Monday, May 7, 2018

Recycling Greycandle Manor


I prepped Greycandle Manor (from Vacant Ritual Assembly #1) for use in my last LotFP campaign, but it never saw any major use, so I'm recycling aspects of it for the current one. The party was recently hired by a cloaked stranger to retrieve the red-and-black signet ring of the Brahnwick family from a flooded town, as per the adventure "Brahnwick is Dead" (also from VRA #1). After realizing that the mansion of the reclusive (and now deceased) Imogen Brahnwick was nearby, they decided to poke around. Between some rumors they heard and some paperwork they found in the abandoned mansion, they realized that their mysterious employer probably wanted to use the signet ring in order to obtain Imogen's assets, which have been in legal limbo since the Brahnwick family was ruined and practically wiped out by an alleged curse. Those assets included Imogen's Greycandle Manor, which was in surprisingly good shape for having been abandoned for ten years. The party decided it would be more lucrative to "inherit" these assets for themselves using the ring than it would be to simply turn it in for the quest reward. Hence, I need to actually write down some notes about the situation and figure out what's inside the rooms they haven't fully explored yet.

The numbering scheme follows the map key from VRA #1. Assume any furniture, supplies, and objets d'art that weren't already taken by Imogen's relatives or servants after she died are either covered with drop cloths or packed in crates, with the exception of the stuff in the basement and attic. The house is actually lacking in dust and dirt almost completely, and neither time nor vandals seem to have done much damage to the outside or practically any damage to the inside of the structure. All beds are lacking mattresses. All windows in the east wing of the first floor (in the bathroom, treasury, etc.) are made of frosted glass.

1. Entryway and main hallways.

2. Rear Entryway - Smells faintly of incense.

3. Guest Bedroom - Decorated with taxidermy exotic animals, including a grizzly bear.

4. Small Painting Gallery - Includes a portrait of Imogen, posing with a skull with a snake crawling through the eye sockets. Her eyes seem to follow you.

5. Guest Room - Decorated with exotic weapons and shields. A few are still sharp. Notable items include a jewel-encrusted claymore, a scimitar, a Dwarven battleaxe, a bronze trident, and a shield bearing the Brahnwick crest.

6. Kitchen - Rather small. Religious symbols are carved into the walls, a holdover from the manor's time as a priory before Imogen bought it. Ghosts cannot enter the kitchen unless possessing a living body.

7. Dining Room - The huge table and accompanying chairs are made of lignum vitae.

8. Guest Room - Decorated with maps, charts, flags, banners, and documents.

9. Bathroom - Not quite Twentieth Century stuff, but still anachronistically advanced in terms of the fixtures and features available in an Early Modern-style setting. Water can be pumped into both the sink and the bathtub, and there's a surprisingly comfortable seat designed for use with a chamber pot.

10. Treasury - Crossbow trap on the door. Scything blade traps on both windows (1d8 damage). One window is broken - the only such window in the house. Mostly contains empty shelves at this point. There is a safe with a combination lock bolted to the floor and rigged to explode (6d6 damage, save for half) if tampered with. The bomb can be disarmed and the lock forced open with a successful Tinker check at a -1 penalty, but if the check is failed the bomb detonates. It contains 3,000 sp worth of jewelry, a potion of Haste, a potion of Time Stop, and a dose of Purple Lotus Powder.

11. Armory - Poison needle trap on the door (save or die). Scything blade traps on both windows (1d8 damage). Crossbow trap behind suit of plate armor. Contains the aforementioned armor, 1,000 sp worth of weapons/ammunition/equipment (let the players choose from the equipment list until this amount of money is expended), a barrel of gunpowder, and a small box. The box is locked (the key is in the suit of armor) and trapped with a small vial of poisonous powder that will break if the lock is tampered with (save or die). Inside the box is a wand of Magic Missile with 8 charges and a scroll with the spells Howl of the Moon and Protection from Normal Missiles.

12. Laboratory - Poison gas trap on door (30' by 30' cube, save or die). Scything blade traps on all windows (1d8 damage). Poison needle trap on cabinet of alchemical ingredients (save or die). There is a mummy (inanimate) on a table. Over a hundred strange medications, herbs, and roots are neatly arranged and labelled. The normal laboratory paraphernalia is here, including flasks and vials. The laboratory has a value of 10,000 sp for purposes of magical activities.

13. Upstairs Hall - Creaky floor.

14. Servant's Bedroom - The north wall bears a fresco.

15. Craftsman's Bedroom - The north wall bears a fresco.

16. Butler's Bedroom - The south wall bears a fresco.

17. Servant's Bedroom - The south wall bears a fresco.

18. Attic Access- Miscellaneous furniture.

19. Extra Supply Storage - Cleaning supplies, extra mothballs, odds and ends.

20. Walk-In Closet - Looks like the backstage dressing room of a theater. Clothes, shoes, etc. Items are often made from exotic pelts or other fancy materials. Full of mothballs. The east wall contains a secret door leading to Room 21.

21. Imogen's Bedroom - The west wall bears a fresco. It conceals a secret door to Room 20.

22. Office - Converted bedroom, with the bed frame still here. Dwarven-made fire-proof key-locked safe contains paperwork that could help forge a legal claim to Imogen's estate when paired with the signet ring. (I forget where the key was, but the players already found it anyway.)

