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Khosura Street Blues: where I get lazy and tell you about how my campaign is going making a post with some pictures, plus an attempt at a Knotromancy School for W&W

I’ve been running one of the two Mageblade playtest campaigns in Khosura [post in Hungarian], written by the always awesome Gabor Lux. I’m playing a prewritten module because I’m playtesting and I’d rather spend more time evaluating how the game mechanics behave and not tinker with the world as I go: less prep is better prep. Also, Mageblade requires no adaptation whatsoever from your typical D&D, you only need to raise[lower] AC by 2.

(see what I did there? I made a funny).

At any rate, this is the amount of Khosuran underworld we explored in about 6-7 sessions.

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Yes in Glasgow we drink a lot of Tennets. Those in the front of the screen are dead PCs to remind players that I am a cruel douchebag.

Khosura seems to be one of those dungeons where sessions alternate between exploratory (finding interesting stuff) and resolving (getting the sweet swag out). At any rate, the party last night was as usual not at its full. In order from right to left: Durgon the Fighter, Alyna (yep, that’s a rogue with a scumbag hat and a monkey), Cailan the Knotromancer with his rope.

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Durgon is short because I clearly can’t draw, depicted with his re-re-replaced plate mail. Durgon uses a pollaxe, not a sword, sorry. Alyna has dagers, but never dual-wielded daggers in her life, and I think she actually never made an attack roll ever in two sessions as she always, always slithers away. She’s good at that. Sometimes Cailan goes around with a goat, but only for sacrifice purposes, blame Brendan, and he’s depicted with his pet magic rope. Spaturny not depicted, but he usually goes around with a bag on his head. Rhaegar is also absent, together wish his basilisk-in-a-cloaked-cage.

Wait, Knotcromancer? It’s complicated. In my games a lot of casters tend to study a field of magic but also necromancy, for obvious reasons: it’s a very concrete, god-of-the-flesh, effective, if totally unsubtle school, so its perfect for those adventury shit-hits-fan, make-or-break times.

But Cailan is not like that. Cailan is a necromancer that is totally ashamed of being a necromancer, and never admits being one. So I started calling him Not-romancer. And he got progressively more and more funny (and by funny, I really mean creepy and weird yet hilarious) about his magic pet rope.

At any rate, how did Cailan get his magic rope? I make starting PCs roll on the Kata Kumbas Inheritance Tables. This is the Summoner/MU table:

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No game mechanics defined for at least half of these objects. Yes, you can get 4 geese or an axe that never misses its target or a plum shortcrust pie or a pet snake. Roll well.

So Spaturny got a Gnostic Gem of Healing (spend a mana to heal 1d6, once a day) and a Ring of the Sea Gods, while Cailan got a magic rope and a bottled metamorphic ectoplasm.

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58 it is

So it happens that Kailan has a bit of an easy trigger with magic and ends up always with no mana too soon. This is col because he’s forced to deal with what he has available, which in this case is an enchanted rope that can move as long as he holds it. So he used it to lazo treasures away from traps, rescue comrades fallen in deep waters, and so on. And treat it like a pet. Sam (Kailan’s player) feared he was pissing me off with this creative use, but it’s totally, totally fine, and when I groan and facepalm is because I’m surprised by the player creativity.

So Gary asked if I meant Notromancer or Knotromancer, and obviously it’s both.

So, here’s a first selection of Knotromancy spells. All have a 50′ long rope as target.

Sorcery School of Knotromancy

Brendan, don’t worry, they are not for the revised W&W.

