Saturday, February 8, 2020

AD&D 2e NPCs

Ways of Flesh, Power of Mind

I am called Zeren. My ways are my own, and my future is unknown to all save Zerthimon. My, past, however, is open to those who are worthy to know. I see into your heart, and I will consider you worthy.

Long before I was born, a group of 'zerth broke free from the king of the Githzerai, establishing a keep in the city of Sigil. They had come to _know_ of other Arts, used by the illithids, that the arts of a zerth had little defense against. They _knew_ that this power came from within, and so established their monastery so that they might _know_ it further.

Time became their ally, as Zerthimon taught. Each small step provided a foundation for the next, until a large victory could be claimed: The first 'zerth to _know_ the Ways of the Mind was trained. His body, however, was weak, and he could not long endure. The balance of his mind and body was not maintained.

A new generation, however, was trained by him, and by the zerth who _knew_ the ways of war. At first, they were taught with steel, as was the way of 'zerth for many centuries. It was learned, though, that studies of the Way of the Mind left little time to master the Scripture of Steel. So, another generation passed while the 'zerth came to _know_ the Ways of Flesh; though the Way of Flesh was the tool of the illithids, it came easily to those who _knew_ themselves.

Generations have passed since then, and the Ways of Flesh, Mind, and Steel have since merged. I spent my youth learning of them, in our monastery in Sigil. Many studied with me, but only I survived the loss of Sigil... and our home. The ancient enemy of The People, the illithids, have raised their many-tentacled heads, and they stand with those that have destroyed our home, and disrupted the balance that must exist in all things, if anything is to exist.

I am the last of my kind, though the People persist. Where they stand, I know not. I know only that I must stand where the balance demands. My thoughts have gone to a world known as Toril, and my spirit tells me this is where the balance can be decided. Thus, that is where my flesh shall go. May Zerthimon's coming be soon.

Rifts NPCs

Various characters from Rifts games past

Daggen Steelskull, Dwarven Techno-Wizard
A Dwarf's Story

Look, I done some bad things in my life. I've faced up to those, ya know? Ya can't go through this life hating yerself fer ev'rythin' that you done... ya just gotta face up to yer past and try ta make up fer it, anyway ya can.

Growin' up dwarf ain't easy. Fer one thing, it takes too bloody long. I spent all my time buildin' shit, and then takin' it apart... or the oth'r way 'roun'. I got tak'n in early by this weird ol' fart on de edge o' da settlement, who taught me how to build shit better. No need for some o' the shit normies gotta go through ta get their shit to work, just mumble some words, think about it, and the damn thing works. I could get used ta this kinda shit, I thinks, so I see what 'e can teach me.

I worked for that bastard for ten years, the last two of which he hemmed and hawed about teachin' me stuff, till I realized he couldn't. I stole what I could, left a note that said so long, and took his daughter with me for entertainment along the way... and ta keep him from followin' too close, like. She didn't like me too much, but she got docile enough when I blew the tree in half, then threaten'd ta do the same ta her. We had ourselves a real good time, ya see... gods, I wish I could take it all back, but can't, not after what... but I'm ahead o' meself.

4th edition Ars Magica NPCs

A magus, two consortes, and grogs designed around two separate campaigns.

Andrei Kilianus

For the past three generations, the family Kilianus has produced magi for House Jerbiton. This constant reliance upon one family, and our involvement in their affairs, meant that our line has something of a bad reputation in Transylvania as meddlers, but no convictions have yet been made; just many, many accusations. It started with my great-great-uncle, Sergei, who was taken by Constantus scholae Jerbiton, and then turned around and deposed his own brother from the county seat, placing another nephew there. Sergei's filia was my aunt, Helena Kilianus, eldest sister of my father, Valdemar, and she labored hard to gain my father the hand of my mother. I am his eldest son, Andrei Kilianus, filius Helena Kilianus, filia Sergei Kilianus, filius Constantus scholae Jerbiton.

