Adapting Rhino Men to Pits & Perils

Below is a character class for Rhino Men adapted to my game world in development.  This is inspired by the Rhino Men from Fighting Fantasy.   Perhaps you may like to run them in your setting.  For simplicity’s sake I used the male pronoun, but you can of course run Rhino Man female characters all you like.

It is my goal here to define the Rhino as a warrior class without treading upon the standard Fighter of Pits & Perils.  Note that the Rhino does not get a +1 attack bonus.  That is the domain of the Fighter Class.

I have yet to play test this Rhino.  Consider this a rough draft to help flesh out character concept.

Rhino Men

The Rhino men are a hybrid creation of the High Elves, blending human and rhino traits. Originally created to be a servile soldier class, the human free will and conscience combined with rhinoceros stubbornness made them unreliable soldiers, often disobeying unjust orders and instead killing their elvish commanders. Rhino Men joined the coalition of humans, dwarfs and sea elves in the Great Rebellion that eventually destroyed the Empire.

Adult rhino men are very tall and broad, ranging six to seven feet tall, and easily 250 to 400 pounds. Rhinomen live in tribal villages, and their homes are usually thatched houses spartan in furnishing. They have a very martial culture, their main professions being mercenaries and caravan guards. Some take to the wilds alone or with Wanderers of other species to protect the trail-ways and back-ways from being overrun with monsters.

Rhino culture values honor and heroism, and their bards create extravagant operas and orchestral hymns that are performed at seasonal festivals. Despite having only three fingers, they are adept at playing bagpipes, flutes and drums. Their great voices range from soprano to deep bass, with many of their marching hymns having multiple overlapping harmonies. The rhinomen, while learning the written languages of other races, have no written language of their own. They dispense knowledge through song, rhyme, and poetry. Rhinos are well regarded in human settlements.

The tough rhino hide gives all Rhino Men +1 armor. Due to their great size, tough hides and sharp rhino horns, if a Rhino Man charges 20′ or more, he can add +1 damage for any hit (melee or thrown). Rhino Men have Strength plus whatever else they roll. Rhinos have an acute sense of smell, but like their rhinoceros relatives they have poor eyesight. Ranged attacks beyond 60′ feet are at -1.

Rhino men gain combat maneuvers at level 3, and every third level afterward.

As their combat prowess increases, so too does their ability to withstand combat damage. Rhino men gain +1 armor at level 3, and every third level thereafter.

At 9th level Rhinos gain 2 attacks per round.

Rhino Men are vegetarian and do not eat flesh.

Rhino Men speak the common trade lingo of men, their own tongue, and can speak with wild rhinoceros.

Level HP XP

1        10   0

2        12 tbd

3        14 tbd

4        16 tbd

5        18 tbd

6        20 tbd

7        22 tbd

8        24 tbd

9        26 tbd

10      28 tbd

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High Magic Spells for Blood of Pangea

This is an old post I had saved as a draft from September 4, 2017.  I release it now as it does no good sitting in the draft bin.

In a previous post I brainstormed some magic spells that fit within the rules of regular sorcery in Blood of Pangea.  Now I want to brainstorm some high sorcery, as I personally prefer a game where there’s amazing magical spells of all kinds.  I  like the idea of a free form magic system.

The challenge with free form magic is there’s no yardstick for determining cost vs effect.  There is a Might cost, but one must have a metric for how much might it costs for a given effect, and that is difficult for me.

Having actual limits to your magic helps spur creativity.  You have an idea of what realm you have mastery over, and focus your efforts at making it work within that realm.  World Of Dungeons has an interesting system whereby the magician has use of two “spirits” that grant the caster powers, and those spirits each have mastery two domains of power, such as lightning and stone.  Spell damage is capped at 2d6 or 3d6, and otherwise you can cast any spell that’s plausible within the domains of the spirits in your service.  It’s not quite free form, but it’s free form within a limited domain.

A creative person might take this spirit of lightning and stone and work their creativity on it.  Stones that explode with electricity, stones that glow with electric light, electric sparks that follow the caster like a torch, animating stone statues, making your target’s hair stand on end, charging your staff so anyone you poke with it gets a nasty electric shock, crumbling stones to dust, etc.

BOP has no restrictions on high magic except that  1 point of damage costs 1 Might.  The Judge can impose restrictions or conditions as he sees fit.  Here’s an example from a Google+ discussion, where member James Ciriaco explains his take on animating zombies.  It was an excellent idea.

With a Might cost related to damage inflicted, one could use that as a metric for all kinds of matter changing sorcery.  Without a lot of Might to spend, even your high magic effects are limited.

Someone commented over on the Google+ forum about my previous post having spell effects similar to using “The Force” in Star Wars.  That may well be a good point of reference.

So with that in mind, I will list a few high magic spells. I will add that ritual could be used to help achieve the desired result, but it would take time and materials to do so.

