Pistori’s Translocation of Infirmity (new LotFP/D&D spell)

Still working on that folio. For your elucidation, I present a lovely spell of the Second Level from my past. This was based loosely on good old Pagan medical practices, pretty much the world around. Clerics get miracles. The rest of us can only fob off our bad shit on other people..
It is released under the OGL (see the topbar).

PISTORI’S TRANSLOCATION OF INFIRMITIES (TRANSFER DISEASE)

duration:special
range: touch (5 miles)
the caster of this spell transfers all temporal suffering due from a disease to another living being, usually root vegetables carved in the shape of the afflicted body part(s) with a token from the sufferer.
transferring the disease to a vegetable, however, relieves only the symptoms of the sufferer. they will continue to progress in the disease, feeling well and perhaps exacerbating the condition; should they be particularly incautious or ill it may even prove fatal.
should the root be fed to or handled by a being of the same hd as the sufferer (other than the wizard) , the disease will transfer fully between them. unfortunately, the flesh of any animal so afflicted will then bear the disease. commonly, an “escape” or “scape” goat is chosen, and the diseases and afflictions of an entire household inflicted on it; the wizard will allow the beast to die naturally (an unnatural death undoes the spell) and bury it far from the paths of man.
if ever the caster of the spell removes himself more than 5 miles from a living sacrifice, the spell is undone. both it and the sufferer are wracked by the affliction as severely as if the spell had never been cast.

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Of Shares and Silver (Historical Inspiration)

With the capture of the pirate ship last session, one of those old DMing issues cropped up again. See, treasure’s always been a problem in D&D – hell, most of the verbiage that’s not tables in the 1e DMG’s section is about developing discretion with it, and making up “appropriate” treasures. It’s one of those areas where Gary’s personal experiences and historical knowledge made certain types of adjucation easy.. but he kinda forgot to mention it to all the newbies out there.

"Pandora" by John William Waterhouse. Public domain.

This is what rolling on the 1e Treasure tables feels like, half the time.

The topic of treasure sizes has been hashed over enough that I’m not addressing it today. There’s another, more pressing problem – what do you do once it’s rolled up? Division seems easy enough, but it can be a Hell of a headache for a GM and the players, especially with the big stuff.

That Class “A” treasure for knocking down a band of Men in the Monster Manual seems huge for PCs, but it isn’t a reward to the players for taking out the camp or ship.

It’s for paying the army it takes.

Think about it – most of the entries in 1e were scaled for stocking hexes or domain level play, not random encounters on the road. To take them out, you usually need an army or at least a band of retainers. Now, most heartbreakers and the main D&D rules vary wildly in their opinions of plunder. But IRL it’s been a thing since the days when an “army” was your cousins and the booty was a couple cows. The historical salaried pay for soldiers was much lower than their actual rates. Plunder was an expected part of their pay. I mean, seriously, would you go to war for the equivalent of about $20 a week? That’s a recipe for desertion and murder. Yes, they were endemic, but knowing that sacking that city over there would pay out in pants, meat, and enough cash to start your own farmstead was a Hell of a motivator. In fact, plunder was so normal, contemporary histories will often extensively remark on “no looting” orders in battles, along with the punishments offered and the general success of the order.

Unfortunately, with widening the scope of booty awards comes the necessity of figuring out who gets what. Now, there are a lot of traditional sharing mechanisms. They were especially important (and handled in much more detail in the literature..) among pirates, but every armed force used them.
Now, I should note that Lamentations already has a booty system, but a) not everyone plays it, and b) I’m a relentless tinkerer.
Here are a few historical examples, which I hope will make fiddling with your game a little easier, and inspire said tweaks.

-Smash and Grab
Can you carry it off? It’s yours. This is what your average rioting civvie is doing, and it’s popular among levied armies or other semi-organized mobs.
Problem is, this doesn’t work in a more structured society. Historically, it led to a lot of murdering and infighting post-battle, so more legalistic/”fair” options popped up almost immediately (either for the division or for the murdering..). If you have to wake up in the morning with the people you’re screwing you tend to treat them a little better in the act, as it were.

-Share and Share Alike
This was a simple split (popular among the more egalitarian revolutionaries and pirates)  and the one most DM’s use – it’s easiest to run with a group of alleged equals. Every man gets a share of equal value, and anything that can’t be split is converted to cash or “bought” with parts of your share. This is implied in the DMG, but contradicted elsewhere. It’s very easy to assign partial shares, however, and the general math is very easy.

