Wednesday, December 21, 2016

New Monster: The Org

Here's a story from my gaming youth.

My mom was a big fan of Blackleaf.
When I was young, my mom, influenced by the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, forbade me from playing D&D. Thus, while I had been introduced to the game years before by watching my brother play, I actually cut my RPG teeth on Top Secret and I.C.E.'s Middle Earth Roleplaying Game.

The guy who sort of reintroduced me to the original RPG or, rather, the Second Edition of the Advanced version of the original RPG, was my cousin. I spent a couple of long weekends at his house in Minnesota one summer, and he showed my all his kick-ass AD&D books. My favorites were the Monstrous Compendiums, these huge white binders full of loose-leaf monsters. Something about these badies grabbed my imagination, particularly their often lengthy ecology entries. Looking back on it now, these writeups were often a combination of too serious and too stupid to be very useful at the gaming table, but to my young eyes they just made these fantastic creatures seem so real.

As is often the case when you're 12 years old, learning something from another 12 year-old, you don't always get all the details correct. A lot of us have stories about rules that we radically misinterpreted during our formative years of gaming. For me, learning from my cousin, the problems were not with the rules but with the mispronunciation of words.

One good example, and the point of this post, was the way that my cousin pronounced one of his favorite monsters: the ogre. 

For some reason, we both got it in our heads that this word was pronounced as though it was spelled o-r-g. As in orc, only with a g instead of a c at the end. This stuck with me for an entire summer at least, until someone finally grew exasperated enough to point out that the word was oge-er.

I was telling this story to my kids the other night when it occurred to me that I should really sit down and stat out a monster called an org, just to kind of complete the circle. I've always thought that D&D could use some kind of beastman, not unlike the monsters from the Warhammer Fantasy setting. You know, monstrous half-man half-animal humanoids that variously resemble goats, rams, and other beasties. Beastman is not a very evocative name, however, so why not call them orgs?

Sure, I'd never make a monster called an org were it not for my cousin's mistake all those years ago. For one, the name sounds way too much like orc. It's a little bit stupid, not unlike a lot of those AD&D monster ecologies from back in 2E. On the other hand, that stupidity is rather charming, and it's important not to take D&D too seriously, right? So, in that vein, I present you with...the orgg, statted for my up-and-coming Swords and Wizardry Campaign. I'm spelling it with a double g at the end, lest people think that I'm simply making a typo every time I try to type orc.

Free stock art courtesy of 1manstudio.


Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 8 [11]
Attacks: Weapon or natural weapon
Saving Throw: 17
Special: Fury
Move: 12
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 2/30

Orgs are savage humanoids that resemble a cross between men and beasts. Orgs are broad-shouldered, muscular, and covered with thick, curly hair. Their flat faces resemble that of a sheep or goat, as do their legs and cloven hooves, but they are otherwise human from the waist up. Most but not all orgs have horns, usually broad and curled like a ram’s, although some have short straight horns and a few sport deer-like antlers. Creatures of almost pure chaos, the orgs are a universally violent, bloodthirsty race. They fight to the death, adding a +2 to all attack rolls because of their great fury.

Rumors exist of orgs who possess far different characteristics than the rest of their race, with bony-plated skin, bear-like muzzles, or serpentine appendages. Whether these mutants are the chosen warriors of the org’s chaos-gods, some rare off-shoot of the main race, or merely the bugaboo of some adventurer’s tall tale is as of yet unknown.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

New Campaign: Explanation

As I mentioned before, I'm a full-time nontraditional college student. That means, in a nutshell, that I don't have enough time to worry about the fact that I'm too old to be in college. One thing that I can't help but do is mine my classes for RPG ideas. The following is my brief pitch for what this campaign is going to be about. I'm not going to bother calling out all the historic and literary references that inspired these ideas, except in the broadest sense. They should, for the most part, be readily apparent, as I'm not trying to write the great American novel here, just tap into the same fertile ground that has inspired fantasy RPGs since their creation.

What follows is my stream-of-consciousness thoughts on the campaign. While I do have rules to back most of this up, that will have to wait for a future post. 

Basic Premise
The campaign takes place in Brynland, a snowy land of war-like tribes who live on the outskirts of the Ludal Empire. A generation ago, King Reinfried I, called Reinfried the Great, used his superior military cunning to greatly expand his holdings, and Valdland represents the far northern border of that expansion.

