Monday, November 28, 2011

Cool Down

I am going to a take a break from blogging for a week or two. I'm starting a new shift at work that is the opposite of my previous shift, so I'll be adjusting to reversing my sleep pattern, plus I have some divorce stuff that needs to be taken care of as well. I also feel like I just plain need to take a breather and recharge the ole batteries and that sort of thing. In the meantime, if anyone has some ideas for something they'd like me to post about when I get back into it, please feel free to leave a comment. Perhaps Jeremy or Eric will post something as well, as the are technically co-authors of this blog. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fourthcore: For Real This Time

So we finally got around to playing C1: Crucible of the Gods. This scenario is a first level introduction into Fourthcore gameplay by Save Versus Death. The premise of the adventure is that every twenty-five years the gods want to drown the world in saltwater and heroes of the generation must journey into the ziggurat and face the trials of each of the four gods to appease them and prove that civilization is worthy enough to continue. I have a metric shit ton of respect for Sersa V and his guiding principles of Fourthcore, this scenario is one of my favorite published adventures. The scenario is intelligently and expertly designed and just savagely unrelenting in its unwillingness to let you make any mistakes. 

Short version of the post: I feel like we botched it.  

Earlier in the week Fred requested that instead of playing the next Hekinoe scenario on the weekend, we play Fourthcore. I was not opposed to this, and had him ask our Facebook group what they thought. Some responded with a Hell yes, others took a pretty significant time to respond. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal, but I had no prep work done for this scenario as I was trying to focus primarily on Hekinoe. 

I feel I should point out that there may be spelling and other errors in this post, I am typing with Cathulhu on my lap and she has decided to savage my wrist because the typing is jostling her too much. I love cats. 

So, I kind of kicked everything into gear when we all agreed to play Fourthcore and spend three quarters of a day off prepping my battlemats, writing notes on the more fiddly encounter mechanics and random elements of the game, and did some printing for the card decks needed for the scenario. Over the course of the week I read the adventure about a dozen times to make sure I had it all handled. Now, this is all standard DnD prep work for scenarios. The difficulty is that I wasn't as prepared as I needed to be. I am just unused to running pre-made adventures and making your own campaign world and scenarios gives you something of an intrinsic knowledge of the scenario that really cuts down on the effort needed for prep work. So I kind of botched it there. 

Fourthcore isn't necessarily no holds barred tricky/killer DMing, it is more along the lines of a competition. The players are competing with the DM. I feel like Jeremy isn't a good fit for that style of gaming. Jeremy is great to talk to about the fiddly bits of the background of Hekinoe, but he is not a rules man. He has never really "gotten" any edition of DnD. He does enjoy 4th Edition and has a solid handle on it. But Fourthcore isn't straightforward in its interpretation of the rules of 4th Edition and does a lot of things that are advised against in the DMG. He did fine in what we did play of the scenario (I'll get to that later), but I think some of the more epic encounters would have ended up like the Tomb of Horrors where his character just kind of stood in the middle of a room doing nothing while a trap went off, not because he couldn't do anything, but just because he didn't know what to do and isn't really a critical thinker when it comes to rules in DnD (background and plot is an entirely different issue, one at which he excels). At a point like that in a normal campaign where I care about my players and their characters I would say something like "Well, you have a Perception skill, perhaps you could use that to find the trap and then use Disable Device to disable it." In Fourthcore, you don't do that. The players explore and interact with the environment with no prompting or advice or reminders from the DM, except in a few specific instances.  

The way the scenario ended up was that everyone was late and it lasted for about an hour. Which kind of blew and is what I mean about botching it. Showing up late was annoying because, you know, it is fucking annoying and Lance had stuff to do later, but we got to bullshit for a bit, so that was cool. Fourthcore is about Hellacious challenges and bloody death and unfortunately the guys did not get to experience any of that. There are four trials in the Cruicible, one for each of the gods and kind of centered on each god's schtick. Lyth is the mother of beasts so they had to answer some riddles about monsters that have existed in every edition of DnD and Asar-Seght is the god of rituals and human sacrifice, so they had to perform a golem creating ritual. The scenario is designed so that you only need three of the four divine skulls in the ziggurat, if you happen to get all four there are significant rewards for doing so. So, the guys botched the first two trials. They didn't die or get dismembered, they just failed the riddles of Lyth and the skill challenge to create and animate a golem, which meant they could not complete the scenario. So instead of glorious death and dismemberment, the scenario ended with a muffled yawn. Not how I wanted to end my first Fourthcore session. 

