Friday, August 29, 2014

Heroic Dice! [LL Option]


Heroic Dice in action! lol
Heroic dice are extra dice you may use in place of poor or undesirable dice rolls. They represent a well of inner resolve, an unrelenting drive, a will to succeed, or simply sheer blind luck that distinguishes adventurers from everyone else.

When you make a bad roll, you may declare to the referee you are spending a Heroic Die to re-roll a single die. A Heroic Die may be any die type and may be spent in any situation—attack roll, damage roll, saving throw, proficiency (or skill) check, and so forth.

You may only spend one Heroic Die on any single bad die roll—you cannot keep spending Heroic Dice to re-roll until you get a favorable result. If a Heroic Die roll is equal to or worse than your original roll, use the original roll. However, that Heroic Die is still spent.

You gain more Heroic Dice to spend as you gain levels. Heroic Dice refresh at the start of each day.

Character Level
Heroic Dice per Day

This is a pretty straightforward house rule I've encountered in many variations over the years. Some referees divvy them up into specific pools for spellcasting or combat, and others call them luck dice, drama dice, fate points and such.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wastelands [Overview, Part III]

Continuing to collect my rough campaign notes into some semblance of order...

Legends tell in the distant past a great civilization flourished in the Wastelands. Powerful and just empires ruled the lands and majestic cities were centers of knowledge and culture and commerce. Sailing ships traveled every sea and brought wealth from all parts of the world. The Free Races were contented and prospered, joy and happiness abounded for all, children sang.


Then the Dark Years came with a sickening thud.

Stars crashed burning from the sky, hideous creatures appeared and stalked the lands slaying all in their path, and evil magic corrupted the hearts of good people. Bad people got worse, aligned with evil forces and stole power. Bloody wars ensued. Empires fell. Civilization crumbled into dust and all recorded knowledge of the glorious past was lost.

Now that’s more like it.

Since the coming of the Dark Years, most folk forget the Old Gods and worship all manner of strange deities, spirits and forces. New cults appear regularly as charismatic leaders seek to convert followers and gain influence and power. Prominent amongst these cults are the worshippers of T’Ssalik the two-headed Serpent Lord, the Children of Odamar the Lord of Light and Darkness, the Faithful of Faresh the three-eyed Prophet of True Sight, the cultists of Synculon the Master of Knowledge and Order, and the Hedons of Sinistar the hermaphrodite god of Hedonism, Pleasure and Pain.

Two moons exist in the heavens of the Wastelands: The Slumbering Dragon (or simply “The Orb”) and The Doom Eye. The Orb is slightly bluish-silver in color and appears regularly and predictably in the sky. The Doom Eye is erratic and has no patterns, except that it is always full on three nights each year—the Night of Sorcery, the Night of Blood, and the Night of Madness. Typically, the Doom Eye is greenish-yellow in hue, but it also appears purple (Night of Sorcery), red (Night of Blood), or even multiple colors at once (Night of Madness).

Most of the races from the rulebook are available for characters in the Wastelands. Except gnomes. Fuck them. Those annoying tinkerers got squashed like the bugs they are by evil forces during the Dark Years.

Collectively these folk are known as the Free Races. There are four human subraces available to choose from—common, mercatian, nirothan and vragnak. (These will be detailed later, as appropriate for the game system used for the campaign.)


Blood Kin: The Blood Kin are a loose guild of mercenaries made up of former soldiers from all regions of the Wastelands. The Blood Kin help each other in times of personal need or distress, resolve conflicts amongst themselves by duels, and have established a code of honor as well as rules for hiring mercenaries. Warlords and rulers who hire mercenaries obey these rules to varying degrees, but those who outright disregard them may swiftly find their hired swords fighting for their enemies. Various orders exist amongst the Blood Kin—notably the Bastards and Bitches of Shuul, the Knights of the Silver Baldric, the Dragons of the Dust Sea and the Obsidian Order.
Symbol: While each order has its own insignia, all kin identify each other by carrying an obsidian coin inset with a blood ruby.

Children of Odamar: The Children worship Odamaar the Lord of Light and Darkness and the Purifier of Souls. His followers believe his eyes are the two moons, his breath the wind, his body the earth, his heart the molten fire within the earth, and his power and wisdom pierce all souls through flame and shadow.
Symbol: A blazing golden sun within a white circle and two orbs without the circle at its poles.

Cultists of Synculon: These cultists believe that the god Synculon is master of all knowledge, understanding and the ordering of the world. All things should be taken apart and experimented with to better understand their workings and functions and to improve upon them.
Symbol: An eight-spoked gear

Order of the Prism: This arcane order is dedicated to studying and understanding magic. They believe with magic power comes responsibility and they have a code of rules for using magic. The Tower of the Prism in the city-fortress of Magmar is the order’s school and citadel. Few wizards apprentice at the tower, but those who do graduate travel the lands to take on apprentices. The Order of the Prism tries to root out followers of the Dark Pact at every opportunity.
Symbol: Prism reflecting beam of light (a la Dark Side of the Moon, the Floyd man!)