Here’s the spells:

Any kind of damaging spell could be themed to suit the style of the sorcerer.  A ball of energy, an ethereal putrescence, ice, fire, acid, doing damage equal to Might.  Over on the trollbridge forum, someone said they themed a “Take That You Fiend” spell as the victim’s shadow coming to life and strangling them. The Emperor in Star Wars used Lightning.

Breaking down doors.

Crumbling stone.  Levitating a 250 pound boulder might take only 1 might, but crushing it to rubble would take more, I think.  If the one hour duration and concentration rules are used, then you might negotiate a cost of Might vs Time.  Let’s say the 250 pound boulder blocks a crawl space you need to pass.  Then the Judge could offer a deal such as it would cost 1 might for one hour to slowly crumble the stone, or 5 might to break up the stone right now.

Set something on fire.  The larger or more flame retardant the target, the more it costs.

Call a prolonged wind to push a sailing boat or ship.

Push down a tree. * Consider how many axe strokes it would take to cut down a tree.  Toppling even one 40 foot tree with a 6 in diameter trunk could possibly take a tremendous amount of Might.

Removing body parts.  If a body can be levitated, surly part of the body can be levitated. If you’re into the macabre, then there’s some interesting implications to this idea.  I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Cauterize a bleeding wound.

Jump start someone’s heart with electricity.

Snap someone’s weapon in half. * This is a Pits & Perils spell.

Mend a broken sword. * This also is a Pits & Perils spell.

Cause the targets to lose control of their bowels.

Summon a small whirlwind.  Simple little dust devils cost little, more powerful gales or tornado speed winds, very expensive.

Heat a water-logged porous rock from a stream, causing it to explode like a bomb.

Attract lightning from an overhead storm cloud.

Summon demons.

Summon floating lights.

Animate thorny plants to entangle a target.

 

 

 

 

NPCs of my Fantasy World, Part 1

Below are the couple who own Zootaloot Farm.  Their ages are of the time of their marriage.

All stats are from Pits & Perils.  For D&D and their derivatives, assume a score of 15 or higher for the named stats.

Artair, of the Pig Clan, age 38

9th level fighter, Strength, Intelligence

Beekeeper, friend, and owner of Zootaloot Farm

Married to Didena, of the Frog clan

Bearer of Frostbane, an ancient magical sword

Artair is the fifth generation to possess Zootaloot Farm.  He had four children from his first marriage, and all inherited his gift of animal empathy.   After his wife died, he married Didena of the Frog clan, with whom he has one daughter Tana who also inherited his gift.  He learned the Song of the Bees, and can tend beehives without being stung.  He is regarded as one of the chiefs of his clan, both leading men in war and resolving disputes.  He is friends with Fabian, a chief of the Cow clan.

On his farm he has several orchards of fruit trees, as well as fields to feed his  livestock. He primary trade goods are fruit, honey and mead.

Like all the people of his clan, he made a name for himself at the age of 17, setting out on a quest to prove his worth as a warrior.  He recovered the Tome of the Planets from the abandoned Elvish library in [Unnamed Mountain Valley].

 

Didena of the Frog Clan, age 23

4th level Fighter, Constitution

Farmer, married to Artair of the Pig clan

Wielder of Frostbane, an ancient magical sword

Didena met Artair at the battle of [unnamed], where Artair’s wife was slain, and he was wounded by an infernal walking machine.  She took the dropped Frostbane, endured the severe burns it inflicted, and destroyed the machine.  Artair was impressed with Didena’s power to withstand the searing heat of the Frostbane.  After a period of grieving, he courted the brave woman who became his wife.  She bore one child, Tana, before taking an orc arrow to the belly, leaving her sterile.

Didena feels somewhat out of place in the Pig clan.  She is more serious of disposition than most of the Pig clan, who constantly indulge in all sorts of humor, both innocent and bawdy.  She is 15 years her husband’s junior, and the only one of her present family without the gift of animal empathy.  Nonetheless she is respected for her prowess with the sword and her courage.  Anyone who could endure the searing heat of Frostbane and not drop the weapon is worthy of praise indeed.

Frostbane

+2 Sword, +1 damage versus armor and foes particularly vulnerable to fire

The Frostbane is an ancient blade, presently passed from parent to child on Zootaloot Farm.  When asked how one endures the pain, the present owner says, “When you truly need the sword, you will be able to wield it.”

Whoever wields the blade for the first time must endure terrible heat which severely scalds the hand, leaving the palm with little sensation.  Anyone who wields it must save or drop the weapon, and be severely scalded for 1d3 damage.  Anyone who passes the save will still be scalded,  but can thenceforth wield the sword in either hand without being damaged.   The save must be passed to wield the weapon.   If the wielder is somehow shielded from the burning effects, the sword will not yield it’s magical bonuses.  The sword “knows” who can wield it.

The hot blade is known to cut through steel armor and ice with ease.

Note to GMs, anyone casually wielding the sword must roll 9+, whereas anyone wielding the sword in a time of need must only roll 7+.  The weapon can be handled for examination without harming the handler, but it will feel hot.  Upon wielding it for practice or battle, the roll must be made.

