Occultism Skill Rework and Grimoires [LotFP]

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.


Harry Clarke – Faust – Faustus Appears


Tables for Creating Low-Level Wizards & Other Fools who Would Tamper With the Skeins of Fate (LotFP/D&D).

Harry Clarke - The Snow Queen

Harry Clarke – The Snow Queen

In addition to my generators on Last Gasp (Wizardly Schools and First level Spells for LotFP wizards), I’ve been working on a full NPC speed-generator for mages, to go with a more general NPC supplement I’m writing. I used it last week for generating a couple towns and their conflicting magical populations. I’m retaining copyright on this one, mostly because I’m hoping to publish – but with a creative-commons attribution non-commercial license if ya want to use it.

Here’s the current draft document:
So, if you don’t know if this town is the kind of place that attracts Reality Warpers, roll on the first table. If you already know who’s there, or you’re just generating an NPC, skip the first table. If you don’t know their level, roll 1d6 at the end, adding mentor/school modifiers

Is there a wizard?
  (Roll 1d8, +2 if in a thaumocracy, +1 if inside a city (5000+ citizens). Note that these modifiers are cumulative. In a large city, roll once  for each major ward or district)

  1. No
  2. No
  3. Hedge-mage/shaman/goodwife of power
  4. Hedge-mage &c.
  5. A Magic-user
  6. A Magic-user
  7. A Wizard (see “Seclusium of Orphone” and “Isle of the Unknown” for more information on the distinction between Wizards and Magic-users. Loosely, “Magic-users” use magic, “Wizards” ARE magic)
  8. Several of them (1d3 to 1d6, at your discretion)

Are they part of a cabal?

  1. Yes. Several of them. Someone’s going to be in trouble soon… (roll twice on the table, taking both results. Keep rolling if you keep getting ones..)
  2. Yes, and the cabal has powerful rivals; they’re in an active turf war
  3. A secular secret society, not limited to Magi
  4. Yes, and it’s (roll 1d6): 1-3 – riven by internal conflict, 4-6 – stable – for now. Magi being what they are, of course, they’re still jockeying quietly for advantage.
  5. Yes, and this mage is in charge (+1 level, may have missions for or claims upon a PC mage)
  6. No, but they have a rival with whom they are as friendly as wizards get.
  7. No, and they have a rival who’s a powerful enemy
  8. No, and they’ve pissed off a cabal or society
  9. No, and they’re at war with another independent
  10. No, and they were cast out of one
  11. No, and they’re in a position of public power (secular or religious)
  12. No, and they’re hiding from one (other than the Church)

How did they learn their skills?

(Roll 1d10 for Magi in rural or heavily chaos-tainted areas, roll 1d20 for cities or larger, add +1 if there’s a major thaumocracy or city in the area. Roll 1d6+2 for Wizards.)

  1. Raised in a local tradition (themed spell list, little ambition, but unlikely to be set afire. Roll 1d6 – on a 1-4, ignore the “why aren’t they on fire” table, and treat as “locals approve” )
  2. Local Tradition (as 1, above)
  3. They’re self-taught (all spells rolled randomly, seeks magical information and knowledge more aggressively, lower a level)
  4. Self-taught, (As 3, above. If a wizard, he was created by an Item of Power)
  5. Pacts and Infernal contracts (Must bargain a thing of supernatural value to learn further spells. Constantly looking for ways to pay that don’t hurt themselves.)
  6. Feyblooded (no iron in their home, despises gulls, gets a +2 on all rolls to learn spells, but can’t roll again. Ever.)
  7. Possessed (Uses demonic abilities, cannot learn new spells. Turning has a chance of removing the demon)
  8. Plasmically conceived (Learns spells instinctively; cut research times in half, but gains no benefit from a library.)
  9. They had a mentor (roll on the Mentor table, gains some free magical nexus or trinket as a gift)
  10. As 9, above
  11. They killed their mentor (roll on mentor table, gains 1d3 nexii/trinkets, add a level)
  12. Their mentor was killed by a rival (gains an enemy)
  13. They escaped their mentor (may be hunted – roll on Relationship table)
  14. They mentor another wizard (+2 levels. Roll another wizard, skipping this table, of level 1d3; roll for the student on “mentor” and “mentor relationship” tables)
  15. As 14, above
  16. Poached from their mentor by another wizard or school
  17. Tutored in a school or cabal, and they were expelled
  18. School/Cabal, still in tutelage (-1d3 levels)
  19. School/Cabal, still in tutelage (-1d3 levels)
  20. School/Cabal, graduate
  21. School/Cabal, graduate
  22. Yes, and they’re in charge (+1d3 levels)

Mentor sub-table

  1. Mentor was kind, but incompetent (-1 level, minor magical trinket or tool)
  2. Mentor was kind and competent (+1 level, minor trinket/tool)
  3. Mentor grew bored and cast them out (-1 level)
  4. Mentor was ruthless and cruel, but competent (+1 level, gain a spell of cursing)
  5. Mentor was ruthless and cruel, but incompetent (-1 level)
  6. Still under tutelage (-1 level)
  7. Actively plotting to kill or usurp mentor. May attempt to enlist PC aid.
  8. Tried to kill, but failed (Under a curse, seeking to lift)

Relationship with mentor?