23. "Mundane" Library - Nonfiction books are about diverse subjects like agriculture, geography, biology, geology, astronomy, linguistics, and a large number of various crafts and skills like woodworking, gemcutting, shipbuilding and sailing, cartography, mining, wilderness survival, and military tactics. There are a handful of fictional works, including a collection of the Bumblebee Bandit novels.

24. Magic Library - The door knob is inside a recess covered by a sliding panel. Moving the panel reveals both the knob and a Symbol of Death (as per the spell). The library has a value of 4,500 sp for purposes of magical activities.

25. Attic - Unused summoning circle. Altar. Strange powder scattered across floor. Braziers. Strange artifacts of bone, wood, and stone. Chains. Branches and leaves of strange trees. Perfumes that barely cover up a coppery smell. Antlers.

26. Cellar - There is a weird pit or well in the floor, which is sealed shut by a metal plate covered in runes and glyphs. Eerie whistles can sometimes be faintly heard coming from beneath the plate. Not pictured on map: several doors in the cellar connect to other underground rooms used for food and wine storage. There is also a pump room down here for the manor's bathroom.

27. Wine Room - (Not on map) One of the aforementioned side rooms in the cellar contains several big empty wine racks and a secret door to...

28. Hidden Unholy Sex Dungeon - (Not on map) Previously used by Imogen and the monk to perform black magic sex rituals.

Background and Additional Notes:
Imogen Brahnwick was something of a black sheep in the family; she wasn't entirely ostracized, but if any given Brahnwick "had" to pick a least beloved relative it was usually her. She lived in Greycandle Manor, some distance away from the city of Fillmore and apart from the rest of her clan. She dabbled in the occult and had aspirations of becoming a great sorcerer, but it's unclear if this is one of the causes of her low-key familial feuding, a result of it, or entirely unrelated. She wasn't just into magic, though. She was into the bad fucking magic, if you catch my drift. (Is there any other kind, though? I guess it depends on who you ask.)

She discovered that she had a long-lost half-brother who did not know he was a Brahnwick. He was a Neo Termaxian monk and an especially pious individual going by the name of Ambrosio Usher. He wanted to be a Cleric with a capital C, but the criteria for who can or cannot gain the powers of this class are poorly understood and possibly random, so it seemed that he was fated to be a regular person. That is, until Imogen tracked him down and offered him a different path to supernatural power. And he did want it badly. You know, to help people and serve the greater good and all that stuff.

In order to increase her own magical ability via demonic pacts, she seduced Ambrosio and got him addicted to freaky evil sex magic. This went on for a while, and she slowly convinced Ambrosio to do all sorts of awful things, both out of his lust for power and his love for her. Eventually, the monk learned of his true identity and incestuous relationship with Imogen, and shortly afterward a summoning went wrong and resulted in his possession by a demon that amplified his anger over Imogen's deception and his grief over the evil he'd done and how far he had fallen from grace. He brutally murdered Imogen, stabbing her at least a thousand times over pretty much her entire body, and then killed himself. The demon used this as a catalyst to create the curse which brought down the whole family.

The mansion was abandoned because the ghosts of Imogen and Ambrosio kept horrifically murdering the inhabitants. The PCs have already "killed" Imogen's ghost, i.e. kicked her ass so hard she vanished into whatever afterlife awaits her. They don't know that Ambrosio still haunts the mansion, and that he is actually the more dangerous one. He mostly comes out at night, though. Mostly. If Ambrosio's ghost is "killed," the mansion will stop being kept magically pristine.

There are a very small number of Brahnwicks who survived the curse, merely being financially, socially, and emotionally devastated (and in some cases a bit maimed), but they all lost or sold off their shares of the family's estate and don't actually have a legal claim to Imogen's small portion of the Brahnwick fortune and assets. That's where the Coorhagen family comes in. Being down on their luck themselves (relatively speaking - they are fairly wealthy minor nobles, after all), they were the ones who hired the party to retrieve the signet ring, and they won't be happy if they find out their plan is being hijacked.

As for the assets that could be "inherited" by the bearer of the ring, they include Greycandle Manor and about 200 acres of the surrounding land, an orchard and winery closer to Fillmore (consider this a stable business with a current value of  6,000 sp), a fishing operation based in Fillmore (consider this a risky business with a current value of 4,000 sp), and the legal right to collect (minor) taxes from the nearby town of Sylvan Lake for the next 3 years or so (but good luck with that, since the town is flooded and the inhabitants seem to be both completely mad and completely broke).

Friday, April 27, 2018

Fighter for My "Separate Race and Class" System in LotFP

As I've mentioned before, I think the Fighter's level advancement can potentially be a little boring beyond level 9 in Lamentations of the Flame Princess. This is my attempt to "solve" that "problem" in my Separate Race and Class system. SPOILER ALERT: I basically just grafted on some features of the Amazon class from Zak Smith's Frostbitten & Mutilated.

The Fighter

Hit Dice and Minimum First-Level HP: As chosen race.

Saving Throw Table if Human: As original Fighter class
Saving Throw Table if Not Human: As corresponding original LotFP race-as-class

Experience Table if Human: As original Fighter class
Experience Table if Not Human: As corresponding original LotFP race-as-class

Class Abilities

Base Attack Bonus: The Fighter starts with a base attack bonus of +2 at first level, and this increases by +1 per level up to a maximum of +10 at ninth level.

Combat Options: The Fighter can Press, Fight Defensively, or use the better version of the Parry ability.

Firearms: The Fighter can make more effective use of firearms in certain ways, as per Rules & Magic p. 159 and 161.

