Thursday, 31 May 2018

OSR Class: Sawbones

"And always must you disdain and shun such disreputable knaves as gravediggers, tanners and the barber-surgeons..." - Morkan, Head Physician of the Corpus Collegium

I'm on a roll with the healer-type classes.

The Moderati flaunt their magical talents as they knit flesh and draw poison with a touch, physicians consult their tomes and watch the stars to source their cures, and priests pray for the sick amidst finery and wonder. You, on the other hand, know the honest trade of flesh, blood, and bone.

Barber-surgeons are what happens when an educated and wealthy elite don't want to get their hands dirty with actual medicine. They are medical jacks-of-all-trades, able to pull teeth, amputate limbs, draw blood, make 'medicines', cut hair and remove bladder stones. Sometimes the tender ministrations of a barber-surgeon can cause more trouble for their patient than the patient's ailments. They do not have the privilege of a university education, instead learning their trade as an apprentice.

Many cast off the lives they had in the cities and towns, or as itinerant surgeons wandering between villages, and found lucrative employment treating soldiers fighting in the War. While most barber-surgeons know little of violence besides the occasional brutality they visit out of necessity on their patients, this class represents a battlefield surgeon driven weary by the horrors they encounter - a Sawbones.

Credit, Jakub Dobi

Sawbones

Starting Equipment: dagger, medical supplies (3), leather apron, 1d6sp.

Medical supplies are used to fuel some of your abilities and represent assorted poultices, vials of alchemical ingredients, leeches, stitches, smelling salts and other tools of your trade. You can carry up to 3 in a single Inventory Slot and can purchase them for 1gp in any town or city. Villages may have them but they will be much more expensive.

A: Crude Poultice; Leech.
B: Find Vein; Vapours.
C: Stimulant.
D: Radical Treatment.

You gain +1 to Saves vs Fear and Disease for each Sawbones template you possess.

Crude Poultice
You fashion a quick and dirty salve for your target's wounds, healing them for 1d3+X HP, where X = the number of Sawbones templates you possess. This costs 1 use of medical supplies. If used to heal an injury, this ability reduces the injury length by (1d3 + X)/2 days.

Leech
You affix leeches to the target's flesh, purifying their blood. They may make a new Save vs all poisons, diseases or intoxicating effects with 1 Boon. This costs 1 use of medical supplies.

Find Vein
Once per day per level, you may rupture a major blood vessel on a successful attack with a bladed or piercing weapon. The target takes 1d6 damage at the start of their turn until the bleeding is stemmed. This only affects living targets. You can declare this after an attack roll has been made.

Vapours
You waft a vial or rag saturated with noxious substances under the target's nose, removing 1d6/level points of Shock from them. This costs 1 use of medical supplies.

Stimulant
You fashion a stimulant cocktail that increases the target's STR and Movement by 4 for 1d6 Rounds. Once the effect expires the target suffers 1d6 damage, their STR is reduced by 2 and they must Save vs CON or gain an amount of Shock equal to their CON. This costs 2 uses of medical supplies.

Radical Treatment
You undertake a desperate treatment deemed to be insane by your more orthodox peers, but the circumstances demand it. Instead of rolling INT/2 to stabilise a character with Fatal Wounds, expend 3 uses of medical supplies. The check automatically passes and the character survives, but not intact. The GM has discretion over what this entails, but something along these lines is generally in the right ballpark. The character gains an Interesting Scar.

Credit, Boris Rogozin

Background

Skerples and Shadow of the Demon Lord have the right idea with skill checks. I'm going to be using character backgrounds/professions to indicate a PC's general knowledge and then use skills to provide Boons in specific situations where the skills apply, or just allow characters to pass.

Roll and gain the following background, then roll on the results underneath. Asterisks indicate that you are literate:

1. Academic*; 2. Criminal; 3. Frontier; 4. Soldier; 5. Urbanite; 6. Unusual

1. Academic*
1. You were studying to become a physician when you were discovered dissecting corpses in the mortuary. You were expelled and the scandal that followed tarnished your family's name. Start with the 'Anatomy' skill and a book of forbidden anatomical texts.
2. You attempted to link the physicians' study of the stars with the surgeons' cutting of the body. Your attempts to were violently resisted. Start with the 'Astronomy' skill and an extra 3 medical supplies.
3. Students are a rowdy lot. You patched up the worst of them after particularly intense debates or nights of drunken knife fighting, some of them paid you in lessons as well as coin. Start with the 'Literature' skill and an extra 1d10sp.
4. Capable assistants and understudies are always needed by wizards, especially those skilled with reagents and a needle & thread. Their survival rate varies wildly and the pay is usually not good enough. Start with a random magic wand and an Interesting Scar.
5. You supplemented your alchemical studies with surgery work on the side. Conveniently you had plenty of subjects to test your various concoctions on. For entirely unrelated reasons you now live anonymously very far away. Start with the 'Alchemy' skill and a vial of mutagenic compound (Save vs CON or suffer a random mutation).
6. A scholar of languages favoured your steady hands when they needed a haircut or bloodletting. Start knowing an extra language and with an extra 1gp.

2. Criminal
1. The gangs needed someone to patch them up, no questions asked. You did the job, though it gave you nightmares. Start with a bottle of strong spirit, 3 extra medical supplies and criminal contacts in the nearest town or city.
2. You procured bodies for illicit dissections in dark corners of the colleges. It paid well. Start with a shovel, the 'Graverobbing' skill and an extra 1gp.
3.* Thugs and rogues came to you for haircuts, tattoos and scarring. Your knives and needles were the best around. Start knowing the local Thieves' Cant and with a bottle of ink, a needle & thread and an extra 2d10cp.
4. You know how to really hurt people. How to hurt them so badly that they'll tell you where the money or somniferum is, with no falsehoods whatsoever. Start with the 'Torture' skill and a set of Specialist's Tools.
5. You tended to beggars and vagrants when everyone else ignored them. Increase your Stealth score by 2. There is a 2-in-6 chance that you know some of the beggars in a local settlement, roll when you first enter it; they will be wise to the goings on in town and can gather information unobtrusively.
6. You had the trust of a local crime boss, virtually acting as one of their entourage. A rival boss made you an offer you couldn't refuse and now your former employer's thugs are on the lookout for you. Start with the 'Disguise' skill, a hooded cloak and an extra 5gp.

3. Frontier
1. You had to learn how to deal with most things by yourself when wandering the forested frontier. Your talents rendered you invaluable to the isolated villages you passed through. Start with the 'Forestry' skill, a bow and 10 arrows.
2. For a time you lived as a recluse in a small mountain village. You earned a meagre upkeep through giving the occasional haircut and home-brewed tonic. Start with the 'Mountaineer' skill, 50' of rope and a thick cloak.
3. You travelled far and wide through the sparsely populated borderlands, honing your skills in hamlets, border towns and fortified castles. Start with a sturdy riding horse (with saddlebags) and an extra 3 days-worth of trail rations.
4. You drifted to-and-fro without aim, earning money and food where you could. You learned how to travel, scrounge and stay out of sight. Start with the 'Vagabond' skill and a well-worn cloak. You take 1 Boon to Saves against exposure or inclement weather.
5. As a ship's surgeon you were called on to treat the battle wounded and those who had fallen sick. More often than not you had no choice but to amputate limbs or extremities. Start with the 'Sailing' skill, a bucket of pitch and 50' of rope.
6. You eked out a living with a rough and ready band of thugs, waylaying travellers and shaking down local villages, until the War saw you dispersed. Start with the 'Banditry' skill, a sword and an extra 1d10sp in ill-gotten gains.

4. Soldier
1. You never fought in a battle but instead followed the army around as a camp follower, pulling teeth, providing medicines and trimming beards, among other things. The pay of a soldier is forever in arrears, so you often bartered your skills. Start with an axe, a small pig and a fine, red cloak.
2.* You attended to a lord while they fought in the War. Yours was a privileged position, but all this ended when they were killed or taken prisoner. Start with a sword, clothes in the livery of the lord you served and 1d6gp pilfered from their baggage when the news came through.
3. You fought in push of pike on the worst battlefields that the War had to offer, patching up your comrades as best you could. It was never enough. Start with light armour and +1 to Saves vs Fear.
4. Horses need just as much, if not more, looking after than people and you were often hired by members of a cavalry troop to help care for their mounts. Start with the 'Husbandry' skill, a set of horseshoes and a bag of fodder.
5.* The quartermaster kept access to you tightly restricted, meaning you had a lot of time to pore over records and receipts while waiting for those with the coin to buy your services. Start with the 'Logistics' skill and an extra 3 days-worth of pilfered ration supplies.
6. You made your services available to the locals as the army passed through. Most of them were dirt poor peasants with little in the way of coin. Start with a wheelbarrow, 3 turnips and 1d20cp.

