Thursday, October 5, 2017

Impact

So, you're playing D&D and you're fighting some orcs.  All the orcs are armed with feather dusters, so they actually incapable of harming anyone.  And your DM doesn't give XP for combat, so they'll  yield 0 xp upon death.

This combat is a waste of time.  You're just rolling dice until the orcs die.

The encounter is shit because the encounter has no impact.

Impact: the ability to permanently change the game.  The opposite of impact is fluff.

Impact correlates with how your players care.  If no one's invested in the outcome of this encounter, it's hard to have fun.  I think a lot of DMs make the mistake of crafting low-impact encounters.

I'll start by talking about combat encounters, but a lot of this applies to non-combat encounters as well.

by Jakub Rozalski
How To Increase Impact

Deplete Resources

Yes, depleting their spells/HP/potions is a form of impact.  It's low impact, almost by definition.  We can do better.

In a lot of published adventures, the fights are strongly stacked in favor of the PCs, who usually don't have to spend many resources to win.  The only reason to run a combat like this is to make the players feel cool/powerful (not something I recommend designing for--it happens on its own, when it's deserved) or to teach them the rules (and there are better ways to do this than wasting everyone's time with a fluff encounter).

Killing Characters

For most players, this is the most impactful thing that can happen.  It's also shitty when it happens.  We can have a talk about how much lethality is desirable on another post, but the point I want to make is. . .

High risks make people pay attention.  For this reason, difficult combats are necessarily high-impact.

Dear non-OSR readers: this is one reason why OSR folks are always advocating for potentially lethal combat.  Not because we enjoy rolling new characters, but because the combats are more significant.  It's the same reason why lots of sandbox DMs are okay with players deposing kings, burning down cities, and basically just making a mess of things.

I'm not gonna argue that you should make all of you combats brutally difficult.  Easy combats have their place.  But if you are going to make an easy combat, it needs to be impactful in a different way (see also: the rest of this post).

It's entirely possible for a high-lethality combat have everyone attentive, stressed, and bored.  Being trapped in a room with a wight, and no way to hurt it, rolling dice for 20 turns while all of your characters die inevitably.  (This is no different from the feather duster orcs, really.)

If you find yourself in a low-impact combat, hand-wave it.  Last time I played D&D, my players ambushed three old (non-magical, level 0) priests.  Combat took 30 seconds because I just let the player's narrate how they won.

Mutating Your Character Sheet

When I say "attack all parts of the character sheet", this is what I'm talking about.

This is a pretty broad category.  Yes, it includes actual mutations.  This is me telling you that giving the orcish raiders an Axe of Mutation is a great idea.

You can destroy items (rust monster), drain levels (wight), etc.  (PSA: big negative effects like that should be telegraphed and players given a chance to avoid the combat.  Don't ambush players with wights.)

You can also mutate items, mutate spells, turn gold coins into copper coins, turn copper coins into silver coins, permanently blind a PC, permanently give a PC the ability to see in the dark, mess with stats, mess with skills, steal an item out of their inventory, burn all the scrolls in their inventory with dragonfire, change their sex, give them curses.

And remember, all of these effects should be telegraphed before you smack the party with them.  The idea is to get the party invested in the outcome by raising the stakes, so it doesn't work if the players don't know the stakes.

Angels who can forcibly convert your character to their religion.  Since it takes a few "hits" before the PC converts, they have time to run away (which is the point of HP, really).

Nymphs who convince the party to live with her for a two years can also have a pretty big impact on the game.  Players should know the risk before they seek out a nymph.

And everyone knows to avoid gurgans.  Ew.

"I Search The Body"

Yeah, bread and butter.  I know.

PROTIP: Increase player investment by having enemies wield the cool item in combat; don't just leave it in their pocket for them to discover afterwards.

It doesn't even have to be magical.  Like, give one of the orcs a whip with an eagle claw on the end of it, and an eagle skull on the handle.  Fucking awesome.

Or they have crazy potions.  Permanently lose a point of Con to enter a super-rage.  Make sure at least one orc drinks the potion during combat, with more vials visible inside his vest, so the players know what they get if they win.

Or like, the next time the players crit on the orc, the orcs coin purse rips open and coins spill out all over the floor (in addition to the regular effects of the crit).  Show players what the stakes are.

Gaining XP

Yes, this is a thing that exists.

When I used quest XP in my Pathfinder games, I used to give the players a handout with all the available quests on it, and the associated rewards.  I kind of roll my eyes at that sort of thing now, but it accomplished the goal of showing what the stakes were.

Relates to Other Parts of the Map

This is what I mean when I say "random encounter doesn't mean unconnected encounter".

Maybe the really well-dressed orc is the chieftain's son, and asks to be ransomed back when he surrenders.  (Random encounters need to be connected to things outside of themselves.)