I feel like the failure of the Asar-Seght ritual was more on me than on the players and low skill check rolls. The presentation of the skill challenge in the pdf is very general with the idea that a lot of DMs implement skill challenges differently so they left stuff deliberately vague, aside from a few specific tweaks. I kind of left it just as vague in my implementation, so there wasn't much structure to the whole thing. So I feel like their fumbling was more on me than them. If/when we go back into the ziggurat, I think I would give the challenge more structure and use some ideas Lance grabbed from a podcast he listens to. There is something to be said for allowing the players to justify which skill they're using and why it is appropriate for the situation, I like that, but I feel like the challenge was too general and unstructured and at times they didn't have a clear understanding of what they needed to do.

Martel had a few qualms about the design of Fourthcore and I feel like I didn't adequately address them the day of the scenario. One of her curiosities was about the so called over the top rewards of Fourthcore as a reward for the overpowered challenges as these scenarios don't seem to be a series and are more designed along the lines of one shots played and played again until you win. The standard rewards for Fourthcore are far more powerful than the standard rewards for regular DnD. There was a lot of loot available in the ziggurat and it is consistently more useful than a +1 sword or wand. Additionally, some of the rewards in a Fourtcore adventure are keyed to the adventure in such a way that they have obscenely beneficial abilities in certain circumstances in the scenario. There are several objects that can be found in the ziggurat than can make certain challenges almost mundane.  

Another issue that she had was that if each generation knows that the trials are coming up, wouldn't they have trained and trained and been generally awesome at the challenges of the ziggurat? Which is a nice solid line of logic. In a normal campaign. Fourthcore does not care whether or not the background logic makes sense. There is a dragon in the ziggurat. What the Hell does it eat in the twenty-five years between adventurers showing up? Everything else in the place is undead and the dragon sits alone in its section with some trees. Fourthcore is very game centric, the world is a window dressing only there to facilitate the player being where they are doing whatever the adventure is about them doing. 

So in closing, I would like to try Fourthcore again and I hope everyone else would be into it. Anyone else have any thoughts on the whole thing?

Music: Schaffer the Darklord - The Rappist
Music: Schaffer the Darklord - Cat People
Music: Schaffer the Darklord - Nerd Lust

Incidentally, the kitten went bonkers when I put on Cat People, as it does feature a variety of feline hissing, mewing, roaring noises. I was humorous. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Alternate Rules: Leveling

I've had this idea for a while, since at least 3.0. So one of the things that has always bothered me about level advancement and such in DnD is the sudden jump in power. All of a sudden, literally from the one hour to the next, you suddenly are more durable, cast more potent spells, are stronger, faster, and hit more accurately with your weapons. Granted, that is a feature of a level progression system. GURPS flows a lot more "realistically" with a slower, steadier progression based on your actions.

One of the original ideas I had in this vein was that when you level, you can only improve stuff you used. You can't add skill points to Listen or Jump or that sort of thing unless you actually use those skills at some point during the past few scenarios. You can't pick up Dodge unless an attack misses you or Mobility unless an attack of opportunity misses you while you ramble on through a battle mat.

A later idea I had in this vein was that instead of experience points improving your level, you spend them to buy feats and skill points and spells and bonuses to saving throws and attack rolls and that sort of thing. With this system, you're more versatile and can basically make your own classes and advancement. You don't have to take levels in Wizard and Fighter to be a fighter mage, you can just focus on purchasing attack bonus, weapon proficiencies, Intelligence and Strength bonuses, some spells and that sort of thing. Unfortunately, I could not mathematically come up with a system to break down the point costs of various abilities and the potential cost for them. I tried, oh did I try, but it was a trying system to implement. Plus, most of my players don't particularly care about how leveling happens, just that it does eventually happen.

One of the things that brings this old idea to mind is playing Skyrim, or watching Tony play it. It is a pretty simple system, the more you do stuff, the better you get at it. Shoot bows and you get better at bows. When you improve a set number of skills, your level increases and you can increase health, stamina, or magicka, and you get a perk. Perks are perks, they are like feats that tweak something. For instance, an archery one allows you to zoom, and a light armor one makes it so light armor doesn't weigh anything when you have it equipped.  It is a system I've always loved, and one that kind of resembles some of the down time skill improving systems present in GURPS. 

I'm not too overly concerned with this alternate leveling system, sudden increases in power are kind of a sacred cow in DnD. It is after all a class based system and not a skill based. It was just kind of a neat idea that appealed to me and Skyrim has it on my mind. Also, Skyrim is a pretty cool game. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Magic Items Needed! Halp!

Magic is wonky, upgrade system, blah, blah, etc.

