Wednesday, June 28, 2017

House Rules: Initiative Score

So one of the concepts I really like from GURPS is a static initiative score. It is derived from DX and one or two other stats if I remember right. I don’t necessarily dislike 5th Edition (or any edition’s) initiative system of d20 + Dexterity modifier + whatever other random modifiers there are. But I would like something a little more comprehensive and something that doesn’t involve rolling. Initiative has always been a chaotic time in my groups. Whether I’m running games or participating as a player, people just roll and then yell numbers. It is chaotic and confusing and detracts from a DMs ability to set up a fight because he’s trying to assign numbers to voices to characters while doing the same for his NPCs. DnDs system of initiative is also super abstract and doesn’t incorporate real time modifications to your ability to react and stuff. Like you can roll a 20 for initiative, get subjected to a sleep spell, miss four rounds of a fight, and then pop back into the fight at the highest initiative as if your character isn’t just waking up and going “What the fuck happened just now?”

Just as a heads up, I’ve already created the majority of these rules for my Seasonal Arc campaign. This blog post isn’t so much about creating the rules as it is about going over my thought process during the creation of them and refining what I currently have. 

So, let’s work on creating an initiative score. This is a static number that won’t change much from fight to fight. My theory being that attentive characters with an ability to rapidly respond to events will tend to always be attentive and able to rapidly respond to events, while slow unobservant characters will tend to always be slow and unobservant. Unless the former are completely surprised and the latter are doing the surprising. 

So the first thing we need is the base of your initiative score. We need to factor in your physical ability to respond to the events surrounding you as well as your awareness of your surroundings. That’s one thing DnD’s initiative lacks in my opinion. It measures your ability to respond to your surroundings via Dexterity, but doesn’t factor in whether or not you are aware of the events surrounding you. So let’s do something simple. We’ll start with a base of 5. Obviously we’ll add in your character’s Dexterity modifier, because duh. The other ability score modifier I want to add is your Wisdom modifier. This is like when you make Wisdom (Perception) ability checks. It represents your awareness of your surroundings. 

So your base initiative score is as follows 5 + Dexterity modifier + Wisdom modifier. Plus any other relevant modifiers like that one feat Alertness and that Rogue archetype ability that adds your Charisma modifier to initiative checks. 

One thing I should mention before we continue is that I’ve house ruled in some modifications to armor and how that works. It just seemed to make sense to me that if medium and heavy armor affect how much your Dexterity can improve your AC, they should also affect how much your Dexterity affects initiative and Dexterity saving throws. Being unarmored has no effect, wearing light armor limits you to applying a maximum of +4 from Dexterity modifier to initiative, saving throws, and AC. Wearing medium armor limits you to +2 and wearing heavy armor limits you to +0. Don’t wear full plate and try to pull off flippy ninja shit. Hmm, should I limit how much of your Dexterity modifier can carry over to ability checks as well? 

So here is where I get into a bit of an argument with myself. My current iteration of these house rules says being unarmored grants a +1 to initiative, wearing light armor has no benefit or penalty, wearing medium incurs a -1 penalty, and wearing heavy incurs a -2. My logic here is that armor is heavy and would slow your reactions down a bit and that I’ve never moved as fast as I have when I’ve been streaking. However, this portion of the rule kind of goes against 5th Edition’s design goal of not having a bunch of little situational modifiers shitting pluses and minuses all over the place. I think I might simplify it down to say that being unarmored or wearing light armor has no additional penalty to initiative, but wearing medium or heavy armor incurs a -1 penalty to initiative, -2 if the armor in question has a Strength requirement and you do not meet it. That still does the whole modifier thing, but it’s a little simplified. Kind of. Fuck off, it’s my game.

So one thing that bothers me that I mentioned above is that spells and effects that knock you out and restrain you have no effect on your initiative. My current rules have a bunch of penalties to your initiative that depend on how long you’ve been affected and what type of effect it is. Just like above with armor, this flies in the face of 5th Edition’s goal of reducing the modifiers that are all over the place. So here’s my idea for how to reduce that. If you are physically restrained in a way that prevents you from interacting with your surroundings, but are still aware of them (like if you are paralyzed or restrained), you lose your Dexterity modifier to your initiative score. If your senses are impaired, but you are still able to physically interact with your surroundings (like if you are blinded or deafened), you lose your Wisdom modifier to your initiative score. If your senses are impaired and you are physically impaired (like if you are unconscious or something) your initiative becomes last place. The only caveat to this is that if you can get out of these effects by the end of your turn or the end of your next turn if you are afflicted with them on someone else’s turn, they do not change your initiative. 

