Sunday, November 17, 2013

Again, not quite dead...

So, Spring, garden growing like mad, a significant death in the family, that although expected and emotionally dealt with, leaves a bewildering series of meetings with lawyers, wills and 'settling the estate'.

Takes a bit of time.

As for RPG stuff, currently enjoying Mesmerized by Sirens and the spotlight on the games that didn't make the big time. Also trying to make sense of all the material I have, and make use of thousands of pages of both printed and pdf inspiration of others. The main body of work there is pulling all the useful things out of the Fight On! series for inclusion in some campaign world, somewhere.

Anyway, back in October when I was learning about organising funerals, Random Wizard posted some technical questions. Here's my attempt;

(1). Should energy drain take away one level of experience points from the character? Yes or No? If no, what should level drain do?

No, levels are hard won in Dragon Warriors, and not easily lost.  I find a temporary stat drain works better.

2). Should the oil used in lanterns do significant damage (more than 1 hp in damage) if thrown on an opponent and set on fire? Yes or No? If yes, how much damage should it do?

I think 2d6 the first round, if directly hit, a check if it catches, and then 1d6 until put out. But then again, picture goblins using this on PCs and the issues created.

(3). Should poison give a save or die roll, with a fail rolled indicating instant death? Yes or No? If no, how should game mechanics relating to poison work?

No - sweating, paralysation, hallucinations, strength and dexterity loss, then death, if a second roll is failed. More realistic, from someone who's been poisoned on occasion.

(4). Do characters die when they reach 0 hit points? Yes or No? If no, then at what point is a character dead?

No, again. -3 in DW, and there's a series of events in the game rules to determine when death occurs.

(5). Does the primary spell mechanic for a magic user consist of a "memorize and forget system" (aka Vancian)? Yes or No? If no, what alternative do you use?

And, no. I don't like Vancian magic in RPGs. I've read The Dying Earth series, and the game mechanics don;t do it justice. I've always played games with 'spell points' and any spell known can be cast with these. It's learning the spells that's the hard part.

(6). Should all weapons do 1d6 damage or should different weapons have varying dice (1d4, 1d8, etc...) for damage?

Throw in an Armour Bypass Roll and you're still wrong. a mace is (d6,4) and a sword (d8,3). See the beauty?

(7). Should a character that has a high ability score in their prime requisite receive an experience point bonus? Yes or No?

No - it's what you do that gives you experience, not who you are.

(8). Should a character with an constitution of 18 get a +3 bonus to hit points, or a +2 bonus to hit points, or a +1 bonus to hit points or no bonus to hit points? And should other ability scores grant similar bonuses to other game mechanics?

DW has stats 13-15 as +1, and 16-18 as +2, so if there was a stat like constitution, you'd get +2 for that.

(9). Should a character have 1 unified saving throw number, or 3 saving throw types based on ability scores (reflex, fortitude, will), or 5 types based on potential game effects (magic wand, poison attacks)? or something else?

Try a defence score (combat), an evasion score (dodging things) and a magical  defence number (magical effects), with a different mechanic for each. Not the best aspect of the system, but easy to get used to.

(10). Should a cleric get (A) 1 spell at 1st level  (B) no spells at 1st level (C) more than 1 spell at 1st level?

Try four spells at first level, otherwise the character is waiting to gain a level before actually making a worthwhile contribution to the game.

I don't think that was too useful, but at least it typifies the game system I use.

Something else sometime later, I hope.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Kopesh Power Groups

Last post (and month) I did promise the 3rd tier of Power Groups from the Kopesh Setting. Here's two of them, with an awful lot of waffle accompanying.

Drakkan Warbands

What world doesn't need a race of blond, tanned, carefree and slightly slow barbarians in the tropics? The Drakkan started as a rebellion against all blond muscular cultures being from the snowy north with false-Nordic kitsch adornments, and I think was inspired by The Court of Ardor, both the coolest and most horribly inappropriate MERP setting ever. The Hathorians, from this book, were also a happily Nordic race living in tropical splendour.

Anyway, the Drakkan are a tribal people living on the sub-tropical western shores and forests of the main continent, separated from Celise by the towering Drakkan Peaks. Robust, tending from muscular to slightly fat, with the odd skinny disaffected youth, and pale of skin with golden or blond hair. Given the temperature, they are usually well tanned. They practise subsidence agriculture, well supplemented with game and fish, and all are adequate hunters and trackers. They have no cities, but a network of tribal centres connected by subtle trails, and there is no real government, just meetings of all the chieftains that bother showing up.

As the land is rather rich in food and supplies, there is a remarkable amount of recreational time for the peoples. Crafts, building wooden totem towers, brewing liver-curdling alcohols, drinking said alcohols, and raiding other centres are all considered normal and virtuous pursuits. A band of drunken axe-waving barbarians can be a problem, as they are rather bloodthirsty, but killing them leads to blood-debts to their kin, and they can take up to a week to sober up from a good bender.