Maybe they're saving the king's life.  If they lose this combat, the king will be assassinated.

This is also a chance for your players to show their values.  Let them have the ability to change the game map, and make sure they know it.

Information

Maybe the fact that one of the orcs are in the castle at all means that someone probably smuggled them in. . . but why?

Maybe one of the orcs has an incomplete map of the nearby dungeon.

Maybe the orcs promise to give you the password to the Wyvern's Tower if you let them escape.

They can also convey setting information, or useful information about the dungeon.

The orcs have their hands tattooed black, indicating that they've trained in Ungra, specialize in killing mages, and were hired at a steep cost.

One of the orcs is carrying lockpicks and is covered in recent acid burns.  (Nearby lock is trapped with acid hoses.)

Fluff is Okay

There's nothing wrong with a fun combat.  Fluff has its place.

Respite: Easy combats can be a nice respite after a recent meat-grinder.

Power Trip: Maybe you're playing with ten-year-olds and the birthday boy needs a magic sword.

Ambiance: A corpse being eaten by hungry ghosts can really set the mood.  (No useful information was learned, no real interaction except observation).

Personal Goals: There's no benefit to it, but maybe one of the PCs swore an oath to humiliate every bard they came across.  Whatever.  It's important to their character concept.

Comedy: Fighting drunk goblins in the middle of a pig stampede.

Just remember that you can raise the impact without raising the difficulty.  Maybe give one the goblins a red-hot branding iron.  Same damage, but now the character has a QQ permanently seared into their rump.

-Doesn't change the game.
-Can still be interesting (e.g. you meet peacock-man being devoured by hungry ghosts; he has nothing interesting to say or give).
-Can be good for an ego trip.

Using Impact Wrong

Impact is not the same thing as fun.  Use it in ways that your players react to.  Maybe they're scared of dying and despise lethal combat.  Maybe they want to be heroes and respond really well to civic heroics, such as king saving.

Just be mindful of impact the next time you throw a random group of 3d6 goblins at your party.  Don't let it be just fluff.

Monday, October 2, 2017

WURMS: A continued DECLARATION against SCRAP PRINCESS, who knows NO DECENCY nor FORMAL DANCES

There is a voice crying out in the wilderness, babbling nonsense with locust-stained lips, scratching chaos into the dirt beneath her.  This is SCRAP PRINCESS, who is shunned by the WISE and feared by the BRAVE.  Her writings consist of nothing but NONSENSE and THE EGGS OF GAWPING SERPENTS.  Wise men shun both, lest they be afflicted by POLYPS and SNAKEBITE.

//////

The opposite of a dragon is a wurm.  Like dragons, they are also hoarders and destroyers, but they tend to seek the metaphysical, rather than base metals.

Wurms are brothers to whales.  They are most closely related to certain breeds of malformed horses native to the Londeep Swamp, which feed on algae and bird's eggs.

They are hairy, limbless things, like pink-skinned slugs or shaggy worms.  They do not fly, but instead burrow.  Their features vary, but in most cases their faces tend towards the mammalian, and sometimes even the simian.  They have flattish faces, with forward facing eyes, and their teeth are often blunted.  The smallest of them is a furlong in length.

They lay fertile eggs, but compulsively devour their young.

HD 12+  AC plate  Bite 2d8 + swallow
Move human  Burrow 1/2 human  Int 10    Mor 7

*Slurp (30' cone, save or be pulled into mouth)
*Aura  (100', unique to each wurm, see below)
*Attendants (2d6, unique to each wurm, see below)

THE LAUGHING WURM

Its skin is bright gold, and it weighs 484,000 lbs.  Its expression has been described as fatuous.  It enjoys eating elephants, and this is how it does it.  First, it breaks the elephant's legs.  Then it sucks on the elephant for about 18 hours, like a gobstopper, until the elephant's skin comes off.

It lives in the Tau Solen, where it churns the rivers into pinkish foam.

The Laughing Wurm consumes joy.  That is why it is so happy.  All creatures in its aura must make a Charisma check each turn.  On a failure, they lose 1d6 Wisdom.  If their Wisdom reaches 0, the PC stops and sits down, overcome by regret, nostalgia, and nihilism.  Wisdom lost in this way is recovered as soon as they leave the aura.  They regain 1d6 Wisdom if an ally dies or is swallowed (first time only) or if something motivating occurs (first time only).  Creatures in the aura are unable to benefit from it.

The Laughing Wurm is surrounded by 2d6 despondent ibises (1 HD each).  Initially inert, they will attack once they wurm is bloodied.

When the Laughing Wurm is killed all creatures in 1000' must save or celebrate together for the next 1d20 hours.  Expect to spend the time dancing with wolves and kissing ibises.

