Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Cost of Living & Downtime Activities

Finding ways to bleed cash from PCs has been a fairly standard struggle since D&D began. If you're not careful they'll have piles of it!
The main things I'm doing are giving people better healing rates if they pay for a place to stay, and giving them the ever-popular option of frivolously wasting their money in exchange for exp.

And so -

Carousing and Philanthropy prices and tables here
The "Mead &Mayhem" referred to in the Carousing effects table is this rather excellent product - http://www.rpgnow.com/product/141550/Mead--Mayhem


The Cost of Living

LotFP's equipment list differentiates between four different levels of food, drink and five different qualities of lodging
5e has no less than seven available lifestyle levels, ranging from lowly squalor to lording it up with the toffs.
And really, who cares? It's all fluff, and if there's one thing I can be certain about when it comes to PCs it's that they won't spend a single coin if they can get away with it.
I once had a player say that he was eating dog food for the rest of his life because it's a fraction of the cost of standard rations in Labyrinth Lord. That's the kind of people you're dealing with here.

So I made better sleeping conditions mean better healing, and cut the choices down to an easily graspable set of three tiers.
- Vagrant is living in a bin
- Comfortable is living at an inn
Splendid is living like a king

The costs are different based on whether you're in a village, town or city.

The main mechanical difference is healing.
Vagrant is even worse than default LotFP crappy healing rates and healing to full health might mean weeks of recovery at higher levels. Not so bad if you're good at Bushcraft because you can live in the woods and catch rabbits.
Comfortable is the standard room at the inn or sleeping in a barn option. 0 to full health in 3 nights.
Splendid is best. 0 to full health in a single night. Stay another night and you get a bonus HD-worth of health.


Vagrant: This is what you're doing when you're hunkering down like a hobo or living in the woods.
Gain your Bushcraft score in HP.
If you try this in big cities you can get flogged for vagrancy. Pass a charisma check every night to avoid getting flogged within an inch of your life.

Comfortable: This is standard lodging in inns and people's houses and stuff. You can manage a Comfortable night's sleep if you've got a tent and hot food (read: cooked standard rations) in the wilderness.
If you've got no health, gain 1 HP. If you've got less than half, heal up to half. If you've got more than half, heal up to full.

Splendid: Five star accommodation, baby! This is staying in the best place in town and living in style. Peasants look at you in envy.
Splendid living heals you to full in a single night! Now that's some cushy living! If you've already got full health, you get an extra HD-worth of bonus health. Extra HP above max wears off at the end of the day.



Downtime Activities

It's been more than 5 years since the famed Mr Rients invented carousing, ending an age of people getting drunk for no reason. Since then, many adventurers in my campaign have pissed away in a night more money than your average joe makes in a year.
Hell, even 5e has Carousing now.

Keeping people poor via downtime activities is remarkably easy, and so I've recently expanded and codified my available activities into the following:
- Carousing. The classic. Swap a random amount of hard-earned cash for experience points, and maybe accidentally make interesting things happen.
- Philanthropy. Give your money away to the needy. Swap a specified amount of hard-earned cash for slightly less experience points, and maybe have good things happen.
- Investment. Risk your hard-earned cash on investment opportunities where you might earn more cash. Make your money work for you!
- Banking. Just put your hard-earned cash in the bank for a small but reliable return and the knowledge that your money is as safe as it can be in these troubled times.
- Construction is so you can make your own house to live in and store all your loot! Amazing.
- Magical Research. Spend your hard-earned cash on spell research, transcription, scroll-making, and all the rest. Something of a gamble if you rush it.

So Carousing. 1:1 silver-to-exp exchange, spend a random amount of money depending on the size of the town you're in. Since you already got exp for claiming the loot from dungeons, carousing effectively doubles your exp per coin. Hurrah!
The downside is, of course, that you could get yourself into all sorts of interesting trouble.
Your Wisdom modifier applies to the Save vs Poison to see if you get in interesting sorts of trouble.  You might think if would be Constitution, but a wise man who can't hold their drink knows when to stop.
It's also worth +10% exp on the weekend because I enjoy the idea of people saving up their cash for a big weekend blowout.

