Monday, November 7, 2016

Rumors about Froghemoths

Just thought I'd come up with some ideas for everyone's favorite giant three-eyed alien monsters. Roll a dice or whatever to find out which ones are true.


  1. Froghemoths are actually sapient on their native world, but the chemical composition of this world's atmosphere is a neurotoxin to them that gives adults brain damage and stunts the mental development of the young. No froghemoth on this world has ever died of old age, only the accumulated effects of these poisonous gases in their system, which build up over the years like heavy metal poisoning.
  2. Froghemoths neither lay eggs nor birth live young but reproduce by budding a new froghemoth at the back of their throat, which they vomit forth when it is developed enough to survive. A gravid froghemoth cannot swallow, and the process takes the better part of three years, which is why they are so ravenous the rest of the time
  3. Froghemoths are artificial life-forms, created to be piloted by gnome-sized mechanical creatures-- in essence, they are reverse mechas. Their strange and aggressive behavior is due to their AI going haywire if left on autopilot too long.
  4. Froghemoth proteins have reverse chirality to the creatures of this world-- their flesh is indigestible and provides almost no nutritional value. Roast froghemoth tentacle is a popular solution for rich adventurers and nobles trying to lose weight. This also means they are dependent on food from their own world or magically-created food.
  5. Some think that Froghemoths howl at the moon, but that's a misconception. They howl in despair and confusion at finding that this planet has three moons fewer than they expect to see in the sky.
  6. Froghemoths are to Bullywugs what Father Dagon is to the Deep Scum.
  7. Froghemoth eyes make excellent scrying devices, but all three must be used by identical triplets for them to be at their most effective.
  8. Froghemoths are actually more closely related to our horses than to our frogs.
  9. The moisture in a froghemoth's body is mostly oil rather than water-- anywhere you find one there are surely petroleum deposits nearby that it has been drinking from.
  10. Froghemoths cannot digest brains, they store them in an internal pouch that eventually links each brain to their nervous system. While this does little for their intelligence (as the brains function too fundamentally differently), it does improve their reflexes and reaction times. Illithids sometimes tame froghemoths to use as shock cavalry as humans might tame elephants, and at the end of a long career, the froghemoth will be slaughtered and the aged brains feasted upon-- most illithids consider them an acquired taste and enjoying them to be a mark of fine breeding.
  11. Froghemoths make for natural alchemical plants-- various bodily fluids, hormones, and secretions in their bodies can be distilled to form a wide variety of useful potions.
  12. Froghemoths have no bones, they're supported by a system of muscular and cartilaginous rings like the squids in The Future Is Wild-- and in fact, their skin is as fragile as rice paper; their natural armor comes almost entirely from the toughness of these rings.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Shameless reblogging

Those of you who are my longtime readers (what few of you may be left...) know that one of my perpetual bugbears (as opposed to actual bugbears, of which I am quite fond) has been the archetype and role of the cleric in a setting. And while I'm not alone in this, it's always nice to get a little reminder that others think about it a lot too, as Anders has over at Mythlands-Erce. Go give his post some love.

I'm still not quite up to blogging regularly, but I do have some things that, I hope, will be ready for primetime that I can share soon. Maybe that will be the start I need for further work in the near future.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

In which I take a crack at 5e Hengeyokai

Okay, I haven't done the 5e-style flavor text yet, but I probably will at some point, I just wanted to knock out a draft of this and get the mechanics ready before I did any of that stuff. But the plan is to make a nice pretty PDF and I'll have the fluff ready then.

