Author: owlbearsandoddities

Fantasy Fate

I’ve grown found of the Fate system by playing Dresden. However I’ve noticed the game grows a little clunky around a few key things.

  1. Weapons and armor grant flat bonuses to attack rolls and soaking damage respectively. This turns them into a numbers game of making everything line up. That’s boring. I want your equipment to do something. A magical sword you stole from the tomb of a forgotten king should do more than give you a +1.
  2. Magic, ironically in a game about wizards, slows down and gets clunky. It has some interesting ideas but adds a huge amount of crunch to an otherwise streamlined game.

Design principles:

  1. Stunts should be based around props to emulate the importance of equipment in typical RPGs. Example: The stunt to use Sneak to attack you require you to use knives.
  2. Miscellaneous equipment should either let you interact with the world in a new way, negate a penalty, or act as an aspect with a free tag when used. Example: A light source will let you read the markings in a dark ruin which you normally would not be able to do. A grappling hook with rope would provide a free tag on an Athletics check to climb a cliff. A healer’s kit lets you make a Heal check without a penalty.
  3. Weapons and armor should act as aspects in some regard but should avoid giving set numeral bonuses.

Weapons:

Weapons are an aspect in themselves and can be tagged both positively and negatively. A “rusty, dull sword” can still attack but can also be tagged against due to its poor state. This is also a way to simulate monsters with resistance to certain kinds of damage. Skeletons with resistance to slashing damage can spend a fate point to ignore a specific attack from a sword.

Weapons, provided they are not improvised, get a free invoke once per session. Magical weapons can ignore most damage resistances and get an extra free invoke. (Should there be a way to recharge the free invoke? Should they have a special stunt they can spend that invoke on? Yes.)

Armor:

Armor provides free consequences that can’t be tagged based on its class. Light armor provides a free mild consequence. Medium armor provides a free mild and moderate consequence but also imposes a -1 to Sneak and Athletics checks. Heavy provides a free mild, moderate, and severe consequence but imposes a -2 to Sneak and Athletics checks.

While armor consequences can’t be tagged they also don’t heal on their own either. They require a Craft check with the same requirements as a Heal check to repair.

Stunts:

Sorcery: Once per session, use Lore in place of any other skill as you cast an appropriate spell (make yourself invisible to Sneak, throw a bolt of arcane energy for Shoot, levitate for Athletics to climb a cliff.) You can spend a fate point each time after the first in a session to do it again.

Favored Spell: With the appropriate prop, like a wand, staff,  amulet, etc, you can use your Lore to replace a specific skill without spending a fate point or using your free use of Sorcery. Requires Sorcery.

Blessed: Spend a fate point to reduce any non-Extreme consequence by one level and convert it into a recovery consequence. Mild consequences go away entirely but otherwise there must be an open consequence slot for the injury to be downgraded. Non-injury consequences can be healed in the same way. Each fate point spent removes a free invoke on the aspect. Once the aspect has no invokes left spend a fate point and the aspect will be removed.

Fighting Style: Pick a combination of weapons and get a bonus while you are wielding it. Shields let you use close combat to defend against range. Two weapons (+1 to attack and defense?) Two-handed weapon (gives you +2 but with a penalty?)

Alchemy: Spend a fate point and invest a resolve to make a potion. It acts as a specific spell (replace a skill check with… the alchemist’s Occult? Gain an aspect you can tag for free for thematically appropriate checks?) or as a use of the Blessed stunt. Your resolve is lowered as long as you have the potion and returns as soon as you use it or it is given away.

Skills:

  • Athletics
  • Burglary
  • Contacts
  • Crafts
  • Deceive
  • Empathy
  • Fight
  • Investigate
  • Lore
  • Notice
  • Physique
  • Provoke
  • Rapport
  • Ride
  • Shoot
  • Stealth
  • Will

Races:

I want the non-human races to feel different. In effect they are a bundle of stunts you have to pay some Refresh to play one.

Elves:

  • +2 to Notice, it still occupies the same slot on the ladder and this can take it about +5
  • Has to put Lore up to at least +2
  • Gets Sorcery stunt

Dwarves:

  • +2 Physique, it still occupies the same slot on the ladder and this can take it about +5
  • Has to put Craft up to at least +2
  • Gets Darkvision
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Clerics in GLOG

Edited after some input.