But this does not explain why silent, stern, and decidedly sober bands of well-armed Drakkan that seem to be moving through the wilds of central and eastern Celise. Who or what is their purpose? The Border guards of Eastern Celise are concerned enough to hire parties to track the bands that move into the Khosh Marshes to try to discover what their purpose is.

The Mad Mage of the Khosh

The Dragon Lord of the Khosh is not the only power in the marshes, even if it is the most overtly powerful.  The Mad Mage is both known as a fact, as he travels into Zaireta, the only point of civilisation in the Khosh, for supplies and deliveries several times a year, and also the centre of many rumours and tales of disturbing nature.

The Mad Mage is a slender, tallish man of passing years, who always appear in public wearing the opulent crimson robes of The Order of the Blistered Hand - an order of mystical crafters that died out mysteriously over two centuries ago - with two hooded and robed servants. These servants never speak, no portion of their skin is ever seen, and they seen to glide rather than walk. They do dispense their master's gold coin, though, and this is the most important virtue in Zaireta.

His tower lies directly east of Zaireta, on a particularly disease prone, vermin invested and ghost haunted spit of marshy land. The tower is solid, and appears to be Ancient-built, with several thousand year old elven alterations to the exterior, and maybe more to the inside. It rises from the coastal sands, with a rough wooden dock jutting into the channel.

Little is known amongst the learned of the marsh of the Mad Mage's works or ambitions. They would be surprised at the Powers he communes with in the depths of the tower; strange insane spirits of a lost age that so far have delivered unto him the power to raise artificial man-like beings from dirt, and to draw magical power from several ancient artifacts of the Ancients, to further his already powerful wards and enchantments.

His network of newly raised Ur-men now scour the lands for more of the artifacts the Ancient Powers seek, accompanied by the remaining long-sleeping contacts of the Order of the Blistered Hand, and his sorcerous weavings. A small part of his mind is wondering if he is getting in over his head, but it is kept safely locked away most of the time.

Perhaps a noble or a temple has a useless but ancient heirloom stolen, a strange non-man encounters the party, or a clue about the secretive Blistered Hand Order comes to light?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Digging up the past...

Been digging around, both in the garden and through my papers and books out in the garage. Now we have the spare bedroom free, there's space in there for some of the more valuable works.

I've recovered, or finally got in the right place, all my notes from An Echo Resounding, and the work I did on the Kopesh Swamp setting, including the third and lowest level of Heavy Hitters, resources and lairs. I've come across one page or so by itself over the past few months, and wondered if I'd thrown them out, but thankfully (at least to me) I didn't.

Also been reading a few books that, although none of them are going into my Appendix N list, I can steal some interesting ideas from.

Starting with the books for this post;

The Bone Triangle, by B.V. Larson.

Never read any of his other books, or even the first of this series. Basically the nuclear tests near Las Vegas produced rifts to other worlds/dimensions and imbued some ordinary objects with strange and arcane powers.

The antagonist is not that likeable but the setup is worthy of an RPG setting - the Lords of the City hold great powers - one can travel the waterways and sewers by thought, another can see and understand the multiple futures that an event triggers and try to influence the best, yet another can reprogram people's minds and does not age.

Yet there are costs associated with these powers. Each is locked into their realm and cannot set foot outside it; the water traveller cannot be dry even for an instant or die; the future seer is deformed into a hideous troll and cannot be exposed to any light or his gift fades, so is trapped in his caves, and the third cannot leave her castle or her true age will suddenly catch up with her.

The users of the smaller, not as powerful but portable artifacts are termed rogues, and they are for hire by the Lords and Ladies, possibly to uncover truths or obscure them some more, or help or hamper others in this kingdom.

These artifacts were a highlight - they include;
  • Sunglasses that allow the wearer to make metal flexible or hard for a moment. Good for opening locks and doors or reinforcing metal bars.
  • A small picture that aids healing if worn against the skin. Bones heal in a week, as do major cuts. Not regeneration or a health potion, but subtle and more realistic.
  • A wedding ring that increases the luck of the wearer by drawing it from those around them.
  • A child's sweet that makes the holder invisible, but after an hour of invisibility, they start going blind.
  • A rabbit's kidney that exudes a highly toxic poison when willed.
Each of these is indestructible and does not age or change with time.

Small artifacts that were created by a great magical event, or perhaps randomly from magical leakages when spells are being cast or items enchanted. The use is in no way influenced by the form of the item and their use cannot be detected by others. The users keep these items secret, and have been known to find, capture, loose or even swap these on occasion.

Something to throw in, if ever required. Less cloaks of invisibility and rings of regeneration, and more subtle, almost temporary items instead, with a shadowy and uncertain past.

