Monday, February 29, 2016

Down the Research Rabbit Hole

As I prepare for my Savage Worlds steampunk game, "The RS Files," which is slated to begin this Friday, I have stumbled into one of the all-too-regular traps of the overly enthusiastic GM: the research rabbit hole.

Like the last time I ran this campaign, I want to pepper the game with historical figures, especially obscure ones, who were involved with the cutting edge of science in 1888. This leads to hours of hopping from webpage to webpage when I should probably be sorting out the events of the first few sessions of play.
I've also got to keep reminding myself that I can play fast and loose with history. This is a steampunk game featuring some supernatural elements.... if you can swallow that magic is a thing, you can swallow that this dude joined the Royal Society a few years before he actually did, etc.

Unrelated: My print copy of Ruins & Ronin arrived over the weeekend. I dearly wish it was the same dimensions as S&W Whitebox, Skyscrapers & Sorcery, White Lies, and White Star... .or similar, anyway.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some gears to grind.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

White Lies + Ruins & Ronin + Steampunk Swag

My print copy of White Lies arrived yesterday. It's slick and attractive, but I haven't had time to do much more than page through it.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting on a POD copy of Ruins & Ronin. I'm sad to learn that the deluxe edition is on hold and may never be finished, but I can piece parts of it together from Mike's blog and G+ posts. (Mostly more classes)

To prepare for my upcoming Savage Worlds steampunk game, I ordered some beautiful steampunk-themed playing cards from DriveThru rpg, and a box of steampunk craft gears and charms from Schmamazon to use as bennies. Pretty excited about it...we're starting next Friday.

Game on!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Saving Throw Thief Skills?

Since I am presently deep in the White Box, I had a thought...

Some bloggers (me included) have advocated introducing a saving throw-based magic system for magic-users.

Well, why not do the same for thieves? When a thief does something "thiefy" (DM's discretion, or outline the specific abilities like move silently, etc) the player makes a saving throw to pull ti off successfully. Optional rule: Dex modifier affects the save. Optional-optional rule: Elves have a +1 bonus to move silently/hide in shadows and a -1 bonus to open locks and disarm traps. Dwarves have a +1 to open locks and disarm traps and a -2 to climb walls. Halflings have a +1 to hide in shadows and pick pockets and a -2 penalty to climb walls.


Monday, February 22, 2016

White Box Wish List

As I continue to develop what one might call a White Box Obsession, I've started coming up with a to-do/wish list of things I'd like to see adapted. Presently:

-Psionics and a psionicist class. Right now it looks like the Basic Psionics book I downloaded might do the trick if I can strip it down a bit to fit into White Box sensibilities rather than B/X. Ideally, I'd like psionics to work differently from magic.

-Cyberpunk. There was a  blog that was working on such a thing (Chrome, I believe was the most recent working title.) For the most simple iteration, you could take White Lies and plug in the cybernetics from White Star. I think I'd like to take it a bit farther and add classes. A few conceits: 1.) the future is as imagined in the cyberpunk fiction of yore, 2.) the Shadowrun fantasy stuff will be included as an appendix to be used optionally, and 3.) It will not be gear porn the way some cyberpunk games are. (Ahem)

-Mecha.I think someone, somewhere, created a simplified version of Battletech. I'd like to scribble out some way to fit it into White Box. Stars Without Number has rules for mecha, but they aren't exactly typical. (But being atypical is one of the things I love about Crawford)

I think that's about all for now. Between Swords & Wizardry, Bullets & Blood, White Lies, Skyscrapers & Sorcery, and White Star... I think I have just about all the bases covered. (Well except for superheroes- for which ICONS is my go-to, and supernatural investigation a la Lovecraft, which I presently have zero interest in)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Dat White Box Life

So I grabbed the Basic Psionics Handbook today because 1.) it was on sale and 2.) I'd like the option of injecting a little psi-weirdness into my next old school D&D or S&W game. I've only been able to give it a cursory glance, but it looks a little too complicated for a White Box style game. (It's advertised as being for a B/X or Labyrinth Lord type game, so no surprise there) I'll be looking for a way to strip it down a bit in order to make it fit.

I also picked up White Lies (both a PDF copy and ordered it POD), though really because I want more robust modern White Box Rules. I don't really have much of an interest in running an espionage/special forces game per se. (Although I could get down on some Department 19 or Monster Hunters International type stuff) Soon I'll still have a stack of adorable little books tucked into my Bag of Holding: S&W White Box, White Star, Skyscrapers & Sorcery, and White Lies.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Royal Society Rides Again

A few years ago, I ran a short-lived steampunk game using Savage Worlds. I blogged about the few sessions we ran... I believe it was late 2011. The players were all in the employ of the Royal Society for Improving Natural Knowledge in an alternate 1889 where the Babbage-Lovelace Analytical Engine has revolutionized technology and industry for nearly half a century.

I am rebooting this campaign. My plan is to start the first Friday in March and run it every other week. The group consists of all people I have gamed with before (except for one). Some of them have gamed with each other ,some have not. They're generally more characterization focused than making sure their character is the Ass-Kickin'est Ass-Kicker in Kickassistan. None of the original players will be playing due to various changes in circumstance.

I struggled with the decision to make a campaign Wiki or not back when I first ran it, and I have that same hesitance now. I started up a simple Wiki on Obsidian Portal, but I find it to be tedious work. I'd like to find a way to make my campaign information sharable with my players but not have it be a huge pain in the ass... maybe just Word docs and G**gle Drive?

Looking forward to getting back in the driver's seat...of the steam wagon!

(You D&D players, despair ye not... I still plan to bring back the Saturday game)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Stars Without Number Mega-Bundle

Kevin Crawford has put up a huge deal on his OSR sci-fi game, Stars Without Number. I am a huge fan of this game and ran an awesome campaign of it before I went to grad school. I also played one of my favorite characters of all time in an SWN campaign run by Mindy in my old Sunday group.

I highly recommend, and am officially pimping the SWN bundle.

