Saturday, October 20, 2018

Strange Gods, Strange Bedfellows

Rise up Comus, sing your song, bewitch the maiden, the day is long
Cast your spell, sweet music crack her virtuous shell

Enchanted damsel, curious ear, Comus music dispel all fear


Here are a smattering of additional cults using my rules from here and here. Use them to provide a bit of a different color for your clerics.

Cult of the Horned God
The druids worship the Archfey, the leader of the Wild Hunt, He who Dwells in Empty Places: the Horned God. When the aurora is shown in the sky, the Horned God rides with a host of the unliving through the trackless wilds. Woe be to any who cross his path on those nights. 

Commandments of the Horned God
  • Mete out justice and punish wrong doers; capture murderers and sacrifice them on holy days.
  • Wearing metal armor and carrying metal weapons makes you slow, lazy, and weak. 
  • Reading and writing make your mind weak and unable to memorize the laws and histories of the land. Do not indulge in the sloth of literacy. 
Favored Foe: None -- A druid does not have the Smite class feature
Miracles: Any spell from Elementalism (W&W p. 14)
Special: The Horned God has no favored foe, but is the Lord of the Hunt. Druids wear robes or cloaks made of dire beasts hunted in the name of the Horned God. By spending 1 Faith point, they may activate the magic of these robes and shapeshift into the form of the beast who gave its skin.

Druids begin the game at level 1 with one ceremonial garment: a robe of raven feathers, a wolf skin cloak, or a stag antler crown. (Or, you know, something else with GM approval.)

Each time a druid gains a level, they may go to the wilderness to seek a sign from the Horned God. The Horned God will loose from his herd one of his beasts. The Horned God's beasts are paragons of their kind (dire variants). The druid hunts* for the creature. If successful, he may take the beast's skin and make a garment from it, and add a new creature to his repertoire of shapeshifting.
* For hunting,  I'd use the Snakes and Ladders chase rules.

It is improper to wear more than one ceremonial garment at a time. Much less impractical. Additional garments must be kept in your pack.

Cult of the All-Father
The All-Father is known by many names: Böðgæðir (Battle-Enhancer), Faðr galdr (Father of Magic), Fjölsviðr (Very Wise), Geirtýr (Gore God), Hangadróttinn (Lord of the Hanged), Sigtýr (God of Victory) and Valkjosandi (Chooser of the Slain). These names hint at his nature: a god of death, a god of battle, a god of wisdom.

The All-Father hung himself as a sacrifice to himself. In his suffering, he gained wisdom.

Though warriors and wizards alike all pray to the All-Father for wisdom and victory, his priests have few men among them. Those who observe the rites of the All-father are mostly women, intersex, or third gender. In the northern lands, the practice of holy ritual is seen as "ergi," or "womanly work." The women who worship the All-Father are called valkyries.

The Commandments of the All-Father
  • Never make a wrongsome oath or break your troth
  • Remember the respect due those of great age
  • Give kind heed to dead people: straw dead, sea dead, or sword dead
  • Give mead and meat to all who ask you for it
  • Never break guest rite; give all due honor to your host
Favored Foe: Giants and Trolls
Miracles: Any spell from Spiritualism (W&W p. 28)




Wednesday, October 17, 2018

50 Campfire Discussions


A focus for my current project, His Majesty the Worm, is interpersonal conflict and a focus on downtime. When the players camp, the GM can provide some discussion prompts and ask for a small roleplaying scene to be played out. Here are fifty topics of discussion to get some inter-guild roleplay during “family dinner.”

