Thursday, August 11, 2022

Giant Lynx, Mammoth, Manticore, Masher, Mastodon

 AD&D Giant Lynx


don't sue me TSR games I own the monster manual and can show it to people if I want...!

AD&D Mammoth, Mastodon
These nearly identical entries (Mammoth has 13 HD instead of 12, does 3d6 instead of 2d8, and has AC 5 instead of 6) take up a good half of a page and are largely redundant with the Elephant entry earlier. More and more evidence for the existence of someone very interested in finicky details of the pleistocene being involved with early D&D.

AD&D Masher
Probably among the most forgettable monsters of all time, these are 8HD 'worm-like' fish, dealing 5d4 damage and being covered in poisonous dorsal spines that mean it must be attacked from the front or below, lest the spines fend off attackers who must either abort their melee attack or save vs poison or die. They eat coral but are prone to attacking if surprised or threatened in "self-defense." It's not a bad concept for a monster, though it being underwater and just a fish limits the need to engage with them.

One might expect them to be popular sources of poison spears by the underwater races of Sahuagin and so on, but I see no mention of interaction with other sea creatures. In fact, apart from a lonely 2e wiki entry and a mention of dwelling in the waters of Raven's Bluff in Toril, they do not appear to have any internet presence.

Some random 5e character named Masher has about the same online presence as this fish on search engines

AD&D Manticore
An interesting creature, it can fire 4 volleys of 6 spikes, dealing 1d6 damage each at the range of a light crossbow. As they can fly, one assumes they soften up or slay foes at range, then close in to finish off whatever remains with their unimpressive melee (a regular ol lizard man is about equivalent if you ignore the HD difference) Their treasure type E is typically unimpressive- there is a chance of something good, but it is a low chance indeed. If nothing else, their iron tail spikes can no doubt double as iron spikes to shut doors with.

Manticores are an interesting tactical problem for low to-mid level parties- one must survive the volleys of fairly accurate (+6) spikes, then be able to defeat the creature before it flies away to end its aerial reign of terror, or find a way to track a flying beast back to its lair for treasure. They are of low intelligence but are 'Lawful Evil' which might imply deals can be struck with them, though it is unclear if they speak despite having human heads.

Sunset Realm Giant Lynx
Like most giant animals, the answer is 'sure, why not, there are many ways to become gigantic.'

nasty man

Sunset Realm Mammoth/Mastodon
See the Elephant entry. Most of them are found in the frozen lands of Fomoria south of the fault, driven ever further south by Deadliege expeditions to steal their bones and make necromantic war-constructs from them, just as what was done to their less-hairy elephant brethren in the warm north jungles.

Lungfungus had an interesting approach for these beasts statblock wise that I think I'll steal- failing a melee attack against one incurs 1d8 damage from trampling, as an automated way to make unskilled hunters better off on ranged duty and account for the bulk of the beast simply trampling people.

Sunset Realm Manticore
Goblinpunch already did a pretty great take which I am mostly stealing from.

Manticores are Nightmare creatures, born of dreams of spite and grudge. As Nightmare is closest to the waking world in Saresare, they are known to be residents of that desert sultanate, though they are often hunted and driven into Yuba, Fassulia, and Mercia, cursing all the way. Their faces are that of the host of the nightmare that made them.

They eat hard things, breaking their teeth and bleeding their gums, and incorporate those things as their tail spikes. Shards of bone, stone, and metal compose the quills of a manticores tail. Vomiting forth unsuccessful consumption leads to their lairs being foul smelling and messy, and frequently haunted by unclean spirits of disease. Harpies and manticores do not get along well, but are frequently found together regardless. They fear sphinx.

Manticores are generally unreasonable, growing more resentful of everything you have that they don't but can be satiated temporarily with slander and general nastiness. Politeness and care only pisses them off more. Aiding them with whatever grudge they are nursing is the only way to be allied with one.
If a manticore cannot kill you, it will follow you, harassing your friends, scaring off game, leading enemies to you, and worse if it can manage it.

If you are hit by a manticore tail spike, it embeds in you and you become poisoned by hatred. You cannot aid other people, and can only laugh at their misfortune, mocking them, listing out all your grievances and resentments towards them. Pulling out a spike deals 1 extra point of damage per spike, and you can pull out any number within a round as a full-round action, but someone with a spike in them certainly can't pull spikes out of someone else. Those who die, not from the manticore itself, but from the side-effects of this poison, will spawn a Nightmare incursion upon death which in turn will spawn manticores with their face. Manticores try to engineer these scenarios, knocking people off cliffs and then poisoning their friends and similar so they let them fall.

This poison is nightmarish in nature and only takes effect when the manticore hurls spikes, it can only be collected by things that can collect dreams or emotions.
Similarly, only their spikes are real- upon being slain, the manticore collapses and turns to nothing. Manticores do not have biology or ecology, and could indeed sit in a dungeon room for 100 years doing nothing but hoping to eat the next person they saw.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Mutation Megapost

There are three main problems with mutation charts I have been bumping into lately, so I made my own (with judicious amounts of ripping other people off of course)

Problem #1 was the style of mutation that just makes you ugly and persecuted by villagers (or at least have bad character design) but is otherwise largely pointless and easily forgotten because we don't have visual feeds on the theatre of the mind. DCC was pretty bad for this. 
Such mutations have a little more place in campaigns where mutations are basically just a punishment not a fun random table, but the problems of being easily forgotten due to no visual feedback persist.

Problem #2 was the style of mutation that gives you magic/superpowers with no physical component. It's kinda neat occasionally, but I prefer the sort of mutation that has drawbacks & a physical explanation to aid commonsense understanding, not just 'you're Jean Grey now I guess.' Allowing stuff like 'water control' makes players a bit too willing to become the X-Men by scumming mutation tables. On the other side of the coin, lots of mutation tables have entries that are more like curses, mutilations, or diseases, which I don't like for intruding on the design space of other tables.

Problem #3 was stuff that, well, suffice it to say that some things in the Metamorphica Classic don't read as 'mutations' so much as 'LotFP edginess fallout.' I didn't notice them for a long time but hoo boy.

There is a max # of mutations a character can get, to prevent them from becoming overly complicated/incoherent. I've been using CON as the cap, but level could also work if you wanted mutations to double as a corruption track that you can resist the more badass you are.

Exceeding this limit will transform a character into a monster, kill them, or most mercifully, simply replace existing mutations with new ones rather than adding to the character.

If something does damage and you roll it again, upgrade it by a dice class.
Poison can be 1d6 damage, death, paralysis, confusion, hallucinogen, etc, but only affects equivalently sized targets, requiring more doses per volume (about x8 dosage for x2 height/width)

