Friday, August 12, 2016

Psionics Supplement Mini-Review plus Yuan Ti for DCC/MCC

So - picked up this thing by +Reid San Filippo (esteemed author of Crawling Under a Broken Moon).

It's called Mind Games. It's a supplement for DCC that shores up one place where I find that DCC doesn't scratch my 1st Ed. AD&D itch better than the original, namely the Psionics. It's funny now that I am older I notice that many, many monsters in the MM1&2 and FF have psionic abilities listed in the stat chunk. I never paid much attention to them, mostly because I think Psionics were frowned upon when I were a lad as an unnecessary, optional option that most people I played with did not opt. When you think about it, Psionics-empowered PCs ought to have been, like Paladins, rare as hen's teeth, given the dwindling, vanishingly unlikely statistics involved necessary to play one if you do (as Crom intends) 3d6 straight down the line. But hey, plenty of folks let their hair loose and upped it some, which I don't think I ever saw.
What Reid has done (and +Claytonian JP hinted at in The Wizardarium) is attached a nicely foreign and exotic system onto the DCC core rules, with very little in the way of changes to the base mechanics, in order to give you that weird flavor of yore back. The thing is chock full of cool stuff, and the art and layout are nicely done. (I hear there was a kerfuffle with print versions but I think it's fixed at the time of this writing). There are 20-something psionic powers of varying dangerousness, a new class, plenty of psionic items (watch for Living Crystal weapons in my campaigns in the near future), and a couple of really terrific monsters.  The Braingineers are like daleks, crossed with spiders, and so they're probably going to fall into my own games, soon.

Mindgames is just what I needed at this point, since I am thinking of siccing some ancient, slithery evil upon some friends at TridentCon, replete with Mind Blasts and Ego Whips and Polymorphing Demon Venom. David "Zeb" Cook is scheduled to attend, and my mind was transported to the Ancient Times when I fussed and fretted about snake cults in a city in the jungles of... I don't recall, was it Chult? Before Chult was a place? I don't know. Suffice it to say that The Dwellers of The Forbidden City charged my young brain with all kinds of images that laid dormant in there until I first view'd a version of King Kong (pretty sure it was Jessica Lange and a young The Dude). I recently had a vision in which I plopped the Forbidden City down with a Lost City erupting up from beneath, and +Kabuki Kaiser 's Kwantoom nearby, across the Pan Lung lake. Can you smell the lemongrass and strange spices? Olchak may give me a hard time about fetishizing the Far East, but it feels like something that hits me (granted I'm a white middle aged guy who was weaned on Saturday Afternoon TV and D&D) right in the tropes-lobe.

Okay, okay, back on track. Yuan-Ti. The demon-worshipping snake-men that everybody loves to hate, and doubly more so because the implicit body horror/snake phobia that gets you right in the amygdala from aeons dark and unremembered. On a glance at the stats below, they are bad ass and ought to send most low level parties fleeing and peeing and quaking and praying (6-9 HD with maybe a 0 armor class, plenty of spells, and psionics, also!) Good thing only 1-4 at a time, and I guess maybe accompanied by some cultists. I note that Deep Ones worry me more, since it's a metaphysical issue, but maybe later for that line of thought. The disciplines listed are B,D (Mind Thrust and Id Insinuation) and F,I,J (Mind Blank, Intellect Fortress, and Tower of Iron Will). With psionic 150 points, that's fairly bad ass, and most of these things will leave psychically undefended adventurers as synapse-shorted, howling idiots before the battle is even begun! Afterward, its disgusting worshippers will trundle you off to a dark cave and poison you into becoming a breeder for a new snake-thing, and (as Dragon #151 points out) if you fail and die during the process, they can neutralize poison you and try again...

So: Yuan-Ti need magic, lots of HD, and PSIONIC POWERS, and so where might we find some of those? Well, in Reid's new thing, that's where!

YUAN TI ABOMINATION: move 15', Init +5; Atk bite +5 (1d10), psionics, spell casting ; Action Die 3d24; AC 18; Hit Dice 8d10; Fort +7, Ref +7, Will +1

Psionic Attack Powers: (roughly analogous to Mind Thrust and Id Insinuation): Kinetic Burst, Affliction, Transmogrify Mind

Psionic Defenses: Hard to say.. Needs development as a power, or maybe not, but boosting the Telepathy Focus Die to 1d10 seems sufficient to me for the moment in order to defend in Duels/Subjugation Battles.

The other forms of Yuan-Ti have lesser Hit Dice and 1 fewer Attack Powers, but they all know 1d4 (suitably reptilian in their manifestation) Wizard or Cleric Spells chosen randomly, in addition to Neutralize Poison and Bind to/Invoke Patron. For PAtrons, use Set/SSeth or that snaky one from AD&BiB or maybe that one from Dragon 150 or the other canonical Yuan-Ti one from your old-fashioned system of choice.