  1. Respect, genuine
  2. Respect, grudging
  3. Raw hatred
  4. Subtle hatred
  5. Resentment
  6. Fear (even if he’s dead. ESPECIALLY if he’s dead)
  7. Lovers, or similar physical/metaphysical desires. (Roll again on the table to find the mentor’s opinion on the matter..)
  8. Fondness
  9. Condescension
  10. Apathy
  11. Curiosity (“where are they?”, “are there secrets they didn’t teach me?”, etc.)
  12. Mentor or student is unwillingly enspelled (Roll 1d6: 1-4 – student, 5-6, mentor)

Why isn’t the mage on fire?

(In a Thaumocracy, roll 1d12 – this is how they’re maintaining their own power against their rivals.)

  1. Political favors/blackmail (to include providing black magic services, enchantments, or implicating the “patron” in their own crimes)
  2. Stealth and concealment of powers
  3. Vulgar displays of power (raw fear. This wizard probably isn’t long for the Mortal Coil)
  4. Subtle displays of power (targeted curses, illusionary omens, &c)
  5. Has ensorcelled locals (strategic charm spells, keeps them under threat of a death-curse, etc)
  6. Has ensorcelled major official or patron
  7. Wizard is laying low, hiding from a warrant, rival, or lynch mob in a nearby place
  8. Kills all inquisitors and challengers, subtly
  9. Kills inquisitors and challengers, extremely unsubtly
  10. Powerful magical defenses (Sanctum, magical traps, summoned creatures, extradimensional bolthole, etc.)
  11. Powerful mundane defenses (Bodyguards, army, traps, fortified home)
  12. Political power (Wizard uses an official position as cover, or is shielded by a powerful patron)
  13. Owns or provides an indispensable service (widespread blackmail, providing protection against a greater threat than himself)
  14. Stealth and concealment of powers
  15. Locals know there’s a wizard, and they’re trying to find him (Adventure hook!)
  16. Locals don’t care, government cares (this can change rather abruptly depending on the wizard’s behavior or omens, plagues &c.)
  17. Locals disapprove, government doesn’t give a damn  – and is suppressing witch-hunts (Locals may attempt to hire PCs to assassinate)
  18. Local citizens are down with witchcraft, government does not approve (Locals will be actively obstructive)
  19. Citizens and government approve of witchcraft (Possibly on the way to a thaumocracy?)
  20. Lies (roll again on this table)

The Skeleton Key (Magic Item/LotFP)

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.


LotFP Firearms, Pt Tertius – Misfire Table

I promised this update back in Part 2 (Part 1 is here) and finally sat down and hammered it out. The simple versions are first, but I just couldn’t resist making a longer and more complicated one.

Someone rolled a double "1".

Someone rolled a double “1”.

Damp weather is foggy, or with a very light rain (what we in the Northwest call a “mizzle” – not quite a drizzle, but worse than a mist). Most caves, crypts, and dungeons are Damp as well.

Wet weather means actively raining, or surrounded by constant soaking wetness (for example, hiding inside a mud-filled trench or culvert, or adventuring inside a sewer). NO blackpowder gun may be reloaded in Wet conditions unless the character is carrying Cartridges, or under cover and working with dry powder.
Wet weather penalties also apply if the gun has been in direct contact with water and not reloaded since – for example, while fording a stream, hit by a wave breaking over the deck, &c. The gun can, however, be reloaded without penalty.

Cartridges reduce weather penalties by 1, but cannot be used with cannon.

Using improvised repairs or supplies (powder, flints) adds 1 to the base Misfire chance (cumulative), but does not affect Misfire table rolls.
At your option, characters interrupted while re-priming or re-loading their gun may Misfire it, drop the matches or keys &c. I suggest a Breath save.

As written (Simplest):
When a gun is fired, the target rolls against the gun’s misfire chance.
Wheel and matchlocks must be completely re-loaded on a misfire. Flintlocks must be reprimed only. Advanced locks ignore weather penalties.
Fast but boring, makes flintlocks an utter no-brainer.

As I ran it last session:
When a gun is fired, the target rolls against the gun’s misfire chance. Guns always misfire on a fumble (natural 1), and cannot misfire on a natural 20, even if they would normally misfire automatically.
On a misfire, the firing character must roll 1d20 again. If the gun didn’t fail because of the weather, a result of 1 (or 1-2 on a fumble) means the gun exploded, hitting its user for half damage (save vs. Breath to avoid). Otherwise, odds mean dud loads and evens mean squibs (match goes out, flash in the pan, spark failure, whatever).
Fast in-play, and easy to adjucate. Also, it killed one of the NPCs. Well, technically the botched surgery to correct the injury killed him, but he was already at 0 HP.

I'm so totally not a disaster waiting to happen! No, wait! Come back! T_T

I’m so totally not a disaster waiting to happen! No, wait! Come back! T_T

The far more complicated but possibly more fun version:

When a character uses a firearm, their target rolls 1d20 as well (as in the standard system). (I’ll be keeping the fumble and crit options here)
If it comes up under the gun’s basic Misfire chance, the firing character rolls again on the misfire table. This table is graduated based on the various dangers of the gun’s type. The base misfire chance penalty I originally used for breechloaders, tack-on pistols, and multi-barrel guns has been removed, in favor of direr consequences when they fail.
“Shoddy” guns cost 75% of the gun’s final cost, and take 25% less time to make.

