Tuesday, December 31, 2019

State of the Sorcery 2019

Well, it's that time again. Yule logs are crackling, a new Star Wars movie is out, I have to field calls from my relatives asking when I'm going to get my life together. But first let's look at how things went over the last year.

I wrote fewer posts this year mainly because I had other creative projects to balance, like starting a new campaign with some brand-new players. One of my bands recorded a new record so I spent most of the spring & summer practising really hard riffs that nobody will ever listen to! The Land's End crew still gets together about once a month for wilderness exploration and the players are having a great time. I'm learning a lot about the sandbox format in every session.




Most Popular Posts:

Why the OSR? / YOU RECOGNIZE NOTHING - As soon as I said I wouldn't get mad... We haven't been back to game with this group, for a handful of reasons including those I enumerate in the post. Sorry I got so pissy, but this post reached a LOT more people than my blog usually does, so I hope at least a few of you who came for the yells stayed for the skeletons and random tables.

Review: The Stygian Library - Not much else to say here, this is a great module. I will post a follow-up play report once my players have explored it. They're very close now, and I hope my personal touches don't twist it too far out of proportion.

RMGS Round 3 - My second-favourite of the series after Hyper Diabolism Edition. I break down the monster generators in the Tome of Adventure Design, Carcosa and the Gardens of Ynn.

Tomb of Abysthor - pt 2 - The Pit of Bones - Part of my ongoing attempt to adapt that venerable Necromancer Games/Frog God adventure for my home setting and rules. I'm glad people read this post, I'm proud of this little bit of my setting!

Return to Land's End sessions 8 & 9 - The most-read of my play reports! I'm glad someone likes these although I've fallen off writing them of late. They take too much time, I'd rather work on new material for my game. Maybe I can do more point-form reports that contain all the essence of these writeups, but take less time? I don't know if they'll be very interesting to read.


Least Popular Post:

REVIEW: Library Generation Table & Locks, Vaults and Hiding Places - and a blurb - I wonder why more people didn't check this one out? I suppose there isn't much point in reviewing something that's PWYW on DrivethruRPG, folks can just get it for free and see if they like it.


Failures:

Didn't get around to playing Warhammer with my group at home.
Posted less than I did last year.
Wrote more angry rants than I wanted to.


Successes:

Wrote a lot of reviews!
Wrote my 100th post!
My own writing made it into a printed book!
Started a new drop-in game with some players brand-new to D&D!
Refrained from publishing some of the angry rants that I did write!


What's coming next:

Land's End: The Tomb of Abysthor remix is progressing, the group have ventured inside and battled the relentless skeletons of the Font of Bones. I have edited the first two levels in an attempt to stay at least one whole level ahead of my players at all times, but the lower levels will require much MORE work than higher ones! The entire frog level basically needs to be deleted or completely rewritten for E6, same with the temple of Orcus. Meanwhile they are following up clues to the lost temple of Mordiggian the Charnel God, and about to venture into the drowned lands where the lizardfolk live!

Viridistan: My new drop-in game is set in & around Viridistan, the City-State of the World Emperor. After watching what Ben L. did with the Wilderlands for his game, I was inspired to read up on it. I have placed Land's End there so both games take place within the same world. This one will have less wilderness adventuring. Instead it focuses on cults, conspiracies, city adventuring, socializing, random tables, and reskinning all my LotFP adventures with a more Swords & Sorcery theme. In other words, only & entirely things I've never done before! So expect catastrophic failure, or at least some hilarious gaffes along the way.

Fun on the Velvet Horizon: A few of these are in progress, hopefully they'll be done this year.

Summoning Rules: My adaptation of Ben L's awesome monster-summoning pact rules will hopefully continue this year. This is closely tied with FotVH of course.

Nameless Cults: More of these will be added. I have selected six of the seven demon-lords that rule the forces of Chaos in Land's End. Further development on the cults of Orcus, Tsathoggua, Abraxas and more is upcoming, along with some antagonists that aren't 'infernal' so much as 'extraterrestrial'...

Play Reports: probably not!

More new material: I have written a few original dungeons for Land's End that crib from my favourite bloggers less than usual. Nothing to make a big deal out of, about the size of a dungeon from Fight On! But if my players have fun playing 'em, I'll reproduce them here for you guys to check out.

