Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The cosmic cephalopod

The universe is a squid. Or an octopus. Or perhaps it's a cuttlefish. In fact it is all of those things but not at the same time. It's not important what it is. What is important is what it does.

The Cosmic Cephalopod keeps you, me, and the rest of Creation safe from the Lakes of Undoing by sheltering us on its arms. What are the Lakes of Undoing? They're only the chaotic mess from whence all creation sprang and is doomed to return. Luckily for us the Cephalopod has got great upper body strength.

A world is nestled inside each suction cup and each arm is a plane of existence. So instead of an Elemental Plane of Fire, it's the Elemental Arm of Fire. Planet-hopping or Plane-hopping is just a matter of taking a step out of the suction cup and walking on top of the Cephalopod's skin. This is obviously dangerous as fuck.

Technically there's an infinite number of cups and arms but here's a few known worlds:

El-Sai is a planet that looks like a droplet of gasoline floating on water. Its habitable "green zone" contrast with its red mesas, white salt flats, and tan deserts. It's summer colors are marred by the greys, brown, and blacks of the colossal junk piles.
The piles were put there by dump ships belonging to apathetic worlds. Some Elsaians curse the dump ships, calling them "scum" while others praise them, calling them "gods".
Your average Elsaian is primitive, fueled by their most basic desires. It's better that way. Food, water, and a good life are hard to come by. On El-Sai it's "fuck it, fuck it up, get fucked up, and fuck."

Opensea is exactly as it sounds. The only dry land that exists are small islands that pepper its tines. By the way, Opensea is star-shaped and the water that cascades over the edge is recycled by eons old automata. An unending hurricane spins at its center.
On this planet dragons are invaders and masters, enslaving lesser races to wage their eternal war against each other.
Of course the depths host a myriad of secrets. Sea people living in their crystal domes lead by immortal dragon turtles. A drowned king sealed deep below in a forest of kelp. A lost civilization of gold-haired albinos and the great machines they commanded.
Your average Openseaman is entangled in intrigue. Just smile, nod, and serve and maybe the dragons won't eat you. They have paradoxical last names like "Conrad Biglittle" or "Annette Squarewheel."

The City of Glass is well a city and those don't count as worlds in most textbooks. But the City of Glass is infinite. (But not so infinite that it escapes the shelter of the Cosmic Cephalopod. That's another kind of infinite all together.) It's infinite platforms stretch up and down and are infinitely long and wide. Know one knows what's beyond the infinite platforms (probably yet more platforms).
Infinity leaves a lot of room for diversity. Therefore a city block can differ vastly from the next. There are no more purebloods left; everyone's a mutt. But the city has one constant and it's its namesake. The buildings are silver like mercury and gleam with reflected artificial light--like glass.
The City might be infinite and its rulers are too. The fractal councils rule any piece of infinity that they can grab and they all hate each other, for some reason or another. Members of the fractal council are infinitely powerful and meek because they command infinite underlings and have to answer to infinite superiors.
All this infinity must make getting around rather hard, right? Well thanks to the invention of miraculous machines traversing infinity got a lot easier. Infinivators, infiniships, infinicopters (really just throw infinity in somewhere) travel at the speed of infinity so getting from one infinity to the next is a piece of cake. What's that? You need to get off half-infinity of the way there? What are you crazy!?

Deepwater is also a city but it is not infinite. So why is it on this list? Well it's a peculiar case. It's not a world but it likes to infect other ones. Like a tick out of a sauna it creeps in through the mists and latches on to a coastal region. Locals seem to be completely oblivious to this fact.
It looks like the gothic horror love child of Venice and New Orleans.
It is lead by a plutocracy of Machiavellian weirdos. One of them is literally a super-intelligent colony of vermin.
Whatever sea it suckles from krakens like to play.

by Needle16 aka Luke

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Ndaalu

They say history isn't what happens, it's what's written down. Such was the case for Ndaalu.

Ndaalu was cruel. Ndaalu was deadly. Ndaalu was strong. But most of all Ndaalu was pharaoh.

The people cried Ndaalu's name, begged him for mercy and bled by his sword. No ruler in all of Egypt was more brutal and cunning. By his lead Egypt slaughtered all*.

But who would honor such a terrible monster, even if he be pharaoh? So Ndaalu's scribes secretly omitted his name from their records, chiseled his name from their slabs. But Ndaalu knew.