Misfire Chances by Weapon Type:

Misfires on a 1-6 on 1d20, on a 1-12 in the Damp, and cannot be fired in the Wet.
A Lockless gun rolls 1d6 on the Misfire table
Misfires on a 1-4 on 1d20, on a 1-8 in Damp conditions, and 1-16 in the Wet.
Matchlocks roll 1d8 on the Misfire table
Misfires on a 1-4 on 1d20, with no modifiers for weather.
Wheel-locks roll 1d10 on the Misfire table
Misfires on a 1-2 on 1d20, or on a 1-4 in Wet conditions.
Flintlocks roll 1d12 on the Misfire table

Misfire Effects
Roll: Result:
1 or less Explosion!
2-5 Dud load
6-7 Bad Load
8 Lock Damage
9 or more Squib/Flash-in-the-pan

Subtract 1 from the roll if the gun is Low-quality, a Breech-loader and/or double-barreled or multi-shot (cumulative).
Add 1 to the roll if the gun failed due to weather conditions (that is, it would not have misfired without a weather penalty)
Note that this means that a dodgy flintlock is more likely to explode than a well-made one (10% vs 5%) but far less likely to do so than a badly-made handgonne (~33%) or matchlock (~25%). This is very, very intentional.

Explosion!: Well, shit. The gun is immediately rendered useless. Player must save vs. Breath or take half the gun’s damage.

Dud load: The powder was bad, or water got in. The character must reload the gun entirely, taking an additional 3 rounds to clear it, before firing again.

Bad Load: Roll 1d6. If the roll is 3 or less, the gun was underloaded. Otherwise, it was overloaded. An Overloaded gun doubles its damage, and an Underloaded gun halves it.

Lock Damage: the gun’s base Misfire chance increases by 1. Flintlocks must replace the flints, Wheel-locks become unusable until repaired.

Flash-in-the-pan: The priming powder went off, but the gun didn’t, or the match went out.
Matchlock guns must relight the match, taking 2 uninterrupted rounds to remove and replace it.
• Flintlocks take 1 uninterrupted Round to recock and reprime
• Wheel-locks take 3 Rounds to re-wind the wheel.
Additionally, the gun’s base Misfire chance increases by 1 until it is reloaded or successfully fired.

New Magic Item, and a revised house rule

Courtesy of an idea by Fractalbat, I’ve revised my rules for using the Occultism skill for ritual casting: if you fail, you can now burn HP equal to the Margin of Failure to cast the spell anyway. I normally roll skill checks on a secret sliding-base roll (IE, I roll a d6 at the same time, and whatever’s on it becomes the “1” the other die is compared to), so I’m trying to decide whether to:
a) keep the results secret until the player chooses to burn HP (and possibly stop the burn at 1 HP to keep them alive/give them the option to burn out instead)
b) Roll the base die in the open on this one to give them a little more info.
I think having the choice to burn HP after casting, or keep gambling on better rolls next turn, makes for a little more exciting play. Plus, it means higher-level ritualists are going to be burning “just one more HP” a lot more often, making the skill more consistent in the middling levels but still giving proper Magi the edge. And, of course, with Magi starting out with a middling skill in Occultism to begin with, it gives them another avenue for repeat casting without becoming (as Fractalbat put it) superheroes off slinging Shocking Grasp every round. It also means that the Mage will be prepping casting-time-sensitive spells, but still have some access to “utility” stuff at low levels.
Edit: decided that burning years of your life expectancy once you run out of HP/instead of HP is a better trade. Plus, Koura, man. Koura (different video than the one below).

I’ve also reworded it so that Chaotics/Lawfuls with Occultism can’t cast spells from the other side (they’ve already sold their souls, remember..).

The Magic item’s deets are after the break. On that note, I’ve been reading 18th-century histories and the Arabian Nights lately. Can you tell?

The item is a casket made of some ancient and weatherbeaten bone or ivory. It is carefully and extensively inscribed with floral Arabesques and a flowing decorative script (Players fluent in pre-Islamic Arabic will recognize references to Suleiman and a “Thirsting Djhann”). It contains a “fluffy” white sand; when disturbed or poured out, the sand will slowly flow back into the box, through the hinges or keyhole if necessary.

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

Literary/Historical Inspiration: Herodotus, #1

So, there have been a lot of dudes who were hugely influential to fantasy, well beyond “Appendix N”. I’ve talked about William Morris before (who was one of Tolkein’s foundations – much of the Good Professor’s work was lifted, based on, or adapted from Morris’, in the tradition of all good storytellers). Another enormous influence was Lord Dunsany, who laid the cornerstone of Weird Fiction for Clark Ashton Smith and HP Lovecraft. Vance was the first to make “wizards” squabbling murderers hunting each other’s spells (although calling D&D-style magic “Vancian” is at best a bit blinkered. Perhaps I’ll touch on that later).

But there’s another figure towering behind them all. Because he worked in the “real” historical field, it’s not as easy to recognize Herodotus’ contribution to the RPG hobby. For example, the first Monster books and Manuals owe him a tremendous debt. Most were compiled from historical sources, especially Medieval bestiaries – which were, in turn, copied from the Histories. Herodotus remained one of the most widely-traveled, literate human beings on the bloody planet until the Crusades, and his work was literally seminal for every other historian and travelogue author down to the present day. He reported not just the things he saw, but the tales he was told, and it is to him we owe the surviving accounts of everything from Griffins to the Bonnacon.

