Wednesday, January 29, 2020

OSR: How to Design GLOG Fighters

The GLOG is Arnold K’s homebrew system. Notable work has been done with it by Skerples, and many others.

A tradition in the GLOGosphere is the creation of unique wizard schools, often following a common template: “A coherent theme, a couple of original on-theme spells, perks and drawbacks, some cantrips, some Mishaps and Dooms,” as the Espharel blog puts it.

There are probably more wizard GLOG classes than all others put together. This article is my attempt to offer a template for creating fighters using the central advantage that wizard schools in the GLOG have capitalized on so far. From the beginning, GLOG wizards have had a very simple chasis, with most of their character and charm conferred by the specifics of the tradition. This seems an easy fit for something as generic as “fighting.” History offers many different kinds of fighting, after all…

Roman Kupriianov. Easy to design in various ways?

Obviously, fighters need abilities for combat. The generic fighter class usually gets such abilities as getting extra attacks, bonuses to attack, “notches” which let you specialize with a given weapon, and the like. All of the makes sense. Many fighter classes also have some non-combat aspect, even if it is just leveraging the social capital of being someone who fights for a living.

From this, a reasonable basis for what a fighter school— let’s call it a “discipline”— could be:

Fighter Discipline Template
Starting equipment: might be average, might define the discipline.
Starting skill: should be something weirder than the usual farmer/soldier/sailor
A: defensive ability, offensive ability
B: noncombat specialization and/or niche combat ability.
C: ability that widens options in combat
D: a “capstone”— this proves you are a master.

Fighting in the GLOG is dangerous. (There’s a reason a popular hack is called DIE TRYING.) Accordingly, I think some survivability should be granted from the onset. I put the noncombat specialization early because it makes the fighter relevant in more situations sooner. Whether they get two abilities or one at level two should of course depend on how powerful they are.


Blue Blade of Gal-Suzaz
You walk that thin line between heroism and folly, and never ask why. When you were just a shiftless bravo a man spared your life, and you will make that act of kindness a foundation for a life of adventure for the Right. Devout but easy-going, you perform deeds which jaded soldiers call impossible.

Starting equipment: studded leather armor, back-scabbard, blue greatsword (all blades you own turn blue)
Starting skill: rumor, parasite lore
A: arrow snatch, mark
B: Useful fool
C: sword throwing
D: quixoticism 

Arrow snatch: whenever an arrow, bullet, or other missile would hit a you, you may test dexterity to catch it from the air. You might need to drop something you’re holding.
Mark: Wounds you inflict bleed blue. Your attacks deal +1d6 damage against foes bleeding blue blood.
Useful fool: whenever you fail to ingratiate yourself to an authority, a plausible person of lower rank will try to favor you. This will usually lead to a request to participate in some ill-conceived plot.
Sword throwing: you may launch any bladed weapon up to 30 ft. without penalty.
Quixoticism: If someone you’ve wounded survives combat with you, they test charisma or are afflicted with a desire to live heroically and take needless risks. If they level up, they must level up in the Blue Blade of Gal-Suzaz discipline.

Urumi’s Wielder
You are a martial artist who has proven disciplined and skilled enough to be trusted with the urumi, a bladed metal whip. Training to master it has won you many cuts, but now you have advanced to the point where you can only improve through the crucible of adventure. Your relationship with your weapon is reverant, and many Wielders think of themselves as the noble opposite of the Demon Blade’s chariot.

Starting equipment: urumi (sword whip d8, 10’ range), silk armor, prayer book, 
Starting skill: massage
A: posture, coiling blade
B: vital points
C: sword tricks
D: cloud of steel

Posture: twice per day, reduce a combat maneuver check against you by 1d6.
Coiling blade: Once per round, if any enemy approaches you, get a free attack against them.
Vital points: massage someone for an hour during a rest to let them heal an extra d6. If they are an NPC, you may make a charisma test and ask a question. If you succeed, they answer without noticing that you asked.
Sword tricks: you are implausibly precise with an urumi, whip, or similar weapon, and can strike any object within 10 feet without a test, wrap your urumi around a beam like a rope, etc.
Cloud of steel: deal d8 damage to everyone within 10 feet, friend or foe. Armored people can save to negate this. Any formations or mobs affected test morale or flee.

