Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Jungle Boogie

Anyone following my blog closely knows I started a 5e ToA game recently. Well actually I started it back in December, but a combination of various family emergencies and the loss of a player (he didn't die, just moved away, the inconsiderate jerk) means we've only played three sessions. REGARDLESS, as this is the only game I have the time to run right now it's only fair I give it the same respect I did MotBM (though if the module deserves it has yet to be seen).

Luke Abbott


"A death curse has befallen everyone who's been raised from the dead. Its victims are rotting away, and all efforts to reverse the decay have failed.

The souls of the dead are being stolen one by one and trapped inside a necromantic artifact. Only its destruction will free the trapped spirits and allow the dead to be raised once more.

All paths lead to Chult, a mysterious land of volcanoes, jungles, and the ruins of fallen kingdoms. Below them all awaits a deadly tomb. The trap is set. Will you take the bait?"


Tomb of Annihilation is a hexcrawl, and as such is 5e's first major attempt at an adventure that encourages old-school, sandbox, high-lethality play. An admirable goal: between hexcrawls and megadungeons, I prefer hexcrawls for their versatility and focus on expansion and world development. However, I take umbrage with a few aspects of ToA's design, and have tweaked them accordingly. Random encounters, for example, are almost exclusively combat or "huh look at that" meaningless distractions. Luckily, Scrap Princess revealed to me that the community has no shortage of random encounter tables for jungles, and with these I intend to make the journey through Chult a bit more interesting.

Aside from that, we're using the same old 5e that the module is built for, with a few house rules that I'll explain if they come up. Look forward to it over the next few weeks/months as I find time to record our sessions in between running them and working on my other projects.


Amon: Half-elf Death Cleric. Intense hatred of the undead has led him to seek out rumors of the Chultan spellplague.

Darkbeak: Kenku Ranger. Born and raised in the jungles of Chult, hired alongside Bruja as a guide for the foreign adventurers.

Bruja: Lizardfolk Druid. Witchdoctor and Chultan native. Wears a large bird skull as a mask, hired alongside Darkbeak as a guide for the foreign adventures.

Caden: Elven Warlock. Quite and reserved, communicates entirely through telepathy. His true motives are unknown.

Ahab: Human Barbarian sailor. Disgraced at sea, he seeks fame and fortune on the land.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

RMPIHEIAFA: Necromantic Fasciitis

Jan Brems
Welcome to the latest in a series I'm calling "Real Medical Problems I Have Encountered, Interpreted as Fantasy Ailments" or RMPIHEIAFA (rumpy-HAY-fah). Each entry will cover a real-life medical condition I have encountered in the American health system, adapted to suit the world of your fantasy RPG campaign.
Necromantic fasciitis is a thankfully rare but troublingly serious condition. Infection typically follows a botched resurrection, although the patient may not show immediate symptoms for several weeks.

In cases where a Raise Dead spell is performed by a cleric of insufficient experience, or the spell is interrupted at any point, the soul may not be fully reintegrated into the body. Any part not fully integrated is, for all intents and purposes, undead. In mild cases, this undeath may be confined to a small area, such as a finger, toe, or facial extremity. Affected areas do not give the appearance of dead flesh, so cases can go unnoticed for some period of time.

Symptoms of necromantic fasciitis begin with itching and muscle spasms of the affected area. Numbness is present in some cases, and wounds suffered in affected areas will neither bleed nor heal, either naturally or through magical means. Because the infection rests within the fascia, the thin sheath that connect and stabilize the muscles and organs, it will spread unchallenged throughout the body if not arrested quickly.

As the area of undeath expands, so too does the range of possible effects. Affected limbs may begin to take on a mind of their own. Hands will grasp and ungrasp at random, often dropping weapons and items intended for use. Legs may splay out in strange ways, ankles turn painfully, and joints swell. In the case of facial infection, grimacing, gurning, and twitching are most common.

What happens next should be familiar to anyone with sufficient experience in the necromantic arts. The undead have a natural hatred for the living that borders upon instinctual, and as more of the body is corrupted this hatred will manifest in every way it can find. Stories abound of veteran adventurers found dead in their tents, strangled by their own, still-flailing arm. Infected legs will throw their victim over cliffs or onto swords, infected tongues will sever and force their way down the victim's throat. At this stage, the victim is a tremendous danger both to themselves and those around them, and should be quarantined accordingly.

In death, the disease progresses unimpeded until the entire body is under its vicious control. Here is a true undead, under a new name: zombie. Now a full-blown carrier, the zombie is intensely contagious, and even so much as a scratch or bite is enough to spread necromantic fasciitis to a new host. The process begins again.