Level-Up Table: At tenth level and every time the Fighter levels up thereafter, roll a d20 twice on the following table and reference the corresponding result on the original d100 Amazon Warrior Traits table from Frostbitten and Mutilated p. 104-105.
  1. Result 46 on the original table
  2. Result 47-48 on the original table
  3. Result 49-50 on the original table
  4. Result 55-56 on the original table
  5. Result 57 on the original table
  6. Result 59-60 on the original table
  7. Result 61 on the original table
  8. Result 64-65 on the original table
  9. Result 66 on the original table
  10. Result 70-71 on the original table
  11. Result 74-75 on the original table
  12. Result 76-79 on the original table
  13. Result 80-82 on the original table
  14. Result 83-84 on the original table
  15. Result 85-86 on the original table
  16. Result 88-89 on the original table
  17. Result 90 on the original table
  18. Result 91-92 on the original table
  19. Result 93-94 on the original table
  20. Result 96 on the original table
Optional Race and Alignment Restrictions
Even if class options are restricted by race or alignment, characters of any race (and any alignment allowed by their race) can be Fighters.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Notes, NPCs, and Plot Hooks for My Current Campaign.

I haven't been as diligent about taking notes in my current LotFP campaign as I was in the previous one. I figure I should write some of the most important details down before I forget anything too important. This is mostly for my own reference, but if you get bored enough to read it I hope you find something fun or interesting here.



Elzevir - Since no one in the party knew how to cast Identify, one of the elf magic-users sought out the local sage, Elzevir. He said he would be willing to cast it free of charge, in exchange for a small service. He wanted a blond hair of at least three inches in length, fresh from a woman's head. The magic-user searched the town and found Rosemary, a young woman with the requisite hair who worked as the salesperson and co-owner of the only haberdashery in the area. The magic-user turned on the charm and surreptitiously obtained the hair sample for Elzevir, who cast the spell as asked and then immediately skipped town.

Soon, Rosemary fell into a catatonic trance, and her father Irmok (the other co-owner of the hat shop) became desperate for a way to revive her. Since the elves felt they needed some backup for a rescue mission to save the rest of the party from Xiximanter (see below), they convinced Irmok and a posse of seven other villagers that Xiximanter was responsible for Rosemary's plight. They led the eight villagers to the entrance of the dungeon, presumably intending to do battle with the sorcerer, but the rest of the party emerged just as they were about to enter, having already escaped on their own. The elves abruptly called off the mission, giving Irmok and company some fast talk about how a confrontation with the sorcerer wouldn't help Rosemary after all, and Irmok would be better off seeking professional help for his daughter's illness in the city of Fillmore. Suspicious and dissatisfied, the posse broke up, and Irmok set out for the city with the unresponsive Rosemary the next day.

Now that more time has passed, the villagers have thought this whole Rosemary issue over a bit more. Gossip and speculation have spread, especially concerning the PCs. Especially concerning the elves. They might not find themselves quite so welcome in this town anymore.

Xiximanter - This is probably the party's most dangerous enemy at the moment, courtesy of the Tomb of the Serpent Kings. He's not really a serpent man, although he is a very old undead wizard and alchemist. Before transforming himself into a living mummy, he replaced his lower body with that of a giant snake, grafted some fangs and scales onto himself, and imprinted his own mind with false memories of being an ancient serpent man. He's basically a crazy full-time cosplayer, but he has real eldritch power under his command, albeit slightly diluted by his crackpot magical and pseudoscientific theories.

When the party tried to force Xiximanter to confront the fact that the serpent men are long extinct and eons have passed since the height of their empire, his psychological defense mechanisms kicked in. He cast Sleep on the party (affecting everyone but the two elves and one of the two human fighters, the latter not being present), kidnapped them for his experiments, and promptly blocked out all memory of the evidence shown to him that could disprove his delusions. When the party awoke, they found themselves in oubliettes carved into the floor of the serpentine sorcerer's lair and covered with heavy stone lids. The sorcerer explained that he wanted to "uplift" the poor mammals to snake man-level intelligence so that they would no longer "senselessly attack" him, using a combination of potions and brain surgery.

The halfling specialist managed to sweet talk Xiximanter into appointing her as a lab assistant and letting her out of the pit. With the help of the previously absent fighter, she managed to free the rest of the party and trap Xiximanter in one of his own oubliettes. They fled the tomb and haven't been back since.

Xiximanter has almost certainly freed himself since then, and will not be happy to see the party should he encounter them again. In addition to his stats listed in the adventure, Xiximanter has exceptional strength.

Zoom Tubes - While trying to flee from Xiximanter, the dwarf fool found a secret button on the floor. Upon pressing it, a hidden door opened in the ceiling, revealing a tunnel glowing with purple light. She was sucked up into it like a dust bunny into a vacuum cleaner and deposited in Xiximanter's lair, right next to the battle between her companions and the sorcerer, through another such hidden ceiling hatch. "YOU USED MY ZOOM TUBE!" cried the sorcerer, enraged at her trespass. Luckily, someone finally pushed him into the pit after the dwarf and two others failed. The party managed to close the lid over the pit before the sorcerer could climb out, but not before he cast continual darkness, making it impractical to do much looting. The party quickly gathered what they could and fled.

But what is a zoom tube, and are there more of them?

The Basilisk - The two human fighters (one much more so than the other) have fed the basilisk enough food, and generally been nice enough to it (scratching its neck, dislodging the irritating key from its collar, etc.) that they could theoretically begin to tame it.

