Monday, 24 May 2021

Mutating Your Spells

Normal spell mutation incurs one roll on the main 2d20 chart. That chart may instruct you to roll on the subsequent two charts or roll additional times. For the purposes of tallying mutations, Good-Boring mutations are counted with their accompanying Drawback as a single mutation.

Spell Mutation Main Chart (roll 2d20, add them)

2. Roll on the Drawbacks table.
3. Death Burst: When you die, you may cast this spell immediately with extra MD equal to your amount of wizard-equivalent templates x 4.
4. Inevitable: If you have in your possession something belonging to your target, you can burn it to target them from infinite range without line of sight, the magic will slip between the tectonic plates, crack the barriers between worlds to reach their target. It is impossible to hide from the spell, but it may be stopped by adequate protection.
The target knows who hunts them and where the spell was cast.
5. Gorgon: After a gorgon spell is cast, the invested MD are occupied until a creature sees the caster, at which point they are immediately made the target of the spell, range disregarded.
6. Discovery: When cast, the caster learns one non-obvious thing about the target.
7. Transportation: 1-3: The caster is teleported to the target of the spell, after its initial effects have been resolved. 4-6: Target teleported to caster.
8. Trigger: Whenever you cast this spell, define a condition that also defines a potential target should that condition occur. Lastly, select an inanimate object no larger than an elephant, the spell is bound to that object and will be cast from that object as soon as the condition holds true. The invested MD are occupied, unless you use 25 GP’s worth of magical ingredients per invested MD.
9. Spellborn Homunculus: Your spell becomes a person.  They are neutral towards you. Roll a random personality and goals. They can cast themselves 1/day. They start with 1 MD, and can gain more.
10. Cross-pollination: The next time it is cast, the spell permanently incorporates some aspect of 1. The caster 2. A random spell in/on the caster 3. The target 4. A random spell in/on the target 5. The next thing to touch the spell after the target. 6. The most powerful creature in the area.
11. Peanut Gallery: All players present collectively come up with something new and fun.
    * "The spell is lured by the smell of chocolate"
    * "The spell gives good artistic advice when memorised"
    Go with something that makes the GM or the caster laugh or scream.
12. Phase: Phase out of space and time for [dice] turns after you cast the spell, but before it resolves.
13. Curse: same as 8, but can only target a creature instead of an inanimate object.
14. New Flavor:  The spell changes elements or orientations.  Fireball becomes lightningball, protection from evil becomes protection from good, charm person becomes charm bird (or perhaps infuriate person), web becomes freedom of movement.
15. Counter: If a spell is cast within sight, you can immediately cast this spell at that target as a counter before it resolves.
16. Wild: Whenever you cast the spell, roll on this table and use that mutation for this one cast. (If this introduces too many extra rolls, replace it with Protean: change the mutation at each dawn.)
17. Breeding:  Your spell has just given birth.  This newborn spell is a weaker version of its parent, but after being cast 5 times it will have grown to adulthood.  Roll a d100 to see if it has mutated from it's parent breed (the same as encountering a new spell in the wild). This is not a permament mutation applied to the parent, but more of a singular event.
18. Ritual: If the caster spends 10 minutes casting the spell, the spell can either be cast with an extra MD or with a recovery range improved by 1, your choice.
19. Roll once each on the Good-Boring Table and Drawback Table
20. Roll again twice
21. Roll again twice
22. Roll again twice
23. Roll once each on the Good-Boring Table and Drawback Table
24. Proxy: You may choose to not cast the spell as normal, instead you invest MD as normal and target a creature to allow them to cast the spell instead of you once with all the invested MD. You can reclaim the MD at any point, but until you do, they count as occupied.
25. Cooperation: If other casters close hands with the Spellhost, they may pool their MD together for the Spellhost’s magic. In addition, each participant adds +1 to [sum], even non-casters.
26. Chain: After resolving the spell, if a miscast or doom occurs; cast the spell again with the duplicate MD’s for free on a new creature within sight.
27. Delayed: The spell can be cast and at a later date be unleashed as a free action, while doing so it occupies the invested MD. Multiple instances of the same spell cannot be delayed.
28. Recursive: You do not regain MD when casting this spell, instead any recovered MD are immediately spent on recasting the spell on the same target, repeating this effect until no MD remain.
29. Circumference: As the spell is cast, the caster is protected by a circle of visible energy drawn 5 feet around the caster, any creature that steps through the circle (including the caster) will have the spell re-cast at them, with the amount of previously invested MD added for free, after which the circle dissipates. The circle lasts for [dice] turns.
30. Blood: You can sacrifice 5 of your own HP to add up to one MD to the casting, if this MD resulted in recovery, regain HP equal to the dice’s result.
31. Full Sentience:  Your spell becomes fully sentient.  It talks to you.  Roll a random starting personality and goals.  If it is angry at you, it may refuse to be cast.  If it is especially pleased, it may enhance itself in a way that you request.  Spells enjoy being in your brain and seeing out your eyes.  They do not enjoy being in the spellbook, which is much like a jail.  They may request (or plot) their release, or the release of all your spells.
32. Familiar: Whenever the spell is cast, it manifests instead as a 1HD familiar with a shape embodying the spell’s theme, the spent MD are occupied until the familiar is destroyed, at which point the spell is cast. The familiar can be commanded to destroy itself. You can only have one active familiar per spell at a time.
33. Tribute: The spell can be cast with an extra MD as long as a sentient creature is sacrificed as part of its casting. The sacrifice has to be ritualistic and performed on a helpless target, just sacrificing an active combatant is not possible.
34. Soul: If the spell kills a creature with 1 HD or more, choose to recover or replace one MD. As long as that MD remains unused, you can communicate with their soul.
35. Name: If you can name your target, add an extra MD.
36. Necro: The spell can target corpses with an intact soul (dissipates after 13 minutes) and use it to fuel their spell. Each 2 HD or 1 level of the target creature allows you to add an extra MD, failed recovery rolls on the extra MDs causes a 3 necrotic damage backlash.
37. Cantrip: If you cast this spell investing only one MD, the MD always recovers.
38. Mimic: Before casting, this mutation can assume the effects of any mutation in one of your memorised spells.
39. Powerful: MD’s invested in this spell are rolled as D8’s, their recovery range is 1-4. This is the Philosopher’s Stone of Spellhosts, coveted by all and ruthlessly hunted.
40. Pick any entry on this chart of your choosing. If that entry has a random/indeterminate result, you can probably pick that too.

