Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Spherical Angels and the Gods They Serve

Angels are an enemy that my players have fought quite a few times over the years.

These angels are nakedly technological - basically Modrons with a slice of Evangelion - and they're sent down by the ASE-inspired orbital gods which orbit the planet.

Here are some facts about Angels.
- They are spherical with a single central eye, and roll around in ball form when they're not in combat mode. 
- They sing to each other in Angelic Binary so fighting them sounds like fighting a choir. 
- If you kill a higher-ranked angel, one of the lesser angels upgrades to replace them.
- A full choir of them numbers exactly 21, since they are arranged with a leader Ophanim who commands four Tacticians each of whom commands four Baseline angels.
- They are part of an ancient failsafe designed to prevent the end of the world, a task they only partially succeeded at back during the Apocalypse.
- The angels are ultimately controlled by whichever God is overhead that week, and each God has their own agenda and grants the angels a different special ability.

In gameplay terms they've got a fair few gimmicks, all ultimately predictable because Law is predictable.
Mostly they scare my players because they've got good armour, magic immunity, the ranged ones have armour piercing beam cannons, and killing the leader first is a bad idea because their minions just upgrade to take their place.
That plus they usually go for Chaotic characters first, so wizards feel very victimised.

Might as well start with the stats!

I have other drawings saved somewhere but can't find them so enjoy this quick scrawl!


Angels in General

Immunities: Immune to Chaotic magic and stasis weaponry.
- Patrol Mode: Roll around in spherical form, mostly used when on patrol or on standby.
Flight Mode: Can transform into a ball with wings and fly around. Can't attack in this form.
- Scan: Detect Alignment at will.

Angel - Baseline

Baseline angels are the rank and file. Four Baselines are commanded by a single Tactician.
Baselines obey orders blindly, and have no executive function of their own.
They have little skinny legs and little skinny arms and little skinny wings and basically look just like a Modron.

HD2. AC Chain. Morale 12.
Unarmed attack: 1d6.

- Weapon Swap: When commanded by their Tactician, they immediately generate any kind of melee weapon. (See "Weapon Types" in the house rules)
- Upgrade: When their commanding Tactician is destroyed or upgraded, one of its subsidiary Baseline angels transforms into a Tactician. It gains +2 HD immediately.

Angel - Tactician

Tactician Angels are a real-time calculating node in the angel network. Four Tacticians are commanded by a single Ophanim. 
They have some tactical reasoning but these are strictly limited to the present moment, they have no ability for long term strategy. Mostly this is calculating stuff like "enemies are in heavy armour, use hammers" and telling their Baselines to swap to hammers.

HD 4. AC Chain. Morale 12.
Unarmed ram attack: 1d6
or 2 armour-piercing stasis beam cannons: 1d6 each

- Switch Up: As an action, can order their Baseline minions to swap weapons.
- Upgrade: When their commanding Ophanim is destroyed or upgraded, one of its subsidiary Tactician angels transforms into an Ophanim. It gains +4 HD immediately.

Angel - Ophanim

Ophanim angels are the commanders of their group. One Ophanim commands 4 Tacticians that each command 4 Baselines, for a total of 21 angels per Choir.
They have the capacity for longer term strategy and are hubs for the wider angel network.
They are ultimately overseen by the Seraphim dropship that hovers at the edge of the Stratosphere.
This plus they're a whirling array of metal and high-powered beam weapons that can encase a large area within an impenetrable stasis barrier.

HD 8. AC Plate. Morale 12.
Whirling shard attack: Attack all in 10' for 1d6 damage.
or 2 armour-piercing stasis beam cannons: 1d12 each.

- Reactive Movement: If hit by an attack, may take a free move without triggering Opportunity Attacks.
- Stasis Shell: As an action, create a 50' diameter shell of frozen time impenetrable to almost all non-angels. Takes a round to spin up and lasts until the Ophanim stops maintaining it. Things can still move inside the barrier, but they can't cross out and any projectiles crossing the barrier get stuck. The Ophanim itself can't act while maintaining the field, so needs to rely on its minions to destroy anything that's in there with it.

One of my players rendered one of them!


First off, Angels hate Chaos.
They'll always attack Chaotic entities first, and will abandon their other goals until they've chased down and destroyed Chaotic targets.
They attack Neutral entities if they get too close or get in the way of their goals, but won't chase too far.
Lawful entities are ignored unless they physically attack an Angel.

Secondly, Angels upgrade.
Each Ophanim controls 4 Tacticians.
Each Tactician controls 4 Baselines.
If an angel higher in the hierarchy dies, one of their underlings upgrades at the end of the round to take their place.

Thirdly, Angels don't care about firing into combat.
All angels are immune to Stasis Beam attacks, so they'll try to get the Baselines in to tie up foes, then blast the melee with beam-fire.

Fourthly, Ophanim can use their stasis bubble for offence and defense.
If it calculates that its Choir is unlikely to survive, it can put up its Stasis Shell to prevent further action. Angels can roll through Stasis zones unhindered, so they can roll back into the field until danger has passed.
On the other hand, if it can trap a lone foe inside the field and have the rest of the angels come murder it, so much the better! This is a potentially dangerous tactic since the Ophanim can't defend itself with the field up, but mobbing one poor fool with a bunch of angels is usually a winning technique.

Gods Above

A fun extra thing about Angels is that they have different abilities depending on which God is above that week.
I track this because I have a game calendar (so cool, I know) and each week the God closest to the zenith in the skies above influences the Angels below.

You could always roll a 1d9 if you don't care about calendars.