So, the upgrade system was easy to build. Items have a limit to how much they can be enchanted, +10 is the max. Each enhancement bonus and ability has a point modifier, +1 enhancement is +1 and brilliant energy is like +4 for instance. Most of those abilities are easy to hand wave into technology, shocking and shocking burst are now alternating current and direct current batteries that can be installed onto your swords, flaming is now channels built into your blade that can be filled with oil and lit on fire by a striker in the crossguard of the weapon. Armor that conveys electricity resistance is now armor built with thick rubber lining instead of padding. Obviously, it is hard to find a fit for stuff like vorpal and brilliant energy (though I have ideas for that one), but I believe that I have the basics covered. 

Basically, what I am saying is that weapons and armor are easy. The upgrades are slightly more limited than magical enhancement, most weapons can only have 4-8 points of upgrade, rather than the 10 of magic items, but upgrades do not require craft magic item feats to use, just ranks in craft skills to build them yourself, or marks to buy them. Being able to build them yourself makes them considerably cheaper than magic items as well, while the general industrialization of Hekinoe makes them far more accessible than magic items are in a typical campaign. 

So the problem is that there is no equivalent system for wondrous items or rings and the like. Some things, like the Ring of Shocking Grasp or Gauntlets of Ogre Power (neither of which actually exist in Pathfinder) are easy. Basically a taser and steam driven locking gauntlet set up that attaches to a suit of medium or heavy armor and grants a strength bonus to one arm. Others, like the Amulet of Natural Armor or Cloak of Resistance or Bracers of Armor.

Back in the day (a 2nd Edition AD&D Wednesday), I had this pretty slick cyborg/biomod system based off of Deus Ex for a campaign we were playing that was more or less low magic. But that feels mostly ridiculous, which is not to say there aren't already some clockwork steampunk cyborgs already running around. Anyway, I just don't feel like a system of augmentations really fits with Hekinoe. Perhaps next campaign, when they're robots built by A'lst to go back in time and save Kusseth. 

One thought I've had in the past for this wondrous item issue is trying to make it like snake oil salesman style stuff. I tried it back when we were still using 4th Edition, but everyone was kind of like, whatever, and didn't seem to interested. My thought was that you buy Johnson and Steven's Ultimate Homeopathic Lifetime Supply of High Octane Ultravitamins to Energize and Revitalize Your Levels of Vim and Vigor! and gain a bonus on all your saving throws sort of in lieu of a Cloak of Resistance. The problem there is that you have a cloak spot item taken up by a daily vitamin and you get players that freak out because they can't wear a magic cloak while chowing down on their vitamins. Also, writing nonsense like the titles for all of these snake oil elixirs, salves, and so on could get exhausting. 

I guess my final thought/ruling on the matter is that stuff that is easy to convert like the Belt of Giant's Strength or the Cloak of Elvenkind, will get converted. Oddball stuff like Belt of Constitution, Crown of Blasting, and Horn of Valhalla will remain as is. If you want it, buy it and deal with the consequences of playing with sorcery. There is a reason sorcery is feared and reviled and fined extensively. 

Or you could go buy some psionic items. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

God's Eye View of Hekinoe

On the southern shore of Orcunraytrel, Fell Human and Elduman pirates unload barrels of wolf-iron weaponry while Goebleen raiders unload chests of stolen Asosan gold. The weapons are overly large for the Goebleen, for they are short, but they are pleased nonetheless by their imported weaponry that outclasses the iron and steel of the kingdom of Asosa that they prey upon.

In the vast desert of Serethnem, a thicket of black brambles grows where no water exists, enveloping a tall, horribly burned corpse. The corpse's lover looks on as the brambles glow, slaying any Sereth that would approach the dead thing and call it the reincarnation of their Briar King.

In a tower on the southwest shore of Ieanegatniv two Elduman brothers stare at the red eyed obsidian skeleton of their father, each turning their vast arts to the preservation of their land while an army of Trolls, Panthermen, and Cinder Ghosts attempts to destroy all they've sought to create.

In The New Empire, an Elduman in the black and red of the witch hunters rides across the arid plains with his warriors hunting his son. The red-eyed son, his own warriors in tow, in turn hunts the father while seeking to burn all the father has achieved to the ground.The citizens of the empire live in fear of the iron fisted discipline of the father and the madness of the son.

In The South, the Gods of the Deep Earth coil around an egg the size of a great ursine. Tendrils of smoky shadow coil around the egg. Around the Gods of the Deep Earth, Varanid warriors and shamans die in droves as they fight shadow monsters that suck the life and energy from the all those in the cavern. High above the battle, hidden and waiting, a Lacerat meditates and prepares to call upon all the powers he possesses in an attempt to save all that he has created from destruction.