(2d6) Good-Boring Table

2. Hard:  Targets get -4 to their Save.
3. Subtle:  You can cast this spell quietly and without being noticed.
4. Improved Effect: The spell does more of whatever it does.  5d6 damage becomes 6d6, charm becomes obsession.
5. Improved Reach: Triple the range of the spell. If it was Touch, it becomes 30'.
6. Improved Area of Effect:  The spell affects a wider area, or more targets.
7. Negotiate! GM and players think of something not game-breaking but cool, including fusion. Or you can use this to get rid of a downside to the spell.
8. Improved Finesse.  You have more control over your spell.  You can create gaps in your fireball, or limit the damage, for example.
9. Improved Duration. Triple the duration.
10. Improved Applicability.  The spell affects a broader category of targets.  Charm person becomes charm biped.
11. Reliable: Roll an additional MD, and then exclude any single MD from resolving the effects. This can be used to avert mishaps/dooms.
12. Facile.  You can cast the spell as a free action.

(2d8) Drawbacks Table

2. Cancer: Reduces the amount of MD cast with this spell by one. Cancer cannot be removed or re-rolled through Spell Breeding, but it can be swapped to another spell, in which there is a 50% chance the cancer will duplicate and exist in both swapped spells.
3. Enemy of Farmers: Every time this spell is cast the nearest unborn animal rolls on the Physical Mutation chart.
4. Gadabout: Spell has a 50% chance of being present when wanted. Otherwise it's faffing about someplace.
5. Jealous: If the spell is the first spell you cast today, get the benefits of Reliable ONCE for the day. If not, the GM may force a reroll of any single MD invested in each cast for the day.
6. Clingy: The spell will not willingly relocate out of your head. Burn a MD to try to force it out, and Save to succeed.
7. Worsen: Pick a random numerical attribute of the spell and halve it.
8. Calling Card: The spell leaves very obvious and long-lasting evidence that it was cast, usually thematically particular to the associated caster when this mutation was gained.
9. Specificity: Spell's Target becomes more specific. "Charm Monster" becomes "Charm Smelly Monster" for example.
10. Center of Attention: The spell now gains a great deal of pyrotechnics and noise. While not necessarily damaging to be nearby, it is almost impossible to not notice.
11. Touch: The spell can only be cast while touching the target, but if you do, add one additional MD for free.
12. Finale: When this spell is cast, include 2 free MD. However, any available MD that the caster did NOT invest in this spell are rolled and the sum taken as damage by the caster.
13. Aphasia: While memorised, caster cannot verbalise anything except the spell's name or subsets thereof.
14. Parasitic: The spell is less choosy about where it lives, and progressively alters a host more to its liking. This is not healthy for the caster in the long-term, but they may be able to glean some benefit.

