Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Petty God: Somnau

Here is the second of the two gods I designed for Petty Gods. I designed Somnau almost entirely while hanging out at the Fort Sam Houston Chapel while my oldest son attended Boy Scout meetings. As before, the stats are for Labyrinth Lord, as per the terms of the original book. Pathfinder version forthcoming. 

Name: Somnau
An iron rod, partially wrapped in white linen bandages.
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 0
Hit Points (Hit Dice): 77 hp (17 HD)
Attacks: 2 (rod and touch)
Damage: 1d6+1 / 1d6
Save: F16
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: XV, XVII
XP: 7,250

Some wounds heal completely and leave no trace of scarring; but not to the eyes of Somnau, petty god of forgotten injuries. Somnau teaches that mortals should be thankful for those wounds that have left no lingering effects and should never forget the lessons of failure. Mortals who don't learn from their mistakes and forget the injuries they suffered in the past risk drawing Somnau's wrath.

Somnau appears as a gaunt old man in a wide-brimmed hat. He is scarecrow-thin and marked with hundreds of small lacerations and bruises. In his left hand, Somnau carries an iron rod, which he wields with deadly effect despite his frail appearance. He can also attack by magically transferring some of his own injuries onto his opponent's body with a touch. Armor is little help against this attack (treat the target as unarmored, although magical armor still adds its “+” bonus). Each successful touch inflicts 1d6 damage to the target and heals an equal amount to Somnau’s hit points. Alternately, Somnau can use his touch to heal others. Up to 4 times a day, he can touch a single target to heal all but 1d4 damage and end all adverse conditions (this functions exactly like a heal spell).

Any damage Somnau inflicts leaves lasting wounds that heal much slower than normal. It takes three full days of rest to restore 1 hp damage caused by Somnau's hand or rod; magical healing is only half as effective as normal.

REACTION TABLE (Use Wisdom instead of Charisma for Modifier) 
Friendly: Provides a “healing touch” for up to 1d4 targets.
Indifferent: Lectures targets about forgotten wounds and the importance of not repeating past mistakes.
Neutral: Questions targets about past injuries and the lessons they learned.
Unfriendly: Demands targets accept a damaging touch as a “penance,” reacts with hostility to those who refuse.
Hostile: Attacks to wound but not kill, intending to inflict grievous injuries that serve as lessons to the victims.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Petty God: Kwunndle

Here is the first (and my favorite) of the two gods I designed for Petty Gods. I'm not sure if this one was ever illustrated because it doesn't appear in the Original Petty Gods PDF over on Gorgonmilk. These stats are for Labyrinth Lord, as per the terms of the original book. Pathfinder version forthcoming.

Kwunndle (God of Misplaced Objects)
Name: Kwunndle
Symbol: A dozen wavy vertical lines represent the reaching fingers of Kwunndle
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 2
Hit Points (Hit Dice): 50 (12)
Attacks: 2 (hands)
Damage: 1d6
Save: T12
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: XVII
XP: 2,800

Obsessive Kwunndle is the god of misplaced items. His beady eyes can peer from the corners of far-away rooms, where he snatches unattended objects with his impossibly long fingers. Kwunndle cannot just snatch whatever he wants; only things that have slipped from their owners' conscious thoughts are his for the taking. Kwunndle appears as a squat blue humanoid with countless unnaturally long and bendable fingers. He is completely invisible when looked at directly and must be viewed out of the corner of the eye to be seen (which is reflected in his armor class).

Kwunndle is naturally cowardly and avoids contact with others. He is very covetous, however, and his greed will sometime drive him to seek out mortals to barter for their possessions. More often, others come to Kwunndle and try to convince him to return some precious lost trinket. In any case, the god will only accept lost or stolen goods in exchange for his acquired "treasures."

Kwunndle possesses the abilities of a 13th level thief. When forced to fight, he strikes from the shadows and uses his near-invisibly to flee if things go against him. He attacks with his long, pliable fingers, wrenching and choking his enemies. If Kwunndle hits with both attacks in a round, he can automatically strangle his opponent for 2d6 additional damage. This damage is ongoing unless Kwunndle releases his grip or the target breaks free.