Reviews: Well, I did buy a fuckton of new gaming books this year! It'll take me a while just to read em all. I'll write up a few just keep my hand in, you understand. I am so busy that I would rather dedicate my limited blogging time to playable things for my setting. Still, if I can drive a handful people towards a really cool product, that's worth doing.

Review, Remix, Repent: I am teeing up on a controversial, well-reviewed but much-maligned module, one which perhaps fell victim to the hype surrounding it. I am attempting to extract the interesting parts. We'll see if it ends up being more work than it's worth, and who wants to lynch me after.


*****

Happy new year everyone, drive safe and drink lots of water!!


Friday, December 27, 2019

K.I.O.S. - Knights In Orcus' Service


So... I read the Metamorphica Revised. I bought Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness on eBay. I dug into the classic Chaos Patrons Revisited. I love Noisms' idea and it's an inspiration for this post but it doesn't exactly suit my setting, which has exactly seven demon lords. I thought I would have more fun if I wrote up a unique table for each demonic patron! So here is my take on the Gifts of Orcus, done in the classic style of Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness.


Chaos Patron: Orcus

[Stats are for both stupid systems since I run E6 Mathgrinder and Labyrinth Lord]

Like all Demon Lords, Orcus grants gifts to his devout clergy and lay servants alike. When a cultist gains a level they must roll on the Gifts of Orcus table below, according to this scheme:

-Single-classed clerics roll every level starting with 2nd.
-Non-cleric cultists roll on every even-numbered level.

Those who convert to Orcus late in life (after 1st level) must immediately make all the rolls they're entitled to while being inducted through a terribly painful ritual of some kind (sleeping amongst corpses for 6 days and nights, ritual flayings, etc). This changes the character's alignment to chaotic if it wasn't already. Under some circumstances a character may be able to avoid death by signing on with Orcus (just like in Chaos Patrons Revised), but this would require a save to avoid undeath as in result 97-99, and maybe some bonus rolls on the table just to teach them a lesson.

Advancing the cause of the demon lord can affect the gifts he grants. The DM will adjudicate a modifier ranging from -15% (extremely happy, you've advanced the cause of Orcus) to +15% (extremely disappointed, report for torture immediately). Orcus dislikes when undead are harmed but violence among his living cultists is fine, provided his long-term plans aren't ruined. Only the strong are deserving of his gifts.


Goblinoid Games


GIFTS OF ORCUS: d100

1-4 Infernal Assistance - Granted a demonic minion of HD equal to your level. It serves faithfully until destroyed, but may have its own agenda or tasks to fulfill.

6-11 Black Crushing Sorcery - Learn a random necromantic spell from the cleric or M-U list. If normally incapable of casting it due to class or level, the cultist can use it once per day as a spell-like ability. Roll d100 for spell level, with the same modifier used on the main Gifts table: 01-10 4th level, 11-30 3rd level, 31-60 2nd level, 61-00 1st level.

12-17 Grave Goods - Orcus grants the cultist a useful item from the abyssal treasure-vaults of the restless dead. Its purpose may be obscure, but it will always be something he is able to use. This is an opportunity to give the character a clue like a treasure map, mysterious key, one of those artifacts from Goblin Punch that I like so much or just a good magic item. If you're absolutely out of ideas, maybe use those tables from Realms of Crawling Chaos.

18-22 Familiar - Orcus grants the cultist a familiar. It takes the shape of (1d6) 1-4 a skeletal or zombie animal, 5-6 an imp or quasit.

[PF: standard familiar rules apply / LL: use this]

23-30 Undead Servants - A cadre of lower-level undead appear beside the cultist. Consult the 'Type of Undead' table below and subtract four from the cultist's level to determine kind and number. Mindless undead will obey until destroyed. Those of free will are more like hirelings or henchmen and are reluctant to undertake suicide missions, may have their own goals, etc.

31-35 Chaos Armour - Orcus grants the cultist a suit of bad-ass chaos armour. It will be a random type of metal armour irrespective of character class. If the cultist can't or won't wear it he may pass it on to someone else. I suggest allowing NPC cultists to cast spells in chaos armour without penalty.

