Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Men of Carcosa

When those tall grey-skinned beings we call aliens came to Carcosa, it was to do battle with the foul evil of the snakemen. Each was a warrior, born for battle, their genomes packed with cunning weapons and their hands bristling with high technology. They came down in space ships and drop pods and powered armor, and the weapon the snakemen answered with was flesh. For they already knew how to call and bind things from beyond the void, and to this end they bred their captured foes into thirteen breeds, segregated by skin color, to further enhance the potency of their sacrifices.

Their results have survived them. Their enforced breeding programs are gone, and man's genome is free to roam. Heavy inbreeding has led each of the races of man to find strange gifts in their blood from their heavenly ancestors, who, were they to see us now, would no doubt roll in their stasis pods at the monsters we've become.

The following is a list of men and their corresponding mutations.

All Men

First and foremost, the men of Carcosa were bred to be sacrificed. At 5 years old Carcosans are twice as effective sacrifices, and at 10, thrice. Carcosan rituals have already accounted for this.

No color can interbreed with any other, but these hardy hues grant advantage on saves made against radiation.

Black Men

Black men take no damage from fire. Instead, they catch aflame until put out, and can stay on fire indefinitely. This immunity does not apply to lava, lasers, or molten metal.

When not on fire, black men are strangely sticky to the touch. They seldom notice extremes of heat or cold, and seem comfortable in most climes.

Blue Men

With a touch and an INT check, blue men intuitively understand the purpose of electronic technology. While in contact they may transfer their mind into the machine, commanding it as they would their own flesh, while their own body goes into a coma.

AIs may contest this process, and require a CHA check to overcome. They then require an additional CHA check every turn to contain, lest they escape into the blue man's body. Each new check gives the blue man a cumulative +1 to contain that AI.

Bone Men

The flesh of bone men is completely transparent, revealing only their white skeletons. If exposed to light by day they phosphoresce come night, each man shining his own pale neon. One hour of daylight makes their bones shine all night long. Bone men can see equally well in sun light, star light, or bone light, and gain advantage on saves against broken bones.

Brown Men

Strange exceptions to the rules of men, brown men get no advantage on their radiation saves, nor do they become more potent sacrifices as they age. Stranger still, they gain an advantage on all rolls to use space alien technology. Tech that rejects or even kill other men works perfectly in their hands, and robots instinctively protect brown men 2 out of 6 times.

Dolm Men

Dolm men possess a second stomach, which can hold up to 1 liter comfortably and 4 when painfully full.  While it digests nothing, anything a dolm man swallows can be redirected to it instead. They can effortless regurgitate the contents of either stomach.

Green Men

When seized by fury green men can cause their muscles to swell, gaining STR 20 for up to their CON rounds. While in this state they can jump fifty feet vertically or horizontally. Afterwards they must spend an equal time panting in anger and exhaustion, incapable of moving or even basic self-defense.

Jale Men

When within 30' of an eldritch beast a jale man's body rips out a single HD of the monster's soul. Within their breast begins the beating of a second heart. The jale man may regain 1d6 HP by absorbing that soul shard, their second heart now still once more. While it beats every week comes a new nightmare. Each teaches another ritual pertaining to the beast within their bosom, until the jale man knows them all.

Orange Men

Orange men spit a potent corrosive. This pale amber liquid rapidly erodes metal, scars flesh, and blinds eyes. While their own skin is immune to it, their eyes are not. Orange men have very clean teeth.

A single dose of venom builds up naturally after a full night of sleep. Spiting it deals 1d4 acid damage. Making more is hard work on the body: the glands can be refilled by spending a single hit point.

Purple Men

A purple man can repeat, as a perfect recreation, any phrase he can remember hearing. Unfortunately, this mimicry allows for no improvisation. So keen are their powers of detection that they cannot be surprised by anything that makes sound.

Red Men

The blood of red men courses with a strange and alien vitality: they gain advantage on all tasks of endurance. On taking damage the red man's blood literally escapes his veins, his lost HP turning into a skittering thing. These blood monsters have AC 20 - HP, and their claws inflict 1dHP damage upon your foes, absorbing the blood from any wounds they deal. It has a 1 in 6 chance of turning on you, and a 4 in 6 chance of being absorbed into the ground after combat.

