Saturday, February 13, 2021

Fantasy Scenario Spark Generator

Cosmic Orrery has made a list of things they wish to see more of in fantasy tales. I have added to this and turned it into a simple generator. Behold!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Dungeon Poem Challenge: the Clavicarcerum

See here. Also here.

The Magma-Marred Clavicarcerum of the Scribe Jamesus


  • 1a. "Court" the Tyrant once visited. Salamandar Turnkeys rebind a burst fasces. Each has a basalt nail sticking out of their temple.
  • 1b. Closet for constraints of all kinds: manacles, long chains, dyed cocaines, an icon, silver talents.
  • 2. Scribe's familiar, caught in wrought-iron globe. Calumnies have granted her a tarantulous venom. She hates her Scribe and her jailors.
  • 3. Manikins-- groaning gem-eyed busts, riddled with basalt nails. Cloth limbs clutch tongs and prongs, ready to wrong those who come along.
  • 4. Spiking Spot, where the Tyrant's eunuch's daughter reads a heap of cracking skulls. The basalt nail driven under her jaw allows her to taste murderous intent and mystical events. Has a brace of pistols.
  • 5a. Magmabank, with deodands of all kinds: an ointment that beautifies the cruel, a bronze club whose radium glow blinds frequent users to other lights, and a golden mirror.
  • 5b. By the magma flow, a Scaly-foot Snail-- from her iron-wrought shell she whispers. She will trade the name of God to be returned to the Scribe who taught her secrets.
  • 5c. Bridge. Pressure plate near room 4 rotates a wheel of bells, notifying the guards in room 6.
  • 5d. Relics of the Scribe. An old pack, some dross, an off-kilter cross, a cameo of the love he lost. If someone prays while wearing the cameo, the only food that will satisfy ever after will be ashes, dirt, and insects. Thereafter, they will not age, nor will their body decay.
  • 6. Watchhouse. Six kladeneteer jailers with serrated blades throw gambling lot. They have two basalt nails in their heads: one at the top which turns all bloods they shed to silver, and one over the ear, causing their left hands to sweat glowing resin.
  • 7a. Stairway. Intricate carvings of serpents swallowing martyrs.
  • 7b. Statues. A sibling pair, the children of usurpers, turn magma to basalt with long metal tools. The executioners of their parents are immortalized in a triptych of bronze idols
  • 8a. Rows and rows of nails of basalt, arranged around a brazen serpent idol. Attacks those with an intact skull, but is amazingly clumsy. In the corner, an iron-wrought globe weighs down a trapdoor to room 10.
  • 8b. Pits, (20'), many-pointed icons hanging over each. One is shattered, another cracked, another will certainly hold. Ropes with baskets of ashes and locusts to serve to the Scribe, as well as buckets of basalt and black coal.
  • 9. Forge. Here the Scribe Jamesus beats basalt-flows into shape, using visions of the secrets that assured he'd be confined. The only diamond anvil the Holy Assembly allows.
  • 10. Cell. Scribe Jamesus prays here typically, surrounded by the dross of the many containment icons that his piety shatters. He speaks angel-language only, but gestures with traitor hands. Hallway to room 9 is etched with runes-- those studying them save or forget all anger. The Scribe made these to keep patient for the rescue God will send.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Picture Pong Against Matthias #1: I am that is

 Matthias of Liche's Libram has attempted to steal the pong intended for my dear semiurge. This cannot be allowed to stand, and I am utterly destroying it the only way I know how.

Here we see an illustration of the part of the brain responsible for the sensations of various other parts of the body. This knowledge is considered privileged information among the sixty-five scribes of Prive, who were separated and forced by a tyrant to list out the secrets which are forbidden to know in descending order of severity, and who were only spared because each wrote a list that exactly matched the other sixty-four. (The "Cortical Homunculus" was the twenty-seventh most severe secret.)

In the Clavicarcerum of the Scribe Jamesus, the tyrant put this secret to cruel effect, forcing the scribe to forge cortical nails, which when carefully placed can alter the mind and form of mortals.

(This operation is gruesome, but an unwashed adventurer can do it if they choose, provided they have a cortical nail and something to pound it in. The skull is only a momentary impediment.)