Deep beneath the earth on the border of Kusseth and Whurent, an Abraxen commander takes cover behind hastily constructed barricades and lobs a grenade at the advancing Dwenoren. Watching grimly as yet another  handful of his Blackcoats falls to the guns of the stumpies. The ground thunders as a clattering, smoke belching, bipedal war machine clanks and stomps out of the darkness and unleashes a hail of gunfire against the Kusseth soldiers.

In the swamps of Fresgulen the Ethryll ride their great and ill tempered swamp beasts along a black scar cut across their lands by sorcery. The Norvenmik watch as they pass their settlements, but the Ethryll ignore their long time foes, for they seek a new foe to feed upon in the mountains. In the long derelict fortresses of the Norvenmik, the Mawkethnay note the approach of the Ethryll and chitter their excitement at the approach of worthy foes.

Deep in the ancient ruins of the unnamed Glenwighta empire, freed Solwighta and Conwighta break through the final barrier leading into a collapsed tunnel leading into one of their lost cities. Within the lost ruins they find a breeding ground of cave wights and soon the dusty black streets of city run thick with the pale blood of cave wight and Glenwighta alike.

Amid the ruins of The Isle of Crystalline Towers, a lone Elduman strides through the wastes, the gritty wind tugging at his loose fitting clothes. A shriek echoes out of the ruins around him and his head jerks in the direction of the noise. His bronze bell-mouthed rifle comes off of his shoulder and he kneels and begins firing thunderous shots out into the gritty darkness of the knife-edged wind. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

More On Sorcery 101

This post is going to be about sorcery in my campaign, buckle up. Magic is unreliable in my world, untrustworthy, and prone to mutating living flesh into pretty much anything imaginable. It runs the gamut from acidy spit to shadow powers. This is a vast departure from "normal" magic in a DnD campaign setting. I'm going to blow your mind here in a second. Buckle up more.

Magic isn't broken.

Here's the thing, Eric has wanted in the past to fix magic or modify it in a way to stabilize it in a permanent fashion that allows him to utilize magic items freely and without any of the flaws I deliberately placed in the whole system. He wants to take a campaign feature I instituted for a specific reason, and make it fit his version of DnD. Magic is the way it is for a reason, and trying to fix it would be like trying to fix oxygen in our atmosphere to make it work better or some such.

Magic is not in any way broken, it is exactly as I envisioned it performing in this world. When compared to a conventional DnD campaign, yes, it is broken, but Hekinoe is not a conventional DnD campaign. Sorcery is an external power source that humanoids can draw on for power to shape with their desires and willpower. The true source of this is not in any way shape or form known or understood, it is just sorcery to its practitioners. It can be manipulated and shaped and controlled, but never completely, thus the misfires and such. There is too much energy in sorcery for mortals to control, so they must bleed it off via incantations and complex gestures, or through training regimes designed to improve their control. Sometimes a spell has so much power that it misfires to release the excess energy or afflicts the caster with some unnatural condition related to the type of spell he cast.

So, I've written this before, but I feel the need to reiterate it. I deliberately made magic the way it is because I wanted players to shy away from sorcery of any kind, then I created various background material reasons for why magic operates the way it does. The reason for doing so is because I love psionics. For too long I have felt that psionics was kind of the red headed step child of DnD. I could list a dozen or two reasons why I feel this way, but at this point I feel it is irrelevant. Things are the way they are. 

Because of my personal beliefs I have altered the way magic works in my campaign to make psionics more appealing. Psionics, like the upgrade system, is one hundred percent reliable and safe. Regardless of the original intent of my plan to fuck over magic, I really like the way it turned out. The various misfire effects are neat and fun to create. It is a pity no one, aside from Lance, opted to play a psionic class though. They're pretty cool and I really like some of the stuff that Dreamscarred Press is doing, I mean, they're no Malhavoc Press, but they get the job done. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

1st of Ninthmonth, 9995 DK

A Note: This is not the next chapter in The Robust Five story I have been posting. This is just something I felt like writing, it follows the events of the eighth scenario of the previous campaign.

The Braun mansion was silent in the night, the air still and only the sounds of sleeping were heard in the upper portions. The day had been long and deadly, John's flesh a burned wreckage repaired by Xein's sorcery and each member of The Robust Five left sickened and nauseated by the effects of the sorcery within the catacombs of black glass beneath Meroteth. Only two remained awake in the depths of the mansion, one an unsleeping sentinel of iron and steel, the other a concerned brother.

