Thursday, January 8, 2015

Coming Back From the Dead

Coming back from the dead is a major story element in classic fantasy and myth, and is the fodder for entire stories or epics. In 5E D&D, however, it's a rather simple spell with a minor drawback. Since my current world is so heavily inspired by Greek mythology this did not make much thematic sense, so I came up with the following changes to bringing people back from the dead in my game.

Casting Raise Dead does not guarantee that someone will return from the dead. Instead, it allows a group of people, up to five, to have their spirits severed from their body and travel into the Underworld. Once there, they are presented to a judge and must argue the case for bringing their companion back to the land of the living. This usually will require some service to the Gods of Death, the promise of death in exchange, and possibly an extensive quest.

If the judge deems the dead soul unable to return, then the party is not without hope. Once returned to the land of the living, the living companions can sneak into the land of the dead to save their companion. This would require journeying to an entrance, braving the dangers of hellhounds and the River Styx, and hoping their friend hasn't eaten anything while dead.

All in all, it's been a much more entertaining way to deal with death in the campaign thus far.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Old School 13th Age: Magic Items

Old School Magic Items in 13th Age

As I continue to work on the megadungeon I find myself wanting to redesign the old school magic items to be more in line with how 13th Age treats it's magic items, but I still want that OSR flavor to them. The mystery of picking up a new sword and swinging it around to see if it's magical. So that means I have to figure out how I am going to cover identifying magic items, as well as the effects of some of the more powerful items and cursed magical items.

Identifying Items

I am going to allow items to be identified with a ritual cast spell accessible by wizards as a level 1 utility spell. Alternatively, PCs can use their 5's on icon rolls in town to identify items (figuring them out with some advice) or 6's inside the dungeon (So that's why the archmage told me that story!). A character could use a 6 in town to guarantee that there is a wizard with a traveling caravan capable of identifying their magic items for them. This would cost 1d6+1 x 100gp per item.

Cursed Items

Curses are a big part of the old school feel, when you put on that girdle and your gender swaps or the sword you found turns out to bite you on the ass when you swing it, is all part of what makes exploring the dungeon a challenge. +Matt Maranda suggested having cursed items negatively impact the escalation die, and I think that is in the right direction. Below are some example magic items from Rappan Athuk that have been 13th Age-ified.

How will we remove curses? Still thinking on that. Zelkor's Ferry doesn't offer any easy way to remove curses, and Rappan Athuk is full of them.

Accursed Platemail of Magic Resistance

Bonus per tier: +1 / +2 / +3
Power: Any magical attack or spell against the wearer must score a natural 12+ or be absorbed by the armor having no effect.
Curse: Any magic spell or effect not stopped by the armors magic has any randomized properties maximized against the wearer, and the damage is increased by 5 x the escalation die.
Quirk: Feels compelled to boast their superiority to wizards and sorcerers.

Betraying Blade

Bonus per tier: -3 all tiers.
Curse: This blade steals the user's chakra when picked up, refusing to be put down or allowing other weapons to be wielded. On a miss, the wielder resets the escalation die to 1.

Cursed Blade of Life Draining

Bonus per tier: +2 / +3 / +4
Power: Once per battle, recharge 11+ - This blade can leave a nasty, bleeding wound. The victim suffers bleeding ongoing damage equal to five times the sword's plus.
Curse: Every round of battle the sword steals life from the wielder equal to the current escalation die's rating. This drain is not noticed by the wielder thanks to the swords overpowering quirk.
Quirk: The wielder of the blade feels invincible and fully refreshed.

Cursed Healing Potion (Champion Tier)

Power and curse: This potion functions like a champion tier potion of healing, except the hit points gained actually fade away 1d10 minutes after being consumed.

Stronger Magical Items

These are a few magic items that are usually game changers in OSR style games, where magic items have a major impact on your PC. I want to avoid having them completely unbalanced, but these items should feel stronger than basic magic items. To compensate, I think the quirks should come into play even stronger for these potent items.

Belt of Giant Strength

Bonus recoveries per tier: +1 / +2 / +3
Power: At-Will: The wearer of a Belt of Giant Strength rolls twice when making strength ability checks and strength skills, taking the better result.
Power: Battle, recharge 16+: On even hit: Deal double damage with a melee or thrown attack.
Quirk: Constantly flexes, prone to challenge others to contests of strength.

Staff of Power (Epic)

Bonus: +3
Powers: The staff of power has many abilities it can access.
Continual Flame: Once per day. Create a heat-less flame that burns as bright as a torch.
Magic Missile: Once per battle, recharge 6+, Magic Missile as wielder's level.
Fireball: Once per day, Fireball as wielder's level. Escalation die must be at 3+ to use.
Levitate: Once per battle, recharge 11+, Levitate as wielder's level.
Lightning Bolt: Once per battle, recharge 11+, Lightning Bolt as wielder's level.
Hold Monster: Once per day, Hold Monster as wielder's level. Escalation die must be at 3+ to use.

Special: A staff of Power can be broken to perform a retributive strike. This deals 300 points of damage to everyone close, 200 damage to everyone nearby. Everyone is allowed to make a save to take half damage. This damage is force damage. The wielder has a chance of being teleported to a random plane instead of taking damage. They must succeed on a 11+ save to be teleported, failure means they are instantly destroyed by the power escaping the broken staff.

