Tuesday, January 24, 2017

My DCC Campaign Snippets #2

Here are the last snippets that I sent via Whastapp to my players before really starting my 2nd DCC RPG campaign. There’re also a few specific snippets about deserted villages and beastmen attacks, all as a prelude to Sailors of the Starless Sea. There’re many (obvious) links to DCC RPG modules below, because my idea was to use as many official adventure as possible, while planting the seeds for a campaign.

# 5 The Council of Elders from Skaeth is a distinguished, juristic, unadventurous and – ergo – absurdly depressing institution. Like other subjects of the Duchy, the Council preaches the Cannon of Ophysis, the Thrice-Blessed, the most famous historian from the Fallen Empire. The great Ophysis was – of course – born blind, deaf and mute, the reason why he was spared the destruction inflicted upon his kind by the gods of Law when the last Emperor summoned the Doom That Broke the World. “Ever since” – so wrote Ophysis – “the Dominion of Man has slowly but surely receded. Land is surrendered and villages are abandoned, while things walk in the woods, craving the houses of Man”. Today, the last cities of the North are walled against the Chaos that consumes the borders of the World. The Return of the Elves (and their dreaded King) is but the first Sign, as is the Dusk of the Dwarves. That the Halflings (those burrow-digging gluttons) still fornicate like rabbits is a testimonial of their allegiance to Chaos – or so preach the clerics of Damus, the Sinking Port.

# 6 The Elves are the Children of the Twilight – those wilds between the Dominion of Man and the weird Warrens of Chaos. Numberless, byzantine and arcane are the castes and tongues of the Elves. It’s known that Elvenkind deal with demons, fell spirits and Things from the Warrens in the same way that mortal Man deal with his lords and fellow countrymen. That Elves are otherworldly is obvious given that iron is their bane. Elves are also known to use imps, gnomes and goblins as servants, currency, moving furniture, living memory and – as is told by the Dwarf of Oldgrind – for reproduction. However, this last bit of gossip is clearly untrue, because everyone knows that Elves steal the daughters of Man (and that Dwarves mate with rocks sculpted in the likeliness of small rotund women). Halflings? Well, those depraved creatures can mate with anything as far as most decent people are aware…

# 7 Just as the Rune of Chaos has eight spores, there’re eight cardinal points. North, South, East and West are followed by Khaouth, Douth, Morteast and Voist. The fact that most sane people are ignorant about half the cardinal points gives you a clear idea about the kind of places that warlocks, wizards and sorcerer get their heads into. Khaouth is, clearly, the cardinal direction for Chaos, the antithesis of the Dominion of Man (which lies – logically – at Morteast). Contrary to popular belief, Khaouth doesn’t lies in the North. By following the Wyrd Star, which is invisible, one can go in the Khaouthern direction. Douth is the cardinal point leading to the Underworld (wizards and necromancers adamantly argument that this isn’t the same as “Down”). Voist is the cardinal point to the Overworld and the Darkness Between the Heavens. Morteast, just to be clear, is the direction to the Dominion of Man. Now, if you can easily follows Khaouth, Douth, Morteast and Voist, then probably you’re a gentlemen also fluent in Aklo, acknowledged with the existence of the Hidden 13th Month, and able to distinguish the colors Blue, Red, Dolm and Jale. Congratulations! 

# 8 And finally let’s talk about the greatest threat to the ordinary man’s life – the Nobility. At least the Duke lives far, in Great Magnussen, and the Crown lies lost in the south – at the deserts of the Fallen Empire (with the King’s still leaving head attached to it, if you believe certain pirate tales). The last scion of the cursed bloodline of Liis disappeared a generation ago in the swamps. Meanwhile, Lord Gormen still rules over fogged Crac-Ghast – as drunk today as 10 years ago, when he returned from the Cave of Secrets (thus ending the shortest errant knight career in the Duchy). We also have the Four Houses of Oldgrind, the vast Crac-Lacrimodrac, the guardians at Vigil Castle, the Dunkeleisen of Dunkeleisenstein and – finally! – the Margrave of Damus (probably the wealthiest and fattest man in the North). And all those herein quoted are cousins by old and incestuous degrees. And please let’s not even mention their most evil scheme – taxes! Oh, the horror, the horror!

