Sunday, September 13, 2020

My DCC RPG House Rules (so far)

Good news is that I finally managed to get a regular online game going after all these years. I’ve been running a DCC RPG campaign since 2013 for my old table from Brazil but in a very sporadic way. However, I started dedicating myself this year (and got a few ideas from fellow Roll20 GMs) and the game so far has been a blast, with sessions every 10-20 days. We just finished session #40 (starting a heavily modified 13th Skull module).

Bad news is that I (again) neglected this tower. I must finish that Tower of Visions post-by-post dungeon and I also want to share my thoughts about how Colonial Brazil can offer an interesting and new approach for ye olde hexcrawl campaigns. With the beautiful The Elephant & Macaw Banner Roleplaying Game getting finally released in English, I feel this is the perfect moment.

That said... my House Rules!

My DCC RPG started with very few of those: basically we disregarded XP and used a system very similar to Warhammer 2nd Edition’s Fate Points, plus Re-rolls Points granted for good roleplay and coming to sessions (something inherited from my D&D and Pathfinder games), to reduce lethality and allow for a longer campaign.

With time (and character reaching levels 3-4) I removed that “safety cushion” and actually desired to move back to DCC RPG RAW. To my surprise the table really does not want to use XP (which left me a bit sad, since I really wanted to use for Carousing).

Without further ado the House Rules

The Golden Rule: Standard DC is 10, really hard is 15 and epic is 20. Failing but rolling close to the DC (or giving a very good ou clever description of the action) might allow you to Succeed with Cost (the famous “Not, but…”). Usually 1 is an automatic fumble and 20 is an automatic success. (Yes, this entire “house rule” is more a clarification than a rule)

Luck: I grant +1 Luck for showing up for a game session. The party also gains +1 Luck after an encounter where they permanently vanquished an area of the Un-dead (Law and Chaos desire souls and revile Un-dead in my campaign. Carrying too many magic items (or those against your deity, patron or alignment) might cap your maximum Luck. The Un-dead bit I took years ago from a very good DCC RPG blog and cap for magic items is my take of something that I read in the Core Rulebook.

Fleeting Luck (from DCC RPG Lankhmar): usually awarded when a character spends gold on Carousing. Currently, Carousing at my table is a source of Fleeting Luck, rumors, hirelings, contacts etc.

Shields shall be splintered!: the classic house rule of the OSR. You can destroy your shield to negate a hit or reduce damage to half (if the source of damage is something powerful as a giant or if you’re using a buckler, for example). It doesn’t work against critical hits. Magic shields usually aren’t broken (and I might ask for a Luck check), although you can declare that you destroyed yours to accomplish something (like protect you and a fellow party member from a dragon breath). This last part I took from 13th Age. Spellcasters can’t benefit from this rule.

Saving your head!: if you’re using a helm and suffers a critical hit, you destroy the helm to change the critical to a normal hit. Closed helms allow you to roll Luck and keep the helm. This rule came, I believe, from Baldur’s Gate (the computer games) and is something that a player in my table loves. Helms usually give you a penalty to perception checks (Luck in DCC RPG). Spellcasters can’t benefit from this rule.

Treasure: instead of counting coins I use an abstract system where your gold is a modifier to checks when you try to buy something. That is usually a d20 check. This is based on Burning Wheel’s Resources system, mixed with the simple but awesome rules from Kevin Crawford’s game. Usually a +0 bonus is a few copper coins, with fat gold coins giving your +2/+3 and a big loot (that you can still carry) around +5. DCs are usually very low and I only require a roll when there is a chance of the character getting into a bad (financial) spot. Failure usually means the PC has no dinero or is in debt. I also roll between downtimes for maintenance of their gears. Simple and fast.

Reputation: you usually roll a d10 check plus Personality to see if you get a good impression or someone recognizes you (good roleplay, of course, can fix that). After each deed or adventure, you can receive a bonus for fame (or infamy), things like “Slayer of the Beastmen from the Sea of Fallen Stars +1 DIE Step”. It is also a good track for the party’s accomplishments.

Utility Die: used to track torches, rations, ammunition etc. From Black Hack 1st.

Destiny: after one complete adventure (one entire module) your character gets 1 Destiny Point that she can spend to save her life or to change something in an encounter. Based on Warhammer 2nd Edition’s Fate Points. Once spent Destiny is gone for good. Spellcasters don’t gain Destiny (they have their deities and patrons to save their ass.)

Spells’ DC: inspired by something I read in the Goodman Games Board (and after getting tired of my table’s spellcasters going nova with Spellburn and always rolling DCs higher than 20). The DC that you have to beat with a save is the natural roll of the spellcaster’s Action Die plus his stat modifier. Just that. So far it is working rather nicely.

Spellburn: from the awesome Sheep and Sorcery blog. Instead of letting the spellcaster cherry-pick points of damage, she chooses a number of d6s and distributes them among Strength, Stamina and Agility. The total result of the d6s is the amount of Spellburn damage and bonus to the spellcasting check. Oh, and the d6s explode on a “6”. Did I mention that if you “zero” a physical stat during Spellburn you die in a blaze of sorcery glory? (Yes, it should be scary… Spellburn at my table was becoming a routine action before that. Now I can see the spellcaster player praying for his patron each time he rolls.)

The Laws of Magic: I let it quite clear to my players that the rules of magic as written in the DCC RPG Core Rulebook are just the most basic and “safest” way of spellcasting. There are hidden rules, loopholes and dangerous approaches that they have to try or find out. This is to encourage spellcasters to negotiate and seek news ways to spellcast (here is an example of my approachto magic, but using D&D 5E).

