Thursday, 21 May 2015

Beware the Wheelers

Wheeler: Init +2; Atk bump +3 melee (1d2); AC 13; HD 2d6; MV 40’; Act 1d20; SP taunt,
disorientate, knock prone, never provoke free whacks; SV Fort +0, Ref +2, Will -1 AL C.


A wheeler strikes with its body or wheels, doing minimal damage, but requiring a DC 5 Reflex save to avoid being knocked prone.

In addition to its attacks, a wheeler may taunt every 1d3 rounds, targeting a specific victim, who must succeed in a DC 5 Will save or take a -1d penalty on the dice chain for its next action, effectively demoralized by the wheeler’s jeering and laughter. Multiple wheelers can taunt the same individual, and effects stack.


Finally, wheelers who forgo attacks can whizz around their victims in an attempt to disorient them. All victims must make a Will save (DC 10 + number of wheelers disorienting) or suffer a -1d penalty to all rolls in the next round.


Wheelers never grant free whacks so long as they are mobile – they can whizz in and out of combat range with impunity.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Expanded Petty Gods & The Zine Vault

The revised and expanded edition of Petty Gods is now available. 

Why should you consider getting this? Well, apart from the fact that I did a small amount of work on the project, and apart from the fact that you can get the pdf version for free, there is a plethora of material here that is usable by aficionados of any OSR or OSR-inspired game. The harried DCC RPG judge will discover many ideas for patrons and demi-patrons, as well as other supernatural beings to bedevil her PCs. The monster stats and magic items, at the very least, are easy to convert.

You can also get this in premium softcover or casewrap hardcover.

If you are anything like me, you have been collecting all of the DCC zines, and they are beginning to add up. Enter The Zine Vault by Carl Bussler of Stormlord Publishing.


Every Stormlord product so far has been top-notch quality, with real care taken in physical presentation. I expect no less from The Zine Vault. 



Monday, 18 May 2015

Enter the Stargate, if You Dare!

I watched the original Stargate movie in the theatre back in 1994. At the time, I characterized it as “Power Rangers for adults”…which is not to say that I thought it was bad, but that there is a certain flash to the effects, and a lack of grit to the story that reminded me of my son’s (then current) obsession with the Power Rangers. I dismissed it early, and never watched the television series, which I understand has a somewhat different continuity.

I rewatched it to create this blog post, and my opinions have changed somewhat. The plot is still lacking in grit. The protagonists have things far too easy in the film. The effects are far too clean…like prequel Star Wars compared to the grittier, used-universe feel of the original trilogy. And, time having passed, it looked very much like “John Denver’s clone travels to another world”.

On the other hand, there is a lot of potential here for gaming. Although much of what follows is based on the extended version of the Stargate film, I have delved a little into the spin-off series via Wikipedia and the Internet in general. Because I am not greatly familiar with the extended Stargate mythology, feel free to correct me, make changes for your own game, etc. – stuff you should feel free to do anyway!

(As a side note, since other things happened between re-watching and writing, I might still not be so great in this post, but it is an attempt!)

Stargates


These devices appear as large, circular rings of an unknown metal. Each requires seven tablets to be decoded in order to align properly (DC 18 Intelligence check per tablet; a retry is allowed each day for three days, then each week for three weeks, then each month for three months, and so on). When properly aligned, the symbols on the stargate allow a portal to open between the current stargate, and another stargate on another world. This second stargate opens only briefly, and must also be properly aligned to allow a return journey. Once a PC has decoded one series of tablets, it requires only a DC 10 Intelligence check to align the return stargate, as long as all tablets are available.

The Judge should not feel constrained to the locations used in the film, television, or novel series. A stargate can lead to any world or plane the Judge wishes. The stargate in the film led to an unnamed world ruled by Ra. Although there might have been more to it than seen in the film, it appeared to be a desert world with a definite Egyptian motif, which nonetheless managed to sustain a rather large population of human slaves. Ra took the ancestors of these slaves from Earth, so they are not native to Ra’s slave world.

