On a Red World Alone; Handling Factions

On a Red World...ALONE!The other day I was getting ready for an upcoming session of ORWA. Much of the adventure was going to involve the players interacting with various factions. As I wrote up the notes I thought I would need, it dawned on me that over the past year of running this game I’ve come up with a fairly robust set of tools for faction management. It happened without me even noticing, so I never really put it all together in writing. It doesn’t have all the features that I want a faction system to have, but perhaps there’s something here that others will benefit from.

First you should know how ORWA is laid out, since it’s not your typical campaign world. The physical size is very small–a single biodome on mars. I’ve been intentionally vague about precisely how big the dome is, but the point is that there’s not a lot of room for folks to get away from one another. It’s not unusual for my players to spend time in three, or even four different sovereign territories in a single game session

Given all that, the factions have ended up as cross between city states and street gangs. They have traditions and governmental structures, and wars. But their armies are measured in the hundreds at the most, and moving the boarder a few city blocks is considered a significant shift in territory. Within their territories they provide law and order, but unless you’re at the very heart of their turf, then you’re never more than two steps from anarchy.

I keep a simple map with faction boarders on it, which serves as my primary campaign map. There are narrow strips of no-man’s land between each faction, but pretty much all the space is the territory of one group or another. Each territory is keyed to a short description of the faction that holds it. These started out as 1-2 sentence affairs, but have slowly grown larger as the factions were developed through play. As with a lot of things in tabletop games, I’ve found it works a lot better to start simple, and let the details take shape on their own.

ORWA Map

The Outsiders (group “E”), for example, began as giant dudes who’ve learned how to survive outside of the Dome for days at a time. Through play they’ve earned a sort of celtic flavor, and we’ve established that theirs is the best territory to try and start a new life in, so long as you’re okay with always being a second class citizen for lacking the biological advantages they’ve discovered. (Advantages your children will have a chance to achieve).

At some point I put all of the factions on a D% table. The amount of space each faction takes up on that table is weighted by how often they’re likely to have an impact on events beyond their own boarders. Five of the factions equally share about 70% of the table. These are the big, established powers. They provide the closest thing to stability the dome has.

Then next 20% of the table is for the two up-and-coming factions. Small territories with ambitions of expansion. The final 10% of the table is shared between three groups. There’s the Lords of Light, who are the vestigial remainder of a defeated power. There’s The Fighting Mongooses, a territory of mercenaries who are understood to be a neutral party by all the other territories. And, finally, there’s the territory of The Friends of Needletooth Jack, which is a completely insular territory. No one goes in, no one comes out.

Anytime I need to determine where something happens, or who did a thing, I roll on this table. Pretty much anytime anything happens I randomly determine who or where, because why not? It adds an interesting texture to the world. If I come up with everything myself it’ll make a bland sort of sense. But if you give me two dots and I have to figure out how to connect them, that’s where things start to get creative.

For example, a couple adventures back, my players needed to raid a building and recover a machine. Randomly determining where the building was determined which encounter table they’d be rolling on during their travels, and what sort of purpose the building might have been put to since the apocalypse. This particular territory happens to factor into one of the conspiracies that drive the campaign, so sending the party there on completely unrelated business gave me an opportunity to drop hints about what was coming.

In their last adventure, the party needed to rescue someone who had been captured, because I thought a rescue mission would be interesting. I rolled to determine which faction had this person, and that helped me determine why this person was being held, and whether it was an official act of the faction as a whole, or whether it was an individual acting without official sanction. The whole character of the adventure was determined by that roll.

In the party’s current adventure they need to protect a third party during a war between two factions. The location of the third party didn’t really matter, so long as it was fixed once determined. I randomly rolled an aggressor, then flipped a coin to decide which of their neighbors they were attacking. When that was done I rolled opposed d6s as a rough measure of discerning how successful each side of that conflict would be. The player’s goals really had no bearing on that, but the result of the war would have a huge effect on the territorial balance in the dome.

The different territories also correspond to different encounter tables, which allows me to show my players, rather than tell them, the difference between each faction. In the territory of the Redstone Lords (Faction “A” on the map), for example, the government is unusually organized. There are fewer encounters with monsters, and more encounters with thieves, aggressive agents of the state, or non-combat stuff, like slave markets. Meanwhile, in the territory of the Dukes of the Dome (“B”), where mutants are hated, there are no encounters with mutants. Or, if you do encounter a mutant, it’s being harassed / arrested / killed.

For interfactional relationships, I’m so far keeping things simple. Every faction hates the factions which boarder it, and are neutral with the factions that don’t. The simple fact of the matter is that everybody wants to grow, and there’s no territory to take that doesn’t already belong to someone. That means your neighbors want your territory, and you want theirs.

There are a few exceptions to this which are easy for me to just keep in my head. For example, the priests of Technotopia (“I”), have a particular grudge against the Lords Beneath the Black (“C”), because they are the two largest religions within the dome, and both would prefer to get rid of the other. Likewise, nobody likes the Friends of Needletooth Jack (“G”), but nobody is ever going to fuck with them either, because their territory is small and they’re scary as shit.

I don’t really have any means for tracking the player’s reputation with each faction, but I’ve found that I don’t really need it so much. Even with factions as small as these, the PCs are beneath the notice of the faction as a whole. I do track the player’s relationship with pretty much every NPC they ever meet, which serves as an adequate substitute. So while The Outsiders as a whole have no feelings about the PCs, the leader of the Outsiders (known as The Highlander) did once have a meeting with them. They brought him reliable information, but he repeatedly caught them lying about the details. So the party is useful, but he doesn’t trust them.

What I’ve put together for ORWA does lack a lot of the features I have always wanted from a faction system. Things like a reward/penalty track for building a reputation of working for or against each faction. But what I do have has been working surprisingly well, so hopefully others can get a little use out of it.

Santicore 2015: Dwarves’ Beards: What are they for?

mybeardDuring last year’s Secret Santicore, I was asked to come up for uses that Dwarves might have for their beards. (Beyond simply being super stylish). Nearly a year after the fact, my entry just popped up on the Santicore blog, and I thought I’d share it here.

Dear Santicore,

Dwarves’ beards: what are they for? A serious question. I would like a table of useful spelunking skills which a dwarf might be trained to accomplish using only their beard. Ideally starting dwarven characters would be able to roll up one bonus skill on it. Thank you!

— F.W.

For centuries, the dwarves of the Copper Keep have practiced the art of Beardcraft. When a young dwarf’s chin hairs first reach 6” (usually around 8 months), they are presented to the Beardmasters. These bearers of beardly secrets study every aspect of the child’s whiskers: from texture, to thickness, to curl, to pull-strength, and even color. From this, they determine which style the child’s beard is best suited to. The process of treating and grooming the beard is begun immediately, and the young dwarf grows up learning how to maintain and style their beard. Only recently has this practice begun to spread out from the Copper Keep, as a new generation of Beardmasters travel to other dwarven strongholds to share their dignified craft.