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Tower of Visions #4 - The Fane of Lost Reflections

Edit: Oh, and here are posts #1, #2 and #3 in the series!

Howdy folks!

Nothing like a world pandemic, moving to a new house and trying to keep yourself sane for a perfect combo for this (already) cursed and thrice-damned year! Anyhow, sorry (again) for the considerable delay in updating this much forsaken demesne.

Lets go to another room/encounter on the Tower of Visions, my first attempt at a “post by post” dungeon (today is post #4). Today, I’m following the great guidelines of David Cook, where for every combat encounter you should have 3-4 non-combat ones. So, let me see if I can create a weird place for the characters to explore in this dungeon.

This room holds a lot of magical mirrors. Each one has different effects and consequences. Most can be broken or shattered, although that is not always a good idea. To make things interesting you can introduce an NPC if you want: the Mirror Lord!

The Mirror Lord is an “echoling”, a creature that exists only on the rare and unknown Mirror Dimension. It can only interact with the party through a mirror. Its name is not actually Mirror Lord, it was just a lesser extraplanar jailor bound by the master of the Tower of Visions to keep the local artifacts in order. It desperately wants to convince a character to use the Harry Potter mirror to make it real (more about that mirror below). Unfortunately, it is a bound entity and thus it will always give the worst possible explanation about any magic mirror (if asked!). Thus, it seeks to give information without being asked. If somehow freed, it will be an above average loyal hireling but a regular stated one. If the party can figure that out, this NPC can be a very powerful source of help.

Without further ado, let's delve into the...


The Fane of Lost Reflections


That is a good image for the Tower of Visions

The Mirror of the Hidden

This magical mirror won’t appear to reflect anything, including the room. However, what it does is reveal invisible things or the true form of objects or creatures obfuscated by illusions. This is an oval shaped mirror framed in the bones of angels. Clerics and other (good) divine spellcasters feel pain be carrying it (and it will probably bring trouble for the party). Although cumbersome to carry, it is not that heavy (but a human-sized PC must use both hands to carry it). It is hard to shatter, due to its magical nature, but every time it is hit there is a 50% chance that every creature in a 30 ft. radius suffers the damage instead of the mirror. Yes, celestials and champions of Law will think the worst about the carrier of this potent artifact.


The Window of Doubt

This magical mirror will show the exact opposite of who you truly are. Details are left to the Judge. Usually, standing before it will show the viewer doing something in the near future that is the last thing she would actually do. Law-abiding heroes will be seen killing the local lord while greedy wizards will see their future reflections delivering their most precious magic item to the local church. Actually, this mirror is the perfect guide on “how to invert your alignment” (if you care about alignments in your game). This should be a huge door-like mirror, very hard to move or carry. If broken, the character responsible for breaking will be cursed with dreams showing them doing all those terrible things (the Judge is encouraged to give secret information to the dreamer, to tempt her to do those horrible deeds… like showing the Law warrior killing the local lord and stealing a thus far unknown Chaos magic sword hidden below his castle).

Yes, other characters not directly in front of the Window of Doubt will see all the stuff above. Let paranoia run loose!


The Harry Potter Mirror

If you’re standing right in front of his mirror you will see your heart’s desire fulfilled. This is an excellent opportunity to talk with the player and let THEM, not you, to describe what transpires. Oh, and every other person close by (but not standing right in front of the mirror) to see that. If more than one character is in front of the mirror, ask them to roll a Luck check (or a Charisma check) and the best roll is the “chosen one”.

This a big mirror, that must be carried by at least four strong human characters. Destroying it is really hard, takes a lot of time but should work. However, each destroyer cries in their sleep for a really long time following that event (and a cruel but fair Judge should ask what is their heart desire and let them know they will never achieve it).


The Shadow Prince’s Looking Glass

When a character stares at this mirror for some time she sees her reflection taking one of her items and throwing it away, beyond the mirror’s frame. That item really DISAPPEARS. If the characters keep starting, another will go away a few moments later.

A “good sport” character that leaves without complaining about it. She will awake 1d7 days later with a new and cool item (and yes, that item was stolen from someone else… Judges, please, be creative). The item should be useful and preferably magical.

If the character tries to break or destroy the mirror… well, first it reforms one day later, when no one is looking. Second, the mirror-breaker is now cursed. Actually, she is under the Murder Men Curse. What is a Murder Man? Look here.

The Prince of Shadow’s Looking Glass should be the shoddiest and poorest mirror in the room, preferably covered with a dirt sheet with a warning “Prince of Shadow Property! Do not touch. DO NOT bring it back to Minas Morgul!


The Cornucopia Window

Whoever is standing before this mirror for more than a few seconds will start to see all kinds of delicious food and drinks appearing around her. Although nothing shows up in the real world, the character can eat/drink the reflections. After such a banquet, let her know that she is superbly satisfied and gained 1 Advantage (once chance to roll twice any check and take the best result). The downside? The food and drinks were fake and after her next sleep, the character will awake famished (i.e. treat as if her physical stats are half, including her hit points, until she can eat a lot; if you play 5E give her 1d3 levels of Exhaustion).

The Cornucopia Window should be a giant mirror, almost impossible to move. If broken, it will fill a 15 ft. spread area in front of it with rotten food, possibly inflicting damage on any character on the way (and a fair Judge can also unleash one disease or rat swarm).


