Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Culper Ring and Ogre Arms (2 magic items for old school games)

"I put on this ring I got from the treasure horde, and all of a sudden the fruit cart guy is whispering about three clouded circles and strangers are trying to kiss me and a guy takes me in a room for 'debriefing'!"

The Culper Ring: The wearer of this ring is mistaken for a member of a far-flung and very secret organization. Seemingly innocent and mundane PCs will whisper strange codes and pass along bits of information relevant to "The Mission," which is never explained. The wearer's role and position within the organization is never made clear. While most of the information passed along is useless and most of these "contacts" are never seen again, occasionally a tidbit will be useful later.
Whether the ring causes this organization to come into being or the wearer is mistaken for a specific person is up to the DM.
If the PC is actively seeking information about something, there is a chance a contact in "The Organization" can find something useful. Roll a d20. The difficulty is 10, plus the number of bits of information the PC can relate back from previous encounters (or simply the number of previous contacts the wearer's player can recall, at the DM's discretion. This may be modified by CHA).
 If the wearer needs a safe house to hide out or have a meeting, the organization can provide one 65% of the time, but may not allow the wearer or companions to leave for 1d4 days.
The wearer may also be attacked by members of rival organizations or assassins. There is a 25% chance in any city, increased by 10% for every time the wearer has gained information or a safe house.

Ogre Arms: These are two giant black metal arms that can be put on like gauntlets. They have an effective STRENGTH of 18, and can deliver punches for 1d8 points of damage for every three levels of the wearer, even from "second rank" or the distance of a spear. They are immune to damage. The wearer can use them to "walk" over damaging substances, like fire, lava, or even acid. The wearer has a metal tail resembling vertebrae that moves to help balance while wearing the arms.
Over time, the Ogre Arms begin to replace the wearer's own arms. For every two days of constant use, the wearer's STRENGTH without the Arms is decreased by 1. When the wearer's effective strength is 5, they can no longer take off the Ogre Arms, as their own arms are twisted into the mechanisms. The wearer's Strength returns to normal as regards the rest of their body, but removing the Ogre Arms will leave them with no arms at all. This item is usually found with the skeleton of the previous owner still attached.
When used by characters of greater than 5th level, another set of Ogre Arms can be manifested. These arms emerge from the wearer's back. The wearer's AC is improved by 2, and the wearer gains an additional punch attack per round.

EDIT 7/25/12 at 9:37 PM: added additional info to the Ogre Arms.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In-vest-igator (race for old school games)

+1 to STR and INT
-2 DEX
Save and progress as: Half-Orc or Dwarf
Natural AC: 6 or 14

The In-vest-igator was obviously created by some mad bastard wizard intent on driving people insane by making all his bad puns real. It resembles an alligator wearing a vest. They often wear glasses and a thoughtful look. Their limbs are slightly longer and more flexible than an alligator's of equal size, although not as long or flexible as a proportionate man's would be. They are as clever as humans, if not moreso, and often enjoy solving mysteries.
They cannot use any weapon that requires two hands to use, and cannot wear armor unless it was specifically made for them. They can make a patchwork makeshift armor from several suits not made for them, but only good enough to improve their AC by 2.
Special Abilities:
Submersion: An In-vest-igator can submerge itself underwater for 20 minutes while swimming or moving, or several hours if lying still. They breathe air, but can hold their breath for long periods. This also can protect them from inhaling gas attacks, if they can enter this state before the gas hits them.
Jaw Grapple: An In-vest-igator can bite for 1d4 damage, and may make a STR +2 roll to hold prey in it's mouth. A creature caught this way makes a STR-1 check to escape.
Death Roll: If it's tail is free and unhindered, the In-vest-igator may make a Death-Roll, spinning and convulsing wildly to tear off bite-sized chunks of any creature it holds prone in it's mouth (see Jaw Grapple). This does 1d8 points of damage to the creature held in it's mouth for every half level (IE 1d8 at level 1, 2d8 at levels 2 and 3, 3d8 at levels 4 and 5, etc). If the held creature is wearing metal armor, the damage is done to the In-vest-igator instead.
I've got it! - In-vest-igator players/PCs get a point every time they solve a mystery, find out a piece of information someone was trying to hide, solve a riddle, figure out a puzzle trap, etc. They may expend these points as Luck in systems that use Luck, or as bonuses to solve similar types of mysteries (if in doubt, assume they can add +1s to INT, WIS, or CHA rolls as the DM deems appropriate). These points are extinguished when used, and may be added to a roll cumulatively.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Some History of Magic for the Home Game

