D&D Christmas Carols: Damage Dice the Ref Rolled High

I have made a terrible mistake.

See, for Christmas of 2012, I rewrote the lyrics to Good King Wenceslaus, and performed the rewritten song in a YouTube video. I am not a performer, a singer, a lyricist, or a musician of any kind. Occasionally I go back and watch that video, and it’s a struggle every time. I am deeply embarrassed by every aspect of it. The performing arts are really not for me.

BUT, despite the deep shame that video causes me, it was a fuckton of fun to make. I’m always making up little songs and singing them at people as a joke. And taking it somewhat seriously, really trying to come up with interesting and consistent lyrics for a song that I love, was a fun project. And even sitting down to sing it was fun.

AND, this Christmas I’ve been thinking about how I’d really like to start establishing some traditions for myself. Things I do every year to get me in the spirit of things.

And, well…what Christmas tradition isn’t embarrassing, really?

At least this time I have the excuse of saying I wrote the whole thing in an hour and a half, unlike the lyrics for Dark Lord Wenceslaus, which took at least a week.

(To the tune of “Angels We Have Heard On High”)

Damage dice the ref rolled high,
causing PCs endless pain.
And the monster’s black-hole eye,
driving all of them insane.

(Refrain) x2
Ma-a-a-ake your save, Ma-a-ake your save, Ma-a-ake your saving throw. Or die in the dungeon.

Thief, please find what traps there be,
that our lives you may prolong.
What’s that colored gas I see?
Where’d that flick’ring flame come from?

Rise the horrors from below,
Hung’ring for soft player meat.
Plate armor won’t help you though,
Level drained in a heartbeat.

Down the cor’dor PCs creep
Trespassing a wizard’s home.
Conj’ring spells from hell-mouths deep,
Punishment from out her tome.

LotFP Class: The Friendly Ghost

Art by Lindsey Vegh
Art by Lindsey Vegh

Whether the term “Friendly Ghost” is supposed to be a joke, or it’s just an exaggeration,  it’s certainly not entirely accurate. Casper these creatures are not. But, they can tolerate a small number of people. A handful, or a ‘party’ if you will.

As ghosts, they cannot physically interact with their environment. They cannot lift objects, or even brush dust off of objects. They cannot be restricted by walls, no matter how thick. They cannot stab anyone, and they cannot be stabbed.

Friendly ghosts can be harmed by magic or magical weapons, but cannot wield magical weapons themselves.

They advance as elves for experience and saves, and have a 1d4 hit die. They move and fly at the same speeds a human can walk or run.

Friendly Ghosts have a 5-in-6 stealth chance. It’s easy to move undetected when your body passes through objects rather than knocking them over. But their partially transparent bodies are still highly reflective, which prevents them from being completely undetectable.

Friendly ghosts should be treated as 2 levels higher than normal when determining an enemy’s stance towards the party, or when making a reaction roll to intimidate or frighten an opponent. They can also serve as a bridge between their living friends and other creatures from beyond the grave. Friendly ghosts are able to parley even with unintelligent undead, such as zombies. And with any undead creature, the Friendly Ghost receives a +2 to their reaction rolls.

Players who don’t wish to roll a new character can instead opt to turn their dead PC into a Friendly Ghost. The character loses all of their class abilities, but retains whatever level of experience they managed to achieve in life. (i.e. George the level 3 fighter can become George the level 3 Friendly Ghost).

LotFP Class: The Lucky Motherfucker

Motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel poised on his Harley-Davidson.  (Photo by Ralph Crane//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

I’m kind of on a custom class kick. Humor me.

The Lucky Motherfucker has a d6 hit die, and advances using the Fighter’s experience table. All of the Lucky Motherfucker’s saving throws advance as the Fighter’s save versus Magic does.  Paralyze, Poison, Breath, Device, and Magic all begin at 16, drop to 14 at level 4, then to 12 at level 7, and so on.

It kinda sucks to be a Lucky Motherfucker, actually. Except for the fact that you almost never die, even when you really should have.

