- Within the city limits (demarcated by a ring of stones), is a criss-cross of overgrown stone pathways leading all over town. The routes are indirect, but it’s considered extremely rude to step off of the path. Outsiders might be granted a single warning, then face expulsion from the village.
- Every home contains the death masks of relatives who have passed. Once a year the townsfolk wear them and mingle in the square, acting out the roles of the deceased.
- Each home contains a “fortune flower,” whose health reflects the family’s spiritual well-being and future potential. If the flower dies the house is demolished, and everyone in the family changes their name.
- Disputes are settled by tossing a particular type local frog back and forth. After each catch, the person who caught the frog takes a step back. Whoever fails to catch the frog must eat it whole, which usually results in a very bad hallucinogenic trip. The rare good trip is interpreted as meaning that the other person is the truly guilty party, and must somehow have cheated in the frog toss. Thus making them doubly guilty.
- Anyone who spends a night in the town must first get the town’s crest branded on their cheek. It’s important to the townsfolk that they be able to recognize anyone who has walked on their town’s soil. The residents themselves don’t have the crest, because they’ll all recognize one another.
- Residents always wear masks when outside of their homes. Most are just burlap sacks with holes cut for the eyes, but a few are carved and painted wooden affairs. They won’t discuss why it is they do this, but it’s not because their faces look weird or anything.
- Every structure in the village has a name. Person names, like Sarah, John, and Amy. The townsfolk talk about the buildings as though they are people, and refer to a structure’s opinions and emotional states. They aren’t crazy, it’s just an unusual form of animism.
- It is considered arrogant and rude to accept food, gifts, or an invitation before first refusing it 3 times. Strangers are not exempted from this assumption. Some of the town’s youth have taken to refusing the first offer three times, and then accepting the second offer. The degree of scandal an individual villager feels about this is proportional to their age.
- No single home will ever host more than a single guest at a time, which includes animals. If an adventuring party wishes to stay in town, their lodgings will be divided among multiple families.
- No coin or work is expected of visitors for the food they eat or the bed they sleep in while in town. However, visitors are expected to pay for their hospitality by sexually pleasing the village’s elderly, ugly, and mentally deficient residents.
- Anybody not wearing weapons in public is considered to be insulting the townsfolk’s martial abilities. “You’re such shitty warriors, I don’t even need weapons to defend myself.” The community will attack in force to prove the outsider wrong.
- Villagers believe that disease is a result of social brusqueness and confrontation. They aim to be always pleasant, but mostly they’re just really passive aggressive. If anyone actually is confrontational, the ‘victim’ will usually descend into an intense coughing fit. Whether it’s psychosomatic, or just another layer of passive aggression is unclear.
- It is fashionable in the village for women to shave their heads. Very few women have any hair at all, and those who do keep it extremely short.
- Each member of the community wears a single iron manacle on their left hand, with a few links of chain dangling from it. These are keepsakes from the town’s founders, who were a band of escaped slaves that successfully fled here to escape their masters.
- Any dispute in town is settled with a poetry slam. Any players who are too shy to participate in an actual poetry slam around the table should be considered to have delivered a really piss-poor poem.
- When speaking to outsiders, every member of the community claims to be David. David is a 33 year old man who drives mules for a living. They will acknowledge contradictions, but will not concede the point. (“Yes, I clearly am a 94 year old woman. And yet I am not. I am David, a 33 year old man.”)
- A community of religious fanatics who believe technology has led man from the path god set him on. They use tools of stone, leather, wood, and bone. Metal objects are absolutely prohibited within the city. They will allow travelers to bury their metals outside town if they wish to enter.
- There is a “children’s dormitory” in town where all of the children live. Children’s names are given to them by the town’s elders, and no single adult in the village may claim any specific child as their own offspring. Most adults in the village do show extra attention to their own children, but will be punished for doing so if it is too overt.
- While there are visitors in town, the villagers worship whatever god their visitors worship. They will be extremely insistent on knowing what gods the PCs worship, and what the proper form of reverence is.
- The dreams of children are of paramount importance, and considered coded harbingers of what is to come. Each family begins the day by reverently listening to the dreams of their children. If any child has a dream that is particularly portentous, a town gathering is called and the dream is repeated for everyone to hear.
- Before eating, the each member of the community will ask someone nearby to give them a solid punch in the gut. It’s a practice which dates back to a time of famine, when the punch was meant to make you feel less hungry right before you ate your meager scraps of food.
