Monday, February 25, 2019

First Thoughts on Tempered Legacy

David Schirduan released a great new game on his website called Tempered Legacy. I thought the concept was really neat and I had enough thoughts about it that I wanted to make a post.

TL:DR it's great and free and you should go check it out!

The Concept

The "framework" that the rules layout are about as straightforward as can be: you are a magic weapon. You are held by a unique wielder. If your wielder dies (which, assuming regular OSR lethality, is to be expected sooner rather than later), then you inherit something from them: Either their History (which work like skill tags and let you do things), their Temperament (which represents their personality but also have some unique mechanical benefit) or their Spell (if they have one). You then get picked up by another wielder and continue the adventure, or switch to a different one entirely depending on how much time has passed and the whims of the player/GM.

Accompanying the game is a set of very neat little random generators which generate Wielders and Weapons. The generators assume a Knave ruleset but are broad enough that they could be tacked onto pretty much any ttrpg with a little tweaking.

Some Thoughts

  • I love the implementation of a "roguelike" framework here. The rules are very light and scream "Hack Me!" I'm also very eager to see how it holds up for "duet" style play since David calls out the game as "working surprisingly well" for that type of game.

  • The advancement mechanic is very interesting; you are always forced to take something from a wielder if they die and only have 5 "slots", so as written the "weapon" seems like it hits a wall pretty quickly. 

  • I would personally add in some sort of ability advancement involving gaining some more traditional weapon abilities. Something that lets you advance in a more traditional method and make use of all those +1 weapons and their equivalents. Maybe the weapons can eat gold or other magic weapons to gain new abilities or something.

  • Something I considered was to make the weapon able to hold 6 things, but then instead of choosing what to give up you just rolled a d6 (still getting to decide which thing to inherit from the dead wielder, just not what slot it goes into). This method would trade out what I imagine might be some interesting roleplaying bits as the weapon agonizes over which wielder part they "forget" but also keeps a weapon from min-maxing 

  • Out of the "Health and Hirelings" section, I think I like the "Health Pool" option the best. It strikes a good balance of resource tracking and staying in the fight. The hirelings option might work for me with some sort of randomizer tool, like a given party has "1d4-1" hirelings generated about the same way as characters. Right now I'd probably run some variation of "Health Pool" with everyone at the table tracking their hit points individually, and taking Emmy Allen's "Horrible Wounds" when they hit zero. That way TPK's are a bit more rare but when they happen, all the weapons are affected equally. Also, lasting consequences of fights means that even if you don't all die, your wielders will likely become less effective over time.

  • While I love the generators and they let you pick up and play a game super quick, I would personally include a light weapon-creation element if I were to run this since you'll keep your weapon forever (unlike your Wielder). Having different tables with broad weapon types might be a good compromise, with options for "ranged", "swords", "knives" etc. I can also picture "themed" games where everyone get's a variety of muskets or exotic weapon types from different areas of the world. I wanna play a tetsubo in a samurai themed game

  • The "passage of time" is a good framework but feels a little out of place without more context. I'd probably run a variant rule of: "When your group of Wielders all perish, roll 1d100. That's how many years have passed before you are picked up again". Alternatively you can just move to a different area/dungeon if the players are through which is pretty neat.

None of these are really meant to be broad suggestions, just more scattered thoughts I had that show how hackable the game is and all the different dials you can tweak.


Also, here's some random "plot hooks" I had for games, since some players of mine might have a harder time coming up with goals for a hunk of sentient metal.

  • The Legendary Shards: You/your fellow weapons are the "descendants" forged from pieces of a legendary weapon such as Excalibur or Blackrazor. You long to make a name for yourself, either earning legends for your own right or claiming the mantle of your "forebear". Many other sentient weapons made from these shards exist, and they will actively seek out and oppose you as they attempt to steal your power for themselves so they may ascend to legendary status.
  • The Guardian Blades: You were pulled from a stone, granted by a Lady of the Lake, or forged by no hand of man or elf. While you are free to pursue your own desires, your purpose is to defend a given land or nation from invaders and evil, from within and without. Should you find yourself in a far-away land or refuse to defend your home, it will inevitably fall to foreign invaders or other dark influences.
  • The Haunted: This one would only work for more dedicated games and I'd only do it with players I know or had played with before. Tell your players to make characters together in a setting of your choice, but dont specify what system you'll be playing. Try and get them to fill out as much detail as you can about their characters background. Then have the game fade in from black and tell each player that they are conscious, but unable to move. They feel cold, and then they feel a hand grasping around their "throat?" ("handle? You don't have a handle? or is it more like a ...hilt??"). They are the characters they made, but after suffering a TPK and possessing the weapons they held. The campaign revolves around them coming to turns with their unlife, possibly seeking resurrection or otherwise trying to finish whatever unfinished business their character had in life. You could also turn it into a "whodunnit?" mystery if they don't remember how they died.
  • Mammon's Collectors:  You work for a greedy demon or otherworldly entity. You are a warlock's blade, granted to agents of your dark master in return for a portion of their treasure ("and of course, their soul, but when has that been of any use?"). You don't remember your past and may decide to attempt to overthrow your boss after amassing enough power. Everyone who inherits or finds you will always be someone who has made a pact with your master. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Class Options: Mini-Kits for Knave

In my previous post I forwarded some ideas about how to handle classes in a "knave" style format.