The Heart of the Laughing Wurm is a tiny, shriveled grey thing the size of a fist.  It can be used to make a make any sentient creature suicidal.  (50' range, creature saves, failture means that they will attempt to kill themselves in the next 24 hours.  The heart is not used up by a successful save.)

picture unrelated
by Marco Nelor
THE VERDANT WURM

The Verdant Wurm is bright, grassy green, except for its teeth (which are white) and its gums (which are red).  Its expression has been described as incredulous.  It enjoys impersonating a grassy hill, something that it is very bad at, since all the adjacent hills will be dead.  It weighs 660,000 lbs.

The Verdant Wurm consumes life.  That is why it is so vibrant.  All creatures in the aura lose 1d6 HP per turn (half on a successful save).  For each HP lost in this way, a butterfly is born from the Verdant Wurm's back.  They attack as a swarm.

The Verdant Wurm begins surrounded by 2d6 butterflies.  They are not true insects, and lack mouthparts or reproductive organs.  They have only a single leg, like a razor blade.

When the Verdant Wurm is killed, its stomach spills open and a forest grows explosively.  All creatures in 1000' must save or take 1d20 damage from being speared, tossed, or crushed.

The Heart of the Verdant Wurm can be used to restore a creature to life.  Creatures restored to life in this way will return larger (+1 Str), dumber (-1 Int), and with shaggy green hair.

Other Wurms

Slow, Conquerer, and Heartstring.  TBA.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Inextricable Grace of Elves

I've written about elven psychology, linguistics, origin, military, weapons, half-elves, and their infinitely looping kingdoms at the end of time.

But one thing I haven't written about is what it's like for the PCs to actually encounter true elves, face to face.

Should I do a recap first?  I feel like I should.

Boring Elven Lore Shit

Originally, you had baseline humans.  When transhumanism resulted in True Elves, they basically started running the show.  They made slave-races for different tasks: spacers (halflings), soldiers (orcs), laborers (dwarves), while the baseline humans went extinct, only leaving various races of subhumans (bred to be fulfill different types of magical sacrifices).

Eventually, the technology slipped away and the True Elves lost the ability to create more of themselves.  Their degenerate offspring are the High Elves (who are the Low Elves) and they are the most beautiful creatures on Centerra (save nymphs and such).  The True Elves have either left the planet or jumped ahead to one of the temporal estates at time's end.

Elves have the best civilization and the best historical records because many of them were spared the Time of Fire and Madness; they were safely living on Eladras when it happened, a tree that grew downwards from the moon.

(I thought I wrote a post about Eladras, but I didn't.  It's roots are still in the moon, pieces of its trunk form some of the orbital biomes, its branches fell in the Dustwind, and its seeds were used to make grow Aglabendis.)

So the High Elves live forever, magical and powerful, isolating in the beautiful places they have claimed for themselves (often forests).  Each High Elf city is ringed by Wood Elves, the outcasts that society has deemed too ugly or too offensive to dwell among them.  (They're still extremely beautiful by pseudo-medieval standards.)  Elves claim all beautiful things, not just beautiful forests (which sometimes resemble parks) and so sometimes the wood elves are more like beach elves or mountain elves but you get the point.  They're the dirt-elves that range away from the parties plazas.

And then percolating through all elven society are their slave-races, except they'd never call them that.  They are their little brothers and little sisters, and they are enslaved by love.  They love their older siblings, and revere them even though they aren't allowed to sit at the same table as them, or even speak to them directly.  These are the half-elves (elf-men and elf-women) who are sterilized adult humans who have been created via semi-elfification of stolen infants, the alchemical orcs who have been restored to some of their original prowess as super-soldiers, the ashakka who are wooden golems powered by elven ancestors, and all manner of magical bullshit that they are capable of conjuring.

Most people think that half-elves are the true elves, since those are the ones that sometimes engage in trade.  Most scholars know of the furtive Wood Elves, and believe them to be the true elves.  And a vanishing few mortals have been to the elven cities and met the High Elves (who are the Low Elves) and believe them to be the true elves.  And everyone is wrong once again.

How Elves Talk

The thing to realize is this: unless you've been living in elven society for a few hundred years, you're going to offend someone terribly within a few seconds of walking in the door.

Remember that all of elven society is predicated on beauty and positivity.  Unpleasant things are corrected, removed, or ignored.

A smelly adventurer with blood in his mouth and shit on his boots represents an extremely significant challenge to etiquette, best avoided altogether.  An adventurer will find it nearly impossible to access an elven city, because they really don't want you in there.

But even within the elven city, all discussion of unpleasantness is avoided.  This means that they avoid discussing pretty much all of the outside world.  Talking about unpleasantness is an offense that entails punishment: shunning, resocialization classes, and in the most extreme cases, banishment to the wood elves.

