Thursday, 15 November 2018

Crits and Fumbles 2018

Crits and Fumbles document is here.

If you roll a natural 20 on an attack, roll 1d20 on the Critical Hit table.
If you roll a natural 1 on an attack, roll 1d20 on the Fumble table.
I know, revolutionary.

click to embiggen

click to embiggen


If you've read my house rule doc or saw one of the previous versions this will be familiar.
For those who haven't, here's an explanation!

Notch Weapon
A weapon that takes a Notch drops a die size for damage. 1d10 > 1d8 > 1d6 > 1d4 > 1
When you hit with an attack, you can sacrifice your weapon to roll its original un-notched damage die. If you do this it falls apart and is irreparable.
This is generally more worthwhile when your weapon is so badly Notched it’s not worth using.

Notch Armour
Armour that takes a Notch gives the wearer -1 AC.
If your armour takes so many Notches it’s worthless, it falls apart and is irreparable.

Repairs cost 10% of the cost of the weapon per Notch.
Dwarves can fully repair an item given a day and simple tools.
The Mending spell fully repairs an item.

he's just a high level fighter whose DM thinks HP is Meat Points

Ongoing Effects

Hopefully these are self-explanatory.

If you're affected by something, save at the start of the round to end the effect.
Remember that your Wisdom Modifier applies to saves vs mundane effects!

If you want a guideline to the mechanical impacts I'd apply -

Blinded: Can't see (obviously). Melee attacks at -4, ranged attacks don't work.
Helpless: Melee attacks automatically hit a helpless target for max damage.
Prone: +4 to hit prone target in melee, -4 to hit prone target at range. It takes a move to stand up.
Slowed: Moving requires an action instead of being a free move.
Stunned: Can't do anything on your turn.
Surprised: AC is 10+Armour only. Attackers can roll Backstab for potential extra damage.

textbook gambit, I should have saved this for a combat post


This isn't so different from the tables I've used for years, it's just those were four years old and needed a bit of a redo.
As before I've kept the effects fairly generic so you can describe them in a way that fits the fictional situation.
Crits and fumbles are a fun time to let the player narrate what just happened too! Mix it up a bit!

Choices for the common case of inhuman foes
Several crits now have a choice. eg. Sunderer gives a choice between shattering target's weapon or disabling a natural attack until they Save vs Stun.
This is because I fell into the classic trap of considering only armed person on armed person combat, when much of the fighting in this game is against monsters.
Fighting a knight? Shatter their sword. Fighting a giant snake? Disable its bite.

Theatre-of-the-Mind Slowed Condition
Movement-based effects were kinda lame because it's been nearly a decade since I last used a battle mat, nowadays anybody can move anywhere (within reason) and the biggest limitation on movement is Opportunity Attacks a la 5e.
Instead of the worthless-in-context "halved movement", being Slowed means you've got to use an action to move.
Cute mechanical impact - this means you can't Parry and Move to disengage. If you want to get away you'll have to take a hit, or maybe gambit.

No Quality
I used to have a Quality rule where better weapons would notch less often, but in practice people just paid the cash for the best weapon and/or just plain forgot.
Weapon/armour damage on crits and fumbles comes up enough to be interesting without being a real drag.

there's a bit in this scene where a guard's laser knife mysteriously disappears which I was going to call a fumble

To all the haters out there

Some people will tell you that crits and fumbles (usually just fumbles) are bad for the game because a Fighter will roll more fumbles than a Wizard just because they're rolling more attacks or some shit.

Those people are boring and haven't discovered the rad as hell solution called "Fighters get a +1 bonus to crit and fumble rolls per level".
Wow would you look at that, now Fighters recover from fumbles and do multi-overcrit instant kills a whole lot more. Wild!

Now this is just for Fighters, other classes in the melee combat niche like Barbarians will still roll a bad fumble every so often, but that's because Barbarians are sloppy and Fighters are OP.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Putting G+ to Death

It's here. The death of Google+. Long prophesied.
To jump on the back of Chris' post here, even though I doubt I've got as much reach as him, here's some options.


We've got an OSR Discord. It's pretty chill.


There's a possibility that the scene gets more blog-heavy again, just like old times!
There's an OSR Blog Roll building up in Sheets, add your blog there. Contrary to what you might believe, the OSR blog scene is still pumping and there are new authors all the time, so get on it!
My blog roll on the sidebar there has a bunch of blogs, but it's hard to keep up!


There's a possibility that there will be a migration towards MeWe, another obscure social platform nobody cares about.
Is another obscure site the real way forward? Should we be worried about the weird free speech bent to the site? So many questions!
Anyway, I'm there as James Young for now.


A number of people are on Facebook, but the signal-to-noise ratio in facebook groups is fucking abysmal. Either way, I'm James Young there too.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Dungeon Masterchef - A Cooking Subsystem

As my campaign world slips ever-closer to its inevitable end, a very mundane question has arisen.

What the fuck do we eat?

With the precipitous decline of the human population as a consequence of a third of all plants dying and all water being fucking poison and, you know, all the demons and undead stalking the land, a fundamental pillar of the standard D&D game has been shattered - the humble home base.

No longer is there a convenient village within walking distance of the dungeon entrance where you can flip open your equipment list and buy some rations and ropes on the cheap. Because everybody's fucking dead.

And so my players huddle in a cave just inside of Dwimmermount, hoping that they'll be able to obtain the azoth they need to maybe stop the apocalypse, their supply of iron rations slowly dwindling, hoping that the various dungeon creatures here will be edible enough to stave off starvation.

A perfect time to become a DUNGEON CHEF!!!