Quirk: The wielder of the staff of power feels all powerful, laughing at his enemies and bragging about his unstoppable power.

Vorpal Blade

Bonus per tier: +1 / +2 / +3
Power: On a natural 20, the Vorpal blade severs the head of the target from the neck killing them instantly. This does not work on all creatures, such as ghosts, golems, slimes and oozes. The GM is the final authority on what can die from having it's head cut off.
Quirk: Bloodthirsty, and a desire to eat raw meat.

Weapon of Speed

Bonus per tier: +1 / +2 / +3
Power: On a natural even hit, once per round, you gain an extra standard action.
Quirk: Jittery and amped up, needing to constantly move. To stand still is to die.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Old School: 13th Age and a Megadungeon

13th Age OSR?

Recently I picked up 13th Age, and have been playing a lot of it. Like most of the games I have been playing lately, it is very light on the rules and lends itself to some good gonzo action. There are numerous reviews of 13th Age out there, so I wont reiterate what has already been said better by others, I will just state that the game has a very dear place in my heart now.

So of course I want to see what it can do with it. Thus far my games have been in the Dragon Empire (the default setting for 13th Age) with very little customization other than adventure locations. I think it's time to take it a step further and try to bend it.

I'd like to make it more OSR-like. I'm not proposing some major system overhauls, just a few house rules and mainly a change in the way magic items work in order to get that old school adventure feel. I'd also like to throw the characters into a Megadungeon so Rappan Athuk will be serving as the setting for this experiment.

OSR Houserules

The following are a list of house rules I am working on to make 13th Age more OSR-like.

Delving Deeper

Leveling in 13th Age is usually based on DM fiat, but I want to encourage risk vs reward which is a classic archetype of OSR games. I am looking at advancement as a combination of treasure recovered and returned to town, as well as depth the troupe has reached. An idea:

  • X amount of treasure returned grants an incremental advancement.
  • Major encounters defeated grant an incremental advancements.
  • New level delved grants an incremental advancement. This only works for "true levels" not sub-levels.
  • Thoroughly exploring a level grants an incremental advancement. (maybe for sub-levels)
  • Every 4th incremental is a level.
  • Replacement PCs will come in at a level based on depth attained by the party. (2nd level PCs come in on level 3, 3rd level PCs come in on level 6, etc.)
I may have to slow this as they continue to descend, and will be tweaking it probably before we run the adventure. Right now I'm figuring every 3rd true level would be worth a level. Possibly quicker at the top, and slower at the bottom.

Magic Items

In OSR type games, magic items tend to be rare, consumables a little more powerful. 13th Age magic items are potent but not campaign altering. 

  • Scrolls will function with 13th age versions of spells.
  • Not all magic items are created equal. Though I will stick to the 13th Age magical "pluses" some magic items will be stronger than others - A sword of speed might give an additional attack on an even roll, once per round. A vorpal could sever a head on a natural 20.
  • Wands will most likely function once per battle, no recharge roll required, and run out after x charges.
  • Wands, Scrolls will not count toward major item limit, unless the wand is a true implement.
  • Cursed items - need to be nasty.

Danger Level / Sandbox

Rapp Athuk is a dangerous place and I will have the danger levels of the encounters be set based on the dungeon level / challenge of the room. Characters may very well run into things they cannot handle and will need to flee.

Full Rest

A full rest will only be available in town, unless they find a truly safe area that allows them to rest in the dungeon. They will want to return to the town with major money hauls for their incremental advancements, anyway.


Icons play an important role in 13th Age and I'd like them to take a role in the megadungeon, however the story of the megadungeon is exploration and danger, not so much one icon opposing another. So, I am thinking of the following house rules:

Icon benefits (5's or 6's) can be exchanged for a few different things during the course of a session. It will be up to the player to make sure they get use out of their benefits.
  • 5's: Must be used in town. 6's can be used anywhere.
  • Identify: Your relationship with an icon allows you to identify a magical item you find, and figure out it's command words. Maybe a strange piece of lore or a poem you were told.
  • Clues: The GM can give you clues to solve a riddle, a trap, or locate a secret door.
  • Escape: You can spend an icon relationship benefit to escape from a dangerous situation. 5's can be used to escape, but will cost you 2 recoveries to do so.
  • Healing potion: In town you can gain a healing potion, magic oil or rune.
  • Monster Info: Some monsters require special conditions to harm or have dangerous abilities, an icon relationship can give you that bit of info you need.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Update and DnD With Kids!

It's been a while since I posted. I know, my bad.

Gaming during the holidays had been difficult. I think everyone can relate to that. I have a game I started with my eleven year old nephews and ten year old niece during their holiday break this year that has turned out to be pretty fun.

Back when I was around that age I started running D&D for my friends. I bought a couple of 2nd edition books with garage sale money and ran things for a couple of friends. One of those friends, now my step-brother, has three kids. After talking one day we decided to introduce the game to the kids.

Yes, we're starting them off with 2nd edition! I know. I am a huge fan of DCC and Swords and Wizardry. Even 3E or 4E might of been easier for them to start with, but I grew up with 2nd edition, and I love it. What was good enough for me should be good enough for them.