Sentinels of the Steel Ring: This secretive order protects the knowledge of forging steel. They work in tandem or sometimes against warlords and rulers who covet smiths. The order maintains a library and forges hidden in the (yet to be determined).
Symbol: Steel ring

The Dark Pact: (Placeholder name) This evil society of sorcerers, warlocks and necromancers plots to rule the Wastelands. They crave dark magical powers and align with evil otherworldly entities and demons. The Pact was once part of the Order of the Prism but split in a bitter conflict that nearly destroyed the Tower of the Prism. They mercilessly hunt down powerful members of the Prism order and assassinate them.
Symbol: The Pact has no single sigil. Various factions within the Pact bear their own symbols—such as a black skull, a skeletal hand, a purple orb, a black dragon head, and other similar devices.

Yuan-ti: These cruel intelligent snake-people worship T’Ssalik the two-headed Serpent Lord and have many human followers and slaves. They basically mess shit up for everyone whenever they can. The yuan-ti have built a temple in the Tar Pits of Gazkrul.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Throw Down! [LL Option]

Back in April, Chris at the Aspiring Lich blog wrote about a Save vs Awesome option for use in old-school games. I liked it.

His option started me thinking (uh-oh!) about other ways to inject awesomeness into combats a little more frequently, and I came up with this little idea: the Throw Down.

Basically, the Throw Down is used when you (or a referee's big NPC baddie) want to single-out an opponent and gain a bonus against that opponent. Think of it like the proverbial "throwing down the gauntlet" and calling out a foe. It's also meant as a means to encourage roleplaying and add drama to a combat encounter.

While thinking about it, I recalled that 4th edition D&D had a fighter class feature called mark or challenge (or something like that). Throw Down works along those lines, but provides you the bonus; it does not impose a penalty on your foe.

You single out a foe with a clever insult, flash of steel, guttural roar, or some act of derring-do. You choose one of your ability scores (appropriate to the way you call out your foe) and roll a contest against your foe, who must use the same ability score. (Depending on the game system you are using, this could be a d20 + ability modifier contest or a "roll under" ability score contest. Either way the result is the same.)

If you beat your foe on the contest roll, you gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws, and ability checks directly involving that foe for the rest of the encounter. If you attack or try to harm any other foe (other than casting an area spell which includes the designated foe) after you have won a throw down, you immediately lose your bonus.

If you lose the contest roll, nothing good or bad happens to you. You throw down but your foe has better moxie.

The foe you thrown down against must have equal or greater hit dice than you. It's not very heroic to throw down against an inferior foe! There is no limit to the number of times you can throw down in an encounter, but you can only ever have one throw down bonus active and an ally cannot attack (or otherwise harm) or throw down against the same foe while your throw down is active. If an ally does either, you immediately lose your throw down bonus.

Plenty of Options: The throw down bonus doesn't need to be a simple +1 to numerous rolls. A referee might allow an extra damage die on attacks, maximized spell effects, an improved initiative bonus, temporary hit points, or other similar benefits.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wastelands [Overview, Part II]

Continuing the region notes for the Wastelands...

The Kreth Verdant valley lies in the east. It is a stepped land rising slowly to hills and mountains. The Kreth River runs from the highlands and down the steppes, cascading over a rocky plateau called the Shining Falls, before winding south. Flora and fauna are diverse, similar to that found in temperate and subtropical climates. This is the most fertile Wastelands region and the most populated and civilized. All of the Free Races inhabit the Kreth Verdant.

Blackthorn Wood: A dark forest of twisted black and yellow trees and deadly plant creatures ruled by an evil druid called Blackthorn. 
City-State of Kreth: This is the largest city of the Wastelands, situated slightly west of the hills along the banks of the Kreth River. Beyond the city walls rests a fertile crescent of farmlands and villages. It is well protected, both naturally by the gradient steppes and by the expertly-trained soldiers commanded by Eternal Overlord, Mightiest Master of Men, Conqueror of the Sky, Earth and Underworld ... honorifics ad nauseum ... Groob, God-Emperor of Life, the Universe and Everything.
Deadroot Forest: Dead forest riddled with graveyards, ruins, chapels of evil gods, and vile undying creatures. The forest is ruled by a lich lord.
Fort Zog: This fortified way station near the Golden Road crossroad between Shuul and the City-State of Kreth has been assaulted and ruined so many times its origins have been forgotten. The way station is currently occupied by (to be determined).
Fungoid Forest: This bizarre forest of brightly-colored fungi and mosses is home to deadly monsters and insects, and is ruled by mysterious fungus people.
Ruins of Zog: These are the ruins of an ancient observatory in the foothills of Zog Mountain slightly southwest of the Kreth Verdant. The ruins comprise caverns, a dungeon and observatory, and are rumored to contain strange magical devices.

