Thursday, May 21, 2020

Having a Tear Gas of a time - a Prison generator

         The Big House, Con College, Slammer, Joint, Pokey, Stockade, Brig, or my favorite, the Clink (named for the sounds that the chains of the prisoners would make), all euphemisms for Prison. The place you find yourself when it has been decided that you need to be punished for your terrible actions - or at least your supposedly terrible actions - and make recompense to your society. Whether you're guilty or innocent, the forms of your punishment can be a varied as what you led there in the first place. While the morality of this can be chewed over for ages, for our purposes penitentiaries are dungeons, except they're being used for their intended purpose. Not only is a jail an interesting place to break out of, it is also an interesting one to break into. There are plenty of reasons why PCs would have cause to do either.

          This set of tables seeks to give you a wide range of various penitentiaries for use in your game. To use this generator roll 4d8 and consult the results.

"So what's the lowdown on this place?"
Bars, stones, cells and blocks. A typical penitentiary.
Somewhere desolate and isolated, perhaps the side of a mountain or the endless expanse of the steppe. No bars are necessary because there's nowhere to go.
A slum or segregated area of either an existing city or structure, or perhaps one now given over entirely to the purpose. The area is walled off and the perimeter guarded.
Exile. Prisoners are dropped off on some (supposedly) uninhabited island. They're likely still under a watchful eye, but it is much smaller than it otherwise would be.
This place is more akin to a religious community than a true prison. Prisoners are enrolled as initiates and are required to go through certain rituals to be released.
The prison is a labor camp, perhaps prisoners are forced to work at various crafts, farm or they're simply on a chain gang.

"How about the Cons?"
This is a place for hardened criminals - thieves, murderers, rapists and robbers. The folk here are likely violent and skilled in the ways of criminality
Debtors, those who owe the powers that be enough that they've been thrown in gaol to work off their debts.
Political prisoners. Folk who have fallen afoul of whatever temporal authority controls the penitentiary.
The inmates here are prisoners of war, taken in battle or surrender.
These souls are the victims of a religious purge or inquisition. They could be heretics, or they could be worshipers of an entirely other faith.
This place was built to house a special kind of inmate, Magic-users. It has additional layers of security, of course.
They're ghosts. This place was meant to shackle the souls of condemned beyond the grave as a form of additional punishment.

"What are the Hacks* here like?"
Vicious and unrelenting, they are a well-paid monolith of authoritative violence.
Lazy and indolent, they will not notice all but the most egregious violations such as murders or escape attempts.
They have been utterly co-opted by a criminal group; the true masters of this place are whomever you rolled for "How about the other Cons?"
The guards are prisoners themselves, generally those who earned trust through following the rules. The upper hierarchy may be normal guards, or perhaps there may be periodic checks to ensure that the population hasn't changed.
Members of a religious order dedicated to punishment or otherwise oppression of criminals and the condemned.
The prison is guarded by wild animals and the elements. There may be border guards or occasional patrols, but they are few and far between
There are only a few guards, but they are preternatural in some way, ranging from Cerberoi and Minotaur to Spirits or Elementals.
There aren't any. Some sort of eldritch force keeps people here, from a curse to even a form of spell.
*: Guards

"What kind of help can I get here?"
A snitch, with wary eyes and open ears. They're a fantastic source of information, but they may also be informing others about you.
A smuggler, with connections to the outside and a means to get things in. Smugglers will do most anything before revealing their sources.
A tough, frightening and capable of coercing near anyone into compliance.
A killer, skilled and predatory. Willing to murder nearly anyone for the right price.
A fixer, with the ears of the administration or the guards. They can arrange for the rules to be bent - for a favor.
A crafter, able to take disparate materials and turn them into damn near anything, from weapons to drugs or drink.
A kingpin, able to organize other prisoners (at least some of them) and to bend them towards their own ends.
A seer, priest or other form of magic-user who is able to communicate with the outside, or if given the materials and seclusion, cast spells.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Magical Rodent Species

"The animal chain of command goes Mouse, Cat, Dog." - Roger Meyers Jr, The Simpsons.

