Monday, November 21, 2016

Player Class Minigames

A while back the amazing Arnold K wrote a post on non-level based advancement that I really latched on to, I used it in my games and my players loved it. I really like the idea, so I set myself to the challenge of making one for each class, as Arnold implies in his own post. I play using heavily bastardized 5e rules, so each class will get these when they get to their class specialization, and each one will be specific to that specialization.

(This is an outline post, look forward to single posts for each class! As I publish them I'll put links to them in this post)

Non-level based advancement:

The whole premise of non-level based advancement is that it gives the PCs ways to improve that are directly tied to their actions. They see rewards for playing to their specialization's strengths. And its a way to further distinguish the classes from each other, and even distinguish the specializations from each other. Everyone gets to be a special flower!

Barbarian:

Ugh, another cliche barbarian

Barbarians are tough as shit angry people that kill things.
Path of the Berserker: Your rage and fury are your deepest joys, track the most amount of damage done in a single rage. With each new level of destruction you find deeper wells of joyous ruin.
Totem Warrior: You find your totem animal in a dream or an ecstatic trance over the heady fumes of a ritual fire. You and the animal meld in body and spirit, you are the primal incarnation of the bear, the eagle, the wolf, or some other. Track the number of animals you help, these must be the as your totem animal(s).

Bard:

You can tell shes a bard because of the smirk

You are an orator, a poet, a musician, and your expression moves your friends to heroism and your foes to despair.
College of Lore: You are a well from which you can draw history and knowledge from the depths of the past. Your long study lore has given you an unrivaled grasp of Lore. For every lost secret that you unearth your knowledge deepens.
College of Valor: You thrill in the heat of battle, pounding a martial beat as you urge your allies on. You have taken to the sword as a duck to a pond. Keep track of every bardic inspiration die that is the difference between life and death for an ally or foe.

Cleric:

Yes, even dwarfs can be clerics

You are a champion of your faith, you are the word and the law. As such you embody some aspect of your faiths principles, that is your Domain.
Knowledge Domain: Your mission is to discover all of the secrets that your gods has scattered over creation for you. Your mind is sharp and adaptable, keep track of the number of times that your divinely guided mind finds a solution to a problem.
Life Domain: You are a gardener of souls; those that you nurture grow in vibrancy and quality, you also ward off death and disease. Keep track of the number of times you guide an ally back from death's door.
Light Domain: Your faith's light shines through you, and you are a scourge to the undead. Track the number of undead you destroy.
Nature Domain: Your faith's mandate is to resolve the disputes between mortals and the Spirits of the land, and as one that straddles the line between you keep track of the number of these conflicts you resolve.
Tempest Domain: Your church is the high windy sea cliff, rain is your baptism, wind is your hymn, lightning is your prayer candle, and thunder is your prayer. Keep track of the kills done with lightning or thunder damage.
Trickery Domain: You delight in mischief and sowing chaos, as is the will of your god. Keep track of the number of successful social deceptions you have committed.
War Domain: You lead the battle hymns and the rites for the glorious dead, in your capable hands the common men place their trust. Keep track of kills with your god's favorite weapon.

Druid:

I've got to wonder what he was doing with his staff behind his back. It looks really uncomfortable. 
While clerics with the nature domain resolve the disputes between mortals and Spirits, druids instead speak for the Spirits as mortal vessels for the natural world's desires.
Circle of the Land: The Spirits lend you their aptitude with weaving the world to their desires. Keep track of your standing in the Spirit world.
Circle of the Moon: While totemic barbarians embrace an animal, you embrace the beast within yourself and you shift skins with ease. Track number of kills while in a particular wild shape form, and get stronger in that form.

Fighter:


As a fighter you are well versed in many combat styles, but there is one style that you truly excel at. Hone this to a sharp point.
Champion: Your weapons are an extension of your body, and you know how to use them to deviating effect. Track number of critical hits you score on your opponents and unlock further levels of might.
Battle Master: You are a tactical thinker, seeing the opportunity in every thrust and parry. Track number of kills with specific weapons, and perfect new techniques with that weapon type.
Eldritch Knight You are a thoughtful hero, melding spell and strike with scholarly dedication. Track number of foes over come with might and magic.

