Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Sympathetic Magic

Been musing. So here's a magic system.

The wizard can do anything, but there has to be a cost and let the punishment fit the crime. 

For instance, the party lacks a thief and they have a locked gate in their way. The wiz steps up and... well, there are several spells they could improvise.

Timeline One wizard demands to be bound in chains. They will be all tied up for the next ten minutes.

Timeline Two wizard is no Hoodini. They opt to trepanate their own skull to unlock a perspective where the lock is like... an illusion, man.

Timeline Three wizard plunges a key into their own palm, digging down until blood is drawn. That wound will take the hand out of comission.

Timeline Four wizard shrugs and says, we should find the key, yeah?

Timeline Five wizard read another of my posts and is considering another, inventory-based, solution...

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Friday, February 26, 2021

My Carcosa Hack

Though it has been mentioned before, I've never actually put this RPG in an embedded form on this here blog. We've been playing for months, using Roll20 to make rolling all the dice ever at once very easy. In fact, I outdid Geoffrey Mckinney by making us roll all the things for skill checks too. Here is a Googdocs link if you can't see/print what's below.

These rules make it so you don't have to have any other elf game rules to run a Carcosan campaign. I use the beautiful dead tree version put out by the Lamentations group a decade or so back. If you want more Carcosan goodness, check out my last post!

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

2d6 Carcosan encounters

These follow the rules laid out in a previous post. I'll recapitulate that the intention is to not roll for a chance of an ancounter, but to see what the inevitable encounter is. Once done, that cell of the table is empty, resulting in nothing if rolled again. 

If you want a pretty version that is easy to modify, follow the link in this post. And let me also share my Carcosa hack RPG while we're at it! 

An aspect of Yig. 30 hit dice. If it is not autumn, he will likely pause and lift his ophidian head to wait for worship. If non-such is coming, he will probably not be pleased. Yig also won't brook the torture of serpents. If it is autumn, Yig will be hungry, but may possibly be driven off by drumming.
The greys are driving a tank with a clone-beam. The tank ignores all damage below a threashold of 12. If a PC is hit with a clone-beam, they will spend three rounds splitting into two-beings, 90 scifi Poison Ivy style, and their clothes/armor will be ruined. One of them is an NPC that attempts to kill the other.
A sorceress
She has an entorage of slaves, all of whom she has seduced thanks to the Roofies of Relore. She will trade a ritual for one she doesn't know.
A mercenary band
The Crimson Company is camping. They really want a strong, crimson leader, if the party happens to know any. They are otherwise only interested in work for hire.
The carnosaur ate a party with some fun equipment and treasure last week. Search its poop and you will find these.
Apatosaurus vs Brachiosaurus vs Brontosaurus
The impossible fight is happening!
A robot
Buckaroo bob. Buckaroo is a personality downloaded from a parallel timeline, where Carcosa is a pleasure planet divided into zones called worlds. Buckaroo is from Wild West World. He resembles a human, but has silver eyes. He has a pistol with exploding damage, and shoots very fast, doing three attacks per turn.

A robot
A humanoid with crab-like legs. Its percieved function is to skin people, so it has a giant carrot-peeler-like appendage that looks kind of like a scorpion's tail. Its lair, filled with rotting skin, is nearby.

Itenerate people
Roll a d13 to find their hue. These are simple hunter-gatherers. They worship Yig and other such beings, and will give info to nice parties: Yig can be driven off by drumming.
Spoor from a spawn or robot that the party has yet to meet. If they party is smart enough to try and avoid the encounter after that, they won't meet it. The party could find cowbody costumes, skinned bodies, a body with a hole in the back of its head, a glowing rock that causes headaches, etc.

Pilgrims of Yig
These mysterious verdent-hued people have serpentine mutations. One has snakes for arms. One has a hingeless jaw. One has scales. One is a sorceror who can summon five 8HD snakes per day. If the party is cordual, they may give a mission to go into a nearby cave system and search for a sperpentine torque they believe is down there, among the White Guardians and cave mummies.

Rainbow Mastodons
The buck of the heard can shoot rainbows out of its trunk that drain 2d4 exploding stamina and change your hue to a random one.