I like that, it’s a little simplified, but it keeps the core idea that if your senses or physical mobility is impaired, you’ll naturally be impaired in combat.  The final issue I have is the question of whether or not your initiative goes back to normal after these effects end after you’ve been affected by them for a few rounds. Like I said earlier, you shouldn’t just pop up from being unconscious/asleep/dying and be back in first place in the initiative order. I think with being unconscious, you’ve missed too much to hop back into the initiative order. With your senses being impaired and your physical ability being impaired, you’re still aware enough of your surroundings and stuff that you can get back into things quickly enough. That seems reasonable. I think for simplicity’s sake instead of the lines about ending the effect before the end of your next turn not impairing your initiative in the impaired senses and physical impairment sections I’m just going to say that whenever the effect impairing you ends, your Dexterity modifier and Wisdom modifier are restored to your initiative score. 

Alright, let’s talk about a tricky issue: surprise. I’ve gone back and forth with a few ideas about this. The surprisers gain a +5 to initiative score. The surprised have a -5. The surprised lose their Wisdom bonus to their initiative scores. Etc, etc. Most of the options I’ve toyed with fly in the face of 5th Edition’s reduction of situation modifiers. Apparently I can’t escape my let’s have all the situation modifiers of my Pathfinder/3.5 roots. 

This is awkward. I’ve just discovered that they have changed the surprise rules in 5th Edition. In past editions, the surprisers had a surprise round where they could take one action before normal initiative starts. In 5th Edition, if you’re surprised, you can’t move or take an action on your first turn of combat, and you can’t take a reaction until the end of your first turn. This actually works quite well in my opinion. I don’t really feel like it needs any additional modifications from my own house rules. It penalizes those that are surprised in combat enough that I feel like adding anything additional to how surprise and initiative interact might be too much. I could probably make a case for granting an initiative bonus to the surprisers in combat, but that feels kind of unnecessary. I think surprise works as is in terms of how it affects combat and initiative and whatnot. We’ll leave it as is. 

There are a couple more odds and ends, but nothing too noteworthy. When you critically hit in combat, your initiative score gains a +1 and when you critically miss, your initiative gains a -1. Just like normal, when you delay or ready your action, your initiative becomes one higher than the triggering action. If an effect would normally grant you advantage on initiative rolls, you instead gain a +4 and if an effect would normally impose disadvantage on initiative rolls, your initiative score gets a -4.

I think this has been productive. I’ve refined the rules I had already come up with, slightly. I discovered a rule change I was previously unaware of. Good times. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

House Rules: Death and Dying In the Desert

So one of the things I’ve always been irritated with DnD about is the abstract and completely divorced from reality nature of hit points and dying. In the current edition, you drop unconscious at 0 hit points and then have to make death saves. Which are DC 10 d20 rolls  where you either stabilize or die. Three failed death saves in a day and you die. There are other rules for rolling bad on death saves, being attacked while at 0 hit points, rolling a natural 20, and so on and so forth. But here’s the thing that really bugs me, the thing that has always bugged me. Regardless of what your current hit point total is, how many death saves you’ve failed today, and how many hit dice you have left, you are as fine as you are when you’ve just finished a long rest. You operate at peak efficiency regardless of how numerically rough your health is at a given moment. I understand it, but it aggravates me. There should be a cost to getting into combat repeatedly and throwing yourself into the meat grinder with wild abandon, and there isn’t.

On a side note, would you like to know the name of a system that abstracts health and wellness and death and dying but has statistical penalties for having low hit points and low reserves of energy and treats combat like it is always a dangerous thing to engage in? Fucking GURPS.

GURPS treats combat like it is deadly and risky and you can get pretty fucked up in any fight because fights are chaotic and deadly and you’re never a giant sack of hit points. You can always die by being stabbed once or twice and a super high HT only serves to make it slightly easier for you to survive being grievously injured. GURPS was designed to make combat difficult and dangerous. DnD has a different design goal. DnD rules are designed to have X amount of encounters each scenario with the assumption that each encounter will consume Y of the party’s resources with only combat encounters that are specifically designed with a certain level of difficulty in mind having the risk of player death. Basically, DnD is weak sauce easy mode. Which has been the case for the past few editions. In 2nd Edition do you know what happened when you hit 0 hit points? You died. No death saves, no you can still be healed and pop back up, etc. You died. You ran out of hit points and you died and the group's Cleric had like six spell slots total. You still operated at peak efficiency whether you were at 1 hit point or 90, but still. Anyway. 

So my goal for The Seasonal Arc has been to portray Hasta as a deadly world of harsh deserts and murderously hungry desert creatures. Part of the way I want to portray that is to make the creatures tougher and nastier, the combats more difficult, and the death and dying rules a little more aggressive. I also want to slightly increase the player’s capabilities to show that the races of this world have evolved to be tougher just like the beasts have. 