Regardless of make & material, the armour gains the following magical bonuses every time this gift is rolled. [PF: +1 to AC, grants DR 5/magic or law / LL: +1 to AC, +1 weapons are required to hit the cultist while wearing this armour].

Make a save when the armour is first worn, or if this gift is rolled again [PF: Will DC 20 / LL: vs spells at -2] or it bonds to the wearer and cannot be removed short of a limited wish or similar magic.

36-41 Demon Weapon - A magic weapon appears at the cultist's feet, of a kind he is able to use. Inside is the bound spirit of a demon of the lower planes. Use the Realm of Chaos daemon weapon rules if you can figure them out, the ones in the Metamorphica, or create an intelligent magic sword as per the DMG. It is always chaotic in alignment and serves Orcus, although may have its own personal goals.

[Tables for creating demon weapons may go here, if I can get around to it]

42-49 Death Mask - The cultist is granted an ornate and valuable ceremonial mask. At 2nd level it is made of a base material like lead, iron or bone. As the cultist gains experience the mask's value climbs commensurately [100 gp per level] and it transmutes to copper, silver, then gold. Rolling this gift again doubles the mask's value and decoration each time: old and powerful cultists have ritual masks carved in wild patterns and studded with precious gems, and these are usually still worn while serving in Orcus' undead legions.

They don't do anything magical. Just hide your deformities, look ballin' and are worth a fair bit of dough when the forces of Law loot your corpse!

50-52 Rictus - The cultist's face melts into the desiccated, eyeless grin of a corpse. [PF: -6 CHA / LL: -3 CHA] All who come within 10' and see his face are struck with supernatural dread. 

[PF: Will DC 12 + (cleric level or 1/2 other class level) or frightened for 1d4 rounds / LL: As the spell Cause Fear]

53-56 Mark of Orcus / Dead Truce - His symbol is seared permanently onto the cultist's face, hands or some other prominent place for all to see. If an undead creature sees the symbol it must succeed on a save in order to attack the cultist, although it is free to attack his companions or take any other action. Free-willed undead are not affected.

[PF: Will DC 10 + (cleric level or 1/2 other class level) + CHA bonus / LL: Roll on the turn undead table as a cleric of your level.]

57-62 Lich Touch - The cultist develops an icy-cold aura. His breath fogs even in warm weather and raindrops freeze on his skin. Touch an opponent in melee to deal cold damage.

[PF: 1d8 + 1/2 level / LL: 1d10]

63-66 Face of the Goatlord - The cultist's face deforms to resemble a monstrous, fanged black goat. His voice takes on a hircine quality and he may stutter or bleat from time to time. If he already owns a Mask of Orcus, it will change to fit his new anatomy.

67-79 Marked by the Grave - An aura of undeath surrounds the cultist, so roll on this great table by Necropraxis.

80-83 Mummified - The cultist's skin becomes withered and leathery, and his voice croaks with the dust of the tomb

[PF: +4 AC, -4 CHA, +50% damage from fire / LL: +2 AC, -2 CHA, +1 damage per die from fire attacks]

84-87 Skeletonized - One random limb shrivels painfully into an appendage of bone. Roll d4: 1 left arm, 2 right arm, 3 left leg, 4 right leg.

A withered arm gives [PF: -4 STR / LL: -2 to hit & dmg] with any task involved. A withered leg reduces your movement speed [PF: -5' per round / LL: From 120' to 90' or from 90' to 60', you get the idea]

88-90 Contagion - The cultist is infected with an incurable disease of some kind: leprosy, the black plague, red ache, the trembles, polio. It is survivable, but not without damaging the cultist's body irreversibly. However, it can now be transmitted by touch:

Roll 1d6, and count down the stats on your character sheet in whatever order they're written. That statistic is reduced by 1d3 points, permanently. The cultist may touch opponents in melee to damage that same characteristic by 1d3 points. Whether the cultist's victims can recover from this disease or the attribute damage is up to your system and your DM. Play hard...

[PF: Fortitude DC 10 + (cleric level or 1/2 other class level) + CON / LL: Save vs. poison].

91-93 Dead Already - The cultist's organs begin to wither as his body prepares itself for unlife. For now he is still alive and needs to eat, sleep & breathe, but is harmed by Cure and healed by Inflict spells just like undead creatures. He cannot recover hit points naturally, is immune to bleeding damage & won't bleed out below 0 HP, is immune to sneak attacks and critical hits.