The party has retrieved the key mentioned above, but not put it to use. The visor on the basilisk's helmet has been lowered over its eyes. It is still chained up.

Goblins in General - One thing I forgot to mention before is that the goblins in this campaign, being positively ancient compared to the PCs, and having taken many strange forms, tend to reference things that are completely unfamiliar to people in the current age. Things like "ice cream" and "workers' comp." The goblins live a simple and isolated life, but they might know a great deal more than they let on.

Smogo, the Goblin That Crawls - Now that he has taken the form of the God That Crawls (a saint revered by certain small Gnostic sects and transformed into a monster by druids), Smogo wishes to subjugate the other goblins who once bullied him and crown himself the Goblin King. He was last seen by the party entering the Tomb of the Serpent Kings with Elroy Bacon in tow.

If he succeeds in his coup, Smogo's first decree will probably be that the title of Goblin King is no longer a temporary position ending in the sacrifice of one's current host body. His second decree will probably involve making somebody kiss the basilisk.

The "Reverend" Elroy Bacon and the Gnostics - The particular Gnostic sect to which Bacon belongs believes that "the God That Crawls" is actually a historical figure known as St. August. Details on this person are scarce, but since he was apparently a well-respected theologian and philosopher (according to some musty old tomes, which the Gnostics of this particular sect love to fawn over despite admittedly lacking the proper historical context to fully understand them), and some kind of saint at that, they figure it's better to take care of him than to let him rot alone in the ground. Besides, they might glean some useful information from the experience regarding the natural of the false reality in which they believe they are imprisoned.

Bacon and a few friends faked credentials as members of a more mainstream religion in order to avoid rousing local suspicion while restoring the church. Working from "Catholic" records (whatever that means), they pieced together a worship service which they believed would soothe the creature, but they never got a chance to try it, since Smogo took over the saint's body.

Now Bacon has offered to be Smogo's "scribe," following him around and taking notes on his misadventures in the hopes of learning something useful or profound that he can share with his fellow religious scholars.

As for the stuff the PCs stole from the church, Bacon doesn't really care about it at this point. He said they could have it as long as they spared his life, which they agreed to. He figures the other Gnostics will understand.

The Catacombs - Now that the "big bad" has left the dungeon under the church, and so have the PCs, new monsters should start showing up to live there within a month or two. Veins of the Earth would be an ideal source for restocking the dungeon.

The Rapture - Since the incident with Panic Attack Jack in the aforementioned catacombs, the human fighter who was previously attacked by the Rapture should probably continue to be visited periodically while underground, at least until that character either does something about it, fights it off enough times to send it a message, or dies.

I Know a Guy in Bloodpool - Thanks to this house rule, one of the elf magic-users has an uncle who lives in the distant city of Bloodpool. He can supposedly tell the party a bit about the history of the war that resulted in the sealing of the passages between worlds about two hundred years ago. For some odd reason, historical records from before or during the war are extremely scarce, and almost everyone who lived through the war either has difficulty remembering it or just seems reluctant to talk about it. Not this uncle, though; he'd gladly tell what he knows if his niece comes to visit.

Dungeon Connections - The easternmost path in the Tomb of the Serpent Kings (next to the giant pit) connects at the north end to the third floor of the catacombs of the God That Crawls (after about an hour's walk at exploration speed) via the large crevice splitting the level. One can carefully edge along the walls of this crevice a short distance in order to reach the easternmost hallway of the third floor.

At the south end, the path is blocked by "dungeon barnacles," a dangerous form of fungus which only lets the goblins pass freely. Beyond this point is presumably the main home of the goblins (with their territory in the Tomb being an outpost of sorts), where their primary "body maker" is located.

According to the goblins, the pit leads to "the Veins of the Earth."

The Hills Have an Eye - There are rumors of a cyclops wandering the hills outside of town.

Quick-Aging Corpses at the Tomb's Entrance - During their first foray into the Tomb of the Serpent Kings, the party found a trapped door near the entrance to the tomb proper. They figured out a way to pass back and forth through the door without setting off the trap, but they purposefully left it rigged so that if any other group of treasure seekers tried to lay claim to "their" territory, they would hopefully be killed.

The plan worked. The next time the adventurers came to the tomb, they found the corpses of a band of rival dungeon delvers (borrowed from a room description in Better Than Any Man). But there was an oddity. The corpses and their clothing and gear were almost completely rotted away, the bodies practically reduced to skeletons, as if they had been lying there for months or years and not merely for a day or two. The party found no signs of magic on the trap itself, so how did this chronological phenomenon occur?

Goblin - A Monster and Magic Item

A goblin is a magical, radioactive, living stone. It looks like a chunk of gravel, about half the size of the average human's closed fist or heart, with a greenish glow that usually varies between almost imperceptibly faint and as bright as a candle. The goblin's light can become much brighter if the goblin becomes highly emotional.

A goblin possesses no sense organs of their own, no limbs or mouth, no differentiated body parts at all. In their naked form, absent a host, they do not perceive the outside world, or eat or breathe, or die of sickness or old age. They barely think or dream or perceive the passage of time. But they do not like this state of affairs, isolated in the yawning void of their own mind.

