Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Post-Apoc Fantasy Hexcrawl Rules

The end of the world dragged my campaign kicking and screaming from a civilised network of roads and cities to a proper hexcrawl across the barren earth.

This is an awful, painful place to travel through. The air burns to breathe, the rain is acid, and the threat of a Gas Front rolling through and vapourising all organic life is ever-present.
It's harsh, it's slow, and it's draining, but looting the ruins of the old world is an extremely profitable line of work...


Travel in the post-apocalypse is dangerous due to the harsh environment and the toxic weather.
Almost everything is dead out there, so the classic travel danger of creature encounters is replaced with more impersonal forces like horrible rain or choking mists.
These rules are meant to refocus my campaign so that travel itself is part of the meat of the game, something players have to think about and plan around, rather than just a time tax between destinations.

Travel in the post-apocalypse is slow. Roads are old and ruined, towns have fallen into decay, and travel is physically exhausting. Gone are the days when you could zip across the regional map in less than a week by road, we're in the Post-Apocalypse now.
I like the idea that my well-used map effectively changes scale without changing size. Quick trips taken by road or by air in the past will now take several days, and it will be a logistical challenge to carry all you need to survive without slowing yourself down.

A game set in a relatively civilised area of towns linked by roads is tacitly a pointcrawl. You travel between destinations by road and rarely trudge through the wilderness.
Not so in the post-apocalypse. Now we're in a proper hexcrawl, and that means exploring!
Nobody really knows what's out there any more, but there are old maps and memories of the old world (even for the players, who have "lived" in this world for years).
The players are now explorers, pioneers, and treasure hunters in a world they once knew. It's pretty cool!

Extent of player exploration to date

Base Units

Distance is measured in Miles.
The world is divided into 1 mile Hexes.

Overland time is divided into Watches.
Each Watch is approximately 4 hours of activity.
6 Watches per 24 hour period.

Basic Procedure

Each Watch follows these steps -
  1. Group Up: If they wish, the party can form into separate groups.
  2. Choose Activity: Each group decides what they're doing this Watch
  3. Lost: If outfield, the DM secretly checks to see if each group is lost.
  4. Encounters: Roll and resolve encounters per group. 1d6 if outfield, 1d12 if encamped.
  5. Weather: Resolve weather effects.
  6. Activity: Resolve the activity itself per group.

Where would we be without laminated gimmick sheets?

Previous laminated gimmick sheet in action. This is Winter, so the day only lasts 2 Watches / 8 hours.


This is the main thing with hexcrawl rules so I'm putting it first!

Maximum Travel Distance
On foot, your speed is limited by your Encumbrance.
I'd probably double these for pre-Apocalypse travel.


This is one of the main limiting mechanics to travel.
Each point of Exhaustion gives you a -1 penalty to all rolls and counts as an Oversized item (ie. +1 Encumbrance), slowing you down.
If it's been over 4 Watches (16 hours) since your last Rest, you take 1 Exhaustion per Watch.
Weather also commonly builds up Exhaustion, eventually forcing you to stop and rest.

You can intentionally leave a Trail as you travel.
This gets added to the map, making it easier to backtrack and easier to take the same route at a later date.
There might be times when you don't want to leave a Trail (like if someone's tracking you), but most of the time you'll want to leave one.

Travel by Vehicle
See the rules for Vehicles at the bottom of the post.
In short - vehicles are great for carrying stuff and protecting occupants from the weather, but they're liable to crash off-road. Wagon trains encouraged.

Watch Activities

Some examples of things you can do in one Watch.
Encounters are rolled on an encounter grid (see Encounters section below).
Encounter chances are effectively halved when you're encamped.

Outfield Activities
Basically any activity where you're moving around in the open exposed to the elements.
Encounter severity is rolled on 1d6.

