Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fantasy Doom Patrol, Session 2

The second session of Fantasy Doom Patrol has come to pass. The players were:
Sir Reginald and his brother Bobo, Ogre Ranger and companion (played by Zor)
Freidan Devilsnare, Reverse-Vampire Cleric (Dylan) - Reverse Vampires love garlic, are burned by moonlight, heal people by giving them blood transfusions, etc.
St. HK-47, Robotic Pope (Ian) - agent of the Vatican and devout follower of 'Super Jesus'
Torin the Small, Halfling Body-Part Thief (Shaun)
Eventually joined by JibberJabby, nude Hobgoblin Wizard beset by unpredictable spell effects (Tom)
When the last session ended, the PCs had just fought off a horde of vomiting goblins atop a giant chickenfort. They now decide to rest up and interrogate the goblin that they have captured. He explains that the goblins are equally worried by the sudden decomposition of the flesh of the dead god Hyperion. After some cajoling, he also admits that their leader, the now-deceased Haggo, has recently led a mysterious expedition deep into the body of the god. Sir Reginald concludes the interrogation by convincing the goblin to serve him as a dogsbody. This leads to the following conversation:

Zor: "I'll write him on my character sheet. What's his name?"
Me: "I dunno, he's just a random mook. What do you think his name should be?"
Dylan: "Hitler."
Me: "Well, that's anachronistic, but I like the idea that goblins would name themselves after famous dictators. So how about his name is Genghis Khan?"

Around this time the Four Great Heroes come back into town: Sir Gregory Thorn, Alaric the Archwizard, Gwenna the Priestess and Pelwerthyn the Elf. Appearing briefly in the previous session, they are an extremely bland and generic adventuring party who are destined to be feted and beloved by the populace despite their uselessness, while the bizarre Fantasy Doom Patrol always languish in obscurity.
look at these fuckers. don't you want to punch them already?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, relations between the two parties do not go well. The Four Great Heroes claim to have slain a flaming chicken monster (in fact, the PCs had set it on fire and it was almost dead already). Freidan loudly complains that they were the ones who did all the work, while St. HK-47 rankles at Sir Thorn's assertion that he is not a real knight since he has no seat at the Round Table. All the time they are arguing, Torin goes about picking the Heroes' pockets, but bites off more than he can chew when Pelwerthyn catches him red-handed.

From here, the situation deteriorates rapidly. The formerly thankful villagers turn into a lynch mob as Torin escapes across the rooftops a la Assassin's Creed. Sir Reginald sends Khan the goblin to pack his bags for a quick getaway. However, Torin has previously warded their room with a scarecrow that is set to scream if anyone besides the PCs tries to get in (this is an item you can buy in chargen, because 4th edition is weird like that.) The scarecrow begins screaming at Khan. Sir Reginald rushes in, followed by the villagers, who see Khan and decide that the PCs must have been in league with the goblins all along! Sir Reginald, his brother Bobo, Khan and the scarecrow all escape by smashing through a wall into the alley below.

Me: "You take 4 falling damage from leaping out a first story window. The angry mob is right behind you."
Zor: "But they're all minions right? So that means they will all die automatically from the fall."
Me: "That's cheating! You can't adhere that strictly to the rules! (pause) Well, ok. The people at the front of the mob don't want to jump out, but the ones behind them are still pushing, so like five people fall out and break their necks."

It hardly needs to be stated that these deaths will soon be remembered as "those slain by the monstrous ogre".

The PCs all escape from the town by various routes. The only one who stands between them and freedom is Sir Gregory Thorn. Bobo tries to throw the screaming scarecrow at Thorn to distract him. A critical hit! "Well... usually you shouldn't be able to damage someone with a scarecrow, but since it's a crit... yeah, ok, the sharp point stabs into his shoulder and he's just stuck there with the scarecrow screaming at him. Forever."

The next day the PCs ascend the mountain and enter the god's body through his mouth. Along the way they are met by an elder from the ogre village at the top of the mountain, which is where Reginald hails from. Apparently the ogres' deity, Ra, has been greatly agitated recently and not responding to prayers. Together they descend into the stinking, rotting tunnels of the godflesh.

In a maze of ventricles somewhere near the small intestine, they are attacked by a trio of giant tapeworms, pursuing a naked hobgoblin who turns out to be our latecoming 5th PC, JibberJabby. JibberJabby struggles to control his magic, and although the mechanical effects remain mostly the same the exact nature of his spells vary wildly each time they are cast. This was just a vague idea before Tom arrived at the table, but when his character was introduced the players spontaneously wrote up a d20 table for "What weird thing is JibberJabby's magic doing now?"

2.wet celery
14.curry powder
18.swarm of bees

This table is rolled upon every time JibberJabby casts a spell.

Over the course of the battle, JibberJabby conjures a blast of shit, a flight of origami cranes, and a swarm of tiny winged moons (which almost deal damage to Freidan as well, who as a Reverse Vampire is allergic to moonlight). But the hilarity comes to an end when poor Bobo is dragged down a tunnel by a tapeworm and smited to death by a holy parasite. Bobo is not a PC but a companion (technically a bear by the RAW) so there is no provision for his return.

Saddened and beaten bloody, the party decides to retreat from the dungeon in order to rest and bury their fallen comrade. They retrace their steps to the entrance and rest until the next day. Then they climb the mountain to bury Bobo in the ogre village where he was born.

The ogre village is built around a mysterious pit leading down into the centre of the god body. Bobo's funeral is interrupted by a blazing light that shines forth from the pit. Looking down the hole, the PCs see a bizarre sight: a giant glowing golden baby ascending the shaft towards them.

But that is a story for another session...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Death Shrew

"Here is one like the shrew-mouse of the land; but this one always lives on the ice of the sea, and whenever it sees a man it darts at him, entering the toe of his boot and crawling all over him. If the man keeps perfectly quiet, it will leave him unharmed. But if he is a coward, and lifts so much as a finger to brush it away, it instantly burrows into his flesh going directly to his heart and causing death."
- Clara Kern Bayliss, A Treasury of Eskimo Tales

No. appearing:1d6
AC: 14 (LotFP)
Move: 60'
Hit dice: 1
Attacks: 1
Damage: death
Special: burrow into heart

The Death Shrew is a creature that was made by the creator-god Raven as a way to punish humans for their cowardice. This monster has the ability to chew through cloth and leather, and uses this ability to burrow through the boots of its victims and crawl up their body. Once the Death Shrew is on the person's body, they must stand very still and not show any fear of the creature as it crawls all over them. If they move at all, the Death Shrew will burrow through their flesh into their heart. A successful saving throw (DEX or vs. death) will allow the character to pull the Death Shrew out before it reaches the heart, instead only taking 1d4 damage. However if the saving throw is failed the character will be killed instantly.