Spell: Mutate Spell

R: Touch (including in head); T: A spell;
Material components: 1gp of bribes and anaesthetic per MD invested
Effect: Target spell is mutated according to the result of a roll on the Mutate Spell chart. You must invest a minimum number of MD equal to the number of mutations the spell already has.

If you spend 100gp per MD invested (minimum 100gp), you may roll twice on the chart and pick the result you want.

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Hybrid levelling system: XP for Treasures

What you award XP for has a massive effect. It's one of the best controls you have to change what goes on in your game; players will naturally seek out whatever action awards it, and you can switch out that thing (or selection of things) without having to think too hard about what else will be impacted by that change.

If you award XP mainly for killing monsters, players will begin to prefer plans that include doing that. If you award XP just for getting the gold out of the dungeon, then you're free to design in a space where all methods of getting past any obstacles between the PCs and the gold are equally valid. I've seen discussions about awarding XP for investing gold into settlements; the overall progress of a campaign is then inextricably reflected in the growth of their home base. You can award increasing XP for exploring a sequence of dungeon rooms without rest. And so on and so forth.

Of course, milestone levelling, i.e. just levelling up players when it feels right, is an option. However, that doesn't work so well for games where PCs may have different levels (as mine does), and I want to take advantage of having an obvious universal carrot for my players to chase after.

XP-for-gold is good, but I'm increasingly finding that I want to be free of the burden of math in my games (related: migrate to usage dice or any other method to avoid tracking exact counts of things), as my players are rarely as happy to whip out an excel spreadsheet and keep strict notes as I am - and I certainly have too much to do to want to do that for them. I also have an interesting conflict where I want mundane purchasing decisions to remain a part of the game beyond level 2-3, and for the first big chest of gold to NOT rocket a single PC to level 10.

I think I now have a way out of this problem. I was already familiar with the large treasures of Ultraviolet Grasslands, and this week I read Arnold's post on Popcorn Levelling, which are both very interesting to me. It is these two things that I have blended together into a new system, which works as follows.

  • You need Treasures (that's a keyword) to level up
  • Treasures are big, fancy, named things
  • They usually have history and artistic value; being magical and having a function is more optional
  • Treasures are immediately recognisable as such! These are an obvious carrot, remember!
  • A Treasure takes up one* inventory slot, is worth 1XP, and is worth 500 silver* for every WORD in the name
  • When you carry a Treasure out of the dungeon (or can be said to have "gotten away with it") you can have the XP
  • Keeping a record of all the names of the things you've thus stolen as your XP tracker is highly recommended
  • Levelling is a Fibonacci progression: 2XP for level 2, an additional 3XP for 3, an additional 5XP for four, 8XP for five, and so on
  • Selling the Treasure, or keeping it, or throwing it into a lake, is up to you. You get the XP either way.

Currently, the XP for a single treasure cannot be subdivided, and there is no guidance for how treasures should be assigned to PCs when obtaining them is usually a team effort. At the moment I'm letting my players sort it out amongst themselves, and if that starts giving bad results I'll implement an extra rule or two. I mainly just want to discourage putting all the treasures onto one PC.

It might not be reasonable to know the "true" name of a Treasure when it's first encountered; in that case a purely descriptive name (of the same number of words) might be temporarily assigned, but identifying it properly will improve things somehow. It might be able to be sold for more (or it cannot be sold for the normal amount while unidentified), gain new/improved functions, become a plot hook, be usable as a plot token elsewhere, etc.