1-Hands/Feet/Lesser Area
2- Legs
4-Lower Torso
5-Upper Torso
6- Head

  1. Blob- Body becomes gelatinous. STR & DEX reduced to 3, but immune to blunt damage and can squeeze through things. If rolled again, become an ooze who splits if hit by slicing damage instead of taking damage normally.
  2. Unusual Coloration- Albino, night black, leaf green, pumpkin orange, gradient pink/indigo, etc. Advantage to hiding in appropriately colored areas, disadvantage in high-contrast zones. Rolling again adds chameleon powers, which can provide nigh-invisibility, but probably only if naked and unmoving.
  3. Terrible Claws- Bird, lizard, mammalian, hooves, crustacean claw, fingernails, etc, replace 1d4 hands/feet. Deal 1d6 unarmed damage, 1 attack per free claw. 1/6 chance of feet instead of hands, 1/6 chance of both. Fine manipulation is difficult at 1d8, and impossible at 1d10+
  4. Fangs/Beak/Jaws/tusks/- Bonus 1d4 unarmed damage bite attack. Is a bonus attack in addition to other attacks if grappling/fighting unarmed. Rolling again increases damage.
  5. Armored Scales/Shell/Hide/Boneyness- Unarmored AC changes to 10+1d6. If combined with armor, add half of armor bonus to new unarmored AC. +1 AC if rolled again.
  6. Spiky- Armor must be specially made to allow for spikes to function. 1d4 automatic damage to beings that strike/grapple you with a vulnerable body part.
  7. Furry/Feathery- Counts as winter clothing. Requires x3 time to clean off gunk. Rerolling makes one 50% cold-resistant, but prone to heat stroke in non-arctic conditions.
  8. Tentacle- sprouts somewhere random. Acts as bonus limb.
  9. Lengthy- Body part can stretch/is 20 feet long. x2 Size on reroll
  10. Monstrous Pupils- Pupils change shape. Conscious refocusing allows shifting into infrared vision. Reroll can see invisible with conscious effort.
  11. Extra Eyeball- Increased field of sight, flanking penalty requires alternate angle of attack such as from above or below. Rerolling grants 1000 eyes on handy/inconvenient areas, making some tasks sensitive but making surprise nigh impossible.
  12. Giant Ears- hear enemy behind door, take 1 nonlethal damage from yelling/other loud noises.
    Surprise chance reduced by 1 if method of ambush mostly based on sound reduction. Extra magic ring slots in the form of earrings may be had.
    Rolling again allows for echolocation.
  13. Venomous- 1 unarmed attack mode can poison equivalently sized enemies, requiring about x10 doses per doubling of size to take effect.
  14. Gliding Membrane- as flying squirrel. Glide 1 horizontal per 1 descended. Rerolls double horizontal glide.
  15. Horns- Bonus 1d4 unarmed damage headbutt attack on charges. Free if grappling/fighting unarmed.
  16. Wings- Flight! 1/2 speed at light load, can't fly with heavy load. Weight restrictions removed if rerolled, but are notably large (30' wingspan)
  17. Fins- Swim speed as run speed. Doubled if rerolled, but replaces other limbs, RIP.
  18. Tail- Neat, mostly aesthetic, but other mutations may inform it being that of a scorpion, fox, lizard, etc. Rerolling adds prehensility, or an attack form.
  19. Quadrupedal- Can run on all fours at full speed. Slowed in bipedal stance.
  20. Giant Brain- +5 Int, but each point of bonus INT counts as 10 pounds/1 slot weight.
  21. Giant In General- x2 size. Doubled carrying capacity and melee damage against smaller beings. Needs everything special made at x10 cost.
  22. Poison Sacs- bulges spill poison if ruptured. Nearby targets save vs poison, with a +1 per point of AC from worn armor, and a -1 per point of damage if they bit you.
  23. Redundant Organs- If you are killed by piercing/poison/damage likely to kill via internal damage, survive, once.
  24. Nature's Pocket- +1 Inventory slot (internal).
  25. Eyestalks- Good for peeping around corners, under wide doorframes, etc. 3 foot initial length, x3 on rerolls.
  26. Exoskeleton- No bones, but exterior is hard. Lose -X max HP per level, but gain +X AC.
  27. Extra Head- Roll a new character to represent the head's skills and personality.
  28. Big Hands, gecko feet, spider legs, etc etc- Can climb at run speed on vertical surfaces and overhangs. Light load makes overhangs too dangerous, heavy loads make vertical surfaces too hard.
  29. Frog/grasshopper/bunny legs. Can jump run speed distances, horizontally, half vertically.
  30. Hump, fat deposits, etc. Excess food/water can be devoured and stored for up to a week without.
  31. Leafy- Leaves replace hair, or skin becomes green. 8 hours sunlight counts as a ration (but not water). Reroll includes flowers/fruits which are a poison/potion or at least a ration.
  32. Scrambled- Appendages/features in unusual spot. Commonly referred to as Zongism.
  33. Oh Worm- become worm. See if people REALLY love you, or if you must Shai-Hulud alone
  34. Tentacle Transformation- Hair, Arms, Legs, or Head become single/multiple tentacles. They are either small and poisonous, or large and strong.
  35. Extra Arms-2d4, keep lowest
  36. Centauroid- Fast but oddly shaped. Double carrying capacity and run speed, worse at climbing, turning quickly, squeezing.
    Reroll becomes Centipede-like.
  37. Cyclopean- Big eye collects light well (see twice as far in torchlight/starlight/lowlight) but has no depth perception (-4 to hit with ranged, double scatter distance for thrown oil, fireballs, boulders).
    Reroll- Entire head is eyeball.
  38. Smol- Half damage, carrying capacity, movespeed, etc. Can fit in lots of places. Stacks on rerolls.
  39. Petrified- Immune to physical combat damage from nonmagical weapons, level 1 spells, and monsters under 5HD (or anything deemed incapable of harming a statue able to defend itself). Cannot heal HP without Stone Shape/Stone to Mud/Mud to Stone shenanigans. Each reroll increases level of immunity by 1 stage.
  40. Vampiric/Trollish- Regenerate 1HP per round, but each HP recovered counts as a day without food which must be compensated for quickly to avoid starvation undoing all the healing.
    A human is about 10 days of food, roughly. Double rate with rerolls
  41. Fever- Body temperature can keep up to 8 people warm in cold weather camping. If rerolled, 1d4 heat damage from skin-to-skin contact.
  42. Thick Skin- Wrinkly, or toadlike, or blubbery. Unaffected by contact poisons. If rerolled, 1/week can shed skin to cure self of skin-based problems. Those wearing skin look like you as a disguise for a week of regular use, more if carefully preserved, less if used in strenuous activity.
  43. Sticky/Grasping Cilia/Prehensile hair- Things touching the mutant are automatically 'grappled.'
    If rerolled, mutant is so sticky that they cannot unwield or throw things. Gluey secretions ooze through clothes/armor.
  44. Slimy/Smooth- Mutant too slippery to be bound or grappled, escaping at the end of their turn.
    If reroll, can't grasp things effectively, climb or stand on smooth floors, near-frictionless.
  45. Gills- Breath water! If reroll, ONLY breath water....
  46. Acid blood. Reroll, Potion Blood. May also be lava blood, bug-blood, ice blood, etc for variety.
  47. Cold Blooded- Lose initiative in cold weather, Slowed (as spell) in very cold weather or if you take cold damage.
  48. Electric Generation- Can zap people for 1d4 damage on contact/conduction through water/metal.
    If rerolled, can arc 5' through air.
  49. Hermaphromorphic- Can change sex to various configurations.
  50. Musk/Pollen/Spores- Notable scent may attract or repel certain types of monsters (reroll CHA to determine opinions by species). Rerolling makes musk have poisonous effect. Leaves a trackable trail for those who find it repulsive or attractive.
  51. Hollow Bones/Lightweight/Gas Buoyancy -etc- Mutant weighs 1/10th of normal. -1 max HP per HD.
  52. Battle-Form/Adrenaline/Berserker- Upon entering combat (ie, making an attack roll or being attacked), effect is as potion of heroism. Exhaustion afterwards causes bonuses (save for temp HD) to be reversed until sleep can be had. 1/day, rerolling doubles uses.
  53. Bioluminescent- Glows as torch if nude, candle if clothed. Rerolling increases light radius.
  54. Mitosis- Can reproduce by splitting. Each resulting split has half HP and level but retain all characteristic and are distinct individuals.
    If rerolled, the splits may instead be drones
  55. Mighty Nose Hair/Dwarf Beard/Non-hairy filters- Protected from inhaled poisons, gases, smoke, etc.
  56. Silk- Can make silk rope, 10' per HP expended (metabolically intense). 100' of string, or 1000' of thread. If rerolled, silk rope can be extruded sticky or slippery.
  57. Elemental Affinity- 50% resistance to Fire/Cold/Electricity/Acid/Other Elemental Issue
    Reroll- Immune. Reroll again, heal from.
  58. Mighty Breath/Lungs- Can hold breath for an hour, and shout very loud and long. If rerolled, you can inhale tuns of air and inflate like a balloon, the sudden size increase frightening animals and surprising others (check morale).
  59. Hibernation/Cocoon- Mutant may sleep for set times, and cannot awaken. While in this state, food/water is not needed, healing doubles. If rerolled, lost limbs may be regrown, diseases cast off, etc etc, at a rate of 1 such healing per week.
  60. Herbivore/Carnivore- May only eat plants (but can eat things like grass) or may only eat meat (but may eat it raw/somewhat bad safely). If rerolled, both apply in super-omnivorousness. Rerolling again allows consumption of anything organic safely. Rerolling again, anything physical. Rerolling yet again, anything.
  61. Worm Mouth/Mole Claws- May tunnel through soft earth/sand at half speed. Rerolling means hard earth/soft stone may be burrowed through, rerolling a third time allows for even worked stone/bedrock to be bored through.
  62. Acid Expulsion- vomiting,  range as thrown dagger. Previously swallowed objects/liquids act as projectile. Rerolling adds 1d4 acid damage.
    Getting hit in the stomach forces a save vs poison or vomiting.
  63. Eyeless- Blind. Reroll becomes faceless. Grues will not hunt you.
  64. Breath Weapon- 1/day, random type. Deals 1 damage per HD. Rerolling adds 1 use and 1 damage per HD. Save for half.
  65. Steam/Ink/Smoke/Dandruff- may emit an obscuring cloud 5' radius. 
  66. Piezoelectromagnetism- Can sense magnetic/electric fields with concentration. On earth-like worlds, allows for finding north. Rolling again grants 30' range ferrokinesis (with INT as STR)
  67. Transparent- Invisible flesh. Only really works if not carrying anything at all. Handy for seeing parasites, effects of swallowed potions, etc.
  68. Fungal- If killed, explode in spore cloud, 10' radius. Those failing to save are infected by you and you live on in them, able to make them take 1 action per day. If the infection is not cured, you replace their brain in 1d6 weeks. On reroll, corpses are also infected and raised as fungal zombies. Multiple copies of you are philosophically troublesome.
  69. Hideously Ugly- Those beholding you must check morale or flee in terror, and may assume you are some kind of monster. If rolled again, it's a save vs magic or fear.
  70. Manticore Spines/Fingerbone spurs/Blowgun tooth- You may attack for 1d8 unarmed (range as throwing dagger) by throwing bits of yourself. Ammo regrows slowly, so each shot costs 1 CON damage. The first time you do this to someone it counts as a sneak/surprise attack.
  71. Nerve Interface- Touching another creature for 1 whole turn allows you to link to its nervous system and feel what it is feeling, and vice versa. On a reroll, you may read its mind clearly, and if rolled again, you may control it.
  72. Enhanced Vocalizations- You can be loud, musical, a mimic, or a ventriloquist with ease. On a reroll, you may shriek for 1d4 damage, syattering glass and similar.
  73. Egg- Assuming you are well-fed, you lay an egg every week, much like a chicken. Counts as a ration, is not cannibalism unless fertilized and allowed to develop significantly.
  74. Corrosive Sweat/slime- Metal rusts, corrodes, and crumbles if touched by you in stressful/exercise situations. If rerolled, this extends to organic substances like leather, cloth, etc.
  75. Sucker/Elephant/Duck Feet- Wide distribution of weight foils many pressure-plate type traps. Unfortunately, still a bit slow- 1/2 speed.
  76. Skeleton- Vital organs and functions retreat inside bones, making flesh redundant. Attacks that cannot break bone cannot kill you (though they still do damage otherwise) and enemies are likely to believe you dead at half-HP or lower.
  77. Fire Extinguisher- Upon taking fire damage, pores shoot forth expanding white foam that cannot burn and smothers flame in a '5' radius. x2 Radius on rerolls.
  78. Homunculi Colony- Internal organs replaced with 1 little person who has 1 giant appendage for each appendage you have, forming your arm, your head, mutant tails, etc. They may separate to perform important tasks, but are misshappen and better off working together as 'you.' If slain individually lose 20% max HP, XP, statistics, etc.
  79. Pseudothanatism- Albinism, 1d6 damage per turn from sunlight, undead can't tell you're alive until they touch you.
  80. Udders- Can feed most baby mammals milk. Other creatures probably allergic. -1 Con=One Ration's worth.
    Rerolling increases efficiency, allowing 2 creatures to be fed for -1 Con.
  81. Long Tongue- can grab things like a frog. Rerolling makes it prehensile as a hand. Tends to not fit in your mouth. 5' length by default, doubles each reroll.
  82. Vents- Tube growths that can expel poisons, diseases, parasites, curses, etc affecting the mutant (they are not cured, only spread.) On a reroll, the range increases to that of a trebuchet.
  83. Flammable- All bodily fluids function as lamp oil (1HP per hour of light for blood). Always catch on fire when taking fire damage. On a reroll, functions as napalm.
  84. Extra Mouth- Back of head- Talks, demands food, or, Stomach- huge, can eat a whole chicken. Hand- Spooky, convenient for eating.
    Reroll- 1000 mouths all over. !d6 bite attacks each round in grapples, 1 damage each unless you have fangs etc.
  85. Turtle Appendages- All appendages can be retracted into the body, protecting them from being targeted (or used.) If rerolled, body can be retracted into appendage.
  86. Long Nose- good for sniffing, or using as a breathing tube. Common target of slashing weapons.
    Reroll- prehensile like an elephants, counts as appendage.
  87. Gobbler- Can unhinge jaw and swallow things up to twice your size given a turn, though you still must count their weight for encumbrance.
  88. Bloody Eyes- Weep blood. Can also shoot blood (-1 HP) from eyes to blind people briefly (1 round, automatically hits the first time you trick someone with this.) If rolled again they act as pressurized water cutters, only deal 1d4 damage but can punch through metal.
  89. Antennae- Very sensitive. Can detect air current movement of invisible creatures/drafts.
    On a reroll, they can ID illusions and imposters (like doppelgangers) with investigation.
  90. Unstable- Reroll one other mutation every day.
  91. Exotic Presentation- Reroll 1d89 twice, combine results into new, single mutation.
  92. Malignancy- Reroll 1d89, it manifests in a highly detrimental way, even reversing function if need be
  93. Solidarity- Reroll 1d89, there is a mutant colony, decrepit noble lineage, secret bloodline, etc etc of which this mutation is a hallmark.
  94. Contagion- Reroll 1d89, this mutation is contagious due to being symptom of disease, curse, etc
  95. Beneficial- Reroll 1d89, it manifests in a positive way, regrowing limbs if necessary, not interfering with other character quirks, and if nothing else being healthy and good-looking rather than grotesque and unsightly.
  96. Path of Evolution- Reroll 1d89. All future mutations upgrade, enhance, or otherwise follow a chain of logic based on this evolution, seeking to transform you into a new kind of being. Could be an existing monster or not.
  97. Chimera- Become fusion of [YOUR_SPECIES] and a monster, ideally based on existing mutations if there's any theme.
  98. Final Form- Upon death, immediately explode into a full-strength monster, ideally based on existing mutations, otherwise random+ existing mutations.
  99. Darkspawned- Every player present comes up with a mutation. 50% of picking one randomly, 50% of gaining all. 
  100. Ok Fine A Little X-Men as a Treat- Find a 'random superpower generator' and roll on it, or just have everyone pick a superpower and then select one.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Campaign Retrospective: Wizard College review & Heleologos Academy Graduate GLOG Class

