Sunday, December 23, 2012

A thing that is happening; The Wistful Dark

+Grey Wiz provided this lovely little picture
After a way ward comment to one of her posts, +Scrap Princess has been encouraging me to run something "Wistful but ultimately optimistic". In fact, I had been trying to hash something out along those lines for a while now - I made a a vague and unhelpful post about it a few months ago, but I've not really said anything about it since then. Its certainly morphed into something far more cohesive over time, and is some ways a spiritual successor to many of the structural ideas I had for Barovania, if not in story.

Scrap's original pitch in artistic form
The Wistful Dark is a term that Scrap coined half-jokingly, but I've gotten very attached to it in a really short time so its sticking. The general idea of the setting is to present a place that is in rapid decline, but not all gone yet. From a more meta standpoint, its a place that the players can try to save or fix, without it being a "save the world" situation where less heroic characters would be forced to do so.

The rest of this post is really just me thinking aloud about the setting, system and other things I want to do with this. Once I'm a bit further in, I'll make more constructed posts.


Something I didn't establish (initially, at least) with Barovania that I'd like to with this one is a sort of "home base" for the characters. Obviously not a literal base, but a default place for the PC's to be between any given session of the game.

Right now I'm leaning for a largish-town marked with a desperately held stability. The people there would be surviving and maybe even happy, but there would always be looming threats and an understanding that what they have could taken away. Most normal adventuring equipment could be expected to be there; but if you're looking for fine armor, exotic weapons or other items you'd need to travel further out or even at adventure to find them. It also means the Players can take an active roll in the town (If they want too) and start business, expand or fortify the place.

There was a great kingdom only a few generations ago. Not perfect, but it was a land where people could expect to live decently. Nothing lasts of course; but the whole place began to crumble and fall suddenly and presumably needlessly. No one speaks about exactly what happened, but the entire government started to lose its grip on the place and it quickly started fragmenting and going to pot. The grand order of Knights that were the land's official guardians fell into disfavor, fragmenting and seemed to vanish completely.

With most of the infrastructure rotting and crumbling, petty lords and other ambitious sorts among the low nobility and very rich made their moves to consolidate power. What once was a glorious kingdom was now many small countries - the typical nonsense followed, alliances, petty land disputes, the normal stuff.

So far, I've got a couple good ideas for the various lords of said provinces. A Witch King, a Bloody Handed Queen some sort of merchant cabal and a religious nut are all on the table. They range from banal tyrants to super-natural despots; I like to have a variety of villainy at my disposal. Conversely, the "home" base town would be ruled by someone who is either much nicer or at the very least, not an outright bastard.

Overland travel would be inherently dangerous. It wasn't just political infighting that crumbled the last kingdom. Something seriously wrong happened, and the very land seems infected with it. Strange and murderous beasts now crawl about the land alongside the normal fauna. They infest every conceivable region as well - if someone is going to travel, they will need means to defend themselves. (Naturally.)


I really, really want to use my recently acquired Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2E book for this game. Though the setting will be largely abandoned (This is not a slight against it, I love Warhammer but I don't think I can run a game for too long in a setting that's not  my own) but the mechanics of the system will be in use (At least mostly. I'm probably using the Basic armor rules as opposed the advanced ones, and I'll obviously need to alter/reflavor some of the careers slightly)

Also, as I mentioned - I'd like the home town to be expandable by the players. Having characters that are innkeepers, merchants, guards and the like are boon to this way of thinking.

Possible alternatives; Chaosium's BRPG provides me a nice skill system to use and its easy to hack. I wouldn't mind using it at all, though it just doesn't fit as well in my head. D&D is of course, on the table as well; its not a perfect fit but I know it well enough that I can fuss with it to make it work.


Optimally, I'd run this on G+ and at home. If I work it the way I'd like too, it'll be an evolving setting as opposed to something attached to a specific campaign. I'm thinking I'd like to run a few sessions here and there before starting in full force.

Keep hope young ones, it is dark now, but it need not always be.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A perfect world, or none at all (An attempt at Cosmology, Pt 1)

Long ago, there was naught but the primordial stew of possibility. Dreamed by the slumbering lords of chaos and then cultivated by their feverish visions, this never ending stream of creation churned ever onward, never resulting in anything of substance. Far away, one being looked on with great dismay.  

This simply could not stand.

He arrived with a thought, driving away the lords of chaos in a wave of ultimate order. With a great harmonious chorus he drove borders into the sea of creation. Using those grand barriers, he created shape and time. Possibility had not been destroyed, simply cultivated. The being was now proud - perhaps even smug - as he saw the beginnings of life start to crawl about this new place. He granted some of those small creatures sentience so they could behold the gifts he had given them and worship him for them. After some time he left to slumber and contemplate his greatness.

The lords of chaos eventually recovered as those things truly immortal are wont to do. They returned to their playground and found it forever marred. What once was fluid and beautiful was now trapped by form and bound by inevitably. They pitied the little forms that scrambled about the wracked primordial. For as unbreakable as their new prisons where, their souls screamed for the freedom they once knew. They took solace in the fact that these tiny things would forever be able to choose no matter what came about and then abandoned the ruined place for something new.

The creatures left behind used both curses inflicted upon them to adapt, evolve and expand outwards. What once was the idle distraction of the cosmic was now theirs. Mortals shaped the land and created their own sort of miracles. Great creatures and walking gods emerged amongst them. Some could even bend the eldritch to their. Surely, these small beings had outgrown their need, their obligation to their negligent creator?

Not all feel as such.