The way I’ve decided to show that being at low hit points is bad is by leveraging levels of exhaustion. There are six levels of exhaustion and at level one your ability checks (skills) have disadvantage. The negative effects scale up until level six, which is death. So I’ve instituted a house rule that says when you’re at half your max hit point total, you gain one level of exhaustion. This level of exhaustion is removed when your hit points rise above half your hit points. This makes it risky to remain at low hit points in battle. But it’s not something that will completely cripple a character and mark him for death immediately. 

The other aspect of health and wellness in DnD is death saves. There’s no real mechanic for showing that you’re in rough shape if you’ve failed two death saves. A character with max hit points, max hit dice, and no failed death saves should be in better shape than a character that’s used a bunch of hit dice and and has failed two death saves. This is all abstract, but it should feel like that second character is closer to death, shouldn’t it? I feel like it should. But that’s just me. 

There are two ways I’ve thought of going about this. The first, and this is the one I currently have listed in my house rules for The Seasonal Arc, is to say that every failed death save you have imparts one level of exhaustion. This means that a character at 0 hit points with two failed death saves will have disadvantage on ability checks, their speed reduced by half, and will have disadvantage on saving throws and attack rolls. The second way I’ve thought of doing this is that each failed death save you have reduces your maximum hit point total. So one failed death save reduces your maximum hit points to ¾ normal and two failed death saves reduces your maximum hit points to ½ normal. 

Part of me, the sadistic part I suppose, is screaming to do both. I feel like both is too much though. With access to unlimited healing, the reducing of hit points isn’t that much of a penalty. It just ties up the characters with cure wounds and healing word studs more, which has value I suppose. I think we’ll just stick with the levels of exhaustion for failed death saves. It’s the quickest and easiest and doesn’t bog down combat with a bunch of “how many hit points do I have right now and how many can I have total” questions and math. 

The main point of this post is to figure out what I want to do with hit dice. I have instituted a house rule that says long rests restore all your hit points, but only restore hit dice equal to your Constitution modifier, minimum of 1. But that’s not really a penalty. If characters have access to unlimited healing magic, they won’t really need to spend many hit dice. So the rule is effectively pointless. But hit dice are tied to health and wellness and recovery and stuff. They represent reserves of energy, I think. So I need to represent that in some way. 

The easiest way to do that is to say when your hit dice are low, you gain a level of exhaustion. Just like with hit points. But again, we run into the issue of hit dice aren’t going to be used as much because of unlimited healing magic. We could go the 4th Edition route and say that healing is done by curative magic allowing you to spend hit dice and boosting the effect of spending them. But that’s silly to me and fuck 4th Edition. It does tie in with what we see in a lot of fantasy novels where healing exhausts the person being healed. But that’s not really the way magic works in my universe. 

Another option is to take a note from GURPS where prolonged periods of exertion like combat and stuff drain your hit dice. But this runs into the problem where in a group of characters, the Wizard with a Constitution of 8 has the same amount of energy reserves (hit dice) as a Barbarian with a Constitution of 16. Fourth level characters will all have four hit dice, regardless of hit points and Constitution and whether or not they are a physically tough class or a physically fragile class. I like the idea that hit dice represent a reserve of physical energy. I like the idea that if they run low or out, maybe just out, it would impact your overall physical capabilities. When you’re exhausted, you don’t run or fight as well as you would you’re well rested and full of vitality. 

Hit dice are a restorative mechanic in 5th Edition. They’re useful because the game isn’t designed for characters to have unlimited access to healing from magic. So it’s pretty safe and easy to completely change how you gain them and what they’re used for. 

So let’s do a little spitballing here. They’re not really dice anymore, but let’s keep calling them that because I feel like it. How about each character has hit “dice” equal to the highest number on their hit dice. So Barbarians have 12 hit "dice" and Rogues have 8 and so on. Let’s also say that you increase/decrease your hit “dice” by your Constitution modifier. So the Barbarian with a 16 Constitution has a total of 15 hit “dice” and the Wizard with a 8 Constitution has a total of 5 hit “dice.” Let’s also say that when you run out of hit “dice” you gain a level of exhaustion. Because you are exhausted.  

Ok, hold up, I’m being stupid. 

