It’s been a few years, and a good bit of play, since I posted the Occult skill here. Anon asked about it today, and I figured I might as well go root out my hardcopy notes and post the revisions here.
I’ve loosened the day-to-day bookkeeping restrictions in favor of a more intuitive system, and added a bit more gambling to the mix. The additional rules for bonuses are encouraging my players to do weird stupid shit, like carrying around live chickens for sacrificial purposes and cranking themselves on Red Lotus in inappropriate places, and it also allows me to throw in more evidence and clues when the PCs are dealing with cultists/EHPs/witches and diabolists. Those folks can also be a serious, time-sensitive threat to the party without needing to have a level 9 Magic-User running around. It’s also a lot more dangerous than using a regular skill, but still useful enough to tempt players. Finally, the Grimoire rules place a sharp limitation on ritual spellcasting while adding a new and desirable form of treasure to the DM’s options.
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It’s been a few years, and a good bit of play, since I posted the Occult skill here. Anon asked about it today, and I figured I might as well go root out my hardcopy notes and post the revisions here.
Posted by docschott on December 19, 2016
I was reminded of an old game mode I used to run years ago by a stray comment in /btg/ – Anon wanted to know what BV levels we preferred, and it came back in a flash.
The Stable Tag Match works best as a mid-season exhibition match or a semi-finals match if you’re doing a full-on AccountantTech Solaris season (and really, there’s no reason not to). It’s sort of a modified Grinder, but flashier, and it makes for a fun demo game. It’s also very much a make-or-break event for the smaller stables, where you have a chance to deal – or receive – crippling economic harm against the competition. I recommend playing it as a double-elimination tournament over a couple of weeks, but with small stables you can sometimes get away with running it as a full-day event.
There are also some other rules in here that I’ve used for most of my Solaris seasons, like the “Face/Heel” bonus purses (see Crowd Support).
First things first: you’ll need the April Fool’s joke product XTRO: Royal Fantasy. It reprints all the necessary material from the old Solaris VII boxed set for free, including the map-sheets. You can even print them off in double-size if you want to use Dark Age clix minis, which I’ve done in the past to kick up visual interest in the game. Alternately, you can try to hunt up the Solaris map pack, but that’s been out of print for a good while. The scenario was initially designed for the Steiner Coliseum, but I’ve also used it in the Reaches, the Jungle, and the Factory to good effect.
You’ll also need at least four tag-out markers. I’ve used bottlecaps (good beer makes for good Battletech), Blip markers, repainted Krazy Glue bottle protectors with an LED in the tip, and cardboard hex markers with the word “TAG” on them in large friendly letters. You can also add 2-hex-wide doors, one per player (I used Space Hulk bulkheads) to the edges of the map, representing the entrances at the edges of the arena.
Hiring Duncan Fisher is advisable but probably prohibitively expensive.
Matches may be ‘Mech-only, or mixed, at the option of the organizers. The points limit is the total fieldable BV of the smallest stable in the Season, or an arbitrary value between 2,000 and 5,000 BV. If playing with Stables during a season, the smallest stable(s) use their entire available force. The other stables must field ‘Mechs or other combatants, to the nearest 250 points (NOTE: You can go over, but only if you don’t have any units with a BV lower than the overrun. This is to keep you from winding up 500+ points behind because you can’t quite squeeze in a Light).
For single matches, the forces chosen must all be under the points limit.
Tagging Out: If a ‘Mech successfully lands a physical attack on one of the “TAG” markers, the ‘Mech is swapped out with another unit from the owning player’s stable at the beginning of the next turn. Vehicles, infantry, and battle armor need simply remain in the same hex through the physical phase. The new unit is swapped directly on the tabletop with the old one, being placed in the same hex but with any facing the player prefers.
Tag Markers count as one vehicle for stacking purposes. They may be inset into one of the walls in a cramped arena, such as Ishiyama, at which point non-Mech units need only spend the physical attacks phase adjacent to the marker to tag out in this case.
No Tag-backs: If the player has more than two usable units, a unit may not tag-out with the most recently-used unit.
Forced Withdrawal: A unit that has been subjected to Forced Withdrawal must retreat to a Tag Point; they may not retreat to their stable doors.
Destroyed and Surrendered Units: If a unit is destroyed, or surrenders on the field, the killing player gets one free Movement Phase. The player who lost the unit may then move its replacement onto the map from their Stable Door in the Movement Phase of the next turn.
Crowd Support: The usual rules for Crowd Support are in effect; players may not agree to ignore them for tag matches. In addition, track each player’s highest total support rating in each match. At the end of the tournament, the player who achieved the highest total score in any of the matches gets the “Viewer’s Choice” purse of 25,000 Cb per match in the tournament. You can also award Viewer’s Choice after each round in the tournament.
At the management’s option, in tournaments with more than two players you may also include a “Heel” award of 5-10,000 Cb for the player with the lowest Support Rating after each round or tournament.
Note that tagging out is NOT considered surrendering; in fact, the Crowd Support rating is increased by +1 on a successful tag, representing the crowd’s excitement to see a fresh warrior enter the battle.
