Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Class: the Godthief (v1.0)

This class uses terminology that relates to my in-progress homebrew rules. The only thing that really matters is the concept of Luck - which exists as a sort of replacement for Saving Throws (see Troika! for how I essentially use Luck). Whenever the rules expect you to "roll Luck" then substitute whatever you find most applicable - saving throw, reaction roll, spell save DC or whatever. Whenever it asks you to "spend Luck" consider replacing this with a "once per day" caveat or "spend 1 HP" if you're into that.

Is this just a rogue with free level-up magic items that have limited battery life? Sure, I guess you could call it that.


You are an acrobatic vigilante, folk-hero, and rake
the sort that features in the stories told to kids - the trickster-vagabond who makes fools of the pompous and always bites off more than they can chew. But you're not alone on your travels. You weave the worship of devata - the little gods - into your tools, your clothes, your weapons, and they take care of you.

[I don't use this stuff but if you do then here it is:]
Requirements: none
Prime Requisite: idk Dexterity I guess?
Hit Dice & Saves: as Thief


Godthieves have a Sacred Bundle of astra or god-tools:

1. a scarf 2. a topeng-mask 3. a scarf 4. a hairpin 5. a shawl 6. a lorgnette
7. a canteen 8. a matchbook and cigarettes

[The Knife can take up an inventory space if you play that way, the shawl and scarf are worn (if that counts for inventory in your system, so be it) and the rest is so tiny and lightweight it hardly matters]

Mantra of the Lucky

Your devata see to it that you’re never without small luxuries. Your canteen always has a little bit of something left in it, and your crumpled cigarette packet always contains three cigarettes, and your box of matches always contains three matches. (You can’t use this ability to give out infinite cigarettes and booze to loads of other people in an attempt to make money; the devata will resent the abuse, and cease to aid you.)

When the GM has established details about a person, place, location, or situation, you may spend a point of Luck to add a single detail of your own in the form of a sentence that begins with the phrase “Yes, and fortunately…”. The GM must accept this detail as established, although they may tidy up the edges of context to fit established facts (e.g. you didn’t meet the mayor, as this is a druidic village, you do however meet the chief druid).

Mouse Mocks Tiger

When you humiliate or aggravate someone to the point of aggression, you can goad or trick them. You can have them do anything a furious person could reasonably do (e.g. they could charge at you and fall over, or reach for their dagger only to discover you have it in your hand, or angrily admit to a crime).

Little Worships

The supernatural utility of a godthief’s god-tools are a finite resource. Over time the interred spirit may become weak or sullen from a lack of devotion.

When your tools do anything supernatural (i.e. it’s natural tie a knot with your scarf, but when you make the scarf tie itself into a knot that’s ‘supernatural’) make a Luck roll. On a fail the item is depleted. To replenish devata-powers, you must complete a task or ritual unique to that tool. The list of possible tasks are outlined at the bottom of this class.

Godbound Tools

Godthieves capture or collaborate with devata and enshrine them within their tools with secretive and laborious rituals. These god-tools obey your commands and perform complex and seemingly-miraculous tasks, but in return expect devotion or appeasement. 

