Monday, June 29, 2015

Flumphs for Unisystem Classic and Heroes & Other Worlds

This is a very special and crunchy post dedicated to Flumphs. Flumphs always struck me as interesting since they were one of the few monstrous or bizarre creatures that were also Good-aligned. Although I'm not a fan of Pathfinder I do like like the spin that Misfit Monster Revisted put on Flumphs, turning them into friendly eldritch abominations that basically help mortals resist the evil plans of Great Old Ones. Maybe they worship Kthanid?

Unisystem Classic

These are rules for Flumphs using the Unisystem Classic system from games like Terra Primate and All Flesh Must Be Eaten. I think I did a good job on the supporting cast entry and the two new powers but I'm not happy with the Flumph racial quality or the Unusual Diet vulnerability.

Flumph (Supporting Cast)

Str 2 Dex 5 Con 2 Int 2 Per 3 Will 2
Life Points 26 
Endurance Points 23
Speed 2 mph (Walking)/14 mph (Flying) 
Essence Pool 16

Skills: None

Attack: Sting D4 x 2 (4) + Poison (Strength 1): Armor Value D4 (2) [Natural]

Qualities/Drawbacks: Attractiveness -4, Minority 3, Physical Disability (No legs); Honorable 3 or Zealot

Powers/Vulnerabilities: Extended Activity Cycle 1, Fly 1 [Atlas of the Walking Dead], Shortened Sleep Cycle 1 [see below], Unusual Diet (substance only; once a week; uncommon [70% pure minerals]) [see below], Venom 1 (Terra Primate)

Metaphysics: None.

Gear: Usually none.

3-point Racial Quality
  • Dex +3, Per +1
  • Flumphs have a natural sting attack that deals D4 x Strength damage. The sting also extrudes a Strength 1 (1 damage) corrosive poison (see below)
  • Flumphs have D4 natural armor.
  • Flumphs have four levels in the Attractiveness and three levels in the Minority drawbacks, and a 4-point Physical Disability (no legs). Flumphs must also select either a 3-point Honorable or Zealot drawback
  • Flumphs possess one level of the Extended Activity Cycle and Shortened Sleep Cycle powers (see New Powers and Vulnerabilities below), one level of the Fly power (Atlas of the Walking Dead 101), and one level of the Venom power (Terra Primate 168).
  • Flumphs have a 5-point Unusual Diet (substance only; once a week; uncommon [70% pure minerals]) vulnerability (see New Powers and Vulnerabilities below).

New Powers and Vulnerabilities

Extended Activity Cycle
Variable Physical Power
For every level of this quality, a character can stay up longer without having to sleep. Each level of this power increases the character's activity cycle by x1.5. For example, a character without this power must sleep 7 hours out of every 24-hour period (AFMBE Core Rulebook 114); a character with one level of this power must sleep 7 hours out of every 36-hour period and a character with two levels needs to sleep 7 hours out of every 54-hour period. This power costs 4 points per level.

Shortened Sleep Cycle
Variable Physical Power
For every level of this power, the character's required sleep time per 24-hour period is cut in half. So one level in this quality would mean the character only needs 3.5 hours (210 minutes) of sleep per 24 hours instead of the usual 7 (AFMBE Core Rulebook 114), and two levels would mean that the character only requires 1.75 hours (105 minutes) of sleep per 24 hours. This power costs 3 points per level.