Example: Emily has just finished a match in the Factory. Over the course of twenty turns, she scored mostly sixes and eights, but after a particularly spectacular kill in the twelfth round her total support rating went up to 14, before falling once again to average numbers. The GM notes down “Support: 14” next to her win on the ladder chart; this places her ahead of Mike, who got a 12 in a Jungle match in the previous round of the Tournament. Her lowest rating, a 5, doesn’t come close to Dennis’s low water mark of -3 (bad rolls, cockpit hits, and away crowds are unforgiving at times), so she’s still not in contention for the “heel” award.
Optional Rule: If players successfully execute a “flashy” physical attack (DFA, Charge, pushing an opponent off the fourth floor of the Factory or cliff) they gain +2 Crowd Support instead of the usual +1.
The organizer places the Tag markers before the match begins. At least one should be in a concealed but difficult-to-reach location and one in a highly-visible spot; try to keep them roughly equidistant from each other. In the Steiner arena, you can also roll a d6 at the beginning of a round to see the squares in which Tag Points have popped up; there is a Tag Point on each of the related black numbers for the rest of the round. If combining this with pylons, rolling doubles means there are no tag points available, only pylons.
Place each of the Stable Door markers into two adjacent hexes on the edge of the map, spacing them out as far as possible. The Coliseum already has two stable doors; for three and four player matches, simply add two more on the far side of the map.
Each player writes down their chosen unit on a slip of paper, and then rolls initiative for the first turn. The chosen unit must enter the battlefield from the player’s Stable Doors. Play then proceeds as normal.
Stables have the option to surrender at any time after having one ‘Mech or vehicle destroyed, and must surrender if all their available units are currently subject to Forced Withdrawal. A Stable surrender is considered a loss for the round.
Posted by docschott on August 4, 2015
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. That’s not what it does…
A brass cylinder roughly a handspan long, and about as big around as a little finger. At the top, the cylinder pierces a twisted ring. It is incised with a well-worn images. The obverse shows a skeletonized body, greatly elongated, tied by its wrists to the top of the hoop, while the reverse shows a bound hermaphroditic figure in the same posture. The images are blackish-green at the top of the ring, fading to a deep russet black near the end, and the base of the key is also blackened badly. A thin slot is visible at the tip of the cylinder on the end furthest from the hoop.
Spoilers follow. Players beware.
Posted by docschott on March 21, 2015
Came up with a new magic item while reading the old Judges’ Guild adventure “Zienteck”, when considering ways to fix a rather boring weapon tucked into an interesting place. The second pair of weapons (Oathbreaker) were the sidearms of one of my Vampire: The Masquerade characters ages ago, herein modified for D&D/LotFP. If you’re interested, it’s got the basic Vampire stats afterward.
The Sundering Breath:
Created by a former Cleric to aid him in unmaking the Golems and other Things given Unlife in his maddened experiments. He would eventually be consumed by his belief that all Men drew breath stolen from He That Is, weakening the font of force from which all Clerics draw their power. The fallen Wizard would embark on a one-man Crusade to return himself to his former Grace and power by uncoupling the Spirits stolen to craft the Unliving, and rejoin them to the true Breath. That he did so with a stolen spirit speaks volumes of his corruption..
The Breath is a heavy and inelegant Crow’s-beaked warhammer. It is faintly transparent, and the inscribed pattern of golden Kabbalistic runes and precisely-positioned number tables seems to writhe in the hands of its owner. It does only half damage (1d4) to any target that is not imbued with an Animating Genius. When it is used to smite Things so imbued (including, but not limited to: most Undead, Soul Gems, Phylacteries, Golems, and many magic items), the Sunderer has a cumulative 10% chance per purposeful blow of breaking its enchantment. Be wary, however, as the force(s) released may not be especially friendly. It can only strike corporeal things, but this includes binding circles/fields or the like which are currently containing a living or Unliving spirit.
Items of Angelic and Demonic magic are immune to its effect, as are certain types of naturally-occurring Undead; only those made with stolen or bound life force or spirits are vulnerable. Elemental spirits are freed but not destroyed.
The Sundering Breath may also be used to cure a victim of possession – but the target must be struck with the hammer, and with full intent to harm (normal attack roll, and 1d4 damage per blow). Mortals slain by the Sunderer may not be reincarnated, resurrected, or reanimated through any means short of direct Divine intervention (id est, not a Cleric saying “can you do a brother a solid”, but YWH Himself shoving a metaphorical finger up the corpse’s nose).
If a character successfully frees a spirit or Genius with nowhere to go, it will haunt his dreams until guided to the proper Reward.
These ancient weapons are said to have been forged in the fires of the wars against Cain’s Brood, seen the battles that threw down Enoch and Nod. The Man who carries them is a Pariah, a kingbreaker, destroying falsehoods and truth alike in his wake.
The Oathbreakers are a pair of ancient, unbreakable bronze short swords, each marked with an indecipherable rune that causes revulsion in all who view it. Its pommels are unlovely chunks of a plain, gray stone indelibly stained with blood, supposedly cut from the weapon of the First Murder. Each sword calls out to its mate: when owned for one full week, the bearer will become consumed by visions and dreams. At first, these will be from the point of view of the owner of its twin, or from the twinned sword itself if it is unowned. Eventually, the character will begin to have visions of flying to the area in which the sword can be found, or the dying dreams and days of its last owner. The owner will also see the Mark of Cain (the same as on the sword-blade) branded on the forehead and right hand of any being who has killed another in anger and with intent. This latter power is shared with anyone touching any piece of the First Weapon, whether deliberately or accidentally.