As mentioned before, treating necromantic fasciitis is difficult, as undead tissue naturally rejects any attempts at mundane or magical healing. The only known cure is amputation, liberally spaced from the area of infection and flawlessly executed. If there is even one square centimeter of corrupted tissue left upon the victim's personage, the risk of reinfection is high. Some success has been found with judicious use of anti-undead clerical magic, meant to stop, hold, or "turn" the hordes of the damned. However, evidence for this is scarce, and some suggest it may do more harm to future attempts to pacify the victim in the case that they build up a tolerance to the spell.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Your RPG Is Great: On the Shoulders of Giants

Kickstarter-exclusive cover

On the Shoulders of Giants is the breakout supplement from 15-year old RPG wunderkind Chance Phillips. After a tremendously successful kickstarter campaign (1337% funded), OSG was released to the world in full-color pdf and print-on-demand, which I am happy to say is fully worth your money.

OSG is a difficult book to summarize, because it manages to cram a lot of content into its slender bindings. I would dare say that not since Vornheim has so much been said in so few pages, which is all the more impressive for the sheer amount of art that designer Glenn Seal has managed to cram in. Within this module are 18 unique pieces by the eminent Scrap Princess, ranging from the macabre:

Dinner time in the tunnels.

to the strangely beautiful:

This deserves to be framed.

to the nightmarish:


If the pictures above haven't given you an idea of what this is all about, let's start again from the beginning. OSG posits a world wherein the Greek pantheon Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Hermes, and Dionysius have waged war upon each other, to their mutual destruction. From their godly carcasses were born maggots, and from the maggots Men, each inheriting an aspect of the god they live in and feast on. It's all very Lamentations in that dark fantasy/grindhouse way, so fans of other such works (Fire on the Velvet Horizon, Veins of the Earth, and Carcosa come to mind) will find quite a lot to love here.

So far as interacting with the world, the book offers four new character classes (the Conspirator, the Corpse Worker, the Prize Fighter, and the Witchdoctor), who for the most part  play surprisingly different from both each other and the existing LotFP classes. Conspirators are your conmen, your masterminds, your big-picture guys and gals always three steps ahead of their opponents. Prize Fighters are your glass cannons, strong but fragile; that makes Corpse Workers your tanks, hardy but lacking punch. The real cream of the crop here is the Witchdoctor, which uses a new system of magic titled "Experiments," allowing them to perform terrible atrocities for the sake of power. The interesting thing here is that experiments require materials, and that nearly all of the experiments must be performed before combat begins (preferably before you begin your expedition!): of the thirteen experiments detailed here, only two can be performed in a single round, and of those one must be prepped beforehand.

This necessary foresight lends a deliberate and cautious tone to adventures. It is entirely possible to plan several expeditions for the sole purpose of obtaining the materials needed to perform the necessary experiment to proceed further. In a video game this would be meaningless grind; here it's progress through gritty resolve.

The next two chapter revolve around equipment (mostly maggot-based) and monsters, each distinct and unique to the setting. Once again, fans of VotE and FotVH (god these acronyms) will be pleased with the offerings. Of the three pictures above, the second illustrates the Sky Squid, a living, fungoid transportation device. The third illustrates the Maggot. I hate it. I hate its face, I hate its tiny arms, I hate that they function as infants in this world. If the word "hate" was engraved on every nanoah, ignore that.

The penultimate chapter is devoted to an adventure outline, "The Gray Pools." This lays the groundwork for a campaign based around finding and exploring the titular pools, areas of intense magic activity that warp and distort anything that enters them. It also introduces that most beloved and maligned RPG mechanic of all: psionics. While not my thing personally, I must say the system here is one of the more elegant I've seen. I'll need to run it in order to see how it plays at-the-table. The book ends with a brief Appendix N (I'm a fan), and the hope that I can find time to run this with friends.

Though it is slightly against my intent for Your RPG is Great, I do have two small gripes with OSG. One is the file size: even the printer-friendly file weighs in at 33 MB, and the regular file clocks in at a hefty 113 MB. That is nearly 3 times the size of VotE for a document 1/6 the length, and it might be frustrating for those like me who generally keep their RPG collection on the cloud to have to download it every time. The only other complaint I have is that some of the writing comes off as stilted. The talent is clearly there, it simply lacks the polish that invariably comes with experience and a keen eye for flow. As I said, minor gripes.

I would be happy to see an expansion to On the Shoulders of Giants. What it has laid the groundwork for is impressive, and where it has striven to distance itself from other, similar products the classes, monsters, bloody psionics it has shown great promise. Get yourself a new editor and someone who knows how to optimize pdfs (my door is always open) and you've got a great career ahead of you, Chance, because Your RPG is Great.

Friday, February 9, 2018

On Absolute Evil

When Henry James wrote The Turn of the Screw, he was careful to leave the actions of the ghosts Quint and Jessel unspoken. Their relation to young Miles and Flora is never detailed, nor is their ultimate goal any less a mystery to the readers as it is to the characters in the story. A lot of ink has been spilled over the past hundred years because of this — some believing the ghosts to be child molesters, some forsaken lovers, some as wanting to possess the children in an effort to return to this world — and most of it misses the point entirely. They attempt to assign mortal logic to extra-mortal beings. They fail to understand the essence of absolute evil.