1.      What’s special about your weapon?
2.     What does your character currently look like? Has adventuring torn or tarnished your once-pristine gear?
3.     What’s your favorite personal possession?
4.     What weird traits does your pack animal or familiar have?
5.     Who were your parents? Are they alive?
6.     What songs do they sing in your homeland?
7.      What was your first adventure into the Underworld?
8.     Do you have any scars? Where did you get them?
9.     Do you have any tattoos? Why did you choose it?
10.  Who was your first kiss?
11.   When did you lose your virginity?
12.   When was the first time you saw magic performed?
13.   If you could learn another language, what would it be?
14.   What monster was the scariest for you to fight? Why?
15.   When did you learn how to swim?
16.   What’s your favorite food?
17.   Would you rather eat a plate of maggots, or have a one hundred maggots placed secretly in your food over the course of a year?
18.  What do you miss about your homeland?
19.   Kill/Marry/Fuck your other guild members?
20.  What was your first pet? What was his name?
21.   What was the worst quest you ever had?
22.  What was your first job?
23.  Would you rather give up cheese or oral sex?
24.  What’s your homelife? Do you have a partner? Children?
25.  When was the last time you cried? Why?
26.  What’s your favorite alcoholic drink? Is there one you refuse to drink?
27.  Would you rather be famous while you’re alive and forgotten afterwards, or unknown during life and revered after death?
28.  What would you do with 1,000 gold in your pocket right now?
29.  What was the last dream you had?
30.  If a sorcerer transformed you into an animal, but you had a choice, what animal would you choose to become?
31.   What’s one item at the top of your bucket list?
32.  Just how old ARE you anyway? When’s your birthday?
33.  What is your greatest achievement?
34.  Is there any quest you would flatly refuse to do?
35.  What’s something you love about another guild member?
36.  What do you have in your pockets?
37.  What’s your favorite game?
38.  What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?
39.  How many three-year olds could you fight at once?
40. Would you rather fight twelve child revenants or one revenant troll?
41.   Would you rather be a vampire or a werewolf?
42.  What’s your favorite joke?
43.  What’s something you’re looking forward to?
44.  What’s something you want?
45.  What’s a secret that you know?
46.  What’s the last thing you masturbated to?
47.  When’s the first time you took a life?
48.  What’s something you’d change about yourself?
49.  What’s something you’re afraid to lose?
50.  What is best in life?

Saturday, August 18, 2018

And then...the PCs arrived

Despite it being out for some time, I only recently picked up Broodmother Skyfortress by Jeff Rients. And boy oh boy, it rules.

The basic premise of the adventure is that there's a floating fortress that hosts hammerhead shark centaurs that will fuck your campaign world up. (Awesome, right?) To facilitate this, Rients asks this question:

"What would happen if a bunch of giants showed up here and wrecked the place?" 

He goes on to say that this might be painful if you are in love with your campaign setting. Nobody wants to spend hours lovingly crafting a world only to tear it apart. But this sacrifice is necessary--the pain of the loss of your favorite sites will let your PCs "get" the threat.

This is old writing advice: you have to kill your darlings (or, as one professor of mine put it, "drown those puppies.") In this instance, Rients is talking about the hammerhead centaurs. But really, this advice supersedes the adventure. This advice should be forefront in the minds of every GM out there.

You see, the PCs are the giants. And they are going to ruin your beautiful little fantasy world. They're going to set fires to your favorite inn, they're going to assassinate your aged kings and wicked despots, they're going to resurrect your forgotten gods, they're going to replace your strange cults with stranger ones.

When you're constructing your setting, your adventure, your quest, ask yourself: "What would happen if a bunch of giants showed up here and wrecked the place?" Be confident the PCs will do just that. And that's the point. That's why your players are playing your game. Let the PCs make a mess of your setting, and they'll keep coming back. Don't be afraid to kill those darlings.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Bifurcated Sheets and One Shots

One of the features of OSR games is "quick character creation," and for the most part that's true. Even so, it requires SOME fiddling before a one shot game to wrangle everybody and make a character (especially if you grant random gold and let the players pore over the equipment list--definitely the biggest offender). I wanted to share a technique that's worked fairly well for my one shots. It lets players totally ignorant of the system to slap together a character quickly, and allows for a middle range of character customization. This does require a little GM prep time, but it's not hard if you're familiar with the system you want to run.

I call it the "bifurcated character sheet."

You, as the GM, are going to make a few premade characters for their players. What I do is usually create a few standard flavors of an adventuring party (e.g., Ranger Fighter, Front Line Fighter, Elementalist Wizard, Illusionist Wizard, Cleric, Thief). For one shots, I rarely roll and count gold. Rather, I fill up equipment packs with considerations towards "failed occupation." For example, I make one pack for "Dominatrix" and fill the pack with like, whips and chains, and make another pack for "Outdoorsman" and fill the pack with a tent and a bedroll, and another for "Rat Catcher" and give them a cudgel and a mean dog or whatever. Then, I cut the character sheets of these characters into parts. Separate out the section that details your race and/or class and the one that details your gear.

