Wednesday, March 28, 2018

13th Age is Old School

...kind of.

I have talked quite a bit about 13th Age in the last year, including some ideas and hacks for using 13th Age’s mechanics on other d20 games (or F20 as 13th Age call them). But if this is your first post about that game, then you either like Old School or 13th Age (or better: both!). 13th Age was created - as you can check by reading Pelgrane Press or a review - as ‘love letter’ to D&D, by luminaries Jonathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo. Those authors basically created a game “in the middle ground” between D&D 3rd and 4th Editions (and that’s actually the concept of the game in a nutshell). However, what most people might miss is that 13th Age also draws some excellent principes from Old School games…

...OK, that maybe a bit far fetched, but let me finish it: 13th Age is actually a d20 game with mixes, in a rather interesting and original way, a tactical-heavy (but gridless) combat system with extremely open and improvisational faction/social/skill challenge rules (I’m talking about Icon Relationship rules). And that’s just a small piece of 13th Age’s inner genius… things like Montage deserve a post on their own. As I said, I already posted ideas for using 13th Age’s modular rules on Pathfinder, DCC RPG and D&D 5E in previous posts - like the Escalation Die.

So, “tactical-heavy combat” and “narrative mechanics” have practically nothing to do with Old School games (and especially the OSR). But there’s a place where I sincerely believe that 13th Age is a shining example of Old School goodness - it’s implied main setting, the Dragon Empire.

The Dragon Empire is a high-fantasy, high octanate setting, where the PCs usually play as free agents of powerful NPCs - movers & shakers called Icons. These Icons include the human emperor, his royal wizard, the high-priestess etc. Like many other things about the Dragon Empire, the Icons are actually a thematic approach to famous fantasy concepts (the villainous Lich King, the Orc Lord, the arrogant and probably mad Archmage, the virtuous Oracle, the greedy Dwarf King, the mysterious Elf Queen etc.). The Icons are a really clever way of using powerful NPCs not to trample or overshine the PCs, but as pinpoints for faction-based games (you can easily change the Icons to organizations if you want).

Icons are described in setting-neutral terms (the Archmage, not Mordenkainen or Elminster) because the game assumes that each GM will tailor the Dragon Empire and its NPCs to his needs (or throw the Dragon Empire way and use his homemade or third party setting, with the local high-level NPCs acting as Icons… if using Forgotten Realms, you could use Elminster and Szass Tam, or the Zhentarim, as Icons).

Now, the cool thing about the Dragon Empire is that the entire setting is described in the same thematic and succinct way: you have a mountain range where giants and their flying castles usually can be found, an abyssal rift that leads to demonic realms, the shining capital of the human empire (with gladiatorial arenas and all), the elven woods, the lost realm of the dwarves etc. What makes it all rather unique is its high fantasy approach to classic concepts: remember the abyssal rift? Well, it starts most campaigns sealed. You can go there and enter the Abyss, but most demons can’t leave the rift (just the weaker and pathetic ones), because there’s a giant gold dragon keeping the place magically locked with his presence - Great Gold Wyrm (an Icon), who sacrificed himself centuries ago to seal the Abyss. Theoretically he’s biggest and stronger dragon of the setting. This explains why such powerful force of good isn’t running around dealing with Evil (that’s the PCs’ job); and it also explains why the demons are “digging” for other entries in the Dragon Empire (generation Hellholes, another awesome feature of the setting).

What I mean so far is that the Dragon Empire doesn’t burden you with names (there’s no High Wizard Zordax, Chosen of the Gods of Magic and Precept of the Ivory Tower), dates, long descriptions and metaplots. It just throw lots of high fantasy concepts at you in almost bullet point fashion. All that without becoming a kitchen sink setting like Pathfinder’s Golarion (or Forgotten Realms by the time the 3rd and 4th Editions came up).