Iago. Judge Holden. Morgan le Fay, to a lesser extent. Three characters from three wildly different genres of fiction, and yet they all serve much the same purpose to the reader. They are conniving, clever, able to be bargained with but never safely. Because their motives are never known, their potential is functionally infinite: far from being evil for the sake of evil, their characterization hints at a greater purpose beyond the reader's comprehension.

Another good example of this would be Kefka, the psychopathic, nihilist nemesis from Final Fantasy VI. Kefka is not a tragic villain, to be pitied. Nor is he simply a lunatic murderer; there is intellect and design in his machinations throughout the game. But his greatest strength as an enemy is that he is never given a clear motive for what he does. Even after killing millions, ascending to godhood, and nearly destroying the world itself, his purpose remains unknown. The player defeats him, and is left with a bitter thought to comfort them: what caused this? Could it happen again? Could it happen to me?

Absolute evil is a hard-but-rewarding topic to confront in your game. If the evil character is too transparent or emphatic, they can come off as nothing more than an agent of chaos. Conversely, if the evil character is too strong and unknowable, they become Lovecraftian: a force of nature, outside of mortal influence. That's no good either. If you're doing absolute evil right, your PC's — and the players themselves — should be anxious. They should feel like they've only been given a piece of a grand puzzle, or like they've been thrown into the deep end without knowing how to swim. You've brought something upon them that is so unlike everything they've faced so far: beasts driven by instinct, rulers lusting for power, mad wizards seduced by curiosity. Your players should be asking themselves and each other the following questions, without clear answers:

What is this creatures purpose?
What is this creatures next move?
What is this creatures end goal?
How powerful is this creature?
Can this creature be stopped?
Can this creature be bargained with?

Once they've started asking, the hard part of your job as a DM is done. Now, all you need to do is resist the temptation to answer them.

If your absolute evil is undead, demonic, or otherwise divorced from the mortal coil, then their plan may simply be too complicated for mortals to understand. In D&D, as in real-life, there is an upper limit to intelligence; perhaps your characters can no more comprehend the machinations of a demilich than a guinea pig can comprehend calculus.

If your absolute evil is human/elven/dwarfen/other intelligent mortal creature, then its motives need not be explained BUT they should be hinted at, in addition to other, unrelated motives. The party finds out that the witch that's been casting a blight on the land was once scorned by a lovely princess, and sets out to reunite them... upon which the witch casually murders her in cold blood and mixes her corpse into the pudding. You must keep them guessing, but never fall back unto mindlessness! A creature without a motive is boring.

In playing the villain, be cagey and strange. Embrace the chaos that invariably stems from PC behavior. Make them fight for every inch of ground, then take it away from them in a cunning reveal that what they were doing was exactly what you planned all along. Toy with them: you are all of the worst aspects of Littlefinger and Strahd combined, an unholy amalgam of every conniving little shit that ever ruined your day in real life. Gloat, as loudly and often as you can. If the PCs don't hate you — personally, as a living (or nonliving) creature, if they don't crave your destruction not for its practical benefits but just because you are too monstrous to live — then you have failed.

A good absolute evil can cause a PC to lose faith in themselves. A great absolute evil can cause a PC to lose faith in the world.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Maze of the Blue Medusa: Session 3

Our heroes once again stepped through the moonlit painting into the chambers of the former Ashen Chanterelle. It had been an eventful month. Their last excursion had led them straight to a powerful demon who could stop their heart or catch their breath in their lungs with a snap of fingers. They would have to be more careful if they were to survive this.

DMs Note: In this session, I implement a new downtime mechanic I've been working on. Because there's a solid month between each foray into the maze, I asked each player what their character did in that month, and gave them mechanical advantages for creative ideas.

The party had been busy. Kali, knowing their next journey was to a place known only as “the Dead Wedding," decided to spend the past month in Erebus, conversing with the souls of the dead [in-system: her summons' damage is rolled straight]. Eizen had been training, pushing his muscles to their limits for weeks on end [in-system: his STR score increased by 1]. Mr. Nancy, the dashing rogue, had been partying and spreading raucous stories about how Nemora romanced a vine. His tales became part of the collective consciousness, to the point that “screwing the plant" has become a common idiom for foolish behavior, though nobody knows quite where it came from [in-system: his carousing meant it was plausible that he would have seemingly-random items on his person]. Nemora, however, was hard at work in the smithy, crafting a pair of magical swords hewn from the very rocks that formerly trapped him [in-system: +1 swords, able to create a burst of bright light by hitting them together].

The heroes head to Lady Capilli's room, and from there to the Escher Stairs. Instead of heading north, as they had done previously, they use the key given to them by the dark lady to access the previously-locked East Wing. Stepping forward, they enter what appears to be a coat room, with capes, cloaks, and furs lining each wall. Nemora, wearing nothing more than the stony protrusions that maintain his modesty, decides to update his wardrobe. Reaching out to take a coat from the rack, he is startled when he instead finds a large peacock hiding amongst the clothes.