# 9 There’re several altars, small shrines and even a church or two at Skaeth and surroundings. Everyone at the village knows about Father Illard and his “devotion” to Ulesh (he vowed never to drink water but only consume the white wine of the Serene Goddess). And there is the altar to Iustia in the Council of Elder’s Hall (and, it’s said, a second altar lies in the cellar, dedicated to the Hidden One). Everyone has seen the Black Mother's straw dolls in the fields and the Moonstones in the woods – and knows that both shouldn’t be disturbed. And everyone also knows that you ought to pay your respects to the Lady of Ravens, or her feathered children will bestow the Plague upon you. Traveling merchants tell of the impossible high temples of the First Father at Magnussen; and at Damus you can see the red zealots of the Veiled Vengeance, clad in steel. But very few know about Choranus, the true Creator; or about Shull of the Four Faces; even less about Ulesh of the Last Sleep, Gorhan Ironveiled or bloody Klazath. There’re also darker powers, the lords of Chaos – Names like Nimlurun, the Impure One, or Malatoch, the Endless Hunger. But there’re yet Others – elder entities from before Law or Chaos. Outer essences from whose dreams Law and Chaos came forth. The point is: the common folk know nothing of the true powers of the World. And they’re blessed for that. The demands and rites of true deities are too much for ordinary Man. Even among the cults of such gods, for every 100 initiates, only 9 become acolytes. From those 9, only one becomes a true priest – a cleric. These’re the ruthless ones, the zealots and madmen. They’re the witch-hunters, the crusaders, the invokers and prophets of the True Powers. They’re hardest bastards you’ll ever meet.

# 10 The most famous wizards of the Duchy you ask? Many know a local adept or wise man/woman. At Damus, the Sinking Port, you can find scores of diviners, wax witches, tephramancers and lesser arcanists. But the genuine practitioners of the Arts are rare. The leper-sages of Pyj are known for their mastery of curses, but live far. Closer to Skaeth we have the feared Emerald Sorcerer with his House in the hills. There’re those who believe that Emirikol, the Mad, is the greatest wizard of the North. After all, few in Damus can ignore a shudder while gazing at the Shifting Tower. Others debate that Leotah, the Ironmaiden, is strongest one. Sages and historians alike prefer older sources – the legends about the Seer-King Darjr and his Tower-beyond-the-Moon; the wiles of the enchantress Erodiade; and the awful truths of the accursed scribe Al-Hazred, the Mad. The rabble have their own tales, many of which must be whispered far from the authorities – like the famous story about the First Duke of Magnussen and his pact with a devil. And speaking of devils, let’s not forget the Devil Himself – Sezrekan, the Wicked. His Names is still not said aloud, for the Doom That Broke the World might still be around. After all, Sezrekan was none other than the Imperial Archmage; personal adviser to the Last Emperor.

And then we started our little DCC campaign…

Friday, January 20, 2017

DCC RPG and Arn, the Unlucky

Because of DCC RPG’s Funnel magic*, one of the PCs in my current DCC campaign is known as Arn, the Unlucky (or as “Arn, o Azarado”, which sounds a lot funnier in Portuguese).

*The Funnel magic is, of course, DCC’s wonderful and original approach to the classic “3d6 in order”. Basically, you roll a bunch of 0-level PCs, which go on an adventure! Those that survive the meat grinder become our “heroes” as 1st-level adventurers. Flawless.