Ulfire Men

Ulfire men can track a target by scent. It becomes an obsession; until they find and taste their quarry, they cannot regain sanity. By eating a brain, an ulfire man experiences it's most recent memories, and gains 100 XP for every HD it had above his own.

White Men

White men are immune to ingested, injected and inhaled poisons, finding them delicious. Each consumed dose makes eating their flesh inflict 1 more damage, and creates gasoline stains upon their skin. The color is determined by the poison consumed.

All animals shun the poisoned flesh of white men. No mount will carry them and no predator will hunt them. Wild animals avoid them, attacking only if pursued. Domesticated animals may tolerate their presence, but never their touch.

Yellow Men

Yellow men need not sleep. Willingly or when mortally wounded, yellow men enter a state of torpor; within they cannot succumb to their wounds and do not age, and need neither air nor sustenance. While in this state they may enter the dreams of any man they've met.

When the hill clans attack!

Weirdly colored, strange technology, total jerk: the perfect Carcosan. 

I love this picture. This is my Carcosa.
The green man = hulk joke is mandatory.
A white man who has clearly gone overboard with eating poison. 
An enigmatic dolm man. Who knows what strange substance he'll vomit forth?
Feeling bad ass since he cannot die. Barring decapitation of course.

I don't want to play in any Carcosa that doesn't include Skeletor.

The Joke

What has two hearts, two stomachs, three lungs, steel bones, and super strength?

What kind of creature can spit acid, see in low light, filter out white noise, hunt by scent and learn by eating?

What's immune to poison and radiation and heat and cold? What doesn't sleep or bleed? What if wounded needs not die, and what is covered in neural connections, able to interface directly with technology?

Well, I can give you a hint:

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Colors of Carcosa

Carcosa, as is widely known, possess two additional primary colors: feverish, voluptuous jale and wild, painful ulfire. Ulfire combined with blue produces somnolent, astral dolm. Living upon a world with but one sun*, you and I have never seen these colors, but by closing our eyes estimations may be made.

Put your head in your hands and scrunch your face. That roiling, flashing magenta black is ulfire, like a purple thunderhead within.

Go outside on a cold day and lay down, closing your eyes at the sky. That is the stygian blue of dolm, darker than black, yet with the faint glow of starlight.

Touch your nose to a bright white screen and close your eyes. That is how the swirling brightness of jale will reveal itself to you. The color is even clearer in your dreams.

Below is a representation of the Carcosan Color Wheel, though the significant colors of white, black and transparent fall outside its purview.

*Which is important. During an eclipse of Carcosa's blue sun jale and ulfire can't be seen. During an eclipse of the yellow sun, the same occurs for red and yellow.

A few notes:

1. You probably have your own interpretations, but these are mine. And yeah, the patterns for dolm, jale and ulfire are metaphorical rather than literal. If I wanted to paint minis, ulfire would have purple lightning nets, dolm would look like stars and space, and jale can stay as is.

2. Yeah, jale is rainbow sherbert. I am happy that my favorite flavor of ice cream is a primary color.

3. I'm using RYB color model, since the source material says jale and ulfire are new primary colors, and compares them to yellow, red and blue. I actually made a different chart that uses CMY (where I ditch brown and add cyan), but that fucks with the line "Dolm stands in the same relation to jale as green to red. It is a compound of ulfire and blue," since red and green are no longer opposites. In this chart, the opposing colors are all accurate.

4. Even ulfire! What color is less wild and painful then dolm? I was delighted by that coincidence.

Monday, November 20, 2017

On The Correctly Sized God

A reference sheet for the Correctly Sized God, who sentenced us all to hell for our sins. This will be a living document.

The Ayatollah Goblini believes that this world is a hell, and all within are sinners. His logic is as follows.

