Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In which James Raggi verbally hands me my own ass

In a TheRPGsite thread about Lamentation of the Flame Princess's new adventure, Fuck for Satan, I took the opportunity to ask James Raggi
All respect, Jim, don't you think the title (and the habit of outrageous/provocative titles as a means of getting word of mouth/scaring off namby-pamby wimps like me) is a little... adolescent?
To which he replied:
Of course it is. 
...Well played, sir, well played. Really, though, I guess it's healthy of him to own it.

Discovering the Thunder Rift

So I read Thunder Rift for the first time tonight. On the whole I was pretty impressed. This is what, growing up, I always thought D&D settings would be mostly like, but they mostly weren't. Classic, compact, rife with hooks.

But I'm not without complaint-- it seems almost too tiny. I can't imagine based on the data given that there are more than a thousand humans or so in the entire region, which (if I estimated right) could be crossed in a matter of three or four days from north to south. I think if I was running it I'd multiply the size and the population significantly (with a few small villages scattered about accordingly). As it stands it feels at once too dense with monsters, and too small to explore. But that's a pretty easy fix. If I were running it, I'd also probably make it slightly easier to travel beyond the canyon (with at least a bare-bones outline of the surrounding territory). I have thoughts in place already... maybe the makings of a series of future posts?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Why do I like ACKS?

I don't hate domain play, but it's not my focus by a long shot. And let's not kid ourselves ACKS's forte is in domain play. Its AC system is... decidedly wonky. I've gotten used to it, but it took some doing. I don't care at all about realistic simulation-- for god's sake my second favorite edition of D&D is 4e (and 3.5 remains my least favorite)!

So what is it? What draws me to ACKS?

Is it the little tweaks? Things like the system of cleaving present in it, or the mage's repertoire and magical research stuff, the hijinks, the d20-based thief skills, or the list of poisons in the GM chapter? Is it Domains of War (which I've only got the free version of), which makes for a fun, effective battle minigame with more for tactics than the BECMI War Machine?

Partly, yeah.

Is it the proficiencies system, which does one of the best jobs of scratching the itch for feats and skills that my WOTC days imbued in me?

That's definitely a factor.

But I think I know what the number one reason is.

It's the classes. I'm absolutely a class slut. The more the merrier, in my book. And ACKS, between itself and the Player's companion, contains pretty much all my favorites. It has my favorite OSR ranger, my favorite bard anywhere, and a solid assassin, and that's just in the core book. The only one missing is the Warlord, and between the proficiencies available to the fighter and Thomas Weigel's excellent Aristocrat class, I'm more than taken care of. And should the mood strike me for a class that isn't already around, the Player's Companion explained the Autarchs' math well enough that it's the work of half an hour to bring my new class into the world. Ultimately that's the biggest factor in my choice.

A thought about magical treasures

Why is it that the only magic items you ever see around are things that are useful for adventuring? There never seems to be, for instance, any magically-animated paintings (ala Harry Potter), enchanted farm or craft tools, potions of fertility, or things like that. Maybe I should make a chart about it. In the meantime here's all the ideas I could think of int 20 minutes and I'd love to hear your suggestions if you're reading this.