It is strange that although the Death Shrew was made to test one's bravery, it is knowledge and forewarning that is more likely to save the victim. Some say that Raven was mad when he made this and other monsters, for they do not do as he intended. Others claim that there are two Ravens, and the one who created these and other monsters is not the same as the one who created Man.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Grasstop Lurker

On the way they came to a dry lake bed in which tall grass was growing very thickly, and lying on the very tips of the grass was a large animal, yet the grass did not bend with the weight. It was a strange-looking animal with a long head and six legs, the two hind ones unusually large; the forelegs short; and a small pair under its belly. The hair around the feet was very long, but all over the body there was fine, thick hair. From the back of the head grew short, thick horns which extended forward and curved back at the tips. The animal had small eyes, and was of darkish color, almost black.
"These animals can sink right into the ground and disappear," said Raven. "When the people want to kill one of them, they have to put a log under it so it cannot sink. It takes many people to kill one, for when the animal falls on the lower log, other logs must be placed above it and held down, while two men take large clubs and beat it between the eyes till it is dead."
- Clara Kern Bayliss, A Treasury of Eskimo Tales

No. appearing:1d4
AC: 16 (LotFP)
Move: 80'
Hit dice: 3
Attacks: 3
Damage: 1d6/1d6 (claws) 1d8 (bite)
Special: balance, intangibility
The Grasstop Lurker is a monster found in the sky lands above the world, which are also inhabited by celestial dwarves and raven people. The Lurker is sometimes aggressive toward the sky people, but will always attack travelers from the world below. It is usually found lying on top of tall grass or sliding very slowly across the grass. 
The Lurker has an uncanny ability to balance on thin strips, points, unstable surfaces, etc., without putting any pressure or weight upon the surface. It usually uses this ability to remain atop the grass that is its hunting ground.
The Lurker also has the ability to become intangible at will and then to sink into the ground. In this state the Lurker can pass through anything except for wood. If it has grabbed an enemy, they will become intangible as well and it may carry them down beneath the earth to devour them at leisure.

The Lurker's preferred tactics are to ambush its victims, grab them and carry them underground, using its intangibility to escape retaliation. If pursuing a group of lowlanders, it will pick them off one at a time. However, one of this monster's weaknesses is its laziness - when it is not actively engaged in hunting, it can usually be found drowsing atop the grass, at which time it is vulnerable.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dogtooth Reindeer

There are reindeer which came from the sky and which have teeth like dogs. They were once common and anyone could see them, but now only the priests can see them. They live on the plains, and have a large hole through the body back of the shoulders. If the people, who can see them, mistake them for common reindeer and shoot at them, the arrow falls harmless, for no ordinary weapon can kill them.
- Clara Kern Bayliss, A Treasury of Eskimo Tales

No. appearing:2d4
AC: 15 (LotFP)
Move: 120'
Hit dice: 4
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d8 (bite) or 1d6 (horns)
Special: hit only by +1 or better weapons

Resembles an ordinary reindeer upon casual inspection. Only when you get close can you see the teeth. Extremely aggressive if attacked, even by nonmagical weapons which cannot harm it. Will pursue enemies and devour their corpses.


No. appearing: 1
AC: 18 (LotFP)
Move: 30', 120' swimming
Hit dice: 3
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d8
Special: stuff into hood, death throes

Kalopaling is an ancient creature that dwells beneath the surface of the ice. He swims like a seal but looks like a human, except for his feet which are very large and unwieldy. He wears clothing made from black-and-white duck skins.

Kalopaling has a huge hood on his back. After he has grabbed a victim, he will stuff them into his hood where they will vanish forever if they are adults, or become his captives if they are children. The captives of Kalopaling live underwater with him and never grow old. They sometimes come up to breathe, but never want to be parted from Kalopaling or returned to their family. They have a seaweed rope tied around them for Kalopaling to pull them back in.

If a parent ever wishes for their child to be taken away from them, Kalopaling can come to claim the child. While claiming a child he can move very quickly even over land.

A harpoon made of walrus bone will slay Kalopaling instantly if it pierces him. The death throes of Kalopaling are so terrible to behold that no-one has ever described them. Those who see the death throes are cursed to die within one week. The flesh of Kalopaling is poisonous.

Kalopaling's preferred tactics are to attack small boats or people walking on thin ice. He will not leave the water if he can help it, except to claim a child or to sleep. Kalopaling has a small and secret island where he sleeps, but its location is unknown.

Source: Clara Kern Bayliss, A Treasury of Eskimo Tales.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ku Klux Klansmen

Through the diligent efforts of posters on RPG.net, it has recently been discovered that killing orcs in D&D is racist. Fortunately, I have created a new evil humanoid race that nobody will ever have to feel guilty about killing: the Ku Klux Klan.

No. appearing: 20-200
AC: 15 (LotFP)
Move: 120'
Hit dice: 1
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d6 or by weapon
Special: spellcasting (Kludds only)

Ku Klux Klansmen are mysterious humanoids who cover themselves in white robes with pointed hats. They are fiercely xenophobic and hate any intelligent creatures besides their own race. The robes are worn to prevent anyone knowing what they look like, for fear that they will be infiltrated by doppelgangers. When they die, their bodies shrivel up and turn to dust, preserving the secret of their appearance.

The racial hatred of the Klansmen is such that they will fight against ogres, giants, goblins, demons and anything else that is not them. Some particularly dedicated Klansmen even extend this hatred to unintelligent animals, and can often be found wandering the forest in a fury, shooting at squirrels and stamping on ladybugs. Other Klansmen are more lax on this point and are willing to ride horses provided that the horses have their own Klan robes.

Ku Klux Klansmen have a byzantine social order including dozens of different titles, most of them irrelevant. A den of Klansmen is called a Klavern, while the keeper of the den's treasure is known as the Klabee. 1 in 20 Klansmen is likely to be a Kludd, an evil Cleric of 1st-4th level, who follows a holy book of asemic writing known as the Kloran. The Kludds preside over obscure religious rituals involving burning crucifixes, known as Klonvokations. It is rumoured that all Klansmen are united in a league they call the Invisible Empire, which is presided over by their dark lord the Imperial Wizard. There is also supposedly an insane judiciary body called the Grand Council of Yahoos, which metes out bizarre justice within the Klan itself.

Klansman language is unusual in that it is similar to Common except that it consists entirely of acronyms. For example, the word SANBOG stands for "Strangers Are Near; Be On Guard". However, humans attempting to impersonate the Klan language will miss the crucial nuances which distinguish the former from an entirely different sentence (i.e. "Sorry, A Naga's Boiling Our Guts").

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Item Tracker Escape Clause

So there's this thing which seems awesome though I haven't tested it. And there's this thing that everyone probably knows about already. I love the idea of letting PCs avoid direct damage in exchange for losing something else. Because although death should be a real possibility, it's still the least interesting thing that can happen to the PC. Much more fun to prolong their agony a bit further.

So how's this for a houserule-upon-a-houserule: In a game using Matt Rundle's Item Tracker, whenever a PC is a) being attacked by an enemy as they're running away, b) being grappled by an enemy or c) any other escape-y type action that they can get the DM to accept, then they may sacrifice one of their item containers to guarantee their escape. The fireball roars behind you, but only burns your backpack; the tentacle reaches out to grab you, but only snags your bandolier; the wolf leaps as you climb to safety, and its jaws tear a hole in the bottom of your treasure sack.

