Sunday, July 12, 2020

Four Beasties

The Charlockian Lion

An ebon-furred beast whose hide cannot be pierced except by wooden weapons, whose poisonous breath can kill a grown men or an elephant, and from whose neck it is said a still more horrid monster will spring should it be decapitated.

I can't believe someone made this.

A two-headed triceratops that lays waste to entire mountainsides in its hunger for human flesh and fire (it eats both with glee). It can kool-aid man through an entire regiment of infantry or castle wall. It is said that the only way to defeat this creature is to teach it chess and then defeat it. One head wants to learn chess, the other thinks chess is stupid.

Tlön The Round

Tlön The Round was a debased heresiarch who founded a religious sect a couple hundred years ago that was chiefly based around the worship of platonic solids. After he tried to summon the moon (so close, yet so far) some adventurers threw him into a bottomless crevasse.

Transformed somehow by that experience to resemble the object of his veneration, Tlön eventually hovered out and has spent the past decade killing people that vaguely resemble the adventurers who threw him in. He is only visible to one person at a time, can imagine objects and creatures into existence, and is embarrassingly bad at mid-battle repartee (think Dubya in a rap battle with a Bronte sister).

The Fractal Hydra

The fractal hydra is but a single snake, but she exists in many times and places, often simultaneously. When you march into her cave, you'll see a big-ass boa constrictor hanging around atop some skeletons or basking in cave-slime. She smelled you coming and is very, very hungry.

Her bite induces spasms and worse: her bite wounds have emit live snakes for several minutes. And we're not talking nice, friendly snakes. No, these are very pissed.

Any creature that injures the hydra for so much as 1 hit point of damage is cursed: at their moment of death, the fractal hydra will emerge from their abdomen. She couldn't possibly fit in there, and the players probably thought that the fractal hydra was long-dead, but it's time for round two. Surprise!

Monday, July 6, 2020

Breakthrough Armor: Alternative Armor Rules For 5e D&D

I wrote some armor rules that triangulated verisimilitude, ease of use, and collapse meaningless granularity. The goal is to model the ablative effect of armor without slowing down combat or causing too much number crunching. I'm pleased as punch with it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Nuit, A Forlorn Sphere

A lightless moon that hides beneath a sooted sky. Eyeless horrors infest the warm black stones of her surface, praying to the god of hunger as they search for prey. Off-worlders unprepared for the atmosphere usually perish from black lung, or draw the ire of photophobic natives.



Transparent-chitined goblin spiders whose poisonous saliva induces pathological, narcotic cruelty. Their horrible shrieking is chiefly used for echolocation, but also deafens off-worlders for days at a time. They build giant nests that resemble termite mounds the size of skyscrapers. Most of these nests are unused the same way only the top layer of a tell is active, with the goblin spiders chittering across the exterior in search of prey. Other creatures will sometimes move into the crumbling lower tunnels and half-collapsed hatchery pits if they are particularly dangerous or fearless.

Carrion Kaleshes

A sort of radially symmetrical six-winged buzzard that soars from world to world, but breeds and nests here. Their eggs emit waves of terrifying psychic energy to dissuade predators. They also have an early-hatching mechanism that triggers if the eggs are tampered with by non-avians. The razor-beaked hatchlings won't survive their early emergence, but neither will you. There is only one reasons to steal the eggs: the egg-plasm retards aging.

Truedark Skeletons

Some of the native spirits of this desolate place enjoy collect things from other worlds, like the dead bodies of those who died for want of light. They pluck these unfortunates from other worlds and bring them here, where they become a sort of undead. You probably don't want to use a light source around them, since that will make them furious. They focus fire and can summon their friends through shadows.

Ariah, He That Was Banished

Imagine a severed lion head, soot-colored, dripping gore, and flying across the surface of a dim and lightless planet at sixty miles an hour. After it has devoured 1,009,000 people, it will be permitted to return to its home-world and destroy it. It is in a hurry. Ariah can regenerate to full health if even one molecule of its body survives combat, only disintegration can truly slay it.


The Blotted Monastery

The monastery was built by an order of penitent gorgons. They will bandage you for a price. Within these shifting walls lies the Orb Of Emptiness, a sphere of cursed obsidian placed here so that light would never fall on it. It will eliminate weak nuclear force from the universe if exposed to full illumination for more than a minute. It is lonely and would like to talk.

