Monday, December 30, 2019

EE: Reading Review of Esoteric Enterprises

So Emmy "CaveGirl" Allen published Esoteric Enterprises. Apparently in the workings for at least two full years, this thing is a beast at 247 pages.

This is not at all a thematic genre I generally look into. Having a look at the Appendix N, I've watched most of the TV entries, and about half the comics. But not much else. So thematically I'm not the target audience of EE.

This read-through review might appear overly negative (if counting the amount of Not-So-Good bullets). It's easier to point out criticisms than to stop and appreciate the quality this game packs.

Also bear in mind that I haven't played a single session of the game. I need to test it at the table.

TL;DR: this thing is very good. For 12$, the PDF version is a steal. Even if you never intend to run this, worth it only for the referee facing tables and tools. Pages 104-110 on the section on how to run a (OSR-like) RPG are a concise write-up that I enjoyed immensely. EE could have benefited from an editor's pass.

As a result, I really want to play this. It bumped to the top of my Games I want to Run list. Ping me to get something started.


You can find the full table of contents in the Drivethrurpg preview.

Esoteric Enterprises can be roughly divided into several sections:
  1. how to create a character.
  2. the basic rules of the game.
  3. spellcasting and magic.
  4. about 40 pages of how to run RPGs (including traps and hazards and treasure tables).
  5. how to generate the Undercity map and its complexes (dungeons) for the full sandbox experience.
  6. about 60 pages on how to roll up factions and the bestiary.
There are 8 classes in the game.
Bodyguards are akin to barbarians or dwarves from other OSR games, Criminals are your Thief/Specialist, Mercenaries are Fighters, Occultists are your Magic User, and Explorers are reminiscent of halflings, with good saves from the beginning of their careers and excellent in Athletics/Stealth.
Then we have Doctors, which have good healing as well as a very loose (ruling based) capability to do medical experiments. Players into body horror or creative minds will benefit.
The Mystic is a mix or cleric and warlock. They ask a patron for spell favors.
And the Spook seems just like a blast, where you can play a mutated humanoid with powers. Wanted to play a werewolf, or a vampire? Now you can. But of course, you have to start from the bottom.

The Good

  • This thing is full on packed. 247 pages of content. Random tables left and right.
  • The black & white no-art variant is really appreciated. Easy to print out the tables you need at your table. Ditto for the generous preview available at drivethrurpg.
  • Highly compatible with B/X. The classes are all in the familiar format. Many similarities with LotFP (1-in-6 skills). There's even guidance on how to make it work at Appendix O.
  • Pages 30+31 are golden, and sometime similar should be in every game. Easy to print out and hand to the players (especially newbies will appreciate it), so that they understand what sort of characters they can create and how.
  • Lots of tools for running a game. Tons. Random tables galore. Magic items, loot, rumors, grimoires. You name it.
  • Random Undercity generator.
    • Given Gardens of Ynn and Stygian library, this was kind of expected.
    • It follows the dice dropping technique (aka reading the tea leaves), similar to what I saw in Dark Deeds in Last Hope for Shadow of the Demon Lord.
    • The dice drop is used to map out the Undercity (a big map where your sandbox campaign will be taking place), the Undercity complexes (dungeons and maps for exploration) and fleshing out the factions.

The Not-So-Good

  • There is no character sheet! I get that I can make my own in Word in half an hour. But this is somewhat expected for a full blown game like this one. Here's one I found online.
  • The pdf is not bookmarked, slowing down navigation and digital flipping.
  • It seems the whole thing could have used a tighter editing phase. There are formatting issues. Capitalization is inconsistent at places (see pg. 8 for instance: "Intelligence" and "intelligence", "mercenary" vs. "Occultist"). Also some typos. Table 13 for example should read "Armour" at the top left-most column.
  • There is either a flow problem, or an assumption as to what the reader knows. Example: there are numerous references to a "turn" (in the 10 minute exploration rate), but the term is introduced way into the book. People familiar with OSR games will know what this is. But someone new to these games could have benefited from some extra assistance (this is a minor pet-peeve; I assume almost nobody will run this as their first RPG).
  • It could have used some further bolding and highlighting. Take pg 34. The attributes could have been bolded and/or indented.
  • At pg 36, where skills get explained, I assume that a 6-in-6 is not an automatic success, but rather the LotFP standard of roll 2d6 and fail only if you roll 6 on both dice. But I didn't see that explained here? Ditto with 0-in-6.
  • When Rolling up the Undercity, I would have liked a visual diagram example of the procedure. Luckily, there's a blog post with one.
  • The PDF seems poorly optimized. There are no hyperlinks.
  • The art and images do pass the desired mood across to the reader, but I get the feeling that contracting some artists, and assigning a bigger budget to this could've had excellent results.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Knave++, my Knave Hack

Knave++ is my Knave hack. I intend to test this system from now on. This is v1.0.

At this point it barely resembles the original game that Ben Milton designed (with a very generous Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license). I added enough bits and bobs to please my taste. And as an exercise, building a hack from the ground up, with the very strong core that Knave provides, has been very educational.

Casque Knight!

Knave++ Features

What follows is a scattered list of changes and additions compared to the "vanilla" Knave.
The solid Knave core remains: ascending d20 rolls tied to the 6 standard ability scores, item slots based on constitution (and a general focus towards equipment), quick character generation, high compatibility with B/X and other OSR games.

  • Character Creation
    • Classic class features called Knacks. Abilities and powers that PCs can pick up.
    • Ancestries as a random table. A light way to imprint the game setting. These are specific to my Maienstein/Stonehell game. List can be replaced with whatever Ancestries tingle your fancy. Or drop them altogether. It's meant for flavor and a minor ability boost and drawback. Differentiation, nothing more.
  • Playing the Game
    • Healing is slightly modified, and adds the concept of Snacks as quick healing bursts. Additional rules for starvation.
  • Combat 
    • Alternative initiative system to have individual rolls for each PC and antagonist NPC group. Henchmen always go last. Still rolled every round for extra randomness.
    • Easy to use death & dismemberment table when a PC drops to 0 HP.
  • Spellcasting
    • Keep arcane level-less spellcasting, but replace the original list by the Magic Dice system from GLOG. I really like the MD mechanic as a whole, and it's easy to stick to Knave.
    • Add cleric spells, called Prayers, which contrary to Magic User spells have no Miscasts/Dooms. Reduced spell list, but more reliable. Flavor as herbs, bells, tablets, or some similar equipment that eat up Item Slots, called Clerical Implements.
  • Advancement
    • Advancement and experience taken from LotFP, and with different numbers to use on a currency=XP game.


There is no way to get everything right on the first go. This is to keep track of future changes.
  • 23.12.19: version 1.0. A baby is born.

Things To Add

  • Referee facing rules
    • Overloaded Encounter Die
    • Wilderness travel
  • Summary of rule terminologies: Advantage, Save, MD, turn, round, Knack, Ancestry, etc.
  • Fatigue
  • Ranged weapons range?
  • Cover from ranged attacks

Friday, December 20, 2019

OSR: Castle Nowhere Sessions 1, 2, 3 & 4

Because I'm a busy individual pretending to be an adult, there's been no way for me to get detailed play reports for each of the sessions of this campaign, Castle Nowhere. Insights of the reports. Instead, I will do my best to recollect the first major adventure of the campaign, which we spent exploring Ynn.

The rules are a hack of Into the Dungeon (an Into the Odd hack), and GLOG templates smashed together. As this was a request from the players, idea was to tune the system as we go. So far it's been a breeze to run. Let's revise the characters first.

Barry - a Barbarian with a zealot religious background. Interested in kicking ass and getting loot.
Gwynnie - an Orthodox Wizard, whose sister was deceived by a juvenile man of the rivaling party and helped them destroy her faith's sacred temple. Really keen on learning new spells.
Giovgia - an Orthodox Wizard with a stinky horn, that was exiled from her home in the Itean Empire and now exists on the edge of the law. Reason why she fled to Five Towns.
Evalderer Crouser - a second zealot Barbarian, that likes to play bagpipes before going into a rage, and has a poisoned wasp (that can be thrown as a dart). Only joined the group for the last session, as a reinforcement.

Grimewood Beginnings

Our adventure starts in the city of Grimewood, in the North-Eastern region of Five Towns. Currently seeking rumors and adventure, and with several obvious locales to explore, the group decides to pay Caeldrim of the Silver Sages a visit. Local wizard and scholar, he surely will have something worthy for them? Gwynnie and Giovgia want to present themselves to the powerful wizard.

Caeldrim, more jovial than this portrait suggests, by Bearded Devil
Sure enough, the wizard has an impressive library, which attracts G&G. And a quest. For which he pays meager coin (10sp), but grants access to his library and tomes. Putting the carrot in front of Gwynnie and Giovgia for future spell research. The job?  A door appeared in the Grove of Euphoria in Grimewood. The place being a sanctum of sorts, to reflect and pray to the local deities, the Crescent Sisters. Caeldrim's apprentice, Merrick Oakblood, went through the door seeing its appearance as a sacred omen of the Sisters. Go find Merrick, and bring him back alive. If you learn why the door appeared, even better.