It's weird seeing how the kids interact with the game world. Growing up on video games (like Skyrim) has given them insight in to the way games are played. Some of the best moments have been:

When Zion made his fighter, he went through my bins of miniatures and pulled out every possible warrior-type, then had them fight to the death in a play-fight with sound effects until one of them was the victor. That was the one he chose to use as his miniature.

Taylin, the youngest at ten, didn't want to come to the first session. She came at the second session after hearing the boys talk about it. Her first words on arrival "I want to slit some throats too!". She has been the most blood thirsty of the children thus far.

Malcolm is the oldest, but only a little older than Zion. He is the most laid back of the kids. It's been fun to see him threaten the fighter with a sleep spell on numerous occasions. They have, of course, determined that sleep is the best spell - as it lets them slit throats without challenge.

Malcolm plays Farengar, an elven wizard and apprentice to the master wizard of his town. Loves sleep spells.

Zion plays Altiar, a human fighter who specializes in the broadsword and murders goblins. Loves to brag, and has become the parties tactical leader - though often does very suicidal things.

Taylin plays Serena "Flutterdie", an elven Ranger who loves to slit throats and shoot arrows at monsters - and threaten her brothers with the same.

We also have their dad playing a halfling thief, and another friend playing a cleric of Pelor.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

More Advanced Dungeon Crawl Classics: Barbarian and Dwarven Priest

A while back a group of us on the google+ DCC group started to discuss "advanced" versions of the DCC RPG races and classes. These discussions lead to a couple of articles by fellow community members: John Carr's article on Warrior-based subclasses and Doug Pirko's article on dwarven subclasses.

My "Barbarian" subclass is similar to the early versions of the Barbarian, including a rage mechanic. Details below:


The barbarian is a warrior of pure rage. What they lack in finesse they more than make up with raw force and can channel a terrific rage to make them stronger than a dozen men. This comes at a huge cost, as the barbarian lost to his rage has no concern for his own safety.

The barbarian is identical to a warrior, except in the following ways:

A barbarian only gets D10 hit die, instead of the D12 warriors usually receive.

A barbarian prefers not to wear heavy armor, the movement penalty allows his enemies to run away.

A barbarian has a Might Deed die, the same as a warrior. In addition to the standard uses of a Deed, a Barbarian can also "Rage."

Rage - In a combat the barbarian can choose to go into a rage. He rolls his mighty deed die and gains the listed number as a bonus to his attack and damage for the remainder of the battle on top of his usual deed attack die. The bonus for the Rage is set at the beginning of the rage and does not change. During this rage, the barbarian suffers a penalty to his armor class equal to the bonus gained. In addition, the barbarian is unaware of how hurt he is. The Judge tracks the barbarians hit points until the end of the rage.

After the rage expires the barbarian is exhausted. He retains the penalty to his AC for a full hour, and cannot use mighty deed or his deed die to attack until that hour is up and he has regained his strength.

level 5 - Undying Warrior - If a Barbarian in a rage is dropped to 0 hit points or less, they can continue to fight. Fueled on by their rage, they attack their foes without mercy and battle beyond death. They still have the same rounds per level before dying, but can continue to fight during this time. If they run out of enemies they immediately fall prone and die in the next round. Healing an undying warrior is difficult, and requires an attack roll to successfully lay hands.

Dwarven Priest

It's happened a lot in my games that the dwarf rolls a high personality. I've also always liked the idea of dwarven priests, they are all over in the old D&D novels. So here is my take on a variant from the Dwarf in the DCC core book.

You are a priest of the stone, a follower of the God of Dwarves, or the Forge, or some other Dwarven Deity. What you lack in martial might you make up for with the power of your god.

Hit Die: D8

Armor and Weapons: Warhammer, Battleaxe, Mace, Club, Flail, Hand axe, Crossbow, or Staff. Dwarven Priests can wield shields and wear any armor.

Attack: As a Cleric

Saving Throws: As a Dwarf

Senses: Darkvision sixty feet, can smell gold and gems as a dwarf, and gains the dwarven stone-cunning senses to detect stone traps and secret doors.

Spellcasting: Dwarven Priests cast spells as a Cleric, but gain one less spell per spell level. Minimum 1.

Lay On Hands: Dwarven Priests can lay on hands as a Cleric.

Miracle: You can beseech your god for a miracle. Summoning your ancestors or clearing a collapsed mine tunnel. The DC of the miracle is set by your Judge.

Turn Unholy: You can turn unholy like a cleric, these things are usually undead, demons, mimics and strange otherworldly creatures that inhabit the deepest depths. You turn unholy with your level + personality + luck modifiers.

Hammer and Shield: Like a dwarven warrior you can attack with both your weapon and your shield. Your shield attacks with a d14 and typically deals 1d3 damage.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bloodocalypse Mega Post

I promised a while back to post my session reports from the DCC campaign I run called Bloodocalypse. However I never got around to it! Since that time we've had a few more sessions. Before out session tonight I am resolving to get the readers caught up to where the party is as they explore the savage untamed wastelands.

Cast of Characters:

Initial Characters

Sagdar Holypaw - As a child traveled with his merchant father across the deadly wastelands, this got his father killed and eaten by barbarians but Northstar joined them. A barbarian merchant turned warrior after his experience in the arena of blood. Played by John.

Northstar Hammer - A Dwarven miner who survived a collapsed mine tunnel. He was sold into slavery by a corrupt Dwarven forman to cover the loss of expenses. Won his freedom in the arena of blood, as well as a blaster pistol. Played by John.

