Friday, February 28, 2014

B/X Character Class: Harpies

Harpies by Donna Barr. Used with permission of the artist.
Flying PC's can be a real hassle, because they can circumvent challenges that were planned two-dimensionally. But I think these harpies keep things pretty balanced. Let me know if I'm wrong.

They are directly inspired by Paul Kidd's Lace & Steel, created in collaboration with Donna Barr. If you know Ms. Barr's work, there's no doubt the harpies were one of her contributions to the world of Middlemarch.

If you don't know Donna Barr's work, then here you go, your new favorite thing: The Midnight Library.

Anyway, harpies.


Harpies (Lesser Harpies, Stormcrows, the Kindly Ones)
Requirements: CON 9
Prime Requisite: CON
Hit Dice: 1d4
Max Level: 8

Harpies have the heads and torsos of humans and the wings and bodies of large, predatory birds. Their hands emerge from the prominent joint of their wings.

Although harsh and unforgiving in disposition, lesser harpies are distinguished as “the Kindly Ones” both because they can bring rain to farmlands and, unlike their wild kin, they do not eat human flesh.

Harpy females are larger and more domineering than the males. Any harpy character with a STR of 12 or over must be female.

May use any weapons, and wear leather armor.
Hit Progression and Save as Thief.
May not use wands or arcane/divine scrolls.

Flight: Flies at 180’ per round, unencumbered, ignoring terrain and obstacles. Can only fly when less than half-encumbered (leather armor and less than 400 coins weight). Cannot use hands while in flight, even to hold small objects, but can hold objects in talons.

When flying, harpies attack either by swooping in to attack with their talons (see below), by dropping heavy items on enemies (treat as ranged attack, 1d6 dmg.), or, if they have a STR of 12 or more, by picking up an enemy (requires successful melee attack with talons), flying upwards, and dropping them (1d6 dmg For every round spent flying upwards. The victim may attack the harpy with a -2 to hit during these rounds).

Talons: As they mature, harpies develop powerful clawed toes.

Control Weather: At seventh-level, a harpy can cast Control Weather twice a day.

Aerie: At eighth-level, a harpy can establish a mountaintop stronghold.

1          Fledgling          Flight                           1d4       0
2          Siren                 Talons d2                      2d4       1800
3          Snatcher           Talons d4                      3d4       3600
4          Harpy               Talons d6                      4d4       7200
5          Swiftwind                                               5d4       14500
6          Stormcrow                                              6d4       29000
7          Stormqueen    Control Weather           7d4       58000
8          Kindly One     Aerie                              8d4       100000

Monday, February 24, 2014

Satyr Sub-Classes: Marginalia


Okay, I think this is the last I have to say on satyrs.

A squirrel-satyr, maybe?
Satyr variations: Near-Satyrs, or Marginalia
There are many variations on the satyr form. They are found throughout the world, reflecting the local fauna. In a jungle setting, one might encounter elephant, zebra, lion, or gazelle satyrs. In the frozen north: caribou and polar bear satyrs.

These marginalia exist in small numbers—some may be unique—found in the wild or adopted into other communities.

Most near-satyrs can be handled as cosmetic variations of either the satyr class or one of the below. These variations use the base satyr class, but changing out the natural attack, and a different advantage replacing Dazzling Music.

Wolf-satyr
Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Hear Noise as thief. Cannot use these abilities if wearing more than leather armor.
Bite: 1d2, 1d4, 1d6
Countenance: At level 4, a wolf-satyr's face looks increasingly lupine.

Deer-satyr 
Speed: 1.5x normal base speed; +1 to initiative; +1 to avoid surprise.
Smell delicious to predators.
Rack: 1d2, 1d4, 1d6 (let's claim that Deer-satyrs' are descended from the Ceryneian Hind, and so the females have antlers like the stags, only the female antlers are a lustrous golden color)

Bear-satyr
Claws: 1d2, 1d4, 1d6
-1 (+1) to AC due to thick hide.

Ichthyosatyr
Pretty much just a mermaid with goat horns.

