A thought that marched hand-in-glove with my tinkering with a B/X cultivator class (which took me the better part of a year to actually commit to and I can’t believe I’m admitting that ye gods), and that I kept on coming back over and over again, involved spirit stones.
Spirit stones (lingshi) are fancy mystical stones — or jewels, or crystals, or some kind of bit of shiny valuable rock/crystal/whatever — that have a pile of descriptions (or none at all, lol) in cultivation novels. They’re basically storehouses of spiritual energy, and cultivators can use them as energy sources or —
— this is the bit that I kept circling back to —
— to boost their cultivation level.
There’s even varying grades or levels of power for these stones, and apparently some series have higher powered versions also (“god stones” and the like) although I haven’t spotted those yet myself. Cultivators hoard spirit stones, use them like candy, treat them as currency, squabble over sources of them, and on and on. Sometimes they, or jewels a lot like them, get found inside the carcasses of powerful monsters or demons, even.
I bet you can see where I’m going with this ~
Spirit Stones and Experience Points
There’s a whole pile of extra bits and bobs that could get piled onto the spirit stone concept as applied to OSR stuff, but the crux that I’ve been rolling around is this:
If treasure = xp up to this point, but say you don’t want to just run a treasure hunter kind of campaign — or you can’t wrap your brain around just what the PCs are doing with that treasure to justify the xp gains, or the treasure piles are just piling up, well, why not decouple it altogether?
Have piles of normal loot for awesome normal loot reasons.
Have finding — or claiming, or stealing, or carving out — and then consuming spirit stones as the actual source of experience points.
You could even make up a set of tiers for grades of stones (type, colour, names, whatever) like in the source material; low-grade stones have 50 or 100 or whatever xp in them, sage-grade stones have thousands or more. Give them different appearances, and go to town.
– some combat encounters could give a lot of spirit stones/xp, if the target is likely to carry them. some, not so much. choose wisely.
– that said, think of the stone or stones likely to be found in the roiling innards of a mighty dragon, or condensed in the core of an ancient, sorcerous undead prince, or or or
Which brings me to notion number two!
Claiming stones from innately powerful creatures is one way to get powerful stones fast, if the GM enables that, yeah. But what if there’s a side effect of shortcutting one’s way through the shortcut, and too many spirit stones (too much xp) gained from a specific kind of source twists or changes you.
Consume too many demonic cores, start to take on demonic traits. That probably won’t go over well with a lot of people. Might be better to be cautious.
I’d probably decide on some particular ratio of “flavoured” xp vs. “standard” xp.
And yes, yes, I know, this sounds like some unholy amalgamation of “gold = xp” and “milestones” and an esoteric economy straight from satan’s arsecrack, but I’m still tempted to beat out a few more details and try it sometime, lol.
Imagine the possibilities! Players might even be tempted to slow their characters’ progressions (not consuming stones) in order to use them to wheel and deal and influence by trade/barter/etc etc. And that’s without layering on any other possible uses for the things …
Since I last posted — and since Twitter is now a tirefire for real — I joined another Mastodon-based instance, chirp.enworld.org, and this time around things are going a lot more smoothly. So that’s a yay.
Last night from work in a fit of something, I scratched out an extremely bare-bones little game that squeezed into one toot; I called it Moonpack:
° You are a werewolf. °
● spend 4 +1s on: Folk (tools, making), Wolf (wilderness, hunt), Moon (magic, shifting)
● pick a Sept; +1 to in-theme tests.
Ironjaws, Shadow Fang, Greenphase, Ghostsnare, Wild Hunt, Gravehowl
● Tests: 2d6, diffs 4(easy)/8/10/12+(mythic)
> add +1s to total
● Werewolf: +2 fight, +1 Moon; silver weakness
> may need 1+ succ. to defeat
Bonewolves, Sunswallowers, Black Moon Apex ...
> diff. sets danger
● Injury: 3 pips. Werewolf has 4; be careful!
And then bolted on a second toot, with a few extra magic(idea)s and a little more for Septs:
You are dead, whoever or whatever you may have been while alive, and obviously so. This hasn’t stopped you, as it turns out; whether curse or faith, accident or deliberate transformation, you are dead but you are still moving by your own will.