Proudcat Beastmane - A tovi tinkerer, once a poor pickpocket after being transported to the surface following an experiment with a strange device in the Underearth. Won his freedom in the arena of blood.

Second Session New Arrivals

Ricardo Eureka - Farmer who's string of bad luck landed him in the pits of the Arena of Blood, a sacrifice to the dark god Malsin who was rescued by the initial cast of characters, and decided to join them for revenge. Played by Kevin.

(Add once I have access to my notes) - Warrior played by Kevin.

Add once I have access to my notes) - A very lucky con artist who seems to survive by the skin of his teeth, who was lost as a young child and nearly eaten by Spider-Wolves before escaping. Missed session 3, but returned for session 4. Played by Josh.

Chakar - A barbarian warrior who was taken by force to the underpits of the arena, to be made into a sacrifice. He was released by the others, and fought to earn his place among them. Played by Josh.

Stars: Sparticus

Sesssion 1: The Arena of Blood

The various funnel characters are gathered together in the dark waiting chambers for the gladiators of the Arena of Blood. They are all there for different reasons. Some of them are slaves sold to the Arena to participate in the day of blood. Others were taken by force by the Acolytes of Malsin, the god of Murder and Blood. Still others were there by choice, hoping to earn gold and glory in the arena.

The roar of the crowd can be heard above them in the stands, causing dust to fall from the rafters of the ancient structure. The Acolytes explain that they have been chosen to participate in the highest of holy days for the God of blood. They are allowed to exchange any weapons they have, dropping them in the pile to be given another weapon on their way out to the arena. Many of the characters take the chance to get something else, though for some of them the choice ends up being worse than what they had.

I used the following table:

Two Daggers
Shortsword + Shield
Heading out of the pits, they were paired up and sent into the bright hot light of the orange sun. The dome that usually protects Rotenstrad has been cracked severely above the Arena. At high noon it is impossible to see without going blind, but the arena games take place just after noon, which prevents blinding the crowd and the fighters. The PCs paired up with other player's PCs and were sent out to battle.

The PCs were given the choice to be anointed by the Acolytes of Blood. Those that took the blessing discovered they had a mechanical benefit later.

The High Priest of Malsin announced from his seat that this was the High Day of Blood, the most sacred holiday, and that today they would see the glory of blood and murder. As the crowd roared, more chunks of dangerous glass fell from the dome, landing in the blood soaked sand of the arena floor.

They fought in pairs against randomly generated other combatants. Some of them shaky-handed vat farmers without a clue, and others savage barbarians or murderers.

During the melee Sagdar Holypaw fumbled and his short sword went flying into the crowd - which drove the neighbor of the man hit to grab the blade and impale him repeatedly over and over while screaming in blood lust - Blood lust is a theme of the campaign.

One of the characters who didn't make it through the funnel, convinced a poor dwarven slave to turn on his partner and partner up with him. The dwarf ended up stabbing his companion in the back, only to get killed by the PC. Though he later dies to a beast in the second round.

All throughout the battle, shards of glass rain down from above. The Tovi Proudcat picks up a few handfuls to use as throwing weapons as he runs around the arena.

Once the pairs had been weened and the weak separated in blood from the strong, the Acolytes called the winners back. Their wounds were tended as the high Priest worked the crowd into another frenzy, he spoke of the Great Beasts of the betrayed Garrun (another god from the world) and how the heroes of Malsin would destroy the wicked agents of the mad god.

Now arrayed as teams, the PCs lined up as mutant beasts were released into the arena. Giant scorpions, Spider-Wolves, Ant-men, Dire Bear and a Black Tentacled Horror from the depths.

The Party faced off against the Black Tentacles Horror, some lucky blows and a critical hit dropped the thing before it was much of a threat. I made some checks and the other groups weren't doing so well. The battle was pitched, as the PCs moved to join other groups. Most of the other gladiators died gloriously for the blood of the blood god, but the PCs were much harder to kill. A few of them die to the Dire Bear, and another to the Spider-Wolves, but they kill the rest with the help of the other survivors. Now one hundred gladiators had been reduced to just a handful of the best.

Expecting their freedom, they were disappointed as the acolytes came over to tend to their wounds and enraged as the High Priest stood up to speak again.

"People of Rotenstrad! Let’s hear it for the blood spilled thus far! Malsin, the great and powerful, the master of blood, has saw fit to grant us with a special gift! These warriors tonight, will die for your entertainment!” The crowd roared with more blood lust - by this time the spectators were locked in an orgy of blood and sex. Totally losing themselves to the power of the arena.

The High Priest began chanting, and slit his wrist, mingling his blood with that of the soaked arena. A rift opened up, a bloody hole in reality, as a being stepped forth. Massive, covered in bloody spikes and chains. Armor as thick as plates and wielding a barbed spear. In place of a face, it had a mouth full of an endless series of teeth. It screamed and roared, and the crowd cheered.

Northstar notices that the Priest of Torrum, the God of Glory and the second most powerful faith in the city, tosses something into the sand near the podium. His religion fights with the Order of Malsin for control over the arena.