Khazar Remnant
You are a warrior from a land quickly fading into the dim memory of history, eager to give up your ignominious people for a new land and a higher purpose. Even as you journey for a new homeland and a new tradition, your indivisible Khazar ethos grows to define you. It is taboo among the remnants of the Khazar to teach their language or the arts of its martial discipline.

Starting equipment: spear, lamellar armor, d4 javelins, salt lick
Starting Skill: acculturation
A: formation, ambidextrous
B: confounding dreams
C: holy mist
D: mass attack

Formation: You get +1 defense for each adjacent ally.
Ambidextrous: You can fight effectively with two weapons, and you can wield weapons with your feet. As long as you are holding two weapons, you can attack with each. (Hopping on one foot slows you dramatically and gives a penalty to dexterity.)
Confounding dreams: once per night while sleeping, do one of the following: gain a skill of the DM’s choosing for a day, learn about a significant NPC you are likely to meet, or get +1d6-3 to your next initiative test the following day.
Holy mist: while under the effect of gigre or other drugs, you may spend a wisp to make a free combat maneuver. (For hacks that don’t use this, 2/day make a free combat maneuver while under the effects of drugs.)
Mass attack: adjacent allies may use your strength for melee attacks and use your dexterity for ranged attacks. (For hacks which don’t use this, adjacent allies get a bonus to attack equal to how many more fighter levels you have than them.)

Repentant Hexchild
The child of a witch’s ritual, an infant swapped with a changeling, or the orphan of a raid against a monstrous race; you were raised to reject wickedness and magic. Authorities have explained how you are already damned, and how only a life of service can cleanse the sin of your origins.

Starting equipment: mace, buckled hat, writ of permission or morose familiar
Starting skill: rabble rousing
A: Suffer not, Keep back
B: Smell magic
C: Mob
D: Counter

Suffer not: once per day, test a relevant attribute to resist an ongoing ill such as curses, paralysis, or a disabled limb.
Keep back: When attacking while holding a torch or other light, any adjacent foes must save or catch fire (1d4 ongoing damage.)
Smell magic: You can detect the presence of magic within smelling distance. Different kinds of magic have different scents, and you start out with only rumors of what kinds smell like what.
Mob: If you are fighting alongside hirelings or gullible nobodies, you may act for them on your turn instead of acting yourself.

Counter: whenever an adjacent foe uses magic, you may take 1d6 damage to automatically spoil one of their magic dice. This die does not contribute to the spell or return to their pool.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Class: Wallachian Dreamer

"The Brankoviches of Erdély count in Tintzar, lie in Wallachian, are silent in Greek, sing hymns in Russian, are cleverest in Turkish, and speak Serbian only when they intend to kill."
This is a class very loosely based on my readings in Dictionary of the Khazars. It is a loose adaption, combining the tradition of the dream hunters with the tics and neuroses of the nobleman Avram Brankovich. Though I'm calling it here a Wallachian dreamer, the region doesn't actually matter much, and the term "dreamer" would work well enough. The class dips its toes into information-gathering, social skills, and combat.

Section One: Class Abilities

A Wallachian dreamer gains an additional language every time they attain a template, including the first. These languages may be obscure but not dead or purely academic.

Template 1: Dream hunting
Template 2: Unconscious lore, +1 MD
Template 3: Vex to nightmare
Template 4: Nocturnal lot, +1 MD

Starting Skill: a Wallachian dreamer has a changing an dissociative skill set. In each scene where you speak only one language, you become proficient in a corresponding skill or gain the corresponding ability (Obviously you will have to adapt this to your setting.)
  • Tzintzar: math
  • Wallachian: lying
  • Greek: stealth
  • Russian: singing
  • Turkish: war
  • Serbian: You get critical hits on rolls of 2 (19 in roll-high systems)
  • Spanish: seduction
  • Arabic: memory
  • Hebrew: rumor
  • Khazar: dreaming
Dream hunting: When you sleep, you experience the life of a specific and distant figure, a person with whom you are linked until you both shall die. However, you can also pull away to invade the dreams of people near to you, either targeting a sleeping person or catching a nearby dream at random. The DM randomly determines a nearby sleeper for you to meet and either selects a situation for the dream or randomly determines one from a table in section Two below. Dying in a dream causes you to wake and prevents you from returning to sleep that night, but events in the dream are usually not permanent.

