicking other people's voices and can only clumsily force your jaw up and down. It knows a great amount of history, all of which pertains to religious conflicts, schisms and the minutia of differences in doctrine. It's willing to share, in fact it's difficult to get it to shut up about it. It has a sibling which it will always avoid talking about. Other than that it's a fox.

4. Spherering Marble:
Everything within a couple meters of this marble gradually becomes more and more round and spherical over time. Rock gets smoothed like river stones, smooth stones become more symmetrical until they are perfectly round. People get fatter and have softer features if they carry it for a couple of weeks, and luckily usually stop carrying it around to see the latter stages. Rumor has it that it has something to do with the Spherical Wizards. The marble is in a round bag with other marbles, so you can't quite tell which one is the magic one.

5. Seeing Nail:
If you shove this nail into you eyeball, it will grant you normal human eyesight from the end of the nail you didn't shove in there. It looks kind of cool, so I guess it's an upgrade.

6. Sigil of Malice:
With this symbol tattooed on your tongue, you will always be able to say how and why you hate someone, regardless of any languages barriers, ambiguities word choice, deafness, muteness or drunkenness. This will be one thing that you will always be able to communicate clearly and accurately. There is also an analogous Sigil of Love, Sigil of Confusion and Sigil of Restrooms. All of these sigils are exclusive to each other.

7. Remembering Boots:
When you walk in these boots you can cast your spirit to see, hear and smell a place where these boots have been. Roll as many d6s as you want, add them together and that's how many days worth of travel back you can cast your soul. Your able to instantly come back into your body unless you rolled an amount greater than your will, in which case your going to have to find your way back to your body. While your soul is cast back your body is in a trance state that continues walking indefinitely.

8. Spiritual Bindings:
These are large heavy and metal bindings for keeping buildings in place. Except their intangible and invisble without some form Wizard vision or second sight. They can be used to spiritually link two things, if your able to get them on and nail them in, but once there in there nothing will get them out. Rumor has it that the country up to the north is covered in these things, you know the one with bears roaming the streets and the regular bathing.

9. Pain Inversion Suit:
When wearing this garment, all pain is inverted into pleasure. Reduce incoming damage by 1 and gain complete immunity to effects that are purely pain based.(Why yes, I am literally stealing someone's idea wholesale, but have you previously considered that this could exist in D&D? Didn't think so.)

10. An Unsettling Garden Gnome:
All living things within a mile radius of the Gnome will sense it's presence and want to avoid it. All within 30' of it will have the that feeling you get when your next to a cliff and you can't help but imagining how easy it would be to fall down, except instead of a cliff it's the Gnome and instead of falling the action you can't help imagine in fear and curiosity is breaking this ceramic thing. Sleeping in it's presence requires a Will save.

11. Bound Key:
This key will never loose it's owner. If the owner is somehow stolen or lost from the key, they will find their way back to the key. Trading or giving away the key does transfer ownership thought. Your not sure but you think the current owner is a ghost.

12. White Tuning Fork:
When this tuning fork is struck against a surface and makes a sound, that surface will go invisible. If the surface is scratched or involved in any activity for 1d6 hours the invisibility will dissipate. It can be used on people however they will be blind while the invisibility covers their eyes. Closing your eyes while striking the Fork will allow prevent the blindness, but it will leave your eyes still visible. In the the room where the Fork is found there will be several invisible objects with vague silhouettes outlined by the dust that's settled on them. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Very Smug Cat

A couple days back on a Google+ I stated that I was going to make a Glog cat class to accompany the noble Very Good Dog, the furious Very Angry Goose and Witch Coven, who isn't technically affiliated with the previous two on thumb-less adventures. I made it, workshoped it a bit on discord and just sat on it for several days. Speaking of which, thank you Chis Wilson, valzi, Type1Ninja, Skerples, AuratTwilight, Tomes and The Lawful Neutral for helping out with that (I think that's everyone (I'm not sure if this is the right etiquette for this sort of thing(I am however sure that nesting sentinces this way is terrible))). Fair warning, this has not been play tested, so I'm not sure how fun this class is.

