Sunday, April 26, 2020

Fear Blades and Devil Smiths

Wander deep enough into the Wyrdwood and you’ll find a small village full of devils. The devils down in Devil Town know how to forge blades out of your own fears.

Fear Knives

You’ll need to pay the devilish smith in advance, but he will cut you a nice discount.  The knives bring more misery into the world, after all. After you give the devil your coins, confess your own worst fears aloud. The smith draws those fears out of you, like gray spun sugar, and coalesces them into a dense alien material, not unlike glass, metal, or ceramic. The smith forges this fear-stuff into a knife with aesthetic aspects reminiscent of the fears that created it. A blade forged from a fear of fire might be bright orange in color with flickering edges of yellow. Fear of abandonment might produce a blade that weeps tears when left unattended.

You are now immune to fear, both mundane and magical. But fear is part of what makes us human and keeps us safe, so you also lose 2 points of Charisma and 1 point of Wisdom forever. 

The knife inflicts damage like a dagger (1d4). In your hands, a knife made from your own fears is +2 to hit and inflicts an additional 1d8 psychic damage to living, feeling creatures.

Draw a pentagram on your character sheet. Write “NP” in the middle. Fill in each arm as you gain Nightmare Points. 

If you use the fear knife to hurt a living, thinking, feeling creature, then when you sleep that night you must make a 2d6+WIS roll. 
  • 6 or less: Your sleep is plagued by the pain and terror of the being you harmed. You do not gain any benefit from the rest (no healing or spell recovery). Gain a Nightmare Point
  • 7-9: Your dreams are unpleasant, but you are otherwise fine. 
  • 10+: Your sleep is deep and dreamless. You find comfort in the abyss. Lose a Nightmare point, if you have any. 

Nightmare Point Totals
  • 1: You always look like you need a nap, but you’re otherwise fine.
  • 2: Your skin and hair turns ashen white or charcoal gray (your choice).
  • 3: Your alignment turns to Chaos, if it isn’t already. 
  • 4: You no longer regain HP or Attribute damage from resting and must rely on supernatural means of recovery. You can still refresh your spells, at least.
  • 5: Your physical form fades away, becoming dream-stuff and entering the Kingdom of Terrors. Roll up a new character. They are pestered by dreams of your old character. Give them +1 to any one Attribute. 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Goat & Raven

The Goat & Raven Public House is owned and operated by the dwarf Stanislav Arn. The house features a large, open common room with a balcony running along three sides that leads to rentable rooms. Its dark wood walls are covered in hunting trophies—antlers, claws, stuffed heads, broken spears, etc. A large crossbow with a wolf motif hangs behind the bar (Wolfkiller: heavy crossbow +2, +1d8 damage to beasts). A raven sculpture made of worked iron perches in the rafters. Pens behind the building house Stanislav’s prized goats. Stanislav’s house special of black bread and spicy goat stew with turnips is particularly well regarded. 

Stanislav Arn (Dwarf 5, Lawful) retired to Wyrdwood over 40 years ago for a quiet life after a career as an adventurer. He is tall for dwarf (5’3”) and thinner than most of his species, suggesting human blood in his ancestry. Stanislav generally maintains a professional and stand-offish demeanor but is suffers occasional bouts of melancholy. His few close friends say his taciturn facade hides a generous nature and wry sense of humor.

Stanislav’s hands are thick with scars and callouses to the point that he can reach into his ovens and grab hot kettles without gloves or other protection. “Peac” is tattooed across the knuckles of his right hand, and “Qiet” is tattooed across the left. He tolerates neither ruckus nor fracas in the Goat & Raven, and he is more than happy to let his fists enforce this rule (2 attacks per round, 1d4+1 damage each). It has become something of an informal rite of passage among the young men of Wyrdwood to get beaten up by Stanislav Arn.

