Thursday, October 29, 2020

Man of the Deluge

 In 1726, a naturalist, physician, and scholar from Switzerland named Johann Jakob Scheuchzer published a book. In this book, he detailed the physical characteristics of a fossil that he called Homo diluvii testis: Man, witness to the deluge. He believed that he had discovered the fossilized bones of a human being who had been crushed by the terrible weight of the very flood itself. He was very, very wrong of course; over the course of the centuries since then, naturalists have puzzled over it concluding at times that it was a giant catfish, a lizard, an olm, and finally (in 1811) a very large salamander. By 1837, the man of the deluge had a new name: Andrias scheuchzeri, Scheuchzer's image of man, in honor of its discoverer's antediluvian identification for it.

But what if Scheuchzer was right the first time?

Man of the Deluge

Not all of humanity was able to flee into the safety of the sorcerous bubble when the flood came. In fearful desperation, many hundreds crawled into the caves as the waters poured over the world, and could not crawl back out once it receded.

Deep beneath the surface of the world, where all is wet and dark and tight, the men of the deluge crawl on their bellies. They no longer look like humans, no longer think like humans, perfectly adapted for their cold blind environs. They speak only in chittering whispers that echo in the tunnels to communicate across long distances. They live primarily on cave fish and olms (which many spelunkers foolishly assume them to be).

Although they look nothing like humans, and their language is hard to understand, the men of the deluge are still intelligent. They can communicate with spelunkers via pointing and hand gestures, and although their half-blind eyes stare listlessly and thoughtlessly there is a mind with goals and thoughts behind it. They make and use tools, especially folding spears (to be stored away when traveling through tight cavern corridors) and hooks on strong lines of string. Negotiating with them may be quite difficult due to the language barrier and the simple fact that surface dwellers and cave dwellers have rather distinct concerns. But despite the bogeyman tales of cave demons that steal children away, the men of the deluge are not bloodthirsty (other cavern dwellers are bloodthirsty enough on their own).

On occasion, the men of the deluge are forced into submission by one of the myriad ancient tyrants of the deep ocean which dwell in the depths of the world. These alien intelligences use the isolated tribes of the cavern dwellers as their minions, though the blind men themselves generally do not favor such states of affairs.

By C.M. Kosemen

Man of the Deluge
Armor Class: 13
Hit Dice: 1+1
Attacks: 1 x weapon (1d6 or by weapon)
To-Hit: +1
Movement: 60' (20')
Saving Throws: D12/W13/P14/B15/S16
Morale: 7 (9 with tinker-shaman)
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 20
Number Appearing: 1d6+1 (4d8)

Half-Blind: The creature's eyes are almost useless. Immune to any effects which blind or otherwise incapacitate a creature's vision.
Tinker-Shaman: A magically-endowed craftswoman dwells in the lair of the men of the deluge. She has 4 hit dice, wields hand crafted weapons that deal 1d8+1 damage, and knows one level one spell that she can cast once a day. Cavern dwellers in service to sea tyrants will usually not have tinker-shamans.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Inventories and Encumbrance

 This is a bit less of a setting-specific post, but it is one of the few house rules that I will be using for King of Kings. I find that resource management is a very important part of the game, something which adds an important element of pressure on the players to really make their decisionmaking and exploration feel impactful. Well, this is something that plenty of other people have already said before. Here I'll just be describing my encumbrance rules so I can have them all in one place.

So that my inspirations can be openly available (and so I can link to other posts on this topic that I think are interesting and useful):
Mechanics for Resource Management Part 1 and Part 2
Across the Clones - Encumbrance
This compilation of resource management related posts from DIY & Dragons
Presenting the Only Good Encumbrance System
HMS Apollyon Exploration Rules

Okay, so to begin with: King of Kings is going to use slot-based encumbrance (rather than pound/stone/coin based encumbrance) where slots are only considered for significant items. This system of abstracting encumbrance away from the nitty gritty numbers of measuring specific weights of items allows it to have a more readily apparent impact on gameplay, with how it forces player decisionmaking and makes for easy encumbrance tracking.

Player characters have a number of inventory item slots equal to 10+STR modifier (modifier listed below):
3: -3
4-5: -2
6-8: -1
9-12: 0
13-15: +1
16-17: +2
18: +3
This allows for inventories ranging from 7 to 13 slots in size. This differs from the encumbrance system that I have typically used in my games up to this point. Normally, I have had the number of slots equal to the character's STR score, with some modifications based on race perhaps. However, this has oftentimes ended up with characters not interacting with the encumbrance system in a significant way, primarily because of just how high the values were oftentimes! Characters with very low STR scores simply didn't bother picking anything up, while characters with higher STR just never had to worry about it. By bringing it down to a more bounded range, it equalizes the system across all characters.