  • Enchanted painting or tapestry: Figures seem to move on their own (possibly able to talk)
  • Book with living illustrations
  • Book that reads self aloud
  • Lens that reads other books around
  • Robe or dress with scintillating patterns
  • Robe or dress that changes color to match mood or environment
  • Robe or dress that seems to be lighter than air?
  • Cufflinks that fasten themselves
  • Vest that buttons itself/bodice that laces itself
  • Cloth or clothes that can't be ripped or stained
  • Potion of fertility
  • Potion of contraception
  • Potion of Sleep
  • Hallucinogenic potion
  • Hair tonic potion
  • Self-pulling plow
  • Enchanted seeds
    • Size of plant
    • Abundance of produce
    • Fast-growing
    • Don't need watered
  • Fenceposts/chicken coop of repelling predators
  • Net or fishing lure that charms aquatic creatures when cast
  • Musical instrument that can play itself
  • Musical instrument that always stays in tune
  • Musical instrument that can play in multiple keys
  • Musical instrument that creates its own accompaniment
  • Cask of Liquid Gold (endless beer)
  • Decanter of endless wine
  • Shaker of endless salt
  • Grinder of endless pepper
  • Boots of foot massaging
  • Living/dancing toys
  • Self-playing chess set
  • Self-shuffling cards
  • Self-rolling dice
  • Cheating cards
  • Cheating dice
  • Scissors/knife that never go dull
  • Tools that work by themselves
    • Hammer and tongs
    • Hammer and saw
    • Loom
    • Strand twister (rope)
    • Needle, sewing
    • Needles, knitting
    • Cauldron/pan
    • Washtub
    • Broom/mop/duster
    • Self-sweeping broom/mop/duster
    • Hairbrush/mirror/makeup brushes
    • Whetston
  • Clothesline of rapid drying
  • Vat that can cure leather/dye cloth quickly
  • Essence of flavor
  • Wallet, alarm
  • Wallet, trapped

Monday, July 22, 2013

Strange Magic

(No relation to the otherwise excellent blog of similar name.)

I wrote a new poem. It probably sounds a lot more profound than it actually is, being mostly an exercise in picking a rhythm that was pleasing to my mouth, though it was brought on by the mental image of someone watching a Fritz Lang movie on their iPad, which got me to thinking a little.

As usual I make no promises of quality.

We live in an age
Of strange magic
New madness--
Monochrome Metropolis silent
On a screen in my hand, while--
Screaming Metropolis vibrant
On the street outside the window

And also a world
Of strange madness
Old magic--
The mountain calls Moses, Muhammad
With the voices it spake,

"There is nothing new under the sun
Sure as today birthed yesterday
We all live in interesting times."

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What are Humanoids, anyway?

Over at his blog Beedo posted some rather clever alternative origins for humanoid monsters, to be used in a summer campaign for his children. It was a pretty interesting post and got me thinking about things. The origin I've used for most humanoids lately comes from half-remembered snippets of Norse mythology and from a somewhat slanted interpretation of describing the enemies that Dwarves and Rangers in AD&D 1e get special bonuses against as "giant class humanoids". My idea is that the "giant" in "giant class" doesn't (obviously) mean "huge", but perhaps means "man-like creations of primordial creatures that oppose the gods".

All well and good, but that leaves a few other humanoids unexplained: Lizardmen, Serpentmen (such as D&D's Yuan-ti), Frogmen (such as D&D's Bullywugs), and Troglodytes. Those all share the interesting quality of being amphibian or reptilian. Perhaps that implies a connection? A third set of creators? That might deserve some exploration of its own...

Friday, July 19, 2013

On the Herd Animal

The standard description of the Herd Animal entry in old school D&D and many retroclones suggests that the stats are useful for hooved animals such as goats, deer, and antelopes. But why stop there? There's plenty of other interesting herd animals out there. In my own time I've used those stats for Kangaroos, Emus, Ostriches, large tortoises, and all sorts of small, herbivorous dinosaurs. Small ones can be Hypsilophodon, Psittacosaurus, or Protoceratops. Larger ones can be things like Beipiaosaurus, Gallimimus, Maiasaura, Massospondylus, or even Pachycephalosaurus.

After all, those Tyrannosaurus Rexes in your lost world area have to have something to eat besides adventurers, don't they?

(As you might have gathered, I fucking love dinosaurs)

Monday, July 15, 2013


You may have noticed my equipment post a while back included bear traps. Now actual springloaded, steel bear traps like you see today weren't invented until very recently, so I considered this an acceptable break from reality in the interests of fun.

But it seems that mechanical foot traps did exist as far back as the bronze age, as discussed in this video:

I had a plan to do a big post about my ideas for a Spirit World as an alternative to the usual cosmologies...