Instead of slitting all of their throats, Ndaalu schemed with his sorcerers. If history would not remember him as a man the he would be remembered as an instrument of slaughter.

The sorcerers worked tirelessly to forge a great blade that would serve as Ndaalu's next body.

And so Ndaalu would live on vicariously through the heroes of the ages that took him as their mantle.**

*The bloodying of the Nile, commonly attributed to Moses, was Ndaalu's doing as he would execute surrendering armies by slitting their throats and holding them upside down by their feet to "feed" the Nile their life essence.

**The cherub's flaming sword that guards the gates to Paradise was directly inspired by Ndaalu.

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The Meat & Potatoes
Put simply Ndaalu is a flaming sword, and dms could leave the details at that and run him as such, but the following text is how I run Ndaalu.

Ndaalu is a curved bronze sword peppered with 3d20 Egyptian hieroglyphics. These hieroglyphics are familiar and obscure and it is possible that they could help further the research of the written Egyptian language. The hilt is an extension of the blade itself and is wrapped with black leather straps.

The hieroglyphics serve as runes that capture the souls of living creatures slain with Ndaalu. A filled rune glows orange and gives off ember-filled smoke. These captured souls act as charges that the wielded can be spend towards different powers possessed by Ndaalu.

Ignite: The wielder can spend X charges to ignite Ndaalu. While ignited Ndaalu bequeaths +X damage to his wielder. Ndaalu stays ignited for X turns and counts as an everburning torch while ignited.

In this state Ndaalu cannot collect souls as the magical properties of the sword are focused on keeping it aflame. However slaying a living creature keeps the ignited state ongoing at a rate of 1 soul to 1 turn.

At 5 charges Ndaalu can cut through stone, worked or otherwise. At 10 charges he can cut through metal. At 20 charges he can cut through adamantine. At 40 he can wound a god. At 60 he can cut through the fabric of reality itself, opening portals into what lies beyond our own reality.

Great Balls of Fire: Ndaalu also functions as a Wand of Fireballs at double the cost. So if a system requires 2 charges to cast fireball with its wand than  Ndaalu would require 4 charges to cast fireball. Ndaalu's fireballs are particularly deadly and deal +1 per damage die.

Increasing the level of the fireball also costs double.

Form of Fire: for 10 charges the wielder can enter a fire form. While in this form the wielder is under the effects of a Gaseous Form spell with the added side effect of igniting flammable objects. To exit this form the wielder must succeed at a save versus Magic. Failure means that a random body part is bequeathed in flame permanently.

Also the wielder can communicate with fire elementals while in this form.

Soldier of Slaughter: for 20 charges Ndaalu summons the soul of one of his soldiers. These soldiers are fighters of 2-5 levels and can only be hit by magic and magic weapons.

HD 2-5 AC 13 Atk bronze longsword 1d8 MV human

For every 2 charges above 20 spent increase the soldier's damage and hit points by one.

Wall of Flame: For 30 charges the wielder can cast the spell Wall of Fire as a magic user of his level.

In addition to the above boons, Ndaalu adds +1 to the hit bonus of his wielder for every week he is in his wielder's possession (max 10). Additionally Ndaalu gains +1 to his domination rolls against his wielder at the same rate (max 10).

Guns are magic

In rpgs guns have a tendency to get simulated to pornographic levels. Luckily I know next to nothing about guns besides that they shot bullet.

Or I say that. I've already taken this entire post, crumbled it up and threw it in the garbage at least two times now because I thought my systems were too complicated.

But no worries. Something about three times and this time I'm not reinventing the wheel. I'm just taking it down a different road.

So yes. Guns are magic! What does that mean? Well to be honest it means guns are reskinned spells. Now I know that sounds boring but stick with me here.

Have you ever wanted to have an on demand Burning Hands? Hmm? How about a one time use fireball that doesn't require a weird wizard to read some squiggles of a piece of parchment? What do you think of that? I don't hear a guffaw! Well shotguns and grenades are at your service!

OK that's enough of the snark. So yes guns are reskinned spells but that idea is pretty cool by itself. But what about the poor wizard? Well if he's as smart as the rest he'll be using guns too so he doesn't have to worry about his precious class protection.

What I find the coolest about this idea is that it can apply across multiple games, albeit that they have some sort of magic system. So if shotguns are Burning Hands in your games you can keep them functionally similar between your 5e game and your LL game.