The mere existence of the stargates suggests an obvious adventure possibility: One or more tablets must be recovered to open the stargate, either to pass through it initially or to return home thereafter. If this brings Perils of the Purple Planet to your mind, you’re not alone. I would not be surprised if Stargate was inspirational to some aspects of Harley Stroh’s masterpiece.

Domesticated Animal

The one creature we see which is, presumably, native to Ra’s slave world is a domesticated creature – strong, easily spooked, but apparently also reasonably friendly and loyal. It has a good sense of smell, apparently using it to find the sparse vegetation on the slave world, as well as the occasional chocolate bar travellers might be carrying.

This creature also gives us a good example of a really bad Luck check. When you burn too much Luck, ropes just kind of get wrapped around your ankle, and creatures sort of drag you through the sand for a while. Luckily, in this case, it was all subdual damage.

Domesticated animal from Ra’s slave world: Init +0; Atk bite +0 melee (1d4) or kick +1 melee (1d3); AC 12; HD 3d8+3; MV 40’; Act 1d20; SP strong sense of smell; SV Fort +5, Ref +1, Will +0; AL N.

Special Encounter: This creature is a stray, wearing a harness with a long, dangling rope. The first being who approaches it must succeed in a Luck check, or the creature is spooked, running away for 1d5+4 turns. Unless the approaching PC succeeds in a DC 10 Reflex save, the rope catches around his ankle, allowing the creature to drag him away. The sand causes 1d5 subdual damage for each turn of dragging. A PC rendered unconscious in this way awakes to the animal licking him in the face.

Troopers

Ra is protected and served by troopers wearing futuristic armour. Their animal-headed masks withdraw at will, disappearing completely into the body of the armour. Trooper armour has a +4 AC bonus, a –4 check penalty, and a d8 fumble die. This armour reduces movement by 5’.

Trooper weapons are treated as polearms with slashing blades (1d10), but they can also fire an energy beam up to 500’ (3d6). Once fired, these weapons need time to recharge – there is a 1 in 5 chance per round that the weapon is ready to fire again (i.e., 1 in 5 on the first round, 2 in 5 on the second round, etc.). If an attempt to fire the weapon is made before the recharge cycle is complete on the 5th round, and the weapon is not recharged, nothing is accomplished apart from looking menacing.

NOTE: PCs may spend Luck to move the recharge die roll in their favour. For example, if John Denver fires a trooper weapon one round, and then tries to fire it again on the subsequent round, he rolls a die to see if it can fire. It comes up a “3”. By spending two points of Luck (3 – 2 = 1), he can shift that to a successful recharge.

Trooper: Init +0; Atk polearm +1 melee (1d10) or energy beam +3 ranged (3d6); AC 14; HD 1d6; MV 25’; Act 1d20; SP weapon recharge; SV Fort +3, Ref +1, Will +0; AL L.

It should be noted that Ra’s troopers are human. They are simply the most privileged slaves on a slave world. Both armour and weapons are powered by a unique, unnamed metal that has the ability to store and amplify power.

Air Support

Some of the troopers also fly cool-looking fighters, which are presumably capable of travelling in space as well as in the atmosphere. A half-way descent tactician would use these far more effectively than Ra. Ra uses them for the occasional strafing run and little else. Perhaps this is due to a limitation on Ra’s unique metal’s storage capacities…the Crawljammer stats below assume that this is the case.

Ra’s fighter: Init +3; Atk energy beams +3 ranged (2d6); AC 15; HD 5d10; MV 90’; Act 1d20; SV Fort +5, Ref +5, Will +2; Crit d8; Fumble d4; Composition: metal; Luck pool: 0.

Strafing Run: The sky is split by the scream of alien ships. They pulse beams of blue fire toward the people massed below, followed by panic, screams, and explosions.