Suggestions include:
  • Travel: See Travel section above.
    Basically just move as far as you want up to your group's maximum travel distance.
  • Explore: Search a hex for things of interest.
    No need to roll, you just find anything in the hex by the end of the Watch.
  • Forage: Search for sustenance.
    See Foraging section below.
Encamped Activities
Basically anything you want to do that doesn't involve leaving an immediate area.
It probably goes without saying that anyone at the same campsite is in the same group for encounter purposes.
Encounter severity is rolled on 1d12, with results 7-12 as "nothing happens".

Suggestions include:
  • Set Camp: Set up tents and organise the camp site, ie. draw the map of the camp.
    Important if some sort of post-apocalypse beast comes sniffing around.
    Shielded Camps: Some hexes have protected campsites that are good enough to resist deadly Gas Fronts and other dangers. Resist all weather effects, and when Encounters are rolled you can replace the result with "nothing happens" if you wish.
  • Cook Food: As per the Dungeon Masterchef post.
    We've seen multiple cookoffs so far, which pleases me greatly!
  • Forecast: Check to see where the weather's heading.
    Roll Bushcraft. On success, you can tell what the next weather change will be.
    On failure, you at least know the possibilities.
  • Rest: See Getting Some Rest section below


It might look like everything's dead out there... but if you know where to look you'll find some strange edible flora and fauna that's managed to adapt to the toxic atmosphere and frequent all-devouring Gas Fronts.

Roll a Bushcraft group check (ie. use highest Bushcraft score in the group).
On success, find 1d4 Ingredients +1 per additional forager.
The Ingredient you find is based on terrain. Roll 1d10 on the associated Forage table to see what you find!

You can find my current (incomplete) Forage tables in this sheet. It's all weird stuff adapted to the post-apocalypse, so you'd want to change it to Nettles and Mushrooms and stuff for non-fucked settings.

Set Forage
The first time Forage is found in a hex it becomes easier to find that particular Ingredient there. Set Forage by adding the Ingredient to the hex description.
Any time that hex is successfully foraged in the future, the forager rolls the 1d10 and can choose between that and the Set Forage.
Really good if you know you need a certain foraged ingredient for a particular meal!

Weather Boost
Each type of Forage is more prevalent during certain weather (see Weather below).
During the right weather, boost the Ingredients roll twice - from 1d4 to 1d8.

Example for Hills areas. If you want Popjack, go out during a Haze!
In Winter, find 1 Ingredient per forager in the group only.
I was considering having proper seasonal forage, but it's easier to just add some seasonal flavour to the description. Plus that'd be a lot of backend work to track forage per hex per season!

Getting Some Rest

Sleeping out in the wastes is hard when you're plagued by itches and your mate's coughing up a lung on the bedroll next to you. Luckily you're often so tired that you don't care.
Going more than 4 Watches without a rest gives you one point of Exhaustion per Watch.

Scratch-built shelter won't do in the post-apocalypse. You need a proper Survival Tent!
Costs available here.

Resting for a single Watch heals 1 point of Exhaustion.

Long Rest
Resting for two Watches in a row cures all Exhaustion.
You get Overnight Healing rates as per the house rules.
In short:
- No Food and/or Shelter: If you're on 0HP, no healing. Else heal your Bushcraft score in HP.
- Food and Shelter: Heal up to the next step of Half HP, Full HP, or Full+1d6 HP.

Resting for a whole 24 hours (6 Watches in a row) with food and shelter heals ability scores.
Save vs Doom. On success, heal 1 point of stat damage in all affected ability scores.

Getting Lost

It's fairly easy to lose your way if you're not following a trail, especially with the terrible weather and the way the air stings your eyes. I cannot emphasise enough how much the post-apocalypse sucks.
The base chance of getting lost while outfield is 1 in 6, adjusted by the following modifiers:

Getting LostModifier
Following Road/River-3
To Visible Landmark-2
Following Trail-1
Following Map-1
Clear Weather-1
Night (Bright Moon)+1
Night (Quarter Moon)+3
Night (Dark Moon)+5

If a group gets lost while travelling the DM secretly rolls on this chart to see which way they went. They leave their intended path at a random point in the journey.
If they get lost while exploring or foraging within a hex, they simply end up in a random hex nearby.
A lost group makes a Bushcraft group check (ie. use highest Bushcraft score).
On success, they know their bearing, how far off course they are, and the direction of their intended destination. On failure they've got no idea.
Groups that left a trail behind them could retrace their steps, those who don't might be in trouble.

