Monday, December 17, 2018

Carcosa - Differentiating Races by Skills

In Geoffrey McKinney's Carcosa, the rainbow people of the titular alien planet have little to differentiate them mechanically. This isn't necessarily a problem, but I would personally prefer some kind of obvious difference in capabilities for each race, just to make the process of character creation and advancement more interesting. This post is just a simple way to try and add such variety using LotFP's skill system and some good old fashioned house rules.

I'm assuming here that all PCs are fighters and/or sorcerers. If the specialist class from LotFP is in use, I probably wouldn't use these house rules on top of that.

Skills and the Races of Carcosa
When it comes to Player Characters, each race of humans on Carcosa specializes in three skills. At first level, a PC will have 2 ranks in each specialized skill and 1 rank in all other skills (with the exception of Psionics - see below). Every time a PC gains a new experience level, they may choose one of their specialized skills to increase by one rank.

The skill list (mostly taken from HERE) consists of the following:
  1. Architecture
  2. Athletics (combines Climbing, Open Doors, and Swimming into one skill)
  3. Bushcraft
  4. Languages
  5. Medicine (see the LotFP Playtest Document 0.1 or Eldritch Cock)
  6. Psionics (see below)
  7. Stealth
  8. Tinkering.
Skill Specializations by Race
  • Red - Bushcraft, Languages, Medicine
  • Orange - Athletics, Languages, Stealth
  • Yellow - Architecture, Bushcraft, Psionics
  • Green - Architecture, Athletics, Bushcraft
  • Blue - Athletics, Psionics, Stealth
  • Purple - Languages, Medicine, Psionics
  • Brown - Architecture, Stealth, Tinkering
  • Black - Athletics, Psionics, Tinkering
  • White - Bushcraft, Medicine, Stealth
  • Bone - Medicine, Psionics, Stealth
  • Ulfire - Architecture, Psionics, Tinkering
  • Jale - Languages, Medicine, Tinkering
  • Dolm - Bushcraft, Psionics, Stealth
Most of the skills work the same way as in Lamentations of the Flame Princess. However, Psionics starts at 0 by default instead of 1. For example, a First-Level Orange character would have 0 ranks in Psionics, while a First-Level Yellow character would have 1 rank in Psionics. A character's Psionics score represents the number of times per day they can use a psionic power. A character can gain a maximum of 5 ranks in this skill. Naturally, only a character with at least 1 rank in Psionics can use psionic powers. Psionic powers otherwise follow the rules explained in Carcosa.

If the skill specializations listed above seem too rigid or restrictive, the referee could allow each player to pick one of their PC's skill specializations to replace with a different skill. The replacement skill could be determined randomly or chosen by the player. This way, every race would have some chance of having psionic powers, for example.

NPCs need not universally follow the same skill specializations as PCs, although it may be interesting to further differentiate the various human cultures on Carcosa by having them be renowned for or stereotypically associated with specific skills.

Special thanks to Jessica Stewart for helping me write this post.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Checkpoint Levels - We've Got No Class 2.2 Upgrade Patch

We've Got No Class v2.2
Consider everything to be exactly the same as in Version 2.1 except for the following.

Checkpoint Levels
Player characters gain levels. Players likewise gain "checkpoint levels." A player's checkpoint level in a given campaign is determined by the highest level that any of their PCs have ever reached in that campaign, in accordance with the chart below. At the beginning of the campaign (or the first adoption of these house rules in the campaign), the referee should choose either "Easy Mode" or "Hard Mode" for the purposes of determining what checkpoint levels correspond to what character levels.


If a PC dies, the player of that PC may create a new character within the campaign at any level less than or equal to the player's current checkpoint level. For example, in an Easy Mode campaign, the first time a player succeeds in raising their PC to level 4, their checkpoint level becomes 3; therefore, if the PC dies after that point, the player can make a new character that begins at level 3 (or less, if they so desire).

A PC can lose levels due to magical "energy drain" or other such in-game effects, but a player's checkpoint level never decreases within a given campaign. For example, let's say Susie is playing in a Hard Mode campaign, and the highest level that any of her characters have ever reached is level 9, meaning her checkpoint level is 5. Her current PC happens to be level 9, until she loses 7 levels to the chilling touch of an evil specter, becoming level 2. Susie's checkpoint level remains at 5, even though her current PC is at a lower character level. If her PC dies, she can still make a new character at level 5. If Susie wants to increase her checkpoint level beyond 5, she will still of course need to play at least one PC who survives to level 10 or higher.