When the players arrive, I tell them everybody has gets to pick a class (and a race, if applicable) and a failed profession. Go around a circle and give everybody one choice, then reverse the order and give them another. The combinations they make are often really cool and subvert my expectations.

The stupid simple sheet I use for my own homebrewed OSR games is here.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Dopplegangers

For my fantasy heartbreaker, His Majesty the Worm, I recently ran the party through a doppleganger encounter. It was fun! We had about three sessions of doppleganger nonsense; one where the players freaked out, and then two more when they weighed the pros and cons of just letting them hang out. I was impressed with how the players handled the situation (TONS of creative solutions) and how the general premise worked at the table. I found that this monster encouraged puzzle-esque OSR play.

In the game, dopplegangers are a type of fungus that read the minds of your companions to construct the perfect image of you. They want to be you.

They want to be you so bad.

From Dungeon Meshi

Doppleganger Fungoid
Encounters with the doppleganger fungoid start out the same way. Adventurers tromp through a patch of them when they're in ther larval state. At this point, they look like some mildew on the wall, just barely probing their dark world with their flagella. Then, they get a sniff of the adventurer.  A little bit of psychic residue stains them. They push upwards. They grow. They follow.
Doppleganger fungoids use psychic images to choose their appearance, behavior, and demeanor. They, essentially, form themselves into clones of the first people they encounter as mushroom children.
Adventurers often encounter doppleganger fungoids while they camp. If there's ever darkness, ever a moment of sleep, the fungoids slip in and bed down. They want to belong.
The fungoids will try and tag along with adventurers for a while. At first, they'll even be helpful. They continue to refine their appearance and behavior on the original. They love to be as close to perfect as possible.
But they make mistakes. This infuriates them. They develop body dysmorphia. They develop self-image disorders. They get confused, genuinely confused, about who is the original and who is the clone. They begin to self-harm. They begin to lash out.
What does it look like?
Well that's the question, isn't it? What does it look like? It looks like you. A little taller than you. Its left boob is a bit lopsided. Your eyes are hazel but its eyes are brown. But other than that, it looks like you.
That is, until you stab the imposter. And mash it. And burn it. Then it reveals its true form: moldy, tubular stalks of fungus. A lopsided mushroom head. A face like a carven jack o' lantern. Hallucinogenic spores spilling out of it.
They are a painting of you in fungus.
The doppleganger fungus derives its image of self not from the original's self-perception, but from the perception of their companions. To run encounters with these creatures, ask the players to each text you a description of themselves and a description of each of their guild mates. A player's description of themselves becomes canon for what the original looks like. A player's description of their companion becomes a description of one bloom of doppleganger fungus.
For example, if you are running the game with four players, each player would text you a description of their own character and a description of each of their three companions. Then, when you wish to reveal the fungoids, you would reveal twelve new creatures—each described as one of the originals, but seen through the eyes of another player.
Likes: Dampness, rain, tearing things up (obsessively shreds paper, sticks, etc.)
Hates: Fire, mirrors, probing questions about childhood

Special: Make it clear to the players that during an encounter, a "loyal" fungoid will follow the commands of the original like a henchmen. Do not tell the players that the dopplegangers are imperfect. Roll a dice. If the result is odd, the doppleganger misinterprets the command or makes a mistake. This usually ends up with them attacking an adventurer by accident.

HD: 4
Attacks: Pretending to attack as base creature, 1d6
AC: Same as base creature
Save As: 4th level Fighter
Morale: 9
# Encountered: The dopplegangers appear in a crowd equaling n * (n - 1), where n = the number of adventurers. See above.

Abilities:
Minor Illusion: A doppleganger can replicate through illusion any item that the original could believably have. A doppleganger can replicate through illusion any class ability that the original has demonstrated previously. 

Perfect Imitation: If they have not yet acted during the turn, dopplegangers may elect to move simultaneously to their "original." When the original takes an action, they also take that exact action. If this happens, the original and the dopplegangers have become mirror images of each other. If they are in the same zone, it is impossible for an outside observer to tell who the original is. Essentially, the clones act like mirror images. 