The blades do 1d6 damage per round, per Small weapons; dual wielding the blades uses the normal rules for your edition (in my case, roll twice for damage and pick the best). Against any creature which has the Mark of Cain, however, they ignore all special defenses, including incorporeality, the need for cold iron or silver, the requirement for certain “plus” ratings, etc.
If invoked, by crossing both blades before the face of another being and speaking the phrase “I give you Freedom” in Enochian, all magical or divine enforcement of oaths they have sworn will be severed. It also dispels many curses, at the GM’s discretion. Finally, a character who is carrying or owns either blade becomes unable to take any enforceable oath for any reason; they will be overcome by chills and nausea, and their tongue will cleave to the roof of their mouth, rendering the character dumb for 1d4 rounds. Likewise, no other being may swear an oath to the owner of either of the swords.
(They can wound, but not kill, Cain himself. Yes, this came up. No, I will not explain how.)
Stats, oWoD: 5-point Artifact. Does one die of Aggravated Damage for each point of True Faith the wielder possesses to anyone who has committed murder, in addition to its normal damage. When crossed, and the formula is uttered, all Blood Bonds owed by anyone who views them are dissolved
Posted by docschott on October 1, 2014
I picked up a few new tanks and a fighter this weekend from the Value Village toy wall. I got one “YF-19” (the fake Stealth Fighter prototype that was making the rounds in the early ’90s), what I believe to be a pair of Korean Type -89 or -99 heavy tanks, and some kind of half-track (see pic).
At first I thought they were Armored Recovery Vehicles, missing a crane or something. After extensive research, however, they don’t match the profile of any engineering or construction vee I can find that was produced before 1989 (the copyright date: both they and the tanks are marked “KPT ’89”). Right now I’m thinking they might be tractors for a tactical ballistic missile Transporter/Erector/Launcher, but for some reason images of ?Chinese? tac-nuke TELs aren’t exactly in wide distribution.
I also posted an image of samples from my tank collection yesternight on Tumblr, and promised stats: Here’s the first batch, with links to the source design.
Bromley Corporation ARMC Instead
A light attack vehicle, with options for a missile turret, autocannon, or troop-carrying capacity. I’ve made it a 35-tonner, given its close resemblance to the existing Striker Light Tank.
Bromley, inc. is a long-term competitor of Qwikscell, though the limited production capacity of their single FWL-based factory has kept their products to a lower profile than those of the “Acme” of cheap tanks. The “Instead”, properly an armored car or Infantry Fighting Vehicle, is built on a strengthened APC chassis. While governmental support for the company has always been limited, their cheap, rugged products are popular among mercs in the “golden triangle” at the intersection of Steiner, Liao, and Marik space. Mercenaries in the know particularly appreciate the targeting systems on Bromley’s weapons carriers and light IFVs; their programming was specially adapted for long-range ballistic fire and anti-aircraft work, compensating for a gap many independent units struggle to fill.
Quirks: (all combat variants): Improved Targeting (long), AA Targeting, Poor Environmental Sealing, Hard to Pilot (high center of gravity), Easy to Maintain, Hard to Customize (any Energy weapons mounted suffer from Poor Targeting at all ranges)
(APC variants): Easy to maintain, Modular equipment (as modular weapons, but for the 8-ton space in the body of the vehicle.), Poor Environmental Sealing.
Age of War/Succession Wars (2.5 Variants):
After cannibalizing their rare fusion engines, the design had to be downgraded to late Age of War specifications; the armor was slashed, and cheaper weapons installed. The fast 2-man design is popular with mercenaries. Tougher than the Scorpion, faster than most Medium or Heavy ‘Mechs, and mounting long-ranged weapons that are cheap either to replace or reload, the “Instead” is frequently bought rather than some other, more expensive design. Thanks to the survival of Flak ammunition, both armored car variants have kept their well-deserved reputation as dependable backup anti-aircraft artillery.
(Note: the SW-era APC variant would already remove the 1-ton turret, 8 tons of turret weapons, and 1t of armor: at that point, it’s simpler just to use the 20t Heavy Wheeled APC stats)
Star League/Clan Invasion (5+ Variants):
The original design was quickly resurrected after Bromley Inc. gained access to the Helm core. Vehicular ferro-fibrous armor and upgraded versions of the standard weapons give the second-generation “Instead” significantly more bite and staying power, albeit by more than tripling the light tank’s cost. Some mercenary groups have removed the LRM-15’s Artemis systems in favor of more (and much cheaper) ammunition storage – or NARC and TAG-compatible munitions – but the specialized targeting/tracking system has so far made their attempts to add in energy weapons fruitless. The APC variants quickly became more sophisticated, with their 8-ton modular bays filled with everything from MASH units to command facilities and battle armor, all protected by 5 tons of ferro and the Instead’s trademark speed. To encourage escort, most mounted a paltry single machine gun.
