Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Body, Bone, Soul: Necromancy in Tarfel


Two posts in one day! I better pace myself or I'll collapse from exhaustion. Truth is I've got a minor backlog of 21-ish posts at completion levels ranging from 0% to 25%. I try to knock out one every so often.



Carnomancy

Carnomancy is the magic of the flesh. It makes wounds heal or fester, it restores withered limbs or makes healthy ones rot on the body. Carnomancy is the most common form of healing magic and also the least restricted.  Carnomancers are also employed as animal and monster trainers, using magic to sharpen or dull some biological responses; they are also sometimes found working as torturers or loansharks, able to mete out and heal injuries. Carnomancers with an interest in undead can animate dead flesh, creating stereotypical zombies. Such zombies are sluggish because the magic coursing through them only animates their flesh, not their bones; without a skeleton to support it, undead flesh is limited to a slug-like locomotion. Needless to say, such activities are not well-regarded both for their desecration of the dead and the risk of disease.

Osseomancy

Osseomancy is the magic of bones. It restores bones to their original condition, reshapes them and strengthens them, or warps into instruments of torture or violence. Ossemancers in civilized lands mainly work as bonesetters and surgeons. Like Carnomancers, some Osseomancers get involved in seedier business relations but they demand higher pay than Carnomancers. Their cost makes criminal Osseomancers somewhat of a novelty. The stereotypical undead created by Osseomancers are magically animated skeletons of all kinds. In most civilizations, Ossemancers make a point of avoiding the animation of humanoid remains, preferring to animate animal skeletons. Skeletons never cause as much panic as a zombie but they aren't exactly popular either.

Animancy

Animancy is the magic of souls. It alone is the only component of Grand Necromancy that is nigh-universally outlawed, hated, and feared. Animancers manipulate souls, changing personalities, imposing terrible curses or dubious blessings, and denying souls their eternal rest by turning them into monstrous spirit-things. Wraiths are one of the many vile creations of Animancy.

Least Necromancy

Least Necromancy is the most common form of "True" Necromancy. Least Necromancers have a knowledge of both Carnomancy and Osseomancy as well as mundane sciences such as surgery and medicine. Least Necromancers rarely tend to be the types who raise an army of undead or what have you; they tend to operate openly as healers and secretly use undead they create as servants, orderlies, and test subjects for treatments that are too dangerous or illegal to practice on living people. The only dark side of the Least Necromancers is that they need bodies for all those assistants and test subjects. They acquire them most often by grave-robbing, although some don't mind murder either. Greater Zombies (or Fast Zombies as the unimaginative call them) are an example of a Least Necromancer's craft.

Lesser Necromancy

Lesser Necromancy is generally what people are thinking of when they hear "Necromancy". Lesser Necromancers know Animancy and either Osseomancy or Carnomancy, but never both. Lesser Necromancers can (and do) create small armies of undead. Because they taint Carnomantic and Osseomantic magic with Animantic elements, most undead they create tend to possess an instinctual hatred of the living and kill them whenever possible. Lesser Necromancers who master Animancy and Ossoemancy may eventually transform themselves into Liches; those who pursue Animancy and Carnomancy tend to create monstrosities such as the Blood and Flesh "Elementals".

Grand Necromancy

If Lesser Necromancy is the popular face of the discipline in the eye of the public, Grand Necromancy is the popular (and most feared) face of Necromancy among Mages. Grand Necromancers unify Animancy, Carnomancy, and Osseomancy in a terrible synthesis. While Least Necromancers tend to be eccentrics and Lesser Necromancers are little more than local nuisances, Grand Necromancers can topple entire kingdoms. Thankfully, few individuals are focused and skilled enough to master all three of this discipline's components and so they are thankfully rare. Grand Necromancers can create exceptionally powerful undead such as Mohrgs, Mummies, and Vampires.

The Tyranny of Freedom: or, why I kinda hate PWYW

Note: Sean over at Power Score did a post that touched on this topic from the publisher side. This post isn't a response to it but it did kinda inspire me. My post is customer-oriented, unlike his. And I'm pretty sure his PWYW stuff is good if his blog is any indication of his typical creativity and writing skills.