If the goblin is inserted into the chest cavity of a humanoid creature, or the center of mass of some other "compatible" creature, they will take over control of that body. If the creature somehow survives this process, they will live in the back of their own mind, much like the goblin does in their naked state, except dimly aware in some slight way of what their body is doing as the goblin wears it, truly lives in it. They would regain control if the goblin were removed (again, without somehow killing them).

If the creature dies in the process of having the goblin inserted into their body, or if the goblin is inserted into a fresh and more-or-less intact corpse that has not yet begun to rot in earnest, the creature's original "mind" or "soul" or "consciousness" will be completely gone. However, the body will resurrect and heal into a state sufficient for the goblin to wear it as a host. This does not necessarily mean that all damaged or missing body parts will be recreated or become functional, but merely that the body will at least regenerate enough tissue to reactivate the necessary physiological processes for life. This host body is not undead, but simply newly alive.

Goblins instinctively know the basics of what their host bodies can do and what they need to survive, although they might not automatically know the fine details. A goblin wearing a turkey vulture will  know that they can fly and that they hunger for carrion as surely as they know anything, but they won't automatically know what their host's average resting heart rate is or how many cells are in their body.

A goblin cannot usually stay in the same host for more than a short period of time, years or decades in the best cases, as the host body tends to develop cancer or other severe health problems due to the small but constant radiation exposure. A goblin suffers no direct danger from the death of their host body, so if they have assistance, they can wait until the host is completely used up before transitioning to the next one. However, since a long-term host generally becomes too painful or inconvenient to wear near the end of its lifespan, the goblin may wish to be transferred before then.

Goblins tend to live in communities of their own kind, if for no other reason than to make sure that someone sympathetic will be present to put them into new bodies when the time arises.

While goblins need to feed and otherwise maintain their hosts for the sake of convenience, since a body that dies with a goblin already wearing it will just become a useless corpse with a helpless, catatonic goblin lodged in its flesh, goblins do not need to do anything to keep their stony forms alive other than avoid damage. A goblin is functionally immortal, except that they can be killed by being cracked wide open or pulverized or melted or disintegrated or blasted into smithereens or what have you.

If you merely attack a hosted goblin in the generic sense, the DM should probably assume that you are attacking the host body. Killing the host body renders the goblin inert, but not dead. If you declare an attack against the goblin itself, lodged in the host's chest, then the goblin is treated as having 4 HD and an AC that is 6 points better than that of the host. In LotFP, this would mean that a goblin living in an unarmored human would have AC 18. A naked goblin is incapable of defending itself, so no roll to hit is necessary when attacking it with a melee weapon, and it has an AC that is 2 points worse than an unarmored human for purposes of ranged attacks (AC 10 in LotFP), since it's still a small target. For purposes of XP, a goblin and their host body are counted as two separate enemies, and XP is only gained from the goblin itself if it is actually killed.

Damaged goblins heal at a rate of 1 HP a year, and that's only if they are kept in a host or preserved in very safe conditions. A naked goblin lodged between two rocks in a running stream for a century would be subject to erosion, for example, and would not only fail to heal but probably take damage over time, albeit slowly. So "functionally immortal" might be overstating it a bit, but compared to a human they basically fit the bill.

So why are they called goblins?
In my current campaign, the most common host bodies for goblins are short, thin, gnarled-looking humanoids with green skin. They are part mammal and part fungus, and are remarkably resistant to radiation, although not entirely immune to it. They also tend to be born brain-dead, making them convenient for the goblins to subdue. The goblins came upon a renewable and easy-to-access source of these bodies long ago, and have generally stuck to living near this source for ages. Being rarely seen above ground nowadays, most people on the surface don't know the truth about goblin physiology, and assume that the green humanoids are the goblins. The name "goblin" is taken from a creature in halfling folklore that purportedly had a similar appearance.

If you don't like that explanation, maybe in your game the humanoid hosts of goblins are just humans and elves and such, and they tend to become green and stunted and withered-looking and traditionally goblin-esque over time due to mutations and health problems caused by the magical radiation of the goblins inside of them.

You could also ditch the whole "goblin" aspect altogether and call this creature something else, but this idea originally came about because I was planning to run a dungeon with goblins in it and I wanted to make them different from the usual D&D goblins. So I'm calling them goblins.

"Magic Item?"
You could carry a naked goblin around in your inventory like any other inert object, and then implant them into a host to hopefully gain a loyal follower who is very thankful you freed them from their sorry natural state. Or you can use a particularly radiant goblin as a green candle that virtually never burns out. I bet you can think of some other item-like uses for a naked goblin, too.

Give your players a goblin and they'll take a god.
The players in my campaign made friends with the goblins in the Tomb of the Serpent Kings. Well, "friends" is a strong word, but they avoided any hostilities and engaged in some amicable enough conversation with them, at any rate. They also picked up a glowing rock early in the adventure, and later noticed that the goblins had light-up chests, like sickly Stone Protectors.

At one point, the party met a lonely goblin named Smogo who was guarding an armory. The other goblins bullied and isolated him, perhaps on account of his voice. Over several sessions, he seemed to become everyone's favorite NPC in the campaign.

After about half of the party got kidnapped by a sorcerer elsewhere in the dungeon, the remaining human fighter felt he needed a henchman to help with a rescue attempt. Meanwhile, the other goblins wanted to get rid of Smogo, so they paid the fighter to "take him off of their hands," and the fighter "befriended" him and enlisted his "help."

On the way to the sorcerer's lair, Smogo got eaten by a basilisk. His last words (or so the fighter thought) were "I TRUSTED YOOOOOOOOOOOOOU!"

