Monday, February 3, 2020

GLoG: Rat-kebab Edition

Goblin Laws of Gaming

Rat-Kebab Edition

Sources Cited:


Delicious in Dungeon

Image result for dungeon meshi large print
A hack about eating monsters, in case you like stupid shit like this
The Rat-Kebab Edition is a ruleset explicitly about trying to scavenge food in the mythic underworld. It's mostly an homage to Dungeon Meshi by Ryoko Kui. The main gimmick is that nutrients = experience points. The rules assume GLoG as your base (since it's so hackable), but you can probably port this onto whatever your D&D flavor of choice is. Include this with something like Veins of the Earth if laying it on thick is your cup of tea. Blend it with Gardens of Ynn or similar if you wanna get weird with it.

Ability Checks

dungeon meshi -20
Root for the trapsmith's success...from a distance!
As with core GLoG, almost everything uses a d20 rolled against a target number. If the outcome of an attempt is uncertain, the GM determines what ability score most suits the test at hand. The player rolls a d20. If you roll equal to or less than the tested ability score, but above your Fatigue, you succeed. 

Everybody starts with the similar stats.
  • Ability scores are determined by 4d4 in order, swap 2. Abilities cap out at 18.
  • Everybody starts with Attack 11 and Save 6 (modified by Cha) per core GLoG. Attack and Save scores cap out at 15. 
  • You begin with a template A class. You gain more templates when your ability scores increase, to a maximum of four templates.
  • Calculate Defense, Stealth, Move, and Initiative as normal. 

Skills

If you have a relevant skill to the task at hand, treat the tested ability as being +2. If you have a mastered skill relevant to the task at hand, treated the tested ability as being +4.

Mastered skills take up two skill slots and must be learned from a master trainer. For example, you learn master lockpicking from the head of the Thief's Guild.

Fatigue

Image result for dungeon meshi healthy
Adventurers must be careful to balance their resources and their fatigue
Fatigue is a measure of how tired you are on a 1-20 scale. When you make a test, you must roll above your current Fatigue score but under or equal to your attribute test to succeed. 

Fatigue is gained from the Encounter Dice and from taking heavy damage (see below). The GM may also deal out Fatigue for strenuous or unhealthy situations, like wading through a fetid swamp or climbing a mountain during a blizzard.

You lose all of your fatigue when you eat a decent meal. See "Cooking" below.

The Encounter Dice

As the PCs explore the dungeon, the GM rolls the Overloaded Encounter Die. On a roll of 2 (Fatigue), each PC gains 1 point of Fatigue. 

Hit Points - Grit and Flesh

Look the fuck out

Grit is "don't get hit" points. It represents your ability to mitigate actual harm. You use these up first.

Flesh represents damage to your precious body. When you take damage to your Flesh, your blood is flowing. You take Flesh damage after you've used up all your Grit--or take damage in such a way that you can't get out of the way, e.g., falling onto spikes totally bypasses your Grit and goes straight onto your Flesh.

Characters have a number of Flesh points equal to 1/2 their Constitution, rounded up. Characters have a variable amount of Grit based on what they eat (see "Leveling" below).

You die when you're at - [Constitution] Flesh points.

If you're in the negatives Flesh-wise but not dead, a character can perform first aid. This is a Wisdom check (with a bonus if you have a skill like Leechcraft or Doctor or something). If successful, the character is restored to 1 Flesh and gains a number of Fatigue points equal to the negative value that was healed.

For example, a wounded character at -5 Flesh who is healed through first aid gains 5 Fatigue points.

You can also heal wounded characters through magic, as per usual. Healing magic adds Flesh points, even if in negative totals.

Cooking

Dungeon-Meshi-manga6
Cooking brings a brief moment of rest and respite in the dangers of the dungeon
When the party stops to rest in the deep dark dungeon, they have to eat. 

Eating rations and preserved food heals all Fatigue accumulated. It stops you from starving. This is the end of their benefits. 

A feast is a moment of actual rest in the middle of hostile and hungry darkness. All characters eating a feast heal all Flesh and Fatigue as feasts warm the heart and strengthen the body. Additionally, depending on the make up of the feast, characters might gain Grit, Magic Dice, and temporary or permanent bonuses to their abilities. See "Leveling" below.

To create a feast, you require:
  • Two unique ingredients
  • One portion per character
In addition, you must fulfill two of the following five criteria:
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Utensils
  • Cooking gear
  • Spices

A feast must be prepared and then immediately consumed. Leftovers don't count as a feast. 

Each monster eaten provides a certain amount of portions. A rat yields about one portion. A minotaur yields about eight. A dragon could feast upwards of fifty adventurers. 

If you eat something sentient, you gain a point of The Hunger (see below).

The GM should add together any nutritional benefits from the two ingredients used to make a feast and tell the players the totals for each nutrient category (see below). Decimal totals are rounded as normal; .5 is rounded up to 1, .4 is rounded down to 0.

A nutrient has a maximum score of 5. No matter the combination of ingredients, a nutrient can't go above 5 for any one particular feast.

The GM does not need to elaborate about which ingredient provided which benefit.

Example: After a battle with a basilisk, the party cooks an omelette out of the basilisk's eggs, basilisk bacon, and sliced shambling mound. They cook the omelette in Senshi's wok (cooking gear), flavor it with salt, pepper, and ketchup (spices), over a fire. This fulfills 3 out of 5 of the cooking requirements.

Leveling Up - Eat Your Way to Glory


Levels are a useless concept. Abandon them.

Characters grow and become stronger if they eat well-balanced, healthful, and magical meals. 


Each feast has five stats, called nutrients. 
  • Flavor determines how delicious the feast is. This nutrient reinforces a character's Save stat. 
  • Energy determines how many calories a feast has. This nutrient reinforces a character's Grit.
  • Minerals provide needed magical energy. This nutrient refills a spell-casting character's Magic Dice. 
  • Vitamins are good for your brain. This nutrient reinforces a character's mental abilities. 
  • Protein builds strong bones and muscles. This nutrient reinforces a character's physical abilities.
Each character eating a feast may choose to gain the benefits of two nutrients per feast. 

Example: The basilisk and shambling mound omelette both contribute their nutritional merits to the meal.

The shambling mound contributes 0.4 Flavor, 2.6 Energy, 1 Minerals, 2.5 Vitamins, and 2 Protein.

The basilisk contributes 2 Flavor, 1.5 Energy, 2 Minerals, 2 Vitamins, and 2 Protein.

In total, that's 2 Flavor, 4 Energy, 3 Minerals, 4 Vitamins, and 4 Protein. The feast is entirely of exotic foods so the Food Dice equals d6.

  • Laius the fighter and Senshi the dwarf were both injured in the battle, so they both dedicate one-half of the feast to energy to get back some Grit. 
  • Laius is training with Marcille to learn magic, so he dedicates the other half of his feast to vitamins, hoping to buff his mental stats. 
  • Senshi dedicates the other half of his feast to flavor, hoping to get a bonus to his Save stat. 
  • Marcille used magic during the last battle so she dedicates half of her feast to minerals to recover magic dice. She chooses vitamins for the other half of her feast hoping to gain a bonus to her Wisdom stat. 
  • Chilchak chooses flavor and protein for his benefits, hoping to gain some benefit to his Save or Dexterity stats.

Food Dice

When the rules call for it, the players may roll Food Dice (FD). Food Dice are either d4s, d6s or d8s. 
  • If the feast contained mundane animals or plants, the Food Dice are equal to d4s. 
  • If the feast contained no mundane animals or plants, only exotic ingredients, the Food Dice are equal to d6s. 
  • If the feast contained extraordinarily magical ingredients, like a dragon or an angel, the Food Dice are equal to d8s. 

Checks and Increasing Stats

If a player accumulates three checks on any stat except for Attack, they may immediately increase that stat by 1. Adjust derived stats accordingly.

Attack requires five checks to increase.

When you gain a physical stat increase (Strength, Constitution, or Dexterity), you gain a template in a class of predominantly physical prowess (e.g., Acrobat, Fighter, Thief, Ranger, etc.).

When you gain a mental stat increase (Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma), you gain a template in a magical, academic, or weird class (e.g., Wizard, Cleric, Rat Master, etc.). 

The GM will make a call for templates that seem to straddle the physical/mental divide (e.g., Muscle Wizard). Maybe you need alternating stat increases, or maybe the GM will set up prime requisites that trigger template gain.

Flavor

The more delicious the meal, the better disposition the character has. The better a character's disposition, the stronger their willpower and more stalwart their heart.

If the players benefit from flavor: Characters may roll as many FD as the feast's flavor rank.
  • If the total of the roll exceeds the character's Save, the Save stat gains a check.
  • If any FD show the same face, the character gains a temporary bonus to their Save score equal to the amount of faces shown. This bonus lasts until the next time you rest.
    • For example, a roll of 3, 2, 2, 2, 4 would give a bonus of +3. 