The GLOG wizard campaign/playtest has concluded, or rather, I burnt out on it due to, as one player put it, "There was hecka Standford Prison Experiment level of Role Acquisition with our player base". Even so, a lot of valuable information was gleaned from the ~14 weeks and ~42 sessions I ran for the three sub-groups. I've roughly updated the original document post to reflect those design changes.

The general principle was a wizard college, recently burned by sea raiders, was being restarted, run by the Headmaster Great Doctor Ogudugu/Dread Sorcerer Ugudugo in a Jekyll/Hyde scenario that a past campaign engineered. The players were set to defeat 5 wicked wizards terrorizing the land, recover lost secrets, and train students in WIZARDRY, and they accomplished about half the tasks set before them, as the campaign ended about half-way through the year time limit. The players were split into several groups, which were roughly the goody two shoes, mustache twirling villains, and morally ambiguous middle ground. This immediately led to us vs them mentalities developing. I think future 'same campaign, multiple groups' will have to be clearer about it not being a matter of 'sides' so much as 'manageable player group size' if the groups are occupying the same fictional space and thus prone to interacting, directly or otherwise.

Class wise, the group consisted of a
Cauliflowomancer (custom by player)
Alchemist (custom by player)
Many Wizards
Telemancer (Two of them, though due to shenanigans only one really used the base spells)
Fey Wizard
Toxinist (Dropped campaign early)
Relic Seeker

The players engaged in a fair bit of ridiculous wizard shenanigans including, but not limited to
-Accidentally causing triple tsunamis with meteors, wiping out a magic sandcastle and putting coastal settlements into crisis for weeks
-Creating a Pig Cult and awakening pigs to citizen status
-infested campus with, at various times- boreholes, clay pigs, frost imps, mimics, intelligent trees
-Reawakened a volcano
-Hastily cooled the lava off with storms of soapy water
-Turned a pirate wizard captain away from evil via the use of jekyll/hyde potions
-Set up a secret teleport circle to the mainland
-Hired two Ogre Magi onto the payroll so they'd stop eating people

Some thoughts that emerged in play, in no particular order. There are many small changes (like mutation for 1 day instead of 1d6 rounds) that have been retroactively implemented into the prior 'tl;dr' post, as I hope to spare anyone using those rules some of the troubles that afflicted my campaign.

-Spellbreeding procedures are fun, moreso than typical spell research rules. Slapping some extra limitations on how often they can be used should mostly solve the prime problem I encountered where 'sit in tower and do spell research' was more rewarding than actually adventuring.

-GLOG classes, more specifically spell lists, seem to be very self contained, without an implicit understanding of learning new spells. While that's fine especially for shorter-lived campaigns, I think a lot of gaps between 'AD&D spellcaster progression along 20 levels' and 'GLOG caster progressing along 4 levels' exist and may need filling.

-GLOG spells that depart from the lowly realms of [sum]=damage formula and attempt to emulate spells in the level 3+ range may need additional limitations even beyond that of 'but what if you roll a doom.'  Prime offenders are summoning spells, transformation spells, 'death' spells, teleports, and many things with permanent effects. One design flaw I exposed with certain spells was similar to the issues I had in Esoteric Enterprises- if short term resources (MD) can be used to solve intended long term consequences (mutilation, mutations, curses, death, etc) and the only limitation upon those spells is the threat of more long term consequences, the long term effects become nothing but pointless busywork that eats up a day of MD at worst, and the intended limiter of the spell becomes irrelevant.

-Material components must be quested for, not bought, or town becomes a more important locale than the parts of the game where adventuresome things happen. While sending known mercenaries or retainers on quests to retrieve goods could be fine, allowing the sort of impersonal transaction of magical goods for mere coin turns things in a "Industrial Magic Revolution" direction pretty quick once you ask 'why aren't NPCs doing this too.'
Powerful spells that burn through ingredients, then will require more questing or shenanigans to acquire more of, is one such limitation upon glog spells.

