Monday, 17 June 2019

Magic User Rework: 4 Kinds of Spellcasters.

In the last post we replaced Spell Slots with Mana.

In short:
1 Mana per level, spells can be Bound (memorised) for 1 Mana per Spell Level, or spells can be cast Unbound (spontaneously) at a risk.
Overall you get fewer safe spells per day, but you get far more flexibility and never run out of spells.

Casting Mechanics

I should note that I've changed the base magic rules slightly, mostly for ease of use.

Declare casting as an Action. The spell goes off at the start of your next turn. During casting you count as Surprised against all attacks.
Bound Spells cannot

Changed from "Declare before initiative is rolled, spell goes off at the end of the round". I kept forgetting to ask people to declare spells. Since initiative is rerolled every round, this could get crazy...

Interrupted Casting
If you are damaged mid-cast there are consequences based on your character class.

Down from "if you are damaged or attacked in melee", because if a creature can't hit a wizard standing still with a melee weapon they don't deserve to disrupt anything!

Exp Tracks
All casters - even Elves - use the Magic-User exp track.

Since Elves are on an even keel with the other casters at this point, it seemed unfair to penalise them.

Alright, on with the show.

Caster Classes

I've got 4 Chaotic caster classes in my game.
could just have each class use the exact same core mechanics, but I like the idea that different casters feel different in play and encourage different gameplay styles.

Magic-User: The flexible caster.
The main focus of the Mana system.
Bind spells for safe casting, access to Cantrips, and the ability to create Familiars.
Leave Mana Unbound to cast spontaneously.

Muscle Wizard: The frontline caster.
Increased survivability since Bound spells boost HP and melee attack, and spells are instant-cast so can't be interrupted.
Unbound Mana might be used to overload a powerful punch attack, and spontaneous casting means you could cast more than one Magic Missile Punch per day.

Elf: The spontaneous caster.
Defined by their Heartspell - a level 1 Spell that defines their Elf species.
Cannot Bind Spells, so they always cast spontaneously unless they're casting their Heartspell. Very chaotic!
Spooky Elf powers boost your Heartspell or grant special abilities, but are lost as you spend Mana.

Necromancer: The Vancian caster.
Work best when they do the traditional Vancian memorise-spells-at-start-of-day thing.
Can Unbind spells to do AoE damage, and use Unbound Mana to cast Subjugate Dead.
Reliant on spell components for many of their spells.


Bound Spell Perks:

You can tap into the power of Bound Spells for minor magical effects. 
For example Sleep might be used to make someone yawn, or Magic Missile could be used to improve your aim.
When you cast the Spell, you lose access to its Cantrips.

When you Bind a Spell you may form it into a Familiar.
Familiars are smallish creatures on-brand for the spell - like Shield could be a hedgehog or Spiderclimb might be a spider or gecko.
When you cast a Familiar's spell, you can cast it through that Familiar if you choose. It vanishes once its spell is cast.
Familiars can communicate mentally with you, will obey simple orders, and cannot be harmed.
If you die, all of your extant Familiars go rogue - each erupts as a Summon spell with HD equal to Spell Level and runs amok!

Interrupted Casting:

Bound Spell:
If damaged during the casting of a Bound Spell you release a Chaos Burst.
If you wish, Save vs Chaos to negate the Chaos Burst and re-Bind the spell, effectively putting it back in your head like you hadn't tried to cast it. Otherwise the spell fails and is lost.

Unbound Spell:
If damaged during the casting of an Unbound Spell you risk disaster.
When the spell goes off, roll on the Chaos Conduit table an additional time for each instance of damage. Take the worst result.


Magic-Users are flexible and the most easily re-themed into a Witch or a Sorcerer or Druid or whatever kind of archetype you like.
Cantrips give the player a lot of leeway to get imaginative with minor effects. As a general rule of thumb these should be about as powerful as the classic (non-5e) cantrips like Blink or Bee.
Familiars have been in the game for a long time, but previously they've been a permanent animal companion who can hold an extra spell. Now they are spells and I'm quite excited about it! If a wizard shows up surrounded by a menagerie you'll know they're dangerous, and also maybe have some hints as to what spells they're packing.

To Bind or not to Bind?
Magic-Users have the most obvious risk/reward to Binding spells.
Bind them for the Cantrips, Familiars and safer casting, or leave your Mana unbound for flexibility.

To Cast or not to Cast?
Similarly, if you've Bound some Spells you have another obvious choice - keep the spell Bound for the perks? Or cast it for the immediate benefits?
We've had one Wizard who kept hold of Magic Missile forever instead of casting it because he liked using a Cantrip that gave him a bonus to Aim.

Bind a Spell and if you're interrupted the spell is cancelled no matter what, but you've got a chance to retain the spell for later.
Cast spontaneously and there's at least a chance that you'll cast the spell regardless - pour enough Mana into a spontaneous cast and it's impossible to stop it from going off successfully.

Muscle Wizard

Bound Spell Perks:

Muscle Magic:
Your fists are d4 Shanky weapons, and can be dual-wielded (naturally).
Each Bound Spell improves your strength and physique.
You gain +2 HP and +1 to melee attacks per Mana committed to Bound Spells.
You lose these perks as you cast the spells. If you reach 0HP from spellcasting, you fall unconscious from overexertion.

(Un)interrupted Casting:

I Cast Fist:
Your spells are cast instantly via punching, so you can never be interrupted!

Close Range Caster:

Ultimate Muscle:
The maximum range of a spell is 10' - extra distance you run or jump or flash-step to the target - and you are never affected by AoE from your spells.
When you cast a spell you must combine it with an unarmed attack that automatically hits for maximum damage, plus bonus damage equal to Mana consumed in the casting.
You can target yourself or your punched target with the spell, so if you want to target yourself it's best to target an enemy but perfectly ok to punch a wall or small animal or something.
On the other hand, if you want to cast a buff spell on a friend you'll want to make sure they don't have a glass jaw...


Obviously the Muscle Wizard remains one of the sillier classes, but I've always been pleased by how they work in play compared to a regular M-U. Especially since I've got fond fond memories of POWERLAD.
The theme is obviously to PUNCH. They've got frontline combat buffs, and since they snap-cast their spells they're less vulnerable than other casters in the thick of it.
A new change is that they have to combine a spell with a punch attack. Previously damaging your target was optional, and I'll be interested to see how this works out.
Since Mana is limited compared to Spell Slots, each Mana committed to Bound Spells gives +2 HP. This works out better for the MW in early levels and gets to be on-par with the bonus HP of the previous version by level 7, which is a sweet spot. Plus their attack bonus grows quicker.

