Friday, 21 November 2014

The Gate and its Surrounds

This is the land surrounding the Gate. The Gate is the only (easy) way through the Wall. They are named generically because I like short names and also because I am always scared of doing a Forgotten Realms and naming everything like a five year old moving fantasy themed word magnets around on the fridge.

So you might notice that the area is quite small in the scheme of things. It's about the size of BTAM's map which I rate highly, an adventuring party could walk across it in a day.
Scale is something I've struggled with since reading stuff like this and going for drives and walks to get a sense of distance and going up a mountain in Scotland and seeing hundreds of miles to the horizon.

This map is, in fact, a small section straddling the edge of my main map, shown here. The hex numbering is messed up because it seemed like a good idea at the time when I first made this so many years ago. How young I was then.
The Wall is the long line on the left side, and the Gate itself is the little oblong in hex P0 in the map below with the only road going through it. It is a very big gate.

Now, I drew this map ages ago, before I'd gotten into LotFP and seen how useful it is to be able to use Google Earth as your campaign map. To get a sense of the scale (and work out how it fucked up the coastline), I did this in google maps to work out how it was placed in the south of England.
A remarkably good fit, considering. I've lost much of the southeast and closed off the Bristol Channel, but hey it'll do. There was probably a magical war or something.

god I should really scan this thing

Anyway, that's how big the Gate area it is. Quite small. The trick is to pack it with so much adventure that the players don't need to leave unless they really want to! It's basically split into two halves across the wall, on one side is the lands around the Gate and on the other side is the Forest of Moondine.
On the west is more safe and civilisationy and in the east it's more wild and dangerous and wandering monstery.

Here's the rundown:

Landmarks and Landscapes:

The Wall and the Gate
An ancient, giant, perfectly straight wall cleaves through the land. It was built by unknown builders some time between the Dwarfs cutting themselves off from the world and humanity being freed from the chains of their Halfling oppressors. Its purpose and origins are the subject of several conflicting legends, but none suggest the truth. This wall wasn't built to keep something out, it was built to keep something in.
This is the Barding Wall or, as all large walls are known in fiction, simply as The Wall. Imaginatively the only way through is called the Gate.
It generates an anti-magic field all the way along its length. Or at least, it did. Within the last few months something has happened. The Wall has been breached at a point several day's ride north of the Gate, deactivating the anti-magic shell and allowing magic back into this part of the world. Only the area a few miles around the Gate (represented by dotted lines on the map) still maintains an anti-magic zone running on the ancient equivalent of a backup generator.

The Barding:
The mountainous area west of the Wall is known as the Barding. It is named after the Wall, rather than the other way round. The rugged Mountain Men live in the mountains to the south, resisting all attempts to civilise them.

The Wall Villages:
A bunch of civilised villages in the area west of the Gate. Excel documentation is here. The populace are fairly generic fantasy folks who farm the land and worship the Nine like all good god-fearing Nonanists should.

The Lightning Tower:
This is the Tower of the Stargazer and has lain dormant for centuries while the wall's full anti-magic field was up. Now it's attracting lightning again and making people skittish.

Caspian's Delve:
The central megadungeon to this area and, confusingly, also the name of the nearby village. Story goes that miners made a hell of a living out of the rich gem deposits found within the mines here.
Since the wall's anti-magic field fell, gems have started growing back within the cave, strange noises have been heard within, and strange shapes can be seen dancing on the mountaintops in the dark of the new moon.
Their somewhat egotistical religious leader has recently gone into the Delve to find the source of these unnatural magical happenings. He has not returned.
Caspian's Delve is a fairly standard dungeon bash with Spiderclimb Elves, goblins, a mad cleric and his cult of stone, and a many-legged horror with veins of amber.


The Demon Armies:
To the west, ever encroaching, are the demonic armies of Galfashnak of the Charnel Earth. A grotesquely large and fat devil of Sloth, he is glutted on the sin that precedes his apocalyptic army of darkness. His armies are currently sacking Karlstadt and its surrounds.
There is one catch - the devils in his army, rather than the semantically distinct demons, feed upon sin. If a population is completely virtuous the army cannot touch them, for its soldiers will quickly grow hungry and die from lack of sustenance. To this end, a vanguard of sin-causing minor devils is harassing the outlying villages and trying to discover a means with which to evade or destroy the demon-banishing anti-magic field surrounding the Gate.