With the following caveats:
1. The container that's lost is chosen at random.
2. The player's decision must be made before damage is rolled.

(Hopefully you will get situations like "I'm on 4hp and the bite does d6, but if I take it on my items then there's a 1/4 chance that it'll swallow my treasure sack..." "Yeah, but there's a 1/4 chance that it'll swallow your highly unstable explosives!")

3. If the attack requires a saving throw, then sacrificing your item gives you an automatic pass on the saving throw. That means you still take half damage from the fireball, etc.
4. Circumstance will dictate what exactly happens to your items, whether they are grabbed, dropped, incinerated, swallowed, transported to the birth of the universe, etc.
5. The same monster can't be fobbed off with an item sacrifice more than once. (Or, alternatively, you must make a DEX check for each sacrifice you want to make beyond the first.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What I Talk About When I Talk About Prestige Classes (Part 2)

So I've been writing some posts about prestige classes. This one is to develop the idea of campaign-specific classes that help to tie the PCs into the world. They're divided according to a range of half-formed campaign ideas I've been thinking about.

Classes for a campaign based on Norse mythology
Berserker: "When Hardbeen heard this, a demoniacal frenzy suddenly took him; he furiously bit and devoured the edges of his shield; he kept gulping down fiery coals; he snatched live embers in his mouth and let them pass down into his entrails; he rushed through the perils of crackling fires; and at last, when he had raved through every sort of madness, he turned his sword with raging hand against the hearts of six of his champions."
- Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum

Berserker Rooks from the Lewis Chessmen. Note the teeth chewing the shields.
When a warrior is violently wronged - his comrades slain, his hall burned, his village slaughtered - he may become a Berserker. Such a state lasts only so long as the character quests to revenge himself upon the perpetrator of the evil deed. When entering into a berserkergang (rage) the character will gain temporary hit points, a bonus to attack and damage, and immunity to fire. However he may struggle to tell the difference between friend and foe.
Völva: The völva are seeresses who practice the mysterious magic known as seid, which allows them to gaze into the future along the strands of fate, and at higher levels to weave the threads of fate themselves. Völva are wanderers, travelling from place to place where their services are needed but rarely welcome after their task is complete. If a völva is to take on an apprentice, she must first be convinced of the character's worth and wisdom. After becoming a völva, the character can never return home again.
Male practitioners of seid, known as seidmen, are even rarer. Because they practise women's magic, they are reviled in Viking society and executed if captured.
Hermit: Sometimes the violent life of a Viking becomes too much for even the stoutest of warriors. After witnessing the death of a boon companion, a character may choose to take the Hermit class. A Hermit does not own anything he cannot carry, nor can he use any items worked by human hand, including armour and weapons. The Hermit gains tracking abilities as a Ranger, and is able to travel and feed himself without fail in even the most dire of conditions. Mundane wild animals will not harm him, and those who once knew him will not recognise him any more. The Hermit can gain bonus XP by throwing treasure away into the wilderness.
The Hermit generally renounces his class after a period of mourning, after which he returns to civilisation more or less the same as he was before. (This class is derived from certain scenes in Arrow-Odd and also the Epic of Gilgamesh.)
Skald: A Skald is a wandering poet who describes tales of wonder and glory for the entertainment of his listeners. To become a Skald, a character requires both a high Charisma and a suitably epic story to tell about their adventures. The player must then compose a poem describing the adventure and perform it. The Skald's poetry grants him the adoration of the masses and a bonus to reaction rolls for large groups of normal humans. Additionally, many fae creatures, demons and even gods can be distracted or defeated by flyting, an act of ritualized poetic insults.

Classes for Batmania
Traveller: When different Aboriginal tribes wish to communicate or trade, there are complex laws and taboos that govern their interaction. The one invested with the power to navigate these laws is called the Traveller. Travellers essentially have 'diplomatic immunity' between tribes, though this depends on their comprehensive knowledge of the local customs. This diplomatic immunity extends even to the realm of the spirits, who must accept the Traveller and not harm them as long as they obey the spirits' traditions. The Traveller is also able to sing special songs that guide them along songlines, where each landmark in the journey is related to a specific verse of the song. Travelling on songlines is always easy and free of trouble. The powers of the Traveller remain only so long as they are charged with a specific journey by their own tribe.

Classes for Hogwarts
Animagus: An Animagus is a wizard* who can transform at will into a particular animal. The species of the animal is selected randomly. The process of becoming an Animagus includes both arduous training and beastly shamanic rituals to unlock the wizard's inner creature. If the ritual goes wrong, the Animagus may become permanently trapped in animal form, or turned into a horrifying human/animal hybrid.
Legilimens: A Legilimens is a wizard trained in the art of mind-reading, allowing them to delve into the thoughts of others. They are also able to use the opposite discipline, Occlumency, to protect themselves against Legilimency and other mental attacks. Legilimency requires strenous training and can only be learned from another, more experience Legilimens.
*Of course, in Hogwarts everyone is a wizard even if they are a Fighter or a Thief.

Classes for an Antediluvian setting
False Idol: False Idols are those who are worshipped as gods, in defiance of the one true God who created the heaven and the earth. The False Idol class is unusual in that anyone or anything can take levels in it - not just humans but also animals, spirits, inanimate objects or landmarks. Instead of gaining EXP, the Idol's level is related to the number of active worshippers. The False Idol gains the ability to spontaneously cast Cleric-type spells, and at higher levels to grant such spells to its own followers.

Bonus: Classes that can be granted by PCs or NPCs
Rolang wrote up a Paladin class in response to my post, where he specifies that the Paladin is created by a high-level Cleric with the spell Initiate Paladin. This got me thinking about other master-apprentice type relationships. The following classes can be taken by PCs when they are low level, and/or granted to their hirelings when they are high level.
Trusty Sidekick: A Fighter of 6th level or above may choose to appoint one of their Fighter henchmen as a Trusty Sidekick, but only if the henchman has saved the Fighter's life. The Sidekick now has hit points or hit dice equal to their master, will never fail morale checks and will always act to protect and serve their master. (If a PC, the Sidekick can still choose to abandon their master but will lose the prestige class immediately.)
NPCs who grant Sidekick status are typically retired or semi-retired adventurers, local lords, knights, and other such who will not be likely to join the actual PC party and thus overshadow everyone else.
If the bond of the Sidekick is broken, the two characters will become Mortal Enemies, destined for strife until only one survives.
If the Sidekick or the master dies, then the other must enter a period of mourning as a Hermit (if the death was natural or immediately avenged) or a Berserker (if the killer escapes unpunished).
As well as a PC-NPC interaction, the Sidekick system could also be used as a hacky way to let low-level PCs adventure alongside high levels.
Sorcerer's Apprentice: A Magic-User of 8th level of above may take on 1-3 Apprentices. The Apprentice must be a Magic-User henchman of lower level. To initiate them, the Magic-User must grant them one spell for each level of spell that they are able to cast. Wise or paranoid masters will also require a magical blood binding which compels the Apprentice to protect and obey their master at all times, an enchantment that is difficult to be rid of. 
If an Apprentice ever exceeds the level of their master, then the blood binding is reversed. Most Apprentices will definitely seek to exploit this in order to slay their master and steal their spells.