Very Smug Cat
Equipment: None
A: Cat, Nine Lives, Tongues or Puss in Boots, Purr
B: Reflective Eyes, Opportunist 
C: Purr 2, Slip
D:A Cat can look at a King

For each Cat template you get +1 Stealth. For each 2 templates you possess you get +1 Initiative.

You generally shouldn't be able to multiclass with this class or get it after the first template without some ridiculous shenanigans.

You're a cat. You don't have thumbs to use tools and don't have an inventory(carrying anything large enought to take up inventory slots encumbers you). Your movement is 10 (Human movement is 12). You can bite and claw at people for 1d6+STR damage. You have excellent night vision and sensitive whiskers to sense what you can't see. Your able to climb shear surfaces as long as there's something for your claws to latch onto. Fall damage you receive is greatly reduced if you have time to flip yourself onto your feet. Getting pulled on the tail is the worst. 

In character creation reroll your Dexterity scores and take the highest of the two. Your HP is 6 and won't increase from that amount.

Nine Lives:
Unlike other characters you die at 0 HP but have 9 lives to spend before truly dying. When you would die, instead barely make it  with a nasty but badass scar and one less life. If the death is a continuous danger to your health, you get out of that danger as part of loosing that life. So if you drown, than you would wash up on some shore with one less life rather than repeatedly die until all your lives are depleted.

Scars include things like poked out eyes, torn ears and seared tails. Every scar you have adds a +1 bonus for saves against your Purr ability.

Each of your lives also counts as a soul and can be spent like one without any negative impact on the others.

Cat got your Tongue:
While you aren't able to innately speak if you are able to swallow a tongue you steal the voice of whoever's tongue you got. If you got only a bit of a tongue than you have only a bit of their voice and it will sound like really weird almost understandable meows. Since everyone knows cats can't speak, people will rationalize the sound as coming from somewhere else or consciously ignore it while it subliminally enters their mind. The sufficiently mindful or paranoid targets can get a wisdom save to tell that something suspicious is going on. Children, magic users, beings that never experienced cats and other people who don't know that cats can't talk aren't fooled by this.

You start the game with one random tongue from the Tongue Table.

Puss in Boots:
As everyone knows that cats don't wear clothes, if you wear clothes you aren't recognized as a cat. You are also now able to walk around on two feet, and can use tools as gracefully and elegantly as possible for someone who doesn't have thumbs. You are able to imitate speech and be understood as long as nobody stops to think about the sounds coming out of your mouth as sounds rather than words. Children, magic users, beings that never experienced cats and other people who don't know that cats can't wear clothes aren't fooled by this.

When you purr you cast charm person that only works if the command is to feed, pet, adore or otherwise pamper you.

Reflective Eyes:
Your able to see spirits, demons and other invisible things, this works like Wizard Vision without the downsides.

Whenever you get a situational bonus to an Attack roll (surprise, evasion, etc.) you deal an additional +1d6 damage.

Purr 2:
If you lay or sit on someone under the effects of your purr they are are not able to move until you get off them. If you so will it, you can also graciously bestow cure light wounds to someone your sitting on once per day.

Once a day, if no one is directly looking at you, you are able to escape from an enclosed space regardless of plausibility.

A Cat can look at a King:
You are immune to differences in social standing. Regardless of if your speaking to a beggar a king or a god, you'll always be treated as roughly an equal to however your talking to.

Tongue Table: D8

  1. The voice of a small child.
  2. The voice of a awkward youth.
  3. The voice of a kind grandmother.
  4. The voice of a strict mother or teacher.
  5. The voice of some nobody.
  6. The voice of a sensual sort.
  7. The voice of a brute.
  8. The voice of a foreigner.

Edit: I've spruced up the presentation of this post and added some small additions to the class. The first is a healing ability to Purr 2 from the suggestion of Michael Thompson and the second is a starting Tongue table, which I realize is needed the same way random starting spells are needed.