- Rules Summary
- Deliciousness table
- Dinner Perks table
- Known Recipes
- Known Ingredients
- Exotic Ingredient Side Effects


The world's smallest taco

Hors d'Oeuvres

The key concepts in tl;dr:

You can eat food to heal.

Take a break. Minor HP recovery during the day.
Long rest. Major HP recovery overnight.


You can eat food for buffs.

Dinner Perks. A delicious dinner grants you a boost until your next long rest!
Exotic Ingredients. Monster flesh and other weird stuff can grant strange powers and mutations!


There are two types of food.

Iron Rations. Basic bitch adventurer food. No use-by date. Calorie-dense but unappetising and you'd never eat this if something else was available. Dry nuts, chewy meats, hard cheese and stale biscuits. The Huel of the D&D culinary world.

Proper Meals. Now we're talking! Fresh ingredients cooked into a hot meal, from fortifying and hearty stews to tender brisket and leafy greens! A good chef can concoct a delicious meal from even the lowliest of ingredients, filling adventurers with good health and good cheer!

Stackable wheat crisps topped with soft cheese and chorizo

A Quick Bite

Eat food to heal during the adventuring day!

Taking a break takes a ten minute Exploration Turn and involves eating food, adjusting your bags, hyping yourself up, and treating minor wounds.

Iron Rations
Heal 1d6 HP.

Proper Meals
Heal 1d6 HP by default, but get improved healing up the dice chain based on how many unique Ingredients the meal has and how Delicious it is.

Dice chain:
0 > 1d2 > 1d4 > 1d6 > 1d8 > 1d10 > 1d12 > 1d12+1 > 1d12+2 > etc

The primary means of improving the meal's Die Size is to add more ingredients:
+1 Die Size per unique ingredient.
The secondary means of improving the meal's Die Size is to improve its Deliciousness.
Up to +3 Die Size based on Deliciousness (see Get Cooking below)

Food takes the place of standard Healing Potions in my game.
Cheap mid-delve healing at the risk of a Random Encounter.
Iron Rations are perfect for this because you don't need to cook them. Bringing a lunchbox of cooked food in the dungeon is even better though!

Crumbed chicken with salt-tossed sweet potato strips

The Main Meal

Eat food to regain HP rapidly overnight, and get a boost the whole next day!

A Long Rest is a night of peaceful sleep.

Overnight Healing
As per my house rules:

Importantly, if you have food and shelter you upgrade from Vagrant to Comfortable conditions.
Tents and food are important on wilderness trips - tents are easy shelter, rations are easy food.

Iron Rations
Easy but uninspiring. With shelter, upgrades you to Comfortable conditions as above.

Proper Meals
A sufficiently delicious meal unlocks an additional Dinner Perk!
These range from further improving overnight healing rates to temporarily boosting an ability score.
Dinner Perks last until your next Long Rest, so you get them for the whole next day.

This has already led to players getting back to their base camp and cooking up a nice meal for all their friends, which I really dig.

Naturally it's also led to one player becoming obsessed with harvesting meat from dead creatures to taste their exotic flavours. Just as planned...

I was going to illustrate with amusingly nicely arranged oven food, but I was legit proud of this salmon with balsamic glaze on quinoa salad.

Get Cooking!

Now that you know the benefits, you'll want to know how to cook!

Ready Steady
Cooking a meal requires fire and half an hour.
In a dungeon, cooking doubles the chance of random encounters
Enterprising gourmands might use this to their advantage.

Each Ingredient is a standard ration. You make as many servings as standard rations you put in.
Iron Rations can be used to bulk out a meal - an extra serving per Iron Ration - at the cost of flavour.

Don't Ask How the Sausage is Made
If you're a player, this is all you need to tell me:

1. What Ingredients are you using?
2. Do you apply any modifiers?
3. Tell me the final deliciousness and we'll see what happens!


Here's the backend.

A unique combination of ingredients is a Recipe. If you're the first to make it, name it!
Each recipe has a Base Deliciousness (2d8). Some dishes take more work to make them tasty.
Each recipe has a Dinner Perk (see d100 Perks table). You'll get the same perk each time you make this recipe.

Anyone can make a tasty meal with a well-stocked kitchen and a bit of effort.
Those without the proper equipment will just have to do their best.

Take the Base Deliciousness and apply these modifiers:
Then look up the result on this table:
The more delicious the better!

Dinner Perks
The big gimmick, Dinner Perks.
Have a tasty or delicious meal for dinner and you get a Dinner Perk.
Eat a truly superb meal for dinner and you get an upgraded version of the perk!

The big one for chefs is the bonus per time you've cooked the meal before. The more you cook, the better you get! 
The good part is that we've got one person who's bang into this cooking system now and they're doing most of the cooking... but the downside is when they're not there everyone's like "fuck we don't have our chef!"

Halflings are naturally better cooks. Obviously that's why they have so have so many elevenses and second breakfasts.

Yes, there's a 1/100 chance of taking minimal damage from fire because you ate something yummy for dinner last night. It'd be amazing if that's the recipe that involves a lot of risky exotic ingredients!

You may have seen "weather effects" in the 21-30 result and wondered what those are.
Fog, rain, high wind: Half overland speed, double chance of getting lost off-road.
Extreme heat: 1 Con damage per four hours of travel.
Sheer cold: 1d6 Con damage per four hours of travel unless wearing cold weather gear.
Four hours of travel lines up with the time between encounter rolls.
These feel a little boring so if someone has better weather mechanics out there I'd love to see them!

The apocalypse might go six-dimensional weather soon with Raining Blood and Lacerated Sky and shit on there so it'll get more interesting soon I promise!

