Friday, September 18, 2020

Villain generator and respectful necromancy

Some assembly required, but this generator will give you all the necessary touchstones to create a weird, non-problematic, memorable villain for your campaign.

Evil Knights, by Juan Pablo Roldan


Necromancy doesn't have to be evil and reviled. There are respectful ways to commune with the dead, with one's ancestors and forefathers. It's certainly possible to re-frame any necromancy spell in a way that's amicable and honoring to the dead, but these are some examples that are kind of inherently that way already.

Anito x Shaman
Anito x Shaman, by Tuntun Dizon

  1. Speak with dead: you recall the spirit of the dead and ask them questions. Sometimes this is posed as a torturous process, but there's no reason it has to be.
  2. Gentle repose: certainly protective, and infinitely less degrading than embalming. Seriously look into it, don't get embalmed.
  3. Spirit guardians: bring back the great warriors of the past to fight again! Especially if they aren't forced to fight for you, and will only join if you convince them to.
  4. Soothe souls: calm their anger, lessen their pain, allow them to communicate or pass on more easily.
  5. Medium possession: allow the dead to inhabit your body and control your actions for a time, giving them one chance to complete any unfinished business.
  6. Detect dead: especially if it can only sense the undead or those who have no received their proper final rites, to be laid to rest.

Obviously I would encourage other writers to design even undead in a way that's not exploitative or evil, such as making an agreement to benefit the souls of the dead, or giving them temporary life for their own use (such as the possession one). Any practice can be of particular virtue or vice, depending on the attitude it is approached with and the goals held in mind. In Tajira, illusionists are seen as evil, duplicitous, and cowardly for manipulating perception and invading dreams.

 

Many thanks to Kali, creator of Fight With Feelings for helping me out on the villain generator!

Friday, September 11, 2020

My favorite class, fun generators, and a new direction

The Soulknife was my favorite class concept when I only knew about the 3.x games. I emphasize concept there because the actual mechanics of the class were hot garbage. It was described by some as a straightjacket that would ruin any build (I know), it was purely combat based with poor stats for combat and a core ability that neither meshes well with any other class nor outperforms the magic equipment you should technically be getting as you level, according to RAW. So I redesigned it with GLOG sensibilities, then updated that design recently with more experience and insight into RPG design, then read the latest GLOG rules and updated it again to be as fully compatible as I could manage. I probably won't be posting much in the way of classes aside from this, since it's my favorite.

Soulknife

Each level of Soulknife gives you +1 to throwing attacks.

A    |mind blade

B    |steelmind, nightmare

C    |gravitation

D    |shatter

Mind Blade

Conjure a blade of mental energy in the form of a dagger or any weapon you've used in combat. It can also imprint the form of a tool, such as a rope or shovel. It takes an action to conjure and disappears if it leaves your hand for an hour.

Steelmind

Channel your mind blade energy through a physical weapon, increasing its attack by +2, but adding a damage marker every minute it remains channeled.

Nightmare

Steal the dreams of a sleeping person, leaving them with a restless night and allowing you to imbue one mind blade attack with an additional die of damage. Cannot imbue while channeling steelmind.

Gravitate

Your mind blade can pull you to its location as long as it is within view, at double the speed of someone running.

Shatter

Explode your ind blade on command as an action, or instantly if someone attempts to disarm or sunder it. This deals 2d6 damage to anyone within melee range excluding yourself, and you cannot summon it again until you retrieve it within your dreams.

The Beginning of the End by RAHDS


I'd also like to take a moment to outline my current philosophy when designing a GLOG class. It's pretty challenging and strict, but I think it works with the framework of 'constraint inspires creativity.' At template A you obviously have the core idea of the class, which I like to include with some level-independent progression if possible. Template B is great for multiclass synergy type abilities, so people can take 2/2 and get some cool combinations. Template C is kind of like a free space where you can flesh out or expand the core class idea, but it's unfortunately too late to really start with the progression ability. Then template D is good for the capstone ability, which I think should be cool and flashy but risky or costly to use. I've heard arguments against capstone abilities, but as long as you're good at designing the abilities leading up to it that shouldn't be a problem.