I haven’t decided if Frostbane is a two hander or a one hander.  If and when I get to writing about it, I’ll decide.  I generally envision Artair and his kin employing the Sword & Board fighting style, so it’s probably just a one-handed weapon.

My Game World Setting

This is a long post.  So get a cup of coffee or your beverage of choice.  John Feldman’s Blog  inspired me to begin writing down the the foundation of a game world  and collection of short stories I’ve been struggling with for over a year (one year and I’ve only written chapter one, twice, plus a couple of disconnected story fragments). It is my hope that by writing here, I can help define it and thereby be more successful and writing stories about it.

The world is inspired in part by the Fighting Fantasy adventures I played with my ex-wife, and partially by a mishmash of other known fantasy worlds.  The bestiary to populate this world is heavily inspired by Out Of the Pit.

The working title of this collection of stories is “Zootaloot.”  Yes it sounds like a bit of absurd Onomatopoeia , and it is.  It’s one of a few dozen absurd words my family made up over the years (though not an entirely unique creation, as a Google search will reveal), and it means blowing a musical raspberry on someone.   In the language of the Pig clan (described later) is means a brotherly love between humans and animals.  The farm the main protagonist comes from is called “Zootaloot farm.”

The map, conceptually, is not unlike that of the world of Conan: a continent combining Europe, Africa and the Near East.  There’s even a great inland sea that would stand in for the Mediterranean, but it is a freshwater sea.  There is nothing geographically creative about this map.  The planet has two moons, and the alignment of the moons is a timer for certain events in the overall story.  For example, there’s a periodic migration of all the elephants to a sort of Elephant-moot, where the large gray elephants, and the mastodons of the arctic region, and the sea elephants of the inland sea all meet together.

Yes there are sea elephants, and their noses are like snorkels on the water surface.  They have flippers rather than legs, and eat aquatic vegetation as well as fish. They’re otherwise of an elephanty disposition: some are tame, some are vicious.

There are many clans of humans, each with a different totem animal.  The totems derive from the most peculiar thing about humans in this world: people born with alopecia have the peculiar ability of Animal Empathy, and can communicate with animals better than any other human.  This is based on my ex wife, who has alopecia, and also has a peculiar affinity with animals (though not to the extent that people in this world do).  Such people are known as friends in the various tongues. While not all are fond of animals (in fact some tire knowing when an animal dislikes them or is cursing them out), such persons tend to be the best herders, shepherds, and productive farmers thanks to their superior talent at communicating with animals.

There are Rhino men, and Cat men, and Vulture men (all three based on Rhinomen, Cat People and Hamakei from Fighting Fantasy) which all products of the High Elves magical genetic experiments.

Like Tolkien’s world, the High Elves are an immortal race of people, gifted above all the others in the arts, sciences and magic.  One can imagine how such creatures could fall into evil based on their overconfidence in their own superiority. The story of the High Elves is the story of the corruption and downfall of the master race (and, if I ever finish the stories, their redemption).

The High Elves built a continent-wide empire, subsuming all the tribes of men, some of the dwarfs, as well as some of the chaotic species like Orcs.  There was a common coin, standards of weight and measure, law, taxation, rules, regulations, lawyers, and so forth.  While prosperous, it demanded of all the diverse peoples that they give up their customs and traditions for the alleged efficiency of the empire.  The High Elves seemed to profit the most from this arrangement, and it grated on the various peoples until they rebelled.  The Rhino Men created to be soldiers sided with the humans,  and the Vulture Men created to be the scribes and keepers of knowledge put their minds to work at undermining the empire.

The empire was ripped apart in civil war, and most of the High Elves were slaughtered.  Even orcs and goblins allied with men to destroy the High Elves.   Of those who survived and surrendered, the administrators of the Elvish empire had their tongues cut for issuing the orders by which the empire was run.  The Elvish enforcers: soldiers, policemen, bailiffs, had their thumbs cut from their sword hands for enforcing the laws of the administrators.  Without the enforcers, the law givers have no power.

In the centuries that followed, those survivors were known as the Tongueless and the Thumbless, and were mostly shunned or barely tolerated as they went about their affairs among the various communities of men.  Those high elves born afterward (and not many were, due to the defeated elves being terribly demoralized)  often suffer with unjust social prejudice directed at them by the tribes of men.

The remnants of the empire fell into ruin, resulting in abandoned strongholds, caves, and other places of interest being occupied by strange monsters no longer kept in check by imperial policing.  The various clans of humans retreated to their ancestral homes, making a pact never to allow a State to form over them all again.   The places between human settlements became dangerous places where Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, bandits and assorted other troubles lurk. They are also places where wild goodly or bizarre creatures such as Fairies, Dryads, Gnomes, and pixies can thrive and flourish.

