Friday, 13 April 2018

Rose-Maiden Virtuosos, A Class

So, I'm running a game in Ynn for a couple of players, and among other things they've made friends with a rose-maiden whom they treated after finding her injured. They call her rosebud, her true name is unpronouncable if you have human mouths rather than stamens and petals.
I think that I'd let them take over playing her as a PC when one of them dies. And, for that end, they need a class for rose-maidens.
Now, as written, the rose-girls can only cast if they're in a choir; multiple rose-girls need to sing at once to create the harmonies for the magic to work. That's not ideal for PCs, so I'm making a class for the rare virtuosos who have learned to produce multiple distinct notes at once, mongolian-throat-singing-style.

So, the Rose-Maiden Virtuoso.

  • Hit dice is a d4, as for the MU.
  • Saves are as the MU.
  • XP is as the MU.
  • Rolls to-hit are as the MU.
  • AC is as leather. The Rose-maiden may not wear armour; it interferes with her photosynthesis and its hard to find armour that will fit a walking flower.
  • The Rose-maiden may not use weapons. Her thorny branches can't grasp weapons firmly enough for use in combat.
  • The Rose-maiden gets two attacks with her thorny fists, each dealing damage like a dagger.
  • The Rose-maiden does not start out with any equipment, but may be able to use it if she aquires it. Magic rings will fit on her branches, but magic cloaks just get shredded by her thorns. Use your common sense.
The Rose-maiden is both a plant, and a person. Effects that target plants effect her just as well as those that target people.

The Rose-maiden can perform magic by singing. The abilities she has available to her are:
  • Walk Through Plants (allowing her to move through any plants as if immaterial)
  • Grow Plant (causing a plant to grow rapidly, at a rate of rounds or turns rather than days or months, in the shape the Rose-maiden wishes)
  • Talk With Plants (allowing her to speak to and understand plants)
  • Move Plants (allowing her to make a plant move for a single round, as if animated).
  • Charm Plants (causing a plant to consider her a friend if successful)
These work like a thief/rogue/specialist's abilities. The rose maiden sings for a round, and there is a chance that the ability will take effect.
In b/x and similar games where % chances are used for thief skills; Walk Through Plants uses the chance to Pick Locks, Grow Plants uses the chance to Move Silently, Talk With Plants uses the chance to Climb Sheer Surfaces, Move Plants uses the chance to Hide In Shadows, and Charm Plants uses the chance to Find Traps.
In LotFP and similar games where skills are x-in-6, each of these skills starts with 0-in-6 chance to succeed. The Rose-Maiden has 5 'skill points' to put into them at 1st level, and then 2 more for each level she gains thereafter.
Remember, the Rose-Maiden is a plant. It is very possible to use these abilities on a Rose-maiden. Possibly even the rose-maiden herself.
When multiple rose-maidens sing at the same time, combine their chance of success (so two level 1 rose maidens each with a 17% to Walk Through Plants, can sing together and have a 34% chance to do so).

When she doesn't cast spells, the Rose-maiden can produce a droning song that distracts those listening, which works in addition to making an attack or other action. When she does, everybody able to hear is affected; there is a 1-in-10 chance that any action requiring concentration (such as casting a spell, first aid, etc) simply fails. This effect stacks; it's 2-in-10 when two Rose-maidens drone, and so on.

Lastly, Rose-Maidens evaluate everything in terms of beauty and ugliness. They get double the XP for killing ugly monsters, and half XP for killing beautiful monsters. Likewise, they get double XP for beautiful treasure, and half XP for ugly treasure. One should expect Rose Maiden PCs to be thoroughly snobbish to ugly people, and deferentially polite to beautiful ones.

Monday, 9 April 2018

For my island-crawl - the ship

One thing that I'm working on for my next big project (a dawn-treader inspired island-crawl adventure) is the idea of the PCs ship as almost an NPC. Since its their base of operations and only means of surviving the ocean - and the biggest thing brought with them from the old world - the ship becomes a powerful totem of the familiar contrasted against the weirdness of the isles.
As a result, I need ship rules. In the end, I've lifted a lot of ideas from the Lamentations book. The ship is, where relevant, treated like any other stat-block, with hitdice, hitpoints, AC and so on.
I wanted the ship to have a strong and comfortable identity; in the end (and after a little reading) I settled on a retired tea-clipper.
I'm abstracting carrying capacity somewhat. I want to drive home the logistics of such a long-scale sea journey, and how there's not enough room to carry everything.