NameAngel MoodAngel Special
Dispater of the Subtle KnifeElusiveAll Angels gain a free move when hit.
Baselines equip reach weapons.
Oberon of the Green BranchWaryBaselines can use 1d6 ranged bow
Minerva of the Burnished ShieldDefensiveBaselines equip shields
Vorn of the Rusted BladeResoluteTacticians can command a weapon swap as a free action
The Dead God of the Brittle BoneMurderousMob individuals. 4 in 6 Backstab.
Alaunus of the Mailed FistEfficientTarget lowest HP first.
The Lady of the Silver CoinFickleImmune to opportunity attacks, retarget foes every round.
The Allfather of the Filled CupHard-hittingBaselines deal +1 die size for damage.
Eris of the Spinning WheelHatefulReverse priorities - kill Lawful first.

God Lore

There are, or were, Nine High Gods orbiting the Earth.
Massive mechanical minds born from aeons-ancient ingenuity, long sent into space to allow them to grow beyond all earthly proportion.
Immortal, impossible space golems, each orbit another turn of the prayer wheel.

If the Gods need to affect the world they send forth their angels.
The Seraphim, huge brass spheres, descend from above and blossom forth, the lower hemisphere opening up into six huge wing-petals covered with eyes.
Each eye is an angel, deployed from the wings according to the unknowable yet fairly obvious tactics of the Gods.

One of the Nine, Eris, was shot down in an earlier age. This has the unfortunate effect of putting angels into their failsafe "scorched earth" mode when they detect no gods overhead.
Some Faiths claim that she lies below Dwimmermount even now. Some call her Queen Satan, others believe her a fallen God unjustly wrenched from the heavens, others still say she never entered heaven at all...

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Gambits! Risky Combat Manoeuvres... Now With Extra Spice!

Boy, it's been a while hasn't it? Let's get into it!

Gambits have been a mainstay of my game from the second they were introduced. Any exciting combat stuff that's not straight "roll hit, roll damage" is covered by either Gambits (roll twice, if both hit you do what you want) or a Wrestle (roll off against enemy, on success do a wrestling move).

My traditional Gambit rule, based on the OG bossman Last Gasp, was essentially "declare a stunt, roll to hit twice, on double success it happens, on double fail it happens to you, otherwise we talk" situation.

The gameplay downside was that it was AC that defined whether you would successfully gambit.
A regular 1HD dude in 18AC Plate resists gambits better than a 1000000HD monster with unarmoured 12AC, that sort of thing.
It also meant that stacking to-hit bonuses would make any gambit a practical certainty, which isn't so good when Gambits can be straight up "I kill all the baddies in one move"!

The best thing about Gambits from my DM perspective is that they're always player-incited chaos, and they're always player-incited cool shit. If someone wants to Gambit they're intending to do something real cool and inviting real consequences.

So from a practical mechanical perspective, the key change is that the new formulation is based on HD instead of AC.
Weaker monsters are easier to stunt on, stronger monsters at the very least need to be taken down a peg before you break their legs.
More excitingly, as the result of a weeb fever dream, there's some extra spicy stuff to add even more chaos into the already chaotic Gambit.

The Rule

If you want to do something extra fancy, it's a Gambit!
Declare your Gambit, like "I want to trip them over" or "I want to chop off their head".
Roll twice against the enemy's Gambit AC. You add your Base Attack Bonus + an appropriate Stat Bonus.
Gambit AC is 10+HD. If the enemy is under half health, their Gambit AC is 10+half HD.

If both hit, your Gambit happens!
If both miss, it's an ironic reversal! The Gambit happens to you.
If it's one hit once miss, it's either a partial success or success at cost. The DM declares the options and you choose.

Example: if you said "I want to sweep their leg to trip them" against a normal 1HD mook, the DM might say that it sound like a Strength Gambit, so you roll 2d20 against Gambit AC 11, applying your BAB + Strength modifier.
You get one hit one miss. so the DM declares something like "choose: partial success means the enemy can't move next round, or success at cost means you and the foe are both knocked prone"

Gambit Specials

1 More:
If you roll a natural 20 on either die, it's a team-up attack!
Resolve the Gambit, then another character you choose can join the Gambit! This doesn't even use up their turn.
They declare a new Gambit involving the original target and roll with your original modifiers, plus their BAB plus an appropriate stat bonus.

Example: You declare "I want to sweep their leg to trip them" against a normal 1HD guard, and you succeed! One of the dice was a Nat 20, triggering 1 More!
You successfully trip the guard, and your friend says "I'm in! I want to steal her spear and chuck it at her boss".
The DM says that sounds like a Dexterity Gambit, so they roll and add their BAB + Dex mod to your original modifiers. Both hit!
You throw the guard to the floor as your friend catches her spear, and throws it like a javelin at the guard captain!

All Out Attack:
If you roll two Nat 20s on a Gambit, it's an All-Out Attack!
Resolve the Gambit, then everybody in your party (in any order, including you) gets a free auto-hit attack on the enemy of their choice! They'll never see it coming!
Movement is allowed during an All-Out Attack so long as you can justify it with a suitably cool/grandiose/ludicrous team-up combo move in the fiction.

If you roll a natural 1 on either die, the enemy strikes back!
Before your Gambit resolves, the enemy gets to make their own Gambit.
This is the only way an enemy can use Gambits.

Your Gambit AC is 10+Level.
Enemies don't usually have stat modifiers, so they only get to add their BAB.

All-Out Revenge:
If you roll two Nat 1s on a Gambit, you're swarmed!
Resolve the Gambit, then any enemy that could conceivably target you gets a free auto-hit attack on you with whatever they've got to hand!
Movement is allowed during an All-Out Revenge, so long as the DM can justify it with a suitably cinematic/tragic/bathetic scene in the fiction.