To Bind or not to Bind?
Muscle Wizards will usually want to bind all their Mana into their muscles to increase their power and reduce their squishiness.
On the other hand - spontaneous casters can cast in armour and Muscle Wizards can't be interrupted, significantly reducing one of the main risks! I kinda dig the idea of an Armoured Muscle Wizard and the Muscle Wizard's low AC has always been a weakness, so this could shift the balance.

To Cast or not to Cast?
Always a straightforward class - the Muscle Wizard has always had to decide between keeping their spells back (for the HP and attack bonus) and using their spells for immediate effect.


Heartspell Perks:

There are 20 species of Elf. Each has one of the standard first level spells as their Heartspell.
It defines their species - the mutations and abilities they gain from the magic infusing their magical forms. As they use their magic, flinging it out into the world, they slowly regress back towards that feeble mortal form.
For each point of Mana in the Elf's Mana Pool, they gain an additional power and mutation from their Heartspell. Current document is here. They lose these gifts as they use up Mana.
When an Elf has 0 Mana in their Mana Pool they lose access to magic - they are human again.

Elves do not sleep. They regain their full Mana Pool after dancing under the moon for an hour per level. If prevented from doing this somehow, they do not replenish their Mana.
They gain +1 to their maximum Mana Pool when they dance under a crescent moon, and double it under the New Moon.
They take -1 to their maximum Mana Pool when they dance under a gibbous moon, and halve it under the Full Moon.

Elves cannot Bind spells. They must cast spontaneously (with all associated risks) if they want to cast anything but their Heartspell.
Their Heartspell, by contrast, is easy. It can be cast instantly as an Action. When they cast their Heartspell the Elf must Save vs Chaos - on failure they spend 1 Mana, otherwise they cast the spell for free.

Interrupted Casting:

Since a Heartspell is cast instantly as an action, it cannot be interrupted.

Unbound Spell:
If damaged during the casting of an Unbound Spell you risk disaster.
When the spell goes off, roll on the Chaos Conduit table an additional time for each instance of damage. Take all results, but successes don't stack.



Elves are all about the creepy fae vibes.
Forcing them to be Spontaneous Casters feels thematically on-brand, as does giving them potentially infinite casts of their core Heartspell. Around Elves, watch yourselves.
The effect of the Moon is more powerful than it was in the past, so Elves would do well to ensure they're paying attention to the moon phase. Due to certain incidents my campaign's moon is in a close orbit so you get 2 moon cycles per month. More opportunities for moon madness!
Since Mana is doubled at the new moon, Elves can reach higher power levels more quickly. Exciting! And it forces me to bulk out the Heartspell power list quicker.

To Cast or not to Cast:
Elves, unlike other casters, completely run out of magic when they run out of Mana.
They also gain far more from retaining their Mana than the other classes - powers and mutations that give them cool abilities and make their Heartspell more powerful.
The choice is then - keep my powers? Cast my Heartspell and risk losing a small part of my abilities? Or weaken myself for certain by pouring Mana into a regular spell?

Heartspells are cast instantly - they're a safe option.
Unbound spells are far riskier. Interruptions risk chaos, but also some certainty. If you've already rolled a Success then you know the spell will go off. The issue is you don't know how many side effects you'll be facing...


Necromancer Spells:

Bound Spells:
Necromancers use a unique Necromancer spell list (first couple of spell levels converted for use here based on the book here)
Spells must be Bound to be cast - Necromancers cannot cast spells spontaneously. Unlike other casters, you can bind more than one copy of the same spell.
In addition, many spells require the listed ritual components.
Last Breath - the last gasp of a sapient being - is the most important component. A single vial allows you to speak with the Voice of the Dead for 10 minutes.

As an Action, a Necromancer can Unbind a Spell to reclaim the Mana. The released death magic deals 1d4 damage to everything within 10', and heals Undead in the radius for the same amount.

Subjugate Dead:
The Necromancer's sole use for unbound Mana is their signature ability - Subjugate Dead.
This requires you to speak with the Voice of the Dead.
Spend at least 1 Mana, then roll 1d6 per Mana spent and add your level. You bring that many Hit Dice of Undead under your control, weakest first.
Intelligent Dead are instead Charmed and will grant you respect and deference.

Command Mindless Dead: 
Requires the Voice of the Dead only. They obey your orders to the letter.

Interrupted Casting:

Death Burst:
If damaged during the casting of a Bound Spell, release a burst of death magic which deals 1d4 damage per spell level to yourself and everything within 10'.
Undead in the radius are healed for the same amount.
If you wish, Save vs Chaos to negate the Death Burst and re-Bind the spell, effectively putting it back in your head like you hadn't tried to cast it. Otherwise the spell fails and is lost.


Thematically, Necromancers are encouraged to be careful and plan ahead.
Not only do they often need spell components, they also need to bind spells in advance of an adventure. The spirits of the Dead are not particularly quick-witted.
If you pack something that turns out useless, at least you can Unbind the Mana to do AoE damage.
Last Breath is a commodity in the post-apoc economy because there are so few people left, so people use it as a currency. Pretty macabre.

To Bind or not to Bind?
There's not much of an option here unless all you want to do is Subjugate Dead.
The intended gameplay loop is:
- Bind Spells with all of your Mana.
- If you need to Subjugate Dead, Unbind the spell to get the Mana back (hopefully healing minions and hurting foes!)
- Subjugate yourself some Dead.

To Cast or not to Cast?
Since there's no passive benefit to retaining spells, the question is more how to cast.
Do you cast your Bound Spells? Or do you use them for healing your undead minions and harming enemies?
Technically you could just bind a big spell and then run into combat to Unbind it, dealing a ton of AoE damage to everyone around you. I wonder if anyone's done that before...

Gimme the Full Thing Already!

Full text, with the "Core Mechanics" integrated, is either in the player-facing Quick Class Breakdowns booklet, or in the latest House Rules Document.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Magic-User Rework: Fuck Spell-Slots Get Mana

Imagine a hosepipe.

Binding a Spell is like making a spray gun for the hose, walking back to the tap, turning it on, and calmly walking back to the nozzle to water your plants.

