Thursday, September 29, 2016

Sauron, The Great Old One


I've never really looked at the Elder Sign from H. P. Lovecraft's mythos very closely before...

...oh crap, Sauron was a Great Old One all along.

No wonder it took him so long to reappear on Middle-earth after Isildur vanquished him–the stars weren’t right.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fun Facts About Spell Components and Spells Per Turn in 5e D&D

More figuring things out for myself and posting it here so I can refer to it later.

Somatic Components
  • A spell that requires a somatic component can only be cast if you have a free hand (PHB 203).
  • You can cast a spell with a somatic component while wielding a two-handed weapon because a two-handed weapon only requires one hand to hold it, leaving you with one free hand. (Weapons with the Two-Handed property only require two hands when you attack with them, PHB 147.)
  • If you are wielding items in both hands (such as two-weapon fighting or wielding a sword and shield) you can stow one item for free and then cast a spell with a somatic component because you now have one free hand (PHB 190). On your next turn you could draw the weapon for free and attack with it.
  • You can't stow an item as part of a reaction, so spells that are cast as reaction and require somatic components can only be cast if you have a free hand. (Shield is a particularly troublesome spell in that regard.)
  • The War Caster feat allows you to cast spells requiring somatic components when you are holding weapons or a shield (PHB 170).

Somatic and Material Components
  • If a spell requires both a somatic and material component, your free hand can be used for both (SA).
  • Clerics and paladins can inscribe their holy symbols (their spell foci) onto a shield and use the shield hand for both somatic and material components (PHB 151).
  • However, if a spell requires only a somatic component (and no material component) and you are holding a spell focus in one hand and another object in the other, you need to stow one of them to be able to cast the spell (SA).

Spells Per Turn
  • If you cast a spell as a bonus action, you can also cast a cantrip with a casting time of 1 action on your turn (PHB 202).
  • If you have access to the fighter's Action Surge ability, you can cast multiple spells that require 1 action to cast. However, if you cast a spell as a bonus action, the spells you cast with your Action Surge actions must be cantrips (SA).

Monday, September 26, 2016

Gravedigger, Sawbones, Inventor, Demimondaine, Ratcatcher, Beggar

Gravedigger, Sawbones, Inventor, Demimondaine, Ratcatcher, Beggar--a fucked-up version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy?


I've written a six-pack of quick-and-dirty 5e backgrounds that are usable as-is. Someday I will probably flesh them out with their own tables of Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws, but for now I'd rather have these options available for my games and polish them later on down the road. 

The pdf below has details on my gravedigger, sawbones, inventor, demimondaine, ratcatcher, and beggar backgrounds. Most of them are pretty specific in application, but the demimondaine could be used for any level of prostitute, from courtesan to three-penny upright or rent boy. You could roll on Random Harlot Table in the AD&D DMG to find out if you have an aged madame or saucy tart on your hands, if that tickles your fancy. Similarly, the sawbones is a solid basis for any sort of doctor, country healer, nurse, or combat medic you might want to make--but Gary never got around to making a random table for that.

PDF here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Tale of Two Fraudulent Spiritualists

No Krevborna play report this week due to scheduling issues and technological failures. Instead, here's a play report from many years ago that I've been thinking about because it has some elements I want to incorporate into a future Krevborna campaign.

Only two players could make it to the game: perfect time to do a one-shot. We rolled up a couple new characters, and played to see what would happen. 

I had them roll to see what horrible thing their characters' did before they became "adventurers." Both players rolled the same result, which indicated that both characters were charlatans. Their background: "You once worked as an exorcist; however, you had no especial skill or ability to banish demonic presences. In fact, while most of your cases involved people who were mentally disturbed, your last involved a young woman who slew her family while possessed by a particularly vicious devil—you were powerless to stop her. If your secret is ever found out you will be hounded as a fraud and perhaps confronted by church officials." 

As a group, we decided that both characters were failed "spiritualists." The two characters (one fighter, one rogue) worked as a team of exorcists, even though both were complete frauds. 

Of course, the job these two former charlatans got sent on related to the family they ripped off and exploited: they were to infiltrate the house where they failed to exorcise an entity from the youngest daughter of the family and retrieve a rare book that the family had stolen from an occult bookshop.