Other Issues

DM Fairness
This is probably obvious, but if one of your players rolls a Reversal you should make sure the enemy's Gambit is on par with what your player tried to do.

So if they tried something fairly harmless like trying to trip the enemy, maybe the enemy tries for a disarm or throws the character at someone else to knock them both down.
If they went for something brutal like trying to decapitate the enemy, maybe the enemy tries to chop a leg off or permanently blind the character.

Remember that your monsters are much more replaceable than PCs, so cut them at least a little slack!

Multiple Targets:
If a player wants their Gambit to affect multiple foes, just add enemy HD together to find the target number.
Like three 1HD mooks would have Gambit AC 13.
Two 6HD bears would have Gambit AC 22.
Ignore the half health thing with multiple foes, too much effort!

If a Reversal (nat 1) is rolled during a multi-target Gambit, combine enemy attack bonuses together for their counterattack.

Example: You declare "I decapitate the bears!" against two 6HD grizzly bears, and you roll a natural 1 on one of the dice! The DM says "lol ok they're going to try to rip your arms off". 
They've got +6 to hit each, so their combined bonus in their Gambit is +12 vs your Gambit AC of 10+Level.

Absolute Chaos Shenanigans:
These rules are intentionally written so that Gambits can, dice-willing, devolve into absolute chaos with a Reversal conceivably triggering 1 More triggering another Reversal and so on.

That's why I was specific about when a Gambit Special resolves! Reversal triggers before 1 More, which is especially important in the rare case of rolling a Nat 1 and a Nat 20 simultaneously.
Everything always resolves, even if some ridiculous Reversal makes the original Gambit completely implausible, so have fun working it out in the fiction!

For the probability wonks, every Gambit roll has approximately 20% chance to trigger a Gambit Special.
This contrasted with the 10% chance of crit/fumble on a normal attack roll.
Since Gambits tend to be less common than regular attacks, I think that's a good amount of wild card potential!

Monday, 24 May 2021

Mentors - Retiring Your Character to NG+ and Multi-Class

Any long-running game can eventually run into a problem.
What to do with all these high level characters?

This is especially obvious when you're running a game where new characters start at level 1.
Sure, I know that in exponential exp terms a character catches up quick, but lower levels are my vibe!

The "normal" way to cycle to the next character is for your current one to die, but that's extra hard when the character is at a beefy high level and relatively safe.

And so, Mentors.
The classic retired adventurer trope, except it's your old character and they can retire to a happy life of an innkeeper, mountaintop dojo sensei, tower wizard, spooky mansion full of weird shit owner, or whatever else they'd want to do once their adventuring days are over.
Most importantly, future characters get a special bonus because they've been trained by the old (or not that old) master, and the ability to multi-class.

(Shoutout to the Retired Adventurer)


When you reach Level 6 you can retire to become a Mentor.

Mentors give a starting boost to new characters and grant them the ability to multi-class into the Mentor's class in classic D&D style.

Starting Mentor bonuses are picked from the class-based list below, plus an extra character-based one you work out with the DM.
Multi-classing is fairly straightforward for now. Fucked if I know what happens when a multi-classed character retires to become a Mentor. A worry for another time, perhaps!

Naturally there are roleplaying impacts from playing a character with a Mentor. "Ah yes, I knew your mother well" or "curse you scion of POWERLAD!" or "but Lorn au Arcos swore never to train another swordsman!".
That's up to you though.

When the newbie asks you if you know their mentor

Starting Mentor Bonuses

When you retire your character to become a Mentor, new characters can have trained under you to gain a starting bonus.
They can pick one of the standard class bonuses below, or the special character bonus you work out with your DM.

Standard Class Bonus:

- Gain +1 to base attack bonus.
- Gain the Weapon Mastery class bonus: Fighter powers based on your weapon.
- When you kill a creature, get a free Cleave attack against another creature nearby.

- Gain +1 Mana.
- Choose a spell the Mentor knows. You can cast this once per day.
- You have your Mentor's Familiar. It can't cast spells unless you can, but otherwise acts as a Magic-User's Familiar. If you die, it returns to your Mentor. 

- +2 Skill Points.
- Instead of getting skill points at char gen, choose a skill your Mentor has maxed out and max it out yourself.
- Gain the Sharp Eye class bonus: no random targets when you fire into melee.

- Count as +1 level for Faith rolls.
- Choose a Miracle your Mentor has access to. You can call forth this Miracle once per day.
- Gain the Lead Prayer class bonus: Sermons always succeed.

- Gain one of your Mentor's Barbarian abilities.
- When you're at 0HP, gain +1 attack.
- Gain +4 AC when you're not wearing armour and you always count as protected against extreme weather.

- Gain +1 Mana
- Choose a spell the Mentor knows. You can cast this once per day.
- You can raise a single skeleton, zombie, or skin kite given 10 minutes and a Last Breath. Max 1 at a time.

Muscle Wizard:
- Gain +1 Mana.
- Choose a spell the Mentor knows. You can instantly punch-cast this once per day.
- Your fists deal 1d4 damage and count as Shanky weapons. If you can cast spells, you can cast them via a punch attack.

- +1 HD of HP at first level.
- Choose a first level Lorebond your Mentor has unlocked. You have that ability and drawback.
- You always succeed at Arcana checks to bond to a new Glyph.

- Gain +1 Mana.
- You can cast your Mentor's Heartspell once per day. Until you cast it, you have their tier 1 Elf ability and mutation.
- Once per day, at will, you can release a Chaos Burst.