Goblins are the perfect size. Yet everything is ruled by beings stronger and larger than us: in an ideal world, these monsters would not exist. Therefore, this world is our punishment, a hell we are sent to for sinning in our last life. By enduring it, we prove ourselves worthy of our next reincarnation, and when we die our soul returns to be reborn in the real world (and if we do good works there, we can proceed to heaven).

So the death of us, the correctly sized folk (which includes goblins, halflings, gnomes, and all such short races) is in fact a merciful release, and a thing to be celebrated. However, to spare the next generation of sinners, we can improve this world! We can conquer our tall imprisoning demons, and rule wisely over hell.

That's where the Ayatollah comes in. He is a bodhisattva, an enlightened being worthy of reincarnation, but willing to endure this life so that he may continue the great work of conquering hell. The end goal is world domination by the correctly sized folk. At the moment he's just getting the word out and telling people the good news.

His thoughts on incorrectly sized folk are various.

Humans, elves and the like are demons, but they are demons in god's employ. God has a lot of demons with a lot of different purposes, so you must deal with them carefully.
Some humans are specifically here to torment us. They must be resisted.
Some humans are here to make the world miserable, but in a general sense. They are servants of god, so don't give them too much shit.
Some humans are just mis-reincarnated, tall in stature but short in soul. They are worthy allies!

Fairies, pixies, and all those other even shorter folk are despicable murderers being super punished. Flee, flee in terror, unless they're actually penitent. Most put on a cheery disguise to trick you into lowering your guard.

Monsters are the cruelest of god's demons, there for the smart to avoid and the brave to slay. They are a deadly test.

Finally, dwarves are shortness traitors. Despite being part of the correctly sized folk they are in league with the demons, and work together to oppress us. When they die they are going to double hell and the demon down there are even bigger. Fuck those guys.

This is why drinking is forbidden: it makes you more like a dwarf.

Monday, September 25, 2017

On Why I Min-Max

As a GM, I am stridently against min-maxing. I don't even give bonuses for stats anymore. I avoid plus ones as if they had wronged my family. I'll let you shapeshift into a dragon, but you can say goodbye to the concept of a +3 sword. In my games nothing stacks.

As a player, I min-max the crap out of every character I play.

● My Star Wars d6 wookie can shrug off a direct hit from blaster rifle. With 7 dice in martial arts, he can easily rip off the arms of 4 mooks a turn.

● My fighter from Swords of the Inner Sea taught himself ventriloquism, fire breathing and stilt walking, skills our wizards can't pull off, and he also hits like a truck. 

● My Delta Green guy has 70 in Craft: Anarchist's Cookbook. It lets me get away with anything.

● A few days ago I played a Flailsnails game where my level 1 character had 23 HP, dealt 1d4+4 with her bare hands, and could turn into an owl. 

I don't cheat. I just ask the GM nicely, and then grab the system by the throat. 

It began pretty early; one of my first consistent games was 3.5, and my GM was an unabashed munchkin. I spent two months accomplishing nothing much. This was still the most fun playing D&D I'd ever had; friends count for a lot. But my skill rolls were weak and my damage weaker. The plot was too confusing for me to ever have a firm grasp on. I just contented myself to being silly while eating chips.

Then we fought the adamantine golem. We had excellent tactics; I was using stone shape to immobilize the thing. The bard was singing his song of unmaking, doubling damage against constructs. Spells were flying. But the damn thing was healing too fast, and none of our damage stuck. Then I realized we had an NPC paladin with us. I asked her to attack the golem. 

Her full attack dealt over 400 damage, and killed it in one round.

So I asked the GM to borrow her character sheet and copied her build. And then I improved it. This process took 3 days of scouring splat books and learning the intricacies of 3.5. Doing my taxes is literally easier. But my next characters did 3000 damage a turn.  Many of our foes ignored normal damage, but it was a damn good start.

Moral of the story: when your GM is a munchkin, everyone needs to be a munchkin.

That fear of powerlessness hangs with me, I think. To want to do but be unable. Death by my own foolishness is fine and usually hilarious, but death by powerlessness demoralizes me. I leave the game sad and defeated.  

Powerless and afraid. I feel those emotions enough in the real world. I have no need of them in my games. My players don't either: by taking away everyone's high numbers, I level the playing field. The thing stopping you from being a hero won't be your to hit score.