(Yes, this means that a player could have their level-drained PC rush recklessly into danger specifically to get killed so they can make a new character at a higher level. I personally think that would almost always be incredibly lame, and I probably won't feel bad if the player gets mocked for this, but it is technically allowed.)

By default, each player can only control one PC at a time.* This does not include retainers, henchmen, etc., as they are technically NPCs controlled by the referee (and are simply "ordered around" by a PC unless the referee explicitly allows otherwise), they are created by the referee rather than a player, and they are not subject to the benefits of a player's checkpoint level.

Characters can only advance up to level 14 in the "We've Got No Class" system of house rules, but I extended the chart to level 21 just in case someone wants to use checkpoint levels outside of this context. Note that "Hard Mode" is actually easier on the players from level 16 on.

*If a referee wishes to allow multiple PCs per player, they could simply determine a player's checkpoint level based on the highest level that any of their PCs have ever reached in the campaign, as usual. This could be prone to exploitation, as a player with one PC at a significantly higher level than all of their other PCs could purposefully kill off their lower-level PCs for instant higher-level replacements, and that would be pretty lame. To prevent this, stricter rules may be desired. For example, the referee could allow each player a certain number of "slots" to be filled with living, active PCs, and require each player to track a separate checkpoint level for each slot.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

LotFP Playtest Pre-Gens (of the Eternal Whatever)

Remember all of those overpowered pre-generated characters I wrote up for LotFP based on the "iconics" in the game's art? Have some more. This time I made them for use with the playtest rules featured in James Edward Raggi IV's Eldritch Cock and the old Playtest Document. I'm curious about what "high-level" play might be like using the playtest rules, so I'm thinking about giving these pre-gens to some friends and running them through a few Basic D&D and/or AD&D modules. I guess that might be a decent way to test the backwards-compatibility of the playtest rules as well.

I couldn't decide what class to make the Flame Princess, so I just went ahead and made three different sets of stats for her. My intention is to only allow one "version" of the character to be in play per adventure or campaign, but I guess you could just make them identical triplets if you want. At any rate, I assumed there was only one Flame Princess for the purposes of dividing the cost of the "Group Gear."


Alice, Level 9 Fighter
320,000 XP, needs 640,000 for next level
CHA 17=Magic Saving Throw 6d6, CON 17,=Hit Die d12
DEX 9=Initiative Die d8, INT 13=Skill Adjustment +2
STR 17=Encumbrance Points 7, WIS 17=Normal Saving Throw 6d6
HP 108, AC 17
Melee AB +10, Ranged AB +10, Firearm AB +10, Guard Bonus +10
Bushcraft +2, Climbing +2, Leadership +3
Encumbrance Points: 3 (Heavily Encumbered)
-Great Mace (Large Weapon), Rapier, Rifled Flintlock Arquebus, Flintlock Pistol x2, Shot Bag x2 (200 bullets), Powder Horn x4 (200 shots of powder), Pikeman's Armor, Buff Coat, Tassets, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, Torch x10, Tinderbox, Waterskin, CestusSling, Backpack, Sack x5, Bottle x4, Steel Mirror, Silver Mirror, Iron Spike x10, Wooden Spike x12, Air Bladder, Candle, Chalk, Ink, Nails, Paper, Pipe, Soap, Whistle, Kingdom Map, Local Map, Silver Holy Symbol, Wooden Holy Symbol
-War Horse carrying Riding Gear, Saddlebag x4, Animal Feed x22, 250 silver pieces


Selena, Level 9 Fighter
320,000 XP, needs 640,000 for next level
CHA 13=Magic Saving Throw 5d6, CON 17,=Hit Die d12
DEX 17=Initiative Die d12, INT 13=Skill Adjustment +2
STR 17=Encumbrance Points 7, WIS 13=Normal Saving Throw 5d6
HP 108, AC 17
Melee AB +10, Ranged AB +10, Firearm AB +10, Guard Bonus +10
Languages +2, Medicine +2, Search +3
Encumbrance Points: 2 (Lightly Encumbered)
-Sword (Medium Weapon), Dagger (Minor Weapon), Rifled Flintlock Arquebus, Flintlock Pistol x2, Shot Bag x2 (200 bullets), Powder Horn x4 (200 shots of powder), Pikeman's Armor, Buff Coat, Tassets, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, Torch x10, Tinderbox, Waterskin, CestusSlingBackpackSack x5Bottle x4Steel MirrorSilver MirrorIron Spike x10Wooden Spike x12Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapWhistleKingdom MapLocal MapSilver Holy SymbolWooden Holy Symbol
-War Horse carrying Riding Gear, Saddlebag x4, Animal Feed x22, 290 silver pieces