Energy

The more energy a character has, the more resilient they are in the face of adversity.

If the players benefit from energy: After the feast, characters may roll as many FD as the feast's energy rank.
  • The character's current Grit score is immediately replaced with the new total. 

Minerals

Minerals connect a character to the natural world and the ebb of mana. As a magic-user casts spells, their internal reserves of minerals becomes quickly depleted. In fact, magic-users are at great risk for hypokalemia and hypocalcaemia. 

If the players benefit from minerals: Characters gain magic dice (MD) of the same die type and number as the feast's mineral rank. A character can hold as maximum amount of magic dice as they have spell-casting templates. These MD are held until spent and expended through casting spells.

Example: Marsille (Wizard 3, Necromancer 1) currently has 3 MD. She eats basilisk and slime soup, which has a mineral rating of 2. This would yield two d6 MD, to be used whenever she wants to cast a spell. However, since her maximum is 4 magic dice, she only gains one d6 MD from the meal.

Vitamins

Vitamins produce a healthful effect on one's metabolism, reasoning, and cognitive capabilities. By eating foods rich in vitamins, characters benefit from increased memory and logical reasoning capabilities.

If the players benefit from vitamins: Characters may roll as many FD as the feast's vitamin rank.
  • Select one of your mental abilities: Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma. If the total of the roll exceeds the character's ability, that ability gains a check.
  • A player may choose to "split" the FD between different mental abilities. For example, after eating a 4FD feast, you may put 2FD towards Wisdom and 2FD towards Charisma.
  • If any FD rolled against the same ability show the same face, the character gains a temporary bonus to their selected score equal to the amount of faces shown. This bonus lasts until the next time you rest.
    • For example, a roll of 4, 4 towards Charisma and 1, 3 towards Wisdom would give a bonus of +2 to Charisma. 

Proteins

Proteins are important for building muscle and reducing soreness after exertion. Eating foods rich in proteins promotes physical development. 

If the players benefit from proteins: Characters may roll as many FD as the feast's proteins rank.
  • Select one of your physical abilities (Strength, Constitution, or Dexterity) or Attack stat. If the total of the roll exceeds the character's ability, that ability gains a check.
  • A player may choose to "split" the FD between different stats. For example, after eating a 5FD feast, you may put 2FD towards Attack and 3FD towards Constitution.
  • If any FD rolled against the same ability show the same face, the character gains a temporary bonus to their selected score equal to the amount of faces shown. This bonus lasts until the next time you rest.
    • For example, a roll of 4, 4 towards Attack and 1, 3, 3 towards Constitution would give a temporary bonus of +2 to both Attack and Constitution. 

Example: Following our example above, let's zoom in on each member of the party and see how the feast impacted them. 

  • In total, that's 2 Flavor, 4 Energy, 3 Minerals, 4 Vitamins, and 4 Protein. The feast is entirely of exotic foods so the Food Dice equals d6.

    • Laius the fighter rolls 4d6 for Energy and 4d6 for Vitamins. He dedicates all 4d6 to his Intelligence, hoping to raise that stat (currently a 12). 
      • Laius rolls a 15 for his Energy. He sets his current Grit total to 15. 
      • Laius rolls a 13 for his Vitamins. Since this is above his current Intelligence score, he gives this ability one check.
    • Senshi the dwarf rolls 4d6 for Energy and 2d6 for Flavor. Senshi's Save stat is currently 11
      • Senshi rolls a 7 for his Energy. He sets his current Grit total to 7. 
      • Senshi rolls a 5 for his Flavor. This is lower than his current Save score so he gains no checks.
    • Marcille the elf rolls 3d6 for her Minerals and 4d6 for her Vitamins. She currently has 1 Magic Die and a maximum of 4. Her Wisdom stat is currently 15.
      • Marcille gains 3 Magic Dice. This sets her total back to 4, her maximum. 
      • Marcille rolls an 8 for her Vitamins. Since this is lower than her current Wisdom score she gains no checks.
    • Chilchak the halfling rolls 2d6 for Flavor. Chilchak's Save stat is currently 10. He wants to raise both his Strength score (currently 8) and Constitution score (currently 10). Because the feast provides 4d6 Protein, he puts 2d6 towards Strength and 2d6 towards Constitution. 
      • Chilchak rolls 10 for his Flavor. Because this meets but does not exceed his Save stat, he gains no checks.
      • Chilchak rolls 4 for his Proteins vs Strength. Since this is lower than his current Strength score he gains no checks.
      • Chilchak rolls 11 for his Proteins vs Constitution. Since this is above his current Constitution score, he gives this ability one check.

The Hunger

The Hunger is always thrilling

Only the very desperate or the very wicked eat the flesh of sentient races.

If you succumb to the temptation, you gain 1 point of The Hunger.

At the end of each feast where you gained a point of The Hunger, you make a The Hunger check. Roll a d20.

If you "succeed" on The Hunger check, you become a ghoul. You no longer can return to the surface--the mana up there cannot sustain you. You can no longer eat normal food. You can only digest the flesh of the dead or sentient races.

The Hunger never decreases. Once you're on this dark path, you're on the dark path for the rest of your life.

There may be some wiggle room here. Eating harpies might illicit The Hunger whereas eating harpy eggs might not.

The GM is the ultimate arbiter of what's sentient and what isn't, but they must be forthcoming about this up front. No fair saying, "Ha ha actually slimes are like, super intelligent and secretly altruistic. You just ate the Mother Theresa of slimes" after the fact.

Example: Senshi the dwarf, starving and delirious, is served a stew of dwarf flesh after a desperate and failed delving. He partakes and gains 1 point of The Hunger. At the end of the feast, he makes a The Hunger check. His player rolls a d20 and gets a 15--well above the 1 needed to "succeed" on the check. As such, Senshi remains a dwarf but maintains a permanent point of The Hunger.

Finding Food

Each floor of the dungeon has an ecology that makes a perverse amount of sense.
Here is a link to a spreadsheet that has the nutritional details of everything in the 1st Edition Monstrous Manual.

Cross-reference this with the Monster Menu-All from Skerples for full-blown info on everything you want to devour (see Sources Cited).



Friday, December 27, 2019

Dragonlance: 5th Age (Saga System) - A review

I was rereading Art & Arcana over the Christmas holiday, and noticed an interesting caption for a small image, calling out an unpopular edition of a Dragonlance game played with cards called Dragonlance: 5th Age. Since I'm currently writing a game played with cards, I've read a ton of other card-based systems, but somehow this was never on my radar. As a lark, I looked it up.

When the OSR looks back to the earliest days of D&D, they're not really looking at this era. D&D3E was only three years away. At the end of its life, AD&D was doing some weird things. In the same way that D&D4E was contextualized and framed by the popularity of MMOs, TSR of this era is contextualized by Magic: the Gathering. Wizards of the Coast, the new wunderkind (who would eventually go on to devour its older brother like a bizarre terratoma), was perceived by TSR to be its main competition. And instead of defining itself by its differences, TSR wanted to copy what made MtG interesting. In 1994, they released Spellfire, which was followed the next year with Blood Wars. Neither imitator proved as successful as the original. In 1996, TSR also released Dragonlance: 5th Age, a rule set that used not the AD&D 2nd ed rules, but a new card-based system called the Saga Edition. It was not successful either.

But it is interesting! It's sort of like finding an archaeopteryx: a feathered link between the old and the new. It uses a specialized deck of cards with the characters from the Dragonlance novels on them and Tarot-like suits. It steps away from dungeon crawling, coin counting, and inventive solutions with ten-foot poles and packages of lard in favor of high adventure heroics. It has rules that genre-emulate the novels that made Krynn famous.

I can see why it wasn't a hit. The 5th Age of the setting is markedly different from the setting of the novels. In giving new players space to tell their own stories, they removed all the touchstones that made Dragonlance feel like Dragonlance. In a world that was supposed to be more dragon than dungeon, it dramatically reduced the draconic population. It even got rid of the token three moons of magic.

Also, the card-based system is interesting, but it's a real break from AD&D. This was a gamble on TSR's part--frankly, in 1996, D&D wasn't cool or popular, even in its own fanbase. The Satanic Panic had stained D&D's public reputation and taken the teeth out of the creature that remained. There were worthy RPG competitors (I was happily playing Shadowrun around this time, imagining a far future world with a cordless fax machine). By making a non-D&D game, TSR was hoping that the Dragonlance brand could popularize a new system of cooperative card-based storytelling. It was never meant to be.

As I'm reading through the rules for "Fifth Age," I thought I'd jot down my observations. The game is a weird duck, but interesting.
Image result for dragonlance
You could be one of three heroic standers! (Dragons not included.)

Prologue

The 5th Age came in a boxed set. It's well established that box sets rule. Book 1 has all the core rules of the Saga System and clocks a cool 128 pages. Not an unwieldy tome by any stretch. 

The art is very sparse. Occasionally a quarter-page of half-page black and white character piece will sit breaking up the two column text, but none of it is worth mentioning. 

