Sunday, June 13, 2021

Foolish, Fragile Humans

Lucas Graciano
"Man the mortal; master of horses..." what a crock
In RPGs where race/species is distinct from class, humans are sometimes given certain mechanical advantages, in order to balance them with respect to the more fantastical options available.


This is patently ridiculous.

- Elves are good at magic. That’s why human spell-books and prayers are written in elven.

- Dwarves are good at making stuff. That’s why human artifacts are dwarvencraft hand-me-downs.

- Orcs are good at fighting. That’s why most human wars are fought by orcish mercenaries.

Humans aren’t good at anything. We aren’t “good at endurance” or “versatile” or “plucky” or any of that horseshit. Humans are the weakest, shittiest fantasy race.

Let’s embrace that.

Human "Perks"

To clarify, we aren’t the MOST pathetic species to stand on two legs. We just don’t measure up to other fantasy races at all.

A large part of this is due to the fact that all of our unique strengths as a species (intelligence, language, social structure) are assumed to be the default for sentient fantasy races. If we took those traits away from elves or orcs, we wouldn’t recognize them as beings capable of interacting peacefully with human society.

That isn’t to say that being human is without upsides. Consider how most D&D campaigns take place in or adjacent to a mostly-human society; our home turf! The unique advantage of being human is that you are NOT another race—elf, dwarf, etc—in a cultural context where being “the other” can be dangerous.

This secret racial perk goes unexplored in most additions of D&D, perhaps because the casual ttrpg crowd doesn’t want to drag fantasy racism into their campaign. (Unless you choose to be a tiefling, half-orc, or similarly “dark” race.)

At the very least, it feels weird to write it out as a mechanical tradeoff: “okay, you can choose between darkvision and a cast-iron stomach, or immunity to racial discrimination”

So What?

If being human is an option in your games, don’t give them mechanical bonuses for being human. Use them for speedy character creation and nothing else.

If, as a player, you want a mechanical bonus for your species, then don’t be a human. (Their bonuses range from boring to min/max anyway. Might as well ignore them)

Better yet, no bonuses for race at all. Screw weapon proficiencies, darkvision, and the horse they rode in on; you’re just people on an adventure, some of whom happen to have bad accents. I feel like 5e is moving in this direction after Tasha’s (even if they wussed out of making it the default) and its a much more freeing space to play pretend in.

“But that’s unbalanced! Nobody will want to play as a human without incentive!”

Fine. Play an international coalition of fae pirates. Or assemble a gonzo fantasy Oceans 11. Or re-enact the Hobbit.

Or just play a human anyway, because you want to.

Everyone loves an underdog.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Random Advancement Templates (aka RATGLoG)

by Eksafael

Tired of prostrating yourself before the false idol of well-written, structured classes? Try RATGLoG: toss all your favorite templates into a random table, blend for 30sec, and watch your PCs grow into burly, pseudo-magical, mutant freaks! (Made with Spwack's generator generator, as always)

Whenever you advance, roll 3 options for your next template and pick one.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Prince of Cogs (GLOG Class)

Pascal Blanche
The universe is a great clockwork beast, a wound-up machine ticking towards its inevitable conclusion, and you are a humble Cog.

You get +1 to save for each Cog template you have.

The Pre(Cog)nitive
A:
Sequence, Inscrutable Agenda
B: Subordinates

C: Calamity
D: Shared Fate
Δ: The Index, Buck the Reins, It is Written, The Stars Align

A: Sequence
At the start of the session, roll two d20s and note the results in sequence. Whenever you would roll a d20, use the result of the next number in sequence instead. Then, roll a d20 and add it to the end of the sequence.

The sequence must be visible at all times to all players. Remember, the DM decides whether an action is risky enough to necessitate a roll.

A: Inscrutable Agenda
You are burdened by the universe’s inscrutable agenda. Roll for a cryptic mission. Whenever you complete a cryptic mission, your sequence length increases by 1.

If you have no active missions, receive one the next time your mind wanders in a crowded place; it is delivered by one of the Subordinates (see below). You may also receive new missions in dreams at your DM’s discretion.

B: Subordinates
In the city, you have a chance of encountering Subordinates in a dark alleyway. They are (1d4) supplicatory; baboon-esque; baroque; all elbows. So long as they do not speak, no one pays them any heed.

They offer a gift of (1d4) strange black fruit; royal gossip; a severed finger; a silver gear. Whatever it is, it will be extremely useful within the next 24 hours, so long as you are in the right place at the right time.

C: Calamity
When you visit a location, you know the exact time of the next great calamity to befall that location. You have a vague sense of its magnitude, but not its nature. Anything more than a week away is vague.

D: Shared Fate
You may share your fate with another by sharing an embarrassing secret with them. Those who share your fate may use your sequence as you do, with your permission. They are not obligated to do so; only you are bound by fate.

Ben Sack

Δ: The Index
Prevent at least three others from cheating fate.
When you die, pass your fate on to whomever is emotionally closest to you. (A good friend, your kin, or the enemy who strikes you down.) They become a Cog and inherit your sequence.

Δ: Buck the Reins
Cheat fate at a critical juncture.
Once per day, you can reroll your sequence. Fate despises you; if a 1 leaves your sequence, add a 1 to your sequence instead of rolling for a new result.

Δ: It Is Written
Foresee a sequence of 7 or more dice.
You know your exact cause of death. Nothing else can kill you (except poison). 

Δ: The Stars Align
Foresee an ascending sequence of 13 dice, from lowest to highest.
Receive your final mission. It is time-sensitive.
If you fail, fate is cast into disarray. One fundamental rule of reality breaks forever.
If you succeed, you lose all your Cog templates, and your sequence disappears. You are free.

