Sunday, June 21, 2020

Oasis Kingdoms (Sunless Horizon)

A Sudden Turn

The Oasis Kingdoms are named for their placement - each one stands atop a resource, whether it's water, power, farmland, or rare metals.

Before the Retreat dragged the Navigator Houses to their door, the Oasis Kingdoms were unquestioned in their dominance. Everything they could see was their domain, and they had peace.

Their golden age has lasted for centuries, but with the death of their last ruler, Grand Patron Hetu, and the arrival of the violent, expansionist Houses, the decline has begun. 

One Long Bright Day

The Golden Age of the Kingdoms was marked by an intense focus on scholarship, philosophy, and the arts. The government sponsored painters, writers, and sculptors, built schools, and starting the Record - a full written history of the Oasis Kingdoms.



During the Golden Age, even the poorest farmer owned sculptures and paintings.
Trade between the Kingdoms was lucrative and constant. The literacy rate had spiked.

But all days end. 

Dusk

The death of Grand Patron Hetu is accepted as the start of the decline of the Kingdoms. As the Houses arrived and the new Grand Patron took office, the imperious nature of the Kingdoms was shaken.

They watched the Houses become a new power - far from the slow, peaceful Kingdoms, the Navigator Houses expanded violently, clearing land of threats before sealing themselves in walled cities and sending their armies out into the worldship.

The mood in the Kingdoms has started to change. While life is still good, and people still have food, art, and learning, the government's eye has shifted toward a darker pursuit - war.

War has been absent in the Kingdoms for centuries. The last remnants of the army are ceremonial, armed with long ribbon-covered spears and armored in thin, shining gold and copper. The leaders of the Kingdoms are desperate to move forwards, replacing their aging cavalry with modern machines.

Until then, the Kingdoms trade with the Navigators, giving away their wealth and art for guns and peace.


The Beliefs of the Kingdoms

The Kingdoms say all things are made of the 3 Perfect Shapes.

  • The Cube, which is solid, unchanging, and unmoving. The metal walls of Ein Sof are made of the Cube.
  • The Sphere, which is mercurial, agile, and distracted. Water dancing in the pipes that cross the ship are made of the Sphere.
  • The Tetrahedron, which is destructive, energetic, and consuming. Fire is made of the Tetrahedron, but so is electricity.
Most things are made of combinations of the shapes. Animals are made of the Tetrahedron and the Sphere, while Disciples are made of the Cube and Tetrahedron.

Only people are made of all 3 Perfect Shapes, and in them, the Shapes must be kept in balance. If you are made out of the Cube, you will become a hermit, never leaving your home or changing your ways. If you are made out of the Sphere, you will never be able to focus, and die early as your blood races in all directions. If you are made out of the Tetrahedron, you will be consumed by it, becoming violent.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Elves Rusted Your Sword, Made You Age, and Die Every Day

What Are Elves?
They are immortal, strange creatures, far older than Man and his ilk. They live far from the cities and roads, hidden in forests and other unmarred parts of nature. According to folk tales, they fear the touch of iron, delight in trickery, and hold mastery of illusions.

But this is the wrong question.
don't you just want to punch him in the face
Why are Elves?
That's much closer.

The properties of Elves lead many to say that they are spirits of nature, enraged at Man thanks to his callous and destructive ways. Others say they are simply an old race, more knowledgeable than Man, but the same in their core.

All of these people are wrong.

Elves are pure, elemental chaos, and that is what drives their actions.

Why are elves immortal? It is because life drives more chaos than the cold stillness of death, so they have chosen not to die. Despite this, they can be seen to age, as aging causes more change than not. As the sun rises, all the world's elves are newly born. When it sets, they are ancient.

They do not hate iron because of its smell, its taste, or its appearance. They hate it because it is a symbol of that most abominable thing - civilization, and the order that comes with it. Thus, they have laid a curse upon all metals - once they are touched by human hands, they begin to tarnish and rot. This curse was laid on all metals but gold, as all gold is owned by dwarves, those bastions of perfect order. They can bring this curse to bear against anything they deem opposed to them, crumbling stone, curling trees, and rotting flesh.