Kendra, Level 9 Specialist
320,000 XP, needs 640,000 for next level
CHA 13=Magic Saving Throw 5d6, CON 17,=Hit Die d12
DEX 17=Initiative Die d12, INT 17=Skill Adjustment +5
STR 13=Encumbrance Points 6, WIS 13=Normal Saving Throw 5d6
HP 60, AC 13
Melee AB +1, Ranged AB +0, Firearm AB +1, Guard Bonus +0
Architecture +4, Languages +5, Luck +4, Search +5, Sleight of Hand +4, Stealth +4, Tinkering +4
Encumbrance Points: 1 (Unencumbered)
-Specialist's Tools, Rapier, Dagger (Minor Weapon), Flintlock Pistol x2, Shot Bag (100 bullets), Powder Horn x2 (100 shots), Buff Coat, Torch x10, Tinderbox, Waterskin, GarroteSlingBackpackSack x5Bottle x4Steel MirrorSilver MirrorIron Spike x10Wooden Spike x12Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapWhistleKingdom MapLocal MapSilver Holy SymbolWooden Holy Symbol
-War Horse carrying Riding Gear, Saddlebag x4, Animal Feed x22, 554 silver pieces


Rhona, Level 9 Specialist
320,000 XP, needs 640,000 for next level
CHA 13=Magic Saving Throw 5d6, CON 17,=Hit Die d12
DEX 13=Initiative Die d10, INT 17=Skill Adjustment +5
STR 17=Encumbrance Points 7, WIS 13=Normal Saving Throw 5d6
HP 60, AC 14
Melee AB +0, Ranged AB +1, Firearm AB +1, Guard Bonus +0
Bushcraft +5, Climbing +4, Leadership +4, Medicine +4, Seamanship +4, Search +4, Stealth +5
Encumbrance Points: 1 (Unencumbered)
-Specialist's Tools, Hatchet (Small Weapon), Light Crossbow, Quiver and Bolt x20, Flintlock Pistol x2, Shot Bag (100 bullets), Powder Horn x2 (100 shots), Buff Coat, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, Torch x10, Tinderbox, Waterskin, GarroteSlingBackpackSack x5Bottle x4Steel MirrorSilver MirrorIron Spike x10Wooden Spike x12Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapWhistleKingdom MapLocal MapSilver Holy SymbolWooden Holy Symbol
-War Horse carrying Riding Gear, Saddlebag x4, Animal Feed x22, 499 silver pieces


Étaín, Level 9 Magic-User
320,000 XP, needs 640,000 for next level
CHA 17=Magic Saving Throw 6d6, CON 17,=Hit Die d12
DEX 13=Initiative Die d10, INT 17=Skill Adjustment +5
STR 13=Encumbrance Points 6, WIS 13=Normal Saving Throw 5d6
HP 60, AC 13
Melee AB +1, Ranged AB +0, Firearm AB +1, Guard Bonus +0
Languages +5, Medicine +5
Known Spells: All spells from Vaginas Are Magic, Cure Light Wounds, Identify, Sleep, Summon
Encumbrance Points: 1 (Unencumbered)
-Spellbook, Dagger (Minor Weapon), Flintlock Pistol x2, Shot Bag (100 bullets), Powder Horn x2 (100 shots), Buff Coat, Lantern, Flask of Lantern Oil x10, Tinderbox, Waterskin, SlingBackpackSack x5Bottle x4Steel MirrorSilver MirrorIron Spike x10Wooden Spike x12Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapWhistleKingdom MapLocal MapSilver Holy SymbolWooden Holy Symbol
-War Horse carrying Riding Gear, Saddlebag x4, Animal Feed x22, 567 silver pieces