Not really sure about the rules for these two but the concept is solid. Basically the idea is that the Sidekick relationship is about being best buddies and crying when the other person gets killed. Apprentice is the opposite of that - it's a race to get more XPs so you can dick the other guy over.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Concerning Elementals

Zak says that elementals aren't scary, because the elements themselves aren't (inherently) scary. But the elements in certain configurations (bushfire, tidal wave, etc.) are scary. It's not a coincidence that the old Monster Manual illustration of the water elemental looks like a wave and the air elemental is a tornado. But that doesn't really work because a small tornado with a face is pretty dorky. Sometimes little dust devils like that blow up in my back yard, and I just stand and watch them.

Paracelsus says that the four elementals are gnomes, nymphs, sylphs and salamanders. All things that have their own identity in D&D that's not the same as an elemental.

Elements aren't just not scary, they're friendly. You can't live without being able to breathe, drink, grow crops and warm yourself by the fire. But a friendly thing that turns against you could be even scarier.

Elementals in classical mythology are nature spirits. But at some point in the genealogy of fantasy, the fae/animist nature spirits got separated from the elementals. Gygax's elementals are, of course, explicitly non-natural, because they hail from another plane.

Possibly this is one of the reasons why some people hate the idea of the four elemental planes. Fire is important because it can burn you, it can warm you, it can cook your food, and other things about how it interacts with people and the world. But fire on its own, in a plane consisting of nothing but fire, is pretty pointless. To paraphrase Syndrome from The Incredibles: When everything's on fire, nothing will be.

Here we present a new elemental.

Frequency: Common (but secretive)
No. appearing: 2d20
Armor Class: 14
Move: 120'
Hit dice: 1
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d6
Special: control elements, vanish into element, grant blessing
Treasure: Nil

Elementals are small and furtive creatures, generally around 8 inches in height. Their appearance varies by type (see below). They are nature spirits tied to one of the four classical elements. Though they are found commonly wherever their element resides, they are very secretive and will generally avoid contact with humans. They are intelligent but do not speak any language, though they can empathically understand very broad ideas or emotions.

If approached or threatened, elementals will typically retreat inside their element. While thus vanished into the element, they are invisible and can only be damaged by destroying the entire element (i.e. boiling the water, snuffing the flame, etc.). Also while vanished, they may teleport up to 1 mile into another instance of the same element. This makes them exceedingly difficult to catch, though certain charms and seals can block their teleportation.

Elementals can control their element. Though an individual can only affect a small amount, they often combine their powers in large numbers. A group of 30+ elementals can cause a tidal wave, a flood, a forest fire, an earthquake or a tornado. They will sometimes do this because a human has been cruel to them, and sometimes they will do it for no reason at all.

When someone has lived in the same place for a long while, and they are good-hearted, they may develop a friendship with the local elementals, though they will rarely actually see the creatures. Such people often know that it is possible to gain the blessing of an elemental by making a certain offering - the specifics vary by type. The elementals are shy and capricious, and do not seem to appreciate being used repeatedly in this fashion.

Contrary to popular wisdom, water and fire elementals do not hate each other, nor earth and air. Indeed, the two 'opposing' groups are occasionally seen moving together in large swarms, enacting what appears to be a mating ritual - though none can say what the offspring of such a union would be.

Air Elemental:
 Floats slowly or stands still on high branches for hours at a time. Seems very observant. Causes tornadoes, gales or blizzards.
Blessing: The next time you are trapped, entangled or otherwise unable to move, you will unexpectedly become free.
Offering: Powdered musk worth 400gp, scattered on the wind from a hilltop.

 Earth Elemental:
Carries small objects around for seemingly no purpose. Always working at accomplishing nothing in particular. Causes earthquakes and famines.
Blessing: For the next week, any experience points you gain are doubled.
Offering: Two gemstones worth 600gp each, buried at opposite ends of a field.

Fire Elemental:
 appearing at around 2:14
Fast-moving and flighty. Somewhat more changeable and quick-willed than the other types, occasionally given to surprising pranks. Causes house fires and bushfires.
Blessing: For the next week, wherever you make your home will be safe against danger while you are resting.
Offering: Sulphur and nitre worth 250gp, burned in a bowl at dusk.

Water Elemental
 Numerous and uncanny. Appears in groups much more often than the others, and tends to move as a single rippling body. Causes floods, tidal waves and rainstorms.
Blessing: The next time you are brought below 0hp but not killed, within 1d4 rounds you will awaken and return to 1hp.
Offering: Expensive wine, four bottles worth 200gp each, poured into a rockpool at low tide.

Friday, July 13, 2012

AD&D Monsters As Interpreted By The Illiterate

Imagine you're a little kid who can't read. One day you happen upon your older brother's AD&D MONSTER MANUAL. How scary! How exciting! What do you think about the monsters when the only information you have is the pictures?
 Goblins are sad and mysterious creatures possessed by an evil force. They don't like to fight, in fact they are cowards and prefer to always run away. But something compels them to charge into battle anyway! They scream in fear when they run at you. Sometimes they apologise.
 Nalfeshnee is your best friend. He's like a big fluffy gorilla guy with wings who helps you out. He knows about dangers and warns you not to go into bad places. But he's such a scaredy-cat that you shouldn't listen to him all the time or you'll never have any fun.
Bone is a skeleton scorpion man who goes around stealing things. If you catch him and shine a light on him, he will freeze and pretend to be a statue.
Storm giants play baseball with lightning bolts. When they're running to catch the ball they won't notice anyone in their path and they might trample on you. And if you want to get into their kingdom you have to beat them at baseball which is really hard.
Wererats are the coolest and laziest of monsters. They move around very slowly and don't do much except eat and sleep. Even if you attack them, they won't bother to get up until right before you're going to strike.
Mind flayers can shoot lightning bolts at you that give you the jitters. But they are even more afraid of you than you are of them. Once you are stunned by the jitters, the mind flayer will run away and hide behind a secret door.
Sahuagin are very strong fighters. They live on the beach and train their bodies by swimming every day. They are such good fighters that they can use arrows without needing a bow, they just throw the arrow at you and it goes right through.
 The catoblepas is a gross and annoying monster. It has an extensible neck so it can come right up close to you and tell a really bad joke. If you don't laugh, then it will keep telling jokes, and if you still don't laugh it will get angry and attack. Also its mouth drips black spit that will soak into anything and poison it.
Stirges are monsters born from old men who told too many lies. Their noses grew longer with each lie, and when it was too long they were transformed into wrinkly bats.
 Iron Golems are scientists. They won't hurt you, but they will pick you up and carry you back to their laboratory for experiments. No matter how they try, they can never understand how humans work.
Sprites are also known as 'Commander of the Flowers'. A sprite can order the flowers to get up, walk around and fight for him. But sometimes the flowers are disobedient, which is why he has to tell them off. If you attack him while he's doing this, you can start a flower revolution.