One of the defining traits which make the Dragon Empire so cool and GM-friendly is something that I really talked about a few ago, in my “mythic” version of Golarion. The Dragon Empire may have liches, but there’s only ONE Lich King. You have “The” Orc Lord, who is a menace to the entire civilized world, instead of dozens of humanoid cliches, each one plaguing a different region in the exact same way. In the Dragon Empire, the entire concept of a great wyrm is unique to each dragon race. You don’t have gold great wyrms, but the Great Gold Wyrm. By making these powerful concepts unique, the Dragon Empire gains a lot in flavor and mythological depth (not surprising, giving that both of 13th Age’s authors love Glorantha and in fact even published a supplement for it). The combination of short setting descriptions and unique/thematic threats remind me of the first versions of Greyhawk and other fantasy settings, where you knew where the most badass evil fighter (the Crusader in 13th Age) and dragon (definitely the Red in 13th Age) were located on the map.

And that is why I think that the Dragon Empire makes such wonderful example of Old School principles in regard to campaign settings applied to a modern game. Actually, although 13th Age was designed for heroic and high-level style of play, the Dragon Empire can be used perfectly in other D&D/d20 editions. Because the setting is so open and iconic, you can play low-level OD&D/AD&D (1st-3rd) in lots of places like the Queen Woods, the Midland Sea, New Port, Concord and the halfling hills. When you reach higher levels (7th+) there’s plenty of action to be had at monstrous Drakenhall, the Demon Coast, Underhome, Axis, Hell Marsh and the warfronts against the orcs and maybe the High Druid. With places like the Sea Wall, Giantwalk, sinister Throne Point and Omen, and not forgetting First Triumph and the Abyss, you also have plenty of epic-level landescapes for 11th+ games. In fact, if you like the Dragon Empire’s heroic feel but don’t want 13th Age’s heavily tactical combat, you could easily use OSR games like Exemplars & Eidolons or Scarlet Heroes to simulate powerful PCs since 1st level (in D&D 3rd Edition you could play with Gestalt PCs, but I actually find it crunchier than 13th Age’s standard rules).

Bonus Content: The Dragons of the Dragon Empire!

The Dragon Empire gets its name from the major human power currently running the Midland Sea region. In the settings’ minimalist background, the 1st Dragon Emperor formed an alliance with the dwarves and elves (and bronze dragons) to defeat the tyrannical Wizard King about 13 ages ago (hence the game’s name). The Wizard King eventually returned from the grave as the feared Lich King and has since then tried to retake “his empire”. And that’s it.

As I said, the Dragon Empire is described in a just few pages, but because it’s such a simple and evocative high fantasy it leaves you wanting more. The good thing is that Pelgrane Press keeps feeding 13th Age fans with new and interesting tidbits about the Dragon Empire. And they do that without publishing boring regional supplements or stuff like that. No sir, 13th Age enrich it’s lore in true Old School fashion - indirectly. Usually, by reading the game’s Bestiaries (2 so far) and expansions, we get scattered bits of (optional) lore about the Dragon Empire. Take, for example, my favorite part: the dragons. The Bestiaries give amazing bullet point facts about dragons, like:
-       Black dragons claim to be the first, original, species of dragons and are actually quite arrogants about it.
-       Red dragons can actually hear their treasure hoards singing to them, and that’s why they know when even a small coin is missing.
-       The Great White Wyrm was killed ages ago by the Lich King and because of that white dragons usually HATE him and his undeads (some white dragons even act as guardians in imperial cemeteries, which creates all kind of troubles with local authorities).

In the setting, as I said, each great wyrm appears to be a unique individual (and there’s only for each dragon species). In other words: ‘great wyrm’ isn’t an age category in 13th Age but an NPC. In the corebook we get to meet those great wyrms that work as Icons in the setting - the aforementioned Great Gold Wyrm and the Three.

The Great Gold Wyrm is greatest gold dragon, the creature responsible for keeping Armageddon back by sealing the Abyss with his presence (and inspiring lots and lots of paladins).

The Three are actually the Blue, the Black and the Red great wyrms. They decided (for a very temporarily time) to join forces. At the beginning, I think they did that to find a way to beat the Gold. Later, the deal with Lich King for killing the White. And finally, to find a way to release the Green, who is trapped by the Elf Queen.

