Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My White Whale

Anyone who has read this blog more than twice probably knows that I have been searching in vain (or maybe in vein, ziiiing) for a replacement for World of Darkness.

I want a modern horror game with vampires and werewolves and witches and things.
I don't like classic WoD anymore. I've just plain lost my taste for it.
I tried to like nWoD, but it just didn't do anything for me. Some of the books had cool ideas.
The new Chronicles of Darkness, particularly Beast: the Primordial, had me until I got to all the business about Tilts and Doors and then I hit the spirit manifestation/possession flow chart and I was solidly in "fuck this" territory.

I tried to use FUDGE to create an urban fantasy/horror game, but I just couldn't seem to make it fit.

I tried making a WoD-type game using B/X D&D rules. Some people liked it (including Matthew Skail, who went on to write The Blood Hack, which is way better than what I wrote) and some people didn't. (JB in particular) In the end, it felt somehow 'off.' The basic idea was there, but something about it...I don't know. Maybe it's worth a redraft.

I tried OneDice Urban Fantasy, but I don't like the system very much. (Though I did run a stellar game with it at KantCon a couple years ago)

The Blood Hack is probably the closest thing I have to a satisfactory replacement, but I found I needed rules for witches and werewolves. I wrote a witch thing, which is in working draft form, but the person I wrote it for is no longer in my life and I find I have little desire to revisit it. I tried to write up some werewolf rules, but couldn't get off the launchpad. (I think Mr. Skail mentioned having similar difficulties.)

I've downloaded Feed and Blood Dark Thirst, and read them a little ,but once again I am looking for a game that has a big ol' supernatural melting pot.

I found Microlight Storyteller, which is a neat idea, but for some reason it doesn't quite do it for me. I think I like light, but not microlight.

I tried to write something up with Fate core, but to be honest I really don't have any fucking idea how Fate works, despite having read it and (tried) to run it. The way I handle Fate, you might as well just toss the books and dice aside and just make a bunch of shit up.

At this point, I'm really not sure what to do. I still have the powerful urge to find or create a game of urban supernatural creatures, but I've been looking for years and I'm just spinning my tires at this point.

And of course, all of this is academic, since I haven't had a gaming group since that steaming pile of a D&D5e game that I was playing in last year, and that situation is unlikely to change. Even if I sat down and pounded out my dream game today, I am writing a game for nobody.

...yet the quest continues. Those windmills aren't going to tilt at themselves, you know.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

He's Got a Poisoned Dagger... I've Just Gotta Fight Him

Assassin, as written, is an awful class.

A thief who gets better weapons, worse thief skills, an insta-kill attack that isn't super likely to work, an overly complicated disguise skill, and your very own set of rules for NPCs attacking you. 

...let me expound on that. If you poison your weapon, and someone within 10 feet notices, they will either call the guard, attack you, or both. Ridiculous. "Hey, this guy can kill us in one hit with his poisoned sword...let's get 'em. You have the ability to turn people nearby into instant vigilantes. 

AD&D 1st edition has a lot of rules that leave me scratching my head, or pinching the bridge of my nose (presumably to stop the blood from gushing out) 

OSRIC omitted this from the poison section of the assassin class, but I was disheartened to see it rear its ugly head in BX Advanced, which I recently purchased. Swords & Wizardry Complete throws the rule out entirely. 

If the assassin has the fighter hold his poisoned dagger, do people notice? Could the fighter get attacked? This rule is specifically tucked into the assassin class write-up...but then, 1st edition was always sort of passively-aggressively discouraging you from using poison. Stick a guy with a sword? Sure, that's life in Greyhawk. Stick him with a poisoned sword? You're the absolute scum of the universe. The S&W companion even adds bonus damage to the attacks of the aggrieved witnesses, so enraged are they by the sight of a poisoned weapon. Le sigh.

Of course the rule is easy enough to toss aside, but... I'm trying to wrap my head around the genesis of the rule. Is there some Vance or Howard story where poison just pisses someone off to the point that they're ready to attack an armed assassin? Help me understand. I need to understand.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Weird Magic: When the Sun Rises for the Last Time

Here's another spell for Raggi's Weird Magic system, introduced in his 2017 Free RPG day submission. It uses the system described  therein. If you don't have it, or don't want to use it, just make this a first level magic-user spell. Raggi's Weird Magic can only be cast by females; use or discard this restriction as you see fit.

As with Raggi's spells and my previous offerings this year, the spell is named after a death metal song.*

When the Sun Rises for the Last Time

This spell literally causes the end of the world.