  1. Rope Trick – you know that spell you throw the rope up and can climb and hide in a nook between dimensions able to host 1 person for sorcerer level? that one. You can also pull the rope in the nook.
  2. Tangle – like Entangle, but with a rope, affects only enemies. Victims are still slowed by the rope even if they save. Can be deployed with a glyph.
  3. Shuffle the Mortal Coils  – Ropes to “Snakes” that are actually still ropes: a rope per level, HD: 3, AC: 7[13], DMG: 1 tight squeeze, Special: after hitting either pin or constrict for 1d8 damage. Each rope has a 5% chance per sorcerer level of being a deadly rope, and when constricting the victim must save vs death/paralysis or die. The spell can be reversed and make real snakes into ropes, splicing them together if needed, permanently. I’m going to remind you that permanent spells can be dispelled.
  4. Stupendous Strand – a held rope can be completely controlled in its motion and can be made incredibly rigid and impervious to damage. In combat can trip/disarm/whip as a magic whip +1.
  5. How Long is a String? – for a turn the sorcerer can extend the rope up to 100 yards per sorcerer level. It’s not stretched nor elastic, the spell simply makes the rope longer (and shorter) as needed, and only when wanted. If still elongated at the end of the spell, the rope unravels into long, impossibly narrow and very weak fibres.
  6. Rope is Always Handy – the rope ties itself around the caster and acts as a third, mind-controlled yet semi-sentient, fully capable hand. Grants an extra attack.
  7. Bind, like the one from Diabolism but with Ropes – because you’re not a Coenobite.
  8. Cat’s Cradle – the sorcerer does some complicated figure-work with a rope, in a complicated yet silent spell cast over many rounds. In the first round, the sorcerer makes an opening, which has no effect. Every following round the sorcerer can elaborate the figure and either unleash the figure’s power or hold it to elaborate it into a different figure next round. The sorcerer knows an opening plus 2 figures per level (which can be openings). This is a tree with some of the possible figures: from a figure it’s possible to make figures tabbed within it; so from cradle, mattress, then candles, then either saw (which is terminal, and must be unleashed) or diamonds, then cat’s eye, etc.
    1. Opening A: opening, no power
      1. Open the Gate: unlocks and opens a door within 10′.
      2. Find the Owl: Detect Avian, 200 yards radius
      3. Dugout Canoe: the rope becomes a dugout canoe.
        1. Crab: the rope become a cranky crab: AC:1[18], 1HD per sorcerer level, ATK: claws 2x1d6. While hostile to the sorcerer’s enemies, its not friendly to the sorcerer either.
      4. Path to the Well: as the Find Water spell.
    2. Opening B: Opening, no power
      1. Fire Drill: seats a nearby thing on fire. Even people.
      2. What Will You Do?: as Confusion, lasts 1d3 rounds
    3. Cradle: opening, no power
      1. Mattress: up to 1 HD per sorcerer level must save or falls asleep.
        1. Candles: the rope shines bright light for 1 hour
          1. Manger: the rope becomes a meal for a person per sorcerer level
            1. Saw: a object or being of wood within 30′ is cut in twain.
            2. Diamonds: the rope looks and feels as if it’s made of pure gold strands.
              1. Cat’s Eye: the sorcerer can see in near-darkness as if it was in full daylight
                1. Fish in a Dish: if offering some food to someone, the reaction is automatically improved by 1 step (similar to Bewitch).
                  1. Hand Drum: terrifying noises make all enemies of lower level than the sorcerer flee if they fail a save.
                    1. Lucky Tea Kettle: it enchants a kettle of warm brew, enough for 3 people; if immedialtely drank, the drinker can reroll a die in the next hour.
    4. Index: opening, no power
      1. Fish: the rope become a fish friendly to the caster with AC:5[14], 1HD per caster level, and of proportionate size. It can be ridden by a human for each HD over 2.
        1. Pig: like Fish, but a pig.
        2. Frog: like Fish, but a frog.
        3. Dazzle: everyone within 20′ must save or stare at the rope. Bedazzled victims are freed when shaken or attacked

None of these spells have been playtested (except those that are inspired by other spells), so CAVEAT EMPTOR.

 

 

Mageblade: Wealth & Allowance

Adventurers need to replace or acquire adventuring items such as spikes, rope and arrows pretty much after every expeditions. When the loot is small, deciding where to allocate that wealth is interesting, but after a couple of adventures, if the adventurer survives, they’ll hopefully be flush with cash. And at that point, where’s the interesting decision in spending 1 or 2 coins on a rope or a crowbar?