But this is not the only curse they have brought. There is another, far more subtle magic woven through everything and everyone you've ever seen. This curse is reproduction. Elves are why you have children - it leads to more mutations and alterations than replication. In a time long ago, they tricked all life into using this method, except for bacteria. As revenge, the elves shrank the bacteria and hid them, so no one could follow their example.

Elves hope to return the universe to its original, perfect state - a pile of atoms flying around a tiny box at incomprehensible speed. They know this goal would require them to die. 

They do not care.


Sunday, June 7, 2020

Walker-Tribes (Sunless Horizon)

No Place Like Home

Where the Navigator Houses survive through defense, covering themselves in a metal cocoon of walls and guns, the Walker-Tribes are more subtle, protecting themselves through stealth and movement. Their cities stagger across Ein Soph on metal legs, never stopping.

These cities are small, holding only the tribe's noble leaders, their families, and their slaves. Most free citizens will never leave the city, to keep themselves pure - the Tribes say there is something out there, something worse than Keter's machines or the marching armies of the Navigator Houses. They say the air can poison your mind, turning you into someone else. 

To protect themselves from the air, the cities are fully enclosed. The only air inside has been inside for as long as the Tribe can remember, and has been slowly tinged with the breath of the city. Anyone entering is purified by burning steam and chanted prayer. Public areas are hung with lanterns and holy scrolls.

All this effort is for a reason - not just to protect the people of the city, but to protect the city's mind.

kinnas


It Takes a Village

Deep within the cities of the Tribes is a growing mind - a seed AI, gained through means unknown. Perhaps they built them, under the instruction of some unknown entity. Perhaps they stole them, running from Keter's home with pieces of His brain.


The Tribes want to raise these minds as weapons - beings of scale equal to Keter's, able to topple Him from His throne. But to do this, they must keep the seed AIs safe as they grow, and ensure they are kept away from poisonous ideas. Every Tribe has heard stories of newborn minds catching a glimpse of something they shouldn't see, then throwing the city off a ledge in their possessed state.

Leadership

The seed AIs do not run the cities. They are simply tools, used to help stabilize the mech's stumbling footsteps or calibrate its cannons. The Tribes are lead by a King and Queen, with titles passed down by birth and marriage.

After the monarchs' eldest child turns 20, the monarchs vacate the throne and become Handlers - the only people trusted to speak to the nascent AI. Their wisdom and knowledge is undoubted by the Tribe, who trust the Handlers to pass these qualities to the seed mind.

Class Structure

The Walker-Tribes are divided into three social classes - the nobles, the citizens, and the slaves. The noble class is made up of the monarchs and their families, who serve as ambassadors to the outside, hidden behind oxygen tanks to protect themselves from the air.

The citizens work in jobs requiring communication and thought - they are artists, managers, and architects. Many work as engineers, piloting the dozens of heavy machines tethered to the city itself.

The slaves are made incapable of speech so they cannot spread the cursed air. As well as labor work, some serve in the retinues of ambassadors, giving them glimpses of an outside world they can rarely enter.

Resource Acquisition

A tribe's city is nearly self-sufficient: is produced within the walker, to make sure that the city doesn't have to wait for long cycles of planting and harvest. Water is collected from the outside in massive reservoirs, and air is recycled.

Nonrenewable resources like metal are harvested by the engineers' machines. When more precision is needed (such as pulling copper wire out of a larger structure), groups of slaves are led out under the supervision of these machines.

