Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Stealing from the 13th Age - The Icon Relationship Rolls

OK, time to steal the Icon Relationship Rolls from 13th Age (the Archmage Engine) to DCC RPG. In case you’re wandering what I’m talking about, check my 1st post here

Icons are basically 13th Age’s way of dealing with factions. In that game’s standard campaign setting (The Dragon Empire), the Icons are the highest-level NPCs of the world, its movers and shakers. All PCs in 13th Age are linked through their backgrounds to 1-3 Icons, already at 1st level. Usually this relation is through proxies, groups and followers of an Icon, but because 13th Age is all about high fantasy, it isn’t that rare for a 1st level PC to actually have met and interacted with a powerful Icon (it’s already a cliché in 13th Age community the idea of PCs that are bastard children of Icons – especially the Emperor, the Diabolist or the Archmage).

Icons are an excellent way to “ground” the PCs in the intrigues, plots and events of the setting. Instead of placing those NPCs as distant characters, forever busy with ineffable agendas, 13th Age links the PCs directly to them. And the PCs are not random wanderers and tomb raiders, but character linked with the most powerful and influential forces in the world.

The Icons are thus used as building blocs for the setting and also as a great tool to build adventures/campaigns. Each PC starts with 1-3 points of Icon Relationships. These relations can Positive (the PC is an ally of the Icon), Negative (the PC is an enemy of the Icon) or Conflicted (it’s complicated; for example: the PC is a hero, but from a bloodline known to serve an evil Icon). Because the PCs pick Icons at the beginning of the game, the GM knows which NPCs the players want to see in their games. At my table, for example, there is a lot of points invested in The Three – the villainous blue, black and red great wyrms of the Dragon Empire – so I knew that the party would be interacting and facing lots of draconic foes and themes.

OK, how does an Icon Relationship works? At certain times – usually at the beginning or end of a session/adventure – the PCs roll 1d6 for each Iron Relationship in their character sheets. Each ‘6’ means that the PC gets a special advantage due to his/her relationship with the Icon. Each ‘5’ means an advantage, plus with a complication (to make it clear, the PC must still get good stuff).

What is an advantage exactly? In 13th Age that usually means a one-use magic item (potions, runes, oils etc.) or maybe a true magic item if you PC is running low on them. An advantage could also mean some NPC help in a scene or maybe an extra clue/information, or even a bonus to a specific challenge. However, the 13th Age Core recommends that Icon advantages should be narrative in nature (a good place to pick ideas for Icon advantages is by reading D&D 5E’s Backgrounds, especially their special features… things like military rank, access to temples, secret hideouts, alternative identities… all are great examples of benefits derived from Icon rolls).

Big Emp, so metal!
 So, an example: you have 2 Dice of Positive Relationship with the Archmage (the uber-spellcaster of the Dragon Empire) and 1 Negative Relationship with the Emperor (the awesome and probably dragon-rider Melnibonean ruler of the aforementioned Empire). First, that basically means that you have connections and are in good standing the Archmage; at the same time you’re on wrong side of the fence with Greatest Human Nation of the world. Why? I don’t know, that for your PC background. At the beginning of the session you’re lucky and roll a ‘6’ for the Archmage and a ‘5’ for the Emperor. That means your PC has 1 advantage with the most powerful mage in the world and 1 advantage with complications regarding the fact that the Dragon Empire doesn’t like you. What could that mean? Well, it depends on the PC’s level, background and the adventure itself. If you’re our usual low-level dungeon-crawler adventurer, that ‘6’ with the Archmage could mean you found a chest warded by agents of the Great Wizard that only you can unlock – by opening it you find some valuable healing potions. That ‘5’ with the Emperor could mean you found an unlikely ally in the dungeon – an evil humanoid that also deeply hates the Empire! Because this is a ‘5’, you only get his help if the party can help him face a rival tribe of humanoids.

Elminster here is your drink buddy.
If you like improvisation, then you’ll roll Icon Relationships at the start of the game session or adventure; if you prefer to plan the results ahead, then it’s best to use Icon rolls at the end of the session (then you’ll have the time to write all those benefits in the next session). There’s a lot more to the Icon subsystem, especially if you hunt for material created by the 13th Age community, but those are the basics.