There is a lesser race of elves known as the Sea Elves.  They’re small framed, topping off about 4 1/2 to five feet at the most.  Their skin is tinted bluish-green, and have webbed feet.  They’re excellent ship builders and sailors and skilled weather workers.  They often work as fishermen, cargo haulers, and pirates.  The sight of a sea elf pirate ship is terrifying to merchants, for they’re difficult to outrun, and the elves will board the ship like a swarm of charging ants, taking everything not tied down.  The Sea Elves tend to be a chaotic, rough and tumble lot, and often are disliked in coastal communities.  However, the anger is due more to the actions of certain pirate gangs than racial prejudice.  Peaceful sea elves make an effort to identify themselves as such to avoid trouble.

The Sea Elves homeland is in island communities off the coast of the main continent. During the reign of empire, the High Elves had great difficulty trying to make the Sea Elves submit to their authority.  The Sea Elves were the first to regain independence as the empire collapsed and attempted to retain power on the mainland.

The Dwarves are akin to dwarves from other fantasy fiction: miners, metal workers, craftsmen.  They tend to produce great wizards (This I take from Tunnels & Trolls) as well as doughty warriors.  They tend to be stubborn, foul mouthed, but otherwise reliable people who generally keep their agreements.  A tribe of Dwarves built and operate the canal connecting the western ocean to the Great Inland Sea.

Now to the humans, who, like our own world, are a varied lot.  Currently I have only a few of the clans loosely defined.  If the fiction I write demands more clans, I’ll write them in.  This is what I have so far.   All the clans tend to have very martial cultures.  Most people are trained in the use of arms as there are no standing armies. Their tribal governments are based on their cultural customs rather than extensive written law. Duels to first blood are not uncommon as means of settling disputes.  Duels to the death happen on rare occasions as revenge for murders or other serious crimes.  On the whole, the various tribes of men are generally morally conscientious people: industrious, sexually temperate, valuing honor.   These are barbarians, loosely speaking, that value their liberty over the stability once granted by the Elvish Empire.

There is the Pig clan, who are known as a clan of explorers and adventurers in addition to being farmers and herdsmen.  They raise fighting pigs.  One of the chiefs of the Pigs is fifth generation bee-keeper and friend, who practices the Song of the Bees and can calm bees without smoke.  One of the main protagonists is the daughter of this man, Tana (based loosely on my ex wife)  The Pigs are known for their unusually silly sense of humor, and their custom of greeting one another by blowing raspberries on each other’s cheeks. In appearance I imagine them as Celtic peoples of the British isles.

The Frogs live in wetlands are are fishermen, clam diggers, with a touch of Louisana Bayou rural swampbilly (as opposed to Hillbilly).  They’re of a more somber disposition compared to the Pigs, whom they consider to be somewhat childish. However they have a taste for luxuries like coffee, tobacco and chocolate.   They’re a Euro type, French Germanic.  (Note: When my wife and I married, she being of French descent, put a Frog on the altar, and a Pig for me.  So this is another tribute to my ex wife)

The Cows are farmers of luxury crops and cattle ranchers south of the Great Inland Sea.  They’re successful growers of tobacco, cocoa, coffee, as well as harvesters of and weavers of silk.  They are well reputed as honest merchants of good quality merchandise.  They’re also very much in love with their cows, which they both raise for milk but also ride them into battle.  They only eat their cattle when they die of natural causes, to take in the strength of their fallen friends into themselves.  I envision the Cows as a black African type from the Congo region.  This clan was inspired by a coworker from The Congo who pays a man to watch his cows, but the customs above are made up.

The Horses are a free ranging people of the northern plains.  They are a proud and free spirited bunch, often riding naked on their horses.  A great many are hunters, ranchers, explorers and scouts.  I have yet to determine their most common source of income.  They might be hunter-gatherers.  They’re a Nordic looking euro type with red or blonde hair.

The Elephants are known for their employ of elephants in lumbering and construction. No further details yet.  I was inspired to create this clan after reading a heartbreaking news story about unemployed Burmese lumberjacks and their elephants begging on the streets. Trucks and power equipment are displacing the traditional lumberjacks.  This phenomena has occurred in India as well.  I envision the Elephants as a nomadic people of south Asian appearance.

As for the human-animal hybrid species: Rhino Men, Cat Men, and Vulture Men, they have their own lands as well.  The Rhino Men live mostly south of the Great Inland Sea and hire themselves out as convoy escorts and mercenaries.  They’re few in number but extremely powerful.   Their cultural expectation is to be a force for good in the world, not conquering and building empires like the Elves, but merely protecting that which is good. You might call them Paladins without religious dogma.   It is said that one rhino could easily count for three men at arms.   They’re also known for their music: composing operas and war hymns of bagpipes, flutes and stringed instruments.

The Cat Men are more catlike than human, and have settlements north and south of the inland sea.  They’re warriors and hunters, and have little need for trade with humans, though they sometimes will do so.  Their preference for raw meat and poor table manners makes them not the best of guests at a sit down dinner.  They’re neither evil nor good, but rather self interested.