The peacock introduces himself as Zacchaeus, and immediately begins eyeing the party up and down with a discerning gaze. Nemora in particular is the focus of his ire, and he immediately demands the strange man clothe himself before he enters the wedding. Zacchaeus begins throwing random clothes at Nemora, who graciously adorns himself with a floor-length leather opera coat, velvet slacks, and a feather boa. It suits him wonderfully.

After the clothing situation is dealt with, Zacchaeus remembers his real duty and staunchly asks for our heroes invitation to the party, “presided over by Chancellor Sophronia Wort herself!" When pressed, the peacock refuses to give any more information, but luckily Mr. Nancy manages to fish a tattered ticket from his inner pocket and presents it. Satisfied that the group don't appear to be wedding crashers, Zacchaeus instructs them to head forward to catch the end of the ceremony.

The next room is a nightmare come to life. Burnt, desiccated corpses float between rows of empty chairs. Ash falls from their blackened skulls as they wordlessly converse. One floats to Eizen and extends his hand in a conventional greeting, but when Eizen takes it, the figure disintegrates. The party notices the buffet table on the side of the room, but upon realizing it is devastated -- with the exception of an eerily-pristine wedding cake -- decide not to fool with it. The four agree that this silent procession holds little prospect for them, and head south into a small side room.

In it is a table, and on the table is a small key. The key is attached to a string, which trails forth into a darkened room. From within, they hear childish giggling. Eizen, bright as he is, illuminates the room to reveal a crouching, sallow child with coal black eyes and a sadistic smile. Adorning the child's room are the skins of (presumably) other adventurers, stretched and pinned to the walls. The child lunges at the party, but Eizen manages to pin him with a well-executed grapple.

However, the wight will not be bested so easily. Its fearsome teeth dig into the flesh of Eizen's arm, and the son of Atlas feels his strength draining by the second (DMs Note: EXP drain). But the abomination can not long sustain the combined effort of four demigods with a purpose, and soon it falls. The party takes a moment to catch their breath before examining the strange display of skins. Each was pinned with several needles, and have what appears to be braile dots poked through. None of our heroes can read them, although they do make a note to return once they've done some more research.

Fishing the key from the dead boys hands, the party returns to the reception hall, where they immediately get the feeling they are being watched. They turn to see a small boy, translucent but otherwise identical to the one they just fought, staring at them. Mr. Nancy steps forth bravely, but the child is not here to fight. Instead, he simply holds out his hand, pointing further east. The party follows his lead into the next room.

They are led into a grand altar, empty save for two well-dressed, lovely figures They are caught in a timeless, frozen embrace, mere seconds from their first kiss in marriage. Dust specks lay motionless in the air, and a pebble tossed by Mr. Nancy slows, then stops before it even approaches the bride and groom. They are trapped in a bubble outside of time, and it's clear nothing can affect them until it is broken. The ghostly boy points up at the couple, and then sits down before them. He is unable to communicate further, but it's not long before the silence is broken by an unearthly shrill scream from ahead.

Suddenly, the party is confronted with what they can only assume are wraiths composed entirely of gold dust. What they had assumed was a scream was, in fact, the grinding of metal-on-metal as the forms flew around and through each other. They turned to our heroes, and we were in intiative.

Despite having first actions (in Godbound, players always win initiative unless facing other demigods), not much was accomplished in the first round. Mr. Nancy, the smooth talker, has next-to-no combat capabilities, relying on his foresight and manipulation of luck to see him through encounters. Eizen attempted to trap the wraiths in a cage of stone, but their gold-dust forms slipped effortlessly through any crack. Kali, with her dominion over death, managed to enslave a spectre, raising it as a solid-gold skeleton under her command. Ever eager to try out his new swords, Kellen attempts a strike. Though merely a glancing blow, the wraiths do recoil from the powerful magic contained within the blades.

The wraiths mount an unconventional counterattack. Two of the four rush towards Eizen's face, smothering him with a cascade of molten gold forced down his throat. His body spasms in the throes of his heroic resistance, but it is for nought. The spirits have possessed him, and immediately turn their attention to the rest of the party. The other two wraiths attack Kellen and Mr. Nancy with whirlwind-spins that strip flesh as easy as a sandblaster.

Beaten but not broken, Kellen realizes his friend Eizen has set his sights on the party. Kellen jumps to pin the giant to the ground before his mighty stone hands can close around Kali's neck. Kali in turn commands her skeletal guardian to attack while simultaneously reaping the very life from a wraith with her scythe.

Mr. Nancy picks up a stone and throws it.

Eizen's eyes and mouth are starting to bleed liquid gold as Kellen drives his fists into the titan's back. Kali looks to the remaining wraith, already weakened by her summons' attacks, and raises it as another. With a final push the last two specters are expelled from Eizen and he stands to join the party.