Far away, one being looked on with great dismay. Such ingrates! He thought. The audacity! They had forgotten him! They did not sacrifice to him, call to him, worship him! How dare they! Mortals had committed an unforgivable crime. It shouldn't have been possible, not when one such as he had his hand in their making. Unless...

These creatures had been born from chaos. His methods may have been perfect, but the materials were not. Their failure made all the more sense now, and this simply would not do. He would have to start over, with a perfect world made from order and a perfect people who would not stray. The flawed world would need to be burned away, so there would be place for this paradise. The unrighteous would be annihilated and only the truly faithful would be remain to see the glory of his perfect world.

The lords of chaos will defy him,  He is order. He is Law.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Puella Potions Multiversal Press Release: Poko-Pellets

To all our fine customers, (a)moral protagonists and masters of dungeons and games,

 Here at Puella Potions and Miscellany (We have a total of three employees now!) we work our utmost to make sure that our customers, current and prospective, are not only satisfied with their purchases but well educated and well versed in their uses as well. This is an exceedingly important aspect to our interest in prolonged business; when one is a purveyor of potent potables and other potentially dangerous items, safety is definitely a priority.

You can imagine my alarm when I found that one of my newest products, The Once-a-day food pellets had reached the shores of other dimensions and were being used as makeshift weapons! The horror! I hadn't even released them officially yet. Perturbed as I was, I managed to keep cool about the whole situation. Honestly, the best thing I can do is inform as many people as I can on the proper use of my pellets. If you want to go ahead and use them all willy-nilly-dilly-wrong then that's on you Mister Meanie, not me.

Anyway! On to the point of this press release.

Article 1) On proper use of nutritionally viable Poko-Pellets
Loaded down with iron rations? Tired of taking constant snack breaks between dungeon rooms? Wizard getting a little flabby from high calorie adventuring food? Fret not weary traveler! Puella Potions and Miscellany has the solution. What if I told you that you could swallow a small pill in the morning to sustain yourself for the entire day? Trust me. I'm not gonzo - such a product is available to you dear adventurer, for a reasonable price! Pick up your packs of "Poko-Pellets" today!

  • Light weight and easy to store! Each container weighs about 1/10th a pound and can fit inside nearly all standard issue traveling pouches!
  • Different flavors are available! Feel free to try our Chocolate-Peanut Butter and Squishy Troglodyte varieties!
  • Each pack has enough pellets for a week and costs a mere 15 Gold Pieces! 
Instructions: Take one pill a day, each morning unassisted by any liquids save ordinary water. Do not consume any other food for twenty-four hours or swallow anymore Poko-Pellets. Please refrain from drinking any liquid beyond ordinary water for at least eight hours after ingesting your pellet.

Article 2) Effects of being a Rudy McChurlish and not following the specific instructions contained in Article 1
Look, this isn't my first time selling potentially dangerous items to the occasionally irresponsible vagabond OK? I know what some of you are thinking. I know I can't change your minds, but at the very least I can provide you a guideline as to what may occur if you mess around with my poor little Pokos.

The mishap and side effects, alongside their probability of occurrence have been organized in the universally recognized format; The random table.

  • More then one Poko Pellet is consumed in a 24 hour period
  • The Poko Pellet is consumed or contained in a liquid other then ordinary water
  • Ordinary food is eaten within 24 hours of the swallowing of a Poko Pellet
  • Liquid besides ordinary water is imbibed in an 8 hour period after swallowing a Poko Pellet

(d100 Roll for each infraction to the above guidelines)

01 - 20: Nothing obvious happens initially; subject gains (1d4 x 50 pounds) while sleeping. Weight gained is otherwise normal and should be treated as such. Generally it may only be lost via conventional means. If Pellet is suspended in a container with liquid, it just seems to expand slightly and crumple apart.

21 - 34: Subject immediately begins to swell up like a balloon for 2d4 rounds. Armor and clothing will snap off; Armor does damage to the subject equal to the AC bonus it provides. Subject is very vulnerable and plodding in this state and incurs a -4 penalty to attack roll and their total Armor class. Movement rate is quartered. Bludgeoning weapons do half damage, while slashing and piercing do double to the subject. This expanded state lasts for 12 hours. Pellets placed in a strange liquid turn whatever they are immersed in into a gas.

35 - 38: Same as the above result, except at the end of the initial 2d4 process a saving throw versus death must be made. Failure indicates the subject has exploded.

39 - 49: Prismatic Bull-Malarkey. One of the following spells explodes from the pellet or is vomited forth by the subject; (1d4 Roll) 1-2: Color Spray, 3-4: Prismatic Ray. If vomited, the subject inadvertently aims the spray into a random, 15' cone. If the pellet itself explodes in a container, it is instead a 30' circular area. Both spells count as being cast by a magic user of the minimal level for the spell rolled.

50 - 57: The subject must make a saving throw versus magic or transform into a small, adorable creature with no discernible use. Combat and magical abilities remain intact, but they may only speak a single nonsensical word and cannot use their old old equipment. Their natural weapons do 1d6 points of damage. The effect is permanent in till Remove Curse or a similar, more powerful spell is cast upon the subject. A non-swallowed Pellet transforms into a hideous squish-toy of no real value.

58 - 68: The subjects general coloring changes to an adorable theme; this effects not only the hair and skin of the swallower, but also their equipment. Themes include (1d4) 1. Peppermint, 2. Peaches and Cream, 3. Mint Chocolate Chip, 4. Strawberry Cheesecake. There is a 30% that accessories, weapons and armor will be altered cosmetically to fit the theme rolled. An independent pellet squeals like a small child and melts into nothing.

