Friday, January 23, 2015

B/X WoD: Other classes?

So, I've got my basic four classes written up for B/X WoD: Vampire, werewolf, cambion, and witch. I feel like I'll eventually have the itch to add more classes. The other classes I'm considering:

-Some kind of fae-equivalent to the cambion, based heavily on manipulation and illusion. The main thing blocking me is pretty sad: I can't think of a good name. I'm not using changeling, because they aren't fairies who replaced human babies, they are humans who have fae ancestry. I was like "Faeling. Done." Then I realized that faeling sounds like failing and abandoned the name. Still working on this one.

-A shapeshifting class. I was initially into the idea of humans who transform into a specific animal. Other ideas: a werewolf-esque hybrid form at higher levels, a skinwalker-type who can assume multiple forms, a doppleganger-esque/face stealer type. (Although that seems more like a monster/antagonist...)

-A Frankenstein-esque heavy damage, monk-like class. (I'm really torn on this one, though because it seems kind of silly to me.) 

Stuff I was considering, but am no longer:

-An angel-descended class. It doesn't seem to jive with the WoD/dark/monster-y vibe I'm going for.

-Ghosts. Ghosts are a pain in the ass as PCs, unless all the PCs are ghosts. Also, a lot of ghost lore ties ghosts to specific locations/haunts.

-Mummies, a la Boris Karloff. I was juggling the idea around but couldn't find any way to make it work that didn't just seem like dried-up witches. I might introduce them as antagonists. Also, given their geographical origins, how many of them are going to show up in North America? (Which is where my game is set)

-Gaki, e-kuei, panangellans, etc: I plan to treat these as variant vampires rather than separate classes. I also think their presence in my default setting would be so rare as to not warrant a full writeup at first. 

-Any type of PC who isn't partially human, or originally human.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Magic in BXWoD: Witches and Paths

Witches and Spell Magic

Witches have spell slots and levels just like B/X magic-users. However, in order to learn new spells, they must do one of the following:

1. Add the spell to their Book of Shadows by learning it from another witch or by copying from another Book. This pretty much works like B/X D&D. Typically, witches do not share their knowledge cheaply. The Read Magic spell doesn't exist in BXWoD; anyone can read the writings in a Book of Shadows, but only witches can actually command magical forces.

2. Invoke the spirits for knowledge of the spell. This can only be done when the witch has gained an experience level. They must cast the Invoke Spirit spell (to be posted) successfully to learn a new spell.

Witches begin the game with the spell Invoke Spirits. Witches also start with a few extra spells based on their path:

Light Path witches start with two Light spells and one Gray spell or three Light spells. 
Gray Path witches start with either three extra Gray spells, or one spell from each path.
Dark Path witches start with two Dark spells and one Gray spell or three Dark spells.

Witches suffer some casting restrictions based on what Path they have chosen.

Light Path witches can use Light and Gray spells, though their Gray spells are only half-duration or damage.
At the GM's option, Light Path witches can learn Dark spells, but the act of doing so gives them 1 Corruption point per spell level, and the casting of such a spell deals another Corruption point. When a Light Path witch's Corruption points surpass her Wisdom skill, she shifts to a Dark Path witch. Any familiar she had will abandon her, and she must summon a new one. 

Gray Path witches can use any spell, but their Light and Dark spells are both half-effect.
At the GM's option, Gray witches can use a Dark spell at full strength, but they gain Corruption points equal to the spells level. When their corruption exceeds their Wisdom score, they shift to the Dark Path as described above.

Dark path Witches  can use Dark and Gray spells, though their Gray spells are only half-duration or damage.Although Dark witches may learn Light spells (or know them from before they switched Paths), those spells will not function when used by a Dark Path witch.

Switching to the Gray path requires the witch to renounce the use of their current Path's spells for one month. (So a Light witch going Gray has to abstain from Light spells for one month.) They lose a level of experience and then switch to the Gray Path.

Switching to the Light Path is easy for Gray witches, not so easy for Dark ones. A Gray witch must abstain from using Dark magic for a month. He then loses and experience level and becomes Light. If he fails to do this, he may try again after one year. If he fails again, he may never seek the Light path again.

 A Dark witch who wants to go light must abstain from all dark magic for a month, must use Invoke Spirit to summon a benevolent spirit, and must perform an act of contrition given to him by the spirit. Dark magic cannot be used at all in the fulfillment of this contrition, even if it takes longer than a month. Upon completing it, he loses an experience level and switches to Light. He must also destroy all Dark spells in his Book of Shadows and any Talismans he owns that are imbued with Dark spells. In addition, if the witch ever switches paths again, he may never return to the Light path. The witch also does not gain a second chance if he fails his mission of atonement. The only option left to such a witch is to try switching to the Gray path.

A familiar will abandon a witch who switches Paths, but the witch is welcome to take a new familiar. 