-The Thieves’ Bargain, AKA The Pitcairn/Bounty split
A quartermaster is appointed or elected. He divides the booty into shares, then leaves the area, so he can’t see who takes what. He receives what shares are left at the end. A common variation allows each man in order (selected by lots) to take a share, with the quartermaster going last, then anyone entitled to a second share draws lots again for order until all shares are distributed (This means that whomever pulls the most shares also gets the last share left). Another common variation

In the Thieves’ Bargain, everyone gets a number of “whole” shares, rather than half-shares, so the individual shares tend to be smaller. It seems “fairer” to PCs, and offloads some of the work from the GM, plus it tends to increase player investment in the treasures. It does make it harder to “split up” magic items, or other high-value items; historically, they were often diced for – see the description of the Seamless Tunic from the Bible.

-Navy and Military shares
Most militaries had very specific policies, but there were some customary systems. Most of my knowledge is based on the early American and British Naval systems, along with medieval mercenaries and the Roman army; I encourage you to do some more research on your own. Even fishing boats still use a very similar system to the old US Navy divvy.
As with the Thieves’ Bargain, the unit or ship would have a Quartermaster or Paymaster. His primary job would be to issue goods like boots and weaponry, which were usually bought locally with an allowance from the Crown. He would also divide any plunder, but traditionally was not allowed to select the first share. The position was very, very frequently abused, with the QM buying shitty goods (or none at all) and pocketing the allowances, for example. Most armies tried to combat this by instituting particularly brutal penalties for abusive QMs.
There were also issues with lower ranks stealing and hiding loot; the usual penalty was forfeiture of all loot, with flogging, or even death.

In the Navy, prized (captured) ships were sold when they returned to port, or if they still had military value, commissioned and set under the command of the ship’s Lieutenant (necessitating multiple field commissions – 2 new Lieutenants, a Lieutenant of Marines, a new Doctor if possible, a Quartermaster and of course the brevetting to Captain of the old Lieutenant). Cargoes were usually sold and the cash divvied, with the crew having first shot at buying any special items. Prisoners were often enslaved, with any left after replacements (you always lost some in combat and from disease, especially at sea) sold off to middlemen.

The traditional splits varied: usually it was some variation on the following.
Captain/field commander: 3-5 shares, and often pick of the litter.
Lieutenants/officers: 2-3 shares.
Skilled junior officers, such as Doctors or Sailmasters, and non-commisioned officers: 2 shares.
Infantry, Men-at-arms, marines, or any other active combatants: 1 share
Non-combatants: 1/4 to 1/2 shares.
Camp followers, levied Serfs and slaves: nothing.

In a number of cases, you could also be awarded an extra full or partial share.
0 The first man over the wall/on deck in an assault was usually awarded an extra full share (or, more likely, his widow/descendants were). Sometimes this was given to the first survivor over the wall, or to the entire Forlorn  Hope (a slang term for the poor bastards who went through a breach in gates or walls). Used to encourage aggression.
0 Trophies – Bringing back the heads of enemy officers or other leaders. Rewards varied, but the practice was so common that Samurai ettiquette manuals included entire sections on how to clean yourself up, in case your head got taken. After all, it’s your last major social event, gotta be pretty, right? Used to minimize lower-class casualties (kill the officers and you break the army, not the people. Plus it makes it a lot easier to take over). If you just want to encourage slaughter, offer rewards for right ears, thumbs, noses, &c.
0 Pick of the litter – people with multiple shares were often allowed to sacrifice one to jump to the head of the line; if not, the leader of the force traditionally had the right to demand any one share of the loot. This caused some serious friction during the siege of Troy – Agamemnon demanded a specific slave-girl that Achilles had taken, which precipitates the entire last half of the Iliad (and the death of Achilles).
0 The Captain’s Take – In naval battles, the ship’s Captain, Leftenant of Marines, and the Quartermaster were each traditionally awarded the pick of one of the weapons taken before the remaining gear was shared out.
0 Ransom – Defeating a knight and accepting his surrender granted you rights to his arms and horse, which did not count as a share. Often, you had the obligation to take any reasonable offer for their return. In addition, you had the right to keep the Knight prisoner and demand a ransom for his person, or for his body (usually somewhat smaller..) from his fief.
0 Equites – A mounted man was often awarded an additional share for his horse.
0 Sundries – It was common to exempt clothing, food, and other trifles from treasure sharing; you could keep all you could carry, but any weapons or precious items had to be surrendered to the QMs

From the Archives: A Tea Party (Encounter, unique monster)

Most of my limited writing time has gone into the upcoming campaign, as I develop the entries in my Commonplace book. Incidentally, this is something I recommend every DM do; carry a small notebook and a pen with you pretty much everywhere, because Inspiration likes to sneak up on you and cockslap you on the bus and/or at three in the AM. Jot down the most inspiring bit of the idea in a quick sentence or two.
My Tribal class, for example, started as the sentence “Replace Dwarf and elf with archetypes. Noble Savage (last/mohicans, pacte de loups etc? Magical  Dilletante (Johnathan x Mummy)?”. (The latter is where the Occultism skill came from)
Another just below it reads simply “The Feast of Poisons”.