Friday, February 12, 2016

White Box Other Magic, Part II - Alternate System Ideas

Considerations of a few alternate spell systems, inspired by various OSR sources:

System I: Saving Throw Magic
Design note: This system is loosely based on Chainmail, plus various OSR emulations of it I've seen over the past few years. 

A magic-user must roll a saving throw to cast a spell. The saving throw is modified by the magic-user's intelligence modifier.

Magic-users memorize/prepare and learn spells per the usual rules. When the magic-user casts a spell, the player rolls a saving throw. If he succeeds, the spell goes off as normal and the spell is not lost; the magic-user may attempt to cast it again. If the saving throw fails, consult the following table:

2- Spell fails,  is lost, demon appears with HD  equal to spell lv x2,  hostile to the magic-user           
3- Magic-user takes 1d6 damage/spell level, may make a saving throw for half
4- Random spell of the same level goes off, centered on the same target. Spell lost.
5-  Spell delayed 1d3 rounds and is lost
6- Spell delayed 1 round and is lost
7- Spell fails and is retained
8- Spell fails and is lost
9- Spell delayed 1d3 rounds and is retained
10- Spell delayed 1 round and retained
11- Spell is max damage or double duration and is lost
12- Spell is max damage or double duration and is retained

Pros: Simple, lets a lucky magic-user do his thing.
Cons: High level wizards are magic-using machines, spell mishap table is pretty basic.
Suggestions: Feel free to gonzo up that chart as you see fit. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has some good ideas for spell mishaps. You could also plug in pretty much any table from anything Jim Raggi has ever written if you're really feeling like a sonofabitch. (Edit: you can also use the slightly crazier table I suggest in the next system)

System II: Parameter-Based Magic
Design note: This is basically cribbed from Matt Jackson
The mishap table is my own.  

Spells, as written, are precisely formulated versions of that particular spell; they are a safe version of power that can be expended in a predictable fashion.

However, magic-users can go above and beyond the normal parameters of magic at their own peril.

Magic spells have four components: effect, range, duration, and targets.

When a magic-user alters the parameters of an existing spell, he accepts the risk that the spell will get out of his control. Parameters may be increased by "steps," with each step of each parameter imposing a -1 penalty to the saving throw.

Effect: Each step of effect either adds 1 die to damage, an additional +1 or -1 to the spell effect, or increases the effect of the spell by 1.5x. For instance, stepping up a sleep spell would probably increase the max HD affected by 1.5x, so a 6 HD creature could potentially be put to sleep.

Range: The range is doubled for every step. Spells that have a range of touch step up to 10 yards.

Duration: Instantaneous spells step up to 1 round. Otherwise the duration of the spell doubles.

Targets: Spells that work only on the magic-user can be used on one other person. Spells that work on a specified number of targets double the number of targets, assuming man-sized targets. Spells with an area of effect multiply the area by 1.5x for each step.

The magic-user totals up the penalties to the spell and rolls. On a success, the spell works as the magic-user altered it. On a failure, the spell breaks from his control. Consult the following table:

2- Explosion! 20 ft. radius, dmg 1d6/spell level, centered on magic-user. Save for half damage
3- Explosion! 20 ft radius, dmg 1d6/spell level, centered on target. Save for half damage
4- Target is polymorphed into a random small animal. Saving throw reduces duration to d6 rounds
5- Spell affects everyone in a radius of 1d6x10 feet, saving throws as applicable.
6- Spell becomes alive! HD= spell level, creature can make a melee attack to bestow spell effect
7- Spell effect reverses.
8- Random spell of the same level is cast, centered on intended target
9- Random cleric spell of the same level is cast, centered on intended target
10- Spell works, but magic-user takes 1d6 damage/spell level, save for half.
11- Spell works, but no magic can be cast within a 1d6x10 radius for 1d6 turns.
12- Spell works, but the magic-user can never cast it again. If he tries, roll on this table.

Optional Rule: A magic-user can hedge his bets by casting spells in a controlled environment utilizing focus implements. The following modifiers apply to casting spells:

*Magic-user's intelligence modifier
*Magic-user is using a focus item (staff, amulet, crystal, etc) worth at least 100gp/spell level:+1
*Magic-user is casting spell in a well-stocked sanctum or laboratory: +1
*Magic-user doubles the casting time: +1
*Additional magic-user assisting the lead caster: +1/caster. Max assistants that can be used is equal to lead caster's level.
*Hit points sacrificed by caster: +1/hit point. This damage cannot be healed by magic, it must be healed by natural rest.

Optional Rule: If the magic-user takes any damage or is otherwise disrupted while casting, roll on the mishap table regardless.

A note about additional magic-users: All assisting magic-users must have a focus item to get the focus bonus, and effects for a failed roll affect all participating casters. 

System III: Freeform Risk/Reward Magic
Design note: This is basically also cribbed from Matt Jackson. 

System III follows the basic premise of System II, that spells are malleable and crafted by magic-users. However, in System III, there are no "safe" spells, but neither are there spell slots. The magic-user still needs to roll a saving throw to cast the spell, using the chart for System II if the roll fails.

In this variation of the rules, magic-users still learn spells, but the spells as written are ideas, theories. A charm person spell learned at 1st level is simply the idea for a magical compulsion spell. When the magic -user wishes to cast it, he determines how powerful, how many targets, etc.

This system requires a bit of DM fiat. (which is apparently a dirty word to some of my readers, but whatever.) How much effect is there in a feather-fall type spell, for instance? Given that in AD&D it's a first level spell, I'd maybe say it's only the first step of effort.

The basic step chart is as follows:
Effect: baseline 1d6 or +1/-1 or the equivalent of a 1st level spell. Each step increases by 1d6, +1/-2 or 1 spell level worth of effect.

Range: Starts at touch. First step is 10 yards, then double range each step.

Duration: Begins at instantaneous or 1 round. Steps go this way:  2 rounds, 1 turn, 1 hour, 5 hours, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 1 season, 1 year, 100 years, forever.