I actually ate this bad boy - legitimately delicious cooked, like a bacon sausage.

Experimental Dishes

Exotic Ingredients are those from strange sources.
Living plants, mutant beasts, the flesh of sentient beings.
There are even rumours, some say, of a Fifth Meat...

Monster Mash
Exotic Ingredients have weird and wonderful effects, unique per creature.
When you eat an exotic ingredient, roll 1d10 on the respective table (See: Exotic Side Effects) and see what happens...

I want Fugu!
Some creatures can be prepared properly to reduce the risk or get some extra bonus - like boiling Green Slime to make it edible or grinding up dried Fire Beetle glands to make Beetle Spice.
Such things are noted in the Ingredients section.

This is straight from the Monster Menu-All, obviously.
Eat monsters to get weird powers.

Black mole best mole

Local Produce

Last but not least - hunting and gathering!
Now that fresh food grants boons and healing, it's beneficial to go hunting for fresh food even if you've got iron rations to spare!

When you spend the day foraging, roll Bushcraft with a modifier based on terrain.
On success, gain 1d4 Standard Rations of the following type:
These are broad categories of Ingredient, but you can choose exactly what it is you found if you like. 
Common forage could include nettles, dandelion leaves and berries.
Special forage might be plump mushrooms or wild onions.
Small game includes hare, grouse, duck and other small animals.

When you spend the day fishing, roll Bushcraft with a bonus equal to your Sailing score.
On success, gain 1d4+Sailing score Standard Rations of fish.

Every ten minutes spent butchering a creature yields 1d6 Standard Rations.
Maximum butchering rolls are based on the size of the creature.

Terrain table directly from LotFP.
I was going to do a Foraging table but it's so season- and biome-dependent that it didn't seem worth it, especially since I've got no experience of foraging myself! I figure if a player is into it they'll be able to do a better job of saying what they found than I ever could!

LotFP has a thing where you reduce your overland speed if you're hunting... but in practice people only bother hunting for food if they're waiting for their friends to heal up so they tend to come back to base camp anyway.

Fishing gives some ROI on Sailing score - mostly because I feel guilty about that skill being so very niche. People tend to put "Sailing" as one of their skills if they roll a fisherman Failed Career so this works for me.

Butchering takes some time if you want to use the whole beast, so you're best lugging corpses out of the dungeon and butchering them at the camp.

Battered goujons with tomato reduction schmear


Last but not least, the chefs who inspired me.

This subsystem owes most of itself to the Unified Food Theory post by Dan (aka Dandyman on Discord) over at Throne of Salt. Drawing together a multitude of food-related posts into one place is what made this happen!
Primary amongst these is the Eating Good in the Dungeonhood post at Occultesque which has the more-ingredients-mean-more-healing bit.

The other big hitter is the Monster Menu-All  over at Coins and Scrolls. Of course it's Interesting to eat monsters! They're monsters!

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Class: The Extras

I'm putting this up here because I occasionally need to search my own rules at the table, it's almost exactly identical to the original by Joseph Manola which you can find at Against the Wicked City

Alright so, the Extras character class.

Main gimmick - instead of being a single character, you're a gang of unnamed background characters whose collective efforts more or less add up to that of a "real" player character.
Very silly, very meta, lots of fun!

The Extras

Be this if
You want to be a bunch of super meta slapstick background characters.
Being the Extras
Some people are born to be Someone. Singular people, people whose stories will survive long after their deaths. Whether they’re good, evil, or somewhere in between, tales will be told of their trials and tribulations. Their triumphs, their tragedies, their rises from obscurity and their falls from grace.
They loom large in the history of the world. Heroes! Villains! Legends!
But this is not you.
You’re the other guys.
Collectively, you detect as Neutral.
All for One
Your mob of nameless Extras act mysteriously like a single character in many ways.
They have a single HP pool. They have a single action per round. They can carry as much as one man.
They also consume rations and ammunition like they were one person. Very strange.
One for All
In other ways they are very different.
They take up four times as much room as a single character. They count as ten men when doing menial labour like digging and rowing.
They also count as ten men when buying equipment – you have to buy ten swords or armours or whatever to get the mechanical benefit of just one. Bulk equipment like this only counts as a single piece of equipment for encumbrance and breakage though…
If you’ve got less than ten of a thing, each takes encumbrance and the Extras can benefit from the item only once per scene, like the magic sword guy takes a swing as the camera pans past.

Named Characters
At level 1, give one of the Extras a name. This is your mob’s leader who gets a few lines!
Once per scene, they get an extra action independent of the rest. Essentially you get two actions that round. Afterwards they get absorbed back into the general mob.
Each level you get another Named Character with the same ability, albeit you can only use the extra action ability of Named Characters once per round.
Death of a Mob
At 0HP, your Named Characters look around and realise they’re the only ones left, all the other Extras are dead! The Leader survives as a half-health Fighter one level below the Extras’ level, and the other Named Characters are simple 0-level mooks with 1d6 HP.
If they make it back to civilisation, they can gather more people and turn back into the Extras! If any of them die before then though, the survivors sorrowfully remain ordinary characters forever more.
Gameplay Stuff
1d12 – min. 8


As I say, this is all pretty much direct from the original Against the Wicked City Extras class and all of the reasoning there is intact.

There only minor differences:
The Magic for the Masses rules applies to anything the Extras have less than a full ten of. So if they've got ten swords and one axe, they can attack with swords as much as they want but only attack with an axe once per scene.

For Death of a Mob only one Named Character becomes a Fighter when the Extras hit 0HP, the others become 0-level minions.