There’s great variability in your corpse’s potential appearance, depending on your death, your personal upkeep and grooming habits, your access to talented necrochirurgeons, and so forth: skeletal, fleshy, mummified, a kind of dry rot-like existence, immaculately preserved — withered, waxen, leathery or cold as marble — or any and all combinations of the above and more are possibilities. No matter your looks, however, even if you have not modified or ornamented your corpse you will not be mistaken for a living being.
You also carry your heart with you. Actual transmuted heart? Manifest soul? Tether to the world? All of these? Who can say, save for that last? What’s important is that this glassy bauble, heavy in your hand and kindled with a softly golden light, is what keeps you going — and must not be taken from you. Best keep it safe. Maybe even inside.
Prime Requisites: CON and WIS Attack: as Cleric Saving Throws: as Cleric Hit Dice: 1d8 Armour Allowed: Any Weapons Allowed: Any Languages: Common, Alignment
* Life’s Chains Broken: You do not require food, water or sleep, only four hours contemplation. You are immune to poison, disease, and paralysis.
* The Cold Seeks All: You have infravision to 60′.
* Dead Flesh: As a walking corpse, you cannot heal with rest (dead flesh does not heal) and healing magic has no effect on you. In order to regain lost hit points above 1, you require the attentions of a necrochirurgeon for a day and an expenditure of 1 gp, plus access to 1 hp of corpse material per hit point regained. You may work on yourself, at a rate of 2 hit points per hour’s work, but the material needs are doubled unless you are skilled in necrochirurgery. It is possible to choose to partially restore hit points if there is a lack of funds, materials or time.
* Tethering Heart: A glass-like bauble but so much more than that, heavy and large enough to fill a cupped palm and then some, your heart is key; if it is destroyed, so are you. Putting more than a mile’s distance between yourself and your heart causes discomfort and disquiet; if another creature claims your heart, you will do anything to get it back.
* Rising: You have already died once; it is cursed difficult to put you in the ground again and keep you there. Once reduced to 0 hp you collapse, but will rise again in 1d6 hours unless your heart has been destroyed. Upon rising you have 1 hp and will remain so until the damage to your corpse is seen to (see Dead Flesh).
* Curse Of Unlife: You’re an undead corpse, and that has drawbacks beyond the inability to heal. While you’re not necessarily affected by (un)holy water depending on your personal ethos, you are definitely affected by spells, magic items, divine proclamations and other things that can affect, harm, ward or destroy unliving creatures — and that includes being susceptible to clerical turning and command. You do get a to make a saving throw vs. death magic to resist the results of a turning or command check.
* Grave Gifts: Each risen has their own quirks. Roll twice on the following table:
01. Corpse Medicine: Offer a portion of your remains, from enresinated fluids to powdered bone, to heal another at a 1 : 2 hit point ratio. 02. Grave Armour: Whether dense flesh, strengthened bone or osseous plating, improve AC by 2. 03. Eldritch Sense: Cast Detect Magic once a day. 04. Spectre: Cast Cause Fear once a day. 05. Wardead: Claws, jaws, sharpened phalanges, bony fists or implanted weaponry, attack unarmed for 1d4 damage. 06. Mortuary Sense: 2-in-6 chance to sense other undead within 60′. 07. Devour: Three times a day, regain 1d3 hp from feeding from a corpse directly. 08. Chattering Bone: Ask a corpse or part of one one question, once a day. 09. Ghostlight: Conjure orb of pale-green or blue-white “flame” as a candle, once a day; one hour, or four if conjured into your heart. 10. Vault Cadavre: A portion of your corpse is modified for ease of opening and secure storage, revealing a space that can contain small objects up to a dagger to a waterskin, depending on the location of your vault. 11. Dead Tongue: You may communicate telepathically to any creature within 100′. 12. Grave Will: You are treated as +2 HD when faced with turning or control attempts.
* Ossuary Founder: After reaching 9th level, a risen may establish or build a stronghold or ossuary, attracting 2d6 followers who may be 1st level risen, magic-users or fighters. These followers are devoted, but if they die or are permanently destroyed they are not automatically replaced.
01. There is something or someone you protected with your life, and now with your death 02. A necromancer got you instead of the zombie they were expecting 03. It was your literal dying wish 04. A wandering traveller blighted — or blessed — you, then vanished 05. You have an oath not yet fulfilled 06. Don’t play around with necromantic rituals you aren’t qualified for, folks 07. They will not have the satisfaction of having killed you 08. This way, you may serve for eternity 09. It was a strange illness; you had no idea just how strange 10. You traded your life for something or someone precious (or you thought so, at the time) 11. Your tomb was disturbed; you didn’t appreciate that 12. You don’t remember how it happened and dearly wish to find out
01. How about Basic Fantasy, AD&D and the like?
Honestly, I was going to write up entire species stats and then I realized that, since I didn’t want to add prerequisites, there’s no real need for ability score modifiers either.