 

Generators

If you both really want to design wacky classes, but have managed to run out of ideas, this should give you some weird ones:


Fantasy tree generator. Some of the results are pretty wild, but most should be scaleable to either mundane rumors or arcane foliage of myth:


And here is a fashion trend generator. It won't give you a specific outfit, but should prompt enough broad traits to build a sense of style for a locality:


Faint Slumber by Pavel Kolomeyets


Priorities

Finally, I've decided to stop working on systems, or at least stop focusing on them, until I get some more experience running things at the table, and probably read more existing systems. The most useful things I find on other blogs are environments, characters, items, puzzles, and monsters (in descending order of usefulness), and then after that there are mechanical and philosophical considerations that can sometimes be interesting. I'll be using Arnold's most up to date GLOG rules as my basis for mechanics, but mostly using a fiction-first focus. Surely everyone is even more excited to read about this than I am to write it.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Fantasy Chainsaws

 Bit of a weird project, but if you ever want to include some form of chainsaw in your fantasy games, at least one of these should fit the tone. Maybe that's just me! If you're doing full gonzo, go ahead and roll that wonderful d20.

1. Lotus Petal Saw

Softly shining, pink petals spin along an ornamented bar, conjured by a Blades of the Endless Wheel mantra.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EfAiFXWXgAE_ENW?format=jpg&name=large
Exactly this, by me


2. Thornwheel Blade

A great enchanted rose bush, grown by fairies to have a rotary thorned stem.

3. Jaguar Claw Macuahuitl

Empowered by a jaguar spirit, its many obsidian blades command incredible cutting power even when swung like a normal sword.

4. Necrospinner

A spinning weapon of animated bone, using fangs and teeth along the whirling edge.

5. Meatcutter

So named for cutting meat as well as being meat itself. The blade is comprised of sharp, hardened claws, and it spews its own blood when spinning.

6. Crystal Prismus

Enchanted weapon of stone and gems. Each tooth is a different kind of gem, and they can create a glinting rainbow of slicing power.

7. Brimstone Spinblade

Spewing hellfire when it spins, the heat of its flames can burn through steel as well as any warhammer punches through.

8. Starlight Spinner

An elven weapon of silver, hammered as fine as eggshells, with a radiant blade that captures the light of the stars.

9. Slimesaw

Somehow when spinning, the goopy edge of this blade cuts much faster than the slime can normally corrode.

10. Classical Sparksaw

Ancient spinning blade crafted of olive wood and bronze, spits blue sparks as it spins. Made by a brilliant inventor centuries ago.

Image
Ancient Bladesaw, from Zelda

 

11. Trimerian Sawbeetle

The curious horns of this giant beetle can spin to cut through wood or, presumably other Trimerian creatures. They are dismembered and reconfigured to be useful as tools.

12. Winding Sharp-Frost

 Unnaturally hardened frost, spinning and cutting with a fractal edge.

13. Whipsaw

A bladed whip that can be activated to coil in an elongated shape, spinning to cut more effectively, in exchange for shorter reach.

14. Terracotta Blade

A living clay weapon that spins with razor sharp clay shards along a lengthened edge.

15. Runic Stormblade

Constructed by wizards of moderate-quality steel. The runes etched into its surface conjure the rage of storms into a crackling, whirling edge of deep indigo lightning.

16. Gilded Relic Blade

Built of marble set with gold and finely cut gems, this spinning blade contains a warrior-saint's hand bones that they used to wield weapons, and radiates with divine cutting light.

17. Trimerian Wasps

Angry insects that have been specially bred and trained to fly in a long, rounded formation and devour anything they touch. This was the only formation in which they wouldn't turn back and attack whoever holds their hive.

Lasersaw, by Andrea Sibilla


18. Jade Dragon's Fang

Gifted by a divine being from an unearthly realm, it is surprisingly easy to carry.

19. Spectre's Wrath

 As ghostly mist whirls and spins, the hatred of the dead calls out in a hollow wail.

20. Splitting Organistrum

The powerful tune of this slow instrument projects a small aura of cutting sound near its neck when played properly.