The Vulture Men are scholars and collectors of ancient wisdom, and a goodly number operate The Academy, an institute of higher learning.  (I have considered combining the school of wizardry with the academy, but I’m not sure yet)  I have nothing else to write about the Vulture Men for now.

There’s also the Snake Men (inspired by the Caarth from Fighting Fantasy), who maintain a small kingdom south of the inland sea, and are not very friendly.  They sometimes raid the human settlements looking for food, goods, and slaves. The Rhino Men often fight them in battle.  The Snake Men are cold and calculating but also possess many secrets of ancient sorcery.  On rare occasion their interests may align with the humans or the Rhino Men, but generally they’re not well regarded.

Now for magic.  This is a high magic world and wizardry is not uncommon.  There is a school of wizardry and those with the gift often attend to learn the trade and return home to their clans to help their neighbors, or seek solitude to continue their research into occult phenomena. There are weather workers, manipulators of the elements, healers of the sick, battle mages and finders of lost things. Some are corrupted by the lust for power, and end up recruiting assorted creatures to aid their attempts at acquiring wealth by force or conquest.  The various clans of humans have ongoing treaties of mutual aid to defeat these armies of monsters.    In gaming terms, I envision spell casting as either powered by stamina (causing fatigue) or spell points.

Formal religion does not exist in any substantive way.  The most common tradition approaching religion are shamanistic rituals in honor of the dead, seasonal holidays, birth days, retelling of ancient tales, and celebrations of entering adulthood.

That is all for now.

I’m running a PBF game on RPGGeek

I’m running a sci-fi adventure over on RPGGeek.com.

https://rpggeek.com/thread/1913421/mining-base-ic-mature

It is using 1974 Style   a rules-lite stripped down OSR clone.

I was torn between Blood of Pangea: Retrospace and 1974 Style, as I wanted to run both. In retrospect I kind of wish I used BOP–but fuck it(!)–there will be time to run that as well.  Every choice means foregoing another choice, at least for the time being.  Thankfully this adventure is only 13 rooms and their connecting corridors.

Feel free to follow the adventure if reading PBF games interests you.

While we’re discussing PBF, here is a link to the Fighting Fantasy PBF I ran that went over two years.  If you ever want to play “Shaggradd’s Hives of Peril”, you are better served by not reading it, so nothing is spoiled.  To be honest, I think Shaggradd’s Hives is an inferior adventure to “The Wishing Well”, which is the first of the two adventures included in “Fighting Fantasy: The Introductory Role Playing Game” . You wouldn’t be spoiling very much.

https://rpggeek.com/thread/1345027/shaggradds-hives-peril-ic

 

 

Clerics and Witches

I want to draw parallels to witch and clerical powers in RPGs.

Clerics get their power from a deity, and witches get their power from the entity they make a pact with. The two are similar in this regard. Advanced Fighting Fantasy has an interesting approach to clerical magic.

In Advanced Fighting Fantasy, a priest gets a unique suite of powers based on the deity he is devoted to. Each god grants three powers from a list of generic priest spells. There are generic spells such as Heal, Smite (damage versus a particular type of creature), Banish (undead), Bless, Ward, Shape Change.

Each god also grants one power unique to that god. For example, Usrel, the Goddess of Peace grants a spell which creates a space wherein no one may take an aggressive action for a short period of time.

All the good gods grant the Heal spell, but only Usrel grants Banish. Another good god, Hamaskis (the god of learning) grants the priest a photographic memory, and a bonus to Lore special skill tests.

There are neutral gods that grant powers related to nature. This is good for running a Druid type character. Hydana grants the power to walk on water. Pangara lets the priest summon wind. There are Beast Lords which are the essence of a type of animal that grant the power to speak and be friendly with animals of that type eg. bears, deer, snakes, etc.

The evil gods predictably do not grant healing spells but some rather potent offensive spells. The god Decay grants the power to rot or rust one item per day, Disease grants the power to inflict illness, and Arhallogen the God of Spiders grants the power to be friendly with spiders and communicate with them. He also grants the generic power to shape change, so your priest can become a giant spider.

All the gods grant a one time salvation spell that saves the priest and possibly his companions from imminent danger.

All the gods require the priest to follow the path of that deity or lose his powers, just as in other RPGs.

The priests can invoke each spell power once per day, and if they pay a cost in Luck, can do so twice. The magnitude and duration of certain priest spell effects depends on their Priest Magic special skill, but otherwise thats it. It’s mechanically fairly simple but very flavorful. Even if you don’t want to play AFF, I suggest the game material as a source of inspiration in this regard.

Something like this might work well with Pits & Perils for the clerics devoted to the saints of various orders. Perhaps each Saint may grant a spell unique to their domain of authority under the Triune God.

I got to thinking that something like this might work well for Witches making pacts with various spirits. Those spirits might grant a small suite of spells and in return of course the Witch offers her blood to pay for them. And like a cleric, the witch would have to help fulfill the agenda of that entity to keep the pact magic.  The entity may be satisfied with the witch spilling her own blood, but on the other hand, it may demand more.