The Mirror of the Lost Room

This mirror shows the character’s reflection standing in a different room, a small camber with nothing on it. However, if the character drops anything on the floor while standing before the mirror, the item will disappear from the real world and show up in the magical room. This is basically the “mirror version” of a portable hole.

The mirror itself should be something as big as a shield, preferably with iron frames shaped in a (green devil) grinning face. It can be carried although it will be so voluminous that it will require a hireling only for that task. It can hold A LOT of stuff but if it is broken (it is very sturdy) or lost, all the items inside of it are lost forever (or until the Judge can concoct a weird quest to an yet more bizarre demiplane where lost items of the Multiverse can be found).


The Chess Mirror

This baroque and big mirror appears to be immune to damage and shows a weird room, where the floor is painted like a chess board, but in white and red tones. Stepping inside makes the character disappear. It is a one way ticket to a Red and Pleasant Land.


The Door to Hades

This mirror is shaped with skeleton and death motifs, reflecting umbral mists. It is considerably cracked and it is a miracle it is still whole. If any corpse is placed before it a reflection of the live counterpart will show up and step out in a few moments. Yes, it is a “Raise Dead mirror”. The catch? (You know there is one) The reflection is an inverted version of the original. Don’t tell that right away… if the raised one is a player character let him know that between sessions (and yes, this is a classical “traitor plot”). If the raised character is a NPC, give subtle clues and a fair chance for the party to find out (otherwise kill the character with the lowest Luck/Charisma in their sleep and let them hunt the traitor later).

Every time someone is raised with this mirror roll an Utility Die (I would use a 1d4). A 1-2 roll means the mirror shatters. Any other roll just add a crack in the mirror.


The Sea King’s Eye

This big oval mirror, framed with valuable corals and pearls, fills the corner of the chamber. Anyone standing in front of it sees what appears to be the depths of the ocean, but illuminated by the gold radiance of a treasure hoard of a thousand shipwrecks. This is the Sea King’s trove and that is the closest anyone is going to get to it. If anyone tries to break this mirror it starts to leak. If that is not a fair warning, then fill the room with sea water… and sharks! Undead sharks if you’re feeling nasty. The party has to run out or drown.


The Mirror of the Other

This mirror visibly floats in the middle of the room. It is framed in silver or mithril or anything valuable that you want. If a character walks in front of it, a perfect reflection of that character will show up and start a chat. It will explain that it is “just a reflection, an imperfect copy” of the original. It will ask for just one favor: “to live a full life as a mortal”. It will accept to serve the character and help them in their quest, after that it will ask for a retirement in a quiet village, far from trouble.

If the character accepts, the doppelganger will step out. It will be exactly like the character. For the next 7 days a new doppelganger will show up whenever the character sleeps. They will always help… until there are more of them than the party (or after 7 days). Then, they will strike and kill. If they can’t do that they will flee and unleash havoc at the best moment. They will always be of the same level and power of the original character.

The mirror only works for one character, if multiple characters try to stand before the mirror the one with the LOWEST Luck/Charisma will be the one that can talk with the doppelganger.

Shattering this mirror is impossible. It is a mighty artifact, birthed from the mind of the dead god of illusions. Only an innocent child, wielding the Sword of Truth, can shatter the Mirror of the Other. Doing that will kill all doppelgangers.


The Dorian Mirror

When the first character (if you must roll a Luck/Charisma check, the best result wins) stand before this mirror they will see their reflection (a debased and old one) offering them immortality in exchange for keeping the mirror forever hidden. If they accept that they’re immortal as long as the mirror stands hidden and intact.

What is immortal? They will never age or die (if reduced to 0 hit points they won’t go lower but will fall unconscious unless they succeed at a hard Fortitude or Will save every round, Judge’s call, and yes… please change the saves once in a while).

After 7 days, the pact is sealed and the character discovers that she must keep the mirror always within 100 feet of her. Otherwise she starts aging and losing 1 full Hit Dice per round until turned to dust,

Of course, if the mirror is destroyed or anyone sees her reflection she is also dust. To make things worse, if a wizard (or gods forbid it a devil/demon) gets the mirror, then the character must obey the owner or start losing 1 full Hit Dice per day.

Welcome to immortality!


The Mirror of the Trickster

This is the only hand mirror in the room. It is held by a corpse. If removed it will always show the character doing slightly different things than what she is doing at the moment. The true effect of the mirror happens if it is held during combat or while rolling a save or ability check… it literally gives the character a second chance.

If the character fails at any check (or wants to force the Judge or enemy to reroll), she can do that if she is wiedling the mirror (yes, let that clear to the player). She either gains a reroll or forces the enemy/Judge to reroll. If the result is the same, the Judge should treat it as a critical hit/fumble. In other words, if the orc hit the character and she requested a reroll, and then the orc hit again, that second hit is critical. It is the worst thing possible.

Finally, the gods hate mortals meddling with Destiny/Fate. Any character that uses the Mirror of the Trickster is immune to beneficial divine/clerical magic for 24 hours. Oh, and if the mirror breaks the character is immune to beneficial divine/clerical magic for 7 days and all her critical successes are considered fumbles for the same period.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Guardian (v.2) - a new class for 13th Age!

Here is the second and so far current version of my Guardian class for 13th Age (the first version was here).