The Party engages the summoned demon, and quickly the thing impales one of them. Nearly killing him in one blow, and he knows the barbs will kill him. He grabs the spear tight to keep it in place. Northstar rushes over to the thing tossed in the sand and finds a wrapped up blaster pistol that was covered in rust, and was hot in his hand. As he pulled back the trigger it began to sizzle, hiss and hum. Then released a blinding hot blast that sounded like a high-pitched scream.

The blast severely wounds the demon. It turns and attempts to go for Sagdar, wielding the impaled Sagdar as a club, but misses. Northstar wins initiative and blasts again, this time the entire gun shakes as if it would fall apart or explode at any moment - it doesn't, but the blast melts right through the demon who collapses in a pile of burning meat.

The Crowd Cheers at the victory, and the high Priest looked pissed. He retreats into the depths of the arena, and the priest of Torrum speaks, granting them their freedom - though of course he has a job for them.

Session 2: Into the Sacrificial Pits of Blood

The crowd was still roaring, the blood lust was high. They were chanting for more. The Priest of Torrum takes the party into his chambers, congratulating them on a job well done. Not only did they survive the arena, but they have dealt a blow to the man responsible for their lives being offered up to Malsin. He wants them to finish the job. He tells them of the fortunes the cult of Malsin has gathered, and offers to give up a map to where he originally found the gun should they succeed in defeating him. They agree, and down they go into the sacrificial pits.

The secondary purpose of the Arena is to provide food to the city. It would be a waste to let all of that fresh meat go to waste. Beneath the arena is the butchery, and deeper still are the secret chambers recently re-purposed by the cult of Malsin. The party descends into the blood pits only to have a large stone seal the way behind them. They continue deeper and encounter a group of sacrifices chained to the walls of a room, being flayed by an acolyte.

After dispatching the torturer, they free the prisoners and help them equip themselves. Pushing further down the hall, they encounter another group of blood crazed priests, and a pitched battle results in a few deaths of the new comers, but also more equipment for the party to press on.

They soon come across another group of sacrifices and free them as well. All the while they are following the strange cracks in the floor that seep blood ever onward. Blood drips from the banked sand above their heads, through the thatching that keeps it up and down the walls. Finally, they come to a massive chamber with a pool of deep blood, ringed by acolytes. In the center on a dais sticking from the pool they see the high priest chanting.

The acolytes of blood turn to stop the characters, drawing their kris daggers. More of the newfound adventurers go down, others are wounded. The priest in the middle finishes his chanting and transforms into a bloody-demon thing himself. He leaps across the lajke of blood, just as Northstar Hammer was swimming across the lake to fight him. He lands and starts tearing up the PCs. Northstar gets to the island and pulls out his gun, firing off the last of his shots - Screeea! Screeea! and the demon is dispatched with a few final hacks from the PCs.

Buried in the pool of blood they find some gold and jewels. Among the High Priests things they find something amazing, checking on my table for random strange devices and - They discover another blaster pistol.

The PCs eventually discover the way to lift the blocks keeping them trapped inside, and return to the surface for their reward.

Session 3: The Bazaar Incomparable

The majority of this session was taken up with the PCs shopping. One of the house rules we are using, is that PCs gain XP from spending gold. Although they did not have much in the way of gold once it was split up seven different ways, they did have some things to sell and supplies to gather for their proposed trip.

The map they had acquired from the high priest of Torrum was a crude drawing showing a trek across the wasteland to a place known as the Cradle, where supposedly a large field of debris littered with ancient tech is located. A crashed sky ship from ages ago. They set out for the Bazaar Incomparable first for supplies.

Splitting up they go to several of the different shops. Some of the highlights, since this session was about three hours of shopping and one hour of adventure (I'm not complaining, all of the shopping was pretty heavy on the roleplaying. With lots of haggling over prices).

The first place they stop, Northstar ends up looking for battery cartridges for his pistols. He is told that they didn't have anything like that, but they would pay top dollar for the gun. They offer him 500gp, and he smiles and counters with 550gp. They immediately take the offer. He soon realizes he could of obtained quite a bit more for it. They buy some armor and move on.

Proudcat the Tovi finds a shop ran by another Tovi, and they end up haggling over some junk. Proudcat wants to help the owner identify the function of some of his newer stuff in exchange for a discount. Though in the bloodocalypse no one trusts anyone, and the Tovi ends up dismisssing him from his shop - not wanting to be robbed.

Ricardo stops by an herbalists shop and immediately begins insulting her wares. She kicks him out of her shop after his harsh bargaining, threatening to poison him if he comes back.

They stop by the "Not People Kitchen" but decide that the food is too expensive, and move on.

They eventually end up on Traders Bridge, buying the basic gear they will need to survive, including the goggles everyone needs if they go outside of the dome. They eventually head out the gates and out into the wastes for the first time.

They explore for a bit, heading along the poison river toward an area on their map known as the Fungal Pit. They see some shapes across the river near sunset, but decide to press further before camping. Eventually under the moon they set up camp in a hidden ridge. That night a shooting star flies right over head and crashes in the distance, making the earth tremble and shake. They decide to investigate it in the morning. Before sunrise they run into a man that is supposedly fleeing from the Fungal Pit.

He offers to sell them some information, they pass, so he volunteers that the boss of the town, a man named Otis that runs the inn, is a bastard that cheated him out of his share of something they found in the depths. He tells them to take it from Otis's dead corpse, and all he wants in exchange for the information is for them to make Otis suffer.