In addition, unlike most other sources, the Father of History hasn’t really been mined nearly as extensively as, say, HPL by the OSR. He describes everything from atmospheric sculptures and rumors to adventure seeds, and is tremendously funny to boot. Even if the translators are shitty writers. Since it’s out of copyright, it’s available for free or very cheaply in complete editions; I have a B&N Classics edition of the Macaulay/Latenier translation, which cost me less than $10, and free versions are available all over the ‘net.
I’ve been through about 3/4ths of the Histories thus far (it is a bit dense..), and every time I find a tasty tidbit I highlight it for future reference. I’ve got far, far too many for my own campaigns, so I’ll be sharing particularly tasty tid-bits with you all. All quotes are referenced by Book: verse, to the aforementioned Macaulay/Latenier translation.

They say that [Queen Nitocris], desiring to take vengeance for her brother, who the Egyptians had slain when he was their king and then had given his kingdom to her, she destroyed by trickery many Egyptians. For she caused to be constructed a very large chamber underground, and making as though to inaugurate it but in her mind devising other things, she invited those Egyptians whom she knew to be guiltiest of the murder, and gave a great banquet. Then while they were feasting, she let in the river upon them by a large secret conduit. They told no more than this of her, except that when this had been accomplished, she threw herself into a room full of embers to escape vengeance.
II: 100 (Adventure/Plot seed)

Fun with magic:

..Immediately upon [cursing the river-god], Pheros suffered a disease of his eyes and became blind. For ten years thereafter, he was blind. In the eleventh year, there came to him an oracle from the city of Buto saying that the period of his punishment had expired, and he should see again when he washed his eyes in the urine of a woman who had had sex only with her own husband and none other.
Book II: 111 (Lulzy oracles: check!)

(His wife failed. So did the wives of most of the leaders of Egypt. After he got his sight back, he took all the ones who failed to another city, and burned them to death. Then burned down the city. Because Egyptians.)

Hand’s still bugging me, so done for now. More later.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess Quick-start sheet

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.

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.

Wandering Monsters Aren’t the Only Encounters.. (House rules/gaming philosophy)

I’ve been working on the Encounter tables for the current campaign, and it brought up something I’ve been doing for a while.
So, we all know the standard B/X/1e &c. tables run from 2-12, using 1d4 and 1d8 rolled together (and if you didn’t, you’re going to have a rather weird distribution – explanation after the break).  These days, though, I just throw d4/d6/d8 at once.  I originally started adding the d6 to do surprise for whatever I rolled, but then I started including non-combat “encounters” to screw with my players — um, “enhance the atmosphere of the game”. I’ve found it adds considerably to the tension when the players find a smoldering campfire and don’t know whether they’ve just lost a Surprise roll, or only come across an irresponsible camper’s leavings. So I experimented with making larger tables at first, but it never felt right.

Now I use two to three tables, with the d6 determining which the other two dice are rolling on. Generally speaking, even numbers on the 6 are an “event” encounter – stuff like finding signs of another creature or party, roadside shrines, omens, what-have-you. Odds roll on the conventional Wandering Monster tables. To adjust to the changed odds, of course, I have to roll about twice as often as I normally would. I also skip the d6 and just roll directly on the WanMo table for “triggered” checks like smashing apart furniture or noisy fighting among the party. I also occasionally use the d6 for other things, or to adjust the odds of Weird Crap happening – a deserted road in the middle of a plain is going to have a lot more encounters with random ruins, foul omens, or water sources than with other people/monsters, etc., so I might up it to 1-4 or 1-5 being on the “events” table, and only a 6 triggering a true check, or using the 6 as a trigger for a table of one-time encounters replacing some of the “usual” ones. Unique encounters that you re-roll can be replaced with the normal one at your option. You can also have one or more entries on the Creature table drawing from a local lair or “pool”, with a fixed number possible to encounter, and after that ignore the result or replace it with the corresponding event.

Anyway, my current procedure looks like this:
Roll d6 for encounters -> comes up positive
Grab 4/6/8 and check the tables -> find results
(Note: even when it’s a complete non-combat encounter like a gust of wind, I still follow these next two)
Throw a d6 for Surprise, and having the party’s scout do the same
Roll 2d6 for Reactions or Morale based on the party’s actions (if neither, both, or the party got Surprise) and/or appearance (if the critters did). Note that even a person with Surprise and a profoundly negative Reaction roll might still run or hide if it seems like a good idea compared to taking on a pack of heavily-armed murderhobos.

Here’s a sample table for a road through a moderately-traveled forest, with some notes added below:

Sample encounter table

* For omens: Take a quick card reading/roll off a manifestation, or make one up. Can also represent signs of a “sacred” or “cursed” area, a feeling of being watched or protected, etc. Yes, evil omens are more common. Life sucks.
Good Omens: Any hirelings will experience a +1 on morale for the rest of the day and all party members gain an additional point of HP resting that night.
Ill Omens: next Encounter will be a Creature on 2+ instead, and Unique on a 5+. Morale check for any followers, if failed they will refuse to continue
+ Shrines: Use Surprise roll to determine the size or type and the Reaction roll to determine compatibility of the shrine’s faith. Surprise die: 1, 2 = abandoned/ruinous : 3,4 = Maintained roadside shrine : 5 = Single Hermit : 6 = Monastery or Church.
[Examples of Pagan shrines could be stone circles (for a church), roadside offerings, or even Fairy Rings and burial mounds. ]
** Roll again on the Creatures table, and invent an appropriate sign of the potential encounter. If a Creature comes up on the next Encounter roll, disregard the result and replace it with this creature.