I don't post much about my home game, but here is some stuff I wrote in an email to a player whose character is doing magical history research. I made some mistakes in coming up with the initial setting, and things have been hard and a little stifled. Time to get fucking weird.

-It is said the Wizard-King Carcos of the East created the eternal storms of the Bay of Fury with magical rituals and curses to stifle trade between the Ruby Kingdom and the great Kingdom of Abulafia (which once occupied the northern part of the northern desert)

-The Kingdom of Abulafia is said to have had many wonders, including magical public transit and intelligent automatons; in general, The Ruby Kingdom used magic for military purposes, and Abulafia used it more as day-to-day "technology" for civic development and the creation of opulent wonders)

-Abulafia also had a class of magic-user who bonded to spirits that would fetch their "spells" for them

-Battle-wizards were once an integral part of military strategy in the Ruby Kingdom during the Age of Wonders. There are many war histories with accounts of entangling vines, fireballs, tar pits, summoned spirits, etc created by battle wizards

-There are several accounts of Elves using magic mainly for the distortion of time and space and personal protection. Elves don't seem to have had access to many magics that could damage other beings directly, despite their one-time military dominance. There is theory that it has something to do with their link to Faerie, or it's severing.

-Faeries are recounted as having magical abilities to affect the mind, reality, appearance, and probability.

-diminutive humanoids called "Knockers" or "Gremps" are described as being able to create sounds from afar and to alter their own appearance, (but different from elves, not that of others.)

-The bird-like Corven and other beast-men of the savage southern part of the Northern Desert are said to have had their own magics and rituals, quite different from that of men or elves. Little of it has been preserved.

-To the extreme south, many creatures with innate magics that were not spells or rituals lived. There is a lot of fishy sounding stuff and dissection diagrams that don't make sense. We're talking Frost Giants, Ice Goblins, something called "The Altered", some octopoids, and other such things (many of which are said to eat men)

-Deals can be made with Devils and Demons for nearly any magical boon, and it is said magic items can only be made through great deeds or these deals, which do not end up well for the deal-maker.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mind Eating Beetles of Kalak-Nur (new monster + spell for old school D&D games)

"Many times the very intelligence of man causes him great difficulty and inefficiency when compared to the dumb, natural beast. A man will gut a fish and eat the flesh of its middle, while a ravenous bear will often simply bash the head open and suck out the brains. The bear receives more nutrition, and has no distaste for such activities. Many such of nature's little efficiencies can be found on that damned moon that trapped me for those long years."      
 -Excerpted from "Being the Hystories, Those Natural and Un-Natural, Written Down By the Duc De Richelieu, Upon His Return from Travels and Travails Afarr"
"You buy baby beetle for many gold."

Giant Beetle, Mindeater: AC 4, HD 2+2, Attacks: bite- 2d6; 5 ft long and black with red pattern
Special: INT = # of beetles within 50', 100' if previously bonded; gain consciousness of recently dead if entire brain eaten (see below).

A smaller cousin of the Boring Beetle, these beetles eat rotting vegetable and animal matter. They are usually found in giant trees and abandoned complexes underground. It is said that any who seek the Gem of Fire at the apex of the giant Hjullar's severed head will have to contend with a horde of them. Encountered singly, they are of little threat and animal intelligence. If several have bonded, however, they form a hive mind that can equal or exceed that of a man.