If you could sum up the elven civic philosophy, it would be this: don't inconvenience others.

More specific advice on how to talk to an elf.
  • Don't talk about unpleasant things, you may make someone uncomfortable.
  • Don't make too much eye contact, you may seem intimidating.
  • Do not ask questions about absent friends, something bad might have happened to them.
  • Hell, don't ask questions at all.  That puts a burden on the other person to ask.
  • Compliments are basically mandatory.  A lack of compliments is basically an insult.
  • Don't talk about things that the other person might not know about.  If you don't know if the other person knows something or not, it is best to approach the topic obliquely.
Conversation is best limited to safe topics.  Pretty things like the clothing that the other elf is wearing.  Local music.  Delicious food.  Art.  Culture.  Weather.  Reminiscing about other happy times.  Inside jokes.  

You might think this sounds boring, but elves are brilliant and clever and pretty.  They're always alluding to other things, connecting different areas.  They're hilarious.  If they were talking to a human they liked, they'd be careful to only refer to areas of culture and history that the human was likely to know about, in order to avoid making them self-conscious of their ignorance.  Humans love hanging out with elves; they're like humans who have learned how to avoid offending people.

An elf who was interrogating you might stand at the other end of the room, look out the window, and wonder aloud "I wonder where my kinkajou is?  It's almost time for his massage."

That's remarkably direct, for an elf.  That's bad news.  You're about to be slowly lowered into a vat of acid over a 36 hour period.  You better tell her where her kinkajou is, dude.

You might think the inability to ask questions is a bit limiting.  You'd be correct.

Books are the exception.  When an elf is alone with a book, the pretense is dropped.  After all, there is still a need to learn about the actual world.  And if an elf wishes to learn about unpleasant things in the privacy of their own home, they are certainly allowed to do so, as long as they don't inconvenience others.

Written and spoken words have very different purposes in elven society.

Another workaround is the use of intermediates.  A servant hears a politely coded message, conveys it to a subservant in a less polite form, and then the subservant will meet with another elf's subservant, and the two of them will have a plainly spoken discussion.  Then the resolution will make its way back up to the elf, who is then informed of what he has decided.

Sometimes the elf is her own subservant, in a different guise and identity.  This is actually pretty common in elven society--compartmentalizing their identity into polite and impolite forms.  While wood elves might use masks to accomplish the same thing, high elves use glamours and actual transformations.

This is an advantage in fighting a high elf.  If you surprise them with combat, they'll usually refuse to fight until they can assume their "war face" (combat identity).  They're very good at running away, but try to make that first combat count.

Pretense is as important as air.

Unpleasant things are usually disguised as something else.  Combat is often referred to as dancing, but even that euphemism is becoming worn and distasteful.  Combat is now often referred to as "music appreciation" or "physical listening" or something similar.

The distaste is now even rubbing off onto actual dancing, which was beginning to have a more negative connotation due to its association with combat.  So dancing is now referred to as "joyful warfare" or "imitating the wind".

How Elves Live

Usually alone or in romantic pairs/trios/quartets.  Except not alone alone.  Each elf has a large estate consisting of their "family" of non-elves (half-elves, alchemical orcs, human sycophants), servants, playthings, protectors, and fashion statements.

Like if an elven household was a dungeon, it might be a redwood with a pavilion at the top and a branching complex in the roots.  It would have a romantic pair of elves as the "bosses".  One room might have 3d6 "little brothers" (alchemical orcs armed with crush gauntlets and jump jets) and a ziggurat made of hot tubs.  Another room might have Sir Hembriss the Curator, a charmed rakshasa who does hair and makeup.

Elven households are very diverse, because fashion.  No elf wants to show up to the gala with the same color rakshasa as their rival.

I've painted a pretty negative picture of elves, but there are plenty that take good care of their adopted families.  Many of them are effective mentors, and a few are even friends with members of their household.

Children aren't common because (a) some elven cultures practice population control, and (b) raising an elven child is risky and unpleasant.  Too much messy biology, too much disappointment and death.  It's also incredibly expensive: the same magical manipulation that improved human stock into elves also made them dependent on magical technology that is absent, faulty, and/or poorly understood.

For example, the elven fetus was never meant to be grown to parturition inside a uterus.  They were designed to be grown in a vat.  And since those vats no longer exist, the elves have had to invent some pretty drastic workarounds.  Expensive, unpleasant, and especially risky.

This is true for all stages of an elf's development, not just pregnancy.  Elven procreation requires a lot of infrastructure and technology.  It's not an exaggeration to say that an elven hospital is the third parent, since mom, dad, and magic all make tremendous and necessary contributions to the final product.

This restriction means that you'll hardly ever see elves living in the slums.  An elf will have wealthy parents, or they'll never make it past the first trimester.

