Saturday, 11 June 2022

[OSR] Ogres, Four Ways

Between zero and four of the following accounts are true.


"Gruul Spellbreaker", art by Zoltan Boros

Monday, 6 June 2022

[OSR] A Visit from the Goon Squad

Discussion on Discord recently alighted on the topic of low-HD minion types, and, more specifically, campy cinematic goons, inspired by Power Rangers and its endless supply of thematically diverse grunts. I've also been reading through the draft docs for Skerples' Monster Overhaul, and one of the things that's really impressed me about it is how many bits of inspiration it offers for repurposing and reskinning one statblock with minor variations.

Between those two things, I felt like writing up some goons. I'll be borrowing a couple of tricks (read: shamelessly nabbing stuff) from this Goblin Punch post.

(The title is from Jennifer Egan's novel of the same name, which I highly recommend).


"Earwig Squad", art by Warren Mahy
 
 

[Fluff] Quarter-Hour of Writing Challenge: Laws and Customs

A challenge by Library of Attnam, discovered via Archons March On.

This post is brought to you by PG Tips tea. PG Tips: It's What They Had At The Shop.


"Azor's Elocutors", art by Johannes Voss

Thursday, 2 June 2022

[GLOG] Dead Century, a GLOG (Unfinished Stream of Consciousness Edition)

Dead Century is a setting I've been mucking about with for a long while. It's set 50 years after a magical zombie apocalypse called the Spasm, in the ruins of a world fought over by squabbling arch-necromancers, with a few pockets of human resistance flying under the radar, beneath notice compared to the grand schemes of the dead. I guess I'd call it "grimbright" - shit's bad, but there's hope for change, and the human spirit has persisted.

I've wanted to make a GLOG out of Dead Century for ages. Today, as we "celebrate" 70 years of the corpse-queen's impotent reign over this wretched isle, it felt appropriate to try and hammer some of it into shape, neatness be damned. So, in the hope of breaking my creative block and maybe harnessing the momentum to do some more work on OLOG, here are the beginnings of a system, I guess. Concrit very welcome. Here's a pretty picture; there's naught but rules under the cut.

"Crowded Crypt", art by Jarel Threat

Friday, 14 January 2022

[GLOG?] Pain

I've been doing a lot of design by subtraction recently. OLOG's main mechanical trick is that it does away with variable ability scores - there are still some calculated stats like Defence and Save values, but instead of Strength, Intelligence, Tastiness etc., you have Virtues.

What else can I tear apart and rework? I put most of this together on my lunch break. (This isn't going into OLOG, I just wanted to get the thoughts down.)

Pain

Hit points are gone. Damage rolls are gone. Replace them with Pain.

Pain is real, tangible harm, like getting hit with a weapon, fireball, or death curse. Lesser injuries might hurt or inconvenience you, but are not classed as Pain.

Creatures have a pain threshold (T). 1 is puny, 5 is hardy. Most humans have an innate Threshold of 3.

When you suffer Pain, roll a d6. If it exceeds your Threshold, you die.


art by Dominik Mayer 

If you'd rather not risk death every time you get hit, you big dirty coward, there are ways to protect yourself.

Wards

A Ward is something that can save you from Pain - think of it as sacrificial armour, something you can wager instead of your life. Here are a few things that serve as Wards:

  • A sturdy shield (an item).
  • A blessing of health (a buff).
  • A barricade to hide behind (an environmental element).
  • Your personal grit (a character ability).

Whenever you suffer Pain, you may invoke a Ward to change the stakes of the die roll. Instead of wagering your life, you wager the integrity of the Ward, and roll against its threshold rather than your own. If the d6 breaks the threshold, the blow is still absorbed, but the Ward is disabled and can't be used again, though it may recharge if some condition is met.

  • The shield breaks. It can probably be repaired.
  • The blessing wears off. It won't come back unless your party's priest casts it again.
  • The barricade cracks and crumbles. You could rebuild it, but you'd be starting from scratch.
  • Fatigue and stress set in and dull your grit, but you'll get it back as soon as you have a minute to rest.

Most Wards are not universal - there will be some sources of Pain against which they can't be invoked.