Each of the Three has its own basic personality. The Black is an old and deadly beast, the mistress of assassins and various sects of reptilian races devoted to ritual killing. Imagine the Assassins and Thuggee combined, but replace their religious beliefs with a living ancestral black dragon, and fill their ranks with all kind of lizardfolk and kobolds. Finally, make them scary and deadly. That’s the nice people who work for the Black. The Red is simple - he’s basically Smaug on steroids. When he shows up, nations tend to suffer massive exodus. The Red hasn’t attacked the Empire for a while, but he’s an unpredictable and vain being, more a natural force than a creature. And finally we have the Blue, the mastermind of the trio. The Blue controls an entire city in the Dragon Empire. By finding a loophole in imperial law, she managed to place herself as the Potentate of the monstrous ruins of Highport, thus creating Drakkenhall. As long as the Blue doesn’t attack other imperial cities and keep its monster population (usually humanoids) in check, she’s a legitimate imperial ruler.

That’s basically the information in the corebook. By reading the Bestiary 1 and the supplement 13 True Ways (with brings new class and monsters) we discover that the Great Silver Wyrm is actually a hostage and political prisoner in Drakkenhall. She’s siphoned by the Blue to control the storms around Drakkenhall, though some in the Dragon Empire suspects that the Silver may be trying to redeem or spy on the Blue.

As far I as have read I couldn’t locate the other great wyrms. Because my last 13th Age was all about the plans of the Three, I eventually came up with locations for all great metalic wyrms that were missing - Bronze, Copper and Brass.

Because bronze dragons in 13th Age are those that usually (but only usually) accept a rider (and yet more rarely, take orders from him/her), I decided to link the Bronze’s fate with the Dragon Empire. When the 1st human Dragon Emperor forged his alliance against the Wizard King, he managed this by winning a series of quests for the Great Bronze Wyrm. In exchange, for as long as the Dragon Emperor kept their virtues and promises, the Bronze would serve. To symbolize this, the Bronze became the Holy Throne of Rubies and Scales, the seat of every worthy emperor since the 1st Age (theoretically, each Dragon Emperor is the Bronze’s rider). If an unworthy emperor sits on the Holy Throne of Rubies and Scales - or so say the traditions - the Bronze will awake and the truce between dragons and humans will be broken. And that’s why when, through the ages, a weak or vile emperor shows up (and they did), the Imperial Bureaucracy did everything in its power to stop their liege from sitting on the Holy Throne of Rubies and Scales. They won’t jeopardize the imperial bloodline… but everything else is fair game. And that’s how it works in my version of the setting.

OK, Bronze done. Where’s the Brass? The Dragon Empire’s east frontier is the feared Sea Wall. A massive natural formation (or built wall, that’s open to the GM) that protects the Empire against the Iron Sea, an ocean hellbent on destroying everything west of it. The main route of transportation in the Dragon Empire is the Midland Sea, which is a complete calm and (99% of time) predictable body of water. Monsters are rare to nonexistent in the Midland Sea and the major seven imperial cities are all built around it. That’s because the Wizard King (or the 1st Emperor, I can’t remember which) placed a powerful spell in the region, taming the inner sea (as a side effect, all the local monsters and evil stuff fled to the imperial rivers, which are very dangerous). That feat enraged the Iron Sea (i.e. the Ocean) in such a way, that since the 1st Age it has tried to destroy the Dragon Empire and reunite itself with the tamed Midland Sea. How does an ocean attacks? I don’t know. Maybe with tsunamis first and giant monster (kaiju!) later; besides lots of evil aquatic creatures like sahuagin, krakens, sea serpents etc.