On the way back from the rescue, the party saw the basilisk cough up a familiar-looking glowing green rock. If they hadn't put two and two together before, they definitely did now. Since they were on the basilisk's good side after feeding it five whole pigs and a goblin, they had no trouble retrieving the naked Smogo.

Later, the party was in the process of robbing (my slightly altered version of) the church from The God That Crawls, when they ended up ringing a gong in a back room dominated by a strange pit. Having already bound and gagged the priest (and not having any angry villagers to worry about due to a quirk of my campaign setting), they were free to observe the titular god as it sloshed into view below. They tried blowing it up with gunpowder, burning it with barrels of oil, and dropping heavy crates of books on it, all to no avail.

One of the players got the idea to use a sling and shoot one of the goblins into the god. They couldn't tell the two goblins apart, so I rolled randomly to see which one they selected. To everyone's delight, they picked Smogo.

A successful to-hit roll later, and the goblin slammed into the god's gelatinous mass at breakneck speed. It sank into the creature, which then tried to absorb it, bringing it the rest of the way into its center of mass. The entire god lit up with a brilliant emerald light, beams of green energy shooting this way and that. After a moment, the light faded to a dim spark in the middle of the monster.

A giant but familiar-looking "goblin" face formed from the creature's mass and cried to the heavens:


*Consider this an epilepsy warning for that link.

Smogo was first overjoyed by his new form, then mad at the fighter for getting him eaten, then grateful to him when he smoothly claimed that he only did it to give Smogo this cool new body.

So now these low-level yahoos are basically friends with the God That Crawls. Thus, they've eliminated the primary threat in the dungeon, allowing for mostly carefree looting. In this adventure in particular, I think that's a huge deal.

Look, I won't say there was absolutely no wailing and gnashing of teeth on my part. But they earned their easy victory by playing intelligently. This is the kind of thing that makes tabletop RPGs special. I'm proud of them. Besides, we all found it hilarious. That said, if you strive to be a truly neutral and fair referee, you ought to emotionally prepare yourself for these kinds of things - not just crushing total party kills, but complete over-the-top victories that "ruin" all of your carefully constructed encounters, as well. Because...fucking players, man.

Thanks are in order.
Jessica actually came up with this idea right off the top of her head when I asked her how I should make goblins weirder. I just fleshed out the details. I really don't know what I'd do without her.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

We've Got No Class (in LotFP)

So Daniel Sell wrote a nifty classless (or perhaps more accurately, multi-class) advancement system called "How to be an adventurer" on his blog, which I believe was later featured in The Undercroft #9. Recently, Brent Ault did some cool tweaks to it and produced his own classless system for LotFP. I really like it, but unfortunately I can't seem to find a working link to it at the moment. Fortunately, I did print up a copy of it earlier for reference here.

UPDATE: Brent re-uploaded it HERE!

Now I present my own tentative tweaking. Assume LotFP rules as written wherever I don't contradict them below. You also might as well assume that I'm paraphrasing or outright quoting Brent Ault or Daniel Sell below, except where I make my own changes. I wanted to simply list my changes to Brent's system instead of practically reiterating the whole thing, but again, I don't currently have a link to his version. HERE IT IS.

This is meant for a setting with only human PCs, but as with Brent Ault's version, Perks "can be combined to create traditional races, or something that is wholly original."  I don't have anything in here like the different aging rates or encumbrance for mounts in the default LotFP rules, though. You could probably add those back in as Perks if you want, although you might also have to allow more perks per character if you want to include all of the standard features of a specific race in a given character.

Character Creation
  • Roll your attribute scores.
  • Select a Path: Fighting, Proficiency, or Casting. If you're creating a character above first level, choose one Path per level (you can take the same path for multiple levels, of course). Record your HP and any skills, spells, spell slots, attack bonuses, and combat options.
  • Select your two Perks.
  • Record your saving throws.
  • Roll 3d6 x 10 in silver pieces to purchase equipment.
  • Before selecting a Path, every character begins with a +1 base attack bonus and a 16 in each saving throw category. Each level, including 1st, you must opt for either Fighting, Casting, or Proficiency.
  • Fighting: +1 base attack bonus (maximum of +10), 8 HP, and 2 points deducted from saves of your choice. The first time you take this path, you gain the fighter's combat options (Press, Defensive Fighting, and the better form of Parry).
  • Proficiency: 3 skill points to expend, 4 HP, and 4 points deducted from saves of your choice.
  • Casting: One spell slot (use the Vaginas Are Magic rules), 4 HP, and 2 points deducted from saves of your choice. The first time you take this path, you receive a spellbook with 3 random spells. Every time you take this path after the first, you learn one additional random spell. (You can also learn spells through adventuring and study, as usual.) If a spell has an effect that varies by caster level, only count your Casting Path levels, not your total number of levels. Magic-User and Cleric spells are one and the same.
Select 2:
  • 3 free skill points to distribute.
  • 2 points deducted from saves of your choice
  • Extra +5 items before encumbrance penalties.
  • +1 to a chosen attribute modifier.
  • A reduced 1-in-6 chance of surprise.
Saving Throws
All saves start at 16. No saving throw can go below 2.
  • Fortitude: Replaces Paralyze and Poison saves. Modified by Wisdom.
  • Reflex: Replaces Breath and Device saves. Modified by Wisdom.
  • Will: Replaces Magic saves. Modified by Intelligence.
Skill List
  • Architecture
  • Athletics (Add Strength Modifier) (Replaces Climb, Open Doors, and Swimming)
  • Bushcraft
  • Languages (Add Intelligence Modifier)
  • Medicine
  • Seamanship
  • Search
  • Sneak Attack
  • Stealth (Includes the functions of Sleight of Hand)
  • Tinkering
Experience and Leveling
  • All characters follow the fighter's experience table from Rules & Magic.
  • Level 9 is the maximum level.
  • Once Level 9 is reached, every additional 120,000 experience points grants you +2 maximum HP. In addition, pick an ability score and roll 3d6. If you roll higher than the current ability score, that score increases by 1 point. No ability score can increase above 18.