So I’ve been perusing a few OSR blog sites for the past year or so and discovered that I quite enjoy the GLOG system by Arnold K. It has a few OSR design principles that I greatly enjoy.  Specifically every class should be unique and should have some system that makes them useful and feel useful.

His wizard rules are extremely elegant. If you haven’t read them I recommend it. The design principles can be found here and some of the actual classes can be found here. The idea behind them has been picked up by other blog authors and they’ve come up with their own traditions of wizards. In case you haven’t read it yet (you really should) I’ll summarize.

  • Wizards get a Magic Die (MD) per level (max level of four in GLOG.)
  • They get six spells at first level and the next two new ones each level.
  • To cast a spell the wizard declares they are using as many spell dice as they want, up to their level.
  • The wizard rolls the dice. Some spell effects are determined by the number of dice used. Other effects (usually damage) are determined by the sum of the dice used.
  • If a die comes up as a four through six the die is exhausted for the day, otherwise it returns to the wizard’s MD pool.
  • If the dice come up with doubles then a mishaps happens. The wizard rolls on the mishaps table for their tradition and it happens immediately. Mishaps are bad but not necessarily fatal.
  • If the dice come up with triples a Doom happens. Dooms are bad. Really bad. Each tradition has three and they start bad and get worse. The first two impair you pretty severely for a temporary amount of time or a minor impairment permanently. The third either kills you or majorly impairs you permanently. There are workarounds but they are quests in and of themselves.

So you commit MD to cast spells. The more MD you commit the more powerful a spell is likely to be. If a MD rolls well that spell benefits from it but then the MD goes away for the day. If the MD doesn’t roll well then the spell kinda sucks but you don’t lose any resources. Using more dice is also risky because you might have Bad Things happen to you. I like it. It’s simple, easily understandable, powerful, and capable of being twisted into new forms but I still feel something is missing. That thing is clerics.

I’ve been in a few GLOG games and we really haven’t had a good cleric class. I would really like to see that and I’m not going to reinvent the wheel on magic dice so I’m just gonna gut the GLOG wizard and sew it back together as a divine caster.

Image result for hand coming out of grave
*cue maniacal laughter*

Every GLOG wizard school has some perks, restrictions, 12 spells, 2 legendary spells, a mishaps table, and a doom table. So let’s lay down the generic rules for a cleric and see how easy it is to work with.

Class: Cleric

Restrictions:

  • You are part of a religion and that religion has tenets. Unfortunately for you, your divine patron, or one of its servants, actually checks up on you enough that it matters whether you follow them or not. Work with your GM to determine five tenets for your religion, two major, and three minor.
  • Major tenets should ban you from doing something. They get you into trouble and tempt you to break them.
  • Minor tenets should be discrete actions that you are encouraged to seek out and do.
  • If you break a major tenet lose all your current MD.

Perks:

  • Your religion has tenets but luckily your patron, or one of its servants, checks on you enough that you get to ask for clarification in the rules. Once a session you can work with your GM and change a tenet. Your patron is obviously infallible but maybe that prophet misheard them or maybe there are new rules for a new age.
  • If you uphold a major tenet when it is inconvenient, gain two MD.
  • If you perform a minor tenet, gain a MD.
  • You can only gain MD from any single tenet once a session.

Special Mechanics:

Cleric MD don’t work quite like a wizard’s do. They don’t come back with rest and always exhaust when used to cast a spell. However clerics can recover MD during the day through their tenets, never suffer mishaps, and never suffer dooms.

Clerics generate MD when they follow their tenets and their MD don’t expire until they have been used to cast a spell or the cleric breaks one of their tenets. The ability to change their tenets will hopefully keep a cleric from being in a situation where they can’t gain MD for more than a session.

They still prepare their spells normally and have spell slots like a normal wizard. They can cast spells out of spellbooks, scrolls, wands, and staves.

At level 3 instead of gaining the Vancian magic ability they gain Practiced in Faith. When you prepare you spells declare one is practiced. Once during that day before you cast the spell declare it’s Practiced and the MD invested in it return on a roll of 1-3 like a normal wizard.