Fungal Regeneration: A doppleganger may spend an entire action thinking about who they really are (you). They heal 1d12 HP. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Matter of the Marcher Lords

John Howe, Celtic Myth
The knights of the Round Table were sent out as a measure against Fort Mayne, and the choleric barons who lived by Fort Mayne took up the cudgels with the ferocity of despair. They would have written to The Times about it, if there had been such a paper. The best of them convinced themselves that Arthur was newfangled, and that his knights were degenerate from the standards of their fathers. The worst of them made up uglier names than Bolshevist even, and allowed the brutal side of their natures to dwell on imaginary enormities which they attributed to the knights.
- The Ill-Made Knight, T.H. White 

I want to run a Lamentations pick-up game with themes of The Once and Future King and The Faerie Queene. Lamentations products are centered around the weird, and although Arthurian romances aren't obliquely horrorific (horrifying, maybe) or sexual (well, never mind, yes they are), they are overwhelmingly weird

This is a set of house rules that I intend to use when I run this game, ostensibly running through the Hexcrawl of the Marcher Lords. I'll use City of Iron's Dolmenwood Hexcrawl Procedures. I intend to use the old Knights of Camelot board game rules ostensibly as an encounter table

Classes
Characters may the following Lamentations classes, each with a particular contextual skin. 

Characters are bound together by service to a feudal lord. All characters serve the same lord. Tell me which one, and what his deal is. 

Knights
...that other of gigantic frame, on his right hand, is the ever dauntless Brandabarbaran de Boliche, lord of the three Arabias, who for armour wears that serpent skin, and has for shield a gate which, according to tradition, is one of those of the temple that Samson brought to the ground when by his death he revenged himself upon his enemies. 
Don QuixoteMiguel de Cervantes

As Fighters. Knights represent the noble class. Knights are really the star of the show. Every player can play a knight if they wish. I totally wish someone would play a sweet lady knight like Britomart. 

  • Each knight is awarded the right to bear a personal set of arms. Tell me what your heraldry is. What's your motto or warcry? 
  • Each knight begins the game with a warhorse and a set of full plate in addition to his normal allotment of equipment. Beware, however. Your armor is forfeit if you lose in a tourney, and must be ransomed back. 

Henchmen (like squires) and pets (like horses) can utilize Ten Foot Polemic's excellent rules

Les Innocents
And now it is empassioned so deepe, 

For fairest Unaes sake, of whom I sing,
That my fraile eyes these lines with teares do steepe,
To thinke how she through guilefull handeling,
Though true as touch, though daughter of a king,
Though faire as ever living wight was faire,
Though nor in word nor deede ill meriting,
Is from her knight divorced in despaire,
And her due loves deriv'd to that vile witches share.
The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spencer

As Clerics. These are often ladies, but this class is called "les innocents" to be more fucking inclusive and allow for shepherds and hermits and stuff. 

  • Les innocents must pray at the beginning of each day and be in good standing with the Holy Church and the Lord Our God to perform miracles (i.e., spells). However, these miracles are not prepared. Any cleric spell of appropriate level can be cast via divine provenance at any time, as long as they have not exhausted their allotted miracles for that day. The only thing les innocent must do to evoke these miracles is pray to our Sweet Lord Jesu. 
  • Les innocents cannot use or create spell scrolls. 
  • Les innocents can create holy water. 

Specialists
"Robin Wood!" 
"Aye, Robin 'ood. What else should un be, seeing as he rules 'em. They'm free pleaces, the 'oods, and fine pleaces. Let thee sleep in 'em, come summer, come winter, and hunt in 'em for thy commons lest thee starve; and smell to 'em as they brings forward their comely bright leaves, according to order, or loses of 'em by the same order back'ards: let thee stand in 'em that thou be'st not seen, and move in "em that thou be'st not heard, and warm thee with 'em as thou fall'st on sleep—ah, they'm proper fine pleaces, the 'oods, for a free man of hands and heart."
- The Sword in the Stone, T.H. White

As Specialists. These could be your bandits, ala Robin Hood, or your learned clerics, ala Friar Tuck. Heck, everybody in the Merry Men could be called a specialist. Specialists often serve as retainers, advisors, viziers, stewards, men-at-arms, or jesters serving knights. 

