Thursday, 5 September 2019

Terminology - Diegetic vs Non Diegetic

In this post, I'm going to clarify and explain some terminology I use when discussing RPGs. It's going to be wordy and pedantic. It's also getting posted up because I made a quick post on twitter, people got the wrong end of the stick, and now I want to explain what I mean in more than 240 characters.


First, I'm going to give a definition of the term as it's used in film studies (which is where I'm stealing it from).
Diegetic (adjective): Actually taking place or existing in the fictional world depicted.

Non-diegetic (adjective): Not actually taking place or existing in the fictional world depicted, an external thing to the fictional world depicted that the audience percieves.
'Diegesis (noun)' has some accademic stuff attached to it, but I generally see it used to mean 'the concept of things being diegetic' or sometimes 'the fictional world that diegetic things take place in'.

So, for example. A scene's musical soundtrack is non-diegetic. John Williams wrote some music, an orchestra played it, and now that music is being played to the audience at the same time as we watch the scene. However: music coming from in the world is diagetic: a good example of this is when we see characters actually singing or playing instruments. Jessica Rabbit singing 'Why Don't You Do Right' in Who Framed Roger Rabbit is diagetic; in the fictional world she's literally singing that, whilst The Doors playing at the beginning of Apocalypse Now isn't: it's a soundtrack added for the audience.
Other stuff in films that's non-diegetic includes the credits, subtitles, voiceovers, slow-motion, all that stuff.

You can apply this to other mediums, too. In comics, the white boxes around panels are non-diegetic; the world doesn't exist enclosed in a little white square. In video games, your mini-map, control scheme, etc are all non-diegetic; they're contrivances to make the game work, not real things that exist in the fictional world depicted.
With me so far?

(As an aside, while this is technically academic language, I've seen it used plenty outside academia. I studied theoretical physics at university - until I ran out of money for tuition and got kicked out - so I never had any formal academic interaction with the terms. I picked them up from watching film & anime reviews on youtube. Anybody who pays much attention to film criticism and analysis has probably come across the terms.)

Anyway. This is an RPG blog, and I'm here to talk about RPGs. So, Diegesis in RPGs.

One thing I find attracts me to various games - notably Powered By The Apocalypse and OSR games - is that you first interact with things using the fictional actions of your PC to affect the fictional world. You treat the world as a real, consistent place, and the GM adjudicates what happens based off that. 

I find it useful to talk about 'things that exist in the fictional setting' versus 'things that only exist for the players'. So, it's useful to me to steal terminology from film studies and talk about diegetic and non-diegetic elements of games. Diegetic things are things which exist or happen or are observable in the fictional world, while non-diegetic things only exist to the players, on an out-of-character level.

Here's some things that are diegetic in RPGs:
  • A PC's equipment.
  • A character's height, weight, eye colour, etc.
  • Alignments, probably; if you can cast 'detect evil' to know that that monster over there is objectively evil, then alignments are concrete forces in the game world, and your paladin being Lawful Good is a diagetic fact.
  • A wizard's spell-slots in D&D; a wizard can meaningfully talk about 'I have two spells left today, and they are Sleep and Spider Climb' without breaking the fourth wall.
  • Blood Points in Vampire the Masquerade; it's an observable (and generally understood) fact of the setting that you need to drink about a pint of blood each night to make up for the blood used to wake up, and if you don't you'll start starving, likewise that using your powers probably needs about a pint of blood.
  • Getting Turned On in monsterhearts. While its expressed through a slightly simplified game mechanic, it is a fact of the setting that a PC has experienced a stirring of erotic or romantic desire. Their response to this varies, and might involve more game mechanics, but the state of being Turned On is a real thing in the fictional world.
  • That some PCs are stronger than other PCs. Gronk the Fighter can lift heavier weights, hit harder, break down doors better, arm-wrestle better etc than Elzebeth the Wizard.
  • Being injured: the victim has - in the fictional world - been hurt, and might be bleeding, have broken bones, etc. 

Here's some things that are non-diegetic in RPGs:
  • Dice rolls.
  • Numerical measures of things like HP, attributes, etc. Those are abstractions being used to quantify a more complex fictional thing for the purposes of game-play.
  • Experience points, inspiration, bennies, etc that give the player a resource to use on a meta-level that doesn't represent anything in-world.
  • Lines & veils over what content and themes will make it into the game.
  • Mechanics that allow a player to introduce content to the game, such as Stars Without Numbers's Connect skill, which gives a PC a chance to know an NPC they just met from before the game began, letting the player define what their relationship is like. There's a LOT of collaberative world building techniques and mechanics out there that do similar things.
  • Mechanics such as fate-points, 
  • References to other media. A lot of old Paranoia adventures had PCs whose names were puns, took the piss out of other RPGs, and so on: these jokes are on the meta-level, for the players: a paranoia called Hamburg-ELL-R was not named by Friend Computer to be a reference to old macdonalds adverts, and nobody in the setting will get the reference.
  • Metaphors and themes of the game. For example, I'm in a V5 game where we're explicitly exploring ideas around power, control, and moral judgement; these things are gonna come up and be relevant. Our PCs, however, aren't aware that they're being used to discuss these themes; they're just people.
  • Character 'theme songs' and other inspiration. 

To clarify: this is not the same as the distinction between 'fluff' and 'crunch' (also expressed as flavour vs mechanics, lore vs rules, etc). 

To repeat.
The distinction between diegetic content and nondiegetic content is not the same as the distinction between flavour and mechanics.

Why is this? Something can be a game mechanic and also diegetic. (See: blood points are a real thing in VtM, and so 'spend a point of blood to rise each night' is just... what happens in the fiction). Something could also be non-mechanical and not diegetic (for example "Changeling the Dreaming explores themes around loss of innocence, growing old, dementia, etc" is not a mechanic but not a diegetic fact, neither is "This game will not include rape or sexual assault, or any mention of those").

So why am I explaining this?
I think it's useful to be able to discuss if a game element is diegetic or not when discussing game design, and I've not really seen useful terminology for. 
Mostly, these discussions use the terminology for fluff vs crunch, which leads to active confusion. 

This area of gameplay/game design is one where even subtle distinctions in phrasing can dramatically alter meaning. I think it's useful to have a precise term that means 'this thing and only this thing' with no room for confusion or other common usages. 

If you start thinking about things in terms of diegesis, you get the tools to explain and explore stuff nicely that you wouldn't otherwise. For example:
  • Are the powers a D&D 4th edition PC has diegetic or not? Do the different weapon strikes, moves, spells and so on represent distinct techniques a PC has been taught? Can a 4e fighter talk about the different techniques they use? Or are they a non-diegetic abstraction that simplifies the chaos of combat into maneagable gameplay? Or is it somewhere between the two?
  • Similarly, D&D 4e uses its 'bloodied' mechanic to take a previously non-diegetic mechanic (losing HP) and make it somewhat more diegetic; it's an in-fiction fact that when half of a monster's HP are gone, it's got visible injuries, blood everywhere, etc. It allows you to discuss a non-diegetic thing (how many HP has the monster lost?) in diegetic terms (is the monster bloodied yet?).
  • Is the symbolism in a game diegetic or not? As a audience, we know that a vampire feeding is a bit rapey. Could a toreador poet draw on that symbolism in their poetry, describing feeding using rape as a metaphor? Etc.
  • Can lines and veils be made diegetic? For example, there's a difference between 'this is a game where you won't encounter sexism' and 'this setting is completely gender-blind and no society sees any differentiation between genders; sexism is a meaningless concept in this setting'.
  • Can game mechanics be made diegetic? What happens if you take the idea of a 'class' in D&D and make it an obvoious measurable thing; so that you can cast 'detect barbarian' to tell if a PC is a barbarian, just like if you cast 'detect evil' to tell if they're evil.
This is something that I deal with a lot because a lot of my design goals centre around the boundries and blurry areas between diegetic and non-diegetic mechanics, ways to make a mechanic more diegetic, and ways to make non-diegetic mechanics at least parallel diegetic things (for example, gold-for-xp is non-diegetic, but it parallels a PCs diegetic desire to get rich because being rich is nice. Likewise most systems which reward XP for specific achievements). Discussion and design around 'can we make this mechanic more diagetic' and 'can we represent this diegetic phenomenon with an elegant abstraction' are some of the areas I'm most interested in. 
(as an example: whenever a Wounded Daughter ressurects, she's left robbed of some of her potential, a little more withdrawn and a little more bitter and resentful. She's somehow lesser, and although she can grow past that, it's a serious and unpleasant thing: representing this by a debt of XP that she won't benefit from expresses it in a neat, simple way; the XP is an abstraction for the more diegetic idea of the PCs rich inner life being eroded.) 
These are all conversations we can be having already, but the use of the terminology allows us to be more precise and better understand what's being said.