As you can see, it’s ridiculously easy to change Icons to Organizations, Churches, Nations, Cults, Clans etc. (I would dearly love to use them in Planescape, to represent the Planar Factions of Sigil) Because the Icon Subsystems is so modular, it can be imported to other RPGs without any modifications (And I’d would run Planescape for AD&D 2nd, of course)


Icon Relationships are a great way of giving more flavor and versality to the Patron Bond spell, especially for non-spellcasters. Allow those bonded to a Supernatural Patron to gain Relationship Dice with their otherworldly masters. Here’s a suggestion for the spellcasting table:

Spellcasting Check
When Cast on Self
When Cast on Other*
As written.
Ignore the part about the Luck check. Instead of that, you gain 1 Relationship Die roll/week with your Patron.
Besides the usual benefits, you gain 1 Relationship Die roll/week.
Ignore the part about the Luck check. You now have 2 Relationship Dice rolls/week with your Patron.
Besides the usual benefits, your Patron grant to you a total of 2 Relationship Dice rolls/week.
Ignore the part about the Luck check. You now have 3 Relationship Dice rolls/week with your Patron!
If any of your Relationship Dice comes up with a ‘1’, the enemies of your Patron take note of you (you lose Luck, suffer a mishap, an extra encounter etc.). Yes, that’s a bad thing, spellcasters already have a lot of mojo with invoke patron.
As above (3 Dice and ignore the part about Luck) and you can choose to reroll 1 of your Relationship Dice. However, if the reroll is a ‘1’, the enemies of your Patron take note of you (you lose Luck, suffer a mishap, an extra encounter etc.).
Besides the usual benefits, you have 3 Relationship Dice rolls/week.
Ignore the part about the Luck check. You now have 4 Relationship Dice rolls/week with your Patron!
As written.
As above (4 Dice and ignore the part about Luck), but you gain 1d3 extra points of Luck each time a Relationship Die shows a ‘6’ (besides the usual effects of the Die).
Besides the usual benefits, you have 4 Relationship Dice rolls/week.
As above, but you can reroll any of your Relationship Dice. If any ‘1’ shows up you’re screwed.
Besides the usual benefits, after rolling, chose 1 of your Relationship Die. You gain the result as extra Spellburn points.
Ignore the part about the Luck check. You now have 5 Relationship Dice rolls/week with your Patron!
*I usually interpret this as “casting this spell on a non-spellcaster”, that’s why I granted him/her more Relationship Dice. If that isn’t the case with your group, use the “When Cast on Self” part of the table, but always a step worse (if the Spellcheck Result was 28-29, use the 24-27 entry).

On the table above, where you read “per week”, you can instead use “per adventure/module”.

The basic premises are the same: if you roll a ‘6’, your Patron will help you in a small way. For example: you gain 1d3 Luck Points, you find a potion/scroll/one-use magic item, a helpful bit of information regarding the adventure (maybe about a trap, a monster or a secret passage), a friendly contact, a temporary hireling etc.

If you roll a ‘5’, you get the same thing, but your Patron is more demanding or there’re strings attached to the “gift”. For example, you find a lesser magic item, but it’s cursed/stolen; your party is healed but your Patron will revoke the effect if you don’t find that special artifact until midnight etc.

If you want a more universal approach to Relationship Rolls consider linking the Dice to major factions of your DCC RPG campaign. What factions? Well, if you don’t have any, try those implicit in the Core Rulebook. For example:

At the Cleric Class…
- The Churches of Law (the gods Shul, Klazath, Ulesh, Choranus, Daenthar, Gorhan, Justicia and Aristemis);
- The Old Gods (Ildavir and Pellagia);
- The Mysteries of Balance (Amun Tor and other philosophies);
- The Dead Gods (Cthulhu and his ilk from the Void);
- The Cults of Chaos (Ahriman, Azi Dahaka, Bobugbubilz, Cadixtat, Nimlurun and Malotoch).

