Monday, May 16, 2022

Bestiarum vocabulum: Omoluzu, the Roof Demons

My wife gave me last year Black Leopard Red Wolf, the amazing African sword & sorcery tour de force by Marlon James. I am still in the fourth chapter, and I just can’t stop reading that beauty! So, following this blog tradition of adapting everything that excites me into the D&D mash-up blender, here is an awesome monster from the 1st chapter: Omoluzu, the Roof Demons. This adaption is how I see this lovely critter and not based on any further research.

Read this beauty!

Omoluzu, the Roof Demons

Omoluzu are ancient demons from the beginning of the world (or the multiverse). In fact, they might be
remnants from a previous world or existence, upon which the Material Plane was later built. Sages have long debated where the Omoluzu (the world means both singular and plural) came from, with theories ranging from frozen and forsaken hells, the black sands of Yondo, to the Negative Material Plane, among others.

The most telling sign of the Omoluzu is that their existence is somehow inverted in relation to other creatures of the Material Plane. Omoluzu are only found in the roof or ceiling of any structures, including caverns, ruins, and dungeons (the famous folktale of the Drowned King has Omoluzu showing up in the ceeling of even an extraplanar court, which means they can reach other planes). Their “natural” state of existence is of constantly inverted gravity. Omoluzu only “fall” out of a ceiling when killed and their bodies are immediately destroyed and rendered to smoke (although there are rumors of adventurers blowing up the roof and sending Omoluzu “falling upwards” and disappearing in the sky).

The Roof Demons’ body is completely black, as tar, without any visible organ, although they are clearly humanoid shaped. They are famous for their swords made of blinding light, which kills victims without leaving any visible wounds. Omoluzu are tireless hunters. It is whispered that once they taste your blood you will never find a safe roof for the rest of your life.

Omoluzu understand most Material Plane languages, but no one has ever heard them speak. Marginalia in Nkou’s Roll of Deviltries mentions that a mentalist once tried to establish mental contact with Omoluzu only to start screaming and falling upward into the ceiling, forever disappearing into a darkness pool that theoretically led the Roof Demons’ mysterious world.

Omoluzu are completely silent, but their coming is easily to spot. They are heralded by hissing and cracking sounds, as if the roof was melting or boiling. After a few second, the sound is followed by literal cracks in the roof, from which a bubbling darkness, almost as tar, can be seen. It is from those rifts that the Omoluzu come.

Art by Ana Toledo.

Here are stats for 3 RPGs that I am currently tinkering with: DCC RPG, 13th Age, and OSE.


Omoluzu: Init +4; Atk sword of light +1d7 melee (1d8+1d7); AC 16; HD 5d12; MV 40'; Act 2d20; SP see in darkness 60', immune to mind-altering spells, mighty deed of arms (d7), roof demon, sword of light, tar body; SV Fort +2, Ref +8, Will +2; AL C

Roof Demon: Omoluzu fight from the ceiling without any penalty and can jump to reach even prone foes. They can freely withdraw from enemies without triggering counterattacks.

Sword of Light: wounds by this weapon leave no mark.

Tar Body: only wounded by magic weapons or fire.

13th Age

4th level wrecker

Initiative: +8
Vulnerability: fire 

AC 20                   HP 50

PD 14

MD 18

Sword of light +9 vs. AC (2 attacks) — 8 psychic damage.
Miss: 1d4 psychic damage.

Demon Mind: any successful attack against Omoluzu targeting MD causes 1d4 psychic damage in the attacker.

Fear: while engaged with Omoluzu, enemies that have 18 hp or fewer are dazed (–4 attack) and do not add the escalation die to their attacks.

Roof demon (1/battle): Omoluzu can pop free from all enemies.

Tar Body: Omoluzu have resist 12+ against attacks targeting AC or MD.

Tireless Hunters (1/battle): as a free action, when a nearby enemy moves, they must roll a hard save (16+) or they are intercepted by the Omoluzu. The Omoluzu can pop free from an enemy to move and intercept the target. 

Group ability: for every two Omoluzu in battle (round up), one of them can use come here! as a free action once during the battle.

Come here!: the Omoluzu can execute a melee attack of +10 vs. PD to capture a target and grapple them into the ceiling. Keeping the target grappled is a free action for the Omoluzu, who can keep attacking. Captured targets are stunned until they roll a hard save (16+), try a maneuver to free themselves, or the Omoluzu holding them is forced to disengage.


AC 7 [12], HD 4 (16hp), Att 2 × sword of light (1d6) or grab, THAC0 16 [+3], MV 90’ (30’), SV D8 W9 P10 B10 S12, ML 12, AL Chaotic, XP 75, NA 2d4, TT None

Mundane damage immunity: Can only be harmed by magical attacks or fire.

Spell immunity: Unaffected by acid, cold, illusions, poison, sleep or charm spells.

Roof Demon: Constantly under inverted gravity but they are adept at fighting enemies on the floor. They can jump to reach prone enemies and they can withdraw without suffering attacks.

Grab: Omoluzu grab one target and pins them into the ceiling (save vs paralysis). Pinned targets are automatically hit by other Omoluzu.

Sword of Light: leaves no wound mark or any sign that the target is hurt.


The Curse of the Omoluzu

The Curse of the Omoluzu is one of the most dread curses known in some realms. To condemn someone to be eternally hunted by the Roof Demons is a work of the darkest magics and the wickedest hearts. It requires first a bit of fresh blood just taken from the target. The blood is then tossed into the ceiling, while the dark power command that triggers the curse is uttered.

As profoundly evil curse once is uttered, most users somehow corrupted (while the victims are easy condemned to a quick and painful death, or to a life in the wilds). In OSE, a change of Alignment to Chaotic and potential loss of divine powers are maybe in order; in DCC RPG the one responsible for the curse can change his Alignment to Chaotic or perhaps receive a corruption of the referee’s choice; finally, in 13th Age, this curse can be reflected by a negative background (“Wielder of diabolic magic”), and the user can be forced to change one of his Icon Die to a relationship with the Diabolist, or something like that. There are tales that this curse could be used without consequences to right a divine wrong, but that is open to debate.

Once cast there is no know cure to the curse, except perhaps divine intervention (or dying and being raised from the dead). There are rumors that claim that the Omoluzu only hunt a cursed target in the original place where the curse was uttered (so, theoretically, a target cursed in the Materila Plane would be safe in any other plane). Of course, a “safe” way to avoid the Omoluzu is to never go under roof… forever.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Embrace chaos! (Or "Campaign/Adventure Building in 13th Age")


I am currently running my 2nd campaign for 13th Age. I usually start writing a 13th Age campaign only after the players created their characters, particularly their Unique Things and Icons Relationships.

My usual creative process for adventures is preparing an introductory game session (with 3-4 combat encounters at most and two longer social or explorative encounters). I leave things quite open to account for Icon Rolls and usually present the main issue in a vague way (an imperial fort needs help, an elven noble needs protection, orcs are pillaging the region, etc.).