69 - 74: A saving throw versus magic is prompted in the subject, if failed they will begin to Levitate uncontrollably for five minutes. A free-floating Pellet does the same.

75 - 80:  The Subject must make a saving throw versus magic, roll again if failed. The subject believes the new result is happening, but it is most certainly not. A non-swallowed pellet bursts into razor sharp confetti, and anyone within 10' of the resulting pop takes 2d4 points of damage.

81 - 85: Subject/Pellet begins to spew harmless white foam, but can do little else but move a half their normal rate while this is happening. This continues for 1d6 rounds - the foam dissolves harmlessly, but will kill most extra-planar (55% chance) beings on contact.

86 - 89: Subject's body loses its consistency and form, slowly transforming into a slime-like version of themselves. While they gain the ability to stretch, flatten or otherwise contort because of their newly malleable status, they are no  longer able to run or wear armor or clothing. 

90 - 94: Subject transforms into a terrifying, monster version of themselves - all equipment fuses with their new grotesque form, their HP total Doubles, a +2 to attack and +4 damage is gained. They also hate a random person in view and would like to make their insides their outsides. This effect lasts for 2d4 rounds. A non-swallowed pellet grows an excited face, which contorts to a disgruntled one right afterwards.

95 - 99: The Poko Pellet achieves its ultimate form; the Poko-Dono Pellet! If swallowed, the subject needs never eat again. They will never grow hungry, though water is required to remain alive. However, consumption of any food or imbibing of any non-water liquid will result in a roll on this table. An independent Pellet turns bright gold and gains a small crown. If eaten, it will have the effect included in this entry.

100: The subject must roll a saving throw versus death or die in a ludicrously gory and dramatic way, usually resulting in enough blood to coat the entire room. A pellet suspended in liquid will grow a face and weep tears of blood while screaming loudly.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Barovania Difficulty Settings

So Zzarchov, Scrap and Joey have been throwing around ideas on how FLAILSNAIL's GM's can limit the use of strange powers or items coming in from some of the various universes without shutting someone down completely. These are all fine ideas and well within the spirit of the community that has sprung up around these campaigns.

Initially I thought adding to the list of ways to do things, but truth be told I'm pretty sure the problem isn't things coming into my games so much as leaving them.

So I scrapped the idea, figured I'd leave that to the people who've already proven to be proficient in it and try policing my own damn game instead. I've noticed that my adventures tend to vary quite a bit in difficulty, usually depending on the subject matter and methodology involved, so why not quantify that for player use?

Each Barovania session should be assumed to be in NORMAL mode, unless stated or requested otherwise by myself or the players.

EASY MODE - Sometimes a light touch is preferred. PC's are considered "Knocked out" at zero hit points and won't die unless abandoned (or otherwise kept from) their friends. All powers from other games are in full effect and characters of all levels may join in. Expect "Save or Ow."
The DM may give hints, but punch will not be served. Dungeon Maps will be drawn for the players as they go along.

 NORMAL MODE - Characters are unconscious at zero hit points and will bleed out at a rate of one hit point a round in till they are stabilized, either by healing magic or a successful wisdom check by another player. Players may bring any sort of character they like to the game, but the DM reserves the right make calls mid-game if stuff gets all wonky. Expect a variety of "Save or _____", including "die".

The DM is not your friend at this level, but he doesn't hate you enough to laugh too hard when you get eaten. The DM will draw Dungeon Maps as the players go along as with EASY mode.

HARD MODE - Characters are dying at zero hit points and have 1d4 rounds to be stabilized before they are dead for good. Players may bring any sort of character they like to the game, but special snowflakes can expect to be targeted ruthlessly by monsters in till they are eviscerated on the ground. Some more out of scope powers may be revoked, but the player will be warned ahead of time. Monster's "Number Appearing" and "Hit Points" will be weighted in favor of beasties. Expect "Save or Die", "Save or Screwed" or "Save or wish you were dead".

This is the level where the DM likes to smile, gleefully. He will not draw a damn thing for you, save your character getting eaten.

NIGHTMARE MODE - Characters are dead at zero hit points and can expect to be eaten or torn apart unless their bodies are recovered quickly by their friends. Only Standard Barovania characters are allowed.

"Number Appearing" will be weighted in the favor of monsters and "Hit Points" will be automatically at maximum value for them as well. "Save or die" will be prevalent and you can expect the DM will be keeping ACCURATE TIME RECORDS and demanding who is holding the parties' light source whenever its pertinent

The DM will draw out personal threats and mockeries on a misleading map for you at this level..

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Slayers Triumvirate (Barovnia NPC Party)

Barovania, that haunted, cursed land draws a multitude of individuals to its forsaken soil. These travelers are far from uniform in purpose; some seek to exploit the near anarchy of the place to loot and profit while others come to try and do some good for a land that so desperately needs it. Most fall in between these two extremes, as it is with many things.

The Slayers Triumvirate is a small group of adventurers that has banded together for one purpose; monster hunting. Each of the three has there own reason for such a thing, but none of which come in conflict with the other - at least not thus far. They have also managed to become surprisingly good friends in the short time they've worked together, but one must be able to trust those they fight with if they are going to survive in a place such as Barovania.

The Slayers Triumvirate

Praxia, Blade of Mercy
( Murder Princess, Level 3) STR: 14, DEX: 9, CON: 13, INT: 8, WIS: 12, CHA: 16, AL: Chaotic, HP: 21, AC: 16 (Enchanted Medium Armor), DMG: 1d12 + 1 (Blade from the Heart, Creates Heavy Weapons, counts as magical)

Other Gear: Magic Sandals that allow one to Jump as the spell, an Owl companion only she can communicate with.