- Once per year, the town holds a lottery. Every man, woman, and child draws lots, and whomever ‘wins’ is beaten to death by the rest of the townsfolk. Tradition holds that if this ritual is ever abandoned, disaster will befall the town.
- Disputes are settled through a practice called Sharo. Each participant bludgeons the other with their fists, and whichever of the two shows pain first is the loser.
- Children are not considered “real” until their first birthday, when it is much less likely they will die unexpectedly. On this day, they are given a name, and their mother cuts off their father’s scrotum. The father remains a member of the family as a eunuch, honored for doing his duty in fostering a healthy child, and now meant to devote himself to nothing except for that child’s care. Meanwhile, the mother remarries. Women fashion the scrotums they’ve taken into a belt of pouches, denoting their status within the community.
- If two village women are pregnant at the same time, they must battle to the death. Thus, children are born only to the strongest parents.
- A man’s livestock is his worth, and a representation of his ability to provide for a family. As such men are typically allowed to marry as many women as they have cows.
- All of the town’s women learn how to juggle from a young age. Juggling is a deeply ingrained part of the town’s courtship rituals, and a man will always prefer an impressive juggler over an impressive beauty.
- Local children may never be seen by visitors. At all. When visitors are spotted approaching the town, the children are hurried into a special windowless building. They must remain there until the visitors leave, and any visitor who sees one of the local children will be sentenced to death by stoning on the spot.
- Blessings and good wishes are given by spitting. The locals spit in cooking pots to pray for a good meal, they spit on their weapons to ensure a good hunt, and they spit on visitors to wish them good travels.
- Men and woman who don’t live in the same house with one another may only communicate by proxy, or in writing.
- There is an unusual flower that grows bountifully in the area, and is consumed with almost every meal. Its effects are notably similar to cocaine.
- Each evening the townsfolk gather in the common house to watch a new tattoo being added to one of their number. Everyone in town is covered in dozens of tattoos, and almost everyone has some skill with a needle and ink.
- Every single one of the townsfolk is actually some local critter that was polymorphed into a human shape by a drunken wizard. Rabbits, foxes, frogs, spiders, etc. They retain a semblance of their lower instincts, but they think and function as well as you or I. And after more than a decade, they’re very comfortable being human. They’re terrified of being found out and returned to their natural state. Any visitor that might have Dispell Magic prepared will be turned away, but they will otherwise do their best to act natural.
- All town activity stops abruptly at noon for a ritual dance. It is announced by a bell rung by a cripple, and everyone performs the dance wherever they happen to be standing when they hear it. The dance lasts 13 minutes.
- Everyone in town wears matching uniforms. A drab grey and brown tunic and breeches, skillfully hemmed. Everyone is clean shaven, with their hair in a long ponytail. Each tunic has a bright red band at chest height, which the townsfolk take pains to keep clean.
- A Displacer Beast wanders the town freely. The townsfolk will step out of its path if it is approaching, and allow it to wander freely in and out of their homes. They provide it with food and reverence, and in turn they believe it protects them from evil.
- When animals are slaughtered for their meat, it is believed that they must be made to suffer before their death. Several methods of torturous death have been devised for various animals. It is believed that eating meat that was made to experience pain will protect the consumer from suffering in their own life.
- There are layers upon layers of conspiracy in the town. Plots and counter plots, all with the eventual goal of bringing down the mayor and replacing him with a man of the people. Nobody seems to understand why this is ridiculous in such a small community.
- A unique, deck-building card game using tarot cards is insanely popular in town. Visitors will be asked to play by nearly everyone they meet.
- At birth, everyone is bitten by a particular local snake. If they live, they’ll have a splotchy scar from the venom. The shape of the scar is then used to determine something about their future, and the way they ought to be raised.
- Each structure in town is a unique color. Any new structures must be painted in a color that has not been used yet.
- The townsfolk touch butts with people as a greeting, the same way decent god-fearing folk shake hands or wave.
- The townsfolk are a group of time travelers. They became trapped here in the past, and are determined not to disrupt the timeline.
- The village is a nudist colony. Nobody minds if you bring weapons into town, but clothing and armor are absolutely banned from being worn.
- Bathing is considered unlucky. Nobody will want to be anywhere near a traveler who is “too clean.”
- A smithocracy. Whomever is able to make the most impressive object is elevated to be the town’s ruler.
- A settlement of people from a far off culture. One which is extremely out of place here. Like a Japanese village in the middle of 16th century France. They have a very good reason for being here.
- The mayor is a cat. The townsfolk take this as seriously as you think they ought to.
