Saturday, 30 September 2017

Subverting Mage Steryotypes

Think of a 'bad wizard.' They're a necromancer, right? Maybe a rat mage, a pyromancer, or a witch.

Now think of a 'good wizard.' Light mage? Healer? Lovable illusionist?

All of those are wrong.

Shadow mages get a bad rep. Sure, in the civilized lands they conjure darkness, despair, all the crap, but Shadow mages are, by and large, pacifists.

Shadow is scary, but it in itself can't hurt you. Shadows can blind, but when the darkness clears, you'll still be able to see. But if light blinds? You may never see again.

Shadow mages in most lands are thieves and tricksters, using their magic to enhance their larcenous skills. It is an art rarely taught outside criminal circles.

In the Inkal desert, Shadowmancy is one of the most taught schools of magic. It is powerful, versatile, and useful. During the day, it can be used to hide from the burning heat of the sun. At night, it grants concealment in an otherwise flat land.

The north is the one place where Shadow mages are almost exclusively evil. There, powerful shadow mages shroud entire valleys in darkness, blotting out the sun and bringing a cold, dark, slow death to all inhabitants, after which they descend to claim the spoils of war.

Fire is dangerous. In the middle-lands, pyromancy is feared, much as anyone would fear someone carrying a Molotov cocktail everywhere they went. It is dangerous, volatile, and causes too much collateral damage to be safe.

However, in Inkal, pyromancers are praised for their ability to turn sand to glass quicker than any forge. Great works of art, palaces, and even, once, and entire city have been raised by a dedicated pyromancer.

But, it is in the northern lands where pyromancers are granted the most respect. The north is cold, and fire is warm. Pyromancers bring light and heat to entire tribes during the long months of dark and snow. Many tribes have survived solely because of the loyalty of a single fire mage.

Of all the schools of magic, enchantment is the only one universally feared, and regarded as evil. Taking away the free will of a person or creature, while powerful, is regarded by most as the height of immorality. Enchanters survive through secrecy or fear, and entire armies have been raised to kill a single mage who went too far into the depths of mind-magic.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Excerpt: Artifact creation example

This is an Excerpt from the section of Land of the God kings on the creation of artifacts.

Artifacts are powerful magical items that Ascended beings can create and use. Examples would include: The One Ring from LotR, Dragnipur from the Malazan Book of the Fallen, or the Book of Vile Darkness from D&D.

Without further ado: Enjoy!

Kuthru Blademaster, a Smith of Legend, wants to make his Warrior friend, Alexander the Bloody, a weapon. He starts by picking a base: Alexander generally uses a sword, so that starts it off as [sword, 3 harm close].

Kuthru rolls his Wyrd to use his Create Artifact ability, and gets a 7. That means he gets 2 Enhancements, 1 Flaw, and 4 power. He wants to save choosing the artifacts Powers until later, so he skips to the Enhancement section.

Kuthru decides to take the +indestructible and +magic eating enhancements. He is tempted by +strengthening, but Alexander’s last sword was destroyed by a dragon, and he’s been having trouble with mages, so he doesn’t want either of those to happen again. Now, the artifact looks like this:

[sword, 3 harm close, +indestructible, +magic eating]

Kuthru now has to choose one flaw. He decides that, although powerful, the sword requires it’s bearer to give up a little bit of their social graces (no, this has nothing to do with the fact that Alexander seduced the barmaid he fell in love with). He chooses +weakening manipulative. The sword now looks like this:

[sword, 3 harm close, +indestructible, +magic eating, +weakening manipulative]

Now it’s time for Kuthru to choose powers. He decides that he wants the sword to grant unnatural knowledge to it’s bearer. He talks with the GM, and they decide that this ability will allow the bearer to treat any result of a 6- on a Remember roll as a 7-9. They also decide that it will allow the bearer to ask 1 extra question when they make an Observe roll. The GM decides that while this is a powerful ability, it isn’t dangerously powerful, and so he assigns a power of +1 to each ability, making this power a total of +2.

Next, Kuthru wants the sword to grant the ability to control the ocean, moving it and changing it’s state as the bearer chooses. The GM decides that that ability is quite powerful, and assigns it a rating of +3. Kuthru realizes that this brings the total power of his artifact up to 5, which means he has to find a way to lower the power by 1. He decides that he likes the unnatural knowledge power, and instead weakens and changes the ocean power to instead grant the ability to call storms. The GM decides this is acceptable, and gives this power a rating of +2.