The other stuff in the boxed set includes the specialized cards used to play the game (called the "Fate Deck"), a gazetteer of the current age of Krynn, and an introductory adventure. This review is all about Book 1. 

Book 1 glosses the high points of the differences between the 5th Age setting and your father's Dragonlance. First change? Like, no fuckin' dragons. Did you think you were gonna lance one? TOO BAD. 

Change the second? The magic system is different (read: non-Vancian). The three moons are gone. In its place is "Sorcery." The gods are gone; in their place is a new cleric-ish system of "Mysticism." These are puerile changes. 

The game defines that it's themes are heroism, tragedy, romance, and good vs evil. Romance is a weird one to throw in there; there aren't really any rules to support it as a core theme that I've read. It would be interesting if they had some. 

To me, it's a welcome departure from the AD&D milieu to explicitly make a game have "heroic" themes. It explicitly says that characters should work together, cooperate, and play the heroes. This sets good expectations for players who want to have an experience like the novels; no murder hobos welcome. 

Part of this focus on heroism explicitly steers GMs (called "Narrators," like a fucking White Wolf game or something) away from scenes about shopping, cooking, bathing, and other mundanities. The game is explicitly about larger than life action, and everybody--players and GMs alike--are supposed to focus on that. Even 5th Ed wasn't this bold.

Chapter 1: Character Creation


Image result for dragonlance
Look at these dudes

Character creation is a mini-game, half-randomized. You draw twelve cards from the deck of fate and assign them to your eight attributes, two personality traits, your "quest/reputation" score, and your "wealth/social standing" score. 

The eight attributes are essentially "Strength/melee attack and defense," "Agility/missile attack and defense," "Intelligence/arcane magic attack and defense," and "Charisma/divine magic attack and defense." 

There are not classes, but class-like features and restrictions are generated from your attributes. Therefore, there's a little strategy to be employed as you assign your card values: attributes also have a "code" based on the suit that you use. For example, the suit of Swords is tied to the Strength attribute. If you assign a 4 of Swords to your Strength score, you'll have a Strength of "4A." This means that you're somewhat weaker than the average human (average Strength of 5) but you're well trained in matters of arms: you can wield any melee weapon. If you instead had put a 10 of Dragons card to your Strength score, you would have been at peak human strength ("10"), but untrained in weapons (can only wield basic melee weapons). Other attributes control your ability to carry shields, wear armor, and cast arcane and divine magic. I thought this was interesting. 

In addition to your attributes, you set your wealth level, assign two personality traits, and your "quest/reputation score." As the game focuses on heroic action and not bean counting, abstracting wealth makes sense. In terms of the personality traits: I can't find any storygame-esque incentives for following these, so I'd be a little worried that these are just dumps for your worst cards. Even 5th ed backgrounds would be used to reward inspiration, so that was a little disappointing.

Most interesting to me was the quest/reputation score. This value demarcates how many cards you can have in your hand (more on this later). Right from character creation, you can generate a rank newbie like Bilbo or a grizzled veteran like Gandalf, both in the same party. 

The advantages of random generation (speed, interesting/unideal combinations) are lost with this method. Still, there's no strategizing for deep builds, where you NEED to pick up the Shield Master Feat at 1st level or you won't be able to qualify for the Dwarven Defender prestige class by 12th. So the worst parts of planned "builds" are absent. 

There are various races: elves, dwarves, centaurs, minotaurs, and the hated kender. Each have attribute requirements to qualify for, so I imagine that players will strategize a bit to see if they can get the appropriate attributes to get the race they want to play.

Characters level up by increasing their quest score once after ever completed adventure. They also have the chance once per adventure to raise one of their attributes by drawing a card. If the card is higher than the tested attribute, it is raised by one point. Absent class features, it seems that characters are more or less flat after character creation. Sometimes their attributes might be raised, they'll gain social standing and win fictional positioning (titles, lands, castles, items, etc.), but won't change much mechanically after character creation. 

Chapter 2: Creating Adventures


Image result for dragonlance calendar art 1985
I wish the book had used the cover/calendar art, like this.
The game then jumps to principles for the GM to create adventurers. I think the common wisdom is to put this stuff in the back of the bus, where the GM is exiled, but honestly there's a good logic for putting it front and center: "This is what the game is about. This is what to expect." 

This chapter recounts the common wisdom of 90s RPGs about making plots. There's a flow chart with a basic sample adventure and crossroads of where to go if the party fails/ignores a plot thread, but ultimately it all circles back to the same conclusion. This is bad. If real failure isn't on the line, success isn't real either.

What is better is having a concrete play procedure that is clearly mapped out. From the book:
"To direct the play of each scene, the Narrator must:
1. Offer a short, introductory description to set the scene.
2. Ask the players what their heroes want to do first in the scene.
3. Resolve, through card play or role-playing or both, how well the heroes' plans succeeded."

That rules, and similar to the procedure that I recommend in my own games. It puts a focus on setting "scenes" with problems, lets the players act, and then uses a combination of role-playing and the game's mechanics to resolve the players' actions. More games should have their procedures so clearly articulated. 

Chapter 3: Actions

Image result for dragonlance calendar art 1985
Action!
The third chapter articulates the basic resolution engine of the game. 

Up front, it talks a bit about movement rates and weather. This isn't what the game is about, so I'm not super sure why this stuff is here. 

The game says explicitly that lighting doesn't matter, that torches are always on hand. In a less gritty game, I'm glad they just said this. It's not my cup of tea, but this is essentially the end state of every 2nd level 5th Ed character.

Finally, the book gets around to telling us the core mechanic of the game. Each player has a hand of cards based on their quest level. When they want to perform an action, even a small one, the GM considers the difficulty of the action and sets a secret target number. Then, the player plays a card and adds the appropriate attribute value. The GM interprets the results, saying whether the card was high enough to meet their secret TN. 

The Pros: I like how players have some autonomy; they can choose to use their best cards for situations they really want to succeed. 

The Cons: Having hidden TNs feels as if the essential gimmick is: "Do the player and the GM agree about how difficult a particular task is?" When the player can only see the world through the GM's description, this gimmick seems inherently problematic. 

When I GM a traditional game, I lay out all the modifiers to the players in a straightforward way. "So, the horse isn't trained for battle, so it's going pretty crazy. It will be a DC 20 to calm it. You did establish a rapport with it earlier, so go ahead and take a +1 bonus to your Animal Handling roll." Everybody knows the stakes up front, and can argue about the essential merits of the "difficulty" up front. Once a task has already failed, it feels crucially unfair to say "Well, nuh uh, it should have been easier to begin with."

I'm not sure how this actually plays at the table. I haven't played this game, only read it. 

Interesting note: the GM doesn't play cards or make actions. The players must oppose the NPCs to stop them from automatically accomplishing tasks. For my two cents, I've always liked systems where the GM doesn't roll. I got enough shit to do.

The book then tries to anticipate some potential bad behaviors and give alternate rules to the core mechanic to help a GM maintain the proper flow of the game. For example, it says that players should not be able to "waste" low cards on frivolous tasks. The GM should just say "No, you don't need to spend a card on that," and keep the scene moving. It also offers an alternative method for using Tarot-like interpretations based on the card's character art. For example, if a player wants to ask if there is an outpost of knights in this town, the GM should ask the player to discard a card. If the card has a knight on it, the answer is yes. The game points out all the cool, helpful characters from the novels have low rankings, so this is one way to get rid of low cards. 

That all seems...pretty wishy washy. 


Chapter 4: Combat

Related image
Teach me how to Douggie
Combat plays out in range bands, from "visual" and "artillery" at its far end to "melee" and "personal" (for grappling) at its near end. Strangely, actions take a different number of minutes in each band, e.g., 1 hour for visual, 1 minute for near missile and melee, but 30 seconds for personal. Not sure why this needed to be called out. There's also a table for initial combat ranges by terrain. Not sure why a "high road" needs to be explicitly called out as "artillery range." Seems like this is easily handled with common sense; no table needed.

Three players have special roles. The one with the highest Presence gets to be the leader. The two with the highest Perception gets to be the sentry or the scout. These characters need to perform special actions during battle (avoiding surprise, setting up surprise, managing distance, etc.). Neat!

The flow of combat is:
1. Surprise attacks
2. Handle combat maneuvers (close vs retreat)
3. Heroes act
4. Check enemy wounds
5. Enemies act
6. Check hero wounds

This is interesting. Having distance management between the two parties is kind of cool, and reminiscent of my own experience LARPing. It's an interesting choice making the heroes always act first. In the game Sentinels of the Multi-verse, the villains always attack first and it gives it the feeling of a comic book--heroes reacting to a villain's scheme. This gives the heroes a much different feeling--charging in and brandishing steel.

That said, there's not a lot of guidance for PCs doing crazy heroic feats of daring outside of an "attack, then defend" grind. There is a mini-game of choosing cards, but yawn. I wish the book had given some additional rules for maneuvers that would break up the basic flow as inspiration for GMs and players. 

