Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wizard Wednesday: Abrax the Terrible

Like this, but with the spikes facing out, and the face is a scarier.
A metal sarcophagus floats towards you. Whatever is inside screams and gibbers in it's madness, and all around magic erupts, incinerating anything that stands in it's way. THIS is Abraxas the Terrible.

But his real name is Carl.

Carl Ingsbell was an adventuring wizard, up until an ogre threw him across the room. When he woke up two days later, he was paralyzed from the neck down. For one sad, bitter hour he cried, cursing his friends for pulling him out of the dungeon at all.

It is surprisingly hard to find pictures of levitating doom coffins. I can't understand why.
And then he got over it. Carl is an optimist, you see, and that means quite a bit when you're a wizard. He would 't let something as trivial as being unable to move his limbs stop him from adventuring. He spent most of his adventurer's loot on an enormous metal coffin, tougher then any armor, and locked himself inside. Tenser's Floating disk moves him around. Prestidigitation keeps the coffin clean. A tight metal grate in front if his mouth lets him cast spells, and unlocks come meal time. He's got a few apprentices now who feed and buy shit for him. He delights in dressing them as deranged cultists.

Because Carl knows he's freaky, and he figures he might as well use it. He screams, he howls, he speaks in a strange and terrible voice. He's bolted on an entire mess of spikes to his sarcophagus, casted the head to look like a demon, and liberally decorated everything with skulls. He loves how stupid the name 'Abrax' sounds.

When he's not striking fear in the hearts of his enemies, Carl likes to talk politics and play chess. He loves intelligent conversation and adventurers; they remind him of the good old days. His current plan is to find someway to fix his back. He hasn't met with a lot of luck, but remains hopeful. If he does, he'll give away the sarcophagus to the first asker: he's sick of the bloody thing.

Abrax's motto is "I WILL EAT YOUR SOULS." 
Carl's motto is "THIS WON'T STOP ME I'M A WIZARD."

A note on his armor: Normal weapons can't pierce Abrax's metal coffin. They can pound his mouth grate in, which has 10 HP, but you need to roll 15+ to hit. While Abrax can float, he moves a measly 10ft per round, and turns pretty damn slow: it takes him a whole turn to spin 90 degrees.

Adventure Hooks
  1. The Party encounters Abrax in the dungeon. He's fighting a bunch of orcs. The orcs see the party and cry for help. 
  2. The Party encounters Abrax in the dungeon. He's currently sleeping and his apprentices are out. His sarcophagus is creepy but still. 
  3. The Party encounters Abrax on the road. He interrogates your cleric, asking if they have a spell that can fix his back and let him leave his coffin. 
  4. The Party encounters Abrax in his Sarcophagus, lying on the floor. He's yelling for help: he's in an antimagic field and every monster in the dungeon has been banging on his coffin. The thing will take at least ten men to move, but Abrax can tell you a lot about the dungeon. 
  5. In someone else's evil lair, you find Abrax. The guy who owns this place is a douche: he cured Abrax of his broken back but locked him in his coffin. Abrax begs you to find the key and let him out. Or at least get that fucker in front of him: Abrax still has a fireball ready for that son of a bitch. 
  6. Some dudes in bloodstained robes approach you. They ask if you'd be willing to talk their boss about current events. It's not weird I swear.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What Would My God Do?

Or: How to Randomly Generate my Shiny New Cleric's Religion

Sometimes you just need to know how your god feels about something. In those cases, roll a D6. Or grab a blank D6 and write these words on it. That's even more convenient.
  1. Sacred! This is an object of reverence! Make sure it is respected and protected.
  2. Acquire! Such a thing is good fortune! Try to obtain it, or things made from it.
  3. Praise! Your god saw what they had made and it was good. You should probably compliment it.
  4. Pity! Your heart goes out, it really does. Truly is this object low, and worthy of your sympathy and/or spite. Play it by ear.
  5. Unclean! Avoid this! To touch it is to degrade yourself before your lord.
  6. Destroy! Your god does not tolerate such evil. Cut this cancer from the world!
The more you roll this dice, the more convoluted your cleric's faith becomes!

Why stop at just ten? I'd go for at least twenty; it's a much better D&D number.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

On Pulling a Delphi

Next time the party stumbles across a witch, prophet, or soothsayer, offer one, and only one, character this proposition:

"I can tell you how you die."

Maybe you'll let the player decide: that's ripe for tragic reversal. Maybe you'll roll on a random table; I've thoughtfully prepared one for you.  But if anyone's brave enough to take you up on the offer, you've hit the motherlode. The player will think, 'I'm bloody immortal as long as I avoid my doom'. And you, as the DM, are in the perfect position to be an actively malicious universe. It's a wonderful game of cat and mouse, with the player trying their damndest to dodge their fate and the DM gleefully trying to shoehorn it in.

The best thing about this is that by being unable to kill a character 99% of the time, you are thus excused to pile on them a heap of suffering and sorrows. Sure, your character can't die to these orcs, but you can pass-out, lose your arm, be dangled on a rope and used as monster bait, end up in a stew pot, etc*.

For the truly industrious GM, such trials and tribulations can be used to break a character, who will then plead for their fate to finish them. Or maybe, in the process of trying to avoid their doom, they will enable it. Or find a clever loophole. There's a lot of classic options here.

  1. Turtle
  2. Flail
  3. Siege Weapon
  4. Whore
  5. Gold Coin
  6. Splinter
  7. Fire
  8. The Sea
  9. Villain in your game.
  10. PC in your game.
  11. The weapon you are currently using.
  12. Crane
  13. Dog
  14. Your Father's Hand
  15. Giants (Plural!)**
  16. Grass
  17. Goblin
  18. Greed
  19. Steve
  20. Macho Man Randy Savage
  21. A nine-fingered man.
  22. Under moonlight
  23. Child
  24. Falling
  25. Poison
  26. Wood
  27. Rats
  28. Royalty
  29. Witch
  30. Angel
Feel free to come up with more. Hound the player. Allude to their doom frequently, get them freaked out. Always give them either fair warning or time to respond. Make attempts at them, and embrace failure: the story of the PC constantly dodging their inevitable death is FANTASTIC.

* I believe that's called the "It Gets Worse" rule, and I'm cribbing it from Wampus Country.
** The plural thing is great for anything really.