- The town is a secret haven for those who practice a completely innocuous, but also highly illegal religion. They live in fear of anyone associated with the dominant religion of the area.
- The town is run like a military fort. The people pursue their industry (farming, trading, etc.), but they also build walls, train with weapons, and have guard rotations. Their preparedness is as impressive as it is out of place.
- The locals place their dead in a nearby peat bog. Once the bodies are well preserved, they’re pulled out. Each body spends several years being moved around the village. Sitting in chairs, leaning against walls, etc. After a time they are finally buried beneath whatever house they originally lived in.
- The town uses its own internal currency.
- The town’s founding myth speaks of horrible giants that tortured their forebears. All doors are 5′ 11″ high. Anyone who has to duck to walk through them is unwelcome in the town and must wait outside.
- The town has a communal poop-pit for making Jenkams.
- A full kiss on the mouth is the standard greeting.
- Visitors are expected to provide entertainment in the evening.
- The town is divided into two teams, based on the town’s two founders. Everything is scored.
- At the center of town is a large board. The surprisingly literate townsfolk have lengthy written discussions about important matters of the day by posting messages to this board.
- The town has an official storyteller who spends the day walking around and observing the happenings in town. Each work day ends by gathering to hear the storyteller share what he saw that day.
- All visitors must wear a special hat. It’s bright pink and utterly ridiculous.
- Everyone in town insists that they’re all badgers in human suits. It’s an inside joke. You’d have had to be there.
- The town was an experiment by the church. A number of particularly pious priests and nuns were released from their vows of chastity and told to build the perfect, most godly community. Since that particular piety was the result of these folks being gay, they performed their new duties only with the utmost resentment for the act. They’ve created a town this is punishingly repressive, and even hostile towards sex.
- It’s one of the player’s childhood villages. In the wrong place, but otherwise exactly as it was when they were a child. If they go looking they may even be able to find themselves as a child.
- The town has a corporate structure, with everything being owned by the town council. The mayor directs the town’s industry, and the mayor’s directions are implemented by overseers. The townsfolk are payed a relatively small fixed amount for their labor, (minus rent).
- The town is a commune with no obvious hierarchy. The town’s money is pooled together in a vault, and only used when dealing with outsiders. Otherwise, everyone merely does what jobs they’re able, and is given what they need.
- This village is well off the beaten path, and rarely receives visitors. They haven’t gotten any news of the outside world in 20+ years.
- They have an intense rivalry with a neighboring town. There is very little at stake really, but emotions run high. Assassinations are not uncommon.
- There are two towns. One where all of the men reside, and one where all of the women reside. They’re a day’s travel apart from one another. Randomly determine which one your players have encountered.
- A village populated entirely by the elderly. Several other villages in the area expel their elderly and send them here, where they live together and eke out an existence as best they can. They are considered dead by the outside world.
- Four years ago, a plague ravaged this village. Almost overnight anyone who had gone through puberty died, leaving only children behind. The oldest kids are now about 17 years old, and they’ve been on their own for awhile. They’ve got a system worked out for themselves, but they lack a lot of necessary education, so it’s not a very good system.
- The townsfolk have a unique and complicated moral code involving food. It’s nearly a certainty that if they see anyone from outside their community eating, they will find some food combination, utensil use, or chewing pattern to be reprehensible.
- The town is highly democratic. Citizens are passionate about their civic duties, and they gather to discuss new laws weekly. Each week operates under a significantly revised legal code.
- The townsfolk place a high value on personal honor. Like a drunk Spaniard, or a racist’s depiction of an Asian person.
- The townsfolk have a completely unique language.
- The people in town are argumentative to the point of insanity. Play them like a living incarnation of youtube comments.
- The town was founded by a group of sexual deviants who just couldn’t deal with sexual repression of common society. They know how to present a “normal” face to outsiders to prevent lynch mobs from showing up, but when there’s nobody around they have a lot of orgies.
- Everyone in town acts very suspiciously. There’s no reason for it, it’s just the way the local dialect and customs developed.
- The locals are all eldritch lizardfolk wearing human skins.
- The village is trapped in an infinite timeloop, living the same day over and over again, but none of them realize it. Fortunately, visitors are not affected by this.
- Once a visitor has been welcomed within the town, they will not be allowed to leave until the omens for their departure are good.
- Visitors are highly prized for their stories.
- Visitors are highly prized for their meat
- The town issued a letter of secession 12 years ago, and no one has noticed yet. They firmly believe themselves to be a sovereign nation.
- Everyone in town wears a mirror around their neck so that people can see what they look like when they talk. They believe it prevents people from “acting with an ugly spirit.”