-- The Extras in Play

We've had a few Extras characters in the game since they got introduced a while back, the first as a silly test gimmick in February last year and the first "proper" use by a visitor from Australia in October.

As they're such a silly character class, they've seen quite a few wacky interactions with the rest of the rules.

Two things that stand out most:
- "Death" at 0HP means they're much more vulnerable than other classes.
- Failed Career and Retroactive Backstory work real silly and great.

Death and Dismemberment:

The way my death rules work is that once you reach 0HP, you start getting hit for real. Instead of glancing blows and near-misses, the attacks start to draw blood and bruises.
The idea is that HP is all luck and skill that shields you from real harm, "hit protection" if you will.

But since the Extras split into a Fighter and a bunch of 0-level mooks when they reach 0 HP, they don't have that extra layer of protection. They've got a big 1d12 hit die, but once their health is gone that's it!
No minigame of sitting around holding in your guts hoping for help, at 0HP your Extras are gone (for now) and you're suddenly in control of several individuals.

The other side of this coin is that, on reaching 0HP, a higher-level Extras character suddenly goes from having one action per round to having many. Between your main Named Character, now a Fighter, and all their minion friends, there's a good chance that you can go nova on whatever "killed" you.
Even better, the damage that took you to 0HP doesn't carry over. The Extras can take a ton of damage, plummet to 0HP in one hit, and still survive as a Fighter and their minions!


At level 1, characters in my game roll a Failed Career.
With the Extras, it means that you've suddenly got a whole mob of ex-shepherds or ex-farmers or whatever. A proper mob!
And since an ordinary character starts with a repurposed weapon, the Extras start with enough of them for everyone to use.
An army of background shepherds all wielding shepherd's crooks and rooting around corpses for swords is the best.

The other gimmick is Retroactive Backstory.
For your regular character class, this is so that we the players learn more about a character's past as they level up.
For the Extras, the new backstory is for the new Named Character! This is great because it adds up to an Extras character being made up of a bunch of people with a shallow backstory, rather than a single person with a deeper backstory. Fitting!

Robin, Jr

Finally, an anecdote.

Due to wacky campaign shenanigans, we had a situation where one character (POWERLAD, superhero, only ever spelt in all caps) had "given birth" to a bunch of giant spider babies.
The demon spider mother is now dead and POWERLAD wasn't much interested in raising a brood of spiders, so they were adopted by another character (Sir Robyn, raccoon-appreciating lawyer wizard).

This was all very silly and the sort of thing a long-running campaign throws up organically.
We ended up with a rapidly growing horde of teenage spider-kids, born of a demon spider and an anime character, adopted by a lawyer.

This was all well and good until Sir Robyn's player decided to retire the character for a while, sending him off to research some time travel spells that could help reverse the apocalypse.
"Hey actually could I play as the Spiders?"
A perfect opportunity to play as the Extras!

And so it went for a while. Their leader, Robyn Jr or "RJ", is a weaboo spider who collects POWERLAD manga and has a shitty replica katana. Every level we met another individual shitty teen spiderkid with their own little backstory, and the little gang of spiders continued to grow!

All that ended when a bunch of giant mites devoured most of the spiderkids, leaving RJ and three of his siblings alive.
Only RJ survived...

Which means that suddenly my allegedly gritty low-magic game now has a giant weeb spider Fighter with a katana, who just so happens to be the quasi-biological son of one PC and the adopted son of another.
And it's all because of the Extras and a bunch of ridiculous emergent gameplay.

I love it!

Monday, 27 August 2018

Three Ways to Solve Resource Tracking

Resource management can be a real fucking drag.
I'm going to call out the biggest potential drags here:


The trifecta of trackables. Mundane, cheap, and not that heavy. Often handwaved or forgotten.
Luckily they represent three different ways of handling resources in my game!

Prepper culture is essentially adventurers prepping for a dungeoncrawl that'll never come

But first!

Some game design theory around resource management.

Resource management has come up a fair amount lately in the OSR, which is of course what triggered this post.
DIY & Dragons has a two-parter on resource management -- Part 1 and Part 2
Followed up by Scones Alone in this post.
And followed up in turn by DIY & Dragons again in this post.

Read up if you haven't already, but I'll summarise where I'm coming from:

- I like the idea of tracking mundane resources.
- I want it to be easy.


There are two main ways a resource can be used up.
Drain or Use.

Drain is when they tick down over time. Usually these are the mundane things.
At the end of the day, mark off a ration. After an hour, light a new torch. Tick tick tick. They drain away.

Use is when you make the active decision to use them up. Throw oil bomb to set a thing on fire! Drink a potion to get a magic effect! Read a scroll to cast a spell! Throw torch in pit to see how deep it goes!

In Aura's words:
"This is constantly dwindled to prevent a bad thing" VS "You can choose to use this for a Cool Thing."

Resources that drain are the ones that are boring to track and easy to forget if they're left solely to the player to manage.
I've never seen a player complain that they've got to keep track of three different potions, but I had players forget to mark off rations and ammo and stuff all the time.

These Rations for RPG Races are great if you haven't seen them!


Solution A: Give an active use.

The troubling fact about rations in my game is that they're cheap and trivially acquired for any party that's gone on at least one adventure. As long as you're not on a long long road trip through the uncharted wilderness (a situation that's literally never come up in my game in over half a decade), they're not an interesting resource drain.

So I flipped it from a drain to an actively used resource.

