Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Dream Goes Like This...


Night time in the city, here in Detroit, maybe, I don't know.  Walking up fire-escape style stairs between buildings.  There is a girl with me, both of us mid-20's.  We come to a rooftop directly attached to other buildings.  People, maybe a dozen, hanging out, some leaning up against brick walls.  The place seems semi-secret.  Not somewhere I would normally go.

Then, a rabid, Nosferatu looking vampire comes up the stairs and starts savaging people.  The girl and I keep to the shadows.  Several people fall before something else shows up, materializing out of the darkness near a wall.  He's dressed nicely, tuxedo, top-hat and cloak.  Pale skin, long black hair, kind of like Vampire Hunter D, floating, you can't see his feet.  His fancy cloak opens up and a dozen long tendrils shoot out and latch onto the vampire, sucking it dry of all the blood it just leeched.  The vampire collapses dead and the well-dressed stranger floats away.

Had that dream about 20 years ago.

Blood Stalker

AC:  as plate +2 (can't be harmed by non-magical weapons)

HD:  9

Attacks:  1d6+6 tendrils (+9 to hit, long reach) each one does 1d4 damage and heals the Blood Stalker the same amount.

Stealth:  5 in 6 (in low lighting the Blood Stalker can use stealth to practically disappear)

Save As:  Fighter: 9

Move:  standard (hovers)

AL:  chaotic

Morale:  11

XP:  3,000


Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Succubus...


We all know what a Succubus does.....

D&D has never done this demon justice (nor has any other game that I'm aware of.)  They're essentially just "pretty" monsters.   Maybe they "charm" you into not attacking that round, and maybe they "kiss" you to drain some levels or hit points.  Sure, they should have those capabilities, but only as a last resort.  In fact, if you are awake and face to face with a Succubus, then things have gone terribly wrong.....for the Succubus.

One thing D&D kind of lacks, is demonic possession.  And while the Succubus doesn't exactly "possess," it certainly "haunts," but not a place, rather, a dream.  For this reason, it's one of those classic demons of fantasy and horror that's hard to get right.  How often do you focus on the PCs while they're sleeping?  But, you don't have to.  It's not about the sultry details of the dreams, it's about how they affect the PC during the days that follow.

Succubus should behave like a demonic spirit, "haunting" and feeding off a victim until that victim expires.  Why they do this is up to you, but a common theme seems to involve the creation of Cambions.  Encountering a Succubus should be like catching a disease or a curse.  It's an affliction, and one that should haunt and ultimately kill you.

Using a Succubus

A Succubus strikes when the target sleeps, usually at night, but not necessarily.  This is best used when the PCs remain in a certain area for extended periods, such as in town, or during wilderness travel.  Designate an area (such as a group of hexes) as the demon's hunting grounds.   When the PCs have entered the danger zone, at some point during the day have all the PCs save vs. spells.  Have them make this save every day that they're in the danger zone until someone fails.  The PC that fails the worst will be the target.  

That night, the Succubus does her thing and the PC is essentially under her spell.  All you're going to tell the PC is that they wake up feeling like shit.  Any healing, spell slots, or abilities they expected to gain from their rest doesn't occur, nor will it while they're under this spell/curse.  

The second night, everything from the first night applies, plus the PC loses 1d4 hit points.  All healing spells on the PC only heal half the amount and the PC cannot be healed beyond the hit point total that they woke up with.

The third night and all subsequent nights, everything from the first two nights applies, plus the PC now has disadvantage (or -4) on all attack rolls, if the PC is a spell-caster, their targets make saving throws with advantage (or +4) or get a save where none was before (such as with sleep.)

On any given morning, you may grant the PC an un-penalized save vs spells to see if they remember "haunting erotic dreams."  Once they make this save, they should realize what's going on.


 Keep it clean, keep it vague, don't get graphic,
DON'T BE WEIRD


Hopefully, the PCs will start brainstorming a solution, because if this is a low-level character, they're going to die soon.  The PCs may have already used some sort of Divination spell to figure it out.  The PCs may have also decided to observe the afflicted PC while they sleep, in which case they'll simply witness the PC having some sort of nightmare.  Forcefully waking them up doesn't change anything, as with any dream, the whole thing could have occurred in mere seconds.