At the Thief Class…
- The Mob (time to work for the Godfather of Thieves);
- The Beggar King (the disposed, the pariah and all their all-seeing spies);
- The Warren (leaders of the poorer wardens/districts and underworld of cities);
- The Twelve Spider-Assassins (a clue: there’re more than 12).

At the Warrior Class…
- The Order of the Dragon (high-born monster-slayers);
- The Order of Saint Stephen (protectors of pilgrims and the realms of Man);
- The Fraternal Company of the Black Swan (guardians of the borders, used to fight against savage humanoids and demihumans);
- The Enterprise of the Green Shield with the White Lady (a romantic and chivalrous order);
- The Order of the Golden Spur (templars!).

At the Wizard Class…
- C’mon! Look at all those cool and dark Patrons!

The Dwarf, Halfling and Elf Classes are factions into themselves in my opinion.

I'm sure I'm not the only one reading those wonderful boxes after each class!

Note that theoretically there’s nothing forbidding a Warrior from having 2 Relationship Dice with the roguish Mob, for example. Especially if you consider that option of Positive/Negative/Conflicted Relationships.

Each PC that survives the Funnel starts with 1 Positive Relationship Die and 1 Negative/Conflicted Relationship Die (to make things interesting). The PCs gain a new Relationship Die at 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th level.

You might be wandering how to use Negative Relationships? Well, there’s that old proverb: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. If you roll a ‘6’ with a Negative Relationship, that could mean that you get help from a monster to defeat another monster. A ‘5’ could mean that your new “friend” wants something in return.

If you use Relationship Rolls during the sessions and run out of ideas, remember that DCC RPG already has a generic reward to use: Luck Points! When in doubt, if a PC rolled a ‘6’, grant him anything from 1d3 to 1d6 Luck Points, explaining it through his Relationships. For example, a Warrior with 1 Relationship Die with the Elves/Positive (either he’s a half-elf or was raised by them) rolls a ‘6’, but the Judge is out of ideas. Well, the Judge could describe a Tuk-Man or Sprite showing up to guide the Warrior through the next encounters. The Tuk-Man/Sprite’s effect is represented by the extra Luck Points.

If you want a third option for Icon Relationship Rolls, here it is: use them to map factions in an Adventure/Module. It’s the same thing but on a smaller scale. For example, let’s imagine a dungeon populated by an evil druid cult, goblins and kobolds (yup, I’m talking about the Sunless Citadel). The entire PC party can gain 1 Relationship Dice at the end of a session for every faction they meet. So, after meeting a few kobolds and helping them, the party gains 1 Relationship Die (Kobolds/Positive). Later, they face the goblins and, at the end of the session, gain another Relationship Die – this time it’s 1 Relationship Die (Goblin/Negative). I suggest capping this at 3-4 Relationship Dice. The result of the rolls can represent hirelings from a faction, supplies, sidequests etc.

For Pathfinder RPG

Most of the ideas above (except the Patron spell) can be used directly in either Pathfinder or D&D 5E.

In Pathfinder you already have a lot of subystems for organizations, contacts and reputations, so the GM will have to think if the Icon Relationship Rolls are necessary. They can be a good alternative as a “lighter” take on factions for Pathfinder. Maybe you can link the Relationship Die effects to Hero Points, or to bring extra NPCs from the Gamemastery Guide or the various Codices.

For D&D 5E

For D&D 5E things are simpler. You can grant each PC 1 Relationship Die, linked to their Backgrounds at 1st level, and grant a new Die every time their Proficiency bonus goes up

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Lycanthropy-afflicted PCs for 13th Age (One-Page Version)

One of the PCs in my current Concord game (of our 13th Age campaign) was recently bitten by a werewolf.

Because I'm such a nice GM I’m using the werebeasts stats from 13 True Ways and the Cursed Bite ability. Basically, that means that the party's PC (a human wizard) will become a new werebeast in the next full moon.

Of course, there's an artifact in my campaign that just happens to summon the moon closer to the Dragon Empire. So, while the wizard was very happy with all that Overworld mojo increasing his spells (due the moon’s proximity to the mortal realm), he was considerably distressed about his new "condition". 