A Stoneshell Crab, by our own Tom


Overland encounters use an encounter grid as per that post.
Encounter severity roll depends on whether the group is Outfield or Encamped.
1d6 for Outfield.
1d12 for Encamped.

Encounters with actual creatures are rare, so they're on the low and high ends of the bell curve.
The special part is that there are common entries that change based on terrain, weather and hex.

You can check out the encounter grid I'm currently using here.

Base results are these, so I can explain the special non-creature ones.

    Probability fiends will note that there's only a 33% chance of an encounter involving a creature.

    The environmental "encounters" are these:
    • Weather Effect: Doubles down on weather effects, no matter the weather.
    • Terrain Special: Changes based on terrain, so Hills is different to Plains and so on. Sometimes cause something to be added to the map, like a new fissure appearing in a Hills area.
    • Hex Special: Involves the current hex they're in.
    • Weather Special: Changes based on weather, so Haze is different to Acid Rain and so on. Usually additional badness, but sometimes something nice happens like the rain lets up for a bit!
    • Rogue Weather: The weather changes! This is temporary and the weather has turned back by the end of the Watch. If the party splits up and multiple groups get different Rogue Weather I guess the results are strangely localised.
    The effects change with the severity roll. You can see the effects on the encounter grid linked above.


    Since it's after the end of the world there is now a massive focus on environmental dangers, chiefly the weather. Plus complaining about the weather brings us together as Englishmen.
    The stinging Haze leads onto Acid Rain or thick Chokestorms, and deadly Gas Fronts are an ever-present threat. Thank goodness the Gas Fronts are usually preceded by the crackling electrical storms of the Warning so people know when to get to cover. And all that's just in Spring!

    Weather types as of right now can be found here.

    Survival Gear
    It's awful out there. You need protective clothing and a breather mask to last long out in the wastes.
    Survival Gear replaces normal armour and follows the same rules (see house rules).
    Short version - Certain effects can Notch your armour, each Notch reducing its AC by 1. If this ever makes it worthless, it falls apart and is irreparable.
    Filter Masks replace Helmets. They can be destroyed by certain Death and Dismemberment effects.
    Six-Dimensional Weather
    Invented by Daniel Sell at What Would Conan Do, this hex-based Six-Dimensional Weather is the foundation of this weather system. You can see how it works at that link. It's very clever!

    Types of Weather
    There are six types of weather. Each season has a variation on the theme.
    • Haze: Common travelling weather. Fair visibility, but exhausting to walk in.
    • Acid Rain:
      Heavy rain that eats away at your gear. Bad visibility.
    • The Warning:
      Precedes Gas Fronts. Lightning storms that are safe to walk in unless you clash metal on metal.
    • Gas Front:
      Lethal fog of Omnipoison converts all organic life it touches into more Omnipoison. If you're lucky you die instantly.
    • Clear:
      A rare reprieve from the weather!
    • Storm:
      Seasonal variation, always terrible. Usually a worse version of the Haze with bad visibility.
    Weather Change
    Weather moves around the hex map every dawn and dusk.
    When the weather changes, roll the next change in advance so players can Forecast it.

    Weather Effects
    Each type of weather has an associated Effect.
    If you're not wearing survival gear and a breather helm, you also take the Exposure effect. Somehow despite wearing practically nothing, Barbarians always count as wearing survival gear and breather helm.
    If combat occurs, Encounter Conditions apply.
    For example these are the Weather possibilities for Spring. You'll notice pretty much everything sucks. That's the post-apocalypse for you!

    An Encamped activity.
    Roll Bushcraft.
    On success, you know what the weather will be next time it changes.
    On failure, you at least know the potential options.