Hengeyokai Traits

Ability Score Increase: The ability score that is highest in your species increases by 2 in your humanoid and hybrid forms. Treat the intelligence score of your species as if it were 10 higher than it actually is for the purposes of this trait. In the event that two or more scores are tied for highest, you may choose which one to increase.
Age: Hengeyokai mature at about the same rate as humans, reaching adulthood in their late teens. They live slightly longer than do humans, usually around 100 years.
Alignment: Free-spirited, even capricious, and playful, hengeyokai tend to be of chaotic alignment.
Size: In their humanoid or hybrid form Hengeyokai are about the size of humans. In their animal form, Hengeyokai are the normal size for an animal of their species.
Speed: In humanoid and hybrid form, your base walking speed is 30 feet. In animal form you have whatever speed is appropriate to your species.
Shapechanging: Hengeyokai can change their shape among three possible forms. Your natural form is that of a beast of CR 0, but as an action you may assume an anthropomorphic "hybrid" form or a humanoid form that resembles a human with features reminiscent of its animal form. Your human features are always the same unique individual, as are your features in both hybrid and animal forms. You may change shape a number of times per day equal to your level. While you are transformed, the following rules apply:
  • While in animal form, your game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the beast, but you retain your alignment, personality, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. You also retain ali of your skill and saving throw proficiencies, in addition to gaining those of the creature. If the creature has the same proficiency as you and the bonus in its stat block is higher than yours, use the creature's bonus instead of yours. If the creature has any legendary or lair actions, you can't use them.
  • In hybrid form, you have darkvision if your animal form would. If your animal form has the Amphibious, Keen Hearing, Keen Smell, Keen Sight, or Water Breathing traits, your hybrid form does as well.
  • When you transform, you retain your own hit points and Hit Dice.
  • While in your animal form you can't cast spells, and your ability to speak or take any action that requires hands is limited to the capabilities of your beast form. You may, however, communicate with animals of your species (or closely related ones as defined by the DM.) Transforming doesn't break your concentration on a spell you've already cast, however, or prevent you from taking actions that are part of a spell, such as call Lightning, that you've already cast. While in your hybrid form, you may speak normally and cast spells, but you retain the ability to communicate with animals.
  • You retain the benefit of any features from your class or other sources and can use them if the new form is physically capable of doing so.
  • You choose whether your equipment falls to the ground in your space, merges into your new form, or is worn by it. Worn equipment functions as normal, but the DM decides whether it is practical for the new form to wear a piece of equipment, based on the creature's shape and size. Your equipment doesn't change size or shape to match the new form, and any equipment that the new form can't wear must either fall to the ground or merge with it. Equipment that merges with the form has no effect until you leave the form.

Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Sylvan. Additionally, when in hybrid or animal form, you may communicate with animals of your species (or closely related species as defined by the DM.)

Hengeyokai most frequently take the forms of the following animals, as well as the badger, cat, crab, rat, and weasel. Other hengeyokai may be found, but are more unusual.

Carp
Tiny beast, unaligned
Armor Class: 11
Hit Points: 1 (1d4 - 1)
Speed: 0 ft., swim 30ft.
STR: 1 (- 5)
DEX: 12 (+1)
CON: 8 (-1)
INT: 1 (- 5)
WIS: 10 (+0)
CHA: 2 (-4)

Senses: Passive Perception: 10
Languages: -
Challenge: 0 (0 XP)
Water Breathing: The carp can breathe only underwater

Crane
Medium beast, unaligned
Armor Class: 11
Hit Points: 4 (1d8 + 0)
Speed: 10ft., fly 50 ft.
STR: 7 (- 2)
DEX: 13 (+1)
CON: 10 (+0)
INT: 2 (- 4)
WIS: 12 (+1)
CHA: 4 (-3)

Skills: Perception +3
Senses: Passive Perception: 13
Languages: -
Challenge: 0 (10 XP)

ACTIONS
Beak: Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1 (1d4-1) piercing damage.

Dog
Small beast, unaligned
Armor Class: 12
Hit Points: 5 (1d6 + 2)
Speed: 40ft.
STR: 8 (-1)
DEX: 11 (+0)
CON: 14 (+2)
INT: 3 (-4)
WIS: 12 (+1)
CHA: 6 (- 2)

Skills: Perception: +3
Senses: Passive Perception: 13
Languages: -
Challenge: 0 (10 XP)
Keen Hearing and Smell: The dog has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.

ACTIONS
Bite: Melee Weapon Attack:+ 1 to hit, reach 5 ft. , one target. Hit: 1 (1d4- 1) piercing damage.

