Friday, October 15, 2021

Five Point Magic (Part 1)

 Alright this is like draft five, had to scrap the last one cuz it was getting to complex and boring to read about. We don't want that now do we?

This is part one. Later posts are gonna be about specific settings, mechanics and individual examples of the following.

Magic in my games almost always takes one or more of the following five forms.

  1. Ritual Magic
  2. Skill Magic
  3. Rule Magic
  4. Extrinsic Magic
  5. Intrinsic Magic

Exactly how they function mechanically depends on which one it is, and the game. As do the more diegetic elements like what you need to do for the rituals.

All of these cross over a lot. They're not distinct categories, just sort of features of the games I run (and I enjoy tying mechanics together in ways that simplify the game).

In detail however...

Soulcatchers Aerie from Magic the Gathering. Thank theisticGilthoniel
for enabling me.

Ritual Magic

Typically works like this, in that they have specific costs and require specific actions to gain specific results. Often they require some special method of teaching or learning them, a grimoire, scroll or ancient tablet won't cut it, but might be your "key" into actually learning it if that makes sense.

Rituals with specific effects will have specific costs, while rituals with scaling effects will have the necessary cost scale proportionally.

Some rituals may be a bit more flexible or powerful than others, these ones are often especially costly.

Skill Magic

This is for anything from weird languages to divination methods. Mechanically this is usually bound up in the skill system, if there is any. If not then they're liable to have their own sub-system. Either way this is for skills which allow you do to weird things. They aren't spells, and there isn't really a limit to how often you can do these, but they do not guarantee an effect (imagine trying to convince a boulder to get up and crush some heads).

Rule Magic

This refers to the metaphysical rules that interact with magic. Think the metaphysics behind "true names" or the "paradigm" in Magical Industrial Revolution that lets you experiment with stuff. In my own games this takes the form of True Names bestowing a moderate amount of power over the being/person, The Law of Similarity (poppets), The Law of Contagion (using someone's favorite shoes to divine facts about them) and the law of Synecdoche (a lock of hair can be used to cast magic upon someone at a distance).

Generally this is a modification to the previous two forms of magic, mechanically its more of a "theme" that persists throughout my games. "Realistic" magic, that resembles actual magical practices (but with much of the ambiguity stripped away).

Extrinsic Magic

Anything that comes from the external world. In some games this is just magical objects (think the oddities or arcana of Into The Odd) but in many others this is natural things that can be found and have mystical applications. Possibly the most ambiguous, as healing herbs are often nonmagical but still count under this.

Entheogens (psychoactives/psychobotanicals taken for ritual purposes) count under here too. If it comes from things you find, its here.

Intrinsic Magic

Magical "powers." The simplest mechanically. Here is something you can just do. Not necessarily magical in nature, as above, but includes magical things in it. Can also be weird without being magical (psychic powers, pyroclastic glands, other stuff like that).

No Spells? What about wizards?

Nope. I find the traditional way magic is run in games to be fairly bland, and it often seems to try to count a number of different things under the mechanics that frankly shouldn't be under them. Some spells are blatantly rituals while others are implied to be supernatural-quality herbal remedies.

My games typically do not have classes anymore. I prefer to soft-specialize characters without totally removing their ability to do certain things. A "wizard" character would be a character who chose a starting package that granted them rituals or magical skills, who then improved or expanded their skills and knowledge in-game.

If you want some form of Vancian-like casting, some rituals provide temporary power, and while "Pacts" are not mentioned as a type of magic up there, thats because they're a function of several of the previously mentioned ones. A Pact or Covenant of some kind may be able to grant you power beyond your wildest dreams... At a price of course.

Because that's the prime rule of magic right? It always has a price.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Awakening: Modern Occult Horror

 It is time.

Gravity falls is a huge inspiration to me.


For nearly all of human history and prehistory, the mystic and the occult have existed alongside us. Those who understand and utilize mystical forces have been called many names, and inhuman entities always have and always will exist alongside our "mundane" reality.

In the past, this was open and blatant. However, as the Church grew in power, and as those in power grew suspicious of those with preternatural capabilities, repression and secrecy have been the norm for the last few centuries. Enlightenment era philosophy and strict control over society have forced the occult even further into the backdrop.

However, such things cannot last.

With the advent of computer networking and global communication networks, it was inevitable that something would happen that would finally shatter the dam of unbelief.

In 2005, something awoke. A series of protoplasmic lifeforms from the depths of an undercity emerged and wreaked havoc on the local population of continental Europe. Significant firepower, and occult bindings, were deployed to finally quell the menace, but not before several buildings, hundreds of lives and thousands of livelihoods were ruined.

That was sort of the final nail in the coffin of the "masquerade." Global communications weren't too advanced but they were good enough to finally burn that thin veil down.

Its believed the previous event is one of the main causes for the 2008 market crash, and other less mundane disasters.

It is now 2025. A mere 2 decades after the occult was fully revealed. This is where we are now.

Imagine if a sword and sorcery weird/dark fantasy world progressed to the modern age, and the enlightenment resulted in a repression of inhumans, occult practices etc. Then the internet (and weird Lovecraftian slimes) busted open that façade. That's the setting.

Scp Foundation too. Souce: "Sunny Clockworks"

Tone and Themes

The idea is to not be overly pessimistic about the innate evils of humanity, while also going full throttle into the horrors humanity can be.

"Humans are the real monsters" is boring, but some humans are certainly monstrous. So players will encounter some fucking evil people, but most people don't want to murder them in their sleep.


Magic isn't unilaterally 100% evil. It is, however, dangerous. The mechanics reflect this.

You can play as inhuman beings, but there are things much worse than you out there. There always will be.

Basically, its horror but its not judgmental about humanity as a whole. Just those with too much power, hatred or lack of care for other lives. Monstrous things still exist though so you're not off the hook.

B.P.R.D. too. Ogdru-Hem and Ogdru-Jahad are awesome.