Lastly: is using academic terminology to discuss RPGs gatekeeping? I'm pretty sure it isn't. 
As I've said earlier, I have no academic background in this sort of thing, and picked the term up from youtube. This isn't something I'm familiar with because I've got the privilege of a liberal-arts education. I'm not even particularly posh or anything, I just watch too many youtube videos. 
On top of this, I do think that tabletop RPGs are kind of lagging behind other media in terms of analysis. Even in terms of interactive media, there's far more discussion for videogames and larps than there is ttrpgs. We basically have the Forge and that's it. Treating the subject matter as something that you can discuss in depth with technical language isn't necessarily a bad thing. If I'm having a deep technical discussion with another RPG writer about this stuff, having the precise language to describe what I mean is useful.
Hell, if somebody uses a term I don't recognise I can just ask them to define it. 
The expectation that all discussion around a medium should be accessible to new players without much grounding in the discussion is unreasonable; it keeps the discussion at a shallow level. Some discussions are gonna be in-depth and require a good understanding of the subject matter, and they're not gonna be easy to grock until you've been in the field for a while. Expecting discussions to dumb-down and avoid academic language so everybody knows what's going on will - in practice - just stifle more in-depth discussion.

Anyway, there you go:
Diegetic & Non-diegetic as terms for RPGs. Now go forth and use them in conversation, it will make you sound clever and help explain your thoughts better.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Disminster Town, a randomly-generated Occult Underground

So. I'm mostly done writing up the systems for generating a city for Esoteric Enterprises. The basic idea is that, before the game begins, you can drop a bunch of dice on a sheet of paper, and the numbers and position tell you what's there and how they interrelate. You do this twice; once to generate the physical layout of the undercity, and once to generate the various active factions and the political relations between them.
I'm gonna do this here. This isn't pre-planned or anything; consider it a sort of Actual Play for GM prep. Not everything is quite done, so if I roll something I haven't yet generated, I'll just have to make shit up to fill in the blanks, but that shouldn't happen toooo much.

So, to start, I'm gonna roll up the undercity itself: a mess of tunnels, caves, bunkers and ruins beneath the city, infested with supernatural weirdness. This is basically a small megadungeon that your PCs can drop in and out of as the campaign progresses.
The first step is to drop a bunch of dice onto a sheet of paper, and record what dice landed where (both the size of the dice and what it rolled). I don't have a camera, so I'll just draw the results in MS Paint. Here's what it looks like.
You roughly link up the map, joining each dice to a couple of neighbours with a line. Each dice is a complex in the undercity, and the lines represent the connecting tunnels between them. There's a bunch of tables for what these actually are. You can look up the number on the dice for what the complex is. For the connecting tunnels, look at the size of the dice at each end.
Applying this to our map, we get this: 

And then lastly, we just want to tidy this up. I'm gonna add another entrance from the surface, and tweak a couple of the connecting tunnels and complexes (since it makes sense to have two limestone cave complexes connected by a natural feature, and there's a derelict subway station that's away from the rest of the rail network that I'm gonna turn into something more fun).
I'm also gonna add a scale to the map, and colour-code some of the connections and complexes for easy reference.

This is pretty arbitrary, but I've divided the undercity into 5 rough types of area. Natural caves are blue, the subway system is yellow, the city's old mines are red, ancient ruins are green, and the city's infrastructure is purple.
Anyway, we'll be coming back to this. 

Next up, we want to see who our factions in the undercity are.
This uses the same method as before: drop a bunch of dice and see what you get. Here's where my dice landed for this:
Again, the result on the dice tells us who the faction are. Link the factions together like before, and the dice-size at each end tells us how the factions linked relate to one another. 
Doing this to our results, we get this rough network.
So far so good, right? But this is very bare bones, so I'm going to look up each of the factions, roll up the most relevant details, give them a name, etc. Let's see what we get.

Here's who these factions are:
O'Riley's Sausage Factory, an abotoire/butchers family business. Makes pork products. To give them an edge in the market, they employ a banshee, the ghost of a dead employee, and a cultist of Anassa the Spider Queen.

The Court of Grinding Hematite. A collection of chivalrous geological beings that have emerged from the depths of the earth. On a noble quest to smite and destroy the Children of Taash. Suffice to say, the conflict between an ancient vampire progenitor and the lordlings of the earth's core has not yet kicked off in ernest, but will be explosively disastrous when it does, with mere mortals caught between two titanic forces.
The Rosellini's. Standard Sicilian Mafia.
The White Eye Cartel. Smugglers from the European mainland. Specialise in counterfeit goods and bootleg alcohol, with a side-line in human organs and the memory-wiping drug Nepenthe.
The Puck Society, an occultist cabal. A variety of different fields of study, but their current research is largely into mind-affecting magic. 
Work closely with the Troy Town Gaming Club, a group pushing the possibilities of mind-shattering revelations as detailed in The Green Book (the diary of a teenage girl descending into witchcraft and madness in the early 19th century).
The Blake Street Lads. A collection of bored working-class kids from Blake-Street 6th Form College. Thoroughly infiltrated and controlled by members of the Puck Society and Troy Town Gaming Club; many of their college teachers are involved with the two cabals, and poor kids are excellent test-subjects. Suffice to say, being infiltrated by magicians working on mind-control and sanity-erosion is not great for the members' mental health.
The Carter Family. Local hard-man types. Care a lot about keeping up appearances, run protection rackets. Their conflict with the O'Rileys goes back generations.
Hillside Massive, another gang of angry kids. Mess around with various drugs, enjoy their cocaine. Also infiltrated by the Troy Town Gaming Club, which probably bodes poorly for them.
The Disciples of Pluto, Dis Pater. A cult worshipping the Roman lord of the underworld. See to it that the dead stay in their proper place, have a controlling interest in the city morgue. Led by Flavia Secondus; once, she was an oracle of Dis Pater, bringing His commandments to His followers in Roman-occupied Britain. She's a ghost now, but she still does the same thing. The cult are old.
The Usurian Society. A minor cult of Mammon, deity of obscene wealth. Basically a rich-kids club, where the unreasonably posh have decided that rubbing their money in the face of the poor is actually a holy calling. Date back to an 18th century Hellfire club that went weirdly spiritual.
The Crookeville-Marsh Family. Old, wealthy, and influential. Old money going back to the Renaissance, known for their trade interests in the south pacific. Have a distinct family 'look', with wide, round, pale eyes. The inner circle of the family, those of purest blood, have rubbery pale skin and luminous lamp-like eyes, and dwell in the permanently flooded basements of their ancestral home. The family patriarch is Ezekial Crookeville, a 15th century vivimancer who's still alive. The family matriarch is Volborolnos the Fecund, an ancient aboleth. It's best not to think about Ezekial and Volborolnos's love life, but they continue to produce descendants. 
The Dravinskis, a Ukrainian crime family. Heavily tattooed, involved in smuggling. Professional and courteous, but will fuck you up if you betray them. Have backing from abroad.
The 10-legged Spider. An occult research group. Possess the Eltdown Shards, detailing the culture of Triassic spider-people of supposedly magnificent power that they want. Looking to acquire Pnakotic Manuscripts that will allow them to reach into the past and contact these spiders. Most of their number are Arachnophile mages, with a few cultists of Anassa the Spider Queen in there too.
Greyguard Security. A mercenary company with dealings in the occult underworld. Saw some action in the middle-east, saw some nasty shit get dug up by archaeologists out there, and decided to limit their work to the British mainland. Thoroughly infiltrated by the Children of Taash.
Taash, an ancient vampiric progenitor from the biblical era. Dug up during the recent unpleasantness in Syria, and promptly used Greyguard Security to get themselves transported to the less war-torn UK. Taash himself is an 8-foot-tall, six-armed porcelain-skinned monstrosity of radiant beauty, claiming to a child of the goddess Tannit. In truth, Taash is a being of pale violet ichor that parasitically controls exsanguinated human corpses. His children retain some of their own blood and personality, but are likewise infested with Taash's ichor, which transforms them into marble-skinned Adonises. Taash and his children want to go back to the good old days of blood orgies and human sacrifices, and they're taking steps to get this done. Greyguard Security are merely the first front for their expanding infection.