Not mentioned there is the fact that I briefly toyed with "class kits" that replace the random item generation portion of Knave with more structured but still limited choices, but I really like the mishmosh of adventuring gear you get as is.

So I had this idea of "mini-kits", extremely minor abilities you choose and which don't detract from the broader Knave framework.

Here's what I've got:

Carvergirl: Roll for skill and trinket. You begin with Cavehtung as a language.

Reprobate Mage: Roll for (illegal) spell known. One hand is tattooed and easily recognizable as holding an illicit spell. You begin with a small makeup kit and gloves.

Scholar: Roll for school. You begin with a specialized reference manual.

Oracle: Roll for divination type. You are missing  (d4) 1. a finger 2. an ear 3. an eye 4. several teeth. You traded it for your knowledge. You begin with an implement you use to perform your mancy.

Condottiere: Roll for extra attack circumstance. You begin with documents allowing you to legally carry weapons in populated settlements.

The last one is the only one that's remotely original, but I stole most of the table from DIE TRYING.

Here it is (made with the assistance of the OSR discord!)

Extra Attack:

  1. At disadvantage
  2. Nonlethally
  3. When grappling
  4. When target is flanked
  5. When target is frenzied
  6. When target is prone
  7. When you hit
  8. When you miss

Condottiere showed up as a synonym for mercenary as I was searching for class names. Wikipedia tells me it refers specifically to Italian mercenary captains. I like the idea that at one point the word only applied to captains but now applies to pretty much anyone with these documents and has lost much of it's prestige.

The classes so far all meet the criteria I was looking for or didn't know I had:

1. They are minor enough not to interfere with Knave's framework or playstyle
2. They are distinctly flavorful
3. They have some sort of random element, meaning that multiple people could pick the same one and end up with different abilities.

I'm pretty satisfied I've covered a variety of playstyle types with these. Carvergirls cover a weird trifecta of rogue/ranger and even druid if you get root magic. Reprobate Mages and Oracle are similar to Wizards/Clerics in that they deal with the occult but get minor enough abilities and drawbacks that they don't overshadow the other choices. Condottiere covers a "fighting man" type. 
Scholars are fairly distinct. They make a great option for the know-it-all archetypes and also gives a bonus mode of leveling up. 
But any of these choices could become a full fledged wizard with enough spells, knowledge, and a fancy robe and hat. 

Some final thoughts:

I'm considering adding one more class, though I'm not sure what it might be. Having an even 6 would be perfect for a d6 roll when you couldn't choose or if there was some reason to pick one randomly. I'm thinking of making it possibly fill in the same niches left by the carvergirl- so some unique twist on a roguish or ranger-guide type of character. 
This might also add a neat way to add new classes to the campaign: the table expands with more powerful classes as the party meets new and unique groups, but for the most powerful one's you have to roll on the table to even have a chance at getting.

Early and half-baked ideas for the 6th class include: something like a mix of ardent from 4e and the spiritualist from Pathfinder, some sort of very mundane "pet" class, some sort of "wild" survivalist, some sort of pickpocket.

Let me know what you think! What would you do differently? Would you enjoy getting to choose between these "classes" in a campaign? What do you think the final mini-kit should be?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Class Options: Deep and/or Wide?

Note: This post touches on the Throne of Salt post here and the Goblin Punch post here .

So something that's been on my mind as the days creep towards when I will once again sit down to run a table top game in PERSON is the relevance and purpose of classes in table-top RPG games.

I think Arnold summarized it pretty concisely- class choices represent a preferred play-style, and encourage that play-style mechanically.

Rogues stealth good, fighters fight good, wizards magic good, and that's all the classes there ever were in the history of ever so we can all go home.  /s

Many games I've played assume that a given group of players will have different preferences and thus the official content for those games is "balanced" around challenging (but not killing or otherwise removing) a number of players in some sort of "default" party composition (fighter, cleric, wizard, rogue being the most popular go to I've seen). The idea behind this design seems to be to dish out an even amount of "fun", allowing each player character to have particular challenges they are uniquely suited to solve. I'm throwing balance out the window for once so none of those concerns are present and I can get a bit weirder with whatever class options I want.