Mr. Nancy goes back into the wedding hall.

The combined efforts of three demigods (and two golden skeletons) makes short work of the last two wraiths. Victorious, Kali dispels her necromancy and Mr. Nancy strides forth to rejoin his compatriots. Sensing further danger deeper within the Maze, the party takes a moment to catch their breath and lick at their wounds before proceeding south.

This room is mercifully free of dangers. A single white swan floats lazily along a river of wine. The party exchanges glances and shrugs, but continues past it (making sure to disturb neither it nor the river) into a large room dominated by a brilliant crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Pushing past the broken and discarded gift boxes that litter the floor here, they enter another room that has been completely impaled vertically by a vine thick as an oak tree. Kellen drops a coin past the vine, but no impact is ever heard. Eizen volunteers to climb down, and is met with a familiar sight: he is standing outside of the Rat King's chambers, deep within the garden.

In heading east, they have ended up above where they started.

Ever the opportunist, Kali marks the convenient shortcut on her map. Eizen returns to his friends, and the party continues north.

The golden engine. Designed and built by Torcul Wort as punishment for an abstract crime, the very thing that gave the dead wedding its namesake. It stands in the center of the room, formidable even in its stillness. Its purpose is to turn anything its fed into gold. It is alive, and duplicitous, and hungry.

In this room is the biggest threat our heroes have faced so far. In this room, a demigod will die.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Big Yellow d30 and The Law of Equivalent Exchange

Available at thediceshoponline for like $5 shipped.

I play a lot of 5e. It’s not my favorite system, but it runs pretty well out-of-the-box and, for most players, it's what they expect when I say “wanna play D&D?"

To that end, I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out what I can change about the system without drastically affecting the rest of the game. One such mechanic is Inspiration, which in 5e is supposed to be given out by the DM as a reward for good roleplaying. Once given, it can be used by the player as a mulligan on any d20 roll by or targeted by them, rolling twice and taking the preferred result.

I disagree with a few of these preconceptions; namely, that players should be rewarded solely for roleplaying and that doing so once can help them at an indeterminate time going forward. I’m of the opinion that all PC action is roleplaying — by definition, the player is playing a role that is not indicative of real life, even if that role is as simple as “haggling over armor." Roleplaying does not need to mean adopting an entirely new persona, and I can't really see how one type of roleplaying could be seen as “better" than any other. And rewarding players for clever solutions to problems is a mechanic already built into the game: it’s called advantage, and it functions much the same way as Inspiration but only for the roll the DM gives it for. A much more elegant solution, DM fiat notwithstanding.

That being said, I do like the basic function of Inspiration once it’s been given, which is why I’ve gotten in the habit of awarding each player a single point at the beginning of every session, to be spent whenever they like. This adds a new layer of tension and choice to every roll — does the player (possibly) avoid the trolls nat 20 attack now, or wait to (possibly) ensure their hold monster spell goes off without a hitch later? I’ve had players blow their Inspiration on the first roll, or go the entire session without using it. Lately, however, I’ve started thinking that there might be an even more interesting system.

Note: +Ryan MacKenzie informed me that this idea was first put forth by Jeff Rients nearly 10 years ago and later expanded upon by James Young. Thank you all! 

The Big Yellow d30 sits in the middle of the table, twice the size of even my biggest d20. And it is powerful.

At any time, a player may choose to replace any roll (barring Hit Die on level up or while resting) with a roll of the Big Yellow d30. Attack, damage, skill check, saving throw — it doesn’t matter. Roll the dice, and I’ll deal with the consequences. But so will you, because for every time a player rolls the Big Yellow d30, I get to roll it as well. Whenever I want.

What are you gonna do with that big sword? Gonna hit me? Better make it count. Better make it hurt. Better kill me in one shot.

This leads to some VERY interesting situations. Is it worth it to blitz this small encounter, knowing full well a dangerous one could be made even more so you by your hubris? Is it really that vital that you get 20% off your plate mail this session, right before the big battle? DO YOU WANT ME TO HAVE THIS KIND OF POWER?

The Big Yellow d30 encourages caution, promotes foresight and game sense, and lets my players know that my campaign world is filled with danger and opportunity in equal measure. The Tomb of Annihilation demands nothing less.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Real Medical Problems I Have Encountered, Interpreted as Fantasy Ailments: HPIT

Healing Potion-Induced Thrombocytopenia (HPIT)

Welcome to the first entry in a series I'm calling "Real Medical Problems I Have Encountered, Interpreted as Fantasy Ailments" or RMPIHEIAFA (rumpy-HAY-fah). Each entry will cover a real-life medical condition I have encountered in the American health system, adapted to suit the world of your fantasy RPG campaign.

In this episode, we'll be dealing with Healing Potion-Induced Thrombocytopenia, or HPIT.

