Monday, December 26, 2016

DCC Spells I Want to Cast - Spores of the Basidirond

Below is my write-up for the 2nd level patron spell for Mycetes-Thrax. This spell is based on the effects of a famous second-tier monster from the world's most popular roleplaying game. Spores of the Basidirond is probably weaker than the 1st level spell Sleep, but in many ways, this isn't a spell you cast when you merely want to incapacitate your enemy - this is a spell you cast when you want to unleash total chaos.


Level: 2 (Mycetes-Thrax)
Range: 10' per CL
Duration: Permanent until save (or 1 turn per required save)
Casting time: 1 action
Save: Will vs. spell check

General: The caster releases airborne fungal spores and an alluring fragrance. Everyone who inhales the spores experience powerful hallucinations, which show them an alternate and dangerous world, and which compel them to take action to protect themselves from the nightmarish scenarios the hallucinations place them in. Creatures who inhale the spores can make an immediate saving throw to resist the effects, and may repeat this save on their initiative each round, but are trapped in their hallucination until they succeed. In general, everyone who is affected by the spores at one time sees the same terrible visions (except in the case of a critical success or a result of 34+.)

Any target who rolls a natural 20 on their saving throw is immediately freed from any remaining effects of the spell. Any target who rolls a natural 1 on their saving throw is rendered permanently insane, and continues to perceive their current hallucination as their only reality for the rest of their life.

Truly mindless being and creatures who don't need to breathe are immune to this spell (this includes most plants, fungi, slimes, constructs, and un-dead.) Anyone who is protected by a gas mask or other breathing apparatus is also immune.

Outside of immediate combat, the judge should assume that afflicted creatures succeed 1 saving throw per turn, rather than continuously rolling to determine the exact timing. (However, the judge is encouraged to check once for each target to see if they go permanently insane.)

On a critical success, the range of the spell and the possible number of targets are both doubled. In addition, each target of the spell rolls individually to determine their specific hallucination.

Roll 1d16 to determine the nature of the hallucination (and the target's reaction to it:)

(1) The floor has becoming a shifting desert, swallowing everything like quicksand. (Drop prone and attempt to swim to stay above-ground.)
(2) Every light in the room grows to blinding brilliance. (Close your eyes tight and drop any light source.)
(3) The floor has become a gulping, viscous swamp. (Take off your boots and armor to escape from drowning in the mud.)
(4) Every light in room explodes in flames, everything is burning. (Drop prone and attempt to extinguish the fire, pour any liquids you have onto yourself.)
(5) Your body is melting into puddle. (Attempt to hold your skin in place, press your flesh back into its proper shape.)
(6) The floor is blazing hot, melting into lava. (Hop from foot to foot, jump onto any flat surface above ground level.)
(7) Your body has shrunk to size of an insect or mouse. (Stare up at everything towering overhead, attempt to hide underneath smallest object you can find.)
(8) Your friends are all dead, their corpses fall to floor. (Run away screaming.)
(9) The floor is covered in millions of swarming, biting insects. (Attack the floor with your melee weapons.)
(10) The room is filled to brim with ocean water. (Hold your breath, attempt to swim to the ceiling, climb up any available vertical surface.)
(11) Your friends are all dead, but their lifeless yet animate bodies turn to attack you. (Attack your friends with most powerful attack.)
(12) Your clothes are filled with biting fleas and bedbugs. (Strip off your armor and clothing.)
(13) The ceiling is covered in thousands of swarming, screaming bats. (Attack the ceiling with your missile weapons.)
(14) Your back is covered with blood-drinking leeches. (Tear off your pack and anything worn on your torso and attack them.)
(15) The objects you hold in your hands are turning into biting, constricting snakes. (Drop or throw away what you're holding, leap backward to get away.)
(16) The ceiling is collapsing in a cave-in, debris rains down from overhead. (Drop prone and attempt to take cover underneath any sheltering objects.)

Manifestation: Roll 1d8: (1) shafts of light pour out of the caster's mouth an eyes, illuminating dancing motes in Brownian motion, accompanied by the smell of old books; (2) what looks like snow or white ash falls from the ceiling, accompanied by the smell and crackle of burning wood; (3) fish-like gills open on the caster's neck, revealing mushroom gills in the openings, the smell of saltwater fills the air as the gills appear to breathe; (4) thousands of puffballs sprout from the floor, releasing a miasma of dust and the smell of chalk; (5) the caster breathes billows of smoke from her nose and mouth, the scent of incense mixes with tobacco; (6) a sad, simple melody plays, as on a child's music box, there is a patter of rain, the air fills with mist and petrichor; (7) spiraling clouds of gold flecks waft away from the caster with every movement, and every mind present remembers the scent of of perfume; (8) there's a loud pop and the air fills with brightly colored paper confetti, the sound of party horns, and the aroma of a baking oven.

Misfire: Roll 1d4: (1) The caster is afflicted by 1 random hallucination for 1 round; (2) the caster is afflicted by different hallucinations each round for 1d3+1 rounds; (3) the caster and 1d3+1 of her allies are afflicted 1 random hallucination for 1 round; (4) the caster and 1d3+1 of her allies are afflicted by different hallucinations each round for 1d3+1 rounds.

1    Failure! Lost, misfire, and patron taint.

2-11    Failure, lost.

12-13    Failure, but spell is not lost.

14-15    One target of the caster's choice is afflicted by a single hallucination until it succeeds a saving throw.

16-19    Up to 1d3 targets of the caster's choice are afflicted by a single hallucination until they succeed a saving throw.

20-21    Up to CL number of targets of the caster's choice are afflicted by a single hallucination until they succeed a saving throw.

22-25    Up to CL number of targets of the caster's choice are afflicted by hallucinations, which change each other round until they succeed a saving throw.

26-29    Up to CL number of targets of the caster's choice are afflicted by hallucinations, which change each round until they succeed 1d3 saving throws.

30-31    All possible targets within range are afflicted by hallucinations (unless explicitly excluded by the caster.) Targets experience a single hallucination until they succeed a saving throw. Additionally, up to CL number of targets are afflicted by hallucinations that change each round until they succeed 1d3 saving throws.

32-33    All possible targets within range are afflicted by hallucinations (unless explicitly excluded by the caster.) Hallucinations change each round until they succeed a saving throw. Additionally, up to CL number of targets are afflicted by hallucinations that change each round until they succeed CL number of saving throws.

34+    All possible targets within 30' per CL are afflicted by hallucinations (unless explicitly excluded by the caster.) Each target rolls individually to determine their specific hallucination. Hallucinations change each round until targets succeed CL number of saving throws.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Expeditions in Urutsk


After paying off Anjalik's creditors, the group decided to head over to the space-port, which Anjalik identified as the largest center of civilization in the area. On the walk over, Anjalik explained a bit about how the Vrun (the largest local human population) now lived in the remains of an earlier and much more glorious civilization founded by their ancestors. She attributed this preference to the Vrun's generally obedient and literal-minded personalities. Slunk and Merope eventually came to understand that Star Port used to be a working dockyard for metal ships that came from the sky (like the Wrecked Ship,) but that it had been innumerable generations since anyone on Urutsk had the ability to fly between the stars. The Vrun now saw a return to their ancestor's former glory as a kind of species-level or civilizational project. The Star Port itself had been transformed into a major city, with old working buildings being repurposed into homes, government offices, and bazaars.

Upon arriving at Star Port, Anjalik offered to help the pair get "credit bracelets" that would track their finances, and to introduce them to some of the guilds and "caste-clans" that organized employment throughout the Port. Anjalik revealed that she herself was a member of both the "Free Scouts" and the "Red Blade" guilds, and offered to vouch for her new friends if they wanted to join. Merope decided to get inducted into the Free Scouts, and also gained a contact with the "Scout Services" who said they planned to keep an eye on her. Slunk was interested in the "Esoteric Order of Starry Wisdom," and found that the guild was quite interested in learning more about his travel between dimensions, and about the Red Cube that had brought him to Urutsk.

It was soon time for Anjalik to return to Trade Tower, but Slunk and Merope gifted her with a sliver chopstick-like wand she could use to create an illusion of black skulls, spiders, and bats. Anjalik was very pleased, and tucked the wand into her hair before departing.

Slunk and Merope explored a bit, including touring a bazaar inside a huge lobby-like room. They found that anything left over from the past was incredibly popular with the Vrun, in particular "Ancient Grains" granola bars.

The pair first visited the Esoteric Order of Starry Wisdom's guild headquarters, where Slunk shared more of his story and was invited to browse some of the guild's spell books. (Which resulted in both silt-blooded Slunk and ice-blooded Merope selecting spells from Wizards of the Coast's free Elemental Evil Player's Companion.)

