Monday, September 30, 2013

Enemies of Man [EoM_03]

The Death Sorcerers

The Mind Wizards are bastards, but the Death Sorcerers are cruel beyond words.  Having made a pact with an avatar of Death, they comb the lands raising armies of undead and demanding the sacrifice of the young and nubile.  Where the Mind Wizards play at subtlety until they have achieved power, a Death Sorcerer comes on strong and brutal and doesn't stop until utterly eradicated.

It isn't known if each Death Sorcerer is part of a greater cult as they have only ever (thankfully) been encountered as individuals.  Perhaps they don't get along, perhaps their attacks are some form of initiation, or perhaps they truly are individuals that have all made the same vile necromantic pact.  The one thing that everyone knows for certain is that every known Death Sorcerer is female of incredibly physical beauty.

When they aren't out digging through worm-infested graves searching for the next corpse to raise as part of a freakish mount or attempting to bind the spirit of a demon to the rotting flesh of a giant, Death Sorcerers are want to wander through towns seducing fools to join their ranks of worshipers.  It is whispered that they are wearing the animated flesh of a local victim to blend into the population until they unleash hell.  Rumors also say that they explode in a shower of maggots when a death blow is struck, so the truth may be unknowable.


When rats feed on the stuff of dungeons, they grow.  Massive teeth, huge wet hate-filled eyes, and slick oily fur - all on a beast the size of a small horse.  Giant rats are just the beginning, though, for if one of the fiends just happens to have some small spark of intellect, a Ratkin is born from the muck of the dungeon's foulest pits.  Hyper-evolved with a human-like mind and misplaced sense of rage toward the land of sky and light, the Ratkin are fearsome foes.  They burrow and swarm and bring their plague-ridden children with them.  They destroy entire crops, infest sewers, and infect everything they touch with a withering vomitous plague.

It is said that the bite of a ratkin can bring about a state most reviled in humans: an infection of arourcanthropy - the target becomes a wererat.  The wererat retains some aspect of it's former self and can wander in human society.  From there the Ratkin can hatch and spread even more devastating plans.  The wererat isn't long lived, though, as the chaos and darkness of the dungeon eat away at his brain.  In less than a season the creature become raving mad and forever be little more than a beast.

Goblins & Their Filthy Ilk

The Goblin King sits in his dark and grimy hall, the oily smoke of roasting flesh commingling with the stink of excrement of all manner.  He snorts and waves a hand for the new batch of children to be brought forth.   Most are screaming toddlers, a few are babies, and fewer still are old enough that can truly take in the horror of what is happening.  The Goblin King inspects each one and spits into their mouth, beginning the transformation.

Goblins were once human children that were stolen by the minions of the goblin king.  Most hold on to some vestige of their former life - a scrap of blanket, the arm from a stuffed doll, or simply some nursery rhyme that plays over and over in their head.  Goblins are mad creatures to the last one - given up to the Dungeons by the Goblin King or unfortunates, even by goblin standards, that wandered into the Underworld never to find their way home.

Some goblins are allowed to age and grow into brutish hobgoblins.  Rumors that orcs and bugbear are also related to the Goblin Kingdom surface from time to time, but there is no way to prove or disprove this.  Goblins are the lowest of the humanoid totem pole.  While kobold are found enslaved from time to time, goblins serve willingly and put up with far more abuse.  They are sad creatures that are deserving of some pity ... right up until they shove a thin hand-worked shard of pottery into your side and laugh while humping your arm.  Goblins are truly corrupt and vile things to be put out of their and our misery.


Of all the monsters that roam the lands, one word strikes fear into every man: Troll.  No matter what the terrain there are trolls that inhabit the land.  They are large, fast, and strong.  Thankfully, they are also dim-witted and tend to follow particular behaviors (or at lest that is the common belief) and are more or less rare creatures.

Trolls don't like the sunlight - it tends to cause them great discomfort and turn them to stone.  They are particularly fearful of fire and acid  because those wounds don't regenerate, just heal (t is a well known fact that trolls regenerate at an astounding rate.)  Everything else about a troll is going to come down to where they live - trolls (like dragons) tend to absorb some of the traits of the land which they inhabit.

Cave trolls are shaggy and blind, swamp trolls are thin and green with with rubbery hide, forest trolls are tall, slender, and tend to grow additional heads with age. Mountain trolls ... well ... mountain trolls are creatures that grow to such astounding size that an encounter up close will surely end in death.  No matter what the species, though, all trolls heed the call of the dungeon - it is inside of them always.  The hollow stare of a troll is looking down an infinite black corridor in the underworld itself.

The Faceless

The Faceless are a religious sect that believe in the shedding of individuality to purge one's soul of desire.  That and the letting of blood to feed their unspeakable demon lord.  At first glance the faceless are simply humans wearing heavy cloaks with strange mirrored face masks.  If that mask is removed, however, something more sinister is discovered - they are no longer human and truly have no face.  No eyes, ears, mouth, or nose - just a series of tubes that snake through their system and into their face, connected to the mask and the cloaks they wear.

In addition to being seemingly impossible to strike (they dodge with tremendous skill and seem to shirk off even the most potent of blows) the faceless carry an array of weaponry that is strange and alien - metal rods that vomit lightning, the sun enraged and captured in small ceramic bottles, and magic that brings the earth itself to life  to grab and pierce and hurl targets to the ground.

The faceless tend to keep to themselves on their strange pilgrimages.  What they want and from whence they come is unknown.  How to defeat them when they attack is often discussed but few true facts are known.  Their inexplicable connection with the Underworld Elves is tenuous but exists.  How to react when encountering them is a mystery.

If you see a Faceless, run.  If you must fight them, pray to whatever gods you believe in.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Enemies of Man [EoM_02]

Not Really Enemies

While characters are not required to be human, anything else is likely going to cause a problem.  The occasional elf or dwarf pops up here and there, and some of the larger settlements may even have neighborhoods where certain non-humans congregate.  For the most part, through, non-humans are not going to get a fair shake on Eradu.


The dwarfs lost their war with the underworld.  They are a homeless lot, wandering miners and mercenaries that scrape by doing dangerous things and drink away their earnings.  They are a dour folk who are generally unpleasant, far too serious, and tend to wax on about the old days of the Grand Kingdom.  There aren't many dwarf alive today that can truly remember the Grand Kingdom, but the dwarvish skald tend to keep stories (and pain) alive in memory.