Praxia is a young woman from Sithicus, a barbaric land ruled by the ruthless Soth Adder. Born a peasant, she was witness to the murder of those she loved and cared for at the hands of the iron-fisted despot's minions. Her raw hatred for the strong that prey on the weak manifested into the powers of a Murder Princess - and she now searches for powerful monsters and miscreants to kill as viciously as possible.

Gertie Goertz (Magitek Engineer, Level 3) STR: 8, DEX: 13, CON: 9, INT: 17, WIS: 10, CHA: 11, AL: Neutral, HP: 8, AC: 13 (Light Armor (work smock), DEX bonus) DMG: 1d4+2 (Clockwork Pistol)

Other Gear: Magitek Purple Ray Generator (Cure Light Wounds x3 A day, as per spell), Happy Interaction Crystal (Preforms introductions and diplomacy in lieu of a charisma check, Favored Item), A currently inoperative robot that she desperately seeks a power source for.

Gertie is a brilliant young girl who hails from the Dark Capital. Knowing full well that her talents with Magitek would have had her drafted by the degrading Shadow Government, the child prodigy instead decided to flee to greener pastures, eventually meeting up with Praxia and joining forces with her. Gertie indulges her friend's beast killing tendencies for a disturbingly simple reason: a theory that behemoth hearts would be able to power any number of fantastic devices.

Brap (Octorock, Level 3) STR: 9, DEX: 13, CON: 16, INT: 14, WIS: 8, CHA: 9, AL: Good, HP: 14, AC: 12 (Enchanted Shield that can expand to provide cover, DEX bonus), DMG: 1d6+1 (Spitting Rocks)

Other Gear: Lunar Head-Phones (Plays encouraging fanfare that counts a Bless spell when activated, makes it impossible to hear quiet noise while in use though)

Brap escaped from armies of Izdrannon the Devil Swine after a bit of a disagreement with his Iron Knuckle commanding officer; namely one that involved an escaping group of elven refugees. Unwilling to hurt non-combatants, Brap voiced his complaints with a rock to the head and a swift leaping retreat. Knowing return to the legion would mean his death (and really not desiring it in the end) Brap sought Barovania as a place to hang out for a while and instead found trouble in the form of two wandering female monster hunters.

The Octorock now has a hard-won trust with both Gertie and Praxia, whom he now worries about incessantly. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Photodump for a yet unnamed settting

In the midst of all the other stuff I'm doing, I've been working on a setting for a fantasy game using Chaosium's BRPG system. I want to call it "Akenia" but I'm not 100% sure of that name yet.

Its inspired a lot by anime; but I want to stress its closer to what I feel is the more imaginative aspect of that medium. Eh, pictures are worth a thousand words and all that, so -

 It'll be a bit before I get this to fruition, but when I do I'd like to run this for my home group and people on G+ at the same time. Its also kind of connected to another thing I wanted to do where a lot of the major power players in a setting were controlled by people other then myself.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Getting your Magic Chocolate into your Techie Peanut Butter

Ever since I played Final Fantasy 3 (6, whatever) as a kid I've been enamored with the idea that you could totally mix Magic with Technology. Before then I had always thought the two were mutually exclusive, as if inventing fire arms would inadvertently cause all the pixies in the world to spontaneously combust or something.

Its obvious I don't feel that way any more - While I occasionally like to play the two as polar opposites, most of the time my skeptical brain asserts that they probably aren't all that far apart and it would be cool to have Promethean-esque adventures who bridged the gap between the two effortlessly. So yeah, here you go!

I should say there is nothing keeping you from making this class entirely technological OR magical. Just change the name to just Engineer, Artificer or something to that effect and your gold.

Magitek Engineer

Attack: As a Thief
Saves: As a Thief
Hit Dice: As a Thief
Weapons: Dagger, Club, Mace, Crossbows and Fire-Arms or any suitably advanced weaponry
Armor: Up to an include Leather
Level Advancement: As a thief

Class Abilities

Tinker:  Every Magitek Engineer is naturally adept with mechanical devices. Not only can they automatically discern a device's function after a night of study, they may also attempt to repair a broken item or nullify other mechanical hazards, such as a broken power reactor, loose energy cords and the like. The length of time or materials required for such attempts are left to the DM's discretion, but both require an intelligence check to accomplish. Failure by more then 5 (Or a natural 20) means that the device is broken in a spectacular way or that the hazard becomes dangerous for the engineer.

Gadgetry: It can be assumed that the Engineer is constantly inventing, creating and cannibalizing any number of minor devices. These are generally small and reasonably portable, though larger devices are not impossible (if a bit rare).

Anytime a Magitek Engineer is called upon to make a stat check of any kind, they may declare they are utilizing a gadget to solve the problem at hand. Doing so means they may use their intelligence score instead of whatever stat the check was originally meant for. During the process the player may name the tool being used or even describe its mechanism a bit; at the very least they should explain how the gadget is going to accomplish the task presented.

If the skill check succeeds, then the item is a success and the task is successful. Failure indicates that the item is a dangerous failure and the Magitek Engineer is faced with repercussions as dictated by the DM. If the check is failed by five or more (Or a natural 20 is rolled) the item literally does the exact opposite of what the Engineer intended.