I usually use Icon Rolls at the start of an adventure and then every two to three game sessions. The first session of a new adventure also has a montage, where my table usually insert all kinds of madness and I start fitting those into my own planning. With the foreknowledge of Icon Rolls and the result of the Montage, I fit everything within my planned campaign. I usually create adventures around themes or arcs. In my last campaign the second arc was “a basilisk was loose in Concord and is wrecking chaos, the PCs are sent to deal with it” (this occupied a good chunk of game sessions and included minor encounters and quests).

With my 2nd campaign I started asking for Icon Rolls basically at the beginning of every game session (unless it was really a short session or one where basically nothing happened). I love creating all kind of main and side plots for my players to explore (and tons of NPCs). I usually know where the campaign is going to, as I usually start sketching where I want the PCs to be at Champion and even Epic Tier.

So, that is my modus operandi. That said, what I noticed in my 2nd campaign is that I often found myself struggling between the craziness created through Montages and my initial campaign arcs and planning. After some hesitation at first, the table really started liking Montage and the creation of NPCs through Icon Rolls. To give you an idea, during the campaign I got a flying saucer abducting the party’s ranger (so that he could be transported a few miles and meeting the rest of the team), magic prostitutes (yeah, your heard that right), the legendary King of Snakes (friend of the Elf Queen)… the most tame thing that ever came out of my players’ feedback was a party of drow druids (which soon became infiltered derro but let us not get ahead of ourselves).

I was planning to run a campaign dealing with the rise of the High Druid, the war between civilization and nature around New Port, and hopefully the Stone Thief. Then it hit me: my players are having a blast creating all kind of NPCs, plots, and other stuff that I never imagined. They are loving it! And I’m having an amazing ride by not knowing what is going to happen. Better yet: I don’t need to prepare “my campaign”. I just need to embrace chaos. And I did precisely that. I stopped writing. When I run out of material, I just prepare a new Montage (or wait for one or two Icon Rolls and more NPCs/factions). They are creating everything for me and it was never so liberating to run a campaign where I really don’t know what is going to happen (it is like running a hexcrawl/sandbox without all those mechanical tables getting in the way). I will probably never prepare a 13th Age game again (at least not in the common sense).

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Meddling with powers beyond your ken in DCC RPG


While creating a Patron for DCC RPG in my last post I start wondering why wizards and elves must wait a certain level before trying to cast spells. In DCC RPG, each spell as DC to be cast based on its level, usually 10 + (2x spell level). So, 1st level spells require a successful caster level check against a DC of 12. However, that rule seems to have a “ceiling” at DC 18, because 5th level spells are successfully cast at DC 18 (But Cleric spells follow the normal progression and thus 5th divine magic require a DC 20… I guess gods are really a bunch of demanding bastards).

I already think that wizards and elves (and clerics!) in DCC RPG are considerably stronger than their counterparts in other D&D editions (they do not have the firepower of 3rd-5th Edition, but certainly have more flexibility, especially with open-ended powers such as Invoke Patron and Divine Aid, among others). Of course, they also run higher risks, be it Divine Disapproval or the various Misfires and Corruptions of arcane caster (which my dark hearth deeply loves).

I love all the chaos and unpredictability around DCC RPG casters (especially arcane). They bring back my Warhammer Fantasy memories. You never know what will happen when the wizard start casting, but there is always the potential do be catastrophic. I also love the idea that magic is dangerous and corrupting…

…so, why not remove spell level limits in regard to spellcasting?*

*I know this was a topic that brought up during the playtest phase of DCC RPG. I know also that I am not reinventing the wheel. But it is such a fun topic that I can’t hold myself. Sorry!

Basically, what I am proposing here is to get rid of the “Max Spell Level” entry in both the wizard and elf class or to use just as a “safety guideline” (I am not doing the same for Clerics because: 1 - gods don’t like their lackeys getting too ahead of themselves; 2 - deities loooooove control; and 3 - the divine are a bunch of bastards that pretend to be different from normal supernatural Patrons but aren’t).

OK, so now wizards and elves can cast any arcane spells of any level if they can beat the DC. Higher level spells are harder to cast (and I am tempted to make 5th level arcane spells have their “right” DC of 20 here). What is the catch? I am glad you asked.

So, if a wizard or elf tries to cast a spell “beyond their power” (i.e. beyond the Max Spell Level entry), their run higher risks. What are those risks? I have a few ideas for now that I want to playtest.

Option 1: The most simple and dangerous (and the one that I like most) Treat any “Lost. Failure.” as if it was a 1. Easy to apply and it makes spellcasting beyond your capacity really dangerous (something for the desperate… or for that player that loves to push the red button, oh gods, I know, I have one). What about rolling a 1 here? You lose the spell permanently. You have to adventure and Quest for the Impossible to find it again.

Option 2: If you don’t like the fact that the above option does not differentiate between spell levels, you can try this one. Basically, casting spells above your level expand the Fumble range from 1 to the 1 + (2x spell level). Thus, if you can’t cast a 2nd level spell, trying to cast it now generates a Fumble between 1 and 5, a 3rd level spell between 1 and 7… until the mighty 5th level spell and a Fumble between 1 and 11.

Now, the cool thing about DCC RPG is that the above options don’t need to be house rules from the start of the game. They can actually be a secret known by a supernatural Patron or a high-level wizard that the party has to find in an adventure!

If you like that kind of thing (I do), there are also other secrets to cast higher-level spells. Treat them as rewards that must be found during adventures. If those options are used, just read the higher-level spell table normally.

For example, maybe you can reduce the chances of Fumble by casting the higher-level spell through Spellburn. You have the burn 3x the spell level for that. Thus, spellburning 6 points lets you cast that 2nd level spell without (extra) risk. (I am not a fan of that, or of Spellburn as merely physical Ability Score damage, but here is the option.)

Another technique would be ritual magic. Multiply the normal casting time of the spell by its level. So, a 2nd level spell with a Casting Time of 1 Action Die now require 2 Action Dies. I would also add that this option requires expensive material components (use the Cleric’s Sacrifices as a parameter, but I would charge a lot more, at minimum double the amount).

Yet another technique (my favorite!) is that casting higher level spell ALWAYS inflict either corruption or misfire (caster’s choice). That means that if the spell is successfully cast it is also followed by a misfire or a corruption. If the caster choose corruption they cannot negate it with Luck. No sir, it works differently. First, the type of corruption is defined by the difference between the caster and the spell level. If they are attempting to cast a spell just 1 level higher than they could, that is a Minor Corruption. 2 levels higher is Major. 3+ levels is Greater. Second, that corruption is temporary and lasts a number of days equal to the spell level. Third, did I say temporary? The correct word is “potentially temporary”. At the end of those days the caster has to roll a Luck check. If they fail the corruption is permanent. (Of course, there is a vile black magic ritual that allows the caster to rid themselves of the corruption by spreading it to a higher number – minimum ten per spell level – of weaker humanoids, such as villagers and fellow party members… but who would try such a despicable thing? I heard that Sezrekan knows the ritual.)

