Thursday, 29 August 2019

Recent Projects and Future Plans

Axe for the Frozen Sea

So the d10-based game that I alluded to in my last post has been out for a few weeks. Axe for the Frozen Sea is available on itch and drivethrurpg. For the foreseeable future, you can also pick it up as part of the Corazon Bundle that @cartweel has put together.

The game mechanics are heavily inspired by old-school D&D, but adapted to use a d10 for every roll. The purpose of this is to be agnostic about what kind of randomiser you have available. I've tried to write it for situations where dice aren't practical, like standing in line or while bushwalking, or where dice aren't allowed, like many prisons. Of course, prisoners have come up with all sorts of ingenious methods to simulate the full range of polyhedral dice and play D&D.

There are also several system-neutral random tables, like the 1d10 Sacred Lakes table from last post, that hopefully spark referees' imaginations. And so far, I've been ploughing the revenue from Axe into commissioning more tables from writers I admire. There'll be an update to the game files soon that includes the first such table, plus some minor revisions and cleanup.

Reimagine the Dragon

I started a game jam, #ReimagineDragonJam. The idea is to take names of magic items from old issues of Dragon Magazine, then, without looking up what the item does, write a new description. The jam is still open for another week.

My submission is free/PWYW until the jam finishes, after which it'll have some minimum price I haven't decided upon yet. Here's a couple of the items I submitted:

Hypnotic Cauldron

This foot-wide bronze cauldron has four hands serving as handles. Each makes a different gesture cast in intricate detail, but the proportions are unlike any human hands. The cauldron weighs 5 pounds.

When you pour in any liquid, the cauldron will levitate a foot off the ground, and heat the liquid until thick vapours issue forth.

The vapour can be guided and shaped into elaborate shapes by using the four indicated hand gestures. Observers are likely to find the display enthralling, though obviously not real. However if four hands are used to guide the vapours, enthralled creatures are fooled into believing the illusion.

Use whatever procedure your game has for magically affecting a group of creatures. For example, the rules for turning undead could be adapted so a result of "turned" means "enthralled", and "destroyed" means "fooled only if four hands are used, otherwise enthralled".

Finally, if you cast the shed hair or nailclippings of a creature into the roiling brew, you can intuitively shape the vapour into whatever the creature most desires.

Leech Dust

More practical and easy-to-store than real leeches, this fine powder is made by distilling soil from around a vampire's coffin. The powder can be mixed with water to form a paste and shaped into tiny leeches. After an hour, the clay will cure, and the leeches will come to life.

The leeches can reliably extract bloodborne diseases and poisons, as well as treat fevers, gout, inflammation, and other illnesses caused by humoral excesses.

Forming the clay into forms other than leeches is inadvisable -- the higher the form of life, the more wilful it becomes. Leech dust formed into other invertebrates has a 2-in-6 chance of breaking free from the sculptor's control each day. Vertebrate animal forms have a 4-in-6 chance each day, while humanlike forms instantly rebel once cured. Once the creature rebels, it will seek the blood of humans. Insatiable, it is a mockery of vampirism as much as it is of life.

Future Plans

Besides updating Axe, I have some dungeons I need to finish writing, a selkie-themed supplement for 5e and Old School Essentials, some collaborative projects I've let fall dormant... hopefully the turn of the seasons will help me be more productive -- I find it hard to get things done in the winter months.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

1d10 Sacred Lakes

Been busy with various projects. One of them is a small game that uses a d10 for pretty much every roll, including random tables for the GM's use.

This following table is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Eventually the whole game text will be, but it's still very much a work in progress.

  1. Floating glass tektites are scattered around this desert oasis. A crater lake, with thirsty animals lapping at its rim, and a gleaming shard of impervious midnight-blue metal at its epicentre. The shard emits a low droning sound, those who sleep within earshot dream of true events occurring far away.
  2. The last of the bison live in the taiga around this frozen rift lake, which lies hidden from greedy foreigners by forbidding mountains. The water is home to giant diatoms, whose spiny, porous shells bodies hold an opalescent glimmer. The locals say the changing colours are a glacial language, and if you are patient, you may learn the diatoms' ancient secrets.
  3. A limestone cenote filled with clear, still water, yet the bottom cannot be seen. Shelves protruding into the sinkhole are home to multicoloured freshwater snails, each feeding off detritus that falls from the shelves above.
  4. A steaming lake of blood-red caustic water. Flamingos are the only animals in sight, laying eggs on mudflat isles safe from predators. The nearby city mummifies their dead kings with these alkali waters and build hidden tombs for them in a nearby valley. Waxed boats ferried by burn-scarred hands retrieve the calcified bodies of birds who die in the waters, to inter as immortal guardians.
  5. A stepwell of concentric pentagons sits in these arid hills, supplying water to the surrounding villages. It is part of a temple complex dedicated to the Five Winds. If you commit any violent act here, the four surviving winds will forsake you. You will never feel their cool caress, and any ship you embark will find itself becalmed. Monks ritually cleanse themselves in the waters, each hoping to be the one who gives birth to the fifth wind's next incarnation.
  6. This river meanders, throwing off oxbow lakes. Giant water lilies cover the lakes' surface, sheltering juvenile fish awaiting the next flood. When the moon is a sliver in the sky, these lakes swell with power. Nomadic crones pluck fish out with bare hands to read their entrails, and sew fishskin cloaks to turn aside the church's knives.
  7. Halfway up this frigid mountain is a ravine full of low rolling fog. At the end: hot springs and a hidden elfin forest. Stunted trees, ferns and mosses cling to life in the poor soil, while snow monkeys descend the ravine to warm themselves in the water. Tiny wooden shrines placate the eel gods, whose flicking tails cause the mountain to quake.
  8. A huge salt crust under open sky, dotted with hundreds of tiny pink pools. Ants, lizards hiding under the crust and clumps of salt-fruited shrubs are the main wildlife. This ephemeral lake floods when monsoons fall just right far to the north. An explosion of fish and plantlife brings legions of pelicans, sandpipers and gulls, until the lake dries up again.
  9. The base of this waterfall, carved out by the scouring waters, is where the hero god slew the winged snakes. The reeds growing here make the lightest and strongest of spears. You should make a pilgrimage here when weapons are needed against the greatest of foes.
  10. The waters of this lake are a cunning illusion — boats will float, thirst will be seemingly sated, but the remains of foolhardy explorers dot the surrounding forest. The locals know not to drink, but to instead float offerings in tiny rafts. The offerings make their way to a palatial museum under the false lakebed, whose mysterious Curator releases tailored phage viruses to protect the locals from plagues.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Jellymanders (BX and 5e monster)