Chapter 5: Magic

Image result for raistlin
You can tell by the look in those hourglasses that he mad

Alright. So to justify the change in the magic rules, 5th Age got rid of the spell systems and lore established in the novels and created two "new" types of magic: sorcery and mysticism. They map to the same ideological space as arcane and divine magic, though. I could take or leave the new names, and think the fluff around them is pretty lame.

As mentioned, only people with a high enough "code" can cast spells. The rank of your spell casting attribute also determines how many spell points you have. 

Players "construct" spells using point totals. For example, a spell cast at archery range needs 3 spell points put towards its "range" attribute. If the spell would effect an entire house, it would cost 5 spell points. Spells can weakly heal or hurt targets, and there's a vague table for how "difficult" it is, on a scale from 1-5.

In general, the spell-creation system is much less robust than something like Ars Magica. This system seems really easy to exploit. It can be a solve-anything button if the most impactful spells have a base cost of 5 spell points. A lucky card at character generation can have a magic user character really overshadow other characters.

That said, if everybody is on the same page and the players all are talented role-players who know how to share the spotlight, it looks fun as hell to create your own spells. Especially if it was contrived to have an entire party of spellcasters. If I found the combat rules de facto repetitive, having infinite spell effects could be a way to really make this system shine.

Chapter 6: Monsters

The last chapter just provides a big tables of monsters, with lists of abilities to look up on another page. The most attention is paid to dragons, despite the claim in chapter 1 that there are only about 50 left, and of those half are "in hiding." 

This is hard to use at the table. I just glanced through this section. Even so, there's all sorts of annoying shit in here. "Brass dragons are slightly larger than bronze dragons" vs "Bronze dragons, almost the size of brass dragons." Well how fucking big are they? Maybe this gloss is good for somebody super familiar with the setting material, but it doesn't recommend itself well to me.

Final Takes

I don't know. I kind of want to play it to see how it plays out at the table, but I also don't really want to waste a precious Saturday getting my gaming group together just to trot this out. 

I think the spellcasting system looks fun--if the GM and players are somewhat heavy handed in making sure that non-spellcasters aren't overshadowed. I like the formalization of the party roles. I like the idea of playing around with cards. I think cards are fun. 

I think the setting is a swing and a miss. I can see why Dragonlance fans were disappointed. I think the core mechanic needs a lot of finesse to be fun, not frustrating. 

In all, I think this is a particularly weird evolutionary missing link in D&D's evolution, and I'm glad to have read it. 


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Scars


The basis of this system was stolen borrowed from P Stu over at False Machine. I adapted it for my own system, His Majesty the Worm, and my players just got their first scar. They're all excited about it, so I thought I would post the list here.

Scars

“Though he had been healed in Rivendell of the knife-stroke, that grim wound had not been without effect. His senses were sharper and more aware of things that could not be seen. One sign of change that he soon had noticed was that he could see more in the dark than any of his companions, save perhaps Gandalf.” - Fellowship of the Ring

My family has a legend about my great grandmother. It was said that she was so fed up with getting seasonal poison ivy and suffering those itchy welts that she finally ate a poison ivy leaf sandwich. It sent her to the hospital.

But she survived. And she never got poison ivy again.

Believe my family legend or not, it’s the basis of this subsystem. So strap in:
·         You were dead. Now you’re not. You bear a mark from your death.
·         Describe your scar. Every time you see it, it reminds you of the time you died.
·         Based on the enemy that marked you in this way, you gain a new talent. This talent may be Exhausted like any other.
·         You may only gain a scar once per Crawl.

The list of scar talents below is not exhaustive. Work out the specifics of your scar with your GM.

Animate Statue Scar
A hand-shaped scar. In the brief moment of your death, the statue’s machinations made sense to you. Spend a lore bid and ask the GM where the animated statue’s empowering rune is.

Bloodybones Scar
The bloodybone skeletons stripped all the flesh off of one of your hands, trying to free their “lost brother” under your skin. Luckily, your skeletal hand still functions more or less as normal. One of your skeletal fingers is a “skeleton key.” It functions as a lockpick that you always have on you.


Bog Zombie Scar
An ugly wound, swollen and pus-filled. It never quite heals. As long as this talent is not wounded, undead will ignore you. You are invisible to them. They smell themselves on you.


Brain Spider Scar
The thing left scars you couldn’t see, deep in your head. As long as you are in physical contact with someone, you can communicate with them telepathically. This freaks most people out, but allows you to overcome a language barrier.

Cockatrice Scar
One of your eyes remains stone, smooth and polished like marble. You can pop it out and still see through it. Also, it is made out of stone, so it’s really hard to hurt.

Devil Scar
A red blotch that looks vaguely like writing. You become extremely good at legalese. You can spend a lore bid to ask the GM if there are any hidden clauses in a contract that you should know about. The GM will lay everything out clearly.
Your scar prickles whenever you enter a mythraeum (aka temple).

Ettin Scar
The scar barfs forth a teratoma. You grow a proto head. Everybody thinks it’s gross and people generally default to the distaste disposition when they see you. However, as long as it’s uncovered, your scar will bark out a warning if you are ever ambushed. You are never surprised.

Face Rat Scar
The rat stole your fucking face. Now there’s just a big blank fleshy space between your hairline and your chin. You can still eat with that little slit and see basically okay, but you have no face. If you ever find another face rat, you can cut their face off and wear it like a mask. It fuses onto your blankness and is a perfect disguise. The more face rats you catch, the more disguises you gain.

Fungoid Scar
Your scar sprouts ugly little brown mushrooms. If you ever actually die, these will sprout into a fungoid doppleganger. Nobody will be able to tell the difference (at least at first).

Griffin Scar
The humans of House Gryphes host griffin hunts in honor of their king. Scars from griffins earn you mad respect with that group. Any member of the ruling house of the City will listen to tales of how you got your scar with rapturous attention.

Harpy Scar
A smear of white scar tissue reminiscent of pigeon shit on your car. You become great at insulting someone. During a Challenge, you may treat Banter as either a Cups or Wands action.

Imp Scar
An ugly scar that looks like a grinning mouth. You can spend 2 Resolve to retry a test of fate that became a great failure.

Jinn Scar
You were burned by the jinn. When the burned healed, it was in a hauntingly beautiful pattern of rainbow hues. Undeniably a burn, but somehow beautiful. This scar notably benefits sorcerers. While this talent is unWounded, you may use your magic whenever someone else holds an appropriate component and wishes you to.
·         If someone in your vicinity is holding a component, you may cast the spell “for” them.
o   During a Challenge, the person making the wish must use the Speak Incantations action.
·         You must know the appropriate Talent to cast that particular component’s spell.
·         Either you or the person making the wish may spend the Resolve.
o   If neither of you are willing, nothing happens.
·         You must still be able to see or touch your target, per normal.
·         You can only concentrate on one spell at a time, per normal.

Kelpie Scar
You can cast the spell Defy Depths (see Appendix X, page XX) on yourself for a Resolve without a component. This spell requires concentration as normal.

Lion Scar
The outline of the lion’s bite shines with raw, pink flesh. Anyone marked by a lion carries the power of the king of beasts. You gain favor in tests of fate to tame or calm wild animals.

Mimic Scar
Once bitten, twice shy. You may spend a lore bid to ask a GM if any one item is actually a mimic. They’ll answer honestly.

Nymph Scar
Any scar suffered from a nymph’s meddling always turns out super dramatic. You look like a badass. You can spend a Resolve to ignore a nymph’s charm power and all other Inspire Trust or Inspire Joy effects.

Ooze Scar
The ooze devoured one of your limbs (talk with the GM about which one makes the most sense). However, it left a little bit of itself behind. You grow a new limb out of ooze. It behaves more or less like a normal limb, except it’s obviously a slime and is super hard to actually hurt. It can be hit by a nine-pound hammer, slammed inside an iron maiden, or stretched on the rack and suffer no lasting harm. Fire still hurts it, though.

Questing Beast Scar
A bite mark. You can spend a Resolve to ask the GM in which direction lies your personal quest (but not a guild-fellow's quest). They will answer you honestly.
When this talent is wounded, the scar begins to whine and yip like a pack of dogs and stealth becomes impossible.

Titan Scar
Scarification of your lungs leaves you with a permanent rasp and the ability to belch out a cloud of elemental spume. For 2 Resolve, you can exhale a cloud of elemental energy appropriate to the titan who scarred you. This cloud affects everybody in the zone except for you.
During combat, using this ability is a Wands action that targets the initiative of everybody in the zone.
·         A breath of fire lights all untended flammable objects aflame. Everybody affected in the zone catches fire. They take a Wound at the beginning of their focus action unless they use a Recover action to put themselves out.
·         A breath of ice freezes all potions, oils, or bombs (making them unusable until warmed up). Everybody affected is crystalized and Rooted and Exhausted until they make a Recover action to free themselves.