How Elves Fight

Some cultures of elves will just run away, in order to don their war identity.

Other cultures of elves will fight you directly, but under the pretense of "dancing with you".  This requires having a bard nearby, who will strike up music during the combat.  If the bard stops playing, the pretense drops, and the elf will be forced to fight you directly.  (This makes the combat worse, not easier.)

How do you shoot an arrow at someone indirectly?  You shoot it very high, so that it takes a high, arcing path.  That makes it easier to pretend that you were shot by accident, so as not to upset the elf.

Couldn't you just hold your shield over your head and be safe from elven arrows?  Well, no, because high elven arrows don't fly in a straight line.  They're curved so that they fly in spirals.  Elves do other tricks with the fletching, such as ablative rachides and clockwork oscillators, that make the arrows fly in even more complex patterns.

Then they spend a few decades mastering it.

This means that elvish arrows are essentially useless in human hands.  (The inverse is not true.)

<sidebar>Elves really hate to see anyone else using their toys.  There are various ways to accomplish this, such as covering them in diseases that only affect humans to remaining inert unless surrounded by elven DNA (which is easily bypassed by anyone wearing elfskin gloves).</sidebar>

Elves are capable of producing pretty much every entry in the monster manual, but they prefer bodyguards who don't leave a mess.  Stranglers (such as a lesser wind) and devourers (such as an ooze) are ideal.  Elves really hate it when their bespoke stuff gets broke.

They also aren't above simply paying you to go away.  Giving an adventuring party a large ruby works fine: they have plenty more gems.  Besides, a large ruby in the hands of mercenaries is likely to bring nothing but turmoil to human lands, without making the humans any wiser, more numerous, or more powerful (all things that elves seek to prevent).

The elves would find it hilarious if it wasn't already so eye-rollingly banal at this point.

How Elves Die

The pretense persists until their dying breaths.  It is an inextricable part of their souls.

Consider the words of Milasham vin Valtir, an elf who was stabbed in the aorta by adventurers while attempting to recover her stolen kinkajou.

"Look," she said, reaching into her breast pocket and pulling out a bloody hand.  "I have found rubies."

Sunday, September 17, 2017

There's No Such Thing As Foxes

There's no such thing as foxes.

They're mythical beasts, existing only in heraldry, rumor, and fraud.  (There are many ways to dye a coyote.)

They are believed to bring good luck, confidence, glibness, and then ill fortune (in that order).  Potions made from fox's tongues are said to exist, but there is no agreement as to what (if anything) they actually do.

Common wisdom maintains that foxes have never existed.  They are simply something that stepped out of myth, an inversion of a wolf.  Where their progenitors are large and direct, the brightly colored foxes are small and clever.

Even their coloration is inverted: where a wolf is a drab brown or grey, foxes are depicted in brilliant oranges, red, and sometimes with exotic patterns (such as paisley).

And while most believe foxes have never existed, there are a few who believe that they were once real animals that succeeded in making themselves imaginary.

According to them, foxes exist all around us, stealing our food and warming themselves in our beds.  Their magic makes them impossible to notice, remember, or record.  All trains of causality that might lead to their discovery are brushed away with a whisk of a fox's tail.


The Foxenstone

They say that the foxes once enacted some powerful magic to make themselves disappear from all observation, memory, and thought.  At the center of this powerful magic was a stone called the Foxenstone, an monolith that towered over the trees, its surface was covered with spirals of foxes running towards its apex.

It was made from gold, or amber, or perhaps a reddish salt that was poisonous to cats.

And while many things about the Foxenstone are debated, its location is not: it is located in the Foxenfort, above the Foxenport, in Foxentown, on the western wendings of the Bearded Ocean, not too far from Trystero, where men have learned to become giants.

There is only one catch.

A visitor touring the Foxenfort will be entirely unable to catch sight of the Foxenstone, which by most accounts is forty feet tall and standing in the center of the fort's courtyard.  The locals will wink and tell you that it's there all right, it's just very well hidden.  Do you see any foxes?  Of course not.  If you saw either, then the foxes would not have done a very good job, would they?

In Foxenport, you can buy a fragment of the Foxenstone to take home.  To the untrained eye, these appear to be empty sacks.

The 6119 foxes carved on the side of the Foxenstone are well-described, and ownership of the foxes is a well-regulated business.  They are even traded among the nobles as a form of currency.  Since the transactions are all immaculately recorded by the Foxentown Bank, there is never any discrepancy.  You can buy a fox near the bottom for as little as 500g, while the foxes near the top command much higher prices.

Carved foxes on the sides of an imaginary stone are not an accepted currency anywhere else in the world, but in Foxentown, they are as good as gold.  Better, actually, since it shows a certain willingness to engage with the imaginary economy.