More later - Be Well, Warm-Blooded, Manthings!

Post-Script for reference: These are the original 1e stats from Zeb Cook's Dwellers of the Forbidden City, to my knowledge the first appearance of this classic AD&D monster.

MOVE: 12” or 9”
% IN LAIR: 70%

ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
Attack/Defense Modes: B, D/F, I, J

Living in tropical jungles, the yuan ti are a degenerate and corrupt race of creatures who were once human. All are devout demon worshippers and have a high regard for all kinds of reptiles. Through dark and unknown practices, their blood has become fouled, thus producing monstrosities, There are three types of yuan ti: purebloods, halfbreeds, and abominations.

Purebloods are the weakest of the yuan ti, having only 6 hit dice. They are human in appearance, except for some slight difference - scaly hands, a forked tongue, or a somewhat reptilian look about them. They are able to pass as humans 80% of the time. They normally handle affairs with the outside world, and may travel far and wide doing so.

Halfbreeds are highly distinctive. Some part of their body is that of a snake, while the rest is human. Appearance may be determined by the table below (rolling once or twice), or the DM may select the changes.
  1. 1  Snake head
  2. 2  Torso can bend and move like a snake’s
  3. 3  No legs, ends in a snake’s tail
  4. 4  Has snakes instead of arms
  5. 5  Body is covered by scales
  6. 6  Snake tail is growing from backside
If any combination seems impossible or unworkable, the result should be ignored. The DM may also create other results involving snakes and humans.

In attacks, a snake-headed halfbreed will bite for 1-10 points of damage, snake-headed arms will bite for 1-6 points, and a tail will constrict for 1-4 points. Otherwise the yuan ti will be able to handle weapons as a normal person. All snake parts will have an armor class of 0. Halfbreeds have 7-8 hit dice.

Abominations are the strongest of the yuan ti. All have 9 hit dice. In appearance they are often confused with nagas and other snake creatures. Abominations are either totally snake- Iike or only have some human feature (such as a head or arms). Their bite (unless human-headed) will do 1-10 points of damage.

All yuan ti with human legs may move 12” per turn. Those with snake bodies move 9” per turn and are able to coil around pillars and the like. Human headed yuan ti are able to cast the following spells once per day:

Cause Fear Darkness, 15’ radius
Snake charm
Sticks to snakes

Neutralize poison
Polymorph other

Yuan ti speak their own language. They may also speak with any snake or snake-like monster. Those with human heads also speak Chaotic and Common.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Wish in One Hand, Tirade in the Other


In your modules/expansions/adventures, what I want is:

In the front matters, of variable length and however long it takes for you to get it out, set the scene, some verbose and stylized flavor text, fluff maybe, that I can read this and say: "Daniel wrote this on a Lovecraft tear and it is hilarious".  Include satire. Ineffable wonder is terrific but not if its not gameable... Or if the concept is so high-concept that the game becomes an abstraction of whatthefucks, then maybe tone it down a couple notches but I am not the boss of you

I personally don't go for books-as-art/collectibles. Cleverness and usability, newness of thought in terms of gaming situations, that's key. I don't want it to be ugly, though. If we ought to emulate Z--'s approach in anything it's that he puts a great deal of effort into the things he does, and I admire him for that.  Or at least, it appears he does. It's his livelihood and nobody ought to try to pull it out from underneath him, and I take ownership of my part.  Don't make it like you generated half with some online website and filled in the rest. I can use a website for that myself and they are generally free. I'm paying FOR YOUR BRAINWAVES or maybe I will if you impress me.

In the entries, terseness. Just enough to oomph me. Clarity: I want to be able to know the theme of the area already. Put standout features in bold, treasure easily sussed, traps evident at a glance (or maybe just TRAP and I can cook it up kaboom). Stonehell by Michael Curtis and Gillespie's Barrowmaze are good examples where just enough is given in the general scheme of things. I should be able to look at the entry and in one fell swoop know what is about to happen

Random monsters that make sense somehow and introduce novelty, hilarity and dread and will interact with keyed static encounters. These should provide impetus against standing still and silly-dallying too long. Else, don't include them if you want the tone of your thing to be relaxed and merely exploratory. Shitty randos that are boring and just attack is a waste of ink. Moldvay reaction roll or something similar called for in situations of total ambiguity, BUT these things are wandering around for a good reason, right?  Motive: these skeletons are lugging parcels for the Oppressive Douchebag Necromancer and would love to break up the monotony of post/biology workday and they resent his managerial style is better than "SKELETONS HIT LUCIENNE WITH SWORD FALL DOWN"

I want original monsters from your brain. Homages are okay.  Radiation infused stirges are good, and they puke radiation into you because they are excited. A stirge is not okay to stat out because that's wasted ink.  I'm pretty sure they are hard to hit, flimsy, and drink blood if they hit and latch on. I got that already.  Staying on the ASE-as-example, the little robot dwarf guys who want to use you as parts, those are terrific.  If it was all goblins, I wouldn't even have read the thing.  I'd almost go without stats entirely since you could essentially let me kludge it into my own system. NO STATS!? A hush falls over the crowd and a looming sense of alienation toward the writer and off you guy, Dearie!