Arn, the Unlucky is a 0-level character with rolled Luck 3 (he also rolled “Born under the loom” as his augury, which mean he add his Luck modifier to ALL his skill checks… hehehe). So, as you can see, in a “normal RPG”, Arn would be almost unplayable. But – hey! – this is f**cking DCC RPG! To the party’s (and Judge) delight, he survived!

Having reach 1st level, Arn’s player decides to turn him into a “badass” Warrior. In DCC RPG, each Warrior (your usual Fighter in other d20 games) can choose a “lucky weapon”. While using his “lucky weapon”, a Warrior can add his Luck modifier to all attack rolls. You can imagine that in Arn’s case, this would be his “unlucky weapon” – the one thing he would never touch. After all, he has Luck 3 and that would mean a -3 modifier to attack rolls. I didn’t want to “erase” a class feature, so here’s what I offered to Arn’s player…

…what if Arn’s bad luck was as dangerous to him as to his enemies? (And yes, I like to create unique mechanics to suit each player’s PC.)

Arn’s player accepted my offer, so I created this unique class feature:

Unlucky Weapon: choose one weapon (like great axe). Every time Arn wields such weapon and rolls a natural 1-4 on his attack attack roll he automatically suffers a Fumble (i.e. a critical failure), but so does his adversary.

It’s a gamble mechanic. Your PC suffers a critical failure, but your enemy also must roll on the dreaded Fumble table.

To give you an idea, in our last DCC session (we’re playing The One Who Watches From Below), Arn attacked a wolf. He chooses to wield his “unlucky weapon" – a longsword – and rolled a 4. He missed, but decided to turn that miss into a Fumble. His check in the Fumble table was that he lost his weapon and took a -2 penalty to attack rolls. The wolf’s Fumble result was that his “weapon” was entangled in the enemy’s “armor”. After a bit of talk (Arn was without armor), we decided that the wolf’s jaw was locked in the unlucky warrior’s ass. This was great, because Arn was trying to guard a door passage from the wolf while his friends escaped (there’s also a gorilla… it was a crazy day).

Thus, Arn managed to save the party, buying time for his Dwarf ally to kill the wolf (whose jaw was still locked in Arn’s ass, which resulted in more laughs).

And the entire point of this post is to reiterate the inherent awesomeness that is DCC RPG!

Monday, January 16, 2017

My DCC Campaign Snippets

I’m running a new DCC campaign for my otherwise crunchy obsessed players (who love Pathfinder, 2d20 and similar systems). To my delight, DCC got its magic running and half of the group is in love with its simplicity and randomness – it’s hard to schedule “heavier” campaigns, so DCC has been a great change of pace to them (I have no idea why the other half of the table is still attending!).

I’m trying to keep the game light, so one player that can’t come this week can attend the next without problems. We’re playing late at night every 15 days and each session is about 2-3 hours most.

To properly “kickstart” the game and hook them in the DCC mood, I’m sending small snippets of setting through our Whatsapp gaming group at every few days.

The idea is to suggest a certain style and flavor, not really to detail a full setting.

As our first adventure, I used the Core Rulebook’s “The Portal Under the Stars”. Here are the short texts that I sent them a few days before the game (usually one or two snippets per day):

# 1 "The quiet village of Skaeth is known in the Duchy precisely because of its exceptional mediocrity – which can, perhaps, be attributed to the fact that Skaeth is the only known gerontocracy. The ruling Council of Elders makes sure that tradition and routine are the only gods in the Skaeth. Of course, all members of the Council are from outside the village. Some came from Oldgrind, others from Steps and – it’s whispered – some from the Sinking Port of Damus itself (after all, even the legendary Thieves' Guild needs a peaceful place to retire the greatest rogues of the North). Apart from that completely irrelevant fact, bucolic Skaeth is also known for two landmarks: the King's Eye ruins in the swamps and The Mountain (about which nothing must be said).