While Carousing is pretty excellent, sometimes people go "oh I don't think my character would get trashed" or "I don't want to spend a random amount of money" which is fair enough.
For gentle flowers such as these, Philanthropy is available.
It's like carousing, but you have the possibility of good side effects (amazing!) and you choose how much you spend. As a downside, you only get 80% of the value as exp.
There is a minimum spend based on the size of the town because a huge act of charity in a podunk village doesn't even ping the social radar in a big city.
Your Charisma modifier applies to the roll on the Philanthropy effects table.

For those who want to make their money work for them, Investment opportunities are available. All is as per LotFP standard, save that your investment is calculated monthly. Considering the general pace of my game, a year is way too slow.
I make people invent what they're investing in because it means they might be able to influence their investments via their actions.
You'll have to travel to wherever your investment is to pick up your earnings, of course, unless you've made other arrangements.

If you want something safer than Investment, you can put your money in the Bank. It's reliable and gives you a steady 2% p.a. interest rate, compounded monthly. Yes, I have a spreadsheet for it. No, I do not actually use it for my own finances.
If your character dies you can withdraw your cash with another character. A 10% death tax applies, but your new character is going to be way better off than the usual handful of coins you start with.
Conveniently you'll find a bank in any big city, making it an easy way to keep your savings safe as you travel across the land. The Knights Templar are my "no look it totally has a historical basis" defence of this policy.

Construction is because getting a castle and minions to lead is pretty Classic, I've never had it happen in a game yet, but the option is there.
They'll have a choice between choosing something off the 5th ed stronghold list, in which case it'll be a fairly generic example of the form,  or they can DIY it off the ACKS list and thereby customise it.
Domain-level play unconsidered at this time, especially since early modern Europe wasn't exactly big on the feudalism.

Finally, because it definitely fits into Downtime activities, Magical Activities are as specified in the LotFP book.
Everything as per LotFP baseline because it works out fine in play.
The best thing about Magical Activities is that they present a natural (and player-chosen) way to skip the timeline forward, meaning all sorts of crazy stuff can happen in the interim. The way things usually work out in the game so far, it's the Magical Activities that really dictate how long people hang around and carouse for. While the wizard's up in the tower his friends are wasting all their money in the town below.


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Snakes and Ladders: Nature's Pursuit Mechanic

This is a simple one, but so good.

Behold, the game board of OS&L (That's Original Snakes and Ladders to you plebs).


Basic idea:
- It's Snakes and Ladders, everyone knows this game.
- Your encumbrance dictates the die you roll.

That's it!

Die Sizes
Going by LotFP's 5 encumbrance tiers:
1d12 - Unencumbered
1d10 - Lightly Encumbered
1d8 - Heavily Encumbered
1d6 - Severely Encumbered
1d4 - Overencumbered

Just eyeball monster based on their movement speed.
Zombies pursue at d4, Wolves pursue on a d12.
Spiders pursue on a d30 or something. They're faster than speed.

In general you don't have to outrun the bear, just the other guy.



Other issues (You know how your game works and can work it out as you go along, but here's what I've been doing)

- Each square equates to about 10' of movement. If it's a dungeon, give the old "left or right?!" whenever people run far enough to reach an intersection/door. It's generally assumed that people are fleeing (and pursuing) towards the most obvious exit point. Also useful when it comes to ranged weapons.
- Fleeing people roll first, then pursuers. Animalistic pursuers fall upon the first person in their path, more intelligent pursuers might leave one of their number to tie up prey and keep chasing.
- People can run in either direction. This might come in handy if they're running back to save a friend.
- If you roll low/high or hit a snake/ladder, feel free to invent why that happened. "I tripped on a tree root!" or "I scampered up a tree!" are opposing examples.
- You will notice the ladders take you STRAIGHT TO HEAVEN. This means you escaped by hook or by crook. Make up a reason. Pursuers treat ladders as "CATCH UP TO THE NEAREST PERSON". Same with the last square.



Unexpected but welcome effects of using Snakes and Ladders to model pursuit

- Everything is fucking chaos in the first round of pursuit. Things start to even out once the laws of averages begin to assert themselves and people get into a rhythm.
- Everyone understands what's going on, even newbies.
- People can evade via snakes and head back towards the starting point, splitting the party in a way that feels natural.
- Big groups are less likely to escape easily than small groups. Some idiot is going to roll a 1 as they try to escape, and suddenly everyone else is wondering whether they should run back to help.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Pygmy Marmaduke - Eater of Tongues

Greg Acker asked and, despite having been distracted by the Santicore summary project, I SHALL ANSWER!