Another monster suggested to me by @mountain_foot! This one was a bit of a struggle to write. My major mistake was to put together a list of oozes spanning several editions and try to cove them accurately. There's a lot of oozes with samey abilities out there! I think it's better pared back to six entries, though I might write some fanciful entries that are more exciting than brown, dun and white puddings.

Jellymanders

These slimy amphibians live in cloud forests. Like many amphibians, they were vulnerable to fungal infections, until a freak mutation gave them the ability to absorb plant and fungus cells and embed them in layers of mucus.

Like other newts and salamanders, they can regrow lost limbs and other extremities. For this reason, as well as their talent for kleptoplasty, they are prized research subjects for vivimancers. They also make excellent animal companions for adventurer-types who must often face oozes in dank dungeons.

The following stats are OGL-compatible. As usual, I'm happy for anyone to use them in a product with attribution. Let me know if you need the appropriate legalese.

B/X Stats

Jellymander

Armour Class 7 [12]
Hit Dice 2+2* (11hp)
Attack 1 × bite (1d4+1)
To-Hit 17 [+2]
Move 90’ (30’)
Save Unified 14, D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (F1)
Morale 6
AL Neutral
XP 35
NA 1d4 (1d4)
TT None

  • Breath weapon: Once per day, a jellymander can cough up a spray of phlegm with the properties of any fungus it has absorbed via its kleptoplasty ability. See the Special Fungal Ability table below.
  • Kleptoplasty: Jellymanders are immune to the corrosive and/or poisonous attacks of oozes, slimes, and similar creatures. Whenever they bite such creatures, they can assimilate tissue and gain special abilities. The XP entry above assumes the jellymander has one such ability; award extra XP for defeated jellymanders with additional powers (see "Experience Points", BX Essentials: Core Rules, p14)
  • Nauseating stench: A jellymander has a 2-in-6 chance of having fungal strains that produce a strong odour: creatures must save vs poison or suffer -2 to hit while in melee with jellymanders. Humans can notice the odour from 120 ft away; only stenchless jellymanders are capable of surprise. Roll on the Stench Table below to determine odour.
  • Swallow whole: An attack roll of 20 indicates a small victim is swallowed. Inside the jellymander's belly: suffer 1d6 damage per round (until the jellymander dies); may attack with sharp weapons at -4 to hit; body digested in 6 turns after death.
  • Water-dependent: Jellymanders sicken after 1d3 days in dry air, and die 1d3 days after that.

Variant: Giant Jellymander

Armour Class 7 [12]
Hit Dice 6+6* (33hp)
Attack 1 × bite (1d8+1)
To-Hit 13 [+6]
Move 90’ (30’)
Save Unified 11, D10 W11 P12 B13 S14 (F4)
Morale 6
Alignment Neutral
XP 750
Number Appearing 1d4 (1d4)
Treasure Type None

Special abilities as above, except the giant jellymander can swallow creatures up to the size of a bugbear.

5e Stats

Jellymander

Medium beast, unaligned

Armour Class 11
Hit Points 22 (4d8+4)
Speed 30 ft., swim 30 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
12 (+1) 13 (+1) 13 (+0) 2 (−4) 10 (+0) 3 (−4)

Senses darkvision 30 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages
Challenge 1/4 (50 XP)

Kleptoplasty. Jellymanders are immune to the corrosive and/or poisonous attacks of oozes, slimes, and similar creatures. Whenever they bite such creatures, they can assimilate tissue and gain special abilities.

Nauseating Stench. A jellymander has a 2-in-6 chance of having fungal strains that produce a strong odour. Any creature other than another jellymander who starts their turn within 10 ft of the jellymander must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw. Failure means the creature is poisonedA poisoned creature has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks. until the start of their next turn. Success renders the creature immune to the stench of jellymanders for 1 hour. Humans can notice the odour from 120 ft away. Roll on the Stench Table below to determine odour.

Actions

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6 + 1) piercing damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 11). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained • A restrained creature's speed becomes 0, and it can't benefit from any bonus to its speed.
• Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature's attack rolls have disadvantage.
• The creature has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws.
, and the jellymander can't bite another target.