Numerous dwarf clans once existed, and it is said that it was their constant bickering that caused the dwarf kingdoms to fall.  It is strongly advised for all travelers to avoid this discussion.  Nonetheless, if more than one dwarf is nearby, they tend to begin to argue the finer points of long dead politics, the obvious outcomes and results of the politics, and how it is likely that the other dwarf's ancestors were likely the reason for the loss of Jort Hyen or Ythmor Hall.  As these discussions are often soaked in ale, they reliably end in a brawl.

This behavior, plus the utilitarian nature of the dwarf life (although they do seem to have some sort of soft spot for foppish hats and complex bear weaving patterns) is why folks tend to steer clear of the stout fellows.  They tend to bring trouble, or are the harbingers of dangerous times.  The other reason for this is that many dwarfs have an innate skill of Dungeon Lore (instead of mining, 50% chance) and are likely to discover a dungeon bloom in the nearby vicinity. 


Elves both terrify and fascinate humans (often in the opposite order).  They are similar but endowed with a strange alien beauty that belies something sinister (or at least utterly self-absorbed) in the elfin heart.  Elves are creatures still attached to the faerie and are therefore unpredictable at best, and destructive at worst.  They tend to wear exquisite finery (even their adventuring gear is well made and stylish) which only adds to their allure.

The mind of an elf is a strange place.  They have a penchant for arcane magics from the linger fey blood that courses through their veins, and because of their longevity, generally do not interact well with the short-lived humanoids they so often despise (most elves suffer from the Racism quirk).  An elf is just as likely to lend a hand in raising a barn with a group of struggling outland farmers, then burn it down as some sort of a joke a year later, laughing hysterically while the farmers are forced to watch in arcane stasis.

Humans that know will steer clear and attempt not to anger an unknown elf.  The curious tend to fawn over them.  Elves, who in general believe themselves of ancient nobility among the races, find either of these attentions acceptable.  When not being batshit insane, elves do tend to make fantastic adventuring companions as they can wield a sword and shoot fire from their hand with equal skill, often understand the wilderness at a fundamental level, and have no compunction when it comes to some of the more morally questionable activities.  On the flip side, monstrous humanoids love to dine of elf flesh, and elves tend to get a bit crazy about that.


The road of a half-orc is tough, to say the least.  They are the offspring of a terrible event (the mother is always human), reviled by humans, hunted by orcs, accepted nowhere, and reviled everywhere.  A thin slice of luck, however, is that the physical orcish traits are almost always minor.  Half-orcs are brutish and ugly, but they aren't green or sporting huge fangs (which would get them killed immediately in any human settlement).  A high enough charisma, or a dark cloak and some evening shadows, and the half-orc may pass for human (all half-orcs begin with a free roll for the Disguise skill).

Half-orcs are not inherently terribly stupid or impulsive, but the neglect or endless taunting of their upbringing tends to install those thought patterns.  From that, plus their innate toughness and strength, half-orcs tend to become thugs and thieves of of necessity.  Their thick hide is not just physical, but mental as well; mean-spirited comments about looks and parentage are common.

The bloodline that half-orcs have gives them one additional advantage.  They understand the dungeon, as part of it courses through their veins (two rolls for Dungeon Lore).  Random dungeon events are slightly less likely to happen to half-orcs, and their superior senses allow them to become perfect forward scouts for any dungeon delving party of adventurers.  Also, they tend to kick ass and win fights.

The Disallowed

The following races from the PHB are not allowed as player characters in the Eradu setting:

Gnomes: these small folk (related to dwarfs) have a special purpose and tie to the underworld.
Gnome Titans: only rumors of these battle gnomes exist.
Grell: evil enslaving NPC elves are not a PC race.
Half-Elf: the rare cross between an elf and human is always human, although often quite beautiful.
Half-Hobgoblin: no civilized hobgoblins as in Kalamar, therefore no half-hobgoblin.
Pixie-Faerie: uhg, bwarf, lame - the only thing worse is a pixie-faerie bard/monk hybrid.

What About Halfling?

Halfling are integrated into human society and, even in their own communities, not considered a problem.  They are just halfing after all.  SHort, round, and genial ... other than the fact that they are all thieves and liars and probably lazy, not to mention they tend to hang aournd wizards which, as we all know, are infested with the underworld and probably hollow already.  Nothing special to write about halfling ... rotten little buggers.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Damnable Thief!

The Thief in Society

Let's start with the most basic of principals - no one, not even other adventurers, trust a thief.  You are probably a scumbag, most likely a liar, and definitely an opportunist.  These are traits that the majority of the population do not find endearing.  The "thief as scout" is rubbish - those are called spies or rangers and, in general, have no place wandering around dungeons.

The "Robin Hood" or "Danny Ocean" type character is fine ... but you are still a thief who steals money and things from people! There is not a romantic thief archetype that exists in the hard scrabble life in Eradu.  Not yet at least.  Someone clever and charming and who gives back to the people may be lauded as a hero - at least until the authorities catch them and show what a vile hollow monster the thief is.  Folks are fickle.

A thief will always have a hard time fitting into the party dynamic, but once they have solidified their place and gained the trust of their adventuring brethren, they often become invaluable allies.  Those little thefts of goods and gear and treasure tend to get ignored after the thief saves the party from certain rusty-bladed trap doom.

Crime & Punishment

There are pretty much 3 punishments for thieves.  It isn't like the modern world where you get fined and spend a few nights in jail. 

Steal something that isn't really significant and happen to be in a place where there is some concept of social justice or happen to be someone property?  You get branded - on the cheek.  The brand is big and nasty and identifies you as a thief in pretty much every society.  Add Social Outcast to your list of Quirks and Flaws, my friend.

Cut It Off
Steal a loaf of bread or a fancy ring?  Lose a hand.  Chop.  Just like that. With one less hand you are not as likely to cause trouble.  Of course now the only thing you can do is hope they cut off the wrong one (suddenly being a lefty isn't so bad) or join up with some adventurers and hope for the best.  Also, people sees to assume that a shifty fellow with only 1 hand may be a thief.