Another day in the Sea Wall

The Sea Wall is an imposing formation, already far from the original coastline (the Iron Sea has been slowly winning this war). It forms the most deadly and constant warfront in the Dragon Empire’s history. Why haven’t it fallen? In part due to the sacrifice of various heros during the ages, but also because of the Brass and its metallic dragons. That’s their spot (or at least the adopted one). The Brass is a unique mix of warrior fatalism and comic nihilism. She appreciates seeing tiny and puny mortal creatures facing an entire angry ocean that likes to throw castle-sized monsters against them. The humans and their allies keep dying and the Wall receding… but they keep fighting. They laugh at death and the inevitable. They’re soldiers in an eternal trench war and a soldier’s dark humor is often a disturbing melange of gritty acceptance of reality and irrational bravery. The soldiers of the Wall don’t fight anymore for the Empire, they fight for themselves. The Brass saw that and she couldn't leave them alone. Maybe she isn’t even the original Brass anymore - the Sea Wall is hard even for dragons.

And, finally, the Copper. This one got the spotlight (together with the Green) in my last campaign. Basically, one of the seven main cities of the Dragon Empire isn’t ruled by humans: Concord. Concord is governed by elves, dwarves, halflings and gnomes. It’s a political utopia, a perfect blend of those races’ best traits. In other words, it shouldn’t exist. People suspect that there’s an enchantment working over the city, keeping things running. Most accusing finger fall on the Elf Queen. But in my campaign they’re wrong: the culprit is the Cooper. I established that metallic dragons hoard not exactly treasures, but virtues (they hoard lots of precious things, but they must reflect their personal virtues). The Gold, for example, favors sacrifice, purity and innocence. He literally hoard those virtues - in other words, he “collects” paladins (who sacrifice their lives against demons and necromancers), things that represent purity (like gold, diamond, virgin princesses etc.) and innocence (yes, the greatest Lawful Good being in the setting may have a hidden palace in the clouds where he keeps the most beautiful and innocent children, preserved eternally young… 13th Age likes to play with classical tropes). The Brass hoards honor, courage and monsters… which is why she loves the Sea Wall. Well, the Copper values lore, mercy and concord. It is her presence that keeps the city of Concord in balance between elves, dwarves and similar races*. During my campaign, the PCs were manipulated into attacking the Copper’s virtues**, weakening her enchantment over Concord and almost provoking a war between the Dragon Emperor, the Dwarf King and the Elf Queen. In the end, the PCs got things under control and even rode copper dragons into battle against evil dark elves from the Moon, but that’s for another post.

I hope you liked this weird post about how a totally non-OSR game produced an amazing OSR-like setting and how, by making traditional D&D monsters unique, you can enliven your settings (if you still doubt it just read the first World of Greyhawk, the green books of AD&D 2nd or the amazing Birthright campaign setting, also for AD&D 2nd).

*There’s a great piece of lore in the Dragon Empire about the halfling hills mentioning that the place is untouchable by the woes of the world. Your exemplar Shire from Tolkien. Well, in my campaign that’s where the Copper stored the greatest part of her hoard.
**To best run the city, the Cooper invested her virtues in chosen NPCs, who were her proxies. At my campaign the party witnessed the murder of 2 of those Virtues and were manipulated into betraying the 3rd Virtue.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Races for DCC RPG!

After removing the “demihuman-ness” of the Elf, Dwarf and Halfling classes from the DCC Corebook (check it here), I tried to create - forgive me for 3rd Edition jargon - small templates with races. Although of late I much prefer personalized classes (like it is done in the excellent Adventurer Conqueror King RPG), I’m not against using races. In particular, I quite like how older versions of D&D did it. In the LBBs, it can be argued that Dwarf, Elf and Hobbits/Halflings are presented as a group of modifications for the Fighting Man class (and for the Magic User if we’re talking of Elves). Holmes explains it a lot better in his D&D.

That said, here’s another “dirty and cheap” hack for those times you want an Elven Prince (Elf Warrior), a Dwarven Dungeoncrawler (Dwarf Thief) or maybe a Feral-cannibal Halfling from the Wastes (Halfling Warrior).

These races should - theoretically - work for the Cleric, Thief, Warrior and Wizard classes of the Corebook (and you can try to mix them with the Scout, Defender, Rogue and Warlock). Finally, remember: instead of choosing race separately you can still play with a normal Elf, Dwarf or Halfling class.