Unusual Diet
Variable Physical Vulnerability
A character with this vulnerability must consume an unusual substance to avoid starvation (One of The Living 71). To determine this vulnerability's point value, add the values listed below for the appropriate Exclusivity, Frequency, and Availability. If the value of this vulnerability ends up as a number below 0, round up to 0.
  • Exclusivity: Whether or not normal food can satisfy the character. For 0 point the character can consume twice the usual amount of normal food to sate his hunger instead of eating his substance of choice. For 1 points the character must not only eat normal food but must also eat his substance; an inability to eat either will cause starvation. For 2 points, the character can only receive nutrients from the substance.
  • Frequency: How often the character must consume the substance. For 0 points, it must be consumed once every two weeks, every month, etc. For 1 point it must be consumed once every week (seven days). For 2 points it must be consumed at least twice a week. For 3 points it must be consumed once every 48 hours. For 4 points it must be consumed at least once daily.
  • Availability: How difficult it is to obtain the substance. An ubiquitous substance like tree bark, dirt, or grass is worth -5 points. A common substance can be found with relative ease but there's still some effort involved, for example the bark of specific kinds of trees, chicken bones, fresh mud; this is worth 1 point. An Uncommon substance can generally only be found in specific areas or specific times like certain minerals or fresh cow's blood; this is worth 2 points. A rare substance can only be obtained from specialized merchants or dubiously legal means, like fresh Human blood or Orc meat; such a substance is worth 3 points. A very rare substance is highly illegal and unlikely to be sold even in black markets, for example fresh Human or Elf brains; this is worth 5 points.
For example, an Unusual Diet that is exclusive to the substance (2), must be eaten once a week (1), and uses a very rare substance (5) is a 8-point vulnerability while an Unusual Diet that is in addition to normal food (1), must only be consumed once a month (0), and requires an ubiquitous substance (-5) is 0-point vulnerability.

Heroes & Other Worlds

These rules are for C. R. Brandon's Heroes & Other Worlds.

Flumph (NPC stats)
#: 1d3
ST: 8-10
DX: 10 (8)
IQ: 8
EN: 0
MV: 5
Behavior: Unpredictable (10)
Habitat: Any Urban or Wilderness
AR: -2 (Natural armor)
DM: 1D4 (Sting)
SP: multiple (see below)

Flumphs as Characters
- +4 DX, +2 IQ, No EN
- Natural Weapons: Flumphs have a Stinger that deals 1D4 damage.
- Natural Armor: A Flumph's tough hide gives it -2 AR
- When crawling, a Flumph has MV 1; when hovering/flying a Flumph has MV 6. A Flumph produces no noise while hovering and can hover or fly indefinitely as long as it's conscious.
- Unusual Physiology: A Flumph can't wear boots or gloves. They also cannot wear armor since it impedes their air flow. However, Flumphs may also wield up to six-magical rings at once.
-Stench Spray: A Flumph may shoot a stream of foul-smelling liquid every 1d4 turns. The Flumph makes a ranged attack: if it succeeds, the target must make a 3/ST test or be sickened for 1d4 turns.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Powers that be

One thing that always puzzled me about D&D 3.5 was the separation between evil gods (like Hextor) and evil entities that weren't gods but could still grant spells (like Yeenoghu). It always seemed to me that at the level of power there was no real difference between the two.

In this post, I'm going to describe my schema for how those concepts fit together. This schema is my default for generic/traditional fantasy and the mindset I use when thinking about stuff for my Tarfel setting (which is in desperate need of development). I don't have a relevant picture so here's a Pie Fiend.

Powers are supernatural, non-mortal entities that can channel their energy into magical gifts given to mortal creatures. Some Powers are also Gods (see below); Powers who aren't Gods are usually Elemental Princes, Demon Lords, Archcelestials, or other powerful beings.

Gods are Powers who have a cosmological function or concept that they work to maintain.  How they keep these functions/concepts working is something unfathomable to non-gods. Even Gods that are in charge of things like slacking off or partying naked spend most of their time making sure that their concepts don't break down.

If a God dies then a cosmic imbalance occurs: either his function/concept stops working entirely or it goes out of control. For example, if a God of death is destroyed then the world perhaps death doesn't occur and all creatures continue to live on in horrifically wounded bodies (a lack of death); alternatively, everyone is dying from papercuts, splinters and scratches (an excess of death).