I wanted the lycanthropy rules for afflicted PCs to follow the 13th Age's ethos: they must be fun, simple and "gameable". However, I was also in a very short time to tinker something more robust, so I stole the rules.

Instead of just saying that the wizard morphed into a full werewolf on the spot when the full moon was up, I created a table, based on the Wendigo's Hunger effect (from page 211 of the 13th Age Bestiary). 

Here it is:

Lycanthropy: those affected by a Cursed Bite attack are susceptible to a series of special triggers and must save (usually at 16+) or roll on the following table (1d6) once per turn.

Common triggers are things like seeing the full moon, smelling raw meat or witnessing a bloodshed battle. It's safe to assume at least 1 trigger per lethal combat. Personally, I like to trigger an afflicted a PC, during combat, at Escalation Die 3 or 4 (when the combat is well underway and there're probably a few fresh corpses scattered around the scene).

1–2: The afflicted PC takes 10 damage as the lycanthropy distorts his body and inflicts pain. If the afflicted PC falls to 0 or less hit points, he/she shapechanges into a full werebeast (controlled by the GM) and probably attacks everyone around him.
3–4: The afflicted PC makes a basic unarmed melee attack* against the nearest or most vulnerable ally (moving if necessary). If there's no target nearby, the afflicted PC howls, rages, destroy something or executes a similar classic and cinematic lycanthropic action.
5–6: The afflicted PC makes a basic unarmed melee attack* against another werebeast, an animal, monster or equivalent savage creature in near range, which he/she seems as a rival (yes, the afflicted PC can choose target). If If there's no target nearby, afflicted PC howls, rages, destroy something or executes a similar classic and cinematic lycanthropic action.

*If the GM is feeling generous (or devilish), the afflicted PC’s basic unarmed melee attacks now do at least 1d8 or 1d10 per level (either because of a lycanthropic bite or claw).

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A (mini) Setting Hack inspired by The Witcher

No, I'm not talking about the videogame, although I got to know Witcher because of them. However, what really hooked me up was the literature (original) version of the character and setting. More precisely:

- Witcher is a series of novels by polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, the first one released in 1992!

- They're heavily influenced by slavic and eastern european myths, which is a plus for me;

- Witcher also plays with a lot of fairy tales’ clichés, often in new and insightful ways (when the novels draws from the Beauty and the Beast it is hilarious; and the part about Snow White is one of the greatest and saddest moments of the first book).

- The novels also go deep in D&D legendarium! A few examples: the 1st book mentions Daos as "earth genies", and you have to remember that Daos aren't mythologic at all (the “original” genies, as far as I know, are djinn, efreeti, jann and marid). Daos were created for D&D, to fill the “earth” niche in the monster entry. The Witcher's description of gold dragons also is based on D&D. There're a lot of others excellent examples (dwarves, elves, clerics, mages etc);

- Not only does Witcher is influenced by D&D and its tropes, but it manages to use monsters in a clever, original and very entertaining way. You have to see how doppelgangers are used… it’s funny (and scary if you think about the consequences);

- Finally, the entire Wichter series is amazingly well written. The books are engaging, the characters are deliciously profane and endearing. The political and intrigue aspects are top-notch (in 1992, way before “fantasy + intrigue” became a gold standard). The series also addresses mature content, like racism, in a very thoughtful way.

So, why am I talking about the Witcher? Because reading those books gave me an idea for a simple "Witcher Hack" that can be added to any D&D campaign setting. 

Basically, if you want a "Witcher Hacked" setting, just choose your favorite D&D world and remove all its humanoid races - except the ones from the Core Books.

Yup. Just that. Nothing radical, I know, but when the play starts... gone are the kobolds, goblins and other generic cannon fodder. They're replaced by bandits, barbarians, foreigners, invaders etc. The first dungeons are probably dwarven mines, elven holdouts, human enclaves etc. When the party start killing and looting enemies, they'll be looting fellow humans (and demihumans) and dealing with the consequences.

It's really something that has already been proposed in a number of places (the old critique against D&D's numerous humanoids races and their use), but the Witcher series implement the idea in a vibrant and refreshing way. The entire series can give great ideas for your campaigns.