The first three of these item slots are "quick-draw" slots, items and equipment that the character has close on hand and can be pulled out at a moment's notice. During a combat encounter, items in the quick-draw slots can be used no problem. Items outside of the quick-draw slots require at least one round to retrieve (where the character is not doing anything but searching for that item), and due to the chaotic combat situation the character must roll 1d20 over the item's slot number in the inventory in order to retrieve it. If they fail this roll, they may attempt again, but it is very likely that enemy combatants will have noticed their helpless searching and decided to target them.

Fighters have a potential maximum of five quick-draw slots, allowing them to have more weapons/shields/etc with easy access. For slots four and five, the fighter character can choose whether they are quick-draw slots or normal item slots.

A character can carry up to their maximum amount of item slots without becoming encumbered. Going over the slot maximum encumbers the character, slowing them down and making them clumsier. 10 items over makes you heavily encumbered.

Encumbered: Act last in initiative order, -1 to all rolls, 50% chance of drowning, considerably slower than unencumbered characters for purposes of chases and retreats.
Heavily Encumbered: Act last in initiative order, -3 to all rolls (other than damage rolls), 100% chance of drowning, will always be captured in a chase unless items are abandoned, -2 to AC, cannot disengage from combat.

Specific Item Rules:

Weapons
Weapons are categorized into Light, Medium, and Two-Handed. Light weapons take up half an item slot (so two daggers take up one item slot), medium weapons take up one item slot, and two-handed weapons take up three item slots. Examples of light weapons include daggers and slings, examples of medium weapons include most swords and maces along with shortbows, and examples of two-handed weapons include large swords and longbows.

Ammo
A quiver of arrows or crossbow bolts takes up one item slot. For mundane missile weapons, the specific amount of arrows need not be tracked; it is assumed that an adventuring character has brought enough for their purposes, as long as they have "refilled" the quiver by paying for the associated price on returning to a settlement. A quiver must be in the character's quick draw slots in order to be used in combat. Special ammo should be tracked, with 20 such ammo pieces taking up one slot.

Armor
Armor is categorized into Light, Medium, and Heavy (or, to use more traditional terms, Leather, Chain, and Plate). Light armor takes up two item slots, medium armor takes up four, and heavy armor takes up six. Shields take up one item slot, and must be in the character's quick draw slots and be held in hand to receive the AC bonus.

Coins, Gems, and Treasures
Most small treasure items are not individually important enough to be considered to fill an item slot. 100 coins, gems, or small treasures occupy one item slot. 

Spellbooks and Grimoires
A book of magical spells must be put in the quick draw slots and be held in hand to be used. A single spell book takes up one item slot.

Torches and Lanterns
Three torches or one lantern take up one item slot. For torches or lanterns to provide light, they must be put in the character's quick draw slots and be held in hand. Five units of lantern fuel take up one item slot. A torch or lantern provides enough light for three people to see.

Pack Animals
Items can be stored on pack animals for travel and transportation. Typically, a pack animal or group of pack animals is left outside of the dungeon, but a small pack animal (mule) can be brought into a dungeon or other adventure location. The number of slots of items that a pack animal can carry varies. A mule can typically carry 10 slots of items, while a larger horse or camel can carry 15, and an elephant or giant lizard can carry 20. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Patrons in King of Kings

 In King of Kings, the characters are outcasts, criminals, paupers, foreigners, and travellers, people that are fundamentally outside of the local social order. There is plenty to explore in the social structures of the Sasanian Empire (which is the main inspiration for King of Kings), but in creating this setting I didn't necessarily want to build in a Skerples-style feudal hierarchy into character creation (though I definitely intend on writing more posts about social hierarchy in late antique Iran in future honestly). Even though I didn't want to establish a structured system for social hierarchy for characters, I did want social hierarchy to matter for the game... so, I concluded that the best way to do both of those things is to have players outside of the social hierarchy, but still make that hierarchy matter, through the player characters having someone that patronizes their activities!

Patronage and patron-client relationships have been a major part of just about all societies throughout history, though the most well understood (and perhaps one of the most well established, not to mention being where we even get the words "patron" and "client") is the Roman system of patronage, which was so prominent in Roman society that it was codified into law in many ways. Patronage did exist in ancient and medieval Iran (Shahanshah Kavadh patronizing the religious revolutionary Mazdak and Emir Abu Salih Mansur patronizing the epic poet Ferdowsi being two notable examples from Iranian history), but it never really attained the level of state codification that it did in Rome.