Next instalment brings the 3rd tier of Power Groups from the Khosh Setting - Drakkan Warbands; The Mad Mage of the Khosh; The Queen's Spy Network; Demon Trolls of the Fuigar; Pirates of the Var River; Echo; Jaezred, the Shadow Dragon Assassin-Mages; and Celise Blood Cultists.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Basic Magic, the end?

Without further ado, the rest, then a test run.

83. Climb - whether by conjuring a handy rope, gaining sticky powers or being able to use minute imperfections in the wall, the target can climb 10m. Better find a safe spot, as it runs out straight away after 10m.

84. Odour - the caster can fill the air of a 5m diameter sphere (well, hemisphere if you're standing on the ground) with either a masking perfume or a sickening smell. Only common scents, and those that the caster can remember - doesn't affect the caster, but definitely does others. Lingers for a hour or so unless dispersed by winds, etc.

85. Decay - can rot down anything organic in a very short time, with minimal odour issues. Good for removing garbage, cleaning bones, getting bloodstains off armour...

86. Thirst - makes the target very thirsty. Multiple castings increase this thirst in an almost exponential manner. Doesn't kill the target but can make them divert to get water, fight to get water, or even kill to, well, you get the idea.

87. Detect Life - gives a general indication of larger live beings in a space within sight or not much bigger than a small house. So doesn't detect all the spiders and cockroaches in a ruin, but one/few/many and maybe an indication of the type (dog, reptile, mammal...)

88. Stonework - allows the caster to mould a small (<1 kg or 1 m square) rock or area of rock into a rough shape of their choosing. Can be one big piece or several small; making hand and foot holds up a castle wall; crafting a stone bowl or arrowheads; digging out the chains set into bedrock...

89. Root Blast - makes plants or vegetation grow really well. Make a field or orchard bear more fruit over a season, or cause a bramble patch to cover the path. Too much growth in too short a time will cause the vegetation to die in a few days.

90. Ignite - something flammable, within 10m and within sight.

91. Extinguish - something on fire, within 10m and within sight. Up to normal fire size, not the medieval version of a fire engine.

92. Smoke - large amounts. Need some flammable focus on the ground for it - branches, bushes, a cloak - the smoke billows out of this, and can fill a fair sized room quite quickly.

93. Detect Lore - I'm not entirely sure what I was thinking when I wrote this down, but I think it's a way of magically enhancing one's senses and memory to be able to note any significant lore related to a place, object or name. You need some basic lore first, to build on. Basically you get real good at research and study.

94. Weaken - an object. Makes it brittle, soft, breakable. The spell is both harder and less effective the more skilfully crafted, magical or naturally resistant the object is - so a worn ordinary sandstone trapdoor to a deserted basement would be reasonably affected, while the steel bound doors to the King's chambers not so much. Makes the object easier to break rather than the spell breaking it.

95. Dull Sense - choose one, and the target has the use of that sense halved for the duration of the spell, while being unaware of it. Hearing and sight reasonable common, but taste and smell have their place...

96. Skeletal Beast - can enchant a short term, smallish skeleton animal out of a suitable pile of cleaned bones. It will obey the casters simple (up to two word) orders.

97. Weather Watch - a casting of this will give an indication of general weather for the next day.

98. Interpret Writing - will give a rough understanding of the intent of a written language not known to the caster. Not pronunciation or any subtleties, but the gist of the text.

99. Rock Gauntlet - the caster gets a heavy rock coating of one or both hands and forearms. Good for punching (as +1 mace), warding blades or plunging ones hands into fire.

100. Slow Heart - this stabilises the dying by slowing the circulation of blood, delaying poisons and bleeding. Something terminal will still kill them, but there's a few hours to get them repaired at the very least, and longer for straight blood loss.

101. I Know The Way to San Jose - the caster knows the direction of a location they know well, but not how far.

e.g. Mamen the White walks through a portal and ends up in an unknown jungle. He knows the City of Twin Delights is in the direction of those mountains but not if it's 50 or 5000 km away.

102. Vermin Ward - a circle of, well, anything, that excludes vermin until it's broken. Caster must be inside, though. Can be used without a circle, but caster must concentrate solely on maintaining the repulsion.

103. Flash - moves the target forward exactly 5m in a flash. Hurts if they hit, say, a wall, an armoured body, or end up over a long drop. Easily misused.

104. Farsight - the caster can enchant a tube to act as a telescope for a short time. Anyone can use. Not understand, but use.

So that's where it ends, for now. It's so hard to end on a set number, as inspiration always strikes at the last minute.

Let's see if the Random Roll at starting levels works, and if three spells is enough?

Let's take little Mamen the White, from the Pale Halls of the City of Twin Delights. At first level, he knows the following spells; 66, 17, 61 - these are Beacon, Suggestion & Catspaw. There's a strong hint of a a career in stealth and misdirection,but Beacon doesn't add much. A reroll allowed there, and 88 gives Mamen Stoneshape.

