Thursday, March 19, 2020


OG Doppelgangers
With shapeshifting and ESP being used to mimic humanoids (this said to have 90% accuracy), it's easy to see why doppelgangers are menacing agents of subterfuge and deceit... but what with a number-appearing score of 3d4, turning into party members giving them surprise on a 4-in-6 chance odds (no further mention of potential combat advantage is mentioned, curiously enough) and being statistically equivalent to slightly harder hitting ogres  one might question the reasoning for such creatures to even bother with such trickery at all. As an added bonus, they are immune to Sleep, Charm, and save as 10th level fighters.

Doppelgangers have the stated motive to kill and replace people they morph into. It is unclear whether they then attempt to live the stolen life, or to continue the cycle of murder and transformation- no mention of eating the dead is made, however. They have an apparent social structure (of numbers that suggest family units or some other small groups) high intelligence, and neutral alignment.  I am at a loss to speculate on any potential ecology implied by these facts save for the humanoid transformation being, perhaps, a means to lure maneating dungeon predators into lethal ambushes by appearing more unassuming than they truly are. Of course, one could take the notion that they are monstrous beings of the mythic underworld who need to explanation for the threat they pose or why they are the way they are, but you'd think if they lived only to kill and deceive they'd be Chaotic Evil...

3.5 Doppelgangers

With significantly nerfed damage, number appearing, and ESP abilities (a DC13 roll allowing resistance) these doppelgangers are less terrifying ambush-bludgeoners and more of the spies and deceivers they are suggested to be. Who they might be spying for is left unmentioned (though in addition to common languages of those they mimic, air-language and Giant may be known as well which may imply...something) but as they are mentioned as a potential character race, them being a sort of an highly dispersed  and distrusted minority pigeonholed into being spies seems a sensible outcome of their existence, as compared to the AD&D version. no strong motive to be 'monstrous' is mentioned apart from a tendency to be low empathy and manipulative, which isn't exactly doppelganger exclusive.

Sunset Realm Doppelgangers
The term doppelganger is terribly overused. A time-displaced self isn't one, nor is a vat-grown clone, nor a parallel reality version of yourself. A shapeshifter(be it mimic, demon, protein polymorph, clever octopus, goblin changeling, or whatever) taking your form isn't a doppelganger. Even your reflection, your double from another trouble, isn't one. (They're a moral lesson about how even if your heart is on the wrong side of the body, it can still be in the right place, or something)

A "doppelganger" is a uncanny double with no good explanation. It is a monster that has no ecology and no place in the waking, sunlit world save for your nightmares. If there is rhyme or reason to its existence, it is what you assume and project onto it. Wracked by self-loathing and despair, perhaps you think it an embodiment of your will to disappear. Trapped by mental and social chains, perhaps you think it an opportunity to leave your life behind. Consumed by regret and guilt, perhaps you think it an ironic punishment, proof that the worst thing in your life was you. You'll never know for certain what it was, and those around you may never know which was which.

Sympathy Puppet- It walks towards you, matching your own advance step for step, blocking the way forward. Strike it, and it strikes you in perfect synchronicity. It is clad in the same gear as you are- hrönir duplicates.  If you fight it, you will both die, bleeding from the same wounds, choking out the same last words. There is a link between you and the thing- If the nemesis falls into a pit, your leg breaks too. If the wizard puts it to sleep with a spell, you slumber too until you are awakened. You can sever the link by getting some distance, breaking line of sight, some dungeon walls between you and it.

It will act independently if sufficiently separated from you, or otherwise prevented its not mimicking you. It will insist it is the 'real' one and act accordingly. It will claim you are a doppelganger that switched places with it with some trickery, if anyone asks. It's not lying. ESP backs up its claims. If it makes it out of the dungeon and you're welcome to play as it. It's not necessarily an enemy, but...

Things can get trickier when you meet an entire party of the things.

Life Taker-
You start hearing people talking about things you did, that you didn't do. An imposter! And a damnably good one too- not only is it doing things you were going to do anyway, it's doing things you wanted to do. Things you never told anyone else about. Building that tavern. Kissing the duchess. Beating the duke in a sword duel. Then come the dreams, hard to distinguish from memory and reality. Maybe some of those things were you, after all. The new scars are hard to deny, after all. Maybe it's more of a Jekyll/Hyde thing, and that's why you're tired by day and getting new scars by night. Or just too much carousing ale.

