2018. augusztus 18., szombat

40 masks for secret cults

Recently in my campaign the players encountered a secret underground cult (as usual).
The gimmick is that all cultists wear different masks, so I came up with a bunch of them:

rat in a hat
horned god
young lover
gold frame
sinister cat
beak of horrors
rich old geezer
blue velvet
smiling pig
red with fangs
frills and glitter
gnarling dog
comic relief
butterfly wings
raven with huge beak
iron teeth
single tear under left eye
comes with
a veil
bat with bloody snout
completely flat; no face; red
cheated & angry
Cyrano de Bergerac
fish with feathers
mouth behind bars, Dr. Lecter
cuckolded husband
mirror surface reflects others
owl with bleeding eyes
blue with vertical mouth
distorted by pain
seductive silver eyelashes
wounded wolf
orange scales
happy face
crimson tears
deer, antlers sawn off
three tortured faces
ignorance is bliss
classic Venetian

Most masks are relatively simple, but expressive, hand-made by cult members. The masks don’t have big protruding parts, because they are meant to be worn while moving around in confined places (tunnels and dungeons), or while cavorting naked in the forest.

Animal masks are more or less identifiable natural animals.

Demon masks are nightmarish visions of carved wood and papier-mâché.

Theatrical masks are meant to represent a single emotion or a well-known character type from popular plays.

Carnival masks are halfmasks, covering the area of the eyes and nose. They were obtained in the city.

2018. augusztus 17., péntek

[Monster] Amazonian River Creeps (using the Random Esoteric Creature Generator9

I wanted to have some fun with James E. Raggi IV’s Random Esoteric Creature Generator (the old edition, not the new fancy one, unfortunately…). I started rolling, and this is what I came up with.

Basic Body Shape: Combination = Quadruped + Quadruped
                [I rolled quadruped twice, so… Octoped?]
Basic Characteristic: Avian, +3 AC (Oriole)
                [Orioles are not very creepy, but they can be very colorful, so I’m taking that feature]
Size: Small, -1 HD, 1d8 appearing
                [A swarm of small avian/insectoid eight-legged creatures, with tropical colors?]
Movement: Swimming
                [Nice twist! They slither in the water, then, like flying fish, jump out and attack]
Attack: Tail (extra attack, 1 die type less damage)
[Their basic attack is beak-based, and they do an extra tail attack. Sounds logical, because they already have an elongated body to accommodate eight legs]
1.       Wings
[Reinforcing that avian type… I don’t want to make them fully airborne, so maybe they use these wings to perform leap attacks and jump down waterfalls. Or maybe I’ll treat this not as wings, but as a single crest. More rolls are in order! And of course I roll “multiple features”…]
2.       Rubbery Body
[This is a crazy strong feature, each damage die is halved, missile attacks bounce off in a random direction]
3.       Multiple Legs
[Ahahahahahaha this is great! Even more legs! Up to 16! Rubbery colorful fishbird creepy-crawlies]
Strategy: Attack least armored
Motivation: Hunger

Straight away, a creepy and actually usable monster! And it even sort of makes sense, how all these features come together.

Amazonian River Creep
No. appearing: 1d8
HD 1 (4 Hit points), AC 15, Move 120’ (when swimming; 60’ on land)
Bite +1, 1d4 damage; Tail +1, 1d3 damage (next round after using its tail attack, the Creep is AC 13)

Nimble fast-moving river predator: Elongated, segmented creature, with eight pairs of legs. A bony crest protrudes from its spine (for better navigation in strong river flows). The whole body is covered in yellow-to-orange-to-black scales. A flock of scaly river worms hellbent on taking a bite out of your flesh.

Rubbery Body: The scales are extremely strong, and attacks easily bounce off it:
“If an attack is successful, but the rolled damage is less than half the weapon’s natural maximum (for example, a roll of 1–3 for a weapon that does d6 damage, before any modifiers), then the weapon bounces off and does no harm to the creature. Missile weapons that bounce off have a 10% chance of bouncing directly at another randomly chosen combatant, and if this happens, the original attacker should make new to-hit and damage rolls against the new target.”

Combat: The Creep attacks either with its beak (full of small, vicious teeth). May deliver an extra attack with its long tail, however this option leaves its soft underbelly exposed to damage.

Tactics: Lives in packs (1d8) in jungle rivers. The pack’s hunting tactic is simple: they sneak up on their victim underwater, then leap out, try to make hit-and-run attacks.

2018. augusztus 2., csütörtök

Plant-growth serum side effects

Recently, I wrote up some ideas foralternative healing potions. One of them is actually a plant fertilizer / growth serum, but used by adventurers as a healing drug. In my original post, its side effect is a rapidly growing plant scab monster sprouting from the treated wound. In this post, I offer more side effects when using a plant-growth serum as a healing potion.