Targets: Begins with caster only. First step is a man-sized target, doubling each step thereafter. (Note that exceptionally large enemies might count as more than one man-sized target) For area of effect, start with a 5 yard. radius and double for each step.

So, let's cook up some possible spells:

1. Feather Fall
Effect: Caster falls at a safe rate, 1 level of effect  -1
Range: None. 0
Duration: 4 rounds (two steps)  -2
Targets: None, caster only   0
Total: -3

A magic-user with an intelligence score of 13 and a rare feather pendant (focus item) is looking at a -1 total saving throw to cast.

2. Fell Grasp (aka Darth Vader Force-choke)
Effect: 2d6 damage -1
Range: 10 yards -1
Duration: 2 rounds -1
Targets: 1 -1
Total: -4

3. Unseen Shield
Effect: +4(or -4) to the magic-user's armor class -3
Range: None  0
Duration: 1 turn -2
Targets: Caster only 0. (-1 to cast on an ally)
Total: -5, -6 to cast on an ally. A lesser version granting only +2/-2 to AC would only net -3/-4 to the saving throw.

4. Blight
Effect: 2d6 damage to crops -1 (pretty sure 2d6 will kill most plants well over)
Range: 1 mile  -8 (yes, that's rounding up. DM fiat)
Duration: Instantaneous  (occurs just before sunrise)
Targets: 1 acre -9
Total: -18

This spell will instantly destroy an acre of crops a mile away. How can you pull off a spell like this?
Gargus the Grim has Intelligence 13 and an ashen staff carved with runes. He's still looking at a -16 to roll with this spell. He invites six other evil magic-users to his inner sanctum. That knocks it down to -9, still a hefty feat. He sacrifices 6 of his own hit points, knocking the final total down to -3.

5. Plague
As Blight, but does 2d6 damage to all living persons in an acre-wide area. Even those normal humans who make the saving throw are likely to die...

DMs who find the freeform system too powerful can consider this:

System IV: Domain-Based Risk/Reward Magic
Design note: This is a combination of Matt Jackson's system and the Gramarye magic system for the FUDGE roleplaying game. There's also some Ars Magica in there, as well as ideas from the old Gamecube game Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem

System IV works the same as System III, but places more restrictions on what types of effects magic-users can cast. Magic-users learn the Words of Power, which allow for certain types of effects. They also learn Realms, which are what they can use those effects on. 

Words of Power
Destroy- dispel, weaken, damage

Commune- communicate with
Control- charm, dominate, manipulate
Create- Note that some forms of creation might be beyond mortal ken (create spirit, for instance)
Enchant- enhance
Know- read, reveal, detect
Protect- Also protect against/ward
Restore- includes healing
Summon- bring something from somewhere
Transmute- Change something from one Realm to another. Magic-user has to know both Realms.

Air - also any gas or vapor
Animal- Refers to non-intelligent creatures 

Body- The physical living bodies of any creature
Death- Corpses and corporeal undead

Earth - Includes all forms of gemstones and metal

Fire- Any energy form as well (explosions, lightning) 

Illusion- light, darkness, and phantasms

Magic- Refers to magic itself 

Mind- Sentient minds
Plant- Plant matter or plant monsters, living or dead 

Spirit- Lifeforce, souls, spirits 
Time- The flow of time. Can use effects on past, present, or future. 

Water- Includes ice, cold, and most liquids. 

A spell to change lead into gold would require Transmute Earth.
A spell of healing would be Restore Body.
A shield spell would be Protect Body.
An anti-magic shell would be Protect Magic.

etc, etc.

Once again, DM fiat is how you'll determine what the level of effect is for spells that aren't simply x dice of damage or x bonus/penalty.

As for what Words and Realms a magic-user has access to, I suggest one of the following methods:

1. Give them all Realms (option: elves only get animal, plant, and spirit), but they only begin with one Word and gain one Word every experience level.
2. Same, but they can steal or learn words from other magic-users.
3. A magic-user begins with 1d3 Words and 1d4 Realms. They can gain one of each every time they level, and can learn Words or Realms as they learn spells under the existing rules.

I'll ruminate on these for now...additional systems may or may not follow. Right now I'm kind of digging on I and II, but YMMV.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

White Box: Other Magic, Part 1

Lately I've been turning over alternatives to Vancian magic in my mind. Specifically I have an urge to change it with regards to Swords & Wizardry White Box and Skyscrapers & Sorcery (my print copy of the latter arrived in the mail yesterday! Woo!)

The two largest influences in my thinking at present are JB's magical skills and Matt Jackson's spell formula system.

Here are some of my basic conceits so far:

-Clerics will continue using the Vancian system, though they don't need to prepare spells in advance. This makes sense to me: the deity invests you with X amount of power, and the deity will only perform certain miracles through their mortal agents. Sorry, clerics. Hey, you guys still get better hit dice, saving throws, combat progression, armor selection, undead turning.

-The magic-user is a bit of a cosmic outlaw (to borrow a phrase from Ron Edwards.) Whereas a cleric's magic is basically "on loan" from a deity, the magic-user toys with the forces of the universe. Cleric spells are handed down, whereas every magic-user spell was researched sometime, somewhere, by a person with the will and the gall to bend the fabric of reality to their will. Damn, son.

-Cleric magic is inherently safe, so long as you stay on your deity's good side. Magic-user spells, however, are chaotic and dangerous. This is power that the mortal mind was not meant to wield.

-Being a magic-user gives you access to certain magical powers that aren't spells; these minor magics can be manipulated at will. Spells are more powerful -and therefore dangerous- effects. 

Right now, I've seen more than one alternative system that uses the White Box saving throw mechanic as a roll to successfully cast a spell.

Magical Skills:
This system assumes a d6-type task resolution. While I was mostly thinking Lamentations of the Flame Princess for skill systems, recall that the d6 was often used for task resolution in early editions of the game. (Opening doors, finding secret doors, listening at doors, a thief's hear noise ability, etc) If you use a different method of task resolution (like the action check from Skyscrapers & Sorcery or the Traveller-esque skill system from Kevin Crawford's games), just...adapt it.