Swallow. The jellymander makes one bite attack against a Small or smaller target it is grappling. If the attack hits, the target is swallowed, and the grapple ends. The swallowed target is blinded • A blinded creature can't see and automatically fails any ability check that requires sight.
• Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature's attack rolls have disadvantage.
and restrained • A restrained creature's speed becomes 0, and it can't benefit from any bonus to its speed.
• Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature's attack rolls have disadvantage.
• The creature has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws.
, it has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the jellymander, and it takes 5 (2d4) acid damage at the start of each of the jellymander's turns. The jellymander can have only one target swallowed at a time. If the jellymander dies, a swallowed creature is no longer restrained by it and can escape from the corpse using 5 feet of movement, exiting prone • A prone creature's only movement option is to crawl, unless it stands up and thereby ends the condition.
• The creature has disadvantage on attack rolls.
• An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature. Otherwise, the attack roll has disadvantage.
.

Breath Weapon (Recharge 5–6). The jellymander can breathe a 15 ft. cone of phlegm. The effect of the breath weapon is determined by the Fungal Ability table, below.

Giant Jellymander

Large beast, unaligned

Armor Class 11
Hit Points 39 (6d10 + 6)
Speed 30 ft., swim 30 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
15 (+2) 13 (+1) 13 (+1) 2 (−4) 10 (+0) 3 (−4)

Senses darkvision 30 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages
Challenge 1 (200 XP)

Kleptoplasty. Jellymanders are immune to the corrosive and/or poisonous attacks of oozes, slimes, and similar creatures. Whenever they bite such creatures, they can assimilate tissue and gain special abilities.

Nauseating Stench. A jellymander has a 2-in-6 chance of having fungal strains that produce a strong odour. Any creature other than another jellymander who starts their turn within 10 ft of the jellymander must make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw. Failure means the creature is poisonedA poisoned creature has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks. until the start of their next turn. Success renders the creature immune to the stench of jellymanders for 1 hour. Humans can notice the odour from 120 ft away. Roll on the Stench Table below to determine odour.

Actions

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d10 + 2) piercing damage plus 5 (1d10) poison damage, and the target is grappled • A grappled creature's speed becomes 0, and it can't benefit from any bonus to its speed.
• The condition ends if the grappler is incapacitated (see the condition).
• The condition also ends if an effect removes the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect, such as when a creature is hurled away by the thunderwave spell.
(escape DC 13). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained • A restrained creature's speed becomes 0, and it can't benefit from any bonus to its speed.
• Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature's attack rolls have disadvantage.
• The creature has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws.
, and the jellymander can't bite another target.

Swallow. The jellymander makes one bite attack against a Medium or smaller target it is grappling. If the attack hits, the target is swallowed, and the grapple ends. The swallowed target is blinded • A blinded creature can't see and automatically fails any ability check that requires sight.
• Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature's attack rolls have disadvantage.
and restrained • A restrained creature's speed becomes 0, and it can't benefit from any bonus to its speed.
• Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature's attack rolls have disadvantage.
• The creature has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws.
, it has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the jellymander, and it takes 10 (3d6) acid damage at the start of each of the jellymander's turns. The jellymander can have only one target swallowed at a time. If the jellymander dies, a swallowed creature is no longer restrained by it and can escape from the corpse using 5 feet of movement, exiting prone • A prone creature's only movement option is to crawl, unless it stands up and thereby ends the condition.
• The creature has disadvantage on attack rolls.
• An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature. Otherwise, the attack roll has disadvantage.
.

Breath Weapon (Recharge 5–6). The jellymander can breathe a 15 ft. cone of phlegm. The effect of the breath weapon is determined by the Fungal Ability table, below.

