Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Creature Feature: The spider friend

It all starts innocently enough,  you are clearing out cobwebs when a spider falls onto your neck and bites you.  Assuming you don't manage to squish the spider immediately you get a good look at the small thumbnail sized thing.  While normally vile and gross, this particular spider seems cute to you.  Naming it appropriately you decide to keep it as a pet in a jar,  cute little guy.

Squish it or not you will soon find most spiders not repulsive, but anger inducing.  All spiders except spiders that look like that awesome little guy that bit you.  You keep him well fed and protected as your cool new pet.  In time he grows bigger and bigger.  Eventually the spider becomes worthy of your respect and praise.

In time you bring others over to see you pet, and in careful conditions he may bite them too.  "He only bites you if he likes you!" you may say if he's small.  Or "It will make sense, don't fight it" if it has reached rodent sized proportions.  You and others like you will want to settle down and have kids,  probably somewhere quiet and secluded, away from the hustle and bustle.   Some of these kids may be born with unusual mutations,  not many, but some.   Adorable spider features, from the good kind of spider like your spider friend,  not those evil other spiders.

Perhaps they are some sort of centauroid spider,  or have the head of a spider, or multiple limbs.  Perhaps just the head of a baby on a spider's body,  either way they are cute members of your little family.  Of course if your spouse wasn't made a friend of your spider friend, leader of your new wilderness community,  they may "freak out" and try to do harm.  They sadly may need to be dealt with lest they rouse any neighbours who just don't understand.

And your spider friend has truly grown large, bigger than a cow and growing!  Truly a sign from the gods worthy of praise and adulation!  let others worship your friend and the good fortune it brings!  Many generations may go by, or just one as the mutations don't always happen and can go generations down the blood line without manifesting,  a special bundle of joy will arrive.   One pregnant host will give birth to the next generation! to the joy of the midwife (assuming they are part of your true community), thousands of new baby spider friends will be born in a great swarm from one lucky mother!   They will be able to be spread out and go to the far corners of distant lands,  until somewhere...

someone is clearing out cobwebs..when a spider falls onto their hand and bites them..


This type of cult or monster is a great way to freak the hell out of players on so many levels.  It is also a good way to throw entities like Llolth in a new light, and just why it is that Dark Elves ran underground and are full of half drow/half spider mutants.

Happy Halloween

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Next Monday's ConstantCon game

I just realized next Monday is Halloween, as such the ConstantCon game is cancelled due to existing obligations. Sorry everyone.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Miracles: How priests use magic differently than wizards

   One thing I set out to do fairly immediately is to differentiate priests and wizards in Neoclassical Geek Revival. Priests as hammer wielding armoured mini-mages always bugged me. Their ability to act as heal bots in so many games likewise was troublesome in a game world scenario. Someone who can fully heal someone disembowelled by a sword or raise the dead EVERY DAY (sometimes multiple times per day) would completely unbalance the world.

   There was also the problem with priests being "agents of their deity" but not really doing much beyond the occasional bit of tithing or whatnot. Of course their deity would also routinely let them perish because while the deity was willing to intervene with magic, not if the priest didn't file out the correct prayer paperwork for each spell a day in advance. So I set out wanting to make a few changes to Priest "spell" use:
1.) I wanted to limit the amount of world altering healing and miracles
2.) I still wanted priests to be able use a full suite of miracles in a pinch
3.) I wanted to make priests act like priests

From Neoclassical Geek Revival, Page 88-89

Game Mechanics of Miracles
Miracles function in a fairly
simplistic manner. A character may
choose to summon forth a miracle
provided they have enough piety to
cover the costs. Miracles are not the
actions of the character but the actions of
a patron on behalf of the character. For
some miracles the rank of the character
may grant additional benefits.
   Character’s can only summon
miracles related to their patron’s nature.
Thus a character must be able to
reasonably justify a miracle as relating to
the patron’s domain they may summon
the miracle. For example, a priest of the
sun god could call forth ‘increase yield’
if they justified it as giving the right
amount of sun, while the follower of a
war god would have a hard time unless it
was dressed up in some sort of elaborate
   The use of time lengthy rituals
will be required to use most miracles. A
fire priest would probably need an
elaborate ritual where a person is
surrounded by flame to justify using a
healing spell.
   Any starting character able to
summon miracles at normal cost begins
the game with 20 piety points.