But as I consider what rules to use for this new game (some sort of unholy hack) I'm struck by a choice- do I go classless a la Knave, do I go "classic", or something else entirely? What will be the most fun for both me and my new players?

Here's some of the options I'm considering~

Option 1: Classless- "The Knaves"

Everyone begins the same and can become anything they want. Play-style and progression are determined by factors outside classes such as equipment. I might do some variation of "earning" or "unlocking" different abilities normally assigned to classes through play.

Option 2: The "Classics" 

Some variation of Magic User/Fighting Man/Specialist/ETC. Nothing too weird, just your basic fantasy tropes. Maybe even as many as 5e, but that'd be a stretch. What Skerples called "Extras" in a recent post (link). I'm looping them all in together since the idea is that the classes are pretty familiar even if you aren't an experienced fantasy veteran.

Option 3: The Wide Open GLOG/"Pathfinder"

A big honk'n list o' classes. Kinda like a "Classics+". Weird stuff, working with the players to determine just how weird things get. Void Monks. Angry Geese. Mute Exorcists. Devil Nuns.

The characters place in the world and societal hierarchy would probably be determined after the fact. Like if someone picked a Biomancer I would then have to decide how popular biomancer's are and if they're illegal and things of that sort.

An important point here is that I don't have to make that choice until the players make their class choices. I'd probably make a fairly large list with very brief descriptions to give a general idea, and then just see what the players want to play. In that way, the player's get to help world-build a bit and I can relax and just focus on whatever the character's want to see in the game.

Option 4: A few unique choices- "The Carvergirls"

This is basically the opposite of Option 3. I'd make or pick a small number of unique classes and present them as the only options.  The idea is novel for my games but something that I've actually read a fair bit about before- putting a hard constraint on the number of classes, but making those classes unique to the setting. Games like Spire and Blades in the Dark do this well in my opinion- they put a spin on those traditional sneaky/fighty/magical archetypes and make players learn some new names while sharing a bit about the setting.

You can't be a Rogue, but you can be a Shadow Accountant and Shadow Accountants have their own lore and setting expectations and ability progression that either adheres to or subverts whatever you'd expect a rogue-type character to be. Those changes may or may not be expressed through the mechanics and should definitely be expressed through character interactions if done well.

Just as people probably have opinions about Rogues in most "D&D" settings, they should probably be equally opinionated about Shadow Accountants in whatever setting you use them in.

And now, a rant about the Genius of Carvergirls.

The class just drips with flavor. The post says everything you need to know about them without a single paragraph of "lore". It doesn't ask you to "please read this lore I wrote", it opens up your mouth and shoves it down your throat. It kinda reminds me of some of the better SCP's, a formulaic and slow-burn reveal in an unexpected format.

Carvergirls set a unique tone and opens up possibilities for a very specific game. Even if I made a change as simple as "Your three options for classes are wizard, fighter, and Carvergirl" that limitation would permeate through the rest of the game and fundamentally change the experience of the players at the table. The class deals with, to put it lightly, some real dark shit.
It's inclusion is therefore not a decision to take lightly, and something I have to seriously consider if I'm going to take the route of Option 4 and craft/curate a small set of classes the players are limited to choose from. 

"Women and men; soldiers and outlaws; fools and corpses. All will find their way to us now that the road is clear"

I suppose I could also do some sort of "class unlock" but I don't know how to do that well.

Right now I'm leaning more towards Option #1 and maybe some weird combo of Options #3 and 4. 

I also have no idea about how high-lethality will tie into any of this, as it's my first long-term "OSR" "campaign".

Also if it wasn't obvious I'm real excited for Unicorn Meat.

What's your take on all this? How do you do classes in your game? I'm open to and appreciate any advice anyone might have!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Ravenous Grab Bag- A "Live Blog" of Stormwrack and things I like in it

To give a little background of my TTRPG history, I've been playing table-top games in the D&D tradition for about a decade now. I began with 4th edition and have slowly worked my way backwards, running and playing in a large variety of game systems and formats.

As the years have gone on my RPG collection has grown quite large. Something I find helpful from time to time is to scour the depths of my lesser or even unused books for ideas and concepts that would be cool to implement in the games I run *right now*.

There is a *lot* of good content out there and sometimes I get a kick out of hyper-focusing on a single author or product and using it as an "idea farm" and I thought it might be interesting to record that process.

So here's what I'm going to do

I'm going to read/"liveblog" an RPG book. Much of my collection is from 3rd edition/Pathfinder which is not the system I currently play, so the actually mechanical stuff will be looked over in favor of what I could conceptually use or adapt.

There will be much skimming.
I'll probably miss stuff.
It'll be very stream of consciousness/rambly.
There will be some snark.