Those dynamics really interest me though! I don't really want characters that are expected to hold land or some temple office and not really have the time, ability, or independence to go on adventures; after all, this is a game of dungeons and dragons, its an adventure game. Something like Pendragon, where characters only go on adventures for a certain period of time and then come back to do administration and such, is interesting, but not what I'm going for. Trying to balance an Old School style adventuresome sword and sorcery with emulating the time period is a bit of a conundrum to be sure.

And so, enter the patron. The party as a whole has a patron in the area, most likely centered on a major city. They are rich and powerful enough to keep the party out of trouble most of the time, but not so rich, powerful, and most importantly not charitable enough to make the party's financial woes or social struggles just go away. Individual characters may have individual patrons, and may even gain such benefactors in game, but this does not concern us here.

Hey how about lets get some patrons hm? Roll 1d20 on each of the following tables.

Our patron is...
1: A jovial man with a long beard and large belly
2: A concubine of a city headman, conniving but kind
3: An elderly mobad that sees the party as misguided youths
4: A haughty merchant woman who simply doesn't have the time for you
5: A bandit gang leader, easy to anger
6: A wise and mysterious religious reformer
7: A world traveler that has only just settled down
8: An officer in the city's guard, paying the party beneath their superior's noses
9: A sorcerer-philosopher attempting to taxonomize the world
10: A village wise woman who has more social capital than coin
11: A member of the satrap's council who has become disillusioned with their station
12: A merchant house leader that eagerly sees opportunity for profit behind every corner
13: A wizard with nothing better to do
14: An upstart young magus in the religious hierarchy
15: A popular thief who has settled down but still wants to change things
16: A scholar hungry for secrets on the antediluvian past
17: A gourmand hungry to taste everything they can
18: A mystical teacher unwilling to initiate the players into deeper mysteries until they prove themselves
19: A rich foreigner with unknown motives
20: A distant and shadowy figure that the party never sees in person

They acquired their wealth and power through...
1: Lizard breeding (giant lizards, decorative lizards, assassination lizards)
2: A salt mine carved into the mountainside
3: Thievery. They just stole it all
4: Illegal currency sorcery
5: Horse and camel racing
6: An inheritance from a connection to some distant royal line
7: Their spouse, who really does all the work
8: Temple sacrifices and donations that they have skimmed off the top of
9: A deal with a demon that will bite them in the ass some day
10: Adventuring in their youth
11: A stipend from the satrap or from the shahanshah
12: Operating a business for assassinations
13: Fishing and caviar harvesting
14: A secret that they know about the satrap that they use as blackmail
15: The trade in rich furs (tiger, sable, lion, fox)
16: Swindling clients with faulty products (but you should trust them! promise!)
17: The spice and herb trade
18: Owning and operating a bar
19: The silk trade (oh what they wouldn't give for a few of the worms themselves...)
20: Owning and operating one or more textile workshops

The party as a whole has a value that represents their Rapport with the patron, and which allows them to ask the patron for favors. These can range from providing hirelings/retainers either at a cheaper rate or for free to intervening to assist the group in a jam and/or pickle. This begins at 10, and if it ever reaches 0 the patron will abandon the party altogether. When the characters maintain a good positive relationship with the patron, it goes up rather slowly (though the exact rate is up to the referee), while it increases by significant amounts (again, up to the referee) for missions or jobs that the patron requests the party do. Additionally, the patron will typically expect a portion of any and all treasure that the group brings back with them (roughly 10%). Oftentimes, there will be factions or leaders who despise the party's patron, and if they know of the group's connection to said patron, they will act in hostility (most like a -1 to -3 penalty on reaction rolls is in order if such a thing is immediately identifiable).

Also, just for fun, here's an example of a short list of free/cheaper hirelings and equipment available from a patron (derived from a random patron prompt from the two tables above!)

Patron: An upstart young magus in the religious hierarchy who acquired their wealth and power through an inheritance from a distant royal line
Temple cupbearer*              1 Rapport
Street thug**                      3 Rapport and 20 gold
Sacrifice bureaucrat***        3 Rapport and 10 gold
Herbad****                         30 Rapport and 250 gold
Pony                                 10 Rapport and 50 gold (+50 gold for ceremonial armor)
Bird of paradise                  10 Rapport and 100 gold
Lantern                              2 Rapport and 5 gold
Scroll of fireball*****            100 Rapport and 10,000 gold

*A young boy who carries golden and silver cups in temple ceremonies. Can easily carry torches, etc.
**A rambunctious youth bribed and cowed into service by the magus's connections. Potentially a friend of a friend of the priest.
***An older priest trained with the ability to identify the living or dead body of any animal simply through familiarity
****A priest in training, functions as a henchman that expects a cut of the treasure. Level one cleric or magic-user.
*****An incredible gift, not to be used unwisely. They had to pull a lot of strings to get this to you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Huma Bird

 Yknow, for someone who got into the tabletop roleplaying hobby primarily through monster books, it is really a surprise to me that I haven't posted a monster to this blog yet! So hey, here is the first in what will most likely be a long line of posts writing up interesting monsters for King of Kings and other old school games.

