Thursday, 14 May 2020

Neural Networks in Mysterious Ways

It's no secret that I don't like Clerics in D&D. I struggle with making gods important while making sure my setting still makes sense, and I don't like that they're often just relegated to healbot.

Hopefully, this is an alternative that fits for Fantastic Voyage, my Eldritch Apocalypse Gaslamp Fantasy setting.

This weird line of inspiration has essentially got me to put Clerics in a game where there are no gods besides a Lovecraftian pantheon, and no holiness of any kind. Thanks mate, could not have done it without you.
What started it all

 You are a worshipper of h'HiMiK, an old machine. A neutral network apparently given life by Pre-Sighting magics. Most of what the old machine spouted was gibberish, but on rare occasions it wrote text that was very helpful to your people. It was kept as a curiosity but worshipped when it printed out a weird mess than when followed, led the struggling community to a new source of water. Six months later, it produced instructions to create a substance that was harmless to your people, but deadly to the creatures attacking your home town.

As the world has begun to recover from The Sighting, the worship of h'HiMiK has continued to spread and is currently a sanctioned religion in the New World Empire.

Nobody knows if h'HiMiK is actually its name. That was the first thing it printed to the settlers and it ignores further requests for its true name.

Follower of the h'HiMiK Machine

Starting Equipment: A holy symbol made from sticks of RAM, a vial of Blackwater (see below).
Starting Skills: Computers, Gambling

A: Spells Via Neural Network, Hypergeometry
B: +1 spell, Blackwater
C: +1 spell, Neural Networks in Mysterious Ways
D: +1 spell, Library of Babel
You have 1 MD per h'HiMiK template you possess.

Spells via Neural Network: The machine occasionally contacts you, fills your head with a jumbled mess. Each level, you gain spells, starting with 3 (or however many your GLOG's wizard starts with normally). The thing is, these spells are randomly chosen (if they weren't already), from random sources of GLOG magic (the GM is encouraged to ensure every spell is usable to the player, but spread as many potential sources as possible)
Comment: In my hack, spells are chosen on level-up, and the randomness only comes from scrolls found in the world. These followers are going to be the exception to the rule, where their entire spell is randomised. 

Hypergeometry: Nobody knows whether it's your faith or the machine acting through you, but you are sometimes able to turn a construct or eldritch horror by pointing your holy symbol at them and shouting the words the network pours into your mind. They get a saving throw, but should they fail, you have spoken the exact right combinations of words and phrases needed to get them to back off for a while. As long as you concentrate and do nothing else, the creature can't attack you nor move any closer towards you, and will back up if it's within 20ft of you. If you fail to turn a creature or your concentration is broken, you can't attempt again until you level up.
Comment: Yeah, it's turn undead, and yeah the name is a Delta Green reference. Weirdly, the GLOG Clerics I looked at for inspiration didn't have turn undead, so I wrote this from scratch. I may put a limit on the ability if it proves too powerful.

Blackwater: The chemical compound that's lethal to supernatural creatures wasn’t invented by your people, but through begging the machine for help your home learned the formula. During downtime, you can use about 30sp's worth of ingredients to brew a vial of Blackwater. Blackwater is essentially holy water in a world where there are no gods or angels. It's very toxic to supernatural creatures.
Comment: Holy water in campaign setting where there is none. You could replace this with a ritual to manufacture holy water and it wouldn't change a thing. If it's cheaper in your setting, you may want to adjust the price.

Neural Networks in Mysterious Ways: At your games' long rest equivalent, a Follower with no MD remaining can ask a question during their evening's meditation and receive an answer from the network. The GM is encouraged to provide an answer with an actual neural network (such as, and then adjust it to contain a clue to the answer they were seeking.

Library of Babel: The machine spits out another combination of letters into your mind and scribbling this down, you realise that while this is a spell… it's new. The GM homebrews a spell with a name prompted from a neural network, and catered towards the kind of thing the player wants, if they have offhandedly expressed these wants during play.
Comment: I love how Lexi's wizards on the crateredland blog make their own spell for free at Template D. All Wizard-types in my hack do this. I figured this is the way to keep consistency with all the others while putting the same spin on it we did with the rest of the list. 

Final Thoughts

It's a dumb idea, but I kind of love it. Computers are a bit high-tech in my setting really (tech rarely passes the 1920s, and when it does it's often more magic than technology), so I picture this machine looking something like the full-sized Enigma machine.

I can see the Template C feature being a pain for a GM who isn't happy with improvising complete gibberish. An alternative trait could be:

Neural Networks in Other, Equally Mysterious Ways: At the start of each session, your GM selects one additional spell. You can cast this spell using your MD until the next session, where it is replaced by another random spell.