Kethranmeer worked in the depths of the mansion in his freshly constructed forge and D'alton, pale and sickly looking from the sorcery of the evening, sat on a table cleaning his guns and knives. Kethranmeer had removed his chest piece, revealing the copper coils and sparking contacts of A'lst's lightning heart and D'alton marveled at the complexity of it. Every time Kethranmeer moved those heavy limbs of his there was a whine of electrical current and the sparking lines of electricity brightened considerably. Within his chest was the only portion of Kethranmeer that did not look worn and dented and rusty.

"Brother," said D'alton weakly and quietly, his face pained, "you look like shit."

"Kethranmeer thanks brother D'alton for his eloquent concern."

D'alton's glacial eyes glowed like the moon with reflected light from his brother's chest as he said, "Brother, dispense with Thoeleknair's mannerisms, I am too weary from battle."

Kethranmeer nodded, "Fair enough, brother. I thank you for your concern, but steel and iron endure as much as fresh forged wolf-iron when layered heavily enough. My sons have need of my flesh."

D'alton scoffed, "We have need of your flesh, death drew close to us today, brother. A dragon, never have we fought something so deadly. John lays weak and wounded above us, his face whole only because of Xein's sorcery."

Kethranmeer set aside the wolf-iron chest piece and placed a battered looking twin of it atop his anvil, this piece cold forged from crude iron. He hammered it here and there, rust flaking as he did so. The pounding grew fierce and D'alton slid from the tabletop and closed the heavy door to the forge.

"They sleep above us, brother, and they have need of it."

"Fair enough," rumbled Kethranmeer.

D'alton sagged against the wall, his limbs and body more exhausted than after a day in the mines of Beltan. He was Fell-Human in origin, but as thin blooded as Xein, despite his eyes, and the sorcerous traps of the evening had left him subdued and sickly. He only clung to consciousness out of worry for his brother.

"What do you do here, brother? Stripping away your strength piece by piece and gifting it to those mindless beasts beyond the doors."

Kethranmeer's hammer flew from his grasp and put a dent into a different wolf-iron door of the forge.

"Spineplate was a beast, mindless and full of naught but wrath and hate for all that was flesh and could feel. I am Kethranmeer now, gone is the Beast, gone is Spineplate. As A'lst before me has done, I have found the wounded and broken and would gift them with what I have achieved. I take from them all they knew, all they hold dear, I kill what they are and replace it with madness, for that crime, I sacrifice of myself in the hope that they return to sentience as I did. Of my unfeeling flesh, I build a family."

"But why, brother? What do you seek? We are brothers, we live among friends and allies."

Kethranmeer snarled, "Silent John that cares nothing for anything beyond our next battle? Mad Derf, the liar and wretched sorcerer that you all put too much faith in? Xein the businessman? These are our swordbrothers? When Nakmander tires of our services shall we all then retire to Xein's bar and become bartenders and waiters?"

The lightning heart within Kethranmeer surged with blue-white ferocity as the once-Soulless turned to face his brother.

"I seek more than that brother. The challenge of battle was once enough for me, I have ever been a stalker of battlefields and bringer of death, but I desire more than that now. I am Kethranmeer, warrior of steel flesh and steel mind. To sit in this city, protecting a bar and busting heads for a sorcerer is not how I would end my days. My flesh, even rusted as it is now, will never fail me. To die in battle, shattered and rent apart my foes is one thing, but to pass into monotony as a bouncer or die at the hands of another's foes shall not be how I end my days."

D'alton stepped forward and ineffectually shoved his brother, his limbs weak and shaking, "Then what? Who are Kethranmeer's foes? Who shall he die in battle against? Speak brother, pull yourself from the trap of your own self-enforced restraint and call me to battle as well!"

"The Fallen Empire. The Bleak Tyrant. The Black Souled Monks of the Necropolis. I name these as my foes," whispered Kethranmeer.

"Are you Nakmander, then? A freedom fighter mad enough to believe he can tear down an entire nation?"

Kethranmeer growled, and the ice blue slush of D'alton's blood stilled in his veins, for he heard the Beast in that growl.

"No, brother D'alton. I am a slave, as I have been for almost one hundred and fifty years. The Soulless are slaves to the Fallen and only because of A'lst and the betrayal by my own masters am I now free. I would grant the rest of my people freedom as well, by a kinder fate than being left for scrap in a lightless cave, as I was."

D'alton nodded, remembering his short eight years in Beltan, "What can I do to help, brother?"