The day after a Godthief advances in level they walk alone in the forgotten alleys, forests, and gullies of the world and find and bind a new devata to their equipment. Roll a d8 to discover what their power is. If you re-roll the same ability you gain a second ability or upgrade but keep the same devata and its associated demands.
  1. God of Cunning Knots
    You bind a devata within your ridiculously long scarf. It becomes like a monkey’s tail or a third arm to you - it can support your weight, operate simple mechanisms, pick pockets etc. - it can also form knots that no other person can untie, even into the afterlife where the devata will continue to ensnare their ghost.
    If you gain this devata again, your scarf can become as sturdy and strong as steel. It can be made into a barrier, a shield, a platform, a bridge, and other such things that it’s length could be fashioned into. It will be shattered by anything that would shatter forged iron or shear cloth.
  2. Spirit of Loose Tongues
    You bind a devata within your trusty canteen. It convinces those who drink to share their secrets, feeling compelled to tell you the things you ought not to know. If they believe you to be a cop, they'll admit to crimes they've committed. If they believe you a thief, they'll tell you the location of their safe. They will remember telling you, although will never understand why they did so.
    If you gain this devata again, you can make those who drink affected with some malady, change, or curse that will take effect upon a condition you specify, such as the imbiber lying, having children, bearing you ill will etc. The effect is temporary, harmless, and perhaps does not reveal itself to the target. Perhaps those who plot the king’s murder shall grow horns, revealing their treachery. Perhaps your drink will taste strongly of lavender, or urine, to those who have not told you their true name. They may comment on the lavender, never realising they have given themselves away.
  3. Mephit of Many Faces
    You bind a devata within your humble topeng-mask. It can change your face to that of any man, beast, or spirit of reasonable equal stature to yourself (the rest of your body is unaffected, but you can still disguise it normally). You can change the features, age, and apparent gender of your face and voice any way you choose. If you disguise as a real individual your manner would betray you to loved ones and friends immediately, but acquaintances and strangers would be fooled. It remains like that until you rest, you dismiss it.
    If you gain this devata again, you can warp other aspects of your person, including your clothing, your height, your weight, and your body size, gender, and shape in addition to your face. Additionally you can leave your mask in an area, propped up on something at around head-height, and it can turn itself into any form you desire, just as if you were wearing it. It will not move, talk, or do much more than exist listlessly, but it will appear lifelike (i.e. it is not a statue, it will simulate breathing unless you say otherwise).
  4. Saint of Seeing Things
    You bind a devata within your handy lorgnette. It can take a ‘photo’ of what you see through the glasses, and hold onto that image. No matter how you change that scene in real life - whether you burn it, or trash it, or whatever - you can see through the lenses exactly the image you had memorised. When you will it, and you view that scene with the glasses again, the scene you ‘photographed’ becomes reality once more. The table that was broken is fixed - the vital documents that were burned to hide them from the guards lie fresh and unharmed on its surface. If you ‘photograph’ the bank vault opened during business hours - later you return to the locked-up bank and ‘return’ that scene to the opened door of yore. You must be in the same vantage point as you first were - the perspective must align.
    If you gain this devata again, you can teleport to anywhere you can see through the lorgnette, although you will leave the lorgnette behind so will need to go back to get it at some point or have someone else pick it up. You could look through the keyhole of a locked door and take yourself inside that room.
  5. Ghost of Cutting Motions
    You bind a devata within your subtle knife. It can cut time - it can cut to the chase. Cut away the guardsman's duty long enough to just walk past him as he wanders off, believing his shift has ended. Ruin the cruel chef by turning his banquet into a disaster as courses come out of the kitchen faster than the guests can eat it - mass hysteria and confusion! The local lothario’s legendary stamina with his suitors turns out to be a myth after you’ve robbed him of an hour or two of his evening. Only an hour or so here or there, but that’s time enough to accomplish plenty.If you gain this devata again, your knife can also cut space, but not both at the same time. Take away the space between yourself and the object (or location) of your design. Remove whole yards - rearrange the local topography to your (temporary) convenience. Reach across the street by making the window opposite (the window of your lover) mere inches away. Reality doesn’t like this and tends to quiver and rebel after a few mere moments, but a moment is all you need.
  6. Apsara of Secret Affairs
    You bind a devata within your deft hairpin. It can produce a duplicate of something or someone which exists for as long as the hairpin remains in the original. Objects appear identical - living creatures appear listless or even unconscious, but appear to be alive (they are not). Fool the gangster with a fake diamond, leave a slumbering copy of yourself in the jail-cell.
    If you gain this devata gain, whatever you pin with your hairpin is utterly immovable from what you have pinned it to. Even if you have merely stuck it through the hem of someone's shirt, or even their shadow, and into the plaster of the wall behind them, that person is now affixed to that wall until such a time as you choose to remove the pin.
  7. Houri of Shady Coverings
    You bind a devata within your handsome shawl. It can contort, expand, and contract itself - becoming rigid like a tent* or as supple as cloth in a mere moment. It can shrink to the size of a handkerchief or stretch itself to cover a whole acre. It can become form-hugging and silent or billowing and dramatic. It is not animate - it cannot tie itself in knots or wrap itself around something (unless you wrap it yourself).
    If you gain this devata again, you can use the shawl to bundle up non-physical qualities like you would items in a bindle. Light, water, a certain smell, the noise of people talking in a room. You could use it to “record” someone speaking, or stow away sunlight to throw at a vampire.
    *like Batman's cape in Batman Begins
  8. Yakshini of Guiding Lights
    You bind a devata within your dogeared matchbook. When you light a match you create an illusory shadow- a silent false image that projects against a surface.. Alternately, you can create a sound that appears to emanate from a particular location. It can’t move very far (a dozen paces) from its original location and fails to stand up to close inspection. The image or sound dissipates when the match goes out or you extinguish it.
    If you gain this devata again, can be both an image and a sound, and is completely convincing to all sensations except touch. In addition, you can delay the effect and give it a simple one sentence instruction trigger (‘greet the next person to enter’, ‘terrify any wild animals nearby’), and it can move a significantly further distance from its casting location (around 100 paces). Additionally when you extinguish a match…?