But I ran into a couple snags.
  1. I was having an unusually hard time articulating what I was trying to say
  2. Almost all my ideas hewed pretty close to the section of the same name in the 3.x Manual of the Planes's "Alternate Cosmologies" chapter. The only new things I had was the idea of the souls of the dead crossing a bridge in the ethereal plane which spanned the Abyss and maybe some vague beginnings of an idea about astral travel, and I only had a handful of mechanical differences in mind.
With that in mind it might just be logical to share the relevant page (because that's all the description takes up) of that book. Surely slightly less than one page is little enough to amount to fair use.


The Spirit World is a realm brought into sharp focus. Colors are brighter, sounds more distinct, and every sense is more keenly aware of its surroundings. Some of its denizens say that the Material Plane is just a pale reflection of the Spirit World’s vibrancy. It is a dimension of ultimates.
The Spirit World is part of a cosmology radically different from the Great Wheel. In this cosmology, there are spirits for everything, from the greatest mountain to the smallest flower, as well as spirits of ancestors and objects long passed into history. The Spirit World is the plane where the spirits of all things, living and unliving, make their homes.
The Spirit World is a Transitive Plane that replaces the Astral Plane of the D&D cosmology. Unlike that plane, the Spirit World is both coexistent with and coterminous to the Material Plane, matching its terrain. A valley in the Spirit World corresponds to a valley on the Material Plane, and where there is a waterfall in one, there is a waterfall in the other. In the case of the Spirit World, however, the waterfall is higher, its water more pure, and its sound more pleasing than that of its equivalent on the Material Plane. The Spirit World’s waterfall would likely be the home of a water elemental that serves as the spirit of the waterfall.
Living creatures and their structures, from beaver dams to palaces, do not necessarily have direct analogs. However, where a citadel stands on the Material Plane, a similar citadel (though greater and stronger) may stand in the Spirit World, occupied by the spirits of revered ancestors of the Material Plane citadel’s ruler.
The Spirit World has the following traits:
• Normal Gravity.
• Timeless: In the Spirit World, creatures do not hunger, age, or thirst. Days and nights pass within the Spirit World as they do on the Material Plane. However, the nights are ebony black and set with brilliant stars, while great clouds arching across a sky of purest
blue dominate the days.
• Infinite Size: Unless the Material Plane has the finite size trait, in which case the Spirit World does too.
• Alterable Morphic: Changing things in the Spirit World does not directly affect the Material Plane, and changes on the Material Plane aren’t necessarily reflected in the Spirit World right away.
• No Elemental or Energy Traits: However, particular locations within the plane may have those traits. A smith’s forge on the Material Plane, for example may have an equivalent in the Spirit World with the fire-dominant trait.
• Mildly Neutral-Aligned: Specific locations may have other alignments; the Spirit World equivalent of a haunted graveyard might be mildly evil-aligned, for example.
• Enhanced Magic: All divine spells are extended and empowered on the Spirit World. Arcane magic, which comes from knowledge as opposed to proper veneration,
is unaffected.
SPIRIT WORLD LINKSThe Spirit World is coexistent with the Material Plane, and movement on one is equal to movement on the other. A traveler who enters the Spirit World, walks three miles north, and then returns to the Material Plane is three miles north of the walk’s starting point.
Travelers reach the Spirit World through the Ethereal Plane, which forms a border region between the Material Plane and the Spirit World. A character on the Ethereal Plane can see onto both the Material Plane and the Spirit World: the Material Plane clearly and the Spirit
World as a faint echo. By concentrating on the echo, a traveler can move to the far side of the Ethereal Plane and enter the Spirit World.
Because the Spirit World replaces the Astral Plane, spells that allow access to the Astral Plane use the Spirit World instead.
The Plane of Shadow does not connect to the Spirit World, so spells that use the Plane of Shadow do not function in the Spirit World.
The Spirit World leads to other planes, in particular the homes of whatever great powers oversee the operation of the known universe. A traveler through the Spirit World finds portals to the great palaces of these deities, as well as unique heavens and hells. A traveler seeking the Duke of Storms, for example, would find a portal to his palace occupying the same general location as storm-wracked peaks on the Material Plane.
The Spirit World is home to a variety of creatures, including fey, elementals, undead, outsiders, and dragons. Those with access to the plane shift spell visit the Material Plane under their own power, and spellcasters use summoning spells to bring other Spirit World creatures to the Material Plane. Still other Spirit World creatures find natural portals between the planes.
Settled areas of the Material Plane are particularly dangerous in the Spirit World, because these places are where the spirits of ancestors dwell. These spirits are extremely protective of their descendants; an assassin who pops into the Spirit World to infiltrate a local duke’s reception hall will be confronted by one or more ghosts of the duke’s predecessors. This is one reason that rulers live in the same palace for generations: They enjoy the protection of their ancestors.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bloody formatting