Next they visited the base of the Free Scouts, who threw Merope an induction party that involved drinking a cloudy white hallucinogenic liquor. Merope drank deep from the ceremonial cup, and entered a dream trance where she described a "shining obelisk on the edge of the waters" and then pinned a marker to a map, revealing the location of the spot she had envisioned. This session drew to a close with Merope drifting into a stupor, while the Scouts around her raved about the accuracy and potency of her vision, and made preparations for her to travel to her dream site.


Merope awoke the next morning with a splitting headache, and found the Free Scouts still eager for her to initiate herself to their order by completing her dream quest. She and Slunk decided to hire a couple of mercenaries to join them, and after asking around a bit, settled on Lairnos (a proud young woman armed with a bow) and Vard (a slightly pudgy, devious looking man with a pair of knives.) They explained their plan to travel through the jungle to the Ancient site.

The group set out into Urutsk's jungle again, following the trail the Free Scouts had plotted to the location of Merope's dream site. Relatively early on, they were ambushed by a pair of brightly colored humans, one with orange skin and one with green. The green-skinned human was shorter, and reminded Slunk of the cannibal he'd met in the jungle. Merope, Slunk, and Lairnos quickly defeated the highwaymen, and realized that Vard had disappeared during the fight. They called out for him a few times, and he came loping back from the brush. He claimed that he'd been circling around to attack the bandits from behind, but had fallen in some quicksand. Merope and Slunk felt skeptical of Vard's story, but left him with Lairnos while they followed the trail he pointed out to them. A few minutes later, they found a pit of quicksand, seemingly vindicating Vard's story, although the friends considered him to be much more probationary than Lairnos.

They continued traveling, but were intercepted again, this time by a giant white scorpion, at least 30' tall. This was obviously an alien monster, and it reminded both Merope and Slunk of the robotic centipede they'd fought on the wrecked ship. The scorpion towered over them and both incredibly dangerous and heavily armored. Slunk and Merope quickly agreed that they couldn't hope to prevail in test of sheer strength, and that they'd have to out-think the alien with strategy. Unfortunately, the monster seemed to have some kind of psychic powers that let it anticipate and foil any plans the group made. Vard quickly gave up any pretense of loyalty, and openly ran for his life. Lairnos offered to retrieve or kill the cowardly man, but Merope and Slunk urged her to stay and help defeat the scorpion.

Finding themselves unable to penetrate the beast's armor with most of their attacks, Merope and Slunk hit upon a risky strategy of incapacitating it, by turning the ground beneath its feet to mud and then freezing it in place. This plan required both to spend dearly of their elemental blood, weakening them further, and the strategy failed with the monster danced out of reach just as the ground froze where it had been standing. In a last desperate attempt to stay alive, all three moved underneath the monster's belly, out of reach of its great claws and stinging tail. This last idea finally bought them victory, as they attacked the relatively vulnerable belly of the creature, while staying out of reach of its worst reprisals. A lucky break as Merope fired magical missiles at the monster allowed her to hit it with critical accuracy, and when combined with her mutant vision that let her see the microscopic weaknesses in things, the magical damage was too much for the beast to survive. Merope, Slunk, and Lairnos emerged shivering and on the brink of death from beneath the carcass just before it collapsed to the ground.

Merope tasted some of the alien meat, and believed that if she continued tasting unusual dishes, she might learn some resistance to dangerous substances. Slunk got Lairnos to help him carve huge flank steaks out of the beast, planning to offer them to the Esoteric Order, or sell them to the highest bidder back in the Star Port. Too weak and too tired to continue on their journey, the trio returned back to the city, wondering what had become of the traitor Vard.


Merope and Slunk didn't think much of their battle with the alien scorpion. It was a setback on their journey to the Shining Obelisk by Crystal Waters, certainly. It was yet more proof of how dangerous and untamed the wilds were here on the alien world of Urutsk. And perhaps, it was a relief to come away alive after their second encounter with one of the conquering aliens who had devastated human civilization here.

But to Lairnos, the battle was a revelation. She had just survived a battle that she should not have walked away from, against an alien enemy that no one who wasn't part of a guard battalion should have defeated. Her employers, although strange, were obviously much more competent than they appeared to be. These foreigners, who seemed ignorant of the Vrun and the Star Port itself, who seemed not to fully understand the importance of their victory, also must know more than they seemed to, maybe know more or different things than the Vrun themselves.

When Merope and Slunk went to market to resupply and hire more mercenaries, they found that rumors of their victory had spread across the Star Port overnight, fueled by Lairnos telling enthusiastic tales over drinks at the bar and by shoppers encountering the startling proof in the form of Slunk's discount scorpion steaks appearing alongside the other wares in the marketplace. Much quicker than they expected, the pair hired "Inky" (a heavily tattooed assassin type,) "Blinky" (a nervous fellow,) and Clyde (big, dumb Clyde.) Although they were nervous about whether or not Lairnos would rejoin them after the disaster the day before, they found her absolutely eager to resume the quest.

The newly enlarged group of adventurers set out on the same trail as the day before, following the route Merope had mapped on her dream quest. Near the site of their first ambush, they found a rusted out antique air car. The car was covered in vines, and inside, they saw the duplicitous Vard, looking pale and bloated like a corpse. The dead bodies of the orange and green assassins lay in the back seat, and Vard, despite being dead, also appeared to be moving and attempting to exit the car. The group doused the vehicle in lamp oil and setting it on fire.

Continuing on their way, they eventually came to the site of their battle the day before. The white shell of the scorpion was there, and the ground nearby was littered with the corpses of dead animals, all scavengers and predators that must have come to taste the alien meat. Slunk felt a little nervous about having wholesaled so much of the meat to the Star Port merchants, but their newest hires were simply staring in awe. "See, I told you," Lairnos whispered to the others, as she recounted the fight again for a breathless Inky, Blinky, and Clyde. Merope and Slunk began to appreciate that their exploits were having an effect on the local balance of power, and that the consequence-free life of the itinerant treasure-seeker might not be what was in store for them.

The group continued following the trail in Merope's mind, blazing a new path through the jungle. By evening, they arrived in clearing filled with ruined buildings and curling vines. They also spotted a large, slow-moving herbivore munching contentedly at the vines, and a jaguar-like predator stalking it. The predator looked annoyed when the group entered the clearing, and broke off its hunt to get away from the humans. Approaching the herbivore, the adventurers realized it was mildly psychic and mildly (very mildly) intelligent. "Nummy!" the herbivore said to them all telepathically, and nodded at and pantomimed eating a particular berry, "Nummy nums!" Merope decided to try one of the berries, and Lairnos followed her lead. Both discovered that the nummy berry made everything else around them smell and taste delicious. (And Slunk discovered that the berry had an intoxicating effect, seemingly reducing the intelligence of anyone who ate it. He tried to communicate this fact to Merope, but found her temporarily too impaired to understand.) Merope and Lairnos gorged themselves on rations, vines, and other local greenery, all while conversing with the contented herbivore. Slunk decided that the nummy berry might make an excellent cash-crop. He collected samples of the berry, vines, and roots, planning to start a garden back in the Star Port, and hoping to sell the berries as some kind of (expensive) novelty appetizer.

The herbivore appeared somewhat menacing to Slunk ...

With his partner mentally out of commission, Slunk took charge for the rest of the night. He ordered Inky, Blinky, and Clyde to help make a camp on one of the ruined rooftops, hopefully out of reach of the predator they saw earlier, or any other hunters in the clearing. He also led the three new mercenaries on a sweep of their surroundings. They encountered another campsite, with a burned out fire and other signs of habitation, but all the campers were dead. The corpses appeared to belong to a party of treasure hunters, dressed much like the mercenaries from Star Port, but heavily mutated. The dead adventurers looked as pale and bloated and Vard had, and were surrounded by more vines like Vard's air car had been. Slunk felt the back of neck prickle, and had the distinct sensation that someone was watching him. He thought that it wasn't somebody present, but rather some kind of magic user with some sort of remote viewing or scrying technique. Slunk and the others quickly burned the dead bodies, and fled the abandoned campsite, making sure to cut down the vines around the side of their building to avoid being overwhelmed by plant life in their sleep. He tried to explain what he'd seen to Merope, but found her too stupefied to communicate with effectively, and tried to keep watch while meditating, feeling the sinister watching sensation again in the night.

... but looked much friendlier to Merope.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Mechanics I Want to Use - Cover Fire

I wanted a Mighty Deed of Arms to try to recreate a common scene in gunfights (at least on television and in movies) - both sides crouching down behind cover, popping up for a moment to return fire, before immediately ducking down again. Occasionally, someone uses this situation to try to sneak off to a flanking position and hit the other side where they're not shielded. Other times, the exchange of gunfire is covering someone's getaway.

Because guns are so deadly, and no one is really wearing effective armor, the first thing anyone in a gunfight seems to do is look for something to hide behind, and then both sides trade shots while looking for some kind of advantage or way to break the stalemate. (Often the fights seem to end when the heroes on one side manage to take down the villains on the other by hitting the bad guys right as they're emerging to let off another volley.)