  • The shield won't help you against area attacks, or threats you don't see coming.
  • The blessing only wards you against mundane harm - magical attacks bypass it.
  • The barricade naturally only works against things coming from the other side of it.
  • Grit is a special case. We'll say this one is universal.

Other Considerations

Attack rolls and Defence are still assumed to be a thing.

Without variable damage dice, we need a new way to handle weapon power. Particularly powerful weapons could be represented in a few ways - powerful attacks could have a penetration value that reduces the threshold of physical Wards invoked against them. With this in mind, Wards could well have thresholds higher than 5. These Wards never fail under normal conditions - you'll need a penetrative weapon to break them.

Especially nasty attacks, like dragon breath and killing curses, could potentially cause multiple rolls' worth of Pain, either to single targets or spread out across a group. You can't use the same Ward more than once against the same attack.

I'm still not sure how to handle body armour. It could be a simple Defence buff, but that feels against the spirit of the system. It could be its own Ward, but having a whole suit of armour fall apart to a single decisive hit feels silly; I considered armour having a degrading threshold (it gets worse as you take more hits) but that's a bit too fiddly for my tastes. My current, provisional ruling is that armour increases your personal threshold, but is subject to being partially or fully ignored by penetrating weapons - maybe it's like

  • Unarmoured: T3
  • Leather: T4
  • Chain: T5 - you can get through with a non-penetrating weapon, but it's going to be tricky
  • Plate: T6 - penetrating weapons needed to do any harm

Nonlethal attacks work the same as lethal ones, but the failure condition is "you're unconscious" or similar rather than "you die".

Instead of dealing extra damage, critical hits bypass almost all Wards.

You might also be able to attack some Wards directly if you want them gone. If successful, this forces a roll against that Ward, rather than the target getting to choose.

Pain in Action

The anti-priest Arlene, hastening home to her safehouse, feels her heart sink as hoofbeats echo behind her. An errant Stag-Knight is tailing her, no doubt seeking the bounty on her head.

Arlene has:

  • Personal T4, including a +1 bonus for her leathers.
  • Grit (T2), as she's not really a fighter.

The Stag-Knight has:

  • Personal T5, including a +2 bonus for his chainmail.
  • Grit (T4), he's an experienced warrior.
  • A shield (T3).

As a straight fight, this isn't looking good for Arlene; her magic is almost spent, and she doesn't have a weapon powerful enough to be of use against chainmail. She'll need to be smart to have a chance of survival.

Arlene turns on her heel and draws her bow, taking a potshot at the approaching Stag-Knight. The arrow finds its mark, so now the Stag-Knight faces Pain. He chooses to invoke his shield, rolls a d6, and gets a 3, not enough to break his shield's threshold of 3. The arrow buries itself deep in the wooden board, but the shield holds

The Stag-Knight dismounts as he reaches Arlene and draws his sword, ready to cut down the infidel before him. His swing connects, so now it's Arlene's turn to face Pain. She invokes her meagre grit, figuring she'll need as many extra chances against this foe as she can get, and rolls a 3, enough to break her grit threshold. She ducks beneath his hopeful high swing, but it's close.

With her grit disabled, Arlene has no Wards left, and any blows that land on her now will be potentially deadly. She drops her bow and makes a show of drawing a blade of her own, teeth gritted in desperation. The Stag-Knight watches her sword arm with fierce focus, and doesn't catch the subtle swell of violet-edged darkness coiling around her other hand.

She slams her left hand into the Stag-Knight's flank. Castigate is a potent curse, inflicting two separate Pains. The Stag-Knight wasn't expecting this attack, so he can't invoke his shield again; he invokes his grit against one Pain, but can't use the same Ward twice against a single attack, so he has no choice but to suffer the other directly to his body.

He resolves the first Pain against his grit, and rolls a successful 2, but it doesn't matter. The second, resolved against his body, rolls an unlucky 6. The sweet, calculated words of Him Below flow through the Stag-Knight's body like molten iron, and he collapses, steaming, to the ground.

