Monday, 18 March 2019

The Confectionary Princess

A class for LotFP and similar games, with inspiration stolen from Adventure Time.
Written because I just finished the show, and it was good, and I love me some magical lesbian princesses.

Hit Dice: d4
Saves: As a magic-user
Attacks: As non-fighters (use the MU progression if in doubt)
Equipment restrictions: As a fighter/MU.
Leveling Up: At the same rate as a Fighter.
Special Abilities:
Candy flesh: while made of sugar and flavourings rather than meat and gristle, a confectionery princess is biologically alive and must eat, breathe, sleep and so on like anybody else.
Unaging: Confectionery princesses don't age. Sugar is a preservative, you know! (+50)
Super Gay: Confectionery princesses are totally immune to charm effects cast by men, and likewise no magic or charm can compel the princess to feel affection, love or lust towards a man. She just doesn't swing that way.
Alcohol Vulnerability: Raw alcohol affects the princess like holy water affects an undead monster or elf: it dissolves her candy flesh like acid, as well as getting her kinda drunk just from touching it.
Cute yet Inspiring: Confectionery princesses treat their Charisma modifier as +1 better.
Royalty: The princess must purchase a crown, signet ring, mantle or other badge of office during character creation, at the same cost as a magician's spellbook. Her create raw confectionery, shape confectionery and create candy citizens abilities don't function unless she's wearing this badge of office. For as long as she possesses it, she's also the undisputed ruler of a small confectionery kingdom safely hidden away somewhere in the setting, largely self-governing but loyal to her commands. Finding the kingdom to resume active rulership will probably be a quest worthy of a high-level princess.
Create Raw Confectionery: As the spell Wall of Stone, cast by a magician of equivalent level, but the wall is a slab of raw candy (chocolate, peppermint, toffee or whatever the princess wants). Creates candy instead of stone. Can be cast once per day.
Shape Confectionery: As the spell Shape Stone, cast by a magician of equivalent level. Only affects candy.
Create Candy Citizens: Given a day to work, a laboratory and/or kitchen and suitable raw candy materials, the princess can create citizens for herself. This costs as much as the monthly fee to hire a follower in rare materials (create raw confectionery is not sufficient here, the materials are esoteric and hard to source). The citizenry have the stats of any normal 0th level human, do not age, and have unshakeable morale and loyalty when serving the princess (or whoever holds her crown); roll for morale/loyalty normally when dealing with anybody else.

You can change what sort of princess this is by altering what material they work with. An ice princess gets 'create raw ice' 'shape ice' and 'create ice citizens', and replaces alcohol vulnerability with heat vulnerability, for example. Ice, rust, bone, goo and glass princesses are all possibilities.

If anybody actually is crazy enough to include this in their games, please let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Electrical Vampires

A preview of what I'm working on for the Dreamscapes game. One of the more minor monsters. A bit spoilersy for how it all fits together.

Non-physical life forms. Where physical life is made of matter - the particle side of the wave-particle duality -  these beings are the opposide, being made of waves and fields.Such life forms are not uncommon. Most exist in a rarefied intangible way, occupying frequencies that  humans simply don’t perceive, unable to interact with matter in a meaningful fashion.
Whole ecosystems of flickering light-forms exist just beyond the bounds of human experience. Most are simple patterns of light or radiation, flickering and propagating themselves, much like plants or corals. Less are animalistic, displaying agency and action. A few reach intelligence comparable to human sentience. Of these, the most dangerous is the electric vampire.The electric vampire is a stable wave-form composed of complex self-sustaining electromagnetic fields. It flows down cables, inhabits machinery, projects itself across radio equipment. It craves the complex electrical activity of the human brain, luring victims close to dangerously faulty wiring, and absorbs the magnetically-encoded memories from within their skulls. It's intangible, ever-shifting, flickering and drifting, always hungry. Humanity's ever-more-complex machinery have turned the world into a glorious all-you-can-eat buffet for these electrical parasites.
They don’t have some grand organisation; each such vampire is an entity of its own, only loosely allied with other electric vampires. Nonetheless, their intelligence and mastery of electrical technology is such that they can become masterful manipulators of human society.
While they have no capacity to travel between universes on their own, they can possess and hijack the technological means of others. When the squid-men travel between worlds, they inadvertently carry electric vampires that wait torpid in their strange machines. Even worse, the use of an FBPI Machine opens up an electrical highway between worlds that the vampires are learning to traverse.
 Electrical Vampire HD 5, HP 10, Save 14+, Defence 19+.
Electric Shocks (11+, d6 damage, and save vs normal hazards to avoid paralysis & the electrocution continuing just like other electrical shocks).  Can only be used while inhabiting something appropriate.Brain feeding (13+, d6 Intelligence lost, the vampire absorbs the victim’s memories). Can only be used on helpless targets. Immune to all physical damage. Cannot be touched. Cannot be perceived through normal sight (although the technological means to see their electromagnetic field exists).An EMP does d4 to d12 damage to the electric vampire, depending on size.When not inhabiting an electrical device, the vampire moves only slowly - drifting at the rate of a gentle breeze - and can do little other than inhabiting a machine or using its Brain-feeding ability.When it inhabits an electrical device, assign the device a number of HP based on its size and durability (from 1-3 for a phone to 50+ for an aeroplane). The physical object can take damage normally, and when it has no HP left the electric vampire is forced out of it.When inhabiting an electrical device, has total control over that object’s functioning. It can cause it to do anything that item would be capable of.
Can cause an inhabited device to malfunction, doing things it wouldn’t normally such as throw of sparks, overheat, etc. Doing so causes 1 damage to the item inhabited.
 Death By Electric VampireIf a victim is killed by shocks, the vampire can imediately brain-feed on them for d6 intelligence loss before they leave the mission.
Furthermore, when a victim is killed by brain-feeding or shocks, the electric vampire can hitch a ride on the signal carrying their mind back to their body, using it to travel back to the waking world with them.A vampire inhabiting an FBPI machine while it’s in use is a terrifying thought.

And here's some art by Scrap Princess, depicting one.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Sharne's Clockwork Market - Intro