Crusader

Tenets:

  • Major: Do no harm to lawful practitioners of your religion.
  • Major: Do not use slashing or piercing weapons.
  • Minor: Sincerely pray aloud at least once a day.
  • Minor: Tithe ten percent of your wealth to the church.
  • Minor: Seek out and destroy undead.

Spells:

  • Smite
    • Range: touch
    • Target: one creature
    • Make a melee attack against a creature as you rebuke it. Add [sum] to the normal damage that you roll. The attack counts as magical if it wasn’t already.
  • Heal
    • Range: touch
    • Target: one living creature
    • Heal the creature of [sum] damage.
  • Bless
    • Range: 50′
    • Target: [dice] creatures
    • Duration: 1 hour or until expired
    • Create a pool of [sum] points to be spent by target creatures. Spent points are added to any non-damage or non-casting roll before the roll is made.
  • Detect Evil
    • Range: 200′
    • Target: self
    • Duration: [dice] hours
    • You instinctively know when a evil outsider, undead, any mortal who has made a pact with supernatural evil entity, or any mortal or who is Truly Evil comes within range of the smell. This does not tell how powerful it is, what it is, or help you see through any disguise it is using.
  • Sanctuary
    • Range: touch
    • Target: one creature or object
    • Duration: [dice] rounds
    • You are protected from [sum] damage. Any attack completely absorbed does not connect and any secondary effects do not take place. If the target of this spell causes damage to anyone even indirectly, the spell ends immediately.
  • Dispel Evil
    • Range: 50′
    • Target: up to [dice] undead or evil outsiders
    • Duration: 10 minutes
    • Split [sum] damage among the targets as evenly as possible. Any surviving targets must make a save or be afraid of the caster for the duration.
  • Command
    • Range: 50′
    • Target: one creature
    • Duration: concentration + 1 minute
    • Give a command of [dice] words to the target. You have to be able to speak but the target doesn’t have to know your language. If the target fails their save they immediately begin following your order. If the command would cause the target to kill itself it hesitates for a turn and makes another save.
  • Shield of Faith
    • Range: 100′
    • Target: one creature
    • As a reaction to the target being hit by an attack add [dice] to their AC.
  • Aura of Courage
    • Range: 50′
    • Target: self
    • Duration: [sum] minutes
    • You and all your allies are immune to any mental compulsion or control targeting them. Any current compulsions are suppressed for the duration of the spell.
  • Call to Battle
    • Range: 50′
    • Target: Up to [dice] weapons
    • Duration: 10 minutes
    • Distribute the dice of this spell between the targeted weapons. For the duration the wielder of one of those weapons can spend a single die after a successful attack and add it to the damage. The attack counts as magical if it wasn’t before. The spell ends on a targeted weapon if it is dropped.
  • Restoration
    • Range: touch
    • Target: one living creature
    • Touch the target and choose an ailment as you say a prayer of recovery. If the dice you spend matches or beats the HD of the creature that inflicted it the effect is dispelled. The GM should determine the HD of any disease or poison not inflicted by a creature. This spell breaks the normal dice cap so you may spend as many as you have.
  • Divination
    • Casting time: 10 minutes
    • Ask the GM [dice] yes or no questions about an upcoming event or course of action. The GM must answer truthfully but can answer with “unclear” if the answer really is neither yes or no.

 

Legendary Spells:

  • Hallow
    • Target: 50′ square feet
    • Duration: special
    • The area becomes hallowed ground. Undead cannot be raised there. Evil outsiders and undead must save to enter it. The duration is determined by the [dice.] At 1 die, a day. At 2 dice, a week. At 3 dice, a month. At 4 dice, it’s permanent.
  • Resurrection
    • Range: touch
    • Target: one corpse
    • This spell restores a dead creature to life. The number of dice determine the amount of time the creature could have been dead for. At 1 die, a day. At 2 dice, a week. At 3 dice, a month. At 4 dice, a year. Your constitution is permanently lowered by the same number of dice spent on this spell for being too close to death.

Mishaps:

  • None

Dooms:

  • None

I’m not super happy with the Detect Evil spell but I think the others are pretty good. You should be able to dump the tenets section on a normal wizard and turn them into a cleric pretty easily.

The tenets are meant to be manipulated for what you think is coming up. About to fight a vampire who has mind controlled followers of your faith? It’s probably a good idea to change that tenet then. Heading back to town? Why not point out that a holiday is coming up and you need to perform a sermon for it.