5. Urbanite
1.* You mingled with burghers and high-ranking guild officials, eager for the trappings of wealth and power. Start with the 'Fashion' skill and a set of fine clothes.
2. Your city was besieged in the opening stages of the War and you were drafted to aid in its defence. Whether the city resisted or fell, you remember the experience vividly. Start with the 'Siege' skill and a polearm.
3.* You assisted a popular physician who, like all physicians, was above surgery. They pay was good but the constant condescension was too much, so you struck out on your own. Start with a book of medical texts and an extra 1d10sp.
4. You lived and plied your trade in the city's slums. You were poor but happy, even if you had to scrounge a lot of your supplies. Not so much now. Start with the 'Scavenge' skill, a memento of your home and take 1 Boon to Saves when resisting the effects of hunger.
5. Your services were used by numerous wealthy families in the city who wished their afflictions to remain anonymous. You were paid well and often travelled to and from their houses in secret. Start with the 'Disguise' skill, +1 Stealth and 1d6gp.
6. You were good friends with the watch, and often provided your services free of charge in exchange for certain favours such as turning a blind eye to a wagon or two. Start with the 'Smuggling' skill and 3 doses of somniferum.

6. Unusual
Discuss your background with the GM depending on the option you roll below:

1. You nearly died once. After that you always heard the whispers when you were working. They were even worse when a patient died on you. You can cast 'Speak with Dead' once per day as if it were a cantrip and take 1 Boon on Saves vs Fear.
2.* You hail from lands far beyond this one and its neighbours. The skills the local barber-surgeons display are crude and barbaric, but their reasoning is sound. Start with the 'Anatomy' skill. Your technique is such that you have a 25% to preserve any medical supplies used with your abilities. You know the language of your homeland.
3. As a child, you were blessed and marked by a saint when they passed through your village. You never got sick, even when the Plague swept through. Start with the 'Religion' skill and take 1 Boon on Saves vs Disease. You have an Interesting Scar.
4. You nearly died of fever as a child, and since you recovered you have always been able to see sickness and miasma. They hang over the afflicted like sickly ghosts weeping maggots. You always know when someone has been infected with a disease and gain 1 Boon when you Save vs Fear. You don't like cities and towns.
5. You've tried so many alchemical substances that it's rare you find one that affects you. Start with the 'Alchemy' skill. You gain 1 Boon when you Save vs poisons or other intoxicants, and must always Save even if someone friendly has administered the substance to you.
6.* You have been inducted in the histories of the physicians of old. Miraculous methods and techniques are within your reach. Nothing will stop you from obtaining them. Start with the 'History' skill, an ancient (and valuable) medical treatise and take +1 on Saves vs Fear.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Pike & Shotte: The War, Part 1

One of the central elements of Pike & Shotte will be the War. Not a war. The War. The kind of war that kills one in every fifth person through violence, famine, and disease. War breeds chaos, confusion and the opportunity for adventurers to break out of the established social order. Chaos, as Littlefinger says, is a ladder.

Credit, Olli Hihnala

I'm going to provide a framework to answer the following questions with regards to the nature of the War, in order to flesh out the scenario that the PCs will find themselves in. Mechanical implications that I will detail in a subsequent post.:

  • Where is the conflict occurring?
  • What is the cause of the War?
  • What is the current state of the War?

Where is the conflict occurring?

I've thought up a number of options for this and presented them with my thoughts below.

1. An empire of semi-independent petty kingdoms and principalities
This is the assumed 'default' setting of Pike & Shotte, based on the Holy Roman Empire. While the emperor leads one of the Great Powers (at least in the local region) their realm is riven with innumerable squabbling Princes, Electors, Bishops and Lord Mayors each pursuing their own agenda or forming dangerous factions. External enemies lurk like hungry wolves, preparing to pounce on undefended territories at a moment's notice. Membership of the empire means that the constituent states are (theoretically) bound by oaths of loyalty, but individual cultures, traditions, and even languages may be vastly different from one region to another.

2. A rich and powerful kingdom under threat from a foreign usurper
This takes inspiration from the Hundred Years War, where the Kings of England warred against the Kings of France in various attempts to enlarge their French holdings or contest the French crown. The kingdom is something of a patchwork - the crown is strongly centralised in their own demesne and powerful nobles control much of the reaches. Independent kings and dukes hold suzerainty over lands traditionally considered part of the crown. Levels of lawlessness and wealth may shift rapidly from one region to another. A common language is shared and cultural norms and traditions are roughly comparable between different areas.

3. The borderlands between rival kingdoms
Inspired by the Welsh and Scottish Marches. These bleak and sparse lands see almost constant low-level conflict between rival clans of border reivers. The armies of the rival kingdoms also foray into and beyond the borders in their own raids. The kingdoms can be as similar or distinct as you like, but the marches possess their own hybrid culture that is distinct from either parent, and marcher inhabitants from either side of the border have more in common with each other than their own countrymen.

4. A land divided by civil war
Based on the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Some matter of religion or politics has divided the people of an isolated country. The different factions seek allies from all avenues to help them in their struggle for supremacy. Regions declare for either side leading to a chaotic spread of allegiances that span the country with little recognisable pattern.

5. A foreign land, or close to home
Somewhat based on the First Crusade, from either perspective. Armies of varying nations have arrived in a foreign land on some sort of mission. The foreign armies exist in a loose alliance but all have their own agendas and desire prestige and wealth. Likewise the local inhabitants have their own factions and plans which complicate their response. Each side may have a little knowledge of the other but vastly different cultures and languages.

Credit, Irfan Yang


What is the cause of the War?

The War is out of the scope of the usual border squabbles and small scale conflicts. Use these to gauge the overall aims of the warring sides. 

1. Religion
Schism and heresy have long been a cause of bloody wars throughout history. Each side is focused on ensuring that their particular religious ideal is practised as the dominant form of the faith, whether they practise different forms of the same faith or worship different gods altogether. Inter-faith relationships will be even more fraught than usual.

2. Resources
One side wants control or possession something the other one has. Gold, some magical material, opium, tea, water, fertile farmland, wealthy cities - all of these and more could be the target of a warring power. Possessing even a small amount of the desired resources could make the PCs very wealthy indeed.

3. Dynastic struggles
Each side in the war is aligned to a branch of a certain dynasty which, through centuries of intermarriage, has ascended to the thrones of many nations. Either the different branches begin to have designs of their own, or a rival dynasty takes action when they see an opportunity. Widespread fighting breaks out as local nations choose sides and attempt to alter the balance of power. Oaths of loyalty to the dynastic heirs are not taken lightly.

4. Conquest/Colonisation
The attacker desires the complete subjugation or the defender, absorbing their lands in their entirety, or the carving out of their own enclaves. This could be an invasion launched from their homeland or a migration-style invasion where the entire populace is on the move. The defender will be fighting for their very survival.

5. Politics
The commons rise against the king; the nobles demand that their ancient rights are protected; the king grips the country with an iron fist. Some issue of politics or governance has kicked off a brutal civil war, turning countrymen against each other in the throes of ideological fervour. This will not be a simple either/or situation - each side will have numerous sub-factions clamouring for their versions of the True Cause to be given primacy.

Credit, Paul Guzenko

What is the current state of the War?

1. Opening Phases
The War has only just begun, with only a few participants. Armies have mustered and preliminary skirmishes and small battles have been fought. The land remains mostly unchanged as the armies manoeuvre and prepare for their first pitched battles. Smaller settlements may have been besieged or taken. The land remains relatively unspoiled.

2. Main Thrust
The fighting heats up significantly with several pitched battles being fought. New participants enter the fray and larger settlements are besieged and assaulted. Free Companies start to peel off from the main armies as pay starts to dry up, taking up brigandage and banditry. Food shortages start to bite and the civilian population suffers as turmoil engulfs the land. Disease spreads like wildfire in besieged cities and towns.

3. Late Game
Armies continue to clash, though allegiances may have shifted between the warring powers. Some participants will be knocked out by this point and still some new powers will throw their weight behind one side or another. Roving armies and brigands have picked the countryside clean and famine sweeps the land. Hordes of unwashed bodies in close quarters have spread pestilence to all corners and some areas are virtually depopulated.