You gain the following traits:
Infravision: A dwarf can see in the dark up to 60’.
Slow: A dwarf has a base movement speed of 20’, as opposed to 30’ for humans.
Underground Skills: Long life beneath the ground trains dwarves to detect certain kinds of construction. When underground, dwarves receive a bonus to detect traps, slanting passages, shifting walls, and other new construction equal to their class level. Additionally, a dwarf can smell gold and gems. A dwarf can tell the direction of a strong concentration of gold or gems within 100’. Smaller concentrations, down to a single coin, can still be smelled but require concentration and have scent ranges as low as 40’ (for a single coin or gem). Instead of smelling gold, you can pick one of these alternate supernatural traits for your Dwarf.

Languages: At 1st level, you automatically knows Common and a dwarven racial language.

You gain the following traits:
Infravision: An elf can see in the dark up to 60’.
Immunities: Elves are immune to magical sleep and paralysis.
Vulnerabilities: Elves are extremely sensitive to the touch of iron. Direct contact over prolonged periods causes a burning sensation, and exposure at close distances makes them uncomfortable. An elf may not wear iron armor or bear the touch of iron weapons for extended periods. Prolonged contact with iron causes 1 hp of damage per day of direct contact.
Heightened Senses: Elves are astute and observant. All elf characters receive a +4 bonus to detect secret doors. Moreover, when simply passing within 10 feet of a secret door, elves are entitled to a check to detect it.

Languages: At 1st level, you automatically knows Common and an elven racial language.

You gain the following traits:
Infravision: A halfling can see in the dark up to 30’.
Small size: Halflings are 2 to 4 feet tall, and the stoutest among them weights no more than 70 pounds. This small size allows them to crawl into narrow passages and through tiny holes. Because of his size, a Halfling can suffer limitation with weapons granted by some classes, like Warrior.
Breakfast before elevenses: If a Halfling eats double rations before elevenses, let him roll a d4. He recover that much in Luck. This ability can only be used once per day, obviously.
Stealth: Halflings are quite good at sneaking around. They receive a bonus to sneaking silently and hiding in shadows depending on their class level, as shown on table 1-18 of the Halfling class. This can be used in the same manner as a thief’s abilities. If you gain the ability to move silently from your class (like the Thief or the Rogue), use the best bonus.
Languages: At 1st level, you automatically knows Common and a halfling racial language.

Where is the Good Luck Charm trait?
I removed this trait because I think it doesn't mesh well with other classes - especially the Thief and the Rogue. Besides, there are plenty of potential for abuse in min/maxing Good Luck Charm with other classes, so let’s leave it as a “niche” trait of the Halfling class (but not the Halfling Race). Instead of that, those halflings that don’t follow the Halfling class (confusing… I know) gain a new trait - Breakfast before elevenses - inspired by the awesome Heroic Fantasy.

You gain the following traits:
Beloved of the gods: a human can reroll one of his check, before the Judge announces the result, once per day.

Why are the humans beloved of the gods?
To give them a little boost now that Elves, Dwarves and Halflings can carry some of their racial advantages to other classes.

According to the LBBs that is also an Elf...take that Tolkien!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Getting ideas from Birth Augurs (Part III)

The final part! (Sorry, I’m late, I know…). You can read Part I and Part II if you like.