The Huma Bird

Now the Humay stood before the assembly, the Giver of Shade, whose shadow bestows pomp on kings. For this he has received the name of 'Humayun', the fortunate, since of all creatures he has the most ambition. He said: 'Birds of land and sea, I am not a bird as you are. A high ambition moves me and to satisfy it I am separated from other creatures. I have subdued the dog of desire, therefore are Feridun and Jamshid dignified. Kings are lifted up by the influence of my shadow, but beggarly-natured men do not please me. I give a bone to my dog of desire and put my spirit in surety against it. How can men turn their head away from him whose shadow creates kings? Beneath my wings everyone seeks shelter. Do I need the friendship of the lordly Simurgh when I have royalty at my disposition?'

- Attar of Nishapur, The Conference of the Birds

The huma is a great bird of the air, which is immediately known by its two heads and beautifully many hued plumage. It has four legs and two wings, but it never once touches the earth beneath it, instead preferring to stay high in the clouds on the wing. If the huma is ever forced to touch the ground, it will screech so loudly in disgust and discomfort that all around recoil in pain. The huma is both male and female, each head having one respective aspect. 

The shadow of the huma bird bestows kingship and a bountiful future on all those who pass beneath its shadow. A farmer who has the huma's shadow cast upon him will have a great harvest and may well become the headman of his community, or perhaps even something greater. A herdswoman who steps into the shadow of the huma will come to have too many sheep in her hands than she can handle, and will earn the respect of all those around her. In the ancient capital city of the Enlightened Empire, there is a captured huma bird in a great big cage who casts its shadow on the chosen heir in a ceremony full of pomp and circumstance prior to their being crowned. Although rather fleeting, the shadow of the bird or even a simple glance at it are incredibly valuable. 

The huma is the most mighty and auspicious of birds. It is not a sight to be ignored. The corpse of a huma bird is a horrible sight, the death of a huma something that brings with it funeral processions and teary-eyed cries of desperation. Even those who kill the bird feel a great weight of guilt on their shoulders from that day on. The scholars and magi believe there to be only a certain number of huma birds, for there have never been seen any eggs or hatchlings. 

Huma Bird
Armor Class: 15
Hit Dice: 9+1 (42 HP)
Attacks: 2 x claw (1d6), 2 x bite (2d8)
To-Hit: +8
Movement: 120' (40') / 360' (120') flying
Saving Throws: D8/W9/P10/B10/S12
Morale: 6
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 900
Number Appearing: 1-4 (1d4)

Huma birds will not normally attack unless provoked (or on a result of 2 on the reaction roll). When a huma bird is killed, all those who can see it must make a save vs. spells or begin to cry. A character's reputation will be greatly marred by killing the bird, and any who know of the act will shun them.

Those who are able to pluck a feather off of the huma bird will be able to sell it for 200 gold per feather to the right buyer. Feathers can also be affixed to any items of clothing (most commonly headwear such as helmets or crowns), and all persons who see them with the feathers on them will treat them with respect.

Characters may attempt to capture the huma bird using a lasso, rope, etc. In so doing, they will only get XP from the captured bird upon bringing it to a town. Rich notables and paupers alike will pay handsomely to step into the bird's shadow (handsomely being, of course, relative to the level of wealth they have access to). If, while being captured, the huma is dragged to the ground, it will screech so loud that all who are within earshot and can hear must make a save vs paralysis or drop their ropes and tools.

Also hey how about some nice simple lassoing rules to help with catching one of these beautiful beasts

A character with a lasso (or similar item) may attempt to wrangle a beast within a distance equal to the lasso's length (they typically range from 50 feet to 100 feet in length). The initial throw of the lasso functions as a simple d20 roll under DEX score (as an aside, if a character has experience with lassoing beasts for whatever reason, I would either give them a flat improvement to the check or let them roll twice and take the better result, really depends). If this DEX roll succeeds, then the lasso is around the creature's neck, and a struggle begins. Each subsequent round, the player holding the lasso and the referee each roll a d20; if the creature being lassoed rolls higher, it pulls away and escapes, if the player rolls higher the creature remains in the lasso. The player holding the lasso adds their STR modifier (the melee modifier) to the roll, and any other characters helping them hold the lasso do as well (a minimum of 0; negative modifiers don't affect it, don't worry). The creature being lassoed adds its hit dice number (including any bonus) to its roll, with the bonus going down by 1 for every 8 hit points it loses.