Then there’s this: “Mad princess, tea party, elaborate (and valuable) place settings.”

Ewer, Nautilus - Belgium - 1590Spoilers below the break. None of my players past this point.
(more…)

OSR Survey: Trolly Troll’s Top Ten Troll Questions for Your Game.

Got five posts in the queue, but I’m moving cities over the next few days. In the meantime, I’ll do another quizzy thingy, which I got from this dude. Hey, content, amirite?
On to the quiz!

(1). Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no?
Yes and no. I do use racial classes, but I prefer to do cultural classes instead of race-classes if I can (see the Tribal class I wrote up for LotFP a while back). If you want to be an Elf who trained exclusively as a Fighter, it’s fine by me; Slap a Chaotic alignment on there and you’re pretty much done.

(2). Do demi-humans have souls?
Soul, animating spirit, what’s the difference on a mechanical level? Philosophy is a question best left to the players. That said, there are some pretty heavily classical Catholic and Aristotelian underpinnings in most of the worlds I write. So.. Maybe? Elves could very well be demons lovingly shoved into a carefully-prepared Mandrake plant, for all we know, or Dwarves autogenerated when statues are left in the Deep.
…damnit, now I have more things to work into the world.

(3). Ascending or descending armor class?
Descending/THAC0. It’s easier and faster for my old-school wargamer head to compute on the fly. Mathematically, either approach is equally easy and valid, and it’s exceptionally easy to convert, so I don’t get butthurt about anyone’s preferences.

(4). Demi-human level limits?
Never been an issue in one of my games – either the game didn’t last long enough or the character died too soon for it to be an issue. That said, I’ve always thought the whole thing a stupid mechanical patch to justify a DM’s story conceit (id est, why do Humans run pretty much everything?)

(5). Should thief be a class?
Fuck yeah. Or rather, Specialist should. But Paladins shouldn’t – that’s what a Cleric already is. I do “Priests”/White Mages very similarly to druids, only generally with a few more restrictions. Also, staying a miracle-worker requires a dedication to others that most players aren’t willing to accept, when the path of the Church-Militant is so much easier and more.. well, fun, for many.

(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills?
Yup. You can also write a background, and I’ll give you some basic skills based on it. The ones on the character sheet are life-and-death shit, not what you do around the house. You want to be an expert appraiser of pottery with an unhealthy fondness for knots? By all fuckin’ means. Hell, some games – usually the really quick-and-dirty ones – I allow players to interject with a (cue Chekhov) “I can do thet!”. You just have to tell me why and how. It’s an easy way to get players to develop the character more at the table, and it helps define them more than sifting through a 50-page “skill” section.
Also, if you have a skill, it’s assumed to be at a professional level. That means you can accomplish routine things without rolling.

(7). Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)?
It depends. See, the fighters usually have less raw power, but they also don’t occasionally explode into masses of writhing, fornicating batrachia either. Well, not unless the wizard really fucks up. The Winds of Magic have a bad habit of slapping down the arrogant, but they tend to be pretty precise most of the time. Also, wizards get a LOT of shit from the peasantry, where a Fighter can usually be a lot more local-hero material. If it helps, think Jayne/Zoe (Fighters) versus Inara (Yes, she’s a Specialist, but she gets treated a lot like a wizard. Incredibly dangerous Guild and vicious local prejudice included).

(8). Do you use alignment languages?
No, although Latin/Greek, Draconic, and Elvish are very frequently spoken by Lawful men of letters, unknowing cultists/Lemurians, and the Fae (respectively). Large cultural groups that interact regularly in a cooperative way – who, incidentally, often share an alignment for some reason – will usually have some kind of lingua franca. But the linguist in me just can’t quite tolerate the idea that all Chaotic creatures instantly speak the Language of the Fiends as soon as they bargain off their souls.