No matter happens, the death of a God is a very bad thing for everyone. It can take centuries for the quasi-sentient divine spark to find a new host and restore cosmological balance. For this reason, the Gods seek to conquer their enemies and bind them in divine pacts of servitude rather than kill them. Religious wars in the mortal world are often part of an indirect strategy to weaken specific gods.

Non-divine Powers have affinity for and limited power over some functions and concepts but aren't responsible for maintaining them; their deaths and their existences have little impact on cosmological balance.

Gods also have religions dedicated to them and a hierarchical priesthood of some sort as well. Depending on the God's personal attitudes the hierarchy might be a rigid structure resembling military commands or government bureaucracies or it could a very loose structure more akin to a social club. Magical ability often indicates the favor of Gods but doesn't necessarily give priests a higher authority. Gods tend to have a large number of worshipers and the support of local governments.

Gods also have Precepts, general edicts issued by the Gods themselves to do certain things ("Give to the poor from the bounty of your harvest") and avoid others ("Never extend or accept a truce with an Undead"). All Gods require their worshipers to follow their Precepts, although they generally don't notice transgressions unless these occurring on a large scale (such as whole region) or committed by those the Gods have empowered. Gods don't usually change their Precepts or declare new ones.

Supplementing Precepts are Doctrines, mortal teachings derived from Precepts but focusing on practical interpretations. So for example a doctrine derived from "Give to the poor from the bounty of your harvest" would be that only plants that can be used as food or clothing truly need to be shared while intoxicants like tobacco do not.

Gods rarely bestow magical gifts on those who worship them and devoutly follow their precepts; even more rarely a God may offer a non-worshiper such gifts if he agrees to convert to the worship of his new patron.

Non-divine Powers in contrast do not have Precepts or Doctrines; They offer their gifts to those who seem to fit with their interests or even at random. The contract is often simple: In exchange for the gift of magic to be used unconditionally as the mortal sees fit, the mortal must fulfill one task chosen by the Power at some point in the future.

The task given varies on the Power bestowing the gift. Fiendish Powers tend to choose particularly gruesome acts like cannibalism or torturing a sapient being to death. Celestial Powers instead select grueling but benevolent tasks such as giving every orphan in the city a loaf of bread or a long pilgrimage to many sacred sites.

The general train of thought is that once a mortal tastes the power and realizes that the tasks is easy to fulfill, the mortal will be tempted to make more pacts for more gifts. The Powers hope that this process will corrupt (or purify, in the case of Celestial Powers) the mortal and increase their own influence. Unlike the priests of Gods, the priests of non-divine Powers base their hierarchies on the magical gifts they've received from their patrons.

A third group along with Powers and Gods are Idols. An Idol is a non-Power that is worshiped. Idols may have Precepts and Doctrines but can't bestow gifts the way real Powers can, although some manage to simulate this with skilled applications of sorcery.

A final note is that Gods are nearly omniscient in regard to their function/concept but have difficulty focusing on and observing the mortal realm. Most of the time, Gods just can't tell anything is going on unless it's a big happening like a major war or a massive revolt. Gods mainly collect information from their Servitors (Outsiders created from the souls of the faithful) and from those they have bestowed their gifts upon. Sometimes Gods will also send Avatars, physical manifestations made of their own essences, to survey the mortal world. Many Gods prefer Avatars because they get to experience the realities of the mortal realm directly, without the lens of another mind altering their perceptions.

Non-divine Powers find it relatively easy to perceive the mortal realm, although their scope is usually limited to a single region at a time. These Powers also lack the ability to create Servitors. so they are limited to obtaining information from their few gifted followers or their Avatars.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Get Back

Yesterday, the anime adaptation of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders finally ended. It was a fun ride but it was also really uneven. One of the things that disappointed me the most besides lots of QUALITY animation was the utter lack of Ronnie James Dio music in season 2. I mean, Araki (the mangaka/author, for those not familiar with JJBA) explicitly said that there are a crapton of Dio (the singer) references in Dio (the vampire). The World has scuba tanks as reference to Holy Diver; Dio is in Egypt as a reference to Egypt/The Chains are On. Yet neither song shows up in the series, not even in the Dio's World episodes. I think season 2 had more good/memorable fights than season 1. Overall, I think the Stardust Crusaders was pretty great.