Friday, 25 May 2018

OSR Class: Moderatus Wizard

"And as with the potter's clay on the wheel, all aspects of one's life must be in balance. Too much or too little of one thing or another and it will fall..." - Saint Atavus, Sermons

The first of my classes for Pike & Shotte. Inspired by Arnold K.'s Wizard of the White Hand. Some of the spells are stolen wholesale. This class uses the standard GLOG wizard base, as detailed by Skerples, until such a time as I detail my own alterations. My thoughts are presented in italics.

Barber-surgeons are skilled in their craft of steel and blood, but theirs is a crude art. They hack and sew at the body as if it were a hunk of meat, barbaric and destructive even as they heal and repair. The body and mind are finely tuned constructs, designed as they are by the divine, and their holy sanctity must be upheld.

The crimson robes of the monastic Even-Handed Order are commonly seen in the halls of power. Kings, nobles and wealthy burghers call upon the services of the wizards known as Moderati to act as their personal physicians, such are their talents. Much of a Moderatus' handsome fee is paid to the Order, making it exceedingly wealthy and allowing it to fund hospitals and almshouses, leading to a widely held respect for those who wear the sign of the crossed palms. Their noted honesty and charity also helps.

A Moderatus eschews alcohol, incense and laudanum, for these things disrupt the balance of the mind and body. All Moderati have a particular hatred for poisoners and the undead. They meditate often. Women are welcome in their ranks, but rare.

Central to the tenets of the Even-Handed Order is an ideal of balance - the divine created all things in a perfect arrangement which must be maintained, whether this is the body's humours, the soundness of the mind, or the order of society. As such, Moderati tend to be conservative, dour types who dislike change. A Moderatus who rejects the life of hospitaller or court physician will often wander the land, seeking out new remedies for maladies both mundane and magical.

Credit, Andromonoid MJ

Wizard: Moderatus

Additional Starting Equipment: Crimson robes, dagger, 1d10sp, needle & thread.

Status: Chartered.

Perk: You can tell the current dominant humour in a person at a glance. Tailor your conversation carefully.

Moderati know the four temperaments well. They can tell who will be easily provoked to anger, who will not be drawn into impulsive decisions, who thinks this is all a silly game, and so on. This is handy to have when preparing for negotiations.

Drawback: You lose your powers the moment you are exposed to an intoxicant, whether it be alcohol, drugs or poisons. This lasts until the next day.

Note that this covers exposure, not whether or not you actually partake. One splashed drink = one sad wizard.

Cantrips:
1. You may bring [level] pints of water to the boil in moments.
2. You always know the fulcrum of any balanced object.
3. You can clean surfaces by running your hands over them.

These cantrips are geared around the idea of a monastic healer but have some utility to an adventuring party - you can identify unstable objects at a glance, cover traces of your passing and have a last ditch weapon if required.

Credit, Jakub Rebelka

Moderatus Spell List

1. Knit Flesh
Range: Touch; Target: One creature; Duration: Instant
Your touch heals the target of their wounds, restoring 1d6+[dice] HP. Alternatively this can be used to re-attach a severed limb or other body part. Just make sure it's fresh and you arrange it in roughly the right way.

Essentially Cure Light Wounds with added Frankenstein-potential.

2. Charm Person
Range: 120'; Target: One person; Duration: [dice] Turns
You soothe the target's mind, rendering them blindly happy and a little bit in love with you. They will obey any request that you make for the duration, provided that it doesn't go against their own interests or personality. They may Save to resist a request that goes against their interests or personality, but succeeding will not end the effects of the spell. Abuse, neglect and violence will trigger a Save made with 2 Boons and the target will fly into a murderous rage if they break free. The target is aware that they are under the influence of a spell and may be very unhappy when the effects wear off.

3. Purgation
Range: 50'; Target: One creature; Duration: Instant
Your target violently expels the contents of their stomach and bowels as they cramp and spasm, suffering 1d4 damage. Targets may make an additional Save vs a poison or intoxicant effect with 1 Boon and are immobilised for [dice] Rounds. Casting this spell with 3 or more [dice] will inflict [sum]+1 damage, leave the target dangerously dehydrated, immobilise them for [dice]x2 rounds and allow a Save with 2 Boons.

4. Tweak Humour
Range: 60'; Target: One creature; Duration: [sum] Rounds
You harshly alter the humours of your target. Choose an effect from the list below:
Choler: Your target is plunged into a terrible rage, attacking the nearest possible target in melee. The target makes all Attack and Damage rolls with a bonus of [dice] but suffers -2 to Defence/Armour Class.
Melancholy: Waves of depression and anxiety wrap around your target, dulling their senses. The target suffers [dice] Banes on all rolls.
Phlegm: The target must Save or flee for the duration, if they pass their Save they automatically go last in initiative order.
Sanguine: You render the target almost blindly empathetic. If they see one of their comrades injured they suffer equivalent Shock to the amount of damage dealt.

5. Cure Disease
Range: Touch; Target: One creature; Duration: Instant
You draw the miasma of disease out of the target, allowing them to make a new Save with 1 Boon to shake off its effects. It is essential to perform this spell in a well-ventilated area or have a means of bottling or otherwise containing it, lest the miasma concentrate in a bystander's lungs and fester anew.

Plague grenades, anyone?

6. Unbalanced
Range: 60'; Target: One creature or object: Duration: [dice] Rounds
You upset the inner ear of the target, causing a rush of vertigo - they must Save when moving or attacking and fall to the floor if they fail. If you cast this spell with 3 or more [dice] the target falls to the ground, unable to do anything but crawl and retch.

7. Sleep
Range: 60'; Target: [dice] creatures; Duration: [dice]/targets Turns (min. 1 Turn per [dice])
You dull the target's mind with waves of somniference, lulling them to sleep. Violence or rough movement and loud noises will wake the target but gentle handling and normal movements will not. Magical creatures may Save to resist the effects of this spell. Undead, constructs and other creatures that do not require sleep are not affected by this spell.

8. Extract Venom
Range: Touch; Target: One creature; Duration: Instant
You pierce a creature with a sharp object and draw all of the venom out, which then pools in your hand or a vial. If you use this to remove the poison from a poisoned creature, that creature gets a new Save with 1 Boon. You can also use this to draw all of the poison out of a venomous creature. Unwilling venomous creatures may Save to negate this effect.

9. Calm Nerves
Range: 60'; Target: One creature; Duration: Instant
You settle the target's nerves and balance their humours. They heal [sum] Shock and may make a new Save with 1 Boon vs an ongoing mental effect.

10. Hold Creature
Range: 60', Target: One creature; Duration: [dice] Turns
You paralyse the body of the target, rendering them unable to move. Unwilling targets may attempt a Save - if successful they move at half speed, go last in initiative and suffer 1 Bane on all Attack, STR, and DEX rolls.

Emblem Spells
11. Vivigraphy 
Range: Touch; Target: One living creature; Duration: 1 Turn
Your target's body is compelled to answer [dice] questions. This is the flesh body answering, not the mind. The body will answer honestly, but flesh bodies technically see/hear/experience everything the living body does, but they only remember things that involve food, sex, pain, adrenaline responses, and stuff like that. Usually the body will talk using its normal mouth, but it may also communicate the response in other ways, like spelling out answers in freckles. It's always understandable, although sometimes a bit cryptic.

12. Heal
Range: Touch; Target: One creature; Duration: Instant
A wondrous warmth seeps through your target as you cure them of their afflictions. You may heal [dice] afflictions (poisons, diseases etc.) and/or injuries (meaning that they will heal with a night's rest), along with [sum] HP. If you cast this spell with 4 or more [dice] you can restore to life a creature that died in the last Turn. They are restored to life at 0 HP and keep any injuries they suffered before death.

Mishaps
1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24 hours.
2. Take 1d6 damage.
3. Random mutation for 1d6 Rounds, then Save with a -4 penalty. Permanent if you fail.
4. You hands knot and twist for 1d6 Turns. Fine manipulation and spellcasting is impossible.
5. Your teeth fall out and shape themselves into bone needles, -4 CHA. They regrow overnight.
6. Your humours are unsettled for 1d6 Turns. Suffer a Bane on all rolls.

Dooms
1. You become gaunt and sickly. You must Save each day or contract a minor illness (cold, conjunctivitis etc.) with appropriate penalties. These diseases are cumulative.
2. Your body withers and decays. As above, but you contract a major illness (smallpox, cholera etc.).
3. Your mind shatters as your body erupts as a maggot-ridden hive of disease and sickness. All within 50' of you must Save or contract the Plague. You caper madly, spreading filth and corruption wherever you tread.