Besides, when you’re dead, you’re dead. It’s the great leveler. I suppose I could have added “Requirement: Dead” to the BD&D block? But naaah.
Assume movement rates work like a living representative of the species in question unless there’s a good reason not to; apply all the special traits given in the class write-up, including Grave Goods. Unless everyone is cool with the idea, it’s probably best to not carry over special abilities from the risen’s species (if the PC isn’t a human corpse).
02. Level limits?
Nah. If you want to use them, especially as a “species” and not species-as-class, assign them as you see fit; I don’t like level limits, especially with separate species and class, and honestly there’s not a lot of stereotypes I’d apply to a dead dude in order to limit them?
(you bet your arse I’d want to write a risen cleric, say. oh ho ho ho)
03. That’s some convoluted stuff and also why does it take so much to “heal” them and …
That’s the theme I wanted, basically. You’ll keep going, but your corpse is battered and so is what’s animating you, but since it’s all dead matter a clever-handed artisan can restore you in a grand combination of sculpture, leather-and-textile arts and taxidermy. And yes, you can fancy yourself up, because you’re already dead. Be the jeweled saint you want to be in the world, even.
04. That turning stuff is rough, man.
It sure is. I like my thematics and I’m not sorry. A destruction result probably shouldn’t destroy a risen’s heart, though — something for PCs wrangling with risen to keep in mind. Or learn the hard way.
05. Why the “heart”?
Because the image of a corpse carrying this warmly faintly luminous bit of beauty stuck with me and by fuck I was going to use it.
Dragons! Big scaly (or feathery or what have you) beasties with maws of sharp teeth and a tendency towards breathing gouts of flame, venom, or the gods know what at you. Tangling with a dragon, violently or otherwise, can be a Big Thing. A Big Thing with, depending on the dragon, a Big Payoff.
Sometimes it even comes from the dragon itself. It might not even mean slaying the beastie!
Which is good, because some dragons may be like unto gods.
So how does this work?
Here are a few possibilities.
Gifts Granted Freely
To seal a pact, to grant a boon to a loyal friend or follower or worshiper, to give a representative the power to act in their name, to demonstrate power, to sow a little chaos here and there — there’s any number of reasons a dragon might grant a token to one of the “lesser” folk. Whether reshaping an existing object or shaping one wholesale from its own flesh and spirit, the dragon creates a gift for its chosen recipient.
Many of these tokens are weapons, but not all of them. If you don’t have a form in mind, you can always roll for it:
And also for the mark that the object bears to show its origin:
01. Carved from the dragon’s fang(s) 02. Sheathed in the dragon’s shed scales or other plumage 03. Sports one or more dragoncrysts 04. Contains dragonsblood ampoule 05. Carved from dragon’s horn or talon 06. Dyed or enameled with dragonsblood
Needless to say, all such tokens are finely made specimens. (Dragon magic can do wonderful things.) They aren’t unbreakable, however, unless granted by a dragon of divine power — which isn’t to say that even a more “mundane” token may not show some quirk such as a faint glow, slowly reshaping itself or its ornamentation over time, or slight changes of size and proportion to suit its current owner.
