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

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Santicorn 2018 - The Powerglass

Mini Santicore ripoff from the OSR Discord!

This one's for Catalessi of Unreal Star.

Catalessi asks for:
"a sandglass-based monster, location or tresaure. all three if you manage"

I was gonna try to do all three but I've been travelling across the world for the past week, sorryyyy!
I did a monster though, and at least it's illustrated I guess!

HD5 AC varies ML10
One ranged sandblast attack for 1d6 damage + blast target into the future.

A large fat sandglass filled with pure white sand, encased in a spinning rings like an orrery. Pearlescent hands formed of bands of coloured sands reach out from around the sandglass and spin the orrery mesh.
It floats through the air, softly spinning, the armoured orrery-case opening itself more and more as the timer runs down, allowing the nacreous sandy limbs a better chance to blast at foes.

The sandglass itself flips every 30 seconds.

On the first round after it flips, it has 18 AC and +1 to hit.
As the sand trickles down, it loses 1 AC but gains +1 to hit at the end of each round.
On the 5th round it has 14 AC and +5 to hit, and the sand has trickled into the lower bulb. At the end of that round the Powerglass flips, deals 1d10 damage to anyone in 20’ as the hoops of the energy-mesh blast out and fly around and reconfigure, and becomes 18 AC and +1 to hit again.

It attacks with blasts of temporal sand from its writhing hands. 1d6 damage and the target disappears - blasted forward in time. They will reappear when the Powerglass next flips, possibly very confused.

Ideally the Powerglass wants to blast a few people into the future, then get close to where they’ll reappear so they get hit by the AoE when it flips.

The Powerglass is summoned by time-thieves to support their temporal endeavours. The Powerglass is a unique creature, but time-thieves often have a few that they’ve stolen from other timelines.
Time-thieves can appear in any place at any time, usually in groups of themselves. Getting the Powerglass to blast people into the future tends to give ample time for them to grab whatever they’re stealing and go.

Monday, 17 December 2018

TFP DMG: How To Run Combat

To my surprise and delight, there are people out there running my rules as-is!
This is wonderful, but also made me realise that I've got a lot of assumptions about how to run a game that don't necessarily come through!

Getting in Fights

The classic OSR rhetoric is to say that "combat is a failure state".
That is, the optimal tactic is to avoid combat at all costs.

This is true but let's be honest - violence is both inevitable and interesting.

Let's get into it!

Real Basic Assumptions

Let the dice run the combat.

Congrats! You've become a part of the audience with your players!
It's not your show any more, you're here to be an interpreter.
Sit back, relax, and get worried with your players when it looks like they're at risk.
Remember: It's not your fault. It's the dice.

Roll in the open.

Roll monster attacks and damage and everything in the open. It's fun, means you can't fudge, and shows newbies more examples of how the game works.
Plus the players get to celebrate or despair when they see what you just rolled with a big baddie.

Explain what you're doing.

Get into the habit of saying "this guy has 14 AC because his skin is like leather" or "this thing has a +4 to hit because it's got a whip-quick lashing neck like a snake" or "the poison bite gives you bleed poison equal to damage".
Not only does this help people understand how the game works under the hood, but their character can probably tell that a living statue will be harder to hurt than a robed tentacle cultist.

Simple initiative.

Simple, aka side-by-side initiative, is when each side (DM and player) has all their turns, then the other side has all their turns.
Roll 1d6 per side, highest wins, players win ties since I'm nice.
Not only does this speed up the actual game around the table and allow greater player cooperation, rerolling initiative each round has the added bonus of occasionally letting one side have two turns in a row.
Truly the easiest way to chuck balance out the window and watch it splatter on the pavement below.
There's little more nail-biting than an initiative roll when someone's about to die and facing down a massive hit from a big monster.

Be lenient.

Combat is messy. It's easy for a player to have a different idea in their head of what the situation is compared to you.
If someone says they're doing something, make sure of two things:
- The intent. What is the outcome they're hoping for?
- The consequences. What happens if it doesn't work out?
These are usually pretty obvious, but if you notice somebody trying to do something exceptionally stupid or impossible make sure you (and they) are on the same page.

Justify results retroactively.

Whatever you rolled, make up a reason why it happened! Or even better, work with the players to work out why it happened.
"These massive dragon jaws, this huge mouth comes down, about to bite you in half, and holy shit a fumble wait wait ok... it's stunned!?... what even happened here?!"
Divining meaning from randomness is the heart of this game after all!

Read this.

It's half a decade old but this post about simple combat from Zak is still fucking solid.

I give this handy combat option summary to Fighters, so they can be the ones who tell people how best to fight

Fuck it I stab him - Adjudicating Players in Combat


I've got three ways to resolve PC violence:
- Attack. Your classic roll to hit then roll for damage.
- Wrestle. For when they get in close and grapply.
- Gambit. Combat manouevres and other cool moves.


Any time someone simply wants to make something die with their weapon, it's a regular Attack.

1d20 + modifiers vs AC. On hit, roll damage.

