Friday, April 21, 2017

Death, Trauma, and Retirement: I'm Gettin' Too Old For This Shit

So, with my current group, I'm trying something new.
Let me tell you why I'm doing these things.

by Jose Segrelles
click it


PC retirement is a replacement for PC death, not an additional risk.  I'm making death less likely in order to make retirement more likely.  Retired characters are more interesting and more useful than dead ones.  (And a lot less demoralizing.)

For example, ". . . and then he bought a turnip farm and swore never to leave it" is more satisfying end to a character's story than ". . . and then he died in a filthy hole, and the rats nibbled his eyes until he was quite dead".

And of course, forcibly retiring a character still accomplishes the primary punitive aspect of dying: you lose the opportunity to play your character.

So here's my first draft:

Whenever you have a near-death experience (roll higher than a 10 on the Death and Dismemberment Table) and survive, you gain a point of Trauma and put a question mark next to it (if a question mark isn't there already).

Whenever you return to place where your character could conceivably retire, erase the question mark and roll a d20.  If you roll equal-or-less than your Trauma score, your character decides to retire.  You cannot stop them.

The player can dictate the conditions of the retirement.  They are free to give away their magic items if they wish; they will have no need of them in their new life as a turnip farmer.  They are also free to retire penniless if they desire; surely a beggar will have a longer life than those fools venturing back down into the maw of the earth.  (But see Retirement, below.)

Give them a bonus to this roll if they are on an Epic Quest and are deeply invested in it.  They're more than just a mere murderhobo.

Give them a penalty to this roll if the retirement is especially tempting.  If a grateful king offers the hobbit a bucolic tobacco plantation, for example.


I started writing up a big set of rules for how to adjudicate this, but now I think it's probably just best for the DM to rule on an ad-hoc basis.  

So here's my first draft:

Retirement is just retirement from adventuring.  It can be literally anything they way, as long as it's not adventuring and they do not continue on as a player character.  They become a friendly NPC instead.  If they retire with enough loot, they can become a friendly and powerful NPC.  You can retire at any time, not just when Trauma forces them.

Inform the players about everything in the last paragraph.  This rule needs to be mostly transparent.

1. When a player retires, ask them what sort of retirement they intend, and how much wealth they are retiring with.

2. Multiply the wealth by the character's level, and look up the result on the table below.  Adjudicate the details of the new NPC using your vast prowess, using the numbers below as a guide.

Level x Wealth = Retirement Points (RP)

Less than 100 RP
Probably going to die in a nearby gutter.

100 RP
A chance at a normal life.  Apartment, job, loans, loyal dog, relationship problems, taxes.  Just a citizen.

1000 RP
Comfortable retirement in position where they can give modest assistance.  A bartender who gives you free drinks and rumors.  A rancher who gives away horses and rations.

10,000 RP
Excellent retirement in position where they can give major assistance.  A tavern keeper who can give you secure lodging and introductions all over the city.  A master assassin who will do a couple of jobs for free.  The captain of the guard who lies under oath in order to get your case dismissed.

100,000 RP
Go wild, bro.

A Softer Death Table

My most recent groups have been getting less hardcore and more casual.  More beer and cheese, less blood and grit.  Which is fine--we have a lot of fun.  But I'm getting the impression that they don't like how easily their characters die.  It's true; I put death on a low shelf.

Luckily, death rules are very easy to tweak, since they usually don't interact with the rest of the game at all.  So I'm rewriting my Death and Dismemberment Table (for the fifth fucking time lolololololol).  I'll probably post it once it's been playtested a bit maybe?

From a game design standpoint, the purpose of a Death and Dismemberment Table is two-fold.  
  • When players start Losing The Game, the Death Table delivers the most final punishment the game offers: death and all its lesser cousins.  It answers the question of "what happens if we lose?"
  • It introduces complications and that should drive the type of gameplay that you want.  This is a complicated question, and I've spent a lot of time thinking about best tweak it so it can drive the game towards its intended gameplay.
But here are some design goals for the rewrite:

1. Lingering injuries aren't that much fun.  They're fun to give out, but they're a pain in the ass to track, and it creates a need for a lot of downtime, which doesn't always mesh with the player's goals.  Also, it requires a lot of mandatory downtime in town while player's rest, and although my Downtime Event tables produce interesting results/plots, they usually aren't as much fun as the rest of the well-prepped dungeon shit.

Plus, players never keep track of negative conditions (they only remember bonuses) and so it's up to me to remember that their skin is all burned off and they can't wear armor for 9 more days.

So no more "Broken Leg: half speed for 75 days", despite that injury being both accurate and metal.

Injuries will last for minutes, 1 day, or 1 week.  I think I'm going to try to do away with permanent mutilations, because I think the 

2. Less instant death.  It's still going to be on the table (because dragons need to be able to bite people in half), but I no longer think it should be something that has a chance of happening when I goblin bites your hand.

And anyway, it's more tactically interesting to have to choose between stabilizing a dying friend or stabbing the owlbear that just spit him out.

3. No permanent mutilations.  In my Willows game, I'm pretty sure we had 3 players lose a leg across 6 months of gameplay.  That's a lot.

And anyway, I think the forced retirement thing (see below) will help drive them away from adventuring without gimping them towards the end.

Because one of the reasons why I liked the idea of players losing arms and legs, is because it would (a) motivate them to go find a cool new hand, or (b) encourage them to retire their character and roll up a new one.  In practice however, I find that players tend to just drive their characters until they fall apart like an unlubricated Corolla.

So why not create a mechanic that takes a straight path route to that goal, and forces characters to retire directly?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Heaven, Hell, and the Souls Betwixt

I started writing a post about the various psychopomps who come to collect your soul after you die, and how you can fight them off and live forever, but I realized that I need to write a bunch of background first, about souls and the afterlife.  So consider this a preamble.

I’ll write the psychopomp one next.

Heaven and Heavens

Everyone knows that Heaven is located in the Immortal Mountains.  I mean, if you stand in the right place, you can fucking see it.

The big heaven—the Heaven with a capitol ‘H’—is of course the Hesayan heaven, ruled over by Zulin and his court.  But there are other heavens: some small, some secret, some dead, and some still thriving.

<sidebar>Remember that Centerra tries to avoid using planes.  What would be another plane in another setting’s cosmology is instead a specific location on the Centerran globe you can walk to.  What Centerran wizards call “The Plane of Air” is actually the Sirium nation of air spirits, located in the air high above Outer Basharna.  Similarly, the Hesayan Heaven and all the lesser heavens are also located on the map somewhere.</sidebar>

Most of the Fire Cult heavens have been discovered and razed by the Hesayan Church.  After the Fire Gods were killed, there was nothing to stop the Church from finding these heavens, rounding up all the resident souls, and sending them to whatever corner of hell is reserved for unrepentant pagans.

Most of the old Fire Cult heavens were beneath volcanoes, now dormant and mostly collapsed.  They’d make good dungeons.

The Heralds of the Immaculate Morning have their own private heaven.  It’s rumored to be even nicer than the Hesayan heaven.  It's certainly less bureaucratic.