With a suspicious amount of discretion (waiting for nighttime), the characters get escorted to the currently open portal, where two city guards stand post. Purple viscous membrane, Caeldrim wishes them good luck, but warns that in 24-48 hours the door will close according to his estimations!

Barry investigates the area, looking for clues as to what caused this door opening.  A faint yellow chalk marking around the portal. Gwynnie decides to cast Hail to Dave. Pompous noble materializes, winks, and serves as scout through the portals, the PCs too suspicious to follow ahead. They wait. Dave comes back, cocky. "There's more forest ahead. Vegetation all around. And the faint noise of a clockwork? No wine though...". Barry stays true to a barbarian's credo, and opens the way, venturing through the portal.

Through the Overgrown Gardens

The magical gardens are ripe for exploration. The group of 3 looking for clues of the missing apprentice, they leave the door behind and start venturing into these alien gardens. First off, they come across an archery shooting range, pristine, with 3 targets and a cleaned-up skeleton, with several arrows pierced on the target and bones. As Barry starts looking into the bones, and savaging some of the arrows: a fight spills into the shooting range! Blue foxes (more the size of a wolf each...) are ferociously going at a trio of Peahawks (which are basically evolved into some sort of winged velociraptors).

At first the battling beasts pay no mind to the PCs, but one of the peahawks gets starts to isolate itself from their group, and sights the wizard ladies and the barbarian. Giovgia quickly casts a Cacophony spell to the group, deafening and confusing most of the beasts, that quickly run away with their feud. The curious peahawk remains, now angry, confused, and goes to attack the group. Gwynnie quickly casts Fire of Judgement on the bird-raptor, giving it a fire crown, and its attacks should backfire. Barry and Giovgia go into melee with the beast, the wizard marches with its stinky horn, hurts the peahawk, that then retaliates, takes 1 point of STR of her, and then has to run away due to the Fire of Judgement spell damage. One momentary victory, the Gwynnie and Barry quickly stabilize Giovgia, they take 2 massive peacock feathers and treasure, and continue their exploration of this overgrown gardens.

Further Exploration Giovgia's player was missing for this session #2

After some wandering around, a neat herb garden with 14 tight rows of overgrown spices appear in front of the PCs. Two of those rows catch Barry's attention, but as he's moving closer to them, a flock of huge parasitic wasps bees come flying from the East! With enough time to hide, the group sneaks behind the nearby bushes, and ultimately flees, leaving the bees working and tending to the herbs behind.

They continue to move carefully, and stumble upon a clearing with a 60ft diameter limestone square of ground. On the center, a fist-sized diamond. Up in a ramp in the ground, 120 or so feet away, a huge log. Half-rotten with the passing of time, and with tiny gems encrusted. A lot of things going on, and more importantly: the promise of treasure!

Of course Barry and Gwynnie decide to investigate separately. Do split the party.
The barbarian runs to the log and starts prying gems out of it. Quickly, the log starts coming to life, a hermit spider the size of a cart looking pissed out of it! In the meantime, Gwynnie decides to prey at that gemstone. Which is of course a trap! She gets imprisoned into a bubble of water that starts slowly floating into the air, like a balloon.

After some struggling, Barry is able to set the log ablaze, pissing the spider off (and more importantly, providing a distraction!). He then runs to aid Gwynnie, and using of the retrieved Peahawk feathers, and with some feat of strength, is able to pull her out of the bubble alive. Gwynnie quickly casts Hail to Dave, creating a distraction for the spider (but also loosing her only magic die).

The trap resets (and the huge diamond resets to where it was at the center of the limestone floor), and the group just makes a run for it, fleeing this bizarre scene.
I should have used the rules for running blindly, where they advance d4-1 layers deeper. They were fleeing the site, and not looking for exact clues and trails to follow. Oh well...

Do check before looting!

After running their lungs out, the PCs arrive at a collection of idealized greek marble statues, right next to a chess lawn. The place is pristine, has a lamp post throwing some light, and sees an ensemble of chess pieces of the White Court arrive. Knights coming on the nighttime, reading themselves for an upcoming game against the statues.

A jovial knight by the name of Sir Ilian turns to the PCs. With a bro-like attitude, he is in a good mood, offers his bottle of rum, and hears what these strangers have to say. Hearing about Merrick, the knight shows understanding, and agrees on giving the PCs general direction if they swear fealty to the White Court, and to bring down the Red Court, a sworn rival chess court. That didn't need much convincing; Barry jumps at this offer promptly. Sir Ilian gifts them with a handy oil lamp to continue their exploration: "Seek the Rose Maidens, not fat to the North. Be careful, they have adopted some odd superstitions".

Merrick Oakblood... seek the Rose Maidens?

As they start traveling North, night fully kicks in, and Barry sets himself in front with the recently acquired oil lamp. The barbarian starts noticing thorns and vines to grow quickly in front of them, a dense forest of razor sharp roses. A rose garden. The PCs will have none of it, and decide to surround the location, sneaking as best they can around it. This might seem counter-intuitive given the recent clues, but the PCs see this as a trap, and decide to avoid it. They are like shadows (all of them excelled at their Dex saves), and even avoid a flock of parasitic bees flying high in the air as they surround the area.
At the time I thought this war an odd choice on their part. Thing is, it wasn't a trap, but the Maidens were meant to have further clues to Merrick's past steps. PCs could have taken a short cut, but at the risk of potential violence. Bypassing this was probably wise.

Continuing North, as instructed, the ensemble travels for a longer time, and they start to cross a dense wood with an enticing and mysterious song in the distance. The deeper they go into the forest, the slower they go (and the easier it is to hide). Eventually they find the source of the singing, a group of 5 molekin that stop on their toes when they see the armored adventurers. "Snot! That's my name goodsir!", offers the boldest of them. "We need to retrieve a key important to us, up there in the tree! It will help us to take over the Myconids and claim their business.". All the molekin look up in unison, towards the top of a wide tree.

Snot, a molekin with a goal, by Manuel Castañón
After the PCs discuss what to do, they decide to help the little rats. Giovgia gets a head start assisted by Barry, and starts to masterfully climb the tree. Her Levitate spell also comes to the rescue. When she's almost on top, the molekin start to grow unrested, sniffing the air. A candle golem is coming! As it's a clearly visible creature, Barry and Gwynnie have enough time to hide in nearby bushes, as do the molekin. The golem behemoth continues scouting the area with heavy steps, in duty and looking for... something? Barry, again with superb skill, is able to sneak around and throw a stone in the direction the molekin hid. They start screaming and screeching, and run away (with the candle golem closely following their steps). The PCs use this opening to flee as fast as they can in the opposite direction, Giovgia taking the stash to herself.

The PCs continue their search, and arrive to a two-story clockwork building. Before venturing any further, they decide to check the retrieved stash: a fan (acts as a regular shield if opened), a letter with clues, and a spell scroll with Obedient Stone.

A pair of knight women leave the building, making their way to the stables behind it, and leave the area on a quick gallop. The dark of night covers most of their features. The PCs avoid them, but are puzzled as to who they are.

After a failed attempt to to sneak into the house, they enter the building escorted by a halfling called Tomek "This is Tomek's Timeless Teahouse, welcome!". Invited by the owner, they enter the property to a welcoming teahouse, with ready pastries, and a banquet. In the far corner, with a group of bookcases, the group finds a limping young man, a bald Merrick Oakblood!

Barry, wanting to investigate the upper floor and with an odd feeling about Tomek, is denied by the proprietor. The whole situation seems too fishy to the barbarian, so he takes his axe out and chops at the halfling! Roll initiative!

How Axe You? Giovgia's player was missing for this session #4, but we had Evalderer join!

Tomek reacts quickly by throwing a boiling teapot to the pastries table in front of the PCs, which summons an Ambulatory Pudding! Now Gwynnie and Giovgia have a pressing distraction. The halfling casts Mirror Image, and now with 4 illusory copies of himself, runs upstairs to the 2nd floor, with Barry at his heels.

Meanwhile, on the 1st floor, the pudding is menacing the three wizards (Gwynnie, Giovgia and Merrick). But lucky for them, a beefy man with bagpipes and a menacing battleaxe enters the building. Reinforcements Caeldrim sent, Evalderer joins the scene.
Over time I've come to waive characters coming/leaving if players join/can't make a session. Sure, sometimes it's not very plausible. But why delay the fun even one bit for "the right moment"?
Evalderer also enters a barbarian rage, but before that the pudding engulfs and severely hurt Gwynnie (dipping into her STR score). It turns into a filthy skirmish, both down and upstairs. But the murderhobos are vicious to no end, and come up victorious and without fatal casualties. They kill Tomek, chop the pudding, and have some time to explore and try to loot the Teahouse before getting the hell out.