For the Archive: New Magic Items for Lamentations of the Flame Princess/D&D

Both of these items are related to my upcoming campaign; my players should kindly bugger off.
They are intended for a campaign involving Arabic/esque mages, and one will probably be pretty useless to most PCs (other than as a source of cash, that is)

Evil Vizier courtesy of Reginald Balfour's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Evil Vizier courtesy of Reginald Balfour’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam


Hacking the Lamentations Spells list


I’ve been putting together a list of random magic user spells, as part of the folio project I mentioned a couple posts ago. Looking at the additional spells from LotFP’s secondary materials, I came to some interesting realizations.

First off, there are no additional Cleric spells. All the LotFP materials relating to Clerical spells, in fact, are basically about stealing them.. Kind of makes sense, what with Law not tinkering as much with their power as Chaos, but adding more Clerical spells is definitely something I’ll look at more later. Right now I’m rooting through my old Priest’s Spell Compendia to see if anything catches the eye. I might even swap all protective magic to the Clerical sphere, although I’d rather just fiddle with one thing at a time.

But the combination of Magic-user spells mentioned and presented in the First-Level Spell contest and the modules I have (Better Than Any Man, Tales of the Scarecrow, Death Frost Doom, Gingerbread Princess, Dungeon/Isle of the Unknown, The God that Crawls) actually present a fairly balanced and interesting list for magi on their own. 
Granted, the attack spells seem limited at first blush. Wrathful Scrotum, Gluttonous Eye, Palsied Affect, Gingerbread Curse, Scalding Touch, Burnt Potency (I upped these two to 2nd-level), Shadow Bane, Firebat, Hail of Stonesand the last four are all modified Magic Missiles. But I like the way they each say something about the wizard, and the way each feels more like a curse or manipulation of reality, rather than spraying raw magic power about. The one spell that comes closest to conventional “fireball blasting” is Burnt Potency and that’s some scary shit for anyone to use.

There are a few true physical alterations – the Gingerbread Curse, Decay Corpse, Plastinate. A single Warding spell – Precipitation Immunity.
The rest group pretty comfortably into bargains (where something is traded for something of similar value, usually with a tax), enhancing the wizard’s perceptions (including unnatural understanding of speech and symbols), or altering others’ perceptions.
I think I’ll pull some appropriate spells from 2e, like Remove Disease, which fit this paradigm, and swap out things like Mending for Fixing Spell and its ilk.

Unfortunately, my players seem to be terrified of playing mages. But it’ll make for some fun NPCs.

LotFP / AD&D Firearms, Pt’m Secundus

I’m putting together campaign materials for my Colonial game. Today, it’s time to update my last post on firearms with some more specific stats for the guns. Working on a misfire table for my own use, which I finally finished (here)
The usual disclaimer: These are intended for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, but suitable for pretty much any RPG with hit dice. As always, LotFP uses the Silver standard, so bump up prices to GP if you’re one of those folks. Encumbrance also works uniquely, based on number of items and their clumsiness, rather than on weight per se. I’ve listed standard weights for each weapon type as a nod to the AD&D folks out there.

Quite literally a hand cannon, the handgonne has a short barrel and a touch-hole (see: “No Lock” in my previous post). They suffer from a cannon’s standard to-hit penalties. They may, however, be hooked onto a stable surface or fired with a second crew member rather than fired from the carry; they then suffer only a -5 penalty to hit targets smaller than a house, & gain a +2 to hit larger targets. They weigh anywhere from 15 to 30 or more pounds, and count as a single Oversized item.
Range: As Pistol
Dmg: 1d10, or 1 ship-scale HP, ignores all armor less than AC 15 at all ranges
Reload time: As Musket.

A period image of a calliveri, fro De Gheyn's drill booklet

A period image of a calliveri, from De Gheyn’s drill booklet

The Caliver (from which the word “caliber” is derived) is a light-weight long gun. Well, light by the standards of the day – most still weighed well over 10 lbs. A caliver is what most are thinking of in the modern era when they say “musket”. Calivers were standardized at what we now call 20-gauge, Id Est, 20 round lead shot the diameter of the barrel will weigh one pound. Calivers may be fired from the shoulder without penalty.
Range: as LotFP Musket.
Damage: 1d8, ignores all armor less than AC 15 at all ranges. May be used as a club in close combat for 1d6 damage.
Cost: 40sp City, 80sp Rural.
A Caliver is an Oversized item.

Note the lanyard on the rest, which allows quick recovery when reloading.

A Musketeer, again from De Gheyn. Note the lanyard on the rest, which allows quick recovery when reloading.

A substantially more powerful weapon, the Musket is a 12-gauge gun, or a bit over .70 caliber. They also load a much heavier powder charge, kick like mules, and take three “hands” to fire effectively – see Rests, below.. A historical musket could weigh upwards of 25lbs, and was made sturdily enough to use as a melee weapon. The heavy diamond-shaped stocks on most muskets added considerable authority to a good smack upside the head with one, which was quite helpful in the years before the bayonet (plug bayonets were only invented around 1700, and latching bayonets that didn’t block the barrel wouldn’t show up for several decades thereafter).