Note that failing a trial to switch paths costs no experience, but the familiar may still be offended enough to leave. Roll a Reaction check, with a -1 penalty if switching from to or from Gray and a -2 penalty if switching between Light and Dark. On a threatening or worse result, the familiar departs over the witch's insolence. The witch is still free to seek a new familiar in the usual way.

I'm still breaking the spell lists up into paths. Here are my ideas as I fiddle with them:

1. Just say that Light Path= cleric spells, Dark Path = magic-user spells, Gray Path = druid spells, all taken from S&W complete.

2. Steal the colors of magic from Akratic Wizardry, tossing in druid spells wherever they best fit.

3. Do my  own thing. I see Light path as healing, defensive, and disabling without killing. I see Dark path as mind control, illusion, and damage. I see Gray path as movement, detection, and information gathering.

I have a few modified spells to add into the mix as well. I'll post the list soonish.

A new idea just occurred to me.

New option idea: Forget Paths. Magic is still light, gray, or dark. A witch is self-defined by what they choose to use. In this case, there are probably fatigue/corruption points a la Akratic Wizardry.

The Ones That Got Away

Everyone has one. That campaign that was an absolutely amazing idea, but it either didn't get started or it only ran a few sessions and fell apart. Maybe you ran it. Maybe you played in it. Today I wax nostalgic on some of the campaigns that got away.

As a GM:

-Legacy of Dracula: A GURPS steampunk/horror game pretty much entirely inspired by Kim Newman's novel, Anno Dracula. Failed four sessions in when I realized that I hate GURPS.

-Age of Gears, my Savage Worlds "steampunk ghostbusters" game. The schedules of the three ladies playing simply weren't compatible and we never continued after the ladies solved the case of Spring-Heeled Jack. (So at least we had some closure there.)

As a player:

-In college, my pal Glenn ran a Vampire: the Dark ages chronicle. Or tried, to, at least. He did a lot of research and preparation, and the rest of the group basically turned it into D&D at nighttime with fangs. He threw up his hands and quit about one session in. (Disclaimer: My character was totally appropriate for the setting. I did research, dammit.)

-My wife ran a World of Darkness game that only lasted one session. One of the players creeped my wife out with his constant emails and contacts, so she canceled the game because the experience left a bad taste in her mouth. It's too bad, because I loved the cast of characters in that game.

-My wife ran a post-apocalyptic World of Darkness game about survivors trying to figure out what happened and finding a community. There was mystery, supernatural mystery, and fantastic NPCs. The game fell apart because one player was a dick and my wife couldn't stand him anymore. Plus, my wife has acknowledged that she's better with one-shots and short games than she is with long campaigns. I'll never know what happened to the world, or what happened to my character's NPC wife. Also, my character was based on a dude I sat next to on a bus once.

So, what's your "one that got away?"

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

De-Stupiding the Book of Crypts, Part... whatever.

I've been harvesting material from the Book of Crypts for my Ravenloft/Gothic Earth/Masque of the Red Death campaign. I find that I can only use the seed of an idea from the scenario. Besides the fact that I have to adapt the scenarios to 19th century Earth, I also have to shave the dumb off of them, and there is quite a bit of dumb.

The scenario my players are presently finishing is "The Living Crypt," which is about a lich and a living wall and not much else. The lich is also named Nightblood, which would have been really cool...when I was thirteen. He apparently has no other agenda than being eeeeeeeeeeeevil. 

So here's what I did: (Meghan, if you happen upon this blog entry, kindly read no further. I'd hate for you to spoil it for yourself)

The scenario is the aftermath of the Poe short story, The Cask of Amontillado. Nightblood is now Signore Claudio Montresor, a powerful sorcerer from a line of powerful sorcerers with a vindictive streak a mile wide. (From the story, the Montresor family crest bears the text "I will not be insulted with impunity.") 
Montresor did  immure Silvio Fortunato in the catacombs beneath his palazzo, but Fortunato was neither the first nor the last such victim. The northernmost wall of the catacombs is a cursed thing that absorbs anyone who has been walled alive within it's confines, adding them to a horrific living wall. In turn, the vital essence of these tortured souls extends the lifespan of Montresor. Indeed, the fell sorcerer is centuries old, using spells to gradually change his appearance over the years and posing as the latest heir to the Montresor estate.

While investigating Montresor in Italy, one of the members of the Vigilance (an organization dedicated to fighting the influence of the supernatural) vanished without a trace. Doctor Frank White dispatched two of his most capable agents, "Madame Zoltara" and Dr. Corrigan, to locate him. They were given contact information for a semi-retired monster hunter, Ugo Augusto, one of the nearly defunct Oculi Dei, an European order of monster hunters.

The PCs are currently smack in the middle of this scenario. Highlights have included creepy ass catacomb exploration, and extremely well-managed battle against an advancing horde of undead house staff, and an epic battle with Montresor at the top of a clock tower. Presently the PCs are trying to locate Montresor's phylactery so they can stop him from just reviving. In the meantime, they can't seem to locate their colleague, the one they were sent to find in the first place...