# 2 "Wizards are servants of Chaos, elven lovers, demon consorts and thieves who steal the Gods’ secrets (like that legendary devil, Ningauble.) All wizards are crazy – every single one of them! Take for example the infamous Emerald Sorcerer, who is reputed to abide in that loathsome House in the Old Road. You can identify a wizard by the third nipple they hide below their dirty cloaks (although some wizards have a tail instead of a third nipple). Know that wearing your clothes inside-out will protect you from a magician's cantraps. However, only iron truly works against sorcery. An iron stake driven through the left hand is the only method of permanently removing a wizard’s (or elf’s) magic. And finally, remember: always be educated to a magician and invite him in your house for tea or cake. If the invitation is accepted, he won’t be able to curse you. "

# 3 "The King’s Eye is a tall circle of menhirs, surrounded by swamps, in the hinterlands north of Skaeth. Local folklore tells that in the old days the Eye rested in the center of an island. The leprous-sages of Pyj teach that the menhir circle was built in the middle of the fabled Lake of Tears – but today the entire region is made of bogs and marshes. A few doomsayers believe that when the swamps finally drain into the Underworld, the stone seal of Eye will shatter, releasing the dead. However, the leprous-sages argue that circle got its names from the King of Elfland, that feared demon which is said to rule the Shores of Twilight, beyond the Dominion the Men. The Dwarf of Oldgrind spins a different tale: he calls the menhirs “Rhud'baruk” or “The Portal Under The Stars, saying that it belongs to the Swampfolk. Everyone in Skaeth and the Duchy knows the Swampfolk for their strange and alien ways (just look at their moss-colored skin, weird eyes and outlandish tongue!). Besides, Swampfolk are famous liars and fortune-tellers, with absurd anecdotes about a Dark Road and the Antipodean Lands (their homeland). Nobody in their right minds trust the Swampfolk. And few yet trust the Dwarf of Oldgrind, that ancient rascal.

# 4 "And finally we have The Mountain (about which nothing must be said). So, let’s not speak of it, or of its statues, nor of its tombs. And don’t even think about of the countless ravines, crevices and lone escarpments – all filled with graves."

Snippet #4 is an obvious hook for a certain adventure, which unfortunately the table has so far evaded.

I’ll translate the next snippets later. Hope you like them!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Thematic Versions of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook Races

OK, finally finish it. The last version of all Core Rulebook Races can be found here.

Now, I need to convince my players to try this madness...

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Thematic Pathfinder Races – Half-Elf

Finally, here's my last Thematic Race. Now, to the compiled PDF. I'll update entries previous to the half-orc and revise everything based on feedback (unfortunately I still couldn't playtest this idea).

Fluff here.

Characteristics: Half-elves are Medium-sized humanoids that count as both [human] and [elf] subtypes for any effect related to race. They have Speed 30 ft. and Low Light Vision.

Starting languages: Half-elves begin play speaking Common and Elven. Half-elves with high Intelligence scores can choose any languages they want (except secret languages, such as Druidic).

Basic Racial Traits
All half-elves start at 1st level with following traits:

Adaptability: once per day, instead of rolling a Skill Check, you can choose to use the Key Ability Score instead as the result. You’re considered to be trained in the Skill. If you still fail the Skill Check, you regain the use of this Racial Trait.

One of a Kind: once per day, you can reroll a Charisma Check or CHAR-based Skill Check.
I’m not sure if Handle Animal and Use Magic Device should be here, I don’t want to limit this Racial Trait to social encounters. Besides, it does give the impression that half-elves have strong and unique personalities.

Between Two Worlds: choose one Basic Racial Trait from the Human or Elf entry.

Bonus Racial Traits
Choose one Advanced Racial Trait as a bonus Racial Talent at 1st.

Racial Flaw
Choose one of the Flaws below.

Half-Breed: once per day, you can choose to have the worst combination of types, subtype and alignment against one effect. If your GM accepts this, you regain a daily use of any of your racial traits.
This Racial Flaw tries to reflect feeling that some half-elves have that their heritage is cursed.