There are two main uses for rations in my game:
- Heal in a dungeon
- Heal fast overnight

My players think about food a lot, and track it individually. It's the primary healing mechanic so of course it's important!
This is even before the new cooking subsystem which has made at least one player start tracking Standard Rations in close detail.

In practice this means that rations are a dungeon crawl resource replenished between delves. Run out of rations mid-crawl and you run out of easy healing, spend rations on the surface to get back down there as soon as possible.

Food tracking: SOLVED!!


Solution B: Procedural tracking.

Players gain no advantage from remembering to track light sources.
That's the simple fact. Even if they're not doing it maliciously, the only reason for a player to track light is out of a sense of fairness.
So as with anything that sucks for the player, it's up to the DM to make sure it's enforced!

Trouble is, tracking light is kind of boring overhead and takes up valuable mental load.

My solution, courtesy of a primordial version of Necropraxis' Hazard System, is to track light on the encounter roll.

Torches burn out after two Torch Burnout results.
Lanterns burn out after four Lantern Burnout results.

The main advantage of this, for me, is that it becomes part of the normal procedure of play. 
It's not extra mental overhead to track, it's part of primary dungeon timer mechanic - random encounters.
This also introduces a level of randomness to light sources which I think works. Torches don't all last exactly an hour, fire isn't quite so predictable.

Light tracking: SOLVED!!


Solution C: Ignore it

"Hey what? I thought this was meant to be solutions!" I hear you say.
Ignoring it is a solution my friend. Tracking normal ammo is the worst.
It feels like it should be important, but in practice it's really not.
It feels like it should be interesting to run out of ammo, but in practice it's not either. You just stab instead, or get creative with random junk in your inventory.

My players simply don't make that many ranged attacks - they avoid combat if possible, shooting into melee has a high risk of hitting a friend, and most of them have firearms that take too long to reload mid-fight.
I even tracked ammo with a Usage Die for a few years and nobody ever got low enough on ammo for it to matter. C'est le jeu.

So - just ignore it. A few ranged attacks per session isn't enough to worry about really.
Having a quiver or ammo bag or whatever has an encumbrance penalty, so there's a small but notable downside to having a ranged weapon already. It's fine.

Ammo tracking: IGNORED!!


So there you have it - three different ways to solve resource tracking.

A: Give it an active use.
Make it important enough to track actively, just like potions and spells and HP and all the rest.

B: Procedural tracking.
Track it through a game mechanic, ideally rolling it into some other procedural thing you already do.

C: Ignore it.
If there's never any real risk of it running out, just don't bother.

Ammo 2: Bonus Spitballing

In writing this I was wondering if there was a better solution to ammunition.
Ignoring it is a fine solution but inherently fairly unsatisfying when you could be the first person to come up with a Rad New OSR Mechanic.

So there are two other options if I want to stop ignoring ammo - give it an active use, or procedural tracking.

A: Active use would be the obvious one. Rather than spend an ammo to make a ranged attack, why not spend an ammo to give that ranged attack a boost?
So like:
Bow - Rapid Fire - Spend an ammo to roll damage twice and take the best.
Gun - Overcharge Round - Spend an ammo to deal exploding damage on evens.

But then this could be covered by magic ammo and trick arrows and such. Just give them the option to buy Overload Cartridges or Dum-Dum Arrows and they'll track them religiously.
Plus I already use Gambits for doing cool stuff with mundane attacks, making this concept unnecessary.

B: Procedural Tracking is the other side of the coin. Perhaps roll ammo depletion into the attack roll.
If rolling a 1 on an attack roll means you've run out of ammo, that works out to an average of 20 arrows per quiver which is bang on.
But then you run the risk of a real dumb situation where your first shot from a fresh quiver is also your last.

You could give each ranged weapon 3 Ammo Boxes and a Depletion Range, so a quiver of arrows checks off an Ammo Box on an attack roll of 1-3 and a bag of sling bullets only checks off an Ammo Box on a 1.

I'd definitely use this myself, only it doesn't solve the initial point that my players just don't make that many ranged attacks! 


A final note on encumbrance - writing this post has made me realise just how important encumbrance is as a limitation for mundane items like these.

There's no real limit to how much food, light and ammo a party can carry in the overworld. Any party that can afford a cart, a barrel of iron rations, and a pile of torches can park up next to a dungeon entrance and be set for weeks of delving.

The only limit is how much you're going to take into the dungeon with you. 
Are you going to be slow and prepared? Or are you going to travel fast and light? If you're wearing heavy armour are you willing to slow yourself further with bags of rations and jars of lamp oil?

Being slow means you face more encounter checks, so the feedback loop of resources-encumbrance-encounters is important if you want mundane resources to be an important choice.

Which is to say - if you handwave encumbrance and/or don't use random encounters there's no point tracking mundane resources. 
It seems obvious when I say it like that.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Apocalypse Dragon Ninhursag

players pls don't read



Its Rune is Earth.
Its Breath is Poison.
Its Aspects are of Size, Plants, Crystal and Magma.
Its Plan is to destroy Shub-Niggurath by destroying all cellular life.

To worship Ninhursag is to worship the Dragon of Earth, of Poison, and of Secrets.

The Cults of Ninhursag

The Verdigrised Drakencult worship Ninhursag Undivided.
The Gogamogic Drakencult worship the Aspect of Size.
The Tangled Drakencult worship the Aspect of Plants.
The Fracted Drakencult worship the Aspect of Crystal.
The Magman Drakencult worship the Aspect of Magma.

The Taboos of Ninhursag

Never allow a curse or disease to be removed from somebody.
Never destroy a plant or fungus unless it is a threat to you or your allies.
Only ever allow yourself to heal by natural means.
Never advance the cause of another Dragon.