Your standard Potion of Healing works by way of over-stimulating the body's natural ability to recover from minor wounds and illnesses. Tissue growth in particular improves exponentially: minor-to-moderate surface wounds are visibly observed to heal and close mere seconds after ingesting the elixir.

However, this overstimulation comes at a price. For all the popular talk of "natural magic," the forces of sorcery are still not widely understood, and their methods of interaction with living tissue are, at best, harmless only in small doses. With regards to HPIT, cases have shown that consuming multiple healing potions in a short period of time (most incidents seem to involve adventurers, whose natural rests are often interrupted by violent dungeon inhabitants) can cause the body to actively reject the curative as if it were a magic attack.

This rejection progresses through several stages. At first, the patient may feel uncharacteristically vigorous, as though the potion was working well beyond its intents. This is a deception of the foulest degree investigation of the wounds will show they are, in fact, bleeding more profusely than before!

The second stage is more mercifully apparent. The patient will begin to feel lightheaded, and possibly nauseous. A fever may be present as the body attempts to fight off what it believes is an attempt at magical possession. The patients reflexes slow, halving their usual movement speed and imposing a +/-2 disadvantage on AC.

It has been recorded that particularly wizened patients scholars, clerics, and the like appear to be less susceptible to this stage of illness. The link is tenuous, however, as heavy potion use, and by extension HPIT, is most often found in individuals of lesser intelligence.

During this second phase, IT IS IMPERATIVE that the patient does not mistakenly consume another potion. Doing so will cause them to become violently ill, to the degree of 2d4+2 damage.

Barring further intervention, HPIT will usually resolve itself over the course of a long rest. If dizziness and bleeding persist, a chirurgeon or cleric may be consulted. If you feel that you or a loved one may be at risk for HPIT, send a scrying message to RMPIHEIAFA headquarters, Saviors Rest, Lithica. Our sages are standing by.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Answers to 40 Campaign Questions

This one requires a bit of backstory.

Over at coins and scrolls, Skerples has set forth answering Jeff Rients (of Broodmother Skyfortress renown) twenty quick questions for your campaign setting. Not content to stop there, he also answered an additional twenty not-questions for your campaign from the eminent Scrap Princess.

Now Skerples -- gentleman and scholar, fine judge of whiskey -- has some good answers. Were it MY campaign, however, it would go a bit more like this:
  1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?

Clerics praise the sun. Milla, in her infinite kindness, has graced the world with divine magic. This magic, taking the form of photo/electro/pyromancy, is the only truly effective weapon against the bubbling chaos.
  1. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?

This here hamlet has a fine assortment of farming implements and cutlery for sale. Oh, you want battle-tested weaponry? Well, the local abbey's been quartering soldiers for a while, but I've heard the captain's a bit bloodthirsty.
  1. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?

That depends, will it bite while it’s being fitted? If not, the smiths over at Varnhold are adept at fitting lycanthropes, so they may be able to help.
  1. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?

  1. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?

Ah, that would be old Raja the Red. He's retired now, but in his prime it's said nobody could stand against him for more than 6 seconds. 10 seconds, in the early days.
  1. Who is the richest person in the land?

Palisade Lecardt, leader of the Archeologists. You see that walled city up on the mountain? That's his. Damn if I know what they do up there, though.
  1. Where can we go to get some magical healing?

If you head on out to the woods, you might stumble upon a fairy hill. The gentry there will cure most minor ailments in exchange for stories from your childhood; don't ask them why they want that. No matter what they say or do, don't stay overnight, and make sure you've got some salt or iron on you for if things go south.
  1. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?

A proper cleric can deal with most of those problems, but you may not like their solution to undeath.
  1. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?

Ah, Feyfield is a lovely school. I thought of sending my youngest there once, when I caught her dancing in the pale moonlight. They're always looking for new teachers, and their library is the best around.
  1. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?

Once again, Feyfield Academy is your best option -- though they won't come cheap, its one of the few areas where knowledge and mystical secrets trade as easy as coin.
  1. Where can I hire mercenaries?

How much are you paying?
  1. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?

Well, I wouldn’t go swinging your axe or setting off fireballs in the village square.  Aside from that, most places are pretty tolerant, though some clerical orders have started barring sorcerers and wizards from their churches.
  1. Which way to the nearest tavern?

You're standing in it, boy-o. I've got homemade ale on tap, smallbeer for the wee'uns, and a few casks of Bitterblue for the more... discerning palette.
  1. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?

We try to clear out areas as they get bad. There's a great red dragon that's taken up roost under Redcliff, but I wouldn't try plundering her hoard if you've got any sense in you.
  1. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?

Remember those soldiers I was talking about? They’re marching on Varnhold to deal with Astera’s Uprising in a week.
  1. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?

We’re not much for bloodsport here. Some of the bigger cities may have underground fighting pits, but if you’re looking for lots of cash you’re better off joining a mercenary company.
  1. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?

The Archeologists are certainly secretive, but whether they’re the sinister ones or the ones fighting them is up for debate.
  1. What is there to eat around here?