Let's go back to our map of the undercity.

We have four cult strongholds, but only two cults in the city. I'd say that two of these are in fact the various hidden grave-shrines of the cult of Dis Pater, each representing a different aspect of the worship of Pluto. We can also say that the Reliquary was built by them in the city's history.
We can stick the Cult of Mammon in another cult stronghold, but this leaves one empty. What to do with it?
I'm going to stick a reclusive cult into the fourth stronghold. Since two factions (O'Rileys and the 10-legged Spider) have Anassa cultists among them, I'll make it a stronghold for Anassa cultists who mostly don't interact with the rest of the occult underworld.

There's a mad-scientist's laboratory on the map. Again, without a faction of mad doctors, these people are probably recluses and politically neutral. Let's say that Dr Alice is more interested in her cloning experiments, doesn't take sides, but will patch you up if you pay her. 
There's likewise a Morlock Camp, which again has a minor tribe in it that don't really get involved with outsiders. Let's call them the Flint-Scent tribe. Since the Morlock Camp will have a route down to the deeper veins of the earth, it makes sense that this is where the Court of Grinding Hematite emerged from. In fact, to explain why these Morlocks aren't an active faction of their own, let's say that the Flint-scent are direct servants of the Grinding Hematite. 
We've got an Underground Club here. It makes sense initially to have it be controlled by a criminal group, and I'm gonna pick the Carter Family for this. However, we know that Taash's children are depraved hedonists (and vampires hunting in nightclubs is a fine old tradition), so I'm gonna say that Taash's children also have a strong presence here, probably aiming to take control soon. Let's give it a name: Azrael's Club seems pretentious and edgy enough.
It's worth noting that the Flint-scent's camp is right next to Azrael's Club, connected by a section of natural caves. This immediately puts the Grinding Hematite and Taash in contact with each other, so we can expect that conflict to kick off soon!
Lastly, there's a few gang strongholds down here, and plenty of gangs to assign them to. Let's put both of the infiltrated street-gangs in them, giving them, and the wider alliance of the street-gangs and occultist cabals, some healthy access to the undercity.
Here's how our map ends up looking:
Lastly, let's roll up a few events for what's going down directly as the PCs enter the equation. I rolled some dice and got the following results:
There's a mainstream religious revival going down, making life difficult for people on the fringes. Maybe fire-and-brimstone Baptists want to get all of the dodgy pagan cults in town.

There's a serial killer stalking the streets, which makes life hard for everybody.
A bomb just went of recently. I'm gonna say this was Greyguard Security's work (on behalf of Taash), attacking the holdings of the Crookeville-Marsh family, who Taash sees as a threat.
Lastly, there's a job for the PCs! Word gets to them that somebody's been targetting the families of the Disciples of Pluto with harassment and intimidation, attempting to psyche them out. The cult of Dis Pater don't know who's responsible, but want it fixed. In truth, it's just our angry fundamentalists being obnoxious.

So, that's our town.
Looking at everything here, it's got old mines, a lot of old roman influences, and is probably close to the see considering that the Crookeville-Marsh family are basically Innesmouth People. I think I'll put it in Cornwall, making it an old tin-mining town. I'll call it Disminster, and say it's a once-prosperous tin- and silver-mining town that's fallen on harder times since the mines shut down. Since then, it's still by the sea, and police presence is low, so the harbour makes sense as a place where various foreign criminal organisations (the White Eye Cartel, Rosellinis and Kravinskis) to make a beachhead in Britain. Clearly, there's a conflict between fairly modern bible-thumping protestant christians, and the older pagan cults in the town, as well as various well-embedded old-money families with links to the occult and/or crime. Everything's a bit run down, with lots of timber buildings slowly falling apart. Probably graveyards everywhere, too.
All things considered, although things are currently peaceful, there's some tension there ready to blow up, in multiple directions.

I'm quite pleased with how this process works. There's enough noise and random detail to make pulling out interesting threads easy, and things come together quite organically. I could have spent ages deliberating, but instead I got to roll and see, which is fun in its own right. Putting all this together has been a couple of hours of rolling, sketching and inventing details. I'll still need to roll up the layouts of individual complexes, each of which is (again) a handful of dice dropped on the paper and linked up, to give a network of tunnels and rooms. But that can wait, as I only need to roll up a complex when the PCs decide to explore there.

Anyway, here's some art from the book, to give you a feel for the tone.

Esoteric Enterprises - Complete Edition is nearing being done, and I for one am excited. You should be too, tbh, because it's gonna be great.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Hollow Men

Actually, you know what? Here's a write-up of the Hollow Men.
This is not sympathetic at all. You don't get to play these. They don't get stats. But they're a counterpoint to the previous post.
This is not a fair portrayal. I'm biased and scarred and angry, and as a result I can't give them a proper write-up. All you get is the perspective of somebody who's only ever experienced them as total monsters.

So, what does it look like when Thanatos, the instinct towards death and entropy, goes out of control?

You know how the planet is dying and society is going insane because a few obscenely rich sociopaths control like 80% of the world's resources, and that's just the price to pay for their hunger for more? You know those old white men in suits who own everything, and don't think about you at all? Those men who always need more, who's sense of greed and entitlement poisons everything, who consider women, poor people, minorities etc to be on the same level as mere possessions? Things to own and abuse and discard without thinking?
You know when you hear that the UK's prime minister used to burn money in front of the homeless for laughs, committed weird sexual perversities with dead animals, and considers that perfectly acceptable? Or when the president boasts about assaulting women because 'when you're rich and famous they can't stop you'? Or when it turns out wealthy men have been abusing women and children for fun, because they can, so why not? Or when it turns out they knew that cigarettes were killing people for decades before it became public knowledge, and they covered it up to preserve their profits?
You know when you look at some rich, privileged suit-wearing motherfucker and wonder why they don't do some fucking good in the world? And they look back, and their eyes are empty, and there's no inner humanity there to connect with? 

And then, you see that same emptiness everywhere. The petty tyrant of a boss. The man who beats his wife to vent his frustrations. The guy in the club who won't shut the fuck up and leave you alone. The bitter young man who spews venom at anybody female or non-white or queer online, who dreams of taking his gun to school. The father who will never be satisfied with you, but uses pain and neglect to try to mould you into something that can make him feel less empty. The cop who just likes using his badge and power to make a victim out of anybody he feels like?
The constant poison of men who will never be satisfied, no matter how much they consume and hurt and control. Once you know what you're looking for, it's everywhere.