I don't like this trait as much as it's essentially the same as the way the class gets magic, but it's better than leaving a gap level at Template C I think.

Oh, and there's no healing for this class as I've written it. My hack's pretty generous with how much a rest heals, as are most GLOG hacks I've seen. If this isn't the case for yours and you want this class to go full cleric, making one of their three starting spells a healing spell is probably the way to go.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

The OSR Game Pitch

Had a chat with some folks on the OSR discord and someone was looking for a game. Their issue- it's quite difficult to communicate sometimes what a game is about. After all, straight B/X, GLOG, Electric Bastionland, Stars Without Number and Carcosa are all OSR, and someone going in expecting one and getting another will be surprised.

I had the idea to make a form that a GM can fill in just to get people to have an idea of what's to expect in their games. There are a few entries to fill:

  • There are a few yes/no options for some popular house rules and stuff.
  • There are a list of magic systems, the GM can tick all that apply.
  • There is a list of statements that the GM can number to point out how far in one direction their campaign is.
  • Beneath that is a small spot for GMs to put their Appendix N list (or perhaps an abridged version).
The idea of this is that GMs who want to start a game can just post this link somewhere in where they're advertising, and people can get a good idea of what they're getting into.

The link is here: LINK, make your own copy and fill it in.

If you have any suggestions for things to change, or add or any questions about it, let me know!

Monday, 13 May 2019

The Carpet Bomber - a class for the GLOG

Magic Carpets (capital M, capital C) are fickle creatures, but ultimately very good natured. The one thing that sets them apart from ordinary magic carpets is that they can fly.

Well, that and the fact that they are sentient creatures.

Few know that the ability that allows them to fly is their absolute refusal to accept the fact that gravity exists. They aren't really "flying", as they are propelling through the air while simultaneously thinking that Isaac Newton is a hack (quietly, because they can't speak).

Multi-class with the Cannoneer for the ultimate aerial combat experience, or with Spider-Man for unparalleled maneuverability.

Whether or not you take a silly multi-classing suggestion, I'd also recommend pairing this class with Lexi's grenade & firearm rules.

Starting Equipment: Magic Carpet, 1d6 grenades
Starting Skill: Carpet Riding

A: The Mystery of the Persian Carpet, Grenadier
B: Explosive Discovery, Tie Things Down
C: Rug of Smothering, +1 Discovery
D: I Can Show You the World, +2 Discoveries
You can carry one person (or a roughly similar weight in objects) on your magic carpet for each Carpet Bomber template you possess. This includes you.

The Mystery of the Persian Carpet: You get a Magic Carpet (capital M, capital C). Currently, it can't carry anything heavier than you are, but as you get stronger so does it. It has a fly speed equal to the average person's walking speed, and can "sprint" for twice that. The carpet is an intelligent magical construct, slightly cleverer than a dog. It can understand and will obey your commands if you give any to it.

Grenadier: You have the know-how to make grenades, with 5sp's materials. Each grenade inflicts 2d6 damage to all in a 10ft radius, a successful Dexterity check halves the damage for anyone not directly targeted by the grenade. If you miss, the grenade scatters 3d6ft in a random direction.

Explosive Discovery: You have learned how to make two new alternative grenade types, that you can produce during downtime with a grenade and an additional 15sp's worth of materials. Choose two from the following. You get two more for your fourth template:
  • Web Grenade: Does no damage. On a hit, the target and anyone else within 10ft is restrained by webs. Creatures that weren't targeted get to make a Dexterity check to avoid this. Webs can be broken in 1-3 rounds, depending on the strength of the victims. Particularly strong creatures might not be slowed at all by it.
  • Smoke Grenade: No damage, but creates thick smoke in a 20ft radius sphere around where it lands.
  • Silver Shard Bomb: As a normal grenade, but it counts as a silver/magic weapon, if you have creatures vulnerable to only silver/magic attacks.
  • Flashbang: Only does 1d6 damage, but any creature damaged by it makes a save (with disadvantage if they took 6 damage). On a failed save, they are blinded for an amount of rounds equal to the damage they took.
  • Shock Grenade: As a normal grenade, but it inflicts an additional 1d6 damage. All damage is considered electrical damage.
  • Warrior's Fireball: As a normal grenade, but it inflicts an additional 1d6 fire damage.
  • Oil Bomb: Does 1d6 bludgeoning damage, but after detonating covers everything in the 10ft blast radius with oil that can be ignited.
  • High-Explosive Grenade: As a normal grenade, but the damage dice are exploding.
  • Mirv Grenade: Does only 1d4+2 damage. Splits into a number of grenades equal to the amount rolled on the damage die, each one scattering 2d10ft in a random direction. Each of these grenades detonate the next turn for 1d6 damage.