"Be patient. My sons need time to return to stability, A'lst needs more time to craft lightning hearts. I will stay here, working with Nakmander until my Rankethlek mature. When they do, they will go out among Soulless and free them from the control of the Fallen that possess their minds and when the time is right, we shall forge our own race and our own nation from the chains the Fallen placed upon us."

D'alton stepped forward and gripped the iron flesh of his brother's forearms and Kethranmeer returned the gesture. When cool flesh meant forge warmed metal, tendrils of darkness spread from under D'alton's palm and wrapped around the limb of the once-Soulless. D'alton leapt away as if trying to escape his treacherous flesh.

Kethranmeer's hand and arm clanked as he shook lingering tendrils of shadow from his limb, they dripped to the floor like oil and snaked towards D'alton's shadow. 

"Your control weakens, brother."

If possible, D'alton looked more shaken than he already was, sweat sprang out on his brow and his shoulders shook, "I think the events in the catacombs have accelerated what Nakmander began when we met with him to buy our freedom."

A metallic rumble issued from within Kethranmeer, "I owe my existence to sorcery, and A'lst's methods, but it is a perilous beast to ride brother, and one I would never willingly trust again."

D'alton snorted, "Derf and Xein and my traitorous blood can attest to that, but it seems I have no choice in the matter. My blood cools more and more of late, my breath now mists even in the heat of Kusseth's unrelenting sun, my shadow falls where it should not and its skeletal fingers twitch upon the butts of its own guns."

Kethranmeer had ceased even the pretense of forging now and faced D'alton fully, "I have noticed, brother."

D'alton's gaze grew unfocused, his lips met in a grim line across his tired face.

Sensing his friend's descent into darkness and misery, Kethranmeer spoke, "D'alton, Have I told you before of Kardusa?"

D'alton shook his head, as Kethranmeer had expected, for it was a memorable story and he knew fully that he had not spoken of it before.

"When I fought and killed in the name of The Bleak Tyrant and his black throne...I was much more than I am now, and much less. Sorcerous fires burned within me, my wolf-iron flesh glowed red in the gaps between the plates of my limbs and chest, my talons were black stone carved from the deepest crypts of the Necropolis and knapped into a deadly sharpness by Fallen with sorcerous skills of the highest order. I was a cold killer, completely enslaved by the Fallen voices in my mind."

Kethranmeer paused for a moment, his body eerily still and his eyeless face aimed over and to the left of D'alton's face.

"I was unstoppable," he finally said.

D'alton's raised a brow at that, his friend was usually reserved and silent about his past, and never arrogant.

Kethranmeer went on, "Nakmander told you that once the sorcerer kings of The Fell Peaks and Meroteth rode to battle on dragons, domesticated and bred them in their warrens. This practice is more modern than he led you all to believe. There is a ruined city, far to the south near the border between The Fell Peaks and The Beast Lands, once known as Menteth, now a derelict ruin.

Kethranmeer flexed his fingers, remembering the black blade talons he no longer had.

"It was in Menteth that the Fell Humans hard first learned to breed dragons, originally they had attempted to control them with sorcerous mind powers as they had the Glenwighta, but that ability seemed only useful against the Glenwighta, and it has fallen far from what it once was. Regardless, they found that they could only control the dragons as you control an attack beast, and only when they were young. The older dragons got, the more intelligent and obstinate they grew."

Kethranmeer grew completely still, he was not a storyteller, and had no need to rest or quench a parched throat. His words droned on in his tinny voice, his body motionless and his hands at his sides.

He went on, "The eldest dragons were not stupid though. They could not speak, but they could make themselves understood, and they could understand the Fell Humans, in a fashion. The eldest brood dragon of the Menteth warrens was known as Kardusa. He was the most magnificent creature I have seen in my life. He was one hundred feet of sinuous black grace and muscular violence. His scales had long ago gone black, warped by the sorcery in Menteth and looked like palm-sized scales of obsidian that glittered like black diamonds."

"My masters in The Fallen Empire determined that Menteth had grown too strong. They knew of Kardusa, even across the continent, and they knew he was allied with The Fell Peaks. Kardusa was a willing dweller within the warrens, he was a strong and ancient dragon, and his young were strong as well, so he was allowed to breed as he desired, and he was allowed to leave the warrens whenever he wished. He was not a caged beast, but an ally to the empire. My creators determined that it would be my task to destroy Kardusa, to cripple the breeding program of Menteth."

"And how did the forty foot beast we fought this night compare to mighty Kardusa, brother?"