Many of these were inspired with help from Gal Paladin on Discord!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Combat systems

The point of combat

My goals when designing a combat system are that it should first have enough dynamism to not be a solved game or rote repetition, second be as simple as possible, and third be as realistic as it can. The order there is very important. I do not want to play a tabletop RPG that is mostly or entirely about combat, that's something I find video games will always have the advantage at, in terms of providing an exciting, tense experience. So here are three of my favorite attempts I've made at creating the kind of combat I'd want to play.

 
Duel by Antonio J Manzanedo

Three Hand Duel

There are three combat stances: fast stance, parry stance, and feint stance. Parry beats fast, feint beats parry, and fast beats feint. Anyone can use fast stance, anyone with a weapon (or specialized unarmed training) can use parry stance, and anyone proficient with their weapon can use feint stance. Anyone whose stance beats opponents’ stances deals damage dice plus bonus damage. Anyone whose stances matches their opponent's both deals and takes bonus damage (but not damage dice). Blocking stance is available if you have a shield, allowing you to roll a 'damage die' that will reduce any damage you take in the following round. Weapons and high strength increase damage, armor reduces damage taken.


Advantages: pretty complex without being hard to use, gives plenty of active decision making opportunity to players. Inherently feels flavorful because you're declaring how your character will fight. Easily scalable up to mass combat with something like charge, flank, route or similar (I haven't looked into medieval battle strategy). It also addresses the massive threat of being flanked, as both opponents can doom your options. There is also some opportunity to add special stances as class abilities or other kinds of specialized combat training, but this should be done with extreme care. Also runs faster than most dice systems, because someone is always taking damage.


Challenges: make sure you choose what your stance will be before you ask someone, you'll probably want to write it down. Honestly cards might work for this purpose. Also a bit hard for people to wrap their head around if they're not familiar with the terms, but they can be easily equated to rock, paper, and scissors (obviously what the system is based on). Also if you're unarmed or not proficient, there's always a best choice against you, so that's iffy.


Battle by Faraz Shanyar
 

Behind the Blades

Each character has a stamina stat. Before the turn, they can invest however many they want into offense and defense respectively. If one side's offense totals higher than the other's defense, that amount of damage is dealt. Armor and shields add fixed defense points, weapons and strength add fixed offense points. Possible additional rule: one may invest a third of their stamina in a 'guard break' that reduces enemy defense to zero. Stamina may lower each turn.


Advantages: very simple, very deadly. Again, possible to add special moves with a fixed stamina cost, or a fixed portion cost.


Challenges: again relies heavily on not knowing what the opponent will do. Even more so, knowing the enemy's stamina can potentially cause problems.


Spilled Wine Drawing

11"x14" Prismacolor pencils on Dura-lene acetate.
Spilled Wine by Daniel Landerman (NSFW warning)
 

Steel Ruckus

An attack is a d20 roll. If the result is higher than the opponent's defense, the attack is successful, and you can either strike them or shove them away. The first strike throws you off guard for a turn. If struck while off guard, you are wounded and unable to fight until healed. Strikes can be either deflected or absorbed, with a weapon or tool you are holding. Deflecting causes you to drop that item, while absorbing the strike damages the item. It takes one turn to attack, close distance (such as after being shoved), run away, grab two items from the ground or your belt, or grab one item from a container within reach (like your backpack) or from another belt in reach. Armor and shields add to defense, weapons and combat training add to attack.


Advantages: most compatible with D&D style combat systems, which includes a lot of OSR stuff, so conversion of existing combat should be a lot easier. Lots of potential for environmental fun, like shoving people into hazards (down stairs, into spiders) or dropping a weapon out of reach (off a bridge, down a cliff).


Challenges: the way shoving and running away work, there should probably be a similarly robust chase system. That seems like fun, but it is a challenge. Should also come with somewhat strict limits on what can be hung from a belt, lest players simply load their waist with spare weapons and shields.


-----


If you've been following for a while, the Three Hand Duel was what I was using for my Skies Below stuff. These are still broadly in chronological order, in the order I came up with them. I'll probably stick with Steel Ruckus for the time being, and flesh it out with more details in the future.