Summary of Main Differences From Brent Ault's Version
(In case the link gets fixed and you'd rather work from his excellent PDF)
  • Level 9 maximum.
  • After Level 9, every 120,000 XP gives you 2 HP and the chance to increase 1 ability score. Pick an ability score and roll 3d6: if you roll higher than the current score, it goes up by 1 (maximum 18).
  • Fighting Path gives exactly 8 HP, other Paths give exactly 4.
  • Saving Throws start at 16. Minimum is 2.
  • Different saving throw categories, only 3 total. Fortitude replaces Paralyze and Poison, and is modified by Wisdom. Reflex replaces Breath and Device, and is also modified by Wisdom. Will replaces Magic, and is modified by Intelligence. 
  • Proficiency Path gives 3 skill points per level.
  • Vaginas are Magic casting system.
  • Free random spell for each level of Casting Path taken after the first.
  • Some changes to the Perks list - removed darkvision, increased free skill points to 3, increased saving throw deduction to 2 points.
  • Clarified that the first level of Fighting Path gives the fighter's combat options, and that only Casting Path levels count toward spell effects (e.g. If a PC with 3 levels of Casting and 6 levels of Fighting casts Magic Missile, the spell will do 3d4 damage).
  • If you're going by Rules & Magic for determining what ability scores modify, Strength doesn't add to melee damage (but does add to the Open Doors skill), and Constitution doesn't modify any saving throws.
  • Silver standard, as per Rules & Magic.
  • The skill list is the same as in Rules & Magic, with the following exceptions. Climb, Open Doors, and Swimming are condensed into Athletics, which is modified by Strength. Sleight of Hand and Stealth are combined into one skill, named Stealth. Medicine and Seamanship are added.

One Last Idea (Fighting Path)
In Zak's Class System, the Warrior class can randomly roll up this ability: "Finally! A second attack per round. You divide your attack bonus however you like between opponents/strikes. You get an extra attack per round every time you re-roll this result."

I'm tempted to allow all PCs with at least one Fighting Path level and an attack bonus of +2 or more to do this. But instead of limiting it to, say, two attacks per round, I would let the attacker divide their attack bonus among however many targets there are within range that they wish to hit, but with some caveats. You can't attack the same target twice in the same round; a roll to hit represents your best efforts to injure an opponent in one round, not one single swing or stab or shot. So if there's only one enemy in front of you, they get your whole attack bonus in one attempt to hit, but if you have a +10 bonus and you're surrounded by five enemies in melee range, you can take one swing at each of them with +2 to hit, or at two of them with +5 to hit, and so on. And you can only do this with a ranged weapon if it realistically has a high enough rate of fire to allow multiple attacks in one round. And every attack that round has to be made with the same weapon, so you can't swing at the enemy in front of you with a sword and shot another guy with a bow at the same time. (I don't know what I'd do about throwing weapons yet. Or the combat options. Or movement.)

On the upside, I think this would make each Fighting Path level more useful and meaningful, and would make combat a bit more interesting. On the downside, it might make combat too easy. I guess I could allow fighter-type NPCs and monsters to do it, too, but would that make combat too difficult?

I'd love to get some feedback on this idea. Has anyone tried something like this? How did it go?

I was planning to test my random advancement system inspired by Green Devil Face #5 when I get around to starting that online campaign with my friends, but now I'm thinking about asking if they want to try these rules instead.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Why is This Weapon Magical?

Roll 2d6:

2 - A wizard did it. On purpose, that it.

3 - The weapon comes from another realm/world/dimension/plane/reality, where things just work differently. A weapon (or other object) from here would probably behave "strangely" relative to the surrounding laws of science/magic over there, too.

4 - The weapon's magical properties are the unintentional result of some other phenomenon. It could be the byproduct of a spell or experiment, or it could have just been in the right place at the right time when some magical phenomenon ("natural" or otherwise) occurred. Maybe someone just left this weapon on a ley line and forgot about it for a hundred years.

5 - The weapon was forged from a rare material with magical properties. It could be mithril or Valyrian steel or adamantium or metal forged from a fallen star or whatever.

6 - The weapon has been used to kill so many supernatural beings (or such a powerful supernatural being) that some magic has rubbed off on it.*

7 - The weapon is only magical in a certain context. Silver weapons hurt werewolves. Oak stakes hurt vampires. A ghost might be banished by the same weapon that killed their corporeal form, due to their lingering fear of it. In short, the weapon has magical effects in certain circumstances due to the properties of the being under attack, or the "natural" relationship between the weapon and a supernatural force.