Hopefully we will finish off the scenario this Sunday. I'm pretty damn pleased with it and pleased with the skilled play that Meghan and James have been rocking.

Oh, and they may get out of a scenario with their NPC pal alive for once. (It's a bit of a running gag in this campaign that their NPC "third wheel" is pretty much doomed to die.) 

The "Simon Says" Approach To Gaming

Okay, I like 5e so far, I really do. I'm just as surprised as anyone.

What I don't like, however, is the shit that apparently has to be spelled out explicitly. For instance, we actually need text telling us that a piece of siege equipment is immune to poison and psychic damage .

Yes, we need to be explicitly told that an inanimate object cannot be affected by poison or by damage to the mind. 

Why, I ask? Is this the result of cheesedicks who say "The rules don't say inanimate objects can't be poisoned!" and DMs who don't have the cojones to say "No, you can't poison a piece of equipment. Try harder."

Is this the result of a fundamental lack of trust between DMs and players?

Are we as a species just dumber?

It's probably a small thing to complain about in the grand scheme of the world, but goddamn it annoys me. I don't like the "Simon Says" approach to gaming. Hey, the rulebook never says my character doesn't have laser eyes and a barbed, prehensile tail that does 2d20 that means I totally have that, right?  The rules don't say that I can't use my Intimidate skill to make a portcullis open for me. I mean, the rules also don't explicitly say that I can't talk to inanimate objects.

Alright, my rage is expended. It is what it is.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Clearing Shelf Space

Yesterday I unloaded a chunk of my gaming collection.
This year, my goal is to shift away from collecting and more to actually using the things I have accumulated.
I'm narrowing down the systems that I am willing to run.
A notable development: I abandoned all my NWoD stuff. I'm keeping the OWoD stuff, mainly for nostalgic reasons (I still keep some stuff just because), but I think I'm pretty much over NWoD, as is my spouse.

The empty shelf space makes me feel refreshingly unencumbered. Time to focus.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

B/XWOD: The Witch

Witches at a glance:

*Witches are mortal. A witch reduced to 0 hit points by any means is killed.

*Witches who take a familiar develop a strange, nipple-like growth somewhere on their bodies. This growth mostly resembles an ugly mole and is generally not that unusual unless the witch is searched by a trained observer. Witches with no familiar do not develop this mark.

*Being mortal has its benefits: witches have no special weaknesses or substances that repulse or damage them.

Witch Powers:

Spells- A witch has access to spells. Spell slots work as with D&D rules. At 1st level, witches must choose whether they follow the Light Path, Gray Path, or Dark Path. (Differences will be posted with the magic rules, forthcoming) They can change this Path later, but it isn't easy.

Talismans- Witches can create talismans, which are magical objects imbued with power. These cost spell slots that remain invested in the item until it is used up or destroyed. To create a talisman, the witch must roll equal to or less than the number on a d20. On a failure, the witch can try again in a week, or reroll at the cost of 1d6 points of Constitution. Lost Con points return at the rate of 1/week. A witch reduced to 0 Constitution by this method dies, and often leaves behind a more powerful but cursed item. Witches can only have as many active talismans as their experience level. (A 4th level witch may have four talismans active at once, for instance.) Full talisman rules will be posted with magic.

Evil Eye- Witches are gifted with the ability to manipulate Fate. A witch angered may place a curse upon a victim with their gaze. This works like the curse spell and requires the witch to gaze upon the victim for a full round. Normal mortals are not entitled to a saving throw, though supernatural creatures can attempt a Mental Saving Throw. If the witch has a bit of hair, blood, bodily fluids, or a personal belonging of the subject, the witch can lay this curse from any range, though it takes an hour to do so instead of a round.
A witch who inflicts a curse gains a karmic debt. At some point in the future, the GM can force the witch to fail any single attack roll, saving throw, skill or ability check that they have rolled a success on. The witch incurs one such karmic backlash for each and every curse that they levy on another.
Witches do not gain karmic debt for a curse that is negated through a saving throw, but they retain karmic debt for curses that are alleviated some other way. (Most likely White Magic.)

Familiar- Witches can summon a spirit to act as their familiar. Witches do not have to do this; the decision to take a familiar is up to the witch.
The ritual to find a familiar takes an entire night, after which the character rolls on a chart to determine the type of familiar that arrives. If no familiar arrives, the ritual cannot be attempted again for a month.
When a witch bonds with a familiar, it acts as an extension of the witch's senses. As the witch grows in power, so to does the familiar, gaining +2 hp beyond the animal's normal type each time the witch levels, and -1 AC every other level. Familiars also gain the ability to deliver a witch's spell with their touch, or the Evil Eye with their own gaze.
If a witch's familiar is killed or dispelled, the witch must roll a Physical Save or suffer the loss of 1d4 points of Constitution, permanently. 
Familiars can assist with the learning of spells and the creation of Talismans. See the magic rules for further details.