Stanislav was married to Luscilla Gull, a human woman and member of his old adventuring party. She died of an unknown illness five years after she and Stanislav retired to Wyrdwood. Village rumor says that Stanislav buried her with a fortune in jewelry and treasure. Luscilla’s grave lies in the cemetery behind the Gray Chapel. Stanislav interred her coffin beneath an elaborately decorated burial vault. Hand-crafted and tear-stained by a grieving dwarf, the vault is indestructible my mortal means. It requires a combined Strength of 50 to lift the vault off the coffin. Luscilla’s body is bedecked with 3000gp worth of gold and jewels. Should someone rob his dead wife’s grave, Stanislav will make it his life’s work to kill the thief.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Lord Wyrd's Library

Lord Wyrd’s library is massive and sprawling. It is also messy and disorganized with no categorization system that anyone can determine. His family’s collection of ancient tomes and treatises is unmatched outside of academic circles. The library contains information on a wide variety of subjects, but most of the collection deals with the Wyrdwood and its environs, inhabitants, and history. There are no magical tomes or spellbooks to be found here.

Lord Wyrd deeply values his ancestral library and does not allow just anyone access to it. PCs will either need to sneak in or gain the trust and confidence of Lord Wyrd or his daughter.

Research Rolls
If you have access to Lord Wyrd’s library, ask a single question about the Wyrdwood and spend 1d8+8 hours in research. Roll 2d6+INT.
  • 6 or less: Your search is fruitless. Your time is wasted and you lose any accumulated +1s to your research roll. But the GM will tell you some unrelated but interesting (if not necessarily important or useful) rumor, bit of trivia, or lore that you stumbled across in your research.
  • 7-9: You haven’t found the answer yet, but you’re on the right track. Take +1 to the next research roll you make regarding your question.
  • 10: You have found the answer to your question. Your GM will give it to you as a single statement. Any follow-up questions you make can be researched with a +1 to the roll.

If you want to help someone in their research, spend the same amount of time with them, and roll 2d6+INT
  • 6 or less: You are a distraction and a font of bad information. Your friend takes -1 to their research roll.
  • 7-9: You neither help nor hinder your friend, but you get a +1 to your next assistance roll.
  • 10+: You find some helpful information or leads. Give +1 to your friend’s research roll.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Wyrdwood Village

I've got a new campaign idea in my head, because clearly I don't have enough projects to keep me busy. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it right yet. Once the plague leaves our far lands, I'm probably going to propose it as the next campaign for my home group. Or, if I ever get room for another online game I might run it as like a virtual open-table.

It's a spooky (but not horror) rustic hex-crawl setting centered around a haunted forest and anchored by a little village full of eccentric NPCs. I'm going for a kind of dream-like weirdness more than horror. it's a gothic fairytale vibe without going into full-blown Burton territory, like a Roger Corman meets Guillermo del Toro thing. System-wise I think Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures is the best fit.

Here are my vague and poorly organized concept notes...

Wyrdwood Village (Setting)

Keys: Dreamlike, folktales, decay, mystery
Specifically not a horror setting, despite some of the folk horror trappings.
A small village spread around an ancient manor house occupied by the mysterious Lord Wyrd and his household.
Lord Wyrd is mysterious with vaguely-defined supernatural influence on the area. Of an alien mood, but surprisingly benign. His family has been here as long as the village has, with no records showing their origin. Lord Wyrd has been the master of the Manor as long as anyone can remember.
The Wyrdwood is a primeval, spooky fairytale forest full of strange ruins, monsters, and secrets. The village has only one path in--the old covered bridge.
People (PCs and other weirdos) just “show up” in Wyrdwood village, coming across the bridge. Sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose, sometimes by invitation from Lord Wyrd. Designed to facilitate bringing new characters/players into the campaign.
Visitors are welcome, and Lord Wyrd is quite happy to provide rooms for guests within the Manor, as long as they behave themselves.
Every week, a masked man driving a wagon comes into town to resupply the merchants and take their money to deposit “back in the city.” This "city" is never discussed in detail. Anyone who attempts to follow the wagon driver when he leaves the village never returns to Wyrdwood. None of this strikes the villagers as unusual. Wyrdwood Manor
  • Many secret passages and hidden chambers
  • A strange art gallery
  • Lord Wyrd’s bored and lustful daughter
  • The locked bedroom of Lord Wyrd’s dead son.
  • Distressingly cheerful Halfling groundskeeper
  • Competent if uncreative cook.
  • Necromantic butler overseeing ghostly staff.
  • Guest rooms available for use by adventuring types
  • Library full of cryptic answers
  • Family crypts