The Guardians was created to a warrior that keeps enemies in check in the battlefield, inflicting conditions and interrupting a foe's actions. Guardians should be especially effective against big groups of weaker foes. In terms of flavor, there a lot of inspirations, from Wheel of Time's Wardens (that is where I tried to get the names for some Stances and Strikes) to the Dúnedain and also including stuff like the Dwarven Defender (and the Devoted Defender) prestige classes from 3rd Edition... and yes! from that from amazing scene from Fellowship of the Ring (among others).

Thank you to the 13th Age Facebook community and especially for Martin Killman for the feedback! The Guardian still needs (a lot of) playtesting but I hope to start using it at my table soon. I think a lot of abilities in the class need tinkering (like the Bodyguard stuff) and I'm not sure about how the Stances work thematically yet (I feel I'm still missing a few mechanic niches there). Anyway, let us see how it runs on the table.

Meanwhile, it is time to start working on my other two class ideas...

A Guardian going to battle!

Monday, June 8, 2020

The Tower of Visions #3 - The Tigers of Doors

Time for post #3 for the Tower of Visions! Here are post #2 and post #1 if you’re curious (they are not in order, I'll try that after finishing the dungeon). Unlike the previous posts this one can be played as a straight combat encounter (or not). Actually, I’m think that this can be the first encounter of the entire thing.

The Tigers of Doors

The party enters a big hall of unworked stone, 30 ft. wide, 12 ft. tall and roughly 100 ft. long. There are corpses of previous raiders to the Tower lying in the ground. At the end of the hall it is possible to see gigantic doors (from the floor to the ceiling) made of grey crystal. Guarding the doors are two big statues of tiger that seem to be made of multifaceted mirrors. Each statue is an otherworldly work of art and the characters can see themselves reflected in the various mirrors that made up each tiger.

The Gate Is Shut: If someone in the party gets close enough to the doors there is a chance they noticed something is wrong: besides the fact that the doors are really big and look more like a castle’s gate than a door there is no handle to pull them open. Close inspection (or the right questions) will reveal to the party that they are not doors, just a big crystal wall carved with the shape of doors (the Judge call allow Dwarven characters to notice that automatically if they reach the gate).

The Corpses: The corpses don’t rot and are in the position as of their demise. Investigating the bodies reveal razor sharps cuts that got through flesh, leather and metal.

The Judge can leave anything to be looted but when in doubt roll a few coins, 1d6 normal weapons (and ammunition) and maybe a shield or helm laying. Material components for arcane spells are also in order and if you’re feeling nice they can grant 1d6 “Spellburn points” to any spell (but if you roll a ‘6’ the caster suffers Minor Corruption). Oh, if you play 5E or other d20 game maybe the special components can give double damage or duration for the next spell (but there is a 25% of suffering Exhaustion or a wild mage surge). In fact, merciful Judges can leave one or two healing potions here or a few scrolls of lore collected about the Tower of Visions (these scrolls grant 1d2 “answers” to questions made by the party, after translation or any check required by the Judge).

The Tigers of Doors: When the party gets at 30 ft of the Tigers their reflections in the statues start chanting “Oh bloody ones! Offer honor and sacrifice to the Tigers of Doors, the Keeper of Impossible Paths, Masters of Mirror Worlds!”.

Not surprisingly (or so I believe) they Tigers start moving at that points and, after 1 round staring at the party, will jump to attack (preferably at the closest or unluckiest character).

Start with normal tiger stats of your choice (like the ones on page 174 of the DCC RPG Annual Vol. 1) but give them higher Initiative (+8 is nice) and AC (around 16-18). Piercing weapons deal minimum damage, slashing weapons deal half damage. They are immune to poison and effects that target living creatures, but suffer double damage from sonic attacks. They are immune to any ray attack (and there is a 25% that it is reflected back).

The biggest danger of the Tigers are their claws and bite. After rolling damage for a claw or bite attack, tell the hit character that she has a choice: either suffer bleeding damage equal to half the damage suffered at the start of each round; or lose 1 point of AC (that includes having a shield destroyed). The Tigers’ attacks are almost vorpal-sharp. Bleeding damage keeps going until healed (and is not cumulative, use the higher amount).

A way out: The way to leave this room is either to destroy the Tigers of Doors in combat or to notice that each Tiger is actually a magic door:
- Destroying a Tiger will open for 1d3 rounds a magic door to the next part of the dungeon. After that the Tiger will become a shard of living mirrors (use the same stats, with half hit point and attack as swarm against everything in 10 ft.) for 1d3 rounds. During the “swarm phase”  the magic door is still open, but anyone jumping through will suffer a free attack. Oh, and read later about the Curse.
- Anyone fighting a Tiger in melee range can glimpse in one of their multifaceted surfaces a shining door. Touching the right spot (this is a melee attack with Advantage) takes the character way to the next part of the Tower of Visions. Evil Judges can declare that such a “touching attack” grants the Tiger a free attack.
- Anyone “offering honor and sacrifice” to a Tiger of Doors can be transported away instantly. This can be either a religion check (DC 15?) or a cool roleplay, preferably followed by some concrete offer (blood and 1 point of damage is the standard ticket, but the Judge is free to accept anything of value).  
- The “sacrifice” bit can actually mean that a character lowers her guard to the Tiger and offers herself for 1 free attack. After the attack (dead or bleeding) the character is transported away. Maybe each “free attack” against one character can transporte another member of the party.

The Curse!
The Tigers of Doors required a sacrifice! These dudes are quasi-deities (weak ones). Killing their material forms won’t stop them for long but will deeply offend them. The character that did the killing strike should lose 1 Luck right away (to know that something is wrong). Congratulations, the character is cursed!