Surprisingly cautious, they avoid the most dangerous traps, monsters and hazards in the place. The only encounter results in the PCs petting and feeding the 3 dogs Tomek kept in his lab area (reaction rolls, baby). After snatching 3 potions, some magical ingredients, and a king's ransom worth of gold, it becomes clear that Tomek was associated with the Red Court chess pieces, and that he built candle golems with/for them.

Muffled sound of hooves. The 2 knights return! The party flees in time to avoid being caught.
What follows is a chase back to the entrance door Caeldrim led them to. So we get to see (almost all) locations. The PCs are extremely lucky with their navigation rolls and reaction rolls from the White Court when they break the news of "As instructed, we have brought some combat to your house. Ah, and we killed Tomek.". They even had proof of the deed. Sir Ilian & co are grateful, given them a squire (=pawn) to serve as guide, and stay at the chess lawn ready to kill the knights of the Red (?) Court.
The last encounter happened when the party jumped into 4 Myconid Composters at the herb garden, when the mushroom-people were tending to some soil. They get initially aggressive, but Evalderer has the brilliant idea of just bribing them off with the looted gold by tossing some coins to the ground and fleeing.

With little trouble, the party returns to Grimewood with Merry Oakblood and pockets full of gold.

Referee Commentary / Things I Learned

Orange things above are lessons learnt. Also, ...
  • My review still holds after this mid-length adventure in Ynn. Gardens of Ynn belongs to any referee's toolbox. It's an excellent product to generate interesting locations. The random tables are just brilliant (locations, details, events... everything!). They work very well with extra material, like monsters from Into the Wyrd and Wild, or whatever fae-like material you can find.
  • In my scenario, I dropped the hint that the door to Ynn could close after only a few days, before the PCs went in. This clear direction made them not want to stay and explore further, or get lost in the place. This might have been a mistake, and a missed opportunity to go deeper into the module.
  • Faction play was small (White / Red Court of the chess pieces), but had a profound impact on the final outcome, and the players capitalized on it.
  • My criticism of an overabundance of beasts in the initial levels of the Gardens still holds. I tried to mitigate this by introducing more humanoids the PCs could interact with (the molekin, Tomek), to good effect.
  • Tighter mechanics on how to sprint through locations or do a chase sequence would have been helpful. The finale felt a bit rushed, and I should have put higher stakes on the table.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Santicorn 2019: Drow Econ 101

Martin O requests the following gift:
What trade goods do the Drow export in order to destabilize their human neighbors? Gimme the weird stuff.
Things that make the Drow unique as a society compared to their surface-dwelling humanoid counterparts:
  • Live underground. Duh.
  • Full of hatred; waiting for their moment to snatch their deserved respect.
  • Do deeds that would be beneath other societies' standards. Slavery being the most obvious example.
  • Highly hierarchical, they follow a code of their own. Impossible to decipher for any non-Drow.
Drow prefer to destabilize a society with fear, blackmail, secrets or other powerful intangible currencies. From the shadows, without incriminating themselves. Letting their lackeys do their biding. Carrying out a carefully planned assassination. But let's focus on a less obvious take: Trade goods. Tangibles. What can Drow do to a society and destabilize your typical medieval-esque fantasy economy? With a longer horizon for fruition, economical destabilization through (mostly) licit trading can have dire consequences.

Due to the difficulties presented in the Underground, it will be tough for the Drow to tackle mass market and export of goods. Or compete in a price war. Food is more valuable than gold in the world below the surface. Therefore, either a very meticulous and calculated strategy or a stroke of luck (likely provided by the aid of a 3rd party) are the only ways such an edge can occur when talking edibles. Similar logic can potentially apply to energy sources, lacking the sun in the Underground is a HUGE disadvantage.

Generally, Drow can outperform and potentially destabilize their surface counterparts with one of two strategies:
  1. They produce luxurious items, finely crafted or rare on the surface. Requiring Drow expertise in manufacturing.
  2. They export or manufacture an item not available on the surface. Assuming a geographical advantage; access to artifacts or edibles not present outside of the Underground.

To the Point, Hammer!

I present 8 tangible trade good examples the Drow can use, broken down into broad categories (food, energy, etc.). Pick and choose. Or roll a d8. Or take all 8 at the same time and have a train-wreck. Treat each one as campaign fodder. Entries follow these formatted points:
  • Description: what is this, and why is it special?
  • Effect: does it have an in-game effect of interest to a group of adventurers? 
  • Cause: what has made the Drow capable of producing this item at an alarming rate, and/or at a low price?
  • Omen: what begins to happen when this good is introduced into a surface dwelling humanoid society?
  • Destabilization: longer term, why does this item destabilize their human neighbors?
The Omen is the first thing the PCs will notice. Perhaps they arrive to a new city or town. Or they return after a long hex-/dungeoncrawl to civilization, to find this new item appeared. The challenge for the PCs will be to investigate and uncover that this is a ploy, and will have dire consequences to the society in the long run. Allow some time (randomly roll some dice with to determine a horizon) until the Destabilization phase kicks in. That's usually the point of no return, and wiser adventurers would better leave town.


Food is hard to get by in the Underground. Down there, starvation is the real enemy. Achieving destabilization through common edible goods would require a tremendous breakthrough, and is possibly not worth the effort for the Drow. There are more effective means to destabilization.

1) Troll Steak

  • Description: thick and gnarly meat, filling.
  • Effect: Troll Steak is a feast when in the Underground. But continuous consumption can have... interesting effects. If a person had troll meat for 3 consecutive days, Save vs Poison. On a fail, skin and inner organs start mutating, adopting the regenerative properties of a troll, but without the fire vulnerability. Of course, people can still die of age. Missing a day of meat consumption reverts the effects.
  • Cause: after years cross-breeding trolls in their laboratories, the Drow found the key to fertilizing them. Increasing the troll population at their whim, it is just a matter of waiting for a particularly harsh winter, where the grain reserves are running low on the surface cities. Drow can be patient to make their move, and will wait decades if necessary.
  • Omen: feeding entire populations is no longer a challenge. A surplus of meat is always a win, right? Well... cattle farmers will go out of business, unable to compete on the price race. Troll meat becomes a standard of living, consumed by all class segments of the population. Repeated consumption brings the regenerative effect to a sizeable portion of the population.
  • Destabilization: people develop the regenerative effect, after repeated consumption. Most wounds no longer being fatal, even the smallest disagreements turn to a violence bath. Creative torture measures flourish. Some even develop a twisted taste for physical pain, akin to the first segment in Black Museum. Society embraces the new currencies: violence, torture, and pain. Now the Drow only have to swap the Troll Steak back to a counterfeit. Or enjoy the society they helped create.


    Similar to food, but to a lesser extent. Potentially hard to transport to the surface efficiently. In our world, oil and gas would be an incredible asset to have. But their value is unclear to me in your typical D&D game (magic being more common and all).

    2) Fecal Coal

    • Description: mundane coal, but in ridiculous quantities.
    • Effect: coal is black fuel. Nothing more, nothing less.
    • Cause: Drow houses struck a deal with Xiromanthas, a red dragon the size of a mountain. The dragon poops as much coal as the elves need, and then some, in exchange for gems and golden coins. An unprecedented surplus of the black.
    • Omen: coal prices have been driven to the mud. It's cheaper to warm your house than ever before, and winter is no longer the harsh season of the year. A coal cargo stored in a warehouse requires no locks or bodyguards. A cart of the black fuel will only get you a handful of apples.
    • Destabilization: this one is all about geographical location. In a town where half its working force is employed at the local mining industry, the effects can be devastating. Unemployment would hit hard, with the depression that surfaces from that. The working class taking the hardest hit (as always). They would be looking for new leadership that can put food on their tables... Time for the Drow to infiltrate an agent, push the politician on their pocket, or a similar ploy.


    Drowning, Pamela Gomez

    Drugs move insane amounts of money, power, and influence. They can destabilize whole countries and economies. There are plenty of examples in our own world, where disposable 1.5 million $ submarines are used to transport them across the sea. They empower those distributing them illicitly at an exponential rate.

    Assuming the Drow can create an efficient network for distribution of rare drugs, these can easily destabilize whole nations both economically and through devastating effects to their consumers.