 If they so desire, an engineer may mark down a Gadget used in a success as a their favored item. Any future attempts with this particular gadget will allow for one re-roll; however it may only be used for the specific task the Item was originally designed for and the Engineer may only have one favored item at a time. The item can be disassembled overnight, allowing for a new gadget to be named as the favorite after its initial testing.

Perfected Prototype: All the testing, research and failures that the Engineer endures each and every day does pay off; every once and a while they manage to get a gadget to do exactly what they would like to do in a consistent manner. At 3rd level, the Magitek Engineer creates a device that replicates a single first level wizard or cleric spell three times a day. Afterwards, at 6th and every third level after that the Engineer can make a new item that functions in the same manner, save for that a spell of one level higher can be selected for the device. (I.E; A 2nd level spell at 6th, 3rd level at 9th, and so on, maxing out at a 4th level spell on a prototype at the 12th level of experience) Each spell functions at a caster level equal to the level that the Magitek Engineer had attained at the item's creation.

Please note that the spell chosen is purely for mechanical effect - the actual flavor and physical nature of the device is entirely up to the player (Within reason, of course). Also note that while the device emulates a magical spell, it is not a traditional magical effect but a magiteknical one. The exact nature of magitek is dependent upon the campaign setting and the DM running the game.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Home Brewed Meance: Manus Rex

Frequency: Unique
Alignment: Chaotic
HD: 8**
AC: 2/17
Attacks: +6/+6/+6 (Grasping Flurry); See Below
Saves: As an 8th Level Fighter
Damage: 1d8 + 4

Special: If two or more of Manus's grasping flurry attacks hit the same target, that character has been grabbed and hoisted up by one of his numerous limbs. On the next round, and every round he retains his hold on them, Manus may attempt to either crush them (Automatically doing 1d12 + 4 points of damage) or stripping off armor or valuable clothing and casting it aside (This takes 1 round for every 2 points of AC the Armor grants). A character may attempt to escape this grasp by making a saving throw versus Paralysis each round after being grabbed. If a character is killed by Manus, it is safe to assume that the monster tears them limb from limb, potentially complicating attempts at resurrection.

Background: The Wonder Smith's creations are not limited to brass and steel; at different intervals of his unceasing life he has experimented with any number of materials - including writhing, living flesh.

Manus-Rex was the product of such a whim, created when the wandering demiurge decided he could use an assistant for his some of larger projects. While the creature turned out to be quite helpful, it was soon abandoned by the Wonder Smith for other things and Manus is still bitter about the matter. For now he scrambles about a ruined workshop attempting to finish half-baked constructions by constantly cannibalizing bits from other works as well as anyone unfortunate enough to pass him by.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Barovania Locales: Sasha's Tower

BGM: Queen of Rose, 8-Bit Version
Looming in the eastern part of Barovania is Sasha's Tower, the domicile of Strahd's reclusive niece. The exterior of the tower itself is surprisingly fashionable if a bit austere; seemingly wrought entirely from exquisitely twisted black iron. Upon entering however, visitors are greeted with lavish decoration and works of art, with rooms that look like they belong in a country mansion rather then an isolated spire.

This decadent domicile includes several libraries and studies, multitudes of guest rooms, a torture chamber here and there and Sasha's personal quarters and craft room. The tower has actually seen several owners in the past view decades including the Hags of Eyevalis woods, Azalin and even Lord Strahd himself, so there are many rooms and treasures that Sasha herself may be unaware of. The place is kept in order by her staff, who generally keep to themselves and do not explore beyond where they are told.

These loyal servants are actually doll like constructs that have presumably been created by the tower's owner and range from eerily human and attractive to hulking, silent atrocities.The eerily human like Doll-Golems are the most ubiquitous of them, usually dressed like maids or occasionally something odd like a physician or tutor. While most of these are also the least dangerous in combat, there are a handful of "Head Maids" that are skilled assassins. Also present are numerous creations based off of dolls - hulking butlers that turn out to be man-shaped sacks filled with sand, gardeners crafted from pottery and animated by sentient fungus and enormous wind-up knights made of tin are just some of Sasha's creations.

The most obvious treasures in the tower come in the form of a vast art collection on display throughout the place. Less apparent are the multitudes of important books scattered through the structure. Many of these tomes are from Master Azalin's short stay here so some of them are quite valuable indeed. Finally, hidden away in the lonely structure is an ancient weapon that even Strahd himself fears. Not the fabled Sunsword that was split into aspects long ago, but a wholly different tool entirely, something known only as the "Vampire Killer". Sasha will go to great lengths to ensure this never leaves the tower.

Entrance may be difficult, as is to be expected. Sasha will generally entertain guests if they announce themselves at the door, but this has yet to go well for either party.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The State of Mu; an option for the name level Fighter

Name level is typically a pretty important spot for any given D&D adventurer, especially those in older versions of the game. It was at that level you became a force to be reckoned with. No longer were you a "myrmidon" or "prestidigitator" - you were a LORD or a NECROMANCER or even a NECROMANCER LORD, if you were an elf. Generally, you cleared some land, built a fort, put up a sign and waited for your shiny new followers to show up.

Different version of the game came along with variations on high level play. One of the coolest things about Frank Mentzer's version of D&D brought to the table was the idea that you could become "land owning" or "traveling" when you hit name level. This is also how that version of the game allowed for odd sub-classes like Paladins and Druids, turning these into options for higher level characters. It wasn't perfect but, hey.

Anyway, this post has a point beyond retreading stuff that everyone already knows. I like when there are options beyond becoming a Lord at one point but I dislike hard-coded changes to status; basically I think if you want to become a knight or a paladin, it should happen in game as opposed to being dictated by experience points.