Exorcising the Succubus

Exorcising the Succubus must be done while the target is sleeping, first by casting a Bless spell on the target followed by a Remove Curse spell.  Seeing as the Succubus is the curse, she gets a saving throw to resist but initially does so at disadvantage because of the Bless spell.


Note: At this point the Succubus is still a spirit and cannot be seen, but you may want to have her vocally taunt those trying to exorcise her.  Describe her voice as a mixture of whispers and screams, both angry and seductive, coming from all directions, sometimes right in a person's ear.

If the Succubus saves successfully, another Remove Curse spell can be attempted, but the Succubus no longer saves at disadvantage unless the victim is once again Blessed.  So it goes:  Bless, Remove Curse, Saving Throw.  A Succubus is highly resistant to magic so this exorcism could go on for awhile.  In fact, you could run out of spells and have to try again the next night, that is, if the PC is still alive.  

If the Succubus fails her saving throw, she is ripped away from her victim (who remains in a state of sleep paralysis, waking up only when the Succubus is finally driven off) and now becomes visible in a physical or semi-corporeal form (your choice, it's just aesthetics.)  At this point she may flee or she may be so enraged that she actually attacks.  In any case, she almost certainly won't fight to the death so check morale at 1/2 and 1/4 hit points.  For Turning purposes, I suggest treating Succubi like Vampires.

Keep in mind that the PCs might not have access to the required spells and may have to hire a relatively high level cleric, perhaps at 500 GP per level of the cleric plus 200 GP per Bless spell cast and 1,000 GP per Remove Curse spellYou can use whatever rates that you deem fit, but it should not be cheap.

When all is said and done, the afflicted PC may now begin the normal healing process for your campaign.  If you want this ordeal to have lasting effects, you can have the PC make a save vs. paralysis and for every 5 points of failure, they permanently lose 1 point of constitution.  However, you can balance this out by giving them an equal bonus to charisma, as perhaps they now have, just a touch, of diabolical charm.

So, what if the target of the Succubus is female?  Use an Incubus, or not.  KNOW YOUR PLAYERS and once again DON'T BE WEIRD. 

Sample Succubus Stats

AC:  as plate  (can't be harmed by non-magical weapons)

HD:  6d8+6

Attacks:  2 claws, 1d4 each, or special (see below)

Special:  Can cast charm and shape-change at will.  Can also become ethereal at will, but must materialize to attack or use abilities.  On a successful "hit" she can kiss her target doing 1d4+1 damage, healing herself an equal amount of hit points.

Save As:  Fighter: 7 (+5 vs. magic)

Move:  standard (flight)

AL:  chaotic

Morale:  8

XP:  1,050

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Abstract Settings: Zeti-Nocularus.


Zeti-Nocularus

Abstract works of art remind me of fractured memories.....

Zeti-Nocularus started out as a sketch for something else that wasn't quite working.  It's a fragment of some place, floating through the Astral Plane, destined to collide with the petrified remains of a forgotten goddess.  Its cities are geographically reminiscent of Sigil, in such that when you look skyward you see rooftops miles above. I see Black plate-mail as the dominant form of armor with halberds and crossbows featured prominently.  It's a surreal place of odd angles, strange landmarks, and underground trench-warfare.

I've planted some seeds here.....




Fully armored Nuvians and Zetites clash underground.


Listening to:  "Bayreuth Return" by Klaus Schulz on Timewind.


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Liven Up Those Corridors!



Dungeons are a thing of beauty, but too often I see empty, endless looping corridors where nothing ever happens save for the occasional wandering monster.  Mazes are awesome, options are great, but what is beautiful, isn't always playable.

Take Map A above.  All good right?  Nothing you haven't seen before.  But unless something happens in those passageways, you're going to waste a lot of time slogging from room 1 to 2 (especially if someone's mapping.)  It might look cool, might be fun to draw, might look fun to play, but it kind of isn't.  You could just do this.....