Main stats reference OSR/LotFP rules, [5e mechanics in square brackets].

Plant-growth serum

Effect: Heal 1d12 hit points [heal 2d4 + Constitution modifier hit points]

Side effects: Save against Poison [make a DC 15 Constitution save], or roll 1d8:

Cough up seeds for 1d8 - Constitution modifier days (min. 1). The seeds belong to a grain or plant common to regional agriculture, can be eaten or planted.
Become mildly/strongly/hopelessly addicted to the serum. Each 3/2/1 days without it, add 1/2/3 points to the total Encumbrance rating [add 1/2/3 levels of Exhaustion]. Every time this result is rolled, increase addiction level. If addicted, Save against Poision [make a DC 15 Constitution save] every day/week/month. On success, lower addiction rating (mild addiction goes away for good). Negate daily effect with minor healing spell etc., cure addiction as strong disease.
Fertile sweat! All items in prolonged contact with the body during the day of consumption (clothes and armor worn, weapons held, the bed slept in, etc.) become covered in nasty mold.
Skin takes on a greenish hue for 1d6 days.
Experience strong changes in taste and eating habits (crave a food that was previously hated or something generally not considered edible, covet a food that’s a religious taboo, eat soil).
Beautiful, but vile-smelling flowers sprout from the healed wound (or, if there was no open wound, from the orifices of the consumer). If torn or cut, a very bad mood sets in for 1d3 hours.

2018. július 22., vasárnap

Downhill Race - a cheese-rolling contest minigame

Need a merry and possibly deadly folk festivity for your setting’s rural areas? Why not consider the famous Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling race at Gloucester?

I wrote up some rules for a minigame for a cheese-rolling contest player characters can enter, and, possibly, win.

There are two eerie alternative outcomes of the contest too, for that weird horror touch.

Have fun!!!

2018. július 18., szerda

[LotFP] Extended laboratories for research

This post is a collection of things a high-level wealthy Magic-User can use to stock her laboratory and library. This is mostly for flavor, extending and fleshing out the abstract approach of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess rulebook (p. 80-83). With a distinct early modern science feel.

Cabinet of curiosities

No laboratory can be complete without a nice collection of curiosities! 

Strange creatures
Creatures preserved as skeletons or taxidermic mounts can be added to the cabinet of curiosities. The preparation of such objects requires special knowledge and skill. For taxidermy, the corpse must be relatively fresh (1d6 days after death). For skeletal mounts, most of the bones must be present.
Where to find: Collected personally or purchased from adventurers.
Price & value: Depends on the type and hit dice of the creature.

Price & value / hit dice

Minerals, gems, jewels, crystals, stones, metals and ores, various substances (resins, oils, liquids, etc.); and also seashells, corals; butterflies, insects.
Where to find: Collected personally or purchased.
Price & value: If the value is not evident, set it as 1d10 x 10sp.

Medical oddities
Specimen displaying signs of illnesses, pathologies, malformations. Usually preserved in fluids, displayed in glass jars.
Where to find: Purchased from medical facilities, collectors, unfortunate parents...
Price & value: Depends on the rarity and state of preservation: 2d10 x 25sp.

Curios and various objects from faraway lands. Masks, costumes, jewelry, paintings, drawings, dolls, puppets, idols, art pieces, musical instruments, anything.
Where to find: Collected personally or purchased from merchants, travelers, agents. Good connections with trading companies can give the opportunity of first picks from any haul…
Price & value: Calculated based on the distance the object had to travel to get to the collector. Add 1d10 x 10% on top of that for agents’ fees (only added to the buying price, not the value).

Distance & complications
Price & value
For every 100 miles over 500
Transportation included both land & sea
The original owners of the object would kill to get it back

Laboratory equipment

A well-equipped laboratory must include a wide range of vessels, both simple and complex, which can be used for sublimation, distillation and other processes. Including, but not limited to:
  • alembic – two vessels connected by a tube, used for distilling chemicals
  • aludel – clay subliming pot, made up of two parts
  • athanor – a special furnace that provides uniform and constant heat
  • crucible – a small vessel or container that can withstand high temperatures
  • “Moor’s head” still – distillation apparatus, with an extra vessel for cooling water
  • mortar – for grinding up various substances     
  • retort – spherical vessel with a long neck, protruding downwards
Where to find: Most of the equipment is available for purchase only in major cities. Some pieces are produced on special orders.
Price & value: Any amount of money can be invested into this sinkhole…

Extended and specialized laboratory spaces

These rooms are counted towards the value of the laboratory as usual, but might give situational advantages (a bonus on the Magic save, etc. – Referee’s discretion).
Additional space is a one-time extra, counted over the base space requirement of a 10 feet square / 1000sp value.