So my goal here is to simulate that kind of gunfight. Both sides are hiding and unable to really hit each other until something changes. Both sides are laying down cover fire to prevent the other side from getting the upper hand. When someone is laying down effective cover, it's impossible for anyone on the other side to approach or out-flank them, unless they're very sneaky, or can find an alternate route. The only people in danger of being shot are the ones creating the cover. Cover fire is also not automatically symmetrical. If one side has more shooters, it's easier for them to control the situation. It's also possible to get out-gunned, so if one side has bigger or better guns, they're probably going to dominate the scene.

At the same time, I did try to keep the rules as simple as possible, while still allowing (and encouraging!) the above scenarios to play out. Hopefully what I've written makes intuitive sense when you think about the kind of gunfight it's meant to simulate.

I'm playing in a "weird West" themed game some weekend with Stormlord Publishing, so hopefully I'll get a chance to see how this works out in actual play. The one change I'd consider making would be that even the shooter can only be targeted by a return of cover fire (or perhaps by any Might Deed) rather than allowing them to be targeted by ordinary attacks. I'm concerned that would slow things down too much though, so I'm going to leave the opponent's options more flexible, unless playtesting shows that it doesn't work the way I hope it will as written.

Weapon-Specific Deed - Cover Fire (Firearm)

The shooter protects her allies by using her own gunfire to shield them from attack. Cover fire is typically used when the shooter and her allies are hiding behind cover, and when their enemies are in a similar position. By firing at a single opponent, the shooter can pin down her enemies to their position, prevent return fire from harming her allies, and even cover her friends retreat from the situation, allowing them to either escape or reposition themselves for the next phase of combat.

Unlike other Mighty Deeds, cover fire is not intended to hit an opponent, but to prevent them from moving by hitting close enough to them to force them to protect themselves. As a result, the shooter must hit AC 10 instead of her opponent's actual Armor Class. Larger or smaller opponents might be easier or harder to cover, respectively. Rolls of natural 20 (or other critical hits) deal damage to the target as normal.

When creating cover against an opponent without a missile weapon, the shooter receives a flat +2 bonus to her Deed Die. When attempting cover fire against an opponent who's using a firearm or other missile weapon, the shooter may receive a bonus based on the following factors:

Rate of fire: The shooter receives a +1 bonus to her Deed Die for each missile she can fire per round in excess of her opponent.
Damage die: The shooter receives a +1 bonus to her Deed Die for each 1d of damage her weapon deals in excess of her opponent.

Because the protection offered by cover fire is only effective after the shooter has attempted her Deed, she can choose to apply this bonus to her Initiative instead of her Deed Die.

An armed opponent with a superior weapon can choose either to impose a penalty on the shooter, or to receive a bonus when they return cover fire of their own.

(For example, a shooter armed with a single-shot pistol that deals 1d6 damage gets a +2 bonus to her Deed Die against an unarmed opponent, a +0 bonus against an opponent with the same weapon, and a -4 penalty against an opponent armed with a gun that fires two shots for 1d12 damage each per round. If that opponent chose to return cover fire instead, the shooter would take no penalty, but her opponent would receive a +4 bonus to their Deed Die.)

3 The shooter provides limited cover to her allies. A single targeted opponent cannot advance toward the shooter or her allies, and can make attacks only against the shooter this round.

4 The shooter provides limited cover to her allies. A single targeted opponent cannot advance toward the shooter or her allies, and can make attacks only against the shooter this round. Or, the shooter can nullify a single opponent's Cover Fire deed result of 3.

5 The shooter provides complete cover to her allies. Opponents cannot advance toward the shooter or her allies, and can make attacks only against the shooter this round. A single ally can retreat this round while retaining this protection. Or, the shooter can nullify a single opponent's Cover Fire deed result of 4 or less.

6 The shooter provides complete cover to her allies. Opponents cannot advance toward the shooter or her allies, and can make attacks only against the shooter this round. A single ally can retreat this round while retaining this protection. Or, the shooter can nullify a single opponent's Cover Fire deed result of 5 or less.

7 The shooter provides complete cover to her allies. Opponents cannot advance toward the shooter or her allies, and can make attacks only against the shooter this round. Up to two allies can retreat this round while retaining this protection. Or, the shooter can nullify any number of opponents' Cover Fire deeds whose results total at least 1 less than her Deed result. (So on a result of 7, the shooter could nullify a single result of 6, or two results of 3.)

Notes: Opponents who are not directly targeted by cover fire can still attempt to advance by using the Hide in Shadows skill, or by taking a route that leaves them out of sight behind physical cover the entire time. However, an opponent who is directly targeted by the shooter cannot advance.

The description of this deed assumes that both sides in the combat will begin exchanging cover fire from behind actual protective cover. However, at the judge's discretion, an exposed shooter may be permitted to use this deed, or an exposed opponent may be forced into retreat instead of just being blocked from advancing.

The description also assumes that the shooter will be using a firearm instead of a sling or bow. Skilled NPCs from societies that favor such weapons might be able to use them to lay down cover fire. At the judge's discretion, a player character quest for the ability to provide cover using an arrow or stone.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Rhythmic Gymnastic Vivimancy

A recent dispatch from the Gray Lady has given me the idea that a select group of bards from the College of Rhythmic Gymnastics might use their performances to alter the life-cycle and their own biology.

When such bards are inducted into the mystery of life magic, they replace the entire 5e spell-list with Vivimancer spell-list from The City of Iron's Complete Vivimancer (or from Theorems & Thaumaturgy.) I will leave it (for now) for interested players and judges to decide for themselves how to link these spells to the bard's apparatuses.

Seen below, a high-level bard uses the ball apparatus to cast impregnate (reversed.)

"How to stop your period" by Xaviera Lopez

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

DCC Spells I Want to Cast - Mouldering Touch

The spell Hepsoj’s Fecund Fungi (DCC 247) mentions the existence of a patron-level entity, Mycetes-Thrax (result 38+). Mycetes-Thrax is described as "the Great Sleeping Growth that lurks beneath the soil ... a single fungus that stretches for hundreds of leagues and has grown sentient and wise with the eons." Below is my write-up for the first of Mycetes-Thrax’s patron spells, Mouldering Touch. The effects of this spell mimic the effects of the most common oozes in the world's most famous role-playing game. A write-up of the second patron spell, Invoke Patron results, spellburn, and patron taint will follow.

Mycetes-Thrax’s third patron spell should obviously be Mycetes-Thrax’s Fecund Fungi, with results identical to Hepsoj’s version of the spell, except at 3rd level.


Level: 1 (Mycetes-Thrax)
Range: Touch
Duration: Varies
Casting time: 1 action
Save: Varies

General: The palm of the caster's hand is coated in protoplasmic slime mold, allowing her to deliver lingering toxic effects to her enemies by touching them. On a critical success, both the caster's palms are coated, allowing her to deliver two touches, and she can choose any effect at or below the level of her spell check, including different effects for each hand.

If spell is used against a player character (or anyone else with a known Stamina score,) result 28-29 causes 1d6 points of temporary Stamina loss (instead of Fortitude and hit point loss,) and result 30-31 causes 3d6 points of temporary Stamina loss.

Manifestation: See below.

Misfire: Roll 1d4: (1) the caster's entire body is coated with a thin layer of phosphorescent white dust, and for the next hour, all attack rolls against the caster are +1d to hit; (2) the caster takes 1d3 cold damage and any light sources she's carrying are extinguished; (3) the caster is temporarily paralyzed for the next 1d3 combat rounds; (4) a cloud of toxic yellow dust puffs up into the caster's face causing 1d3 temporary Stamina damage.

1 Failure! Lost, misfire, and patron taint.

2-11 Failure, lost.

12-13 Phosphorescent fungus. For the next hour, the caster's palm is coated with a ghostly white dust. The dust glows too weakly to serve as a light source, but for the next day, it will serve as a highly visible marker on the next creature or object the caster touches. A marked creature loses any benefits of invisibility or cover.

14-17 Ochre jelly. For the next turn, the caster's palm is covered in a orangish-brown gel. The next creature the caster touches takes 2d4 damage and must make a Fortitude save vs. the spellcheck result or lose its next action.

18-19 Brown mold. For the next turn, the caster's hand is covered in a rich brown dust. The next creature the caster touches takes 2d6 cold damage, and any light sources that creature is carrying are extinguished.

20-23 Gelatinous cube. For the next turn, the caster's hand is covered in a translucent gel. The next creature the caster touches is paralyzed for the next 3d6 combat rounds. That creature may attempt a Fortitude save vs. the spellcheck result to reduce the duration by half.