Ungoat Scar
A honeycomb of flesh that elicits a severe trypophobia response. You’re not sure it’s ever going to heal. If you would ever prompt maleficence as a sorcerer, you can draw twice and choose the result using the tables in Appendix III, page XX.

Vampire Scar
A vampiric scar—often intense scarification of the neck—carries a connection to the undead. By spending a lore bid, you can detect the presence of a vampire. If one is present on the same level of the Underworld, the GM will tell you which path is closest to it. If one is present in the same room (hidden, in one of a thousand coffins, etc.), the GM will tell you exactly where it is.
Unfortunately, this connection goes both ways. All vampires can sense you in the same way. You are a beacon in the night to their eyes.

Winter Wolf Scar
The wound festers into a cluster of crystals, icy cold to the touch. Anything you touch it to becomes frozen after five or ten minutes of close contact.

Wraith Scar
Your scar is always cold to the touch. You now live half in the wraith world and half in the world of the living. You can interact with and attack wraiths, shadows, specters, and other spiritual enemies, even with your bare hands or mundane weapons.

Yellow King Scar
A horrible creeping yellow blotch. You swear it gets bigger every time you look at it, as if it’s consuming you. By spending a Resolve, you can resist a spell cast on you. The caster’s Resolve is still spent.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Maidens and the Moon - The Cursed City

The Cursed City


For years, the Sun King ruled Gafferdy fair and well, but he passed away, leaving the kingdom to his daughter and heir, Princess Sun. 

The Kingdom of Gafferdy is comprised of several independent city states formed in a loose confederation. All of the individual cities pay tribute to the capital city (also called just "Gafferdy," also called the Blessed City). 

When the Moon King performed his blasphemous rites, he took everything away from Princess Sun. When he did so, he positioned the moon directly above the capital city. It is now called the Cursed City (also called the Wicked City).

Now, the moon hangs leering like a drunken, groping uncle in the sky. It is eternally night and never day. Masked half-men are sold into indentured servitude and their masks are given to hideous moon demons. Everybody is poor and nobody is happy. 

Here, however, is the body of Princess Sun, sitting miserable in a bath of milk and honey. She is watched over by Reverend Mother Wisdom, the last of her holy order. As her handmaidens adventure, they bring back all that the Moon King stole from their princess to this Cursed City.

And, high above the city, is the floating Moon Castle. It is guarded by a terrible dragon. Somewhere in those pale halls is the Moon King. What further wickedness is he working, and how will our heroes save the princess and make him answer for his crimes?

Background

The essential flow of His Majesty the Worm is the Crawl, broken up by Camps, and punctuated by the City. As such, it was essential to me to get the feeling of the City correct for this game. It is the beginning and ending of each errantry. 

In HMtW vanilla, the City is essentially Byzantium/Rome squatting like a pregnant Rosemary above the Ur-City/Hell/Garden of Eden. For my Maidens and the Moon campaign, I wanted to capture that feeling of the Zelda hub-world, like Hyrule in Ocarina. Goblinpunch's attempt at this varies dramatically from my own. For my part, I wanted the city to operate more like a hub and less like an adventure location. There were too many districts in Arnold's post to present the city succinctly, and I wanted the PCs mostly to engage the shop keeps and folk for quest hooks outside of the city. 

I have to admit, I stole almost all of this content from other blogs. I believe I got most of this content from either Silent Titans or Ten-Foot Polemic. If you have claim to any of this and want me to credit you or take it down, just let me know.  

So, without further ado...


Caveat

And, again, there's material here that my players have not uncovered yet. If you're in my game, be ye warned that this way lies ruin(ed fun). 

Rules of the City

Source
This is the print out I gave my players. They know there are three districts (essentially: very poor, poor, and rich) with different shops which allow them to take different actions. 

When the maidens return to civilization, laden with treasure and light on supplies, the City Phase begins. 

Here is the summary of the City Phase:
1)    The GM checks for City Events
2) Turn in your bounty to Reverend Mother Wisdom and receive 4XP 
3) Pay your upkeep
a) If you pay no upkeep, you are Destitute for this City Phase
b) Impoverished costs 25s / Refill your pack with Impoverished-level gear from the Forge
c) Common costs 50s / Refill your pack with Common-level gear from the Forge / Treat 
your City Phase as a Camp Action in terms of expending charges and healing Wounds
d) Luxurious costs 100s / Refill your pack with Luxurious-level gear from the Forge / Heal all Wounds and refresh all Resolve
4) Perform a City Action
5) Before next session, the GM restocks their random encounter tables. 

1. City Events

  1. [Rumor] Two women hang laundry. Did you hear? The Master Thief came and stole Mistress Quick’s collection of scissors and left behind only orange peels. I hear the Master Thief is also a master lover! Oh you!
  2. [Rumor] A woman sings as she empties a jar of nightwater: The ouzel cock so black of hue / With orange and tawny bill / He singeth with a word so true / When you write him with his quill
  3. [Rumor] Oy! Missy! Headed out on expedition are ye? If ye visit all 20 trollbridges, the mayor hisself has to give ye the key to the city. Tis true! Ye’ll be dubbed “Lord of the Purse,” for the good taxes ye’ve paid. 
  4. [Rumor] Two black-robed students talk in the street. “It’s said that the Pentangled Knight is as wise as he is brave! He always wrote down pages of lore as he travelled, carefully detailing strange creatures he encountered! A scholar knight!”
  5. [Rumor] A man sings as he pilots a gondola down a canal: The starveling cat, the starveling cat, / It knows what we're thinking, And we don't like that! The starveling cat, the starveling cat /  It likes your bones! It prefers your fat! / The starveling cat, the starveling cat / Sits on your chest when you're sleeping flat!
  6. [Rumor] Your group crosses a puppet show well attended by grubby looking street urchins. The puppet show features the Black Witch skinning a man and making a big hairy sausage out of his skin! The shrieking laugh sounds awfully lifelike... 
  7. [Rumor] In a crowded town square, you come upon an auction of half-men selling themselves into indentured servitude for periods of seven years. A devil wearing a smiling mask with huge blue horns, a cravat, and long velveteen coat leads the auction. Other devils, leading maskless animals by chains, bid on the masks. 
  8. [Rumor] Mermaid EGGS for sale! Mermaid EGGS for sale! 1 in 10 is a princess!
  9. [Rumor] You pass a woman in the street wearing a heavy wooden shame mask--the mask has a jeering face and a kingly crown and a huge nose. A sign around her neck reads, “Dream crimes.” 
  10. [Rumor] The crowds are parted by silent knights. Unspeaking, they push you to the side of the street so a merchant’s palanquin can pass. The palanquin is loaded with bundles of goods tied with linen cords. An old woman next to you says, “Ah, that’s Hainlik Heavycoin! I wish I could afford a beautiful dress. Do you know they grant you small charms or magic spells?”
  11. [Bizarre edict] The Mayor, Hugh Lupus, is reading one of the Moon King’s bizarre edicts. Silent knights are near at hand to immediately enforce it.  
  12. [Bizarre edict] Bizarre edict
  13. [Bizarre edict] Bizarre edict
  14. [Bizarre edict] Bizarre edict
  15. [Bizarre edict] Bizarre edict
  16. [Dream audit]  Dream auditors wearing long black robes and masquerade masks flanked by silent knights accost [discard suit] PC and ask them about their latest dreams. The dream auditors seem HIGHLY suspicious and GRAVELY concerned about these dreams. Oblige them to submit to “dream distillation,” and have them breathe into strange, long, chemistry tubes. This robs them of 1 lore bid. 
  17. [Dream audit] Dream auditors 
  18. [Dream audit] Dream auditors 
  19. [Dream audit] Dream auditors 
  20. The Court of Wappentake
  21. The Court of Wassail

The Moon King's Bizarre Edicts

  1. No boots
  2. No water (even if abundant. no, especially if abundant)
  3. No money (barter only)
  4. No food 
  5. No weapons (actually pretty realistic, keeps the nobles armed and the peasants vulnerable)
  6. No armor (see above)
  7. No dogs
  8. No books
  9. No tattoos (pay or take a wound as the tattoo is cut off)
  10. No spells (They have no way to actually tell who is a wizard, randomly take money from party members)
  11. No names (Loose your legal name unless you pay. Foreign and noble names are extra. Starts a blackmarket of identities)
  12. No livestock (charge for any and all NPC companions)
  13. No hair (pay or be shaved bald)
  14. No taxes (pay a coin for each other type of tax you’ve had to pay. It covers the cost of collecting those other taxes)
  15. No snakes (Having trouble getting snakes to pay, will give bounty to characters that round up illegal snakes and turn them in)
  16. No colors (Charge characters with more expensive clothing or vibrant hair/eye colors)
  17. Penalize foot size (Larger feet wear down the roads faster. It’s only fair)
  18. No iron
  19. Tax diseases (charge to make up for the danger to community)
  20. Tax youth (pay to make up for not contributing to society)
  21. [Refer to the number that triggered the silent knight]

2. Reverend Mother Wisdom and Princess Sun


In the midst of the decadence is a temple: the Collegium Vestal--simple, elegant, and abandoned. A palace in the forum built around an elegant elongated atrium with a double pool. 

