Sunday, 31 July 2016

The Order of Nemesis

Image from Paizo
Paladins are holy warriors. The lead the charge against the enemies of their God, pushing back the grand forces of Chaos and Evil to the edges of civilisation, hoping one day to wipe it out entirely.

They are shining beacons of righteousness and hope to all.

Except the little people.

When the Paladins stroll through town, they ask about demonic invasions, Orc warband movements, or the doings of the Evil Overlord next door. While dealing with Capital Letter Chaos and Evil, they rarely have the time to ask about corrupt landlords, abusive spouses, or uncaring madams, and even if they do, they simply dont care about these minor doings in the grand scheme of Evil.

But The Order of Nemesis cares.

Dedicated to an ancient Goddess (Nemesis, Lady Vengeance, She), considered heretical by most of the faiths of the land, The Order is made up of those who will not stand by and watch the innocent suffer. Recruited from the lowest rungs of society to protect those who can't protect themselves, they are the Grey Guardians of many a city - even if their presence is passed off as simply superstition.

Recruits are taken from those who are wronged and wish for only one thing - revenge. Once She hears their prayers, they awaken one day with an oily, grey dagger under their pillow, and a message in their hearts.

Go seek your vengeance, my Child.

If they go through their retribution, they are inducted into The Order soon after, donning no uniform bar a grey cloak and their dagger.

The Order of Nemesis always has its ear to the ground - seeking out corruption and evil in the lowest parts of society, and providing revenge for those who cannot seek it themselves. They can make excellent allies, willing to share information to take down a high-priority target, or fierce enemies if you managed to wrong someone under their protection.

Order of Nemesis Code of Honour

  • Protect those who cannot protect themselves
  • The lowest of Men deserve the same as any other
  • Any crime against the weak must be avenged
  • No man is beyond Her reach - not even Her Children
  • Forgiveness is weakness
In game terms, the Order is made up of Assassins. In systems where Assassins gain spells, they may choose spells from either the Assassin or Paladin spell lists. While they have to be at least Lawful, most are Lawful Evil.

Friday, 29 July 2016

The Dungeon Mascot! An OSR Hireling Class

Wroot The Goblin by Christopher Burdett
When you are deep underground, fighting for your survival against horrors born in darkness, inimicable to your sanity, it can be a welcome relief to find a friendly face. Often, these are less powerful enemies who are more likely to surrender in exchange for their lives (or even a share of the treasure!). But, these party favourites can become a liability at higher levels, making them more likely to die at the hands of some deep horror or ancient trap.

Letting them advance in this class might help with the survivability of the players new "pet", and might even lead to them to becoming a valuable party member! Or, knowing the average players, just another meatshield...

Requirements: Must be a small creature of 1HD or less, must have rolled max on the Reaction Roll upon first meeting them.
HD: 1d4+1
Attack: As Thieves
Saves: As Thieves
XP: As Cleric
Weapons and Armour: As Thieves
Level Cap: 5

Dungeon Mascots are a great tool for adventurers, helping to keep morale up with their friendliness and obsequity. Any allies traveling with a Dungeon Mascot gain a +1 bonus on saves versus fear or insanity, and provide a +1 bonus to Morale to other Hirelings.

Dungeon Mascots also take on the role of packrat - they increase their carrying capacity by 25%.

They are also eager to please, and organise their hauls with surprising efficiency - once per delve, they can pull any mundane item worth 10gp or less from their packs (this takes a turn). Every level, this increases by 10gp (to 50gp at max level).

Once (and only once), they can throw themselves in the path of a lethal wound received by a PC, dying and making everyone a little sad. Some players with less scruples might abuse this, but such is the life of the Dungeon Mascot.

Poor little bastards.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Random Table - Goblins!!!

Artwork from the Pathfinder SRD
Goblins are a staple of every low-level adventurer's murder-diet. But they can get a little stale after a while. So, here's a random table to help determine exactly what kind of goblins are inhabiting your next dungeon...