For example, you might obtain the AERIAL PHOTOPLATE ATLAS, TURBO ENCABULATOR, and ARTICULATED MODEL DRAGON; carrying all of them at once will take up eight inventory slots, they are worth a respectable 4000 silver, a single level-1 PC that managed to make off with the lot would jump to level 3, and only need to steal two additional WORDS of Treasure to hit level 4.

This whole thing conceptually echoes the GLoG principle that you should gain abilities that reflect your adventures; now your XP tracker will reflect what you've stolen and be a nice little summary history of your successes and a reminder of where you've been. The character sheet is a living document, steeped in adventuring history.

I've now deployed this in my game and I'll get my first set of results next session. Tell me if you try it for yourself, or just say what your preferred XP system is (and why)!

* To help you set expectations with the above numbers: a warhorse, suit of plate armour, or Fireball spell would all be worth about 1000 silver, and a skilled mason can comfortably save 4 silver each week (actual income and cost-of-living are more than that). Conceptualise a silver as being worth $10 in modern money and you won't be far wrong. PCs have their strength score in inventory slots. I'm also working with the Goblin Laws of Gaming, where you stop getting class features at level 4, which is about your life expectancy anyway.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Thieves' Guild: Greaser

This is a Thief Guild following the format invented by Velexiraptor, as follows:

Level 1: Gain 2 abilities at rank 1
Level 2: Rank up an ability you have, then gain a new ability at rank 1
Level 3: Rank up 2 abilities you have
Level 4: Rank up 2 abilities you have, then gain all abilities you don't have yet at rank 1

Hit Die: d6 (if you use those)

If you use weapon proficiencies, you are proficient with greaser weapons - that is, practical urbanite stuff.

 Starting Equipment: Comb, Jumbo tub of thick grease, hand mirror, spring-loaded knife, stylish outfit, a narrative-and-setting-appropriate mode of transportation (horse, motorbike, T-Bird) that only performs properly for you.

Skills (2, d6): 1. Dance, 2. Smooth-talk, 3. Vehicle/driving/riding skill appropriate to your original mode of transportation, 4. Streetwise, 5. Gambler, 6. Bravado

1. Dance-Fighting

    ✧: You may dance-fight. You must not be encumbered or have anything else hampering your movement, and be able to hear some kind of appropriate and familiar music to quicken your soul. A group of people clicking fingers in unison works in a pinch, as does hallucinatory music. You get +2 to your AC and Attack against foes that cannot match your smooth moves.

    ✧: You may add your dex bonus to damage rolls (instead of strength) while dance-fighting. If you are hampered or the music stops while you are dance-fighting, you retain the benefits for two more rounds.

    ✧: You can lead a small group of people to dance-fight, though they are subject to the same restrictions and must be able to see and hear you. You can always hear your theme song if you concentrate.

2. Home Turf

    ✧: Declare a Home Turf no larger than a small town. You always know the fastest route through your Home Turf and can always find a place to lay low there.

    ✧: Once per week you can declare you Know A Guy from your Home Turf who could conceivably assist with the current situation. The GM rolls that person's Reaction when they are next encountered - they may require appeasement or refuse entirely.

    ✧: Gain a Reputation in your Home Turf as befits what is known of your actions. Everyone has heard of you (though you are not always recognised on sight). Discuss with your GM what this reputation is and what effects it will have. This reputation can be changed over time through great effort.

3. Percussive Maintenance

    ✧: Precisely strike an object that is entirely mechanical and entirely comprehensible to you, with a body part, after studying it for at least one round; this makes it immediately perform as you would like, within the realms of physical possibility. You can ignore one of these underlined clauses but if you do, you only succeed on 2-in-6. You may not retry unless you meet all clauses.

    ✧: You can now ignore two underlined clauses, but if you do your success rate is only 1-in-6. If you fail, you may retry once without having to meet all clauses.

    ✧: Ignoring one clause succeeds on 5-in-6. Ignoring two succeeds on 3-in-6.

4. Fast Hands

    ✧: You can draw and make use of the item in your very first inventory slot even if surprised.