First off, the caster must gather a congress of 101 sentient beings, not including herself. She must inform them, in no vague or uncertain terms, of her intent to immediately bring about the end of the world and the obliteration of all sentient beings. The 101 there gathered must agree unanimously. Among the 101 there must be at least one elf, dwarf, halfling, or whatever 'major' races appear in your campaign. If you do not use nonhuman characters, there must be representatives from at least four nations. There must be at least three clerics of different faiths, none of whom count toward the race/nationality requirement.

 The members of this congress must agree of their own free will; they cannot be under magical or psychic mind control, nor can they have been coerced into agreement. They must willingly understand the choice they are making and the ramifications thereof, so it's not possible to use children or the mentally unsound. If even one member of the congress disagrees or agrees under some sort of pressure or compulsion, the spell fails and you must immediately roll on the failure table twice and take the worst result. If you don't use the Weird Magic system, just give the caster a level drain or have her head explode or whatever fitting punishment the DM comes up with.

The spell must be cast at sunrise, with the entire congress within 300 feet of the caster. It otherwise fails to function.

If the spell is successfully cast, the game world has one day before the world ends. It unfolds in the following sequence:

1. All members of the congress, and the caster, immediately die. Their souls are completely obliterated and nothing can restore them to any semblance of life. They cannot be animated as undead. They likewise do not proceed to any afterlife that may exist.

2. Cleric spells cease to function globally.

3. All beings in the region understand that this is the last sunrise, that the world will end in a day. They don't know how they know, but it is certain. They will feel a compulsion to complete the one thing they most want to do in the next day and will do anything in their power to make it happen. Obviously it must be a desire that can be fulfilled in the next day. If they have no such desires, they simply seek to make the most of their last day: spending it with loved ones, eating favorite foods, etc .If an individual desires to resist this for some reason, they may save vs. Magic, with success allowing them to act as they please.

4. Just before the next sunrise in each region, living animals and humanoids turn into pillars of salt. Plant life withers into blackened husks. Undead crumble to dust or dissolve. Self-aware but nonliving things become inanimate shells. Food and forms of sustenance rot.

5. After the living things in a region die, all man-made structures in the region crumble to ruin.

At the terminus of the spell, the entire planet is devoid of life, a crumbled graveyard from pole to pole. The dead planet will continue to orbit its star until said star goes nova. (This spell does not hasten the end of the star)

There is no way to stop this spell once it has successfully been set in motion. The only way to escape the apocalypse is to somehow leave the planet or the plane of existence. Return at a later time is certainly possible if the individual has the means to do so.

Weird Magic Failure Table:
1- Nothing happens, and this spell is erased from existence. All scrolls crumble, pages in spellbooks are rendered blank, and it is wiped from the mind of the caster and anybody else in the world who happens to know it. Attempts to research this spell, or to create one similar to it, automatically fail. Additionally, all clerics the world over know the caster's identity and that she tried to end the world with magic.

2- As above, but the clerics of the world do not gain any special knowledge or even know that anything happened. (The spell is just obliterated from the world)

3- The caster and the congress die, but the spell does not otherwise function.

4- The congress and the caster still die, but the world doesn't end and magic isn't affected. However, all beings the world over experience a feeling of peaceful contentment for 24 hours, and all fighting everywhere stops. Normal emotions and conflicts resume in each reason as the sun rises, though individuals remember this feeling of contentment and may or may not desire to return to it.

5- The spell functions normally, but the caster does not die, nor does she become a pillar of salt. She becomes the sole inhabitant of the world. In addition, she no longer needs food or water, and in fact cannot die. She loses all ability to use magic or magical items. She is left to wander an empty world alone. If somehow rescued from the planet, these consequences do not fade and cannot be in any way reversed.

6-  The congress and the caster still die, but time is frozen. The planet remains fixed in place, and all regions will experience whatever time and weather conditions presently exist there forever. (Sunrise at the origin of the spell, winter where it's snowing, etc) Clerical magic still works. Spells that alter time or weather no longer function. (haste, call lightning, etc)

7+ - Roll a d6 and consult the chart above. Failing at this spell does not incur lesser consequences.

*I had to look up death metal song titles on the internet, as I don't listen to death metal and am not familiar with bands or songs of that genre.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Weird Magic: Only Ash Remains

Once again, I submit for your general use a spell for Jim Raggi's Weird Magic System.
If you don't have said system, just make this a 1st level magic-user spell.

Fire is the great destroyer. Fire exists only to consume. While humans have found ways to tame it for their own use, fire is always looking for a way to escape, spread, devour.

Sorcerers have long been associated with spells that involve fire. Spells such as burning hands and fireball are commonly known, and rightly feared, by those who are familiar with the ways of wizards. However, there are some practitioners of the arts arcane who are not content to simply immolate their enemies, they leave them physically unharmed but seek to burn down their entire lives around them. Fire is one of fate's favorite weapons, and by means of this spell a caster can wield fire in a far more precise fashion than simply scorching the opposition.