Here's an idea for another module in the vein of Ynn and the Library

Sharne is the ghost of a world. Fundamentally dead and barren, with nothing left but to dissolve before the remorseless caress of entropy. Once a functional reality like many other pocket-realms, it has reached the end of its life-span.
Above a dry, dust-choked ruin a red sun hangs bloated and low in a foggy sky. There are no plants, save for the desiccated skeletons of long dead trees. No birdsong, nor scavenging animals, nor even the buzz of carrion flies. No breeze disturbs the streets as, brick by brick, the place crumbles away.
In the distant past, when humanity first carved writing into stone tablets, Sharne was a bustling place. The residents were tall, elegant beings, as if carved from jet and alabaster. Possessed of alien grace and minds brilliant like the blue flame of a blowtorch, and a mastery over magic and science that rendered them the undisputed masters of their domains. On earth, the fledgling races of mankind called them by many names; the Annunaki, the Sidhe, the Shining Ones, the Nephilim.
They built this place - using the same huge machinary as that of Ynn, Stygia and Laputa among many others - to be a thronging bazaar, a densely-packed market-town where they might buy and sell anything, no matter how esoteric. For an age of the earth, it was at the centre of a web of trade that extended across many worlds.
Eventually, the civilisation of these beings fell to decadence, then to cruelty, and then to civil war. As their world-engines ground into an all-consuming conflict, ever greater weapons were developed. Black-holes of the mind that negated all meaning, memetic viruses that would drive all who knew their secret to insanity, quantum-prions that reconfigured atomic matter into thrashing plasma, slaved titan-minds capable of unthinkable feats of will and strategy.
Worst of all, the deplorable weapon. The forbidden spell, Power Word - Kill Everything.Armies gathered in the rolling plains around Sharne, each vying for control of the trade-dimension. One commander, seeing their forces outnumbered and cut off from retreat, in a fit of imperious rage, spoke a single syllable, and the world died. 
How do you get to Sharne?Reaching Sharne is not easy. A prospective visitor must demonstrate that they have the means and willingness to trade. To open a gate, the following steps must be followed:
A gateway, with two pillars and a lintel, must be constructed out of ivory. From the lintel, a curtain of silk must be hung to obscure the other side of the portal. The whole construction r will likely cost around five hundred silver in materials and labour costs.
Once created, the gateway will always function so long as it is not damaged.
To pass through, the entrant merely need speak the words 'I seek entry to Sharne' and step through the curtain.
There is a toll to enter, paid every time for each entrant. The machinery of Sharne claims something intangible. (There will be a table for 'intangible costs', things like memories, years from your lifespan, slivers of your soul, artistic inspiration, and so on. You roll each time you need to pay something like this, and might adjust your stats accordingly). Those unwilling to pay the toll find themselves entangled in a silk curtain in the real world; those who pay pass through and find themselves in the bleak ruins of Sharne, an open door of ivory at their back. 
Why go to Charne?Although dead, the ghost-world is not entirely uninhabited. Those things which never lived were unafected by the deplorable weapon. The trading automata stand vigils, their inner workings slowly rusting away as they wait for customers that may never return. Here, by discovering the right machines, an explorer might purchase all manner of esoteric rewards. Beauty, genius, and murderous potency can all be purchased here. Among the slow-collapsed ruins, the encroaching dust and the piled rust and rubble, all manner of fabulous treasures can be found.
And there is life here, of a sort. Not native life, but rather things that found their way in from other worlds. Sometimes, a merchant-prince of impressive means from the real world will lead a caravan through elephant-sized ivory gates. They come in search of rumoured wealth, driven on by the rumours of their fellows. Some return, others remain in the sand-choked streets forming their own bizarre culture of pauper-merchants. There are stranger visitors, too, drawn to long-fallen Sharne in search of whatever their society prizes most.
That's the basic setup. The obvious inspiration is it's namesake Charn in C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew. Likewise Jack Vance's Dying Earth novels and the paintings of Zdzisław Beksiński. I expect that there will be some references to modern automated commercial culture; vending machines, drive-thru restaurants, ATM machines. The dehumanising effects of unbridled capitalism. Clockwork and throbbing tubes.
And, at its heart, in the deepest recess of the adventure, will be Power Word Kill Everything. Here's what it does:
Spell, level 1. Learned from scrolls or spell-books like any other MU spell. Clerics who encounter it likewise add it to their repertoire. Same for other variant spellcasters and wielders of magic, although you might need to bend it into shape to fit odd magic systems. Upon casting, immediately and without any possible countermeasure, every living thing in the reality inhabited by the caster dies instantly. There is no saving throw allowed. Resistance to magic, counter-spells, contingencies, and extraordinary resistances do not apply. Upon casting, all living things in the caster's world die. (Non living things such as robots and zombies are unaffected. This need not end the campaign, as it only affects the caster's current world, plane, layer or dimension.)

So there's some treasure to give your PCs. Think of it as a mutually-assured-destruction insurance policy against railroading.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Thoughts on the zaklash, personal stuff

first up, this might get heavy. 
second up, this is gonna be personal, I'm gonna talk about my own feelings here and stuff. none of it is remotely gameable. it's gonna ramble. this is about me because it's my blog and I can be melodramatic if I want to, but whatever unhapiness I'm feeling is fuck all compared to what mandy, hannah, jennifer and vivka (and probably others) went through, which is just nightmarish.
but it's my blog so I'm gonna spew my feelings onto the internet.

To start, the statements by Mandy, Hanna, Jennifer and Vivka strike me as brutally honest and real and I don't doubt them for a moment. I woke up on monday morning and Mandy's post was at the top of my feed, and honestly reading through it just made me feel ill. It took me a while to process it.
'Cos here's the thing. In the past, I'd been a big fan and supporter of Zak. I'd argued his case online and supported him in his various bitch-fests on g+ and elsewhere. And he was nice to me, treated me like I was smart and valuable, and he recommended my work to people. Getting approval from him felt like I'd made it, like I was in the Cool Kids Club now.
Buuut. Periodically things would blow up and he'd be accused of something hyperbolous and I'd think "You know, maybe I should give an account saying I think the accusations are bullshit" but I never did. And the reason I never did was because in the back of my head there was a little voice saying "but what if actually he's done something dreadful". So, I suspected. And there are people who's work I admire deeply - Evlynn M, is a good example - who got driven away by him and I never examined why that was because it was uncomfortable.
The thing here is that many of these people who shied away from Zak were, I dunno, conflict-averse. Delicate, even. You know who's neither conflict-averse nor delicate? 4chan. There's an ongoing general-thread on 4chan for OSR stuff and a refrain I'd see come up on there was how people thought Zak and Mandy's relationship was suspect. There were a lot of misogynists being horrid of course, but not just that. Nothing concrete, but people would mention how odd it was that he never mentioned her anymore. Or mention that Mandy had tweeted that she didn't like looking back on her time with Zak. It's odd how a hive of scum and villainy seems to have picked up on this before somewhere nice like rpgnet did.
And, again, I put those rumours on 4chan to the back of my mind and didn't investigate, because it's just 4chan stirring up shit and it's not real, because I knew that Zak was a good guy, after all he was good to me.
And I'd gotten into debates with Zak but I'd never felt able to really push my side because, deep down, I knew he'd use Zak Logic to tear me to shreds and, you know... I know what happens when queer women on the internet disagree with powerful men, and frankly the thought of having a riled-up internet hate mob after me terrifies me. But again, all of those fears got pushed to the back of my mind. I never openly acknowledged that Zak frightened me and I was scared to get in his crossfires.

So then I read Mandy's account and things fell into place and my first thought was I should have known.

Like, one pattern that got hilighted was how the guy seemed to collect useful diverse shields. Scrap Princess, Fionna Geist, Keil Chiener, me. I remember being asked by him to keep tabs on 4chan to see if they were mentioning him, and the way he phrased it was so innocuous and friendly, but...

I've been an abuse victim in the past. It still messes with me. When I hear raised voices near me, I mentally flicker back to having this asshole I used to live with, up in my face screaming slurs at me with his hands round my throat. And in dealing with all of this, on Discord and G+ and other places I've been using dark humour and stuff to mask it but this whole thing has messed me up.
I've not written for the last week. There's three word doccuments open on my desktop that I've not touched since I first read this. I never go this long without writing stuff.
That I was in some slight way a part of keeping this guy's power structure in place, that i was part of the network... that makes me feel all hollow and rotten inside when i think about it.

Recently, I'll browse RPGnet or twitter or reddit, or it'll pop up on my facebook or something, and I'll see some (edited:) well meaning but imho unhelpful person saying "oh, he was clearly awful, we've been saying this for years, you should have known" and it's horrible. See, deep down I suspect that I did know, and didn't acknowledge it. Can we have less of that please?
We got fooled. Lots of us. We saw Zak present himself as this cool guy, detatched and intillectual and good at arguing, and he made good books, and he brought you into his web of support. 
And you know? I do still think that some of the stuff people said about him was bullshit. When the VtM thing blew up and people were saying he was with White Wolf and a nazi and all that? That was bullshit. That was just internet culture-war bollocks. And he used the fact that some stuff said about him was rubbish to disprove all of it.

One thing stands out to me in Mandy's statement in particular:
Then you started with the online gaming arguments nonsense, and that put a real crack in our bond. In the beginning I felt genuinely protective of you, my provider, and of course that was my very strong trauma bond. I didn't know better, and I just thought I was caring for the person I loved. Callously, you exposed me to death and rape threats and you then never took the distress this caused me seriously, you were in no way sympathetic to the very real stress these disagreements caused. You enjoyed it. And you gloated over the harm you caused other people. (It was extremely unattractive.) You just used those threats we received as an excuse, used me and my marginalized identities as shields in your continuing misbehaviour online.
Here's one thing I took away from that: The internet drama stuff filtered through to Mandy's life and when people went after Zak, she got hurt. I'll come back to this.