(9). XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc…)?
XP for gold, XP as a carrot for good behavior and smart play. Objective-based XP makes for shitty dungeons, because of the choices you wind up having to make with it.
On the one hand, if you want to be fair it can force you to design bite-sizer one-shots, or otherwise set it up so that every convenient “chunk” of the adventure has sufficient challenges for everyone to get the “necessary” XP. But then the players have to go to exactly the right spots to get what they “need”; this philosophy leads to railroading. Plus, the players will inevitably go off the rails, and then you have XP imbalance anyway.
Secondly, it encourages competitive gameplay and punishes players for not doing the perfect Five Man Band (Wizard, Fighter, Thief, Cleric, and a Token Minority). Fuck that. I want 5 Fighters to be able to go in and walk out with the same XP as the “balanced party”, if they play and roll just as well.
Then, if you don’t give a fuck about fairness, you wind up screwing over players in a way they feel is high-handed and arbitrary (and rightly so). Losing XP because they had to ditch gold to flee the orcs is one thing. Being 3 levels behind because the party isn’t finding traps and running heist missions is bullshit.
…also, this question assumes that the role of the Thief is disarming traps. With Specialist, that’s far from a fucking given.

(10). Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E ADD, 4E DD, Next ?
(I consider 3e to still be an inheritor of AD&D)
Of what’s presented, Holmes.
ODD and 1e are both complete, nearly unrunnable clusterfucks, 2e pushes Moral Panic bullshit. 3e is detailed to the point of meaninglessness, and suffers severely from the same splatbook explosion as latter-era 2e. 4e.. I’m just gonna shut up on that one.
I prefer Holmes to M&M mostly because I like his writing style and gaming philosophy.

Bonus Question: Unified XP level tables or individual XP level tables for each class?
I prefer individual XP for its elegance, but frankly it doesn’t make any damned difference for the first few levels of play. Think about it: 5000 XP, and you’ve got a L2 Wizard, Cleric, and Fighter, or a L3 Thief. Wooo. Add less than another grand to that and it really doesn’t change the party dynamic. Also, I find having varied character levels makes the players engage more. They have to make a whole different set of resource decisions when the party’s guide across the Lemurian Plains is a level 1 Specialist with a crossbow and the leader is a level 3 Mage, compared to a time when the leader’s a L3 Fighter and they’re uninvited in Elf territory with only a L1 Cleric.
Back, you filthy heathens. BACK I SAY.Peter Cushing image provided by Hammer Films, no challenge, no authorization, yadda yadda.

From the Archives #2

Today’s installment is the arsenal of my longest-running character, a fallen ranger who became a very, very dangerous assassin (he actually transitioned to 3e as a lv. 26 character, if that gives you any idea). He only used a small handful of magic items, several of which were commissioned as payment for his “services” or looted from particularly unpleasant enemies.

This gear is from the period when I was palling around with Silence the Bladesinger* (the actual comic and the pictures he commissioned from this lady appear long gone, these ten years by..). Anyway, since (almost) no-one actually cares about old characters..

First, a word about common poisons. I had a very accommodating GM once upon a time: together, we drew up poison research rules much like the spell research rules in 2e (I can post those in a future Archive). I poisoned the hell out of some daggers, and kept them in specially prepped throwing sheaths. These weapons, however, were almost never poisoned, since my favorite one was an anti-magic poison and I didn’t particularly want to hose a custom dweomer…

The Twin Terrors of Eric the Faithless
A matched pair of long, heavy throwing knives; they sheathe into opposite ends of the same plain brown leather scabbard. The handles are of ridged bone, with ring of dancing skeletal figures holding hands engraved around the pommels. The blades are blued Damascus steel, chased with silver.
They are +1 knives (not daggers) balanced for throwing. When drawn and thrown, the user may call one of three command phrases. The command words are engraved on the blade in the form of an Elvish poem: “Dance, my Darlings/Feet swift and true/Round and round you go”
On “Dance, my darlings” the blades attack autonomously for 1d4 rounds with a THAC0 of 13*, then fall to the floor.
On “Feet swift and true”, the weapons gain an additional +2 bonus to hit and damage.
On “Round and round you go” the blades will reappear in their sheath at the end of the next round.
These powers are only accessible if a phrase is spoken as the weapons are drawn and thrown simultaneously; thus, only one can be active at a time.
Rules: +1 Throwing knives with various additional effects if used properly. Personal property of Elthir.
*Attack as a 4HD monster(B/X) / 4th level Fighter (3x)

At character creation, he had a low Dex (8 or 9, I believe), which I wrote off as having lost an eye as a youth. He wore a one-eyed, featureless mask on assignment after becoming an assassin. His final payment, shortly before I retired the character, was this;

The Mask of the Faithless
A shaped, but featureless orihalcon mask. Into its single eye socket is inserted a ruby lens – a uniquely crafted Gem of True Seeing. Upon concentrating briefly, the user is also made aware of the exact range to any single creature or object in his sight: this cancels the negative modifier for fighting with one eye closed (or missing). The deep red tint of the gem can, however, obscure certain things from the user’s sight (at the GM’s discretion) and badly affects his night vision. The user is Blinded for one round after removing the mask.