Roll 1d10The Goblins Are Actually...
1Backwoods little cavemen. Their weapons are crafted from bone, any armour is leather and bone, and they train various dire and prehistoric animals as guard animals and attack beasts. Their chief rides an odd rat-sabertooth hybrid (stats as a sabertooth/lion with a disease bite)
2Masters of alchemy, in a trailer-park meth lab kind of way. They sling alchemical bombs and weapons, some have been modified by their masters (stats as anything else, like Ogres, Otyugh etc. visually horribly mutated goblin-beasts), plenty of drugs as loot. Some even have weapons of crystallized poison (one-use, does damage and make a Save vs Poison at a -4 penalty).
3More than a little fey-tainted. They aspire to be more than their nature, but instead find themselves organised into grotesque mockeries of the Fey Courts, wearing mismatched clothes robbed from well-to do Halflings and Gnomes, and fighting with rusted rapiers and Elven weapons. Their speech patterns are filled with weirdly flowery prose mixed with base insults and filth.
4Ruled over by a Demon-descended goblin, head and shoulders taller than the others, with a cruel smile, all the immunities and one special ability from its parent demon. His followers paint their faces with blood, sacrifice captives, and worship him as a God. May have some least demons in his service as well.
5Infected with spores from a weird fungus in the dungeon. At night they are placid - you could even just walk right past them. But during the day, they wander the dungeon aimlessly, until the find a source of light brighter than ambient - then they suicidally rush it, hoping to infect more organisms until someone carries their spores outside of the dungeon to be carried away on the winds to another dungeon. More advanced infectees sprout hideous growths and have blind, lifeless eyes.
6Have become strangely well-adapted to their dungeon environment - pale and hairless, bulbous blank eyes, lanky limbs with claws and oddly sticky hands - stats as Kobolds, plus perfect darkvision, permanent Spider Climb, and a severe aversion to light (they flee from light, and if forced to fight fight at -3 to all rolls). They go out of their way to remove or extinguish torches.
7Cargo cultists who worship ancient Dwarven machines within their dungeon. Many wear brass armour and jewelery, and any with standing in the tribe (lieutenants, the chieftain) have Dwarven weapons (+1 damage), and may have constructed the ever-feared Goblin Tank from inexpertly-welded shields and scraps.
8Brutal little cannibals. They wear demi-human skin-masks, carry cleavers and rusty kitchen tools, and don't kill their victims, instead capturing them to keep them fresh. There is a 25% chance that any given goblin is afflicted with a prion disease from eating brains (permanent berserker state, foaming, unable to tell friend from foe). Their areas always smell of cooking pork, and their loot often contains some pretty tasty jerky. 
9Oddly in touch with nature. They only use wooden weapons, wear leather armour, and their senior members (lieutenants,etc) have the abilities of a Ranger of their HD. The Chieftain has abilities as a Druid of her HD. Their areas are full of Assassin Vines and Shriekers which don't react to the goblins, and many animals (both regular and Dire) wander with them.
10Seem pretty nice. They're converts to the local religion, they trade with the locals, and are well-groomed and respectable. This is a front - they're all thralls of a powerful psionic creature, who uses them to allow him to trade for valuable components for a great machine it's building, to allow it to control hundreds of beings at a time.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

What's The Deal With The Guy In The Corner Of The Tavern?

So, like I said - it's been a while since I posted here on the regular, and I'm still finding my feet with what to write about. Maybe some random tables will help get me in the groove again...

What’s With That Guy in the Corner?

Every tavern has That One Guy who sits in a darkened corner, mysteriously brooding or brooding mysteriously. What the hell is his deal?

He’s Actually…
Recruiting for a Chaotic cult. Might be a good way to gain access to some unusual abilities… or end up chained to a sacrificial altar.
A thickly-accented peddler from some unheard-of foreign land. His goods are of fine quality, but unusual – odd tinctures and alchemical mixes, drugs, black powder weapons – whatever just slightly breaks the feeling of your current location.
Offering quests, surprise surprise. There’s a 10% chance he’s working with local bandits, who will attempt to rob the players when they reach their destination.
Attempting to sell phony magical trinkets to drunken patrons, preying on local fears. 1% chance that it actually works!
A member of the Thieves Guild, watching out for thieves of particular talent for a job, or eyeing up drunken adventurers with gold burning a hole in their coin purse…
A sorcerer, offering money for willing participants in various experiments. He pays well, but there’s always the chance something might go wrong… (Roll 1d4: 1 – random stat reduced by 1d4 2 – random stat increased by 1d4 3 – Minor physical change 4 – Roll on mutation table!)
A randomly generated Hireling, who simply wants to try and con for better prices through being so mysterious.
An actor hired by the tavern owner to add atmosphere. He’ll angrily shoo people away who try to break his mystique.
A Murder-Brother of the Assassin’s Guild, looking out for a particular target – he’ll happily give gold for information… just pray he's not looking for you.
The Small God of Loose Lips – will ply patrons with drinks in the hope of them letting loose some valuable little tidbit as tribute… Save vs Magic at -4 to resist.
A Paladin of Nemesis, Goddess of Revenge. He's keeping an eye out for the wronged and helpless, to aid them in finding their retribution.
Awaiting the arrival of a band of Halfling adventurers. They owe him some money, and he’s looking for some leg-breakers to help deal with his little problem…