So we’ve established that, at least in my opinion, hit dice exist as a form of more limited healing for characters to recover from fights because healing is not infinite. They’re not used for anything else as far as I can tell. So in the first place, limiting their recovery and having negative effects for using them is kind of pointless. They’re not something that’s going to be used often enough to really have an impact except in that one irritating instance where the group splits the party in the middle of the desert and can’t safely take a long rest or walk into a clinic in one of the towns or cities. In talking about this all with some other DMs, Lance also made the point that hit dice and the healing they provide are a mechanic designed to help prevent the 15 minute adventuring day where healers would expend all their spells on healing and then everyone would rest and reset all of their abilities after adventuring for an hour or two.

So if hit dice are essentially useless in a campaign setting where the PCs have access to unlimited healing and spell slots, why bog down the game with additional mechanics tied to hit dice and how they affect you when you run low on them? A more sensible solution would be to just remove the hit dice as a mechanic of the game. This also serves to make those extraordinarily rare situations where the players do not have access to unlimited healing more difficult and a little tense because the players and their characters know that they can’t spend an hour resting and restore all their hit points with their hit dice. 

I like it.

This has been productive. I’m glad we were able to do this. Usually I spend so much time adding rules to games and modifying existing rules. It’s kind of a strange experience to be removing a major mechanic like hit dice from the game. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Rudimentary Bestiary of Yofga

This bestiary is meant to describe some of the more well known creatures of Yofga and should not be viewed as a comprehensive guide. Strange beasts are found in the deep desert, and travelers should always be wary of engaging the creatures found within it, even if they appear benign or similar in shape and form to more well known creatures.

Atcheth (Aw-chet)
CR 20
The mighty atcheth, the deadliest known predator of the silt oceans of Hasta. These creatures are almost entirely responsible for the absence of water travel and trade on Hasta’s silt oceans. The atcheth are vaguely crocodilian creatures that are usually reported as being at least sixty feet in length. Despite its size, the atcheth is considered to be the fastest known predator the oceans of Hasta. This is due to the six flexible flipper limbs that it possesses on the sides of its body. Each of these flippers is made of a large, flexible bone blade that is capable of propelling the atcheth through the water with incredible speed, or slashing apart prey with the same speed. These bone blades are capable of slicing through even the sturdiest of keels. These blades are surely the most deadly physical attribute of the atcheth, but the bite force of its crocodilian jaws is capable of crushing nearly anything they are able to fit around. Atcheth, supposedly, are also able to emit electricity from their body. The supposed power of this ability differs from story to story and can range from mildly stunning human sized prey, to killing and nearly incinerating it.

Desert Raptor
CR 1
Aside from the extremely rare varieties of dragon that are capable of true flight, the skies of of Yofga are ruled by one creature and one creature only, the mighty desert raptor, sometimes called the ammelger (am-ell-gear). These mighty predators are usually about four feet long with a ten foot wingspan when fully grown. The desert raptor has light grey feathers and a primarily bald head with a small red crest atop its head. It also, of course, possesses a savagely sharp and curved beak and immense talons.

CR Varies By Age and Subspecies
There is not more varied and adaptable species of creature on Yofga than dragons. There exist many dozens of subspecies with unique abilities and different behaviors. As a species, they are almost universally apex predators of their various environments. Physically, they follow the pattern of long bodies with tails at least as long as their body and limbs on the sides of its torso. Their teeth and claws are of course razor sharp. They are all poisonous to some degree, though the precise strength and effect of their venom varies. Most are capable of regurgitating their extremely corrosive stomach acid into a stream or arc of caustic liquid they can drench their prey in, though they typically only engage in this behavior when prey is more difficult to take down than they had anticipated. All dragons are physically strong beasts of great endurance, as well as possessing scales that are much harder and durable than one might think. Older dragons possess scales capable of turning blows that would crack iron plate mail. One thing should be noted when dealing with dragons of all varieties. While these beasts are just that, they are quite intelligent and this intelligence and cunning seem to grow as they age. They are obviously still beasts and nowhere near as intelligent as humans and goliath, but they should not be underestimated as cunning hunters.

Hungry Cactus
CR Varies By Size
Hungry cacti are one of the only forms of plant life found in the deep desert. They are fairly small, with most being round green needle studded balls roughly the size of a goliath fist, though their size varies with how much water they can find to store and consume. Unlike most forms of plant life, hungry cacti are mobile creatures. When a hungry cactus’ root structures no longer find plentiful water deep below the hard sun baked ground, they immediately begin to wither and weaken. Once they have sufficiently weakened that they are easily torn away, the cacti fires several of its hollow needles, which remain connected to the cactus by retractable root structures. This allows the round cactus to roll itself to regions where it detects more water. The cactus’ needles and roots only have a range of ten feet or so, so its rolling progress is extremely slow, but it allows these cacti to survive and thrive when no other plant life could. It should be noted that whatever sense the cactus uses to find water is able to detect fluid within living things, making them a danger to travelers that draw too close. The needles of these cacti are hollow and secrete a caustic, slightly paralytic substance as well, similar to the venom of certain spiders. This allows these cacti to kill a living creature, liquify its insides, and draw its fluids back to the main body of the cactus through the connected root structures. A healthy human or goliath suffers no ill effects from the substance secreted by the cactus’ needles, however, there are reports of hungry cacti measuring five feet or more in diameter that have been able to use the secretions of their needles to paralyze a full grown goliath and feed on them for days before moving on.