In addition to their hive mind, when a single member of this species consumes whole the brain of a recently dead individual, that individual's consciousness awakes within the beetle. The recently dead's consciousness has complete control of the beetle, but may not understand [he/she] is no longer in [his/her] own body until such is explained to [him/her]. The consciousness will fade at a rate of 1 INT point every four hours, until the beetle returns to its former state as a dumb animal.
If two or more of this species consume the brain, it is simply food and the consciousness is truly dead. After the brain is consumed, the individual may not be resurrected by anything short of a Wish spell. Some societies use captive members of this species to remove truly dire individuals from the prospect of magical resurrection.

Some overly cruel or sentimental witch has been known to cast the following spell when she encounters beetles with the consciousnesses of other creatures. She has taught it to others. This has been used once to tie a traitor's consciousness to his severed head, which was then placed on the spiked gates of the Dread Wizard King, Mocata. The witch who brought this spell to the Forgotten Moon counts it as one more offense against her by That Dread Lord.

Arrest Consciousness - This ritual takes two hours, and a focus creature must be within the ritual circle the entire time. When completed, the consciousness of the spell's focus is magically locked in the physical form it currently holds. This can only be ended if a Remove Curse and Dispel Magic are cast, successively, in that order. The caster of the ritual will know who ended it, regardless of how much time has passed.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Students of the Green Beast (a cult for your science-fantasy game!)

A captive audience.
I rolled on the random cult generator and got Students, Green, and Beast. For "Thing worshipped" I got a construct, golem, animated statue, frankenstein thing, etc. I was kinda still thinking about the moon with lots of crashed spaceships from the Haruspectre post.

A new human convert takes her turn at the "godpedal."

A tiny window into the future?

 Students of the Green Beast are primarily kobolds, but their membership is spreading to other races fast. Their sacred place of worship is kept in the strictest secrecy. In truth, it is a pedal-generator hooked to a television, set up and abandoned by spacemen who crashed here millennia ago. When one of the kobolds pedals on the stationary bike generator, a TV is powered, showing classic giant monster movies of 20th century Earth on a loop. The TV is damaged, so the black and white is green-tinged.
They believe this is a scrying device gifted by the gods, showing the inevitable end-times. This has caused two primary factions of the cult to form. One faction believes they should assist all creatures in farming and civilization, so that there will be many fat creatures for the Green Beast to eat and many tall buildings for it to knock down. The other faction are anarchists and nihilists, as the Green Beast will destroy all so what's the point of caring? 

The two factions remain friendly, as they must share a place of worship, and negotiate who will influence which settlement towards anarchy or order.

Wear on the components of the TV cause it to flicker just beyond the edge of perception, putting any creature watching it into a highly suggestible state. Curious nobles and merchants have been known to suddenly donate their entire fortune to the cult. Both factions of the cult will occasionally kidnap people and force them to watch, delivering a sermon the entire time. They are not consciously aware of the flickering effect, but believe in the convincing power of the images themselves.

The Future.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fire-Lizards of Kalak-Nur, Take 2

Art from here

Revised for clarity and such from this post. See that post for more lifestyle details and motivations.
PC RaceClass
Requirements: STR 9, CON 9
Player may take up to 2 points from INT and assign to CON or STR.
Once Fire Lizard is chosen, -1 CHA +1 STR
HD: 1d8
Max Level: 10 (see below)
AC: 5 or 15, improves by 1 at even numbered levels*
SAVE: as Fighter