94-96 Level Drained! - The cultist loses one level and all corresponding abilities, spells, saves, etc. He retains all experience points and can advance to the next level as normal to make up his losses. I like these Necropraxis level-drain rules, they're what I use at home.

97-99 WAKE UP! TIME TO DIE - The judgement of Orcus descends. The cultist must make a saving throw [PF: Fortitude DC 20 / LL: vs. death with a -2 penalty]. If it's failed by a margin greater than [PF: 10 points / LL: 5 points], he is instantly slain! If the save is failed by a smaller margin, Orcus grants his follower hideous unlife. Refer to the 'Type of Undead' table below based on your level.

If the save is passed, Orcus spares your miserable life for now. Take gift 42-49: Death Mask instead.

00 Chaos Attribute - Found unworthy of a divine gift! Roll on a giant mutation table instead. I'll be using the Metamorphica or you can go back to the original Chaos Attributes table, or I have an old compilation of tables here that includes plenty of greats.


* Type of Undead Table *

-2: skeleton (1-6)
-1-0: skeleton (2-8)
1-2: skeleton (2-12)
3-4: zombie (2-12)
5-6: ghoul (2-12)
7-8: wight (2-8)
9-10: mummy or wraith (2-5)
11-12: vampire or spectre (1)
13+: death knight or lich! (1)


*****

Next up for this treatment: Abraxas! In the meantime, here is some goatlord-approved music:


Friday, December 6, 2019

Random Monster Generator Spotlight 5 - The Metamorphica Revised

I haven't been too loud on the blog for a few weeks, but plenty of gaming is happening over here. The Land's End crew is halfway to fourth level and very busy indeed - they raided the twin snake-man towers of science & sorcery, stole some ancient technology and just committed their first "war crimes" against the Neanderthals!

I also started running some LotFP adventures I have lying around with a gang of newbies. The first session was a blast (we played No Salvation for Witches) and I'm working on a follow-up. Maybe I'll talk about it all sometime but I find regular narrative play reports a bit tiring to write and they aren't nearly as exciting as those old Planet Algol ones I loved so much.

These days I'm running out of random monster generators to compare. Instead I want to dive deeply into a book that really blew my mind:

*****

THE METAMORPHICA REVISED

By Johnstone Metzger
Released by Red Box Vancouver
Print ($20) and pdf ($10) on DTRPG here
On Lulu softcover or hardcover

I remember perusing the Metamorphica Classic (still free to download right here) and thinking "yeah, this is pretty cool." The revised edition has updated that sentiment to a well and true stoking. This book is like Frank's Red Hot: I want to put that shit on everything.

It's sort of hard to review because it's so fucking large. Even ONE section from this 269-page beast would be a useful book in its own right. The Metamorphica Revised has it all: Tables. Tables of other tables. References. Sub-tables. Categories of other tables that refer to sections of larger tables. Mutants. Science. Plant monsters. Psionics. Super-heroes. Demons. Animal-men. It's all presented in a comprehensive way and organized so it can be used for various applications depending on your game (more on this later). There are no stats provided, everything is system-neutral. Normally I would hate that but it works here as you'll see.


The Big One

The main body of the book is the d1000 mutation table. Metzger gives us many ways to use it. We can roll a d1000 if we want but the various mutations are grouped by type, allowing us to roll through numerical brackets to get something particular if we want a physical, mental, psychic or supernatural mutation.

The entries themselves vary widely and are too numerous to list (they go on for 111 pages). Many entries are 1 in 1000! Simple stuff like "herbivore," "multiple heads" or "kidney stones" sits next to weird shit like "heal brain," "bag of creatures" or "demonic phenomena" (a four-page d200 table on its own). There are more results here than I could ever use. No statistics or numbers are provided, leaving every DM to adapt or create rules for each mutation in their own game.

The only gripe I can think of is that Metzger included ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING he could think of on this table. I am not sure when I'd find a chance in my game to straight up roll d1000 and play through. But that's okay, because the next sections show us how to use the book in even more ways:


Additional Tables

This is where this book really shines. This image is from the beginning of the book, but it conveys the idea. Check this out:




Do you see those grey numbers along the side? Those are PAGE NUMBERS. All the tables are like this! Can you imagine what a bitch this book would be without them? Indexing like this makes it worthwhile to recompile the giant d1000 table in different ways for various applications, as Metzger does throughout. Physical and mental, beneficial and detrimental mutations are grouped up so you can get something for your purposes instantly.