Of course, this isn’t for everyone’s tastes. I don’t see anything wrong when you just want to seat down, forget the world and do some good old fashioned dungeon-crawl and ass-kicking. However, if you also like hard choices and dramatic challenges, playing in a Forgotten Realms only with human and demihuman adversaries can be a good change of pace (some D&D settings already go in that direction, by removing the “cannon fodder” label of humanoid races, like – if I remember right – Eberron or Birthright).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Stealing from the 13th Age - The Escalation Die

Howdy folks! We’re back (sort of). Lately I’ve been considerably consumed by work, work, family, a little more of work, and the fact that both my children inherited my Innate Racial Traits of Asthma (Ex) and Allergies (Ex). So, with little time and the imperative need to sustain my (remaining) sanity, I’ve left this Tower for a while and focused on my biweekly tabletop group.

After awesome 13 sessions of DCC RPG, we ended our “First Season” (at 2nd level yet!) witnessing and surviving (somehow) a titanic deathmatch between Bobugbubilz, Amun Thor, Y'golonac and Daoloth – the latest being the one responsible for our (considerable apocalyptic and Cthulhian-flavored) version of The One Who Watches From Below module. It was a blast and we all had great fun. That was back at February.

Since then I pitched to my table that we should try something different, before returning to DCC-style glorious crawling. At first, we were going to play the new 7th Sea 2nd Edition (the Quickstart), but the hype ended before we could start it, so I was determined to run the RPG that have been my bedside book for a while – 13th Age.

13th Age is a wonderful mix of d20 goodness with a little bit of narrative mechanics (just enough to get a very cool faction-based and improv-heavy game going). 13th Age is written with an experience DM/player in mind and the entire line is probably one of the most enjoyable readings of my life regarding RPGs – light, funny, insightful. You just want to run the game after reading it.

13th Age uses a high octane, high fantasy campaign setting called the Dragon Empire as its base standard world. The 13th Age sourcebooks, organized play and adventures encourage a lot of player input and improvisation. Those features, mixed with game minimalist mechanics (monster have just 4 stats, besides HPs and attacks), create a unique experience at the table. People have said the 13th Age takes the best of both 3rd and 4th edition (like, for example, the fact that it has a 4th edition-like power structure, but is gridless), and sometimes I guess that the game is indeed a spiritual heir do those other games (at my table, 13th Age is called “What D&D 4E Should Have Been”).

Another good thing about 13th Age is that its mechanics are very modular and can be used easily in other (d20 mostly) games. For example: the Escalation Die.

The Escalation Die is a special d6 that measures the rising tension of combat. It starts at 0, at the 1st round of combat, rising by 1 every round (until 6 at the 7th round). The 13th Age player characters are not your usual DCC/Warhammer Fantasy scum. They’re big f*cking heroes! So, they add the Escalation Die to their attack rolls. Now, the cool thing about that is that the game is cleverly designed to reflect that. Most monsters have AC a bit higher than usual (your base goblin has AC 16!), so its normal that at the first rounds of combat, most PC have a harder time hitting… but as you reach Escalation Die 3+ thing start to change. Combat gets fast and exciting, and the Escalation Die really reinforce 13th Age high-action, high-fantasy vibe. In fact, some the PCs’ powers and racial/class stuff only work (or work better) at a higher Escalation Die. This reflects perfectly those media where the hero only use his stronger attack/move in middle/end of battle (from memory I can think only of one other RPG that also use this trick – the Weapons of Gods/Legend of the Wulin). Another cool bit is that certain powers (like the cleric’s Domain of War) and some (scary, scary) monsters also play with Escalation Die (rakshasas, for example, can “steal” the Escalation Die, robbing the PCs of an important bonus).

But don’t let all this 13th Age talk dissuade you of my first and true love – DCC RPG. And because this is a weird Pathfinder/Old School blog, let’s find some uses for the Escalation Die!


Using an Escalation Die in DCC RPG is a no-brainer. DCC already have a smaller modifier scale than Pathfinder/D&D 3rd, so it’s easy just to add the Escalation Die as in 13th Age (i.e. start combat at ED 0, and increase by 1 per round). You add the ED to all attack rolls.