Grotesquely, the pool reflects the leering face of the moon and the floating Moon Castle. 

To the east is an open vaulted hall with a statue of the goddess of the city, Gafferdy. 
  • To your horror, you fail to see the familiar red glow of the hearthfire that should be lit at the statue’s feet. 
  • The statue is unmolested, but the huge brazier that holds the city’s sacred fire is cold and dark. 
The Collegium is mostly abandoned, the sisterhood dismissed, except for a single light flickering in an upstairs window. This is Princess Sun and Reverend Mother Wisdom. 


Princess Sun. They stole everything from her. 

At this moment she floats, skinless, in a bath of milk and honey, with new fresh milk and new fresh honey being brought every hour and drizzled all over her horrible body. 
She has no hair. 
  • Her hair is hidden in the Siege Castle. 
She has no skin. 
  • Her skin is hidden in the Forest Castle. 
She has no eyes.
  • Her eyes are hidden in the Mirage Castle.  
She cries voicelessly. 
  • Her voice is hidden in the Slime Castle
She doesn’t seem to remember anything. 
  • Her memory is hidden in the Skeleton Castle. 

Reverend Mother Wisdom tends Princess Sun. Revered Mother Wisdom has kept the hearthfire burning in the brazier at the foot of the copper tub. A single, golden flame flickers on a bed of round, red coals.

She is the oldest woman you’ve ever seen. Bent double with her years. Long grey hair. A red wimple, tall like a tent, and a red cloak over white robes.

3. Pay Your Upkeep

When you return to the Cursed City, you either pay 0, 25, 50, or 100 silver. Whatever you pay determines what City Actions you have available to you. See the image (above).

If you pay nothing, you're essentially sleeping on the street and you forego and a City Action.
If you pay 25 silver, you're "impoverished." You can perform an action in the Moat.

The Moat


Sights: A canal town built into the massive (elfish built) walls of the City. Whole families live in crows nests built into partially collapsed towers with narrow bridges linking together neighborhoods. Houseboats are common.  

Beggars huddle in rags around fires on islands in the canal. Unused houseboats are pulled apart for kindling. People have a emaciated, wary look.

Sounds: The songs of gondolieri, the gossip of old women smoking pipes and leaning outside of their windows across a canal, orphans hawking cockles and muscles, gulls crying 

Smells: Drying fish on lines, drying laundry on lines, emptying slop buckets into the canal, brackish water

Rations: Pickled pigs feet, pickled okra, pickled spicy cabbage, pickled turnips - in a word, pickles
Breakfast: A thick oat porridge (they apologize that there’s no fruit or honey to sweeten it anymore) - fermented milk. 
Lunch: Barbecued rat on a stick (they apologize there’s no fresh watermelon anymore. Don’t you love barbecue and watermelon?) - sour ale
Dinner: Cheese lit with rum and extinguished with a lemon squeeze, fried squid - sour wine


If you pay 50 silver, you're "common." You can perform an action in Highbridge.

Highbridge


Sights: Huge stone statues of mythical queens and city founders lift bridges out of the foaming water. Multi-story gothic buildings rise up from the bridges. 

Smaller stone statues once graced pillars and plaza fountains. Now, most of them are toppled. In their place, terrifying images of the Moon King, with statues of adoring devils gazing up at him. 

On plinth reads: flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo
  • Anybody who has a Cups of 4 recognizes this ancient mode to translate to: “If I cannot bend the will of Heaven, I shall move Hell.”

In the perpetual night, the stone buildings are lit by manifold smoking torches. Beggars crowd the steps of the buildings. 

There are one thousand cats. In the ruins of an older city, they sit and wait for food from the citizens--which they are given in abundance. 

Black smoke rises from a multitude of silver smithies. 

Sounds: “Lady bless you, spare a penny?” as you pass beggars. Water falling. Merchant’s hawking 24/7. Falling hammers of forges working throughout the ever-lasting night. 

Smells: The smell of burning coal. Cook fires of street vendors. Pitch covered torches. Waste water. 

Rations: Salt pork, turtle jerky, hard cheese, dried fish, flat bread
Breakfast: Hand pies of bacon and eggs
Lunch: Blood sausage, black bread, sowbelly, salads of watercress and crumbled feta - small beer 
Dinner: Broth with a poached duck egg and green onions, stuffed meat dumplings, grilled lamprey and leeks - watered wine

If you pay 100 silver, you're living "luxuriously." You can perform an action in Goldtower.

Goldtower



Sights: Goldtower is an acropolis set on a high plateau--a monumental white stone. The trees that once greened this district are cut down. 

Many mask wearing devils walk with animals on chain leashes. Dumb animals wait, blank faced, in pens and stables. Inside the opulent buildings, you see the shadows of parties. 

At every street corner, motionless guards in silvery armor stand silently. You’d think them empty suits of armor, except sometimes they suddenly explode into violent motion and arrest a passer by. 

Above you, beneath the leering face of the moon is the Moon Castle, once the castle of the queen of Gafferdy. Plucked from the earth, it sits on a cloud, above a gaping crater. As you gaze at it, you see a dragon winding its way around the towers of the stolen castle. 

Sounds: Drunken laughter coming from mansion. Cicadas. The screaming of a horse, distantly. Haunting, minor-keyed music wafting from an open window. 

Smells: The waft of a strong perfume from a passing lady. 

Rations: Dried fruits: figs, apricots, plantains, date, raisins, apple, honeycomb, cheeses
Breakfast: Crepes with jam, quiche - thick (Americano-style) coffee, sparkling wine
Lunch: Moist cakes, flan, cream-cheese slathered bread with cucumbers - tea, dandelion wine 
Dinner: Honey-baked quail, pineapple duck curry, sweet and sour cabbage soup, bacon-wrapped dates, gelatin salad - plum wine


4. City Action

You have different City Actions based on whatever you paid for your upkeep. Choose one from your district or from one "poorer."