Lucky As Fuck: Anytime the Lucky Motherfucker takes damage that would reduce it below 0 hit points, it is reduced to 0 hit points instead. Any time the Lucky Motherfucker is subject to an instant death effect, it is reduced to 0 hit points instead. Only damage taken at 0 hit points can reduce the Lucky Motherfucker below that threshold.

Lucky as Fuuuuuuuck: The first time during any game session that the Lucky Motherfucker reaches 0 hit points, they gain 1d6 hit points. Each subsequent time the Lucky Motherfucker reaches 0 hit points, they must roll 1d20. If they roll above the number of times they have already reached 0 hit points this session, then they again gain 1d6 hit points. Otherwise they remain at 0 hit points, and cannot benefit from the Lucky as Fuuuuuuuck ability again until they’ve been healed to above 1 hit point.

So the first time is automatic. The second time you must roll above a 1. The third time you must roll above a 2. And so on, and so forth.

Some Backstory: Awhile back, I played in a game run by Brendan S. In that game,  a character who hit 0 hp had to make a roll-under Constitution check to see if they lived or died. After losing several characters, I rolled a character named Hawkwind who was blessed with 18 Constitution.

Hawkwind ‘died’ more times than I can remember, but each time he died, he had a literally 90% chance to pop right back up again. It was broken, and unfair, and awesome. Obviously it’s not ideal for this ability to be the result of a random die roll made at character creation, which is why Brendan changed the rule so that each “near death experience” reduced the character’s constitution by 1. But perhaps if the entire class is designed to suck at everything except surviving past when they ought to die, it can be a fun addition to the party rather than an annoyingly unfair advantage.

LotFP Class: Lawyer

220px-MarivauxFalseConfidences02I like the Law skill, as used by John Bell in his Necrocarserous game. It’s pretty simple: when the players encounter a system of laws and codes, or wish to represent themselves as part of a such a system, they spout some legalese-sounding mumbo-jumbo, then make a law check. If the check is successful, then either your character knew what they were talking about, or they simply managed to sound confident enough that the person they’re talking to feels too intimidated to object.

Of course, a bandit is not going to care that it’s illegal to rob and murder you, no matter how official you make it sound. But an officer of the law may be convinced that you have the authority to do whatever it is that she stopped you from doing. Or you may convince a customs agent to let you pass without the proper documentation. Perhaps the mayor will be intimidated to learn about her town’s severe zoning violations, and allow you to demolish the buildings that are in the way of your keep’s expansion.

The skill is tons of fun to use in play, which is why I’m bummed that I can’t effectively add it to LotFP.  Raising a skill to 6-in-6 is great, because it means you’ll almost always succeed at what you’re attempting. But with the law skill,  that’d turn characters into an unassailable legal authority. It functions best when it’s unreliable, as it is in the highly unpredictable skills system used in Necrocarserous.

Sooooooo, why not just make a Lawyer class?

The Lawyer

Note: The Lawyer class assumes the game is being run with Courtney Campbell’s “On the Non Player Character” social interaction system.

The Lawyer has the same hit dice and experience progression as a Halfling, and saves as a Halfling of 1 level lower than the Lawyer’s current level. Lawyers, after all, are slippery folk.

Law: Lawyers know the law. And when they don’t know the law, they’re pretty good at faking it. Whenever a lawyer is interacting with laws, or a codified set of rules, they can make a law check to attempt to get what they want out of the interaction. The player must produce some vaguely accurate sounding gibberish, then roll. A 5 or better always indicates success.

At first level, the Lawyer rolls 1d6. At third level this increases to 1d8. At fifth level, to 1d10. And at seventh level, to 1d12.

Smooth Talker: In any social interaction, the Lawyer receives a number of bonus social actions equal to her level.

Contract Negotiation: When there is a Lawyer in the party, it is assumed that any agreement the party makes will be detailed by a contract signed by both parties. Any dispute about the agreement will then be subject to the Lawyer’s law skill at a +1 bonus, since the Lawyer will be arguing from a document they authored themselves.

Legislate: Legislation may be attempted any time the Lawyer is associated with visible public good. For example, donating a large amount of gold to charity, or being part of an adventuring party which slays a terrible monster. If the general feeling among the townsfolk is that the Lawyer is a pretty great person, they might be interested in subscribing to your newsletter.