And all those options are basically how I see magic in RPGs (and especially in DCC RPG). The Core Book is just “the safest way” of casting. There are a lot of loopholes, horrible dark secrets, left-handed paths, and other things for (crazy) caster to play with. Finally, never forget, spellcasters in DCC RPG should fear for their souls!

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Khonshu, the Exiled Moon God, a new Supernatural Patron for DCC RPG

Yes, I really loved the new MCU series Moon Knight. No, I never read the comics, but watching Khonshu constantly complaining about Steven and trapping Marc in never-ending service made me want to have Khonshu as Patron in my DCC RPG games (because that is exactly how I see a Patron working). As other material adapted in this blog, I do not care about Marvel canon, I just want something that is (hopefully) fun, useful, and playable

So here is “my version”:

Khonshu, the Moon God, the Harbinger of Vengeance, the Shepherd of the Lost

Khonshu claims to be the Moon God and Deity of Justice of an important (or important and dead) pantheon from your campaign world. His name however is practically unknown among acolytes and priests and the one or two sages who have ever heard of him, remember the Moon God as pariah and exile, a quasi-deity or vestige without clerics and worshippers, little more than marginalia in a few dusted tomes.

Unfortunately, you do not have that scholarly luxury because Khonshu found you. Given his usual “tactics”, he actually claimed to have brought you back from the dead (maybe from a Funnel?) and that he can send you right back if he want. He also claims that you are his only and must important servant – his Moon Knight. That might be a lie or just not precisely the truth (the difference is quite often lost to the God of Vengeance). In fact, the bit about your resurrection might not be exactly what happened, but Khonshu did allowed you to talk with the spirits of the other Moon Knights, and they let it quite clear how wrathful he can be (and possessive, and childish, and envious, etc.). They also let the impression that Khonshu can revoke more than just your supernatural gifts. In other words, the Moon God might be now a vestige, but he is still a godly one.

The Shepherd of the Lost is a constant voice on your head and sometimes a creepy visage in your sight, be he appears otherwise to be unable to fully manifest in the Material Plane and affect others (beside you). Of course, unless summoned by you.

Khonshu is obsessed with the punishment of those that meddle with fate, death, and to help those the Moon God deems to be lost and in peril (quite a few adventurers and delvers). He is also obsessed with finding strange relics that might bring him back to a quasi-deity status (or stop his dormant pantheon from doing the same). He is very touchy about his past (and his divine family). Additionally, he has been known to kill or curse a Moon Knight who asked too much (you know because you talked with a few of those).

Invoke Patron check results:

12-13 The Moon God cannot pay attention right now, so he merely sends a spark of power to flood his servant’s mind. The lies of time and space are revealed. For the next turn, after falling any action, the caster can declare that he actually foresaw that failure and then declare a new action to roll. This can be done at most once per round.

14-16 Khonshu has little time for petty requests, so he briefly manifests in a cloud of shadows and sounds. When the sudden chaos is over, the caster’s position is changed to an unreachable but safe place of his choice within 100 feet. Khonshu loves to drop his “taxing servants” at the top of pillars, inside chests, at the other side of otherwise uncrossable rivers, etc. That should teach them a lesson.

18-19 The God of Vengeance is irritated by those that dare to obstruct his tool (that is the caster). He imbues the caster with divine strength. This allows him to do one feat of strength, such as bending bars, lifting a castle’s gate for 1 round, or throwing a big rock (or wagon) for 2d6 points of damage against 1d3 normal-sized targets at 30 feet.

20-23 The Shepherd of the Lost irradiates moonlight over the caster’s enemies, sowing confusion and madness. A number of enemies equal to the caster level is incapable of differentiating friends from foes. All their attacks hit random allies. This lasts for 2d3 rounds, although enemies are entitled to a Will save against the spell check, at the start of the 2nd round.

24-27 Khonshu unleashes the ghosts of previous Moon Knights through the battlefield. The caster’s enemies are constantly confused for those ghosts. As a result, the caster and his allies can ignore a total number of attacks equal to the 2d3 + CL (distributed among the party as chosen by the caster).

28-29 Forced to intervene personally, Khonshu judges a number of enemies equal to the CL. Those enemies disappear until they pass a Fort save against the spell check (or until a number of rounds equal to the CL, whichever comes first). For every round of judgement, they suffer 1d6 points of damage.

30-31 The caster dares to summon the God of Vengeance himself at the peril of all. The caster and a number of allies equal to the CL awaken 1d7 days later 1d100 miles from there without memory of what happened but completely healed. All other creatures present must survive a Fort save against the spell check. Those that fail forget all that happened and are completely changed be the event. Saints might become debauched demons, rampaging dragons might decide to become benevolent (if tyrant) kings, elves might become (mad) mortals. The effects should be unpredictable. The next time the caster attempts this feat an angry Khonshu takes the caster away to the Void, never to be seen again.

32+ The caster dares to command he who was once was a god. The full moon shines impossibly close and the caster acquires dominion over the skies. He can turn day to night or night to day, he can create or undo an eclipse. He can also spin the skies metaphysically so that a maximum of days equal to CL pass to the entire world, expect the caster and his allies, who for all instances disappear during that time. If this last option is used, the caster and the entire party are considered to have rested during those “speeded days”, recovering hit points, spells, and other resources. It is unclear if Khonshu can still handle this level power. After using this, the caster should roll Luck. If he fails, the God of Vengeance will come to claim his soul in 7 days. If he fumbles, he is still alive, but Khonshu is no more and the caster suffers 1 minor, 1 major and 1 greater corruption. If he passes the test, Khonshu will have a long “pep talk” with the caster about behavior e will probably deny further Invoke Patrons until properly appeased.

Patron Taint (1d6):

1 – Your mind is assaulted by previous Moon Knights during its sleep. You not simply sleepwalk, but roll a random Occupation (DCC RPG, p. 22, or the table used by your Judge) to determine what type of activity the previous servant of Khonshu tries to do (without success) while you sleep. A gongfarmer for example (Khonshu was desperate at time) would start digging and carrying soil, even when that is dangerous or does not make sense. Tying you before sleep is the safest option (unless the Occupation rolled is, of course, someone good with knots, like a sailor or a rope maker).

2 – Sometimes the worse happens and your mind is taken by Khonshu or one of his previous servants. This is extremely confusing for you. Choose a “Moon Number” (any number between 2 and 19). Every time your roll a fumble or your Moon Number someone else steps briefly in your mind. The switch is temporary but completely bewildering. Until you are calmed down (which takes magic or a few minutes of talking), you are considered untrained in all skills. Also, feel free to roleplay a bit of amnesia (“How did we arrive at a boat?”), maybe create a new persona, and roll a personality trait at the “Voices in my Head” table.