24-27 Gray ooze. For the next turn, the caster's hand is covered in a wet gray scum. The next creature the caster touches takes 2d6 damage. One piece of armor worn by that creature is -1 AC and one weapon it wields deals -1d damage. Any armor reduced to +0 AC and any weapons reduced to 1d3 damage collapse and fall apart due to acidic corrosion. The defender may choose to make a Reflex save vs. the spellcheck result to take double damage in order to protect its armaments. Instead of attacking, the caster may use this touch to destroy one wooden door over the course of 1 turn.

28-29 Green slime. For the next turn, the caster's hand is covered in a wet green scum. The next creature the caster touches loses -1d3 from its Fortitude save and -1d3 hit points from each Hit Dice. One piece of armor worn by that creature is -2 AC and one weapon it wields deals -2d damage. Any armor reduced to +0 AC and any weapons reduced to 1d3 damage collapse and fall apart due to acidic corrosion. The defender may choose to make a Reflex save vs. the spellcheck result to take double damage in order to protect its armaments. Instead of attacking, the caster may use this touch to destroy a wooden or metal door or a row of metal bars over the course of 1 turn.

30-31 Yellow mold. For the next turn, the caster's hand is covered in a chalky yellow dust. The next creature the caster touches loses -3d3 from its Fortitude save and -3d3 hit points from each Hit Dice. That creature may attempt a Fortitude save vs. the spell check result to reduce the penalty by half.

32+ Black pudding. For the next turn, the caster's hand is covered in a thick black sludge. The next creature the caster touches takes 4d6 damage. One piece of armor worn by that creature is -4 AC and one weapon it wields deals -4d damage. Any armor reduced to +0 AC and any weapons reduced to 1d3 damage collapse and fall apart due to acidic corrosion. The defender may choose to make a Reflex save vs. the spell check result to take double damage in order to protect its armaments. Instead of attacking, the caster may use this touch to destroy a wooden or metal door, a row of metal bars, or a brick or stone wall over the course of 1 round.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

5e Characters I Want to Play - College of Rhythmic Gymnastics Bardic Archetype


Bards of the College of Rhythmic Gymnastics are acrobats and dancers whose graceful movements express ageless truths and wordless poetry. Rhythmic gymnasts focus their efforts on the perfection of their own minds and bodies, preferring to improve themselves more than instructing others. Their performances recreate the movements of stars and snowflakes, and preserve the patterns of civilizations long past. Their exercises allow them to move with a precision and control that few others can match. Whether audiences appear to appreciate their efforts is beside the point. Rhythmic gymnasts are at once the most physical and the most-inward looking of bards, their routines fueling a kind of auto-hypnotic trance that facilitates healing, self-inspiration, and spell-casting. Rhythmic gymnasts work with four types of apparatus - the ball, the clubs, the hoop, and the ribbon - and their mastery over these instruments is unparalleled.

Rhythmic gymnasts study in schools called Gymnasiums, where they practice dance and tumbling, play musical instruments, recite poetry, and read classical literature. Rhythmic gymnasts believe in liberal education and a unified curriculum of physical and mental improvement. They see themselves as living libraries, the custodians of practical and movement traditions that cannot be written down in books or scrolls. When rhythmic gymnasts gather, they share performances through turn-taking and in rituals that involve teams of five.

Joining the College of Rhythmic Gymnastics permanently alters a bard's Bardic Inspiration, Song of Rest, and Spellcasting abilities. Rather than using music or speech to inspire or heal others, the rhythmic gymnast uses a dance performance with apparatus. (Healing is usually facilitated by the hypnotic turning of the hoop. The correct apparatus to inspire others in any particular situation is left to the bard's and the judge's discretion.)

A dance performance with the correct apparatus also replaces the Verbal, Somatic, and Material components of the bard's spells. The correct apparatus for each spell is listed below. The bard and judge are encouraged to work together to decide the correct apparatus for spells not on the bard's spell list, such as spells learned using the Magical Secrets ability.

The ball bounces, glides, and rolls as the bard dances. The ball apparatus is needed to cast spells that relate to movement or that cause objects to appear into existence. The ball can symbolize anything passed from the bard to another target, and the ball facilitates interactions with animals.

Animal Friendship (1st)
Animal Messenger (2nd)
Animate Objects (5th)
Awaken (5th)
Dancing Lights (0th)
Dimension Door (4th)
Enhance Ability (2nd)
Etherealness (7th)
Feather Fall (1st)
Find the Path (6th)
Foresight (9th)
Freedom of Movement (4th)
Locate Animals or Plants (2nd)
Locate Creature (4th)
Longstrider (1st)
Mage Hand (0th)
Message (0th)
Planar Binding (5th)
Plant Growth (3rd)
Prestidigitation (0th)
Raise Dead (5th)
Sending (3rd)
Speak with Animals (1st)
Speak with Plants (3rd)
Teleport (7th)
Unseen Servant (1st)

The clubs can be thrown, juggled, and twirled during the dance. The clubs apparatus are needed to cast spells related to combat, or that deal damage to an opponent.

Bane (1st)
Bestow Curse (3rd)
Cloud of Daggers (2nd)
Dispel Magic (3rd)
Dissonant Whispers (1st)
Eyebite (6th)
Fear (3rd)
Feeblemind (8th)
Feign Death (3rd)
Geas (5th)
Glyph of Warding (3rd)
Heat Metal (2nd)
Heroism (1st)
Knock (2nd)
Mordenkainen's Sword (7th)
Otto's Irresistible Dance (6th)
Power Word Stun (8th)
Power Word Kill (9th)
Shatter (2nd)
Stinking Cloud (3rd)
Tasha's Hideous Laughter (1st)
Thunderwave (1st)
True Strike (0th)
Vicious Mockery (0th)

The hoop encircles the bard, spinning and rolling as she moves through her dance. The hoop apparatus is needed to cast spells of protection and spells that constrain the movements of others. The hoop represents circles and the creation of zones and spaces. The rhythmic movement of the hoop helps the bard concentrate to learn forgotten knowledge, and aids in soothing wounds and other injuries.

Blade Ward (0th)
Clairvoyance (3rd)
Comprehend Languages (1st)
Cure Wounds (1st)
Detect Magic (1st)
Detect Thoughts (2nd)
Forcecage (7th)
Greater Restoration (5th)
Guards and Wards (6th)
Healing Word (1st)
Hold Monster (5th)
Hold Person (2nd)
Identify (1st)
Legend Lore (5th)
Leomund's Tiny Hut (3rd)
Lesser Restoration (2nd)
Locate Object (2nd)
Mass Cure Wounds (5th)
Mending (0th)
Mindblank (8th)
Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion (7th)
Nondetection (3rd)
Power Word Heal (9th)
Regenerate (7th)
Resurrection (7th)
Scrying (5th)
See Invisibility (2nd)
Speak with Dead (3rd)
Silence (2nd)
Sleep (1st)
Teleportation Circle (5th)
Tongues (3rd)
True Seeing (6th)
Zone of Truth (2nd)

The ribbon flutters, swirls, and twists as the bard dances. The ribbon is needed to cast spells that confuse or entrance opponents, or that create the appearance of objects that do not truly exist.

Blindness/Deafness (2nd)
Calm Emotions (2nd)
Charm Person (1st)
Compulsion (4th)
Confusion (4th)
Crown of Madness (2nd)
Disguise Self (1st)
Dominate Person (5th)
Dominate Monster (8th)
Dream (5th)
Enthrall (2nd)
Fairie Fire (1st)
Friends (0th)
Glibness (8th)
Greater Invisibility (4th)
Hallucinatory Terrain (4th)
Hypnotic Pattern (3rd)
Illusionary Script (1st)
Invisibility (2nd)
Light (0th)
Magic Mouth (2nd)
Major Image (3rd)
Mass Suggestion (6th)
Minor Illusion (0th)
Mirage Arcana (7th)
Mislead (5th)
Modify Memory (5th)
Phantasmal Force (2nd)
Polymorph (4th)
Programmed Illusion (6th)
Project Image (7th)
Seeming (5th)
Silent Image (1st)
Suggestion (2nd)
Symbol (7th)
True Polymorph (9th)

Fig 1 - The Ball

When you join the College of Rhythmic Gymnastics at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with the following three tools: ball, hoop, and ribbon. The judge is encouraged to apply these proficiency bonuses (as well as your pre-existing proficiency with clubs) whenever you manipulate sphere-like, wheel-like, rope-like, or stick-like objects.

In addition, you can treat any club weapon you use in combat as though it had the finesse and thrown properties, and you score a critical hit on a successful attack roll of 19 or 20 when using a club.

Fig 2 - The Clubs

Also at 3rd level, you learn to use your proficiency with dance and apparatus to improve your own performance at physical tasks. By entering a brief meditative trance during a dance, you are able to inspire yourself instead of others. You can use your Bardic Inspiration die to improve your own attack roll (clubs), Charisma skill check (ribbon), Constitution saving throw (hoop), Dexterity saving throw (ribbon), Dexterity skill check (ball), initiative (ball), Strength saving throw (clubs), or Strength skill check (hoop).