For some reason, about half the time my header font seems to be what I set it as, and half the time it seems to just be Comic Sans. I'm not happy about this. Is it happening for other visitors to this page?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Nostalgia for 3.5

...Dang, never thought that's something I'd have.

I dunno if it was just my age, or the fact that D&D was new to me in those days, or they just had a particularly engaging style, or what, but D&D 3.5 and its sourcebooks were just a great pleasure for me to read, once upon a time. Sometimes 4e reached those heights too. As strange as it may sound, 1e and 2e were never quite as enjoyable to me, nor even my beloved retroclones. B/X is okay reading, I guess, but a little light. If you haven't noticed I don't really care that much about other games besides D&D and its variants these days, though I am nominally in a Shadowrun game with my brother.

Friday, July 12, 2013


Fight On! is being released on lulu for free an issue at a time.

Wish someone had told me that when I still had time to catch the first three issues, but at least I've got #4 now.

Revisiting two old posts

Looks like I'm not the only one interested in trying to give 4e-esque monster abilities to humanoids in a gridless system-- the current D&D Next playtest is doing the same, at least for some monsters. I decided to download the latest playtest and see if what they've got is any more applicable than I already had. Some of 'em are pretty clever, but I think others need some work. I may have to do a second take on that post with some cues from this.

Also, I finally got a look at Carcosa and its psionics system is everything I wanted to do a couple months ago except better handled.

Monday, July 8, 2013

My old school weakness

I don't really like PCs to be too expendable.

Now... I don't mean that I don't think the PCs should ever lose or be in over their heads. I just mean that I like PCs to have a certain amount of fleshed-out characterization and they should be sturdy enough that one bad roll or slip-up doesn't mean having the effort of establishing that be in vain.

I'm a failure at being an old-schooler, aren't I?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Small animals for ACKS

% in Lair: 40%
Dungeon Enc: Solitary (1)/Clowder (1d6)
Wilderness Enc: Clowder (1d6)
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 1/2
Attacks: 1 (Claw)
Damage: 1d3-1
Save: Normal Man
Morale: 0
Treasure Type: Nil
Exp: 5

% in Lair: 20%
Dungeon Enc: Troop (2d6)/Den (5d6)
Wilderness Enc: Band (5d6)/Den (5d6)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: 1 (Bite)
Damage: 1d3-1
Save: Normal Man
Morale: -1
Treasure Type: Nil
Exp: 5

% in Lair: 10%
Dungeon Enc: Pack (3d6)/Den (3d10)
Wilderness Enc: Horde (3d10)/Den (3d10)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40')
>Swim: 60' (20')
Armor Class: 0
Hit Dice: 1/4
Attacks: 1 (Bite)
Damage: 1d3-1
Save: Normal Man
Morale: 0
Treasure Type: A
Exp: 5

% in Lair: 20%
Dungeon Enc: None
Wilderness Enc: Flock (1d6)/Murder (2d6)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: --
>Fly 330' (110')
Armor Class:1
Hit Dice: 1/4
Attacks: 1 (Peck)
Damage: 1d3-1
Save: Normal Man
Morale: -1
Treasure Type: A
Exp: 5

% in Lair: 20%
Dungeon Enc: None
Wilderness Enc: Solitary (1)/Nest (1d4)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 300' (100')
Armor Class: 1
Hit Dice: 1/2*
Attacks: 1 (Bite)
Damage: 1d2
Save: Normal Man
Morale: -1
Treasure Type: Nil
Exp: 7

Small animals such as these are commonly chosen by mages as their familiars.