(Okay maybe it isn't as simple as I thought it was in my head but its not that hard! I like the monster's bonus slowly lowering as it takes damage; incentivizes the players to try to balance beating them up and holding them down)

So, to use the huma bird as an example. If the players try to lasso a huma bird, the bird would have +10 to the opposed d20 roll, while the players could potentially stack multiple people holding the rope. If there are more than one huma bird, the other birds will likely be trying to break the rope to free their sister-brother, and perhaps some fighter-type characters would be trying to beat up the one in the lasso while also trying to fend off other birds. A very hectic scene indeed!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Diagnosis: You're a Wizard

 While I might not be the biggest fan of all of the prestige classes and feats and characters options and whatnot in 3e (and by extension in pathfinder), there are a good few options from that period of DnD's history that I am absolutely enamored with. I've never actually played 3e or 3.5e for any lengthy period of time, but I've ended up accruing a not insignificant number of 3e books over my years of interest in the hobby, mostly monster books (by far my favorite kind of RPG books and also my introduction to tabletop gaming, before I even knew what tabletop gaming was). One of the most interesting ones that wasn't a monster book, however, was the Book of Vile Darkness, the only Dungeons and Dragons book to be released with a parental advisory sticker on it warning about adult themes.

Adult themes like... demons and killing things and being eeeevil. Ignore the self confident parental advisory sticker, the Book of Vile Darkness was just over the top edgy saturday morning cartoon goth evil stuff. And I LOVE THAT. I love that aesthetic so so much more than if the book was actually serious adult content. So hey, here is one of my favorite prestige classes from the book, written up for Old School Essentials! (considered making a GLOG version but realized I'm not familiar enough with the GLOG to do that). It's a spooky time of year so why not have a bit of a spooky class. Oh, also I did attempt this once before on my old blog, but that one was written for 5e and hopefully this one will be better. I might do the same thing with some other character options from that period of DnD that I like... which isn't a huge amount, but there are a few!

The Cancer Mage
A class for use with Old School Essentials (or any similar ruleset)

Requirements: Minimum CON 9, Must be Neutral or Chaotic in alignment
Prime Requisite: CON and INT
Hit Dice: 1d4
Maximum Level: 14
Armor: Leather only, no shields
Weapons: Dagger

A cancer mage with at least 13 in one prime requisite gains a +5% bonus to experience. If both CON and INT are 16 or higher, the brineman gets a +10% bonus.

Arcane Magic
Not going to write out all of the OSE rules for magic here, just suffice to say that they can cast spells like magic-users, can use magical items, etc. However, they can only start casting spells at second level, and cannot do magical research.
Back-stab
When attacking an unaware opponent from behind, a cancer mage receives a +4 bonus to-hit and doubles any damage dealt.
Cancerous Companion
Beginning at level two, a large tumor endowed with intelligence grows on the cancer mage. They have a personality distinct from the mage, but the two share all ability scores and saves. The cancerous companion is able to see in all directions around the mage out to a radius of 30 feet, and will alert the cancer mage of any danger they see. At level four, mind-affecting spells (such as charms, illusions, etc.) have a 50% chance of only affecting the companion. At level six, the radius that the cancerous companion can see out to is expanded to 60 feet. At level nine, the cancerous companion is able to cast a spell that the cancer mage just cast at no spell slot cost for the cancer mage, once per day.
Contagious Touch
The touch of the cancer mage spreads disease. Whenever the cancer mage touches a living animal (spirits, demons, constructs, undead, plants, and fungi are not affected), the creature must make a saving throw vs. poison or contract a random disease that the cancer mage is currently carrying. Beginning at level five, the cancer mage is able to select which disease a target is infected with.
Disease Host
The cancer mage is host to every disease that they have come in contact with. They begin play carrying only one disease, randomly chosen from the table below. Any disease they come in contact with over the course of the game should also be kept track of. Although the cancer mage visibly shows symptoms of these plagues, they are not able to die from them.
Roll 1d8
1. Bubonic Plague
2. Chicken Pox
3. Dancing Plague
4. Leprosy
5. Measles
6. Polio
7. Rabies
8. Smallpox
(These diseases can easily be switched out for more setting-appropriate ones, I just wanted to use some ones from real life so as to not rely on any setting-specific things)
Skills
Cancer mages can use the following skills, with the chances of success shown below:
Hide in Shadows (HS) (Begin at 10% chance of success, increase by 5% each level)
Move Silently (MS) (Begin at 15% chance of success, increase by 5% each level)
After 11th Level
A cancer mage is able to establish a secretive coven to initiate others into the close relationship with disease that so defines the mages. They attract 1d10 level one cancer mages, thieves, and magic-users, who will learn spells and techniques from them. 