* * * * *

The Primrose
The Primrose is the ship on which this voyage takes place. It was once used for coastal trading voyages, but is now several decades old and reaching the end of its use. It has seen many former captains come and go, and has been mended and altered enough to become its own idiosyncratic vessel, almost a character in its own right.
The primrose is painted black, the hull tarred, with the various railings and masts painted a pale yellow. It was built as a tea-clipper, so its frame is narrow and angular. To look at, its silhouette almost reminds one of an elegantly curved knife.
The figurehead is an owl, wings spread wide, as if swooping down on prey.
Below deck the cabins - like the ship itself - are angular and narrow. The furnishings are a little old fashioned, the Primrose nearing the end of its useful lifespan and so rather old itself. None the less, until overcrowding becomes an issue, things are reasonable comfortable by the standards of merchant shipping.
The ship has three masts, each bearing a broad, square sail. It is 90 yards long by twelve yards wide. It has three lifeboats, each enough to hold 12.

Mechanics for the Primrose
For most purposes, where there is peril
involved, the Primrose can be treated much like a creature, as follows.
ò 40 Hit-dice.
ò 200 hit-points, and completely ignores any attack that deals 10 or less damage.
ò AC as an unarmoured human against those physically on-board, or AC like chainmail against attacks from outside the ship.
ò Mostly either automatically passes saves, or automatically fails them, based on the nature of the effect. Where the an effect’s outcome is truly in doubt, treat the save as 11+.
ò Immunity to cold, poison, mental effects, sickness, etc.
ò Double damage from fire. Once it has taken damage from fire, it will continue taking that much each round thereafter. Putting it out requires 1 action spent dousing the flames for each round it has already burned. (This can be a character acting once each round, or several acting all in one round, or somewhere in between).

When the Primrose hits 0 hp, it is effectively wrecked. It cannot move, and will begin to sink, taking 3d6 rounds to do so.
The Primrose does not attack. Those on it, however, are capable of manning the cannons.


Damage and Repair to the Primrose
During an encounter, keep a tally of how many times the Primrose has taken damage. Once the encounter is over and it is possible to take stock of the ship’s state, for each tally mark, roll d20 on the table below to see what damage has been done to the ship. If the same result is rolled twice, ignore the second time it comes up; the ship cannot lose a rudder it no longer has, for example.
-1- Rigging is shredded.
-2- Forward mast is useless or lost entirely. -25% speed until fixed, requiring a new mast to be found in order to do so.
-3- Middle mast is useless or lost entirely. -50% speed until fixed, requiring a new mast to be found in order to do so.
-4- Rear mast is useless or lost entirely. -25% speed until fixed, requiring a new mast to be found in order to do so.
-5- Sails are damaged. -25% speed until fixed.
-6- Rudder is inoperable. Steering is impossible until fixed, which will require 10 batches of timber and the ship securely anchored to work on it.
-7- Anchor lost. Will require a new anchor; something big and heavy and ideally grappling-hook shaped.
-8- Upper deck torn up.
-9- Forecastle deck torn up.
-10- Quarterdeck torn up.
-11- Poop deck torn up.
-12- Bowsprit lost.
-13- Hull damaged above the waterline; port side.
-14- Hull damaged above the waterline; starboard side.
-15- Holed below the waterline; forward port side. Ship will sink in 2d10 turns.  Requires 10 batches of timber to fix.
-16- Holed below the waterline; rear port side. Ship will sink in 2d10 turns.  Requires 10 batches of timber to fix.
-17- Holed below the waterline; forward starboard side. Ship will sink in 2d10 turns.  Requires 10 batches of timber to fix.
-18- Holed below the waterline; rear starboard side. Ship will sink in 2d10 turns.  Requires 10 batches of timber to fix.
-19- Figurehead lost.
-20- Tiller damaged. Steering is impossible until fixed, which will require 5 batches of timber.
Each HP of damage done to the ship can be repaired. It requires one batch of timber, and somebody working for a turn.