CR 1
Husks are the strange humanoids that exist around The Font of Shadows. Some say they are the dead killed by the volcanic region around The Font of Shadows, others say that they are living creatures made savage and insensible by the strange emanations of The Font of Shadows and the trials and tribulations they have suffered living in close proximity to The Font of Shadows. Husks are dangerous to most travelers, but not all. Some they attack on sight, while others are able to walk into their field of vision without being hindered in any way unless the non-husks initiate contact with the husks. Husks are dangerous because they are very resilient creatures that simply do not show restraint or retreat in the face of superior odds. Once they begin attacking or hunting prey, they do not cease until they have been dismembered or otherwise rendered unable to continue the conflict. In addition to this, they are able to enter short periods of intangibility, which makes destroying them difficult.

Jester Hounds
CR 1
Jester hounds are a peculiar type of canine found primarily in the more fertile lands around the cities of Yofga. Jester hounds are grey canines that are typically about two feet tall at the shoulder and four feet long from nose to tail. Jester hounds are omnivores and are not above scavenging. This makes them fairly benign creatures in terms of how they relate to humans and goliath. The small canines often run in mated pairs and despite their fairly benign nature, they can become dangerous opponents when they are back into corners or when their young are threatened. Outside of those situations, they are more likely to flee an opponent than stand and fight. Jester hounds have two unique characteristics, the first is that their barks and yips sound disturbingly similar to the cackles and laughter of humans. They also possess a bizarre illusionary displacement ability that leaves the jester hounds never quite where they seem to be.

Krosank (Crow-sank)
CR 1
Krosank are large lizards of burden and food source used by many towns and the cities of Yofga. Adult krosank are typically eight feet long and approximately six feet tall at the shoulder. Their bodies are heavy and muscular with thick bones. They are not capable of great speeds, but their plodding gait and unflagging endurance allows them to cover many more miles than their smaller and fleeter cousins. Krosank are primarily herbivorous, but will eat pretty much anything that their blocky teeth can break up enough to swallow. Their tough hide is nowhere near as durable as that of dragons, but it is somewhat resistant to minor blows, which makes it hard for smaller predators to prey upon them. Krosank have a long, flexible neck that terminates in crocodilian head and atop the very end of their snout is a short, thick horn. Due to the mild temperament of these beasts, they very rarely use their horns in defense, but there are cases of krosank that have been tormented by their handlers impaling their tormentors and using their muscular neck to fling them up into the air.

Mega Scorpion
CR 4
The deserts of Yofga are full of many variations of what might be called regular scorpions. They vary by size and color and the toxicity of their venom. Standing above these arachnids as their god or king is the mega scorpion. These large creatures are often about the size of a krosank, but the stories of desert tribes claim that they have been seen to reach as much as fifteen feet in length. They are an ugly creature with a urine yellow carapace with black splotches of color scattered randomly on their thoraxes. Mega scorpions behave in a manner very similar to their smaller brethren, though their size and the toxicity of their venom allow them to hunt much larger and dangerous prey than their normal brethren. One oddity of the mega scorpion is that its pincers are more agile and have a larger range of motion than typical scorpions, as well as appearing more like hinged clamps or spades than blades. Very little is known about the life cycle of mega scorpions, as they are typically well equipped to slay any researchers studying them, but the odd configurations of their pincers has led many naturalists to conclude that they are great burrowers.

Neko Snake (Knee-ko snake)
CR 4
Most of the serpents found on Yofga tend to be small poisonous creatures typically found in the areas where the fertile lands surrounding the cities meets the rocky terrain of the deep desert. The neko snake, long considered the symbol of modern medicine on Yofga, is strange in that it is the only constrictor snake known to inhabit the deep desert, though that is the most minor oddity of the creature. The neko snake is typically ten to fifteen feet in length and possesses a thick, muscular body capable of crushing prey that might be considered far deadlier and stronger than it is. Neko snakes are bizarre serpents in that at about the midpoint of their body, they split into two, and sometimes three, heads. One head is considered male, and the other female, as neko snakes are apparently solitary creatures and are capable of impregnating themselves in a way that biologists and naturalists are not able to understand. Hunters and beast harvesters have found that neko snakes are incredibly hard to kill due to incredible properties of regeneration that they possess. Stories persist of grievously wounded neko snakes having one or more heads severed and returning to life while hunters are in the process of cleaning their kills and harvesting the organs of the serpent. There are also unconfirmed stories of the severed heads of neko snakes growing into new neko snakes. There is a thought process among certain naturalists that this is the means of reproduction for neko snakes, but it has not been confirmed. Because of its strange regenerative properties, many physicians will pay well for access to a neko snake’s liver, spleen, and a good amount of its uncontaminated blood.