Other Ones I Couldn't Find Pictures Of On The Net But C'Mon I Bet You Have A Copy Of This Book At Home:
- Titans are very powerful but they're blind and almost deaf, so you can sneak up close to them and they won't notice.
- Skeletons are very dangerous but they have one weakness - if they meet another skeleton whom they knew in life, they have to stop what they're doing and wave hello to him. That's when you should strike.
- Giant octopuses are always crying. This is because they are secretly princesses who got cursed by a witch.
- Leprechauns ride on the backs of giant leeches.
- Flesh Golem just wants to be friends. He comes up behind you and slaps you on the back as a joke. Unfortunately he is so strong that it might break your spine or kill you.
- Ettins always walk on their tiptoes, which makes them very quiet. However they're also vulnerable to falling over if you can chop off their toes. They have a very good sense of smell and they are always sniffing their clubs to smell what they've been hitting. Once they get your smell on their club they can track you for fifty days.
- Giant ants cannot climb up your legs, so they are not dangerous as long as you're wearing boots. The only time they can hurt you is if you fall over. Because of this, they will build all sorts of traps and tripwires in their dungeons to knock over the humans, and then rush out to devour them.

Body-Paint Sutra

Before sundown the priest and his acolyte stripped Hoichi: then, with their writing-brushes, they traced upon his breast and back, head and face and neck, limbs and hands and feet,—even upon the soles of his feet, and upon all parts of his body,—the text of the holy sutra called Hannya-Shin-Kyo. When this had been done, the priest instructed Hoichi, saying:—
"To-night, as soon as I go away, you must seat yourself on the verandah, and wait. You will be called. But, whatever may happen, do not answer, and do not move. Say nothing and sit still—as if meditating. If you stir, or make any noise, you will be torn asunder. Do not get frightened; and do not think of calling for help—because no help could save you. If you do exactly as I tell you, the danger will pass, and you will have nothing more to fear."
- Lafcadio Hearn, Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things

The scripture of the Hannya-Shin-Kyo can be learned by certain clerics. It takes three hours and three vials of holy ink (similar to holy water) to paint the sutra on a person's body. When the sutra is complete, the painted one is invisible to all forms of undead, nor can they harm him or have any power over him. However, for the sutra to have effect the painted one must be completely naked and may carry nothing save for holy weapons and symbols. In addition, while in the presence of the undead he must not move or make any sound, or the spell will be broken.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fantasy Doom Patrol, Session 1

Had the first session of my 'Fantasy Doom Patrol' 4E campaign today. The players were:
Sir Reginald and his brother Bobo, Ogre Ranger and companion (played by Zor)
Freidan Devilsnare, Reverse-Vampire Cleric (Dylan) - Reverse Vampires love garlic, are burned by moonlight, heal people by giving them blood transfusions, etc.
St. HK-47, Robotic Pope (Ian) - agent of the Vatican and devout follower of 'Super Jesus'
Torin the Small, Halfling Body-Part Thief (Shaun)
And the gameworld looks like this:
click for full size

The PCs are all members of a 'medieval black ops unit' under the command of Merlin himself, who uses them to solve the sort of problems that standard heroes just aren't cut out for. The session begins with a priest from the Most Holy Order of the Gourmandines throwing up in his room. The halfwit ogre Bobo performs an impromptu Heimlich maneuver on the fat priest, causing him to vomit so copiously that he loses all his fat in an instant. St. HK-47 declares that it serves him right for being a heretic.

Soon the PCs are summoned by Merlin and informed that all the Gourmandines are suffering the same affliction. They are sent to the town of Gramercy to investigate. On the way, they read a briefing that explains the origins of the order. Apparently the sun-god Hyperion was long ago punished by the Overgods for his hubris and smashed into a mountain (see map). Now his worshippers mine and eat his flesh to gain holy powers.

At the town of Gramercy, the PCs learn that the flesh of the god has recently begun to rot for the first time, which explains the widespread vomiting which has laid low the entire Gourmandine clergy. When they visit the High Priest they are attacked by a pair of Vomit Elementals and a demon emerging from the High Priest's mouth. "You know how vomit burns when it comes up? It feels like that, but on the outside of your body."
this looks about right
 Fortunately these enemies are quickly dispatched and Freidan performs a dangerous surgery on the High Priest to save him from a disease of cancerously multiplying organs. The only way to save the priest is a massive blood transfusion. As he's had over half his blood replaced, he is now a Reverse Vampire as well.

The priest claims that the goblins are responsible for this mess. They are notorious for sneaking into the mines and bootlegging the godflesh. He advises the PCs to follow up a certain miner named Gyar who is suspected to be in league with the goblins. They decide to rest first.

But their rest is rudely interrupted! At midnight, a wooden fort on enormous chicken legs attacks the town. Goblins are throwing grappling hooks and leaping to the guard tower. Torin runs down to the gate, where he sees a man whom he identifies as Gyar, attempting to sneak away quietly. Meanwhile, the Robo-Pope performs a 'terminator walk' up the side of the guard tower to protect the guard against the screaming goblins.

not really as well-made as this. more like just a clumsy wooden platform with some Warhammer-style goblins hanging off the side
An enormous battle begins. The walking fort is full of goblins, most of them incapacitated by vomiting. The ogre Sir Reginald leaps valiantly across the gap but falls short, instead grabbing hold of the legs of a goblin who is himself hanging off the edge of the platform. Then the Robo-Pope leaps and grabs hold of Sir Reginald's legs and they all dangle there together.

Torin makes short work of the traitor Gyar and proceeds to set a fire on one of the wooden legs. A goblin hound climbs down over its master to bite at Sir Reginald's fingers. Torin climbs up behind the enemy line to assassinate their one remaining priest, but is knocked unconscious by a goblin fanatic on a raging mushroom trip. Many enemies are shoved off ledges, often landing on other enemies below. At last the remaining goblins, trapped on the ground, turn to flee.

Meanwhile, the fort becomes agitated as its legs start to burn. In a frenzy, it tries to pull away but is held back by the grapnels attaching it to the guard tower. Sir Reginald grabs one of the vomiting goblins for questioning and leaps back into the tower, where the guardsman has been cowering. No sooner has he achieved this, however, than the tower is torn free and dragged along behind the burning fort as it flees into the distance. Clutching both the goblin and the guardsman to his enormous chest, Reginald makes an athletic tumble out of the window and they all land safely. The goblin barfs on the guardsman's face.