Pygmy Marmaduke
Eater of Tongues.

HD 3, MV unencumbered man, AC leather +2 (agility), ATK 1 DMG Special, ML 8

The Pygmy Marmaduke eats language.
Upon first encountering the Pygmy Marmaduke, show this picture to the first player to walk into the room. They have up to one minute to describe it without using words.
For the duration of the player's interactions with the Pygmy Marmaduke, they cannot use words to talk or to describe their actions
Words cover both writing and speech, and thus the players may make use of mime, drawings, symbols, and other such contrivances in order to make their intentions known. Take too long and your go gets skipped. This effect persists for as long as the players are in the creature's vicinity.

The Pygmy Marmaduke attacks by springing onto one's face and placing its skull against the forehead, draining a language that person knows into itself. It will automatically hit on subsequent rounds unless the victim succeeds in a Wrestling roll to throw it off.
Each language eaten invigorates the creature:
1d4 HP if the language is local to the area (classically "Common").
1d6 HP if the language is not local to the area (foreign dialects, local Demihuman languages).
1d8 HP if the language is considered to be exotic (English versus Japanese, seldom-spoken or rare Demihuman languages).
1d10 HP and a permanent additional hit die if it is an ancient, dead or dying language. (Latin, Duvan'Ku)
This can heal it over and above its maximum HP, but any excess is lost after 24 hours.

In LotFP, when the creature has drained all languages players know it starts draining points from the Language skill. This heals it for 1d6 HP per pip.
If not using LotFP's retroactive language thing, skip straight to the tongue gobbling and catatonia.

When the last Language point is drained the victim goes catatonic. They are unable to subvocalise, unable to frame thoughts, and incapable of thinking in anything but raw concepts. With months of specialised psychiatric care they may recover.
As the victim falls drooling to their knees the Pygmy Marmaduke steals the person's tongue and leaps away. The stolen tongue dangles beneath its skull-jaw and enables the Pygmy Marmaduke to speak in the victim's voice.
It often uses this ability to pretend that the victim's consciousness has been swapped with it. Allow the player of the catatonic character to play as the Pygmy Marmaduke (the deception is perfect) until it has an opportunity to strike again. It should go without saying that a party that sleeps in its vicinity will be rolling up fresh characters by morning.


The Pygmy Marmaduke seeks to eat all language. It has a particular fondness for the culinary delights of foreign, rare and old languages. The anachronism-laden speech of player characters is a strange but somehow moreish treat.
It is highly intelligent and able to speak in the voice of any person whose tongue it is wearing. It uses this ability solely to concoct plots in which it can eat the tongues of scholars and speakers of obscure languages.
Its fondest wish is to savour the tongue of the last speaker of an ancient and beautiful language. It will go to any lengths to achieve this goal.

If slain, the Pygmy Marmaduke's brass necklace can be removed after cutting off the creature's head.

Necklace of the Marmaduke


This necklace allows the wearer to replace their tongue with the tongue of another.
The wearer knows any (and only) languages the donor of the tongue knows or knew. They speak with the donor's voice.
Casters take 1d4 days to get used to the new tongue before they can cast spells, unless it's something ridiculous like a lark tongue in which case spellcasting is impossible.
While actually bonding a tongue is painless, ripping out your tongue deals 1d6 damage.



Hey but I'm running LotFP how does anyone even re-learn languages

Dee-dubs, Doom Cave room 5 has you covered -

a character
is considered conversant in a language after
6 months of full immersion, fluent after two
years. A language can be taught by a tutor, but
that takes two years of at least five lessons a
week (at 3sp a lesson!) to become comfortably
conversant, and fluency does not come until
being immersed in the language.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Santicore Breakdown: Monsters

Next up on the Santicore breakdown - Monsters!
HD supplied if applicable.

As before, all content will be collated into Adrian's spreadsheet.

LINKS:
Adventures
Monsters
People
Places
Things


Monsters

Extra Gribbly Arachnid Facemunchers for Old School D&D. Peitsa Veteli for J.
Spiders. Think Esoteric Creature Generator but JUST for spiders. Tables for No. Appearing, size, hunting method, poison, and 50 goddamn fantastic spider mutations. You should read the now-destroyed Monstrous Television's spider post on the Wayback Machine if you haven't yet commited it to memory.
If your players don't nope the fuck out when they see evidence of giant spiders already, this entry is here to help.