Cats: Cats generally get on well with humans, and are kept as pets or to deal with vermin such as mice. They often attack from ambush if they can. The stats for a cat can also represent other small, mammalian predators such as foxes or weasels.

Monkeys: Monkeys often nest in treetops. Many humans find their climbing and leaping comical, but they are also relentless in defense of their nests. These stats represent small new world monkeys such as spider monkeys or capuchins, but they can also represent climbing animals of similar size such as Lemurs or Wallabies.

Rat: Ground-dwelling rodents, rats are a common pest all over the world, although some cultures admire their resourcefulness. Large groups of rats are better represented by a rat swarm. Some rats, like their giant brethren, carry disease. These stats can also easily be used for a number of other small, mostly-harmless animals such as toads, hedgehogs, squirrels or lizards,(by taking away their swim speed but making them good climbers), or rabbits (by taking away their swim speed and increasing their speed to 150'(50'))

Raven: Ravens are clever, omnivorous scavengers, and tend to hoard small, shiny objects in their nests. They are an extremely popular familiar. Some ravens can be taught to imitate speech. The stats for a raven can also be easily used for other largish birds such as parrots, gulls, and crows.

Owl: Owls are nocturnal hunters closely related to hawks. Owls can see perfectly well in darkness and have a +3 bonus to surprise checks do to their keen eyes and silent movements.

My big stupid houserule post

These are probably not all the houserules I'm going to be using, but I'm tired of working on this-- I started on July 1st and it's the wee hours of July 5th now.

My usual ruleset is ACKS so these are written with that in mind.

Classes: The following classes are always appropriate for any campaign I run: Fighter, Mage, Cleric, Thief, Assassin, Bard, Explorer, Dwarven Vaultguard, Dwarven Craftpriest, Elven Spellsword, Elven Nightblade, Anti-Paladin, Barbarian, Dwarven Delver, Dwarven Fury, Elven Courtier, Elven Enchanter, Elven Ranger, Mystic, Paladin, Shaman, Warlock, Witch. The remaining classes sort of depend on the campaign-- ask me if you're not sure.

Cleric Weapons: Clerics can choose to use either their usual weapon selection or that of shamans (Club, dagger, hand-axe, short sword, staff, spear). Other narrow weapon selections, within reason, are also okay.

Turn Undead: A cleric can turn any evil creature as if it were an undead of comparable hit dice. For purposes of this spell, evil creatures include inherently evil creatures such as undead and summoned creatures of Chaotic alignment.

Cleric Spell List: Clerics make the following changes to their spell list:
  • 3rd level: Feign Death no longer exists, Prayer takes its place.
  • 4th level: Sticks to Snakes is not on the Cleric list, Death Ward takes its place. (My grievances with this spell are well-known. I don't mind Shamans having it, but I don't have a ready explanation for why.)
Warlocks: Warlocks do not gain a familiar by default. In its stead they gain the Death Healing power of the Zaharan Ruinguard (Warlocks use the Mage attack progression and therefore can't cleave, but any time they drop an opponent they can use this ability). Warlocks add Familiar to the list of proficiencies they may choose from. This may be waived according to player preference.

Additional Spells: If a character can cast spells and has a prime requisite of at least 13, they gain the ability to cast an extra first-level spell per day at the time of character creation. If a character can cast spells and has a prime requisite of at least 16, they gain they gain the ability to cast an extra second-level spell per day as soon as they gain the ability to cast second-level spells. If a character can cast spells and has a prime requisite of 18, they gain they gain the ability to cast an extra third-level spell per day as soon as they gain the ability to cast second-level spells.

Unusual Equipment: If you want to buy something out of the ordinary (ie not elsewhere listed in the rulebook or by me), Zak's Penny, Nickel, Dime, Quarter, Dollar rule is in effect.