The Peaks of Insanity form the northeastern region of the Wastelands and are populated by ravenously mad dwarves, humans, orcs, trolls, giants and dozens more tribes of psychotic and evil creatures. Flora here is often inedible or poisonous, and fauna includes many deadly and venomous predators.

Citadel of Dag-Mazak: The not-quite-so-insane-dwarf citadel of Dag-Mazak, ruled by King Galzar Undermountain. King Galzar attempts to maintain control over these vicious mountains. Mostly he bars the massive citadel gates and hopes for the best. The citadel is rumored to be protected by sorcerous “cannons of fire”.
Dead Troll Fort: The fortified trading post of Dead Troll Fort—dubbed “Fort Crazy” by many outsiders—is located in the southern foothills of the Peaks of Insanity. Adventurers, prospectors, drunkards, thieves, spiritual scions and other ne’er-do-well types frequent Fort Crazy.
Sphere of Oblivion: A gigantic sphere of swirling colors that drives creatures mad as they approach. The sphere rests in a huge crater in the Peaks of Insanity.

The Sea of Choking Dust is the driest region of the Wastelands, and its sun-bleached sands stretch from southern Kreth all the way to the endless deserts of Ahara. Brave and nomadic dragonborn and human clans eke out an existence here. These folk tell that gargantuan sand serpents consume all who dare travel the sea’s dunes. Flora is non-existent except for the few fertile oases dotting the desert. Common fauna includes scorpions, spiders, snakes and other predatory creatures.

Dunes of Nirotha: An area of the Dust Sea inhabited by the nirothans—a tribe of humans with jet black skin and metallic hair, known for their empathic powers and elegant fighting arts.
Lost Pyramid of Khaliix: This mysterious shining obsidian pyramid appears in random locations in the Sea of Choking Dust, usually after great sandstorms. The labyrinths within and beneath the pyramid contain time-travel devices, planar nodes and other strange technology.
Port City of Qaarn: A small fertile oasis valley shelters the port city of Qaarn in the southeast. From Qaarn, the dangerous Golden Road winds north through the Dust Sea, and upon it well-armed caravans carry exotic goods from far-off lands to Shuul, the City-State of Kreth and other places in the Wastelands.

A massive wall of ice forms the southern boundary of the great Shimmering Glacier of the north. The glacier is a virtually impenetrable barrier between the Peaks of Insanity in the east and the Slagg Hills in the west and stretches far beyond reckoning to the north. Precious little edible flora exists in these frozen lands and predators are few but deadly.

Frozen Expanse of Vragnak: This icy, windswept expanse has many canyons and rifts, and is home to savage beasts as well as the vragnak—a tribe of blue-skinned, war-like humans who sail on ice sleds and build strange domed villages.
Palace of the Ice Witch: This opulent ice palace, ruled by Istaria the Ice Witch, rests in a long rift of the Shimmering Glacier and is populated by frost giants and other arctic monsters.

The northwestern Slagg Hills are rugged volcanic lands, home to loose clans of humans, dragonborn, and tieflings. These folk compete with vile monsters for control of the region. A ferocious alliance of elemental creatures has wiped out many clans living here. Flora here is often strangely colored and able to survive the noxious fumes spewing from the hills. Predatory fauna is often camouflaged to appear as rocks or flora.

City-Fortress of Magmar: The city of Magmar, ruled by the tiefling King Alkemnon, is the largest settlement in the Slagg Hills. The city derives its wealth from smithing, building airships and mining magic gemstones. Beneath the city are the grand hangars where Alkemnon’s fleet of airships are built and serviced.
Tower of the Prism: This citadel, located within the city of Magmar, is the headquarters, library and school of the Order of the Prism—a group of wizards devoted to studying and understanding magic. The Order of the Prism advises Alkemnon and is rumored to have played a part in building his fleet of airships.

The Steaming Jungles of Su’Janga are a hot region of dense jungles populated by primitive humanoid tribes and savage beasts. The yuan-ti are the dominant race and rule from the sunken swamp city of T’Sunja. Flora and fauna in the jungles are lush and diverse.

Bo’Muuka Swamp: The Bo’Muuka (or Blackmire) is a monster-infested swamp of black and orange rushes, luminescent green shrubbery with bright pink flowers, and thick black-barked trees. A black dragon is rumored to inhabit the swamp.
Sunken City of T’Sunja: A massive city-temple complex ruled by yuan-ti. Most of the city has sunk into the swamp, but the highest ziggurats and towers are rumored to hold the vast riches of the cruel snake people.
Tar Pits of Gazkrul: A massive dungeon in the jungle full of bubbling tar pits, steam- and heat-dwelling monsters, and evil yuan-ti cultists of T’Ssalik the two-headed serpent god.