Even Zala Vacha has their own heaven, although it is technically located somewhere in the Underworld.

The Underworld

The Underworld isn’t the Underworld because it’s bad.  It’s the Underworld because it’s literally underneath the entire world—everything trickles down there eventually.  It’s the psychic drip tray beneath the continents.

The Underworld is bad because everything trickles down there eventually, except the souls who are saved by their religion and transported to their appropriate heaven.  Unless your deity makes an effort to scoop you out of the River of Souls, you’ll end up there.

<sidebar>The River of Souls is located on the eastern side of the continent.  It empties into Greywing Bay, near the Abominable Colossus.  Mortals view Greywing Bay as a placid bay ringed by mud flats and sea birds, but on the Ethereal Plane it is a screaming vortex of struggling souls.  It’s a hole in the psychic world, and the negative spiritual pressure it creates pulls souls in from all over the continent.  Unless you die deep in the Madlands, your unclaimed soul will end up here.</sidebar>

And because decent, caring people tend to band together and form religions, they tend to be the ones that go to Heaven (or at least, one of the heavens).  And since all of the decent folk don’t trickle down to the Underworld, and most of the terrible people do, the Underworld ends up being a pretty horrible place.

Hell, by the way, is only a small part of the Underworld.  It’s merely the known fraction, populated by the psychic ejecta of the Hesayan religion.

The rest of the Underworld is full of the architecture of dead civilizations, dreams whose dreamers have died, and souls who have forgotten who and what they ever were.  Lost continents, some impossible and some merely forgotten, grinding through eons of abyssal geology.

The Underworld is enormous.  Zulin didn’t arrive until about a millennia ago, at the end of the Time of Fire and Madness.  And since Heaven wasn’t constructed until then, most clerics believe that everyone who died prior to that has ended up in the Underworld.

The Soul

You have seven, according to Church Doctrine.

The first three are the lower souls.  They stay with the body when you die.  The last four souls are the upper souls.  They 

Identity is a more nebulous concept in Centerran culture than in our own.  Don't think about it too hard.

Mineral Soul

This soul stays with the corpse.  Its the deepest soul, and the oldest soul.  It's the type of soul that stones have.  It is the one you are talking to when you use speak with corpse.  It knows facts about material interactions ("A knife entered the ribs and blood filled the space where air once was.") and a few facts (“I am the corpse of King Amontep the Illuminated.  This body was born on the island of Mesos.”)

Vegetable Soul

Molecular biology doesn't work the way you think it does.  This soul is the second oldest and the second deepest.  It builds cells and tissues.  It formed you in the womb.  It knows a lot about your endocrine system.  It's what animates a zombie, if your body is ever a zombie.  

Animal Soul

Concerned with istinct, food, shelter.  Sex and violence.  Maybe a little bit of rock and roll, if its played loud and enough.  Elves lack this one.

Purple Soul (Memory)

If you lack this soul, you have total amnesia.  You are a stateless mind.

Red Soul (Personality) 

This is the soul's syntax.  Not so much what you say as much as how you say it.  It's the one that most people would most strongly associate with style and individuality.  Are you a good fuck?  That's something your red soul handles.

It is said that dwarves lack this one.  (They all fuck the same.)

White Soul (Goals)

This is your intellect and your goals.  Not so much the knowledge you have (that's purple soul), but the machinery that pumps that knowledge around.  It's also the part of the soul that wants

Blue Soul (Spirit)

This is the highest and most important of the souls, because this is what allows your connection with the divine and the magical.  This is the religious soul, the intuitive soul.

24 Illuminating Items of Interest

Weaponized Animals

Always a popular category.

1 - Ripper Eggs

Rippers are fierce little things.  A bit like gaudy red raptors (the lizard kind, not the feather kind) with a row of black spikes running down their spine.  They imprint very quickly when they hatch, and are exceptionally easy to train.

They are popular pets, due to their intense loyalty (starting morale = 20) but they are hyperaggressive.  Whenever they see something that is red, loud, or even vaguely threatening, their owner must succeed on a loyalty check to keep them from attacking.

They abhor being left alone.  Each time you leave your pet Ripper alone, it loses 4 points of loyalty, in addition to all the things that stress out a pet.

Just stat them up like little raptors/lizards.  They eat an incredible amount: about 1 days worth of food per HD.

2 - Throwing Snakes

HD 1.  Str 8.  Will try to strangle anything you throw them at.  A well-trained snake can can tie itself into very strong knots (useful as part of a self-releasing rope mechanism).  And the best snakes are capable of the "suicide knot", where the snake knots itself to death and creates an incredibly strong loop.

Popular among the people of the Fog Caverns in Outer Basharna.

3 - Acid Slug

Transported in glass vials.  Thrown from glass-bucketed slings.  As acid arrow.  Will also crawl inside locks and melt them.  Single use.

Can also be fed in order to grow them larger.  This is a bad idea, but I'm sure adventurers will do it anyway.

4 - Murder Urchins

When taken out of their oil-filled sacks, they die within 24 hours.  They grow 1' in diameter for every sentient creature killed within 1 km of them.  They eat corpses telekinetically.  When they're large enough, they eat people the old-fashioned way.

A scattering of these urchins in a city's streets during a battle will quickly fill the streets with rapidly growing urchins.

5 - Termite Swarm

A 1 oz vial holds 500 lbs of termites.  Will devour a cabin's worth of wood in 1 hour, and then disperse outwards to terrorize more distant climes.

6 - Giant Zombie Hand

A proper mount for necromancers. The wrist functions as a back rest.  The necromancers of Kel Dravonis also use them as scribes, for all those times you need your message clawed into the side of a castle.

7 - Horse Train

Just take a bunch of horses and sew them together into a caterpillar thing.  Zombie horses are notoriously stupid, and this way you only have to keep track of one of them.  Popular among vapor-maddened wizards.

8 - Proxy Mouse

If you breathe into this mouse's mouth, you exchange all wounds with it, up to a mouse's capacity to absorb damage, which ends up being about the same as a normal healing potion.

Magic Items

The eternal engine of our hobby.

1. Dawn Tent

Can only be used once.  Anything inside this silken tent when it is sealed is sent forward in time until the next dawn.  For someone inside the tent, it is as if dawn arrived suddenly.  Effect ends immediately if someone destroys the integrity of the tent.

2. Spinal Bow

Made by the bone-and-metal worshippers of the Ashen Archipelago from your own spine (which is then replaced with a piece of metal that was once part of a ship's mast).  Your spinal bow is a bow +1.  If you sleep with an animal spine beneath you, the spine will turn into an arrow +3 that is functional against the same species.  Usable 1/night, but the arrows it creates are permanent.

3. Black Sheep's Wool Cloak

Whenever you sleep in this cloak, you are safely entombed 4' beneath the ground.  This is true for both magical and non-magical sleep.  As soon as you wake up, you return safely to the surface of the ground.