The magic-user begins with a 1 in 6 chance of using each skill. Magic-users with an intelligence score of greater than 13 add +1 to their skill level. Magic-users gain 1 extra skill point to spend at 1st level and an additional point at every level divisible by 3. Note that a 6 in 6 chance is possible. In that case, the magic-users only risks failure on rolling a 6. The player must roll again and only if a second 6 comes up does the skill fail. 

Each additional use of a magic-user skill in a 24 hour period imposes a cumulative -1 penalty on that particular skill.  Reducing the skill to 0 in 6 means that it automatically fails.

Dowsing- With a wand, amulet, or special dowsing rod, a magic-user may locate that which is hidden. The wizard may search for one of the following, determined when they dowse: a specific type of metal, fresh water, or buried corpses. The magic-user must spend one turn in concentration and make a Dowsing roll. On a success, the magic-user becomes aware of the general direction, distance, and amount, but only in qualitative terms. ("A lot", "a little," "nearby to the north," etc.) On a failed roll, the magic-user's reading is unclear. Dowsing has a -1 penalty within the confines of a dungeon or other subterranean artificial structure.
Foretell- The magic-user may employ some kind of divination device to get a glimpse of the future. Different magic-users use different methods: consulting the stars, reading entrails, casting the bones, etc. It takes one turn, after which the magic-user makes a roll. On a success, the player chooses one of two benefits: asking the DM one yes or no question (not about his own future), or giving a saving throw reroll to one other party member. (Never to himself) On a failed roll, the future is cloudy or uncertain. 
Minor Alchemy- A magic-user may spend a turn examining a potion, oil, unguent, or other concoction to determine its effects without having to taste it. It takes one turn of examination. On a successful check, the magic-user correctly discerns the effects of the potion and how many doses are present. On a failure, the magic-user cannot discern it without resort to taste or spells.
Decipher Runes- A magic-user may attempt to discern lost or secret languages. At the DM's option, this can read magical writing as well. The magic-user must examine the writing for three turns. On a successful roll, the magic-user can discern the basic meaning of the text. On a failed roll, the magic-user cannot comprehend. Note that this is different from the thief's read language ability; it should be used only for ancient runes and lost languages.

A note about elves:
If you use the White Box version of the elf class that switches between fighter and magic-user, the elf can use the above skills only while functioning as a magic-user. If you use the version of the elf that functions as both classes (the B/X and Cyclopedic version)  at the same time, the elf gains the same skills, but does not receive a bonus skill point at first level and does not gain any additional skill points. If you separate race and class, elves who are magic-users use the same rules as humans who are magic-users.

In Part II we will examine potential other systems for magic.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Campaign Idea 4.5: Shadow Chasers Redux

One of the few things I enjoyed about d20 Modern was a campaign setting called Shadow Chasers. It originally debuted in Polyhedron #150 (attached to the back of Dungeon #92) as a complete/semi-complete mini-game. It was an example campaign in the original d20M core book. I'm not sure if it made any other appearances after that.

The basic premise: D&D style monsters exist in the modern world, but they are veiled by something called the Shadow that makes them appear human or just be unnoticed altogether. In addition, the memories of a human who comes into contact with creatures of Shadow fades or distorts until they don't remember what happened or are able to somehow rationalize it. Some humans gain the ability to see through the illusion and/or keep their memories of their contacts. Some of these people become Shadow Chasers. (Roll credits!)

Use Skyscrapers & Sorcery as the chassis once again. PCs are human, though see below for a possible option.

Add these rules:

The Shadow- monsters are either invisible or appear human, and memory of them fades within minutes of an encounter. Monsters who are invisible become visible when they attack or use a magical ability. Humans searching an area can make an action check modified by wisdom to notice the monsters. To keep their memories, humans must roll a saving throw (modified by Wisdom.) After succeeding at 2d6 saving throws, the human becomes Aware.The GM may also surmise that recordings of Shadow creatures quickly corrupt and become unusable. (Though perhaps certain organizations have technology capable of recording the Shadow.)

Awareness- Characters who are Aware can see through the veil sometimes. They gain +1 on action checks to notice hidden Shadow creatures. Aware characters automatically retain memories of encounters with the creatures. Blessed and Occultists are automatically Aware at 1st level. With the GM's permission, a PC of another class may begin the game Aware.

(Optional rule) Shadow-blooded- Some denizens of Shadow are capable of siring offspring with humans. The blood of Shadow doesn't manifest in every generation, and many Shadow-blooded go their entire lives without realizing what they are.

Here are the three that were originally featured in Polyhedron #150. I've stuck to the concept, rather than the mechanics, as most of them don't translate from d20 to White Box-esque games.

General rules:
-Spells or abilities that detect denizens of Shadow or supernatural creatures will pick up Shadow-blooded characters, but the connection will be noticeably weak.

-Spells that detect or repel Shadow creatures will affect Shadow-blooded, though they receive a saving throw if none is normally allowed and a +2 to the saving throw if one is normally allowed.

-Shadow-blooded are automatically Aware.

-At the GM's option, Shadow-blooded cannot become Blessed.

Fiend- The character has a demon ancestor. Given that powerful denizens of Shadow rarely emerge so blatantly in modern times, the ancestor might be very distant indeed.

-The character gets +2 to all saving throws vs. fire magic
-The character gets +2 to all saving throws vs. being mentally manipulated

-The character takes 2 points of extra damage from weapons made of silver, cold iron, or meteoric iron.

Lycanthrope- Someone in the character's family line was a lycanthrope of some sort (werewolf, weretiger, etc). While the character is not a full-fledged shapeshifter, she carries some of the beast within.

-The character gets +1 on all action checks involving sight, hearing, or smell.
-The character can see in the dark out to 60 feet, though only in black and white.
-The character can alter their shape, gaining claws and a thick hide. The character has +1 AC and can attack with their natural weapons for 1d6+1 damage (modified by strength.) A character can maintain this for a total number of rounds equal to constitution within a 24 hour period.