Casting a Spell Unbound is turning on the tap and running like hell to grab the end of the hose before it starts whipping around everywhere, then trying to control the spray with your thumb while simultaneously discovering that the hose is an angry snake.
It's risky but hey, at least you didn't need to waste all that time making a stupid nozzle!


This is about making Spell Slots optional without making a whole separate Sorcerer-type class.
It's also about not having to rewrite all my spells. Who's got that kind of time??

Do you memorise your spells at the start of the day, limiting yourself in exchange for reliability?
Or do you cast spells spontaneously, increasing the risk in exchange for flexibility?

The core of this is basically a straight pull from Logan's magic rules with the Bound Spells thing plugged in. One step closer to stealing every last house rule from Last Gasp!

Core Caster Mechanics

I'm going to focus this article on core mechanics for Magic-Users first, then tell you about the differences between caster classes later.

Mana: You have 1 Mana per level. This is your Mana Pool - your personal magical reserve.
Mana can be used to Bind Spells for safer casting, or left in your Mana Pool to be used for spontaneous casting.
You can still cast spells when you’re out of Mana, it’s just significantly more dangerous.
Your Mana Pool refills after 8 hours of rest.

Spellbinding: This is the equivalent of memorising spells and requires a Spellbook.
Bind each Spell by spending Mana equal to the Spell Level.
Your maximum Mana Pool is reduced by the same amount until the spell is cast.
The Spellbinding process takes an hour of intense concentration. You can create as many Bound Spells as you want during the hour, but you cannot double up on Bound Spells.

Casting Bound Spells: Declare casting as an Action, it goes off at the start of your next turn. You count as Surprised against attacks until the spell goes off.
You cannot cast Bound Spells if you are more than Lightly Encumbered. It's something to do with metal or heavy gear or game mechanics getting in the way of the magic.

Casting Unbound Spells: Requires a Spellbook to hand. Declare casting as an Action, it goes off at the start of your next turn. You count as Surprised against attacks until the spell goes off.

Roll 3d6 on the Chaos Conduit table with the associated modifiers.
Roll an extra d6 for each Mana spent.
Roll one less d6 per spell level.
(If this would ever make you roll less than 0d6, it's an automatic Cosmic Horror result instead)

Success means the spell goes off! Hurrah!
Chaos Burst requires a roll on the best Wild Magic table.
Cosmic Horror requires you to roll on Last Gasp's That Which Should Not Be table.

Chaos Conduit Modifiers:
- Aptitude: Your Intelligence Modifier.
- Encumbrance: -1 per Encumbrance Level.
- Blood Sacrifice: Sacrifice your HP for +1 per point.

Discussion - Core Mechanics

So that's the basic core of the thing, a fairly straight swap to add Spontaneous Casting to standard Vancian Magic-Users.

If you want to do the classic Vancian memorise-at-the-start-of-the-day thing you can do that.
If you want to keep all your Mana free for Spontaneous Casting, you can do that too.
If you're out of Mana and you need to cast something, it's possible!

This also brings in the possibility of memorising spells later in the day if you've got an hour - a bit like casting as a ritual. Facing a riddle door on a mountainside and you've got a couple Mana spare? Bind it into a Knock spell and you'll be saying "Mellon" before you know it!

Bound Spells
Making this a choice means that I can tie existing mechanics and extra perks into having your spells Bound.
Familiars are made from spells now, for instance, and the Muscle Wizard's powers are tied into Spellbinding - their body is fortified by binding spells into their muscles.
There's also the extra bit where someone relying on Bound Spells can leave their Spellbook at home - they only need one to hand if they are to cast spontaneously.

Unbound Spells
Spontaneous Casting is built around the assumption that it's best to match Mana Burn to Spell Level, evening the penalty out. If you don't want the risk, burning even one extra Mana makes the spellcasting much safer, taking you from about 20% chance of Cosmic Horror on 3d6 to a mere 3% on 4d6.
Good odds!

Armoured Wizards
You'll notice that spontaneous casting allows wizards to cast in armour! My justification is that they're shaping the spell around their gear, as opposed to Bound Spells which are much less fluid.
Classic Vancian wizards need to stick to flowy robes, Sorcerer-types can wear a bunch of armour and make up the difference with Mana or blood!

Quasi-Levelless Casting
This is part of my soft move towards all spells becoming scaling Level 1 spells, a la Wonders & Wickedness. This way I can still use the regular spells in the book while any new spells can be introduced at Level 1.

Big Guns for Low Levels
The other side of this is that it means I can let low level spellcasters use high level spells. They'll never use them otherwise if the soft-cap remains at Level 7!
It's just crazy risky if you don't have enough Mana to match the spell level.
As it stands a Magic-User at level 6 could bind a single Level 6 spell - gaining access to such bullshit as Disintegrate and Power Word Kill five levels early. Finally! More than a thin sliver of the spell list is within a Magic-User's grasp!

Probability of Overcasting Success.
In case it's of interest, a Magic-User casting an unbound Level 1 spell without Mana has about a 50% chance of casting it successfully.
Only issue is that of that 50%, most of it is "Success + Cosmic Horror" so you might want to boost it with blood magic if you're not intending it as a Hail Mary.

Lore Reasoning

Magic in D&D is so mechanics-oriented that it forces everyone to invent their own headcanon.
Here's mine.

What is Magic?
Magic is of Chaos - a roiling dimension of infinite energy that lies just beyond our own.
A universe dominated by chaos would be one of infinite randomness and infinite entropy. Chaos is inimical to the foundations of our reality.
Magic-Users constrain this change-energy, imposing order on the Chaos to create repeatable effects.

What is a Spell?
A spell is a three-dimensional shape that can be unfolded into the higher-dimensional form of the spell and trick Chaos into changing reality in an extremely specific way.
Chaos "thinks" it's causing a random effect, but pouring it through the specifically shaped fifth-dimensional portal tricks it into having a single outcome.
Essentially you're tricking it into picking one result from an infinitely long random table.

What is Casting?
Casting is the tricky process of unfolding your three-dimensional net of the spell into the higher-dimensional reality. It takes concentration - least of all since it's functionally impossible to imagine.
If the spell is already Bound this is skilled work but fairly straightforward, like folding an origami crane from instructions.
If you're casting Unbound it is far more tricky, like folding an origami crane without instructions while someone loudly counts down from ten in your ear.