The World

I'm sort of "Arkhamizing" the world. Cities and towns exist basically in the same areas, but renamed and shuffled a bit, culturally, due to differences caused by the weirdness.

Deep time is as real life, but weirder things are woven into the fabric of it.

The world is being generated with Silent Legions and Esoteric Enterprises methods. They're good books for that.

Other realities sort of exist "alongside" our own. These range from a room that shouldn't be able to fit into a house, to an earth sized (or larger) realm with its own rules and laws of physics. These are collectively referred to as earths "Shoals" (singular, Shoal) due to them not being full universes. At least not obviously, some definitely have things in the sky that imply there's more to them, but that's neither here nor there.

Otherwise the specifics of the world are up in the air. Different games can and should result in different plots and cults being uncovered, different threats and different gods.

My personal setting is going to take place in the deep south of the United States. Urban, Suburban, Rural and Wilderness shits all throughout there so it should be fun and variable. No reason characters can't go to places outside, but that's the "setting" for my personal game.

Trevor Hendersons old found footage art too. Gods this is cool.

The Mechanics

Heavily modified from Esoteric Enterprises, mixed with a number of mechanics found around the web. I'll link inspirations or direct sources for certain mechanics if I can remember them. A post for character creation will be up soon, and then magic.

I'll make a masterpost of all the rules at some point, for players and people wanting to run with the system.

Anyways, thats it for now. Just needed to get this out so I can move on to working on the nitty gritty of the system.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Lord Mountain-Roc: A pariah NPC

Lord Mountain-Roc was named for the mighty spirit of the mountains that exist close to his home jungle.

His exact age is unknown, as his troop does not keep track of moons or seasons, existing in a quixotic timeless state of mind.

Mountain-Roc was initially seen as the weakest of his many siblings, however he was clever beyond his fellows.

He learned that the other wandering people utilized strange plants to contact the spirits that his troop feared and did not understand, and so he found the Mystics Mushroom and the Sorcerers Vine and learned of the realms of Dawn and the ancestral There.

From the inhabitants, he forged a covenant, learning the secrets of sorcery in the process.

Lord Mountain-Roc is also a very very big Gorilla. Just like his family.

Among his peers, Lord Mountain-Roc is a legend already, a great culture hero. Among the settled people, he is a great forest demon who conducts raids against their food storage.
Lord Mountain-Roc has great ambitions, plans that would sound alarmingly human to anyone who heard them.

He has a Goal. It is the indefinite survival of his troop, and its expansion into a major jungle power. He does not want to be seen as a dumb beast. He is not a dumb beast. He wants his troop to become too powerful for the settled people and their ilk to consider threatening. He speaks softly, but he would like a much larger stick.

He has a Plan. It is alarmingly clever. He knows of the mystical properties of the Mystics Mushroom. He can be understood with its power. He will offer it. He will offer alliances. He will offer protectors and he will offer resources. They are bribes, he is honest about this. He wants to establish trade with other nomads as well as the settled people. He wants to incorporate other troops, and create a true culture. He does not revel in violence, but he considers it a tool as any other. Don't piss him off.

He has an Itch. His children are grown up, and he wants to pass on his knowledge of sorcery and mysticism. He wants his troop, his culture, his people to learn and know the arts he considers sacred. He is frustrated by their lack of interest. If any Pariahs can convince his children, or at least the children of his troop, to ignite their spark of curiosity, he would be deeply indebted to them.
He also desires to know of the other Realms. He is familiar with Dawn and There (as well as the Here and Now, clearly) but Sun, Moon and Dusk confuse him. If any Pariahs can share knowledge and access to these realms, he would be deeply indebted, but that knowledge could be quite dangerous...

The legendary Beast-King.

His troop count as a major nomad tribe, with the following Strengths, Weaknesses, Hopes and Fears.
  • Strengths: They're god damn gorillas. They're strong and have a strong internal structure. One of them could take on several warriors and come away alive and ready for more. They also have a surprising willingness to negotiate.
  • Weaknesses: They can't communicate without the Mystics Mushroom. Despite the troop having incorporated several other gorilla troops, it still has relatively low numbers, making establishing themselves difficult. They lack a certain amount of curiosity, and technology.
  • Hopes
    • To establish trade with settled people and nomadic people.
    • To gain knowledge of (or at least access to) the Dusk, Sun and Moon.
    • To incorporate the remaining gorilla troops throughout the region.
  • Fears
    • Internal struggles will tear them apart.
    • External threats will remove their power.
    • Violence will consume the humans, and them.

The following stat blocks are for Mountain-Roc and generic Gorillas. The first ones will be for Pariah as written, the second ones are for my own heavily edited system.

Note that "Mutant Pariah Clone" just refers to my house-ruled version of Pariah.

Generic Gorilla, Pariah

No Appearing: 2d6
HD: 4d10+8
Defense: 15
Attack: 1 Bite/ 2 Punches (16, 1d8/1d8/1d8)
Speed: 30' (90')
Morale: 9
Size: Humanoid
Mind: Bestial, Curious, Sapient, Social, Territorial

Treat as strength 18 skill 1d8 for grapple.

Generic Gorilla, Mutant Pariah Clone

No Appearing: 2d6
Flesh: 2d10+6
Grit: 2d10+4
Defense: +5
Attack: 1 Bite/ 2 Punches (+6, 1d8/1d8/1d8)
Speed: 30' (90')
Morale: 9
Size: Humanoid
Mind: Bestial, Curious, Sapient, Social, Territorial

Treat as strength 18 skill 1d8 for grapple.

Lord Mountain-Roc, Pariah

No Appearing: Unique, found among 2d6 Gorillas as part of a gathering/pathfinding party, or found among his tribe (Him + 45 gorillas, 5 of which have bound spell-spirits.
HD: 6d10+12
Defense: 15
Attack: As gorilla or bound spell-spirit.
Speed: 25' (75')
Morale: 7
Size: Humanoid
Mind: Curious, Sapient, Social

Lord Mountain-Roc is an NPC that you probably won't start out fighting. He's not unreasonably violent. He's likely to be a quest-giver or the like. Directly fighting him is unlikely. His tribe is immensely protective of him. He has a bound spell-spirit of the Dawn, a necklace with 5 stones, one of which has 3 bound spell-spirits of the here and now, another having 2 bound spell-spirits of There. The other stones are empty. He's saving them for other realms.