Manya, Level 9 Magic-User
320,000 XP, needs 640,000 for next level
CHA 17=Magic Saving Throw 6d6, CON 17,=Hit Die d12
DEX 17=Initiative Die d12, INT 17=Skill Adjustment +5
STR 9=Encumbrance Points 5, WIS 13=Normal Saving Throw 5d6
HP 60, AC 12
Melee AB +0, Ranged AB +0, Firearm AB +1, Guard Bonus +1
Languages +5, Luck +2, Search +3
Known Spells: All spells from Eldritch Cock, Cure Light Wounds, Summon
Encumbrance Points: 1 (Unencumbered)
-Spellbook, Dagger (Minor Weapon), Flintlock Pistol x2, Shot Bag (100 bullets), Powder Horn x2 (100 shots), Torch x10, Tinderbox, Waterskin, SlingBackpackSack x5Bottle x4Steel MirrorSilver MirrorIron Spike x10Wooden Spike x12Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapWhistleKingdom MapLocal MapSilver Holy SymbolWooden Holy Symbol
-War Horse carrying Riding Gear, Saddlebag x4, Animal Feed x22, 587 silver pieces


Flame Princess (Version 1), Level 9 Fighter
320,000 XP, needs 640,000 for next level
CHA 18=Magic Saving Throw 6d6, CON 17,=Hit Die d12
DEX 13=Initiative Die d10, INT 17=Skill Adjustment +5
STR 17=Encumbrance Points 7, WIS=18 Normal Saving Throw 6d6
HP 108, AC 17
Melee AB +10, Ranged AB +10, Firearm AB +10, Guard Bonus +10
Leadership +5, Luck +2, Stealth +3
Encumbrance Points: 2 (Lightly Encumbered)
-Sword (Medium Weapon), Rapier, Dagger (Minor Weapon),  Flintlock Pistol x2, Shot Bag (100 bullets), Powder Horn x2 (100 shots), Pikeman's Armor, Buff Coat, Tassets, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, Lantern, Flask of Lantern Oil x10, Tinderbox, Waterskin, CestusSlingBackpackSack x5Bottle x4Steel MirrorSilver MirrorIron Spike x10Wooden Spike x12Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapWhistleKingdom MapLocal MapSilver Holy SymbolWooden Holy Symbol
-War Horse carrying Riding Gear, Saddlebag x4, Animal Feed x22, 422 silver pieces


Flame Princess (Version 2), Level 9 Specialist
320,000 XP, needs 640,000 for next level
CHA 18=Magic Saving Throw 6d6, CON 17,=Hit Die d12
DEX 13=Initiative Die d10, INT 17=Skill Adjustment +5
STR 17=Encumbrance Points 7, WIS 18=Normal Saving Throw 6d6
HP 60, AC 15
Melee AB +1, Ranged AB +0, Firearm AB +1, Guard Bonus +0
Languages +4, Leadership +5, Luck +5, Medicine +4, Search +4, Stealth +4, Tinkering +4
Encumbrance Points: 1 (Unencumbered)
-Specialist's Tools, Sword (Medium Weapon), Rapier, Dagger (Minor Weapon),  Flintlock Pistol x2, Shot Bag (100 bullets), Powder Horn x2 (100 shots), Buff Coat, Tassets, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, Lantern, Flask of Lantern Oil x10, Tinderbox, Waterskin, GarroteSlingBackpackSack x5Bottle x4Steel MirrorSilver MirrorIron Spike x10Wooden Spike x12Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapWhistleKingdom MapLocal MapSilver Holy SymbolWooden Holy Symbol
-War Horse carrying Riding Gear, Saddlebag x4, Animal Feed x22, 477 silver pieces


Flame Princess (Version 3), Level 9 Magic-User
320,000 XP, needs 640,000 for next level
CHA 18=Magic Saving Throw 6d6, CON 17,=Hit Die d12
DEX 13=Initiative Die d10, INT 17=Skill Adjustment +5
STR 17=Encumbrance Points 7, WIS 18=Normal Saving Throw 6d6
HP 60, AC 15
Melee AB +1, Ranged AB +0, Firearm AB +1, Guard Bonus +0
Languages +5, Leadership +5
Known Spells: All First and Second Level Cleric spells, including reversed versions
Encumbrance Points: 1 (Unencumbered)
-Spellbook, Sword (Medium Weapon), Rapier, Dagger (Minor Weapon),  Flintlock Pistol x2, Shot Bag (100 bullets), Powder Horn x2 (100 shots), Buff Coat, Tassets, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, Lantern, Flask of Lantern Oil x10, Tinderbox, Waterskin, SlingBackpackSack x5Bottle x4Steel MirrorSilver MirrorIron Spike x10Wooden Spike x12Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapWhistleKingdom MapLocal MapSilver Holy SymbolWooden Holy Symbol
-War Horse carrying Riding Gear, Saddlebag x4, Animal Feed x22, 482 silver pieces