Arlene catches her breath and retrieves her bow. Having had a moment to recover, her grit recharges - should she get into another fight, she'll be able to use it again. But no amount of grit can protect her from her patron. The castigate that felled the Stag-Knight used more of His power than she's earned, and the accountants Beneath never sleep.

But Why, Though?

It makes combat scarier, and gives me interesting dials to turn, to make characters tougher in different ways. Heavy armour, hard-won fighting experience, and magical protection can all impact a character's toughness, and they can do so in different ways (increased personal threshold, increased grit, and a whole separate Ward, respectively).

It is also badly in need of refinement and testing, but getting the ideas out early can't hurt!

Friday, 7 January 2022

[OSR General] AI-Generated Monsters

Reddit user Deep_Fold trained an AI on D&D monsters and produced some fun images. Phlox challenged some of the gretchlings that coalesce and fester on his Discord server to put stats to them. This is me doing that.

Chlorophore

Solitary, nocturnal jungle ambush predator. Sometimes attempts to disguise itself as a leaf, but, since it's the size of a horse, this doesn't work. Fortunately, it has other means of stealth.

HD: 4
AC: as chain
Move: normal
Morale: 6
Intelligence: stupid dog, practiced but predictable
Speech: wet reptilian grunting
Damage: tendril 1d8 / tendril 1d8 (odd rolls are acid damage, even rolls are bludgeoning); or blinding flash (see below)
# Enc.: solitary

Light-Snuffing Aura: Mundane light sources within 30' of the chlorophore are snuffed. Natural or magical sources are suppressed. The chlorophore can turn this aura on and off at will.

Blinding Flash: Used instead of an attack. The chlorophore releases stored light in a hot bright wave. Everyone in a 60' radius must Save or be blinded. If you fail two consecutive Saves, it's permanent. The chlorophore must snuff five torches or lanterns, or spend a day sleeping in direct sunlight, to recharge this ability.

If harvested within an hour of death while charged, a chlorophore's light glands can be used as flash grenades, or sold for 10gp apiece to a sufficiently sketchy alchemist.

Tragedian

Wise librarians know it's bad luck to shelve too many sad stories, especially true ones, in close proximity. Only the very wisest librarians know why. Tragedians are creatures of ink and sorrow, crawling off the page to drown the world in misery and melodrama.

HD: 1
AC: as leather
Move: normal
Morale: 10
Intelligence: florid and articulate but wholly irrational
Speech: half-coherent babbling about various horrible things (use this post for inspiration)
Damage: draining touch 1d6-3 plus misery (see below)
# Enc.: moan of 1d4+2 or lamentation of 2d6

Misery: If a tragedian's draining touch rolls net 0 damage or less, it instead inflicts 1 point of misery. If the target already has 5 or more points, instead it's 1d3 Wisdom damage.
Apply your current misery as a penalty to all d20 rolls. Whenever you fail a roll that you would have succeeded on if not for your misery, Save or spend the next round doing nothing but wailing, sobbing, and lamenting your failures.
Receiving a vigorous pep-talk in a safe place from someone with no misery, which takes at least a minute, removes all your misery.

Tragedian bodies contain about a pint each of useable ink. Writing with tragedian ink is said to improve your command of language.

Shard Puppet

An undead hybrid creature made from cursed permafrost and the blood of a hypothermia victim. Cold Artists use shard puppets as guards and enforcers. The wicked fever they can bestow is often considered a fate worse than death; they do not hand it out wantonly, but won't hesitate to make examples if their masters' edicts are disrespected.

HD: 8
AC: as chain; half damage from slashing and piercing weapons
Move: normal, fly normal
Morale: 9
Intelligence: mostly obedient servants, but just enough initiative to keep you guessing
Speech: low telepathic growl
Damage: claw 1d8 / claw 1d8; or blood feed (special, see below)
# Enc: solitary or troop of 1d3+3

Edge Fever: Anyone who ingests shard puppet blood contracts edge fever. Whenever you critically fail a melee attack roll against a shard puppet, Save; if you fail, some of its blood got in your mouth, and you now have edge fever. A shard puppet can also use its attack action against a restrained target to force-feed them blood, in which case they also get a Save.
Edge fever's symptoms are a slightly raised temperature, mild lethargy, and automatically failing all Saves. Swallowing a lump of hot coal (1d6 damage) suppresses edge fever for a week, but there's no known mundane cure. It's part disease, part curse, so curing it with magic is tricky too. If a reliable, replicable antidote for edge fever were found, its value would be incalculable, but it would doubtless draw the attention and hostility of the Cold Artists.