    ✧: Gain an extra two quick draw slots. Get the ✧ benefit for your second inventory slot also.

    ✧: You can declare that an item in a quickdraw slot is already in your hand, once per hand per round, as long as you could have reached it.

5. Pompadour

    ✧: With 10 minutes of work and the correct tools, you may style your hair beyond the ken of mortal man. Hats/helmets/etc will ruin it. You may sunder your hairstyle to reduce damage from an incoming attack by 1d6, similar to a shield; you gain advantage on attack rolls against whatever ruined your hair until you hit them.

    ✧: When you sunder your hairstyle it reduces incoming damage by 1d6+2 points. You gain advantage on the attacker until you have hit them twice.

    ✧: When you sunder your hairstyle it reduces incoming damage by 1d6+4 points.You roll damage twice and take the higher result the next two times you hit the attacker.

6.  Magnetic Personality

    ✧: When Reactions are rolled you can adjust the result to be one point more favourable if you are prominently visible and groomed properly. (Not all creatures have variable Reactions.)

    ✧: While you are in a location where you are regarded well, you can draw a room of people to come to your aid if you succeed on a Charisma check. They are not much more willing to endanger themselves than usual. Misusing this ability may cause people to dislike you.

    ✧: All else being equal, anyone will take your side of the story.

Friday, 2 October 2020

Mental Inventory and Mindsets

I said that the spell mutator was next, I was wrong, I want to rewrite it first and I need to figure out the code to make a non-flat random table work right.

Without further ado: Mental Inventory. Jellied Rat uses Mental Inventory.

Just as you have a physical slotted inventory, you can have a mental slotted inventory. You have a number of slots: 7 + Wis Mod.

Mental slots can hold:
    - Your persistent sense of self
    - Homes for memorised spells
    - Permanently fused "passive" spells
    - Mindsets
    - Mental stowaways: mnemonomorphs, parasites/parasitoids, spies, etc.
    - Mental Baggage (Trauma)
    -     Trauma may be gained by experiencing or seeing a friend sustain terrible injury.
    -     Trauma may not manifest immediately. Maybe a day later?
    - Negative status effects: Fear, Hunger, Stress are big ones.
        Drunkenness doesn't go in there. That's separate.
        Hangovers do.
        Bards might give you Earworms.

Skills do not go inside separate mental slots.
The act of gaining a skill is hard work but they don't really take up space - the existence of a skill is encoded within the intersection of the Animal Soul (instinct, which is retrainable) and the Purple Soul (memory).

In addition to your normal Mental Inventory slots, you have 5 Suppressed slots. If you would exceed your mental inventory, Souls, Mindsets, and Fused Spells (the things are are most deeply linked to who you truly ARE) can be relocated to Suppressed slots - they're not really gone but they're also not usable. Spells and negative effects cannot be willingly moved to suppressed slots in this manner; spell homes are simply lost and the spell falls out. If you lose a spell home, you can usually recreate it more easily than you did the first time, but the spell might be pissed at you.

Things suppressed in this manner can be restored to their rightful place once space exists for them again and a proper rest is taken (a meal and a rest in a safe place).

== Souls ==
Starting with Arnold's stuff, he envisions that a person is a *gestalt* of multiple distinct souls. Three lower souls and four upper souls. All can be modified. All can be removed and moved around.
Upper souls depart the body quickly after death and are USUALLY eventually drawn to the River of Souls and then sorted into some kind of afterlife.
Lower souls - earthly souls - stick around for varying amounts of time (Mineral much longer than the others) and then evetually are reincarnated.
If the upper souls are prevented from going where they should, they will reincarnate too.
Be aware that they are still wilful and may deliberately evade capture.
An "escaped" soul will eventually grow - all things strive - so it no longer lacks the other parts.
= Lower =
Mineral: Raw material interactions. Can remember a few basic facts.
Vegetable: Knits together fleshy form. Makes zombies go.
    Lack: cellular functions cease. Immunity to poison. Death in 1d6 hours.
Animal: The desires of the flesh.
    Lack: Dwarves don't have this.
= Upper =
Purple: Memory
Red: Personality
    Lack: No style or individuality. Dwarves don't have this.
White: Goals
Blue: Spirit
    Lack: No casting, no religion. +4 to Save vs Magic.