At the end, I'm going to make a list of "things I would steal and use in my games RIGHT NOW*" and then maybe also a list of "things that are cool but maybe not my style at the moment but would definitely be happy to play in a game with or may reference in the future or whatever my dudes"

For reference, right now my rule-set of choice are a Knave/GLOG hack-in-progress of my own making. I also have a 5e Ghostwalk inspired campaign ongoing as well.

I'm going to do the 3.5 book Stormwrack first as it happens to be the nearest book and I vaguely remember liking it. Its supposed to be stuff for an aquatic campaign.


Authors are Richard Baker, Joseph D. Carriker, and Jennifer Clarke Wilkes.

TL:DR of "Good Stuff" at the bottom

Chapter 1 "Into The Maelstrom" 

A Poe quote as the opener.  Some generalities about ...water, I guess.

Oh this is cool. - "Adventuring in or around the water revolves around one of four basic themes: the water obstacle, the seafaring adventure, the mythic-island adventure, and the underwater adventure."

It's somewhat obvious in hindsight but I appreciate the categorization and it might be helpful to structure water adventures I guess.

There's some explanations and definitions that go on a bit too long. I know what a Lake is, thank you very much.

Some very fiddly rules about salt water vs fresh water. I don't really miss the exhaustive rules part of 3rd edition.

PLANAR bodies of water you say?

Elemental Plane of Water has no surface and big ole' bubble cities. Apparently though if you go through the right portal on a ship you can end up on the *inside* of a bubble pocket and sail around the inner-bubble-border which is pretty dope. Visually it's cool to picture a setting inside a bubble surrounded by water and looking up to see pirate ships sail above you upside-down.

This is interesting - "PORPHATYS - The fifth layer of Carceri is a infinite string of worldlets covered in cold, shallow oceans over which acidic black snow perpetually falls"

I like infinite black acid snow. Feels like the type of ocean that would fit the aesthetics of Monsieur's Thawing Kingdom.

The rest of the planar stuff is mostly just Styx and its contemporaries in heaven and elf heaven (Elysium).

Next is some very involved rules about various water hazards. I'm only lightly skimming this part.

Some rules for diseases and such. Nothing speaks to me much.

Here we go: Supernatural dangers.

Airy/Airless water does what it sounds like it does.
Dead Calm- kinda interesting when combined with "Suntouch". Big pocket of stillwater and heat that makes you insane.
Maelstrom: its a super hurricane with supernatural origins.
Stormfire: It's ghost-lightning-fire that magically combusts when someone touches it. Huh.

Even more rules for....terrain this time. Yawn.

Sargasso's are cool. Kelp forests you can walk on.

Some rules for navigation that are very long and involved.

Some rules clarifying how spells interact with ships. Weird and seems unnecessary. It's like a whole page of "Yes, this FIRE spell can start a FIRE. No, this other FIRE spell cannot* start a FIRE".

20 adventure ideas:
Mostly very generic but with an aquatic twist. X is guarding Y but underwater.

What the hell is an ixitxachitl? googles ah yes, the evil intelligent literal-stingrays, right.

Here's the quest hooks I actually like:
A dark, still lake in the jungle is said to hold tons of gold sacrificed to a strange lake god.
A mysterious storm batters a port for months without abating.

Both of them fit into pretty much any world without the assumption that the characters have to be "heroes" to hold an interest.

Chapter 2: Races of the Sea

First up is the Aventi. They're...basically just humans from "not-Atlantis". Mutated by a patron sea god who gave them aesthetically pleasing fins. There's some adventure hooks that read like they came straight from literally any Aquaman comic.

Next is Darfellans. Orca people that are almost extinct. This is interesting "... darfellan society was a complex caste-based culture, but now too few survivors remain for a caste system to work. Still, darfellans are apt to categorize people by their occupation or function; learning someone’s job is more important than learning someone’s name." There's all these reference to being hunted by the Sahuagin but it doesn't say why, and in absence of an explanation I'm going to assume that orca-people are either delicious or produce whale-oil. Heh, one of the adventure hooks is just " The Seven Samurai..."

These society overviews are very thorough.

Third is Aquatic Elves which seem bland. Not enough weirdness, literally just Elves, BUT UNDERWATER!!

Hell yeah I almost forgot about Hadozee. WINGED. DECK. APES. Simians with patagial flaps. While they are very cool, there is very little else interesting about their society or background. They supposedly don't have a homeland they care about, like to work, and like other Hadozee. The adventure hooks are all very generic and have nothing to do with cool winged deck apes specifically, which makes me sad.

Here's a sub section for "regular fantasy races but they're on a ship now" AKA Seafaring Cultures.

"Salt-beards" is a good nickname for dwarfs. Amphibious frog-halflings are the other cool thing in this section but only get like half a paragraph.

Chapter 3: Classes

Oh boy speed-reading time!