He also routinely wore the Shadowcloak, a 2e magic item from the Complete Book of Thieves (not reproduced here). I later created a similar item for 3e, which I’ve back-translated into earlier AD&D rules.

Cloak of the Shadows, Lesser
This shimmering, midnight black cloak is crafted from the hide of a ritually flayed animate shadow (which must be skinned with a blessed silver blade). The cloak appears to be a soft velvet, as long as you don’t look at it too hard…
The cloak grants the user a 25% chance of invisibility in shadows if he remains motionless, and improves standard Hide in Shadows and Surprise rolls by 15% / +1. Once per day, the user may cast the reversed form of Light. They may also choose to invoke the cloak once per day. This makes them incorporeal (and therefore silent) for 1d6 rounds – but they still take normal damage from silvered or magical weapons, and double all damage from light-based sources.While in this form, the wearer gains infravision (60′), if they do not already possess it.
The wearer is at -1 to hit and -5% to use all skills in very bright light, and takes an additional point of damage from all light-based sources and silvered weapons: in addition, if they must save against a Light spell cast upon the eyes, they do so at a -2. Touching silver causes the wearer to feel an intense burning itch, but this has no mechanical effect.
3x: The user gains a +1 enchantment bonus per level to Hide in Shadows if he is not moving. Cast reversed Light 1/day. Become Ethereal and Silent 1/day for 1d6 Rounds (silvered or magic weapons will still hit them in this form).
The user becomes vulnerable to silver, and suffers a -2 circumstance penalty to all saving throws from light-based damage.  They also suffer a -2 circumstance penalty to all skills and BAB when in direct sunlight or the equivalent.

As more of a “mundane” magic item; using the Shadowcloak‘s powers, he enchanted a number of small stones and caltrops with reversed Continual Light and kept them in a sack at his belt for minelaying purposes and fast escapes. These were the primary original (ish) magic items: he also used a Lifestealer +2 and very occasionally got ahold of an Arrow of Slaying or an Arrow of Harming.

Finally, a sword I made and put in The Archives to honor old Quelthelas Arundel. The enchantment on it is one of his original spells – we used the SHIT out of the optional parrying rules, and Shadowblade was his answer (I just sicced the Twins on them and then came in from the shadows/out of the darkness)

Arath’ve, the Shadow-shroud.
Arath’ve is an ancient renegade Elven weapon, forged from the dancing unlight at the core of the Shadow Plane. It radiates Shadow and Illusion magic. The handle and sheath are crafted from soft white leather, and the fittings are of silver. The pommel is a simple acorn-type, with a small rondel of Jet.
When drawn, the pitch-black blade seems to explode into a loosely-connected swarm of blades and shards, each dark as night: they suck the light forth from the room, deepening shadows and softening the light. Even the user finds this disconcerting: each time he draws it, he must make a save vs. spells. Until he passes, he must either fight blind or fight as though he was not proficient with the weapon. This effect is cancelled after the user saves for the first time.
(Variable standard bonuses as appropriate); in addition, the sword gains a bonus of +1 to hit, and generates 2-5 mirror images of itself when drawn. If the sword is parried, randomly determine the blade that was hit: images are dispelled on “impact”, and the parry has no effect. Mirror images are generated the first time the sword is drawn each day, and are not regenerated until the following evening as the sun crosses the horizon.
Rules: (Enchanted Sword, casts Silence’s Shadowed Blade upon itself when drawn)

As you can see, I’m fond of drawbacks on my items, but also of powerful(ish) ones. I’ve always felt that the ying-yang should apply to magic –  all but the nastiest cursed items should have a little good (tempt the players to use them!).

Secondly, it keeps the wonder flowing – even fairly mundane weapons &c can be made much more interesting with a simple random 1st-level spell thrown on them (Heheh, Mouse would be amusing..); randomly generating them ahead of time and slapping them in The Archive means I’ll always have something to draw on when the party hits paydirt. I have a feeling this will come in handy when I start the new LotFP campaign…

*For those of you that care, I helped edit the Slayers fic “Shards of Chaos” up until he dropped it upon moving to Japan. Just looking for the pics of Silence brought back serious memories from the ’90s –  seeing the fragments of Amethyst Angel‘s old fanart site she put up when she was hosting the fics,  and Queeny‘s new page.. Damn. Now I think I have to go grab a beer and watch some Slayers in memory of friends I’ve lost touch with.