    Fast Forwarding
    If you ever need to fast forward the weather, like if players are resting up safely in town for a while, just roll a weather change twice per week.
    It's assumed that the random walk did a completely average return-to-origin loop for 6 days, then went somewhere else on the 7th day.
    If I had a computer program that could do it for me I'd use that though!


    Seasons change over the course of the campaign, especially since I'm intentionally pushing the timeline forward by limiting the PCs to one Expedition or Downtime activity per in-game month.

    Each Season has a different spin on the basic weather types (see that section above) and a different feel.
    • Spring sets the standard. Variable levels of crap weather. Relatively rare Gas Fronts but potentially interminable Chokestorms might stop travel for days.
    • Summer has long stretches of clear days, but if it gets bad it tends to stick. Hot weather is exhausting for anyone in heavier gear.
    • Autumn is all wet and miserable. Rain tends to last, alternating between acid rainstorms and an interminable hissing rain that makes it easy to get lost.
    • Winter is brutally cold. Travelling requires you to have Cold Weather Gear - an Oversized item - lest you freeze to death. At least Gas Fronts freeze into the ground in winter.
    Day Length
    The day gets longer and shorter over the course of the year.
    Your chance of getting lost increases at night (see Getting Lost section above).
    Watches from dawn until dusk:
    • Summer: 4 Watches
    • Spring/Autumn: 3 Watches
    • Winter: 2 Watches

    Travel by Vehicle

    Finally, travel by Vehicle!
    This ties in better to the roads in the seasonal Rebuild Phase (to come) but the travel stuff is relevant.
    While vehicles have the potential to be slightly faster than a party on foot, they're mostly about carrying supplies and/or protecting occupants from the weather.

    I'm pretty pleased with the speedometer gimmick!
    Vehicles have 6 Compartments - numbered 1-6 in the image above.
    A compartment can fit one person and all their equipment, or 20 encumbrance slots-worth of items.
    If you got a good treasure haul you might have to walk because your wagon's full of stuff.

    When you Travel with a vehicle, choose how fast you're going.
    Higher speeds increase your chance of crashing, as per the image above.
    You'll notice that this is slow, but that's because the roads are real bad. If you were driving down a maintained and paved road you'd go at double speed, but no roads are that good just yet!

    Crash Chance
    Base 1 in 6 with the following modifiers.

    Crash ChanceModifier
    On road-3
    On trail-1
    Off-road (flat)+2
    Off-road (rough)+4
    Clear Weather-1
    Night (Bright)+1
    Night (Quarter)+3
    Night (Dark)+5

    If you crash, the driver will roll on the Vehicle Crash Table.
    They make a Piloting check.
    On success they roll a 1d6 on that table. On failure they roll 1d12.

    Monday, 17 June 2019

    Magic User Rework: 4 Kinds of Spellcasters.

    In the last post we replaced Spell Slots with Mana.

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

    Casting Mechanics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Alright, on with the show.

    Caster Classes

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

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

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

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

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


    Bound Spell Perks:

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

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

    Interrupted Casting:

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

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


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

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

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

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

    Muscle Wizard

    Bound Spell Perks:

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

    (Un)interrupted Casting:

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

    Close Range Caster:

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


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

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

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


    Heartspell Perks:

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

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

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

    Interrupted Casting:

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

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



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

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

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


    Necromancer Spells:

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

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

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

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

    Interrupted Casting:

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


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

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

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

    Gimme the Full Thing Already!

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

    Wednesday, 22 May 2019

    Magic-User Rework: Fuck Spell-Slots Get Mana

    Imagine a hosepipe.

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

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


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

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

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

    Core Caster Mechanics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Discussion - Core Mechanics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Lore Reasoning

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

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

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

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

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

    Chaos Warning

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

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

    Sunday, 21 April 2019

    Cleric Rework - Miracles, Holy War, and You

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

    Main Deal

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

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

    Core Cleric

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

    Hyperchurch of Powerlad

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

    Tolerance and Apostasy

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sect Bonus

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

    Great fun.


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

    Altered Miracle Mechanic:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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