Now. Away from the computer, I'm a Quaker. I consider personal integrity important. I think it's important to be driven by morality and to listen to the little voice inside you that tells you hard truths.  To stand up against injustice and vice, regardless of the cost to yourself. In this matter, now that I reflect on thins, I know what the little voice was telling me and that I ignored it. By my own standards, I failed, and for that I'm deeply sorry.
Another principle that, as a Quaker, I am deeply committed to is pacifism. I've alluded to this elsewhere, but it's a big driving force in how I think and how I try to act. Violence is wrong. Always, without exception. No matter what your target did to 'deserve' it, it's wrong. Revenge is just an excuse for violence, it's how you justify giving in to your worst urges. (There are times when violence is nessesary to protect others, when without the use of force you will have to stand by and allow others to do harm. And in these cases, while you will have to use force for the greater good, you're still doing an immoral thing and should be contrite that you had to resort to that, and should be deeply sceptical of any idea that your use of force was good. Having to use violence shouldn't make you feel good.).
Violence isn't just physical violence. The use of power (social or financial or whatever) to hurt others is, to my mind, violence. Internet hate-mobs are violence. Coordinated harassment is violence. They ruin lives. We saw what Gamergate did; Anita Sarkesian is somebody who's courage in continuing to speak when the full bile of the internet was pointed at her is something I find inspiring. The twitter-circus baying for blood whenever a 'deserving' victim is found fills me with a sense of profound discomfort.
Which brings me back to that statement by Mandy above. When people went after Zak, she recieved death threats, and she got hurt. There are women whose statements Zak is using as shields right now. I don't know if he's coerced them, wrote them himself, has them fooled. However, I will say this now:
don't fucking go after those women. don't. don't do anything to hurt them directly. don't do anything which might get them hurt in the fallout. 
I mean hell, don't go after zak. Cut him out of the RPG scene, make sure he can't easilly use our comunity as a shield in future, reduce his ability to find victims. Publicise this stuff so any future potential victims can discover it easilly and avoid being pulled in. Reduce harm. But, if you're going to go right after him in order to cause suffering, maybe don't. You're only adding more suffering to the world, maybe catching innocent victims in the splash radius.

I've had a certain amount of involvement with trying to shape the way the conversation goes with regard to this whole affair and, weighing it up, I think that my actions should help reduce harm, but I am as terrified that I'll find myself as part of an internet hate mob as I am of being on the receiving end. This whole thing has made me deeply uncomfortable.

There's a post I made on reddit about what happens now, and I'm just gonna repeat it here:
If one thing comes from this, I hope it's that we can use the sense of outrage here as an impetus to go out and do some good in the world. Domestic abuse etc are kind of everywhere, and can quietly wreck lives while nobody is looking. If you want to make a difference for the better, here's some suggestions:
  • Donate money to a charity for domestic abuse survivors. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a fundraiser to get some help for those who've spoken up about Zak, and there's probably a women's shelter near you that needs funding.
  • Keep an eye out for this sort of thing happening around you; abuse like this is horribly common, and it's not impossible it's happened to somebody in your life, or even still is happening. The worst abuse often happens when the perpetrator knows nobody will suspect anything.
  • Be there for vulnerable people and be prepared to stand up against people in your life who're treating partners/children/etc badly.
  • Be the change you want to see in the world in general. Did this stuff shock you? It should, it's shocking. Let that try to motivate you to make the world a better place.
I'm sure most people reading this are good people who've found the revelations on monday (and since) deeply upsetting. The response I've seen from OSR circles has been heartening; let's keep in that mindset, and go out and make the world a better place.
which sums things up.  
A lot of other people have been brilliant here. I have much respect for Scrap Princess, Patrick S, and Jack Tatters here, but honestly, the response has been largely wholesome and I hope we can remain the best version of a community.

I digress: here's the logs of the last conversation I had with the guy:
zak/Langouste  Yesterday at 8:31 AM
well they made a choice weighing principal vs their own best interest and so did ithis is important stuffimagine you were falsely accused at this level of heinousness--you'd see it as important, I assume
Cavegirl  Yesterday at 8:34 AM
If I were accused of this sort of thing my response would have been very different but I suspect, based on previous discussions, we are operating from very different starting axioms so I'm not sure it's worth going into that. 
zak/Langouste  Yesterday at 8:37 AM
i got accused on a sunday, vetted and hired a lawyer  by monday night and did what everyone i know who's a public figure and every lawyer i talked to said and what i thought was right: put out a public statement
Cavegirl  Yesterday at 8:38 AM
I don't doubt that
my public statement would have looked very different to yours. As I say, different starting axioms. 
zak/Langouste  Yesterday at 8:39 AM
well what are your different axioms?
Cavegirl  Yesterday at 8:47 AM
to briefly summarize, I consider myself to be fallible and that the hurt of others is normally genuine. Combined with a different approach to, you know, morality in general (recall our differences RE: desirable outcomes in online debates, in which i was something of a bleeding hearted softie).My response would probably start from the foundation that there was something I'd done to warrant this, and that my perceptions of events were likely biased. So, my statement would largely consist of an acknowledgement of the hurt felt by the accuser and my part in that. I would do my best to make a sincere apology and offer to make ammends. My assumption would be that even if I hadn't intended to cause harm or realised that I was doing so, i still did so without meaning to, and that it would be my responsibility to fix that to the best of my ability.Fundamentally, even if I privately felt that I was in the right, I would do everything in my power to fix what I could, and place doing right by those hurt above my own needs.These things are difficult. No doubt it would be deeply unpleasant for me. But I hold myself to certain standards (both as a result of past traumas and as a matter of my faith) and that informs how I respond to these things. 
zak/Langouste  Yesterday at 8:48 AM 
Then you'd go to jail.Like: if you don't defend yourself you'd go to jail. Bc the things Mandy said are jail things 
her hurt could be real but the accusations aren't and im not going to pretend they are just to be nice 
Cavegirl  Yesterday at 8:50 AM 
I would hope that things could be repaired enough that my accusers didn't press charges. Are yours doing so?If I ended up in jail, though, I'd be there with my conscience as clean as I could manage. 
zak/Langouste  Yesterday at 8:50 AM 
@Cavegirl  attempts at repair have been attempted, she won't talk to the accused. like most accusers on the internetalso: my sympathy for viral  outrage mongers left a looooooong time ago. i loved her but seriously no 
Cavegirl  Yesterday at 8:55 AM 
well then. I don't know what advice I can give you except patience and signs of contrition. I'll be honest, when I saw this come up it absolutely gutted me. I'm an abuse survivor. I held you in high esteem. I have been a mess because of all this.I am literally crying as I type this. It isn't easy and it can't be for you either.I had hoped that the statement from you were were waiting for would... well, would reflect the values I stated earlier. Contrition, willingness to accept responsibility, etc. I'm not sure there's much to be gained from continuing this conversation at this point. 
zak/Langouste  Yesterday at 8:57 AM 
i don't think it's an act of good faith to be contrite toward a person who is attacking me.  Someone punches you, you don't go "Im sorry".  And that' s not a metaphor: she fucking punched me. Its in the statement. 
Cavegirl  Yesterday at 8:58 AM 
as I say. This is where you and I differ. Operating from different assumptions. 
zak/Langouste  Yesterday at 8:59 AMso if someone punched you int he face you'd go "im sorry" 
Cavegirl  Yesterday at 9:01 AM 
I mean probably yeah. That'd be my intention, at least. It's the standard I'd want to hold myself to. 
zak/Langouste  Yesterday at 9:01 AM 
ok, to me, that standard leads to this person punching everyone 
Cavegirl  Yesterday at 9:02 AMAs I say, different base assumptions. 
zak/Langouste  Yesterday at 9:03 AM 
do you not see how that leads to everyone getting punched? i mean: that's storygames.