This section also includes a whack of tables for generally useful things. Randomly determining colours, body parts, animals, materials, monster powers, bizarre features, etc.


Themed Sections

This is where the book really gets awesome! Metzger recombines elements from the great d1000 table in new ways, and offers brand-new entries to serve a specific genre.

After The Fall - Tables for your post-apocalyptic mutant game. Mutant plants, beastlings, hyperevolved animals, pages of new tables for generating mutant hordes, and a whole d1000 table for the scavenged detritus a mutant might carry around.


The Ficto-Technica - The longest themed section, this one is totally mental and took me a while to get my head around. An abstract system for generating science-fiction devices and magic items, it works by combining prefixes, suffixes and descriptive terms to name the item and leaving you to decide what it does. Combinations are sorted by type of technology, like 'the corrupt arts,' 'the pure sciences' or 'genotech.' The magic item tables come right at the end and include guidelines for living or demon-possessed items, magical armour & weapons and strange magical gear. You won't find any +1 swords, and like the rest of the book you'll have to do the heavy lifting after the tables give you the kernel of an idea. Want more Goblin Punch-style artifacts for your OSR game? You could do a lot worse than this.


Popular Science - This section is short and sweet, mostly consisting of brand-new tables. Procedures for creating space aliens, comic-book superheroes and anthropomorphic animals, along with guidelines for rolling up mutations on the main table based on what kind of scientific experiments you were subjected to.


Swords of the Chaos Lords - This is basically Realm of Chaos part three and for my home game it's worth the price by itself! Much will be old hat to anyone familiar with those venerable Warhammer books. Guidelines for creating infernal sorcerers, demons, chaos champions and - you better believe it - chaos spawn. Most of the tables in this section point to existing mutations from earlier and group them up in different ways. Tables for the ill-effects of infernal sorcery, summoning mishaps, demonic motivations and a full d1000 table of bonus 'infernal characteristics' round this section out.

As an example, let's create a Lesser Demon. This is complicated and comes with some 'default' mutations like Immune to Disease and Immune to Poison, but I'll stipulate to those and assume that you know what the 'outsider traits' are in your own game system. This is what I rolled:

Body: Cactoid with the head and left foot of a dog

Superhuman strength
Invasive
Increased metabolism
Inhuman features push through this demon's skin when it is angry, wind and storms follow this demon wherever it goes, prayers or declarations of love cannot be spoken, vehicles crash and spin out of control.

Demonic Equipment: Retinue of lesser demons, Retinue of damned souls, Magical armour

Motivation: Inspires the careless expenditure of resources, so they are used for no good purpose.

I dare you to put this thing in your game and not have a memorable session at the very least! I need to roll up its magic armour, so let's flip back to the Ficto-Technica:

Shape: Amulet
Powers: Grants the wearer 2 mutations when worn: Arcane Tracking, Absorb Mental Properties.

That's a fantastic magic item! It might even be worth tangling with this dog-headed cactus demon. I think a DM that drew on these tables for demonic antagonists would start triggering acid flashbacks in his players pretty quick. I want to play in that game.


Overall

In a word: thorough. Absurd breadth and variety, collected and organized. Procedures and ideas tailored to the genre you want. For such a massive database, Metzger really knows how to make this thing usable and easy.

A few minor quibbles: there could have been more page references when the book directs you to a distant table, which happens a lot. The grey page numbers along the sides of the tables are a bit faint in the print version, it actually took me a while to notice them. And an absolutely demented degree of cross-referencing does sometimes happen.

How Many Rolls: 1 or more... sometimes lots more.
Would I use this in the middle of a session: Depends on the application - there is a LOT of cross-referencing and page-flipping. You might want to get some sticky tabs. To generate a new creature, no. For its intended purpose of mutating your characters, hell yes!
Variety and Reusability: Approximately 1 lifetime of gaming. "Creativity aid, not creativity replacement."


Johnstone Metzger, I bow to your dark genius.