Somehow, for all their destructiveness, the strafing runs seldom injure important characters. Each PC (and significant NPC) make a Luck check. On a failure, they take 2d6 damage from incidental shrapnel, trampling, etc. If an NPC has no Luck score, assume success 50% of the time. Background NPCs are not so fortunate – 3d8 of them are killed. The judge may modify the number killed depending upon circumstances.

Miracles and Wonders

Teleporters: Ra has mastered the use of teleporting machines. Each of these machines must have a terminal at both ends to function.

Resurrection: Ra has a machine that can resurrect the fallen. If recently slain (within 48 hours), the machine is 100% effective, and the subject suffers no ability score loss. Every day thereafter, there is a 5% reduction in the chance of a successful resurrection, and a +5% chance that a point is lost from a random ability score (not including Luck). If an ability point is lost, there is chance that another point is lost (base chance –10%). If that is lost, there is another chance (10% less than the previous) that another point is lost, and so on, until the chance reaches 0 or it is rolled without ability point loss.

Non-human characters have a –25% chance of resurrection, and a +25% chance of ability point loss if resurrection succeeds. Something about humans makes them easier for Ra’s machines to repair.



Nameless Metal: In its pure form, this may be used as a special material component in spells which capture or release energy. The caster gains a +1 bonus to the spell check for every ½ pound of the metal sacrificed for this purpose. Extracting this metal to a usable form for spellcasting requires an Intelligence-based DC 20 Skill check related to smelting, metallurgy, or smithcraft. Failure by 5 or more causes an explosion for 1d6 damage per ½ pound of metal, with a radius of 30’. Failure by 10 or more doubles both damage and radius. A natural “1” on a failed check triples the damage and radius.

Ra

Long ago, an alien from an unnamed species was dying, and searched the universe for the means to stave off death. Eventually, it came to Earth, where it became known to the Egyptians as the god, Ra. By possessing a human host, the alien was able to prolong life indefinitely. Although Ra now appears as a rather androgynous adolescent boy, when he is angry flashes of the possessing alien become visible – a dark-eyed creature similar in many ways to the classic “Close Encounters”-type aliens.

When Ra strikes a creature, there is a 1 in 3 chance that an energy discharge will cause an additional 1d6 damage and fling the creature back 3d6 feet. Any creature subject to this attack must roll a DC 10 Fort save or drop any held items, and a DC 15 Reflex save or be knocked prone.

Ra: Init +3; Atk unarmed strike +3 melee (1d5) or by weapon +5 melee; AC 13; HD 8d6; hp 30; MV 30’; Act 2d20; SP energy discharge, regenerate 3 hp/round, damage reduction 5; SV Fort +5, Ref +5, Will +10; AL L.

Goa'uld System Lords and Anubis Prime

In the movie, Ra was the last of a humanoid alien species, but in the television series he was one of the “Goa’uld System Lords” – a species of eel-like parasites from planet P3X-888, which could infest and possess humanoid hosts. Remorseless creatures bent on dominating others, the Goa’uld parasites could be encountered on many worlds. The most powerful of these creatures was known as Anubis. Anubis was so dangerous that even the other Goa'uld System Lords didn’t want him around.


I don’t have enough knowledge of the Stargate universe to even attempt to stat out the Goa’uld System Lords or Anubis. Anyone more knowledgeable than myself, who cares to take a crack at it in the comments section, is more than welcome to do so!


Friday, 8 May 2015

In Memoriam: Walter Wessell IV

I am usually pretty good at writing, but there are just some things that the heart shies away from. My nephew Wally, Walter W. Wessel IV, died on 30 April 2015, at the too-young age of 21.

There simply are no words. My heart aches for his lost potential, and for the suffering of my sister and her family.

Loved by many. Gone too soon,

Wally loved the outdoors especially spending time in the woods where his mind was free. He touched every person he met and left them with a smile on their face. 

