Thursday, December 27, 2018

Hirelings of the Blasted Lands

In every crusty tavern and old, broken-down watering hole you will find them. The story of a tormented, fractured world woven into a tapestry across their scarred faces. The fires of burning hopes and dreams gleaming behind beady, distrustful eyes. They follow you, those eyes, as you settle down at a table and ask for a drink. To some, you might be a potential threat, to others a future victim, and to a few, rare others, you might just be their last chance for a brighter future.

(Initially, this was a hireling generator, however, this function displays them as a list just in case you want to band them together into a rival adventuring party to torment your PCs.)

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Weird Civ-Building, Part 1: Rules Skeleton

This is the basic rules skeleton for a westmarches-style civ-building game, inspired by games like Dwarf Fortress, Endless Legend, and Caves of Qud. I've tried to leave setting-specific elements out for now. Future posts will look into the various subsections in detail and delve more into the setting.

The goals of this game are to:
-Emphasize and reward player creativity.
-Create interesting player-driven group-wide objectives .
-Turn emergent narratives that happen during play into lasting progression.
-Have the players' deeds and decisions have a tangible and lasting effect on the world.

Game will use Into the Odd rules for stats, hp. If players have low stats/hp, they roll on hidden tables for beneficial mutations, psionic powers, tech grafts, etc. Every expedition survived gives a character 1 HP and lets them test one stat to try and improve it.
Characters will change constantly by being exposed to the world's weirdness, aka mutations, insanities, curses, etc.

-Tales/songs about your civ's deeds act as one-use spells, with effects based on the subject matter. Can be inscribed in scrolls/tablets/books. One tale per deed, one use per spell. (important deeds are, therefore, treated as a resource of sorts) [Future: tales as tattoos to create lasting effects?]
-Characters engrave artwork into items to "enchant" them with effects based on subject matter and materials used. Must use expensive/powerful materials to do this.
-Characters can create their own religion based on certain tenets(war, harvest, death, etc.) to perform miracles with power based on the amount of believers, and effects based on the religion's tenets.
-Characters can reverse engineer a piece of technology to gain "research points" towards discovering how to make/use it.
-Characters can train or convince npcs to become hirelings, and later on in the game, organize them into military units.
-Build, upgrade, or repair a facility in the base. Usually requires lots of expensive resources.

These things are done back at base between adventures. Each character can do one of these things per (units of time), but if the player makes a session report or fanart out of game, it counts as their character being able to make an extra thing in-game.
Therefore, once per (unit of time), a character can:
-Record/memorize a tale(spell)
-Craft a major item
-Engrave/enchant an item with magic artwork
-Convert an NPC to a religion
-Prepare a miracle(spell)
-Reverse-engineer a piece of technology
-Train an NPC to become a hireling
-Build/upgrade/repair base facility

Once per (unit of time), the Civ can organize an Expedition (adventure session). It should be up to the players to figure out what the goal is.
Some adventure seeds to help give players ideas:
-Explore a new area
-Search for a rare/useful resource
-Make a diplomatic mission to or for another Civ
-Attack/pillage/make war with a group
-Open a trade route
-Assist a group in distress
These are just suggestions, it can feasibly be anything they want to do.

Have cultural tenets, wants, and needs. Have certain goods to trade and services to provide, value certain trade goods over others. Have existing emnities/alliances with each other; befriending one may earn you additional allies and enemies. Each makes a useful ally or a terrifying foe, each in different ways.
-At a certain level of friendship, they will send migrants over to your Civ (functionally meaning your players can now create new characters as members of that Civ, aka unlockable races)

Friendly civs may send merchant caravans to trade with you, providing opportunities to get rare or exotic materials. There is no universal system of currency, so it's all bartering. Each civ has its own value system and finds different materials valuable.
-Wandering skalds will trade tales from far off lands (foreign spells) for tales of your civ.
-Mercenaries for hire will occasionally show up.


Rules for religion are based on Type1Ninja's Cleric class from the GLOG Trenchcoat Edition.
-Religions are founded on tenets, single words that sum up the themes (kind of like spheres of influence from dnd).
-Every (unit of time), a religion gains a number of faith points based on the amount of worshippers (subject to diminishing returns). These faith points are then evenly distributed between the faith's leaders (PCs).
-To perform a miracle, a PC spends faith points, invokes one tenet for each faith point spent, and the DM determines the result of the miracle depending on the tenets invoked. So more faith points spent = more tenets invoked = more control over the miracle's outcome.
-Players can "level up" their religion by adding more tenets and increasing their number of followers.
-Your religion will compete with rival religions from other civs for followers.