Stench Table
d20 Odour d20 Odour
1 acetone 11 hot plastic
2 baby powder 12 lemon
3 barnyard smell 13 liquorice
4 bubblegum 14 peaches
5 burning tyre 15 smegma
6 cinnamon 16 soap
7 corpse 17 strawberries
8 dirty sock 18 sweat
9 fresh bread 19 tobacco
10 garlic 20 vinegar
Fungal Ability Table
d6 Organism Skin Properties Breath Weapon
Black Pudding
  • Can climb sheer walls and ceilings.
  • deform flesh and bone to slowly pass through openings.
  • Has resistance (half-damage) to any non-fire attack.
  • Non-fire attacks also have a 1-in-6 chance of causing binary fission, creating two smaller jellymanders. Divide remaining hp evenly. Giant jellymanders become regular ones, regular ones become smaller, harmless ones.
Paralyses for 2d4 × 10 minutes. A save vs paralysis or DC 11 Constitution saving throw negates this.
Gelatinous Cube
  • Transparent skin and muscle, showing organs and bone within.
  • Immune to cold and lightning damage.
Paralyses for 2d4 × 10 minutes. A save vs paralysis or DC 11 Constitution saving throw negates this.
Green Slime
  • Can climb sheer walls and ceilings.
  • Immune to all damage except cold and fire.
  • Acidic slime that destroys wood or metal in 6 rounds.
  • Once in contact with flesh, slime catalyses its conversion into more green slime over 1d4 + 6 rounds.
  • Only fire can halt this process, dealing half damage to the slime and half damage to the patient. The slime must be dealt damage equal to half the jellymander's maximum hit points to be eradicated.
Grey Ooze
  • Visually indistinguishable from wet stone. When still, characters have a 1-in-6 chance or must succeed on a DC 20 Intelligence (Investigation) check to spot small movements/life signs. Odour may also betray presence.
  • Objects will adhere to skin, requiring a cumulative Strength score of 20 to pull free (e.g. a Str 8 halfling and a Str 13 fighter could cooperate).
  • Immune to cold and fire damage.
  • Acidic, sticky phlegm that deals 2d8 damage per round until removed.
  • Destroys nonmagic metal (including armor) in 1 round. Enchanted metal is destroyed in 10 minutes.
  • Phlegm can be scraped off (residue will inflict one more round of damage), neutralised with chalk, lye or some other base, or washed off with strong alcohol.
Ochre Jelly
  • Resistance to all damage except cold or fire.
  • Objects will adhere to skin, requiring a cumulative Strength score of 20 to pull free (e.g. a Str 8 halfling and a Str 13 fighter could cooperate).
  • Dissolves cloth, leather or wood in one round, magical in 10 minutes.
  • Can deform flesh and bone to slowly pass through small openings.
  • Lightning and weapon attacks have a 1-in-6 chance of causing binary fission, creating two smaller jellymanders. Divide remaining hp evenly. Giant jellymanders become regular ones, regular ones become smaller, harmless ones.
  • Acidic, sticky phlegm that deals 2d6 damage per round until removed.
  • Destroys nonmagic leather, cloth or wood (including armor) in 1 round. Enchanted materials are destroyed in 10 minutes.
  • Phlegm can be scraped off (residue will inflict one more round of damage), neutralised with chalk, lye or some other base, or washed off with strong alcohol.
Yellow Mould
  • When struck with enough force to cause injury, the jellymander releases a spore cloud to a radius of 10 ft, that is poisonous if inhaled.
  • B/X effect: Save vs death or die in 10 minutes.
  • 5e effect: A creature subjected to this poison must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or take 3d6 poison damage, and must repeat the saving throw at the start of each of its turns. On each successive failed save, the character takes 1d6 poison damage. After three successful saves, the poison ends.
A mist that instantly corrodes wood, leather, cloth and bone. Living tissue is mysteriously immune.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Bat-Harpies (BX Monster)

Batfolk, flying troglodytes, snatchers. The bat-harpies have many names, and come in many varieties. Generally they are squat, furred, humanoids with bat wings for arms and underdeveloped legs. Some have a vulpine countenance, some are crumple-faced, some are even rumored to pass for a cloaked human.

This monster was commissioned by @mountain_foot, one of my kind patrons. If you'd like a monster once a month, you can check out my patreon.

Rumour Table:

  1. They are loath to fly in the rain (True)
  2. They're agents of the gods; they drag evildoers back to their caves and down to Tartarus. (False)
  3. If a white-robed woman appears at a crossroads in the dead of night, she is a necromancer. Bring a fresh-killed animal to her, and she will raise the dead. (Partially True)
  4. Beware the desert-bats, they carry a wicked sting. (True)
  5. They feast on human blood. (Mostly False)
  6. Old Bill lost his arm to one of them, they sprinkled some agony-powder on him and he cut it off himself. (True)
  7. Their language has over a hundred words for "quit touching me!" (True)
  8. Some wear crystal armour. Beware, they're the batfolk's secret kings, who disappear any human witnesses to their royal dungeons. (Mostly False)
Batfolk Statistics (BX)
Armour Class 9 [10]1
Hit Dice 2 (9 hp)
Attacks 1 × weapon (1d6 or by weapon)
To-Hit 18 [+1]1
Movement 30' (10') / 180' (60') flying
Saving Throws As 2nd-level Fighter:
Unified 13, or
D12 W13 P14 B15 S16
Morale 6
Alignment Neutral
XP 20, or 25 if you use a variant below.
Number Appearing 1d3 (3d6 in lair)
Treasure Type N2

1 First value is for systems with descending AC, [bracketed] value is for systems with ascending AC
2 No individual treasure, 40% chance their lair has 2d4 potions.

Echolocation: Unaffected by effects that impair, modify, or rely on sight. Blinded by silence 15' radius.

Ungainly Walk: Hold weapons in their legs. On the ground, can only attack with daggers or similar light weapons.

If you prefer abbreviated/inline stats, here you go.

AC 9 [10], HD 2 (9hp), Att 1 × weapon (1d6 or by weapon), THAC0 18 [+1], MV 30' (10') / 180' (60') flying, SV D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (F2), ML 6, AL Neutral, XP 20, NA 1d3 (3d6), TT N

Variants

Each of these variants (except maybe Ghost Bat) counts as a special ability. If you award XP for combat, they're worth +5 XP.

  1. Desert Long-Eared Bat. Sandy fur, large sideways-pointing ears, wing membrane extends to legs.

    Immune to the venom of giant scorpions, 4-in-6 chance of immunity to any other poison (roll for each distinct poison).

    Each carries a curved, grooved dagger carved from a giant scorpion stinger, and 1d3 - 1 doses of giant scorpion venom (save vs death or die after 1 turn (10 minutes).

    The dagger is worth 3d6 × 10 gp (105 gp) to buyers interested in nonmetallic weapons. Scorpion venom is contraband in most civilised areas.

  2. Ghost Bat. Short white fur, face is humanlike save for a leaf-shaped growth on their nose. Carnivorous, accept fresh kills as trade.

    Can speak with dead creatures (at-will, lasts 10 minutes, cannot speak to any creature more than once).