Freidan and HK-47 are left on top, desperately searching for a control mechanism. Freidan only finds a mysterious Jack Russell, which he catches as it tries to escape. HK-47 discovers a room containing a giant hysterical rooster head. Freidan hands the dog to HK, then picks up a barrel of water and swings down underneath the fort, trying to pour water on the fire. Unfortunately he fails and tumbles to the ground. The Robo-Pope picks up another barrel and makes his own attempt, but critically fails - he falls into the barrel and rolls away down the hill.

The Jack Russell escapes his grip and bounds away, far faster and higher than a dog has any right to do. Meanwhile the chickenfort runs screaming into the hinterlands as it erupts into flames.


All in all I thought this was a very successful session. It's been a while since I last played face-to-face and I'd forgotten how the energy can really pick up in a way that doesn't quite happen in webcam games. Playing old-school D&D has probably made me a better DM of 4th edition, more willing to improvise and allow for actions outside the rules. Last time I ran 4E was when I was just getting interested in the OSR, and I spent a fair bit of time fretting about how slow and cumbersome the combats were in 4E compared to OSR. Now I'm more inclined to embrace it - yeah, each fight usually takes upwards of an hour, but if it's a big setpiece encounter with lots of tactical widgets and interesting terrain, then that's over an hour of great fun.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What I Talk About When I Talk About Prestige Classes

Some people seemed to like my previous post about prestige classes. I figured I would follow it up with some concrete examples of what I'm thinking of. Here are some brief sketches of possible 'old school prestige classes', arranged according to type.

Classes requiring a journey to a remote location
Monk of the Beyul: Long ago, the great Guru created seven hidden valleys of paradise, protected from the outside by snowstorms and snow leopards. The only way to find these valleys is to follow the directions of a terma (esoteric scroll) which is itself hidden inside a sacred cave or a stupa (reliquary). The monks who dwell in the beyul practice a secret art which allows them to perform superhuman feats of strength and agility. They are willing to teach it freely, on the assumption that anyone who reaches the valley must be pure of heart.
Anthropophage: In a distant land far to the south, there are a tribe of cannibals who have discovered secret culinary techniques by which they can gain the powers of their enemies by devouring their organs. Some adventurers have returned from this land with hidebound cookbooks and mysterious smiles on their faces.

Classes revolving around a particular quest or mission
Paladin: A paladin is not merely a holy warrior. A paladin is one who has been chosen by their God for a specific quest of utmost importance and righteousness. While the quest lasts, the paladin gains mystical powers, strength and protection from evil, but only in pursuit of that quest. When the paladin reaches their goal, their powers vanish forever.
Cosmic Debt Collector: Relics pilfered from a hall at the end of the universe; minutes stolen from the hour between twelve and one; a patch of stars caught in a bottle: these are the kinds of theft that attract the attention of the immortal cosmic Powers behind the universe. But the Powers do not retrieve that which is stolen from them, they merely count it as a debt. And the debt will always be repaid. Occasionally, it is possible for a human to be chosen as their agent and empowered to collect the debt. The Debt Collector is empowered to travel through the known planes and warp the very fabric of reality itself. The abuse of these powers for petty means is frowned upon.

 A two-stage class
Paladin (alt): A paladin is a person who is too good for this world. Anyone can become a paladin, even a sorcerer or a thief. All they have to do is undertake one act of purest selflessness, sacrificing their own life for the benefit of an innocent. If, somehow, they survive this sacrifice, they will be granted holy powers for God himself smiles upon them.
Unfortunately, the favour of God is a heavy burden to bear in a world filled with sin. No paladin can continue to measure up to the moment of radiant goodness that first defined them. Sooner or later they will fall, and when they do they fall further than any other, becoming an Anti-Paladin.
Anti-Paladin: An Anti-Paladin is a terrible sight to behold, a ravening beast who is hardly able to tell friend from foe as they take out their existential rage on anything in their path. Their once holy power becomes evil and destructive. The state of being Anti-Paladin lasts only for a few hours, after which the character is left with nothing but dark memories and bloodstained hands.

Classes involving bargains with dangerous powers
Warlock: No adventurer starts out as a warlock. Even the most foolish among them know that it is madness to risk one's very soul for a brief chance at power. Yet once they have set out on their path, the lure of the devil's offer is always there. When faced with insurmountable challenges or certain death, some will choose to make a pact with Hell to save themselves.
The powers of the warlock are significant, but their days are numbered before they must pay the debt and be dragged down to Hell. The only way they can ward off this end is by offering the souls of others, but the number of sacrifices required grows larger every time.
The only way to escape the warlock's fate is to be blessed by a powerful cleric and undertake a dangerous mission of penitence. Well, not the only way - it's also possible to take your soul from one demon and sell it to another...
Goblin Prince: The goblins of the Summerwood have no royalty of their own. By ancient law, they must choose humans to be their princes and princesses. One who becomes a Goblin Prince is granted access to their fey magic, including the ability to summon animals and to become supernaturally lucky. However, when the harvest moon next rises it is time for the Prince to become a King. The King is taken by the goblins to the heart of the wood, locked inside a wicker throne and set ablaze. The only way to escape this fate is to abdicate the throne, which requires someone else to take up the mantle of the Prince and all that it entails.
Cat Fancier: There are secrets that only the cats know. Some few make a pact with the cats, and are given access to these secrets - forgotten spells, ancient lore, things which men think they have kept hidden from all. The price that the Cat Fancier must pay is only to offer their hospitality to any cats whom they meet. As news of the pact spreads, the Cat Fancier will find their home overrun with felines. Wherever they travel they will have cats following them, and woe betide them if any of their furry guests come to harm. Most will eventually be driven mad by the incessant mewling of a thousand kittens.
The Pact of the Cat can be broken if a good team of dogs are brought in to chase the cats away. But the cats will not forget.

Classes requiring you to defeat someone of that class
Grand High Magister of the Order of Tzun: The title of Grand High Magister of the Order of Tzun is not merely an honorific; it is enchanted with mystical energies by the original Magister, Tzun himself. Tzun believed it was best if the Magister was given special powers because the Magister was democratically elected. Unfortunately, after his death an obscure loophole in the ancient laws was discovered, allowing the title to be passed on by a formal duel. Since then, the title has never been claimed any other way.
Bearer of the Body of the Saint: Long ago, a mysterious 'saint' came to earth. Later he was killed and his mummified body parts were scattered. By cutting off one's own body part and replacing it with the body of the saint, one can acquire mysterious powers. It is said that many warriors fight each other to gain control of the body parts.

Classes granted by a particular faction
Anarch-Assassin: The Anarch-Assassins believe in the total destruction of the social order in order to create a better world for the future. They know secret techniques of stealth, poisoning and bomb-making. Those who join their order and learn their skills are expected to assist them in their endeavours, or else wake up one night to find a bomb under their bed.
Myrmidon: The most fearsome warriors in the Imperial Army are the Myrmidons, conditioned to fight alongside each other as brothers. They gain a bonus to fighting in ranks and are immune to fear. During peacetime the Myrmidons are allowed to travel freely as long as they serve the goals of the Empire. When war breaks out, each Myrmidon receives a black talisman which serves as a call to arms. Such is the strength of their mental conditioning that it is almost impossible to resist this call or to disobey the orders of their superiors.