But what does such a token do? The possibilities are endless and boil down to the whims of the dragon in question (and the GM, of course *lol*); here are some basic ideas to get things started:
01. +2 (or more!) to attacks made with it, or while bearing it, as appropriate 02. Grants Advantage when used (or when used for a specific purpose, whether hunting sorcerers, penning the perfect sonnet, or making a first impression) 03. Absorbs incoming energies aligned with those of the dragon (fire, light, death, winter, passion …) 04. Grants (additional) protection equivalent to a specific armour type, such as chain or fullplate 05. Grants the ability to cause injuries that wound like flame, frost, venom, or other draconic energies 06. Will heal one wound, even a lethal one (or one given wound within a certain time cycle) 07. Grants an additional sense or senses (nightsight, magic sensitivity, draconic sensitivity, direction sense, tracking ability …) 08. Protects against a certain type of enchantment or affliction (flame magic, poison, paralysis, mind-tampering …), or grants Advantage against it 09. Allows the owner to take on a draconic form 10. Opens a portal to a specific location or locations 11. Will produce a certain amount of a specific substance (bread, raw metal, stormwinds, water, sunlight), or for a specific amount of time, daily 12. Allows owner to tap into the dragon’s knowledge or wisdom 13. Grants the ability to cast a specific spell or spells as if learned, once a day at maximum efficiency 14. Owner’s magic is resisted at Disadvantage by a specific type of target or targets 15. Subjects of the token (injured, touched by, marked by, they hear it, etc as appropriate) are magically “stained” by it and may be tracked by the owner 16. Grants the ability to communicate with spirits and shades of all types, or other unusual subjects, such as animals 17. Owner is always clean, groomed and generally immaculate-looking 18. Deal maximum damage with an attack involving the token (or, once a day, or once a battle; or a certain number of times a day, or after spending one’s own essence) 19. Grants unusual physical capability, such as aquatic adaptation, flight, burrowing, or resistance to a specific hostile environment 20. Increases one or two attributes by anywhere from 1 to 3
Gifts granted by a draconic token reflect the dragon bestowing the gift — a martially-inclined beast will favour weapons or armour or other such things, a reclusive scaly scholar will gift sources of knowledge or means of defense, a flamedrake a gift of fire, and so on. In many cases a token’s gift or gifts will echo the abilities of the dragon as well, be it elemental affinity, breath weapon, unique sorceries or even the dragon’s own famed feats.
Similarly, a token’s power reflects that of its creator. A young beast is not about to grant a gift loaded down with half a dozen abilities, no matter how much it wishes otherwise — and a gift from an elder dragon means the favour, and attention, of such a vast and powerful creature.
A dragon cannot be magically or physically coerced into making such a token. It must be freely given, of the dragon’s own choice. A dragon is always aware of its gifts, and may glean a vague sense of location, presence, and purpose put to with a bit of concentration.
A canny dragon knows that the lesser folk are just as covetous as any drake can be. A wise dragon keeps its gifts from falling into the hands of any random creature that may take advantage.
There’s a way around these troubles, to a certain extent. If the gifting dragon crafts its token to be bloodmarked, only those who bear its mark may make use of the token’s benefits, while all others wield a finely-made object and nothing more.
Some dragons make this an unseen, spiritual marking but most prefer to drive the point home more viscerally, as much a test of the would-be recipient’s resolve as a proper binding. Anointed with the dragon’s blood — a draft of which must also be swallowed, fresh from draconic flesh — that one is now bloodmarked and their new gift responds to the diffusion of the draconic donor’s power and will through the giftee’s body.
Whether the mark will pass on to their chosen’s descendants is a matter of draconic choice in the moment of marking. It’s generally considered courteous to let them know one way or the other (and sometimes that’s even the point).
Torn From The Fallen
But — the notes above are not quite true. There is a way to claim such treasures from a dragon against its will — or one such, at least, a single token from a single draconic source.
It’s not pleasant, and it begins with the death of the dragon in question.
Through flensing butchery, darkling alchemy, and necropotent sorceries, a dragon’s fading, fleeing power may be bound into a token made by another’s hands. All such objects are crafted from the dragon’s bones, in their entirety or nearly so, and should they bear any ornamentation at all it is of black-scorched inscriptions, bloody enamel and gory dragoncrysts.
These are not pleasant things to look upon, no matter how finely crafted they may be.
They also come with a price for tearing draconic gifts away along with the dragon’s life. All such balegifts grant at least two abilities, and are Advantage weapons against dragons, but also inflict one or more afflictions unto their owner. Some possibilities include:
01. Heal at half the usual rate 02. Constant nightmares, affecting social interactions (-2 modifier) 03. Vulnerable to a specific form of injury (an element, poison, necromantic magic, bleeding …), taking twice damage 04. Haunted by the slaughtered dragon’s restless shade 05. 1-in-6 chance of berserking in combat or under duress until subdued or there are no targets 06. Will rise as undead horror if driven to brink of death
Balegifts may also be bloodmarked, if the first owner consumes the dragon’s blood and at least a sliver of its heart or pearl. On the one hand, this will always bind the token to the owner and also their bloodline; on the other, they will never rid themselves of the acquired afflictions.