3 – Khonshu and you become more and more close, which is maddening when you are the only avatar of a lonely, possible crazy, and very opiniated ex-god. You constantly see the God of Vengeance and hear his (very critical) voice all the time. You suffer a -1 Die penalty in Initiative and perception checks. Once per day the Judge should fee free to ask you a Luck check. If you fail Khonshu does something that freaks you out and you probably scream, jump, or run for a few meters.

4 – Sleep does not come naturally anymore to you. The only way to sleep is through unorthodox practices, such as magic, hypnosis or heavily intoxication (most of those techniques also make it impossible to awake you without dealing some damage). To further complicate matters, choose a “Day Number” (any number between 2 and 19, it cannot be a “Moon Number”). If that number comes up on any of your Action Die you immediately fall at sleep (yes, a supernatural form of narcolepsy).

5 – You are drawn by the moon and the night. Under the Sun you suffer a -1 Die penalty to all Ability Score checks as daylight hurts your eyes and you feel sleepy. During the night or in dark places, you receive a +1 Die bonus to all Ability Score checks. Unfortunately, you can only recover hit points (even through magic) during the night or in the underworld.

6 – As an avatar of an exiled god, divine magic is anathema to you. You are always considered unholy for the purpose of Turn Unholy and the Judge should always use the worse tables if a cleric tries to Lay on Hands on you (and that cleric always increase his disapproval by 1). Clerics and divine spellcasters feel uncomfortable around you, although they cannot detect the source of unease. If you get inside any temple, bad omens start to materialize.

Spellburn (1d4):

1 – You start suffering horrendous seizures as you face screams and slowly changes, as previous Moon Knights lend their power to you. The stress of sharing those souls is manifested as Strength, Agility or Stamina damage.

2 – Khonshu is pissed because of you constantly claims for more power. He lifts you brutally in the air and angrily condemns your incompetence (by weird reasons often calling you “parasite” or “Steven”). No one can see the Moon God, just you shaking and screaming in the air. The trauma is represented by Strength, Agility or Stamina damage.

3 – You let other souls flood you spirits, even at the cost of your sanity. You laugh, cry, and scream, all in different voices. You can spellburn Personality and each point gives a +2 bonus. After casting the spell, roll a Luck check. If you fail, part of your spirit and memories were replaced with a previous Moon Knight. Reroll your Occupation and roll a personality trait in the “Voices in my Head” table. Feel free to roleplay amnesia about previous adventures in the campaign.

4 – Khonshu is in a good mood (?!) and manifests himself at your side, lending 2d4 points of spellburn to your spell. Of course, there is always a catch. Unless you execute some absurd (and useless) mission right away, the Moon God revokes a random Patron Spell for seven nights. Typical “surprise” missions are stuff like “that cat is actually sacred, guard it with your live”, “that sword that you threw away in the well is magic, go fetch it”, or “that cleric that you stubbornly claims to be your friend serves that unsufferable usurper Justicia, slap him in the face!” (for 1d3 subdual damage).

“Voices in my Head!” (Roll a 1d20)

To represent previous Moon Knights, a cranky god, and probably rising madness, use this table to roll personality or roleplay traits. These traits are usually temporary (1d4 days) and very strong-minded. If can get yourself in trouble (or make the table laugh), the Judge is welcome to let you recover 1 point of Luck or more each session. (The entries below are just a suggestion and the Judge is more then welcome to use his favorite tables.)

1 – Suspicious, only speaks in whispers.

2 – Greedier than a dwarf when it comes to gold and gems.

3 – Belligerent, never surrender or back from a fight.

4 – Pacifist, only fights in self defense and never accepts killing.

5 – Zealot, prays loudly to Khonshu precisely at sunset for an entire turn (without exceptions!).

6 – Nihilistic, never misses an opportunity to drink.

7 – Cheerful fatalist, loves to tell jokes to the most dangerous person or thing in the room.

8 – Lunaphobic, deadly afraid of darkness and the moon.

9 – Necro-imaginary friend, only calms down when talking with imaginary friend. Unfortunately, the “friend” is always the nearest humanoid corpse.

10 – Penny-pincher, never spend the last coin, fire the last arrow, drink the last potion, etc.

11 – Trophy Hunter, will carry something from every enemy defeated (every!).

12 – Curiosity Gambler, cannot resist the urge to push that lever or put that probably cursed ring, but will gamble like there is no tomorrow with the party before doing that.

13 – Paranoid, NEVER believes that a trap was disarmed or that it was totally sprung.

14 – Carpe diem! Believes all adventures are the last ones, and thus will spend all treasure carousing.

15 – Fortuitous hireling, will ask to carry the stuff of a random party member and will try (unsuccessfully) to anticipate their needs.

16 – Minstrel syndrome, urge to sing during battles, write poems about what happened, and perform the same in the first tavern or town square the party arrives after.

17 – Purification ritualist, terrified of dying while “impure”. Bath constantly, sometimes during combat. Tries to keep closest friends equally “pure”. All the time.

18 – Chosen One Aversion Complex, will never be responsible for a meaningful choice. If pressed will use randomness, such as tossing a coin, to keep Fate “away”.

19 – Mimic-phobic, believe any piece of furniture is secretly a humanoid-devouring shapechanger.

20 – Jaded dungeonist, will comment on a number of situations which that are existential “clichés”, such as clean corridor in the underworld, green stone devil faces, or idols with rubies for eyes.


Patron Spells:

Parliament of Knights

Level: 1 (Khonshu)
Range: Self
Duration: Varies
Casting time: 1 turn

Khonshu treat his past champions as prized possessions (or as ingrate mortals who deserve to spend eternity at his disposal). Thus, he occasionally allows you to share in the knowledge of previous Moon Knights. Usually only the most recent bearers of the title are available, but sometimes older shades will answer. By trancing you allow them to possess temporarily you body and land their skills to your (or Khonshu’s) cause. The God of Vengeance has been known to summarily cancel this spell if he listen to any criticism to this methods.

Manifestation: Roll 1d4: (1) your eyes shines with a white supernatural light during the entire trance, except when you are trying to hide; (2) while trancing, you speak with multiple simultaneous voices, clearly from different individuals; (3) your shadow and any reflection constantly change to that of other individuals; (4) after the spell is over and until you go sleep, anyone looking to you will occasionally see a different person (which is very creepy).

1 Lost, failure, and patron taint.

2-11 Lost, failure.

12-13 The trance is interrupted by Khonshu complaining about your meddling with an unfavored past champion. Notwithstanding that champion briefly imparts his knowledge to you. Roll a random Occupation (DCC RPG, p. 22, or the table used by your Judge). You are considered skilled on that Occupation for one check attempted in the next turn.

14-17 The trance is successful as you channel a previous Moon Knight with expertise sought. Select one Occupation (DCC RPG, p. 22, or the table used by your Judge). You are considered skilled on that Occupation for one check attempted in the next turn.