Did you take that horse that didn't belong to you?  Or was that ring from someone important?  Off to the gallows with you to Dance with the Stranger, do the Airborn Jiggle, and be in Endless Suspense.  Not much to do here except hope someone rescues you.

What A Thief Is Not

While we are at it, let us get some other details out of the way.  Thieves are not good at combat - they aren't damage machines.  Chances are a thief will get a single chance at causing a crippling blow (via backstab) and have to pray to whatever gods might be listening that it does the job.  If not, a sword is likely going to find their face.  The endless "sneak attack" of D&D3.x does not exist.  Thieves are not "strikers" a la D&D 4e ... that is what fighters do.  This isn't Assassin's Creed.

Thieves are not necessarily "skill monkeys."  While they are quite good at things that other adventurers tend not to be, they don't automatically have an endless array of skills that can save the day.  Disarm Traps only works once the thief figures out what the heck is going on ... but that has more to do with the way I run a game than the automatic nature of the skill.

The good stuff and what a thief can do is pretty obvious.  The initiative bonus is huge and allows a thief to escape danger before it starts, the core thief skills are ones that others rarely take, so the focus make the thief useful in that arena (much like a fighter is useful at smashing enemies with a sword and a mage at setting things on fire with his mind).  Oh yea ... and LUCK.  Thieves are the luckiest fools on the planet.  In short, a thief can just plain survive.

Also, don't forget that unless he is branded or especially shifty ("I have on a black cloak and black tunic over black pants and black gloves and hang out in the shadows"), the thief blends most easily with normal folks.  Wizards are weirdos that make people uncomfortable, clerics are religiousy types that make people uncomfortable, and fighters are usually brooding hulk or partying frat boys, either of which make people uncomfortable.  Thieves are pretty normal by comparison.

The Guilds

In short, the player character thief isn't going to be part of any guild.  The guilds don't like adventurers because they are too volatile, tend to get infected with the pathwork dungeon fevers, and don't pay their dues.  For that matter, they aren't guilds so much as criminal gangs.  In the villages and towns you won't find them, but in the cities there are always movers and shakers looking to pick up some spare change and rule a neighborhood.

A thief looking for "guild training" may be in for a rude surprise.  If the PC manages to find somewhere they can get formal training they should expect to pay a pretty penny not only in goods and coin, but in demanded tasks, future taxes on finds, and generally have someone watching over them demanding they "pay up" whenever a score is made. 

Getting Started

Characters playing a thief (or one of the hybrid classes) likely had some sort of training from another thief, usually in a back alley, that ended with the PC either leaving or fleeing (the parting is rarely amicable, but it happens).  Roll 2d6 for some background (1 BP to re-roll as usual) for Early On, once for More Recently. Then roll 3d6 taking the two that add up the closest to 7, modify, and check results.

2d6 Early On More RecentlyResults
2As a victim you decided to become predator, not prey (-3 R)You've been a lone wolf (-3 R)as #3, -1d4p to you 4 highest core skills and 50% of missing right hand.
3Your parents were petty criminals (-2 R)  Your "mentor" was a sham and didn't really know anyhting (-2 R)as #4, You are branded a thief
4Arrested for vagrancy, you found a mentor who took advantage of you (-2 R)You've been parternering with someone who turned you in (-1 R)as #5, you are a known thief and wanted by the authorities
5Bad Home Life, you took to the streets (-1 R)You dropped enough coin with a local organization they taught you some thingsas #6, you aren't so great (-2 on all initial core skill rolls)
6You followed around a clever looking fellow and learned by osmosisA former adventuring thief did some jobs with youNo matter how hard you try, you look shifty.
7You stole as a means of survivalYou worked for the man sniffing out trouble and reporting backToday is just another day
8Part of a small street gang You loved her, but she was more skilled than you and moved onFree mastery roll for fast talk or skilled liar
9You worked for a guy who knew a guy who asked you to get things for him (+1 R)It was you or them ... and you are still aroundAs #8, plus you've got an additional contact
10You rebelled to show them - show them all! (+1 R)A street master chose you to pass along his skills (+1 R)As #9, plus 6 BP for skills
11Stories of thieves demanded action (+2 R)You've been working in the streets long enough you just have a feel for things (+2 R)As #10,plus 2d6p points to add directly to core skills
12Pure Natural Talent (+3 R)You are thought of among the circles as a "guy to know" (+3 R)As #11, you've got an extra 5d20p silver you've earned

Advanced Backstabs & Butchery

The backstab is under utilized in my game, partially because it is limited to the dagger, and partially because it seems impossible.  I like backstab to be a completely badass thing - it really defines the thief class to me, so I beefed it up.

Getting Ready
The thief needs to Hide, Sneak, or otherwise be in a position such that the target is unaware of the thief and facing away from them.  Also the target needs to have a back and be vulnerable to some sort of critical strike (no backstabbing a skeleton).  In other words, a backstab can happen in the middle of combat, but isn't particularly likely.

Get Set
I've added the Backstab, weapon Skill.  By default a thief can take this skill (Dex 10) as one of their core skills.  They can pick any small melee weapon - dagger, short sword, or hand axe.  Each rank of mastery above novice improves the ability for the thief to effectively backstab by increasing the range for a critical hit.

A thief can stab someone in the back with a weapon they aren't skilled in, but do not gain extra dice or crit range.
 Rank  Ability
1 Backstab with this weapon 
2 Backstab, crit on 19-20
3 Backstab, crit on 18-20
4 Backstab, crit on 17-20
5 Backstab, crit on 16-20

Backstab by the rest of the rules as normal and enjoy a bloody good time.

Monday, September 23, 2013

On Being A Mage in Eradu

What's in a Name?

Within the Eradu setting, flavor.  A wizard uses the same game mechanics as sorcerer to shoot spells at the players.  Wizard, Sorcerer, Nercromancer, Thurmaturgist, and Witch - all the same thing mechanically.  I know that some game systems (and maybe the plat books for HM5e) revel in providing numeorus methodologies for which those who wield arcane power utilize them (in other words different rules for different types of magic), but I don't think it is necessary.

They types of magic-using folks that the party encounters are going to be regional.  Zhvoni Magus aren't going to be squatting in a rickety tower in the Ramhorn Mountains - that is the territory of sorcerers, and everyone knows that sorcerers are in league with the ogre king.