Monk:


Through years of study within your monastic order your mind and body have transcended the abilities of mere mortals. Your fists blur, your feet fly, and with a deep breath your Ki can course out and grant you amazing abilities.
Way of the Open Hand: Your mastery of not only your own Ki but also the Ki of your foes highlights the importance of using your prowess in harmony with that your companions, keep track of how many times your Open Hand Technique allows an ally to kill an opponent or neutralizes them.
Way of Shadow: You have mastered how to use your Ki to meld into the shadows. Keep track of how many times you get the drop on your enemies by using your powers.
Way of the Four Elements: You see the balance in the world and can manipulate it to aid you. Every time you set a natural problem to right your wisdom and strength grows.

Paladin:

Very progressive of WOTC to have a half-orc paladin

A scion of your faith, the fist of justice, or the shield of the innocent; you are a the Law. You embody your religions teachings to protect the faithful and punish the wicked.
Oath of Devotion: You are the purest of the pure, a bright white light in a dark world. Every time you use your Chanel Divinity power, keep track of how many evil creatures you destroy.
Oath of the Ancients: The forest is your cathedral, the stream your place of baptism, the wind your prayer, and Spirits your allies. Woe be unto those that would harm these places... Track the number of times you resolve a dispute in order to preserve a natural feature.
Oath of Vengeance: Spirits and their like a fiends and foes of Civilization, and you have vowed to cleanse the land of them. Track the biggest spirit or demon killed, your power waxing with their deaths.

Ranger:


Masters of their environments and either Nature's staunchest defenders or their most fearsome dominators, rangers are a diverse group of talented individuals.
Hunter: Your mission is to hunt down the most fearsome predators to pave the way for Civilization. Hunters track the biggest beast they have slain, gaining further levels of mastery with the next trophy.
Beast Master: You have formed a deep bond with a beast, and so as your friendship grows so does your shared power.

Rogue:

A Master of Medicine OR a really sneaky Assassin who was your doctor the whole time?!

Master criminal or master killer, master healer or master of the arcane. The rogue excels at arts that few have talent at, through their arts they profit.
Thief: Whether you steal for greed or the challenge, your largest haul is your greatest pride. Keep track of the most valuable thing you have every stolen.
Assassin: You are a master of surprising your foes. Track the number of successful assassinations you achieve.
Arcane Trickster: A subtle mind and a long study have rewarded you with magical talents. Keep track of the number of "roguish" acts you have accomplished with your Mage Hand.
Master of Medicine: Medicine is a slow art, and poison especially requires a thoughtful mind for its application. Keep track of the number of poisoning delivered with a sneak attack.

Sorcerer:


Magic literally courses through your veins, your parentage or the strange circumstances of your life have thrust these abilities upon you.
Draconic Bloodline: Keep track of the number of dragon hearts you have eaten. Double points for killing and eating dragons opposing your own heritages color.
Wild Magic: The variable surges of the cosmos twist and warp your magic, so give in and let them twist you as well.

Warlock:


You have struck a deal, whether you knew it or not, with a being your own reckoning. Now in order to grow in power you must answer their biddings...
Warlocks track favor with their Patron. Perhaps a pool that is only replenished by spreading Patrons message. Can spend favor for special abilities. Of course is specific to each Patron.


Wizard:

"Hey, kid, wanna hear some arcane secrets?"
There are a lot of schools of wizardry, each with their own taboos and secrets. Too many for this post. See Arnold K's excellent posts on the subject while I work on this.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Pale Crowns of Fire

Facing to the northern clime,
Thrice he traced the Runic rhyme;
Thrice pronounced, in accents dread,
The thrilling verse that wakes the dead,
Till from out the hollow ground
Slowly breathed a sullen sound.

The Nekros Archanis

In the misty reaches beyond Chalcis there is said to be an island that is ruled by the Dead Kings, the Nekros Archanis. Only seen in shafts of moonlight on a foggy night, their island Keep glows with malice and the flicker of pale fires on the battlements.