18-19 The trance is deep and harmonious. Select one Occupation (DCC RPG, p. 22, or the table used by your Judge). You are considered skilled on that Occupation for one turn.

20-23 You trance an old Moon Knight, master of many crafts and arts. Select two Occupations (DCC RPG, p. 22, or the table used by your Judge) or one Thief Skill (DCC RPG, p. 38, as if your character was a Thief of the same alignment and level). You are considered skilled on those Occupations or on that Thief Skill for one turn. Your personality is colored by the presence of that Moon Knight, roll on the “Voices in my Head” table.

24-27 You bind the souls of three different Moon Knights. Select three Occupations (DCC RPG, p. 22, or the table used by your Judge) or two Thief Skills (DCC RPG, p. 38, as if your character was a Thief of the same alignment and level). Or you can select One Occupation and two Thief Skills. You are considered skilled on the selected Occupations and Thief Skills for one turn per level. Finally, you can let one of the Moon Knights literally take possession of your body, which allows you to roll 3d10 instead of a d20. Khonshu does not like when his previous champions go around “enjoying mortality” in that fashion and he will cancel the spell after the action where you rolled the 3d10 (he will be complaining loudly about your carelessness for the next minutes, imposing a -1 Die penalty to any perception checks). While the spell lasts roll one or twice on the “Voices in my Head” table.

28-29 Same as above, but you remain trained in the chosen Occupation and Thief Skills until you one these events happen: you choose to roll 3d10, you fall unconscious, the spell is dispelled, the next sunrise, or you cast this spell again.  

30-31 Same as above, but your level of trance is so powerful that becomes clearly unnatural. You gain one additional Action Die (d20) that can be used for any type of action, except an attack.

32+ You contain the Parliament of Knights within yourself. You are always trained in any skill check you attempt (i.e. you always roll a d20) and you can use any Thief Skill (DCC RPG, p. 38, as a thief of the same level and alignment as your character). You gain one additional Action Die (d20) that can be used for any type of action, except an attack. Once, during the spell’s duration, you and your previous brethren can act as one, executing a task perfectly (or you channel Khonshu himself). Treat your next skill check as a natural 20 (the Judge is encouraged to let you execute one task that is legendary, or almost physically impossible, such as swimming against a waterfall or deceiving a god). Khonshu positively hates when one of his Moon Knights can pull this level of control (which lends weight to the legend that you are actually channeling the old god himself). If you choose the natural 20 (or legendary) option, after that this spell is Lost. Otherwise, the spell only ends if dispelled, cast again, or after one hour. This level of power does not come freely, and you must always roll a patron taint when the spell is over.

Judge of Souls

Level: 2 (Khonshu)
Range: See description
Duration: See description
Casting time: 1 Action
Save: maybe Will (but see description)

The God of Vengeance has a profound dislike of the un-dead, seeing them as those that evaded judgement for their misdeeds in life (he also hates extraplanar entities, other gods, patrons, and stubborn mortals, among many other things).

Through this spell you can turn creates almost as a cleric. First, use your spellcasting roll to consult the Table 4-4: Turn Unholy Result by HD (DCC RPG, p. 97). After that, check the same roll result on the entries below to see how this spell alters Turn Unholy. Ignore Holy Smite and Damage results, and treat Killed results as Turned.

Manifestation: Roll 1d4: (1) The moon crescent symbol of Khonshu shines in your hand or face; (2) mists billows from your mouth as you speak with the voice of the Shepherd of the Lost; (3) you appearance grows gaunt and desiccated, as if semi mummified; (4) your head is replaced by a giant bird-like floating skull during the casting.  

1 Lost, failure, and patron taint.

2-11 Lost, failure.

12-13 Failure, but the spell is not lost.

14-15 Your Turn Unholy is limited to one un-dead creature.

16-19 Your Turn Unholy is no longer limited by numbers, but still restricted to the un-dead type.

20-21 As above, but now you can affect un-dead, demons, devils, and creatures with Patron Bond. If employed against spellcasters with a Patron, Judge of Souls can always be used to start a Spell Duel.

22-25 As above, but you can also affect extraplanar creatures and clerics/divine spellcasters (Khonshu has a grudge against the latter group). If employed against cleric/divine spellcasters, Judge of Souls can always be used to start a Spell Duel.

26-29 One turned creature of your choice is also doomed. If you hit with it with a melee attack before the end of the next rounds, that is an automatic critical hit (even against creatures immune to critical hits).

30-31 Same as above, but it applies to all turned creatures.

32-33 Same as above or you can choose one turned creature to be bound. A bounded creature is completely enveloped by mystical shrouds and tatters (as a mummy) and then is sunk into the ground. While bound the creature is stuck a few meters below the surface. It cannot be moved and is completely paralyzed until attacked or otherwise damaged (removing the shrouds will also awaken it). It does not need food, air, or anything else while bounded. You can free any number of bound creatures that you previously trapped if you are standing close to them.

34+ Same as 30-31 or you can choose to bound all turned creatures as 32-33.

Avatar of the Moon God

Level: 3 (Khonshu)
Range: Self
Duration: 1 round per CL
Casting time: 1 Action

You summon the power of Khonshu himself, drawing on the vestments and relics of the exiled Moon God. If properly cast, this spell changes the caster to the true form of a Moon Knight, a fearful agent of vengeance dresses in tattered white rags of his god. There is nothing natural or casual about the appearance of the caster. Even weak servants of Khonshu who discover this spell are at least able to summon his hooded cloak, which is already dreadful enough.

While this spell is in effect you are considered an extraplanar creature of Void and is considered a valid target of things like Turn Unholy.

Manifestation: Roll 1d4: (1) Strange glowing hieroglyphs manifest in the air around you; (2) you vomit forth a mass of tattered rags that soon envelop you; (3) a choir of unembodied voices surround you, summoning the vestments; (4) a brief and terrible vision of Khonshu appears as the God rips a piece of its rags and from it grows a new one for you.

1 Lost, failure, and patron taint.

2-11 Lost, failure.

12-15 Failure, but the spell is not lost.

16-17 The tattered and hooded cloak of the God of Vengeance covers you. You receive a +1d4 bonus to AC (that does not accumulate with any type of armor) and any creature with the same HD or less than you must succeed at a Will save or flee for the during of the spell. Creatures immune to fear, such as most un-dead, ignore this.

18-21 As above, but the cloak covers your entire body, except for your face. You are immune to fear. If anyone attempt to control your mind or drain you, you can cancel this spell to ignore that effect (if the effect allows save, you can roll the save before deciding to end this spell).

22-23 As above, plus your vestments are now equipped with the Moon’s Crescent Darts. These half-moon shaped blades of bronze can be used as ranged weapons against enemies at 30 feet. The Crescent Darts are considered magic weapons, deal 1d4 points of damage and if you roll a ‘4’, the dice explodes (i.e., roll another 1d4 and keep adding as long as you get a ‘4’). If you have a dart on each hand you can throw a second Crescent Dart suffering a -2 Die step penalty. The number of Crescent Darts in your clothes is considered infinite (and once throw they quickly become dust again).

