Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Silent People Class for DCC RPG (Empire of the East)

I discovered a lot of novels and literature through RPGs (heck, my first book - The Hobbit - was a direct result of buying D&D Black Box). So, thanks to DCC RPG Empire of the East I found Fred Saberhagen’s amazing trilogy. Because I hate spoilers, I avoided the gnawing temptation of reading DCC RPG Empire of the East until I could finish all the books and (like Black Company some 20 years before) that was the best thing I did. It is really a lot more interesting to approach an RPG after reading the source material.

This post is a direct consequence of that: the first thing that I looked for when I opened the DCC RPG adaptation was the Silent People class. It was not there! Where is my awesome owl-folk class? OK, time to make one!

Please bear in mind that this is my version of the Silent People, considering not only the Changeling Earth setting but the entire lovable mashup that is DCC RPG, D&D and d20 Fantasy in general (yes, I want to use this class together with Dwarves, Elves and Halflings).

As everything else that I post here this class is not playtested (and it is longer than I currently want for a DCC RPG), but I hope you can enjoy it.


You’re one of the Silent People or Owl-Folk, a mysterious species of night predators that fly almost invisibly during the night. Few can see better in the darkness than you

Hit Dice: d6. You can fly but you have a fragile frame.

Attack: as a Thief of the same level.

Critical Hits: as a Halfling of the same level.

Saves: as Thief, but the second best save is Will, not Fort.

Feathers and Claws: Silent People are not trained in the use of any weapon and cannot fly while using any armor (AC 10). Their feet are clawed and can be used as natural weapons, dealing d6 of damage. Silent People that are flying can attack with both claws as Halflings with two weapons.

Owl Head: Silent People are very hard to surprise because they can turn their head to see what is happening behind them. Silent Owl can roll a free Luck check to avoid being surprised or backstabbed.

Owl Sight: you can see in the dark and that is not infravision. You shouldn’t be able to see in magical darkness. You also see farther than most humanoids. If a flying Silent People spend one round “aiming” at a target before diving they gain a +1 die step for the attack roll.

Light Sensitivity: a torch in your face will leave you blind for 1d4 rounds (a Reflex save might be in order). If you stay a few feet away and avoid staring at flames you will be fine (but without the benefits of Owl Sight). Sunlight leaves you completely blind.

On Owls & Goggles

A character that can’t see in bright daylight might be a pain in the ass, so the Judge should allow Silent People to have a special black goggle that they can use during the day. The google gives them normal vision to 30 ft. If you are using the Changeling Earth those goggles could be rare artefacts from the Ancient Ones.

Silent Wings: I’ll try to be simple here. You can fly with a Speed 60 bearing a light load. Anything heavier than and you’re toast. Theoretically you can glide while carrying something as heavy as you (a small or medium humanoid). To keep things simple, you can say that a Silent People need at least 3 feet of free space around them to fly. They can hover. That means that in a 6 feet tall and 9 feet wide tunnel or dungeon they could fly instead of walk (although a Judge is entitled to ask for a few Agility checks in such tight spots and Stamina checks after a while as flying in such places is tiring). Even in places where a Silent People shouldn’t be able to fly, they should be at least capable of jumping really high or gliding.

While flying, the Silent People gain a special bonus to stealth, as a Halfling of the same level. They can fly silent and quietly. If in darkness they are almost invisible. If you’re flying and attack, hitting an unaware target, that is an automatic critical hit (like a Thief’s backstab).

Scalebane!: Your favorite dinner is a leatherwing, a loathsome and (slightly) intelligent flying reptile. What few are aware is that actually Silent People are enemies of all Scalefolk creatures. Against such creatures you gain a +d3 Vengeance Die on all your attacks. This works exactly like a 1st level Warrior’s Mighty Deed of Arms. Your Vengeance Die increases to a d4 at 5th level and d6 ath 9th level. Silent People add their Luck modifier to damage rolls in these attacks (if that is a negative modifier, they can still choose to add it as positive bonus to damage rolls, but the negative Luck means that the Silent People have such a deep hate that they must ALWAYS attack enemies on sight, never retreating, unless restrained).