We end the session with them getting up from camp that morning.

Session 4: Falling Stars, Mutants and Gangland Murder

The next morning they decide to head out into the wastes in the direction of the falling star, believing that they can get their before any other scavengers. They head into the still active dust cloud and feel their skin begin to burn and tingle - soon some of them and some of their mounts are suffering from the effects of radiation, some mutations begin to appear.

The most obvious being that one of Ricardo's mules now has slime for skin and it can no longer function as a pack mule.

Pushing on they make it to the edge of the recently formed crated. The dust and smoke is so bad that they can't see more than a few feet. The PCs detect some movement and some gruff speech in the hole. They try to sneak down, but most of the party ends up slipping and rolling into the crater and drawing attention.

Fragments of metal jut from the ground here, and burning molten rock is scattered around. Bits of glowing stone are also seen here and there. Several huge hulking brutes each one different than the last - bug eyes, strange massive mouths, clawed hands. Mutants. They attempt to parlay, the mutants tell them to leave. Northstar leaps down on them with his Spider-Hound, a mount he paid a lot of coin for in Rotenstrad, and they all begin attacking the mutants. The battle doesn't go so well for Sagdar, who ends up getting his face smashed with a big radioactive rock and going down.

The dozen mutants turn out to be a challenging fight, but the "heroes" prevail here. They down the last of them and check on Sagdar Holypaw, who happens to have survived but took a bad wound, his ribs broken from the mutant that was thrown on top of his body in the fight.

They decide to head out and toward the town that on their map is marked as the Fungal Pit. From miles away they see the large column of steam rising up from the flat ground. As they get closer they see the adobe and ceramic buildings built up around a pit the steam leaks out of. Using the steam as cover from the sun, as well as collecting the moisture for drinking water.

The party is stopped by a group that rides out from the town, the leader of the band holding a laser rifle. He names himself Jed and asks their business. He asks to see their wares if they are trading, and the party decides that Jed is up to no good, and Northstar pulls his gun on the man. They have a stand off, with Northstar balking, thinking that Jed's gun can't even fire but his can. After some intimidation, the group rides off allowing the PCs to continue into town.

They make their way to the tavern owned by Otis, the man they were told about. Inside, the portly owner greets them and asks about their business. Offers them a couple different drinks, but most of them decide on water. Chakar takes some of the Cactus Gin he offers and they all settle down. Without warning, Northstar draws his pistol and blasts Otis dead, exploding his head in the middle of the bar.

Many of the patrons run and some others cheer. After some quick interrogation of the bar patrons, they discover that Otis and his brother Bertram run the town, and the gangs. That they send people down into the pit to recover the strange tech that is down there, and to pick the mushrooms for food.

Josh's thief, who's name escapes me, comes up with an idea. They know Bertram will be on his way to settle the score and they just need some time. He forges a document claiming that they were sent by Rotenstrad's Faceless Council to take over the bar and ensure that trade was secured. He knows it wont stop Bertram, but might make him think before blowing him away. Sagdar heads out back with some Tovi Party Bombs (Molotov Cocktails) and up onto a building to cut off any reinforcements. The rest wait inside for Bertram.

They don't have to wait long. Bertram and Jed, along with five others make their way up the streets. Bertram in a set of old, rusty and barely working power armor, but a chaingun on his arm that he seems not afraid to use. Jed has the ammo for his gun now, and they are ready for business.

There is a stand off, where Bertram demands the man who shot his brother. Josh's thief bluffs his way through it all, promising to hand the man over - he doesn't want involved in this, things just got out of hand too quickly. Eventually he manages to convince Bertram to come inside. Once in, Proudcat sneaks up and throws a Tovi Party Bomb under the feet of Bertram, and quickly grabs some hydrolic cables from the back of the power armor and sends Bertram to his knees, his legs crushed by the non-operation of the hydrolic servos.

This of course causes him to scream in pain, and begins firing his chaingun, sweeping across the bar and killing people. Trying to shoot Northstar - the damn Dwarf who killed his brother, and the Tovi who broke his legs.

The fight continues all around them, with Chakar drinking. Northstar takes out Jed with a blaster shot to the face. Sagdar takes out the encroaching reinforcements from the back with a couple of well placed firebombs, melting them in their tracks. Even with Bertram disabled and unable to move, his armor makes him neigh indestructible. Angered he pulls a grenade from his belt and tosses it at Northstar, blowing the dwarf into almost-goo, killing most of the men in the bar and wounding nearly everyone else.

Proudcat pops up from behind the bar and rushes over with some healing goo that they found in Otis' office earlier. He heals up Northstar who rises, winning initiative and shoots Bertram in the face, blowing his head off.

Spent and nearly dead, the PCs collect themselves and look upon the devastation they had caused.

Final Thoughts

I like the direction this campaign is going. Although it seems to be more science than originally intended, everyone seems to be having a blast and that's what matters. The PCs are embracing the chaotic nature of the setting and letting themselves cut lose. The last session really showed me that they can be chaotic when they choose to. I also have to give Josh props for using Forgery as a neutral thief, I haven't seen anyone else try and use it.