We serve fresh stew and bread twice daily. Meat when we can get it, usually twice a week or so.
  1. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?

Long ago, a battle-weary paladin used his last breath to consecrate the area that the abbey would eventually be built upon. They say his sword, still shining, lays under the foundation, but all efforts to find it have met with failure. In fact, I can’t think of a single expedition that’s gone under the old church that’s ever come back…(I used this as a hook for “The God that Crawls”)
  1. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?

That’d definitely be the Malice Miser, the one under Redcliff. She fancies herself as a bit of an art collector, and the whole town’s so desperate to please her that they’ve invited artists, musicians, and sculptors for miles around to vie for her favor.

As for SP's not-questions:
  1. Is there weaponized squid?

Absolutely. They’re giant, and outfitted by fish-people to be used as underwater siege weapons.
    1. Can I start with one?

Only if you’re a fish-person who made off with it Imperator Furiosa-style.
    1. How much are they?

Fish-people use murder as an pseudo-barter system. So, a successful raid on an enemy settlement in which you kill 4 people would allow you to live comfortably for about a month. In order to buy a warsquid, you would have to have been instrumental in the death of hundreds, if not thousands.
    1. Can I have one as a pet/horse/best friend?

See subquestion 1 above.
    1. Can I play one?

Warsquids are fiercely loyal. An owned one is like an extension of its owner (so yes, in a sense).
    1. Can I dual wield them?

Your foolish pride will damn us all!
  1. Is there undead robots?

Ah, the dreaded Technonomicon. Long thought lost, but pages detailing rituals to bind souls to machinery show up from time to time in the hands of deranged collectors.
    1. follow up questions involve the nature of consciousness and the existence of the soul in your campaign and can I play one?

Absolutely, but be warned I will work in a lucid dream of electric sheep somewhere in the campaign.
    1. or have one as a pet or a gun that shoots them?

Are you a deranged collector? Serious question.
  1. Do icebergs walk across the land?

Absolutely not while people are watching.
    1. Can I be from one?

I am incredibly lenient with character backstory, so yes.
    1. Is Godzilla frozen in one?

    1. Can I play a Godzilla?

Bring good beer to the first session and I’ll let you play as baby godzilla.
  1. What do birds know? (no further questions)

Way more than you think. I’m glad you thought to ask!
  1. Does medicine work like it does here but no-one knows CPR or does it work like a cartoon so I cure amnesia with more head injuries or does it work like medieval euro people thought it did with demons in your teeth?

Lets just say that Robert Liston would be considered an incredibly talented doctor here.
    1. Do I start with demons in my teeth?

Did you dump Wisdom? If so, you’re probably possessed by something, so yes.
    1. Do I know CPR?

Rudimentarily, yes. Though, only in that most people’s reaction to seeing a friend drop dead is to furtively pound on their chest.
    1. Can I invent CPR?

If you can describe how your character independently discovered the exact workings of pulmonary circulation, yes.
    1. Can I give myself powers with additionally organs?

Well, that depends upon the organs. A 2nd set of lungs or stomach, expertly grafted? Absolutely so.
    1. What planet is in ascension in my spleen midmorning?

Carcosa. Always Carcosa.
  1. I want to play a hobbit but really I'm the fleas controlling the hobbit. Where is that in the book?

My players don’t read the books.
    1. Could I take over a new guy with my fleas? Or another players guy?

As long as it doesn’t overstep the boundaries of “Charm Person/Monster,” go wild.
  1. How much could I rent my body out to spirits before I lost control of my character?

I’d let you roll under WIS every level up to maintain control, with the associated level being added to the roll.
    1. What are the names of the spirits? Are they cool?

There’s a lot of different names, depending upon the area, your past lives, and particular vices. Regardless, experience has proven that the spirits are always cooler than the original players.
  1. What level do I have to get my character to before I am the GM?

Name level. Around that time I get the hankering to play again, so I usually give up the reins.
    1. Can I half be the GM at an early level?

Only if you agree to obey the law of equivalent exchange: to obtain, something of equal value must be lost.
    1. What about when you leave the room?

No! That’s when you’re supposed to be looking at my notes and trying to outsmart me.
  1. What is the dumbest thing I can spend my money on?

The barkeep will be more than willing to sell you an anti-air elemental rock. Since he’s owned it, he’s never been attacked by an air elemental.
    1. No dumber than that but cool. Like a pet with a pet with a weapon? Can pets dual wield?

Intelligent pets can totally dual wield. Unintelligent pets can too, but only accidentally by way of strapping weapons to them. I’m not sure which is funnier.
  1. How ugly can my guy be? Like Can I basically be a walking fish?

I encourage it, I’m really liking the warsquid idea.
    1. No wait I wanna be a walking fish. What is the reverse scuba technology like in this world?