Or maybe this doppelganger can only pretend to be you when it's not near you. A wraithlike thing, a copy that's convincing to people so long as it's not a side by side comparison, that stalks you from a distance, only able to have what parts of your life you aren't around to contest, and every night, it comes to you, to see if its misty hands are strong enough to peel your skin and wring your neck and hide your body. All it needs is for more people to believe in it than in you, and then it will be strong enough to succeed, convincing enough that if anyone hears the struggle in your tent, they'll come to help IT, not you.

Mechanically, it's much like a wraith that that steals a level/hd every time it fulfills one of your dreams or goes adventuring with your buds in your place while you stay nice and safe at home. This is the kind that has no real equipment until it kills you- until then, its rings are painted wood, its sword a tin toy.

Unlived- You return to your hometown and find you never left. You settled down and married the baker, and kiss your family every night. The town doesn't like this adventuring you, who staggered out of the forest reeking of elves and claiming that their neighbor and friend is the real fake and you're totally on the up and up.

You and this life you almost had can't bear the sight of each other. Existential dread aside, the jealousy is eating both of you alive. This baker's spouse has both its hands, because it came back to the village instead of going to the Tomb of the Serpent Kings. You have more gold than the mayor. The baker's spouse is well-liked. You're a local legend with your poise, your stories, your magic. The grass is looking greener on both sides, here. Maybe you can live with the reminder of the life you almost had glaring at you and gripping a bread knife. The Unlived can't. It will try to drive you away, ideally never to return. Framing you for a crime is a good idea. Killing you better still. It'll have the advantage of home turf and connections... Maybe you should deal with this thing first, before it tries something, and certainly before it reveals your... I mean, its true nature upon the unsuspecting townsfolk.

Or maybe you leave. Maybe that's enough for the unlived. Maybe it isn't. Maybe the life unlived dogs your footsteps, waiting for a chance to clean up a loose end threatening its idyllic little nest, not willing to chance that you might come back and do the same to it. Maybe it doesn't, and the thought of it existing just waits in the back of your head, forever.

Face Taker- Or, for a more overt kind of monster, this is the sort of thing that leaps at you from the darkness shrieking and flees in hit-and-run pack tactics, each Face-Taker always against the same person. It's soon revealed what's happening- if one touches your arm, it takes your arm and leaves a nasty grey limb with one less finger behind and runs off to admire its new healthy red-blooded arm for a while in the dark. And you can still feel your arm, attached to some other being, out past the torch light. You can sometimes move it, and sometimes your new arm moves with a mind of its own.

If this continues, you'll end up with each limb and finally your face stolen and swapped. You might get parts that have disease, or mutations, or mutilations (1/6 chance each swap). When your arms are the gross face-taker arms, your strength is 8. Legswap gives you 8 dex. Body swap, 8 con. Face swap, 8 cha. Maybe killing them will make everything go back to normal if your GM is merciful. If not though, there's only one thing to do- catch the monster and force or trick it into touching your head one last time, making it swap the last thing that's yours- the brain. Then you'll be in your own body again, naked, and the face-taker will be back in its foul body, admittedly wearing all your gear but hey, this is the plan B after 'don't get hit.'

Monday, March 9, 2020

Dogs and Dolphins

 OG Dog
Two types are detailed- mighty guard dogs with 2+2HD that deal 2d4 damage, and wild dogs which are half as powerful. At 25GP a dog, a horde of slavering canines is an incredibly effective way to increase the party's combat capacity in theory, but in practice dogs are quite vulnerable to dying en-masse to dungeon traps and scarier monsters(anything that level-drains on touch comes to mind), and while it's great to have a horde of dogs vs a bunch of gnolls or whatever, it becomes a huge pain in the ass when you have to traverse a rope the thief set up over a wall or a lava pit or whatever.

BFRPG dogs have great morale and do a 'bite and grapple' dog which I think better suits how dogs attack, and are more on par with AD&D wild dogs.

3.5 Dogs can make trip attacks if trained for war, which is a good simulation of dragging people to the ground, but apart from that they are essentially BFRPG dogs.