So what options does that leave us? I think that reaching such a level should represent something internal, something that can be perhaps disrupted, but never taken away.

(Also, I've been reading way too much "Lone Wolf and Cub")

The State of Mu

Mu's meaning is initially simple and yet deceptively complex; it is emptiness, it is forgetting ones self and merging themselves with their path, perfecting it.

In this case, the warrior has reached a certain pinnacle in his art. Why he wields his blade is no longer important; it is enough that he simply does.

Requirements: A fighter must have attained Level 9, and a wisdom of at least 10 is required. Anyone who does not meet these specifications lacks the discipline to attain The State of Mu. He or she must also reject any possessions beyond what is required to continue his journey and maintain his supremacy as a warrior. (Magic items such as armor and swords are allowed, but something superfluous like a "Cloak of the Bat" may not be, as always the DM is the final arbiter of these things)

- A fighter who has attained Mu only takes half damage from normal, non-magical attacks. He can be hurt normally by another warrior who has reached a similar state, however.
- A bonus of +4 to all saving throws versus Charm, Compulsion, Possession or any other form of mental or emotional domination is granted; it is hard to control someone who has already forgotten the self
- Being one with Mu means to act without acting; A fighter in this state can no longer be surprised by someone who intends to attack them.
- When a person becomes one with their art, they may act flawlessly when called upon; One who embraces emptiness may opt not to roll for an attack, instead resolving the strike as if they had rolled an 11 on a d20.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Why do humans rule the world?

I'm a big fan of history in the same way I am a lot of things; I tend to skim the basics and skip to the good parts, not totally investing in it like a real scholar or academic might. Regardless, I do manage to hang onto a more then a few important bits, especially if the subject interests me or has a very broad and/or useful application. I recall one article discussing exactly why we grow old and die, and why this has actually helped our species out; our ability to survive, learn and create are assisted by the fact that a new generation comes along to replace the old.

I'm also working my way through a book discussing why certain cultures and peoples managed to climb to the top of the heap. While the immediate reasons (technology, for one) are fairly simple, the indirect factors, the things that lead to a scenario in which a wayward asshole from Spain and relative handful of soldiers can bamboozle and capture a King are much more complex. Really, there is a lot to be said on that one but lots of people smarter and more qualified have already done so; I'm hear to talk about how it all relates to fantasy stuff - or at least how it does in my head.

Lets take your basic vanilla D&D world. Elves are immortal masters of both mystical and martial pursuits. Dwarves are tough little buggers who are expert craftsmen within a human lifetime, when they can expect to live several centuries more then that. It is generally assumed that these two species did rule the world at one point, but are now in decline because of orcs, dark lords, civil war or some combination thereof. If you're world is really D&Dish, there will be crazy things like Rakshasa and Illithid running around too. Humanity is a late comer whose time has come only due to the twilight of other, more powerful races.

At least, that's how it seems to go in most of the vanilla stuff I read. (I make the distinction because a lot of settings seem to stray away from this and do their own thing, which is ducky) But really, would it be that way? Would Human beings be doomed if they had been contemporaries with the elder races in their heyday?

Lets assume not.

We'll say elves live forever, but they live differently then we do as a result. They need less food and no sleep. Bearing children takes a lot longer and is a pretty large commitment for an elf, as their childhood is correspondingly more lengthy then a human's would be. They don't farm; as stated they need less food, and probably can make an easy living hunting and gathering. Government is probably sparse if existent at all, as elves would have little need to conglomerate. War between each other is anathema - small, personal feuds probably sprout up here and there, but for the most part the elves are willing to let each other be and get along. They live to learn, experiment and to experience.

Dwarves reside in their mountains, away from the rest of the world. They aren't expert craftsman; they are their craft. Their long lives are devoted to stone and gems, iron and gold, the very things that they were born from. They are sturdy folk, and they know how to use the things they make, including weapons. After all, it is towards the dark they must venture if they are to claim materials for their craft and there is certainly no shortage of dark beasts that await in the shadows. While they band together to fight monsters they are much less likely to make war against anyone. What do those who live away from the mountains have that they could ever want, anyway?

 Humans do not live a long time - they grow up hard and fast. They consume voraciously. Conflict over resources and land are near constant - the desire to farm and band together is a strong one. Intensive food production means not everyone in the society has to work to feed themselves, and can instead explore other venues. This leads to things like religion, an organized military and various technologies. In spite of their short lives, humans breed quite a bit, and their kingdoms grow more and more with the population.

In this scenario, it seems likely that humanity will inherit the land. Elves and dwarves could put up a showy fight, but in the ends Mankind's superior numbers, experience with mass combat and more varied technology would ensure their victory.

Among the monsters, there isn't much competition. Rakshasa and other fey need a society to feed off of, and would quickly find themselves over-whelmed if humanity turned on them. Giants are too few and to hostile towards each other to accomplish much beyond pointless destruction, usually. Dragons are content with their hordes of gold and treasure and care very little for their own kin. True abominations, the beholders, the mind flayers and the like, would make enemies just by being widely known, and more then likely wiped out fairly quickly. If mankind has any real competitor for dominance in this situation, it would be the Orks, whose lives are nastier, more brutal, and even shorter then even human ones.