In my third year, my mother died bringing forth my younger sister, also a Helena. By the end of the fourth year, my father had married Dagny, a shrewish woman from the county Brasov. She soon had my brother, Radoslav Kilianus, and doted upon him, flesh of her flesh. For all that Helena and I were her husband's children, it seems that she hated us from Radoslav's birth, and raised her boy in her own image. I saw less of it; I was taken in my seventh year by my aunt to live in her apartments in Bucharest. It was not an arduous apprenticeship, as such things go. I was well cared for, certainly, and my aunt would spend her summers at our family home near Cluj Napoca. My father obviously favored me, especially, and it helped not that Dagny had become more shrewish as years went by, always speaking against myself and Helena; she regarded both of us as drains upon Radoslav's patrimony. Father would not hear of it, but I could tell that her harping was wearing on him, seeming frailer with each year that passed.

In the year before my Gauntlet, Valdemar Kilianus passed away. To me, he deeded the High Meadows, a half-hide of land on a plateau at the edge of the county, for my own and free of duties or taxes. Radoslav, now sixteen and a man of his own, immediately sent my "spinster" sister (only three years his senior!) to a convent. With mater Helena's help, I was able to secure her a comfortable position there, and maintain my patrimony, but it only confirmed the hatred Radoslav and Dagny carry for me.

Friday, February 7, 2020

5th Edition Ars Magica NPCs

Some characters I created for a few different on-line Ars Magica games.

Zorya of House Bjornaer
Zorya was raised high in the Novgorood Tribunal, somewhere near the spring of Dnjepr. She does not remember her early life at all; her life seems to begin in her apprenticeship to another Eula von Bjornaer, a reclusive hermit who had retreated to the deep forests for his solitude. Zorya was his daughter, in spirit if not in body, and the only person whose presence he tolerated for more than a fortnight.

Despite Eula's reclusiveness, Zorya received a thorough hermetic education, though one far more dependant upon vis and direct instruction than most. This meant that her apprenticeship was fairly long, though she is somewhat vague on precisely how long. Eula was visited often by the locals for his wisdom, and their tribute to him allowed him to gather materials for what could not be taught by rote memorization. Zorya recognized the value of wisdom, both practically and in terms of reputation, and studied hard, hoping to gain it for herself.

Blood of Ancient Lore

This an adventure/campaign idea/campaign subtext that I came up with while reading the Rulebook for Birthright. It might have already been done, or be contradicted by official material. Anyway, I'm just basing this off an idle thought, and not much more.

All the blooded of any education know of Ghoigwnnwd, the sidhe smith who created tighmaevril, and they know of it's wondrous and ghastly powers. What few realize, however, is that Ghoigwnnwd had been touched by the Blood of Vorynn. He had only the barest mark of Vorynn on him, but it was enough to infuse him, and his descendants, with a tainted bloodline.

A talented and dedicated smith, Ghoigwnnwd had little time for children early in life... his drive was almost human in its intensity and singleness of focus. However, time can mellow even elven passions, and he eventually sired my father, who in turn had his head turned by a young human woman. I know all this. I know everything that my father and grandfather did, up until the time of the birth of their son, for I am the blood of Vorynn.

And I know how to create and work tighmaevril.-The Journal of Rovy Half-elven

Obviously, a lot about that previous set-up can be changed. However, I think the implications are obvious. A few ideas, though, for those who might want them:

Adventure: A group of characters learns of the grandson of Ghoigwnnwd, and of his abilities. Unfortunately, so has another regent... one who stands against them. How do they keep Rovy out of the hands of their opponents? And how do they convince him to work for them?

Campaign sub-text: A particularly interesting, though difficult to manage, option is for Rovy to be a PC (likely a non-regent PC). His past and abilities are things he must keep secret, or risk losing his freedom (or his life) to any of the factions or regents who might cover the secret of tighmaevril.

Campaign Idea: An entire campaign could easily center around a regent (or group of regents) attempting to not only gain control over Rovy, but gather the necessary materials to create tighmaevril... without alerting their enemies that they're doing so. After all, if a specific type of ore that is largely useless otherwise is needed for tighmaevril, what are other regents going to think when one of their number works to corner the market on it? And the first use of tighmaevril weapons unknown to the sages is going to cause a stir... especially if a lot are used.