Galfashnak basically looks like this guy, albeit carried on the backs of hundreds of slaves.
The Mountain Men:
Ever hairy, the Mountain Men live in the mountainous regions to the southwest. Usually content to live their pagan ways on the alpine slopes, the recent chaos has caused them to roam further afield in search of rape and pillage and revenge on the soft-bellied farmers in the foothills.
Their predations may be stopped for a time by invading their main living area, the Caves of the Mountain Men. It is a fairly standard dungeon bash involving hairy mountain men with greataxes, a wife from Footsden who eloped with their rugged leader, and various mostly-natural threats that live in caves.

The Mold Creatures:
From within the forest across the Wall, the dreaded mold creatures attack Pillartown. They seek only to spread their mold infection to more hosts. While the Gate is easily defensible for now, the creatures become more powerful and numerous by the day.
Whilst Shub-Niggurath is the progenitor of the mold, it follows its own unknowable machinations and has no agenda of its own for the Gate area. Moldus Vane, the Mad Cleric of Moondin, seeks to use the mold to defend his followers from the demon army to the west and the horde of undead to the east. An army of mindless Filled Men generates no sin for the demons to feast upon and serves as a strong defence against the countless Dead. After all, Filled Men burst into a cloud of spores when killed which makes them useless to Necromancers.
Moldus Vane justifies this maltreatment of his flock in many ways and truly believes he is a good man doing the right thing. Their souls are already destined for Heaven, what matter the harm that befalls their mortal form?

The Human Populace:
The local population is gripped by both willful ignorance and mounting fear. The Wall's anti-magic field has covered the area for so long that most of the people don't believe in magic or demons or any of the rest. They mostly assume that the term "demon army" is a figurative device used by war-ravaged refugees. They are slow to react, and the rising number of supernatural events is severely testing their faith.
As word of the mold beasts and Caspian's Delve spreads, and the army of demons begins to take over the villages outside of the anti-magic field, chaos will spread as they become very divided in what to do. Many will flee to the mountains or to Pillartown. Others, like the population of Layriding, will begin hoarding resources others sorely need.

Running this shit:
In my game, the players came down the river from Better Than Any Man and ended up in East Ardley where the events of A Single Small Cut occurred, then spread out from there.

Random encounters west of the Wall, unlike the forests to the east, are mostly mundane and human-scale with a bunch of results cribbed from BTAM. These should be gradually replaced with demons and/or mold beasts as the situation develops.

A sandbox game is, of course, built upon a rumour table. That's what mine looked like around four sessions in, unfortunately I never saved the original. Replace results between sessions as per usual.
It has rumours related to things east of the wall ooOOoOoooo how mysterious. You'll have to wait until I pull my finger out and do the rest at some other time.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

A Plague of Whores

This is not an equal opportunity plague.
This happens in the nearest frequently-visited city.

Unless action is taken to stop it, the stage of the infection increases every time the PCs visit the city. If the players visit frequently, minimum time between infection stages is one week.

Stage 1 - When someone carouses in the city they hear that uncommonly pretty women of the night have been appearing in areas of ill repute.

Stage 2 - These women have grown in number, they are unaffiliated with any brothel. Key brothels send out feelers requesting information on the source and/or affiliation of these whores. PCs may be contacted, especially if some in their number have caroused often in the city or have a history with the city's brothels.

Stage 3 - Low income brothels begin going out of business, wives question their husbands about their activities. The new prostitutes are seen exhibiting their wares in moneyed areas. There are more of them and they charge competitive rates, and they are seen only at night. Nobody knows where they live, they do not tell for their discretion is absolute.

Stage 4 - Word of the plague has spread across the land and immigration spikes. Questions about the whores subtly suffuse conversation, men dare or joke about their friend's experiences and couch their sensual dreams in bawdy language. Women are generally curious or jealous, questions about the new whores are bound to come up in conversation and some wonder why they wake in the night with their husbands gone.

Stage 5 - Only the highest grossing brothels cling to life. Whores reach critical mass. If questioned, the majority of the city's attached women have experienced their husband or lover disappearing most nights. A minority have used their services themselves. The men, when they leave, quickly shake anybody tailing them and grow violent if prevented. Every alley seems to have at least one lady beside it of an evening. Women of the city are unaffected but suspect something else is at play, where did they all come from?

Stage 6 - Men are all but enslaved. They leave every night and return with the dawn, spending all day fatigued. Some deny everything, others revel in it, and they remember only a night of passion with women of their fantasies. All their savings are spent on their addiction, leaving nothing for other vices. Places of ill-repute go out of business. Drug cartels collapse. Brothels are abandoned and their employees destitute. Pubs and bars are on the verge of being boarded up. Families are scraping by. Nobody knows where the money is going. Nobody knows where the men are going. The whores are there every night, ever beautiful, never menacing, always beckoning.

