Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Sorting Of Mutations

So Patrick of False Machine posted this. It's a list of mutations for player characters who stay in the underdark for too long. And for reasons inscrutable, even to me, I decided to organize it.

SENSES: The expanding of your perception. Because you can’t see. Not without light.
  1. You can identify blood by taste. The species and, if you have tasted it before, the individual. Roll twice and you must identify any blood by taste.
  2. Subconscious sonar. You compulsively click your tongue to discover the distance of nearby surfaces. You can scan for solid objects within 50ft. It is hard for you to stop doing this.
  3. Your vision spectrum drops into a deeper shade of red. You gain infravision but blue is now simply black to you. If you had infravision, you can now see vague x-ray glows.
  4. Flayer Smell. You can and must smell psionic influence. The smell is as slight as a cup of coffee but you will sense it if you get close enough.
  5. Magic Sense. Tip your head back, spread arms, close eyes, roll jaw and moan to detect magic. You will feel it in your teeth if it is there.
  6. You gain a sense for the silent tongue. If you see dwellers using it you can get a good feel for the general tone and can spot simple words.
  7. Magnetic sense. Iron in the rock will stop you reliably sensing North, but it can aid you in navigation nonetheless. Especially if blinded. Worked metal is like a burning torch to you. It can blind you if close enough. You don’t like carrying metal weapons.
  8. Water Sense. You can taste emissions from upstream in moving water. Anything pissing or bleeding within half a mile upstream.

ALERTNESS: The ceaseless vigil. Because you can’t rest. It leaves you open.
  1. If you wake up in darkness, you remember exactly where you went to sleep, the precise dimensions of the enclosing space, and the exact location of every nearby object. You will not need to fumble for your sword or search to locate an exit you have seen.
  2. Your pupils are permanently dilated to their maximum extent. Add 10ft to the distance you can see. You are easily blinded.
  3. Hyper-sensitive skin. You no longer like to wear clothes. With naked skin you can sense the movement of air around you. 50% naked you can sense the size of cave around you. 90% the size of the local system. 100% and you can sense local movement, the rough size and speed of things moving in the cave.
  4. Your time sense erodes without any realization; your wake-sleep cycle extends from 24 hours to 48 if rolled twice, then to 72. You do not notice this.
  5. Your eyelids become translucent, you are hard to surprise if sleeping but easy to blind.
  6. Always hungry -1 CHA unless just eaten. Can smell food on people if it is hidden.

ADAPTION: The perfection of form. Because you can’t waste. The calories are too precious.
  1. Weight obsession. You must find a way to reduce your load. Throw something away or drastically alter its form to reduce its weight.
  2. Any sense of claustrophobia is gone. You do not fear any enclosed space, no matter how long you are there, in fact you prefer it. Your memory of the sun is gone. You may not refer to it or describe it.
  3. Each time you roll this, go down to the next lightest skin pigmentation. The last three are Caucasian, Albino, and Translucent. (Elves respond differently to deep earth radiations, their skin gets darker not lighter.)
  4. Your immune system has collapsed. You have no save vs. disease. You must trade with the Myconids for a symbiotic fungal replacement.
  5. Lose the hair from your body, or head. (Elves do not lose hair, instead it turns white.)
  6. Osteocytes. You begin to develop frills and ridges of bone upon your skull. These extend through the skin. They may be horns, ridges, spikes or something else. The more you roll this result the more elaborate they become. (+1 STR? +1 CON? +1 AC?)
  7. Your finger bones lengthen and crook permanently. This provides a tireless hold while climbing and increases your ascent speed. You have difficulty doing fine work.
  8. Respiration and digestion slow when still. If doing nothing you can go 30 seconds between breaths. You barely need food if all you do is wait.
  9. You compulsively sharpen your teeth.
  10. Your limbs and torso grow subtly longer yet retain the same mass. At first gangly (10%), if rolled twice, freakish (20%), if thrice, trollish (30%) and you go up a size category.
  11. You must make a WIS test to avoid compulsive consumption of your fallen foes if they are of animal intelligence, if rolled twice, named beings, if thrice, even your own species.
  12. When you are not exerting yourself your body temperature drops to the ambient temperature of the environment. You cannot die from hypothermia. Neither can you warm others who are suffering. You may seem dead when you sleep.
  13. Rapid protein conversion. You can gorge on meat to add 1 STR for HD consumed. So all of a 1hd creature, half a 2hd creature one 10th of a 10hd creature, etc. The bonus lasts till sleep.
  14. Your nails thicken, and extend, they become d3 weapons. If rolled twice, d4 weapons. If thrice d6 weapons and are now claws, you will have difficulty with fine work.
  15. Face blind. You can’t remember faces till you stroke them.
  16. Blood change. Your blood becomes an odorless, tasteless clear gel. It is hard to track you. If your skin is already translucent then your bones are almost visible through the cloudy flesh.
  17. Poison Absorber. Poison still affects you as normal, but if you survive it, your body will hang on to the dose. You can transmit it via biting.
  18. You lose all desire to return to the surface. You belong here now.