This seems workable - nothing flashy, powerful or game changing, but the ability to mislead or lie, to be quite sneaky, and to be able to manipulate stone around locks, bars and other things kept shut. Okay for early level city adventures, but dungeon crawling?

Say an extra spell? 36 = Fumble. Now that's useful in combat, providing you have someone between you and the dungeon dwellers.

I'll work on it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Basic magic, the next installment...

Well, winter here, and it's rather mild. After the drought last summer, the rain is even bearable.

No real advances in RPG thoughts over the last few weeks, apart from working out my longest lasting campaign has ended, due to the four of us being in different cities, and even hemispheres. The characters are now NPCs, to populate the world and go their own ways.

Still, their exploits are recorded for the ages - from slaying ogres near the town of Stalish, braving the Black Tower, investigating child abductions in the coastal cities, restoring the heir to the throne of Vestland (a hurriedly converted Destiny of Kings with extra bits added), exploring ruined lizardman cities in the Southern swamps (and tracking down the evils released) and finally helping restore the leadership of a destroyed realm of the North.

It was good, and we only had two PC deaths. I think the emphasis was on exploration and discovery rather than fighting and death traps, as combat was rather deadly, and to be avoided unless necessary or when you had a clear advantage.

But onto the magics!

62. Insight - Gives the caster extra intellect, inspiration, insight, even, for the duration. Raises their intelligence to 16 (if below 16), or 19, if 16 or above, along with all applicable bonuses.

63. Valor - removes the fear, or allows the target to resist fear. May work on other emotions, may not.

64. Sparkle - a thing (object, person, door) touched glows with sparkly lights. More a part of a wall than being able to light up the castle...

65. Buoy - the targeted person or object floats in water. Again, a limit on the size of the object to something liftable. Although a higher level application of this spell would be impressive.

66. Beacon - a bright ray of light from the casters hand. Good for locating lost adventurers in the snow, bad for sneaking.

67. Confuse - One target. Anything from momentarily losing concentration to forgetting what's happening and wandering off to smell the corpses.

68. Disinfect - important for medical purposes, and a main benefit of magic to the general population. Kills germs, moulds, insects (small ones).

69. Shrink - down to half size. Any living target. Have fun.

70. Enlarge - up to one and a half times normal size. Strength, etc, scales as well.

71. Alarm - a loud, annoying noise after a set duration or when disturbed. Maximum 12 hours delay.

72. Web - be Spiderman! Actually, a sticky strand up to 10m long. Sticks to things but not really effective as a weapon.

73. Strength - Empowers the target, literally. Same effect as #62, only strength. Try not to be inconvenienced when it expires.

74. Monkey's Grace - And reflexes/dexterity can be increased the same way.

75. Slow Poison - As curing poison isn't an option at these levels. Basically prevents the poison from acting for somewhere between an hour and a day, depending on it's strength and lethality.

76. Cure Pox - and other common diseases. Shows why mages are so popular in small rural towns, after the initial distrust wears off. Uncommon diseases less likely to cure.

77. Acid Blade - gives a weapon a slick coating of nasty, sticky acid. First blow in anger does an extra 2d6 damage. Can also be used to mess up or dissolve locks, doors, faces. Doesn't do the weapon much good, though.

78. Staff of Snakes - one end of your staff animates as a snake head. Random which type of snake - if poisonousness, then it bites, if not, it wraps around stunned prey. Will ruin the staff if the spell exires when wound around a victim.

79. Water - conjures, out of thin air, one litre of fresh water per level of spell, tricked out of the caster's cupped hands over one round. Bring your own container.

80. Stun - a mystical blast of force does d6 damage to a target and stuns them for one round if they don't resist. Plenty of time to run away...

81. Purify Air - makes a defined area of air pure, breathable and good for the lungs, even if other effects or spells are messing with it.

82. Anger - makes the target angry.Use at your own discretion, as some people are not nice when angry...

I'll be finished soon.....

Monday, July 1, 2013

Basic magic, 42-61

Back to the grindstone - more basic magics.

Thinking about this (actually, thinking about developing 2nd level spells, then 3rd level, then....) I'm not too sure about the level system of spells.

Maybe there are just basic spells, a few advanced spells, and the game/world changing spells require special quests, grants from the gods, sacrifices or sacking unfathomable ruins? Perhaps high level spellcasters jealously guard their 2-3 unique spells, and research is the only option after a certain level?

Sounds like a world where magic is rare, or at least uncommon, and mages have to think strategically about problems rather than solving it with an enchantment?

Anyway, onward with the basic spell list;

42. Empathy - lets the caster perceive the basic emotions the target is feeling - fear, pain, anger... Not much else, although it can allow basic communication where language isn't an option.

43. Endurance - the target only tires at half the normal rate for the activity. Useful for encouraging overloaded hechmen...

44. Whisper - the caster can whisper and be heard as though they were right next to a known target within 100m. The target cannot reply to the caster. Good for triggering ambushes or passing information.