- Struck by lightning: for this Augur I’m going to avoid the Positive/Negative descriptions because the main idea here is the same - you survived an impossible situation. Call it a lightning, a meteor strike, a dragon attack etc. You survived something that should have killed your PC. Get creative. Extrapolate. If your Luck is a positive modifier, the Judge is encouraged to flavor the description, saying how your PC, of the entire party, is the one that usually get out of a situation unscatched. If you have a neutral or negative Luck modifier, then Death is still trying to even the score.
- Lived through famine: Another “Grim & Perilous” Augur! (Positive) You survived the Plague! Or the Great Famine (and the following “Ghoul Spring”). Or a nuclear winter! Actually, maybe you were raised by orcs/goblins/insert-here-unsanitary-humanoids. Either way, you survived in a place where civilized folk usually die. How you managed that? A dark pact or divine blessing? A mysterious MacGuffin? Some weird birthmark? (Negative) OK, maybe you didn’t literally survived through the famine. Not whole, at least. Maybe you and Death are now tavern buddies (you have a bone white complexion and hardly seems to breath). Or maybe you actually died and was brought back… changed. Do you require any special medicine or weird ritual to be kept alive? Perhaps you’re now Death-touched, doomed to return as one of the Damned or Un-Dead (a vampire?).
- Resisted temptation: (Positive) You’re a pious soul… if there were paladins in DCC you would be one (actually, it’s a great idea if you KNOW that you could have been a paladin but they don’t exist). Maybe you were touched by an angel or blessed by a Champion of Law with iron will. Another interesting option is that you’re (constantly) tempted by a devil. So far you’ve resisted, but the infernal is still following you around for some reason. (Negative) You sold your soul! (You were young and stupid, and at the time it was so edgy). Maybe your PC is addicted to some dark narcotic from the fallen East (purple lotus, that weird worm-spice or maybe demonblood - literally demonblood!). If you like a comedic approach your PC can have a simpler vice - you’re lecherous (human), gluttonous (halfling), greedy (dwarf) or just ridiculously vain (elf).
- Charmed house: (Positive) You have a guardian angel (not necessarily a celestial… could be a faire, an ancestor, a living spell, a very headstrong familiar). You have a phylactery and part of your soul is stored in it. You’re not completely human (if a Warrior, Cleric, Wizard or Thief) or demihuman (perhaps a dwarf with a clockwork heart or an elf with demon-blood). In Brazil we’ve the expression “corpo fechado” (closed body), which is used to describe people with supernatural protection who can’t be hurt in ordinary conditions (if you saw Unbreakable you know what I mean). If you go for a literal approach, maybe you were born in a very special or holy place, and bit of that magic is still carried by you (Rivendell, Myth Drannor, Mount Olympus, the Deadhouse etc.). (Negative) You are as fragile as glass (Unbreakable!). Maybe you’re too small or too big for your race. If you’re an Elf maybe you’re plant-like and more fragile; if you’re a Dwarf you could literally have crystalline bones. Or you could be just an elderly adventurer. Perhaps you belong to an elder race that is slowing fading from the world (a degenerated atlantean, valyrian or eldar… who knows). Perhaps the Gods hate you and want you dead or a demon lord cursed your bloodline to DOOM! (it is really very easy to come up with some weird reason for a low AC).
- Speed of the Cobra: (Positive) You do EVERYTHING fast… talk, eat, sleep (!), etc. Never stay silent or in the same place for long. If you drive your party mad, congratulations! You could be a Cleric of Mercurius, a Thief-acrobat, an amazon/rider/maratonist Warrior, a changeling (Wizard with fey blood), a fox or squirrel polymorphed in a Halfling, a Dark Sun Elf! (If you like these suggestions, allows Speed of the Cobra to also increase Speed). (Negative) If your Judge allows play an Ent (use Warrior stats)! You’re really slow, either because you always plan and ponder an action before doing it, or because you’re too big. You could play a half-earth elemental Dwarf (or just a big/old dwarf), a half-giant (Warrior), a Halfling fugitive with an adamantine ball and chain in his legs or maybe a Elf from an alternate reality who experiences problems acting in our three dimensional world. Or you could just play a REALLY stupid and slow thinking barbarian...
- Bountiful harvest: (Positive) You had to flee your home village because the locals thought you were the avatar of the spring goddess. If you’re a Cleric or an Elf, maybe life springs around you… with flowers blowing, small animals passing by etc. Maybe your excessive life force is the result a pact made by your parents with the King of Elfland or other supernatural power. If you’re a Dwarf you could be Half-Troll (and very ugly). (Negative) You look like a corpse (perhaps minus the smell). You were born in the Underworld. One of your parents was an un-dead. Maybe your bloodline was cursed by the forces of Law or Chaos. Also, read the Negative aspects of the augur Charmed House.