1. Rope Beard: In a private ritual each nameday, the dwarf carefully trims their beard from everywhere but their chin. This hair is then treated and braided into the chin hair, lengthening it. The resulting rope is 1’ long for every 2 years of the Dwarf’s life. It is normally worn draped around the dwarf’s shoulders like a scarf. It does not count against the dwarf’s encumbrance limit.

2. Food Catching Beard: The dwarf’s whiskers cling to every crumb of bread, string of meat, and dab of sauce that doesn’t make it into the dwarf’s mouth. At the end of the day, a good shake produces a tidy little pile of edibles ready for consumption. Any rations that the the dwarf purchases will last 50% longer than they normally would.

3. Junk Beard: A messy, unkempt kind of beard often adopted by dwarfs who consistently fail to maintain a more refined style. It is used to store a variety of small, occasionally useful doo-dads. By rummaging through their beard for 1 minute, the dwarf has a 2-in- 6 chance of producing any mundane object of small size and negligible value that they’re looking for: a pair of shears, a spool of twine, a chisel, etc.

4. Disarming Beard: A tangled mesh of wiry hair, slightly sticky to the touch, and tough as strands of steel. When the dwarf is the target of a critical fumble, the fumbler must save versus Paralysis or their weapon becomes caught in the dwarf’s beard. With a practiced jerk of the head, the dwarf can easily send the captured weapon flying away, safely out of reach.

5. Grappling Beard: A soft, voluminous beard, woven into dozens of large loops. With a deft tug of the chin, the dwarf can wrap these loops around an opponent and tighten them. Such dwarfs are skilled wrestlers, using their beards to get a grip on arms or necks. The character grapples as though they are one level higher than they are.

6. Climbing Beard: A tightly braided beard, wrapped around the body as a simple harness. Hooks and spikes dangle from strands of hair in easy reach of hands and feet. Dwarfs with such a beard receive +1 to any climbing related checks.

7. Falling Beard: Soft hair woven into a kind of checkerboard quilt shape, adorned with bits of cloth. Often these are scraps of old clothing donated by friends and loved ones. If the dwarf ever falls from a significant height, their beard will open up like a parachute, and the fall should be treated as though it were 10’ shorter than it actually was. If for some reason the dwarf wishes to fall at full speed, they must make a conscious effort to do so by holding their beard down as they fall.

8. Bramble Beard: A massive bristly bush of hair spreading in every direction, leaving only a few facial features visible. Best suited to dwarfs who are short, even by their race’s diminutive standard. By simply squatting down and squinting their eyes, a Bramble Bearded dwarf becomes nearly indistinguishable from a common tumbleweed.

9. Beard of Lights: A curly beard, with dozens of small upturned strands treated with oil and wax. A Beard of Lights is often chosen for those whose beard grows more quickly than is easily manageable. The upturned tips can be lit, and the fully lit beard serves as a light source equivalent to a torch for up to 6 hours a day.

10. Stonesense Beard: Sometimes mistaken for magic, the Stonesense Beard requires a dwarf of extreme patience and focus to master properly. By pressing their face to a stone surface, the Dwarf can slowly wriggle their beard hairs into the imperceptible cracks and channels in the stone by precisely vibrating their body. The process takes an hour of intense concentration before the beard is fully in place. Once the process is complete, the dwarf can feel even the most minute vibrations traveling through the stone. They can describe any room adjacent to the stone surface they’re connected to, including any creatures or treasure within those chambers.

When the dwarf wishes to extract themselves, they may either spend 10 quiet minutes delicately vibrating their body in reverse, or they may simply tear themselves free of the stone, loudly crumbling it, and leaving a crater roughly 3’x3’x1’ in the surface.

11. Nesting Beard: A wispy funnel of a beard, shaped and scented to be an attractive nest for a particular animal. There are four common animals that these beards are typically made for, based on how the dwarf’s own natural musk resonates with the required scent. Roll to determine which creature nests in your beard:

i. A canary. Will usually remain quiet, but will tweet in a wild panic if there is poison gas in the room. These canaries are particularly sensitive, and can even detect poison gasses that have not yet been released into the air.

ii. A squirrel. A helpful creature that will happily retrieve any small, squirrel-sized objects the dwarf can point to within their line of sight.

iii. A carrier pigeon. Can be sent to any location the dwarf has personally visited within 1 week’s travel distance. It takes 1d8 hours for the pigeon to reach its destination, and the same amount of time to return.

iv. A beaver. Can be directed by the dwarf to gnaw small holes in wooden objects, chew through ropes, etc.

12. Smoking Beard: A wild cascade of hair, meticulously groomed to appear untamed and ferocious. The whole thing is oiled and treated with incense. When the tips of the beard are lit they produce very little light, but a great deal of black, foul-smelling smoke. The smoking beard creates a hellish image of the dwarf, and any foe fighting them takes a penalty of one on their morale checks so long as the beard is lit. There is no limit to how often or long the beard may be lit, but there are natural consequences for being the source of so much smoke.

13. Beard Sack: Easily mistaken for any common dwarf beard, the Beard Sack is a layered style, with a loose outer layer obscuring a tightly woven satchel hidden beneath, with its opening just under the dwarf’s chin. This storage space grants one additional point of encumbrance ability for the dwarf, and anything stored within is considered hidden. Only a thorough search will reveal these hidden items. Such a search would be deeply offensive to any dwarf, and in respectable communities such poor treatment by the authorities may cause civil unrest.

14. Poison Straining Beard: Thick whiskers hang down over the dwarf’s lips, treated with cleansing tinctures. The dwarf can sip any substance safely, and determine with a few smacks of their lips whether it is poison or not. If it is poison, the dwarf can describe the poison’s effects in perfect detail.

15. Bestial Kinship Beard: A layered beard, scented with a subtle, gamey musk, and curving back slightly between the knees. Animals perceive the dwarf as a powerful but temperate creature. The dwarf gains a +1 bonus to reaction rolls made with natural creatures.

16. Beard Art: Only the most malleable of beards is suited to beard art. It is a rare gift, much prized by the beardmasters. The hair is treated with gels, and the dwarf is trained in the art of grooming their beard into the most spectacular shapes and sculptures. Such a beard grants a +1 to reaction rolls with anyone who has an appreciation for the finer things.

17. Sifting Beard: A single looping braid, supporting a lattice of sifting strands. The almost impossibly intricate lattice separates objects based on weight and density. It takes 1 minute to sift through a 1’ cube of detritus. The beard will separate the stones from the metals, and the coppers from the gold pieces. The beard must be dry to function properly, and cannot sift through mud or water.

18. Sleeping Beard: The hair is conditioned for maximum softness on one side, and for insulation and water resistance on the other. It can be used as a rudimentary one-dwarf shelter in time of need.

