Tuesday 24 July 2018

Apocalypse Dragon Ninhursag

players pls don't read



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

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

The Cults of Ninhursag

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

The Taboos of Ninhursag

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

The Observances of Ninhursag

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

The Boons of Ninhursag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apotheosis Acceleration - With a day of preparation, Apotheosise.

Apotheosis Ultimate - At will, Apotheosise as an action

The Elemental Dragons of Ninhursag

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

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

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

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

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

Design Notes:

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

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

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

So, design notes on the different bits.

Observances and Taboos.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Note on Aspects

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

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

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

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

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

Elemental Dragons

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

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

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

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

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

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


More on the Apocalypse Dragons

Apocalypse Dragon Resources
Learn to Kneel