Fox
Tiny beast, unaligned
Armor Class: 12
Hit Points: 2 (1d4)
Speed: 40ft., climb 30ft.
STR: 3 (-4)
DEX: 15 (+2)
CON: 10 (+0)
INT: 3 (-4)
WIS: 12 (+1)
CHA: 7 (-2)

Skills: Perception: +3, Stealth: +4
Senses: Passive Perception: 13
Languages: -
Challenge: 0 (10 XP)
Keen Hearing and Smell: The fox has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.

ACTIONS
Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +0 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1 piercing damage.

Monkey
Tiny beast, unaligned
Armor Class: 12
Hit Points: 2 (1d4)
Speed: 30ft., climb 30ft.
STR: 6 (-2)
DEX: 14 (+2)
CON: 11 (+0)
INT: 6 (-2)
WIS: 12 (+1)
CHA: 6 (-2)

Senses: Passive Perception: 11
Languages: -
Challenge: 0 (10 XP)

ACTIONS
Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +1 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1 piercing damage.

Rabbit
Tiny beast, unaligned
Armor Class: 13
Hit Points: 1 (1d4- 1)
Speed: 40ft.
STR: 3 (-4)
DEX: 16 (+3)
CON: 8 (-1)
INT: 2 (-4)
WIS: 12 (+1)
CHA: 3 (-4)

Skills: Perception: +3 Stealth: +5
Senses: Passive Perception: 13
Languages: -
Challenge: 0 (10 XP)
Keen Hearing: The rabbit has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing.

ACTIONS
Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1 piercing damage.

Tanuki
Tiny beast, unaligned
Armor Class: 13
Hit Points: 1 (1d4- 1)
Speed: 40ft.
STR: 3 (-4)
DEX: 16 (+3)
CON: 8 (-1)
INT: 2 (-4)
WIS: 12 (+1)
CHA: 3 (-4)

Skills: Perception: +3, Stealth: +5
Senses: Passive Perception: 13
Languages: -
Challenge: 0 (10 XP)
Keen Hearing and Smell: The tanuki has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.

ACTIONS
Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1 piercing damage.

Sparrow
Tiny beast, unaligned
Armor Class: 13
Hit Points: 1 (1d4 - 1)
Speed: 10ft., fly 50 ft.
STR: 2 (-4)
DEX: 16 (+3)
CON: 8 (- 1)
INT: 2 (- 4)
WIS: 12 (+1 )
CHA: 6 (-2)

Skills: Perception: +3
Senses: Passive Perception: 13
Languages: -
Challenge: 0 (10 XP)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

More on Completionism

(Whoa, two posts in one month, when was the last time I pulled that off?)

I don't expect this will be a very lengthy post, just an addendum to what I had to say in February about feeling the need to have everything I  want present and accounted for. Much as this previously led me to spend a great deal of time and stress attempting to get the exact system I wanted, it also tends to haunt my creative process when it comes to creating settings or planning out adventures or campaigns. A place for everything and everything in its place is a fine ethos when it comes to tidying up the house, but when it comes to worldbuilding it is somewhat trickier-- it's fine to utilize it, but sometimes that place has to be well off from the path the adventure is likely to follow.

Let us take the Eberron campaign setting as an example, mainly because it consigns some very popular elements off to certain corners of the world, well away from the continent where most of the "main" action takes place. As obvious as it might seem, an Eberron campaign will probably not involve a lot of giants and dragons, unless one goes out of one's way to allow for trips to Xen'Drik and Argonessen. Something focused on the internal politics of the five nations doesn't generally need them-- and that's perfectly alright, more than that, it's something that one needs to learn and internalize to DM Eberron well. This does not only apply to published settings, of course-- it's okay for things to be out there in your campaign world that the players may never see, may never even hear directly about.

I guess what I'm getting at is that an important skill in GMing, and one I struggle to master, is restraint in the name of focus. This is important in general, but especially so when one is building from the bottom upwards-- a barony or province in the Tiny Bickering Fiefdoms does not need to contain the whole of your Monster Manual, just enough variety to keep things interesting. This is something that to the mind that has already internalized it seems obvious, but something I think it benefits us all to hear now and again.