Stage 7 - Society teeters on the brink of collapse. Currency is scarce because it is all funneled towards the whores. The only thing keeping the economy alive is the continuing influx of visitors from far afield, although the city's housing is being stretched to capacity since all men who visit stay. The addicted cannot be trusted with money and will lie, beg, borrow and steal to get more. Women, unaffected by the plague, are beginning to take over dominant positions in society. Others leave, hoping to find a better life in another place. Infrastructure is unmaintained and commerce has slowed to a trickle. Those scant few men who have managed to resist thus far cannot leave home after dark lest they become tempted and overwhelmed by women seemingly drawn from their deepest fantasies.

Stage 8 - The nightly ebb and flow of men leaving their houses has become so routine as to almost be ritual. Women have broken their bonds and taken jobs once available only to men, but during the day it is chaos as the hordes of sleep-starved men strip the city of valuables. A pyrrhic victory for gender equality. The upswell of women's liberation means that a concerted effort to stop the plague of whores can finally be put into motion. Men, if quarantined, do nothing but beg and plead to be released. Squads of female soldiers march out at night to capture the whores and expel them from the city. All resist. If confronted they flee. If cornered they attack with cold-blooded murder in their eyes. And yet every night they return.

Stage 9 - The decision is made to kill the whores. This is divisive, but swiftly justified. The city will not survive if drastic action is not taken, and no other city in the world offers such opportunities for women. The streets run red as the death squads systematically clear an entire district block by block. The whores are unarmed and so casualties amongst the soldiers are minimal.
Vanishingly few of the district's men return to their homes the next morning. The nightly rhythm being broken has the feeling of a long-held background hum shutting off. As the sun rises it reveals hundreds and hundreds of dead men staining the streets with blood.

Stage 10 - The city collapses completely into chaos. Men, now knowing what drives their condition, collapse into a mass of angry confusion. The ad hoc rulership orders the whore-purge to continue, causing a schism within the fledgling government and dividing the army. Women continue to abandon the city as battles between pro- and anti-purge factions of soldiers rage on the streets amongst the rioting men. Control is lost as the city descends into anarchy.
And every night, on every street corner and every alley, from the windows of abandoned buildings and the darkened doorways of a dying city...
The sultry eyes of the werewhores linger forever more.


By day, a man. By night, the woman of that man's dreams.
It spreads, of course, through sex.
It affects only men and takes three days to set in. During the three days the victim experiences erotic dreams and the infection can be stopped by a Cure Disease.
By day the infected obtain as much money as possible, believing that they need it to pay for their vice at night. At sunset they go into a sort of trance. They experience their every fantasy while their body is compelled to leave the home and sight of others, transforming physically into feminine form. Their only real power, whilst transformed, is an aura that prevents male viewers from imagining the consequences of their actions. If killed, at sunrise they revert to their original form.

They differ from 0-level humans in one other way, if cornered or threatened they attack with a claw/claw/bite attack routine for 1d4 damage per hit.

What's actually going on.

Two devils, a Devil of Lust and a Devil of Envy, created the first werewhore in this city from the temptation of a particularly lustful john. Now they are glutted on the sin pervading the city and have carved out a home for themselves in a large abandoned mansion.
They live in luxury, for the werewhores bring them their earnings and personal savings.  As the city continues to deteriorate and more homes are abandoned they move to larger and larger mansions containing more and more luxury.

Mechanically this means that their power and deadliness increase over time. If the PCs confront them in an early stage of infection they will find the comparatively weak devils in a large but tasteful detached house with quite a small hoard. If they confront them at a later stage of infection, or rest up and wait too long before coming back, they will discover enormous devils in a huge multi-level mansion crammed with opulence and terror.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Goblin Fripperies

Arnold K makes demands.
"I demand a post that contains 3 weird, fungus-based dinners/beverages that are actually pretty tasty, 2 types of goblin mutants, and 1 spell that is the absolute favorite among goblin wizards (an admittedly rare breed, but still. . .)"

 As he wills, so I shall obey.

This image brought to you by some weird ant cannon I found in the Amazon why did they build this

A variety of beverages

Beetle Sour
Shake an egg white, crushed ice and lime with fire beetle haemolymph to make this lip-puckering beverage. Glows softly in darkness making it a favourite in dingy goblin bars and for late-night alcoholics. The citrus sour combines with the gritty umami of the haemolymph to create a beverage with an interesting taste and texture that can take some getting used to.