You know that guy who lives on a trust fund with a silver spoon in his mouth, and slowly poisons the community around him in his constant need for power, leaving a trail of broken and traumatised victims behind him that he's harassed and targetted and dehumanized until they're driven away. And when they flee from him, he gloats about it, and finds his next target. 
And he has a disabled partner, and abuses her horribly for years, and then when she goes public with it he sues her in Canada - not to prove his innocence - but because he knows that the stress of a court case will damage her health, and he wants to keep hurting her? And you look at that guy and think how can you do this? And he looks back at you, and thinks nothing at all. 

They're not even evil, I suppose. No more than cancer or rising sea levels or parasitic wasps or lead poisoning from traffic fumes are evil, they're just a sickness that won't ever really go away. They don't seem to feel, to understand that others have any importance except as things to grind down for their own satisfaction. Always needing more, trying to fill this yawning void inside them through greed and cruelty. But really, inside, there's just nothing. No empathy, no calling, no warmth. No soul.

Those are the Hollow Men.
They don't need cool powers. Fuck it, they don't get to have cool powers, because I'm writing this and it's my blog and they always get whatever they want, but right here I get to decide and I am incandescently angry at this shit. So this time they don't get shit.
Anyway, they don't need magic or powers or anything. Society is on their side, and will always protect them and side against their victims, and they're winning.
1-4 HP. Saves, AC, attacks, etc as normal men. AL: LE. Morale 10. # appearing: 1, with an entire community's worth of level 0 humans backing them up. Unreasonable amounts of treasure. 
Don't put them in your games unless you want to take things to a really dark place.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Wounded Daughters

“-and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. 
But first they must catch you-” 

So here's a thing I've been thinking about lately. It's another of my sideways advancement thingies. Like this one but from a different source and with different effects. A way to advance your character without needing to gain XP.

Not gonna lie, while the end result feels like grimdark fantasy, the initial thoughts for this came from something of a personal place. A common response to marginalisation - and one I exhibit - is to retreat into yourself, cut any losses, and concentrate on survival. 
Family disown you? Fuck 'em, cut all contact, move on, don't look back, you don't really need them. Big drunk man mouthing off at you? Keep your head down, hands in your pockets, don't make eye contact, scurry away. Evicted? Scrabble what you can together and find somewhere - anywhere - to live, doesn't matter how shitty it is, just keep yourself off the street. Cops hassling you? Say whatever you need to say, pick your stuff up, find somewhere else to sleep. Don't speak out, don't invite trouble, don't get a target painted on you. Life's hard enough just trying to get by.
You start to think that people like you don't get to have nice things. You accept being on the bottom rung of society, scrabbling just to keep your head above the water. One by one, you cut away bits of yourself that hold you back. Empathy, pride, ambition. Fuck that. Concentrate on the here and now. Live to see another day. 
Anyway. For most of my adult life, up until very recently, that was me. It still creeps into my thinking sometimes. That's what this homebrew's about.

Yes, it gives you superpowers, but it's probably not something you really want.
It's also probably not very balanced, but fuck it.

On the Wounded Mother
There are two fundamental forces in any living being. Perhaps they might be called Eros and Thanos; the instincts towards life and death. Both exist in a sort of tension, each tugging in opposite directions, and cancelling one another out until, eventually, the tension undoes them and the being dies.
When the death instinct becomes too strong, it overwhelms the life instinct. The being devours itself from within, becoming empty and soulless. Where once there was warmth and love and joy, now there's only a channel to the void between atoms and stars; a black hole that draws in and devours all it touches. A person so afflicted becomes infectious, drawing in all they touch to hollow them out too, until all is ashes and dust and only entropy remains. These hollow men stare at the external world with blank eyes, not even hating it, destroying it only because they lack the awareness not to do so.

This, though, is about the opposite problem. When the life instinct grows out of control, overwhelms the death instinct. Refuses to give in to ruin and extinction. 
Where the personification of the death instinct is the empty void, an unthinking hunger that infects all it touches, the life instinct is aware. It forms a sort of gestalt consciousness, dimly inhabiting living beings. It calls itself the Wounded Mother. 
The Wounded Mother is a squirming, writhing thing, struggling against entropy and decay. Furious with hope. For those in whom the life instinct stirs and flourishes, it has gifts. 
Oh, its gifts hurt, because pain is what defines and preserves life. Death is numbness, life is painful and horrible. But the pain of these gifts will keep you alive if you welcome it in. Those who embrace it become its champions - the Wounded Daughters.

The Wounded Mother teaches five principles:
  1. If you can't endure, flee
  2. If you can't flee, hide
  3. If you can't hide, yield
  4. If you can't yield, fight
  5. If you must fight, sacrifice anything to win.

Becoming a Wounded Daughter
There are four conditions that must be met in order to become a Wounded Daughter.
  1. You must know that such a thing is possible. This might mean reading about such things, or hearing rumours, but probably not. The only reliable way to learn is from another Daughter, as they don't tend to write things down, or have friends. 
  2. You must be female, unmarried, and owning no home. Becoming unmarried is simple - just murder your husband - and losing your home is likewise not too hard. Being female is harder; if you're not female initially you can become female but that might take some effort. I'm not gonna give a mechanical definition for femininity, you know it when you see it. 
  3. You must have just survived some danger that - by all rights - ought to have killed you. Sickness, war, lynchings, or the sort of dangers that adventurers face routinely.
  4. You must want to become a wounded daughter, knowing full well that it means sacrificing your humanity. The choice is deliberate and conscious; it happens because you invite the Wounded Mother into you and finally accept her gifts.

As soon as the conditions are met, the character dreams of the Wounded Mother when she next sleeps. The Wounded Mother's appearance varies. Maybe it's a rabbit. Maybe a human woman. Maybe a seagull. Maybe a child. Maybe a fox. Whatever the case, there's a huge gaping wound down its flank, oozing blood, viscera and muscles exposed. The potential daughter is invited to drink from the wound to accept its gifts.
If she does so, the daughter wakes up changed. She knows, instinctively, that she must survive at all costs, and how she must do so. Her mind is, forever, a constant barrage of fear and paranoia and underlying white-hot hope. Only survival matters, everything else exists for her only so long as it can serve that purpose.

Resilience of a Wounded Daughter
A wounded daughter has only one gift initially.
If she would die, if she can justify a way she might remain barely alive to the GM, she survives. 
For example, if she's stabbed through the gut, runs out of HP, and would die, instead she's merely unconscious. Certainly, she's on the brink of death, severely wounded, and will need time to recover, but she's not quite dead yet. On the other hand, perhaps if she's burned to ashes, chewed up and swallowed, or squashed to a red smear, there's no coming back from that. 
If an enemy thinks to make absolutely sure she's dead, then sufficient hacking will prevent her coming back. Effects that don't kill her, but render her helpless or useless, take effect normally. Her will to live doesn't prevent her from living on as, for example, a tree or somebody's mind-slave.