Source

Cancer Mage Character Progression
XP to Level 2:
2,600
Fighting Advancement: as Magic-User
Saving Throws at Level 1: 
    Death/Poison: 11
    Wands: 15
    Paralysis/Petrify: 16
    Breath Attacks: 16
    Spells/Rods/Staves: 12
Spell Advancement: as Cleric

Source

Also, since this is considerably pared down from the original 3e cancer mage, I chose to turn some of the class features that the class originally had into spells, so here are those!

Children of the Night
Level: 2
Duration: 4 turns
Range: 100'
The caster calls forth a number of small creatures from the dark recesses surrounding them. The creatures summoned follow the caster's mental commands, but do not follow the commands of any others. The creatures that can be called forth include: 
5d6 bats
3d6 cave locusts
2d4 killer bees
2d6 giant black widows
2d6 pit vipers
3d6 giant rats
1d6 rhagodessa
2d4 robber flies
3d6 spitting cobras
5d6 stirges
1d6 giant toads

Viral Agent
Level: 3
Duration: 1 day
Range: 5 miles
The caster endows a disease that they host in their body with intelligence. They must sacrifice a point of intelligence when casting the spell. They are able to communicate telepathically with the disease while it is within the spell's range, and the disease will inform them of what their host experiences. If any other person(s) are infected with the disease, the caster is able to receive information from all such hosts. 

Insect Armor
Level: 2
Duration: 3 turns
Range: The caster or a creature touched
The target of the spell is covered by crawling insects for the duration of the spell's effect. This grants them a +4 bonus to their armor class, and the ability to climb on walls and ceilings. This armor class bonus is, however, negated by any attack which would hit a large part of the subject's surface area i.e. a large hammer strike, as the insects crawl out of the way to defend themselves from the damage.

Can you believe people are making halloween masks of covid?? A little insensitive if you ask me, even if I do love these horrible slimy goblin lookin critters
Disease Form
Level: 5
Duration: two weeks (can be cancelled at any time)
Range: The caster
The caster transforms into a microbial disease, and is able to infect anyone that comes in contact with them. Any items that the caster has on their person does not transform with them. Any living animal (this does not affect spirits, demons, constructs, the undead, plants, or fungi) that comes in contact with the caster while they are in disease form must make a save vs. poison or contract the caster. After an initial incubation period of 24 hours, the caster in disease form begins dealing 1d3 damage to the host's CON per day. If CON reaches 0, the host dies. Each day that the caster is in disease form, they can roll 1d20, hoping to roll higher than the host's current CON score. If this roll succeeds, then the caster takes control of the host for the remaining duration of the spell. Any living animal that comes within 5 feet of the host contracts the caster as well, but the caster is only able to control one host at a time.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Brineman: A Class for King of Kings

 Time for the last of the three nonhuman classes that I will be starting off with in King of Kings!

In ancient days, after the victory of land-based truth and law over oceanic chaos, there were some of the sea tyrants who betrayed their brethren and joined Keyumars and other heroes in the Promethean age. The renegade fish princes married men and women and sired children, and over the many thousands of years since that era these children have melded into the human population, yet still stand out for their fish-like features and mysterious auras. These are the brinemen, who at first glance may appear to be human but upon closer inspection have a greenish tint, small tentacular growths in place of facial hair, eyes that are just too wide, teeth that are just too long. While brinemen share a common connection to the antediluvian tyrannical age, no two look quite alike, for their ancient ancestries grant them unique appearances.

Brinemen are in a bit of a strange position in the society of the Enlightened Empire, at times ostracized, at times prominent in local leadership. They are almost never just another part of the scenery, impossible to miss for their slimy skin and gaping mouths. They always seem to know each other, and teach other the secrets that were passed down to them by their mothers and their mothers' mothers. While the brinemen are integrated into Shahistani society, they form their own distinct social units, teaching each other their magical secrets. They speak the vibrational language of aquatic creatures, and oftentimes find themselves as pearl divers and sturgeon keepers for these reasons (though many brinemen who enter into such professions are feared by all fish who know their name). 

The Brineman
A class for use with Old School Essentials (or any similar ruleset)

Requirements: Minimum WIS 9
Prime Requisite: INT and WIS
Hit Dice: 1d6
Maximum Level: 10
Armor: Any
Weapons: Any
Languages: Shahistani, the vibrational language of aquatic things, one additional language

A brineman with at least 13 in one prime requisite gains a +5% bonus to experience. If both INT and WIS are 16 or higher, the brineman gets a +10% bonus.