19. Steel Wool Beard: A coarse beard, treated with polishing oils. Any metal treasure with artistic value (such as a fancy sword, jewelry, a gold watch, ancient coins, etc.) has its value increased by 10% after the masterful cleaning and polishing it receives at the hands of a dwarf with a steel wool beard.

20. Utili-Beard: The beard is knotted and tied with four small tools hanging from it. The expert tying of the beard keeps these tools always within arm’s reach, but never in the way. Any one-handed object can be hung from the utili-beard: a hammer, a hacksaw, a sword, etc. The dwarf may switch between these four objects freely, without taking any penalties that might normally be incurred for switching a new object into the character’s hand.

d100 Reasons the Wizard is more than they Seem

Buff WizardThere’s a world of difference between being a mere “Magic User” and being a Wizard. A Magic User has retained their humanity. They’ve learned to force some spells into their brain, but they’ve yet to completely abandon everything of love and decency in the pursuit of greater magical powers.

Being a Wizard takes more than gaining levels in a class. It requires a disregard for decorum, ethics, or even one’s own safety. Any Wizard your party encounters out in the wide world will have the standard accouterments of a Magic User, that is true. But they’ve also made deals with creatures whose mere description could strike a man blind with fear. They’ve subjected their bodies and their souls to experiments no sane person would wish upon their worst enemies. They’ve learned truths mortal man was not meant to know, taken apart their own minds and reassembled them from scratch, and have grown bored with puzzles that lesser men could spend their whole lives deciphering.

There’s more going on there than a d4 hit die and a list of spells.

So if your party encounters a Wizard, roll a few times on this table. Note that all of these are meant to be taken as inherent powers that the Wizard has. Any wizard of such significant experience likely has a number of magical oddments secreted about their person as well.