Players have got a fair few options for messing with the attack roll, mostly centred around weapon type modifiers (see Fighter handout above).
Also if multiple PCs are Flanking an enemy, they can roll Backstab on hit to upgrade it to a crit.
Most PCs only have a 1 in 6 chance of this, but Specialists and people who chucked in a point or two for Failed Career might bring their chance up.

One good thing about an Attack that might not be obvious is that you're not opening yourself up to immediate repercussions. If you Wrestle or Gambit you might get hurt on your own turn!


Usually comes up when someone says "I want to stop her from attacking" or "I tackle them!", very useful for resolving PC-on-PC conflict where nobody actually wants to hurt each other.
Monsters love to wrestle too, so another common reason is "I want to get this off me!"

Contested d20 roll, melee bonus applies. Winner chooses Hold, Disarm, Brawl or Kick Away.
Hold: Try to pin them. Three Holds in a row makes them pinned and helpless.
Disarm: Snatch something from them, or throw something they're holding away.
Brawl: Deal damage with Small, Minor or natural weapons.
Kick Away: Kick them back in the direction of your choice.

One interesting thing to note is that since it's a contested d20 roll, wrestling effectively bypasses armour. The only exception is that Shanky weapons like daggers get a bonus Brawl attack if your Wrestle roll beats their AC - win or lose.
Sometimes it's better to wrestle an armoured foe and shank him in the ribs rather than keep plinking away at his armour, especially if he's got a larger weapon that can't be used to Brawl.

Since starting your go in a Wrestle means your only choice is to roll to Wrestle, it's also a real good option for locking down an enemy that might otherwise run away or attack a friend.

Once the Wrestle gets going you effectively roll twice a combat round - once on each wrestler's go. Since they're both at risk with every roll it makes things feel much more intense.


If they want to do something that's wacky/interesting/otherwise not covered by Attack or Wrestle, it's time to go to Gambit!
My table fucking loves Gambits. They're exciting!

Roll to hit twice.
Two hits - it works like you wanted it to!
Two misses - Ironic reversal, often the thing you wanted to do happens to you.
One hit one miss - partial success or success at cost (I tell you the options, you get to choose).

The advice above about intent and consequences is most important here.
Make sure you're clear on their intent. What happens if they succeed?
Make sure you're all clear on the consequences. What happens if they fail?

Once you're on the same page, say something like "ok so you'll do this if you succeed but this happens if you fail. Still want to do it?"

Sometimes there's a situation where you could adjudicate it as a Wrestle or a Gambit.
An easy example is a disarm - you could do that via a Wrestle (roll off, if you win you can choose to disarm) or via a Gambit (roll to hit twice, on success you've disarmed them).
In a case like this just ask them what they'd prefer, telling them the difference and the stakes.


There's a ton of stuff people can do that doesn't directly hurt, hinder or otherwise mess with the agency of others.

Much of the time you can just say "yea that happens". If someone wants to run away or use an item or whatever, just let them do it.

If it feels like there should be some chance of failure, like they want to do something super quickly or while they're in melee or are otherwise in direct danger, make them roll an appropriate skill.

I use Climbing for this fairly often. If there's a real difference in elevation, like you're on the street and want to get up to the fighting on the roof, I'll have you roll Climb to get up there in a hurry.

Even if it's something that seems impossible to do in a single round, like grab an oil flask and stuff a rag in it and light it, feel free to say it takes a few discrete rounds of actions.
In my game this often results in "fine I'll throw the oil and then someone else lights it" which is legit. Teamwork innit!
Also remember - Sleight of Hand to quickly do fiddly things is a legit way to use that skill.

Don't make it too much of a ballache to do non-violent stuff in combat!
The worst thing that can happen is that someone goes "oh fuck it whatever it's too hard, I just stab him" and just attacks instead of doing something more interesting or memorable.

It leaps at you! - Running Monsters in Combat

The main thing with running enemies is that generally you want to run them as quick as possible so the players can get back to making decisions.

What do they do??

You get all sorts of monsters with all sorts of bullshit abilities.
Make sure the powers are easy to adjudicate! Sometimes I'll make a monster and give them some cool fiddly power and oh no turns out I made them come in packs of 2d10 what was I thinking!?

I know Spwack has success with letting monsters use Gambits, but I don't do it personally.
That means monsters are either Attacking (probably with some bullshit monster ability) or Wrestling (monsters love wrestling, especially if they have teeth and claws and/or can jump great distances).

Don't be cagey about why monsters are doing what they're doing.
"It's protecting its master!" or "you hurt it last time!" or whatever.
Hell, if they're tactical enemies have them talk to each other about their tactics!
"Hit the wizard before she casts that spell!" or "stay at a distance from the one with the greatsword!", that sort of thing.

I'd reiterate a bunch of stuff about how to make "simple" monsters fun in combat, but again, Zak did it better long ago.

Sidebar: Monster Wrestling

If multiple monsters gang up on one PC, they could be in trouble!
Since everyone rolls at once and the winner chooses what to do to one of the losers, it's hard to win and hard to kick them all off even if you do win!

