Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Devil's Fiddle

The Devil's Fiddle is a violin with a notorious past. A Stradivarius made in 1699, just before the "golden period" of Stradivari, the Fiddle is rumoured to be the physical manifestation of the contract the fiddlemaker made with the Devil. The Devil's Fiddle is easily differentiated from the other Stradivari by its unusual black surface and the disturbing vibrations the strings create when touched.

The Devil's Fiddle has traveled around the world through the centuries. It never seems to stay in place for long, often auctioned away after its previous owner's gruesome death or mysterious disappearance. The Fiddle has seen many users such as the unknown master Erich Zann and Camille Saint-Saëns, who is said to have come up with the melody of Danse Macabre after an all-nighter of feverish playing on Samhain.

In addition to its dark inspiration, the violin is said to have strange effects when certain notes are played. Some notes are said to have an averse effects on creatures of the night and some are said to cause nearby religious symbols to shatter. Some of them are claimed to bring prophetic nightmares and visions when played near a sleeping victim.

Further it is whispered that should one play the Danse Macabre alone at night in a tomb, the dead buried there would wake and animate for as long as the player could keep playing. What the dead would do after such a wakening is unknown.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hunters, Part I: The Hunter's Handbook

These past few weeks I've been working on a PocketMod-sized RPG in the vein of Weird West and Rogue Space RPGs. Using this format has allowed me to finalize a design that I've spent months trying to wrap up. The limit of 6 pages of text really helped me concentrate on the material at hand.

My goal was to make a relatively flexible game, somewhere between FATE and Risus in complexity. I tried to keep the Conditions and Effects very universal, so that they can represent a variety of things.

You can get the PDF from the link on the left. This is the printer friendly and free version.

I'll probably make something like the Risus Companion to clarify the system, give GM advice, present some optional rules etc. I don't know if this would be best as a straigth up PDF or a PocketMod version. We'll see. I might also make supplements (in PocketMod form, of course.)

I also have a less printer-friendly version that looks more like an arcane book, and I plan to release that commercially (at a low price) together with the Companion or whatever it's going to be called sometime next month.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Gift of Pyrokinesis

Pyrokinetics are humans who have the ability to control fire with their minds. These individuals are often the offspring of powerful psionics, though some seem to exhibit the talent spontaneously while others receive it as a gift from their dark masters. Most born pyrokinetics are spontaneous and quick to anger. Whatever the source, each individual pyrokinetic has his own methods and problems with handling fire.

Roll a D6
1 - Nightmares. You sometimes subconsciously trigger your ability while asleep. The chance of you manifesting your pyrokinesis while dreaming ranges from 1 to 5 in six, depending on your nightmares.
2 - Manipulator You can only manipulate fire, not create it. You need a flame or sufficient heat to create one to use your pyrokinesis.
3 - Vulnerable Your can't shield yourself from fire. You and items in your possession are not protected from flames.
4 - Destroyer You can only bolster a fire, not cool it down. Likewise, you can only spread fire, not move it from one place to another.
5 - Bad Temper You subconsciously activate your ability when angry. The angrier you get, the harder it becomes to control your powers.
6 - Pyromaniac You become a slave to your gift. You treat fire as if it was your god, worshipping and sacrificing for it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Technology Level Table

This is one of the tables used for outpost creation I created for a Lovecraftian/Dark Technology setting, where sorcery and science were inseperable. It takes a different view from most tech level tables I've seen, focusing more on the philosophy and approach to science than the actual level of technology as mirrored from our world.

I'd map our western world like this: Dark Age -> Classical -> Dark Age -> Alchemy -> Weird Science -> Industrialism -> Weird Science -> Cybernetics

These levels can of course be mixed. Cybernetics usually includes a bit of Industrialism, for example.

Note that these write-ups assume sorcery to be a subset of technology.