The Moat


The Coffin Fields The place of the dead | The place to die The Coffin Fields was the city cemetery. Is sits in squamulous grounds outside the actual ancient city walls. Coffins sit half buried in the sinking mud, standing upright. The old necropolis of the old king Ot crawled away when the Moon King took power. The Coffin Fields also serve as the fighting pits, a place where half-men are kept in unofficial slavery to fight for the entertainment of the city. The fighting pits are in an abandoned amphitheater, with various low-lifes watching the gladiatorial matches from the stands. You can find the coffin of Modest Madoff here. It is obviously broken into and ransacked. His epitaph reads: “At length, my friends, the feast of life is o'er, I've eat sufficient, and I'll drink no more; My night is come, I've spent a jovial day, 'This time to part, but oh!--what is to pay?" If you open the smashed door, you find a staircase that descends into darkness. The grave is a small dungeon. If you bring any light source into it, zombies will attack you. If you make a wrong turn, zombies will attack you. Inscription: At the base of the stairs, there is a stone marker, on which are inscribed the words: “If you can read this, beware! Snuff out your light before you onward fare By the ringing of the bell Will I guide you from this hell” Journey in the Dark: If you ring Madroff's bell, you'll hear Madroff ringing his corresponding bell to guide you through the dungeon. (Any bell will work, not just the bell you recovered from the Cemetery Kids.) Madroff rings a “high tone” for right, and a “low tone” for left. Correct path: Is Left, Right, Left, Left, Right Modest Madroff: Meet up with the now-undead Modest Madroff, now captaining his sunken ship, the Modest Maiden through the rivers of the underworld. Pay him the fee (1000s or his other bell) and he'll transport you along the River Lethe until you come to the Necropolis of Ot. If the PCs have any questions about coffins, quote a few epiatphs from: https://kingsquest.fandom.com/wiki/Epitaphs Proprietor: Manni Prince Monkey and the Graveyard Boys “Aren’t you a strong looking one? Trying to make your way in this Wicked City? Well, you’ve come to the right half-man.” The proprietor is a half man capuchin monkey named Manni Prince Monkey—small, adorable, endlessly persuasive and a manipulative greedy bastard. Rumor has it, he steals the masks from the losers and sells them. Manni Prince Monkey is protected by the Graveyard Boys. They’re a gang of ⅓ cat half men, ⅓ humans, and ⅓ goblins that sits in the Coffin Fields and beat up anybody that comes into their turf. Check out the “Wreckers” in Silent Titans if they ever befriend these dudes. The Graveyard Boys have stolen the bell of Modest Madoff. You have to beat them up to get it back. City Action: Fight! You can fight in the fighting pits and bet on yourself. How much money you earn depends on whether you win or lose and how late in the evening you fight. For brevity and respect for everybody’s table time, the fight is abstracted to Blackjack. If you fight early in the evening, you duel to first blood. You suffer 1 Wound if you lose and 10% of your bet if you win. If you fight around midnight, the sport is bloody. You suffer a number of Wounds equal to your bust (less your Swords, minimum 1) and 25% of your bet if you win. No matter how high you bust, you’ll be pulled out of the pit before you die. If you fight in the early morning, the sport is deadly. You are on death’s door if you bust, but gain 50% of your bet if you win. City Action: Train in the Mortal Arts Practice in the pits and study the techniques of the half-men slaves bound to its service. You can learn any Swords Talent for 50s per XP spent.
The Mudlark See what you can dredge up | Nothing is for free Proprietor: Asaph “You owe me a penny, Peck!” A grey, clenched, continually-shivering figure. Sits fishing on a castle-painted boat He seethes with resentment for anything and everyone, but has particular ire for: The Moon King The mayor of the City for being a decadent sot The half-men (PECKS!) for being inhuman freaks The goblins and monsters outside the walls He suspects the PCs of being secret police of the Moon King Interrogates them about their recent history Won’t believe them At best he believes they’re ignorant flotsam City Action: Go Mudlarking If you rent fishing gear from Asaph, you can dredge up junk from the Moat. Draw from the minor arcana deck. You gain silver equal to the value of the card + your Cups score + one random sodden item.
The Slums “Gor! In debt for a penny I don’t have. Gor!” “Proprietor”: Malgo Moon-pig and his wife, Annabelle Bored out of his mind in the Moat. Asks at least one question for every one asked of him. Usually asks two. Doesn’t always wait for the answer. Speaks in a Southern accent apparently City Action: Philanthropy If you repay Malgo’s debt to you, his wife Annabelle will start a charity drive and distribute the funds to the poor people of the Moat. Every 100s donated to the people in this way creates a notable milestone where the poor and oppressed resist the Moon King. The Teahouse Where to get drunk | Where to talk shop Proprietor: Regina Cow-Queen “Oh you poor dears, wherever have you been?” Sympathetic, likeable and helpful She provides endless cups of bitter tea and shockingly bad alfalfa sandwiches She also offers vague geographical information Career criminal, sociopath, and murderer From the minute she meets the PCs, Regina is planning to manipulate, use, and destroy them While offering endless cups of tea She subtly sounds them out about extra-legal activity “Oh you are a cheeky sort aren’t you?” “Well, rules are for bending, that’s what my old dad used to say.” “You know how to keep a secret don’t you?” “Would you help an old lady?” “Could you take this to my friend in Highbridge?” “Ecub Half-Mask.” “Say it’s from me.” “And don’t tell the guards.” If the item is successfully delivered to Ecub Half-Mask, a shopkeeper in Goldtower, Regina asks them to deliver the next item on the list the next time that they meet. If the PCs try to back out or cause any problems, Regina will try and kill them via poisoned tea City Action: Training in the Clandestine Arts Regina will train you in any Pentacles Talent you wish to learn. She requires 50s per XP invested. City Action: Carousing Get drunk at the Teahouse. If you spend 50% of the silver you brought back, you get 1XP. If you spend 100% of the silver you brought back, you’ll get 2XP. Draw on the Hangover table to see if you have any complications later. City Action: Gossip Spend money to grease palms and get people drunk enough to talk. 50g. Test Wands. For a success, you can ask the GM one question about any subject. If you have a great success, you can ask three.
Turnus’s Reputable House of Credit Pre-loved adventuring gear | Treasures bought and sold | No credit history necessary Slightly damaged arms and armor available for loan Lines of credit extended to honest gentlemen (and ladies) at 30% monthly interest Proprietor: Turnus Goat Star “Two shillings and five for adventurin’ gear! Or be eaten by DREAMS!” Stupid, greedy and mercantile Has no idea he is an idiot. Follows the PCs, ‘warning’ them of terrible dangers. Which they can evade for 25 silvers, buying from his shop-boat “Monsters outside the walls, oh aye! Monsters indeed! Cyclops! The crazed court of Wappentake, cursed with catastrophic power! Goblins piloting war machines! You’ll need good adventurin gear, you will.” City Action: Take Out a Loan You can take out loans, with 30% interest being charged. It’s not a great idea.

Highbridge


Bellringer’s Street Iron helms shaped like a bull | Pair of swords with Venus de Milo nudes as hilts | Set of armor to fit your weird hunchback A squat black hill where the city’s smithies are housed. Here, you can purchase exquisite works wrought in metal--silver is favored right now. Fitted armor and bespoke weaponry, beyond what one can purchase at the second-hand retailers in the Forum, are available here. The higher you climb on Bellringer’s Street, the better quality and more expensive the shops. City Action: Shopping and Commission Will commission clothes for 10s per syllable of the garment’s name Will offer the following outfits: Leathers of Kerry Green This color of green is favored by scoundrels and bandits that dwell in the Green Belt. People might suspect you of being such a bandit. In the forest, you have favor to hide among the branches of trees. Fishscale Armor This leather armour comes from the pirates of the Crescent Coast. Their warriors fight bare-chested, the better to display their scars. Grey Desert Leather Made from the thick skin of a desert dog, this leather armour clearly marks the wearer as an explorer or tomb raider. It smells. Large beasts actually don’t want to eat it. Mercenary Chain Repaired many times by many hands, this armour has served many masters. Not many would give it a second look, for good or for ill.
The House of Panacea A physick for every malady. | Humours balanced, bad blood bled | The Suppository of All Wisdom Proprietor: Atrox Morbus “You are safe. You will be whole.” I will cure you Do not question my motives I am a Golden Chirurgeon from afar (Oasis) I will diagnose your malady for a single silver piece. I will administer several treatments if I deem it necessary. City Action: Recover If you fell in battle and suffered a physical scar, you can spend some time resting, retraining, and outfitting yourself with prosthetic gear. Your scar no longer provides a meaningful detriment to you. This requires 100g. Lamister’s Roost The five-storied tavern is the traditional haunt of the black robed scholars. Famous for its cider. Open continuously for the past two-hundred years. It is a tall, timbered building that leans toward the south and has a common room and a torchlit terrace. There is an apple tree by the river. The island connects to the rest of the city by way of a covered bridge. Proprietor: Cerseor Gigas “Ah, some townies! Well sitcher self down. Will ye be having the cider or the cider?” Part of the family that’s owned this tavern for 200 years She doesn't believe in magic. Is actually immune to magic. This is because she knows too much philosophy. Enjoys challenging people to log-throwing contests (star sign of the Beast), and will wager a treasure map (leads to a buried chest 60 miles away that contains 6 animate skeletons draped in gold). City Action: Training in the Classical Arts Get drunk. Argue with students. The Socratic method will teach you what you need about all subjects moral and diverting. Learn any Cups Talent you wish to learn. Requires 50s per XP to keep your fellow scholars drunk. City Action: Carousing Get drunk at the Roost. If you spend 50% of the silver you brought back, you get 1XP. If you spend 100% of the silver you brought back, you’ll get 2XP. Draw on the Hangover table to see if you have any complications later. City Action: Gossip Spend money to grease palms and get people drunk enough to talk. 50g. Test Wands. For a success, you can ask the GM one question about any subject. If you have a great success, you can ask three.
The Pennywise Pioneer Gear for All Occasions and Vocations | Inexpensive but not Cheap! Proprietor: Lanimel Smittens “Bloody ‘ell, you ladies are tough.” Professional cave explorer Smokes a corn cob pipe. Her (artificial) right arm is hot metal that continually emits a small amount of smoke. Given to her by the House of Panacea. Owns a clever hound named Ripper. City Action: Shopping and Commission Will commission clothes for 10s per syllable of the garment’s name Will offer the following outfits: Black Scholar's Robes Thick hard-wearing cloth dyed with enduring ink. Scholars are ubiquitous in every city. Since they often lack funds, thieves and tax-collectors leave these poor students to their studies. Oasis Merchant’s Robes The merchants that travel the desert wear these heavy robes to protect themselves from the sun and sand. Harlequin Motley Piebald cloth laden with bells, the motley is favored by fools and jesters. It carries an acrobatic enchantment. Its wearer cannot be knocked prone. Gallbladder Musk Perfume Until you Camp, you have a powerful pheromonal scent. Animals (and half-men!) are extremely well disposed towards you. At the same time, humans are revolted by you and can’t stand to be near you.
Royal Post Messages delivered across the land | Ravens trained to fly to all major cities Proprietor: Postmaster Agnocious “My my my! I say! Do you have any lucky pig cards?” Big stupid glasses, little stupid face Dreams of being in the theater Friends with birds Very interested in your birdwatching exploits Loves lucky pig cards City Action: Send Letter Messages delivered even through warzones. Carrier birds can be bought for any city. Costs 10s City Action: Trade Lucky Pig Cards This particular tavern is very obsessed with the lucky pig statues and deals a lively trade of the lucky pig cards. A random aficionado will trade you cards you might not have from areas you’ve already visited.
The Whip and Bridle Budget mounts for the discerning rider. | Low mileage, high quality, all inspections passed. | For when your horse is knackered ™ Proprietor: Honest Bill “Honest Bill knows horseflesh!” Always smiling Loves milk Nervous about the silent knights Insists on his honesty Severely lacks honesty City Action: Shopping Half price horses, mules and ponies. Random flaw each. Horse loans available at 10% monthly interest. Will buy horses in any condition for 50g