Night Fowl
CR ⅛
Night fowl are small black birds found in and around the cities and most towns of Yofga. These small birds are typically about 10 inches tall with a wingspan of about 14 inches. They are capable of flight, but prefer to run along the ground. They are primarily carnivorous scavengers and possess a robust serrated beak. They are rarely seen during the day, as they are primarily nocturnal, but have been known to hunt and travel during the day when necessary. The feathers of night fowl are strange in nature. Rather than possessing normal feathers like other avians, night fowl possess very lightweight and flexible blades of chitin that allow them to fly and give them an almost iridescent black coloring. Night fowl also possess insectile compound eyes that give them an amazing range of vision and impeccable night vision. Despite their size, night fowl are amazing hunters and hiders and most cities and towns have massive hidden populations of these small birds within their borders. Despite their predatory nature and small size, these birds exhibit very little hostility to or fear of humans and goliath and many families within the cities and towns of Yofga keep a night fowl or two as pets.

Norvesk (Nor-vesk)
CR 3
Norvesk are a spider-like creature about five feet in length when fully grown. Like most spiders, they have a bulbous body, eight eyes, and eight legs, and are capable of utilizing webbing. Norveks are subterranean creatures that live within complex burrows that often intersect with old ruins beneath the deserts of Yofga. Their entrances to these burrows often double as an ambush site due to their skill at camouflaging the entrances to their burrows to be no different than the surrounding desert. Most spiders have spinnerets on the end of their abdomens to release webbing. Similar to scorpions, norvesk have three tails that come up over their abdomen and allow them to spray webbing in almost any direction the norvesk wishes. The poison of the norvesk is mediocre in terms of toxicity to healthy humans and goliath, however, it should be noted that the webbing of norvesk is corrosive to almost everything except the chitin of the norvesk.

Riding Krosank
CR ½
Ok, I’m going to be straight with you. I’m feeling lazy. Riding krosank are warhorses. They have the exact same statistics as a warhorse (Monster Manual page 340). They look like the krosank described above, but they’re smaller and faster.

Silt Shark
CR 5
The silt shark is a mighty amphibious beast that lurks along the shores of Yofga. Most silt sharks are approximately ten feet long with a kind of egg shaped body with powerful tails, short stubby legs, a fin jutting up from their back like a blade, and huge cavernous mouths full of row upon row of shredding teeth. The silt shark’s feet end in three clawed toes. These thick talons are sharp, but they are built like large scoops, allowing the silt shark to propel itself easily through water or dig its way through soil. The silt shark is a ravenous beast and their fins have been seen poking up aboveground as far as ten miles inland as the creatures hunt for prey. Though not nearly as destructive or deadly as the atcheth, the silt shark is capable of destroying most sea vessels and turning small towns into wide swatches of disturbed earth.

Steluj (Stell-luge) Beasts
CR Varies

Steluj are a particularly rare class of desert creature. Sometimes humans and goliath are killed and eaten by desert beasts. Sometimes those humans and goliath have studs. It is well known that studs respond to the desires of those that bear them. Very very rarely, a desert beast will consume a human or goliath and after digesting it, the studs implanted into the corpse will be freed and wind up implanting themselves in the stomach of the beast. Beasts are unable to think and direct their will the way humans and goliath are, but they are able to hunt and hunger and fear and flee. These basic desires are enough to direct studs that a desert beast has consumed and implanted in its belly. Such creatures are understandably rare and can be extremely dangerous at times, assuming the studs that they have consumed have a practical benefit and one that can be directed by the simple desires of a beast.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hekinoe Navere

So here's the thing, I'm writing about Navere. Or at least trying to. This Navere is a Greenskin Abraxen from The Beast Lands, not a wild elf from The Spine of the World. I'm trying to sort of write a Hekinoe version of Curse of Strahd. Writing is fucking hard though, so I'm sputtering and spinning my wheels, even when I can force myself to sit and stare at the blinking cursor of an open text document (my age old Favored Enemy and the general bane of my existence).