24-26 As above, but now you summon the full regalia of the Avatar of Khonshu. You are covered from head to toe in the tattered white rags of the God of Vengeance and imbued with his might, as your eyes shine with supernatural power. Your bonus to AC is now +2d4. Every time you execute a Strength check (such as jumping or lifting), unarmed melee attack roll, and unarmed damage roll, you add +2d4 to the final result. Your fists are considered magic weapons.

27-31 As above, plus you gain +4d4+CL extra hit points for the duration of the spell.

32-33 As above, plus you ignore the effects of one critical hit. Using this ability ends the spell.

34-35 As above, and while you are the Avatar of Khonshu, if you fall in combat and allies find your body, you automatically succeed at Rolling the Body and do not lose stat points.

36+ As above, but you can ignore any attack (and its side effects) if it deals damage equal to or less than you CL. For example, if you are 5th level and you are bitten by a snake, suffering 4 points of damage, you ignore that damage, as well as any poison that would be triggered by the attack. If the attack is above your CL, you suffer it normally.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Augury - Fleaux!

In my last Kickstarter rampage I fell victim to Fleaux!, a wonderful French RPG (you can find the original french version here) that seems to me to be a mix of Black Hack (roll under attribute) with Warhammer Fantasy.

In Fleaux! (which means ‘scourge’ or ‘plague’) you play with criminals and outcasts at the edges of civilization, trying to survive in a 17th or 18th century fantasy world that just suffered a massive civil war. There are ruins, devastation, and opportunity aplenty for rascals like you to get rich.

The B&W art and layout are flavourful and beautiful, with a total Warhammer Fantasy vibe. I say Warhammer because while the world is going down in misery and war, you get a sense that you can dive into it, face its challenges, and come out rich. It is not as satirical as the original Old Word, nor as hopeless as Mörk Borg (which actually is so nihilistic that I can’t stop laughing while reading it… I do love dark humor). The cover art of Fleaux! is one of the best in the OSR.

The rules are ridiculously simple and inspired by many of the best tropes of the OSR. You have six attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Erudition, Charisma, Guts, Melee, and Shooting). Origins are Human or Halfling, Dwarf, Elf, Goblin, and Ogre-Blooded. You can roll or choose one. Each Origin has a d6 table where you find where your grew up (and receive an attribute bump of +1). For example, your Dwarf might have received her education “under the blows of the mine guardian’s instructors”, gaining a +1 to Melee. After that you roll your crime, which basically defines why you run from home. Perhaps you were accused of making a pact with a demon, or of bribing a royal office. The entries provide a nice hook for each character.

Now we roll to see how your survived, which defines your Profession. Your can select Resourcefulness, Isolation, Violence or Knowledge. Each one opens a table with a row of professions, which are occupation-style names like smuggler, mercenary, barber-surgeon (yes, there is a ratcatcher). A profession gives your another +1 do an attribute, plus a small advantage. Mercenaries, for example, increases his damage die by one, while barber-surgeons can restore hit points with a successful check.

In Fleaux! your hit points are determined by your Strength, and damage is abstract, usually fixed at d6. Your equipment is determined by how much money you have, as well as your career (and thankfully there is a simple rule for upkeep, which I always find useful). Finally, you have Willpower, which is a Usage Die rule used for special actions and to resist certain effects.

Fleaux! uses a simple 10 level progression. Character gain XP at a pace set by the referee. Leveling up gives you small +1 bonus to stats and HPs. At certain levels you might gain other benefits, like a second profession, or talents. The last ones are like feats. I quite like the fact that in Fleaux! you gain your first talent at 2nd level. That is nice because it allows players to first learn the rules and play a little with the game, before selecting mechanical benefits. The fact that you have to choose talent later means that character creation is a lot faster and more immersive. That said, there are only 2 pages of talents and they are easy to understand.

Next are the rules. As I said, these are pretty simple and intuitive. Roll below your attribute to succeed, 1s are criticals and 20s are fumbles. You have 2 actions per round and Fleaux! uses Advantage and Disadvantage (made famous by 5E). We also get the full details on Willpower, which is used, for example, when you want to cast spells or when your want to do 2 actions of the same type in a turn (such as attacking twice). Losing all your Willpower triggers a panic roll (which can be quite deadly). Combat is straightforward: roll below your Melee or Shooting and if you succeed roll damage. You can dodge or parry. Armor grants damage resistance and shields grant Advantage against melee attacks (I do miss a rule for shields allowing you to defend better against ranged attacks). Falling below 0 hit points means that you are out of combat and possibly dead. Fleaux! uses a Helpless table to determine (after combat) the fate of your outcast (it reminds me of the great Roll the Body rule from DCC RPG). You might have survived with some damage, a scar, a permanent injury, or you just died.

Fleaux! characters are scum, but tough scum, so we have rules for short and long rests. We also get 2 pages on Firearms, because this is the frigging Modern Age! There are also a few guidelines on how black powder and sorcery are a dangerous (bot exploitable) combination. And speaking of the Devil, sorcery is next. Spells in Fleaux! might misfire and exhausting your Willpower will trigger a Chaos Revenge roll (which is basically a slow death spiral table, with the classical possibility of a daemon dragging you screaming to another dimension). The spells are are small and flavourful. There is nothing so simple (and boring) as “deal X damage to Y”. For example, there are spells to make your blood turn to acid, or to leave your reflection locked in a mirror, so you can spy on others. After that we get “charms, curses and other incantations”, which give some minor spells that are equally interesting. Fleaux! also covers Alchemy, allowing the party to forage for monster parts and create elixirs (without going into big “shopping lists” as some other rules do). This part of the book ends with a few guidelines for enchanted items. This might be the weakest part of Fleaux! because we only get basic rules on how enchanted items work (Mörk Borg’s list of awesome magic items seems to me to be a better approach).

Next, Fleaux! presents us with a complete bestiary and an adventure. I always believe that new RPGs tells us more about themselves through adventures than through rules or setting and Bloodbath at Castle Kragstein is a fine example of that philosophy. It hits home with all the core points of Fleaux! Bloodbath is an open-ended scenario where PCs start as prisoners (for the crimes rolled during character creation) sent to a forlorn prison in the mountains. The location is going to be the stage not only of a barbarian raid but also of a fell necromancy ritual by cultists hidden among the prison’s wardens. It falls to the PCs to survive this gauntlet (and yes, they can ally/betray/interact with all factions, which is a plus!).