Credit, Kseniia Tselousova
This class has a variety of healing spells befitting a physician-wizard, as well as means of controlling others through mental and physical effects. Being able to restore a recently killed target to life is amazingly powerful in this system, but obtaining that spell will take some doing. Direct damage is limited, but being able to make an enemy shit themselves so hard they curl into the foetal position has to count for something.

Mishaps are moderately inconveniencing, especially if in a dangerous area, but the Dooms are pretty nasty - you could end up spreading a variety of wonderful pestilences to your party and then end up as a sloppity bilepiper.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Pike & Shotte: First Steps

I've been seized by a madness. A madness that only strikes when I'm running a campaign using another set of house rules. A madness to kludge together a system that uses the GLOG as its core (including some of Skerples' refinements) with various parts of Lamentations of the Flame Princess bolted on, presented in a weird fantasy, Early Modern-inspired setting. Adventurers scrabbling for scraps of treasure in the midst of mercenary armies plundering and looting, internecine religious conflict, the slow decline of the old order, the dethroning of kingsthings and places from ages unknown by human memory, sorcery from beyond the veil of madness, gunpowder, steel and chaos. That sort of thing. It could be glorious. It will probably be crap, but to quote Arnold K.:
But no one is interested in your fantasy heartbreaker.  This is because everyone is up to their ascending colon in retroclones and besides, they're busy writing their own.
It's like trying to tell other people about your dreams.  No one cares.  Give them content, not another retroclone.
I know these things, and yet here I am.
Above all I want to ensure that the end result is still as fun, simple and OSR-compatible as the components used in its creation. With the above in mind, I'm going to be making a few posts with steps that can be be used to build up a world full of chaos and opportunity for enterprising PCs. Namely:

- The War and why it started (or why it's about to start), how long it has been going, and what the armies are doing (potentially including mass combat);
- PC Classes;
- Religion and schism;
- Magical, monstrous & fantastical elements.

There will be others, but I'll get to those as and when the ideas strike.*

Credit, Filip ┼átorch

*All of the above will not abide by any rational or logical notions of timekeeping.

Friday, 18 May 2018

OSR: IT Monsters & Magic, Part 2

In my previous post I wrote up a few IT-inspired things that I'd come up with. Here's a bit more of that!

Credit, Robin Weatherall

Particle Ghost (Backup)
The Central Processor of a techno-dungeon resembles a gestalt consciousness more than a distinct entity. While it is capable of acting with a single purpose, Central Processing is the sum of a vast number of interconnected, specialised systems. Each of these systems is vital to the functioning of the whole, and specialised Code Servitors are constantly error-checking and backing up its core components in case disaster recovery is required. Such backups don't always run correctly.

The PCs may catch a glimpse of something insubstantial following them through the steel halls of the techno-dungeon. A faint static charge causes their hair to stand on end, and any electrical equipment experiences occasional glitches. A particle ghost is close.

Spawned from corrupted backup routines, these entities move through the integrated circuitry of a techno-dungeon attempting to fulfil their intended functions. They are easily distracted from their attempts. Upon finding a band of intruders, they materialise into a ghoulish, sparking humanoid form writhing with streams of corrupted data.

AC: 16*, HD: 4, Attacks: +2 to hit & special (see below), Move: Fly 30', Save As: 4th level Magic-User, Morale: 10.

SPECIAL
A particle ghost exists mostly in an incorporeal state and can only be harmed by magic or magic weapons while in this state. They must materialise to attack and are vulnerable to regular damage when they do so. Given 24 hours they will regenerate all damage dealt to them.

Roll on the table below to see the process that the particle ghost was spawned from:

1. Environmental - Oxygen levels are drained when the particle ghost attacks. Target must Save vs Breath or suffer 1d6 damage. A character who fails this save twice in a row falls unconscious.

2. Security - Target suffers 1d6 damage and is suffers -2 STR drain (this is cumulative).

3. Data Compilation - Target loses one random possession. If the lair of the particle ghost is found, it contains a large number of items that have been meticulously arranged in neat sets.

4. Memory Management - Target loses 1d4 x 100xp as their memories and experiences are drained.

5. Power Generation - Target takes 1d8 electric damage and must Save vs Paralysis or be paralysed for 1d6 rounds. Any electrical equipment they are carrying is destroyed.

6. Quantum Computation - An exact physical copy of the target is created 50' away, minus any equipment. Memorised spells and current hit points are transferred. The copy may attempt to deceive the party, but it is in fact irreversibly hostile towards them. The particle ghost can perform this four times, per target, per day, before their calculations become too unstable and must have the new copies factored in.

Credit, Dan Voinescu

Helmjack
The origin of these devices is shrouded in mystery, but they fit the average humanoid head. Though it outwardly resembles a smooth, chrome helmet, the inner surface of a helmjack is covered in an undulating layer of monofilament strands.

When a creature dons a helmjack the monofilaments infiltrate their skull and penetrate deep into their brain. The experience has been described as extremely unpleasant. Within moments the helmjack maps the wearers neural patterns with pinpoint accuracy and stores them in a dense latticework of integrated circuitry. The player should note down their current XP and non-physical stats - INT & WIS for definite and CHA depending on whether you consider it an expression of personality or physical attractiveness, I hold to the former. A light at the base of the helmjack will light up if there is an engram stored.

If a creature dons a helmjack that holds an engram then their consciousness will be swapped out with the engram-consciousness within. Likewise, if a vacant body (mind-blanked clone servitor, deactivated roboframe, corpse that has been physically healed etc.) can be found then an engram-consciousness can be activated. The experience of being forced into a body that their mind is not used to can be extremely traumatic.

Friday, 11 May 2018

OSR: IT Monsters & Magic

I work with computers, and that's why I drink. Working with technology on a daily basis means that a lot of my thoughts are taken up thinking about how to apply it to various aspects of my life (currently this consists of plans for a scratch-built pfSense router once house-buying is finalised), but until now my thoughts on RPGs + technology have been confined to sci-fi games like Stars Without Number and Eclipse Phase. Blogging and viewing the fantastic ideas that others in the OSR scene have come up with (special mention to Martin at Goodberry Monthly's horrifying protein monsters) has got me thinking about how IT features and concepts could be converted for use in gaming, especially about how many of them can be used to 'attack the sheet'.

Ideas below are rough and ready, refinements and additions will be made in subsequent posts as I think of them.

Concept art of the Sevastopol from Alien: Isolation, artist unknown

Techno-Dungeons

Ancient civilisations have left their mark on Egradus. The Ancients and Serpent-Men waged their terrible war in eons past and highly advanced orcish nations flourished until the cataclysmic arrival of humans, dwarves and halflings. While the Serpent-Men were more magically and biologically inclined, the Ancients and orcs had a close affinity with technology. In the process of their endeavours on Egradus they built structures and machines of immense complexity - the Ancients relied on vast AI-controlled terraforming facilities and laboratories to transform the planet in their image, while the orcs constructed tools of war, space travel and industry in their quest to reclaim the stars.

Such endeavours required huge amounts of processing power and computational ability. Thus were born the techno-dungeons: enormous hardened structures governed by AI that were designed around a single purpose. This could be anything from maintaining and running an automated singularity foundry to determining floating point spacetime co-ordinates for an experimental teleporter.

These facilities were designed to be run by the AI within with a singularity of purpose, free from external distractions save for minimal supervision. They would have their own maintenance subroutines and defences and the resources to self-sustain their operations. None of them survived the ravages of the years intact but there are many that are still in semi-operational condition. The power and wealth that lie within are immense, but so too are the dangers that still lurk in the forgotten metallic depths.

I'll be doing a separate post on techno-dungeons and will hopefully produce a working one for use sometime soon.

Credit, Andrew Fichthorn

Monsters

Mindcage (Ransomware)
Strange creatures spawned from intelligent beings' avarice that possess a pathological desire for wealth, which they can't bring themselves to spend.

Very few people have ever seen a mindcage in its true form, even when it attacks, as they are always disguised as something else. They generally disguise themselves as a container with something valuable within - when an unwitting person opens the container they leap out and force themselves into the victim's brain through the auditory organs. This process is painless and often unnoticed, but the victim soon finds their thoughts and memories rapidly disappearing and any attempts to communicate are emitted in a glossolalia gibberish.

Eventually the victim stands stock still in a catatonic state, demanding large amounts of treasure and valuables in a loud monotone. Once paid, the mindcage moves on but their victims remain in the same catatonic state for several weeks as they gradually recover from the experience. A mindcage's true form resembles a small, hunched humanoid figure with sallow pale skin, a distended toothless mouth and fingers that trail off into fractal filaments.

