Tuesday, September 13, 2016

DCC Magical Heartbreaker

I have in my mind's eye: a fairly liberal, and rather confusing, kludge/tort/corruption for the magic system of DCC, but rather than write it down sensibly I think the basics might be best described in broad strokes.  Since +Arnold K. released his magical heartbreaker the other day, I find I have thunk a great deal and read a great deal of RQ2 and Ars Magicka (thanks, O beardy ones) and other, less honorable systems.  Much inspired, I suppose by catching Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell on Netflix this past month.  That and lower back injury is keeping me from participating in gaming but much focused on the aethereal realms between my ears.  It seems to me that DCC gives much in the way of the randomness of magic, but less in the way of the Mastery of it, aside from the way a higher-level PC may game it some

1) Vancian Magic, wherein you are limited by your intellect in the number of spell levels you may 'contain' at any time (6 plus your Intelligence bonus at any time, say?). These are lost upon casting, since each version is a different magical concept or critter in your head/soul/whatever
2) you may own and select from any number of spells, contained in your Grimoire(s), which can be stolen from you/lost/destroyed- a disaster and therefore make ye a lab/stronghold and hire thugs and grow guards in your lab, or make deals with things
3) you may develop your own versions of DCC spells after mastery of the original - this increases DCs, obviously (duh!)

4) there's pacts with things; you can bind fay/demons/spirits/elementals/FF style-Mana.  Calling upon these require spellburn of high quantity, or else sacrifice of victims/treasure. As many pacts as Intelligence points, let us propose? And each represents an actual drain on your (choose 1) Intelligence, Luck, Personality? Permanent while in effect, let us propose. That is, the drain affects you as long as you wish to keep the bond in force.  These kinds of loses only heal when the being is released, and some particularly bad ones cause permanent damage

5) alchemical formulae (requiring a lab and spending of loot).

6) Runes a la Runequest from the days of yore - so magicians can be rune-binders, also. You would be advised to check for Death Runes affixed to doors since this was a very common trap in RQ
7) Wizards have access to spells outside of the DCC lists - these work just as described for Crawl! magazine's OSR spells system i.e. the casting roll is 10 plus 2 times the spell's level.  I am inclined to raise the corruption range for these to be equal to the spell's level, also
8) you start with whichever spells you wish, with the restriction being 3+your Int bonus in LEVELS, not spells.  that missing 1 spell is Read Magic, so you can acquire new spells later and often
9) the Spell Duel system needs some tweaking - I think I posted to a version on my blog a couple of years ago
10) affinities a la +Gavin Norman  's excellent Theorems and Thaumaturgy for Labyrinth Lord (can't be bothered to look for link grumble grumble you will do as your heart suggests)
11) Gorgonmilk's +Greg Gorgonmilk excellent Vancian Magic Supplement - alas, it hath Vanished! Perhaps you may supplicate thyself to him for a link to a thing he has on Lulu but be warned for Gorgons have bitter milk and it stiffens the joints
12) All spells must have mercurials - none of this BS 'no result' result. I would allow the Purple Planet mercurials, your own themed mercurials, whatever. Smack a 're-roll' or 'roll on such and such table' right where that  'no mercurial effect' result is
13) I have this 'Dealing with Demons' document compiled from White Dwarves of Long Ago but you can't have it at the moment since I never give magic unless the price is terrible and far outweighs the benefit, and this one is bad news. PM me for a special one-time offer. Include your True Name, and the True Name of your romantic partner, childrens' true names optional
14) Essentially, I want all DCC Wizards to be time bombs of Chaos and awfulness, unless they take a pedestrian and predictable Lawful/Neutral path in which case they are boring and not as much fun.  No such thing as a vanilla wizard.  You ought to aim at specialising/theming between your funnel and your appearance on the scene as a Wiz 1, (note Specialization is Level 2 in DCC!) and so choose your list from available spells on hand in your real world and you are responsible for the rules and we will adjudicate
15) let's assume that OSR spells are on some logarithmic standard so that a AD&D Wish is a level 5 or maybe even 7 for DCC wizards.  This assumes that all OSR authors have done their homework in estimating the level of their spells! heh heh heh)
16) Maze Rats makes for some amazing random spells. Amazeballs.  Find it.
17) Ars Magicka has the thing divided up into effects.  Maybe each effect/rune/circle stacked onto your spell to describe its effects makes a exponential increase in the DC to cast the spell - So Prismatic Spray of Ibn Al Urad (1d4 damage x Destroy x Body = 2x2x2 for a DC of 8).  Something like that would probably suffice.  Don't forget the mercurial!
18) As many Patrons as you like, but be reminded that Patrons exact a heavy toll for help.  That's the point.  I am not often as stringent about this as I should.
19) This magic system assumes strict records of time are kept, since Spellburn will be a serious problem to contend with.
20) every really dangerous spell (to others) ought to have dangers to one's self.  Drawbacks encouraged - Ghastly Affair does this well.
21) I think I have recommended the supplement for LL called uh, Realms of, uh, shit Realms of Crawling Chaos by +Dan Proctor  and +Michael Curtis  almost since the inception of this blog.  Everyone's hands quiver when Detect Magic is cast, not in anticipation but in trepidation.
21) reroll twice, apply results, discard 'No Results' results and roll again.
22) needs MOAR Alchemy

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.

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