Here's hoping that Unbreakable Like Diamond gets an adaptation.

Super Action Statues: The World vs Star Platinum

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


This week, I ordered Dungeon World and a "Very Good" copy of Thri-kreen of Athas from Amazon. The books got here a day early. I was pumped. The Thri-kreen book wasn't "Very Good" by any means but I was willing to let it slide. That is, until I noticed that it was missing the big poster it was supposed to come with.  Now I have a different copy on the way and I'll be dropping off the poster-less copy for a return.

Dungeon World certainly looks interesting but I'm not feeling the limited race selection for class (something that can easily be fixed with homebrews) or the 5-point alignment axis.

I find myself wanting the D&D Rules Cyclopedia and the Dragonlance: Fifth Age books: Unfortunately, they're way too expensive ($65 for a ratty copy of the RC on Amazon). This is a shame since the RC seems to be one of the best D&D rulesets and the SAGA system sounds quite interesting. Strangely, a lot of books that I want but seem to recall being unpopular fetch high prices, like the Maztica Campaign Setting or Kara-Tur. Maybe I was mislead by a vocal minority. I might breakdown and grab the AD&D 2e core rulebooks since they're all dirt cheap except for the Monstrous Manual.

I'm working on some Heroes & Other Worlds rules that I'll submit to C. R. Brandon for inclusion in a future Cauldron issue. I'm also going to take a crack at converting Warforged and Shifters to HOW. I expect Shifters to be a headache.

I keep debating on whether I should force myself to expand the scope of posts beyond just gaming; I like plenty of other non-gaming nerd stuff but I seem to have settled into just posting gaming things. What a bother.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Tome of Terrors and Treasures Review Part 2: Monsters

I previously discussed the races in The Tome of Terrors and Treasures, so now it's time to move on to the more general topic of the monsters.

In addition to the monster rules in the main Heroes & Other World rulebook, this supplement introduces two systems to determine how monsters act: Fight-or-Flight, which is a simple 3D6 test to see if a creature flees or stays in the fight; and the more detailed Reaction chart with responses ranging from continued fighting to a blubbering total surrender. There are also new rules for Spell-like abilities, which consume ST just like casting a spell does.

Although most creatures found in The Tome of Terrors and Treasures are from the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 System Reference Document, there are a few new creatures scattered about. For example, in addition to the SRD's dinosaurs (deinonychus, elasmosasaurus, megaraptor, triceratops, tyrannosaurus) the Tome includes the allosaurus, ankylosaurus, brachiosaurus, compsognathus, pterodactyl, stegosaurus, and tylosaurus.

Flipping through the pages, one notices a distinct lack of Celestials: There are no stats for Angels, Devas, Eladrin, or Guardinals. I think the reasoning behind this is that "Good" or "Lawful" outsiders shouldn't come up as "monsters", a mindset that apparently comes from the OSR movement. But Brandon also excises more mundane Good/Lawful creatures like Blink Dogs, Coautls, Lammasu, and Metallic Dragons. While I understand the reasoning behind these decisions, I feel that it skews the implied setting in the book; it's almost like some fantasy version of a Warhammer 40,000 Death World where Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, and Humans stand against a never-ending tide of savage humanoids, demons, devils, and undead. Granted, some people may like such a bleak picture but I doubt Brandon intended to paint HOW's setting in such a way.

There are also a few excisions of the more bland entities of the SRD like the Athach, the Krenshar, and the Tojanida. A few creatures seem to be have eliminated to reduce redundancy: Tritons were cut while Merfolk made it; there are Succubi but no Erinyes. I wish Brandon had also tossed one of the "small evil fiends used by wizards" but both Quasits and Imps make it in.