    Can become ethereal for 1 turn (10 minutes) per day. While ethereal, they are:

    • Invisible
    • Immune to nonmagical attacks
    • Able to pass through objects that are not also ethereal.
  3. Greater Noctule Bat. Robust skull and russet fur, long canines.

    Have a bite attack that deals 1d6 damage (still only capable of one attack per round).

    Snatch small birds from the air, use nets to bring down larger prey. Will even kill and eat birdfolk, using their feathers as fletching for magic darts imbued with basic intelligence.

    Treat magic darts as daggers if thrown, or as arrows if launched with an spear-thrower (e.g. atlatl, woomera). They home in on targets that match a three-word parameter. Attacks against such targets are made with advantage, similarly, roll damage dice twice and use the best result.

    The darts can be "reprogrammed" in a 1-hour ritual of blowing woodsmoke over the darts while continually intoning the new parameter. Any number of darts (even ones with different parameters) can be changed at once to the new parameter.

    The parameter must be something visually identifiable like "has green feathers". The referee should rule out overbroad parameters like "is a creature".

  4. Sac-Winged Bat. Wing surface extends between legs, prefer insects and fruit. Have sacs of pearlescent skin near their elbows, where they store bodily secretions to scent-mark territory or waft at mates.

    In dire circumstances, they can scatter greater amounts of scent to create a almost-magical effect. The effect is particular to each bat, some sample effects are presented below.

    Each bat has enough musk for 1 usage per week. Generally, effects last for 1d6 turns (1d6 × 10 minutes) and can be avoided with a save vs breath. A bat can scatter musk in front of them in a 10 ft by 10 ft area, or underneath them in a 20 ft by 20 ft area. The lower dosage of the latter gives affected creatures a +2 bonus to their saving throw.

    1. charm. As the spell charm person, but can affect any non-undead creature.
    2. levitate. You and all carried gear are weightless, can only move by pushing off surfaces or throwing reaction mass.
    3. itchiness. Bad enough for you to consider cutting off affected body parts.
    4. loss of touch, balance, and proprioception. You have -2 on all attacks, move at half-speed, and cannot manipulate anything you can't see.
    5. super-heavy. Everything weighs three times as much (or takes three times as many slots) for determining encumbrance.
    6. static cling. Thin, lightweight materials (e.g. fallen leaves, parchment, many textiles) will stick to you if they come within 1 foot.
  5. Vampire Bat. Flat nose, razor teeth, brown and silver fur. Able to run on all fours, their land speed is 120' (40'), as a human.

    A sleeping character has only a 1-in-6 chance of awaking, rolled as the bat approaches and lands. Their saliva numbs pain and prevents blood clotting, so victims do not wake upon biting. Note that attacking a sleeping character does not require a roll to hit.

    The victim will wake with 1d6 fewer hp, to a minimum of 1. They only bite superficially, lapping at the open wound with their tongue. Except for their bedding being drenched with blood, many victims wouldn't even realise they were bitten.

    These batfolk are Lawful. They have a well-developed society that cares for its sick and infirm, even regurgitating blood for them. If something threatens their human "herd", they will act to protect them.

  6. Virus Bat. Crystalline growths evident across its body. These grant a +2 bonus Armour Class (changing it to 7 [12]) and a 3-in-6 chance of nullifying any spell cast upon it, even beneficial ones.

    These batfolk are a natural reservoir for the crystal virus, a disease which progresses much further in humans. Contact with any bodily fluids (including saliva) will risk transmission.

    The virus bats are aware of their condition, and try to avoid humans. they have on humans and try to avoid them.

The details of the crystal virus are still pretty up in the air, but two visual inspirations are 4e D&D's Shardminds and the T4-bacteriophage-esque machinery of the Kindergarten from Steven Universe. The fate of an infected human isn't going to be "save or die", either. Sorry, I don't know the artist(s) for either piece.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Review of Marsie Vellan's Artificer class

This is a review of a playtest Artificer class (not the official one) for 5e D&D.You can get it here, PWYW.

tl;dr:

Marsie's take on Artificer is less complicated, more open-ended and encouraging of shenanigans-based play than the current Unearthed Arcana playtest Artificer. If artificers in 5e are at all interesting to you, get thus, pay her a nonzero amount, encourage further development. This is a class I would happily allow in my game, and ask 5e DMs if I could play. I also want to start porting it to B/X.

Full Review

So I've found the Unearthed Arcana iterations of the Artificer pretty underwhelming. Here's why:

  • Long-winded class features
  • Asking players to keep track of a separate spell and infusion list.
  • A short list of "replicable magic items" that looks like it's meant to synch up with what you can buy in downtime in Adventurer's League play.
  • There's a nice bit of advice about describing your spells as magic items you make (e.g. a tiny mechanical spider that sutures wounds) but this doesn't following the logic of "well can another creature use this item then?". If I'm just refluffing spells, I might as well just play a wizard??

Basically, its class mechanics are designed to lock down any sort of shenanigans-based play, which is the entire point of being an artificer IMO. Marsie apparently agrees with me, because this class encourages the sort of play I relish. Let's unpack it.

You start off with Ardent Crafting, which lets you make items efficiently. You can make one common magic item, two pieces of nonmagical gear, plus one "signature item" which can either be nonmagic (max 25gp value) or from a short list of consumable magic items (e.g. potion of healing). You can make your signature item 1/day for free, but you have to spend gold for the others. You halve the GP requirement, but the time requirement seems to be unspecified. I would say a short rest.