Goldtower


The Beaming Barber & the Happy Haberdasher Stylish haircuts at the forefront of fashion | Range of dyes, wigs and extensions |Bloodletting, leeching, dentistry, etc. Proprietors: Mr. Hats and Mr. Hair “No, I’m Mr. Hats. Mr. Hair is my brother.” Twins who often take each others’ place Huge, colored beehive haircuts, like the B52s Quite mad Pretty good at fashion City Action: Makeover Is it time to have a dramatic change? Let Mr. Hats and Mr. Hair take care of you. They’ll give you a real mad eye for the sane guy treatment. Totally rewrite your appearance. Men’s Haircut – 1g. Women’s Haircut – 5g City Action: Fancy Dress Shopping Elaborate Ivory Gown A dress in an antique style. Its elegant silk folds cannot be stained by dirt, rain or blood. 40s Pearl Mermaid Robes A gift from a mermaid princess to a pen-pal. The enchanted pearls sewn into this robe allow the wearer to breathe underwater. 400s Wormskin Jerkin Once worn by a cunning scoundrel. The worms of the catacombs have soaked in death for untold generations. Once per day, the wearer of this armour can appear as a rotting corpse for up to 10 hours. 150s Raincrow Feather Cloak A cloak made out of the feathers of the raincrow, whose cry makes the sky weep. If you fall while wearing these, you gently float. 250s
Bliss The world is but a bad dream | Come here to wake up “Bliss” is a decadent opium den where almost any sin can be indulged in. It is also full of the Moon King’s spies. Whatever you say here is essentially reported directly to the ear of the Moon King. Proprietor: Dhuutholmel “Gallywodger plumpkins, wouldn’t you say? Oi, for vittles and vitals ain’t going wrong with Bliss. But Bliss is going wrong with you.” Barley intelligible. Speaks like Golliwog from the Black Dossier. Extraordinarily untrustworthy. A true, true villain. Even SAYS he’s evil. Interested in purchasing the masks from any half-men to bring more of his evil demons into the world as devils. City Action: Carousing Indulge in the dream-enhancing laudanum and opium of Bliss. If you spend 50% of the silver you brought back, you get 1XP. If you spend 100% of the silver you brought back, you’ll get 2XP. Draw on the Hangover table to see if you have any complications later.
City Action: Gossip Spend money to grease palms and get people drunk enough to talk. 50g. Test Wands. For a success, you can ask the GM one question about any subject. If you have a great success, you can ask three.
Flower’s Bower of Power Protective charms and gewgaws for sale. | Witch-hunter weaponry available. | We buy monster parts. Proprietor: Flower Smilingdog “Wow, you have, like, really great energy. What’s your star sign?” Half-man Dog Hippie Chick Serious about hunting the unnatural Hates werewolves, who are a real danger with the constantly full moon City Action: Shopping and Commission “Evil Eye” Charms grant a one-time 50% chance to give you a +1 to your Initiative when used – 10s “Magic Eggs” - Will sell pastel-colored eggs to the party. If thrown into a fire, the egg will hatch, releasing a small, strange animal (like a 8" tall giraffe) that prances around for a few seconds, singing a song, before expiring. Silver and cold-forged iron weapons can be purchased here. Will buy monster claws/teeth/glands/etc for 1s+, depending on monster rarity Will taxidermy your finest kill for 55g
The Fifth Labor Premium pets. | New and unusual breeds imported weekly. | Barding custom fitted. Proprietor: Mark Killby “These animals love me they do. It’s a pity to let them go, but if you love something, let it go, they say.” Has a pet peacock on his shoulder Is racist - calls half-men “pecks” Into blonde chicks City Action: Shopping All pets are loyal and well trained. Know Attack, Heel, Stay and Roll Over – 25s per trick Leather dog armour with spiked collar Barding Sells two random animals per City phase: 1, Lucky Chicken--This chicken is lucky. Survives danger like it has 12 HD. 2, Riding Goat--Trained by goblins, dyed with purple spots. Does a knockdown when it Attacks but if you run into any goblins and they make a check they might get it to respond to their commands. 3, Escape Goat--If a goat should slay a troll, it inherits the victim's regeneration abilities. This is one such individual--it regenerates a Wound every minute. 4, Sexy Hawk--God you look good with that hawk on your shoulder. +2 Wands when attempting seduction. 5, One-eyed Hawk--First it's a bargain second it's secretly mega-obedient, like collie obedient. 6, Marbling horse--Or at least that's what the idiots here call it. It's actually half-zebra (thus: a zorse or zebroid)--tawny with thin black stripes. As medium warhorse, just more interesting 7, Squealing mule--Shrieks bloody fucking murder whenever anyone comes near it with drawn steel. Probably useful if adventurers park it outside a camp or dungeon--complete pain for anyone else. Cheap. 8, Adolescent panther--Not in any sense trained. At all. 4hd. 9, Messenger pigeon--Pretty good at its job. 10, Truffle pig--Finds truffles! Never go hungry! Ok, kind of: truffles are low on nutritional value but make rations tastier. 11, Riding boar--Fur spiked with lard. 12, Paranoid songbird--Sings pretty much only when unfamiliar creatures are nearby. Unlike the squealing mule, the intruder is unlikely to realize the bird is acting as an alarm. 13, Canary--great for detecting poison gas. 14, Oddspotted newt--this rare, tiny, small, fragile, brightly-colored species survives by immediately crawling into the darkest narrowest place it can find. Good for finding hidden seams in the architecture. 15, Eastern leopard-cat--merchant selling it just thinks it's a fancy domestic cat left by sailors from Yoon-Suin. Which it is. However, it also has literally nine lives. Well, eight. It used one getting here. 16. Frog prince--Appears to be simply a fascinating, indigo-patterned frog, medium-sized. Unbeknownst to the merchant it is frog royalty--other frogs, toads, bullywugs, blindheims, slaads and batrachians of all kinds will defer to it and pay it homage. 17. Thrusting pheasant--Trained to peck and chase anything smaller than itself. Does no damage but irritating enough to grant advantage to anyone else attacking the same target. Allegedly bred for fairy-catching. 18. Blue-sided viper--1 hp, save or take 2d20. Not trained or trainable. Handle with care. 19. Amusing bunny--overweight and dalmatian-spotted, it loves to gambol, hop and romp. Anyone possessed of such a bunny will be at advantage when a basically decent person tries to determine if you yourself are a decent person. 20. Literal skillmonkey--likely a variety of capuchin, it has either pick locks (1-2) or pick pockets (3-4) as a 3rd level thief focusing on those skills in whatever system.
The Honest Smith Fair fare for ferro for fair fighting | No silver work! Garden gate around the smithy is hedged by swords driven into the ground Proprietor: Anette the Ox “I told you last time - I won’t work with silver for you f...oh! Sorry. How can I help?” Dark skinned with huge natural hair Unshaven pits and legs Like, so strong Would totally beat you in an arm wrestling contest Hates the Moon King Hates the silent knights Hates the dream auditors Loves Princess Sun City Action: Shopping and Commission Will commission arms and armor for 25s per syllable of the armor’s name Will offer the following armor: Black Iron Chain Hardened by dragon’s fire, this crudely made armour always feels cold. This iron armor can absorb 1 extra damage from fire. Mirage Knight Plate Oasis has fallen. The folk of Oasis pulled themselves into a dream to escape the Moon King. Their knights once wore armour covered in gold foil and elaborate scale patterns. Wearing this scaled armor forces the wearer to obey a Vow: “I will never tell a lie.” This armor allows you to see through illusions by spending a Resolve. Flower Knight Plate The elegant druid knights were destroyed by the War Castle. Wearing their vine-carved armour forces the wearer to obey a Vow: "I will protect all things beautiful." This armor repairs itself. Silver Chain Cloak This cloak of woven silver links is blessed by the Goddess of the City. It is treated like light armor. It can carry a Welkin spell cast into it for a later time.
The Wild Inventoria Marvels commissioned | Impossibilities realized | Pushing the limits of Science Proprietor: Obb the Gobb(lin) “Hoo hoo hoo! I’ll make ya anything ya can canny. But ya have to try it out!” Nimble as the dickens. Cartwheels everywhere. Everywhere. Enjoys scaring babies, stealing candy, and falling asleep in people's bags. When you think he's wandered off, he's probably just asleep in your satchel. Immune to fear City Action: Commission Invention Price dependent on syllables needed to name the item (10s per syllable) Builds heretofore unknown marvels at your request. You will likely have to test the prototypes.