5e's Unearthed Arcana - My Thoughts

So, in an effort to stave off the splat-treadmill of 3rd edition D&D (a tradition still alive in Paizo's ridiculous amount of books for sale and more on the horizon), WotC has been keeping releases to a minimum - one Adventure Path every 6 months or so, and so far only a single actual sourcebook.

There's also the fact that the D&D team has been downsized dramatically - leading to a lack of people to work on new products.

This lack of "official" content has led to an interesting experiment - the "Unearthed Arcana" articles posted monthly. These are short little documents detailing a variety of new rules - new races, class options, some hints to help set a 5e game in a classic setting, or in-depth looks at alternatives for current rules. These are all marked as "early" content - they might not be fully balanced, might show up in a different form in later books. As they say in the intro, "they're written in pencil, not ink." But they do what they set out to do pretty well - give some examples of how to adapt content, and to encourage others to try and make their own content.

Indeed, one can see the recent launch of the DM's Guild as a way to have their cake and eat it. The service allows users to post their own homebrewed ideas, and even get charge for it! Players now have all the content they could want, without having to use vital resources or to stretch their staff even thinner.

But let's focus on the Unearthed Arcana articles. Are they good for the game?

Well, yes and no.

For the good; it's a nice way of releasing small loads of content to fans, while keeping it all optional - if its not in a book, GMs don't necessarily feel forced to include it in their campaigns. It also allows the GMs who want a little more of an example how to alter existing material, to give an unofficial "okay" to those who want to homebrew content. (Of course, this aspect has been supplanted by the DM's Guild). It's also nice to see some love for setting that have't been fully updated yet (the Eberron and Dragonlance mini-bits were surprisingly decent), and lets WotC gauge interest in what content to release next. It's a nice way to maintain interaction with the community, especially now that the Wizards forums have been removed.

But, we come to the bad.

First off, the actual content of these articles varies... wildly. From the awesomely in-depth look at Feats, which picks apart what makes a good Feat and why they only included a few in the core rules, to the most recent - a series of tables to quickly roll up a character. Which honestly takes about as much time as just... making a character. While this is to be expected of what amounts to random doodles from the developers, it does mean that a decent amount of the material released is not going to be any use to your audience - and that's pretty crap when it's the only extra material they get.

Second, it can have something of the opposite effect to what was stated above - instead of encouraging people to go ahead and make their own stuff, people coming from more restrictive systems find themselves having to use these articles as a source of extra options - after all, it comes straight from the developer's pen, so it must be official (wording to the contrary be damned).

And thirdly for the bad stuff - why haven't they done a Dark Sun one yet, dammit!?

All in all, it's an interesting experiment, combining standard practices with the random releases of a developer's blog. I'd like to see more companies follow suit, but a little more creative control wouldn't go amiss.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The Generic Fantasy Skirmish Game - Now Available!

So, after many years of struggle (and forgetting about the project), I finally got around to finishing my conversion of In The Emperor's Name to a fantasy milieu.

I even gave it a proper name! CLASH. Sounds nice and skirmishy, without being too over-blown.

This game is designed to allow players to use any miniatures they have to hand, and to make sure games are relatively quick. At most, you'll need 3-15 miniatures, some random gubbins for terrain, a D6 per side, and maybe some scatter dice and templates.

The first draft is split into two sections - one with the main rules (like how to price up models, combat and spellcasting, and some sample scenarios), and the second one is given over to the Warband listings. Of course, if you find something that isn't covered, feel free to use the rules in the first part to make your own!

The next releases will probably be either specific scenarios, maybe some bonus rules for Campaigns, or just random extra Warbands that pop into my head.

The CORE RULES are here.

The WARBANDS are here.

As this is the first real draft, please feel free to leave comments, criticisms, hate mail and death threats. But please - go try the game, and let me know what you think!