The Carious Mountains

These volcanoes spew great plumes of soot into the atmosphere and are responsible for most of the gloom that girds this world. They occasionally get particularly active, sending out flesh-scouring, ashen shamal winds that roil the entire surface of the planet at once.


Maliced Diamonds

Black stones from deep below the surface of Nuit that have never felt light, which must be mined, cut, and polished completely before any exposure. People bedazzle their armor with them to deflect magic missiles. Lacing steel with maliced diamonds shows some promising applications regarding the design of solar bathyspheres, if that's somewhere you want to go.

Dark Magma

Most magma sheds quite a bit of light. Not here, though. The sludgy, superheated stone beneath the surface of Nuit absorbs light rather than sheds it. It isn't good for much except for keeping this planet from becoming inhospitably cold.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Wizard Meth

That crazy wizard living in a tower wants to buy the corpse of whatever monster your players just carted back to town. Of course he does. Why? To make wizard meth. They don't call it that, of course. To them it's "the salve of Black Gilead" or "the Vitruvean process". But it's totally meth.

Essence Of Dragon Bile

Please substitute whatever obscure carcass is convenient for your campaign. In my example, the bile resides inside the dragon's gall bladder, pretty easy for non-experts to miss.

In order to prepare the bile for use, the wizard must extract its essence. This is done within a special kiln costing no less than 100 gold, which must burn for three days straight while the bile simmers within a sealed clay sphere. During this time, the bile reduces to less than an ounce of liquid (the waste materials glaze onto the interior of the sphere). Any flaw in the kiln or sphere will result in the total loss of materials involved and force the wizard tending the fire to make a save against leukemia.

The kiln is an awful thing. It smells bad, poisons small animals, kills nearby vegetation, and pollutes bodies of water within a fifty foot radius. Even when not in use, kiln bricks that have seen use emit an unsavory glow.

A Bilious Concoction

After extraction, the essence of dragon bile is rushed through a series of breakneck alchemical processes: it is mixed with a tincture of nightshade and esphand seeds; vitreous humors from beetles are added and subtracted; finally, turquoise dust is dissolved in it and the whole substance is allowed to crystallize.

Any exposure to fire during this process will cause the liquid to explode, scattering deadly shards of glass and burning goop. At several critical junctures, the chemicals are unstable enough that even light (especially magical light) will cause them to combust. The wizard must navigate these alchemical crossroads in total darkness. Should the matter combust, treat it as a fireball cast by a 5th-level wizard, but with more property damage.

Even after completing the process, the alchemist must avoid others for 1d6 days afterwards, for during this time they suffer from a residual curse that inflicts 1 damage per round on any creature that they lay eyes upon, out to about a hundred feet. Such individuals feel that a wicked spirit is tormenting them and intuit that the wizard is the cause.

The Delicious Effects

The exact effects of wizard meth vary from batch to batch, but it always includes a weeklong spate of egomaniacal euphoria. During this time, the wizard cannot sleep. Indeed, they are immune. Though they cannot rest to recover spells, the wizard meth allows them to recover expended spells at a rate of one per 1d4 hours (lowest-level first, skip 0th-level if that's a thing).

Several other effects can occur, as well. Each time a player makes use of wizard meth, the DM and they each choose a single effect from below:

  • The range of any fireball spells cast by that wizard are doubled.
  • They do not suffer falling damage. Though they leave impressive impact craters.
  • They can kill one NPC with less than 10 max hp, per round, just by staring really hard. If the NPC has a name, they get a save.
  • They can summon a giant bat that will carry them for about a hundred feet before they realize the wizard is way too heavy and need to put them down.
  • The wizard's brain can slip out their ear and move about by its own slimy self, perceiving its surroundings via dim telepathy. The body lies mostly comatose during this time, though it may sometimes attempt the actions it knows best.
  • The wizard can conjure a golden skull that skeletal undead will do anything to possess.
  • The Midas touch, but centipedes instead of gold, and only affecting furniture.
  • Whatever else you come up with. Write it down.

The Tail End

After the drug wears off, the wizard is listless and unable to cast their highest level of spells for a full week. Non-wizards who imbibe wizard meth get a headache so fierce that they are effectively blind for a full day. Neutralize poison fixes the latter but not the former.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Slaves Of The Angel

Fallen Forever

The fallen angel Aszottiel has spent millennia plotting to return to heaven. Not the heaven associated with your campaign world's deities. No, that's small potatoes. Aszottiel wishes to return to the domain of the Unmoved Mover, whose divine service it betrayed. To effect this return, it has carefully cultivated power and influence with the cold calculus that only an inhuman immortal can muster.