  • A nail on the innermost fold affects the foot, which no longer flexes. It twitches when it crosses the spot where someone has died, or where a dead person is interred.
  • A nail on the central top affects the hip, which no longer goes side to side. Weapons over your hip weep an oil that transmutes blood to silver.
  • A nail off the central top affects the trunk, which no longer twists. Your appendix inverts in the presence of poison.
  • A nail at the fold of the motor cortex affects the arm, which no longer rises. It will drag you away from danger if you are unconscious.
  • A nail further down from that affects the hand, which no longer grips. It sweats glowing light.
  • A nail at the temple affects the head, which experiences ego death. This is what happened to the guards of the Clavicarcerum.
  • A nail behind the jaw affects the tongue, which goes slack. Its tastes sour in the presence of illusions, magic or mudane; spicy in the presence of primates (including humans) untouched by magic; and sweet on hallowed or unhallowed ground.
  • A nail beneath the jaw affects the larynx, which goes silent. The inarticulate sounds you make echo up to twenty miles, and can only be heard by those you wish to hear them.
The effect is undone if the nail is removed, but having a hole in your head is liable to give you infection, proxima, or worse.
Hope your blog allows spider teats, Matthias.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Campaign Pitch: When Do We Ride to Jerusalem?

Like an enemy HE has bent HIS bow;

HIS right hand poised like an adversary,

HE has slain all who pleased HIS eye;

HE has poured out HIS wrath like fire

on the tent of the Daughter of Zion. 

Character Generation

PCs are baseline characters in your GLoGhack of choice, except for two differences:

1. Instead of normal in-order stat assignment, each player (including the DM) rolls stats in order, then the players (excluding the DM) draft, taking turns claiming, say, the STR 14 someone rolled or the WIS 7 or what have you. Since the DM rolled up some stats, this should leave one set of attributes which we will save for later.

2. use failed careers instead of any other skill system. Here's one if you don't have a list handy:

d12 Failed Careers:

  1. Fisher
  2. Tax Collector
  3. Political Activist
  4. Thief
  5. Prostitute
  6. Beggar
  7. Con
  8. Scribe
  9. Exorcist
  10. Priest
  11. Carpenter
  12. Shepherd
When rolling 2d6 for random encounters, use whatever table is appropriate to the setting, but a roll of 7 is always orthodox oppressors and a snake-eyes is always the Devil.

art by Tomatobird

The Prophet
In addition to the normal PCs, the party will also be making a Prophet, the leader of the party. Mechanically, this is done by first taking the array of attributes left over from character creation, then communally generating a level 1 Heresiarch. They may have other powers, but the players know them not.

The Prophet gets all of the experience points which the party would receive. (If you don't want the campaign to be about dungeon crawling, give XP for each HD of person converted or 2xHD of priest out-debated) When the Prophet dies, all of these experience points are split by the party if they regroup and honor their leader's memory with a ceremony.

The Prophet is played by everyone, usually whichever player is most available in the moment. To keep some things consistent, always cleave to these principles for the Prophet:
  1. The Prophet knows they are going to die soon.
  2. The Prophet's word won't be understood until they are gone.
  3. The Prophet's message is eternal and for everyone.
  4. The Prophet is totally sincere, and knows they're the world's best hope.
The (inevitable?) death of the prophet is not the end of the campaign. If you've been lucky, it's only half-time. 

The City
As a group, you should determine some facts about the nation you start in, and the religion your Prophet has come to uplift. You begin as a voice in the wilderness, where people are spread out, authorities must appease your followers, and the demons are young and weak. The congregation is safe from being stamped out as long as it remains isolated, but may peter out if it does not gain a popular following. Eventually, you will have to come to the City.

The City is the center of spiritual power in the nation and (kings may scoff) the world. It is where the orthodoxy makes its laws and defiles its law. People will despise you, authorities will harry you, and demons inhabit ancient brazen forms, but it is here you must go. If you enter the city with a popular movement behind you, you will start to win. You will soar higher than you ever have, then the wings which raised you will be blasted apart from the spires of empires.

The Kingdom
In order for the Prophet's message to survive, it will need to form congregations in many nations. You can create a congregation by:
  • Having the Prophet give the Difficult Order to one of their rich followers to make a congregation in their community.
  • Giving 200 gold to one of your zealous followers to make a congregation in their community.
After the Prophet dies, you should be able to write accounts of their life and install them into congregations for a bonus. Maybe it's how you win the game.