Crew
The primrose requires at least 28 on board to be able to sail reliably. This can be both NPC sailors, and PCs who are willing to do the work.
For each person below this, -1 to all d20 rolls related to sailing it, navigation, and so on (for example, roll-under-intelligence or saving throws). For every 4 people below this, -1 to all rolls related to sailing it, navigation and so on (for example, surprise rolls).
The ship has enough room for up to 35 crew plus the initial number of PCs. So, with a party of 4 PCs, there is enough room for 39 on board.
NPC sailors have the following statistics, where it matters:
ò 1 Hit-dice.
ò 4 HP.
ò Armour as leather (if properly equipped) or unarmoured otherwise.
ò Knife (+1, d4)
ò If properly equipped, Maritime Weapons (+1, d8)
ò Saves as Fighter 1.

Cargo
The ship can carry 1500 batches of cargo. Cargo that can be carried includes:
ò Provisions: each batch of provisions feeds one person for one day.
ò Timber: each batch of timber is enough to repair 1 point of damage to the Primrose.
ò Cannon Ammunition: each batch is enough for one shot from a cannon. (Assume that the gunpowder uses up very little space, and that it does not run out when the cannonballs do).
ò Armaments: each batch of armaments is enough to arm a single NPC sailor with proper weapons and armour for maritime combat.
ò Treasure: each batch of treasure found on the voyage uses up space on the ship if it is to be carried. As a rule of thumb, 500 XP’s worth of treasure makes up one batch; maybe more or less for particularly bulky or easily transported goods.

Cannons
The Primrose has been fitted with 6 cannons, 3 down each side. Each sits in its own little gun-port, with the necessary tools and supplies to hand.
There are four stages required to fire a cannon:
ò It must be loaded with a charge of powder.
ò It must be loaded with a cannon-ball.
ò It must be aimed.
ò The powder must be lit, which fires it.
Each of these stages takes a round's activity to perform. Multiple crew can work together, so that four of them can charge, load, aim and fire a cannon each round.
When firing a cannon, roll to hit as normal with the bonus of the person who actually fired the thing. If hit, things that are normal-sized (people, wolves, etc etc) get to make a Save vs Breath Weapons to get out of the way of the shot. (Larger things like giants and other ships get no such save). A cannonball does d6 x 10 damage.
If used to fire grapeshot, a cannon does d10 damage to everything in front of it, with no to-hit roll required. Smaller-than-ship-sized things still get their Save vs Breath Weapons to avoid it, as normal.


Sunday, 8 April 2018

New Class - the Link-boy or Lantern-girl

Something knocked out fairly rapidly when I had a moment of inspiration.
Link-boys and lantern-girls are pretty commonly hired as retainers; kids expected to follow the PCs to provide light, carry things, and not much else. What if you wanted to play as this unfortunate urchin, though? Well, here's how.

Basics:
Hit Dice: D4
Saves: As Cleric
Attacks: to-hit as Cleric
XP to level up: half of that required for a fighter.

Special Abilities:
Night Vision: A lantern-girl is accustomed to carrying the light for the party. She can see twice as far by any light from a source she herself carries.
Perceptive: A Lantern-girl has a 3-in-6 chance to hear noises, to notice unusual architecture, to be woken by the sounds of intruders, and so forth. She is only surprised 1-in-6 of the time.
Insignificant: Many monsters and NPCs will assume that - being only a child - the lantern-girl is unimportant and no threat to them, and act accordingly. This may mean that monsters do not attack her while there or other valid targets. It may also mean that human NPCs treat her like a mere child, even when she's accumulated quite a lot of wealth and experience. This ability is as likely to hinder as to help, and is at the GM's discretion.
Fortunate: Being small and nimble, a lantern girl is adept at avoiding perils, and furthermore her childlike innocence (or deliberate facade thereof) can sometimes pause the hand of even the most ruthless enemy. Wherever a saving throw reduces some danger when passed (such as a Save vs Breath halving the damage taken from a fireball), the Lantern-girl instead ignores the danger, and is entirely unaffected. 
Sneaky: A lantern-girl can easily escape notice. In an urban environment, she can blend into the urban landscape, becoming just another unremarkable urchin; when she does so, she has a 5-in-6 chance to escape detection from those trying to locate her. Likewise, in the countryside or dungeon, she can attempt to hide behind whatever cover presents itself; here, she has a 2-in-6 chance to escape notice.