Rabbit-Satyrs
Exactly like hobbits.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Setting: The Planet Ceres



Ceres, Heaven’s Garden, Jewel of the Archipelago

Ceres, the miracle planet, is one of the most difficult places in the Aetheric Sea to find, lost as it is in the cosmic debris of the Archipelago. It is a pilgrimage destination for the Worlds’ richest and most desperate, because Ceres offers healing to those who have no other hope.

Things grow well on Ceres. The tiny planet is covered in gigantic versions of plants recognizable from Aereth: forests of tulips; great, towering clover; cabbages like castles. The majority of the fauna is insectoid. There are intelligent races of both insects and plants.

Wounds heal quickly. +1d6 of natural healing per day. If a person spends enough time on Ceres (3d6 seasonal cycles), even missing limbs will grow back. The new limb will usually have some plantlike properties (skin like bark, the occasional budding leaf or cluster of berries, etc.).

Seasons on Ceres affect the whole planet simultaneously. Each season is short, lasting about an Aereth month.

Moebius
Spring is a time of sudden storms and rapid transformation. When the winter snows melt, there are a few days where Ceres is little more than a ball of mud. Almost immediately, plants burst forth, growing at an astonishing rate. Great swarms of insects hatch from defrosting clutches of eggs, ravenous and growing.

During Spring, the ground is so fertile that there is a 1 in 20 chance that any object, organic or inorganic, buried in the ground will bear forth a plant with attributes of the sown object. One might encounter a tree with paper leaves that become covered in words as they ripen, or a bush bearing left shoes, or a vine of braided leather. Precious metals and gems create flowers of intense, vibrant color.

Summer is a period of idyll, when the hectic pace of growth slows down, and plants and insects alike linger and mature. During this period, Ceres is hailed as the most beautiful place in Creation.

Autumn is a period of industriousness. Plants and insects devote themselves to producing seeds and eggs. The intelligent species stockpile food and shore up their defenses. The combination of bountiful life and impending death lend an air of ecstatic frenzy to even the most mundane activities. This is the time of the Circus Cereale.

Winter is spectacularly harsh. Snows pile hundreds of feet high, capped with hard crusts of wind-carved ice. Much of the planet’s life dies off, leaving seeds and eggs buried in the snow for Spring. Some of the larger insects hibernate or enter a pupa stage. Many intelligent species retreat to elaborate tunnel systems. A few apex predators remain active, and they are desperate with hunger.

During winter, the healing bonus ceases, and any direct exposure to the elements results in 1d6 damage per turn.

Some significant locations on Ceres
Circus Cereale. A natural amphitheater/valley consecrated to the Gods. In the last weeks of Autumn, hundreds of thousands flock to it for every manner of game, ritual, and celebration they can devise. It is considered a great blessing to continue celebrating until the encroaching winter takes your life, and many of Ceres’ old and infirm pilgrimage to the Circus for their final season.

 The Messor Hive. A sprawling beehive at the planet’s southern pole. The center of magical learning on Ceres.

Promitor. An idea of a city that takes on a new form at a new location every year. Carved out of giant fruits during the warm seasons, and out of snow in winter. A cosmopolitan city where many insect races mingle.

The Thimbletombs. Resting place and repository of the Ancient Spider Empresses.

Vervactor. A vast excavated city of ant-centaurs with tower-mounds that reach above even the winter snows. Provisioned and fortified over the course of thousands of years, filled with the material riches of Ceres.

Edit: The same day I posted this, Goblin Punch presented a write up for Bee-Ladies. They're pretty great, and works perfectly for Ceres. Although I think the Bees of Messor Hive are actually giant bees, with no anthropomorphism, I don't think anything mechanically needs to change from Arnold K.'s write-up.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

CrawlJammer and our Fantastic Solar System

Tim Callahan was kind enough to send me a pdf of his new ‘zine, CrawlJammer. It’s Space & Sorcery for Dungeon Crawl Classics.


I haven’t read DCC and this ‘zine may contain mechanical elegances that I’m missing out on, but I can recommend this just for the inspiring setting.

Tim’s approach to space is admirably divorced from science and complexity. Of course you can breathe in space, although the air is a bit thinner. Of course you can walk the deck of your planet-roving Viking longship—it establishes its own gravity well. Battle between ships uses the same mechanics as battles between characters. There are a few optional rules if you feel like tracking more stuff in order to create a spacier flavor.