On thing the characters are going to have to discover for themselves is what the local wizards are all about.  Chances are nothing good, but perhaps they are just misunderstood psychopaths and don't actually intend any harm.  The legion of skeletal giant warriors milling about the tower are just from a project that never got finished and aren't of any concern.

Magic in Society

The majority of those that cast magic tend tend to get a bit consumed with the whole thing and lock themselves away in great towers dedicated to their "great work".  Once secluded they often go quite horrifically mad (because they get too close to the dungeon that blossoms and grows under their tower) and become inimical t the settlements of the area.  What starts out as a servent or two eventually becomes a small army of bugbear that are skulking through the town's shadows at night looking to feed an insatiable lust for leather and blood.

Because of this, practitioners are generally not looked upon kindly.  When entering a settlement, roll 2d6.  VIllages are -2, Cities +2, Towns and castles roll with no modifiers.  The GM should add modifiers based on any local known wizard towers and how they interact with folks (which is almost always negative).  Oddly, a strong concentration of dungeon activity will give a +1 bonus as it creeps into people's minds.

Rarely is the attitude about magic going to be generally displayed in town, nor is it going to be a topic of discussion that just "pops up" ... except in the more extreme cases.  If a pair of old men playing a card game ask if "Any of you young'uns into that hex and fireball devil shit?"  the answer should probably be "no".  Casual conversation at the pub can usually spark some insight though.
2d6 Results
2 Expect a Lynching
3 - 4 Wizardry is Heresy
5 - 6 Hostility but Distance
7 Distrust and Fear
8 - 9 Cautious Acceptance
 10 - 11   Indifference or Curiosity 
12 Welcome!

Wizard Training: Getting Started

Characters playing a mage (or one of the hybrid classes) likely had some sort of training from a wizard, likely in a tower, that ended with the PC either leaving or getting kicked out (the parting is rarely amicable, but it happens).  Roll 2d6 for some background (1 BP to re-roll as usual) for Master, once for environment. Then roll 3d6 taking the two that add up the closest to 7, modify, and check results.

2d6 Master EnvironmentResults
2 An abusive asshole (-3 R) Barely a cave (-3 R)as #3, but start with some Backlash
3 Generally negligent and angry (-2 R)   Drafty tower, old gear (-2 R)as #4, but you also have a quirk or flaw (and gain 0 BP)
4 Too busy with something else (-2 R) Moldy spell components (-1 R)as #5, but you 1d20% fewer SP (check for the amount lost each level)
5 Thoughtless, but not cruel (-1 R) Sub-par, but warm at nightas #6, plus you only know 2 spells
6 Incompetent Barren but functionalYou have a wizard's aura - easy to identify to those who know how to look.
7 Good intentions only go so far... Comfortable and qualityYou made it out alive.  Phew!
8 He forgot things all the time Fresh straw in the bed and newish
 vials of components
You picked up how to disguise your wizard aura.  Useful.
9 Aware and competent (+1 R) servants and fresh stocks!As #8, plus gain an extra starting spell (of a random level)
10 He seemed to actually care (+1 R) Eye of newt, check.  (+1 R)As #9, plus gain 1 free mastery roll in arcane lore, alchemy, or monster lore.
11 A skilled mentor (+2 R) A wondrous array of materials (+2 R)As #10, plus an additional 1d20p SP gained at each level.
12 Totally mad, but connected (+3 R) A seemingly endless supply of high
 quality experimental resources (+3 R)
As #11, plus 1d100p fractional INT and a 10% chance to start off with a wand.

Wizard Training: Level 2 and Beyond

Most mages generally tend to be self-trained because, in short, making a deal for formal training with another practitioner usually ends up in trouble.  At the same time, getting things lined up with a sorcerer that doesn't appear to be too wildly influenced by the dungeon that is almost certainly growing under their tower can, in fact, lead to some fun adventures.  Those who complain that this is not fair and that mages are already difficult to play have never had the joy of actually playing a difficult character.

Totems help a mage deal with the complexities of magic and to help it avoid warping their brain, magi will define a totem that they can use as a metaphor when helping cast spells.  Each caster has one that is developed (or discovered some would say) during apprenticeship and is unique.  While two witches may both have cats as their totem, one will have a sleek black tom while the other may have an albino tiger.

The caster's totem often (but not always) says quite a bit about their personality.  A few examples of known totem: bear, cat, dog, bird, snake, spider, shadow, the sun, fire, ice, blades, shield, smoke,and beer.  Each of a caster's spells will take on some aspect of their totem when cast.

If a practitioner concentrates and manages to pass a difficult (or opposed if someone is trying to hide) arcane lore skill check, they will get a feel for the target's totem.  The aura doesn't give any details on the caster's abilities, just a general feeling of the totem's aspects. 

Minor Magic

A mage may create a minor effect for 1d6p spell points, or a slightly larger effect for 2d6p spell points.  The effects must use the caster's totem and relate to a spell that is currently memorized.  For example, a bird totem mage with scorch  memorized may expend 1d6p SP to have a small phoenix light a nearby candle.  Minor magic won't cause damage because it can't pass into the aura of another thing (living or dead).  Clever players will find ways to make minor magic quote useful.  Each time the SP cost of minor magic penetrates, there is a cumulative +1% chance of a spell mishap the next time a "true" spell is cast.

The Patchwork Kingdom
Previous to HM5e, I had instituted a game mechanic that allowed mages to cast spells above and beyond the book.  HM5e has this integrated into the mechanics, which is fantastic and aligns with the way that I envision magic.

The Patchwork Kingdom is a place of strange monstrosities, old gods, feral elemental forces, and untamed madness.  Those that dare to meddle with the arcane arts tap into this place, opening portals in their mind and teasing out simple strands of this vicious place.

The formulae that a mage writes down in his grimoire is little more than a series of mnemonic devices to help them cope with retaining and controlling the strange forces they allow to squat in their psyche.  When a spell is cast, they release this thread of the patchwork, and gain some respite. 

When pulling forth ideas from the patchwork for spells which are not memorized, the mage will expend additional energies to help maintain the conduit and the balance and keep those things which wish to cross over in check.  With each spell memorized and each spell cast, the light of Eradu shines through, and the things that lurk in the darkness see and lust after the physical form which they can take.  A mage that is too brazen and does not follow their ritual may allow something to come through.  Something that that personifies madness and hate.  This is the reason that people fear magic - because when wielded carelessly it can bring about dire consequences.