This is how the curse works: ask for a Luck check, rolling equal or less than the stat. Start with a d30. Once per game session or adventure ask for a Luck check. Each time the character fails, before crossing any door of the Judge’s choice, the character will see a Tiger of Doors briefly crossing it on the other side. After stepping through THAT door, it doesn’t matter what steps the character takes, they will suffer one successful bite attack (don’t forget the bleeding damage and maybe roll a d20 just to see if it is a critical hit). Each time that the character is damaged, decrease the curse die by one step (it stops at d10 but don’t forget that rolling a d10 is always a failure). If your d20 game doesn’t use Luck as a stat (heretics!) use Charisma.

How to remove the curse? I don’t know… sell your soul to a patron, do a quest for a god, build a shrine to the Tigers of Doors (which will grow to become a new Tower of Visions?) etc. This is the fun part and I will leave it to the Judge.

What if...
...some try to attack the Tigers of Doors from a distance before they animate (c’mon, it is obvious they will animate)? Remember, the trigger is 30 ft. Well, if that happens the Judge can just allow it and give the party 1 round of free shots. Evil Judges (you know, the best ones) will probably remove the message part of the encounter and just leave the party to figure it out the hard way.

Imagine something awesome like this... but it is a tiger! By Kardie Art.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Tower of Visions #2 - The Stairs of Mortality

Continuing my Tower of Visions dungeoncrawl posts (#1 is here). I’m posting one encounter each time and later I hope to make some sense of the whole thing.

Actually this encounter here is based on my friend’s first idea for the dungeon: The Stairs of Mortality.

There is no room, just an infinity of darkness, an eternal abyss. The only path through it is a set of stairs wide enough that can allow two people side by side (but not fighting). The stairs appear to climb forever but there is a light above. When the party enters it seems more like a star, as it is pretty far. After climbing for a long time (enough for a long rest or 4d4 hours) the characters start to see things coming from the Abyss (from all directions). Mirrors, floating and rotating in the dark, each one man-sized and diamond-shaped.

The mirrors start at long range (60-100 ft.) where it is practically impossible to see their surfaces. When within medium range (0-60 ft.) the Judge can allow a Perception/Luck so that a character can try to see details in one of the mirrors (if the character succeeds roll on the table below and describe it). Basically each mirror shows a possible reflection of a character. Each mirror has AC 15 and 3 hit points. There are 1d2+1 mirrors per character. The mirrors take 1d2 rounds to get really close to the party.

Once within medium range, ask for initiative (each mirror rolls initiative on a d10). The action of each mirror is to cut a character, dealing 3d6 points of damage (but can’t reduce a character below 0). The target can avoid this with an Agility/Dexterity check or any other crazy idea. If the target tries to shatter or attack the mirror they also must roll on the table below (although using a shield or some other protection could allow the character a saving throw or Luck roll). Why that? Because breaking (magic) mirrors is unlucky.

If a character falls to 0 hit points because of a mirror attack, roll on the table. If a character drops to 0 (i.e. is affected by a mirror), the other mirrors pass by and won’t attack that character that round. The mirrors will fly around the party for just 1d3 rounds then fly back to the darkness.

Finally, after the encounter, if the party keeps climbing the stairs they reach the next door after more 4d4 hours of walking. If someone falls in the darkness or rolls the ‘8’ result, consider that they appear again when the party leaves the room (but again for them on the table ignoring any ‘8’ result).

Each effect below tries to describe first what the character sees in the reflection.  If brought to 0 hit points by that mirror, that reflection becomes the reality.

The Mirrors of Mortality Table (Roll a d8):
1 - The character sees herself as a youth, almost a child. Reduce your age to something around 10-14 years old (or the equivalent of your race). If you have a positive modifier (or 0) in Str, Con or Per/Wis, reduce it by 1 (and adjust the Stat). For example: in DCC RPG, if you had Str 12 (+1), you Str is now 9 (mod 0). On the bright side, your Luck mod increases by 1 (if you don’t use Luck, as in 5E, just give the PC a free Inspiration after each long rost… the gods seem to favor the young).
2 - The character sees herself as old and decrepit. Increase your age to something around 80-100 years old (or the equivalent of your race). If you have a positive modifier (or 0) in ANY Stat reduce it by 1 (and adjust the Stat). Check the example above. Your Speed is reduced by half. If you’re playing DCC RPG, double your Luck points. That is how much Luck you have before you die of old age. You don’t recover Luck points anymore. If you’re playing something else, like 5E, you gain a number of Inspiration (yeah, I know it doesn’t accumulate and I hate that rule) or Advantages equal to 7+1d6... after that the Grim Reaper is coming for you.
3 - The character change sex and, because of that, one random stat increases by 1d4 and another decreases by the same amount (no maximum and a minimum of 3). If you like craziness, the Judge will select a secret trigger (like “getting drenched” or “falling below 0 hit points”). When that trigger happens change your sex again. If your character is for any reason sexless (like a golem) you now have a sex (and the entire package), live with that!
4 - The character becomes his opposite. In most parties this means inverting Alignment, god, philosophy, maybe appearance (for some reason Chaos loves spikes and piercings) and general behavior. If playing the DCC RPG, the Judge can choose a very different Birth Augur (or just roll again). The character is still the party’s friend (this isn’t a free card to be a jerk). If this is too much hassle then the reflection represents a different path in the life of the character, one where a single and very important event played out differently, according to the Judge’s call (for example: one monster or enemy wasn't killed by the character or perhaps the character’s brother didn’t become a villain etc.).
5 - The character sees herself as she is and is emboldened by that, recovering either 2d3 Luck or 2 Hit Dice of hit points (Judge’s choice). If rolled a second time, your reflection is actually more confident than you and will come out of the mirror to begrudge you for not living to your fullest potential. This reflection is now a real NPC, a better and bossy version of the character (+1 to all Stats and maximum hit points) and will probably become an enemy in the log time (or a very weird patron for the party).
6 - The character sees herself as a very young child (anything between 5-8) years old. Reduce her physical stats by half and add +2d3 to her Luck (Stat and points!). Either the character is a 0-level PC or (my favorite option) change her class to an Alice/Fool of the same level (the awesome class from A Red and Pleasant Land).
7 - The character sees just a dusty skeleton. She was dead a long time ago!***
8 - A black surface without any reflection. The character is trapped inside the mirror and if not free (give the party 1d3 rounds), disappear into the Abyss.

