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.

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