Starting Gear:
A lantern-girl begins with a torch or lamp; a dagger or sling & 10 bullets; 3d6 silver to spend; and whatever her companions feel like giving her.

Other Systems:
For systems which use a Prime Requisite, the lantern-girl's is Charisma. She gets +5% XP if her Charisma is 13+, or +10% if it is 16+.
For systems that restrict Weapons & Armour by class, a lantern-girl can wear only leather armour and can carry a shield. She can wield only one-handed melee weapons, and any melee weapon bigger than a knife requires both hands to use. The only ranged weapons she is allowed are thrown weapons and slings. She is treated as a Thief for the purposes of using magic items.
Upon reaching level 9, a Lantern-girl does not get to build a castle or anything like that; she is, after all, only a child. On the other hand, to have reached that level she probably has a rather nice amount of wealth to invest in the projects of others.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Project Idea - Into the Utter West

I've not made much of a secret of how my fond memories of the Narnia books influenced the design of Ynn. I actually don't much mind about the blatant christian allegory side of them, even; what with the parallel worlds thing, and all the rest it works perfectly well as a Christianity-inspired fantasy setting. The religious stuff actually really helps the tone of the books, I think.
My two favourites were Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair. It's no coincidence that these are both basically wilderness adventures that showcase the weird and wonderful peripheries of the setting.

Dawn Treader has been on my mind. I've been combining it mentally with the 'sailing into the west' motif from Tolkein. A voyage by boat that takes you over the horizon towards a more unworldly realm. A metaphor for sinking peacefully into death. That's not to say that there's no adventure and hi-jinks and danger, but the slightly melancholy feel of this idea knocking about in my head is a strength worth preserving.

So here's the setup: the most westerly shore of the known world borders onto an endless ocean. Few who sail out into the sunset return, none report more lands out there. None the less, rumors persist. The campaign follows a ship of explorers as they travel over the horizon to see what's there.
Structurally, the campaign has three broad arcs:
Firstly, setting up the ship, buying supplies, and setting sail over the mundane ocean. This establishes the 'normal' of the world and ties it strongly into the ship you'll be sailing in. A few weeks of travel over the grey ocean will probably be skipped over fairly quickly. The journey serves to give PCs a chance to settle into the ship's mechanics and to separate what's to come from the everyday world.
Stage two is the Wondrous Islands. If one travels far enough, one reaches a vast archipelago of islands. Each island contains some weirdness or whimsy, maybe a mini-dungeon or a resource to exploit or some such. Here, players can explore a nautical map, with random encounters at sea, islands here and there, and so on.
One of these islands is the Red Isle; here, the route into the utmost west is unlocked. The setting sun casts an orange-red reflection over the sea, forming a path to the horizon. Once the Red Isle is found, the players can choose to sail down the sunset road whenever they wish, but doing so is a one-way journey.
The final stage is sailing down the sunset road itself. Here, there are few islands to replenish supplies at. Instead, the ship, and the PCs will be torn at and tested to destruction by the road. At the far end are the gates to Paradise; those PCs who finally struggle to the end get to enter. Once they do, that's campaign end. THAT SAID: I want reaching Paradise to be a goal worth striving for, so I'll probably have those PCs that get there get a hefty bonus to their next PC in the next game you run.