          This is the third article in my series about finding the strange in the mundane by introducing fantastical species of animals into your setting. The first is about dogs, the second goes over cats, and with this one we're going to go over our gnawing friends, Rodents! While rats and mice are the most well known (and dark in their reputations) of their order, the term also includes squirrels, beavers, porcupines, hamsters and prairie dogs - plenty of fodder for a number of different species for a fantasy setting, weird or otherwise.

          In our reality many rodents are keystone species, meaning that the rest of the ecology around them is dependent on their presence, most commonly as prey, but also as ecosystem engineers, their burrowing acting as both housing for other creatures and as a source of natural soil aeration. Rodents are also everywhere - they've even been to space as stowaways. Why would they be any less important and adaptable in a fantasy setting?

(By the way, the Secret of NIMH was one of my favorite childhood movies, so writing this article was a blast.) 

Volmusian Seed Mouse
Supposedly the product of a curse levied by a druid, seed mice are feared as the ruin of farmers and hoarders the world over. These tiny, plant-like mice live, breed and die entirely within grain stores, and seem to arise spontaneously from particularly large stocks. The mice see the grain as their home, and will defend it with startling ferocity.
Dolchean Dross Beaver
Originally a native of volcanic ranges, Dross Beavers were captured by a group of enterprising dwarven smiths generations ago and are now more commonly seen in captivity than the wild. These beavers can chew through nearly anything and prefer metal above all else. Dross beavers exude the metal, purified by their internal processes, through their waste and fur.
Dorician Chrono-vole
An experiment that escaped from an Imperial College lab, chrono-voles have the distinction of being nearly impossible to exterminate. To outside observation it appears that chrono-voles are simply extremely lucky, but the truth is that the voles simply reappear a few minutes after their deaths, armed with the knowledge of how they were killed. The original's corpse is left where they died.
Selkirk Boss Rat
A slow-acting calamity on any neighborhood that is unlucky enough to host one of them; some wry observers note that Boss Rats must be responsible for the corrupt state of the city where they supposedly hail. Whatever their origin, Boss Rats show an uncanny and disturbing intelligence, one which they can share with their common fellows by mere proximity. Not only are they capable of learning humanoid languages, their personalities tend towards a surly malignance. Left to their own devices these rats will begin to amass wealth through theft, protection rackets, and other schemes.
Yvonne's Glyph-Dog
Bred by a geomancer to aid with their work, glyph dogs can be a bane or boon to a local community. This strange breed of prairie dog has the capacity to learn rudimentary spells, and will draw them out using the shape of their underground burrows as their medium. Once the subterranean rune is complete it will begin to draw in mana from the environment and occasionally manifest the spell on hapless creatures above.
A practical joke crafted by a trickster spirit to deflate the arrogant and terrify those who would prey on the weak. Trap-Dormice resemble typical members of their species, but differ in two important ways, they are carnivorous and they are prolific diggers. These mice hunt on well traveled roads, often setting up in the dark of night, hiding one of their eponymous traps by undermining the ground underneath. After a successful catch the mice will eat their fill and then move on.
Glacial Marmot
A constant source of vexation for farmers in northern climes, frost marmots are relentless in their search for food. After feasting continually throughout the warmer months the now chubby marmots waddle to a secluded area and huddle together. Over the course of a few hours they freeze themselves into a block of solid ice using their natural ability to lower the ambient temperature. The frozen marmots are safe in their glacier from all but the most determined predators.
Sivardian Wind Lemming
Energetic and hyper, the fur of these uncommonly seen creatures ranges from a coal grey to pure white. Common misconception holds that wind lemmings can control, or otherwise govern storms, but the truth is that they merely live within clouds, falling to the surface as they disperse. The lemmings seek as much fare as they can while on the ground, then ride back up onto the clouds by jumping onto great gusts of wind.
Humar's Zapybara
Widely held by the elves of the Ceirwannian highlands to be an animal sacred to their storm god, the Zapybara is a torpid and fearless creature which ranges wherever it wills, but favors rivers and lakes. Growing to the size of a small pony, these creatures can unleash arcs of electricity with enough intensity to stun a man. Zapybara pelts provide resistance to lightning if worked into a cloak.
Cernunnokian Beam Squirrel