Bye and thanks for playing!

***[OPTIONAL] Believe it or not the entire “Rock falls everyone dies” thing has its place in the game when used right. Adventyring (and dungeoncrawling) is an extreme hazard prone career. In this particular adventure it happens when the character is brought to 0 hit points by a crazy magic mirror and then rolls a ‘7’ on a table. Not bad in my opinion but, as they say, YMMV. So, if you don’t like this change the idea (or just remove the entry and roll a d7). An option could be that for the ENTIRE world the character died a long time (if you must roll a dice to know how many years ago… like 1d4 or 3d6, depending on your campaign). This means that probably most of the last adventures and deeds of the character never happened. Because the party is inside the Tower of Visions they don’t know that and the entire new timelines doesn't catch up with them. When (if…) they leave the dungeon they will see a place where probably some things happened differently. The “dead” character is now a living paradox, a weird clone of the original, the “true character” which died some years ago. The Judge is encouraged to come up with all kinds of weird and esoteric consequences: maybe divination magic can’t find her anymore (remember, she is dead!), or she can’t be raised from the dead (no soul?) or maybe she can’t burn Luck anymore (the Fates don’t know her) etc.
OR, if you don’t want to remove the character from the game and want something crazy but more simple, just pick one of the cool un-dead classes from the Gongfarmer Almanac and bring the character back.

[OPTIONAL] Place a NPC here to spice things up. He appears to be an old goblin but is an immortal and cursed human called Dokab. Give him stats roughly equivalent to a 5th level fighter (or similar monster of your choice). He is seeking “the Mirror of Dust” (i.e. any mirror on the table that ages or kills you) to remove his “undying curse”. The fact is that the mirrors of the Stairs actually avoid Dokab, because he was cursed by a deity. Dokab did titanic atrocities (and a few really good things) through the ages, usually with different names and aliases. He just wants to die. He does not trust anyone and so tells that he is looking “for a loved one trapped in a mirror”. If pressed he’ll attack (he is pretty reckless as he can’t really die). His curse? Basically, you can’t bring Dokab below 1 hit point unless you use something like a Wish. Oh, if the party pushes him off the Stairs, roll a d6. There is a 1 in 6 chance that he hits the right mirror and the party (unwillingly) releases him from the curse. However, if that does not happen, well, the party will probably meet an angry immortal waiting for them outside the Stairs. The Judge is encouraged to use Dokab as a recurring and really dangerous enemy. An observation: if this guy is an immortal of legend why the “low level”? (although in DCC RPG a 5th level Warrior is really something.) Well, he is immortal and nothing can really hurt him, so he got a bit rusty with his skills. Although if the party really rekindles his anger, he’ll train for a few months and “recover” his lost levels (imagine if Alexander the Great was cursed not only with undying and a goblin form, but also with never again rebuilding his empire… imagine how pissed off he would be. That is Dokab. If you have ever read the Malazan Book of the Fallen, this dude is Kallor but he looks like a lowly goblin, which doesn't help). Oh, and removing Dokab’s curse will anger the deity that cursed him. Use that to maximum enjoyment (of the Judge of course) and start by removing a few Luck points.

Art by Amelia Plant.

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Tower of Visions #1 - The Room of the Eyeless Ogre

A long time ago I promised a friend I would write a dungeon crawl for him based on the themes of mirrors, visions, age and self-image... (Sorry Luciano, it has been 2 years already?)

I’m terrible with promises as you can see. I’m not sure if this is still useful but I’m gonna try to post this dungeon crawl in small encounters. I’m calling it the Tower of Visions so far. Although I intended this to be used with DCC RPG I’ll try to be as generic as possible with rules terms (hopefully you can adapt it to your favorite d20 Fantasy). After posting a few of them I’ll try to organize the entire thing and any feedback until there would be appreciated. The idea is that this is an adventure for PCs of levels 2-3.

Here is one of the encounters: The Room of the Eyeless Ogre.

The door opens to magical darkness (not even darkvision works) in what seems to be a large circular room of stone, the ceiling the height of two men. After all the party gets in (and only after that), the door disappears and everything is covered by the hungry darkness. A mere moment later a sphere of light, slightly bigger than a human head, starts shining in the middle of the room atop a stone pedestal, half the height of a man (there was nothing there when the party got in). The walls of the room, the floor and the top are now covered in crystal clear mirror-like surfaces.