Tying a PC down with a few little baddies is a good time, and if they've got Shanky weapons like knives they can all potentially deal damage by beating the PCs AC.

Who do they kill??

Sometimes you know exactly who an enemy is going for, like they're in deadly melee with a PC or they always go for the person with the least HP or they hate goblins.

Other times, I roll and decide why they did what they did after rolling.

A common phrase at my table is "high or low?", meaning that there are two potential targets and you've got to choose whether you're attacked on a 4-6 or a 1-3.
Roll the dice, see who they go for.

Sometimes I weight the results. "Ok you're down and no threat, but they might come to finish you off anyway because you killed their best friend. How about on a 1-2 they go for you and on a 3-6 they go for your friend nearby?"

If someone goes "hey no why are they attacking me?! Why don't they attack that guy?" then rolling to see who they go for is a good shout.

When do they stop??

When you:
- Kill them
- Make them stop
- Run away

Kill them!!

The obvious one! Kill them before they kill you!

I roll monster HP on Xd6+X, where X is HD.
Not necessarily for mechanical consistency reasons, I just have lots of d6s and the bell curves line up. If you've got enough d8s by all means use them!

I've got a couple of gimmicks with monster HP too.

If it's a gang of small enemies, like humans, I'll roll HP in the open after an attack hits them. If they survive, I put the die I just rolled on that enemy to show how much they've got left. (This is easy because I use pennies or other flat tokens for baddies).

For big beefy boys I roll all their HP behind a book or something, then as they're damaged I chuck the dice back into the box behind the screen to show how hurt they are.
It's fun to throw a few back when someone hits with a particularly meaty blow!

Make them stop!!

Morale is the main one! Roll on first death, when there are half left and/or when shit's starting to get slow and it's obvious the PCs are going to win.

Otherwise this is because my players have tried to initiate negotiations or something. If this happens just keep in mind what the enemy probably wants ("not to die" is a common one) and what they've got to bargain with.
I love a chatty baddie, so I'm usually open to this sort of thing!

Run away!!

When the going gets tough, the tough get out of there!
Chase scenes use the snakes and ladders minigame. I've got this on the back of the laminated marching order sheet, so I can flip it for chase scenes!

All you've got to do is work out how fast the baddies are on a scale from 1d10 (fast and light) to 1d4 (slow and clumsy). Since the maximum for an unencumbered character is 1d10, extra super fast enemies might roll on a 1d12.

Since the minigame is intentionally fairly abstract make sure to tie it into the fictional events! If the someone rolled really poorly or particularly well, make up why!

THE BEAST COMETH - Boss Monsters

I don't often use boss monsters. It's a lot of work for something that, if all goes to plan, dies and can't be used again.

But hey, I do them sometimes! Most recently with Elemental Dragons, and usually one-shots end with a big baddie.
Like that one time versus Santa Claus.
And that other time versus Trump.

Basically boss battles work best in a one-shot railroady format, so they turn up a lot then!

What I do use sometimes is a powerful foe with fiddly abilities - and isn't that what a boss monster is when you get right down to it. You don't want to have more than one or two fiddly foes in a battle!

The main thing to remember is that the players have almost always got way more actions and agency and attacks than a lone baddie, and mine have enough alpha strike potential to nuke a single target to the ground in the course of a single turn. Unintuitively, boss monsters are more vulnerable than a mob.
A boss monster that's just a big lone guy with lots of health is going to die.

So how to run them? Be aware of this. Give them abilities that allow them to be a threat outside of turn order. Make sure it's not just one meaty boi in a room - have them call for help.
Sometimes this can be a bullshit aura. Sometimes this can be immunities or resistances to certain attacks. Maybe they fuck with terrain, or have weird abilities that fuck with the players instead of the characters.

On their turn, try to change the battlefield a bit.
Smash characters around with a huge and powerful monster, pounce on the back rank with a fast and leaping monster, command the troops intelligently with a smart and tactical monster.

While your usual rabble might just act at random, give a bit of extra thought to boss monsters and other more complex creatures.
If they're chatty and can negotiate with PCs while they're carving them up, so much the better!

A Final Note on PC Death

Sometimes, a character will die.

For a PC death to feel legit it has to be:
- a consequence of player agency, and
- a known threat

If it feels like the PC had no choice in the matter, or couldn't have done anything to prepare for it, it feels cruel and arbitrary.

Look at Jon Snow up there. He made some dumb fucking choices and deserved to die for those choices, but they were his choices.
If it feels like you've railroaded a PC into a situation where they had no choice but to die, it's bullshit.
If the PC just dies out of nowhere and couldn't have discovered the thing that killed them, it's bullshit.

This is why it's important to telegraph traps, or at the very least telegraph that this is a place where traps are possible. 
It's also why my Death and Dismemberment rules are so complex, it means that you can survive a poorly telegraphed attack better!

Basically, make sure that if a PC dies it's their fault!