Evil Option: Remember when I said that cleric’s MD always exhaust but never cause mishaps or dooms? Well that was just for the clerics of good gods. The evil ones grant more power but there are consequences for channeling that much power. Their MD only exhaust on 4-6 but have mishaps and dooms like normal wizards.

Bog Men

Bogs are a fascinating natural feature. They aggregate dying plant matter faster than it decays and forms it into peat. They have their own barren sort of beauty to them. And peat, once dried to use as a fuel, is an important natural resource for the cultures that live around it. It’s unsurprising bogs become a source of reverence and dependency for the villages that rely on them.

We find so many fascinating things in bogs. The naturally slow decay led people to store various food stuffs in the bogs for preservation. Like butter. They called it bog butter. Just let that sink in. They called it bog butter and people ate it. Desperate, sad people.

220px-bog_butter_-_ulster_museum
Yum.

But perhaps more importantly, people are dug up from the bog occasionally. The bog preserves the bodies remarkable well. Sometimes they are so well preserved that even after hundreds of years the discovery sparks a murder investigation before someone learned realizes what it is, a bog mummy.

The conditions of the bog preserve the flesh of the bodies so well that beard stubble and laugh lines show up centuries later. It’s almost a perfect process. Almost. The bones don’t go through quite the same procedure. Instead the calcium is leached away, slowly disintegrating the skeletal structure. What is left is a person bag. Or more accurately a person suit. And there are always things looking for a new suit.

The world we live in is only a sliver of the whole world. Like fish that cannot comprehend of the things that live above water we can never completely understand the things that live beyond our world. Folklore is full of these things known by various names and trying to condense them into any kind of category would be a fool’s errand. However for simplicity let’s call these distant entities spirits.

Spirits can rarely directly interact with our world, which is a shame for them because they really want to. Just so badly. But they need something in return. The specifics vary between spirits. Some want worship and sacrifice. Others need incredibly esoteric and specific things. Others need very practical things done for them. The spirits of the bog fall in the first category.

Getting worship can be awfully hard for spirits. They are quite powerful but they lack finesse so direct interaction isn’t really an option. To make matters worse we don’t think like they do and we don’t really understand their needs the same way they don’t understand ours. This doesn’t mean the spirits don’t try of course. They send messages pretty often but either we don’t notice them or can’t understand them. Imagine trying to get a family of hamsters to arrange their food in a specific pattern by taping IKEA diagrams on the sides of their cages and you’ll start to get the idea.

Now occasionally a shaman arises that learns to interpret the fever dreams the spirits send. But they have their own ambitions and aren’t perfect. Ideally the spirit wants some kind of conduit to interact with directly. Some use statues of themselves built in temples dedicated to them. Other, more rustic spirits, have to make do with the materials at hand.

We’ve all heard the stories of burning wickermen beginning to walk and rumbling commands to the terrified villagers. And while that is certainly impressive and grandiose it doesn’t last too long before it loses structural integrity and the whole thing collapses. But in bog men the spirits find the ideal solution. They are already preserved. They have all the tools to directly talk to the people around them. They even have empty space inside for comfortable wearing. The bog spirit now has a way to directly tell the locals what it wants and even better it has a way to focus its powers. The body has been in the bog long enough that it resonates with the spirit and when the spirit has more of its essence here it can bring even more metaphysical weight to bear.

So what does the bog man do now? Well the short answer is all the odd things it wants. It leads the worship and corrects the rites of the locals. It experiments on local animals and shapes them in the way it wants. And it performs miracles. It may demand a lot from the locals but it knows they have their own needs even if it doesn’t quite understand how they work. The crops always grow tall. The weather is always what it needs to be. The villagers don’t get sick. Children grow up strong. Raiders get lost in the wilderness and mauled by wildlife.

While the bog man’s worshipers may get all the need to live they are still under the thumb of their new mad leader and travelers can usually feel it. The atmosphere of the community changes as everyone becomes more watchful and paranoid. People in neighboring communities tend to disappear. All of the things that draw meddling adventurers into town.