    3) Blue Roses of the Syn'ar Valley

    🌷 DEMORIE 🌷
    • Description: their metallic scent elevates you in eerie, giving a feeling of relaxed power. Describing them as drugs is misleading, because the fact these roses are one is only known to the Drow and the most skilled scholars. Blue Roses are subtle.
    • Effect: when within smelling distance Save vs Poison, or become indifferent to sighting any sort of violence, no matter how crude or visceral. Someone getting knifed to death in front of you becomes less interesting than your morning's porridge... The act is not invisible to you, just utterly mundane and uninteresting.
    • Cause: Drow cities always had copious supplies of the Blue Roses from the Undeground Syn'ar Valley. The distribution network and their survival to the surface were the missing keys. But the right fertilizer started allowing the roses to grow on cities washed by the sun. Accelerating ultimately their rapid distribution. They have to spread quickly, otherwise their effect might be uncovered! loosing their destabilization effect.
    • Omen: priced items, Blue Roses are introduced to the surface dwellers by powerful merchant families. Soon every petty noble wants their gardens full of them. It's a symbol of status. And the rich always want to be part of a material capitalistic trend. Full grown gardens are a slow process to attain, but a worthwhile one.
    • Destabilization: when every garden, grove or patch of land is full of these roses, the ruling class is literally indifferent to any sight of violence. Assassinations can be carried just in front of them at a dinner party, and they won't even blink twice. Guards won't be alerted on a violent revolt. An orgy of violence can unleash without anybody of power moving a finger. The moment is ripe for the Drow taking over, and keep the common-folk as slaves. Maybe.

      4) Ghoul's Marrow aka "Black Gums"

      • Description: denser and darker than honey, the two could be confused otherwise. Has to be eaten to apply the effects. Highly addictive, and can have fatal side-effect consequences. Could be sold as a medicine even, the endurance inducing properties to body and soul so invigorating. "Black Gums" is both the visible cue on consumers, and the name commonly used for this drug.
      • Effect: even one consumption is extremely addictive. Anyone trying the drug has to be restrained for the next 3 days, or they will try by all means possible consume more doses (even going to self-harm to do so). On every consumption of the drug, Save vs Poison. Gain d10HP and +2 to all Saves regardless of the result. On a fail, the consumer turns into a ghoul in exactly 7 days. No Clerical prayer will work to prevent this, it's not a curse.
      • Cause: the name is just a mislead, the consequence of consumption. PCs will think that's the source of the drug. Let them. The origins are a bit more twisted. Drow have been cross-breeding cannibalistic slaves for generations, studying their behavior. Finally understanding their physiology, the Drow found the key cranial source of the appetite. And are able to induce it with the right combination of narcotics.
      • Omen: stories of miraculous recoveries, elder cripples able to walk again, reach the PCs ears. The local duke won the recent war against all odds, like by a miracle. His soldiers more efficient at their task, able to endure more physical and mental pain. Then the first ghoul sprouts. From there, it's a quick down spiral.
      • Destabilization: the population is either addicted to the drug, or a ghoul as a consequence by now. The undead creatures lurk at night like an army. "Show me your teeth" becomes a common greeting when encountering strangers. The Drow have a weakened target, and half a ghoul army waiting to take over.

      Mundane Luxury Items

      Slaves provide skilled hands to produce some of the finest items. In almost every segment, objects of quality and bizarre properties attract surface humanoids. Their alien nature part of the selling point. Barring problems in their distribution network, Drow can gently introduce luxury items to visible individuals (merchants, nobles, warlords), in hopes of forcing a fashion trend. Fear of missing out is real. Very real. And acting recklessly is a natural consequence of said fear.

      5) Spider Silks

      • Description: brightly colored silks, soft as a lover's touch. Embroidered out of spider webbing by tiny gnomish slave hands. A prized possession for fashionistas and adventurers alike.
      • Effect: Let's focus on Spider Silk cloaks. Their price go at d4*100+300gp. Roll a d6 for the effect on this cloak:
        1. Fair piece of garment, envy of sultans.
        2. This silk can't be stained by blood.
        3. Counts as leather armor, but takes no weight in encumbrance/item slots.
        4. Wearer takes no falling damage on a 20ft or shorter drop.
        5. Increase the number of followers/henchlings you can have by 1, regardless of your Charisma score.
        6. Translucent, wearer or objects concealed by this silks gain a +1 to hiding when in shadows.
      • Cause: locating the gnome enclave within the Underground was an arduous task. But with that, plenty of skilled hands in the crafting of Spider Silk were added to the slaving task force of the Drow.
      • Omen: these fine cloaks become a status of symbol. Everyone wants one. Squires queue in front of the regal tailor shop. Loans become frequent to purchase multiple changes. Burglaries and planned heists increase exponentially, as manors start protecting their wardrobes more than their treasure chests.
      • Destabilization: taxes get a hefty increase to finance the ruling class and their fashion habits. Disenchantment between the common-folk, protests and strikes flourish. Social unrest. Several merchant families and nobles go bankrupt, leaving a power vacuum. Unable to pay for mercenaries or hired swords, they are at the mercy of their lenders.

      6) Myconid Cranial Condiments

      • Description: sized colorful grain-sized, somewhat mushy.
      • Effect: sprinkling a pinch renders anything amazingly flavorful. It's like hearing Beethoven after being born deaf. Priced reasonably (cost of a mug of ale per portion).
      • Cause: smoking powdered myconid brains has been practiced in the Underground for centuries. But the Drow know how to twist the knife a little deeper. Experimenting. Plotting on extravagant uses. Alchemical labs and gourmands alike arrived to this condiment.
      • Omen: you come across an inn where they serve a dish of worm stew. Street food stalls offer grass, cloth, and even mud, complimented with the novel Myconid Cranial Condiments. Food gets creative.
      • Destabilization: able to overcome any food shortages. Missing a crop shipment? Eat spiced maggots. BUT, this doesn't change the nutritional value one bit. Illnesses and famines begin to sprout. Mercantilism in the mid to high end food industry takes a hard blow. Open feuds between merchant families, some going completely broke.

      7) Carnal Suitor Perfume

      • Description: smells like a mixture between intertwined sweaty bodies, roses, and faint dried plasma. Invigorating. Pleasant.
      • Effect: this perfume could well be in the drug category. A vial is priced like a good seasoned wine. Lascivious immediate effects, that can spiral in the very long term. Anyone smelling Carnal Suitor has to Save vs Poison, if they decide to resist the effects (Drow are immune). On a fail, the perfumed individual becomes a libido driven sexual magnet. Urgency to fulfill the most primitive needs grows.
      • Cause: mixture of watered down floor swipes from Underground orgies dens and fighting pits.
      • Omen: the PCs could come across a wild orgy at their tavern of choice. Or individuals openly fornicating on the open of a freezing night. More than one odd matching pair should raise eyebrows.
      • Destabilization: local churches and temples start a holy quest to finish this descent into mad lasciviousness, causing social unrest. Long term, the birth rate torpedoes to the roof. The overpopulated city will become hard to feed with time.

      Mundane Magical Items

      The artifacts and magical paraphernalia found within the twisted labyrinths of the Underground are akin to our own gold rush. In comparison, the surface wands and magic trinkets are like the only souvenir shop selling hats before a day-long tour of the Egyptian pyramids. Mid-summer.

      Including these seems like a cheat when talking about trading goods. But minor magics are fair game. Enough of them can make it to the surface, and they don't disturb the day to day life to the point of destabilization.

      8) Subsurface Shells

      Aaron Griffin
      • Description: shaped like a broken egg-shell, covering the eyes when worn. Surprisingly comfortable. Black like the abyss.
      • Effect: wearing a Subsurface Shell confers blindness after a 30ft range. Mildly inconvenient. On the flip side, it grants powers to communicate telepathically at a distance of up to 1 mile, if the individuals have previously met and shaken hands (basically any type of physical contact). Constant communication is so addictive... Save vs Device to take it out.
      • Cause: Drow assassinated a city of Illithids. Every. Single. One. The octopi invented an apparatus capable of the most pathetic telekinesis. Producing them is surprisingly simple and cheap.
      • Omen: Subsurface Shells are introduced en masse. Cheap as they come, everyone wants one. And they can have it for change. To kick, it's all advantages. Information just flows. Fast. Transportation is relegated, no longer necessary. Leaving the security of home becomes... inconvenient.
      • Destabilization: tuning in becomes an effort. There is no way to refuse telepathic communication. But at the same time, physical isolation is the real deal. There's no incentive to leave home anymore. So you just stop doing so. Talk is cheap, and the signal-to-noise ratio is garbage. Yet this new form of communication is highly addictive. Gaining a "connection" by touching another Shell user is charged at a hefty rate. Whores and escorts no longer need to open their legs, but instead to have an interesting rhetoric. Now an isolated society, the Drow could literally march through town unnoticed. The 30ft visual range doesn't help of course.

      Reading Reference

      Wednesday, December 11, 2019

      Spell: Summon Avatar*, pt. 1

      As I was recently working on Prayers (a small system to introduce Cleric spells for Knave), there was a rough equivalent between B/X systems (mainly taken from BFRPG and LotFP) and the essential Prayers. I chose 25 such divine powers, that in my eye capture what a Cleric should be capable of, and what makes them distinct. Prayers go up to 5 Clerical Implements, which roughly translates into spell Level 5.

      But hold on, that means you allow Level 5 spells at PC Level 5? U crazy Hammer?!?!
      Yes and no. The cost to use Prayers is bound to taking a Knack and more importantly owning Clerical Implements (CI). Filling up the precious Item Slots of the Knave PC. Oh, and CI break fairly easily. And their appearance in the game is completely up to referee's fiat.

