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
The Scorned 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 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!