Mishaps vs. Backlash

Spell mishap determination will be done by the method prescribed in the HM5e GMG.  The results, however, will be highly customized - the mishap tiers being replaced with Backlash tiers.  Once the tier is determined, the specific style of backlash will be determined, then an effect rolled up.

The biggest difference between mishaps and backlash is that backlash is specific to the character based on the spell being cast and, more importantly, their totem.
1d12 Backlash
1 -5 Physical Maladaptation  
6 - 9 Mental Aberration
 10 - 11   Magical Dissonance
12 External Trauma

Changes in the mage's physical appearance.  This could be as simple as a chance in eye color or dramatic as additional limb appearing.  With physical maladaptation being the most common result of backlash, those with non-magical physical deformities are often the target of witch hunts and worse.  Suddenly being an Albino is a lot more dangerous.

Sorcerers go mad, everyone knows this.  Mental aberrations are often more subtle, but no less dangerous.  Consumed by their work, the patchwork kingdom and the living dungeon work their way into the mind of the caster.  They become introverts, easily angered, or (most often) revel in delusions of grandeur that, if they pledge themselves to the darkness, may actually come to fruition.

A caster's spells already have an imprint of their totem, but this imprint may become more pronounced, or a spell may simply refuse to be cast any longer without the expenditure of additional spell points.  Perhaps every casting causes all plants within 5' of the wizard to wilt and die.  Magical effects are some of the most challenging for a caster because it changes how and what they can do which, in turn, changes who they are.

Things come through.  It may be mindless scraps of twitching flesh that dissolve once sunlight touches them, a handful of troublesome imps that will perish when the next moon rises, intelligent creatures looking to dominate and destroy, or a physical abstraction of an elder god demanding living souls to feed an ancient hunger.  No matter what comes through, though, the wizard's flame burns brighter and the chances of something else coming though are increased. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Level Twelve Was Filled With Dragons

Castle Greyhawk, Megdungeon of Yore, Described

  • The first level was a simple maze of rooms and corridors, for none of the participants had ever played such a game before.
  • The second level had two unusual items, a Nixie Pool and a fountain of snakes.
  • The third featured a torture chamber and many small cells and prison rooms.
  • The fourth was a level of crypts and undead.
  • The fifth was centered around a strange font of black fire and gargoyles.
  • The sixth was a repeating maze with dozens of wild hogs (3 dice) in inconvenient spots, naturally backed up by appropriate numbers of Wereboars.
  • The seventh was centered around a circular labyrinth and a  street of masses of ogres.
  • The eighth through tenth levels were caves and caverns featuring Trolls, giant insects, and a transporter nexus with an evil wizard (with a number of tough associates guarding it.
  • The eleventh level was the home of the most powerful wizard in the castle. He had Balrogs as servants. The remainder of the level was populated by Martian White Apes, except the sub-passage system underneath the corridors which was full of poisonous critters with no treasure.
  • Level twelve was filled with Dragons.
  • The bottom level, number thirteen, contained an inescapable slide which took the players 'clear through to China', from whence they had to return via 'Outdoor Adventure'. It was quite possible to journey downward to the bottom level by an insidious series of slanting passages which began on the second level, but the likelihood of following such a route unknowingly didn't become too great until the seventh or eighth level. Of the dozen or so who played on a fairly regular basis, four made the lowest level and took the trip. . .
  • Side levels included a barracks with Orcs, Hobgoblins, and Gnolls continually warring with each other, a museum, a huge arena, an underground lake, a Giant's home, and a garden of fungi.
 - Gygax, April 1975 [from typos cleaned up and formatting by me]

Castle Greyhawk, which by "modern" game standard would be called nonsense and random and full of things that make no sense as well as senseless level design (despite being a game played by nerds in basements about elves shooting magic to save beautiful princesses).  But with the living dungeon concept I'm going with for the Eradu campaign castle Greyhawk makes all the sense in the world.

Also: Level 12.  Filled. With. Dragons.

I love this freaking game.  I found this over at this awesome blog.

Skills: All Opposed

Skill Checks

HackMaster has two types of skill checks - opposed and unopposed.  Both work perfectly well, but the unopposed skill checks are ... well .. not as exciting.  Also, some of them require the GM to make a roll for a player to keep them "in the dark" and I don't like that.  Players like to roll dice.

So with a quick bit of mathy magic, all skill checks are now opposed rolls.  The player rolls 1d100p+skill score and the GM rolls 1d100p+difficulty+50.  The difficulty is based on what is already in the book.  This keeps the probabilities of success the same as the original and adds a bit of mystery.

Alternate Quick Skill Check Idea

I've also been thinking about using a simple mechanic of 2d6p+skill rank (0-5).  A clever description adds +1, a really clever description adds +2.  Karma, luck, honor, and the rest can add in the normal manner.

*2d6p+skill is used when appropriate, for example when characters are having some sort of skill contest.

I haven't used this in play, but have discussed it from time to time.  Not sure how it would work and I have little to no interest in figuring outthe probabilities right now.
 Difficulty  Dice
 Average 2d6p* 
 Ridiculous  4d6p

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Improved Henchmen

A Little Too Dire

In response to this post, my players indicated that they are terrified of picking up some henchmen because "they are more trouble than they are worth."  Sadly, that may be true, so I feel the need to expand things a bit and revise the henchman process and make henchmen a little less terrible.

Even with that in mind, I stick by the fact that I think henchmen should be a bit on the weird and somewhat unreliable side.  It is basically like hiring a roommate from Craigslist - there are some gems out there but it is probably trouble.

Also, based on the way that my players want to use henchmen, I guess I'll need to generate some quick combat statistics which, in the end, is going to be most easily accomplished by rolling ability scores and letting everything add up.

So - henchman are still the dregs of society, but they are going to be a little less dire, a little more useful, and I'll add a few notes on suggested payments for henchmen in the Terrible Wilds of Eradu.

Availability, Class, & Type

The number of henchmen that are available in a particular location at the time of the hiring is based on where the party is and who is doing the recruiting.  First, the GM should determine the number of henchmen available - and keep it secret.  One player will make a recruiting skill check for their character (difficulty based on location).  Success indicates that a number of henchmen up to their rank (novice=1, average=2, advanced=3, etc) show up - roll a die per location.