Kwunndle Reaction Table (Not modified by any ability score, see below)*
Roll      Result
2-3       Very Interested: Will attempt to bargain for one of the characters' possessions.
4-6       Interested: Will attempt to steal one of the characters' possessions.
7-9       Neutral: Will ignore nearby creatures.
10-11   Unfriendly: Will hide in shadows from nearby creatures.
12        Hostile: Will hide in shadows and possibly attack.

* Modify the reaction roll based on the amount of jewelry, gear, and finery the character is wearing, from -2 for opulent wealth to +2 for obvious poverty.

Petty Gods

Petty Gods is the lesser-remembered victim of Grognardia’s closure, a really cool idea for a book that remains unfinished, 4 years after its inception. Inspired by the old Judges Guild product The Unknown Gods, the book was meant to be a collection of fan-created deities for use with the Labyrinth Lord D&D clone. Unlike books such as Deities and Demigods, Petty Gods would detail gods who each controlled a very small and often eccentric sphere of influence. Since they were so limited in power, most of these gods could be defeated by a party of swords-and-sorcery heroes, meaning that Petty Gods could double as a monster manual of sorts.

What’s particularly frustrating about this book is that, for all intents and purposes, it’s done. Hundreds of gods were submitted and approved. Volunteers stepped forward and provided art for each submission and a nice piece for the cover. One of the authors of Unknown Gods even wrote an intro for the book. According to one of the final posts on the subject, Petty Gods needed nothing more than some layout work. Whatever kept it from completion, it seemed dead when Grognardia closed its virtual doors.

Petty Gods was ideal for someone to just step up, tie a bow on this thing, and put it out there for the world, which is (kind of) what the guy behind the Gorgonmilk blog did in 2013 (three years after the original project began). Alas, the Gorgonmilk version of the project is vaporware at this point. Greg Gorgonmilk had big goals for Petty Gods, adding sections on knights and foods and other things, and attracting submissions from the likes of Michael Moorcock and James Ward. My best guess is that the project just got too unwieldy for one person’s volunteer efforts.

Greg did put out a mostly-finished version called Original Petty Gods, which is supposedly the original Grognardia version, but I know that it doesn’t contain one of my two deity submissions. It seems unlikely that I’m the only one to have a god vanish from this version of the book, leading me to believe that it’s not a truly finished product.

However, I still have the stats for both of my “petty gods,” as well as the art for one of them. I’m not artistic at all, so I really treasure this piece, drawn by a stranger who took my brief words and drew a very nice illustration. Seriously, I’ve written a lot of homebrew RPG junk over the years, and only VERY rarely has any of it gotten illustrated, so a special thanks to Mark Allen (whoever you are).

Since Petty Gods and everything associated with it was meant to be open content and since at least one of my gods somehow vanished from the one version of the game that is available, I’m going to repost them both here on my blog. The gods in question are stated out for Labyrinth Lord, but I plan to convert their stats to Pathfinder and eventually post both versions. I might even do a version that’s compatible with 5E, but we’ll have to see.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Video Link: A Brief History of Dungeons and Dragons

Perhaps a bit of an over simplification, but a nicely done short piece overall.

My Wife Made Me Do This

I’m getting out of the Army in a couple of months. Right now, I’m on transition leave, which used to be called terminal leave. In the simplest terms, it means that I’m on a three-month vacation. I’ve got a lot of time on my hands. I’ll be starting school in a few months, but until then I’ve got a little time on my hands.

“You should really write your own blog,” my wife said to me this morning.

“I don’t have anything to write about that a bunch of other people haven’t already said a thousand times. Does the world really need another stupid gaming blog?”

“Does it matter? Who would you be writing for? Other people, or just for yourself? I would give you something to do, give you some practice writing before you start college, and give you a place to get things off your mind.”
I really can’t argue with any of that. Plus, I already have a blog, I just don’t update it.

So…I’m back…I guess. Since no one reads this, I'm talking to myself. If I don't post real content on here today, I'll eat a bug.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Am I Back? Maybe...

This is one part gaming blog, one part life blog. Granted, I haven't posted in a good long while. I'm not going to speak to that, because what is the point? Saying I'm going to post more is just blowing warm air into the aether. Only posting real content counts.