Lord Mountain-Roc, Mutant Pariah Clone

No Appearing: Unique, found among 2d6 Gorillas as part of a gathering/pathfinding party, or found among his tribe (Him + 45 gorillas, 5 of which have bound spell-spirits.
Flesh: 2d10+8
Grit: 4d10+8
Defense: +5
Attack: As gorilla or bound spell-spirit.
Speed: 25' (75')
Morale: 7
Size: Humanoid
Mind: Curious, Sapient, Social

This part involves actually hashing out my magic system, so until I get that done just use it as pariah.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Kith and Kin, 20 Questions and "Races"

This is meant to function as a Primer for both players and just people who wanna know about my fantasy setting. The exact genre is probably up for debate (I'm catching a "weird anachronistic bronze-age middle fantasy" vibe from it) but this isn't really concerned with genre. Anyways, I'm going to write about a few core things and then move on to setting/game questions posited by different lists.

People of the World

The people of the world are split into two rough categories, somewhat anthropocentrically. There are other sapient beings out there but these are the things you can play. The Kin and The Kith. The actual real-world versions are given in parenthesis at the end for each of the Kith and Kin.

The Kin can all interbreed with each other. They may have differing traits and adaptations, but they are not far enough away for it to be weird. They are all "Human," Not fantasy people. In fact they are fictionalized versions of various archaic human species. Hence the differing adaptations, but capacity for having viable children with each other.

They are:

  1. The Alfun. Very small, often more dexterous folk. Three and a half feet tall average. Native islanders, and at least one of their cultures is a naval and economic superpower (the Cerulean empire, named for the Cerulean Sea and Cerulean Coast which it controls). Have a much more complex social structure and higher "Dunbar's Number" than other people. Their small size has given them an intense sense of honor. Best not to fuck with them outside of friendly teasing. Like most of the Kin, they have a sloped forehead and varying skin tone. (H. Floresiensis)
  2. The Naedr. Tend to be around the lower half of Five feet, with women being shorter on average. Protruding brow is prominent. Native to the northern peninsula, where they are most densely populous, but have just as much (possibly more) individuals in the Polar region. Adapted to colder climates, suffering less than other Kin in such areas, but suffer more in Tropical regions (including the Equatorial sea, the center for trade in the continents). Have paler skin than most other Kin, due to their climate. Stronger and bulkier on average than the other Kin. (H. Neanderthalensis)
  3. The Jada. Vary fairly wildly in height, but mostly taller than other Kin, at the upper half of five feet, even pushing into the lower half of six feet. Name means "Strider", both due to their taller form making them seem to stride everywhere and their mostly nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyles. Native to the Savannahs of the southern continent, but have a significant presence in the great Central Steppe in the northern continent. Voices are relatively baritone compared to other Kin. Their versatility is their strength but they pay for it with a higher rate of mutation. Jada sub-types are usually just people with dramatic mutations. (H. Sapiens)
  4. The Sova. Native to mountainous regions. Comparable to Naedr in physiology and appearance, but darker skinned. Capable of holding their breath for significantly longer than other species, due to requiring less air overall. While adapted for a mountain habitat, they do not particularly struggle outside of it, though many have a mild hydrophobia due to being physically denser than other Kin, though their ability to hold their breath offsets this somewhat. (H. Denisovans)
  5. The Adama. Archaic relatives of the other kin. While the Kin have diverged from their common ancestor culture, the Adama remain relatively unchanged from this base form, counting as a subspecies of that ancestral "Ur-Kin" rather than a descendant. Quite rare and mysterious, native primarily to isolated regions in the Southern Continent. Carry ancient wisdom and knowledge, they are favored by the Spirits of the World. Despite this they do not necessarily know Kinspeech, and must pay for it like any other language. (H. Erectus)

Other Kin exist, in isolated areas or in distant unheard-of lands. The world is vast, vaster than we may know, and many mysteries still abound.

The Kith are distant cousins of the Kin. The Kith are unlikely to be able to interbreed with each other or any other species. Kith vary wildly in sapience and sentience, though all are known to use tools and fire. Many cannot speak any form of Kinspeech, but can utilize sign language. There are many varieties of Kith but major intelligent ones are listed as follows.

  1. The Giants. Primarily Knuckle-walking dwellers of the forests. While on their knuckles they stand easily at 6 feet tall, and when standing to their full height they average out at 10 feet. Isolationists, but will often form covenants with rural communities to protect them, in exchange for food and materials that they are incapable of gathering or forming on their own. Native to the eastern section of the Northern continent. (This is gigantopithicus)
  2. The Goblinoids. A large variety of furry ape-creatures. Fanged, territorial and violent. Complex social structures but not at the levels of other Kith or Kin. Can be bargained with or pressed into service, but they are a violent and rowdy bunch. (These are baboons and mandrills)
  3. The Bugbears. Larger than goblinoids. Have figured out more complex structures and tool use. Often raid settlements, but can be driven off with a loud enough display of aggression. Doing so may even make them subservient or allied to the community. Though peaceful communities may willingly choose to work with local communities. (These are Chimps and Bonobos)

Yet more Kith exist, far more than the Kin for sure. These are simply the most well known and numerous.

Culturally the Kith and Kin are both varied beyond number, even within their own species. Their vast numbers mean any single culture cannot dominate their species consciousness. There is just too many and over too much space.


I'll do this once I can actually figure out how to draw a map.

41(!) Questions

Taken from here and here. Might be shooting myself in the foot trying to answer all of these but eh.

Set the First!