- +1 Dexterity
- +2 to Stealth while in dungeon or urban environments.
- Gain a Goblin Minion. It follows your orders to the letter but not the spirit, and if killed it always falls down something and will show up a week later like nothing happened.

- +1 Charisma
- +2 to Stealth while in outdoor or wilderness environments.
- Once per day, you can give someone an order that they will unwittingly follow for the next 5 seconds at least. If they wouldn't want to do it, they'll stop after the 5 seconds and be all "wait a second".

- Gain +1 Meat Point.
- Choose a Mutation your Mentor has. You can use this once per day. Until you do, you have the associated passive ability.
- You can eat any dead creature smaller than you like a Ration, healing 1d6 HP over ten minutes of horrifying digestion.

- You gain a 1d6 damage Bite attack.
- You have a rat friend who thinks you're cool and can talk to you. You can't speak to other rats, but your rat can always liaise on your behalf.
- Once per day, you can summon a swarm of 10 rats that swarms over you and tanks damage. Each point of damage you receive kills a rat.

- Choose a Named Character from your Mentor mob. They're your sidekick now. If they would die, you can drop to 0HP to save them but it must be in a dramatic fashion.
- Once per day, take a second action on your turn.
- Once per session, when you are dropped to 0HP, stay on 0HP because the bulk of the damage was taken by your stunt double

Special Character Bonus:

Character bonuses should be be cool unique stuff, as unique as your character was!

You retire as a weird unique class, so a new character can start as that weird unique class.
You retire to be a father for your new swarm of giant spider-teens, so a new character can have spider-teen henchmen.
You retire with a fantasy fast food empire, so a new character gets free meals for the party from any of their outlets.
You retire after becoming a vast blooming flesh-Yggdrasil, so a new character can start with mutant superpowers.

All completely normal examples of things that happen in games.


Multi-Classing is simple and probably works how you would expect. This may change if it turns out it fucks up even the fairly loose balance between classes we currently have.

The upside is you get to be a fun admixture of two different classes. Especially weird if you mix race-classes. Idk how that works in fiction, that's on you.
The downside is that the multi-class side is a weaker version of what you'd normally get if you mainlined a class.

I'll call the Mentor's class your Off-Class, to show that it's kind of askance to your main class.

- Upside: Gives you the cool thing that the Off-Class gets on level.
- Downside: Off-Class Hit Die reduced one size.
- Implicit downside: You don't get stuff that the Off-Class would have started with.

Also you might notice that mixing casters is a bit of a shit deal. This is on purpose!
I didn't want to get into a whole thing with how different Mana pools interact or blend or whatever, so off-class casters just get an extra once/day spell.

So here goes -

+1d6 HP
+1 to base attack bonus

+1d2 HP
+Gain a spell your Mentor knows. You can cast this once per day.

+ 1d4 HP
+2 Skill Points.

+1d4 HP
+1d6 Lay on Hands. (Roll 1d6 per Cleric level at dawn. This is your Healing Pool. As an Action, you can Lay on Hands to heal someone from your Healing Pool)

+1d6 HP
+Gain one of your Mentor's Barbarian abilities.

+1d2 HP
+Gain a spell your Mentor knows. You can cast this once per day.

Muscle Wizard:
+1d2 HP
+Gain a spell your Mentor knows. You can punch-cast this once per day.

+ 1d8 HP
+ Unlock or advance a Lorebond your Mentor has unlocked. You gain the ability and drawback.

+1d4 HP
+You can cast your Mentor's Heartspell once per day. Until you cast it, you have their tier 1 Elf ability and mutation. This stacks - more uncast heartspells mean you get more of their mutations and abilities.

+1d4 HP
+1 Goblin Buddy who loves you. If killed, they somehow respawn next time you sleep outdoors.

+1d4 HP
+1 to Domination rolls. If you couldn't before, you can now! Please note that if you're not a true Halfling, your mind-slave will always break out of your control if you are vulnerable and/or unconscious and/or forgot to mention them until halfway into the session.

+1d4 HP
+ Choose a Mutation your Mentor has. You can use this once per day. Until you do, you have the associated passive ability.

+ 1d4 HP
+ You can summon 1 rat per Ratman level squared. You can speak to them and your rats act as a Ratman's rats.

+1d10 HP
+Gain an Extra who can do one extra thing on your turn. If they die, they are killed off-screen and return somehow the next time you take Downtime.

One Last Job

This is the classic, right?
Retired hero gets brought back in by the old gang for a final heist or maybe someone kills their dog.
Or the other classic, your mentor dies saving you from some deadly foe or tragic self-made mistake.

I was thiiiiis close to mechanising it (by which I mean, I wrote and rewrote a bunch of shit) before I realised that it was a dead end.

Instead I simply suggest that in moments of great narrative resonance, when the stars and tropes align into a powerful force of myth and portent, that Mentors may be used to perform great metanarrative acts.

My original drafts had phrases like "once per Mentor" and "if you reach 0HP" and "afterwards they cannot be used as a Mentor" in there, along with a perfunctory table of Mentor tropes, but I don't think that's necessary.
If you've got a Mentor, you've got a license to fuck with the DM by bringing back an old character to enact a classic genre trope. Everything else is up to you!

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Flashpoints - PCs in Mass Combat

Secret Jackalope is like Secret Santicorn but for Easter!
Which I clearly missed, but I did it in the end!
So here is my somewhat belated Jackalope gift for Mr. Florent "killerklown" Didier of D.R.E.A.D. who requested:

"A simple way to make character actions in mass combat meaningful yet dangerous and not omnipotent"

I already did this in my Titan-Scale Mass Combat rules, but just linking back to that feels like cheating!
So instead I'm just going to adapt it to something more human-scale, such that PCs will be able to affect the outcome on the battlefield rather than just commanding from above.