Willingness to admit fault? Pacifism? Contrition? Mercy? That's bad. That's storygames.
I think that tells you everything you need to know.

Anyway. This hasn't been fun to write. Here it is. I'm sorry for any part I've had in enabling this stuff in the past and can only hope that my actions will help make amends.

(play nice in the comments or you get the banhammer, i'm not in the mood for whataboutism)

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Handling IC Nastiness

I am a bleeding-hearted hippy who doesn't want to upset people. I also like horror, in the fiction I consume, the larps I play, and the games I write & run. My games are full of gore and body-horror and PCs going mad, suffering horrible fates, and witnessing gruesome stuff.
Here, I compile my thoughts on how I handle stuff that might upset people in the games I run. No particular order. I'm writing this because, having recently moved cities, I'm joining a new gaming club and their assumptions are rather different to my own.

While all of this is aimed at GMs, GMs aren't the only people bringing ideas into a game. Players - through the actions of their PCs - can make things just as nasty. Look at the classic 'orc baby dilema'; that's only grimdark nastiness if the PCs decide to kill the babby orcs.

Point the first. Horror is good. Fear makes things exciting, and a good 'ewww, gross' reaction can bring people into the game-fiction brilliantly efficiently. Likewise, presenting people with genuinely difficult moral choices can make them engage with the game-fiction on a deeper level (even 'my character doesn't care about being a good person' is itself an interesting moment of characterisation). I hate media that is sanitised and scrubbed clean and made inoffensive. Conflict should be difficult, violence should be horrible, worlds and the people in them flawed. 
This is not to say that Dark Edgy Content is always good, but rather that including nasty shit in your games has an important place in the game. Used right, nastiness can increase investment in the world, add to the ooc tension, and help control the emotional tempo of the game session.
In my view, the best games have a nice balance between uplifting and unpleasant content. In grimdark games, I tend to play 'beacon of light' characters; paladins, nuns, etc etc. In more upbeat games, I play amoral rogues. The contrast is important.

People have phobias. People have past traumas. If you expose people to this stuff, they're gonna have a bad time because phobias, trauma-responses etc overwhelm the rational mind.
People have stuff they have to deal with in real-life that's just not fun when it intrudes on the game. It's not phobia-tier, but the inclusion just makes the game worse, by dragging in elements of the shitty depressing real world. A very good example of this is sexism. I can't see much benefit to having victorian NPCs treat female adventurers in an authentically belittling way; that sort of thing is what we're playing lady adventurers to get away from. Of course, that's probably far less of an issue for you if you don't have to put up with that stuff in your day-to-day life.
It's like with horror films. Everybody has their own thresholds, tastes, areas that are off-limit to them, and so on. I, for example, love the creeping ratcheting fear of something like Ju-On or The Ring. On the other hand, something like I Spit On Your Grave is just icky to me, and I'm not gonna have fun with it.
The challenge is to add the sort of nasty shit that will bring all the positives without veering into these off-limits areas.

I'll start out by saying that the X-card (and similar systems that give a hard veto on upsetting content) don't really work. Here's why.
  • At the point a player is tapping out of a given scene, it's already too late. If you need to stop the RP because that encounter with spider swarms is triggering your arachnophobia, the damage is already done. You're already having a bad time because your brain is already going into irrational-fear-response-mode.
  • These methods tend to work by shutting down the game in mid-flow. This is, by definition, disruptive to the fun everybody else is having, meaning that a (potentially badly upset) player is disincetivized from actually calling a time-out. I've played in games with such a mechanism, and mostly the player sits there not using the tools at their disposal because they don't want to upset everybody else who seems into it.
  • These techniques put the onus on the player to halt upsetting stuff, rather than on everybody else not to upset them. You get a dynamic of 'well you didn't tap out, so it's your fault'.
Combine these three points and what you get is a wonderful excuse that protects a shitty GM. The player had the means to tap out, and didn't, so whatever nastiness the GM puts in front of them is fine; the GM can then do whatever the fuck they like because the player's incredibly unlikely to actually tap out. It's unfortunate.

I think the most important thing is to know, as the game begins, where your group's limits are. Back in my old city, for the group I regularly gamed with I had this stuff down pretty well. There were a few topics I didn't really bring up because I knew these people outside the game, and knew it would be upsetting for them. With new players, you need to feel out what these limits are. Ask them directly, and also get to know them a bit before the game begins. 
By and large, there's a few areas that you can make a safe bet somebody will dislike (sexual assault, child abuse, the holocaust and other real-world atrocities that remain in living memory, stuff like that) that you probably don't go putting in your games until you've got a feel for the group and are confident it will go down fine. 
Keep an eye on how your players respond to stuff. If a player goes very quiet and looks uncomfortable, check in with them. Adapt on the fly.

If you're a player, for fucksake, be upfront with your GM about any issues you might have. Tell your GM if your arachnophobic or they won't know not to attack you with spider monsters.

As a point of note, you've got no obligation to run a game you aren't into yourself.
Say you've got a player who simply cannot be around anything that reflects predatory sexuality. Fair enough. However, if I'm running Vampire the Masquerade, my response to that player is 'I don't think this is the game for you'. I'm not going to take the sexy predators out of vamp because that's what the game is about. It's going to be dark and sexy and uncomfortable and that's the fucking point of vamp. Likewise, if a player comes up to me saying they don't want to deal with the catholic church in play, that's gonna be involved with a lot of the plots I run in a lot of my games. Nuns are a recurring motif, as are reliquaries. If you don't like that, my game is probably not the game for you.
Other games more suited to your tastes are available. 

The most important thing is to be up front with your players about what you're likely to include, and to take on board things they say they don't like. Talk to your players like a grownup, adapt to feedback. Reliance on any system to "protect the players from unpleasant content" will fail and is trivial for bad actors to twist to their advantage.
The single most important thing is that everybody engages in good faith.

Friday, 1 February 2019

RPGs as Emotional Gambling

When you make a PC, you're investing a little bit of creativity into them. You put some time and thought into who they are and what they want. Creativity is, to my mind, quite personal; sharing the fruits of your creativity with others is exposing a little bit of your inner self to them (this, incidentally, is at the heart of the issues I have with many 'pass the talking-stick' story-games). The more you play the PC, the more you invest in them emotionally. The more of an emotional stake you have in them surviving and prospering.
When a PC dies (or is otherwise irretrievably fucked up), all that emotional energy you'd tied to them is lost with them. It's a sudden gut-punch of loss. The risk of that upset is what makes the game exciting. IC successes (gaining magic items, levelling up, increasing IC status) feel good because we know that they make the gut-punch of character death less likely; IC setbacks feel a bit bad for the same reason.

Things that drag the loss out (such as being temporarily turned into a frog, knocked unconcious or otherwise rendered unplayable) feel worse than mere death, because after a PC dies you can quickly recover, make a new PC and get back into the swing of things. An extended time where your PC is useless means you're stuck in that low-point for longer, hoping to get the PC you've invested in back soon.
Having agency over how a character's arc ends has been, in my experience, important. Retiring a PC who's become difficult to play (due to curses, injuries, etc etc) feels better than having them die, because the player gets to choose it, and can imagine them sitting in a nice cottage somewhere, with a big pile of gold, a sword hung over the fire-place, and a small child on their knee that they're telling the story of 'how I got my eye torn out'. It's a Good Ending. In effect, you're cashing out your 'emotional chips', and calling this gamble a success.

For this emotional gamble to be worth it, you need to carefully balance the emotions invested in the PC, the likelihood of death, and the magnitude of the gut-punch when the PC does die. I think the OSR gets this right with it's lower investment into new PC - rolling up a character is quick and doesn't require much deep thought, and low level PCs are fragile as fuck - that allows greater investment over time, corresponding to greater survival chances. Compare this to modern D&D where character creation takes ages (resulting in high investment from the get-go), CR-balanced encounters mean that your chance of death is constant rather than scaling to reflect investment, and death is rare enough that its easy to disregard entirely; here, your investment-risk-gutpunch balance is all off, you invest highly in a PC but have little tension, there's no sense of safety from levelling up since the challenges get harder to match you, and when you DO die it feels arbitrary, unexpected and unusually horrid (which feeds back into GMs not being willing to kill PCs, resulting in EVEN LESS tension).