  1. Phenomenal physical strength. This Wizard can hurl great boulders or punch through stone walls with their bare hands.
  2. This Wizard’s head is bald, and covered with dozens of eyes. Not only can they see in every direction, but each eye can emit a beam of burning light at whatever it looks at, dealing 1d4 damage.
  3. If standing in water of at least waist-depth, the Wizard can suffer no wounds. They draw vitality from the water, and have an effective fast healing of 100.
  4. The Wizard’s arms can stretch out, as though they were made of some elastic material. They can reach up to 100′ away from their bodies, bend their arms in any direction they require, and do not lose any of their strength regardless of how far their arm is from their body.
  5. Rather than carbon monoxide, this Wizard exhales a poison gas to which they are immune. In the open this effect is mild and not worth mentioning. However, if a character is in an enclosed space with the Wizard for longer than 1d4 rounds, they must begin making a save versus Poison each round. Each failure results in a temporary -1d4 to a random ability score.
  6. By manipulating the fabric of time itself, the wizard has managed to create a bubble in which future technology can exist. The Wizard may carry any number of future oddities: a gun, a smartphone, a drone, lightweight bulletproof armor, etc. If the Wizard dies, all this technology will realign with its proper time frame. From our perspective, it will simply disappear.
  7. The Wizard cannot die a natural death, and will live until some mortal harm befalls them. They may now have already lived for centuries, or even millennia.
  8. The blood of the Wizard has been replaced by a pressurized gas that ignites when it contacts the air. Any puncturing or piercing wound against the wizard will result in a gout of flame. A 30′ cone, dealing damage equal to the Wizard’s remaining health to anyone within its area. Save versus Breath for half damage.
  9. The Wizard’s skin cannot be cut by any means, unless they are willing. It may still be bludgeoned, but it will not break. Slashing or piercing weapons deal a greatly reduced amount of damage because of this.
  10. Gravity does not appear to affect this Wizard. They drift, keeping near the ground by a mechanism from which they can easily detach if they wish to float freely. They have become skilled at bouncing off of walls, leaping out of range, and otherwise using this affliction to their best advantage.
  11. After performing more squats than you could ever fathom in a time-stopped pocket dimension, this Wizard can now leap up to 100′ in the air. Regardless of how high they fall from, they will never suffer any damage from a fall. Even if they were to fall from orbit, assuming they had some way of surviving entry through the atmosphere.
  12. The Wizard can cast spells “by ear,” as it were. If they have an empty spell slot of sufficiently high level, and they see a spell cast, then that spell will appear in their empty spell slot. They can cast it as normal, or keep it until later to inscribe into their spellbook without any difficulty.
  13. By looking at a person, this Wizard gains an intimate understanding of that person’s religion, probably knowing even more about it than they do. The Wizard often uses this to impersonate deities and prophets. A few hours after losing sight of a person, knowledge of that person’s religion fades.
  14. The Wizard is accompanied by a (1. Close Friend, 2. Lover, 3. Devoted Vassal, 4. Magically bonded slave) who is a (1. Minotaur, 2.Succubus, 3. Horned Devil, 4. Giant, 5. Dinosaur, 6. Dragon)
  15. The Wizard has absolute mastery-level experience in a completely unrelated career, which they spent decades in prior to pursuing the mystic arts. (1. Sailing, 2. Politics, 3. Fine Arts, 4. Natural Philosophy, 5. History, 6. Engineering, 7. Beast Taming, 8. Metalcrafting)
  16. Sleep is completely unnecessary for this Wizard, and they are filled with a nervous energy that makes even their downtime insanely productive. This has allowed them to train a second class without impacting their Wizardly pursuits. They get all the benefits of their second class, which has roughly half the number of levels that they have in the Magic User class. (1. Cleric 2-3. Fighter 4-5. Specialist 6. Something weird. Like one of the custom classes on this site.)
  17. The Wizard’s speech has a magical charge, making any command they utter have the force of a Command spell.
  18. Magic Missile scrolls are tattooed up and down each of the Wizard’s digits. They are able to cast the spell 10 times per day without expending any of their spell slots on memorizing it.
  19. The Wizard has already undergone 99% of the process required to become a lich. Their phylactery already exists, and the only thing left is for them to die. They’re in no hurry to do it, but when they do die, they’ll just be reborn as a lich.
  20. The Wizard’s beard is not made of normal hair, but of (1. Tentacles, 2. Snakes, 3. Insectile Legs, 4. Ooze, 5. Fire, 6. Prehensile Hair). There are 1d4 tendrils from here which are long enough to make attacks. If the Wizard is of a feminine persuasion, then instead of a beard this effect sprouts from her (1. Underarms, 2. Bush, 3. she just has a beard anyway, 4. She has this instead of boobs) Under no circumstances may head hair be used.
  21. The Wizard is (1. Resistant by half, 2. Immune, 3. Absorbs half, 4. Absorbs fully.) any damage which might reasonably be attributed to (1. Fire, 2. Cold, 3. Acid, 4. Electricity).
  22. By suffusing their body with the ectoplasm of numerous spectral infants, the Wizard is able to turn their body incorporeal at will.
  23. The Wizard’s appearance is fungible. They can alter it to resemble any human they choose, or create an entirely new appearance for themselves out of scratch.
  24. Under numerous aliases, this Wizard controls numerous organizations. Everything from local governments of seemingly unimportant towns, to big city guilds, to organized crime, to mercenary bands.
  25. The Wizard exudes pheromones with similar effect to a Charm Person spell. Anyone who can smell them must save.
  26. From their sleeve the Wizard can pull any nonmagical, nonspecific object that would fit in a sleeve. So for example, they can pull out a watch to check the time, but cannot pull out a magical watch that stops time, or your father’s watch that you just said you’d pay a fortune to have back.
  27. The Wizard has eithera 16′ long prehensile penis that can entangle and compress victims to death; or they have a pair of acid-filled tits which can spray in a 15′ cone at will. Which one the Wizard has is irrespective of their gender.
  28. The pores of the Wizard ooze a kind of gooey oil which makes them incredibly slippery. The Wizard uses this to slid around as though on skates, escape any bonds ever put on them, and to swim with incredible speed.
  29. Environmental concerns are of no concern to this Wizard. They can breathe under water, self-heat themselves in a blizzard, and self-cool themselves inside a volcano. This safety from the elements includes any magically imposed environments, but does not protect them from area of effect spells.
  30. A gem is embeded into the Wizard’s tongue. If they stick out their tongue while standing in a brightly lit area, a prism of color will refract out of the gem. This light eill envelope and contain everything in a 15′ square. The square may be placed anywhere within 20′ of the Wizard’s location.
  31. Any (1-2. Man, 3-4. Woman) encountered by the Wizard will instantly fall in love with them. There is no save involved, and they will wish only good things for the Wizard, seeking their approval. Any creature without gender is immune to this effect.
  32. The secret of human construction is known to the Wizard. Over the course of about a week, they are able to fully construct an adult human from component elements. These humans are independent, but obviously most of them accept that they owe some notable debt to their creator, and choose to serve the Wizard. Several of these will accompany the Wizard.
  33. There are actually 2d2 Wizard’s minds contained within this single body, shared due to some catastrophe while traveling the outer planes. Each of the minds possesses a full spell list, ready to cast. The body can only cast one spell at a time, probably.
  34. The Wizard is able to run as fast as a galloping horse, and never tires of their exertion in this regard.
  35. The Wizard is able to move objects telekinetically, without any limit on how frequently or how long they can do so. They can move up to (1. 10lb, 2-4. 80lb, 5-6. 200lb), (1. Slowly, but with great precision. 2. Slowly and clumsily, 3-5. With great speed, but still clumsily 6. With great speed and precision)
  36. The Wizard’s hands can be detached, and will then animate to act as the Wizard’s servitors, with the ability to fly. New hands will grow on the Wizard’s stumps after about 1 turn. The detached hands will wither and die after 1d6 turns.
  37. The Wizard is possessed of Superman-style Super-Breath. Hurricane force winds as cold as a blizzard. They can do this as often as they’re able to get a really deep, satisfying breath. So, at most, every 2d4 rounds, and never if they’re exhausted from heavy physical activity.
  38. The Wizard has an Omega Gaze. They may use it once per 10 minute turn, and it will follow its target until it strikes them without fail. The beams deal 2d12 damage, but a save versus Device will reduce the damage by half.
  39. A powerful creature owes the Wizard a favor, and will come to their aide when summoned (1. Djinn, 2. Vampire, 3. A titanic intelligent lion 4. An elder dragon.)
  40. Like an ioun stone, a tiny door orbits their bodies. At will they may use their hands to pull the door wide enough to step through. It leads into a pocket dimension where they store numerous weapons and treasures. Many of these can easily be removed merely by reaching into the door while it is in its miniaturized state, so that the Wizard is never truly unarmed.
  41. Stones speak to the Wizard, and respond to his questions. They cannot act on the Wizard’s behalf, but they know much of what happens around them.
  42. The Wizard knows they are in a game, and is annoyed that they’ve accidentally wandered onto the main stage. They know all of the rules of the game, and would like to extricate themselves from the spotlight as soon as possible so they can go back to whatever they do when no one is imagining them. Considers it an insult to speak to characters, and will speak only to players and to the referee directly.
  43. For a brief moment the Wizard achieved godhood a few years ago. They were knocked back down to earth by a pantheon unwilling to accept such a pompous little mortal into their midst; but they retained one minor vestige of their divinity (1. Invulnerability to hit point damage, 2. They know everything that more than five people in the world know. 3. The ability to shape their environment to suit their will 4. The ability to un-make anyone who blasphemes them in their presence.)
  44. This Wizard has already evolved beyond their physical form, but are still muddling about in their physical bodies. Death would release them to achieve some higher form of existence. Flip a coin to determine if the Wizard knows this.
  45. Each time the Wizard says a character’s full name, they gain 1 point of power over that character. This information is kept secret, though players might notice the creepily deliberate way their names are being repeated. At will, the Wizard may activate this power. Each point of power deals 1 point of damage, and if a character is killed in this way, they become an undead servant of the wizard. They fully retain their faculties, but must obey the wizard’s commands as their body slowly rots. The Wizard must know a name before they can speak it, and when spoken, it must be audible to the target in order to count. After a day, if they are unused, points of power fade away.
  46. The Wizard may bilocate. While doing so, they exist fully in two different places at once. If one is destroyed, it does not matter, because the other is no less of the whole. When the two instances of the Wizard come together, they may combine, and thus the single Wizard will have lived a pair of simultaneous experiences.
