A Sample Mage, using my generator from earlier (LotFP, NPCs, Spoilers)

Spoilers for my players under the jump. Plz to go away, thank you.

Beardsley-peacockskirt

So, this is one of the mages I made for last week’s session, using that generator from the last post plus some of the other stuff I’m working on..
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Lusus Naturae (Review, LotFP)

Three years ago today, I opened this nerdy little candy stand, averaging a post every five days. Cool.
Let’s celebrate by getting into Lusus Naturae, the first explicit (and boy is it..) Lamentations of the Flame Princess “monster manual”. It’s written by Rafael Chandler, best known in my circles for the Teratic Tome (a universal monster book that just leans heavily on LotFP). It’s serviceably, and occasionally beautifully, illustrated by Gennifer Bone. You can find the pdf here (link) for fifteen bucks. Print version’s expected soonish, but it needs to get shipped from Finland.

So, first, some pontificating, so you know where I’m coming from.
I define “Horror” as “The fear of impending, but uncertain violation”. The violation can be of your body, mind, or assumptions about the structure of the world (psyche?). The uncertainty isn’t just if it will happen, but also when, how, and in what manner. An important part of horror is that you feel, on some level, deprived of agency – usually by biological reactions or simply the apparent futility of action. To defeat it, you must reassert your ability not just to act, but act meaningfully.
Roleplaying games are celebrations of agency; therefore, you’ve got to balance seeming helplessness with the possibility of success. Mystery helps (adding uncertainty), as does things that screw with the rules of the game (see: assumptions about the structure of the world). Players should know that the characters can die, or be horribly affected. On the other hand, only shitty authors coughFatalcough see “violation” and think “RAPE ALL DAY EVERYDAY”. Parasites, mutation, loss of control over personal space, having secrets wrested from you.. all are unpleasant and (properly played) horrifying outcomes.
Lusus Naturae is one of the better horror gaming aids I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t need a Sanity mechanic to make the players start screaming and setting each other on fire..

Synopsis:
What it ain’t: This isn’t meant to be “all the monsters” for a campaign. It’s not really a source for wandering monsters, either – though a couple things would certainly be appropriate.
What it does: Adds/adapts a treasure system to Lamentations. Contains an assortment of horrifying, modular mini-Mythosoi with accompanying additions to to your campaign world. Fucks with players.

What’s it about?
Lusus Naturae is basically a dozen metal album covers made into a book. There are some truly Lovecraftian enemies that will alter your campaign world if they show up. The treasure and magic items are highly-portable, and several are quite interesting. You can use at least a couple things in the book at almost any level of play, and you can challenge a low-level party without instantly reducing them to a fine red mist (the main problem with the critters from the MMII, the Fiend Folio, and the assorted “Deities” books in 1e).
It’s also deliberately, sometimes extremely, offensive – and on pretty much every possible level. There was shit in there that skeeved me out, and I used to work as a search engine tester. Many things in the book alter or rewrite the rules; you have to pay attention while using it.

What’s new about it?:
There are several innovations I like, and some I’ve already incorporated into my own campaign. Specifically, several of the summoned monsters have ill omens or Harbingers associated with their appearance. I’m adding them onto the “Omens” section of my random encounter tables.
I’ve also spoken about Death Curses and Desecration penalties elsewhere. I think they’re an excellent, thematic way of adding a little unpredictability to the game. I’ll post more on my current mechanics later. That said, Chandler has expanded on the classic idea to include boons/banes/weird magical things that happen to the person who strikes a killing blow against some of the monsters. These range from small mechanical bonuses or maluses, to extremely specific magical abilities or information and tools. Not every monster has them, but they have an appropriate fairy-tale feel to them.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10
If you’re into horror, the book is almost certainly worth it. If you or your players are easily squicked, or you demand “SUPER SRS, ALL THE TIME” games, it’s not for you. It’s not quite as pretty as the usual Lamentations release, but it’s just as usable as any other.

Detailed breakdown after the jump.
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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.
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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.
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Of Wizards and Magics Arcane (NPCs)

Remember how I said Seclusium got the mental wheels turning on the topic of Wizards?
Have some.

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.)

Review: The Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions (LotFP)

I recently got my copy of The Seclusium of Orphone* of the Three Visions as part of the reward package from the Lamentations Rules and Magic reprint kickstarter. Now that I’ve got more than a couple hours to rub together, it’s time for that review I’ve been promising..
(*I see what you did there)

You can go here to look at my rating criteria. Remember, these ratings are for my needs and tastes, not necessarily yours, but I try to explain my reasoning as best I can.

Overall: 7/10
Every Wizard’s story is.. Max and Where the Wild Things Are”. – Pg. 20.
This book is a useful and inspiring toolbox, appropriate for virtually any universe with magic innit. Elements of its presentation are gorgeous, the writing is excellent, and the art evocative. The essays within will likely change the way you run your games, and for the better. Poor layout choices and redundant content, however, make it feel rushed; at once padded and incomplete. For something so chart-heavy, there are some basic elements missing that would have been helpful. Still, the framework it provides for both magic and Magi – which are explained just well enough to use without treading on most campaign worlds – is delightful and the book itself quite good for a GM looking to add some proper “fucked-up” to his wizard’s homes.

Make no mistake, this may not be the best of Lamentations’ products, but it’s still well above-average for the industry. I probably wouldn’t have bought the print edition based on my first impressions, but after reading and using it the inspiration value alone is worth the price of admission.

You can pick up the print & pdf here for ~22 Euros, order it from your LGS, or go for just the pdf at just shy of 8 Euros.

Detailed breakdown after the jump.
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From the Archives: The Song of Silence (Monster)

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)
HD: 3
Lair: 0% (no lair)
Morale: 9
Treasure: None
Attacks: 0, Special damage (see below)
Defenses: Incorporeal, limited spell immunity (see below)
Magic Resistance: 50%
Alignment: Lawful
Intelligence: Mindless
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
Seeming Table

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.


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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)
ALI: N
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.

From the Archives: Screw You 4chan edition.

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..

Shere Khan, King of the Jungle

Beast King: Dire Tiger.
Freq: Unique.
AC: 5 (hide and speed)
Move: 10″ + 5″ Jump
HD: 12
%IL: 50%
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.
Intelligence: Very.
Alignment: CE.
Size: L
Psi: Nil.

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….