Classes requiring certain restrictions on behaviour
 Vegan Ninja: Vegan Ninjas are sworn to do no harm to any animal, nor use any product of animal labour. They have no problem doing harm to humans, though. The Vegan Ninja cannot eat meat or any animal products, and cannot attack mundane animals of any kind. They cannot wear hide or leather armour, nor can they use bows made with sinew, clothes sewn with catgut, fletched arrows, woolen clothes, etc. Nor can they ride horses, ride in carts, or eat food grown in fields tilled by animal labour. In exchange for these numerous and irritating restrictions, the Vegan Ninja gains supernatural powers of agility and telekinesis.
Trappist Cavalier: Trappist Cavaliers are warriors blessed with holy powers by St. Benedict, in exchange for which they swear a solemn vow of silence. A regiment of Trappists on the battlefield is a terrifying sight, riding into battle without a single war-cry. The powers of the Trappist include the ability to enforce silence upon their enemies, and at higher levels also pacifism or even submission to the will of God. They are also able to brew holy ales that confer strength upon those who drink them.
Smirking Coward: The Smirking Cowards are an order of assassins who, through a combination of unholy rites and psychological conditioning, trade away their courage in exchange for dark powers. A Smirking Coward gains a bonus to assassination attempts and sneak attack damage, as well as a variety of indirect murder techniques such as contact poison and insanity-causing patterns. However, the Smirking Coward is wholly unable to fight an enemy face-to-face. As soon as their opponent is aware of them and threatening to attack, the Coward is forced to flee.

Classes acquired as an 'Achievement' for unusual or amusing circumstances
Dungeon Survivor: If the entire party is killed in the dungeon, save for one character, then when that character emerges into the open air they take the Dungeon Survivor class. Their time alone in the mythic underworld has changed them, making them more sensitive to the subterranean world. They gain a bonus to detect secret doors checks and surprise rolls while in the dungeon. However, if they linger too long in the dungeon they may give in to the siren call of the lightless corridors, and vanish into the dark never to return...
Talespinner: A character whose travels have taken them very far afield (say, the two furthest points they've visited are over 100 miles apart) may take the Talespinner class. Their outrageous tales of distant lands make them popular in town, help them to recruit hirelings, and can be used to distract eager listeners.
Drunken Master: Whenever a character fails their carousing roll, there is a very small chance that they will wake up the next morning having spontaneously discovered the secret techniques of the Drunken Master. They gain a bonus to both attack and defense, but only while utterly shitfaced.
Crippled Master: When a character takes three or more permanent disfigurements (severed limbs, gouged eyes, etc.) they may take the Crippled Master class. This character has learned not just to overcome their disabilities but to use their unique fighting style to their advantage. Enemies take a penalty to defenses against the unexpected techniques of the Crippled Master, and the character also gains a special combat maneuver based on what disfigurement they have suffered.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Pomegranate Gambit

There was a fierce fight, and the scorpion turned into an eagle while the snake became a vulture. For a time the vulture pursued the eagle until it turned into a black cat. The princess then became a brindled wolf and for a time the two creatures fought together in the palace. Then the cat, finding itself beaten, became a large red pomegranate in the middle of the palace fountain. When the wolf came upon it, it rose into the air and fell on the palace floor where it burst, its seeds scattered, each in a different place, until they covered the whole floor.
A shiver ran through the wolf and it became a cock, which started to pick the seeds so as not to leave a single one, but as was fated, one of them was hidden by the side of the fountain.
- One Thousand and One Nights, Night 14

The Spell of the Pomegranate is a last resort for magic-users in fear of their lives. The magic-user becomes a pomegranate that bursts and scatters 100 seeds. The soul of the magic-user can move freely between seeds and see out of them, unless the seeds are burned, eaten or otherwise destroyed. If all the seeds are destroyed, the magic-user is slain instantly. When the spell ends, the magic-user can choose which seed he/she emerges from, while the others wither away to dust.
Level: 4
Duration: 1 turn/level (can be cancelled prematurely)

(By the way, this shapeshifting princess is a total badass. She's just sitting around in her palace when her father's all "How will we save this prince from a curse put on him by an ifrit?" and she's like "Oh yeah, I never mentioned it before but I actually have like a bunch of magic powers." And then she summons the ifrit and kills him. 
How tough is an ifrit? Well, nobody else in these stories even thinks about fighting them.)

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Treachery of Gods


The gods of Uruk, the strong-walled,
Assume the shape of flies and buzz about the streets.
The protecting deities of Uruk, the strong-walled,
take on the shape of mice and hurry into their holes.
Three years the enemy besieged the city of Uruk;
the city's gates were barred, the bolts were shot. 
- Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet I
Even the mightiest can be humbled. Even a god can know fear.

When a city is doomed to destruction, the gods of the city are rarely willing to share its fate. Instead, they depart from their temples, shrines and idols to hide themselves in forgotten places. They take the forms of vermin and scuttle in the sewers, or seal themselves in sugar-pots, or bury themselves in the sand by the riverbank.

When the city falls, the conquering army rides through to claim its spoils. The people of the city are put to the sword or made slaves. Yet when the invaders return to their homelands, it is not only gold and slaves they bring back with them. In saddlebags and boot-heels and underneath fingernails, the fickle gods ride, their carriers unsuspecting. In the land of the conquerors, new shrines begin to appear, in darkened alleyways or on secluded hillsides, where the gods who already own this land will not notice.

Not all cities are destroyed by war, however. Sometimes, an entire population may be wiped out by flood or plague or earthquake, leaving their city silent and untouched. Eons later, you may arrive there to turn over flagstones and search for lost treasure. But be wary, for what you find may be no treasure at all, but something else - a tiny god in hibernation.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Prestige Class in Old-School D&D

Old-school D&D players don't seem to dig the concept of a prestige class very much, probably because it makes character generation more cluttered and build-y and blah blah, I'm sure if you're reading this blog you know all that already and if you don't, well, there is surely someone posting about it on RPGnet at this very moment.

But: I think there is room for the concept of 'extra abilities/training that you tack onto your character' in OSR/DIY D&D play. Look at it this way: my FLAILSNAILS character Blodgrist has developed x-ray vision from drinking the blood of a mutant crab, and has a Sword of Rage that he stole from the goddess Kali. Both of those things arguably define his character more than his class (Fighter), but they aren't things I picked so much as they just happened to him (though I still had some agency because I chose to drink the blood and to steal the sword). And other people have been turned into talking dogs or cursed with the grief of a million mothers or some other thing. And there is this thing where Ian talks about how 'Paladin' can be something you sort of lay over the top of 'Fighter' on a temporary basis.