Kuthru pays his price for creating the artifact, and works with the GM to write down it’s abilities. In the end, the artifact looks like this:

Wurthul, the Storm-Bringer
Sword, 3 harm close.
Indestructible. Wurthul cannot be destroyed, unless it is brought to the bottom of the ocean and struck with a holy book of Temp, the Sea god.
Weakening Manipulative. While in possession of Wurthul, you become hot-tempered and stormlike. You have the lower of -1 to your Manipulative, or 0 Manipulative.
Moves. While in possession of Wurthul, you gain the following moves.
Memory of the Depths. When you Remember, you can treat a 6- as a 7-9.
Knowledge of the Depths. When you Observe, you may as 1 extra question.
Eater of Magic. When a spell is cast on you and you have Wurthul in your hand, roll +Wyrd. On a 10+, the spell doesn’t affect you. On a 7-9, the spell falters, having half the normal effect on you. On a 6-, the spell goes off without a hitch.
Storm-Bringer. When you try to summon a storm, roll +Wyrd. On a 10+, choose 2. On a 7-9, choose 1.
  • The storm comes quickly.
  • The storm is in your control.
  • The storm is powerful.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Land of the God-Kings Announcement

Over the last month or so, I've been working on a system using the Powered by the Apocalypse Engine (all credit to the origional creator, you're a genius, dude), taking tips from dungeon world, inspired by books like The Malazan Book of the Fallen and other high-fantasy stories, and grudgingly made because my players were getting annoyed at how often they die.

In Land of the God-Kings, characters play as the movers and shakers of the land. You aren't fighting an orc and hoping you survive. You're taking on armies because you're bored.

 It is a game where characters are defined by their flaws, driven by their desired, and opposed by each other. If you want a game where you can lay armies low, but still get down and dirty fighting a single great warrior, Land of the God-Kings is the game for you.

Character playbooks will include everything from Warriors to Undead to World-Destroyers. Starting moves are things like 'Destroy anything' or 'teleport anywhere.'

It is still WIP, but will be updated as time goes on. For now, here are some images that fit characters you could make:

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Wandering Necromancers and the City of the Dead

A History of Death
Necromancers have been around for a very long time. Almost as long as death itself. They are older than humans, and older than most of the gods. The very first necromancers arose from a race long forgotten, back when words had real power. Back when death was knew, and even more frightening than it is today.

Once upon a time, a young child asked their mother to get up. They sobbed as dirt fell, covering her corpse until it was six feet underground.

But as I said, words had power. The mother's body heard her child, even if the soul had long since departed. She dug her way up before nature even knew what was wrong.

Thus began the necromancers. Kings eternal over kingdoms undying.

Nowadays, most necromancers are Wanderers. You do get the odd extra-antisocial manic who wants to live in a dungeon and conquer the lands of the living, but they don't last long. Sometimes they starve to death, or their focus lapses and their creations eat them. Anything can happen.

There are also sometimes pirates or priests, but they're a different thing altogether. 
  Wanderers, although despised, looked down on, and ridiculed by many, are an integral and valuable part of society. Like retail workers, if they could run an entire store with the corpses of your ancestors and sheer force of will.

Necromancers, in those places out of the eye of the True God, or simply willing to bend some rules, provide labour, defence, or even entertainment, for a fee. Many of the more selfless ones even forgo the cost, doing good deeds for free.

The typical life of a Wanderer follows a simple pattern: Get to town with a group of undead, reanimate as many more as possible, work for a few weeks, get kicked out, repeat.

Of course, they often move on simply because the pay wasn't good, or because they got bored, but mages are notorious drama queens.

All schools of wizardry have a negative emotion that they suffer increasing amounts of, simply from casting their spells. Necromancers are lonely. They have the power at their fingertips to raise armies, bring the dead (partially) back, and turn enemies into friends, but they are lonely.

It's an ironic hell that they live in.

Most small towns were built by Wanderers, or at least started by them. When settlers came, the Wanderers paved the way. They built the first houses in the mountains, and gave the order to drag their own limp, dehydrated bodies across deserts to found sugar plantations.

Wanderers have a strained relationship with the Church of the True God. The Church's inclination to kill all necromancers other than themselves is conflicted with their desire to make life better for themselves and, to a lesser extent, their followers.

With the common folk, Wanderers are treated as an unpleasant necessity. Some towns are more welcoming than others, but the general respond to a Wanderer is 'here's some cash, do the job, and get out.'

Necromancers and ghouls generally fight, as both of them view corpses as a precious commodity. Both of them together, however, will often make a great team.