  1. What is the deal with my clerics religion? Religions vary, but in general they are all derived from the basic core of "Living correctly." In terms of figures of worship, they can be spirits (ancestral, saintly, natural or otherwise), Godlings (powerful spirits, but not utterly overwhelming) or Broad archetypical beings that don't interact with the world too much, or if they do through vague means, such as omens. I'm probably gonna just make a post about religion.
  2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment? You start with some pretty standard equipment. Most settlements on trade routes have basic provisions and things you can buy. More rare and advanced things may require you to go to an actual city.
  3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended? Might be a bit of an issue, but a city smithery will probably be able to take custom commissions for extra pay.
  4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land? This is difficult to ascertain. Wizards are just one group of mystical people, and power between them is mostly a matter of available resources and/or sheer cleverness, and willingness to sacrifice. If we allow beings pretending to be wizards, then at least one godling often takes the form of one to enact mischief in the mortal world.
  5. Who is the mightiest warrior in the land? Yet again, difficult to tell. Individual power is not as important as numbers and tactics. So in terms of this, perhaps a Jada Nomad-King. Raw individual power probably goes to a Naedr warrior somewhere. There are some spirits and godlings which take the form of warriors.
  6. Who is the richest person in the land? Emperor Akapa Lahma the Third, who rules over the Cerulean Empire in the east (named for the Cerulean Sea and Cerulean Coast, which it controls). The Empire began as a series of disconnected Alfun island-nations, and has grown into a Mercantile union/Protectorate system. The vast coffers of the empire are fueled by its control over maritime trade (and underhanded agreements with pirates).
  7. Where can we go to get some magical healing? Druids for explicitly magical stuff. Wizards could do it too, but druids have a specific cultural duty to. Herbalism can seem magical in what it can do, but it isn't considered magic by those in the world. Each town probably has a handful of local herbalists who can aid you.
  8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath? So in order.
    1. Poison: Many herbs are known to cure poisons, or draw them out. The Herbalism skill is probably one you want someone to have.
    2. Disease: As above. Some cures require strange admixtures and unfortunate experimentation. Depending on the disease, a Druid or someone else trained in spiritual healing can probably help.
    3. Curse: Gonna need magic for this one. Curses are powerful spirits or afflictions of the soul. Will vary. Some require hard fucking work to overcome. Some cannot be cured after a point. Some are placed by spirits and you will have to do something for them first.
    4. Level Drain: N/A. Levels aren't a thing here.
    5. Lycanthropy: A curse. Will have to make peace with the spirit that placed it or get a druid.
    6. Polymorph: Probably just wait. They usually aren't permanent. It may be able to be undone with specific circumstances that you will know about somehow.
    7. Alignment Change: Alignment isn't a thing like in other games. Closest thing is having a patron, which cannot be forcefully changed.
    8. Death: There's probably something you can do here. Ghosts can be summoned and bound to things. Magic can animate stuff but that doesn't bring you back to life. Im sure you can think of some way to basically reanimate someone, but problems will probably still occur.
    9. Undeath: Usually just wait for the corpse to drop dead again. All magic requires sacrifice and if it runs out then you're good. Some undeath is caused by a curse or a spirit possessing a corpse, which is far more difficult to unravel.
  9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells? Its a prerequisite, actually. Sort of. Okay not a Guild specifically but initiation is required to gain access to magic. You probably have contacts if you know magic, even if they aren't Kith or Kin.
  10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC? Depends really. For the given examples, most cities have them. But nomadic groups will probably know stuff that city folk don't about herbalism, spirits and foraging. Ask around!
  11. Where can I hire mercenaries? Big cities. Jada nomads will sometimes sell their service to someone with money, but those are for specifically warrior cultures.
  12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law? Openly carrying weapons in most public areas requires a license of some kind. Magic is looked down on in some cities and nations, but usually if people know you're a magic user they're just going to want to pay you to do shit.
  13. Which way to the nearest tavern? Just down the road! Got the big sign. Can't miss it.
  14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous? Spirits and cursed people are sometimes sufficiently monstrous that you need to put them down, though that won't often stick (especially spirits. they don't die.) There are other monstrous things out there that aren't just "spirits" or "cursed people." The Northern Peninsula is famous for its strange chimeric abominations that frequently require slaying.
  15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight? The Cerulean Empire is butting a lot of heads. There is usually at least one war happening in the Northern Peninsula, though its relatively localized to just that small part of that subcontinent. Jada nomads aren't all good guys. Some are maurauders or raiders.
  16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes? Again, the Cerulean Empire has combat-sports. Most cultures have them. They aren't specifically arena-based and usually you're discouraged from killing your opponents but hey you probably weren't planning on doing that anyways, right?
  17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight? Sure. And they might have magic. Mystery cults are a type of religion (they aren't usually evil, just mysterious).
  18. What is there to eat around here? Depends! Lots of shit. Depends on the location or the culture.
  19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for? Oh yes. Plenty. Many cultures have arisen and fallen over the eons. Adama may be isolated and relatively technologically limited now... But this wasn't always the case.
  20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure? A lot of things are called "dragons." From spirits to animals to sapient creatures to chimeras and much much more.

Set the Second!