Group Gear (Total cost of 1990 sp)
Coach
Mule x2
Riding Gear x2
Animal Feed x44
Bedroll x7
Regular Tent x7
Extra Set of Normal Clothing x7
Extravagant Clothing x7
Winter Clothing x7
Crampons x7
Iron Rations x150
Waterskin x7
Cooking Pots
Fishing Gear
Lard x10
Garlic x10
Wolvesbane x4
Tinderbox x7
Torch x100
Lantern x7
Flask of Lantern Oil x50
Sling Bullets x140 (inside Sack x7)
Short Bow x7
Arrow x140 (inside Quiver x7)
Spear x7
10' Pole x6
50' Rope x7
Grappling Hook x7
Block and Tackle
50' Chain
Manacles
Lock x2
Crowbar x7
Drill x2
Miner's Pick x5
Shovel x7
Mallet x7
Wooden Spike x16
Hourglass
Spyglass

Sunday, November 4, 2018

D&D Reskin-O-Matic! (A Knockoff of Zzarchov Kowolski's Convert-O-Tronica)

Zzarchov Kowolski wrote a super cool series of posts in 2013 he dubbed the "Convert-o-tronica" detailing a simple method of changing the flavor of a D&D adventure. I've seen other awesome ideas for "reskinning" (in video game lingo) D&D or OSR material on blogs like Rise Up Comus, Better Legends, and Dungeons & Donuts. Plus there's the excellent work of Emmy Allen. I bet that many readers can think of a multitude of other examples of reskinning projects for D&D and similar games, but these are my favorites at the moment, and Zzarchov Kowolski came up with my favorite method of doing this in a pinch.

I borrowed Mr. Kowolski's format for my own examples below. However, mine differ from (and are frankly inferior to) his examples because most of mine would probably require mechanical changes rather than just new descriptions or "fluff," and thus lack the original concept's ease of use. (That would be fine, except that I haven't provided rules or guidelines for doing so...) Still, I hope you find some enjoyable ideas here.

"Cthulhu Mythos"

Classes
Fighter = Thug or Gangster or Soldier
Magic User = Scientist or Sorcerer
Cleric = Medium or Psychic
Thief = Private Eye or Police Detective
Elf = K'nyanian
Dwarf = Deep One Hybrid
Halfling = "The Locals" (rural folk, although they need not be depicted as poorly as they tended to be in Lovecraft's writing)

Monsters
Goblin = Rat-Thing or Devolved Human
Orc = Deep One
Troll = Dark Young
Skeleton = Ghoul
Lich = The Worm That Walks
Dire Wolf = Hound of Tindalos
Dragon = Shoggoth
Pegasus = Byakhee

Dungeon Dressing
Walls = Cyclopean Basalt Blocks
Doors = Apertures opening at strange angles
"Dust" = Weird Ichor
Chests = Sarcophagi


"Krull"

Classes
Fighter = Prince or Knight
Magic User = Wizard
Cleric = Old One (wise man)
Thief = Bandit
Elf = Seer or Widow of the Web
Dwarf = Cyclops
Halfling = Apprentice

Monsters
Goblin = Evil Bandit
Orc = Slayer
Troll = Crazed Cyclops
Skeleton = Slayer without armor
Lich = Changeling
Dire Wolf = Giant Spider (possibly made of silver or crystal?)
Dragon = The Beast
Pegasus = Fire Mare

Dungeon Dressing
Walls = Either typical high fantasy pseudo-medieval architecture, or Strangely Organic Curves
Doors = Heavy Stone
"Dust" = Sand and Mud
Chests = Inexplicably safe lava


"Diablo I and II"

Classes
Fighter = Paladin
Magic User = Sorceress
Cleric = Druid
Thief = Assassin
Elf = Necromancer
Dwarf = Barbarian
Halfling = Amazon

Monsters
Goblin = Fallen One
Orc = Goatman
Troll = Overlord or Butcher
Skeleton = still a Skeleton
Lich = Succubus or Mage
Dire Wolf = Horned Demon or Hidden
Dragon = Balrog or Diablo

Dungeon Dressing
Walls = Stone and Bone
Doors = Creaky Wood
"Dust" = Bones and Brimstone
Chests = Sarcophagi, Wooden Chests, Barrels, Weapon Racks, Corpses


"Dark Souls"