Sorcerers
"She was trying a well-known piseog to amuse herself, or at any rate to pass the time while the men were away at the war. It was a method of becoming invisible. She was not a serious witch like her sister Morgan le Fay—for her head was too empty to take any great art seriously, even if it were the black one. She was doing it because the little magics ran in her blood— as they did with all the women of her race." 
Queen of Air and Darkness, T.H. White

As Magic-Users. Through infernal pact (ala Archimago) or infernal heritage (ala Merlyn) you know the arts of sorcery.
  • As sorcerers are aligned with the forces of Chaos, it's possible that they follow some old pagan religion or dead god. The Church just hates this. 
  • We'll use Wonders & Wickedness spell rules and lists.  
Dwarfs


            The false Duessa leaving noyous Night,
Returnd to stately pallace of Dame Pride;
Where when she came, she found the Faery knight
Departed thence, albe his woundes wide
Not throughly heald, unreadie were to ride.
Good cause he had to hasten thence away;
For on a day his wary Dwarfe had spide
Where in a dongeon deepe huge numbers lay
Of caytive wretched thrals, that wayled night and day
The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spencer

As Dwarfs.  Those commoners who have been warped by infernal Faerie into stunted (if sturdy) forms. By ancient tradition, knights keep dwarfs as servants for good luck. It is often dwarfs who carry the knight's gear, gird them before battle, and keep their arms and armor in good repair. 


  • Dwarfs start with 3 in 6 Tinkering (not Architecture). All other class abilities are standard. 


Faerie Knight
As it fell out upon a day,
A-hunting I did ride;
There came a wind out of the north
And woe it did betide.
And drowsy, drowsy as I was,
The sleep upon me fell;
The Queen of Fairies she was there,
And took me to herself.

- Tam Lin, Traditional

As Elves. Knights who dally too long in Faerie gain a little magic. Unfortunately, every Halloween, they have a one in ten chance to be given to the devil as a tithe to hell. (This tithe is why fay are immortal.) 





Also, Halflings represent the fair folk, the tylwyth teg, the little people. This class is locked until the players actually form allies in the land of Faerie.  

Character Weirdness
Weird Skills: Some skills are gone (unchivalrous Sneak Attacks won't be found here!), some are changed, some are added. The skills are: Bushcraft, Climbing, Husbandry, Languages, Lore, Open Doors, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Tinkering. 

Per normal rules, Languages benefit from Int bonus and Open Doors benefit from Str (but can't be leveled up via Specialist). 

Husbandry deals with wild animal taming as well as animal training. It lets you do things like coax your horse into a crazy stunt or tame a unicorn with your gentleness. Your Husbandry rating benefits from your Wisdom bonus. 

Lore is a broad "Hey, does my character know about this legend?"

Weird Saves: I replaced the standard saves for these (in order): Stun is movement, Doom is poison/instant death, Dragon Spume is area of attack, Geas is Law Magics, Enchantment is Chaos Magics.

Force Majeure! 
Here are some house rules for combat. 

Grit and Flesh: Borrowed from Last Gasp Grimoire, reproduced here with small amendments. 

Flesh is the measure of how much physical punishment you can take before passing out, and caps out at your full class HD, plus anything gained from a Constitution bonus. Players begin level 1 with their max HD + Con in Flesh. Grit is the rest of the HP you gain, and is a measure of ways you learn to avoid injury, plus glancing blows, exhaustion whatever.

  • Attacks reduce Grit first, and when it’s gone you start taking Flesh wounds.
  • When you're at 0 Flesh, you're defeated. This usually means you're on the ground and gasping for help, but you may be knocked out at your discretion. 
  • If an enemy specifically performs a murder stroke against you while you're at 0 Flesh, you die. This is very unchivalrous. 
  • If someone rolls a Critical hit against you it bypasses Grit and rolls double damage.
  • Being attacked from behind or by surprise also bypasses Grit. This is very unchivalrous. 
  • Spend a Turn to regain your class HD. Knights rest in tourneys between fights to keep the fights fair.