We Know Of You
Any dragon that sees a pact token — let alone a balegift — will know exactly what it is and very well may also know exactly who granted the token in the first place, simply by looking at it. This can have some immediate and terrible repercussions in the latter case!
Life And Death
Yes, it is possible for a living dragon to bestow its blessing and then later be killed and butchered to have it stolen from them.
Yes, a bestowing dragon might then become some sort of undead horror later. Such an abomination can still sense its given gifts.
Or other such interesting situations.
Just what may happen? Well, that’s hard to generalize, now isn’t it ~?
So if all your soul has been traded away (or fallen off, or been eaten, or you tore it all out, or it was burned up, or any number of possibilities really), and that didn’t just end you (because perhaps a body just might keep moving without a soul), what else might happen?
Nothing pleasant, honestly.
You might become a mindless creature, an empty husk driven by nothing but a nagging hunger and a wisp of memory. Far too many courts of aethera notables keep such wretches as guard-beasts and hunters, with the most sluggish considered suitable only for simple brute labour.
That’s a fairly common fate.
Or you might get to hold onto your sense of self. Your soul may be empty, you may feel — you may be — as fragile as a blown-glass bubble, and you may hunger for what you’ve lost, but you retain mind and will and you have choices. You can chase after what you’ve lost, for one, or you may become a scavenger — or predator — of soulstuff of your own accord, or perhaps you choose a path of agonizing asceticism, or …
Sometimes, that latter fate may even overtake one who still clings to some portions of their soul. Which does protect against becoming a husk, at least. Even if you lose the last remnants of your soul, you are assured to keep your awareness.
If you do become one of the Faded, what does that mean in practical terms?
– magic or other effects that target the soul no longer work on you, either because you no longer have one or because the scrap you have left is too withered to be affected
– you can sense the presence of loose soulstuff close by with a Psyche test (Wis check), unless it’s warded or protected in some way
– you may choose to cause soul-rending instead of physical injury when you attack a target, with a 1-in-6 chance of a recoverable fragment of soul lingering afterwards. (provided your target has a soul to begin with.)
That’s the neutral-to-positive points.
There’s more negative ones, naturally.
– first and foremost is the hunger. you are at -1 to all tests due to the emptiness inside your self, which you can abate for a time by devouring soulstuff; the more, and the more powerful, the longer you can last, from a few hours for the simplest shards to a month or more for soul portions drawn from an influential, resplendent, powerful being.
– even though your self is still intact, your memory has taken a beating; you’ve lost up to a quarter of your memories, and recalling significant events or knowledge requires a Psyche test
– your empty self is unnerving and offputting, giving your Disadvantage on social interactions unless with close confederates or those sympathetic to your plight
– you heal poorly; normal healing occurs at half the usual rate, while magical or other unusual forms fail half the time.
[there are no tests or percentages or the like given for becoming one of the Faded, for a very simple reason: some may want these fates to be a common sword to hang over soul-barterers’ heads; other may wish these to be rare birds indeed; yet others may wish to discard the idea altogether. as always, set the odds to your own discretion — and make sure everyone playing is equally comfortable with whatever is decided.]
Needless to say, the denizens of the Manifold Palaces are seldom pleased to find one of the Faded loose in their domains …
Naturally, the denizens of the realms beyond don’t wait for folks to shuffle off their mortal coil if they can help it. No, there’s quicker and more efficient methods to acquire the lucre that keeps the planes spinning, and it doesn’t even have to mean stealing it (though that’s also an option).
After all, if they have something you want (soulstuff, essence), and you have something they want – why not make a deal? Just sign on the dotted line …
The Soul Trade
Every sapient being (and most non-sapient beings) has a soul or spirit, that un-measurable thing that makes them them. What many of them don’t realize is that you don’t need your whole soul to still be your whole you; it’s possible to give part of your soul away. More than once, at that!
Which is very convenient for soul-hungry denizens of the Manifold Palaces, because oh do they have wonders to offer. Tutoring in esoteric wisdoms, powerful magics and exotic enchantments, the bestowing of reshaped forms and invigorating new powers, promises of favours or particular pacts – all these and more may tumble from rarefied aetheran hands. The denizens of the Cerulean Hell specialize in negotiating just these contracts — for a small consideration of their own — above and beyond their own, more intimate pledges, while the Iron Judges will descend like silent blades on those who violate them.