Lastly, those who doubt the existence of the Foxenstone would be wise to direct their attention to a single, extremely convincing fact: Foxentown is impossible to locate except by those who have already been there.

Bear in mind, that Foxentown is a bustling port filled with merchants speaking a half-dozen different languages, and exchanging the flotsam from a hundred different cities.  Because of this, it is not hard to get to Foxentown.  You have only to venture into any seedy harborside flophouse and ask if anyone is interesting in "chasing the little foxes" and some congested whaler will speak up.  He's been a dozen times; he loves the way the morning sun reflects off the beautiful Foxenstone.

He'll guide you there for a pittance (if he doesn't die from fever first), and you will invariably be disappointed.  Despite the legends, Foxentown appears to be just another warm-water shantytown, filled with robbers, whores, and mosquitoes.

Tales exist of other Foxentowns, and other Foxenstones, that no one can find because no one has ever returned.  Perhaps you'd have better luck asking a real fox.

That was a joke.  Foxes don't exist.

The God of No Foxes

It is said that the cost of making a real thing unreal was to make an unreal thing real.  This unreal-thing-that-became-real is the God of No Foxes.

Other names: the False God, the No God At All, Nobody.

His followers are clowns, fools, babarukhs (the mischief people), and especially madmen, who are said to be the only ones capable of understanding the False God at all.  He fav

He is a god without any (apparent) agenda except to sit and watch things fall apart.  He delights in deception, without any concern for the consequences.  His followers have sometimes been credited with good deeds, but they are much better known for their nefarious ones.  Deeds of deception, disruption, and despoilment.

If there is any virtue that is held in high regard, it is unpredictability.  His followers are fond of saying that the greatest chess player might be the greatest chess player, but if she always plays the same way, she will lose to someone who has studied him.  Therefore, a degree of sub-optimum play is optimum.  Therefore, a dash of foolishness is required to become a genius.

Quite a few of them end up in finance, being already comfortable handling imaginary values.

They worship in the open, by adopting a series of codewords, such as "Lovely day, isn't it?" and "Yes, quite." which might mean "Hail the False God, who is the True God!" or perhaps "May he reign forever in today!" or perhaps "May the wheat grow straight and the babies moulder in their cribs."

This is why you must be very careful whenever a stranger turns to you and says "Lovely day, isn't it?"  You may be praising the God of No Foxes by mistake (and this is why clerics are often so impolite).

It is said that most of the False God's worshippers do not know they worship him, which they do through confusion, making mistakes, and wasting time (such as reading a blog post when they have more important things to do).

These are the claims that his followers make, at least.  They may or may not be true (whatever that means).

The False God dwells in Mautertium, the No Castle, which is a cave, which in all likelyhood doesn't even exist at all.

At its heart are the Parade Grounds, where frolic the revelers--men and women covered in masks and paint and little else.

One must be careful in the No Castle, because sometimes the body is the lie, while the mask is the truth.

It is said that Nobody one captured a great number of powerful beasts: trolls, manticores, medusa, and even a purple worm and a dragon.  These monsters were turned into humans, and given masks that depicted their original disposition.  They were then allowed to roam Mautertium to their heart's content as celebrants of the False God.  [DM's note: appearance as naked human wearing a mask, stats as troll/manticore/meduse/purple worm/dragon, including modes of movement.  Other celebrants wear identical masks.]

You'll also see a lot of stuff like this:


Nowhere in Mautertium will you ever find a fox.  However, you will find a great many people in fox masks.  (Perhaps this is where the fox's went?)

You may hear the celebrants repeat the Prayer of the False God:

Nobody loves me.
Nobody cares.
And when I'm all alone,
Nobody is there.

But they don't repeat it very often.  That would be predictable, wouldn't it?

The False God appears as four men inside a monstrous costume (a bit like a Chinese Street Dragon).  You can see leg hairs sticking out of the tights.  You can smell beer on the costume.  You can hear four men inside the thing whispering to each other.  They are talking about you and they are laughing.

They are about to start the parade, and everyone is in their proper place, except for you.  Everyone belongs here except for you.  Everything here makes sense except for you, you nonsense-thing.

The corner of the costume lifts up a little and you think you can see a hand wiping wine away from the corner of a mouth.  They are talking about you and they are laughing, because who would ever imagine you?

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Door Wizard

Back when the True Elves ran things, the world was both bigger and closer together.

They had grabbed Space, bundled it up, and bound it into knots.  Everything was near everything else, and distance was as meaningless as maps.  They rarely bothered to learn where something was, since everything was just on the other side of the Door.

The Door was everywhere.  They called it the Gem of All-Facing.  They compared it to a box with infinite sides, and no interior.  It connected the distant corners.  It made everything adjacent.  Its doors were everywhere, with forms as varied as their destinations.