-Players can recruit NPCs as hirelings, and then form those hirelings into military units, using Type1Ninja's squad rules (group all hirelings into a squad, shared hp pool and morale score, only one action needed to command them all, hits past 0 hp target a random squadmate who has 3-in-6 chance to die).
-Hirelings progress (though slower than players), and players can take over a favorite hireling if their character dies rather than starting a new character.
-Squads can progress as well, can be equipped, and can be given banners, sigils, etc. to solidify their identity and improve morale. The more identity/history a squad has, the more effective they will be.

In true westmarches fashion, the home base is a place that cannot be threatened by outside forces. In this case, it is a metallic facility where characters emerge from cloning pods and reach the outside world through a teleporter that is connected to a ruined temple (the starting zone). At the end of each session, characters are teleported back to the home base.

The home base starts with these facilities and features:
-Birthing room: new characters emerge from the cloning pods.
-Teleporter room: characters can warp to the ruined temple.
-Crafting room: Some previous inhabitants built primitive furnaces, kilns, and other rudimentary crafting stations.
-Living room: Some previous inhabitants built places to eat and sleep. Mysterious machines built into the wall provide food and water; starving is no concern.

These obstacles provide metroidvania checkpoints between players and other advanced facilities/features:
-Barricaded door: blocks off access to another room. Ominous noises heard on the other side; whoever barricaded this did so for good reason.
-Welded-shut door: blocks off access to another room. Requires metallurgy, explosives, or melting magic to bypass.
-Malfunctioning door: blocks off access to another room. High-security, requires some kind of technological answer or expertise to bypass.

-The world gets weirder the further the players stray from the starting zone. Therefore the world will have a conceptual difficulty curve, rather than numeric. However, the more conceptually weird the area is, the cooler/more fun the loot will be.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Cathedral of Flesh and Bone

In the farthest corners of these lands,
sculpted by their fervent hands,
fed to strength by their hate, ever knowing,
tumorous faiths lie in wait, always growing.
-Dustbelt children's rhyme

On a massive hill on the northern edge of the Blasted Lands looms a Cathedral of flesh and bone. It glistens red and white in the daylight. It breathes through a thousand mouths. Close enough, you can feel a massive heart beating deep below. The clerics have tended to it, fed it, grafting new flesh to its bulk. Letting it metastasize into glorious divinity. They will try to add you to it, by words or by force. They are very persuasive, and very generous. They wish to give you the greatest gift they know. Perhaps you can convince them that you are not worthy of that gift. If so, they may send you on a pilgrimage to prove your dedication. If you succeed, they may teach you their secrets of flesh-sculpting, blood-binding, mutation and osseomancy. Threaten the Cathedral and the Paladins will hunt you. They are powerful, tactically adept inhuman warriors with enhanced musculature and bone exoskeletons. They can push themselves beyond normal human limits. Their arms can transform into whatever weapons they need. 
Cathedral Clerics
d6 for HD, d10 for feature and spell known.
1 Blank bone mask, uses sign language, blind. Ossify.
2 Veins on the outside, wrapping like vines, questing like feelers. Bloodbind.
3 Hole in chest, beating heart suspended in vein web. Clotting.
4 Loops intestines around neck like scarf. Intestinal Lash.
5 Extra eyes in unexpected places. Supplant Eye.
6 Chest and ribs open outward, stores small holy relics inside. Mutation.
7 Skin shifts as muscles constantly rearrange themselves. Flesh Sculpting.
8 Incoherent but prophetic siamese twin. Roll d20 on cast. 1-10 Inversion, 11-20 Restore.
9 Constantly carving holy texts into skin. Lacerate.
10 Extra mouths on palms interrupt to shout prayers. Random roll on this table each cast.

Cathedral Paladin
d6 for HD, 1 attack at 2d6 damage, d8 for feature and enhancement.
1 Magnificent cape of own flayed skin. Is a prominent hero among its kind, has retinue.
2 Arms split down the middle. 2 extra attacks with disadvantage.
3 Single, massive, bloodshot eye in featureless bone plate face. Can always see transgressors.
4 Enhanced back-bent jumping legs. Can jump 30’ and no fall damage.
5 Accentuated sharpened ribcage. Can fire ribs as seeking missiles.
6 Bulky exoskeleton. First attack it recieves deals no damage and deals 1d6 to attacker.
7 Muscle fibers writhe around its arms. Can Smite Flesh, banishing disreputable tissue from the target and dealing Xd6 damage where X = its HD.
8 Six legs, like an insect. Can move at frightening speeds and climb walls/ceilings.