It takes place in a solar system much like the one gamers of a certain age grew up with: nine planets, including Pluto. And, obviously, they’re all inhabited. Is there anything greater than tales set in the fully-inhabitable Solar System? I’ll never forgive Science for not revealing dinosaur-laden swamps beneath the clouds of Venus.

{{Incidentally, I’m working on a comic right now that involves a trek to all the planets, although it’s a different flavor of genre mash-up. Expect me to flog the hell out of it when it debuts.}} 

Space is weird.
CrawlJammer has my inspiration-glands all fired up. The Odyssey-inspired island-a-week B/X campaign I’d been noodling is suddenly looking more planetoid-a-week.

Some thoughts on developing the setting past the default Solar System of our childhood: There’s some wonderful stuff from both older historical and contemporary models of the Solar System that feed right into a setting where our planet is spelled “Aereth.”

Ceres, She Who Brings Forth
Ceres: For about half of the 19th Century, Ceres was considered the fourth planet. Then it was demoted to “Asteroid” (but what an asteroid! Ceres accounts for a third of the asteroid belt’s mass), and was then promoted to Dwarf Planet. Situated between Mars and Jupiter; named after the Goddess of Agriculture; seems ripe for setting development.

Eris and Orcus: GUYS! There are bodies in our Solar System named Eris and Orcus! The International Astronomical Union is begging us to use them in a setting like this! Eris is already designated a dwarf planet, and Orcus probably will be, whenever the IAU gets around to it. 
Orcus, Punisher of Broken Oaths


The Asteroid Belt, the Kuiper Belt, the Oort Cloud, etc.: I’d probably name these “Archipelagoes” or something, and consider them the Unmapped Wilderness of the setting: an endless slate of discrete locations where you can drop any scenario you feel like. A great place to use randomization like the “What Makes This Planet Different?” table from this issue. A great place for discordant ideas. Want to have a society of adorable pigs, or sentient colors, or cosmic beatniks without upsetting the rest of your setting? Stick ‘em on a planetoid in one of the Archipelagoes.

Fixed Stars and Wandering Planets: Not sure which ones, but I’d include a few myth-heavy stars as locations within the Solar System. They would stay in one place, unlike the Planets. I want people to be able to get lost while travelling, so Planets would live up to their name and really wander around. It would take a highly-specialized retainer to accurately predict where a planet is going to be at a given moment.

Dooooooooooooom Comet
Comets: These would be places of The Highest Weirdness. Comets jumble up the laws of physics and magic and philosophy in unsettling ways for as long as their influence is felt.

Other Solar Systems: Don’t expect to travel that far, but one might meet up visitors from afar. I’d put on my Gene Wolfe hat, here. Interstellar aliens would absolutely be called “Cacogens.”

All of which is my roundabout way of saying “Pick up a copy of CrawlJammer, why don’t you?”

Monday, February 17, 2014

Satyr Sub-Class: Sabbat Satyr

I mentioned in the first satyr post that their reputations have suffered from the troublesome behavior of certain extreme elements within their ranks. People think that they are hedonists because of the Bacchante, or tricksters because of the Calicantsars. But the deepest, darkest suspicion people hold against satyrs is that they trade in dark magic. This is because of the Sabbat Satyrs.


Sabbat Satyr
Requirements: INT 13
Prime Requisite: INT
Hit Dice: 1d4
Max Level: 14

Few satyrs have the academic focus necessary to become spell casters, and even when they do, many do not pursue it. This is because satyr magical talents inevitably lean towards necromancy.

May wield sickles, knives, and staves. May not wear armor.
Hit Progression, Spell Progression, and Save as Magic User.
May not use magic armor or divine scrolls.
Cannot perform Dazzling Music as other satyrs.

Spells: Sabbat Satyrs cast spells from Gavin Norman’s Necromancer spell list.

Horns: At Level 2, sabbats grow rams horns that get larger and more intricately curved as they advance.

Countenance: At fifth level, grand sabbats’ faces lose their resemblance to humans, becoming increasingly goat-like as they advance.

Tail: At sixth level, sabbats grow long, horse-like tails.

Coven: At ninth level, sabbats will attract a coven of witches and mages. The covens typically keep themselves secret, and cultivating power and influence over their home region without revealing their existence.