To War

The Walker-Tribes rarely march to war - it takes time and resources they can't lose. However, they are far from unprepared. Their cities are the largest mobile artillery outside of the Seraphim, able to crack through even the walls of the Navigator Houses. When the walls are breached, the city's doors open, and armed slaves are thrown out to kill and die. Once the city is empty, ambassadors take their retinues through the rubble to loot whatever remains.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

GLOG Reviews 3 - Minimal GLOG, Jar of Dirt, Nidus

It's been more than a year since I last reviewed some GLOG hacks, and since then there have been many, many more. So, after a bit of a shove from Oblidisideryptch, I decided I needed to get back to work and release some more reviews.

This is only the start - I've already found some more hacks that will be reviewed soon.

A note: I did not play any of these games, I only read them.

Minimal GLOG

Minimal GLOG is an attempt to package an almost entirely orthodox (read: like Rat on a Stick) GLOG ruleset in the smallest possible space.
  • Standard derived stats (Attack, Defend [called AC], Movement) except Stealth.
  • HP and Stat Bonuses use equations (CON - 4 and [Stat / 3] - 3 respectively).
  • May or may not be classless - the first page has rules for classless levelling, but someone else has added a section on more standard GLOG levelling.
  • Extra magic uses - Papercasting (codified use of scrolls) and Consultation (cast spell to ask it questions related to its purpose).
  • Appendix on miscellaneous rules - overland travel, hirelings, professions.
Minimal GLOG succeeds in its goal of being an incredibly concise version of the GLOG rules, but it fails to be complete and repeatedly references things it does not include - there are no listed professions or spells, for example.

But the question is - does a generic fantasy GLOG hack actually need any of these things? After all, the only thing that really matters to most readers is a good mechanic or two they can steal, and Minimal GLOG has that not just in its Papercasting and Consultation, but also in its simple HP and stat generation.

Jar of Dirt

In contrast to Minimal GLOG, Jar of Dirt is a large, setting-focused GLOG hack built to provide a low-magic piratical game.
  • Setting intro, largely stolen from Skerples' own pirate GLOG.
  • Uses d20 + half Stat ≥ 20 as a base system, instead of the more common roll-under.
  • Less hardcore stat generation - 4d4 base with switching and 2 free points to add.
  • 3-axis alignment (Superstitious/Skeptical, Romantic/Cynic, Traditionalist/Radical).
  • Fast healing - 1 hour of lunch returns 1d6+level, a night of sleep returns all HP.
  • 5e-style Exhaustion as an extra track for environmental hazards.
  • Hirelings are heavily abstracted and treated as a single mass in combat.
  • As well as Classes, characters have nationalities, professions, and skills, quickly and easily adding more character differentiation.
  • Levelling is based on Into the Odd - based on number of expeditions survived (as well as some extra requirements for high levels) and rewarding you with in-universe benefits.
  • Slightly more complex 5e-style combat.
  • Simple death and dismemberment seemingly a cross between the Many Rats table and Cavegirl's method.
  • Most classes are from Skerples' pirate GLOG, although some are from other sources. 
  • Ship rules (sailing exploration, ship combat, etc.) from Skerples' pirate GLOG.
  • Some setting-specific tables (I search the body, life goals, sailor's stories)
In terms of pirate GLOG rulesets, I prefer Jar of Dirt to Skerples' ruleset. While much of it is stolen from that hack, the core of the system is closer to what I tend to use. It's a very complete game, with plenty of subsystems (hirelings, ship rules) and resources (setting, tables) for the kind of campaign it's built for.
Nidus