45. Fool's Gold - yes, the old chestnut. Makes a handful of anything solid appear as gold, gems, coins. A basic but powerful illusion, and the victim's chance of detecting something amiss is proportional to the value of the illusion.

46. Sharpen - by lightly cutting themselves on a blade, it adds +1 to damage done by said blade until the spell expires.

47. Fear - makes one target afraid of the caster. The outcome of this may vary.

48. Talk to Vermin - because the rats see things. Doesn't make them friendly, but they are inquisitive and can be bribed with food, especially fresh meat.

49. Wolfspeak - again, the wolves see things, and they are different to what the rats see. Again, doesn't make them friendly.

50. Snaketongue - ok, you get the idea. I'll stop now...

51. Ventriloquism - yes. Like it says on the tin. Voices, over there.

52. Birdcall - summons a flock of whatever the most common birds are in the environment. They can be directed to do things but not anything that puts them at great risk.

53. Gust/Breeze - EITHER a one-off strong wind gust that scatters scatterable things and staggers warriors, OR a constant moderate breeze. Your choice. Channelling the elemental powers can be so rewarding.

54. Follow - the caster can track one target, Must be known, or very well described, or be in possession of a treasured item of theirs.

55. Will o' the Whisp - forms a ghastly floating light that can lure the unwary or gullible in a direction chosen by the caster, or they can control it like a lure.

56. Image - the basic illusion. Not moving, no sound, doesn't taste of anything either.

57. Bombard - needs a bit of rubble lying around - stones, coins, bones, cracked pottery. The spell causes them to pelt the target/s, doing only d6 damage (-armour) but requiring a concentration check to do anything that round.

58. Ice Baby - a narrow ray of frost that only does d6 damage to a target but can freeze them in place until they resist the spell. Or freeze a door shut, or really kill a plant.

59. Lodestone - the caster can detect the direction of north, and their rough elevation. Only useful if you have a map.

60. Rain - yes, temporary and limited in duration, and a LOT harder in a desert than a mist laden swamp.

61. Catspaw - the caster makes a lot less incidental noise, and casts no shadow - another stealth spell.

Again, that's all...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

First level spells, 21 - 41

Quick post as I have some building to do in the shed tonight, and it's freezing out there...

More Spells;

21. Shield - an almost transparent shield (normal shield size) appears floating in front of the caster and protects them as a normal shield for the duration of the spell. 

22. Doze - not as powerful as the ubiquitous sleep, this spell makes a sleepy, bored or inactive target fall into a natural sleep. Not for felling a room full of goblins, but for sneaking past the lone guard.

23. Break - allows the caster to attempt to break a fragile object within about 4m. Objects include glasses, potion bottles, crystal ornaments, thin windows, etc. If being held by a person, need to overcome their magical defence.

"And, bang, there went his last healing potion..."

24. Telekinesis - anything that could be lifted and carried in one hand (caster's hand) can be slowly moved and manipulated within 4m, but with little strength. Turning a key might be about it. Stabbing someone with a knife - not unless it's really really sharp...

25. Slithery Rope - provided the caster is hanging onto one hand, the rest of the rope (max 20m) can slither along floors, through gaps, and up walls, and tie loose knots. It can't rise up through thin air, and can't tie anyone awake up. Can form trip ropes, though.

26. Paresthesia - a sensation of tickling, tingling, or burning of a person's skin with no apparent long-term physical effect. Gives the caster a touch attack, doing 1d6 temporary damage with each attack to a target, leaving them needing a good night's sleep to recover fully.

27. Temere - this enchantment emboldens the target, making them act more rashly and foolhardy. Useful on the party's thief...

28. Moonglow - another light source, this one creates a soft glow within a 5m radius.

29. Dig - allows the caster, by making shovelling gestures, to move 1 cubic metre of dirt, soil, muck, etc in 1 minute. Multiple castings needed to dig a moat.

30. Dazzle - bright flash blinds all looking in the direction of the caster within about 10m. Clever parties use a code word to remind them to NOT look at the mage.

31. Grease - coats 4 square metres of ground, a person, an object, a pig, etc with a thin layer of slippery grease. Produces hilarity all around. The grease evaporates when the spell expires.

"We're running because her spell missed and hit the King's saddle, while he was in it"...

32. Ice Darts - three of them, that can be thrown in one round at one target. 1d4 damage each, but if all three do damage, the target must roll under STR on d20 or take another d6 damage and be frozen until they make the STR roll.

33. Phantom Mail - a ghostly shimmering armour coat surrounds the caster, and absorbs 2d6 damage of physical damage before fading.

34. Preserve Dead - this spell affects one dead body, and ensures that it will not rise as undead in the next month. Useful in certain circumstances. Also does 2d6 damage to any lesser undead (zombie, ghoul - not skeletons - doesn't work on bones).

35. Prestidigitation - quick fingers, sleight of hand. Allows the caster to manipulate small objects such as coins, cards, rings secretly. Great for card sharks...