  47. Fire obeys the Wizard, and will spread in the direction they indicate. It may also take on shapes, flare, smoke, or smoulder at the Wizard’s behest.
  48. The body of the Wizard is like a magical sponge. It draws all mystic energy into itself. While in the presence of this Wizard, no magic items or magic spells will work, save those that the Wizard is channeling their own energies into.
  49. The Wizard is posessed of many of the properties of spiders. They are able to spin webs from their fingertips. climb walls, move with great speed and agility, are much strong than they ought to be, and have incredibly accute senses. This Wizard is spider-man, is what I’m saying.
  50. No creature can bring itself to act violently against the Wizard, for any reason. If the Wizard acts violently first, then whomever in the area has the strongest save versus Magic may attempt a save. If they succeed, then they can act violently, and whomever has the next weakest save versus Magic may attempt a similar save. So on and so forth, until someone fails a save, at which point no one else may attempt one.
  51. This Wizard stands 9′ tall, with the strength and constitution of a weight lifter. They’re an imposing figure, with the maximum hit points that they could possibly have given their level and hit dice.
  52. Anybody with any manner of noble pedigree believes they have fond memories of this Wizard. Upon seeing this Wizard for the first time they will remember when the Wizard used to perform little tricks for them, and when they stood up to an angry parent on the noble child’s behalf. These memories will never fade, and The Wizard finds it quite easy to get any favor they need from the upper classes.
  53. The name of this Wizard is very powerful. They dare never let anyone know it, for if someone knows their name, they become immune to the Wizard’s magic.
  54. This Wizard tricked and slew god’s own messenger. They stole the throat of this semi-divine creature, and now a tinge of blue and white glows beneath the skin of their neck when they speak. Everything they say is completely captivating. Every joke riotously funny, every speech moving, every poem will move an audience to tears. Their words always have the best possible effect that was intended.
  55. They have vision which (1. Freezes people in place, 2. Turns people to stone, 3. Turns people into their mind-slaves 4. Switches souls with the target). The effect can be avoided with a save versus Magic. This ability may be used (1. Every round, 2-3. Every 3rd round, 4-6. 1d6 times per day)
  56. The Wizard’s feet never touch the ground. They fly everywhere effortlessly.
  57. The wizard is able to grow to the size of a titan (20-30′ tall), or to the size of an insect at will.
  58. The Wizard is permanently able to speak with (1. Plants 2. Animals 3. All languages of the common races 4. The dead). To the Wizard, being able to speak to these things has become second nature.
  59. Every race sees the Wizard as a member of their own race. Be they human, house cat, goblin, dragon, giant, or anything else.
  60. This Wizard is able to transform into a (1. Lion, 2. Eagle, 3. Hammerhead Shark 4. Ladybug 5. Iguana 6. King Cobra) at will.
  61. This Wizard can transform into a pool of liquid at will. They can move around so long as they are going downhill, or on a more-or-less even surface. The puddle can also shape itself however it chooses. So it can become a thin strand to slid across a tightrope, so long as that tightrope doesn’t go up.
  62. Wherever they are, the Wizard always seems to have a fine manse just over the horizon. This manse won’t be there unless the Wizard is approaching or occupying it, however. Each manse is different, filled with fine luxuries, accoutrements, and servants, all of which are real and could potentially be removed from the premises before the manse ceases to exist again.
  63. The Wizard can breathe just like a dragon can. Roll to determine the type of dragon their breath emulates: (1. Red, 2. Black, 3. Blue, 4. White, 5. Green, 6. Something really weird).
  64. Each morning the Wizard removes a book from under their pillow. The book is always different, describing whatever new challenges the Wizard may face that day. It does not describe what will happen, only what is in the Wizard’s path. The information in these books looks very much like the referee’s notes, and the character sheets of any characters present at the session.
  65. This Wizard is permanently invisible, and must wear full-body coverings to appear visible.
  66. All (1. Ravens, 2. Frogs, 3. Porcine Creatures, 4. Spiders 5. Human children 6. Moles 7. Chickens 8. Ferrets) will obey the Wizard’s mental commands.
  67. The Wizard may travel up to 2 miles with every step they take if they so wish.
  68. The Wizard’s saliva is a pleasant narcotic. Their body produces it in perfect amounts to keep them high, and if they want they can spare some spit now and again for other people. They are a really, really good kisser.
  69. A serpent of exceeding wisdom lives inside the Wizard’s butt. It tells them things. Amazing things.
  70. The Wizard has a low-level mind read active at all times, allowing them to sense the surface thoughts of everyone around them.
  71. This Wizard has so many kinds of vision up in their eyes. X-Ray vision. Night vision. Far-vision. Micro-vision. So many visions.
  72. This Wizard is currently living through this day for the third time. They can avoid 2d4 mistakes. Anytime the referee feels that the Wizard has made a mistake, they can reverse time to when that mistake was made, and make a different choice.
  73. Randomly determine a member of the party. Secretly, the Wizard is that character’s parent.
  74. If someone looks into the Wizard’s eyes, they are incapable of telling a lie.
  75. The Wizard is an absolute master of seduction, is exceptionally good at sex, and knows how to make just about anybody feel appreciated and respected the morning after as the Wizard takes their leave. There’s nothing magical about this, they’re just a really amazing lay.
  76. The Wizard currently carries a magic item of world-altering significance. The sort of thing that might serve as the Mcguffin for a huge adventure. The Wizard had no plans to use this item today, and may never have intended to use it. They might intend only to study it, or even to destroy it, but if the day goes poorly enough for them…
  77. Accepting employment contracts from this Wizard is a trap. It places the employee under a nearly unbreakable spell of servitude which can only be broken if the Wizard can be tricked into saying  “eleven.”
  78. The Wizard is currently astral-projecting themselves from an unknown location. They’ve been doing so for so long that their spirit has grown a new physical body around itself, and they’ve forgotten where their true body is. If their current body is killed, they will be snapped back to their actual body’s current location. Note that their current body need look nothing like their true body, and they may even be a different age, gender, or species.
  79. At will, the Wizard can place themselves, and anyone within 60′, inside of a pocket dimension. This dimension lasts for as long as anyone is inside of it, and looks exactly like whatever area was in a 60′ radius of the Wizard when the pocket was created.
  80. 10 tiny polyps grow on the Wizard’s body. If cut off and cast to the ground, these instantly grow into naked, burly warriors ready to defend the Wizard with their lives.
  81. The Wizard has adhesive spit. It’s remarkably sticky, instantly hardening, and tough enough to hold the short side of a brick to a wall.
  82. The Wizard has acidic urine. They can only use it if they’ve had enough water, but it’ll melt pretty much anything.
  83. The Wizard has explosive poop. It detonates roughly 20 seconds after it is excreted, and thus must be thrown quickly to avoid self-harm.
  84. The Wizard has a 4-in-6 chance to have the perfect potion for any situation on their belt. These are never general potions, like healing potions or Giant’s Growth potions. These are bizarrely specific. Stuff like “Potion of Manacle Breaking,” “Tincture of odorless farts,”
    and “Shark repellent.”
  85. This Wizard has business cards which they hand out to everyone they meet. If anything interesting is said within “earshot” of the card, it appears in a little notebook the Wizard carries, which they read through each morning over coffee.
  86. A large portion of this Wizard’s brain has been replaced with a crystalline structure from another world. The crystals are hyper-logical, and view the world through a vastly different lens. The Wizard themselves still displays emotion, as their brain is not completely gone, but the crystals provide them with lightning-fast thinking when processing logic or mathematics, as well as a perfect photographic memory.
  87. The Wizard has fused themselves with a water elemental. Their body appears just like any normal example of their race, but objects pass harmlessly through it, leaving only ripples behind. They may move and act with all of the abilities you would expect from a water elemental.
  88. With a wave of the hand this Wizard may reinvigorate the life in items made from wood. Any within his presence will begin to grow branches and sprout leaves, becoming unsuitable for whatever purpose they originally had. The Wizard’s own equipment is made of metal, bone, ceramic, etc so as to avoid this becoming an issue.
  89. This Wizard cannot be affected by foreign substances. Poisons have no impact, but neither do intoxicants. The Wizard was quite fond of a night of boozy revelry prior to this alteration, and views it as a poor trade.
  90. The wizard has rearranged their own internal anatomy. They are immune to critical hits, sneak attacks, and any form of non-magical medicine.
  91. Whoever kills this Wizard is actually the one who dies, for when this Wizard is killed, their mind transfers into the body of their killer. The only thing this Wizard really fears is death by accident or old age.
  92. If this wizard touches you, your skin will display a black spot. Anyone who sees this spot will know you are marked for death and that no one can be prosecuted for killing you. No judge will convict them, and indeed, they will be entitled to all of your property for doing the world a favor by getting rid of you.
  93. At will, this Wizard may ignite their index finger as if it were a sparkler. They can then write and draw in mid air, and the images will not disappear until they snap their fingers.
  94. The fey folk once danced for weeks while this Wizard played a jig on the pipes which nearly exhausted them to the point of death. But the fey were satisfied, and as a gift they gave the Wizard tremendous luck. Any rolls made in relation to the Wizard must be rolled twice, and the result more beneficial to the Wizard is taken. This goes for attack and damage rolls made by OR against the Wizard, as well as rolls on random tables, ability or skill checks, and any other kind of roll that might occur.
  95. Any body of drinking water which touches this Wizard’s lips is turned to a sweet wine.
  96. Any damage dealt to this Wizard by the direct action of an individual is also dealt to that individual. So if you deal 4 points of damage by stabbing this Wizard, you take 4 points of stabbing damage yourself. If, on the other hand, you tie the Wizard to a chair inside of a building, and then light the building on fire, you will take no damage. Just don’t be dumb and push the wizard into the fire once it’s started blazing.
  97. This Wizard can control the weather with simple gestures of their hands, guiding the wind to blow in a given direction with a given amount of force, calling down rain or hail, and even bolts of lightning once a storm has really gotten going.
  98. This Wizard eight long tentacular arms, ending in normal human hands, growing from their back parallel to their spine.
  99. The Wizard has partially fused themselves with a creature they were experimenting on. They’ve taken on some of the physical attributes of this creature, as well as gained some of its talents. (1. Hare, 2. Tortoise, 3. Falcon, 4. Bear, 5. Dog, 6. Iguana.)
  100. The Wizard “bounces” as if they are made of rubber in a cartoon. Weapons bounce off of them, they can shoot themselves high into the sky by “cannon balling” at the ground. A fall can never hurt them. They can even attack and deal serious damage by bouncing themselves at an enemy.