Dullness/Fastness:  Sharpness and Slipperiness are both reversible spells. The effects of Dullness should be obvious (-1 to attacks with the weapon, but it still becomes magical). The effects of Fastness are thus:
When cast on a character, the recipient cannot be restrained or grabbed,wrapped in the grip of constrictor snakes, or otherwise be subject to any other grasping attacks, including binding ropes, chains, or cuffs, magical or otherwise. Simply put, nothing can get a grip on a character affected by slipperiness. The spell can also be cast on objects. A single casting is sufficient to affect 20 arrows, 2 one-handed weapons, 1 two-handed weapon, or one 10' x 10' patch of floor. Any object subject to the spell is virtually impossible to grasp, and characters must make an attack throw versus Armor Class 10 each round to let go of or throw such objects. The object can instead be used to bind two objects together. A proficiency throw of 20+ is necessary to pull them apart. Any individual moving or even standing on an affected area of floor must make a proficiency throw of 20+ each round or remain rooted to the spot.

Climbing Huge Opponents: If a combatant is significantly smaller than her opponent it may be possible for her to climb onto her opponent to find a better point to attack from. To climb an opponent, a combatant must succeed on a melee attack throw with a -4 penalty. The opponent must then make a saving throw versus Paralysis. If the opponent succeeds on his saving throw, he has shrugged off the combatant. If he fails, the combatant has climbed on. A combatant who is climbing an opponent may perform a brawl or regular attack at a +2 bonus so long as she stays on. The climbed-upon opponent may make another saving throw versus Paralysis each round to attempt to shake off the opponent, or may attempt to wrestle it. A combatant capable of backstabbing may backstab a creature she has climbed. A combatant capable of climbing walls may make a proficiency throw to hang on or avoid a wrestling attempt from a opponent she has climbed. Any bonus that affects attempts to wrestle also affects attempts to climb an opponent.

Shields Shall Be Splintered: A shield can be sacrificed to nullify all damage from a single attack, however if the attack does at least 6 damage in a single attack, the defender takes 1 point of damage reflecting the smash being hard enough to hurt their arm. Magical shields can absorb one additional blow per day per point of additional protection. Magical shields can also deflect spells of a level no higher than their enchantment bonus that specifically target their wielder once per day in place of an attack, or any spell a single time, but so doing breaks the enchantment on them and instantly destroys them. (Yes this makes magical shields really awesome-- that's sort of the idea)

The Life-Drinkers: Creatures that drain levels... don't. I've never liked this mechanic, even in old school games where it's that much less involved. Instead I've given them a suite of additional abilities along the lines of what Dyson recommended as follows chosen to use the following rules

Energy Drain: An attack that would ordinarily drain a character's level instead deals 1d6 damage and imposes a cumulative -1 penalty on all attack, saving, and proficiency/ability throws. If the penalty exceeds the character's level, she dies. 1 point of energy drained is recovered every L days where L is equal to the hit dice of the monster that drained the energy level.
Vampiric Bite: If a vampire Charms a living creature, the creature is willing, or the vampire successfully grapples the creature, it may bite. The bite deals 1d3 damage and drains 1d3 points of Constitution per round much as a Shadow does strength (for creatures without constitution scores treat its HD as equivalent to its constitution score). The vampire heals 1d6 damage for each round it drinks of the blood, but while it is so occupied all attacks against it are made as if the vampire were surprised.
  • Spectres: 
    • Paralyzing Strike: a spectre's touch paralyzes as a ghoul's.
    • Terrible Aura: The palpable aura of fear freezes all those who see a spectre. Save versus paralysis when first encountering the undead or be paralyzed for 1d6+1 rounds.
    • Possess: a spectre can possess any corpse. While so doing, the spectre cannot be harmed until the corpse is destroyed. It fights as a zombified version of whatever it was in life.
  • Vampires:
    • Vampiric Bite: If a vampire Charms a living creature, the creature is willing, or the vampire successfully grapples the creature, it may bite. The bite deals 1d3 damage and drains 1d3 points of Constitution per round much as a Shadow does strength (for creatures without constitution scores treat its HD as equivalent to its constitution score). The vampire heals 1d6 damage for each round it drinks of the blood, but while it is so occupied all attacks against it are made as if the vampire were surprised.
  • Wight:
    • Putrefying Aura: The wight is a creature of decay and death. In its presence milk curdles, bread moulders, meat rots, water turns brackish and swampy, and wine sours to vinegar. Any food or drink that comes within 20 feet of a wight spoils immediately and must be treated with Purify Food and Drink before it can be safely consumed.
    • Withering Touch: The claws of a wight spread its decay. Any normal plantlife touched or trod on by a wight dies. Magical plants and living creatures take 2d4 damage and seem unnaturally aged until they heal.
  • Wraith:
    • Cursed Wound: The blows of a wight inflict a terrible pestilence. They do not heal for a year and a day unless Remove Curse is cast upon the victim. Even then the scars will always ache on the anniversary of the day they were inflicted.
    • Creature of Darkness: Wraiths can cast Darkness at will.
    • Soulbound: Wraiths are born when a mortal succumbs to the corrupting influence of an evil magic item-- most often a cursed weapon, suit of armor, or ring-- which will always be present among their treasure in addition to whatever else of value they have. Whatever the item, it is sentient in the manner of certain magic weapons, is chaotic in alignment, and can only be disposed of via a Remove Curse spell. If the item's new owner dies while under the influence of the item, he rises as a wraith in 24 hours.