So the main thing is that the PCs need a goal that isn't just "roll attacks against enemy soldiers".
If they're just in the rank-and-file they have no agency and no real means to affect the battle - they're just another soldier, even if they're like ten times better at killing than a regular soldier.

More importantly they need several possible goals so they have agency.
Flashpoints are these goals - points where the PCs can influence the course of the battle.


Every good scenario has an outcome that is essentially "what happens if the PCs don't intervene?"
Set that now.

A good idea is to just grab a famous battle from wikipedia and use that!
Good for "realism", good for one of your players picking it up and going "oh sick I know exactly what went wrong in the Battle of Cannae!" and feeling cool for using their historical meta-knowledge.

This is also good for working out the terrain and the power imbalance between the two sides, less work for you is always good right?

Rules Overview

Battles are fought by Units, representing formations of troops.
Battles take place on a hex grid Battlefield.
The PCs can influence the battle by going to Flashpoints, places which could tip the balance of the battle in their favour.


Armies are made up of individual Units, each representing a single formation of troops.
They have two stats - Speed and Power, and perhaps some extra bullshit special abilities.

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

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

Each side rolls their combat die.
The Loser loses 2 Power, dropping down a die size.
The Loser may move a hex, if able.

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

Bullshit Special Abilities:
These are some extra bits to differentiate units and make them a bit more characterful.
Some possibilities:
Charge: Move an extra hex when you move in a straight line.
Riverwalk: Can cross water without a bridge.
Overrun: When you destroy another unit, move into their vacated hex.
Ranged: This unit can attack from 2 hexes away, but has -2 Power in normal melee combat. If they lose in a ranged combat against a non-ranged foe, they take no damage.

The Battlefield

The Battlefield is a hex grid. Each hex is as big as you need it to be.

Each Turn is anywhere between 10 minutes and an hour - time is flexible in the midst of combat.

Add some terrain to spice up the battlefield. Some possibilities:
Elevation: Units with the high ground gain +2 Power.
Slow Terrain: Units that move into this terrain end their movement.
River: Impassable to normal troops.


Flashpoints are places where a small and dedicated group of 2-8 characters of appropriate level might make an impact.
Think of Aragorn and Gimli defending the gates from the battering ram at Helm's Deep, or what would have happened if Legolas had actually taken down that one guy with the torch before he could light the bombs under the walls.

Whenever two enemy Units engage in combat, a random Flashpoint occurs.
PCs that arrive in time can enter the Flashpoint - essentially a short combat scenario that affects the course of the combat.

The PCs success or failure decides the outcome of the combat.
Success: Your allied Unit wins.
Failure: Your allied Unit loses.

These can basically be any cool combat battle scenario you can think of and you'll need to stat them up appropriately, but here's a d10 table to start you off!

Roll 1d10:

1. Enemy Champion
A very strong foe is here! A big monster, a powerful enemy hero, or some other terrifying singular threat! Defeat the Champion and your side is assured of victory!

2. Defend the Breach
A hole has opened up in the ranks and/or fortifications, and enemy troops are surging through! Hold the line for several rounds until reinforcements arrive, your troops recover, or the fortification can be shored up.

3. Enemy Leader
A particularly important enemy commander is here, and their tactical acumen will lead to the inevitable victory of the enemy forces if they're not stopped!
Fight, sneak or otherwise reach the leader in a few rounds and either kill them or force them to flee.

4. Morale Shaken
The pressure of combat, the death of a beloved soldier, or some other calamity has shaken the faith of the troops! Fight at their side and encourage them with inspirational deeds and words, stirring their souls and raising their morale to fight back against their foes!

5. Unexpected Tactics
Something completely unanticipated has happened! Outriders are attacking the flanks, or some fell magicks have turned the soil to mud, or a feigned retreat has left the unit surrounded by once-hidden foes! Help your Unit recover the initiative and turn the tides back in your favour!

6. Push the Advantage
A hole has opened up in the enemy formation, an opportunity to break through if only someone could seize it! Lead the charge and break the morale of your foes!

7. Capture the Standard
The enemy is holding some prideful totem that gives their forces strength and power! Capture their prized standard, powerful magical totem, or whatever it is that will make them abased and demoralised if it is seized!

8. Mark a Target
Some sort of destructive ranged attack, be it massed bowmen or artillery or arch-wizard, is ready to fire on a tactically important place but they need someone to mark the target before they can do so!
Somehow get to the target location and plant the smoke canister, arrow-attractor, or magical ley-stone in position so they can blow it to hell!

9. Recon Mission
If only your troops knew what was ahead they could assure themselves victory! Whether it's an ambush, a trap, or simply knowing what the enemy they're facing has to fight back with, there's something ahead that would be easily overcome with prior knowledge.
You have limited time to go forth, find out the necessary knowledge, and survive to return and inform your troops of what lies ahead!

10. Elite Guard
The elite forces of the enemy are ahead - bloody-minded veterans, empowered uruk-hai, or some other force much more powerful than their regular rank-and-file is arrayed before you.
Support your troops in the fight ahead against a multitude of powerful foes!

The exact make-up of these different Flashpoints is down to the individual scenario.
If the enemy is other humans, an Enemy Champion result might be a particularly powerful warrior with a massive sword.
If they're undead it might be a massive zombie abomination that crushes all before it.
If they're mushroom men perhaps it's a rolling spore monster that chokes your soldiers so that the shroom rank-and-file can finish them off.