I guess that's why I min max.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Dr. Strangeplate, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Armor Class

For a really long time I hated AC. Why does wearing more armor make you harder to hit. Does a man dodge better clad in plate? It seemed ridiculous.

You think his nickname is twinkle-toes?
There wasn't a good alternative either. Say you have DR 2 armor. One ruling means people just take two less damage from everything; because armor becomes so important, it feels like everyone is fighting with nerf swords. If that armor blocks 2 or 1 HP blows but you still take all 4 damage from a 4 HP blow, everything becomes swingy and my players bitch. Armor as immunities to damage types never worked because history can't get it's act together. Could leather armor block arrows? Could mail? Every reenactor seemed to have a different answer. It just became a huge headache for me.

Have a surprisingly serene video of archers shooting boiled leather.

Back in college I used to play Belegarth. You run around and hit each other with nerf swords. You get whacked in the arm, you put it behind your back because it got cut off. You get hit again, you bleed out and die. Wearing armor gives you one free hit wherever you're wearing it. And I remembered that when I circled people, trying to find a way to hit them with my great honking two-hander, I would try to avoid hitting them in the armor. Time was short, death was quick, and I wanted my blows to count.

Google's best guess for this image is plant.
So this is how AC works. The more armor you wear, the less places an attacker has to aim. The harder it becomes to decide how to strike. Just as much as armor protects you, in the skirmish environment that D&D usually defaults to, it also debilitates your opponent. There are more ways to miss, more ways to hit and accomplish nothing.

So now I'm okay with AC. I'm even okay with armor a-la-carte, where each piece gives you +1 AC, because really, each one is just another minor headache for your foes. Maybe four metal knicks-knacks ARE as effective as chain. Maybe.

None of this properly represents the importance of shields, but fuck it, that can wait for another day. Sometimes simplicity of rules trumps historical accuracy.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

On Leveling Up, and the Perks Thereof

Edit: I didn't really think this would stay up this long. It's a player aid I intend to flesh out soon, but with the new job who knows how soon 'soon' is. Anyhow, I stole almost all of it from Goblin Punch, and the rest I stole from Zack Smith, and maybe like three things I made up. Maybe.


When an enemy misses you with a melee attack, you may force them to make another attack against another target within range. This attack is made with a -4 penalty against an adjacent target of your choice.

While unarmored, you get +1 Defense per level, up to a maximum of +6.

You Got Jumps
You can jump 2x as far. If there is a stable wall, you can instead wall run 4x as far. Treat your falls as if they were 30' shorter.

The Human Spider
You can effortlessly climb anything that you can convince me has handholds. In good weather, mind.

With Catlike Tread
While wearing no armor your footfalls are completely silent. You succeed all move silently checks.

The Great Escape
Once per day, you can escape from something that is restraining you and that you could plausibly escape from. This includes grapples, lynchings, and awkward social situations, but not sealed coffins.

The Greatest Escape
Once per lifetime, you can literally escape death. Your DM will describe the afterlife to you, as well as the opportunity that allows you to escape (if you wish to). This ability has no effect if your body has been destroyed beyond plausibility.


Smoke Bombs
This skill allows you to use smoke bombs. You can pay 3 GP to get 3 smokebombs (1 encumbrence). You can do this at any city, and you can buy as many as you want.

Assassins collect information about their targets before closing in for the kill. For every fact that you know about your target, you deal an additional +1 damage during surprise rounds, for a max of +5 damage.

These don't have to be major facts, but they cannot be trivial. "Drinks Earl Grey tea" "Commands the fifth cavalry" "Is named Ostruchus Poncelroy" are all good facts. "Is currently inside his tent", "Is a man", "Has two arms" are not. If you could learn it by looking at a snapshot of the current scene, it's trivial.

Whenever you get a situational bonus on an attack roll (surprise, elevation, etc) you deal an additional +1d6 Damage.