Travelling Caravan
The caravan enjoys the protection of the Rainbow-coalition, a group of mercenaries of all hues, and twenty in number. The RC has three ray guns, which they point at the PCs at all times from the central cart's tower. They will mention that a ruined city is nearby and offer to pay well for any valuable baubles that can be brought back from it.

A spawn
Glovorosto, she of many migranes. There is a 1 in 6 chance that Glovorosto is suffering a migrane when encountered. If so, the PCs will feel her pain to the point that the largest die they can use to attack or make checks will be one step worse. Glovorost looks like a giant brain with septiginal-radial simitry and fish tails jutting out of her skirt of phlem. Her touch will cause scanners-style head explosions unless the toucher rolls a d20 OVER thier INT score.
A spawn
This unnamed being takes up  habitation in shadows. What can be seen of it is its tendrils, which jut out of everyone's shadows. If a tendril is hit, the owner of the shadow where that tendril is found takes equal damage. The spawn is in the shade of a baobab tree when first encountered. If knocked to 1 HP, the spawn will rest for three days in someone's shadow, which takes on an ulfire hue.
A spawn
The puppeteer. It curretly resides in the brain stems of ten zombie-like azure people, who wander towards any movement or light they spy. These people have nails that are tipped with hollow needles, like hypodermics. If they scratch someone, that person needs to make a save or become possessed too.

Lotus dealer
Skeeve has three arms and robot bodyguard. Skeeve has a pouch of death-lotus dust (he is immune) and his robot has a dart-gun, the darts of which are loaded with death-lotus. Skeeve will be cool if you are.
Each one has been modified by a cyber-virus and has a little satellite-reciever dish sticking out of its head. Their eyes have been replaced by cylon-visors. Their legs end in spikes. They emit a field that neutralizes all lasers, beams, and plasmas within 60 feet.
They have jack-rabbit-like legs instead of fins. There is a 30% chance that some animal or people are tracking them and will also be along shortly, hoping for sweet dolphin meat.
Perpriatic hologram
The hologram is projected from within by a light-bee. It is cordial, changes its appearance to mimic whoever it is talking to. It will tell people about where to find one of the terrible carcosan items found in the core book, but wants a taste of exotic beam weaponry shot into it in exchange. There might be some such guns on that caravan it saw the other day.
A Cyborgess
Botness has a purple hue and is looking for adventurers to accompany her on a little mission to free someone's soul from torment (find Obregon's Dishonor somewhere if you can, or make up an adventure).
Geoffery  Mckinney
A mad man with glasses and stone-washed jean-shorts. He claims to have dreamed up this world. He has a set of plastic polyhedra on him. He has a 10 to 90% chance of remembering the answer to any question regarding the setting, provided the Carcosa Master hasn't already changed a detail or two (he doesn't know anything about this encounter table).
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Friday, February 19, 2021

Give and Take Initiative

Imma give a surprise round to the monster tho.

It's a simple idea: There are no rolls for initiative. First, the players are given a chance. Any one of them may come forward and try an action, such as attacking. When that player is done, the GM has a foe attempt an action. Then it goes back to the players.

I suggest if your elfgame allows multiple attacks or spells or whatever, you resolve them all at once as your action. I also suggest that any movement allowed you be done on your go.

There are rounds. Each entity in the fight gets only one action per round. If one side runs out of able bodies, the other side gets all of its agents that haven't gone yet squared away in whatever order they like.

Three PCs confront a behemoth. The GM asks whose up. Ser Twitchy asks the other players if it's okay for him to go, and they nod. Twitchy has two attacks, and rolls them both now. The monster takes them like a champ. 

Now the GM will go. She only has the behemoth to worry about. It has three attacks, so she rolls all three now, one against each PC. Sheela the Forgotten falls dead. 

Now it goes back to the PCs. Bob the Resuscitative was going to go in for an attack, but decides to use his action to shove a life cookie into Sheela's wound. 

Usually, the round would be over at that, but the GM has a surprise up her sleeve: Dread Maggots are popping into play from a nearby corpse, and they are going to try to burrow into everyone's wounds. The round finally ends with everyone rolling maggot-saves. As you do. 