There’s a sting, however. (Of course there is.) Even if one has made the most upstanding of trade-pacts with the most honourable of aetheras, you have still given away a part of your soul. And, while slivering off pieces won’t unmake you – unless you give away that last tiny shard – if enough of your soul winds up in one individual’s possession, that individual can exert influence on you. Influence that becomes harder and harder to resist, the more of your soul they possess.
So keep two things in mind:
• The more parts you break your soul into, the smaller the portion you keep, and fractions are jerks
• The Manifold Palaces run on the soul trade, and that does mean trade. And all someone has to do is have a greater investment in your soul than you do; they don’t have to start that way, and you don’t have a guarantee that your soul portions stay where you think they started …
The Price of Life
In the Foundations, soulstuff is valuable – it’s still an accepted currency – but the high and mighty and their imitators have a taste for something a touch more concrete. That something is Essence, and to drink deep and bear away a portion of your animating force, the more amiable (or devious) of the primals are happy to make a trade for it.
It’s not enough for you to bleed for them, after all; what they want is part of your vital Essence, and without great effort you aren’t getting that back. On the upside, there’s no tit-for-tat strings attached the way there is for the soul trade – you’ve lost vitality, and you’re arguably one step closer to death, but you aren’t risking being controlled without warning.
Essence: Is your permanent Essence score. If you have an Essence of 4 and you sign away a point of Essence for benefits, you now have an Essence of 3. You can buy it back up again with advancement points, if that’s a campaign option, but bartered Essence costs double to replace (buying Essence after that reverts to normal costs).
Soul: Your soul is measured in points equal to your (Psyche + Essence)/2, a “soulstuff pool” if you will. As long as your character retains at least one point in that pool, they’re still good to go (although they’re going to look mighty moth-eaten and unappealing to folks looking to barter, and to anyone who can sense integrity of selfhood for that matter). Buying up your traits will “grow” your soul back a bit, but this can start getting expensive fast …
[for games hewing more like B/X and its friends before and after, a character’s tradable Essence pool can be considered equal to its Hit Dice, while its Soul pool is (Wis + 1/2 Cha). yes, this means losing a Hit Die of hit points.]
Soul Trade Practicalities
So you’ve agreed to part with a piece of your soul. Or more than one. Or you’ve happened to come into possession of someone else’s soul or pieces thereof. Or maybe you want to keep your intrinsic self intact, but you don’t mind sharing your vital essence and giving a bit of life up for something more tangible.
Whichever it may be, you have a commodity and an interested party (or, again, more than one); but what might that commodity get you?
Here are some guidelines for bartering your life and soul away; but prices can always fluctuate, and remember — not all entities honour their bargains, and even the most upstanding may not actually have what you’re looking for.
Trifle (1-2 points): +1 to relevant Attribute on a specific type of test (poisons, scholarship), +2 AP (mystical armour, scales, metallic skin, force-mantle), lost knowledge, a specific ring-pattern, mundane valuables, a specific physical feature (including unusual colours or limbs or ornaments), a spell or trait, an enemy’s weakness, unusual esoterica (sponsorship, tutoring, letter of recommendation)
Boon (3-4 points): 1-2 increase to Attribute or Essence, Advantage on a specific type of test (poisons, scholarship), secrets taken to the grave, a specific physical feature that grants a special power, +3-4 AP, several spells, a single soulshard from someone else, enchanted critter companion, removing (or placing) a curse, creating a manor (or equivalent) from nothing
Treasured Boon (5-6): a grimoire of spells, elemental/environmental immunity, powerful enchanted object or weapon, defeating or killing an enemy or rival, granting a trifle or boon to a third party, exotic materials or resources, dramatic environmental reshaping, someone’s memories, innate elemental or other form of ranged attack (calling lightning, “spirit sword” at will, psychic beams)
And yeah, I basically used the tried-and-true thematic subdivisions, because
1) they work so why change it
2) they’ve existed through all branches of specfic as well as through sff rpgs
However! My end results have seven paths/schools/disciplines/whatever, instead of the “usual” (A)D&D six, for the following reasons and rambling train of thought to get to the end result:
1) I liked some of the ideas behind the Metapsionics discipline in 2e, but not all of them, and also the idea of locking stuff behind/into “the uber discipline” was and is annoying
2) similarly I really like the Metacreativity discipline in 3e, because making stuff is cool, manipulating ectoplasm — originally as much considering a psychic manifestation as a ~ghosty manifestation, thanks so much Ghostbusters *grumbles* — is cool, and why I never liked anything to do with crystal anythings why do you ask *shifty look*
3) if psionics is powered by your will, your “you”, your spirit/soul/insert-whatever-term, there should be spirit stuff in general
4) buuuut I hate the (often frankly creepy and not in a horror way) “occult” trappings that get slathered all over that end of things (a turnoff I have with Pathfinder’s approach to psionics, for example, because it lays it on thick)
5) I wanted to try to avoid the exoticizing/Orientalizing that keeps slinking into psionics stuff, from names to definitions
Also “telepathy” needed some tweaking, although in the end it really is about messing with people’s minds as much as talking to them and that’s annoying. I’ve avoided the worst mind control, though, I hope.