-Gold Costs for 'lesser' components is potentially fine when it's just a kind of abstract purchase for baseline functionality of something, like crushed pearls or gold-dust infused ink. The sort of thing that makes magical efforts expensive and unable to be infinitely replicated by say, a printing press, and attaches to coin for xp economies easily. Small gold prices for certain spells can limit them effectively when they can pretty much always be cast in session, but cannot be cast every day for a month with your spare MD to bring about some effect without incurring financial problems.

-Limiting casts of a spell to be within a certain time frame (the main example being a teleport that could only be cast once every 24-[sum] hours) helps encourage single large casts rather than smaller 'spam' approaches that bypass miscast/dooms/mildly inefficient MD use. This is to some degree just reinventing the wheel of classic Vancian D&D casting though.

-Minimum MD investiture- When used as a 'you might get a doom' drawback, this may become a toothless warning if players avert their doom or treat their character as a pawn rather than a character.
I think it becomes more interesting if the MD investiture is not merely a 'doom' threat but a 'how do I get to 6MD' problem. If nothing else, requiring a minimum MD investment means it eats up more MD than usual.

That's most of my thoughts on my deep dive into a GLOG style magic system this campaign. All in all I'm not sure I've made a proper bridge between 'you get some random spells from your glog class and level 4 is the cap' and the level-based power scaling of an AD&Desque wizard.
But such a bridge is worth building I think, because while GLOG casting is cool, it doesn't match well with certain monstrous bestiaries math-wise or long term campaign stability if every level 4 wizard gets to break reality and then die of a doom.

-While it is certainly possible to run three days a week, it is less plausible to be able to keep abreast of required prep for three groups in the same world if they stray from existing prep and goals and truly start to turn into 'three separate campaigns.' So being more clear whether campaigns are more ordered railroads or sandboxes is something I'll communicate more.

-While considerably more work, I think the central megadungeon of a campaign requires more careful level design than what most online generators are capable of. Filling a Donjon-generated dungeon with appropriate fills doesn't solve the general weirdness of the layout, so there's not a lot of rhyme or reason when it comes to exploration, nor are there things like 'giant bridged chasm spanning 3 layers.'

-I forgot to include weather mishaps, which led to players marching through rain like soulless automata. Adding things like slipping and falling (annoying in plains, deadly in mountains), inventory items(like spellbooks) becoming moldy from leaks and soaks, frostbite, avalanches, and so on  are important.

-Milestones have decent potential for non XP based advancement I think, but I think they have to be tweaked for each campaign. I was kicking myself for not including the campaigns 'story goals' as milestones and instead using a more generic list- that would have helped keep things focused.


  1. Arzhangs Astonishing Automatic Laundry
  2. Forecast
  3. Celestial Trumpeters of Elsewhere
  4. Animate Glass
  5. Lily's Mysterious Mastermind Mining Minions 
  6. Fulgurous Fairy Dismemberment
  7.  Great Storm of Pig Awakening 
  8. Extremely Warm and Legally Distinct Cutting Surfaces of Nanci 
  9.  Borehole
  10.  Immovable
  11. Lolilores Merely Human Tongue
  12. Matterhorns Champagne Fairy

  1. Arzhangs Astonishing Automatic Laundry
    : 30' D: Instant
    Cleans [dice] targeted outfits with soap and water, then hangs them to dry on most appropriate area within range. If said outfit is currently being worn, the wearer gets a save to avoid their outfit being stripped, but will still have the outside soaked and scrubbed.

    A necessity for keeping robes fresh and the student body tolerable in the jungle heat. While it has combat applications, experimental castings to remove knightly armor  is kept secret from said knights.

  2. Forecast
    : sight; T: the sky D: Next Week
    You know what the weather prediction is for next week. You can shift the predicted results on the 2d6 weather table roll up to [Dice] amount (or whatever seems appropriate given weather rules.

    After seasons of pestilential rain, the staff demanded the headmaster end the floods, and this tradition continues to this day, ensuring the headmaster of the school is responsible for addressing foul weather.

  3.  Celestial Trumpeters of Elsewhere
    Sight T: The sky D: [Dice*2] Hours
    A host of musician-spirits are called from an appropriate afterlife to perform. The glowing host illuminates equivalent to moonlight and traverses the sky similar to a meteor, spectral tunes drifting down below.

    This spell is mostly used as entertainment for outdoor court parties, though during the Enlarge Wars it frequently became an enabler of night raids and signal flares, and is far from a mere parlor trick.

  4. Animate Glass
    Touch T:Glass Item D: [Dice] Tasks
    Animates a piece of glass. It has max HD equal to [dice*2], but this is dependent on the size of the glass. After the tasks expire, if not commanded to become inert, it will behave as its form implies- glass birds fly around and peck at seeds, stained glass monks may preach, etc etc.

    This spell, developed in Ynn and later refined with golem-crafting principles, is popular due to aesthetic appeal, limited usage, and utility in stained glass window repair. There is rumored to be a very unsafe version known as Glass Demon bound in the cooled lava of the volcano, a necromatic corpse-and-glasspane horror mishmash derived from the soul of a murderous quicksand nymph vitrified and called forth.

  5. Lily's Mysterious Mastermind Mining Minions
    Shouting distance T:Patch of mud, soil, or shit D: [dice] days
    Summons [sum] demonic, imp-like creatures, commonly called knockers or borehordelings, who are equipped with mining helmets, shovels, and pickaxes. While loyal, they are tragically stupid, cowardly, greedy, and generally useless, but they can still accomplish anything [sum] idiots could do in [dice] days with that gear.
    Each minion can dig through about 85' cubic feet of very soft rock/earth, 65' of soft rock, and 30' of hard rock in a days work.

    The ironic name has led many a wizardly building project to go awry, but the additional labor force is helpful... if supervised.

  6. Fulgurous Fairy Dismemberment
    R: 50' T:
    Ear, finger, or similar small bodypart D: Instant
    This spell takes the form of a small, lightning-shrouded,blade-brandishing fairy who removes small bodyparts on a failed save. It is cast as a Cantrip, so all invested dice are set to 1 instead of rolling.
    The wound is cauterized by lightning so bloodloss is not an issue, and there is a -1 to save per point of metallic AC + metal item worn.

  7. Great Storm of Pig Awakening
    Sight T: Sky/Ceiling D:[sum] hours
    Magical rain falls from sky/ceiling for the duration.Pigs in the rain gain human level intelligence.

    This spell, while mostly included due to the Three-Tusk pig cult, is nonetheless handy to water crops, disrupt travel, and produce water in dungeons.

  8. Extremely Warm and Legally Distinct Cutting Surfaces of Nanci
    R: n/a T: Self D:[sum] round
    Summons a mystical mirage-heat blade of reflection that hits as a longsword with +[dice] to hit and damage worth of fire damage. It deals double damage to anything you love. This is battlemagic, which means that you may cast and attack with the summoned weapon in the same round.

    Additionally, the blade may be used to reflect 1 incoming attack per round, with a 50% chance of success... but if a reflect attempt fails, the attack automatically hits the wielder, and/or a save is  automatically failed.
    Reflected attacks preferentially target anything the attacker loves and deal double damage or effect to them, or returns to the originator for normal damage/effect by default.
     One effect may be chosen upon cast per [dice]
    -Gaze Attacks
    -Melee Attacks
    -Ranged attacks
    -Hostile spells
    -Fear Effects

    This spell, more commonly known as the Ruinous Flameblade, is said to have been drawn from the torment of those who died in the burning of the library, and is strictly forbidden from being cast in the library, lest the flames return.

  9. Borehole

    [R]Touch [T]1 person or section of floor [D] [sum] Turns, permanent on 4+dice

    A perfectly circular hole is bored. In a person, this hole leads to their dreams. On a dead person or undead, it leads to a nightmare realm. In a structure, the hole leads down 1 level. If there was not anything below, a dungeon is spontaneously created. The hole closes after the time is up, but any generated realms remain, and the nightmares beneath will likely maintain an exit for their monsters.
    Due to an infestation of these nightmare wisps and general good use in dungeon delving, this spell became prominent in Heleologos as well as in Saresare.
  10. Immovable
    [R]Touch [T]1 item [D] [sum] Rounds
    Holds an item in place as per an Immovable Rod. Items held by others get a save.

    While Mr. Daurondo had a variety of obscure frog-based curses, this contribution was deemed more generally appropriate to the curriculum.
  11. Lolilores Merely Human Tongue
    [R] Depends on air/water currents [T]Metal/Magic [D] Until recast
    Allows the caster to taste the air and locate metals and/or magic. By tasting the air for something you have smelled before (such as gold, magic smells, etc) you can follow it like a bloodhound, or at least become aware of the nearest item.

     Derived from the multiple dragons the Academy defeated, this spell mimics their uncanny ability to sniff out treasures. During the enlarge wars, it was also used to follow troop movements and avoid ambushes.