I really do love Orks actually. I'll probably write about them another time.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Puella Potions and Miscellany; A premier adventuring shoppe

Jova City is not exactly a the most happening economic center in all the world; in fact, due to the suspiciously high death rate and unfortunately well-advised curfew its next to impossible for any normal business to get a healthy returning customer base. This is more then likely the reason that most of the well established business in Jova are either very old indeed, or entirely unique in their service or clientele.
No one could quite understand the original Shopkeeper

Reccette came to Barovania with a group of adventurers a little over a year ago. While most would blanch at the thought of such a young girl making a dangerous trip with a group of strangers, the people of Jova city are used to all manner of oddness and paid her very little mind. A few raised eyebrows when she proceeded to purchase a small rundown shop on the outskirts of the city, and a few more did so when she finished sprucing up the place. Their curiosity lead to the young entrepreneur getting her first customers; Puella Potions and Miscellany was open for business

The plucky girl quickly demonstrated her proficiency in crafting the sort of potions and salves that any serious adventurer might need, many of which were completely foreign to Barovania proper. Various travelers from all about flocked to Puella Potions and Reccette was quickly one of the most successful business owners in all of Jova City. After all, these people are always managing to get themselves hurt or turned to stone or something.

Currently, Puella Potions and Miscellany offers all the standard equipment on the Barovania item list, as well as a rotating stock of potions. Reccette is always looking for new products to add to her inventory, and often will trade potions or other items for strange and exotic humors and materials. She may even provide shelter for unfortunate adventurers who find themselves locked out of the buildings in Jova City at night time, provided they are able to compensate for board in some way at a later date.

Adventure Hooks

  • Reccette will pay or trade for various materials that Adventurers return to her, examples include but are not limited to; Various monster parts, Odd looking stone or metal, Mysterious Flora and Dubious Liquids
  • There is a rumor that the tiny shop-keeper may want to oust the local church as a fraud to become the only available healer in all of Jova. She insists that this is slander, though she is a rather vocal advocate for the truth.
  • OK, one addendum to that last one - she's a vocal advocate for the truth in others. No one knows where such a seemingly young girl got the money to purchase her own shop, or how she convinced a group of hardened adventurers to travel with her to Barovania.
  • Come to think of it, no one has ever seen where exactly she brews potions or makes her wares... 

Current Shop Inventory

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Barovania, Session 2 (7/15/12)

Adventurers from lands far and wide came to Barovania, adding color to the land's vibrant but admittedly limited palate.

Squid returned, eager to continue his attempt at invasion. (Once again portrayed by Kasper.)

Evin the Witch-hunter fell into a drug induced stupor in New Feierland and awoke in Barovania. This was a distressing ordeal for him. (His friends call him Clay, I'mma gonna call him Clay.)

Birji, a hardy desert elf. Mysterious. Also hooded. (This was Fred)

Von, a former Paratroopa in the Glorious Koopa army, along with his chain-chomp flail. (After Fred, we have Ed)

And Babs, an elf from some far off, advanced place where you can be a Mage/Thief. Which, coincidentally, he was. (My old gaming comrade Michael made and played him in the same session!)

This strange crew was all business, heading straight to Tser falls after hearing from Squid that there was actually a dungeon hidden behind its pure, cascading waters. Spirits were high, as our heroes assumed that this also meant there was copious amounts of treasures to be had. Evin bravely took his place in the back, encouraging the others along with an infectious fervor.

Things that burn hot also burn quickly however, and by the first room the party had split up mentally and spiritually, if not physically. Their first act was to inspect a strange idol that had corpses that were bent in various states of reverence around it. Various poking about and chatter created a significant amount of noise, and some of the keener members of the group caught the sound of something coming. Indeed, the loud, labored shuffling heralded the arrival of a hulking amphibious beast of some kind. Being as the group lacked a motivation or a means for parley, combat ensued.

While the party got mashed around a bit and a bit of friendly fire via a sling, they eventually came out victorious. The final blow was dealt by Von's chain chomp, leaving the monster bereft of a head. This upset Squid, who had planned on using the monster as a host but he suffered in silence as the party moved on. The Toad man's filthy living quarters were discovered and looted; Babs taking special interest and subsequently befriending a group of large and strangely intelligent fleas.

Growing impatient with bug talk, and once again goaded on by Evin, the group tromped onward, exploring an adjacent hallway - but not so hastily as to get caught by a gelatinous creature on the ceiling. The party dodged its icy grip, and though it claimed one of their torches, squid moved forward and well...

...Its best left unsaid, but the creature and squid were now more or less one being. The rest of the party recovered from the experience a once again pressed forward, more then likely in an attempt to forget what they had witnessed.

Why doesn't anyone ever go down the tiny hallway!?
Upon the discovery of a small, thin walkway that would require single-file crouching, the party unanimously agreed to ignore it completely. (sigh)

A final - nearly fatal altercation occurred when the party stumbled upon a lounging robed Toad-Man inside a strange chamber resembling a shrine of some kind. Once again parley was briefly attempted and completely failed, the Toad Magician called forth his strange, frost-men guards and blundering sort of melee ensued. Both Briji and Von were nearly killed, and Von's all important blue shell was lifted from his person by Evin, who subsequently absconded with it.

Eventually, the robed Toad Man was taken down causing his Frost-Men to melt away. Briji and Von were both saved by Babs' new flea friends, but not with out side effects. (Nothing brings me more joy then telling players to write in something horrible on their Character sheets)

On the way back to civilization, tiny men in strange blue hats attempted to rob the group. This failed utterly, and all were killed saved one, whom squid decided to make into a retainer, due to the fact that Kasper liked the stupid voice I did for him.

Which means anytime Squid is in a session along with you, you're just going to have to deal with it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Oathsworn King (Unique Monster)

This one is a gift for Ian over at MONSTROUS TELEVISION, hope its suitable.