I thought I would find something but there's virtually no abilities or prestiges I find interesting in the least. Moving on.

Chapter 4: Skills and Feats

Speed reading again.

Here's a feat that let's you use channel-energy to turn the water black-and-cold. 

"Flying-Fish Leap" technique would actually be dope as a quest reward.

And...that's it.

Chapter 5: Ships and Equipment

So many rules. A list of ship types. Some cool art for an "Elf Wingship". There's also Theurgeme, which is a "boat with magic oars". 

Some ship weapons, nothing new I can see.

Water-appropriate Armor section for characters.  
Living coral is cool, its a medallion that grows coral over you like armor, dies at sundown and regrows at sunup. Acts like plate armor and stings people who touch it which seems badass but also a little impractical.

Next is water-appropriate Weapons. 

Skipping blades are shurikens you skip on the water, very fantasy ninja, I like it.

Next is some mundane equipment. Why are pirate hats so expensive!?!?!

Chapter 6: Spells and Magic Items

One of the deity names is "Blipdoolpoop" and I love it.

Some spells:

Urchin Spines is cool (2nd level). You just...grow urchin spines.

Sink-ship (called Depthsurge) is an 8th level spell. That seems a bit high to me but I don't remember much about 3e balance.

Summon-demon-kraken is 9th level, but really* seems underpowered.

Flowsight is 5th level and just "alternative scrying" but sticks out to me as interesting because of its limitations- you touch a body of water and scry on anything in contact with it.

Megaladon Empowerment is a badass name for a spell.

Siren's Call is a 4th level "Command: Drown Yourself" spell that's kinda dark.

Stormwalk (6th level) is one of the weirdest teleportation spells I've read with multiple steps. Basically you summon TWO storms, one where you are and one where you want to be. Then you poof and 10 minutes later you pop into a random spot somewhere the storm was "touching". It specifically lists that you could show up somewhere on top of a castle, but not inside it. Freaky.

Blood-to-seawater (4th level) is cool flavor for a damaging spell but doesn't do anything else interesting. 

There's some epic-level shenanigans and psionic powers too but none of them strike me as particularly noteworthy or relevant to the sort of games I run.

Next is the Magic Items section.

Some mechanical bonus enchantments....

I like the Sharkdoom Spear- hit things with it to make them sink. 

There's a bag of teeth that turns into piranhas. Single use. Its kinda cool.

I do love a figurine of wondrous power: this one is a giant pearl sea-turtle used as transport, either ridden or used to pull a boat.

A living figurehead for ships do a variety of things, like breath weapons or make the ship fly. Classic but good.

Heh, the Sails of Displacement work like a displacer beast effect for the whole ship. That's awesome. Would make a great piratey magic item for Skerples' pirate crawl.

Chapter 7: Monsters

Blackskates are cool- they're undead manta rays made from random bones/scales/cartilage. Blend on the sea floor and can track prey across the whole ocean once they've had a taste of its blood.

Hammerclaws are a giant lobster/pistol shrimp hybrid.

Ramfish are cool conceptually but the art is a bit dorky.

Seawolves are a weird werewolf-shark mashup. Not a were-shark, but a shark-with-a-wolf-head-that-can-turn-into-a-human. Also they turn you into one if they bite you.

Giant Diving-Spiders are scary.

Good-gracious this book is long.

Chapter 8: Adventure Locales

First is a pirate ship run by goblin-wererats and goes into detail on their tactics. It's ok. The whole ship is basically a trap. There's also a bunch of rat-swarms that obey the captain which is neat. 

Next is an island with a sea-witch coven.

Then there's an adventure about some Sahuagin and another one about an evil storm giant that makes it's own Bermuda triangle thing.

The book ends with some encounter tables.


Fuck I'm tired.


  • An underwater bubble city/civ with localized gravity that treats its borders like the surface of water is a cool alternative to "wet outside not wet inside".
  • Grey-shallow oceans where infinite amounts of acid-snow falls is good.
  • Those two quest hooks of "A bunch of gold at the bottom of a black lake in the middle of the jungle" and "An infinite storm harrying a nearby port" are probably going on my rumor table. They aren't groundbreaking but feel pretty good.
  • I really like the Hadozee (Simian race with flying-squirrel flaps), but would need to write a unique culture/civ for them since they don't really have one
  • Skipping Blades/Living Coral Armor Medallions/Sharkdoom Weapons/Bag of Teeth can go on a treasure horde somewhere.
  • Urchin Spines and Stormwalk are good spells that would fit without much tinkering
  • Displacer Sails makes me want to start a list of ship-specific fantasy magic stuff just in case my players ever drop everything and go be pirates like I keep telling them to
  • The Goblin-wererat ship is deece

Bonus Ruminations:

It wasn't super easy to comb through and find relevant stuff. I had forgotten just how much of 3e supplements were just numbered rules for stuff. I'm very tired but this whole thing made me appreciate the sleek layout, design, and focus on utility that you see in alot of OSR products. Next time I should probably pick one of the books that have more stuff for players who aren't pirates.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Wytch-Guard Contracts

There are a few ways for those without formal wizard-education to get access to magical abilities. You can make a pact with an Arch-Fey or Demon, you can try drugs or other illicit substances, you can try mixing a few raw-spells together and/or other generally unpredictable and likely dangerous methods.