This system favors the players' side a bit, but they need a break sometimes. One merit of the this system is that it could be used in either DnDs or Dungeon World pretty easily.

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Thursday, February 18, 2021

2d6 useful Encounters template with example

This post has an embedded Goog doc. If you can't see it, try this link.

So this was a fun thing and I want to do more of them and I hope you do too. The emergent storytelling possibilities are great. My players have already learned that a mad wizard is about from encountering his victims. I have made you all an Excel-ish template for rolling 2d6 to generate encounters. Percentiles are included to give a relative idea of what is rarely to be encountered. But they are cool, so I'm going to guarantee PCs eventually run into them especially if they push their luck. The procedure: 

  • Roll 2d6 and see what encounters are possible (you will have to choose if more than one is present). This happens each time PCs go through an area, and again if they stay there for a while for some reason (camping). 
  • Decide surprise or if the monster is doing something and so on. Reaction rolls are good too. 
  • An encounter that has happened is crossed off. If that number is rolled again, nothing happens this time. Eventually, the area will be tamed for a while, until new denizens start to percolate in. Check out the other tabs, because there is a blank page in there for you to fill out. Please blog your tables and let me know about them in the comments or on Twitter.

    Share good posts with good goblins. Claytonian at the gmails.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Why Vancian is Better Than Spell Points (and what to do about it)

First, let me lay out my credentials for my click-bait title.

Over on our Discord, (mail me if you want in on chances to play elf-games online), we have been playing a lot of Lodoss Companion, a game I translated from Japanese. It uses a stat called MP (magic points) to cast spells from. If you run out of MP, you faint.

About a couple years back I was in another RPG that uses spell points (run by Fear of a Black Dragon's Tom), Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying 1e. We played through the Enemy Within adventure path thing.

On the Discord, we also spent a few months going through my other big fanslation project, Double Moon. Dubmoon, being from the same publisher as Lodoss, shares a lot of its DNA, including the MP system, using Psychic Points called PPs, much to our amusement.

Finally, also on the Discord, we messed around with my hack of Arduin for a while. Uncle Dave "Killmepleasedaddy" Hargrave used a hybrid between Vancian and spell points back in the day. He also gave levels to spells because he was basically using 0DnD. I opted to just have spell points spent just be the level of the spell, let PCs cast any level of spell, and kicked Vancian restrictions out of there.

So all of these systems used points is my point. What is the problem I've noticed time and again? You are extremely incentivized to cast the same spells each combat. It was really bad in WHFRP. Once I learned Lightning Bolt, I would try to cast it each round. We could point out here that RAW material components would have ameliorated the problem, but like most groups we ditched those rules.

In Lodoss it's usually the same routine. Cast buffs on the fighter. Summon a spirit to fight. There is a bit of deja-vu each combat. My players do like the system though. One said they really dig not having to choose spells that they might use each game morning.

The Arudin games were a bit better, probably because of the sheer amount of gonzo spells the players wanted to try out. Also, without level restrictions, they could consider casting powerful, yet expensive spells.

 So, what's my solution to keep a game with spell points interesting? Well, I have a few.

  • Spell points are still a thing, but whenever a player casts a spell, it is gone for the day (sneaky Vance). 
  • Spell points are still a thing, but each additional time you cast a certain spell in a day costs one extra point per level of the spell (Vance tax).
  • Use DCC-style Mercurial Magic, which may make the player prefer to cast different spells for different situations. You don't need DCC tho; I got a d60 list of crazy spell requirements and effects.
  • Incentivize spell prep with Memorization Side Effects (using a Vancian hybrid or pure Vancian).
  • Use those material components up. Boo. Hey, maybe have all your spell-casting based on material components to make it better?
  • Seed a whole lot of situations that will require spells as tools. This one is hard to do, because utility spells are usually taken care of by equipment or the thief's abilities. 
  • Spells are free-form, but you can never cast the same spell twice (the Barony/Conrad's Game method).

Got more ideas? That's what comments are for!