Note your other known magic item can be any common magic item. This automatically makes this class far more interesting than the WotC offering. I'm already dreaming up an artificer who makes pots of awakening, and has a little family of shrubs tending to tasks in a safe haven :3

Importantly, these items only last until your next long rest before degrading. So you could make a tidy profit of at least 25gp per day as a town healer, but you can't stockpile potions this way, unless you take the Alchemist subclass at 3rd level. Otherwise, if you want to make permanent items, you need to spend weeks on it like anyone else.

(so I'll have to check with my DM about that pot of awakening. Maybe my artificer is heavily caffeinated and only benefits from a long rest every month or so)

The instructions for making these items are called "schema", and are kept in your "codex", which is also your spellbook. You can reverse-engineer magic items you possess to write more schema into your spellbook, or find schema as loot just as a wizard might find scrolls or spellbooks. At higher levels, you can learn schema for rarer categories of item.

As a side note, even though Ardent Crafting items degrade, a profit of at least 25gp per day, funneled into making a stockpile of permanent magic items, is nothing to sniff at. DMs, keep this in mind. You can enforce encumbrance rules, make up a threat that creates time pressure, or use common sense about how much money a village can afford to spend on healing potions.

At 2nd level you get spells. Paladin spell slot progression, you learn and prepare spells the same way a wizard does. You can also infuse your spells into objects, making them into one-use magic items. You can give these items to other people, and since they're based on your spells, not some bespoke list of combat-focused "+1 sword", "+1 armor" infusions, you can therefore give your allies neat utility effects.

Like the WotC class, you have to infuse items at the end of a long rest. At 5th level, you can infuse items after a short rest, making you more adaptive to problems encountered during the adventuring day.

The subclasses are Alchemist, Homonculist, and Saboteur.

Alchemist removes the "your items degrade" restriction with Ardent Crafting, as long as it's a consumable item like a potion. You can also convert crafting materials into gold (I assume at 3rd level this means "stable trade goods that are as fungible as gold", not a literal transmutation to gold), and administer potons as a bonus action. See above advice regarding encumbrance and time constraints.

Homonculist is a pet class. Unlike the silly, videogame-like "I summon a turret" subclass of the WotC version, you have to actually figure out how to bring your construct into the dungeon, royal ball, or suspicious village. The customisation options for the construct are interesting without being overwhelming. Note you have to spend your action to command the construct to attack.

Saboteur lets you activate your infused items from up to 60 ft away, and gives you proficiency with thieves' tools. It also gives you advantage at checking for traps, which makes me uncomfortable. Advantage is generally stronger than Expertise, and I don't think any class should be better than Rogue at finding traps. That minor complaint aside, this is my favourite subclass. Simple effects that open up even more shenanigans-based play.

Finally, the spell list. The differences I found notable, compared to the WotC artificer, are:

Lacks:
1st: sanctuary
2nd: alter self, enlarge/reduce, lesser restoration, rope trick
3rd: blink, fly, gaseous form, haste, revivify
4th: stoneskin
5th: greater restoration

Has:
various Xanathar's spells (the WotC class is PHB-only), and some low-level damaging spells (the WotC class requires you to go Artillerist to get magic missile or thunderwave)
1st: feather fall, fog cloud, silent image, snare, Tenser's floating disc
2nd: find traps, knock, Nystul's magic aura, shatter, web
3rd: counterspell, Leomund's tiny hut, magic circle, nondetection, sending, tongues
4th: dimension door, hallucinatory terrain, locate creature
5th: awaken, passwall, scrying, teleportation circle, transmute rock to mud

I don't have strong opinions on which list is better. As a DM I'd be fine combining them to be honest The artificer is so limited in spells/day compared to a full caster that a broad spell list isn't going to make them unbalanced.

Final Thoughts:

This class is in playtest, so some vague wording is to be expected. I would like to see some work on the text to make it more easily understandable. e.g. I had to read over Ardent Crafting a few times to understand what it does, partly because an important aspect of it is in the next class feature. I'd also like to see a curated table of common magic items that are suitable as a starting schema. Apart from that, I have no real complaints. This is a great class, buy it.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

1d12 Portals to the Fey World

I'm writing a bunch of portals from our world to the fey world. The final list may have 36 entries? Here's 12 of them anyway.

The format of these is a little in flux. To be a better aid for the referee, I would like to come up with cryptic hints for each of these portals, something a divination spell or a selkie warlock might determine. But those hints haven't been forthcoming yet. I was never good at cryptic crosswords ;-)

If you like these, consider joining my patreon. I won't be putting any exclusive content on there, but you will get free download keys to anything I put on itch.io, and patrons at the $2 or $5 level can commission content from me.

  1. A tree felled by lightning, its stump, burned with Lichtenberg figures, has been carved into a tiny wooden temple. Make an effigy of yourself and place it at the temple gate. You will then fall into a slumber, and wake in the temple's replica on the other side.

  2. The land-catfish stalks the mudflats, three storeys tall, striding on four thin storklike legs. You must trick it into swallowing you. It is otherwise uninterested in human prey.

  3. Two hawthorn trees in eternal bloom, each on a lonely hill. Bring flowers from each to pollinate the other, then enter at the third point of the equilateral triangle. (obviously there are two such points, and both lead to the fey world. But one is foul, the other fair)

  4. A grove of baobab trees stands on an arid ridge. Their trunks bloat with water, they shed leaves in the dry season. One is audibly hollow, contains a spiral staircase down to an unseeable depth, magic "static" disrupts darkvision and dispels light. Only mundane light sources can be brought in.