Hellacious Die Drop Tables. Kálmán Faragó for R.R.
Die drop hit location tables. It covers, get this, humanoid (+extra limbed), quadruped, and winged creatures with a variety of critical effects based on what you rolled. 5's have a variety of weird spiritual effects like smacking a dude in his Third Eye Chakra or inverting someone's sense of balance. Honestly you could make an entire Monk class with this baby, just have a Fighter who rolls on this when he fights bare handed.
You can hit people in the dick. I never knew this was something I needed until now. Quality.

Daughters of Terror. Erik Jensen for J. A.
Medusae. Tables for creating ladies who turn you to stuff. Tables for what she does, how she does it, what she looks like. Results such as (roll roll) a lady with a long, prehensile tongue who transforms you into a black cat when she speaks your name.
Excellent.

Fever Dream. James Aulds for T.S
Viral infection zombies who (1/6) turn into oozes after a while. Both vomit multicoloured pus-vomit to spread contagion. Patient zero can, under the right conditions, become an unstoppable rolling juggernaut of "colours and hate and teeth".
Intended for weird non-gonzo modern horror and thus easy to convert to any game.

How to Train Your Giant. Legion for J.T.
Giants. These seem to be "small" kind of giants that are 10' tall or so. Skyrim not the one at the end of Troll Hunter. A variety of means by which one might break a giant and rules for training your new giant in a variety of skills. Rules for multi-headed giants included.
You could use these rules for breaking and training human beings too for extra fucked uppiness.

Secret Glyphs of the Minotaurs. Arnold K for T.H.
Glyphs in the style of the Symbol spell that fuck you up if you see or walk on them. Ten different glyphs including Vanity (stay protecting the symbol),  Fire (detonates all flammable materials on your person) and Naming (steals your name).
Loosely tied to a minotaur theme which is why they're in this section I guess.

Temerity Creatures. Dan Shiovitz for M.C.
Alien monsters. Flora and fauna of a strange planet from which "the boiling hot tide rises from within the earth every 24 hours to drown all but the tips of several small but lush mesas". Said mesas could be turned into a strange island chain for standard fantasy.
Creatures are cool, strange, and alien. Each entry leads into the next which is real neat, contains Butcher Birds that create jaggedy metal sculptures in which to trap prey who wander into the spikes.

Boars, Bears and Tigers. C. Weeks for A.F.
Various overworld encounters in a weird and foreign section of the world. Table-heavy, heaps of content. Runs the gamut from animals to weird foreign animals to supernatural foes to botanical threats.
Wacky results rare but possible like a 0.0001% chance for any encountered animal to be a primordial Deity beast. Mooses (meese?), deadly tigers, crazy natives, environmental troubles, hyperlocal gods, and other stuff rare and wondrous.
Tables easily taken on their lonesome if you want to split them up. Real cool!

Monsters! Joey Lindsay for J.D.
Sci-fi serial killers. A variety of killers in the vein of Jason Voorhees and other movie baddies. One guy hunts you down to eat your ego, another eats your brain and crawls in there himself.
Pictures supplied for each baddie, and each would make a good monster for any game with the right fluff twist. My favourite is the guy who pretends to be a henchman while subtly leading you to your doom.

Evil Yeti Wizard. Lucien Reeve for H.S.
A wicked sweet drawing of an evil yeti wizard. This dude's like an orangutan with bell-draped horns and a skull stave and badass robes.
If I got killed by this guy I wouldn't even be mad.

Spider Mother. Matt Adams for J.S.
Jesus fucking christ.

Ophiotaurus. Peter Seckler for M.E.
Giant 8HD flying creature. Includes a picture of a Halfling being ambushed by said creature, although I almost prefer my initial impression of a giant horrible snake monster picking the dude's pocket. Main schtick - impales you with its stinger then flies off to eat you and drain your stamina.
Burning its entrails and breathing in the smoke gives you a boost.
Stats supplied for DCC and thus easily convertible to whatever system you're using.

Mamesk. Henry Stokes for J.B.
A new god, "He of Too Many Tusks". Images of Mamesk, the high priest of the Mameskites (or "Skites") that worship him, and Mamesk's holy symbol.
Mad cool.


A variety of fiendish beasts with which to kill my players!

IF YOU ARE NOW FEELING INSPIRED:
 - You've got a month or so until the deadline for the One Page Dungeon Contest.
 - The Chaos Request Line is a sort of year-round Santicore and is running right now.