- Warrrior’s arm: (Positive) You’re the kind of adventurer that enjoys gore and bloodlust too much for your own good. Maybe you’re a failed apprentice of the assassin guild (that’s a cool new occupation by the way), a fugitive torturer (idem) or the unsonged son/daughter of a famous barbarian warlord (that was cast aside because you disappointed Dad-Conan). (Negative) You’re not a pacifist, but you hate killing. Or perhaps you can’t stand the sight of blood (perfect for a Cleric). You could also be a lousy fighter. [Warrior’s arm and Spellcasters: in my games I let this augur also affect spellcasting. So, if your spellcaster rolled a natural 20, you get to add the Luck modifier to the final result.]
- Unholy house: (Positive) Your resistance to Corruption could derive from celestial blood (aasimar anyone?) or more probably because you swallowed the Finger of St. Cuthbert some years ago when the plague hit you (run from the Law churches). Maybe you have a guardian angel (literally) that constantly preaches the “benefits” of a righteous and caste life. A very wicked background is that you have a perfect twin… all your Corruption is actually passed to him (a campaign villain). (Negative) The perfect augur for Wizards! If you’re a Wizard please play the cliché evil necromancer (don’t forget the maniacal laughter). If you’re a Cleric consider playing a Chaotic PC. If you’re an Elf, consider actually that you’re an evil outsider banished from the Overworld (the mutations provoked by Corruption are actually revealing your true form!). If you’re a Halfling, play Gollum! [Variant Unholy House: why let only Wizards and Elves have all the fun? If a non-arcane spellcaster rolled this augur I would give him a special ability - he can burn Stamina to gain bonuses, like Luck. Burned Stamina would return like Spellburning damage. However, every time you burn Stamina roll a d20 plus your Luck modifier against a DC of 15. If you fail, you gain a (roll 1d6) - 1-3 minor corruption, 4-5 major corruption, 6 greater corruption.]
- The Broken Star: (Positive) You escape from perils that kill or maim most persons. Why? Maybe you hid your true name or entrusted it to a supernatural patron. Or maybe you’re obsessed with your own death, so you carry an absurd amount of luck charms (and somehow all that junk works). You could be a polymorphed white rabbit. You could have four-leaf clovers on your head instead of hair (?!). Maybe you’re the only cheerful and optimistic Dwarf in the world. Or you could play a dark Elf who stole the luck of your clan through a magic mishap. (Negative) When you fail you do it epically. Maybe you’re really DOOOMED! And you know it (you did something terrible in your past). If you’re a Wizard, a Cleric of the Old Ones or an Elf, maybe Reality itself hates you and wants you dead (you’re an unnatural being after all). Because Fumbles are rolled usually only in combat, maybe you’re just craven, so check the Negative aspect of Warrior’s arm. [Variant Broken Star for Halflings: Halflings have a Good Luck Charm ability, so lets tinker with that. Maybe there are some Halflings that aren’t born lucky. They’re born wrong and are usually exiled from their boring pastoral villages. They’re cursed and called names like Redcap, Boggart or Pooka and have the Evil Eye (they’re usually also bastards). Maybe Goblins are just that… wrong Halflings. Anyway, these Halflings can only burn Luck to penalize other’s rolls.]
- Birdsong: (Positive) You have an innate knack with languages. Maybe you’re a sage, a foreign from some weird and exotic empire, or maybe a wizard did something to your head. I like to let players with this augur pick their languages during play. It’s awesome (if you saw the Antonio Bandera’s scene around the fire from the great The 13th Warrior movie you know what I’m talking about). Another cool way to personalize PCs with this augur is to pick weird languages. DCC Core Rulebook gives great ideas, like knowing to talk with horses, wolves or spiders. Go crazy from there! What if you PC could talk to rivers, trees or doors? (OK, the last one is a bit overpowered, unless the Judge rightfully determines that dungeon door are sneaky and evils liars, besides dungeon door also talk with dungeon monsters so you PC is in trouble… doors hate eavesdropping). (Negative) This one is really weird because, except for Wizards, it is difficult for most PCs to talk lots of languages. The Judge could instead declare that PCs with this augur are illiterates. But let’s make things interesting: what if your PC is cursed to only speak one language? What if that language is Demonic? If you want to make things funnier (and the PC is of particular low Intelligence), establish that he starts game knowing only 1d6+2 words. The good news? He gain +1 word per level! (Perfect for your neanderthal Warrior!).
- Wild Child: If you liked my suggestion for the Speed of the Cobra entry, which extends the Luck modifier to Speed, so please also boost Wild Child - now it increases Speed and also grants a bonus to climbing, jumping and vine swinging. (Positive) You were raised in the jungle or among a culture that considers riding to be unmanly (or a sin, because animals are sacred). You could be a Halfling Shire postman, a Dwarf tunnel runner (messengers used to run through the long and dark passages of the Underworld) or an Elf from the Sea of Grass. Play a Cleric of the Olympiad! If you’re a Wizard, play Rincewind. (Negative) OK, you’re slow. Check the Speed of the Cobra entry for ideas. Let’s take another approach here. If the “Wild Child” theme implies that someone who lives in the Wilds is fast, then play the most urbane, “sophisticated” (I mean dandy) and gregarious fellow possible (a british accent is encouraged). Criticize your “frontier” friends for their lack of manners and never forget the hour of the tea (curiously, this is the perfect augur for a “Tolkienian” Halfling).