The organization is a bit muddled. There's a clear distinction between the first three sections of monster rules (Animals, Dire Animals, Dinosaurs) and what comes after it ("unnatural" dangers) but I'm not following the train of thought behind this organization. For example, the ten sections following Dinosaurs are: Fauna and Fungi, Oozes & Slimes, Vermin, Swarms, Aquatic Terrors, Beasts, Demons, Devils, Dragons & Wyrms, and then Elementals. If you'd think that a section Fairies & Fey would be between Elementals and Giants, you'd be mistaken. Fairies & Fey are placed after Humans & Demi-Humans and before Golems. In addition, some monster are in unexpected sections, like Azers in Humanoids (with Goblins and Orcs) or Gnomes in Fairies & Fey. Fortunately there is an appendix that lists all creatures in alphabetical order with page numbers, although a few typoes make looking for Imps and Human Mercenaries take a little longer.

There are 365 pages of monsters fit for all sorts of environments and ranging from decent challenge (most animals) to guaranteed TPKs (Balors). While the fact that ToTaT is based on the D&D 3.5 SRD should make other conversion from D&D easy, I've find it's a bit hard to do direct conversions in any case besides playable races.

Speaking of Balors, weighing in with a mighty 265-300 ST and the ability to automatically summon 4d6 Dretches (9-15 ST each) or 1d6 Hezrous (120-140 ST each) for a cost of 5 ST. Even assuming that summoned creatures can't summon others (a rule in D&D 3.5 but that doesn't seem to be in ToTaT), a Balor can very quickly create a small army that can steamroll most parties. 

As you can see, the Tome certainly delivers on the Terrors. Soon, I'll look at the Treasures in part 3 of my review (coming SOON). I hope I'm not coming across as too harsh in these reviews.

Spicing up "The Lost Temple of Demogorgon"

"The Lost Temple of Demogorgon" is an adventure module that appeared in Dungeon magazine #120. In it, the PCs discover an ancient jungle temple filled with awakened animals and a ~s~p~o~o~k~y~ demonic anvil.

This module has a number of things I like:
  • Apes as enemies
  • Demogorgon, the best archfiend
  • Jungle-choked temples
  • More apes
Yet despite all that, there's a certain something missing. I can't exactly put it into words: I should really like this adventure but it seems so bland. I've got a few ideas on how to spice it up though. As a caveat, although I'm writing about a D&D 3.5 adventure, I absolutely hate the system and would be extremely unlikely to run it in 3.5.

  •  Instead of having the Dwarven miners report the sightings of "Ogres", the three local Dwarven chaplains secretly reported to their superiors, who then contacted allied nobles/merchants who hired the PCs
  • The actual bosses of the mining operation are trying to cover up the incident using their "peacekeepers" - hired mercenaries who make sure the miners obey the bosses
  • Finding out the exact details of the sightings therefore requires convincing a miner or two to risk their jobs by telling and possible confrontations with the bosses' mercs
  • The awakened apes are cool but I want something even cooler. In addition to battle-armed awakened apes there are also battle-armed awakened deinonychus (type of velociraptor). Everything is better with dinosaurs.
  • Awakened monkeys to back up the other troops with blowdarts and slings
  • Replace the Troglodytes with something more exotic. I'm not sure with what but I definitely don't want "stinky Lizardfolk" as the a central focus.
  • The temple guardians don't wield and the Dread Forge don't create steel weapons and armor. These items should instead be made from bronze or, for a more flavorful touch, stone, bone, and hides.
  • Speaking of the Dread Forge, it looks incredible dopey. Instead, the Dread Forge is massive combination altar/statue with a 10-foot tall idol of Demogorgon behind the 10 ft x 10 ft square "altar". Both heads of the idol have rubies as eyes. Naturally, removing these cursed rubies is a bad idea.