He was a shining light that will be deeply missed by by his parents Vickie and Walter and his sister Amber Vandeneck. He will also be missed by his nieces, nephew, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and many great friends.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Reaction Rolls Made Simple

Thanks to the thread about Jim Wampler's Mutant Crawl Classics, I learned about this man who makes specialty dice.  That die pictured? That's one of his emoticon dice. The picture is from his website.

I just asked about ordering several of them. Here's why:

In Dungeon Crawl Classics, normal ability modifiers range from -3 to +3. If you have an encounter where you need a reaction roll, and no Personality modifier is involved, roll one of these dice. If there is a Personality modifier involved, roll one die per point of modifier. If the modifier is a penalty, select the worst result. If the modifier is a bonus, select the best result. Instant reaction rolls!


If you need a reaction for the party as a whole, determine the total modifier and then roll that many dice (or one die, if the total modifier is +/-0.

Plus, the emoticons are easy to read. The images here are also from the dice webpage.

It is pretty easy to see how you can make modifiers by adding or subtracting dice to determine reaction as well.

(Of course, this is really all about wanting cool new dice.)

Saturday, 18 April 2015

More on the CE Series

Cross-posted from Google+, where Mark Gedak from Purple Duck Games was asking for feedback on the CE Series. I was going to link to the request, but to my chagrin I don't seem able to figure out how to find the hyperlink for specific Google+ threads. Hopefully, one or more kind readers can help me out....?

Anyway, related to the CE Series:

Writing these things was driven by a need at my own gaming table. The core rules suggest "Quest for it" as the default answer to any special character abilities, and I wanted to have areas prewritten for my own game that work with that core concept.

CE 1 allows a thief to conduct a legendary burglary, but it also allows a wizard or elf to deal with corruption, and offers a cleric a cult to belong to, or oppose.

CE 2 is largely designed to offer wizards a unique patron that works within the confines of the world, but it also can be used to "harden" a border region by making a mountain pass more difficult, can potentially offer an unusual paramour for one or more PCs, and offers two humanoid groups that the PCs can play off one another.

CE 3 makes passage through a swamp region interesting, despite recurrence, and offers the judge a way to build a story through multiple excursions (even when travel is not the focus of those excursions). 

CE 4 potentially gives warriors a boost, but also includes an oracular device that could bring the PCs back to the vicinity repeatedly. Or could be used against the PCs.

CE 5 has a base adventure, but also offers a quick set of mutations for the DCC game, including some mutated critters. It introduces an organization that the PCs could join, or (more likely) come into conflict with.

CE 6 offers something for the cleric, something for the wizard, and a good piece of backdrop against which many conflicts could be staged. The goal was to create setting conflict that could be ramped up as the PCs continue to change things around them, eventually leading to a high-level epic endgame.

From where I am sitting, there is a reason that DCC Lankhmar is such a big deal. There is a reason why people enjoy the background materials for Purple Planet and Chained Coffin. Even if the background details are not the focus of the adventure at hand, having those details to weave into your adventures is important.

That's what I want the CE Series to do. Yes, each can be used for a discrete evening's game session. You can sack the temple, or fight/parley your way through the mountain pass. You can try to dig up treasure hidden in the swamp or you can fight to prove yourself worthy to Sir Amoral.

But....what if your treasure hoard includes a map to buried treasure? CE 3 has you covered. You can do that. What if your wizard needs to learn a new spell? CE 2 and CE 6 might come into play. What if your players want to learn something esoteric? CE 2 and CE 4 might be your babies. Corruption your elf just can't live with any more? Break out CE 1.

Running Purple Planet? The Pellas Troth and Mahmat Troth are now renegade kith tribes, and the Black Goat dwells in a pass in the Ancestor Peaks. Or, if you need them to be, they are groups of disfigured Shudfolk in the milieu of The Chained Coffin.

Anyway, that is how I intended them to be used - set pieces to work with PC quests, treasure maps, tying unrelated adventures together, and enriching the sense of a living Appendix N world.