Fig 3 - The Hoop

At 6th level, you learn to use your skill at tumbling to protect yourself in combat. While you are not wearing any armor, your Armor Class equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your proficiency bonus. You can use a shield and still gain this benefit.

In addition, when you are subjected to an effect that allows a Dexterity saving throw to take half damage, you can use your reaction to reduce the final damage by a number of points equal to your proficiency bonus.

Fig 4 - The Ribbon

At 14th level, you learn to apply your ability to dance and tumble to remain fluid in a variety of difficult situations. You can stand up from prone without spending any of your movement. Your speed is not reduced when climbing or due to difficult terrain. You never receive disadvantage from squeezing into a small space. You never provoke an opportunity attack when you move around another creature in combat. Your high-jump and long-jump distances are doubled. You gain resistance to falling damage.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Secret Societies in Our World

The Zero Level Blog has started a series of posts about running DCC pulp adventures set in both the Lost World (a subterranean and/or jungle world hidden in the unexplored places) and Our World (a world of cities and nations resembling the real world in the 1920s and 30s.)

Diogo Nogueira suggests that Our World is filled with secret societies. Below are some of my ideas for possible secret societies in Our World.


Secret societies in Our World operate on a kind of chapter system. Every major city has one (or more) chapters of each of the societies described below, but each chapter operates largely independently. There is no overarching coordination between chapters, no central ruling body governing the behavior of every member of a faction. Different chapters in the same faction will share the same philosophy, the same goal or purpose, and the same general plan of action, but there is no single leader with power over all the different chapters in the faction. Two chapters of the same society in different cities (or even the same city) are as likely to oppose one another as they are to oppose other faction's societies.

Most secret society chapters serve as little more than talking clubs for like-minded individuals, who meet up to elaborate their specific version of their faction's philosophy and to make vague "someday" plans for action. A few chapters are very active, and they represent a real source of danger to the PCs.

Every major city the PCs enter is likely to have 1d4+1 active secret societies. (There may be more, but the rest will be involved only in plotting and debate, or in very minor and low-level activity.) Decisions made by the PCs may cause some active chapters to close up, or some quiet societies to become truly active.

Some political and artistic factions are described below. Psychic, sorcerous, and scientific factions will be described in a future post. Additional factions may exist at the judge's discretion. Although these factions may share names and ideas with real-world organizations and real philosophies, they are firmly the residents of Our World, and may depart from the behavior of their real-world namesakes whenever and however the judge sees fit.

(Although factions are intended to be unorganized conglomerates of like-minded but independent chapter-organizations, a judge interested in including a globe-spanning conspiracy in their game might elect instead to give one or more factions a central leadership, and to make the local directors of the city-level franchise-organization directly answerable to their international leadership. Uncovering this state of affairs, unraveling the faction's hierarchy of command, and unmasking the secret leader all represent likely goals for conspiracy play.)

Seen here: Artistic and political factions.
Source: Home Movies.


Anarchist Societies -
Anarchists espouse the dissolution of all government in favor of self-organization into small, egalitarian consensus-based affinity groups. They are above all anti-imperial, but they oppose government at all levels, in addition to bankers and the owners of large companies. Anarchists often espouse COMMUNISM or SOCIALISM but are almost always at odds with the mainstream supporters of those philosophies. Anarchists everywhere support the worker against the owner and subject against the state.

Across Our World, anarchists have waged a campaign of terror, assassinating political leaders like Austria's Empress Elisabeth and America's President McKinley, and bombing stock markets and financial centers. They are the mortal enemies of CAPITALISTS and ANTI-UNIONISTS. Anarchists have a love-hate relationship with IRREDENTISTS. Both groups share a desire to overthrow the current government, but anarchists reject irredentists' authoritarism and traditionalism. Anarchists also side with UNIONISTS against business owners, but dislike their rigid hierarchy and industrialism. Anarchists are usually the allies of DADAISTS, who they see as continuing their political ambitions within the world of art.

Anti-Unionist Societies -
Anti-Unionists are police officers, soldiers, private detectives, government agents, and organized criminals who have traded their political loyalties to serve the needs of capital beyond the reach of the law. Anti-unionists work to protect the wants powerful from the needs of the weak, the business of the rich from the lives of the poor. They believe that might makes right, and that like calls to like, and they revel in the chance to be paid to destroy that which is different and wrong.

Anti-Unionists are the mercenary arm of CAPITALISM (and sometimes FASCISM.) They break strikes, beat picketers, assassinate protest leaders, fire machine guns into peaceful demonstrations, and sell their services to the highest bidder. They are inimically opposed to ANARCHISTS and UNIONISTS.

Irredentist Societies -
Irredentists are micro-nationalists, who hope to abolish distant imperial and national governments and replace them with local and regional autonomous self-rule. They preach secession and strong borders against the outside. Irredentists believe in the importance of tradition and family. They want to form new small countries with strong-man leaders, with only one local language, with ethnic purity achieved by exile or by death. Irredentists' new micro-nations frequently contain lands held by two or more current states, making their attempts to seize land a flashpoint for conflict between countries who are quick to blame one another for the irredentists' deeds.

Irredentists assassinated Austria's Archduke Ferdinand and helped set off the Great War, and irredentists are beneficiaries of the War, establishing new small governments to carve up the collapsing empires. CAPITALISM, COMMUNISM, and SOCIALISM are conquering, universalizing ideas; irredentists reject them in favor of the local and the traditional. Irredentists sometimes support FASCISM, especially its authoritarian leadership and its willingness pursue ethnic cleansing. Irredentists may form temporary alliances with ANARCHISTS to eliminate political leaders, but they despise anarchists' lack of respect for the authority of a husband over his wife, of a father over his child, and they do not trust anarchists' toleration for religious and ethnic diversity.

Unionist Societies -
Unionists form workplace cooperatives to demand higher wages, shorter hours, better safety conditions, and a host of other improvements to their work process, sometimes culminating in the total ownership of all business by the workers. Unionists usually believe that everyone should have jobs and work as hard as they do, and they tend to believe that their own industry is the most important (and that their own work deserves be paid the most.) This can lead to conflict between unionists in different industries, or even different workplaces in the same industry. Unionists view non-union labor as an even greater threat to their cause than business owners, particularly when the non-union workers belong to another ethnic group.

Unionists stage strikes, slow-downs, and walk-outs, and form picket lines to keep out non-union replacements. Unionist demands have yielded a workday reduced from 16 hours down to 10, and a workweek reduced from 7 days down to 6. Most unionists support COMMUNISM or SOCIALISM, and a few endorse FASCISM, especially those most worried about immigrant laborers. Unionists are the arch-enemies of ANTI-UNIONISTS, who represent the will of CAPITALISM to keep hours long and wages low. Unionists may form temporary alliances with ANARCHISTS to oppose a company leader, although unionists consider them lazy for their critiques of labor and industry.


Cubist Societies -
Cubists are painters who attempt to represent objects and scenes, not as they appear in photographs, or in single moment of time to a static observer, but as they are seen over time, from many angles, as they move and progress. Their paintings have a blocky, disjointed look, and require practice to interpret correctly. Learning to interpret cubist images correctly carries its own risks. Unwary viewers later report seeing all motion as a series of superimposed still images, resembling a Thomas Eakins motion study photograph. Cubist authors explore the notion of narrators "unstuck in time," of life events as places that can be returned to again and again; of death not as a single moment, but as a permanent position, one that has always been there, waiting for the narrator to arrive. Incautious readers report losing their belief in free will, seeing the course of their lives as fixed, immutable as a physical structure.

Pablo Picasso and Le Corbusier are the most famous Cubists in Our World. Like the Impressionists before the Great War, the Cubists are obsessed with trying to achieve the greatest possible realism in their images, and like the DADAISTS, they consider most so-called "realism" to be nothing but kitsch. Their shared contempt for other artists is their only point of agreement with the Dadaists however, as the Cubists mostly consider them their enemies, little better than sign-painters, and scorn their abandonment of artistic purity in favor of political agitation. A shared interest in understanding the dimension of time makes the Cubists allies of the RELATIVISTS, who the Cubists see as scientifically "proving" the validity of their own artistic approach. Cubists also follow the work of the NON-EUCLIDEANS, who believe in a literal fourth dimension of space, rather than thinking of time as a fourth dimension.

Dadaist Societies -
Dadaists are artists who reject the idea that art should be beautiful, and insist instead that it should be politically agitating. Dadaists paint surreal and grotesque images, paint over advertisements and photos, cut up and collage existing images, and declare found objects as sculptures. Dadaists consider their public personas to be an extension of their art, often appear wearing outlandish suits and costumes, walking leashed lobsters and other unsuitable pets, and behaving in ways calculated to outrage polite society. Most governments consider Dadaist art to be obscenity, heresy, libel, sedition, propaganda, or all of the above, and to order it banned, burned, or hidden away.