Goblin Punch
A drink made by fermenting seasonal fruits within the stomach of a dead goblin. Sealed air-tight, the punch is ready when the stomach ruptures due to the gases of fermentation. Serve in a long glass garnished with an olive and rimmed with lye. Refreshing, if bitter.

Bloody Scary
More ritual than drink, a shallow bowl of ectoplasm (usually actually a thick mix of cornflour and milk) is topped with a thin layer of high-proof absinthe and set alight. Three cave weevil grubs are dropped into the flame, causing them to excrete thin ribbons of black tar which wriggle and writhe across the flames in auspicious patterns. A goblin soothsayer interprets the shapes, predicting the time and manner of your death. Then you drink the absinthe.

A couple of goblin varieties

A goblin whose opposable thumbs, due to a rare mutation in the growing phase, can be extended and stretched as thin, dextrous tentacles. So named due to their affinity for picking locks and lifting latches, the thumbs are also horribly good at gouging out eyes. Fairly obvious as their thumbs are twice as long as their fingers.

Tummy Gobbler
It is well known that goblins are grown from the wart-seeds that grow on the noses of hobgoblins. A Tummy Gobbler is what happens when a goblin spore is consumed by a human. The spore nestles in the stomach and grows into a finger-sized parasitic goblinoid which feasts upon the food which drops in from above. The host experiences increased hunger at first, then later stomach cramps and aches as the goblin continues to grow.
At a suitable time, usually when the goblin is the size of two clenched fists, it attempts to leave the body via the colon. This leads to shock and humiliation of the host as they discover the green, giggling creature amongst their painfully large stool.
Unfortunately for the newborn tummy gobbler it is set for a short and unhappy life. While it might be small and acid-resistant, its kind is not respected amongst its goblinoid peers. Small swarms of tummy gobblers can often collect in the sewers and refuse dumps of larger cities, becoming what most humans first think of when they describe members of the goblin race.

Variety hour at the goblin magic show

Long Division
Splits a creature into a number of 1HD mini-creatures equal to creature's hit dice. Each mini-creature is half the size of the original and has an equal proportion of the original creature's intelligence, strength, HP, attack bonus, etc.
A 4HD ogre, for instance, would be split into four mini-ogres each with a quarter of the original ogre's powers and abilities.
If one of the mini-creatures is killed the surviving members gain a commensurate amount of strength and power and grow bigger. The last surviving mini-creature is thus, of course, exactly the same as the original.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Mold-choked monsters from the mutant forest

I've been trying to kick out the sandbox area I made for a couple of weeks now and there's just so much stuff in a bunch of folders on my PC and some of it half-complete.
And I'm going off to South America for a month from Sunday and I've got to get Santicore finished before then.
So much to do!

So rather than try to kick everything out into one blog post, here's just one part of it.

The Forest of Moondine:
Once one of the most magically active forests in the world, the Forest of Moondine has long been suppressed by the anti-magic field of the wall. Now it's waking back up, stirring with dark magic and dangerous creatures. All the old tales are coming true.

The forest is most of the area to the right of the big wall in the middle. High quality scan, this.
So the main deal with the forest is that there's this mold which infests man and beast, warping them into new forms and taking over their minds. A large variety of Cordyceps fungi all keyed to a different creature.
The other main deal is that the anti-magic field of the wall has dropped recently due to events catalysed by a previous group of players. There are elves and dryads and stuff awakening after their sleep that lasted centuries.

My d30 random encounter grid for the Moondine Forest area can be found here.
Descriptions of the villages of the Gate and its Surrounds can be found here. If you're wondering why the villages have stats it's because I rolled them up like this. Really gets the gears turning.
Moondin is the largest town in the area and so isn't in my village doc, short version is that it's a walled town and ruled by the mad priest Moldus Vane who thinks he can turn all this mold stuff to his advantage.

The mold men were detailed in my first ever post.
Lots of the things in the forest are 0 level men equivalents.
The elves are these elves.
The mold animals have not been detailed. UNTIL NOW.
In my notes I always label creatures things like "guzzling beast" and "horrible beast" because it means I have to describe them better, I never let slip their actual nature ("ok the vampire attacks you for.. oh fuck I said vampire") and the players have to make up their own names for them just like they are indeed people seeing a creature for the first time.

All stats, as ever, in the LotFP mode where AC12 is unarmoured.

