Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Summon Ants

This is a first-level MU spell for my Amazon Rivercrawl game.

Caster summons a swarm of ants whose HD is equal to the MU’s level. Nearby ants gather through the forest to come to the Caster’s magical pheromones. The swarm lasts as long as the caster is concentrating, and the caster can direct them to various foes. The swarm has one attack, the largest on this table for its HD.

Once the caster’s concentration is broken (by attacking, being successfully attacked, casting another spell, or pretty much doing anything that isn’t walking slowly), the swarm will lose one HD per round until it has dissipated, and it will fully dissipate if its current foe falls. To attack the swarm, the foe must make a grapple attack vs. the swarm’s HD. If it succeeds, the ant swarm loses 1HD regardless of the caster’s concentration.

While swarmed, a foe is at -2 to hit anything that is not the swarm itself.

When casting, the player roles 1d4 on the following chart to see what kind of ants respond.
  1. Fire ant. On successful attack, the foe saves vs. poison. On success, half damage is done. On failure, full damage is taken. If an attack does 6pts or more of damage, then save vs. paralyze or be paralyzed for d6 rounds in pain.
  2. Leafcutter ant. On successful attack, no damage is taken. Instead, leafcutters attack the skin and clothes of the foe. -1AC for each successful attack.
  3. Weaver ant. On successful attack, no damage is taken. Instead, the foe must save vs. paralyze or be stuck (-4 to attacks, AC, and can't move) for d4 rounds (cumulative) in the ants’ sticky gauze. 
  4. Army ant. On successful attack, ants do full damage. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Xena's Grasping Maw

When read or researched, this spell appears to be the following first-level spell:
A five-gallon hollow floating sphere of energy appears. This sphere can be moved by the will of the Magic User at her running speed, and exists for the MU’s level x 10 minutes. (So a level six MU can conjure the sphere for an hour.)

This sphere has “jaws” as it were: the Magic User can will a variable semi-circle opening to appear or disappear either on the top of bottom of the sphere. This opening can be used to fill the sphere with items or liquid, and can also be used to grasp large items. Their closing will not crush anything, but will hold up to 200lb objects tightly enough to pick them up and move them. When closed completely the sphere is air- and water-proof.

Xena was not the magic user who originally crafted this spell, but rather his cat whose ability to grasp items in her mouth was the inspiration for his research.
When the spell is memorized for the first time, everything seems good until the Magic User decides to cast the spell. They will find that they rather prefer having the spell memorized for later than using it now, and won’t cast it.

To the character, the desire to keep the spell memorized “for later” will be stronger than any want, need, or coercion to cast it.

Story-wise, the spell is a sentient memetic virus of sorts, one that once memorized cannot be unmemorized because its desire to live (aka, stay memorized) is too strong.

Mechanically, the player just lost a first-level spell slot. If they memorize it again, they will lose that one too. Each spell is independently willful.

There is a plus side to this, however. Unbeknown to anyone living (except maybe one of the players’ antagonists), the spell’s will is so strong that even a changeling, once it has changed into a magic-user who has this spell memorize, will find itself itself unable to change again. The changeling will effectively become the magic user, and the two of them won’t even be able to tell each other apart.

What any person decides to do in such a situation depends on how fully they’ve given themselves into their magical studies and desire for power. I’ve written up one option, I’m sure you and your players can think of more.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Someone asked me how to create monsters in LotFP, this is what I answered.

First off, if what you have is the “rules and magic” book then it’s not really useful for GM-focused rules. For instance, no where does it tell you how to generate creatures. It’s pretty simple: You assign Hit Dice and AC to the creature more or less based on size and agility, then to-hit bonus, attack strength, and HP are derived from the HD. Here is a handy-dandy table that is in the Referee book (which is no longer available but should be again soon):

Weight HD Attack 1 Attack 2 HP To-hit
<100 1/2 d4 d2 1d4 0
100 1 d6 d3 1d8 +1
250 2 d8 d4 2d8 +2
500 4 d10 d6 4d8 +4
1000 6 d12 d8 6d8 +6
2000 8 d12+d4 d10 8d8 +8
5000 10 d20 d12 10d8 +10
10,000 12 2d10 d12+d4 12d8 +12

Don’t assign an AC over 18, and don’t assign AC based on how tough the creature is: that’s what HP is for in creatures. So a monkey might be a one-hit kill but be really hard to hit because it’s so nimble, while a rhino only has an AC of 12 so you hit it almost every time, but boy that fucker can take the hits no problem.

For 99% of NPCs, they should just be 0-level fighters with 10’s across the board in terms of ability scores. Even like common soldiers are 0-level: it’s only exceptional people who have any levels in anything at all.

For particularly memorable NPCs, you might give them a +1 ability bonus somewhere. For super-duper awesome NPCs, you can give them up to +3 bonus points (so like an 18 INT, or 12s in CON, STR, and CHA, up to you). If you want to give more bonus points, you have to give some negatives as well. And feel free to give them abilities that “break” the rules, NPCs don’t have to work exactly that PCs, particularly if they have access to magic.

But what about magical creatures? The general rule of thumb with LotFP is that magical creatures are rare and dangerous. Any magical creature should be an adventure in itself, not just some mook in a dungeon. Like, a good monster isn’t a tactical mini-wargame, it’s a puzzle: and the prize for figuring out the puzzle is not having to play the tactical mini-wargame, because that unit in the tactical mini-wargame is wicked OP and unfair. And that puzzle can take an entire session and involve all sorts of crazy shit if done well.

So while the rulebooks don’t have a lot of guidance here, what does are the LotFP adventures. I’d recommend picking up Better Than Any Man—it’s free, and probably the second-best adventure I’ve ever read (after Vornheim). It’s huge, as this guy attests he got a dozen sessions out of it. I ran a 12+ hour marathon with it, and we only started getting into the shit towards the end. Just reading it will make you a better GM.

Then there are the OSR blogs. I read a bunch of these. My favorites are:
In some vague order based on awesomeness vs. how often the post.

Check out False Machine and Monsters and Manuals, both have recently published adventures that are really great and have some awesome monsters in them.

Also, most the blogs are really good at tagging their posts, so find the like “monsters” or “encounters” or “rules” tag and follow the rabbit hole.

So in conclusion: (1) Dangerous is good. (2) Weird is better. (3) Follow things to their logical conclusions. (4) Don’t pull punches. (5) The rules are easy. (5a) Don’t mistake following the rules for playing the game.