Tie Things Down: A few lost items has taught you to properly secure your gear to your carpet. You will no longer have things fall off your carpet. This does not apply to people, only objects you have taken the time to secure to it. Your carpet also learns the joys of grappling. They can attempt to grapple a target in melee range as long as there aren't any people currently riding it.

Rug of Smothering: Your Magic Carpet has picked up some fighting experience by your side. It fights as a fighter with templates equal to your Carpet Bomber templates, its attacks inflict 1d4 points of damage and grapple. Any damage dealt to it while it is grappling is split evenly between the carpet and the person it is grappling.

I Can Show You the World: Your carpet gains the ability to piledrive targets that have been grappled by it into the ground and into walls. Each round it currently has a target grappled, it can bash the target into the nearest wall or floor for 1d6 damage.

A few thanks to:
- Oblidisideryptch, rtx & Walfalcon on the OSR Discord, for suggestions and proof-reading.
- "Wizard" from, for the brilliant idea of willfully-ignorant sentient carpets.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Secret Santicorn 2018

The prompt I was given for this was semiurge's prompt. It was "A cult that worships puppets, and at least one of their precious objects". That left a lot up to interpretation, but the first thing I thought when puppets was marionettes, so I've gone for a more theater-like vibe from this. Below is an NPC that leads a cult with stats, a monster and several magical items that all follow the puppeteer theme.

The Puppeteer is a cult leader, and a performer who uses his arts to obtain forbidden magics. He's well aware that the right words spoken at the right time in the right stage will accomplish extremely powerful magic feats, and has invested lots of time, money and sanity into making sure things are perfect for his final performance. His ultimate aim is to use the perfectly crafted puppet body he has created, by binding the soul of his god to it and allowing him to reign free from his prison. In game terms, I'd make the Puppeteer a Wizard or otherwise a Magic-User with a several enchantment spells. Friends, Charm Person and Suggestion are all great spell choices. Necromancy spells are also a good choice.

However on the surface, the Puppeteer is a man of the community, and a popular playwright, who goes by the name of William Chekhov. Chekhov supplements his performances with magical special effects, and his performances always fill the theaters he plays at. Chekhov only writes these non-magical plays to fund the creation of his magnum opus and the venue it is to be performed in- his sole goal is to bring his dark saviour to our world and expand the cult. Chekhov first encountered the entity after losing his arm. The entity replaced his arm with a perfect wooden duplicate, in exchange for his service. Having learned of his patron's true power, Chekhov is completely insane and dedicated to his overlord.

William Chekhov, the Puppeteer
  • Armour: None
  • Hit Dice: 8th level Wizard
  • Hit Points: 19
  • Move: Standard
  • Damage: 1d4 Dagger and 1d6 wooden fist
  • Typical Spells: Magic Missile, Scare, Web, Charm Person, Friends, Suggestion, Ray of Enfeeblement, Darkness, Haste, Barkskin etc
  • Wooden Fist: Chekhov fights as a 5HD monster.
  • Optional- bard stuff: Chekhov is a performer and playwright by trade. If you have bards in your game, you might want to give Chekhov some bardic abilities or change him from a wizard to a bard.

While Chekhov has many followers, a few individuals that had promise in the cult do not follow his teachings. These unfortunate individuals are ritually sacrificed, and then their bodies twisted and broken, eventually to be re-purposed into undead marionettes that serve the cult. These wretched creatures are occasionally used on stage. When they are, an illusion spell will be used to make their flesh look like wood, and a drama mask will hide their undead features.

Their true nature hidden away from the public eye, Chekhov's Man-Puppets have the following statistics:
  • Armour: As leather. They aren't physically tough, but move very fast and with jerky movements that make it difficult to hit them. If they are restrained or paralysed, their AC is considered unarmored in addition to the other bonuses from restraining.
  • Hit Dice: 2
  • Hit Points: 11
  • Move: 1.5x Standard, matching climb speed
  • Damage: 1d6 claw
  • Undead: These nasty creatures are undead, with whatever rules do or don't apply for that in your game.
  • Suspended on cords: Each Man-Puppet is held aloft by four clearly visible, but incorporeal cords. The Man-Puppet can once per day use the Jump spell and then immediately attack as they glide on the cords. During this glide attack, the man-puppet has +1d8 to hit and +1d8 to damage. Roll separately or together, whatever you feel is best. Any magic attack or attack with a silver weapon diverted to these cords can split them.  If all of the cords are severed, the Man-Puppet disintegrates.
  • Falling: As long as a man-puppet has at least one cord, it doesn't take any fall damage. It floats down almost gracefully on these cords. Almost, because while it descends, it will continue to shake, like a poorly-controlled puppet.

