Friday, August 4, 2017

The God of Death, reimagined

I've been thinking a lot about magic and gods and things you need for a home-brewed setting. I've got the big things in place, actually for many years, but it's the smaller bits that connect, or give flesh to those ideas that give a world life. Or at least make it internally consistent.

Image result for D&D death godOne of the key Gods is the God of Death. Guardian of the veil between life and that that is beyond. Key themes or powers are welcoming souls at the end of their natural life, providing healing for those whose time has not come, hating the undead with vengeance, and comforting those who are near to the end of life.

Image result for D&D death godThe usual trope for an RPG Death God is one seeking souls, domination and looking to turn the world into an Undead Paradise. Or at least Lawful Neutral. My concept is more like a gatekeeper, easing the passage of souls in one direction and fighting against any attempt to cross back again. And it was human once, but a very long time ago.

Now the Gods deal in metaphysical conflicts beyond the keen of mankind, so it's up to the worshippers of each God to do their bit. The Death Worshippers tend to set up hospitals in poorer areas and root out any rumours of necromancy. But as they are the only sect that has powers to heal and cure diseases, ailments, injuries and other misfortunes, they are rather popular amongst the common folk. Most of this healing is a good understanding of hygiene and disease and infection vectors, and herbcraft, administered by the general clergy. But even these worshippers, at least the devout and experienced ones, can tell when a life is near its end, and where it is likely to be cut short. It's more like the infection is too advanced or the immune system is too weak than a limit on one's days.

So the Death Church (don't have a catchy name yet) mainly organises what passes for medieval hospitals, focussing on poorer areas but present in all towns and cities, but also provides healing and care to important folks as well for political support and extra funding and favours.  Either way, they are rather popular amongst the common folk and ruling class.

Those worshippers that have talents of the magical type are both valued and thrust into the most dangerous situations - subtlety is not the Churches style. Most will learn true magical healing, which is beyond the simple wound healing and brewing of healing potions that mages and alchemists can perform. This can remove infectious diseases from a body, cure PTSD, knit bones and muscles in an instant, and cure other serious injuries. However, they draw some of the injury or disease into themselves, and must overcome that through their own strength. Also, the centre of epidemics or battles is not a safe place to set up a triage centre.

Others of a different magical bent are trained as Agents to take the fight to root out the Undead, They pretty much have all the spells and powers of your RPG necromancer but use it to resist, destroy and banish those creatures created by necromancy. It's curious, as either demons, buried evils, or necromancers are the ones that create mindless undead, and they are using the same magical powers to create the undead as the Agents are to destroy them.

These Agents are trained in at least the basics of combat, and supported in their efforts by a larger number of Initiate Warriors, trained to use silver weapons and well versed in tactics and weaknesses of the Undead. Grouped in strike teams, they usually guard those temples or hospitals that may be threatened, but can strike known or suspected necromantic targets.

Those that have appeared in play have been focussed and scarily efficient, but also somewhat fatalistic ("When it is my time to die, I will die then...") and a great boon to players taking on Undead forces.



Monday, June 5, 2017

Rotogawa Part III

Been a while.

Anyway, been working on the Free City of Rotogawa, City of the Seven Lakes, Eastern outpost of the Empire (in name if not in practice), and the centre of alchemical and herbal research in the known lands.

There is a small block of buildings between the Firewater Stream that drains into the Lake the city borders and the main street, near the Jetties, but not close enough to be bothered by the morning or evening markets at the plaza near the water's edge.

Five shops and overhead (or underneath) residences populate the buildings.

The most normal, and southernmost, is a fruit and vegetable store run by a young family from the Tattooed Lands, far to the South-East. Kam and Keeal both have smooth and dark skin and slanted grey eyes, and are slim for their reasonably normal height. They take deliveries of both common and rare fruit and vegetables from various farms and greenhouses on the edges of the city, and split their takings with the growers. They also raise several herbs of their people inside the shop, heated by the geothermal water taken from the Firewater Stream. Some of these are used in the mystical tattooing arts of their people, and on rare occasions Kam can be convinced to perform the ritual magical tattooing rites required by many schools of magic, if given appropriate levels of coin and flattery. Keeal mans the shop and tames a small flock of children they have raised - in the Tattooed Lands, only those who have achieved certain levels of craft are permitted to raise children, so they are technically rebelling. They are honest and friendly, but will go into siege mode if another of their Countrymen wander into town.