In order to cast this spell, the magic-user must have been legitimately wronged by the target. What that entails is a discussion between the GM and the player, but generally the target must have caused the caster some form of harm or loss, intentionally and unprovoked. If these criteria are not met, the spell simply fails to function.

If successful, the target's entire life burns down around them. Their home, business, lands, all will catch fire within the next month, one at a time, and be destroyed in a conflagration that will happen as a contrivance of circumstances. The target will never, ever be harmed by these fires, even if the fire must go to miraculous lengths to spare them. Their loved ones, friends, prized possessions, and assets, however, will certainly be consumed. Fate claims the things that matter most to the target.

There are two ways to stop the spell before it runs its course (a 30 day process): First, the target can make reparations to the caster, which the caster must deem fit and accept. This ends the spell immediately. Secondly, the target must get a third party to cast  Wish or similarly powerful reality-altering spell. In either case, stopping the spell does not restore the things burned to nothing by it. Nothing can ever restore those losses.

There is one terrible price to casting this spell: something, or someone, precious to the caster will erupt into flames after the 30 days this spell takes to run its course. There is no way to predict or prevent this, and no way to restore the loss. Even revenge has its price.

The things burned by this spell are completely immolated: only ash remains.

If the caster should fail to cast the spell correctly, consult the table below. At the DM's option, a caster who attempts to use this spell against someone who has not wronged them will force the caster to roll on this chart as well.

1- The spell works normally, but the caster will be forever haunted by burning ghosts of anyone killed in this spell. If for some reason nobody dies in the fires, the caster will be plagued with nightmares of the things they love burning down around them.
2- The spell works normally, but at its conclusion, the caster does not lose anything- they are immolated themselves. There is no way to prevent this, and the caster can never be raised.
3- As above, but the caster becomes a fire elemental. They are an NPC monster under control of the GM. This transformation is permanent and irreversible.
4- The spell works, but instead of losing something, the caster is permanently under the effects of the Volcanic Slut spell from VAM.
5- The spell works normally. In addition, the caster's head catches aflame. Even if extinguished, the caster will suffer hideous burn scars that reduce Charisma by 1d4 permanently. A character reduced to 0 Charisma no longer has a face. Any magic-user who looks upon the caster will know that these scars came from misusing this spell.
6- The spell works as intended, but the caster forever loses the gifts of fire. No attempt to start a fire will ever be successful. Torches and lanterns she lays her hands on will extinguish. She cannot use any spells that involve fire, including this one, ever again.
7+ Use the general spell failure table in the Weird Magic System.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Weird Magic: Sorrows of the Sea

This spell uses the Weird Magic System described in Jim Raggi's Free RPG Day book. (I'm not squeamish, but I'm writing this at work during my lunch break so it needs to be Safe For Work.) This spell would be one of the kind that only women can cast.

If you don't use Raggi's magic system, this is a 1st level magic-user spell.

The depths of the ocean are black, not just because the light of the sun can't reach that far into the abyss, but because the ocean absorbs. Everything, tangible or not, that comes down from the surface becomes part of the ocean on a metaphysical level. One thing that the ocean absorbs in multitude is human sorrow. Every ship full of captives, every captain who cries out against fate as his ship sinks, every grieving lover who lets the tide claim them, all of their sorrows. It has been thus since the dawn of human civilization.

With this spell, the caster dredges up the sorrows contained in the depths and sends them roiling across the land as a misty miasma. The spell must be cast on the shore of an ocean, with the caster no farther than fifty yards from the water's edge, and the sky above must be dark. 1d6 turns after the spell is cast, a sickly gray mist rises up from the water and creeps up the shore, moving inland. The mist will expand until it covers an area of 100 miles for every experience level of the caster.

Any individual caught in the area of the mist is stricken with a profound, unshakable sadness. So heavy are their hearts that they can take virtually no action for 24 hours. They will see no value in life and will simply weep and pine. Subjects may weep and wail over their own sadnesses (new or old), some will lament over half-remembered events of others, psychic residue from the ocean's many tragedies. This spell has no effect on the caster. At the GM's discretion, individuals who have levels in a character class may make a saving throw vs. Magic in order to avoid the spell's effects. The spell has no effect on undead, elves, fey, or animals. The spell likewise does not function on any individual who does not possess a soul.

A Dispel Magic spell will clear away a circular area of mist with a 50' radius, centered on the caster. Individuals within the radius when the spell is cast will regain their normal emotions. The mist will no longer flow into the circle. Individuals who leave the circle are subject to the mist's effects again, and individuals who later walk into the circle are not cured.