Magic Words Don’t Need No Spell Levels

Ritual MagicSpell levels. What are those about?

I maintained spell levels in the Magic Words system because I wanted to make the system as compatible as possible with existing spell lists. If you craft a 3rd level spell with the words “Fire” and “Ball,” I want that spell to function exactly as you thought it would. The point of Magic Words was never to get rid of the classic old spells. The classic old spells are great. I just wanted to encourage more magical creativity.

Almost immediately I recognized that spell levels were going to be the most complicated part of putting the system into practice. What really is the difference between a 3rd level spell and a 4th level spell? If I were to create a new spell of middling power, and asked you to assign a level to it, would you know right away what level it should have? I would have to think about it, compare it to spells on the core spell lists, and ultimately hazard a guess as to what level it ought to be. I wouldn’t even be very confident in my guess.

And I’ve already got years of experience with the D&D magic system to contextualize what the various spell levels mean. I have no idea how a newcomer would even begin trying to assign levels to newly created spells. It’s a system that basically requires the user to already be an expert before they even attempt to use it. That’s not inherently a bad thing, not everything needs to be accessible to newcomers. But if a game system isn’t going to be accessible, then I need a good justification for it. I need to be getting some cool benefit in exchange for the assumption of expert-level knowledge.

Delineating spells by level is hardly a cool benefit.

So Magic Words doesn’t use spell levels anymore. All spells exist on an equal footing, and could be learned by even a 1st level Magic User. Some spells might be better or worse than other spells, but that’s just magic. Not every spell is created equal, but that doesn’t mean the good spells require any greater ability to cast.

Removing spell levels does introduce some new problems for the Magic Words system which we gotta tackle.

  • If every spell is available at first level, then how do we prevent a high level Magic User from having a repertoire of weak, useless spells?
  • How would this system handle really powerful spells that are totally inappropriate for a first level character to have access to?
  • If we’re not using spell levels anymore, that means we’re not using the “Spells per level” chart which tells us how many spells a magic user can cast per day. So how many spells can a magic user cast per day?

Lets tackle each of those individually. There’s a TL;DR at the end.

How do we prevent a high level MU from having a repertoire of useless spells?

Taking our cues from the LotFP Playtest booklet, we just need to include more variables in spells that are dependent on caster level. So instead of a spell dealing 1d6 damage, perhaps it deals 1d6 damage per 2 caster levels. Tons of elements in a spell can be made variable: the time it takes to cast the spell, the duration of the spell, the range of the spell, the number of targets the spell effects.

Variable elements don’t need to be limited to numbers. Take, for example, a spell which causes people to become confused and choose the targets of their attacks at random. This spell could have a note that if the caster is above level 5, then the victim of the spell has double the normal chance of attacking their allies. As another example, the traditional spell “Invisibility” might automatically become “Greater Invisibility” if the caster is beyond a certain level.

Alternatively, some spells could function based on a difference in hit dice between the caster and the target. Consider a spell which causes the target to make a save, or die of a heart attack. If the spell only works on targets “With 3 or more fewer hit dice than the caster,” then the spell grows in power as the character levels. Simply by virtue of the fact that they will encounter more targets who fall within the spell’s description.

How do we handle spells too powerful for a first level character to have access to?

In my current campaign, my players hope to get a space ship one day. When they do, they want to place a time-dilation effect over the dead earth, and fast-forward its geological development to the point where it again becomes habitable. If I wanted to include this spell in my campaign, I don’t see a good way to make it variable. I suppose I could create really slow, really small time dilation bubbles that grow in both size and rate of acceleration. But that feels like unnecessarily shoehorning a cool idea into a limited system just for the sake of consistency.

Any number of spells might feel “too big” to allow easy access: summoning Godzilla, making a Wish, creating human life in your vats. These spells can be restricted by making them rituals, and rituals have all sorts of nutty requirements. So while the spell itself can be learned by a first level MU, actually casting it requires resources beyond the meager means of any first level character.

For example, lets take my world-scale time dilation bubble. The MU in my current campaign could, if they had the appropriate words, research that spell right now. But, if they want to cast it, they’ll need 3 months of continuous casting time, 300 virgin sacrifices, and 100,000 gold pieces worth of ceremonial accoutrements. Not to mention that some good guy somewhere might take umbrage to all that virgin sacrificing, and try to stop them.