Feared by natives and surface dwellers alike, these slender and slate-furred squirrels dwell in outcroppings carved out using their powers. Capable of firing bolts of force similar to Magic Missiles from their eyes, beam squirrel nests are given a wide berth. Sages agree that something so horrific can only have been created by the Drow.
Fever-dream Porcupine
Native to the jungles of Auyyuah, these pygmy porcupines inject venom with paralytic and psychotropic qualities. Worse still, they often escape the oppressive daytime heat by burrowing underground. Many of the local cultures use fever-dream porcupine venom and spines as part of initiation and cultic rituals.
Saoghalian Reef Rat
A frequent sight the world over, these fully aquatic rats have spread far and wide from their homeland by way of the many ships which berth at the great port of Saoghal. Far from being ashamed of the ubiquity of a pest from their home being so common, the garrulous Saoghalians have taken the animal as a symbol of pride and point to it as proof of the skill of their merchants. True to their title, reef rats live among coral formations, and appear in a range of vivid colors to match their homes.
Gobluggian Enlarged Zokor
A semi-subterranean creature common to the deserts of the east, Gobluggian zokors are notable for the fact that they never stop growing. As long as these sandy-furred creatures have a source of food, they will continue to increase in size. As a result of this capacity for growth they are favored as livestock and pack animals by the goblinoid natives of the region.
Lovet's Phantasmal Mouse
First observed by a sage traveling through the elven highlands, this small and unassuming rodent seldom grows larger than of pair of fingers. These mice have developed a novel method of keeping themselves safe from predators by producing a burst of illusory copies of themselves when they are agitated or frightened. The mouse seems to have no conscious control over this ability or it's shadowy copies.
Ingram's Dryad Rat
A completely arboreal species, dryad rats favor forests and other overgrown regions. Ranging from olive green to a rich chocolate brown, these rats are named for their disconcerting ability to teleport between trees within their fields of vision. Dryad rats are major pests to any one living or traveling through heavily wooded areas.
Jokorian Stony Muskrat
A frequent sight to those living in or around the humid wetlands of Jokor, the stony muskrat is possessed of a rock-like, scaly hide instead of fur. These large rodents are capable of weathering repeated blows from clubs or bites from dogs without serious harm. Peasants have found that the only reliable way of dispatching the hated animals is by setting them aflame or with solid blows from piercing weapons such as picks or daggers.
Hyperborean Lunar Mouse
Allegedly hailing from a lost continent, lunar mice are so called due to only being visible under the light of the moon, which is also the only time that they are active. No one has ever successfully located a lunar mouse burrow. Certain desert tribes believe that the lunar mouse is a creature to emulate, and often keep them as pets.
Piebald's Migratory Squirrels
The outcome of an archmage angry at having their home used as a storage space one too many times by the local squirrel population, the squirrels named after the now dead archmage are infamous for the damage they can wreak upon unprepared communities. During the fall when members of their species would normally begin stockpiling food, Piebald's squirrels instead began to form into mobs and head south for warmer climes. During their flight south any sources of easy food would be absolutely ransacked, and the sheer number of them makes effective extermination onerous.
Kaidan Imperial Paca
The descendant of rodents bred for food by a now extinct royal line, the imperial paca has nonetheless maintained it's reputation as a delicacy. Sought for as much as a status symbol as for their reputedly delicious taste, paca meat and pelts fetch a higher price the further away one is from shadowed Kaidan.
Dunworth's Berserker Cavie
An offshoot of the normally harmless cavie species, berseker cavies are a nasty surprise for any explorer or hunter who expects an easy meal. Nearly identical to their more pedestrian brethren the berserker cavie is named for their tendency to work themselves up into a furious state when threatened or cornered. The cavie will begin to thrash, screech and foam at the mouth, launching itself bodily at the target of it's ire. Worse, the cavie's cries attract others of their kind, who invariably join their fellow in their assault.
(All art is the property of their respective holders. Please for the love of God don't sue me.)

Monday, May 4, 2020

Things to do in D&D after you're dead.

        Death in OSR inspired games happens. A lot. To the point where it's one of the things that people most associate with our little section of table-top gaming. That's fine of course, death isn't a fail state, it's merely an indication that the solution you just tried as a player was likely flawed; trusting your fate to the dice is always a fool's errand when there's few safety nets to catch you. Some systems allow for raising the dead, but many OSR systems sidestep the issue entirely by simply not including those spells and encouraging players to roll up a new character. I have my own solution in the Liminal for those who can't let go of a beloved character.