As a gory Science-Fantasy Hex Crawl, the campaign is thus far a success.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bloodocalypse: Mutations and "Magic Items"


Exposure to various mutagenic phenomena may (is going to) happen during the game. Since mutations are a big part of the natural wildlife, I decided to make a system for characters to determine what happens to them when they are exposed to strange energy sources, radiation, rifts in space-time and mutagenic diseases.

Mutation sources will have a Fortitude saving throw DC based on the power of the mutation effect. How much they fail the save by determines the severity of the mutation.

Fail by 1-4: Minor mutation - roll 1d6.
Fail by 5-9: Major mutation - roll 1d10
Fail by 10-19: Severe mutation - roll 1d20
Fail by 20 or more: Extreme mutation - roll 1d20 twice
Natural 1 on save: Roll 1d10+5 three times.

Some mutations will be related to the source of the exposure. Most will use the following table, with the die rolled based on the severity of exposure. Special: a positive luck modifier allows this result to be shifted to the most beneficial within range, where as a negative modifier would shift the roll to the most hindering. Unless stated otherwise the effects of mutations stack and can be rolled multiple times.

Also note that most obvious mutations will add a cumulative -1 to reaction rolls from NPCs.

  1. Tolerance - You gain +1 to saves to resist future mutation.
  2. Susceptibility - You gain a -1 to saves to resist future mutation.
  3. Dangerous Mouth - Your mouth becomes misshapen and filled with sharp teeth. -1 personality, and you gain a bite attack at a secondary action die of 1d14 and deals 1d4 damage. Each time you gain this mutation the damage die increases by one step. You can optionally choose to attack with your regular action die.
  4. Thick Skin - Your skin hardens with strange nodules and scars. You lose 1 personality but gain +1 to your AC.
  5. Mushroom head - Your hair falls out, replaced by strange fungal growth under your scalp. You lose 1 personality but can eat the growths as nourishment, replacing a meal every 1d3 days.
  6. Slimy skin - Your skin becomes slick to the touch, making you difficult to grab. You gain a +2 bonus on any rolls to avoid being held or restrained.
  7. Irritable Bowels - Any time you engage in strenuous activity you must make a fort save DC 8 or have to immediately relieve yourself. Failure to do so results in a -2 to all rolls (attacks, saves, damage, skills) until you do so.
  8. Wasteland Rage - A common mutation in the wasteland. The sight of blood sends you into a fury. When wounded or after seeing blood, you gain +1 to attack and damage for the next 1d4 rounds. During this rage your AC is lowered by 1. You also gain a taste for human flesh.
  9. Minor Body Transfiguration: Roll 1d5 twice. Subtract 2 points from the first ability score indicated, and add 1 to the second ability score indicated. (1-Str, 2-Agi, 3-Sta, 4-Per, 5-Int)
  10. Weakened Bone Structure - Your bones become more fragile, resulting in being much less resilient. You lose 1 stamina.
  11. Rage-Roids - Your body becomes covered in muscle, your muscles have muscles. You grow 1d4 feet in height and double in weight. Gain 1d6 hit points, 1d4 points of strength, 1d4 stamina, but lose 1d4 points from personality and intelligence. If you possess the Wasteland Rage mutation you become more prone to that mutation in the future, replacing the "1-Tolerance" result on the table with "1-Wasteland Rage".
  12. Bug Eyes - Your eyes bulge out and become shiny and gross. You gain the ability to see in the dark an extra 30 feet, but lose 1 point of personality unless you are a Tovi.
  13. Extra Arm - You grow an extra arm from (1d4: 1- Right Side, 2-Left Side, 3-Chest, 4-Back) that can perform actions as an extra action die at 1d14. You need to have your armor specially altered to be able to use it.
  14. Shearing Flesh - Your skin becomes lose on your body, detaching when hit with enough force and falling off in a gross slush of crimson. Any physical wound against you deals an extra 1d4 damage from the torn skin. However, your skin heals very quickly and you recover 1 hit point an hour, 2 if resting.
  15. Deadened Nerves - You lose 1 agility from dead nerves, but your body becomes incredibly resilient to pain. You suffer 1 less damage from all sources.
  16. Thick Nodules - You gain tumor like nodules all over your body, which cause aches and pains. You lose 1 agility but gain 1d8 hit points. Your armor will need to be custom fit.
  17. Major Body Transfiguration: As 9 above, but instead subtract 1d4 from two ability scores and add 1d4 to another. Randomly determined.
  18. Regeneration: You recover your level it hit points per hour. Your skin crawls, and the flesh beneath your skin moves on it's own. If you roll mutation a second time you can reattach severed limbs by holding them in place for an hour.
  19. Giant Brain - Your head swells causing internal bleeding as your skull is forced to expand. You lose 1 stamina but gain 1d4 points of intelligence. You also gain a psionic power.
  20. Extreme Body Transfiguration - Roll 2d3. You can add that many points to your choice of ability scores, but then must subtract 2d4 points from your choice of ability scores.
  21. Or higher - Extreme Evolution: You gain +2 to a random ability score (1d5) and an additional mutation rolled randomly with the same die.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic

One of my favorite quotes, and true for the Bloodocalypse setting. The technology that existed before the collapse of society was so advanced that how it works cannot be explained by even the wisest sage - if Bloodocalypse had sages. No, the tech is just magic. Or maybe magic is just tech. Either way, no one on the world knows. I have four levels of "magical" devices in the setting. First, you have basic utility items. These include flash lights, glow sticks, and other sorts of mundane equipment produced with more efficient technology. These things are the most common (still rare) but a lot more common than than next category. The second group are mostly advanced armament items. These include blasters, laser swords and microweave armors. You also have some of the more advanced utility items at this level. Thirdly we have the very advanced weapons and armor, a lot more rare and more experimental - not much of this left at all. Finally, we have the ultra-tech stuff. This is artifact level tech that will change the entire campaign - from advanced vehicles to self-repairing intelligent power armor and doomsday weapons.

