Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ananke - Hacking the Water Clock in Death Frost Doom

When I was preparing to run Death Frost Doom recently, I referenced this blog post over at Lamentations of the Blood Countess constantly. There are tons of great ideas here compiled from various blogs, and it's super handy to have the links all in one place. However, one idea I was looking forward to using was to replace the default powers of the water clock with the ability to summon the Chrono-Crone, and when I tried to follow the link to the appropriate post at Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque, it said the post didn't exist. I don't know what happened to it, but it sucks that I might not be able to read it again, since I remember it being really good.

So I made my own riff on the Chrono-Crone idea. Here it is.

If you move any of the hands on the water clock, time stops for everyone except those in the cabin. Your surroundings darken, the outside world seems to vanish into all-consuming darkness, and from a glowing blue-white doorway that wasn't there before (and yet was always there) emerges Ananke, Queen of Inexorable Dust. She is a gaunt, transparent, gauze-like humanoid figure with a voice that simultaneously reminds one of the whispering of a moth's wings and the roar of an angry ocean of liquid time. She appears powdery or blurry, and seems to vibrate in place so that you cannot make out any facial features, or much of any features, really. She will ask you and anyone else in the cabin, one by one, if you want to travel through time, and if so, to when.

If you say no, Ananke will be displeased that you have wasted her time, for even though she has an infinite amount of it, she values every instant. You will feel this displeasure in the form of a wave of rapid and inconsistent aging across your body. You will take half of your current HP in damage and suddenly become very hungry, thirsty, and tired. You must also make a Save vs. Magic; failure means you lose 2,000 experience points and magically age by 1d10 years. EDIT: In the comments below, Yora convinced me to change this to 1d10+10 years so the effect would be more noticeable, important, and dramatic. It's Death Frost Doom, so there's little reason to hold back.

If you say yes, Ananke will name a price. It will be something that will hurt you a great deal. Here are some examples:

  1. Every magic item you own.
  2. The last 1d4 years of your memory.
  3. The life of a loved one.
  4. The ability to sense the passage of time.
  5. Gaining an allergy to silver and gold.
  6. Gaining a severe phobia of something you commonly encounter.
  7. Lowering one or more ability scores to 3.
  8. The ability to sleep soundly.
  9. A language in which you are fluent.
  10. All but one point in one or more skills.
  11. The ability to read.
  12. Half of the XP you will ever gain.
If you agree to the price, Ananke will take it from you in a blur, pulling it from your forehead (even if it is a concept and not a physical thing). Then you will abruptly find yourself on the peak of Deathfrost Mountain in the era of your choosing...assuming Deathfrost Mountain exists at that time. You may simply find yourself in the spot where the peak was or will be.

If you do not agree to the price, see the bit about saying "no" above.

Once everyone has decided, Ananke will leave through the glowing doorway, your surroundings will return to normal (if you are still present in the current era), and the flow of time around you will resumes its normal pace.

No matter what happens, from the point of view of anyone outside of the cabin, nothing happened when you moved the hands of the clock, aside from you vanishing (if you said yes) or suffering the wrath of Ananke (if you said no), with either occurring in the blink of an eye, and the appropriate effects happening to everyone in the cabin simultaneously.


  1. It's probably very unlikely that a character will encounter multiple aging effects throughout the campaign and so remaining lifetime is not going to be an exhaustable resource to ever worry about. Aging by 3 or 5 years is probably not even going to be noted by anyone. In an adventure that can easily kill you in very unexpected ways, I think you can easily get away with 1d10+10 years. The player had to fiddle with something and already got a save. No need to be overly soft on the character now. ;)

    1. You've got a good point. I could probably bump it to 1d10+10 years. Honestly, I wasn't thinking of gameplay effects so much as just a visual or aesthetic effect, like that trope where someone experiences something supernatural and a white streak appears in their hair. I don't think that comes across very well in the way I wrote this. I should play with it some more.


    2. Apropos of nothing, one of my 'break-thru' moments in gaming was when my character got zorched with an aging effect.

      Long-story short, I was appalled that my character became instantly unplayable, but by the time I had applied the game mechanical effects of 60 years of aging I was already thinking that this could be a fun opportunity to play someone I'd never have thought of creating (someone who minutes before was 18, but was now 78 -- in the midst of a dungeon, no less).

      It was of course just after my math was done and my epiphany was subsiding that someone called out that they had a scroll of restoration which can completely undo the effect....

      It was basically shortly after that that I realized I *want* stuff to *HAPPEN* to my characters.

    3. One of the PCs in our group got her hand turned into some kind of alien claw by a magic fountain, like a crab claw or an insect pincer or something. She was all like "I need to get rid of this thing," and I was like "It doesn't have any mechanical drawbacks," and she was like "I don't care. I just don't want a claw hand." She went and got it fixed with magic, and there's nothing wrong with that, it's her character. Since the DM controls almost everything else, I do believe in at least letting players have a good bit of control over their characters, provided there is still risk and difficulty in the game and characters can still get hurt or die. But if I were her, I would have kept the claw hand, because, dude, claw hand!

      One of the things I love about LotFP adventures is that you can get all kinds of weird powers and magical effects (and mutations and mutilations) just by going about the business of adventuring and interacting with stuff. It gives characters unique traits they can't get by just taking a certain class or doing some typical, predictable thing you can find in the core rulebook.

      It does suck though when you have to do a bunch of paperwork, changing numbers all over your character sheet, and it's not voluntary and it's not even permanent or long-lasting. It can get annoying. That's not a problem I see in LotFP so much as just D&D in general (especially the versions with more complicated character sheets) whenever things like ability score drain or level drain or unforeseen buffs and debuffs come into play. It figures you wouldn't have known about that restoration spell until AFTER your math was done. :P

  2. I didn't realize anybody was missing the Chrono-Crone post; I'll put it up again in the near future for you.

    1. Thanks! I really appreciate it. It's a great post.