36. Fumble - target takes a pratfall, juggles what they are holding, etc - if in a dangerous situation where dropping what they hold could cause drastic problems, they can avoid it, but be distracted for a round, by rolling under DEX on d20, but failing this may involve a trip to any fumble table you have lying around.

37. Protection - yet another armour-for-mages spell. This one gives +2 to their Armour Factor for the spell's duration.

38. Warm - protects the target from the effects of natural cold. Will bring them up to a safe temperature from moderate hypothermia, but as it doesn't last that long, other measures really need to be taken if you're in the Arctic...

39. Cool - protects from overindulgence concerning natural heat, like a reserve of the spell above. Same, can cure the effects of heatstroke, but they will get it again if subjected to the same conditions.

40. Sate - allows the caster to ignore the effects of a day without food or water. They are still in serious trouble and will weaken and die without water after a few days, but this allows them to avoid feeling hungry or thirsty.

41. Push - a light force, like a firm but gentle push, on a target or object within 10m. Useful if Hozal the Necromage, your sworn enemy, happens to be leaning out a high window when you see her.

That's all for now, but stay warm (or cool), where-ever you are.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Magic, or at least, 1st level.

So, not dead, again, but work is taking me plenty of places and the end of summer is busy with gardening and fruit.

And I've been finally reading through the large collection of random RPG papers and pdfs I have stashed away.  Finally bought all of the Fight On! magazines, and printed off some of the old 1st Ed pdfs I bought from the wizards site, just before they pulled them the first time.

One of the things I started on was working out a coherent yet mystical magical system.  Challenging, but none of the systems I've used before have satisfied me entirely. Mainly either too few or too many spells, and everyone gravitates towards the impressive ones (sleep, anyone?). And the gotta-catch-em-all exponential increase of Rolemaster...

So I've developed a quick and dirty list of 100 first level spells (well, 103 so far, due to inspiration striking a little too late). Nothing overpowering or game changing, I hope. Each first level mage gets three upon starting, all the result of a d100 - probably roll six times and take the three most desirable.

The number of spells the aspiring mage can learn at each level is dependent on their Psychic Talent. This 3-18 stat is nothing like D&D's wisdom - it's more of a psychic awareness or sensitivity, and the Dragon Warriors mailing list has been discussing how to play a character with a really low (or high) PT. recently. Somewhere between 4 and 7, although 7 needs superhuman stats, so not for 1st levels.  Intelligence gives the chance of learning a new spell from its tome, from 50% to 90%. I possibly got this idea from something I read in Holmes, or at least one of the old D&D rulebooks. So two stats give how many you can learn and how easy to learn.

Spells are complicated little beasties - the manipulation of energies and other dimensions requires diagrams, equations, poetic phrasing and goodness knows what else, so the instructions how to cast a spell take up a book about the size of a text book - a large text book. It takes a week of studying at home, or two weeks studying every night while adventuring, to learn, and at the end, the roll to learn is made. Tough but them's the breaks. Add extra time without a teacher, for difficult or obscure texts or spells, and unsuitable study conditions.

And I don't use Vancean magic - once you know a spell, you can cast it until you're sick of it. Or, usually, till you run out of power. That's one reason why it takes a while to learn it.

Anyway, here's the first 20. More later

1. Detect Enchantments - any active magic within a few metres will be apparent to the caster. Not passive things like enchanted items unless they are doing there thing at the time.

"So if YOU didn't cast a spell just now, and YOU didn't either, and you haven't drawn that dagger, then what's THAT?"

2. Glow - the next object touched by the caster glows softly until the next sunrise.

"Next time, don't cast it with an itchy nose..."

3. Change Aura - alters the way you are detected magically

"No" said the Elven Seer, "those are not the druids you are looking for"...

4. Flame - gout of flame to engulf (and slightly burn) an opponent.


5. Lock - causes an ordinary lock to lock itself. Infinitely reversible.

 "If cast multiple times, the mage may forget whether the door is locked or not." The Nosgoan Text, verse 4:16:2

6. Weakness - target is at -2 to STR and all physical actions.

 "The trick was catching him lifting that anvil above his head"

7. Detect Undead - Can detect all the creepy little (and big) things in sight.

"That one's dead, that one's dead, that one's... RUN"

8. Mist Armour - appears as some sort of cloak around target. Absorbs 2-5 damage from magical attacks then vanishes.

"Higgins - the idea of the spell is to both provide protection, and let your opponent know you are warded. So I suggest you practise a form for the spell that does NOT resemble a feather boa"

9. Symbol of Watching - glyph placed on solid surface. Anyone passing causes a mental alarm to disturb or wake the caster, who must remain within 20m of it. Can cause restless nights if misplaced.

"Tonight, let me know where the guard is patrolling. Didn't sleep longer than 15 minutes at a time last night..."