- The local noble is a dilettante for social improvement. They’ve set up this village as a model town. It’s very pretty and well manicured. The peasants are all required to attend classes each day on etiquette, history, and philosophy. The townsfolk are too exhausted after the long days of work they still have to perform to really do well in these classes, and everyone involved is just getting more and more frustrated.
- The townsfolk are actually a group of nobles “roughing it.” The real villagers have mostly been displaced, save a few who are there to show the nobles how things are done.
- Strapping large tree branches to one’s back and head has become very fashionable.
- Capes are fashionable. As are constant flourishes.
- Mustaches are so fashionable that the women wear fake ones.
- At first glance, the town appears to be composed entirely of women. In fact, the men of this town are excellent cross dressers. It’s a practice they began as a means of avoiding being called to war, but after 15 years this androgyny has become a way of life. Many of the actual women are entirely fed up with the practice.
- An experimental music collective has taken up in the town. There are nightly performances with instruments that were invented just earlier that day. Things like captured birds squeezed by leather belts, logs rhythmically rolled in mud, or tiny hammers used to tap a person’s teeth.
- The lands belongs to a far off noble lady who has never so much as visited. She has the whole town carving cat figurines for no real reason.
- The town is a haven for bandits and burglars. Everyone in town is somehow involved, even if they’re just working as farmers to maintain the illusion that it’s a normal town.
- A con artist impersonating the town’s distant lord has taken up residence. They’ve got the whole town catering to their whims, but they’re being careful not to push anybody too far.
- The townsfolk have been cursed. They are all nocturnal.
- The townsfolk have been cursed to age at 3x the normal rate.
- The townsfolk have been cursed to be incorporeal to other living creatures. They can interact with the world around them, pick up and manipulate physical objects. But if they touch another person, they will pass right through them. None of them have touched another human being in years.
- There was an omnipotent child terrorizing the town, forcing every adult to bend to their whims. The child is still there, and still terrorizing the townsfolk, but they somehow lost their omnipotence. They’re just a normal 11 year old kid now, and they’re terrified of what’s going to happen when everybody realizes it.
- The townsfolk are cursed so that each one of them believes that they have an imaginary loved one being held at knife-point nearby. Their completely fictional loved one will be killed unless they act natural.
- The people of the town are the dream of a wizard on the other side of the world whose mind is leaking. While the wizard sleeps, the people are entirely real, but they disappear when he is awake.
Last week I wrote a bunch of alternatives to +1 swords. I did this because I believe that +1 swords are lame. Not only are they uninspired, but they damage the fabric of the game by unnecessarily inflating numbers, and creating standard magic items that players learn to expect. But then someone had the sheer unmitigated gall to agree with me.
So now, of course, I have to prove them (and by extension, myself) wrong by creating the greatest list of +X swords the world has ever seen.
Map Plus “X” A rapier of simple and sturdy make. The blade appears to be entirely indistinct, and yet the point always leaves an “X” mark on anything it punctures. If the wielder takes a map, closes their eyes, and stabs at the map with this weapon, the “X” will mark the location of some valuables.
Which valuables are marked is entirely at the discretion of the referee. They may be of high or low value, they may be free for the taking or guarded by horrible monsters. They may even be in a location within the bounds of the map, but not actually depicted by any cartography. In the margins, for example.
Attempting to use the rapier twice on the same map will result in the map being torn to shreds, rendering it completely useless.
Wielder Plus “X” During downtime, the wielder must meditate with their sword; sitting still in nature and studying the movements of insects. They must acknowledge the superiority of the insectile form, and strive to find the insect within themselves.
At the end of a game session, the wielder may add an “X” to the name they most identify with. This is the name they introduce themselves as, or the one they use to refer to themselves. They cannot extend this process by bringing in last names or middle names that they rarely use. This is about integrating the glory of insect kind within your own identity, not cynically grasping for ever increasing power. The sword will punish those who use its gifts so callously with horrible deformities.
The wielder must be able to pronounce their new name to the referees satisfaction; and they must always pronounce their name that way forever afterwords. Failure to do so results in the aforementioned horrible deformities.
When play resumes next session, the referee will reveal to the sword’s what new insectile feature their devotion has granted them. The nature of these evolutions, and the benefits they grant, are entirely up to the referee. Some suggestions that are in no way compulsory would be:
- The ability to explode their body, harming anyone nearby.
- A stinger.
- A stinger which kills you when you use it.
- A venomous bite.
- A life which ends abruptly the first time you mate.