Roll a d6
1 - Dark Age
2 - Classical
3 - Alchemy
4 - Industrialism
5 - Weird Science
6 - Cybernetics

Dark Age
People don't understand technology and think of it as witchcraft. Cults and sorcerers abound. Metal items are rare and often the relics of past times, though basic copper items can be forged.
Science is debased by religion.

People can manually work technology, like working bronze and creating clockwork mechanisms. Basic mechanics are understood and reason and logic are the driving forces of culture.
Science is an art form.

People are kept in the dark. The mysteries of technology are hidden behind symbolism, allegory and mysticism. The practice of science is mixed with philosophy. Complex and baroque formulas and equations are treated as the key to the transcendence from humanity.
Science is occultism.

People have access to steel and gunpowder, making rifles and revolvers the weapons of choice. Factories exist, and mass-production makes technology cheap and ubiquitous.
Science is a tool.

Weird Science
Most people don't understand the principles of the advanced sciences that fuel their technology. Radical theories are proved and disproved daily. Atomic and electronic appliances are used.
Science is an academical frontier.

People are infused with technology. Production on the nanoscale and the creation of bionic implants allow persons to change themselves radically. The creation of artificial intelligence and gene modification cause ethical problems.
Science is everywhere.

Super Science
People bend the rules of reality on a regular basis. Feats such as immortality, teleportation and time travel are part of everyday life. Genesis-machines and their creation of worlds are the pinnacle of technology. This is the tech-level of the Old Ones in their prime, and can never be mastered by simple humans.
Science is divinity.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Reskinning the Elf: The Ghoulkin

While looking at the elf from D&D 3.5E and reading this post from the Sorcerer's Skull I got to thinking of another interpretation of the elf racial traits: the ghoulkin. I'm amazed by how the stats need no change for this to work apart from the small change of favored class to rogue and some languages. The elf racial traits out of context really suggest to me some unsocial tomb-dwelling wretch what with the immunity to a ghoul's paralyzing touch, the constitution penalty and the other traits befitting a paranoid, hard-to-charm, sleepless scavenger.

The ghoulkin are graveyard dwelling long-lived humanoids with close ancestry to both ghouls and humans. Ghoulkin value their privacy and traditions, and while they are often slow to make friends, at both the personal and communal levels, once an outsider is accepted as a comrade, such alliances can last for generations. The ghoulkin favor black humor and are generally obsessed with morose 'art', be it cooking, tale-telling or physical crafts. Ghoulkin are excellent tomb-robbers and often cross swords with the undead guardians of the crypts.

The ghoulkin are lanky and sickly, their skin usually corpse-gray. They have pointy ears and their eye-color ranges from the human range to gray and red. They are paranoid and usually chaotic evil. Ghoulkin favor light weapons to backstab their enemies or bows so they can attack from hiding.

Ghoulkin Racial Traits
+2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution
The ghoulkin are agile, but their unhygienic lifestyle wreaks havoc on their health.
Ghoulkin are man-sized and have a base speed of 30.
Low-Light Vision
Ghoulkin can see twice as far as humans in dim lighting.
Ghoulkin immunities
Due to their inherent insomnia and paranoia, ghoulkin are immune to magic sleep effects and +2 racial saving throw bonus against enchantment spells and effects.
Ghoulkin are also immune to a ghoul's paralyzing touch.
+2 racial bonus on Listen, Search, and Spot checks. A ghoulkin who merely passes within 5 feet of a secret or concealed door is entitled to a Search check to notice it as if she were actively looking for it.
Weapon proficiency
Ghoulkin receive the Martial Weapon Proficiency feats for the longsword, rapier, longbow (including composite longbow), and shortbow (including composite shortbow) as bonus feats.
Automatic Languages: Common and Ghoul. Bonus Languages: Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Underdark.
Favored class Rogue

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Statue Spawn

A statue spawn is an alien lifeform that in nature creates a shell for itself from rock. It is so named due to the tendency of sorcerers to infect the inside of a statue with the thing, allowing it to burrow and grow inside it. A spawn is amorphous and can be divided into several smaller spawn that eventually grow into additional spawn.