Accumulating Piety
   Here are some example ways in
which a character could earn piety
Preaching to a congregation for a week: 1
Personally converting someone: 5 or 5 (cumulative) per level
Converting a region: 50-1000+
Building a roadside shrine: 2
Building a small shrine: 10
Building a small temple: 30
Building a temple or church: 100
Building a great cathedral: 500
Building an epic wonder (such as the Hagia Sophia): 1000
Completing a small task of faith: 5
Completing a moderate task of faith: 20
Completing a large task of faith: 100
Completing an epic task of faith: 500+
Killing faith enemy: 2 or 2 (cumulative) per level
Defiling/Destroying enemy temple: 3/4 as building plus a task
Converting a faith enemy: three times normal conversion
Sacrifices (Patron specific): Variable
Burial of faithful: 1 + cumulative level*(must be level appropriate)

Creating a Patron
   A priest requires a patron to grant
their miracles, if the GM already has one
or more options in your game world, you
may wish to use them. Alternatively it
isn’t that hard to build one. First choose
if the patron is aligned with civilization,
the natural world or hell.
   Civilization patrons reside in the
realm of the dead, and usually are
intermediaries between a mortal and
heaven. Hero cults, saints, prophets,
messiahs and ancestor worship all fall
into this category. So while the god may
be Zeus, the patron may be Hercules as
an intermediary. For the domain of the
patron, assume that the miracles must be
justified as coincidence (even if nigh
impossible in terms of probability). The
patron will reward attempts to civilize
and control the natural world, removing
the demonic and the wild.
   Patrons of the natural world are
extremely powerful nature spirits,
elementals, djinn or titans. These should
have power over 1 broad natural force
(an element, plants, animals, fertility,
weather, etc). Alternatively a region can
be selected, granting the ability to use
any miracle within the region but
nothing outside of the region. The latter
is not recommended for any PC. Piety is
awarded for keeping magic and mystery
present in the world, keeping civilization
localized and removing demonic
   Patrons of hell are powerful
demons bargaining with would be
sorcerers. Some demons claim to be
working for a dark god or THE devil,
but most claim there are no such things
as gods or devils. Patrons of hell may
use the method of either civilization or
the natural world. Demonic patrons give
piety for banal evil deeds and causing
corruption. As truly hideous deeds tend
to cause people to resolve themselves to
a life of resistance (ref: Batman), piety is
not awarded for such acts.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Lovecraftian Horror: Its not tentacles, its not malice from beyond space and time

This comic is the best example of what Lovecraftian Horror is to me when I read it.

  I am quite serious about this. Reading the Mountains of Madness, reading the Shadows out of Time it becomes evident. The great horror is simply that things will go on. Mankind isn't that important. Like the Elder Things before man, sooner or later they will fall and eventually be but a faded memory before no trace they ever existed will remain. Likewise man's fate is also certain, be it in a million years or tomorrow, mankind will fall and be forgotten and erased. Then the Beetlemen will one day rise up after we are gone, only to likewise be replaced by the Yith. At least the Beetlemen were important to the Yith, a race that will last. We as humanity, just don't matter. Life will go on. That is lovecraftian horror, not adding "MOAR TENTACLES", not having people go insane from dark truths, not ancient cults or dark books or malignant spirits. The ancient and terrible truth is humanity doesn't matter, if the entities were malignant that would imply we mattered enough to make someone hate us. We are the jellyfish from the anecdotes of a certain psychic gorilla, too certain in our self worth to see the writing on the wall.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Directing the mob: Large scale social conflict

So recently in both my home game (for the purpose of religious conversion) and in my Monday ConstantCon game (for the purpose of having an angry mob solve the zombie/cultist problem for the PC's),  there has come the issue of getting a mob of people to agree with the PC's viewpoint through social conflict mechanics.

I tested two different approaches.  In the PC game,   I had designated a set number of ringleaders based on the  size of the mob (in this case 10 individuals),   and the character had to defeat ten 0-level characters in social conflict at once.   In the second instance (the ConstantCon game) I mirrored the "size modifier" used in combat by monsters and made "the mob" a single entity with a size modifier of 10  (ie, it "suffered" 1/10th influence and dealt 10x "influence")  this made the mob hard to influence and easy to anger.

Looking at how both panned out,  I gotta say I like the single "entity" better for a large mob,  with any charismatic ringleaders handled separately.  More tests are needed but this may end up being a permanent change.

Also note:  Leading an angry mob to deal with the villains on your behalf is hilarious, especially if the mob breaks and scatters due to a rampaging grizzly bear after wiping out the cultists.  Just be sure to sneak out of town before they blame you for the tragedy.

Be sure to join in on the next ConstantCon game,   Monday nights at 6pm eastern time,  Midnight in Berlin.

Platforms and Modules

So,  I was reading Zak this morning,  and through his site was linked to a rant from a
Google employee about the nature of platforms versus products.   Being a developer by trade the rant itself was interesting insight into Google internal politics, and in my personal opinion spot on the money.   But Zak applying this to RPG's is also a great read.

In my own interpretation of "Platform" vs "Product" in regards to RPG's I see this as the difference between "System" and "Setting", though others may disagree.   A setting free system is a good platform,  but if it is ever going to take off it does need a "killer app", of a good setting.

At this point you may be asking:  "How can Zzarchov turn this post into something about him?"  Well here we go: Neoclassical Geek Revival is designed as a platform,  one that is meant to be hacked and used piecemeal.  It is meant to integrate easily into whatever house rules , OSR clone, or d20 product you already use.  It is extremely explicit about this in its foreword.

What it needs is a second book, a setting,  to function as a "killer app".  I am just not as interested in building a setting as I am a system however,  the nature of my own creativity.  I like my own home setting,  but writing it out doesn't seem particularly fun nor would it really be a huge interest.   That said I do have a setting I have been thinking on for some time,  maybe I should make it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New Printing of Neoclassical Geek Revival Scheduled

So sufficient interest has been generated to reach the minimum levels needed for a second printing of Neoclassical Geek Revival.  If you have interest in a copy but have not yet indicated so,  please let me know as soon as possible.  Throwing a few extra copies in is easier than waiting to get minimum interest for yet another printing.

If you have interest in a physical copy but aren't sure if you can budget it at this moment,  let me know as well.  I can get a few extra copies printed and sit on them for while.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bards or "Michael Jordan plays ball. Charles Manson kills people. I talk. Everyone has a talent."

What is a bard?  In my mind, a bard is Nick Naylor from "Thank you for smoking".   The magic, the jack of all trades,  no...that to me is not a bard.  That is a bunch of stuff thrown in there to give a bard something to do in D&D because talking to people doesn't really do much (at best in future editions it appears to be a one roll for succeed/fail).

That's crap to me.   The other problem is that many GM's don't think you should be able to trick a king into trading a cart full of diamonds for a cart full of onions and have the king think it was a brilliant move.  In reality no.  In reality no warrior with a pointy stick is going to take down a fire-breathing, flying, armoured  intelligent dinosaur either.  In Neoclassical Geek Revival,  Social Conflict is handled in a set of round by round partial success (unless you get lucky) almost identically to combat.  This gives something for bards to do immediately,  but lets get beyond how social conflict works and go back to what bards do specifically.   They may be generally better at talking than other classes,  much as warriors are better at fighting.  But they also have a few additional tricks.

1.)  Acting as a guide:   One of the powers a bard might have is language interpretation,  this allows bard to act like Dr. Daniel Jackson or C3P0 and learn an unknown foreign language in a short period of time.  If you are exploring into the wilds,  have a bard.
2.)  Helping everyone be a little more awesome:  Another one of the bard powers gives an increasing bonus to everyone in the party at the end of the night, to their awesomeness score.  Further proving that you should never go into battle without an actor.
3.) Leading mass combat:  Bards leading forces have a much higher morale and are less likely to break.
4.)  Being a smart ass:  Bards can use their rapier wit to harm the luck points of character.  While this will never kill someone,  it can be a good way to weaken an opponent.
5.) Being REALLY good at talking:  Just specialize in what they already do well.

Lastly the bard also acquires "Henchmen" as their personal "item".  These are hopelessly devoted zero level tag-alongs who are literally red-shirts.  Any time something terrible or fatal is about to happen to the bard,  the bard can have (through some fluke of luck) the terrible thing happen to one of his henchmen instead.

From Neoclassical Geek Revival:  Pages 16-18

The Forum of the Bards: 'The pen is
mightier than the sword'
The term ‘bard’ here is used
loosely, it is used as a fantasy catch all
for the character who is adept at dealing
with people. Unlike many games, the
bard has no innate rogue or magical
powers. The bard’s power of speech
also rival what a warrior can do with a
pointy stick in terms of shaking
believability. A powerful bard is the one
who can truly convince the emperor of
his new clothes, or that a wagon full of
onions is worth a wagon full of gold.
In terms of game play, the bard is
only useful if you are going to interact
with sentient beings, it may also require
a mind shift for many game masters to
allow the players to cause massive world
changes based on words alone.
Powerful bards can be the equivalent of
those great orators who occasionally
appear in the history and alter
civilization. A bard’s powers are
intimately based on other sentient
A bard adventures to boost his
image, spread his word and, more
importantly, find followers to do his
work for him.
Characters gain the following benefits
per level:

Pie Pieces Presence
0               1/3 per level
1               2/3 per level
2               1 per level
3               1 per level, +1 per milestone
4               1 per level, +2 per milestone

The Manifesto
Bard Powers
1.) Reputation: This power represents
the fame a bard attracts. This grants the
bard and every other player in the group
+1 ‘awesomeness’ (cumulative) per
2.) Leadership: This power represents a
bard’s role as a leader. Forces under the
bard’s command add the bard’s presence
to their morale checks.
3.) Silver Tongue: This power gives a
bard the ability to re-roll the influence
die and choose the better result in any
type of social conflict.
4.) Interpret: This power represents the
bard’s skill as a cunning linguist to
understand foreign and alien languages
at a basic level. Using hand gestures,
miming and by speaking both slowly and
loudly in an annoying tourist kind of
way, the bard can understand and
communicate basic terms like ‘Follow’
or ‘Danger’ or ‘The cheese is moldy,
where is the bathroom’. The bard must
make a social check, modified by
awareness. On an epic success the bard
can gain this level of communication
within an hour, a normal success
requires 3d6 hours of communication
and a normal failure requires 3d6 days of
communication. An epic failure
prevents the bard from establishing this
level of communication.
5.) Wit: This power represents a bard’s
ability to lash out with his razor sharp
wit and cause deep psychological scars
to his victim. While a clever insult or
witty pun won’t ever do any physical
damage, it can hold sway with the
trickster deities who dole out luck to the
various heroes and villains. A Scathing
remark in combat allows the bard to
remove luck points from the target
(ignoring damage multipliers due to
size). The bard may elect to make a
social conflict appeal instead of a regular
attack during a combat, causing 1 point
of luck damage per point of influence
normally scored. The bard may only use
this ability when interrupting someone
that is attacking him or her, or as an
opportunity attack.

4th Pie Piece Power
Beloved: This power represents the
almost superhuman loyalty a bard of this
level of skill has with his followers. A
bard with this power can use the luck
points of his followers, allowing them to
flow ‘up’ instead of the normal limit of
only flowing ‘down’.

Personal Item: Henchmen
Rather than an actual item, bards
gain special followers. Any time a bard
completes a particularly impressive
debate, trial, military campaign or
similar event, the bard gains an
opportunity to acquire a henchman. If
the event was particularly epic the bard
automatically acquires a henchman.
The henchman will loyally serve
the bard and may take the form of a
bodyguard, squire, personal assistant,
student or some other role. The main
benefit of the henchmen is that the bard
can choose to make any unexpected or
sudden danger befall one of his present
henchmen instead of another member of
the party. This could include a volley of
fire from an ambush, setting off a
dangerous trap or being crushed by
falling rocks in a landslide. You can feel
free to give each henchman a nice red
shirt if you would like. The henchman
should be someone relevant or related to
the bard’s recent task. Henchmen have
attributes averaging 10 and are normally
0 level. When the bard reaches 10th
level they advance to 1st level.
For a bard to gain a henchman,
the bard must score a 10+ on the 2d6.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Armour: Easier to get hit, harder to harm

In Neoclassical Geek Revival, armour does not increase your ability to dodge a blow.  Quite the opposite,  it often slows you down and increases your likelihood of getting struck.  What it does do is make you take less damage from shots.

So the attacking player has made an attack roll,  added their combat bonus, any bonus (or penalties) for weapon and compared that to a defence score (including the defenders combat bonus, penalties for armour bonuses for shields: which can get quite large,  and other defensive articles, such as a sword).  And so far the armour has done jack except get in the way.

But armour grants a damage reduction per die.  This means that against multi-dice hellscapes (take 6d6 fireball!) a good suit of plate armour (-5 damage per die) makes one walk through practically unscathed.  With power like that, everyone should be an armoured tank right! (note that anyone can wear armour, though wizard's have some problems casting in metal armour).

Not so much,  for many situations and opponents the armour does nothing but slow you down.  Against armour piercing weapons for instance,  or just against really large amounts of damage by a single source.   A giant might not have any attack bonus (hard to hit)  but will do tremendous damage (d8 x 8) on a successful hit.   When you take 28 points of damage on a single hit,  is it really better to take 23 and be hit more often?  Armour thus becomes a choice to make not a problem to solve.  What do you want to be better prepared for? If you know you are fighting a Giant, sure, ditch the armour.  Likewise if you know you fighting goblin archers with bone arrows? throw on the steel plate.   Otherwise it is a case of deciding how you want your character to fight.

Like weapons,  armour CAN be modified to be more specific by adding descriptive tags to it if you want to be really finicky about the difference between Roman Segmented Armour and Norman Chain,  or an Ancient Greek Breastplate and Renaissance Plate.

From Neoclassical Geek Revival, PG 52

Basic Armour
The main benefit in armour is not
to avoid being hit, but to reduce or
eliminate the impact. Armour will in
many cases actually increase your
chances at being hit. Armour will grant
you a 'damage reduction' score per die of
damage. This means if armour gives
you a DR of 2, and you take 2d6
damage, you would receive up to 4
fewer points of damage. It is important
to note the rolls of each die. Armour
will also tend to give agility check
penalties. These modifiers usually apply
to agility checks, evade rolls and defense
rolls. Wearing no armour and loose
clothing will actually give you a slight
bonus. Armour can be described by the
basic type, and then modified by
descriptive tags should you wish that
level of detail

Type              Modifier       DR
Loose clothing 0/+1          0
Light Armour    0              1
Mail Armour    -2             3
Plate Armour    -3            5

Descriptive tags for armour
Describing armour as light, mail
or plate is fine for quick or combat light
games. If the game is of a more militant
nature, descriptive tags are a good way
to add mechanical differences to the
many types of armour available in a
fantasy world. Tags are more efficient
than describing specific historical
armours, as historical armours were
developed to protect against historical
weapons. Would smiths have still have
used the same designs to counter griffon
claws as they used for heavy crossbows
or emerging firearms? Historical
armours can be approximated using the
descriptive tag system as well. Note that
the orders of the tags impact the
application of the benefits and penalties.
Reinforced, Spiked armour is different
than Spiked, Reinforced armour.

Tag: Beefcake/Cheesecake
There is practical armour
and then there is fantasy armour. Many
examples of fantasy armour feature
exposed midriff, thigh-high boots,
or glistening well oiled pectoral
muscles and biceps. This makes it hard
for the wearer to take himself or herself
seriously, giving a –1 penalty to
resistance rolls. On the other hand it
really does keep to trope and as such
gives +2 to awesomeness. Clothing can
use this tag.

Tag: Bulky
Bulky armour sacrifices mobility
for an increase in protection against
blunt attacks. The armour gains +2 DR
against blunt attacks but suffers an
additional –1 to both defense rolls and
agility checks. The armour also
increases in dot size by 1. Quilted
armour is a good example of this
armour. Clothing can use this tag.

Tag: Ceremonial
Ceremonial armour is not
designed for field use, but rather for
display. Ceremonial armour gives a –1
penalty to defense rolls but a +1 bonus
to presence. Clothing can use this tag.

Tag: Crude
Crude armour represents shoddy
workmanship, experimental designs or
partially damaged armour. It provides
no extra benefit but does increase the
defense penalty and agility check
penalty by 1. Clothing can use this tag.

Tag: Lightweight
Lightweight armour has been
specifically stripped to ease the burden
and increase mobility. This lowers the
dot size by 1 and reduces the penalty to
defense and agility checks by 1. The
downside is the armour loses 2 DR
versus blunt damage.

Tag: Ornamental
Ornamental armour has been adorned
with decorations designed to catch the
eye. Ornamental armour gives +1 to
appeal roles due to the opulence it
projects, but gives –1 to evade rolls due
to its distinctive appearance. Feathered,
gem encrusted or gold plated armour
would use this tag. Clothing can use this

Tag: Partial
Partial armour is any incomplete
set of armour. This halves the dot size
of the armour and halves the defense roll
and agility check penalties of the
armour. The armour is also bypassed
completely by attacks that roll a 15 or
better. It is possible to wear a set of
partial armour over a set of full armour,
such as partial plate over full leather. In
this case, the full armour is only used if
the partial armour is bypassed. Stack the
penalties for both sets of armour. A
breastplate or mail shirt is an example of
partial armour.

Tag: Sophisticated
Sophisticated armour represents
master workmanship coupled with a
perfected design. Renaissance period
plate armour would be an example of
this tag. Sophisticated armour reduces
the defense penalty and agility check
penalty by 1.

Tag: Reinforced
Reinforced armour has been
improved with additional plating, chain
links, metal studs or other modifications
to deflect blades. This doubles the
armour’s DR against slashing weapons,
at the cost of also doubling its defense
and agility check penalty. Studded
leather or advanced plate armours are
examples of reinforced armour.

Tag: Spiked
Spiked armour has been studded
with small blades or long spikes. This is
useful to repel a grapple (or deal 1d4
damage in a grapple) but gives a –1
penalty to attack roles as the spikes
impact the ability to move cleanly. The
spikes also deflect blades granting a +1
DR against slashing weapons, but
actually reduce the effectiveness of the
armour against blunt attacks (-1 DR vs