"Pay What You Want" RPG products are a trend that has exploded pretty recently. I don't like them.
Or rather, I don't like the execution of the model. Usually I have to decide before I buy whether I'm paying or not. It feels like going to a restaurant and having to tip the waiter and the start of the meal. What if I pay and the product turns out to be shit? What if I don't and the product turns out to be something great that I want to pay for? I'd feel bad if I gave the waiter a lousy tip at the beginning of the meal then offered me exemplary service. As far as I know, the onebookshelf juggernaut doesn't allow you to re-purchase the same product so I can't correct my quality product-induced guilt. "But Buzzclaw," the gentle readers says, "Surely you can buy another product from the same publisher?"
Sure, in theory, I could. But what if the PWYW product I got was worth $5 in my estimation and the only other products they sell are all $10+?  What if I absolutely hate the concepts of all their other products? Screw that. And if I pay for a turd there's not going to be much of remedy since it tends to be a while between my purchase time and actual reading time.

tl;dr: Like Free, like Paid, HATE PWYW.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Shapeshifter Personalities

Anyway, I've got some "new" ideas for you guys. These personalities are general descriptors of how shapeshifters interact with non-shapeshifters in their territory. All are based on multiple "skinwalker" stories popular on certain imageboards. As such, they're more suitable for types of shapeshifters that live in the wilderness (mainly Fey creatures in D&D terms) as opposed to more urban shapeshifters like Mimics or D&D Doppelgangers. The images are ones that I felt fit the general concepts I'm presenting and they come from magiccards.info, a website I highly recommend.


Precocious


Most shapeshifters are at first just truly curious about the strange new creatures that enter their domain. Precocious shapeshifters tend to copy the appearance of a non-shapeshifter and then interact with an individual or the group. They will sometimes temporarily incapacitate the person they are mimicking but they tend not to. When the shapeshifter's trickery is discovered, it will quickly flee. Precocious shapeshifters will avoid combat if at all possible.


Helpful


A few Precocious shapeshifters with enough self-awareness and empathy will eventually develop a Helpful personality. Such shapeshifters help those who travel through their territory by indicating dangers, food, water, and good campsites. Helpful shapeshifters may have good intentions but they are not always well-equipped to communicate with passerbys because they often have an incomplete understanding of common languages. Additionally, Helpful shapeshifters loathe direct mimicry, instead preferring to create a unique shape based on a combination of many individuals. Because of their ignorance, these form can end up quite strange and disconcerting, like a male Dwarf's head on a Human woman's body. Helpful shapeshifters will help their charges in combat and flee if their charges attack them, but they will rarely hold grudges.


Mischievous


For some Precocious shapeshifters, the fear and desperation that non-shapeshifters feel in reaction to their activities becomes intoxicating. These Mischievous shapeshifters engineer situations to agitate and frighten non-shapeshifters as much as possible, often given rise to legends of haunted or cursed woods. Despite their apparent sadism, Mischievous shapeshifters rarely plan or execute plans that may be lethal to their victims. They reason that too many deaths may scare potential prey away and so rein in some of their more destructive impulses.


Malevolent


Some of the Mischievous eventually grow tired of non-lethal pranks; sometimes they merely seek a stronger and more exquisite form of fear. Other times they find the color of their victims' blood and the taste of their flesh to be even more intoxicating than fear. Almost as often, a Precocious or Helpful suffers great harm from a non-shapeshifter and settles into a vengeful demeanor. All these possibilities can create Malevolent shapeshifters. Malevolents always try to kill. Some do so slowly and methodically, relishing the fear they produce in their victims. Others kill quickly, rampaging through campsites and killing as many as possible before escaping into the night.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Genies & Indians: The Caliph, Khan, and Sultan

Back when I was an undergraduate, one of the courses I took was a history of early modern India. In case you're wondering, it's a time period that stretches from the foundation of the Delhi Sultanate to about the point when Europeans started seizing provinces. I was reading some of the AD&D entries for Noble Genies and something clicked in my head with them and the tidbits I remembered about Mughal Emperors and Delhi Sultans.

The Great Caliph of the Djinn

The Caliph is a blend of two Mughal Emperors, Akbar and Shah Jahan. He is even-handed and treats his subjects well, even if they are not Djinn. He is mighty in war but prefers to engage with the arts and philosophies. He is greatly beloved by non-Djinn who serve him. At the same time, some of his Nobles doubt him. Would it not be best for the Caliph of the Djinn to place above others? Is elevating "lesser" beings to the same level as Djinn not the same thing as degrading the Djinn? Is he truly seeking an agenda of peace or is he creating a status quo where he is the master and all others are slaves? His unwillingness to discuss such issues and his half-hidden alliance (or subservience) to Chan, the Elemental Princess of Air, causes much worry among the Caliph's Djinn subjects.

The Great Khan of the Dao

The Khan is Muhammad Tughluq as viewed through Ibn Battuta's memoirs. He is sometimes beneficent, sometimes malevolent, but always dangerous. Seriously, go read Battuta's accounts of the bribery and corruption of the Tughluq court and then read about how the Khan's court acts. The Khan is someone to be greatly feared. His subjects constantly try to strike a balance where they overachieve just enough to seem diligent but enough that they seem ambitious, lest they be executed.