Below are some examples of DCC style magic items made with technology instead of magic.

Healing Goo - Usually contained in metal tubes or small spheres. Once opened, the goo appears to be a semi-solid slime that has the consistency of snot. When applied to a wound it begins working immediately, stopping the flow of blood and repairing the damaged tissue. A single container of healing goo usually has enough material to heal 3d8 hit points before being all used up. Left over from an application can be scraped off and reused another time (the healing is rolled once, and can be doled out in portions).

Blessed Amulet - A strange amulet with a glowing crystal. When the user is exposed to dangerous environmental or psionic threats the crystal glows and surrounds the user with a transparent force field to attempt to weaken the incoming threat. The amulet grants the wearer a +2 bonus to AC and saving throws.

Ceramic Nanomesh Armor - As light as regular clothing, this fine dark grey mesh can be worn underclothing with no problem. The mesh provides the benefits of chainmail armor, without the check penalty, fumble die or movement speed penalties associated with wearing armor.

Blaster Pistol - A large cylindrical barreled pistol with a heavy grip, a loud humming plasma charging chamber, and weird electro-magnetic circuits that glow when active. A blast pistol deals 2d8 damage, and ignores standard armors. Blaster pistols explode on a natural roll of 1, dealing 1d8 damage to the wielder and anyone within 5 feet per charge remaining in the gun - Reflex save for half damage. A blast pistol charge pack can hold up to ten shots, but most found pistols have only 1d4 shots remaining in the charge pack.

Balefire Power Armor -  Ultra-tech, unique. A set of gleaming dark red armor with spikes jutting from the helmet, massive shoulder plates, wrists, shins, knees and knuckles. A glowing energy core in the chest. This massive suit of power armor requires that the user slip inside of it while it is inactive, and then must bleed into the armor to prompt it to bond with the user - A process which inflicts 2d8 damage to the wearer as a cybernetic link is inserted into the user's brain and spine. After bonded, the armor can be dismissed with an action, causing it to go out of phase with the wearer - effectively vanishing until called on.

The Balefire Power Armor was created with one purpose - to destroy the enemies of the state. However, the state no longer exists. The Armor's intelligent personality causes it to turn it's destructive force on others. Any threat it responds to with extreme prejudice, and seeks to destroy all of the culture remaining on the world. For this reason, the armor is chaotic. It has an intelligence of 20, but rarely chooses to communicate with speech. Instead it uses subtle psionic control over it's user, turning them chaotic and urging them to destroy anything and everything that get's in their way.

The armor is powered with a zero-point energy matrix which gives it near-unlimited power.

  • The wearer of Balefire Power Armor benefits from +13 armor class. The armor has a check penalty of -6, but this does not apply to psionic abilities. The armor does not reduce speed.
  • The wearer benefits from a strength of 20 (+5) while wearing the armor. If the wearer has a strength of 20 or higher already, the armor grants a +2 to strength instead.
  • The armor has a psionic booster circuit, granting the user +2 to psionic rolls.
  • Three times per day, the wearer can use Scorching Ray with a d20+12 on the cast check. This uses the wearers action.
  • The Armor can detect lawful creatures within 100', and illuminates them on the heads up display. Non-lawful creatures can be detected at 50'. This gives the wearer a +2 bonus on rolls to notice ambushes and initiative rolls.
  • The armor repairs any damage to itself at a rapid rate of 2d8 damage per turn. This does not heal the wearer.
  • Energy weapons held by the wearer can draw from the suit's unlimited power supply, supplying them without using charges from the weapons own power source.
  • The wearer's unarmed attacks deal damage as magical warhammers, inflicting 1d8 damage plus strength bonus.
  • The ways of destroying the armor are mysterious.
Goals and motivations: As stated above, the Balefire armor seeks to destroy civilization completely. To do this, it has access to a special use ability below, that can only be used once per month. The armor chooses when to activate this ability, and not the player.

Ego: The armor slowly takes over the wearer. Each day that the armor is worn, the target must make a will save vs DC 15. On a failure they receive a  cumulative -1 to their next check. Once their will saving throw is reduced to 0 in this manner, any further failures and they are overtaken by the armor. Their alignment switches to chaotic and they seek to destroy the cities of the world. Being brain-bonded to the armor is extremely deadly though, and the psionic control inflicts 1d3 points of intelligence damage a day on the user. Eventually their brain shuts down and they die, and the suit has to abandon the body and de-activate until it is found once more.

Special Purpose Ability: Annihilation Blast - 1/month, the suit can unleash a blast of energy that an fire up to 10 miles away and strike an area with a diameter of five miles, inflicting 20d20 damage to everything in the blast radius. This vaporizes most cities and all unfortunate living matter in the area. Using this ability is incredibly dangerous for the suit, however, draining it's zero-point energy reserves.