Gambit: A player can try to do anything they want: trip, push, disarm, etc. 

  • The attacker describes what they want to do, and if they successfully perform a to-hit roll, they do it. The victim can decide to take weapon damage instead
  • However, if the player attempting a gambit fails, they suffer whatever outcome they were attempting. If that doesn't make sense (e.g., they can't be disarmed if they're not wielding anything), they take weapon damage from the creature they were attacking. 

Shields Shall Be Splintered: A classic. Similarly, you may sunder your helm to reduce a critical attack to a normal attack. 


Experience
Gold is an evil. A necessary one, to be sure, but an evil. 1 Timothy 6:10 tells us that. We'll be using an alternative form of character advancement that divorces itself from silver for XP. 

You gain 1000XP when you achieve one of the following glories. Sometimes, these only work once. I got a ton of these from Into the Depths by the Retired Adventurer

  1. Win a tournament (each one)
  2. Resolve a situation scourging a town or more’s worth of people (10,000+) (each one)
  3. Slay a famous villain (e.g., dragon or wicked knight) (each one)
  4. Deliver a holy relic to the Church (each one)
  5. Depose a powerful ruler by any means (each one)
  6. Behold a miraculous event (each time)
  7. Map new lands (20+ hexes or locations) (each time)
  8. Destroy an evil organization with at least 50 members (each one)
  9. Recover 3 lost or secret books (each set of 3)
  10. Resolve 3 situations scourging the innocent without reward (each set of 3)
  11. Train at least 3 followers or apprentices until they gain a level (each set of 3)
  12. Foil the plans of a powerful villain well enough to permanently stop those plans (each time)
  13. Swear allegiance faithfully to a lady (once)
  14. Search out a wise mentor and learn their secrets (once)
  15. Establish and hold a permanent base of operations (once)
  16. Own more land than you can easily take in with a glance while employing 150+ people (once)
  17. Own a ship or other vehicle with a crew and stores sufficient to travel great distances (once)
  18. Stop a wicked social custom in a region (once) (Stop it everywhere for another)
  19. Resolve an apparently unresoluble conundrum through cleverness (once)
  20. Lead an institution with at least 30 loyal members for a year (once)
  21. Obtain an official title with real powers and responsibility from a powerful government (once)
  22. Make a lifelong enemy of a powerful foe (once)
  23. Exact revenge for a misdeed done to you by a powerful foe (once)
  24. Assemble an astounding library or trophy case (once)
  25. Survive an event that slays everyone else in the party (once)
  26. Save another PC from otherwise certain death (once)
  27. Get a curse or geas removed from yourself (once)
  28. Get initiated into a mystery cult or magical tradition (once)
  29. Make something lasting (e.g., write a book, build a castle, found a town, create a spell) (once)
  30. Become famous enough that almost everyone in a country can recognise you on sight (once)
  31. Build an elaborate and difficult-to-plunder tomb for yourself (once)
  32. Donate 100,000 SP to a charity or other good cause (once)
  33. Become the ruler of a country or kingdom. (each one)
I also have some rules coming out for jousting. 



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Making of a Lich

The word lich means "corpse." (It is sometimes more polite to call a lich a "flesh body bodhisattva" to their face.) A lich is a corpse that remains animate and passably sentient long after death. 

A lich is a miserable creature. 

I'm not playing the tired refrain that "Living forever is a curse and a burden." It's not. Life is usually desirable. Life unending is a desirable thing. 

But lichdom is not. Lichdom is not eternal life; it is eternal death. 

Lichdom is only possible for the truly mad and the truly obsessed. One does not, cannot, become a lich if you have good intentions sadly bounded by brief mortal constraints. A lich has an obsession that they cannot give up, not even in death. Some love; some vengeance; some task; that must persist, long after their muscles give out, their skin is torn away, and their bones crumble into dirt. 

Many have attempted to attain a state of lichdom. Few have succeeded. Those who have enter into a unique infamy. Their names are forever remembered by the Men whose ranks they have left, but also forever cursed. They are the devils of the stories the Men tell each other. Their names become synonymous with evil. 

Xanthoceras...

Saphronia Wort...