The Observances of Ninhursag

Catching or infecting someone with a disease
Being poisoned, including by narcotic substances
Hitting 0HP and surviving
Uncovering a secret that could damage someone or their reputation if known
Allowing someone to live who you have at your mercy
Destroying something that lives but does not breathe
Revealing a secret
Allowing a living creature to be killed that is no threat to your or your allies
Attacking a fellow minion of Ninhursag, or thwarting their plans
Harming yourself or, through inaction, allowing yourself to come to harm

The Boons of Ninhursag

Favour of Ninhursag
Power any glyph containing the Earth rune with a single action

Eyes of Ninhursag
at will hear strength and direction of beating hearts within 50', even through stone - if in field of view, see whole circulatory system and dark patches where disease lies in their body

Scales of Ninhursag
+1 AC and +2 to saves, improve overnight heal rate by one step (Vagrant -> Comfortable -> Splendid -> Splendid+)

Heart of Ninhursag
Choose the Aspect of Ninhursag you will worship; gain an ability based on that Aspect:
Undivided - convert poison entering your body into any other type
Size - increase size and power of muscles at will (+4 strength mod, rip tight clothing, grow a foot or so)
Plants - exude soporific pollen at will (-2 to hit for those nearby, +1 Pain Poison if breathed for 10 minutes, you are immune)
Crystal - encase self in crystal coccoon at will, you are immobile and take only 1 damage from non-smashy weapons, coccoon shatters if you take more than 5 points of damage in one blow. If smashed you are stunned until you pass a Save vs Stun to recover
Magma - grow incredibly hot at will, glow orange, deal 1d6 fire damage to anyone touching your bare skin, take half damage from heat

Devotion of Ninhursag
You gain influence over the effect of any glyph containing the Earth rune, allowing you to bend its power to your intent and control its manifestation. New effects must be at least somewhat plausible.

Breath of Ninhursag
gain 30' breath weapon 1/day according to Aspect which deals your current HP as damage (Save vs Blast for half);
Undivided - chlorine gas, blinds and chokes all affected until they pass a Save vs Stun (separate for each effect)
Size - shrinks everything in radius to half its size for 10 minutes.
Plants - Everything in AoE difficult terrain and everyone within entangled by grasping coat of vines until they can slice them off or Wrestle out of them
Crystal - Jagged shards of crystal coat the area, creating difficult terrain and dealing 1d6 damage to anyone stepping or falling on it without suitable protection
Magma - ball of magma rolls along at 20' per round, breaks into a 10' burning puddle of magma when it hits someone or an object. 1d6 damage/round to anyone standing in it. Rolls to hit vs unarmoured AC against things that could dodge out of the way.

Claws of Ninhursag
Unleash the latent power of Ninhursag 1/day for 10 minutes, taking on shades of the Aspect chosen and granting you a 1d6 unarmed attack with an additional ability;
Undivided - Extending claws grants immunity to poison and allows you to tear up rock and earth easily, throwing boulders for 1d6 damage or throwing up a cloud of choking dust that obscures normal vision
Size - Extending claws makes you grow twice as big! Shreds anything you're wearing, double damage.
Plants - Extending claws grants you 1d6 natural regeneration per round up to half max hp
Crystal - Extending claws covers you in shimmering crystal and grants your claws brutally sharp crystal edges, 1d10 unarmed damage and you count as having a Shield which can be broken as normal (shattering your crystal shell)
Magma - Extend claws and become immune to heat. Anyone dealing 4 or more points of damage to you in one hit causes magma to pour out of the wound and pool at your feet, anyone standing in it takes 1d6 damage per round.

Wings of Ninhursag
grow dragon wings! Take on a bunch of cosmetic attributes based on your chosen Aspect. Fly at your normal movement speed and glide at double.

Apotheosis Protocol
with a week of preparation, permanently transform into an Elemental Dragon of Aspect, control it until the end of the session at which point lose individuality but protect fellow drakencultists OR for Undivided worshippers become immune to all poisons and diseases and at will (or on death) explode into a cloud of chlorine gas of incredible toxicity

Apotheosis Acceleration - With a day of preparation, Apotheosise.

Apotheosis Ultimate - At will, Apotheosise as an action

The Elemental Dragons of Ninhursag

Base stats:
HD10 AC14 ML12
- Vision: No eyes, but have always-on Eyes of Ninhursag - see circulatory systems in line of sight and detect heartbeats within 50'
- Breath: HP as damage, Save vs Blast for half. Recharge on 5-6. - Claws: 1d10/1d10, pin to the ground or bat away to send enemy flying. - Bite: 3d10, pick up and swing around wildly on hit - Wrestle to escape - Tail: 1d10 sweep, those hit are sent flying back. Save vs Blast to avoid. - Death Throes: Triggered when the Dragon is destroyed.

Huge dragon carved of stone, spits enormous rocks, practically invulnerable
+ AC20 + Fucking enormous - three storeys tall + Bite picks up anyone within a 20' diameter (so like, anyone close to anyone else). Keeps you inside its cage of a mouth while smashing its head around. + Breath weapon is huge boulder that bounces and rolls like a cannonball + Death Throes: Collapses into rocks that collapse down into earth.
Anyone within 20' must Save vs Blast or take 2d20 damage from fallen chunks of dragon. Dust swirls up from the bursting rocks, sending up a great obscuring plume of dust and grit 50' wide

Rocks and greenery swirling in vague dragon shape, regenerates, poisonous fumes
+ Regenerates 1d10 HP/round + Exudes soporific pollen in 30' radius - gain 1 Pain Poison every round you're in the cloud + Breath weapon is a tearing roil of vines and thorns and greenery + Death Throes: Soporific pollen cloud bursts out in a great 50' diameter cloud. Anyone inside must Save vs Stun or fall asleep. Plus take 1 Pain Poison per round breathed.