The Escalation Die (or ED) is a good rule to increase the party’s power and get a stronger Sword & Sorcery feel to your “standard” DCC RPG, marking the PCs as heroes (at least as S&S heroes, not as do-gooders) instead of scum for the Funnel.

Of course, we can create new stuff too. How about this one: once per round, one player character can substitute any of his rolls for the ED. How useful is that? Not much at ED 1, but a ED 2 is already a “free jailbreak” against a Fumble. And how about a Warrior using a ED 3+ to automatically do a Mighty Deed of Arms? As you can see, the ED gives a considerable boost to the party, which can fit nicely with a more cinematographic/heroic take on DCC RPG.

And don’t forget to create nasty stuff for your NPCs – some of them could also can use the ED! You could create, for example, a demon with a kharmic strike-ability. Every time a PC uses a ED to substitute one of his rolls, your demon’s next hit gains a bonus damage of ED x d4 (so, if your Warrior wants an automatically Mighty Deed of Arms at ED 3, our kharmic demon’s next strike will inflict +3d4 of damage!).


Let’s start with the basics: PCs add the ED to attack rolls as by the 13th Age rules (you check their SRD here – the Archmage Engine).

What more? Unlikely DCC RPG, Pathfinder (and D&D 3rd) has a higher modifier range, so I don’t think substituting a result for the ED would be useful. If your idea is to increase drama, you could instead rule that the ED is added to all the PC’s threats during attacks rolls. This means that at ED 1, the PCs can score a threat (and thus roll for a critical hit) at natural 19 or 20 result (or just increase a weapon’s threat range by +1). This will result in a LOT of critical hits and can boost a lot your party, but maybe you want a high-powered (and gorier) game, so go for it.

Another option is that the ED generates a pool of communal d6s to be spent during battle. So, at ED 1, the entire party gains 1d6 that can be rolled and added to any one dice roll by the PCs (for example the Fighter uses the d6 and add it to a damage roll, or the Wizard adds it to a Concentration check). To guarantee maximum chaos, I’d make those d6 rolls open-ended (Savage Worlds call them ‘explosive’ I guess) – so, if you roll a ‘6’ at the ED, roll it again and add it. Yup, this increases the PCs’ power considerably, but we’re trying here to simulate 13th Age high-octane heroics. Besides, with more power you don’t gain more responsibility… but your DM have the perfect excuse to add lots of tougher monsters and challenged, which I really love. If you use this option, maybe can use ED as a variant Hero Points rule.

Note that I didn’t say anything about the ED progression. Instead of automatically going by 1 every round (starting at 0), you could rule that to go up the ED needs a special trigger – maybe something simple like hitting an enemy and dealing damage. You could create specific triggers for each adventure. Just remember that the ED was created to avoid long and boring combats, so even if you come up with a “negative ED” (i.e. if the party doesn’t deal damage the ED go down) that benefit monsters, use it rarely for the most unique or climatic encounters.


I haven’t still refereed D&D 5E since the Open Playtests, in part because games like DCC RPG and 13th Age are a lot funnier for me (and more attuned to my designs tastes). I guess that D&D 5E is indeed my eternal “second best option” for d20 fantasy gaming. Anyway, there’re a few adventures for 5E that I either really want to run (Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle) or try (possible Out of the Abyss or Storm King’s Thunder).

Using the ED in D&D 5E seems easy, but I maybe be missing something, as I’m not that familiar with the system. For starts, I’d use it as in 13th Age – PCs get to add the ED to their attack rolls. Because 5E has a limited range of modifiers, the ED really boost a party’s power and makes a great difference.

I could stop there, but then we got Inspirations which (together with Hit Dice) are some of the most missed opportunities of 5E in my opinion (I also love the variant rule where your Proficiency Bonus is replaced by dice).

In this take, once per round, one of the PCs can use the ED (starting at 1) to gain an Inspiration. Simple. If you do this, maybe you should consider removing the automatic bonus to attack rolls.