The Lawyer may then draft a law for the town. Laws which would be obviously destructive to the town may be rejected out of hand at the referees discretion. So “The town must give all of its money to me.” is right out. But there’s no reason the Lawyer couldn’t propose a 10% annual tax be paid to the party for 5 years, as payment for services rendered. Or something like that.

Once the law is drafted, the Lawyer makes a Law check. If the check is successful, the law is enacted. If the check fails, then the law is rejected, and the Lawyer has squandered all of her social cache by backing such an unpopular idea.

Referees, of course, are encouraged to enhance their game by introducing interesting consequences for laws which are poorly considered, or do not promote the public good. A 10% tax will probably start to seem very unreasonable after a poor harvest.

LotFP Class: Slasher

JasonPCI’m in a Halloween mood. And who doesn’t want to play as Jason in their next game?

Slashers like to kill people. But just killing them is boring. Slorch, dead, done. There’s no flavor to it. In order for a kill to be really memorable, really worthwhile, there has to be fear. And here’s where the Slasher really excels. Slashers can cause fear like no other creature can.

Slashers are not undead creatures. But, then, they’re clearly not normal examples of their kind any longer, are they? If undead are dead things which enjoy the benefits of being alive, the Slashers are living things which enjoy the benefits of being dead.

The slasher uses a d8 for its hit die. Hit bonus and saves advance as a cleric.

Stealth: At first level, the Slasher’s stealth skill is 1-in-6, and improves by 1 on even numbered levels. (2-in-6 at level 2; 3-in-6 at level 4, etc.)

Weapon Restrictions: The imposing nature of the Slasher’s physical presence is the source of their power. As such, they cannot use ranged weapons as part of any of their abilities. And, due to the lack of deliciously personal fear ranged weapons produce, Slashers tend to be bummed about using them. They take a -2 penalty to hit.

Fake Out: Any time a Slasher takes damage, they may “die” if they wish to. 1d4 – 1 rounds later, the Slasher returns, jumping out from some nearby hiding place and gaining a surprise attack on anyone within melee range. The body they leave behind when they die is their real body. Nobody will ever notice it has disappeared until the very instant before the Slasher returns. The Slasher must reappear after 1d4 – 1 rounds. They can’t delay their return for any reason.

Jump Scare: A Jump Scare is an attack made against the target’s wisdom score, rather than their armor class. If the attack is attempted outside of a surprise action, then it requires a full round to make the attempt, and that attempt suffers a -4 penalty.

If a Jump Scare is attempted during a surprise round, then it is a free action. If the Slasher so desires, they may also make a normal melee attack. If the melee attack succeeds, then the Jump Scare attack receives a bonus to-hit equal to 1/2 of the damage dealt by the melee attack.

(Example: You have a surprise round. You attack with your machete, dealing 4 damage. You then roll your Jump Scare attack, which receives a +2 bonus to hit due to the successful melee attack).

Characters who have been successfully hit by a Jump Scare suffer a cumulative -1 penalty to their morale score. Creatures without a Morale score are immune to Jump Scare. Affected creatures must also roll 1d6 on the table below, and add their wisdom modifier:

-2. The character suffers a heart attack and must save versus Poison or die from fear.
-1. The character is so shocked they faint, and remain unconscious for 2d6 rounds.
0. The character suffers a severe heart palpatation, and takes 1d8 hit point damage. They also attempt to run, but stumble, and cower on the ground for 1 round before getting up.
1. The character attempts to run, but they stumble over their own feet and are left cowering on the ground for 1 round before they regain their composure.
2. The character flees, dropping whatever they were carrying in the process.
3. The character attempts to flee.
4. The character is completely paralyzed by fear for 1 round, losing any bonus to their AC from dexterity. Any attacks the Slasher makes against them gain a +2 bonus.
5. The character is shaken. The Slasher gains a +2 to hit against them. The character is compelled to attack the Slasher in self defense, but their panicked flailing suffers a -4 penalty.
6.  The character is shaken. The slasher gains a +2 to hit against them. They are compelled not to attack the Slasher at all.
7. The character is shaken. The Slasher gains a +2 to hit against them. If the character is affected by Jump Scare again, they suffer a -1 when rolling on the effect table.
8. If the character is affected by Jump Scare again, they suffer a -2 when rolling on the fright table.
9. If the character is affected by Jump Scare again, they suffer a -1 when rolling on the effect table.