Necromancy. What is it?
Now: Necromancy is defined as:
Necromancy (/ˈnɛkrəˌmænsi, -r-/[1][2]) is a supposed practice of magic involving communication with the deceased – either by summoning their spirit as an apparition or raising them bodily – for the purpose of divination, imparting the means to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge, to bring someone back from the dead, or to use the deceased as a weapon, as the term may sometimes be used in a more general sense to refer to black magic or witchcraft.[3][4]
 Now, for today, we're focusing on the 'Bodily part. The core of what a necromancer does. Turning a useless old sack of meat and stink into a helpful old sack of meat and stink. Sometimes this is slow, sometimes this is fast. Sometimes you need to call up the spirit of a fallen warrior to posses the body, sometimes you just need to tell the muscles that to do. It all depends.

In addition, the types of undead are exceedingly varied. You've got your typical zombies, skeletons, crawling claws... but then you have odder things. Skin kites, nailmen, organ-snakes... the list goes on. A sufficiently experienced necromancer should be able to make four or five functional undead from a single body.

Necromancy, at it's heart, is a complicated process. Everyone approaches it differently, and listing all the different methods possible is too large a project for this post.

The City of the Dead 
The City of the Dead is not quite a city. It's a library. Countless rooms, towers, and basements, each filled to the brim with books. It was made over the course of nearly a thousand years, and tended to by an army of undead. Although anyone is allowed to peruse it's endless halls, necromancers are the most frequent patrons.

It is guarded by the same army that cleans it, organizes the shelves, and carries candles for any mortal who wishes to read. The entire place is protected by wards, preventing fires, water, or removal of books.

Mages, the curious, and any who would add to the library's defences or knowledge are welcomed with open arms. No one owns the library, and nobody knows who originally created it, but it protects itself. It has endured the rise and fall of many empires, and catalogued them all.

Some mages have made their homes there, nestled in the crooks and crannies of shelves, seeking out the secrets of immortality, death, and ultimate power within the books. They are most often necromancers, as they can send their servants to fetch food and drink from the outside world.

Ghosts often frequent the halls, often simply to read, wiling away their afterlife on the pursuit of knowledge.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

The Children's Crusade

Four hundred years ago, the Children's crusade began, starting 'the Year of Nightmares.'

Like all the best wars, it started with romance. Babies started disappearing, vanished from their cribs in the middle of the night. Here and there, it happened at least once in each town. People began panicking, and couldn't find what was wrong, who was taking their children. Ghouls had taken them before, here and there, but it was rare. Mass kidnapping like this simply didn't happen.

The thieving of babies died down in a year or so, and people began to forget. All was quiet for about a decade, and then reports starting coming in from the east. Reports of monster children...

Ryan Yee, 'Blood Bairn' 

Investigations were sent, adventurers and soldier to investigate. The ones who managed to return spoke of fields of blood, with not a corpse in sight. The source became clear, and the dots were connected. The monster children were ghouls. But for what purpose was not known...

Ghoul children were an oddity. They did exist. They had to. But, they were rarely seen. They looked more human than their parents, unless they were feeding. They were generally cared for by their parents until they were old enough to strike out on their own. They rarely survived long on their own. Superhuman strength + a thirst for flesh + the emotions of a 10 year-old do not lead one to be very subtle.

Randis Albion, 'Spoiled' 

But not now. Adult ghouls had simply... vanished. Even those who had been outed, and lived off of corpses in relatively peaceful lives had disappeared.

An army was raised. Hundreds of knights on horseback rode out to face to coming horde. They stood, tall, proud, and only slightly shitting themselves as nearly a half-thousand blood-soaked children ran faster than any man up the hill to meet them. 

Photographer, 'Vampire Child' 

The knights had an advantage besides their superior weaponry and training. The ghouls, although hungry, were still children. The knights were large. When one of them was downed, he or she was swarmed, and devoured in less than a minute. The children, sated and no longer in a frenzy, would flee the battle. 

Some escaped. Most died. Just like that, the children's crusade was over. The mystery of where the adults went was never solved. The children were scared and confused. They told tales of waking alone in the night, watched by an enormous snake. They spoke of men made of blood, a grinning skull, and a field of corpses stretching from horizon to horizon. Blood-coloured skies flashing with red lightning, and stick-thin beasts striding through deserts of glass.

Several ghoul children were captured, and raised by an order of knights who paid homage to Gothos. They formed an elite crew of warriors known simply as 'the Crusaders' paying homage to the war they fought so long ago, for reasons they will never fully understand.