One thing which I do in my games is to include horrible wounds. These actually tend to result in slightly longer gut-punches, as playing a PC missing a bunch of body parts is kind of difficult, and bleeding out extends the process of dying. However, they also soften the gut-punch as you're more likely to be able to successfully retire a (now crippled but also very wealthy) PC, getting them a good ending
I tend to avoid anything which temporarily makes a PC unplayable (such as hard mind-control, extended unconciousness, transformation, etc), since this keeps the gut-punch just as horrid but draaaags it out. Instead, these effects tend to be either permanent (effectively character death) or just a debuff that encourages you retire the character.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Game Paraphernalia

This is entirely the fault of Ana Polanscak and co, making me want to make and show off cool crafts projects.

So I'm gonna be running Ynn (and then possibly the Library as a follow up) for a new group soon. It'll be my first time GMing IRL rather than online since I moved house a while back.
Playing in person has one huge benefit over online play: physical props. Having tangible things in your hands makes the game feel that much more real and adds to the atmosphere. It's not a huge thing, and you can (and I frequently do) go without it, but if you can put the time in for some arts and crafts, it can really add to the game.
I suspect this is the same reason why I like the costuming and special FX at larps, and why I wargame. There's something satisfying about tying your gaming to something you made with your own hands. I know not everybody is into it (lord knows I've played against grey plastic armies too many times), but I find it important.

So here's what I did for the new game.

First up, there's the relevant rules & books. I've got the LotFP rulebook, two copies of Ynn (to minimise page-turning), and a copy of Wonders & Wickedness.
Then there's print-outs. Each player gets a few blank character sheets, as well as a cheat-sheet summarising the game mechanics & character gen, and a full equipment list with prices. I, meanwhile, have a printout of the most useful tables from Ynn, as well as the horrible-wound tables. A little bit of graphic design on the sheets has given them nice Victorian-esque flourishy borders. It looks... Ynn-ey.

I bought a wooden box for cheap at a crafts store, made of plain unvarnished soft pine, with brass hinges and a latch. This got a going over with a craft-knife to rough it up, wear down the corners, and so on. This done, the whole thing was stained all over in sepia ink, followed by blotchy patches with watered down black and dark brown. GW's 'typhus corrosion' technical paint got put in the cracks to make it look a bit grubby, and the brass bits got thick Nihalik Oxide paint daubed on and then wiped from the raised areas, mimicking verdegris. Once this was done, I used thinned green ink & paint to stain the outside of the box, giving it the effect of old, sun-faded paint, and stencilled a neat logo on the lid in thick white paint - I used the white paint artists use for canvass, because it clumps nicely, giving a 'painty' texture.

There's a little notebook that's gonna be for my notes. Brown paper, card covers. I put some slightly fancy lettering on the cover in ink, and weathered it up a bit in a similar way to the box.
In the box, we put the books, the printouts, a little leather pouch with my dice, wooden pencils, and a handfull of dried & pressed flowers to give it a little scent and some atmosphere.

Lastly, I've put together about 100 tokens for the game, representing the different monsters in Ynn, as well as a dozen potential PCs. Each is pretty simple to make, and looks super good. You start with a standard copper coin (In the UK, I'm using 1p coins for the small tokens and 2p for the big). Blob some Stirland Mud on it in loose patches for texture (I fucking love the GW technical paints, they make everything easy). Once that's dried, wash the thing with more Nihalik Oxide, Typhus Corrosion, and black/brown/green inks. You get a really old grotty corroded look on this little brass disk. Then you can just paint on a little design for whatever monster in the same white as before, and it looks neat.

The project used mostly materials I already owned, but the new bits (box, books, coins, etc) set me back about ten quid. Well worth it.
Also for real GW's texture/technical paints are amazing for weathering and ageing and so on. It's like magic how they come together. I didn't even get to play with the flaky rust effects yet!

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Class: the Artist

Ah, the artist. A sensitive soul, accompanying our band of adventurers in search of inspiration. Despite their talents lying somewhat outside the normal activities of an adventuring party, they can be surprisingly useful.

Experience: The Artist levels up at the same speed as a Thief/Rogue/Specialist/Whatever
Hit Dice: d4
Attack chance & Saves: as a Magic-User
Weapons & Armour: if your system restricts weapons & armour, then the Artist can use any weapons (and shields), but cannot wear armour.
Field Paintings: when presented with an unusual or impressive sight - which might be a strange landscape, monster, magnificent chamber in a dungeon, supernatural phenomenon, or something else - the Artist can make a painting. Doing this requires an hour of safe, uninterrupted work, during which the artist can freely access their subject. A painting can be sold to art collectors, like any other treasure (and the party gets XP for selling it). It's probably worth 500 silver for most paintings. The subject must be something unique or previously undiscovered to be worth anything; the point is that it captures the essence of something truly remarkable.
Wisdom Modifier: An artist's perceptive nature gives them an unusual insight into their surroundings. Their Wisdom modifier is treated as being +1 better.
Alertness: An artist is surprised less often than other characters (only a 1-in-6 chance), similarly to an Elf.
Mapping: If an artist is mapping for the party, then their skill at making quick sketches, measurements etc means that doing so doesn't slow them down at all; the party can move at full speed and still have an accurate map.
Equipment: Proper artist's materials cost the same amount as a thief's tools.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Custom LotFP Classes, part 2

Part 1 is here, in which I explain the basic idea and then break each LotFP class down into its components and how much XP they cost.

Here's part 2, in which I make up a bunch of new features for custom classes. These are all home-brew.

New Skills, each rolled on a d6 and starting at 1-in-6 like other Specialist skills.
Medicine: On a successful Medicine roll (which takes a turn) you can do one of the following:
   Provide first aid, raising a patient on 0 or less HP to 1 HP, so they're awake and not dying anymore.
   Accelerate healing, so that the patient heals [the result on the d6] extra HP when they next sleep.
   Diagnose a disease, poison, or other condition.
Failing the Medicine roll deals 1 damage to the patient from the dubiously necessary medical procedures.
Swimming: Required to keep your head above water if you're encumbered or swimming in dangerous conditions, might also let you do tricky things underwater. Reduce your swimming chance by your encumbrance level; armour drags you down.
Leadership: A character with at least 2-in-6 in this skill can make a leadership check when first hiring a retainer. If it succeeds, add [the result on the d6] to the retainer's loyalty/morale, up to a maximum of 12.
Cryptography: Works like the Languages skill, except it applies to cracking codes (or devising new ones for a given purpose). A successful cryptography roll lets you read things like scrolls and spell-books without casting detect magic. Intelligence modifier applies.
Force Open Doors: you can put skill points into this. Strength modifier applies.

The following is an additional option for how you cast.
+500 to cast through an occult pact (see below).
The following are additional options for what spell list you use.
-100 A tightly limited spell list (see below for examples).
-400 A single spell. Probably something flexible like Summon.
The following are additional extras that a spell-caster might have.
-100 if spell casting requires a blood offering (spending HP equal to the spell's level).
-100 if you must spend a round  ritually preparing to cast, before actually casting the spell.

Innate Spells
The capacity to mimic the effect of a spell. Base cost is:
100 multiplied by the level of the spell. (IE a level 2 spell costs 200 XP, etc).
Allowing the spell to be cast once per day.
x2 if it can be cast once per hour.
x3 if it can be cast once per turn.
x4 if it can be cast at-will.
if it can only be cast when the character reaches the same level a Magic User would need to be to first cast it (ignore for 1st level spells).
 if it requires significant materials (costly, rare, proscribed, taken from corpses, etc) to cast.
 if it can only be cast in specific circumstances (while on holy ground, if the caster is on half HP or less, in a well-stocked laboratory, etc).