      There are exactly 3 Prayers out of the list of 25 that I put together myself rather than adapting from other OSR systems:
      • CI 1: Divine Ceremony
      • CI 3: Summon Avatar*
      • CI 4: Consecrate Land*
      Let's take a closer look at the second.

      Its intent is twofold. The reversed spell (Dismiss Avatar, marked with the *), takes the form of a creature banishment. There are several equivalents we can find for this reversed form in other systems. For instance the Cleric Level 7 spell in LotFP Holy Word*, the Cleric Level 5 spell in BFRPG Dispel Evil, or the 5e Cleric Level 4 spell Banishment. Remove a being that doesn't belong to this place from existence, be it temporarily or permanently. The original of Summon Avatar* is in the title: you call the physical manifestation of your god (although one of their lackeys may suffice) to come to your aid. Of course, such a request will go through the tightest scrutiny, and could go awfully wrong.

      But let's take a step back and take in some adjacent media, specifically the Die story line, which started as a comic book and (naturally) evolved into a ttrpg. In there, a bunch of kids are transported to the D&D stories they play in a Jumanji style tale, each taking up a class represented by a die (d4: Dictator, d6: Fool, d8: Grief Knight,...). The dice they take are not like your typical Fighter/Cleric/Thief/MU, but interesting twists coming close to these trope archetypes.

      The Cleric in the group is instead called a Demonbinder (although Godbinder makes more sense, see below), and acts as a Summoner of Gods, giving and claiming favors from deities. Like a warlock dominatrix. I love it. This, perfectly embodied in the following excerpt from the comic book, is an accurate representation of what Summon Avatar* should feel like if saying the Prayer goes well:

      From Die Issue #2
      From Die Issue #2

      "Godbinders are Clerics as demonologists."

      Summon Avatar*

      Duration: 1 round/[Level]
      Range: 40'
      Save: Yes|Yes
      Clerical Implements: 3+. This is the only Prayer that allows you to use more CI at saying time. Minimum is 3, but you can go above that.
      This Prayer requires strenuous concentration. If at any point during the duration you take damage, do a Save. On a failure, the spell ends.
      Summon Avatar
      Choose number of [HD] to summon an Avatar of your deity, god(s) or authority. Up to double the CI used. Do a WIS save. Negative modifiers to the save for:
      • -1 for each HD chosen.
      • -1 if you've never summoned this Avatar before (blind call).
      Positive modifiers to the save:
      • +1 for each [CI] you choose to destroy during the summoning.
      • +1 for each d12 HP you sacrifice.
      • +1 for each other creature you sacrificed the last turn (live stock, humanoids, etc.).
      • +1 if on appropriate Consecrated/Desecrated land (see the Consecrate Land* Prayer).
      • Advantage if you know the Avatar's True Name.
      If you get a Critical success on the roll, the Prayer duration is 1 turn/[Level] instead.

      Dismiss Avatar
      Target a creature that doesn't belong here (celestial, demon, elemental, etc). Its HD have to be up to double the CI used. Do an opposed WIS save against the creature's CHA. Modifiers:
      • You have Disadvantage if target has more HD than your [Level].
      • You have Advantage if you know the target's True Name.
      If you succeed, the creature is dismissed to where they came from for the duration. If you get a Critical success on the roll, the creature is permanently dismissed and the spell ends.

      But Hammer, what IS an Avatar??
      Fear not, I will explain how I intend them to work in game (apart from HD, which is an obvious measure already baked in), and prepare some random tables to determine what Avatar you actually summon. They'll be linked here when they are finished in a coming article.

      Reference Reading List

      Saturday, December 7, 2019

      Knave Spellcasting (and Clerics)

      This is the third post in the series, where I try to develop my Knave hack. The ultimate goal is to have a ready to use modern interpretation of old B/X rules for play in my games. Even though Knave is brilliant in its simplicity, it also provides a solid foundation to start building and adding.

      First I tackled Ancestries, and then decided to go for Class-like abilities called Knacks for Knaves.

      Fighter/Thief/Magic-User/Cleric are a must options to be conserved in my game. Knave doesn't bother with these distinctions with the "equipment is all" philosophy. That's fair. But players tend to favor distinction and character customization. Hence the Knacks, to add options and distinctions. From the four, the first three are even covered in "vanilla" Knave. Not the Clerics though.

      Magic-User spellcasting is intuitive and described by "vanilla" Kave in the following (Designer Notes removed):

      The spell lists from any old-school RPG will work perfectly well in Knave, provided that they go up to 9th level. There are many free lists of classic spells available online.

      In Knave, PCs may only cast spells of their level or less, so a level 3 PC could only cast spells of level 0 to 3. Spells are cast out of spell books, which must be held in both hands and read aloud. Each spell book can only be used once per day. Importantly, each spell book only holds a single spell, and each spell book takes up an item slot, so if a PC wants to be able to cast a wide variety of spells, they’ll have to fill most of their inventory with spell books.

      PCs are unable to create, copy or transcribe spell books. In order to gain new spell books, PCs must adventure for them, by either recovering them from dungeons or looting them from other magicians. The higher the level of the spell book, the rarer and more valuable it is. PCs openly carrying high level spell books are likely to be hounded by bandits and wizards looking to “acquire” them.

      When a spell allows for a save, make an opposed Intelligence save against the defender’s relevant ability, usually Dexterity for ranged attack spells, Constitution for life-draining spells, Intelligence for mind-altering spells, or Wisdom for Illusions.

      Arcane Spellcasting

      Magic-User spellcasting something easy to expand and adapt on. My take on Arcane Spellcasting:
      • Instead of the default list, I will be using spellcasting from GLOG, since my love for the Magic Dice (MD) mechanic is unconditional. This conserves the level-less spells from the original list in Knave, but adds depth.
      • Every spell can be cast as many times the MU wants, as long as they have a spellbook in their inventory, and available Magic Dice. Reputable wizards will fill their Item Slots quickly.
      • There are actually 3 ways a PC can cast arcane spells, and they all involve taking a Knack.
        • Student of the Arcane gives the ability to read spellbooks. This Knack will be the bread and butter of many PCs.
        • Spell Tattoos gives a signature spell.
        • Chaos Mage is a nice way to get a random spell per day. It could be useless, or a campaign-changer. 
      • The saves for spell effects are conserved pretty much from the original 4th paragraph above (from "vanilla" Knave).
      Easy, just use GLOG arcane spellcasting for Magic-Users, à la Skerples.

      What IS a Cleric?

      A B/X Cleric usually has part or all of the following features:
      1. Decent HP. Better than Thief and Magic-User, worse than Fighter.
      2. Can wear heavy armor, wield shields, and use (blunt) weapons in combat.
      3. Very effective against undead. Either by a specific Turn Undead feature, or by means of Cleric spells.
      4. They can create holy water, very effective against certain foes. Consecrate sites too.
      5. Can cast divine spells. Usually up to a level or two less than the Magic-User. These include, unique to a Cleric:
      • Healing and curse removal spells
      • Bless/bane
      • Silence, dispel magic
      • Protection to different hazards (poison, certain alignments)
      • Divinations (detect evil, detect magic, locate object, commune, etc.)
      • Some "biblical" damaging hazard: insect plague, wall of fire, earthquake, etc.
      • Some include a regeneration/restoration resurrection spell. That restores lost level drains, limbs from the dismemberment table, or a brings back a dead character entirely.
      Let's go ahead and list again the Knacks of Faith I wrote for Clerics, and see what is covered and how:
      • Blind Faith: Take a sacred oath with your faith/authority. You gain the ability to use Clerical Implements (bells, candles, herbs or similar), and gain one. You can use it with one hand to cast Prayers.
      • Turn Undead: Level# per day, force up to WIS bonus+Level HD worth of undead to make a morale check using your action. Apply a negative modifier equal to your WIS bonus to the check.
      • Pacifist: Whenever you get a reaction roll to resolve a situation that could end up in combat, if you and your allies remain calm, the roll is with Advantage.
      • Hammer of The Authority: Grant Advantage to any morale checks your retainers/hirelings/acolytes make as your below a holy litany and lay waste with your warhammer.
      • Sacred Feast: Out of combat you can bless Rations or Snacks that are meant to regain HP with your Clerical Implement. Creatures add your WIS bonus to their HP healed.
      • Witch Hunter: You smell the presence of Magic Users, Witches, or other Clerics.