The Petrifiers: Petrification, except via the Flesh to Stone spell, is not an instantaneous process. When you fail your save, roll 1d6 for the number of rounds you have left to fight, strike a cool pose, or whatever. You are slowed during that time, and during the final round you are outright paralyzed. Any creature naturally capable of turning a creature to stone also knows how to turn a petrified creature back with a touch. Medusae cure petrification with their hands, basilisks with a slap of their tail, and cockatrices with a bite. A creature that has been restored from petrification is paralyzed until such time as healing magic is used to cure its paralysis. Normally they use this ability in order to restore their prey to an edible state, however intelligent ones such as medusae can sometimes be bribed or persuaded into doing it in exchange for mercy if subdued or in exchange for favors (usually involving undertaking a quest).

Golem Spell Immunity: Golems aren't completely immune to magic, however they are highly resistant to it. Unless a spell is specifically or implicitly named in their description, if it has a save they automatically succeed at that save. If it doesn't normally have a save, it does when used against a golem. (I don't think the golems in ACKS core actually have spell immunity, but I use the standard AD&D ones and that's the rule I use for them too)

Wraith Hoards: Wraiths are born when a mortal succumbs to the corrupting influence of an evil magic item-- most often a cursed weapon, suit of armor, or ring-- which will always be present among their treasure in addition to whatever else of value they have. Whatever the item, it is sentient in the manner of certain magic weapons, it is chaotic in alignment, and it can only be disposed of via a Remove Curse spell. If the item's new owner dies while under the influence of the item, he rises as a wraith in 24 hours.

New Equipment

I dunno, some items I sometimes think are worth having rules for. Availability of firearms depends on campaign, the rest I think is pretty standard.

Item Price Damage/AC
String 1sp

Pick 1gp
Bear Trap 40gp
Caltrops 1gp
Vial of acid 25gp
Chain, 20 feet 10gp
Paper, 5 sheets 5sp
Elvish steel arms x10 +1 attack
Dwarvish steel arms x20 +1 dmg/AC
Pistol 250gp 1d6*
Musket 150gp 1d8*
Bayonet 5gp 1d4/1d6
Smokepowder, flask 5gp

*Damage from firearms is exploding damage, meaning that if it deals its maximum possible damage value, roll damage again and add that to the total damage