-The character takes +2 damage from silver weapons and has a skin allergy to silver.
-The character can fly into a feral rage when hurt or angered. (Reduced to 50% hit points) Unless she can make a saving throw modified by wisdom, the character loses control for 1d6 rounds, assuming shifted form and attacking the nearest creature with their claws. They remain berserk for 1d6 rounds, and can exceed their total amount of shifted time. This saving throw has a -2 penalty if made when the full moon is in the sky.

Vampire- Vampires cannot reproduce, but humans who are bitten multiple times and somehow survive often carry a strange curse that they can pass down through generations.

-The character has +1 to action checks involving sight and hearing.
-The character regenerates 1 hit point per hour. They can still be killed normally, however.

-Sunlight fatigues the character. They suffer -1 to attack rolls, saving throws, and action checks while directly exposed to sunlight. Light created by Blessed miracles affects them the same as natural daylight.
-The character takes 2 extra damage from any weapon made entirely of wood

And here are a couple that I've added:

Dragon- Dragons are renowned for their ability to change shapes. This has resulted in some dragon-human pairings. Dragon blood is extremely latent, manifesting perhaps once a century in a given family. This assumes that PCs are descended from "lesser" dragons as described in the Encyclopia Draconis supplement. (In other words, regular dragons from Swords & Wizardry)

 -The character has +1 to all action checks involving financial matters or bargaining.
-The character can automatically assess the value of any object or treasure
-The character has +2 to save versus one of the following types of damage, determined at 1st level and unchangeable thereafter: fire, electricity, cold, acid, poison.

-The character is greedy, and must make a saving throw modified by wisdom to avoid being swayed by the promise of monetary/material reward
-The character takes 2 extra points of damage from weapons of meteoric iron

Giant-  Legend has it that some giants used magic to assume human form and took human spouses in the distant past. This character is descended from such a bloodline. Despite being human, people with giant's blood are often "big and tall."

-Once per day, the character may raise their strength score to 18 for 1d6 rounds. If the character's strength is already 18, they receive an additional +1 to any attack rolls, damage rolls, or saving throws/action checks modified by or involving strength. After the strength ends, however, the character takes 1d6-2 damage from overexerting their non-giant body.

-The character has -1 on all action checks that involve fine manipulation or delicate tasks.

This route is more fantasy than horror, which. I'm really warming up to.

Monday, February 8, 2016

World of Shadows Revised

This time, I'm using Skyscrapers & Sorcery as the chassis, rather than Swords & Wizardry. (And yes, I know S&S is built off S&W)

-Add player character races: cambion, human, vampire, weirdling, werewolf. Generally any race can advance as any class, unless the GM rules otherwise.

Cambion (aka fiendbloods or fiendblooded)
The term cambion once referred to beings who had a human and a demon parent. Such couplings are almost unheard of in the modern era, but some families still carry the bloodline of fiendish ancestry.  Cambions are indistinguishable from humans, though they often have sharp, harsh features and an unsettling demeanor. At the GM's option, cambions cannot advance as Blessed.

-Cambions receive +1 to any action check to intimidate or frighten someone, due to the unsettling aura that surrounds them.
-Cambions receive +1 to any saving throw against fire damage, and they receive one less point per die from fire damage. (Minimum 1 point per die)
-Cambions can induce strong emotions in others: anger, fear, hatred, lust, etc. To do this, they must make eye contact and generally cannot be done in combat. The target gets a saving throw modified by wisdom to resist. A target who saves successfully is immune to this cambion's ability for 24 hours.

-Cambions take +2 damage from holy/blessed weapons, silver weapons, and weapons of cold or meteoric iron.
-Cambions have -1 to any action check to befriend or persuade a person or animal, due to the unsettling aura that surrounds them.

Most humans who become involved in the supernatural world are Occultists or Blessed, though plenty of others serve as minions, muscle, messengers, and wannabes.

Abilities: None. At the GM's option, humans gain 5% extra experience due to the fact that they don't have to spend any extra time working to master their powers or monstrous natures.

Weaknesses: None.

Vampires are undead beings who thirst for the blood of the living. PCs are assumed to be fledgling vampires who have not yet unlocked the full potential of their powers. The flip side of this is that they retain some semblance of their personalities and some control over their bloodthirst. At the GM's option, vampires cannot advance as Blessed. 

-Vampires have +2 to all action checks involving sight or hearing and are not hindered by darkness.
-Vampires can change into a bat or wolf. They can do this for a total of 1 hour per night per 2 points of Constitution. The change takes two full combat rounds.
-Vampires cannot be reduced to negative hit points or lose consciousness from hit point loss. However, a vampire who takes damage from sunlight or fire while at 0 hit points is destroyed.
-Vampires  who make eye contact with another may place them under the effects of a Control Sentient spell. Vampires may only have one such thrall at a time.

-Vampires take 1d6 damage per round exposed to direct sunlight.
-Vampires do not  heal naturally and cannot benefit from healing magic. Vampires must drain Hit Dice from helpless humans. Each Hit Die drained restores 1d6 hp to the vampire. Vampires can feed on animals, but must drain 2 HD to to restore 1d6 hp.
-Vampires that are impaled through the heart by a wooden object are paralyzed until it is removed. In combat, this requires an attack vs. AC -1 [AAC +10] The vampire is paralyzed until the object is removed.

Weirdlings are humans who have some fey ancestry. The blood of fey is fickle and may skip any number of generations. Many go through life unaware of what they are. They are indistinguishable from humans, though they may have some spritely features, eyes the color of leaves, etc.

-Weirdlings receive +2 to any action roll meant to seduce or deceive someone.
-Weirdlings can reroll one saving throw per game session. They must accept the result of the reroll.
-Once per day, a weirdling can put a glamour on themselves. This allows them to appear however they wish: a different gender, race, age, even alterations to height and weight. The change is illusory; the weirdling does not physically change. 