Lone Wolf: once per day, you can try to survive 5 rounds of melee combat without any allies in your threatened area and without assistance. If GM approves the trouble, you regain a daily use of any of your racial traits.

Gregarious Creature: while in civilized locations you can choose one the following options – spend wealth to keep an extravagant lifestyle or to carouse (100-1.000 GP/level is a good suggestion) or trigger a random encounter while alone (you’re mistaken with someone or own a debt, for example). While away from civilization, you can choose to awake fatigued. Either option can be used and, if accepted by the GM, grant you an extra use of any racial trait for the next day (you don’t need to choose in advance).

Wanderer: after resting for 8 hours in the same place, you can choose to awake fatigued. Or you can convince your entire party not to sleep in the same spot. If your GM approves either option, you gain an extra use of any racial trait for the next day (you don’t need to choose in advance).

Advanced Racial Traits
Every time you gain an Ability Score Increase due to Level Advancement (4th, 8th, 12th, 16th and 20th) you can choose instead one of the traits below.

Bastard Blood: once per day, you can ignore your humanoid subtypes for one encounter (or about 5 minutes), if advantageous. If you spend 1 round next to another humanoid, you can always tell if he’s also a bastard, but not which kind (half-elf, half-orc, tiefling, aasimar etc.).

Best of Both Worlds: choose another Basic Racial Trait or a Bonus Racial Trait from the Human or Elf entry. You can only choose Bonus Racial Traits without requisites.

Envoy: once per day, before rolling a Diplomacy Skill Check, activate this trait. If you fail, your target’s attitude toward you improves by one step. If you succeed, it improves by two steps. If Diplomacy was impossible, you don’t spend your daily use.

Gifted: choose one Skill. You always have a number of ranks in that Skill equal to your character level. This Racial Trait can be taken more than once.
If you spent ranks in the chosen skill before gaining this racial trait, you get those points back.

Hard Choices: once per day, choose one character and a general type of action, like “Attack”, “Move”, “Cast a spell”, “Use a spell-like ability”, “Withdrawn” etc. The GM must accept the type of action. Until your next turn, if the chosen character executes the declared action (and he knows which is) you gain an attack of opportunity against him. You can’t use this Racial Trait on the same character twice. in the Requisite: 4th level.
A bastard’s life is tough and teaches a mix of dirty tricks and hard lessons. This Racial Trait, which may be a bit overpowered was made thinking on that.

Multitalented: choose a secondary class from Pathfinder Unchained’s Variant Multiclassing system. You gain the 1st and 3rd level secondary class features for that class. You can’t take levels in the chosen secondary class. This Racial Trait can be taken more than once; each time you buy it, you gain the next step of class abilities. Requisite: 4th level.
Yeah, I said I wouldn't use the Variant Multiclass system, but in the end here it is.

Scoundrel: once per day, as an immediate action, choose a character interacting with you through a Skill Check. He can’t add skill ranks or a class skill bonus in his next Skill Check. However, for the next 5 rounds, you must roll twice and pick the worst result on every Skill Check against him.

Staunch Ally: once per day, when you use the Aid Another action, the assisted character can automatically roll twice and pick the best result at any time during his next turn.

Underestimate me once: once per day, you can reroll any check or roll against a pure-blooded humanoid. However, in the next round, he gains a free reroll against you. You can’t use this Racial Trait against on same character twice.

Versatile: once per day, you substitute one save for another.
Good luck explaining how.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Thematic Pathfinder Races – Human

Fluff here.

Characteristics: Humans are Medium-sized humanoids [human]. They have Speed 30 ft.

Starting languages: Humans begin play speaking Common. Humans with high Intelligence scores can choose any languages they want (except secret languages, such as Druidic).

Basic Racial Traits
All humans start at 1st level with following traits:

Ambition: you gain 1 extra feat and additional skill rank at 1st level. You gain an additional skill rank whenever you gain a level.