I've been busy the past three weeks or so with the fine (and sometimes overwhelming) details of getting my wife and kids settled here in South Korea. Let me say that, after a year living here without them, I cannot overstate how happy I am to finally have them join me here. However, there is a lot to do just to get things put together here. There is already a pretty strong support system in place but one must often puzzle out how to use it. They are otherwise happy to just let a person flounder on his own. Couple in the fact that our vehicle has yet to arrive from the States and you have a recipe for long walks and real tests of one's planning and efficiency.

From a D&D standpoint, I feel like I've had first-hand appreciation for the size and scope of the pseudo-medievel fantasy urban setting. Granted, I have lived here (and had to walk everywhere) for over a year, but adding the family has complicated the process. Walking places with kids is a drag. Self-sufficiency means storing up staples and taking planned trips. It also means that areas of large populations tend to require access to basic supplies and provisions. There is no 15 minute drive to WalMart here; now it's a three hour walk to the grocery store.

The lesson, I think, is that D&D towns should be designed as a series of microcosms and self-contained areas. Even more wide-open settled regions should be dotted with villages. Every farm should probably be within walking distance or (at most) a wagon ride away from the nearest moderate settlement. Walking is pleasant and walking has certainly kept me in shape, but the fun fades quickly when your other transportation options are limited. Take away the buses and taxis that I DO have access to here, and I imagine the world would get even more compact and even smaller than it already is here.

A loose D&D connection? Perhaps, but it is a post, dammit.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Feats and Skills are a Lie

In 3E, I can take a bunch of feats in order to be really good at tripping people with a spiked chain. Figuring the most optimal combination of feats (and skills) at the very least takes a few hours. I have to make sure I understand what the heck my characters abilities are, how they interact, and when and how to best use them. Once I do all that, is my character unique? Not unless you think that tripping people with a spiked-chain is unique. No, after a couple hours of effort, all you have now is a one-dimensional character defined entirely by some combat stunt he can pull off until it, too, becomes old-hat. Not to mention, the next guy can pick the same feats (and skills) and generate the EXACT SAME CHARACTER. Couldn't we save a bunch of time and effort by simply writing “+2 with spiked chains” or something and move on.

This goes double for skill systems. There are finite skills in D&D. Nine times out of ten, you're only going to find a handful of them useful. So, what you're going to do is maximize as many useful skills as your class allows. The other option is to be really crappy at a whole bunch of skills. Neither approach allows for very fast character creation. You see, the designers are hiding the choices behind a smokescreen of apparent choice. If you ignore the mathematically insignificant +1 here and there to some random skills, what you're giving the player actually amounts to “pick X skills to be good at.”
(More or less what you see in Pathfinder and 4E).

Great on paper, but if every character ends up maximizing the same basic skills plus a few class specific ones, then every character might as well just have a +X bonus to a set list of abilities. Even the rogue, the guy with a million skill points, ends up being REALLY good at a handful thiefy abilities and either gains some surprising cross-class skill (“I know a lot about plants!”) or ends up a jack-of-all-trades. It doesn't seem that way when you're creating your character, though, because in order to achieve this effect you're spending 40+ points, adding up synergy bonuses, and factoring in skill-boosting feats and class traits. It's all a lot of smoke and mirrors and meaningless number crunching to arrive at the same place you'd have gotten with a rule that said “you get a +15 bonus with 8 skills.”

Finally, once you introduce one customizable skill, you limit what a character can do. This isn't the same as class abilities, which are things that your character can do because he's a rogue on TOP of things we assume he can do because he's a person. No, skill systems lump all that class stuff together with mundane things like swimming and playing the piano. Now you're asking a player which is more important to him before he risks life and limb in a dark hole filled with traps and monsters: stealth or knowledge: oral poetry? While I applaud the guy who throws a few skill points toward the latter in the name of character development, I'd rather the game rules stopped punishing him for it. Let the rules cover how good you at doing life or death adventure stuff. Everyone's going to max those skills out anyway, so why try to shoe-horn all that together with interesting but meaningless stuff like cooking?

All I really care about for any given skill is the following: do you suck at it, are you ridiculously good at it, or are you everyone else? My character might be a low wisdom slug who wouldn't see a bandit ambush coming if they wore blaze orange and hung up signs (sucks). Your character is an elf with keen eyes and supernatural awareness of the goings-on in the forest (good). Bob's character is a human rogue with no more or less ambush perception than anyone else (average).

Do the rules really need to spend any more time on things than this?