Costs Paid by a Wounded Daughter
Every time the wounded daughter would die but survives, she sacrifices something. Like a trapped rabbit gnawing off its leg to escape, something that was burdening her is discarded. Each time she survives thanks to her resilience, she accrues an xp 'debt' of 2,000 xp that must be earned and wasted before she can continue gaining levels. Furthermore, roll a d20 on the list below for what she sacrificed in order to live. If it's something she's already sacrificed, then there's no additional effect. Whatever vestige of humanity she abandoned, she was far gone enough that she didn't notice or care.
  1. Memories of unimportant things. Childhood, first love, parents, mentors. The player and GM pick something. These trivialities no longer matter and are forgotten. 
  2. Empathy. She becomes cold, callous, unmoved by the plight of others.
  3. Youth. Age 3 years.
  4. Somebody she once cared about. GM picks an NPC that was once important to her (a lover, teacher, parent, priest, child, etc), who dies immediately of unrelated causes. When she finds out, the Wounded Daughter realises she doesn't care, and never did.
  5. A body part. She picks one: a finger, eye, ear, hand, tongue, foot. It's gone now. It won't come back short of divine intervention.
  6. Her ability to heal. Whatever nearly killed her, the wound doesn't quite close, and she carries a constant stigmata as a reminder of her near-death.
  7. The capacity to love anybody but other Wounded Daughters. 
  8. The ability to have children. Any descendants die of coincidental natural causes.
  9. The ability to read and write. 
  10. The ability to speak or understand any but her native language. If rolled again, she forgets even her native tongue. 
  11. Any comprehension of money. She can only gain XP from treasure that has some use to her beyond its value as precious metal or coinage. Art, magic items, rare trade goods etc are all fine, but a big sack of gold is totally meaningless to her. 
  12. The capacity to experience any pleasure from food, drink, and other material comforts. 
  13. Moral restraint. Matters of 'right and wrong' no longer matter to her in any way. Her alignment becomes neutral (or unaligned) but most observers will think her evil.
  14. The ability to use weapons. If you roll this again, next she loses the ability to wear armour. each time after that, and she looses the ability to use some other tool of civilisation (pick a broad type, such as matches, sewing needles, cooking gear, etc etc).
  15. Her human appearance. Her physique shifts to something slightly more primal, her eyes become feral, her hair matted and filthy. It is impossible to mistake her for something fully human anymore. 
  16. The capacity to be loved. Those who currently love her (parents, children, paramours, etc) find their feelings turning bitter and resentful in a matter of days.
  17. Comprehension of the law and authority as a meaningful concept. She is aware that civilised society might try to stop her doing sensible things (like taking things she needs by force, or killing people who threaten her) but isn't sure why; it seems totally unreasonable and rather irrational.
  18. Legal recognition. Any records of her existence, place in society, legal status etc are lost in coincidental accidents and clerical errors. As far as any legal body is concerned, she doesn't exist, has no citizenship or legal rights.
  19. Ambitions. Any goals or desires beyond survival are no longer meaningful. Of course, getting stronger and removing threats are sensible routes to survival, providing a justification to continue adventuring.
  20. Wealth. Any accumulated treasure without a practical use (IE gold etc, but not magic items, plate armour etc) is lost through some coincidental disaster.

Gifts Accepted by a Wounded Daughter

Every time the wounded daughter survives otherwise-certain death, she accepts another gift of the Wounded Mother. For what she gains, roll a d20. If you roll a result she's already gained, take the next one down (loop back round to 1 if you go past 20).

  1. Immune to fear. More accurately, she's constantly paranoid, on the jittery edge of a fight-or-flight response, but controlling and channelling that fear. Any fear effects inflicted on her don't actually meaningfully change her emotional state.
  2. No longer sleeps. Constant amphetamine-buzz exhausted alertness. No penalties for lack of sleep, tiredness, etc. Immune to sleep spells etc. If she must sleep, perhaps in order to heal, the only real way is to drink herself into a stupor.
  3. Bites for d8 damage. Teeth become ragged, chipped to sharp edges. Smile off-putting.
  4. No penalties for eating raw food, carrion, etc. Cannot suffer food poisoning from improperly prepared food.
  5. Double move speed when she drops onto all fours to run or scramble.
  6. Can spit blood and teeth with violent force. She has 32 teeth, each one does d8 damage spat at an enemy (roll to hit normally). Once spat, the tooth's gone.
  7. Sweats venom. On skin-on-skin contact with her save vs Poison or suffer one damage. Other Wounded Daughters are immune.
  8. Can shed her skin. Below, the wet red mass of musculature and organs. Doing this deals enough damage to her that she only has 1 HP remaining. As her HP heal, her skin grows back, healing fully when all her HP have returned. Her new skin looks subtly different, enough that she won't be recognised as the same person from casual inspection. Any identifying tattoos, brands, scarification etc are likewise gone.
  9. Kiss is poison. On lip-on-lip contact, victim must save vs Poison or fall unconscious. Other Wounded Daughters are immune.
  10. Leave no tracks or scent when travelling. 
  11. Sixth sense for traps; if her action triggers a trap or similar hazard, she can immediately take 1 damage in order to retroactively not take that action.
  12. Can detach any body-part. Doing so deals 1 damage for every 10% of her bodymass detached (round up). Useful for getting out of restraints. The detached bodypart (and the HP sacrificed to detach it) grow back at a rate of 1 HP per night.
  13. Can hold her breath for as many 10-minute-turns as her constitution modifier.
  14. Can scream or sob horribly. Those hearing her lamentations must save vs Paralysis; on a failure they take 1 sympathetic damage and waste a round stunned. The Wounded Daughter must have a good reason to scream; pain, grief, rage, etc. Other Wounded Daughters are immune.
  15. Massive resistance to sickness. If she'd be infected by a disease (including on a failed save), make an additional Save vs Poison; if this extra save is passed, she suffers no ill effects from the sickness, and is not visibly affected. She's still infectious, though. Other Wounded Daughters cannot contract the disease from her.
  16. Sixth sense for ambushes. Can spend 1 HP in order to act when surprised, regardless of how badly off-guard she'd have been caught.
  17. Totally immune to any magic or effect that would compel love, lust, friendship or affection. Cannot be charmed. Love only by deliberate choice, and even then probably only other Wounded Daughters.
  18. On examining a corpse, know the exact circumstances of its death. What killed it and how.
  19. Can walk through any locked door as though it were unlocked, but only to leave a location, never to get in. 
  20. If an effect would knock her unconscious, stun her, or kill her, she can make one final action immediately before blacking out. Perhaps an attack, last words, swigging a potion, or whatever.
The Wounded Sisterhood

Wounded Daughters have no formal organisation, being both rare and generally antisocial and nomadic. None-the-less, they tend to cooperate, recognising shared ideals and obstacles, and are far more likely to seek each other's company out than the company of those outside their sisterhood.
A Wounded Daughter instinctively recognises any other Daughter she meets, as well as any women with the potential to become Daughters like her. They innately understand one another as sisters.
Wounded Daughters can speak and communicate with one another regardless of language barriers, even if they've otherwise sacrificed the ability to speak, and can likewise leave simple messages for one another as scratched glyphs. Their communication is unsophisticated; concentrating on the here-and-now, potential dangers, visceral emotions and potentially the bonds between them.
If a Wounded Daughter ever kills (or tries to kill) another Daughter, she loses all of the Wounded Mother's gifts, immediately and permanently. Not her sacrifices, though, those stay.

The Wounded Daughters as a PC Class

If you want to use this as a class, rather than a sideways upgrade, here's how you do it:
  • D6 HD
  • XP like a Magic User
  • Saves like a Magic User but 3 points better.
  • To-hit progression like a Magic User.
  • If your system restricts weapons & armour, can use any weapons and armour.
  • Have all of the abilities listed above.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

No Rest For The Wicked - a short review

I bought No Rest For The Wicked, here's my thoughts. Mild spoilers.

Visual stuff first: I only got the PDF, so I can't say anything about the physical book. Cover art by Yannick Bouchard is always nice, featuring Alice the Cleric. Internal stuff is very pretty. Dark minimalist moodiness, setting the tone wonderfully. Jez and Alex do a very good job here; I'm reminded of the dark block-black art of Hellboy comics. The whole thing has a sort of grimey woodcut feel to it, it's wonderful.
I found the layout of what goes where pretty intuitive. There's a lot of information repeated, so you get the brief summaries all in one place, and then more detail later on. It works well, and saves page-flipping in play, I imagine.
But then, this is LotFP, you expect it to be good.