Monday, June 29, 2020

People of this realm

These races are all fantastical humans, and would consider many of the classic fantasy races equally human. None of them are inherently better or worse at any given thing, though cultures may reinforce certain skills or passions and shun others. If in doubt, anyone can simply be a Cikrem nomad of whatever skin color they prefer, or simply add their preferred races as needed.


Each or all of them can interbreed, with children potentially inheriting the traits of more than one parent, however mixed race characters may face unique challenges. Unusual or unique traits may also manifest in members of any race, such as pointed ears, tusked canines, or webbed digits.

Yingao

Terse, hardy people who spare few words and have ruled Tajira for too long. They wish not to show their triple tongues, which change color based on their mood.


They wear clothing dull in color and trimmed of embellishment, and similarly prefer unseasoned foods, especially raw fruits and vegetation. Perhaps this stems from their homeland, a forest so dense and overgrown that the sun almost never reaches the ground.

The Mistress by Sam Carr
(lightly edited)


Gollo

Natives to the land now held by Tajira, most would gladly see the empire fall. Illusion magic is their native art, and they can be recognized by the hole that naturally runs through each torso and limb.


They keep some records with a system of knots and dyed strings, sometimes incorporating these along the hem of a cloak or tunic, in a way that communicates surreptitiously with their people.

Bolshu

Mournful people displaced from their homeland by the yingao empire. They bear twin sideways mouths and thumbs in the place of their littlefingers.


Their fashions tend toward many overlapping layers fastened with unique buttons, ranging in length from short sleeved tunics to long, enveloping robes. Outsiders often have difficulty with the strange bolshu buttons.

Cikrem

Wayward chromatic tribes who carry distinctive Dream Bread and wear tight clothing. Stories say a child born of two tribes will lead them to a new homeland, though they care little where they originated.


Their colorful bread is well known for causing wild visions that some find spiritual guidance in, and a few simply enjoy. Most cikrem keep a large, loose hood or sash.

ZONA 2019 by Q Tori


Kippil

Allies to Tajira who hail from the mountains. Thought of as sneaky for their overly flexible limbs, each with an extra joint. They hunt great beasts in the mountains, prizing the meat and leather, and they have complex customs around leather clothing.


A single, continuous piece of leather formed into an outfit is called ‘full leather,’ with an outfit consisting of multiple sources called ‘cut leather,’ and ‘scrap leather’ as the lowest form, where the outfit is supplemented by other material.

Ortain

A larger empire lurking near the borders of Tajira, wishing for the first signs of weakness. Ashen skinned with needled teeth and faces some would call fish-like, they wield flame spewing weapons.


The frigid forests they come from are harsh and strange, and they have a strange preference for frozen meals. Exposing the arms is a sign of strength, and some may recognize the ortish cut of a flared, fur-lined vest.

Tula

Soft-spoken folk from a land of valleys and caverns. Oft assumed stubborn due to their horned heads, and usually hired as guards or mercenaries. Because of this, it’s easy to find helmets that account for and even protect the horns.


Individuals tend to be either very tall or very short, with average height strangely rare. They prefer simple clothing, but usually bear intricate carvings on their horns.

Original Character - Sheep Girl by Lorena Carricondo

Fahd

Seen by some as savages, for their lack of clothing and hair-covered bodies. They actually possess a rich culture of hair stylings. 


Warriors will often braid their hair into tight, close-fitting rows, with shorn patterns to show their role as a life-taker. Meanwhile hunters of beasts are more likely to cut their hair shorter, and it is common for leaders or public figures to grow their hair long and straighten it.

Veshkin

Well-trusted traders from the Kajhar desert. They are considered beautiful for their crystalline hair and nails.


They tend to wear layers of light, airy fabric with subtle patterns, but those in Tajira tend to find the climate too cold and will adopt local fashions quickly. Veshkin cooks are known for crafting many fine sweets and candies.

Phosphophyllite by Zhengyang Hu


Mebirinu

Often friendly people with black blood and bones that tinge their skin blue. By holding their breath they can turn their skin black, but this leaves them lightheaded.