Range and cost as standard LotFP muskets.
Damage: 1d12, ignores all armor less than AC 17 at all ranges. 1d6 damage when used in close combat.
Muskets count as one Oversized item (the musket itself) AND one Standard item (the rest).

Carbine/Dragoon’s Pistol:
Basically, a sawed-off caliver or a very long pistol. They were designed to be portable and powerful, and were occasionally carried as back-up weapons by pikemen or halberdiers. The carbine counts as a single item, and may not be combined into a brace. It may also be conveniently holstered on a saddle or even a character’s thigh, being about the size of a good sword. They may be fired with one hand, weighing only around 5-10 lbs.
Range: 30/60/120 feet
Damage: 1d8 (2d3 for scattershot, 2d4 if a blunderbuss), ignores all armor less than AC 15 at short range. Does 1d4 damage when used as a club.
Cost:   30sp City, 60sp Rural
Carbines reload 1 round faster than long guns. Note that, like other bonuses, this is subtracted >before< a halving effect such as a flintlock or breech-loading modification.

Miscellaneous items:
tend to break after only a few shots, and need to be constantly sharpened. Characters are, however, assumed to take care of this outside combat if they have a flint nodule, costing 6 coppers. If deprived of flint, or time to knap new ones, a flintlock or wheel-lock gun will become unusable after 2d6 shots. 1d6 flints may be improvised from a tinderbox, but increase the gun’s misfire chances by 5%. A flint nodule or knapped flint is a Negligible item.

Cartridges: Not the modern metal-cased cartridges, these are waxed paper packages of powder in a waterproof satchel. They reduce reload times by one round, and decrease the chances for misfire in the damp by 5%. They modify fire saves and cause damage if ignited in the same way as a powder horn. Cartridges cost as much as a single shot of powder, and may be prepared by any character with a gun in their downtime (basically, in the same manner as flints, it’s unimportant to track under most circumstances; assume a character on the run has 2d6 cartridges prepared if they don’t specify a number beforehand). A sack of cartridges is a Standard item.

Gun Rest: A standard musket rest costs 5sp. This price is consistent in urban or rural settings. A rest counts as an additional “hand” when firing a long gun; the character may hold a sword or other item ready for use in the off-hand while shooting any weapon that requires 2 hands. See also below, for hybrid rests. A rest weighs about 5 lbs, and counts as a single Standard item for encumbrance purposes.

Scattershot and Armor: Improvised scattershot, shots from a blunderbuss, sling stones, and bullets from pellet bows do not ignore armor, regardless of the strength of the user or the size of the gun.

A box full of very bad ideas.

Weapon Modifications:

Blunderbuss modification: The gun can no longer fire slugs. Halves range. Upgrades shot damage to 2d6 for long guns; all other shot rules remain intact. Improvised shot may still be used, at the usual 2d4 for damage.

Double-barrel modification: Cannot be applied to a Musket. Adds 90% to the weapon’s cost. Adds a 5% chance of misfire. Both barrels can be fired simultaneously, but the user must save vs. Poison or break an appropriate part of their body and/or the gun. Reload times are as normal for each barrel. Each additional barrel added beyond the second adds the same cost and misfire chance, and the Poison save if all barrels are fired is penalized by -4.

Breech-loader: Double the base price of the gun, and halve reload time. As with a Flintlock, bonuses are counted before this halving effect, and Fighters round down while all other classes round up. A standard misfire (in this case, misfires caused by dampness are ignored) has a 25% chance of destroying the gun and inflicting 1d6 HP of damage on the gun’s user.

Note that other concealable "hold-out" pistols, such as these, follow the same rules as Tack-On guns

Note that other concealable “hold-out” pistols, such as these, follow the same rules as Tack-On guns

Tack-on pistol: A small-caliber pistol may be built into virtually anything. A tacked-on pistol may not use scattershot. They do not increase the Encumbrance category of the item, and two hold-out pistols may be carried as a Brace. A tack-on pistol adds 5% to the lock’s base Misfire chance.
Range: 10/25/50.
Damage: 1d4. Can be fired in close combat, but cannot be used as a club. Does not ignore armor.
Cost: 25 sp Urban, 50 sp Rural
Reloads as a pistol

A French musketeer using a Hybrid Rest

A French musketeer using a Hybrid Rest

Hybrid Rest: For a cost of 2sp a musket hook can be added to any polearm. It inflicts a -1 to-hit with the polearm in close combat. This was one of the usual solutions to the problem the bayonet solved; a character may ready the polearm simply by dropping their gun, and be ready to receive a charge immediately.

For the Archive: Lehana Mzeruzeru (NPC, Magic Item, Wizard)

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..

Tiger cape

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.

Stats (LotFP)
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.

For the Archive: A Sealed Laboratory (room, trap, magic item)

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


LotFP Playtest rules: Firearms

Got tired of waiting on Jim, and my brother and I are both setting up games with them in – he in the death of the Middle Ages, me in the age of Colonialism. Because what good is a Colonial game where you can’t trade guns to the natives?
Keep in mind, these are a rough-out playtest draft. It also adds onto the rules for bows and crossbows: it makes a high-STR fighter devastating with a custom-crafted longbow, but a high-dex Halfling with a heavy crossbow or anyone with a gun will give him a very good run for his money.
If the damage seems a little low to you, remember that these will reliably kill 2nd-level characters and even 0-level dwarves in a single hit. And as someone who’s killed a boar with modern firearms, “angry” game with multiple hit dice is hard to take down; I know a man who took 12 bullets and not only lived, but pistol-whipped the guy who shot him with his own gun.