  12. Matterhorns Champagne Fairy
    [R]Touch [T] Water [D] Permanent
    Another Ynn-derived sorcery, this perpetually soused fairy transmutes enough water into champagne to get [sum] people tipsy. That contains a very faint featherfall effect- for each point of drunkenness, the inebriated takes 1 less fall damage.

    Drunkenness Rules- Each point increases critical hit/critical failure range by 1. After your first 'free' point, drunkenness in excess of your CON bonus forces a save vs poison, failure indicating blackouts, passing out, and general alcohol poisoning and uselessness.

Monday, May 16, 2022


AD&D  Lycanthropes

Werewhatevers are pretty decent foes, though they are accursed with the problem of 'why can't lycanthropy be used as a power-boost for my character' that has plagued GMs since their inclusion. The excuse of becoming evil even while not in wereform does not dissuade some characters, is sorta suspect in general, and doesn't even apply in all cases since werebears are chaotic good, and wereboars and tigers are at least neutral.

The curse is simultaneously easy to get (taking 50% of HP damage or more from a lycanthrope) difficult to remove (requiring either a 1/4 chance of belladonna curing it but poisoning the character for 1d4 days with a 1% chance of death) or a level 12 cleric to cast cure disease within 3 days of infection. So the question of what to do if a player is infected is a common one.

As far as the different varieties go, Werebears can cure disease and are probably a reference to Beorn of Lotr, perhaps combined with the figure of Bödvar Bjarki. They also work with brown bears, which seems less likely than working with other infected but whatever.

Wereboars are the most inexplicable to me. They are neutral but foul tempered and likely to attack, and I am not at all sure what they might be a reference to mythologically.

Wererats are suprisingly tough with 3HD and are almost certainly a reference to Hisvet and her ratty friends from the Fritz Lieber books of Lankhmar, and are a staple of the urban sewercrawl.

Weretigers being 'most often female'  makes me think they're likely a reference to a specific character rather than a mythological category. Hantu Belian are a malaysian possibility of origin inspiration, but it seems less likely. Or maybe the artist just really wanted to draw tiger teats in the art, idk.

Finally, werewolves are obviously derived from mythology and hammer horror films (as I guess from the artwork) and are most divergent in that they are quite pack-oriented as opposed to the lone accursed fellow-3d6 werewolves being the average number-appearing, rivaled only by the 4d6 wererats.

All in all, there is a disconnect from the desire to have lycanthropy be an alienating, isolating curse, and the apparent small gangs of these creatures getting up to a wide variety of alignment-appropriate activities and social interaction. They're plenty dangerous to adventuring parties with multi-attacks and a tenacious curse. One wonders if slings loaded with the incredibly numerous silver coins would provide ample defense even to peasantry against such threats- even in a copper standard, where money is 100 times more dear than the gold standard, silver is not some exotic metal to be carefully sought after and hoarded, it's just something you could presumably get from the coffers of any business, so their weakness doesn't hold the same problem as the modern werewolf film.

All in all, I think 'the curse of the werewolf' idea doesn't hold up well in a D&D universe in terms of logistics or implied setting... it's either a known problem with known solutions and is thus free of any supposed horror, or too easy to manage and suddenly it's a supersoldier serum, or it's a campaign ending blight akin to a zombie apocalypse.

Sunset Realm Lycanthropy

Clockwise from top left- 6th age superhero squad of Yuban Cynocephali, yuban weretiger or
possibly grumpy were striped-cat, horrid bear-scourged Blood Beast,
6th age rat-descended PASCC agent, slaughterhouse pig-spirit possessed butcher.
Not pictured- me having any motivation to draw

There are several types of shape-changing beast-folk in the realm

Firstly are those of inhuman ancestry, manifesting not as the more typical permanent hybrid form, but as having multiple forms + a 'best of' combination. The 'immunity' to weapons comes from the ability to heal wounds by transforming to some degree- limbs may not regrow, but wounds will close. Wounds inflicted by silver may carry over between forms, the lawful metal refusing chaotic undoing of its deeds, or serious injuries or bindings of silver may prevent transformation all together until healed/removed.
This form of beastliness is not contagious, but it is heritable. Transformation is typically based on stress or focused will.

The second form, that of Curse, occurs thanks to possession of a human body by an animal spirit. The transformation is hideous here, as one form is distorted, broken, then 'healed' into another by the unnatural vigor of two souls within one body.
Horrible crimes against animals may cause vengeful beast spirits to possess the offender, turning them against humanity as vengeance-by-proxy. This is quite unlawful, which is why silver is effective. The other main source would be being cursed by the gods- Our Lady of Gardens inflicts this curse against those who completely defile and disregard her society, granting them an unsightly form to match their behavior, and allowing others to hunt them as they please. This curse is not given lightly- Our Lady must cooperate with her rival Murulu, who is lord of such corruption and transformations, or with Lumar, who can mimic Murulu's powers, and explains the association with the moon such beast curses have. Lumar may inflict this curse whilst mimicking Our Lady as well, though the mysterious goddess likely does so with ulterior motives like the beast accidentally burning down a library or slaying those who know secrets when the moon arrives. Either way, the beast-soul assigned to torment the accursed is assigned as punishment, so attempts at harnessing the beasts powers are doomed to failure as the beast will thwart the accursed in every way possible. Typically, this curse is not contagious when god-granted, unless the punishment is meant to spread to the allies of the accursed as well. However, especially in the case of punishment by beast-souls, the soul may splinter itself into nightmare fragments to propagate and may well be a contagion.
Either way, the curse can only be lifted by mollifying the gods or the angry animal spirits, so there is no one-size-fits-all cure besides death by silver.

The third form, that of Blood, is a disease, of sorts, a contamination borne of the combining of Moon Blood and the blood of beasts, then introduced to the human form via injury or improper blood transfustions not sanctioned by the Sanguine Church of Vint-Savoth. This form taints the mind with bloodlust, and deforms the body with foul mutations that are related to the animal blood in question, but are ultimately alien in origin due to the source being the Blood Moon. If full transformation occurs, there is no going back- that person's soul is gone at best, or trapped within a raging monster of the Blood Moon at worst, hoping to save its comrades if it can wrest back control for even a second.
Such beasts are best slain by fire, silver, or massive bloodletting to drain the corrupted blood from its host.

As far as location of the 'standard' werebeasts goes...

5th age Oroboro had the first form of Werewolves in the hills, a clan sworn to oppose the villainous wizard who lives in those parts. They may date back to the 4th intersolar period, where humans seeking to survive the sunless darkness mixed bloodlines with wolves. It is unknown if they survived the Enlarge Wars, but they likely would have been forced to become more urban.

4th Age Phillipston was initially human, but was overrun by wererats of the accursed sort after the power of the Riikhites and Mokkhites was broken. These wererats date back to accursed experiments by Sarkomand early 4th age. By the 5th age though, the curse had weakened such that the ratty population was essentially the non-dangerous 1st variant, though prejudice lingered for generations, leading Phillipston to be fairly insular. The 6th age Phillipston Anomalous Subsurface Control Committee, or PASCC, was also known as the Rat Race due to high numbers of rat-folk signing up for the dungeon control and exploration teams.

4th age Yuban "werewolves," actually weredogs known as Cynocephali, were sacred, rather than accursed warriors of Yuba who fought back against Riikhite Mercia, and were demonized for it. In the 5th age imperialism had diminished, but Cynocephali still had enemies in the form of the Cat Lords or Rakshasa, who created accursed weretigers to serve as a counterforce in bloody internecine conflicts as Yuba tried to reunify after being broken in the 4th age. By the more peaceful 6th age, werebeasts had receded into being more of the first variety than the supernatural variety, with those who engaged in battle frequently forming public color-coded super teams.

While Vint-Savoth was scourged by the Blood Moon even before it had a name or was settled, and as such has every variant of the 3rd type of werebeast and more, it may be worth noting that even in the 6th age after the Blood Moon was felled and largely contained, werepigs of the 'angry beast soul' variety rose up against factory farming as horrible chainsaw-wielding pig-men until, as happened in Prince's Spit with the Three Tusk revolts, the inhumane practice was ended for good.

Actual Rules I use for Lycanthropy
If forced to roll on the Death and Dismemberment table by a contagious-type werebeast, lycanthropy is contracted on a failed save. If killed, one may choose to contract lycanthropy instead to save ones own life, though it cannot be cured save by magics comparable to that of raising the dead in that case.

Ancestry Type-
This type would be run as a 'race-as-class,' perhaps multiclassed with a more standard class. The Spook from Esoteric Enterprises would probably work, with Grit HP regenerating quickly due to transformations clearing wounds, and Flesh HP being struck directly by silver weapons.


Transformation occurs upon the curse's trigger- moonlight, witnessing appropriate animals being eaten by humans, etc etc, and upon periods of great stress, physical or mental- failing a save vs fear or being reduced to low HP, for instance, likely trigger a transformation into the appropriate statblock, healing all non-silvered damage and, bursting out of armor, backpacks, clothes, etc and destroying them.