Magic in my games tends toward inherently evil, or at least amoral. Magic Users proceed at their own risk, the referee cannot be held responsible for the loss of your soul.

How many spells can a Magic User cast per day?

I was stumped on this question for awhile. My first instinct was to check Wonder & Wickedness. Brendan’s spells are levelless, and designed to be compatible with the standard game. That’s the same thing I’m trying to do here! I figured he probably came up with a good way to resolve this.

According to W&W, Magic Users can cast a number of spells per day equal to their level. If they want, they can try to cast more than that, but they risk spell failure (more colorfully referred to as catastrophes in Brendan’s words). This struck me as all wrong. That’s way too few spells per level! It smacks of what I was talking about the other day when I introduced spell failure into the Magic Words system. It makes casting feel too punishing.

At this point I figured I’d hit a dead end. Time to innovate! I came up with some functional possibilities, but none of them were elegant. I was just getting frustrated when it struck me that I should reference the rules-as-written spells-per-level table to get a baseline idea of how many overall spells an MU of each level can cast. All I would have to do is convert all of the MU’s spell slots to first level, add them up, and see how their overall number of spell slots increased at each level.

At levels 1, 2, 3, and 4, a Magic User has…a number of spell slots equal to their level.

Apparently Brendan had the same idea I did.

After level 4, the rate of spell acquisition increases at a weirdly explosive rate. At levels 5 and 6 the MU has one more spell slot than they do levels. Every level after that, the gap widens by 1. At level 7 you have 2 slots more than your level, at level 8 you have 3 slots more than your level, at level 9 you have 4 more than your level, and at level 10 you have 5 more than your level.

This seems backwards to me. The game at low levels is a much more tightly designed experience. A big concern about higher level play is that the texture of the game gets lost beneath all of the player’s growing power and wealth. Many referees struggle to keep up with it, so why would the growth of spellcasting ability accelerate at higher levels?

Apparently Brendan’s solution is not so austere as it first seemed to me. Particularly when you take into account the option to cast beyond the strict limits of your ability at the risk of spell failure. So casters could prepare a number of spells per day equal to their level, and cast them without risk of failure. If they wish they can cast unprepared spells (or recast expended spells), but doing so risks spell failure.

I realize this is nothing more than a lengthy way of saying “I’m just gonna copy Wonder & Wickedness.” I considered saving you the time of reading this, and myself the time of writing it, by saying so up front. However, given my reaction to the W&W rule, I think the thought process that led me to adopting it is valuable. I doubt I’m the only person who saw “1 spell slot per level” and thought it was too restrictive to be fun.

TL;DR: What I’m changing about Magic Words.

  • Spells no longer have any spell levels associated with them. Every spell can be learned by a 1st level Magic User.
  • The majority of spells should have elements that are variable depending on the caster’s level, so that they become more powerful as the caster levels up.
  • Some particularly powerful spells can have ritual requirements that place them beyond the ability of most low level casters to actually perform.
  • Magic Users may prepare a number of spells per day equal to their level. These spells may be cast freely, without any risk of spell failure.
  • Casters may cast spells not currently prepared, or re-cast a prepared spell that has already been expended. Doing so risks spell failure.

Magic Words: Spell Failure

A SorceressHere are two things that are super awesome:

Neither of those things has ever shown up in one of my games. Here’s why:

  • Most systems that include spell failure, in my experience, make it a common risk of any casting whatsoever. It makes playing a Magic User dangerous to the point that it’s entirely unappealing.
  • DCC’s individualized Tables of Spell Results mean that every spell’s description is in excess of a page in length. Not only does this make writing new spells a creatively exhausting chore, but it means that you need a huge stack of reference material at the table. I don’t like the idea of needing to search for page numbers every time a spell is cast during play. That’s part of the reason Magic Words appealed to me in the first place.

So how can we take these two super cool things, throw in a dash of the new spellcasting rules from the LotFP Playtest booklet, and create a good spell failures system for Magic Words?

Magic Words: Optional Spell Failure Rules

Magic Users may cast spells entirely as normal so long as they are unrestricted and free from distractions. This means the Magic User must:

  • Take no damage during the same round that they’re casting.
  • Have no Bleed, Internal Bleed, or Pain. (Using Courtney’s “A Table for Avoiding Death.”)
  • Have full use of their arms, legs, and voice.
  • Are willing to cast in an entirely obvious fashion (excepting spells which specifically state that they can be cast subtly).
  • Are no more than Lightly encumbered.
  • Are not suffering from malnutrition, sleep deprivation, or other forms of exhaustion.

Within those limitations, there is no chance for a Magic User’s spells to fail. If the caster wishes to, they can risk spell failure by attempting to cast outside of those limitations. Such as when:

  • They have taken damage during the same round they were attempting to cast a spell.
  • They have Bleed, Internal Bleed, or Pain.
  • Their arms, legs, or voice are restricted and unavailable for use.
  • They wish to cast a non-stealth spell stealthily.
  • They are more than lightly encumbered.
  • They are suffering from malnutrition, sleep deprivation, or another form of exhaustion.

In any of those circumstances, there is a 3-in-6 chance that any spell the Magic User casts will fail.

When a spell fails, it’s not just a fizzling of impotent magic. The player must roll to determine unintended magical effect occurs. These possible effects are unique to each spell, and are created by the referee at the same time the spell is originally drafted. Obviously, this adds to the amount of work the referee is responsible for, which is the primary reason I’d treat this rule as optional. However, my own experience running a weekly campaign using Magic Words has shown that the work involved in creating new spells is so slight as to be negligible. I don’t anticipate this addition to substantially tax the creative abilities of any referee.

A 1d4 table of failures for each spell should be sufficient. More might be entertaining, but I think they would be superfluous. In LotFP, spell slots are not so numerous that a magician can fire off a spell during every round of combat. Spell failure won’t be common enough that you’ll get bored with 4 different failure options. But neither is it so few that players can easily plan for how spell failure will play out if it happens.

Note that there is no obligation for the referee to make the spell failures logically connected to the spell they are associated with. They can be, but it’s by no means necessary. After all, the logic of magic is indecipherable. A failed fireball causing time to jump backwards 10 seconds may seem random, but that’s only because you’ve got a tiny limited human brain. If you really understood magic, you’d get it.

Putting my money where my mouth is, here are spell failures for the first set of Magic Word based spells I drafted way back in the day.

Stars of Indirection

The first person who is touched by the caster after this spell is cast becomes cursed. Any attempt to use the stars as a means of navigation will return a false result. The navigator will believe they have read the stars correctly. But any attempt to travel based on that navigation will lead in a random direction. This curse lasts one month, and a save versus Magic negates the effect.