Nidus is another short hack, meant to be a Call of Cthulhu-style supernatural horror game.
  • 5 stats - Brawn, Agility, Willpower, Vigor, and Luck.
  • Occupations give you a set of possible Connections (an Artist having a connection to a publishing house they've worked with) and letting you roll 5d4 for one of your stats.
  • Skills, ranked from 1-4. The value is added to your stat for relevant rolls.
  • Standard roll-under checks.
  • Combat is similar to Many Rats, with a couple changes - separate Melee and Ranged derived stats, and Defense being replaced with damage reduction.
  • Levelless system - every 3 critical failures or critical successes with a stat, you can attempt to increase it by rolling over it on 4d4. Skills are increased in the same way.
  • Into the Odd-style health - when your HP runs out, you get a Wound and start taking damage to your Vigor. The Death and Dismemberment table is a very simple d6 roll with death occurring if the same entry is rolled twice.
  • Simple meter-style tracking for Sanity - as the derived stat decreases, you gain penalties off a pair of tables.
  • Spellcasting is largely unexplained, but doesn't seem to work on a standard GLOG system - instead, each spell cast gives you a point of Corruption, causing you to take more HP damage.
This hack raises an interesting question - what counts as a GLOG hack? Nidus is labeled as a GLOG hack, but it doesn't have the 2 most common features of the GLOG - the Templates system and the MD-based spellcasting.

Either way, it has a few things possibly worth taking for a more traditional hack - the Death and Dismemberment system is wonderfully simple, and Nidus's skill system is one of the best ways I've seen skills implemented in a roll-under system.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Birth-Cursed Ghouls (Sunless Horizon)

The Ghouls were never meant to exist. They are a byproduct of Keter's biolabs, misshapen mutants grown from human stock meant for the Empyreans (I should probably rewrite that article, but here's the simple changes - they are no longer a dystopia, there are a load of them spread through the ship, and it's built to be an area found very late in a campaign, that leads into finding out Keter's goals) or modified genes built for His Seraphim.

When they are found by the Disciples, they are removed, and left in Ein Soph to die.

Their Society

Batches of Ghouls tend to stick together, forming small groups. Once they move to safety, they create encampments of tiny metal shacks and communal fires. Their technology is nearly nonexistent - they hammer together dull glass-tipped spears and small metal shields for hunting, set simple mechanical traps to defend their camps, and fill the halls of Ein Soph with firelight.

These tribes are very local, rarely ranging more than a mile from their camps. They are also very small, with about 50 people at the most.

Strangely, Disciples tend not to react to the presence of Ghouls, a fact they are happy to take advantage of. Many tribes keep a few Acolytes or other low-level Disciples tied down somewhere in their camps, to use as weapons and labor. According to the Navigator Houses, this means Ghouls are intrinsically evil - look at how these dark spirits follow them!


Alone in the Firelight

Ghoul nests are spread throughout the worldship - some were found by the Navigator Houses before the Retreat, where they were treated like pests. Jackals would be sent to kill them, wiping out entire nests in a day with incendiary weapons and mass gunfire.

The Houses feel no different after the Retreat, but they have had unexpected difficulty with these Ghouls. 

Even before the Retreat, the Ghouls here were hunted by the many Oasis Kingdoms, and each survivor teaches new nests ways to protect themselves. Older nests are not the simple villages Jackals are used to - they are fortified complexes webbed with thin tunnels the unencumbered Ghouls slip through with ease as Jackals are trapped by the bulk of their equipment.

Some nests are even larger threats - so dangerous that they are either destroyed at all costs or carefully avoided. These nests are those gifted with a broken Seraph. Ghouls call these crawling, mewling creatures Hanged Kings, and idolize them as the last remnants of their pasts. They are only spoken of in the past tense - they are only fragments. They are already dead.

Their Stories

The Ghouls say that once, in the past, the world was beautiful. They were tall and strong; they built cities under a benevolent god, and ruled over all they surveyed.

But slowly, painfully, that god died. Its body calcified into a maze of impervious walls, all without the light it used to radiate. Its spasms threw the world into disarray, shattering the utopia the Ghouls once had.

Some pieces of it still survive. Fragments, hidden in metal shells. These are servant-angels, left by their god to help them. Its heart still beats, and with every pulse more Ghouls rise from its blood. This heart is suffering, forever. It must be killed, so it can be at peace.

They say their god was not the only one who died. All the strange peoples of the worldship come from their own gods, entangled with this one. If you could dig your way out into the void, you could float among an infinite plane of frozen corpses.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Samurai Butterflies

Coming, as all other things do, from a strange discussion on the OSR discord.