Reinfried's successor and current King of Ludal, Reinfried II, has found his father's empire difficult to maintain. A series of costly rebellions, plus war in the south, have combined to largely drain the royal treasury. In these economic conditions, a remote place like Valdland, populated by armed and belligerent peoples, might be the first place to slip from King Reinfried's control, if not for a very unique location: The Valley of the Last Battle.

The Ludal people follow a monotheistic faith that worships Telnos of the Eternal Flame. The Telnins (as they call themselves) believe that this valley, which rests in the very heart of Valdland, will one day be the location of the final apocalyptic battle between Law and Chaos that will decide the fate of the world. The valley is currently controlled by an alarming collection of monstrous humanoids, who themselves hold the site to be sacred. Thus, King Reinfried II, at the church's urging, has called for able-bodied members of the faith to take up arms and help secure the Valley of the Last Battle in the name of their god. Though only a brave few have taken up this call, Reinfried hopes the campaign will help refill his coffers and bolster the spirit of his ailing empire.

A few local Valdlanders have joined the Ludal campaign as well. While they don't share the Ludalian religion, their own local traditions also hold the valley to be an important location; it is the supposed final resting place of the first Valdic King, the legendary Ulfrith the Wise. That the caves are also supposedly filled with lost treasures is no small incentive to the more adventerous-minded Valdlanders, either.

PC Options
The PCs have a choice; they can run local Valdlanders or outsiders from the Ludal Empire. There are also dwarves, and I haven't decided on whether elves or halflings will be an option.

Auslanders (foreigners) are humans who have come to Valdland on King Reinfried's Campaign. They have access to heavier armor (plate is not readily available in Valdland, so the locals are not trained in its use). Auslanders may be fighters, magic-users, clerics, or thieves and use the standard rules.
Valdlanders (locals) are humans local to the campaign area, and have their own motives for taking on the valley. Valdland has been under Ludal control for 40 years and, while there is some resentment, the local lord is a fair and honorable ruler who has earned the Valdlanders' begrudging respect.

Valdlander fighters can't use heavy armor, but they are extraordinarily skilled with the use of shields and spears. They don't have clerics, but instead may choose to be a gothi, a cleric-variant that uses rune-magic and cannot turn undead. Although they may become magic-users, doing so marks them as a bit of an outcast, since magic of that sort is an export from Ludal.

Dwarves: The dwarves have a somewhat removed relationship from both Ludal and Valdland characters. They have their own settlement, many miles away in the Diamond Peaks, but maintain a strong trade presence in Valdland. The dwarves are master craftsmen and represent the only reliable source of plate armor, as well as a variety of quality weapons and other expensive goods in the area. While their are a few dwarves willing to brave the dangers of the Valley of the Last Battle, their motivations remain a mystery.

Monday, December 19, 2016

New Campaign: Beowulf on the Borderlands

Beowulf of the Borderlands is a working title for a campaign I'm currently prepping using Swords & Wizardry White Box. I've always had this idea in the back of my head of building a campaign to run with my kids, plus anyone else who happens to be around and up for a game of D&D.

The idea would be to make a pretty standard D&D setup: A central dungeon and a small wilderness area around it. The campaign would start out bare bones but would gain detail over time as the kids explored and made their own impact on the world. Ideally, in ten years or so, I'd have this binder containing a full dungeon and campaign fleshed out by actual play via my kids and I. Sort of a D&D-geek family heirloom.

Pictured: Prop Heirloom

My biggest struggle was choosing what version of D&D to run. I have a spiral bound edition of B/X that I put together myself, a hardcover of the Rules Cyclopedia, and just about every retroclone in either print or PDF format. Plus, there is always 5E, which I'll admit is probably my second favorite version of D&D next to the various flavors of Basic.

I decided to go with White Box because it's the closest I can find to vanilla OD&D, but it's organized in a much easier-to-grasp fashion. As much as I love my original D&D PDFs, they are not exactly the best version for trying to teach D&D to someone under 10. Plus, White Box begs for house rules, and this campaign is going to have a bunch of them, although mostly house rules of a flavor-adding variety.