So, the fighter is costed weirdly (hence the 'fighter tax'). If we're introducing homebrew, I'd have the fighter's bonus to hit cost only 200 XP, and then all by the book fighters get the following as well:
+300 to be able to Follow Through In Combat: whenever an attack drops an enemy, you can make another attack immediately. Can't make more of these bonus attacks per round per enemy.
The following are also home-brewed combat abilities:
+200 to add your level to all damage rolls.
+200 to be able to step in the way of an attack that would hit an ally next to you, taking the hit yourself instead. Diving in front of bullets, bodyguard-style.
+100 to grant +2 AC to those fighting to either side of you when you use the Parry combat option. Doesn't stack if multiple combatants use it, you dirty power-gamer.

Inhuman abilities
Abilities you get because you're not even slightly human. Having these probably makes you chaotic (or, less commonly, lawful).
-50 if you must consume some problematic substance (either rare, expensive, harmful or socially taboo) substance each day or else take penalties as if starving. Examples include human blood, carrion, holy libations, or opium.
-50 if you are undead and thus vulnerable to all things that target undead.
-50 if some material does double damage to you, eg cold iron, silver, etc.
-50 if you are unusually flammable and take double damage from fire, heat, etc.
+150 if you do not require food & drink like mortals do.
+100 if you can breathe water just as well as air.
+100 if you cannot feel pain and must be physically hacked apart, making you immune to back-stabs.
+200 if you do not breathe at all.
+200 if you cannot suffer from diseases due to a lack of biological functions.
+400 if your form is amorphous and flexible, allowing you to pass through small gaps, shape your body oddly, and add your level to Wrestling rolls (if you don't do that already by adding your level to hit rolls)
+800 if you are totally intangible, able to pass through walls etc, immune to physical damage, and unable to touch, carry, or be touched by any physical item.
+100 to have an unarmed attack (bite, claws, etc) that does d6 damage. +50 for each dice size bigger the attack is (so d8 costs +150, etc).

Special Talents
Weird things you can learn to do.
+500 to be able to graft body parts onto a patient with a successful Medicine roll (see above). Doing so takes an hour, requires intact fresh body parts. The result depends on the body part grafted, but examples include extra limbs (allowing you to hold more stuff), extra eyes for 360 vision, organs from monsters granting powers the donor possessed, bony armour for extra AC, claws that increase the damage of unarmed attacks, etc.
+300 to be able to take detailed scientific notes, sketches, etc of unusual things you encounter, enough that scientists in the relevant field will pay for them as if they were treasure. Taking these notes requires an hour to work in and uninterrupted, safe access to the subject. Probably worth around 500 Silver, maybe more for the most unusual specimens. Could equally apply to a talented artist making paintings, a chronicler recording findings for a wealthy patron, etc.
+100 to be able to see twice as far in low-light conditions.
+200 if your unusual vitality lets you heal twice as fast as normal.
+100 to be more effective at some mundane task a (digging, navigation, etc). As a rule of thumb, as effective as your level +1 normal workers.
+100 to be able to perform the functions of some specialist retainer (such as an accountant, alchemist, armourer, etc).
+100 for each 100 silver or additional equipment you start out with.
-100 to start out with only a handful of equipment (perhaps a weapon and one other item, and d6 silver).

Casting through Occult Pacts
For when a character's spells are granted directly by the patronage of some otherworldly being.
The spell-caster starts out knowing only 1 spell from their relevant list. They learn an additional spell whenever they gain a level. The level of this spell is equivalent to the highest-level spell slot that a MU of their level gets access to. (So at 3rd and 4th level they get a Level 2 spell, at 5th and 6th level they get a Level 3 spell, etc).
To cast a spell, the spell-caster must roll a d12 and add their level: if the total is 13 or more, the spell succeeds. A roll of 1 always fails.
If the spell roll fails, the caster's patron requires something of them; some specific sacrifice, a mission to advance the patron's goals, setting up a shrine, proselytising, etc. The Referee determines what. The spell fails, and no further spells can be cast until the task is complete. Alternately, the patron might require their pawn to swear some oath (such as never bearing weapons, never harming spiders, etc); breaking this oath deals d6 damage per level to the character as they are smote, and prevents them casting spells at all for a day.

Tightly Limited Spell Lists
Probably want to only have 1-5 spells at each level. Some examples include:
Illusion: 1st: Light, Fairie Fire, Message, Secret Page. 2nd: Audible Glamour, Change Self, Invisibility, Mirror Image, Phantasmal Force. 3rd: Detect Illusions, Invisibility 10’ Radius, Phantasmal Psychedelia. 4th: Hallucinatory Terrain, Improved Invisibility, 5th: Secret Chest, Feeblemind. 6th: Phantasmal Supergoria, Veil. 7th: Mass Invisibility, Prismatic Sphere/Spray/Wall, Vanish. 8th: Symbol.
Necromancy: 1st: Invisibility to Undead, Turn Undead, Unseen Servant. 2nd: Ray of Enfeeblement. 3rd: Speak with Dead. 4th: Shadow Monsters. 5th:Animate Dead, Cloudkill, Magic Jar. 6th: Animate Dead Monsters, Shades. 7th: Simulacrum. 8th: Clone, Trap the Soul. 9th: Power Word Kill.
Prophecy: 1st: Detect Evil, Detect Magic, Identify. 2nd: Augury, Detect Invisible, Locate Object. 3rd: Clairvoyance, Detect Illusion. 4th: Detect Lie, Divination. 5th: Commune, True Seeing. 6th: Find the Path, Tongues, Legend Lore.7th: Remote Surveillance, Vision.
Animism: 1st: Bookspeak, Summoning, Unseen Servant. 2nd: Magic Mouth, Speak with Animals, Web. 3rd: Speak with Dead, Howl of the Moon, Sacrifice, Strange Waters. 4th: Speak with Plants, Growth of Plants. 5th: Insect Plague, Contact Outer Sphere, Faithful Hound. 6th: Mind Switch, Speak with Monsters. 7th: Animate Artwork, Witchlamp Aura. 8th: Maze. 9th: Imprisonment.
Speleomancy: 1st: Spider Climb, Shield. 2nd: Heat Metal, Stinking Cloud. 3rd: Water Breathing, Gaseous Form. 4th: Dig, Seven Gates. 5th: Cloudkill, Stone-shape, Wall of Stone. 6th: Find the Path, Disintegrate, Stone to Flesh. 7th: Earthquake, Reverse Gravity, Statue. 8th: Maze.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Hazards of Metacognition

From the dreamscapes game. Ways that your mind can get fucked up, and dramatically alter how you interact with the world. Not the only way, mind you, but these can happen to you if you learn things you shouldn't.
(add a couple of 0's to the XP amounts for games where a fighter needs 2000 xp to level up)

