Saturday, April 10, 2021

Worldbuilding: bandits and villains

1. Copper Blades

Tactically efficient bandits known for carrying distinctive copper-plated daggers. They use their uncommon combat coordination to attack larger merchant convoys. Led by Copper Bobby, who supposedly wields a solid copper sword.

BIG FIVE - There Were Times Of Courage, by Sebastian Gromann

2. The Drove

Grotesque brigands who wear raw, leathery pig skins, including masks and hoof-decorated boots. Rumored to be cannibalistic. They loosely take command from the Hog, a huge warrior who was once a renowned knight named Sir Hopper, until he abandoned that life seeking easier pleasures.

3. Men of Polis

A well-dressed gang who prefer to take victims out of sight and brutalize or kill in secret. The city guard are in their pocket just enough to leave their hidden crimes without investigation. The leader is Father Bizzie, who fronts as a moderately successful innkeeper.

4. Heatrazers

Zealous marauder cultists who set their weapons aflame and ritually scar themselves with burns. The high priestess Pyela fights alongside her men, fighting with gauntlets that somehow burn without crippling her hands.

5. Finest Ones

White-robed assassins who wear masks and always kill in ways that leaves no stain upon themselves. They take contracts about as often as they kill for their own inscrutable ends. Led by a mysterious figure known only as Lord Law, who works alone and kills without leaving any visible wound.

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Notes: shorter post this time, but I like the characters and unique bandit groups. They may seem a bit familiar in some ways.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Worldbuilding: Wrestling Vines

Within the Mebirin jungles there are countless deadly plants and fungi. These natural traps hunt without limbs or teeth. One of the relatively less deadly but most well known is the Shocherik vine, a plant which lies dormant beneath mild flowers. Coiled tightly in the dirt and ready to spring. The moment a beast steps on the flowers and begins to move away, the vines burst forth and wrap themselves about the unsuspecting prey.

 

Lost, by Ksanda CreepyCrafts


There is a long-standing tradition in Mebirin to cultivate these vines. They are kept in pots, and bred to be mild. These potted vine flowers are used in semi-formalized competitions, put to the challenge of fighting one another. The gardeners are given small dishes of water with which to guide the growth of their vine, and the first pot to spill dirt onto the table or floor loses.


This is the sport of vine wrestling, a fine tradition and considered a thrilling type of battle in the Mebirin lands. Every five years, the Garden of Might is held. This tournament is not the greatest competition in all the lands, but it’s quite famous in Mebirin, and entrants from anywhere are allowed to compete.


The victor is given the Golden Seed, which is fated to either feed or destroy the entire land. None have been yet able to grow the seed yet, though many have held it.

 

Steelflower Chak: a powerfully-built man with a hard head and harder plants. His wrestling vines are most well known for their grey flowers and extremely broad leaves (which signify a sturdy vine). Often arrested for drunken brawling.


Dyedif the Sharpstar: a tall, elegant gardener of flamboyant fashions and even more flamboyant vines. His vines are known for having brightly colored thorns. He is known to be quite rich, and holds moderate authority in his land.

 

Gardening, by LOLICO BOX

The Vinesinger: a mysterious woman who seems to wander the land, quietly competing in numerous vine wrestles. She has a quiet demeanor, and hides her identity under face wraps. Her plants have vivid flowers and no thorns, instead relying on supreme speed and strength to defeat every foe who stands before her. Many challengers wish to seek her out and become the first to conquer her plant.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Healing hit points

I don't like HP for a number of reasons, and I'd like to replace it with something better. Abstracted as 'hit points' it could mean almost anything, but most people tend to read it as 'health' or 'life,' which makes turn-based battles feel like everyone is standing in place, just hacking away at each others abdomens until one of them finally drops. But that's not really how fights work, and it leaves you with what I think is a pretty weak conceptual and mechanical foundation to combat.

This is where I die
Fatigue, by Magnus Fallgren

The first change is pretty simple, just call it Guard instead, with successful melee attacks wearing away at your guard until you become vulnerable. Another successful attack beyond that will cause a Wound that leaves the target incapable of combat. It could be anywhere in a wide range of severity, but personally I'd recommend making the player the one who ultimately decides if their character will die. I'm also a big fan of downtime, taking a break to really heal so that the game doesn't feel like an insane rush where an entire world-saving campaign happens in a week or two. To this end I like a week to a month as the healing time for most Wounds.