Map B might seem dull, but it's gonna make your session run a lot smoother.  You just saved about 20 minutes of unnecessary slog.  But that's no fun.  You want that dungeon to be a labyrinth.  You want that sense of exploration.  You want those players cautiously peeking around every corner.  You want them interested in the entire place.....not just the rooms.  Too often, hallways are just time-killers.

They shouldn't be.

Almost every time the players turn a corner something interesting should happen.  This doesn't have to be a fight, just something interesting.  Dungeons should not only be places of danger, but places of wonder.

Now look at Map C below.  I've added a fountain, a one-way door, an alter, a statue, a portcullis, a curtain, some stairs, and a huge pile of rubble -- all outside of rooms.   Not everything will be dangerous or meaningful, but the players sure as hell don't know that.  Every turn of a corner becomes interesting now.


Many of these objects should do something.  There should be a trick, something hidden, a treasure, a trap, a penalty, or a perk.  At a minimum on Map C, the players will have 2 encounters while traveling between the two rooms. These encounters can make sense or not make sense, but most of them should adhere to the theme of the dungeon.

And that's all it takes to liven up the place.  Now that small, 2-room section of dungeon is packed full of goodness.

Side note Your map doesn't have to be so finished -- you're the only one looking at it!  Consider  Map D, it took a minute to draw.  Fill in the margins with notes and stats and doodles and you'll be good to go with a dungeon just as fascinating to behold as the most professionally drawn piece!


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

...And Hear the Lamentations of The Flame Princess

This has to be one of my better drawings.....4 years ago, wow.


Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  When I first encountered this game I wasn't quite in tune with the OSR.  I remember flipping through the Grindhouse Edition and thinking WTF???

I didn't buy it.

Later, I flipped through A Red and Pleasant Land and thought, WTF???

I didn't buy it.

Eventually the genius and creativity of the OSR hit me.  Many years, in vain, I spent searching for the perfect system (not limited to D&D) when I realized that anything I wanted to do, can be done with some version of an earlier system.  All of those thick tomes I'd been collecting, collectively became obsolete.

The OSR is packed with awesome stuff.  It has changed how I view (and purchase) RPGs.  If all gaming companies suddenly disappeared, gaming would not.  The OSR would thrive.  The DIY genie was out of the bottle long before I ever took notice.

What I like about LotFP:

  • D6 skills.  While LotFP didn't exactly invent this, it utilizes it nicely.
  • Turn Undead as a spell.  I didn't like this at first, but now I do. 
  • No fireball or lightning bolt.  Magic-Users feel more like practitioners of Black Magic as opposed to super-heroes blasting their way through the dungeon.
  • An Encumbrance system that you might actually use.
  • A cool Language system.  You don't know what languages you speak until you encounter them (a little meta-gamey, but cool.)
  • Truly dangerous Summoning rules.
  • Incredible Books (ok, some are strange as fuck.)   I now own many of them after initially saying, WTF.


The official LotFP character sheet is a good one and so is the modified Veins of the Earth sheet.  (I consider Veins of the Earth to be one of the best gaming books ever made.)   For the hell of it, I modified my Rynath OSR sheet to LotFP specs.  It's incomplete -- no encumbrance stuff, but that's ok.  I did this awhile ago as more of a tribute.


Been blogging for a year now.

Good times.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Boba Peck!



So, the other day a friend misheard me.

The result was...........

Boba Peck!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Clerics and Ascension




Would you play a character if you knew there was an ever increasing chance, when leveling up, that something "off-screen" could remove that character from play?

I've been toying with the notion that as a character levels up, background (campaign) forces would ultimately retire that character from play.  High level characters would fade away (or burn out) into myth and legend.  The campaign would remain relatively low powered and gritty.  Granted, most campaigns fizzle out long before this anyway; most aren't much more than one-shots.  But damn, if you knew your character might have a bad-ass ending, you might actually look forward to it.