  • Unusual events are impossible and evil. Make all d20 rolls with 3d6 instead: those you interact with do likewise for that interaction (IE saving throws, rolls to hit you, etc). Wants you to ’correct’ statistical anomalous events, IE kill those who survive what seems like certain death. 
  • Hidden forces control everything. Agent can hear the table-chatter of the players and GM, knows that admitting this results in instant death. Wants others to realise this too, to enlighten them.
  • Everything is made of numbers. Agent is aware of the game’s mechanics, including all dice rolls that happen, and their game stats (and those of their allies if the player knows them). Ackn, and knows that acknowledging this results in instant death. Wants you to take detailed numerical measurements of everything you interact with.
  • Fiction determines reality! The agent gains 1 XP every time their player spots an out-of-character reference to another work of fiction in the world. Two hints: the Orphic Institute are from WoD, Triffids are from John Wyndham. Work the rest out yourselves. Wants you to act in ways that ‘make for a good story’.
  • The thorns, the thorns! Agent perceives long sharp thorns growing out of all plants & vegetable matter. Contact with the thorns deals d4 psychosomatic damage. Can talk to plants. Wants you to tear down civilisation, spread briars and roses, exalt the green world. Likes triffids quite a lot.
  • Everything is doomed. The player starts the session with a suit of 13 playing cards, values 1-13. Whenever a dice is rolled, instead they discard one of those cards and take that as the number. Once the cards run out, go back to rolling normally. Wants you to prepare for the worst, assume that all will come to ruin. Often correct about this.  
  • It’s a conspiracy! They are everywhere! This doesn’t actually change anything. The meme-virus is quite correct. Wants you to be on the lookout for secret influences, disguises, infiltration.
  • Death is but one algorithmic step in a cosmic calculation. When the agent dies for good, their knowledge carries over, replacement comes in with 1/2 their XP total. Wants you to die, to observe and document others dying, or to die while diligently documenting it.  
  • I shall cleanse the earth in Blood! The agent gets 1XP each mission if they kill somebody ritualistically. Totally OK if this is somebody you wanted to kill anyway, so long as you make it weird. Wants you to kill people and offer their blood to dark gods.
  • Reality exists by consensus, belief powers everything. The agent can, once per session, decide one cosmetic detail of the world, overruling the GM. Wants you to focus on propaganda and persuasion to alter perception and, thus, reality.
  • Everything & everybody is made of meat! The agent can bite for d8 damage. Wants you to feed on the weak and vulnerable.
  • Time is cyclical. Agent ‘remembers’ knowledge from the future. Once per session, can get the GM to show them the most relevant page of this rulebook for 60 seconds (double this time for dyslexic players or those who otherwise have difficulty reading quickly). Wants you to make past events repeat themselves, follow the repeating precedents of history.

Friday, 11 January 2019

Fragments of Alternate Worlds

The results of a set of random tables in the dreamscape game. Each describes a snapshot of a new reality. Roll one or more, mix and match results. Surrealism ensues.

  • Trees the size of skyscrapers, near-indestructible. Cities beneath their canopies.
  • 8-day week, 13-month year, nonsensical calendar. 
  • Triffid Apocalypse. Plants and Pod-people everywhere. Overgrown.
  • Flooded, everything is built on stilts/concrete pillars/platforms. Landscape surprisingly flat, shallow lagoons and the odd low island. Think Venice meets Waterworld. High likelihood of Aboleths.
  • Single world government, totalitarian state. Squid man puppeteers.
  • Orwellian nightmare. Surveillance cameras fucking everywhere, everything is micro-Dchipped. Ankle-tags are fashion statements.
  • Necropolis-world. Cities built upon tombs. Bones as building material. Corpses choke the streets. A red sun hangs in the sky.
  • Space-travel not merely a pipe dream. Orbiting space-station homes for the wealthy, first colonies beginning to settle mars & luna, mining in operation. Hoverboards & flying cars.
  • Environmental meltdown. Food shortages, mass extinction, weather patterns go haywire. Soylent Green Co. food surprisingly popular.
  • Storm clouds overhead, rain in constant downpours, distant thunder ever-present. Lightning illuminates the overcast gloom in sudden flickers.
  • Everything is nuclear-powered. Tiny reactors power cars, telephones, flashlights.
  • Mutually assured nuclear destruction renders violence unthinkable.  Everybody has nukes, right down to beat cops and common thugs carrying radium grenades. Nobody dares pull the trigger. Crime replaced by brinksmanship and tense negotiation.
  • Burn the recently dead or they come back… wrong. Improperly buried ghouls prowl the streets at night. Agents of Saint Theresa secretly crusade against the hungry revenants.
  • World is dry, dust rains from the sky instead of water. Plant life is withered and desiccated. Rivers and oceans of ashen dust.
  • Cyberborg technology common. Bionic limbs and eyes are fashion statements, cybernetic implants exist for any task or taste.
  • WW1 never ended. Constant air raids. Propaganda the dominant art-form. Shifting alliances, no longer clear who The Enemy is.
  • Air is toxic, corrosive. Merely being outdoors requires gas masks to cope with the poisonous atmosphere. Vorm lurks in the smog.
  • Global archive. Every building stuffed with file storage, paper records or computer databanks. Whole districts dedicated to record-keeping. Bureaucracy interminable. Written records of everything.
  • Twin suns. Day-night cycle irregular. Tides dramatic and unpredictable. Weather prone to extremes.
  • Whole world one big city. Kowleen-style slums built strata-like on top of one another, skyscrapers for the wealthy emerge from the kilometre-high urban tangle like mountain peaks above cloud cover. Down below, smog & gloom, drizzle of pollution-rain, urban decay.
  • No children or elderly people. Population remains stable through unclear means. People simply are. 
  • Heavy Nightmare populations, large glitch-zones, reality in flux.
  • Time of day paused at dawn/midday/early evening/dusk/midnight. People sleep when they feel like it, day-night cycle is largely non-existent, society carries on 24 hours a day.
  • Instead of money, trade is conducted using days of your lifespan. Death by old age creeps a day closer when you buy your groceries, is averted with each paycheck. The wealthy are undying horrors. 
  • Writing isn’t, cannot be permanent. Art & photos likewise fleeting. Corrupts to gibberish in a matter of days or weeks. Only memory is reliable. Vat-grown brains replace computer chips.
  • Causality & chance are all fucked up. Unlikely coincidences are incredibly common, reliably so. Once a certain threshold of improbability is reached, coincidences become almost certain. 
  • People occasionally spontaneously project when they dream. No control over where they go, explore their new destination in a trance-like state.
  • Writing defines reality. Until something is written about, it exists in quantum uncertainty, taking a record pins down the truth.
  • Every midnight, the dead return to life none the worse for wear. Only death from old age is permanent. Mutilation replaces murder.
  • State of the world resets near-exactly each dawn. World is stuck in groundhog-day loops with only incremental changes.
  • Naturally-occurring portals to other layers, you can walk right through them.
  • Doorways (and hatches, trapdoors, etc) link together weirdly. A door can open to a location nowhere near it. Space is a foam of tangled wormholes with doors at each end.
  • Photographs capture the soul, move of their own volition. Burn a photo, and the subject suffers and writhes. Cameras are pre-emptive voodoo weapons. Television is weird witchcraft.
  • The earth is flat, the sky a dome of firmament. Squid-men and their mind-slaves cover this up to the best of their abilities. Geography is all wrong.
  • Squid men, Vorm, Nightmares and worse all walk openly among humanity. Humans don’t notice, can’t notice. Universal perceptual filters prevent frightened responses, citizens can’t comprehend anything unpleasant. A world of sheep with wolves in their midst.
  • Humans no longer dominant species, world ruled by something else.
  • Death isn’t permanent. Wait long enough, and anything heals.
  • Mirrors are windows to some other mirror-world reality. 
  • No colour, everything monochrome. Colour from other layers a maddening, incomprehensible breakdown of reality to these people.
  • People don’t sleep. Not having continuity-of-consciousness is seen as akin to death. Those who fall unconscious awaken as legally new people. 

Saturday, 5 January 2019

I did MATHS to the LotFP classes

I did MATHS to the LotFP classes, to work out what goes towards their different XP costs to level up, with the intention of putting together a set of guidelines towards building your own classes. Strongly inspired by the 'Building the Perfect Class' pdf over at Breeyark, which I stole the idea from (although the numbers are different). Go check it out, it's fascinating.
I have no idea if these numbers were actually what resulted in Mr Raggi picking the numbers he did. I suspect things got tweaked up and down based on playtesting, since some abilities synergise niceley together to be worth more as a package than in isolation, etc etc.
Anyway, here's the results.

* * *

Assembling your class
You basically ‘pay for’ abilities in XP costs to level up. Add them all up, and that is how much it costs you to go from 1st to 2nd level. Then double the cost for each level thereafter, until 9th level. After 9th, it costs as much to go from 9th to 10th (and from 10th to 11th and so on) as it did to go from 8th to 9th.