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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Lessons to Learn from New Vegas (for TTRPGs)

I recently, finally, started to play 2010's Fallout New Vegas. I bought it on sale, but had never gotten around to it due to thinking it was some kind of mere add on to Fallout 3. Nope. Obsidian studios were told by their overlords to pump something out and they really did a good job. 

Okay, so the thing that is inspiring me as an elfgamer is the way missions are set up. Basically, it is a sandbox world. You can go anywhere, but some areas are just plain dangerous, so you have to listen to the NPCs to see which routes are relatively safe. 

NPCs will give you missions. They are all optional. Your actions can prematurely end them if you don't think carefully and kill the wrong people or something. The NPCs also usually give you an idea of where to go. Most of them even mark a place on the map you could check out.

I'm thinking this kind of approach could be particularly useful on Carcosa. My players have--thanks to risky psychedelics-- managed to glean the workings of a few rituals, but they are still a little rudderless. I do appreciate the few rituals that mention geographic locations though. I've been thinking about ways to give them more quests.

In the most recent sessions, they inadvertently created a horn-mutation on a lobotomite's forehead. The horn gained psionics and sentience and soon set itself up as a god-king amongst the locals. Now its followers are asking the party to fetch them some pink stones so they can strap them to their heads and look more like God-emperor Horny.  Meanwhile, the "true" king of these locals is trying to get the PCs on its side.

What I need to do soon is to have a small camp be encountered the next time the PCs are out exploring. The camp will have a sorcerer looking for a few humans for sacrifice purposes. The PCs will probably suss this out as evil and work to kill the sorcerer, or maybe they'll get down with evil. It's their choice; we have X-cards and social contracts to protect us. You can choose to do an evil run in New Vegas. It changes the outcome of the game, and makes people's opinions of you start to sour.

Speaking of opinions, you can usually use your words to steer conversations to peaceful outcomes in FONV, or insert expert observations thanks to your skills. I like that. Unlike a game with a reload system, there is no reason to keep the dice out of the equation though.

Freedom. Consequences. Many little things to do everywhere on the map. I do recommend New Vegas style sand-boxing.

Here's further inspiration:

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Monday, January 4, 2021

2d6 Loyalty

Your PC eyes a tough lady in a bar. "Might you be looking for employment?" you say.

She regards you cooly as a bald hobbit rolls some dice. "Mayhap I am. Sure am thirsty though."

"Ah, well,  feel free to buy a drink. I don't imbibe myself."

Well you just missed a social cue. That bald guy was the Dungeon Master. He was rolling 2d6* to see her beginning loyalty. Each time you screw up, that number goes down. Can you guess what happens at zero? Next time, start by buying your henchman a drink.

*: Snake eyes mean they'll rob you at the first opportunity. Boxcars mean they'll follow you fanatically lest you get really murderhoboey.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Too many click-clacks! 3d6 down the line. Once.

I like me some quick character generation. You can roll a 2d6 to get your scores and call it good, or add in a third d6 to find out which one of these scores is your first score (the rest follow in order, as Crom intended). These scores are probably too week for power-fantasy D&Ds.







3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14

3, 6, 7, 10, 12, 14

3, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14

3, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14

3, 8, 10, 10, 13, 15

3, 8, 11, 11, 15, 18


4, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15

5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 15

6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14

7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 14

8, 9, 11, 11, 11, 13

9, 9, 11, 12, 13, 18


5, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15

6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15

7, 9, 10, 13, 13, 14

8, 9, 10, 13, 13, 15

9, 9, 11, 12, 12, 13

9, 10, 10, 13, 13, 18


6, 9, 11, 12, 15, 15

7, 9, 11, 13, 13, 13

8, 9, 12, 13, 13, 14

9, 9, 11, 14, 14, 15

9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

9, 9, 9, 13, 14, 18


7, 9, 12, 12, 15, 16

8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 13

9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16

9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15

8, 11, 12, 12, 14, 15

9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 18


3, 7, 10, 12, 15, 18

4, 8, 11, 13, 13, 18

5, 9, 12, 13, 14, 18

6, 10, 12, 13, 15, 15

7, 11, 12, 12, 13, 17

9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18