However these reskinned spells must be kept within reason. After all they're just guns. 5e's Burning Hands can deal 3d6 to up 6 creatures and that's pretty powerful for an on demand shotgun, even with a save for half. I'll make it an attack instead  and the number of adjacent creatures hit a d5 to nerf it a bit.

And by grod's beard if you want exploding dice let them explode!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Dwarves of El-Sai

Stonemen
Dwarves are made, not born. Their bodies are constructed completely from rock, the most popular types being basalt, limestone, or obsidian. They are completely hairless however most dwarves are etched with long hair and complex woven beards. They stand about five feet tall and their shoulder width is wider than that of an average man and they boast a stout physique. Their pupils glow with the bluish light of the soul forge.

A Forge of Souls
Soul forges are ancient artifacts constructed and left behind by deep dark forces now lost to mortal races. It is the crux of dwarven life. Without their soul forge dwarves would not exist. That's because the soul forge is a factory that produces dwarves and it is fueled by the souls of the living. Without proper fuel a soul forge would cease production and the secret of forging dwarves would be lost forever in its machinery.

Colonies
Dwarves treat their soul forge like ants treat the queen of an anthill. Not to mention that dwarves prefer to refer to their societies as "colonies". Each dwarf has a purpose. Most go out into the world in search of souls while others dig or build or trade. Colonies are usually located underground below tall mountains but volcanoes and deep canyons are also viable locations.

Hivemind
Dwarves don't experience emotions. Neither is their will solely theirs. All dwarves share a consciousness with the other dwarves of their forge. They sense what they sense and vice versa.

Children of the Earth
Made from the earth dwarves are therefore one with it. Rock is no different to them as water is different to man. Therefore dwarves can submerge themselves in the rock. Walls are useless against them and proofing a structure against them requires complex metal alloys or lead. However every time a dwarf submerges he risks losing himself and becoming one with the earth from whence he came. If this happens the dwarf fuses with the earth, leaving behind an eerily humanoid shaped rock deposit and a foggy white gemstone where the heart would be.

Hearts of Diamonds
That gemstone is a dwarf's soul gem. It serves a similar purpose to a dwarf as a black box serves to a crashed plane. The soul gem contains all the experience and memories of a dwarf. Colonies will sometimes retrieve these if it is necessary. To the right collector these gems are valuable and they hold spells well if emptied.

Ghostly, not Ghastly
Dwarves do not hate all life. They simply follow the cyclic nature of their soul forge. Collect souls, to fuel the forge, to make more dwarves, to collect more souls, etc etc. They will only begin abduction, or collecting as they like to call it, when forced. Otherwise they are more than willing to provide a service in exchange for souls. In fact a popular capital punishment among settlements around dwarven ones is to punish criminals to "collection". This deal doesn't bother most settlements because the people being collected are usually undesirable in the first place and the dwarves are damned efficient builders.

If the dwarves have some sort of endgame goal in mind, no one has got a clue as to what it could be.

Race Overview:

XP Penalty: 750

Movement: 25 feet or 3/4 human

Stoneman: Chose one or both: 1) +1 HD 2) +4 AC. If you chose both add 50 to your XP penalty

Earth Swim: A dwarf can move through rock 3/day as if Phase Door was cast on its surface. If a dwarf ends his turn inside rock he takes d10 crushing damage and a further d10 every round until he leaves. If a dwarf dies inside rock his body fuses with the rock permanently, leaving behind a soul gem.

Soul Gem: A soul gem contain all of a dwarf's memories and experience. Experience cannot be collected from a slain dwarf until its soul gem is retrieved. Additionally the gem can store spells of up to X level were X is the slain dwarf's HD.

Golem Immunities: Dwarves are immune to poison and any spells that target the body's physiology. Additionally they don't require food, drink, or rest and therefore do not suffer fatigue.

Hivemind: Dwarves sense the senses of nearby dwarves. This only applies to dwarves created in the same soul forge, or soul brothers. Unfortunately this means if one dwarf is subject to an effect that targets the senses all dwarves nearby are subjected to it as well.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

QNDRPG

So I imagine that a lot of DMs who run OSR stuff fly by the seat of their pants from game to game, relying on their abstract knowledge of D&D to guide their rulings, cook up combat, and solicit story.