- A hardened carapace
- The ability to lift many times your body weight
- The ability to climb sheer surfaces.
Plu Sex Sword: Once per day, the wielder may summon Plu. Plu is a horrid boor, and and Plu is horny. Plu has no distinct gender; nor any distinct sexual preferences. Plu just wants to fuck any intelligent creature that will let Plu at em’. None but the most deranged sexual deviants would accept Plu’s offer. Most would sooner vomit than allow the stubby, stinky, lard-beast that is Plu anywhere near their naked bodies.
The wielder has no control over Plu, they merely bring Plu into the world. Plu is a quick way to end any social gathering, or to disgust any decent folk.
Plus X-Beam The wielder of this sword may engage in a minute long ritual in which they slowly wave their blade through the air in a large “X” shape. Doing so summons a pair of well-fortified wooden cross beams. The beams will fill whatever space they’re summoned in up to 15′ by 15′, bracing against the floor and ceiling. In larger spaces the full sized beams appear, but are not braced against anything.
The wielder may do this as many times as they like, but only 5 beams may be in existence at any one time. Summoning a 6th causes the 1st one summoned to disappear. (And so on when summoning a 7th, 8th, etcetera).
Plus Your Ex A Claymore with a thick lens mounted at the center of the crossguard. Once per day, by looking through this lens, the wielder can attempt to deceive themselves with its illusory magic. If they succeed on a saving throw versus Magic, then the foe they look at through the lens will take on the appearance of the wielder’s ex for the rest of the day.
Not a good ex. One that broke the wielder’s fuckin’ heart, ground it into hamburger with malice aforethought. All attacks made against this foe roll double the normal amount of damage dice.
Plus eXtreme! A Zweihander of unnaturally bright colors: a stark white cross guard with hot pink wrapping, and a deep red blade. Once per day the wielder may hold the blade aloft and a beam of light will lance down from the clouds, obscuring all but the wielder’s silhouette. When they step out of this light they will be transformed, and will remain so for 1 turn.
The wielder’s muscles are now massive. Even muscles that do not normally exist bulge as though they’re trying to escape from the wielder’s own skin. This doubles the wielder’s strength score, and allows them to grapple as though they were four levels higher than they are, and to wield the Zweihander in a single hand.
Furthermore, the wielder’s clothes are now covered in pouches. From these they can remove any mundane, non-specific item that is small enough to be held in one hand by a non-transformed character.
If at any time the player of the transformed character smiles, laughs, or shows any sign of an emotion other than melancholy, anger, or rage; the transformation ends.
+ X to Y Sword When this weapon is first acquired, roll the smallest die already on the table that is large enough to include the wielder’s level. (If the wielder is levels 5 or 6, roll 1d6, if they’re levels 7 or 8, roll 1d8, etc.) The die’s result is the numerical bonus which the sword grants.
Next, roll 2d6 on the table below to determine what action that bonus applies to. This bonus remains unchanged until the wielder fails a roll while attempting the task they’re receiving a bonus for. When that happens, both the bonus and what the bonus applies to are re-rolled.
The bonus can never be used to make a roll a sure-thing. If it would, then the referee rules on what the failure conditions would be. They may opt to simply reduce the bonus granted, rule that a 1 is always a failure, etc. Similarly, if the thing you receive a bonus for is not normally rolled in your game, then for you it is rolled, until you fail at it.
2. Making handcrafted ceramic animals.
4. Having a conversation without punching the other person in the face.
7. Attack Rolls
9. Waking up on time.
12. Writing Poetry
In 2014 it was fashionable to post evocative alternatives to +1 swords. Gus did it. Courtney did it. Arnold did it. Errybody did it. I wasn’t blogging much at the time, but I really enjoyed reading those. I miss reading them. So I’m gonna write one.
The Mugger’s Choice: On a natural 20, the wound dealt to the target becomes a geyser of money! 1d100 coins spray across the room, making a terrible racket. Literal blood money!
Sword of Justification: If used to slay a human or human-like creature, the Sword of Justification will cause the corpse to undergo a gruesome metamorphosis. It will contort itself into monstrous shapes, growing horns or fur, oozing black blood, and reeking of sulfur and brimstone. The specific shape will vary, but no one looking at the result will imagine it was anything but an evil creature.
Immovable Sword – There’s a switch on the hilt which locks the swords position relative to its environment. It’ll stay floating in mid air if you tell it to. Like an immovable rod, but a sword. Useful for setting impromptu traps.