House Diedne

Again, written for Ars Magica, 4th edition, based on similar write-ups in 3e's Houses of Hermes. It uses some rules for Mystic Companions and Natural Magicians found in the 4e resource, Hedge Magic.

House Diedne
Motto: Beata Terra beata omnia eam servant (Blessed be Earth and all who serve her)
Symbol: An oak stump with a slender tree beginning to grow from it. This symbol was adopted after the Schism War. Before the war, the symbol was two staves (or, in rare cases, spears) parallel to each other, running vertically over a wreath of leaves.

Diedne: DEED-nay

"Then, we will join your `Order of Hermes', entering into the protection of you and yours. We will teach you all you are ready to know, and learn your style of magic, but we will always remain ourselves, separate, yet within the whole."
-Diedne's covenant with Bonisagus upon forming House Diedne.

"I welcome you to the Order of Hermes, amica, and pledge the protection of myself, my filii, and the Order to the House Diedne."
-Bonisagus, welcoming Diedne to the Order

Diedne magi serve two Orders: the Order of Hermes and the Order of the Wise, the order of Druids into which they are initiated after finishing their nineteen year apprenticeships and completing their apprentice's gauntlet. Never more than nominally Hermetic, that trait has become more pronounced in recent years, in the years following the Schism War.

Failed Apprentices

Something I wrote for Ars Magica (likely 4th edition, available from Atlas Games), that was featured in Mythic Perspectives, a fanzine.

Failed Apprentices in Mythic Europe

There are very few failed Hermetic apprentices in Mythic Europe, and much rarer is the one with any real magical power. The vast majority of apprentices eventually become magi or die in the process. Most apprentices who are orphaned are snatched up by other magi, and those who flee are often found. Those whose Gifts are damaged or destroyed find employment with a covenant, making use of what skills they learned to live part of the life of a magus. Given their rarity, what circumstances result in a failed apprentice, especially one not under the close watch of the Order of Hermes? How does the Order produce a talented hedge wizard? Understanding these factors is the key to using a failed apprentice in a Saga, either as a magus or companion player character, or as a Storyguide character.

Coalition States Technical Officer MOSs and Adventure Hooks

The CS Technical Officer OCC is perhaps the most diverse O.C.C. in the game. It can cover everyone from the Combat Engineers to the CSNET cybercops to the speechwriters in the Ministry of Truth. While the front-line fighting force is made up of grunts, if they can still fire their weapons, they're going to be thanking a CS Technical officer. Almost every non-combat job, and more than a few combat jobs, are filled by the Technical Officer O.C.C..

The key to the Technical Officer's flexibility is the wide variety of M.O.S.s (Military Occupational Specialties) that he can take. Each M.O.S. represents an area of special training that the Technical officer has had; carried far enough, one could almost call the Coalition Grunt O.C.C. a Technical officer with the M.O.S. of combat infantry, or a RPA pilot someone with the Piloting M.O.S.. Members of the Technical Officer O.C.C. go through basic training just like everyone else, but they are recognized, both by their drill instructors and by the battery of tests that they undergo during training. Those who show aptitude for technical fields are separated out during certain portions of the training and given additional tests. Those who pass are sent to advanced training after basic, where they learn their M.O.S.. Those who fail wind up having to work twice as hard during the rest of basic training to make up for it.

Move as the Spirits Move Ye...

The tent was dark, and the cloying scent of perfume and burning incense only made the oppressive atmosphere seem heavier. A wizened old dwarf woman sat at the table, looking hopefully at the beautiful human girl who sat across from her, eyes closed. The human began to speak, her eyes still closed as she looked at places the dwarf could never hope to see.
"Darkness... all I see is darkness... to my left, a light appears... I turn towards it. I see your husband, Widow Gretchen. He is well, and wishes to speak..."
Suddenly, the human stiffened, her body twisting slightly, then standing tall, like a man. The voice that issued forth was not one of a young human, but rather of a strong dwarven man. "Gretchen, it has been so long. I watch over you, still, but you need to know where I hid the chest. Look three steps south of the tree we first kissed under. I'll be waiting there for you, Gretchen. I will always wait there for you."
The girl collapsed, exhausted. Her eyes shining with tears, the Widow Gretchen placed a handful of coins on the table. She knew where her man was... and, almost as importantly, the gold he'd saved for a rainy day.