Unconscious lore: once between sleeps, you may make a wisdom test to suddenly know about an obscure topic, barely speak a language, or become proficient in a strange weapon. This surprises even you, for it was knowledge acquired by your distant dream partner.

Vex to Nightmare: you may now act as though awake while dreaming. This means you can be simultaneously walking around adventuring and interrogating a dreamer. While you do this, widen both your critical hit and critical fumble range by one. Anyone you kill while dreaming will rise as a skeleton, draugr, or vampire.

Nocturnal Lot: When in someone's dream, you gain the first template ability of their lot (class.)

Section One and and Half: Spells

When you acquire your second template, learn two random spells. Each further template, learn one random spell. No preparation is needed beyond sleep.
  1. Bite Augury: Get bitten by something to read the future. The DM selects an important event in the near future and answers [dice]x[damage taken by the bite] questions.
  2. Dream Drop: Send up to [sum] physical objects to someone who is dreaming of you. 
  3. Silent Hound: Summon a silent (but vicious) greyhound that serves you for an hour. Invest 2 MD to make it a silent wolf.
  4. Blind-fight: fill your ears with deep darkness. You can sense any movements perfectly regardless of light for [dice] hours. This essentially allows you to fight blind without penalty.
  5. Speak with Birds: learn the bird languages temporarily. Get +[sum] to charisma tests with birds.
  6. Ward Body: If a corpse would rise as undead or be troubled by dark forces, it turns the threat as a priest of your level+1. You must throw an item belonging to the deceased into running water, place a holy wafer in their mouth, or invoke a similar protection. Invest 2 MD to prevent all mortals from interfering with the body.

Section Two: Dream Tables

Random Dreamers
  1. A tree. Tends to dream of water and sunlight, forests and orchards. Nightmares include desiccation and darkness.
  2. A bird with delusions of grandeur. Envisions plenty and tyranny. Nightmares include enclosed spaces and being eaten alive.
  3. A fastidious rat. Dreams of neat tunnels and gribbly hideaways. Nightmares include drowning and gigantic cats.
  4. A plucky porter. Dreams of adventure and scenic vistas. Nightmares include getting lost underground, twisted ankles, and dungeon creatures.
  5. A resigned robber. Dreams of family, knife fights, and ambushes. Nightmares include family, knife fights, and ambushes.
  6. A young priest. Dreams of repetitive seminary tasks and sex. Nightmares include divine judgement and broad chasms of doubt.
  7. A tired leper. Dreams of a warm bath and society. Nightmares include suddenly getting surrounded by people who don't know they're lepers and falling apart.
  8. A slacking cattle guard. Dreams of dreaming and a warm meal. Nightmares include monsters in the darkness and being born from a cow.
  9. A middling minstrel. Dreams of fame and musical mastery. Nightmares include broken fingers and ridicule.
  10. A passing prince. Dreams of difficult legal judgments and hunting. Nightmares include revolts and impotence.
d10 Random Dreams
  1. A scene from an inn d6x100 years ago. The dream is older than the dreamer.
  2. An angel comes to the dreamer, giving a veiled reproach.
  3. The dreamer is pursued by a monster.
  4. The dreamer is falling through a void. Oblivious to them, a city glimmers in the distance.
  5. A scholar from a distant land makes a friendly loan to the dreamer.
  6. The dreamer is nude in a public place.
  7. A dream shared by all nearby people. They converse in a concourse, city square, or garden.
  8. The dreamer can fly, and is floating over their home.
  9. The dreamer is journeying along a wooded river, a tigress stalking on the other side.
  10. The death of a nonexistent spouse.

Section Three: Alternative Language Abilities

Your campaign probably uses non-Earth languages. Here I will ascribe abilities to other fantasy languages to save you time adapting the list mentioned in the "starting skill" ability.