Playtest firearm rules. These rules assume an ascending AC, 5-save system, and are loosely based on the crossbow rules from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. They are intended to cover (very roughly) the period from the late middle ages to mid-19th century.

When using bows, if a character has a -STR modifier, the target’s armor class is improved by that amount. Bows otherwise ignore 1 point of AC per point of STR modifier of the targeting character. Light crossbows have an effective STR of 16 (-2 AC). Heavy crossbows have an effective STR of 19 (-4 AC). Light guns, such as pistols and blunderbusses, have an effective STR of 19 (-4 AC): heavy guns like muskets and hand-gonnes have 22 effective STR (-5 AC). Cannon ignore armor completely, but suffer a -10 to-hit any target smaller than a house. Pellet bows and slings DO NOT ignore armor in any way.

Bows are typically made to accommodate a STR 10-12 character; a custom-made bow can be had for a small premium. Short bows, however, cannot be made heavier than STR 16. When using a bow heavier than they can normally draw, characters suffer a -1 to-hit per 2 points of STR required above their own. There is no bonus for using a lighter bow.
Any crossbow may be quick-drawn as a move action on a successful opposed STR check. Failure may result in injury to the character or bow, and drawing the bow cannot be attempted again that turn.
All blackpowder guns may be fired only once per combat, unless the character can somehow find a way to spend the better part of a minute doing delicate, fiddly work that requires their full concentration (IE, withdraw from combat for 6 rounds to reload).
Historical note: There were a tiny handful of faster-loading guns in the late middle ages (the cartridge was actually invented sometime near the turn of the fifteenth century, albeit as a set of hand-forged removable breeches), but these are expensive, vanishingly rare, and frequently extremely unsafe.

Pistols do 1d8 damage, long guns like muskets or handgonnes 1d12, and blunderbusses 2d6 (2d4 with improvised ammo). Cannon balls instantly kill any character hit unless they successfully save vs. poison: on a successful save, the character is reduced to 0 HP, possibly maimed. Grapeshot does very bad things to a moderate area. The cannon suffers only a -5 to-hit using shot, and anyone within 10 feet of the target is also hit on a successful shot. For damage, use multiple dice based on the size of the gun (a typical light field gonne would be around 3D6, a full-on 12lb cannon more like 5 to 6 D6); cover reduces the rolled damage by its miss percentage, and characters may make a further save vs. Breath Weapon to halve that damage.
Use your own discretion as to what category a given weapon falls under, and don’t hesitate to increase or decrease the damage dice based on the individual weapon, your needs, and possibly the use of fell magics.

Most guns run the risk of deafening the user in enclosed spaces; save vs. Paralysis or go deaf for 1d6 turns when firing in these circumstances. Make an immediate Morale check – AND Wandering Monster check, if applicable – when a gun is first fired in combat. Most natural animals will spook instantly when fired upon, making hunting harder but potentially more rewarding. When hunting, a gunner expends only 1d3 ammunition per roll, but must roll 2 dice against his fieldcraft skill and take the worst. If the roll succeeds and the dice come up doubles, the party gains that many HD worth of additional meat.

UPDATE: Tacking on a Pistol
A small-caliber pistol may be built into virtually anything. They do 1d4 damage, but take the normal amount of time to reload. They may well wind up costing several times the amount a regular pistol would, however, and are usually more fragile and prone to misfire. Still, the Morale checks and ability to conceal the gun can be worth the expense.

Fortuna Favet Paratibus

Fortuna Favet Paratibus

While making an exhaustive list of rules for each type of available gun would be silly, here’s some basics to consider when you’re choosing what technology your world will use. Disadvantages are in normal type, advantages in italics. They are listed in rough chronological order.

No Lock: must be hand-lit, distracting, requires matches (and thus their stink/light, expends matches, useless in rain) or a fuse, hard to aim when it’s not on a trunnion, exposed touch-hole, high accidental discharge risk, higher risk of explosive failure/operator injury. Extremely simple design, cheap to make, and reliable ignition. First available guns. A fuse and a clay packed touch-hole resolve most ignition issues. Only real option for cannon for most of history. Requires only matches or fuse, shot, and powder to function.

Matchlock: Produces stench and light when prepped, useless in rain, exposed touch-hole, matches burn down (consumes 1 match per hour lit and prepped). Accidental discharge risk from most flame sources (or igniting a match attached to the gun). Simple and robust system; cheap and easily-made. Relatively easy to re-cock. Allowed triggers for guns.
Note that, contrary to popular opinion, matchlock pistols did exist, they just sucked.