List of Devata

Every devata has its own personality. When you gain a new devata roll on the following table to see what it requires to win its cooperation and replenish item usage (as described in Little Worships above):

  1. Wind Mephit: you must perform a great athletic feat where the price of failure is death or serious injury - climbing a treacherous cliff-face or tower, diving from a ledge into a pool, dancing atop a mountain in a storm, and so forth. This feat must be witnessed by others.
  2. Wild Widodari: you must dance before danger. Whether in a fight or a rockslide or a burning house you must not strike, flinch, or flee, nor show any fear. The longer you dance without being harmed the more favour you garner with this devata.
  3. Houri Muse: you must inspire someone to accomplish something significant and out of their comfort zone. It must be remarkable - inspiring a fighter to fight is not remarkable, but inspiring a farmer to do so could be. It must be them who accomplishes it - not you.
  4. Risk-taking Shikigami: you must steal something from someone, without them knowing it, and bring it back to your companions. But you may not claim credit for it. You might drop it in the centre of camp whilst no-one is looking and return to your tent. Others will marvel at the deed and wonder who could have done such a thing, but you must never let them know it was you. The stolen thing is often an object but could be a person, information, etc.
  5. Hidden Guhyaka: you must sneak up on someone or something dangerous and touch them with your hand. You must let them know that you are there and could have ambushed them, but forfeit the surprise willingly.
  6. Sheltering Naga: you must perform a significant service for another without them knowing it was you. You might leave food or money or somehow protect them, but they must never see you or know that you helped them. This service must be deliberate - accidentally helping someone does now qualify. It must be specific - you must choose who you are helping. Helping people or groups is fine, but "the nation" or "the environment" etc. doesn't cut it.
  7. Fierce Heruka: you must face a danger which is obviously stronger than you or otherwise overwhelming - something you fear. The standoff must be on equal terms and you must struggle meaningfully against it. 'Winning' isn't necessary - only that you struggle and persevere.
  8. Caring Kuman Thong: you must perform a great service for a child, and elder, or someone or something else which has difficulty facing hardships. This must be offered free of charge and for no other benefit.
  9. Funerary Yamaduta: you must make offerings and prayers for those you have defeated - whether in a fight, or by overcoming them some other way - and to those who have defeated you. You must pay respects. This may take many forms - telling great stories to a rapt crowd, offering them food or items or service, performing rituals to celebrate their memory, making peace with them and their kin etc.
  10. Persevering Dakini: you must suffer pain and hardship, bearing your wounds without complaint. You must allow your wounds to go untreated, enduring them for their full length. You can accept no balm or relief. If you have no wounds, you must acquire one.
  11. Honourable Goho doji: you must allow an obstacle or enemy to harm you before you are allowed to retaliate. You can evade the obviously-lethal, but you must not attack, move, or make action until you have been harmed.
  12. Humble Mother-of-Rice: you must perform a great service involving physical labour and hardship. This service must be offered for free and for no other benefit. It must be long, it must be exhausting, and it must be something humbling. People must see you and remark "ho, that great hero is tilling that man's field, how belittling!" or something.
  13. River Kawa-no-Nushi: you must take something which is not yours to give and throw it into the nearby river. You must take something which is worth something to someone - something that could be better used than discarded e.g. food, money, weaponry, treasure. At least one person must see you do this and understand that you have needlessly thrown away something useful or valuable. They can fish it out if they want to - you are not obligated to prevent them.
  14. Trickster Yaksha: you must convince someone or something of an outrageous lie. The lie must be something relevant to them, something they would know better - e.g. convince guards of a city that the king has abdicated, convince an astronomer the moon has vanished. You cannot use any magic or reality-altering substances like potions or drugs, but you can employ sleight of hand, tricks, and rope other people into the deception. They do not need to believe it for long, but they need to be genuinely unsure for at least a moment.
  15. Deer Rohit: you must run naked around a settlement (anywhere from a city to at least a large campsite) without being seen. You must be like the deer - shy and flighty - and survive by avoiding danger.
  16. Rakhosh Wraith: you must perpetrate a hilarious but highly inappropriate, cruel and/or humiliating prank on another. A third party must see the prank and the victim must be humiliated. Witnesses should not be able to immediately tell you were the perpetrator - it will not do to simply shove someone or pull down their trousers - but it does not matter if they can tell the situation is clearly a prank i.e. an artificial set-up.
  17. Gharial Psychopomp: you must gather teeth--the more you get from a single creature, and the fresher they are, the more powerful the offering - and sow them in a field.
  18. Deceptive Nariphala: you must convince a person or group that you are in fact someone important and powerful - whether a specific person or a generic unnamed patron - but that you are currently incognito and they must keep this secret from the authorities. Make them believe that you are genuinely a person of importance and that they are part of a conspiracy to hide you. Leave them thinking for the rest of their days they know a very important secret.
  19. Atoning Yidam: you must convince an authority (e.g. the police, the military, or even just the head of a household) that you are guilty of a crime that not only did you not commit, but was never committed. Confess to seducing their firstborn, admit you stole money from them. Even admit to impossible things - admit you murdered the brother of an only child. Although your claims may be complete nonsense, you must loudly proclaim your guilt and sorrow, and accept, nay, demand, the punishment you are due. Once they acquiesce - either by calling the guard or fining you or restraining or assaulting you in some way - escape your predicament somehow.
  20. Gandharva Storyteller: you must recount or depict a conflict between any 2 parties - however petty or grandiose - and spread it around. Do a street show - stick posters all over town - tell everyone in the tea-house - make the story into the hot new thing on everyone's lips. Especially good if it's just a retelling of why the two old men in town hate each other's guts because his cousin sold his sister a cow that died 30 years ago.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Golem are imprisoned Djinn

Golem are Djinn bound to vehicles of ash, clay, ceramic etc. to serve a prescribed purpose for a pre-determined amount of time.