Fighters may become generals or lords of a realm or simply disappear, fate unknown, or suffer a sad, crippling injury.  Thieves could become guild-masters, or finally get "taken out" by assassins.  Wizards vanish to other worlds or transform into something not human and not playable or their tower explodes due to some mystical experiment, or they go mad.  Clerics could ascend...

What if, starting at say, 5th level??, 9th level??, your Cleric had a certain percentage chance of ascending, being called home to their deity to serve a higher purpose?  So you roll the dice...5%, 10%???...and if you roll below that number, you now begin your path to Ascension.  First, you become a Saint, for whatever you want that to mean--you glow, have a halo, etc., perhaps gain an ability.  Every level thereafter, you have an ever increasing chance of Ascension.

If you roll Ascension you don't immediately ascend; it will be triggered during play.  You could maybe set a target of 3 critical rolls.  The third time that you happen to roll a 20 during an intense, most likely combat situation, something thoroughly dramatic happens, such as all foes present are immediately struck down by your holy magnificence, after which, the rest of the party watches stunned, as you gloriously rise up and away, disappearing from the mortal world forever.

It would be memorable.

But now you have to roll up a new character.

Players would have to agree, from the beginning, that such a thing is possible.

This sort of reminds me of the Juicer Class from Rifts.  If you're not familiar, Juicers are chemically enhanced super-soldiers that live a maximum of 8 years (as a Juicer) -- no exceptions.  Rifts never came up with a mechanic for this though (at least not that I'm aware of, perhaps it's in the book, Juicer Uprising), but Savage Rifts has a mechanic for it.  The notion of playing a character with a limited life-span, by default, adds a certain level of excitement to the game.

Of course, one could argue that every character in the OSR already has a limited life-span......

Here's an example focusing on Lawful Clerics (I'll address Chaotic Clerics Descending Damnation some other time and perhaps similar rules for the other classes)

Ascension

Starting at 7th level, roll for Sainthood (15% chance which increases by 10% per level thereafter)
If Sainthood is attained, roll 1d6 on the following table for something beneficial:

  1. Gain 1d6 extra Hit Points.
  2. Gain +2 Charisma (is that a Halo I see...?).
  3. Heal and extra 2d4 Hit Points when casting cure spells.
  4. Turn Undead as 2 level higher.
  5. +2 to all Saving Throws
  6. +3 to all damage vs. Chaos(evil).

Once Sainthood is attained, you have a 10% chance when you reach your next level for Ascension to take place.  The chance of Ascension increases by 10% per level thereafter.  Once Ascension occurs roll 1d6 on the following table for something beneficial:

  1. Your attacks count as magic.
  2. Your blood heals.  For every 1d4 Hit Points you sacrifice, 2 Hit Points or 1 Condition/Disease is healed.  
  3. Your can sprout ethereal, angelic wings allowing you to fly a number of rounds equal to your level per day.
  4. Your presence inspires, all those within 10' of you can attempt to Turn Undead as a 1st level cleric so long as they have a Holy Symbol.
  5. You are immune to fear.
  6. Roll twice on the Sainthood table, results are cumulative.

As stated above, actual Ascension is triggered during play.  You now have a time-clock of rolling 3 natural 20's during combat (or some other situation deemed "stressful")  This could theoretically happen in one session, but will most likely take several.  You could also raise the number of crits needed if you feel 3 is too few.  Just imagine finally getting to that point, knowing that the next 20 you roll is the end...

When Ascension occurs, you dramatically achieve victory over your current dilemma -- all foes immediately present are destroyed as Holy Light radiates from your body.  Then you rise up into the sky (even in a dungeon) and disappear from play forever.  Perhaps they return one day as an Avatar???

This is all theory-crafting. Tinker with it...in fact I'm interested to see what other people come up with.


And now a friendly reminder, if you haven't already, be sure to check out my dark, angelic themed modules below.  Both received very positive reviews...

Sision Tower Reviews:



Sision Tower


Praise the Fallen Review:


Praise the Fallen

I've done some art for my next project, but true inspiration hasn't yet hit.

It will.



The Dream Goes Like This...

Night time in the city, here in Detroit , maybe, I don't know.  Walking up fire-escape style stairs between buildings.  There is ...