Creatures of the Mold:

Guzzler Beast:
The mold-corrupted form of a deer, its feet have been warped into blades. It leaps huge distances and seeks to guzzle upon the brains of foes, slurping their brain matter out through their ears.
Can leap huge distances as a charge for -2 AC but double damage.
If both its leg attacks hit it latches on with brain-suckers, hitting automatically on subsequent rounds for 1d12 damage. Sucking brains drains 1 point from a random mental stat of the victim and heals the beast for 1d6 HP.
HD 2, MV 120', AC 13, ATK 2 DMG 1d6/1d6 damage each + special, ML 8

Pouncing Beast:
Fluffy bunnies overtaken with ugly facial horns and with distended legs that make them crawl around like men on all fours. Climb on walls and ceiling as easily as the ground.
Jump haphazardly and on hit secrete a subtle toxin that gives victims -1 on all attacks if they fail a save vs paralyze. This stacks, and victims find themselves slowly overwhelmed by a bunch of creepy crawling rabbits they can't hit.
HD 1/2, MV 80', AC 10, ATK 1, DMG 1d4+special, ML 6

Scything Beast:
Squirrels whose arms are sharp like scythes. Piercer rodents, they prefer to drop from above and shank people on the way down. If they hit they grab on and hit automatically every round until dislodged. If they miss they have to spend a round getting back in position on a tree branch or what have you. Best protection is to get under a cover they can't climb although they will swiftly cut through roofs of hide or canvas.
HD 1/2, MV 100', AC 8, ATK 1, DMG 1d6 + special, ML 7

Bug-Filled Beast:
Pigs or boars who have become living hives for a variety of insects and biting flies of all kinds. Flesh pocked with endlessly weeping sores and holes which form the birthing pits and homes and food of the constantly birthing bugs.
The beast itself does not attack but is surrounded by a cloud of bugs which automatically damage all nearby for 1d4 damage and give them -2 to hit. Slow but bulky, hitting one is like smashing a beehive with a stick. Those firing from range will be chased by angry insects.
HD 6, MV 40', AC 15, ATK 0, ML12

Burrowing Beast:
Moles whose mold infestation has granted them sharply lashing tongues and a predatory nature.
When attacking they burrow the ground out underneath their victim, causing the ground to become soft and mushy and their victim to sink. Their presence may be telegraphed by a dead man half-sunk into the ground as in quicksand, pulling him out of the collapsing soil will reveal his legs and lower body picked clean of flesh and organs leaving only clean white bone.
Every round the ground becomes softer and harder to run in. Your encumbrance increases by one tier per round until you are immobile, at which point the moles lash at you with their barbed tongues. When you are dead they begin to feast upon you.
HD 1, MV 80' (burrow), AC 10 (when above ground), ATK 1, DMG 1d6, ML 6

A Horrible Beast:
A unique creature that is a slow but motile mass of mold. A big flat amoeboid the colour of moss and lichen. An ambush predator, its surface is squishy and soft like a carpet of mold but exudes moist beads of rank yellow fluid around points of pressure.
Popping spore-cannons fire chunks of oozing lichen at foes with the range of a shortbow, a splash of growth which crawls across the victim's body seeking any wound or orifice to crawl inside. Any who die to its attacks deflate rapidly, spraying chunks of stringy ooze from every orifice over creatures within 30'. Targets must save vs breath or get hit by the rapidly-reproducing growth.
HD 4, MV 40', AC13, ATK 1 (240'), DMG 1d10, ML 12

A Terrifying Beast:
A unique creature that is an enormous amphibious thing. Huge, many-eyed. Three or four times taller than a man, skinny arms and legs around a plump lizard body. Sickly pale skin, coated with vivid green pond slime. Bipedal with webbed hands. Scrambles along the ground faster than should be possible for a beast of its size. Tail like a tree trunk, but blunt and rubbery.
Bites those in front, swings tail at those behind. Grabs and throws and grabs and bites and tears. Devours the dead, then hunts those who remain.
Speaks like a parrot who's heard someone being eaten every morning.
"What is that thing? WHAT IS THAT THINGGG -"
"help me! help me help meeaaaaauughgh"
"Don't leave me! DON'T LEAVE ME!"
“Daddy! No!”
"Run! Run! I love you!"
HD 5, MV 120', AC 13, ATK 4, 1d6/1d6/2d6/2d4, ML 12

Glob of Shub-Niggurath:
Shub-Niggurath was released for its millennial bondage by a previous group who failed to complete the grisly ritual that would keep it underground.
It was Shub-Niggurath which exuded the mold from its heaving mass and it was Shub-Niggurath which breached the Wall and took down its anti-magic field. The Wall detonated when it was breached, throwing chunks of Shub-Niggurath's protoplasmic bulk far across the landscape.
These Globs ooze around the area, spreading the mold and seeking to reform. They attack with drifting acidic strands which eat through all but flesh. Their touch on bare skin overloads the victim's pain receptors causing them to judder into unconsciousness. Once pacified the glob belches mold into their lungs.
On hit the acidic strand stays in contact dealing automatic damage and giving armour one notch/-1 AC per round until severed. If it destroys the armour and touches bare flesh the victim must Save vs Paralyze or lose consciousness. It can attack with other strands in the meantime, potentially subduing a number of enemies at once.
HD 4, MV 60', AC 14, ATK 1 (60'), DMG 1d6 + special, ML 12

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The Animal Arena - Beasts tearing each other apart for YOUR entertainment!