What's funny is that I use to hate that particular style of DMing. I used to think that the rules were supreme and were higher than the DM himself and that betraying them was a disservice to all players at the table. But as I played more and more OSR stuff I started getting into the game that was happening at the table. I stopped caring about the game that coulda shoulda woulda been the game described by the rules. Now I find myself tapping into my knowledge reservoirs (as empty as they may be) more often at the table and keeping my books and pdfs nearby lest I really really need to look something up for some reason.

However the printed text has a certain ethos-logos attached to it. Most players new to OSR stuff are more willing to try your weird game if it's printed on dead trees. This has half-motivated me to try and produce my own rules document. I say half-motivated because when a source book is introduced suddenly the DM isn't the only authority at the table. I'd practically be asking the potential lawyers to slap me with the white glove of rule dueling. But I think this fear can be chalked up to my own paranoia.

The hope would be that the rules would facilitate the game that's going on at the table and not the idyllic one they outline. More so since it's my rules document there's not going to be any niche rules in their that could potentially challenge my DMship and even if there is it's probably a good thing because I'm a forgetful plebian.

Now that I've decided to produce this rules document the only thing that I need to decide on is a name. Sure I could just call it Into the Weird but that sounds eerily similar to a certain designer's game and I believe I would be doing him a disservice by circulating such a document. So I've settled on "Qwik N Durti Role Playing Game" or QNDRPG for short.

Why that name? Well it certainly isn't artsie and I'm OK with that. This is a rules document not a module. In the latter's case I would take more creative liberty with the title. As for the reference to haste and filth I feel it resonates with my particular style.

An adventurer's life will be brief.

The world will be dangerous and bloodthirsty; a threat. There will be blood to spill. There will be muck to crawl through. There will be death.

Life will be quick. It will be dirty. There will be no time for philosophy or debate because someday death will be over that bend, around that corner.

So is the adventurer's life.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

E531347 - 7

That is the UPP code for the planet El-Sai on which Wundergauss is set, which I generated using Traveller's World Creation section. UPP stands for universal planetary profile and the value of each place tells you something about a planet. From left to right the places represent starport type, planetary size, atmosphere, hydrographies (basically how much water it has), population, government, law level, and tech level. (The dash is just for style.)

In El-Sai's case each value means the following:

Starport: E—basically a floating rock; no facilities or any cool space stuff.
Size: 5000 mile diameter; that's about the size of Ganymede.
Atmosphere: 5—Very Thin; you'd need breathing masks to adventure on the surface.
Hydrographies: 10%—if my math is correct that means all the water on El-Sai could fit into Yosemite Park.
Population: thousands
Government:  Representative Democracy
Law Level: 2—basically everything but energy weapons is A-OK.
Tech Level: 7—basically modern amounts of tech with a sprinkling of future tech such as hovercrafts, pulse lasers, as well as fission and solar powered engines.

I've always imagined Wundergauss being set in a land with plenty of water, green landscapes, and definitely no tech. Standard MEAL with magic stuff. (That stands for Medieval European Analogue Land.) But these results paint a way darker picture.

But first I want to address two things, the government and law level. It's no surprise that Traveller assumes unified global government and police force but for me I think it's more interesting when societies clash, so I'll largely be ignoring government and law level. Now that that's out of the way I can move on to the good bits.

Low pop, little water, alien atmosphere, little to no connection with the outside galactic civilization. This is starting to sound more like Mad Max than Lord of the Ring. But I am a little conflicted.

I've always imagined Wundergauss bordering a great sea or ocean where plenty of boat on boat action could go down. Such a setting seems impossible with only 10 percent water. But I'll take my cake and eat it too.

Not only does Wundergauss border a sea, it borders the only sea. A Lonely Sea, so to speak. It just so happens that all of the drinkable water drains into this basin. The land around it is arable and its rivers power corrupts; that's why.
prime real estate. Dozens of tribes brawl it out on this promised land for the exquisite title of Water Barons. The barons send waves of armies against their enemies and control the sea with steel ships fueled with diesel. Why would they risk polluting the only drinkable water on the planet? Well because

Sure you can live elsewhere, but who the fuck wants to suck water out of plants and pray to idols that you kill something to roast over the fire that night. It's a savage's life!

Might there be promise lands elsewhere? The caravans say so but who trusts them! They're all maniacs and low-lives. The Oil barons say here are, but they'd say anything for good coin.

The Lonely Sea awaits the people's saviors or the barons to rule it.