Posted by docschott on May 29, 2014
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)
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.
Posted by docschott on December 23, 2013
So, I had this big long complicated idea for herbalism that I was getting waaaay too 2e on, if you know what I mean.
Then I went back, had a cider, and looked at the actual Lamentations skills.
EDIT: These rules have been updated, though mostly just reworded. The update is available here
Physic is a shorthand for all the healing arts; diagnosing and correcting imbalances in the humors, knowledge of healing herbs, of staunching and stitching, fitting artificial limbs, and all things appropriate to the station of a doctor.
Use of Physic requires a Specialist Toolkit (Physician). It may be used in any and all of the following circumstances.
• First Aid: Following combat, you may use the skill to treat one or more wounded characters. The physician declares his priorities for treatment, then rolls against the skill; success means he can heal 1HP plus an additional 1HP per point of his margin of success. Divide these HP as evenly as possible between patients. If a 6 is rolled, roll again: on a 4+ (6+ for physicians with a skill of 6) the doctor does an additional d6 HP of damage to the patients.
• Back From the Brink: You may attempt to stabilize a dying character. Characters who have been given a coup de grace, died from disease, or whose bodies are clearly destroyed, cannot be saved. With a successful Physic roll, the character is allowed a save vs. Poison. A character stabilized in this way can be moved with sufficient care but will remain unconscious or immobile and barely lucid for the remainder of the day. They must also roll on an appropriate resurrection survival/mutilation table or suffer other disabilities at the DM’s discretion.
• Find Herbs: As “find food” under Bushcraft. A Physician with Healing Herbs in the party allows all party members to recover an additional HP with each night’s rest, or one character to regain 1d4 HP.
• Diagnose/Treat diseases, drugs, and poisons: a character with an imbalance in the humors can be treated by a Physician. The suffering character takes 1HP of damage. If the Physician passes his skill test, the character is allowed an immediate “free” save against his ailment, with no further penalty for failure.
Posted by docschott on November 25, 2013
Quick links to a document I worked up for my campaign. Note that there are several minor rules changes here, particularly the addition of my new guns, a class, skill tweaks, and some rearrangement of items.
PDF Format: LotFP quickstart sheet
ODF (in case you want to edit it for your own campaign) LotFP Quickstart Sheet
The font is IM Fell English Canon, in 10 point, available from this site. Though they’re a little small on the screen, I assure you they’re perfectly readable at the table.
Posted by docschott on November 23, 2013
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.”
Spoilers below the break. None of my players past this point.
Posted by docschott on November 14, 2013
Spent last night out on the town with my folks for a surprise birthday dinner, so it delayed my writing a bit. But then an image and a poem crisscrossed in my head..
There was a young lady from Nyger
who smiled as she rode on a Tyger.
They returned from the ride
with the Lady inside
and the smile on the face of the Tyger.
Over a century ago, the Wizard now known as Lehana wandered out of the jungles and into what passed for civilization. She meanders freely through the countryside, displaying an almost insatiable curiosity for matters grand, mean, strange and mundane. She rarely speaks, and that only (usually) to decline some offering or gesture of hospitality. The villagers living in the areas she visits have nicknamed her “the contrary Albino”, whilst informing her that it was the title of a local deity. To this, as to most things in the spheres of Men, she seems indifferent. Lehana moves as she will; doors and guard animals obey her command, and no warrior remaining alive will challenge her if she gestures for entry.
Most people assume she maintains a holdfast somewhere in the local barrows or in the Jungle, and she disappears for days or weeks at a time, often with some item she has taken on her expeditions. No-one has tracked her long enough to determine her Sanctum’s location, and the few who have sworn to find it never return.
She wears a gown, clearly of Western manufacture, and a cloak made from the skins of dozens of animals – mostly predators. Tribal Elders say the type and number of skins in her cloak have changed drastically over the years. Neither the cloak nor her voluminous dress seem to cause her distress despite the crushing heat. Her only other possessions seem to be a small book and occasionally small metal hand tools; she has never been seen with a weapon.
5 HD, attacks as 0-level Human, saves as 5th-level Magic-user.
Attributes: Cha 4 (to Men and all other Things), 16 (to Beasts); Int 17, Wis 14, all others average.
Skills: Occultism 2, Survival 5.
Languages: Ki-Swahili (poor), Latin. Has not responded to any other.
Powers: Command of the Cloak of Manifold Beasts, slowed or arrested aging, heightened endurance of hunger, thirst, heat, and lack of sleep.
Spells: Detect Magic, Identify, Item, Be Impressive, Charm Animal: Speak with Animals, Forget, Invisibility, Knock, Locate Object: Speak with Dead, Detect Illusion, Dispel Magic.
Equipment: Spellbook, 2 sacks of various small delicacies and gold hidden within the Cloak and under the influence of an Item spell, the Cloak, and the Ring of Displacement. May be carrying small gardening tools or magnifying and surveying devices. Occasionally bears a scroll inscribed with divinational spells.