First d6: 1-2 Smite 3-4 Protect 5-6 Find
1-2 SMITE 
1 An incursion of Plaguebearers. 
2 A traitor selling Cathedral secrets. 
3 An expansionist fungal overlord.    
4 A rampaging war automaton. 
5 A mischievous rogue wizard. 
6 An unstable outlaw warlord.  
1 A tiny Cathedral outpost colony.
2 A Cleric cleansing the Plague from the fleshlands.
3 A Funginaut courier bearing a crucial message. 
4 An expeditionary pilgrimage to the Scablands. 
5 A shipment of medicine heading for a major outpost.
6 A Cleric exorcising rogue spirits.                     
5-6 FIND            
1 A lost artifact from a distant age.
2 The stolen flesh and bones of a Saint.
3 A lost fungal Sporechild.
4 A squad of Paladins that has gone missing.
5 A unique mutation among local fauna.
6 A weakened sample of the Plague.

1 Bone tablet with random Cathedral Rite spell (can be learned with difficult Int test).
            1 Lacerate
            2 Flesh Sculpting
            3 Supplant Eye
            4 Intestinal Lash
            5 Liquiform
            6 Ossify
2 The Cathedral will:
            1 Send a Paladin to follow and protect you for three days.
            2 Have a Paladin hunt down a target of your choice.
            3 Have a Cleric perform haruspexy scrying for you.
            4 Help your civilization research a flesh-based advancement.
            5 Have an Cleric join your civilization.
            6 Have a Paladin join your civilization.
3 Adaptable flesh and bone weapon:
            1 A cytoplasmic short sword that deals internal damage without puncturing skin.
            2 A dagger that can meld into and out of any part of wielder’s body.
            3 Wielder’s fingers can fuse together into a mace at will.
            4 Wielder can spit forth their rib bones like shortbow arrows, then re-ingest.
            5 Wielder can projectile vomit acidic bile gobbets.
            6 Wielder can pop their eye in and out at will and have it float around within 60 feet.
4 A cultivated stem cell blob that, when ingested,
            1 cures all diseases.
            2 purifies mutations.
            3 causes a beneficial mutation.
            4 cures a physical malady or long term injury.
            5 heals all HP.
            6 increases a random stat by 1.

Can replace a roll on the table with curing a disease, purifying a mutation, healing fully, or curing a physical malady/long term injury.


Stimulates platelet growth and bonding, coagulating blood and creating scar tissue much faster than usual. Heals 1d8 damage from the target. If the caster takes a full uninterrupted minute, roll 1d8 with advantage. Creatures that recieve too many coagulant effects in a small amount of time may suffer strokes.
Duration: until save ends. Blood calls to blood. Strong blood binds weak blood to a stronger will. Target makes a save at the beginning of the spell. The target can no longer move as the blood in its body is bound in place. If the target has a similar anatomical structure to you, you may bind it to your own blood and force the creature move as you move, mimicking you.
This spell dissolves all scar tissue in the target’s body, opening all the wounds that it had suffered in the last few days. Does anywhere from 0 to 6d6 damage depending on how many battles the target has been in recently. Has the side effect of instantly curing strokes and other clot based ailments.
Create an extra eye on target that you can see through. Or, you can hijack someone’s eye and use it as your own. In combat, gives enemy -2 to attack and you +2 to attack.
Concentrate power into your hands that allows you to sculpt flesh and bone like clay. This lasts for one minute. You can spend a round to sculpt an ally’s flesh back together, healing them for 1d6. Your unarmed attacks also do an extra 1d6 damage as they sculpt your target’s flesh apart. You can spend the entire minute to sculpt a severed limb back onto its owner (or onto a different owner, if the target passes a CON test).
Duration: 3 rounds. This spell allows you to identify one type of foreign substance within the target’s body (1st round), collect it in the target’s stomach (2nd round), and induce them to vomit it out (3rd round). Foreign substance can mean any substance that is not part of the target’s natural body processes and can include poison, alcohol, drugs, or medication. This does not include diseases.
For a time, your intestines can lash out as an extra attack, inflicting 1d6 bludgeoning and 1d6 acid damage, or can try to grapple an enemy. They can also be used as a prehensile rope to climb or grasp things.
Bone cultists of the Skeletal Ridges would use this as an Ascension ritual, believing that one day, in the dawn of a new age, the chrysalides would open, and beautiful, multifarious flesh forms would emerge. Less enlightened mystics learned the spell and now use it as a punishment, but who is to say that its original practitioners were wrong?
Caster concentrates on target for up to 3 rounds. Target makes a save at the beginning of the spell. At the end of the first round, target’s bones and cartilage fuse together, preventing them from moving. At the end of the second round, this new combined bone structure grows out of control, puncturing out of the skin and perforating internal organs, causing 5d6 damage.  At the end of the third round, the growths spread across the skin, entombing the target in a chrysalis of their own bone. This spell requires full concentration on the part of the caster and will cease if interrupted.
Turns someone inside out for 1d6 rounds. No save. No senses except touch (how unfortunate), excruciating pain if they touch anything, and all attacks against them are crits. At the end of spell duration, they revert back.
All solid matter in target’s body gains the consistency of tar. The target’s AC becomes 5, its speed is halved, and it gains resistance to all physical damage. It may now pass through any size opening given enough time, and may crawl up walls and across ceilings. It cannot attack or use any abilities, except a grapple attack that engulfs the target. From there it can attempt to suffocate the victim, or crawl inside the victim’s orifices and kill it from the inside (more difficult, may incur damage).