I'm a full-time college student, so I needed to something to give me a head start and not run the risk of stalling out because of workload. Thus, I decided to use the Caves of Chaos from Keep on the Borderlands fame...but with a few twists. First of all, I'm not using the original map from the Caves of Chaos, but this reworked version done by 0One Games. The neat benefit is that, while it's reminiscent of the original, it's just different enough to through off any Grognards that may or may not hypothetically join in the fun down the road.

Secondly, I'm not going to use the Keep itself, but rather this map by the illustrious Dyson Logos. I'll be making great use of random charts to populate both the dungeon and the wilderness around it. I'll be building it all around what I think is a pretty fun Anglo-Saxon sort of theme. Additionally, I'll be publishing my thoughts along the way here on this echo-chamber of a blog, mostly for my own reference but also as incentive to keep working on things.

We'll see how things go, but as of right now I'm pretty excited. I think the kids are going to have a lot of fun with this one.

Yes, sort of like this. Maybe no Demogorgon

Campaign Concept (Or, What Do You Mean by Beowulf on the Borderlands?) 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mutant Crawl Classics inspired patron for DCC: The Star Child

The Mutant Crawl Classics Kickstarter is winding down to its final days. Using the free rules found here, I ran the Free RPG Day Funnel adventure Museum at the End of Time. Inspired by events that are very likely to occur within that adventure (and happened in my home game with the kids), I designed a new patron usable for DCC.

Just a little something to tide you all over while you wait for the MCC game to release next year. Feel free to use, share, or whatever. I welcome feedback and would love to know if anyone actually makes use of this thing.


Somewhere across the infinite realms of time, space, and possibility, there stands the greatest possible achievement of architectural design: a monolithic solid whose perfect and precise dimensions exist in a ratio utterly pleasing to the cosmos itself. Not only are the monolith’s height, width, and depth in perfect harmony with the divine ratio, but so too are its invisible dimensions, on into infinity across the breadth of time, substance, and all meaning. To behold this wonder is to behold the splendor of creation. To touch it is to touch the very fabric of perfection.

In rare cases, a mortal creature’s natural vibrations are such that contact with the monolith causes a spontaneous and dramatic transformation. The formerly mortal creature rapidly ascends to a new state, one merged with the infinite conscious of reality. This entity is known as the Star Child (for there is only one, multitudinous yet singular). It roams the valleys and plateaus of time, seeking after things beyond the ken of mere three dimensional minds. Certain spells and incantations can draw the Star Child’s attention. Though endlessly mysterious, the enlightened being seems disposed to help those who call upon its aid.

Invoke Patron check results:

The caster can hear the psychic vibrations of all living things, allowing him to tap into the collective conscious of the universe. The caster gains +1d4 Intelligence (maximum 20) for the next 24 hours. However, any harmful action on the caster’s part disrupts this connection. The effect ends and the Intelligence bonus immediately vanishes if the caster attacks or otherwise harms another creature (either by direct violence, spellcasting, or other means).

For the next 24 hours, The Star Child imbues the caster with the power of telekinesis. Whenever he concentrates, the caster can manipulate a single object within a range of 100’ and weighing up to 150 lbs. For all purposes, treat this effect as the equivalent of strength 15.

A field of visible, soothing lavender energy emanates from the caster, forming a 30 foot sphere of pacifistic intent. All living creatures within this area (including the caster’s allies) must succeed on a Willpower save (DC = spell check) in order to take any action that causes damage to another character. Failure means the creature stands quietly instead of carrying out its intended action. The pacifism field remains for 1d6 rounds + caster’s Intelligence modifier.

The Star Child decides that the best way to assist the character is to extract him from linear time. In an instant, the caster ceases to exist, replaced by a stardust simulacrum. This is an exact duplicate of the caster, fully under control of the original player, although it lacks a soul and therefore casts no shadow. If the simulacrum dies or after 24 hours have passed, the duplicate creature melts into a glittering miasma and is replaced by the caster 1 round later.

The Star Child removes one of the threats facing the caster by teleporting a single enemy within 200 feet of the caster to a location where it cannot harm him or his allies. This effect targets the enemy creature with the most HD or highest level (determine randomly in the case of a tie). That creature must make a Willpower save (DC = spell check) or be temporarily erased from space-time for 1d6 rounds. After the time expires, the creature reappears, unharmed, but 3d20 miles away in a safe and neutral location of the Judge’s choosing. If the first creature succeeds on its saving throw, move on to the enemy with the next highest HD. Continue until the spell succeeds or you run out of hostile creatures in range.