Self Preservation Sword – Anytime a save v. breath is required, both wielder and sword attempt the save. (Sword saves as a 1st level fighter.) If the sword saves and the wielder do not, the wielder can make a strength check to hold on to the sword. If they succeed, the sword pulls them along with it and effectively makes their save for them. If they fail, their sword flies out of their hands.
Chewing Sword: Each miss with this sword deals 1 notch of damage to the opponent’s weapon. Standard weapons can take 6 notches before they break and become useless. Does not work against unarmed characters, or characters using natural weapons.
The No-Blade: A hilt without any blade. When the crossbar of the hilt is tapped against a material, a blade of that material grows from the hilt, and lasts for 10 minutes. All blade materials are functional, but most have quirks. Dirt blades deal 1d4 damage and only work for one hit, stone blades deal 1d6 but break on a 1, wood blades can be lit on fire to deal +1d6 damage for 3 rounds until they’ve been burned to the point of uselessness, metal blades work normally. Be creative. What do blades of grass, bone, crystal, clay, or flesh do?
Binding Blade: On a successful attack the wielder may choose for the sword to become a pair of manacles binding the humanoid target instead of dealing damage. Target may save v. magic to avoid. On a successful save, the sword does not transform, and the wielder may continue using it.
Spelltning Swo-Rod: Comes with a special lead-lined scabbard. If this weapon is drawn, then the wielder becomes the target of any spell cast within their general vicinity. Every “Cure Light Wounds” and “Fireball” will be centered on the person holding the Spelltning Swo-Rod, even if they are technically out of the spell’s range. Note that casters may not immediately catch on to this fact. The cleric may notice that their healing spell didn’t work, but they won’t instinctively know that someone else nearby was healed.
Charming Sword: On a successful hit, instead of dealing damage, the player may opt to make a new reaction roll. If the result is better than neutral, the enemy will be willing to forgive and forget the battle up to this point. If the party then resumes hostilities, their foe gains a +2 to all attack rolls due to their outrage at the bad manners of the party.
The Sword of Second Chances: The blade of this sword is the shaved finger bone of a titan, with sharp bits of steel inlaid around the edge. When it cuts an intelligent living creature, noises come from within the wounds. There’s someone behind them. They might speak, voicing their confusion over what is happening.
If the Sword of Second Chances delivers the killing blow, then the newly dead corpse will shortly be torn apart. A person will emerge, like a chicken from an egg. Within the last 25 years of your campaign world, this person died an unnatural death within 100 miles of the wielder’s current location. Whether or not they deserved it may not be immediately apparent. They’ve been stuck in the afterlife for who knows how long, and now they’ve got a second chance. Perhaps they’ll run off to find their family, perhaps they’ll join the party out of gratitude, or perhaps the players just resurrected a serial killer. Who really knows?
The Wall-Slidy Sword: When the blade is touched to a wall, the character can slide down it at a rate of 20′ per round, allowing them to reach a safe landing below. Using the sword in this capacity causes a shower of sparks to illuminate the character’s descent, and elicits screeching sound that’ll make the rest of the party want to act passive aggressively towards the wielder for a few turns. Also it may mimic the mating squawk of the Biting Leatherhorn. So watch out for those.
The Reflection Holding Blade: A wide blade polished to a mirror sheen. By use of a command word, the reflection on the blade can be frozen, causing whatever image is currently being reflected to remain visible on the blade until the reverse command word is uttered. Will eventually be made obsolete by camera phones.
The Useless Sword: Damage dealt with this weapon only lasts 24 hours. After that, wounds will slowly knit themselves back together, even to the point of reversing death or decapitation. Note that it is only wounds dealt with this particular weapon that are reversed, So if the corpse is burned after being killed with the Useless Sword, it’s not gonna un-burn itself.
The Blage of Empires: If two turns (20 minutes) are spent striking at a piece of stone, that stone will catch on fire and burn like wood. This fire can spread to other stones of similar composition, but it will not spread to wood or other typically flammable material. Nor will it spread to different types of stone. The Blage of Empires is never dulled or broken by striking at stone.
The Sword which is Not Yours – The wielder may summon a 7th level fighter in gleaming armor, who will appear from around the nearest corner or through the nearest doorway. When the fighter sees her “squire” in danger, she will hold out her hand and call for the PC to give her her sword. Once she has it, she will join the fray with wild abandon. When the danger is passed, she will thank her squire for caring for her weapon, and depart with the sword.