Long ago, there was a lovely kingdom that was mostly like any other prosperous nation that was made unique by its proud and glorious king. Both there names have been forgotten over time, but their final legend is still told in mocking tones by ghouls and mad men.

The king was brave and on top of that a gambler, often allowing for visitors and locals a like to approach him during celebrations with a bet and a wager of their choosing. This had always been in good fun; the king may lose a bit of face or have to hand over what remained of his dinner, but all enjoyed the kings frivolities and none were worse for it.

Regents do not walk between raindrops, and the king was not without his share of tragedies. His loving wife died giving birth to a still-born child; leaving him alone and with little mind for the games he would often indulge in prior. On the day of his families funeral, he was approached by chuckling man dressed in a long, black cloak. He asked the king if he'd like to make a wager.

The royal guard was quick to react, drawing their swords in unison, but the king ordered them to hold back when the figure presented a small doll that bore no passing resemblance to king's wife. He offered a simple wager; if the king could best him in mental fortitude then he would return to him his beloved and little child. If the king were to lose, then all the souls in his kingdom would be forfeited to the stranger. Before any others could speak, the lonesome monarch accepted the contest with the thoughts that as long as he held onto the love of his family and his wife, no foul thing could best him.

He was wrong.

The kingdom is bare now. The buildings are abandoned, food left to rot, animals wander untended. Even the king is gone, for while he did remain their for a time, he swore he'd enter the very depths of hell and win back every last soul that he handed over. He wonders the Bleaklands to this day. Time and battle have flayed away his skin, and the sheer depravity of the place has robbed him of his sanity, but he still quests. While everyone can tell you his mission, none recall his name.

The Oathsworn King
Frequency: Unique
Alignment: Lawful
HD: 12
AC: 0/19
Attacks: As a 12th Level Fighter
Saves: As a 12th Level Fighter
Damage: 1D10 +2/1D10 + 2 ( Great Axe, counts as magical for purposes of damaging certain creatures)

Special Abilities

In search of those lost: The King is constantly searching for those he forsaken to the pit by his own foolishness. There is a 50% that he will mistake any intelligent humanoid he comes across as one of his lost people, and he will stop at nothing to keep them safe. This includes slaying "monsters" that are threatening them which may include their own allies. One who the king recognizes as one of his flock could theoretically vouch for their friends, but that does not mean the king will agree with them; he is their ruler after all and peasantry is easily lead astray.

Anger that lingers: The king can recognize demons instantly, and will attack them without mercy. He may roll twice when doing so, and keep the higher of his two rolled dice. If a player character is carrying anything acquired from hell, there is a 25% chance he will mistake them for demons and get the advantages of this ability against them.

You can rest when you are done: As long as his people remain in hell (This is unlikely to change) the Oathsworn King will wander in search of them. If he is ever reduced to zero hit points, his body and equipment will crumble to dust. He will then reform in twenty four hours to resume his search.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Shattered Star: The madness of Regulus (Home Game)

So, here's the thing - our world? Its actually just one side of this giant mass floating around in Wylde-space, a dodecahedron shaped, otherwise unnamed planetoid. Each face of this non-sphere is populated by one or many landmasses, an ocean or two, and generally something to light the place up. They all have their own rules and everything due to the fact they all exist within their own atmosphere. Even the levels of magic vary from side - we'll call them realms for simplicity - to side, as each particular atmosphere has differently levels of Wylde permeability. The labyrinth, that ubiquitous home to all manner of devil, bogeyman and abomination is actually a series of tunnels that connect our realms to other realms. If you have brass ones and a purpose, you could walk to other worlds if you really wanted to.We live in the realm of the "Shattered Star" and unbeknownst to most here, are neighboring a realm suspiciously called "Everdawn". It wasn't always that way though, long before our home was just one of the Sister-Realms and we shared a single source of order-giving light, a Sun-Machine that would traverse both realms in a constant cycle. There was much to that time that was lost, but one man and one deed is remembered and never to be forgotten.

In that distant aeon, the Sister-Realms were ruled, guarded and loved by the People. We refer to them as such because they were better then us; stronger, fairer, smarter and more alive. The least of the People was worth a hundred men in deeds alone and the greatest of them were the Knights Stellar, whose heroism single handily maintained a peace that lasted countless generations.Greater still was Regulus, who was the finest knight that history had ever known.

Regulus seemed to be successful in all endeavors, no foe could best him, no trial was too great, and no heart too cold to resist him for long. His greatest deed was shattering Doubt - a great black sword that had caused the downfall of his father and the curse of his family line. It was in this victory that the seeds for Regulus' destiny were sown, for with its ebon blade broken, Doubt's poisonous song was released and left to plague the ears of its destroyer.

"As I am broken, all things will be. As I am undone, all things must follow."

That one phrase was too much for the great knight to bear. For in that instant, he realized that all things were finite, that all that he had fought to defend and dared to love would be gone one day. With a cry he went mad, and rushed onto some desperate odyssey to the south. Pursuit proved to be fruitless, as even in his insanity he was more then a match for any of his peers. All knights sent to subdue or reason with him returned back empty handed. Some did not return at all.

Why did he ride towards that strange, barbaric land? He sought one being, The Wonder-Smith; he who had created the Sun-Machine and its lunar sister, he who had crafted any number of artifacts great and small, he who dwell in a tower of ivory and gossamer, away from the rest of the world. And why, you may ask again, did Regulus quest so feverishly to find this person?

Its simple really. The Wonder-Smith was the only being in all history to trick Death itself.