  1. Why were settlements founded here? Trade routes. Resources. Choke-holds. Holy-sites. Spiritual demands. The usual stuff.
  2. What are the local funeral customs? It varies based on culture. Cannibalism isn't common but isn't unheard of. Cremation, burial, excarnation, anything you can think of can be found in this world. Not following it usually causes a ghost to emerge, but worse things can happen depending on the person.
  3. How do settlements communicate with each other? Local settlements will slowly spread news through trade, courier or pigeon. Long range communication uses trade routes, but magic might be able to help.
  4. How dramatically does your campaign location change from season to season? Again, location dependent. The southern continent has wet and dry seasons, the northern continent does too but its far north regions have winter. The northern peninsula does as well.
  5. What are the three biggest local celebrations each year? The Festival of the Auroch is a common Kin celebration. Often accompanied by a manifestation of The Great Auroch. The Compact is also a common celebration, where dogs are thanked and pampered for a six day week. This is per agreement with the Wolf God. Lastly, there is a northern holiday, who's name translates to "Hearth-Consecration." Its celebration is said to consecrate the home on the darkest day of the year, to prevent it from being overrun by malevolent spirits. Farther north than that where the darkest day of the year is an entire lunar cycle, it is not celebrated in the same way.
  6. Where is the safest place for someone to stash a considerable sum of coins and treasure? The bank. They charge per interaction. Certain types of dragons run the most successful banks, which is pretty good insurance it will be safe.
  7. What is the local standard of medical technology in replacing missing bits and body pieces? Bio-alchemists can do wonderful things, but there may be side effects. Contact your bio alchemist if your arm begins to act on its own, spontaneously mutate, develop gigantism, atrophy or otherwise interfere with proper functioning.
  8. What are some local superstitions? Oh a great many. Mostly boils down to "don't insult the spirits" but it varies based on the culture, local animals and other environmental factors.
  9. What is the scariest local myth? The Jada have a great many, many of which are true. The Ghoul and its derivatives, the Demons of the Upper Air and other Dark beasties are all common. Of course, some Naedr worship/fear Bear spirits/demons, so it really depends on what you find scary.
  10. Who collects tribute and taxes for the Powers that Be? In the Cerulean Empire there are tax-ships. In other places, usually just a tax collector, who may or may not just skip some small locations if there's barely anyone there. Jada nomads are self-sufficient and don't pay tribute to anyone.
  11. What are the best places to get a drink around here? There are some larger enterprising taverns (especially in the Cerulean Empire), but every local area swears their drinks are the best. Its sorta just how people are.
  12. Where can you buy animals around here? Anywhere animals can be found, really. As long as who you're buying from values what you're offering. Barter is more common in Jada territory, but various currencies abound.
  13. What is the local settlement missing? Something is always missing, but not necessarily for long. Healers and herbalists tend not to live in most settlements, being that they often require natural environments that urban society does not provide.
  14. What is the local mascot of the town or region? Many areas do not have mascots. The Cerulean Empire has the "Cerulean Serpent" which may be an actual draconic being, or just a metaphor for the Imperial Families power. Many beings use Dogs of Bulls, for hopefully clear reasons. Pigeons are popular, but not often used as a mascot. They're simply an omnipresent backbone of society.
  15. Where is the best place to pick up a few hired Hands? People will do a lot for money, but not anything. Jada who are coming from nomadic clans and seek to settle in sedentary society will often be available for hire, but will not make significant sacrifices for it.
  16. What's the local take on the end of the world? Not really a concept that comes up. Its possible some ancient godling of immense power is waking up somewhere, but the end of the world isn't a threat that this setting will face. Not truly. Not yet.
  17. Is there a local hedge wizard, witch or shaman of no great power but one who cares for the locals who helps deal with their tribulations? Yep. Anywhere there are people who live in close proximity to nature there's bound to be at least one. In urban environments, it would be a hedge wizard, which is less common but not particularly rare.
  18. What games do locals like to play? Wrestling is a common way to settle scores or disagreements. People don't want to die, so duels to the death aren't common. Its also a popular spectator sport. Dice games and card games are also common.
  19. What crimes are punishable by death? Very few, but rape or murder are going to have it considered. Exile is more common, often with the addition of a tattoo or brand that marks you for your specific crime (and probably renders you unprotected by law).
  20. Have any great disasters destroyed local settlements? A Cerulean settlement was recently swallowed by a volcanic eruption. They are trying to figure out exactly what happened, and why the local volcano spirit did so.
  21. Where can you find maps of the local region? Cartographers are present in cities, and are sometimes present in towns if you're lucky. Local people probably know more about the "intuitive" geography of the place, so they could probably make you a map of sorts.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Cost of Magic (Aka, Oh god another magic system).

Oh boy yet another god damn magic system

Magic sure is fun, isn't it? Doing things which would otherwise be impossible through whatever means. And there are a lot of really good magic systems out there.

There's the classic spell slots system, with its endless permutations within mainstream D&D and Retro-clones. That's a familiar system and one that offers a genuinely interesting system to work with, as long as the rules and rulings cover more than just "point at x to blow it up."

The GLOG has a wonderful magic system, as I'm sure 95% of people who read this will agree. The magic dice, mishaps and dooms all characterize magic as potentially extremely dangerous and unpredictable, as well as ensuring that the casters don't quite know how many spells per day they have, adding to the whole mystique.

Buuuut for my own personal system, these feel a bit inadequate. There are probably more magic systems out there (in any form of media) than there are species of beetle. Do you know how many species of beetle there are? If you guessed anything lower than 100,000 you're going to be terrified when you look it up.

Aaaanyways. The previously mentioned two magic systems are good, but mechanically they convey very different styles of magic. Magic mechanics occupy this weird space in game design where they can't just be an abstract mechanic. The way the rules operate is very tied into how it works, and I was kind of dissatisfied with the different systems presented in games.

I think magic should have a price, and I want anyone capable of using magic to be able to somewhat gauge what they can do, but I don't want players to spend an abstract easily-regained resource for huge dramatic effects, at least not within my current system.

Then, I found this post. Its like... Less than a hundred words and basically just musings on a topic, but I wanted to build off of this core idea. So I did. Quite a bit.

Some important details going forward.

  1. My homebrew game system is classless and level-less (mostly. see below). Based off the lovely "Die Trying" and "Pariah" systems.
  2. It also takes inspiration from Esoteric Enterprises. There is a Grit/Flesh/Horrible Wounds system. This is somewhat relevant.
  3. I prefer freeform but somewhat intuitively understandable magic systems. Magic Words is good, but also not quite what I want to do.
  4. Despite there being no classes in my system, there are Glog-Like templates. Δ Templates to be exact. Only Δ Templates. Its going to be extremely rare to start off with one in my games, and many things are locked behind these. This leads directly into the magic system.

I want to do the impossible.