The Sword of Weeping Mothers: Though it appears normal, out of the corner of your eye this sword sometimes appears to, for lack of a better word, “pulse.” Any time this blade deals damage, eyes look out from the wound it opens. They appear bloodshot, and afraid. If anyone with one of these wounds drops to 4 hit points or less, the eyes bulge, trying to press out of the body, and dealing 1d3 damage. If this damage kills the target, a dozen screaming shadows rocket into the distance and fade into nothingness. Something bad happens in the nearest community. The referee is encouraged to be creative, but to be clear, we’re talking “pile of dead children” levels of bad. Whether or not the players ever know about it, it does happen.
Bit of a tone shift from the rest of these, I know.
There are two rooms, empty, with identical features. They share a ~3’ thick common wall. The only entrance to either room is on the wall opposite the common wall. Ideally, there should be no obvious path from one to the other. After players find the first room, they should need to pass through several unrelated areas before they can reach the second one.
The common wall between the two rooms has a slit in it. It’s 1’ long horizontally, and 2” wide vertically. Big enough for an arrow to fit into perhaps, but not an arm or a spear. The slit goes all the way through to the adjacent room.
When characters look through the slot, there appears to be a chest sitting in the center of the other room. However, when they reach that room, they’ll find it just as empty as the first room was. But if they look through the slot from this room, they’ll see that the same chest now appears to be in the opposite room. If there are players in both rooms, they’ll both see the chest in the room opposite the one they are in, but will not be able to find it in their own room.
Spells such as “True Seeing” or “Detect Magic” will reveal nothing, because there’s absolutely nothing magical about any of this. The chest is a sophisticated, but completely mundane, optical illusion. In the center of the slit between the two rooms is a tiny card with a chest painted onto both sides of it. If the card is fished out and examined, the ‘lid’ opens like an envelope. Inside is a 2” x 3.5” white card. In bold printed letters it reads “This card is proof that the task has been completed.”
If the card is given to anyone who has assigned a task to the players, that person will accept it as incontrovertible proof that the task was completed. No amount of logic will ever convince this person that the players failed. Their brain will fold over on itself to find ever more ridiculous explanations for evidence to the contrary, and they will go completely insane rather than believe the task remains incomplete. Further, anyone they show the card to will similarly agree that it incontrovertible.
If the king points to his adviser standing 5’ away and says “I want you to bring me my adviser’s head on a plate,” and the players instead hand the king this card, the king will say “Excellent! My adviser’s head on a plate! Exactly what I wanted. Here’s the reward I promised you.” All the while, the adviser is still standing 5’ away shaking in fear. If this is pointed out to the king, he’ll assume he’s seeing his adviser’s twin brother, or his adviser’s ghost. He may be annoyed that he now needs to hire a ghost hunter, but that’s not really the PC’s fault, now is it?
The card only works once. If the players endeavor to steal the it back, then whomever they give it to next will still view it as proof of whatever first task it was used for. So if the players were to give it to a farmer who needed his lost child rescued from orcs, he would be horrified when the players handed him the royal adviser’s head on a platter.
Faction play fascinates me. I’m bad at actually running it, mind you, but the best way to learn this sorta stuff is just to keep failing until you don’t anymore. So 85% of the worldbuilding I’ve done for “On A Red World Alone” has been inventing the various factions that control territory within the dome. For my most recent game I had to flesh out the Techno Priests, and I was happy enough with what came out that I thought someone else might benefit from it.
Priests and Practitioners of the Techno-ligion
The Techno-Faithful revere what they call “The Past Gods.” The Engineers of the pre-apocalypse are their pantheon of deities. People whose knowledge was beyond any modern understanding. The Techno-Faithful know that their gods were men and women, and that those people have long since died. But they also believe that those men and women were possessed of a power that was lost through the moral decay of the human species. The Past Gods were mere men, yes. But we have become some lower thing. A race of sub-men, shackled to weakness and ignorance by our own immorality.
The Techno Faithful marvel in the wonders of technology. They meditate by clicking a flashlight on and off, or playing a working gameboy. They pray to the collective spirits of The past Gods to guide them away from sin, and towards an understanding of technology.
While the Techno-ligion is widespread, there are just as many people who think the whole “Past Gods” nonsesnse is hogwash. But even they must admit that Techno Priests are the masters of getting old technology working again. They’re pretty much the only ones who can do it. Althought within the whole of their religion, no one actually understands technology. They’ve merely ritualized what we would call tech support procedures. The first rituals an acolyte learns are just over-complicated ways of checking to see if it has fresh batteries, or turning it off and back on again. Mid level acolytes can spend hours muttering “Ω” as they follow a wire to see if it has frayed. The most experienced elders of the faith wield Smelting Scepters (soldering irons), and know how to repair a pathway on a circuit-board, or replace a blown capacitor.