In Chalcis this story i told of the Dead Kings...: Long ago the Dead Kings where mere necromancers, ruling a small empire of detritus and rot. They would descend on their foes under the cover of Wyrfog to harvest the living for their own lifeless ranks and petty squabbles between each other.

But after a hundred years of living in fear of the Dead Kings the wise mages of Chalcis had discovered the secret to calling the winds to their biding, dispelling the Wyrfog of their undead foes. And there was a reprieve from their dread reevings, and the living could repel them when they did come.

But the Nekros Archanis would not be foiled. They unleashed a new terror on the land weapons of pale fire to use their foe's Sun against them. Their blades only grew in dread with the light of the Sun, and none were safe from their cold grasp. And for another hundred years of darkness the Nekros Archanis' rule spread and grew in dark splendor.

In this desperate hour the living people of Chalcis struck a deal with the Spirit of the Moon. For a year and a day they built a magnificent temple to the Spirit of the Moon on the peak of the Mons Lunae while singing the Moon's praises. After this year of Praise, a year and a day were spent pouring barrel after barrel of wine over the Altar to the Moon in its new temple to appease its thirst. After this year of Revelry, a year and a day past and with each high-tide 29 innocents, one for each day in the lunar cycle, were bound bellow the high-tide mark to be sacrificed to the Moon.

The terms of the deal fulfilled the Spirit of the Moon banished the Nekros Archanis to another Realm. The deal was not finished though, for a father released his young daughter on the last night of the ritual to save her from drowning, and so their domain intersects with ours on foggy and moonlit nights and then they are able to still haunt the lives of the living.

You can enter their Keep if you wish traveler, and you can barter with them for their Pale Fire. They accept many payments, especially blood and favors in the lands of the living. But be cautious, for the Nekros Archanis are always looking for weakness in the veil between their Realm and ours, and many souls have been the unwitting servants of their machinations twords their freedom...



Pale Fire

If you find the Dead Kings perhaps they will give you a weapon of Pale Fire. Even though they ask for no payment, the price is high. In order to wield a weapon of Pale Fire you must step foot into the Realm of Undeath, or else it will surely kill you.

Pale fire does not emit light, it reflects it. As the light around them increases in intensity they too grow bright, so the brightest flame of Pale Fire is in the light of a bright sunny day.

Light Intensity
Effect
No Light
No Effect
Dim Light
1d6 Necrotic Damage
Bright Light
2d6 Necrotic Damage+ Life Steal
Dim Sun
1d10 Necrotic Damage
Full Sun
2d10 Necrotic Damage+ Life Steal

Life Steal: A weapon with this property heals the wielder when the get a critical hit with it, dealing an extra 2d8 necrotic damage and healing them for the same amount as the damage done.

Weapons of Pale Fire must be wielded by creatures of the Undead Type. If wielded by a living creature they must make a Constitution save (DC 16) every morning at dawn or take 1d6 Constitution damage for that day and receive no healing benefit from anything other than magical healing. If their Constitution reaches 0, they die and rise as an Undead compelled to serve the Nekros Archanis.

So give your Undead BBEG a weapon of Pale Fire. It will pose the dilemma of fighting it in the Darkness or the Light, and give some nice cursed loot to the PCs!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Build a Better Cult

How common is the cult trope in fantasy table top RPGs? Super common. Like every other fucking module published has some sort of weird cult in a creepy village or cultists trying to bring about the end of the world.

This is the same problem that the alignment system has, why are cults always shoved into these roles? Are cults intrinsically bad? Apparently they all suck and the PCs should feel good destroying them.

I'd be in Jason Sudeikis' cult

I am wayyyy more into the Portlandia imagining of a cult, built around a singular personality and at the least internally logical and appealing. Like I want to build cults that your players might actually get tricked into joining. Think how great it will be when they realize they have been the bad guys the whole time!