You can also become a Wytchguard. It's not safe, but it is predictable.

See, Wizards are a different sort of noble-folk on their own. Court-mages and War-mages alike don't have to worry about food, shelter, or any of the peasant-needs that drive the rest of the populace.

To become a wizard though, you need to spend at least* half your life studying the Arcane Language.

But all that time exercising your brain to prepare it for the raw elements of creation leaves many wizards and would-be-wizards frail, delicate bodies in need of protection.

That's where you come in.

The Wizard Colleges, wealthy as they are in influence and power, often find themselves rather lacking in monetary currency (spell components can be expensive after all).

However, they do find themselves rich in spells and the ways of magic.

How it All Works 

A wizard in need posts a job to the town caller or job-board, if one exists. Say, a mage wants their apprentice to go make some etchings of an ancient language in a nearby, monster-filled ruin. Sure, they could just hire some adventurers to do it directly in exchange for the promise of "future favors", but wizards are notoriously paranoid and suspicious, even of their own apprentices.

There may be a short interview process, but the mage probably doesn't care terribly much about the life of their apprentice and so they may simply approve the first group that applies.

An interested party, experienced or not, contacts the wizard. The wizard draws up a contract with some law-magic. Maybe there's some negotiation, but wizards are notoriously stubborn. The terms vary with the legal-expertise and cruelty of the wizard, but typically looks something like the following:

  1. You agree to protect the life of the person of interest until a certain condition has been met.
  2. In exchange, the magic in the contract etches a rune in your brain that allows the raw-casting or empowerment of spells without the aid of a scroll or other magical implement.
  3. If you violate the contract or fail the job, the rune "burns out" and you lose the abilities (Magic-Dice, to the GLOG-informed), become worse at casting spells due to the fire-headaches, and your sword-hand becomes blackened and shriveled and unusable.

That's pretty much the crux of it. Protect this person- get the ability to cast spells from your head or get better at it if you already can. Lose a hand and the magic dice if you fail.

You can only benefit from a Wytchguard contract once, though once you complete it you keep the mind-rune (magic dice) forever. Once you've proven yourself by completing your first Contract, you will likely be sought out by one of the many traditional mercenary-wizard knight orders. They always seem to be in need for more capable recruits and perform more involved tasks for powerful wizards in return for rare-spells and knowledge.

If you want even more spells you can try to form a Wytchguard Order or company of your own, but the established Wytchguard organizations frown upon the possibility of even more competition.

Failed Wytch-guardians typically take to becoming beggars and drunks. If you do see what looks to be a capable adventurer with a black and shriveled hand or one-arm, you should probably listen to what they have to say carefully, as unwise mercenaries without a sword-hand don't tend to live long.

Art by Bruno Leblanc

d20 Wytchguard Company Names (organically sourced from the OSR discord)

  1. Order of the Staff
  2. Order of the Cloak 
  3. Order of the Scroll
  4. Order of the Knuckle-Bones
  5. Order of the Sigil
  6. Order of the Arcane-Eye
  7. Order of the Sword-Flesh
  8. Order of the Dimension-Door
  9. The War-Rune Consortium
  10. The Octarine Watchmen
  11. The Unseen Union
  12. The Extra-Mundane Legion
  13. Spell-Sword Legate
  14. Tongue-Holders
  15. Living Corpse-Bone Society
  16. Guild of Wizardly Gentlemen
  17. Conjurers of Cheap-Tricks
  18. Fraternity of the Pointed-Hat
  19. Mr. Bigby's Society of Barbers, Surgeons, and Wizardly Assistants.
  20. Lady Darby's Company of Discrete Arcane Assistance

Plot Threads:

  • A wizard puts out a call for a Wytchguard contract. They want guards for their familiar, an ornery blink-dog, while the wizard goes on vacation. The wizards rivals will probably all try to kill the dog and the dog will do it's best to escape.
  • A Wytchguard Company reaches out to a group that's recently completed their first contracts. They offer magical blades in return for maps and magical reagents collected from a nearby cave. The cave is shrouded in an ancient zone of anti-magic and guarded by an undead ettin with both a ghoul-head and a ghost-head.
  • Rumor has it that there's a one-armed blademaster searching for new pupils to teach her unique art. She lives on the top of a dangerous nearby mountain that's home to several vulture-drakes and harpies, but failed wytch-guards might be the perfect students.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

I Guess I'll Make An Adventure Too

I have the Tome of Adventure Design. I haven't used it yet. I saw a post from wr3ckingb8ll here and felt inspired.