Another option: instead of using Inspiration, you could rule that – again, 1 PC, once per round –could add a bonus die to any one roll. This bonus dice would start at ED 1 at d4, then go up (ED 2 = d6, ED 3 = d8) until a bonus d20 at ED 6. Again, this is just a suggestion as I didn’t think this through. If you go for this option, remove the automatic bonus to attack rolls.

A weird third option: use the Advantage rule. Here the goal is to increase tension. Basically, the ED grants a number of “free” Advantages (ED 1 = 1 Advantage, ED 3 = 3 Advantages). What’s the catch? The other side also gains a free Advantage each time a PC uses one. For example, at ED 4 the party would have 4 Advantages (to use only on that round, they don’t carry over), but each time a PC used one of those Advantages, their enemies would gain a free use (Personally, I would let enemies accumulate Advantages during combat).

And that’s wall. I believe I could go on (and the people who have been playing 13th probably have tons of house rules for ED already). I’m of a mind to mix ED with Momentum (from the awesome 2d20 system), or maybe granting tactical benefits through the ED (in Pathfinder, for example, you would get a pool of tactic points equal to the ED and use these points on a roundly basis to do things like negate attacks of opportunity or maybe even importing the great Reaction rules from Trailblazer).

See ya!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

My DCC Campaign Snippets #2

Here are the last snippets that I sent via Whastapp to my players before really starting my 2nd DCC RPG campaign. There’re also a few specific snippets about deserted villages and beastmen attacks, all as a prelude to Sailors of the Starless Sea. There’re many (obvious) links to DCC RPG modules below, because my idea was to use as many official adventure as possible, while planting the seeds for a campaign.

# 5 The Council of Elders from Skaeth is a distinguished, juristic, unadventurous and – ergo – absurdly depressing institution. Like other subjects of the Duchy, the Council preaches the Cannon of Ophysis, the Thrice-Blessed, the most famous historian from the Fallen Empire. The great Ophysis was – of course – born blind, deaf and mute, the reason why he was spared the destruction inflicted upon his kind by the gods of Law when the last Emperor summoned the Doom That Broke the World. “Ever since” – so wrote Ophysis – “the Dominion of Man has slowly but surely receded. Land is surrendered and villages are abandoned, while things walk in the woods, craving the houses of Man”. Today, the last cities of the North are walled against the Chaos that consumes the borders of the World. The Return of the Elves (and their dreaded King) is but the first Sign, as is the Dusk of the Dwarves. That the Halflings (those burrow-digging gluttons) still fornicate like rabbits is a testimonial of their allegiance to Chaos – or so preach the clerics of Damus, the Sinking Port.

# 6 The Elves are the Children of the Twilight – those wilds between the Dominion of Man and the weird Warrens of Chaos. Numberless, byzantine and arcane are the castes and tongues of the Elves. It’s known that Elvenkind deal with demons, fell spirits and Things from the Warrens in the same way that mortal Man deal with his lords and fellow countrymen. That Elves are otherworldly is obvious given that iron is their bane. Elves are also known to use imps, gnomes and goblins as servants, currency, moving furniture, living memory and – as is told by the Dwarf of Oldgrind – for reproduction. However, this last bit of gossip is clearly untrue, because everyone knows that Elves steal the daughters of Man (and that Dwarves mate with rocks sculpted in the likeliness of small rotund women). Halflings? Well, those depraved creatures can mate with anything as far as most decent people are aware…

# 7 Just as the Rune of Chaos has eight spores, there’re eight cardinal points. North, South, East and West are followed by Khaouth, Douth, Morteast and Voist. The fact that most sane people are ignorant about half the cardinal points gives you a clear idea about the kind of places that warlocks, wizards and sorcerer get their heads into. Khaouth is, clearly, the cardinal direction for Chaos, the antithesis of the Dominion of Man (which lies – logically – at Morteast). Contrary to popular belief, Khaouth doesn’t lies in the North. By following the Wyrd Star, which is invisible, one can go in the Khaouthern direction. Douth is the cardinal point leading to the Underworld (wizards and necromancers adamantly argument that this isn’t the same as “Down”). Voist is the cardinal point to the Overworld and the Darkness Between the Heavens. Morteast, just to be clear, is the direction to the Dominion of Man. Now, if you can easily follows Khaouth, Douth, Morteast and Voist, then probably you’re a gentlemen also fluent in Aklo, acknowledged with the existence of the Hidden 13th Month, and able to distinguish the colors Blue, Red, Dolm and Jale. Congratulations! 