-Weirdlings take +2 damage from weapons made of cold or meteoric iron.
-Weirdlings who make a promise or deal are magically bound to it as a Geas/Quest spell.

Werewolves are humans who bear the curse of lycanthropy. Most of them were bitten or mauled by a werewolf and somehow survived. On rare occasions, the child of a werewolf will inherit the curse, manifesting during puberty. PCs are assumed to be fledgling werewolves who are not yet in full control of their transformation.

Werewolves can assume werewolf form with an action check modified by constitution. Failure consumes the combat round, success begins the two round transformation. See the S&S rules for the stats. The character rolls a new hit point total using the werewolf's hit dice. If  the PC has surpassed 3 HD, they gain an extra Hit Die during the change.

-Werewolves take double damage from silver weapons
-During the full moon, werewolves have to make a saving throw (modified by wisdom)  every hour or involuntarily change. While changed, the werewolf is berserk, attacking the nearest being with claws or bite. This rage lasts 1d6 combat rounds. The werewolf regains his senses after the rage has passed, but must remain shifted the rest of the night.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Campaign Idea 4: The World of Shadows

(This is a reduced version of my mostly-complete B/XWoD) 

Monsters have always existed in the shadows of our world. As humankind has pushed back the darkness at the edge of the frontier, monsters have learned to blend in within our city walls. In the modern day, supernaturals have a hidden society that fights over sites of power: ley lines, sacred groves, emotional monuments. For the most part, this is a cold war..or was. Unknown forces are causing the wall between this world and the next to thin. Strange creatures are slipping through. The supernatural community is in an uproar. Factions move to capture sites of power. Are the PCs fighting for a faction? Are they mercenaries? Are they simple opportunists? Time will tell.

Available Classes:
Cambion - Humans who have partially demonic ancestry.
Vampire- Undead who thirst for blood.
Weirdling- Humans who have partially fey ancestry.
Werewolf- Humans who become wolflike beasts
Witch - Humans who have learned magic.

*Swords & Wizardry White Box 
*Grab Amityville Mike's S&W gun rules to supply the modern hardware.
*Quick new rules (posted below)
*My class writeups (below)  

Quick new rules:

*There are two types of humans, ordinary and heroic. Ordinary humans are 0-level and generally don't have much more than 1d6 hp and a job they might be decent at. They receive no saving throws against spells or supernatural abilities. Heroic humans are those who are made of sterner stuff: templars, monster slayers, special forces, especially driven or insane humans. Heroic humans can have up to 8 HD and have combat and saving throw numbers similar to monsters of those HD. They receive saving throws.

*Some spells have been renamed to detect or protect the Supernatural. This includes all player classes and all monsters. Normal humans, even those enthralled or in service to a supernatural, are unaffected by these spells.

*The Alignment system is replaced with the following:  Protective (supernaturals should guard and guide humanity), Neutral, Darwinian (supernaturals should rule humanity). Note that humans don't necessarily have to be Neutral! The DM is also free to ignore alignment altogether.

*A vampire who drains a person to 0 Con turns them into a vampire. Normal humans start at 1st level, heroic mortals and characters of other classes lose 1 HD/level and switch to the vampire class.  (They retain none of their old abilities) A werewolf who does more than 50% of an individual's hit points with its natural weapons risks turning them into a werewolf. The victim may make an ST against disease. Failing means they switch to a 1st level werewolf if normal, or lose a level/HD and switch to the werewolf class. Note that vampires cannot become werewolves and vice versa!

*Professions (optional)- A character may select a profession. The character receives +2 on all rolls related to Saving Throws or ability checks related to that profession. Combat ability is unaffected by choice of profession.


1       1        +0      +1    15           
2       2        +0      +1    14           
3      2+1     +1      +2    13           
4       3        +1      +2    12           
5       4        +2      +3    11           
6       4+1    +2      +3    10          
7       5        +3      +4     9          
8       6        +3      +4     8         
9       6+1    +4      +5     7          
10     7        +4      +5     6           

Prime Requisite: Dexterity


Vampires receive +2 on any ST against disease or poison. 

Climbing: A vampire may scale sheer surfaces with an eerie, spider-like climb. The chance of doing so is 1-5 on a d6. 

Senses: Vampires can hear even the faintest noises and notice minute details. The chance of doing so is 1-2 on a d6 and improves 1 point every two full levels. (1-3 at level 2, 1-4 at level 4, etc) 

Shapeshift: The vampire may assume the form of a bat. He retains his normal hit points but otherwise uses the statistics of an ordinary bat. As the vampire grows in power, so to does his shapeshifting ability: at 3rd level a vampire can shift into an ordinary wolf. At 6th level, the vampire can assume the form of a swarm of bats. At 9th level, the vampire can assume gaseous form. It requires a round to switch between forms, during which time the vampire can take no other action. The vampire can remain shifted for a total number of hours per night equal to experience level. 

Stealth: A vampire can move with utter silence or vanish entirely into the shadows, such that he cannot be detected by mundane means. Chance to use stealth is 1-3 on a 1d6, improving by 1 point every three full levels. 

Hypnotic Gaze: A vampire making unobstructed eye contact with a human can choose to place them under the effect of a sleep spell. Normal mortals do not receive a saving throw, but heroic mortals and supernatural creatures do. Someone saving against a vampire's gaze is immune to said gaze for 24 hours. The vampire can use this ability once per night for every experience level. 

Strength: The vampire is capable of powerful bursts of strength. Once per night per level, a vampire may inflict double damage with a melee or muscle-powered attack. The vampire may instead choose to perform a feat of strength (forcing a door, lifting something, etc) as if it had a strength score of 18. 
Optional rule: The vampire can use one instance of this ability to automatically pass a ST involving strength. 

Alacrity: The vampire is capable of amazing bursts of speed. Once per level per night, vampire may dodge incoming projectiles with a ST, modified by Dexterity. The vampire may instead choose to double movement speed for 1 round (in or out of combat) 
Optional rule: The vampire can spend one use of this power to pass a saving throw that involves dexterity or agility. 