Build a Better Cult

This is what Wikipedia, the best of sources, has to say about cults: 
"The term "cult" usually refers to a social group defined by common religious beliefs. It is from Latin cultus (worship). This, in turn, was derived from the adjective cultus (inhabited, cultivated, worshiped). A cult may be sharply or diffusely bounded, and share a commitment to a charismatic leader, organization, or transcendental ideology, which may be expressed through effective, socially established and ordered forms or in concrete external actions performed within the congregation or community. Cults range in size from local groups with a few members to international organizations with millions."
This is a good summary of where we get our fantasy ideas of cults:
"Doomsday cults predict and in some cases try to bring about the end of the world. Political cults are active in politics, most often on either the left or right extreme. Destructive cults engage in actions that are harmful to their members or to other people. Racist cults promote racism, and sometimes violence. Polygamist cults, which are sometimes on the fringes of main-stream religions, practice polygamy. Terrorist cults promote terrorism, often for political goals."
These are all the bad things we have seen cults do. You usually don't hear too much about the quite cult-esque communities that are simply trying to live in an alternative way. Hell, monasteries might even look like a cult, a group living communally and practicing a shared belief system for self improvement. We generally view monasteries as beautiful and quite introspective places, but cults as communities of delusion and poisonous ideology.

Obviously the line is fine, so lets make it super blurry and give our players something to think about instead of unquestioningly exterminating them. Because most of the PC's are probably in/from some sort of insular community (druid circles, monk monastaries, cleric churches, wizard schools, etc...), they should hesitate before juding others living in similar ways.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Kētos and Their Strange Ecologies

The Kētos

Some say that the Psári grow even too large for the islands, and they flee their deep channels in favor for the Deep. Here in the wide ocean they can grow into even greater monsters of the sea, the mythical Kētos.

Kētos are so large it is said they carry whole reefs on their backs as they slowly wander the world. They can trail miles of kelp behind them that is rooted in their thick hide, and that a mere flick of their massive fins could send any ship flying through the air and then into the depths. Only the foolish and the mad sail in the Deep, so these reports are rarely given credence.

Sometimes, the giants of the deep oceans wander into the shallow Sea around Ánemos. They are strange and deformed leviathans, often with whole ecological communities clinging to their bulk. They can only comfortably navigate the deepest channels, though in such shallow water they often get lost and irritable, they will likely lash out in fear and frustration...

Their Strange Ecologies

Kētos types (1d6):
1: Coral Reef: Coral has grown in the hide of the Kētos  and shelters many animals... Inhabitants will protect the Kētos if attacked, -10 ft of movement +2 AC
All of those little fish are going to come out and fight you

2: Kelp Forest: Kelp creates an entangling cloud slowing ships in 50 ft radius around Kētos, -10 ft of movement


3: Mollusc Armor: Mussels, oysters and clams armor the Kētos and make their tails more deadly, +4 AC and 10d8+12 bludgeoning damage with tail smash
Just ready to cutsmash the shit out of you

4: Mangrove Forest: A mangrove forest grows on this Kētos's back sharing sugars and proteins between them; cannot dive, heals 10 HP per round, -20 ft of movement
Like this, but rooted on the back of a massive fish

5: Sea grass prairie: A living green fur covers these Kētos, and grazing their backs are territorial dire dugongs. Dire dugongs will fight for their pastures.
But giant and sucking off your face
6: Merfolk nomad settlement: The merfolk have settled this Kētos, serving as both home and mount. They are the traders of the undersea world slowly plying the depths between merfolk settlements.

Thoughts

The Kētos is the like final form of the Psári, they should be really scary and more of an environment than a creature. It should also be really hard to kill them (unless of course you land on their backs, get in their ears and stab their brains or something, but who knows what weird creatures make their homes beneath the flesh of a leviathan?) They should be so tough and scary I am not even going to give you a stat block.

Think about the bad ass wizard who lives in a lair made of living trees in a mangrove forest on the back of a Kētos prowling the deep channels around the world, mind controlling his pet/island/home to steer. I wanna meet him.

If your players ever get a few ships and hire a large crew of competent harpooners it's conceivable that they could kill one traditionally. Boy oh boy, all that lard would fetch a hefty price...