Alright, first, you need a Delta Template. I'm going to come up with a list of these, and they all have conditions, but long story short you need to undergo a fairly rigorous initiation. It doesn't have to cause permanent damage, or be morally repugnant (though it can be), but it does have to be extreme. Like, drugging yourself into another dimension and half-burying your body under a tree for a few days.

Once you fulfill the requirements for the template, congratulations! You can do magic! Though you may have to perform some form of maintenance to keep it "active."

(Side note: Inactive templates within this system do not give certain benefits, but may still give others. It varies and is a mechanic I want to explore in more depth.)

So, in addition to some sweet perks, maybe a some required maintenance, you can now do the impossible!

Okay but what can magic do?


Well kind of.

You see, all magic has a price. It can be personal, or it can be something else. It all depends on the context. Its a freeform system after all. The only real restriction I have is that they must be thematically linked to the desired outcome in some fashion.

Lets list out some examples.

  • Summoning something requires a sacrifice of 1 flesh dice per flesh dice summoned. Whatever is summoned probably has grit dice equal to their flesh dice (or it may be broken between many summoned entities). Flesh dice can also be spent to give it magical abilities.
  • Animating a corpse isn't extremely difficult. Bringing it back to full life is nearly impossible, but simple animation is fairly easy. Living things require food to survive (2 rations/day in my system, minimum). So by burning rations, you can animate a corpse. Each ration is 12 hours of animation, and the corpse may still perish.
  • Animating parts of a corpse is easier. crawling hands are relatively easy to make.
  • Animating constructs is similarly simple, requiring food.
  • Permanent animation may require summoning a spirit of some kind. Binding a spirit will probably require a sacrifice equal to or more than its flesh dice, but you could just... Talk to the spirit. Its an NPC after all, and not totally unreasonable (barring some extreme examples).
  • Grit is worth less than flesh, and so sacrificing it allows for only minor magics, often things you could already do but in impossible ways. Summoning a small flame, picking up a keychain, etc. These are basically cantrips.
  • Time is also a sacrifice. Time spent performing rituals can be used to offset other sacrifices. I'd say an hour = A flesh dice but you can probably eyeball it.
  • Like the example in the link above, digging a key into your hand (dealing 1 flesh damage and disabling that hand for the rest of the day) could unlock a door, but so could destroying a lockpick. (you might just want to use the lockpick on a door, but if it requires a passcode then the lockpick would still probably work)

And you can probably see the sorts of things this can do. Every impossible action carries a cost. I would probably come up with a table of relative costs and the sorts of things they can do. What dice equal how much time equal how much action and such. Generally thats going to vary from system to system though so I'll include it in the full document of my system or its own post.

But what about divination? Potion making? Artifice?

Urg, okay.

Divination is a skill in my system, using the same skill system as Pariah. Its not magic, at least not in the same way as the above system is.

In Pariah you roll a 1d6 and add it to your stat to see if you succeed at any given goal. If its over the target number you succeed. Skills just increase the size of the dice, up to a maximum of 1d12.

For divination you just roll the appropriate skill dice, no target number, and compare it to the following table (adapted from here). Each type of divination has its own separate skill dice.

    1-4: Vague, extremely cryptic and symbolic. Very very hard to interpret.
    5-8: Cryptic, but less vague and with obvious clues.
    9-12: Clear answer, but still a little bit mysterious. Details are vague, the rest isn't.
    13+: Clear as crystal. No need to interpret anything.

Certain things add bonuses to this, and some forms of divination require tools. I'll make a list of that later. Each time you do this, the maximum roll on your dice is reduced by 1. A full day without divining anything will clear this malus.

Herbalism, Brewery and other such things are also skills in my system, but how they work is a bit different. There are ingredients, with a variety of effects and interactions. I have a format for it in my head so I'll just make that its own post.

Artifice is just making real things. Swords and such. Making enchanted things or otherwise magical objects requires a sacrifice as above. Probably a long ritual too (which is a sacrifice, of time). Again, I'd eyeball it based on your system.

Other Ideas

Permanent magic powers require further initiation, or permanent sacrifice, or both. They're less versatile than the above system but they can be done basically at will. They may still have some freeform elements to them, depending on the ritual or sacrifice.

Restricting certain senses can expand other senses. Or a specific sense. Either improving them or adding supernatural ones.

Some monsters and forces may have an easier time with magic, especially Godlings.

Getting power from faith and religion requires an initiation rite (obviously, love me some initiation rites) and certain rites and devotions can do specific things. These are ritualized and often easier than the above system, but joining a faith comes with complications (both political and magical). Or you can just have religion work differently, like insulting a god giving a chance of being cursed. That works too.

Going into the Otherworld (or other worlds in general) requires drugs. Psychoactive entheogens. Taking lower doses of those can also count as a sacrifice.

The death of an entire town isn't because of the curse, it probably caused it.

This won't be the last I talk about this system, but this concludes my current thoughts on it. Ciao for now.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Magic User Origins

 The Clever Folk come from many walks of life and learn in many different ways, and are called many different names. Collectively they are feared and respected and beloved and reviled, though attitudes will differ from kingdom to kingdom, hell even village to village.

(If you couldn't tell by the Wikipedia link this is for my pre-Christian pseudo-European setting. Any anachronisms are either intentional or stuff I don't care about. these tables are sort of designed with that "kind" of setting in mind, but you could probably use a slightly reskinned one in any game.)

In terms of rules, I'm trying to keep this system-agnostic, but they are sort of designed with my own magic system in mind. these are things you add onto your magic user characters that provide an additional benefit.