Driven: once per day, if you fail a check by a margin of 5 or less, you can choose to succeed. After that, you suffer the fatigued condition, or another condition chosen by the GM.
This is a “success with cost” trait. The GM can freely choose the best condition for the situation. For example: Dazed, Prone, Staggered etc.

Fated: once per day, roll a d20. You can substitute any other d20 with the number you rolled, including rolls made against you by enemies which you’re aware.

Bonus Racial Traits
Choose one Advanced Racial Trait as a bonus Racial Talent at 1st.

Racial Flaw
Choose one of the Flaws below.

Pride: once per day, you can deny the assistance or help of a non-human ally or friend. In combat, you can renounce a mechanical benefit. If your GM approves, you regain a daily use of any of your racial traits.
Humans have an almost insane drive to prove themselves to the elder races.

Sins of Your Forbearers: once per day, another NPC gains a free reroll against you. If your GM approves, you regain a daily use of any of your racial traits.
Humans came to these lands in the past and did some horrible stuff.

Temptation: once per day, you can choose to fail a Wisdom Check or a Will save. If your GM approves, you regain a daily use of any of your racial traits.
If you’re open minded, you can activate this Racial Flaw if a player accepts an offer of power or do something stupid (like suffering an attack of opportunity) to get a powerful magic item.

Perfectionist: failure only fuels your determination. Once per day, after rolling a 1 on a d20, you regain a daily use of any of your racial traits.

Advanced Racial Traits
Every time you gain an Ability Score Increase due to Level Advancement (4th, 8th, 12th, 16th and 20th) you can choose instead one of the traits below.

Daring: once per day, you gain an additional standard action. This extra action can’t be used to execute an attack roll or cast a spell, spell-like ability or supernatural ability.

Don’t tell me the odds: once per day, you can choose one action that would provoke an attack of opportunity and execute it without inviting such attack.

Follow me: once per day, you can choose one ally to go together with you in the Initiative order.

Heroic Surge: once per day, you may recall a spell you have already cast or gain another use of a special class ability that is otherwise limited. This should only be used on spells and class abilities that recharge daily. Requisite: 4th level Human.

It was just a scratch: once per day, as an immediate action, convert damage taken from one attack to nonlethal damage. This still can leave your unconscious.

Obstinate: once per day, ignore any condition inflicted upon you for 1 round.

Resourcefulness: you gain 1 extra feat. This Racial Trait can be taken more than once. Requisite: Human 4th level.

Strange Ancestry: once per day, you can choose to have the best combination of type, subtype and alignment against one effect. Requisite: Human 4th level.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Genius Guide to The Talented Bestiary for Pathfinder RPG (and other Bestiaries)

One of my first posts (and still in the "Popular Posts" list) is the "Dirty and Cheap" approach to monsters in Pathfinder. The text is atrocious and was followed by a 2nd part and - some years later - a few musing about Type and Role in Pathfinder (and why they shouldn’t be linked).

I'm still not sure if "Dirty and Cheap" monsters deserves a revised post. I'm still using the same approach today, plus a lot of reskinning, although games like 13th Age (specially the awesome 13th Age Bestiary) gave me a lot of food for thought on subject.

However, the point of this post is to remind that there's new product that may do exaclty what I was talking about - The Genius Guide to The Talented Bestiary for Pathfinder RPG. I unfortunately lost the Kickstarter campaign, but I hope to get the PDF as soon as it's availabe to general public. Here's a preview and below are a few pictures from the book.

Oh, and I heard that there may be a 13th Age Bestiary II coming out too!

P.S.: Talking about "out of box" bestiaries, anyone knows if the Trailblazer: Teratologue is good? I loved Trailblazer, and there's a lot of good ideas and rules in that book (even after Pathfineder). Meanwhile I'll check Fantay Craft to see how it deals with monsters.