PARANOIA: The intolerance of others. Because you can’t trust. There are too many dangers.
  1. Paranoia. You know that a fellow PC is hiding something from you.  XP freeze until you force them to reveal it.
  2. Rage. You can no longer control your resentment and suspicion. XP freeze till you physically and directly harm a team mate. Until you commit this action the DM may force it upon on the failure of any roll.
  3. You hunger for silence. The rhythm of your conversations slows imperceptibly. You breathe out single words. Shouting becomes intolerable, even in times of danger. You must pass a WIS test to raise your voice.
  4. Your breathing becomes silent. If you were next to someone, they would feel your breath on their face before hearing it.
  5. You no-longer trust paper as it decays too fast. You start to tattoo your knowledge and maps onto your skin. Your self-developed code is shorter than writing and means your flayed skin would be useless as a map for others. A clever trick, you think. You start with your forearms and thighs then spiral out.
  6. You can taste lies on someone’s breath as they speak. You must be within kissing distance.
  7. Scent identity is now more real to you than visual identity. If separated from your friends, you will not fully recognize them till you smell them all over.
  8. Mask-hunger. You become obsessed with protecting your image. Make a mask and wear it continually.
  9. Shadows are portals from which you can be watched. You cannot sleep or relax in shadow. You need complete darkness. You can often spot illusions by watching their shadows.
  10. Reflections are enemy selves. You will avoid them if you can and never discuss important business in front of them.
  11. Secrets. You horde them. Must pass WIS test to willingly communicate any secret thing. For instance, the location of a secret door you just found, a letter you picked up, the last words of a foe.
  12. Ghost warden. You fear the spirits of those you have killed. Build, or obtain, an amulet to imprison them. Record them all. If it breaks or is lost, they may get free. (5% chance true per Ghost)

INTIMACY: The fabrication of emotion. Because you can't forget. The feeling of not-loneliness.
  1. You now lie half awake and hallucinate instead of dreaming.  Name your most common vision. If rolled twice you can create this vision in darkness, casting it as an illusion spell by having a brief conversion with the target. If thrice the vision will appear in your ‘waking’ hours and call you. If four times, you must obey.
  2. You must name any flame that you light. You must speak to them as if they were people. They take up a retainer spot. They have a morale. They may keep watch for you. They may also betray you.
  3. You no longer recognize own racial nature. You regard yourself as “other”. You gain no bonuses when communicating with your own race.
  4. In absolute silence, just on the edge of hearing, you can hear the darkness speaking with itself. You do not like this. Learning its language is harder than any human tongue. Its discussions may be beyond you.
  5. You must name any rope you own and speak to them as if they were people. They take up a retainer spot. They have a morale. You can command them to unknot, they may inform you if they are damaged or not well secured, the may also betray you.
  6. You can and must use Speak with Air as daily power.
  7. Bone collector. Every enemy you kill has one bone waiting for you, take it and wrap it carefully.
  8. Riddle Master. You cannot refuse a riddle challenge. In appropriate circumstances you may riddle and gain bonuses to social situations.
  9. Cloaker Totem. Build one and wear it continually. You believe this will protect you. It will. Once per level, in life threatening circumstances, it will act with the powers of a normal cloaker under your control
  10. Tectonic dreams. Just before you fall asleep you can hear the murmuring of Earth Elementals, you can gradually learn that language.
The only one I left out is this one:
There is a darkness in your belly. When you scream, deliberately or not, a minor darkness spell is cast, from your mouth for the duration of the scream.
It's much more magical then any of the others, and I don't know where to put it.

On The Principles Of World Building

Okay time to get back on the wagon people. Even if only for a day.

I love world building. I do it more or less constantly, for self enjoyment. I create and discard settings without a second glance, and am at the point where any really interesting idea I have demands it's own setting. The idea is the painting, the setting is the frame.

Of course, if ideas are paintings, then settings are rather more like galleries, and one hopes the gallery has more then one good picture. It becomes a bit of a game: what do you highlight? Do you feature only original work, or do you take from others? How do you arrange everything. If nothing else, it's a fun metaphor.

Did I mention I REALLY like this analogy?

At any rate, I have realized that my world building has three central tenets. They are Inclusiveness, Contrariness, and Simulationism.


Inclusiveness is what I want to include. This usually refers to external ideas, other people's works. For instance, I have yet to make a sci-fi setting without lightsabers. BECAUSE LIGHTSABERS ARE AWESOME.


The ideas I'd like to include can be bigger. For example, I want this setting to be science fiction. It's a label that covers dozens of ideas I'd like to include, such as mega-corps, space travel, other worlds, the far future, ect. Often half the work is taking such grandiose inclusive statements and paring them down.

And the things I can want to include can also be much vaguer. In the current setting I'm working on, I want to include the ability to have Outlaw Star and Firefly style broke episodes. I want the players to have a spaceship, and for each session to be a madcap rush to pay their docking fees, fuel costs, and ship-mortgage. That kind of statement is the opposite of the genre statement, in that rather then be parred down, it needs to be built up. Okay, so I'll need a space fairing civilization, individual ownership of star ships, and someone powerful enough to collect what's owed if the players skip town. As you can see, there's some work ahead here too.