4. Nostalgia Poison

Causes creatures to reminisce.  Once combat has died down, they are compelled to immediately return home and/or seek out a loved one they haven't seen in a while and/or seek out their grave.  As suggestion.  Intelligent creatures will take time to pack, inform people of their decision, but they will not be halted.

5. Crown of Chaos

All spell's cast within/into 100' of you have their targets randomized.  The crown is actually an especially lazy slaad.

6. White Lotus Powder

Kills the drinker, no save.  Exactly 13 hours later, they wake up at full health and without diseases (as long as their body hasn't been  mangled during that time).

Oddly enough, the powder is black, as are the flowers it is made from.  (It's just a play on black lotus powder, of course.)

7. Alternate Self Ring

When this ring is put on the finger, you are replaced with a version of yourself from an alternate dimension.  This effect is reversible, and ends as soon as the ring is removed.  The effect is consistent with each person--that is, each person who wears the ring will turn into the same alternate universe self each time.  If the ring turns you into a corpse (from a timeline where you are dead), you will always turn into that particular corpse when you put on the ring.  For someone else, the ring might switch their gender.

Whenever a new character tries on the ring, roll a d6 and a d4 together.  (You're probably going to ignore the d4 roll.)

1. Minor difference, such as a facial scar or a goatee.
2. Different gender.
3. Different class.  (Roll randomly.)
4. Inverted stats.  (18s become 3s.)
5. Corpse.
6. Actually an evil twin that will reveal themselves only at the worst possible time (basically turning into an NPC at that point, but let the player play them as normal until then, and don't even tell them).  Roll a d4 to see what alternate version they seem to be.

Alternate selves, although basically the same character under the control of the same player, still notice things that are different from their home timeline.  As in: "Whoa, the sky is blue here!  Weird!"

8. Demon Blood

You get +1 Attack and deal +1 Damage each turn.  This stacks.  Make a Con check at the start of each round.  After you fail two checks, or after 6 rounds (whichever comes first), you are paralyzed as all of your muscles attempt to clench at the same time.

9. Shacklebolt

Struck targets take nonlethal damage from this arrow and must then make a Str check or be wrapped in a full set of manacles.  Only binds 4 limbs.

10. Choodoo Doll

Perfectly imitates the actions of the person whose lock of hair is affixed to it.  Mostly used to spy on people, since you can see what actions the person is performing at any given time.  If you build a model of their house, you can see what part of the house they are in at any given time.  If you give them a miniature pencil, you can see what they are writing as they write it.

11. Mountain Maker

Looks like a propeller attached to a chain.  When bolted to the ground, will immediately fly up, pulling the ground with it and creating a hill.  The resultant hill is 10' tall for every maker used, and 40' wide for every maker used.  Chance of toppling a castle, if used adjacent to a castle = X in 20, where X is the number of makers used.

12. Blood of Luroc

If poured on the ground of a building, will cause it to grow 1d3-1 hallways and 1d6 new rooms, riddling the structure like a cancer.  Will spread outwards from your current location, distorting the position of current rooms) until it reaches an outer area where it can grow rooms there.  Each room has a 50% chance of containing a creature (equal chance NPC or monster), 50% chance of containing a treasure, and a 2-in-6 chance of containing a trap.  These creatures are drawn from the Halls of Luroc (a living, moving, sentient dungeon that is obsessed with collecting history, as recorded by architecture.  Expect mad librarians, living gates, and collections of keystones, keys, and/or bricks that hold thumbprints).

13. Skeevu Stingers

Heal you similar to a healing potion, but your HP total decreases by 2 points each time.

14. Sacred Cake

Heals you like a healing potion, but it makes you fat.  Fat takes up inventory slots, the same as items do, and you can't just throw it away.  Every 2 weeks of adventuring will remove 1 inventory slot's worth of fat.  This can be accelerated if you are starving in a desert, or halted if you are feasting in a city.

15. Stoneweaver's Needles

Basically allows you to cast a version of the stone shape spell, except it's much more dramatic--you're drawing out strings of stone from the earth and weaving them into shapes.  It's actually a version of a crochet needle.  You can control the hard and soft parts of your stoneweave, so you aren't limited to only shapes that you could knit.

24. Blood Pillow

When this small hand pillow is drenched in a creature's blood and then wrung out, the blood will begin flowing in the direction of that creature's home.  If the creature knew the way to get back home, so will the blood.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Paladins of the Blue Kite

There are 77 orthodox orders of paladins in the Hesayan Church.  They include:
  • The Sons of Saint Arquette, who use cannibalism to fuel their gigantism.
  • The Order of the Moth, devotees of Saint Caldi, who each swear to spend 50 years fighting the undead.  Those who die in service are raised as undead to continue their duty.
  • The Order of the Red and Blue Rose, who are wrestlers and swordbreakers.

There are at least 3 heretic orders that are in hiding.  They include:
  • The Winged Legion, who followed the Simurgh after her divorce from Zulin and subsequent excommunication.
  • The Order of the Shepherd's Crook, who seek to bring the kingdom of Hell to earth.  Not literally, but they do want to use enslaved devils to police the world.  (Officially, they are condemned by the paladins of hell and have no affiliation.  They're just fans.)

And although the Celestialist Hesayans of the north do not have paladins, they have schools of swordsmanship that often serve the same function.

Anyway, this post is about one of the orthodox orders.

The Order of the Blue Kite

They're also known (somewhat mockingly) as "those naked paladins".  This is a little misleading.

Zulin's divine divorce caused quite a few shockwaves throughout the Church.  One of the secondary or tertiary effects was the relaxation of quite a few nuptial laws.  These were mostly sensible, good things.  Farmers no longer had to have their horses married before siring a foal, for example.

In this new marital climate, one vocal personage was the North Wind.  He had many lovers, and sought to make his trysts honest and open.  After a long period of debate, this was granted to him, and in less than a year, he had taken his first three wives.

Although the North Wind, the Windwives, and the House of Miraculous Windmills originally set itself up to be a religious power center similar to Concrayda, but it eventually failed at this task.  After being marginalized for half a century, the Blue Kites reinvented themselves as a martial order.

The first set of Windwives (now retiring into old age and death) were soft things, full of poetry and expensive wine.  But in the decades that passed, the North Wind's amorous tastes changed.  His newest brides are all warrior women and lawyers.  The formation of a paladin order was inevitable.

His newest bride is a man: Thornis Oglafar, possessor of a magnificent mustache, dyed a magnificent blue.

There are many members in the Order of the Blue Kite.  The Windwives are merely the ones that tend to occupy most of the high positions (but not all of them).

Can a starting PC play a Windwife?  I don't see why not.  Perhaps a Windwife just starting out, or one who has fallen from favor for some reason.  Have fun DMing the inevitable sex scene when hubby visits.