While on the surface most of Chekhov's magic looks perfectly harmless, there are many magic items and treasures he has imbued with power thanks to his patron, some of them are listed below:
  • A blank marionette. When a wizard holds this marionette, they can attempt to control a creature within 60ft. That creature gets a save vs magic as normal. On a failed save, the creatures' limbs are all under the control of the person using the marionette, and the likeness of the marionette shifts to resemble the person it is controlling. This lasts for up to 10 minutes, but can be shortened by removing the marionette from the grasp of the person using it. Someone can use these marionettes to break another's limbs- this is what Chekhov does to get information out of captured foes who risk exposing the cult. If the strings on the marionette are severed while it is controlling someone, the item is destroyed, but the shock inflicts 3d6 damage to the unfortunate victim and they spasm uncontrollably for that many rounds.
  • Drama masks, each with a face painted on it in a different expression. Each one is created by Chekhov to make the wearer's physical body look like that of a wooden marionette. If you have a spell in your system that could do that job, Chekhov has that spell as well, for when there is a shortage of available masks.
  • Mask of Geppetto. When you put this mask on, your skin will gradually change to wood. Once complete, it functions like a permanent Barkskin spell, unless Dispel Magic, Remove Curse or something similar is cast on you. Chekhov's inner circle all wear these masks. However, you also take one additional point of fire damage per die once the transformation is complete.
  • The Wooden Body. This marionette is made from living wood carved from a fey tree or some other magical tree in your setting. The wooden body can be used as a substitute for the actual body of someone if a cadaver is required to bring them back to life. If someone is brought into this world through the wooden body, the wood rapidly changes to look like their previous body. This body is identical, except Shock damage you take is reduced by 1 point per die, and Fire damage you take is increased by 1 point per die. Chekhov plans to use this body to bring back his overlord, but the PCs can use it for a different cause. Biologically, the body is basically a clone of the original once the transformation is complete. Someone brought back in the wooden body cannot use a Mask of Geppetto.
  • Chekhov's Play, First Draft. This book is incomplete, and assuming the PCs get hold of it, probably won't ever get completed. The book isn't completely useless though. It contains 1d4 spells that Chekhov knows. However, studying this book gives a drawback. While your face doesn't change, people regard it as a creepily accurate mask, rather than an actual face. Nobody's going to figure out what it is that makes them uncomfortable about your face, but there's something there. Charisma checks at disadvantage unless your face is hidden. Remove Curse lifts this curse. The curse is pretty much Uncanny Valley applied to you, except people can't figure out what it is about your face that is wrong.
  • Shadow puppets. Anyone who puts one on their hand casts two separate shadows. Each of these shadow puppets summons a shadow monster, that promptly serves the person who used it until either called back or killed. Only one person can use a shadow puppet. The shadows have the following stats: Armour as leather,  HD 3, HP 15, Move standard, Attacks 1d6 claw- drains one point of strength on a hit too. Strength is regained 10 minutes later if survived. If the shadow dies, the puppet disintegrates and the character who used it only casts one shadow again. The shadow monsters take half damage from non-magical or un-silvered weapons.
  • An enchanted mannequin face that changes when you aren't looking. When this mask is put on your face, it immediately disappears and you can remove your face, revealing blank skin underneath. Despite being featureless, you can see, hear, smell, speak and breathe with no difficulty even when without a face. You can also remove the face of any creature you have killed, and put any face on your blank skin and assume the likeness of that face, the rest of your body changing to match. However, anyone can pull a mask you are wearing off to reveal your blank face underneath. It's probably pretty obvious that the magic used by this mask is not good-aligned magic.
  • A light crossbow that once per day lets the user shoot a spectral bolt. If it hits, the target must save vs spell. A failure means that what the target is strung up by spectral cords not unlike the ones that hold up the Man-Puppets. If this happens, they are effectively ensnared by a Web spell or something similar.
  • A creepy theater mask. The user can once per day have the illusory properties of the mask make it look like the face of a snarling eldritch horror to one victim within a short range (I'd recommend about 10ft maximum). They must save vs spell or be frightened as if the "Scare" spell has been cast on them.