But concepts like “an electrical circuit,” or even “electricity” are alien to them. Perhaps even blasphemous. When they get a shock from a frayed wire, they believe it is The Past Gods chiding them for their failings. Only through ritual and meditation do they believe the soul can be purified, and technology understood.
If you have a piece of technology you wish to have repaired by a Techno Priest, they will always begin with the lowest level rituals and work their way up. (Even if the issue obviously requires the fifth ritual, it is sacrilegious to skip rituals 1 through 4). Each ritual has a 1-in-6 chance of fixing the technology, and costs 100 credits multiplied by level of the ritual. So the first attempt costs 100 credits, the second attempt costs 200 credits, and so on.
Once a device has been given to a techno priest to repair, under no circumstances will it be returned until it has been repaired. If a given priest is not knowledgeable enough to fix it, they will take it to their superiors. If you don’t have enough money to pay for the next level of ritual, they will hold onto it for you until you do. This is a matter of cyber-heaven or giga-hell for them. They will not budge on this issue.
The Techno Faithful typically wear a broken computer fan or an LED somewhere on their person. Techno Priests cover their clothing in as much broken technology as they can. These are worn as a sign of respect for the knowledge of those who made the relics that cannot now be understood; and as an act of penance for allowing the race to decay to the point that this knowledge was lost.
Religious services for the Techno Faith involve gathering in large groups to spend an hour or more pedaling at stationary bicycles to charge batteries. The exertion cleanses the body and the soul, and means that most devotees of the faith are exceptionally fit.
A cell hidden deep in unfriendly territory. Tasked with seeking out relics that have not yet been discovered by the locals, and smuggling them back to Technotopia before they fall into irreverent hands.
High Priest Tsaros. A plump woman with a pair of satellite dishes on her shoulders, and a tiara of working LED computer fans. Tsaros is learned in the faith (can perform up to level 8 repair rituals). However, since she became the leader of an outpost far away from any of her superiors, she has become lax in her worship. A weak-willed person, but not stupid or cruel.
Adjunct Priest Sessarum – A middle aged woman a decade Tsaros’ senior. She has less of a knack for ritual, (only up to level 5), but she is disciplined and devoted. Always pedals the hardest during service. Handles most of the day-to-day administration. Doesn’t like Tsaros, but is supremely respectful and faithful in her duties as Adjunct Priest, and to the chain of command laid out by the church elders. She will not betray Tsaros under even the most dire circumstance.
Knight Seeker Able’Tut – A brusque young man. Scornful of nearly everyone, particularly those who he perceives as being complicit in the moral fall of the human race. Constantly skirts the line of what is permissible in his hatred of High Priest Tsaros, and does not trust the dedication of Knight Shepherd Yule. He is capable of performing level 3 rituals, and his primary duty is leading search teams, out to find new relics.
Knight Shepherd Yule – An elderly man who joined the faithful late in his life, Yule performs rituals only up to the third level. But as a softspoken man, nearing the end of a life fully lived, he is uniquely qualified to tend to the spiritual and educational needs of the younger priests and acolytes.
Other – There are 12 priests capable of the 1st level of ritual, and 5 priests capable of the 2nd level of ritual.
Occasionally, I’ve gotten requests to start writing play reports. Usually I’m only too happy to respond positively to reader requests. I rarely get them, and it strokes my ego to know that someone actually wants something from me. Validation is intoxicating.
But play reports…I hate play reports. They’re painfully boring to read, and I tend to skip them even when they’re written by some of my favorite bloggers. Heck, I even skip them when they’re written by some of my favorite bloggers and I feature prominently in them. Clearly there’s an audience for these things, and I don’t want to denigrate anybody who reads them, or indeed, anyone who writes them. It just feels uncouth to publish something that I wouldn’t want to read myself.
All that being said, I’ve recently been making a big effort to improve my note taking. Part of that effort has meant sitting down after a session and writing out detailed notes on what happened. Essentially, I’m actually writing play reports. They’re unpolished, and organized more for my reference than for readability. But whether or not I’m sharing them with people, they exist. So I may as well share them.
I don’t want to make them part of the regular stream of posts. The unpolished nature of the things would bother me too much if they were going to spend any amount of time on the front page of the site. But, if you’re interested, I’ve been uploading them to the campaign page for On a Red World Alone. I’ve actually been doing this for awhile now. It only just occurred to me recently that I probably ought to tell people I’m doing it.
There should be a new one every Thrusday.