10. Phlogiston Dagger - blade of fire that can be wielded as a +1 dagger or thrown at +3.

"How was I to know it was an oil warehouse?"

11. Presence - subtle aura makes the target seem more impressive. +2 to charisma.

"This time, I'm making sure his singing gets us free beer."

12. Eye of the Eagle - extra sensitive sight. +2 to perception.

"It's impressive that you can see those bandits, but did you know it makes your eyes glow funny?"

14. Legerdemain (stolen from Fight On!) - any one object carried or worn (within reason) is invisible.

"No, you cannot 'wear' the horse..."

15. Replica - target appears as a copy of a person that is within the sight of the caster

 "I'm sure I was talking to you just a moment ago, your Majesty."

16. Shadow - target appears as in shadow, and gets +4 to stealth, more if really shadowy.

"Thom, don't look now, but I think that shadow is watching us."

17. Suggestion - gives +2 to one attempt to convince or lie to someone.

"You ARE attracted to one-eyed, short, ugly..."

18. Desalinate - removes basic impurities from a litre of water (i.e. makes it drinkable.) Can be reversed. Does not purify the liquid, only just does enough to make it drinkable.

 "I know it won't kill me, but it tastes disgusting..."

19. Frost - coats all surfaces within a few metres with a chilling, slippery frost.

 "And that's how we kept the meat so fresh..."

20. Glyph - leaves an invisible mystical mark that contains a short message. To read, must cast this spell on it.

"Oh, very mature..."

More next time - 83 more to work through...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Stealing from the Gamebooks, #3

So it's apparently NZ's hottest summer in 60 years or so, and the water restrictions and fire bans are popping up all over the place. Personally, I don't care if my lawn dies (less mowing) and my tomatoes are quite good this year. I'll work on the Eternal Summer setting later on, as it would make a change from all these Eternal Winter novels out there. Keeping as far away from Dark Sun as possible...

Also, not a good season for being hunched over a computer screen, hence the lack of posts, and thinking about RPGs.

However, sorting out the moving boxes has gone well, as has my pillaging of the books that started my interest in this, some 30 years ago... The Fighting Fantasy series. Although aimed at young children, at least at first, and having a rather goofy, somewhat simplistic world that does not agree with me, there are some hidden gems in their descriptions, characters and 400-odd paragraphs that I can pilfer for my own use.

Today, #3, The Forest of Doom...

Handsome guy on the left, right?

Shapechangers, strange leftovers from the Age of the Lizards, that hold a fearsome reptilian appearance in their natural form, but that can mimic any living form temporarily (of roughly the same size - mass is shifted, not created or removed) that it has viewed, or, as some suggest, slain and eaten. No signs of greater than goblin level intelligence and no attempts to communicate with anyone, at least attempts that didn't end with one of the parties dead.

Absolutely no relation to the Doppleganger, at least, hopefully not. These guys (girls? who knows?) lurk in places named "Doom" while Dopplegangers infest civilised places. That's the theory...

Meanwhile, the plot of the book is simple; a dying dwarf tasks you with recovering the Hammer of the Dwarves. It's a little more complicated in execution, though.

Anyway, the ideas;
  • The Northern (or Eastern, or Western, or Southern) borderlands, where few people venture and a traveller can go weeks without meeting another. Wolves and Trolls, though, seem rather common.
  •  A learned old witch, dwelling in an isolated cabin in these wilds, with only a hunchbacked servant for company. She knows many arcane or historical secrets, and those needing this knowledge may seek her out, but she is crafty and dangerous, and may trap unwary seekers with her schemes and dark bargains... She is also skilled in herbalism, and can escape violence by transforming into a bat. The servant is a drooling idiot, but she may require groups to take him somewhere dangerous as a condition of her help. Think of assistance from her being a form of Faustian bargain...
  •  A secret underground mushroom farm where small humanoid clones tend the giant fungi for a Fire Demon. Actually, the Demon is victim of a curse, and any who slay it, and don the golden crown that it wears, finds themselves transforming into a similar Fiery figure, but are distracted by the quiblings and telepathic reports of the clones, and are trapped overseeing the operation. The end destination of the fungi, and who is responsible for the whole set-up, remains unknown to this day, but certain types of dried fungus are becoming a problem in the Coastal Cities these days... 
  •  Wild hillmen do range in these parts, so be careful when entering land that might be occupied. Read up on the Welsh or Pictish 'barbarians' (well, at least to the Romans and various types of English throughout the centuries) to get an idea of how these peoples live, and hunt, and why they want to kill you. They aren't mad, and only want to kill you because you've offended one of their strange and bizarre taboos. Like pissing in their sacred river, for example, or killing a sacred deer out of season, or perhaps they don't like people wearing shoes...
  •  The Eye of Amber. A simple palm sized circle of amber on a silver chain, it appears unimpressive, but when worn, in plain view, it allows the wearer to discern when someone is lying to their face, in a one-to-one situation. Useful, but not admissible in most courts..
  •  The Brass Flute of Wyvern Calming. A legendary artifact, that features in many of the bards stories, where the exiled Prince must find a number of special items or blessings to defeat the guardians and claim the kingdom/princess/pot of gold. This flute, however, is actually real, and, given the frequency of wyvern flights in the mountainous areas in my worlds, of practical use. If played properly (which means some experience in flute playing, mostly) it can send a Wyvern to sleep. Any wyvern affected by this wakes if something dangerous approaches, but otherwise sleeps normally until dawn or sunset, whichever is soonest. Last known holder was Barrot the Wanderer, who financed his wastrel lifestyle by looting Wyvern nests, and the remains of past victims. Rumour is he got careless and one woke on him. All that is known for certain is that he hasn't been seen since last Winter...
  •  And finally, a lesser class of bandits. Men and women of peasant stock, driven to theft and murder due to a lord's displeasure, crippling tax rates (110% bites), other bandits stealing your stuff...
Look at them - rags for clothes, chipped and rusty weapons, no armour, no safe way of shaving. Give the players a sob story about hard times and eating your dog, rather than having well armed and armoured lootable bandits.
That's all I could hoist from this book - most of the traps, tricks or even dungeons were set pieces for the use of one-shot magic items you buy at the start, and that tends to be very situation dependent...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Second post from Moonstone...