Wyrdwood Village

  • Tavern, where hirelings and torchbearers can be hired.
  • Church dedicated to a forgotten god
  • General store with a very friendly proprietor (Runcible Hawk and his old dog Blue). He’ll buy pelts and monster skins from adventurers.
  • Smith who can make weapons and simple armor, and can order heavy armor for you (delivered next week!)
  • Several empty houses that can be rented or purchased from Lord Wyrd (so PCs can set up their own homes, temples, guilds, etc.)
  • Apothecary who sells potions and buys weird ingredients from the PCs.
  • Handful of farms with quarreling families.
  • Maypole and old menhirs where seemingly random holidays are celebrated.
  • Crusty old bailiff/sheriff who keeps the peace.

The Wyrdwood
  • Ruins of unknown history and make
  • Dungeons of various sizes
  • Creepy druid cults burning sacrifices inside wicker animals
  • Talking beasts
  • The tower of a reclusive, but good-natured wizard.
  • Coven of sinister witches and their goblin minions
  • The Parliament of Spiders
  • Ancient statues covered in moss
  • Small village of devils
  • Bearlike hermit
  • No standard “humanoid” monsters, aside from some beastly goblin-folk.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Gasp, Posion!

Remember Black Dougal from the Moldvay Basic set? Of course you do! Did you know that after he died, he opened up a poison shoppe called "Gasp, Poison!" in the Underwolrd? It's true!

Here's a thing I put together for my now-ended LotFP game. I never got a chance to use it. It's been on my Patreon since July, but now I'm sharing it with the wider world. The prices below assume a silver standard. Yes, they are expensive, perhaps more than they should be. Adjust according to your game's economy and how much poison usage you want.

Gasp, Poison!
Black Dougal was a thief and dungeon adventurer, way back in Times of Old. He was famously unlucky. A poison needle put an end to his adventuring career, as well as his life, but that didn’t stop his entrepreneurial spirit!

Black Dugal is now undead and operates a profitable poison shoppe down in the Ghoul Market. Gasp, Poison! stocks exotic toxins from across the Nameless World, catering to a discerning clientele.

Popular poisons are listed below. Prices are per dose, with a silver standard.
  • Blackadder: Injury; Save or 4d6 CON damage. (1500sp)
  • Iocane Powder: Injury, ingestion, contact, inhalation; colorless, odorless, dissolves instantly in water; Save or die in 2d4 rounds. (2000sp)
  • Spiderbite: Injury; Save or paralysis for 1d4 turns. (1000sp)
  • Red Rage: Injury, ingested; Save or berserker rage for 3d6 rounds. Victim makes pressing melee attacks (+2 to hit, -4 AC) against closest target each round. (750sp)
  • Demoncap: Injury, ingested, contact; save or suffer nightmarish hallucinations. 2d6 WIS damage, and confused (as spell) for 1d4 turns. On save, disadvantage on all rolls for 1d4 rounds. (1000sp)
  • Sandman: Ingested, inhaled; Save or deep sleep for 2d4 turns. (1000sp)
  • Slugwort: Injury; Slowed for 2d6 rounds. (600sp)
  • Venombane: Ingested, injected; Allows new save to resist poison if taken within 1 turn of exposure. (500sp)

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Troika! City Encounters

Hey look! Actual gamable content!