So I'm writing about writing. Because that's easier and maybe it'll knock a bit of rust off the interior of my brain hole. The point of this post is going to be trying to hammer out a few details about Hekinoe Navere and the story in general. Normally I just kind of write things as they come to me, but that's not happening easily. So we're going to try and get a more concrete concept of the story in my head before we vomit it into a text document. Maybe it'll help, maybe it won't.

The first thing I think I need to establish is Navere's power level and abilities. Normally I write about accomplished supernatural creatures and pseudo-deities. Things that can't be stopped unless they allow themselves to be stopped. Navere is different. Navere is mortal, he's not even immortal with caveats like many things in Hekinoe. He doesn't have access to Gifts or psionics either, so his DnD Druid abilities are pure sorcery. Which means they're unreliable and fallible and I'll need to represent that in the story when he uses them and when he thinks about them. I have in the past relied upon a conflict resolution methodology that might be properly referred to as "smash it to bits with magic" with magic being a catch all term for sorcery, Gifts, or psionics. I can't do that with Navere. Yes, he's a sorcerer, yes, he'll use sorcery, but he's not going to be as willy nilly about it as a Nel would use Gifts or an Elduman would use psionics. Unless he's bat shit crazy, and I don't really think he is. 

Ok, so Hekinoe Navere isn't all powerful. He's not a rookie either. He's seen some shit. So he's competent, but can be defeated. I should really just stat him out in GURPS before I really get into writing. That might be fun and would give me a more concrete idea about his capabilities and keep me honest so to speak, so he doesn't end up defeating challenges because of abilities I think up in the moment. Giving him stats would be fun and it would give me a frame of reference when writing about him and stuff. He'd be like maybe 200 points or so. Maybe. I dunno. Thereabouts.

Alright, so let's think and talk more about this story or whatever. It starts out with Navere on a ship and two pirates discussing him within his hearing. The gist is that Navere has booked passage on a ship to return home to The Beast Lands. This presents us with a few questions we need to answer for the sake of the narrative or whatever. The first is, where was he before booking passage? The second is, why was he there? The third is, why is he returning to The Beast Lands? Oh. Just came up with a fourth question. Do I want to include DnD Navere's companions from Curse of Strahd? Bjorn, Sven, Slarty, Neo, and Thedes.

We're going to start with the third question here. Why is Navere returning to The Beast Lands? After thinking about this, it's a stupid idea. Let's look at the Curse of Strahd module. DnD Navere and compatriots end up in a foreign land via supernatural mist. In the metagame, we known that the PCs have traversed the planes and came from Faerun/Abeir-Toril/Forgotten Realms and are now in Barovia in The Demiplane of Dread, which is in the Shadowfell in 5th Edition. For a variety of reasons, a vampire type entity making its home in The Beast Lands doesn't make much sense. I mean, yes, there are great blood midges and stuff, but that's not really the point. To fit with the Curse of Strahd idea, we are looking for a place that's strange and unnatural to Hekinoe Navere. A place where a supernatural vampire-esque creature that can control the minds of some animals and manipulate nature and such can setup shop. That's one of the things that infuriates DnD Navere about Barovia. The undead leech controlling and fucking with nature. So what we need is a place where nature exists, but can be manipulated by supernatural means where a vampire type creature would fit into nicely.

I'm an idiot.

The Fallen Empire of Man fits that perfectly. With the Hekinoe 2.0 changes I'm making, The Fallen Empire exists as a separate continent from the continent that The Beast Lands is on, so it would fit the idea that Navere comes to a strange and foreign place. It's also a very fertile region full of natural elements that is very sparsely populated, which leaves a lot of room for a Strahd-like figure to wander in and do whatever the fuck he wants. We still need to figure out why Hekinoe Navere is going there. The current beginning of the story starts out with Navere booking passage on a ship to somewhere and the pirates discussing what the morning will bring when they forcibly boot Navere from the ship a little earlier than he'd anticipated. So maybe we run with that a little bit?

Oh. Fifth question. What should we make Strahd be in Hekinoe?

Moving along. We're running with the idea that Hekinoe Navere is being taken to The Fallen Empire against his will. I think that his original goal was to get back to The Beast Lands after being away in like Kusseth or some shit. Everybody goes to Kusseth at some point in their life. So in attempting to answer our third question, we've answered our first question. So Navere had booked passage from Kusseth to The Beast Lands on a Haven ship. Why would the captain of the ship drop Navere in The Fallen Empire of Man instead? In the Hekinoe 2.0 map system we have Kusseth in the northwest, The Beast Lands on a continent south of Kusseth and The Fallen Empire on a continent east of Kusseth.