I hate Favorite Enemies!

This trait was based - of course! - in the Changeling Earth setting. However, I usually don’t like “Favored Enemy” traits because if that creature doesn’t show up in an adventure that ability is useless. So, if not playing in the Changeling Earth, feel free to ignore it or change it to something different. An option would be to change the name to “Natural Predator” and give the Vengeance Die against any humanoid enemy (with the creepy implications that Silent People here enjoy man-flesh). Humanoids are usually common enough to keep this trait useful.


Silent People Occupations for Funnel!

If you want to start a Funnel as a Silent People, you have +0 to attacks and saves, 1d4 hit points like everyone else and the traits Feathers & Claws (d4 damage, just one attack), Owl Head, Owl Sight and Light Sensitivity (no googles!). Plus, you get a special item/trait (roll a d6):

1 – Younglings Keeper. You are entrusted with 1d3 Silent People eggs. If you survive the Funnel and keep the eggs intact, you have that many Hirelings to work for you at 1st level. The eggs are light but very delicate, so roll Luck after every crazy action you attempt while carrying the eggs (and you can’t carry anything else!) or they are kaput!

2 – Hunter. You’re good at getting food in the wilds. You start with fresh meat for 1d4 days (don’t ask where that meat came from). At the beginning of every game session, if possible (roll Luck) you start with food for 1d4 days (for one person!).

3 – Watcher. Light sleeper. You get a Luck check even while sleeping to awake up and let everyone one that “WE ARE BEING ATTACKED!”.

4 – Loner. You don’t get along with your kind, but you know a lot about humanoids. You get a Luck check to know enough about any humanoid language if you can her them speak for one night. This is enough to communicate basic stuff (like “We surrender!” but not “Where is the closest library?”).

5 – Heretic. You love the sun and the light! You get a Luck check to avoid the effects of a torch or sunlight for 1d4 rounds. All other Silent People hate you.

6 – Scavenger. The Judge should roll twice on the Occupations table (or any other table, check those Kender tables from Dragonlance if you are old enough). You start the game session with the trade goods rolled. You filthy thief!  

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Tree-Man, a new class for DCC RPG

I’ve finally finished the Empire of the East trilogy, thanks to the DCC supplement. However, before that I had finished (re)(re)reading the Lord of the Rings. It is kind of a ritual for me to go back to Tolkien every few years. It is always an enjoyable and refreshing reading, giving me tons of ideas (this was also the first time I read the original, before that I only read the – very well done – Portuguese translations). Oddly enough, this last time I got ideas for DCC RPG campaigns, where “you are no hero”. I hope to develop it more and here is a first sample.

The Tree-Man

You are a walking and talking humanoid shaped tree! Maybe you should not have eaten that magic mushroom during the Funnel, or maybe you are in fact the remnant of an Elder Race.

[You are all grown-ups and know what an Ent (or Treant) is, so I will leave the fluff to you. Here are the mechanics, based mostly on Ents as I see them; although I could also hack a Mushroom-Man for my Purple Planet campaign easily with this stuff.]


Hit Dice: 2d6. These guys are tough.

Attack Bonus: +1/level. Your Crit Die is like an Elf but you roll on the Monster table.

Saves: as a Dwarf.

Language: you can speak with normal plants. That takes really a long time and normal plants usually don’t pay attention to much, but they certainly remember things that hurt them.

Let us not be hasty: your Speed is 20 feet, fumble dice d12, and your Initiative is always a d10. The good news is that any forest or similar terrain do not hinder you.

Barkskin: your natural AC is 14. You cannot use armor. Reduce any damage from fire or axe by your Luck modifier (minimum 1). If you have a negative Luck modifier, you bark is old and dry (or maybe weak and scarred) and you suffer extra damage from fire or axe attacks equal to your negative Luck modifier.

Wooden Fist: you are always considered armed and do 1d6 with your fists. You are not trained with any weapon.

Strong Roots: Tree-Man do not bleed and are very resilient. Unless you were brought down to 0 or less hit points by fire damage (or something like disintegration) you ALWAYS succeed at the Roll the Body check. Also, you have a +1 bonus per level to any Strength check.