  1. The stars still misdirect the target; but instead of leading to a random direction they lead to a great treasure. If the magic user owns any such treasure, that is what they are led to. Otherwise the treasure is random.
  2. The target sees the night sky as completely black and devoid of any stars. As this is something others can easily confirm as false, they will probably realize they’ve been cursed very quickly.
  3. The light of the stars burns the skin of the caster for the next month, dealing 1d4 damage for each hour spent under their light. Remove Curse will remedy this effect.
  4. Cartoon stars begin to orbit the target’s head, spinning and twinkling.

Star Fighter

If cast during combat, a target within 100′ will be perceived as impressive by everyone who sees them. Even a bungling commoner with a sword they don’t understand how to use will be perceived as a peerless warrior. Weaker foes will become intimidated and may flee or falter before the Star Fighter. More ambitious opponents, meanwhile, will be drawn to the Star Fighter as a means of winning glory for themselves. This effect ends after the Star Fighter spends an adventuring turn out of combat. If the target wishes, they may make a save versus Magic to resist the spell’s effect.

  1. The target gains +2 to their attacks, but are not perceived any differently by others.
  2. The target must save versus magic, or begins acting in a buffoonish manner, as though they’re intentionally trying to do a frankly offensive impression of a mentally challenged warrior.
  3. The target is engulfed in blue flames which do not burn them. In darkness they take a -2 penalty to their armor class.
  4. The target becomes insubstantial for the next hour, and is completely unable to interact with (or be affected by) the material world.

Star Seat

A throne made of the night sky is summoned for 1 hour. Anyone but the caster attempting to sit in the throne will cause it to dissipate into a cold mist. When the caster sits on the throne, they perceive themselves to be miles above their own body, looking down at the world from the heavens. From this height, it’s impossible to discern any details. However, it can be used to make an effective map of the area within a 10 mile radius of the caster. The caster will also be able to see any sufficiently large phenomena, such as a town being on fire, or an army on the march. While sitting in the Star Seat, the caster will be completely unaware of anything happening to their body, including hit point damage.

  1. The caster sees a false image of what is below them. Nothing they see is remotely accurate.
  2. The caster sees an accurate image of the landscape as it was 24 hours ago.
  3. The caster becomes trapped in the Star Seat, and cannot leave it until the spell runs its course after 1 hour. Any attempt to remove them by force causes 1d10 damage.
  4. The star seat works in reverse, sending the perceptions of whomever sits in it deep underground. For as long as they sit, they see nothing but darkness, dirt, and stone. (Unless there’s something to see down there).

Seat

A single human or human-like target must make a save versus Paralyzation or immediately sit down and remain seated for 1 turn per caster level. If there is a chair within arm’s reach, they may sit in that, but otherwise they must simply sit on the floor. Swimming, flying, or climbing targets don’t simply fall to whatever surface is beneath them, but may move themselves along the most expedient course to a seat that is not lethal to them. So long as the target’s butt remains in constant contact with a horizontal surface, they are otherwise free to move and act.

  1. Any chairs within the vicinity of the caster catch on fire, even if they are made of a material that is not typically flammable.
  2. The caster sinks up to their knees in the ground.
  3. The caster turns into a chair for the duration of the time the spell would be in effect.
  4. Time stops for the caster for 1d6 rounds. The world around them moves forward normally.

Seat of Indirection

This spell is cast on a chair or other sitting place, and lasts for 1 hour per caster level. Anyone sitting in that seat is more easily fooled than normal. They are not charmed, they are merely a little more gullible than they would normally be. If using the social system presented in “On The Non Player Character” by Courtney Campbell, treat this as a +2 to social action rolls. +3 if the social action is Gamble.

  1. The chair is actually a Seat of Skepticism, and whomever sits in it is unusually obstinate. Use the opposite modifiers you would have used if the spell was working properly.
  2. The chair is actually a Seat of Discomfort. Anyone who sits in it will constantly shift around, offer awkward answers, and excuse themselves to return home at the earliest opportunity.
  3. The chair is actually a Seat of Wit. Anyone sitting in it will be unable to do anything but offer “clever” responses to anything that is said.
  4. The chair is actually a Seat of Bad Faith. Everything someone says while sitting in this chair is a lie.

Indirect Fighting

A willing target within 30′ is able to attack indirectly for 2 rounds per caster level. They may use any weapons or techniques they possess to attack someone within 30′ of themselves, without actually touching them. On a successful attack roll, the target takes damage normally. The target doesn’t receive any AC bonus from dexterity.

  1. For 2 rounds per caster level, the target may only attempt to harm someone by indirect means. They may attempt to convince the person to consume something that has been poisoned, or they can attempt to fell a tree that will happen to fall on a person; but they cannot force poison down someone’s throat, or directly use a weapon against someone.
  2. The caster’s head turns around backwards and will remain stuck that way until they make a save versus magic. They may attempt one save per day, after today.
  3. Any missiles loosed between now and the same time next round will stop mid air, spin around, and launch themselves at the target of the spell instead.
  4. The target suffers a -2 per caster level to their attack roll on their next attack.

 

 

Cointoss, a 200 Word RPG

CointossSo there’s this contest. In the contest you’re supposed to write a whole RPG in 200 words or less. This struck my fancy because I thought “That wouldn’t take too much effort to attempt!” That attitude is probably why I didn’t win the contest, but whatever.

Cointoss RPG

You are you. You’re in a restaurant waiting for food to arrive. You stand up.

Cointoss can be played anywhere, for any length of time, without any preparation. At the start of a game, you are who you are, where you are, when you are. Then, the imaginary you deviates, and goes off to have some adventure you could never attempt in real life.

You can do anything you could normally do without question. The referee describes the world around you, and determines which actions have a chance of failure. Such actions require a coin toss: heads is success, tails is failure. Some actions may require two successes to work, others may only require a single success out of two tosses. Thus any action may have a 75%, 50%, or 25% chance of success.

Anything is within the purview of these flips. You can check to see if you’ve spontaneously developed superpowers, or if you can get yourself elected president. It doesn’t matter, because no game of Cointoss will ever last long. Eventually the food comes, and the game ends. So get moving.

This is actually an idea I’ve had in the back of my head for awhile now. There was a brief time where I carried a set of dice in my pocket because I liked the idea that I might find some empty moment to fill with D&D. There’s a group of folks sitting around waiting for something, or just being bored together, and I could pull out my dice and say “Ya guys wanna run a quick dungeon?”

But dice are a pain to carry around. They made my pants lumpy, and I was always worried about losing one. And those brief D&D-able moments were never as common as I thought they might be. I gave up on carrying dice around, but the idea stuck with me that I’d like the option of proposing some kind of role playing game in the spur of the moment. It would just require no prep, and no tools that wouldn’t be readily available wherever I go.

I came up with a flip of the coin, the universally available randomizer, very early, but never pursued the idea further than that. This contest was a nice excuse to get it done.

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Thoughts and theories on tabletop games.