Next, northwards and towards the lapping water of the Lake, is the two-storied pagoda-like residence and shop of Thalias Jewelstaff, mage, explorer and unofficial magical advisor to the Alchemist's Guild. Again, an immigrant to the Free City, Thalias shifted from the heart of the Empire far to the West around 8 years ago after a disagreement of a political nature. On the ground floor of his shop he brews and sells potions, usually minor health, disease prevention or poison cures to local citizens. More complex potions can be ordered, but obtaining the ingredients and securing the time required may make them rather expensive and the Alchemist's Guild usually deals with those requests. On the second floor, rumoured to be guarded by an elemental, he spends evenings crafting silver and setting gemstones in rings and other jewellery pieces. Aside from some simple practice pieces, these are all for orders from nobles and other mages.

Thalias is also one of the experts (such as they are), along with Blenhous, on the Los Mehno ruins in the forests to the east of the City, and will, for a price, advise, or lead, those wishing to explore certain ruins.

A few normal residences then Blenhous's Cartographic Emporium, as the brightly written sign says. It's on an upper floor, reached by a dubious walkway. Inside, it is a wondrous collection of  maps, parchments, relics and items collected from the Los Mehno ruins. Despite the untidiness, Blenhous, an aging ranger and archer who spent several decades roaming the wilderness surrounding the City, knows where all items are, and can provide maps and guidance to most areas and landmarks. He also collates information from caravan guards and travellers about changes to areas and tracks.

The basement floor houses Plagius and Serophon, a married couple (so one assumes) from the north-western coastline of the Empire, where rumours of ghosts and wights keep all indoors at night. They are tall, pale skinned and rather humourless, and organise the majority of caravan guards for the various convoys that set out daily to the north, west and south with great efficiency. There's a few prospective guards hanging around on the street most afternoons in case a late opportunity the next morning comes up, who usually also drop into the upstairs shop to discuss travel conditions, and the potion shop for protection from certain diseases.

The last shop in this block is Gallian's Blades, an open roofed area where Gallian's sons sharpen blades, repair leatherwork and rethread chainmail - all quieter smithing work. The louder forging, armour repair and anvil work takes place at the main forge at the mouth of the Firewater Stream, opposite the morning markets, which finish before the forges fire up most mornings.

Opposite Gallian's Blades, across a footbridge over the Firewater, is the main building of the Alchemist's Guild. Slightly vulgar and oversized, and surrounded by comatose goblins, it's one of the main industries and points of interest in the City.  

Friday, August 15, 2014

Islands, Part 2

Been a busy and strange last 6 months or so, but I'm finally at a loose end, so here's a follow-up from a comment in an earlier post. In fact, it contained information I'd never written down, and also had forgotten...

The Island of Seahorses sits in the middle of the Sea of Stars. Nearly all the adventures I've run in this particular world have taken place in the continent to the north of this sea. It is bounded to the north by the Arid Badlands (I need a better name eventually but it will do for now), where three ancient tiered cities rule over small fishing villages; to the east by an immense desert; and to the west by a peninsula dominated by the Jungles of Nyem, containing both the Flying Cities of Lomoxth and a kingdom of Volcreths, barbaric civilised giant chickens (from the Dragon Warriors RPG). To the south, little known lands, although a pseudo-Greek Empire and a Mesoamerican land with giant domesticated insects trade with the north.

Near the southern end of the Sea of Stars, directly east of the only pass out to the open Pale Sea, past jagged cliffs, drowned river valleys and clear fiords, lies the Island of Seahorses, named, most probably, after its somewhat curved shape, like an inverted S. The centre of the island consists of a narrow band of sharp upthrust mountains, with the only arable land on the far northern and the south-eastern most peninsulas.

The northern area has a splinter colony from the afore-mentioned pseudo-Greek Empire. This culture, although technologically superior to most other civilisations in the world, is hamstrung by a curious form of democracy, where every noble family works against all the others in order to sway the common vote on a yearly basis. The splinter colony is the last remnants of the old Royal order, exiled around 200 years ago. There are opportunities in helping them accomplish their aims, in the form of strange items, unknown elsewhere. But the tide of public opinion can shift quickly....

On the southern limb, separated from the north by a narrow but steep mountain range, an animistic cult worships a vengeful water god, with ritualistic drownings.  Although somewhat dangerous, it is one of the few places elementalists can begin to fathom the deep mysteries of water magic, and entirely based on the opening to one of the Throne of Thrones books a decade or so age....

These people are a strange mongrel race, taking in all from the surprising number of half (or fully) drowned sailors that wash up on these shores. It is rumoured that the High Priest of this cult can breath life back into those that have drowned on these shores, and demands this rebirth of all who join the Temple of the Drowned Twins.

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.