      1. and 2. are not explicitly covered. And probably don't need to. All Knaves already have the same HD size (d8), and can wear as much armor as they want. As always, the limiting factor are the Item Slots, and the hands carried. By allowing Clerics to cast spells by still holding a shield or wielding a sword, we make a clear distinction to the Magic-User.
      3. Turn Undead has its own Knack.
      4. These don't need a specific feature, and are better covered by spells (if at all).
      5. The Blind Faith Knack covers spellcasting. Still need to check what these have to cover. But the other Knacks are also important (and probably not part of the B/X repertoire, but rather a more modern Paladin or Knight).
      Pacifist and Hammer of The Authority focus on the social aspect of the Cleric. In my mind, a zealot priest is a holy warrior that leads with word and pose. Their usefulness is very campaign dependent, and if hirelings are a thing on your game or not.
      Witch Hunter is a version of the Detect Magic spell, that can pin-point spellcasting individuals. It doesn't work on objects or places, so it is again useful on a specific type of game/campaign.

      Spell selection will be key here, to have the iconic Cleric spells included, and roughly scale them by level. Contrary to Arcane spellcasting, Prayers should be reliable (no Mishaps/Dooms), but there should be a finite number of castings per day (some save?). My 5e past tempts me to make all spells available at a certain level, the same way cleric/druid/paladin work in that edition.

      TL;DR: Enter the Knave Cleric

      A Clerical Implement can take many forms... by Jens Kuczwara

      Clerics, priests, paladins, zealots and holy individuals fuel their powers by saying Prayers to their deity, god(s) or authority. More reliable power than an arcane wizard could ever dream of. A PC that has taken a sacred oath, and taken the Blind Faith Knack, is able to use Clerical Implements (CI). These take the form of bells, candles, herbs or similar tools, and are the fuel of these divine Prayers. You could design some CI for your game this way.

      CI are rare and obscure items. They can't be crafted or bought, but could be traded, found, or retrieved. To a fellow priest or scholar they are invaluable. To most peasants, useless trinkets.

      Saying a Prayer requires an Action (unless otherwise specified), and the CI held on one hand when doing so. The rest of the CI can easily sit on the backpack and still be serviceable. Each CI takes up an Item Slot. The more CI carried, the more numerous and stronger the available Prayers become. Note that some Prayers require a Save during the saying (WIS Save, unless otherwise specified in the Prayer description).  In addition, the character level has to be equal or higher than the number of CI required for a certain Prayer. Otherwise, there are no restrictions and all Prayers are automatically available.

      Example: Merrick the priest is Level 3 and has 4 Clerical Implements. They can use any of the 15 Prayers in the lists below up to and including "3 Clerical Implements".

      After using any number of CI for a Prayer, do a WIS Save. On a fail, lose the ability to use those CI again until you rest for the night. If the number rolled on the save die is equal or lower than the number of CI used, the CI break completely (the bells crack, the incense rots, the candles melt, etc.), and you lose those items.

      Spells marked with an * are reversible, and can be used in either form, separated with |. Some spells have a varying [Level] value of the Cleric saying the Prayer. A round is 10 seconds, a turn 10 minutes.

      1 Clerical Implement

      • Bless*: Duration 1 min/[Level], Range: 40', Save: No|Yes
        • Creature of your choice gets +1 to hit and +1 to save vs fear effects (incl. morale)|Bane is opposite
      • Cure Light Wounds*: Duration: Permanent, Range: Touch, Save: No|Yes
        • Heal d6 + [Level] HP from a creature OR remove one temporary condition (stunned, deafened, blinded)|Deal d6 + [Level] HP to a creature. Double if undead.
      • Divine Ceremony: Saying time: 1 hour, Duration: Special, Range: Touch, Save: No
        • Choose one of the following. Each can only be done once on a creature:
          • Funeral: preserve a dead body for [Level] days from becoming undead.
          • Join: willing creature joins your faith. They gain advantage on next [Level] saves.
          • Wedding: marry two willing creatures. +1 to saves for next [Level] days as long as within 40'.
      • Purify Food & Drink*: Duration: Permanent, Range: 30', Save: No
        • [WIS bonus] portions of food & water edible|non-edible
      • Remove Fear*: Duration: Special, Range: Touch, Save: No/Yes
        • Subject on effect of Fear, can do a Save adding your [Level]|Touch a creature and cause them to do an opposed Save, or they run hysterically for [Level] rounds in Fear.

      2 Clerical Implements

      • Augury: Duration Instantaneous, Range: 0, Save: No
        • Ask if particular actions will have good or bad consequences. 70%+ 1%|[Level] chance for answer. Event up to 2 turns in advance.
      • Command: Duration: 1 round/[Level], Range: 20', Save: Yes
        • One word command to a creature that can hear you. Opposed save their CHA vs your WIS. On fail they must follow command as best they can. No directly harmful words (e.g. die, jump (off cliff)).
      • Delay Poison: Duration: Instantaneous, Range: Touch, Save: Yes
        • Creature that was poisoned in the last 24 hours gets a Save to resist.
      • Resist Cold*: Duration: 1 round/[Level], Range: Touch, Save: No|No
        • Temporary immunity to minor cold|fire weather conditions (e.g. blizzard, dessert). +3 to saves against major cold|fire effects (e.g. fireball). Reduce [Level] damage from such sources .
      • Silence 15' Radius: Duration: 2 rounds/[Level], Range: 150', Save: Yes
        • 30' diameter area of absolute silence. No spellcasting possible. Stationary area if object targeted. If creature targeted, they get opposed save.

      3 Clerical Implements

      • Dispel Magic: Duration: Instantaneous, Range: 120', Save: Yes
        • Save WIS for spell to work. Affects a 20' area. All spell effects in the area end. If spell is targeted at creature or object, they lose the ability to create magical effects for [Level] turns (includes magical potions). Creatures can do an opposed save to avoid.
      • Remove Curse*: Duration: Instantaneous, Range: 20', Save: Yes|Yes
        • Save to remove one curse from an object or creature. Does not remove the curse from the object, but allows a creature to take it off (shield, weapon, armor).|Bestow curse if creature fails opposed save. Referee has to agree on effects. Examples: -2 to Saves, -4 to hit, etc.
      • Sacrifice*: Duration: Instantaneous, Range: Touch, Save: No|Yes
        • Transfer any number of HP from Cleric to the target creature|Drain 1d6 + [Level] HP to the Cleric. The creature gets a save.
      • Summon Avatar*: Duration: 1 round/[Level], Range: 40', Save: Yes|Yes
      • Speak with Dead: Duration: 1 turn, Range: 10', Save: No
        • Corpse answers up to [Level] questions (sometimes cryptically) with knowledge it had in life. This is imprinted knowledge "stored" in the body.

      4 Clerical Implements

      • Consecrate Land*: Saying time: 1 hour, Duration Permanent, Range: 300', Save: No|No
        • Choose an area [Level]x10' in diameter. It becomes holy land. +3 to any Turn Undead and +1 to saves against fear. Undead also suffer -1 to all rolls.|Opposite effect can neutralize an area, or desecrate it.
      • Create Water: Duration: Permanent, Range: 20', Save: No
        • [Level] gallons are created with the saying (1 gallon suffices for one day for 3 creatures). Containers are needed.
      • Cure Serious Wounds*: Duration: Instantaneous, Range: Touch, Save: No|Yes
        • Heal 2d6 + [Level] HP from a creature OR remove one condition (stunned, deafened, blinded, paralyzed)|Deal 2d6 + [Level] HP to a creature. Double if undead.
      • Detect Lie: Duration: Instantaneous, Range: 0, Save: No
        • Determine if any one statement made to you in the past hour was true or false. Honest mistakes are not detected as lies, nor are untrue statements made by charmed or bewitched individuals, for they know not what they say.
      • Spell Immunity: Duration: 1 turn/[Level], Range: Touch, Save: Yes
        • Make a WIS save. On success, target gains resistance against spell and spell-like abilities: Advantage to such Saves. On fail, it is Disadvantage. Duration can be divided with up to [Level] targets.

      5 Clerical Implements

      • Commune: Saying time: 1 turn, Duration: 1 turn, Range: 0, Save: Yes
        • You get in direct contact with your authority. You get to ask [WIS bonus/2] (rounded up) questions with "yes" or "no" answers. During the spells duration, you are incapacitated in a trance. After you are done, Save or fall in a coma for [Level] hours.
      • Create Food: Duration: Permanent, Range: 10', Save: No
        • Create 3x[Level] rations that rot in the next 24 hours. Saying Purify Food & Drink extends duration by another 24 hours.
      • Insect Plague: Duration: 1 turn, Range: 300'+[WIS bonus]x10', Save: Yes
        • A 60' diameter swarm of locusts are summoned, which heavily obscure the area. 9HD creature with 3 attacks dealing d3 damage (double damage if unarmored). Creatures of 2HD or less in the area must make a morale check when this spell is cast. Every turn, do a WIS save. On a fail, the locusts turn to dust.
      • Raise Dead*: Duration: Instantaneous, Range: Touch, Save: Yes|Yes
        • Restore to life a deceased humanoid, that has been dead no longer than [Level] days. Soul has to be willing. They come back with 1 lost level (or HD). Undead can't be restored this way. Spell can't bring back someone who died of old. Do a WIS save. On a fail, the spell consumes a random life within 40' of the subject.|Opposed save against touched creature. If failed, they are killed instantly. Otherwise, they take 2d8 damage. Undead can't be affected this way.
      • True Seeing: Duration: 1 round/[Level], Range: Touch, Save: No
        • Target sees things as they actually are. See through normal and magical darkness, secret doors, illusions, invisible creatures, transmuted, etc.