So in the end I have seven groups, labeled with one-word titles because frankly I think a good amount of the “psionics doesn’t belong in fantasy” crowd — aside from having missed whole branches of the fantasy genre in general for the many decades — are put off by the oft-deliberate pseudo-scientific name schemes in place.
– Sight (“clairsentience”)
– Mind (“telepathy”)
– Body (“psychometabolism”)
– Forces (“psychokinetics”)
– Motion (“psychoportation”)
– Matter (3e “metacreativity”, tweaked just a smidge)
– Spirit (“metapsionics” 2e stripped down and recombined with spirit- and ghosty- and intangible stuff)
Twelve talents each, and I did my best to avoid jargon with the talent names also. (oh gawd I wrote another 80-odd thingers plz end me *lol*)
Hopefully I get some simple formatting done and these up by the end of the week or maybe next week. Definitely debating over a CC version also though.
And of course, nothing’s stopping anyone from using these, once they’re up, as just another pile of spells to add to a spell pool anyway; there’s nothing inherently different about them in the end. It’s all cool.
Sometimes a spell needs cast, but the target is nowhere around. Or they moved out of range (that jerk), or they were never actually really in range to begin with (dammit) but you just know they need that cure spell/fireball/dark hex dropped on their head and they needed it yesterday.
There’s a way to get around that!
The downside is that it’s not the nice swift casting many sorcerers, wyches and swordmages are used to. Not by a long shot.
The upside is that not only can you whittle that loooong timeframe down, you can also choose to boost the spell’s power the same way — by throwing bodies and treasure at the problem. Sort of like everything else in the world, when you think about it.
The basic premise is:
– You need a catalyst to fuel such extended spellcasting.
– You need to know where your target is (scrying magic is totally allowable).
– If you don’t also know your target well, you need a physical sample or a closely-associated object to draw the connection to the target.
– Any casting will take one hour, minimum. For every 10 miles away, add another hour.
– Anyone, including the target, who can sense magical energies will notice the buildup halfway through the process — and some may have the ability to target you, back through the building spell.
However, there are mitigating circumstances to make this slightly less painful:
– For every extra caster taking part in the ritual, either the total time may be lowered by one hour, or the spell (or the test against it) can be given a one-increment boost — another effective level’s damage die, if using those, or a save against it is given a -1 penalty, for example.
– Non-casters can help, but each requires an additional catalyst and, on top of that, take 1d3 “damage” to an ability for 24 hrs.
So if you really, really badly want that long-distance spell cast — or just to seriously boost a spell result closer to home — put in the time and give it a shot.
01. dragon’s tear 02. jadetree twig 03. lunargent ingot 04. lock of bloodlord’s hair 05. page of centuries-old manuscript 06. pair of darkwolf teeth 07. shadowmoth cocoon 08. swordsaint’s relic 09. angel’s talon 10. solaurum ingot 11. chain of blue-celestine links 12. consecrated altar-wood
Oh no, the spell was thwarted! What was the cause?
01. Nullmagic zone 02. Circle of countercasting ritualists 03. Sleeping in protective circle inscribed by tusk-wand 04. Was in a holy (or unholy) sanctuary 05. Peach-stone talisman, now charred 06. Angelic intervention 07. Diabolic intervention 08. Pact with a bloodlord 09. Transferred spell to second, willing target 10. Location and/or identity of target was not in fact accurate 11. Purified by salt and rose petals 12. Flaw in catalyst(s) used by ritual
Something I poke at on occasion is oversized (“dire”, “grand”, etc) weapons.