What is a Wizard?
A Wizard is someone who has cracked their very soul in some manner, whether on purpose or by accident. This crack is small enough to let a trickle of Chaos in, suffusing them with Chaotic energy.
Magic-Users channel the energy with their mind, baking the glyph-forms onto their synapses.
Muscle Wizards channel the energy with their body, binding the glyph-forms into their muscles.
Elves are of magic. Magic is in their bones and blood - part of what they are. When they cast spells they're flinging their own innate magical essence out into the world.
And Necromancers use it to drill directly into the Ghost Dimension and use the released energies to bind and coerce the spirits of the Dead.

Chaos Warning

That up there is the main core of this Mana system.
In the next post I'm going to go into the differences between the four Caster Classes in the grand tradition of trying to make casters "feel" different to each other while retaining the same core mechanics.

Magic-User, Muscle Wizard, Elf and Necromancer.
Flexible, Physical, Spontaneous, and Ritualistic.
Watch this space!

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Cleric Rework - Miracles, Holy War, and You

We killed the spell slots.
Time to kill the spells!

Main Deal

The core of this Cleric class is fundamentally the same as the Generic Cleric from the previous post.
The main change is the removal of the standard Cleric Spell List in favour of three unique Miracles by Religion.
Replacing the whole Cleric spell list with a smaller group of unique Miracles means they can be powerful and thematic.
A minor addition is the Sect Bonus - allowing any character class (including the Cleric) to gain a benefit from their Religion.

Also conveniently it's Easter Sunday today. I didn't intend to time it like this, but it's good timing for Cleric mechanics!

Core Cleric

Core: HD, Saves, Experience per level, etc of a normal Cleric.

Lay on Hands: Heal the wounded by drawing points from your Healing Pool.
Each dawn, roll 1d6 per level + Wis Mod. This is your Healing Pool for the day.
As an action, you can draw points from the Healing Pool to heal as much HP to a touched target.

Religions: You belong to one of several different religious sects. Each Religion has a unique set of Miracles that you can cast, Observances to follow, and a relationship with other faiths.
See Religions below.

Faith: You cast Miracles through Faith.
Your Faith total will change as you cast Miracles and trigger Observances.
At dawn each day, roll 2d6 + level + Wis Mod. This is your starting Faith total for the day.

Miracles: Each Religion has 3 unique Miracles.
Calling forth a Miracle is a normal Action - the Miracle is cast instantaneously.
After you call forth a Miracle, 2d6 and attempt to roll equal to or less than your current Faith total.
  • Success: Your Faith total is set to either the result of the roll or your Cleric level, whichever is higher.
  • Failure: Your Faith total drops to zero, and you can no longer call forth Miracles until your Faith resets at dawn.
Observances: Each Observance is an act that will cause you to gain or lose Faith.
Observances can be triggered once each. After you call forth a Miracle, this resets so you can be affected by each Observance again.

Lead Prayer: As a true Cleric, your passion and truth outshine petty sectarian divides.
When you deliver a Sermon everyone in the congregation unlocks their Sect Bonus, no matter their faith.


There are many Religions.
They slot into the core Cleric to basically create a bunch of sub-classes.
If you don't want to choose an established Religion, you can work with the DM to create your own.

Each Religion comes with three unique Miracles.
Each Religion comes with a set of unique Observances.
Each Religion grants a unique Sect Bonus.

Miracles are the equivalent of Cleric spells.
Observances make you gain or lose Faith.
Sect Bonus is a permanent perk - explained later to keep this tight.

Here are some examples from my game so you see what I'm on about.
We recently went post-apocalyptic so they're all apocalypse cults.

Hyperchurch of Powerlad

What's their deal?
Lightning, Hammers and Heroism - live up to POWERLAD's example.

  • Sacrifice: Sacrifice your HP to grant it to someone within 50’.
    Plasma-globe lightning connects you, dealing the same amount of Lightning damage to creatures in between (they get a Save vs Blast to avoid).
  • Storm Hammer: You grow huge and buff (+4 Strength Mod). Lightning crackles as a great weapon - the God-Hammer - appears in your hands.
    It deals 1d10 Lightning damage (1d12 with Sect Bonus) and lasts 1 round/level.
  • Storm Shell: Create an electrical barrier against weather effects and airborne particulates. Crossing the barrier deals 1d6 Lightning damage. Lasts 10 minutes/level or until you dispel it.


Sect Bonus:
Hammerfall: Hammers you wield deal +2 against all armour types and boost damage die by one size.


What's their deal?
Survive and repopulate the post-apocalyptic world.

  • Abjure Poison: Grant touched target immunity to poisons, toxins, and drugs - even Omnipoison.
    Lasts 1 Turn/level.
  • Forecast: Gain divine knowledge of the current weather systems. See Weather Chart and where the weather is right now. If you wish, also trigger an immediate weather change.
    *This one will make more sense when I've tested my Hexcrawl rules better. Based on this.
  • Enhance Vigour: Prepare a person for the great work of repopulation!
    Touched target is cured of all Disease and become extremely virile/fertile until the next dawn.


Sect Bonus:
Endurance: -1 Encumbrance level, minimum zero. Always run at unencumbered speed during a Chase.


What's their deal?
Fuck Gods. Burn Heaven. Why worship beings who couldn't stop the end of the world?

  • Silence of God: Reduce target Cleric’s Faith to zero. 50’ range.
  • Abjure Religion: Grant immunity to Lawful magic to everyone within 50’. Lasts 1 round/level.
  • Debate Me!: You and a target within 50' are transported to a pale infinite plane of Law. You are a blinding white soul, they are white, grey or black depending on Alignment.
    You understand each other's needs and drives and if you speak the same language you can communicate.
    You can try to change their mind or compel an action, and if you do so they get a Save vs Law to resist.
    When you return to the world you have only been gone a brief moment.


Sect Bonus:
Shatter Faith: +4 to Saves vs Law. At will, cancel the Sect Bonus of everyone within 20’ - even your own and other Faithless.

Yes, there is a "no religion" religion. Is "no religion" a type of religion? Is bald a type of hairstyle? Who can say but God himself?

Tolerance and Apostasy

Different religions have different stances towards each other. Classic. 
Bring holy war into your game with this one neat trick!