Water and Light: you do not need to eat and can go just fine with water and sunlight (if you spent a lot of time in the underworld the Judge is welcomed to decide if water is enough). You don’t need to breath, not like a humanoid, and usually can stay underwater or in the void for a few hours.

Tree Knacks: roll once per level (start with a d10 and reduce the die to roll for high level stuff).

1 – Axe-shatter: your bark is tick and strong. Your AC 18 and when you are hit you can suffer 1 Agility damage to destroy the weapon used to attack you (if not magical) or to leave it stuck in your bark (if magical or a natural weapon). Hitting stuck enemies is usually easier for you.

2 – Many-branched: you have more than two arms. In combat you have an extra d16 Action Die for attacks. Outside of combat you have 1d3 extra arms that can be used to carry stuff (or halflings).

3 – Living Wood: you can send your roots to entangle or trip foes (like the entangle spell), stretch your arms or even grow fruits that can heal 1d4 allies (healing 1HD of each). Basically, you can invent stunts like Groot. Each of these stunts must be approved by the Judge, takes some time, normally can’t be used in combat. Each stunt deals 1d4 Stamina damage (2d4 if you are hurry or in combat).

4 – Rock Thrower. You can throw f***ing big rocks! Thrown rocks deal at least d8. Each time your thrown a rock you can focus on smashing one target (bonus damage equal to your level) or getting 1d3 extra targets (if they are close). It is also great for storming castles and sinking small ships.

5 – Stone-bane. Given enough time your finger can work like roots but breaking in mere minutes what a normal tree would take centuries. You can destroy normal wood, stone or even metal (but not stuff like adamantine and such). Basically, you can destroy castle gates or even dig through a wall in a few minutes. You can also use this to climb any surface that you can break. If the material is really strong this might hurt you (Stamina or hit point damage).

6 – Language of Birds and Beasts: you turn/control plants and animals like a cleric of the same level (but not destroy or damage them). You can speak with any natural beast or monster.

7 – Just a tree. You can become a normal tree. This will fool anyone not using very specific magic to see you (in a forest even that might not be possible). While in this form you still pay attention to your surroundings and your need for water and sunlight are greatly diminished. You do not age or sleep like a normal creature. Yes, you can use this to be the (almost) perfect sentinel. Changing to tree form and reassuming you form takes 1d6 rounds.

8 – Huorn: Your hate runs deep. Your unarmed attack deals d8 and you roll critical hits on the Giant table of the core book.

9 – Treerage: You have a trigger for fire, axes, orcs and things like that. When faced with those triggers you can choose to rage or flee. If you flee you disengage from combat without suffering an attack and must run with a speed of 40 feet for to 1 turn (10 minutes). If you rage you must ALWAYS attack the source of your rage until it is destroyed, and you receive a +1 die step bonus for all attacks and damage rolls. Nice Judged can allow you a Will save DC 15 to break the rage. Be warned, you can’t distinguish between allies and foes (let the fireball-throw wizard know beforehand).

10 – The Last March of the Ents (disregard this one if you are not going full Tolkien, just re-roll or let the player choose): your Luck stat now is renamed Doom and cannot be diminished unless you burn it. Once burned it only increases back with you level up (1 point per level, until your original maximum). You can burn 1 Doom to gain an attack (roll 2d10 for the attack) or to ignore one damage roll made against you (even after rolling a save). You can burn 1 Doom to awaken a normal tree as a very angry huorn (treat it as fanatical follower with half your total hit points, same AC and saves, attack equal to your level, damage d6 plus your level). The huorn will serve you until dismissed or destroyed. It will kill humanoid creatures unless you specifically instruct it NOT to kill THAT creature. In the darkness/night, a huorn can move silently (d20 + level to sneak and hide). Huorns are very fast and have a speed of 40 feet. Once your burn you last Doom point, you either sleep becoming a tree or you become a mad raging huorn that WILL KILL everything on sight (restore your hit points to full). After that, there is no coming back.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

My updated Berserker for DCC RPG

Some years ago I designed a Berserker class for DCC RPG (you can find a slightly revised version in the 2018 Gongfarmer Almanac).