Classes
Fighter = Warrior (or Bandit from Dark Souls I)
Magic User = Sorcerer or Pyromancer
Cleric = Cleric or Herald
Thief = Explorer or Thief or Mercenary
Elf = Swordsman or Wanderer or Assassin
Dwarf = Knight
Halfling = Bandit or Hunter
Start at Level 0 = Deprived

Monsters
Goblin = Hollow
Orc = Black Knight or Silver Knight
Troll = Infested Barbarian or Demon
Skeleton = Wheel Skeleton or Bloathead (or a classic Skeleton that constantly reanimates if "killed")
Lich = Pinwheel or Channeler or Gravelord Nito
Dire Wolf = Great Feline or Giant Rat
Dragon = Dragon or Drake or Hydra or Moonlight Butterfly

Dungeon Dressing
Walls = Vast and Crumbling
Doors = Metal Bars or Rotting Wood or Fog
"Dust" = Ash
Chests = Big Pots or Vases


"Bloodborne"

Classes
Fighter = Military Veteran or Violent Past
Magic User = Cruel Fate
Cleric = Noble Scion
Thief = Professional
Elf = Troubled Childhood
Dwarf = Lone Survivor
Halfling = Milquetoast
Start at Level 0 = Waste of Skin

Monsters
Goblin = Huntsman
Orc = Beast
Troll = Chapel Giant or Brick Troll
Skeleton = Mad One or Silver Lady
Lich = Celestial Emissary or Witch of Hemwick
Dire Wolf = Maneater Boar or Bloodlicker
Dragon = Amygdala or Old One

Dungeon Dressing
Walls = Brick
Doors = Stately and Solid Wood
"Dust" = Spilled Blood or Random Eyeballs Everywhere
Chests = Heavy Stone Chests


"Muddled Christian Allegory"

Classes
Fighter = Wrath
Magic User = Lust
Cleric = Pride
Thief = Greed
Elf = Sloth
Dwarf = Envy
Halfling = Gluttony

Monsters
Goblin = Heretic or Non-Believer or Satyr or Imp
Orc = Various ancient cultures painted as uniform bad guys or Whoever the crusaders are fighting this week
Troll = Nephilim or Giant
Skeleton = still a Skeleton but also a symbol of the plague or a Memento Mori figure
Lich = Angel or Demon or False Prophet
Dire Wolf = Lion or Pit Locust or Serpent
Dragon = Fiery Serpent or Demon or Archangel or Behemoth

Dungeon Dressing
Walls = Anything found in The Divine Comedy or Paradise Lost
Doors = Whatever seems symbolic of some spiritual transition at the time, I guess
"Dust" = Manna or Brimstone
Chests = Reliquary or Ark


"Philosophy"

Classes
Fighter = Logic
Magic User = Epistemology
Cleric = Ethics
Thief = Political Philosophy
Elf = Metaphysics
Dwarf = Metaphilosophy
Halfling = Aesthetics

Monsters
Goblin = The Paradox of the Heap or Moral Luck
Orc = Logical Fallacies (especially Argumentum ad baculum) or the Gettier Problem
Troll = Zeno's Paradox or the Ship of Theseus
Skeleton = P-Zombie or the Mind-Body Problem
Lich = The Problem of Evil or Solipsism
Dire Wolf = Utility Monster or the Problem of Induction
Dragon = Platonic Ideal or the Münchhausen Trilemma

Dungeon Dressing
Walls = Stereotypical Ancient Greek Architecture
Doors = Operated by Maxwell's Demon
"Dust" = Reams of paper, used coffee cups, angels on pinheads
Chests = Chinese Room, Beetle-in-a-Box

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Hack & Slashers

High-level wizards are super scary in D&D and similar games. But as far as frightening antagonists go, high-level fighters and thieves (or specialists) are no slouches, either. Look at the Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises. Later entries would explicitly give the villains supernatural abilities, but in the early films these "inhuman" killing machines were simply* presented as extremely strong, durable, persistent, evil people skilled at murder. Depending on how things like stealth and stunts and multiclassing work in your OSR game of choice, I don't see why Michael and Jason couldn't just be fighters and/or thieves of, say, ninth level.

If the average person in your game is a 0-level or first level character, imagine how terrifying an opponent a determined high-level fighter would be if they just randomly went on a methodical rampage. If you manage to land a hit, they shrug off damage that would instantly kill a normal human. If you lure them into a trap, they effortlessly make their saving throw. You'd best find a way to stop them without rolling any dice, because the math favors them every time. And they're not stupid: they use tools and tactics. They use the environment to their advantage. They leave their own traps for you. And they won't be talked down or bargained with.