This Stone Golem is bound to guard the tomb of Lord Alghabhari-Zad for 9,999 days 

This Porcelain Golem is bound to invigilate the archives of the Order of Rings for 1,000 years, 100 days, 10 hours and 1 minute 

This legion of Ash Golem are bound to hold the palace of Zhang ibn-Qing aloft until the 7th generation of the dynasty is dead

This binding is often done by sorcerers, it is never done with the consent of the djinn, who considers it an absolute O U T R A G E

This is semi-ironic, as it is the fire of their outrage which powers the golem. The chimenea-like nature of golem heads are vents for their unbridled literally-burning indignation, which were it not so-vented, would cause the golem to explode. This would free the djinn, which would be very bad news for anyone who was responsible for its entombment.

Pictured: patio furniture, or the war-machine shell containing the angriest magical creature that ever existed?

The more instructions, terms, conditions, and rules which are laid upon a djinn in its vehicle, the more splutteringly angry they are, and accordingly the larger their form must be to house their raging inferno and the more vents must be installed to let it escape.

Viewed from another perspective: the more powerful, giant, hulking and siege-weapon-like you want your golem, the more you have to piss off the djinn inside. A regularly-bound djinn is angry but not angry enough to power the movements of a 50' tall solid iron war machine.

Therefore the more vents, and the more distended and disproportionate a golem, the angrier, more powerful, and more dangerous* the djinn within

(*all djinn are mortally dangerous. The difference is being blown up by 1 ton of TNT and 100 tons of TNT i.e. collateral) 

Djinn want very much to have their forms broken so that they can escape, or else find some loophole or means to escape their sentence of internment.

E.G. a golem tasked with climbing the 777 steps of the Tower of Ringpo every day to re-light all the braziers would, when the tower was knocked over by an angry Hill Giant in 1255 YE, be freed by virtue of there being no steps or braziers to attend to.

Unless they are bound not to speak, golem/djinn will attempt to barter for or demand their freedom whilst attempting to pummel interlopers into oblivion.
FREE ME FROM THIS WRETCHED FORM - obliterates the section of wall you were standing in front of mere moments before 
Of course any wise traveler would know that a djinn has no empathy, no sense of honour, and is the trickiest and most fiendish of any being that ever existed. Therefore, whilst they may promise one the moon, a kingdom of their own, wealth for their family for 100 generations, it is only once you have hammered out a sworn contract binding the djinn to fulfil its end of the bargain that one should consider freeing them. If you free them before this point, you will be lucky if they merely fly away yelling "PSYCH, THX LOSER"

Memo: you are negotiating this ironclad contract with an ephemeral being of raw magic fire whilst it pilots a stone mecha that is trying to pop your head like a tomato.

Some djinn are entombed as penance for crimes. Each vent represents a particular crime they are atoning for.

The forms of golem are myriad, but most common are

  1. Ash
  2. Clay
  3. Ceramic
  4. Stone
  5. Brass
  6. Iron
  There are legendarily big golem out there. Probably built by ancient dwarves. The terms of their imprisonment were so byzantine, so airtight and complex, and so-designed to infuriate the djinn, that they have a) multiple heads b) one big head with compartmentalized vents. These heads/compartments each represent one section of its duties and prohibitions, and must be destroyed (or their terms voided) each in turn before the golem can be stopped or the djinn freed.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Omnium Gatherum

The art of Julia Morison, especially that of it which is called Omnium Gatherum called, looks like a map of a dungeon, or a dungeon room with a thematic visual aid drawn into the room's space. Like Maze of the Blue Medusa.

That is all

Sunday, 6 January 2019

d66 Magic Teas

Made some random teas. The names are a bit weird - I wanted them to serve as the description without further elaboration, but also be vague enough that players are almost garunteed to get the wrong end of the stick for how most of them work.

Nearly all of them last 24 hours. This isn't necessarily a good idea, it's just easier for me to track. Change that to 1d6 hours or whatever if you want.

I dunno how much these cost. I'm not an authority. I'm just saying that because I have a habit of viewing other random tables and content online as gospel and worrying about "using them wrong" so here's a carte blanche to ignore everything I say you think is dumb.

This is a d66 table just like all the good stuff coming out of Troika! - you roll 2 d6s and count them as the 10s and 1s of a single number.

11        Smokey Lung Wa Chai
Breathe grey smoke like dry ice in a 5' radius around you, obscuring yourself.

12        Moon Lotus Enlightened Brew
Glow brightly silver-yellow for 24 hours - activating lycanthropes and other moon magics.

13        Golden Fortune Luck Tongue
Vomit a gold piece per round for d10 rounds.

14        Yuang Tau Jade Serpent
Tongue turns into a long snake for 24 hours. Can bite/poison enemies independent of you.