The Samurai Butterflies are strange, ethereal creatures heralding from the Shining Isle, a wandering island that drifts across the oceans. Rarely, they wander into human lands, where they will gladly work as mercenaries, soldiers, and other combative professions, stating it is necessary for their kind to survive.

Some of them seem to remember events from long ago, and even events they say they died during. Whenever one dies, they shatter into a swarm of tiny blue butterflies, which fly in the direction of the Shining Isle.

HD: 0 (1 HP)
AC: 19
Movement: Flight 50', Walk 25'
Initiative: Always goes first.

Counter: When an attacker misses the Samurai Butterfly with a melee attack, the Butterfly immediately counters (as 1x Sword attack) and disarms the attacker.
Deflect Projectile: When an attacker misses the Samurai Butterfly with a ranged attack, the Butterfly catches and returns the projectile, using the attack's stats along with an extra +3 to hit.
Sever Magic: A single use of the Sword attack can be exchanged for a single charge of Sever Magic. If the Butterfly would be affected by a magical effect, it can choose to expend a charge and remove the effect.

Melee - Sword: 3 attacks with a +5 bonus to-hit, each dealing 1d8.
Ranged - Butterfly: The Samurai throws 3 small, blue butterflies, making 3 ranged attacks at a +3 bonus to-hit and dealing 1d6 damage.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

GLOG Class: Mime Thief

This class is built on the foundation created by Velexiraptor's Thieves' Guilds, which are an excellent framework to make all sorts of scoundrels. That post already has a standard Thief and a couple more particular sub-classes, so I'm not going to do that.

Instead, I'm going to go weird.

Mime-Thief

Hit Die: d6

Template A: 2 rank 1 abilities
Template B: +1 ability rank, +1 rank 1 ability
Template C: +2 ability ranks
Template D: +1 rank in all abilities, gain all abilities you don't have yet at rank 1

Abilities

1. Charades
Rank 1: You can communicate silently in a complex sign language. The rest of your party knows this code, but no one else does.
Rank 2: Your sign language has gotten more interwoven with the cultures and languages you know, becoming a web of silent references. Through this method, you can communicate in every language you know silently.
Rank 3: The silent language starts to work through the subconscious mind. You can communicate with anyone, no matter what language they speak, silently.

2. Invisible Object
Rank 1: You can create an invisible simple object, at most the size of your head. You are the only person who can touch this object. If you create another one, the first vanishes.
Rank 2: The object you create can be the size of your body. Other people can touch the object, but you cannot hurt people using it.
Rank 3: The object you create can be more complex - a lockpick, a sword, etc. You can damage people with the object. 

3. Distraction
Rank 1: People love your acts. When you begin to mime, everyone watching must make a Wisdom save or watch you for 1d6 minutes.
Rank 2: Everyone who fails their save will watch for a full 6 minutes.
Rank 3: People no longer get to make a save.

4. Silence
Rank 1: You are silent. Things around you are not. For example, you can walk or run silently, but if you knock over a vase, it makes noise.
Rank 2: You can choose up to 3 people. For 15 minutes, all three of those people are silent.
Rank 3: You can designate an entire area the size of a house. Inside this area, nothing makes noise for 1 hour.

5. Hidden Hands
Rank 1: You can instantly move something from your hand to storage, without moving your hands.
Rank 2: If you can reach someone, you can instantly move anything on their person into your pockets. You cannot do this to anything they are currently wearing or holding.
Rank 3: You can do this to things someone is currently wearing or holding.

6. Unnatural Movements
Rank 1: Using invisible handholds, you can climb vertical surfaces at your walking speed.
Rank 2: Once per day, you can walk through walls on your round.
Rank 3: Once per day, if you are not being watched for any amount of time, including blinking, you can completely hide yourself.

Sunless Horizon

Sunless Horizon is the most self-indulgent setting I'll ever make, taking inspiration from Veins of the Earth , Axis Mundi , HMS Apolly...