The Spiritualist is perhaps one of the oldest psychic classes in existence. Much like Shamans, their skills are directed towards dealing with the nebulous spirit world and its denizens. However, unlike Shamans, their skills come from no God, only from their own will and inner strength. While most _true_ spiritualists use these skills conscientiously, a few are many rogues who will fake a possession in order to dupe innocent people out of their money. Thus, travelling spiritualists must be careful that they are not mistaken for (or caught being) one of these con men. Those who play with the emotions of people (and fail to get away) are not likely to live very long.

In order to contact the spirits of the dead, the Spiritualist uses a mastery of many common psionic powers. Their focus allows them to use these powers in ways not available to less specialized psychics. The most important of these is Commune with Spirits, which allows them not only to speak with the dead, but to ask them for favors and information. This can make a Spiritualist a dangerous opponent, if one wrongs one (or skips a payment).

Good Morning, Weathercock

A Magical Item of Meager Means

The Weathercock is an iron weathervane, shaped to resemble a rooster, and covered with runes and arcane symbols (though these will only be visible from close up). Created only recently, it was a gift from a young alchemist to his brother, who owned the family farm and had supported him through school. The design was fairly simple to make and rather innocuous in use, so it was widely disseminated in the East, and has now found its way across the continent, and is available from most alchemists (though usually must be special ordered, as it is too expensive for the common farmer, and beneath the notice of the usual customers of alchemists).

The device is imbued with a very simple intelligence (IQ 5), that is focussed towards a particular person's land (that person's name, a piece of hair, or a similar connection must be included in the device), and its sole purpose is to improve the quality of his harvest. Towards that end, it has several magical abilities that it can use, though they are very focussed in their use.
Resist Cold (Once a week, protecting crops from snap freezes)
Protection From Energy (all lightning strikes, even magical ones, on the protected property are redirected to harmlessly hit the weathercock)
The abilities of a Summon Elemental Forces circle, but directed by a very simple and benign intelligence.
Cost to make: 400gp
Cost to buy: 1000gp

Campaign Uses

1) While in combat, none of either side's Call Lightning spells will hit anybody... it turns out that its because someone has one of these set up about half a mile away, and all the spells are being diverted to there.
2) One of these goes berserk, and using all of those summoning circle abilities to completely trash the surrounding country side.... can you imagine having to fight an idiot who is practically invincible and controls the weather?

Healing Spells for Wizards

The Healer's Grimoire

Back in late November/early December of 2000, I got into a very large argument on the WotC message boards; specifically, RPG.DnD.Core_PH.Spells, about wizards and healing magics. I maintained that Arcane magic was just as capable of healing as Divine magic, cited several examples, and expected the rest of the world to bask in my brilliance. I won't rehash the arguments here, but let it suffice to say that I was largely shouted down. People, for some reason, were unwilling to give wizards Cure Light Wounds and related spells.
The arguments, however, did produce some useful results: a set of several Wizardly healing spells, operating on slightly different principles from the WotC usual "infusion of Positive Energy bolsters your life force." I came up with most of these based on the arguments placed against me, others by stealing from Ars Magica, and a few from simply extrapolating a combination of magic and medieval medicine. So, here are a few spells that can be added to wizardly grimoires, to provide a few more options for the masters of magic.

Scouring the Old Website

So, I remembered that I used to actively maintain a website, with hand-coded HTML, that I've had since college... 20+ years now, still hosted by a friend. For my own amusement, I've gathered a few of the articles off that page and will be reposting them here. Some, I may update to new editions or rules, but I'll try to post them "pure", as well. They won't be tagged in any special way; this is just to explain to people who have been following my blog why a whole bunch of old shit just got posted.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Mandalorian Armor and its Stages

"Mandalorian Armor" covers a variety of different concepts. At its core, it is battle armor with distinctive styling, most notably the T-shaped visor on the full blast helmet, usually paired with a cuirass, pauldrons, vambraces or gauntlets, boots, and cuisse (thigh protectors). Ideally, this armor will be made of beskar, but that has become rare and valuable, and so relatively few suits will be made out of the metal. Such suits are usually unpowered, but may mount a variety of accessories and built-in weapons, according to the tastes and credit balance of the individual Mandalorian.