So, then, the adventure itself.
There's no weird elements here (save perhaps the PCs), just humans being grubby and horrid.
The adventure itself puts a neat little moral dilemma in front of the PCs, and then asks what they'll do. Things have layers. None of the 'bad guys' are presented as wholly bad, and it's possible (if difficult) to appeal to their better natures. None of the victims are wholly blameless, either. It's messy and complex. The sort of thing where working out the 'right thing' to do is going to take a long argument, but you don't have time to have that argument, you need to act now.
If the PCs do nothing, they're basically fine (so long as they can avoid being hauled in for being witches and/or bandits, which is always a possibility). The affair ends cruelly but cleanly, a few people get executed and that's the end of that.
If they intervene there's a horrible tension to things and the slightest knock can set everything off into a spiralling disaster. The whole thing drips with possibilities for the PCs to do something dramatic and stupid, and make everything Much Worse.
I just don't want to run this, honestly. I want to play this. It gives you a nasty moral problem with difficulties and complications and external pressure. I want to try to give everybody a happy ending somehow.
Reading it, it feels like this is a situation best solved by subterfuge. A cleric with the right miracles prepared, or a magician with invisibility, illusions and some prep time, etc can - if they want - solve this fairly easily. Then again, the massive looming threat is 120-ish soldiers, all lv 0. A direct fight is one that the PCs almost certainly lose, but the almost is important. LotFP gives PCs a lot of lateral thinking tools and weirdness. Misdirecting or subverting the army's not impossible.

Minor quibbles:
There's no map of the surrounding countryside; where the inn, the army camp, escape routes, hiding places etc are in relation to each other. If the PCs decide to flee with the fugitives, this is gonna require a little frantic map-sketching from the ref.
It feels like if the PCs start throwing around witchcraft, the responses of various NPCs will matter. It's not clear how the adventure intends the innkeeper, refugees etc to respond if the PCs start summoning tentacle-monsters and creating phantoms, even if they're trying to help. Not a massive issue, but it's something I'd possibly have given a little more detail.
These are very minor though, and don't really detract from the quality of the book as-written.

The tone is interesting. It's fundamentally about refugees from horrible circumstances. It tugs at the heartstrings. It doesn't take a political stance, and makes no assumptions about what the PCs will do, but it feels relevant. I feel like it's one of those scenarios where how you approach it says something about you.
It ties in with some of the themes of other LotFP modules - Man Is The Real Monster, War Is Horrible, etc. I can see it working amazingly as a prelude to Better Than Any Man. Actually, I think thematically this adventure, No Salvation For Witches and Better Than Any Man are very nicely tied together. The three in sequence would make a pretty great campaign imho.

Following certain unfortunate events recently, I've seen a lot of discussion about what the future holds for LotFP as a brand. If they keep putting stuff like this out, they'll be just fine.

I''d run this, and I'd leap at a chance to play this. Go get it.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Supernatural Masterpieces

A system for the creation of magic items.

How it Works
To make any sort of masterpiece, you require three things:

  • The raw materials to make an exceptional item of the same type (iron for a sword, etc)
  • A forge, workshop, studio or similar in which to work.
  • A magically resonant ingredient that is included in the item to be made, which lends it its potency.
The first two are trivial to acquire. 
You can assume that the materials cost the same as buying a pre-made example of the item in question (what you save in labour costs is negated by the requirement for higher-quality materials).
The place to work is likewise easy to acquire, merely costing a thousand silver (or gold in a gold-standard system) to buy all the necessary tools, supplies, venue etc. You'll need to have an appropriate place to work, however; you can't forge swords in an artist's studio, nor can you make magic shoes in a blacksmith's forge.

The third part (resonant ingredients) is where the meat of the system lies. A resonant ingredient is some material taken from a supernaturally potent place, monster, event or similar. For each such place/monster/event you encounter, you can distil its magical potency into a single ingredient that is used when making the masterpiece.
The resonant ingredient might become a physical part of the item being made (for example, you might make armour from dragon-scales or use a giant's thigh-bone as the haft for an axe). It doesn't need to be, however, and can be used up in the crafting process in some other way (you might quench a sword in basilisk's blood or burn a particular wood to heat your forge). 
Each different resonant ingredient you incorporate into the item being made gives it a particular property, but using many of the same resonance doesn't stack (IE you can make a sword that is Winter and Night resonant using those two ingredients, but not one that is doubly Winter resonant by using two winter ingredients; the sword either is winter resonant or it isn't).

Spotting when something could be resonant, and working out how to make it into the item you want, is up to the players. Justifying why a particular thing is resonant is a matter of player skill, that rewards familiarity with the themes and ideas each resonance embodies.

The examples given are only examples: If your players make something not covered, invent an effect for it that matches the themes of that resonance. Perhaps they have an idea for what it does; if they do, go along with that idea if it makes sense for the relevant resonance. 
Don't be limited by what's here, use it as a starting point.

There are a total of Seven different resonances: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Day, Twilight and Night. Without further ado, here they are:


New growth, vibrant life, nature red in tooth and claw. The triumph of the green, savage world over civilisation. Growth that is unrestrained and without reason, like a plague or a cancer. Life struggling to expand, feed, breed, evolve. Regeneration and adaptation. Rot and decay leading to new life. Predation, parasitism, the competition to survive. Vigour. 
Classical Elements
Earth, Wood, Grass, Venom.
Shambling mounds, myconids and other plant or fungal monsters, particularly the less elegant sort. Parasitic monsters such as rot grubs. Giant insect-like beasts such as purple worms, carrion crawlers and so on. Slimes, molds and puddings. Primordial lizards, ancient fish. Probably nothing particularly intelligent. The 'lower orders' of life that just want to feed and breed.
Deep jungle, thick forest or swamp, coral reefs. Places untouched by civilisation
Plagues, storms.
Savages, druids, the insanely feral. Those who cast off the restraints of human culture and revert to living like mere animals.

A spring-resonant sword drips with venom; victims must Save vs Poison or else take double damage.
Clubs and Axes
A spring-resonant club or axe has a 1-in-6 chance to destroy any crafted object that it strikes. 
Other melee weapons
A spring-resonant weapon gets +2 to hit and damage against 'civilised' foes; anything that has a use for money.
Other ranged weapons
Spring resonant ranged weapons and ammunition passes through foliage, tree trunks and other living plants as if they were intangible.
The wearer of spring-resonant armour regenerates one hit-point each turn. The wounds seal up and are replaced with odd scars; sometimes the scars are a crust of tree bark, coral or lichen.
Farming or gardening tools
Plants planted and tended to with spring-resonant tools grow in a matter of minutes rather than months or years, often growing far larger than natural and in strange shapes.
Other tools
Other spring-resonant tools can be used to work living flesh or growing plants without causing any pain, and if used in this way the subject will recover from the alterations without ill-effects (although alterations made may be permanent). IE, spring-resonant woodcarving tools could be used to re-sculpt a person's face for cosmetic or disguise purposes, etc.
Spring-resonant boots allow the wearer to pass through undergrowth, over marshy or rocky ground, and so forth without being slowed at all.
The wearer of a spring-resonant ring does not need to eat or sleep, so long as they get enough water and access to sunlight to photosynthesise. 
The wearer of spring-resonant clothing gets +5 to any saves against poison, and suffers 5 less damage from any venomous attacks.
Spring-resonant amulets render the wearer immune to the downsides of any disease they might be infected with. Whilst still a carrier, they don't suffer any symptoms. Furthermore, they can - by touching a victim with their bare skin - infect that victim with a disease they suffer if they wish.


Triumph, glory and majesty. Martial might, beauty that exalts, fabulous power. The world of 4-colour comic-book characters engaged in larger-than-life struggles. The apex of things, power at its climax. Emotions that are huge and all encompassing; courtly love, endless vendettas. Hubris and vainglory. Living in the moment. Heroic archetypes, narrative tropes, fairytale logic. Pride.
Classical Elements
Fire, stone, gold, the sun.
Dragons, unicorns, and other heraldic monsters. Butterflies, angel-fish and other elegant beasts. Lions, stags, eagles and chimera composed thereof. Elves, nymphs, sylphs, satyrs and related beings known for their beauty. 
The highest mountains, deepest vales, widest rivers and other exceptional places. Castles, huge monuments to personal glory. 
Pitched battles, volcanic eruptions. 
Divine monarchs, heroes-of-the-people, paladins, champions.