Although Dadaists are fond of slogans like "Dada is terror," and "Dada destroys all," their worst provocations are more likely to take the form of graffiti, vandalism, and sabotage, rather than outright acts of violence. Truly successful dadaist exhibitions have been known to incite riots and mob violence, directed as often against the dadaists themselves as it is against their enemies. Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp are among the most famous Dadaists in Our World. Dadaists consider all other art to be instruments of CAPITALISM, and treat all other artists, including the CUBISTS, to be as much their enemies as the capitalists are. Dadaists admire the ANARCHISTS, and consider their bombings and assassinations as a kind of dadaist art in the medium of violence.

Cubist vision.
Source: Thomas Eakins.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Clerics and the God Worm

Below are my thoughts for clerics serving the God Worm, based on Tony Dowler's Purple Worm Graveyard. In the adventure, it's implied that there's a tradition of human cultists worshipping a powerful Worm God, and that it usually goes badly for them.

I liked the implication that there might be good reasons for humans to worship a giant worm, and that it might still be a terribly bad idea for them to do so. Worms are the eaters of the dead, so the God Worm bestows all the usual clerical powers, albeit with some variations in their appearance. Servants of the God Worm are also invariably destroyed by their connection to such a powerful inhumane entity. I've added the option for clerics to choose to become tainted, instead of accepting the usual consequences of deity disapproval, and I've added a very tempting offer, for clerics to burn away their minds instead of their luck, for a larger one-time benefit, but at a cost that's irrecoverable.


Alignment: The God Worm is neutral in (or perhaps prior to and separate from) the great Cosmic Struggle between Order and Chaos, but its worshippers may be of any alignment.

Holy Symbol: The cleric's holy symbol might be a wood staff carved to look like a worm, an ourouboros (a symbol of a worm making a circle and biting its own tail) or an auryn (a symbol of two worms making a knot and biting each other's tails), or a live worm that she keeps as a mascot.

Lay on Hands: Whenever the cleric calls on the God Worm's power to heal the injured and sick, her healing touch manifests as a swarm of maggots, leeches, and other medicinal vermin. These fall from the cuffs of her sleeves, sweat from the pores of her hands, and burrow up through the skin of the patient. They eat any infected or necrotized flesh, leaving a clean sterile wound, and disperse at the end of the healing.

Turn Unholy: Whenever the cleric calls on the God Worm's power to turn away the unholy, the primary manifestation is of worms and maggots rising halfway up from the soil to repulse the enemies of her faith. If the turning attempt includes a holy smite, this manifests as a stream or cone of devouring worms flowing out of the cleric's hand and drilling into her foes.

Deity Disapproval: Whenever the cleric rolls within her current disapproval range, she may choose to receive patron taint from the God Worm instead of accepting the result of the disapproval roll. She may choose to receive patron taint after seeing the disapproval result, but after this choice is made, it cannot be reversed based on the patron taint roll.

Burning luck: Clerics who serve the God Worm may choose to permanently burn their Personality or Intelligence ability scores instead of burning Luck to modify the effects of laying on hands, turning unholy, or spellcasting. The God Worm rewards this alignment of the cleric's mind with the annelid consciousness by granting a +CL bonus to the modified roll in exchange for this sacrifice. Clerics who serve the God Worm can never increase their mental ability scores; any effect that would ordinarily increase a cleric's Personality or Intelligence scores increases her Luck score instead.

Blessing, Holy sanctuary, Protection from evil, Divine symbol, Spiritual weapon, Sanctify: Spells that confer a blessing or protection manifest as an anointing of worms crawling over the affected person, object, or place.

Detect evil, Detect magic, Second sight, True name: When the cleric casts spells that allow her to commune with the mind of the God Worm to gain knowledge, she must accept patron taint if she rolls in her disapproval range, as described above.

Food of the gods: The God Worm sends edible meal worms for the cleric to eat.

Cure paralysis, Neutralize poison or disease, Restore vitality, Remove curse: Healing magic is affected as the laying on of hands, described above.

Snake charm: The affected snakes shed their skins to reveal snake-sized earthworms beneath. This change persists even after the spell's duration ends.

Stinging stone, Bolt from the blue, Affliction of the gods, Vermin blight, Whirling doom: Spells that afflict the cleric's enemies manifest as an attack by worms instead of other creatures or objects.

Wood wyrding, Cause earthquake, Desecrate: The God Worm sends burrowing worms to drill though the affected object or piece of land, and their movement creates the effect of the spell.

Animate dead, Speak with the dead: The God Worm does not allow its clerics to animate or speak with the dead. If the cleric's random determination of spells would result in her learning either of these spells, she re-rolls to learn a different spell instead. Attempting to cast these or similar spells results in automatic failure, deity disapproval, and patron taint.

Other magic: Clerics who serve the God Worm manifest their spells differently than other clerics. The player and the judge are encouraged to devise additional alternate manifestations for these and other clerical spells.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

God Worm Spellburn

 Below is my spellburn patron for my God Worm patron. This table is heavily inspired by the "Worm Madness" table in Tony Dowler's Purple Worm Dungeon.


1 The God Worm places burrowing worms inside the spellcaster's body.  For each 1 point of spellburn, 1d3 worms burrow out of the caster's flesh and fall wriggling to the floor, dealing 1 damage each as they do so.  The first worm emerges 1d3 combat rounds after the spellburn, and each successive worm eats its way free 1d3 exploration turns after the previous one.

2 The spellcaster hallucinates being eaten alive by delusionary worms.  For each 1 point of physical ability sacrificed, the caster must also temporarily sacrifice 1 point of Intelligence or Personality.

3 The spellcaster falls to her hands and knees voraciously consumes the dirt of the floor for 1 round per point of spellburn, (or breaks her fingers and teeth attempting to eat a stone or tiled floor.)

4  The spellcaster must spend the next 1d3 rounds after casting the spell doing nothing but vomitting.  In return, the God Worm grants +1d3 to the spell check for each 1 point of ability score sacrificed.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

God Worm Patron Taint

Below are the patron taint results for invoking the God Worm. Several of the entries are derived from my idea that the maggot naga monsters in Tony Dowler's Purple Worm Graveyard might represent former cultists who have been transformed by their service to the Worm God.


1 The caster's skin becomes an ashen gray color and takes on a rubbery appearance. If this result is rolled a second time, the caster's skin becomes tinted a deep purplish-gray and begins to protect the caster as though she were wearing leather armor (AC 11). If this result is rolled a third time, the caster's skin becomes vivid purple and protects as though she were wearing hide armor (AC 13).

2 The caster can no longer gain nourishment from fresh food and must instead only consume food that is spoiled or has become rotten. She no longer needs to eat normally, but must make a Will save against a DC of 5 + the number of meals skipped to avoid spending a turn eating any spoiled food, rot, vomit, or excrement she encounters. If this result is rolled a second time, the caster can no longer eat anything but dead flesh, and must make a Will save against a DC of 10 + number of meals skipped to avoid spending a turn gorging herself on any freshly killed character or monster she encounters. If this result is rolled a third time, the caster is no longer tempted by the recently dead, but must make a Will save against a DC of 15 + the number of meals skipped to avoid spending a turn consuming the flesh or gnawing the bones of any corpses, skeletons, or undead she encounters. (The caster generally skips one meal per day, plus any "meals" she avoids by making a successful Will save.)

3 The caster takes off and throws away her boots, insisting on going barefoot so she can feel the ground beneath her feet. If this result is rolled a second time, the caster's feet and legs become boneless tentacles. The caster's gait becomes unnatural and she receives a +5 bonus to climb walls or other sheer surfaces. If this result is rolled a third time, the entire lower half of the caster's body transforms to become a single worm-like tail. She can no longer wear pants or hide her deformity, but she receives a +10 bonus to climb walls or other sheer surfaces.

4 The caster's teeth begin to fall out of her mouth and are replaced by hundreds of tiny barbs and hooks. If this result is rolled a second time, the caster's tongue falls out, and her voice becomes a whispered rasp. If this result is rolled a third time, the caster's entire mouth reforms into the O shape of a lamprey.

5 The caster seethes with the God Worm's ferocity against the undead. When fighting the undead, the spellcaster uses the critical range of a Warrior with level equal to her CL (so a 1st level caster would have a critical range of 19-20 instead of 20.) If this result is rolled a second time, when fighting the undead, the caster enters a battle frenzy every time she crits, and she must burn at least 1 point of Personality or Intelligence (each ability point burned adds +1d12 damage to her hit.) If this result is rolled a third time, the caster uses the monster ciritical hit matrix and crits as a monster with HD equal to her CL (so a 1st level caster would roll M/d6 instead of I/d6.)