Being giant lizards, they have no articulated digits and must support themselves on at least three limbs at all times. A Fire Lizard PC cannot pick anything up except in its toothy, smoky maw. They cannot use weapons#, and can only use armor specifically made for them*. They are restricted to magical bracelets, rings, crowns, and anything that can be secured on their horny protrusions to the DM's satisfaction.
Fire Lizard PCs may carry 1 humanoid on their back for every point of STR over 11.
A Fire Lizard PC's attacks progress as indicated:
+1 to hit per level gained.
Level - Attack
1 - Claw 1d6, Bite 1d4, one attack per round but reroll misses once; second hit may use different attack
3 - two claw attacks per round; can breathe smoke that obscures vision instead of one attack; all creatures in 20' -2 to hit (except Fire Lizards) and hiding/sneaking is doubled in radius; lasts 1 round or can be maintained as an attack**
5 - can breathe fire for 2d8 damage instead of one attack-this counts as a magical weapon; claw damage increases to d8
7 - total of 3 attacks per round (claw/claw/fire)

Fire Lizards can carry a great deal of equipment with no effect on their movement.
Successful adventuring Fire Lizards often get their claws enchanted, and have silver claw covers made.
Fire Attacks are almost useless against them: At levels 1-5, they receive a bonus to saves vs fire at double their level; after level 5 they are immune to nonmagical fire attacks, and suffer half damage from magical fire attacks if they fail their save (no damage if saved).
**Lenses can be made from the tears of a Fire Lizard; when worn by another creature, this creature can see as normal in that individual Lizard's smoke breath. They must be made by a master craftsman.
The Blood Knows^: a Fire Lizard can consult the memories of it's parent to try to remember details of any creature, civilization, historical fact, etc. This knowledge fades over time.
85% chance at first level, -10% at even levels. See examples in the comments here. If in doubt, use Zak's Ranger Legend-Lore-ish ability at the bottom of his Random Ranger post.

"At least he doesn't wear armor." Maybe they look like this? Art from here.

When a Fire Lizard reaches 50 years of age or enough XP for a level 11 Fighter, they undergo a great physical change and begin eating everything in sight. Often, before this happens, the Lizard will seek an isolated cave and hoard plenty of food or set traps to lead creatures to it. Within 3 weeks, the Lizard will reproduce asexually, laying eggs.
The adult Fire Lizard passes its knowledge to its offspring through some unknown mechanism; after laying eggs, it is of animal intelligence^ and becomes in all respects like the Fire Lizard entry in the Monster Manual. A PC Fire Lizard must be handed over to the DM at this point as an NPC Monster; however, it will hesitate to attack former companions, effectively giving them a free surprise round despite the circumstances of the encounter.

#Fire Lizards have been known to scoop up weapons in their mouths and toss them in an opponents' direction from time to time.
*if custom armor is made for them, the AC is the armor bonus subtracted from 5 or added to 15

^Thanks to Erik Jensen and David Rollins for ideas in general. David came up with the idea for The Blood Knows ability, and they both had some nice riffs on it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dread Haruspectre of the Frozen Hand (an old school D&D joint)

So I'm hanging out with my pal A and our friend M is in town, and these two ladies want me to watch the Woody Allen movie. There are decent actors in it, so I go OK and we get to the theater and it's sold out. Then they talk me into seeing the male stripper movie, and I'm like OK, Soderbergh, and it was way better than it had any right to be (I do not enjoy naked men, which is sad, because men are hella sluts). Plus, afterward I could make M all fluttery by talking in a Matthew McConaughey accent, and while she is coupled up with another dude it was funny and fun to watch her reaction.
All of which is to say, I got home at nearly 2 AM and couldn't sleep, but I wasn't really getting ideas for the things I should be writing. Instead, I kept thinking about this drawing that Zak S posted the other day. 

It would probably be easy to fill several D&D sessions just getting to this encounter, and/or deriving from it.