A summer-resonant sword burns with brilliant flame. +d6 damage.
Lances and spears
A summer-resonant lance or spear automatically seeks out the hearts of its victims. When charging, the wielder gets +3 to hit.
Other melee weapons
A summer-resonant weapon looks magnificent, giving an extra +1 to the morale/loyalty of allies while being wielded.
Other ranged weapons
Summer-resonant ammunition, or ammunition shot from summer-resonant weapons, burns with brilliant fire. +d6 damage.
Summer-resonant armour is made for honourable duelling. Whenever the wearer engages in single-combat, for the duration of that duel they are immune to any attacks by anybody other than their chosen opponent; enemies who would interfere are struck dumb and dither rather than attacking. The duel concludes if either side is slain or backs down, if the wearer attacks a third party, if one of the wearer's allies interferes, or if the two combatants part and go their separate ways.
Heraldry, banners, etc
Summer-resonant heraldry is glorious and inspiring to behold. Reaction rolls are 3 better when viewing it, and the loyalty and morale of followers and hirelings is likewise 3 better.
Summer-resonant tools impart an artistic flair upon everything they touch. While the actual quality of the work is no better, and no practical benefit is gained, even a mediocre worker using them produces results that are ornately and elegantly decorated.
Summer resonant rings allow the wielder to make attacks with their bare hands that do d8 damage just like a war-hammer. 
Summer-resonant clothing is opulent and pristine. The wearer is always treated as an individual of repute and importance. Furthermore, no matter what horrible situation they find themselves in, their appearance is never marred or dirtied - save perhaps a single stylishly dramatic slash of blood across their face.
Summer-resonant crowns render the wearer totally immune to fear, charm effects and other emotional manipulation. 'Hard' mind control such as commands and domination still affect them, but the wearer will internally disapprove of whatever they are compelled to do and knows exactly what happened. 


The triumph of the cunning over the strong. The maturation of things. Carefully-laid plans. Artifice and artificial things. Trade, Machiavellian politics, capitalism, byzantine schemes, degenerate democracy. Industry and mass production. Laws, contracts, small-print and legalistic conflict. Civilisation conquering the natural world. Ambition.
Classical Elements
Brass, gold, fire, soot.
Artificial monsters such as golems and animated objects. Beings that rely on mind-control, such as mind-flayers and succibi. Monsters associated with contracts, binding and punishment, such as genies and devils. Monsters that bind and entangle such as spiders, ropers, etc.
Palaces, court-rooms, prisons, and other places of power and control. Factories and workshops. Geo-thermally active places.
Coups, industrial revolutions, court cases.
Lawyers, artificers, spies, strategists, inventors.

An autumn-resonant sword parries and blocks effortlessly, as if with a mind of it's own. The wielder gets +3 AC.
Whips and flails
An autumn-resonant whip or flail entangles those it strikes; they must save vs paralysis or be unable to move from the spot for a round.
Other melee weapons
When an autumn-resonant weapon is used to parry, it hooks onto the enemy's weapon, dragging it from the enemy's hands. When an enemy rolls a 1 to hit, they are disarmed.
Other ranged weapons
When firing autumn resonant ammunition, or using an autumn resonant weapon to fire it, ammunition is never depleted and lasts forever.
Autumn-resonant armour renders the totally wearer immune to improvised weapons, unarmed attacks, and the natural attacks of mundane animals. Monstrous or supernatural beasts can still damage with their fangs and claws, however.

Autumn-resonant shields grant no benefit to their wielder, but give +3 AC to their allies fighting to either side of or behind that shield.
Autumn-resonant tools can be used to work with frightening speed. Any task takes one-third of the time when done with such tools.
Contracts signed in autumn-resonant ink are magically enforced. If any signatory breaks the terms of the contract (letter or spirit) they take d12 damage immediately, and everybody else involved knows the exact nature of their betrayal.
Snares, bear-traps etc
Those caught in an autumn-resonant trap are totally unable to free themselves, no matter what they do. They must rely on somebody else to free them.
Autumn-resonant clothing displays a combination of shining golden inspiration edged with steel-hard absolute authority. The minions, followers, hirelings etc of the wearer will never fail their loyalty or morale rolls for any reason.
Autumn-resonant amulets render the wearer resistant to fire and heat. +5 to saves, and half damage.


Unstoppable entropy, the ending of all things, privation and hunger. Barren wastelands, widespread death. Strength from desperation, wisdom derived from suffering. Endless hunger that drives those afflicted to cruel deeds. Fear and dread used as weapons. The unstoppable march of time and desperate struggles against it. Relentlessness, sacrifice, consumption. Hopelessness.
Classical Elements
Ice, ash, darkness, poison.
Wendigos, werewolves, ghouls and other beings driven mad by hunger. Creatures associated with winter, ice or cold such as yetis, white wolves, frost elementals. Pointlessly spiteful beings such as redcaps and manticores. 
The arctic, mountain-tops and other cold places. Barren wastelands and deserts. Graveyards, mass graves, sites of great disaster.
Famines, mass-executions, blizzards, droughts.
Cannibals, the elderly, 

A winter-resonant sword sucks at the vitality of those it strikes. When it deals damage, the wielder is healed by that much.
A winter-resonant weapon is spiteful and cruel. It deals double damage against enemies with only 1 hit dice.
Other melee weapons
A winter-resonant weapon is blisteringly cold to the touch, dealing 1 extra damage against warm-blooded foes and double damage to fire-type foes.
Other ranged weapons
Winter resonant missiles (or ones fired from winter-resonant weapons) are blisteringly cold to the touch, dealing 1 extra damage against warm-blooded foes and double damage to fire-type foes.
Winter-resonant armour renders the wearer immune to cold, fatigue, weather exposure, and so on.
Cooking & eating utensils
Food prepared or eaten with winter-resonant utensils is nourishing and palatable no matter how unsafe or distasteful it may seen. Human flesh, carrion, insects, rotten food and worse are all pleasant and edible.
Medical Supplies
Winter-resonant bandages, surgeon's tools, etc can be used to heal all damage a victim has taken, at the cost of reducing their HP total by 1 until they next gain a level.
Torches, tinder boxes, etc
Objects burned by fire from a winter-resonant source can never be repaired or restored. Corpses burned by a winter-resonant source can never be resurrected, reanimated or otherwise return; they're gone forever.
Other Tools
Winter-resonant tools can be used to destroy anything, given enough time. No hardness or skillful artifice prevents them being hacked apart by winter tools.
The wearer of winter-resonant clothing is uncomfortable to even look at. Observers tend to drop their gaze before the wearer, and enemies always fail morale checks when fighting them.
The wearer of a winter-resonant amulet does not feel pain. If they would be knocked unconcious or disabled by pain, but are not yet dead, they can carry on acting, totally numb to their injuries.


The clear light of day that illuminates and lays bare. Clarity of information, intellectualism, cerebral thought. Purity, things divided into their proper categories. Certainty, structure, properly applied mechanisms that produce predictable results. The acquisition of knowledge, more than mortal minds can handle. The overwhelming realisation of the totality of things.  
Classical Elements
Sunlight, crystal, water, 
Hyper-rational monsters such as modrons. Monsters associated with light, such as will-o-whisps. Monsters with gaze attacks like medusas and beholders. 
Palaces, court-rooms, prisons, and other places of power and control. Factories and workshops. Geo-thermally active places.
Coups, industrial revolutions, court cases.
Lawyers, artificers, spies, strategists, inventors.