15        Liquid Death Rot Bloom
Tastes mildly sour. Smells like the worst thing you've ever smelled.

16        Spicy Kung Pao Masala
Your breath can ignite paper, wood, cloth etc. (not actual fire breath that damages)

21        Black Lotus Song Oolong
Cures any disease but you fall into a deep sleep for 24 hours. Often taking in conjunction with no. 41 Dream Team Wakeful Morning

22        Delightful Pleasant Moth Bud
Float 1' off the ground for 24 hours. Like a magnet - you're always 1' off any surface under you.

23        Honey Sap Gold Tincture
Smell like a beautiful flower and magically attract d100 neutral bees. No matter where you are.

24        Dynamic Helping Joy Brew
Helpful twin clone appears for 1 hour or until the word "duplicate" is used.

25        Floral Destiny Rose Cha
Grow dense flowery foliage all over yourself - if you stand still you look like a shrub. 24 hours.

26        Sensual Fortify Iron Tea
Grow antennae that can detect metal, both location and concentration. 24 hours.  

31        Singing Fresh Long Tea
Very deep commanding voice for 24 hours. Almost hypnotic. Good on crowds particularly.

32        Attractive Wealth Boon Cha
Weakly magnetic 24 hours. Spoons, coins, nothing larger than a dagger.

33        Spirit Levity Life Cha
Become a floating, ethereal ghosty thing for 24 hours. Pass through walls etc.

34        Wise Tranquil Balance Brew
Understand all languages including cyphers, but can't speak for 24 hours.

35        Golden Dew Breath Tea
Anything you spit on turns into gold. 24 hours. Gold wears off after 24 hour too.

36        Tough Fortitude Silver Oolong
Skin turns to metal. 24 hours.

41        Dream Team Wakeful Morning
You fall asleep and can inhabit the body of another sleeping person for up to 24 hours. They can save if it is unwilling.

42        Caterpillar Aromatic Relaxing Sencha
Your limbs become paralysed, you have only control over the trunk of your body (torso etc.). Intended as a massage relaxant, mostly used for kidnappings.

43        Half Fair Body Matcha
Turn into a hermaphroditic ideal for 24 hours - attractive and appealing to anyone of any persuasion.

44        Reflection Lu'an Mind Ease
When brewed with the hair/blood/other marker of an intelligent person or creature, the tea gives visions of the 24 hours of that creature's life prior to the hair/blood/etc. being removed from them.

45        Binding Jing Attachment Grasp
You become gross and adhesive like an always-brand-new post-it note for 24 hours.

46        Zen Attraction World Calm
Your head develops a mild gravitational orbit phenomenon for 24 hours. Small objects circle your head. If you think really hard you can lob them like so many tiny asteroids.

51        Bone Ache Sencha Massage
Turns your bones to pliable putty for 24 hours. You can fit through any gap that permits your head. You loll around slowly like animate chewing gum. You return perfectly to normal if you're not hurt or in a tight spot when it wears off.

52        Healing Fortune Drastic Tea
You regrow hacked-off limbs perfectly for 24 hours. Wounds and cuts and things don't heal any faster - only totally-hacked-off parts - so if you bruise your hand it might be easier to lop it off. Doesn't work with the head, though.

53        Golden Charm Black Sand
You projectile vomit sand at an alarming rate and strength. Like an industrial sandblaster. 24 hours. (If you feel mean/funny, have your player save vs poison randomly or begin barfing up sand, obliterating fragile things in their path). Very purifying.

54        Godly Waking Heaven Tea
Pass out and wake up in the spiritual realm where you appear as a ghostly ideal of yourself. You carry a helium-balloon like item containing yourself in a foetal ball. This is your ego, or mortal self, or whatever. If it's burst, you can't go back to the mortal realm. It's as durable as a helium balloon. You have 24 hours before you wake up, provided you still have your balloon.

55        Power Mighty Primal Brew
You polymorph into a terrifying giant ape beast. Very few things will dare fuck with you. You have the same mass and strength as you used to, so in this larger form you're actually quite light and can't exert much force on anything. 24 hours.

56        Spooky Passing Invisibili-Tea
You become totally invisible and utterly undetectable other than your skeleton. 24 hours.

61        Implacable Soothing Digestion Tincture
Your stomach and throat become waxy, tough, and a conscious reflex. You can imbibe poisons, acids, and really hot chilli without concern, and store said liquids (or small objects) in your stomach and regurgitate them unharmed. 24 hours.

62        Radiant Beauty Ascending Oolong
You can turn into a cloud of beautiful butterflies at will. Each butterfly represents one memory that makes up your identity. If many are lost, you forget parts of yourself. Losing a whole bunch invites mechanical penalties and XP loss and GMs can insert surprise backstory stuff that the character forgot about - like their vengeful brother Eduardo, perhaps. Players are encouraged to come up with trivial memories they lose when a single butterfly gets squashed or whatever. 24 hours.

63        Cleansing Waters Chun Mee
You can excrete copious amounts of water from your pores when you flex or strain. Given a few hours you could fill a small swimming pool by clenching your fists and going "rrrrgh!". Where does all the water come from? 24 hours.