1          Satyrisci                            Spells                0                        1d4
2          Faun Seer                         Horns 1d2         2700                  2d4
3          Caprinus                          Horns 1d4         5400                  3d4
4          Scape Witch/Warlock    Horns 1d6         10,800               4d4
5          Beast                                 Countenance     21,000              5d4
6          Sabbat                               Tail                     43,000               6d4
7          Grand Sabbat                                              86,000               7d4
8          Mendesileni                                                135,000             8d4
9          Pappomendes                Coven                 270,000             9d4
10         Baphometi Minimus                                420,000             9d4+1
11         Baphometi Medius                                   570,000             9d4+2
12         Baphometi Maximus                                720,000             9d4+3

Sabbatic Goat by Eliphas Levi

Monday, February 10, 2014

Satyr Sub-Class: Calicantsar

These satyr-variants would be at a great advantage in a dungeon, but will face a lot of bias and persecution in town. 



Calicantsar (Goblin-Satyr)
Requirements: DEX 13, CHA 9
Prime Requisite: DEX
Hit Dice: 1d6
Max Level: 10

A rare, subterranean off-shot of satyrkind. Calicantsars are widely reviled as tricksters and child-stealers. This reputation may or may not be earned.

May use any weapons, and any armor except plate armor.
Hit Progression and Save as Fighter.
May not use wands or arcane/divine scrolls.
Infravision.
Stealthy: +1 to surprise.

Dazzling Music: Beginning at first level, calicantsars can cause powerful effects in others through music. They require an instrument, and prefer pipes, cymbals, castanets, bagpipes, and lyres.
Invitation to dance: One time a day per level, a satyr can perform a musical Invitation to Dance. This can be done while moving at normal speed. Instead of rolling on the normal encounter reaction table, roll 2d12 below:
2-3        Hostile, considering an attack
4-7        Uncertain, monster confused, listening to music
8-10      No attack, monster dances, conga line right out the door
11-12    Enthusiastic friendship
Panic: Once per day per level, a satyr can use music to inspire panic in others. This requires total concentration, and nothing else can be done while the satyr is performing. This triggers a morale check at -2 at any time, even if the creatures have previously rolled a 12. Undead and deaf creatures are immune.
Lullaby: A calicantsar can play soothing music to help willing creatures to sleep soundly. This can counter effects that might disturb rest needed for healing. The calicantsar must play for at least a full turn during the period of disturbance.

Horns: At Level 2, glum fauns grow rams horns that get larger and more intricately curved as they advance.

1          Satyrisci            Dazzling Music                     0                      1d6
2          Glum Faun       Horns 1d2                             2000                 2d6
3          Bogey                Horns 1d4                             4000                 3d6
4          Undergruff       Horns 1d6                             8000                 4d6
5          Undergruff Hero                                            16,000               5d6
6          Calicantsar        Tail                                        32,000               6d6
7          Kallikantzaro                                                  64,000               7d6
8          Dark Sileni                                                       120,000            8d6
9          Cavelord          Underground fortress          240,000            9d6
10        Dispateri                                                          360,000            9d6+2

A word of warning, if you're curious about these guys: a google search for calicantsars turns nsfw quickly. Alarmingly so. I'm not talking naughty Greek pottery.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Style as Armor: J. C. Leyendecker

J. C. Leyendecker was an illustrator in the first half of the Twentieth Century, closely associated with the image of the "Arrow Collar Man."

If you can't quite buy into the notion of "Style as Armor," here's some inspiration:





Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Satyr Sub-Class: The Bacchante

These are the sorts of satyrs the Greeks and Romans loved to depict. They are usually found stumbling through the countryside in transient orgies, but they also seek out high-stakes adventures in order to more gloriously fulfill their vow of profligacy.

Is... is it okay to admit how pleased I am with the phrase "vow of profligacy?"

Walter Crane, Nymph Between Two Satyrs
Bacchante, The Blessed Revelers
Requirements: STR 13, CON 9, CHA 13
Prime Requisite: CHA
Hit Dice: 1d8
Max Level: 10

Bacchante are holy figures and greatly admired in satyr communities. It is their duty to give themselves over to a state of wild revelry.