BFRPG and 3.5 assume the 1HD dog as the baseline, and call the 2hd dogs 'riding dogs' which are typically paired with halflings as steeds, an idea that makes sense,but was not included in the original monster manual. In fact, halflings were stated to have (in the lair) 1d4 of the smaller dog variety, indicating that in original AD&D, rather than riding heroically on dog-back, the halflings much more sensibly drowned their enemies with remote dog swarm tactics. But I digress.

While one might be inclined to dismiss the Alignment: Lawful Good of these bastards as merely a naive 70's sentiment, further perusal of the entry shows that these dolphins are a fantastic departure from reality, as AD&D dolphins have either swordfish or narwhales as guard animals. They also attack sharks unless outnumbered 2-to-1. Further mechanics on dolphin-on-shark violence can be found in the shark entry but as this is already a double post with dogs, I will refrain from that tangent...

No depictions of the Jackal God hanging out with dolphins will ever be seen again

Sunset Realm Dolphin
Basically, monkeys of the sea. Intelligent and playful, but largely irrelevant to ocean politics. It is rumored that they are the souls of humans who drowned in the ocean, which is why they are prone to helping drowning mammals and have a love of music. They are considerably rarer than in real life, having much more competition from the sea-monster filled depths of fantasy oceans. Marooned sailors sometimes sing to the sea in the hopes of attracting dolphins to take them home, and ocean-adjacent wizards sometimes listen to dolphin-song in the hope of learning sea-spells. (While it would be far more efficient to contact the Ningen, those giant fish-people are quite intimidating to tiny, edible land-lubbers).
Finally, dolphins are popular among Beast Islander witches as potion ingredients- more specifically, their milk, as aquatic-creature milk is exceedingly rare and hard to get, but a vital ingredient for certain potions intended for ocean use.

Sunset Realm Dog
Simply put, dogs are basically what they are in real life, but with mythical explanations for domestication. As they are so popular with humans, there are two gods that take credit for gifting the dog to humanity. Our Lady of Gardens claims domestication of wild dogs and wolves, which seems reasonable on account of being responsible for domesticating most farmed species. On the other hand, the Jackal God of Yuba claims divine creation of dogs as a gift to humanity, which seems reasonable because dogs are a great boon to humanity, and the Jackal God having a whole 'dog reincarnation' thing going on with worshipers and dogs and being furious with those who would abuse this gift.

Of course, there are other explanations, though less popular. Elves have dogs of their own called Cu Sidhe (double-sized green-haired irish wolf setter lookin beasties) and depending on who you believe, these creatures are either sylvan simulacra of actual dogs, or dogs are actually goblinoid derivatives of these elven creatures. This line of thinking leads to the question of if humans are in fact, goblinoid derivatives of either elves or apes, a concept too shocking to be seriously considered for most people.

The heleognostic theory posits that there was a common ancestor of dogs and wolves, and the separation is a result of dogs growing orderly and lawful in the daylands, and wolves becoming monstrous due to moonlight and darktaint out in the moonlands. The variety of dogs as compared to that of wolves is the opposite of how such things usually work though, so this is one of the weaker theories from the scholars of heleologos.

The Really Good Dog of the Sunset Realms:

Levels, etc: As Fighter
  1. You're a Dog, Pedigree, Best Friend
  2. Best Friends Fight as One!, Doge Dodge
  3. Best Friends Never Give Up!
  4. Dog Quest, Takedown
  5. Talking Dog, Sniff The Air
  6. New Tricks

You're a Dog
You can't hold things in your hands. You can't climb ropes or ladders. Your Movement is 50 (Human Movement is 40). Your bite attack does either d6 and can latch on to auto-hit each round thereafter (as a dagger in a grapple) as you shake an arm or leg, or deal d8 or d10 damage as you go for the throat or belly.  You do not start with any items. You can follow (most) scents, and recognize scents you've encountered before.  You can understand the words of your fellow PCs and those that your fellow PCs are talking to (via body cues and doggy intuition), but if you are interacting with NPCs alone, you are pretty clueless.  You understand Common, but cannot speak it yet.  You speak Canine fluently.

You're an amazingly intelligent dog: roll Int normally, but be aware that this is doggy Intelligence, and isn't suitable for all things.  For example, you can spot a trap, count coins, or remember a location you haven't been to in years.  However, you probably can't solve linguistic puzzles or use tools, because smart dogs aren't smart in that way.