Crusades of the Blue Kite

There are two:
  • To catch the rebellious South Wind and either bring it among Hesaya's faithful, or kill it.
  • To protect the sanctity of marriage.  There's a lot of debate about what this actually means, though.  The North Wind has a fairly lax interpretation of marriage, but he isn't in charge of the Blue Feather.  His wives are--and their opinions are as varied as the clouds. 
And so the paladins sometimes work with things like domestic abuse, reconcile estranged spouses, and investigate claims of infidelity.  I mean, they fight dragons, too, but dragons aren't one of the official crusades, so. . .

like this, except with swords instead of brooms
and also they're the good guys and you can play one
by Luis Falero
Class Abilities

Originally, I was going to put them all in a little level progression for you.  But fuck that--there's too many systems, and too many scales of power level.  I'm just going to list them all here, and you can assemble them however you want.

Okay, fine.  I'll type something up, just so people can refer to it if they want to a FLAILSNAILS game I'm running or something.

Level 1 - Wind Squire, Speak with Wind, Gust of Wind (1x per day per level), Armor of Wind
Level 2 - Throw Arrow, Immunity to Wind
Level 3 - Negotiate Windstorm, Lightened Body
Level 4 - Flight, +1 Attack

Wind Squire

You travel with a squire wind.  It mostly hangs on you, messing with your hair and making sure that no one ever smells your farts.

Speak with Wind

Each day brings a new wind.  At a minimum, this functions similar to gathering rumors.  You should also roll a d10 to see what direction the wind is blowing from, since the wind will bring news from that direction as well (and not only the stuff that is visible from the sky).

You can talk to your squire, of course.

Gust of Wind

As the spell, gust of wind.  You'll get a lot of castings of this.

1 - North
2 - East
3 - South
4 - West
5-10 - The predominant wind direction in the area.

<sidebar>I actually have an old map of Centerra with all of the prevailing winds drawn on it.  I used it to figure out which side of the mountain range got all the rain, and which direction the trade winds blew the caravels.  I was much more interested in simulating a realistic world then.  Nowadays, it seems like useless fussing--pointless unless you want to publish a gazetteer.</sidebar>

Armor of Wind

This is the reason why so many of the Blue Kites walk around naked.  Those who have always trusted the wind will be protected by the wind.  This benefit is lost as soon as the trust is betrayed: i.e. the paladin willingly wears conventional armor at any point after they take the oaths.

Make your own level chart, but here's an example:
  • Level 1, AC 11, AC 13 vs small projectiles (arrows or smaller)
  • Level 2, AC 12, AC 14 vs small projectiles
  • Level 3, AC 13, AC 15 vs small projectiles
  • Level 4, AC 14, AC 16 vs small projectiles
  • Level 5, AC 15, AC 17 vs small projectiles
  • Level 6+, AC 16, AC 18 vs small projectiles.
A sacrifice now for a payoff later.  And not all of them are naked.  Many wear simple robes.  And others just wear armor like a normal person.

This ability is useless against really big things.  At a minimum: a boulder hurled by a giant, a dragon's claws.

Throw Arrow

You don't need a bow to fire an arrow.  Your squire accelerates it for you.

At high level, you can use this to fire around corners, as long as your squire can see the target.

Immunity to Wind

Lame now, but useful later on when you can summon a windstorm.

Negotiate Windstorm

You will need to negotiate with a local wind in order to do this.  Probably a wind duke, actually, since most minor winds don't have the ability to call in a windstorm.  (Military actions are regulated among the winds, just as they are among us.)

Windstorms are environmental, usually last for at least an afternoon, and only work outdoors.  Arrows are impossible.  Speech is difficult.  Shoving people is very easy (+4), and everyone gets -4 to attacking and defending (which usually cancels itself out).  Flight is impossible.  Shoddy buildings will be torn apart.  

Expect pissed off treants to show up the next day, cradling broken limbs.  They usually wish to repay one broken arm with another.

Lightened Body

By controlling their breath, a Blue Kite Paladin can make their body much lighter. This lets them walk across water and stand on tree branches that are normally too small to support them.  This doesn't let you jump any further, since the lowered mass also means that you have less momentum.

It also makes you immune to fall damage.  Fun!


It's not quite the same as the fly spell.  It's more like being picked up by a huge wind and carried through the sky in a horrifying vortex of deafening winds.  Expect bruises from your clothing as it flaps around (unless your clothing is tied down tight).  It's like skydiving, while the wind teases you and tries to crack jokes.

You can bring your friends with you, of course.

Not coincidentally, skydiving is a popular past time among the Blue Kites.  

You can fly large distances (miles) but not small ones.  Small hops of less than half a mile are out of the question.  And you will take 1d6 fall damage when you land, unless you can find a decent spot of water to land in.  (By default, 50% chance that your Wind can find one in time.)

Many Blue Kites wear an enormous silk scarf tied up around their waist.  Enormous, as in 30' long.  You might think that it's a swordswoman wrapped up in a weird, bulky burka, but then the wind unfurls it and BAM it's this huge scarf tied around their waist, shaking like the arms of God.  

The giant scarf makes sense: it means that the Wind will pull you through the air by your center of mass (your waist/ass) and not by the part of your body that has the greatest wind cross-section.  This prevents you from spinning uncontrollably as you fly through the air (a common blunder among first-time flyers).

This is their love token.  It's given to them by the North Wind as a sign of his favor.  And it serves a function: it allows you to make an attack for double damage upon landing.

Blue Kite strike teams usually blow in the window, and open up with an attack like that.

This also requires talking to a powerful local wind, and negotiating the cost.  What does the Wind want?  See below.

Other Stuff

Swords of the North Wind

If the love token scarves were a sign of approval, then a sword is a full-fledged admission of love.  If you aren't already a Windwife, you will probably be one soon.

These are +1 swords given out by the North Wind only after some seriously big favor has been earned.  They can be used to attack anything within 50', since they "throw" their slashes through the air.

Every Paladin of the Blue Kite aspires to own one.  The magic of the blade is dwarfed by the immense prestige it confers.

The House of Miraculous Windmills

This is your home base.  It's a cross between a church and a mansion, and it is covered with short towers that are themselves covered with windmills, large and small.

The house uses minor Winds as servants.  But since Winds have a hard time clearing the table after dinner, they mostly just turn the windmills and sing mariner's work songs all the damn day.  Expect a high level of automation within the house.  Crudely automated dishwashers, that sort of thing.

Nabba Sunbeam runs the house.  She's 55, a Windwife, and an inventor.

The most interesting room is the Flight Room, stocked with skydiver's wingsuits and with several ways to take to the sky.

Generating a Wind NPC

Roll up starting attitude and personality normally.  You may want to use this altered goals table, though.