I would need to playtest the witch to see how it works out.  What I don’t want to do is step on the toes of either the magician or cleric class, but offer something in between.

A Witch Class for Pits & Perils

After browsing several Witch related supplements for Swords & Wizardry and D&D, I thought it might be fun to make a Witch class for Pits & Perils.

There are many interpretations on the Witch, but I think something that fits in with the medieval perception that Witches made pacts with devils or other spirits would be one that fits nicely into the P&P game, given the Clerical orders devoted to the Triune God.  I figured they’d at least be suspicious of witches, if not hostile.  Adjust the flavor as needed to suit your game.

Before I begin, I want to explore the possibility of using the tools we already have in the Collected Pits & Perils.   It may be possible to just create a magician and pick the right spells to make it a Witch.  For example:

CALL – to summon the familiar

JINX – to curse a target

OBEY – to mind control a target

URGE – for witchy cantrips

MASK – for hags appearing beautiful, and vise versa

STUN – with proper narrative flavor, a terrifying hallucination that leaves the target feeling helpless: covered with biting spiders, seized and abused by demonic succubi, etc.

RISE – for riding that broom, albeit you might have to increase the movement speed to make it better

Throw in allowing the magician to make potions, I think you can do a fairly decent witch with the rules as they exist.  However, I’m going to try a custom witch now.

I want to make the description of the Witch short and sweet.  P&P is minimalist in terms of rules and class powers, so the implementation should also be minimalist.  So my goal here is this:

Something between the Magician and Alchemist

Invoking the powers of spirits not specifically aligned with Triune

And for now, I’ll stick to the mechanics of the Witch and flavor text will come later, as I’m tired.   A witch can be a man or a woman, but the mythology of witches often portrays them as female, so the female pronoun will be used here for simplicity.

The Witch begins with 1 Spell point, and gains 1 spell point every other level.   The witch knows PACT (see below) and any one spell of her choice.

The Witch can create a potion for any spell she knows that stays fresh for one day per level of the witch.

The witch can learn any magician spell, but the power does not increase with level.  Her main power lies in her ability to commune with otherworldly spirits:

The Witch begins the game having a pact with a spirit.  Describe the domain of authority of this spirit: it could be an element like fire or air, but also more abstract things like secrets, vice, luck, gain, (any of the 7 deadly sins might work well), seasons, growth, death, a type of animal, a type of plant, etc.   It might be easier to pick some spells from the spell list to help describe the nature of the spirit.  I haven’t worked this bit out yet.

The Witch can then cast the spell PACT (without spending spell points), cut herself (taking one hit) and with the blood offering cast any spell in that spirit’s domain.

At 5th and 10th level, the witch can make a pact with another spirit, provided it is not in conflict with the spirit she already has a pact.

The witch has the same HP, weapons and armor restrictions of a magician.

New Spell:

PACT – Allows the caster to access the power of a spirit with whom she has made a spiritual contract.  The caster must offer her own blood, taking one hit, to use the power.  Each spell effect requires taking another hit.  PACT spell effects can be brewed into potions, provided the witch’s blood is used in the potion.

More coming soon after I’ve had time to think about it.

How Advanced Fighting Fantasy Led Me to Pits & Perils (and BOP)

How Advanced Fighting Fantasy led me to Pits & Perils
or
My autistic obsession with mathematical reduction
or
How my desire to play games with my non-gamer wife led me to love simple rules

Part 1

When I was a kid, my autistic obsession for detail drove me to ever more complicated RPG games. D&D to MERP to Rolemaster. Then burning out, excising chunks of Rolemaster and appending it to MERP, and then condensing MERP skills to the broad categories in Lord Of the Rings Adventure Game (all three published by Iron Crown Enterprises). I was on my way to simplicity in RPG gaming, and then sex and the drama of teenage life and later adult life led me away from the hobby.

Part 2

I returned to RPGs to a) do something fun with my wife and b) get my friends to do something fun aside from stand around and chat. I’m an autist: I need my conversations to be structured and go somewhere entertaining to me.

When it came to games, my wife was certainly not a grognard . The most complicated board game I could play with her were Carcassonne or “Zombies!!!” I had to pick my games carefully. Enter Fighting Fantasy.  It was a hit.  We tried Dungeon World, but we found it way to wordy and complicated. While we had fun that one time, it was a mechanical failure.

I played FF a couple more times with my wife, and it was a success. I wanted a little more meat and potatoes to my FF, and bought Advanced Fighting Fantasy. Whoa, too many choices for her taste. It was like picking salad dressing in a supermarket.  She said something to the effect of: “I just want to be an archer who can talk to animals.” I obliged by house ruling the basic Fighting Fantasy.

Part 3

Base rule for Fighting Fantasy is this: when your character attempts an unopposed task, roll 2d6, and if it is less than or equal to your SKILL plus any modifiers, then the attempt succeeds.  For opposed actions, roll 2d6 + SKILL + modifiers, and if it’s greater than your opponants 2d6+SKILL+Modifiers, you succeed.