The Star Child open’s the caster’s fourth eye, allowing him to see time from below and thus better plan for the near future. The caster rolls 3d20. Over the next 1d6+CL rounds, after the caster or an ally rolls an action die, the caster may choose to replace the result with one of his pre-rolled dice. Once a die is used, it is spent and the roll cannot be used again. At the end of the duration, the caster immediately suffers 1d3 temporary Personality damage if he did not assign all three dice.

The Star Child transforms the caster into a being of pure energy. For 1d6+CL rounds, he gains 300’ infravision, telekinesis (as above, except the caster may use it freely once per round in addition to normal actions), and the ability to levitate and fly at a rate of 60’. He is totally immune to all physical attacks and spells are only 50% likely to affect him. However, he cannot physically interact with the world (other than via telekinesis) and his own spells are likewise only 50% likely to have any effect while he is in this state.

The Star Child attempts to destroy one of the caster’s enemies while simultaneously imparting a powerful and enlightening lesson on its supplicant. The caster chooses one target that he can see within a range of 100’. That target is instantly disintegrated on the molecular level and then reassembled, suffering 10d20 damage. The creature can make a Fortitude save (DC = spell check) for half damage. Any creature killed by this effect is reduced to an impossibly black void filled with stars that fades away after a few moments. The caster, meanwhile, comes a step closer to understanding that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one, and that death is just an illusion. This revelation is difficult for the mind to grasp, and the caster suffers 1d3-1 temporary Personality damage as a result.

The Star Child is a distant and alien being, evolved far beyond the understanding of the mortal races. From its perspective, physical suffering, illness, and even death are merely temporary setbacks of little consequence. Its help often comes in the form of aid that simply removes the caster from harm’s way. The Star Child would much rather evolve its supplicants to the point where they are released from such petty concerns as pain and suffering than continually intervene on their behalf.

Whenever patron taint is indicated, the character temporarily loses 1d6 points of Personality, which represents the gradual erasure of the caster’s psyche as he becomes more and more harmonized with the universal conscious of the Star Child. In addition, the character randomly experiences one of the effects below. A character can only gain each taint once. Once he has acquired all six, there is no need to roll any more, although he still loses Personality as above.

Total Ascension
Should the caster’s Personality ever drop to 0 or below, whether through patron taint, an evoke patron check, or by other means, he immediately transcends the mortal realms. His mind leaves his body immediately, merging with the cosmic intellect of the Star Child. The caster’s body remains behind, alive but utterly catatonic. Once a character ascends, no known power can bring him back.

Patron Taint Results
The caster evolves beyond the need for a physical body. To facilitate this, the Star Child remotely and magically extracts the caster’s brain and places it in a small glass case. The caster is now functionally a brain with the psychic ability to control his body remotely. This ability is limited to a range of 150’, so the caster’s body must generally carry the brain around. Should one die, the other dies as well.

The caster gains death-sight, the psychic ability to sense the moment of his imminent demise. Unfortunately, this ability is highly imprecise without continued practice and refinement and manifests primarily as strange, disturbing dreams. Any time the caster would restore any mental attribute through rest, check Luck. On a failure, the character temporarily loses a point of the attribute instead.

The caster’s head grows to one-and-a-half times its original size in order to accommodate his newly expanding intellect (even if his brain is now external). He gains the ability to communicate telepathically up to a range of 30’. This ability allows him to send his thoughts to others, but it does not allow him to receive their thoughts in return; they must still speak to him normally.

The caster mentally experiences several years in an instant. He gains 1d3 points of Intelligence (maximum 18), but he immediately ages 3d6 years and permanently loses all hair on his head.

The caster’s physical body begins to break down in order to fuel his growing intellectual power. He gains 1 point of Intelligence but permanently loses 2 points of a random physical attribute and 1 point of a different random physical attribute.

Contact with the power of the Star Child is making the caster less and less reliant on his physical body. The caster gains the ability to leave his own body after a single round of concentration. In this form, the caster is invisible an unable to interact with the physical world in any way. He is tethered to his body, which remains in a comatose state, by an unbreakable and invisible 15’ cord. The caster can theoretically stay in this astral form until his body starves or dies of thirst, although the death of the physical form kills the astral as well.