There are two things of importance in the now bright room. The first is a door made of what appears to be ice. The second is an apish creature made of stone, eyeless, squatting between the party and the door. It takes a moment to realize that both the door and its guardian are actually just reflexes in the mirror wall. There is nothing in the room itself. The guardians promptly stare at the party and charge.

That is the basic premise of the room. A few things to consider:
  • Give the monster the stats of an Ogre, but double the damage, give it the AC of a stone golem and maximize its hit points. The idea is to make the monster scary and make the party flee. Give it two attacks per round or, better, a Grapple/Slam sequence. The creature usually grapples a character then throws her at another character. If damaged it react with a slam against the poor victim.
  • The monster is not invisible. It is just not there. It “exists” solely in the magical mirror wall. However it can affect the party’s reflections. If it hits a character’s reflection, it can hurt him/her. Defending is hard because there is nothing there in the real room and the character must react based on their reflections (give the monster Advantage to attack rolls). 
  • Attacking the wall to hit the creature is a terrible idea: each hit against the wall (AC 10) cracks it and a lot of crystals shards explode from it, dealing automatic 1d6 damage to all characters in a 5 feet range (no save, although if someone is really careful and is maybe using a shield give them a Refl/Dex/Luck/whatever chance to suffer half damage… maybe a better idea is using a reach weapon). Remember, hitting the wall is not enough, to “hurt” the creature you must hit its reflection and overcome its AC (i.e. a stone golem’s AC).
  • At any time, any character can cover the source of light in the middle of the room. This covers the place in darkness, effectively “stops” the guardians, giving the characters a chance to rest, talk and plan. Unfortunately, it also “resets” the guardian’s hit points. The encounter literally starts again.
  • There is (the reflection of) an ice-like door behind the monster. It can be opened by the character’s reflection. This is really weird, because the reflections can affect the door but the real characters don’t feel a thing. In game terms, to open the door the party must rol 3 successful Dexterity/Agility or Intelligence checks (standard difficulty). Two characters can cooperate to get it faster. Yes, the guardian will try to stop them. After the door is opened, any character can “cross it” if they close their eyes and jump through in the mirror wall.
  • Breaking the mirror wall where the door is could be another option. Give that section of the wall a total of 20 hit points and let the party smash hit (remember that each hit deals 1d6 damage to all characters in a 5 feet burst).
  • One crazy idea to defeat the eyeless ogre (if the Judge want of course) is if the party is carrying any small mirror with them. If they catch the ogre's reflection in the mirror (an Agility/Dex check?) and them smash that item, let them the ogre fall in the ground in pain for 1 full round, filled with cracks, and remove  1/2 or 1/4 of its total hit points.
  • [OPTIONAL] There is some loot in the ground. Place a jewel or gem. Also one weapon of your choice. The catch? They’re just reflections. To get the items the character must succeed at a Agility/Dexterity check (maybe with Disadvantage). Using the weapon in the room always has Disadvantage (remember, there is nothing in the character’s real hands). If you’re feeling lucky maybe the weapon is magical and can hurt the eyeless ogre. If the party manages to leave the room they can take the loot with them. What does the weapon do? Well, maybe it is a +1 magical weapon that is in fact invisible and can only be seen in reflections (out of the room, with a little bit of training, the character can wield the weapon without Disadvantage).
  • [OPTIONAL] Remember the source of light? It is a (very heavy) stone orb that shines. It can be lifted with a hard Strength check and carried out (the PC is probably with half Speed and without his Dex bonus to AC due to the weight). If carried outside the orb becomes a crystal ball (use your favorite crystal ball, if in doubt, just let a wizardly PC use it once per day to see, but not hear, someplace that he was before… with all the normal divination limitations of your campaign).

Monday, May 18, 2020

I BECOME THE VOID - my first spell for DCC RPG!

I'm currently having a blast with my first DCC RPG table. We returned to our first campaign (started in 2013!). Right now we're playing a heavily modified version of Intrigue at the Court of Chaos, pumped up to 3rd level and using a hack based on Godbound, so my players can feel what is like to be "special agents" for the Court of Chaos and (literally) sacking the Heavens. 

So, our Warlock just got his first familiar. My favorite rules for familiars these days are those that focus on the familiar's role in the adventure instead of keeping my time managing stats (good examples are the familiar rules for 13th Age and Trailblazer). For this DCC RPG I'm using Goblin Punch's awesome faustian familiar rules. Rolling on Arnold's crazy tables we discovered that the Warlock's familiar main goal is "destruction of the self through dissolution, dissociative drugs, anomie, and constant exposure to danger". When I got that result I instantly thought about Kill Six Billion Demons' great black flame devils. So I proposed such demon as the familiar and the player loved it. After one game session, the Warlock was already negotiating with his familiar for a new spell and decided to offer some that is more in line with the spirit's agenda. The result is below. No, this spell is not playtested (and it is my first DCC RPG spell! Yey!) and I'm still waiting to see how it goes on the table. I hope you like it!

Wizard/Elf Level: 2         
Range: Varies
Duration: Varies
Casting Time: Varies
Save: Will

General: This dangerous dweomer, offered by the Demons of the Black Flame, allows the caster to briefly cease her own existence for a brief period. By carefully manipulating the Void the caster can affect other targets.

Playing with the Void is not safe and there is always the chance that a part of the caster is lost forever. Many just disappear forever. There is some debate if Demons of the Black Flames are former casters of this spell. This is represented by the Void Number. When you first learn this spell, choose a number between 2 and 19. This becomes your Void Number. See below for more information.