Ancestral Stock
While millennia separate the brinemen from their oceanic ancestors, elements of that ancestry still shine through. A brineman character rolls on the table below to determine which aspect of their nonhuman ancestry shines through in their being.
(Roll 1d12)
1. Angler: Bioluminescent lure (does not counteract infravision)
2. Barreleye: Unable to be blinded
3. Clam: Able to close entire body into shell, take half damage but unable to move
4. Crab: Claw attack (1d6 damage), +1 to Armor Class
5. Cuttlefish: Able to change skin color at will, +1 to saves v. spells
6. Eel: Long neck, bite attack (1d6 damage)
7. Hagfish: Can produce large quantities of thick viscous slime
8. Leviathan: Very large (-2 to-hit small creatures), +2 melee damage
9. Lobster: Unaffected by aging magic, +1 to Armor Class
10. Remora: Able to stick to any creature larger than itself
11. Shark: Bite attack (1d6 damage), 2-in-6 chance to smell something
12.Squid: Can release a cloud of ink once per day
Amphibious
Brinemen can breathe in water as well as in air.
Arcane Magic
Just going to summarize this, since it is well explained in the OSE books and B/X type stuff anyway. Brinemen can cast spells like magic-users, they can do magical research too but are only able to make magic items at level 9. Pretty much it on this front.
Chaotic Ancestry
No matter their actual alignment, brinemen always detect as being aligned with chaos. Any magical items, spells, or powers which affect chaotic creatures will affect brinemen accordingly.
Combat
Brinemen can use all types of weapon and armor, as well as shields.
Speak with Aquatic Creatures
Brinemen innately know the secret language of fish, crabs, and other aquatic creatures.
Unnaturally Wide Eyes
Brinemen have large staring eyes which give them uncanny sight compared to humans. They have a 2-in-6 chance of detecting secret doors when actively searching, and have infravision to 60'.
After Reaching 9th Level
A brineman can establish a hold anywhere there is easy access to water. This can be on a coastal cove or even in a city with a sewer, so long as there is reliable access to water. 1d6 apprentices, an even mix of level one magic-users and brinemen, will flock to the brineman's hold. Because of brinemen's connection with aquatic animals, all such creatures within 5 miles of the hold become friends with the brineman, their apprentices, and their hirelings. They may warn of intruders, carry messages and news, etc. In exchange for this friendship, the brineman must protect the animals from harm.

Brineman Character Progression
Condensing down this section since I don't necessarily think having exact advancement tables in these posts is the most important thing.
XP to Level 2: 3,500
Fighting Advancement: As Fighter/Elf/Dwarf/Halfling
Saving Throws at Level 1:
    Death/Poison: 12
    Wands: 13
    Paralysis/Petrify: 15
    Breath Attacks: 16
    Spells/Rods/Staves: 12
Spell Advancement: as Magic-User/Elf

Source

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This one is, if it isn't obvious, more or less a "replacement" for the elf class that is more suitable to the sword and sorcery vibe of King of Kings. Like deep one hybrids but nice and good (well, if a player wants to play one that way hehe). I sometimes joke that I always have to have a requisite innsmouth reference in the games I run and I guess the brineman functions as the requisite innsmouth reference.

I used random features here again, last time they were used was on the amazon, but these are definitely more positive bonuses than the amazon's genetic mutations that tended toward rather negative traits. On this I was actually inspired by something I wrote up a long time ago, when I was younger and enamored with LotFP. I wrote a simple race-class for an "Aquatic" race that was basically just a fighter with the ability to breathe underwater and swim really well, but had two random features from a d10 table of waterborne critters. This is both a simplification of that and expansion of that (the other one featured a mix of freshwater and saltwater animals, and as mentioned had only 10 options while this table has 12). Classes that have major features behind random tables aren't exactly normal for B/X as written, but I don't think its really that hard to wrap one's head around. Plus, who doesn't like rolling to see what kind of weird salty sea beast you are!

As stated on the other two, this hasn't been playtested yet, so fair warning I guess. But with this one, the class list to begin with for King of Kings is now complete! Clerics, fighters, magic-users, thieves, amazons, brinemen, and dwarfs oh my! Hope you're having a lovely day, and hope you liked my slimy little wizard fish!

Monday, October 12, 2020

Half Forgotten Times (and the Nature of Magic in King of Kings)

The history of the world is divided into five ages. The first of these is the Antediluvian Age, the period after the creation of the cosmos but before the deadly and destructive Flood. The seas were dark and briny, and filled to the brim with roiling fish and crawling things. The land was the domain of beasts, with a holy city endowed by the force of truth, light, and order being the only home of humankind, with great mythic kings who ruled for centuries at a time. The depths, beneath both the surface of the earth and beneath the skin of the sea, was the realm of untruth, deceit, chaos, destruction, as it remains to this day, for the manifestation of deceit dwells beneath the world.