Classic Fantasy Languages

  • Elvish: singing
  • Dwarvish: barter
  • Orcish: war
  • Goblish: bald lying
  • Draconic: math
Alignment Languages!?!?!?
  • Good: sincerity
  • Evil: bureaucracy
  • Lawful: technicality
  • Chaotic: +1 to combat maneuvers

Holy Selmat Setting Fantasy Languages

  • Selmati: dreaming
  • Nivian: math
  • Tengor: logistics
  • Antediluvian: recitation
  • Enochian: singing
  • Borgian: law
  • Atlantean: conspiracy
  • Kieran: stealth
  • Meso: rumor
  • Leper (yes, it's a language now): busking

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Notes on Dictionary of the Khazars

Dictionary of the Khazars is a "lexicon novel" by Milorad Pavic. Basically, it is a fictional encyclopedia about an obscure ancient ethnic group and the researchers who study them. As you read the Dictionary, a story told out of order is conveyed. I greatly enjoyed reading it, and noticed that the elements of myth and magical realism offer inspiration for games of D&D set in ancient through mid-Renaissance settings, especially those featuring mysticism, language rules, and history. Below, I record what stood out to me. Not fully mentioned are the many interesting characters listed in the Dictionary that could easily inspire a dozen PCs.

d11 Loot:

  1. A valuable book with poisoned ink. Reading nine pages in one sitting would kill you.
  2. A pair of mirrors. One shows the near future, the other the near past.
  3. A man has the history of the Khazars tattooed on his body. Each section is valuable treasure. Occasionally he is sent to his homeland for revisions.
  4. A kit containing Chinese silver needles and a mirror on which red dots outline the contours of the face. With mystical acupuncture, this kit heals all head wounds.
  5. An egg whose yoke "is a day in your life." Break the egg to skip the current day.
  6. A masterwork tortoiseshell lute that belongs to a devil. When he dies, it turns into a turtle. When he returns to Earth, it becomes a lute again.
  7. A cuckoo bird whose cries create freshwater springs.
  8. The leaf of a Ku plant. When placed on a tear in a sail, a wound, or other rend; it mends and heals instantaneously.
  9. A set of three lamps. If the owner dies, the lamps will hold each of their three(?) souls. When lit, the lamp temporarily releases the soul.
  10. A cannon with a range of "three thousand elbows," which produces such a sound that nearby foxes miscarry and honey turns sour.
  11. A Khazar jar, which is a totally mundane jar except when you reach inside you cannot touch the bottom.
d5 Spells:
  1. Proscribed Glyphs: write these on your eyelids, and they will kill anyone who reads them while your eyes are closed. Used to protect sleeping people.
  2. Golem: instill a Death in a sculpted body and read the Fortieth Psalm. The golem can inhabit mirrors and live days of the week out of order.
  3. Dream Drop: Send an object to someone who is dreaming of you.
  4. A magic word that transforms either into a lizard or a chinese rose.
  5. Bite Augury: Get bitten by something to read the future. The DM selects an important event in the near future and answers [dice]x[damage taken by the bite] questions.
d6 Plot Hooks:
  1. According to a popular poem, a local noble has golden bones. Murder him for a big payday.
  2. A king is assembling men who have one body part identical to him. After he assembles enough people, he will take their parts to make a double.
  3. A foreign king has decided to adopt your homeland's religion, but believes faith can only be taken through war.
  4. A devil lies in his grave one day a year. Buy gear from him on credit, then go to his grave and slay him.
  5. if you assemble a full encyclopedia of dreams, it will instantiate the angel Adam Ruhani (possibly actually called Adam Cadmon.)
  6. Your ruler sends you to exchange lavish gifts with a delegation from a foreign king. When you meet up, you learn that both of your rulers have died, leaving you with two hordes of treasure...
d11 Monsters, Demons, and Foes
  1. Dream Hunters, who enter dreams and chase them across continents.
  2. A demon that drinks milk from your heels at night. It is only vulnerable to vinegar-soaked weapons, and only then after you have offered it something.
  3. 120 dead souls that watch you jealously from the dark. They will leap into a frenzy if they smell blood.
  4. A demon with mouths in her feet, eyelids on her nipples, and two thumbs on each hand. Her milk is TIME, which strengthens those who drink it to a point, then weakens them. If she walks backwards, she will die.
  5. Soldiers of the Slav prince Kotsel, who can bite like a camel and beat snakes out of their skin with a rod.
  6. A demon with the skill of painting granted by the archangel Gabriel. He rides all your horses ragged at night, but flees anything made of flint.
  7. In one kingdom, wet-nurses who can poison their own milk are in great demand to dispose of unwanted heirs or for assassination. To prevent this, their lovers become royal foodtasters of sorts.
  8. An ancient and eyeless fish. It marks the exact age of the universe.
  9. Khazar warriors. They wield weapons with their feet, effectively use two weapons at once, and are ambidextrous.
  10. Serbian dogs that bite, then bark OR Turkish dogs that bark, then bite OR Wallachian dogs that bite without barking.
  11. A demon bard riding an ostrich who knows secrets about death. he has a coterie of lesser demons, including a liar-poet.
d3 Curses and Afflictions
  1. Leap-Fever, a disease that strikes only every other day.
  2. Merchant's curse: being unable to weigh anything.
  3. Ancestor's curse: when you die, you will experience all of your children's deaths.
  1. A leper language, spoken so people can tell you have leprosy.
  2. "The Kazars can read colors like musical notes... they can read what is depicted in paintings or other pictures."
  3. Landowners in Wallachia have a bodyguard and a soulguard.
  4. You can stop someone from becoming a vampire by throwing their boot in river.
  5. In Khazar lands, it is prestigious to speak the Khazar language badly.
  6. Birds all speak different languages, except albatrosses who have one in common.
  7. "Wallachia, where every man is born a poet, lives like a thief, and dies like a vampire."
  8. There is a place where you swap lots with anyone you cross paths with. Despairing people go there to become someone anyone else.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Plot Hooks of Ynn and Ynn Natives