She also possesses a Labratory and Library in her hidden home, which is worth approximately 6,000 SP; much of this “library” is in fact a Cabinet of Wonders, with each item serving to trigger the Wizard’s mind to travel some Aetheric path even as her body traveled to discover it. Her home is well-hidden in the nearby jungles, and a number of fanatically loyal animal servants tend it. They will attempt to lead interlopers astray or intimidate them, only attacking if the sanctum seems in imminent danger of violation.
The Cloak of Manifold Beasts
This strange device is a riot of clashing furs, scales, and taxidermy. Each patch of hide is an animal who has sworn service to the owner and been absorbed into an unknown Limbo. Beasts “stored” may thereafter be summoned, with the corresponding pelt disappearing from its weave; it will be under the absolute control of the user until the next moonrise. While the user may call forth any number of beasts, however, only one can be controlled by it at any given time. Any further animals called forth must make an immediate Reaction roll, and may well attack the caster or flee.
The Cloak may bind one beast each Lunar month. Each time a Beast is bound, however, its inherent wild essence seeks a new home. The closest human being other than the wielder when the Cloak absorbs an animal is affected by a Howl of the Moon spell; the duration is based on the HD of the creature absorbed, with each HD counting as a caster level. The duration bonus for casting on the Full Moon applies. Any animal who offers service of any kind, even unwittingly, to the bearer can come under the sway of the cloak – though an unwilling subject may save vs Spells to resist absorption, and will likely be ill-disposed to the cloak’s owner in any case thereafter. Further, any given beast can be bound only once by the Cloak; once freed it may never rejoin it.
Lehana has been rather industrious over the last century. The Cloak currently contains at least 3 tigers and as many panthers, a crocodile, a pack of hyenas, several wolves, an assortment of smaller creatures, and one extremely distressed Indian elephant.
The Displacing Ring:
The ring is a slender hoop of intricately-carved and inlaid bone. The bearer’s discomforts and bodily cares are spread among every person within a 1-mile radius, with the caster suffering only the proportional remainder. In a densely-populated area, the bearer effectively need never eat, drink, or sleep again. Likewise, someone suffering the thousandth part of another’s exposure or lack of sleep and food is quite unlikely to realize he is parasitized.
In a rural area, however, or a small group, the effects will be much more noticeable. Finally, any wielder of Magic (both Lawful and Chaotic) can feel the ring’s tug on their essence, and the web it weaves when worn may be seen instantly under the effects of a Detect Magic spell.
Posted by docschott on September 25, 2013
Occasionally I get hit with random inspiration, usually on the bus. In this case, it’s a modular room, suitable for pretty much any environment with savage spellcasters and more organized arcanists. It includes a low-powered magic item, a trap, and monsters. Deets after the break for my players, if I had any :b
Posted by docschott on September 21, 2013
Remember how I said Seclusium got the mental wheels turning on the topic of Wizards?
Makhali the Devoured
No mortal is certain who or even precisely what Makhali once was. The few who know aught say Makhali has bartered a deal for power; so long as no food passes its lips, it shall live forever, and remain pluripotent in the magical arts. There is an essential truth to these rumors, and the cunning and profoundly deaf Makhali had held in abeyance a spell which would eternally steal away its mouth. As is ever the case, the Daemon had the last laugh; hunger still afflicts the Wizard acutely as ever it did.
The once-human thing shambling through Makhali’s haunts looks upon all it encounters with the fever-bright eyes of a madman, from a shriveled face and wasted, yet unnaturally strong body. It communicates through signs and dreams. The animus of its hunger has permeated the sanctum, and Makhali now shares its eternal misery by holding great phantasmal feasts* for travellers, trapping and starving them while syphoning the hunger to its own ends. The wretched Wizard’s depredations have infested the surrounding woods with the Gaunt Things and other foul fae and phasms. They drive the weary to its waiting tower and unholy feasts. In the forbidden back of the tower lurk the forgotten remnants of its researches into Demonology and Summoning, as well as many horribly dangerous devices it has cobbled together when the hunger for power and magic briefly drown its body’s baser drive for meat.
*Consider the Feasts to be a multiple castings of Create Stuff That Looks Like Food But Really Isn’t, combined with some extra illusion magic (servants and such). For added ick factor, there’s always the option of using Makhali’s last set of victims as the source material.
Ali Ibn Sawad, Herpepotens, Vocator Serpenticae
Ali is held in the deepest confidences by the ensorcelled Bashah of Tangiers. The Kingdoms of Castille and Aragon do hold him accus’d of direst Sorceries and of Consorting with Demons; to wit, his bruited conferences with a being of the name “VALIS” who does provide advisings and false prophecy. Sawad speaketh to all those in thrall to the Serpent of Eden, and may hold Snakes and other scaled beasts at his whimful Command.
We, the King of Castille and the Queen of all Aragonians and Pamplonese, rightful Sovereigns of all Iberia, hereby proclaim a reward of one hundred-weight of pure Silver for his head, and further its weight in Carbuncles. To this, His Eminence the Cardinal of Valencia adds the promise of a Plenary Indulgence, relieving the weight of all Sins save true Blasphemy.
Any Criminal or Heretic within our power who wishes to undertake this task will be granted a year and a day of Parole; success will grant them a full pardon, but flight shall win them only Banishment and a Warrant of Death.