Fleaux! has a setting with an Old World-like vibe (but here the Not-Holy Not-Roman Empire crumbled due to civil war). There is a very brief description of each region, just a paragraph, followed by 6 adventure seeds. Interestingly the main threat appears to be an elven empire from the East that employs changelings as infiltration agents (I loved it). There is considerable racial tension between Dwarves, Elves, and Humans, which lends a nice Witcher flavour to the whole thing. We also get details on Ur-Hundun, a parallel world and possible place of origin of Elves, Dwarves, and magic.

The final pages have references for most of the rules, as well as spells organized in card-like fashion. We also have the (beautiful) character sheet.

Fleaux! is definitely worth a look and it provides a different flavor of OSR, more embedded in European modern fantasy than most games. While it has its own unique setting, I can’t avoid the temptation of using it to run a Warhammer Fantasy roleplaying.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

A Study of Madness for 13th Age (theoretically Part II)

OK, I already went through a few (famous) madness systems in the last post. Basically, I need madness rules for my 13th Age game. There are no official madness rules and theoretically this is not a game for that sort of thing (after all, 13th Age is High Fantasy). But I want to use madness to reflect the flavor of certain factions and to enrich the roleplaying. Let me see my what I can tinker here.

The closest thing to be crazy in 13th Age is the Confused condition (in fact, all Derros are eternally Confused according to the rules). Confused is a powerful condition: “You can’t make opportunity attacks or use your limited powers. Your next attack action will be a basic or at-will attack against any nearby ally, determined randomly”. The idea is that crazy folk are a danger to their own allies.

During my first 13th Age campaign I used the Wendigo’s Hunger’s mechanics (Bestiary, p. 212) to reflect the effects of lycanthropy on a character (if you are interested you can check it at Escalation Fanzine Issue 2). That rule could work as more nuanced Confusion condition if that is the type of thing you are looking for.

In the Underkraken section the authors almost deliver a madness point system to reflect Terrible Enlightenment due to contact with the soul flensers (critters that drain your soul, which in 13th Age means getting all your cool powers). 4 points of Terrible Enlightenment is crazy territory, and the rules suggest that characters with 8 points you become a non-Euclidian tentacled entity.  13 True Ways also suggests that the benefit behind Terrible Enlightenment would be forbidden knowledge about the Underkrakens, but it does provide much detail on that.

I can’t remember where but I read a long time ago an amazing idea for “negative backgrounds”. For example, if the GM wants to use rules for permanent wounds and things like that all she needs to do is add a negative background like “Broken Leg -2” and anything related with that would suffer a -2 penalty on their d20 checks.
We could use something similar for madness inflicted by, let’s say, the Derro. After escaping a harrowing torture from the Derro, a PC might have “Blades Under My Skin 3”. The difference here is that this can be used positively or negatively. This could give him a bonus to checks related with bladed weapons, wounds provoked by them and perhaps interactions with madmen. However, this would be a penalty to checks regarding resisting pain, moving in proximity to bladed weapons or traps (like a phobia), or activities in dark places where Derro might hide etc.
My only concern with this approach is that it is one more thing for the GM to track.

OK, this one here came after my reading of the Book of the Underworld and the Calling’s rule. Basically, every Point of Madness work like an inverted Icon Die. You choose a theme for your Insanity Die, based on the inflicted madness (let’s say for example: Pyromaniac 1). You roll your Insanity Die together with the Icon Die. If you roll 1-2 you trigger an Insanity Episode that will complicate matters at some point. Our pyromaniac, for example, could set the ship the party is travelling on fire. The GM (or the table) control the problem generated. Now, if an Insanity Die comes with a 6 the PC receives an Insane Illumination. This last benefit is controlled by the player. Coming back to our pyromaniac, he could spend his Insane Illumination to determine who created a fire camp, how many where there etc. Or he could declare that he can talk and come to an understanding with a fire themed monster, avoiding a possible combat.

INSANITY DIE (Corrupted Icons)
This works almost exactly as the last approach, but here each madness corrupts one Icon Die of the PC. For example, our above Pyromaniac PC could select his negative relationship with the Three as the corrupted Die. Every time he rolls that Icon Die and gets a 1-2, he triggers an Insanity Episode. Otherwise, the Icon Die works normally. The Icon corrupted could colour how the madness manifests. With the Three that might mean something that our pyromaniac sees himself as a red dragon and behaves accordingly. I honestly preferer the first option (without Corrupted Icons), because of a possible 6 on the die roll.

Here madness is something linked to the monster. So battles with the Derro could use a different take on the Escalation Die. Because horror and madness are sometimes tied with loss of control, leave the ED unpredictable. At the start of every round, roll a d6. If it matches the current ED, the enemies steal the ED and it can only be recovered if one PC accepts the Confused condition (save 6+ or 11+ for tougher enemies).

This approach uses the Fear rules, which kind of make sense. Here we don’t track Points of Madness. A PC is either afflicted by a madness or they are OK. For example: Paranoid. A Paranoid PC that goes below his Fear Threshold hit points would trigger the madness. This could be used just for a Confused condition (save DC could be adjusted to reflect the degree of the madness, otherwise just use 11) during combat. Or this trigger could mean an Insanity Episode after combat, determined by the GM or the table. Note that, during combat, the GM can change the Confused condition to something more specific. For example: Confused makes sense for a Paranoid PC, but a Pyromaniac PC would probably use this action to set something on fire (hurting as many people, including allies, as possible). A PC with hallucinations or something closer to schizophrenia, might stop being considered an ally for the purpose of his party’s spell until he gets rid of the condition. If you find the Fear Threshold too much, just change that; insanity here would be triggered just by being Staggered.

Here madness builds up and taints a PC’s soul, making her more susceptible to magic items. There are two ways to do it. One simple way is that each Point of Madness reduces your character level by -1 for the purpose of controlling magic items. A 1st level PC with 1 Point of Madness would be automatically controlled by any True Magic item that she attunes to (because Level 1 minus 1 Point of Madness equals 0, so our PC cannot resistant True Magic items’ influence). For the moment this would be my favorite approach. Madness.
If you desire more granularity, you could this approach differently. Instead of reducing the number of True Magic items that a character can use without being dominated, corrupt specific chakras for each madness. For example, a character that becomes consumed by phobia might not be able to resist the quirks of Belts, while a Sadistic character is always affected by the quirks for Melee Weapons. There are 17 chakras to choose. I particularly find it too much granularity and prefer the first option.

Sometimes I wish I could create a set of customized new Conditions inspired by Darkest Dungeon. Basically, madness would trigger class (or race) specific Conditions that would offer benefits and complications to the character. For example, a Paladin’s Madness could be Zealotry, which would increase his critical hit range by +1 for each round of combat if the only actions taken by the paladin are to attack and damage others (if he do something else or heal using a quick action, he loses the ability to do critical hits and must build his threat range from scratch). Something along these lines might work better.
Another interesting concept would be to use the Devil’s Due like mechanic (from 13 True Ways). Basically, a mad character loss access to the ED unless he “unlocks it” with a specific action driven by his madness. For example, a Paranoid PC can only use the ED in battle after refusing one beneficial effect from an ally.
Of course, who said that we have to use only one approach? Mixing some of the options above might be a good idea to reflect different flavors of insanity.