AC: 14, HD: 3, Attacks: special, Move: 30', Save As: 3rd level Magic-User, Morale: 7

SPECIAL
A mindcage can become incorporeal as a full-round action. It can only be seen or harmed by magic or magic items.

Instead of attacking, a mindcage attempts to enter a target's brain. It must be in ethereal form to do so. The target must Save vs Magic to resist, failure means that the mindcage successfully takes up residence in their brain. Success alerts the target to this attempt. Once inside the target's brain, the mindcage drains 1 point of INT and WIS per round; the target loses the power to speak intelligibly once 5 or more rounds pass. The target becomes catatonic as soon as their INT or WIS reach 3.

Once these stats reach 0 the target doesn't die but begins to demand large amounts of treasure - it will demand a greater amount than what is currently available to the party. If paid then the mindcage will absorb the treasure into their incorporeal form and flee to their lair. The target is restored to 3 INT & WIS and is rendered unconscious until their stats are restored to normal, which recovers at the standard pace. If nothing is paid then the victim will eventually die of thirst or starve.

Magic can be used to attack a mindcage directly but the attacker must be able to see the creature in order to avoid damaging the host.

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Code Servitor (Daemon)
Techno-dungeons are elaborately maintained electrical ecosystems - temperature, humidity, atmospheric particulate levels and more must be kept at a precise equilibrium to avoid damage to the delicate machinery contained within. Code Servitors are slaved to perform one specific purpose - filter the air, lower the temperature, equalise static charges, remove intruders etc. - and will fulfil it with a single-minded determination. They are generally small in stature and their appearance is utilitarian - they are designed with a specific task in mind, not aesthetics. Most servitors are mass produced by central processing but some are custom made for specific, vital tasks. Interrupting their tasks can prove massively detrimental to the dungeon at large and also to an adventurer's health.

AC: 14, HD: 2, Attacks: 1 appendage for 1d6 damage/special (see below), Move: Fly 30', Save As: 2nd level Fighter, Morale: -

SPECIAL
Code Servitors never fail morale checks and are immune to fear effects from spells and abilities.

The special effects of Code Servitor attacks vary depending on the servitor's purpose. For example a temperature control servitor may set a their target aflame or freeze them, or a humidity controller might drain all of the liquids they are carrying and start desiccating them.

---

Memetic Annelid (Worm)
Despite the efforts of the Code Servitors and heuristic intrusion countermeasure agents, life (of a sort) finds a way. Unauthorised lifeforms in a techno-dungeon survive through stealth, hiding in plain sight by deceiving the dungeon's guardians or secreting themselves in remote locations, or through rapid reproduction. Memetic annelids favour the latter method, dividing and splitting at the slightest provocation. The rich concentrations of resources held by living organisms and isolated machines provide tempting targets for them, and their prey's fate is as good as sealed as soon as an annelid manages to burrow inside.

AC: 12, HD: 1, Attacks: 1 bite + grab for 1d6 (Save vs Paralysis to avoid being grabbed) + special, Move: 30',  Save As: 1st level Fighter, Morale: 10 if targets are outnumbered, otherwise 7

SPECIAL
A memetic annelid can burrow into a target that it has grabbed. This is a full round action. The target takes 1d8 damage as the annelid burrows into them and takes 1d8 damage on each subsequent round. A target reduced to 0hp while an annelid has burrowed inside them explodes in a pile of gore and 1d4+1 annelids emerge from their remains, acting at the end of initiative order.

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Hostile-Key Isolators (Antivirus Quarantine)
While intruders are generally dealt with in a lethal fashion, central processing may choose to make an exception according to its arcane and ancient programming. While external entities may sometimes be tolerated, heuristic threat analysis is applied to their possessions and capabilities. Hostile-Key Isolators swarm subjects flagged as hazardous and strip them of anything deemed threatening, phase-shifting the offending articles to a quarantine zone.

AC: 14, HD: 1, Attacks: special, Move: Fly 30', Save As: 1st level Fighter, Morale: 12

SPECIAL
Roll below to see what has triggered the hostile response:
  1. Weapons
  2. Light sources
  3. External bio-contaminants (food, water & animal products)
  4. Aetheric disturbances (magic items, scrolls and potions)
  5. Unauthorised visual recordings (eyes)
  6. Prohibited auditory sensors (ears)
  7. Magnetic anomalies (metal objects)
  8. Suspicious containers (backpacks & sacks)
A successful hit requires the target to Save vs Magic Device. On a failure the hostile-key isolator phase-shifts the offending article to quarantine and withdraws from the target. Every isolator carries a private key with which to access the quarantine zones if required.

Credit, John F Stifter

Other

This wispy purple-ish smoke smells of ozone and burned plastic. It is intelligent and benign, and is capable of providing power to electrical devices. It can be bottled and if poured over a damaged electrical device it has a 2-in-6 chance of restoring normal function for 1d6 Turns. Pouring it onto a working machine will boost its functions for 1d6 Turns but runs a 3-in-6 chance of overloading it once this time has elapsed. Magic smoke will refuse to re-enter a machine from which it has escaped, for reasons it refuses to elaborate on.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Magic and its impact

For clarity, this post concerns arcane magic. The divine is another beast.

Magic has been a staple of RPGs since the beginning of the hobby - the traditional grouping of adventurers consists of a fighter, cleric, magic-user and (depending on how die-hard a purist you are) a thief. Magic-users control powers beyond mortal ken, providing flexibility in a huge number of situations, and their influence and presence is noted in a huge variety of RPGs (even those with a non-fantasy focus). However I often have an issue with how magic itself is portrayed, particularly with regard to where it originates and the implications its origin has for the wider setting.

In short, I want magic to provide great power and utility but with an element of mortal risk to the caster and their compatriots.

Credit, Iman Awan

In stock D&D or Pathfinder for example, arcane magic is just sort of... there. You have the usual Vancian fire-and-forget mechanics but magic is presented as a dry, formulaic thing where a wizard sits down, picks their spells out of a book and then uses them throughout the day. I don't get any sense of where that magic comes from or what spells are. Moving away from vanilla wizards gets you into sorcerer and warlock territory, whereby characters marshal magic through force of will or pacts with otherworldly beings. However magic remains easy to use and virtually without risk, save for some spell side effects. This second point is what turns me off from the 'magic' (under Clarke's Third Law, at least) in Monte Cook's Numenera - while its origin is awesome (swarms of nanites left over from ancient civilisations gone haywire) its use still fails to raise the stakes.

Compare this with Kevin Crawford's Stars Without Number (which is excellent, by the way). Psychic characters (technically not magic but whatever) are marked by a connection to a subspace realm of metadimensional energy that they are able to channel to manifest their powers. Most psychics die or go mad because the energies they channel fry their brains - only those who undergo rigorous training to channel the destructive energies through more resilient parts of their brains survive. Psychics can 'torch' their powers and go beyond their normal limits and in doing so they risk terrible and permanent damage. This fits seamlessly into the world - metadimensional space is used for faster than light travel and incredibly advanced ancient technology - and offers incredible powers to its users while also being a great hazard.

Recently I've fallen in love with Arnold K.'s GLOG, particularly the spellcasting rules. Each magic template you take nets you one magic dice which are rolled when you use one of your spells. Most spell effects scale with the number of dice used or the sum of their results, which gives you an incentive to pour more dice into a certain spell. However you only retain the dice on a 1-3 and regain lost dice at the start of the next day, and if you roll doubles or triples there are some horrid things that can happen to your character. So you have the balancing act of wanting to power up your spells while avoiding the chance of fucking things up. The in-GLOGiverse depiction of spells as somewhat unpredictable spiritual entities that a wizard has to draw into and rear inside their own brain provides a wonderful bit of worldbuilding that exactly describes why unleashing higher levels of power from the semi-enslaved extradimensional creatures in your brain-cage could cause some mishaps.

In my own Egradus setting I've stuck with the alternative rules for Lamentations of the Flame Princess found in the Vaginas Are Magic supplement - spells have no level and a magic-user has a number of preparation slots equal to their level. They can cast spells once these have been exhausted but this carries the risk of terrible side effects. Magic in Egradus is drawn from the Abyss - an entropic micro-universe that was guided into contact with the material plane by the malign eldritch entities within. The reality of the material plane was broken by contact with such a vastly entropic force and magic-users tap into the swirling chaotic energies released by the Abyss when it latched on like a tick. Thus magic-users can channel incredible power, but if they push themselves beyond their limits they run the risk of mutation, daemonic attention and worse.

Credit, Nikolay Moskvin

With this in mind I've thought up some possible origins and hazards of using arcane magic. Feel free to adapt them or suggest your own! I've kept them light on concrete mechanics but there should be enough to build from.