(The entity “VALIS” is a deliberate fabrication. Ali is the reborn soul of a high priest of Valusia, incarnated through his millenial machinations in a body which fits him ill indeed. He retains his ancient favor with the Snakefolk, and knows their Words of Command. His actions and advice are calculated to bring about a vast war, between and among the Mohammedan and Christian alike. In the chaos, he will take passage with trusted mercenaries and seek to excavate the sleeping-chambers of his folk beneath the newly-discovered Spanish province known as “Alta California”. Of course, the mercenaries are both warm-blooded and somewhat expendable.. and his folk hunger.)
Posted by docschott on September 11, 2013
The Singing Seeming
Outsider, incorporeal, magres50, Lawful, Mindless, Flying, Solitary, No Treasure, Non-aggressive, d30 table
#Appearing: 1 (v. rarely, 1-4)
AC 9 (10)
MV: 30′ (float)
Lair: 0% (no lair)
Attacks: 0, Special damage (see below)
Defenses: Incorporeal, limited spell immunity (see below)
Magic Resistance: 50%
Size M (3-6′)
XP: as 4HD creature (non-damaging balances against its special attacks and defenses)
. .These ghostly beings are lost, wandering notes – warped echoes of the forgotten songs of Creation. Seemings wander the Prime stealing the voices of all they encounter, trying desperately to correctly reproduce the complex chords that are their very existence and rejoin the Great Song. They manifest as translucently glowing humanoids with long, ornamented hair in violently unnatural colors. Strange lights play about a Seeming, reacting to nearby sounds (treat as permanent Dancing Lights, shifting colors to match songs or mood) as it hovers gently in mid-air, moving at a walking pace unless disturbed or frightened.
. .When it finds a being who captures its attention, the Seeming will point at it, open its own mouth, and seem to inhale violently. Only a being who is physically capable of speaking meaningfully and making vocal music can be affected (they don’t have to be good at it, but someone with their tongue cut out or a mechanical blockage is immune to the effect). The character, who is chosen randomly unless someone is singing, humming, whistling, &c in the initial encounter, must save vs. Polymorph (Fort) or lose their voice instantly. If the theft is blocked, the creature will make a Morale check: if passed, it will try to harvest another voice from the party each round.
. .Only one voice at a time can be stolen. The Seeming will keep it for 1d6 rounds, or one round per “level”/HD of the voice stolen, whichever is larger. Each round, they will attempt to sing a note, with slightly different effects each time (roll on the table below). After the duration given above, the Seeming will appear angered or frustrated, and choose another target. The previous voice is returned to its owner as soon as it steals a new one. The player receiving the voice must make a second save vs. Polymorph or remain unable to speak coherently for 1 turn for each round the voice was stolen; if they pass, the effect lasts the same number of rounds. If the Seeming flees or tries all available voices, it will move off, singing softly as it goes in the last voice stolen: this voice is not returned until the Seeming is killed/banished or finds another victim.
. .Singing Seemings are completely non-hostile and take no overtly offensive action, even though their activities have dangerous side-effects. They are incorporeal, and their deep connection to Creation shrugs off most magic. A Seeming will attempt to flee if it takes damage or is subjected to a particularly discordant (though not necessarily loud) sound. If Silence or a suitable anti-magic spell is cast on a Seeming, it automatically affects the Seeming: it must release its current voice and cannot sing or generate visual effects and will usually flee immediately. They appear mindless, and cannot be affected by psychic emanations or mind-controlling dweomers, though Protection spells hedge them and block the theft effect.
. .An observant Magic-user may be inspired to recast their own spells into song, or use songs to reproduce a magical effect. The exact difficulty and effects are up to the DM, but with the Seeming’s primal connection to True Name magic, they are a grand muse for research.
Song Effects Table
Roll 1d30, or 1d6 and 1d10 (with 1-2 = 0nes, 3-4 = add 10, 5-6 add 20) Add the “donating” character’s Charisma modifier to this roll. Clerics’ voices add +1, Bards’ +2, and Elves’/Mages’ -2. At GM’s discretion, other modifiers may be applied.
Effects are considered to be cast by a Magic-user of the 5th level.
All: all beings in the area
Area: everything in the area
Single : one random sentient individual
Special: see description
Posted by docschott on March 9, 2013
I am Erich of Halleschtat, sometime called the Faithless. Much have I seen, and many foul things are dead by my hand. Hear my testimony, and be forewarned.
A Gaunt Thing is a spirit of Starvation and Want. When it be seen, it prowleth at night about the edges of any campsite raised within miles of its lair. It do plead most piteously from without the circle of fire for the gift of a morsel or warmth. It shall remain beyond the reach of torch or firelight unless it be invited, and disappeareth at dawn but to return the next even. If one be so foolish as to extend welcome, it will seem affable, but hungry. First it shall inexorably devour all offered foodstuffs, then seize those unoffered, and finally seek to rend and eat its very hosts and their beasts. It will devour the light and heat of a fire , and it is healed by flames. They grow swifter and tougher as they feed, bloating into a fearsome aspect.