My players are getting close to the Twin City-States of Edge and Dwarrow, whose strange mutually-ignorant relationship I will detail another time.
Most importantly, Edge has a badass collosseum where they hold Gladiator fights and, on feast days at the end of every month, battles between creatures from across the known world.

Basically Telecanter made this years ago and I've finally found cause to use it.
Horde of koalas vs a crocodile? Great white shark vs hammerhead? It's the fight of the century!

The real reason for this post is that I have crafted an ODDS CALCULATOR to make it easy for YOU to mandate the payout bookies are offering on fights between creatures foul and fair.
The calculations are based on the average value of the dice roll, so 1d20 vs 3d6 is 1:1 odds because the average of both rolls is 10.5. This is not exact but it's close enough for some silly animal arena thing!

As in the original document, players can bet when the first creature is brought out (without knowing the odds, naturally), at the end of the first round, and at the end of the second round. They get the payout if their chosen beast wins the final bout.

Yes you have to roll real dice. Randbetween just doesn't feel the same, you know?

Excel version.
Google Drive version.


With thanks to Nadav Ben Dov for helping me work out how to compare 3d6 to 1d20 in odds terms (it was his idea to use average values).

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

So you’re running Better Than Any Man.

There’s not much point reviewing Better Than Any Man. The best thing at Free RPG Day 2013, one of the best products LotFP’s ever put out, chock full of stuff, yada yada.
It’s free and good for 10 or more sessions of adventuring. That’s some damn good bang for buck.

And it's the best intro to LotFP out there.

I’d run sandboxes before, but nothing this dense. BTAM is now my model for my world map at the local scale. It’s actually pretty small compared to my big six mile hexes but it’s absolutely filled with stuff to do, and at it never feels small. Everything is close enough to the hub city for a day trip which is actually a really nice way to do it.
Alright, so you’ve got your hands on Better Than Any Man. You’ve got your hands on the free pdf of the long-windedly named Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Roleplaying. You’re all set.

Here are some things that you need to know that aren’t explicit:

Monster HD = Attack Bonus. This rule is, bafflingly, only found in the referee book despite the referee book being unavailable and the rule being entirely crucial to gameplay. The referee book is not free and at time of writing is not even available since Raggi’s publishing a new one soon-ish.
Similarly, this is one of the reasons why some monsters have “2 Hit Dice (but with hit points of an 8 hit dice creature)” and similar which is confusing otherwise. It’s got 8HD-worth of hit points, but only attacks at a +2. The other reason is that they count as 2HD for things like Sleep spells which use hit dice to determine spell impact.
Also, if you were using Labyrinth Lord this is the HD you’d use on the attack matrix.
Encumbrance is simple but brutal. I was (and still am, truthfully) running off of the assumption that everything non-weaponry with the same name just goes into the same slot. Torch x3 or whatever.
Turns out that everything non-italicised in the equipment list, from rations to torches, each take up a separate slot. Harsh! They can likely obtain some porters somehow though, if only by promise of a better life and a share in the loot.
Considering the time limit on staying in the region, healing rates as written are very (or maybe, “realistically”) low. Chances are the characters won’t be able to rest up enough to get to maximum HP if they’re planning on getting anything done, especially if they have no Cleric support. I have house rules to bridge the gap (a First Aid skill and eating a ration healing d6 HP 1/day), but if you’re set on running LotFP as written keep this in mind.
Only a few hexes across but man, so packed.
Here’s a grab bag of things I added or changed:
Waking up in a dungeon is the best way to begin any adventure. Zak said that and he knows everything.
Rather than just wandering in from a map edge, the players wake up in the torture chamber under Goblin Hill. They are locals from the village of Th├╝ngen who had been captured recently by the B├╝rgerfriedensmiliz. There is a single guard in the room distracted by the smells wafting from the kitchen. Their starting equipment is in the smaller cage in the room, and one of them has loose manacles. If there’s a demihuman in the party it’s them because the manacles don’t fit their wrists properly.
This isn’t meant to be a challenge to get out of, it’s just an initial setup, but waking up in chains means that the players have time to ask questions.  and build up an idea of what the room looks like and discuss their plans when the guard leaves the room briefly to grab some eyeball broth or whatever. It also means that they have a concrete reason to join up and stick together.