      Monday, December 2, 2019

      GLOG Wizard: Densomancer

      This is a different take on the Aeromancer, one flavor of Elementalist wizard. Or perhaps Telekinesis? A Densomancer has some of the iconic air control spells, and can fool anyone to believe them in having the cerebrum of a telekinesis wizard. But actually a Densomancer uses a purer channel for their magic. They mutate the density of different objects and creatures to their advantage. Or even space itself. This can create some interesting effects on a Densomancer and their surrounding environment.

      Densomancers have to be conservative outdoors, out of fear of floating to oblivion. But they can make a discrete living, for example working for merchants and noble houses in need to transport and measure goods with precision.

      by Jordi Ponsa


      Gain long robes. You can hover at a distance of an inch from solid ground. Your passing still produces obvious noise (creaking of wooden floorboards, etc.).


      Endless experimentation made your body's density unwieldy in liquids. Whenever you are swimming on a liquid, you automatically sink.


      1. You can precisely estimate the weight of any object or creature, provided you touch it for 1 minute with both hands.
      2. You can harmlessly hover one small object (a coin, a scroll, a candle, a fork,...) with a wave of your finger. It can only be moved up/down.
      3. Snapping your fingers can produce a mild wave of air (cold or warm, your choice). Enough to make a candle flicker at about 20' distance, but not enough to extinguish it.


      Spells marked with an * were shamelessly lifted verbatim from the Skerples blog.
      1. Flexible Skin
      R: touch T: creature D: [sum] hours
      Creature's skin turns hard as stone, or soft as wool. Choose one at casting. Can be changed from one to the other by spending [dice] minutes. Increase AC by [dice], except for blunt (hard)/slashing (soft) attacks, where AC actually decreases by [dice].
      Benefit is long-lasting, and dramatically increases the survivability of the squishy Densomancer. Similar to a Mage Armor, but with a drawback case.

      2. Control Air*
      R: 50’ T: a gust of wind D: concentration
      Control a gust of wind within 50'. At one [die], use wind to (a) clear away fog or gas, (b) extinguish a fire no larger than a torch, (c) blow all the papers off a desk, (d) with concentration, provide enough of a breeze to power a tiny sailboat. Each [dice] you invest increases the effects.    

      3. Light Bones
      R: 10'x[dice] T: [dice] creatures D: [dice] minutes
      [dice] creatures get their bones to loose all density. For the duration, the targets increase their walking speed by 10', and their jump distance by [sum]'. Their AC is lowered by [dice]. 
      We significantly increase mobility for a considerable duration, but have a drawback by lowering AC. 

      4. Secure Object
      R: 50' T: [dice] objects D: [sum] minutes
      You point your finger at [dice] objects on the ground, changing their consistency. Their weight increases by [sum]x100lbs (x45kg) for the duration.
      Forces the player to ask about the environment. Can be used to make a chandelier drop on the band of orcs, make sure a door is hard to open on a chase, drown someone, and other clever effects. It also encourages the player to look at their character sheet for objects to use the spell with.

      5. Balance Weapon
      R: touch T: weapon D: [sum] hits or [dice] hours, whatever comes first
      You hold a weapon on your hands and precisely recalibrate its balance. Now enhanced, increase the damage die by one size (d6 -> d8, etc). After [sum] successful hits or [dice] hours (whatever comes first), the weapon is back at its imperfect state.

      6. Hurl
      R: 200' T: small object D:0
      Choose [dice] small, loose objects within range (a stone, a book, a tomato), not being worn or carried. Magically hurl at incredible speed against [dice] targets within range. Each object deals 2x[sum] damage on impact, to both the target and the object. Target can Save vs Dexterity to halve damage.
      Similar to the classic Magic Missile, and follows the assumption that you're changing the density of a small object, using Telekinesis of sorts. It has the small limitation that you need an object, and it gets destroyed. This is the 1-6 damaging spell.

      7. Balloon
      R: 50' T: [dice] creatures or objects D: [sum] rounds
      Targets have to be up to humanoid in size. They start to ascend like a balloon, at a rate of [dice]x10'/round. If they hit a solid object, they stop ascending. When the spell ends, gravity works again for them. 
      Can be used to propel foes into the sky, or reach high areas. There are several creative uses, and it has to be timed correctly. Good interaction with equipment too: rope (for full balloon experience), rocks (to make them rain on foes), etc.
      8. Fluid Air
      R: 50' T: [dice]x20' cube D: [sum]x2 rounds
      Air in the area acquires properties from water. A creature must hold their breath when within the target area, or begins to suffocate. Objects stay in place, but loose their friction if pushed/pulled. A creature can swim in the target area as if they were diving underwater.
      This has a tons of applications, in an out of combat. It can suffocate a horde of enemies. Or act as a Fly spell where the caster has to "swim". A clever player could find a plethora of uses for this, offensive/defensive and situational.

      9. Slow Feet
      R: 50' T: [sum] feet D: [sum] rounds
      You can designate up to 2x[dice] creatures. A total of [Sum] feet turn dense and heavy as a boulder, which can be freely distributed among the designated creatures. Creatures with dense feet reduce their speed by [dice]x10' per slowed foot.
      An updated version of the Slow spell, but that is very dependent on the number of feet of the creature you're fighting, and their preferred attack. A pack of wolves? Not so good. Good for chases.

      10. Featherfall*
      R: 10’ T: [dice] creatures or objects D: 0
      If you would take fall damage, you can cast this spell as a reaction to negate it. You float gently to the ground (possibly alarmingly late).

      Emblem Spells

      11. Wall of Wind*
      R: 20’ T: wall D: 1 minute
      You summon wind to form a 10’ by 10’ panel per [dice]. You can mold the wall, similar to cutting holes and notches in a sheet of paper. The wall does not block line of sight. Powerful winds will knock small projectiles out of the air and prevent vermin (anything smaller than a rat) from crossing. Ranged attacks that pass through the wall get [dice]x-3 to hit.

      12. Solid to Viscous
      R: 50' T: [dice]x20' radius D: [sum] rounds
      Designate a solid object or surface within range. Target area turns viscous for the duration. You can also try to end the spell earlier with a Save using your action. Density of a pudding. Possible to pass through, although it's a slow process. If body is caught in the viscous object when the spell ends, take [sum] damage and stuck. Good luck getting out.
      Can be used to escape out prisons, and pass walls. Also to slow enemies down in a similar way a Grease spell would (or a bunch of nails). Has a drawback if you're too slow to pass, and a player can come with good ways to "trap" creatures in to receive the damage.


      1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24 hours
      2. Take 1d6 damage
      3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then make a save. Permanent if you fail.
      4. Start to ascend like a balloon, at a rate of [dice]x10'/round for 1d12 rounds. You then fall.
      5. Your legs' weight increases uncontrollably. You have to sit and can't move for 1d6 turns. A strong horse could probably pull you.
      6. Granite-heavy hands. You drop any items you were carrying, and can't wave them to cast any spells nor wield any object for 1d6 rounds.


      1. Your feet are heavy and lethargic. Halve your walking speed permanently. Take this doom twice and you can't walk.
      2. No longer trust in your abilities. Save vs Fear when outdoors, out of panic of floating to oblivion.
      3. Ascend like a balloon, at a rate of [dice]x10'/round. Doesn't stop.

      Monday, November 18, 2019

      Knacks for Knaves

      This is version 1.0 1.1 of some powers for Knave, with aim to be a modern interpretation of old B/X rules for play in my games. Knacks for Knaves. First use for them will be a run on a megadungeon aimed at Labyrinth Lord, Stonehell. They will be part of the Knave hack I'm working on for said game, after I tackled Ancestries, now come a concept similar to Class. Special abilities and powers called Knacks, that give that power advancement feel.

      Some scattered notes on adding these to the streamlined machine that Knave is:
      • For a recurring campaign, players should feel enticed to gain new powers as they level up (aside from gear and coin, of course). Knave is very strong for one-shots or short games, but how good does it hold up for longer campaigns?
      • We make them optional. Idea is to give to choice of score improvement (default choice with vanilla Knave), or take one of these powers to the players. Hopefully most will choose the latter.
      • We give choice. 48 Knacks, no less. They are also completely independent, so there's no requirement to pick any Knack. Of course there are obvious synergies, but that's for the Munchkin players to figure out.
      • They are not balanced between each other. Things like Blind Faith and Student of the Arcane will be picked a lot, since they are basically the spellcasting for Cleric and Magic User - like characters.
      • In my Knave hack I took spellcasting from GLOG, since my love for the Magic Dice mechanic is unconditional. You will see references in the entries below about that. Blind Faith introduces spellcasting for Clerics, which is a different mechanic, with Prayers (but more reliable than MD are).
      As any good Thief, I've taken many of these powers from different sources. I rest on the shoulders of heroes. They're meant for personal use in my home game, and if you find use for them that's an achievement.