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Silent Titans Playtest, Game 1

Last thursday I was lucky enough to participate in a playtest of the upcoming SILENT TITANS, referee'd by the fabulous Fiona Geist!


-RENWEIN GOAT-SAINT: A goat-person with a saint-mask; a fiddler, deal-broker, lover of song, possibly the Devil itself? Played by Bardaree.
-PEREDUR (PENDUR) SUN-SHEEP: A sheep-person, skilled worker, strange ally, suspect friend, fierce foe, and literal and figurative black sheep (wearing a sun mask). Played by Corey.
-NIKITA EEEK: A radical russian communist artist with fabulous hair. Played by Zedeck.
-GODBOLD STAG-STAR: A stag-person with a star mask, a fey-touched mesmerist who can make women hallucinate. Played by yours truly.
-JACK 'ICEBERG' BERG: A 65-year-old pugilist who can read hit points and hates the commies. Played by Claire.
-KAESO CLOVIS CATO: A roman legionnaire who is convinced the Mask-Men are gods. Played by Ian.


Our cast of strange and sundry characters have been sent through the folds of capricious space-time to this nexus of fates: a stairway atop a tower beset by storm, betwixt twin doors of brass and onyx, staring up at their dread foes: Dr. Hog and his cohort of bowler-hat-clad, uzi-toting Brain Apes.
They must place their trust in their strange allies, or die alone in this twisted place.

Combat breaks out immediately as the simian goons prepare to open fire. Seeking to impress the animal gods, Cato stands forth, and the party huddles behind his sturdy legionnaire shield. After exchanging a hail of fire, Renwein, Pendur, Jack, and Cato run through the brass door, while Nikita and Godbold rush to the onyx door.


Through the brass door is a ship tossed in storm, with a crew slaughtered out of time, filled with a ballast of 500 clocks ticking out of rhythm, a massive store of rations, and a 21st-century hand-cranked desalination engine. The clocktower tolls ominous in the distance. The four loot the bodies and examine the clocks, then move towards the clocktower.

Through the onyx door is the Pendulous Shaft, which poor Nikita and Godbold plunge right into. They plummet amidst pendulums and chains towards a web of garbage at the shaft's base. The Chronal Parasite, a clock-junk spider amalgam humming a nonsense tune, catches the scent of prey and moves in. Nikita lands on the web harmlessly, and Godbold catches hold of a pendulum, and the spider heads towards him. He attempts to befriend the parasite by complimenting its musical style and postmodern sense of aesthetic, but the spider takes this as a romantic overture and attempts to Unify with him. Nikita opens fire and the rest of the party arrives on the scene and kills the parasite before it eats poor Godbold. They loot the body to find a pair of Biomechanical Injector Rapiers (which were once the thing's mandibles).