While the bog man possess the direct power of a high level druid the most important part of its repertoire is the region itself. Every animal there long enough comes under its sway and can act as a spy or assassin for it. The weather shifts from inconveniencing groups and slowing travel to an outright assault if the travelers meddle too much. The flora seems to trip and scratch people who wander places they shouldn’t be. Mud will hold people in place until the wolves can get to them. If things get desperate enough rivers will overrun their banks and wash offenders away.

They do have their own weaknesses of course. Whatever esoteric banes the spirit has can be brought to bear against the bog mummy they are riding. The same spiritual density that lets them throw their mystical weight around also makes them very vulnerable to their special weakness. Also, they are walking around in a corpse soaked in flammable material so there’s that too.

bog mummy.jpg

Haunted Dolls

So one of the things I planned on using this blog for is posting ideas that I would like to use for my game at some point. At the very least it lets me write down and polish them for myself and maybe share them with someone else while I’m at it. I’ve seen the haunted doll trope a lot recently. Between the podcasts I listen to and the various short stories I read it has come up a lot. So I thought about how I’d like to use them.

Poppets are dolls that either intentionally or accidentally harbor a portion of someone’s soul. Either they are dear to someone in life and the ghost maintains a connection to it or a living person secrets a sliver of themselves into one through a ritual.

The Ritual:

That a humanoid form is the best container to keep a soul in is fact. Some scholars argue that’s why people are shaped the way they are. The more the doll resembles the subject the better. Also the more care and time that is spent in its creation the better. A hand made doll with hair from the subject and carefully selected glass eyes of just the right color works best.

The ritual itself lasts a few hours and must be done while the subject still lives. Once they have died they are beyond the reach of this magic. The ritual has two goals. First, it symbolically gives the doll the same name as the subject, blurring the line between the two metaphorically. Second, a shard of the subject’s soul is placed in the doll with the name. Some philosophies make the claim that a person’s name is their soul and by sharing the name with the doll it accomplishes both feats at once. But that’s just theory.

After the ritual is complete the poppet shares a unique bond with the subject. It is a common story for poppets to manifest scars and wounds that the living counterpart sustains. The subject subconsciously begins to view the poppet the same way as they view themselves. A well adjusted person would be find it quite companionable. A person filled with self-loathing would grow to resent the poppet. Other people might find the poppet unsettling but as long as the subject and poppet survive that is the extent of the effect.

If the poppet is destroyed the living person will feel a jolt of pain and chill as the separated portion of their soul is destroyed. If they are weak enough it is possible this will kill them but most people shake it off after a few minutes. However the real reason the ritual is performed is insurance against the living person’s untimely death.

Sharing the same name and a sliver of the same soul between the living person and the poppet confuses the natural process of death. If the living person dies from something other than old age while the poppet still exists their soul is torn in half. Half going where ever it is supposed to go and the other half flowing into the poppet. This results in the poppet animating under its own power and consciousness. A broken consciousness.

Having a portion of someone’s soul splintered is traumatic enough. Surviving the experience of death with only half of a soul is mind shattering on a whole new level. Many poppets have difficulty remembering who they were, why they are here, what happened to them, and all suffer some manner of obsessions.

Still surviving with mental trauma is still better than not surviving at all. At different times nobles in several different kingdoms were known to create a poppet of their children at birth in case they were assassinated or killed during war. This certainly didn’t help maintain a stable nobility and has also lead to darker situations.

Borennon:

The tradition of making poppets is long and storied in Borennon. Most people don’t know the actual magic and just hope that the doll will absorb the tragic fate set out of their child in place of them. Some nobles know the truth though, they still practice the old ways. By severing a portion of their child’s soul when they are an infant there are better chances of them recovering and growing up normal. Of course that also means there are more animated poppets running around too. Unable to be seen in public many are tasked with clerical roles in the family. After all if they can’t be a physical presence they might as well be an intellectual one.

Some servants talk though. They tend to the chronically ‘sick children’ of the nobility that never seem to eat much and never leave their rooms. They tell other rumors too. They tell of secret meetings between poppets. Of hushed whispers and councils by candlelight. Necromantic laboratories staffed by walking dolls intent on reversing the process and putting themselves into living bodies. These can only be rumors of course. Can you imagine a soul that had managed to place themselves back into a living body? How broken would they be? How obsessed with physical sensations. And if they did the poppet process again? A splinter of a splinter? Not to mention one that had mastery of such arts and in such a powerful position as a noble family.