As per usual, generator made using Spwack's generator generator HERE.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

There Are No Mundane Towers

 

Yoshitaka Amano
[Yes, this post is going to be metaphysics of magic. Stick with me, I promise it's usable in-game]

Magic rolls uphill, searching for the quickest route to the highest point, like lightning in reverse. This may be because spells love the sun (which is made of magic) or abhor the earth (where the Dark dwells).

This means that in any structure that is taller than all other nearby structures, magic will slowly accumulate over time. This magical buildup makes the structure weird; the older and taller it is, the weirder it gets.

1d6
What's Wrong With The Tower You Built Last Year?
1
The tower begins to animate. Gargoyles, mimics, and other “trap” monsters are born. In severe circumstances, the tower may pick itself up and attempt to climb the nearest mountain.
2
The tower begins to grow, both upward (approaching the sun) and downward (to set strong roots). The rooms are unsettlingly “organic”, and nothing is as it should be; the ceilings are too high, the walls slope inward, the stairs are all different heights.
3
The tower attracts 1d4 demons; goblins; shades; pigs, who grow fat and dangerous lapping up the excess magic.
4
The tower’s inhabitants change. The bats, the rats, and the lichen on the cobble grow dangerous, intelligent, or downright odd.
5
The tower is levitating upwards at a glacial pace. It’s currently 30 ft off the ground and rising faster with each passing month.
6
The tower is slowly filling itself with riches, inciting all sorts of brigandry and territorial disputes between nobles. The madness of greed settles over the countryside

Yes, this happens to non-tower things too: tall trees, mountain peaks, etc. Frequent "venting" can prevent a tower from weird-ing, although it's a dangerous and mishap-prone process.

SPEAKING OF...

When a tower falls down, all that built up magic is suddenly released, causing any number of magical catastrophes.

1d6
What Happened To The Tower You Knocked Down Last Week?
1
The nearby land becomes haunted. dead things buried here start waking up.
2
a FRACTURE opens: a tiny crack between two realities. Left alone, it will expand into a full-fledged portal to another plane
3
Time or spatial distortion; infinite labyrinthine woods and impossibly huge lakes. May cause backwards aging
4
Chimeric fusion zone. Bifurcated stone-trees and liquid hillsides. Owlbears come from these
5
Everyone in a ten mile radius has nightmares about the same previously-unknown figure. If enough of them gather in one place, a sermon begins and a god is born.
6
New tower. An enormous spire of bone and mineral sprouts from the ruins of the previous tower. It is impossibly tall, full of impossible things. Looking directly at it is bad luck.

Pawel Hordyniak

Wizard Towers

This is also why wizards always build their own towers; to gather magic more efficiently.

In bygone eras, they climbed the tallest mountains where they build the tallest towers and installed enormous vessels at the top—orbs of finely-sculpted crystal, barrels full of ghosts, whatever’s on hand really—within which they collect unstable arcane energy.

Then, they hauled these batteries into their dungeons, which were dug deeper than the deepest trenches, and release them. The upward current of magic powers all the equipment and experiments between the highest and lowest point. The deepest, weirdest dungeons are decrepit wizard-engines from before the end of the world.

You can spot them from a distance; just look for the tower.

Oh, and if you start running batteries up and down the structure, you might be able to turn on the machine again, but this would take ten armies worth of manpower.

Today's takeaway: If you're going to write magical metaphysics, make sure your players can interact with them.

Words to live by from https://fractalmeadows.blogspot.com/

 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Hit Dice for PCs

Guillaume Singelin
You have no maximum HP.

Both PCs and NPCs have Hit Dice. All Hit Dice are d6s by default.

PCs can gain HD by leveling up, drinking from the fountain of youth, and eating the hearts of dragons.

PCs can turn their HD into MD permanently, sell their HD to the devil, or lose HD to level-draining monsters.

Healing

Your HD become HP at the end of a rest.

After a long rest, roll all of your HD. If the sum is greater than your current HP, it becomes your HP. You may reroll one HD for each luxury you have.

After a short rest, roll one of your HD for each luxury you have. If the sum is greater than your current HP, it becomes your HP.

After a week of downtime, your HP becomes the maximum possible value on all of your HD.

Luxuries are any comfort items you take into the dungeon that exceed the essentialist lifestyle of an adventurer. An item doesn’t count as a luxury if bringing it into the dungeon has a negligible cost; comfort always has its tradeoffs.

Example Luxuries:

  • alcohol
  • protein
  • tea
  • a dedicated masseuse
  • cheese from the motherland
  • the object of your addiction

All magical and non-magical healing sets your HP to some value if it is greater than your current HP. For example: a "potion of minor healing (3d6)" sets your HP to the rolled sum if it is greater than your current HP.

Design Thoughts

The motivation behind this mechanic is entirely frivolous: i just like the idea of handing a player a hit dice more than telling them to write +4 HP on their character sheet.

I also like the idea of giving players mechanical opportunities to role-play moments of weakness. Just like how an 8 HP, 8 HD dragon might be critically injured or sick compared to the average, sometimes an adventurer just has a bad day. Narrating a low roll on HD as “This PC is looking rough today, maybe they caught a chill?” could inspire some cute moments between players: “Let me carry that for you, you’re not looking so hot” etc.

Sacrificing HD has a lot of weight because it’s a tangible loss. It could be a cool resource to spend for some class mechanics; maybe you can use hit dice as an alternative resource, like GLOG MD.

Last but not least, there's something comforting about having universal mechanics for PCs and NPCs. I don't think its a virtue by any means, but knowing that "[dice] HD target" means something similar for both PCs and NPCs feels very good somehow.

Is any of this worth using in a hack?????? Probably not. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about.