What I'm getting at is that Prestige Classes could be not too dissimilar from curses, magic items, mutations, and other things that happen to your character to make them who they are - which is kind of the core principle of character development in OSR, right? But there would be some differences from the PrCs in 3e or the Paragon Paths in 4e:

A Prestige Class is diegetic. Finding a prestige class in a splatbook in no way entitles you to pick that class. If you want to train as a Monk of the Spiral Fang then you don't buy the Ultimate Monk Handbook, you actually have to trek to the Spiral Fang Monastery and probably perform some quest to prove your worthiness, and then undergo intensive training for six months before you come out knowing kung fu or whatever.
Now, if you see a PrC in a book somewhere you can maybe convince your DM that this class exists somewhere in his/her world, but then maybe not because...

A Prestige Class is usually campaign-specific. Just as you can't expect every campaign to have a Deck of Many Things or a mad wizard who will give you mutations from Gamma World, you can't expect every campaign to include every prestige class. And furthermore, just as most DMs like to make up their own magic items, many of their prestige classes will only exist in that world. So if I'm running a Viking campaign maybe I cooked up a Berserker PrC, but someone else's science fantasy game will have Alchemical Gunsmith and a city-based game could have the Urban Ranger. But they could also get much more specific than that, like even 'Farseer of the Obsidian Tower' or 'Gullet Scavenger' 'Most Holiest Jester-Mendicant' etc.
I think this would be cool for FLAILSNAILS games because it would be another thing that you've picked up on your weird picaresque adventures through the multiverse. "Yeah, I got this sword in the Vats of Mazarin, this scar comes from a thoat stampede, and I learned to kill a man with a sewing needle from the Metassassins of Kwishtar."

A Prestige Class is mysterious. You can't plan to build your character around a certain PrC because you mostly don't know which ones are available. You go looking around the world and then you discover what's out there. The DM is not obliged to give you a PrC that you like any more than he/she is obliged to give you a particular magic item. (The DM can incorporate players' suggestions if they're good and fitting, though.)

A Prestige Class can have any rules that you like. It's DIY, so do whatever you want. Balance? Pfah! I spit on your balance!

A PrC could be just something that you fulfill the requirements for and then you get it. Like if you wanted to become an Animagus from Harry Potter, you don't take levels in that, you either are an Animagus or you aren't. Alternatively, a PrC could let you 'spend' XP to gain levels in that instead of your regular class. Presumably the amount of content that the DM wrote for the class would set a limit on how high you can go. Personally I'd prefer to limit them to 1-3 levels. I like the idea better if your base class remains the thing that you really are, and the PrC is just something on top of that. So maybe a general rule that you can't have more levels in your PrC than you do in your regular class.

A PrC could have stringent requirements of stat, class, race, etc. Though you should be careful not to have the player travel all the way to the monastery only to be told, "No, you need 13 Wisdom to join our order, you only have 12."

A PrC could happen due to wholly diegetic reasons - for example you could become a paladin because a priest charges you with a holy mission, and you don't have to expend any character resources on that any more than you'd pay extra to be able to wield a magic sword once you'd acquired it. Or it could be something that costs XP or levels - perhaps it's paid in advance so you get your powers as soon as your training is complete but you don't get anything the next time you level up.
Realistically you would get special training by actually spending time on training, but that's pretty boring unless you're already playing a game with lots of structured downtime.

I guess my vision of how PrCs would work is similar to everything else in FLAILSNAILS in that it's a total wild west; anything goes as long as everyone's having fun. If, on the other hand, you were running a closed-circuit campaign, then PrCs would be much more restricted and would serve to tie your players more closely into the setting.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dragons Are Not Born

Dragons are not born; they grow from humans. When a human being is consumed by greed to the point that they wish for nothing else but to lie upon their hoard and possess it, then they will be transformed into a dragon.

Dragons hold no malice towards the human race, only fear and jealousy. When they terrorize the countryside they do so in order to strike fear into their enemies and secure the defenses of their hoard. Above all else they are afraid that a hero will come to take their gold away from them, yet this is the doom they bring upon themselves. They are compulsive; they cannot help themselves from committing violence even when they know it serves no purpose.

Some dragons are grown from dwarves, like Fafnir. Others are transformed not by their greed but their cowardice, becoming dragons after they flee into the distant wilderness. This was the fate of Val, Kott and Kisi, the princes of Gestrekaland who escaped from the wrath of Halfdan Eysteinsson. It is said that many dragons live in the far uncharted lands where men never go. Because there are no humans, they have nothing to fear, and so sleep soundly.

Dragons are pitiful creatures. They spend their time fretting, weeping, hating and counting their gold. If a single coin is lost after it has rolled under a rock, the dragon will fall into a black mood that lasts a year.

Dragons do not accumulate treasure after their transformation. They have forgotten the pleasures that gold can buy and care only for the gold itself. If anything is stolen from their hoard, however, they will pursue the thief to the ends of the earth.

There is one dragon with neither hoard nor lair; a monster called Nidhogg who gnaws at the roots of the World Tree. It is said that the world will come to an end when the tree dies. None can say who it was that became the Nidhogg, but to become such a beast he must have been guilty of the most terrible sin that the world has ever seen.

The axolotl is a neotenous creature, meaning that it reaches sexual maturity without metamorphosing into its adult form, the salamander. Millions of years ago, the axolotl was only the juvenile form of the salamander, but in time evolutionary pressures meant that the species stopped undergoing metamorphosis altogether. Nevertheless, the genetic material of the salamander remained hidden inside the axolotl. Under certain unusual conditions, or when treated with hormones in the laboratory, the axolotl can still undergo metamorphosis to become a new species that is functionally extinct.

Some scientists speculate that man is also a neotenous creature. He no longer has any need of his adult form, but under certain circumstances it is still possible for him to undergo metamorphosis and become a dragon. The nature of the dragon race, and why they became extinct, remains unexplained. However, the theory is supported by recent findings that show human and dragon genomes to be identical.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


No. appearing: 1-6
Armour class: 4/16
Move: 120'
Hit dice: 8
Attacks: 1d8 horn or 1d8 trample
Special attacks: Charge, Explosive Fluid
Special defenses: Magic resistance 30%

The Erumpent is a magical creature that resembles a rhinoceros but is far more deadly. Upon charging, not only will it deal double damage but it will attempt to impale the target with its horn. On a hit, the victim is injected with a dose of Exploding Fluid - save vs. poison or be blown to smithereens. The Exploding Fluid can even cause inanimate objects to detonate, and a sufficiently hard object may damage those nearby with shrapnel (20' radius, 2d6 damage, save vs. breath weapon for half).

An adult Erumpent has enough Exploding Fluid for 2-5 doses, and can regenerate that amount over the course of one day. The fluid can be harvested from the corpse and used to create explosive potions.

The Erumpent's hide is magically resistant to spells and has a 30% chance of negating any magical effect that strikes it. The eyes and mouth of the Erumpent do not possess this quality.

The Erumpent is a herbivore, but an extremely bad-tempered one, which may sometimes attack unprovoked. If more than two are encountered, there is a good chance that some will be children (4HD). The presence of children makes the parents much more likely to charge.

(from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them)