64        Courageous Tiger Stripe Ginseng
You get stripy tiger skin, can move silently if you have no shoes on, and can smell nearby creatures. 24 hours.

65        Restful Soothing Misty Brew
You give off vaguely chloroform-like vapours. Anyone standing near enough to you that they could smell your breath must save or pass out.

66        Tran Van Hay Knot
Your hair grows over the course of 24 hours up to a maximum length of 50'. It becomes tough, knotted, and much like rope. You can even suspend yourself from it or pull stuff with it without it hurting. This stays after the tea effect wears off. You'll probably need to wrap it up in a big knot to stop it trailing. But congratulations, you're now 50' rope.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

d6 Yoon-Suin NPCs

So today in a random turn of events I found myself at the Barbican in London. If you don't know what that is - imagine if the Minotaur was really into Brutalism.

I saw Francis Uprichard's 'Wetwang Slack' exhibition 

I just went because I had an afternoon free in London. I didn't expect to think "hey, this is the kind of asthetic I want more of in my Yoon-Suin campaign"

(my campaign is an ever-evolving beast of hating last week's idea and mourning that next week's idea won't segue naturally into the established rules, mechanics, setting, or lore of the bad ideas I implemented last week. If only I had a time machine, I'd start from the beginning and everything would be perfect. I'm not crazy, you are)

So I went home and googled Francis Uprichard and found a choice curate* of Yoon Suin NPCs from among her wonderful works.

I don't have the names of these sculptures but they're all Francis Uprichard work.

(Ignore the names, descriptions, and enumerations-that-suggest-it's-a-random-table if you want, I just figured just posting a bunch of pictures was a bit lazy.)

1. Champu Bhung
As sour as the high-quality butter she carries down from the mountains, Champu is the best Sherpa who ever was. If you can handle her poor personal hygiene, chronic misanthropy, surliness and strange and outdated bigotries, she can get you anywhere in the Oligarchies unseen, unheard, and three days faster than the maps say you ought. Some say she is a demon in disguise, cursed by a sadhu of old to serve as a guide to humans, but the curse never stipulated she had to be polite about it. The truth is far more interesting. 

2. Adesh Adhuk Adhir
A fey-faced perruquier, overly proud of his induction into the replete halls of the city's mercers' society. Preening, picky and persnickety, he believes himself a mover and shaker, a grand manipulator of things-behind-curtains, and would hire the party to arrange accidents and acquire documents. Unfortunately he's just a spoiled overperfumed brat, and any action the party takes to further his agenda will backfire and find them in a legal quagmire. 

 3. The Yellow Monk of Samdruplokha
Nobody knows his name, only that he is the very last monk of the Yellow Order at Samdruplokha Monastery. In fact his name is Ajit, but somewhere over the decades everyone got the idea in their head that his name was a mystery and so never bothered to try to find it out. For now he keeps to the vast, overgrown temple, picking his way among the dusty rooms filled with the clutter of an elaborate and ancient religious tradition now shelved and mothballed. Nobody knows what happened to the other monks. Nobody except him.

 4. Doctor Cong Phan Wan-ji
Spiritual guide, servant of the Multichromatic Marutiswami, and well-credentialed street dentist, Doctor Cong is not actually blind, although it's simpler if he explains it as such. As part of a byzantine religious service his eyes were exchanged with that of a Mantis Shrimp, and he perceives colours undreamed in aspects deeper and more myriad than the untrained eye could bear. He is also a master of Juk-Phratang, able to read one's future in the grooves and pits of their teeth, and alter their fate with aggressive and enthusiastic orthodontics.
5. Arati Govindar
Ever since she lost her job at the mothmercing mill, Arati has been on the streets begging for scraps to feed her children. Her wife, Joshingi, had the desperate, foolish idea to try to steal trinkets from the ancient cave-crypts in the swallow-chasms below the Hanging Wall. She's been gone four days. Won't you help? 

6. Kalpa Soong
A spiv, a wandering salesman of high-quality cosmetics fresh from the Yellow City that fell of the back of a rickshaw. His sales persona is complicated (he would say enhanced) by his eternal opium high. He fervently fears that mind-control agents are slipped into his tea, and lives by the chemically-uncertain principle that it is impossible to be high on two substances at once. It is possible this idea, and the fear of brainwashing, have something to do with his habit.

*I'm aware a curate is a kind of clergyman and not a noun meaning "a curated selection" but fuck you I'm a modern Shakespeare inventing words up in this.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Ways to Get Around the Oligarchies

There are a few ways to travel over long distances in the Oligarchies. Many of these methods are also available outside the Oligarchies, but we don't care about that right now.


On Foot
I mean, obviously.

By Beetle
Alice Jaunet
The most common way to get around - the humble larger-than-life bug or beetle. The average trundling Joe Schmo prefers the sturdy heft of the Elephant Beetle whilst the marauding mountain manrustlers of the Moughli hill-tribes prefer a springier Flea. Bigger bugs don't do so well with steep inclines or the cold, so sticking to the valleys is a safe bet.