This Wind NPC wants. . . [d6]
  1. To punish a particular piece of the earth, which has offended it.  Please roll this impudent boulder into the ocean, explain the Wind's displeasure, and sink it someplace cold and lonely.
  2. A wife, like the North Wind.  Not only does this mean finding a willing bride, but it also means convincing the Church to perform the ceremony.
  3. Less smoke.  Get these people--those ones over there--to stop burning fires.  I don't care how you do it.
  4. To go on an adventure.  Take me with you!  Expect to have a very difficult time lightning a campfire, having a quiet meeting in the library, and having all of your arrows miss.  Remember that Winds can't go underground or in confined spaces.  (Or more accurately, they can, they just risk dying if someone shuts a door and traps them in a space too small for them to circulate.)
  5. To kill some noxious creature.  Perhaps a monster that controls wind, a wizard that captures wind, a roc, or a sky whale.
  6. A vacation!  You'll have to do the wind's job for it.  Turning the windmill, spreading seeds, drying laundry.  Expect bewildered villagers and hilarious complications.  The Wind will probably bring you a souvenir from wherever the fuck it goes.  Probably something stupid, like 800 pounds of snow.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Sky Executions

Shitty Fiction

They had found his victims tied to stones at the bottom of the pond.  And so, for irony’s sake, they tied him up as tight as they could.  The coarse twine made red valleys of his flesh, crisscrossing his limbs like rings on an aspen, and it was still not tight enough.

The wind was picking up.  Even with all the dried blood weighing it down, the murderer’s hair was a tempest.  It thrashed in the gale as if striving to escape his head.

One by one, the people came up.  Each carried a kite, each string taught in the wind.

While the paladin took the kite and affixed it the condemned, the person recited their condemnation.  Their tears dried in the wind.

By the time they were done, the crucifix was covered in over a hundred kites, straining at their leashes like sled dogs.  The wood groaned; the murderer was silent.  He was watching the sky.

And then the crowd marched down the hill, the paladin following.  The condemned was alone on the hilltop with the priest.

A few words were exchanged.  No one heard them, not with the wind roaring like an angry sea.  No one read their lips, not with their eyes squinting against the stinging dust. 

And then the priest raised his arms.  The wind cracked like thunder.  The trees bowed their heads.  The crowd knelt, or fell.  On top of the hill, they could see the unruffled priest, untouched by the hurricane.

And the crucifix, it was gone.  Like a stone fired from a sling, they watched it arc out over the patchwork of pasture and farm, bleeding torn kites all the way down.  When it landed in the Sinner’s Field, they could see splintered wood tossed out from the dust of the impact.

The paladin wasn’t watching.  He was calming his horse down.  In a couple of minutes, he would ride down to the Sinner’s Field, confirm the execution, and ensure that nothing was buried where the vultures couldn’t find it.

It didn't take long, but by the time the paladin got returned, most of the crowd had drifted away, scattered like clouds in the wind.

If No Priest Is Available

In that case, the condemned is merely thrown off a cliff.  It is considered more respectable to walk off the cliff yourself, and those that request it are allowed to do so.

If no sufficiently high cliff is available, it's a journey to the nearest one.

Weaponizing the Wind

What kind of spells do you think high-level wind clerics have access to?

In the War Against Heaven, Emperor Tamerian's entire army was picked up and hurled, like chess pieces swept off a board.  They found dead soldiers up to four miles away.

Of course, the Nivian elephants and horses were too large to be thrown, so the wind merely rolled and dragged them for about half a mile.  Scavengers reported that their meat was quite tender, being well pulped by all the pounding and abrasion.

Emperor Tamerian's body was found on what is now called the Emperor's Hill, pierced by over a hundred swords that had been stripped from his honor guard and thrown in the tempest.  

While the emperor's corpse was removed, the swords remain.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Cave of the Druid

This is a mini-dungeon.  Plop it down wherever there is a forest.

Why is the Party Going Here?

  1. They could always stumble across it, in true Vancian fashion.
  2. They might want a question answered, or a favor returned.
  3. They might be seeking revenge against the high druid, or looking to take hostages to use as bargaining chips against him.
  4. Hell, maybe they want someone resurrected via wolf.

The Approach

The forest around the thicket is full of Irritable Trees.  The party will encounter 1d6 of them on the way there, or 1d4 if they avoid the most obvious path.

If the party is belligerent (loud, carrying fire, visible axes, threatening the forest, attacking trees) they will be attacked by an additional 1d4 Hateful Trees and 1 HD 8 Treant.  The party will not be attacked if they show deference to the trees (e.g. avoiding their roots, addressing the trees with terms of respect, asking permission, leaving axes behind) they'll get attacked by one less tree for each action taken.

Irritable Tree

HD 8  AC none  No Attacks
Move 0  Int 8  Morale 12

Drop Branch - Take 1d12 damage if you fail a Movement check.  Usable 1/day.

Irritable trees will drop their branch on the first person in the group (50%) or a random person in the group (50%).

Irritable trees sleep at night.  Duh.

Being aggressive towards the forest is a very terrible idea.  It's a bit like attacking a city, while you are in the middle of the city and vastly outnumbered.

The average tree strongly dislikes humans (-4 to reaction rolls).  Humans are things with the metal bites and the domesticated fire.

Trees are slow things, with thoughts that flow like thick sap.  To them, humans are as fast and as ephemeral as gnats.  Fire moves as fast as an explosion.  Chopping down a tree happens as fast as they can react, and is an act of sudden, unexpected horror, more similar to being struck by lightning than an act of premeditated malice.

With the egocentrism common to pretty much all sentient species, the subject of human sentience is the subject of both ridicule and speculation among trees.

the Cave of the Evil Spirit, Niagara Falls

The Cave Mouth

A bloodstained menhir.  Biting flies cause pain but no damage.  Parties would be forgiven for thinking that the real danger is a fly swarm.  The flies attack anyone who is not sufficiently dirty; if the players have been living rough for at least a week, they may pass the flies unmolested.

The guardian of the cave mouth is a Hateful Tree.  It doesn't let anyone into the save except those that it recognizes, and the only people it recognizes are the High Druid and his family.

Off to the right is a refuse pile (mostly plant waste and feces).  The party can hear a stream a few hundred feet off to the right.

Animals avoid this place unless they are here to petition the druid for some favor.  Roll a d4 to see if an animal is waiting a respectable distance away:

1  No animals are waiting here.
2 A wolf is here.  She wants to forget all memories of her dead mate.  They are too painful.
3 A fat chickadee desires that his romantic rival be devoured by a hawk.  He is willing to offer lifelong servitude, so great is his hate.
4 An opossum.  She has lost her baby.  She offers her flesh for his safety.

If the party waits, the second or third wife will emerge from the cave to perform some chore (foraging, drinking water, examining petitioners) after 1d6 turns (10-60 minutes).

The First Chamber

This is where the high druid lives with his three wives, eight year old son, and two babies.  The babies are non-combatants, and the remaining ones are level 1 fighters except for the first wife.

Eight-Year Old Son  HD 1  AC none  Handaxe  1d6

Third Wife  HD 1  AC none  Grapple  She "wears" 4 vipers (poison 1d6) around her neck, wrists, and the breast that her baby isn't currently suckling on.  She's young.

Second Wife  HD 1  AC none  Antler Sword 1d6  Casts entangle 1/day.

First Wife is an actual grizzly bear.  She sleeps a lot and will only be roused by someone shaking her awake (probably the eight-year old).  HD 5.

The high druid isn't here.  (He's decided that the village of Quarterway needs to be brought back to nature in a swift and brutal manner.)

The second wife speaks Common, albeit reluctantly and with obvious shame.  She has some family in Quarterway.  They're all assholes, which is why she ran away those 10 years ago.