Kethranmeer made a metallic raspy noise, his equivalent of a snort of derision, "Its scales were changing as Kardusa's had, but the slug we fought was two hundred or more years behind Kardusa's evolution."

"My brothers and I, ten of us, the Kanthek Brotherhood, were veterans.  We strode into the warrens of Menteth as unstoppable juggernauts, with a cadre of Fallen following in our wake and neutralizing the sorcery of the Fell Humans. Despite this, and our strength, five of my brothers fell to their sorcery before we even encountered Kardusa. The sorcery of Fell Humans is unreliable, but as potent as that of their undead cousins."

"Despite his size, Kardusa was a silent shadow in the dark warrens, a glint of shine moving through the night as my fires reflected off of his scales. He destroyed my brothers...quickly. We cut and hacked and beat at him with our weapons, and he was wounded, but they fell too soon to the titanic black lizard. I pressed on alone, tearing great rents in its black scales with my own talons, and it tore off and ate my right arm."

"When it tried to swallow me whole, its fangs caught on my flesh and I tore out its eye in a welter of blood and fluid and it spat me across the cavern we fought in, dousing me in burning black sludge as he did so. He approached and attempted to rip off my left arm, but I channeled the sorcerous fires within me to the black talons of my claws and scoured his throat and face with blades of fire that sent him reeling."

"Forgive me for interrupting brother, but it seems as if he was very focused on eating you, despite your lack of meat."

Kethranmeer nodded, the first movement he had made in some time, "Sorcery changes living flesh, and Kardusa desired to consume the reliquary of the Fallen within me to fuel his continuing evolution. The six Fallen within me represented a vast store of necromantic sorcery that he hungered for. Also, I suspect that he understood that consuming the reliquary was the surest way to destroy me, just as destroying my lightning heart is now the only way to ensure I am irrevocably destroyed."

"Ah, I see."

"I am not a storyteller, brother. I will say that the battle was fierce, the place we fought was littered with scales and fragments of my broken body and scarred by the caustic spit of the dragon. By the end of it, he had taken my arm, half a leg, and most of my torso with his teeth and talons. Sorcery bound in fire leaked from every wound upon my body, but I slew him. I shattered his skull and shredded his brain with my fiery black talons."

"When my masters found my, I was dragging myself across the black floor of the warrens, my body studded with broken teeth and claws and leaking sorcerous fire. Kardusa had consumed two of the Fallen animating me. I was weak and broken. They did not congratulate me or thank me for me service, or try to aid in my recovery. I was a slave warrior and had served my purpose. They determined that it would be too costly to repair me, that binding more destroyed Fallen into my reliquary would make my personality too unstable. They left me there, shattered but not dying, for I could not die so long as the reliquary within me contained at least one Fallen. So there I sat in the darkness, bereft of my brothers with only the increasingly agitated and bitter Fallen within my mind to keep me company."

Kethranmeer grew silent for a moment, then spoke, "They were not kind to me. You remember the Beast, brother?"

D'alton nodded.

"As I am now to the Beast, so the Beast was to what A'lst found in those warrens. I only vaguely remember A'lst finding me. I can barely recollect the incandescent bolts of lightning from his black glove that he used to subdue me and the Fallen within me. I do not remember dying at his hands, I remember waking though, chained and howling at him, thrashing as he removed my black talons and replaced them with wolf-iron ones. I remember an absence in my mind and a sense of energy within my chest, rather than the infernal heat of sorcery."

"I was as an animal for a time. When I grew too violent, he punished me. When I served him loyally, he rewarded me with modifications to my body. When I could speak and understand, he taught me of the lightning heart and how he had obliterated the Fallen with beltanizine and how the electricity of the lightning heart sustained my animating sorceries now. He taught me Thoeleknair and granted me my name and taught me how to repair myself and the lightning heart. At first he was the master and I the hound, but as I returned to myself and became more than myself, he became the father and I the son."

Silence grew and D'alton filled it hesitantly, "I...I thank you for sharing that story with me, brother. I would ask a favor of you."

Kethranmeer nodded, "Do so."

D'alton's shadow shifted, its fingers twitching on its gunbelts on the floor as he spoke, "If these powers of shadow and cold that I am manifesting grow beyond my control, if I become something unnatural and murderous or mad..."

Kethranmeer hefted his maul, "As long as there is life within this metal body, as long as lightning thunders within me, that will not happen. I will end you before allowing you to become something foul and cease to be my brother."

D'alton's shoulders sagged and he sighed, "I thank you for that, brother."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sorcerous Materials 101

This post is about magic items and the purchasing and unreliability of them. 