1. Dreams of a Dead God
Origin: The corpse of a deity lies long dead deep beneath the earth (or maybe it is the earth) but their essence lives on and permeates everything. Fragments of their dreams and soul touch and interact with the mortal world. Mages bend these to their will through meditation and use them to fuel their magical powers. Higher levels means a greater capacity to absorb the essence of a dead god.

Hazard: What is dead does not die. A mage that oversteps their bounds runs the risk of being drawn into living nightmares or having their personality gradually eroded by the ever so slowly decaying thoughts and memories of the divine.

2. The Soul (inspired by Chris at Journey into the Weird)
Origin: The soul is of a different substance to the body, one of power and limitless potential. The energy contained within a soul represents an incredible source of power and mages are able to control souls through arcane rituals using body parts, bones or hairs. The living have a chance to resist these rituals but the disembodied souls of the dead are powerless to resist being bound to a wizard's will. Higher levels means a greater ability to bind residual spirits and souls.

Hazard: The souls of the dead desire their freedom. A mage that loses control of a soul is often possessed, or finds that their own soul is viciously excoriated.

3. Intoxicant Delusions
Origin: Certain plants, fungi or even animals contain substances that shift a person's perception of the world to the astral plane and allow them to see the currents of energy that run through it. A wizard who imbibes a sufficient amount of these substances finds themselves able to shape and channel this power into their minds to be released in a variety of magical effects. Higher levels means a greater capacity for bingeing upon these substances and a greater ability to control the astral power they give access to.

Hazard: Overdoses are bad news for all involved. A person's metabolism can only take so much before weird mutations, diseases and spiritual afflictions start to crop up. Severe cases can lead to a person being phase-shifted into astral space, which isn't all nice.

4. Mathematical Perfection
Origin: Reality is an ordered construct. Every facet of the universe is detailed in endless formulae and equations. Wizards are master mathematicians who pore over and decipher the immaterial tapestry upon which reality is embroidered. Mastery of these elemental formulae allows them to manipulate and alter reality, whether that consists of firing bolts of energy or rendering themselves invisible. Higher levels means a better recall of the formulae in their notes and a deeper understanding of the underpinnings of creation.

Hazard: Don't recite a decimal point in the wrong place or the spell you intended to disembowel your enemy with might instead remove your arm, or merge you with the wall, or turn your cell membranes into lego.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

OSR: Goblins

I warn you in advance that this post is fucking stupid.

I've previously written about how goblins are fungal spores from space who do little but adapt almost perfectly to their environment only to get let down by their own lethal combination of curiosity and stupidity, and I promised that I'd add some mechanical features to my previous lore-bollocks. As it's nearly 6 months later I thought I'd go right ahead and get on that.

Credit, I Van

Goblins are weird spore creatures whose only purpose is to adapt to their environment and spread. They do this by gathering up biomass in the local area and chucking it into a foul-smelling spawning pool filled with acid, proteins and goblin base cells that breaks the biomass down and incorporates genetic traits from local flora and fauna into new goblins. The goblins go about their merry business until they collectively realise that there's a fuck ton of goblins in the area and the excess are 'convinced' to leave.

I'd intended for goblins to be more indicators of the general state of the environment than player characters due to goblins being despised as mischief-causing, occasionally murderous pests. Also their general mental state generally swings between being either intensely curious or rabidly vicious (insert comment about the average adventurer here). However, I did make a promise so here are some (LotFP-compatible) rules for goblins as a racial choice if anyone wanted to give them a try:

GOBLIN

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ABILITIES
Goblins roll 4d4 for their abilities instead of 3d6.

SAVES
As Halflings (goblins are pretty resilient creatures).

HIT DICE
1d4.

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SKILLS
None (goblins are useless, but see below).

CLASS RESTRICTIONS*
Goblins can be Goblins.

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SPECIAL
Goblins start with no possessions unless otherwise specified. All goblins have the following abilities/features:

---

Extremely Omnivorous
Pretty much anything organic counts as rations for goblins.

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Spawning
Roll randomly to determine the environment in which your goblin spawned. You don't know how you ended up here.

1. Forest - Gain the Climb skill at 3-in-6 and a long prehensile tail that is capable of carrying a minor weapon, and can support your weight. You start play with a leather sling and 5 bullets.

2. Desert - Gain the Bushcraft skill at 3-in-6 when in desert terrain. You require water once per week and can dig yourself into sand with only your nose poking out. You start play with your favourite pointy digging stick (minor weapon).

3. Mountains - You are hirsute and insulated against the cold, your natural AC is that of leather armour. You begin play with a tattered rope that you stole from a climber you pushed off a cliff, and your favourite bashing rock (improvised weapon).

4. Plains - You are taller than most goblins and can pass as an ugly halfling if you dress right and stay quiet. You start with a dagger (actual metal!) and 1sp.

5. Jungle - Your striped hide is well camouflaged against the verdant background; you gain the Stealth skill at 5-in-6 when in the wilderness. You begin with a blowpipe and 10 dung-tipped darts.

6. Marsh - Ain't nothing can poison you. Your Save vs Poison is 5 at level 1. You start play with a fishing pole, a club and a dead fish. Delicious.

7. Ocean - Yes, goblins can and do live in the sea. You start play with webbed appendages and gills. You can't breathe out of the water. You start with a bucket of seawater and a net.

8. Mage-blighted - Your hide is silvered and oddly reflective. Any spell cast upon you has a 50% chance of rebounding at the user. You start with a robe that is far too long for you, a scroll containing a level 1 arcane spell and a magic wand (in reality it's just a particularly knobbly stick).

9. Divine - A goblin threw a vial of holy water or a cleric or something into your spawning pool and now nothing works quite right. You look like a cherub that was fed through a mangle and thrown out of a tree, but you are able to project your voice with semi-angelic force once per day per level - all who hear you when you do so must Save vs Magic or be stunned for 1d4 rounds and take 1d6 damage. You start with a ragged loincloth and don't know why you wear it, and a crude holy symbol.

10. Volcano - You're pretty much fireproof, but don't go jumping into lava. You start with a macuahuitl of volcanic glass and petrified wood.

11. Arctic - Your body keeps working even in freezing conditions and you can dig down to permafrost with only your hands when conditions get too extreme. You are able to excavate three times as much earth when digging compared to a normal adventurer and do not suffer from freezing conditions, even when naked (which is most of the time). You start with a bone harpoon and some seal jerky.

12. Moon - You don't require oxygen, but you do need plenty of sun. You are very, very confused as to how you ended up here. You can reverse your relative gravity once per day per level, which lasts for a maximum of 1 hour per level. Start play with a moon rock (It hums! It glows! It floats! It's wytchfire! It might explode!).

Credit, Vaska Tsiolkovsky

Advancement
Goblins advance as halflings, but their unique biology grants them extra abilities when they level up if they've consumed enough organic matter from their local environment. This is down to GM discretion but I'd say eating something the size of a dog, bones and all, is good enough. The ability gained should be discussed with the GM.

Upon reaching level 5 the goblin must Save vs Magic. Success means nothing happens. If the save is failed then the goblin's urge to spawn becomes too great and they flee the party, becoming an NPC. After gorging themselves on local biomass and finding a safe location, the goblin bloats and explodes into an acidic soup that begins to spawn smaller goblins. This save must be made withe cumulative -2 penalty at every subsequent level. Anyone in the vicinity of an exploding goblin take 1d8 acid damage, Save vs Breath for half damage.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

OSR: Tent Fairs & Inhabi-tents

My players have been voyaging beyond the confines of Shaxecan city in search of a mysterious temple adorned with the images of snakes and recently stumbled across a sprawling, semi-permanent encampment around a junction on the imperial highway. This tent fair has a constantly shifting population as merchants, pilgrims and travellers pass through and something changes every time they visit. I use the system below to determine the rough number of camps, what proportion have something interesting to find and what the rough layout of the fair is at any given time. I have a vague plan to expand this into a neighbourhood system for the city that exists at the centre of all realities.

Any numbers below are, as is usually the case, pulled out of my arse.

Credit, Philip V.

POPULATION
Roll 1d100+25 for the overall number of encampments.

Take the result and divide it by 10 - this is the number of oddities, specialist merchants, mercenaries and other parties that have things the players might reasonably be interested in, as opposed to regular travellers and merchants. It can be assumed that there are any numbers of tinkers and poorer merchants who can sell basic goods.