(I also like a week of downtime required for leveling up, but that's probably even more controvertible)

Characters also have Endurance, which they can spend a turn using to restore their Guard. Endurance would also be what most non-melee threats deplete, since you don't exactly block or parry arrows or a rolling boulder. You could have Endurance recover after a night's sleep, but a full day off makes more sense to me. Most people don't feel fully recovered until they spend a day relaxing, after all.

Day 21: Furious Undead, by Konstantin Vavilov

There might be a mental analogue to Guard, such as Focus for spellcasters and potentially archers or other ranged attackers, refreshed in a similar way by expending Endurance. To add some extra spice and realism to melee combat, characters can also make a Finishing Strike or Aggressive Attack where you roll a larger damage die, instantly Wounding the target only if it rolls higher than their current Guard. It does nothing if it rolls lower though, and might cost Endurance to attempt.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Class questions

There are some good built-in questions that you can ask in D&D to flesh out your character and your story based on the class you've chosen, but the game doesn't actually ask these questions, so they can be easy to ignore. Here are some good questions for any D&D character, starting with "What are you hiding?" Each class will also have two more specific questions as well.

Barbarian

  • What are you hiding?
  • What do you rage against?
  • What confuses you about these people and their customs?

Bard

  • What are you hiding?
  • What do you play?
  • Why do you play it?

Cleric

  • What are you hiding?
  • Why were you chosen?
  • What do you miss about the church?

Druid

  • What are you hiding?
  • How did you first wild shape?
  • What do you hate or fear most about civilization?

Fighter

  • What are you hiding?
  • Where did you fight before?
  • Who do you admire?

Monk

  • What are you hiding?
  • How were you trained?
  • Why did you leave the monastery?

Paladin

  • What are you hiding?
  • What do you stand against?
  • How do you pray?

Ranger

  • What are you hiding?
  • Who is your favorite animal?
  • Why do you hunt for yourself?

Rogue

  • What are you hiding?
  • What was your greatest heist?
  • How have you lost it?

Sorcerer

  • What are you hiding?
  • How has your bloodline affected your family?
  • How did your bloodline awaken?

Warlock

  • What are you hiding?
  • Why did you take the deal?
  • How do you feel about your patron?

Wizard

  • What are you hiding?
  • Who taught you magic?
  • What do your spells look like?

Artificer 

  • What are you hiding?
  • What was the first magic item you saw?
  • How do you get materials?

Notes

The incredible Cavegirl over on Cavegirl's Game Stuff is working on an incredible game called Dungeon Bitches. That's where I got this idea from, and I highly recommend checking out her blog (if you somehow follow this one but not that one). This was fun to make because it's kind of easy to come up with questions but each one creates so much empty space that people could fill out with their characters. I have a lot of trouble writing characters, so I really like seeing stuff like this (again, thanks Cavegirl) because it helps guide things a lot more. No art this time, but I hope you enjoy the stuff that I've made anyways.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Seven Saints

 Siblings who were heroes in their time, each was dedicated to a holy pursuit and exemplified it to an incredible degree. It has been decades since then, and they are considered holy figures. Especially for adventurers or other outsiders to normal society, the saints are an excellent way to pursue faith, along with strong personal virtues and goals to align with.


A depiction of the saints can be identified most easily by a golden body part, differing depending on the saint in question. An image of a woman with chaotic golden lines along her skin however is blasphemy, and is often a sign of great evil.

Yashtas, Saint of Song

Weaver of the saints' many tales, throughout her life she struggled to spread her name without losing her sense of self, or becoming distorted in the minds of the public. Sometimes those who inherited her charge seek only personal fame to the exclusion of all else, and are warned by her teachings about the risks of such behavior. 

Body: tongue

Symbols: purple, crescent moon, snapdragon, quartz, peacock, rapier

Task: grow your reputation, leave memories

Boon: speak a message to any people you can see, which they will surely hear even if whispered amid a storm.


Priestess, by Mahealani Rodrigues

Ishrar, Saint of Roads 

Never satisfied in one place for long, Ishrar saw many lands and tried always to leave any place she visited better than she found it, a difficult feat at times. Her followers are almost all nomads, and oftentimes traders though she mainly lived on the land.