The third wife has never known anything but the woods.  She reacts to language and metal with horror.  She reacts to money and manners with deep belly-laughter.

Everyone is naked, in case that wasn't obvious.

The Second Wife can function as a sage.  She can identify things, describe the area, etc.  She doesn't accept money or anything that isn't a natural product.  Bread is an abomination, but milled grain might be okay for porridge.  A fresh-killed boar would be a very welcome gift.

What they want:

  • Fresh boar, obviously.
  • The 20+ dog heads, harvested from Oakengate, a day's ride to the west.  Fuck dogs.
  • Kill the giant crayfish down in the stream.  (Plot twist: there are actually 2 giant crayfish down there.)
  • A living cleric of any religion.  They won't tell you why.  (Grandmother wants to eat a cleric's heart.  She thinks it will improve her visions.  She's correct.)
Inside the cave is just three piles of animal furs and a shallow depression that collects water.

If they hear combat outside (such as someone trying to chop down the hateful tree), they'll come out.

There are two more chambers deeper in this cave: one to the left and one to the right.

The Left Cave

A carpet of bones.

A deep pit, filled with toads and crickets (lured to this place by impulses they cannot understand or hope to overcome).

Grandmother squats on a rock, mumbling to the mosquitoes that perch on her hears, trading blood for news of distant places.  She holds a despondent toad.  Occasionally she'll raise it to her mouth an lick it.

She will not leave this cavern for anything, but she will almost certainly notice anyone entering.  She'll be watching for anyone coming into her cavern.

She will not respond to anyone except to growl at anyone she doesn't recognize.  Despite her appearance, she's not insane, just very grumpy.  She's also tripping pretty hard right now.

Behind her heel is a Phung pod, a very rare type of fruit that must be infected by a very rare fungus at a certain stage in its development.

If combat breaks out, if she is threatened, or if anyone walks into the room, she'll throw her Phung pod at them.  She's immune to the Phung pod's effects.

She has a second Phung pod, hidden in a hollow beneath her rock.

Phung Pod

Upon being crushed, releases a thin cloud of spores 50' in diameter.  This cloud causes paralysis (no save).  On each subsequent turn, a creature may make a Con check to regain the use of one limb, determined randomly.  If a non-paralyzed limb is rolled, do not reroll--you don't regain the use of any limbs that round.

Make a Con check at the start of your turn.  If you succeed, roll a d6:
  1. Left leg.
  2. Right leg.
  3. Left arm.
  4. Right arm.
  5. Head (but not voice).
  6. Voice.
Grandmother is a level 1 fighter.  Her strategy is to run around as fast as she can, coup-de-gracing people by clubbing their temples with a rock or just biting out their jugular.  Either way, it's a Con vs Death, with success upgrading your condition to Dying.

Licking a Toad [d6]

  1. Nausea
  2. Vomiting 1d6 hours.
  3. Unconsciousness 1d6 hours.
  4. Hallucinations 1d6 hours.
  5. Wizard Vision 1d6 hours.
  6. Extremely useful precognition of future events.  Permanently lose 1 point of Wis.

The Right Cave

The passage goes on for about 10 feet, then dead ends with a short upslope.  The dirt is loose back here, and a couple of red ferns grow on the walls.  

Anyone digging out more than a couple of inches will reveal a crawl space.  The tunnel continues; it was just hidden by a minor amount of loose dirt.

The tunnel continues for another 50'.  The air grows warm and wet.  The walls become blanketed in those same red ferns.

Finally, the tunnel opens up into a circular cavern.  A pool sits at the center, surrounded by enormous red ferns and fed by a single drip from the ceiling.

At the bottom of the pool is the Origin of Species, clearly visible through the glass-like water.

The Origin of Species

Huge and translucent and full of unrecognizable organelles.  The Origin of Species looks like an enormous egg cell.  The Origin of Species is an enormous egg cell.

Any living creature that touches it with their bare flesh is sucked in (no save).  Inside the egg cell, their flesh is pulled apart, their bones melted, and their brain rendered down into its component parts.  The egg rapidly begins to divide and grow.  Doubling in mass, quadrupling.  A symphony of organogenesis.  It is rapidly filling the cave.  Anyone who touches it at this point is also sucked in.

The Origin of Species will never suck in more than a total of two animals.  (If the first person who was sucked was carrying beef jerky or something, that will count as the second animal, and it will cease sucking in additional creatures.  If they are carrying multiple traces of DNA, use whichever sample is larger.  If a second animal doesn't touch it, assume that it sucks in a random cave organism [d4]: mushroom, cricket, salamander, mole.)

If a PC is sucked in, ask them about their character's personality.  Goals.  Habits.  Mannerisms.  Genetic defects.  Et cetera.  It'll be important.

The Origin of Species then rapidly gives birth to 2d6 x 10 creatures of a brand new species.  They'll be a mixture of whatever two species were used to initialize the egg.  This is the birth of a new species.  Revel in it, and extrapolate as much as possible.

For example, if the elf was sucked in while carrying a few strips of jerky and nagahide armor.  Since the armor is larger than the jerky, the Origin of Species produces a race of elf nagas.  

Take this as far as you can.  If the elf PC used to laugh at fart jokes, then the elf naga race will probably develop a culture where fart jokes occupy an intimate and essential social function.  Marriages will be official when the bride and the groom fart in unison.  That sort of shit.

If the elf knew the grease spell, then all of the elf nagas will probably all know it innately.

The brand new race will be friendly to the party if the assimilated person was friendly to the party.

God help them if they throw in something weird, like the corpse of the death knight who hated them and wears dragonscale armor.

But, assuming it was a PC that died, let the player recruit a new character from the freshly-spawned race.  The new race is probably going to have a major impact on the local environment, and the PCs are in a prime position to leverage that chaos to their own advantage.

Make it awesome.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mechanics Discussion: Luck Points and Skills (again)

Luck Points

I'm thinking about revamping how I do HP for my homebrew: the GLOG.  Here's what I'm thinking:

Level 1: HP = 1/3 of Con.
Level 2: HP = 2/3 of Con.
Level 3+: HP = Con.

And that's it.  It never goes up.  (It's still modified by class, of course.  Barbarians are still going to have a boatload of HP.)

And then after you reach level 4, you start accumulating Luck Points.

Level 4: 1 Luck Point
Level 5: 2 Luck Points
Level 6: 3 Luck Points
Et cetera.

Luck points can be spent to influence a roll by +/- 1 point, after it has been rolled.  This works on both damage rolls and d20 rolls.  This only works on rolls involving you.

You recover lost luck points when you get a good night's sleep or eat a good lunch (1/day).


This is interesting because Luck Points are--at a minimum--an HP increase.  Since you can reduce incoming damage by spending Luck Points, a character with 10 HP and 10 Luck Points can survive taking 19 damage from a dragon's breath.

Except that they're much, much more versatile than that, and actually much more powerful than a mere +1 HP would be.