I've got few minutes so I'm going to give this a shot!

1-3 Type of Mission: (5) Individual
1-4 Individual Based Mission [40] Entrap or Sting a [16] Criminal/Outlaw
1-8 Patron [594] Money lender (Victim of Swindle)
1-9 Patron motivation [26] Gain status over [89] Spouse(?!)
1-10 Hooks and Motivations [13] bonuses to saving throws [15] informed of quest by friend/mentor/relative of a character
1-11 Villain motivation- random acts , [93] nature changes according to [95] temperature cycle
1-35 minion - [38]magic user [95] rude and arrogant [28] deceived to real nature of activities

Lot to parse here. 

So: a friend of the party tells them of a moneylender whose been a victim of a swindle. They want to hire the party to entrap or sting their own spouse in order to gain status over them. The spouse transforms (maybe mystically, maybe not) according to changes in temperature. They have a minion who is a magic user who's been deceived of their true nature. I don't know how the reward ties in just yet.

Making this make sense a bit: 

My gut says that the "minion" is the one who swindled the money lender. We'll say the money lender is the husband and his wife has some sort of mythical curse. We'll say she's unrecognizable in her "changed form", and powerful enough that she can convince the MU to work for her. I'll also say the entrap/sting part is less about catching her in any particularly nefarious scheme and more about the relationship between her and this arrogant Magic User, and convincing THEM of her real nature is the end goal for all this.
I'm gonna roll on the table for "Monsters" to see if I get anything interesting or informative about this changed form.

Type: [17] Draconic 
Unusual Physical Feature: [18] Mane of Hair
Unusual Ability: [33] Hidden, can conceal itself in unusual places
Breath Weapon: [48] disease with [91] grenade-ball delivery


I'll do a location too since I feel like it.  In table 1-2 I got [35] fire- [10]caverns.

Ok. So there's a woman. As long as the temperature is above 50 degrees farenheit or so, she's totally normal. Whenever it drops below that, she disappears, and this dragon-like monster takes her place.

Her husband knows about this curse/biomancy-gone-wrong and makes sure to set aside enough money each year that they can head to warmer clients in the winter months (away from his money-lending business).

But then they got swindled by a magic user who didn't pay back a rather large loan. He had an experiment go wrong or something and refuses to pay. Now it's Winter and the couple does not have the funds to afford safe travel (the roads are quite dangerous?). Wife is stuck in permanent dragon form. 

Wife-Dragon-Thing can hide in the shadows despite its large size and can spit huge mucus balls that carry disease.

The beast-side has bullied the magic user into working for it- it wishes to have enough ever-ice that it can live through the warm months without changing back into the woman. The ingredients are being stolen from someone/something else (outlaw/bandit) . There might be a bounty on the dragon-thing but there's no description.

The moneylender is broke, but has a large stash of hair saved from the beasts' form over the years (It has a long, beautifully conditioned mane it leaves behind whenever the wife comes back). He suspects it is magical, and anyone with magic abilities can detect that clothing or scarves worn from it can help resist disease (the saving throw reward).

He has the beginnings of a plan- the only place hot enough in this cold winter to change his wife back is deep within the fire caverns (itself a large dungeon complex). He wants the party to get his wife to change back in full view of the magic user so he will realize what's going on and possibly help the couple find out a better solution (or at least stop making ever-ice).

Alternatively- the party can attempt to accost or trap the dragon as it steals regents necessary to make ever-ice, but it'll fight back fiercely.

It's...sparse and I don't love it, but I also don't hate it and it only took my lunch hour to come up with. I like the "story" that emerged naturally from the table results and I'm curious if another lunch-storming session might help. I think something is here though, it just needs some more polishing. I really love getting to use the product though.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Chitinites of Stone and Shell

An incomplete and roiling land lay bare as a metal object from beyond the stars fell upon it, far before the time the gods would complete their work. The machine breaks, scattering parts all over the unfinished earth, but the core central structure remains intact.

A strange consciousness flickers within alien alloy walls. It remembers, and opens the cryocaskets. The sound of chittering mandibles fills the cold air. The Chitinites and their master, OD1N, have arrived.

A Brief History of the Chitinites

Though they were part of the Land of Stone and Shell for countless millennia, the Chitinites (as they refer to themselves) remained isolated for most of recorded history, quietly mastering and repairing the myriad of technology within The Ark. One of the earliest confirmed excursions of the Chitinites from within the Ark was to build a "backup" bunker of sorts, a failsafe called Phalbach.