Quirk: Each slasher has a quirk, rolled randomly at level 1. Or chosen from the list, if your referee is generous.

  1. Slow. The character’s base speed is halved, but they never ever ever need to sleep.
  2. Lumbering. The Slasher suffers -2 to all attack rolls. (Not Jump Scare rolls.) Their weapon’s damage die is increased by 1. (So a 1d6 weapon becomes a 1d8 weapon.)
  3. Mute. The character can’t talk. They gain a +1 to their stealth checks.
  4. Masked. The Slasher loses all of their powers if their face is currently visible. So long as their face is covered, the Slasher has +1 armor rating.
  5. Tough. The character gains +1 hp each level, but their Fake Out resurrection happens after 1d4 +1 rounds, rather than 1d4 -1 rounds.
  6. Cannibal. The Slasher must eat the flesh of its own species each day. But it can smell its own species, up to a distance of 60′.
  7. Insane. The character gains a +2 to any save made against mind effecting effects, but suffers a -2 penalty to reaction rolls.
  8. Supernatural. The Slasher can be held at bay with strongly presented religious symbols, but after a Fake Out they can resurrect anytime they wish within 1 hour of ‘death,’ so long as they are within 30′ of either the character who “killed” them, or of one of their own allies.
  9. Lake terrorist. The character does not need to breathe at all, making them immune to gas effects, and allowing them to stay underwater indefinitely. However, they can only gain restful sleep while underwater.
  10. The Judge. When the Slasher looks at a person, they immediately know the worst thing that person has ever done in their life. And, somehow, that person also knows that the slasher knows.

The Moral of the Story, a subsystem proposal for Masters of Carcosa

Ramanan Sivaranjan of Save vs. Total Party Kill runs a game called Masters of Carcosa, and I play in it. As you might guess from the name of the game, it uses the Carcosa setting. With a lot of emphasis on the He-Man elements of that game world, rather than the meat grinder elements. It has so far been a pretty fun game to play in.

After yesterday’s game session, we got to talking about He Man, and how every episode ended with a shoehorned “moral of the story,” which really only existed to dissuade parents from writing angry letters about what a terrible influence the show was on children. Ram decided it would be fun if he started appending a moral to the end of each play report. I’d like to suggest an alternative to him, inspired by Arnold K‘s Poet class.

See, in this particular game, the party is a troupe of traveling actors called The Rainbow Connection. And we’ve decided our goal is to try and forge some kind of civilization in the wastelands of Carcosa.

So, anytime the party ends their adventure in a town, they can put on a show about their most recent adventure. The show ends with a moral derived from the subject material. Morals should flow naturally from the story, and should be general in nature. A moral can’t be “give all your money to The Rainbow Connection.” But it could be “Give your money to people stronger than you.” All morals are subject to the approval of the referee.

Each new moral is added to “The Code of Carcosa.” Players are  responsible for tracking the contents of the code. If the players forget to write down one of their morals, then it doesn’t exist. The Code of Carcosa will form the basis for civilized culture and morality in Carcosa.

Anytime a settlement is acting contrary to the code, the players may point this out to the settlement. They then roll a 1d10, aiming to roll under or equal to the settlement’s civilization score. On a success, the settlement is embarrassed about their uncivilized behavior.

The base civilization score for a settlement is 0. Each time a show with a moral at the end of it is performed in the settlement, that settlement gains 1 civilization point. This seems to me like a pretty good rate of adaptation. The fastest possible amount of time it would take to fully civilize a new settlement is 10 sessions.

Of course, this is still Carcosa. The Code of Carcosa is open to interpretation. Settlements will only feel bound to obey the letter of the law. Not its spirit. A sloppily composed moral like “Don’t kill people just because they’re a different color than you” might lead to claims that “We’re not killing the Jale men because they’re Jale. We’re killing them because they engage in despicable Jale culture.”

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