  5. A well in the middle of the forest, water gleams obsidian. Cast a token of affection into the well, and a tendril of water will emerge, holding a stone face. Kiss the face to cross over.

  6. In a land where earth tremors are common stands a narrow arch of verdigris-crusted bronze, 50 ft wide and 100 ft high. A Fomorian croquet hoop, in phase with our own world. When the tremors start, their game is under way, and by swearing to obey the rules of the game, you may pass through and play. Mind the 50 ft diameter croquet balls!

  7. An old cottage, seemingly abandoned except porridge is bubbling over a firepit, about to burn. Quick! Stir widdershins thirteen times and the flames will turn violet, letting you pass through without harm.
    (note widdershins is counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere, clockwise in the southern)

  8. A bullaun stone, its central depression holding a cupful of rainwater. To cross over, make an offering by tipping all the water onto the ground and replacing it with wine. However, the bullaun stone has a shrine which visited by many who believe the rainwater has healing powers. They will not appreciate you wasting the water.

  9. A huge banksia pod, covered with dry bristles and embedded, woody beaklike fruits. Expose a fruit to fire and it will split open, revealing a cramped, winding tunnel. Crawl in the dark for what seems like hours to emerge in the fey world.

  10. A frigid, windblown island, albatrosses and beetles the only animals in sight. Wild herbs in bloom, but no trees. An abandoned spire of elven make stands in the island's centre, upper third covered with undulating metal bristles. Inside is a magic mirror, and a fine clockwork mechanism. The machine runs whisper-quiet, unspooling tape, punching needle holes in it, and letting it pile in a tangled heap on the floor. Bring the tape to the mirror, and you will be allowed to cross over with it.

  11. A grassy plain with a white stone monolith, surrounded by smaller red sandstone forms, weathered by wind into vague human shapes. At night they come alive, singing rock-people. Teach them a new song, and they will show you the secret path into the Alabaster City.

  12. A folded paper fortuneteller abandoned on the ground, glowing numerals on broad, waxy leaf. The inner tabs claim to tell your future. They don't, but if you commit the act described, you will cross over.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Selkie Spells and Warlock Options

Four selkie spells and some warlock options (a pact and six invocations) that I've been working on. The spells and most of the invocations are techniques selkies developed, often to solve various practical problems, but are not necessarily selkie-only. The Pact of the Skin and the two invocations which have it as a prerequisite do require the warlock to either be a selkie, or possess the sealskin of one. See the Pact of the Skin below for details.

Spells

Give these to any class you want. None of them are combat spells, and all of them are well within the “balance” guidelines for what those classes should be able to do.

Crown of Perfect Recall

2nd-level transmutation

Casting Time: 10 minutes
Range: Touch
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 day

You destroy a single written work, converting the text into a halo of glowing blue words orbiting your head. You have disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks while the halo is in effect.

This spell can be used on spellbooks and scrolls. At the referee's discretion, there is a chance of mishap.

By taking 10 minutes, you can regurgitate the words onto blank material, after which the spell ends. If there is insufficient material, roll on the following table to determine what happens.

If the spell ends or is dispelled before any regurgitation, the words are lost forever.

1d6 Consequence
1 Text squished, requires a microscope to read.
2 Text cuts off once material runs out, remainder is lost forever.
3 Text overflows onto the closest blank materials.
4 Text permanently etches itself onto your skin.
5 Target material somehow contains all the text without changing size, by some non-euclidean packing of its surface area.
6 Text rejects the target material and spills onto the ground as a lego-like mess of tiny glowing words. They gain sapience and start a society. Their society is structured along linguistic principles, and they wield punctuation marks as tiny tools and weapons. They hate you for dispossessing them of their home.

Knitted Servant

2nd-level transmutation

Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: Touch
Components: V, S, M (yarn and combustible salts worth 50 gp, which the spell consumes)
Duration: Permanent

You create a knitted servant. At a certain time each day, chosen when you cast the spell, the servant will animate and perform a programmed task. This can be any simple task that a human servant could do, such as fetching objects that match a given description, cleaning, mending, folding clothes, lighting fires, serving food, and pouring wine.

The servant cannot be given additional orders unless it is reprogrammed. Reprogramming a servant requires unraveling it and recasting the spell, though this doesn't require the expenditure of additional material components.

The servant has AC 10, 1 hit point, and a Strength of 2, and it can't attack. If it drops to 0 hit points, the spell ends.

If tasks cause two or more knitted servants to come within 10 ft of each other, their magic weaves tangle and corrupt each other’s programs. Roll on the table below to determine the form this corruption takes.

1d6 Consequence
1 Complete unraveling, both servants cease to function.
2 Servants swap nouns, e.g. a pair of servants programmed to "sweep the floor" and "fetch firewood" become "sweep firewood" and "fetch the floor"
3 One servant (chosen randomly) overwrites the others' programming with its own.
4 Time derailment. One servant (chosen randomly) now performs its task seven times a day, the other only once a week.
5 Both servants revert to an inert state, listening for new orders. They will interpret and follow, literally, the first imperative statement they overhear from any creature
6 Servants fall in a mechanistic simulation of love and elope. They travel 6 miles each day in a random direction, but continue performing their programmed tasks each day at the appropriate time, if possible.