You can spend them to make your enemies miss (as long as they barely hit), and you can spend them to turn your near-misses into hits.  You can spend them to make your Save vs Death.

And because you can always spend them, they become this little option attached to every die roll that you fail by a couple of points.  "Do I want to spend my 2 luck points to dodge this orc's axe?  Or should I save them for later?"

And because you spend them after the roll, and because nearly all rolls in the GLOG are d20 roll-unders, there's no more dice to roll or tables to consult.  Just the question of "Do I want to spend my precious Luck Points here?"

And like HP, every class benefits from them.  They're like the American dollar.  Like HP, they're a reservoir that the DM must whittle down before killing a PC, but it's such an interesting little reservoir of potential.

That's good, since classes stop getting class abilities after level 3.  This injects a powerful little ability into every character that they'll all benefit from.

And yet I tend to hate hero/action points.  Go figure.

by Jakob Eirich
Skills (v4)

Alright, I've done skills a million times because I'm never happy with them.  Fuck 'em.  Here's my newest draft and it's perfect in every way, and I'm sure I'll never hurl it from the cliffside where it will dash its brains out alongside it's brothers below.


There is no strict list of skills.  You can pick anything you want as long as it's not a social skill (no Persuade), a Perception skill (no Search/Sense Motive), or overly broad (no Magic).  Likewise, the uses of each skill must be interpreted by the DM.

You start with 2 skills: one random one from your background and one random one from your profession. (Or just two random ones.)  You gain these skills at a skill score of 6.

Like everything else in this damn game, you test your skill by rolling a d20 and trying to get equal-or-under to succeed.

At the end of each session, you can attempt to improve a single skill by rolling a d20 under your Intelligence.  If you succeed, the skill score improves by 2 (up to 10) or 1 (when attempting to pass 10).  You cannot raise a skill higher than 10+Level, to a  maximum of 16.

You can gain a new skill the same way.  Mention a thing you did this session "I tried to sail a boat and failed, but I think I might have learned from my experience", and make an Int check.  If you succeed, you gain that skill at a skill score of 2.

If you succeed by 10 points (e.g. rolling a 2 when you had a skill score of 12) it is a critical success and you can apply an adverb to your attempt, such as "instantly" or "reversibly" or "stealthily".

Skills are used to achieve things beyond the ken of a standard adventurer.  Adventurers are already capable climbers, swimmers, jumpers, and combatants.  (For example, Indiana Jones is just an base adventurer with skill in Archaelogy, nothing else.)


This isn't very different from my previous skill systems.  It's very easy to explain, which I like.  And there's no tracking

I've been playtesting this for a little while, and I like the little Int tests at the end of each session.

While I'm calculating XP, the players are all rolling to see if they can improve a skill.  This is good because (a) it gets them talking about what they did during the session, (b) it keeps them out of my hair, (c) it rewards higher Int characters by letting them learn skills faster, but not to a higher degree than low-Int characters, and (d) the only skills that improve are the ones that the players actually use in each session.

If you want to be a master linguist, you need to spend some time wrestling with merfolk morphemes.

The Hand of Dominion

I wrote an adventure.

I'm not going to playtest it, or edit it into infinity.  Whenever I do those things, I end up never posting it.


I'm just going to post it.


It's a linear 7-room dungeon magic sword in the last room.  Whoever has the sword is the rightful ruler of the world (supposedly).  But more immediately, everyone who sees the sword wants to (a) claim it, or (b) serve the wielder, if the first option isn't possible.

Of course, that means that the real adventure starts when you leave the dungeon.

I'm honestly super curious about how different parties will react to getting the sword.

Funfact: most of this dungeon is pacifistic.  It will try hard not to kill you.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Active Defense

Normally, D&D is played with active attacks and passive defenses.

The attacker rolls, compares to the target's AC, and then determines if he hits or not.

Alternatively, there's the "players roll all the dice", which I like for defending because:
  • Players feel like they have more agency.
  • It frees up hands and time for the DM.
But active defense is still less fun than attacking.  When you're attacking, you're deciding who you want to attack, how you want to attack them, coordinating with your allies, etc.  Fun.  While active defense still feels very reactive.  

"The ogre tries to split you like a log.  Roll Defense minus 4."

Better than the DM rolling for the ogre and telling you that you're dead, but still just just calculations.

Ideally, you'd want to bring some decision-making into the act of defending* so that it becomes about making interesting choices instead of pulling a lever on a slot machine to see how much damage you take.

<digression>*This is actually debatable.  Do players want to have to make decisions about how to defend from five goblin spears?  Or do they just want to get to their turn quickly so they can open the cage to the dire moles and see how that pans out?  To put it another way, can we make defensive decisions interesting?</digression>

I have one other design criterion: I want the new mechanics to be completely compatible with preexisting OSR systems.

Dodging and Blocking

So here's what I got.  You have two ways to defend:  Dodging and Blocking.

Dodging works exactly the way that AC does.

Armor and Dexterity improve your Dodge; and when you dodge successfully, you take no damage.

When you block, you move into the blow and try to absorb it via your armor/shield.  You take damage from the attack, but you reduce that damage by 1 if you're wearing heavy armor, and you reduce it by another 1 if you are using a shield.

Leather Armor: +2 Dodge
Chain Armor: +4 Dodge, +1 Block 
Plate Armor: +6 Dodge, +2 Block
Shield: +1 Dodge, +1 Block

When an enemy attacks you, you can choose whether to dodge or block.

The Math

I made a spreadsheet; It's actually pretty complicated.

Blocking reduces damage equally regardless of the opponent's attack bonus.  It's just a flat reduction.  Therefor, blocking becomes useful in two situations: against enemies that 1d6 damage, and against enemies that have very high bonuses to hit, who are probably going to hit you anyway.

<digression>I think I'm going to cap the attack bonuses for the GLOG at +10 for this reason, among others.</digression>

Blocking also does another very important thing: it removes the chance that you might get critted.

Since you're reducing the spread of potential damage, you're effectively buying insurance.  You're removing the chance that you'll take maximum damage by removing the chance that you'll take no damage.

(Which makes sense fictionally, too.  Crits happen when you're trying to get fancy, jumping around all nimbly-bimbly, and you slip in the mud and take bit hit to the face.  Whereas blocking, you're just hunkering down and taking the hit on your shoulder.)

If you know you only have to survive on attack from a goblin with a 1d6 sword, and you've got 6 HP, you can play it safe by blocking instead of dodging and risking that 6 damage hit (or a crit).

You also don't want to block if you're at 1 HP.  (Makes sense fictionally: you're an inch from death, too tired to raise your shield, just trying to stagger out of the way.)

HOWEVER, if you do the math, blocking usually sucks.  By the time you have a high blocking value (platemail + shield) you usually already have a high enough AC that blocking is inferior to just defending as normal.  Still, I think the choice is interesting.  (Other people may not.)  So blocking is highly situational; dodging is the better choice nearly all the time.

Can Monsters Block?

No.  Keep it simple, keep it fast.  To do so would go against the design goals.