Once you've found the number of interesting parties, roll on the table below and note the results:


D50 RollInteresting Campsites
1A scholar of the arcane covered in shifting, swirling tattoos sits before a campfire that burns with emerald flames. Glyphs shimmer in the air around them.
2A pair of masked elves spit into an empty cauldron and read fortunes in the wisps of steam that rise from it.
3A band of 1d20+5 wild-haired warriors drink and boast loudly of their conquests. Their armour is decorated with the bones of their enemies.
4A lord dressed in finery lounges in an immaculate pavilion, surrounded by his retinue of 3d10+5 servants and men-at-arms. They jealously guard their lord's space.
5A soot-stained apothecary mixes vials of smoking liquids as their tent emits billowing clouds of noxious fumes.
6A troupe of circus performers have pitched their tents and are practising fire breathing, acrobatics and pickpocketing.
7A train of heavy wagons carrying hissing, caged beasts have drawn up in a laager. The silvered cages hold the magical ones.
8What appear to be three goblins sitting on each other's shoulders in a long robe have pitched a miserable attempt at a tent.
9A small gathering of pilgrims crowd around a wagon-borne idol of a deity of travellers. Priests burn incense and offerings on mobile braziers.
10A simple tent holds a furiously scribbling monastic scholar laden with books, paper, spare quills and other trappings of the scrivener's trade.
11A white tent decorated with twisting serpents is home to a group of mendicant healers who are tending to the sick and wounded.
12A tightly regimented group of 2d20+10 pikemen in gleaming armour have pitched their tents in orderly lines.
13An armoured cleric offers benedictions and blessings from the entrance of their simple tent.
14A richly decorated canopy covers a vintner bearing exotic liqueurs who looks to make some money on the side.
15A soft-voiced merchant hawks intoxicants both somniferous and stimulating from the shadowy depths of their tent. Sweet vapours wisp from the entrance.
16A band of 1d20+5 crossbowmen from afar, dressed in extravagantly bright clothing, are busy training with some rough targets.
17A knight from foreign lands with a bizarre steed, polishing a strange weapon, has unfurled their bedroll beneath the open sky.
18A musclebound smith hammers at the anvil of their mobile forge that unfolds from the side of their wagon. Weapons and armour of masterful quality gleam in the forge-light.
19A robed mage speaks with the many songbirds that have landed on their tent and guyropes.
20A handler in thick canvas coveralls carefully arranges sturdy glass jars beneath their wagon's awning. On closer inspection wriggling slimes can be seen inside the jars.
21A veiled traveller sits beneath a dark awning, tending to a collection of curios and oddities.
22A gang of 1d8+2 bravos have attracted a small crowd who watch in astonishment as they duel with each other in a flowing, graceful bout.
23A large pavilion holds a number of leashed animals. They're well trained, and several are performing tricks for onlookers.
24A group of skeletons dance in a ring around an old, tattered tent. No one knows where they came from and no one wants to get too close.
25A beautiful, imperious elf oversees the erection of their tent by the help. They've been at it for hours and have had to disassemble and reassemble it several times because it's not quite right.
26A trio of blindfolded figures chant in a sonorous tongue. The air around their campsite chills to the bone.
27A thin, wiry gardener tends to a bountiful patch of various fungi. Their small tent is covered in lichen and moss.
28A travelling brewer has pitched a large pavilion and opened it to travellers, forming a makeshift ale house. It's packed with people.
29A group of 1d10 armed and armoured figures have secured a prisoner to a stake with a chained collar.
30A caravan of slavers has stopped to resupply. There are 1d10+5 slaves being watched by a quarter as many guards, plus the caravan master.
31A series of lifelike statues inhabit a quiet patch of tents. Some of them are discoloured and weathered with age.
32A particularly zealous pilgrim has erected a rickety platform atop a wooden pillar some 10' in the air. They rant and rave about the evils that plague their land, beseeching all who pass for aid.
33A band of 1d20+3 horsemen have erected a picket and are re-shoeing their horses. They have been entertaining travellers with their skill at horseback archery.
34A travelling wizard has erected suitably flashy tent. It is much bigger on the inside and they claim to have magical wares for sale.
35Several tents are floating roughly 20' in the air, their inhabitants nowhere to be found. No one remembers them arriving.
36A traveller from afar has set up a small camp filled with peculiar brass devices that play a pleasant, resonant music.
37It just so happens that [NPC the party was looking for] has set up a camp here!
38A tattooist has erected a wide awning covered in intricate designs and pictures. Rumour says that their tattoos have magical powers...
39A caravan of the king's tax collectors has stopped to make camp. They're laden with gold!
40A small hut sits in a clearing, wicker wooden legs curled up beneath it. Sometimes an old witch comes out of the forest to trade...
41A haunch of exotic meat spits and sizzles over a roaring fire next to a merchant's wagon. They say it'll fill you with power!
42A fighting pit has been set up in the middle of a circle of wagons. It's attracted quite a crowd, and bets are flying as thick and fast as the fists.
43A cloaked and hooded figure has set up a secluded tent away from the others. Rumour has it that they deal in poisons and venom.
44A finely dressed scholar sits in a luxurious pavilion, carefully marking a sheet of parchment. Their pavilion has maps and keys stitched into the patterning of the fabric.
45A group of 1d20+5 mercenary sappers have formed a tight-knit encampment, keeping their supplies of blasting powder under close watch.
46A brightly painted wagon adorned with fluttering pennants. The vexillographer within enchants the images they embroider onto the fabric so that the shimmer and dance.
47A barber surgeon sits in a red and white tent, sharpening their instruments.
48A tottering wagon full to the brim with books and scrolls. An elderly collector is searching for more, and is quite knowledgeable about local lore.
49A silver tent stands alone. The glittering of light reflected by many mirrors can be seen from the open flap.
50A travelling artist is displaying their latest paintings. The landscapes are of vivid, alien places and the portraits move about.

Once you've noted the results down, you'll need a bit of scrap paper. Note the general terrain features down, i.e. rivers, roads, nearby forests etc., and take a d4 for each result you rolled above. Chuck the dice on sheet and note where they land and the result of the roll - this is how many 'connections' there are to the nearest interesting points or landmark features. I find it easiest to connect them from the closest tips of the d4s, branching off as many times as feels appropriate. See the example below:

Behold, my artistic talent.
I'm rolling up results for a tent fair at a branch in a highway. I rolled a result of 35 on a d100, adding 25 for a total of 60. Divide this by 10 and you end up with 6 interesting sites. Six rolls on the table later and I've got 12 (pikemen), 22 (bravos), 37 (an NPC the party was looking for), 45 (sappers), 48 (wagon of books), and 50 (a travelling artist with moving pictures). Rolling 6d4 on the map I've drawn leads to the above - each site is connected to the nearest other site at least once and I've connected one of them to the main road twice to represent a particularly busy area.

Then I decide where to place the results from the table into the available sites. I don't have a hard and fast rule for this, just whatever feels appropriate - the results from the table should give an idea of which results are more reclusive and which are more popular.

Finally I roll d6 for each of the gaps in between the sites to fill them out with other travellers, using the below:

1-2. Commoners - peasants, farmers, hunters and other travellers.
3-4. Merchants - tinkers and poorer traders.
5-6. Pilgrims - zealots, poor priests and the humble faithful.

And there you have the finished result:

Red = commoners, yellow = merchants, purple = pilgrims.

I've only had a chance to use this system a few times but it's already proven to be handy at creating a changing environment for the PCs to return to with some new hooks for them each time. I'll hopefully be adding some more results to the d50 table above - any suggestions are welcome!

Thursday, 3 May 2018

OSR Class: Serpent Chirurgeon

My party recently took a mauling at the combined hands/fangs of an animated statue and reanimated giant spider, and decided that a little bit of time off to heal up was needed. They had recently come across a permanent but ever changing tent fair on the highway near to the forest they were exploring and decided to head through there to see if there was anyone who could help. As luck happens, they came across a group of monastic healers from the Serpent Lodge, who are skilled in the medicinal arts both in a material and supernatural sense. I came up with the idea on the fly and though that it might make a good class.

While Magic-Users gain a broad spectrum of powers from the Abyss that underpins reality through wild experimentation and a slight hint of madness, Serpent Chirurgeons are members of monastic lodges that venerate the aspect of the serpent. Through stoic meditation and secretive teachings, they harness their powers in order to gain closer communion to their sacred ideals.

Credit, Raphael Lacoste

SERPENT CHIRURGEON

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SAVES
As Cleric (see below).

HIT DICE
As Cleric.

ADVANCES
As Cleric.

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SKILLS
A Serpent Chirurgeon starts with a Medicine skill of 3-in-6.