The depths of the ocean were ruled by antediluvian overlords of an aquatic sort, a race of imperial devonian fish who hungered constantly. They hunted each other in the deep, they cultivated innumerable types of crawling worms, they drank the evil release of the vents on the sea floor and felt invigorated by it. Their wide staring eyes gazed up at the stars, into the realm of truth and love, and they hungered for it. They learned the poetry of the stars and the burblings of the deep sea floor vents, they danced with the flowing currents of the ocean and created ancient sorcery. They used this magic to give themselves access to the land, in order to hunt the surface world for food. They delighted in the hunt, but had to return to the sea before the burning sun dried out their flesh. 


The antediluvian world of the fish lords was one of pale darkness pierced only by flashing bioluminescence and sorcerous glow. Since they could not forge metal in the deep sea, they bred tools and beasts of burden out of crustaceans and eels, living in the guts of great barnacles and riding looming oarfish and whale sharks into battle. Meanwhile, the humans of the land lived simple lives in their metropolis, with farming granted them by the force of truth and the great original cow granted them as well, but they had no metallurgy other than gold and silver, and they feared the world beyond their city walls.

The antediluvian underwater kings reached a quorum on the fate of the surface world, for they knew (albeit perhaps unconsciously) their place in the great struggle between deceit and honesty. They decided that the whole of the world should be beneath the waves, and began weaving a great spell to flood the world. There was, however, one cunning thief of the human ur-city saw in his dreams the flood overcoming them all, drowning the one thousand humans beneath the waves, drowning the original bovine, drowning all the beasts of the forest and field and choking the birds of the air as well. This thief was named Keyumars or Prometheus, and he ventured into the sea when it was at low tide and stole the sorcery of the kings of the deep dark sea. With this, the metropolis was able to safeguard itself, and safeguard all its people, and safeguard the original cow, with a great bubble surrounding its walls and its fields and its forests while the rest of the world was drowned beneath the waves. 


As the waters receded, so began the Heroic Age, or the Promethean Age, when the first magic-user Keyumars and the host of warriors with their gold armor and stone weapons traveled the land and slew any piscine demons choking on the air with the flood having receded. A single renegade prince of the sea tyrants joined them, and stood with Keyumars all his long life. This was an age of heroes and adventurers who established keeps and towns in the deeper wilderness and killed oceanic creatures still clinging to the surface. Later, Keyumars returned to the metropolis of humanity and, with his entourage of warriors, his sorcery stolen from the fish kings, and his princely piscine ally, and overthrew the last mythic king of humanity's original city. Thus begins the Age of Tyranny, and the end of this account.

Magic was initially developed for fins and crustaceoid legs, spells to be cast with the ululations of bodies and flapping of limbs. It is poetry written with visions given to the magic-user by staring into the stars above and drinking from the poisons put forth from below. It is, however, not a force of its own accord, and not truly aligned with either the forces of deceit nor of truth. Rather, sorcery is simply a tool, a tool which can be used to further selfish aims, or further the cosmic cause of chaos or the cosmic cause of truthfulness. A spell is a beautiful song which reshapes the world simply in its being sung.

The original spellcraft was devised for different eyes and different hands. The light of the stars was refracted by the dark ocean waters. When humans cast spells, they are imperfect and oftentimes incomplete. Many sounds cannot be spoken by human mouths, and the nature of starlight is rather different beneath the waves and on the earth. Sorcery is imperfect when performed by humankind. It is dangerous, it is chaotic. Attempts are made to chain it up and keep it as safe as possible, but these are never perfect in form or in application.

New spells are learned as poison-fueled visions and poems whispered into your ears in your sleep. Or they can be stolen from other sorcerers and scrawled in parchment for reference in future. A spell that you did not envision yourself or did not hear whispered into your ear feels uncomfortable to cast, as if you are plagiarizing and you know in your soul that it is wrong. Most magic-users get used to this feeling over time. Some say you will never get used to it.


And well, to make up for this long rambly mess, how about a bit of actual game content. Here's two magic-user spells for King of Kings, take them as you wish.

Expanding Eel
Level: 2
Duration: 4 turns
Range: 10'
An eel-like form is created out of dust and debris in the surrounding area. For the duration of the spell's effect, the eel-like form can double its size at the the caster's command. The eel is able to swim around the air of the magic-user out to the 10' radius. The eel deals 1d4 damage with a bite attack.

Needlemaw
Level: 1
Duration: 15 turns
Range: The caster
The caster's mouth is filled with long needle-like teeth for the duration of the spell's effect. These glow faintly in darkness, and can be broken off without causing pain to the caster. After the spell's duration, the teeth melt into saltwater.