I'm running Troika! with my Saturday online group ("The Germans"). The characters are mostly new-comers to Troika, so I'm running it as a light city-crawl (with a lot of influence from Dark Heart of the Dreamer). As the PCs travel from district-to-district I roll to see what kind of weird encounters they have with the locals. 

I'll need to come up with more of these soon, as my players are burning through this original batch pretty fast!

City Encounters

Roll 2d6 whenever the PCs travel from one part of Troika to another.
  • 2: Demonic Incursion
  • 3: Illicit Magic Dealer
  • 4-5: Drinking Contest to the Death
  • 6-8: No Encounter
  • 9-10: Musical Debate
  • 11: Dwarf Artist
  • 12: Lamassu Fashionista

Demonic Incursion
A gate of bone and obsidian opens in the middle of the street. A demon and a demon hunter stumble out, mid-combat. She is Bianca Sten, a young woman with white hair, a facial scar, crimson cloak, and massive silver sword. He is Skathe, a demon of Rage, eight-foot tall with red scales, a lion’s head, tuxedo jacket, and eye lasers.

If the PCs do nothing, the fight will last for another 3 rounds. After that, roll 1d6 for the results. 1-4, the demon wins. 5-6 the hunter wins. Either way, the winning side will berate the PCs for not helping them.
  • Bianca Sten: Skill 8, Stamina 13, Initiative 2, Armor 2, Damage: greatsword (silver)
  • Skathe: Skill 9, Stamina: 20, Initiative 2, Armor 2, Damage: eye-beams (as fusil), double damage from silver. Gold and jade nose-ring worth 50sp.

Illicit Magic Dealer
PCs are surreptitiously approached by Gambolpuddy Spree, a weasel of a man with a long gray cloak and battered hat. He offers them a deal on several bits of contraband magic.

Gambolpuddy Spree: Skill 5, Stamina 6, Initiative 1, Armor 1, Damage: knife
  • No-Pants Powder: Blow this fine pink powder at your target. They must make a Luck roll (Skill for enemies) or their pants will fall to their ankles. 15sp
  • Double Trouble Bubble: A fragile glass orb that, when shattered, will create a duplicate of the last person to touch it. They will have identical clothing and equipment, but an entirely different philosophy and moral outlook. 100sp
  • Healing Liquor: Potent alcoholic distillation that may or may not heal damage. Roll 1d6. 1-2: nothing happens, 3-5: Instantly regain 2d6 Stamina, 6: Transform into a box tortoise for 1d6 days. 10sp
  • A small red book containing the Zed spell. 50sp

Drinking Contest to the Death!
A large crowd gathers around one of the many small beer gardens in this part of the city.
Two women sit across a table from each other, among dozens of scattered jugs and steins. What started as a simple IP dispute between the two women has escalated beyond reason.  Juliette Spank and Marva Ritter have decided to settle their affairs with a drinking contest… to the DEATH!

If the PCs do nothing, one or both will succumb to alcohol poisoning in 1d6+3 rounds of drinks. Roll 1d6: 1-3: Juliette dies. 4-5: Marva dies. 6: Both die.

Pennyweather Plunk, a chip-nosed dwarf takes bets. Giving 3:1 odds on Juliette.
  • Julliette Spank: Skill 4, Stamina 8, Initiative 2, Armor 1 (leather apron), Damage: hammer
  • Marva Ritter: Skill 3, Stamina 9, Initiative 2, Armor 0, Damage: pistolette
  • Pennyweather Plunk: Skill 4, Stamina 8, Initiative 1, Armor 0, Damage: sword.

Musical Debate
A large group of rough-looking men come tumbling out of a near-by tavern, violently punching, kicking, and shouting at each other.