Friday, May 8, 2015

In which a background is described: The Refugee

Refugee


You've seen the worst the world has to offer and survived. You lost your home, you lost almost all your possessions, and you probably lost somebody, or a lot of somebodies, along the way, too. What stayed behind? Who will you never see again? Something took your old life away from you, and that something has made you brave, crazy, or desperate enough to turn adventurer.


Skill proficiencies: Survival, Insight


Tool proficiencies: One vehicle or artisan's tool of your choice


Language proficiencies: One of your choice


Equipment: A moth-eaten blanket given in charity, a precious reminder of the home you've lost, a small knife, five GP you've suffered to scrimp together, and the clothes on your back


Ordeal: Something happened that caused a lot of people, including you, to be displaced. Choose a disaster or tragedy, or roll on the table below to define the trouble that plagued your homeland.



  1. Plague or epidemic 
  2. Famine/drought
  3. War, invasion, or civil war
  4. Natural disaster (hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunami, etc.)
  5. Supernatural disaster (Demons or undead overran the land, magical cataclysm destroyed/sank your homeland, the tarrasque awoke and devastated the kingdom, etc.)
  6. Political crisis or genocide


Feature: Object of pity

You've long since learned to give up pride if it means having food and a warm place to sleep. Provided you don't make yourself a threat or a nuisance, you can always find enough people moved by the story of your suffering to allow you to maintain lodgings and food of a meager or poor standard for you and your companions-- and maybe even a modest or comfortable standard for a night or two-- in exchange for minor tasks (for instance, help around the home for a generous peasant family, or attending religious services for a temple or mission.) In addition, as word gets out of your terrible ordeal, strangers in a place you've been living a while may show you a certain level of sympathy.

Personality

1) I never, ever let anything go to waste.
2) I've seen and done terrible things to stay alive. I don't want to talk about them.
3) My trust comes justifiably slowly but it is built to last.
4) Experiencing lean times has made me relish the good life all the more when I can get it.
5) I have no interest in thinking too much about my former life, it's all dead and in the past now.
6) Losing everything has strengthened my religious convictions.
7) I don't want to lose anyone else, I lost too many people already.
8) I still haven't cried, but I'm not ready to smile yet either.

Ideal

1) Nihilism: Chance will have its way with all of us, better to accept it and try to adapt than try to impose order where none exists. (Chaotic)
2) Faith: Even if I can't see it, there is some greater cosmic plan and what I've been through was a necessary step (Lawful)
3) Resentment: The world has been unfair to me, why should I be fair to anyone else? (Evil)
4) Drive: I've always had to struggle and fight, and it's made me strong. (Neutral)
5) Strength: I know what it's like to have no one else to depend on, therefore I will make sure I am someone on whom others can depend. (Good)
6) Hope: I saw the worst the world could show me and I survived. It can only get better for me from here. (Any)

Bond

1) I know that the one I love is still alive out there.
2) My mother was taken from me on that day, but I hope we will see each other again.
3) When I crossed the border and I was hungry, the farmer I met slaughtered his only pig to ensure that I would get the best meal he could provide me.
4) We never met before it all happened, but escaping together made me and another survivor as close as family.
5) Exhausted and on the edge of death, I met an itinerant priest who rescued me and helped me make it across the border. One day I'll repay him for saving my life.
6) So far as I know, only one other member of my family made it out. We're all each other has now.

Flaw

1) I hold the world responsible for not doing more to save us.
2) What happened was a terrible tragedy... and I'm pretty sure we all know who were really responsible for it.
3) If you'd seen what I've seen, you'd never trust anybody either.
4) I used to be rich and powerful, maybe even a noble. I'm disgusted by myself and what I've been reduced to.
5) I may accept your charity, but I'll resent both you and myself for needing to.
6) I've turned to terrible vices to cover up my grief.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Completionism: Or how 5e's release schedule saved my life

I'm something of an obsessive-compulsive when it comes to D&D-- I want the game to feel complete, like nothing is missing or unaccounted for, like it's all thought through.