To avoid accounting too much for all these small things, Mageblade introduces the Allowance. If the party acquired a non-negligible amount of wealth, the Allowance lets each PC refill or buy some items for free before their next foray. The initial version of the rule is that the total allowance for each character is 5% of the character’s wealth, with a maximum of 1d6 objects.

For example: Timmy, a character with 100 coins, between adventures has an allowance of 5 coins which can spend on 1d6 objects. Rolling a 4 they buy 6 torches (1c),  a pole (1c) and a bundle of 20 arrows (2c): they’d have another item to buy, but they ran out of money.

Another example: Zurgo the Zauberer, owning 10000 coins in gems and gold, has an allowance of 500c. Rolling a 3 they buy a heavy armour for a henchman (400c) and 3 vials of blessed water (2 x 25c): they’d have another 50c but they ran out of items.

The second version of the rule, the one we are going to playtest is:

If you got treasures in your last foray, you get 1d4 objects for free, their cost depending on your wealth.

PC’s Wealth Tier Object Max Item Cost
nothing 0 no freebies for you! 0
50c 1 1d4 tier 1 objects 1c
150c 2 1d4 tier 2 objects 3c
500c 3 1d4 tier 3 objects 10c
2500c 4 1d4 tier 4 objects 50c
20000c 5 1d4 tier 5 objects 400c

What about bundled consumables, like torches, arrows, pythons? If you have not completely run out of these, a single item will restock them.

Is this going to break the game? not really, it would take 20 adventures with no loot whatsoever for the character to dilapidate their wealth.

Why rolling? to give them a decision: they can still buy things and spend money, but the whole which free swag are you going to get this adventure is just too attractive not to think about.

Why not handwaving it? because it requires GM headspace, while a small subsystem where PCs get freebies after an adventure is a small and cute way to give stuff to players while minimizing downtime.

 

 

 

Mageblade: a new class

The Mageblade is a magic slayer with a wicked blade, a mystic bridging the arts of steel and magic. Most are trained by one of the Ordo Mysterii for years and released on secret missions, or on an journey of interior growth, or they left or escaped from the order, or for some other imperscrutable reason, often many of these reasons at the same time. They are relentless and, when using their athame, a magically bond blade, can clad themselves in steel, use spells and strike true.

The Mageblade is a new class in my MAGEBLADE game. They are somewhat inspired by clerics, and are part Lone Wolf with Kai powers, part sword saints, part mystics fighters.

What’s important about them, to me, is that they replace a cleric class that was straddled between casting, healing and fighting but plagued with a very weak faith element, despite the name. The Mageblade needs no devotion to the divine, but the lack of devotion to their Ordo Mysterii might prove lethal, as retribution for defectors and betrayers strikes hard.

This is the version for your Old School game, the MAGEBLADE version has slightly different mechanics. 

Mageblade – Old School

HP, Saves, Hitrolls, XP: as Cleric

Ironclad: Mageblades can use any weapon, armour and shield.

Athame: Each Mageblade has an athame, a mageblade. The athame is a magic blade (dealing 1d6 damage in melee), wrought from cold iron by the Mageblade, and then enchanted and bound in a week-long process. The athame is magic, but it is powerless when not wielded by its creator. Mageblades can deliver touch spells making an attack with the athame. Furthermore, athames have an important power:

  • Empower: Mageblades can empower their athame. This takes just an instant (so it can be part of a melee attack or a spell) and charges the blade with magic and makes it glow like a torch for 10 minutes. While the charge lasts the athame gains a +1 hit bonus, +2 at level 5, +3 at level 9. The Mageblade can discharge this energy to power a Blademagic: doing so drains the charge. Mageblades can empower once a day; if they want to empower they blade more times they can do so by spending any unused spell.