Unlike my other classes, I finally managed to playtest it a lot in my DCC RPG home campaign, which has been running more or less steadily since 2013. The thing is, in hindsight, I was too much influenced by more mechanic-heavy games. There is just too much stuff going on with the original Berserker. For games like Pathfinder and 13th Age that is neat, but not for DCC RPG.

I'm trying to keep my DCC RPG running light and simple these days, so I changed the Berserker. That also gave me ideas regarding other DCC RPG classes that I've been tinkering with (I'll try to post them soon, especially a much delayed martial artist... the original version was absurdly complex and required the player to distribute points between attack, defense and damage EVERY round... that is a no-fun for me these days in DCC RPG).

With the help of the Berserker player (thank you Leozílio!) here is the version we're currently using. Hopefully it is better than the previous one and more fun at the table.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Using Colonial Brazil for your Hexcrawl OSR

Let’s talk about how you can use Colonial Brazil as a template for your OSR hexcrawl campaigns. No, I’m not talking specifically about history, but on how some of the general concepts behind Colonial Brazil can help. Long story short, Brazil was colonized at first just as a way to enrich the Old World by extracting all the natural resources and goods they could get their hands on. That also included slavery and when the natives wouldn’t “cooperate”, a massive traffic of slaves was brought from Africa to brazilian shores. The first brazilian colonizers were mostly explorers, mercenaries and criminals. In fact, it was typical to leave convicted criminals at unknown shores and if they managed to survive when the ships returned they could even be pardoned (you will find more stuff here) - and yes that is a great hook for a game.

I believe Colonial Brazil can be an awesome approach for a different hexcrawl or Points of Light campaign. Instead of civilization being a distant Great Kingdom or isolated villages, your only safe havens here are very specific points of the shores. EVERYTHING else is hostile and unknown wilderness. Only at the shores you can trade, rest and get access to special equipment (you can even tailor specific rules, maybe certain types of rest, training or item magic creation would only work at the fortified ports in the shores).

That said, it is obvious that you can play D&D by going into the wilderness and facing hostile monsters and humanoid tribes but - frankly - that is rather uninteresting so: apply a twist! Again, using Colonial Brazil as an example: Europeans believed that the had a sacred mission to conquer and convert (even through slavery and genocide) the natives; that the local tribes were savage and inferior. That was their propaganda and was, of course, bullshit. Show - don’t tell - that to your players. In the same way that Brazil had native civilizations (not savages) before colonization, do the same to your wilderness. Even better, fill it with orcs, bugbears, goblins and all other humanoid races from D&D that you love so much; but place them here as cultures, not as evil bags of humanoid-shaped HPs. I addressed something similar in another post. You can even make the character think that they will be facing “evil humanoids”, but let all that Monster Manual “flavor text” be fake propaganda from the Powers That Be in the Old World. After getting into the wilds, let them meet rich cultures, like those found in Brazil. Let the character decide if they want to take part in the genocide (and suffer the consequences) or if they want to take a stand. This can be especially interesting if you use the convict exiles approach mentioned before: one of the most famous and mysterious characters of Colonial Brazil was probably a convict, but he became a respected leader among the natives (check here, unfortunately the link is available only in Portuguese). Steal that idea! Make the character feel welcome among one of “monster” civilizations of your wilderness, and despised among the powers of “civilization”. Let that feeling sink in and see how they behave.

Another cool concept to steal from Colonial Brazil is the exploration aspect. Ok, Portugal used Brazilian land and slaves to plant vast amounts of sugarcane, a valuable good; however, that came later. Initial exploration was often of local plants and animals. The name of the country, according to some, came from the brazilwood, used for expensive red dye at the time. I would change that. What if brazilwood (or its equivalent in your campaign) was a potent magic component that could be used to increase the effect of spells? If you make it addictive to magic users that is a plus; maybe it has to be smoked to empower the spellcaster (which would be nice because tobacco came from the Americas and shamans among in Brazil used it in their rituals). I just would keep this “magical spice” as a vegetable resource, to keep things interesting (later Brazil would see a gold rush, but mines don’t encourage you to preserve the environment and so are less interesting at this point of the campaign).