The Sultan of the Efreet

The Sultan is quite like Aurangzeb. He is harsh, he is tyrannical, he looks with scorn upon his non-Efreeti subjects. Yet he is also very reliable, unlike the fickle Khan. His subjects know that once they receive a law from the Sultan it won't change, both for better or worse. He is also popular among a moderate portion of Efreeti due to his proactive stance on many issues ranging from commerce to war. On the other hand, many Efreeti and non-Efreeti rebel against him, either supporting the former Sultan (who was not quite as racist or heavy-handed as the current one) or their own right to self-rule.
Unfortunately, his constant war efforts have severely taxed his treasury and with each passing day it becomes harder and harder to keep his subjects obedient.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Earth-3 Project: Timeline of 20th-Century Earth


Here’s a brief timeline of relevant recent events on Earth-3. Expect other timeline posts covering other subjects (like the distant past and potential futures) but this a roadmap for both y’all and I. Red links will eventually lead to other posts as I type up the relevant material.

1930s: Exposed to ancient magic, strange chemicals, and all other sorts of weird substances, men and women across the world gain strange and terrifying powers. Initially called “mutant-humans”, the term later developed into “muta-humans”. Most muta-humans used their powers for crime, hoping to live like kings and queens amidst the terrible Great Depression. But a few, like the mysterious Guardian, used their powers to punish crime instead of commit it.

1940: To avoid all-out war, coordinate crimes, and foster cooperation for bigger heists, the Crime Lodge of America is formed.

1941-1945: After the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt contacted the CLA requesting their aid in the war effort. Motivated by greed, racism, and a small amount of patriotism, the CLA accepts on condition that they are pardoned for all their crimes. World War II ended in an allied victory.

1946-1960: Content with the loot and public admiration they gained from their patriotism, the CLA degrades into little more than a country club for retired muta-criminals. Their “amazing heists” become infrequent and outlandish spectacles done more for attention than for wealth.

1966: In an alley in Gotham City, a mugger kills Martha and Bruce Wayne. Thomas Wayne sr. and Thomas Wayne jr. survive the attack but scarred by this event.

1973: Thomas Wayne jr. abandons his father and begins his journey into the criminal underworld.

1974: A mysterious magic ring is discovered by a marine named Stewart Johnson in an ancient temple Vietnam. For a solid week the mysterious new Power Ring manages to turn the tide against the Viet Cong until he collapses dead, apparently from exhaustion and dehydration. A crashed USAF pilot named Martin Harrolds recovers (but does not don) the ring and takes it back to the United States.

1982: Thomas Wayne jr. returns to Gotham as Owlman and begins a campaign of petty vengeance against his father, who has now become the mayor.

1986: An unidentified object enters the atmosphere and crashes in Kansas. Besides the impact crater there are no clues as to the nature of its source. Meanwhile, Lt. Clark Kent of the USAF and four others test a spaceship equipped with a new experimental engine. Something goes catastrophically wrong and all the crew are presumed dead.

1988: Now both more and less than he was before, Clark Kent returns to Earth. Conscious of the passage of time and fearful of how his parents will react to his strange new powers, he settles into a life of anonymity

1989: After reading Nietzsche and several books on the CLA, Clark Kent re-styles himself as the Ultraman. Meanwhile, Joseph Harrolds inherits a strange ring from his dead father’s estate and becomes the new Power Ring.

1990: Concerned with the sudden appearance of muta-criminals, the governments of the world begin several covert projects dedicated to containing muta-human threats, particularly Checkmate and Project Cadmus.

1991: Mary Batson is visited by a mysterious being calling itself “The Super-Power”. She becomes Superwoman.

1992: Owlman, Power Ring, Superwoman, and Ultraman band together to form the Crime Syndicate of America. Elsewhere and to little fanfare, John Garrick discovers a “super-speed drug” that enables creatures to move at exceptional rates of speed. Billionaire industrialist and philanthropist Alexander Luthor begins assembling a group tentatively named “Justice Underground” to oppose the CSA.

1993: Unable to secure funding or subjects for his super-speed drug, John Garrick tires it on himself. Under the influence of the drug and inspired by the recent exploits of the CSA, he adopts the muta-criminal persona of Johnny Quick. Meanwhile, the Crime Lodge of America reforms with a mix of botrh new and old members to cash in on the CSA’s popularity. In Europe, muta-criminals band together under the banner of the Crime Syndicate of Europe.

1994: Johnny Quick is inducted into the CSA, quickly rising to expand the “Big Four” into a “Big Five”. In Asia, the operations of both the CSA and the CSE are sabotage by a mysterious group calling itself The Greater East Asian Co-Delinquency Sphere.

