Wednesday 14 August 2019

Testimony of the Ancients

Okay, this is another album cover requested by Doomsayer. Never let it be said that I don't respond to reader comments!

(Even if those responses are not always timely!)

At first glance, this appears rather static, with little to stat. Looking closer, we see some form of mummy-like cadavers in the must guess that there are 16 of them in the chamber. There are also what appear to be swarms of worms at various points. Finally, what is that armillary sphere doing floating over a hollow stone column?

Without further ado....

The High Citadel of VanDrunen is situated far up Mount Mameli, were a central shaft leads downward from the highest redoubt into an unknown dimension revealed to man only through realms unseen, where there is no light and light cannot be.

From this high place, the Pestilent Ones perform ceremonies to summon gods from the Outer Dark to inhabit their bodies, burning them from within and without, but allowing them to take on forms that are immortal save injury or accident. When a Pestilent One has lived as long as they wish to live within a given body, another ceremony is held to conjure a demon to replace the god, making their bodies mortal - subject to disease, poison, and aging once more. The Pestilent One sacrifices themselves to the Shaft of Eternity, and is incarnated again in a new form. This process inevitably drives them mad.

The Pestilent Ones

The Pestilent Ones have the combines spellcasting abilities of a level 3 wizard and a level 3 cleric, but do not gain the ability to lay on hands, turn the unholy, or request divine aid. They cannot utilize spellburn. Most Pestilent Ones have the spells listed, but the judge may change spells in specific cases.

If a Pestilent One is reduced to 0 hp, it collapses into a Wormswarm of the Outer Dark (see below). If the wormswarm can make it to the Shaft of Eternity before being destroyed, the Pestilent One can be reincarnated.

Pestilent One: Init +0; Atk by weapon +3 melee (by weapon) or by spell; AC 10; HD 4d6+4; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP spellcasting (+4 bonus to spell checks), immortality, death throes, immune to mind-affecting; SV Fort +2, Ref +2, Will +4; AL C.
     Spells (cleric): Detect magic, holy sanctuary, paralysis, second sight, word of command, banish, binding, and neutralize poison or disease.
     Spells (wizard): Charm person, chill touch, choking cloud, magic shield, and ward portal.

The Sphere of Time

This appears to be an armillary sphere, similar to those used to track the motions of stars and planets, which is kept suspended over the Shaft of Eternity. In fact, it is a more complicated device than this, used to select worlds and times wherein those sacrificed to the Well of Eternity will incarnate anew.

Operating the Sphere of Time requires both an Intelligence check and a spell check. The Intelligence check determines the accuracy with which a being can select a past time period. The spell check (DC 15) arms the Sphere and allows the Shaft of Eternity to be used.

If a PC attempts to use the Sphere, the following results occur depending upon the value of the Intelligence check:

5 or less
Off by 1d7billion years. If you predate life, no reincarnation is possible. If you predate the planet, you may get lucky and coincide with some interstellar lifeform….
6 to 10
Off by 1d100 million years. Enjoy the serpent-men and the dinosaurs!
11 to 15
Off by 1d10 million years.  Now is a good time to dust off The Tribe of Ogg and the Gift of Suss!
16 to 17
Off by 1d30 centuries.
18 to 19
Off by 1d10 decades.
20 to 21
Off by 1d10 years.
22 to 23
Off by 1d12 months.
24 to 25
Off by 1d30 days.
26 to 27
Off by 1d24 hours.
28 to 29
Off by 2d30 minutes.
30 or better
On target!

Note that when a result is off, it always appears at an earlier time than intended. Note also that, if the Sphere of Time is removed, it could potentially be used in conjunction with planar step as a form of dangerous time travel.

The Shaft of Eternity

If a creature falls down the Shaft of Eternity, it is reincarnated (if possible) at whatever point the Sphere of Time last indicated. If the Sphere is removed, the falling creature is lost forever into the Void of Time. Climbing the Shaft is a DC 25 task, and a check must be made for every 15' climbed. If a climber passes out of sight, treat it as though they have fallen.

Guardians of VanDrunen

The 16 Guardians of VanDrunen protect the Shaft of Eternity from any who approach it, unless they are Pestilent Ones. On a successful strike, a Guardian infests its target with flesh-eating worms (Fort or Reflex DC 12 avoids). The target takes an additional 1d3 damage each round until the worms are removed, and multiple hits stack. These worms can be removed with 3 HD of clerical healing, of with the application of fire (causing 1d6 damage) and a successful DC 15 Intelligence check.

The Guardians are immune to mind-affecting attacks and cold, but take twice normal damage from fire. They are not truly alive, dead, or un-dead, being wholly outside the natural order, and can be Turned as Unholy by clerics of any alignment.