Turn Order

Each Turn goes like this:
  1. Unit Movement
  2. Create Flashpoints
  3. PC Movement
  4. Flashpoints!
  5. Resolve Combat

1. Movement
Units move in whatever order you want up to their speed.

2. Create Flashpoints
If two opposing units are in adjacent hexes, a Flashpoint occurs!

3. PC Movement
PCs move in whatever order they want.
Since they don't have to march in formation, PCs are faster than regular Units.
Mounted: 4 hexes.
Lightly Encumbered: 3 hexes
Encumbered: 2 hexes
Morbidly Encumbered: 1 hex

4. Flashpoints!
If one or more PCs has moved to a Flashpoint, they see what the scenario is!
If they choose to engage, they join the Flashpoint scenario.

5. Unit Combat
If the PCs succeeded at a Flashpoint, their Unit wins!
If the PCs failed at a Flashpoint, their Unit fails.
Otherwise, roll for the outcome as above.

Some Example Units

Power 6. Speed 2.
- Pike Square: Bonus +2 Power vs Cavalry

Power 6. Speed 3.
- Charge: Bonus +1 Speed moving in a straight line.

Power 6. Speed 2.
- Ranged: This unit can attack from 2 hexes away, but has -2 Power in normal melee combat. If they lose in a ranged combat against a non-ranged foe, they take no damage.

Power 6. Speed 2.
- Raise Dead: Permanently gain +2 Power when they defeat a Unit with bones.

Power 8. Speed 2.
- Treestride: This unit is not slowed by forests.

Power 10. Speed 3.
- Flying: This unit is not blocked by impassable terrain.
- Devastate: If this unit wins a combat, the enemy unit loses 4 Power instead of 2.

Hopefully that's good enough! If you want to add monstrous unkillable titans that are threatened by nothing other than each other, check out the original post!

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Harder/Better/Faster/Stronger - A Crafting System

One of my players has been getting big into the idea of being some sort of Mad Scientist specialist, which naturally necessitates a bullshit crafting system!

Did I phrase everything like this to shoehorn a reference to a two decade old Daft Punk song into a crafting system?
... Perhaps.

The Central Gimmick

When you upgrade an object or device, you can choose to upgrade any one of these four essential aspects:
  • Harder:
    Make it sturdier, tougher, more resistant to harm.
    A bit like improving its Constitution.
  • Better:
    Make it multi-use, prettier, or otherwise upgrade it in a way oblique to its usual purpose.
    A bit like improving its Int/Cha/Wis.
  • Faster:
    Make it easier to use, faster to deploy, or quicker to recover.
    A bit like improving its Dexterity.
  • Stronger:
    Make it more powerful, more effective, better at its primary task.
    A bit like improving its Strength.

But nothing improves without sacrifice.
When you upgrade one aspect, you must downgrade another.

Roll Tinkering.
On success, you choose the downgrade.
On failure, the DM chooses.

The downgrades are the inverse of those above:
  • Brittle:
    It breaks easily, or gives less protection, or needs excessive care to maintain.
  • Worse:
    It's uglier, less useful, more obvious, or otherwise less good in a way oblique to its primary purpose.
  • Slow:
    It's unreliable, difficult to control, or requires laborious reloading.
  • Weak:
    It's less powerful, less effective, and not as good at doing the main thing it should be able to do.

Naturally the actual mechanical impact of these relatively vague categories is down to negotiation with the DM.


This is primarily designed to allow some fun inventions and equipment upgrades without getting into the world of +1 Swords and other straight upgrades. I like it when things have upsides and downsides - not necessarily for any balance reasons, just because it's nice to have interesting choices.

Plus Tinkering is a fun skill that's not used so much beyond repairing gear, and once you've opened the door to weird and wacky inventions why stop?
Plus if I'm leaning into this post-apoc thing, having scratch-built equipment that does funky stuff is very on-theme!

The aspects are quite loose and open to interpretation.
Harder, Faster and Stronger are supposed to be your fairly straightforward upgrades and downgrades.
Sword does more damage (Stronger) but breaks easily (Brittle).
Armour is more effective (Harder) but encumbers you more (Slow).
Firearm loads swiftly (Faster) but doesn't pierce armour (Weak).

The "fun" aka more ruling-heavy part is in the Better/Worse metric.
An easy one would be like classic ceremonial armour that's super classy and impressive (Better) but easily damaged (Brittle).
But how about adding a gun to a katar (Better) so you can shoot while you punch? Maybe the actual weapons are less effective (Weak) but who cares when you can punch bullets into people?
Build an oil channel and spark into a sword to make it go on fire (Better) but at the cost of having to reload it with special oil between times (Slow). Go wild!

Monday, 24 February 2020

Wizard Rework Finale: The Death of Spell Levels + 500 Levelless Spells

Last year I reworked wizards so that they used Mana instead of spell slots.

In that very post I said the following -

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.

Time to make that soft move a HARD MOVE BABYYYYYY.

A Whole Load of Spells

First off, here's my big list of 500 levelless spells (and counting!) culled from many sources.

Ten Foot Polemic Spell List

If you look at the sources you'll notice there's lots GLOG-adjacent stuff because translating "[dice]" to caster level is a pretty easy shift!
I'm still adding stuff (next is to scavenge spells from individual GLOG wizards..) but biggest thanks to Isaak Hill, Skerples, Lost Pages, and this imminentchurchengine person who posted a massive d200 spell list on reddit.

Spells are hash-marked because it's sometimes useful to be like "You find scroll #154" and then look up the hash later when they finally identify it.

Quick rundown of what's in this sheet -

Generates random MU and Necromancer spells and random spell mishaps for each.


One big list of all the wizard spells I've got so far!

Magic-User Mishaps:

Automated version of Aura's wild magic table. Pulls through to the Generator tab, but useful if you need a specific table result.