The party proceeds deeper into the complex and enters a workroom in disrepair, attended by aimless clockwork skeletons. They dispatch the skeletons easily, though Cato takes a minor wound and realizes that this is not, in fact, a dream, and flees. The party eyes the glimmering golden clock-parts, but are beset upon by a squadron of Brain Apes. A firefight ensues, and Cato is caught in the blast of a Brain Grenade, and temporarily becomes a kleptomaniac. After a pitched battle, the party again emerges victorious. Nikita, however, has had her fabulous hair infested by Silver Ants that emerged from the ape corpses. The ants begin to whisper their sibilant lies. Renwein threatens to use bolt-cutters to shear Nikita's glorious locks and cure her of the ants, but Nikita resists. Cato attempts to kleptomaniacally steal Renwein's beloved fiddle, and Renwein retaliates by activating another grenade. This time, Cato becomes romantically obsessed with Pendur (and will be afflicted with these conditions for some time, as his Will stat is 5), Jack is possessed with unstoppable rage and begins punching an ape corpse into mush screaming that "THEY WON'T TAKE AWAY MY FAMILY VALUES", and Nikita is afflicted with Postmodernism: everything becomes a symbol, and she is bored with existence (but both it, and the ant infestation, wear off quickly due to Will saves). Realizing they are dithering, the party then presses forward.


Our brave heroes arrive to see a looming tower molded from flesh and bone into the depiction of a face, ancient and obscene. Gemlike protrusions glitter throughout. A mob of Brain Apes has gathered upon the tongue, and from the cranial cavity Dr. Hog howls down about how 'YOU ALL SHALL DANCE TO THE TUNE OF MY FUNGAL CLAVICHORD!' The nefarious doctor reveals this marvelous invention, a biomechanical beast covered in rhizomes and waste matter, that he plays like a piano, calling forth nebulous gobbets of decay and disease. It appears to serve as a hive for the Silver Ants that seethe within the brains of the apes.

Combat begins as Cato, seeking to impress his beloved Pendur, leaps toward Dr. Hog with the intent to steal his Multifarious Ray Gun. Pendur also moves towards the doctor with hostile intent. Dr. Hog zaps Pendur with his Ray Gun, and makes them ethereal. The Fungal Clavichord launches a missile of ant-encrusted filth that misses. Nikita sees in Dr. Hog the epitome of the Capitalist Pig that she has opposed for so long and fires at him, dealing heavy damage. Jack, still afflicted with murderous rage, decides to turn it towards the mob of apes, and charges them while brandishing his lead-cored walking stick. Godbold throws his grappling hook, attempting to pull the Fungal Clavichord away from Dr. Hog, but fails the tug-of-war. The squad of apes fire upon the party, but suffer from severely low damage rolls. 

The battle then organizes itself into two fronts: Cato, Pendur, and Nikita against Dr. Hog and the Clavichord, and Jack, Godbold, and Reinwen against the Apes. 

Between Reinwen's blunderbuss, Jack's walking stick, and Godbold's glass sword, the apes fall within a few rounds. Meanwhile, Cato kleptomaniacally swipes Dr. Hog's Multifarious Ray Gun and turns the doctor ethereal. A Brain Grenade explodes among the group, afflicting them with even more conditions, most notable being that Nikita falls in love with the Fungal Clavichord. To be one with her beloved she tears the implants from Dr. Hog's skull and plants it in her own, and discovers the arcane truth about the Silver Ants. Meanwhile, Cato and Pendur beat the doctor to death.

With Dr. Hog's death, the cranial tower begins to fall apart as the titan wakes. The party fails to grab any of the gemlike protrusions (or anything of real value) before they are cast out of the Titan's mind and into the Wir-Heal. Nikita, who left clutching her beloved Fungal Clavichord, discovers that in the real world it is just a filth-encrusted typewriter. Womp-womp.


So ends the first session of Silent Titans. This was an absolute blast, Fiona did an excellent job refereeing, and I cannot wait until next sesson! 
Poor Godbold didn't get to make anyone hallucinate, but he did discover a depth of courage within his tiny deer heart. He also got a whole 1 hp, bringing his total up to 2 (o frabjous day! callooh! callay! I chortled in my joy).

If you, too, want to dance to the tune of Dr. Hog's Fungal Clavichord, check out the SILENT TITANS kickstarter, which has been backed to three times its initial goal within the first 24 hours! Further updates can be found on Patrick's blog.