While all Religions believe themselves to be the most true, they may put up with other Religions whose beliefs are relatively compatible.
Of course, some Religions are straight up heretical. These Apostate Religions must be shunned.
The most obvious thing is the social impact.
You get a +2 to Reaction Rolls with people of your own religion, and -2 to Reaction Rolls with those who hold your faith to be Apostate.
It's no use trying to hide your faith, people can Just Tell.

The other impact is in Sermons (see below).
Sermons are more effective if you're in a congregation made up of your own Faith, listening to a preacher who is at least Tolerated by your religion.
Sermons are less effective if you're in a congregation made up of filthy Apostates.

Tolerance and Apostasy is not necessarily mirrored, which is fun. You might tolerate someone's faith, but they think yours is complete heresy.

You don't have to do this, but I made a grid for my ones!
There's fluff reasons for everything. eg. the Sinners hold the Enlightened as apostate because their gods clearly left them to die on this poisoned earth, while the Enlightened tolerate the Sinners in turn because their gods clearly saved the Sinners for some greater purpose.

Generally, each Religion holds two as Apostate. Equality, kinda.

Sect Bonus

Religion isn't just for Clerics! If you participate in a Sermon, you too can unlock a special faith ability called a Sect Bonus.
The ability itself is unique per Religion, see examples above.

Every ten minutes of preaching, the preacher and everybody in the congregation rolls a Save vs Law.
If the preacher is from your own or a Tolerated faith, +1 per member of your faith in the congregation.
If there are any members of an Apostate faith in the congregation, -1 per Apostate present.
Passing the Save means you unlock your Sect Bonus.

Sect Bonus:
Once it's unlocked, you retain your Sect Bonus indefinitely.
You lose your Sect bonus if you wield Chaotic magic. This includes casting a spell, using a magic item, or gaining a buff from a Chaotic source.

Lead Prayer:
If a Cleric is leading the Sermon, everyone in the congregation passes their Save automatically.
A party with a Cleric is almost always going to keep that buff... and almost certainly have to listen to a lot of preaching.


So this is much more of a departure from the standard Cleric, but seeing as my current group has 3 Clerics right now they've had a bit of playtesting! What a treat!

Bespoke Miracles:
My main takeaway is that it's real fun and they're very powerful. Constraining Clerics to a smaller set of powerful spells means they're more likely to use them, and use them in interesting ways.
The most obvious effect is, of course, that Clerics of different religions feel very different. 

The heroic Hyperchurch Clerics - combat oriented - are very powerful in combat, and even more powerful in combination.
The stoner UFO cult Cleric has been going around abducting enemies and, notably, caused a deadly combat to chill out for long enough for people to escape to safety.

Great fun.


In a similar way, the different Observances have made the various Clerics feel unique. The stoner Cleric keeps toking up between miracles, while the Hyperchurch Clerics are always on the look out for people to romance and keep taking their tops off in storms.
And since all Clerics need to give a Sermon to boost their Faith, they're preaching all over the place.
Good times!

Altered Miracle Mechanic:

Getting rid of the spell list means getting rid of spell levels!
Cleric Faith starts at 2d6+level+Wis Mod, with all Miracle Rolls on 2d6.
This means a level 1 Cleric of average Wisdom will start a day with around 8 Faith. That's at least one Miracle, with good odds on another. Especially if you follow your Observances.

A level 7 Cleric with the same Wisdom will be more like 14 Faith at dawn, guaranteed second Miracle! And more importantly - since your Faith resets to the higher of the Miracle roll or your level, a successful roll leaves them with at least 7 Faith after each Miracle. Good odds for chaining many together in the same day.

Something to note is that I'm assuming a de facto level cap of Level 7, so this is a comfortable balance. If you've got Clerics going beyond level 12 they'll essentially have infinite Miracles.
I'm fine with that personally, but it's something to keep in mind if you're the sort of person who doesn't start new characters off at level 1.


I'm pretty jazzed about Sermons and the Sect Bonus.
Since there are Clerics in the party, everyone's constantly boosted by their Religion - perfect!

We haven't experienced the other side of the coin yet - a Sermon by a lay priest.
The intention is to make a mono-religious party gain easy access to their Sect Bonus, and make it mechanically advantageous to shun apostates (or at the very least, make them leave the room).
We'll see how that pans out!

Sermons are required because I think the idea of pausing a dungeon delve for a spot of preaching is funny - especially since they'll have to do it more often if the Wizards keep casting spells and want their boost back.

If you want to see what I've got for my game:
Religion Pamphlet here.
Religion Spreadsheet here.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

GLOG Class: The Parasite Brain

I was going to post more Cleric stuff but here I am, jumping on a bandwagon.
I don't write stuff for GLOG, but maybe I've nicked enough stuff that it's time to give back!

To my players: Don't worry I'm not going to convert this into a class for our game... yet.

For those not in the know, GLOG's schtick is every time you level up you add a Template to your character, 4 max.
Basically this ABCD thing is what you get each level up to level 4.

Also: The others involved!
OblidisideryptchMicahType1NinjaAmbnzCoalfiberLexiIsaak HillChufferMartin OWizards, and Wr3cking8a11

Class: The Murmurer

Murmurer A: Parasite, Threading, 2 Threads.
Murmurer B: Mindshift, +2 Threads.
Murmurer C: Infinite Thread, +2 Threads.
Murmurer D: Backup Brain, +2 Threads.

A Murmurer, more properly "The" Murmurer and sometimes called a Parasite Brain, is a tenacious parasitic mind that colonises the heads of humanoids.
This isn't a particularly evil act from the Murmurer's perspective. After all, it's the only way it can survive!

The part that a Murmurer may admit is kind of evil is the way they worm their threads into the cerebellum of living creatures and take direct control of them, forming them into a colony under the Murmurer's mental control.

The Murmurer itself is a sort of parasitic sludge, rapidly liquefying and replacing the neocortex of the host. The most obvious sign of the Murmurer is the reverse-face. A face grows on the back of the creature's head over time. This is usually covered by hair, if possible, or a hat.
Yea it's basically like Voldemort in the first Harry Potter plus a Yeerk.

A Murmurer is permanently attached to their Core Host and relies on it to survive.
If it is ever removed from the host by some means, or the host takes so much damage that their brain shuts down, the Murmurer dies with it.