You start out needing 1000 XP just for existing. You must pick a hit-dice and save progression, obviously, but the rest is optional. If you're a spellcaster, you must pick both a casting type and spell list.
You are strongly discouraged not to take all the best abilities (particularly those that just give a 1-time benefit at level 1) and just resign yourself to never levelling up; if you do this I hereby declare that you must buy the GM a drink each session you play this character. I wrote it down, so now it's the law.

For your hit dice, pick one of the following:
-100 if your HD is a d4 (or +1 from 10th level)
+0 if your HD is a d6 (or +2 from 10th level)
+100 if your HD is a d8 (or +3 from 10th level)
+200 if your HD is a d10 (or +3 from 10th level)
if you go mental and include d12s as hit dice, that would be +300.

For your saves, pick one of the following:
+200 if you save like a cleric
+0 if you save like a fighter
+0 if you save like a magic user
+0 if you save like a specialist
+200 if you save like a dwarf
+100 if you save like an elf
+300 if you save like a halfling
This was the least well-researched bit, as I don't have the sort of insane analytical skills to line all the different save progressions up against one another and exactly how they compare. Leave a comment if you think I made a mistake here.

For skills, pick any of the following you want:
+200 for each skill point gained when you level up - you may take this multiple times and gain 1 extra skill point per level each time you do.
+50 for each skill point gained at first level - you may take this multiple times and gain 1 extra skill point at first level each time you do
+100 for each skill that starts at 2-in-6, increasing at the same rate an Elf’s Search skill does – you may take this multiple times, and it applies to another skill each time you do.
+200 for each skill that starts at 3-in-6, increasing at the same rate a halfling’s bushcraft or dwarf’s architecture skill does – you may take this multiple times, and it applies to another skill each time you do.
+300 for each skill that starts at 5-in-6, and doesn’t improve as you gain levels – you may take this multiple times, and it applies to another skill each time you do.
You could conceivably add new skills (such as swimming, medicine, 6th sense, disguise or what have you) that use the same x-in-6 mechanic.

If you are a spellcaster, you must pick your casting method (prayer or spellbooks) and spell-list (chaotic or lawful), and can pick any other stuff from the big list. If you aren't a spellcaster, you can't pick anything from here at all.
Pick one of these two:

+500 if you cast like a cleric, by praying and receiving your allotted spells from a set list. Use the Cleric's Spells per Day progression.
+800 if you cast spells like a magic user, by using a spellbook that you can copy spells into, that starts out with only Read Magic in it. Use the MU or Elf's Spells per Day progression (so far as I can tell, they're identical).
And one of these two:
+0 if you cast from the cleric’s spell list (which also makes you lawful)
+300 if you cast from the magic user’s spell list (which also makes you chaotic)
(Option: you might want to alter these spell lists to give custom spell lists for, say, illusionists, cultists, etc. You'll definitely need to add spells above 7th level if a character casts lawful spells from a spellbook.)
And then any of the following you want:
+50 if you can create spell scrolls
+50 if you can create protection scrolls (option: technically nothing about this requires spellcasting, so maybe you can have it even if you don't have spells).
+50 if you can create holy (or unholy) water
+50 if you can create potions
+50 if you can create wands and staves
+50 per extra spell in your spellbook when you start the game (for spellbook users)
+100 if you can cast spells while heavily encumbered and/or with a hand full.
-100 if you require a holy symbol (or equivalent) in order to cast.
-50 if you cannot move at all if you wish to cast.
I, for one, have always felt that clerics get it too easy what with getting full access to their whole spell-list and needing less XP than magicians, but hey, this is how the numbers for LotFP shook out. I guess the potential to learn fucking any spell

Combat training (take any you want):
+100 to be able to use the Press and Defensive Fighting options.
+100 to get an additional +2 AC when parrying.
+100 to get an additional +2 to hit when aiming (no class gets this, but I added it for symmetry).
+300 to get +1 to hit per level, like a fighter. (This is on top of the +1 to hit all level 1 characters get).
+100 to reload guns faster, like a fighter.
+100 to have maximum HP at first level, like a fighter.
+200 tax if you’re a Fighter, the Best Class, and also I couldn’t make the numbers add up without including the Fighter Tax.

Other abilities:
+100 to get +1 to an attribute modifier -  you can take this multiple times, each time you do it applies to a different attribute.
+100 to get +1 AC so long as you aren’t surprised.
+100 to apply your Constitution modifier after 9th level.
+100 to ignore the first five items towards encumbrance, like a dwarf
+200 to be innately chaotic/lawful and thus immune to various things that affect mundane beings, like an Elf is (obviously, this makes you chaotic/lawful).
+50 to be immortal and never age
+100 to be surprised 1-in-6 less often
-50 to be unnatural and vulnerable to holy water and so on (obviously, this makes you chaotic, or perhaps lawful).
-100 to be small, and so unable to use large weapons and forced to use medium weapons two-handed.
+variable for abilities you made up (discuss this with your GM, obviously), using the amounts for similar abilities as a guide.

Class: the Miner

A class of specialists in digging, excavation and other underground activities. Largely self-explanatory, fluff wise. This is the grubby, burly expert you bring along on your expedition when you're expecting serious subterranean work will need doing. By turns a caver, engineer, labourer and prospector.
Design wise, the class is intended to be good at dealing with the practical problems of underground travel: they can dig quickly, cope in the dark, wriggle through gaps, and so on. In terms of combat, they get to use any armour and have a good hit-dice, meaning they're at home on the front line, although not as skilful as fighter types.

Experience: The miner levels up at the same speed as a Cleric.
Hit Dice: d8
Attack chance: as a Cleric
Saves: as a Cleric
Weapons & Armour: if your system restricts weapons & armour, then the Miner can wear any armour, but may not use shields. They can use any melee weapons, but the only ranged weapons they are allowed are thrown weapons.
Spot Underground Features: Miners have a 3-in-6 chance to spot underground features, which increases to 4-in-6 at 4th level, and by 1 every 4 levels after that (at 8th, and 12th). This lets a miner spot features such as unsafe construction, traps concealed in underground structures, geological features, the culture that likely built an underground environment, hidden exits, areas that can easily be collapsed, thin easilly-broken walls, seams of metal ore or gems, and so on. This is essentially the same as a Dwarf's stone-senses and an Elf's ability to spot hidden doors combined.
Efficient Worker: A miner working underground can accomplish much more than other single characters. When tunneling, building underground, excavating and so on, the miner's efficiency is multiplied by their level plus 1. So, at level 1, they are as efficient as two normal workers combined, at level 2 they're can do as much as three workers, etc.
Low-light Vision: A miner can see further in dim light than normal. Multiply the distance they can see by their level plus 1. So, at level 1, they can see twice as far as normal, at level 2 they can see three times as far, and so on. Similarly, since they're used to working in the dark, they can always find gear stowed on their person, light a lantern, tie knots and perform similar tasks from memory, without needing to be able to see at all. Darkness has no effect on their ability to perform a task that only involves themselves and their own equipment.
Spelunking: A miner is better at moving underground than other characters. They have a chance to wriggle through any gap at least 6 inches by 6 inches without so much as a scrape. They can likewise climb and crawl over steep, slippery or unstable surfaces that other characters would be unable to tackle. Their chance to succeed here is 3-in-6, which increases to 4-in-6 at 4th level, and by 1 every 4 levels after that (at 8th, and 12th). This is essentially like a thief's ability to climb, with added bonuses to wriggling.
Pick Expertise: A miner is an expert at using their pick-axe, even when the stone they're mining fights back. When using a pick-axe to fight monsters made of stone, clay, metal, and so on, they ignore any damage resistance or reduction that monster has. Their pick-axe always does its normal damage against things made of stone, metal, etc and is never halved, reduced or ignored. (Treat a pick-axe as a two-handed axe).