(If you know your Appendix N well, you will recognize strong homages in all of the CE series.)

They're not exactly traditional adventures. Every one of them has the potential to be used as a traditional adventure, and you will get your money's worth. But if you use them as they are intended to be used, your PCs will return to the material again and again, seeking ways to take advantage of the persistent elements. You will have persistent elements that can be used again and again to strengthen other adventures, and make them more personal to the players. In this way, you will get many times your money's worth. Or, you will if your table is anything like mine.




Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Bending Time & Space: Kzaddich & Tsalakians

Footprints, the free electronic magazine put out by Dragonsfoot, introduces the Kzaddich and Tsalakian (creator John Turcotte) in Issue 13. The original work is copyright © 2008 John Turcotte, and I make no contest to this copyright. Moreover, I highly encourage you to check out Footprints and the other free resources available at Dragonsfoot, as well as dropping by their forums.

Mr. Turcotte says, in his Author’s Note, that these creatures came to him in a dream, wherein they were part of the Fiend Folio II, which he located in a game store in The Hague.

Kzaddich

Kzaddich: Init +8; Atk by weapon +3 melee (by weapon) or by weapon +1 ranged (by weapon); AC 26; HD 1d8+1; MV 30’ or levitate 10’; Act 2d20; SP cannot be surprised, haste, psionic blast, time travel, telepathy, “death throes”, magic resistance, immune to charm and hold, self-healing, augury; SV Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +9; AL L.

A strange species from another time, or from outside time altogether, the Kzaddich may be from the distant past or future, or from some alternate temporal plane. They are the mortal enemies of the Tsalakians (see below), and are most often encountered working against Tsalakian interests.

The Kzaddich (singular and plural) appear as cloaked man-sized figures, their features completely hidden by their cowls. Their true form appears to be an amalgamation of shifting, softly glowing spheres in a rough approximation of a bipedal form, but this may be nothing more than what their multi-dimensional shapes appear like to our temporally limited eyes. Their voices sound like wind chimes, and they have a natural telepathic ability to a range of 120’. This same telepathy allows them to make a psionic blast attack at an enemy target within 90’, causing 2d6 damage (Will DC 15 for half).

The Kzaddich can slip in and out of the time-stream at will, resulting in their high initiative bonus, AC, and saving throw bonuses. As a result, they are exceedingly difficult to harm. Their magic resistance allows them to save against any spell, even if no save is normally allowed, saving at the spell check value if a lower DC is not listed in the spell description. If a spell normally allows a save, the Kzaddich take half damage if the save is failed, and are completely unaffected if they successfully save. They  cannot be affected by anything, magical or otherwise, that affects time or causes aging.

The Kzaddich perceive the past, present, and potential futures, making them impossible to surprise, and making them able to make predictions with a 90% chance of success. A Kzaddich can stop time twice per day, for 2 rounds, bringing up to two touched beings with it into the stopped time.

Although the Kzaddich are predominantly pacifists, when attacked they can speed themselves up, gaining an additional Action Die and increasing their move to 45’ for 1d5 rounds. A wounded Kzaddich can use an Action Die to rapidly heal 1d3 damage. If reduced to 0 hp, or otherwise faced with certain capture or death, a Kzaddich simply slips into the far future or past to avoid the situation.

According to the sage Turcotte the Dreamer, “Almost nothing is known of the Kzaddich culture. They vie against the machinations of the Tsalakians on a scale that mortal creatures cannot comprehend and hint at a vast war between the two races. Kzaddich do not appear to have individual names, but often adopt pseudonyms when dealing with others (who they refer to, not unkindly, as ‘linears’).

Tsalakians

Tsalakian: Init +5; Atk bite +3 melee (1d4); AC 20; HD 2d8+2; MV 20’ or infinite; Act 4d20; SP bend and fold space, teleport, empathic projection, immune to mind-affecting and paralysis, special senses, magic resistance, free action, death throes; SV Fort +5, Ref +9, Will +0; AL C.