Draco Scabra...

Zygmunt...



Becoming a lich is, well, not secret. The Tower Gnostic probably has a text that explains the procedure. It's just difficult, lengthy, and unlikely. 

The process goes thusly...

Step the First
Before death, a lich's diet must be one of wood*: nuts, pine needles, seeds, roots, and bark tea. This diet must be strictly maintained for somewhere between 3,000 and 3,600 days. This diet reduces body fat to nothingness. The would-be lich is literally mummifying himself. 

Over this time, the intake of liquids is curtailed and, finally, eliminated. A lich must die of thirst. 

* The diet varies from tradition to tradition. Sorcerers practicing weald magic have a different diet from those practicing weird magic, for instance. 

Step the Second
Only master sorcerers are afforded the option of lichdom, for reasons which will soon become clear. The would-be lich must memorize and maintain a rigid proscribed panoply of spells for a period of at least forty-one days. (In D&D terms, this is something like "a wizard of at least 15th level must fill all available slots with spells, with at least two duplicates at each level.") 

Holding spells and not releasing them is incredibly difficult. The process requires strict concentration and meditation, lest some cantrip slip out unbidden. 

This burden literally causes changes in the sorcerer's physiology. Their brains cannot handle the weight of the spells, and twist and grow cancerously. They bulge painfully against the skulls of the sorcerer. 

Step the Third
During the period of spell memorization, when the brain-swelling becomes too intolerable for life, trepanning is required. This step requires the help of aides. The flesh of the center of the forehead is carefully cut away and pried open, like a flower or a citrus fruit. Then, a boring utensil makes a hole in the skull. A runic inscription is then written around the edge of the exposed skull. If done correctly, this inscription magically calcifies the lich's skull--it is no longer vulnerable to any physical damage. 

Though this is (obviously) incredibly painful, no pain-dulling drugs are allowed the sorcerer. Total calm must be maintained, lest the spells escape and ruin the process. 

Step the Fourth
In the last week of spell memorization, the sorcerer must cut all water from their diet. As the sorcerer is dying of dehydration, a deep state of meditation must be maintained. It takes about a week to die once all water is refused, and the meditative state cannot be broken during this time. 

During this time, the phylactery is made. 

The phylactery can be anything, as long as it's an object of complete obsession for the lich. It is usually a love letter, or a shell, or a broken dagger. It's almost always transitory and vulnerable--that's why he's obsessed with it. It is some object of significance. It is the reason that the lich has been undergoing all this suffering. A lich does not choose to be obsessed with the item. The item is obsessive. It drives the lich. 

During the last week of dehydration, all the sorcerer's attention is placed on this item. It is held and cradled and loved and obsessed over. Nothing else is touched or handled during this crucial period. 

Step the Fifth
Now comes the dying. During this time, the need for complete concentration is greatest. Normally, all spells that a sorcerer has memorized come pouring out of their brain upon death. The lich must not, cannot, let this happen. If he does, all is ruined. 

A save (Con? Fortitude?) is necessary for each of the spells memorized as the would-be lich dies. If even one save is failed and a spell is released, the entire process is ruined. 

Step the Sixth
At this time, the sorcerer has either interred himself or is relying on aides to inter him. The place the corpse is buried is important. It must be soft and rich earth, thick with worms. Good crop ground. 

The would-be lich's corpse must be devoured by worms and other detritivores. This step is only compete when they get to his spell-swollen brain. 

Step the Seventh
If the phylactery was truly obsessed over, spells in the dead brain get confused about where they belong. Should they be in the rotting material they're currently trapped in, or should they be in the phylactery? Where is their master? What are they? 

This epistemological concern is the catalyst for the seventh step. 

As the worms eat the brain, the spells get confused and begin to effect a change on the detritivores. The spells incite change and mutation. Over the period of many years, the worms--their lives unnaturally preserved--begin to merge and shape themselves together. They try and cross the gap between "worm" and "the sorcerer." 

With difficulty and pain, these worms form themselves from many into one, and from death into undeath. Using the phylactery as an emotional anchor, the lich is given a body. 

--- 

And there you have it. Now you know the deep secret. 

Insanity and evil begets eternal life. Virtue has no such counterpart.