Sometimes this works for me. Sometimes it compels me to pull at threads and I get a fun, insightful article that gives me (and hopefully you) a greater appreciation for the game, or an interesting new way of handling things. Other times it just causes a lot of trouble and stress for me as suddenly it occurs to me that I overlooked something, and now its absence gnaws at me and leaves me dissatisfied.

This, as a matter of fact, is why I haven't really followed the OSR too closely since my big hiatus. I spent long nights cribbing from every blog post, retroclone, zine, and supplement out there-- and occasionally from the WOTC editions that formed the bulk of my background-- until I lost sight of the simplicity and fun of the game and developed a veritable Frankenstein's monster of house rules, custom classes, and edge cases, every bit as bulky and inaccessible as late-period 3.5 or tax law.

Enter 5th edition. A new D&D, compatible enough to be familiar, or even to reuse old material when necessary, but different enough from TSR!D&D to not allow for direct porting, containing very nearly everything I expect D&D to include in its toolkit, it gave me an opportunity to cast off all the cruft I let myself accumulate-- the cruft I would have had to make a significant effort to stop myself accumulating. It was a breath of fresh air.

There was, during the fall, an expectation that this Elemental Evil/Princes of the Apocalypse campaign they're now preparing to launch would include a supplement, an "Adventurer's Handbook." Whether this was the actual plan and they changed their minds or the whole thing was just misguided speculation isn't for me to know, but either way there's no Adventuer's Handbook planned, either for Elemental Evil or for any future offerings, and there never will be. For the foreseeable future, 5e is just those three books.

Of course there will in all likelihood be new options for Elemental Evil, in all likelihood released through the web (and the monthly Unearthed Arcana column as well, of course.) But the ethos of 5e has so far been very-core focused, so I expect they will not be too many or too sweeping and I also expect they will be treated in a more optional fashion than supplemental rules have been in the past. As such I do not feel the same pressure to keep up with them as I did when I played 3.x and 4e. And furthermore since I feel like I don't have anything vital to my conception of D&D missing, only things I might like, I don't feel the same pressure to incorporate additional options that fell outside of the traditional OSR purview that I felt from about 2011 onwards.

For the first time in a long time, I don't feel like I'm having to extensively kitbash or run the Red Queen's race to get the game I need. Instead, I have everything I need and am being presented with an occasional spate of extras if the mood should strike me.

Now if only I can start feeling ready to accept a little vagueness when I'm worldbuilding...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Great Karameikos Campaign

Over at RPGnet, the inestimably clever Blacky the Blackball and NPCDave have been doing a retrospective of each Mystara/Known World setting product in turn. Reading it has helped me to gain a new appreciation for a setting I've traditionally been somewhat ambivalent about. Today Dave posted the writeup for the AD&D2e Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure box set, largely focusing (logically, since obviously much of the rest of the information is similar) on the changes that did-- and occasionally inexplicably didn't-- happen during the 12 in-setting years that passed between Karameikos's previous iteration in the GAZ series. There's actually quite a bit, from Karameikos seceding from Thyatis to the disappearance of Alphatia. Either way, it was eventful enough, as were some of his remarks on the smaller details of the setting that seemingly stagnated during that time, that it got my mind moving a little.



One of the most beloved RPG supplements of all time is Pendragon's The Great Pendragon Campaign, a massive volume largely concerned with detailing the events of the 8 decades between Uther's rise to power and the end of Camelot. The sense of grand, sweeping, momentous history happening with the players right in the thick of events is a big reason why the Campaign is so beloved. Although not quite as grand, either in scope or in scale, as the entirety of the Matter of Britain, those dozen years offer no shortage of interesting times. Why, indeed, could one not create a similar detailed project about Karameikos, perhaps taking more or less inspiration from some of the BECMI modules set in the region?

I dunno, just something I've been thinking about the last few hours. Maybe it'll go somewhere. Maybe not. I should probably take this to the Piazza or Vaults of Pandius or something, surely it'll either fire the imaginations of the community or drag out the obsessive lore-experts to shout me down and point out exactly how and why it's utterly misbegotten.