The most obvious option is that the captain of our Haven ship is in league with our Faux-Strahd. I don't much care for it, but it neatly ties it up in a bow and explains it. Faux-Strahd has a deal with this captain to strand travelers near his settlement for entertainment and feeding purposes. This ship and its captain kind of act as the Mists and the Vistani do in Curse of Strahd/Ravenloft. I'm not sure I like that though. It resolves everything, but it's also a real easy explanation. What if the captain of this Haven ship is Vanden or one of his cronies? Meaning that Hekinoe Navere gets dropped off in The Fallen Empire of Man for inscrutable reasons that involve a plot that won't come to fruition for thirty-five years. I kinda dig that, but I also kinda don't. Aaaaaaaaahhhhhh. I fucking hate writing. Let's move on. We have two workable ideas, don't really need to worry too much about which one we're going with at this time.

To kind of finish up our third question, we need to establish why Navere was heading to The Beast Lands. It's not super mega relevant, but we need to have a reason for it because the goal of returning to The Beast Lands kicks off this whole story. So maybe it is super mega relevant. Alright, think. Why was he heading back to The Beast Lands? Family reasons? No. Doesn't fit. He was raised by wolves and the ones he considers family would be dead by now and he never knew his greenskin abraxen family.

Hmm. How about he was returning to The Beast Lands as part of a challenge to himself? Like he's been in civilized lands doing civilized things for a while. He felt out of touch with his nature as a predator, out of touch with the beasts and forces of nature. So he decided to return to the crucible of his birth that is The Beast Lands. A place where flora and fauna grow huge and savage and mad. Where flora and fauna are so fierce and potent that they resist the manipulation that comes so easily to DnD Druids. Yeah. I dig that.

Let's hop back to our second question. Why was Navere in Kusseth? This question isn't necessarily a big deal or something I intend on referencing extensively, but it's something I'd like to know. After leaving his family (of wolves) DnD Navere wandered into civilization and kind of worked as a hunter and healer and that sort of thing. In Hekinoe 2.0, Kusseth shares its continent with The Fell Peaks and Whurent, so there's still some strife along that country's borders. So maybe Hekinoe Navere and whatever bros he may or may not have had were doing some mercenary work in Kusseth and they finished a job and Navere got sick of all the civilization and industrialization and whatnot.

One, two, three, ok now we're on four. Sorry. I'm way tipsy right now. We're on question four, should I incorporate DnD Navere's bros in Hekinoe Navere's story? It's a difficult question. I have permission from Kevin and Jacob to include Bjorn and Sven in this story if I choose to. I can't really include Sir Neo of Sporin because he's a Paladin and that doesn't fit with Hekinoe. Nor can I include Slarty Bartfast (I'm not entirely sure of the spelling) because he's an elf Monk. Also, they have dumb as shit names. I think I will tentatively include Bjorn and Sven. When writing The Last Blade I found it very useful to have a secondary character, the Herald, for Keroen to talk to, to bounce ideas off of and that sort of thing. It made Keroen a little more...human and easier to relate to I guess? Maybe. I'm not sure. I liked the experience though, so like I said, we'll include Bjorn and Sven tentatively and see how it goes.

Alright, question five. What is Faux-Strahd? In Curse of Strahd he is a vampire ruler of Barovia. In the Ravenloft setting he is a vampire ruler of a domain in the Demiplane of Dread. He's been brought there by the Dark Powers to suffer for his various crimes and horrible transgressions. He's a bad dude that eats people. 

So the core aspects of Strahd are that he is an undead supernatural creature that rules a region and feeds on and torments others for his own purposes. There's really only one type of sentient undead supernatural creature on Hekinoe. The Fallen. The Fallen are undead, and while they do not require blood to survive, some of them can drain if from victims and use it to repair damage to their dead grey crystalline flesh. That seems like a fairly obvious solution to figuring out what Faux-Strahd should be. I have another idea that could work as well, and it's slightly less obvious. I might go that route instead. Perhaps. We'll keep it quiet for now.

Alright, I think we've answered everything, let's go over it all. We've established that Hekinoe Navere and his bros (maybe) Bjorn and Sven were in Kusseth doing unspecified mercenary work. They completed their last job and Hekinoe Navere decided he was sick of civilization and industrialization and wanted to return to The Beast Lands to reconnect with the strength and savagery of his homeland. After hiring a ship, he ends up getting stranded in The Fallen Empire of Man due to a deal the captain of the ship has with Faux-Strahd the Fallen to bring him living beings to feast upon and torment for entertainment.

I like it. We'll see how this develops. This has been a somewhat productive exercise and I'm glad I did it. I have a little bit of a better hold on the story now.