Crystal dragon growing around rocky core, real spiky, any spikes that break off become sharp minions whether it's hit or it just scrapes them off
+ Each hit by it or against it creates a swarm of crystal minions equal to damage. Pool into swarms of 10. + Breath a blast of piercing crystal shards. Getting hit grows heavy crystal on you and through you - +1 encumbrance tier per hit + Death Throes: Cracks and shatters into 2d10 swarms of 10 crystal minions that take immediate revenge

Red-veined rock, a moving volcano, leaves devastation in its wake, sets forests alight and spits lava
+ Those in melee range catch alight at the start of their turn as if hit by an oil bomb. + Trails magma and fire dealing 1d10 to all who cross its trail. Constantly moving to spread more magma.
+ Breath a stream of magma that leaves 30' magma patch. Magma magma magma all day long. + Death Throes: Collapses into a pool of magma 50' diameter, frying everything nearby for 1d10 damage per round

Design Notes:

As with all the Apocalypse Dragons, Ninhursag is a synthesis of three things - the trad D&D chromatic dragon, one of the five Runes, and one of Zak's Tiamat cults.

So Ninhursag is a mix of:
- The poisonous Green chromatic dragon
- The Earth rune and its related rune-combo Aspects
- The secretive knowledge-gathering Jade Fang of Tiamat

All fairly disparate elements, so I feel like together they form a pretty interesting and non-trad melange.
At the time I made this (and this is still broadly true) the only Dragons the players knew about were this big green boi and the black Gravity Dragon Ereshkigal, so there's also an element of making them two rival and contradictory worldviews. Ninhursag is about keeping things alive, Ereshkigal is about letting things die.

So, design notes on the different bits.

Observances and Taboos.

Ninhursag's cultists are intended to be based on spreading disease and keeping living things alive.
After all, if everyone's dead a disease won't spread.
This is also why, for instance, you get a bonus for killing non-living things. Automatons tend to be disease resistant. Even the undead, which you'd expect to be vectors of disease, can't catch a cold themselves.
When Ninhursag unleashes the final ur-poison that will wipe out all cellular life, it wants there to be as many vectors as possible to infect Shub-Niggurath.

There's also a little bit of secret-finding and secret-keeping to encourage some of the sneakier Jade Fang stuff. A little insidious bit of extra spice.


Dragon boons follow the same format from dragon to dragon. They're always real good.

Bond 2 is when you the Favour, the ability to fast-cast any glyph containing the associated Rune. In this case, the Earth rune.

Bond 3 is the Eyes. Since Ninhursag is all about life, you can detect heartbeats and see circulatory systems (and disease) in field of vision. Real good unless you're fighting zombies or golems or whatever, but that's why you have to kill them.

Bond 4 is the Scales. All dragons give a +1 to AC and +2 to Saves, but Ninhursag also improves overnight healing rates. You're not allowed to heal magically during the day, but as a counterbalance you do heal more quickly with rest.

Bond 5 is the Heart and where things get interesting - your choice of Aspect here is your choice forever and grants you an always-on or at-will passive ability. So far we've only had one PC reach the Heart and they went for Size, which is fitting for POWERLAD the Muscle Wizard superhero.

Bond 6 is the Devotion which upgrades your rune abilities again. Essentially this means players tell me what happens when they activate rune magic, rather than me telling them.
It's potent and near game-breaking, but it's the apocalypse so they need all the help they can get really!

Bond 7 is the when you get the Breath and shit gets real. Dragon breath! A big ticket item! And different kickers depending on Aspect too.
One of the real cool self-limiting things for dragon breath in old school D&D is that it deals the dragon's current HP as damage, so it's the same here. As you level up in your class you do more damage with your breath weapon. Mechanically elegant!
We have a Goblin player with a whole gaggle of Goblin minions, each of whom he (until recently) had managed to set up worshipping a different Dragon each. That way he'd get access to all the cool powers without paying the exp penalty for Dragon Bond! Clever...
Unfortunately since his Goblins only have 1d6 HP, they can only do a few points of damage with their breath weapon. And also they die(d) really easily.

Bond 8 is the Claws. Another Aspect-based power. Unsheathe your Claws 1/day to get an unarmed attack and some monstrous Aspect-related extra ability. This is the combat monster perk where you turn into a humanoid dragon and wreck shit.
You can dual wield both claws, naturally. Remember in my game dual wielding means you roll twice for damage and take the best, and deal double damage if you roll doubles. A d6 unarmed strike is pretty beast!

Bond 9 is the Wings and they are the same mechanically for everyone because you can fucking fly baby!
At-will flight is weird because it's one of those things you think will break the game, but it really doesn't. Overland encounters are way different because you can just fly over them, but normal dungeons aren't changed so much.

Bond 10 is the final ability - Apotheosis. The capstone ability that essentially means you sacrifice your character forever in order to control an overpowered Elemental Dragon for a session.
What a choice!

The Elemental Dragons are player-scale, by which I mean they're the size of a truck and thus the sort of dragon that players might actually be able to fight against and the sort of dragon that will be effective against player-scale threats.
This as opposed to the Apocalypse Dragons which are the size of mountains and will just destroy you and shrug off any wound your measly sword can inflict.
Elemental Dragons are huge compared to a man, but still small enough to have an HP pool.