Below are some of its more handy servants.

The Slaves Of The Angel

Vile Cherubs

When the mighty fall, they really fall. The vile cherubs are a swarm of fat, leprous children, buzzing about on improbably small insect wings. They're like flying pustules, drooling green bile from scabbed lips. Their arrows and bite inflicts a curse of selfishness that prevents assisting others for 1d4, preventing things like healing others. Resisting the effect should be a long-shot, perhaps a Will save with 20 DC. These poor creatures believe Aszottiel will help them return to heaven, and are willing to do anything for that. Hint: not gonna happen.

The Hermit

The hermit Vittirmech is a talented, half-mad priest of no god in particular who believes that he has been chosen by the gods to join their ranks, so long as he passes their many tests. Sadly, the tests are actually tasks decided on by Aszottiel, who can whisper into his ear or cause him speak in tongues from any distance. The angel is constantly aware of anything transpiring in Vittirmech's presence. Vittirmech does cleric stuff like building golems, summoning walls of swords, healing himself, striking his foes blind, and summoning dire bears to attack his foes. He can also travel rapidly via kefitzat haderech. Vittirmech is one of the angel's most useful servants.

The Esoteric Brotherhood

Jakob Luria is the Supreme Nighthawk of the so-called Esoteric Brotherhood Of Magicks Angelica, a hoary circle of upper-crust wizards with endless titles, initiations, and symbolic actions. Though they count more than a few duelists amongst their number, their chief utility lies in flexing their social capital (they are rich and have agents everywhere) and in performing days-long ritual spells that do things like give entire nations cultural amnesia, modify climate, and manipulate stochastic fields.

Stuff they might do at the angel's behest:

  • Kidnap a person to baptize them in the Font Infernal, which permanently charms victims toward the angel and the head of the brotherhood. Hundreds of critical people are under its influence.
  • Enact a play designed to generate nationalist fervor, in preparation for that country warring with a neighbor. The chaos of the war is necessary to facilitate the theft of a powerful magical artifact, perhaps the Eye Of Omnipitos.
  • Perform magical rituals that hasten the inevitable, regardless of time and distance. For example, their spells can make an avalanche in a snowy pass thousands of miles away, cause an elderly political rival to die of heart failure, or provoke a civil war in an already tense political climate.

Only the highest ranks of the order know that the purpose of the order is to serve Aszottiel, or have any inkling of its true nature.

The Aerial Hunter

An aerial spirit of great age and power, the Hunter is a sort of top-tier predator from the elemental plane of air. It is essentially a five-mile diameter bank of sentient fog that roams the world looking for invisible stalkers (they're delicious). Aszottiel knows it's true name and can command it to unerringly hunt particular creatures.

Its method of attack is to drift onto the players (or whatever) then precipitate droplets of milky white to fall. These drops leach color from anything they contact, inflict permanent blindness, and can kill small animals and children. The Hunter will do this for 1d6 hours, then wander off for a few days. The players can't really harm the Hunter. It's of a higher order of being than them. I suppose it would not be able to penetrate a protection from evil spell or a hermetically sealed building, though that's little consolation to anybody else that happens to be around.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Roll20 Characters

I'm getting ready to run a game for some of friends on roll20. I know, I know. Still, it's free.

Because I never do things the easy way, I've made different classes along late-medieval themes and modified the d20 ruleset down to the barest bones possible. I doubt that will interest any randos that stumble across my blog, though.

Class Abilities

Anyway, here are the classes. They have strong, thematic capabilities. These assume you agree with the objectively correct, morally superior position of death to ability scores. They also assume that you receive two feats at first level and rely on them for all of your player-driven character customization. So feats have to be pretty chunky, more like 5e feats than 4e or buy-in 3e. Lastly and perhaps most objectionably, they assume that you don't receive more hit points as you increase in level. If you want that so much, take a feat.

A slow, dangerous melee class.
A defensive melee class. 
A standard-fare ranged caster. I'll probably post their Dark Gift table later, after I de-plagiarize it.

"Let's not fight," you say as you discreetly reach for your sword.
"Ze healing is not as revarding as ze hurting." A non-clerical healing class. I know plague doctors are done to death.
Never stop firing. Also, never stop moving.

Sit in the back row and gank people.

A momentum-based class.