Between each of the major regions lay vast stretches of barren steppes, ashen plains, rocky crags, and volcanic hills. Collectively these lands are known as the Wastes. Savage creatures roam these desolate wilderness areas and bitter dust storms scour the landscape.  Little is touched by the hand of civilization.

Floating City of Rashamon: This city floats several thousand feet in the air and is ruled by the powerful genie Rashamon, whose agents fly on magic carpets and war constantly with the airships of Alkemnon of Magmar.
Great Rift: The Great Rift is a huge rend in the earth of unknown depth. No person has ever returned from exploring its depths.
Moonshard Forest: This hilly forest has strange opalescent pillars and spires of a glass-like substance which many people believe come from the Slumbering Dragon Moon. Creatures from the astral and ethereal planes inhabit the forest.
Spire of the Gods: An impenetrable black spire two-hundred feet in diameter that extends to the heavens. The spire radiates unknown and powerful magic.

Ziggurat of Faresh: An isolated, sprawling temple complex devoted to Faresh the three-eyed Prophet of True Sight.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Wastelands of Kreth [Overview, Part I]

The Wastelands of Kreth campaign setting is located on a super-continent of a distant planet in a rarely-traveled corner of the galaxy. The super-continent is the size of Earth’s Eurasia, Africa and the Indian sub-continent combined, in a roughly north-south orientation. There ends any pseudo-scientific stuff.

The Wastelands setting is inspired by pulp adventure, fantasy and science-fiction stories, as well as films and music influenced by those stories. The setting is not meant to be taken seriously, and many aspects of it are odd, illogical or outright silly. This is intentional—the Wastelands setting is free-form place where imagination dwells and the only rule is Make It Fun.

The Wastelands comprise many distinct regions. Some of these include the Badlands of Paj, Doom Mountains of Gulgash, Kreth Verdant, Peaks of Insanity, Sea of Choking Dust, Shimmering Glacier, Slagg Hills, and Steaming Jungles of Su’Janga.

To the right is my crudely drawn referee's map showing the vague locations of the various Wastelands regions and notable cities. No doubt this map will go through many iterations, but at this early point I just need something to give me an idea how the locations fit together in a very broad sense.

Each major region is briefly described below along with a few notable cities, places or potential adventure sites. Today we have the Badlands of Paj and the Doom Mountains of Gulgash. Eventually, each of these regions will have detailed random monster tables and various other important details, but here they are in their current referee rough note state.

Wide salt flats and twisted canyons dominate the Badlands of Paj in the southwest. It is perhaps the most barren and deadly region of the Wastelands. The flora of Paj is as rugged and dangerous as the land, and includes cacti, scrub brush, wild flowers and the rare juniper. Fauna of the region are typically solitary predators. Only scattered bands of people inhabit Paj outside of the city of Shuul, and they battle constantly with vicious tribes of humanoid monsters and other foul creatures.

City of Shuul: The largest settlement of the Badlands is the city-fortress of Shuul, famous for its “death pits” arena, slavers marketplace and savage circus featuring exotic (and deadly) animals. Shuul is ruled by the brutal warlord Radix Dragonclaw, known as the Bastard Baron of the Badlands.
Crystal Caves of Confusion: Caverns lined with glittering crystals rumored to hold magical power and bewitch explorers. Many rock and crystal-like monsters inhabit the cavern system.
Hills of Zim-Zalabazul: A vast stretch of maze-like canyons and hills. All who enter are lost forever. The area is ruled by Phalox the Minotaur King.

A t-shaped mountain range named for the great hero, Gulgash, who perished slaying a giant purple worm. Many hideous and otherworldly creatures inhabit the mountains and the City of Zax-Oorax lies in the southern foothills. Flora includes thin, grey-barked conifer-like trees and varieties of mountain shrubs and straw-like grasses. Fauna includes many deadly predators with camouflaging abilities and venom.

City of Zax-Oorax: City ruled by Maxima Zaxia Ooraxa, the Queen of Pleasure, and is located in the southern foothills of the Doom Mountains of Gulgash. Queen Zaxia has mandated worship of Sinistar the hermaphrodite god of hedonism, pleasure and pain. The city gains its wealth through the slave trade, mining, textiles and narcotics. Queen Zaxia is rumored to have a demonic lover from whom she derives power.
Great Worm Pass: This is a massive pass through the Doom Mountains of Gulgash. Legend says a great purple worm ate its way through the mountains and threatened the city of Zax-Oorax but was slain by the hero Gulgash.