Guardian of VanDrunen: Init +0; Atk slam +5 melee (1d4+2 plus flesh-eating worms); AC 12; HD 5d12+5; MV 20’; Act 1d20; SP flesh-eating worms, immune to mind-affecting and cold, double damage from fire, Unholy to all; SV Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +5; AL N.

Wormswarm of the Outer Dark

A wormswarm fills a 20 x 20 area, and attacks all creatures within that area. It can move, including withdrawing from combat, without provoking a free attack. The wormswarm will always attempt to escape to the Shaft of Eternity, inflicting as much damage as it can on the way. If a single worm escapes, the Pestilent One it is part of may be reincarnated.

A creature affected by the wormswarm's poison is slowly polluted by the Outer Dark. Such a being develops a new corruption every 1d3 months until the poison is neutralized. After each corruption, the victim is allowed a new save, but the DC increases by +1 for each minor corruption, +2 for each major corruption, and +5 for each greater corruption the being suffers. The spell check needed to neutralize the poison (through Lay on Hands or by spell) is increased by a like amount. For each new corruption, roll 1d7 modified by Luck: (1 or less) greater corruption, (2-4) major corruption, or (5 or greater) lesser corruption.

Note to Judges: If a wormswarm (or part of a wormswarm) escapes into the Shaft of Eternity, the reincarnated Pestilent One may immediately return, fully healed, to join the combat. For the PCs, but a moment has passed. For the Pestilent One, years, centuries, or even millennia may have gone by. Certainly the returning Pestilent One will know far more about the PCs than it previously did!

Wormswarm of the Outer Dark: Init +0; Atk swarming bite -1 melee (1 plus poison); AC 11; HD 2d8; MV 20’; Act special; SP bite all targets within 20’ x 20’ space, half damage from non-area attacks, poison (Fort DC 5 negates); SV Fort +3, Ref +5, Will +6; AL C.

You can listen to the full album here.

Monday 12 August 2019

The Lord of the Rings on Appendix N Bookclub

I was fortunate enough to be a guest, twice, on the Appendix N Book Club. The first time, we discussed J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring. The second time, we discussed The Two Towers

For another take on The Two Towers, here is Anna B. Meyer on the Appendix N Book Club.

Sunday 11 August 2019

Advice For Beginning Judges

Things you should know when embarking on a career as a DCC judge:

  • There are a bunch of tables which actually add to the fun. Weird, but true. I have never seen a critical hit and fumble system that made the game better before this.

  • Start with a funnel. You can relax about learning the rules/killing PCs, and the players can relax about PCs dying. In the funnel, they operate several until you winnow them down.

  • The DCC ruleset is actually minimalist, but so is the official lore. This doesn't mean that you cannot use the lore from any game that you wish....but I would consider, strongly, creating your own vast lore through play. In DCC, players encounter the unknown. There is a lot of emphasis on how little the players know about adventure locations, creatures, and magic items going into the game. The GM (judge) is encouraged to Make Monsters Mysterious, so that even a lowly goblin might not be recognized by the PCs for what it is. Tools are given to help you in this.

  • The consequence is that, in an adventure, you can include anything you can think of. You do not have to do any complicated math to create monsters, either. There are several blogs with creatures you can use (Appendix M in particular, and my own blog). There are also several products to help you create monsters....and you can easily convert any monsters from other game systems. A breakdown of how to create monsters can be found here. It might sound complicated as I broke it down in the blog post, but it is pretty easy. By your third or fourth creature, it will be second nature.

  • Some things are left intentionally vague. This is so that you can make rulings, or use the rules you like from other RPGs. If you decide to roll 1d10 + modifiers for initiative, you are not doing it wrong. Page 312 of the core rulebook contains the most important rule of the game.....The rules bend to you, not the other way around.

  • PCs are going to die. Other PCs are going to become incredibly powerful. It is not your job to ameliorate either of these outcomes. The dice will, sooner or later, give that powerful PC a critical hit from a monster that brings him down a peg. Another character will rise to fill the vacuum.

  • Quest For It is the beating heart of DCC. There are no feats, for example, but if a character wants a special ability, you can make learning how to obtain it part of the treasure for one adventure, and then make actually obtaining it part of another adventure. Or you can just let the PC go learn it for a month, but then owe something to the legendary being who taught her. The game includes many ways where player actions and/or desires can drive the storyline of the game - use them!

  • Consider looking at some of the published adventures, both from Goodman Games and from third party publishers, to get an idea of how to design for this game. But, even more importantly, go back and read some of the early fantasy works listed in Appendix N, and use them as direct inspiration. Make your own stuff! And then share it with the community!

  • Speaking of which, this is a great community, and you will find people willing to help you with any problems you might encounter!