Additional space required
Price & value
Anatomical theatre
50 feet square
Animal kennels
Botanical garden
20 feet square
Ä Hothouse, greenhouse, orangery, conservatory
20 feet square
50 feet square (tower or top floor)

Special implements

Additional space required
Price & value
Calculating devices
Printing press
10 feet square

Monster Man II Contest

The Monster Man II Contest has now entered its voting phase: you can check out all the entries on James Holloway's blog.

My entry is the Cloud of Chaos.

[Laird Barron] Swift to Chase

Swift to Chase is my favorite Barron collection. It has some weak stories, but I just absolutely love the interconnected narratives concerning the lives and afterlives of Alaskan teenagers. Cosmic slasher horror forever - literally. Time is a flat circle. Jessica Mace is a kick-ass character as well, and I'd love to see more stories about her. Jessica was assaulted by a serial killer, but fought back, shot it, and lived to tell the tale. This episode is a linchpin around which many of the stories revolve, or relate to, in some way.

So let's break this down!

I: Golden Age of Slashing

Screaming Elk, MT -- The opening of the collection is, unfortunately, one of the weaker ones... It's a good introduction to Jessica Mace as a character, but the story itself is a so-so report of her encounter with a haunted traveling circus.

LD50 -- Now this is a good one. The characterizations are great. Gritty and raw. The story and its resolution might not be a groundbreaking idea, but it's good enough and it's only a background for Jessica anyways.

Termination Dust -- A disjointed account beginning with Jessica's encounter with the Eagle Talon Ripper, with some more stuff thrown into it. I think this story really starts to shine when you return to it after finishing the whole collection.

Andy Kaufman Creeping through the Trees -- My favorite Barron story. He does a great job creating a unique voice for the narrator - cheerleader and alpha female Julie V - without it becoming a parody. Then there is high school weirdo / genius / fixer figure Steely J (one of his many "incarnations" throughout the collection). Barron weaves urban legends, Mean Girls, pop culture into a single strain, leading to a most horrific climax... I absolutely love this story.

II: Swift to Chase

Ardor -- This story picks up the Alaska themes, but otherwise I feel it's a bit underwhelming and uninspired. I usually skip it during my Swift to Chase rereads...

the worms crawl in, -- This one is quite a mess! But the mess has certain hypnotic qualities, as the paranoid ramblings and stream of consciousness quickly blow this tale of domestic violence into cosmic proportions - only to collapse back into the mundane?

(Little Miss) Queen of Darkness -- Back to the horrific lives of the Alaskan teenagers of Eagle Talon! We revisit those fateful nights, and see the aftermath, or one of the aftermaths... The account is once again radically divergent from all the others: maybe it's an unreliable narrator, or perhaps what we read is the description of how it all went down in one of the personal pocket hells.

Ears Prick Up -- Given the collection's overall coherence, this story is kind of a weird choice... A piece told form the point of view of a genetically/robotically enhanced combat dog, set in a pseudo-Roman futuristic science fantasy world. At the same time, the title of the whole collection comes from it ("My kind is swift to chase, swift to battle"). This story loosely fits into Barron's pulp / gonzo line of output, it also lines up along stories like "Vastation". And it is a great story in its own right, with the stream of dog-consciousness just driving it forward.

III: Tomahawk

Black Dog -- Barron's stories often have a romantic / existentialist (?) streak. They are about outsiders, damaged people, individuals who don't necessarily fit into society. "Black Dog" is about two of these people going on a date and sort of just clicking? It might sound lame, but actually this is a great short story, almost purely in dialog form, with an eerie horror undertone.

Slave Arm -- "...and begin, again," Barron writes, and once again recounts the story of a party turning into a slasher massacre. I love the enumeration he provides: a 100+ names of everybody who's here: "Your friends are here. Your enemies are here. Everybody you’ve ever slept with is here." After the massacre comes the lengthy period of DEALING with the trauma. Survivor's guilt. Flashbacks. A very strong story, especially in combination with the others in the collection.

Frontier Death Song -- Barron's take on the Wild Hunt motif. Of course, filtered through Alaska, horror and 1980's rock radio. It is a good story, although, weirdly, I don't enjoy the link with the folklore motif much.

Tomahawk Park Survivors Raffle -- And finally, one more long account of the various horrific events that befell the Alaskan teenagers. I absolutely LOVE this story. It's such a mad ride, and a perfect final for the collection. Of course, given what we've already learnt, this is just one of the possible outcomes. This story is permeated with the fallout of our favorite Barronian cosmic horror conspiracies, leaning towards slasher / pulp. Clandestine experiments, secret government organizations, Planet X... I get a buzz from reading and re-reading it.