String: String is ordinary flax or cotton twine. It is not sturdy enough to support more than a pound or two, but is useful for leaving signals or messages or marking a trail in a labyrinth.
Pick: A pick is about 2 feet long with an iron head. It is useful for breaking up stone. If used in combat it deals 1d6 damage.
Bear Trap: A bear trap is a simple mechanical trap consisting of a pair of iron jaws held in place by a spring. When triggered, the jaws snap shut and the creature that triggered the trap must save vs. blast or take 1d6 damage and have its speed reduced by half due to its leg being injured. This movement penalty lasts for 2d4 days or until magical healing is applied. Freeing a creature from a bear trap requires hands and takes one round.
Caltrops: Caltrops are small metal spikes that resemble jacks. It takes 1 round to scatter a bag of caltrops over a 5' radius. Creatures that attempt to walk through caltrops at more than half speed have a 2 in 6 chance of stepping on a caltrop. A creature that steps on a caltrop instantly stops in its tracks, takes 1 point of damage and moves at half speed due to its feet being injured. This movement penalty lasts for a day or until magical healing is applied.
Vial of acid: Acid can be thrown at enemies, dealing 1d8 points of damage for two rounds to the creature struck. It can also be used for weakening organic materials or metals, for instance dissolving the bars of a gate.
Chain, 20 feet: Iron chain can bear 105 stone, the weight of approximately seven human-sized beings.
Paper, 5 sheets: Each sheet is a largish piece of paper, about 24x16 inches.
Elvish steel arms: Elvish steel is extremely strong for its weight. Weapons made of Elvish steel attacks with a +1 bonus. Metal armor made of Elvish steel encumbers a character as if its AC was 1 less than normal.
Dwarvish steel arms: Dwarvish steel is particularly hard, but still quite flexible. Weapons made of Dwarvish steel deal 1 extra point of damage. Metal armor made of Dwarvish steel adds a +1 bonus to AC at no extra weight.
Pistol: A pistol is a firearm small enough to be used singlehanded. A pistol takes one round and both hands to reload. Historical pistols include the matchlock and wheellock pistols of the 15th through 17th centuries.
Arquebus: A smoothbore is a firearm big enough to require both hands to use. A pistol takes one round to reload. Historical muskets include the Dutch donderbuss or blunderbuss, the Japanese tanegashima, the French fusil, or the English caliver.
Bayonet: A bayonet is a dagger with a hilt that allows it to be fixed into the barrel of an arquebus. Fixing a bayonet takes one round. While the bayonet is fixed the arquebus cannot be reloaded or fired. Anyone who can fight using a dagger can also use an unfixed bayonet. The former damage value is for using a bayonet one-handed, the latter damage value is for a firearm to which one has been fixed, wielded in both hands.
Smokepowder, flask: Smokepowder is an alchemical substance with unusual properties-- in that quantities less than half an ounce explode with a loud bang and a great deal of smoke when exposed to high heat, pressure, or sparks, but larger quantities are safely inert. Though many alchemists seeks to create powder that will explode in larger quantities in order to make bombs and cannons, none have yet succeeded.. A flask of smokepowder is sufficient for 50 shots from a pistol or arquebus. Water will spoil it.
Bullets: A bullet can be used just as adequately in a pistol or arquebus as in a sling.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

New Monster: Vermin Queen

Inspired, of course, by the 4e Lamia. ACKS used for the rule set:

Vermin Queen
% in Lair: 30%
Dungeon Enc: Solitary (1)/Nest (1d3)
Wilderness Enc: Nest (1d3)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120'(40')
>Fly: 60' (20')
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 6***
Attacks: 2 or 1 (2 Claws or weapon)
Damage: 1d6/1d6 or weapon
Save: M6
Morale: +2
Treasure Type: H
Exp: 1070
A Vermin Queen is a swarm of horrid, intelligent black beetles with the ability to assume the guise of a beautiful human or demihuman. They use their talent for disguise to waylay travelers in order to devour their flesh and steal their skins and their memories. When a Vermin Queen eats a living human, demihuman, or humanoid creature, another beetle is born to the swarm. When the swarm gets too big to comfortably fit into a human skin, half of it splits off and becomes a new vermin queen. The mother swarm typically deposits the daughter swarm in the body of its next victim in order to provide it with its first disguise.

A Vermin Queen can freely change between a humanoid form and swarm form once per round. The touch of a Vermin Queen in either form paralyzes, much like a ghoul. Attacking a Vermin Queen with a torch or weapon will inflict 1d4 points of damage to the swarm. Fire-based and cold-based attacks will also damage a Vermin Queen, and a sleep spell will cause the entire swarm to go dormant. While in swarm form, a Vermin Queen fights just like an insect swarm apart from its HD, morale, saves, and paralysis ability.