They called it the Door, but the doors were just its skin.  It's body was a lamellar labyrinth of hypertoroidal tissues, a universal linkage.  It's handlers could whistle and it would arrive, inserting itself as a local door.

It is rumored that they originally grew it from a blink dog.

When the Time of Fire and Madness came, the Door was fractured.  The knots were pulled, tightened, and torn.  Trillions of gallons of unseen blood boiled off into the Nowhere.  Skeins of odochrysm froze like ice on the surface of dead highways.

You can still see artifacts of that trauma all around the world, if you know where to look.

The doors in Old Clavenhorn all slightly shifted, torsioned within their frames, some bearing more sever scarring, such as midline offset (evidence of pandemic truncation of the Door's n-forks).

The road between Asria and Trystero is thirty miles longer in the northward direction than it is in the southward.  (And dogs always shiver when they walk south along it.)

And near Meltheria, there is the Enigma, the most enduring blasphemy against natural law.  Mages speculate that it was not the Door's heart, but perhaps it was where it first started to die.

A few fragments still remain intact, such as the nineteen windows in the palace of the Cerulean Slave-Kings.  Each one looks out on a different sea, and each one incurs a different type of insanity in anyone who passes through it.

Many other doors, we destroyed because of the danger they posed.  The spaces between the doors had grown strange.  Without the care and support of the True Elves, parts of the Door became carnivorous, and then cancerous.  They survived by feeding on themselves.  (Because while the outer world burned, what else was there to eat?)  Nested hallways, digesting themselves.  Negative space eroding and reconstituting through stolen architecture.  A war of cancers, empty places eating each other to death.

Parts of the Door are predatory, escaping the confines of their metastatic dimension and hunting through ours.  But always the old blood reasserts itself, always the schema of the hound.

If they have a point of origin, it is rumored to be a place called Tindalos.

from Full Metal Alchemist
Wizards of the Door

It is wrong to treat the Door as if it is a monolith.  It is a system perverted against itself, exactly like a human who is suffering from cancer.

Parts have gone rogue, and they have bitten at the heart of the superstructure.  But the superstructure remains--it must--and it remembers its duties.

These are the parts of the Door that the Wizards serve.

To become a Door Wizard, go mess around with portals and extradimensional spaces.  Alternatively, seek the elves (the only remaining practitioners of the teleport spell).

The Rules

Remember back when I was writing up wizard subtypes for the GLOG?  This is another one of those.

Restrictions
  • You must never imprison a living creature, or allow one to be imprisoned.
  • You must never harm a door, or allow one to be harmed.
Boons
  • You begin the game with a skeleton key.  It unlocks the keyhole on your chest.  If unlocked, your chest can be safely opened and your heart removed.  This doesn't harm you, but you must obey any creature that holds your heart.
  • You can cast a version of the knock spell that involves pushing your skeleton key into a creatures sternum (requires a successful attack roll).  The creature takes [sum] damage on a successful save, and dies on a failed save (as most creatures die when you messily open their rib cage).  (This requires you to cast the knock spell normally, by memorizing it from your spellbook.)
  • The room created by your secret room spell becomes enlargable and decorateable.  Each dungeon key you feed it creates a new 400 sq. ft. room shaped however you wish that holds up to two pieces of furniture and/or decoration.  The created room, furniture, and decorations all match the style of the dungeon that generated the key.  (Only keys found in dungeons have this ability.)  At the DM's discretion, very important keys may generate NPCs within the secret room.
GLOG Wizard Rules: Players begin with two spells from this list generated by rolling d6. When they research a new spell, they roll a d12.  Spells #13 and #14 are rare spells, and are as rare as magic weapons in your game.
  1. Knock
  2. Lock
  3. Map
  4. Secret Room
  5. Speak With Lock
  6. Emergency Exit
  7. Command Door
  8. Summon Door Hound
  9. Wall of Doors
  10. Secret Chest
  11. Transpose
  12. All Things Adjacent
Rare Spells

13. Portal
14. Teleport


Spells

All Things Adjacent
R: 0
T: self
D: 1 turn

You are adjacent to all things within your line of sight.  You can punch anything you could see.  You can pick up any object and put it in your pocket as if it were beside you.  However, you are affected as if you were in every location at once.  (To put it in grid-based combat terms, you are affected by all effects effecting every observable square.)  You do not suffer multiple effects from the same hazard (even though you are standing in all parts of a wall of fire, you only take its damage once).  Obviously, casting this spell within sight of the sun is instantly fatal.