Characters with equal or fewer HD than their beast-form cannot control it or remember what they did in any detail. The beast is typically unnaturally violent.

Characters with more levels/HD than their beast form can control themselves to some degree and can make saving throws to prevent themselves from attacking allies while transformed, and can act with some direction beyond 'accursed rampage.'

Characters with at least double the levels/HD of their beast form are, against all odds, able to go beastmode at will and can control themselves, though the transformation lasts until next dawn. Essentially, it is only a weird superpower at this point.

Magic items meant to aid in control, or perhaps unusual mental stat modifiers, may count as bonus or malus HD for purposes of controlling oneself. Each year survived with the curse probably adds a 'virtual' HD for purposes of controlling oneself as well.


This is more of a corruption track, as once transformation occurs, the soul either leaves, or stays within the body, able only to take control for a total of 1 round per level ever before control is lost forever.

Every time corruption is gained and corruption > level, a save vs scourge must be made the next time great stress is felt, mental or physical. Failure indicates transformation into a beast of HD=Level+Scourge.

Scourge Track- The stages roughly corresponds to what percentage of blood is pure moonblood, as opposed to what percentage is corrupt beast blood.
0- Unsullied- No exposure to the scourge
1- Acceptable levels. Scourge never goes below 1 after initial infection barring incredible magics or mad science.
2-4- Hunter-Acceptable Levels- Scourge Level provides various advantages if the right techniques are utilized. The Church issues tags confirming blood status to sanctioned hunters.
5+- Public Menace Levels- Berserk bloodlust clouds judgement. Must make a saving throw to not consume blood or stop attacking targets in melee. Mild physical transformation such as elongated hair, teeth, nails, eye color changes, mucular growth, etc. It is not unheard of for very skilled hunters to lapse into this state on particularly long or horrible hunts, and rumors abound of secret church forces who have tags sanctioning blood corruption of 5% and higher.

Common Scourge Sources
+1 Skin contact with scourged blood. First-time only.
+2 Internal contact (ingestion, wound contamination, transfusion) with scourged blood of higher HD source/Scourge level than your own.
+1 Making a Death and Dismemberment roll. Only applies if you have at least 1 Scourge. Counts as 'great stress' so immediately check if a possible transformation is in order.
-1 Monitored bloodletting and transfusion by the Sanguine Church over the course of a week. Counts as 'great stress' for potential transformation, though the Church typically euthanizes transforming unfortunates before they get out of hand.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Prep for Starting Campaigns

 Players wanted this post so I vomited it forth in like a few hours, I'm mildly dissatisfied with it but oh well

I definitely had my share of campaigns dying after 3 sessions back in the bad ol days of being 12 years old. But in my time as an online GM, I feel like I've had a pretty good success rate in terms of campaigns I make being fairly long-lived and usually reaching conclusions of some kind rather than fizzling out. Part of that is simply that, apart from random freelance word and art stuff,  this is what I do, so I have far more time and energy to devote to a campaign compared to people who have jobs or relationships or children or whatever. 'Become a minimalist neet freegan D&D ascetic' isn't really applicable advice for most people, but I feel like it should be mentioned as a caveat or disclaimer.

I have an advantage of having slowly grown a group of regulars, one or two from each new game, who seem to generally enjoy my GMing style. There is a level of trust and shared experience here that random roll20 or OSR discord pickup games don't have, heck, even when my players run for each other, the dynamic changes and so there's more chances of flaking. It could be that there's no meaningful procedural difference in how I start games compared to how others start games, and it's more a matter of social dynamic than anything.

And as final caveat is that players will sometimes just lose the ability to play for whatever reason. We've all been in games killed by scheduling, I've been the player in games who just came less and less due to diminishing interest even in games I thought were good (Acodispo and Spwack's games come to mind), etc etc. Games are not immortal* and I think a good step one when making a campaign is to think 'what would be a good point to end this game on' because if you know roughly where it is going, you may get an idea of where a good place to start it off at might be.

*the open table flailsnails multi-gm shared universe meta-game my server engages in might be immortal as it doesn't have the same death-conditions as regular campaigns but I digress

But for what it's worth, here's the process I've gone through

Initial prep for campaigns usually is a sort of slush pile of handwritten notes written while I donate plasma. This initial slush is anything... 'anorexic centaur noble shamed for her natural weight by human villain who is a toxic friend' 'alternate dungeon entrance is gay pirate brothel' 'time loops for free character revives' 'biomechs actually are nanite swarms mimicking life' 'hot frog' etc etc

I think it's helpful to get these half-formed ideas noted down, so your brain can either move on, or properly start to develop them further. My brain, at least, can chew on a half-formed thought for a very long time without really advancing it anywhere or seeing problems to fix.

Then comes the more serious prep- where 'castle overrun by frog cult' has to actually become a map with notes on what's in each room and so on, 'fairy forest' has to actually get an encounter table and some hex fills, and so on. While you can go wild with big hexcrawls and megadungeons prepped in advance, I think it will usually pay off more to go more in depth with nearby stuff first- prep some town NPCs in the starting village instead of the next town over, add some small 'quests' the players can do, and let distant lands be more vaguely sketched so as not to expend prep.

Also, have minidungeon modules and/or procedural content generators ready for when the players go somewhere less-prepped. Random encounters go here I suppose, but I think they're very good shorthand for populating a world. If I could only prep one thing, I would prep a wandering monster table and treat everything I roll as though it was something I placed on purpose, with motives and backstory and connection to other known things.

Similar advice applies to games with more linear story arcs- prepping the whole thing in advance leads to railroading, so having a vague idea of story beats, but only actually prepping 1-3 sessions in advance lets you keep things reactive to the PC's actions and allow for them to execute their own plans, while still generally heading towards things like 'defeat Ser Hotsalot in the Volcano Tower' or whatever without being opposed to 'players ambush Ser Hotsalot at the pub' instead because you already had Volcano Tower prepped 6 months ago.

I think it's easier to prep as a campaign is being run rather than in a void, because your ideas bounce of the players and they inspire you and you can insert personal moments to shine as things go on.

Uh... speaking of ideas in a void, I'm just going to throw down some specific prep examples for games, then see if there's any keyrecurring features.

Esoteric Oroboro (Or Esoboro) 
had some procedures I could start off with, rolling an underworld, both as dungeon map and faction relationship web. Esoteric Enterprises has a LOT of tables that help carry the weight of ensuring there is a world to interact with, and was actually a fairly low-prep game thanks to that. I was able to use my older campaign's lore as prep for this campaign, which is such a neat trick that I highly recommend GMs try to set their subsequent campaigns in the same universe unless you absolutely must discard it for a fresh start. 

As mentioned, I had a megadungeon and many factions rolled up via tables.

I had to make spell lists for my local gods for the sake of Mystic (Cleric) players, which doubled as spell lists for potential rival cultists.

I had a bonus 'ancient evils escaped from the Reliquary super-prison' running wild through the city- essentially a random encounter table that made a new major threat each session. I was fairly excited for all of them, which is good advice for encounter tables- if you the GM aren't thrilled to roll a result, maybe change the tables to be less realistic and more dramatic.

I had 3-5 jobs lined up for the PCs to introduce them to factions, get them into the dungeon, and get them paid.

Heleologos Academy
Prep for this game took about 2 months and included the following-
A poll offering different campaign choices to the players to ensure there was buy in to the premise before prep started in earnest
A map of the island and mainland, re-used from Betrayal at Queen's Coast
Encounter tables for all regions
Weekly 'events' for the school, a 1d20 table I would roll on 3 times
A megadungeon beneath the school, just some sloppily generated online dungeons maps populated with a simple '1/3 chances of monster, trap, or treasure'
Monsters being drawn from a custom wandering monster table to give the depths a wizard-school basement being raided by supernatural thieves' vibe- animated furniture, flying books, sneaky fey gremlins, and nightmare wizards hinting of something more
Traps being a similar list, and treasures being from my own treasure tables, which were just modified AD&D/BFRPG tables
The incredibly tl;dr glog wizard post a few posts back, made to make glog wizards less self-contained gimmicks and more like a 'wizard' who can potentially learn more things, as well as offering some milestone goals to incentivize behavior beyond money grubbing to increase personal power
Some playtest games with the players to ensure said glog wizard post wasn't complete hokum
A list of tasks they were to complete by the end of the year- 12 spells to form the new 'true' glog class, various dangerous wizards to defeat (again drawn from a past blogpost), 3 abstract goals of solving mysteries and teaching students, and a couple of bonus side quests
And a list of students they were to teach

Betrayal at Queen's Coast
Had a map and random encounters, to make traveling the land recruiting noble aid more exciting
Had a starting scene of being pursued across the land, only to be caught in a haunted mansion and the menaces of the haunted mansion ready
Had some 'villain' counterparts of the heroes ready as minions of the villainess

But then mostly prepped ahead of the players 1-3 sessions in advance as mentioned, reskinning modules and dungeons, making or improving scenes...