Antaviran Inquirer

Antaviran Inquirers are extradimensional grad students completing the final trial of the Debate and Diplomacy Department. They must satisfy their voracious appetites with local sapient beings for the duration of their study / exile, but must also grant any victim a chance to make an argument for why they shouldn't be eaten.

HD: 6
AC: as plate
Move: levitate (1-3' above ground) normal
Morale: 7
Intelligence: theoretically sharp, practically hazy
Speech: "well, actually"
Damage: 1d3 claw / 1d3 claw or swallow (see below)
# Enc.: solitary or pair

Swallow: When an Antaviran Inquirer hits with a claw attack, it latches onto the target with that claw. A character can forfeit their move or attack for the round and attempt a Strength or Dexterity check to unlatch a claw.
An Inquirer can replace one of its attacks against a character latched with both claws with a swallow. No attack roll - the Inquirer splits open down the middle and the target must Save or be encased within. 1d8 acid damage per round as long as the Inquirer lives. It's possible to pry the case open with a crowbar, or persuade the Inquirer to release the target voluntarily.

Inquirers won't eat anyone who can present a compelling moral, philosophical, or logical case for why they specifically shouldn't be eaten - general arguments against eating sapient beings do not apply. Feel free to roleplay this, or use opposed Intelligence checks (roll 1d6+11 for the Inquirer's Int).

Thursday, 6 January 2022

[OLOG] Combat and Pressure

Special thanks to If Our Lives Be Short for inspiring me to get this written up properly.

Initiative

PCs roll for initiative (d20+level, possibly modified by Virtues). NPCs have static initiative values and don't roll. Initiative counts last for the whole fight unless someone does something to change them.

Actions and Pressure

Under normal circumstances, you get two actions per turn. You cannot usually take the same action twice.

If you are within reach of a creature that wishes you ill, you are under pressure. While under pressure, when you take an action, your turn ends afterwards unless you announce as you take the action (and before making relevant rolls) that you're pressing on.

When you press on, you suffer automatic damage. The die you roll for pressure damage is equal to half of the largest damage die among creatures threatening you - if one of them has multiple attacks, only take the largest. This roll has a minimum result equal to the number of creatures threatening you, which can exceed the normal maximum roll. Flat bonuses to damage rolls don't apply to pressure unless otherwise stated.

Some examples:

  • Threatened by two orcs with 1d8 swords: You take 1d4 damage, minimum 2.
  • Threatened by a badlands superpredator with a 1d10 bite and two 1d6 claws: You take 1d5 damage.
  • Threatened by eight humans with 1d6 knives: You take 8 damage. You probably should not let this happen.

If it matters, pressure damage happens simultaneously with the the action that triggered it.

Some actions have one of the following tags, which affect how they interact with this system.

  • Extended actions consume both your actions for the turn. If you're under pressure, you must press on to use an extended action.
  • Free actions don't consume an action and do not trigger pressure.

List of Combat Actions

Not exhaustive.

  • Move. Combat distances in OLOG are mostly abstracted - one move action is enough to move you about 30ft, or one distance band towards or away from a group of enemies.
  • Attack. Most characters get only one attack per action, but some combat-focused classes can make more, usually with a condition attached. If you get multiple attacks per action, you can break them up with your other action if you like - so you can, for example, make one attack and then move before making your second.
  • Defend yourself. +2 to AC until your next turn, or +4 if you're holding a shield.
  • Cast a spell. Extended action.
  • Retrieve an item from your pack, or switch one you're holding with one in your pack. This is a free action for the topmost item in your inventory, and an extended action for one in the bottom half of your inventory.
  • Strategise. Adjust your initiative count by 1d6 in the direction of your choice. Takes effect next round.