May use any weapon.
Cannot wear conventional armor, and rarely wear clothes. May wear animal skins equivalent to leather armor.
Hit Progression and Save as Dwarf
May not use magic armor, wands, or arcane/divine scrolls.

Holy Debauchery: Must make a check against Wisdom to pass up offers of intoxicants or sex. If a bacchante successfully abstains four times in a row, they are no longer a bacchante. They lose all bacchante advantages, and must reroll all hit dice.

Vow of Profligacy: A bacchante must spend any money accrued by throwing lavish celebrations. A bacchante does not gain XP for treasure until it is spent in this way.

Ecstatic Frenzy: Once per day; +2 to hit and damage, until combat ends.

Dazzling Music: Beginning at first level, Satyrisci can cause powerful effects in others through music. They require an instrument, and prefer pipes, cymbals, castanets, bagpipes, and lyres.
Invitation to dance: One time a day per level, a satyr can perform a musical Invitation to Dance. This can be done while moving at normal speed. Instead of rolling on the normal encounter reaction table, roll 2d12 below:
2-3        Hostile, considering an attack
4-7        Uncertain, monster confused, listening to music
8-10      No attack, monster dances, conga line right out the door
11-12    Enthusiastic friendship
Panic: Once per day per level, a satyr can use music to inspire panic in others. This requires total concentration, and nothing else can be done while the satyr is performing. This triggers a morale check at -2 at any time, even if the creatures have previously rolled a 12. Undead and deaf creatures are immune.
Lullaby: A satyr can play soothing music to help willing creatures to sleep soundly. This can counter effects that might disturb rest needed for healing. The satyr must play for at least a full turn during the period of disturbance.

Horns: At Level 2, fauns grow rams horns that get larger and more intricately curved as they advance.

Tail: At sixth level, satyrs grow long, horse-like tails.

Create Fountain: At sixth level, a bacchante can, once per day, touch the ground with a thyrsus (a fennel staff topped with a pine-cone) and summon a spring of water, milk, or wine.

Thiasus: A Bacchante can never settle down and establish a settlement, but at ninth level, they will have attracted their own thiasus: a large retinue of ecstatic revelers. In addition to their permanent retinue, they will often be temporarily joined by locals from wherever they pass through.


1          Satyrisci            Dazzling Music; Ecstatic Frenzy            0                      1d8
2          Wild Faun        Horns 1d2                                                 1700                 2d8
3          Celebrant         Horns 1d4                                                 3400                 3d8
4          Ecstatic             Horns 1d6                                                 6800                 4d8
5          Goat                                                                                      13,000               5d8
6          Bacchante         Tail; Create Fountain                               27,000               6d8
7          Grand Bacchante                                                                54,000               7d8
8          Wild Sileni                                                                           102,000             8d8
9          Partylord          Thiasus                                                      204,000             9d8
10        Dionysi                                                                                324,000             9d8+2


Monday, February 3, 2014

Style

I posted an appreciation of Goblin Punch's fashion as armor class houserule, and wrote up my own Microlite20 version of it. After some good great comments, here's a D&D version:

J. C. Leyendecker. Yes.

Style
Even squamous horrors feel the power of a well-put-together ensemble. Style will save you.

Stylish clothes are expensive, and fashion is fickle, so be prepared to buy new clothes every season.

Good clothes can survive a lot of rumple and still look dashing, but on a critical hit they are mussed beyond hope and lose their AC benefit. A tailor can fix it up in a few hours, however.

Stylish Clothes (10 x Normal Clothes prices) = Charisma bonus applies to AC.

Think Cary Grant or Mos Def. Everything is properly tailored, proportioned, and coordinated. You may not be able to put your finger on why they look better than you, but they do.

Exquisite Clothes (100 x Normal Clothes prices; requires a Maid or Valet to maintain clothes) = Charisma bonus x 2 applies to AC.

Think the King of Siam, or Beyonce at the Grammys. FABULOUS. There is no mistaking this outfit for normal clothes.

Some armor is designed to look spectacular, but it is usually of shoddier construction than the more utilitarian models, and this cancels out the stylish edge. Truly beautiful, fully functional armor is masterwork, and enormously expensive.

Exquisite Armor (50 x Normal Armor prices, requires a Valet or Squire to maintain) = Charisma bonus applies to AC.