Imagine an invisible presence picking off your friends one by one. In a world of magic, your mind jumps to distracting speculation about monsters and spirits, while some asshole with a knife just walks up behind you. It's the most obvious, the most natural thing in the world. No one hears you die.

Sure, wizards are bad news. But don't underestimate the old man in the swamp or the jolly jester.

*I guess you could interpret the killers as ambiguously supernatural in the earlier films if your mind's eye squints a little, but I don't recall any such speculation among the characters to that effect (other than some talk of the "boogeyman" in Halloween that I took as metaphorical), and there's nothing to confirm any magical aspects to the villains until later entries in the series. If Friday the 13th ended with the fourth or fifth installment, Jason Voorhees could easily just be a scary dude in a mask instead of some kind of super-zombie. I haven't seen as many of the Halloween movies, but I hear the situation is similar. Michael Myers just struck me as a mortal man with a scary mind in his debut film. Granted, he did some pretty improbable things, but I chalked that up to movie magic rather than literal in-universe magic. My point is that Voorhees and Myers don't need to be supernatural.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Wanted: RPG Rosetta Stone

RPG Conversion Wishlist

1. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1E and 2E ---> B/X D&D and/or Lamentations of the Flame Princess

2. Kult (first English-language edition) ---> Call of Cthulhu

3. Mutant Chronicles ---> Stay Frosty

Mostly it's just monster/NPC statblocks that I care about. Spells, unique items, etc. would be nice, too.

Dear readers: Do any of these conversion guides exist? Are there any games that you wish were more readily compatible?