It becomes difficult to reconstruct what was prepped before-game and what was prepped mid-game as I gaze upon older campaigns, but there does seem to be some reliable markers of what I prep

What I Prep
-A starting SCENE to start the players in the action without mucking about getting to know each other in a tavern
-A starting DUNGEON, usually tied to the above, to give the players something familiar to do immediately.
-Starting CHARACTERS and/or FACTIONS for the players to roleplay with and be made aware of existing power structures and motivations
-A starting TOWN with SERVICES or at least downtime activities, so the players can prepare
-a MAP and ENCOUNTER TABLES to give a sense of a place and a buffer of content to allow the players freedom of action.
-EVENT tables, or a TIMELINE of expected events. At a minimum this is a weather reaction roll and my calendar blogpost to track time, but events of politics, looming threats, or local flavor all are useful.
-An OVERARCHING GOAL,  that, while not immediately pursuable, gives direction to the game. It is essentially the diegetic version of the pitch for the game- if you the player want to play this game, you the character should be interested in this goal somewhat.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Lion, Lizard, Lizard Man, Locathah, Lurker Above

AD&D Lions
While everyone is familiar with cats and claw/claw/bite routines by now, a lesser known feature of lions might be their bonus hind leg rake for an additional two attacks at 1d6+1 which occurs if both main paws hit. Basically, if you don't have good AC, fighting lions in melee will shred you.
Presumably because of their manes, male lions have +1 AC from frontal attacks.

The statblock includes mountain lions and spotted lions, which are smaller cougars and and larger Pleistocene cave lions, respectively.

AD&D Lizards
A bizarre entry far more fantastical than one might assume.

Fire Lizards are also called 'false dragons' and indeed are like a weaker sort of red dragon, with 10HD< AC as plate, a claw claw bite routine of 1d8/1d8/2d8, and an unimpressive small flame puff for 2d6 save for half. They themselves are immune to fire attacks. They sleep for long periods, hunt once a week from their subterranean lairs, and like shiny things.

Though not possessing the great hoard of a dragon, they do have treasure tybe B, Qx10 for many gems, and a 10% chance of having 1d4 eggs worth 5000 gold each. Unlike dragons, they are only animals.

One might assume this is a sort of 'fakeout' monster, where peasants are harassed by a 'dragon' and the party finds these things instead. They have a sort of appeal as alternate guard beast or mount that's dragon-like but not all too troublesome, but I can't imagine they are anyone's favorite monster.

Giant Lizards, ironically, are the smallest lizard in the lizard entry. While 15' long, they only have 3HD and a single 1d8 bite (2d8 on a nat 20 due to getting a good bite in) so they're kinda a 'whatever' monster.

Minotaur lizards are huge 8HD, 40' long beasts that deal massive damage(2d6/2d6/3d6 claw/claw/bite) and, on nat 20s, can hold people in their mouths- not a swallow hole, but a similar sort of auto-grapple. They are slow, but good at ambushing, and are usually found in their lairs with a scattering of loot from their victims. I don't know why they're called Minotaur lizards... maybe because they lurk in a lair as the minotaur did? Later editions give them horns, which makes sense, but no mention of horns is made in the AD&D entry. With numbers appearing of 1d8 they mostly seem like just a big beefy threat for deep dungeons

Subterranean Lizards seem to be some form of giant gecko, as they can run on ceilings and walls. Apart from the double damage nat 20 lizard bite, they aren't very interesting, but at least they could potentially get up to shenanigans in certain dungeon layouts compared to the Giant Lizard.

AD&D Lizard Man
A fairly uninspired entry about 2HD humanoids whose main claim to fame is being slowish on land but fastish in water, and having a claw-claw-bite routine with 1d2 claws. Also having pretty good art.

The entry mostly just goes on and on about how 'primitive' 'crude' 'tribal' etc they are and says some 'evolved' to a 'higher state' of using huts, shields, throwing weapons, and clubs, the better to eat people with. Gygaxian baloney instead of any actual lore, basically.

While I'm sure people have done better with lizard-men since then, the default entry might as well just be giant lizards.

AD&D Locathah
Ah yes, another 'underwater fishperson.' They ride giant eels and are 'nomads' who also live in a castle that has a 50% chance of a portuguese man-o-war trap, and have provisions for leader types who have no difference save for increasing HP.

I had forgotten these creatures existed, compared to Kuo-Toa and Sahuagin, and expect will forget them again soon enough after this post.

AD&D Lurker Above
Now THIS is a monster. "What if the ceiling was actually a giant manta ray monster that fell on you and smothered you to death."
They are very tough and non-intelligent, not even animal intelligence, fighting to the death against whatever they drop down upon. With mediocre AC but a fat 10HD, and a 1d4+1 round time limit before those trapped beneath are 'smothered.' An entire party can probably chop one up in time barring bad luck or all the fighters being trapped beneath with weapons too awkward to shank it with in hand (honestly with the number of such monsters in D&D, there is probably something to be said for walking around with an offhand dagger instead of a shield.)

Some interesting things are the good odds lurkers have fat stacks of gold coins as treasure, perhaps as incidental bait in the rooms they overlook. They also have neutral buoyancy thanks to a produced gas in their bodies, allowing them to fly despite being more like a manta ray than a bird.

All in all, a classic 'check the roof' monster of the upper levels, once the players have grown weary of green slime and piercers.

Sunset Realm Lions

Sunset Realm Lizards

So in the age of the 2nd sun, Yg-A, the world was very hot, the ice of the moonlands being driven far back by fiery dragons. It was a good time to be a reptile.

However, Yg, the cast-off skin of Yg-A the dragon sun, had other ideas beyond sitting in the sun and licking your eyeballs. Those reptiles who traded their legs to the snake-goddess Yg were granted wisdom in return, and so arose the Serpent Empire. The Reptile Kings, Frogs, Eels, etc all resisted, but were eventually subjugated by the big brained schemes of the serpents, adopting serpent tech but always being one step behind.. Lizardfolk were, according to ancient murals, equally comfortable on all fours or bipedal, with different tail positions for balance, and favored strength and rigidity, as a conscious opposition to the subtlety and flexibility of the snakes. Though the Serpents conquered them for the sin of 'keeping their legs' the reptiles were not wiped out by the serpents, but by the intersolar period after Yg-A became trapped in the earth. Free of the Serpent Empire the Reptile Rebellion's splinter-kingdom of fire and magma kept the ice and darkness at bay for a while. But by the time the Elves, Ningen, and Svart created the 3rd sun, it was too late for the lizard-folk. If, by chance, their fires continue to burn to keep the lizards warm anywhere, it is in the Beyond, a thawed circle of waning fire in a lightless expanse of gnashing glaciers beyond the reach of the daylit world. Even their ruins are rare to find in the current solar eras- there is one on the Fault, from which a resurrected mummified Reptile King failed to reach the Orb before Townlocke did, but most have been swallowed by the dark of the moonlands. Sometimes one might find 'lizard people' but they are the product of mad alchemy or divine miracles, not descendants of the forgotten rebels of ages past.

Locathah- Nah

now get outta my encounter tables you black-lagoon lookin discount sahuagin

Lurker Above- Simply, these are a type of giant wilderness killer mimic adapted more to caves, gobbling sabre-toothed tigers, hibernating cave bears and so on. Trappers, the floor version, are not a different species, but simply lying on the floor, perhaps after dropping from the ceiling to eat something earlier. Choice of ceiling or floor may be these creature's gender expression, and it is theorized that a Lurker and a Trapper will mate with each other when attempting to eat the same adventurer, who will presumably be smothered by the undulating Trapper/Lurker sandwich and used to feed offspring afterwards.

As mimics, they can change their texture and patterning to match ceilings or floors, but are more specialized than smaller mimics and become less and less convincing as the terrain becomes more advanced than a cavern. As such, while they could potentially infest a stone castle, certainly mines and dungeons, perhaps even external cobbled/brick roads, wooden domiciles are typically safe from Lurker/Trappers.

Unlike mimics, Lurker/Trappers are not intelligent enough to train, but they can be lured to key locations and kept there with a high rate of success if fed consistently and so used as guardians. They may wander in order to seek mates, however, so this tactic is used only by mad dungeon wizards rather than respectable members of society.

Friday, February 18, 2022


 AD&D Lich

The Lich is one of the quintessential Big Bads of fantasy literature and ttrpgs alike. Fictionally, they tend to appear more as 'immortal wizard' than 'immortal skeleton wizard' but whatever, Voldemort is basically a lich, Koschei is basically a lich. Official D&D has more liches than you can shake a stick at.

Liches have AC as plate +3, and a oddly worded immunity to mundane attacks from beings of under 6HD, though this is fairly pointless as creatures of 5HD or under flee in fear with no save anyway. They may touch enemies for 1d10 cold damage+ a save or paralysis effect. Their laundry list of undead immunities is somewhat expanded- Charm, Sleep, enfeeblement, polymorph, cold, electricity, insanity, and death spells/symbols.