The Tsalakians appear as tall men, completely enshrouded in cloaks, their faces concealed by heavy cowls. They can speak any language, using voices that seem to come from random, ever-changing, locations all around them. The Tsalakians come from outside normal space-time, and their true forms are difficult to comprehend. The sage Turcotte the Dreamer describes them, uncloaked, as “a blurry whirl of teeth forming a rough approximation of a man-like form.”

These creatures, said to be the servitors of some great malign power, have no individual will of their own. Their origin is unknown, but they seek always to cause great harm. They oppose, and are opposed by, the Kzaddich. Preferring to work through others, they perpetually strive to bend all other sentient beings to the will of their dread master. The sage Turcotte the Dreamer does not identify this being, but it is suspected by some that Pesh Joomang (http://ravencrowking.blogspot.ca/2014/06/pesh-joomang-gate-and-keeper.html), the Patron of Patrons, might be the Dread Master of the Tsalalkians, as He is the Dark Master of the Judges of Spellburn.

Tsalakians can bend and fold through space, and are able to attack from multiple locations at once. They can thus attack any opponent within 20’, and never offer a free attack when withdrawing. Although they shuffle along when pretending to be humanoid, in truth they can travel an infinite distance during any round, ignoring physical or magic obstacles in their path, using an inborn form of teleportation. When slain, a Tsalakian disappears in a howling void of folded space, getting ever smaller until it can no longer be seen. Still, its anguished cries remain dimly audible for 1d5 rounds.

Tsalakians can detect hidden spaces, being able to “see” around corners and through walls, floors, and ceilings. They are never surprised, except when magic is used, for they cannot perceive invisible, out of phase, ethereal or astral objects or creatures, although they can see anything hidden in shadows or otherwise concealed without magic. Although Tsalakians are generally immune to mind-affecting spells and effects, they can be fooled by illusions. They automatically detect alignment and magic through their weird senses.

Like the Kzaddich, Tsalakians have magic resistance which allows them to save against any spell, even if no save is normally allowed, saving at the spell check value if a lower DC is not listed in the spell description. If a spell normally allows a save, a Tsalakian takes half damage if the save is failed, and is completely unaffected if successful. In addition, they cannot be restrained by any impediment, paralysis, or magical hold.

Tsalakians detect the emotions of others, and can project emotions empathically, allowing them to cast cause fear at will, by using all of their Action Dice for that round.  This works similarly to the ability to instill fear with a result of 20-23 when casting Ekim’s mystical mask, except that it affects all targets within 20’ or the Tsalakian and the save is only DC 15. They can project other emotions as well as fear, and the judge can use the spell result as a rough gauge of the effects of other emotions.

The sage also wrote, “Tsalakians, when encountered, are usually in the act of planning or carrying out some great ill, for they prefer to work through others, themselves remaining out of the fray if possible, revealing their fearsome abilities only if pressed. Their hatred of the Kzaddich knows no bounds and they can detect the presence of those creatures and will always attack them on sight.”

Psionics

Both the Kzaddich and the Tsalakians are described by their author as having power psionic powers. Although it is beyond the scope of this blog post to create an entire system of psychic abilities, the judge is encouraged to consider the psionics systems presented in The Wizardarium of Calabraxis or Crawljammer#3, both of which are resources that any self-respecting judge should own in any event. Barring those resources, roll 1d7 and consult the table from the Githyanki/Githzerai posting on this blog.

Uses

The eternal war between the Kzaddich and the Tsalakians could easily appear in the background of many an adventure. Especially given the methodology of the Tsalakians, who prefer to act through others, they could easily be behind the events of even high-level adventures. The Kzaddich give aid, specifically in the form of information, but prefer to avoid direct confrontation as well.


Even so, the best use I can imagine for both creatures is in a 0-level funnel, where the PCs may not initially know that the Kzaddich are well-meaning. I think that would make a fun, and possibly very creepy, adventure.