1995: Joseph Harrolds successfully manages to convince a young man to take his cursed ring. Todd Scott becomes the new Power Ring. The CSA, CSE, and Sphere enter into an unsteady cold war as they try to contain each other and the innumerable splinters of the Justice Underground movement

1996: The current year.


Why 1996? Well, mainly because I like that era of DC comics. It also makes the history pretty tight: Seven years is enough time for the new crop of muta-criminals to impact the world in notable ways without impacting it too much. In fact, most of the "big events" of Earth-3 don't actually start happening until 1992 when the CSA itself forms.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Heroes & Other Worlds: Random race determination for Zeroes



Today’s post is going to be a supplement for E. P. Donahue’s excellent Zero-Level Play rules for C. R. Brandon’s Heroes & Other Worlds game. The actual Zero-Level rules are in Cauldron #1

One set of tables uses only the core rules of Heroes & Other Worlds while another has expanded race options taken from The Tome of Terrors and Treasures. There are both unweighted (equal chance of being a Halfling or a Bugbear) tables and weighted (higher chance to be one of the core races) tables. The weights are based on my own personal handwaving. They're also color-coded for ease of reference! Let me know if I missed any official races or screwed up the numbers.

Random Zero Race (Unweighted, Core Rules)
1d4
Race
1
Dwarf
2
Elf
3
Halfling
4
Human


Random Zero Race (Weighted, Core Rules)
1d8
Race
1
Dwarf
2-3
Halfling
4-7
Human
8
Elf


Random Zero Race (Unweighted, Tome of Terrors and Treasures)
1d34 (sorry)
Race (ToTaT page number unless indicated otherwise)
1
Azer (253-254)
2
Bugbears (254-255)
3
Centaurs (232-233)
4
Doppelganger (257)
5
Dwarf, Duergar (222)
6
Dwarf, Hill (220-221)
7
Dwarf, Mountain (222)
8
Elf, Standard/Forest (223-224)
9
Elf, Grau/Deep (224-225)
10
Frogling (225-226)
11
Gargoyle (307-308)
12
Gnoll (Tome of Terrors and Treasures 258-259)
13
Gnome, Forest (236)
14
Gnome, Rock (234-235)
15
Goblin, Standard (260)
16
Goblin, Mountain (260)
17
Halfling (227)
18
Hobgoblin (262-263)
19
Human (Heroes & Other Worlds core rules 14-15)
20
Katian (263-264)
21
Kobold (264-265)
22
Lizardman (266-267)
23
Lycanthrope, Werebear (286, 293-295)
24
Lycanthrope, Wereboar (287,)
25
Lycanthrope, Wererat (288)
26
Lycanthrope, Weretiger (289)
27
Lycanthrope, Werewolf (290)
28
Ogre (270-271)
29
Orc  (272-273)
30
Satyr (238-239)
32
Tengu (278)
33
Troglodyte (279-280)
34
Wolfkin (284)


Random Zero Race (Weighted, Tome of Terrors and Treasures)
1d100
Table
1-60
Roll on the Common Races table
61-90
Roll on the Uncommon Races table
91-100
Roll on the Rare Races table


Common Races
1d100
Race (ToTaT page number unless indicated otherwise)
1-15
Dwarf, Hill (220-221)
16-20
Dwarf, Mountain (222)
21-35
Elf, Standard/Forest (223-224)
36-40
Gnome, Forest (236)
41-45
Gnome, Rock (234-235)
46-65
Halfling (227)
66-100
Human (Heroes & Other Worlds core rules 14-15)


Uncommon Races
1d100
Race (ToTaT page number unless indicated otherwise)
1-10
Elf, Grau/Deep (224-225)
11-20
Frogling (225-226)
21-30
Goblin, Standard (260)
31-45
Hobgoblin (262-263)
46-50
Lycanthrope, Wererat (288)
51-55
Katian (263-264)
56-65
Kobold (264-265)
66-70
Lizardman (266-267)
71-80
Orc  (272-273)
81-85
Satyr (238-239)
86-90
Tengu (278)
91-100
Wolfkin (284)


Rare Races
1d100
Race (ToTaT page number unless indicated otherwise)
1-5
Azer (253-254)
6-10
Bugbears (254-255)
11-20
Centaurs (232-233)
21-30
Doppelganger (257)
31-35
Dwarf, Duergar (222)
36-45
Gargoyle (307-308)
46-50
Gnoll (Tome of Terrors and Treasures 258-259)
51-55
Goblin, Mountain (260)
56-65
Lycanthrope, Werebear (286, 293-295)
66-70
Lycanthrope, Wereboar (287,)
71-75
Lycanthrope, Weretiger (289)
76-90
Lycanthrope, Werewolf (290)
91-95
Ogre (270-271)
96-100
Troglodyte (279-280)