The Basic Rules
Magic items are made of magic, and are therefore unreliable to use and have a strong possibility of degrading over time and exploding when used. This unreliability is based on the spell(s) used in the creation of the item. Take the highest spell cast to create the item, divide its misfire chance by half (round down), that is the item’s chance to explode when used (when used counts as attacking with a weapon, being attacked while wearing armor, or when an item’s effects would be put to use, deciding what counts as using the item ultimately is the GM’s duty. Every week the item exists, you add half its initial misfire chance to its current misfire chance. Every time it is used, you roll on its misfire chance. If it does explode, it deals 1d6 fire damage per level of the spell(s) used to enchant it (multiple spells equals more damage) plus 1d6 piercing damage. Add +1 damage to the fire damage per week the item has been enchanted. The explosive blast of magic is generally small, only affecting the character and any adjacent characters, DC 15 Reflex save for half damage. Magic items are primarily made of tin to cut costs and such, so they cost half as much to create and purchase as a side effect of their unreliability and generally shoddy workmanship. Certain materials can be used to craft magic items that are more resistant to misfiring, such as wolf-iron and springsteel. These materials increase the cost of magic items though.

Example:  We have a belt or bracers or whatever of giant strength, +2 to +6 to strength. To craft this item, Bull's Strength is used, a level 2 wizard's spell, with a base misfire chance of 5%. So, every time the character uses his physical strength while wearing the item, there is a 5% chance for it to go haywire. Following the rules, every week the item exists, it adds 2% to its misfire chance. The base damage for the item when it misfires is 2d6 fire damage and 1d6 piercing damage, +1 fire damage per week it has existed. 

Sorcerously Neutral
Some materials have no effect on sorcery bound within them. This category is for items like paper, steel, iron, bronze, wood, animal hides, and so on. Just your average materials. The type of material used has little impact on the overall cost of the item, so these category follows the normal costs associated with crafting or purchasing magical items. However, since most sorcerous craftsmen use sub par materials to cut costs, this category also includes materials like tin, pewter, particle board, rawhide, and so on. These sub par materials offer the same rules as regular materials like steel or iron and such, but they cost half as much to produce. They also look like they cost half as much. Tin blades will be dented and dinged, particle board staves and wands look like particleboard. The magic in these items strengthens them physically, so tin blades and armor don't end up twisted and broken by the end of a fight against steel, but they still like like a tin sword. 

Sorcerously Fragile
Sorcerously fragile items are typically made of materials like bone, glass, clay, obsidian, and some precious metals. Materials that are typically fragile and lightweight fall into this category. This category of items follows the half cost rules of stuff like tin, however, they increase the base misfire chance of the item by 2% and add an additional 1% each week, they also decrease the piercing damage of the blast to 1d4.

Example: Using the same strength item from above, but crafting it from bone this time.  We use Bull's Strength with a base misfire chance of 7%. So, every time the character uses his physical strength while wearing the item, there is a 7% chance for it to go haywire. Following the rules for Sorcerously Fragile items, every week the item exists, it adds 4% (1/2 of base percentage misfire plus 1) to its misfire chance. The base damage for the item when it misfires is 2d6 fire damage and 1d4 piercing damage, +1 fire damage per week it has existed. 

Sorcerously Dense
Sorcerously dense materials hold spells better and longer. Items built of 100% wolf-iron, hides and leathers crafted from the great beasts of The Beast Lands, Merotethian/Necropolis obsidian, lead, and stone follow these rules. Sorcerously dense items quarter the misfire chance of the spell used to create them, rather than halving them, and they add half the base misfire chance every month of existing, rather than every week. Additionally, they increase the piercing damage from the an explosive misfire to 1d8. 

Example: Continuing with the theme of the strength enhancing item. We build a +2 wolf-iron gauntlets of giant strength. We use Bull's Strength and have a base misfire chance of 2%. So, every time the character uses his physical strength while wearing the item, there is a 2% chance for it to go haywire. Following the rules for Sorcerously dense items, every month the item exists, it adds 1% to its misfire chance. The base damage for the item when it misfires is 2d6 fire damage and 1d8 piercing damage, +1 fire damage per month it has existed. Items made of sorcerously dense materials cost 50% more to create or purchase. 

Sorcerously Inert
Sorcerously inert materials are materials that cannot be enchanted period. These items, for whatever reason are completely impervious to holding any sort of enchantment. However, this does not mean they are immune to sorcery or armoring yourself in them will keep sorcery from harming you. The following materials are sorcerously inert: beltanizine, refined beltanizine, blackstone, 

Behold, that is some sorcerous craftsman stuff.