Big list of Necromancer spells. Currently fairly short, but more to come!

Spellbook Generator:
 Generates 6 MU spellbooks and 6 Necromancer grimoires.
The MU one is designed to give starting wizards mostly standard LotFP L1 starter spells with 1-2 fun ones from the whole list. Got to make sure new Wizards mostly get the classics!
Necromancers get their archetypical spell Subjugate Dead and 3 random spells from the whole list. I might change that if the Necromancer spell list gets anywhere near as big as the MU one, but it's fine for now! Raising and controlling the Dead is the main one, after all.

The layout is meant for copy-pasting into a doc for printing, which is why it looks a bit janky, and it doesn't update if you refresh the page, sorry!

Wizard spells should spit out into this document if I've got it right - Beginner MU Spellbooks.
And Necromancer spells should come out here - Beginner Necromancer Spellbooks.

Get on my Level

So - the obvious. All spells are now "Levelless", or effectively first level spells that scale with caster level.
This means I can tighten up the spellcasting rules as follows:

Mana: You have 1 Mana per level. This powers your spells.
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.

Casting: You have two ways of casting spells.
Bound: Bind spells in advance. For those who plan ahead.
Wild: Cast instantly and spontaneously. For those who live in the moment.

Spellbinding: Spend 1 Mana and 10 minutes meditating with a spellbook to create a Bound Spell.
It takes a round to cast a Bound Spell - declare casting as an Action, it goes off at the start of your next turn. If you get hurt mid-cast, Save vs Chaos. On success you maintain casting, on failure the spell goes off immediately as a Chaos Burst

Wild Magic: Roll 2d6 on this table plus:

Skill: Your Intelligence modifier.
Bulk: -1 per Encumbrance level
Mana: For each Mana you spend, roll an extra 1d6.
Blood: For each HP you sacrifice, add +1.

Wild Magic is cast instantly as an Action.

Caster Differentiation

I had a few ideas about caster differentiation on one of the initial posts, but I've had a couple of slight changes of heart since!
Most significantly I'm making Necromancers have the same casting rules as others. This has necessitated separate spooky-themed Chaos Burst and Cosmic Horror tables, but that's part of the fun!
A smaller change is to move back to Magic-Users having one Familiar. I liked the idea of a powerful wizard being surrounded by a cloud of animals and people being able to guess what they've got prepped, but having a single Familiar (or two, in one notable case) is pretty iconic in my game now.

In short -
  • Magic-Users get a Familiar and the most flexibility.
  • Necromancers get a separate spooky spell list and need bodily fluids and stuff to cast spells at full power.
  • Muscle Wizards trade range for close-combat capability.
  • Elves get themed superpowers but can only cast Wild Magic.
Each caster class also gets a unique Vengeance when they die, which I thought would be a fun way to make the chaotic casters inject even more chaos into a situation!

Full player facing stuff is in the Quick Class Breakdowns, but here's the rundown using the casting rules above as the baseline.


Starting Spells: 
Start with a Spellbook containing four random spells.

Choose a smallish animal to be your Familiar at character creation. Familiars obey orders, communicate telepathically, and cannot die. If ever somehow destroyed, your Familiar reforms next to you.
Spells can be cast through your Familiar - counting it as the origin point of the spell.

When you bind a spell, you can bind it into your own head or into your Familiar.
Spells bound in your head grant you access to Cantrips - minor magical effects on the general theme of the bound spell, eg. Sleep could make someone yawn or Magic Missile might give you a bonus to Aim actions.
Spells bound to your Familiar grant it useful mutations. Shield might give it a tough shell or Spider-Climb could give it spider legs to climb up walls.
These effects last until you cast the spell.

Wizard Vengeance:
When you die your Familiar mutates into a horrifying demon and takes revenge.
Unspent Mana gives it more power. Uncast Bound Spells give it more abilities.
Roll it up with this generator: Saker's Summon Hack.
It's base HD is your level +1 for each unspent Mana you had.
It can cast any remaining Bound Spells you had at-will.

Moving to levelless spells really streamlines this class.
Familiars are the only change to before - back to a single creature.
Familiars are good for signal-boosting spells, delivering Touch or Area attacks at range, and mutating into useful forms for shenanigans.

Oh also I'm so glad I was linked to that Summon hack! Great stuff!


Starting Spells:
Start with a Grimoire containing Subjugate Dead and 3 random spells.

Also start with a bandolier of glass vials. You fill these with the ritual components of your spells.
The bandolier is non-encumbering, but when you fill a vial it is added to your inventory.
You can stack up to 5 identical vials to an encumbrance slot.

You require vials of ritual components to cast spells at full power. The components are listed in the spell descriptions.
Sacrifice the required components when you cast the spell, otherwise the spell is cast as though you're a level 1 caster.

Last Breath:
The Dead will only obey those who speak with their voice, and so the most important ritual component is Last Breath - the final gasp of a sapient creature.
Breathing this in grants you the Voice of the Dead - crucial for raising, subjugating and controlling your Dead minions. A single vial lasts 10 minutes, after which your minions will simply obey the last order they were given.

Death Resistance:
Bound spells are ghosts that live in your bones and help hold your soul in.
Each Bound Spell grants you +1 when you roll to Tempt Fate.

Necromancer Vengeance:
When you die you release a wave of death magic and vengeful ghosts.
This deals 1d6 damage per unspent Mana and uncast Bound Spell to every living thing within 10'/level.

Streamlining the Necromancer to be in line with other casters is good for newbies.
While in the previous version I envisaged the Necromancer as the mirror of an Elf - ie. can't do Wild Magic while an Elf can only do Wild Magic - it turns out every newbie finds "Necromancer" more evocative than "Magic-User"!