Murmurers can extrude long web-like Threads from their Core Host. Usually these emerge from the ears or nose, but it's not unknown to have them emerge from the mouth or the corners of the eyes.
A Thread, placed on the back of the neck of an unconscious being, grows into the victim's spinal cord and crawls up the brain-stem. When it reaches the cerebellum it grows over it and takes control of the victim's nervous system.
A Thread is wispy and floats on air currents, and very difficult to break without focused effort. It is incredibly slippery, strong, and thin. Even scissors have a difficult time with it unless they are extremely sharp.
The most obvious mark of someone taken over by a Murmurer is the eyes - within hours of Threading the new drone has a bifurcated double-pupil. 
Another obvious mark is a large bubo on the nape of the neck. The Thread emerges from the centre of this bubo, and the lump itself is filled with a tangled spool of Thread.

early onset

Core Host

HD, saves, exp, etc as Fighter.

You begin play embedded in the back of the head of an ordinary human, or maybe an equivalent humanoid common in the region. This is your Core Host, the one whose brain you've grown around.
Ability scores are rolled as normal and apply to your host - even mental attributes. 

If you ever shift into another host, you'll take their ability scores.


You can Thread up to two creatures per Template.

A Threaded creature must be unconscious and must possess a cerebellum - ie. it must have a spine.
The process always succeeds.
A Threaded creature must stay within 30' of you and must protect you against anything you perceive as a threat, but cannot be controlled directly and will not take orders.
Threaded creatures are otherwise mindless. They will not even feed themselves. Not that they lose their mind - the creature is still in there looking out through their own eyes - you've just hijacked their nervous system.
This is why Threaded creatures often murmur and mumble, they're trying to speak.
They're trying to beg.

If the Thread is ever broken by some means, they fall unconscious for 1d4 hours. When they wake up they regain their mind and remember everything that befell them. It will take some time for their pupils to reform and the bubo on their neck to heal, but they are otherwise back to normal.


You can shift your consciousness into a Threaded creature, allowing you to control them directly. Your Core Host stands stock-still while this is happening, although it is of course defended by any other creatures you have Threaded nearby.

You can control the creature as if it were your own body, although you cannot go more than 30' away from your Core Host.
Your attributes change to those of the Threaded creature you're controlling - physical and mental - and you gain access to all of the creature's natural powers and abilities. You never gain access to the creature's memories, so any unnatural abilities (spellcasting, unsupported flight, etc) are beyond you.

If the controlled creature dies, you take the same amount of damage that killed them (you experience their death) and snap back to your Core Host.

Infinite Thread

There is no range limit to your Threads.
You can directly control Threaded creatures and send them far afield. If they cannot see you they will not know the way back to you, so they will wait wherever they are indefinitely.
Maybe check up on them occasionally - they won't eat or clean themselves without direct compulsion from you.

Backup Brain

By going ear-to-ear with a Threaded creature, you can compel a portion of your goopy Murmurer-stuff to squish out and infest their mind.
The creature must possess a human-scale neocortex - ie. be some sort of primate or equivalent humanoid. Lesser creatures simply don't have enough higher brain function to replace.

It takes a full week for the goop to digest and replace the neocortex, but the creature otherwise acts as normal during the process.
After a week the creature is essentially new Murmurer slaved to you via the Thread - a backup copy of your Murmurer parasite-mind.

There is no limit to the number of Threaded creatures you can turn into backups - turn them all into backups if you like! What could go wrong?

If your Core Host is ever killed, you (the player) can swap to controlling a Backup.
You revert to a Level 1 character in a new body with the Murmurer A template.

You are not shifting in. The original "you" in the Core Host has died. By dying it has unshackled all connected Backups, each of which is now the "real" Core Host.
This is the manner in which The Murmurer reproduces, and why each considers itself "The" Murmurer. Each is the continuation of the one Murmurer, and all others are clearly fakes.
Murmurers hate each other, since the mere act of existing takes the "copies" further and further away from their original experiences. They often kill each other, as though they were seeing their own Clone.

If the Thread to a Backup is severed while your Core Host yet lives, that Backup is unshackled as though you had died. Since it's legitimately the real you and knows everything you know, it will be hard to hide from yourself.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Cleric Rework - Fuck Spell-Slots Get Miracles

Clerics are weird. This is known.

They're basically just religious wizards with a thematic spell list and a heal-bot reputation. Most of the time they're there to heal and maybe occasionally use a more interesting spell like Command.
I've never been quite happy with them, but adding a bunch of spells per religious denomination helped a little.

This is taking it a step further. Fuck the spell list. Fuck spells per day. You're not a wizard, you're a warrior-priest! Let's get faithful!

(This is part one. Part two can be found here!)

Generic Cleric

A standard Cleric.
Should hopefully be easy to add/swap into whatever you're running with minimal fuss.

Core: HD, Saves, Experience per level, etc of a normal Cleric.

Lay on Hands: Heal the wounded by drawing points from your Healing Pool.
Each dawn, roll 1d6 per level + Wis Mod. This is your Healing Pool for the day.
As an action, you can draw points from the Healing Pool to heal as much HP to a touched target.

Faith: You cast Miracles through Faith.
Your Faith total will change as you cast Miracles and trigger Observances.
At dawn each day, roll 1d6 per level + Wis Mod. This is your starting Faith total for the day.

Miracles: All Cleric spells are called Miracles now.
Healing spells like the Cure family no longer heal HP, but can still be used to cure paralysis or mend broken bones or whatever else they can already do instead.
You can cast any Miracle that would have access to at your level (eg. a 5th level Cleric has access to 1st, 2nd and 3rd level Miracles).

Calling a Miracle: Calling forth a Miracle is a normal Action - the Miracle is cast instantaneously.
After you call forth a Miracle, roll 1d6 per spell level and attempt to roll equal to or less than your current Faith total.
  • Success: Your Faith total is set to either the result of the roll or your Cleric level, whichever is higher.
  • Failure: Your Faith total drops to zero, and you can no longer call forth Miracles until your Faith resets at dawn.
Observances: Each Observance is an act that will cause you to gain or lose Faith.
Observances can be triggered once each. When you make a successful Miracle roll, this resets so you can be affected by each Observance again.


So that's the Generic Cleric.
I've got special stuff for different religions (which is the stuff I'm most stoked about) but I cut it down to one standard Cleric to really show what I'm going for here:

- Retain status as the Healer class.
- Encourage use of non-Cure spells.
- Reward Clerics for following their religion.

Healbot Reputation

In my game to date, Clerics would often avoid using a more interesting spell because they didn't want to waste a potential Cure Light Wounds.
This was alleviated slightly by giving them a Denomination Spell, but not by much.