PROSPECTUS: The big face-person in the drawing is a hologram projected from the platform but more importantly a fortune-teller who reads the entrails of freshly-gutted intelligent creatures who have to have cared about the answers she is seeking. So. One of the PCs has to die to get the answer they want. Another PC has to hold his/her guts in front of the face-person.
Two wrinkles are in the PCs favor. Wrinkle 1: if what they desire was impossible, trying to find the answer by letting her read the fresh entrails makes an answer possible. Wrinkle 2: The big box of shapes below is a quantum-engine thingy that makes a duplicate of whatever's inside, including a person. Make a clone of yourself, but one of you has to die to get what you want.*
All this can be found out by questioning the inhabitants of this cruel moon.

DETAIL: The Haruspectre of the Frozen Hand is encountered by those who, by teleportation mishap or starship crash landing, wind up marooned on this forgotten moon of an abandoned planet. She wishes to leave, but cannot mention this directly. For most, she is the only way off the planet. Those who do escape abandon her here, for the safety of other systems and so there will be a way out if they end up here again.

The Haruspectre of the Frozen Hand (giant face w/legs in the drawing)
-secretly a hologram projected by floating platform; only observed on this platform and voice comes from it and not her face; face only moves to change expression
-weapons (magical or not) and spells pass through her to no effect; damage to platform causes her to disappear for 1day per HP of damage (platform has 50 HP and will regenerate [1hp/day] to full due to nanobots or whatever, as long as 1 HP is still there)
-Haruspex of the Frozen Hand is actually her title, as she is the last of her dread order. She can see the future, and in some ways make the future, by reading the entrails of an intelligent creature. The creature must care greatly about the answer sought, and must die in the process. If there was no answer to the question asked, reality will alter to make an answer possible. 
An example: "How do I get off this damned rock?" If there was previously not a way off, but the ritual gutting and entrails reading happens correctly, there will now be a way. ("Combine the parts from the ship in the valley to the south with the power couplers at the bottom of Bloodfly pond." or "Invoke the demon Gamm√ľn and make a deal with it to cross through the Plane of Dream's Regret.")

Drawn by ZakZak, if I should remove the drawing for some reason let me know and I will.

*Her platform is often floating above an obscure object with many interlocking planes of metal and glass. There are several shafts and enclosed chambers in it. If the PCs are very successful in questioning the locals, they can find out it is a Quantum Double-Slit Diffraction Drive, a device that will pull in a version of whatever is put in one of its chambers from a slightly different reality, including a living being.
-If a PC is duplicated in this way, the 'new' being has the memories and allegiances of the original PC, but rolls HP from scratch and rolls a D6 for each existing ability score, in order:
1-3: subtract this number from the ability score
4: add 1 to the ability score
5: add 2
6: add 3
(This is an opportunity if a player likes their character but wants to change something subtle and have an in-game reason. Abilities, personality, whatever. Or just a disturbing, wacky mess.)

A common practice for those who have sought out the Haruspectre or are trapped here is to duplicate themselves, then either have the duplicate sacrifice them or subdue and sacrifice their own double. The duplicate knows the situation, and will endeavor to be the one that survives. If neither is killed in 1d6 days after duplication, both will decay and mutate in bizarre ways even if they leave this moon.

The Haruspectre is served by creatures that enjoy dispatching the remains of the dread fortune-telling ritual; several Giant Flies and a Doublegator. (Doublegator stats as Crocodile from MM but additional bite attack from back end.)
She has befriended a telepathic Giant Frog of genius intelligence, but he does not serve her. They play odd forms of strategy and riddle games, sometimes involving creatures of lesser intelligence in their hobby, to their detriment.

This moon is mostly deserts, frozen tundra, mountains, and crashed spaceships. Some of the crashed ships had sufficient resources and population to form small communities around. Most of these groups are friendly enough, although cutthroat about survival. Others have developed bizarre habits in their isolation. The Haruspectre and her companions are left alone until an individual needs help, then there is a lottery among those concerned to see who will have the honor of being the sacrifice.
If the Haruspectre is killed (by destroying the platform), the weird and sometimes savage moon-tribes will seek the death of whoever did it.

EDIT: did a quick grammar edit and moved the picture up to break up the text.