Additional characters can make recruitment rolls, but the second difficulty is increased by 15, the third by 30, and so on.  For every $5 the players spend on criers and buying drinks and the like, they gain a bonus of +1d6p to their skill check.  If player's roll is more than 100 more than the GM's roll, one of the henchmen that arrive is definitely a Specialist.

For each henchman, roll for their Class.  Losers have no redeeming qualities.  A Man-At-Arms may actually be useful.  A Potential has the ability to earn EP once a character takes them on as a protege; they also have a 50% chance of having a second skill.  Specialists have a normal skill roll and a second skill roll (1d30) that will be of a high level.

Roll for what type each henchman is.  Humanoid covers orcs, goblins, kobold, hobgoblins, and the like.  Monstrous is anything weird and dangerous and probably evil.  Humanoids and Monstrous henchmen don't go down well in civilization.
 Settlement   Recruit   Applicants 

2d6 Class BogeySkill
2-5 Loser1d2+50
6 - 9 Man-at-Arms  1+0
 10-11   Potential1  +0*
12 Specialist   1d2 +0,1d30 

2d6 Type Elsewise
2 - 7 Human False Man
8 - 9 Halfling Elf
 10 - 11   Dwarf Humanoid 
12 Elsewise Monstrous 

Skill Sets for Henchman skills a henchman have are not necessarily explicitly listed, but rather should be assumed based on the skill set they have rolled up.  For example someone with "Beggar" would probably have some urban survival and maybe some sleight of hand; chances are they wouldn't know anything about arcane lore.   If a specific rating needs to be determined, assume they have a skill rating of 10+1d20p.

Roll 1d100 on the chart for skill sets.  It should be noted that skills 1-30 are of particular use to the dungeoneer (which is why specialists get that second 1d30 roll). 

If the GM wants to give a particular henchman a particular skill, there should be absolutely no hesitation.  However, the henchman should never be a safety net for the PCs.  No PC has History?  It is pretty unlikely that Horatio Wiggles, the party's new porter, has a doctorate in the Ancient Kings of Lybornia.  But, at the same time, don't hsesitate to give them things that are interesting and fun.

 1d100   Skill
1 Scroll Caddy
2 Torch Bearer
3 Alchemist
4 Pack Bearer
5 Armorer
6 Weapons Smith
7 Soldier
8 Bandit
9 Professional Henchman 
10 Miner
11 Beggar
12 Blacksmith
13 Navigator
14 Woodsman
15 Sailor
16 Cartographer 
17 Animal Handler
18 Chirurgeon
 1d100   Skill
19 Laborer
20 Cat Burglar
21 Circus Strongman
22 Cook
23 Gladiator
24 Falconer
25 Jeweler
26 Pick Pocket
27 Merchant
28 Gentleman
29 Gravedigger
30 Sentinel
31 Roll 1d30 twice
32 Household servant 
33 Former City Official
34 Latrine Jockey
35 Librarian
36 Merchant
 1d100   Skill
37 Messenger
38 Barkeep
39 Minstrel
40 Negotiator
41 Architect
42 Grocer
43 Actor
44 Shepherd
45 Fool
46 Pimp
47 Poacher
48 Press Gang
49 Ruffian
50 Captain
51 Baker
52 Headsman 
53 Whore
54 Wagon Wright
1d100 Skill
55 Tinker
56 Witch
57 Bard
58 Town crier
59 Town Guard
60 Tracker
61 Translator
62 Urchin
 63-72   Peasant
73+ Nothing of Note 

Ain't Noby Perfect
All henchman have at least 1 bogey - a quirk, flaw, belief, or behavior that makes them a bit less than desirable.  The bogey that a potentials or man-at-arms have are going to be less severe than those of losers.  The GM is going to have to mitigate this by either re-rolling really nasty results or just downplaying them.  Specialists may have multiple bogey rolls, but their special skills should still make them desirable.