This summary/review/opinion piece/whatever is also available on this spreadsheet along with the other sections written by my collaborator Mr Ryan.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Santicore Breakdown: Adventures

There is an absolute shedload of content in Santicore this year.
Turns out doing this gives me a good reason to go through them properly!
Comes with authors and initials so you can search for yourself if you, like me, forgot what you asked for.
I'll go through them in order in subsequent blog posts because not even my refined mind can do all this in one burst.

Looks like Adrian is also on the case and collating it all in a nice spreadsheet
By our powers combined, we can do this!

LINKS:
Adventures
Monsters
People
Places
Things



Adventures

Plague of the Vermin Guild. Tim Snider for M.R.
Dungeon crawl through caves full of diseased rats and ratmen. Skaven-analogs lose control of the sentient rot they were going to use to destroy the surface world.  Lots of baddies and treasure, town above will be destroyed if the players don't do something.
I will definitely use this because I've got ratmen and a mold disease and I need adventures for characters level 5-7.

System Generator. Matea Diaz for A.R.
Sci-fi solar system/adventure maker. Two 1d6 tables and leans towards the gonzo. Entries are real cool and suggest their own adventures.

Super Lucky Cat. Dyson Logos for K.M.
Modern-with-magic weird adventure. Chinese defectors and double agents being stolen by magical conspiracy beneath a Chinese Takeaway. They become addicted to magic cat milk and die if they leave. Final boss owns tigers and lives in the dimension behind the skin of the giant catmother in the basement.
Should be fairly easy to translate into the generic fantasy game of your choice. I'll use this as a city adventure for sure.

The Grotto of Corruption. Eric Hoffman for J.S.
Dungeon crawl beneath ruined church full of fungal fungus worshippers and other beasties. Lots of treasure and secret doors, a false tomb, mold zombies. Table of Hallucinogenic Spore Effects is excellent.
I'll use this because I've got a big mold thing going on in my campaign, and one of the players has decided he's a Cleric of the Mushroom God.
I think maybe this was for me and they got my initials wrong? In which case thanks Eric this is perfect!

Golem Complex. Stephanie Bryant for R.S.
Dungeon crawl through a vast dormant magma-powered machine. Native robot guards and giant golem lady dormant until meddled with. In fact, the whole place is fairly safe until meddled with.
Even better, the dungeon is written without stats but with tips to scale it to your party and system.
My players are threatening some Underdark action so this comes at just the right time!

The Torture Chambers of the High Inquisitor. Joshua de Santo for S.
Dungeon crawl in torture chambers full of angry undead. Pentagram shape, keys found as trap bait in corner rooms unlock door to central room. No map but easy enough to make.
Easily placed in a city and good for about a sessionsworth of adventuring.

Drawing Down the Moon. Jeremy Friesen for S.R.
Village-based adventure wherein Kenku steal the moon. Village's traditional harvest ritual is surprisingly effective due to shenanigans. Disaster looms unless someone can find out what actually happened last night.
I'll probably swap out the Kenku for something more generic like goblins or cultists because I'm boring, but I will definitely keep their fantastic names like Wicker Vicar and Lord Pretty Feathers.

The Abyssal Bog of Doom. Victor Garrison for J.J.
A hexcrawl through bogs and swamps. Holy shit did Victor pull out all the stops for this one. 67 hexes of content and explanations of the local factions and their goals? Hexes containing such things as a man who lives in a giant catfish, a bunch of dead boars with the Alien inside them, and a centipede made out a whole bunch of crying, vomiting babies!?
This entry is the absolute tits.

All Along the Watchtower. Matt Jackson for J.H.
Fantasy caper wherein goblin PCs attempt to save the princess in her zombie-infested tower. Two wonderful tables of weird goblin traits and abilities suitable for jazzing up any generic goblinoid. Tower itself contains zombies, zombie owlbear, a slug demon that eats adventurers to make more zombies, and in a shocking twist the princess is evil.
Neat, useful, and a good session filler. Unlike Raggi's ha-ha-the-princess-was-a-ruse thing it's got treasure in it.