# 8 And finally let’s talk about the greatest threat to the ordinary man’s life – the Nobility. At least the Duke lives far, in Great Magnussen, and the Crown lies lost in the south – at the deserts of the Fallen Empire (with the King’s still leaving head attached to it, if you believe certain pirate tales). The last scion of the cursed bloodline of Liis disappeared a generation ago in the swamps. Meanwhile, Lord Gormen still rules over fogged Crac-Ghast – as drunk today as 10 years ago, when he returned from the Cave of Secrets (thus ending the shortest errant knight career in the Duchy). We also have the Four Houses of Oldgrind, the vast Crac-Lacrimodrac, the guardians at Vigil Castle, the Dunkeleisen of Dunkeleisenstein and – finally! – the Margrave of Damus (probably the wealthiest and fattest man in the North). And all those herein quoted are cousins by old and incestuous degrees. And please let’s not even mention their most evil scheme – taxes! Oh, the horror, the horror!

# 9 There’re several altars, small shrines and even a church or two at Skaeth and surroundings. Everyone at the village knows about Father Illard and his “devotion” to Ulesh (he vowed never to drink water but only consume the white wine of the Serene Goddess). And there is the altar to Iustia in the Council of Elder’s Hall (and, it’s said, a second altar lies in the cellar, dedicated to the Hidden One). Everyone has seen the Black Mother's straw dolls in the fields and the Moonstones in the woods – and knows that both shouldn’t be disturbed. And everyone also knows that you ought to pay your respects to the Lady of Ravens, or her feathered children will bestow the Plague upon you. Traveling merchants tell of the impossible high temples of the First Father at Magnussen; and at Damus you can see the red zealots of the Veiled Vengeance, clad in steel. But very few know about Choranus, the true Creator; or about Shull of the Four Faces; even less about Ulesh of the Last Sleep, Gorhan Ironveiled or bloody Klazath. There’re also darker powers, the lords of Chaos – Names like Nimlurun, the Impure One, or Malatoch, the Endless Hunger. But there’re yet Others – elder entities from before Law or Chaos. Outer essences from whose dreams Law and Chaos came forth. The point is: the common folk know nothing of the true powers of the World. And they’re blessed for that. The demands and rites of true deities are too much for ordinary Man. Even among the cults of such gods, for every 100 initiates, only 9 become acolytes. From those 9, only one becomes a true priest – a cleric. These’re the ruthless ones, the zealots and madmen. They’re the witch-hunters, the crusaders, the invokers and prophets of the True Powers. They’re hardest bastards you’ll ever meet.

# 10 The most famous wizards of the Duchy you ask? Many know a local adept or wise man/woman. At Damus, the Sinking Port, you can find scores of diviners, wax witches, tephramancers and lesser arcanists. But the genuine practitioners of the Arts are rare. The leper-sages of Pyj are known for their mastery of curses, but live far. Closer to Skaeth we have the feared Emerald Sorcerer with his House in the hills. There’re those who believe that Emirikol, the Mad, is the greatest wizard of the North. After all, few in Damus can ignore a shudder while gazing at the Shifting Tower. Others debate that Leotah, the Ironmaiden, is strongest one. Sages and historians alike prefer older sources – the legends about the Seer-King Darjr and his Tower-beyond-the-Moon; the wiles of the enchantress Erodiade; and the awful truths of the accursed scribe Al-Hazred, the Mad. The rabble have their own tales, many of which must be whispered far from the authorities – like the famous story about the First Duke of Magnussen and his pact with a devil. And speaking of devils, let’s not forget the Devil Himself – Sezrekan, the Wicked. His Names is still not said aloud, for the Doom That Broke the World might still be around. After all, Sezrekan was none other than the Imperial Archmage; personal adviser to the Last Emperor.

And then we started our little DCC campaign…