Magewind

2nd-level evocation (ritual)

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self (100 ft sphere)
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 hour

You change the current wind speed and direction. You can change wind speed one stage up or down on the following scale. The effect persists in a 100 ft radius sphere around you.

The spell ends prematurely if you no longer have a clear path to the sky. After the spell ends, the wind returns to normal.

Stage Wind Speed
1 Calm
2 Moderate
3 Strong
4 Gale
5 Storm

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd or higher level, the radius affected increases by 100ft for each slot level above 2nd.

For every two slot levels above 2nd, you can change the wind speed by an additional stage.

For example, if you cast this spell with a 6th level slot and the weather is currently calm, a radius of 500 ft is affected, and you can change the wind speed to anywhere from calm to a gale, as well as changing its direction.

Seafoam Clothes

1st-level transmutation (ritual)

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self (100 ft sphere)
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 hour

You fashion seawater into clothing on your body, of any appearance you wish. If iron (but not steel) touches the clothing, make a concentration saving throw (DC 15) or the clothing reverts to seawater.

Selkie Warlocks

The unbreakable bond between a selkie and their sealskin holds a mysterious power. Though most selkies are loath to tamper with such an integral part of their identity, those looking for quick power will find many otherworldly patrons eager to dig their claws in, all in the name of collaboration, of course.

Pact of the Skin

Your patron has taught you to exploit the magical bond between you and your sealskin. Choose a number of warlock spells you know equal to your proficiency bonus. You can cast those spells while in seal form.

Whenever your proficiency bonus increases, you add another spell to the list. Whenever you gain a warlock level, you can choose one spell on this list and replace it with another warlock spell you know.

This pact is exclusive to selkies. However, a warlock who acquires a selkie’s pelt can learn invocations that have this pact as a prerequisite. In this case, the invocations only function while the warlock has the sealskin on their person. The selkie must be alive, but does not have to be a warlock themselves.

Even after death, the pelts of selkie warlocks with this pact carry traces of the magic the warlock knows. These spells may be successfully discerned (and transcribed into a spellbook, if wizard) with an Intelligence (Arcana) check with a DC equal to the warlock's spell save DC.

Warlock Invocations

Fey crossing

You can expend a spell slot to sense the direction towards the nearest gateway to the realm of Faerie. An active fey crossing is detectable from 12 miles away, while a dormant one is detectable from 6 miles away.

Additionally, you have a strong intuitive sense of the means by which one can open such a crossing. When you touch a fey crossing, you automatically receive a clue from the referee without the need for an ability check. This can take the form of a short phrase, cryptic rhyme, or riddle.

Fog Sight

You can see through fog (including clouds, haze, or steam) unimpeded to a distance of 120 ft. and through heavy fog beyond that distance as though it were only light fog.

At the referee's discretion, this also applies to clouds of ice (such as cirrus clouds), of other chemicals such as those exuded by certain trees, or to dust clouds.

Lore of Shifting

Prerequisites: 5th level, Pact of the Skin

You learn the alter self spell. It counts as a warlock spell for you, but does not count against the number of warlock spells you know.

When you cast alter self, its range is Touch instead of Self. Regardless of target, you choose the form taken, and can change it with an action, but an unwilling creature can resist the spell with a Wisdom saving throw.

Additionally, when you cast alter self, it has the following form option and “At Higher Levels” text:

Flight Adaptation. The creature’s weight halves, and its arms change into wings. They can be the wings of a bird, bat, or any other animal. The creature gains a fly speed equal to its walking speed, but cannot hold or wear items on its wings (rings, gloves, etc. are forced off by the transformation), nor can it use them to perform somatic components of spells.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, you can target one additional creature for each slot level above 2nd. The same form must be chosen for each target, and when you use your action to change the chosen form, all affected targets change form together.

Skin Puppet

Prerequisites: 5th level, Pact of the Skin

You learn the animate dead spell. It counts as a warlock spell for you, but does not count against the number of warlock spells you know.

When you cast animate dead, you can target an unattended skin or hide. This includes suits of leather, studded leather, or hide armor. It also includes a selkie’s sealskin, even if that selkie is still alive.

Some special cases follow:

  • If you are a selkie and animate your own sealskin, you can use your action to dismiss the spell.
  • Animated hides use the stats for animated objects (reproduced below), except they are undead, and can squeeze through spaces two size categories smaller than them.
  • Animating skin that is still attached to a corpse merely produces a zombie.
Animated Object Statistics
Size HP AC Str Dex Attack
Tiny 20 18 4 18 +8 to hit, 1d4 + 4 damage
Small 25 16 6 14 +6 to hit, 1d8 + 2 damage
Medium 40 13 10 12 +5 to hit, 2d6 + 1 damage
Large 50 10 14 10 +6 to hit, 2d10 + 2 damage
Huge 80 10 18 8 +8 to hit, 2d12 + 4 damage

Weather Augur

You learn the augury spell. It counts as a warlock spell for you, but does not count against the number of warlock spells you know.

If you are outdoors and clouds are visible, you can cast augury without the normal material components.

Weatherworker

You learn the druidcraft cantrip.

You add the following spells to your warlock class spell list, though not to your spells known; you must still select them normally:

1st: create or destroy water, fog cloud
2nd: magewind1, gust of wind
3rd: call lightning, sleet storm
4th: control water, ice storm
5th: commune with nature, conjure elemental2
8th: control weather
9th: storm of vengeance
1 new spell, see above
2 air or water elemental only.