Command Door
R: 50'
T: door
D: until midnight
splittable
Object is opened. Doors are flung wide, locks are broken, shackles are bent open, belts come undone. TA door becomes your loyal servant until midnight.  This spell only affects doors that have been tamed (unlocked, detrapped, opened, and passed through).  Larger doors may require more casting dice (2 dice = double doors, stone doors, 3 dice = metal doors, enormous doors, 4 dice = magic doors).  The door will obey your verbal commands to open/close, lock/unlock, disarm/arm, and even attack.  An average wooden door deals 1d8 damage and attacks as a HD 4 creature.

If you control multiple doors within the same dungeon, you can cast this spell while investing 3 dice to link them together for 10 minutes.  Whatever enters one door exits the other.  You can decide which side of which door leads to which side of which door.

Emergency Exit
R: touch
T: [sum] objects
D: 0

Up to [sum] touched objects and/or creatures are teleported out of the dungeon.  They arrive safely, but are all scattered within 1 mile of the dungeon's primary entrance.  Each carried item has an independent 5% chance to be similarly scattered.

If used in a building, it will eject all objects and/or creatures from random entrances (each rolled separately).

If used in a city's streets, it will eject all objects and/or creatures from random entrances (each rolled separately).

Knock
R: 50'
T: object
D: 0
splittable
Object is opened. Doors are flung wide, locks are broken, shackles are bent open, belts come undone. Treat this as a Strength check made with a Strength of 10 + ([dice] * 4). Worn armor falls off if the wearer fails a save. Creatures must save or vomit (a free action).

Lock
R: 50'
T: object
D: 10 minutes
splittable
Non-living object closes and becomes locked. If the object is a door, chest, or similar object, it will slam shut, dealing [sum] damage to any creature passing through it and then trapping them. This spell works on things that aren't technically portals (for example, a sword could be locked in its scabbard). When resisting being opened, the object has an effective Strength of 10 + ([dice] * 4).

Alternatively, this spell can be cast on a creature's orifice, or paired orifices; the creature gets a save to resist, and another save at the end of each of its turns.  (This works on eyes, mouths, nameless sphincters, etc.)

Map
R: 0
T: self
D: 0

You get a brief vision of the surrounding rooms in the dungeon.  Not the contents--just the topology.  The DM reveals [sum] random, adjacent, non-secret rooms that are so far undiscovered.  Just draw it on the players' map.  If used in a city, it gives an accurate map of the city, with more dice resulting in a higher level of detail.

Portal
R: 20' x [dice]
T: 2 surfaces
D: [dice] rounds

You create a pair of linked portals, each attached to a flat, immobile surface (such as a wall or a floor).  Anything that passes through one portal passes out the other, with momentum being conserved.  You can create a door beneath a creature, but they get a Dex check to avoid falling into it.

Secret Chest
R: 0
T: self
D: 10 minutes

You can access [dice] extradimensional chests, each one having 3 inventory slots.  The chests are ordinal, i.e. you can only access the third chest by investing three casting dice.  (You cannot switch chests around).

Secret Room
R: touch
T: wall
D: varies

A touched wall grows an extradimensional room.  This takes 30 minutes.  Behind the door is an empty 20' x 20' room of matching architecture.   The room lasts for 2 hours, doubling in duration for each invested die.  At the end of the duration, all objects inside the room are ejected.

Speak with Lock
R: 50'
T: lock
D: [dice] minute

You can talk with locks.  Locks tend to be practical and no-nonsense.  Trapped locks are liars.  Locks remember everyone who ever locked or unlocked them, but their descriptions might not be useful (since they mostly center on descriptions of their hands and personalities-as-expressed-by-turning-a-key).  Picking a lock is a terrible sin to them, but it is the only sin.  Many believe the form determines function determines morality.

Summon Door Hound
R: 50'
T: conjuration
D: concentration

You summon a houndlike creature that obeys your commands.  It has stats as a wolf except that it has HP [sum] and deals +[dice] damage.  It can teleport 50' once for every dice invested beyond the second.


Teleport
R: touch
T: objects
D: 0

Up to [sum] touched objects and/or creatures are teleported to a random room within the dungeon.  If cast within a building, they are teleported to a random room.  If cast within a city, they are teleported to a random building.

It is possible to cast a version of this spell that allows for targeted teleportation, but it requires 10 minutes, a well-known destination, and affects half as many creatures/objects.

Transpose
R: 50'
T: 2 objects
D: 0

Pick two very similar objects.  They switch places.  Attended/worn/held objects are allowed a Save.  DM's discretion as to what counts as 'very similar' but they are encouraged to invent a fail chance for borderline cases.

Wall of Doors
R: 50'
T: conjuration
D: 10 minutes

You create a rectangular wall composed of 10' x 10' panels arranged in a flat plane.  You can conjure a total of [dice] panels.  You can orient it however you want.  It has [sum] HP.  You can control who and what can pass through the wall.  (For example, a wall of doors could be used as a bridge; allies can run across safely while enemies would fall through suddenly open doors.)