Blademagic: The Mageblade can discharge their empowered athame to activate one blademagic. This can be done as part of a melee attack, or just before casting a spell or doing another action. The blademagic usually lasts until the next dawn, unless specified. If a Mageblade activates a second blademagic while one is still active, the first automatically terminates, but they still have to empower the second separately to activate it. So it’s possible to, in a round, charge the athame, hit in melee, and discharge the athame to power a blademagic. Mageblades start knowing 1 blademagic and learn a new one at level 6 and one at level 12, with their availability depending on their Ordo Mysterii. This is a list of some sample blademagic:

  • Rend: the athame becomes a conduit for delivering raw power into wounds. After a successful hit roll the Mageblade can discharge the blademagic into the wound, dealing 1d6+1/2 level extra damage. This terminates the blademagic.
  • Bane: the athame is ensorcelled with energies antithetical to the essence of a specific type of being. The Mageblade adds focus also when dealing damage in melee to a type of enemy. There are multiple banes, and they must be learnt and activated separately: Undead Bane, Demon Bane, Animal Bane, Spirit Bane. Tales mention other banes (including Cephalopod Bane and Human Bane), but do not mention where to learn them.
  • Arc: the athame forms wide circles of lethal steel. The Mageblade can attack 3 different enemies in melee each round. Duration: 1 turn.
  • Dance: the athame is let into the air as it starts to dance, bob and spin mid-air. The athame can be set to attack a given close enemy: it attacks with a hit bonus equal to the PC’s focus, and has AC 5 [14]. If hit, it’s not damaged but loses its next attack. If it is not set to attack anybody, it blocks attacks giving +2 to the AC of the Mageblade. Duration: 1 turn.

Devotion: Mageblades can learn a single devotion, a ritual specific to their order. Each Devotion can be used by discharging their athame. Some sample devotions are, depending on the Ordo Mysterii:

  • Conflict Praxis Orders: Turn/Control Undead/Animal/Spirits/Demons: pick any one combination depending on how the Conflict Praxis order is aligned.
  • Blood Dragon Order: one of the Maenad Powers
  • Thaumagram Orders: one of the Dodecathaumagrams

Magic: Mageblades have some limited spellcasting ability. Depending on their Ordo Mysterii they either cast spells like a Magic User or a cleric of 2 levels less. Mageblades can cast spells in armour but only if they wield their athame. Mageblades do not automatically gain a spellbook or new Magic-user spells. If they cast Cleric spells they gain all cleric spells normally and their athame doubles as holy symbol.

Some orders, like the Thaumagram Orders, often eschew teaching blademagic to focus more on spellcasting: the Mageblade will not learn any blademagic, but can cast spells as Cleric of the same level.

 

 

Mageblade: development notes

So, I had a few days off and I started to flesh out a bit more Mageblade. Mageblade is meant to be some sort of D&D retroclone, except it’s not really cloning anything.

To put it a bit in perspective: I stripped down S&W Whitebox to the point where there’s not even the experience points tables, saving throws or classes left there. At the moment it’s there just to act as framing.

Then I started building. I decided that characters get numerically better at doing their thing using one single scale: the Focus Bonus. For Fighters, it applies to hit rolls. For Casters, more effective spells. For Mageblades, hit rolls with their athame (a bound blade) and saving throws. Here’s the advancement table, which is shared by all classes.

Advancement Table

Level XP Needed Hit Dice Focus Bonus
1 0 1d 3
2 1,000 2d 3
3 2,000 3d 4
4 4,000 4d 4
5 8,000 5d 4
6 16,000 6d 5
7 30,000 7d 5
8 64,000 8d 5
9 125,000 9d 6
10 250,000 10d 6
11 400,000 11d 6
12 600,000 12d 7

So a level 3 fighter has +4 to the hit roll, and Casters always have +0. While this might seem a bit odd, consider that magic do not gives bonus to hit or to AC, so plate mail and shield is pretty much the non-plus ultra. Said that, there will be magic barriers, giving AC equivalent to armour. This follows my “eschew numeric modifiers” philosophy: I’m trying to do everything without numeric modifiers, except where I use the Focus Bonus.

You might have noticed that there are only 12 levels, but players get to roll 12 hit dice. To avoid tears, HPs are rerolled at every level, and the new amount is kept only if better than the previous. If not, the new HP total increases by 1.