Allowing one into the fire’s light or slaying it within the circle will summon as many as a half-dozen more, who will arrive over the following hour. These too must be invited in to enter, but will wheedle, curse, cajole, and threaten their targets constantly and loudly. While besieged by the Gaunt Ones, characters must successfully strive against their Spells each night for each and every Gaunt One plaguing them, or they will find no restful sleep.
Dogs howl at their approach, and horses go mad with fear. Even the cruelest of monsters will be driven off in fear or devoured if they approach the Gaunt; if the Gaunt flee during the night, you would do well to follow their example! Remember too, that an “Invitation” can be broad, as one of my own expeditions did find to their chagrin, and traveling without a flame in their haunts is ill-advised. They are vulnerable to Magics, the juices of waybroad, and to iron, but fade away when slain – seemingly only to multiply as their fellows fall. A Gaunt One in its first aspect is the work of a moment to slay (can you but strike it), but its teeth and claws are as daggers, striking in heedless phrensy when assaulted (or, as my late Portraiter Michaud discovered, when struck by the actinic light of Magnesium). Yet I have felled bears more easily than the first which we encountered.
Thinking these fell things but a backwards tribe in need of succor, we unthinkingly offered warmth and feed unto the first we encountered. Soon we played the hosts to a small pau-wau, each babbling in a chatter much like the local patois. But no other words could we pry from them, of their tribe or their plight, save extasy at the food and speech of an increasing lust for meat. We were astounded at the growth of the first creature, and my chronicler prepared his contraptions to document the Beasts.
Many times have I heard the old saw that a portrait or reflection steals away a bit of the soul, but never did I believe it until after the battle, when I saw what showed on the cracked plate within.
Our greater knowledge of the Gaunt came at a steep price. Fully two day’s travel it took us, and the crossing of some unknown torrent, before the last of the Gaunt abandoned us. But five of the expedition survived; all the Natives had fled in the melee of the first night. We found two of them on the morning, but the Gaunt had found them first. Weary and half-mad with lack of sleep, even Dulac (who had slept on the trail to be fresh for guarding in the night) succumbed to the Night. An ambuscade by a great Reptile in the night claimed Dulac, and two of the fingers of my hand – but I shall speak of the rest of our escape another day. Know, then, that these beasts may only truly be conquered through a hardened heart and swift legs.
# appearing: 1 (but see below)
HD: 1, +1 per feeding turn
#ATT: 2,, @1d4 per.
Morale: 4 initially, 12 once fed.
Special Attack: Keening.
Special Defense: Half damage from most weapons (see below). No matter how they appear, however, they are inimical Fae and not Undead..
Gaunt Things are initially repelled by fire, and must be invited into firelight or a defined structure (a tent counts, but not a campsite). If uninvited, the Gaunt Things will snivel, plead, and scream just outside the area they cannot enter; characters must save vs. Magic or lose the benefits of that night’s sleep. As the sun rises, all of the Gaunt Things will vanish, to return at sundown. Each night the party successfully resists their groveling, however, 1d3 will disappear permanently.
If invited, or if they are able to infiltrate an unlit campsite, they gain 1HD per Turn spent feeding on the party’s resources. They will first take what is offered, then beg for (and attempt to seize) more. Feeding or killing one summons 1d6 more within a Turn. Summoned Gaunt Things divide any additional HD the slain one possessed among themselves as equally as possible. Gaunt Things always use the Charge or Press actions in combat.
Weapons wrought from cold iron or hawthorne, magic or enchanted weapons (even banefully-enchanted ones), and plantain-coated weapons do full damage; all others cause only half. Plantain-root powder does 1d4 damage if cast into one’s face. The beast’s true reflections can be seen in free-flowing water and silver mirrors; if cameras are present, they work as well.
No other “monster” or “animal” random encounters will appear as long as the party is stalked by the Gaunt, and a party on the march will instead find at least one of these creatures viciously mauled and partly-devoured instead. At your option, some or all of the Gaunt Things may gain HD from consuming these creatures.
Posted by docschott on February 11, 2013
As many of you know, I root about on the 4chan a lot. Good old /tg/ and I have had many the fight. This is born of one of them.
So some fine chap in a thread about assorted villainy posted an image of Maleficent and claimed that she was “the only” Disney villain that could be translated into a reasonable threat to a D&D party, let alone a proper “campaign” villain. Bull. Shit. Quite beyond the obvious – wicked (and noble) stepmother/sisters: a moderate-level Wizard with a minimum of Poison and Alter Self, a scrying device, and troops at her beck and call.. you have the beasts.
Now, this is based on the literary source.. but the Big D’s onscreen presentation of him is still consistent with Kipling, staggeringly. I statted him out in about 15 minutes, and he’s even suitable for a Modern campaign..
Beast King: Dire Tiger.
AC: 5 (hide and speed)
Move: 10″ + 5″ Jump
TT: nil (see below)
#attacks: Claw/Claw/Bite (2d4/2d4/1d12)
Special: Surprise on 1-4 on 1d6 , +2 to saving throws vs. Magic (Wisdom), thief abilities. No magic resistance.