Awesome items for foolish players to let their PCs experiment with (I'm going to include experimentation rules in all my games maybe, I need to work out a system where I describe items more thoroughly instead of FUCK I GUESS ITS A LASER GUN). No more magic swords. I've seen every variation of magic sword ever and I get bored by swords and not engorged by swords if you take my meaning

One thing I love to see lately is permanent or long-lasting changes to PCs from items or interactions with the dungeon. Possibly death (there are more fun outcomes than death); possibly rocket-fired batwings. Something that changes a PC from "Eric the Warrior" to "Eric the CHROME SKYVIKING". I've killed, personally, a great number of Warriors and have no remorse, but a well-marbled pig invested with the semblance of a personality gets me upset when my mutant chomps his head off because the personality makes it taste better, you see. Mike Evans' Hubris has a good deal of this in the funnel so that the survivors are going to be unique and weird right at the start. One reason I dig DCC is that it allows me to purposefully encourage, with a minimum of work up front, a large group of memorable PCs that players get invested in.  They ought to maneuver their shitty uninteresting ones into the line of fire, somehow. Many times these days, I think players get disappointed when their 0-levels bite it and it's natural, but if you do it enough you get less attached to individual PCs and more attached to the development of the survivors. Sometimes, you get invested in the pigs and goat-wives and Wargeese which says something to me.

My own policy is there ought to be chock full of hooks for the next thing in the back, and a number of setups for the thing in the front. Possibilities. Maps to other places. Let's do what the Old Ones did and link our own little Multiverses together by way of mutual reference. It's fantasy, and we all do it anyways, why not drop hints about other folks' works in there?  Like a cult from Paul's book?  Include it in your module and people will (without even knowing its happening) like it also, provided your thing makes a good time.

Don't name NPCs. That sucks. More later. THinking about Keep On the Borderlands, here.

Enough loot to make their eyes light up but not enough to break the economy. Or I don't know, your call.

I was in an "anti-table" mode for a while, but I have reconsidered. If it's thematic and provides some chaotropy, then hurrah (like, the reams of possibility in Kabuki Kaiser's stuff, versus ANOTHER LIST OF DOGS TO GROOM)

We're old enough and wise enough, now, to leave the graph paper in our youth. The world is not laid out, mostly, in uniform grids - sensible though it may be. I think Doug pulls this off nicely since his maps are arty and nicely represent scale and relationship without the tedium of 20 foot squares all the damn time.

Less scribbletits for the sake of scribbletitillation since I am somebody's dad and maybe I want to hand my daughter this book-analogue without my conscience nagging at me.  I want her to be able to read it, comprehend it, and not lose SAN when she's 7 or 8. Call me uptight and I know demihuman and semihuman bodies are beautiful and natural etc etc but maybe 

On that note, design some factions that have other motives besides SENSELESS GORE, and make it possible for pacifist approaches to have a possibility of winning the day. I really believe that games are much More Fun when we are all cracking up laughing because of interactions with the world and each other that are not merely rolls to see "DID I HIT AND KILL IT THIS TIME? IS IT KILLING ME?" And that one guy who has not yet, in 2016, learned to roll his attack and damage and Deed dice with one hand together all at once at the same time together for the sake of expediency and clarity and hold on what's that word I'm looking for let me get it from my bag I here it is what was the monster's armor class again?  We should all respectfully model accurate and useful behaviors to people and hope they pick them up without a lecture, since tirades are good Sunday morning IMHO but not at game time; that's for laughing and laughing and maybe pissing your pants laughing from fear and terror and MAN THIS GAME IS TERRIFIC BUT I WISH JOEY WIULD HURRY IT UP BY GOD'S STONY YARBLES

Your mileage may vary of course but if you don't agree with my opinions, you're wrong and stupid, as this one or two guys I see on the Internet are prone to saying, and I will see to it personally that you reform or are ostracized.  (A little satire for you but if you don't get it then count yourself lucky). This is about games, not maybe about selling games (to me it's a non-issue but for some a primary motivator which I think tangled up your approach) or our identity as a tribe and who the biggest dick swinging is but as I said choose for yourself


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