Honestly a Healer class is a solid niche, I can't fault it from a gameplay standpoint. It's just that sometimes it feels like that's all a Cleric is.
Plus there's the social impact - "wasting" your last spell of the day on Command or Detect Evil is sure to get you moaned at by the rest of the party when someone gets shanked in the lung.
So why not just make healing a separate ability to spellcasting?
Everyone gets heals, the Cleric gets to use cooler spells, it works!

Miracle Mechanic

This is the core of Cleric spellcasting now. Note that there's no possibility of failing to cast the Miracle - it always goes off regardless of the Faith roll.
This goes back a ways to the idea that Clerics are reliable.
There might be a possibility that this Miracle is your last one of the day, but there's no question whether you can cast it. This is also why it's a normal action instead of a full round of spellcasting - you can't be interrupted.

You may notice it's a little janky in regards to starting Faith (1d6/Cleric level) and rolling when you cast a Miracle (1d6/spell level). Yes, even if you have a million starting Faith, a single level 1 Miracle will set your new Faith total to 1-6.

This is because the "real" version is slightly different (coming sooooon....?).
But then, as is, this version of the Cleric is encouraged to start off the day using higher level spells (while they still have high Faith) and work their way down to the lesser spells as their Faith total declines.
You could justify this thematically though. You don't hear about Jesus throwing out a few Commands before he whips out a big Cure Disease or Create Food and Water.

Also a level 6 Cleric can cast infinite Level 1 Cleric spells, since minimum Faith on a successful roll is your Cleric level.
It sorta works - in my game the maximum level soft caps at around level 7, so why shouldn't a high level Cleric be allowed to throw around as many Commands and Detect Evils as they like?

Keep the Faith

Observances are the fun one, cribbed from the Dragon Worship rules which I cribbed originally from Perdition.
The intention is that a Cleric can cast a Miracle, get a new Faith total, then farm it back up with Observances in order to ensure they succeed at their next Miracle roll.
This means a Cleric who's careful with their Miracles and devout in their faith is unlikely to run out of spells per day.

On the other hand, if you spam Miracles you don't have a chance to build up more Faith in between times, so you'll likely run out sooner.
Worse, if you're a taboo-breaking Cleric who triggers the negative Observances, you'll lose Faith and likely run out of Miracles even sooner.

D&D has always had the much-maligned and debated Paladin falling mechanic, so this is a soft version of that. Plus it's codified so you can't get fucked over by a DM who pits Paladins against the trolley problem.

Less Generic Cleric

But James! I hear you cry. This is a bit shit! Those Observances only work for a generic psuedo-judeo-christian paladin-type Cleric! What if my deity is the God of the Woods? Or the Moon? Or the Turbo Dragon Jesus?

It's a simple fix my friend.
If you have any special Cleric spells per religion, add them into the Cleric's spell list.
Then simply change the Observances to fit the Cleric's deity - working with the player if you want to be nice and collaborative.

Here's my guideline for new Observances:

+1: Preaching.
+1: Specific healing
+1: An easy act that can be completed anywhere.
+1: A slightly less easy act that can be completed anywhere.
+1: A situational act you have to seek out.
+1: Visiting a devotional location.

-1: An easily avoided act.
-1: A harder to avoid act.
-1: Harming a follower of your own or a related religion.
-2: Inverse of theme - the opposite of what your deity is about

And some examples, which may make more sense with an ensuing post:

Cleric of POWERLAD

Drug Cult Cleric

Edgy Atheist Cleric
Further reading:Miracles, Holy War and You!

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Titan-Scale Mass Combat

I threw this together to adjudicate the End War - the final battle to save the world.
It went fucking great.
Since it was a one-off (for now...?) I was intending to paper over any weirdness with the rules on the fly, but it ended up working pretty good on its own!

The actual scenario is very my-campaign-specific, but maybe it'll be useful if you need a one-off EPIC BATTLE or as a starting point for better mass combat rules.


When I say Titan-Scale I mean Titan-Scale.
You're not ordering around individual units, you're dealing with entire armies clashing. I'm going for adjudicating a Lord of the Rings clash of thousands rather than a more cerebral tactical battle where you counter cavalry with pikes or whatever.
This means that combat is necessarily abstract.

There are Horde-Scale units. These are units of hundreds, if not thousands, of troops.
There are Titan-Scale units. These are the size of mountains, truly titanic, unassailable by even the mightiest hero.

Combat at the standard encounter scale is ineffectual and fruitless. If the PCs wish to impact the battle directly it will be in the realm of surgical strikes, diplomacy, or perhaps classic PC bullshit.

The Battlefield


The Battlefield is a hex grid. Each hex is as big as you need it to be.
Here's what I had:

In this case, the hexes are approx 2-3 miles across.


Each Turn is about 1 hour.
Titan-scale units lumber across the landscape, while the Horde-Scale units practically zip around underneath their feet.

The Basic System


A Horde's Power dictates the die they roll in combat. It's 1dX, where X is their Power.
eg. a Horde with Power 10 rolls 1d10 for combat, a Horde with Power 6 rolls 1d6.

Slow Hordes (eg. zombies) move 1 Hex per Turn.
Standard Hordes (eg. human armies) travel at 2 Hexes per Turn.
Fast Hordes (eg. winged dragon-cultists) can move 3 Hexes per Turn.

Horde on Horde Combat:
Each side rolls their combat die.
The Loser loses 2 Power, dropping down a die size.
The Loser may retreat a hex, if able.

Killing a Horde:
If a Horde is at 4 power (ie. uses a base d4 for combat) and loses a combat, they are destroyed.
Survivors may flee, if possible, as a useless noncombatant unit.

Horde on Titan Combat:
Hordes cannot harm Titans.
The best a Horde can expect to do against a Titan is to slow it down so that their Titan can get involved.
Some Hordes might have a special ability that allows them to harm a Titan-Scale Entity.
(eg. in my End War, the Tentacle Cult could summon forth a titan-scale Tendril if left unmolested)

Technically Wun Wun is Horde-Scale, despite being fairly big


Titan-Scale damage uses Hit Locations.
Each Hit Location can be Unhurt, Hurt, or Maimed.