"Beginner" Mandalorian Armor is a blast helmet and a blast suit; approximately 800 credits, it provides +1D protection against physical attacks, and +1 against energy, while providing coverage to the entire body. This version lacks significant plating (there is no cuirass, but densiplast strips are used to deflect blows). The suit is typically about 800 credits.

A full suit of Mandalorian armor (with a cuirass, pauldrons, vambraces, and greaves made of densiplast or similar common materials, layered over the traditional blast suit) protects the head, torso, arms, and legs, and provides +2D protection against physical attacks and +1D against energy attacks, and provides no dexterity penalties. It costs 1500 credits for a full suit, plus 500 credits for the underlying blast suit; a helmet can be had for approximately 500 credits.

Beskar is a particularly rare metal, smelted by Mandalorian metallurgists, which greatly increases the protection of armor. Any part of the body with beskar plating increases to +4D v. Physical and +3D v. energy. It is beyond price.

This looks workable, and is line with a lot from the Holocron. The "Beginner" suit is just a Blast Helmet and Blast Vest, with another 200 credits on the blast vest to account for it covering the full body. The "full suit" is about three times the cost of Cresh Luck Armor (q.v.), without even including the underlying blast suit. The helmet is, obviously, a separate thing; you can't just layer things on to a blast helmet and get a better helmet. As for the stats of beskar? I compared Boba and Jango Fett's armor to Jodo Kast's armor.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Gnome Titans Revisited

I think the gnome titan race got the short end of the stick, design-wise... that 10% XP penalty is a doozy... so I made a couple changes to the standard Gnome Titan to bring them up to speed, as it were; two bonus skill purchases, one more cheap talent, and a change if they roll for a quirk/flaw.I still think the 10% XP penalty is a doozy, though. 

Gnome Titans at a Glance
Ability adjustments
-1 Strength
+2 Constitution
-1 Charisma

Gnome Titan Pros
*Considered size Large for knock-back purposes when fighting giants and giant-kin (trolls, ettins, Cyclopes, bugbears, grevans, gnoles and ogres); gain additional +6 Defense bonus versus giants, ogres and trolls
*Gain the Attack Bonus of next higher level in class (i.e. a 1st level Gnome Titan uses the Attack Bonus of a 2nd level Fighter)
*Low light vision
*+4 defense bonus
*+1 Attack bonus vs. Goblins and Kobolds
*Groin Stomp proficiency
*One free purchase of Resist Persuasion and Intimidation

Gnome Titan Cons
*Poor reach (effective weapon reach is -1 foot)
*Character’s native language is Gnomish (must purchase any additional languages)
*Size small with regard to HPs (i.e. 5 hp + CON + class roll)
*Size small for knock-backs
*Due to their stature, gnome titans move at only half the rate of humans
*Inappropriate Sense of Humor Quirk
*Only earn 90% of any experience points awarded

Preferential talent access
May purchase the following Talents at 50% BP cost
Attack Bonus, Damage Bonus, Parry Bonus or Swiftblade (only for short swords or Warhammers), One-Upmanship

Altered Quirk/Flaw Table
A gnome titan who rolls the Quirk “Coward” may choose to forgo that quirk, and instead take the flaw Myopia, gaining the usual BP for that flaw.

Class Costs
Fighter: 20 
Fighter/Thief: 30 
Thief: 40 
Assassin: 50 
Fighter/Mage: 50 
Ranger: 50 
Rogue: 55 
Mage/Thief: 60 
Cleric: 75 (Serabal/Old Man 50, Klarrbapo/Powermaster 60)
Mage: 75 
Barbarian: n/a

Rationale: Gnome Titans are supposed to be stubborn and fighty; Resist Persuasion and Intimidation are in line with that. A combination of their martial training and emphasis on Honor means that One-upsmanship should be natural for them. Lastly, few gnome titans will be cowards, but most gnomes have Myopia. Since the gnome titan subrace is only a couple generations old, this makes it very unlikely that a gnome titan will be a coward, but a lot more likely they'll have vision problems.