Darek Zabrocki, 'Twins of Maurer Estate.'

How Can I Use This? If you want to use to Children's crusade, here are some ideas for adapting it to your world or game: 
1. If you aren't using ghouls or something similar, try vampires. If you want to go for a terrifying mystery, make the ghouls into perfectly normal children, who suddenly grew unearthly strong and developed a taste for human flesh.
2. If you are playing an RPG, why not have the players take part in the groups of knights fighting in the crusade? Or, they could play the poor sods having to escort the captured child-ghouls to their new home, or even take care of them afterward. A ghoul PC could be the survivor of the children's crusade. If you want to get really weird, have the PCs play ghoul children leading up to the crusade itself.

An explanation: I'm sorry about my long absence from writing this blog, I've been very busy with writing, designing version 2 of Lint, and personal matters. I'll try and update it more frequently, and a guest author may make a post or two in the following months. Stay tuned!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Lint RPG: Basic Rules and Ability scores

The Rolling System
Most of this game operates off of a very simple system: whenever you want to do something, you roll 1d20, and try and get below a target number. If you get below, you succeed.

John is a new adventurer, and he is a little stronger than average. John has 11 Strength. His GM says ‘John, roll a Strength check to break down the door.’

John rolls 1d20. If he gets 11 or less, he manages to break down the door. 12 or higher means he fails.

However, if his GM decided the door was reinforced, then he might say ‘John, roll a Strength check with -3.’

This means, for the purposes of breaking down this door, John treats his Strength as 3 lower, in this case, he has to roll 8 or lower to break down the door.

And that’s it. Except for any special abilities or damage rolls, you just are rolling a d20, and hoping you get low.

Ability Scores
Ability scores are your baseline for pretty much everything you do. They are how smart your character is, how tough, how quick-witted, everything.

When determining your ability scores, you roll 4d4 for each one, in order. After you have rolled each ability score, you can choose to either switch two of your scores around, or reroll 1 score. If at least 5 of your scores are 8 or lower, and you have no score of 12 or higher, you may reroll all your scores.

You also have an ability score modifier, which adds to some of your secondary stats or damage rolls. It is equal to: your ability score divided by 3 - 3, rounded down (for example, 11 divided by 3 is 3 when rounded down, -3 is 0. 12 divided by 3 is 4, -3 is 1). Modifiers can be negative.

Certain races might have a + or - to an ability score. If you have a + to an ability score, you roll 5d4 for that score, and use the 4 highest dice. If you have a - to an ability score, you do the same, but use the 4 lowest dice.

When you level up, you can increase ability scores. Choose 1 ability score, and the rest of your group chooses another that they think makes sense for your character, in secret. After that, roll 3d6 for each score. If the resulting number is greater than the ability score, the ability score increases by 1. Unless otherwise stated, an ability score can never be higher than 18.

Score Descriptions
Agility. This is how quick and stealthy your character is, as well as their overall ninjaness. It is rolled when you try to do something like pick a pocket or land on your feet. It determines your defence, stealth, and speed, as well as your attack and damage with ranged and light weapons.
Charisma. This is how approachable, attractive, and persuasive your character is, as well as their ability to lie and sense of conviction. It is rolled during some social interactions, or sometimes when trying to tame animals. It determines your conviction.
Composure. This is how calm, collected, and stoic your character is, as well as their morale. It is rolled when you are resisting a fear attack, keeping your nerve against overwhelming odds, or resisting torture. It determines your sanity.
Endurance. This is how tough your character is, and how much they can take before breaking. It is rolled when you are crossing a desert on little water, trying to stay awake for long periods of time, or trying to not die. It determines your health.
Intelligence. This is how book-smart your character is, and how good their memory handles information. It is rolled when trying to solve a puzzle, build some architecture, or remember a monster’s weakness. It determines your skills, as well as how fast they increase.
Luck. This is how lucky your character is, and how much plot-armour they have. It is rolled for things your character’s skills and abilities wouldn’t matter against, such as who the avalanche decides to fall towards (although then you could make a check to avoid the avalanche). It determines your luck points.
Strength. This is how strong your character is, and how much force they can bring to bear. It is rolled when you want to muscle your way through a crowd, or bash someone over the head. It determines your encumbrance, as well as your attack and damage with melee weapons.
Wisdom. This is your character’s perceptiveness and insight, as well as their sense for nature. It is rolled when you want to forage for food or be certain if someone is lying to you or not. It determines your perception.
Wits. This is your character’s quickness of mind, as well as how fast they are to react to a situation. It is rolled when you need to solve a problem quickly (and intelligence to see if you actually can), or when improvising. It determines your initiative, as well as your attack and damage during surprise rounds.