Cthulhu F’tangh to you all!

Sunday, March 13, 2022

A Study of Madness (Part I)

To all my 13th Age players: stay out! (The Lich King knows when you are reading this!)

This blog has yet again been left for ruin, but for good (?) reasons. First, thanks to the great crew of the Tales from the Smoking Wyrm, I’m still writing stuff for their zine that will hopefully see the light of the day during the next numbers. Second, we have reached a good level and conclusion to our 9-year-old DCC RPG campaign, and I wanted to switch gears to the other RPGs that I’ve been dying to try. Now it is the time of 13th Age, for two very specific reasons: I want more improvisation and player input at my table, but I also want a more tactical and impartial combat. And this exactly what 13th Age delivers*.

*Yeah, I know that OSR systems are famous for an impartial referee and a likewise impartial but brutal combat. However, OSR (and DCC RPG) in my mind discourages combat because it is wildly unpredictable. 13th Age is from another RPG school which actually encourages cinematic and tactical combat (but it also retains some aspects of Old School that I enjoy, like the idea that not all combats have to be fair, and the party should exercise some strategy about what battles are worth).

This is my second 13th Age campaign. So far we have concluded one adventure and, due to 13th Age’s crazy improvisational rules, I am dealing with 2 factions that I never thought I would use (much less at the same time): Derros and Star Masks.

Derros are your well known crazy-degenerate-dwarves from the Underworld. 13th Age escalates the craziness, with a good dash of other themes: psychic powers, torture/sadism, and a lot of conspiracy theory-like madness. You see, derros in 13th Age believe they have seen “The Truth” in the depths of the Underworld and they are more than happy to share it with you (it also involves a lot of torture, alienation, and mortification of the flesh). It can become very creepy, very fast, depending on how much horror you want.

Star Masks are awesome pseudo-Cthulhoid horrors from the Void, living masks that dominate people, create space zombies, organize cults, give birth to giant alien brains that twist reality in non-Euclidian ways. A nice mix of mindflayers and intellect devourers, plus cultists!

As you can guess, I ended up with 2 factions that both deal with madness as a theme. I don’t want to overdue the theme, so I will be using derros most for the madness and Star Masks more for the whole “Body Snatchers” cult-like stuff.

That said, this is a post about madness in my campaign. 13th Age does not technically have madness rules and I want to find a good approach for it. I checked all my RPG library and here is what I found so far…

Call of Cthulhu: The Great Old One of RPGs. Madness here is basically mental hit points. If you lose all you are kaput, if you lose a considerable amount real quickly you get a temporary madness. Madness is rolled in tables or chosen based on the circumstances. Simple, intuitive, easy to use. While I like the idea of creating a Sanity/Mental Stress track or points, my 13th Age campaign is not about horror, so I will pass this option.

GURPS: the Fright Check. One simple check that based on what you are facing can trigger a wide range of mental effects. GURPS makes it easy because it has an extensive list of mental Disadvantages to represent madness. Again, very good for a mortal-level and detailed game, but not what I am looking for.

FATE: FATE has the best approach to madness when we are talking about rules. Basically, madness would be an Aspect, a statement about you character that gives you Fate Points (mechanical bonus) if you can bring it up during the game. This means that it is entirely up to the player to portray their madness. This is very useful, but in 13th Age would require some form of “Fate Point” economy to work (Recoveries?) and I am a bit hesitant to change the game so much at this point (unless my entire campaign really goes down the Madness Lane). Of course, I could use the Background rules instead of tinkering with Recoveries.

D&D: You get the special Ravenloft checks, which are basically special saving throws that make you roll on Madness tables. 5E learned a lot from Fate and uses Madness basically as Aspects, linking them to the Inspiration mechanic. While not D&D, but still pretty much d20, the good (3rd Era RPG) Wheel of Time used a pool of Madness that went from 1 to 100, to represent the growing taint of the One Power. You got progressively worse until you became completely insane and start breaking the world all over again (only male spellcaster got this). A progressive mechanic would work nicely in 13th Age and there is the suggestion of such mechanic within 13 True Ways.

Warhammer: This beauty follows Call of Cthulhu and integrates it nicely with Medieval Fantasy. So you have Sanity Points and Madness Tables. 3rd Edition, despite the boardgame components, add a Stress Mechanic that is really cool (inspired by FATE).

Trail of Cthulhu: This probably the most dramatic (but interesting) approach to Madness. The rules themselves are quite simple, using a pool of points. The implementation, however, is totally novel (but would require approval from the table, as it can be invasive). Basically, when you get a madness, the GM and the rest of the table create it and start roleplaying (without you hearing the details). Lets say, for example, that you character starts hallucinating due to a recent madness. The entire table will in this case create a few imaginary NPCs. Note that you – the player! – will be deceived, as you don’t know that those NPCs do not exist within the game’s reality! The entire idea is tricking the player, changing her perception of the game. If that table is OK with that, it is an awesome experiment. I might use this approach in 13th Age as it does not require me to change anything in the system itself.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess: The “Edgy” OSR game. LotFP uses a simple and completely non-mechanical approach to madness. Basically, it states that madness rules break immersion and should be avoided. What the GM should aim to do is create challenges and situations whose ordeals are the kind of thing that normal people would not do. Then, the GM should show how the setting reacts to the characters, treating them – literally – as madmen! Like Gumshoe, it requires a careful approach and a completely honest talk with the table, as it might no be everyone’s cup of tea. There are a lot of examples from LotFP adventures, such as one scenario where the party might end up killing nuns and children that are actually doppelgangers (imagine how the rest of the world would see that butchery?) or one scenario where the key to understand the plot requires one character to kill and eat the villain’s brain. The funny thing is that if every GM pays attention to what the PCs are really doing in most games, (and make society reacts to it), it is pretty easy to create an atmosphere of alienation and make the players wonder how sane their characters really are.

I remember one example from my old AD&D 2nd table, where they party got a ring of regeneration and used it (and abuse it) to keep them alive. At one point, one character was infected by some kind of flesh-eating ooze (I can’t remember which), and the rest of the party decided to cut his arm off to save him (they also decided to cut part of his face to remove another part of the ooze). To my surprise, the infected player started to roleplay his character’s hesitation to so much suffering, arguing that they could find perhaps a priest or sage to save him. In the end, the entire party put the regeneration ring on the poor soul, restrained him, and went happily (?) to chop him off in order to remove the ooze. The party’s argument was that those actions were the “most rational way” of saving the character’s life. The entire scene was completely insane (and another player even started roleplaying Gollum-like behavior towards the ring, because he didn’t want to part with it not even to save a fellow party member). THIS is madness!

After this brief tour of craziness, my next post will show how I will implement madness within the (cool) rules framework of 13th Age.