Thoughts on this:
The sunset road is optional: you can dick about in the wondrous isles for a bit, and then go home again if you want.
OBVIOUSLY the wondrous isles are procedurally generated through random tables and stuff. It's me, I love tables, what else is gonna happen? The sunset road, however, is likely to be a fairly linear sequence of challenges of a fairly finite duration.
The ship itself is gonna be detailed, as are its crew. Mechanics for the ship in combat, its cargo, damage to it, etc etc. The ship, as much as the PCs, becomes our island of normality in the weirdness that is the wondrous isles.
The bulk of the content's gonna be in the wondrous isles. The start of the voyage are more of a prelude and endgame.
The module's likely to include some religious symbolism. I'm from a christian background, so that's where most of it will come from. Obviously I'm not writing religious propaganda, but I think using these themes will give it some emotional punch by tying it into ideas about death and redemption and so on.

I want to keep the tone fairly light. A mixture of bittersweet and dreamlike. Because it's me, PCs will inevitably warp and mutate over time. So will the ship itself and its crew.
This is still fairly early stages. I'll update as stuff gets solidified and written down.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

And now for something completely different


So, up until now, I've mostly been writing about OSR stuff, with occasional forays into oWoD. Here, instead, are some thoughts about Monsterhearts, and some homebrew I made for it.

If you aren't familiar with it, Monsterhearts is a game about playing sexy teenage monsters (vampires and witches and so on). It uses the Apocalypse World engine and tries to be a metaphor for queer stuff. I have mixed and conflicting opinions about it.

The underlying engine is really neat. 2d6+mod, 7-9 is a mixed success, 10+ is an overwhelming success, that's pretty elegant. The way the game uses strings, and the various social moves, is likewise neat. It fits its genre nicely, and drives play forward well.

On the other hand, the game has some problems. The moves seem very incomplete; a lot of actions that I would require a roll for (avoiding being noticed and reacting to surprises spring to mind) simply don't have a move tied to them, which means as a GM you can't get people to roll. Fights are far too hand-wavey for my taste, meaning that it usually boils down to either a) roll really well or b) narrate really fast so the GM lets you win. Plus, some of the skins (aka classes) available - particularly the alternate and third-party ones - are wildly unbalanced; for example, the Succubus fills basically the same niche as the Fae or Infernal but has none of the drawbacks, and the Unseen is just a ghost but so much better at the ghost's sneaky information-gathering that if the Unseen is in play, the ghost is largely pointless. 
Underlying this is the game's stated goals. It's meant to be an arty metaphor for queer stuff and teenage hormoney stuff and, tbh, that sounds like wank to me. However, I've played it in ways that tone down the arty side and instead focus on emergent stories and character goals, and that works really well.
It's a flawed game, and it tries to be something I'm not really into, but it's pretty easy in my experience to turn it into something much more my cup of tea.




Anyway.
I made some homebrew skins, so now I'm gonna talk about the design ideas behind each of them. The skins themselves are the Flatliner, Alice, The Hive-mind and The Wendigo. Each of them was designed to focus on an area not really covered by other skins, and to have a playstyle other skins don't.


First up, I wanna talk about the Hive-mind. When I last played Monsterhearts, I initially played the Anansi, a spider-trickster figure. Because, after all, I fucking love spiders (they're adorable and amazing and why are people frightened of them?). It was neat, I guess, but didn't really fit what I wanted to play perfectly, so I wrote up homebrew instead, and that pushed me down this rabbit-hole.
The Hive-mind is a swarm of insects (or worms, or spiders, or whatever) in a fake human skin, walking around pretending to be a person. It's an imposter, and under the surface it's very much monstrous and alien. I wanted to play with its outsider status, so it got a few moves that encourage it to not quite fit in; people get XP for explaining how to be human to it, and it can force people to explain their motivations when they try to manipulate it. To contrast this, it gets a few abilities that really play up how horrific it is; it can engulf people in a tide of bugs, or frighten them away with a horrible revelation of the Hive-mind's true nature.
The key to the skin, though, is that it can split itself up and its form is fluid, which gives it a lot of power in terms of scene-framing. By splitting the swarm, it can be in two places at once, and other abilities let it do things like put a 'bug' on people or places to monitor them, or to mimic people's appearance. Combine this with the ability to engulf people (preventing them fleeing) or force them to leave out of fear, and the Hive-mind has a lot of control over pacing and access to plotlines.
The playstyle is probably the most normal of the skins I've designed. On the other hand, the basic ability to be in multiple places and the fluidity of form, combined with specific other abilities, means that the hive-mind in play normally feels unsettling and alien.
If you want to be metaphor-ey, then the whole 'outsider in human society who frightens people and doesn't understand human behavior' makes a pretty neat stand in for something like autism or mental illness.