Anyway, sacrifice your character in order to do something crazy awesome. Since it takes at least 10 sessions to get to Bond 10 (you can test Bond once per week max), at my weekly game you've gone at least a couple of months with your character before you can blow their Draconic Apotheosis.
That's a lot of work to get to this point, which means sacrificing your character is meaningful.
It should be a hard choice, but then you do get to be a 10HD insanely powerful dragon which should be a hell of a good time.

Unless you're an Undivided worshipper of course, in which case you get ultimate immunities to poison and disease - you'll be guaranteed to survive Ninhursag's world-ending plagues at the very least.
You should probably Apotheosise as soon as you get a chance if you're an Undivided cultist, it's a permanent perk.
Plus if you die you'll take every motherfucker in the room down with you. Let's hope your friends are also Undivided so they can turn that deadly poison into a nap...

Bond 11 and Bond 12 speed up the Apotheosis.
Bond 10 takes a whole week which means you need a lot of planning ahead. It's unlikely you'll be able to do this in response to a threat unless it's got a long lead time. Since I've got a ticking clock of the Apocalypse bearing down on my game, a week is actually quite a big time penalty too.
Bond 11 only takes a day, so you're more responsive. That demon threatened you? Come back the next day as a motherfucking DRAGON and show him who's boss.
Bond 12 is at-will apotheosis which is definitely OP. If you're fighting your ultimate enemy and they knock you down to near-death and you wipe the blood off your lips with your sleeve and gloat about how "this isn't even my final form!" and transform into an Elemental Dragon and bite off their head with your mighty jaws as they cower... you have truly used this ability correctly. I really hope this happens.

A Note on Aspects

You'll notice that the Aspect powers are fitting for the element they relate to, but the Undivided bonus is a bit of a curveball. Combining Earth-Earth creates Rock in the rune system after all, not Poison.

I justify this because the Undivided option is about bringing you closer to the powers of the Dragon Itself, not just its rune combo.
Ninhursag has a trad Green Dragon's poison breath and theme, so you get poison-related abilities.
The Undivided options for Ninhursag involve the Poison mechanics a bunch. Like the Heart lets you convert deadly Trauma Poison into less deadly Pain Poison, so you just pass out for a while rather than dying.

The other abilities mostly just fit the spec. Size makes you bigger and stronger, Magma makes you hotter and heat-resistant, etc etc.

There's another wrinkle in that Aspects are a combo of two Runes, so every Dragon Aspect is shared with one other Dragon. Size is an Earth-Mass combo, for instance, so both the Earth and Mass Dragons will have an Aspect of Size available.
To make these shared Aspects unique, the element is sort of flavoured by the Apocalypse Dragon you're worshipping.
The Earth Dragon makes its Size cultists get bigger and more muscular, while the Mass Dragon gives its Size cultists non-euclidean space-distorting abilities - changing the Size of distances.

This applies to the Elemental Dragons too. The Earth-flavoured Size Dragon is a huge stony beast that breathes huge boulders and crushes all before it, the Mass-flavoured Size Dragon is a roiling mass of darkness and spacial distortions whose breath smears you across space-time.

Elemental Dragons

I went into Elemental Dragons a bit under Apotheosis above.
Elemental Dragons are player-scale threats, in that they're a size that players could potentially interact with in a meaningful sense - the equivalent of Adult Dragons.
Yea they'll kill you, but they'll have to roll for it.

Elemental Dragons are on my encounter tables. Usually they roll around with a retinue of Aspect-aligned drakencultists who try to control it. Nobody's fought one yet, although they did have a very scary run-in with a Crystal Elemental Dragon. That was a stealth mission.

All Elemental Dragons share the same base stats and attacks, modified based on Aspect.
So stat wise these things are beasts. Big HD, a ton of attacks, a breath weapon, the works.
If you're clever and lucky only some of you will die.
And if you get to control one of these bad boys with Apotheosis, welcome to God Mode. This is your session now baby. The spotlight is for you!

The one little potential weakness - like their Apocalypse Dragon sire these guys don't have eyes and have to rely on heartbeat vision. Fighting creatures without heartbeats means you have to guess where they are, but that's why you have your fellow drakencultists around to help!
It's also why killing non-living creatures is encouraged by Ninhursag, see?

Really the only big and interesting idea here is Death Throes.
I swear I got the idea of these from someone's blog or maybe someone in the OSR Discord, but I can't remember for the life of me. If you know, let me know so I can attribute properly!
Anyway, rather than Lair Actions or having triggered responses to attacks, killing an Elemental Dragon triggers its Death Throes - in general these will fuck up whoever and whatever killed it. Fun!

Size is massive and tough and eats multiple people at a time. The big stompy one that goes around stepping on people and shooting boulders from its stony mouth. Bonus points if it breathes its boulder while people are in its mouth already. Combo!
Plants regenerates while slowing melee attackers and putting them to sleep. Real annoying to fight I imagine. You can't do shit because the pollen makes you dopey, and the few hits you get in before falling asleep are regenerated quickly. What a bastard.
Crystal creates sharp splintery minions wherever it goes. Hitting it knocks off sharp minions. Getting hit knocks off sharp minions. You want to run? Oh but its breath loads you up with encumbering crystal, preventing escape and probably spellcasting. The sharp minions do Choppy damage which means more damage to less armoured characters too. Good luck.
Magma trails magma, breathes magma, sets melee attackers on fire with magma, endless fucking magma. A living terrain hazard. Good luck with this fucker too, especially if you're wearing flammable clothes or carrying explosives.


More on the Apocalypse Dragons

Apocalypse Dragon Resources
Learn to Kneel