If you convert the unopposed check to to a roll greater than or equal to system, then the target number is 14.  2d6+7 >= 14 is identical in odds to 2d6 <= 7. I’m a big fan of uniform mechanics and roll-high, because it is easy to imagine higher numbers are a better outcome.

Your typical AFF character has a starting SKILL of 7. He could have less than 7, that is, if one puts points into MAGIC or LUCK instead.  Generally, however, one favors SKILL or MAGIC, and then putting a point or two into LUCK or STAMINA. The reason being that the SKILL score is the baseline for all Special Skills, so even if you have a Sword Skill of 4, and your base SKILL is 4, then your total combat skill is 8. Whereas if you had a base skill of 7, and 4 points in Sword, your combat skill adds up to 11.  That is a lot more impressive.

High base SKILL makes your character all around better (in a pinch) than someone with low SKILL and several points in a Special Skill. There are house rules to work around this, and give specialists some kind of extra advantage, such as automatic success when a Master at a special skill (with 4 ranks) has the time and tools to succeed (similar to Take 10 or Take 20 in Pathfinder). I got to feeling, however, that there must be a simpler way of doing character skills.

Given that your typical character will start with a SKILL of 7, why not just reduce SKILL to zero, and then reduce the target number for success to 7. Same odds, simpler math. And thus you can eliminate the SKILL stat, and just list Special Skills as bonuses to your 2d6 roll. Likewise one could do this with MAGIC also, just listing the magic special bonus for your character (Sorcery, Wizardry, Priest, or Minor) and adding that to a dice roll: target number 7. This number works out well for my taste because it represents a marginal chance of success (roughly 58% without modifiers), and nobody wants an adventure about a bunch of failures (though they can be entertaining if narrated well)

Combine this with my desire to nix the damage table for each weapon (flat damage and +1 damage for two-handed), convert the armor to a per-encounter ablative function, all magic fueled by Stamina, and ad-hoc rulings that fit the narrative, I had what I thought was my ideal abridged Advanced Fighting Fantasy.  Maybe it would be Basic Fighting Fantasy Plus or AFF Minus. There are Skills for things you try, Luck for things you can’t control, Spells if you have them, and Stamina to measure how much pain and misery you can endure.

Part 4

This obsession was frosting my ass for a couple of years. Having had no live play since my divorce (my ex-wife being my primary gaming partner), I was eager to try my revised Advanced Fighting Fantasy.  Unfortunately, I had no outlet.

In comes Pits & Perils with everything I want. Target number 7 (or 9 for combat), check. Bonus for being good at something, check. Simple damage. check. Ablative armor, check. Room for rulings, check. I discovered this gem while watching reruns of Crossbow, a medieval fantasy show from the late 1980’s. So the wave of nostalgia swept over me just as I perused the the gameplay example of the three characters exploring a tower, and I knew I just wanted to get this game.

Now I have an ad on a Meetup forum, trying to entice a group to play.

*House Rule: If you have a crossbow ready to fire, you can fire first, even if you lose initiative.

Part 5

Why Advanced Fighting Fantasy led me to Blood of Pangea
or
My Autistic Obession with Customization and Minimalism

What I liked so much about AFF was how you can customize your character at creation, and pursue all kinds of wacky builds (if you’re so inclined). High Skill, High Luck, Magic, lots of Stamina, good at jumping, good at climbing, good at lock picking, or stealth, or throwing spears, or several languages. There’s even a distinction between Bargaining, Conning and Etiquette: commerce, deception and polite interaction. The character sheets had an entry for “Class” but that was just for flavor. Your class is what you wanted it to be. You could do a hybrid fighter-mage-thief, but at an early state of adventuring he probably wouldn’t be especially good at any of them.

I liked the versatility of AFF, but my obsession with mathematical reduction irritated me, and I also developed a taste for simplicity due to my desire to include my wife in my gaming.

In comes Blood of Pangea, a reduced form of Pits & Perils meant for a Swords & Sorcery game world. What I like about it is how you can customize your character with but a basic narrative, and everything else flows from there. It doesn’t get much more reductionist than one numbered stat and a character description. Rules are akin to P&P, though the target number typically is 9 for all tasks (but adjusted as appropriate). I like how the Might is a universal resource for avoiding harm or achieving glorious feats. Armor is just Armor (soaks 3 points), and if you want more nuance to your armor (Leather, Chain, Plate), you can do so. My (ex)wife’s simple desire for an Archer who can talk to animals is realized in this gaming system. And my desire for customization and simplicity is satisfied by this game.