Contrariness is just that: me being contrary. Going against convention. There's two ways to do this. The first is exclusion: what ideas do I not want to include? Well, sentient aliens. I think life is out there all right, but I don't we'll meet it any time soon. Also, I lack the time and skill to make up, completely off of my head, a unique alien biology, sociology, history, technology, and so on. It's just WAAAAAAY to much work. So that's something that's not going to appear in the gallery, if you will.

The second way to be contrary is to twist things. Using the previous example, I don't want separately evolved alien species who just happen to all be on the same technological level as humanity. But I do believe that we'll make great advances in genetic modification in the future. If a regular human were to meet such genetically modified person, they might not even realize they were once the same species! So why not fill the stars with Star Trek aliens: men with funny foreheads. This way I can have my cake and eat it too: there's a bunch of weirdo aliens, but they're all descendant from humans.

Well it explains why they're all humanoids, doesn't it?

As you can see, contrariness is in some ways the art of curation. You wanted to include a bunch of stuff: now some of it we remove, and some of it change around. Once you know what big ideas you want to use, the real work comes.


Simulationism is having to connect all my fancy pants ideas in some way that makes sense. If there are lightsabers, who has them? Who makes all those starships? If there's a bunch of aliens that are all modified humans, how did that come about? If genes are so malleable as to make all these species, then what's up with planets only having one race apiece? Answering these questions, and filling in all the blanks, is the role of simulationism. I'm just trying to get things to make sense. And occasionally the justifications are so strange or novel that they become original ideas themselves! In this way, idea begets idea, and the best settings, the really strange and weird ones, the ones that make your heart race with possibilities, grow on themselves and get weirder and stranger.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Three New Undead

I saw this picture, and suddenly this post happened.

Men can be classified only by their deaths. Monsters, maladies, and the moon all take men to strange graves, but the rest can sleep in honor. Their fates are as follows.

Those who die by beasts are eaten by beasts. Their souls are forfeit to the Forest Queen, who keeps them in the hems of her robes. They drop from her as she takes her walks, growing into trees.

Those who die by sickness are burned, and their remains taken for the Ash Mother's army. In the end days they will ravage the land with flu and flame, leaving it raw and burnt and beautiful, until once again men rise to claim it.

Those who die by drowning are forced to walk the ocean floor. Here they dance with the fishes and the cold, until the Silver Lady finds them in the deep and takes them to her garden on the moon.

All the rest are buried, safe in the earth's granite hands, and soon are born anew. So goes the cycle until they earn another fate or time wears their souls away.

All of these can be turned by clerics as usual.

DRYADS OF THE HUNT (3HD, AC 15, immune to stabbing weapons)
Those who die from animal attacks are seldom buried. On moonless nights they rip from their graves, their bodies half devoured. These portions of missing flesh are filled in with ebony wood, giving them a spiraling, stripped appearance. From their mad mess of hair emerge antlers, seven crowned, always dripping in blood. These are Dryads.

Dryads speak with the voice of the Forest Queen, a voice which contains the cries of all her souls. Their proclamations deafen listeners with death screams, leaving them unable to hear any save the Forest Queen for five turns. If the Dryad hasn't successfully killed anyone in this time, she will bow, break off a single antler (a man pierced by it will be hounded by wolves for three days), and politely leave. If she has killed someone, she will fly into a rage. The Dryad will bite with wolf teeth (1d6 damage) and gore with antlers (1d8 damage), ceasing neither her assault nor her laughter until every man and beast lies dead in a heap before her. A sure sign of Dryads in the woods is stacks of unburied corpses.

When a Dryad dies her wood will wither, leaving only antlers and the half eaten corpse of a woman.

Men who die from fever burn up from the inside, and produce Ash Wraiths. They are moaning man-shapes of whirling ash, with red coals glowing where their eyes should be. They leave fire in their wake as they wander the woods. They try to find cottages where they can jump into fireplaces.

Ash Wraiths are dull and stupid things. Being made of Ash, they are immune to damage, though a cold stream or a cauldron of water can put one out. They spit teeth (1d6 damage) surrounded by clouds of ash at any that might obstruct them, but can only do so ten times before using up all their ash and falling apart. Anyone that breathes this ash in will fall deathly sick in 1d6 days, unable to move, their minds in delirium. Those afflicted make a daily DC 20 CON check; failure means the loss of 1 STR, 1 INT, and 2 CON (reaching zero in any stat means death). Passing checks reverses the condition, with rest and medical care giving +4.

When an Ash Wraith dies it leaves nothing but a burnt skeleton.

Drowned sailors roam the bottoms of the oceans, emerging rarely to walk above the waves. They are horrid to look at, bloated grey and white forms that move tirelessly. Their very touch rots flesh and fabric (1d6 damage). They evaporate in moonlight, a painful process that leaves them running for the water.

Drowned Men talk constantly of their sunken treasure troves. Fields of gold coins carpet the abyss, they say, and mountains of rubies wait only for skilled hands to bring them to the surface. They are not lying. Despite their looks, they talk with all the guile 18 CHA provides, and often convince village crowds to follow them into the sea.

When a Drowned Man dies, water pours from his mouth for a week.