The men are divided into two camps, who strongly disagree on popular music of the day. One group thinks that Trace Crystalis is the freshest voice in contemporary acoustic vapor-gaze. The other group asserts that Luna Sixx is breaking boundaries in nouveau autobiographical mope-core.
The violent men will demand the PCs settle their debate.
  • Angry Music Lovers (12 per side): Skill 6, Stamina 13, Initiative: 2; Armor 0. Armed only with their fists.

Dwarf Artist
Crimbo Caspacian is carving a large sculpture in the center of Casternally Cross, a busy intersection. He is currently carving a giant topaz into a 6-foot tall sculpture of flame at the behest of the Red Church. When he finishes his work in 1d6 days, the sculpture will glow and flicker like a real fire.

He is constantly pestered by territorial owls, who are displeased by this intrusion into their prime brooding space. Crimbo will gladly pay the PCs 20sp a day each to keep the owls and other pests away.

On the final day of crafting, Crimbo’s hated rival Jangle Handspan will run out of the crowd, screaming curses, and angrily lob a bomb into the workspace.
  • Crimbo Caspacian: Skill 5, Stamina: 12, Initiative 2, Armor 0, Carving tools (treat as daggers)
  • Jangle Handspan: Skill 5, stamina: 13, Initiative 2, Armor 0, Bomb (20’ radius, damage as fusil, Luck roll to avoid)

Lamassu Fashionista
Uk-Ululu, brazen-maned lamassu attended by seven beautiful androgenes dressed in fragile gold and buttery samite.

Uk-Ululu and his entourage will loudly berate the PCs for their poor sense of fashion and style.
However, if the PCs show grace, humor, and wit in the face of such harsh criticism, they will earn Uk-Ululu’s favor. The Lamassu will treat them to a shopping spree to the tune of 1d3x50sp in fine clothing and accessories.
  • Uk-Ululu the Lamassu: Skill 9, Stamina 20, Initiative 2, Armor 0, Claws (as sword) and Hooves (as club), Spells: Amity, Illusion, Peace
  • Beautiful Hangers-On: Skill: 3, Stamina: 9, Initiative: 1, Armor: 0, Unarmed. Spells: Light, Befuddle.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Support my Friends' Zines!

QAGS is the Quick Ass Game System from Hex Games. It has been a part of several charity bundles on Drivethru, so chances are good you already own it.  QAGS was created by Steve Johnson and Leighton Connor. I bought QAGS 2nd Edition at Origins in 2005. I was immediately taken in by three things:
  1. How simple but effective the system it was. 
  2. How fun it was to read. 
  3. How genuinely useful its GM and player advice was.

I started writing for Hex in 2007 with The Dungeon of Moderate Annoyance for their fantasy-parody setting, Qerth. Since then I have written a whole bunch of stuff for Hex Games, including the Ennie-winning Hobomancer’s Companion. Everything I wrote for Hex was in collaboration with and/or under the editorial pen of Steve Johnson and Leighton Connor. More than anyone they’ve probably had the biggest influence on my writing style, in both subject and form. They’ve also become dear friends.

All this is to say that if you like Sanctum of the Snail or Druagr & Draculas, then you have those guys to thank. Also, you’ll probably very much enjoy the stuff they write.

Steve and Leighton both currently have Kickstarters going for Zinequest 2. I urge you to check them out.

Steve is writing Tales from the Lusty Minotaur, detailing the titular fantasy tavern, its staff, and regulars. It promises rumors, adventure hooks, and random tables. There’s also rules for “Fate’s Hand” a tarot-based card game. Tales is designed to be system-agnostic but uses QAGS where stats are needed. Steve’s bringing on several Hex Games artists for this project, including me.

Leighton brings us Akashic Titan. This is a supplement for DCC that revolves around the titular Akashic Titans, giant robots powered by magic who travel across the endless void. It’s dream-like and sublimely weird. Leighton’s doing all the writing and art on this one.

Give them a look, and also look at Them's Monsters why not?