They have come from far off forests of giant mushrooms, and tend to value stiff, geometrically cut clothes made of fungal paper. Officials will also wear pieces of giant insect carapace, but most in Tajira cannot afford such a luxury. Their predilection for strong drink and other fermented foods has led to a reputation as drunken poisoners.

Shimex

Seafarers with neither hair nor nails- anywhere on their body. Only some women wear wigs in Tajira, but most wear fine makeup. Rumors claim they season their food with sand, but it is actually crushed coral.


It is customary to get a tattoo each time a new crew is joined, so a shimex covered in ink has either survived many failed voyages, or moved around for another reason.

Finnin

Quiet, gentle folk from cursed plains, who created the elemental magics of sorcery. Each individual has a single, large eye, some of which can be found in the darkest of markets.


Sometimes thought of as strangely violent, for their integration of armor-like plates of metal in clothing, which is generally made of surprisingly fine, sturdy silks.

Cyanne by Sarah Burks


Nihemi

Graceful people of fine ceramic and artful silks, they have metallic skin and four, narrow eyes. Very rarely one will be born with golden skin.


The wealthy trade in quicksilver, requiring extremely specific containers and the finest of porters. Strange, tall mounts carry them aloft, keeping the long draping robes that are in fashion from dragging on the ground.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Shalilas, city of the genie

The trader Veklen knows the route, but will guard this secret. They need help though, taking brightglass through the desert. Kajhar is a dusty land, but not a dead one. Great scorpions and lizards lie under the sand. Afield is the cactus desert, a beautiful but deadly place.


Near the tail of the Great Dune lies the city of genie, Shalilas. The human trader keeps it a secret, but the genie care little if they are found. The gates are living, possessed by sometimes lackadaisical genie. In times of need however, those gate genie respond instantly and resolutely.


The most need for traders lie in the small human population. They all know each other, and most are Wishmakers, paid to request simple wishes. Wishmaking is not lucrative; they each have other reasons for being here, and make a living in other crafts.


Desert City by Sam Denmark

At the outskirts of the city lie mounds of shattered clay and slag metal, the cast-off remnants of genie who moved up in the city or died trying. Living in the refuse are the lowest of genie, poor souls wearing broken scraps as their body. Even those unfortunate denizens know they can rely on Mother Neres, long-standing guardian with an unusually sturdy body of charred oak. She speaks rarely, and spends her time protecting the slums rather than leading the city.


Most genie in the city will inhabit bodies like human-sized dolls of clay or ceramic, or metals such as steel or iron, or even zinc when possible. Very rare bodies will be made from even lighter materials, like glass or rare metals. Heavier bodies are also uncommon, but more as a matter of practicality than expense. It is more common to see a genie in a body that cannot move, such as a pot, lamp, or other artisanal item, with an attendant or companion to carry them.


Fashion covers an eclectic and varied range, as one might expect from the wide variety of possible bodies. The most important traits for genie clothes are convenience and versatility, as the vessel can always be changed for more long-term appearances. In that vein, there's also something of a trend for genies to alter their vessels, bolting on additional parts or carving away small portions. The right shops can offer strange and unique piercings or other strange changes to the bodies of mortal visitors.


From anywhere in the city, and some ways beyond, one can see its metaphorical center. It is the Green Palace, a gleaming tower of glass holding the city’s greatest elders. Perhaps the most powerful, though not the oldest, is Prinim Veshisk, a massive genie in fine glass. He enjoys his unwieldy, fragile vessel, and forcing slaves to maneuver him. The newest councilor is Toril Syaran, who suspects Prinim may have destroyed a rival on the council, and wishes to expand trade with the mortal world.


The city also relies on the Incense Mines, an ancient buried forest from which all manner of aromas have been gleaned. These scents and the colored flame they produce give the genie incredible sensations, be they euphoric, inflaming, or subduing. At the markets, one can buy such things as stonesmoke cones, fire-dripping sticks, and spiritwalk powder. A hopeless addict to the stonesmoke, Dalifer has spent much time wandering the desert looking for anything to pawn, and if given incense will tell visitors of some of the stranger things out there.