Friday, October 12, 2018

How to "7th Saga" Up Your Next Adventure

That thing I did with Myth and Drakkhen? Let's do it again. This time we've got the 1993 grind-em-up The 7th Saga, also known as Elnard in Japan. This SNES RPG wasn't as immediately baffling or weird to me as Drakkhen, but I still found it pretty strange once I gave it a closer look. As usual, roll a d30 on the following table for something to add to your next adventure, or just pick something that fits.
  1. A supercomputer, giant robot, or electronic weapon of mass destruction built by a high-tech society in a relatively low-tech world. By the way, it's Powered by Satan. Literally Satan, as in "the Devil." Bonus points if it triggers a massive earthquake and starts to sink an entire continent as soon as it's turned on.
  2. Along with humans, dwarfs, and elves, the playable races now include demons, robots, and aliens. Bonus points if the aliens can make their fists spontaneously combust when they punch their enemies.
  3. A medusa/centipede hybrid who used to be a normal person, and whose child died a tragic death. Now she kidnaps children - not for anything (intentionally) nefarious, but to keep her company, and to "protect" them from what she considers bad parenting and a dangerous outside world. A nearby community would really love to have their kids back, but there's that whole "being turned to stone" thing to worry about...
  4. A snake-themed, whip-wielding bounty hunter who has been hired to kill or capture the party. When he dies, he inexplicably comes back to life in a slightly altered form and tries to finish the job again later. He is really bad at ambushing people, as he always announces his presence before attacking, explaining his purpose and any changes he's undergone since his last death. He refuses to name the person who hired him, though. Bonus points if he does something overdramatic like carving the names of the party members on a tombstone and leaving it for them to discover.
  5. A millennia-old robot with faulty memory banks who wants to understand its purpose in life. Even though it's built like a war machine, it turns out it was originally built to work as an airport janitor.
  6. A spell that sucks the target through a wormhole and into the void of outer space. Strangely, it doesn't work if someone is playing a harp nearby.
  7. Everyone in town is talking about a Nessie-like monster in the nearby lake. It's actually a submarine built by a local inventor. There are previously-unknown underwater tunnels connecting the lake to other bodies of water (or stranger places); the submarine could theoretically traverse these tunnels.
  8. Kingdom A is well-known for its production of high-quality tools, weapons, and armor, made from a rare mineral found only in Kingdom B. Kingdom A's economy is booming thanks to the sale of these goods, and Kingdom B's economy is doing just as well due to the sale of ore to Kingdom A. Suddenly, the mineral supply dwindles drastically in the mines, so Kingdom B raises the price of ore. Kingdom A threatens to declare war if the prices are not lowered again. Meanwhile, Kingdom C is well-known for having the best mercenaries in the region...
  9. That big, scary demon in the haunted castle? He's actually the ghost of an innocent dog who died of a broken heart when his master was cruelly murdered by an evil prince. Putting the poor animal's spirit to rest with a token of his former life is probably a much smarter idea than trying to fight him. Besides, deep down, he's a good boy.
  10. Witches that have fused with pillars of rock to become immortal. Living stone slabs that would love nothing more than to fall on top of you like giant dominoes. Lumpy golems that magically make boulders rain from the sky.
  11. Enemies that light themselves on fire and try to tackle you.
  12. A warlord-sorcerer in an elaborate golden mask or headdress has brainwashed the population of (nearly) an entire town into mindless obedience. He is almost as adept at crafting illusions as he is at hypnosis. His mystical weakness is an artifact secreted away by an old sage he could not charm, who is currently locked up in the dungeon. Bonus points if the "town" in question is a fortress carved into the side of a mountain.
  13. A woman with giant snakes for legs insists that she's a griffin. You'd best not disagree with her: she's really good at kicking.
  14. A sage who curses the party because he had a prophetic vision that they were up to no good. Either the vision was inaccurate, or the party is highly intimidating, because the sage now regrets it. Unfortunately, he does not have the ability to lift the curse unless he gains possession of a certain magical trinket first...
  15. Crystal ball-based radar. Useful for avoiding encounters, as well as finding treasure, towns, or landmarks.
  16. A community that used to get all of its clean water from a magical artifact. One day, for no discernible reason, this strange item stopped providing for them. If you solve the community's hydration problems, they will gladly give you the artifact. It may have other uses. It may have a use for you.
  17. Seeds that increase your ability scores if eaten.
  18. Vast, flat wastelands pitted with craters and separated by steep, wall-like mountain ranges.
  19. Two towers on opposite sides of the world, built by dwarfs and connected by teleporters.
  20. Techno-magic airships that ferry the populations of entire cities away from their doomed homeland. They look like some kind of freaky giant metal bird monsters. Alternatively, the airship exodus could have happened in the distant past, and a scientist or wizard is trying to replicate the design of these aircraft. Yet another alternative is that there is one working airship left in the region (or the world), and it was recently bought for a huge sum by an insufferable braggart who is very picky about who he lets on board. Whatever the situation, the players could really use a ride.
  21. A supposedly wise and just wizard-king, known far and wide for his compassionate and reasonable rule, trains several apprentices in the ways of magic, and hints that one of them will be his heir. He seems completely unbothered by the open animosity between the apprentices and the fact that at least one of them is clearly evil.
  22. A memetic infection causes all of the NPCs to use the wrong names for things. Some examples: Hawks are "wyverns," giant ticks are "hermits," ghosts are "chimeras," eldritch tentacled horrors are "brains," spiders and tall people are both "moons," and centipedes are "spiders."
  23. A hero abandons their righteous quest in order to conquer a small nation and rule it with an iron fist.
  24. Abominations abound: Stranded travelers are mutated by unnatural hunger into antlered wendigo, and proceed to murder whole caravans with summoned storms. Gangly, rubbery, blue-skinned androids wrap their thin, powerful fingers around innocent necks. Half-rotten ghouls haunt the shadows, turning more and more gnawed corpses into the grinning undead. Flying manta rays and giant crabs invade the shores. Males quiver and clutch themselves in fear of the dreaded Manrot!
  25. A small child who happens to be a world-class treasure hunter. They don't always fully grasp the value of what they find.
  26. Monsters that can walk on water. Maybe that's why no one wants to go sailing.
  27. A levitating alien creature shaped vaguely like a sword or a cross.
  28. A player character turns out to be the reincarnation of another player character from a previous adventure or campaign. Alternatively, a player character who dies in the course of the current campaign is reincarnated later, either in the same campaign or a future one.
  29. A stable time loop perpetuated by God and Satan.
  30. A West Marches-style game in which the players are individually looking for seven powerful artifacts. Collect them all and win a fabulous prize! (Ultimate power, perhaps?) The first person to gather all seven artifacts "wins," and the "prize" can only be claimed by one person. While I think this implies a competition between the players, they could theoretically team up. Such cooperation would probably be temporary and strained by the constant threat of betrayal...but sometimes players can surprise you. For example, I could imagine the player of a pious or idealistic character being okay with another gaining the prize, just as long as it doesn't fall into the wrong hands. Bonus points if the player characters are all different races and/or classes. Double bonus points if the prize is a trap.