Although safely back from the trials of Ghar's Farrow, the boys have still not found Sreth. That night they recounted their adventure as the main attraction at The Copper Branch, the only inn in Dhath, and even then only drinking one mug of ale each before off to their sleep in the shed at the General Store.

Early the next morning, breakfasted and wounds bound, bruises salved, they headed off to the second of the halfwit's hiding spots - a ruined keep a good four hours south by south-west, into some low hills covered in dry yellow grasses. Home to a noble family that died out three generations ago, they had been told by Kereth, nothing remained except some tumbled towers, although Sreth had muttered about underground chambers.

Turning off the main road as it turned westwards to the Moonstone River, they made good time, and encountered nothing of note, except for a small grove of trees that stood alone in the grassland, perfectly still despite the freshening breeze. As a prime example of Fey Witchery, they gave it a wide berth, and when they looked back from a safe distance, it was gone.

The grasses, and low thorny shrubs had reclaimed the ruins, but after a few minutes of searching the tumbled blocks, they found an earthen tunnel, big enough for a man to walk upright.

Although trying to be quiet, a human voice called out from further along, asking them to identify themselves. As most monsters in this setting can't (or don't) speak, and attacking other people is frowned upon, even in the wilds, they replied, although on their guard.

A man, although tall, thin and slightly rat-like, waited for them, and led them, with a lantern, a few tens of metres into a chamber at the end of the tunnel, with passages on either side leading into the darkness. He claimed he and his group were herbalists, seeking uncommon herbs and berries from these lands, and a series of glass retorts and brass chambers set on the packed earth bench supported his claim.  He spoke of the surroundings and his luck in finding certain herbs in a continuous monologue, setting the boys at ease. He made them a drink of chat, the common tea-like herbal drink of the lands, as he talked, and passed each of them a clay cup containing the fragrant brew.

It was Sarialin, the apprentice mage, who, passing a herbalism skill check, detected in his mug the distinctive smell of Graveweed, a noxious herb that induces sleep with a light dose and certain death in more concentrated forms. Shouting to the others, he flung the mug at the Stranger, jumping up from his seat...

The others hadn't drunk their brews yet, and they rapidly formed an armed huddle. The Stranger seemed apprehensive too, holding a twisted staff that glowed with a pale green light. He shouted at them to "Leave now, before the others return, and they will not be as merciful as I"...

The boys remained standing with their weapons drawn, but Imaghan shouted a question about the boy they were seeking.

The Stranger, appearing even more nervous, shouted back that they had seen no others in their time here, and that they had better flee for their lives. Now they could hear noises of advancing feet from each of the tunnels, so they staged a dignified but fast retreat until out of the tunnel, then a panicked run until beyond the ruins.

A quick assessment - a mysterious tunnel, the Stranger, obviously a herbalist and mage, and a potential poisoner, but then again, why urge them to escape, and who are the others? Still, trusting that he had no reason to lie about a single boy, and unsure of who these people are, and how powerful, they vowed not to speak of this to anyone else, and returned to Dhath, each pondering the events of the day. Two days wasted, and still the boy not found, as well!

[GMs appraisal - great! No combat, a tense stand-off resolved, a mystery found but not solved, and some quick thinking getting them the news about the boy they sought. The players have the idea that drawing weapons and attacking unknown forces is not the recipe for a long life, and at 1st level, they are still small and squishy.

The Keep inhabitants are a power group, operating secretly, and may relocate, or may not, given this intrusion. The party is lucky, however, that I rolled most of the group away from the lair when they arrived]