Thursday, February 1, 2018

1d6 Black Men of Carcosa

Part of my d120 random Carcosan Backgrounds project. If you come up with any cool ideas for backgrounds, leave 'em in the comments below!

The Black Men of Carcosa, when set on fire, do not stop being on fire. They rarely notice the extremes of heat and cold at all. The engenders with them a variety of cultural quirks.

1 - Raptor Clan Raider
Your tribe would set themselves aflame and then bear down upon the enemy. You violated the ancient taboo against fighting your own on fire, and were cast out.

Starting Equipment
  • Scimitar with Asbestos Hilt: 1d6 damage, 1d8 when red hot.
  • Targe with Asbestos Handle: +3 AC
  • 3d12 T-Rex Teeth
  • Pet Velociraptor: Enthusiastic and doggishly devoted. 1HD, 1d6 damage bite.

2 - Wrathful Incarnation
You are a holy man; that you have spent the last 12 years on fire is proof enough of your faith. It is your job, by fear, intimidation, and violence, to lead your people to enlightenment.

Starting Equipment
  • Fireproof Loin Cloth
  • Kapala For Drinking Blood
  • Ceramic Begging Bowl
  • A Terrifying Reputation

3 - Night Rider Executioner
You collect metal armor. You also collect traitors. You put one in the other and set it all alight, watching the slow, screaming death. If the crime is slight enough, you can contain your enthusiasm to a single limb.

Starting Equipment
  • Double Crossbow: 1d6 damage, 20 bolts. Both triggers can be fired simultaneously.
  • Night Rider War Helm
  • Steel Cuirass, Gauntlets & Greeves
  • Shackles

4 - Black Star Company Scavenger
The space aliens made many fireproof devices. It's your job to find and collect them; the nomads pay a mint for this stuff.

Starting Equipment
  • Enormous Toolkit Backpack
  • Scanner: Detects space alien wrecked ships up to 3 miles away.
  • Bolt Pistol: 1d20 damage, bullets explode in 5 foot burst, 5 shots left.

5 - Traveling Barber
Your own kind usually shaves bald because burning hair smells horrid. Given the lack of material, you've had to venture farther to pursue your passion.

Starting Equipment
  • Space Alien Hair Dryer: 73/100 battery hours left.
  • Folding Stool
  • Grooming Kit w/ Small Mirror
  • An Abundance of Mustache Wax

6 - Tsarian Boar Hunter
No creatures is more cunning or more savage then the arctic boar. You hunt them all the same. You're always looking for weapons that can pierce their thick hides without vaporizing the psychotropic organs.

Starting Equipment
  • Snow Googles
  • Harpoon Gun: 1d8 damage, harpoon attached to rope.
  • Sleep Gas Grenade: 20 foot burst, make CON check or fall asleep.

Teach them wisdom through terror.

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 brown? 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.