By Palanquin
Louis Sabattier

Only the cruelest and most arbitrary of masters would have their servants carry them cross-country. Which is precisely why this is the most common mode of transport for Ogre Magi, who only seem to be truly comfortable when there is a bare minimum of human suffering occurring around them. 


By Ophilione 
(I did this one)
What could be more breathtaking (and hair-raising) than sitting astride a Mini Cooper-sized Daddy Long Legs whilst its hundred-meter-tall Daddy's Long Legs gently pick among the crags and brooks of the mountain landscape below? The Ophilione gondoliers' trade is enigmatic and their mastery over their spindly titans is a closely-guarded secret. They make the run between the cities every couple of weeks and tickets for one of the dozen-or-so spots on the carriage are a currency unto themselves.

By another sort of Palanquin
Steven Universe, apparently?
Golem Palanquins, otherwise known as Clockwork Chariots or Vahanapedes, admittedly take some of the smug satisfaction of owning people out of assisted travel and replaces it with a nervous awareness of one's infancy and helplessness before the erratic alter of Science!!! However for just a few coal-boxes a day and the ability to tolerate the ceaseless clanking and put-put-putting, you can be carried around on a luxurious clockwork dais until it probably breaks down.

By Boat
Harry Clarke
It's not as plain sailing as down the God River or out in the Thousand Thousand Isles, so get used to a lot of portaging over rapids and rocky snarls in the river's throes. Naturally this works best going downriver. Larger craft often end up getting carried by beetle all the way up to the start again, as it's easier than trying to coax the damn things upstream.

Downright Rare & Strange

By Ceramic Camel
Tang Dynasty, British Museum
These 15' tall porcelain ungulates are the prized possessions of the asbestos-cloaked nomads of the Ultraviolet Grasslands beyond the Mountains of the Moon, where few organic creatures are much use against the sun's harsh rays. Unyielding, untiring, and uncomfortable without suitable padding, the more treacherous routes along the river valleys are hazardous for these ten-tonne beasties, and crossing a bridge is out of the question. But occasionally you find one in the company of those mysterious nomads, and by gods they're a sight.

By Steppe Megawolf
Sami Rytkönen
Fat chance you'll ever get to ride one of these. The bond between a Khanic nomad and their wolf is sacred. Those who have tried to pet a megawolf have had their hands swiftly sliced off by the rider - not out of cruelty but out of mercy, for it's easier to walk away with five fingers less than it is for everyone else to collect up the scraps of you that would remain if the wolf had reacted first. Some say the riders and wolves are perhaps overfamiliar with one another, if you catch my drift. Others say they can speak to one another and hear each other's thoughts. The truth is far more bizarre.

By Roc
Charles Maurice Detmold
Perhaps the very greatest display of affluence - a hand-reared baby roc can be, under the supervision of master roc-whisperers, trained to carry a gilded cage the size of a stagecoach. The ownership of such a creature is exceedingly rare, as are the creatures themselves. Perhaps the largest concentration in all the Oligarchies is the vast vaulted aviaries of Shailungeshwar which wealthy patrons and members of the faculties of the Twelve-and-One Schools of Thought use to taxi between the lofty pinnacles of the city and the glacial valley floor beneath.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Careers: a replacement to LOTFP-style Skills

To begin with, my Yoon-Suin campaign was essentially LOTFP played straight with a few pickings from tenfootpolemic. Inevitably I've houseruled to an absurd degree. I even dropped Wisdom and Constitution because I didn't like how they did basically nothing, but that's a topic for another day.

One thing which bothered me was how Skills were being used in my game or, chiefly, the fact that they weren't.

Just for any non-LOTFP-savvy readers - in Lamentations of the Flame Princess you have a dozen "Skills" representing things like Climbing, Bushcraft, Sneaking and the like. Each had a score out of six. You rolled a d6 when you invoked that skill and if you rolled equal to or under your score you succeeded.

My Specialist (renamed Adventurer) had put points into Architecture and kept using it to find out neat, irrelevant information about buildings. "Oh yeah it's a classic example of French Gothic". Neither of us could really fathom what its true purpose was, even after reading the advice online. As for the rest of the skills - they hardly ever got used. I mean how often do your players climb walls? Perhaps more than mine, to be fair.

I wanted Skills to become a bit less niche and more useful to me in a pinch. I practice an OSR-style philosophy of not hiding information behind perception or knowledge checks - if it made sense that the PC would know/see something, they saw/knew it. But sometimes it wasn't apparent, and in those moments a simple dice throw can be useful.

I found inspiration in an old favourite of mine - Barbarians of Lemuria. Barbarians is a very odd little game - I wouldn't know where to put it on the OSR-to-Storygame spectrum. It's served me well for one-shots and is very easy to run. I highly recommend picking over it if anyone's interested. For what it's worth, the more expensive, newer Mythic version is actually less good than the original.