Dark Dweller: A vampire takes 1d6 damage every round he is in daylight. 
**Less harsh variant: The vampire has -2 to all attack rolls and saving throws while exposed to sunlight, and must make a ST modified by Constitution to activate any vampiric ability. 

Soulless: A vampire unsettles animals and appears distorted in mirrors and on recording devices. 

Unholy: Vampires take 1d4 damage from contact with holy water. Vampires can also be turned or banished by spells that affect undead or evil beings. (Regardless of actual alignment or morality) 

Unliving: Vampires can only restore hit points from drinking human (or sometimes animal) blood. They may never benefit from medical attention or healing magic. The vampire must feed on a hypnotized or helpless victim, draining up to 3 points each round. Each point drained lowers the Constitution of the victim by 1 point. Victims dropping below 50% of their Constitution must save vs. death or die. Victims reduced to 0 Con die regardless. Most humans have 10 Constitution. Animals count for only half; a GM can rule that your average horse has 15 Con, but only about 7 points of such sustenance counts. In addition, vampires must feed on humans at least once a week or they suffer -2 to attacks and saves.

Destroying a vampire: Vampires who reach 0 hit points are not killed. Vampires can only be permanently destroyed if their hit points are 0 and they: 
-Are exposed to sunlight
-Are damaged by fire, either normal or magical 
-Are pierced by a wooden weapon such as a stake, spear, or crossbow bolt 
-Are decapitated 


1       1+1    +1     +0    16           
2       2        +2     +0    15           
3      3+1     +2     +1    14           
4       4        +3      +2   13           
5       5+1    +3      +2   12           
6       6        +4      +3   11          
7       7+1    +4      +4    10          
8       8        +5      +4     9         
9       9+1    +5      +5     8          
10     10      +6      +5     7  

Prime Requisite: Strength 

Saving Throws- The werewolf receives a +2 on all saves vs. death 

Death Machine: Against opponents of 1HD or less, a werewolf receives 1 extra attack per round per level. A 4th level werewolf fighting  a 1 HD police officer will get four attacks per round. 

Forms: Werewolves have three forms: their ordinary human form, a wolf form, and a hybrid form. It takes 1 full round to switch between forms. The character's hit points stay the same in all three forms. The powers below assume the werewolf is in hybrid form. Note that shifting can destroy clothing, armor, and worn possessions. 

Natural Weaponry: Werewolves have claws and fangs. They may attack twice per round, inflicting 1d6+1 with each attack. 

Regeneration: Werewolves regain 1 hit point every hour.They can regrow lost limbs and organs. Werewolves regenerate in any form. 

Scent Tracking: Werewolves can track prey by scent. The chances of this are a base 1-3, improving 1 point for every three full levels. 

Senses: Werewolves can hear even the faintest noises and notice minute details. The chance of doing so is 1-2 on a d6 and improves 1 point every two full levels. (1-3 at level 2, 1-4 at level 4, etc) 

**Note that all weaknesses apply to both human and werewolf form. 

Alpha: Animals are unsettled by Werewolves. 

Lunacy: During the full moon, and the nights immediately before and following, Werewolves who are damaged for more than 50% of their hit points must make an ST, modified by the lower of Wisdom or Intelligence, or fly into a berserk rage lasting 1d6 rounds. 

Fire: Werewolves cannot regenerate damage from fire, such damage must be healed using natural healing rates or magic. 

Form limitations
Human: Cannot use death machine or natural weapons. Senses are dulled and roll at -1 chance. (So a 1-3 becomes 1-2, for instance) Regeneration works normally. 

Wolf: Cannot use death machine. Natural weapons functions as bite only, one attack per round. Movement speed is doubled. 

Silver: Werewolves receive double damage from silver weapons.  

Destroying a Werewolf: Werewolves reduced to 0 hit points must make a save vs. death. On a success, they regenerate with 1 hit point. On a failure, they go into a coma lasting 1d6 hours, reviving with 1 hit point. A werewolf can only be killed in the following situations: 

-Reduced to 0 hit points by a silver weapon, or hit by a silver weapon while comatose. 
-Reduced to 0 hit points by fire, or damaged by fire while comatose. 
-Destroyed by massive damage while comatose 


1       1    +0         +0    16                            
2       2     +0        +0    15                                      
3      3      +0        +1    14                                
4       3+1  +1        +1   13           
5       4      +1       +2   12           
6       5      +2       +2   11          
7       6      +2       +3    10          
8       6+1  +3       +3     9         
9       7     +4        +4     8          
10     8     +5        +4     7  

Prime Requisite: Charisma 

Saving Throws- The Cambion receives +2 on saves vs. mental or social effects 


Demon Form-Cambions retain some vestige of their demonic ancestry. Cambions can shift into a partial demon form that sports claws, a barbed tail, horns, or any number of vicious natural weapons. By spending a round, the cambion can shift into this form or back. While in the demon form, Cambions have natural weapons that inflict 1d6+1 damage.

Fell Lore- Cambions are sometimes visited in their dreams by the whispers of the Demon Princes from whom they are descended. Cambions have a 5% chance per level of knowing a piece of supernatural lore: the history or purpose of a magic item, the name or location of a demon or monster, etc.

Maledictions- Cambions can draw upon the dark forces of Hell by speaking words in the demonic tongue, which they naturally understand snippets of. Cambions use Maledictions as Clerics do spells in S&W. The available list of Maledictions is below:
1st level: Cause Wounds I, Charm Person, Detect Magic, Detect Supernatural, Dark I, Putrefy Food & Drink
2nd level: Bless, Curse, Hold Person
3rd level: Cause Disease, Dark II, Fireball
4th level: Cause Wounds II, Charm Monster, Dimension Portal Sticks to Snakes, Wizard Eye
5th level: Animate Dead, Cloudkill, Commune, Contact Other Plane, Insect Plague, Quest, Teleport

Thralls - Cambions exude leadership. Weak-willed and power hungry humans flock to them, ready to become followers in exchange for power. At 3rd level, a cambion gains a human thrall. At 6th level, his first thrall gains a hit die and he gains a second thrall. At 9th level, the first two thralls gain a hit die, and he gains a third. The thralls should make sense for the character (biker thugs for a biker type, corporate yesmen for an executive, etc) Thralls are treated as heroic humans. Tralls gain +1 to all attack roll, saving throws, and any die roll not related to combat.