Roll 1d6

  1. You read a scroll and accidentally changed your perception of the world forever. Start with Wizard Vision.
  2. You studied under a learned master. The specifics of your relation to the master are up to you and the referee (antagonistic? understanding? apathetic?), but you start off knowing of them and being able to contact them. They are level 3+1d6, if that ever becomes necessary.
  3. You studied in a guild/college of magic. The total number of students any given year probably weren't higher than a few dozen and the passing rate is fairly low, so you know of a handful other Wizards. You probably have a debt though, which is probably why you adventure.
  4. You are self-taught. Perhaps you were a servant sneakily stealing books from an incompetent noble or you found the ruins of another wizards stronghold and managed to learn the basics from there. Maybe you learned the way the first magic users did, whatever that is. You have a bit of a charm compared to other magic users. The distrust most feel regarding magic users doesn't touch you as much as anyone else.
  5. You were born the seventh child of a seventh child (or the fifth child of a fifth child, or something else equally mystical.) This seems to be a bit of a big deal with certain entities and other magic users.
  6. Someone or something meddled in your birth/conception. Weather you are a failed antichrist, the child of a strange creature or an experiment of some sort, you are distinctly "other" than most. Start with a mutation relevant to whatever it was, and a lingering sense of unease.

This is what i can think of for now. Whatever the final version of this table is will probably be bigger as I pour over different stories and superstitions.

Anyways check out these sick as shit magic users I found while procrastinating actually posting this.

You wish you were this cool. (Can't find the artist and a reverse image search brings up pokemon stuff.) 

Check out his sick as shit armor. Its useless I love it so much. (Adventure Time)

Thats all I found.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Stygian Darkness

This is mostly just for my players. Its a document for my ruleset.
My personal ruleset is a combination of several versions of the GLOG, various b/x clones and my own stuff.
There's probably more influences that went into it but for now that's all i can recall.
(Obligatory link to Arnolds blog, he made the glog, and im using his rules for inventory, advancement and death and dismemberment. please check it out if you somehow haven't already and are interested in design philosophy)
The game is in silver standard, (1 gold = 100 silver = 1000 copper)

Character Creation
Roll 3d6 three times, recording each result. Apply each result to one of the following six ability scores. Charisma, Constitution, Dexterity, Ego, Strength and Willpower.
Charisma is how charming you are, your social poise and skill.
Constitution is how tough and healthy you are.
Dexterity is a combination of manual dexterity and agility.
Ego is your characters mental coherence and sense of identity.
Strength is your characters ability to enact physical change in the world via raw power.
Willpower is your characters mental strength and their ability to resist things that affect their mind.

Modifiers to rolls of that type are as follows.
3: -3
4-5: -2
6-8: -1
9-12: +0
13-15: +1
16-17: +2
18: +3

Following this, you choose a class. The currently written classes are Fighter, Expert and Magic User (clerics on standby until i can figure out how to make them interesting).

Then select your alignment. Certain classes require certain alignments. Alignments are not related to ones morality, personality or philosophy in any way. They merely determine the paranormal forces that your character is attuned to. They are Lawful (if the forces are axiomatic and maintain the ultimate inevitable truth of reality) Neutral (if there are no forces affecting you) and Chaotic (if the forces are discordant, howling beyond the veil of reality and defy all known laws of creation).

Finally, fill in the blanks on the character sheet with what your classes give you. You start at level one and if your class is human you may play as any variation thereof with no mechanical effects. All characters have a set of normal civilian clothes and a backpack in addition to what their class gives them. Characters also have 3d6*10 Silver pieces, which they can spend on items before play (just use this table, ignoring the alchemy section).

You have inventory slots equal to your strength. A number of these slots equal to half your dexterity are fast slots (you can reach them at will) otherwise they are normal and require 1d6 rounds of shuffling about to get a hold of the item. This is only if you are wearing a backpack. If you dont have one you just have your hands/pockets, and some bags/packs might be better or worse. You cannot have more slots than your strength, though they may all be fast slots.

Doing shit and shit being done to you
The two main rolls you take are checks and saves. Checks are a roll of variable difficulty, typically (but not always) a 1d20 vs 5, 10 or 15 (meaning you have to roll higher than that). Ability checks are a standard roll as described in the previous sentence, adding the ability bonus as a modifier, as are ability saves. Contests are the same except you have to beat each others rolls.
Combat works a lot like an ability check, except you only add your attack bonus to the roll (0 for most characters) and have to roll over the opponents armor class (which is 10 for an unarmored human). If the character succeed on the combat roll, they roll for damage based on the weapon used. If they fail the opponent takes no damage.

Combat, But the fun part
You can do two major actions per round (a few seconds) in combat. Such as attacking and moving, attacking twice, moving twice (running), shoving someone, tripping someone etc.
Turns are different. Turns are 10 minute units of time used for exploration.
All of this happens at once, unless they directly affect someone else, in which case a dexterity contest is rolled for who goes first.
Death and dismemberment! When you take damage in excess of hp you usually gain wounds. When you gain wounds, you start dying.
Damage is only taken if the thing has a reasonable chance of killing you. A rat bite wont kill you (the disease might though).
HP stands for Hit Points, and are your ability to minimize any incoming damage.
Wounds subtract from your max HP, but never below zero.
While you have wounds you start dying. Make stabilization saves at DC 10+wounds (roll higher than 10). A natural 1 means you die, a failure means you gain another wound, a success means nothing happens and a roll of 20 or higher means you stabilize and wake up in 10 minutes with a scar and a shitty after-pain. If the wounds were from a critical hit, you roll on the dismemberment table (unless common sense tells you what would happen, like falling.)
Non lethal damage in excess of your hp will knock you out for 1d6+overflow rounds.
Emotional damage will give you stress and some additional effects based on the source.

Stress subtracts from your max hp but not below zero.
When you gain stress roll 1d20 vs a DC of 5. If you fail you have a breakdown. Roll a random one. All further breakdowns will be this. Also roll for a derangement which activates when you have stress and only de-activates when you're in a safe place.

Some things can bypass hp entirely. Being helpless while attacked will do so, as well as extremely personal emotional attacks or extremely lovecraftian things.
If wounds or stress is in excess of 10, you cease to be a playable character. For physical damage you die, for emotional damage you go insane.
Tables (adjusted for my games) will be provided at the end of this post.

If you and your adventuring party engage in fun activities (parties, carousing) you can become cheered, where you have a collective 3 temporary hit points.