 1d100  Bogey
1 Albino … probably wears a burlap shirt and has a bad dye job
2 An obnoxious boor
3 Is probably a witch in league with demons or worse
4 Absent minded - will quite often forget to do things if unsupervised (1-4/d6)
5 Angry at the world about most everything; prone to (1-3) argue (4-6) complain
6 Bad at Equipment upkeep
7 Branded. (1-2) Heretic (3) Petty Criminal (4) Major Criminal (5) Slave (6) unknown
8 Can’t count - roll 1d10-1 to see how high he CAN count
9 Clumsy; often drops things, especially when agitated. Catching is right out
10 Cock-eyed - just looks goofy
11 Coward; will often run away, 1 in 6 it is a permanent fleeing (with all your stuff)
12 Braggart - tends to talk big and (1-2) exaggerates (3-4) takes credit for stuff (5-6) makes the PCs sound like idiots
13 Is allergic to something unspecified but apparently everywhere all the time.
14 Just plain terrible at telling lies.
15 Busted Sense of Humor: (1-2) inappropriate (3-4) punny (5-6) just not actually funny
16 Dastardly agent of (1) the Mind Wizards (2-3) a group of adventurers (4-6) previously determined enemy of the PCs
17 Unlucky: 1 in 6 chance bad stuff happens to this guy (then again chance as normal)
18 Generally an idiot who isn't too quick on the uptake
19 Talking issues: (1) mute (2) chatterbox (3) mumbler (4) foul-mouthed (5) stutters (6) lisp
20 Death wish - will tend to volunteer for dangerous stuff, doesn't avoid combat
21 Delusions of (1-3) grandeur (4-6) some other weirdo belief
22 Filthy and stinky … which will probably attract monsters
23 Missing bits (1) Fingers (2) teeth (3) ear (4) eye (5) arm (6) leg
24 Chauvinist and apparently proud of it. Dealing with ladies is going to be a problem.
25 Chivalrous to the point it becomes a problem … a big problem
26 Cruel to the animals and any underlings; doesn't necessarily become obvious right away
27 A very devout fellow (1-2) good guy religion (3-4) something probably evil (5-6) indecipherable but he scourges himself a lot
28 The guy gets as drunk as possible as often as possible; 50% chance of being drunk when interviewed
29 This poor fellow is very easily confused and confounded by things
30 Gives up really easily
31 Super gross facial scar that makes him look weird and extra creepy
32 Falls asleep on watch … all the damn time
33 Mildly incompetent with everything (-1/5% to all checks)
34 Glutton … eats an extra ration at least once per day
35 Greedy bastard - tries to hide or steal treasure at every opportunity
36 Pretty gullible, which is hilarious until an enemy talks to him…
37 Hard of Hearing, 1 in 6 that he also talks really loudly
38 Has a Hero Worship problem with one of the PCs. Pretty awesome until the PC lets him down.
39 This fellow is especially seriously fugly to the point it is hard to look at him
40 Hobbled by a limp which slows down an otherwise unencumbered party
41 Hyper-active - gets bored easily, often moves off on his own (especially when carrying something important)
42 An insomniac … doesn't sleep and is always a bit "out of it"
43 Itchy … and covered in scratches; (1) a rash (2) imaginary bugs (3) I AIN'T SCRATCHIN' (4) real flea bites (5-6) from unwashed state
44 Paladin-in-training: super brave and heroic, but a moralistic wanker about adventuring things
45 A kleptomaniac - this henchman is going to "pick up" a lot of things
46 Knows much about (1-2) monster (3) dungeon (4) local (5) cosmic (6) arcane) lore … but everything is untrue or incorrect
47 Lecherous to the MAX.
48 The henchman is loud - he walks loud, talks loud, snores, and is just generally a Loudy McLouderson
49 A messy dude, making it take longer to find your things when he packs
50 A murderous fiend, will kill any captives the PCs take (often in the middle of the night)
51 Dude has a nervous tick … which is (1-2) kind of funny (3-4) uncomfortable (5-6) potentially deadly but rare
52 Absolutely no sense of direction; on 1-3 in 6 believes he has "absolute" direction
53 This hench is just plain oblivious (roll 2d12 for initiative and take the worst one)
54 This npc is always sickeningly deferential - suspiciously so
55 Obsessed with bathing and cleanliness
56 Openly Heretical and (1-3) is loud about it (4-6) only gets going when drunk
57 Overconfident - what more needs to be said?
58 Owes money to a (1) wizard (2) local criminal (3) a noble (4) a PC's cousin (5) a demon (6) the church
59 Paranoid and suspicious, but really wants to be a henchman because of the positives waves
60 Pestilent, poxy, and probably with numerous open sores; 1 in 6 chance of being contagious
61 Physically weak and scrawny. Weights 98 pounds.
62 Seriously pock-marked from a bout of something nasty (1-3) recently (4-6) long ago
63 A Racist toward (1-2) a specific race/tribe/settlement (3-6) everyone who isn't what he is
64 Has an ever-changing (color, location, intensity) rash. Is not contagious.
65 Rich brat who wants adventure but is still in the aristocratic mindset, has a tendency to complain order folks around
66 Sadsack - bad luck which is usually self inflicted, things never work out for this guy
67 Short Term Memory Loss - will probably forget what you just told him
68 (1-3) Sings off key (4-6) hums incoherently
69 Snaggle-toothed
70 Has a permanent sneer
71 A straight up sociopath
72 A strange body odor that is disconcerting
73 Very superstitious - roll 4 times on the superstitious table, add more as needed
74 Surly at the best of times, ornery the rest of the time
75 Tends to wander off
76 Think of self as (1-3) equal (4-6) superior to employers
77 Trick Knee
78 Has really terrible (1-2) long (3-4) short (5-6) mullet haircut
79 Worst. Beard. Ever.
80 Has the bug-eyes.
81 Addiction which is (1-4) Mild (5-6) Severe
82 Is colorblind - black and white style, not real-world style
83 Has a severe fear of heights
84 Suffers from (1-3) hacklust (4-6) hackfrenzy
85 Has a ridiculously low pain tolerance
86 Squanders all his loot, always broke
87 Tends to talk about party business when carousing
88 An impulsive nature will be his downfall in the dungeon
89 Curiosity killed the cat, and eventually will kill this henchman
90 Scared of the dark
91 Loves to set things on fire, always has flint & steel handy
92 Squeamish; gorey, undead, and freaky gross stuff cause a morale check
93 This guy looks and sounds like he is shady … because he is shady
94 Lazy eye … not sure where he is looking
95 Has some really crappy tattoos
96 His nose is smashed and malformed
97 Jinxy - increases chances for random encounters, penalty to all saving throws, things tend to break more often
98 Starts Trouble. Often sabotage negotiations by acting like a jackass
99 A lazy bum who will shirk his duties, especially when no one is watching
100 Nothing … which is terribly suspicious

Why Do It?

Being a henchman is tough, deadly, and often unrewarding.  Why do they do what they do?  Roll 1d100 and find out.