Well, first you’d need to invent CPR. Now that you have an adequate understanding of the respiratory system, you can reverse-engineer the “Water Breathing” spell.
  1. The lamp oil? Is that like cooking oil, kerosene, white spirits or napalm?

Rendered animal fat.
    1. How much can I buy of it?

To quote a friend, “as much as your gay little hands can carry.”
  1. How does physics work in this world?

The sun is a literal god. Light is intrinsically linked with clerical magic, which suffers in the darkness. A non-insignificant portion of clerics work to spread light across the planet by way of an elaborate system of mirrors and portals.
    1. What makes the planets stay up? Are there planets? Is it elves?

There are many planets, held in place by Milla’s love. She might actually be an elf, it’s never come up.
    1. Can I play an elf from another planet?

I hate Spelljammer. So no.
    1. Does everything work like how we though it did in the past?

People thought a lot of things in the past. I would say that, barring magic, global scientific knowledge is on par with the early renaissance: a lot of the general stuff has been hashed out, but specific details are being unearthed all the time.
    1. Can I discover stuff and pass it off as a magic?

    1. Is possible to use the scientific process to organise the concepts of magic?

That’s how it’s been done so far. Archwizards in my setting are far closer to Paracelsus and Agrippa than they are to Gandalf and Prospero.
  1. Can I start with weapon hands?

I encourage and recommend it. The harder it is to disarm you.
    1. What about crab claws?

I actually have a huge interest in the history of prosthetics, so that sounds awesome!
    1. Can I play a crab with human hands?

A disfigured, escaped fish-person slave sounds like a great character idea.
    1. Can I have one as a pet?

A warlord with a disfigured fish-person slave sounds like a great character idea.
    1. Do they live on a different planet?

Nope, they’re right here.
    1. Can we go there?

  1. What cultures approve of cannibalism?

The hungry ones.
    1. What about if we are super rich? Aren't rich cannibals be default, I mean if you think about it?

The rich are ABSOLUTELY cannibals. Listen, I’ve got some books here you should check out...
    1. How is the class struggle here anyway? Is there a Karl Marx?

Ophelia Astera, leader of the revolution, seeks to overthrow the aristocracy with a rag-tag band of farmers, laborers, and mercenaries. She’s proven to be significantly more resilient than the crown expected.
    1. How receptive are people to the ideas of anarcho-syndicalism here?

Cornbread communism is alive and well in most minor towns.
  1. Can my character not be real, but a hallucination of another character?

Sure thing.
    1. But I still wanna be able to do stuff. What are the stats for that?

Okay, lets get freaky. For the most part, they will be the ones performing your actions. They just don’t know it yet. Actions that require you two to be in different places can be explained by coincidence: if you scout ahead and kill two enemies before the rest of the party gets there, it turns out they actually killed each other in a minor squabble. In the event that the other player is knocked unconscious or killed while you still live, you’re birthed from their dying consciousness like a beholder.
  1. Which is the rome but with lava fire country in this world?  

The paladins of the Church of Eternal Vigilance. Their citadel is situated on and around a gaping maw called the Cataract, which pours forth demons and chaos at an astonishing rate. Every day they mount expeditions down, and every night they fight what comes back up.
    1. What about the ice circus country? Can I have a pet from there?

The northern pole, known as Lolatea, is as close as you’d get. It’s a hub where merchants from the surface and hollow world trade. If you’re looking for strange fun, there’s no better place. And yes, they do sell pets.
  1. Can I invent an insect?

Magic solves a lot of these problems.
    1. As a player like right now I tell you an insect and you put it in the game?

    1. Or as a character?

It’s not unlikely that the insect already exists. There are a LOT of bugs in the world.
    1. Can my spells be insects that then exist in this world after I cast them?

An entomancer? Come aside with me, let’s hash this out in more detail.
    1. Can I play an insect who is actually a spell cast in this world?

I allow all manner of failed experiments, botched summonings, and cast-off abominations in my game.
    1. What about as a pet?

See above.
  1. Is there reverse fire?

Gross oversimplification: fire converts material into heat and light. So we’re looking at something that converts heat and light into materials, also known as a cleric.
    1. What about reverse water or earth?

Reverse water is Chaos: it eats away at all life and nurtures nothing. Reverse Earth is the hollow world of Halfenrir, accessible by deep tunnels at either pole.
    1. What do they wear there?

Because the smaller sun is always held in the dead center of the hollow world, mostly light and breezy clothing that doesn’t overheat much.
  1. How much money can I make inventing siege engines?

In a warzone? A killing.
    1. Can I play a siege engine? In what ways are animals used in siege engines?

I’ve already answered this.
  1. What is the most significant tree to the economy of the starting place?

Ash, because it doesn’t burn. Houses made of ash are a rare and valuable commodity.
    1. Is it really a tree or maidens stitched together?

It is a tree.
    1. If I play a maiden do I get spells or do people that worship me get spells but only if I'm mad at them?

Virginal magic is inherently misogynistic and has no place in my world! Unicorns will still flock to you though.