A day-resonant sword cuts through anything. Victims get no benefit to AC from armour or natural toughness.
Other melee weapons
Other day-resonant weapons allow the wielder to see a second or so into the future in snatches and glances. While using such a weapon to attack, the wielder always goes first in initiative.
Other ranged weapons
Day resonant ammunition and other ranged weapons have unlimited range (as far as the eye can see), and never take any penalties for long range.
Day-resonant armour allows the wearer to know the capabilities (IE the rough stat block -  HD, AC, attacks, vulnerabilities or immunities, special powers, etc) of any being whose attacks successfully penetrate that armour.
Lanterns, torches and other lights
Those illuminated by the light of day-resonant illumination are revealed for what they really are; illusions are dispelled, invisibility and disguises penetrated and the true form of shape-shifters superimposed over them.
Nothing that is written in a day-resonant book will ever be forgotten by the writer. No magic or force can ever compel the writer to revise an opinion they've written in such a book, either, until they revise the written statement.
The wearer of day-resonant jewellery automatically knows any lie told to them, and understands the actual truth instead.
Day-resonant tools work without any risk of flaws or slip ups. The work might not be good, but the user will never mess up badly enough to be noticed or cause disaster.
The wearer of day-resonant clothing is never caught by surprise. Furthermore, they always see through mundane attempts at hiding or disguise, having a sixth sense that alerts them to such things.
Mirrors, lenses, telescopes and so on
Day-resonant viewing items allow the viewer to see all details with absolute accuracy, and to see through solid objects if they wish.


Concealment, illusion. Transitional states. Things fading from memory, things that are forgotten yet still remain. Anonymity, loss of identity, wiping the slate clean. Disguises, masks and veils. Things intentionally erased. Hallucinations, gas-lighting, paranoia. Leaving the past behind and becoming something new in the present, transformation that negates the past. Uncertainty.
Classical Elements
Mist, shadows, sand.
Illusions and monsters that use illusions such as hags. Ghosts and lingering spirits. Remnants of ancient civilisations. Monsters that resemble things that they are not such as mimics, cloakers, doppelgangers and so on. 
Empty ruins, lost colonies, mist-shrouded islands.
Revisions of history, becoming lost.
Censors, con-artists, those who drink to forget, make-up artists, burglars, those who hide in plain sight.

A twilight-resonant sword is near-impossible to perceive, appearing as a cloud of indistinct possible blades that don't reveal its true location. Victims get no benefits to their AC for shields, dexterity, defensive fighting or similar.
Twilight-resonant knives cause injuries that are not immediately apparent, causing the victim to bleed out without realising. Wounds caused by the knife don't appear for d10 rounds but deal that much extra damage.
Other melee weapons
Twilight-resonant weapons are concealed when carried but not being wielded in combat; no search of the carrier's person will be able to notice them.
Other ranged weapons
Twilight-resonant ammunition and ranged weapons can be shot absolutely silently and with little visible motion. Shooting such a weapon makes no noise and never gives away the wielder's position if they're hidden.
Twilight-resonant armour is imperceptible when worn. While still bulky and heavy, no observer will ever realise that the wearer is armoured, and will instead believe them an unarmoured, largely helpless civilian until their actions prove otherwise.
Twilight resonant tools are small, easily concealed and unremarkable looking. They are always overlooked when searched for by anybody but the owner.
Ink, paint, chalk, etc
Things drawn with twilight-resonant materials can be used as if real. They remain real for as long as was spent drawing them, and then fade away to nothing.
Those wearing twilight-resonant boots never leave any tracks, nor can they be tracked by scent.
Anything written on twilight-resonant paper is immediately forgotten by the writer, unless the writer knows to mix a little of their blood into the ink. Furthermore, if they read whatever they wrote, their memory might stir but they'll soon forget it again.
Twilight resonant clothing is dull, drab and easy to ignore. The wearer gets a 50% chance to hide simply by standing still and blending in- if they already have such a chance to hide (as a thief or halfling perhaps), increase that chance by 50%.
Any person who touches a twilight resonant glove with their bare skin (other than the wearer, obviously) forgets that that the wearer was there or what they did once they're no longer in the wearer's presence.
Twilight-resonant masks perfectly disguise the wearer. Whatever the mask is off, the wearer will seem to all observers to be that thing. 


Passion, art, madness. Emotions unrestrained by reason. Transformation from moment to moment to reflect whims. Things that should not be known. The transcendence of the spirit over the physical world. The dark womb-crucible which allows the mind to reinvent itself. Shapelessness, amorphousness. The drive to create art, to express one's self in ways that defy rationality. Primordial truths beyond the scope of the rational mind. Mysticism and the higher instinct. Altered states of consciousness. Insanity.
Classical Elements
Darkness, clay, wax.
Shapeless primordial monsters such as shoggoths. Insane monsters such as beholders, derro and so on. Beings whose forms are shaped by their emotions such as genies.
Lunatic asylums, artists' collectives, caves inhabited by religious mystics, growths of hallucinogenic plants.
Mass hysteria, religious revivals.
Religious mystics, the wildly insane, the most passionate of lovers, alchemists, artists, those who willingly undergo extreme physical transformation.

A night-resonant sword causes those it strikes to mutate physically or emotionally, weakening them. Those it strikes must re-roll all their hit-dice, taking the new result if it is worse.
Hammers and maces
Night-resonant hammers and maces cause those they strike to fall asleep, unless they pass a Save vs Magic to resist. 
Other melee weapons
Night resonant weapons can be warped into the shape of a spear, sickle, halberd or two-handed-axe by their wielder, working exactly like a weapon of that type until the wielder lets go or wants to revert them or transform them again.
Other ranged weapons
Those hit by night-resonant missile weapons are physically mutated. They re-roll all their hit-dice, and take the new result if it would be worse.
Night-resonant armour shifts and alters its shape and fitting to best suit the wearer from moment to moment. It simply doesn't encumber the wearer, at all, ever. If it ever matters if a location is armoured, then it will be for that moment. If the wearer ever needs a location to be exposed, it will be for that moment.
Night resonant rope moves of its own power, knotting or unknotting, coiling itself, extending and so on as commanded by its owner.
Night resonant tools work on any material, regardless of suitability. Stone can be sculpted like wax, wood cast and forged like iron, and so forth.
Lanterns, torches and other lights
Those illuminated by the light of night-resonant illumination remain asleep no matter what; no noise, movement or even injury will be sufficient to wake them.
If the wearer of night-resonant clothing tastes the blood of another being, their appearance and physical characteristics - including str/dex/con, AC, natural attacks and perhaps even abilities such as flight and physical senses - shift to become a doppelganger of that being. While their mind remains unchanged, their body is transformed, permanently.
The wearer of a night-resonant mask mentally takes on the traits of whoever the mask depicts. Their personality shifts - possibly including alignment, int/wis/cha and so on - and they may gain or lose abilities such as the capacity to turn undead, immunity to fear, etc. They may forget aspects of their previous life, and start remembering facts that, while obvious to the mask-identity, their real self has no way of knowing. 

New Class: The Artisan
It might be the case that you don't want everybody in your campaign making millions of magic items, and you'd prefer to limit this craft to a single class. If that's the case, here's such a class for you.

Hit Points, Saves, Experience Totals, Attacks, Etc: all as the Magic User.
Tinkering: Get a 5-in-6 chance at the tinkering skill in LotFP, or else 5-in-6 to McGuyver together any gadget that might require a roll, take a mechanism apart etc. 
Artisans: Can make use of the 'supernatural masterpiece' crafting rules given above. If this class is being used, they're the only class that can.
Fast Work: At first level, can complete a crafting project (IE swords, etc) in half the normal time. 1/3 time at 2nd level, 1/4 time at 3rd, etc.
Identify Artifacts: Can identify the magical properties of any material or item that they are able to examine and experiment with for a full hour.
Mastery Of Their Own Tools: When wielding a supernatural masterpiece they made, the artisan can always use it regardless of class restrictions. They can wear any armour they made, wield any weapon, etc. 


six of these seven resonances (spring, summer, autumn, winter, day and night) are based on the magical realms in the larp Empire, by Profound Decisions in the UK. Kudos to them for these, they're pretty great. I've tweaked them a bit, however, and added a seventh.