Howling Frontier. Conor Toleson for J.
Hexcrawl in a weird west setting. Demon-powered train leads to the suspiciously death-themed frontier town of Gravedust which the suspiciously death-themed Countess would have people believe has fallen on hard times of late. Goblinoid natives live in the hills and forests while herds of oryx roam the plains. Asks more questions than it answers which is what you want out of a hexcrawl.
I love a good undead conspiracy, and there are enough moving parts between factions that the PCs will be upsetting the precarious balance of power as soon as they step off the train.

Manon, Witch Pirate of Guernsey. Steve Albertson for P.N.
Small island chain (Guernsey) filled with pirates and Lovecraftian entities we know and love. The eponymous Manon is trying to spread her cult of Yog-Sothoth via a crazy drug. Drug effect table supplied. Competing factions on different islands and the party has been sent to capture the witch pirate herself.
Whaddayaknow, my campaign's set in a weird sorta-UK! This one's an easy one to plop down and gives me a reason to stall them if they decide to sail the seven seas some session.

A Telephant Never Forgets. Justin Davis for S.F.
Location-based sci-fi adventure for Mutant Future. Poachers on motorcycles seek to poach the brains of telepathic elephants within the ruins of your nearest zoo.
That's the long and short of it, really! The elephants are 10HD terrors with psychic powers out the wazoo so if you're joining the poachers you're in for a hell of a job.

Space Dungeon Adventure. Paul Schaefer for M.F.
This is a dope picture of space mans fighting a skull crab in space and it is dope as all get out. Quality.

The Cubemen from the Woods. Nathan Ryder for C.W.
Location-based somewhat gonzo adventure with clay people. Clay people's goal is to make more clay people, closest source of clay is nearby human settlement. Trouble ensues. Cubemen are main foes and have cube heads with different faces on each face. They shoot fire from the angry face. Various internal issues make clay people faction unpredictable.
Easy to fit into anywhere fairly remote, I'll be putting this on the road to somewhere else.

Pit of Slimord. Andrew Bellury for E.H.
Dungeon crawl in... wait did Joesky write this? Who is this Bellury guy!? This is sick. There's a shower that Nickelodeon-slimes you and makes you mutate and the final boss is a slime monster called SLIMORD who has a magic hat.
Five room one page dungeon with a big bit of page taken up by a silly "squares are 10'" pictogram and a picture of a slime skeleton playing Go Fish.
This is joyous.

The Eye of Melchizedek Antigropelos. Tom Fitzgerald for ???
A whole dungeonsworth of traps, tricks, doors, dooms and other anomalies. The framing device is some sort of pants-obsessed gnome's fever dream into which the PCs are drawn should they express an interest in his choice of trousers. 144 whacked out dungeon things from Mr Middenmurk himself, along with some delightfully renamed spells. Also present - a picture of a horrible little gnome.
There's like 20 pages of this stuff.
Very useful and immediately usable in your game, whether it's for running as presented or for stocking a dungeon. Like most things by the author, his writing causes me to form even longer run-on sentences which sound mellifluous to my interior ear but no other.



Some real good stuff this year! And the vast majority I can use directly which is brilliant.

IF YOU ARE NOW FEELING INSPIRED:
 - You've got a month or so until the deadline for the One Page Dungeon Contest.
 - The Chaos Request Line is a sort of year-round Santicore and is running right now.

This summary/review/opinion piece/whatever will be available on this spreadsheet
once I've had a sleep. It's late here, ya know.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Ten Random Facts About Loegria

Lore Garbage! I am so down for this.
Some random self-indulgent facts about the country in which my players are currently embroiled.

1. I only decided on the name "Loegria" a couple of weeks ago, even though this campaign map has been in use for several years. Loegria itself is an alternate version of England, the result of me mashing my original map onto the real world and messing up the geography.
Originally it was called "Tralsk" but I stopped using that after a year because I thought it was lame.

Here it is crudely overlaid. Behold that wacky new coastline.


2. The world's history is a mashup of Dwimmermount, Hammers of the God, real history, and my own ideas of how demihumans and magic fit into all that. Thus the Gods are giant satellite-golems, elves are half-blooded descendants of the Red Elves of Mars, and Dwarves were once lords of it all.

3. Humanity was enslaved by the Halfling Empire until 0AD when Yeshua the First Cleric found the Gods and catalysed mankind's rebellion. Real world history generally reasserts at this point. The the Roman Theocracy echoes the Roman Empire (they liberated Loegria from the Halflings in 43AD) and replaces Dwimmermount's Thulians.