They've still got a "prepare in advance" vibe through their need to have vials of stuff ready in their bandolier, but you'll notice this doesn't matter at Level 1.
It would suck to be a new player or new character starting in the middle of a dungeon and find out you're unable to cast your spells because you don't have any salt or eye jelly on hand!
The components are loosely themed - like salt is for warding spells and blood is for affecting living things. I'll be building up the Necromancer spell list over the next little while, so more to come!
Having a bandolier of stuff for Necromancy is, naturally, inspired by Abhorsen. Albeit those were bells not vials of phlegm and bone dust.

The exception is Last Breath for their signature spell, as you'll see in the Subjugate Dead spell description in the starter grimoires.
Last Breath is evocative and also pretty readily available in any delve - just do a murder!

I also dig the idea that intelligent Dead are powerful because they don't need Last Breath to control minions - they're already speaking with the Voice of the Dead.
The ten minute limit on Last Breath is so you can micromanage your minions in a combat situation, but outside of combat you'll need to put them on autopilot.

Oh yea, and if you bind your spells in advance it makes it harder for you to die! Cool huh?
And then if you do die, you pull every motherfucker in the room into hell with you.

If you've got any rad Chaos Bursts or Cosmic Horrors for Necromancers, hit me up. I need more entries!

Muscle Wizard

Starting Spells:
Start with a Spellbook containing 4 random spells.

Muscle Magic:
Your fists deal 1d4 magical damage and count as Shanky weapons.
All spells have a maximum range of 10' - punching distance - and casting your spells must be combined with an unarmed attack.
You choose whether a spell you cast affects you, your target, or both.

Core Power:
Mana suffuses your core, increasing your resilience.
You gain +2 HP for each unspent Mana in your Mana Pool.

Bound Strength:
Binding spells moves them into your muscles to grant yourself physical power.
Each Bound Spell grants your unarmed attacks +1 to hit and +1 to damage.

Final Impact:
When you die you can flash-step to somewhere in the scene, utter a final line, and unleash your ultimate move.
Deal 1d6 damage per unspent Mana and uncast Bound Spell to a creature in the vicinity.

I still laugh at that ridiculous Wide Kylo Ren meme. Anyway...
No big changes to the previous version, except they've got to choose between +HP and +attack with their Mana.
Do you keep it in Mana form so you're tough? Or turn it into Bound Spells so you're buff?
Remember - there's no penalty to casting Bound Spells in armour, so you can mitigate the HP tradeoff with better AC.

Affecting yourself and someone else with a single spell is very intended. Being able to go two-for-one on a buff spell at the cost of punching your mate in the face makes me laugh.


Elves start with a single random spell from this list. This is their Heartspell.
It defines what powers they will receive and the monster they will become.

Wild Mage:
Elves cannot Bind spells.
They can cast their Heartspell instantly as an Action. Other spells require a Wild Magic roll to twist their Heartspell into a new shape.

The more Mana an Elf has, the more powers and mutations they manifest.
Mutations and powers can be found here - Elf Mutation List.
These power tiers are based on Mana, not character level, so they lose their gifts as they use up Mana.
If an Elf runs out of Mana they can no longer cast spells - they are human once more.

Elves do not sleep, but they do disappear for hours at night to dance beneath the moon.
They are gone for an hour per level at some point during the night. When they return, their Mana is back to full.
Their powers wax as the moon wanes.
They get +1 Mana during a Crescent Moon, and double Mana during the New Moon.
They get -1 Mana during a Gibbous Moon, and half Mana during a Full Moon.

Cold Iron:
Cold iron weapons deal maximum damage to Elves.
Cold iron is simply iron that is cold - not a special type of metal.
Sustained contact with cold iron locks the Elf off from their powers, reverting them to human form until the cold iron is removed.

Wild Vengeance:
When an Elf dies it releases a Chaos Burst of its Heartspell per unspent Mana, each randomly targeted at any creature within 50'.

Notes: No big changes here, other than to give them their own special Vengeance thing.
That'll be great fun if my players face enemy Elves...
There's another minor difference to other casters - Elves technically can run out of spells! If you want to cast that dangerous 2d6 Wild Magic you'll need to keep a Mana back so you stay an Elf rather than some measly human.

original muscle wizard pic before I remembered about Ben Swolo

Finale Worde

So there you have it! What I always kind of wanted to do with the caster classes but was too lazy to follow through with!
Big big thanks to KingPenta who was the main person to nudge me into de-levelling the lotfp spells, and another big thanks to the GLOGosphere who I will continue to mine for levelless spells.
Turns out I find it kind of relaxing to translate content into my game's own idiom? I figure I'll just keep building it up over time.

Part of the fun is going to be adding my players' spells to the list over time as they research them, and in fact there are already a few in there from Sophia's brief but shining run as an Elf.

Conveniently enough one of my players has rolled up a Necromancer and another just rolled up a Wizard after his previous character united with his god and ascended ever so slowly to heaven, so I'll actually be able to see how they go in play!

Friday, 7 February 2020

Secret Santicorn 2019: The Breakdown

This post is just a link to DIY & Dragons who has organised aaaaall the Secret Santicorn stuff we did in the Discord at the end of last year!

Secret Santicorn 2019

There's some really great content in there, I think making stuff for other people really makes people put in all the effort!
Big shout out to what is obviously the best one, the one Spwack made for me!

Feels weird to have such a short post with no pictures stolen from a google image search, so please enjoy this sandwich alignment chart.
Bring it out next time you're out with friends or on a date and I guarantee a good quarter hour of conversation.