Here are some example hit locations for an Apocalypse Dragon, the walking city Battlefortress Fate, a big Prime Tentacle surrounded by 3 Sub-Tentacles, and an extremely huge humanoid.
If a Hit Location is Hurt it can't be used to attack. If a Hit Location is Maimed it has been mauled to pieces and cannot be used at all.
It's up to you to adjudicate what this means.

Titan-Scale units all move at one hex per Turn.

Titan on Titan Combat:
Each Titan automatically hits and hurts the other - roll for a hit location to see what each hit.
If the Hit Location is Unhurt it becomes Hurt.
If it's Hurt it becomes Maimed.
If it's already Maimed, damage another Hit Location - attacking Titan controller's choice.

Killing a Titan:
Usually impossible, but you can Maim it enough that it's useless.
In my End War, there were enormous horse-sized Rot Grubs that would fuck up a wounded Titan. Luckily this never happened to the players' Titans!

Titan on Horde Combat:
The Titan wins automatically and takes no damage in the fighting.
The Horde loses 2 Power and may retreat if they wish.

Titan-Scale combat for sure

The Turn Order

Each Turn is an hour.
Each Turn goes like this:
  1. PCs Give Orders
  2. Horde Movement
  3. Titan Movement
  4. Horde Combat
  5. Titan Combat
  6. PCs Do Stuff
1. PCs Give Orders
Write down what the PCs want the entities under their control to do.
You can't really change your orders once they're given on this scale.

2. Horde Movement
Horde-Scale Entities move according to their Speed.
If there's any question of who goes first, fastest choose.

3. Titan Movement
Titan-Scale entities move.
If there's any question of who goes first, choose what's coolest.

4. Horde Combat
If two enemy Hordes are in the same hex, they fight!
Follow the Horde-Scale rules above.

5. Titan Combat
If a Titan is fighting a Titan, or has a Horde attacking them, they fight!
Follow the Titan-Scale rules above.

6. PCs Do Stuff
After everything's moved and rolled for and all the rest, it's the PCs turn to take independent action if they wish.
We had things like "fly to a dead city to try to raise an army of survivors", "dive into the Tentacult to destroy their leader" and "chug a bunch of wizard drugs and cast a Titan-scale Force of Forbidment".
It was good shit!

The End War

You can check out my original sheet for the End War here.

The goal was simple.
Kill Shub-Niggurath.

The PCs had, over the course of the apocalypse, united pretty much every other apocalyptic threat against this one true enemy.
They controlled the Apocalypse Dragon Ninhursag - the Earth Dragon - and had equipped it with the most virulent poison known to man. Any living organic matter that was touched by this noxious Omnipoison would be catalysed into more of the toxic gas.
If Shub-Niggurath was successful it would undergo planetary lysis, cracking the world like an egg and spreading itself far across the cosmos.

The plan:
1. Get Ninhursag to the largest closest tendril of Shub-Niggurath - the Prime Tentacle.
2. Blow a hole in the Prime Tentacle.
3. Send Ninhursag plunging down the hollow inside of the Prime Tentacle until it reaches the centre of the planet, then unleash the Omnipoison into Shub-Niggurath's frothing core.

My intention for the push-pull of this battle was it to go something like this:
- Titans get into battle.
- When a Titan is wounded, they are vulnerable to the Parasite Grub Hordes that want to dive into the wounds and eat them.
- Wounded Titans need to be protected from the Parasite Grubs by their Hordes.

Instead we also got some of the most metal shit that's ever happened in the campaign, including a PC becoming a Titan-Scale monster and throwing a fucking Apocalypse Dragon at the Moon.
It was rad as hell!

Titan-Scale Foes

The Prime Tentacle
- Immobile.
- Surrounded by 3 malformed ancillary tentacles which can also attack.
- Regenerates each Turn: Maimed > Hurt > Unhurt.

Apocalypse Dragon Ereshkigal
- Unknown agenda.
- Airborne, but wings are Maimed.
- Gravity well will, if not stopped, pull down the moon.

The Black Sun Ultrademon
- Coming in from the north, Black Sun between its horns.
- Trailed by a wave of impenetrable darkness.
- Surprise! It comes in peace. Wants to rescue its constituent demons by entering Fortress-City Fate and turning into obols.

Horde-Scale Foes

Power 6. Speed 2.
- Protect the Prime Tentacle.
- Can summon a Titan-Scale tendril to damage Titans.
- Won't summon tendril if they're in battle with an enemy Horde.

Ereshkigal Drakencultists
Power 10. Speed 3.
- Defend their dragon at all costs.
- Can open Space Warp between two points anywhere on the battlefield.
- No clear agenda

Power 6. Speed 1.
- 1d4 hordes spawn per Turn near random Titan.
- Spawn new 6 Power Horde in front of them if they win a battle. Insta-killed by Titan damage.
- If a Horde get to a Titan with a Maimed and undefended Hit Location - drill in, hitting another Hit Location (internally...) every Turn.

Titan-Scale Allies

Apocalypse Dragon Ninhursag
- Armoured in bone: each hit location starts off with armour that resists one hit.
- Carrying the Omnipoison around its neck.
- Obeys the mental commands of POWERLAD

Bone Dragon
- Currently Ninhursag's armour, could potentially become own entity again.
- Head contains Ossuary of All Bones, allowing control of all Undead. Could be damaged.
- Controlled by Galaxy RJ

Fortress-City Fate
- Walking City. No Titan-Scale melee capability.
- Every round choose: Fire Macrocannon to deal ranged Titan-Scale damage or raise Shields to resist one incoming Titan-Scale hit.
- Controlled by Styx

Orbital God
- Ranged Titan-Scale attack - can strike with impunity from above with god-beams.
- Distracted by urgent matters across the globe.
- Will listen to Styx and/or POWERLAD.

Horde-Scale Allies

Ninhursag Drakencult
Power 8. Speed 3.
- Defend Ninhursag at all costs.
- Overgrowth reduces speed of foes within 1 Hex.

The Dead
Power 8. Speed 1.
- Defend Ninhursag at all costs.
- Gain +2 Power if they defeat a Horde with bones.
- Obey Galaxy RJ

The Army of Fate
Power 6. Speed 3.
- Mounted on Guber-brand hovercrafts
- Good at hit and run - bonus +2 to power if they didn't attack last Turn.
- Obey Styx

Power 8. Speed 2.
- Can be deployed at Styx's request.
- Can freeze a combat they're in - stalling it for one Turn.
- Obey Styx, via the Orbital God

my clearly v cool notes while i was working on this