Saturday 26 December 2020

Kovacsian Wizard Snowman

Kovacsian Wizard Snowman: Init +4; Atk scratch +0 melee (1d3) or snowball +3 ranged (1d3 cold plus possible Stamina damage) or harmful spell; AC 12; HD 6d8; MV 20’; Act 2d20; SP snowballs, harmful spells, burst, immunity to cold, fire vulnerability, hat; SV Fort +5, Ref –3, Will +8; AL C.

These evil snowmen can hurl snowballs up to 30 feet away, which cause 1d3 points of damage due to intense cold. If the target does not make a DC 10 Fort save, he also suffers 1 point of Stamina damage due to cold. When a snowman is slain, its three snowballs burst into a spray of cold in a 10' radius which causes 1d3 points of temporary Agility damage unless a DC 10 Fort save succeeds.

A Kovacsian Wizard Snowman can also cast spells, and prefers this method of attack. Whenever a Kovacsian Wizard Snowman casts a spell, roll 1d7 to determine the result:

1.    The snowman creates a ball of green energy and hurls it at a foe with a +3 attack bonus. If it hits, it does 2d6 damage and the green energy turns blood red before dissipating (Fort DC 15 for half damage).

2.    A Green Whisp is summoned, and remains for 1d5 rounds before folding in upon itself and vanishing. Green Whisp: Init +4; Atk bite +2 melee (1d5); AC 8; HD 1d3; MV fly 40’; Act 1d20; SP immunity to heat and cold, immunity to non-magical weapons; SV Fort +0, Ref +4, Will +0; AL C.

3.    A Green Whisp is summoned (as above), but it continues to attack the snowman's enemies until slain or otherwise dealt with.

4.    The snowman creates a green portal field and hurls it at an enemy. The enemy must succeed in a DC 15 Reflex save or be captured by the portal and sent elsewhere. The judge may choose where the hapless adventurer is sent, or may roll 1d5: (1) The depths of space, (2) the Meat Planet, (3) Flammable Hospital, (4) on the track of Inferno Road, or (5) a lonely asteroid ruin in the midst of a Dog Storm!

5.    A barrage of 3d3 emerald icicles shoots forth, each of which can target a different foe! They are +3 to hit and do 1d3 damage on a successful strike. 

6.    A great wave of cold washes out from the snowman. All within 30' take 1d12 damage (Fort DC 15 for half).

7.    One target within 30' must succeed on a DC 20 Fort save or take 1d12 points of cold damage each round until the Kovacsian Wizard Snowman is slain. If the unfortunate target should fall to 0 hp before the snowman is defeated, they are transformed into a second Kovacsian Wizard Snowman, which immediately attacks their former allies!

Kovacsian Wiazard Snowmen are vulnerable to fire, taking twice the normal damage from heat-based attacks. A snowman who dies due to fire damage does not burst into a spray of cold, either.

The hat of a Kovacsian Wizard Snowman can be removed with a successful Mighty Deed. This causes the snowman to slow down (a cumulative –2 to initiative count each round), and its magic becomes less powerful (roll at -1d on the dice chain per round to determine spell effects, so 1d6 on the 1st round, 1d5 on the 2nd round, 1d4 on the 3rd round, and 1d3 on the 4th round; the snowman cannot thereafter cast spells unless it recovers its hat). The snowman ceases to be animated when its initiative count reaches 0, unless it can recover its hat. Placing the hat back upon its head restores the snowman to its original initiative count. A Kovacsian Wizard Snowman is not “slain” if it stops moving because of losing its hat, and does not burst.

(This creature is based off of the evil snowmen in The Perils of the Cinder Claws and the awesome artwork of the fantastic Doug Kovacs, which is used here with love but without permission.)

Friday 25 December 2020

Killer Christmas Tree


Killer Christmas Tree: Init +4; Atk spinning slam +5 melee (2d6); AC 14; HD 2d8; MV 20’; Act 1d20; SP camouflage (surprise 2 in 3), festive music, can destroy intervening objects, construct (immune to poisons, mind-affecting, paralysis, etc.), vulnerability (x2 damage) to sonic attacks; SV Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +0; AL N.

Saturday 5 December 2020

Frodo, Bilbo, Conan, and Aragorn


A lot of the advice I write is for Game Masters, because I spend a considerable amount of my gaming time on that side of the screen. The other night, though, I was thinking about Sword & Sorcery characters, Appendix N, and the Fabulous Baggins Boys.

Frodo is a character fleeing from danger and into greater danger. He does take responsibility for his choices, but he is largely reactive to the greater forces acting on and around him. He loves to talk about adventure with his uncle, but his greatest achievement is his willingness to sacrifice himself. Interesting to read, yes. Interesting to play? Probably considerably less so. 

Conversely, Bilbo, while initially a reluctant adventurer, really takes to it once he has decided his course. He tries to pick the troll's pockets due to a sense of professional pride. Once he has escaped the goblins, he really does consider going back under the Misty Mountains to look for his party. And, of course, he ends up having plans of his own - eventually becoming the driving force of the narrative (at least until the Battle of Five Armies). If you don't know what I am talking about here, forget the movies and read the book.

Frodo is driven by the pressures of the narrative. Bilbo takes the pressures of the narrative, and bends them to meet his personal goals. The closest that Frodo comes to this is when he chooses to accept Golum's aid - and, in the movies, this is played as though Frodo is a patsy to the wily Smeagol, whereas in the novel, he knows exactly what he is doing.

It is completely okay to play a reluctant hero. Both Frodo and Bilbo are examples of that trope, but unless you want the GM to continually drive your character's decisions, it is better to model a PC off of Bilbo than Frodo. Don't allow the needs of the Valar to move you; allow your own goals and dreams to determine what you do. 

It is important to have goals. 

Robert E. Howard's Conan is a fantastic example of a character who drives his own fate. Even when others hire him, or attempt to manipulate him, Conan always has his own goals. There is more than one Conan story where a fundamental source of tension occurs because Conan's goals are not those the people around him want them to be - even is their coin is in his pocket!

It might not be obvious the first time one reads The Lord of the Rings - and they changed it in the movies! - but Aragorn is not a reluctant hero. He is, in fact, eager to sit on the throne of Gondor. Only when he is king can he wed Arwen, who he has loved for decades. The need to thwart Sauron is an impediment to his goals. Once he is able to finally act on them, he never loses sight of either the need to defeat Sauron or his hopes for the throne and marriage thereafter.

In game terms, a PC like Frodo is reacting to whatever the GM throws at him, whereas a Conan is actively forcing the GM to react to what he does. And an Aragorn or a Bilbo is actively trying to turn the narrative toward the direction he desires.

Have goals. It makes the game more interesting for everyone involved. And, if you have goals, the GM can use those goals as adventure hooks, making a game far more personal for your character (and, by extension, you). It doesn't even matter if your goals sometime conflict with those of your party members - that tension will add spice to the game so long as it remains in the game, and we all try to remember that everyone is there to have fun. 

If you want to make the game more fun, have goals. Be prepared to add goals. Be prepared to turn the game to meet your needs. Take possession of it. Just don't do so to make it worse for the other people at the table. And be prepared to meet a particularly grisly or heroic fate if your goals demand it.

"Quest For It" is the beating heart of Dungeon Crawl Classics. Really, it is the beating heart of role-playing games. Quest for something