Demonblooded:  take 1d3 damage from holy water, and also take 1 point of damage every hour spent on hallowed ground.

Sadistic: Cambions must make a successful ST modified by Wisdom to pass up the opportunity to take advantage of some one.

Destroying a Cambion: Cambions are mortal, and can be killed any way that mortals can.


1       1        +0    +2    14           
2       1+1    +0     +2    13           
3      2         +1     +3    12           
4       2+1    +1     +3    11           
5       3        +2     +4   10           
6       3+1    +2    +4    9         
7       4         +3   +5    8          
8       4+1    +3   +5     7         
9        5        +4     +6   6          
10     5+1     +4    +6   5  

Prime Requisite: Charisma


Saving Throws: Weirdlings get +2 on saving throws vs. deceit, illusion, or charm 

Fey Luck: For every three levels, a weirdling gets one reroll per session. This can be any attack roll or saving throw. The weirdling must accept the second result. 

Glamours:  Weirdlings inherit some innate magical ability of the fey. They begin knowing a single glamour, and learn one every time they gain a level. Extra glamours must be learned from fey or from other Weirdlings. Spell slot progression as a Cleric.  

1st level- Detect Magic, Light, Dark Charm Person, Hold Portal, Sleep 
2nd level- Bless, Curse, Find Traps, Hold Person, Speak With Animals, Detect Invisibility, Detect Thoughts, Invisibility I, Knock, Light II, Phantasmal Force 
3rd level-Locate Object, Alter Time, Dispel Magic, Invisibility II 
4th level- Speak to Plants, Charm Monster, Confusion, Hallucinatory Terrain, Massmorph, Polymorph
5th level- Commune, Create Food and Drink, Animal Growth, Contact Other Plane, Feeblemind, Hold Monster, Telekinesis, Teleport 

Seeming: Weirdlings are masters of deception. Once per day per level, a weirdling can assume the appearance of another person. They may appear to be any age, gender, and can even alter height and weight. These are illusions; the weirdling does not physically change. The illusion is dispelled if the Weirdling attacks, though it maintains if the weirdling uses magic. The disguise is 90% fool-proof, even to magical detection. If impersonating a specific individual, the rate of success is only 20% to those who personally know the subject well. 


Deal is a Deal: A Weirdling cannot break their word once given. The urge to uphold their end of the bargain becomes increasingly irresistible. 

Fey Blood: Weirdlings receive double damage from cold iron weapons. 

Destorying a Weirdling: Weirdlings are mortal, and can be killed by ordinary weapons or hazards. 


1       1        +0     +0    16           
2       1+1    +0     +0    15           
3      2         +1     +1    14           
4       2+1   +1      +1    13           
5       3        +2     +2   12           
6       3+1     +2    +2    11        
7       4         +3    +3    10         
8       4+1    +3     +3     9        
9        5       +4     +4     8          
10     5+1     +4    +4     7

Prime Requisite: Wisdom


Saving Throws: Witches receive +2 on all saving throws against magical effects.

Familiar:A Witch may have a familiar, subject to the free rules found here. (There is a PWYW option to support the author.)

Magic: Witches keep a Book of Shadows, a list of magical spells the witch can perform. The witch begins the game with three spells chosen by the DM, plus Read Magic. The witch can learn spells from other witches and from spirits. witches also gain one spell in their Book of Shadows every time she gains a level. Witches gain spell slots at the same rate as the Magic-User class in Swords & Wizardry. The witch spell list is as follows:

1st level: Cure/Cause Wounds I, Detect Supernatural, Detect Magic, Protection from Supernatural, Purify/Putrefy Food and Drink, Hold Portal, Read Languages, Read Magic, Sleep
2nd level: Bless, Curse, Find Traps, Hold Person, Speak with Animals, Detect Invisibility, Knock, Levitate, Locate Object, Web, Wizard Lock
3rd level: Cure Disease, Cause Disease, Remove Curse, Crystal Ball, Dispel Magic, Fly, Lightning Bolt, Protection from Supernatural II, Protection from Normal Missiles
4th level: Cure/Cause Wounds II, Neutralize Poison, Speak with Plants, Charm Monster, Polymorph, Wall of Defense I, Wizard Eye
5th level: Commune, Create Food and Drink, Dispel Supernatural, Insect Plague, Quest, Raise/Cause Dead, Animal Growth, Animate Dead, Conjure Elemental, Contact Other Plane, Hold Monster, Magic Jar, Passwall, Telekinesis, Teleport, Transform I, Wall of Defense II

Talismans: Witches can create magical items using the rules from the Swords & Wizardry SRD
For a modern game, scrolls are often eschewed in place of charms. 

Witches are entirely mortal, and have no specific supernatural weaknesses.

Destroying a Witch: Witches, being mortal, can be slain simply be reducing their hit points below 0 in the usual fashion.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Alas, Das Schwarze Auge

Today I received an email from a mostly-defunct DSA community I belonged to some time ago during my weird (and short-lived) DSA obsession. It seems that Das Schwarze Auge 5th edition will be released in the US in English. At first I was pretty amped... until I read that the rulebook is 400 pages. To this, I say "nein."

I've read a fan translation of DSA1, and it bears almost no resemblance to The Dark Eye (the official and aborted English translation of DSA4.) Whereas DSA1 resembles B/X D&D in its simplicity, DSA4 seems like a horrific alchemical combination of GURPS and d20. (Not an exact analogy, but the best I could come up with) I think that my DSA ship has sadly sailed.