Part 6

I will conclude with a quote from “Adventurers! Exploring the Unknown”, a modified version of “Searchers Of the Unknown”, which is itself a reductionist take on D20 D&D. They managed to capture my general philosophy of Role Playing Gaming with this brief passage: “Every PC is an Adventurer with only a little customization done during the creation of the PC. The player will bring complexity and flavor to the PC through their play.” (emphasis by the Author)

[edit 2/25/18:  I got the feeling that I wasn’t entirely clear when I finished this post.  I enjoy the complexity that emerges from creative play, and not from mechanical complexity of the rule set. ]

download link for Searchers of the Unknown 2012 compilation

Spells for Blood of Pangea

I must admit I have difficulty thinking up magical spells for Blood of Pangea that fit within the guidelines.  The most noteworthy being that sorcery cannot directly cause permanent damage: causing someone to break out in sores, fireballs, death rays, crumbling boulders to dust etc.   So that means permanent changes in matter. There is an optional rule to allow it, but I want to push my creativity by adhering to this rule and see what I can think of.

Spoiler warning.  If you don’t want your imagination contaminated with my ideas, turn back now.

Some of these ideas may warrant charging the caster more than 1 Might. The sample spells given: summoning a smoke to distract a monster, took 1 might. Levitating the caster out through the roof took 1 might, but taking his friend with him took an additional point of might.

With that in mind, I’m assuming a large, muscled character and his gear weigh 250 to 300 pounds, tops.  So Each person levitated up to that weight takes 1 Might.  Lifting your horse may take therefore 3 or 4 might.  Likewise, I’ll use that as a guideline for moving other heavy objects.

Here we go!

Levitate a looped rope around the target’s neck and strangle him with it.

Yank the spear or sword from the enemy’s hand and chase after him with it.

In an environment with loose sand, levitate the sand from beneath a target’s feet and the target falls into the pit.  Then bury said target with the sand!

Levitate target off a cliff, then drop it!

Hurl boulders, spears, any other projectile.  Send a storm of stones at approaching infantry.   *  This may not be in the spirit of maximum movement of 50′ per turn.  I assume that means a gradual rate to 50′, as opposed to moving really quickly, all of a sudden.  But why not?  Matter is not being changed, nothing is being directly damaged by the spell.  Perhaps an increase in cost for the force required to propel the stones?

Seal a watchman’s mouth shut so he cannot shout the alarm.

Set an illusion for a watchman that the PCs are allied soldiers returning from a patrol.

Pass off a brass button as the illusion of a gold coin.

Lift the keys off a sleeping guard.

Unbuckle a weapon’s belt, leaving the former wearer without his sword.

Slam a heavy door in the face of pursuers.

Turn the tumblers of the lock of that door.

Pull the rug out from beneath a foe.

Snuff the candles with a gust of wind. * The moving air does the work, not the spell.

Untie hanging curtains or tapestry so it falls into the torches and catches on fire.

Deflect arrows.

Cause the sensation of being terribly itchy.

Create auditory hallucinations of all kinds: sounds of violence, sounds of mischief, sounds of sexual activity, whatever might catch the interest of the target

Cause the target to believe someone else is the caster.

Appear to be in two places at once.

Appear to look like some hideous monster.

Make target think his food or drink has a nauseating taste.

Animate a corpse to perform a task.

Levitate one volatile substance into contact with another to cause a reaction.

Cause target to become sexually aroused.

Bend tree branches down. * this is iffy, because a bent branch may not spring back up.

Pull stones out of a dam.

Cause a horse or other large animal to hallucinate and panic.

Create a foul odor.

Create the illusion of casting a damaging spell.  Such as the illusion of lightning bolts.

Throw your voice.

Reverse gravity in one small area.

That’s all I can think of for now.

 

 

Skullduggery in The Hundred Acre Wood

I just finished a complete collection of all the Winnie The Pooh stories written by A A Milne.  If you can find a copy (there are several compilations about), I highly encourage you to read it.  There’s some fantastic stories about the friendships and hardships of Christopher Robin’s animal friends.

One story in particular struck me as slightly disturbing (in a good way).  In this story, Kanga and her son Roo arrive in the Hundred Acre Wood.  Rabbit doesn’t think too highly of their intrusion, so hatches a plan with his friends to kidnap Roo and hold him hostage in a hidden place until Kanga agrees to move out of the forest!

Well there’s a humorous twist to their plan, and nobody gets hurt.  In the end, Kanga and Roo stay and everyone becomes friends.  I was so surprised to see such a plot among the animals in this mythical forest.  It was interesting to see how even good-natured, lovable, almost-innocent characters can have a dark side.  It may make for some good creative fodder for later RPG adventures.

There is another story where a prolonged and heavy rain falls for days, and the forest becomes flooded.  Eventually, Christopher Robin and Pooh are on a mission to rescue Piglet before his home gets flooded out.  This is an excellent story revealing Pooh’s creativity.  Not so bad for a bear with little brain.  I’ll spare you the details so you can read it yourself.

The whole series of stories brought forth a mix of emotions: laughter, childish giggling, tears (I wept at the sweet, loving conclusions to some stories), tears again (sadness after the end of the last story), big ear to ear grins of joy.  I suggest this collection for anyone with a love of fairy tales.