When my players started running around in Ynn, they constantly asked for directions. It was hilarious every time to have a salamandar blink, nod, and say "follow me!," tramping in a random direction. I would throw them a small bone. Looking for a particular kind of settlement with a guide meant I would interpret any random settlement as that one. If I run adventures with specific objectives in the Gardens of Ynn, the ability of natives to semi-navigate, or the presetting of certain locations will be very important. People have found it difficult to imagine how to run adventures in Ynn beyond the natural adventure of exploring and getting lost. I think slightly reducing randomness is a great tool in ameliorating that.
Thomas Kinkade

d4 Plot Hooks of Ynn (some adapted from the rumor table)

  1. A Dream of Metal and Gears is attempting to overrun Ynn. After depth 8, roll a d4 for encounters. Rolls of 1 are infected by the Dream, rolls of 2 are fearful servants of the dream, rolls of 3 or 4 are independent or servants of an enemy dream (possibly including the Idea of Thorns.) The Dream itself resides in a clockwork tower around depth 14. People who know its location have a 50% of finding it at that depth.
  2. A Sidhe is attempting to escape through an open door, and is willing to work with the PCs.As they travel together, it becomes clear what a disaster the Sidhe's arrival in their world would be.  A band of croquet-mercenaries serving a Shepherd of Trees hunt the Sidhe and any allies armed with Hamartia, a poison that can afflict the ancient creature.
  3. A high-ranking rose maiden hires the party to guard her as she travels to a meeting of the Dandelions, the directing council of her kind. Flower politics are subtle, and even nonmagical plants encountered on the way to the Filigree Orchid-house in depth 8 have their own agenda.
  4. The king of a chess set is newly advised by a Ferret-Servant wizard. With his aid, they stand a reasonable chance of taming part of the Garden, with stable doorways to the outside. A kingdom-building campaign ensues.

I've before mentioned my dissatisfaction with the Ynnian Changeling as a class. Instead, I offer versions of several creatures found in Ynn suitable for PCs. As I usually run races, each will have a primary attribute they can reroll, an advantage, and a disadvantage.

Ynn Natives
  • Myconid Composter: reroll constitution. You can create another Myconid by donating d4 HP, and merge with any other myconids. However, halve your sense of self.
  • Young Salamandar: reroll strength. You are immune to fire and can breathe flame (d6 damage,) however apologizing or interacting with ugliness deals 1 damage to you.
  • Rose-Maiden: reroll intelligence. You can speak with or command plants twice a day. However, you cannot harm a plant.
  • Pawn: reroll any. Gain an extra skill. However, get disadvantage versus possession or peer pressure.
  • Ferret-Servant: reroll charisma. Once per day, cast charm, sleep, or invisibility. However, you are forever doomed to command 4d4 frog- and fish-servants who are incapable of being helpful.
  • Floral Spider: reroll dexterity. You can climb walls. however, you always act last in combat.
  • Candle-Golem: If the players encounter one naturally, let a player run it as-is. Doesn't heal naturally or speak. Charmingly foolish.