If you're paying attention, you'll realise that you could have 3 wisdom and have to store 4 souls. In practice this means that you will either have no Personality or no Goals.

However, barring extereme circumstances, those first four slots are going to be filled up with your YOU.

== Mindsets ==
Players can adopt or discard a mindset if they can supply a good enough reason to do so, such as some critical and life-changing event that they recently went through. Anything traumatic or stressful, or a pyrrhic victory, or an interaction with a cherished acquaintance. Replacing a mindset in the middle of a desperate battle is fine. Replacing a mindset multiple times in one turn is less fine.

You can put a mindset into more than one slot for a greater effect. Combine Desperate and Seeker of Destruction! I'm sure nothing bad will happen.

`Prideful` If you fail a check relating to your pride, once-per-session you get a do-over with advantage.
`Angry` Reroll failed initiative check if you immediately charge
`Goblinism` Compulsory for goblins. This is what makes a goblin a goblin.
`Confidence` +2 to do the first thing you suggest, instead of dallying/planning
`Cowardly` +2 Defense while avoiding danger
`Cruel` When you use unnecessary force on a vulnerable enemy, you can force a Morale check. Results may vary.
`Inquisitive` 1/session, you find something hidden
`Desperate` +1 to everything while at 0 HP
`Oathbound` +1 to everything opposing your oath
`Magnetic Personality` +3 retainers (normally 2 or 6 + Cha mod)
`Greedy` Can accurately compare the relative worth of things
`Stoic` You can ignore minor mental penalties (up to -2) and never complain about them
`Stalwart` You can ignore minor physical penalties (up to -2) and never complain about them
`Happy` NPCs don't automatically treat you as an "adventurer"
`Inspiring` Followers are on their best behaviour (if there is any chance you'll hear of what they do)
`Helpful` 1/session, after a friend has rolled a d20, allow them to reroll it and take the higher result
`Iron Stomach` +4 to save against anything you ate
`Innocent` Anything will hesitate to kill you, at least for a moment
`Joker` An in-character quip that the DM deems sufficiently witty heals 1HP, up to 3/session
`Knowledgeable` 1/session learn a new rumour if in town. If not, DM's choice of something potentially useful.
`Mysterious` Conceal your backstory. When you reveal it, exchange this Mindset for a different one.
`Observant` INT check to ask detailed questions after you've left a scene (flashback style)
`Paranoid` GM will suggest lots of ways that things could go wrong.
`Grandiose` Enemies that fail a morale check and would flee/rout (not retreat) instead grovel
`Immaculate` +1 damage at full HP
`Zealous` Your voice counts as a holy symbol
`Seeker of Destruction` Do +1 damage always, have +1 Death Die always
`Brave` +2 vs fear
`Hasty` +1 to Move
`Steadfast` +2 to save when holding breath or for feats of endurance
`Lithe` +2 to AC when unarmored
`Alcohol Dependence` Alcoholic drinks heals you for 1 hp.  You still get drunk, though.
`Pew pew` +1 to hit with ranged attacks, but -1 to hit with melee attacks.
`Beatstick` +1 to hit with melee attacks, but -1 to hit with ranged attacks.
`Hatred of X` +1 to hit against a certain type of creature (if you start with this, determine randomly)
`Sir Robin` Can disengage from combat without penalty, attacks of opportunity, or whatever
`Superstitious` +2 to save against curses
`Leadership` Associates must use your save against emotional effects
`Suave` If you make an effort to present yourself well, you get a +2 to positive social interactions
`Expressive` You have a gift for art - visual, music, dance, whatever. This is more about bold artistic vision and baring your soul rather than actual technical skill.
`Low Standards` Things that would be soul-crushing for most people are just a Regular Tuesday for you.
Pious: ?
Inconspicuous: ?
Showboat: ?
Ugly: ?
Competitive: ?
Servile: ?
Thinky: ?
Faithful: ?
`Contemplative` Increases the power of cleric miracles. Somehow. Others who share your faith and who are also being contemplative may assist.