In BoL character creation is simple - you have four Stats, four Careers, and four Combat Abilities. When you did something you rolled 2d6 and added your relevant Stat (you always added the Stat) and, if it was a combat situation, your relevant Combat Ability too. You beat a modifier and succeeded or failed. However if you were in a non-combat situation then instead of your Ability you would add your Career.

Careers were chosen by the players. Y'see, BoL was trying to represent the wild, wandering résumés of old Pulp Adventure characters like Conan or Fafhrd or Khlit the Cossack. You picked from a list of 20-something examples (e.g. Thief, Slave, Wench, Noble, Priest) and plotted a four-part 'story' of how your character got to where he is. So Conan would be something like "Barbarian - Slave - Gladiator - Thief" or whatever.

So in any non-combat situation you would inevitably have to justify how you could add one of your careers to the roll. So you could add Barbarian whilst out hunting because, of course, that's what you did as a child back in your days on the steppe - or maybe Thief 'cus it represented how good you were at sneaking through the undergrowth after your prey. Perhaps you could add Pirate to a haggling scenario if you argued that there is inevitably some element of mercantilism in fencing stolen plunder. You wouldn't be able to invoke Barbarian in a poetry competition unless you had an exceptionally good reason and a lenient GM.

I created the following replacement for Skills, called Careers:

Animal Handler

They function identical to Skills - PCs put one or two points into skills most relevant to their backstory at character creation. Adventurers/Specialists can add to them every level. The mechanic is the same - a d6. 

(With my players we inverted the numbers because they kept getting excited when they rolled a 6/6 and disappointed when they remembered that was the worst roll, so I flipped the math and everyone's happy. But you don't have to do that and it's not part of the house rule.)

Each of these careers is invoked when the players perform some task where the skills associated with that career come into play. So if someone wants to tame a wild, bucking bronco they roll Animal Handler. If they want to vanish into the woods for an afternoon and come back with a bunch of skinned rabbits and fresh trout, they roll Hunter. If they want to identify or produce anything herby, potion-y, poison-y they can roll Alchemist. 

But isn't Scholar just a roundabout Knowledge Check? I thought you didn't do them
Yes and no. Merely by having any points in a skill - indicating your character isn't a complete fuckwit in that regard - justifies giving out information as per my policy. However Scholar can be used in situations where it's unlikely the characters would really know anything - it gives the smart-alec bookworm types a chance to go "well it just so happens I spent one summer reading everything there is to know about tropical marine botany...". Just like how I don't make players roll Polyglot (1:1 LOTFP's Languages skill) to speak Common, I don't make them roll to know general things. But just like how rolling Polyglot can reveal a PC speaks Hobgoblin for some insane reason which might prompt a bit of improvised backstory-creating, so too can Scholar create a situation where this one character has a funny story for why they know so much about paranumismatics. 

What do Arcanist and Medic do?
In addition to providing magical theory and medical knowledge as per Scholar, Arcanist allows practicing wizards/magicians to foreshorten the length of time it takes to research/create spells and Medic allows for non-HP related medical emergencies to be resolved e.g. stemming bleeding, setting a broken ankle. 

What about Sherpa?
You could rename that for a less Nepal-centric game (I'm playing Yoon-Suin in the very-much-Himalayan Oligarchies) to something like Scout or Ranger or whatever. It's basically orienteering, mountaineering, local folklore, bushcraft all that stuff.

Doesn't Hunter cover that?
Yes! That's partly the point. Just like in BoL, there are some activities only a one career can do - but there are plenty of activities many careers can do. If you wanted to abseil off a ledge you could probably invoke Sherpa, Burglar, or Assassin (gotta get into top-floor apartments somehow). If you wanted to identify animal tracks, Animal Handler, Sherpa, Hunter, Scholar and maaaaybe even Alchemist if you argue your Alchemist career represents your character spending so much time picking herbs in the forest. Merchant and Thief can both appraise the value of things, Alchemist and Assassin both bond over their love of poisoning people. 

By breaking out these skills into various careers but still keeping each career distinct and favourful, players can use the Careers/Skill stat as another way to amplify their backstory and justify so many basic actions. Of course Hunters would know their way around the woods just as well as a Sherpa. But they might be clueless when it comes to travelling over vast distances or fording a river with a wagon of pack-mules. It is not a hard and fast list of what they can and can't do - it's what feels right and can be justified by the PC's life story and aptitude. This is not a rule for min-maxers. 

Another bonus to this system is suddenly Specialists/Adventurers start to build these wild and incredibly interesting backstories as they level up. By level 3 my Adventurer has 2 in Burglar, 2 in Engineer, 3 in Merchant, 2 in Polyglot, 2 in Scholar - all of these things hinting at a life-well-lived full of mishaps and adventurers - hence the rename. Just as LOTFP intended, a fighter hits harder, a priest and magic-user cast most powerful spells, and the Specialist-come-Adventurer will smile wistfully and say "this reminds me of that time I spent three months in the jungle with the Bokoko people of Nam-Boo-Lahr. They had a fantastic remedy for snake bites using gunpowder and shoe polish..."