          But what happens if everybody dies? This isn't outside the realm of possibility, especially if the party happens to be cocky or tries to throw good effort after bad. While the initial urge would be to have everyone make new characters and starting over with some convenient excuse, there's the possibility of moving the game into the afterlife instead. This isn't entirely without precedent, large sections of Planescape take place in any number of afterlives. Ravenloft has also been suggested as a destination for slain parties. In the assumed afterlife of AD&D and 3.X, characters who die and are not resurrected become what are known as Petitioners and generally forget the details of their former lives. In a sort of modification of this, I propose the idea that the character's former mental stats act as a major influence on how their afterlife goes. So we're going to break down my ideas for what aspect of their hereafter each stat affects.

          Before we start going into the mental stats, there's another question that we have to answer - how do you make the afterlife risky? Again, death means that the player was too prone to taking risks or that they simply were unlucky. This concept loses a bit of bite when you assume that souls are unable to be destroyed. So let's just assume that they aren't. For our purposes, souls are more like extra lives. Each soul has a number of reincarnations in the afterlife before it goes Elsewhere. We'll call these extra lives Essence. A character has Essence 7 when they appear in whatever afterlife they're destined for. Individual referees may wish to modify the amount of starting Essence to fit the tone of their games.

          Intelligence is a general measure of a character's learning, memory and reasoning ability. As such it governs how much (in general terms) a character retains of their memories from their living days.

Intelligence Bonus
Retain up to 1 skill point, or improve a save by 1.
Retain up to 2 skill points, improve 2 saves by 1, or a combination of both, retain knowledge of a single 1st level spell.
Retain up to 3 skill points, improve up to 3 saves by 1, or some combination of these equal to 3, or retain knowledge of two 1st level spells, or one 2nd level spell.
Retain up to 4 skill points, improve up to 4 saves by 1, or some combination of these equal to 4, or retain knowledge of three 1st level spells or two 2nd level spells, or retain the knowledge of a Feat.

         Wisdom is the strength of the character's connection with the divine, their intuition and the overall awareness that the character has of the world around them. In the afterlife, this translates into both additional Essence as well as an increased chance to both manifest or possess beings on their former prime material plane. Your Wisdom bonus is also the number of times per day where you can attempt a manifestation or possession. Possession takes the form of a save on the target's part versus Magic, modified by the table below.

Wisdom Bonus
+1 to Essence, 50% chance to Manifest, Possession save is at a +2 bonus for target.
+2 to Essence, 60% chance to Manifest, Possession save is at a +1 bonus for target.
+3 to Essence, 70% chance to Manifest, Possession save is not modified for target.
+4 to Essence, 80% chance to Manifest, Possession save is at a -1 penalty for target.

          Charisma is a measure of a character's magnetism, personal confidence and force of personality. A charismatic character isn't necessarily the nicest or most fun to be around, but those with high Charisma scores are likely people who can make a strong and lasting impression - for good or ill - on others. While it still allows them to navigate their afterlife's social scene, for our purposes Charisma is important because it governs how often they receive offerings in the afterlife. These offerings can take the form of food and drink, weapons and armor, money, or even sacrificed animals. Offerings appear next to the character upon them waking and only affect the intended target if they are meant to be consumed. An Offering roll is made on behalf of each character by the Referee once per week.

Charisma Bonus
10% chance to roll on Offering table.
15% chance to roll on Offering table.
20% chance to roll on Offering table.
25% chance to roll on Offering table.

A fine, full course meal. Eating it will give the character (and only that character) advantage on their next 1d2+1 rolls.
A bottle of beautiful booze. Drinking the liquor restores 1d8+2 HP.
Cash money. (3d10 x CL) GP in a neatly tied sack.
A weapon crafted specifically for the dead character - it may have even once been theirs. The character may select a weapon of their choice.
A set of armor crafted specifically for the dead character - it may have even once been theirs. The character may select a suit of armor of their choice.
An animal has been led into the afterlife to join them. Roll 1d6, 1: Chicken, 2: Goat, 3: Cow, 4: Horse, 5: Pig, 6: Exotic creature such as a Bear or Lion. The animal is well-disposed towards the character.