Wheel-lock: delicate, temperamental, most designs useless in rain, v. expensive. Unreliable ignition, requiring reprime and rewind for a flash-in-the-pan. Very slow load/reload process. Requires spare pyrites (it goes through them very quickly) and a key or crank, can only be repaired by a watchmaker or equivalent. Silent and scentless until triggered, and can be carried loaded and wound without fear of accidental discharge. Can be carried on a horse. First lock design actually suitable for pistols.
There’s a reason these bitches cost 7+ times what a matchlock does
Gold-chased double-barreled wheel lock
Flintlock: Late origins in real world. Still can’t usually be safely fired in the rain, but it will work in the damp. May squib. Requires spare flints, but few other non-ammo consumables. Requires some precision metalwork, as well as screws. Requires less maintenance and can fire more times than a wheelie before needing an overhaul. Can still be carried loaded relatively safely. Compact and silent/scentless before discharge. Can be swiftly reprimed and re-cocked if the flash-pan squibs. The first revolvers (in the 1620s..) were flintlocks, but required insane levels of metalwork.
1299004067179Other attempts at multishot flintlocks were.. less successful.
Percussion Lock: Very late development. Requires small, fiddly caps, making combat reloads stay annoying. Requires some precision metalwork, but not nearly as bad as the other locks. Virtually immune to rain or damp on first shot, although reloads in the rain still aren’t happening. No flashpan, so no priming and more reliable ignition. Made true semi-automatic weapons practical. Very robust ignition system, with few moving parts; losing the cap, or accidental discharge from keeping the hammer down on a cap, while jostling it are your worst problems..

Air Rifle (yes, they existed, and yes, they were lethal): Mid-late colonial period. Lower damage (still enough to kill a man, though – the Austrian Army and Lewis and Clark both used them to good effect), air reservoir is delicate and slowly leaks. Cannot be used as a melee weapon. Requires water, shot, and leather gaskets to function, and reloading after the reservoir is empty takes a long time (up to 10 minutes). Accurate, rifled. Bolt-action, repeating weapon with as many as 30 shots per reservoir of air and a 20-round magazine. Comparatively, it’s very quiet – about as loud as a suppressed .308 – and produces no smoke. No powder or fire required. Gunners can carry additional loaded reservoirs.

Magic Items: Stygian Mirrors

The Stygian Mirror
Not truly a mirror, but a thin layer of the jet-black waters of the river Styx pressed into a hollow lens of glass. Legend ascribes many marvelous powers to the mirrors, but the magic on most has faded as the water stagnates and loses its connection with the River. Even the most debased of the Stygian Mirrors retain a most singular power; when light passes through it, one who has – or should have – crossed the Styx is afflicted with illusionary stigmata in the sight of all. These have included water pooling at the feet, pennies on the eyes (only on those dead but a short time), winding-sheets and other paraphernalia of the grave, or the sudden appearance of lethal wounds. 072

Heathen Clerics and pagans treasure the waters of the Styx for another reason; if even a drop touches the most accursed undead, they say, it will summon forth the Ferryman to take back what is his. But leave the Devil’s works to his own..

From the Archive: The Hunger

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.

Gaunt Things
# appearing: 1 (but see below)
HD: 1, +1 per feeding turn
AC: 12
#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.

More ideas for stuff

Meditating on Japanese ghosts and monsters.
A haunting that appears only in moonlight: a gallows that shows a swinging body in moonbeams, a wailing specter who appears when the light of a summer’s crescent moon filters through the window of the kitchen where she was murdered. Could be the critical clue to solving a mystery, especially if the Dead can be contacted through this means or released from their prisoning.
Or even artificial light:

A character has performed an unjust murder (yes, I know, by the definition of the word “murder” it’s inherently unjust). They are followed by the face of the deceased popping up in unexpected places, and ordinary objects become suddenly sinister. Roots coil and strike like snakes, a ragged lantern becomes the harrowed face of the victim, the character’s reflection is transformed in unpleasant ways. Your option as to whether Remove Curse actually works, but I recommend making a proper atonement (no, you can’t just cast the spell, you pussy, go and fix the situation you created) instead. Suicide is the most effective atonement.

Something the PCs have saved, spared, or otherwise aided takes a beautiful human form to thank them. That Way. Imposes a fairy-tale condition on their new lover (no looking at me at night, whatever). If broken – and it will be – they revert to their former form and leave without regret. Any children will be human, but.. weird. One of many sources of wizards, especially when Foxes are involved.
jpg3808There’s also the classic “This traveller is not what he seems – look at his reflection! Iron mirrors break Fey Glamours, Silver the illusions of the Undead, bronze the charms of the kitsune. Pure running water’s reflection destroys all charms

Bad Things happen when people are raised from the dead. Again, fairy-tale conditions apply.
Cannot touch dead flesh, or their animus leaks into it, diluting their soul, decaying them slightly, and briefly animating the meat.
Anyone with True/Second/Death Sight sees the person as a horrifying, shambling corpse. 223.13

Cannot sire children (I automatically impose this one anyway).
The character is only raised for a set time, or based on a set condition; a year and a day is traditional.
The character cannot go abroad on the night of their death, or the Furies will arrive to scourge the soul from their shell and take it back.
The Character has become a hollow shell, who must feed on the energies of the dying or fade away again into the Abyss.
Always surrounded by babbling, phosphorescent, or fearsome spirits.
Ciera Misfortune
Pictures 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7 by Yoshitoshi Taiso. Picture 4 by Hokusai Katsushika. Picture 8 by Maboroshi Chouji. Source of image 3 unknown.

Interesting ideas

Had some fun thoughts in a fever dream tonight. Break is to respect the wishes of a friend.