 d100   Motivation
1 A thief who’s doing this to pay off his "Guild Dues".
2 Nothing better to do and doesn't like Todd, his stupid neighbor.
3 A woman disguised as a man. Feels this is her only way to see the world as an adventurer.
4 His clan believes that to become an adult they must kill 10 foes in mortal combat. Is hooking up with the party fulfill his duties.
5 A fool who does not realize how over their head that are - will take some outrageous chances before figuring it out.
6 A man-at-arms looking for some extra pay between battles (+1 attack).
7 A False Man in disguise, but has forgotten his mission and is now stuck in this situation.
8 A wanna-be alchemist seeking new materials for their experiments.
9 An archer seeking to improve his skills against live opponents (comes with a short bow).
10 An inspirational speaker made him think he could be something with his life. This is what he choose to excel in.
11 Apathetic. Gives two rats asses about anything, except getting paid.
12 Being undead has given them few options; isn't rotting yet...
13 Believes fighting the dark forces/monsters is a religious calling.
14 Captain Mediocrity! Awesome at 1 thing, sucks at the rest, thinks adventuring is the way to go!
15 Comes from a family of henchmen and wants to make his daddy proud.
16 Could really use the work to help pay off the family debt.
17 Cursed by a witch and thinks joining this expedition will help remove said curse.
18 Desperately seeking a way out of the life they were born into.
19 Doesn't like adventurers and will screw up their plans every chance he gets.
20 Farmhand who’s bored of their old life. Has knowledge of which plants are good to eat.
21 Former prisoner. No one else will work with him.
22 Got drunk with the party this one time. Believed their tales of adventure to be true and thinks it is all fun and glory.
23 Get enough food (or gold) for family to survive winter/rainy season/drought
24 Feels the call of the dungeon and may eventually become hollow.
25 Hoping to escape some other terrible situation by disappearing with the party.
26 Has a lot of treasure that needs to be"found" by someone else; this guy will demand a share.
27 Greedy bastard. Why else would you do this?
28 Looking to get some added coin to improve his home.
29 Has a death wish. Will always be the first to volunteer for danger.
30 Has a great interest in underground ecology. Figures this is the best way to examine it.
31 Has a substance abuse problem this is how he supports it
32 Has no other ways to get ahead in life.
33 Have you ever wondered what happens on an adventure? Small time kid wants to know what goes on below.
34 Searching for his lost brother.
35 He wants to make coin to start an acting troupe.
36 He was snookered. Got drunk ended up there. Will fulfill his commitment.
37 Actually a leveled NPC looking for some adventurer group to take over and command.
38 His brother bet him that he could not last one delve, trying to prove that asshole wrong
39 His father was killed by a dragon/ogre/troll/etc, he’s seeking revenge.
40 His knight has died and seeks to work at the side of another fighter.
41 Homeless, will carry a torch for food.
42 Hungers to drink the blood of his fallen enemies.
43 I am doing this for the dowery price of my love.
44 I like hurting people.
45 I like hurting people. Getting paid is a bonus.
46 I want to make enough silver to open my own shop.
47 Affected by the hex of a mind wizard and not really sure what is happening
48 If you’d seen his wife you’d be signing up for death around any corner too.
49 Is a hunter looking for monster specimens.
50 Is a time traveling anthropologist studying adventuring culture.
51 Is an anti-monarch agitator, seeing this as a way to fund their terrorist activities.
52 Is running away from their family.
53 Just one last score/adventure/war then I can quit.  Addicted to Henching.
54 Just plain mean and likes to kill.
55 Looking for a way to end up in Valhalla.
56 Maybe I will find a cure for this curse/disease/malformity.
57 My brother drank in 32 different bars and inns by the time he was 24. I shall beat him.
58 My Duke told me to go forth and take a survey of all the known lands and that is what I shall do.
59 Need money to ransom family member.
60 Owns his own axe and wants to fight - won't be a torch bearer (he knows what happens to that lot).
61 One day I shall assassinate my master, and take their loot.
62 One of the PC’s will be a great leader and I will be his right hand!
63 Optimist. Everything is turning up roses. This party is paying me and what can go wrong from here?
64 Paranoid, they really are all after me aren’t they? Maybe this party will keep them at a distance.
65 Wants to prove that he is better than everyone says.  Enthusiastic but misguided.
66 Prove worthy of a bride/groom/honor.
67 Doing this to spite someone
68 Restore honor to the family name.
69 Wants to travel to strange, far off places, meet exotic creatures, and take their stuff!
70 Running from the tax collector.
71 Saving up for passage to another land.
72 Saw a vision. Is seeking to fulfill what they were told.
73 Needs a change of pace
74 Wants to get close to a party member in an intimate way.
75 Sycophant. Loves following orders.
76 Thinks this is bunk and plans on fleecing the party
77 The farming season is over and the field hand could use some coin.
78 The king unfairly stopped paying me for my services as a fighter. I deserve one last great pay day.
79 The PC once saved a family member. Will work for a discounted rate.
80 They are a cleric searching for the True Savior of Faith.
81 They once carried the torch of a great warrior, and ran when they were attacked by a troll. They talk brave but are scared in combat.
82 This one needs to prove his bravery to himself
83 Think they are the most famous fighter, one era before the PCs time. Believe they have all the abilities of this person.
84 Thought delving would be fun and not as dangerous as everyone says.
85 Trust fund dandy seeking adventure before going into a life as a midlevel Duke when their father dies.
86 Searching for a lost artifact ... possibly one the PCs don't even know about yet.
87 Using the party as a cover to build up illicit underground connections.
88 Village/home was burned to the ground and nothing else to do now.
89 Thinks he looks like a badass in adventuring gear
90 Infected by a Ktuth and hoping to find a cure before "the change".
91 Wants to get the party to favor them for political advantage down the road.
92 Wants to learn a trade from a party member.
93 Was kicked out of his parish for an undisclosed sin. Seeks penance by destroying monsters.
94 Was never loved by his family, and seeks the companionship and affirmation from the group.
95 Washed up henchman who thinks he still has it. Will always tell the party about what he did back in the old days.
96 Went carousing in the nearest city. Is now slowly paying back the damage they caused.
97 When he was young he saw a knight on horseback ride through town. Thinks this is his ticket to being that guy.
98 An escaped slave
99 Roll again, but add a piece of weirdness to the mix to make it dangerous for the party
100 Roll twice and intertwine the results

Stats & Whatnot?

Roll the 3d6 & 1d100 for each stat.  This will determine how much crap they can carry and what their base combat scores will be.  Roll 1d10 each for Guts, Karma, Sanity (like mental hit points), Hit Points (which are actual hit points), and Chaos.

Sanity gets eroded with exposure to the horrors of the world and underworld.  Chaos increases as the henchman is exposed to utter evil (dungeons, necromancers, PC cruelty).  Chaos checks happen from time to time to determine if the henchman allows the underworld to crawl inside and begin making them hollow.
 1d10   Guts   Karma   Sanity  Hit Points Chaos  
1 - 4Steady None  2d6 Con + 1d4   0
5 - 7Nervous1d63d6Con + 1d61d6
8 - 9Brave 2d6  3d6Con + 1d82d6
10 (1-3) Coward 
 (4-6) Fearless 
3d64d6Con + 2d63d6

Now Play It To The Hilt!

To make the henchman more than just a collection of words and numbers, play those buggers all the way.  Ham it up.  Make them funny, ridiculous, horrific, or otherwise memorable.  Let the PCs rename them Stink Eye Bill or Idiot John or whatever they like.  Each henchman will grow and change as time goes on - if the PCs have a hand in his development, so much the better.  Don't forget to hack and mangle them as well - critical hits aren't just for PCs.