4. AD stands for After Domination. BC stands for Before Choice.

5. The immortal Fated King rules Loegria as he has done since 1066. While tradition states that the Fated King is the same king that conquered Loegria nearly 500 years ago, in actual fact there has been a succession of rulers since then. As each King dies a new host is secretly found amongst the populace. When a new king is acclimated their soul and personality is sucked into the Fated King's crown to join the souls of all previous rulers. Unless the host is particularly strong-willed the resulting personality-melange is actually pretty moderate and far-sighted.

6. The planet's core is host to a creature called Shub-Niggurath, a planet-eating organism that reproduces like a virus. Its initial impact formed the moon. Over the course of aeons it takes over a planet's core then grows and grows, eventually detonating to scatter thousands of space-faring spores to continue the cycle.
Such an organism seeds life upon the planet which it infests. This is merely an accident of biology. All life on Earth owes its existence to the organism in the planet's core, an organism that will be the cause of the planet's death. Its lysis draws near.

7. The tendril of Shub-Niggurath in Loegria was released by the actions of a previous band of PCs, indirectly causing the mold and slimes and all the rest. The Undead Army currently ravaging the country (as it has been for a couple of real years now, thanks Death Frost Doom!) are part of an ancient failsafe to counter and re-imprison it. The undead aren't affected by the mold, and the ritual to imprison a tendril of Shub-Niggurath requires over 1000 willing sacrifices.

8. The Twin Cities of Edge and Dwarrow are two cities sort of overlaid upon each other. The citizens of one "city" completely ignore the citizens of the other. This is not in any way a magical effect, although supernatural entities consider them entirely separate and thus will only attack one or the other.



9. Fortress City Fate is the only place in the known world where people can be brought back to life. Living there is both hedonistic and incredibly expensive as a result, with an economy based on the buying and selling of the "Raise". Professions are encouraged to enter or leave the enclosed economic system via a byzantine and constantly changing system of taxes, levies and incentives. Outside of the Actuarial Corp, few professions have any real security within Fate's convoluted yet socially responsible framework.
People put up with this because living in Fate is the best standard of living one could attain in this life.


10. An ancient dragon known as the Grudge Drake was captured and de-winged by the goblins of the Drudge Wastes long ago. It it many storeys tall and covered in crudely worked armour plate, its movement powering the great goblin machines built all over its body. The goblins use it as a walking fortress, moving factory, and regenerating food source.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Arcana Skill for LotFP

I've added a few skills to the Specialist's suite of options before, namely adding Music, First Aid and Sailing. They all get used occasionally, Sailing not so much (yet) and I doubt anybody'll take Music unless I leave Orpheus' lyre lying around somewhere. First Aid gets a good workout though, and conveniently doesn't upstage magical healing.

But there's an odd one out in the original nine skills - Architecture.
This never comes up. For one, if someone asks if one part of a structure was built at a different time to another I'll just tell them. For another, I don't write this stuff down until players ask me what the cave walls are made of and I blurt out the first sedimentary rock that comes into my head like an idiot.
And worse, I gave Dwarfs the ability to innately know direction and feel whether they're ascending or descending underground, which means they don't even need their architecture bonus by level.

Hence, replacement.

Thieves using magic scrolls (at a risk of failure) is pretty standard in trad D&D.
I also dislike both the "take a sip to identify the potion" and "skull the potion to see what happens" models of potion identification. People identifying potions wrong though... that has appeal.

Hence, Arcana.

"Oh this is definitely a Scroll of Sidelong Smirk"

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Arcana: This skill is used to identify potions and scrolls and to cast spells from magical devices such as scrolls, wands and staffs. Intelligence modifier applies.
Identification of magical devices takes a turn and is rolled in secret. Success means you have correctly identified the item (but not necessarily its effects). Failure means you have misidentified the object as a random other object of its type.
You can use Arcana to cast spells from magical devices, but it is perilous. If you fail, look up the number you rolled on the Casting Failure table below.

Casting Failure:
6 – Casting fails, no ill effects.
5 – Item charge or scroll wasted.
4 – As 5, and a Chaos Burst is released.
3 – As 4, and a random spell is cast instead with the caster as the target.
2 – As 3, and a Summon spell is cast with creature HD equal to spell level.