OK, we have local “monsters” and a unique supernatural resource so lets steal another thing from Colonial Brazil: Bandeiras! Like other historical themes that we are working here we don’t want the “real” Bandeiras and their members - the Bandeirantes (whomever they were). Actually, probably the historical Bandeirantes were brutal slavers and killers… like pirates, samurai, cowboys, vikings, and other famous archetypes, Bandeirantes were later romanticized into “national” heroes. Who were the Bandeirantes? (Long version is here). Short version is that Bandeirantes (literally “Flag-carriers”) were members of huge expeditions that braved the wilds in search of riches (like the famous Mountain of Silver) and slaves. Now, history aside, the awesome thing about Bandeirantes is that they really were adventurers’ parties! Exactly like OSR parties: adventurers, followed by followers and tons of hirelings. Some served the powers of the Old World, others were independent or worked as mercenaries, but it is definitely hard for a D&D player to read about them and NOT think on a campaign (there is a reason the first Brazilian RPG based on Brazilian history and folklore was called Desafio dos Bandeirantes or The Bandeirantes’ Challenge). You can use all your favorite party tropes from D&D as an official and socially recognized part of society in Colonial Brazil (i.e. adventurer partie were common and had a social niche). You can even play with party x party rivalry (c’mon, the most dangerous monster in D&D is nothing like the Tarrasque, but actually a high-level party of NPCs).

My third RPG and still a great game!

Now, you have the three main elements that I wanted to share with you:

  • A vast “wilderness” full of “monsters”, with the powers of Civilization and Order holding small “Points of Light” at the shores.
  • Legends of riches and exotic goods in the depths of the wilderness, like our supernatural brazilwood (spell empowering drug) or maybe a huge megadungeon sitting above a mountain made of silver, gold, adamantine or whatever precious metal you want.
  • Organized (and probably rivals) parties of explorers sanctioned (or not) by the powers of Civilization.

I mentioned that you could use classic D&D monsters as strange and different cultures but you can move forward and use a setting just with dwarves, elves and other races from the Player’s Handbook (like this approach here). The “monsters” here are other humans, elves, dwarves etc. That would be a lot better to drive home some of the themes behind this theme (however, these days I believe that using all the humanoids is better, because it gives you A LOT of good options). Finally, you can do yourself a favor and do some research about the tribes that lived in Brazil at the time (the mythical and the historical), like:

  • A historical tribe whose warriors were so fierce and feared that they used to jump in the sea, drenched in animal blood, so that they could hunt sharks with spears!
  • Another tribe, with a rich religious culture, believed that each person had from 5 to 6 souls. And those souls could change daily or even be lost (like when you were sick).
  • A mythical third tribe that lived in caves and had bat wings!
  • The curupira, a forest spirit with backward feet who would lead raiders and those that disrespected the wilderness to other monsters dens.
  • A monster known as the mapinguari that acted, basically, as a bigger bugbear. The mapinguari would grapple a victim (like a character in a party) by surprise, and run while carrying the poor soul into the woods (while EATING him alive, I forgot to mention). Usually trying to follow or catch up with a mapinguari would leave most parties lost.
  • A type of epic monster known as the Earthshakers, of which only three survived. These ancient beings from a previous world have a vibe that mixes kaiju and Lovecraftian horrors in one place.
I love that art!

That is not even a tiny sample of the material that you can find. A good primer for gamers would be the outstanding The Elephant and Macaw Banner. Author Christopher Kastensmidt gives us an unlikely party of two adventurers in Colonial Brazil that adamantly refuses to employ slaves (one of them was actually a slave from Africa) and that travels in the wilderness to help people and battle monsters (real monsters!). The best part is that you have not only an awesome novel but also a great RPG recently made available in English (even if you don’t use the system, the bestiary and the art alone are more than worth the purchase). It is really a shame that Desafio dos Bandeirantes is out of print (and not available in English) as it had amazing ideas and concepts (like an african-based blacksmith magician known as the “Iron and Fire Sorcerer"... what a badass class).

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!