I expanded the random encounters into a larger encounter grid as seen here.
When people enter a village (“Entering a village should probably trigger an automatic encounter”) subtract 3 from the d6 roll, so they’ll find either spoor, a lair, or more commonly the thing itself.

As described in that post, I fantasy-ised the general early modern feel.
The Swedish became an army of demons.
Jews became Halflings.
Muslims became Dwarves.

The Watcher’s Detect Weapons spell only picks up objects that have been used in anger. Chiefly because the players had already been rejected from Karlstadt once and I wanted to let them in, but also because it neatly solves issues involving whether something counts as a weapon or not.
The Defiler’s creature as written sucks a person into their own personal sub-reality and fights their own creature tree. Fuck that, everyone goes down to the same layer. It was a heap of fun with people diving down the creature’s throat to save their friend and bring them back up a level. Make sure you make a foghorn-like BRAAAAAAAMMM sound every time someone goes deeper. The “real” creature fumbled and ate the Defiler herself at one point which was excellent, and to add insult to injury she’d just informed them that anyone who’s inside when it’s killed is lost forever.
Another thing about the Defiler’s creature – anything pushed into the creature’s second mouth (the one that recites the Canterbury tales) makes the object appear in the next sub-reality down but huge. They were nearly crushed by the Defiler’s spellbook at one point.
Beating the Joy at sex (or completing most of her increasingly seedy “missions”) means making an opposed roll, roll highest while staying below your stat as per house rules. You can use any stat you want so long as you can describe what you’re doing to make it relevant. Hee hee.
Up in Hammelburg there is a man who will pay good money (500sp) for help getting a pallet of his best wine out of the country. Payable once he's sold off his goods, of course. This is mainly because I wanted them to move off East to my main campaign map and the river goes there (heh heh heh). Incidentally, there’s a boat on the river and it’s not his…
Willibald Schwartz and Thungen’s “vampire” problem, which I expanded upon and might post some other time (basic gist at the end of this post), were relocated to Werneck. The players had never approached Willibald’s Mound and never encountered the glass tiger or even heard of the guy, so it felt legit to shift him around. Nothing’s canon until the players encounter it after all.
He made a great red herring. Crazy old wizard guy with a glass tiger meant that the player’s dominant vampire theory (until they found out the real culprit) was that the glass tiger was going and murdering people without Willibald’s knowledge.
Gunther Mohl the bandit chief in the Abandoned Farmhouse wore chainmail and had a big ol’ greatsword and 14 strength. He scared the shit out of the players, especially since I’ve got a house rule where great weapons add strength bonus to damage. The bandits also used the farmhouse-barn route to flank and disappear and just be generally tricksy in combat.

Some highlights from when I ran it:
Initial party of two (a dwarf and a necromancer) escaped easily from Goblin Hill. The necromancer had never played before. After the dwarf slipped his manacles and knocked out the guard, the necromancer showed good old school thinking and stole the guard’s cultist robes. She snuck the Dwarf out under the pretence she was moving the prisoner and they escaped.
That very same session, the Dwarf had his kidney forcibly removed by a giant rhinoceros beetle.
The Joy’s brothel/tavern became the de facto home of the adventurers. One of their number spent every night with the Joy and impressed her to such an extent that she later joined the party as a henchman.
The chief bandit in the Abandoned Farmhouse was judged “way OP” in his chain and greatsword. They eventually got him by wrapping a glue-soaked carpet around him then setting him alight, before diving into the cellar to escape the flames. Old Man Braasch the zombie horror was a nice surprise just when they thought they were safe. Purging things with fire, predictably, became something of a theme.
Attempting to cut off a lock of the Defiler’s hair as per one of the Joy’s challenges led to a long and mindbending fight through multiple internal realities at the hands (or rather, mouths) of the Defiler’s creature. The Defiler herself getting swallowed by one of the Creature’s fumbles was the icing on the cake.
On a related but unrelated-to-BTAM note, this was also the inaugural session of my new crit and fumble tables and they worked magnificently. A barbarian had shown up for this session only, and he managed to chain a fumble into a crit against himself and keep going about 5 times. He would have disembowled himself had I not gone soft and let him get tied up in his own no-damage mancatcher instead.
A raid on Goblin Hill to kill the Mother led to a variety of horror. The people in the kitchen had Sleep cast upon them, and following several minutes of furious debate over the morality of killing children even though they are cannibals, our heroes chopped the heads off of all the kids, branded them, and lined them up as a “warning”. In order to keep the other cultists occupied, the chefs were “spatchcocked” and artfully sewn together in a horrific meaty confection and carried out into the dining room to applause.
In that same raid they captured a war-ant (some of whose legs were later stolen by the Mother’s creature) and the Mother herself was instakilled by a critical Sneak Attack which dealt a full 24 damage.
The ensuing escape from her enraged Creature in the next session ended up giving people multiple new limbs. Later, when the wizard had finally managed to get his new knee-arm under control, he used it to dual-wield both a bow and a flail.
Finally, in the twelfth session of BTAM-based gameplay, they successfully sailed a river barge full of wine off the map. Two characters, after surviving everything BTAM had to throw at them, died upon contact with A Single Small Cut. God rest their souls.