Apart from some text describing that they are indeed converted magic-users, no provision for their spell lists is given. Using the spell lists for monster abilities largely misses the point of a monster manual in my mind, for a monster that says "oh just have a bunch of rarely seen high level spells memorized, thoughtfully put together, and used to terrible optimization" doesn't help me much.

Liches are fine villains. I seem to recall reading that while the dragon is the active tyrant of greed, the despot king, the earth-ravaging billionaire, the lich is the soul-crushing villainy of a hidebound and restrictive society. It has a head start in terms of power, influence, and knowledge, so it's nearly impossible to catch up. It turns people who would be your allies into your enemies via the power of necromancy or enchantment (a metaphor for cultural hegemony). It can kill you, but you can't really kill it, it just comes back if it loses a fight, just as killing a single leader doesn't end a country. The quest to find and destroy the phylactery is symbolic of the work required to break a system. You can sorta reason with a Lich, but ultimately it's just the preserved bad takes of some dead guy so you know it's always going to cycle back to the same old awfulness, sooner or later. And it is usually a guy, isn't it? Go figure.

They might also be symbolic of the inability to accept death turned ruinous and destructive, but I digress. While fine as a crafted villain, as far as an entry in a monster manual goes they just kinda suck because you can't actually open up the monster manual and use one, you gotta create a huge spell list, think of strategies to use it, maybe some magic items, probably spend the monetary parts of the treasure on a base or mercenaries or something, or it'll fall flat and just be a spooky skeleton.

Sunset Realm Lich

An old photobash of the Green Necromancer
The defining characteristic of a lich is that their soul is anchored to an item that regenerates a body for them to inhabit, one way or another. But... It's not even that hard to come back from the dead in this setting, so Liches are not necessarily all that impressive, honestly. They're more just... disturbing. They had such conviction in an idea that they bound themselves to the world in a way that they'd come back no matter what, heedless of how everything they knew would crumble away in time, all to pursue something. This conviction is usually deeply uncompelling to people 50 years, a hundred years, a thousand years later, and so liches end up doing their mad schemes in forgotten ruins alone or with hanger-ons at best. Sensible people who come back as undead join the city council as Necropolis Representative, or become a child of M'shesh to return as undead in exchange for pacifism and cult membership, or sign up for the Skeleton War. But not liches, oh no. They have to come back on their own terms, their own power, independent of anything else. It's a form of vanity, in a way.

The most notable Lich in the sunset realms is Magister Verdurus, aka the Green Necromancer. Born in the City of Bells to a noble family, he travelled the world learning magic as his hobby until his money dried up, came home to find out that elvish politicking had usurped his family's claim. He threw a fit and tried to kill everyone involved with dread sorcery, was defeated after leaving a combination grey-goo/zombie plague biohazard known as the Blight, tried to ruin another country to gain political power to come back for round 2, and ended up going mad with forbidden knowledge and seeking 'true' immortality via memorability, perhaps as a cope for his original desired noble position no longer existing. His apprentices, having learned enough for their own goals and recognizing megalomania when they saw it, abandoned him, leaving only his omnicidal cult, which was eventually defeated. He would return several more times, ironically becoming less of a threat each time as the world moved on without him and he lost the thread of how things worked. Being a manifestation of a player setting suggestion, he was always doomed to descend down this road of evil and madness to suit that player's whims, so one can't be too hard on him. He is a plague on the city of Oroboro that resurrects every so often as cackling villain, and believes himself to be the one who will end the last sun and bring about the Age of the Dead, where no life exists and even the planet itself is considered dead, and his death cult thinks this is the age where they can finally live as glorious undead kings of the world. One can sort of see what that world looks like in the M'shesh controlled Fault (5th age onwards) and no one is all too impressed, and so most everyone wishes he'd just try to do something with his unlife over there instead of trying to ruin everything for everyone over here in Oroboro for the 15th time.

The contents of the Green Necromancer's Spellbook in the reign of Samuel Goffnagoff were as follows

1-Floating Disc, Shield, Read Languages
For saving Telekinesis slot, general defense, and general info-gathering

 2-Levitate, Web, Locate Object
For saving your flight slot, capturing people nonlethally, and finding macguffins

3- Flight, Darkvision, Fireball, Lightning Bolt, Blight Curse (A useless spell with the blight contained, otherwise basically infecting someone with a zombie plague)
While 'fly high and rain damage from above' isn't rocket science, it is pretty effective.

4-Ice Storm, Massmorph- Elemental AoE coverage, and a good 'ambush someone with camouflaged undead' spell.

5-Animate Dead, Cloudkill, Telekinesis. Telekinesis to do heavy lifting if the minions were gone or for air transport, animate dead because no lich without it can be respected, and cloudkill to get intact corpses for animate dead.

6-Death Of 100 Pits- Reverses gravity off and off in 10' cube forever. 1d6 fall damage each round. Hard to escape without assistance.This was the signature spell, powerful in its own way, needlessly cruel, leaves a lasting impression as the corpse bounces forever, able to create dungeon power sources.

7-Reaper's Haste- Take one action whenever an enemy takes an action. Age 1 year each time. Drawback less penalizing for the immortal. A general 'action economy compensator' spell.

8-Mind Blank-Gotta have this as a defensive option I guess

 9-Forbidden Moon Gate- Opens a gate and draws forth a Moon, bringing the chaos of the Moonlands to the Daylands. A broad spectrum doomsday threat spell. Was ripped out and cast as a scroll so is mostly lost to time.

So the Green Necromancer was basically air support for undead ground troops.

The two apprentices mentioned were Felgraft, who focused on the 'evocation blasty casty' side of Verdurus spellbook and disappeared into the Bowels of the Earth in search of treasure, leaving only Felgraft's Flames as his legacy, a green fireball that comes from the ground up and only burns the living. His spell list was Sleep, Fly, Felgrafts Flames, Dimension Door, and the players rescued him from being walled up in a dungeon sauna once. He had a bodyguard, Loran, hired for purely mercenary goals.

The other was Veiled Kirasu, a very short woman who had a tower in a lake that sought to drill deep into the earth as well but was abandoned due to darkspawn monsters coming up the mineshaft. Her legacy was longer lived, as she continued magical research after parting ways from Verdurus and was the elder student- Spell list was
1- Floating Disc, Shield, Read Langages
2- Levitate, Web, Locate Object
3-Flight, Protection From Normal Missiles
4- Ice Storm, Massmorph
5- Animate Dead, Cloudkill
And she waged a brief war against the hill giants of what is now Fort Fortenfort, before returning to her true goal of defeating the dragon of Mantlehearth that killed her family. She became Necroqueen of Mantlehearth and ruled the island for a time, though necromancy gone wrong led to her losing her necromantic minions to undead whale siren song.

His soul anchor is a black sword, granted to him by a being from Beyond to lead him down the role prescribed by player-suggested campaign suggestion. Like most such things, it can be destroyed only in one way- by the flame of the 7th sun (son?) though it will destroy that in turn, at least according to prophecy. For the most part tho, the black sword is just a +1 longsword that deals its damage as level drain and raises undead from those it kills, eventually resurrecting the Necromancer with enough life force drained. He does not particularly hide the sword, instead letting whatever adventurer find it continue to use it and letting it fall where it may.

His cult uses simple tactics- find a ghul, let it make more ghuls, focus fire unparalyzed targets with Magic Missiles taught to all the novice necromancers. The Blight can be used to infect populations or corrupt wilderness in a scorched earth zombie apocalypse way, and though it answers only to Verdurus, there is also the Red Queen, an extra-invincible stone golem which can grow a body for every soul exposed to its gas, constantly regenerate and mutate those bodies with gas to adapt to what killed them (the life it gives is oft considered a fate worse than death mind you), and control those bodies if need be. He has a few wicked Ifrit that would like to see humanity exterminated as well, bound in Fassulia and forgotten, but sometimes unearthed to seek to further his goals.
His efforts, and that of his cult, are a large part of why Oroboro and Fassulia feud, as Fassulia, ravaged by his efforts, sees him as an Oroboron problem, while Oroboro sees it as a collective calamity they are not responsible for. Politics!

Here's a Lungfungus Dungeon I reskinned into an old lair of the Green Necromancer, an ancient ifrit-operated ghoul-plague missile silo that was never fired, and over the years has been invaded by plant creatures, sickle-clawed giant lizards, bandits, and at some point, a dragon-cult of Arrkohn (another player suggestion)

You gotta click on 'open in a new window' to get a readable version I am sure.

 But all this took a long time to come up with- the Green Necromancer was created to fit the setting suggestion of the Blight and Blight Necromancers a  player called Shin came up with back when Oroboro was created from player suggestions. But Verdurus had three campaigns total to make appearances in, have dungeons created to serve as his old hideouts, have connections drawn between factions, develop counter-measures against threats he faced. Three campaigns is a lot to ask to grant a lich narrative weight, and that's why casually introduced liches are a bit rough to run on the fly-without time to develop their presence, they're just a skeleton with hastily rolled up spells the GM doesn't have time to consider the long-term implications of.

Liches are good- just not as a monster manual entry.