Monday, January 8, 2018

DCC Human Classes for Sword & Sorcery

This is a “dirty and cheap” hack for playing DCC RPG in a “pure” Sword & Sorcery setting. No fuss. It all started with the idea of using races as a templates instead of classes. During my hacks for “racial templates” I came up with some “substitutes” for old demihuman classes. Yes, by “pure” S&S I mean a human setting. Here is how I would do it.

Keep the core 4 classes: Cleric, Thief, Warrior and Wizard. DCC RPG’s Cleric is so ‘hardcore’ that I don’t mind keeping it in a S&S setting (the Disapproval rule is perfect for that and if you need fluff ideas for S&S deities, please check this).

The Defender/Guardian/Protector: this is your not-Dwarf. Remove all racial stuff like Infravision, Slow and Underground Skill (specially smelling gold). Instead of that you can use your shield bash also to protect adjacent allies. When an adjacent ally is attacked, you can use your shield bash dice (a d14 at 1st) to block the enemy’s attack. If your roll is equal to or higher than the enemy’s, then your ally (our yourself!) is protected. I’m also thinking about allowing you to block attacks against your character.

The Rogue/Scoundrel: this is your not-Halfling. You’re Grey Mouser, basically. Un urbane trickster, able to fight with two weapons and how knows a little bit of magic. Remove racial stuff (Infravision and Small). You can use your Sneak & Hide bonus to cast spells from scrolls (use a d10 instead of a d20), disguise and to gathering rumors and informations while on cities. Finally, you know about curses and minor magics - this is a “reskinned” version of the Halfling’s Good Luck Charm. They’re used here to represent cantrips and minor hexes (yes, you can use Good Luck Charm to inflict penalties on your enemies’ rolls). However, every time you use this knacks you must roll a d10 - if a ‘1’ comes up you suffer some kind of misfire or backlash (as decided by the Judge). Personally, if the character was casting a hex (i.e. inflicting penalties on adversaries), I would roll a minor corruption if a ‘1’ came up. (Actually, during my first drafts with a not-Halfling class I was trying to come up with a Ranger… I couldn’t make it work. However, if you’re happy with a Scout, here is one).

The Warlock/Sorcerer: the not-Elf. As usual, remove the racial traits of Immunities, Heightened Senses and Vulnerabilities. But please, do keep Infrasion (let’s call it “Darkborn”) and add the Hide in Shadows skill from a Lawful Thief (call it “Cloak of Darkness”). You start with one Patron Taint. This class is for those that sold their souls in exchange of eldritch power, but works perfectly for heretics and “Left-Hand” adepts in general. Those that took the “easy” way. They can only use magic through a Patron.