Dramatic Infiltration
At any time, you may declare that you are walking off-screen. Later on in the session, you may reveal yourself to have been a minor NPC in the background of the scene “all along” as long as there actually are minor NPCs in the background of the scene. You can always walk back on stage at any time, even climbing in a window. This ability is limited by plausibility.

Silver Tongue
Once per day as a free action, you have 20 Charisma for 1 round.

Always Prepared
When in town, you may spend any amount of money to buy an Unlabeled Package. When the package is unwrapped, you declare what it contains, as long as the contents comprise the appropriate number of Inventory Slots, doesn't cost more than you originally paid, and are available in the town you bought the Unlabeled Package. You can even put multiple items inside a large Unlabeled Package (including smaller Unlabeled Packages). This is basically retroactive shopping. You can have no more than two Unlabeled Packages at a time.

Fortune's Favored Son
Once per day, you can reroll one of your d20 rolls.

Fortune's Blatantly Cheating Son
Twice per day, you can reroll one of your d20s rolls. Additionally, you can give this to an adjacent ally, as long as you could plausibly have assisted them.


Feat of Strength
Once per day as a free action, you have 20 Strength for 1 round.

You can choose to enter a rage at any time. While in a rage, you have +1 Attack, +1 Damage, and are immune to pain and fear. While raging, you cannot do anything defensive, curative, tactical, or cooperate with your allies. All you can do is attempt to kill things. Spell casting is not impossible, but all your spells must be damaging spells, which deal +2 damage (if single target) or +1 damage (if multiple targets). You cannot stop fighting until you kill, subdue, or drive off all enemies. Alternatively, you can will yourself to stop raging with a 2-in-6 chance of success, once per round as a free action. If one of your allies has injured you this fight, they count as an enemy.

Mighty Rage
Double all the numeric bonuses from your Rage ability.

Danger Sense
If you are surprised, you have a 50% chance to act on the surprise round anyway.

You can consume an alcoholic drink to restore 1d6+1 HP. Consuming alcohol in this way gives you 1 point of Drunkenness. This ability even works if someone pours booze down your unconscious throat.

You can collect trophies from fresh corpses. Each trophy counts as an armor piece (+1 AC, 1 encumbrance, no AP). While wearing a trophy, you get +1 against all of that creature's special abilities; this bonus stacks.


Whenever you reduce a creature to 0 HP with an attack, you can make another attack with the same weapon.

Whenever you win a fight against challenging foes, people who don't like you make a new reaction roll with a +4 bonus. This even works on people you just defeated in combat, unless you caused them undeserved or disproportionate harm.

This ability only works on creatures that can understand you and are capable of being offended. If you challenge a creature outside of combat, they must make a Save vs Charm to resist accepting. In civilized areas, this is basically a duel, and this means that you and the other party must agree upon the time, the place, the weapons, the victory condition, and the stakes. Leaders will usually send out a champion to fight in their stead (if applicable). In combat, you can challenge one creature each turn by yelling at it (free action), who must then Save vs Charm. If they fail, they will decide to attack you (or at least include you in an AoE attack). This ability cannot force an opponent to make major tactical errors.

If an adjacent ally would take damage from a physical attack, you can choose to take the damage for them. This ability has a 4-in-6 chance of succeeding.

Dragon Slayer
Once per day, you can cause one of your physical attacks to deal +X damage, where X is equal to the level of the highest level monster your party has ever killed. (You must keep track of this.) If you miss, this ability is not expended.

You can fight even in perfect darkness, with about 10 feet of spatial awareness.


You can wear fashionable clothing instead of armor. Fashionable clothing costs the same as the equivalent armor but takes up no Inventory Slots. Fashionable clothing is Fragile, and gains a Break (-1 AC) each time you take fire damage, acid damage, get really wet, or get really dirty.

Each time you defeat an enemy in single combat (such as a duel), keep track of what type of weapon they were wielding. You get +1 AC against that type of weapon. This ability cannot raise your Defense higher than 18.

Banner Lord
If you are holding a banner in one of your hands, all allies that have sworn loyalty to it get +1 to-hit.

Loyal Butler
If you take physical damage, you can choose for an adjacent hireling to take it instead.

Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card
Once per session, you can use your family's name to get out of trouble, or to request a special favor from authority. Only works on people that might have heard of your family. Usable once per session, and has a 4-in-6 chance of working

You inherit 20,000 copper. Perhaps an uncle died. 1d6 relatives will be showing up at your door to live in your mansion and ask for money, and turning them away would be deadly to your reputation. Additionally, there is a 4-in-6 chance that the Assassin's Guild has just accepted a contract to kill you.


Lucky Numbers Style
You gain two lucky numbers. When you roll this number on a d20 while attacking, your attack may have one additional effect. This is anything within reason that does not simply cause more damage. You can still, say, knock someone into a flame pit: Here's a list of examples:
prevent opponent moving* for one round
move opponent 2 tabletop inches in any direction
knock opponent to the ground
take something from opponent
 grab opponent--
Knock opponent into the wall of spikes.
You may take this ability more then once.

Drunken Master
For every point of drunkenness you have, you get +1 to hit. Remember, every point increases your critical fail range.

The World is my Weapon
You may use almost any object (including your hands!) as any of the following:
A weapon that deals 1d6.
A weapon that deals 1d4 damage, but has a special property (such as reach).
A +2 AC shield, which can be shattered as normal, and has a special property.


Animal Companion
You can train your animal companions to perform a certain action when a condition is true. The most common one is “attack when I attack”, but other ones are possible. (Normally you'd spend a round giving orders to your pet.)

Speak with Pet
You can speak with your pets. Not literally, but practically. You are really good at interpreting barks, for example, and your pet is really good at interpreting you. Your animal companions can speak with other animals of the same type. For example, all dogs speak Canine.

Advantageous Terrain
When rolling for random encounters outdoors, your chance of surprising the enemy increases to 2-in-6. When a random encounter occurs, you can draw the terrain map of where the encounter will occur, and may decide where everyone is, as long as it's plausible. No more than 1 advantageous terrain at a time.

Hated Foe
You deal +2 Attack when attacking the monster you hate most. You can change your hated foe, but only after a new foe has done something worth making you hate them.

You can manufacture and set traps. It takes 10 minutes to manufacture a trap in natural terrain. Traps can be set immediately or carried around (they take up 1 Inventory Slot). Enemies that walk into your trap must make a Dex check with a -4 penalty or suffer its effects.

You can choose a reasonable effect, such as: 1d6 damage, an immobilizing snare, or noisemakers. You can add additional effects, but each one beyond the first gives your target a +2 bonus on their Dexterity check. If you have additional resources (poisons, f lammable oils) you can create more types of traps.


Threat Assessment
You learn a creature's level after watching it fight for a round.

As a standard action, you yell advice to an ally, who then makes a free attack. This free attack must be a basic, unmodified melee or ranged attack.

Spot Opportunity
Whenever your party rolls initiative, a random PC (including yourself) gets an opportunity against a random enemy. The opportunity gives the random PC +2 to-hit, +2 Damage, and +2 to overcome the target's Save (if applicable). This opportunity lasts until the end of the round. You roll all this yourself and roleplay it, because the DM has enough on her mind.

Once per day, as a free action, you can yell especially effective encouragement. Allies who can hear you regain 1d4 HP (but unconscious allies cannot hear anything). This is non-magical healing. If you use this ability out of combat, allies instead gain 1d6+1 HP, but you need to make a little speech.

Spot Weakness
As a standard action, you may observe a creature fight and then make an Intelligence check. If you succeed, the next time you deal damage to that creature, you deal +1d12 damage (once). This ability also has a use outside of combat. If you succeed on an Int check, you can learn an NPC's weakness, secret shame, or greatest fear (DM's choice).


been thinking about giving a witch class the starting ability to talk with anything they share a meal with. So if you eat coal you can talk to fire.

You acquire a home and garden in the form of a 1 acre demiplane. Its exact nature, climate, and contents are a matter between you and your DM. The garden is never more than half a day's travel away, no matter where you go or where you are. Only you know the way there, though others can follow you (even without your knowledge)

You learn one random spell. You can choose from which of the six types of magic you learn.