New faiths require constant nurturing. Each month that a congregation goes without the Prophet or a PC visiting them, roll on the table below:

2d6 Congregation Events
  • 2. False prophet. Possibly claiming to be the party's prophet. Congregation doubles in size as doctrines shift towards new heresy.
  • 3. Minor miracle. Congregation heartened. 
  • 4. Raises 50 gold for renovations, or to fund a congregation elsewhere.
  • 5. Travelling magus competes with congregation leaders
  • 6. Rumor of potential boon. Slot in plot hook.
  • 7. Orthodox oppression. Same old same old.
  • 8. Rumor of threatened bane. Slot in plot hook.
  • 9. Orthodox priests debate congregation leaders
  • 10. Calamity. Congregation seeks 50 gold for renovations, or to escape tyranny.
  • 11. Backsliding. Congregation remains allied to the party, but resumes the behavior it once renounced.
  • 12. Orthodox crack-down. Congregation is destroyed unless it somehow planned for this, with a 50% chance each named member is killed or imprisoned.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Twelve Level-less Problems

In games with character levels, I'm intrigued by dangers that persist regardless of where a character is in the track of advancement. (Opponents in head-to-head combat are almost never scaling problems. Fighting a knot of eunuchs is impossible at first level, easier at fourth.) When a scenario features level-less problems, it becomes interesting to a wider variety of parties, and is more likely to encourage creative play.

  1. Instant Death effects. Lava. bottomless pits. trains that don't need tracks. wind-up telegraphed strikes.
  2. Riddles
  3. Convincing strange people to be reasonable
  4. Hard decisions between two values
  5. Shadow version of you that has all your powers(!)
  6. Object must be retrieved from the world of dreams
  7. Object must be retrieved from the world of ghosts
  8. Oh no! You're in charge of a group of irresponsible weirdos
  9. You are cursed. Probably curable, and high-level characters might have an easier time compensating but the story is about suffering, which both should be able to do in equal measure.
  10. Extra effect against the higher leveled. Reopening all your previous scars. Burning every spell in your skull. summoning the ghosts of everyone you've killed. 
  11. Attribute damage
  12. Literally just ask your players to come up with the things that would challenge their PCs, then incorporate those things without changing them.

Monday, February 1, 2021

VtS Update: Everything a player needs to know

 As I am nearly finished with a dramatic update to Vain the Sword, I thought I'd collect everything a player needs to know for a one-shot in one place, so they don't actually need to study the rulebook in its entirety.

Players, click here: 

Cool character. 

You can do anything without rolling dice unless failure is interesting and possible. As a group, you can declare that time passes and I have to advance the story without killing you. You are entitled to a short list of social mores that you can exploit.

When you get into a fight, I'll tell you if and how to roll for initiative. On your turn, you can do some kind of maneuver and cast a spell or attack someone.

  • A maneuver is any action, like cutting a rope or taking a moment to bypass defenses, or pulling on someone's shield.
  • You can cast a spell if you have an MD, or some magic scroll. 
  • When you attack, you roll a d20 and your weapon's damage die at the same time. If your d20 roll is equal to or under your THEWS, you deal damage equal to the damage die. Simple. 

Your morale is kind of like your health. It goes down when you are hurt, but also when you witness violence (unless you are inured to violence).

Your orisons are d4s that you can spend in prayer while on an adventure. If you roll a 4, your prayer is answered in some way-- though seldom spectacularly and sometimes to your detriment.

In general, weapons damage is based on how many it takes up:

  • 0: (unarmed) 1d4
  • 1: 1d6, one-handed
  • 2: 1d6 one-handed, 1d8 two-handed
  • 3: 1d10 two-handed
    They won't be enough

In general, armor provides:

  • 2 defense if it protects the head or everything but the head
  • 4 defense if it covers the head and most of the torso
  • 6 defense if it covers the head, torso, and most of the limbs.
    Most characters have some defense unarmored, but this can be bypassed by the maneuvers of your foes.
Drugs are magic. When you take a dose, you get a benefit and a drawback
  • Wine: get a feeling when divine miracles are at play. You are cursed if you attack your host or guests.
  • Opium: get a feeling when chemicals are at play. You are cursed if you do manual labor.
  • Absnthe: get a feeling when magic is at play. You are cursed if you are attentive.