6 The caster cannot attack any vermin, except in self-defense after it has attacked her or her allies. If this result is rolled a second time, the caster cannot attack any vermin unless it has already damaged her. Additionally, she must make a DC 10 Will save to avoid making a single attack against the first person to kill a vermin each combat. If this result is rolled a third time, the caster cannot attack any vermin under any circumstances, and is considered helpless against attacking vermin. Additionally, she must make a DC 15 Will save to avoid attacking the first person who makes an attack a vermin each combat. If she fails this save, she may attempt it again at the beginning of each new round, but she will fight this person to the death unless she succeeds her Will save before making the killing blow.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

DCC Patron: The God Worm

Below is my write-up for the God Worm, an inhuman patron based on the Worm God from Tony Dowler's Purple Worm Graveyard.  The God Worm is a powerful patron, but this comes at a pretty steep price.  The Savage Cannibals of the Great Worm Cult living in Park Pobedy in Dmitry Glukhovsky's Metro: 2033, and the Eater cult on Vavatch Orbital in Iain Banks's Consider Phlebas are both possible literary models for what the worshippers of the God Worm might look like.


The God Worm is a powerfully and deeply ancient supernatural being.  It has been worshipped in many guises, but its true nature is unknown.  It might simply be the largest worm in the world.  It might be the progenitor Mother of all worms, or the Platonic ideal of worm-kind, the last surviving Cambrian god, or the god-creator of all annelids.  It might be the Great Worm that dug the many tunnels of the underworld, or the Eater of the Dead.  It might even be the Hyperborean Worm, the White Worm that presages the glaciers, or the Conqueror Worm, death, or the world-serpent Jörmungandr, the Worm Ourouboros, who encircles the world.

The God Worm has been worshipped primarily by farmers hoping for better crops and villagers besieged by the unquiet dead, but its cults can also be found among cave dwellers seeking protection from the great tunnel digger, among islanders fearing earthquakes or volcanoes, and in cities ravaged by plague.  The God Worm is an un-human mind, and all who pray to it or attempt mental contact eventually succumb to madness.  The God Worm's dictates are only occasionally compatible with human desires, and it is an essentially unknowable alien entity.  Its wants are not our wants, its needs are not our needs, and trying to please or understand it is a suicidal act of self-destruction.  Worm cults inevitably self-obliterate, or are purged from the earth by their frightened neighbors, as their members turn to detrivory, corpophagy, auto-cannibalism, self-mutilation, cultivating worms under the skin of their own bodies, digging ever-deeper burrows and tunnels, and breeding ever-more, ever-larger monstrous worms.


12-13 The God Worm turns in its sleep. The earth trembles with vibrations, and all sentient minds must succeed a Will save vs. the spell check result or lose their next action. (Worshippers and servants of the Worm God are miraculously unaffected, but other allies of the spellcaster need to save as well.)

14-17 The God Worm gazes briefly at the spellcaster, and visions of madness afflict the spellcaster's foes. Each sentient opponent must make a successful Will save vs. the spell check result or spend their next combat round clutching their heads in pain. Any opponent holding a weapon or shield has a 50% chance of dropping whatever they were holding.

18-19 The ground shakes with the movement of worms beneath the earth. Everyone present must make a successful Reflex save vs. the spell check result or fall prone and drop whatever they are holding. (Worshippers and servants of the Worm God are miraculously unaffected, but other allies of the spellcaster need to save as well.) Anyone who falls prone take 1d4 damage from the fall and must spend the next round regaining their feet.

20-23 The God Worm sends a Worm That Walks. This writhing human-shaped mass of worms rises from the ground next to the spellcaster and fights by her side until it is damaged, when it immediately discorporates.
  • Worm That Walks: Init +0, Atk 1 tentacle +6 melee (1d12) or engulf +6 melee (2d6), AC 13, HD 8d8, Act 1d20, MV 20, SP takes half damage from cutting and piercing weapons, first tentacle attack has 5% chance to deliver Chill Touch with 1d8 + 10 spellcheck result, engulfed creature takes 2d6 bite damage per turn (DC 14 Agility check to escape), death throes discorporates into mass of earthworms, SV Fort +6 Ref +2 Will +2, AL N, Crit M/d14
24-27 The God Worm momentarily turns its attention to the spellcaster, and sends horrifying visions of devouring insanity against the spellcaster's enemies. Each sentient opponent must succeed a Will save vs. the spell check result or spend their next combat round attacking themselves with their most damaging attacks. Each opponent should make an attack roll as normal against its own AC and roll as normal for damage for any attack that hits.

28-29 A sinkhole opens beneath the feet of the spellcaster's foes. A perfectly circular 10' diameter hole opens beneath the most dangerous enemy who falls in (no save). Other combatants engaged in melee must make a successful Reflex save vs. the spell check result or fall in as well. (Worshippers and servants of the Worm God are miraculously safe, but other allies of the spellcaster may need to save as well.) The sinkhole is at least 20' deep, but if a dungeon level exists below the spot the hole opens, it will tunnel all the way through, even hundreds of feet down. Falling creatures take 1d6 damage for each 10' they fall. A successful Climb Sheer Surfaces skill check or Agility check against DC equal to the spell check result is needed to climb up the smooth-sided walls of the sinkhole.

30-31 The God Worm sends a Purple Worm. This colossal beast erupts from the ground and interposes itself between the spellcaster and her enemies, fighting them for 1d3+1 rounds before burrowing away.
  • Purple Worm: Init +0, Atk 1 bite +11 melee (1d24 + swallow) and 1 sting (1d8 + poison), AC 16, HD 15d8, Act 2d20, MV 20, SP swallows opponent whole on any attack roll that exceeds the target's AC by 4 or more, or any natural 20, swallowed opponents take 2d6 crush damage per round while the worm lives, sting injects lethal poison (DC 18 Fort save to survive), SV Fort +9 Ref +5 Will +2, AL N, Crit M/d20
32+ As above, except the God Worm sends 1d3+1 Purple Worms. These burst from the earth in front of the spellcaster, defending her for 2d4+2 rounds each before departing.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Slow-Time Dungeon on Urutsk


In the morning, after the rain and the night spent with their unnerving visitor, Anjalik seem desultory, and smoked heavily as she, Slunk, and Merope continued walking toward the Trade Tower. Slunk claimed to recognize the smoke as being popular with the local halfling population near his village, and he and Merope contemplated the weird world they found themselves on, while Anjalik rambled, “I'm not a good person. I've killed people. I've eaten people. Nah, I'm just foolin' with you, you guys are great!” Merope thought that Anjalik was suffering from the effects of her drugs and the influence of the cannibal hunter from the night before, but Slunk remained convinced ever after that their companion was a literal man-eater.

The walk that day was uneventful, and eventually the group found a decent place to make a campsite. They were in a small clearing dotted with ruins, though only a foot or so wall remained to show the outlines of where the buildings had been. After making camp, Anjalik announced “I'm gonna smoke a bowl. You two take care of yourselves.” Slunk and Merope decided to search the grounds for any evidence of nature of the ruins, and instead found a trapdoor that opened to a staircase leading underground. The pair called out to announce their plan to Anjalik, then headed down into the ruined basement.

Underground, they found themselves immediately at a crossroads, with two large identical hallways branching off away from the stairs. One side looked odd to Slunk's elf vision, so he threw a pebble down the hall, or tried to at least. The pebble crossed the threshold to the hall, and then froze in midair. Looking closely, Slunk and Merope saw that it was still moving, just very, very slowly. Slunk theorized that the hall led to a kind of “slow-time dungeon” that might hold treasures from before whatever disaster had befallen Urutsk. Without meaning to, Slunk had moved too close the threshold and crossed over. Merope saw her comrade suddenly freeze in place. Fearing there was no way to rescue him from the outside, she crossed over as well.

Merope and Slunk agreed that they should try to spend as little time as possible in the slow-time area, and that they should start their explorations by ensuring they had a path back across to the normal-time side of the threshold. Slunk first tried tossing the stone back across, but it bounced off the air as though it had struck a wall. He next tried pushing his hand though, and felt terrible friction. He theorized that the air particles on the other side of the threshold were moving so fast relative to him that they seemed both to create a barrier and to be super-heated. Although he expected it to hurt, he thought the solution was to get a running start and jump through as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, when he tried, he caught fire and ended up suspended in mid-air above the threshold. Merope quickly dragged her friend back into the slow-time side, rolled him on the floor to extinguish the flames, and tried to awaken him. She saw that he'd stopped breathing, and immediately administered all the aid she knew. Slunk survived his brush with death and awoke feeling temporarily feeble and in need of a night's sleep.