8 - See Result 6.*

9 - The weapon was forged with a rare technique which imbued it with supernatural properties. The creator of the weapon was not a wizard in the stereotypical sense; they were just such a master craftsman or such a knowledgeable expert that they knew how to make the weapon supernaturally extraordinary. This could involve a ritual, a blessing, another magic item, advanced technology, magic runes, a crafting technique that is just so darn good it causes "magical" effects to arise from "mundane" processes, or what have you.

10 - The weapon is possessed by a ghost, a demon, or some other spirit or ethereal creature. (Or perhaps an artificial intelligence if you want a little SF in your fantasy.)

11 - The weapon was imbued with supernatural significance due to a weird or particularly awful tragedy. Maybe it's the axe of an executioner who was tricked into beheading his own family. Maybe it's the first weapon to ever shed the blood of a child. Maybe it's the sword that was used to murder a benevolent empress and end the longest period of peace in history. Maybe it's the single arrow used over and over by a serial killer to shoot every one of his victims. Think of ghost stories or fairy tales or ancient mythology.**

12 - A god did it. Maybe they crafted or enchanted it on purpose. Maybe the weapon is just a figment of a god's imagination. Maybe the weapon is a piece of a god.***

*If a dungeon or other adventure location is overflowing with +1 weapons, I think this might serve as a better explanation for their presence than the idea that a magic-user cranked out a bunch of magic weapons that their class can't use, but your mileage may vary. I personally like this concept a lot, which is why it appears twice on the table, and why the table is so heavily weighted toward this result. You could kind of see this as a more specific form of Result 4, so if you want to adapt this table to other magic items besides weapons, it probably wouldn't hurt to switch Result 4 to Results 6 and 8, and come up with a new idea for the now-vacant Result 4.

**I got this idea from a plot device in the recent film Winchester. It wasn't a very good movie, unfortunately, but it did have some ideas that I think could be salvaged for better use in a different context. The movie's "magic weapon" of note came across as pretty darn silly (and unintentionally so, I believe), but I think it could have worked with a better set up, or in a different story.

***I guess this could overlap with just about any other result on the table. There's a lot of potential overlap between ideas on this table, really, but I think that's okay. My main purpose here was to brainstorm different origins for magic weapons, especially "common" ones, other than what I perceive as the standard "made by a wizard" explanation in fantasy RPG adventures.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Weird Fantasy Musical To-Do List

So I've really been into the band Comus lately. Specifically, I picked up Song to Comus: The Complete Collection, which I believe includes almost all of their work, after listening to some of their music on Youtube. And oh boy, did First Utterance knock my socks off, presumably leaving them in a muddy crevice somewhere in the woods for a creepy little girl to find while she's off communing with unwholesome cosmic spirits. As previously mentioned, I've also been greatly enjoying Swans for a little while now, and I've been trying to use spooky and weird music here and there as both background music while gaming and a general source of game-related inspiration.

I've also been collecting music recommendations from strange places like the Lamentations of the Flame Princess community, the TV Tropes Nightmare Fuel page, and this video from Youtube reviewer Grim Beard.

The point is, I want to listen to some new stuff. Especially some odd stuff, and some scary stuff, and some gloomy stuff. Stuff that fits in well with horror or weird/dark fantasy gaming, or even just fantasy or science fiction gaming in general. So here's my musical to-do list. If, for some reason, you need a d50 table of bands your priest probably wouldn't approve of, here you go. If you have any suggestions, hey, why don't we make it a d100 table?
  1. Agalloch - The Mantle
  2. Alcest - Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde
  3. Amebix - No Sanctuary: The Spiderleg Recordings
  4. An Autumn for Crippled Children - Try Not to Destroy Everything You Love
  5. Black Sabbath (I mean, I enjoy their greatest hits CD, but I should probably check out their actual full albums, you know?)
  6. Briton Rites - For Mircalla
  7. Candlemass - Epicus Doomicus Mettallicus
  8. Celtic Frost - Monotheist
  9. Coldworld - Autumn
  10. Cradle of Filth
  11. Curved Air
  12. The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets
  13. Dream Theater
  14. Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  15. Frank Zappa
  16. Gallowbraid - Ashen Eidolen
  17. Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
  18. Gentle Giant
  19. Godspeed You! Black Emperor (I really enjoy Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, and I'm thinking I'll probably try Luciferian Towers next.)
  20. The Great Old Ones - Tekeli-Li
  21. GWAR
  22. Hawkwind
  23. Iggy Pop
  24. Jess and the Ancient Ones
  25. Jethro Tull
  26. King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King
  27. Locrian - Return to Annihilation
  28. Nadja - Radiance of Shadows
  29. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Let Love In
  30. Om - Pilgrimage
  31. Opeth
  32. Pink Floyd (I like The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, so I figure I should see what else they've done.)
  33. Reverend Bizarre
  34. Sahg - Sahg I
  35. Samael - Ceremony of Opposites
  36. Slayer - Reign in Blood
  37. Sleep
  38. Sunn O)))
  39. The Sword - Age of Winters
  40. Throbbing Gristle
  41. Tool
  42. Tom Waits (I have Bone Machine, but I need to get more of his work, or at least a copy of Real Gone.)
  43. Upwards of Endtime - Sadly Never Fore
  44. Van der Graff Generator
  45. Vattnet - Settler
  46. Vintersorg - Orkan
  47. Witchfinder General
  48. Wolves in the Throne Room
  49. Wreck & Reference - Want
  50. Yes
If an album title is listed, that's probably where I'll start with that band, before moving on to their other work if I end up liking them. If no album is listed, then I'm probably not sure exactly where to begin yet.