What these two low-lifes don’t know is that after the events of the failed exorcism, the family took the attitude of "If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em" and began to do the bidding of the presence inhabiting their daughter's body. They've had their agents steal the grimoire because the thing wants to open a gate to bring the rest of his foul cohort into the world.

Things...went badly. Botched plans, bad rolls, and chance encounters within the house led to a moment where one character (the fighter) was suspended above a pit of acidic ooze and was holding on to the thief's hand for dear life...and then he failed his roll to climb back up from the trap he'd sprung. The thief watched in horror as his friend and fellow cheat was dissolved. Unfortunately, the fighter’s death screams brought the rest of the family/cult running. The remaining character now surrounded by a circle of knife-wielding cultists, we closed the curtains on this sad scene.

Total party kill. The players loved it.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bad Books for Bad People - Image of the Beast and Blown

Kate and Jack discuss Image of the Beast and its sequel Blown by Philip José Farmer. Released in 1968 and 1969 by adult science fiction publisher Essex House, Kate describes these ultra-explicit, super-bizarre novels as "like the monster mash version of Georges Bataille's Story of the Eye." But that's only part of the picture as we follow private detective Herald Childe on his journey into a world of monsters, ritual murder, and warring horror memorabilia collectors.
 The guest reader is man of mystery Baron XIII, who has the distinction of being Kate's most frequently punched-in-the-head friend. Baron XIII reveals his seven-day drawing challenge in exchange for reading one of the most extreme passages from these books.
Are these books sexy? Will we learn anything about Philip José Farmer's sexual preferences? What lives in that one character's nether regions?  What does Lord Byron have to do with all of this? Tune in to this episode of Bad Books for Bad People to find out!
Listen here!

We're also now on iTunes and Google Play.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Grand Guignol, Reading Like a Victorian, Fascist Building

My dear friend and co-conspirator Tenebrous Kate has a great piece on the recently-reissued Theatre of Fear and Horror: The Grisly Spectacle of the Grand Guignol of Paris and an interview with the book's author, Mel Gordon. The book and the interview are must-reads. (by Tenebrous Kate for Heathen Harvest)

Want to read Victorian novels as they were originally read? This site does the heavy-lifting to give you the full Victorian experience: A Way to Read 19th-Century Novels Serially and in Their Cultural Contexts.

The Fascist Building in Upper Manhattan. (by Caroline Wazer for Atlas Obscura.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

How to Make Characters in Modern D&D for Old-School Players

I’ve seen a lot of old-school gamers complain that making a Pathfinder or 3e D&D or 4e D&D or 5e D&D character is too hard or requires too much work compared to old-school editions. They’d rather not have to make all those decisions about feats, skills, powers, etc. or even buy in to the system mastery needed to know what the good choices are; it would be better if you just got set things each level like in the earlier editions.

I can sympathize with that, to a degree. I don’t want to read 20 pages of feats either to pick out which one my 1st level character gets either. But then again, this is 2016 and the internet has already done the heavy lifting for you.

I’m here to help.

Let me show you how.

As you can see, if you do a search for just about any Pathfinder or 3e or 4e or 5e character class + "builds" or "guide" you will get a highly-detailed guide on how to make such a character. Just treat the "build" as a class where what you get is spelled out in advance each level. When you hit level 2, don’t worry about reading through all the feats to pick a good one–just go with the one spelled-out in the build document. The people who write those treat it like it’s a calling, so you aren’t likely to get burned.

Letting the internet make all the choices for you takes all the work out of it; now you can get on to the part you presumably like: killing goblins and collecting loot. Or maybe role-playing a character. Whatever you’re into.

My point is this: Pathfinder or 3e or 4e or 5e might not be your favorite editions, hell, you might even hate them, but if you get a chance to play with some cool people don’t let "It will be a drag to make a character" or "This edition isn’t my favorite one" be the things that stop you. That goes double for "Well, I only like playing D&D."

Personally, I’d rather play with people who are cool using a system that isn’t my favorite than with a system that I prefer and people who are terrible. Your mileage, of course, may vary.