By this time, Merope had become not just a fighter, but an arcane knight, with an elemental bloodline of frost. She cast a shielding spell on herself and started to cross the threshold. This seemed to protect her from the friction, although the world looked weird and shimmery as she stood in the junction between the two time zones, and she thought she saw ghostly monkey fetuses floating at the periphery of her vision. She stepped back from the threshold to rejoin Slunk, unable to maintain the spell any longer or to cast it again until she'd rested. The pair slept fitfully that night, imagining what must be happening in the world overhead. The imagined Anjalik waking to find them gone, and continuing on without them. They imagined the centuries or millennia that must be passing as they slept, and feared that they'd become lost again, unable to return to a world they were just starting to know.

In the morning, with Slunk recovered from his injuries, and with the opportunity to return safely seemingly already foreclosed to them, the pair set forth to explore the slow-time dungeon.


Slunk and Merope made their way out of the stonework foyer to the slow-time dungeon and into a hallway with finished walls and floors. Not fully understanding what they were seeing, they theorized that they were inside a starship which had landed (or perhaps crashed) on the surface of Urutsk and was then covered over by dirt and debris. They theorized as well that the time dilation effect might be some kind of security mechanism activated during a boarding party, and that the people onboard the ship might believe themselves to be mid-emergency. They tried asking Slunk's electronic familiar, Clippy, but she reported a massive clock-discrepancy between herself and the local computers that made it impossible to synch up properly.

Continuing down the hall, they found a branch that led to a strange room with dozens of ramps and walkways. They weren't sure what sort of room it was, but did find a security panel that Merope was able to open with a handprint. Inside the panel were new outfits that they put over their white coveralls: rubbery dark blue body suits that seemed to offer protection against fire. They each picked up a handheld fire-suppression device as well. Returning to the main hall, they found that it terminated in a room. Merope devised a plan to go in with their gas masks on, report a fire down the hall, then drop one of the gas-grenades they'd found on the big ship. She hoped that wearing the local armor and covering their faces would provide enough confusion to distract anyone they met long enough for the gas-grenade to go off, which would then provide either an even better distraction, or a major tactical advantage in a fight. (We later learned that this was not a ship, and that while the time dilation effect was a security measure, it wasn't activated as an immediate response to a bombardment or boarding party. As a result of this misunderstanding, the subterfuge element of Merope's plan was pretty much doomed from the outset.)

We all like to imagine that in times of stress or violence, we'd react like action heroes, moving gracefully and fearlessly into the fray, effortlessly doing what needs to be done. The reality is far different. One of my favorite aspects of low-level D&D is the way that it often resembles a comedy of errors, with every action the characters attempt going hilariously awry all at once. Low-level characters rarely act like action heroes, more often they act like Keystone Cops.

Merope and Slunk entered the room at the end of the hall together, gas masks hiding their faces, a grenade in Merope's hand. “We're under attack!” Merope shouted, “There's a fire in the engine room! We've got to get out!” The three occupants of the room didn't devolve into panicked fleeing though. Instead, their leader, a short-haired bulldog of a woman drew her weapon and pointed it at Merope. “Put the grenade down! Get down on the ground now!” Merope and Slunk exchanged glances, then attempted a coordinated maneuver to slide over and dive behind a countertop, using it as cover to open fire on their opponents. Instead, both of them failed to clear the counter, and both shots they fired missed entirely. They were quickly outmatched, and quickly surrendered. The leader of the dungeon residents instructed the other woman present to disarm Slunk and Merope and tie up their wrists. Slunk allowed himself to be captured, but Merope grabbed the woman, rolled them both onto the floor to use her captor as a human shield, and re-drew her weapon. The tough-nosed woman responded by shooting Slunk in the head, killing him.

Merope returned fire, clipping the leader's head, killing her as well. Merope rushed to Slunk, covering herself with her gun. She pulled two medical stimulants from her waist. “I've got medicine,” she said, “I'm going to save my friend, and we're going to go down the hall. You're not going to follow us. Let us leave, and I'll save your friend, too.” The two lackeys assented, and Merope injected first Slunk and then the slow-time leader, bringing them both back from the brink of death. She helped her friend limp out of the room, and good to their word, the dungeon residents didn't follow. Together, Slunk and Merope made their way back down the hall to the time-dilation barrier, and enacted their plan to escape.

Merope cast a shielding spell over the pair of them, and Slunk cast a spell to let them take a misty step across the veil. They passed through the barrier as though it weren't there, and made their way back to the surface. The world around them appeared strangely rainbow hued, and as they returned to the surface, they saw dozens, perhaps hundreds of ghostly monkey fetuses flying toward them. Merope pushed Slunk to the ground and threw her body over his to protect him, then tried the only thing she could think to return them to the safety of the real world, and let the shielding spell go. When she looked up, the sky was its normal color again, and nothing was chasing them. Anjalik looked over from where she'd been packing up the campsite. “Did you two spend the whole night down there? We're pretty close to the trading tower now. We should be there by this afternoon.” Merope thought of a story she'd heard of a man visited by ghosts who lived an entire extra lifetime in one evening. “All in one night!” she cried out, and wept. Merope and Slunk were both amazed to see Anjalik again, and neither could explain how the time-dilation effect had returned them to the same time they'd left.

True to Anjalik's word, by mid-afternoon, they reached a clearing dominated by an enormous structure. It looked like a steep terraced hill, or an overgrown ziggurat. It looked like it had around 20 levels, and each one was crowded with people, market stalls, and bustling commerce. As they approached, they saw that the ground level was dominated by heaps of garbage and heavily mutated people. Anjalik referred to them as “the trashy people,” and suggested that they'd be able to sell their Sensorium on 14 at least.

Unfortunately, they were quickly accosted by a pair of toughs who seemed to know Anjalik. They demanded that she repay a debt she owed them. Anjalik showed them the Sensorium the group was about to sell and convinced the two mercenaries to accept her share of the sale. The toughs initially tried to demand the entire Sensorium, but Slunk improved their negotiating position by conjuring an illusion of spiders and bats pouring from his cuffs. The pair of bravos agreed to Anjalik's proposition, and Anjalik herself was delighted by the trick. The enlarged group took to the stairs that spiraled around the structure and began climbing up. On the stairs, Slunk suggested to Merope that they repay Anjalik for her help by crafting a magical bracelet to create a similar illusion, and Merope agreed to split the cost with him out of their proceeds from the sale.

As they passed the sixth level, they noticed a great commotion going on in the market around them. The first part of the bazaar was nearly empty, then they saw a mob running away, and then a man with a glowing sword that seemed about to burst with power shouting “Everybody get back! It's gonna go off!” By the time they got to the seventh level, Merope had decided to try to help with the situation downstairs. She believed that the man had accidentally come into possession of a cursed sword, and that it was laying waste to the tower against his will. (Nope! Wrong again!) She asked Slunk to use his skills as a charlatan to negotiate a good price for the Sensorium on her behalf, and to start on the bracelet as soon as he had the funds.

Slunk, Anjalik, and her creditors continued up to 14, where the first salesman to inspect their goods concluded that it was the finest Sensorium the tower had ever seen, and that it needed to go up to 17. He spoke to some guards and got them an escort. In comparison to the slum-like conditions on the ground, 17 was a veritable bastion of luxury, with all the market stalls well-appointed and everyone healthy and well-dressed. The road-weary travelers got a lot of sideways glances from the locals, but found an electronics dealer willing to appraise the device. He made an offer that was several thousand higher than even Anjalik had expected. She managed to renegotiate on the fly. “It's four shares now. My friends get two, I get one, and you two get the other. It's still more than I owe you.” A menacing look from Slunk that intimated the return of his illusions helped to seal the deal, and the bravos left with Anjalik's debt repaid. Anjalik offered to lead Slunk on to a nearby space-port, the largest settlement in the area, and he agreed. The two went back downstairs, intending to pick up Merope on their way to the ground level.

As this was going on, Merope had returned to 6 and gone looking for the man with the sword. While trying to find someone who knew which way he'd gone, she found a group of people who looked like they were either so gothic they were actually undead, or like the Addam's Family if they were not merely ghoul-ish but literally ghouls. They pointed Merope in the correct direction, and pressed a bag of gemstones into her hands, saying they were hers if she killed him. Merope's plan had been to free the man from his curse, not kill him, but she acknowledged that he might die in the attempt, and reluctantly accepted their payment. Following after the man, Merope caught up to him in an alley.

“That's quite a sword,” she told him.
“It's my heroic burden.”
“Where did you pick up that burden?”
“It was a gift from my patron. I'm using it to bring justice to the tower.”

By this point, Merope was getting second thoughts. Whoever this man was, he didn't seem like the unwilling victim of a cursed weapon, and further conversation reinforced her impression that he did not seem amenable to surrendering the weapon to her. Around that time, the gothic ghouls were approaching from behind Merope. The man drew his sword and it started powering up again, and the two factions prepared to face off. Merope left the scene, dropping the bag of gems at the feet of her erstwhile patrons, and headed back to the central square to meet up with Slunk and Anjalik.