Skills are broken into two types. Basic and Complex. Basic skills begin at a 1 in 6 chance of success and the skill done most often in a session may be improved by 1 if the character succeeds at a dc 10 ego check. Basic skills may go up to 6 in 6, the character must roll 2d6 and only if both come up 6 does the character fail. Basic skills are never social, perception, stealth or directly helpful in combat in any way.
Complex skills start at 0 in 6 (rolling a 2d6, and only succeeding at 2 ones.) Complex skills have unique mechanics for each one.
Theres no set list of skills, or a set list of what you can do with skills. Some things can reduce your chance of success, and some things can increase them (preparation and research for example)

Classes have a starter hp, a hit dice type that is rolled for hp beyond that level, and then hp gained at level 10.+ HP gained is modified by a characters constitution for every level except ten and up. Furthermore, the character can choose or randomly roll a title and skill, then choose or randomly roll a starter set from the title.

Fighters are trained to be able to kill at a moments notice. Either through military training, natural environment or other factors, they know how to kill, and how to do it well. For this reason, many turn to a life of adventure, unable to settle down comfortably due to their experiences.
Starter HP: 8
Dice Type: 1d8
HP at level 10 and beyond: +3
Combat Training: Fighters have an attack bonus equal to their level. Attack bonuses higher than 10 add the bonus above 10 to damage (thus an attack bonus of 12 is +10 to attack rolls and +2 to damage.)

Magic users adventure because they are unwelcome anywhere else, fighters because they cannot settle comfortably due to their violent training. Experts may join for any number of reasons. Perhaps they desire treasure, fantastic adventure or more. Experts are somehow both the most and least normal of the core classes.
Starter HP: 4
Dice Type: 1d6
HP at level 10 and beyond: +2
Skillful: The expert gains 4 "skill points" at level one that they may spend to increase their characters skill chances (note this on their character sheet). They gain +2 each level.
Basic Combat training: The expert has an attack bonus equal to half their level (rounded down) up to a maximum of 5.
Arcane assistance: An expert may assist a magic user in arcane endeavors. (described in a future post)

Magic User
Magic Users are feared, as most of the world shuns magic and the power it brings. Most of humanity clings to their pockets of civilization, stability and comfort, unwilling to confront the supernatural truths that lie immediately outside their perception. The magic user, however, immerses themself in arcane secrets and forbidden knowledge, ruthlessly pursuing arcane might with wild abandon.
Magic users are rare, extremely so, due to their overwhelming power over the forces of reality.
Magic users are always chaotic
Starter HP: 4
Dice type: 1d4
HP at level 10 and beyond: +1
Spell-casting: The magic user can cast spells. To do this the caster chooses the level they wish to cast the spell at, and rolls a d20 against the spells d20. The caster adds their level to their roll and the spell adds the level its cast at to its roll. If the caster wins, a basic success occurs. If the caster wins by a great margin (5+the spells level) then a greater success happens. If the caster wins by a massive margin (19+, or twice a great margin if higher) then a grand success happens. Conversely, if the spell wins then a basic failure will occur. If the spell wins by a great margin, a greater failure will occur and if the spell wins by a massive margin a grand failure will occur.

A list of starter spells and magical activities will be provided in an upcoming post.

The rest of this post is just a copy of arnolds tables, altered to fit my campaign. Skip them if you have your own or prefer that version.
Dismemberment Table [d6]

1 Arm Missing/useless Lose 1 Strength
2 Hand Missing/useless Lose 1 Dexterity
3 Crushed Ribs Lose 1 constitution
4 Leg Missing/Useless Lose 1 strength. Movement reduced
5 Coma Assuming prompt medical attention, return in 1d20*1d20 days unless either comes up as a 1
50% chance of gaining an astral projection skill (complex) at 1 in 6
6 Missing Eye -2 to ranged attacks

Breakdown Table [d6] (these last 10 minutes)

1 Fight Attack the source of your stress until it is destroyed or removed
2 Flight Flee the source of stress until you are three rooms away or it is removed
3 Faint Fall unconscious. 1 in 6 chance to awake each round.
4 Vomit You vomit and fall to 0 hp.
5 Scream Scream until the source of stress is removed or destroyed. You cannot
stop yourself from screaming but others can try. Each round an encounter
check occurs.
6 Cling You grab a random adjacent pc and refuse to let go until the source of the
stress is removed.

Derangement Table

1-5 Proximal Phobia Phobia based on whatever gave you the stress
6 Claustrophobia Gain 1 stress when you end a round in small places
7 Acrophobia Panic when around a fall (within 5' of a 10' drop)
Gain 1 stress when you fall.
8 Thalassophobia You panic when above or in deep or murky water.
If you end a turn in deep or murky water, or fall in,
gain 1 stress
9 Nyctophobia You panic when without a light source. Each turn
ended in total darkness gives 1 stress.
10 Thanatophobia You panic when exposed to death, the dead or undead
Gain 1 stress each time you touch a corpse, are affected
by the undead or a party member dies.
11 Talking to Yourself Never surprise enemies. Enemies get a 1 in 6 chance of
12 Reluctant Whenever you're about to leave town or a campsite or a
similarly save environment there is a flat 50% chance you
refuse. You may try again a day later.
13 Escapism Always loose initiative.
14 Guilt Cannot gain levels
15 Self Hatred Each time you critically fail, take 2 emotional damage.
16 Pacifist Each time you attempt lethal harm, take 2 emotional damage
You can inconvenience opponents for your allies though.
17 Depression You cannot benefit from cheer, and have a 50% chance of
temporarily abandoning the party when they attempt to gain
cheer, due to distress.
18 Comfort Object Pick an item in your inventory. When its out of your possession
gain 1 stress and panic. This item doesn't change when this is
19 Sadist Once you attempt lethal harm, you may take no actions except
to attempt to kill the target.
20 Morbid Curiosity When encountering a weird and possibly dangerous thing the
GM can ask you to make a wil check in order to resist
investigating (such as reading the latin inscription out loud, or
touching the glowing rock etc)