Body: feet

Symbols: orange, cooling wind, daisy, opal, deer, spear

Task: come to a place you’ve never been

Boon: your step is sure, and you will not tire until you next stop walking.

Amarin, Saint of Battle

A mistress of weapons and all manner of fighting styles, she sought power but struggled with an inner rage that often drove her to unwarranted violence. It is thought that later in life she was able to find peace, but to this day many of her followers seek only might and care little for the restraint she tried to uphold.

Body: teeth

Symbols: red, black cloud, carnation, ruby, tiger, lance

Task: defeat a worthy foe in deadly combat

Boon: you can carry one weapon without encumbrance for a week.


The Last Step, by Ignis Bruno

Meshar, Saint of Gardens

By far the longest lived of the saints, some say she still lives even to this day, hidden away deep in a labyrinth of flowers and herbs. As her teachings emphasize survival and health above other virtues, some think her followers to be cowardly. In truth, among them one can find some of the toughest, hardiest people imagineable.

Body: heart

Symbols: brown, gentle rain, sunflower, obsidian, carp, halberd

Task: go a week without injury

Boon: gain immunity to disease as long as you remain unharmed.

Zaraf, Saint of Libraries

Studious and soft-spoken, Zaraf spent so much time learning that she sometimes failed to make use of the knowledge she gained, and tried to hand down teachings to help others with that very task. Her followers are intended to be just as studious, though there is more variety in how and what they may study.

Body: eyes

Symbols: blue, starlight, hydrangea, sapphire, owl, dagger

Task: read a sizeable book

Boon: understand and read all languages for the rest of the day.


Ritual, by Livia Radman

Sunesh, Saint of Weddings

Lascivious saint, partner and spouse to many, and with nearly as many appearances over the course of their life. Sunesh was known as a generous and lively person, sometimes to a fault. Followers of Sunesh are expected to venerate them in whatever form is personally preferred, as that is how they shared love in life, and the saint's teachings emphasize consent and sensitivity to a partner's (or potential partner's) desires or needs.

Body: hands

Symbols: pink, full moon, rose, emerald, dove, whip

Task: spend a night or day with a lover

Boon: for the rest of the week, you can tell if love is true.

Niket, Saint of Home

Amarin would be the first to tell you that Niket was stronger by far. However, Niket struggled to keep up with her siblings and eventually learned to build, her creations eventually becoming the city of Il Kamiyar, the Great Bridge. Her followers congregate their, but can also be found striking out elsewhere, to spread that industrious spirit.

Body: shoulders

Symbols: green, warm sunlight, orchid, peridot, sparrow, axe

Task: sleep within a building you helped create

Boon: you can lift one object and carry it, so long as you could drag it.

 

Alexandria the Black Mage, by Maika Sozo

Tevresh, Saint of Blasphemy

Said to have betrayed her siblings, they cast her out and tried to erase her memory. However a memory cannot be so easily suppressed, and may only become more resilient with each attempt to exterminate it. Those scarce teachings that can be found from her time ecourage one to abandon their duties, reject any role or path set out for you and struggle alone if you must.

Body: scars

Symbols: black, new moon, windflower, howlite, moth, broken sword

Task: destroy a shrine, or kill a leader

Boon: the next time you could die, fate may be turned aside.


Notes

I've been trying to come up with ways to engage the player with the setting more, and a huge part of that is religion. Historically religion has always been a very important in life as well as fantasy, but it seems like a large portion of the gaming community (myself included), are atheistic, so that sense of worship and service to a higher power can be... off-putting. It creates a divide between the player and the average person in the game world, their analogue.

Thus I create instead aspirational figures, so that even the most power-gaming edgy anti-theist could start from a point of "oh yeah I want to be cool like that person," and then once the player is engaged with these figures I think it becomes easier for them to shift that engagement toward roleplaying something more spiritual or worshipful. I've been told that D&D also has demi-gods and high priests and what not, but that doesn't really address this rift between the player and the average character in the world, instead making it probably wider by suggesting that we roleplay worshipping something that isn't even a god? It feels strange.

Oh hey, Skerples recently made a few blog posts about saints and gods and all that jazz. Hope they like this (or at least see it).

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.