Spellcasters do not need to use Arcana to cast spells from wands and staves, and can cast from scrolls with no chance of failure if they have previously cast Read Magic on the item.
A spellcaster who has Identify prepared and uncast gains a +2 bonus to Arcana.
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Some corollaries to the above:
 - Identifying items only tells you what they're called (eg. Potion of ESP, Wand of Fireballs) not their effects or whether they're cursed.
 - You only get one try per object, but of course multiple people can have a guess and hopefully argue about it. If two people guess the same thing it's probably correct.
 - You can't use Arcana to identify anything more interesting than your bog standard limited-use magic item. It's useless against cool stuff like LotFP-grade magic player fuckers.
 - Using Arcana to identify an item sets off Explosive Runes and similar magical defenses if present.

If you are wondering how you are supposed to keep track of misidentified potions and scrolls, give scrolls and potions and stuff a tracking number.
What you do is give them the correct tracking number but the wrong name.
So if potion #161 is a Potion of Invisibility they just write down "Potion #161" on their sheet.
When they go to identify it they think it's a Potion of Poison, so they write that down (if they trust themselves, that is).
Later when they're trying to spike the Duke's dinner with the poison you go "what number potion was that again?" and laugh when the guy turns invisible.
This is also useful for working out just what the "red potion" a player picked up months ago actually is. Plus if they find the same potion number at a later date they'll know what it is for sure! Look at that player skill coming in useful.

The idea behind the Casting Failure table is that someone with a higher Arcana skill has more chance of success and less bad possibilities if they do fuck up.
Someone with a 3 in 6 Arcana skill has a 50/50 chance of casting correctly and will definitely not accidentally cast random spells or Summon if they fail.
If they've got a 5 in 6 Arcana skill the worst outcome is that nothing happens.

Int modifier applies because LotFP's ability score descriptions are pretty firm on Intelligence representing pre-game knowledge and magical aptitude. That fits the Arcana skill to a T!
Wizards are also likely to start with a better-than-average Arcana score since Intelligence is their main thing.
Anything that increases the usefulness of the mental scores is good, too.

The spellcaster Identify bonus is due to cantrips. In LotFP, Identify requires a lab and some dosh and a day. Having it grant a bonus makes Identify more of a valid option when you're dungeon-crawling the wizard's tower.
Between a +3 intelligence modifier and Identify, an 18 Int wizard can have a 6 in 6 Arcana score.


"Ahhh yes, the Most Efficacious Ritual of Get the Fuck Out of My Office"

WOAH BUT HOW CAN THIEVES BEAT WIZARDS AT KNOWING MAGIC

Thematically it's a bit like Knock and Spider Climb. Wizards can open locks and climb way better than a Specialist, but only a limited number of times per day and they've got to prep it in advance.
The Thief/Rogue/Specialist does it all day long, but imperfectly.
Same with Arcana, a Wizard can use Read Magic or Identify to work out what stuff does way better than a Specialist, but only a limited number of times per day and they've got to prep it in advance.
Doing stuff perfectly a few times per day vs doing stuff imperfectly all day long is THE spellcaster/skillmonkey divide.

Arcana doesn't actually tell you what an item does, mind you. You'll need Read Magic or Identify for that. At least the Specialist can help you work out what's worth identifying properly!

In terms of in-universe justification, Wizards are basically just crazy people who do magic by feel. It's not fancy book learnin', it's scrawling-insane-gibberish-on-the-asylum-walls-in-you-own-faeces learnin'. It's voices-from-beyond-talking-to-you-through-your-dog learnin'.
If you're not quite so insane you might discover that there are disturbing parallels between the writings and works of different wizards, and it's these parallels are what allow the Arcana-focussed Specialist to decipher and use their writings. These Specialists are likely a little bit mad themselves or have just a touch of the Sight.

Alternatively - maybe like in Harry Potter, wizards are just too lazy to learn anything for themselves because magic does everything for them. If you can mumbo-jumbo yourself a perfect answer, why bother learning something you might get wrong?
It's like doing maths in your head when you've got a calculator right there. Sure you could carry your old sofa all the way to the tip by yourself or you could just call up your mate Gavin to come get it in his ute tomorrow. Learn how to read Japanese or use Google Translate. Read fifty books to get an idea of both sides of a debate or just look it up on wikipedia.
Wizards are either super lazy or too caught up in the whole ripping-through-the-skein-of-reality-for-personal-gain thing to spend time learning how to tell a Potion of Flying from a Potion of Oh Fuck My Skin Just Flew Off.