Main Image
Incense Knight by Hwa Min Jung

Most genie outside the city have been lost for ages, found buried in ancient ruins with little memory of where they originated. Only a few have left the city or been kidnapped, and most end up finding their way to Shalilas eventually. There are only two ways for a genie to truly die, without arcane intervention. Either by the decay of the vessel, to a point of complete incoherence, or by failing to transfer to a new vessel when they may leave their present place. The worst wrongdoers are imprisoned by building a pit like a well, lined with stone and filled with sand to bury the criminal.


Perhaps the largest gathering of genie outside the city are at the sandstone fortress of the Smoke-fist Warriors, an order of veshkin mercenaries who ritualistically burn one of their arms to let a genie inhabit it, granting increased strength and an uncanny ability to fight with two weapons at once. The genie Ryula lives secretly within their order, inhabiting a burnt corpse of unknown origin.


Walking the streets of Shalilas

  1. A young genie approaches carrying shards of pottery, looking frightened. He says his master’s vessel has been shattered, and he needs you to buy him a new one quickly.

  2. A commotion from the gates as a genie rushes into the city, asking for aid in rescuing their fellow’s vessel, a vase which has been captured by bandits in the desert.

  3. Prinim’s procession (or another vainglorious councilor) fills the street, forcing commoners and visitors aside at risk of violence.

  4. A player’s finest weapon catches the eye of a Talmar Fineshadow, a genie adventurer who just returned from the Labyrinth of Glass with plenty of gold and a new obsidian vessel. Talmar wants to buy the weapon, and seemingly won’t take no for an answer.

  5. The group is approached by a genie carrying an empty vessel, handing them a few coins and telling them to make a wish.

  6. A human notices the group and rushes over, offering to sell them snacks. Fruit on a stick, peeled and covered in spicy powder, they are more expensive since human food is uncommon here.


Incense

  1. Stonesmoke cone: a strangely vivid grey incense that produces deep black smoke, and a rich, salty scent. The namesake smoke is rigid, flowing upward regardless of wind or touch, and feels like shifting stone.

  2. Dripfire stick: particularly long sticks of incense that produce a dim orange flame that does not rise or flicker, rather dribbling down from the end. The scent is sweet and spicy, sharp but fading quickly. The flames are not mere liquid, as indeed they weigh nothing

  3. Astral powder: incense dust that creates a strange, misty smoke, wafting and waving in unfelt winds. The scent is slightly minty and makes one feel energized but calm. The sensation is like being outside of one’s body, and it is said that an excessive amount can draw out the soul.

  4. Harmony coil: usually sold in a spiral shape along with instructions on how to light it. The smell is woody with a floral note, and can vary slightly depending on the type, usually enhancing introspection and self-discovery. It is unique for being ignited by sounds, of particular tone and patterns based on the shape of the incense, despite always being the same material. The common spiral is lit with a low whistle.

  5. Midnight pellets: small beads of blue incense that smell tangy and a bit sour when lit, giving mild feelings of energy and preventing all sleep as long as it burns. On a moonless night, the pellets will burn like tiny stars.

  6. Iris oil: debatable as incense, this fluid always seems to be watching, and when burning releases colorful smoke that leaves afterimages and increases sensitivity of body, mind, and spirit. Some say it simply makes people more suggestible.


Insense Burner
Gold pot by Sandesh Tuladhar

Dalifer’s trade

  1. A giant made of flame, unnaturally tall and gaunt, striding the desert a short distance to the south. It’s been seen twice, each time at midweek, heading the same direction and leaving a trail of glass footprints.
  2. In the cactus jungle, full of prickling trees and scorpion monkeys, a spiralling pit of carved stone that leads to unknown depths.
  3. A gigantic carapaced serpent, coiled and gleaming in the sun. Dalifer ran before realizing that it hadn’t been moving.
  4. Black sand amid the desert, laid out in a perfectly symmetrical pattern with no one around to have done it. The wind hasn’t picked up since it was spotted, so it may still be there.
  5. Bandits lost in reverie at night, singing and dancing around a fire. They were burning stolen incense, but there were simply too many.
  6. Flipped upside down, a huge statue of a head. Very detailed face and square structure that wouldn't roll on its own. No other parts in view.

Directly connected to the previous post, and also part of the GLOG community city challenge! Other participants include: