Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Imperial Elves

The Elven Empire built great cities and towers all along the coasts of the known world and beyond.  They were and are a people with greater technological and magical capabilities than the realms of mankind.  They rule the deep ocean with great bladeships and catamarans far superior to the wooden oar powered ships of human kings who must stick close to the shore.     Where they have a colony,  only the most foolish or powerful human king would dare launch an assault against them and their elegant mailed armies supported by swarms of knights riding massive swans of unusual intelligence.

So why aren't these Mary Sue assholes running everything?  Why Do humans outnumber them so heavily?  Is it that they are dying race and humans are too prodigious?   Is the magic of the world fading?  Well,  maybe a little bit,  but no, the great limiting factor is biology.

As with Dwarves I am a fan of using biological limitations or quirks to explain why a species would fit to fantasy tropes.   For the city dwelling high elves,   the solution seemed simple.   They are pescetarians who cannot drink fresh water, they require brine as humans require fresh water.   With such a little change it makes perfect sense that they would seek to dominate the waves but wouldn't bother with inland holdings which would be difficult to supply.   They no doubt have some in strategic locations,  but by and large they can't afford to set up a city in the desolate brine-free forests of central Europe, Asia, or Africa.   Their territorial control of the oceans also explains why the presence of magical spells doesn't enable more trans-oceanic contact and trade.   The ocean is full of elves with better ships than you can cobble together.

Other bloodlines of elves,  seelie and unseelie or any other magical creatures exist too (like Barbarians).  But these fill the role of snobby "High Elves" for me,  things that exist to leave ruins of once important strategic locations without really interfering in the day to day of dung age mortal affairs.   High Elves are something "out there" in the oceans 

Monday, May 23, 2016

On Goblins

As I enjoy a sunny may two four, I thought I would try blogging on a phone.  So with an infuriatingly small screen I thought I'd write about an infuriatingly small topic. Goblins.

From this point and beyond was about 6 paragraphs of insightful commentary. Then when I scrolled up to hit publish the "mobile version" of chrome decided I must want to reload the page.  This is appropriate as it was supremely aggravating.  So here I sit redoing it in a smaller fashion, away from the sunlight at a desktop.

Goblins are an ur-creature.  One of those raw components of fantasy, where even if they are absent that absence is a goblin.  Pretension aside,  I mean that all GM's end up with a very personalized and unique goblin.  This goblin is the culmination of blending many different styles of goblins that the GM has encountered in games, film, and books over the years into one creature.  This mixture fills a primordial goblin sized hole in the GM's brain so that whenever there is a blank space on a map they have created,  a goblin could fit there.  If the GM is creating some sprawling ruin,  untouched wilderness, or buried catacombs then you can be assured that even before these half formed ideas ever hit paper or game table that the GM could plunk down some of their own personal styled goblins and they would fit.  The biases and habits that lead to the form of a personalized goblin affect everything created whole cloth.   This is what I mean by the absence of a goblin is also a goblin.  It means no goblins would work in any of those locations.  As a slightly different topic,  sometimes men (or a type of men) fill the role of goblins (such as looters, or thieves).

Goblins are usually some form on annoyance.  They may be dangerous,  but its really that fighting or dealing with them bothers you.  They are aggravating and infuriating and become more so (and truly dangerous) when there are swarms of them.  Like annoyances, there are always swarms of them.  You could probably take any individual one head on no problem, but there are just so many of them and they always seem to strike or be present at inopportune moments when you don't really want to deal with them.

The goblins I use are small wiry creatures with pointy yellow teeth and forest green skin, sometimes mottled yellow or brown to better blend in with the bushes.  They tend to be naturally more intelligent than humans,  clever and brilliant but still never a real problem because they are also all sociopaths.  They have no empathy, no morals, they think only what is in their best interest.  They can play the long game, make deals and form alliances and the like,  but they would never risk their own life for someone else.  They have no afterlife and so avoiding death is paramount.  They don't have families and goblin hens  (other than the plumbing they look identical) simply lay eggs and bury them  (as much to discourage predators as anything else).  These hatch as tiny but fully functional goblins who mature within 6 months to a year and live for as many as 10 years before the ravages of time catch up to them.  Their meat is tough and full of foul smelling chemicals similar to a stink bug.  Nothing really prefers to eat goblins and many creatures won't even if starving.  They are thus a plague that once established in a region is a constant aggravating threat that is difficult to remove.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Neoclassical Geek Revival: Corporeal Undead - Skeletons and Zombies

This is a rather light post,  mainly intended as a walk through of how to build a monster in NGR, in this case the lower forms of undead, a walking corpse out to (potentially) cause murder and mayhem.

So the first thing to do is treat it like a completely average human.  All attributes are 10.  You might ask yourself (you know what, no.  You are a strawman in this case so you DO ask yourself)  but why does a skeleton or zombie have a health score? its a corpse.   True,  but in this case it would be the health of its magic or other means holding it together.   While it may be immune to human poisons and diseases that doesn't mean it doesn't have its own forms of maladies that follow the same molds.

  Snake venom is unlikely to poison a shambling corpse,  but throwing salt upon it would impact it in the same way.  Its health score lets you know how much salt it can handle.  Magical or fungal rots may impact it similar to a disease, destroying its form and binding magics.

  But what about its intelligence you ask in a forced manner, as you are a strawman I have constructed to highlight my points.   Zombies are mindless.  I answer to that,  they can be.  If you want them to be dull, give them an intelligence of 1.  They could also have any level of malignant (or even non malignant) intelligence.   I was always a fan of the skeleton in the last unicorn who held conversations and had wants and goals (to remember the taste of wine).  The will score of the undead (their courage in some respects) can likewise be supernatural (if they are fearless killers) or even fairly low and cowardly (like the undead in Army of Darkness who break and run at times).

How do you differentiate skeletons and zombies?  I wouldn't, they are all skeletons.  A zombie is just a skeleton wearing meat armour.  If the skeleton is covered in desiccated withered flesh (like a mummy or bog mummy) I would count it as leather armour and a leather cap.  A fresh corpse would also have its "armour" use the bulky tag, giving it extra padding against blunt weapons.

In terms of special resistances and weaknesses:
-Fire is a big one.  Fire dealing double damage against undead is pretty standard, even skeletons can have their binding magic consumed in flames.  As with all rules,  this can be broken for effect (I am a fan of hellfire creating zombies that scream in pain and only animate while the fire burns).
-Salt poisoning undead if thrown upon them (along with any other substance that fits in your setting) is a good one.
-Sunlight is something that is a good idea to burn undead as a general rule. The base necromancy spell has it deal 1 damage per round,  though divine undead do not have this limit.
- If shooting the brain/heart isn't a special way to destroy the undead, consider making all piercing weapons gain the minor tag (ie, they only deal 1 damage on non-critical hits).

Finally,  for any undead summoned by a wizard rather than a priest remember than the undead can be captured and reverse engineered with the SAGE wizard ability, allowing the PC's to learn the spell that raised the dead (And craft dispell potions against it).

In terms of what do you need to think of when an unexpected encounter with a zombie turns up?

It has standard 10 for stats, takes double damage from fire and counts as wearing padded armour and a cap due to its meat. If a wizard wants to capture one it has the basic necromancy spell template.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Neoclassical Geek Revival: The Evil Dead

So I had planned to write some posts about the changes in Neoclassical Geek Revival.

Instead I started watching Ash VS Evil Dead.  The evil dead movies were a huge influence on my early gaming (and thus NGR),  so it shouldn't be surprising that I have rules for them in my big book of ideas and that I use them frequently.

If you are unfamiliar with the evil dead movies...watch them. Then read further.

So the titular evil dead are broken into two parts,  the invisible possessing force and the corporeal deadite (3 potentially depending on where you draw lines)

Kandarian Demon:
These diabolical spirits lay slumbering in long forgotten woods until awoken by anyone foolish enough to call to them in their own forbidden tongue.  They are completely invisible,  but every living being can intuitively sense them and know their malignancy though they cannot describe it beyond a "dark force".  The demons are fast (2 areas per move action) and supernaturally strong, but are bound by ancient limitations.  They cannot easily break the walls, roofs, windows, nor doors of intelligent beings design and do so with a strength of 5, suffering a point of damage for each failed attempt.  The sun is their greatest weakness, its rays force them out of anything they possess and drive them into the earth to slumber until the next nightfall. They possess a large reserve or magical power (6d6 mana).

Possession:  A Kandarian demon may attempt to possess any living (or dead) being with a violent force, making an attack to score a base !d6 points of stress.  Each attempt costs 1 point of mana.

Manipulate objects:  The demon may manipulate nearby objects (in its or an adjacent area, even if blocked),  it does so as if a being with a strength of 10 were using them.  This costs 1 point of mana per dot size of the object.  It may not manipulate locks, latches, doors, or windows directly.  It may also attempt to haunt a location by activating any man made object that exists for purposes of vanity, luxury, or entertainment of some form  (such as art, instruments, mirrors, toys, etc).  This allows it to make an appeal against a target, causing stress instead of influence.  This will not directly cause possession, but will make possession easier as the  target goes mad.  This costs 1d4 mana to use.

Regeneration:  The demon regenerates damage at the same rate it regenerates mana,  as if it were a 4th level wizard.

When a Kandarian Demon possesses a living or dead body,  it transform it into a deadite.  This grants it the ability to easily manipulate the works of man such as opening doors.  Often it gets pre-occupied with strangling the living and wearing their innards as a scarf while it dances.  While possessed a  boy will develop grotesque mutations and milky white eyes. Regardless of the victim/corpses strength normally they gain peak strength (20 strength) and are immune to being knocked out (immunity to stun damage).  Physical damage can kill the host, but not harm the Kandarian demon inside.  If the host is killed while possessed the Kandarian demon will be disoriented and unable to act for either ?d12 rounds or until it is attacked in some way.  Destroying a possessed body requires dealing thrice its strength score in damage with slashing or devastating weapons (slashing, devastating weapons deal double damage for this purpose).  Mutilating a body will greatly stunt the effectiveness of a deadite, but it can still possess the corpse for utility purposes.

If a deadite is attacked with a magical weapon,  it will be harmed.  The body will take damage as normal, the Kandarian demon inside will take damage as an incorporeal creature (ie: a +1 two-handed club would deal d8+1 damage to the host and d4 damage to the Kandarian demon).

Glamour:  For the cost of 1 mana per round, the Deadite may appear as its host or corpse did in life before being possessed or killed.  If this is the form of a loved one or friend of an opponent, it may launch appeals in a similar manner to haunting above providing it is neither attacking nor defending itself.

Levitate:  Whenever it is not defending itself a deadite may levitate, floating effortlessly and able to use move actions in any direction (including up).

Possessed Tree 

Note that Kandarian demons also frequently possess trees:  This makes them slow and lumbering (1 agility) and vulnerable to fire (burning a possessed tree also deals the fire damage to the demon inside) but it does allow it to use the trees size modifier (often 4 or 5) and its strength to attack structures and damage them. It can also do other things that probably shouldn't happen in game.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Physical Copies of NGR are now available

As I live deep in the wilds of Canuckistan, it takes a while for proof copies of works to reach me (almost a month),  but the long wait is over.  I received my copy of NGR,  laid out masterfully by the talented Alex Mayo,  and it is fabulous.

I will note however that other optional variants are coming down the pipe that have art by other individuals I have collaborated with,  but they may be a fair bit more.