 Rating: 11 1/2 sessions of gameplay.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Spells of the Stargazer

One of my players had to depart for a few weeks. They'd finished the Tower of the Stargazer (by freeing the wizard) so he asked if he sign up to be Calcidius' apprentice as a convenient excuse for his absence.

I thought I'd make a little book of low level stars-and-fate themed spells for his trouble, so here they are. If you ever run the Tower feel free to give them to Calcidius himself!

This spellbook is:
Written on vellum and bound in wood. On the cover is carved an image of the solar system with sun and planets represented by glass beads. While you never see it move, it is always accurate.

Spells contained herein:
Level 1
Level 2
Summon Zodiac


Find the latitude of a stated person or location.

Count the number of stated things in a given area. The stated thing must be one word and the given area must be unambiguous lest the spell fail.

You or someone you touch has their light sensitivity increased dramatically. Great for stargazing and seeing in the dark, but light sources are literally blinding. Unwilling targets get a save. Lasts 1 turn.

See six seconds into the future. You can effectively rewind everything that happens on the round in which you cast this spell, should you wish it.

Summon Zodiac
Summon an avatar of the Zodiac which will obey your commands. Lasts 1 turn.
Elucidations on these spells:
Astrolabe fits my magical MO perfectly. On the surface it's fairly useless ("just latitude?! What use is that?!") but you could probably find some ways to exploit it, like you know a guy is in one of two cities and you can narrow it down.
Of course you can also use it like a real astrolabe by making your way to the latitude of a city and heading straight east or west until you arrive.
Enumerate is because Nadav Ben Dov has divination magic in his game and he reckons knowing something like the number of dudes in a building is super powerful. Courtney's got the Diviner wizard in Numenhalla too (sup Mad Bill) which is cool because he finds out cash and monster HD totals in the places we're heading so we know what to expect.
Anyway - exploitable, good for counting coins but useful for much much more, fits the Stargazer theme because he obviously used this to ask "How many stars are in the sky?".

Starsight is because I was thinking of light pollution and how many stars I could see in the Australian outback and when I spent the night in the middle of the ocean on the Barrier Reef. So many stars.
Multipurpose because it lets you see in the dark and you can use it on enemies to blind them. When I got laser eye surgery I was incredibly light sensitive despite them giving me super dark almost-opaque goggles, to the extent that the tiniest crack in the curtains caused me immense pain. That's what this is like if you're looking at anything brighter than starshine.

Precognition is a gimmick I spent a while trying to work out. Stars and fate and all that. Main influence was the 13 second rewind in Galaxy Quest if I'm honest. If you haven't seen galaxy Quest what is wrong with you.
Should be a fun mechanic because people can take a risk and see what happens. Walk into traps and kill themselves, get a second chance at not being squashed by the bog horror, that sort of thing. I have high hopes. My game rewards cautious players so it will be good to see what happens when they've got reason to be reckless.
And six seconds is enough for someone to activate something and the wizard to see only the very beginning of the impact. Gas starts flowing out of the pipes. Is it bad gas or good gas? Do I rewind or do I risk it? Such decisions!

Summon Zodiac, finally, is intentionally written vaguely so the actual mechanics will need a bit of testing by the player.
What it actually does is summon the creature (or thing, in the case of the scales) associated with whatever star sign the sun is currently in. Some months you get a lion, other months you just get a stupid crab. Not even a giant crab, a regular crab. It's always a high quality thing at least and can hit creatures immune to mundane weapons so you'd better keep your fish throwin' arm strong.
The other gimmick is that it's not the astrological Zodiac, it's the actual astronomical Zodiac (use the IAU numbers), so the months are all out of whack and there's Ophiuchus the Snake-Bearer in there and Scorpio's only around for 7 days and all the rest. Should be amusing from my end at least.