Failure Table
1-  All of the sorrow dredged up by this spell is absorbed into the caster, who must immediately make a saving throw vs Magic. If she succeeds, she is simply catatonic with sorrow for 1d6 days, after which she permanently loses a point of Wisdom and is ever after plagued by dreams of ocean-related tragedies. If she fails the saving throw, she will simply walk out into the ocean and let the waves claim her. Even if restrained by friends, she will continue to try and drown herself at the first opportunity. 

2- The caster suffers the catalepsy described above, including the aftermath. It lasts for 2d6 days unless she makes a saving throw vs. Magic, in which case it lasts only 1d6 days.

3- The spell works normally, but 1d100% of those afflicted suffer the sadness permanently, requiring constant care so they do not waste away. 

4-  The spell dredges up the rage, not sorrow, of the ocean. The duration and details are all the same, except that the subjects are filled with uncontrollable anger. Expect mass riotings and pogroms. 

5-  The spell only affects animals, inflicting the catalepsy described under #2. Roughly half the animals in the area sicken and die afterwards, the rest making full recoveries and suffering no nightmares. 

6-  The spell works as normal, but the caster is not immune. (She is still entitled to a saving throw if the GM rules that individuals with a character class receive saving throws) 

7+ Use the standard failure table for the Weird Magic system. If you don't use it, roll 1d6 and use the results from the above table, or make up your own. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Holy Crap Warhammer!

Humble Bundle has every Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition book in a PDF bundle for $20.
You're supporting Action Against Hunger and you get every flippin' book written for WFRP 2nd edition. They are even throwing in the 1st edition main rule book as part of the deal. I already got mine and have downloaded my digital plunder.

In other news, DriveThruRPG has ZWEIHANDER for $6.50 today.

It's a good day for the grim and perilous crowd.

The obligatory disclaimer: I'm not at all affiliated with any of the above parties or properties, I just dig WFRP and it's very sexy clone.

Carry on.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Blood and Magic and Maybe Claws

So, everybody probably knows about The Black Hack by David Black. It's pretty rad.

A dude named Matthew Skail hacked The Black Hack into The Blood Hack, which is a dope little modern vampire game in the vein (ha!) of Vampire: the Masquerade but without all the baggage and like 1/5th the page count.

I wrote a patch for The Blood Hack called The Witch Hack. It presently exists as a 16 page Word document on my laptop. The first draft is complete and (hopefully) playable. It's only 16 pages because I didn't reiterate any general rules from the Blood Hack. (Weapon charts, profession rules, basic game play stuff, etc.) I may have been primarily motivated to do this because my significant other wanted to play a witch in a game full of vampires. Love makes people do silly things.

Now, I just need to figure out if I should actually add the rest of the rule stuff and throw it on DriveThru (I wouldn't ask any money for it, since it's a patch of a hack of a hack of a game) or host it on MediaFire or make it a series of blog posts or just leave it on my laptop and use it with my semi-theoretical home group.

I also started working on a Werewolf Hack. I'm completely and utterly stuck. Matthew Skail commented on DriveThru that he was also working on a wolfy supplement and was kind of stuck on it.

As I said, the draft is complete, but here are the basic mechanics:

-Witches are a lot easier to kill than vampires, basically the same level of survivability that normal Black Hack characters have.

-Witches have Circles, which fill the exact same role as Houses in The Blood Hack. Rather than trace their lineage to a mythical Progenitor, Circles represent broad traditions that recognize a patroness, usually a goddess of yore. Circle determines HP, damage, special abilities, and some starting spells.

-Witches get spells, pretty much like Black Hack magic-users/clerics, but they can learn/cast spells above their level at risk to themselves.

-Witches have Gifts, kind of like Blood Hack's Blood Gifts, that represent witchly powers that aren't explicitly spells. (Brewing potions, sixth sense, etc)

-Witches have Power instead of Blood, which lets witches cast above their level, fuel certain Gifts, etc.

-Witches have to worry about Corruption, similar to the vampire struggle with Morality.

Finally, I offer a brief overview of the four major Circles:

*The Circle of Cerridwen- healers, sages, protectors.

*The Circle of Circe- purveyors of illusion, seducers, shapeshifters.

*The Circle of Hekate- Makers of potions and dealers with spirits.

*The Circle of the Norns- Diviners and manipulators of Fate.

I had a fifth Circle I was working on, the Circle of Oya, with control over winds, thunder, and lightning. I haven't finished it and ultimately cut it from the complete draft.

...really no idea how to come up with different classes of wolves. I definitely do not want to go the Werewolf: the Apocalypse route.