Metal vs Wood Shields

If you wanted to differentiate the two, you could have:
  • Metal Shield: +1 Defense, +1 Block
  • Wooden Shield: +1 Defense, can be sundered to reduce incoming damage by 1d12.

If you wanted to have a third option, you could have a Parry option, in addition to Dodge and Block.  You'd roll your attack bonus to defend instead of your armor bonus.

Except I don't want level 5 fighters running around naked, getting better defense from their daggers than they would from full plate, so maybe a condition is needed?

You can only parry when you are wielding a weapon and defending against a weapon, wielded by a human- or halfling-sized opponent.


So I just re-read all of stuff I just wrote and I hate all of it.  Normally, I'd delete the draft and go watch Star Trek, but I'm going to leave the post here because it's a good discussion.

I can explain.

Back when I played 3.5, I had a Power Attack calculator.  Based on the opponent's AC, and my average damage, how many points should I sacrifice for power attack?

I had fun doing that, because I felt clever, but now that's exactly the sort of gameplay that bores me.  It's math, instead of interesting choices.  If you know the numbers, it stops being a challenge and becomes a known solution.

So, although I just wrote them, I dislike the Dodge, Block, Parry mechanics because they're a known solution once the math is figured out.

And it's a boring problem because the two goals are directly comparable.  You're trying to choose the best way to minimize a single variable: the average damage.  Or in the Power Attack example: you're trying to maximize damage.

Fun choices come from choosing between to incomparables.  Like, should I attack with my sword (1d6 damage) or throw a molotov (2d6 damage, but is a single-use resource).  You can't boil that down to a single factor since you don't know how much you're going to need that molotov in the future.

The rule for sundering shields is potentially interesting, because you don't know if you're going to need that shield in the future.

Sundering #1: You can choose to negate all damage from an attack by breaking your shield.

Except that rule isn't that interesting.  In practice, people will keep the shield around, then break it in order to keep themselves from dying, and not a moment before.

Sundering #2: If you have a shield, you can choose to block with it instead of attempting to dodge.  Damage is reduced by 1d6, but if the base damage is 6 or more, the shield breaks.

That's more interesting.  Reminds me of the usage die, a little bit.  And it leads to some useful questions.

A bunch of goblins are attacking you.  Do you want to block the goblins with your shield?  It's numerically advantageous (in terms of minimizing average damage), but you run the risk of your shield breaking, when you might need it more later.

That's my final conclusion, then.  Block/Dodge/Parry is boring because it's a solved equation (that favors the spreadsheet-equipped munchkin) while Sundering Rule #2 is actually pretty interesting.

Need to playtest it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Covenant Trees and the Stylites

The Covenant of Lightning

There once was a great empire named Niv which conquered the entire world and then conspired to invade Heaven.  (This was the Crusade of Worms.)  In the city of Armis they built the first tower, in order to reach Heaven.

For their arrogance, Zulin destroyed Armis with lightning bolts.

<sidebar>Niv would eventually be successful in their attempt to invade Heaven.  Although the Nivians were quickly driven out, the intrusion caused Zulin to move Heaven from the Lower Clouds into the Upper Air, where it was more distant and harder to see (as opposed to the golden domes that could formerly be glimpsed among the clouds).  Since Heaven withdrew, it has been more difficult for people to reach it, requiring more good deeds.</sidebar>

Such was the devastation of Armis that even the faithful were horrified.  Zulin came before them, contrite, and promised that he would never again use lightning to destroy indiscriminately.  (Lightning bolts would continue to be used as the preferred method of slaying apostates.)

To symbolize this covenant with the people of Centerra, and to serve as a reminder of his wrath, Zulin created the Covenant Trees.

It is said that the covenant exists as long as the trees do; when the last covenant tree is felled, Zulin is no longer bound by his promise not to destroy cities with lightning.

Covenant Trees

Most beasts are made from flesh, and most plants are made from wood.  This is common elemental knowledge.

Yet covenant trees, being partially divine in origin, defy this simple dichotomy.  They are composed of both metal and wood.

Covenant trees grow when a lightning bolt strikes a covenant tree seed that is in an area rich which copper.  The seed pulls the copper out of the ground and uses it to grow the tree to it's adult height.  All of this happens in the time it takes a lightning bolt to fully discharge.

Covenant trees are always shaped like the lightning bolt that formed them.  They grow along the lightning the way ivy grows up a trellis.

Because covenant trees function as lightning rods, they usually prevent the growth of any other covenant tree nearby, so most of them are only ever found as solitary trees.  They grow alone, on storm-tossed mountain tops, only occasionally releasing their tiny, winged seeds.

Fangolians farm covenant trees in order to extract copper from the earth, since the purest copper comes from covenant trees.  It is the source of all their copper weapons and armor.  This is why they are all blasphemers who must be destroyed.

In fact, you can make a quick arrowhead simply by folding a covenant leaf a few times.

Lightning trees glow a dull orange before a storm.  It's invisible during the day, but can be quite dramatic at night.

Holy Copper Amulet

These amulets are made from covenant seeds.  The next time you take electrical damage, you instead take no damage and teleport to the source of the damage.

Hesayan Stylites

They are also called Skygazers.

These are Hesayan asthetics who have dedicated themselves to the contemplation of, and communion with, the sky.  They have pledged themselves to live out the rest of their lives on top of a small platform high off the ground.

In some places they live on top of a tall pillar, 20' in the air, or even 50'.  They eat, sleep, and pray on a tiny platform about 3' in diameter.  Their chins are always tilted up, away from the base earth and towards the mysteries of the upper air.

However, the tradition platform for a stylite is in a covenant tree, which are tall and very strong.  There is usually a second platform lower down, where petitioners can kneel while they speak to the stylite.  Petitioners who fall off the covenant tree while climbing are assumed to have deserved it.

Stylites are fed by songbirds, who vomit in their mouths.  They drink rainwater, that collects on the trunk.  Although everyone agrees that their primary forms of nutrition are miraculous, stylites are also fed and watered by local villages.  It is both useful and honorable to host a stylite.

Stylites speak with the clouds.  They communicate through yoga, and the clouds communicate by changing shape.  Sometimes stylites hear messages that were carried a long distance on the wind.  Stylites always hear the Silent Bell of Saint Dorbaine, and inform their villages when they are called to secret masses.

It is said that stylites are capable of flight, since they are blessed.  It is also said that stylites choose not to fly, since they are humble.

One of the most famous Stylites is Jerannia the One-Armed, who is a frequent critic of the Pope.  The two of them often write letters to each other.  

The Order of Stylites is opposed by the Order of Precipites, the cliffjumpers.

from Simeon of the Desert by Luis Buñuel

How to Use Them in Your Game

Use them as sages.  They know all sorts of stuff from talking to the clouds, and what they don't know, they can learn.

They're also holy men, so be on your best behavior around them.  They'll probably ask you questions to verify your goodness and/or knowledge of scripture before they help you out.  

Or they'll ask for a sacrifice.  A whole cow, cooked and salted, along with some wineskins is a pretty considerable sacrifice.

Or go traditional; give out a quest.

by Carel Willink