If you succeed in your spellcasting roll, you can always choose a lower result.

Manifestation: Roll 1d4. (1) The caster’s eye becomes orbs of darkness and dark stars. (2) Light and sound dims, with temperature around the caster dropping suddenly. Everyone’s ear pops as if from the lack of pressure (no damage). (3) Ghostly blue flames leave the caster’s mouth and dance around him. (4) The caster flicks in and out of existence while casting.

Corruption: Roll 1d7. (1) The caster’s skin become deadly cold and covered in frost. When the caster moves it constantly cracks as if frozen. (2) The caster’s eyes are replaced by empty sockets from which blue flames sometimes flicker. (3) Gravity is just wrong around the caster. His clothes and hair sometimes float to unseen winds and small objects are constantly ejected from him. (4) Caster’s grows black veins around hands and feet, and small vestigial claws. Caster can now be wounded by holy water and turned as a demon. (5) Caster pops in and out of reality when nervous, constantly letting any hand item or weapon to fall. (6) Caster will slowly levitate up unless chained with something heavy to the ground. (7) major.

Misfire: Roll 1d4. (1) Caster falls prone in pain after being destroyed and recreated. Select an additional Void Number. (2) Caster comes back wrong from the Void, reroll his Agility or Stamina using 2d6. This represents a stunted demonic arm or leg. (3) Caster opens a rift to the Void, suffering 2d4 points of damage. The caster and everyone at 30 ft. must roll Refl save (DC 15) or they will be caught by the rift and suffer 2d4 points of damage. (4) The caster starts ingleak magic to the Void. For the next 1d4 hours all his spellcasting requires 1d6 points of spellburn.


1 Lost, failure, and worse! Roll 1d6 modified by Luck: (0 or less) corruption + patron taint + misfire; (1-3) corruption; (4) patron taint (or corruption if no patron); (5+) misfire.
2-11 Lost. Failure.
12-13 Failure, but spell is not lost.  
14-15 You cease to exist for 1d3 rounds. You can cast this spell as a reaction to an attack (to completely evade it).
16-19 You cease to exist for 1d6 minutes or you can make a touched target cease to exist for 1d6 rounds (Will negates). This last option cost you an action. The target can make a new Will save to try to return every round.
20-21 You or a touched target cease to exist for 1d6 hours (Will negates). This level of the spell always requires an action. The target can make a new Will save to try to return every hour. When you return, any spell with a duration affecting you is cancelled. Roll a Fort save and a Will save (both DC 20). If you succeed at the Fort save you heal 2d4 of damage but the healed wounds look strange (black veins, white cold scars etc.). If you succeed at the Will save you recover 1d2 Luck points but a white cold and harmless flame follows your head for the next 1d3 days, shinning as a torch and bringing unwanted attention.
22-25 You or a touched target cease to exist for 2d6 hours and this level of the spell always requires an action (Will negates). The target can make a new Will save to try to return every hour. When you return, roll a Fort save and a Will save (both DC 15). If you succeed at the Fort save you heal 4d4 of damage but the healed wounds look wrong (black veins, white cold scars etc.). If you succeed at the Will save you recover 1d3 Luck points or remove a minor curse, but you return with a mask covering your face. You must keep the mask for 7 days and 7 nights, never letting it be removed or you will be dragged back to the Void for 1d6 hours (and must roll just to see if a Void Number comes up).
26-29 You or a target on sight cease to exist for 1d4 days and this level of the spell always requires an action (Will negates). When you return, roll a Fort save and a Will save (both DC 15). If you succeed at the Fort save you heal 6d4 of damage but the healed wounds look wrong (black veins, white cold scars etc.) or you regenerate a lost member (but it looks inhuman). If you succeed at the Will save you recover 1d4 Luck points or remove a middle curse, but you're faceless. Your face is now a flat void, as if your skull was empty (your senses and voice are the same). You remain thus for 7 days and 7 nights. Every time someone uncovers your face you lose 1 Luck (usually 1 per minute if exposed). 
30-31 As above, but everyone who saw your disappear must roll a Will save or forget that you were there (if it is the first time they saw, they usually completely forget about you). Also, if not cast on you, you can now choose 1d3 targets.
32-33 As above, but choose 2d3 targets. Any target sent to the Void must roll a second Will save when their time of return comes. If they fail, they never return.
34+ As an action you can cease to exist. No one remember your deeds, which remain a mystery. Nor even the gods can reach you. You become the Void. If that sublime fate is not your goal, choose one target one sight to become the Void (Will negates). If the target fails the save they disappear forever. Select one action made by the target. That action never happened and its consequences are undone (Judge's call, but usually this can be used to "undone", for example, that one strike that killed a member of the party). Every time this result is cast, the caster must select a new Void number.

Void Number (between 2 and 19). If you roll that number on the die the Void takes something from you. The first time it take something minor, like the color of your eyes (you might also lose the capacity to see that color or just your eye sockets) or your hair might now be white and float to the winds of the Void, or you might lose your voice (just whispers) or emotions (if your emotion left is humor, you might laugh when said or angry). The second time, it takes your Name (no coming back from the dead), Alignment (roll another one) or even one of your deeds (chose a previous adventure, you didn't take part on it... you still remember it, but reality rewrites itself and another adventurer accomplished your deeds). The third time, you disappear, one with the glorious Void.

A wizard playing with the Void.