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SPECIAL
Serpent Chirurgeons are not, strictly speaking, Clerics. They are not chosen by Ilan Magir and it is somewhat indifferent to their presence. All Serpent Chirurgeons have the following abilities and powers.

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Serpent Tongue
A Serpent Chirurgeon can understand and speak with snakes, taking +2 to reaction rolls with them. They can communicate with other serpentine and reptilian creatures but this is subject to a successful language roll, the difficulty of which will vary depending on how closely related the subject is to a snake and other factors (like whether the creature is magical or not) as determined by the GM.

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Coldblood
A Serpent Chirurgeon's connection to Ilan Magir affords them a measure of protection against poison and venom. Their Save vs Poison is rolled with advantage.

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Healing Arts
A Serpent Chirurgeon automatically passes Medicine skill rolls when tending to a wounded character who is resting in a safe, comfortable location for a full day.

Credit, Irina Ivanova

Powers
A Serpent Chirurgeon can safely use their powers a number of times per day equal to their level (like Magic-Users in the Vaginas are Magic supplement for LotFP). They can attempt to use their powers past their normal limits but must Save vs Magic when doing and they run the risk of displeasing Ilan Magir.

A Serpent Chirurgeon begins play with 2 of the below powers, roll 1d12 twice to determine them. Upon levelling up they must suffer a venomous snake bite and commune with Ilan Magir in a feverish trance - they may choose from a power below but suffer -2 to total HP, otherwise they roll randomly. Duplicate results may be rerolled.

1. Draw Venom - The Serpent Chirurgeon draws the poison out of an afflicted target with a touch. The target of this power instantly recovers from any poison or venom (not disease). The Serpent Chirurgeon must Save vs Poison as the venom is drawn into their blood, if they fail they fall unconscious for 1d6 hours.

2. Gift of Ilan Magir - The Serpent Chirurgeon lays their hands on the target and heals 1d8+1hp.

3. Naja's Maw - The Serpent Chirurgeon spits caustic venom at a sighted target within 50'. The target takes 1d4 damage and must Save vs Poison or be blinded for 1d6 Turns.

4. Trust in Me - The Serpent Chirurgeon sways and sings to a target within 60' in a lilting, hissing voice. The target must Save vs Magic or fall under the total control of the Serpent Chirurgeon for 1d6 rounds.

5. Constriction - Invisible bands of force wrap around a target within 60', who takes 1d4 crushing damage per caster level. The target must Save vs Paralysis or be locked in place for 1d6+1 rounds.

6. Serpent Eye - The Serpent Chirurgeon's eyes roll back in their head. When they roll back they bear the slitted pupils of a snake. The Serpent Chirurgeon can see infrared emissions in total darkness for a number of minutes equal to twice their level. This is not true night vision.

7. Great Shedding - The Serpent Chirurgeon meditates on an image for an hour after which their skin sloughs and peels off, leaving the Serpent Chirurgeon as an identical copy. The effect lasts for a number of hours equal to the Serpent Chirurgeon's level, although during the last 20 minutes their skin will start to peel and flake. This power does not affect size or body shape.

8. Distension - With a sickening crack and wet tearing, the Serpent Chirurgeon's jaw, intestinal cavity and oesophagus distend far beyond their normal limits. While this power is active, the Serpent Chirurgeon gains an extra 3 encumbrance slots - items stored in them do not count as encumbering. It takes a full Round to ingest or excrete an object. This power lasts for 24 hours - anything still inside will be violently ejected when it ends, potentially causing massive damage. Small enemies can be devoured whole if suitably restrained or overpowered. The Serpent Chirurgeon is visibly distended when carrying items inside them.

9. Split Tongue - The Serpent Chirurgeon's tongue elongates and splits clean in two. For the duration of this power they can determine truth from falsehoods provided that they taste the air around a speaker. This power lasts for a number of minutes equal to twice the Serpent Chirurgeon's level.

10. Bed of Sand - As the snakes of the desert bury themselves beneath the sands to hide from predators and prey, so too does the Serpent Chirurgeon blend into the environment around them. This power allows the Serpent Chirurgeon's appearance to take on the colour and texture of a nearby surface and conceals them from view. They can still be detected by magic, thorough investigation or someone bumping into them. This power lasts as long as the Serpent Chirurgeon concentrates.

11. Serpentine Dart - The Serpent Chirurgeon hurls a stick at an opponent within 50'. Mid-flight, the stick transforms into a snake that will latch on to the target and pump it full of a lethal venom. The target takes 1d6 damage and must Save vs Poison with disadvantage or suffer an additional 1d8 damage.

12. Scaleskin - The Serpent Chirurgeon touches the target and hard, metallic scales sprout from their skin. The target's AC is increased by 2 for as many Rounds as the Serpent Chirurgeon has levels.

Credit, Jack Rothwell

ILAN MAGIR'S DISPLEASURE
Roll 1d10 when the Serpent Chirurgeon attempts to exceed their daily limit and fails their Save vs Magic. Unless otherwise stated, the effects last until the next day.

1. "Cursed above all cattle..." - the Serpent Chirurgeon's legs are fused together, reducing their movement speed to 10'.

2. "Blood so febrile..." - the Serpent Chirurgeon is reduced to a maximum of 1hp as their blood roils and burns within them.

3. "Turned from the path..." - 1d8 venomous serpents materialise within 50' and attack. Their poison is lethal (Save vs Poison or die).

4. "Run little prey..." - the Serpent Chirurgeon's soul is pulled from their body and cast into a twisting labyrinth where they are pursued by a terrifying force. Their body lies in a catatonic state, occasionally a small snake wriggles out of their clothes.

5. "Rattle rattle rattle..." - the Serpent Chirurgeon's every step is echoed with a hissing rattle. Stealth is impossible and random encounters occur on a 3-in-6.

6. "Caught in my grasp..." - the Serpent Chirurgeon's torso is held in an iron grip, allowing only shallow breaths. They must Save vs Paralysis at the slightest exertion or pass out for 1d4 minutes.

7. "Sluggish and cold..." - the Serpent Chirurgeon suffers a -4 DEX penalty until they are heated for an hour. The penalty will return if they get cold again, which will happen naturally after 30 minutes away from an adequate heat source. Torches and lanterns don't count, but a campfire does.

8. "Misguided and foolish..." - the Serpent Chirurgeon's WIS and INT suffer a -4 penalty.

9. "Unseeing and lost..." - the Serpent Chirurgeon is struck blind.

10. "Unloved and unwanted..." - the Serpent Chirurgeon takes a -4 CHA penalty and all party reaction rolls suffer a -2 penalty.

Credit, Christian Benavides

IN YOUR GAME
This class has a direct link to some sort of supernatural entity that grants them power - in my games it happens to be a serpent but the class abilities can be reskinned with relative ease to suit whatever aspect you decide is appropriate. What is relatively concrete is the class' skill at healing - they are designed to provide the party with a reliable and ongoing source of care when healing up after battles.

In mechanical terms this class has some handy tricks to alleviate poison damage and even provide some (rare) magical healing, while also having some decent direct damage and utility in stealth and social situations (if such situations involve snakes).

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IN EGRADUS
The mountain valleys of Solum Ven provide a cool respite from the burning desert. Small cities and settlements dot the mountainsides and bask in the cool air. Though they are far from the life-giving waters of the sacred river Ven and the majesty of Oso Didan, the valleys hold their own wonders. Chief among these are the Serpent Lodges, hermetic societies of healers who straddle the boundaries between life and death.

While the snake is feared and hated by many cultures on Izoa, the valley polities hold it in high regard as a being of wisdom and truth. Its venomous bite means that the snake holds the power to bestow death as it wills, but rarely does it do so. This demonstrates wise and fair judgement and renders serpents worthy of veneration. The valley polities idolise the snake as the Ilan Magir and fattened, drowsy serpents line the steps and halls of their marble temples.

The Serpent Lodges, led by the Insan Magirs, venerate these aspects of the snake - regarding it as a creature of healing and rebirth. The ouroboros is their symbol, the eternal serpent representing the continuity of life. The Serpent Lodges devote their dispensation of sage counsel, stoic advice and acts of healing to their serpentine god. Their reputation as counsellors and healers does not mean that the Serpent Chirurgeons, as they are known, are weak and toothless - as the snake strikes swiftly and without mercy, so do they have the power to eliminate those who would do them harm with ruthless, cold-blooded efficiency. There are many ways to cure ills, sometimes with tender words and healing poultices, and sometimes with a sharpened blade.

EDIT: Wording and missing text for Great Shedding.

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