Because yes, sometimes I just want to play Cloud for a while, and I’m not even sorry.
So how to go about it with most of the games I’ve been poking at lately? (Exalted, of course, has this answer baked in already, so it can doodle in the corner over there for a while.) What needs to be covered to fit a sword that’s more like a sharpened steel ironing board into a game?
The way I see it, you need:
– the ironing-board-sized sword (or whatever)
– how its going to be wielded
– what it’s going to do
– what other results/effects
Now, the last thing I want is anything complicated, and while I could just try to bolt on Exalted’s reasoning, it’s fairly intrinsic to Exalts-as-existing-in-universe so that could get a little weird just about anywhere else. (but hold that thought for another time. lol.) I want something fairly simple, so I can apply it to OSE or Black Hack or Wandering Jewel Moons or whatever; sort of like my scratch rules for adding mecha.
So, I think I’ll tinker around with the following.
– A “grand” weapon adds a die of the appropriate type to its damage. Big chopper based on a standard sword in OSE? 2d8. This does still have a low end, but even slabs of metal can just graze.
– You cannot deal subdual damage with a “grand” weapon. (come on, now.)
So how to introduce these? Maybe
– If your system has any kind of class or other abilities, make “Grand Weapon Wielder” an optional choice. Replace one of the Warrior abilities in TBH; make it a selectable Trait in Wandering Jewel Moons; add it to the list of OSE Fighter combat options from Carrion Crawler #1 or let it replace a feature from the Cavalier or Paladin. You get the idea.
But what if your Fighter is a basic Fighter type, with no extras? Or if you don’t want someone to pay for the ability mechanically in quite that way?
– Then I suppose you can say a Strength/Body/whatever minimum is needed; say 17-18 on the usual 3d6 possibility. Maybe 16-18 or even 15, you want PCs to be able to do this or why put it in there as an option?
Yes, it’s a lot of damage. Yes, that’s the entire point.
What these behemoths will do, though, even if their wielder knows what they’re doing, is get in the way the rest of the time. Even if you can and know how to carry the thing, that slab is big, awkward, and intractible.
Which means they eat up encumbrance like a mofo.
Play a game with equipment/encumbrance slots? A Grand weapon eats at least two. Probably three. Definitely twice a normal weapon of its type, for sure.
Track encumbrance by weight? The thing weighs a shitton. This will vary by actual weapon of course, but come on now, the Buster Sword is surely easily comparable to a pile of armour in weight at the very least.
And if you want to be devilish, say if Grand weapons are enchanted (if they are enchanted at all) they have a high chance of being sentient if not sapient. And willful. Lol.
Work on my pocket-planes addon has gotten some core portions committed to words. Yay!
One of those is ringwalking; in other words, how all this dimensional-planar-world travel is actually happening a lot of the time.
(not all the time, of course, because there’s still plenty of place for mysterious arches and exactingly-wrought spells and magical doodads that just need twisted and poked in the right way)
Do your characters like collecting patterns and brushing up on calligraphy and illo work by any chance?
To ringwalk across the planes, one must be taught; and then, one must have learned the pattern of the ring of ghostly sigils that needs to be inscribed (on a surface or even in empty air, though that’s certainly more difficult) in order to open said ring and walk on through to the other side ~
Inscribing a ring requires two successful tests, one of Alacrity and one of Psyche. Failing the Psyche test means that the ring fails to ignite at all; failing the Alacrity test means a flaw in the pattern of sigils, and you wind up somewhere other than the intended destination, and the greater the failure of the test the farther out you find yourself.
1 advancement point may be spent to indicate the memorization of a specific pattern to the point that no rolls need be made barring extreme circumstances.
Inscribing a ring will take at least a few minutes, even if the pattern has been memorized. (2d6 is a nice roll.) Conditions at the time may add to that!
Some patterns are easy to inscribe, the plane familiar (like one’s home) or easy to reach, and give a bonus (+1 to +3) to one or both attributes; similarly, others are fiendishly tricky, or the plane is distant, tenuously connected, barricaded by gods or dragons or wards, or otherwise a complication.
It’s possible to find patterns that have been written down! Of course, whether enough information is also there to say anything about the destination is a trickier question, and so is the accuracy of any such information — or the accuracy of the sigils themselves, for that matter. More than one ringwalker learned a broken ring from physical records and found themselves walking into very unexpected terrain indeed.