The spawn can be tamed by the use of chemicals so that they recognize their masters by their smell. The sorcerer usually carries two flasks of liquid, one of which is a blue one that makes the spawn complacent, allowing them to hide almost indefinitely, immobile in the statue. This chemical can also calm them down after they have frenzied.

When exposed to air around spawn, the liquid in the red flask cause them to enrage, followed with their statue shells cracking to allow movement, after which they attack anything in the area until everything is dead or they smell the green chemical again.

The spawn are usually moved to a different statue after they have once enraged, due to the obvious cracks and holes it creates in their shells, revealing the glowing purple spawn inside and ruining the element of surprise. In addition, oxygen is slightly toxic to the creatures and if not within a mostly airtight shell, the spawn dies out in 1 - 10 days depending on the size of the cracks.

Unlike normal animated statues, the spawn don't really use the limbs of their stone shells as nature intended and therefore are sometimes concealed in unconventional forms (such as pillars, orbs, or walls) that might fool someone looking for more obvious guardians.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gambler's Folly

Gambler's Folly or Last Chance is a dice game designed played sometimes played on the frontier as a last chance to get out of debt. Mostly it results in the debtor plummeting deeper and deeper in debt.

Gambler's Folly is usually played only with the desperate or addicted gamblers due to the "unfair" probabilities involved. Especially so when considering the fact that the creditor decides when the game stops.

The Rules:
The player of Gambler's Folly rolls two regular six-sided dice.
He wins and halves his debt if he rolls a six on any die.
He also wins if he rolls doubles.
If he rolls double sixes his debt is paid in full.
If he loses, his debt doubles.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Occultus, the Mad Star

"In the star-possessèd night
The land knows another light—
All the small and evil rays
Of the sorcerous orbs ablaze
With ecstatical intense
Hate and still malevolence—
Dwelling on the fields below
From the ascendancy of even
Till the suns, re-entering heaven,
Glorify with triple glow
The dim flowers smitten low."
The Land of Evil Stars - Clark Ashton Smith

The Mad Star Occultus bathes the world in revealing purple light when on the sky. The god of science and insight, Occultus is said to resemble an unblinking eye, endlessly watching and analyzing the world.

As such, Occultus is the source of the sorcery known as Divination. It is said that no secret is safe from him and none bar the shadowy star Noctis herself can hide from him. Sorcerers and cultists of Occultus are often those who covet knowledge, secrets and the power they bring. Those most likely to turn to Occultus are intelligent or insane individuals such as scientists (astronomers in particular), librarians, investigators, explorers and the paranoid.

Forbidden lore states that Occultus wasn't always insane, but was driven to it after eons of solitary enlightenment. Some say, however, that Occultus lost his mind divining the course of the already insane world. Whatever the case, the sorcerers of the Mad Star tend to also become more and more insane with each elevating revelation.

Though once the god of reason and logic, the Occultus is an insane star. Its path through the heavens is incredibly convoluted to the degree of appearing completely random. Because of its complex orbit, the only requiremnt high sorcerers of the cult of Occultus are those who can divine the star's movements. It is their insane insight that allows them to peer through the veils of reality that more rational beings could scarcely even imagine to exist.

Random blessings from Occultus (roll 1d6):
1 - Unblinking Eyes: You never close your eyes. You also cannot sleep, so you're very hard to sneak upon.
2 - Unnatural Memory: You remember everything you've seen or heard with unnerving accuracy.
3 - Insane Insight: You can roll Smarts to come up with unintuitive, seemingly insane solutions to difficult situations.
4 - Horrible Visions: You see terrifying visions of past, future or current events. These can manifest as nightmares if you are capable of sleep.
5 - Infovore: You can read and understand, but not write or speak, any language or code.
6 - Precognition: You can roll Smarts instead of Speed to evade or dodge attacks.