Best Friend
Pick a best friend. When side by side, either of you can choose to take damage/failed save effects to save your friend, typically by leaping between them and the danger. This designation is permanent (until story/DM say otherwise).  If your Best Friend dies, you can pick a new one after playing 1 full session as a sad, sad dog.
Pedigree- If you are a mundane doggo, you get +10% xp and whatever ability you can convince the GM you should have, like greyhounds being fast or chihuahuas being really sneaky when hiding under things. If you are a Blink Dog, you can teleport anywhere within 80 feet, more than that and your doggy eyes can't see very well. Darkness and blindness do indeed stop this. Furthermore, enemies must match your initiative roll exactly (or prepare to strike you and no one else if initiative is not being used) or be unable to strike you in melee before you teleport away. This replaces Dodge.
If you are a Hell Hound, you can breathe fire 10' long, dealing 1d6 per level if you spend a round doing naught but huffing and puffing. (enemy saves v dragon breath to avoid). You are also a Bad Dog so you have to be tsundere about all your best friend powers.
If you are a Wolf your shadow soul is exceptionally strong and you are immune to mental coercion, and only ever get positive mutations (but are anathema to worshippers of Our Lady of Gardens and hunters from Vint-Savoth).
If you are a Fox you don't exist (but see Blink Dogs)

Doge Dodge
While unarmored and able to defend yourself, you get a bonus to your AC equal to your level. (this does not stack with 'AC=Dex if unarmored and HP is max)

Best Friends Fight As One!
If you and your Best Friend attack the same enemy simultaneously, and both attacks hit, the enemy takes an additional +1d6 damage. In the event of attacking something like a fire elemental that's immune to normal weaponry, the +1d6 damage still applies so long as at least one of you has the appropriate tool.

Best Friends Never Give Up!
If your Best Friend is ever at 0 HP, you can lick their face to restore 1d6+1 HP.  If your Best Friend is ever paralyzed, mind-controlled, raging, or otherwise out of control, you can lick/bite them (whichever is more appropriate) to give them a new save against the effect.  Only works on things that allow saves in the first place.

Dog Quest
At a certain point, you will attract the attention of the local dog populace, or perhaps the Jackal God of Yuba himself.  They will give you a quest to prove your doggishness and earn the collar of a true champion.
  1. Slay a Cat Lord(Rakshasa) that has taken up residence somewhere within a day or two.
  2. Prevent the ascendancy of a nascent Cat Lord- a cat killing dogs, or a tiger killing humans. As cats and tigers are still mortal, a complication (like the cat being the favored pet of a witch, or a tiger being a war-animal of a bounty hunter) is almost certainly the true reason the dogs can't do it themselves.
  3. Hunt down a Bad Dog(Hellhound). Redemption is more possible than with cats, but the threat of the Bad Dog corrupting others means things are time-sensitive.
  4. Venture into the Mirror Realm and drive off a Puma-That-Walks. The peril lies more in the journey than your quarry.
  5. Aid a despairing and broken Jackal Priest to regain their vim and vigor due to them being-
    1- Unlucky in Love 2-Mourning loss of life and limb 3- Kidnapped family 4- Deep in debt 5- Drug-Addicted 6- Crisis of faith, considering cats
  6. Bark all night long, every night, for a month to ward off Darkspawn from the local lord's manor. This is a thankless task, as they will view you only as a noisy mutt disturbing their rest.

If you refuse or fail this quest, you will be shunned by the Dog Clans of the cities and cannot level up further.  If you succeed, you will win allies among the Dog Clans, and can call on their help in the cities.  Examples of help: gossip, relaying messages, safe houses, and in certain circumstances--a whole pack of mangy street dogs who will fight for you.
Sniff the Air
You can smell monsters 1 turn (10min) before they arrive. The DM rolls on the wandering monster table and describes what one of the monsters smells like.  If you've encountered that type of monster before, you can identify it.  (Communicating the information, however, might be tricky.) You may also detect poison and harmful magics within '1' if you actively sniff for them.
When you bite an opponent no larger than a human, you can force them to save or fall prone.
Talking Dog
Through magic or mutation or simply practice and observation, you can now speak the common tongue.

New Tricks- You may reset your level to 1 (reduce HP and saves accordingly), keep all your dog powers, and start leveling up as something else.
If you do not do this, you have reached the level cap, congratulations.