Characters get also skill points, a handful spread from level 1 to level 12. Each class can spend them in specific things: Fighters can get Stances and combine them to make combos (yeah, combos, you read well), Casters and Mageblades learn disciplines and magic schools. Learning requires teachers, and more exotic skills require cooperation if reclusive or exclusive or simply crochety masters.

Mageblades also learn new blademagic, which is some kind of battlemagic channeled through their athame during melee. An example of blademagic is Bane: there are many Banes to be learnt, one per creature type. When a Bane is active, the athame becomes deadly to that creature type and deals extra damage equal to the Focus, so for example if a Mageblade of level 5 activates Undead Bane their athame will deal +4 damage to undead. Other blademagic lets the mageblade attack many enemies, animates the athame, or just deal extra damage.

Mageblade! a partial B/X retroclone/bash/mod

I’ve been playing a lot of B/X and/or S&W in the past few months (also of AFG, but it’s not immediately relevant to this post). When I run the game, I tend to use the following rules applied to S&W or B/X. Since they need a name, I decided to call them Mageblade! because of the playable Mageblade class.

Ok, I’m going to keep it small and in this post.

CHARGEN

Roll 3d6 in order for stats. Stats under 8 give a -1 to the relevant rolls, 13 or more give +1, 17 or more +2.

CLASSES

WARRIORS roll 1d8 hits per level, +1 to hit every level. +2 saves against physical stuff like poison, paralysis, being crushed. They start with one of the following styles at level one and learn another at each level:

  • patient: +2 AC, -4 to hit
  • defensive: +2 AC, -4 to damage
  • rushing: +2 to hit, -4 to damage
  • reckless: +2 damage, -4 AC
  • two weapons: if wielding two weapons (the second smaller than the first) and they miss their hit, they can reroll the hit roll and deal damage as per second weapon, but without applying strength bonus to damage

CASTERS roll 1d4 hits per level. +2 saves against magicky stuff. They can cast all spells and have to memorize them every morning. They can cast spells as per the following table, from both the cleric and MU list, and learn 1 spell per level from either list (to be picked at character creation). They can’t cast in armour.

lvl 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 and so on
 1  2 1
 2  2 2  
 3  2 2 1 
 4  3 2 2    
 5  3 3 2 1  
 6  3 3 2 2  
 7  4 3 3 2 1  
 8  4 4 3 2 2  
 9  4 4 3 3 2 1 
10  5 4 4 3 2 2 
11  5 5 4 3 3 2 1

MAGEBLADES roll d6 for hits, +1 to hit every 2 levels. +2 to all saves. They can cast spells only through a specific single weapon they are bound to, but can wear any amour doing so. Their lack of training means they can’t cast as much: all spells are treated as 1 level higher (level zero spells are treated as level one spells) so at level one they can memorize and cast a single level zero spell. They do not automatically learn new spells as they grow in level.

No thieves, but all character use 5MORE for lockpicking, sneak and so on.

ADVENTURING & LUCK

When saves are called for, roll 1d20 under the relevant stat to succeed. Apply the class save modifier to the stat. Each level characters get a luck token: these can be spent to reroll a save. 1 luck token is regained with a night of rest, together with 1 hit point. All luck tokens and hit points are regained by spending 100GP per level and CAROUSING ALL NIGHT. The next morning the character will feel awesome but is at -3 to all rolls until midday.

XP PROGRESSION

Level 1 is gained at 10 XP. Level 2 at 20 XP, level 3 at 40, doubling all the way. Each 100 GP of swag “liberated” or trap suffered/disabled or Hit Dice/level of opponent defeated is worth 1 XP.

At each level gained, roll all the hit dice for your character (plus the bonus from constitution ONCE): if the new result is better, you can keep it, else increase your max hits by 1. For example a level 3 fighter with 13 hits get to level 4: the player would roll 4d8. On a 15 or more, the hits become that amount, else they increase to 14.

GUNS GUNS GUNS AND CROSSBOWS

Guns deal 1d8, cost 100 GP and take 5 rounds to reload, but ignore shields and armours at short distance. Crossbows deal 1d8 and ignore 2 points of armour at short range.