Next up, we have Alice. Alice is, predictably, inspired by Alice in Wonderland, and her key thing is that she causes weird shit to happen around her. Since most of her abilities come off causing weird things to happen, she's a tempo-setting, plot-creating machine, but doesn't really have much ability to do things or control things herself, so she's all about making game for other PCs.
Essentially, whenever somebody in a scene with Alice gains XP, a Weird Thing happens. Alice picks a 'daydream' from those provided, which provides a sequence of rough spurs for what the weird things are. Each new weird event will be the next one down the list.
Since Alice knows which daydream she's on, she knows what the next event will be, and a few of her powers let her cause or delay weird events. This is, in practice, surprisingly powerful; if Alice's player knows that next up is 'a building catches fire' she can delay that event happening and then trigger it at the moment that best suits her.
On the other hand, Alice only gets two abilities not directly related to controlling the tempo of weird events; she can go into mirrors (giving her a safe hiding place) and gets power from playing games with people. Both of these are neat tricks but still have ways they tie indirectly back to the tempo control.
I'm pretty sure my enthusiasm for random encounter rolls played a part in the design here.
There's no real metaphor here, but considering the persistent rumors about Lewis Carol's interest in children, I'm sure a creative GM could come up with something.

After this, there's the Wendigo. This one's probably my weakest design, because the archetype (eat people, be super strong because of it) overlaps so much with the Ghoul. On the other hand, the ghoul focuses much more on dealing with unwholesome urges of various sorts, while the wendigo is tightly focussed on eating. This one's the class that's the most overt 'themes and art and metaphors' of my designs, as it's pretty obviously about eating disorders.
Fundamentally, the Wendigo doesn't have a Volatile stat (this is the stat used for most physical confrontations in MH). Instead they have Hunger, which fluctuates wildly based on what they've been eating recently. If hunger goes too high, they start taking damage, but on the other hand by pushing hunger they can hit heights of physical prowess inaccessible to other skins; normally, stats range from -3 to +3 ith +3 taking a little min-maxing to achieve), but the wendigo's hunger goes from 0 to +4.
Most wendigo abilities tie into either using hunger (typically for violent or similarly brutal means), or else controlling the hunger score. The wendigo is hard to deal with in a direct confrontation, but needs to be really careful that it doesn't starve itself to death.

Lastly, we have the Flatliner. The Flatliner is, essentially, Tomie (from the work of Junji Ito). Constantly dying but impossible to prevent from returning, and incredibly sexy into the bargain.
The flatliner messes with the assumption that PCs want to be alive, and can't do things while dead. For a start, death is only temporary for her; no matter what happens, she can always come back. She gets various ways to continue interacting with the plot while dead; she can gaze into the abyss for information (at an advantage) while dead, and with the right abilities can also continue using her sex appeal or even communicate directly with people while dead. Her other abilities are about maximizing the impact of her death, letting her give XP to those who see it, or kill herself rather than fall victim to other people's social moves, or force those she sleeps with to either give her a lot of social leverage, or murder her.
The skin, therefore, has it's own little cycle built in, gaining sexual leverage over people, dying at a dramatic moment rather than facing the consequences of her actions, resting for a while whilst dead to subtly steer things, and then returning from the dead to do it all over again.
Again, the metaphor potential here is quite heavy. It's an archetype that's all about romanticizing suicide, which lends itself to all sorts of themes. Or, you can just play it as a weird necromantic femme-fatale. Either works.

If you're interested in Monsterhearts, I'd recommend giving it a try. It's a game that, tbh, I think needs to be hacked in order to really work, but if you're reading this you're probably OK with that. You can get the stuff I wrote for it here.

I also made a Patreon account, because I'm poor and need money. You can find it here, and if you feel like chucking me a few bucks because you like my work, that's always nice (I like being able to pay rent and eat food).

Oh, and test prints for The Gardens Of Ynn are on their way. It should be available in paperback in a week or so.