Shere Khan is a dark legend of the forest, a great tiger with a taste for Manflesh and a fondness for destruction unmatched by his animalistic kin. He demands human sacrifice on a fairly regular schedule from villages in his domain, which is quite large. Unwary adventurers, hearing the tale of an “intelligent” tiger hunting and manipulating the local populace, might suspect a weretiger or Rakshasa. The truth is, Khan is “merely” a paragon of his kind, and Lord of the forest – should his subjects refuse to give him pleasing offerings, he will wreak a terrifying retribution upon them. He is petty, vengeful, and cunning, preferring to follow his prey and strike when the moment is ripe.
When travelling in natural terrain, his exceptional stealth allows him to surprise a party on a 1-4 on a D6: he is only surprised on a 1. Shere Khan has the following Thief abilities: Hide in Shadows 40%, Move Silently 60%, Climb Walls 95%, and Backstab (Triple damage). He may also Rake (if he lands both Claw attacks, he may forgo his Bite attack and Rake with his hind claws for 2d4/2d4 damage)
When encountering a party in his demense, Khan will more than likely attempt to kill them if they appear to be a threat. If they offer slaves or one of their own as tribute, he will allow them to pass unmolested – but this is a grossly evil act. If there appear to be spellcasters in the party, Khan will single them out in his initial attacks, leaping on one from ambush (consider this a Charge if using the optional rules from 2e) before savagely mauling him – on a successful surprise roll, the target is Backstabbed, for triple damage. On the next round, Khan will fade into the underbrush using his Thief abilities and wait for another opportunity. His cunning allows him to create distractions, and he will attempt to force magic-users to waste their spells if he is unable to kill them in the initial strike – often waiting hours to strike again if a spell has no obvious effect.
Shere Khan is deathly and instinctually afraid of fire, a fact that irritates him deeply.
The Hide of Shere Khan:
If harvested and properly prepared, Shere Khan’s hide will serve as a powerful symbol to the denizens of the forest (Human and some animals) – the bearer/wearer will be considered the new King of the Forest, and treated as such. Note that the locals may still consider offering humans to a PC bearing the Hide. The Hide offers an AC of 7 if worn intact. It can be prepared with the proper spells into an armor which grants an AC of 5 and the ability to use Thieving skills while wearing it as though it were ordinary clothing: it loses its other properties. Shere Khan has no other treasure: only flesh and power interest him. Finally, players should remember – Shere Khan is the King of the Forest – but the Forest selects her rulers, not the hand of Man….
Posted by docschott on May 17, 2012
Or “Finally, the RULES”.
In Part I we discussed the impetus for the rules, and in Pt. II the immature form from my 2e days (plus fed you some examples). This post dissects the actual rules that I’ve derived from them, and a few additions to make the system playable.
My rules assume the 10-second round and the 6-turn hour. 0 HP = unconsciousness, -HP = dead and possibly maimed. I also use the Silver Standard. Convert all SP notations into GP.
“Poison” can be anything from alcohol to henbane, from dimethyl mercury to opium and the Black Lotuses in the stinking pits of Telele’li.
Players may use poisons, but this is never an honorable act, and rarely good. The GM should also be reminded that activities which do not expose the character to significant danger do not grant XP. Poisoning a well and stabbing a man in the back with a venomed dagger both offer similar levels of danger, and should be treated similarly…
Posted by docschott on May 5, 2012
So tell me what you want, what you really really want..
Yes, I went there
In my previous post, we discussed some historical problems with poisons in the various early editions of D&D. How did my DM and I solve them? Well, we didn’t fix them all. But we did set up a framework, based on the spell/item-crafting rules, that allowed for more interesting effects. Keep in mind I was roughly CL 7 or 8 when we started doing this (1Rng/5+ Rog dual-class*), and I didn’t try to make the Beholder’s Wrath (you’ll see later) until I was around CL 12; some kind of level restriction would probably be good for other PCs.
*Curious about that dual-class? He was a half-elf, and the DM made us choose to favor one side or the other because there “were no” half-elves in his world – which later became a major plot point. I chose Human over Wood Elf. He “fell” out of ranger after being left for dead at level 1 by a genocide squad hunting for half-breeds (the party happened upon me and healed me up. Hell of an intro). It’s why Elthir’s Preferred Enemy was Elves, and he rocked the subsequent NE for most of his career.
Anyway, here are the general rules, taken from my own notes. I need to tighten these up, and I’m more than willing to listen to new suggestions for poisons to try to get my head around the system. Also, there’s more to follow when I start adapting the stuff I created for d20..
Posted by docschott on May 4, 2012
Last post I mentioned poison & disease rules. The “post” has developed into a series’ worth of material, so I’ll be working through it a little slower. I’ll talk about poison first, since I first confronted the issue back in the ’90s, as a player. By contrast, disease has only really interested me as a system for a couple years, even though we occasionally ran into it in games. Yet the rules spring from the same root problems…
Oh, and hold onto your butts kids, this is a history post. This means that I’ve got a half-dozen books open in front of me and 5 more on the shelf in reserve. A healthy part of it’s is personal recollection, and observed tendencies: YMMV, but think about your past games as you read it.
Posted by docschott on May 3, 2012
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.
Posted by docschott on April 26, 2012