      Knacks for Knaves - The Rules

      The Doc In case you want to have a living document to print out, or leave me some commentary

      Knaves start at Level 1 with one Knack from the list below of their choice.

      When a Knave gains a level, instead of increasing a single Ability Score by +1 a Knave may select one Knack from any of the categories below, without restriction. Limited to one Knack per level up.

      The categories are for flavor only, and very broadly separate Knacks into different buckets.

      Values within squared brackets [] are variable.

      WARRIOR (Knacks of War)

      A knight with the "Great Weapon Fighter" Knack, by Valery Klishevich

      • Duelist: On a critical you may choose to either:
        • Disarm your foe (assuming this is possible), or
        • Put them on the backfoot, granting you Advantage on your next attack or stunt.
      • Great Weapon Fighter: when wielding a two-handed weapon, reroll damage < 3. Keep the second result. 
      • Protector: Sacrifice your Action to absorb damage inflicted on an adjacent ally. STR save for half-damage.
      • Riposte: When a creature misses you with a melee attack, make an immediate counter-attack. This does not cost you your normal Action. Only possible once/round.
      • Shield Master:
        • Advantage on STR attempts to knock an opponent prone w/a shield bash.
        • When an effect allows a DEX save for half damage take no damage if you save as your shield absorbs the blow (-1 quality to shield).
      • Two-Weapon Fighting: When you hit a foe while wielding two weapons, roll damage for both and apply the higher.

      BARBARIAN (Knacks of Brunt) 

      Barb with "Muscle Armor", by Daniel Zrom

      • Berzerker: When reduced to 0HP, become frenzied and continue fighting for a number of rounds equal to your [Level]. You always attack the nearest creature whether friend or foe. Afterwards, make a CON save. On a fail, roll on the Death and Dismemberment table.
      • Pugilist: Your fists and feet count as martial weapons and inflict 1d4+[STR bonus] damage.
      • Girded Loins: You have Advantage on saves made to resist fear and mind bending effects.
      • Favor of The Gods: Once a day as a free action you can heal [CHA bonus] HP. 
      • Muscle Armor: CON is your Armor Defense when you wear no other armor. May wield a shield or helmet.
      • Cleave: When you strike and kill a foe immediately make another attack on an additional adjacent foe. Cannot be “daisy-chained” through a mob.

      SCOUT (Knacks of Wild)

      The hunt is mine! Michelle Tollo

      • Hunter’s Mark: As a free action once per day, mark your target as living on borrowed time. You have Advantage on your next [Level] attacks against them.
      • Deft Quartermaster: Your rations, potions, and equipment from the Dungeoneering Gear in the Starting Gear section can be bundled two to an inventory slot.
      • Survivalist: You thrive in the Wilds protecting the realms of Man from the horrors that lurk in dark wood and deep cave. You have Advantage on saves to track, navigate, hunt, and forage in the wilderness.
      • Trick-Shot: Targets only receive half of their normal cover bonus. When you shoot into melee enemy combatants count as two combatants for the purposes of randomly determining who you hit.
      • Night Vigil: When camping, you can gain advantage on the encounter die after describing your watch routine and setting up a perimeter by means of your choosing.
      • Skirmisher: Immediately after you are attacked in melee, you can move up half your speed without provoking opportunity attacks. Once per round.

      ROGUE (Knacks of Trickery)

      Daria Rashev

      • Acrobat: You gain Advantage on saves to balance, climb, leap, and tumble.
      • Burglar: You gain Advantage on saves to hide in shadows, move silently, and climb.
      • Backstab!: When you attack a foe with a melee weapon who is already engaged by an ally inflict an addition 1d6 per [Level] damage. You attack with Advantage if you attack from hiding.
      • Dungeoneer: You have Advantage on DEX saves to disable traps, assuming you have the proper tools. Three times per day you may ask any of the following questions and must be given an honest answer:
        • Is there a trap here? (Y/N Answer)
        • Is there a hidden door here? (Y/N Answer)
      • Lucky AF: Once per day you may reroll a Critical Fail or force a foe to reroll a Critical Success that would affect you.
      • Evasive MF: Once per round you can reduce damage taken by your [DEX bonus], if you can see its source.

      CLERIC (Knacks of Faith)

      Xabi Gazte

      • Blind Faith: Take a sacred oath with your faith/authority. You gain the ability to use Clerical Implements (bells, candles, herbs or similar), and gain one. You can use it with one hand to say Prayers.
      • Turn Undead: [Level] times per day, force up to [WIS bonus] HD worth of undead to make a morale check using your action. Apply a negative modifier equal to your [WIS bonus] to the check.
      • Pacifist: Whenever you get a reaction roll to resolve a situation that could end up in combat, if you and your allies remain calm, the roll is with Advantage.
      • Hammer of The Authority: Grant Advantage to any morale checks your retainers/hirlings/acolytes make as your below a holy litany and lay waste with your warhammer.
      • Sacred Feast: Out of combat you can bless Rations or Snacks that are meant to regain HP with your Clerical Implements. Creatures add your [WIS bonus] to their HP healed.
      • Witch Hunter: You smell the presence of Magic Users, Witches, or other Clerics.

      DRUID (Knacks of Nature)

      Druid with mutated "Owl Eyes" by Rebecca Blackie

      • Bear Strength: Gain +2 Item Slots. This allows you to go above the 20 Item Slots limit.
      • Gliding Wings: You have gliding appendage wings below your arms. You don't take any damage from falling, as long as you can extend your arms.
      • Owl Eyes: Gain darkvision. Useless the moment there’s a light source present (sunlight, torch, candle, lamp).
      • Spider Feet: For [Level] of turns per day your bare hands and feet allow you to walk on vertical surfaces or upside down without the need of equipment or saves.
      • Animal Talk: You can verbally communicate with animals as if you shared a language. This doesn't make them smart. 
      • Forest Step: You can step from one tree to another, as long as they are on the same grove/forest/garden, [Level] times per day.

      MAGIC USER (Knacks of Magic)

      Getting a "Student of the Arcane" Knack, by Albert Urmanov

      • Student of the Arcane: Gain 2 random spell books. You have a number of Magic Dice (=MD) equal to your [Level]/2 (rounded up). All saves associated to casting arcane spells are based on your INT.
      • Sword Wizard: You can cast spells while wielding a weapon in one or both of your hands. You still need the spell books/scrolls/magic items on your own inventory.
      • Manifold Cerebrum: You have Advantage on INT Saves vs magical attacks/effects.
      • Companion: Gain a mystical cat (darkvision) , mouse (burrow), squirrel (climb) or toad (swim) companion with [Level] HP. You can communicate with it telepathically as long as you can see it. If it dies it can be re-summoned spending a night’s work.
      • Spell Tattoos: Your skin is covered with tattoos of magical glyphs. Anyone who sees them knows what you are. Gain one random spell (roll [INT bonus] times and choose one). Whenever you cast this spell, do so with +1MD (this die doesn't return to your pool). You still require MD and free hands to cast the spell.
      • Chaos Mage: Gain one random spell to cast from your mind per day. Each morning roll [Level] random of spells and pick one to store for the day. Whenever you cast this spell, do so with +1MD (this die doesn't return to your pool). You still require MD and free hands to cast it.

      WITCH (Knacks of Wyrd)

      Witching around, by Tatyana Kupriyanova

      • Read Leaves: Assuming you have water, a pot, and tea, you can spend 1 turn every morning performing this ritual. Roll a d20 and store that number. You can replace a result on a d20 from a creature you can see (yourself, allies, or foes) once that day with the stored number. You do this after learning the roll, but before knowing the outcome.
      • Familiar: You gain a mouthless humanoid, magically created with mud and sticks. d8 + [Level] HP. Doesn't eat or drink, but needs to breathe. Follows all your commands, although it's extremely incompetent in combat. You can resummon your familiar 1/day.
      • Spell Eater: Once per day when a spell is targeted at you, you negate the spell's effects. Do A CHA save. On success, you absorb the spell and can cast it once as if it were your own, with the MD the rival intended for the casting. On a fail you need to eat double the rations for one day. You can only have one eaten spell at any time.
      • Devil's Contract: If someone makes a bargain with you and breaks it you instantly know about it. If you have their signature on the bargain you know how to locate them by general location (North, East, up down, etc.)
      • Hint/Jinx: Once per turn do a CHA Save when another creature you can see attempts an action that requires a d20 roll. On success, add(hint)/subtract(jinx) your CHA bonus to the roll. On a failure, you loose [Level] HP. You do this after learning the roll, but before knowing the outcome.
      • Alter Ego: Choose a second persona of your same Ancestry, regardless of features, sex and age. You can shapeshift to that persona a total of [CHA bonus] hours per day.