= Quasi-Mindsets =
`Crammed X` You are treated as knowing a particular skill (at a small penalty) but you must Save every night or lose this. Requires a teacher and quite possibly some special ability to obtain (that either you or they have)

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Spell Generator for GLOG


 I want spells to be interesting. I want encountering them to be truly memorable. I want them to have personality. I want them to be alien. I want a practical and interesting social combat structure, or minigame, to represent the sheer amount of work it takes to catch one. I came up with a procedure for this, but I found that it was so unwieldy that I immediately realised that I needed a computer to do it for me. 

Prep procedure:

1. Get a copy of this grid in whatever format is most convenient for you. You want to be able to scribble on it. That (unmarked) grid is player-facing information for anyone that knows anything about spells.

2. Click this button. [This sentence will become a link to my next post which will be a spell mutation generator]

3. Eyeball the results. Modify as you like. Maybe reroll it if you don't like it. If it tells you to look at a particular wizard school, open up this page, find that wizard, and - assuming that a school has got 12 spells with the rarest ones at the highest numbers - take the LOWER of the two numbers in parentheses and look at THAT spell.

 4. Decide on the intelligence level of the spell. If you decide that this spell is as smart as a normal person (which I think should be rare), you can break away from this process immediately and play out any negotiations with them as you would any NPC. Do you want to see the fighter get into an argument with a talking rope while the wizard tries to break it up? I do.

 5. Mark the the Needs you rolled on the table, and the point value of each one. See how these Wants are grouped into three base categories? Decide now on the personality and the appearance - these should flow naturally out of what spell it is and those Needs. Making a guess at what a spell might do from its appearance and behaviour is a part of this game.

A spell might look like anything; it might look like an animal, vegetable, mineral, person, astral body, hairball, something a cat coughed up, an ordinary tool, something that a neural net created, a creature from Spore...

OK, your prep is done.

When encountered, it works like this.

To be able to interact with a spell properly you almost always have to be able to usefully perceive its actual form. Some are plainly visible, some are not. ALL wizards have got some ability to sense them sufficiently. This ability can be developed with proper training or by doing irresponsible things to your eyes. Non-wizard spell-hunters carry a range of Doodads; each Doodad has a 1-in-6 chance of rendering a given spell visible (salt, a cat, and a layer of alchemical crystals stuck to a sheet of paper are the most common and cheapest types). Almost all spells become visible for a short period each day, but that exact time varies.

One attempt = 1 Turn (10 minutes). The wizard (that's how I'm just going to refer to the person trying to tame the spell) incurs a Stress just to try, as they begin the intense mental work of trying to utterly comprehend the being before them while simultaneously constructing a new space for them to live in and actually navigating the negotiations.

One Attempt == the wizard gets their Wis score in actions. An action may be used to try to meet a single Want on the chart (the Wizard is provided with an unmarked chart) or to ask a general question about what courses of action are more likely to be productive.

The wizard knows whether an action was successful or not. If they were successful but this did NOT yield any points, they are informed of that too.

The threshold that must be met or exceeded to win is usually the total number of available points -6.

If you FAIL, you can immediately retry by incurring an additional Stress. You can also lock any Wants that you previously achieved by taking yet another Stress (note that some Wants will stay locked for free).

If you SUCCEED the spell moves in immediately, taking the first slot that you put the Stress into. The rest of the Stress, you need to get rid of the hard way.

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Paper Golem, a spell for menial tasks

 [ Paper Golem]     D: until next dawn     R: 10'

Target paper-doll enlarges to size of caster, adopts their attributes, and accepts instructions of [sum] nouns and verbs. Paper Golems have one hitpoint, weigh almost nothing, are blown by wind, and will wear off their fingers in an hour of hard work if they have them. They approach problems in the most obvious way that their caster would (as if in a dream, drunk, or half-asleep), have no self-preservation, and have miniscule problem-solving ability. While concentrating, caster knows approximate direction to golem and if golem is destroyed. When destroyed, material reverts to original size. Valid materials follow.

1 MD: Materials that are instantly destroyed by fire and quickly degraded by water (paper, dry leaves, reeds)

2 MD: Materials that are resistant to either water or fire (flake of wax, squashed cotton candy)

3+ MD: Any mundane material.