Vital Statistics
Vital Statistics are special things you roll in certain situations, or resources that deplete over a period of time. Some classes will increase Vital Statistics.

Attack. You attempt to roll under this when you are attacking an opponent, if you succeed, your attack hits. It starts at 10, and increases by 1 at even-numbered levels, up to a maximum of 15. In addition, if you are using a weapon, you may also add your relevant ability score (usually either agility, strength, or wits) to the number, up to a maximum of 18. When attacking an opponent with a bonus to defence, you reduce your attack by that number (if the number is negative, you increase your attack).

Defence. You attempt to roll under this when an opponent is attacking you, if you succeed, the opponent misses. It is 10+your agility modifier (this means it can be lower than 10 with a negative modifier). Wearing armour can increase it by up to +6 (depending on the armour), while using a shield increases it by +1. It has a maximum of 18.

Health. This is a number that is reduced whenever you get hit by an attack or other hazard. It is equal to ⅓ your Endurance. At level 2, it increases to ½ your Endurance. At level 3, it increases to your Endurance. Every level thereafter, it increases by 1.
If you are ever reduced to 0 health, or hit while at 0 health, or end your turn at 0 health, you must make an Endurance check. If you fail, you fall unconscious. While unconscious, you must make an Endurance check every round. If you fail the Endurance check, you die after 1d4 rounds. For +1 Endurance modifier you have, increase the dice by 1 (1d6 at +1, 1d8 at +2, 1d10 at +3, and 1d12 at +4). It is an Intelligence or Wisdom check, with a penalty equal to the number of rounds you have been dying, with a healer’s kit, to save someone. If you succeed the Endurance check, you are instead unconscious for the next 1d12 hours, after which you regain 1 hit point. You regain 1d6+your level of them with a 1 hour lunch, and all of them with an 8 hour sleep.

Sanity. This is a number that is reduced whenever you see something that could make you go crazy.  It is equal to ⅓ your Composure. At level 2, it increases to ½ your Composure. At level 3, it increases to your Composure. Every level thereafter, it increases by 1.
If you are ever reduced to 0 sanity, you suffer a madness, which could be permanent or temporary. You regain 1 with an 8 hour sleep, but only while you are not in a stressful situation (such as dungeon delving).

Luck Points. These are points you can spend to make things go your way. You have Luck points equal to your luck modifier, and gain another one at level 4, and every level thereafter. At any time, you can expend any amount of luck points to increase or decrease the result of any roll by the amount of luck points you spend. You regain all of them with an 8 hour sleep.

Conviction. These are points you can spend to be more successful doing things you are passionate about. Choose 1-3 goals (for example, Tim the paladin chooses ‘kill all demons,’ and ‘save all innocents’). They should not be something like ‘get all the gold.’
You have Conviction equal to your Charisma modifier +1, and gain another at every level divisible by 3 (3, 6, and 9). At any time, you can expend a Conviction to get +1d6 to a roll related to your goal.
If you are ever at 0 hit points, but attempting to fulfill your goal (and could within the next few minutes), you can choose to lose all your Conviction. Roll 1d6 for each Conviction spent. The new number is your new maximum hit points and current hit points. After your goal is fulfilled, or after 30 minutes, your maximum hit points go back to normal and your current hit points go to 0. 

Initiative. This is what you try to roll under at the beginning of combat. It is equal to your Wits. If you roll under it, you get to go before your opponents. If you roll above, you go after.

Stealth. This is what you roll when trying to hide from people. It is equal to 5+your Agility modifier. If nobody is actively watching for you (sleeping guard, someone walking down a busy street), you may double your Stealth.

Perception. This is what the GM rolls for you when you try to notice sneaking enemies. It is equal to your Wisdom, or half your Wisdom if you are sleeping or not actively watching for opponents.

Speed. This is what you roll when trying to run away, or whenever you need to outrun someone. It is equal to 10+your Agility modifier.

Save. This is what you roll under when trying to avoid something bad or magical coming your way. It is equal to 5+your level. In addition, if the activity would depend on an ability score (avoid the falling boulder), you may add your modifier for that ability score.

Encumbrance. This is how much stuff you can carry without moving slowly. It is equal to 3+your Strength.