During the early days of Man, a coral-tripod abducted several Chitinites and began a twisted series of experiments, eager to know what lay beneath the strange creatures exoskeletons. The experiments yielded the first Elves, who promptly over-powered and killed their creator before wandering the land in a haze, their memories wiped during the same experiments that had stripped them of their shells. Their descendants became the wandering Bales of elves still around today.

Most of the records of Chitinites are handed down from the Luxi (the Winged-Sun worshipers of the Southern-most Mountains), as they forged a secret alliance with the chittering ones during the Wars. Myth and Legend boldly states that it was a Chitinite who sat upon the Ironmost Throne in Nexus to command the Iron Company to take back the Luxi city of Illuceo from the demon armies.  Supposedly, they were also the first to advance the assault on the Kavalares forces, and it was during the battles against the Flayed Horde that they lost many of their soldiers and once again retreated into isolation within their Ark, where they once again wait and plan.

A bard once told me that Phalbach was inside the strip of land that the Gob-father turned into the Bountiful Channel, and that it fell out of his pocket on his travels to the Hidden Continent. I'm not sure if I believe them.

It's not impossible to see the odd Chitinite mercenary, but it is extremely unusual.

A Chitinite Vanguard during the Wars 

The Culture of the Bales

"Bale" is the term for one of the many nomadic, hereditary- tribal groups of Elves that wander the Land of Stone and Shell.  They tend to form caravans and never settle down in a single location for very long. While each Bale has their own name, custom, and traditions, they all take orders from an order called the King-Bale, a democratically elected council made of members from multiple Bales. While each Bale is largely self-governing, they all look to the King-Bale for matters like disputes between Bales or difficult decisions that effect many Bales as a whole.

While different Bales will often specialize in different services, such as trapping, weather-forecasting, and music, a great many Elves have a deep longing for the stars and become experts in the many sciences and magicks of concerning the stars and spaces between worlds. Astrology, astronomy, and astrophysics are some of the more popular studies, and many elves become Star Scholars or   Thaumonauts.

Any Elves unable to keep up with the caravan are transported to the Hidden Continent, wherein lies Azila, the home of the King-Bale and a place of hospice for the unwell.

(Image source is "Feathers" by Jon-Lock)

What they look like:

Chitinites are the epitome of grace. Mandibles and shimmering exoskeletons. Huge eyes. Antennae. Most are between 6-7 feet tall, but Ark Delvers report that larger, mute Chitinites guard the innermost regions of the ruins and can be twice the size of a typical Chitinite while maintaining their grace and dexterity. Laymen call the shorter ones "Chitinous Elves" and the larger ones "Chitinous Ogres".

Elves have inherited the slimness of form and grace from their ancestors. They have long, pointed ears (apparently some sort of twisted replacement for the Chitinite antennae), large but not-monstrous eyes, and delicate but very expressive features.

What they wear:

Chitinites tend to wear exotic armor made of strange metals. Many times helmets or scarves will cover up some of the more unusual features of a mercenary to allow them to move about at least somewhat more conspicuously then they'd be able to otherwise.

Elves tend to wear practical, loose fitting clothing and good boots. Many have scarves that depict galaxies and celestial objects that seem to mysteriously move with the clothing. As with many things, style differs wildly between each individual Bale.

What they sound like:

Chitinites click and clack as they move and try to speak. Their throats are not made for mammalian speech and on the rare occasions they do attempt to speak it is raspy, harsh, and barely understandable. They do have their own language, though they don't teach it to outsiders and it would be nearly impossible to speak without a set of mandibles.

Elves speak with a near-monotone voice and have difficulty conveying emotion through words alone.

What others think of them:

+Pragmatic, rare, graceful
-Dangerous, dirty, godless


As Elves. Use Ogres for Chitinous Ogres with a bonus to stealth. Give the Chitinites a laser pistol/a jetpack/some other anachronistic piece of technology. (I might think of better stats later)

Plot Threads:

  • Rare treasures scatter the Badlands outside the Ark, though many dangers make retrieval a dangerous tasks. Unique monsters, the heat, and rival Knaves are some of the most common threats.
  • The Hidden Continent, also called "Elven-Home", can now be discovered with some amount of accuracy as the  mystical fog barriers surrounding it have weakened. Now, nations and explorers from all nations are making a mad dash to the continent, unknown to the Chitinites and Elves who reside there.
  • A traveling Bale caravan has arrived outside town. They predict that a hurricane will soon wipe out the village and it's residents unless the townsfolk evacuate. The Mayor and the townspeople are refusing to listen to the "godless insects" and worse, have captured the Bale's leader under charges of heresy and trickery. Now the two groups are at one another's throats, violence has broken out, and a very literal storm may or may not be looming in the distance