??? MD: A shadow (ask your GM)


Saturday, 15 August 2020

The Price of Ignorance

Experimentation and discovery: important and fun elements of the game. We should examine how we can deliberately include them in our games. Traps that only interact with your Saves, and Obstacles that only interact with your Skill Check, lack these elements, and are generally not fun. Let's do something else.

I want to define a broad category of things that I can't think of a good word for. I can, however, define their likely qualities. I suspect that you could break any and all of these rules and have the thing still serve the same purpose in the game, or have the thing obey every rule and yet not serve that purpose.

  • They serve as an obstacle or impediment, preventing or dissuading access to something behind them (possibly metaphorically)
  • Their operation is deterministic, or at least somewhat predictable
  • They respond to certain specific inputs, possibly in the form of triggers, sensors, behaviours, or manipulable controls
  • Experimentation combined with Thinking is usually the best way to find out how they work. Possible alternatives include getting the information out of an NPC or institute that does know, or expending resources (divination spells)
  • Knowing how they work is usually the best way to cease being impeded by them, though one may be able to remove the impediment (temporarily or permanently) by expending resources; either personal things like spells, or equipment, or money, or time. Or, just by taking a risk.
  • They provide enjoyment by being something to play with.

Things that are part of this broad category:

  • Some puzzles (if you do them right)
  • Traps (if you do them right) 
  • All manner of unique, possibly arcane, machinery in your dungeons, workshops, and wizard laboratories
  • Most Black Doors
  • Magic items (maybe)
  • Golems (maybe)
  • Bound devils/demons (maybe)
  • A north/south passage that you can only walk through while facing south
  • A 20' chasm with no bridge and the ghosts of 10,000 angry geese
  • An immortal Skeleton Jelly that steadily splats wetly after you without getting tired

 If all the relevant information of the obstacle is immediately obvious, then you get a closely related group in which the experimentation, discovery, and play exist only within the mental process of nutting out a good solution, as you consider different possible options:

  • Other puzzles (if you do them right)
  • Other Black Doors
  • Very obvious traps
  • Guardians with Riddles
  • Other magic items (maybe)
  • A cylindrical tunnel, lined with frictionless material, sloping upwards
  • A 20' chasm with no bridge
Some things that I believe do not belong in this group:
  • People that must be spoken to and negotiated with, or killed, avoided, etc.
  • An ordinary locked door, because everyone already knows the main options to deal with ordinary locked doors and thus require no thought. At least: the first locked door may be part of the prior category, but the 50th one will not be. Same logic applies for the 20' chasm if you see a lot of chasms.
You don't have to know what is behind these obstacles for them to work. The impediment may be metaphorical rather than physical (if the only reward is knowledge). I think you could potentially have something like this with nothing behind it at all, if you wish to either teach your players how something works (and equip them better for a similar obstacle) or simply waste everyone's time.
Unique "correct" solutions are not necessary, and in extreme cases no intended solution need be prepared at all (as long as the GM is reasonably confident that the party could come up with a way to proceed).

There also doesn't have to be an explicit penalty for doing the "wrong" thing - it's pretty much the defining quality of a trap, some puzzles use it, the only cost may be time, or it could be entirely negligible if you and your players are happy just solving puzzles. Still, I think that I would recommend incorporating some cost, no matter how small, in general.

I'm going to refer to these as Special Obstacles until further notice. That differentiates them from creatures and the most common structural features and describes their function in the universe.
Alternative names included simply "Obstacle", "Hazard", "Toy", "Diversion", "Thingy", and "Jawn".

I had another discussion about the folly of trying to categorise things and whether this is fundamentally limiting, but I don't know what to think about that yet. I think my main purpose in digging into this concept is not to try to rigorously and rigidly define the pieces that I am using to stock my adventures; it is to analyse how all these different kinds of things may be presented best and most freely when encountered. So that I can see the similarities between the game structures in different places and save myself mental work.

I also realise that the role that anything will play in your game cannot be described purely by its own qualities and place in the universe. That has a major impact, but there is also the part of how the Party relates to it, which is based on what they think of it, which the GM cannot control. Things can even be deliberately misrepresented, or miscommunication can occur - for example, the story of The Gazebo is famous. Things won't be boxed in.

Mutating Your Spells Normal spell mutation incurs one roll on the main 2d20 chart. That chart may instruct you to roll on the subsequent two...